God wants us to be great saints, that is, residing forever with in Him in Heaven. The events of our lives, great and small, direct our steps. Without free will, we are mere puppets of salvation; with it, we can become the puppets of sin. God constantly intervenes in our lives to bring us to him, like the father with the prodigal son.
I also want to mention Mary of Egypt, whose feast is also today, for this same reason. Rich and spoiled, she thought her life and her body were her own, to do with as she pleased until she was forced by God to see otherwise. God often shows us up to be the fools that we are.
As for Melito, we know little of his life and ministry, other than he the fact that he was the Bishop of Sardis, Lydia (part of modern Turkey). What we do know for sure is that he wrote several pieces including an Apology addressed to emperor Marcus Aurelius, who was a Stoic and deep thinker himself. Melito was adamant that God is above our personal desires and vanities and that the two should never be confused. God is God and we are His creation; nothing we create is God. We belong to Him; those who think otherwise are fooling themselves.
Additionally I offer up prayers to Tewdrig ap Teithfallt, just because I love Welsh names.
But you, a person of liberal mind, and familiar with the truth, if you will properly consider these matters, think of your own self; though they should clothe you in the garb of a woman [that is, say that you as emperor are god, or that your statue should be worshiped], remember that you are a man. Believe in Him who in reality is God, and to Him lay open your mind and to Him commit your soul. He is able to give you immortal life forever, for everything is possible to Him. Let all other things be esteemed by you just as they are – images as images, and sculptures as sculptures; let not that which is human made be put by you in the place of Him who is not made, but let Him, the ever-living God, be constantly present to your mind. For your mind itself is His likeness: for it too is invisible and impalpable, and not to be represented by any form, yet by its will is the whole body moved. Know, therefore, that if you constantly serve Him who is immovable, He who exists for ever, so you also, when you have put off this body which is visible and corruptible, shall stand before Him forever, endowed with life and knowledge and your works shall be to your wealth, inexhaustible and unfailing possessions. And know that the chief of your good works is this: that you know God and serve Him. Know, too, that He asks not anything of you: He needs nothing [unlike the gods/emperor who demands sacrifices]. Who is this God? He who is Himself truth, and His word truth. And what is truth? That which is not fashioned, nor made, nor represented by art: that is, which has never been brought into existence, and is on that account called truth. If, therefore, a man worship something that is made with hands, it is not the truth that he worships nor the word of truth.
– From a discourse before Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Caesar
At what point in your life do you become holy?
Okay that is a trick question and has two veiled questions within it. First is when do we decide to become holy and then how do we know we have reached holiness?
We are saved, we have been given the reconciliation of the Cross, we have been taught, given instruction in the Truth, but at some point we have to integrate that into our thoughts and heart. We have to "grow up" and move beyond "childish things" (1 Corinthians 13:11) and take responsibility and personally claim that victory that Jesus won for us.
It is when we take all that we have been given seriously that we begin the road to holiness. That decision can come at any age, and those who embraced it early in life, like Pedro, should spur each of us on to hasten our steps for the bridegroom is coming and we do not want to be shut out (Matthew 25:1-13).
"If anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven" (Matthew 10:32). From his childhood, Pedro Calungsod declared himself unwaveringly for Christ and responded generously to his call. Young people today can draw encouragement and strength from the example of Pedro, whose love of Jesus inspired him to devote his teenage years to teaching the faith as a lay catechist. Leaving family and friends behind, Pedro willingly accepted the challenge put to him by Fr Diego de San Vitores to join him on the Mission to the Chamorros. In a spirit of faith, marked by strong Eucharistic and Marian devotion, Pedro undertook the demanding work asked of him and bravely faced the many obstacles and difficulties he met. In the face of imminent danger, Pedro would not forsake Fr Diego, but as a "good soldier of Christ" preferred to die at the missionary's side. Today Bl. Pedro Calungsod intercedes for the young, in particular those of his native Philippines, and he challenges them. Young friends, do not hesitate to follow the example of Pedro, who "pleased God and was loved by him" (Wisdom 4:10) and who, having come to perfection in so short a time, lived a full life (cf. ibid., v. 13).
-- John Paul II, Beatification Of 44 Servants Of God, 5
Little is known about the life of the seventh pope. We do know that several liturgy traditions which we still practice today were instituted by him. He decreed that only priests may touch the sacred vessels, which I guess was a problem, that the whole congregation, including the priest should recite the Sanctus prayer during the Mass (a practice in the East, but not common in the West), and that bishops returning from the Apostolic See to their dioceses must present Apostolic letters as proof that they are still the bishop after visiting the pope - which I guess was a problem. Martyred during the persecutions of the Roman emperor Trajan.
First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as ransom for all. This was the testimony at the proper time.
-- 1 Timothy 2:1-7
How do we think about the places and situations into which God places us?
Our choices are our own but the opportunities placed before us require from us a decision. As the saying goes, you cannot always choose what happens to you but you can always choose how you react.
Slave or free, Benedict choose to have Jesus as his only master. Whether as superior or kitchen worker, by keeping Christ ever before him he carried out the tasks that God laid before him with the same love and concern. It was not the task but following of Christ that mattered.
How did he accomplish that? Humility. None of us is above complaining, and the more indignant we are about a given situation the louder our complaint. It is not to say we should meekly acquiesce but that through true humility see the needs for which God has placed us here to fill and act on them. We are often only needed for a moment - so while we may desire another situation, we really do not have the time to complain. This is probably doubly true when we lose a coveted or highly desired position for one that is not to our liking.
We must learn to hear what God is telling us, work where and when God needs us to work. Remember, theological discussions aside, Jesus heals on the Sabbath because that was what was necessary.
Benedict help us to be true servants.
Jesus answered...“My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God. Jesus answered and said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for what he does, the Son will do also. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes. Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
“I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.”
-- John 5:17-23, 30
Evangelization is oddly hard in a world so connected and interconnected as we have today but imagine it in a world separated by distance and hard and dangerous travel. It is the nature of missionary journeys to travel far into the unknown and often by unknown means.
Pray for all those who dedicate their lives to their brothers and sisters no matter where they may be, even those who work in their own backyard.
Avoid everything that would lead people to regard you as singular, severe or as one who exceeds the bounds of piety. Should they complain of you or blame your behavior, it will then be needful to redouble your prayers for such persons, that God in His goodness may chase from their hearts all that is an occasion of trouble or annoyance to them. Nevertheless, speak whenever a pressing necessity invites you, such as charity to your neighbor or the obedience which you have promised to your superior. In such cases, think beforehand what you ought to say, and express yourself in few words, and in a gentle and respectful tone, which will indicate the humility of your heart. You should also observe the same rule when anyone questions you. If you remain silent for a time, it should be done with a view to edify your neighbor and to foresee what may be conveniently said when the moment for speaking shall arrive. Beseech God to supply your silence and to interiorly make known to others that the obligation you are under of subduing the tongue prohibits you from speaking to them.
-- From Treatise on the Spiritual Life
What does it mean to be truly human? What does it mean for Jesus to have been fully human?
For hundreds of years these questions and many others like them consumed the Church. Is it even possible for God to be human? How could that be? How could the Son of God be anything but God if we want to understand the Trinity? Why, much less how, would God suffer?
I could go on but this is not a theological exploration. Suffice it to say, that unless Jesus was fully human as well as fully God then none of it makes sense. It is mystery and we are unable reason it out because it is mystery. It is truth, revealed to our "puny intellects" as Augustine would say.
Eutychius came into conflict with emperor Justinian who began to believe the teaching that Jesus’s body was incorruptible, not subject to pain, and therefore was not fully human as well as fully God. His resistance to such thought got him exiled until after Justinian's death. But even then, he too struggled with understanding these mysteries, beginning to emphasize the spiritual over the physical, only to return to the understanding of the God-man as whole body and soul, spirit and divinity, words of which are a theological discussion all in their own.
Eutychius, pray that we recognize the truth and to also recognize when we have strayed.
As a result Of this investigation it became evident that in the sayings Of Theodore of Mopsuestia (which are spoken against on all hands) there are contained very many things contrary to the right faith and to the teachings of the holy Fathers; and for this very reason these same holy Fathers have left for the instruction of the Church treatises which they had written against him. For among other blasphemies of his we find that he openly said that God the Word was one [Person] and Christ another [Person], vexed with the passions of the soul and with the desires of the flesh, and that he little by little advanced from a lower to a higher stage of excellence by the improvement of his works, and became irreproachable in his manner of life. And further he taught that it was a mere man who was baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and that he received through his baptism the grace of the Holy Spirit, and merited his adoption; and therefore that Christ could be venerated in the same way that the image of the Emperor is venerated as being the persona of God the Word. And he also taught that [only] after his resurrection he became immutable in his thoughts and altogether impeccable.
Moreover he said that the union of the Word of God was made with Christ as the Apostle says the union is made between a man and his wife: The two shall be one flesh; and that after his resurrection, when the Lord breathed upon his disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit", he did not give to them the Holy Spirit. In like strain of profanity he dared to say that the confession which Thomas made, when he touched the hands and side of the Lord after his resurrection, saying, "My Lord and my God", did not apply to Christ (for Theodore did not acknowledge Christ to be God); but that Thomas gave glory to God being filled with wonder at the miracle of the resurrection, and so said these words. But what is still worse is this, that in interpreting the Acts of the Apostles, Theodore makes Christ like to Plato, Manichaeus, Epicurus, and Marcian, saying: Just as each Of these were the authors Of their own peculiar teachings, and called their disciples after their own names, Platonists, and Manichaeans, and Epicureans, and Marcionites, just so Christ invented dogmas and called his followers Christians after himself.
-- Letter of Pope Vigilius to Eutychius
I had the grace, pleasure, and good fortune to live, eat, and pray among Christian Brothers one summer and though they gave me grief about being "clerical" I was impressed by the dedication of lay men to the education of youth and to creating a community that did so. Their dedication to educating the whole person not just in religious matters but in growth of spirit, mind, and body goes directly to the Catholic teachings on formation.
They also made a mean martini.
I'm not sure I can attribute the latter to John, but definitely the former. My own feelings about being a teacher and catechist were influenced by these men and their founder.
John Baptist, help us to instruct others with kindness and compassion and to teach as Christ taught.
Since you are ambassadors and ministers of Jesus Christ in the work that you do, you must act as representing Jesus Christ himself. He wants your disciples to see him in you and receive your teaching as if he were teaching them. They must be convinced that the truth of Jesus Christ comes from your mouth, that it is only in his name that you teach, that he has given you authority over them. They are a letter which Christ dictates to you, which you write each day in their hearts, not with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God. For the Spirit acts in you and by you through the power of Jesus Christ. ...Your zeal for the children under your guidance would be very imperfect, if you expressed it only in teaching them; it will only become perfect if you practice yourself what you are teaching them. Example makes a much greater impression on the mind and heart than words. This is especially true of children, since they do not yet have sufficient capacity for reflection, and ordinarily model themselves on the example of their teachers. They are led more readily to do what they see done for them than to carry out what they hear told to them, particularly when the words they hear are not in harmony with the actions they see.
-- From Meditations for the Time of Retreat
I am not trying to be biased and over-emphasizing education this month but Julia just happens to come the day after John Baptist de la Salle. But that is not a reason to dismiss her for her example is perhaps even more inspiring. Foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame, her sisters assist in education, especially of the poor, all over the world.
Having been served and taught by this order, I have to admit I did not appreciate them until later. At the time I failed to understand their dedication, their rule, or their love but I can now say, with maturity and hind-sight, that they molded and taught me with patience and enthusiasm; they also created an environment of high quality spiritual and secular education.
All that said, Julia did not set out to create a teaching order or even an order for that matter. Her whole life from an early age she dedicated to the Eucharist and to teaching others about Christ. Even after paralysis struck her, she would teach children gathered about her bed. This was her call. It was others who formed the order around her, those who saw her daily vision and efforts and wanted to transform it into something bigger. Like me though, many in post-revolution France did not appreciate her service and confused those who serve the Church with her corrupt leaders; she lived during danger, war, and persecution, but served Christ through it all. It is a harrowing tale that you should take some time to familiarize yourself with.
We must be aware that we follow Christ as individuals but that we follow him within his Body. Do not do things for vain glory but for Christ and you will allow him to influence the world through you, even down to the smallest individual who personally looks back with gratitude and a bit of shame.
Do not be troubled at your losses; keep very calm and quiet, no one could have foreseen what has happened. Never can you thank God enough for having been preserved from much worse misfortunes. Many times a day my heart flies to you, and this forced delay is no little sacrifice to me. Let us stand firm in all our vicissitudes and trials, seeking only the greater glory of God. Oh! would to heaven, would to heaven that we had as much love for God as we have for ourselves! Simplicity is the true way to find God. Let us get ready for death by a life which is all for God and our duty. Grace has its moments, and passes quickly—let us be very faithful to it. Oh my daughter, how much we need to watch over ourselves if we are to acquire the habit of living in God's holy presence, that habit so necessary to our spiritual advancement!
-- From a letter to the convent of Fleurus, after it being pillaged
Today's saint is a convert. But make no mistake, this is not about we win and you loose, but how God works in our lives to bring us to Him.
Whenever I teach the after-Easter RCIA class, I always like to do a meditation on The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) to discuss the tough road ahead for those entering the Church.
Conversion is a difficult thing - especially if you do not have the support of family and friends; it is for that reason that we must take refuge in Christ and his Body, especially in the Eucharist. Therein lies our support. The world around us can make the road difficult, even for those of us who are not converts, but especially for them.
Casilda was Muslim, the daughter of the king of Toledo, Spain. She saw the ravages of war and the cruelty around her and did not trust those closest to her to take care of her or support her in her actions based in the love she felt for her fellow humans regardless of race or religion. This is the seed of Faith which exists in each of us as a gift from God and must be nurtured into full bloom.
And that, perhaps, that is the problem. In my experience people often convert because of the example of those around them - from both good and bad examples. They leave one group for another because of the examples of both. Casilda had Faith. Fortunately for us, she found Jesus in us and gave her life over to him as an example to us all.
Casilda pray for us, especially our Candidates and Catechumens in their time of scrutiny and new lives in Christ.
Receive, my children, the Rule of Faith, which is called the Symbol of Faith (or Creed). And when you have received it, write it in your heart, say it daily to yourselves: before you sleep, before you go out, arm yourself with your Creed. The Creed is not written to be read; rehearse it lest idle forgetfulness obliterate what has been carefully delivered to you; let your memory be your record of what you are about to hear, that are you to believe, what you shall have believed, and that you are about to give back with your voice. For the Apostle says, "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." For this is the Creed which you are to rehearse and to repeat in answer. These words which you have heard are scattered throughout Divine Scripture but are gathered and reduced into one, that the memory of the simple in Faith might not be distressed and so that every person may be able to say, able to hold, what he believes. For until now you have merely heard that God is Almighty. You begin to have him for your Father, when you have been born by the Church as your Mother.
– From A Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed, St. Augustine
When is a saint not a "saint"?
This issue of "canonization" can be confusing even to those of us who practice it. Saints are saints are saints whether officially set in the list ("canon" -- hence "canonization" or, being added to the "official list") of saints or as simply defined by a holy life. So many of the early martyrs are unknown yet are saints; so many everyday people who have never had anyone to plead their cause to be added to the "official" list are saints; so many garnished praise and honor during their lifetimes for their holiness such that they were immediately declared to be saints by those around them because it was obvious to the most casual observer.
Officially declaring someone a saint means that we have scrutinized their lives and their deaths and determined that they continue to work for the salvation of the world. Officially we seek that answer in miracles attributed to their intercession. It is for their works in life that we additionally declare them Fathers or Doctors.
To be declared a saint is for us to acknowledge that the life someone has led has put them fully into the presence of God at their personal judgment. They fit the description from the Revelation of John of those surrounding the throne.
Fulbert falls into that category because he has never been officially added to the canon, but his designation of saint by the local population is sanctioned by the Church and allows them to celebrate his day today. This is true of so many local saints of which we have never heard, including people like my grandmother: perhaps not perfect but brought to perfection. I seem to remember a saying that I cannot attribute to anyone in particular that "we are all saints or on our way to becoming saints" or something like that. The apostle John reminds us of this: "we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2)
Looking at the brief descriptions of his life, he was well known as a teacher and arbitrator, influential in several ecclesiastical and secular controversies. He was particularly attentive to his flock as bishop, traveling and visiting often. Nowhere do these stories speak of anything but humility and sanctity. I for one will accept his title and ask for his intercessions at the throne without hesitation especially for our bishops and clergy.
You choirs of new Jerusalem,
Your sweetest notes employ,
The Paschal victory to hymn
In strains of holy joy.
For Judah’s Lion bursts His chains,
And crushed the serpent’s head;
And brought with him, from Death’s domains
The long imprisoned dead.
From hell’s devouring jaws the prey
Alone our Leader bore;
His ransomed hosts pursue their way
Where Jesus goes before.
Triumphant in His glory now
His scepter rules all;
Earth, Heav’n and Hell before him bow
And at his footsteps fall.
While joyful thus his praise we sing,
His mercy we implore,
Into His palace bright to bring
And keep us evermore.
All glory to the Father be,
All glory to the Son,
All glory, Holy Spirit, to Thee,
While endless ages run.
-- Chorus novae Ierusalem
Speaking truth to power is a quality that many of us do not possess. Often because we do not feel we have the position to allow us that kind of chutzpah.
"I'm only one person," we say. "It doesn't make a difference anyway," we conclude.
But Christ's death and resurrection tell us differently. We are not just one person; we are the Body. Christ speaking through us is what we desire and can easily accomplish, much more so than trying to do it ourselves, because if so the saying is true: we are only one person, we are alone in ourselves.
But if we allow Jesus to call out evil and injustice through us then the saying is also true: we are only one person, but that person is Christ Jesus!
We, like Stanislaus, should not fear reprisal or death for following Christ and calling others into his marvelous light.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” So the Jews said to him, “Now we are sure that you are possessed. Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Or the prophets, who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing; but it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ You do not know him, but I know him. And if I should say that I do not know him, I would be like you a liar. But I do know him and I keep his word. Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” So they picked up stones to throw at him;
-- John 8 51-59
The liturgical practices of the past help us today, and the reason we know them is due to the efforts of teachers who wrote them down. The Easter Vigil is an ancient liturgy of the Church and, as the most important feast of the year, contains everything we are in sign and symbol as well as the warm welcome to new Catholics.
Martyred under Gallienus, St. Ambrose speaks of him as a bishop of holy memory. As such, Zeno provides for us many insights into the early thinking of the Church and preserves for us, different from many contemporary writers, not just the baptismal liturgy but insights into the early Pascal liturgy of the Church. It is a powerful witness and comfort that almost 2000 years later we are still at it in the same way, for the same reasons, and hopefully with the same results.
Zeno also gives us great insight into the way to treat the Hebrew Scriptures, constantly referencing them and drawing them forward into Christ.
How earnestly I desire, if I were able, to celebrate you O Patience, queen of all things! but by my life and manners more than by my words. For you rest more in your own action and council than in discourses, and in perfecting rather than in multiplying virtues. You are the support of virginity, the secure harbor of widowhood, the guide and director of the married state, the unanimity of friendship, the comfort and joy of slavery, to which you are often liberty. By you, poverty enjoys all, because, content with itself, it bears all. By you, the prophets were advanced in virtue, and the apostles united to Christ. You are the daily crown and mother of the martyrs. You are the bulwark of Faith, the fruit of Hope, and the friend of Charity. You conduct all the people and all divine virtues, and disheveled hairs bound up into one knot, for ornament and honor. Happy, eternally happy, is he who shall always possess you in his soul.
-- On Patience
Political peace and theology do not always go hand in hand. We can still see the problem lived out today in such martyrs as Archbishop Romero and in the Seventh Century in the likes of Martin.
The power of the pope was increasing and Martin's carrying out of the Lateran Council in 649 shows the boldness of his action against an Emperor whose edict was designed to silence discussion and promote political quietude.
But it is not the histo-political aspect of this man that we want to concentrate on but the adherence to the Truth that drove him, even as an old man, to defy and clarify bad theology - and to pay for it with his life. The importance of Jesus being both God and human is so vital to the Truth of Christianity that to lessen or deny any aspect of it removes the foundation of the whole tower. In the Truth, the tower stands tall and straight, firmly rooted against wind, rain, heat, and cold. Revelation founds the Faith and negates the need for us to explain the mystery. To wiggle the foundation does not show the weakness of the foundation of Revelation but of our own human weakness and hubris and shows the necessity of retaining all of Revelation as a solid foundation. Martin reminds us to cling to and teach only the Truth.
Two last things: Martin was actually an Easterner, not a Roman. After his papacy, the West tended to elect only Westerners and the East only appointed Easterners. The divide continued to expand until its failure three centuries later. Second, Martin is also the last pope that we consider a martyr, which of course speaks to the deaths of many of the popes to come after him and the causes of their deaths, usually also for political reasons, if you understand my meanings.
If anyone who indubitably has professed and also understands those (teachings) which the wicked heretics suggest, through vain impudence says that these are teachings of piety, which the investigators and ministers of the Word have handed down from the beginning, that is to say, the five holy and universal Synods, certainly calumniating [maligning] the holy Fathers themselves and the five holy Synods mentioned, in the deception of the simple, or in the acceptance of their own impious treachery, let such a person be condemned.
If anyone according to the wicked heretics in any manner whatsoever, by any word whatsoever, or at any time or place whatsoever illicitly removing the bounds which the holy Fathers of the Catholic Church have rather firmly established [Proverbs 22:28], that is, the five holy and universal Synods, in order rashly to seek for novelties and expositions of another faith; or books, or letters, or writings, or subscriptions, or false testimonies, or synods, or records of deeds, or vain ordinations unknown to ecclesiastical rule; or unsuitable and irrational tenures of place; and briefly, if it is customary for the most impious heretics to do anything else, (if anyone) through diabolical operation crookedly and cunningly acts contrary to the pious preachings of the orthodox (teachers) of the Catholic Church, that is to say, its paternal and synodal proclamations, to the destruction of the most sincere confession unto the Lord our God, and persists without repentance unto the end impiously doing these things, let such a person be condemned forever,and let all the people say: so be it, so be it [Psalm 105:48].
-- Lateran Council, Canon 19-20
I believe that there is an old adage that states that it is not where you start but where you finish that matters. I also believe that I could have just made that up because it sounds good, but I still think it is a valid point.
If you start in ignorance and end in ignorance then shame on others if they did not teach you or shame on you for not listening! If you start in sin you should not end in your sin because we have the Truth of Christ proclaimed and lived all around us.
Peter started out poorly, but when the lessons came, he took them to heart. Not only that but he recognized his whole life how easy it is to slip back into old patterns of sinfulness and worked to do better by doing good. Mark Twain had a saying about some of the missionaries to Hawaii: they came to do good and did well. Peter started out to do well and in the end did good.
Through humiliation he learned humility; through temptation he learn prudence and charity. He may have started out selfish, vain, and greedy but he ended up a true servant of Christ to king and shepherd alike. Peter reminds us that our true discipleship begets true discipleship in others.
Beatified but never officially canonized, Benedict the XIV formally recognized the devotional culture dedicated to him, so you will see him alternately designated as "saint" or "blessed".
As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, "It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the Apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
-- Acts 6:1-7
How often do we look at the good things that happen in our lives through a selfish lens? How often do we take the good things for granted. Cesar drifted through the good life taking advantage of everything, including the job of Canon of Salon (basically Canons were workers in the Cathedral).
One day he was brought to humility by a small shrine and the knowledge that a friend had prayed for his soul. Suddenly the end of his life came into focus and all the good in his life became the impetus for reforming his life rather than wasting it.
This shows us the power of prayer, the power of God's mercy and grace, and the need within ourselves to never be complacent about the good that God has done for us.
Cesar pray for us!
In the year of his birth at Cavaillon, the Christian world is in a crisis, one of the most serious crises in its history. A crisis that is not only a religious and doctrinal one, but also a crisis of civilization, with the afflux of new movements of thought, not all negative, but which confuse the mass of the faithful. Cesar de Bus came into the world in this troubled period when men are gradually opening up to culture, to the arts and to the reign of pleasure. He let himself be swept along, during adolescence and early manhood, to the life of ease for which his social status and his fortune marked him out, the superficial, careless life of a gifted being, brilliant in society, a poet when he liked, more sensitive to the appeal of pleasure in every form than to the demands of the Gospel. …After his conversion, the spiritual progress of the Blessed was not without its upsets, moments of discouragement, darkness and uncertainty. We have been struck, however, by what was to be, almost from the beginning, a characteristic of his whole life. Perhaps that is the secret of his constancy, or in any case, what always enabled him to overcome his difficulties and start off again with increased energy; we are referring to his “spirit of repentance.” Repentance is not an empty word for him. He carries it to its extreme consequences, for he has come back from so far! He has to master the passion of which he was the slave in the past, a violent and perpetual battle against carnal temptations. He learns in this way to seek and love sacrifice, for sacrifice configures one with Christ Suffering and Victorious. To offer himself as a libation, to leave everything in God’s hand at the cost of the greatest renunciations, this seems to have been the leitmotif, the perpetual aim of his efforts. And when, at the end of his life, suffering and afflicted with blindness for 14 years, he is at last able to prepare for the supreme gift, he will realize how useful asceticism has been to master the old Adam. He will be ready to meet the Lord. His joy will be perfect. The aim of Father de Bus is to communicate Christian doctrine to the people. The idea is far from being new. From the beginning the first Christians were anxious to transmit, and transmit exactly, the essential part of what they had received. Collections gathering the most outstanding events and sayings in the midst of a pagan world and in view of the dangers of doctrinal deviation, to inculcate in catechumens and recall to disciples a “kerygma,” that is, a central core, a “summary of the faith” containing the essential elements, which can serve as a basis for developments adapted to circumstances and to the psychology of listeners. It is necessary to give a solid foundation to their faith, to support their affective and charitable attachment to the living God with a knowledge of the truths of faith that will correspond to this love. This is a period in which the world is in crisis, as formerly, and in which most values, even the most sacred ones, are rashly questioned in the name of freedom, so that many people have no longer any point of reference, in a period in which danger comes certainly not from an excess of dogmatism but rather from the dissolution of doctrine and the nebulousness of thought. It seems to Us that an additional effort should be courageously undertaken to give the Christian people, who are waiting for it more than is thought, a solid, exact catechetical base, easy to remember. We well understand that it is difficult today to adhere to the Faith, particularly for the young, a prey to so many uncertainties. They have the right at least to know precisely the message of Revelation, which is not the fruit of research, and to be the witnesses of a Church that lives by it.
-- Beatification Address, Pope Paul VI
Today's Gospel reflects the simple humility of Bernadette, who for all the world could have profited from her visions. Her faith extends beyond the "signs" she saw and into the belief "in the one he sent."
After Jesus had fed the five thousand men, his disciples saw him walking on the sea.
The next day, the crowd that remained across the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not gone along with his disciples in the boat, but only his disciples had left. Other boats came from Tiberias near the place where they had eaten the bread when the Lord gave thanks.
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”
So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
-- John 6:22-29
Some of us learn too fast. By the time he was 16 John had racked up massive debt to loan sharks and been thrown out of his father's house. Learning to make the opposite life choices also came to him fast and at 16 he became a Carmelite. He also merited a reference as "the Good old Mantuan" by Shakespeare in Love’s Labour Lost.
You will find that the reading of sacred scripture is a great and powerful remedy against bodily suffering and depression of mind. In my opinion, there is no other writing, no matter how eloquent and stylish it may be, that can bring such peace to our minds and so thoroughly dissolve our cares as sacred scripture can.
I speak from personal experience: for there have been times when I was beset with anxieties, the worst of which came from the experience of my own weakness, and if on such occasions I sought relief in the scriptures, the hopes and desires that led me there were never disappointed. The word of scripture proved to be a solid bulwark against my anxieties and a relief to my troubled spirit.
I have often wondered why the scriptures have this persuasive power, why they have such a powerful effect on those who listen to them, and why they lead us to the commitment of faith and not to the mere forming of opinion. This response of faith does not happen because of a reasoning process, because scripture does not offer one; and it is not a matter of literary style or artistic merit, because scripture does not use these devices; nor does it use soft words to persuade us.
The real reason that scripture has this persuasive power is that it comes from First Truth. Surely there can be no other explanation for such conviction. It seems as though scripture has an inherent authority that compels us to believe. But on what base does this authority rest? None of us has seen God preaching, writing, teaching —and yet we believe as though we had seen, and realize that what we read comes from the Holy Spirit. One reason for believing may well be that the truth contained in scripture is very solid truth, even though it is not as clear as we might wish. All truth has an inherent power to win our acceptance: the greater the truth, the greater its power. So why is it, then, that not all believe the good news? My reply is that not all are drawn by God. However, there is no point in arguing further. We believe in sacred scripture to the degree that we accept in our hearts God’s divine inspiration.
-- From the Treatise on Patience
We often get in the way of God's will, but as always is the case, God's will reigns supreme. The nonsensical actions people do from ignorance, the best of intentions, or spite still do not stymie the will of God. There are always those who also manage to do the will of God no matter what the actions of others may be. Mother Blondin started from ignorance herself and was pursued by ignorance her whole life but still managed to be Christ to the world without a sense of moral outrage that could have been hers.
“There is more happiness in forgiving than in revenge.”
-- Attributed quote from the Vatican website
Alphege was bishop of Winchester and Archbishop of Canterbury during the Danish raids of the early 11th century. He had managed to quell the raids through artful diplomacy but with a change in Danish leadership that ended. He was captured in a raid and killed in frustration when he refused to be ransomed. I mention him today because over 100 years later Thomas a Becket commended his cause of reform against power to Alphege. One never knows the effect one has when one lives for Christ.
The slip of a vine planted in the ground bears fruit at the proper time. The grain of wheat falls into the ground and decays only to be raised up again and multiplied by the Spirit of God who sustains all things. The Wisdom of God places these things at the service of man and when they receive God’s word they become the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ. In the same way our bodies, which have been nourished by the Eucharist, will be buried in the earth and will decay, but they will rise again at the appointed time, for the Word of God will raise them up to the glory of God the Father. Then the Father will clothe our mortal nature in immortality and freely endow our corruptible nature with incorruptibility, for God’s power is shown most perfectly in weakness.
-- Against Heresies by Irenaeus
I do not want to cause any consternation by mentioning today's saint but I do want to explore our roles in life. Let me start by saying that I believe that "God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27) I also believe that that says more than we often read on the surface. There are many stories of women who dress and pass for boys or even men, some of which are probably true, Joan of Arc being a case in point. But they knew she was not a man, nor did she pretend to be one. What she was was herself. She served God as herself. There is a lot of talk nowadays about "gender identity" and "gender equality" yet if we look through history we might not give it a name but give it an understanding: that while gender physicality is one thing the gender of the soul is another. We black and white traits as male or female but that is not the case. We are each individuals and therefore are a balance of male and female traits. Compassion, sympathy, piety, humility...these are often seen as "weak" traits and are therefore most often associated with women - but that is not true because they are the traits of Christ. We are a complex mix of the traits of God. Our "identity" then, is as children of God. Traits are neither weak or strong (i.e. female or male) they are traits that reflect God (at least the good ones). We each have different gifts, various strengths and weaknesses, and that, as Paul tells is, is the nature of the body (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31).
Our role, whether male or female is to live for Christ, to emulate Christ, to be who we are uniquely born to be. One does not have to physically be male or female to accomplish living for Christ. No matter how we feel about our physical nature we must be true to our spiritual one which comes to us from God.
Before faith came, we were held in custody under law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed. Consequently, the law was our disciplinarian for Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian. For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.
-- Galatians 3:23-29
The struggle of theology is engaging the Faith in the world without being distracted away from living it and acting the Faith in the world without losing the ability to wonder and explore the Faith.
We can see in Anselm this journey. He desired a religious life but his father would not allow it and we can see a bit of swing the other way. It is the death of his mother that re-focuses him. He defies his father and runs away to join, not the circus, but monks (though the argument may be made that there is little difference between the two). There he begins to grow in holiness rising eventually to become abbot. There he also completed some of his most famous works and created an atmosphere at the monastery that gave Bec status as one of the great intellectual centers.
But the pope needed help in the Saxon territories; he needed the intellectual strength of Anselm to quell theological and political matters. He needed someone with religious power to help repair the Great Schism with the Greek Church. He needed someone to take on political power and limit the reach of kings into ecclesiastical matters.
Sure, he was only partially successful in most of these endeavors, but he did it with humility and great intelligence. We can extol him for his successes and frown at some of his solutions, but that is a historical view, not a spiritual one. Even amidst controversy, exile, opposition, partial success, and even failure he continued to produce theological works of great insight and beauty.
We know that theology by itself is sterile. We know the effects of Christianity without thoughtful guidance. Anselm was able to keep theology a lived experience and he inspired and led others to deeper relationships with God by his thought and his deeds. It is for this reason that we extol him today!
CERTAIN brethren have often and earnestly entreated me to put in writing some thoughts that I had offered them in familiar conversation, regarding meditation on the Being of God, and on some other topics connected with this subject, under the form of a meditation on these themes. It is in accordance with their wish, rather than with my ability, that they have prescribed such a form for the writing of this meditation; in order that nothing in Scripture should be urged on the authority of Scripture itself, but that whatever the conclusion of independent investigation should declare to be true, should, in an unadorned style, with common proofs and with a simple argument, be briefly enforced by the cogency of reason, and plainly expounded in the light of truth. It was their wish also, that I should not disdain to meet such simple and almost foolish objections as occur to me.
This task I have long refused to undertake. And, reflecting on the matter, I have tried on many grounds to excuse myself; for the more they wanted this work to be adaptable to practical use, the more was what they enjoined on me difficult of execution. Overcome at last, however, both by the modest importunity of their entreaties and by the not contemptible sincerity of their zeal; and reluctant as I was because of the difficulty of my task and the weakness of my talent, I entered upon the work they asked for. But it is with pleasure inspired by their affection that, so far as I was able, I have prosecuted this work within the limits they set.
I was led to this undertaking in the hope that whatever I might accomplish would soon be overwhelmed with contempt, as by men disgusted with some worthless thing. For I know that in this book I have not so much satisfied those who entreated me, as put an end to the entreaties that followed me so urgently. Yet, somehow it fell out, contrary to my hope, that not only the brethren mentioned above, but several others, by making copies for their own use, condemned this writing to long remembrance. And, after frequent consideration, I have not been able to find that I have made in it any statement which is inconsistent with the writings of the Catholic Fathers, or especially with those of St. Augustine. Wherefore, if it shall appear to any man that I have offered in this work any thought that is either too novel or discordant with the truth, I ask him not to denounce me at once as one who boldly seizes upon new ideas, or as a maintainer of falsehood; but let him first read diligently Augustine’s books on the Trinity, and then judge my treatise in the light of those.
-- Preface to Monologium
This is a day of popes but the designation of death date is often random. We know so little about the first popes so the most we can say is that they had some impact mainly because they kept the Faith and the faithful going. As to Caius, some of what we have been told say that he was from Spalato in Dalmatia, possibly the uncle of Saint Susanna, and may have even been a relative of Emperor Diocletian (not that that helped anyone), and may have been martyred then.
But it seems that he died before that persecution so what we can say is that Caius reigned in relative peace. He codified the path to bishop, starting with minor orders and working up to priest. This required a bishop to be ordained, different than just grabbing someone like Augustine off the street, even someone who was not baptized (though they did have to get baptized first). After this bishops were not so much the choice of the people but men who had taken a path to God and showed their devotion over time - to both good and bad consequences over time.
This process also speaks to the relative peace that the Church enjoyed at that time. Who had the luxury of the time to move through seven or eight minor orders before coming to the fullness of the priesthood? Let us also not take such blessings for granted as we give our priests the space to become men of God and help us to become a people of God.
Caius pray with us for more vocations!
Jesus said to the crowds:
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world.”
-- John 6:44-51
St. George and the Dragon is a strange but popular tale. We actually know very little about George but it has not stopped us from heaping accolades upon this martyr - as we should upon all martyrs for the Faith. We live the life of Christ on their merits.
Saint George was a man who abandoned one army for another: he gave up the rank of tribune to enlist as a soldier for Christ. Eager to encounter the enemy, he first stripped away his worldly wealth by giving all he had to the poor. Then, free and unencumbered, bearing the shield of faith, he plunged into the thick of the battle, an ardent soldier for Christ.
Clearly what he did serves to teach us a valuable lesson: if we are afraid to strip ourselves of our worldly possessions, then we are unfit to make a strong defense of the faith.
As for Saint George, he was consumed with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Armed with the invincible standard of the cross, he did battle with an evil king and acquitted himself so well that, in vanquishing the king, he overcame the prince of all wicked spirits, and encouraged other soldiers of Christ to perform brave deeds in his cause...let us not only admire the courage of this fighter in heaven’s army but follow his example. Let us be inspired to strive for the reward of heavenly glory, keeping in mind his example, so that we will not be swayed from our path, though the world seduce us with its smiles or try to terrify us with naked threats of its trials and tribulations.
-- From a sermon on St. George by St. Peter Damian
We often read the term "Counter-Reformation" as if the Church suddenly rose up in arms to fight the re-formers. In truth, repair and reformation is a constant process in the Church as is shown by its many saints over the millennia - from its beginnings through to the Reformation and even to today. The People of God constantly seeks to reform itself, to be back in line with the Body of Christ both as individuals an as a Church but there are those who seek to re-form her in their own image. As with the need for reform, well, this is nothing new in the Church and she continues to this day, and probably will until the end of time (which is coming, trust me - actually don't trust me, trust Jesus).
The price of standing by her and trying to reform the Church is often resistance from both outside and inside the Church. A friend and I agreed years ago that, as Christ shows us, if they are not trying to kill you, you are not doing it right.
We have many accounts of the early martyrs, many of which are certainly more speculation than fact. For me, it is in reading the more modern accounts like Fidelis or that of St. Kolbe which bring the older less reliable ones to new truth.
Finally, I have read that a Protestant offered Fidelis sanctuary, a statement to both men.
From Gruesch he went to preach at Seewis, where, with great energy, he exhorted the Catholics to constancy in the faith. After a Calvinist had discharged his musket at him in the Church, the Catholics entreated him to leave the place. He answered that death was his gain and his joy, and that he was ready to lay down his life in God's cause. On his road back to Gruesch, he met twenty Calvinist soldiers with a minister at their head. They called him a false prophet, and urged him to embrace their sect. He answered: "I am sent to you to confute, not to embrace your heresy. The Catholic religion is the faith of all ages, I fear not death." One of them beat him down to the ground by a stroke on the head with his backsword. Fidelis rose again on his knees, and stretching forth his arms in the form of a cross, said with a feeble voice "Pardon my enemies, O Lord: blinded by passion they know not what they do. Lord Jesus, have mercy on me. Mary, Mother of God, succor me!." Another sword stroke clove his skull, and he fell to the ground and lay in a pool of his own blood. The soldiers, not content with this, added many stab wounds to his body with their long knives, and hacked-off his left leg, as they said, to punish him for his many journeys into those parts to preach to them.
-- From Alban Butler's "The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints". 1864
It is tradition that the author of the Gospel of Mark was "John Mark" of the Scriptures. He and his family appear to have been followers of Christ from early on with Peter as his guide as comes to us from the Scriptures below.
Prayer: Lord, through the merits of St. Mark, help us to write our own gospel and be unafraid to include the good with the bad all for your glory.
When [Peter] realized [that he had been released from Herod's prison], he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who is called Mark, where there were many people gathered in prayer. (Acts 12:12)
After Barnabas and Saul completed their relief mission, they returned to Jerusalem, taking with them John, who is called Mark. (Acts 12:25)
Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you greetings, as does Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions; if he comes to you, receive him)... (Colossians 4:10)
When they arrived in Salamis, they [Paul and Barnabas] proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. They had John also as their assistant. (Acts 13:5)
After some time, Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us make a return visit to see how the brothers are getting on in all the cities where we proclaimed the word of the Lord.” Barnabas wanted to take with them also John, who was called Mark, but Paul insisted that they should not take with them someone who had deserted them at Pamphylia and who had not continued with them in their work. So sharp was their disagreement that they separated. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus. (Acts 15:36-39)
It is speculated that Mark openly marked his shame in his youthful inability to hang by mentioning this small fact:
Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked. (Mark 14:51-52)
It appears that he eventually managed to find his mettle and Paul's forgiveness in the earlier confident forgiveness of Barnabas:
Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as well as Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my co-workers. (Philemon 1:23-24)
Luke is the only one with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is helpful to me in the ministry. (2 Timothy 4:11)
It also appears that he lived long enough to follow Peter and Paul to Rome then produce a Gospel that became not just the foundation for Matthew and Luke, but the foundation of the Church in Rome.