There is contention about the validity and place of the Fathers in the practice of our Faith. It is the argument of some that it is their introduction of philosophical language which corrupts the true church. We who honor the Fathers see their efforts as helping to guide and remove corruption from the Church. Their ability to articulate understandings about the Faith answers doubt and right inaccurate thinking. It is easy to dismiss them as non-biblical but to ignore the Fathers is to fall into many of the traps that they speak against.
Peter's ability to voice complex ideas succinctly and brilliantly led many to deeper understanding and practice of the Faith. In fact it would be easy to place a complete copy of any of his homilies here because they are so short and to the point. But for even more brevity I will only sample two with similar themes.
Christ’s birth was not necessity, but an expression of omnipotence, a sacrament of piety for the redemption of men. He who made humans without generation from pure clay made man again and was born from a pure body. The hand that assumed clay to make our flesh deigned to assume a body for your salvation. That the Creator is in his creature and God is in the flesh brings dignity to man without dishonor to him who made him.
Why then, man, are you so worthless in your own eyes and yet so precious to God?
Why render yourself such dishonor when you are honored by him?
Why do you ask how you were created and do not seek to know why you were made?
-- From a Homily on the Nativity of Christ
The man made from the earth is the pattern of those who belong to the earth; the man from heaven is the pattern of those who belong to heaven. How is it that these last, though they do not belong to heaven by birth, will yet belong to heaven, men who do not remain what they were by birth but persevere in being what they have become by rebirth? The reason is, brethren, that the heavenly Spirit, by the mysterious infusion of his light, gives fertility to the womb of the virginal font. The Spirit brings forth as men belonging to heaven those whose earthly ancestry brought them forth as men belonging to the earth, and in a condition of wretchedness; he gives them the likeness of their Creator. Now that we are reborn, refashioned in the image of our Creator, we must fulfill what the Apostle commands: So, as we have worn the likeness of the man of earth, let us also wear the likeness of the man of heaven.
-- From Sermon 117
I am always surprised about the tension and high feelings that come up about Martha and Mary, as if one of the things we have to do is compare ourselves to others and choose one over the other. Jesus certainly points out something but it is not a comparison. Jesus calls Martha to task over her worry, not her choice of actions. The mention of Mary is to call Martha to think about what she does and thinks and does not compare her to Mary as Mary being better. One other certainty is that later Mary wails over Lazarus' death while Martha proclaims her beliefs. Jesus calls us to be true to him no matter who we are.
Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
"Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me."
The Lord said to her in reply,
"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her."
-- Luke 10:38-42
We do not often think of Old Testament players as "Saint". We do not say St. David or St. Moses, but we believe that they are, because we believe that Christ opened the gates of Heaven and all the souls that had been waiting were granted admittance. Elijah is celebrated in both the East and the West.
Elijah's name takes the two names for God used in the Pentateuch and brings them together: "my God is Y**H" or simply, "El[ohim] is Y**H". There is only one God, though we recognize His distinct aspects, what we would call "persons", and that is what Elijah's name points out.
Aside from that powerful theological witness, Elijah is also the patron of desert monks, especially the Carmelites, because he defeated the prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel and took refuge in a cave on Mt. Horeb and found God there.
He left his servant there and went a day’s journey into the wilderness, until he came to a solitary broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death: “Enough, LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” He lay down and fell asleep under the solitary broom tree, but suddenly a messenger touched him and said, “Get up and eat!” He looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again, but the angel of the LORD came back a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat or the journey will be too much for you!” He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb. There he came to a cave, where he took shelter. But the word of the LORD came to him: Why are you here, Elijah? He answered: “I have been most zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts, but the Israelites have forsaken your covenant. They have destroyed your altars and murdered your prophets by the sword. I alone remain, and they seek to take my life.” Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD;* the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, Why are you here, Elijah?
-- 1 Kings 19:3b-13
I know it will be said that a priest ordayned by authority derived from the See of Rome is, by the Law of the Nation, to die as a Traytor, but if that be so what must become of all the Clergymen of the Church of England, for the first Church of England Bishops had their Ordination from those of the Church of Rome, or not at all, as appears by their own writers so that Ordination comes derivatively from those now living.
-- From his speech on the scaffold
Care of the sick is a Corporeal Work of Mercy. Let us pray for all who care for the sick and infirmed, and let us pray for his intervention for when we are care-givers or care-receivers.
Let me start with holy charity, the root of all the virtues and the gift most characteristic of Camillus. He was so fired by this virtue, both towards God and towards his neighbors, especially the sick, that just to see them was enough to melt his tender heart and to make him forget every pleasure, every earthly delight and attachment. Indeed, even when ministering to just one sick man, he seemed to burn himself up and wear himself out with the utmost devotion and compassion. Gladly would he have taken upon himself all their sickness and sufferings to alleviate their pain or take away their weakness.
So vividly did he picture and honor the person of Christ in them that often when distributing food to them he thought of them as his ‘Christs’, and would beg of them grace and the remission of sins. Hence he was as reverent before them as if he were really and truly in the presence of his Lord. Of nothing would he speak more frequently or fervently than of holy charity. He longed that it should take root in the heart of every man.
-- From a Life of St Camillus
Bonaventure is more that just a theologian and Doctor of the Church. If we think of him as a Franciscan first, then we have to start with his commitment to poverty, his love of the natural world, and his opposition to rigid structures. Then we have to move into his mysticism which has a very practical side. The natural world, Creation, is the first step towards God but it is not everything. Understanding starts in the world around us and flows upwards, toward God
Blessed is the man whose help is from You. In his heart he is disposed to ascend by steps, in the vale of tears, in the place which he has set [Psalm, 84:6]. Since beatitude is nothing else than the fruition of the highest good, and the highest good is above us, none can be made blessed unless he ascend above himself, not by the ascent of his body but by that of his heart. But we cannot be raised above ourselves except by a higher power raising us up. But we cannot be raised above ourselves except by a higher power raising us up. For howsoever the interior steps are disposed, nothing is accomplished unless it is accompanied by divine aid. Divine help, however, comes to those who seek it from their hearts humbly and devoutly; and this means to sigh for it in this vale of tears, aided only by fervent prayer. Thus prayer is the mother and source of ascent in God.
-- From The Mind's Road to God 1,1
Sometimes we make things into victories and completely miss the true victory. Kateri was a Native American who became Catholic, nothing more, nothing less. It is not proof of the power of missionaries, nor the power of one faith or denomination over another, nor the power of Western culture over Native culture, nor any other number of things.
It is, however, a victory for God and God's love.
I am not my own; I have given myself to Jesus. He must be my only love. The state of helpless poverty that may befall me if I do not marry does not frighten me. All I need is a little food and a few pieces of clothing. With the work of my hands I shall always earn what is necessary and what is left over I'll give to my relatives and to the poor. If I should become sick and unable to work, then I shall be like the Lord on the cross. He will have mercy on me and help me, I am sure.
Even if his brothers had trouble following him, even if the did try to kill him, Benedict created a rule which still inspires, instructs, challenges, and defines Western monasticism. His rule also give viable instruction to those of us who live outside the cloister.
A special thank-you and prayers to the monks and abbeys that have been a part of my life and given me such a wonderful sense of Catholicism, prayer, liturgy, and friendship.
And so, girded with faith and the performance of good works, let us follow in his paths by the guidance of the Gospel; then we shall deserve to see him who has called us into his kingdom. If we wish to attain a dwelling-place in his kingdom we shall not reach it unless we hasten there by our good deeds.
Just as there exists an evil fervor, a bitter spirit, which divides us from God and leads us to hell, so there is a good fervor which sets us apart from evil inclinations and leads us toward God and eternal life. Monks should put this fervor into practice with an overflowing love: that is, they should surpass each other in mutual esteem, accept their weaknesses, either of body or of behavior, with the utmost patience; and vie with each other in acceding to requests. No one should follow what he considers to be good for himself, but rather what seems good for another. They should display brotherly love in a chaste manner; fear God in a spirit of love; revere their abbot with a genuine and submissive affection. Let them put Christ before all else; and may he lead us all to everlasting life.
-- From the Rule of Benedict
The role that religion plays in American politics and everyday life today is a far cry from the role it played in the 5th century. Today we wrangle about the application of belief systems, in those days they fought about the very meaning of the belief system and the ramifications it had in everyday life. Then, more so than now, God was everywhere, not just in indignant people and talking heads; God permeated the air and was thought to be vital to life and therefore to politics.
When the bishop of Constantinople (i.e. the Pope in the East) muddied the waters about the nature of Christ it would be as if Pope Francis declared that most of the teachings of the Church were wrong. When doctrine is not well defined, though believed, it can be the cause of scandal among the faithful. Blind acceptance is not the problem but taking truths for granted is. The little understood or misunderstood truth can be fodder for error and those not well taught can easily be misled or fall into error.
Cyril fought hard but he did so with love as the end goal. After the bloody and cruel fight he was the first to seek reconciliation in order to bring all together under Jesus, understood as both God and human, and into the protection of his mother the Theotokos.
Today we might learn a lesson about extracting the truth from human foible and living to make it vital and important in the everyday, not just on passing, knee-jerk, hot-button issues. Today many of the arguments remain the same, as do the errors which lead the faithful astray, only the proponents have changed.
Forgive me for having resolved to speak not only against a king, but also for the glory of Christ, the great King, who reigns with his Father over the world; it is with him alone that it is true to say: "Through me kings reign", because he is the "Lord of glory" in heaven and on earth. It is because of that the champions of the divine teachings (us, in fact - given this office by Christ) must oppose those who intend to defile his glory and to plead his cause, to appear sound to readers, to be a more useful aid for those whose heart is easily led astray and is inclined to yield to difficulties, and for those on the other hand who are well established in the faith to be a kind of stick able to support them in the strengthening of this faith and to maintain undimmed the tradition of orthodoxy.
Who is it that has entered into war against the glory of Christ? They are legion, those who at various periods have let themselves go at this foolishness, driven by the perversity of the devil; but none as went far as Julian, who damaged the prestige of the Empire by refusing to recognize Christ, dispenser of royalty and power. Before his accession to the throne, he was counted among the believers: he had even been admitted to Holy Baptism and had studied the Holy Scriptures.
But some sinister characters, followers of superstition, entered, I do not know how, into connections with him and sowed in him the maxims of apostasy; then, allied with Satan in this design, they led him towards the practices of the Greeks and transformed into a servant of impure demons one who had been raised in holy churches and monasteries: "bad company corrupts good upbringing", as the very wise Paul says. However, I affirm that those who wish to preserve solid thought, and who keep in their spirit, like an invaluable pearl, the tradition of the true faith, do not have to offer to the peddlers of superstition any occasion to insinuate themselves, yet in any case should speak to them freely. Is it not written: "You will be holy with the holy, irreproachable with the irreproachable, chosen with the chosen, and you will outwit the cheat"? With the eloquence with which he was gifted, the all-powerful Julian argued against our common Savior Christ; he composed three books against the holy gospels and against the very pure Christian religion, he used them to shake many spirits and to cause them uncommon wrongs. Indeed, the light-minded and easily seduced fall easily into his sights, and constitute a welcome amusement for the demonic powers; but not the spirits of those strengthened in the faith which do not let themselves be disturbed yet sometimes they believe that Julian knows the holy and divine Scriptures, since he uses them in his own works — without otherwise knowing well what it says!... — a number of testimonies that he borrows from them.
Very many followers of superstition, when they meet Christians, overpower them with any kind of sarcastic remarks, and rely on the works of Julian to attack us, which they proclaim to be of an incomparable effectiveness, adding that there never was a learned man on our side able to refute them, or even show them at fault; also, at the instigation of more than one person, and full of confidence once again in the word of God: "Get under way, and I will open your mouth!", I put myself to the duty of rebutting this Greek eyebrow raised against the glory of Christ, to help to the extent of my abilities those which have been deceived, in order to convict of error and of ignorance of the Scriptures the man who has accused our common Savior Christ.
-- Against Julian, Prefatory Address (3-5)
A prayer for our enemies
Almighty God, have mercy on N. [and N.], and on all that bear me evil will, and would me harm, and their faults and mine together by such easy, tender, merciful means as thine infinite wisdom best can devise; vouchsafe to amend and redress and make us saved souls in Heaven together, where we may ever live and love together with thee and thy blessed saints, O glorious Trinity, for the bitter passion of our sweet Savior Christ. Amen.
Lord, give me patience in tribulation and grace in everything, to conform my will to thine, that I may truly say:
“Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in cælo et in terra”*.
The things, good Lord, that I pray for, give me thy grace to labor for.
-- Thomas More
* "Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven"
Take care above all things, most honored lady, not to insult God's boundless loving kindness; you would certainly do this if you mourned as dead one living face to face with God, one whose prayers can bring you in your troubles more powerful aid than they ever could on earth. And our parting will not be for long; we shall see each other again in heaven; we shall be united with our Savior; there we shall praise him with heart and soul, sing of his mercies for ever, and enjoy eternal happiness.
-- From a letter to his mother
Tit for tat. So often we live not in love and tolerance but hate and vengeance. The cruelty we inflict on one another to prove a point everyday is lit up in big events. What end does torture, burning, hanging, drawing, and quartering accomplish? In our daily lives, what end does an unkind word bring about?
We can use today to celebrate those who have died by our hands for the Faith, not just these Irish but all: Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant alike.
God punishes for chastisement and edification; why do we punish?
But it is the Will of God that Christ both did and taught. Humility in dealings with others; steadfastness in faith; modesty in words; justice in deeds; mercy in works; discipline in morals. To be unable to do a wrong, and to be able to bear a wrong when it is done; to keep peace with the brethren; to love God with all one’s heart; to love God because he is a Father but fear him because he is God; to prefer nothing whatever to Christ because he preferred nothing to us; to adhere inseparably to his love; to stand faithfully and bravely by his cross; when there is any conflict over his name and honor, to exhibit in discourse that steadfastness in which we proclaim him; in torture, to show that confidence in which we unite; in death, that patience in which we are crowned – this is what it means to want to be co-heirs with Christ, this is what it means to do what God commands, this is what it is to fulfill the will of the Father.
-- St Cyprian, Treatise on the Our Father
Fans of Godspell often miss the first part of this prayer - but it certainly rounds it out and succinctly provides the fullness of prayer.
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits thou hast given me,
for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
may I know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly, day by day.
Prayer means to direct our affection toward God through a devout and friendly conversation with Him. It is the tranquility of a mind enlightened from on high. Prayer is also required to obtain those earthly goods necessary for this mortal life. But those who pray must ask the Lord, with an authentic Christian spirit, to subdue their will to His will: our Heavenly Father knows what we truly need on this earth. Finally, prayer is an act of thanksgiving, a recognition of benefits received, and a donation of our commitment to God so that our prayer might be everlasting.
I do not think that anyone becomes an apostle by choice, or seeks out the chance to be in the service of apostles, for that matter.
Barnabas came together with Paul to seek out those who do not know Christ in the wider world. Like Paul he started out with another name, Joseph, and was given a new one "which means, the man of encouragement".
It seems from what we know of him (which is more than most of the original 12) it was an appropriate name. He was a Levite in service to the priests of Aaron, who put himself at the service of the new priests, the Apostles.
Eventually he became the advocate for that other renamed convert, who was such a scourge on the Early Church. Who would ever ask to be in a support position like that? Yet his gift was that he seemed to sense the potential in others and advocate for them.
But he was a man of strong opinions and zeal for the Church and Christ, so it makes sense. It also shows the two sides of that zeal. He breaks with the man he championed over the weakness of another. The faint heart heart of Mark pushed the limits of Paul's human capability to forgive. It is the irony that Barnabas, who forgave and heard the Lord in Paul, should lose to Paul's inability to see and do the same for another. Who would ever wish to be asked to choose one child over another?
Barnabas, from the moment he sold everything and laid it at the feet of the Apostles lived as the man he was, true to his role as Levite and true to his roll as apostle and companion. Eventually this man of encouragement and support even won over Paul's heart. We are fortunate to have Barnabas, who counters both Peter's wishy-washiness and Paul's rigidness.
So it behooves us to emulate him and ask for his constant support and encouragement - perhaps we too can be called "a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith".
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. Thus Joseph, also named by the apostles Barnabas (which is translated “son of encouragement”), a Levite, a Cypriot by birth, sold a piece of property that he owned, then brought the money and put it at the feet of the apostles.
...In those days a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to go to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.
-- Acts 4:32-37; 11:21-24
Debating the hypostatic union is really not for everyone, but what we all can agree on is that sometimes we forget that Jesus was fully human, head and heart. This feast, pointed to by (in what we do not consider irony) several mystics, reminds us of the fullness of God's plan for salvation. Jesus is God, but he is also one of us. He did not need to become human in order to understand our day-to-day sufferings and joys, but he did in order to show us that it is possible to bend the human will to the divine will without losing anything and gaining everything. That is simple enough for the simplest of believers. As Bonaventure reminds us, the Church is born from the side of the human Jesus.
Now if you are up to the debate...
You who have been redeemed, consider who it is who hangs on the cross for you, whose death gives life to the dead, whose passing is mourned by heaven and earth, while even the hard stones are split. Consider how great he is; consider what he is.
In order that the Church might be formed from the side of Christ as he slept on the cross, in order that the word of scripture might be fulfilled – ‘They shall look on him whom they have pierced’ – God’s providence decreed that one of the soldiers should open his sacred side with a spear, so that blood with water might flow out to pay the price of our salvation. This blood, which flowed from its source in the secret recesses of his heart, gave the sacraments of the Church power to confer the life of grace, and for those who already live in Christ was a draught of living water welling up to eternal life.
...O soul devoted to God, whoever you may be, run to this source of life and light with eager longing. And with the power of your inmost heart cry out to him: ‘O indescribable beauty of God most high! O pure radiance of everlasting light! O life that gives life to all life! O light that illuminates every light, and preserves in its undying splendor the myriad flames that have shone before the throne of your godhead from the dawn of time!
-- St Bonaventure, The Tree of Life
It is the people who see a need and fill it who are the true saints. Individuals become missionaries not always by choice but by need. It may start local but ends up in places we could never imagine. By working on local problems we often see the need for social justice in a wider framework. Both Norbert and Marcellin started by not just meeting local needs but teaching as well. Ignorance and poverty so often go hand in hand and the legacy of abbeys created by Norbert sustained Europe during tough times; Marcellin's Marists embed themselves around the world. The world is better for the both of them, and their simple vision of compassion.
I cannot see a child without wanting to tell him how much Jesus loves him.
-- Marcellin Champagnat, quoted from the Vatican website.
I just want to take today and thank all of the missionaries who have left their homes and brought Christ to the world. I have certainly benefited from your benefice.
Let us stand fast in what is right and prepare our souls for trial. Let us wait upon God’s strengthening aid and say to him: O Lord, you have been our refuge in all generations.
Let us trust in him who has placed this burden upon us. What we ourselves cannot bear let us bear with the help of Christ. For he is all-powerful and he tells us: My yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Let us continue the fight on the day of the Lord. The days of anguish and of tribulation have overtaken us; if God so wills, let us die for the holy laws of our fathers, so that we may deserve to obtain an eternal inheritance with them.
Let us be neither dogs that do not bark nor silent onlookers nor paid servants who run away before the wolf. Instead let us be careful shepherds watching over Christ’s flock. Let us preach the whole of God’s plan to the powerful and to the humble, to rich and to poor, to men of every rank and age, as far as God gives us the strength, in season and out of season, as Saint Gregory writes in his book of Pastoral Instruction.
-- From a letter
Seems like an odd thing to celebrate, Mary high-tailing it out of town to hang out with her cousin...suspiciously like the old story of the unmarried pregnant girl shipped off to live with the older spinster/widowed aunt until after the birth.
But that is certainly not the case. She has gone to aid her cousin in her own time of need. Elizabeth has probably aided many others in her day but this is a first for her - she is expecting in her later years.
But the most important thing we celebrate is once again the showing of Jesus to the world as will happen at his birth, his day in the temple, and many others until he his lifted highest on the Cross and then into Heaven. This feast is less about Mary visiting Elizabeth and more about John recognizing Jesus in the womb of the Theotokos. Jesus' divinity shines forth even in his developing humanity. Elizabeth recognizes the irony of the visit: "And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:43) Who am I to be served by you? This is echoed at the Last Supper by Peter, and like Mary's response, Jesus calls him to remember the purpose for it all.
This is our day to "leap for joy" in the womb of Mother Church and proclaim the glory of God to all the Earth.
Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said,
"Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."
And Mary said:
"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever."
-- Luke 1:39-56
We must love them, love them in spite of everything, love them always.
-- Retreat Notes
A busy Day for saints (as are most days), but ones well worth our time. I do not often recall multiple saints but these three show the diversity and unity of the Church throughout time and place. Each was a monastic, showing the rich monastic tradition within and the importance of that tradition to the Church and how it is rarely running away from the world, as the world so often views it.
Each also approached the world and the needs of the Church (and World) differently. Each dedicated themselves to the improvement and betterment of others, each on different scales. Gregory, caught amidst the turmoil of the politics of his time sought reform of both Church and king. Bede focused on a true education of those around him to remove ignorance and superstition and encourage veneration and holiness and stability amidst chaos. Mary cultivated her personal interior garden and that of her sisters to the salvation of the world amid the fracturing of the Church.
All of theses things should be considered even amidst the foibles of human weakness.
So now, my dearly beloved brothers, listen carefully to what I say to you. All who in the whole world bear the name of Christian and truly understand the Christian faith know and believe that Saint Peter, the prince of the apostles, is the father of all Christians and their first shepherd after Christ, and that the holy Roman Church is the mother and mistress of all the Churches. If, then, you believe and unshakably hold this, such as I am, your brother and unworthy master, I ask and command you by Almighty God to help and succor your father and mother, if through them you would have the absolution of all your sins, and blessing and grace in this world and in the world to come.
-- From a letter of Pope St Gregory VII
On the Tuesday before Ascension, Bede began to suffer greater difficulties in breathing and his feet began to swell slightly. Nevertheless, he continued to teach us and dictate all day, and made jokes about his illness: “Learn quickly,” he would say, “because I don’t know how long I’ll last: my Creator may take me very soon.” But it seemed to us that he was perfectly conscious of his approaching end.
...“It is time – if it is my Maker’s will – to return to him who made me, who shaped me out of nothing and gave me existence. I have lived a long time, and the righteous judge has provided well for me all my life: now the time of my departure is at hand, for I long to dissolve and be with Christ; indeed, my soul longs to see Christ its king in all his beauty.” This is just one saying of his: he said many other things too, to our great benefit – and thus he spent his last day in gladness until the evening.
-- Cuthbert's narration of the death of Bede
Come, Holy Spirit. May the union of the Father and the will of the Son come to us. You, Spirit of truth, are the reward of the saints, the refreshment of souls, light in darkness, the riches of the poor, the treasury of lovers, the satisfaction of the hungry, the consolation of the pilgrim Church; you are he in whom all treasures are contained.
Come, you who, descending into Mary, caused the Word to take flesh: effect in us by grace what you accomplished in her by grace and nature.
Come, you who are the nourishment of all chaste thoughts, the fountain of all clemency, the summit of all purity.
Come, and take away from us all that hinders us from being absorbed in you.
-- From the writings on revelation and temptation by St Mary Magdalene de Pazzi
When I was young I often wondered why we relied so heavily on Mary. Jesus was the man, right? It is he whom we should emulate, right?
I grew up in a home with a loving, albeit imperfect, mother. It is only now, after I have seen her mother for many years, watched my wife, and now my daughter mother their children that I understand that it is not that Mary equals or rivals Jesus but that she is unable to stop being a mother. Jesus' earthly mission is completed and he is always there and is our God yet Mary cannot help but cheer for all of his efforts and do what she can to make them come to fruition.
Mary is our aid and comforter not in spite of or in alternate to Jesus but because of Jesus.
We too should look to being like her in supporting and aiding Jesus' mission on Earth; our efforts do not replace Jesus but enhance his love in the world.
John said to Jesus,
"Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,
and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us."
Jesus replied, "Do not prevent him.
There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us."
-- Mark 9:38-40
What profit have workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to mortals to be busied about. God has made everything appropriate to its time, but has put the timeless into their hearts so they cannot find out, from beginning to end, the work which God has done. I recognized that there is nothing better than to rejoice and to do well during life. Moreover, that all can eat and drink and enjoy the good of all their toil—this is a gift of God. I recognized that whatever God does will endure forever; there is no adding to it, or taking from it. Thus has God done that he may be revered. What now is has already been; what is to be, already is: God retrieves what has gone by.
-- Ecclesiastes 3:9-15
Popes are an interesting lot and John is no different. He was a man caught between two worlds; not just the world of politics and the world of Faith, but within each of those worlds as well. He practiced intolerance early in his career, supporting the anti-pope and yet was forgiven and eventually elected Pope.
In the West Theodoric the Ostrogoth was an Arian, while many of his subjects were Catholic. In the East, Justin was Orthodox while many of his subjects were Arian. In the West they looked to the East; in the East to the West. In the East the Arians appealed to Theodoric for help and Theodoric sent John to appeal for justice from the persecution. He was received in honor and argued from love for those who believed something that he did not and Justin relented, with some minor caveats. Theodoric was more political and viewed his non-Arian subjects with suspicion as possibly more loyal to the East. John's success and warm welcome in the East also raised his suspicions. Ironically, the love that John proclaimed brought relief in the East but persecution and his death in the West. His life and martyrdom are an example of the merits and perils of tolerance.
When a few days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea on a visit to Festus. Since they spent several days there, Festus referred Paul’s case to the king, saying, “There is a man here left in custody by Felix. When I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and demanded his condemnation. I answered them that it was not Roman practice to hand over an accused person before he has faced his accusers and had the opportunity to defend himself against their charge. So when (they) came together here, I made no delay; the next day I took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought in. His accusers stood around him, but did not charge him with any of the crimes I suspected. Instead they had some issues with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed was alive. Since I was at a loss how to investigate this controversy, I asked if he were willing to go to Jerusalem and there stand trial on these charges. And when Paul appealed that he be held in custody for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.”
-- Acts 25:13-21
Help me to journey beyond the familiar
and into the unknown.
Give me the faith to leave old ways
and break fresh ground with You.
Christ of the mysteries, I trust You
to be stronger than each storm within me.
I will trust in the darkness and know
that my times, even now, are in Your hand.
Tune my spirit to the music of heaven,
and somehow, make my obedience count for You.
Things to Think About