Cantankerous, opinionated, and of great wit, Jerome made many friends but probably as many enemies. For all he did, he is best known as the translator of the Vulgate for Damascus I (Dec 10th). Because of his long work on the translation, Jerome is the patron saint of archaeologists, translators, Biblical scholars, and librarians.
The proud sin greatly who, after studying secular literature and having turned to the Holy Scriptures, consider all that they say to be the Law of God, and do not endeavor to come to know the thoughts of the prophets and apostles, but seek out from the scriptures inappropriate texts for their own thoughts, as if this were a good work, and not the most defiled kind of study: to distort the thoughts of Scripture and submit them to their own intentions, in spite of obvious contradictions… It is proper to children and charlatans to try to teach that which they do not know.
-- Letter to St. Paulinus
War broke out in heaven;
Michael and his angels battled against the dragon.
The dragon and its angels fought back,
but they did not prevail
and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
The huge dragon, the ancient serpent,
who is called the Devil and Satan,
who deceived the whole world,
was thrown down to earth,
and its angels were thrown down with it.
-- Revelation 12:7-9
How do we translate the tenets of our Faith into political action? Can one both support Caesar and be Christian?
What is political progress? Can Christian values impede political progress? Can they aid it?
Those around him, apparently even his mother, worried what a Christian ruler might do. I like the response given here in this biography "Just because you tire of serving Christ, why should you hinder the rest of us?" I am convinced, thanks to his example, that is the way to think about it, especially in today's environment where so many have wearied of what they perceive following Christ to mean.
In the end, like Wenceslaus we must be true followers of Christ and that is up to us, no matter what those around us think, say, and feel.
We are neither a party nor conservative or liberal, we are followers of Christ - and that is what we need to be everyday, regardless of the labels assigned to us.
Finally, strengthened by the power of God that encircled him, he summoned his mother and those under her influence, and rebuked them.... "The sayings of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed" (Ecclesiastes 12:11). Thus said the blessed Wenceslaus: "Why, sons of criminals, offspring of liars and men of iniquity, have you hindered me from learning the law of the Lord Jesus Christ and obeying His commandments? Just because you tire of serving Christ, why should you hinder the rest of us? Although I have been under your power up until now, yet now I reject it, and I choose instead the omnipotent God whom I desire to serve with all my heart."
From his boyhood he did not depart in the smallest degree from the Lord's teaching: true in his speech, just in his judgment, faithful in every enterprise, his piety exceeding all human measure. When anyone was undergoing a trial in the council of judges and was awaiting his judgment as chief judge, he took every opportunity to quietly withdraw himself, remembering the threats of Christ put forward in the Gospel: "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned" (Luke 6:37).
He destroyed gallows and prisons that had been built in ancient times but were still standing. He tirelessly comforted orphans, widows, the poor, the groaning and the wounded, fed the hungry, revived the thirsty, covered the naked, visited the sick, buried the dead, welcomed neighbors, friends, and strangers, honored priests and clergy as the Lord, honored monks, and opened the way of truth to those who had gone astray. He observed truth, humility, patience, meekness, and above all things charity, seizing nothing by force or deceit.
-- Life and Passion of Saints Wenceslaus and Ludmila
The St. Vincent De Paul Society was not started by St. Vincent but his life and work inspires both its inception and continued activity.
"The Society of St. Vincent de Paul began in Paris, France, in 1833 when a young law student at the Sorbonne, Frédéric Ozanam, was challenged during a debate to demonstrate what he and his fellow Catholic students were personally doing to help the poor in Paris. Ozanam's reaction was immediate. Within weeks, Ozanam, at 20 years of age, and six of his peers formed the first "Conference of Charity."...At the prompting of Monsieur Emmanuel Bailly and Sister Rosalie Rendu, superior of a convent of the Daughters of Charity, Ozanam soon placed the conference under the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul who had spent his life in 16th century France serving the poor." (From the Society of St. Vincent de Paul website)
Vincent was born poor, and as often happens in the Church it is not only wealth that gets you ordained (especially after the reforms of Trent) and so the opportunity for education and service are open to all. Not that wealth and privilege nor poverty install people less worthy of the office, neither is an impediment to true service.
He was captured by Turkish pirates and sold into slavery freed from that service only after he had converted his owner to Christianity. From there he returned to Paris to serve as chaplain too the king, yet spent much of his devotion on serving the poor and the outcast.
We must serve always and so serve where we are - whether we want to be there or not!
You say you are not happy in the Mission. That, in itself, is not a sign that God does not want you there. Perfect contentment is never to be found, in whatever place and condition one may be. This life is full of annoyances and troubles both of mind and of body; it is a state of continual agitation, which snatches peace of mind from those who think they possess it and eludes those who seek it. Did Our Lord lead an easy life? Did He not experience the trials and tribulations we fear? He was the Man of Sorrows, and we want to be exempt from suffering! He speaks to us of the Cross only so that we might have a share in His glory, and we would wish to follow Him without enduring anything!
-- Letter to Stanislaw Zelazewski
We expect so much for free, even when we do deserve it. We expect to be rewarded for what we do. That is fine when discussing the dignity of work and workers but not when discussing our vocation. The brothers, physicians and healers, are known as "unmercinary" physicians because they took no payment for their healing services. They gave freely not out of human generosity but from the gift of healing that they had received. It is this sharing of gifts, of recognizing the nature of "gift" that drove their ministry. When we think about vocation, we should see it in light of the gifts we have received. That is to say, like Cosmas and Damien, we recognize our strengths as gifts given to bring Christ to the world and then share them freely. They are not "ours" but have been given to us, meaning that they are our gift to others.
We want for free but we refuse to give for free. That is the lesson of humility we must learn, one that the brothers can teach us. We can hear that our gifts are for the glory of God reflected in the First Reading today:
King Darius issued an order to the officials of West-of-Euphrates:
"Let the governor and the elders of the Jews continue the work on that house of God; they are to rebuild it on its former site.
I also issue this decree concerning your dealing with these elders of the Jews in the rebuilding of that house of God:
From the royal revenue, the taxes of West-of-Euphrates, let these men be repaid for their expenses, in full and without delay.
I, Darius, have issued this decree; let it be carefully executed."
-- Ezra 6:7-8, 12b
When I was young, there was talk of a priest who had the stigmata, just like Francis. At the time, for me at least, there was a big difference between seeing a painting depicting Francis' wounds and a real photograph of the bloody bindings on Pio's hands (even in black and white). For that reason, I shied away from such a man. The nuns often told us stories of suffering and torture of the saints, even modern day ones, but the suffering of one who was faithful but not suffering "for the Faith", as I understood it then, was daunting to me.
Why would anyone want such wounds?
Why would such wounds be inflicted on anyone?
There is also a fine line between self-less service and self-serving. The miracles that seemed to surround him could be the work of someone who had God's favor or of some over dramatic trickster. Controversy raged around him, and he had his supporter and detractors.
As a young man I was on the fence about him.
Paul said that he carried the marks of Christ; so must we all. Pio carried the stigmata (Latin roughly meaning "brand" ) as Paul carried his stripes and mistreatment and as we must too carry our wounds for Christ.
Today I realize that all of my wounds must too be visible as signs of love. Jesus is the wounded healer and I must walk in his footsteps.
Most Divine Spirit, enlighten and inflame me in meditating on the Passion of Jesus, help me to penetrate this mystery of love and suffering of a God, Who, clothed with our humanity, suffers, agonizes, and dies for the love of the creature!... The Eternal, the Immortal Who debases Himself to undergo an immense martyrdom, the ignominious death of the Cross, amidst insults, contempt and abuse, to save the creature which offended Him, and which wallows in the slime of sin. Man rejoices in his sin and his God is sad because of sin, suffers, sweats blood, amidst terrible agony of spirit. No, I cannot enter this wide ocean of love and pain unless You with Your grace sustain me. Oh that I could penetrate to the innermost recesses of the Heart of Jesus to read there the essence of His bitterness, which brought Him to the point of death in the Garden; that I could comfort Him in the abandonment by His Father and His own. Oh that I could unite myself with Him in order to expiate with Him.
Mary, Mother of Sorrows, may I unite myself with You to follow Jesus and share His pains and Your sufferings.
My Guardian Angel, guard my faculties and keep them recollected on Jesus suffering, so that they will not stray far from Him.
--The Agony of Jesus
One of my favorite paintings is The Calling of Matthew by Caravaggio which decorates St. Louis of France (San Luigi de Francesci) in Rome. I would often go by and drop a 250 lira coin to turn on the light which shown on it and stare in awe until the light went out (and even after, especially if I did not have the coin). The triad of paintings there in that chapel show the whole of the remarkable apostleship of Matthew, but it is the Calling that holds my attention. To me it is also one of the most powerful calls of Jesus. Not that all of the disciples did not sacrifice everything to follow Jesus but that the ramifications of the worldly and savvy Matthew as a disciple far exceed the problems caused by Jesus surrounding himself with unpolished and back-water fishermen (meaning one should never judge a book by its cover but should see as God sees). The Gospel for today captures that.
As Jesus passed by,
he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, "Follow me."
And he got up and followed him.
While he was at table in his house,
many tax collectors and sinners came
and sat with Jesus and his disciples.
The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples,
"Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"
He heard this and said,
"Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners."
-- Matthew 9:9-13
My brethren and dear friends, think about this and reflect on it: from the beginning of time God has ordered the heavens, the earth, and all things. Consider the creation of man in this light and reflect on why he has created man, each man, in his image and likeness: why, and with what purpose.
If, then, placed as we are in this world full of danger and misery, we do not know the Lord our creator, what is the point in having been born? Our life is pointless. Thanks to God, we have come into this world. Also thanks to God, we have received baptism, we have entered the Church, and we have received the glorious name of disciples of the Lord. But what use would that name be if it did not correspond to reality? If it does not, then it is in vain that we have come into the world and entered into the Church. Moreover, such a state of affairs would not serve the Lord and his grace. It would be better for us never to have been born than to receive the grace of the Lord and then sin against him.
― From the final exhortation of Andrew Kim Taegŏn
Though celebrated in the both the East and the West, nothing is really known about Januarius. He is the patron of Naples (because he is buried there), blood banks, and volcanic eruptions - most likely because the reliquary which contains his blood liquefies and then seems to boil. Like so many, he seems to have been killed during the persecution of Diocletian. His name perhaps comes from the two-faced Roman god Janus, said to see forward and backwards, which might explain the boiling blood .
Perhaps also, his blood boiling may be a sign of not ire but passion. Perhaps he was "zealous for the Lord" like Elijah; perhaps he emulated Paul; we do not know - but we do know that his name is remembered, meaning that he lived for Christ in such a way that we remember also how he died for Christ.
Beloved, this saying is trustworthy:
whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Therefore, a bishop must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not aggressive, but gentle, not contentious, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with perfect dignity; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of the Church of God? He should not be a recent convert, so that he may not become conceited and thus incur the Devil's punishment. He must also have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, the Devil's trap.
-- 1 Timothy 3:1-7
If you have ever traveled by air, this guy is your man. He was prone to ecstasies and, during them, bouts of levitation - hence his being the patron of air travel.
Joseph did not have the book learning but his spiritual insights drew him along. There are many stories about his clumsiness, his patience, his humility, and his ignorance. He may not have been the most likely candidate for the priesthood but he was for sainthood, and so should be an inspiration and example for each of us in that department.
Today I also call attention to Stanisław Kostka, a young Jesuit who died young and was also blessed with mystical experiences and for whom my great-grandfather wrote a mass as an inspiration to the young men at the college where he taught.
Clearly, what God wants above all is our will which we received as a free gift from God in creation and possess as though our own. When a man trains himself to acts of virtue, it is with the help of grace from God from whom all good things come that he does this. The will is what man has as his unique possession.
-- From the Office in the Franciscan breviary
Let us begin with faith, which is the first of all the virtues that exists in the heart of a justified man. Not without reason, does the apostle add "unfeigned" to faith. For faith begins justification, provided it be true and sincere, not false or feigned. The faith of heretics does not begin justification, because it is not true, but false; the faith of bad Catholics does not begin justification, because it is not sincere, but feigned. It is said to be feigned in two ways: when either we do not really believe, but only pretend to believe; or when we indeed believe, but do not live, as we believe we ought to do.
― The Art of Dying Well, Chap III
You might recognize our saint from Eucharistic Prayer I:
"your blessed Apostles and Martyrs,
Peter and Paul, Andrew,
(James, John, Thomas, James, Philip,
Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude;
Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus,
Cornelius, Cyprian, Laurence, Chrysogonus,
John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian)
and all your Saints;"
Cornelius was reluctantly elected pope during a fairly rough period of persecutions for the Church. The turmoil and fear caused division, apostasy, and heresy. In his short two year reign he worked hard against all these things, establishing himself as the legitimate pope and authority, teaching against Novatian and welcoming back those who had denounced their faith our of fear in opposition to him, all helping to keep the Church one, holy, catholic, and apostolic - and practicing the forgiveness of sins that is so central to our Faith.
Pray for our pope, bishops, priests, deacons, and religious that they may remain faithful teachers and practitioners of the Faith.
Do not waste your time and your words on us. We are people endowed with reason, for whom it would be the greatest disgrace to abandon the one true God, the Maker of heaven and earth, in order to worship dumb, senseless idols. We are not afraid of torments you threaten us with. They will be easy for us to bear and will show the power of our God.
-- Saint Euphemia, in response to the Proconsul of Asia Priscus' attempt to persuade them to sacrifice to Mars (also celebrated today)
Jesus' father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
"Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
and you yourself a sword will pierce
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
-- Luke 2:33-35
The Cross is the means of salvation. When Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow him, he is not talking about burden but about salvation. Unless we take up the Cross and see that the yoke is easy and the burden light, we will have no share in his Kingdom.
Therefore we hold it high and honor it because such a thing has set us free, free to live a life of love rather than a life of sin.
If we ever took the time to think about sin in its rawest form (and we should) we might attempt to convey what Dante does through his magnificent work - no glamor, no reward, no peace. The only joy, peace, fulfillment, and realization of being who we can be comes from God, not just at the end of our journey... but on every step along the way.
"But if you please, I would like to know how far we have to go; because the slope is steeper than my eyes can see.”
Then he said to me “This Mountain is such that, at the beginning it is hardest to climb; when you go on it gets better, the higher you ascend. And when it is so gentle, like floating downstream in a boat, you will be at the end of your path. There you can hope to rest from your troubles!"
― Dante, Purgatorio, IV 85-95
One of my favorite Fathers. Thought this was appropriate as we sit under the gloom of Hurricane Irma and hurricane season in general.
The waters have risen and severe storms are upon us, but we do not fear drowning, for we stand firmly upon a rock. Let the sea rage, it cannot break the rock. Let the waves rise, they cannot sink the boat of Jesus. What are we to fear? Death? Life to me means Christ, and death is gain. Exile? 'The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord.' The confiscation of goods? We brought nothing into this world, and we shall surely take nothing from it. I have only contempt for the world’s threats, I find its blessings laughable. I have no fear of poverty, no desire for wealth. I am not afraid of death nor do I long to live, except for your good. I concentrate therefore on the present situation, and I urge you, my friends, to have confidence.
― A homily by St John Chrysostom (Ante exsilium, nn. 1-3; PG 52, 427-430)
When times are tough, where is our Faith in our lives? What if something happened that took away the Eucharist or all access to the Sacraments for that matter? Christians have lived on Faith for millennia through persecution, separation, distance.
Whether times were good or times were bad, Franciscus held tight to the Faith, sharing it as he was able, joyfully offering his own son up to a vocation that most likely could end in his death as it had for many missionary clergy. Franciscus had it all, lost it, migrated from place to place, guarded our most sacred vessels from sacrilege, and held on to the most important things to help him continue to share, teach, and live the Faith. Even after being arrested and subject to torture, he continued to pray and teach until his death.
We need the Sacraments and the liturgy but what we need most is a firm foundation of Faith.
Devotionals can come and go. We can be physically denied the external practice of our Faith. We can lose the community which supports us in that Faith. Franciscus reminds us that if we have the Faith, we can never lose the moments of grace, be they sacraments or sacramental. Pray to never loose the Faith no matter what happens.
For as I see it, God has exhibited us apostles as the last of all, like people sentenced to death, since we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and human beings alike. We are fools on Christ’s account, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands. When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently. We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment.
-- 1 Corinthians 4:9-13
Is not every day remembrance day?
Today we remember all of the victims of violence. We pray for all who think that they can change or control the world by violence.
We pray that we all will put Christ forward, and work to end the injustices that lead to violence, especially those to which we are unwitting accomplices.
Today we also celebrate Jean-Gabriel Perboyre and Charles Spinola, martyrs in China and Japan respectively. May their example of selfless love unto death inspire and guide us in work to bring the Gospel to fruition.
O my Divine Savior,
Transform me into Yourself.
May my hands be the hands of Jesus.
Grant that every faculty of my body
May serve only to glorify You.
Transform my soul and all its powers
So that my memory, will and affection
May be the memory, will and affections
I pray You
To destroy in me all that is not of You.
Grant that I may live but in You, by You and for You,
So that I may truly say, with Saint Paul,
"I live - now not I - But Christ lives in me.
-- John Gabriel
In the last two days, I have mentioned saints who have fought against a world and a Church hostile to their charity. How do we react to such open hostility? Do we withdraw and work quietly, avoiding those who would stop us or do we work openly, ignoring those who oppose us?
Ambrose was baptized Catholic, raised Protestant, came back and was ordained. He returned to England to minister. While many worked in secret with aliases, certainly doing the Lord's work, Ambrose was quite open in his ministry. Arrested several times, he was never convicted. Through it all, he never hid what he did and was probably tolerated until such time as he began to impinge upon the Anglican congregation by the number of faithful and an increasing number of converts. Eventually he was arrested by an armed mob, led by the local vicar. Charged with the crime of being a priest of Rome, he freely admitted it, as he had never hid before he obviously had no reason to now but this time was convicted and killed.
If following Christ is going to get us killed, we might as well be bold about it.
Ambrose, pray that we will be bold in spreading the Gospel.
Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Messiah already appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old. For Moses said: 'A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you. Everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be cut off from the people.’ Moreover, all the prophets who spoke, from Samuel and those afterwards, also announced these days. You are the children of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors when he said to Abraham, ‘In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.” While they were still speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees confronted them, disturbed that they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They laid hands on them and put them in custody until the next day, since it was already evening. But many of those who heard the word came to believe and (the) number of men grew to [about] five thousand.
-- Acts 3:19-4:4
Yesterday I spoke of those who work against a world hostile to the Church. Today, with Peter, we look at someone who worked against those who were supposedly on his side, fellow Christians who enslaved others and treated them with, if not disdain, at least indifference.
Peter was sharp, becoming a Jesuit by the tender age of 20. He came as a missionary to America and in his youth easily saw the injustice and worked to give not conversion but compassion. "We must speak to [the slaves] with our hands by giving, before we try to speak to them with our lips." His love first supposedly converted over 300,000, a mind-boggling number, but once again, it is his holiness that we celebrate and seek to emulate.
Peter pray that we work with compassion and seek first to relieve injustice rather than imposing our will rather than God's.
After pronouncing his blessing on poverty, the Lord added Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Dearly beloved, this mourning that is promised eternal comfort has nothing in common with the afflictions of this world. No-one is made blessed by the kind of lamentation that the whole human race indulges in. The sighs and blessed tears of the saints have another cause. Holy sorrow comes from contemplating one’s own sins and the sins of others. It does not weep at the actions of divine justice but at the sins committed by human wickedness. It is the one who does evil here who is to be pitied, not the one who suffers it: for what the evil man has done thrusts him down to punishment, while what the just man has put up with leads him up into glory.
Then the Lord added Blessed are the meek, for they shall have the earth for their inheritance. To the meek and gentle, to the lowly and unassuming, to all who are prepared to endure injury – to these the earth is promised. This is not a small or unimportant inheritance, as if “the earth” were somehow distinct from a dwelling-place in heaven: in fact, you must understand it as meaning that only the meek will enter the kingdom of heaven. This earth that is promised to the meek, that is to be given to the gentle to possess, is the body of the saints, whose humility will raise them up and clothe them in the glory of immortality, united at last with the Spirit of unity. Then the outer self will belong to the inner self at last, a peaceful and secure possession.
The meek will possess this inheritance in everlasting peace and their right to it will never grow less. Our present perishable nature must put on imperishability and this mortal nature must put on immortality, so that a danger to the soul becomes a reward and what was onerous becomes an honor.
― Leo the Great, on the Beatitudes
I know that I say often that I try to avoid multiple celebrations on one day but these two go together in their care for the poor.
Thomas, an Augustinian friar, may not have been viewed as the sharpest tool in the shed being a bit absentminded but revered and placed in high offices not as much for his intellect as for his holiness.
Antoine-Frederic, a layman, on the other hand was a brilliant and respected lawyer, scholar, and teacher. Instead of high offices he, remained a humble cleric.
Both lived in times that questioned everything about the Church and both saw the truth of the Gospel in the poor.
And that is the point I take away from them today. It often seems like the Church is under attack or the attitude of the world around it is negative toward her teachings, and we can focus there, but these saints tell us that if our true focus is on the poor, "these least ones" then the Truth will always triumph because it happens regardless of the attitudes of the world. Our success is not that the world views us kindly but that we have lived the Gospel. We can be articulate or not but It is our care and compassion, our imitation of Christ, that measures our success. Hopefully the world will see our deeds and give praise to the Father, but if not, then we have helped one another as we should.
“Let him inquire whether Saint Augustine and Saint John Chrysostom used anathemas and excommunication to stop the drunkenness and blasphemy which were so common among the people under their care.”
-- Thomas of Villanova
It is foolish, generally speaking, for a philosopher to set fire to another philosopher in Smithfield Market because they do not agree in their theory of the universe. That was done very frequently in the last decadence of the Middle Ages, and it failed altogether in its object. But there is one thing that is infinitely more absurd and unpractical than burning a man for his philosophy. This is the habit of saying that his philosophy does not matter, and this is done universally in the twentieth century, in the decadence of the great revolutionary period. General theories are everywhere contemned; the doctrine of the Rights of Man is dismissed with the doctrine of the Fall of Man. Atheism itself is too theological for us to-day. Revolution itself is too much of a system; liberty itself is too much of a restraint. We will have no generalizations. Mr. Bernard Shaw has put the view in a perfect epigram: "The golden rule is that there is no golden rule." We are more and more to discuss details in art, politics, literature. A man's opinion on tramcars matters; his opinion on Botticelli matters; his opinion on all things does not matter. He may turn over and explore a million objects, but he must not find that strange object, the universe; for if he does he will have a religion, and be lost. Everything matters—except everything.
Examples are scarcely needed of this total levity on the subject of cosmic philosophy. Examples are scarcely needed to show that, whatever else we think of as affecting practical affairs, we do not think it matters whether a man is a pessimist or an optimist, a Cartesian or a Hegelian, a materialist or a spiritualist. Let me, however, take a random instance. At any innocent tea-table we may easily hear a man say, "Life is not worth living." We regard it as we regard the statement that it is a fine day; nobody thinks that it can possibly have any serious effect on the man or on the world. And yet if that utterance were really believed, the world would stand on its head. Murderers would be given medals for saving men from life; firemen would be denounced for keeping men from death; poisons would be used as medicines; doctors would be called in when people were well; the Royal Humane Society would be rooted out like a horde of assassins. Yet we never speculate as to whether the conversational pessimist will strengthen or disorganize society; for we are convinced that theories do not matter.
― G. K. Chesterton, Heretics
It is not everyday that you get to be the classmate of a future pope and saint who holds you in high regard, but I guess someone has to be. Olinto was ordained but unlike his classmate the future John XXIII, he studied and taught in seminary and at the parish level, spending much of his time seeking funding for sufficient housing for the poor among other things to address the needs of the poor and marginalized.
A message that Olinto delivered while sitting on a stool to passerbys on the street, was to be aware of their indifference to the suffering of others. It is a good message to each of us. You do not have to be pope to do great things, or to call attention to injustices.
Olinto is another "new" addition but shows that even in the 20th century things had not really changed for us and that the call of Christ to us to take care of the least of our brothers and sisters is as urgent today as it was 2000 years ago.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
-- Matthew 25:31-46
In the trenches, we understand the struggle of everyday spirituality and we understand that it is different from the desire to do God's will. The knowledge that God's will must be done is what drives us even if we do not understand what God's will for us is. So many want to make problems, obstacles, doubt, human weakness, and other road-blocks in spirituality into mountains which mean loss of faith, or that the times when we feel empty as proof that there is no God.
The Church has a long history and Teresa is not the first saint to experience the Dark Night of the Soul, nor will she be the last. It is no worse than the times I look up at the Eucharist and see and feel nothing. But I also understand that my inability to feel God's presence at any time is not an indication that God is not there - He is because the Eucharist is there and I have confidence in the promises of Christ. Take comfort in the fact that we can still do God's will, still be willing vessels of His love, even though we are poor clay vessels.
I know this is getting long, but I want to end my reflection by sharing part of the reflection on Teresa from the Universalis web site:
"Mother Teresa’s widespread appeal comes from the directness of her inspiration, and her direct response to it. She went out and did things where they were needed. When we think of big problems we inevitably think that they can only be solved by a big campaign. Perhaps that is true, perhaps not; but while the campaign is getting going, why not go out and help one person in the name of Mother Teresa? If there are 1,000 hungry people in your city, why not make it 999? If each of us did that – well, in most countries where this is being read, there are more Catholics than there are people in need." (www.universalis.com, Sept 5th)
And this is what I mean, I want you to love the poor, and never turn your back to the poor, for in turning your back to the poor, you are turning it to Christ. For he had made himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one, so that you and I have an opportunity to love him, because where is God? How can we love God? It is not enough to say to my God I love you, but my God, I love you here. I can enjoy this, but I give up. I could eat that sugar, but I give that sugar. If I stay here the whole day and the whole night, you would be surprised of the beautiful things that people do, to share the joy of giving. And so, my prayer for you is that truth will bring prayer in our homes, and from the foot of prayer will be that we believe that in the poor it is Christ. And we will really believe, we will begin to love. And we will love naturally, we will try to do something. First in our own home, next door neighbor in the country we live, in the whole world. And let us all join in that one prayer, God give us courage to protect the unborn child, for the child is the greatest gift of God to a family, to a nation and to the whole world.
-- Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech
(and you should read the whole thing: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1979/teresa/26200-mother-teresa-acceptance-speech-1979/ )
"In this way, I realized that I was an apostle of love. The divine Mendicant convinced me of the truth that men on earth are dependent on one another, for their spiritual as well as their social life. I had a moral responsibility towards all the souls throughout the world, those living at the present time and those who would be created in the future.
This is the reason: the actions of Jesus are infinite in value; one single act of love offered by Him to the Father could save millions of worlds. Hence, if I remained annihilated, the Savior, hidden beneath the cloak of my exterior being, could freely carry out His pastoral mission, baptizing and purifying souls in His Blood, bringing them to perfection, enabling them to run towards the fragrance of His perfume. But, alas! If I simply hesitated to remain in the state of death, if for one moment I desired to be born again out of dust, then I would interrupt the action of Jesus; perhaps just at that moment He was ready to shed a torrent of graces on the entire universe and, if I placed an obstacle in His way, I would become responsible for the lack of good accomplished because of an absence of divine light."
When we think about history, we rarely think about the role of the Faith in that history. Gregory gave us so many things, and helped to steady the ship of Church and state.
The music we appreciate and take for granted today has roots in the chant of the Church sanctioned and popularized by Gregory. It is hard to quantify this gift but it is all around us. He supported and offered sanctuary to Athanasius and others. The structure of Europe benefits from his efforts of Faith when working with the Lombards, a Germanic/Scandinavian people who took over Italy in the wake of the collapsing Roman Empire.
He was obviously a humble, patient, and thoughtful man and it shows in his many letters. While we may find some of his conclusions repugnant or misguided, what we can hear is the justice that founds them, flawed though they may be, that calls for the love of all for all that Christ calls us to - even for those we do not consider worthy. Gregory reminds us to consider all worthy and to practice justice beyond what we think of as just merely for ourselves.
The Hebrews dwelling in Terracina have petitioned us for license to hold, under our authority, the site of their synagogue which they have held hitherto. But, inasmuch as we have been informed that the same site is so near to the church that even the sound of their psalmody reaches it, we have written to our brother and fellow-bishop Peter that, if it is the case that the voices from the said place are heard in the church, the Jews must cease to worship there. Therefore let your Fraternity, with our above-named brother and fellow-bishop, diligently inspect this place, and if you find that there has been any annoyance to the church, provide another place within the fortress, where the aforesaid Hebrews may assemble, so that they may be able to celebrate their ceremonies without impediment. But let your Fraternity provide such a place, in case of their being deprived of this one, that there be no cause of complaint in future. But we forbid the aforesaid Hebrews to be oppressed or vexed unreasonably; but, as they are permitted, in accordance with justice, to live under the protection of the Roman laws, let them keep their observances as they have learnt them, no one hindering them: yet let it not be allowed them to have Christian slaves.
Joseph, a Jew, the bearer of these presents, has informed us that, the Jews dwelling in the camp of Terracina having been accustomed to assemble in a certain place for celebrating their festivities, your Fraternity had expelled them thence, and that they had migrated, and this with your knowledge and consent, to another place for in like manner observing their festivities; and now they complain that they have been expelled anew from this same place. But, if it is so, we desire your Fraternity to abstain from giving cause of complaint of this kind, and that they be allowed, as has been the custom, to assemble in the place which, as we have already said, they had obtained with your knowledge for their place of meeting. For those who dissent from the Christian religion must needs be gathered together to unity of faith by gentleness, kindness, admonition, persuasion, lest those whom the sweetness of preaching and the anticipated terror of future judgment might have invited to believe should be repelled by threats and terrors. It is right, then, that they should come together kindly to hear the word of God from you rather than that they should become afraid of overstrained austerity.
-- Epistle 10 and 35, To Bacauda and Agnellus, Bishops.
Truth to Ponder
I decided to spend a year thinking about the Faith celebrated in the sanctoral calendar. There are also just some events, Scriptural, and other quotes that strike me on random days; or randomly on days, as the case may be.
Saint's Days by Month
Days by Entry