Often in the rush to the next thing we forget about the present moment. In the light of All Hallow's Eve we decorate and prepare costumes and purchase the treats we look forward to - and we forget about the day that takes place before the eve's vigil.
There are many saints whose feast falls today and they should not go unnoticed, one of the most recent being María Isabel Salvat Romero.
So today I focus on the little things, the things in between all of the big things.
It is the little things, the everyday things that shape our lives. Little goods, little bads - they all add up.
Alonso's life held many twists and turns and we might say that he had a full life by the time he died: student, businessman, husband, father, widower, religious - a pretty full plate. He also lost his father, which caused him to leave his studies to take up the family business; he lost his mother, his wife, two of his three children, which caused him to leave the life he knew to move in with his sisters to help raise his son; but he learn meditation and prayer and patience which, on the death of his last child, led him to consider the religious life. He wanted to be a Jesuit, but his lack of education kept him from ordination and when he tried it did not finish. Only his piety allowed him to become a lay-brother.
There he took on the duties of porter, a job of many menial daily tasks: holding the door open, delivering the letters and packages that came to the college door, distributing alms to the needy who knocked there. At the same time he shared a room with Peter Claver and in his daily discussions advised him to his missionary journey to the Americas.
There are many things this saint did everyday to lift us up and many are gathered into a Spiritual Works volume. In the shadow of the Saints he became one himself.
Honour is flashed off exploit, so we say;
And those strokes once that gashed flesh or galled shield
Should tongue that time now, trumpet now that field,
And, on the fighter, forge his glorious day.
On Christ they do and on the martyr may;
But be the war within, the brand we wield
Unseen, the heroic breast not outward-steeled,
Earth hears no hurtle then from fiercest fray.
Yet God (that hews mountain and continent,
Earth, all, out; who, with trickling increment,
Veins violets and tall trees makes more and more)
Could crowd career with conquest while there went
Those years and years by of world without event
That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door.
-- Gerard Manley Hopkins, St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, Laybrother of the Society of Jesus
Marcellus' is not a story of pacifism, but the story of a man who recanted his soldierly duty to do homage to the idols of Rome. This was done knowing that the result was death. Throwing down his standard and declaring his devotion to Christ before his fellow soldiers broke his devotion to them in their minds. Imagine how they felt - his brothers in arms; he declared that he would no longer have their backs; devotion to the gods was devotion to them; he was a deserter! Deserters died.
But the truth is that Marcellus transforms for us what it meant/means to be a soldier. It was not that he would not be devoted to them as a brother, have their backs, die with them if necessary for a just cause but that the devotion required to do those things did not just have to go to the Roman gods.
Sometimes the peace of Christ requires of us to fight. Sometimes it is to fight for justice, sometimes it is to fight tyranny and oppression. Sometimes we fight with our words, money, talents; sometimes we fight with our lives. No greater love than this exists: that we should lay our life down for our friends. Marcellus does this - to further the salvation of the world and those he loved like brothers.
The natural rights with which We have been dealing are, however, inseparably connected, in the very person who is their subject, with just as many respective duties; and rights as well as duties find their source, their sustenance and their inviolability in the natural law which grants or enjoins them…. Once this is admitted, it also follows that in human society to one man’s right there corresponds a duty in all other persons: the duty, namely, of acknowledging and respecting the right in question. For every fundamental human right draws its indestructible moral force from the natural law, which in granting it imposes a corresponding obligation. Those, therefore, who claim their own rights, yet altogether forget or neglect to carry out their respective duties, are people who build with one hand and destroy with the other.
-- Pacem in Terris, 28-30, John XXIII
Slander can ruin a good man's reputation so that he can do no more good; something that should give us pause, nay should stay our hand when we seek to do harm through gossip or false testimony.
Think of Jesus in his home town or at Gerasene or on the Cross; Paul and Peter as they traveled abroad. The desire to tear down what we do not understand and fear can often overcome reason and compassion. The light of devotion can often dispel shadows in our lives we wish best hidden.
There is perhaps a bit of irony in his name, for one so self-less. It is through Eusebius that we know Narcissus' story, and it is quite a tale. Apparently he was pretty strict about religious observances which earned him some powerful enemies. Together these accused him a heinous crime of which he was acquitted but from which the damage was done and he stepped down from his office.
Perhaps it was the reason perhaps not, perhaps the tale is apocryphal, perhaps it points to a truth within the story, but whatever the cause he became a hermit.
One of the things we can thank him for is helping to decide that Easter would always fall on Sunday, regardless. The Liturgical Year cycle, with its sanctoral calendar, is an important part of our daily commitment to the life of Christ.
We live in a world of sin, our world (gift that it is), our sin. We must be slow to judge if we judge at all, but we must always recognize sin for what it is. There are those who stumble and those who deliberately cause harm; we think neither above the mercy and salvation of God but we do not allow the sin to continue. We sinners must be challenged by our baptism to do good, confess and repent when necessary, and change our lives as if we were baptized into Christ Jesus.
If we stumble, then we acknowledge our guilt. Conversion is a daily affair. We are constantly moving toward the Light, setting ourselves aside for God. We do not all have to become hermits but we must take on the mindset of one who has consecrated oneself to the Lord. Then amidst our sin and the sin of the world around us we can continue to serve and be Faithful.
Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgment on myself; I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord. Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God. ...Who confers distinction upon you? What do you possess that you have not received? But if you have received it, why are you boasting as if you did not receive it? You are already satisfied; you have already grown rich; you have become kings without us! Indeed, I wish that you had become kings, so that we also might become kings with you. 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 4:1-5,7-13
As is not always obvious, we know too little about certain Apostles. Simon was a "Zealot" ("Cananaean") - a nasty crowd of Jewish purists and Jude, was also known as Judas, whose name change and title, "Thaddaeus", help to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot.
So we attribute a zeal for Faith with Simon and a Catholic epistle to Jude, but they are attributions and not a true knowledge of these men who were close friends of Jesus.
Only tradition ties their deaths together and so the fact that they share a day also points to our ignorance. But unlike so many saints, we at least know their names and can invoke their relationship with Jesus to our aid.
Only John notes a request of his made to Jesus during the Last Supper: Thaddaeus says to the Lord: "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?" It is a question of great present importance, which we also ask the Lord: Why has not the risen one manifested himself in all his glory to his adversaries to show that he is the victor? Why did God manifest himself only to the disciples? Jesus' answer is mysterious and profound.
The Lord says: "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (John 14:22-23). This means that the Risen One must be seen, perceived, also with the heart, so that God can make his dwelling in him. The Lord does not appear as a thing. The Lord wishes to enter into our lives and because of this, his manifestation is a manifestation that implies and presupposes an open heart. Only thus do we see the Risen One.
-- Benedict XVI - Wednesday General Audience, OCT. 2006
The line between simple poverty and masochism may seem very thin. The spiritual practices of a person may seem harsh to some and laudable to others. The line is actually between scrupulosity and sanctity. Why is it that some fast and others do not? Why is it that some wear hair-shirts and others do not? - yet all are saints?
Spiritual practices are individual, and laudable if their source is Christ and not self-doubt, lack of self worth, or fear. To bind one's self to rigorous spiritual practices in order to pull oneself away from the appetites of the body and to place oneself in solidarity with the poor and sick, is an act of will. And as such is obvious, as obvious as the over-scrupulous should be as a lack of will.
True piety should attract, false piety should repel.
Emilina was a lay Cistercians who practiced severe pieties, recited psalms, and had a deep commitment to prayer. She also apparently had the gift of prophecy. Unlike the “choir nuns” who were obliged to sing the Divine Office seven times each day, "lay sisters" were more like the support staff, aiding the community through their labor and sacrifice, by the work of their hands allowing the choir nuns the freedom to pray.
Her many attributes attracted many and she lived a long life of service, counsel, patience, and humility eventually brings her into the light of the face of God.
As they continued their journey he 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
Many labor in obscurity and die senseless deaths. Does not really sound like the path to sainthood, does it?
Jose studied medicine around the world at the most prestigious universities of the time but sought out the religious life. Eventually he discerned that was not his way. Instead he devoted himself as a lay religious physician, living a prayerful, celibate life devoted to God. He died when hit by a car while carrying medicines to a patient.
Not a very exciting life and not a noble way to go. But what he did was exciting, and how he died was in service to the poor. That is how we should look at his life; not via the world's lens of fame, fortune, and show, but as the life of a servant. He lived as a figurative servant on the back stairways of the world, rushing about but unseen except momentarily by those he served.
We have to ask ourselves if we are challenged by his life. Do we live the vocation we are called to even if it is not glamorous or involves immense amounts of self-sacrifice. Do we think of these things as needing reward or do we live them in quiet grace? Do we worry about death?
How many people surround us who live lives of quiet grace? How do we view them? How do we feel or think when they are gone?
[His] disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”
-- Matthew 19:10-12
Antonio is the first native-born Brazilian saint and a recent addition to the canon. There is not much exciting about his life; he entered the Franciscans and spent his life pretty much in the same place. He founded no churches or took on any important ecclesial offices.
It is his selfless service which recommends him to us today; not for glory or power or notoriety did he serve and in fact understood the traps that could lead him into hubris and sin.
In his role as confessor, let him guide us to understand our own weaknesses and seek out reconciliation in order to be in more perfect union with Christ and be his more perfect servant.
Let us give thanks to God for the lasting benefits obtained through the powerful evangelizing influence that the Holy Spirit impressed upon so many souls through Frei Galvão. The Franciscan charism, lived out in the spirit of the Gospel, has borne significant fruits through his witness as an ardent adorer of the Eucharist, as a prudent and wise guide of the souls who sought his counsel, and as a man with a great devotion to the Immaculate Conception of Mary, whose "son and perpetual servant" he considered himself to be.
...The significance of Frei Galvão’s example lies in his willingness to be of service to the people whenever he was asked. He was renowned as a counselor, he was a bringer of peace to souls and families, and a dispenser of charity especially towards the poor and the sick. He was greatly sought out as a confessor, because he was zealous, wise, and prudent. It is characteristic of those who truly love that they do not want the Beloved to be offended; the conversion of sinners was therefore the great passion of our saint. Sister Helena Maria, the first religious sister destined to belong to the Recolhimento de Nossa Senhora da Conceição, witnessed to what Frei Galvão had said to her: "Pray that the Lord our God will raise sinners with his mighty arm from the wretched depths of the sins in which they find themselves." May this insightful admonition serve as a stimulus to us to recognize in the Divine Mercy the path towards reconciliation with God and our neighbor, for the peace of our consciences.
-- Benedict XVI's Canonization Homily, 2,3
Some saints names ring a bell right a way with us, others maybe not. Antony's death was nothing special, his health declined and he died in his early 60's. In his lifetime though his name was known throughout the world - the confessor of royalty, builder of schools and libraries, reformer; large enough such that at least 15 assassination attempts were made on his life.
Certainly one with a bit of notoriety.
Most of us do not recognize his name though we have probably heard of the missionary order he started: the Claretians, or as he called them, the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who work still to serve the poor and under-served of the world. Many know the martyrs, servants, and teachers that he inspires.
So like all of us, great and small, it is not just what we do in our lifetimes, but in the legacy of Christ's love we create by our lives of service to the Gospel whether or not anyone remembers our names. We are all saints, great and small, or at least striving to be saints. As All Saints Day approaches, let us recall the many saints whose names we do not know or know so well but who are part of the great cloud of witnesses who surround the throne of Christ crying out in praise and supplication for each of us - and today, Antony Mary Claret!
Driven by the fire of the Holy Spirit, the holy apostles traveled throughout the earth. Inflamed with the same fire, apostolic missionaries have reached, are now reaching, and will continue to reach the ends of the earth, from one pole to the other, in order to proclaim the word of God. They are deservedly able to apply to themselves those words of the apostle Paul: "The love of Christ drives us on." [2 Corinthians 5:14]
The love of Christ arouses us, urges us to run, and to fly, lifted on the wings of holy zeal. The zealous man desires and achieves all great things and he labors strenuously so that God may always be better known, loved and served in this world and in the life to come, for this holy love is without end.
Because he is concerned also for his neighbor, the man of zeal works to fulfill his desire that all men be content on this earth and happy and blessed in their heavenly homeland, that all may be saved, and that no one may perish for ever, or offend God, or remain even for a moment in sin. Such are the concerns we observe in the holy apostles and in all who are driven by the apostolic spirit.
For myself, I say this to you: The man who burns with the fire of divine love is a son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and wherever he goes, he enkindles that flame; he deserves and works with all this strength to inflame all men with the fire of God's love. Nothing deters him: he rejoices in poverty; he labors strenuously; he welcomes hardships; he laughs off false accusations; he rejoices in anguish. He thinks only of how he might follow Jesus Christ and imitate him by his prayers, his labors, his sufferings, and by caring always and only for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
-- L'Egosimo vinto, 60
A successful lawyer and politician, he had a vision while being held hostage that called him out of that life into one of reformation, poverty, privation, and preaching. I am not sure how he got out of his marriage, perhaps his wife could just not put up with him anymore.
We all want to label our time as the worst, and look back or forward to other times and call them the best. As Jesus reminds us though, times just are what they are and now is the moment we live. By the time John came on the scene, 1/3 of the population including almost half of the clergy had been wiped out by the Bubonic Plague, confusion over spiritual power because there were several claimants to the papal throne, religious orders were fragmenting and in serious need of reform with much internal opposition to reform, Europe was locked in a century long war, Italy was made up of divided, contentious, and warring city-states constantly viewing for power; many people had lost their way and many other had even given up on God. The world that would influence Machiavelli was being born. Atheism and political and secular contention with the Church is nothing new.
Thinking about his life, what life do you think you would be living? What camp would you fall into when you looked at that world? I imagine that just like the times, people are the same now as they were then. They have the same doubts and fears, same hopes and dreams. Would you still even believe in God?
John leapt into his world, so similar to our own with seemingly no place to turn for stability or comfort and with its lack of Faith and the seeking of solace in pleasure or descending into darkness and hopelessness.
Many were inspired by his preaching; they reformed their lives or turned toward Christ for the first time. While many flocked to his words, some may have been brought by forceful persuasion; hopefully the peace and mercy of Christ protected them and none were forced to convert.
We do not fight a war of Faithlessness, but a war of hopelessness and stumbling Faith; even when those of the clergy and religious life seem to lose their way, we do not chastise and condemn but call all to the Truth in Love, a cure for hopelessness and a reminder of the power and beauty of Faith. John did that then and reminds us to do it today.
And, technically, he has nothing to do with the swallows' migration path.
Those who are called to the table of the Lord must glow with the brightness that comes from the good example of a praiseworthy and blameless life. They must learn from the eminent teacher, Jesus Christ. . .“You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Now a light does not illumine itself, but instead it diffuses its rays and shines all around upon everything that comes into its view. So it must be with the glowing lives of upright and holy clerics. By the brightness of their holiness they must bring light and serenity to all who gaze upon them. They have been placed here to care for others. Their own lives should be an example to others, showing how they must live in the house of the Lord.
-- Exhortation to Priests
By the end of my first month of seminary, two popes had died: Paul VI and John Paul I. By the end of my first year we had a pope who put his mind to building up the Church. By the end of my third year, he had been shot and it looked like we would be on our way to yet another pope.
By my first year of theology, he had recovered and strengthened, and gave me and my classmates a task: (08/SEP/1982) "Remember always that you have come to Rome in order to get to know Christ better. If you are humble, you will discover him in prayer, in the Sacred Scriptures, and in all your studies. Dear seminarians, in Rome you will have many splendid opportunities to open your hearts ever more to Jesus Christ, the Son of God and High Priest of salvation."
I have tried to take that admonition to heart and live it everyday since.
Christian wisdom, which the Church teaches by divine authority, continuously inspires the faithful of Christ zealously to endeavor to relate human affairs and activities with religious values in a single living synthesis. Under the direction of these values all things are mutually connected for the glory of God and the integral development of the human person, a development that includes both corporal and spiritual well-being.
Indeed, the Church's mission of spreading the Gospel not only demands that the Good News be preached ever more widely and to ever greater numbers of men and women, but that the very power of the Gospel should permeate thought patterns, standards of judgment, and norms of behavior; in a word, it is necessary that the whole of human culture be steeped in the Gospel.
...Furthermore, the Gospel is intended for all peoples of every age and land and is not bound exclusively to any particular culture. It is valid for pervading all cultures so as to illumine them with the light of divine revelation and to purify human conduct, renewing them in Christ.
For this reason, the Church of Christ strives to bring the Good News to every sector of humanity so as to be able to convert the consciences of human beings, both individually and collectively, and to fill with the light of the Gospel their works and undertakings, their entire lives, and, indeed, the whole of the social environment in which they are engaged. In this way the Church carries out her mission of evangelizing also by advancing human culture.
-- Sapientia Christiana, 1
There is always room at the table. I think about the parable of the king who invited guests to a wedding but they all refused to go. There was plenty of room at the table, and end the end it was the poor and disenfranchised who came.
We can often lose sight of those who have a hard time coming to the table, the poor with no means of transportation, the disabled with little or no access into buildings or no accommodation when they can get in; the deaf, the blind, those with mental and physical disabilities. We can miss out on what they bring to the table because we do not take the time to include them; we decide that there is no room for them.
Maria was born into a family with a self-admitted violent and abusive alcoholic father. She herself was considered mentally deficient and yet her simple and sincere demeanor moved her from menial jobs, jobs others considered her best for, to head of nursing in a children's hospital.
All because of her love, which was fueled by Christ and transcended any opinions or prejudices against her. An earlier day's saint, John XXIII, canonized her. Her family, father included, and an untold number of her patients showed up for the ceremony.
There is plenty of room at the table, we may just need to scooch over to make more room.
Today is also Cornelius the Centurion (cf. Acts 10:1-49), who many may also have dismissed.
Jesus said to His disciples: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants.”
-- Luke 12:35-38
There is a chapel in the bowels of the Pontifical North American College in Rome dedicated to the North American Martyrs and they were the mascots for the soccer team whose colors were, appropriately, red, black, and blue. The stained glass window there depicts a few of the men who traveled far to witness to the Truth. The Jesuits who undertook the spread of the Gospel in hostile and untamed lands often encountered both reception and opposition. North America was not a unified land and even with abundant resources, territorial disputes were contentious. So was it too for the vineyard of Faith.
The success or failure of the martyrs of North America is not measured by the integration of Catholicism into North America, or the overwhelming of cultures, or suppression of Native peoples and beliefs, but in the witness of those martyrs, especially to those whose lives they changed. I live surrounded by their efforts.
"Woe to you who build the memorials of the prophets whom your fathers killed.
Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building.
Therefore, the wisdom of God said, 'I will send to them prophets and Apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute' in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who died between the altar and the temple building.
Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood! Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter."
When Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.
-- Luke 11:47-54
In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.”
-- Luke Acts 1:1-5
“Keep on praying” for others too, for there is a chance of their being converted and getting to God. Let them, then, learn from you at least by your actions. Return their bad temper with gentleness; their boasts with humility; their abuse with prayer. In the face of their error, be “steadfast in the faith.” Return their violence with mildness and do not be intent on getting your own back. By our patience let us show we are their brothers, intent on imitating the Lord, seeing which of us can be the more wronged, robbed, and despised. Thus no devil’s weed will be found among you; but thoroughly pure and self-controlled, you will remain body and soul united to Jesus Christ.
-- Letter to the Ephesians, 10
Though probably best known as the name of the Harry's owl in the excellent Harry Potter series of books, that is not the reason she is considered on the sanctoral calendar (though knowing Ms. Rowling's penchant for carefully choosing names, the sanctoral aspect may have considered her name for the owl).
Hedwig was many things throughout her life but what strikes me the most is the power and pitfalls of a truly loving marriage. Not just the love between the two but the love directed at God within the marriage, a love that directs outward and makes so much difference in the world.
The power is easy to talk about, but the pitfalls not so much. As a couple and as parents we never truly know or understand the effects that our love has within the family. Certainly throwing in political power and intrigue into the mix does not help but it is the everyday that I want to focus on. Sometimes our love can focus inward for the mortification of our own souls but we leave others behind. Our deep love may be viewed from the outside as personal and only for two.
One never knows how children will react as well. Some will be inspired but create a kind of unrealistic view of married love; others will reject it creating another type of unrealistic view. Some will nestle deeply into the love and find comfort; others see the ups and down that are part of a stable marriage and find comfort while others find insecurity.
I do not know, as I ramble here, what I really am reflecting upon so I will try to focus for those who are in a married vocation: in marriage Hedwig and her husband Henry did so much for others in their love for one another but it did not always have the desired effect within their family. Still it did not stop them from loving deeply and fully with God as the glue that bound them together and saw them through tough times, even after they were parted by death. They certainly got each other to heaven and that comforts and challenges me in my marriage.
...those all alone with no companion, with neither child nor sibling—with no end to all their toil, and no satisfaction from riches. For whom do I toil and deprive myself of good things? This also is vanity and a bad business. Two are better than one: They get a good wage for their toil. If the one falls, the other will help the fallen one. But woe to the solitary person! If that one should fall, there is no other to help. So also, if two sleep together, they keep each other warm. How can one alone keep warm? Where one alone may be overcome, two together can resist. A three-ply cord is not easily broken.
-- Ecclesiastes 4:8-12
We often blame the structure of the Church for our lack of vocations nowadays, but what we fail to live is our vocation within the Church. Theresa did not let her sex slow down the vocation she had within the Church. Because she was true to her vocation she was a powerful voice in a male dominated bureaucracy that was in chaos and is recognized as a true Doctor of the Church. We must do more than just grow where we are planted, we must grow the plant we are to its fullness.
A sad nun is a bad nun...I am more afraid of one unhappy sister than a crowd of evil spirits…. What would happen if we hid what little sense of humor we had? Let each of us humbly use this to cheer others.
The story goes that Theresa was knocked off her donkey into the mud and injured her leg.
“Lord,” she said, “I thought we were friends...why would you let this happen?”
Reportedly the Lord responded, “That is how I treat my friends.”
Teresa answered, “And that is why you have so few of them!”
To be an early martyr is to be a saint; to be an early pope and an early martyr, well that really says something. Unfortunately we are not really sure what it says. We know much about the life and pontificate of Callistus I but also unfortunately it comes from his number one enemy and rival, Hippolytus, a saint in his own right.
Callistus seems to have started out poorly as a slave, an embezzler, and convicted felon but, depending on if you believe Hippolytus or not, somehow ingratiated himself with his old master and won his freedom.
Regardless of what Hippolytus says, if Callistus was a con man then he seems to have been more of a Robin Hood type of villain, or at least he seemed to want to do good, even if with poor choices for the means. While Hippolytus tells us everything in a bad light, most of the things he tells seem good. You can put it all down to sour grapes and recognize that even saints are sinners - on both sides of the pen.
In the end, it is his education and his deep knowledge of the Faith which places him along side pope Zephyrinus and ensures his own rise to the papacy. There, perhaps because of his own failures and suffering, he led us as Church toward forgiveness of those who fail, even those who fail spectacularly - a grace that defines us to this day.
Callistus reminds us that even the worst of sinners have been redeemed but that they only become saints if they seek and live for Christ. We have benefited from his wisdom and guidance in the Seat of Peter; let us therefore strive to be like him even in the face of our enemies.
So I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. Tend the flock of God in your midst, [overseeing] not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory
-- 1 Peter 5:1-4
What makes someone a saint? Certainly we often look back with fondness upon the lives of those we loved, or in the case of a country, on the times before 1066.
Historians disagree about the worthiness of Edward to be in the canon of saints, but his cult arose early and must be attached to more than just nostalgia. Perhaps, as the only officially canonized monarch of England, it was more than just a thank you for the support of the papacy of Alexander III. The problem is the truth is lost to history.
Still, it is the stories, like those of so many early martyrs, that inspire us. Perhaps his lack of heirs corresponds to a desire for chastity and holiness. Perhaps the distance at the end of his reign was due to his desire to spend his life more in prayer than politics.
But we should, within our daily work, strive to be more holy whether king or peasant.
Let us defend ourselves from the risk of being actors rather than witnesses. We are called to be living memory of the Lord.
-- Pope Francis
East versus West, time and space. This is a long problem for the Church as a whole. It is a big world and for a long time not everyone was Christian but Christians went everywhere. Christianity developed in pockets that, while based in the same Faith, had subtle differences (as well as some major ones), usually manifested in small "t" traditions like liturgical practices. As the Church grew and legitimized, those pockets began to merge into the larger Church. Men like Wilfrid, Cuthbert, and others of his time, both Celtic and Roman, came together to solidify the Christianity we know today. But disagreements still exist. They say that the winners write history but that really cannot be true of a shared history where everyone agrees on the history.
What we often see is bitterness and rancor about not being on top especially when we see ourselves as more correct than anyone else. But we can also definitely say that when one side is up and the other down, the downs usually have some good arguments for losses due to powerlessness. But if, instead of seeing it as up and down, we should see it universally, then we can frame it as one side able to sustain itself long enough to bring stability to the other which then allows the Church as a whole to continue and grow.
It appears though, that even with local councils making decisions, we can quibble about what seems to be winners and losers. We can be recalcitrant about those decisions making it not about right or wrong but about, at best, having our voices be heard and at worst being petty about our prestige and ego. This is true of too many things within the Church.
Perhaps, you might say, in my poor attempt to be vague I am over-simplifying this. I am. But I am not speaking to the past but to us today. Will we let wrongs and perceived wrongs of the past fester and grow? Or will we follow Christ's desires and seek reconciliation and forgiveness? That is our job, not being right. Diversity is part of our strength; so is shared doctrine. The wrongs of the past belong to the past - none of us can change the past but it is still something we share. One cannot claim the shared history as one's alone as either victim or victor. It is not about what our fore-bearers did or did not do but what we will do to do a better job of living out the Gospel together. It is together that we own Christ, or rather that he owns us.
Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the church of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ located at Philadelphia in the province of Asia. You have found mercy and have been strengthened in the peace of God; you are now filled with gladness because of the passion of our Lord, and by his mercy you are made believers in his resurrection. I greet you in the blood of Jesus Christ. You are my abiding and unshakeable joy, especially if your members remain united with the bishop and with his presbyters and deacons, all appointed in accordance with the mind of Christ who by his own will has strengthened them in the firmness which the Spirit gives.
I know that this bishop has obtained his ministry, which serves the community, neither by his own efforts, nor from men nor even out of vainglory, but from the love of God the Father and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am deeply impressed by his gentleness, and by his silence he is more effective than the empty talkers. He is in harmony with the commandments as is a lute with its strings. I call him blessed, then, for his sentiments toward God, since I know these to be virtuous and perfect, and for his stability and calm, in which he imitates the gentleness of the living God.
As sons of the light of truth, flee divisions and evil doctrines; where your shepherd is, follow him as his flock.
For all who belong to God and Jesus Christ are with the bishop; all who repent and return to the unity of the Church will also belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not be deceived, my brothers. If anyone follows a schismatic, he will not obtain the inheritance of God’s kingdom; if anyone lives by an alien teaching, he does not assent to the passion of the Lord.
Be careful, therefore, to take part only in the one Eucharist; for there is only one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and one cup to unite us with his blood, one altar and one bishop with the presbyters and deacons, who are his fellow servants. Then, whatever you do, you will do according to God.
-- Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Philadelphians
I often talk about "my pope", that is, the pope in office when I was born. By that I also mean the pope who seems to have set the tone for my life as a Catholic. John certainly did that. I am blessed that so far, most of the popes of my lifetime have been beatified and/or canonized. That tells me that I have been blessed to live in a blessed time. But it all begins for me with John.
I was young when John XXIII died, and I must say that there are times of sadness for me in the way many of us have tried to live out his vision (especially that of Pacem in Terris); I watched as many fled the Church or divided within her over what (in both cases and in the overall scheme of Revelation) are truly trivial personal preferences. John threw open the windows not just to let in fresh air but to open the Church to the world, so that they could look in and see the beauty of Truth - but along with that joy I have experienced the bitterness, pain and misunderstanding borne of ignorance, selfishness, righteousness, judgment, and many other human foibles that so cloud that view to the Truth. By some, I am reminded of the Italians I lived among. They feared the opening of windows, worried about the disease that could enter them ("mal di fegato!"). This ignorance born of the devil accomplishes the opposite; keeping the windows closed does not keep disease out but locks it in.
I also feel the sadness of those who flung open the windows to throw the baby out with the bathwater; this hubris, also born of the devil, results in blocking the view to the Truth with their own bodies standing in the window.
John opened the windows to not just revitalize us but so that everyone who lived in a broken, hurting world could look into the Church and see its beauty and peace and come to live it themselves; to be saved from sin and death by the Truth.
John, with his boundless joy and humor, reminds us to see the beauty of and to live the unity and peace that comes from knowing Christ in his Church. Let us pray together with him today that we can accomplish our mission of evangelization - the bringing of the good news of God to the world. May we throw open the windows of our hearts to let the light of Christ shine out into the world for all to see, so that all may come to peace in Christ.
Today as We address Our first Encyclical Letter to the entire Catholic world, Our apostolic office clearly demands that We discuss three objectives—truth, unity, and peace—and indicate how they may be achieved and advanced in a spirit of charity. ...All the evils which poison men and nations and trouble so many hearts have a single cause and a single source: ignorance of the truth—and at times even more than ignorance, a contempt for truth and a reckless rejection of it. Thus arise all manner of errors, which enter the recesses of men's hearts and the bloodstream of human society as would a plague. These errors turn everything upside down: they menace individuals and society itself. And yet, God gave each of us an intellect capable of attaining natural truth. If we adhere to this truth, we adhere to God Himself, the author of truth, the lawgiver and ruler of our lives. But if we reject this truth, whether out of foolishness, neglect, or malice, we turn our backs on the highest good itself and on the very norm for right living. As We have said, it is possible for us to attain natural truth by virtue of our intellects. But all cannot do this easily; often their efforts will result in a mixture of truth and error. This is particularly the case in matters of religion and sound morals. Moreover, we cannot possibly attain those truths which exceed the capacity of nature and the grasp of reason, unless God enlightens and inspires us. This is why the word of God, "who dwells in light inaccessible," in His great love took pity on man's plight, "became flesh and dwelt among us," that He might "enlighten every man who comes into the world" and lead him not only to full and perfect truth, but to virtue and eternal happiness. All men, therefore, are bound to accept the teaching of the gospel. For if this is rejected, the very foundations of truth, goodness, and civilization are endangered. ...All men, therefore, private citizens as well as government officials, must love the truth sincerely if they are to attain that peace and harmony on which depends all real prosperity, public and private. ...Everyone realizes, of course, that God our Redeemer founded this society which was to endure to the end of time, for as Christ said, "Behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world." For this intention He addressed ardent prayers to His Father: "That all may be one, even as thou, Father, in me and I in thee; that they also may be one in Us." Surely this prayer was heard and granted because of His reverent submission. This is a comforting hope; it assures us that someday all the sheep who are not of this fold will want to return to it. Then, in the words of God our Savior, "there shall be one fold and one shepherd." This fond hope compelled Us to make public Our intention to hold an Ecumenical Council. Bishops from every part of the world will gather there to discuss serious religious topics. They will consider, in particular, the growth of the Catholic faith, the restoration of sound morals among the Christian flock, and appropriate adaptation of Church discipline to the needs and conditions of our times. This event will be a wonderful spectacle of truth, unity, and charity. For those who behold it but are not one with this Apostolic See, We hope that it will be a gentle invitation to seek and find that unity for which Jesus Christ prayed so ardently to His Father in heaven.
-- Ad Petri Cathedrm, 4, 6-8, 21, 60-62
We will have to labor hard, to sweat, to die: but the thought that one sweats and dies for love of Jesus Christ and the salvation of the most abandoned souls in the world, is far too sweet for us to desist from this great enterprise.
-- From a letter to his parents written shortly after his arrival in Sudan
There are many great thinkers within the Church. There are also many great thinkers who wandered down wrong paths based on their thinking.
Cardinal Newman seems to have managed to be the former without falling into the latter. Not that he "found the truth" and became Catholic, but that he thought deeply and let truth guide him. What I mean by that is that he submitted himself to the truth without protest or struggle. The truth was an objective thing to which he could only defer within his own thought. This led him to a clarity and simplicity of thought about the truth, which then led him to become Roman Catholic.
How often do we want to mold others or the truth to our own thought! Such is not the path of those who trust the truth but those who wish to make the truth. Such is not the path of love but of sin. We must move ourselves out of the way so that God may illuminate the mind. May we let John guide us to emulate him in humble submission to the truth so that the truth may truly set us and everyone we come into contact with, free.
But let us, finding ourselves in the state in which we are, take those means which alone are really left us, which alone become us. Adam, when he had sinned, and felt himself fallen, instead of honestly abandoning what he had become, would fain have hid himself. He went a step further. He did not give up what he now was, partly from dread of God, partly from dislike of what he had been. He had learnt to love sin and to fear God's justice. But Christ has purchased for us what we lost in Adam, our garment of innocence. He has bid us and enabled us to become as little children; He has purchased for us the grace of simplicity, which, though one of the highest, is very little thought about, is very little sought after. We have, indeed, a general idea what love is, and hope, and faith, and truth, and purity, though a poor idea; but we are almost blind to what is one of the first elements of Christian perfection, that simple-mindedness which springs from the heart's being whole with God, entire, undivided. And those who think they have an idea of it, commonly rise no higher than to mistake for it a mere weakness and softness of mind, which is but its counterfeit. To be simple is to be like the Apostles and first Christians.
-- From Sermon 18, Ignorance of Evil
I do not often dwell on things other than the saint, and I am almost embarrassed to say it but it is the physical legacy of Denis which has so fascinated me over the years.
Denis is the patron of France, similar to Joseph in Italy and Patrick in Boston, I mean Ireland.
Denis in a way defines France.
It is most evident in the Gothic cathedral built to honor his bones (surpassed, in my mind, in daring only by Beauvais, of which only the choir, transept, and West Works exist). Denis is the definition of Gothic, the first, and therefore quintessentially French.
Devotion to Denis and companions dates from the third century and that is about all we know except that he was from Italy, became bishop in Paris, and was martyred, at which time the bodies were honored with shrines. From then on it is the series of buildings which lead to the present day edifice.
So it is the small things that we do in the Kingdom which can lead to big things in the Kingdom of Christ until we are at rest in the heavenly Kingdom. Worship still takes place in these millennia old sites and someone we know so little about still ripples in the daily Faith lives of us all. We may not all be remembered by name but well, if we do good then we will be remembered by the most important person.
The victor will thus be dressed in white, and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name in the presence of my Father and of his angels. Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
-- Revelation 3:5
Originally this was the feast of Our Lady of Victory, celebrating the victory of Western naval forces over the Turks on this day. It was also known as the Feast of the Rosary because the forces turned to the Rosary before the battle. The feast twisted through several popes for various reason.
Paul VI settled it as a mandatory memorial celebrating all of the times throughout history that recourse to the Rosary has been used to positive results and as a reminder that Our Lady watches over us as a mother and has given us a prayer of supplication and comfort. It is a reminder of all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? It is Christ [Jesus] who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we are being slain all the day;
we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
-- Romans 8:31-39
Often times when we speak about vocation, especially to youth, we talk about giving ourselves over to God's will, that is, hearing His call to us and following. God calls us, by the very nature of "vocation", and we live by that vocation.
But the part that we often leave out is that it is not always easy to do.
Sometimes we thwart the will of God for us by specifically and willfully avoiding His call.
Other times we hear the will of God for us but others try to dictate what that will should be for us or how we should live out our call, which can confuse us and even, perhaps, thwart the will of God for us.
It is hard to know if we are seeking selfish pursuits or doing the will of God; it is hard to hear God's call amidst all of the good advice.
Bruno seems to dodge and weave through many mine fields of the desires of others for him in order to follow God as he felt called.
I am sure that he would still have become a saint even if he had followed the paths laid out for him by others, but not in the way he is.
Bruno pray for us, especially as we wander through the valley of vocation. Ask God to be by our side with His rod and His staff to comfort and guide us to truly do His will throughout our whole lives.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
-- Thomas Merton, Pax Christi
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