What makes a martyr?
There is always some discussion of this and this is not the place to take it up. But, just because someone dies they are not necessarily a martyr; is is also true that just because someone does not die that they are not a martyr?
I guess the question is this: is what you are doing enough to get you into trouble?
Acacius was the bishop of Hither in Asia. He was arrested in the persecution of Emperor Trajan (Decius) for the crimes of Christianity and refusing to sacrifice to idols and was brought before a man named Martian of the local Roman court. His defense of the Faith was so impressive that they set him free and Martin was promoted (depending upon your reading, both actions by the emperor himself). Because of his arrest and his willingness to die for the faith he is often listed as a martyr, but he apparently survived.
Natalia, on the other hand did not. She was a school teacher in Poznan, Poland and a very active Catholic. She was arrested, tortured, held to public ridicule, deported, imprisoned, sentenced to hard labor, and executed by the Nazis in the gas chambers of Ravensbrück.
Time can confuse the nature of our deaths, but it cannot erase the effects of our lives if we have lived them for Christ, without compromise or fear.
Perhaps being able to die to one's self in defense of the Faith is just as important as physical death in defense of the Faith?
Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
– 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Some people living carelessly in the world have asked me: “We have wives and are beset with social cares, and how can we lead the solitary life?” I replied to them: “Do all the good you can; do not speak evil of anyone; do not steal from anyone; do not lie to anyone; do not be arrogant towards anyone; do not hate any one; be sure you go to church; be compassionate to the needy; do not offend anyone; do not wreck another man’s domestic happiness; and be content with what your own wives can give you. If you behave in this way you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven.”
– The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 21
After heading into the Crusades, Berthold built a monastery and church on Mount Carmel dedicated to the prophet Elijah. There he gathered hermits living in the area together to form what became the Carmelite order.
Elijah was afraid and fled for his life, going to Beer-sheba of Judah. He left his servant there and went a day’s journey into the wilderness, until he came to a solitary broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death: “Enough, LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” He lay down and fell asleep under the solitary broom tree, but suddenly a messenger touched him and said, “Get up and eat!” He looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again, but the angel of the LORD came back a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat or the journey will be too much for you!” He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb. There he came to a cave, where he took shelter. But the word of the LORD came to him: Why are you here, Elijah? He answered: “I have been most zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts, but the Israelites have forsaken your covenant. They have destroyed your altars and murdered your prophets by the sword. I alone remain, and they seek to take my life.” Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
-- 1 Kings 19:3-13a
How often do we need to be shaken out of our complacency or even out of our mountain top experiences? Truly following Christ will constantly rock our world to greater and greater joy.
I think about Moses seeing the burning bush. He had eschewed the pleasures of the palace and "was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian" (Exodus 3:1) when he happened upon an astonishing sight and was compelled, like people in a horror movie, to investigate. He had settled into his life and was content; a wife, a wealthy and well connected Father-in-law, even hopes of becoming the patriarch himself one day.
The blessings of God are not a reward for living His will but are a natural part of it. They can bring contentment, joy, peace.
But joy is not complacency. If we keep at it, the experience of God can also show us the darkness that still surrounds us, even though we are bathed in his marvelous light (cf. 1 Peter 2:9b); God is an ever brightening light in a dark and fallen world.
At the same time that can cause fear, a sense that there is no stability in the world. But these are the fears of the devil, the temptation in the desert. Think of it that way: in the midst of the privation of the desert, Jesus finds the fullness of God. But it is not a journey that ended at that moment -- there is always a deeper place to go where the marvels of God await us, as well as a deepening of the call that goes with it: a deeper call to bend our will to God's will.
Thus we quite easily and spontaneously come to spend much of the time...in these smooth flights of simple repose, gliding through the verses of the Psalms with our hearts absorbed in a simple gaze upon the God Who is invisible but near, and Whose love now holds us captive by its unworldly charm. But it also happens – and this is rarer – that under the pressure of a very great love, or in the darkness of a conflict that exacts a heroic renunciation of our whole self, or in the ecstasy of a sudden joy that does not belong to this earth, the soul will be raised out of itself. It will come face to face with Christ. In an experience that might be likened to a flash of dark lightning, a thunderclap over the surface of the abyss, its eyes will be opened and it will know him and he will vanish from its sight. This momentary blaze of recognition is not produced by a created species or image in the soul. It is the flash of a flame that is touched off by an immediate contact of the substance of the soul with God himself. In one terrific second that belongs not to time but to eternity, the whole soul is transfixed and illumined by the tremendous darkness which is the light of God.
– Thomas Merton, Bread in the Wilderness
Christians hermits show us that there is really no one who is a hermit. The early Christian hermits left the world to get away from it, not God. Therefore they opened their caves and their hearts to those who sought help. It was the world they despised not their fellow humans.
John spent many years seeking and discerning God's call, living with many holy hermits and monks. His long path seems to have worked because according to contemporary accounts, he developed a rigorous and highly disciplined life. It is said that he spent five days a week alone in conversation with God and the other two days, he spent with people seeking spiritual direction and advice with whom he spoke to through a opening in his walled up cave. He was considered wise and admired by the likes of Augustine and Jerome. Most probably because of his hours spent in solitary contemplation he was able to easily discern what was in people's hearts and help them. Crowds would gather on those two days to hear him preach. Completely walled in he apparently subsisted off the mercy of God and the kindness of those who brought him food and water.
If devoting your life to Christ does not carry with it all that doing so implies then your are really not devoted to Christ but to self-indulgence or self-destruction. Even the orders that are cloistered pray not for themselves but for the world around them, for those of us not called to the life of prayer. We accomplish our devotion because they pray for our strength in our ministry. Let us pray to for them in theirs.
When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This is how you are to pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one. If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.h But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions. “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you. Treasure in Heaven. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
-- Matthew 6:5-21
This is updated for 2020.
I know that I will address this some tomorrow but in anticipation, and now in light of current events in the 2020 pandemic, I thought it might be something to think about more often.
We live in a wonderful time of connectivity. Especially during the pandemic we have the ability to connect with friends and loved ones in a marvelous way; we can conduct business, finances, even work in the comfort of our own homes; we can even celebrate Mass together - something that would not have been true five to ten years ago. The pervasiveness of technology and its use are nothing new but at this time in history we receive an unprecedented amount of capability to be present to one another in this day and age.
But it can be hard for social creature that we are. We are actually disconnected as well. Hype and lies spread (as they always have) but our lack of connection makes it difficult to separate truth from falsehood. We are anxious and scared because we cannot always see the faces of those who tell us things anonymously over the internet and hear and see the context for things that are said. We are told to and do look for experts but often it is hard to distinguish who they are from the slick presentation that can deceive.
How like sin and temptation it is. To paraphrase Maxwell Smart: "If only he had used his genius for goodness instead of evil."
To paraphrase another response: "We have an answer for that." We know how to be alone and yet completely connected - we are the Church, the Body of Christ and the people of God. Throughout time so many saints are molded from the community of hermits. Though physically separated, they were completely connected with God and with those that they taught, healed, and comforted. When I read some of their stories I am amazed at the patience and compassion they had and the devotion to prayer and self-denial they practiced.
We are given that same chance but if we use our "connectivity" as a way to keep us apart from others instead of truly bringing us together then we fail to be disciples. It is easy to deceive ourselves that all the time we spend on-line "connects" us when in reality we use it as a way of distancing ourselves, keeping us from reaching in and getting our hands dirty, of being smug, satisfied, and of living from our couch instead of serving justice and the needs of others. And now, if we let fear of what we are to eat, how we are to get money, even illness and death, then we have let the Devil succeed in his temptations. The pandemic is not from God (cf. John 9) but it can be used by both God and the Devil for their ends. For God, "it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him." (John 9:3b); for the devil, well the effects of that are obvious as well.
So now, as many of us "quarantine in place" and practice "social distancing", let us look to the hermits. Let us live in joy and not fear. Let us take in liturgies, bible studies, and prayers and give out light. Concentrate on our relationship with God and a loving relationship with others, knowing that frustration, anger, fear, greed, sloth, and any number of other temptations and sin lie all around us. Let us come together in Christ and be one people in him.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil."
-- Matthew 6:25-34
This is not really a movable feast unless it falls on a Sunday or around Holy Week (for example, in 2018 it was celebrated on April 9th, after Divine Mercy Sunday, after Easter). This is because, while like all feasts it is secondary to the Easter Mysteries, it is a very important feast for us and must be celebrated and not subsumed - the day Mary said "yes", the day that changed hers, Joseph's, and our lives forever.
While we might struggle with the number of Marian doctrines and feasts, the simple fact remains that above any of the speculation (and this is what we celebrate): a young woman had courage and openness to God's will. Certainly there have been many before her, like Abram, who trusted God more than they trusted their own heart and mind. Each brought a new Covenant, enabled God's will to enter more and deeper into the World broken by the sin of Adam and Eve, but it is Mary who enables the ultimate immanence and Covenant: the Incarnation.
This moment is the moment that places her at the top of the Apostles; this is the moment that gives the ultimate revelation of God's will to the world; this is the moment that opens up the world to the grace that begins to save the world so damaged by sin.
For each of us, it celebrates the moments that we too are able to open ourselves up to the the will of the Father. We are Mary, allowing God into our lives knowing only the outcome of God's saving power but none of the details, joy, and heartache to come. We are Joseph, given the news of this mystery yet acting upon it with righteousness aware only of the necessity for action.
Every time we imitate the Holy Family, we acknowledge the gift of grace from God and the gift of Mary's "yes" which now allows us in our Baptism to also say "yes" to the Father in our own lives.
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. Do everything without grumbling or questioning...
-- Phillipians 2:3-14
Big names often overshadow the work of the many who support them in their ministry. In this month of St. Patrick, we remember that he was not alone in his ministry. It is said that when St Patrick became worn out by his labors, Macartan would carry him on his broad shoulders across rivers and over rough ground. How often are the greatest saints enabled by the humble that surround them in love. Think of how hard it would have been for Ignatius, Mother Cabrini, Paul, heck let us go all the way and say Jesus himself, if they had not been surrounded by friends and aides who were devoted to the message of Love as lived by these saints. Let us remember and pray for those workers of whom we know so little yet help Christ so much in the everyday little matters of spreading his message and love.
We also remember this day Oscar Romero and his live of devotion and sacrifice against injustice.
Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Your every act should be done with love. I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanash is the firstfruits of Achaia and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the holy ones— be subordinate to such people and to everyone who works and toils with them. I rejoice in the arrival of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, because they made up for your absence, for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. So give recognition to such people. The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca together with the church at their house send you many greetings in the Lord. All the brothers greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
-- 1 Corinthians 16:13-20
If we fiercely follow Christ then there is no telling where we will end up. But no matter where we are led, we must act with the same heart, the same love, the same mercy. Turibius certainly ended up in a place he never expected and unwillingly at that. A great mind but also a great heart given over to the service of God.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”* He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you,j when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”
-- John 21:15-19
Do what you do and do it well because even the humblest of talents serves the Kingdom.
Nicholas was a carpenter. Eventually he became a lay Jesuit as well.
But first and foremost, he was a carpenter.
The thing that really distinguishes him is what he build in addition to tables, chairs, and other household items and additions: priest holes. Possibly thousands of them but we will never know because when he was finally caught he refused to tell where they were.
He worked late into the night building them, working in the daylight to keep suspicion down. His work protected the lives and reputations of many Catholics living under the persecution of the English Reformation.
Simple work is necessary and requires us each to value the work of others, especially in the month of St. Joseph and the coming celebration of Joseph the Worker. Catholic social teaching on the value of human work is worth our time to know.
As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’ Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
-- Matthew 11:7-11
You know, I often wonder what to do with my life. How do I balance family, work, spirituality, social and religious mandates? How do I spend more time in prayer and good works without neglecting my family, the yard, and the other thousands of little things that demand my attention?
Somehow Nicholas figured out a way to do it and have his family's blessing.
Nicholas intercede for me to Christ that I may understand my vocation and how to live it out!
But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.
Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven. For in this tent we groan, longing to be further clothed with our heavenly habitation....
Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer. So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
-- 2 Corinthians 4:7, 16-5:2, 16-20
Photina (Φωτεινη - root of our word "photon"), as her name implies, is one of light, or more exactly an enlightened one. We do not know much about her except what we think we know about a woman whose name we really do not know. Photina is the name given to the Woman at the Well of John 4. It makes sense after you read the story that no matter what her name was before she met Jesus, like many who are transformed by him, including Simon and Saul, she has a new name afterwards.
In the East, known for its wonderful titles, she is known as "the holy and glorious Great-martyr Photine of Samaria, Equal-to-the-Apostles." Equal because of the meaning of "apostle" (ἀποστόλων): "messenger, one who is sent". She runs from her encounter with Jesus and spreads the news of the Messiah. She leads others to Jesus who then eventually proclaim that “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.” (John 4:42) Truly she is "Equal-to-the-Apostles." Truly she was enlightened.
Tradition (East and West) has her eventually ending up in Rome and dying there in the persecution of Nero. In the West, therefore, she is celebrated as "of Rome".
No matter what, all of us can claim ownership of her, as long as we emulate her and evangelize, sharing Christ with everyone we meet so that they too may come to believe in their own right. Let us ask her guidance and support in our efforts.
The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” They went out of the town and came to him.
...Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.” When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”
-- John 4:29-30, 39-42
To follow up on my reflection of two days ago, we only have to look at the celebration of St. Joseph Day, to understand the attitude and call of these holy days. The world "celebrates" Patrick's day with wanton self-indulgence; Joseph's day is celebrated with service and corporal works of mercy. The World jumps at Patrick's day and ignores Joseph's day.
Perhaps this is a harsh judgment, but it is a call to us to celebrate both days in a manner befitting the saint.
Joseph was a man of no words that we can find, but the words we do know tell us enough. He was thought "righteous" by everyone. This is not self-righteousness, or being right about everything (even if he was a dad). If we look, he seems to need God to tell him everything! But that is the "righteousness" that we are talking about. Joseph was a true adherent to the Law, to his relationship with God and so he, like Abram his father before him, "put his faith in the LORD, who attributed it to him as an act of righteousness." (Genesis 15:6).
It is Joseph's actions that we celebrate. His kind fatherhood and ardent teaching of the Law must have had a great influence on the humanity of his foster son, which allowed him to "advance in wisdom and age and favor before God and man". We can see the effects of Joseph's fathering actions in the actions of Jesus. To submit one's human will as Jesus did, as Joseph did, as Abram did -- this is a statement without words for each of us.
On a note, the submission of Joseph is in juxtaposition to the resistance of Zechariah (Luke 1:5-20) when the angel speaks; Zechariah is struck dumb when he fights God's will; Joseph never says a word as he submits and follows it.
Joseph pray for us to Jesus that we too may learn righteousness from you and do God's will without question.
Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.
-- Luke 2:41-52
There really is not much to say about Cyril. Little is written of his life and most of what we glean comes from his own writings and even that is probably mostly speculation. That is not to say that we know nothing and that he merely rose from obscurity to become a powerful voice for orthodoxy. We have his voice which tells us of his well-known work among those he lived with and served.
It is a voice that trained catechumens for the Easter Mysteries; it is a voice of a shepherd trying to lead a fractious set of sheep; it is a voice that tried to bring unity.
It is probably the latter which got him into the most hot water.
Born shortly before the rise of Arianism, he probably was twisted up with the heresy and its followers, all souls under his care. His work at reconciliation seemed to earn him scorn from fellow orthodox, and probably colored his words so that he did not seem so strong against the heresy.
But it is for his gentleness and mercy for all those who were a part of his life that shines through in his writing that we honor him as a Doctor of the Church he is because we came to recognize him for who he was. He served in a difficult situation, held true to the orthodox beliefs but at the same time used soft rhetoric to reach those in error. He succeeded where other more strict orthodox Fathers like Gregory of Nyssa failed.
Cyril, remind us of the humanity of even those we disagree with or find difficult to work with; help us to be thankful for all the people Christ puts into our lives.
But while honoring our heavenly Father let us honor also the fathers of our flesh (Hebrews 12:9) since the Lord Himself has evidently so appointed in the Law and the Prophets, saying, honor your father and your mother, that it may be well with you, and your days shall be long in the land (Deuteronomy 5:16). And let this commandment be especially observed by those here present who have fathers and mothers. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing to the Lord (Colossians 3:20). For the Lord did not say: "He that loves father or mother is not worthy of Me," lest you from ignorance should perversely mistake what was rightly written, He added, "more than Me" (Matthew 10:37). For when our fathers on earth are of a contrary mind to our Father in heaven, then we must obey Christ's word. But when they put no obstacle to godliness in our way, if we are ever carried away by ingratitude, and, forgetting their benefits to us, hold them in contempt, then the oracle will have place which says: "He that curses father or mother, let him die the death." (Matthew 15:4)
The first virtue of godliness in Christians is to honor their parents, to requite the troubles of those who begot them , and with all their might to confer on them what tends to their comfort (for if we should repay them much, we shall never be able to return their gift of life), that they also may enjoy the comfort provided by us, and may confirm us in those blessings which Jacob the supplanter shrewdly seized; and that our Father in heaven may accept our good purpose, and judge us worthy to shine amid righteous as the sun in the kingdom of our Father (Matthew 13:43) To whom be the glory, with the Only-begotten our Savior Jesus Christ, and with the Holy and Life-giving Spirit, now and ever, to all eternity. Amen.
-- Lecture 7, 15-16
In this post-"Enlightenment" time, the idea of "holiday" being a secularization of "holy day" is not surprising. Nor should it be surprising that national pride for Catholics should center about their patron saint. Patrick and the immigrant Irish experience in America fall directly into this.
What should surprise us is the nature of the celebration. As with the Tuesday before Lent (call it Mardi Gras/Carnival/Fat Tuesday, whatever you will), it is the attitude that has changed our holy days into holidays, and our holidays into debauchery.
"Everyone is Irish on St. Paddy's day," I often hear and see on signs and buttons. Apparently that means that the Irish are amoral bacchanalians and that Patrick is their Bacchus.
But I am confidently certain that was not what Patrick had in mind when he first returned to the shores of Ireland to bring those that brought him into slavery into Christ's wonderful light. And for us, the island of Ireland protected it from much of the scourges that ravaged Europe and the Western Church. Tis the luck of the Irish (and that of the Western Church) that allowed them to protect and then teach the Faith that came to them from Patrick back into the arms of those who gave it to him.
Let us remember this "holy day" of the gift of Patrick not only for Ireland but to the whole Church, and keep it as a holy-day.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.
I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.
I arise today, through
God's strength to pilot me,
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.
I summon today
All these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel and merciless power
that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul;
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.
I do not often concentrate on the patronage of saints but I thought that I would list a few of Matilda's:
• disappointing children
• falsely accused people
• large families
• death of children
• second marriages
• people ridiculed for their piety
The last one seems like a very exclusive group but the first one intrigued me and I thought it would be a good exercise to think about her life from the patronages she has instead of the other way around.
There is so many family issues over which her intercession is entreated, as well as an obvious pull of the world in the demands of royalty and just trying to live a holy life amidst the pressures of those with other agendas who surround us.
A queen in her own right; the mother of Otto (became Holy Roman Emperor), Henry the Quarrelsome (Duke of Bavaria - love that name), Saint Bruno the Great (Archbishop of Cologne), Gerberga (wife of King Louis IV of France), and Hedwig, mother of Hugh Capet - the last Carolingian king. Obviously involved with the powerful politics of the time, she also paid dearly for those connections when her son Otto turned on her, yet was able to eventually reconcile.
She is the patron of these things because they all happened to her, and yet she kept a heart of charity and piety. She never let go of God and God granted her a full life as well as one full of sorrow and conflict. Let us rely on the saints who relied on Christ to intercede for us and remember that they all point to Christ as the source of all good gifts, even in times of trouble.
Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; Who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency, And will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt? You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins; You will show faithfulness to Jacob, and grace to Abraham, As you have sworn to our fathers from days of old.
-- Micah 7:18-20
(also recommend the Gospel: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32)
Talk about family pressure, I do not know what it would be like to be the black sheep in this family. Leander was the older brother of three other saints: Isidore of Seville, Saint Fulgentius of Ecija, and Saint Florentina of Cartagena.
Most observations seem to put this to extremely pious parents. I'm sure that makes a big difference but in the end we parents know that it is up to each individual to take what they have been given and do something with it.
Same for our salvation. Our Father gives us a good foundation and it is up to us to do something with it. The parables of the talents comes to mind here; if we bury it out of fear, especially the fear of not measuring up, then Jesus is very clear about what happens to us!
For us in the West, Leander worked for unity introduced the Nicene Creed into the Liturgy which may not seem like much but shouts another sign of our unity as we gather around the table.
Leander intercede on our behalf to make us one!
However, concerning the triple immersion of baptism, no truer reply can be made than what you yourselves feel, that in one faith, a different custom is in no way harmful to the Holy Church. But as we are immersed for the third time, we signify the sacraments of the burial that lasted three days, so that, while the infant is lifted out of the water for the third time, the resurrection of a three-day period is expressed. But if perhaps someone should also think that it happens for the sake of the veneration of the supreme Trinity, no objection is made to this, immersing in the water just once for baptism. For since there is one substance in three substances, it can in no way be reprehensible for an infant to be immersed either three times or once, when there is both a trinity of persons in three immersions, and the singularity of the divine can be signified in one. But if until now, an infant was immersed three times in baptism by heretics, I do not think that this should be done among you, in case they divide the divine while counting the immersions, boasting that they have defeated your custom, doing what they used to do.
-- Letter of Gregory the Great to Leander
If we look at all of the horrible religious back and forth in England and Europe before and after the upheaval of the Reformation, we can find plenty of martyrs. People who used the sword rather than Faith to win the hearts and minds of others.
There is always change for change's sake and resistance to change. When we flip toward the human and away from the divine then we only ask for trouble. When we think of religion before we think of God, politics before we think of morality, sex before love then we have create clay idols of human construct.
John bears the distinction of being the only official Scotsman martyr. Born a Calvinist, he was convicted for his insistence on the primacy of the Pope in spiritual matters, a position from which, even after torture, trials, and conviction, he never wavered. Before his hanging (he was the child of nobility) he remain openly defiant saying: “If there be here any hidden Catholics, let them pray for me but the prayers of heretics I will not have.”
John strove to serve the "hidden Catholics" of his native land and while he may have made no friends with statements like that, his last actions did inspire some to re-look deeper at the mysteries of the Church.
Let us remember to put God first and personal feeling aside as we strive to serve all humanity and especially God's children.
Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name give glory because of your mercy and faithfulness.
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths but do not speak, eyes but do not see. They have ears but do not hear, noses but do not smell. They have hands but do not feel, feet but do not walk; they produce no sound from their throats. Their makers will be like them, and anyone who trusts in them. The house of Israel trusts in the LORD, who is their help and shield.
-- Psalm 115:1, 4-9
This feast always falls within Lent even on the latest start date for Ash Wednesday, and I think that has meaning. The three pieties of Lent, Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving are truly brought to mind in this saint.
Frances is known as being a reluctant bride, for feeling trapped in various worlds, and especially for her charity to the poor and sick, but there is another aspect that I want to focus on: the Christian idea of love that manifests itself in deep friendship. Frances developed deep friendships with people that she initially dismissed, even those close to her in her family, people who, once she took the risk to share her truest and deepest beliefs with, surprised her with equal love and support. In the end she is probably better known for the quotes of others directed at her, rather than any thing she said which shows the power of that humble love.
Spiritual friendship is perhaps a lost concept in this "connected" world that we live in but it is a great answer to it. The more we "connect" through technology alone, the bigger the wedge we drive in our daily interactions and relationships. We can fail to see the forest for the trees; we can dismiss others before know them.
Frances reminds us to love personally, freely, and deeply despite the risks.
And a special shout out to one of my favs, Gregory of Nyssa - Church Father; check him out.
Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke? Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry, bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: “Here I am!” If you remove the yoke from among you, the accusing finger, and malicious speech; If you lavish your food on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom shall become like midday; Then the LORD will guide you always and satisfy your thirst in parched places, will give strength to your bones And you shall be like a watered garden, like a flowing spring whose waters never fail.
-- Isaiah 58:6-11
Scrupulosity does no one any good. To concentrate only on one's sinfulness and not turn outward toward God's mercy and reconciliation defeats the purpose of Jesus' death and shuts one off from the suffering of others.
We should be sorry for our sins, no question. Guilt and sorrow can lead us to reconciliation but if we never go past them then we are not advancing in holiness. Jesus reminds us that those who seek personal reward and recognition have only that (cf. Matthew 6:1-6).
Such was our saint today. John spent his early life in dissolute living and when he turned to God, his scrupulosity got the better of him. He sought martyrdom, and when dissuaded from that he publicly beat himself, publicly begging for mercy, and other non-rational actions (he was committed for a time) trying to repent for his past life.
With strong spiritual guidance he was able to come to understand true humility, that it was not all about him and his sinfulness. He then turned outward, serving the sick and poor and inspiring others to do the same. Only then, did he find the true peace of reconciliation and true mercy for his sinfulness.
Pray that we will be guided, like John, to open ourselves to God's love, to eschew scrupulosity, embrace God's mercy, and do good for others - especially during the season of Lent.
If we look forward to receiving God’s mercy, we can never fail to do good so long as we have the strength. For if we share with the poor, out of love for God, whatever he has given to us, we shall receive according to his promise a hundredfold in eternal happiness. What a fine profit, what a blessed reward! With outstretched arms he begs us to turn toward him, to weep for our sins, and to become the servants of love, first for ourselves, then for our neighbors. Just as water extinguishes a fire, so love wipes away sin.
-- From a letter
Martyrs die but it is not suicide. How can that be when one refuses to do the things that will keep one alive?
Not to lessen or minimize the issue, but in this sense, suicide is done in despair and out of a hopelessness. It is done without freedom.
Martyrdom is done not to die but to hold fast to Christ. The problem Perpetua deals with sounds simple - just make a sacrifice to the emperor to show that you are loyal to him. But it is more - the sacrifice is not for but to; if our only king is Christ then we cannot offer our allegiance to another for any price. And unlike for the emperor, we do not make sacrifice to Christ for his benefit! What benefit can we give him? We have only our homage and worship; we benefit from this worship, not Christ.
To not worship the emperor is to deny allegiance to him and is punishable by death. To not worship Christ bears a similar fate but at a much greater rate: "And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna." (Matthew 10:28)
So martyrdom shows "fear of the Lord", not fear of death. Perpetua and Felicity show that it is worse to abandon Christ then it is to abandon life, those we love, and who love us. But it is the same end that we all share whether by martyrdom or natural causes. Death has no more power over us - do we believe that?
One day while we were eating breakfast we were suddenly hurried off for a hearing. We arrived at the forum, and straight away the story went about the neighborhood near the forum and a huge crowd gathered. We walked up to the prisoner's dock. All the others when questioned admitted their guilt. Then, when it came my turn, my father appeared with my son, dragged me from the step, and said: 'Perform the sacrifice--have pity on your baby!'
Hilarianus the governor, who had received his judicial powers as the successor of the late proconsul Minucius Timinianus, said to me: 'Have pity on your father's grey head; have pity on your infant son. Offer the sacrifice for the welfare of the emperors.'
'I will not', I retorted.
'Are you a Christian?' said Hilarianus.
And I said: 'Yes, I am.'
When my father persisted in trying to dissuade me, Hilarianus ordered him to be thrown to the ground and beaten with a rod. I felt sorry for father, just as if I myself had been beaten. I felt sorry for his unhappiness in his old age.
Then Hilarianus passed sentence on all of us: we were condemned to the beasts, and we returned to prison in high spirits. But my baby had got used to being nursed at the breast and to staying with me in prison. So I sent the deacon Pomponius straight away to my father to ask for the baby. But father refused to give him over. But as God willed, the baby had no further desire for the breast, nor did I suffer any inflammation; and so I was relieved of any anxiety for my child and of any discomfort in my breasts....
Some days later, an adjutant named Pudens, who was in charge of the prison, began to show us great honour, realizing that we possessed some great power within us. And he began to allow many visitors to see us for our mutual comfort.
-- From the Acts of Perpetua and Felicitas
Not all of us are saints, but we are all sinners who can turn to God's mercy and be saved.
I will say that Saint Colette is also honored today and as reluctant saints go she also falls into the wandering path camp as well. What about ourselves keeps us from becoming saints? What does God have to do to get our attention?
Our imperfections, compared with His goodness, are what a piece of tow is to the furnace. When therefore we have fallen let us humble ourselves sorrowfully in His presence and then with an act of confidence let us throw ourselves into the of His goodness where every failing will be cancelled and doubt will be turned into love.
-- Quoted in The Life of the Blessed Paul of the Cross
We can often be down on ourselves, especially the scrupulosity that can arise in us as believers. It is very easy to see ourselves as unworthy and then to extend that to others and their unworthiness. We also have an amazing ability to blame something or someone else for our failings.
Mark was a hermit, but as we know that does not mean distancing one's self from others. He was also a prolific writer, taking on a multitude of issues and doctrines. One such group that he took on was the Messalian heresy, one that may not be familiar to most of us. They believed that each person has a personal demon so powerful that even baptism cannot conquer it or remove it from our lives.
Certainly the Devil is not destroyed by Baptism nor is his power to lie and temp removed by Christ's death on the Cross (even the demons that Christ exorcised roamed about looking for a new host). That is not the way God works. The power of Baptism and the Cross lie in their ability to save us, to help us overcome the power of Satan. To free us from the power of sin, to take responsibility for our actions and be penitent and atone for the wrongs we do. It frees us to do the good, to be like God in His holiness.
Our salvation is a partnership between us and God, and agreement, a Covenant. We do not accomplish it on our own nor do we accomplish it without doing anything. There is a fine balance like the balance between humility and scrupulosity.
Mark reminds us that we must rely on God not on our own selves for mercy.
Do not claim to have acquired virtue unless you have suffered affliction, for without affliction virtue has not been tested.
-- On the Spiritual Law
Wishing to show that to fulfill every commandment is a duty, whereas sonship is a gift given to men through His own Blood, the Lord said: ‘When you have done all that is commanded you, say: "We are useless servants: we have only done what was our duty" (Luke 17.10). Thus the kingdom of heaven is not a reward for works, but a gift of grace prepared by the Master for his faithful servants.
-- To Those Who Think to Be Justified by Deeds
How do we, amidst our daily lives, live out the call to holiness? How do we integrate the message of the Gospel into not just our lives, but the lives of those around us - especially those over whom we have power, responsibility, or control?
Casimir, as the second son of the king had little or no official power, but was recognized as kind, generous, chaste, and pious. When trusted to, he did rule in his father's stead and it is said that he did so with prudence and justice.
The power that he exercised was not temporal power but spiritual power couched within the situation in which he found himself. People did not honor him because he lorded power over them but because he was devoted to God first and love of self and neighbor.
Casmir, help us to live out God's holiness.
...Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
-- Matthew 20:25-28
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
And here is the passive way – to be filled unto the fullness of God. The passive way – I abandon myself to it, not in a multiplicity of trials, extraordinary penances accomplished, practices of great works – but in peaceful abandonment to the tenderness of Jesus, which I must try to imitate, and by being in constant union with his meek and humble heart.
-- unconfirmed citation
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