If we think about the important moments in Church history (so many - starting with Creation! but I wander) there always seem to be two sides to the story; with the early heresies you can point to definite winners and losers but as time went on it became less black and white. The basic problems remain the same but the new players brought subtleties to the table which made it harder to define the good guys from the bad guys.
Even today people attempt to make things black and white though, while easier to live with and requires a lot less thinking and compassion. But easy is not always the correct way to go as Jesus points out time and again. While it makes it easier to know who your enemies are, according to Jesus that should only do so to make it easier to identify those who you have to love.
The evangelists never say "God told me" or "I think that". They report the Truth as revealed and by doing so avoid telling us what to think and believe and lay the ground work for what we think and believe. This way of thinking about the Truth is counter to many today and to many of the Re-formers including Mohammad (PBUH) and others like Joseph Smith. To that end it is the misguided reasoning of humans to think that they know what someone else is thinking (much less God); it is the weakness of re-formers to think that they know what is best, that they have "figured it out" or that they understand what someone was thinking in the past without the weight of history. This is what shamefully divides the Body of Christ. If we only hear or adhere to the parts that agree with what we think, then we sin against the Spirit who has revealed all and has guided us since Creation.
All that because I feel that Pius had fallen beneath the wheels of personal opinion. Like so many popes he is either revered or reviled, and often for the wrong reasons, reasons that divide not unite - that which was crux of his papacy.
The reforms of Trent fell to Pius when he became pope. He created congregations to correctly uphold and spread the Faith and to preserve Church doctrine. He oversaw the creation of new seminaries, a new breviary, a new missal, and a new catechism. He also wrote many admonishments to guide those who were to implement these reforms. Through hind-sight we may want to call these things set in stone but, like Paul VI after him, he struggled with those who resisted these reforms, both religious and political, and those who outright rejected them. Yet through it all he continued to serve the poor and needy and to bring Christ into the world in all that he did.
People want to make what Pius did in their own image and with their own understanding. I do not read anything in his works which reaches the limitation that some place upon the papacy or the liturgy.
Now, I will not say that "I think that..." - that would fly in the face of all I believe and write in this reflection - but call on us all to not shame the memory of Pius nor place words in his mouth but understand what he intended to do and not what I want him to have intended to have done and thereby to serve Christ and charity in all we do. To do otherwise makes us no better than those against whom he struggled to guide and continues to fracture the Body of Christ.
The Roman Pontiffs, and the other Holy Fathers, our predecessors, when they were pressed in upon by temporal or spiritual wars, or troubled by other trials, in order that they might more easily escape from these, and having achieved tranquillity, might quietly and fervently be free to devote themselves to God, were wont to implore the divine assistance, through supplications or Litanies to call forth the support of the saints, and with David to lift up their eyes unto the Mountains, trusting with firm hope that thence would they receive aid.
1. Prompted by their example, and, as is piously believed, by the Holy Spirit, the inspired Blessed founder of the Order of Friars Preachers, (whose institutes and rule we ourselves expressly professed when we were in minor orders), in circumstances similar to those in which we now find ourselves, when parts of France and of Italy were unhappily troubled by the heresy of the Albegenses, which blinded so many of the worldly that they were raging most savagely against the priests of the Lord and the clergy, raised his eyes up unto heaven, unto that mountain of the Glorious Virgin Mary, loving Mother of God. For she by her seed has crushed the head of the twisted serpent, and has alone destroyed all heresies, and by the blessed fruit of her womb has saved a world condemned by the fall of our first parent. From her, without human hand, was that stone cut, which, struck by wood, poured forth the abundantly flowing waters of graces. And so Dominic looked to that simple way of praying and beseeching God, accessible to all and wholly pious, which is called the Rosary, or Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in which the same most Blessed Virgin is venerated by the angelic greeting repeated one hundred and fifty times, that is, according to the number of the Davidic Psalter, and by the Lord’s Prayer with each decade. Interposed with these prayers are certain meditations showing forth the entire life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, thus completing the method of prayer devised by the by the Fathers of the Holy Roman Church. This same method St. Dominic propagated, and it was, spread by the ??? Friars of Blessed Dominic, namely, of the aforementioned Order, and accepted by not a few of the people. Christ’s faithful, inflamed by these prayers, began immediately to be changed into new men. The darkness of heresy began to be dispelled, and the light of the Catholic Faith to be revealed. Sodalities for this form of prayer began to be instituted in many places by the Friars of the same Order, legitimately deputed to this work by their Superiors, and confreres began to be enrolled together.
2. Following the example of our predecessors, seeing that the Church militant, which God has placed in our hands, in these our times is tossed this way and that by so many heresies, and is grievously troubled and afflicted by so many wars, and by the depraved morals of men, we also raise our eyes, weeping but full of hope, unto that same mountain, whence every aid comes forth, and we encourage and admonish each member of Christ’s faithful to do likewise in the Lord.
-- From Consueverunt Romani
What is there to say? Mystic, consul, theologian, letter-writer, Doctor, vigorous proponent of the Truth and doing things right. I am as blown away by this saint today as they were in her day.
You must know, then, that every tear comes from the heart, because there is no member in the body that has so much desire to satisfy the heart as the eye. If it has pain, the eye manifests it; and if it is a pain of the sensitive part, it can produce tears that generate death, because they come from a heart in which there is a disordered love that is outside of me. ...And so the eye, that wishes to satisfy the heart, weeps into my love and that of its neighbor, with love of the heart, pained only for the offense done to me and the injury done to the neighbor, not for its own pain or individual injury. ...Oh, my most adored daughter, how glorious is that soul that has managed to truly pass from the tempestuous sea to me, the peaceful sea, and has filled the vessel of the heart in the sea that I am, highest and eternal God. Thus the eye, that is like a conduit that comes from the heart, seeks to satisfy it and thus pours out tears.
– Dialog, On the Value of Tears
With this light that is given to the eye of the intellect, Thomas Aquinas saw Me, wherefore he acquired the light of much science; also Augustine, Jerome, and the doctors, and my saints. They were illuminated by My Truth to know and understand My Truth in darkness.
By My Truth I mean the Holy Scripture, which seemed dark because it was not understood; not through any defect of the Scriptures, but of them who heard them, and did not understand them. Wherefore I sent this light to illuminate the blind and coarse understanding, uplifting the eye of the intellect to know the Truth....
So you see that the eye of the intellect has received supernatural light, infused by grace, by which the doctors and saints knew light in darkness, and of darkness made light. The intellect was, before the Scriptures were formed, wherefore, from the intellect came science, because in seeing they discerned. It was thus that the holy prophets and fathers understood, who prophesied of the coming and death of My Son, and the Apostles, after the coming of the Holy Spirit, which gave them that supernatural light.
...when the eye of the intellect is ravished by the fire of My charity, in which charity it receives the supernatural light. With this light the souls in the unitive state love Me, because love follows the intellect, and the more it knows the more can it love. Thus the one feeds the other, and, with this light, they both arrive at the Eternal Vision of Me, where they see and taste Me, in Truth, the soul being separated from the body, as I told you when I spoke to you of the blissfulness that the soul received in Me.
-- Dialog, 11
Today is also the feast of Louis Mary Grignion de Montfort who too was a missionary of sorts.
What does it mean to be a missionary? What does it mean to devote one's life to spreading the Gospel? Where does one have to go in order to be a missionary?
Peter and Louis both answer this question. Being a missionary means being present to the people who need you wherever you go. Being a missionary means putting yourself out there, somewhere outside yourself, into unknown situations and places.
Being a Christian means the same thing. To be a Christian and to be a missionary are pretty much the same thing. We do not do anything special or different; we become Christ for those around us. Being a missionary does not mean going off to exotic places but going where Christ is needed despite troubles or resistance.
Peter stumbled into his situation. But he did not let that stop him from living Christ to those he lived among. Did he accomplish as grandiosely as Louis? Yes, because he was just a successful in bringing peace and comfort to those he served.
In the end it cost them both their lives, Peter as a martyr, Louis in a long life, and that is true of us all. That is the point: when we give our lives over, we give them over; long or short it does not matter: as Paul states, they are lost to us. What matters is that we give them over to Christ. It was said of Peter by one of his catechumens: "He loves us. He does what he teaches. He forgives his enemies. His teaching is good." What better epitaph could any servant hope for?
It does not matter whether or not I am killed; the religion has taken root on the island; it will not be destroyed by my death, since it comes not from men but from God.
-- attributed to Peter soon before his death
Becoming a saint is actually really easy - being canonized, well that is a different story.
Zita lived a pious and humble life. A house servant her whole life, despite run-ins with the family she served and fellow servants over her generosity they could find no fault in her service, eventually rewarding her with the truest of Scriptural rewards: the keys to the house.
So it did not take much for her to be a saint, except perhaps the everyday grind of servitude, which she supplemented with daily Mass and private prayer.
Part of the canonization process is the digging up of the saint's body to verify several things about the person. In Zita's case not only was everything verified but she was also intact, meaning that she was an incorruptible, a term which hearkens back to the Scriptures: "because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption." (Acts 2:27, 13:35; Psalm 16:10) It is a statement not just to the physical body but to the soul as well - that is what makes her a saint - the incorruptibility of her soul.
This seeming obsession with bodies, bones, relics...frankly it can be a bit off-putting for some but we do not shy away from death or the things of death. We in fact celebrate them, for death is not Death, nor the body our Heavenly Body. We are an Easter People, a people of death and resurrection, and "Alleluia!" is our song.
Zita pray for us that we may serve God everyday and in everyday ways; pray that our souls may also be incorrupt and that the white garment of our baptism may be still white when we present it to the Lord.
...a servant is not holy if she is not busy; lazy people of our position is fake holiness.
I have heard it said that people who have attended parochial schools, especially in mission areas around the world, never hear about Jesus. This to me is an odd complaint. Our job is not to proselytize or indoctrinate, as some may believe and practice, but to bring Christ's love and justice into the world. One way this happens, the Church believes, is by using the vehicle of education. We are "evangelizers" (gospelers); that is our process and mission. As the saying we attribute to St. Francis goes: "Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary, use words." This can mean going into hostile environments to serve all of the people of God, baptized or not, where it is dangerous enough just to be Catholic but would be foolhardy to be brazen proselytizers. And anyway, trying to force people to God would accomplish not the goal of loving but only our own self interests and deaths. If we die for loving that is one thing, but to die for vain pride, that accomplishes nothing. We are vilified and castigated for just being Catholic, regardless of what we say or do. Yet the fact that even without preaching we can be seen as Catholic is a powerful witness to the world. We want others to know the joy of dedicating your life to Christ so that the Spirit can enter their hearts and transform them. It is the badge of honor of many missionaries (and the Church as a whole) to serve Jesus through their brothers and sisters by meeting their needs, Robert and William included.
In many places evangelization begins with education, to which missionary work dedicates much time and effort, like the merciful vine-dresser of the Gospel, patiently waiting for fruit after years of slow cultivation; in this way they bring forth a new people able to evangelize, who will take the Gospel to those places where it otherwise would not have been thought possible. The Church can also be defined as 'mother' for those who will one day have faith in Christ. I hope, therefore, that the holy people of God will continue to exercise this maternal service of mercy, which helps those who do not yet know the Lord to encounter and love Him. Faith is God’s gift and not the result of proselytizing; rather it grows thanks to the faith and charity of evangelizers who witness to Christ. As they travel through the streets of the world, the disciples of Jesus need to have a love without limits, the same measure of love that our Lord has for all people. We proclaim the most beautiful and greatest gifts that He has given us: His life and His love.
-- Pope Francis, Message for World Mission Sunday, May 16, 2016
It is tradition that the author of the Gospel of Mark was "John Mark" of the Scriptures. He and his family appear to have been followers of Christ from early on with Peter as his guide:
When [Peter] realized [that he had been released from Herod's prison], he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who is called Mark, where there were many people gathered in prayer. (Acts 12:12)
After Barnabas and Saul completed their relief mission, they returned to Jerusalem, taking with them John, who is called Mark. (Acts 12:25)
Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you greetings, as does Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions; if he comes to you, receive him)... (Colossians 4:10)
When they arrived in Salamis, they [Paul and Barnabas] proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. They had John also as their assistant. (Acts 13:5)
After some time, Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us make a return visit to see how the brothers are getting on in all the cities where we proclaimed the word of the Lord.” Barnabas wanted to take with them also John, who was called Mark, but Paul insisted that they should not take with them someone who had deserted them at Pamphylia and who had not continued with them in their work. So sharp was their disagreement that they separated. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus. (Acts 15:36-39)
It is speculated that Mark openly marked his shame in his youthful inability to hang by mentioning this small fact:
Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked. (Mark 14:51-52)
It appears that he eventually managed to find his mettle and Paul's forgiveness in the earlier confident forgiveness of Barnabas:
Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as well as Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my co-workers. (Philemon 1:23-24)
Luke is the only one with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is helpful to me in the ministry. (2 Timothy 4:11)
It also appears that he lived long enough to follow Peter and Paul to Rome then produce a Gospel that became not just the foundation for Matthew and Luke, but the foundation of the Church in Rome.
Prayer: Lord, through the merits of St. Mark, help us to write our own gospel and be unafraid to include the good with the bad all for your glory.
We often read the term "Counter-Reformation" as if the Church suddenly rose up in arms to fight the re-formers. In truth, repair and reformation is a constant process in the Church as is shown by its many saints over the millennia - from its beginnings through to the Reformation and even to today. The People of God constantly seeks to reform itself, to be back in line with the Body of Christ both as individuals an as a Church but there are those who seek to re-form her in their own image. As with the need for reform, well, this is nothing new in the Church and she continues to this day, and probably will until the end of time (which is coming, trust me - actually don't trust me, trust Jesus).
The price of standing by her and trying to reform the Church is often resistance from both outside and inside the Church. A friend and I agreed years ago that, as Christ shows us, if they are not trying to kill you, you are not doing it right.
We have many accounts of the early martyrs, many of which are certainly more speculation than fact. For me, it is in reading the more modern accounts like Fidelis or that of St. Kolbe which bring the older less reliable ones to new truth.
Finally, I have read that a Protestant offered Fidelis sanctuary, a statement to both men.
From Gruesch he went to preach at Seewis, where, with great energy, he exhorted the Catholics to constancy in the faith. After a Calvinist had discharged his musket at him in the Church, the Catholics entreated him to leave the place. He answered that death was his gain and his joy, and that he was ready to lay down his life in God's cause. On his road back to Gruesch, he met twenty Calvinist soldiers with a minister at their head. They called him a false prophet, and urged him to embrace their sect. He answered: "I am sent to you to confute, not to embrace your heresy. The Catholic religion is the faith of all ages, I fear not death." One of them beat him down to the ground by a stroke on the head with his backsword. Fidelis rose again on his knees, and stretching forth his arms in the form of a cross, said with a feeble voice "Pardon my enemies, O Lord: blinded by passion they know not what they do. Lord Jesus, have mercy on me. Mary, Mother of God, succor me!." Another sword stroke clove his skull, and he fell to the ground and lay in a pool of his own blood. The soldiers, not content with this, added many stab wounds to his body with their long knives, and hacked-off his left leg, as they said, to punish him for his many journeys into those parts to preach to them.
-- From Alban Butler's "The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints". 1864
St. George and the Dragon is a strange but popular tale. We actually know very little about George but it has not stopped us from heaping accolades upon this martyr - as we should upon all martyrs for the Faith. We live the life of Christ on their merits.
Saint George was a man who abandoned one army for another: he gave up the rank of tribune to enlist as a soldier for Christ. Eager to encounter the enemy, he first stripped away his worldly wealth by giving all he had to the poor. Then, free and unencumbered, bearing the shield of faith, he plunged into the thick of the battle, an ardent soldier for Christ.
Clearly what he did serves to teach us a valuable lesson: if we are afraid to strip ourselves of our worldly possessions, then we are unfit to make a strong defense of the faith.
As for Saint George, he was consumed with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Armed with the invincible standard of the cross, he did battle with an evil king and acquitted himself so well that, in vanquishing the king, he overcame the prince of all wicked spirits, and encouraged other soldiers of Christ to perform brave deeds in his cause...let us not only admire the courage of this fighter in heaven’s army but follow his example. Let us be inspired to strive for the reward of heavenly glory, keeping in mind his example, so that we will not be swayed from our path, though the world seduce us with its smiles or try to terrify us with naked threats of its trials and tribulations.
-- From a sermon on St. George by St. Peter Damian
This is a day of popes but the designation of death date is often random. We know so little about the first popes so the most we can say is that they had some impact mainly because they kept the Faith and the faithful going. As to Caius, some of what we have been told say that he was from Spalato in Dalmatia, possibly the uncle of Saint Susanna, and may have even been a relative of Emperor Diocletian (not that that helped anyone), and may have been martyred then.
But it seems that he died before that persecution so what we can say is that Caius reigned in relative peace. He codified the path to bishop, starting with minor orders and working up to priest. This required a bishop to be ordained, different than just grabbing someone like Augustine off the street, even someone who was not baptized (though they did have to get baptized first). Bishops were no so much the choice of the people but men who had taken a path to God and showed their devotion over time.
This process also speaks to the relative peace that the Church enjoyed at that time. Who had the luxury of the time to move through seven or eight minor orders before coming to the fullness of the priesthood? Let us also not take such blessings for granted as we give our priests the space to become men of God and help us to become a people of God.
Caius pray with us for more vocations!
Jesus said to the crowds:
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world.”
-- John 6:44-51
The struggle of theology is engaging the Faith in the world without being distracted away from living it and acting the Faith in the world without losing the ability to wonder and explore the Faith.
We can see in Anselm this journey. He desired a religious life but his father would not allow it and we can see a bit of swing the other way. It is the death of his mother that re-focuses him. He defies his father and runs away to join, not the circus, but monks (though the argument may be made that there is little difference between the two). There he begins to grow in holiness rising eventually to become abbot. There he also completed some of his most famous works and created an atmosphere at the monastery that gave Bec status as one of the great intellectual centers.
But the pope needed help in the Saxon territories; he needed the intellectual strength of Anselm to quell theological and political matters. He needed someone with religious power to help repair the Great Schism with the Greek Church. He needed someone to take on political power and limit the reach of kings into ecclesiastical matters.
Sure, he was only partially successful in most of these endeavors, but he did it with humility and great intelligence. We can extol him for his successes and frown at some of his solutions, but that is a historical view, not a spiritual one. Even amidst controversy, exile, opposition, partial success, and even failure he continued to produce theological works of great insight and beauty.
We know that theology by itself is sterile. We know the effects of Christianity without thoughtful guidance. Anselm was able to keep theology a lived experience and he inspired and led others to deeper relationships with God by his thought and his deeds. It is for this reason that we extol him today!
CERTAIN brethren have often and earnestly entreated me to put in writing some thoughts that I had offered them in familiar conversation, regarding meditation on the Being of God, and on some other topics connected with this subject, under the form of a meditation on these themes. It is in accordance with their wish, rather than with my ability, that they have prescribed such a form for the writing of this meditation; in order that nothing in Scripture should be urged on the authority of Scripture itself, but that whatever the conclusion of independent investigation should declare to be true, should, in an unadorned style, with common proofs and with a simple argument, be briefly enforced by the cogency of reason, and plainly expounded in the light of truth. It was their wish also, that I should not disdain to meet such simple and almost foolish objections as occur to me.
This task I have long refused to undertake. And, reflecting on the matter, I have tried on many grounds to excuse myself; for the more they wanted this work to be adaptable to practical use, the more was what they enjoined on me difficult of execution. Overcome at last, however, both by the modest importunity of their entreaties and by the not contemptible sincerity of their zeal; and reluctant as I was because of the difficulty of my task and the weakness of my talent, I entered upon the work they asked for. But it is with pleasure inspired by their affection that, so far as I was able, I have prosecuted this work within the limits they set.
I was led to this undertaking in the hope that whatever I might accomplish would soon be overwhelmed with contempt, as by men disgusted with some worthless thing. For I know that in this book I have not so much satisfied those who entreated me, as put an end to the entreaties that followed me so urgently. Yet, somehow it fell out, contrary to my hope, that not only the brethren mentioned above, but several others, by making copies for their own use, condemned this writing to long remembrance. And, after frequent consideration, I have not been able to find that I have made in it any statement which is inconsistent with the writings of the Catholic Fathers, or especially with those of St. Augustine. Wherefore, if it shall appear to any man that I have offered in this work any thought that is either too novel or discordant with the truth, I ask him not to denounce me at once as one who boldly seizes upon new ideas, or as a maintainer of falsehood; but let him first read diligently Augustine’s books on the Trinity, and then judge my treatise in the light of those.
-- Preface to Monologium
I do not want to cause any consternation by mentioning today's saint but I do want to explore our roles in life. Let me start by saying that I believe that "God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27) I also believe that that says more than we often read on the surface. There are many stories of women who dress and pass for boys or even men, some of which are probably true, Joan of Arc being a case in point. But they knew she was not a man, nor did she pretend to be one. What she was was herself. She served God as herself. There is a lot of talk nowadays about "gender identity" and "gender equality" yet if we look through history we might not give it a name but give it an understanding: that while gender physicality is one thing the gender of the soul is another. We black and white traits as male or female but that is not the case. We are each individuals and therefore are a balance of male and female traits. Compassion, sympathy, piety, humility...these are often seen as "weak" traits and are therefore most often associated with women - but that is not true because they are the traits of Christ. We are a complex mix of the traits of God. Our "identity" then, is as children of God. Traits are neither weak or strong (i.e. female or male) they are traits that reflect God (at least the good ones). We each have different gifts, various strengths and weaknesses, and that, as Paul tells is, is the nature of the body (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31).
Our role, whether male or female is to live for Christ, to emulate Christ, to be who we are uniquely born to be. One does not have to physically be male or female to accomplish living for Christ. No matter how we feel about our physical nature we must be true to our spiritual one which comes to us from God.
Before faith came, we were held in custody under law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed. Consequently, the law was our disciplinarian for Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian. For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.
-- Galatians 3:23-29
Alphege was bishop of Winchester and Archbishop of Canterbury during the Danish raids of the early 11th century. He had managed to quell the raids through artful diplomacy but with a change in Danish leadership that ended. He was captured in a raid and killed in frustration when he refused to be ransomed. I mention him today because over 100 years later Thomas a Becket commended his cause of reform against power to Alphege. One never knows the effect one has when one lives for Christ.
The slip of a vine planted in the ground bears fruit at the proper time. The grain of wheat falls into the ground and decays only to be raised up again and multiplied by the Spirit of God who sustains all things. The Wisdom of God places these things at the service of man and when they receive God’s word they become the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ. In the same way our bodies, which have been nourished by the Eucharist, will be buried in the earth and will decay, but they will rise again at the appointed time, for the Word of God will raise them up to the glory of God the Father. Then the Father will clothe our mortal nature in immortality and freely endow our corruptible nature with incorruptibility, for God’s power is shown most perfectly in weakness.
-- Against Heresies by Irenaeus
We often get in the way of God's will, but as always is the case, God's will reigns supreme. The nonsensical actions people do from ignorance, the best of intentions, or spite still do not stymie the will of God. There are always those who also manage to do the will of God no matter what the actions of others may be. Mother Blondin started from ignorance herself and was pursued by ignorance her whole life but still managed to be Christ to the world without a sense of moral outrage that could have been hers.
“There is more happiness in forgiving than in revenge.”
-- Quote from the Vatican website
You will find that the reading of sacred scripture is a great and powerful remedy against bodily suffering and depression of mind. In my opinion, there is no other writing, no matter how eloquent and stylish it may be, that can bring such peace to our minds and so thoroughly dissolve our cares as sacred scripture can.
I speak from personal experience: for there have been times when I was beset with anxieties, the worst of which came from the experience of my own weakness, and if on such occasions I sought relief in the scriptures, the hopes and desires that led me there were never disappointed. The word of scripture proved to be a solid bulwark against my anxieties and a relief to my troubled spirit.
I have often wondered why the scriptures have this persuasive power, why they have such a powerful effect on those who listen to them, and why they lead us to the commitment of faith and not to the mere forming of opinion. This response of faith does not happen because of a reasoning process, because scripture does not offer one; and it is not a matter of literary style or artistic merit, because scripture does not use these devices; nor does it use soft words to persuade us.
The real reason that scripture has this persuasive power is that it comes from First Truth. Surely there can be no other explanation for such conviction. It seems as though scripture has an inherent authority that compels us to believe. But on what base does this authority rest? None of us has seen God preaching, writing, teaching —and yet we believe as though we had seen, and realize that what we read comes from the Holy Spirit. One reason for believing may well be that the truth contained in scripture is very solid truth, even though it is not as clear as we might wish. All truth has an inherent power to win our acceptance: the greater the truth, the greater its power. So why is it, then, that not all believe the good news? My reply is that not all are drawn by God. However, there is no point in arguing further. We believe in sacred scripture to the degree that we accept in our hearts God’s divine inspiration.
-- From the Treatise on Patience
Today's Gospel reflects the simple humility of Bernadette, who for all the world could have profited from her visions. Her faith extends beyond the "signs" she saw and into the belief "in the one he sent."
After Jesus had fed the five thousand men, his disciples saw him walking on the sea.
The next day, the crowd that remained across the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not gone along with his disciples in the boat, but only his disciples had left. Other boats came from Tiberias near the place where they had eaten the bread when the Lord gave thanks.
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”
So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
-- John 6:22-29
How often do we look at the good things that happen in our lives through a selfish lens? How often do we take the good things for granted. Cesar drifted through the good life taking advantage of everything, including the job of Canon of Salon (basically Canons were workers in the Cathedral).
One day he was brought to humility by a small shrine and the knowledge that a friend had prayed for his soul. Suddenly the end of his life came into focus and all the good in his life became the impetus for reforming his life rather than wasting it.
This shows us the power of prayer, the power of God's mercy and grace, and the need within ourselves to never be complacent about the good that God has done for us.
Cesar pray for us!
In the year of his birth at Cavaillon, the Christian world is in a crisis, one of the most serious crises in its history. A crisis that is not only a religious and doctrinal one, but also a crisis of civilization, with the afflux of new movements of thought, not all negative, but which confuse the mass of the faithful. Cesar de Bus came into the world in this troubled period when men are gradually opening up to culture, to the arts and to the reign of pleasure. He let himself be swept along, during adolescence and early manhood, to the life of ease for which his social status and his fortune marked him out, the superficial, careless life of a gifted being, brilliant in society, a poet when he liked, more sensitive to the appeal of pleasure in every form than to the demands of the Gospel. …After his conversion, the spiritual progress of the Blessed was not without its upsets, moments of discouragement, darkness and uncertainty. We have been struck, however, by what was to be, almost from the beginning, a characteristic of his whole life. Perhaps that is the secret of his constancy, or in any case, what always enabled him to overcome his difficulties and start off again with increased energy; we are referring to his “spirit of repentance.” Repentance is not an empty word for him. He carries it to its extreme consequences, for he has come back from so far! He has to master the passion of which he was the slave in the past, a violent and perpetual battle against carnal temptations. He learns in this way to seek and love sacrifice, for sacrifice configures one with Christ Suffering and Victorious. To offer himself as a libation, to leave everything in God’s hand at the cost of the greatest renunciations, this seems to have been the leitmotif, the perpetual aim of his efforts. And when, at the end of his life, suffering and afflicted with blindness for 14 years, he is at last able to prepare for the supreme gift, he will realize how useful asceticism has been to master the old Adam. He will be ready to meet the Lord. His joy will be perfect. The aim of Father de Bus is to communicate Christian doctrine to the people. The idea is far from being new. From the beginning the first Christians were anxious to transmit, and transmit exactly, the essential part of what they had received. Collections gathering the most outstanding events and sayings in the midst of a pagan world and in view of the dangers of doctrinal deviation, to inculcate in catechumens and recall to disciples a “kerygma,” that is, a central core, a “summary of the faith” containing the essential elements, which can serve as a basis for developments adapted to circumstances and to the psychology of listeners. It is necessary to give a solid foundation to their faith, to support their affective and charitable attachment to the living God with a knowledge of the truths of faith that will correspond to this love. This is a period in which the world is in crisis, as formerly, and in which most values, even the most sacred ones, are rashly questioned in the name of freedom, so that many people have no longer any point of reference, in a period in which danger comes certainly not from an excess of dogmatism but rather from the dissolution of doctrine and the nebulousness of thought. It seems to Us that an additional effort should be courageously undertaken to give the Christian people, who are waiting for it more than is thought, a solid, exact catechetical base, easy to remember. We well understand that it is difficult today to adhere to the Faith, particularly for the young, a prey to so many uncertainties. They have the right at least to know precisely the message of Revelation, which is not the fruit of research, and to be the witnesses of a Church that lives by it.
-- Beatification Address, Pope Paul VI
I believe that there is an old adage that states that it is not where you start but where you finish that matters. I also believe that I could have just made that up because it sounds good, but I still think it is a valid point.
If you start in ignorance and end in ignorance then shame on others if they did not teach you or shame on you for not listening! If you start in sin you should not end in your sin because we have the Truth of Christ proclaimed and lived all around us.
Peter started out poorly, but when the lessons came, he took them to heart. Not only that but he recognized his whole life how easy it is to slip back into old patterns of sinfulness and worked to do better by doing good. Mark Twain had a saying about some of the missionaries to Hawaii: they came to do good and did well. Peter started out to do well and in the end did good.
Through humiliation he learned humility; through temptation he learn prudence and charity. He may have started out selfish, vain, and greedy but he ended up a true servant of Christ to king and shepherd alike. Peter reminds us that our true discipleship begets true discipleship in others.
Beatified but never officially canonized, Benedict the XIV formally recognized the devotional culture dedicated to him, so you will see him alternately designated as "saint" or "blessed".
As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, "It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the Apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
-- Acts 6:1-7
Political peace and theology do not always go hand in hand. We can still see the problem lived out today in such martyrs as Archbishop Romero and in the Seventh Century in the likes of Martin.
The power of the pope was increasing and Martin's carrying out of the Lateran Council in 649 shows the boldness of his action against an Emperor whose edict was designed to silence discussion and promote political quietude.
But it is not the histo-political aspect of this man that we want to concentrate on but the adherence to the Truth that drove him, even as an old man, to defy and clarify bad theology - and to pay for it with his life. The importance of Jesus being both God and human is so vital to the Truth of Christianity that to lessen or deny any aspect of it removes the foundation of the whole tower. In the Truth, the tower stands tall and straight, firmly rooted against wind, rain, heat, and cold. Revelation founds the Faith and negates the need for us to explain the mystery. To wiggle the foundation does not show the weakness of the foundation of Revelation but of our own human weakness and hubris and shows the necessity of retaining all of Revelation as a solid foundation. Martin reminds us to cling to and teach only the Truth.
Two last things: Martin was actually an Easterner, not a Roman. After his papacy, the West tended to elect only Westerners and the East only appointed Easterners. The divide continued to expand until its failure three centuries later. Second, Martin is also the last pope that we consider a martyr, which of course speaks to the deaths of many of the popes to come after him and the causes of their deaths, usually also for political reasons, if you understand my meanings.
If anyone who indubitably has professed and also understands those (teachings) which the wicked heretics suggest, through vain impudence says that these are teachings of piety, which the investigators and ministers of the Word have handed down from the beginning, that is to say, the five holy and universal Synods, certainly calumniating [maligning] the holy Fathers themselves and the five holy Synods mentioned, in the deception of the simple, or in the acceptance of their own impious treachery, let such a person be condemned.
If anyone according to the wicked heretics in any manner whatsoever, by any word whatsoever, or at any time or place whatsoever illicitly removing the bounds which the holy Fathers of the Catholic Church have rather firmly established [Proverbs 22:28], that is, the five holy and universal Synods, in order rashly to seek for novelties and expositions of another faith; or books, or letters, or writings, or subscriptions, or false testimonies, or synods, or records of deeds, or vain ordinations unknown to ecclesiastical rule; or unsuitable and irrational tenures of place; and briefly, if it is customary for the most impious heretics to do anything else, (if anyone) through diabolical operation crookedly and cunningly acts contrary to the pious preachings of the orthodox (teachers) of the Catholic Church, that is to say, its paternal and synodal proclamations, to the destruction of the most sincere confession unto the Lord our God, and persists without repentance unto the end impiously doing these things, let such a person be condemned forever,and let all the people say: so be it, so be it [Psalm 105:48].
-- Lateran Council, Canon 19-20
The liturgical practices of the past help us today, and the reason we know them is due to the efforts of teachers who wrote them down. The Easter Vigil is an ancient liturgy of the Church and, as the most important feast of the year, contains everything we are in sign and symbol as well as the warm welcome to new Catholics.
Martyred under Gallienus, St. Ambrose speaks of him as a bishop of holy memory. As such, Zeno provides for us many insights into the early thinking of the Church and preserves for us, different from many contemporary writers, not just the baptismal liturgy but insights into the early Pascal liturgy of the Church. It is a powerful witness and comfort that almost 2000 years later we are still at it in the same way, for the same reasons, and hopefully with the same results.
Zeno also gives us great insight into the way to treat the Hebrew Scriptures, constantly referencing them and drawing them forward into Christ.
How earnestly I desire, if I were able, to celebrate you O Patience, queen of all things! but by my life and manners more than by my words. For you rest more in your own action and council than in discourses, and in perfecting rather than in multiplying virtues. You are the support of virginity, the secure harbor of widowhood, the guide and director of the married state, the unanimity of friendship, the comfort and joy of slavery, to which you are often liberty. By you, poverty enjoys all, because, content with itself, it bears all. By you, the prophets were advanced in virtue, and the apostles united to Christ. You are the daily crown and mother of the martyrs. You are the bulwark of Faith, the fruit of Hope, and the friend of Charity. You conduct all the people and all divine virtues, and disheveled hairs bound up into one knot, for ornament and honor. Happy, eternally happy, is he who shall always possess you in his soul.
-- On Patience
Speaking truth to power is a quality that many of us do not possess. Often because we do not feel we have the position to allow us that kind of chutzpah.
"I'm only one person," we say. "It doesn't make a difference anyway," we conclude.
But Christ's death and resurrection tell us differently. We are not just one person; we are the Body. Christ speaking through us is what we desire and can easily accomplish, much more so than trying to do it ourselves, because if so the saying is true: we are only one person, we are alone in ourselves.
But if we allow Jesus to call out evil and injustice through us then the saying is also true: we are only one person, but that person is Christ Jesus!
We, like Stanislaus, should not fear reprisal or death for following Christ and calling others into his marvelous light.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” So the Jews said to him, “Now we are sure that you are possessed. Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Or the prophets, who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing; but it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ You do not know him, but I know him. And if I should say that I do not know him, I would be like you a liar. But I do know him and I keep his word. Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” So they picked up stones to throw at him;
-- John 8 51-59
When is a saint not a "saint"?
This issue of "canonization" can be confusing even to those of us who practice it. Saints are saints are saints whether officially set in the list ("canon" -- hence "canonization" or, being added to the "official list") of saints or as simply defined by a holy life. So many of the early martyrs are unknown yet are saints; so many everyday people who have never had anyone to plead their cause to be added to the "official" list are saints; so many garnished praise and honor during their lifetimes for their holiness such that they were immediately declared to be saints by those around them because it was obvious to the most casual observer.
Officially declaring someone a saint means that we have scrutinized their lives and their deaths and determined that they continue to work for the salvation of the world. Officially we seek that answer in miracles attributed to their intercession. It is for their works in life that we additionally declare them Fathers or Doctors.
To be declared a saint is for us to acknowledge that the life someone has led has put them fully into the presence of God at their personal judgment. They fit the description from the Revelation of John of those surrounding the throne.
Fulbert falls into that category because he has never been officially added to the canon, but his designation of saint by the local population is sanctioned by the Church and allows them to celebrate his day today. This is true of so many local saints of which we have never heard, including people like my grandmother: perhaps not perfect but brought to perfection. I seem to remember a saying that I cannot attribute to anyone in particular that "we are all saints or on our way to becoming saints" or something like that. The apostle John reminds us of this: "we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2)
Looking at the brief descriptions of his life, he was well known as a teacher and arbitrator, influential in several ecclesiastical and secular controversies. He was particularly attentive to his flock as bishop, traveling and visiting often. Nowhere do these stories speak of anything but humility and sanctity. I for one will accept his title and ask for his intercessions at the throne without hesitation especially for our bishops and clergy.
You choirs of new Jerusalem,
Your sweetest notes employ,
The Paschal victory to hymn
In strains of holy joy.
For Judah’s Lion bursts His chains,
And crushed the serpent’s head;
And brought with him, from Death’s domains
The long imprisoned dead.
From hell’s devouring jaws the prey
Alone our Leader bore;
His ransomed hosts pursue their way
Where Jesus goes before.
Triumphant in His glory now
His scepter rules all;
Earth, Heav’n and Hell before him bow
And at his footsteps fall.
While joyful thus his praise we sing,
His mercy we implore,
Into His palace bright to bring
And keep us evermore.
All glory to the Father be,
All glory to the Son,
All glory, Holy Spirit, to Thee,
While endless ages run.
-- Chorus novae Ierusalem
Today's saint is a convert. But make no mistake, this is not about we win and you loose, but how God works in our lives to bring us to Him.
Whenever I teach the after-Easter RCIA class, I always like to do a meditation on The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) to discuss the tough road ahead for those entering the Church.
Conversion is a difficult thing - especially if you do not have the support of family and friends; it is for that reason that we must take refuge in Christ and his Body, especially in the Eucharist. Therein lies our support. The world around us can make the road difficult, even for those of us who are not converts, but especially for them.
Casilda was Muslim, the daughter of the king of Toledo, Spain. She saw the ravages of war and the cruelty around her and did not trust those closest to her to take care of her or support her in her actions based in the love she felt for her fellow humans regardless of race or religion. This is the seed of Faith which exists in each of us as a gift from God and must be nurtured into full bloom.
And that, perhaps, that is the problem. In my experience people often convert because of the example of those around them - from both good and bad examples. They leave one group for another because of the examples of both. Casilda had Faith. Fortunately for us, she found Jesus in us and gave her life over to him as an example to us all.
Casilda pray for us, especially our Candidates and Catechumens in their time of scrutiny and new lives in Christ.
Receive, my children, the Rule of Faith, which is called the Symbol of Faith (or Creed). And when you have received it, write it in your heart, say it daily to yourselves: before you sleep, before you go out, arm yourself with your Creed. The Creed is not written to be read; rehearse it lest idle forgetfulness obliterate what has been carefully delivered to you; let your memory be your record of what you are about to hear, that are you to believe, what you shall have believed, and that you are about to give back with your voice. For the Apostle says, "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." For this is the Creed which you are to rehearse and to repeat in answer. These words which you have heard are scattered throughout Divine Scripture but are gathered and reduced into one, that the memory of the simple in Faith might not be distressed and so that every person may be able to say, able to hold, what he believes. For until now you have merely heard that God is Almighty. You begin to have him for your Father, when you have been born by the Church as your Mother.
– From A Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed, St. Augustine
I am not trying to be biased and over-emphasizing education this month but Julia just happens to come the day after John Baptist de la Salle. But that is not a reason to dismiss her for her example is perhaps even more inspiring. Foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame, her sisters assist in education, especially of the poor, all over the world.
Having been served and taught by this order, I have to admit I did not appreciate them until later. At the time I failed to understand their dedication, their rule, or their love but I can now say, with maturity and hind-sight, that they molded and taught me with patience and enthusiasm; they also created an environment of high quality spiritual and secular education.
All that said, Julia did not set out to create a teaching order or even an order for that matter. Her whole life from an early age she dedicated to the Eucharist and to teaching others about Christ. Even after paralysis struck her, she would teach children gathered about her bed. This was her call. It was others who formed the order around her, those who saw her daily vision and efforts and wanted to transform it into something bigger. Like me though, many in post-revolution France did not appreciate her service and confused those who serve the Church with her corrupt leaders; she lived during danger, war, and persecution, but served Christ through it all. It is a harrowing tale that you should take some time to familiarize yourself with.
We must be aware that we follow Christ as individuals but that we follow him within his Body. Do not do things for vain glory but for Christ and you will allow him to influence the world through you, even down to the smallest individual who personally looks back with gratitude and a bit of shame.
Do not be troubled at your losses; keep very calm and quiet, no one could have foreseen what has happened. Never can you thank God enough for having been preserved from much worse misfortunes. Many times a day my heart flies to you, and this forced delay is no little sacrifice to me. Let us stand firm in all our vicissitudes and trials, seeking only the greater glory of God. Oh! would to heaven, would to heaven that we had as much love for God as we have for ourselves! Simplicity is the true way to find God. Let us get ready for death by a life which is all for God and our duty. Grace has its moments, and passes quickly—let us be very faithful to it. Oh my daughter, how much we need to watch over ourselves if we are to acquire the habit of living in God's holy presence, that habit so necessary to our spiritual advancement!
-- From a letter to the convent of Fleurus, after it being pillaged
I had the grace, pleasure, and good fortune to live, eat, and pray among Christian Brothers one summer and though they gave me grief about being "clerical" I was impressed by the dedication of lay men to the education of youth and to creating a community that did so. Their dedication to educating the whole person not just in religious matters but in growth of spirit, mind, and body goes directly to the Catholic teachings on formation.
They also made a mean martini.
I'm not sure I can attribute the latter to John, but definitely the former. My own feelings about being a teacher and catechist were influenced by these men and their founder.
John Baptist, help us to instruct others with kindness and compassion and to teach as Christ taught.
Since you are ambassadors and ministers of Jesus Christ in the work that you do, you must act as representing Jesus Christ himself. He wants your disciples to see him in you and receive your teaching as if he were teaching them. They must be convinced that the truth of Jesus Christ comes from your mouth, that it is only in his name that you teach, that he has given you authority over them. They are a letter which Christ dictates to you, which you write each day in their hearts, not with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God. For the Spirit acts in you and by you through the power of Jesus Christ. ...Your zeal for the children under your guidance would be very imperfect, if you expressed it only in teaching them; it will only become perfect if you practice yourself what you are teaching them. Example makes a much greater impression on the mind and heart than words. This is especially true of children, since they do not yet have sufficient capacity for reflection, and ordinarily model themselves on the example of their teachers. They are led more readily to do what they see done for them than to carry out what they hear told to them, particularly when the words they hear are not in harmony with the actions they see.
-- From Meditations for the Time of Retreat
What does it mean to be truly human? What does it mean for Jesus to have been fully human?
For hundreds of years these questions and many others like them consumed the Church. Is it even possible for God to be human? How could that be? How could the Son of God be anything but God if we want to understand the Trinity? Why, much less how, would God suffer?
I could go on but this is not a theological exploration. Suffice it to say, that unless Jesus was fully human as well as fully God then none of it makes sense. It is mystery and we are unable reason it out because it is mystery. It is truth, revealed to our "puny intellects" as Augustine would say.
Eutychius came into conflict with emperor Justinian who began to believe the teaching that Jesus’s body was incorruptible, not subject to pain, and therefore was not fully human as well as fully God. His resistance to such thought got him exiled until after Justinian's death. But even then, he too struggled with understanding these mysteries, beginning to emphasize the spiritual over the physical, only to return to the understanding of the God-man as whole body and soul, spirit and divinity, words of which are a theological discussion all in their own.
Eutychius, pray that we recognize the truth and to also recognize when we have strayed.
As a result Of this investigation it became evident that in the sayings Of Theodore of Mopsuestia (which are spoken against on all hands) there are contained very many things contrary to the right faith and to the teachings of the holy Fathers; and for this very reason these same holy Fathers have left for the instruction of the Church treatises which they had written against him. For among other blasphemies of his we find that he openly said that God the Word was one [Person] and Christ another [Person], vexed with the passions of the soul and with the desires of the flesh, and that he little by little advanced from a lower to a higher stage of excellence by the improvement of his works, and became irreproachable in his manner of life. And further he taught that it was a mere man who was baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and that he received through his baptism the grace of the Holy Spirit, and merited his adoption; and therefore that Christ could be venerated in the same way that the image of the Emperor is venerated as being the persona of God the Word. And he also taught that [only] after his resurrection he became immutable in his thoughts and altogether impeccable.
Moreover he said that the union of the Word of God was made with Christ as the Apostle says the union is made between a man and his wife: The two shall be one flesh; and that after his resurrection, when the Lord breathed upon his disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit", he did not give to them the Holy Spirit. In like strain of profanity he dared to say that the confession which Thomas made, when he touched the hands and side of the Lord after his resurrection, saying, "My Lord and my God", did not apply to Christ (for Theodore did not acknowledge Christ to be God); but that Thomas gave glory to God being filled with wonder at the miracle of the resurrection, and so said these words. But what is still worse is this, that in interpreting the Acts of the Apostles, Theodore makes Christ like to Plato, Manichaeus, Epicurus, and Marcian, saying: Just as each Of these were the authors Of their own peculiar teachings, and called their disciples after their own names, Platonists, and Manichaeans, and Epicureans, and Marcionites, just so Christ invented dogmas and called his followers Christians after himself.
-- Letter of Pope Vigilius to Eutychius
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