The persecutions of Christians started in Rome in 64 AD. Years earlier, in 49, Jews and Jewish Christians had be expelled from the city because their monotheism and their in-fighting was seen as civil unrest and disturbing to the Pax Romana. By 54 they must have eventually drifted back into town and taken a lower profile but by then Gentile Christians probably outnumbered them.
We can guess that their community existed before Paul's letter because it is a letter of introduction to them and a detailed laying out of his theology. It appears to be a community strong by the 40's, within years of Jesus's death and Resurrection. Initially it appears to have been a Jewish Christian community, maybe even founded by those inspired by Peter's speech at Pentecost. This can be conjectured from the expulsion order in 49. There is no evidence of apostolic visits before that.
But by the 60's the community was more diverse, as Paul's letter indicates. Still it was strong enough community to warrant a letter and the request to support further missions to the west. Solid enough then for visits not just from Paul but from Peter as well.
It says something also to the Faith of this community that Paul was able to wait to turn to it until after feeling that he had established the Faith securely in the East. The 20 years of strong community before his letter possibly meant that he could put off such a journey. It also meant that it was strong enough to serve as a base of operations in the West.
Not that there were not problems, as the letter tells us, but the letter also indicates that they were familiar with and mature enough in Faith to handle the depth, breath, and length of the letter and its theology.
This level and strength of Faith are borne out in Nero's persecutions starting in 64, and involving both Peter and Paul; how they must have witnessed to each other! How they witness to us now!
We are not a new philosophy but a divine revelation. That's why you can't just exterminate us; the more you kill the more we are. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. You praise those who endured pain and death - so long as they aren't Christians! Your cruelties merely prove our innocence of the crimes you charge against us. When you chose recently to hand a Christian girl over to a brothel-keeper rather than to the lions, you showed you knew we counted chastity dearer than life. And you frustrate your purpose. Because those who see us die, wonder why we do, for we die like the men you revere, not like slaves or criminals. And when they find out, they join us.
-- Tertullian, From Apologeticum
We call this feast "Peter AND Paul", which is in juxtaposition to the "Peter OR Paul" or "Peter VS. Paul" thinking that often goes on.
Though there may have been some amount of it at the time, we see now that theirs is not a rivalry but a complementary relationship. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ, throughout time, have tried to emphasis one over the other, or to surpass one with the other in order to explain some point or to justify/deny some belief system or tradition. But regardless of how they lived and ministered, they died in sync in Rome. One a citizen, the other a Jew. One martyred 'nobly' the other ignobly but both for Christ.
So it is Peter AND Paul, as apostles of Jesus, that we celebrate; they who did Christ's bidding, not for their own gain but for his. Neither surpasses the other in preaching or theology and most importantly, neither surpasses Christ. We celebrate them together like so many of the early Roman martyrs (tomorrow).
I think that is what so many people miss. We do not "follow Paul or Apollos" (cf. 1 Corinthians), we follow Jesus with their help and guidance. It is his mandates and path, not Peter's or Paul's that we follow. So many problems between denominations would be solved if we just walked that line.
It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.
For by your providence
the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul bring us joy:
Peter, foremost in confessing the faith,
Paul, its outstanding preacher,
Peter, who established the early Church from the remnant of Israel,
Paul, master and teacher of the Gentiles that you call.
And so, each in a different way
gathered together the one family of Christ;
and revered together throughout the world,
they share one Martyr’s crown.
And therefore, with all the Angels and Saints,
we praise you, as without end we acclaim:
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts...
-- Preface from the Solemnity of Peter and Paul
We think of great events, like D-Day and the men who lived it and came home with stories, and we realize how tightly we hold on to those stories after their tellers are gone.
Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was, in turn, a disciple of John, Apostle and gospel writer, who himself was a disciple of Jesus. For that reason he jealously guarded the gift given to him.
How often are stories lost or mangled within just a few generations! How tightly must we hold to the truth, the truth that has only one source.
For in no other way could we have learned the things of God, unless our Master, existing as the Word, had become man. For no other being had the power of revealing to us the things of the Father, except His own proper Word. For what other person "knew the mind of the Lord," or who else "has become His counselor? " Again, we could have learned in no other way than by seeing our Teacher, and hearing His voice with our own ears, that, having become imitators of His works as well as doers of His words, we may have communion with Him, receiving increase from the perfect One, and from Him who is prior to all creation. We who were but lately created by the only best and good Being, by Him also who has the gift of immortality, having been formed after His likeness (predestined, according to the prescience of the Father, that we, who had as yet no existence, might come into being), and made the first-fruits of creation have received, in the times known beforehand, [the blessings of salvation] according to the ministration of the Word, who is perfect in all things, as the mighty Word, and very man, who, redeeming us by His own blood in a manner consonant to reason, gave Himself as a redemption for those who had been led into captivity.
-- Against Heresies, Book V, 1
The role that religion plays in American politics and everyday life today is a far cry from the role it played in the 5th century. Today we wrangle about the application of belief systems, in those days they fought about the very meaning of the belief system and the ramifications it had in everyday life. Then, more so than now, God was everywhere, not just in indignant people and talking heads; God permeated the air and was thought to be vital to life and therefore to politics.
When the bishop of Constantinople (i.e. the Pope in the East) muddied the waters about the nature of Christ it would be as if Pope Francis declared that most of the teachings of the Church were wrong. When doctrine is not well defined, though believed, it can be the cause of scandal among the faithful. Blind acceptance is not the problem but taking truths for granted is. The little understood or misunderstood truth can be fodder for error and those not well taught can easily be misled or fall into error.
Cyril fought hard but he did so with love as the end goal. After the bloody and cruel fight he was the first to seek reconciliation in order to bring all together under Jesus, understood as both God and human, and into the protection of his mother the Theotokos.
Today we might learn a lesson about extracting the truth from human foible and living to make it vital and important in the everyday, not just on passing, knee-jerk, hot-button issues. Today many of the arguments remain the same, as do the errors which lead the faithful astray, only the proponents have changed.
P.S. This is not about everyday relativism, this is about foundational truths.
Forgive me for having resolved to speak not only against a king, but also for the glory of Christ, the great King, who reigns with his Father over the world; it is with him alone that it is true to say: "Through me kings reign", because he is the "Lord of glory" in heaven and on earth. It is because of that the champions of the divine teachings (us, in fact - given this office by Christ) must oppose those who intend to defile his glory and to plead his cause, to appear sound to readers, to be a more useful aid for those whose heart is easily led astray and is inclined to yield to difficulties, and for those on the other hand who are well established in the faith to be a kind of stick able to support them in the strengthening of this faith and to maintain undimmed the tradition of orthodoxy.
Who is it that has entered into war against the glory of Christ? They are legion, those who at various periods have let themselves go at this foolishness, driven by the perversity of the devil; but none as went far as Julian, who damaged the prestige of the Empire by refusing to recognize Christ, dispenser of royalty and power. Before his accession to the throne, he was counted among the believers: he had even been admitted to Holy Baptism and had studied the Holy Scriptures.
But some sinister characters, followers of superstition, entered, I do not know how, into connections with him and sowed in him the maxims of apostasy; then, allied with Satan in this design, they led him towards the practices of the Greeks and transformed into a servant of impure demons one who had been raised in holy churches and monasteries: "bad company corrupts good upbringing", as the very wise Paul says. However, I affirm that those who wish to preserve solid thought, and who keep in their spirit, like an invaluable pearl, the tradition of the true faith, do not have to offer to the peddlers of superstition any occasion to insinuate themselves, yet in any case should speak to them freely. Is it not written: "You will be holy with the holy, irreproachable with the irreproachable, chosen with the chosen, and you will outwit the cheat"? With the eloquence with which he was gifted, the all-powerful Julian argued against our common Savior Christ; he composed three books against the holy gospels and against the very pure Christian religion, he used them to shake many spirits and to cause them uncommon wrongs. Indeed, the light-minded and easily seduced fall easily into his sights, and constitute a welcome amusement for the demonic powers; but not the spirits of those strengthened in the faith which do not let themselves be disturbed yet sometimes they believe that Julian knows the holy and divine Scriptures, since he uses them in his own works — without otherwise knowing well what it says!... — a number of testimonies that he borrows from them.
Very many followers of superstition, when they meet Christians, overpower them with any kind of sarcastic remarks, and rely on the works of Julian to attack us, which they proclaim to be of an incomparable effectiveness, adding that there never was a learned man on our side able to refute them, or even show them at fault; also, at the instigation of more than one person, and full of confidence once again in the word of God: "Get under way, and I will open your mouth!", I put myself to the duty of rebutting this Greek eyebrow raised against the glory of Christ, to help to the extent of my abilities those which have been deceived, in order to convict of error and of ignorance of the Scriptures the man who has accused our common Savior Christ.
-- Against Julian, Prefatory Address (3-5)
Like some, I have mixed feelings about this saint. My experiences with the Opus Dei order were not always positive, and much controversy swirled around him all of which colored my thoughts and feelings.
When the process for sainthood began in earnest, many revelations from reliable witnesses on both sides of the battle came to light. Was Josemaria a saint or a sinner? Was he humble or egotistical? Selfless or self-serving? Deeply spiritual or simplistic? He seemed to be both.
In the end miracles were attributed to his intercession and John Paul II, a big admirer and himself a victim of political oppression as well as a saint of controversy, approved his cause.
So, I have to ask myself, am I judging or am I letting God judge?
We are all a mix of good and bad, saint and sinner. Not that I am actively living so as to remove all doubt, but I hope to never have my cause put forth out of sheer embarrassment for my failings! I defer then to God and His mercy, and hope that Josemaria, cleansed of his failings, prays in earnest for us fellow sinners.
Today also celebrates the martyrdom of several Greek Catholics killed by Russian Communists as they retreated from the Germans in 1941. It is a balance that hurts my soul but enlivens it as well.
Consider for a moment the event I have just described. We are celebrating the holy Eucharist, the sacramental sacrifice of the Body and Blood of our Lord, that mystery of faith which binds together all the mysteries of Christianity. We are celebrating, therefore, the most sacred and transcendent act which we, men and women, with God's grace can carry out in this life: receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord is, in a certain sense, like loosening our ties with earth and time, so as to be already with God in heaven, where Christ himself will wipe the tears from our eyes and where there will be no more death, nor mourning, nor cries of distress, because the old world will have passed away.
This profound and consoling truth, which theologians usually call the eschatological meaning of the Eucharist, could, however, be misunderstood. Indeed, this has happened whenever people have tried to present the Christian way of life as something exclusively spiritual — or better, spiritualistic something reserved for pure, extraordinary people who remain aloof from the contemptible things of this world, or at most tolerate them as something that the spirit just has to live alongside, while we are on this earth.
When people take this approach, churches become the setting par excellence of the Christian way of life. And being a Christian means going to church, taking part in sacred ceremonies, getting into an ecclesiastical mentality, in a special kind of world, considered the ante-chamber to heaven, while the ordinary world follows its own separate course. In this case, Christian teaching and the life of grace would pass by, brushing very lightly against the turbulent advance of human history but never coming into proper contact with it.
On this October morning, as we prepare to enter upon the memorial of our Lord's Pasch, we flatly reject this deformed vision of Christianity. Reflect for a moment on the setting of our Eucharist, of our Act of Thanksgiving. We find ourselves in a unique temple; we might say that the nave is the University campus; the altarpiece, the University library; over there, the machinery for constructing new buildings; above us, the sky of Navarre...
Surely this confirms in your minds, in a tangible and unforgettable way, the fact that everyday life is the true setting for your lives as Christians. Your daily encounter with Christ takes place where your fellow men, your yearnings, your work and your affections are. It is in the midst of the most material things of the earth that we must sanctify ourselves, serving God and all mankind.
-- In Love with the Church, Chapter 4, 51-52
There is little to this life sometimes, and as we get older we can see that clearer than when we are young, trying to make our way in the world. I think we can put that sort of behavior down to the number of divorces and abortions that we see.
We can spend so much energy on the future that we do not put stock in the here and now. We can live life day-to-day but not in the moment and without foundation except the events of the day; we twist in the wind. We forget that true moments are captured and are timeless, like the love of a man and a woman or the life that grows within. These things are not measured in days.
Gallicanus was a ranking soldier in Constantine's army and a politician, but he left it all behind in order to found a hospital in the sea port of Ostia and spend the rest of his life caring for the sick and the poor there.
We can pursue what we think is important but find, eventually, what really is important. Jesus does not mince words with the rich young man. We all seek balance in our lives but sometimes the balance scale tilts to the worldly side. Love is renewed everyday, every moment and we should grasp it, because in the end, it is all that is important - as Jesus tells us, it is the only thing that lasts.
Gallicanus pray for us; help us to pray to do God's will and not our own.
The life of the Christian has three distinguishing aspects: deeds, words and thought. Thought comes first, then words, since our words express openly the interior conclusions of the mind. Finally, after thoughts and words, comes action, for our deeds carry out what the mind has conceived. So when one of these results in our acting or speaking or thinking, we must make sure that all our thoughts, words, and deeds are controlled by the divine ideal, the revelation of Christ. For then our thoughts, words and deeds will not fall short of the nobility of their implications.
What then must we do, we who have been found worthy of the name of Christ? Each of us must examine his thoughts, words and deeds, to see whether they are directed towards Christ or are turned away from him.
-- From a treatise on Christian Perfection, St Gregory of Nyssa
A prayer for our enemies
Almighty God, have mercy on N. [and N.], and on all that bear me evil will, and would me harm, and their faults and mine together by such easy, tender, merciful means as thine infinite wisdom best can devise; vouchsafe to amend and redress and make us saved souls in Heaven together, where we may ever live and love together with thee and thy blessed saints, O glorious Trinity, for the bitter passion of our sweet Savior Christ. Amen.
Lord, give me patience in tribulation and grace in everything, to conform my will to thine, that I may truly say:
“Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in cælo et in terra”*.
The things, good Lord, that I pray for, give me thy grace to labor for. Amen.
-- Thomas More
* "Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven"
Take care above all things, most honored lady, not to insult God's boundless loving kindness; you would certainly do this if you mourned as dead one living face to face with God, one whose prayers can bring you in your troubles more powerful aid than they ever could on earth. And our parting will not be for long; we shall see each other again in heaven; we shall be united with our Savior; there we shall praise him with heart and soul, sing of his mercies for ever, and enjoy eternal happiness.
-- From a letter to his mother
Tit for tat. So often we live not in love and tolerance but hate and vengeance. The cruelty we inflict on one another to prove a point everyday is lit up in big events. What end does torture, burning, hanging, drawing, and quartering accomplish? In our daily lives, what end does an unkind word bring about?
We can use today to celebrate those who have died by our hands for the Faith, not just these Irish but all: Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant alike.
God punishes for chastisement and edification; why do we punish?
But it is the Will of God that Christ both did and taught. Humility in dealings with others; steadfastness in faith; modesty in words; justice in deeds; mercy in works; discipline in morals. To be unable to do a wrong, and to be able to bear a wrong when it is done; to keep peace with the brethren; to love God with all one’s heart; to love God because he is a Father but fear him because he is God; to prefer nothing whatever to Christ because he preferred nothing to us; to adhere inseparably to his love; to stand faithfully and bravely by his cross; when there is any conflict over his name and honor, to exhibit in discourse that steadfastness in which we proclaim him; in torture, to show that confidence in which we unite; in death, that patience in which we are crowned – this is what it means to want to be co-heirs with Christ, this is what it means to do what God commands, this is what it is to fulfill the will of the Father.
-- St Cyprian, Treatise on the Our Father
This is a movable feast so there are probably a few instances of it here.
While most of us do not understand the hypostatic union, it is easy to see Jesus as divine, sitting in majesty on his throne, yet we can still have trouble trying to get our heads around Jesus' human nature.
This feast celebrates that aspect of him; certainly we can be confused by the Incarnation and our celebration of that at Xmas, but this is not about God becoming human but the human Jesus who was born, grew, laughed, cried, ate, drank, talked, joked, corrected, taught.
When we use the word "sacred" we are talking about something that has been set aside for God, that is out of the mundane. Jesus' human heart, what we think of idyllically as the seat of the emotions, was given over to God's will. We hear of his compassion, his sorrow, his joy - all of these were felt "in his heart" just as for each of us.
We also remember that the spear pierced his human heart on the Cross, that final physical wound symbolizing all of the emotional wounds of that day and the previous evening; the wound he still carries, on his heavenly throne of majesty.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, remind us to turn our heart to you! Sacred Heart of Jesus remember your compassion and have mercy on us!
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
-- Hebrews 4:14-16
Not everyone gets to be the front man. Sometimes it is just enough to be in the background, doing God's will and working hard to do the will of the Spirit in the Church. That is Gregory - always a bridesmaid and never a bride. In the College of Cardinals he participated in the election of four popes.
Mainly he was known as a distinguished churchman and leading citizen whose charities were on a princely scale and for his work for unity between the Latin and Orthodox Churches - that they may be one - a noble task.
A lasting covenant was made with him, that never again would all flesh be destroyed. He observed the Most High’s command, and entered into a covenant with him; In his own flesh he incised the ordinance, and when tested was found loyal. From him came the man who would win the favor of all the living: Dear to God and human beings, God made him like the angels in honor, and strengthened him with fearful powers. At his words God performed signs and sustained him in the king’s presence. He gave him the commandments for his people, and revealed to him his glory. Because of his trustworthiness and meekness God selected him from all flesh; He let him hear his voice, and led him into the cloud, Where he handed over the commandments, the law of life and understanding, That he might teach his precepts to Jacob, his judgments and decrees to Israel. He made his office perpetual and bestowed on him priesthood for his people; He established him in honor and crowned him with lofty majesty. He clothed him in splendid garments, and adorned him with glorious vestments.
-- Sirach 44:18,20; 45:1-8
Botulph was a nobleman who left it all to become a monk, joining the Benedictine order in France. After some time he returned to his family home to establish the order in England. For many years it was believed that the area that grew up around the monastery came to be called "Botulph's Town" in his honor. Later it was contracted to "Botulphston", and then contracted to "Boston" in Lincolnshire. Recent research has shown that the original site is another location. It would be a nice story that Boston, the hot-bed of revolution and anti-Catholicism and the future home for so many Irish Catholics was named for an English Catholic saint.
Still, we remember him as a man of prayer, mission work, and community who laid the ground-work for the strong tradition of Benedictines in England which lasted for many centuries after his death.
The wearied man of God looked about him everywhere, till at last he found, by the mercy of God, such a desert spot which was just the God-forsaken, devil-possessed place he was in search of.
-- unknown ancient writer describing Botulph's selection of sites for his monastery
The evil spirits who people the place were disturbed at his coming. A noxious vapour was exhaled from the ground, and the daemons gave vent to terrifying groans. They had dwelt there, they said, for a long time, and had thought to do so for ever. They had no other place to go to. Why could not Saint Botolph seek some other spot, since the whole world was singing his praises? He was acting unkindly in disturbing them. - unknown ancient writer describing the problems Botulph caused evil spirits that inhabited the site of his Ikanhoe monastery
Saint Botulph sought a desert spot
And found a lonely mound,
He opened there a house of prayer
And made it holy ground.
He lived a humble, quiet life,
From crowded scenes apart;
Yet others often sought him out
To share his joy of heart.
- from a hymn by Jane Dansie, Castle Methodist Church, Colchester, England
Fans of the musical Godspell should recognize the prayer if not its author but they really miss out on the first part of this prayer - it certainly rounds it out and succinctly provides the fullness of prayer.
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits thou hast given me,
for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
may I know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly, day by day.
Why is it that the ones who should support us (or whom we should support) are those closest to us and yet are the ones most likely to earn our scorn?
Germaine was denigrated and ostracized by her family for a deformation and illness. It was only after her holiness came to light through miracles that they tried to reconcile with her. That was not the only irony. Her remains were accidentally exhumed in 1644 during a renovation of the church in Pibrac, where her body was found to be incorrupt. In 1793 the casket was desecrated during the French Revolution anti-Catholic purge when a group of men took out the remains and buried them in the sacristy, throwing quick-lime and water on them. After the Revolution, her body was found to be still intact save where the quick-lime had done its work.
Her body, deformed and marked by illness was incorruptible, unable to be destroyed even by malicious guile. Is that not how God works! We may be broken and reviled by "normal" society, even our families but it does not stop the love of God.
Consider your own calling, brothers. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,r so that, as it is written, “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.”
-- 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Elisha is the prophet "chosen" by the prophet Elijah in the First book of Kings. Elisha then travels with Elijah pretty much through to the Second book of Kings. Elijah was a prophet during the reign of kings Ahab, Ahaziah and Joram; Elisha took over during Joram's reign, and through the reigns of Jehu, Jehoahaz and Jehoash.
They worked God's message for a long time but for me meaning of their names are as important as their message and in a sense are their message. In Hebrew, Elijah means "Elohim is Yahweh"; the meaning of Elisha is "God is salvation."
This is a subtle point but the two prophets make it - without going into long detail, suffice it to say that the farmer's name for God (Elohim) and the warrior God of the Exodus (Yahweh) are one, and that GOD (the one in the same) is the Savior for both the farmer and the warrior - of all of Israel. There is no difference, no matter how you came to experience Him.
Now-a-days, Elisha's name roughly translates to "son." That is also significant, especially to the Carmelites who celebrate today and celebrate Elijah as their "father." Elisha took up Elijah's work and walked in his footsteps as a son, performing miracles and relating a message that mirrored his "father in Faith."
The Hebrew Scriptures hold for us Christians the keys to understanding GOD. Let us honor Saint Elisha by doing our Father's will, as did Jesus.
Elijah set out, and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak on him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother good-bye, and I will follow you.” Elijah answered, “Go back! What have I done to you?” Elisha left him and, taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to the people to eat. Then he left and followed Elijah to serve him.
-- 1 Kings 19:19-21
Most people turn to Anthony when they have lost something, but in Padua he is celebrated for his preaching, teaching, and pastoral care. In fact, if you are ever in Padua you can see the rather jarring relic of his incorrupt tongue and lower jaw. Elsewhere he is known as a missionary. His cult is strong in places like India, where he is seen as a great healer.
However you call on him, he is a saint of quick response.
Prayer means to direct our affection toward God through a devout and friendly conversation with Him. It is the tranquility of a mind enlightened from on high. Prayer is also required to obtain those earthly goods necessary for this mortal life. But those who pray must ask the Lord, with an authentic Christian spirit, to subdue their will to His will: our Heavenly Father knows what we truly need on this earth. Finally, prayer is an act of thanksgiving, a recognition of benefits received, and a donation of our commitment to God so that our prayer might be everlasting.
Perhaps one pope a month is enough; perhaps not. Leo stands out not just for his charity but because he crowned Charlemagne king, marking the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire.
We could discuss the merits of such a move, but not here. We could discuss his motives (which could be argued were justifiable), but not here.
Instead, let us look at what he means to us as a saint, not as a historical figure.
He took the money that Charlemagne gave him and used it to help the poor. He used his power as pope to practice forgiveness and removed the death sentence from people who attacked and maimed him.
While he may be both famous and infamous we remember to call on his intercession in times of need.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit. Moreover, we have seen and testify that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world. Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.
God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.
-- 1 John 4:7-16
I do not think that anyone becomes an apostle by choice, or seeks out the chance to be in the service of apostles, for that matter.
Barnabas came together with Paul to seek out those who do not know Christ in the wider world. And like Paul he started out with another name, Joseph, and was given a new one "which means, the man of encouragement".
It seems from what we know of him (which is more than most of the original 12) it was an appropriate name. He was a Levite in service to the priests of Aaron, who put himself at the service of the new priests, the Apostles.
Eventually he became the advocate for that other renamed convert, who was such a scourge on the Early Church. Who would ever ask to be in a support position like that? He also seems to have no problem with Paul "outshining" him; he seems content to drift to the background while continuing to spread the Gospel. Yet his gift was that he seemed to sense the potential in others and advocate for them and give them courage to serve.
But he was a man of strong opinions and zeal for the Church and Christ, so it makes sense. It also shows the two sides of that zeal. He breaks with the man he championed over the weakness of another. The faint heart heart of Mark pushed the limits of Paul's human capability to forgive. It is the irony that Barnabas, who forgave and heard the Lord in Paul, should lose to Paul's inability to see and do the same for another. Who would ever wish to be asked to choose one child over another?
Barnabas, from the moment he sold everything and laid it at the feet of the Apostles lived as the man he was, true to his role as Levite and true to his roll as apostle and companion. Eventually this man of encouragement and support even won over Paul's heart. We are fortunate to have Barnabas, who counters both Peter's wishy-washiness and Paul's rigidness.
So it behooves us to emulate him and ask for his constant support and encouragement - perhaps we too can be called "a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith".
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. Thus Joseph, also named by the apostles Barnabas (which is translated “son of encouragement”), a Levite, a Cypriot by birth, sold a piece of property that he owned, then brought the money and put it at the feet of the apostles.
...In those days a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to go to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.
-- Acts 4:32-37; 11:21-24
Starting this year the Monday after Pentecost, a new feast has been added. And it is a feast! A true cause for celebration!
Joseph is known as the Protector of the Church because Mary is the mother of the Church. As Joseph protected the Holy Family, so he protects the Church. As Mary gave birth to the Savior, so she is the mother of the Church. We are the Body of Christ and so by the transitive property we have been using, Mary is our mother as well and we turn ourselves over to her care, to Joseph's protection, and to Jesus' salvation.
We cannot over emphasize the idea that Jesus is everything to us. We owe all to Jesus, to the Father who sent him, and to the Spirit who dwells in our lives. Everything and everyone that help us to extend Christ's presence in the world should constantly be brought to mind to help us remember our purpose, our duty, and our goal.
We especially recall, in the Holy Family, the foundation of the Church and that it is not an institution of human foibles and sin but is a holy family: "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic". We are not founded or built upon our own efforts, nor do we guide or control the Church; we are mere stewards of all that the Holy Family established and nurtures.
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
-- John 19:25-27
We may always think we live in times that have never been seen before or that bad things no longer happen because we have outgrown bad behavior, but man's inhumanity to man is constant.
When we decide that a segment of society, nay, humanity, is not important then we decide that they do not need human love, care, concern, or nourishment - that they are not human.
We can justify, within the context of our own thought, that we are doing what is "right" because we ourselves are not adversely affected by it or it falls under the principle of "out of sight, out of mind."
We can say "it is for the good of society, or for the good of the majority. We may determine that their lives are not as important as ours, that they should change, be like us, if they want us to respect or even acknowledge them.
The Martyrs of the Hulks were French priests and religious who refused to sign loyalty oaths that would in essence make them servants of the State rather than servants of God.
They were corralled away on rotting hulks of ships no longer sea worthy and left to rot and die with them. Starvation, poor sanitation, and neglect marked their days. If this sounds familiar, it is. We are reminded of the slave trade. Nowadays we use the term "ghetto" (or even "prison" if you want) to describe such living conditions as well as the social treatment that goes along with it.
It does not matter that these martyrs are white, not Jews, or African-American, or Irish, or East Indian, or Asian, or Hispanic, or any group that has been disenfranchised by the larger society. What matters is that we see this again and again, even though we call ourselves "enlightened." We look down on what we consider the ignorance in others and fail to take the plank out of our own eye.
Christ reminds us that to do for the least is to do for him. May the suffering of the martyrs give blessings to us! May we see their plight in the plight of others and hear their cries!
For you yourselves know, brothers, that our reception among you was not without effect. Rather, after we had suffered and been insolently treated, as you know, in Philippi, we drew courage through our God to speak to you the gospel of God with much struggle. [As we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl with an oracular spirit, who used to bring a large profit to her owners through her fortune-telling. She began to follow Paul and us, shouting, “These people are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She did this for many days. Paul became annoyed, turned, and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” Then it came out at that moment. When her owners saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the public square before the local authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These people are Jews and are disturbing our city and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us Romans to adopt or practice.” The crowd joined in the attack on them, and the magistrates had them stripped and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After inflicting many blows on them, they threw them into prison and instructed the jailer to guard them securely. When he received these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and secured their feet to a stake. (Acts 16:16-24)] Our exhortation was not from delusion or impure motives, nor did it work through deception. But as we were judged worthy by God to be entrusted with the gospel, that is how we speak, not as trying to please human beings, but rather God, who judges our hearts. Nor, indeed, did we ever appear with flattering speech, as you know, or with a pretext for greed—God is witness—nor did we seek praise from human beings, either from you or from others, although we were able to impose our weight as apostles of Christ. Rather, we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us. You recall, brothers, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers. As you know, we treated each one of you as a father treats his children, exhorting and encouraging you and insisting that you conduct yourselves as worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
-- 1 Thessalonians 2:1-24
Quick - name all of the Doctors of the Church!
Okay tell me the number of Doctors then...
Okay, name one of the Doctors of the Church...
I am sure that Ephrem is not the Doctor who jumps to mind when struggling to answer these questions. Yet he was widely acknowledged in his day and afterwards. St. Jerome said: "Ephraem, deacon of the Church of Edessa, wrote many works in Syriac, and became so famous that his writings are publicly read in some churches after the Sacred Scriptures. I have read in Greek a volume of his on the Holy Spirit; though it was only a translation, I recognized therein the sublime genius of the man" (De viris illustr., c. cxv).
Ephrem did not just write about the wondrous mysteries of God, he sang about them. Many hymns and poems are also attributed to him (he even wrote homilies in verse). He was known as the “Harp of the Holy Spirit,” and in recognition of his theological works and for spreading the faith through song, Pope Benedict XV declared him a Doctor of the Church, in 1920.
P.S. the number of doctors is 35 if I count right and no, I cannot name them off the top of my head either.
The Light of the just and joy of the upright is Christ Jesus our Lord.
Begotten of the Father, He manifested himself to us.
He came to rescue us from darkness and to fill us with the radiance of His light.
Day is dawning upon us; the power of darkness is fading away.
From the true Light there arises for us the light which illumines our darkened eyes.
His glory shines upon the world and enlightens the very depths of the abyss.
Death is annihilated, night has vanished, and the gates of Sheol are broken.
Creatures lying in darkness from ancient times are clothed in light.
The dead arise from the dust and sing because they have a Savior.
He brings salvation and grants us life. He ascends to his Father on high.
He will return in glorious splendor and shed His light on those gazing upon Him.
Our King comes in majestic glory.
Let us light our lamps and go forth to meet Him.
Let us find our joy in Him, for He has found joy in us.
He will indeed rejoice us with His marvelous light.
Let us glorify the majesty of the Son and give thanks to the almighty Father
Who, in an outpouring of love, sent Him to us, to fill us with hope and salvation.
When He manifests Himself, the saints awaiting Him in weariness and sorrow,
will go forth to meet Him with lighted lamps.
The angels and guardians of heaven will rejoice
in the glory of the just and upright people of earth;
Together crowned with victory,
they will sing hymns and psalms.
Stand up then and be ready!
Give thanks to our King and Savior,
Who will come in great glory to gladden us
with His marvelous light in His kingdom.
-- Hymn to the Light
Debating the hypostatic union is really not for everyone, but what we all can agree on is that sometimes we forget that Jesus was fully human, head and heart. This feast, pointed to by (in what we do not consider irony) several mystics, reminds us of the fullness of God's plan for salvation. Jesus is God, but he is also one of us. He did not need to become human in order to understand our day-to-day sufferings and joys, but he did in order to show us that it is possible to bend the human will to the divine will without losing anything and gaining everything even amid human suffering. That is simple enough for the simplest of believers. As Bonaventure reminds us, the Church is born from the side of the human Jesus.
Now if you are up for the hypostatic debate...
You who have been redeemed, consider who it is who hangs on the cross for you, whose death gives life to the dead, whose passing is mourned by heaven and earth, while even the hard stones are split. Consider how great he is; consider what he is.
In order that the Church might be formed from the side of Christ as he slept on the cross, in order that the word of scripture might be fulfilled – ‘They shall look on him whom they have pierced’ – God’s providence decreed that one of the soldiers should open his sacred side with a spear, so that blood with water might flow out to pay the price of our salvation. This blood, which flowed from its source in the secret recesses of his heart, gave the sacraments of the Church power to confer the life of grace, and for those who already live in Christ was a draught of living water welling up to eternal life.
...O soul devoted to God, whoever you may be, run to this source of life and light with eager longing. And with the power of your inmost heart cry out to him: ‘O indescribable beauty of God most high! O pure radiance of everlasting light! O life that gives life to all life! O light that illuminates every light, and preserves in its undying splendor the myriad flames that have shone before the throne of your godhead from the dawn of time!
-- St Bonaventure, The Tree of Life
Politics and religion can make for not just strange bedfellows but for trouble as well. It is perhaps the two-edged sword of Western expansion that brought Christianity along with it. It is not so much that it became safer to be a missionary in these places but that the door opened for it to happen. Of course, politically, the opening of that door was not often from the inside. The association of the arrival of missionaries with armies in the eyes and minds of the indigenous leaders is very understandable. For those who were touched by one or the other then their view is perhaps skewed against the other.
Jacques showed up in Madagascar with the French and faced opposition with local leaders for valid reasons, if one only looked at the political side. But he also made many missions and brought many to the Faith. This too can be a threat to political leaders. I do not know.
Whatever the reason he was martyred being shot after torture and having his body unceremoniously dumped into a river but not before expanding the Church.
Pray for all missionaries, that all will see the good in their work and give praise to the Father.
"God knows I love and if I still love and [the native soil and the beloved land of Auvergne]. And yet God gives me the grace to love more these uncultivated fields of Madagascar, where I can only catch a few souls for our Lord....The mission progresses, while the fruits are still in hope and in many places barely visible in others. But what does it matter, as long as we are good sowers, God will give growth in his own time."
Let me just start by saying that today is a day of names! I am reminded of Tolkien's (what I thought of as at least) unusual so named hobbit. I know that most authors choose their names carefully (as you can definitely see in the Harry Potter series) so I will choose to think that Tolkien had a special affinity for this Meriadoc (or someone of the same name). But in addition, today is a cavalcade of names! I am sure they all sounded great in their day but today I would pity the child named for them! Deochar, Gotteschalk, Wallabonsus, Landulf, Basilissa, Wistremundus, Sabinian, Demosthenes, Habentius, Aventinus, Vulflagius, Lycarion, Potamiaena (the younger, no less), Odo, Quirinus, Sergius, Candidus, Herkumbert. I do not mock but want to point out that as well as Meriadoc each of these saints affected someone, some place, some moment in history by their lives - that is why they are saints. I pray for all their intercessions today.
Meriadoc was a very wealthy lord of a large manor. He renounced his title, he sold off his property, and gave the proceeds to the poor. He then became a hermit. Eventually he was appointed the bishop of Vannes, France, which again only goes to show that a life dedicated to Christ, even as a hermit, binds you to Christ and his Church, not separates you. Legend says that if placed against the head of the sufferer, a bell from his church in Stival, Brittany would cure deafness and migraines - hence he is the patron of such suffers. Today I ask his intercession for the many I know who suffer migranes.
Again he left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) And [immediately] the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and [the] mute speak.”
-- Mark 7:31-37
It is the people who see a need and fill it who are the true saints. Individuals become missionaries not always by choice but by need. It may start local but ends up in places we could never imagine. By working on local problems we often see the need for social justice in a wider framework. Both Norbert and Marcellin started by not just meeting local needs but teaching as well. Ignorance and poverty so often go hand in hand and the legacy of abbeys created by Norbert sustained Europe during tough times; Marcellin's Marists embed themselves around the world. The world is better for the both of them, and their simple vision of compassion.
I cannot see a child without wanting to tell him how much Jesus loves him.
-- Marcellin Champagnat, quoted from the Vatican website.
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