Being an apostle means being a conduit, a teacher not about one's self but about the subject one is announcing. One does not point to oneself as the message and for that reason apostles are often remembered not for who they are but for what they did.
In the synoptic Gospels, Andrew is merely the brother of Peter (except in Luke where he does not even get a mention though he makes up for that in Acts), a fellow fisherman with (depending on the Gospel) the partners of Peter who have the pleasure of being Zebedee's sons. So, much like most of the Twelve, as important as he is as one of the Twelve, Andrew does not have much said about him.
But, we get glimpses. He is close enough to Jesus (and enough like his brother Peter) to question Jesus when he sits before the hungry crowd and invites the Apostles to feed the them, and to ask Jesus about his teachings on the destruction of Jerusalem.
But in John, it is different. In John it is Andrew who follows John the Baptist and to whom John points out Jesus. It is Andrew who introduces Peter to Jesus; later Andrew brings Greeks to see Jesus (though it never says they met him - I wonder if they are still standing by the door waiting...). John shows him as the perfect apostle - he points others to Jesus. He does not lord it over others, is not caught in a self-centered, smug knowledge. He is wrapped up in a joy that bursts forth and seeks out others to share it. May we too be apostles, humble enough to put Jesus first and selfless enough to be eager to share him with others.
As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.
-- Matthew 4:18-22
It is not everyday that being in a romance novel gets you on the Roman Canon of Saints. The cult of Cecilia really does not begin until the late 5th century but it is then that she is added to the Roman Sacramentary by Pope Gelasius. We still recall her name today in that same Eucharistic Prayer, and like all the unknown martyrs of the early Roman Church she reminds us of the cost of discipleship.
We might question the accuracy of her narrative or Chaucer's retelling, and if we accept it, then even the wisdom of her actions within it. Again though, it is the nature of her devotion to Christ that we remember, the tacit hope of Christ's imminent return, and the miracles that we will witness and participate in if we but give ourselves over so completely to Christ.
This mayden bright Cecilie, as hir lif seith, Was comen of Romayns and of noble kynde, And from hir cradel up fostred in the feith Of Crist, and bar his gospel in hir mynde. She nevere cessed, as I writen fynde, Of hir preyere and God to love and drede, Bisekynge hym to kepe hir maydenhede. And whan this mayden sholde unto a man Ywedded be, that was ful yong of age, Which that ycleped was Valerian...
-- Chaucer, The Second Nun's Tale
While we are all subject to being influenced by the saints we are also each capable of bringing ourselves to the table. Elizabeth was greatly inspired by Francis of Assisi but made the love of the poor her own. She brought her own brand of Francis to those around her, not content to stand only in his shadow.
In holiness, we must each seek to reach it not just through the grace of God but through our personal efforts to live that grace.
As in heaven Your will is punctually performed, so may it be done on earth by all creatures, particularly in me and by me.
Elizabeth was a lifelong friend of the poor and gave herself entirely to relieving the hungry. She ordered that one of her castles should be converted into a hospital in which she gathered many of the weak and feeble. She generously gave alms to all who were in need, not only in that place but in all the territories of her husband's empire. She spent all her own revenue from her husband's four principalities, and finally she sold her luxurious possessions and rich clothes for the sake of the poor.
Twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, Elizabeth went to visit the sick. She personally cared for those who were particularly repulsive; to some she gave food, to others clothing; some she carried on her own shoulders, and performed many other kindly services. Her husband, of happy memory, gladly approved of these charitable works. Finally, when her husband died, she sought the highest perfection; filled with tears, she implored me to let her beg for alms from door to door. Good Friday of that year, when the altars had been stripped, she laid her hands on the altar in a chapel in her own town, where she had established the Friars Minor, and before witnesses she voluntarily renounced all worldly display and everything that our Savior in the gospel advises us to abandon. Even then she saw that she could still be distracted by the cares and worldly glory which had surrounded her while her husband was alive. Against my will she followed me to Marburg. Here in the town she built a hospice where she gathered together the weak and the feeble. There she attended the most wretched and contemptible at her own table.
Apart from those active good works, I declare before God that I have seldom seen a more contemplative woman.
Before her death I heard her confession. When I asked what should be done about her goods and possessions, she replied that anything which seemed to be hers belonged to the poor. She asked me to distribute everything except one worn-out dress in which she wished to be buried. When all this had been decided, she received the body of our Lord. Afterward, until vespers, she spoke often of the holiest things she had heard in sermons. Then, she devoutly commended to God all who were sitting near her, and as if falling into a gentle sleep, she died.
-- Conrad of Marburg
If we think about the influence our lives have in the world we may (vainly?) wonder as to the effectivity of that influence. Sometimes our lives are a mystery, sometimes they are clear.
Albert is perhaps one of the greatest thinkers of the Medieval Church, and yet he championed not his own thought but that of his student Thomas, even after the Thomas' death. I wonder about the devotion and the self-awareness that he exhibited in placing himself second to that of his student. Did learning the living-for-Christ attitude color his actions? Teaching was his thing, and as any good teacher knows it is the success of our students that makes the difference. I already understand what I teach and that is part of the zeal I have for sharing it; it is seeing truth become part of someone else's life, watching them make it their own and further it that rewards. So I also say that Albert was also one of the greatest teachers of the Church, not just theologically but spiritually.
He may be known as "the Great" but for him it was that his student was greater. It recalls the words of John: "I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire." (Matthew 3:11)
Now it must be asked if we can comprehend why comets signify the death of magnates and coming wars, for writers of philosophy say so. The reason is not apparent, since vapor no more rises in a land where a pauper lives than where a rich man resides, whether he be king or someone else. Furthermore, it is evident that a comet has a natural cause not dependent on anything else; so it seems that it has no relation to someone’s death or to war. For if it be said that it does relate to war or someone’s death, either it does so as a cause or effect or sign.
— De Cometis
It is something during this month of November that we do readily - remember those who have lived lives worth remembering, from All Saints, All Souls, to the secular Memorial Day - whether we know who they are or not. Or to perhaps put it another way, to remember every life - period. Someone knew them; someone benefited from their life. We remember those who no one is left to remember as well as those who are on the calendar. So many orders celebrate their brothers and sisters this way - celebrating those who surround the glassy sea and praying for those who may be waiting to enter the gates.
If we think about it we may say it on All Souls Day, but take a moment often in your life to say a blessing and a prayer for all those who have brought you to where you are.
Jesus said: "Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, ’Come and have your meal at once?’ Would he not be more likely to say, ’Get my supper ready. Fasten your belt and wait on me while I eat and drink. You yourself can eat and drink afterwards’? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say ’We are useless servants. We have done no more than our duty.’”
-- Luke 17:7-10
My first introduction to the young Polish Jesuit Stanislaus Kostka was through the Mass my great-grandfather wrote for him - possibly for the young men he taught as Spring Hill, perhaps for his roommate at the Freiborg conservatory Ignacy Paderewski. Stanislaus was only 17 when he died, and barely in the novitiate, but he truly impressed his superiors in that short time. When we think of impressive lives determined to be lived for Christ then Mother Francis Xavier Cabrini immediately jumps to mind as well - considered too ill to join two convents, she created her own, dedicated to those marginalized like her.
This is the reason that we hold up the saints for our edification and inspiration. They are with us now, hoping through prayer in eternal life to continue the work that they started in earthly life. We too can live these lives of quiet love.
Consider how hard it is for a person to be separated from any place he has loved deeply. How much harder the soul will find it when the time comes to leave the mortal body, its companion so dear. And the great fear it will experience in that moment because its salvation is at stake and it must stand in the presence of the one it has so offended. If the just man will scarcely be saved, what about me a sinner?
But think of the great joy the good will feel at the thought of the service they’ve paid to God. They will be glad because they’ve suffered something for love of him back there and didn’t fix their hope and attention on the things of this world that we leave so soon. Think of the joy that the soul will feel in its escape from the prison of this body. So long has it lived in perpetual exile, expelled from its own heavenly home. How much greater its uncontainable joy and complete satisfaction when it arrives in its own country to enjoy the vision of God with the angels and the blessed.
I am so ashamed and confused because I see how many have been lost on account of a single mortal sin, and how many times I have deserved eternal damnation.
I shall reflect on myself and ask: “What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I do for Christ?”
-- From the Journal of Stanislaus Kostka
The Lateran is the oldest established Basilica, built by the command of Constantine soon after the legalization of Christianity. Constantine gave the ancient palace of the Laterani family to Pope Miltiades. Pope Sylvester dedicated the basilica around 324 as Most Holy Savior; only after the 6th century were the names of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist used.
While many home churches existed before that time this marks the beginning of something special, and reflects the many churches throughout the world from small to large, open wooden structures to massive stone edifices.
The beauty and harmony of the churches, destined to give praise to God, also draws us human beings, limited and sinful, to convert to form a “cosmos,” a well-ordered structure, in intimate communion with Jesus, who is the true Saint of saints. This happens in a culminating way in the Eucharistic liturgy, in which the “ecclesia,” that is, the community of the baptized, come together in a unified way to listen to the Word of God and nourish themselves with the Body and Blood of Christ. From these two tables the Church of living stones is built up in truth and charity and is internally formed by the Holy Spirit transforming herself into what she receives, conforming herself more and more to the Lord Jesus Christ. She herself, if she lives in sincere and fraternal unity, in this way becomes the spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God.
Dear friends, today’s feast celebrates a mystery that is always relevant: God’s desire to build a spiritual temple in the world, a community that worships him in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:23-24). But this observance also reminds us of the importance of the material buildings in which the community gathers to celebrate the praises of God. Every community therefore has the duty to take special care of its own sacred buildings, which are a precious religious and historical patrimony. For this we call upon the intercession of Mary Most Holy, that she help us to become, like her, the “house of God,” living temple of his love.
— Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, November 9, 2008
If teaching and preaching is your job, then study diligently and apply yourself to whatever is necessary for doing the job well. Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head.
Martin is the patron of, among other things, mixed-race people. I think even after all this time that and the last line of John XXII's homily say everything we need to learn from this saint today.
He excused the faults of others. He forgave the bitterest injuries, convinced that he deserved much severer punishments on account of his own sins. He tried with all his might to redeem the guilty; lovingly he comforted the sick; he provided food, clothing and medicine for the poor; he helped, as best he could, farm laborers and Negroes, as well as mulattoes, who were looked upon at that time as akin to slaves: thus he deserved to be called by the name the people gave him: ‘Martin of Charity.’
It is remarkable how even today his influence can still move us toward the things of heaven. Sad to say, not all of us understand these spiritual values as well as we should, nor do we give them a proper place in our lives. Many of us, in fact, strongly attracted by sin, may look upon these values as of little moment, even something of a nuisance, or we ignore them altogether. It is deeply rewarding for men striving for salvation to follow in Christ’s footsteps and to obey God’s commandments. If only everyone could learn this lesson from the example that Martin gave us.
-- Homily on the Canonization of Martin de Porres, John XXIII
We are reminded of all those who have gone before us, recognized in the Canon or not. Here lie the saints and the sinners, those in Heaven and those in Purgatory. We are all part of a communion of saints, a great gathering of all who live and sleep in Christ.
Today is also a good day to tell family stories, especially to the young, of those who have and continue to inspire us by their lives. Let us pray:
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection in mind; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin.
-- 2 Macabees 12: 43-46
For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self.
Trees and animals have no problem. God makes them what they are without consulting them, and they are perfectly satisfied.
With us it is different. God leaves us free to be whatever we like. We can be ourselves or not, as we please. We are at liberty to be real, or to be unreal. We may be true or false, the choice is ours. We may wear now one mask and now another, and never, if we so desire, appear with our own true face. But we cannot make these choices with impunity. Causes have effects, and if we lie to ourselves and to others, then we cannot expect to find truth and reality whenever we happen to want them. If we have chosen the way of falsity we must not be surprised that truth eludes us when we finally come to need it!
Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny....
-- New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton
Things to Think About