We truly never know what God has in store for those who love him. We often wonder what God has in mind for us. We sometimes even wonder why we live and others die. What is it that God wants from us?
If we are true to God then all will become plain. Alexander survived several persecutions by Roman Emperors to become the bishop/patriarch of Alexandria. So what? Alexandria was always a cosmopolitan place of learning and many ideas sprung up there. At the time he was appointed, Arius the priest was in line for the position. Alexander's appointment prevented that, which caused Arius to throw off any pretense about his positions. So in that role, he was able to excommunicate Arius and defend the Faith against heresy.
It is accepted that Alexander also wrote up the acts for the first Council of Nicaea, certainly something he was in a position to know of first-hand.
Alexander also able to appoint the great Athanasius to be his successor, thus securing the Faith.
We may never fully understand all that God has in store for us, but holding to the Truth will guide us through everything to where He wants us to be, and with that foundation we will be the person we were meant to be and carry out God's will correctly.
He died on April 17th but he is celebrated today in the new calendar.
Concerning [Christ] we thus believe, even as the Apostolic Church believes. In one Father unbegotten, who has from no one the cause of His being, who is unchangeable and immutable, who is always the same, and admits of no increase or diminution; who gave to us the Law, the prophets, and the Gospels; who is Lord of the patriarchs and apostles, and all the saints. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God; not begotten of things which are not, but of Him who is the Father;.... And besides the pious opinion concerning the Father and the Son, we confess to one Holy Spirit, as the divine Scriptures teach us; who hath inaugurated both the holy men of the Old Testament, and the divine teachers of that which is called the New. And besides, also, one only catholic and Apostolic Church, which can never be destroyed, though all the world should seek to make war with it; but it is victorious over every most impious revolt of the heretics who rise up against it. For her [head] has confirmed our minds by saying, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." After this we know of the resurrection of the dead, the first-fruits of which was our Lord Jesus Christ, who in very deed, and not in appearance merely, carried a body, of Mary Mother of God, who in the end of the world came to the human race to put away sin, was crucified and died, and yet did He not thus perceive any detriment to His divinity, being raised from the dead, taken up into heaven, seated at the right hand of majesty.
These things in part have I written in this epistle, thinking it burdensome to write out each accurately, even as I said before, because they escape not your religious diligence. Thus do we teach, thus do we preach. These are the apostolic doctrines of the Church, for which also we die, esteeming those but little who would compel us to forswear them, even if they would force us by tortures, and not casting away our hope in them.
-- 'Epistle' to Alexander, Bishop of the City of Constantinople (12, 13)
Polycarp belongs to that rare breed of early Christian, born during the Apostolic Age but killed as one of the generation who followed the Apostles, in fact, though perhaps not the first, his is the first recorded martyrdom of the second generation Church.
Born a few years after the deaths of Peter and Paul, tradition has him as a disciple of John and possibly appointed bishop by him or one of the other surviving apostles.
By no means a scholar, if that tradition is correct then his opposition to Gnosticism comes directly from knowledge gained from the Apostles, a simple and direct means for a foundational teaching that we still hold today.
His one surviving letter to the Church at Phillipi, written sometime in the early 2nd century contains Scripture references we still recognize today and reflects many of the teachings of Paul and the Apostles exhorting them to remember the teachings they have already received. He is truly a bridge between the Apostles and the 2nd generation Church, maintaining the Faith rather than innovating. We are, as were they, the beneficiaries of his simple, direct style of teaching. The Church we are today is built upon his efforts and martyrdom.
But the One who raised Christ from the dead will raise us also, if we do his will, walk in his commandments, love what he loved, and keep ourselves from all unrighteousness, greed, love of money, evil speaking, and lies. In addition, we must not return evil for evil, accusation for accusation, blow for blow, nor curse for curse. Instead keep in mind what the Lord said in his teaching: "Do not judge, so that you are not judged; forgive, and you will be forgiven; show mercy, so that you may obtain mercy; for as you portion it out to others, so it will be apportioned back to you." And in addition: The poor are blessed, as well as those that are persecuted because of righteousness, because the kingdom of God belongs to them.
-- From the Letter to the Philippians
Perhaps this feast could be considered a bit self-serving, but it does serve as a historical reminder of the place of Peter and the place of Rome in that history. Taken separately and out of the context of the feast, we can think of Peter moving from community to community teaching, solving issues, creating structure, and finally arriving in Rome where he is martyred.
We can think about Rome as the seat of the Roman Empire, and the power that entailed.
We can think about the purpose of the chair in Rome, as seat of power and judgment.
We can also ask questions: for instance, did Peter really reflect Roman custom and use a seat to pronounce judgments and make doctrine, like Pilate did with Jesus? It seems to me that we would be more likely to preserve the altar at which he consecrated the bread and wine and less the chair he sat in during the readings.
But that is not really the point of this feast.
Peter's authority, given to him by Jesus, who was given it by the Father, to be the steward of the Kingdom, is what we celebrate. The chair is merely a symbol of that authority. That authority does not end with Peter, for he is the Rock upon which the Church is built - not merely the rock on which it was finished. He is our foundation and we accept the responsibility of authority that was given him and given to all upon whom they laid hands, and in perpetuity until the End - all with the laying on of hands, to continue building up the Body. The Bernini reliquary sculpture in the rear apse of St. Peter's shows the chair as lighter than air, held up by the mere finger tips of those supporting it. That is how we should view the chair, as ethereal but solid.
We are then, I guess, certainly self-served by the Servant of the Servant of God.
Additionally, the rock of the Church is also those who in their care for us give us the gift of the Faith. My dad certainly did this for me and my siblings - and I will miss sharing that with him before that day when he and all the saints of my family and heaven and the angels come for me.
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
-- Matthew 16:13-19
When Dante mentions you by name, it should get your attention. When Dante puts you in the highest heaven, it should get our attention. Dante thought Peter paved the way for Francis of Assisi and was one of the great reformers of the Church.
But why? What did Peter do that garnished him such praise? Most people have never heard of this humble monk. And perhaps for good reason. Not many really want to hear his message against sexual impropriety for which he is probably best known , a message which seems to overwhelm his spiritual message.
But to that point, sexual immorality is nothing new and Peter's early 11th century work shows this to be true. Peter saw that sexual immorality at all levels, but especially as being practiced within the clergy, was causing serious harm to the Church and to society as a whole. For Peter, "sodomy" as he uses it - referring as it does to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Hebrew Scriptures - represents all sexual immorality, not just homosexual acts. These cities were ripe with it and it is the mindlessness of rampant and dismissive and abusive sexuality which is the point of the story. Peter uses them as the paradigm for his own day, pointing out that it is nothing new under the sun and this behavior has never been accepted.
As timeless as it is, Peter's work has great significance within our time. He addresses all forms of sexual conduct and abuse - especially of minors. He points out that the justification for sexual promiscuity falls to behaviors like the use of artificial contraceptives and self-gratification rather than living the higher nature of sexual activity, chastity, and for the clergy, celibacy. Our modern understanding of predatory sexual behavior puts his thought into an even more urgent light and shames us all for begging ignorance or seeing this as a modern innovation. His noted measures of punishment may seem harsh but look to protecting the innocent and preventing such behavior.
Certainly the chaos and societal breakdown of that time played into a false Epicurean living that disregards personal dignity, chastity, and grace but as Peter tells - that is no excuse for not living holy lives. Same is true today with. Perhaps a fuller reading of his works by both clergy and laity would do us a world of good.
But Peter was not just a one trick pony; he is admired more for his spiritual writing and guidance.
Our souls then must seek this Spirit without ceasing; by His quickening they live, by His light they see, by His teaching they know, by His leadership they come by the unhindered way of love to their native country. Let us then ask of our God, not as the poor entreat the rich of this world, for money, or food, or clothing for our naked bodies, for He who forbade us to be anxious and careful of these things knows that we have need of them; but let us implore Him to give us that which we need more than anything else, and which it most delights Him to give to those who ask for it. We must demand without ceasing that which He Himself urges us to demand and gives us certain hope of receiving. For if we ask, if we knock it shall be opened unto us; and our heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him'.
-- From the Sermon on the Holy Spirit and His Grace
We can all get into a rut in our lives, becoming complacent and self-satisfied (cf. Luke 12:16-21). Think of what it would take for you, with your money and your comfort to decide to use it for God rather than your own pleasure. Think of the rich young man who approaches Jesus, who is righteous and pious, but lacks three things (Matthew 19:16-30). He goes away sad (why would be for another discussion - not a reflection).
Many of us look around us today and shake our heads at the sorry state of affairs and human behavior. How often do we then turn away and go on with our lives, not part of the solution but perpetuating the problem? Guilty as charged.
These seven men choose to give up nobility, success, and wealth to work in the vineyard that the society around them had ignored by focusing on the seven sorrows of Mary. We need to think about what we focus on in order to give our lives over to God and be his servants.
Peter said to Jesus, "We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?"
Jesus said to them "Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life."
-- Matthew 19:27-29
Yes, I know, but we do not mention Valentine in the Eucharistic Prayer I Canon. The date of the brother's feast has been celebrated on March 9th, July 5th, and settled finally on today (believed to be the date of Cyril's death in Rome). There is quite a fuss within secular history about their role and effect among the Slavs, but we focus on their spiritual effect. By knowing their audience and adapting to the language they were able to succeed where others failed. They fought impunity and hatred and shepherded their people in a way which is not forgotten.
Though we celebrate them together today, they were like many brothers in that they each followed different spiritual paths yet also like many brothers supported and enabled each other with a love that only close siblings have. If the Home Church is where things start then theirs was a home to emulate. May our families produce the foundation and the support necessary to create saints!
Methodius, Bishop, to those who say: What does it profit us that the Son of God was crucified upon earth, and made man? And wherefore did He endure to suffer in the manner of the cross, and not by some other punishment? And what was the advantage of the cross? ...Since, therefore, the first-born Word of God thus fortified the manhood in which He tabernacled with the armor of righteousness, He overcame, as has been said, the powers that enslaved us, by the figure of the cross, and showed forth man, who had been oppressed by corruption, as by a tyrant power, to be free, with unfettered hands. For the cross, if you wish to define it, is the confirmation of the victory, the way by which God to man descended, the trophy against material spirits, the repulsion of death, the foundation of the ascent to the true day; and the ladder for those who are hastening to enjoy the light that is there, the engine by which those who are fitted for the edifice of the Church are raised up from below, like a stone four square, to be compacted on to the divine Word. Hence it is that our kings, perceiving that the figure of the cross is used for the dissipating of every evil, have made vexillas, as they are called in the Latin language. Hence the sea, yielding to this figure, makes itself navigable to men. For every creature, so to speak, has, for the sake of liberty, been marked with this sign; for the birds which fly aloft, form the figure of the cross by the expansion of their wings; and man himself, also, with his hands outstretched, represents the same. Hence, when the Lord had fashioned him in this form, in which He had from the beginning flamed him, He joined on his body to the Deity, in order that it might be henceforth an instrument consecrated to God, freed from all discord and want of harmony. For man cannot, after that he has been formed for the worship of God, and has sung, as it were, the incorruptible song of truth, and by this has been made capable of holding the Deity, being fitted to the lyre of life as the chords and strings, he cannot, I say, return to discord and corruption.
-- Methodius, Fragment from the Homily on the Cross and Passion of Christ
It is not without effect what we choose to do with our lives. How we choose to interpret and live out the events of our life will also have effect. We often want to attribute to "the human spirit" grit, resolve, and courage in the face of suffering and overwhelming odds only in a "human" way, ignoring the "spirit" part of the phrase.
For us believers though, the emphasis is not on human but on spirit. We believe that we are led by the Holy Spirit to do Godly things, to do His will, and as Jesus shows us, that is what makes us truly human.
Catherine was a mystic, a stigmatic, and beset with visions of Christ's suffering and death but it is the will of God that punctuates all her sufferings and belief. By being led by the Spirit to do God's will we perfect ourselves and those around us. This is the spirit by which humans in-spire (yes I did that) others.
If, then, my daughter, you would be the true spouses of Jesus, you must do His holy will in all things; and you will do this if you entirely give up your own will on every occasion, and if you love the divine Spouse with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole strength. Then, you must carefully attend to the following points (but it is necessary to weigh all these words), as they contain the summary of Christian perfection:
-- From a Letter to a Nun
I do beg you, my dearest son, to keep on conforming your will to God’s. You know that our coming into and departing from this world has nothing to do with our will and knowledge, but depends on the will of the all-powerful God, and you know too that no one can oppose his holy will. So it would be a foolish man who wanted to oppose one who can annihilate us in an instant, just as fire in an instant melts wax.
-- From a Letter to Bonaccorso Bonaccorsi? (Can't determine the exact reference for this)
Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.
-- James 1:2-8
Why does the LORD choose the weak of the world to overcome the strong? I love to teach and learn but not everyone has the opportunity to learn in an academic setting. Many like Bernadette are poor, marginalized, illiterate. Yet they thrive and become saints! What makes for the greatest Faith? Strong catechesis from brilliant teachers? That certainly can help but in my experience it is the home church which provides the deepest and most lasting catechesis. Parents: develop your love and Faith so that your children will "see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father." (Matthew 5:16b)
Mary's job is to always point us to Jesus, as it is ours. We thank and honor her for the Herculean effort she puts for to do so. Let us emulate her as well and then our children will understand such things as redemptive suffering and help to heal the world, physically and spiritually.
O Jesus, you who were forsaken have become the refuge of forsaken souls. Your love teaches me that I must gain the strength I need to endure being abandoned by seeing how you were abandoned. I am persuaded that the most terrible abandonment I could experience would be to have no part in yours. By your death, you gave me life; you delivered me from the suffering I deserved by suffering in my place. Because of what you endured on the cross, our Heavenly Father will not desert me. He is never closer to me through his mercy than when I am most united with you in your abandonment.
O Jesus, light of my soul, enlighten me during times of tribulation; and since these trials are useful to me, pay no heed to my fears or my weakness.
O my God, I do not ask you to keep me from suffering, but to be with me in affliction. Teach me to seek you as my only comforter; sustain my faith; strengthen my hope; purify my love. Grant me the grace to recognize your hand in the midst of suffering and to want no other comforter than you.
-- From the private notes of Saint Bernadette
It is not often that brothers and sisters get along so well that they can both be saints but add to that the fact that Scholastica, as his twin, always seemed to know what was on Benedict's mind and what he was doing. So we might say that she was a saint and made him a saint by keeping him honest.
In her own right though, she is a true saint. Really very little is known about her and some claim her an allegorical invention of Gregory the Great, but if so he tells a great story. The physical tradition of Benedict at Monte Cassino includes references to Scholastica. She was, at least, someone devoted to the rule of Benedict and she placed herself close by him. There are worse things to be said of anyone.
GREGORY: Who is there, Peter, in this world, that is in greater favor with God than St. Paul? Three times he petitioned our Lord to be delivered from the thorn of the flesh, and yet he did not obtain his petition. Speaking of that, I must tell you how there was one thing which the venerable father Benedict would have liked to do, but he could not.
His sister, named Scholastica, was dedicated from her infancy to our Lord. Once a year she came to visit her brother. The man of God went to her not far from the gate of his monastery, at a place that belonged to the Abbey. It was there he would entertain her. Once upon a time she came to visit according to her custom, and her venerable brother with his monks went there to meet her.
They spent the whole day in the praises of God and spiritual talk, and when it was almost night, they dined together. As they were yet sitting at the table, talking of devout matters, it began to get dark. The holy Nun, his sister, entreated him to stay there all night that they might spend it in discoursing of the joys of heaven. By no persuasion, however, would he agree to that, saying that he might not by any means stay all night outside of his Abbey.
At that time, the sky was so clear that no cloud was to be seen. The Nun, hearing this denial of her brother, joined her hands together, laid them on the table, bowed her head on her hands, and prayed to almighty God.
Lifting her head from the table, there fell suddenly such a tempest of lightning and thundering, and such abundance of rain, that neither venerable Benedict, nor his monks that were with him, could put their heads out of doors. The holy Nun, having rested her head on her hands, poured forth such a flood of tears on the table, that she transformed the clear air to a watery sky.
After the end of her devotions, that storm of rain followed; her prayer and the rain so met together, that as she lifted up her head from the table, the thunder began. So it was that in one and the very same instant that she lifted up her head, she brought down the rain.
The man of God, seeing that he could not, in the midst of such thunder and lightning and great abundance of rain return to his Abbey, began to be heavy and to complain to his sister, saying: "God forgive you, what have you done?" She answered him, "I desired you to stay, and you would not hear me; I have desired it of our good Lord, and he has granted my petition. Therefore if you can now depart, in God's name return to your monastery, and leave me here alone."
But the good father, not being able to leave, tarried there against his will where before he would not have stayed willingly. By that means, they watched all night and with spiritual and heavenly talk mutually comforted one another.
Therefore, by this we see, as I said before, that he would have had one thing, but he could not effect it. For if we know the venerable man's mind, there is no question but that he would have had the same fair weather to have continued as it was when he left his monastery. He found, however, that a miracle prevented his desire. A miracle that, by the power of almighty God, a woman's prayers had wrought.
Is it not a thing to be marveled at, that a woman, who for a long time had not seen her brother, might do more in that instance than he could? She realized, according to the saying of St. John, "God is love" [1 John 4:8]. Therefore, as is right, she who loved more, did more.
PETER: I confess that I am wonderfully pleased with that which you tell me.
-- Gregory the Great, Dialogues, Book II, Chapter 33
We know so much about slavery and yet we do not connect it to the slavery of sin. The physical pain and mistreatment of Mother Josephine reminds us of the cost and dehumanizing aspects of sin.
In the same way, the kind and dignified treatment she received on her journey toward sainthood reminds us of the liberating love of God. Her joy and wonder are infectious and her actions and words remind us that she viewed all that happened to her, even the parts that left permanent physical scars, within the love of God.
Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who do not know Him. What a great grace it is to know God!
-- From her Autobiography
We all celebrate the Passion of Jesus but few of us ever experience it.
The missionaries were arrested, mutilated, and crucified at Nagasaki eventually stabbed with a lance. The martyred included five European Franciscan missionaries, one Mexican Franciscan missionary, three Japanese Jesuits, and seventeen Japanese laymen, including three young boys.
As with Christ, their humiliation is our glory. As with Christ, they are exalted.
When the crosses were set up it was a wonderful thing to see the constancy of all of them. Our brother Paul Miki, seeing himself raised to the most honorable position that he had ever occupied, openly proclaimed that he was a Japanese and a member of the Society of Jesus. And that he was being put to death for having preached the gospel. He gave thanks to God for such a precious favor.
He then added these words: “Having arrived at this moment of my existence, I believe that no one of you thinks I want to hide the truth. That is why I declare to you that there is no other way of salvation than the one followed by Christians. Since this way teaches me to forgive my enemies and all who have offended me, I willingly forgive the king and all those who have desired my death. And I pray that they will obtain the desire of Christian baptism.”
At this point, he turned his eyes toward his companions and began to encourage them in their final struggle. The faces of them all shone with great gladness. Another Christian shouted to him that he would soon be in paradise. “Like my Master,” murmured Paul, “I shall die upon the cross. Like him, a lance will pierce my heart so that my blood and my love can flow out upon the land and sanctify it to his name.”
Until the end, they then recited the Canticle of Zechariah: "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has come to his people to set them free..."
-- From an eyewitness account
Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters. 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, so that, as it is written, Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.
-- 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
It may seem a non sequitur that having your head chopped off is grounds for being called upon for disorders of the throat, but then again maybe not. Of course it can also be attributed to the story that while in prison he performed a wondrous cure of a boy who had a fish bone lodged in his throat and was choking to death.
Whether he was a doctor of miraculous cures or not, we can depend upon his intercession to aid us in our need. We can call on many saints to plead for us in specific matters, but I do not believe that any of them would fail to hear and help us when we ask in Faith for anything - even if we wrongly associate patronage to them.
Hear, O Lord, the supplications your people make
under the patronage of the Martyr Saint Blaise,
and grant that they may rejoice in peace in this present life,
and find help for life eternal.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
-- Collect, for the Memorial of St. Blaise
Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.
-- Luke 2:29-32
I try not to overload these daily meditations but the two people here both deserve mention. Brigid has always be a favorite of mine, but Benedict is a modern saint of the ancient and the emerging African Church. Most of our modern African saints have been missionaries but Benedict shows the effect of their efforts and also the path of the local faithful while speaking to the rich history of the Church in Africa. As much as our brothers and sisters have learned from us we have that and more to learn from them - again.
May Brigid bless the house wherein we dwell.
Bless every fireside, every wall and door.
Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof.
Bless every hand that toils to bring its joy.
Bless every foot that walks portals through.
May Brigid bless the house that shelters us.
— Blessing of St. Brigid
Benedict Daswa was really an ordinary man and we are not celebrating him for national achievement, but he was a man of great faith. And that is the wonderful thing… he was one of us but deeply committed to Jesus Christ, deeply committed in his family life, in his work life, in his community life
— Bishop Jaoa Noe Rodriguez of Tzaneen, South Africa
Things to Think About