PRAYER FOR YOUNG PEOPLE IN VIEW OF THE FORTHCOMING
SYNOD OF BISHOPS 2018:
»Young people, faith and vocational discernment«
Lord Jesus, in journeying towards the Synod, your Church turns her attention to all the young people of the world. We pray that they might boldly take charge of their lives, aim for the most beautiful and profound things of life and always keep their hearts unencumbered. Accompanied by wise and generous guides, help them respond to the call you make to each of them, to realize a proper plan of life and achieve happiness.
Keep their hearts open to dreaming great dreams and make them concerned for the good of others. Like the Beloved Disciple, may they stand at the foot of the Cross, to receive your Mother as a gift from you. May they be witnesses to your Resurrection and be aware that you are at their side as they joyously proclaim you as Lord. Amen.
I celebrate Ghebre Michael today but also mention fellow monastic Fiacre, whom many may not recognize as the garden statue they thought was Francis.
...after we had suffered and been insolently treated...
we drew courage through our God
to speak to you the Gospel of God with much struggle.
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 men,
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 men,
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.
-- 1 Thessalonians 2:2-8
What did John know and when did he know it?
What motivated him? Was he in a position, as the son of a religious official, to see corruption or misuse of power? Was he affected by insincerity or hypocrisy? Was he impressed by the holiness of his father and those around him? What drove him out into the desert to practice the priestly role of his family?
Was his relationship with Jesus greater than his responsibilities to the priesthood? Was he affected by discussions with Jesus about how to live?
The Scriptures are mute on such things, but I wonder about them all the same. What we do know is that when Jesus is around John, John defers to him immediately. One assumes that his "yes" echoes Mary's "let it be done" and Joseph's silent obedience, and that his response and preaching reflected his relationship with and commitment to the truth that is Jesus.
R. (1) You have searched me and you know me, Lord.
O LORD, you have probed me and you know me;
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.
R. You have searched me and you know me, Lord.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know the whole of it.
Behind me and before, you hem me in
and rest your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
too lofty for me to attain.
R. You have searched me and you know me, Lord.
-- Psalm 139:1-3, 4-6
Though yesterday was her feast, I decided to combine Monica with her probably better known son and celebrate them both together. They are so inextricably linked for without the love, patience, and prayer of Monica, Augustine would have been lost to us, and we would at best place him as a minor player in the ranks of the heretics and at worst have forgotten him like so many others who denied the truth in favor of their own limited or selfish beliefs.
Feel free to switch today and yesterday if you desire.
We often forget the role of mothers in the salvation of there sons, as we often dismiss Mary's role in our salvation. May we remember the efforts of those who have brought us fully to God and may we speak the same words as Augustine:
You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.
You called and shouted and burst my deafness. You flashed, shone, and scattered my blindness. You breathed odors, and I drew in breath and panted for You. I tasted, and I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and I burned for Your peace.
Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.
― Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
I know that today is the feast of St. Monica but I thought that this poem fragment fit well with her and Augustine's relationship, as well as Augustine's with God.
Mother Monica pray for all of us children of Eve.
I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter. 5
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase, 10
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’ 15
Now of that long pursuit 155
Comes on at hand the bruit;
That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
‘And is thy earth so marred,
Shattered in shard on shard?
Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me! 160
Strange, piteous, futile thing!
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught’ (He said),
‘And human love needs human meriting:
How hast thou merited— 165
Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot?
Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me? 170
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.
All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home: 175
Rise, clasp My hand, and come!’
Halts by me that footfall:
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, 180
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.’
His name meas "son of Tolomei" but he is also associated with the person named Nathaniel which means "gift of God". Certainly as Jesus renamed Simon and the Sons of Thunder, he could just have easily given such a moniker to Tolomei's son. He was an Apostle and most likely martyred. That is about all we know about him.
I think what we celebrate about the Apostles is their humanity. So many times the stories we have of them are miraculous and overwhelming but the Scripture we have on them is filled with them putting both of their feet into their mouth.
In John's Gospel he is introduced to Jesus as the long-awaited one by Phillip and his reaction is to bad-mouth Nazareth and therefore Jesus (John 1:45-46) and show skepticism (ibid v. 48) when he does meet him.
In contrast, Jesus sees him and praises this bluntness (ibid v. 47), states he is greater than Jacob, and then proceeds to place him beneath the fig tree, recognizing his desire for messianic peace, as one searching for all that Jesus offers. He understands that Jesus "gets him" and he produces the first official statement of what the others have mentioned: that Jesus is the King, in the line of David, the Messiah.
So like Peter he puts his foot in his mouth and then removes it to make vital and important statements of Faith. Jesus then presses him to take that understanding further: not just "rabbi", "king", not just "son of God" (ibid v. 49), but "the Rabbi", "the King", the "true Son of God" come down from Heaven (ibid v. 50-51).
How often do we let our earthly wisdom or our human skepticism get in the way of acknowledging the Truth? How much God calls us to deeper understanding and relationship within the mystery beyond all human understanding!
Once again, though we know so little about most of them, the Apostles, the chosen of Jesus, fulfill their role as Apostles. They point us away from themselves and toward Christ.
Bartholomew pray for us!
Philip found Nathanael and told him,"We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth." But Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him." Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." Jesus answered and said to him, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this." And he said to him, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."
-- John 1:45-51
Although she is often depicted in a habit, Rose never really became a nun. She dedicated herself to the Third Order of St. Dominic and lived by that rule serving the poor and sick.
So that is the thing. She was not "allowed" to enter the convent, even though it was what she desired. But she did not let that stop her from living for Christ. Service to God was her main desire and how she did that reflected the Gospel, not just a rule.
How often are we stymied in doing or having what we want. How often is it that some one sets up a road-block in our way? What is our reaction? Often we respond with a passive-aggressive response and do nothing. Instead of living in spite of obstacles and weaknesses we give up because we do not get our way, if not do just the opposite. We blame others, we blame God, we seek only the perfect situation but we never reach into ourselves to find the perfection of the Spirit.
Rose lived despite not being able to have it all. She adapted, she amended. She put others first, lived joyfully within the life of Christ not matter what her physical situation was. This is not giving up or letting others define us; this is seeking out how to serve Christ wherever and whatever our situation. That is the thing.
"Were you a slave when you were called? Do not be concerned but, even if you can gain your freedom, make the most of it." (1 Corinthians 7:21)
Rose, help us to bloom where we are planted, pun intended.
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their fruits. Take wives and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters. Increase there; do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you; pray for it to the LORD, for upon its welfare your own depends. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not be deceived by the prophets and diviners who are among you; do not listen to those among you who dream dreams, for they prophesy lies to you in my name; I did not send them — oracle of the LORD. For thus says the LORD: Only after seventy years have elapsed for Babylon will I deal with you and fulfill for you my promise to bring you back to this place. For I know well the plans I have in mind for you — oracle of the LORD — plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me — oracle of the LORD — and I will change your lot; I will gather you together from all the nations and all the places to which I have banished you — oracle of the LORD — and bring you back to the place from which I have exiled you.
-- Jeremiah 29:4-14
Indeed, who could fail to be moved by those many passages in the psalms which set forth so profoundly the infinite majesty of God, his omnipotence, his justice and goodness and clemency, too deep for words, and all the other infinite qualities of his that deserve our praise? Who could fail to be roused to the same emotions by the prayers of thanksgiving to God for blessings received, by the petitions, so humble and confident, for blessings still awaited, by the cries of a soul in sorrow for sin committed? Who would not be fired with love as he looks on the likeness of Christ, the redeemer, here so lovingly foretold? His was the voice Augustine heard in every psalm, the voice of praise, of suffering, of joyful expectation, of present distress.
― Apostolic Constitution Divino afflatu
Say what you want to about Bernard, his heart was usually in the right place even if his head was not.
Besides, brethren, I warn you, and not only I, but God's apostle, "Believe not every spirit." We have heard and rejoice that the zeal of God abounds in you, but it behooves no mind to be wanting in wisdom. The Jews must not be persecuted, slaughtered, nor even driven out. Inquire of the pages of Holy Writ. I know what is written in the Psalms as prophecy about the Jews. "God has commanded me," says the Church, "Slay them not, lest my people forget."
-- Letter to Eastern France and Bavaria Promoting the Second Crusade, 1146.
We honor many saints for the effort they put forth during times of crisis. Church Fathers, Doctors, martyrs...they all have helped to build the Church we have. In the West, the Reformation is a seminal event and many whom we honor kept the course during that turbulent and often violent time. Though we may not recognize his name, John Eudes is one of those people. John sought to focus both the laity and the clergy with wisdom and practicality. He narrowed and focused by reminding people that Jesus is the source of holiness and that we can be successful as shown to us in Mary, the model of the Christian life.
"Over and over again in the lives of the saints we find the Church sick and corrupt. Perhaps it must always be so, journeying in a fallen world and staffed by sinners who are as fallen as the rest of us and subject to worse temptations. And over and over again we find God’s grace acting through people like St John Eudes. They do not stand outside and complain or run campaigns, they go in and do things, removing the mold of worldly corruption and putting back, bit by bit, the leaven of grace. They will always be needed, until the world ends." (From "About Today" on Universalis.com)
Let us seek out the aid and prayers of John Eudes during times of crisis in our lives and especially in the Church.
The first verse contains only four Latin words, Magnificat anima mea Dominum, but they are words imbued with great mysteries. Let us weigh them carefully and devoutly; let us consider them attentively, in a spirit of humility, piety, and respect, in order that we may be inspired, like the Blessed Virgin, to magnify God for the great and marvelous things that He wrought in her and through her, on her behalf and for us as well. Here is the first word: Magnificat. What does this word mean? What does it mean to magnify God? Is it possible to magnify one whose grandeur and magnificence are immense, infinite, and incomprehensible? Not at all; such a thing is impossible - impossible for God Himself, Who cannot make Himself greater than He already is. We cannot magnify God, that is, make Him greater in Himself, since His divine perfections are infinite and therefore cannot be increased in themselves, but we can magnify Him in ourselves. "Every holy soul," says St. Augustine, "can conceive the eternal Word within himself by means of faith. He can engender God in other souls by preaching the divine Word, But he can magnify His creator by loving Him so truly that he too may say: 'My soul magnifies the Lord.'" (Sermon on the Assumption) "To magnify the Lord," continues St. Augustine, "is to adore, praise, and exalt His immense grandeur, His supreme majesty, His infinite excellence and perfections." We can magnify God in several ways: first of all, by our thoughts, having a most exalted idea of God and the highest esteem for Him as well as for all things of God; secondly, by our devotion, loving God with all our hearts and above all things; thirdly, by our words, always speaking with the most profound respect of God and all things pertaining to Him, and by adoring and praising His infinite power, His incomprehensible wisdom, His immense goodness and His other perfections; fourthly, by our actions, always performing them solely for the glory of God; fifthly, by practicing what the Holy Spirit teaches us in these words: "Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find mercy in the sight of God. For great is the power of the Lord; by the humble he is glorified." (Sirach 3:18,20)
-- From The Admirable Heart Of Mary, Chapter 3 (my emphasis)
Various saints fill today, some martyrs, some just holy people.
Blessed Victoria Rasoamanarivo. Often in the world we want spectacular results. Usually though, it is the little things that make the difference. Tent revivals are all well and good as are the altar calls they prompt, but sometimes it is the simple act of education, doled out with love and care that shows God to others.
Blesseds John-Baptist Duverneuil, Michael-Aloysius Brulard, and James Gagnot. We often focus on the English persecutions and forget about the French purges two centuries later. Let us recall and lean on those who inspire others through education, simple and sincere lifestyles, and full martyrdom.
If religion and the Faith were just another human thing, if they were only directed toward humanity, then there is no point to these lives or our own - we are folded into ourselves. In order to live day to day you would have to focus myopically and short term. You would have to ignore the big questions as you pretend to answer them or at least be satisfied with believing there is an answer that you just have not thought about or that some one else has supplied for you.
Fortunately there is another thing: God.
I read Let It Enfold You by Charles Bukowski which I thought was a powerful view into the mind that lives in itself but discovers the hint of what we know to be true (Romans 1:19).
If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. Then we are also false witnesses to God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.
-- I Corinthians 15:12-19
Sometimes we have the tendency to "take the best and leave the rest." But that is what it means to be in a Church of sinners who have been transformed by Christ. We strive for holiness within the system we live and sometimes that holiness even challenges that system. Sometimes we let the system limit our holiness.
Stephen, while a man of his time, challenged the way a king was made, and how that king related to his subjects. At the same time the violence or political pressure used to cause change offends our modern sensibilities.
The question is are we ignoring the bad in preference to the good? We may never know what it was like to oppose a king, to question his decisions and be punished for it. We may never know what it is like to change everything we know and trust in favor of another's decision.
What we do know though, is a different gauge of leadership, of ruling that Stephen gave to the world. And who knows the effects of the poor that he helped, the generations that were not lost because of his kindness and charity.
We may not be perfect but it is something to be remembered more for our charity than our politics. What will Christ tell each of us as we approach the throne?
Be humble in this life, that God may raise you up in the next. Be truly moderate and do not punish or condemn anyone immoderately. Be gentle so that you may never oppose justice. Be honorable so that you may never voluntarily bring disgrace upon anyone. Be chaste so that you may avoid all the foulness of lust like the pangs of death.
Dormition or Assumption?
What actually happened when Mary died? In the East, the language of "falling asleep" seems to reflect Paul's when speaking of those who have already died and the story reflects Thomas' unique role as an apostle; in the West the promulgation into doctrine of the earlier tradition reflects the overall thinking about Mary and how God did things for her that now we all share, per Paul's language.
What happened? Who are we to say. No one wrote down her last moments. What we have is the Traditions of her death. In both East and West the truth remains: Mary died like all of us mortals die but then no body remained behind to undergo corruption.
Together we think of it as the "Firstfruits" Paul speaks of.
This feast celebrates something that we will all undergo. It does not single out Mary as different than us or more special. What Christ did, he did for us all, and if we look to the truth of Mary then we will see ourselves reflected in the greatness of God, who will raise us all up on the last day to share in what Christ and Mary have - the triumph over death!
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death....
-- 1 Corinthians 15:20-26
In 1994, the year before he died, Franciszek Gajowniczek visited St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church of Houston and recounted his memories.
On July 30, 1941, at the Auschwitz, a German officer ordered the men to assemble, because a prisoner from their barracks had escaped. “This was to serve as an example to everyone,” Gajowniczek said, “so they would be afraid to flee.”
Ten men were chosen to die.
“The officer stood in front of me and pointed and I knew I was chosen to die. ‘I am losing my wife, and my children will now be orphaned.'"
According to Gajowniczek then Kolbe stepped out from the crowd of other prisoners and said "I want to take the place of this man. He has a wife and a family. I have no one. I am a Catholic priest.“
Gajowniczek said he looked at the priest but that concentration camp rules forbade them from saying a word. “He had a satisfied look on his face and seemed very contented that he was doing this.”
The 10 were taken away, stripped naked, confined and left to starve. On Aug. 14, 1941, the four who had not yet died, including the priest, were each injected with a poison.
Kolbe, Gajowniczek told the congregation, “is the patron saint of anyone in need . . . the patron saint of anyone that needs help.”
In 1982 Gajowniczek sat at the canonization of Kolbe. I too was blessed to sit at that event. I looked down from my seat on the colonnade at the crowd of people in the special section where he and all of his family sat and witnessed the effects of one life of sacrifice. It made the sacrifice of the Mass even more powerful, especially looking out at the crowd filling the square.
Today makes me contemplate service to the greater Church. Sometimes the rules get in the way, and people who serve at the behest of God, filling in the gaps left by other services, can be seen as outside of the needs or rules of the Church. But that would be wrong. Service to the Eucharist, to the community, calls us to seek out and serve the marginalized or the under-served regardless of the thinking of established means of service deeply rooted within the Faith.
Francis de Sales recognized this and encouraged the everyday to be of service. He saw in Jane Frances a means of engaging even more people in the everyday service of the World, people not seen as "fit" for such service by the rigorous standards of the day. She started with his encouragement and guidance but soon had to blaze her own path after his death, fighting opposition, ignorance, and her own doubts to live out her call.
She served the marginalized so that they could in turn server others.
She started out in what might be considered a typical life; she grew up with a widowed father; she married, inherited debt and struggled to make ends meet; lost her love to a hunting accident and struggled with forgiving the man who shot him; raised her children but saw many lost to disease; and so on and so on. The usual up and down life that we all live.
It is her finding and deepening her Faith throughout her life which led her to Francis de Sales, and that which allowed her to continue on in service. It is taking her Faith, a grain of salt, good humor and applying it to her call that distinguishes her. Her ability to give over her joy, her grief, her pain, her sorrow, her laughter, her tears to God, to surrender to His care and to view all things through that lens that challenges us to do the same whatever our station in life. We do not need Francis de Sales as our spiritual advisor to be inspired by him and by Jane Frances to live the spiritual life amidst our everyday.
I gave four days to the Exercises (Retreat), and no more, on account of the amount of business that has come unexpectedly upon me. During those days I realized how much I need to labor at acquiring humility and at bearing with my neighbor. I have been trying to acquire these virtues during the past year, and with Our Lord s help have practiced them somewhat. But it is His doing, not mine, and if it please Him I will so continue as He gives me many opportunities for the practice of them. For my part it seems to me that I am in a simple state of waiting on the good pleasure of God to do what ever He wills with me. I have no desires, no plans; I hold to nothing, and very willingly leave myself in His hands; still, I do this without sensible devotion, but I think it is all right at the bottom of my heart.
-- From a letter to St. Vincent de Paul
Jesus said to his disciples,
"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory,
and then he will repay each according to his conduct.
Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here
who will not taste death
until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom."
-- Matthew 16:24-28
The apocryphal stories of the early martyrs some times make me smile.
Turn me over, I'm done on this side
O Prince of Peace, to all who receive You, You bring light and peace. Help me to live in daily contact with You, listening to the words You have spoken and obeying them. O Divine Child, I place my hands in Yours; I shall follow You. Oh, let Your divine life flow into me.
I will go unto the altar of God. It is not myself and my tiny little affairs that matter here, but the great sacrifice of atonement. I surrender myself entirely to Your divine will, O Lord. Make my heart grow greater and wider, out of itself into the Divine Life.
O my God, fill my soul with holy joy, courage, and strength to serve You. Enkindle Your love in me and then walk with me along the next stretch of road before me. I do not see very far ahead, but when I have arrived where the horizon now closes down, a new prospect will open before me and I shall met with peace.
How wondrous are the marvels of your love, We are amazed, we stammer and grow dumb, for word and spirit fail us.
A man who governs his passions is master of the world. We must either rule them, or be ruled by them. It is better to be the hammer than the anvil.
Whosoever will candidly consider each particular, will recognize the greatness of the gifts which were given by him. For from him have sprung the priests and all the Levites who minister at the altar of God. From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah. Nor are his other tribes in small glory, inasmuch as God had promised, 'Your seed shall be as the stars of heaven.' All these, therefore, were highly honored, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
What shall we do, then, brethren? Shall we become slothful in well-doing, and cease from the practice of love? God forbid that any such course should be followed by us! But rather let us hasten with all energy and readiness of mind to perform every good work. For the Creator and Lord of all Himself rejoices in His works. For by His infinitely great power He established the heavens, and by His incomprehensible wisdom He adorned them. He also divided the earth from the water which surrounds it, and fixed it upon the immovable foundation of His own will. The animals also which are upon it He commanded by His own word into existence. So likewise, when He had formed the sea, and the living creatures which are in it, He enclosed them [within their proper bounds] by His own power. Above all, with His holy and undefiled hands He formed man, the most excellent [of His creatures], and truly great through the understanding given him -- the express likeness of His own image. For thus says God: 'Let us make man in Our image, and after Our likeness. So God made man; male and female He created them.' Having thus finished all these things, He approved them, and blessed them, and said, 'Increase and multiply.' We see, then, how all righteous men have been adorned with good works, and how the Lord Himself, adorning Himself with His works, rejoiced. Having therefore such an example, let us without delay accede to His will, and let us work the work of righteousness with our whole strength.
― Clement of Rome, I Clement, 32-33 (~80-120 A.D.)
What did the disciples see and hear that day? There is a lot of theological and mystical speculation provided over the millennia, especially by the Fathers but let us put all that aside and wonder simply about what it must have been like to be there.
It is a sensual experience; though mystical and miraculous, it is first and foremost sensual - we see the brightness of Jesus' clothes; we see Moses and Elijah beside him; we hear the voice of God; we feel the overwhelming emotions.
Peter's take is pretty straight forward here and leaves little to the imagination. Jesus is the Christ and the Father has told us so. He tells us this story and the evangelists recall it not to deceive us but to illuminate.
Bathe for a few moments in that Taboric Light.
We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.
For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory,
"This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased."
We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.
You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
-- 2 Peter 1:16-19
In an effort to understand where we come from we may scatter breadcrumbs that give us clues. We keep mementos, photos, cards, letters all attached to people, places, and times long gone.
It is always interesting to see what we keep and what we discard.
Determining the importance of something can be difficult and we surround ourselves with many things of little or no value because they lead us back, or at least we hope or think they do.
The creation of St. Mary Major is one such link. It speaks to our roots, to our purpose, to what is important to us. Built after the Council of Ephesus declared Mary the Theotokos it is one of the first churches dedicated to this title. Therefore it links East to West, Heaven to Earth, body to spirit, past to present to future.
Oh, and the 5th century mosaics and the lapis lazuli is breath-taking.
I see here a joyful company of Christian men met together in ready response to the call of Mary, the holy and ever-virgin Mother of God. The great grief that weighed upon me is changed into joy by your presence, venerable Fathers. Now the beautiful saying of David the psalmist: How good and pleasant it is for brothers to live together in unity has come true for us [Psalm 133].
Therefore, holy and incomprehensible Trinity, we salute you at whose summons we have come together to this church of Mary, the Mother of God.
Mary, Mother of God, we salute you. Precious vessel, worthy of the whole world's reverence, you are an ever-shining light, the crown of virginity, the symbol of orthodoxy, an indestructible temple, the place that held him whom no place can contain, mother and virgin. Because of you the holy gospels could say: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
We salute you, for in your holy womb he, who is beyond all limitation, was confined. Because of you the holy Trinity is glorified and adored; the cross is called precious and is venerated throughout the world; the heavens exult; the angels and archangels make merry; demons are put to flight; the devil, that tempter, is thrust down from heaven; the fallen race of man is taken up on high; all creatures possessed by the madness of idolatry have attained knowledge of the truth; believers receive holy baptism; the oil of gladness is poured out; the Church is established throughout the world; pagans are brought to repentance.
What more is there to say? Because of you the light of the only-begotten Son of God has shone upon those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death; prophets pronounced the word of God; the apostles preached salvation to the Gentiles; the dead are raised to life, and kings rule by the power of the holy Trinity.
Who can put Mary's high honor into words? She is both mother and virgin. I am overwhelmed by the wonder of this miracle. Of course no one could be prevented from living in the house he had built for himself, yet who would invite mockery by asking his own servant to become his mother?
Behold then the joy of the whole universe. Let the union of God and man in the Son of the Virgin Mary fill us with awe and adoration. Let us fear and worship the undivided Trinity as we sing the praise of the ever-virgin Mary, the holy temple of God, and of God himself, her Son and spotless Bridegroom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
-- Homily at Council of Ephesus, Cyril of Alexandria
There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us.
Not to be confused with his probably wider known contemporary and fellow bishop Eusebius (of Caesarea -- best known for his early history of the Church), Eusebius took part in many of the same upheavals at that time but unlike Eusebius the historian, is acknowledged as a saint. He refused to condemn Athanasius against the Arian-leaning Emperor and fellow bishops, purportedly proffering a copy of the Nicean Creed (decided 30 years earlier) for all to sign at the Council of Milan in reply to their push for him to sign the condemnation -- making his feelings n the matter very clear. He suffered exile and abuse for his orthodoxy.
Eusebius the historian could never quite bring himself to reject the Arian theology and so is remembered more by the world for his human actions and less for his spiritual ones. Though a saint, Eusebius' tenacity probably would have gotten him in trouble at other times in history, showing that God uses our gifts at the precise moment He needs them. Our job is to live that vocation amidst the trials and triumphs of daily life.
Today we would do well to ask for his intercession that the workings of politics may not affect the Church or its teaching again.
His epistles, I believe all written from exile, show a man in love, a shepherd pining for his flock, an example for monks and bishops everywhere.
Dearly beloved, I know now that you are safe, as I was hoping, and I felt that I had paid you a visit, by being suddenly transported over the face of the earth like Habakkuk, when the angel brought him to Daniel. When I receive a letter from one of you and see in your writings your goodness and love, joy mingles with tears, and my desire to continue reading is checked by my weeping. Both emotions are inescapable, as they vie with each other in discharging their duty of affection, when such a letter satisfies my longing for you.
Days pass in this way as I imagine myself in conversation with you, and so I forget my past sufferings. Consolations surround me on all sides: your firm faith, your love, your good works. In the midst of so many great blessings I soon imagine myself in your company, in exile no longer.
Dearly beloved, I rejoice in your faith, in the salvation that comes from faith, in your good works, which are not confined to your own surroundings but spread far and wide. Like a farmer tending a sound tree, untouched by ax or fire because of its fruit, I want not only to serve you in the body, good people that you are, but also to give my life for your well-being.
Somehow or other I have managed with difficulty to complete this letter. I asked God constantly to keep the guards away hour by hour, and to allow the deacon to bring you some kind of greeting in writing, not simply news of my suffering. So I beg you to keep the faith with all vigilance, to preserve harmony, to be earnest in prayer, to remember me always, so that the Lord may grant freedom to his Church which is suffering throughout the world, and that I may be set free from the sufferings that weigh upon me, and so be able to rejoice with you.
I also ask and beseech you in God’s mercy, that each one of you should add his own name to the greeting in this letter. Of necessity I cannot write to each of you as was my custom. So in this letter I ask you all - brothers and holy sisters, sons and daughters, men and women, old and young - to be content with this greeting and to be good enough to give my respectful good wishes to those who are outside the community and are kind enough to be my friends.
-- Selections from Epistle 2
Alphonsus was a prolific writer. So many of his letters deal with the publishing of his works. Probably his best known works are on prayer, Mary, practicing the love of Jesus Christ, and Eucharistic adoration.
Prayer, love, his relationship with Christ, and his first-hand pastoral experience of everyday needs of the faithful made him one of the truly great masters of the interior life as well as a Doctor of the Church.
But it is his work Moral Theology which rings loudly with the pastoral care of his flock. Augustine's "all things in moderation" seems to be him mantra. He opposed the vanilla legalism prevalent in the theology around him (which he saw as the result of elitism) and rejected the strict "rigorism" that it produced. He also sought to avoid a laxness which is the usual opposite reaction to rigidity, but showed the idea of love not law or permissiveness as the basis for morality.
It has given me much pleasure to know that you will confide the revision to a Jesuit Father, for were you to choose one of the Dominican Fathers, who at present follow Father Concina, he would censure as lax many opinions which I have advocated. You know that, as a general rule, I adhere to the teaching of the Jesuits (not of the Dominicans), and their opinions are neither lax nor rigorous, but rather the golden mean. And if I do maintain one or the other rigorous opinion against some Jesuit, I hold it nearly always on the authority of other Jesuits. From this Society, I confess, I have learned what little I have in my books; for they have always been (as I never cease to declare) and are yet the masters in Moral Theology.
-- From Letter 10
Things to Think About