Marcellus' is not a story of pacifism, but the story of a man who recanted his soldierly duty to do homage to the idols of Rome. This was done knowing that the result was death. Throwing down his standard and declaring his devotion to Christ before his fellow soldiers broke his devotion to them in their minds. Imagine how they felt - his brothers in arms; he declared that he would no longer have their backs; devotion to the gods was devotion to them; he was a deserter! Deserters died.
But the truth is that Marcellus transforms for us what it meant/means to be a soldier. It was not that he would not be devoted to them as a brother, have their backs, die with them if necessary for a just cause but that the devotion required to do those things did not just have to go to the Roman gods.
Sometimes the peace of Christ requires of us to fight. Sometimes it is to fight for justice, sometimes it is to fight tyranny and oppression. Sometimes we fight with our words, money, talents; sometimes we fight with our lives. No greater love than this exists: that we should lay our life down for our friends. Marcellus does this - to further the salvation of the world and those he loved like brothers.
The natural rights with which We have been dealing are, however, inseparably connected, in the very person who is their subject, with just as many respective duties; and rights as well as duties find their source, their sustenance and their inviolability in the natural law which grants or enjoins them…. Once this is admitted, it also follows that in human society to one man’s right there corresponds a duty in all other persons: the duty, namely, of acknowledging and respecting the right in question. For every fundamental human right draws its indestructible moral force from the natural law, which in granting it imposes a corresponding obligation. Those, therefore, who claim their own rights, yet altogether forget or neglect to carry out their respective duties, are people who build with one hand and destroy with the other.
-- Pacem in Terris, 28-30, John XXIII
As is not always obvious, we know too little about certain Apostles. Simon was a "Zealot" ("Cananaean") - a nasty crowd of Jewish purists and Jude, was also known as Judas, whose name change and title, "Thaddaeus", help to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot.
So we attribute a zeal for Faith with Simon and a Catholic epistle to Jude, but they are attributions and not a true knowledge of these men who were close friends of Jesus.
The fact that they share a day also points to our ignorance. But unlike so many saints, we at least know their names and can invoke their relationship with Jesus to our aid.
Only John notes a request of his made to Jesus during the Last Supper: Thaddaeus says to the Lord: "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?" It is a question of great present importance, which we also ask the Lord: Why has not the risen one manifested himself in all his glory to his adversaries to show that he is the victor? Why did God manifest himself only to the disciples? Jesus' answer is mysterious and profound.
The Lord says: "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (John 14:22-23). This means that the Risen One must be seen, perceived, also with the heart, so that God can make his dwelling in him. The Lord does not appear as a thing. The Lord wishes to enter into our lives and because of this, his manifestation is a manifestation that implies and presupposes an open heart. Only thus do we see the Risen One.
-- Benedict XVI - Wednesday General Audience, OCT. 2006
Some saints names ring a bell right a way with us, others maybe not. Antony's death was nothing special, his health declined and he died in his early 60's. In his lifetime though his name was known throughout the world - the confessor of royalty, builder of schools and libraries, reformer; large enough such that at least 15 assassination attempts were made on his life.
Certainly one with a bit of notoriety.
Most of us do not recognize his name though we have probably heard of the missionary order he started: the Claretians, or as he called them, the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who work still to serve the poor and under-served of the world. Many know the martyrs, servants, and teachers that he inspires.
So like all of us, great and small, it is not just what we do in our lifetimes, but in the legacy we create by our lives whether or not anyone remembers our names. We are all saints, great and small, or at least striving to be saints. As All Saints Day approaches, let us recall the many saints whose names we do not know but who are part of the great cloud of witnesses who surround the throne of Christ crying out in praise and supplication for each of us - and today, Antony Mary Claret!
Driven by the fire of the Holy Spirit, the holy apostles traveled throughout the earth. Inflamed with the same fire, apostolic missionaries have reached, are now reaching, and will continue to reach the ends of the earth, from one pole to the other, in order to proclaim the word of God. They are deservedly able to apply to themselves those words of the apostle Paul: "The love of Christ drives us on."
The love of Christ arouses us, urges us to run, and to fly, lifted on the wings of holy zeal. The zealous man desires and achieves all great things and he labors strenuously so that God may always be better known, loved and served in this world and in the life to come, for this holy love is without end.
Because he is concerned also for his neighbor, the man of zeal works to fulfill his desire that all men be content on this earth and happy and blessed in their heavenly homeland, that all may be saved, and that no one may perish for ever, or offend God, or remain even for a moment in sin. Such are the concerns we observe in the holy apostles and in all who are driven by the apostolic spirit.
For myself, I say this to you: The man who burns with the fire of divine love is a son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and wherever he goes, he enkindles that flame; he deserves and works with all this strength to inflame all men with the fire of God's love. Nothing deters him: he rejoices in poverty; he labors strenuously; he welcomes hardships; he laughs off false accusations; he rejoices in anguish. He thinks only of how he might follow Jesus Christ and imitate him by his prayers, his labors, his sufferings, and by caring always and only for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
-- L'Egosimo vinto, 60
There is a chapel in the bowels of the Pontifical North American College in Rome dedicated to the North American Martyrs and they were the mascots for the soccer team whose colors were, appropriately, red, black, and blue. The stained glass window there depicts a few of the men who traveled far to witness to the Truth. The Jesuits who undertook the spread of the Gospel in hostile and untamed lands often encountered both reception and opposition. North America was not a unified land and even with abundant resources, territorial disputes were contentious. So was it too for the vineyard of Faith.
The success or failure of the martyrs of North America is not measured by the integration of Catholicism into North America, or the overwhelming of cultures, or suppression of Native peoples and beliefs, but in the witness of those martyrs, especially to those whose lives they changed. I live surrounded by their efforts.
"Woe to you who build the memorials of the prophets whom your fathers killed.
Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building.
Therefore, the wisdom of God said, 'I will send to them prophets and Apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute' in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who died between the altar and the temple building.
Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood! Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter."
When Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.
-- Luke 11:47-54
In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.”
-- Luke Acts 1:1-5
“Keep on praying” for others too, for there is a chance of their being converted and getting to God. Let them, then, learn from you at least by your actions. Return their bad temper with gentleness; their boasts with humility; their abuse with prayer. In the face of their error, be “steadfast in the faith.” Return their violence with mildness and do not be intent on getting your own back. By our patience let us show we are their brothers, intent on imitating the Lord, seeing which of us can be the more wronged, robbed, and despised. Thus no devil’s weed will be found among you; but thoroughly pure and self-controlled, you will remain body and soul united to Jesus Christ.
-- Letter to the Ephesians, 10
We often blame the structure of the Church for our lack of vocation, but what we fail to live is our vocation within the Church. Theresa did not let her sex slow down the vocation she had within the Church. Because she was true to her vocation she was a powerful voice in a male dominated bureaucracy that was in chaos and is recognized as a true Doctor of the Church. We must do more than just grow where we are planted, we must grow the plant we are to its fullness.
A sad nun is a bad nun...I am more afraid of one unhappy sister than a crowd of evil spirits…. What would happen if we hid what little sense of humor we had? Let each of us humbly use this to cheer others.
The story goes that Theresa was knocked off her donkey into the mud and injured her leg.
“Lord,” she said, “I thought we were friends...why would you let this happen?”
Reportedly the Lord responded, “That is how I treat my friends.”
Teresa answered, “And that is why you have so few of them!”
To be an early martyr is to be a saint; to be an early pope and an early martyr, well that really says something. Unfortunately we are not really sure what it says. We know much about the life and pontificate of Callistus I but also unfortunately it comes from his number one enemy and rival, Hippolytus, a saint in his own right.
Callistus seems to have started out poorly as a slave, an embezzler, and convicted felon but, depending on if you believe Hippolytus or not, somehow ingratiated himself with his old master and won his freedom.
Regardless of what Hippolytus says, if Callistus was a con man then he seems to have been more of a Robin Hood type of villain, or at least he seemed to want to do good, even if with poor choices for the means. While Hippolytus tells us everything in a bad light, most of the things he tells seem good. You can put it all down to sour grapes and recognize that even saints are sinners.
In the end, it is his education and his deep knowledge of the Faith which places him along side pope Zephyrinus and ensures his own rise to the papacy. There he led us as Church toward forgiveness of those who fail, even those who fail spectacularly.
Callistus reminds us that even the worst of sinners have been redeemed but that they only become saints if they seek and live for Christ. We have benefited from his wisdom and guidance in the Seat of Peter; let us therefore strive to be like him even in the face of our enemies.
So I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. Tend the flock of God in your midst, [overseeing] not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory
-- 1 Peter 5:1-4
What makes someone a saint? Certainly we often look back with fondness upon the lives of those we loved, or in the case of a country, on the times before 1066.
Historians disagree about the worthiness of Edward to be in the canon of saints, but his cult arose early and must be attached to more than just nostalgia. Perhaps, as the only officially canonized monarch of England, it was more than just a thank you for the support of the papacy of Alexander III. The problem is the truth is lost to history.
Still, it is the stories, like those of so many early martyrs, that inspire us. Perhaps his lack of heirs corresponds to a desire for chastity and holiness. Perhaps the distance at the end of his reign was due to his desire to spend his life more in prayer than politics.
But we should, within our daily work, strive to be more holy whether king or peasant.
Let us defend ourselves from the risk of being actors rather than witnesses. We are called to be living memory of the Lord.
-- Pope Francis
East versus West, time and space. This is a long problem for the Church as a whole. It is a big world and for a long time not everyone was Christian but Christians went everywhere. Christianity developed in pockets that, while based in the same Faith, had subtle differences (as well as some major ones), usually manifested in small "t" traditions like liturgical practices. As the Church grew and legitimized, those pockets began to merge into the larger Church. Men like Wilfrid, Cuthbert, and others of his time, both Celtic and Roman, came together to solidify the Christianity we know today. But disagreements still exist. They say that the winners write history but that really cannot be true of a shared history where everyone agrees on the history.
What we often see is bitterness and rancor about not being on top especially when we see ourselves as more correct than anyone else. But we can also definitely say that when one side is up and the other down, the downs usually have some good arguments for losses due to powerlessness. But if, instead of seeing it as up and down, we should see it universally, then we can frame it as one side able to sustain itself long enough to bring stability to the other allowing the Church as a whole to continue and grow.
It appears though, that even with local councils making decisions, we can quibble about what seems to be winners and losers. We can be recalcitrant about those decisions making it not about right or wrong but about, at best, having our voices be heard and at worst being petty about our prestige and ego. This is true of too many things within the Church.
Perhaps, you might say, in my vagueness I am over-simplifying this. I am. But I am not speaking to the past but to us today. Will we let wrongs and perceived wrongs of the past fester and grow? Or will we follow Christ's desires and seek reconciliation and forgiveness? That is our job, not being right. Diversity is part of our strength; so is shared doctrine. The wrongs of the past belong to the past - none of us can change the past but it is still something we share. One cannot claim the shared history as one's alone as either victim or victor. It is not about what our fore-bearers did or did not do but what we will do to do a better job of living out the Gospel together. It is together that we own Christ, or rather that he owns us.
Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the church of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ located at Philadelphia in the province of Asia. You have found mercy and have been strengthened in the peace of God; you are now filled with gladness because of the passion of our Lord, and by his mercy you are made believers in his resurrection. I greet you in the blood of Jesus Christ. You are my abiding and unshakeable joy, especially if your members remain united with the bishop and with his presbyters and deacons, all appointed in accordance with the mind of Christ who by his own will has strengthened them in the firmness which the Spirit gives.
I know that this bishop has obtained his ministry, which serves the community, neither by his own efforts, nor from men nor even out of vainglory, but from the love of God the Father and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am deeply impressed by his gentleness, and by his silence he is more effective than the empty talkers. He is in harmony with the commandments as is a lute with its strings. I call him blessed, then, for his sentiments toward God, since I know these to be virtuous and perfect, and for his stability and calm, in which he imitates the gentleness of the living God.
As sons of the light of truth, flee divisions and evil doctrines; where your shepherd is, follow him as his flock.
For all who belong to God and Jesus Christ are with the bishop; all who repent and return to the unity of the Church will also belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not be deceived, my brothers. If anyone follows a schismatic, he will not obtain the inheritance of God’s kingdom; if anyone lives by an alien teaching, he does not assent to the passion of the Lord.
Be careful, therefore, to take part only in the one Eucharist; for there is only one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and one cup to unite us with his blood, one altar and one bishop with the presbyters and deacons, who are his fellow servants. Then, whatever you do, you will do according to God.
-- Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Philadelphians
I often talk about "my pope", that is, the pope in office when I was born. By that I also mean the pope who seems to have set the tone for my life as a Catholic. John certainly did that. I am blessed that so far, most of the popes of my lifetime have been beatified and/or canonized. That tells me that I have been blessed to live in a blessed time. But it all begins for me with John.
I was young when John XXIII died, and I must say that there is some sadness for me in the way many of us have tried to live out his vision of Pacem in Terris; I watched as many fled the Church or divided within her over what (in the overall scheme of Revelation) are truly trivial personal preferences. John threw open the windows - but I have experienced the pain and misunderstanding borne of ignorance, selfishness, righteousness, judgment, and many other human foibles. By some, I am reminded of the Italians I lived among. They feared the opening of windows, worried about the disease that could enter them ("mal di fegato!"). This ignorance born of the devil accomplishes the opposite; keeping the windows closed does not keep disease out but locks it in.
I also feel the sadness of those who flung open the windows to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
John opened the windows to not just let in fresh air but so that everyone who lived in a broken, hurting world could look into the Church and see its beauty and peace and come to live it themselves.
John reminds us to see the beauty, to live the peace that comes from knowing Christ in his Church. Let us pray together with him today that we can accomplish our mission of evangelization - the bringing of the good news of God to the world. May we throw open the windows on our hearts to let the light of Christ shine out into the world for all to see, so that all may come to peace in Christ.
Today as We address Our first Encyclical Letter to the entire Catholic world, Our apostolic office clearly demands that We discuss three objectives—truth, unity, and peace—and indicate how they may be achieved and advanced in a spirit of charity. ...All the evils which poison men and nations and trouble so many hearts have a single cause and a single source: ignorance of the truth—and at times even more than ignorance, a contempt for truth and a reckless rejection of it. Thus arise all manner of errors, which enter the recesses of men's hearts and the bloodstream of human society as would a plague. These errors turn everything upside down: they menace individuals and society itself. And yet, God gave each of us an intellect capable of attaining natural truth. If we adhere to this truth, we adhere to God Himself, the author of truth, the lawgiver and ruler of our lives. But if we reject this truth, whether out of foolishness, neglect, or malice, we turn our backs on the highest good itself and on the very norm for right living. As We have said, it is possible for us to attain natural truth by virtue of our intellects. But all cannot do this easily; often their efforts will result in a mixture of truth and error. This is particularly the case in matters of religion and sound morals. Moreover, we cannot possibly attain those truths which exceed the capacity of nature and the grasp of reason, unless God enlightens and inspires us. This is why the word of God, "who dwells in light inaccessible," in His great love took pity on man's plight, "became flesh and dwelt among us," that He might "enlighten every man who comes into the world" and lead him not only to full and perfect truth, but to virtue and eternal happiness. All men, therefore, are bound to accept the teaching of the gospel. For if this is rejected, the very foundations of truth, goodness, and civilization are endangered. ...All men, therefore, private citizens as well as government officials, must love the truth sincerely if they are to attain that peace and harmony on which depends all real prosperity, public and private. ...Everyone realizes, of course, that God our Redeemer founded this society which was to endure to the end of time, for as Christ said, "Behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world." For this intention He addressed ardent prayers to His Father: "That all may be one, even as thou, Father, in me and I in thee; that they also may be one in Us." Surely this prayer was heard and granted because of His reverent submission. This is a comforting hope; it assures us that someday all the sheep who are not of this fold will want to return to it. Then, in the words of God our Savior, "there shall be one fold and one shepherd." This fond hope compelled Us to make public Our intention to hold an Ecumenical Council. Bishops from every part of the world will gather there to discuss serious religious topics. They will consider, in particular, the growth of the Catholic faith, the restoration of sound morals among the Christian flock, and appropriate adaptation of Church discipline to the needs and conditions of our times. This event will be a wonderful spectacle of truth, unity, and charity. For those who behold it but are not one with this Apostolic See, We hope that it will be a gentle invitation to seek and find that unity for which Jesus Christ prayed so ardently to His Father in heaven.
-- Ad Petri Cathedrm, 4, 6-8, 21, 60-62
We will have to labor hard, to sweat, to die: but the thought that one sweats and dies for love of Jesus Christ and the salvation of the most abandoned souls in the world, is far too sweet for us to desist from this great enterprise.
-- From a letter to his parents written shortly after his arrival in Sudan
There are many great thinkers within the Church. There are many great thinkers who wandered down wrong paths based on their thinking.
Cardinal Newman seems to have managed the former without falling into the latter. Not that he "found the truth" and became Catholic, but that he thought deeply by letting the truth guide him. What I mean by that is that he submitted himself to the truth without protest or struggle. The truth was an objective thing to which he could only defer within his own thought. This led him to a clarity and simplicity of thought about the truth.
How often do we want to mold others or the truth to our own thought! Such is not the path of those who trust the truth but those who wish to make the truth. Such is not the path of love but of sin. We must move ourselves out of the way so that God may illuminate the mind. May we let John guide us to emulate him in humble submission to the truth so that the truth may truly set us and everyone we come into contact with, free.
But let us, finding ourselves in the state in which we are, take those means which alone are really left us, which alone become us. Adam, when he had sinned, and felt himself fallen, instead of honestly abandoning what he had become, would fain have hid himself. He went a step further. He did not give up what he now was, partly from dread of God, partly from dislike of what he had been. He had learnt to love sin and to fear God's justice. But Christ has purchased for us what we lost in Adam, our garment of innocence. He has bid us and enabled us to become as little children; He has purchased for us the grace of simplicity, which, though one of the highest, is very little thought about, is very little sought after. We have, indeed, a general idea what love is, and hope, and faith, and truth, and purity, though a poor idea; but we are almost blind to what is one of the first elements of Christian perfection, that simple-mindedness which springs from the heart's being whole with God, entire, undivided. And those who think they have an idea of it, commonly rise no higher than to mistake for it a mere weakness and softness of mind, which is but its counterfeit. To be simple is to be like the Apostles and first Christians.
-- From Sermon 18, Ignorance of Evil
Lord make me an instrument of your peace.
As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding
on their journey, someone said to him,
"I will follow you wherever you go."
Jesus answered him,
"Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head."
And to another he said, "Follow me."
But he replied, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father."
But he answered him, "Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God."
And another said, "I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home."
Jesus answered him, "No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God."
-- Luke 9:57-62
Martyrdom is not pretty. Who ever it happens to, for whatever reason, at whatever time, it is horrific. Death is the ultimate penalty that we humans can think of but humiliation added to death seems to be our favorite modus operandi.
Yet, Jesus' humiliating death was transformative. Death, no matter what its form, now elevates, enobles, and lifts us up. It now gives meaning to life rather than taking it away. Death is what saves us and for us as individuals, presents us to that salvation.
Today specifically celebrates many martyrs of the Reformation from around the world, but all month long let us celebrate the many martyrs, strive to see death as liberating and understand it as God understands it. When we took on death in the Garden it is God who made it have meaning and purpose.
We do well to remember that anger, hatred, and fear have no place in our heart, are ineffective against truth, and serve no purpose to God - but that God can, and will, transform our sinfulness to His own ends.
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if to others, indeed, they seem punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
-- Wisdom 3:1-6
I can still recall when I was young Sister Marcella reminding us to leave room for our guardian angel next to us in our seats, thereby helping us to be aware that they were always there with us.
Perhaps the idea of Guardian Angels is passe today or out of favor because of the oversimplification of the understanding of angels or even perhaps because they have been relegated to maudlin sentimentality.
But that is a loss. Angels are not cute cherubs (look them up - not so cute) nor are any of the other muddled beliefs about angels or us becoming angels that pervade modern culture. Angels are the mouthpieces of God - they were created to do the will of God. They are created different from us, we who are created "little less than the angels" (Psalm 8; Hebrews 2)
Guardian angels, differing from the archangels we so often celebrate, stand by us to catch us lest we dash our foot against a stone (Psalm 91; Matthew 4) if we but avail ourselves to the tender care of God.
Angel of God
My guardian dear
To Whom His love
Commits me here
Ever this day
Be at my side
To light and guard
To rule and guide. Amen
Things to Think About