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 martyr 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
Jesus is presented to the world so many times, it is a wonder that we still do no know him.
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
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
When we think of Church councils, we often think about the big names: Gregory, Athanasius, and the like. Who we do not usually think about are the day to day people down in the trenches trying to promulgate the teachings from those councils into the daily lives of the faithful.
Joseph is one such person. Aside from the many things he did: his devotion to the poor, sick, and imprisoned, his selfless and dangerous political work, his austerity and humility, he also went around trying to help those same poor and humble laity, the fallen away, the foreigner, and lax to understand not only the glories of the Faith but also the teachings of the Council of Trent, trying to pull people back into the fold with a deeper commitment and understanding. That impresses me mightily.
Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” ...Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep.
-- Matthew 9:35-38; 10:5-10
You might recognize her from the First Eucharistic Prayer. The cult of this martyr started early but we really know nothing about her. Supposedly her breasts were cut off as part of her torture, and so she is the patron of breast cancer patients.
I am sure that no matter what she will entreat for those who need her intervention.
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
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
We often hear the adage of "Winning the battle but losing the war."
These two Jesuits argued theology with Calvinists in Southern France, and winning the battle lost their lives. But did they lose the war? Depends upon how you look at it and who you believe. Some say that those there at their trial say they won but were sentenced to death anyway. We also might say that losing the war they won eternal life and the martyr's crown.
John's and William's deaths are an illustration of the ugliness of fanaticism at work. But it is not always fanaticism which can lead to violence; even fundamental disagreements which can drive us to treat one another badly. The men who killed them are not limited to one group, one side or the other. They represent a mindless zeal that even Catholics can show when dealing with those who disagree, not just on actual teachings but emotional issues as well. We should not be surprised by bad behavior even among those who "are on our side." We can all deal harshly rather than lovingly with others. We must remember that Jesus acted with love even with those who killed him. Errors in dogma, errors in matters of conscience, errors in may have no right to life, but people who we consider “in error” do.
Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, It is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
-- 1 Corinthians 12:31—13:13
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
Scripture admonishes us to leave all behind for the Gospel, to make God the most important thing in our life, more that parents, spouses, children, home, money, security - everything. How willing am I to really do that? How much do I let, as Paul points out (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:32-35), the world interfere with this goal; how much do I allow it to at least distract me?
I also have to question whether or not I am really willing to die for the Gospel or not despite the cost to those around me.
Luis, a married layman with small children, gave up everything for the Gospel, regardless of the cost. I wonder what his family felt; I wonder how he felt when the the end became obvious. I wonder if I am as good a man, either as the martyr or as the martyr's spouse.
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through [the] eye of [a] needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last, and [the] last will be first.”
-- Mark 10:17-31
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
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 forth 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 everyday that your eulogy is delivered by a saint and doctor of the Church. An ardent opponent of Arianism he was thrice exile for his opposition but lived in great company. He baptized and ordained John Chrysostom, consecrated Gregory of Nazianus as bishop of Constantinople, and Gregory of Nyssa delivered his eulogy.
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
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" such qualities as 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? (Though I am unable to determine the exact reference for this)
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 [flags], 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 framed 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 hath sung, as it were, the incorruptible song of truth, and by this hath 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
Hatred driven by righteousness is not righteous anger or righteousness.
Joseph was a deacon martyred during the iconoclastic persecutions of emperor Theophilus. Iconoclasts believed that all images were banned by God's law and so were determined to "break all the icons" (icono-clast). They believed that those that honored icons were idol worshipers and must be turned from their ways or die. Joseph and many others died in that controversy. And for what? What did killing him prove? That might makes right? That the importance of having my way trumps your life?
We are a big Church - we must always remember that, especially when dealing with our separated brothers and sisters as well as those within our own ranks who worship differently than we do.
The man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the LORD.” Next she bore his brother Abel. Abel became a keeper of flocks, and Cain a tiller of the soil. In the course of time Cain brought an offering to the LORD from the fruit of the soil, while Abel, for his part, brought one of the best firstlings of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not. Cain greatly resented this and was crestfallen. So the LORD said to Cain: “Why are you so resentful and crestfallen. If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.” Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out in the field.” When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” The LORD then said: “What have you done! Listen: your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil! Therefore you shall be banned from the soil that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. If you till the soil, it shall no longer give you its produce. You shall become a restless wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the LORD: “My punishment is too great to bear. Since you have now banished me from the soil, and I must avoid your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, anyone may kill me at sight.” “Not so!” the LORD said to him. “If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged sevenfold.” So the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight. Adam again had relations with his wife, and she gave birth to a son whom she called Seth. “God has granted me more offspring in place of Abel,” she said, “because Cain slew him.”
-- Genisis 4:1-15, 25
When you see Juliana depicted it is often as a young woman battling a winged devil, which may seem a bit St. George-ish but it is for a different reason. The dragon is representative of her trials and torture before her martyrdom, and from the description of them it is apt.
As a pastor, I am obligated by divine commandment to give my life for those I love ... even for those who would assassinate me.... For that reason, I offer God my blood for the redemption and resurrection of El Salvador.... Martyrdom is a grace that I don’t believe I merit. But if God accepts the sacrifice of my life, may my blood be the seed of liberty and sign that this hope will soon become a reality. May my death, if it is accepted by God, be for the liberation of my people and a testimony of hope in the future.
-- Oscar Romero, 1987
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? well that would be for another discussion - not a reflection).
Many of us look around 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
Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Some of us live in exciting time, which I understand it - for hobbits and saints - is actually a curse.
Jean-Francois grew up in France and joined the Vincentians there working in various capacities of education and leadership until driven out during the French Revolution. From there he went to China where, after ministering for many years, he was eventually martyred.
Most of us will never leave the comfort of our homes much less be challenged for our lives even once. Jean-Francois shows us though that God leads us into the fray no matter where we are. He seems to have be comfortable in what ever situation God placed him in, even in China where he apparently never really learned the language in the 28 years he labored in that vineyard.
Comfort is an interesting word, in that we can look at it from two perspectives: that of complacency and that of trust. Most of us live lives of complacency, comfortable in being unchallenged. Jean-Francois shows us the other perspective: that of total trust. Not in his own abilities which, while quite impressive, did not rise to comprehensive. He trusted God and therefore was comfortable, no matter how awkward the situation.
Our challenge is to be comfortable in challenging situations; to serve God fully, to the best of our abilities, without fear, without doubt, without question. To trust in His promises and mercy.
Jean-Francois pray for us!
What a great treasure is a good Missionary and how few people in this world, are willing to serve God and His Church in purity of faith, detachment from creatures and self-abnegation.
Friends are always the best part of our lives. I would hazard a guess that every culture has a word for friendship. Friends come in many types from passing acquaintance to deep family-like bonds. They also come in at various levels spiritually. We may not always agree theologically but the bond of brother and sisterhood in God is what truly makes us friends, as Jesus called the disciples at the Last Supper.
Quodvultdeus was one such friend to Augustine. While we easily recognize Augustine's name, his probably escapes us, even though Augustine dedicated several works to him.
Their friendship may have come to an end when Carthage was invaded by Arian Vandals and Quodvultdeus was unceremoniously exiled to Naples never to visit or see his friend again, but he continued to oppose the heresies of Arius and Pelagius.
We are molded by friendship, especially if we are blessed in the ministry of marriage. The effect that these two men had on each other is reflected in the effect they had on many, many others.
As an aside, just looking at his name, it can break apart into "Quod vult deus" which roughly is "What will God?"
A tiny child is born, who is a great king. Wise men are led to him from afar. They come to adore one who lies in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of one who is born a king, Herod is disturbed. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill him, though if he would have faith in the child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come. Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage. To destroy one child whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children. You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers and fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong you own life, though you are seeking to kill Life himself. The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The Christ child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself. But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying him homage, and do not know it. To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.
-- From a sermon on the Holy Innocents
What is it like to, from an early age, understand that the universe is larger that anyone imagines?
Jacinta was seven years old when Our Lady appeared to her and her older kin at Fatima, and not quite ten years old when she died during the Spanish Flu pandemic .
By all accounts she was a delightful child (I love her hand on her hip stance in the photo with her brother and cousin), and her death arising from complications of the Flu was painful and agonizing. And she died alone, as Our Lady said she would. So much life for one so small.
I am not quite sure what to add. As a parent I feel the agony her parents must have felt losing several children during the pandemic but especially one so young, so special, and so full of life.
I always say that we get the years we are supposed to get and, short or long, that life is life and living it for God is its only purpose. There are those that live long lives and share much grace and those that live short lives but share just as much grace. Jacinta live a short life, but what a life it was.
At seven she had visions and conversations with Mary; not quite ten, she sought the sacraments before she died. How many of us can say that we committed ourselves to God and His message even in adulthood?
Jacinta pray that we too will hear the voice of God, wherever it comes from and respond with joy.
UPDATE (20/02/21): Jacinta, also pray for us in times of pandemic.
In her Memoirs (III, 6), Sister Lucia quotes Jacinta who had just been granted a vision: “Do you not see all those streets, all those paths and fields full of people crying out for food, yet have nothing to eat? And the Holy Father in a church, praying before the Immaculate Heart of Mary? And all those people praying with him?” Thank you, brothers and sisters, for being here with me! I could not fail to come here to venerate the Virgin Mary and to entrust to her all her sons and daughters. Under her mantle they are not lost; from her embrace will come the hope and the peace that they require, and that I implore for all my brothers and sisters in baptism and in our human family, especially the sick and the disabled, prisoners and the unemployed, the poor and the abandoned. Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to God with the hope that others will hear us; and let us speak to others with the certainty that God will help us. Indeed, God created us to be a source of hope for others, a true and attainable hope, in accordance with each person’s state of life. In “asking” and “demanding” of each of us the fulfillment of the duties of our proper state (Letters of Sister Lucia, 28 February 1943), God effects a general mobilization against the indifference that chills the heart and worsens our myopia. We do not want to be a stillborn hope! Life can survive only because of the generosity of other lives. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). The Lord, who always goes before us, said this and did this. Whenever we experience the cross, he has already experienced it before us. We do not mount the cross to find Jesus. Instead it was he who, in his self-abasement, descended even to the cross, in order to find us, to dispel the darkness of evil within us, and to bring us back to the light. With Mary’s protection, may we be for our world sentinels of the dawn, contemplating the true face of Jesus the Savior, resplendent at Easter. Thus may we rediscover the young and beautiful face of the Church, which shines forth when she is missionary, welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means and rich in love.
-- Homily of Pope Francis at Canonization Mass of Jacinta and Francisco
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- just because we feel that society is going to hell in a hand-basket is not excuse to abandon Faith. 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; as a saint 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
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 to be the steward of the Kingdom, given to him by Jesus, who was given it by the Father, 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 until that day when he, all the saints of my family in heaven, and the angels come to greet 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
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 by 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 of transmission of the Truth 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
We often hear the adage "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade."
I never really understood that - I really like lemons - but I understand what they are saying: when life events do not seem to go your way, take what you have been given and make something new of it.
That is what we Christians do, with the Cross, with suffering, with adversity, but also with joy. We transform the things of life because that is what Christ did. He did not destroy but fulfilled. We take hardship and transform it into salvation; we take joy and transform the world, transforming darkness into light.
So it was for Florentina (Ascensión was her taken name). When the Spanish Civil War expelled her and her order, when she could have just been assumed into another order or a convent in a more convenient place, she took the adversity and suffering and chose to become a missionary, to take her life and transform it to serve others in a new way and in a new place. Not that it would be much better than what she left; not that it would be easier than what she had already endured. She merely got on with what she was already doing. So she did not really transform her vocation, sort of like me and lemons, but transformed it by making something new of it. Rather than wasting it she bumped it up a notch, like making lemonade from lemons (and some sugar).
I address in particular the Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary, so that, following the example of their Blessed Foundress, they help us to relive the spirit of St Dominic in our times. Keep alive the experience of God's presence in missionary life - "God is so closely felt", Mother Ascensión would say -, the spirit of fraternity in your communities, ready to go to those places where the Church needs you, with that bold spirit which led Mother Ascensión to the undeveloped territory of the Vicariate of Puerto Maldonado. I greet the pilgrims of this Apostolic Vicariate and of the other Peruvian regions, in whom I see maturing a precious fruit of genuine evangelization, cultivated with an especially feminine care. I also greet the pilgrims from Navarra, birthplace of the new Blessed, and from the other parts of Spain, where the seed of faith is deeply rooted and has given many missionaries to the entire world. The ceremony took place on a very significant day for missionaries and for the entire Church: the vigil of Pentecost, a moment in which, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, the disciples of Jesus fearlessly launched themselves to proclaim everywhere and publicly Jesus' teaching. Since then, others have welcomed the missionary mandate, placing their energies at the service of the Gospel. Among them is Mother Ascensión, who, in turn, allowed herself to be inflamed by the fire of Pentecost and made it her duty to spread it in the world. May she now intercede for all of you so that you bring to the world the light that gave splendor to her life and joy to her heart.
-- Pope Benedict XVI, Address To The Pilgrims Gathered In Rome For The Beatification Of Ascensión Nicol Goñi And Marianne Cope, Monday, 16 May 2005
Family man. Seems like a simple title, and one, if you are a father or mother, that carries many conflicting responsibilities: I serve God by serving my family, but what is the best way of serving my family?
The pursuit of the means to provide food, shelter, and education can sometimes overwhelm us or make us cranky and tired whereby our family suffers emotionally; if I spend more time worrying about the emotional and spiritual aspects of my family am I neglecting opportunities to enhance their physical well-being?
These are over-simplifications I know, but you get the picture.
Laurentius was born poor, struggled as a day laborer, marrying late, in his thirties. He was a husband and father, not of means or status but was known for his honesty and humility.
A convert, he was arrested when he objected to the arrest of his spiritual father and when ordered to renounce his Faith, he refused and was then tortured and killed.
I'm not sure what became of his wife and daughter, but he represents to me that struggle we parents face in trying to live our Faith, no matter what the consequences. Was he wrong in not renouncing so as to continue being a husband and father? I cannot say. Do we benefit from his strong witness? I can say yes to that.
However we end up living our lives, we must be true to Christ first, trusting that God will take care of the rest.
“Therefore do not be afraid of them. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.
-- Matthew 10:26-33