This is a movable feast so I place it at the head of the month.
While most of us do not understand the hypostatic union, it is easy to see Jesus as divine, sitting in majesty on his throne, yet we can still have trouble trying to get our heads around Jesus' human nature.
This feast celebrates that aspect of him; certainly we can be confused by the Incarnation and our celebration of that at Xmas, but this is not about God becoming human but the human Jesus who was born, grew, laughed, cried, ate, drank, talked, joked, corrected, taught.
When we use the word "sacred" we are talking about something that has been set aside for God, that is out of the mundane. Jesus' human heart, what we think of idyllically as the seat of the emotions, was given over to God's will. We hear of his compassion, his sorrow, his joy - all of these were felt "in his heart" just as for each of us.
We also remember that the spear pierced his human heart on the Cross, that final physical wound symbolizing all of the emotional wounds of that day and the previous evening; the wound he still carries, on his heavenly throne of majesty.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, remind us to turn our heart to you! Sacred Heart of Jesus remember your compassion and have mercy on us!
Debating the hypostatic union is really not for everyone, but what we all can agree on is that sometimes we forget that Jesus was fully human, head and heart. This feast, pointed to by (in what we do not consider irony) several mystics, reminds us of the fullness of God's plan for salvation. Jesus is God, but he is also one of us. He did not need to become human in order to understand our day-to-day sufferings and joys, but he did in order to show us that it is possible to bend the human will to the divine will without losing anything and gaining everything even amid human suffering. That is simple enough for the simplest of believers. As Bonaventure reminds us, the Church is born from the side of the human Jesus.
Now if you are up for the hypostatic debate...
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
-- Hebrews 4:14-16
You who have been redeemed, consider who it is who hangs on the cross for you, whose death gives life to the dead, whose passing is mourned by heaven and earth, while even the hard stones are split. Consider how great he is; consider what he is.
In order that the Church might be formed from the side of Christ as he slept on the cross, in order that the word of scripture might be fulfilled – ‘They shall look on him whom they have pierced’ – God’s providence decreed that one of the soldiers should open his sacred side with a spear, so that blood with water might flow out to pay the price of our salvation. This blood, which flowed from its source in the secret recesses of his heart, gave the sacraments of the Church power to confer the life of grace, and for those who already live in Christ was a draught of living water welling up to eternal life.
...O soul devoted to God, whoever you may be, run to this source of life and light with eager longing. And with the power of your inmost heart cry out to him: ‘O indescribable beauty of God most high! O pure radiance of everlasting light! O life that gives life to all life! O light that illuminates every light, and preserves in its undying splendor the myriad flames that have shone before the throne of your godhead from the dawn of time!
-- St Bonaventure, The Tree of Life
Words are powerful ideas. In Hebrew theology, knowing the name of something gives you power over it. When God give Moses His name, that means that Moses and Israel can call on Him and He will answer.
Justin wandered through various systems of thought before being convinced, intellectually, by The Word. When he saw others dying for the Faith he took it upon himself to convince the powers that be, and anyone else who would listen, as to the merits of Christianity. Eventually that led to his own arrest.
After some back and forth, Rusticus, his interrogator, said, "Let us come to the pressing matter at hand. Agree together and sacrifice with one accord to the gods." Justin replied, "No one who is rightly minded turns from true belief to what is false...If you do not obey, you shall be punished without mercy...If we are punished for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ we hope to be saved, for this shall be our salvation and confidence before the terrible judgment-seat of our Lord and Savior which shall judge the whole world." Rusticus condemned him and the others with him to death and he was beheaded.
So often we read only of his defense to martyrdom and rarely the works of his life, the reason we see him a not just a martyr but a Father. The following gives insight into his reason to hope even in the midst of his trial: "true belief."
But following our order, we must now speak with respect to those who think meanly of the flesh, and say that it is not worthy of the resurrection nor of the heavenly economy, because, first, its substance is earth; and besides, because it is full of all wickedness, so that it forces the soul to sin along with it. But these persons seem to be ignorant of the whole work of God, both of the genesis and formation of man at the first, and why the things in the world were made. For does not the word say, "Let Us make man in our image, and after our likeness?" What kind of man? Manifestly He means fleshly man, For the word says, "And God took dust of the earth, and made man." It is evident, therefore, that man made in the image of God was of flesh. Is it not, then, absurd to say, that the flesh made by God in His own image is contemptible, and worth nothing? But that the flesh is with God a precious possession is manifest, first from its being formed by Him, if at least the image is valuable to the former and artist; and besides, its value can be gathered from the creation of the rest of the world. For that on account of which the rest is made, is the most precious of all to the maker.
-- Treatise on the Resurrection, VII
You might recognize these two from Eucharistic Prayer I. Pope Damasus heard the story of these martyrs from their executioner.
Marcellinus was a priest, Peter was not but was very good at bringing people to Christ, even his jailer. Marcellinus was good at baptizing the people that Peter brought to Christ. For that both were arrested, I would guess for disrupting the public service of public servants by making them Christian and therefore citizens unwilling to perform their public duties of offering sacrifices.
Whatever the case, they apparently even convinced the man who killed them and so much so that he would relate it to a young boy who would one day be pope for his inspiration.
Salvation is a cooperation of all of us, laity, religious, and clergy alike. Do not be afraid to aid in RCIA and be Peter to your pastor's Marcellinus!
We beseech you, O Lord, pour your grace into our hearts, that as we have known the Incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ by the message of an angel, so by His Cross and Passion we may be brought unto the glory of His Resurrection; through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord, so great is our love for you that even though we walk in a world where speaking your name can mean certain death your faithful still speak it and speak it all the louder.
Help us work for a world where all may speak their creeds and pray their prayers without fear of violence.
Hear the prayers of those who abide with you in dangerous times and in dark valleys, and who die with your name on their lips. Draw them quickly to your side where they might know eternal peace. Amen.
-- From the Angelus, and the Prayer for Christian Martyrs
Charles Lwanga is the patron of youth and Catholic action, because of his great care and protection of youth. His is a lesson for us today. It is not a weakness but predatory actions which cause so much pain. Sin is recognizable, and it cannot be justified by our desires, or custom. Children need to be taught and protected while we teach them. They must learn that there is evil in the world but they need not experience that evil in order to know it is there. They are innocent and need to be taught lessons of charity not just taught a lesson.
Children do not need to be denied the knowledge of evil. They need to be taught to recognize it, in themselves and in others. Our actions and examples as adults dictate their ability to know and fight evil. Charles' gift of his life inspired the children he taught to understand their worth and the means that others would use to take that worth away. We pray that Charles help us to act in the world to fight injustice but also to spread charity and thereby overcome injustice.
Peter turned and saw the disciple following whom Jesus loved, the one who had also reclined upon his chest during the supper and had said, "Master, who is the one who will betray you?" When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus said to him, "What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me." So the word spread among the brothers that that disciple would not die. But Jesus had not told him that he would not die, just "What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours?"
-- John 21:20-23
One of the difficulties of being a parent is the outcome of our children's lives. We really have no true control, except over our own actions to "Train the young in the way they should go" and hope that "even when old, they will not swerve from it." (Proverbs 22:6)
While she was eventually able to persuade her husband Clovis to live the Faith, Clotilde's children went the way of politics, vying for power and using less than charitable means to achieve and keep it.
After failing to inspire her children Clotilde retreated from the life at court and dedicated her life to prayer and the building of churches. She went on to be added to the canon, her children to obscurity.
I am sure that she continued to love her children and pray for their conversion and salvation. That is the best any of us parents can do.
We can pray for her support and intercession for all children, especially our own.
I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.
-- John 17:6-11a
I just want to take today and thank all of the missionaries who have left their homes and brought Christ to the world even at the risk of their lives. I have certainly benefited from your benefice.
Let us stand fast in what is right and prepare our souls for trial. Let us wait upon God’s strengthening aid and say to him: O Lord, you have been our refuge in all generations.
Let us trust in him who has placed this burden upon us. What we ourselves cannot bear let us bear with the help of Christ. For he is all-powerful and he tells us: My yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Let us continue the fight on the day of the Lord. The days of anguish and of tribulation have overtaken us; if God so wills, let us die for the holy laws of our fathers, so that we may deserve to obtain an eternal inheritance with them.
Let us be neither dogs that do not bark nor silent onlookers nor paid servants who run away before the wolf. Instead let us be careful shepherds watching over Christ’s flock. Let us preach the whole of God’s plan to the powerful and to the humble, to rich and to poor, to men of every rank and age, as far as God gives us the strength, in season and out of season, as Saint Gregory writes in his book of Pastoral Instruction.
-- From a letter
It is the people who see a need and fill it who are the true saints. Individuals become missionaries not always by choice but by need. It may start local but ends up in places we could never imagine. By working on local problems we often see the need for social justice in a wider framework. Both Norbert and Marcellin started by not just meeting local needs but teaching as well. Ignorance and poverty so often go hand in hand and the legacy of abbeys created by Norbert sustained Europe during tough times; Marcellin's Marists embed themselves around the world. The world is better for the both of them, and their simple vision of compassion.
I cannot see a child without wanting to tell him how much Jesus loves him.
-- Marcellin Champagnat, quoted from the Vatican website.
Let me just start by saying that today is a day of names! I am reminded of Tolkien's (what I thought of as at least) unusual so named hobbit. I know that most authors choose their names carefully (as you can definitely see in the Harry Potter series) so I will choose to think that Tolkien had a special affinity for this Meriadoc (or someone of the same name). But in addition, today is a cavalcade of names! I am sure they all sounded great in their day but today I would pity the child named for them! Deochar, Gotteschalk, Wallabonsus, Landulf, Basilissa, Wistremundus, Sabinian, Demosthenes, Habentius, Aventinus, Vulflagius, Lycarion, Potamiaena (the younger, no less), Odo, Quirinus, Sergius, Candidus, Herkumbert. I do not mock but want to point out that as well as Meriadoc each of these saints affected someone, some place, some moment in history by their lives - that is why they are saints. I pray for all their intercessions today.
Meriadoc was a very wealthy lord of a large manor. He renounced his title, he sold off his property, and gave the proceeds to the poor. He then became a hermit. Eventually he was appointed the bishop of Vannes, France, which again only goes to show that a life dedicated to Christ, even as a hermit, binds you to Christ and his Church, not separates you. Legend says that if placed against the head of the sufferer, a bell from his church in Stival, Brittany would cure deafness and migraines - hence he is the patron of such suffers. Today I ask his intercession for the many I know who suffer migraines.
Again he left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) And [immediately] the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and [the] mute speak.”
-- Mark 7:31-37
Politics and religion can make for not just strange bedfellows but for trouble as well. It is perhaps the two-edged sword of Western expansion that brought Christianity along with it. It is not so much that it became safer to be a missionary in these places but that the door opened for it to happen. Of course, politically, the opening of that door was not often from the inside. The association of the arrival of missionaries with armies in the eyes and minds of the indigenous leaders is very understandable. For those who were touched by one or the other then their view is perhaps skewed against the other.
Jacques showed up in Madagascar with the French and faced opposition with local leaders for valid reasons, if one only looked at the political side. But he also made many missions and brought many to the Faith. This too can be a threat to political leaders. I do not know.
Whatever the reason he was martyred being shot after torture and having his body unceremoniously dumped into a river but not before expanding the Church.
Pray for all missionaries, that all will see the good in their work and give praise to the Father.
"God knows I love and if I still love and [the native soil and the beloved land of Auvergne]. And yet God gives me the grace to love more these uncultivated fields of Madagascar, where I can only catch a few souls for our Lord....The mission progresses, while the fruits are still in hope and in many places barely visible in others. But what does it matter, as long as we are good sowers, God will give growth in his own time."
-- From several Jesuit websites
Quick - name all of the Doctors of the Church!
Okay tell me the number of Doctors then...
Okay, name one of the Doctors of the Church...
I am sure that Ephrem is not the Doctor who jumps to mind when struggling to answer these questions. Yet he was widely acknowledged in his day and afterwards. St. Jerome said: "Ephraem, deacon of the Church of Edessa, wrote many works in Syriac, and became so famous that his writings are publicly read in some churches after the Sacred Scriptures. I have read in Greek a volume of his on the Holy Spirit; though it was only a translation, I recognized therein the sublime genius of the man" (De viris illustr., c. cxv).
Ephrem did not just write about the wondrous mysteries of God, he sang about them. Many hymns and poems are also attributed to him (he even wrote homilies in verse). He was known as the “Harp of the Holy Spirit,” and in recognition of his theological works and for spreading the faith through song, Pope Benedict XV declared him a Doctor of the Church, in 1920.
P.S. the number of doctors is 35 if I count right and no, I cannot name them off the top of my head either.
The Light of the just and joy of the upright is Christ Jesus our Lord.
Begotten of the Father, He manifested himself to us.
He came to rescue us from darkness and to fill us with the radiance of His light.
Day is dawning upon us; the power of darkness is fading away.
From the true Light there arises for us the light which illumines our darkened eyes.
His glory shines upon the world and enlightens the very depths of the abyss.
Death is annihilated, night has vanished, and the gates of Sheol are broken.
Creatures lying in darkness from ancient times are clothed in light.
The dead arise from the dust and sing because they have a Savior.
He brings salvation and grants us life. He ascends to his Father on high.
He will return in glorious splendor and shed His light on those gazing upon Him.
Our King comes in majestic glory.
Let us light our lamps and go forth to meet Him.
Let us find our joy in Him, for He has found joy in us.
He will indeed rejoice us with His marvelous light.
Let us glorify the majesty of the Son and give thanks to the almighty Father
Who, in an outpouring of love, sent Him to us, to fill us with hope and salvation.
When He manifests Himself, the saints awaiting Him in weariness and sorrow,
will go forth to meet Him with lighted lamps.
The angels and guardians of heaven will rejoice
in the glory of the just and upright people of earth;
Together crowned with victory,
they will sing hymns and psalms.
Stand up then and be ready!
Give thanks to our King and Savior,
Who will come in great glory to gladden us
with His marvelous light in His kingdom.
-- Hymn to the Light
We may always think we live in times that have never been seen before or that bad things no longer happen because we have outgrown bad behavior, but man's inhumanity to man is constant.
When we decide that a segment of society, nay, humanity, is not important then we decide that they do not need human love, care, concern, or nourishment - that they are not human.
We can justify, within the context of our own thought, that we are doing what is "right" because we ourselves are not adversely affected by it or it falls under the principle of "out of sight, out of mind."
We can say "it is for the good of society, or for the good of the majority. We may determine that their lives are not as important as ours, that they should change, be like us, if they want us to respect or even acknowledge them.
The Martyrs of the Hulks were French priests and religious who refused to sign loyalty oaths that would in essence make them servants of the State rather than servants of God.
They were corralled away on rotting hulks of ships no longer sea worthy and left to rot and die with them. Starvation, poor sanitation, and neglect marked their days. If this sounds familiar, it is. We are reminded of the slave trade. Nowadays we use the term "ghetto" (or even "prison" if you want) to describe such living conditions as well as the social treatment that goes along with it.
It does not matter that these martyrs are white, not Jews, or African-American, or Irish, or East Indian, or Asian, or Hispanic, or any group that has been disenfranchised by the larger society. What matters is that we see this again and again, even though we call ourselves "enlightened." We look down on what we consider the ignorance in others and fail to take the plank out of our own eye.
Christ reminds us that to do for the least is to do for him. May the suffering of the martyrs give blessings to us! May we see their plight in the plight of others and hear their cries!
For you yourselves know, brothers, that our reception among you was not without effect. Rather, after we had suffered and been insolently treated, as you know, in Philippi, we drew courage through our God to speak to you the gospel of God with much struggle. [As we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl with an oracular spirit, who used to bring a large profit to her owners through her fortune-telling. She began to follow Paul and us, shouting, “These people are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She did this for many days. Paul became annoyed, turned, and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” Then it came out at that moment. When her owners saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the public square before the local authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These people are Jews and are disturbing our city and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us Romans to adopt or practice.” The crowd joined in the attack on them, and the magistrates had them stripped and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After inflicting many blows on them, they threw them into prison and instructed the jailer to guard them securely. When he received these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and secured their feet to a stake. (Acts 16:16-24)] 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 human beings, 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 human beings, 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. You recall, brothers, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers. As you know, we treated each one of you as a father treats his children, exhorting and encouraging you and insisting that you conduct yourselves as worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
-- 1 Thessalonians 2:1-24
I do not think that anyone becomes an apostle by choice, or seeks out the chance to be in the service of apostles, for that matter.
Barnabas came together with Paul to seek out those who do not know Christ in the wider world. And like Paul he started out with another name, Joseph, and was given a new one "which means, the man of encouragement".
It seems from what we know of him (which is more than most of the original 12) it was an appropriate name. He was a Levite in service to the priests of Aaron, who put himself at the service of the new priests, the Apostles.
Eventually he became the advocate for that other renamed convert, who was such a scourge on the Early Church. Who would ever ask to be in a support position like that? He also seems to have no problem with Paul "outshining" him; he seems content to drift to the background while continuing to spread the Gospel. Yet his gift was that he seemed to sense the potential in others and advocate for them and give them courage to serve.
But he was a man of strong opinions and zeal for the Church and Christ, so it makes sense. It also shows the two sides of that zeal. He breaks with the man he championed over the weakness of another. The faint heart heart of Mark pushed the limits of Paul's human capability to forgive. It is the irony that Barnabas, who forgave and heard the Lord in Paul, should lose to Paul's inability to see and do the same for another. Who would ever wish to be asked to choose one child over another?
Barnabas, from the moment he sold everything and laid it at the feet of the Apostles lived as the man he was, true to his role as Levite and true to his roll as apostle and companion. Eventually this man of encouragement and support even won over Paul's heart. We are fortunate to have Barnabas, who counters both Peter's wishy-washiness and Paul's rigidness.
So it behooves us to emulate him and ask for his constant support and encouragement - perhaps we too can be called "a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith".
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. Thus Joseph, also named by the apostles Barnabas (which is translated “son of encouragement”), a Levite, a Cypriot by birth, sold a piece of property that he owned, then brought the money and put it at the feet of the apostles.
...In those days a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to go to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.
-- Acts 4:32-37; 11:21-24
Perhaps one pope a month is enough; perhaps not. Leo stands out not just for his charity but because he crowned Charlemagne king, marking the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire.
We could discuss the merits of such a move, but not here. We could discuss his motives (which could be argued were justifiable), but not here.
Instead, let us look at what he means to us as a saint, not as a historical figure.
He took the money that Charlemagne gave him and used it to help the poor. He used his power as pope to practice forgiveness and removed the death sentence from people who attacked and maimed him.
While he may be both famous and infamous we remember to call on his intercession in times of need.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit. Moreover, we have seen and testify that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world. Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.
God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.
-- 1 John 4:7-16
Most people turn to Anthony when they have lost something, but in Padua he is celebrated for his preaching, teaching, and pastoral care. In fact, if you are ever in Padua you can see the rather jarring relic of his incorrupt tongue and lower jaw. Elsewhere he is known as a missionary. His cult is strong in places like India, where he is seen as a great healer.
However you call on him, he is a saint of quick response.
Prayer means to direct our affection toward God through a devout and friendly conversation with Him. It is the tranquility of a mind enlightened from on high. Prayer is also required to obtain those earthly goods necessary for this mortal life. But those who pray must ask the Lord, with an authentic Christian spirit, to subdue their will to His will: our Heavenly Father knows what we truly need on this earth. Finally, prayer is an act of thanksgiving, a recognition of benefits received, and a donation of our commitment to God so that our prayer might be everlasting.
Elisha is the prophet "chosen" by the prophet Elijah in the First book of Kings. Elisha then travels with Elijah pretty much through to the Second book of Kings. Elijah was a prophet during the reign of kings Ahab, Ahaziah and Joram; Elisha took over during Joram's reign, and through the reigns of Jehu, Jehoahaz and Jehoash.
They worked God's message for a long time but for me meaning of their names are as important as their message and in a sense are their message. In Hebrew, Elijah means "Elohim is Yahweh"; the meaning of Elisha is "God is salvation."
This is a subtle point but the two prophets make it - without going into long detail, suffice it to say that the farmer's name for God (Elohim) and the warrior God of the Exodus (Yahweh) are one, and that GOD (the one in the same) is the Savior for both the farmer and the warrior - of all of Israel. There is no difference, no matter how you came to experience Him.
Now-a-days, Elisha's name roughly translates to "son." That is also significant, especially to the Carmelites who celebrate today and celebrate Elijah as their "father." Elisha took up Elijah's work and walked in his footsteps as a son, performing miracles and relating a message that mirrored his "father in Faith."
The Hebrew Scriptures hold for us Christians the keys to understanding GOD. Let us honor Saint Elisha by doing our Father's will, as did Jesus.
Elijah set out, and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak on him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother good-bye, and I will follow you.” Elijah answered, “Go back! What have I done to you?” Elisha left him and, taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to the people to eat. Then he left and followed Elijah to serve him.
-- 1 Kings 19:19-21
Why is it that the ones who should support us (or whom we should support) are those closest to us and yet are the ones most likely to earn our scorn?
Germaine was denigrated and ostracized by her family for a deformation and illness. It was only after her holiness came to light through miracles that they tried to reconcile with her. That was not the only irony. Her remains were accidentally exhumed in 1644 during a renovation of the church in Pibrac, where her body was found to be incorrupt. In 1793 the casket was desecrated during the French Revolution anti-Catholic purge when a group of men took out the remains and buried them in the sacristy, throwing quick-lime and water on them. After the Revolution, her body was found to be still intact save where the quick-lime had done its work.
Her body, deformed and marked by illness was incorruptible, unable to be destroyed even by malicious guile. Is that not how God works! We may be broken and reviled by "normal" society, even our families but it does not stop the love of God.
Consider your own calling, brothers. 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
Fans of the musical Godspell should recognize the prayer if not its author but they really miss out on the first part of this prayer - it certainly rounds it out and succinctly provides the fullness of prayer.
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits thou hast given me,
for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
may I know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly, day by day.
Botulph was a nobleman who left it all to become a monk, joining the Benedictine order in France. After some time he returned to his family home to establish the order in England. For many years it was believed that the area that grew up around the monastery came to be called "Botulph's Town" in his honor. Later it was contracted to "Botulphston", and then contracted to "Boston" in Lincolnshire. Recent research has shown that the original site is another location. It would be a nice story that Boston, the hot-bed of revolution and anti-Catholicism and the future home for so many Irish Catholics was named for an English Catholic saint.
Still, we remember him as a man of prayer, mission work, and community who laid the ground-work for the strong tradition of Benedictines in England which lasted for many centuries after his death.
The wearied man of God looked about him everywhere, till at last he found, by the mercy of God, such a desert spot which was just the God-forsaken, devil-possessed place he was in search of.
-- unknown ancient writer describing Botulph's selection of sites for his monastery
The evil spirits who people the place were disturbed at his coming. A noxious vapour was exhaled from the ground, and the daemons gave vent to terrifying groans. They had dwelt there, they said, for a long time, and had thought to do so for ever. They had no other place to go to. Why could not Saint Botolph seek some other spot, since the whole world was singing his praises? He was acting unkindly in disturbing them. - unknown ancient writer describing the problems Botulph caused evil spirits that inhabited the site of his Ikanhoe monastery
Saint Botulph sought a desert spot
And found a lonely mound,
He opened there a house of prayer
And made it holy ground.
He lived a humble, quiet life,
From crowded scenes apart;
Yet others often sought him out
To share his joy of heart.
- from a hymn by Jane Dansie, Castle Methodist Church, Colchester, England
Not everyone gets to be the front man. Sometimes it is just enough to be in the background, doing God's will and working hard to do the will of the Spirit in the Church. That is Gregory - always a bridesmaid and never a bride. In the College of Cardinals he participated in the election of four popes.
Mainly he was known as a distinguished churchman and leading citizen whose charities were on a princely scale and for his work for unity between the Latin and Orthodox Churches - that they may be one - a noble task.
A lasting covenant was made with him, that never again would all flesh be destroyed. He observed the Most High’s command, and entered into a covenant with him; In his own flesh he incised the ordinance, and when tested was found loyal. From him came the man who would win the favor of all the living: Dear to God and human beings, God made him like the angels in honor, and strengthened him with fearful powers. At his words God performed signs and sustained him in the king’s presence. He gave him the commandments for his people, and revealed to him his glory. Because of his trustworthiness and meekness God selected him from all flesh; He let him hear his voice, and led him into the cloud, Where he handed over the commandments, the law of life and understanding, That he might teach his precepts to Jacob, his judgments and decrees to Israel. He made his office perpetual and bestowed on him priesthood for his people; He established him in honor and crowned him with lofty majesty. He clothed him in splendid garments, and adorned him with glorious vestments.
-- Sirach 44:18,20; 45:1-8
How do we react when we see evil? Do we watch and wag our heads? Do we step in to stop the bully at our own risk? Do we seek to redress that evil with our lives?
Think about it. People constantly ask us to give some sort of remuneration for the evil that plagues our world and our lives. People who have devoted themselves to a cause, to the hope of mitigating that evil, or lack, or that deficency which we may or may not see ourselves.
We can also see the ones, like missionaries, who do devote their lives not to mitigating evil per se but to spreading the Gospel, the message of Love and Hope through Faith. Mitigating ignorance, disease, animosity.
Romuald saw his father kill a man in a duel. What was his reaction? He devoted himself to Christ.
The world, the condition that flows from our sinfulness, that hinges on the lies and promises of Satan. It is twisted and cruel and demands similar actions and beliefs from us. Beliefs such that we must fight to avenge a perceived or actual wrong.
The Kingdom, that which flows from the grace of God, hinges on the Truth and the promises of Christ. It is a place of the reaction of Remauld where one gives themselves over, not to hatred and selfishness, but to the service of God and others.
In Christ, we do not turn our backs on the world, but turn to embrace Creation. We work and God will bring our works to fruition.
Remauld help us to recognize evil not as the world does but as Christ does and help us to step up and live the Gospel.
Romuald lived in the vicinity of the city of Paranzo for three years. In the first year he built a monastery and appointed an abbot with monks. For the next two years he remained there in seclusion. Wherever the holy man might arrange to live, he would follow the same pattern. First he would build an oratory with an altar in a cell; then he would shut himself in and forbid access. Finally, after he had lived in many places, perceiving that his end was near, he returned to the monastery he had built in the valley of Castro. While he awaited with certainty his approaching death, he ordered a cell to be constructed there with an oratory in which he might isolate himself and preserve silence until death. Accordingly, the hermitage was built, since he had made up his mind that he would die there. His body began to grow more and more oppressed by afflictions and was already failing. One day he began to feel the loss of his physical strength under all the harassment of increasingly violent afflictions. As the sun was beginning to set, he instructed two monks who were standing by to go out and close the door of the cell behind them; they were to come back to him at daybreak to celebrate matins. They were so concerned about his end that they went out reluctantly and did not rest immediately. On the contrary, since they were worried that their master night die, they lay hidden near the cell and watched this precious treasure. For some time they continued to listen attentively until they heard neither movement nor sound. Rightly guessing what had happened, they pushed open the door, rushed in quickly, lit a candle and found the holy man lying on his back, his blessed soul snatched up into heaven.
-- from a biography of Saint Romuald by Saint Peter Damian
Tit for tat. So often we live not in love and tolerance but hate and vengeance. The cruelty we inflict on one another to prove a point everyday is lit up in big events. What end does torture, burning, hanging, drawing, and quartering accomplish? In our daily lives, what end does an unkind word bring about?
We can use today to celebrate those who have died by our hands for the Faith, not just these Irish but all: Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant alike.
God punishes for chastisement and edification; why do we punish?
But it is the Will of God that Christ both did and taught. Humility in dealings with others; steadfastness in faith; modesty in words; justice in deeds; mercy in works; discipline in morals. To be unable to do a wrong, and to be able to bear a wrong when it is done; to keep peace with the brethren; to love God with all one’s heart; to love God because he is a Father but fear him because he is God; to prefer nothing whatever to Christ because he preferred nothing to us; to adhere inseparably to his love; to stand faithfully and bravely by his cross; when there is any conflict over his name and honor, to exhibit in discourse that steadfastness in which we proclaim him; in torture, to show that confidence in which we unite; in death, that patience in which we are crowned – this is what it means to want to be co-heirs with Christ, this is what it means to do what God commands, this is what it is to fulfill the will of the Father.
-- St Cyprian, Treatise on the Our Father
Sometimes having too much can teach us the value of having nothing.
Take care above all things, most honored lady, not to insult God's boundless loving kindness; you would certainly do this if you mourned as dead one living face to face with God, one whose prayers can bring you in your troubles more powerful aid than they ever could on earth. And our parting will not be for long; we shall see each other again in heaven; we shall be united with our Savior; there we shall praise him with heart and soul, sing of his mercies for ever, and enjoy eternal happiness.
-- From a letter to his mother
In some modern scholarship, Thomas seems to have been a horrible person and Cromwell a saint, but I look at the people around him, his family and contemporaries, and see a different picture. Certainly some of his duties as Chancellor seem harsh to us but then after his death it was no better, so I am not so sure it was a character flaw. I see that his children looked to him for and followed his spiritual advice; his portrait painter, Hans Holbein the Younger, who lived in his house, painted a picture of a man not with harsh edges and features but of soft thoughtful continence. And I have to ask myself, if he were not such a man of influence as to be admired, then why did Henry care so much about his opinion?
It is hard to know which portrait is truer, but suffice it to say that he was a man of wit and deep Faith and conviction and that he was deeply loved by those around him, including Henry who had him killed.
John, bishop that he was, enjoyed none of the niceties that Thomas knew in prison and compared to Thomas was even more of a hero to his Catholic contemporaries, not caught up as Thomas was in the complexities and compromises of the English court, things which he strenuously avoided preferring to concentrate on theology and the care of his flock. Still they died at the same time for the same reason: they both opposed Henry's divorce and separation from Rome, though John was much more vocal about it.
John and Thomas especially sought reform into the image of Christ from within the Church and were troubled by those who would undermine such efforts by re-forming the church in their own image.
Sometimes we walk a line between being true to the Faith and challenging others to be so and compassionately trying to change others hearts quietly. Thomas and John give us examples of both and of what can happen either way.
A prayer for our enemies
Almighty God, have mercy on N. [and N.], and on all that bear me evil will, and would me harm, and their faults and mine together by such easy, tender, merciful means as thine infinite wisdom best can devise; vouchsafe to amend and redress and make us saved souls in Heaven together, where we may ever live and love together with thee and thy blessed saints, O glorious Trinity, for the bitter passion of our sweet Savior Christ. Amen.
Lord, give me patience in tribulation and grace in everything, to conform my will to thine, that I may truly say:
“Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in cælo et in terra”*.
The things, good Lord, that I pray for, give me thy grace to labor for. Amen.
* Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
-- Thomas More
There is little to this life sometimes, and as we get older we can see that clearer than when we are young, trying to make our way in the world. I think we can put that sort of behavior down to the number of divorces and abortions that we see.
We can spend so much energy on the future that we do not put stock in the here and now. We can live life day-to-day but not in the moment and without foundation except the events of the day; we twist in the wind. We forget that true moments are captured and are timeless, like the love of a man and a woman or the life that grows within. These things are not measured in days.
Gallicanus was a ranking soldier in Constantine's army and a politician, but he left it all behind in order to found a hospital in the sea port of Ostia and spend the rest of his life caring for the sick and the poor there.
We can pursue what we think is important but find, eventually, what really is important. Jesus does not mince words with the rich young man. We all seek balance in our lives but sometimes the balance scale tilts to the worldly side. Love is renewed everyday, every moment and we should grasp it, because in the end, it is all that is important - as Jesus tells us, it is the only thing that lasts.
Gallicanus pray for us; help us to pray to do God's will and not our own.
The life of the Christian has three distinguishing aspects: deeds, words and thought. Thought comes first, then words, since our words express openly the interior conclusions of the mind. Finally, after thoughts and words, comes action, for our deeds carry out what the mind has conceived. So when one of these results in our acting or speaking or thinking, we must make sure that all our thoughts, words, and deeds are controlled by the divine ideal, the revelation of Christ. For then our thoughts, words and deeds will not fall short of the nobility of their implications.
What then must we do, we who have been found worthy of the name of Christ? Each of us must examine his thoughts, words and deeds, to see whether they are directed towards Christ or are turned away from him.
-- From a treatise on Christian Perfection, St Gregory of Nyssa
Like some, I have mixed feelings about this saint. My experiences with the Opus Dei order were not always positive, and much controversy swirled around him all of which colored my thoughts and feelings.
When the process for sainthood began in earnest, many revelations from reliable witnesses on both sides of the battle came to light. Was Josemaria a saint or a sinner? Was he humble or egotistical? Selfless or self-serving? Deeply spiritual or simplistic? He seemed to be both.
In the end miracles were attributed to his intercession and John Paul II, a big admirer and himself a victim of political oppression as well as a saint of controversy, approved his cause.
So, I have to ask myself, am I judging or am I letting God judge?
We are all a mix of good and bad, saint and sinner. Not that I am actively living so as to remove all doubt, but I hope to never have my cause put forth out of sheer embarrassment for my failings! I defer then to God and His mercy, and hope that Josemaria, cleansed of his failings, prays in earnest for us fellow sinners.
Today also celebrates the martyrdom of several Greek Catholics killed by Russian Communists as they retreated from the Germans in 1941. It is a balance that hurts my soul but enlivens it as well.
Consider for a moment the event I have just described. We are celebrating the holy Eucharist, the sacramental sacrifice of the Body and Blood of our Lord, that mystery of faith which binds together all the mysteries of Christianity. We are celebrating, therefore, the most sacred and transcendent act which we, men and women, with God's grace can carry out in this life: receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord is, in a certain sense, like loosening our ties with earth and time, so as to be already with God in heaven, where Christ himself will wipe the tears from our eyes and where there will be no more death, nor mourning, nor cries of distress, because the old world will have passed away.
This profound and consoling truth, which theologians usually call the eschatological meaning of the Eucharist, could, however, be misunderstood. Indeed, this has happened whenever people have tried to present the Christian way of life as something exclusively spiritual — or better, spiritualistic something reserved for pure, extraordinary people who remain aloof from the contemptible things of this world, or at most tolerate them as something that the spirit just has to live alongside, while we are on this earth.
When people take this approach, churches become the setting par excellence of the Christian way of life. And being a Christian means going to church, taking part in sacred ceremonies, getting into an ecclesiastical mentality, in a special kind of world, considered the ante-chamber to heaven, while the ordinary world follows its own separate course. In this case, Christian teaching and the life of grace would pass by, brushing very lightly against the turbulent advance of human history but never coming into proper contact with it.
On this October morning, as we prepare to enter upon the memorial of our Lord's Pasch, we flatly reject this deformed vision of Christianity. Reflect for a moment on the setting of our Eucharist, of our Act of Thanksgiving. We find ourselves in a unique temple; we might say that the nave is the University campus; the altarpiece, the University library; over there, the machinery for constructing new buildings; above us, the sky of Navarre...
Surely this confirms in your minds, in a tangible and unforgettable way, the fact that everyday life is the true setting for your lives as Christians. Your daily encounter with Christ takes place where your fellow men, your yearnings, your work and your affections are. It is in the midst of the most material things of the earth that we must sanctify ourselves, serving God and all mankind.
-- In Love with the Church, Chapter 4, 51-52