To counteract bad culture it is often necessary to take it on and overcome it. The idea of Joseph the laborer as a true model for workers everywhere is an important teaching. This feast, like so many of our major feasts, falls on a day that is recognized by the prevailing culture and transforms it. This feast takes a flawed human understanding of work and transforms it into a correct view of humans and importance and the dignity of the work we do.
It also recalls, in this month of Mary, the importance of Joseph to the success of Mary's "yes" and the raising and guiding of Jesus.
St. Joseph, patron of the Church and workers, pray for us!
Man, created in God’s image, has been commissioned to master the earth and all it contains, and so rule the world in justice and holiness. He is to acknowledge God as the creator of all, and to see himself and the whole universe in relation to God, in order that all things may be subject to man, and God’s name be an object of wonder and praise over all the earth.
This commission extends to even the most ordinary activities of everyday life. Where men and women, in the course of gaining a livelihood for themselves and their families, offer appropriate service to society, they can be confident that their personal efforts promote the work of the Creator, confer benefit on their fellowmen, and help to realize God’s plan in history.
So far from thinking that the achievements gained by man’s abilities and strength are in opposition to God’s power, or that man with his intelligence is in some sense a rival to his Creator, Christians are, on the contrary, convinced that the triumphs of the human race are a sign of God’s greatness and the effect of his wonderful providence.
The more the power of men increases, the wider is the scope of their responsibilities, as individuals and as communities.
It is clear, then, that the Christian message does not deflect men from the building up of the world, or encourage them to neglect the good of their fellowmen, but rather places on them a stricter obligation to work for these objectives.
Human activity, to be sure, takes its significance from its relationship to man. Just as it proceeds from man, so it is ordered toward man. For when a man works he not only alters things and society, he develops himself as well. He learns much, he cultivates his resources, he goes outside of himself and beyond himself. Rightly understood this kind of growth is of greater value than any external riches which can be garnered. A man is more precious for what he is than for what he has. Similarly, all that men do to obtain greater justice, wider brotherhood, a more humane disposition of social relationships has greater worth than technical advances. For these advances can supply the material for human progress, but of themselves alone they can never actually bring it about.
Hence, the norm of human activity is this: that in accord with the divine plan and will, it harmonize with the genuine good of the human race, and that it allow men as individuals and as members of society to pursue their total vocation and fulfill it.
-- Gaudium et Spes, 34-35, Vatican II
The feast of Athanasius reminds us of the struggle against the easy way out that human rationality so often provides us. It also reminds us of the whole point of that struggle. If God had wished to merely restore Creation then *poof* it would be done. But that is not how the Father, with the Son and the Spirit created. Athanasius reminds us that the freewill we exercised in the Garden and to today is integral to Creation. The *poof* God provided was the exercise of freewill. The Father freely chose to send His Son, Jesus chose to freely take on the "form of a slave" in order to freely exercise the will of the Father. As Jesus shows us in his freely accepting the Cross, even death has meaning. Every aspect of Creation (aside from our sinfulness) has meaning. Nothing is chance or accident. Emmanuel (God with us) would have no meaning without this action.
As for death, today is appropriate, for we laid to rest a loved one. May their soul and the soul of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
The last line of today's quote sums up the truth and reality of the action of God that Athanasius defends.
The Word of God, ...[o]ut of his loving-kindness for us...came to us, and we see this in the way he revealed himself openly to us. Taking pity on mankind’s weakness, and moved by our corruption, he could not stand aside and see death have the mastery over us; he did not want creation to perish and his Father’s work in fashioning man to be in vain. He therefore took to himself a body, no different from our own, for he did not wish simply to be in a body or only to be seen.
If he had wanted simply to be seen, he could indeed have taken another, and nobler, body. Instead, he took our body in its reality....
The immortal Son of God, united with all men by likeness of nature, thus fulfilled all justice in restoring mankind to immortality by the promise of the resurrection.
The corruption of death no longer holds any power over mankind, thanks to the Word, who has come to dwell among them through his one body.
-- From a discourse by Athanasius
So many feasts of the apostles are lumped into the Easter Season - fitting of course as they give everything for the message so real and important to them.
In this crowd, it is James we know the most about; related to Jude and Jesus, and head of the Church in Jerusalem, we know of his martyrdom. Philip's fate is lost in obscurity. What we know so well from the Gospels is that Philip often seemed to miss the point of things and we get Jesus' almost exasperated responses. But it is Philip's role to bring the Greek believers to Jesus and for that we celebrate him.
Brothers in the Lord, it is only the happy coincidence of the transfer of the relics to Rome on the same day that brings their feasts together.
Jesus said to Thomas, "I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, then you will also know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him."
Philip said to him,
"Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us."
Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you for so long a time
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
-- John 14:6-9
"See something, say something."
I have heard this statement applied to several situation, and it seems to ring true. But it is a shame that our morality has been reduced to a slogan, a bumper sticker.
John and his fellow Carthusian monks signed the amended Act of Supremacy but balked when the act was reverted back the the original language. He petitioned Thomas Cromwell for an exemption with the argument that they had already signed and did not need to sign again but that was rejected and they were arrested.
The irony here is that John had a vow of silence and so did not defend himself in court. The jury originally found no fault but changed their verdict when threatened.
John became the first martyr of the English Reformation. We can see in the trials of the likes of John and Thomas More the sticky situation caused at that time. It was difficult to prove the charge of malice toward the king and crown or the country as a whole and those put forth for trail created constant situations for ambiguity. It is only later when the law overcame the humanity that wholesale intolerance became common.
John and the others with him held tight to the Truth even in silence and paid a high price, but he shows us that acting and not just words speaks loudly.
Lo, dost thou not see that these blessed fathers be how as cheerful going to their deaths, as bridegrooms to their marriages? Wherefore thereby mayest thou see (mine own good daughter) what a difference there is between such as have in effect spent all their days in a strait, hard, penitential, and painful life religiously, and such as have in the world, like worldly wretches, as thy poor father hath done, consumed all the time in pleasure and ease licentiously. For God, considering their long-continued life in most sore and grievous penance, will not longer suffer them to remain here in this vale of misery, and iniquity, but speedily hence take them to the fruition of his everlasting deity: whereas thy silly father that, like a most wicked caitiff, hath passed forth the whole course of his miserable life most pitifully, God, thinking him not worthy so soon to come to that eternal felicity, leaveth him here yet, still in the world further to be plunged and turmoiled with misery.
-- Thomas More to his daughter Meg on seeing John and others leaving the Tower for execution
Most often we hear of the movement of monastic missionaries from Europe out into the world at large - it is not often that we hear of them coming to Europe to save the Church.
Angelus and his twin brother were baptized when their mother converted and then were ordained and became one of the first Carmelites to leave the Middle East to preach the Faith in Europe. He even preached in Rome where he met Francis and predicted his stigmata; to return the favor Francis praised him for his upcoming martyrdom.
Angelus initially retreated into a solitary life of a hermit but emerged to travel to Italy and then began preaching to convert and call back those who had fallen away. He was martyred at the behest of a man he was trying to convert.
Just shows that we should never be too proud to listen to those, especially outsiders, who call us to true repentance away from our sins and true conversion away from false belief.
Now Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. But then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia. They found they could not get the better of him because of his wisdom, and because it was the Spirit that prompted what he said. So they procured some men to say, ‘We heard him using blasphemous language against Moses and against God.’ Having in this way turned the people against him as well as the elders and scribes, they took Stephen by surprise, and arrested him and brought him before the Sanhedrin. There they put up false witnesses to say, ‘This man is always making speeches against this Holy Place and the Law. We have heard him say that Jesus the Nazarene is going to destroy this Place and alter the traditions that Moses handed down to us.’ The members of the Sanhedrin all looked intently at Stephen, and his face appeared to them like the face of an angel.
...When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep.
-- Acts 6:8-15, 7:54-60
Today's readings just seemed very appropriate.
This is also the feast of François de Laval. We in the North American Church owe him a great debt of gratitude. Though the Spanish tried very hard to establish the structure for the Faith here, especially in the Gulf South, it is Francois who accomplished it. "But in the heart of all this turmoil, we must not be demoralized; if men have the power to destroy, Our Lord’s hand is infinitely more powerful to build. We need only be faithful to Him and let Him work."
Then Peter responded,
"Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people,
who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?"
He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 10:46b-48)
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. (1 John 4:7-10)
Jesus said to his disciples:
"As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love.
"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another." (John 15:9-17)
It certainly is something you do not see everyday. On Pentecost in 351, during the reign of Constantius (the son of Constantine), the sign of the Cross appeared over Jerusalem. Saint Cyril (Archbishop of Jerusalem), in his letter to the Emperor says, "At about the third hour of the day, an enormous Cross, formed of light, appeared in the heaven above holy Golgotha and reaching to the holy Mount of Olives, being seen not by one or two only, but manifest with perfect clarity to the whole multitude of the city; not, as one might suppose, rushing swiftly past in fancy, but seen openly above the earth many hours in plain sight, and overcoming the beams of the sun with its dazzling rays"
What a great feast at that time of difficulty in the Church; I guess that is basically true all of the time.
The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the learning of the learned I will set aside.” Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
-- 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
You may not recognize his name but if you have ever been to Rome and gone to the Pantheon, then you know some of his his work: Boniface transformed the Pantheon from a pagan temple to a church and consecrated it to "St. Mary and the Martyrs", thus preserving it for all time, at least until Contstans II and later the Barberinis stripped it of its bronze ("Quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini!").
But if that were all he did, then history would be the only memory of him. We name him "saint" for his charity and his holiness.
This maternal gaze, which instills confidence and trust, helps us to grow in faith. Faith is a bond with God that engages the whole person; to be preserved, it needs the Mother of God. Her maternal gaze helps us see ourselves as beloved children in God’s faithful people, and to love one another regardless of our individual limitations and approaches. Our Lady keeps us rooted in the Church, where unity counts more than diversity; she encourages us to care for one another. Mary’s gaze reminds us that faith demands a tenderness that can save us from becoming lukewarm. Tenderness: the Church of tenderness. Tenderness is a word that today many want to remove from the dictionary. When faith makes a place for the Mother of God, we never lose sight of the center: the Lord, for Mary never points to herself but to Jesus; and our brothers and sisters, for Mary is mother.
The gaze of the Mother, and the gaze of every mother. A world that looks to the future without a mother’s gaze is shortsighted. It may well increase its profits, but it will no longer see others as children. It will make money, but not for everyone. We will all dwell in the same house, but not as brothers and sisters. The human family is built upon mothers. A world in which maternal tenderness is dismissed as mere sentiment may be rich materially, but poor where the future is concerned. Mother of God, teach us to see life as you do. Turn your gaze upon us, upon our misery, our poverty. Turn to us your eyes of mercy.
– Pope Francis, from the homily for the Solemnity Of Mary, Mother Of God, 2019
How often do we give our lives over to God? That is to say, how often do we attribute events in our lives to God and the intercession of the saints such that we then live like we believe that happened and allow it to guide our life choices and influence others?
And thank you George for encouraging the laity to be catechists.
Dearly beloved, those days which intervened between the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension did not pass by in uneventful leisure, but great mysteries were confirmed within them and deep truths were revealed.
In those days the fear of death was removed with all its terrors, and the immortality not only of the soul but also of the flesh was established. During that time the Holy Spirit is poured upon all the Apostles through the Lord’s breathing upon them, and to the blessed Apostle Peter, set above the rest, the keys of the kingdom are entrusted and the care of the Lord’s flock.
It was during that time that the Lord joined the two disciples as a companion on the way, and, to sweep away all the clouds of uncertainty forever, reproached them for the slowness of their timid and trembling hearts. Their enlightened hearts catch the flame of faith, and lukewarm as they have been, they are made to burn while the Lord unfolds the Scriptures. In the breaking of bread also their eyes are opened as they eat with him. How much more blessed is that opening of their eyes, to the glorification of their nature, than the time when our first parents’ eyes were opened to the disastrous consequences of their transgression.
Dearly beloved, through all this time which elapsed between the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension, God’s Providence had this in end in sight, to teach his own people and impress upon their eyes and their hearts that the Lord Jesus Christ had risen, risen as truly as he had been born and had suffered and died.
Hence the most blessed Apostles and all the disciples, who had been both bewildered at his death on the cross and backward in believing his Resurrection, were so strengthened by the clearness of the truth that when the Lord entered the heights of heaven, not only were they affected with no sadness, but were even filled with great joy.
-- From a sermon of Leo the Great
We all have stories that affect us. For reasons which I cannot explain (or even seek explanation), Fr. Damien's story touched me at an early age after I read it and has affected me my whole life. There is then, something to be said for reading the lives of the holy even those who are not saints, especially to the young. To re-enforce that truth, today is also Teresa of Avila - another powerful example to us all.
I find my consolation in the only companion of mine who never leaves me, that is, our divine Savior in the holy Eucharist.
It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength we need in our isolation. Without the Blessed Sacrament, a situation like mine would not be sustainable. But with the Lord at my side, well then! I continue to be always happy and content. With this gaiety of heart and a smile on my lips, I work with zeal for the good of the poor unfortunate lepers, and little by little, without much fuss, good is done.
-- Letter to his Brother, 1881
Poverty can teach us a thing or two.
Ignatius was born into poverty and entered the Capuchin order (an offshoot of the Franciscans) but he never seems to have let the poverty define him. What defined him was a manner that grew from his poverty: things like meekness, empathy, comfort, peace, and joy. He was well known in the community for such gifts. Those who gave to him felt they got so much in return. So many of their ills, physical and spiritual, where softened by his simple love.
The story is told that when he would go out to beg for the community (they are a mendicant order) people noticed that he would skip the house of a rich but ruthless money-lender. The man felt slighted because Ignatius passed his house but went and asked the poor for help instead. The man complained to Ignatius' superior who, hopefully, knew nothing about the man's reputation and sent Ignatius to the man to beg. The saint returned with a large sack of food, but when the sack was emptied, blood dripped out. "This is the blood of the poor," Ignatius explained. "That is why I never ask for anything at that house."
Let us think about the source of our charity. True poverty, the need for nothing that is not supplied, is the emulation of Jesus, and we derive so many riches from it, riches we share with others.
Jesus said to his disciples: “A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me.” So some of his disciples said to one another, “What does this mean that he is saying to us, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” So they said, “What is this ‘little while’ of which he speaks? We do not know what he means.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing with one another what I said, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”
-- John 16:16-20
The Patristic Age of the early Church is a delightful mix of orthodoxy and struggle. Epiphanius was a friend of Jerome but found the mysticism of John Chrysostom to be a bit unorthodox. It is a time of chaos, of settling, of standardizing, and for determining how to talk about the Truths that had been revealed. Arianism and other heresies were rampant, causing upheaval, violence, and confusion. Epiphanius worked tirelessly to right the wrong thinking and to lead flocks of believers in the path.
This work to produce orthodoxy, where we accept some and question others, never stops and he shows us that it has been happening for a long time.
For his work we call him a Doctor of the Church, and we honor his desires and prayers to keep the Faith whole and true.
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things, both visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of God the Father, Only-begotten, that is, of the substance of the Father; God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made; con-substantial with the Father; through whom all things were made, both those in heaven and those on earth, both visible and invisible; who for us and for our salvation came down and took flesh, that is, was born perfectly of the holy ever-virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit, was made man, that is, He received perfect man, soul and body and mind and all that man is, except sin, not from the seed of man nor as is usual with men, but He reshaped flesh into Himself, into one holy unity; not in the way that He inspired the prophets, and both spoke and acted in them, but He was made Man perfectly; for "the Word was made flesh (John 1:14)," not undergoing change, nor converting His own divinity into humanity; - joined together into the one holy perfection and divinity of Himself; - for the Lord Jesus Christ is one and not two, the same God, the same Lord, the same King; and He suffered in the flesh, and rose again and ascended into heaven in the same body, and sits in glory on the right of the Father, about to come in the same body in glory to judge the living and the dead; whose kingdom will have no end; and we believe in the Holy Spirit, who spoke in the Law and proclaimed in the Prophets and descended at the Jordan, speaks in the Apostles and dwelling in the saints; thus do we believe in Him: that the Spirit is Holy, Spirit of God, Spirit perfect, Spirit Paraclete, increate, and is believed to proceed from the Father and to be received from the Son. We believe in one Catholic and Apostolic Church, and in one Baptism of repentance, and in the resurrection of the dead and the just judgement of souls and bodies, and in the kingdom of heaven, and in eternal life. But those who say that there was a time when the Son or the Holy Spirit was not, or was made out of nothing or of another substance or essence, who say the Son of God or the Holy Spirit is liable to change or to becoming different, these people the Catholic and Apostolic Church, your Mother and ours, anathematizes; and again we anathematize those who do not confess the resurrection of the dead, and all heresies which are not consistent with this, the true faith.
-- Baptismal Creed by Epiphanius from about 374 A.D.
When I was young, the nuns made sure that we understood that Lucia, one of the three children of Fatima, was still alive - that we 'knew' not just a living saint but one who had met the Virgin.
I'm not sure that my young brain processed that in the way they hoped, other than to be impressed that someone that old was still alive; still I assumed that God spoke to us all the time, that we had a relationship with Him that meant that everyday, via Guardian Angels and the Communion of Saints (which they also taught) we were wrapped in God and that we were not alone and that these things were therefore perfectly normal.
But I did not fully understand. My grandfather was even older than she was at the time but I did not understand time in those numbers. I did not understand childhood faith, nor the greys of life.
When Lucia finally died in 2005, I understood a lot better. Not the conspiracy theories or the whipping of people with rosaries but the simple message of devotion to the Gospel that someone so touched by God can give to the world.
Throughout history there have been supernatural apparitions and signs which go to the heart of human events and which, to the surprise of believers and non-believers alike, play their part in the unfolding of history. These manifestations can never contradict the content of faith, and must therefore have their focus in the core of Christ's proclamation: the Father's love which leads men and women to conversion and bestows the grace required to abandon oneself to him with filial devotion. This too is the message of Fatima which, with its urgent call to conversion and penance, draws us to the heart of the Gospel.
-- From The Message of Fatima, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
If you think about it, we are all replacement apostles. The use of lots to select Matthias speaks to the work of the Spirit in selecting us for what we need to do. We must also ask did "Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus" (Acts 1:23) stop being called just because the lot did not fall in his favor? It matters not because we probably know as much about him as we do about Matthias, which means both men lived out their call to holiness in simple grace and humility. So it is for us. Those of us called to "greatness" must not find pride or pleasure in it; those of us called to "lesser duties" must also find no shame or displeasure in it. It is our job to "become with us a witness to his resurrection.” (ibid 22b)
"I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another."
-- John 15:9-17
I am not sure how many garden statues of Isidore are confused for Francis (along with Fiacre - he is also holding a shovel but down not up) but I feel like it is a significant number. It probably does not help that so many of each are so poorly made as to be indistinguishable from the others. Both are noted for their piety and humility so it is probably fine to have either one watching over your flower bed. In your garden though, it might make a difference.
Nor need we think only of those already beatified and canonized. The Holy Spirit bestows holiness in abundance among God’s holy and faithful people, for “it has pleased God to make men and women holy and to save them, not as individuals without any bond between them, but rather as a people who might acknowledge him in truth and serve him in holiness”. In salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in a human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people.
-- Apostolic Exhortation GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE 6, Pope Francis
Another one of my favorite saints. When I was young my small room was decorated in sailing ships and that was probably where I caught the sailing bug, and Brendan falls right into that. But he was so much more than just a sailor and that has inspired me more.
Help me to journey beyond the familiar
and into the unknown.
Give me the faith to leave old ways
and break fresh ground with You.
Christ of the mysteries, I trust You
to be stronger than each storm within me.
I will trust in the darkness and know
that my times, even now, are in Your hand.
Tune my spirit to the music of heaven,
and somehow, make my obedience count for You.
-- A prayer attributed to St. Brendan.
How does our sin make a saint? This may seem like a strange questions but if we profess that God makes all things new, creates only good, even from evil, then it must be true. If the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures are to be believed (and they should be) then that is what God tells us again and again, in every book.
So back to the question. This is not an invitation to sin but a call to look at the way God works in the world. Even amidst the selfishness and the evil it causes, among our pettiness, our envy, our sloth, our greed, saints arrive inspired by Jesus and his love of sinners who act to bring that love to others even surrounded by evil.
He also brings grace to us in times of evil. Saint after saint endures suffering and death to bring the love of Christ to fruition.
Zealous for the Faith, Blessed Antonia is one such saint. The evil of attempted rape and final murder performed on her also recalls to us the story of Maria Goretti. As with her as well, it is the power and grace of God who turns the evil done to this girl into a powerful witness to His love to us, just as Christ's passion and death are proof positive of His love for us and an example for us to follow.
No matter what happens do not fear for "the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9); be at peace in every situation.
No one can withstand you as long as you live. As I was with Moses, I will be with you: I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and steadfast, so that you may give this people possession of the land I swore to their ancestors that I would give them. Only be strong and steadfast, being careful to observe the entire law which Moses my servant enjoined on you. Do not swerve from it either to the right or to the left, that you may succeed wherever you go. Do not let this book of the law depart from your lips. Recite it by day and by night, that you may carefully observe all that is written in it; then you will attain your goal; then you will succeed. I command you: be strong and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD, your God, is with you wherever you go.
-- Joshua 1:5-9
Popes are an interesting lot and John is no different. He was a man caught between two worlds; not just the world of politics and the world of Faith, but within each of those worlds as well. He practiced intolerance early in his career, supporting the anti-pope and yet was forgiven and eventually elected Pope.
In the West Theodoric the Ostrogoth was an Arian, while many of his subjects were orthodox Catholic. In the East, Justin was Orthodox while many of his subjects were Arian. In the West they looked to the East; in the East to the West. In the East the Arians appealed to Theodoric for help and Theodoric sent John to appeal for justice from the persecution. He was received in honor and argued from love for those who believed something that he did not and Justin relented, with some minor caveats. Theodoric was more political and viewed his non-Arian subjects with suspicion as possibly more loyal to the East. John's success and warm welcome in the East also raised his suspicions. Ironically, the love that John proclaimed brought relief in the East but persecution and his death in the West. His life and martyrdom are an example of the merits and perils of tolerance.
When a few days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea on a visit to Festus. Since they spent several days there, Festus referred Paul’s case to the king, saying, “There is a man here left in custody by Felix. When I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and demanded his condemnation. I answered them that it was not Roman practice to hand over an accused person before he has faced his accusers and had the opportunity to defend himself against their charge. So when (they) came together here, I made no delay; the next day I took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought in. His accusers stood around him, but did not charge him with any of the crimes I suspected. Instead they had some issues with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed was alive. Since I was at a loss how to investigate this controversy, I asked if he were willing to go to Jerusalem and there stand trial on these charges. And when Paul appealed that he be held in custody for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.”
-- Acts 25:13-21
I do not mean for this to be a week of popes, but Celestine's story always gets me. Peter was a hermit and holy man from an early age, he started an order (eventually to be called the Celestines after his papal name) but was thrust into the papacy when, prompted by God, he went to Rome to challenge the Curia for taking so long to elect a new pope. They immediately elected him, which either speaks to his holiness and the impression it made on the Cardinals or to the hot-potato, last man standing problem, or political manipulation situation. Certainly the Spirit prompted them to select him no matter what their personal thoughts, and he set about to reform the clergy and their worldly ways and to invite the faithful back to holiness through the emphasis on forgiveness and pardon (sounds familiar?).
Of course his piety and simplicity were taken advantage of, again probably by those who elected him for such a purpose. He saw the writing on the wall and after only five months abdicated to a much more savvy leader (Boniface VIII), adding him to the small list of popes to do so (like Pontian and Benedict XVI).
It is his humility that strikes me. He sought to do God's will from an early age and seems to have accomplished that, even at the cost of being tossed to the wolves. The corruption that surrounded him as pope did not consume him though. He neither fell or was destroyed by it, actually apologizing for his inadequacies as he abdicated. Boniface sequestered him for his own protection but as a hermit he probably was happy to be where he always wanted to be.
We need to recognize our strengths and our weaknesses as we seek to serve God in Jesus; we need humility and the strength of character to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em.
Celestine pray for us!
An argument broke out among the Apostles about which of them should be regarded as the greatest. Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as 'Benefactors'; but among you it shall not be so. Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one seated at table? I am among you as the one who serves. It is you who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom; and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
-- Luke 22:24-30
As a footnote I add Dunstan to today, who as the story goes tweaked the devil's nose with hot tongs to drive him away and also shod the devil's cloven hoof with a horse shoe causing the devil to shriek in pain. Dunstan promised to remove it only if the devil would go and so he avoids homes with horseshoes to this day - one possible origin of placing horseshoes over doorways. For these reasons he is also the patron of blacksmiths! Dunstan guide our hammers!
How do you operate under pressure?
If we look at the time period that Bernardine operated in then we can truly say that Jesus and the Spirit sustain the Church in truth and charity through its saints. I am always in awe of the Lord's power to keep things together despite all our best efforts to create chaos through selfishness, greed, lust for power, and a general disregard for the needs of others.
And yet Bernadine was not disillusioned by the hypocrisy around him, as many young people can be and use that excuse for inaction, he set himself to service of the sick instead and then set about to preach to others and reform the Franciscans. He shows us that despite what goes on in the world around us and that no matter what our age we can serve the Lord in fidelity and charity.
There is a general rule concerning all special graces granted to any human being. Whenever the divine favor chooses someone to receive a special grace, or to accept a lofty vocation, God adorns the person chosen with all the gifts of the Spirit needed to fulfill the task at hand.
This general rule is especially verified in the case of Saint Joseph, the foster-father of our Lord and the husband of the Queen of our world, enthroned above the angels. He was chosen by the eternal Father as the trustworthy guardian and protector of his greatest treasures, namely, his divine Son and Mary, Joseph’s wife. He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him, saying: “Good and faithful servant enter into the joy of your Lord.”
What then is Joseph’s position in the whole Church of Christ? Is he not a man chosen and set apart? Through him and, yes, under him, Christ was fittingly and honorably introduced into the world. Holy Church in its entirety is indebted to the Virgin Mother because through her it was judged worthy to receive Christ. But after her we undoubtedly owe special gratitude and reverence to Saint Joseph.
-- From a sermon on St. Joseph
Love, money, and social status often do not go together. Love brought Eugene's rich mother and poor father together, but the difficulty of money and social status, as Jesus so rightly points out, can make for a life that can enjoy neither the money nor the love, broken by bitterness and fighting. But love can triumph over the pettiness of mammon and status.
Many couples struggle with finances - it is probably the number one symptom of problems in a marriage and family. The problem is how we think about money, how we think about the difficulties caused by economic systems and how we choose to live in them. Setting priorities is the way we make or break in such systems and hard times. For Eugene's parents the monetary and family pressures were too great.
Eugene himself struggled between the two worlds of God and Mammon, eventually giving himself over to God. He went on to found an order which spread around the world.
How we decide to let the world influence us makes a difference in our lives and in the world.
Eugene pray that we will put God first so that everything else will be in focus.
Servants! Farmhands! Peasants! Poor! Come and learn who you are in the eyes of God. You poor of Jesus Christ, you afflicted, unfortunate suffering, infirm, diseased: all you who are burdened with misery, listen to me! You are the children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, co-heirs of His eternal kingdom, His cherished inheritance. Lift up your minds: you are the children of God. Look through the tatters that cover you. There is an immortal soul within you made to the image of God, a soul redeemed at the price of the very blood of Jesus, more precious in the eyes of God than all the riches and all the kingdoms of this earth. Know your dignity - you even share the Divine Nature - Children of God, Children of the Most High!
Fortunately for us, there is more than one patron saint for lost causes.
Rita led a life of denial; not on her own, but imposed upon her her whole life. In her piety though she bore it all and continued to try to bring Christ into the lives of those around her. When she wanted to enter the convent, her family refused and married her off at the age of 12. When she finally reconciled her brutish husband to Christ, she was denied a happy marriage after his murder by his enemies; when her brutish sons plotted his revenge she was denied their love in her old age when she offered up their lives to keep them from mortal sin. When she tried to enter the convent after all this, she was denied because even though she was still young, she had been married.
Cast about she continued to work for reconciliation between her family and her husband's murderers. She never gave up, and eventually was allowed into the convent at 36, living the rest of her life there. Patience and persistence pay off in service to the Gospel, even if the results are not what we expect, or if we ever see them.
Lost causes are not lost when placed in the hands of God.
Rita pray for us in times of need.
What profit have workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to mortals to be busied about. God has made everything appropriate to its time, but has put the timeless into their hearts so they cannot find out, from beginning to end, the work which God has done. I recognized that there is nothing better than to rejoice and to do well during life. Moreover, that all can eat and drink and enjoy the good of all their toil—this is a gift of God. I recognized that whatever God does will endure forever; there is no adding to it, or taking from it. Thus has God done that he may be revered. What now is has already been; what is to be, already is: God retrieves what has gone by.
-- Ecclesiastes 3:9-15
What are limitations?
Giovanni was brilliant but epileptic. Somehow he still managed to avoid the impediments and was ordained. He concentrated on the poor and marginalized, giving more to others that he kept for himself.
Yet always, in the background, was his illness, and fear of what would happen if he had a seizure. So he avoided some of his sacramental duties. Convinced to fully live his calling, he became a great confessor. We never know what God has in store for us, who are created, as a friend of mine used to put it, "brown paper, string, and all."
We often live in fear of failure, of our failings, of our limitations, the weight of the task ahead. We often feel that things are out of our control or beyond our abilities.
But that is not who we are. We are created, individually, with strengths and weaknesses (some of which we bring on ourselves) yet that is not what God is concerned with. Christ has destroyed death so we should not fear it; God has forgiven our sins so that should not hold us back - if it does then Reconciliation is the only answer; He has given us grace and the Eucharist to strengthen us so that we can do the work that needs to be done. Doubt and fear can destroy life; they are some of the Devil's favorite tools. It is God alone who gives life and gives it fully in His Son. Fear not and do not let physical, mental, or spiritual limitations hinder you in your quest for holiness or your ability to serve.
It is not we who serve but we who serve Christ; it is Christ who accomplishes all through us.
You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Then Peter said, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” And the Lord replied, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute [the] food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so. Truly, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.
-- Luke 12:40-44
When I was young I often wondered why we relied so heavily on Mary. Jesus was the man, right? It is he whom we should emulate, right?
I grew up in a home with a loving, albeit imperfect, mother. It is only now, after I have seen her mother for many years, watched my wife, and now my daughter mother their children that I understand that it is not that Mary equals or rivals Jesus but that she is unable to stop being a mother. Jesus' earthly mission is completed and he is always there and is our God yet Mary cannot help but cheer for all of his efforts and do what she can to make them come to fruition.
Mary is our aid and comforter not in spite of or in alternate to Jesus but because of Jesus.
We too should look to being like her in supporting and aiding Jesus' mission on Earth; our efforts do not replace Jesus but enhance his love in the world.
John said to Jesus,
"Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,
and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us."
Jesus replied, "Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us."
-- Mark 9:38-40
A busy Day for saints (as are most days), but ones well worth our time. I do not often recall multiple saints but these three show the diversity and unity of the Church throughout time and place. Each was a monastic, showing the rich monastic tradition within and the importance of that tradition to the Church and how it is rarely running away from the world, as the world so often views it.
Each also approached the world and the needs of the Church (and World) differently. Each dedicated themselves to the improvement and betterment of others, each on different scales. Gregory, caught amidst the turmoil of the politics of his time sought reform of both Church and king. Bede focused on a true education of those around him to remove ignorance and superstition and encourage veneration and holiness and stability amidst chaos. Mary cultivated her personal interior garden and that of her sisters to the salvation of the world amid the fracturing of the Church.
All of theses things should be considered even amidst the foibles of human weakness.
So now, my dearly beloved brothers, listen carefully to what I say to you. All who in the whole world bear the name of Christian and truly understand the Christian faith know and believe that Saint Peter, the prince of the apostles, is the father of all Christians and their first shepherd after Christ, and that the holy Roman Church is the mother and mistress of all the Churches. If, then, you believe and unshakably hold this, such as I am, your brother and unworthy master, I ask and command you by Almighty God to help and succor your father and mother, if through them you would have the absolution of all your sins, and blessing and grace in this world and in the world to come.
-- From a letter of Pope St Gregory VII
On the Tuesday before Ascension, Bede began to suffer greater difficulties in breathing and his feet began to swell slightly. Nevertheless, he continued to teach us and dictate all day, and made jokes about his illness: “Learn quickly,” he would say, “because I don’t know how long I’ll last: my Creator may take me very soon.” But it seemed to us that he was perfectly conscious of his approaching end.
...“It is time – if it is my Maker’s will – to return to him who made me, who shaped me out of nothing and gave me existence. I have lived a long time, and the righteous judge has provided well for me all my life: now the time of my departure is at hand, for I long to dissolve and be with Christ; indeed, my soul longs to see Christ its king in all his beauty.” This is just one saying of his: he said many other things too, to our great benefit – and thus he spent his last day in gladness until the evening.
-- Cuthbert's narration of the death of Bede
Come, Holy Spirit. May the union of the Father and the will of the Son come to us. You, Spirit of truth, are the reward of the saints, the refreshment of souls, light in darkness, the riches of the poor, the treasury of lovers, the satisfaction of the hungry, the consolation of the pilgrim Church; you are he in whom all treasures are contained.
Come, you who, descending into Mary, caused the Word to take flesh: effect in us by grace what you accomplished in her by grace and nature.
Come, you who are the nourishment of all chaste thoughts, the fountain of all clemency, the summit of all purity.
Come, and take away from us all that hinders us from being absorbed in you.
-- From the writings on revelation and temptation by St Mary Magdalene de Pazzi