May 19th - Celestine V
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!
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