Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.
I can still recall Sister Marcella reminding us to leave room for our guardian angel next to us in our seats, thereby helping us to be aware that they were always there with us.
Perhaps the idea of Guardian Angels is passe today or out of favor because of the oversimplification of the understanding of angels or even perhaps because they have been relegated to maudlin sentimentality.
But that is a loss. Angels are not cute cherubs (look them up - not so cute) nor are any of the other muddled beliefs about angels or us becoming angels that pervade modern culture. Angels are the mouthpieces of God - they were created to do the will of God. They are created different from us, we who are created "little less than the angels" (Psalm 8; Hebrews 2)
Guardian angels, differing from the archangels we so often celebrate, stand by us to catch us lest we dash our foot against a stone (Psalm 91; Matthew 4) if we but avail ourselves to the tender care of God.
Angel of God
My guardian dear
To Whom His love
Commits me here
Ever this day
Be at my side
To light and guard
To rule and guide. Amen
Martyrdom is not pretty. Who ever it happens to, for whatever reason, at whatever time, it is horrific. Death is the ultimate penalty that we humans can think of but humiliation added to death seems to be our favorite modus operandi.
Yet, Jesus' humiliating death was transformative. Death, no matter what its form, now elevates, enobles, and lifts us up. It now gives meaning to life rather than taking it away. Death is what saves us and for us as individuals, presents us to that salvation.
Today specifically celebrates many martyrs of the Reformation from around the world, but all month long let us celebrate the many martyrs, strive to see death as liberating and understand it as God understands it. When we took on death in the Garden it is God who made it have meaning and purpose.
We do well to remember that anger, hatred, and fear have no place in our heart, are ineffective against truth, and serve no purpose to God - but that God can, and will, transform our sinfulness to His own ends.
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if to others, indeed, they seem punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
-- Wisdom 3:1-6
Lord make me an instrument of your peace...
You know the prayer, but Francis probably did not. What he did know was poverty and compassion. Like many things, he lived it more than he probably said it.
(But just in case: O Signore, fa' di me uno strumento della tua Pace)
As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding
on their journey, someone said to him,
"I will follow you wherever you go."
Jesus answered him,
"Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head."
And to another he said, "Follow me."
But he replied, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father."
But he answered him, "Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God."
And another said, "I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home."
Jesus answered him, "No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God."
-- Luke 9:57-62
Placid and Maurus are saints you might not have heard of, but if you have ever been to a Benedictine monastery and seen two lakes on the property then you have seen one of the results of their lives - one of the lakes is properly named for Placid the other for Maurus. The story goes that Maurus, who one of Benedict's original followers, kept Placid, who had gone down to draw water, from drowning. Not very remarkable perhaps but he did so because Benedict sent him out after his brother, having had a vision of it while speaking to him. The remarkable part of the story is that in his haste to reach Placid, without realizing it, Maurus had run out upon the water, like Jesus rescuing Peter.
This day is shared with Faustina, and the call to trust and peace seems to go together for me.
When I look into the future, I am frightened, but why plunge into the future? Only the present moment is precious to me, as the future may never enter my soul at all. It is no longer in my power, to change, correct or add to the past; for neither sages nor prophets could do that. And so, what the past has embraced I must entrust to God. O present moment, you belong to me, whole and entire, I desire to use you as best I can. And although I am weak and small, You grant me the grace of Your omnipotence. And so, trusting in Your mercy, I walk through life like a little child, Offering You each day this heart Burning with love for Your greater glory.
-- Diary of Sr. Faustina, paragraph 2
Often times when we speak about vocation, especially to youth, we talk about giving ourselves over to God's will, that is, hearing His call to us and following. God calls us, by the very nature of "vocation", and we live by that vocation.
But the part that we often leave out is that it is not always easy to do.
Sometimes we thwart the will of God for us by specifically and willfully avoiding His call.
Other times we hear the will of God for us but others try to dictate what that will should be for us or how we should live out our call, which can confuse us and even, perhaps, thwart the will of God for us.
It is hard to know if we are seeking selfish pursuits or doing the will of God; it is hard to hear God's call amidst all of the good advice.
Bruno seems to dodge and weave through many mine fields of the desires of others for him in order to follow God as he felt called.
I am sure that he would still have become a saint even if he had followed the paths laid out for him by others, but not in the way he is.
Bruno pray for us, especially as we wander through the valley of vocation. Ask God to be by our side with His rod and His staff to comfort and guide us to truly do His will throughout our whole lives.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
-- Thomas Merton, Pax Christi
Originally this was the feast of Our Lady of Victory, celebrating the victory of Western naval forces over the Turks on this day. It was also known as the Feast of the Rosary because the forces turned to the Rosary before the battle. The feast twisted through several popes for various reason.
Paul VI settled it as a mandatory memorial celebrating all of the times throughout history that recourse to the Rosary has been used to positive results and as a reminder that Our Lady watches over us as a mother and has given us a prayer of supplication and comfort. It is a reminder of all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? It is Christ [Jesus] who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we are being slain all the day;
we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
-- Romans 8:31-39
I do not often dwell on things other than the saint, and I am almost embarrassed to say it but it is the physical legacy of Denis which has so fascinated me over the years.
Denis is the patron of France, similar to Joseph in Italy and Patrick in Boston, I mean Ireland.
Denis in a way defines France.
It is most evident in the Gothic cathedral built to honor his bones (surpassed, in my mind, in daring only by Beauvais, of which only the choir, transept, and West Works exist). Denis is the definition of Gothic, the first, and therefore quintessentially French.
Devotion to Denis and companions dates from the third century and that is about all we know except that he was from Italy, became bishop in Paris, and was martyred, at which time the bodies were honored with shrines. From then on it is the series of buildings which lead to the present day edifice.
So it is the small things that we do in the Kingdom which can lead to big things in the Kingdom of Christ until we are at rest in the heavenly Kingdom. Worship still takes place in these millennia old sites and someone we know so little about still ripples in the daily Faith lives of us all. We may not all be remembered by name but well, if we do good then we will be remembered by the most important person.
The victor will thus be dressed in white, and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name in the presence of my Father and of his angels. Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
-- Revelation 3:5
There are many great thinkers within the Church. There are also many great thinkers who wandered down wrong paths based on their thinking.
Cardinal Newman seems to have managed to be the former without falling into the latter. Not that he "found the truth" and became Catholic, but that he thought deeply and let truth guide him. What I mean by that is that he submitted himself to the truth without protest or struggle. The truth was an objective thing to which he could only defer within his own thought. This led him to a clarity and simplicity of thought about the truth, which then led him to become Roman Catholic.
How often do we want to mold others or the truth to our own thought! Such is not the path of those who trust the truth but those who wish to make the truth. Such is not the path of love but of sin. We must move ourselves out of the way so that God may illuminate the mind. May we let John guide us to emulate him in humble submission to the truth so that the truth may truly set us and everyone we come into contact with, free.
But let us, finding ourselves in the state in which we are, take those means which alone are really left us, which alone become us. Adam, when he had sinned, and felt himself fallen, instead of honestly abandoning what he had become, would fain have hid himself. He went a step further. He did not give up what he now was, partly from dread of God, partly from dislike of what he had been. He had learnt to love sin and to fear God's justice. But Christ has purchased for us what we lost in Adam, our garment of innocence. He has bid us and enabled us to become as little children; He has purchased for us the grace of simplicity, which, though one of the highest, is very little thought about, is very little sought after. We have, indeed, a general idea what love is, and hope, and faith, and truth, and purity, though a poor idea; but we are almost blind to what is one of the first elements of Christian perfection, that simple-mindedness which springs from the heart's being whole with God, entire, undivided. And those who think they have an idea of it, commonly rise no higher than to mistake for it a mere weakness and softness of mind, which is but its counterfeit. To be simple is to be like the Apostles and first Christians.
-- From Sermon 18, Ignorance of Evil
And so, as life goes on, the thought comes vividly, from time to time, for a short season across their conscience; whether in illness, or in some anxiety, or at some season of solitude, or on hearing some preacher, or reading some religious work.
A vivid feeling comes over them of the vanity and unprofitableness of the world, and then the question recurs, "Why then am I sent into it?" And a great contrast indeed does this vain, unprofitable, yet overbearing world present with such a question as that. It seems out of place to ask such a question in so magnificent, so imposing a presence, as that of the great Babylon. The world professes to supply all that we need, as if we were sent into it for the sake of being sent here, and for nothing beyond the sending. It is a great favor to have an introduction to this august world. This is to be our exposition, forsooth, of the mystery of life. Every man is doing his own will here, seeking his own pleasure, pursuing his own ends, and that is why he was brought into existence....
And now, once more, my brethren, put aside what you see and what you read of the world, and try to penetrate into the hearts, and to reach the ideas and the feelings of those who constitute it; look into them as closely as you can; enter into their houses and private rooms; strike at random through the streets and lanes: take as they come, palace and hovel, office or factory, and what will you find? Listen to their words, witness, alas! their works; you will find in the main the same lawless thoughts, the same unrestrained desires, the same ungoverned passions, the same earthly opinions, the same wilful deeds, in high and low, learned and unlearned; you will find them all to be living for the sake of living; they one and all seem to tell you, "We are our own center, our own end". Why are they toiling? why are they scheming? for what are they living? "We live to please ourselves; life is worthless except we have our own way; we are not sent here at all, but we find ourselves here, and we are but slaves unless we can think what we will, believe what we will, love what we will, hate what we will, do what we will. We detest interference on the part of God or man. We do not bargain to be rich or to be great; but we do bargain, whether rich or poor, high or low, to live for ourselves, to live for the lust of the moment, or, according to the doctrine of the hour, thinking of the future and the unseen just as much or as little as we please."
...He chose to take on Him man's nature, and the will of that nature; He chose to take on Him affections, feelings, and inclinations proper to man, a will innocent indeed and good, but still a man's will, distinct from God's will; a will, which, had it acted simply according to what was pleasing to its nature, would, when pain and toil were to be endured, have held back from an active cooperation with the will of God. But, though He took on Himself the nature of man, He took not on Him that selfishness, with which fallen man wraps himself round, but in all things He devoted Himself as a ready sacrifice to His Father. He came on earth, not to take His pleasure, not to follow His taste, not for the mere exercise of human affection, but simply to glorify His Father and to do His will. He came charged with a mission, deputed for a work; He looked not to the right nor to the left, He thought not of Himself, He offered Himself up to God.
...In all these many ways He sacrificed every wish of His own; that we might understand, that, if He, the Creator, came into His own world, not for His own pleasure, but to do His Father's will, we too have most surely some work to do, and have seriously to bethink ourselves what that work is.
Yes, so it is; realize it, my brethren;—everyone who breathes, high and low, educated and ignorant, young and old, man and woman, has a mission, has a work. We are not sent into this world for nothing; we are not born at random; we are not here, that we may go to bed at night, and get up in the morning, toil for our bread, eat and drink, laugh and joke, sin when we have a mind, and reform when we are tired of sinning, rear a family and die. God sees every one of us; He creates every soul, He lodges it in the body, one by one, for a purpose. He needs, He deigns to need, every one of us. He has an end for each of us; we are all equal in His sight, and we are placed in our different ranks and stations, not to get what we can out of them for ourselves, but to labor in them for Him. As Christ has His work, we too have ours; as He rejoiced to do His work, we must rejoice in ours also.
-- Excerpts from the discourse God’s Will the End of Life
(full text: http://www.newmanreader.org/works/discourses/discourse6.html )
We will have to labor hard, to sweat, to die: but the thought that one sweats and dies for love of Jesus Christ and the salvation of the most abandoned souls in the world, is far too sweet for us to desist from this great enterprise.
-- From a letter to his parents written shortly after his arrival in Sudan