I often talk about "my pope", that is, the pope in office when I was born. By that I also mean the pope who seems to have set the tone for my life as a Catholic. John certainly did that. I am blessed that so far, most of the popes of my lifetime have been beatified and/or canonized. That tells me that I have been blessed to live in a blessed time. But it all begins for me with John.
I was young when John XXIII died, but I have tried to understand and stay true to his vision. I must say though, that there are times of sadness for me in the way many of us have tried to live out his vision (especially that of Pacem in Terris); I have watched over the years as many fled the Church or divided within her over what (in both cases and in the overall scheme of Revelation) are truly trivial personal preferences. John threw open the windows not just to let in fresh air but to open the Church to the world, so that they could look in and see the beauty of Truth and experience the joy of living in Christ and his Body - but along with that joy I have experienced the bitterness, pain and misunderstanding borne of ignorance, selfishness, self-righteousness, judgment, and many other human foibles that so cloud that view to the Truth. By some, I am reminded of the Italians I lived among. They feared the opening of windows, worried about the disease that could enter them ("mal di fegato!"). This ignorance born of the devil accomplishes the opposite; keeping the windows closed does not keep disease out but locks it in.
I also feel the sadness of those who flung open the windows to throw the baby out with the bathwater; this hubris, also born of the devil, results in blocking the view to the Truth with their own bodies standing in the window.
John opened the windows to not just revitalize us but so that everyone who lived in a broken, hurting world could look into the Church and see its beauty and peace and come to live it themselves; to be saved from sin and death by the Truth.
John, with his boundless joy and humor, reminds us to see the beauty of and to live the unity and peace that comes from knowing Christ in his Church. Let us pray together with him today that we can accomplish our mission of evangelization - the bringing of the good news of God to the world. May we throw open the windows of our hearts and let the love of God in so as to let the light of Christ shine out into the world for all to see, so that all may come to peace in Christ.
Today as We address Our first Encyclical Letter to the entire Catholic world, Our apostolic office clearly demands that We discuss three objectives—truth, unity, and peace—and indicate how they may be achieved and advanced in a spirit of charity. ...All the evils which poison men and nations and trouble so many hearts have a single cause and a single source: ignorance of the truth—and at times even more than ignorance, a contempt for truth and a reckless rejection of it. Thus arise all manner of errors, which enter the recesses of men's hearts and the bloodstream of human society as would a plague. These errors turn everything upside down: they menace individuals and society itself. And yet, God gave each of us an intellect capable of attaining natural truth. If we adhere to this truth, we adhere to God Himself, the author of truth, the lawgiver and ruler of our lives. But if we reject this truth, whether out of foolishness, neglect, or malice, we turn our backs on the highest good itself and on the very norm for right living. As We have said, it is possible for us to attain natural truth by virtue of our intellects. But all cannot do this easily; often their efforts will result in a mixture of truth and error. This is particularly the case in matters of religion and sound morals. Moreover, we cannot possibly attain those truths which exceed the capacity of nature and the grasp of reason, unless God enlightens and inspires us. This is why the word of God, "who dwells in light inaccessible," in His great love took pity on man's plight, "became flesh and dwelt among us," that He might "enlighten every man who comes into the world" and lead him not only to full and perfect truth, but to virtue and eternal happiness. All men, therefore, are bound to accept the teaching of the gospel. For if this is rejected, the very foundations of truth, goodness, and civilization are endangered. ...All men, therefore, private citizens as well as government officials, must love the truth sincerely if they are to attain that peace and harmony on which depends all real prosperity, public and private. ...Everyone realizes, of course, that God our Redeemer founded this society which was to endure to the end of time, for as Christ said, "Behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world." For this intention He addressed ardent prayers to His Father: "That all may be one, even as thou, Father, in me and I in thee; that they also may be one in Us." Surely this prayer was heard and granted because of His reverent submission. This is a comforting hope; it assures us that someday all the sheep who are not of this fold will want to return to it. Then, in the words of God our Savior, "there shall be one fold and one shepherd." This fond hope compelled Us to make public Our intention to hold an Ecumenical Council. Bishops from every part of the world will gather there to discuss serious religious topics. They will consider, in particular, the growth of the Catholic faith, the restoration of sound morals among the Christian flock, and appropriate adaptation of Church discipline to the needs and conditions of our times. This event will be a wonderful spectacle of truth, unity, and charity. For those who behold it but are not one with this Apostolic See, We hope that it will be a gentle invitation to seek and find that unity for which Jesus Christ prayed so ardently to His Father in heaven.
-- Ad Petri Cathedrm, 4, 6-8, 21, 60-62
East versus West, time and space. This has been a long problem for the Church as a whole. It is a big world and for a long time not everyone was Christian but Christians went everywhere. Christianity developed in pockets that, while based in the same Faith, had subtle differences (as well as some major ones), usually manifested in small "t" traditions like liturgical practices. As the Church grew and legitimized, those pockets began to merge into the larger Church. Men like Wilfrid, Cuthbert, and others of his time, both Celtic and Roman, came together to solidify the Christianity we know today. But disagreements still exist. They say that the winners write history but that really cannot be true of a shared history where everyone agrees on the history.
What we often see is bitterness and rancor about not being on top especially when we see ourselves as more correct than anyone else. But we can also definitely say that when one side is up and the other down, the downs usually have some good arguments for losses due to powerlessness. But if, instead of seeing it as up and down, we should see it universally, then we can frame it as one side able to sustain itself long enough to bring stability to the other which then allows the Church as a whole to continue and grow.
It appears though, that even with local councils making decisions, we can quibble about what seems to be winners and losers. We can be recalcitrant about those decisions making it not about right or wrong but about, at best, having our voices be heard and at worst being petty about our prestige and ego. This is true of too many things within the Church.
Perhaps, you might say, in my poor attempt to be vague I am over-simplifying this. I am. But I am not speaking to the past but to us today. Will we let wrongs and perceived wrongs of the past fester and grow? Or will we follow Christ's desires and seek reconciliation and forgiveness? That is our job, to be one and not just being right. Diversity is part of our strength; so is shared doctrine. The wrongs of the past belong to the past - none of us can change the past but it is still something we share. One cannot claim the shared history as one's alone as either victim or victor. It is not about what our fore-bearers did or did not do but what we will do to do a better job of living out the Gospel together. It is together that we own Christ, or rather that he owns us.
What makes someone a saint? Certainly we often look back with fondness upon the lives of those we loved, or in the case of a country, on the times before 1066.
Historians disagree about the worthiness of Edward to be in the canon of saints, but his cult arose early and must be attached to more than just nostalgia. Perhaps, as the only officially canonized monarch of England, it was more than just a thank you for the support of the papacy of Alexander III. The problem is the truth is lost to history.
Still, it is the stories, like those of so many early martyrs, that inspire us. Perhaps his lack of heirs corresponds to a desire for chastity and holiness. Perhaps the distance at the end of his reign was due to his desire to spend his life more in prayer than politics.
But we should, within our daily work, strive to be more holy whether king or peasant.
Let us defend ourselves from the risk of being actors rather than witnesses. We are called to be living memory of the Lord.
-- Pope Francis
To be an early martyr is to be a saint; to be an early pope and an early martyr, well that really says something. Unfortunately we are not really sure what it says. We know much about the life and pontificate of Callistus I but also unfortunately it comes from his number one enemy and rival, Hippolytus, a saint in his own right.
Callistus seems to have started out poorly as a slave, an embezzler, and convicted felon but, depending on if you believe Hippolytus or not, somehow ingratiated himself with his old master and won his freedom.
Regardless of what Hippolytus says, if Callistus was a con man then he seems to have been more of a Robin Hood type of villain, or at least he seemed to want to do good, even if with poor choices for the means. While Hippolytus tells us everything in a bad light, most of the things he tells seem good. You can put it all down to sour grapes and recognize that even saints are sinners - on both sides of the pen.
In the end, it is his education and his deep knowledge of the Faith which places him along side pope Zephyrinus and ensures his own rise to the papacy. There, perhaps because of his own failures and suffering, he led us as Church toward forgiveness of those who fail, even those who fail spectacularly - a grace that defines us to this day.
Callistus reminds us that even the worst of sinners have been redeemed but that they only become saints if they seek and live for Christ. We have benefited from his wisdom and guidance in the Seat of Peter; let us therefore strive to be like him even in the face of our enemies.
So I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. Tend the flock of God in your midst, [overseeing] not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory
-- 1 Peter 5:1-4
We often blame the structure of the Church for our lack of vocations nowadays, but what we fail to live is our vocation within the Church. Theresa did not let her sex slow down the vocation she had within the Church. Because she was true to her vocation she was a powerful voice in a male dominated bureaucracy that was in chaos and is recognized as a true Doctor of the Church. We must do more than just grow where we are planted, we must grow the plant we are to its fullness.
A sad nun is a bad nun...I am more afraid of one unhappy sister than a crowd of evil spirits…. What would happen if we hid what little sense of humor we had? Let each of us humbly use this to cheer others.
The story goes that Theresa was knocked off her donkey into the mud and injured her leg.
“Lord,” she said, “I thought we were friends...why would you let this happen?”
Reportedly the Lord responded, “That is how I treat my friends.”
Teresa answered, “And that is why you have so few of them!”
Though probably best known as the name of the Harry's owl in the excellent Harry Potter series of books, that is not the reason she is considered on the sanctoral calendar (though knowing Ms. Rowling's penchant for carefully choosing names, and the religious undertones of her works, the sanctoral aspect may have suggested her name for the owl).
Hedwig was many things throughout her life but what strikes me the most is the power and pitfalls of a truly loving marriage. Not just the love between the two but the love directed at God within the marriage, a love that directs outward and makes so much difference in the world.
The power is easy to talk about, but the pitfalls not so much. As a couple and as parents we never truly know or understand the effects that our love has within the family. Certainly throwing political power and intrigue into the mix does not help but it is the everyday that I want to focus on. Sometimes our love can focus inward for the mortification of our own souls but we leave others behind. Our deep love may be viewed from the outside as personal and only for two.
One never knows how children will react as well. Some will be inspired but create a kind of unrealistic view of married love; others will reject it creating another type of unrealistic view. Some will nestle deeply into the love and find comfort; others see the ups and down that are part of a stable marriage and find comfort while others find insecurity.
I do not know, as I ramble here, what I really am reflecting upon so I will try to focus for those who are in a married vocation: in marriage Hedwig and her husband Henry did so much for others in their love for one another but it did not always have the desired effect within their family. Still it did not stop them from loving deeply and fully with God as the glue that bound them together and saw them through tough times, even after they were parted by death. They certainly got each other to heaven and that comforts and challenges me in my marriage.
...those all alone with no companion, with neither child nor sibling—with no end to all their toil, and no satisfaction from riches. For whom do I toil and deprive myself of good things? This also is vanity and a bad business. Two are better than one: They get a good wage for their toil. If the one falls, the other will help the fallen one. But woe to the solitary person! If that one should fall, there is no other to help. So also, if two sleep together, they keep each other warm. How can one alone keep warm? Where one alone may be overcome, two together can resist. A three-ply cord is not easily broken.
-- Ecclesiastes 4:8-12
It is not everyday we get to hear directly from someone who heard it all directly from an Apostle. Ignatius is one such person. Along with Polycarp (February 23) he was a disciple of the Apostle John and became bishop of Antioch, in the Roman province of Syria (the city mentioned in Acts 11:26 where “the disciples were for the first time called Christians”). He was arrested during the reign of the Emperor Trajan, and wrote several letters to communities he passed through along the way to his martyrdom in Rome.
He sought to move Jewish Christians away from strict adherence to the Law and he encouraged Christians to celebrate the “eighth day,” (Sunday) the day of the Resurrection, “as a festival,” for on that day “our life … sprang up again … and the victory over death was obtained in Christ.” His also pushed for unity in leadership and doctrine throughout the Church, instructing everyone to do everything in union with the local bishop and priests (Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians 7 and to the Ephesians, 3) .
He also wrote begging those he met to not stop his martyrdom. He had been accused of a being a Christian and he wanted no interference in the sentence that held.
Let us pray to Ignatius to intercede for us in seeking unity amongst all believers.
“Keep on praying” for others too, for there is a chance of their being converted and getting to God. Let them, then, learn from you at least by your actions. Return their bad temper with gentleness; their boasts with humility; their abuse with prayer. In the face of their error, be “steadfast in the faith.” Return their violence with mildness and do not be intent on getting your own back. By our patience let us show we are their brothers, intent on imitating the Lord, seeing which of us can be the more wronged, robbed, and despised. Thus no devil’s weed will be found among you; but thoroughly pure and self-controlled, you will remain body and soul united to Jesus Christ.
-- Letter to the Ephesians, 10
Luke is the only evangelist who took the time to write a full history of salvation from the time of Jesus' Incarnation through the incarnation of the Church. We do not often think of his works as one continuous story but they are. For Luke, Jesus does not end with the Ascension, but lives on in his Church. For Luke, Paul does not or labor alone. For Luke, Paul does not supplant Jesus and we can clearly see that Jesus is the whole reason for Paul's mission. Many churches look to Paul alone and leave out the other Apostles who worked so hard to spread the Gospel, often with their lives. Do not be deceived - the history of the Church is the continuation of God's Creation and nothing is left behind. to do so is to miss the whole point. There is no salvation without covenant - all of them, including the gift of the Spirit.
Without Luke we do not feel the full impact of the coming of the Spirit and the effect that had on Jesus' followers and on the world as a whole. Without Luke we do not see the continued hand of God in our lives and our salvation. So do not think of them as the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, but as Luke/Acts. Read Paul in light of Luke/Acts and see the foundation from which Paul works.
In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.”
-- Luke Acts 1:1-5
There is a chapel in the bowels of the Pontifical North American College in Rome dedicated to the North American Martyrs and they were the mascots for the soccer team whose colors were, appropriately, red, black, and blue. The stained glass window there depicts a few of the men who traveled far to witness to the Truth. The Jesuits who undertook the spread of the Gospel in hostile and untamed lands often encountered both reception and opposition. North America was not a unified land and even with abundant resources, territorial disputes were contentious. So was it too for the vineyard of Faith.
The success or failure of the martyrs of North America is not measured by the integration of Catholicism into North America, or the overwhelming of cultures, or suppression of Native peoples and beliefs, but in the witness of those martyrs, especially to those whose lives they changed. I live surrounded by their efforts.
"Woe to you who build the memorials of the prophets whom your fathers killed.
Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building.
Therefore, the wisdom of God said, 'I will send to them prophets and Apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute' in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who died between the altar and the temple building.
Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood! Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter."
When Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.
-- Luke 11:47-54
There is always room at the table. I think about the parable of the king who invited guests to a wedding but they all refused to go. There was plenty of room at the table, and in the end it was the poor and disenfranchised who came.
We can often lose sight of those who have a hard time coming to the table, the poor with no means of transportation, the disabled with little or no access into buildings or no accommodation when they can get in; the deaf, the blind, those with mental and physical disabilities. We can miss out on what they bring to the table because we do not take the time to include them; we decide that there is no room for them.
Maria was born into a family with a self-admitted violent and abusive alcoholic father. She herself was considered mentally deficient and yet her simple and sincere demeanor moved her from menial jobs, jobs others considered her best for, to head of nursing in a children's hospital.
All because of her love, which was fueled by Christ and transcended any opinions or prejudices against her. An earlier day's saint, John XXIII, canonized her. Her family, father included, and an untold number of her patients showed up for the ceremony.
There is plenty of room at the table, we may just need to scooch over to make more room.
Today is also Cornelius the Centurion (cf. Acts 10:1-49), who many may also have dismissed.
Jesus said to His disciples: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants.”
-- Luke 12:35-38