Another Patriarch from the OT and a great way to start the process of the passing from Summer into Fall. As the mantle moved from Moses to Joshua we begin the movement toward the end of the liturgical year, from the desert toward the anticipation of the Promised Land.
"What strikes me is that waiting is a period of learning. The longer we wait the more we hear about him for whom we are waiting. As the Advent weeks progress, we hear more and more about the beauty and the splendor of the One who is to come. The Gospel passages read during Mass all talk about the events before Jesus' birth and the people ready to receive him. In the other readings Isaiah heaps prophecy on prophecy to strengthen and deepen our hope...There is a stark beauty about it all.... Advent does not lead to nervous tension stemming from expectation of something spectacular about to happen. On the contrary, it leads to a growing inner stillness and joy allowing me to realize that he for whom I am waiting has already arrived and speaks to me in the silence of my heart. Just as a mother feels the child grow in her and is not surprised on the day of the birth but joyfully receives the one she learned to know during her waiting, so Jesus can be born into my life slowly and steadily and be received as the one I learned to know while waiting."
― Henri Nowen, The Genesee Diary, Thursday December 19
Today's reading really has very little do do with Ingrid, I just thought that it was timely given the 'climate' today. Ingrid brought Dominicans back with her to Sweden; though her physical accomplishments were wiped off the table during the Reformation, her influence and patronage linger and cannot be erased. What John XXIII addresses similarly has been pushed to the edges since then but it, like the message of Ingrid, remains.
The Creator has bestowed abundant energy on the world, and over the ages man has applied his genius to harnessing and using it for his needs. But in our times, in what may be called the technical age of man, the possible uses of energy are increasing enormously: not only energy of the "traditional" kind but also energy which comes from sources which have so far been used little or not at all, such as the sun or the wind or even the waters and vapors hidden in the bowels of the earth: solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy.
Your discussions will focus on these new possibilities, not so much in order to consider the abstract principles as to draw up an inventory of existing concrete achievements in various regions of the universe which may be applied with success elsewhere. And you are concerned above all, we know, with the well-being of mankind and you wish in particular to help the peoples of the underdeveloped countries, whose enormous needs constitute today a ceaseless appeal to all men of feeling.
On many occasions, and most recently at considerable length in the Encyclical Mater et Magistra on the social question, we exhorted our sons of the Catholic Church, and with them all men of good will, to show a greater awareness of their duties towards these less favored brothers.
― From the Address of His Holiness John XXIII to the United Nations Conference on New Sources of Energy 28 August, 1961
When we think about history, we rarely think about the role of the Faith in that history. Gregory gave us so many things, and helped to steady the ship of Church and state.
The music we appreciate and take for granted today has roots in the chant of the Church sanctioned and popularized by Gregory. It is hard to quantify this gift but it is all around us. He supported and offered sanctuary to Athanasius and others. The structure of Europe benefits from his efforts of Faith when working with the Lombards, a Germanic/Scandinavian people who took over Italy in the wake of the collapsing Roman Empire.
He was obviously a humble, patient, and thoughtful man and it shows in his many letters. While we may find some of his conclusions repugnant or misguided, what we can hear is the justice that founds them, flawed though they may be, that calls for the love of all for all that Christ calls us to - even for those we do not consider worthy. Gregory reminds us to consider all worthy and to practice justice beyond what we think of as just merely for ourselves.
The Hebrews dwelling in Terracina have petitioned us for license to hold, under our authority, the site of their synagogue which they have held hitherto. But, inasmuch as we have been informed that the same site is so near to the church that even the sound of their psalmody reaches it, we have written to our brother and fellow-bishop Peter that, if it is the case that the voices from the said place are heard in the church, the Jews must cease to worship there. Therefore let your Fraternity, with our above-named brother and fellow-bishop, diligently inspect this place, and if you find that there has been any annoyance to the church, provide another place within the fortress, where the aforesaid Hebrews may assemble, so that they may be able to celebrate their ceremonies without impediment. But let your Fraternity provide such a place, in case of their being deprived of this one, that there be no cause of complaint in future. But we forbid the aforesaid Hebrews to be oppressed or vexed unreasonably; but, as they are permitted, in accordance with justice, to live under the protection of the Roman laws, let them keep their observances as they have learnt them, no one hindering them: yet let it not be allowed them to have Christian slaves.
Joseph, a Jew, the bearer of these presents, has informed us that, the Jews dwelling in the camp of Terracina having been accustomed to assemble in a certain place for celebrating their festivities, your Fraternity had expelled them thence, and that they had migrated, and this with your knowledge and consent, to another place for in like manner observing their festivities; and now they complain that they have been expelled anew from this same place. But, if it is so, we desire your Fraternity to abstain from giving cause of complaint of this kind, and that they be allowed, as has been the custom, to assemble in the place which, as we have already said, they had obtained with your knowledge for their place of meeting. For those who dissent from the Christian religion must needs be gathered together to unity of faith by gentleness, kindness, admonition, persuasion, lest those whom the sweetness of preaching and the anticipated terror of future judgment might have invited to believe should be repelled by threats and terrors. It is right, then, that they should come together kindly to hear the word of God from you rather than that they should become afraid of overstrained austerity.
-- Epistle 10 and 35, To Bacauda and Agnellus, Bishops.
"In this way, I realized that I was an apostle of love. The divine Mendicant convinced me of the truth that men on earth are dependent on one another, for their spiritual as well as their social life. I had a moral responsibility towards all the souls throughout the world, those living at the present time and those who would be created in the future.
This is the reason: the actions of Jesus are infinite in value; one single act of love offered by Him to the Father could save millions of worlds. Hence, if I remained annihilated, the Savior, hidden beneath the cloak of my exterior being, could freely carry out His pastoral mission, baptizing and purifying souls in His Blood, bringing them to perfection, enabling them to run towards the fragrance of His perfume. But, alas! If I simply hesitated to remain in the state of death, if for one moment I desired to be born again out of dust, then I would interrupt the action of Jesus; perhaps just at that moment He was ready to shed a torrent of graces on the entire universe and, if I placed an obstacle in His way, I would become responsible for the lack of good accomplished because of an absence of divine light."
In the trenches, we understand the struggle of everyday spirituality and we understand that it is different from the desire to do God's will. The knowledge that God's will must be done is what drives us even if we do not understand what God's will for us is. So many want to make problems, obstacles, doubt, human weakness, and other road-blocks in spirituality into mountains which mean loss of faith, or that the times when we feel empty as proof that there is no God.
The Church has a long history and Teresa is not the first saint to experience the Dark Night of the Soul, nor will she be the last. It is no worse than the times I look up at the Eucharist and see and feel nothing. But I also understand that my inability to feel God's presence at any time is not an indication that God is not there - He is because the Eucharist is there and I have confidence in the promises of Christ. Take comfort in the fact that we can still do God's will, still be willing vessels of His love, even though we are poor clay vessels.
I know this is getting long, but I want to end my reflection by sharing part of the reflection on Teresa from the Universalis web site:
"Mother Teresa’s widespread appeal comes from the directness of her inspiration, and her direct response to it. She went out and did things where they were needed. When we think of big problems we inevitably think that they can only be solved by a big campaign. Perhaps that is true, perhaps not; but while the campaign is getting going, why not go out and help one person in the name of Mother Teresa? If there are 1,000 hungry people in your city, why not make it 999? If each of us did that – well, in most countries where this is being read, there are more Catholics than there are people in need." (www.universalis.com, Sept 5th)
And this is what I mean, I want you to love the poor, and never turn your back to the poor, for in turning your back to the poor, you are turning it to Christ. For he had made himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one, so that you and I have an opportunity to love him, because where is God? How can we love God? It is not enough to say to my God I love you, but my God, I love you here. I can enjoy this, but I give up. I could eat that sugar, but I give that sugar. If I stay here the whole day and the whole night, you would be surprised of the beautiful things that people do, to share the joy of giving. And so, my prayer for you is that truth will bring prayer in our homes, and from the foot of prayer will be that we believe that in the poor it is Christ. And we will really believe, we will begin to love. And we will love naturally, we will try to do something. First in our own home, next door neighbor in the country we live, in the whole world. And let us all join in that one prayer, God give us courage to protect the unborn child, for the child is the greatest gift of God to a family, to a nation and to the whole world.
-- Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech
(and you should read the whole thing: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1979/teresa/26200-mother-teresa-acceptance-speech-1979/ )
It is not everyday that you get to be the classmate of a future pope and saint who holds you in high regard, but I guess someone has to be. Olinto was ordained but unlike his classmate the future John XXIII, he studied and taught in seminary and at the parish level, spending much of his time seeking funding for sufficient housing for the poor among other things to address the needs of the poor and marginalized.
A message that Olinto delivered while sitting on a stool to passerbys on the street, was to be aware of their indifference to the suffering of others. It is a good message to each of us. You do not have to be pope to do great things, or to call attention to injustices.
Olinto is another "new" addition but shows that even in the 20th century things had not really changed for us and that the call of Christ to us to take care of the least of our brothers and sisters is as urgent today as it was 2000 years ago.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
-- Matthew 25:31-46
It is foolish, generally speaking, for a philosopher to set fire to another philosopher in Smithfield Market because they do not agree in their theory of the universe. That was done very frequently in the last decadence of the Middle Ages, and it failed altogether in its object. But there is one thing that is infinitely more absurd and unpractical than burning a man for his philosophy. This is the habit of saying that his philosophy does not matter, and this is done universally in the twentieth century, in the decadence of the great revolutionary period. General theories are everywhere contemned; the doctrine of the Rights of Man is dismissed with the doctrine of the Fall of Man. Atheism itself is too theological for us to-day. Revolution itself is too much of a system; liberty itself is too much of a restraint. We will have no generalizations. Mr. Bernard Shaw has put the view in a perfect epigram: "The golden rule is that there is no golden rule." We are more and more to discuss details in art, politics, literature. A man's opinion on tramcars matters; his opinion on Botticelli matters; his opinion on all things does not matter. He may turn over and explore a million objects, but he must not find that strange object, the universe; for if he does he will have a religion, and be lost. Everything matters—except everything.
Examples are scarcely needed of this total levity on the subject of cosmic philosophy. Examples are scarcely needed to show that, whatever else we think of as affecting practical affairs, we do not think it matters whether a man is a pessimist or an optimist, a Cartesian or a Hegelian, a materialist or a spiritualist. Let me, however, take a random instance. At any innocent tea-table we may easily hear a man say, "Life is not worth living." We regard it as we regard the statement that it is a fine day; nobody thinks that it can possibly have any serious effect on the man or on the world. And yet if that utterance were really believed, the world would stand on its head. Murderers would be given medals for saving men from life; firemen would be denounced for keeping men from death; poisons would be used as medicines; doctors would be called in when people were well; the Royal Humane Society would be rooted out like a horde of assassins. Yet we never speculate as to whether the conversational pessimist will strengthen or disorganize society; for we are convinced that theories do not matter.
― G. K. Chesterton, Heretics
I know that I say often that I try to avoid multiple celebrations on one day but these two go together in their care for the poor.
Thomas, an Augustinian friar, may not have been viewed as the sharpest tool in the shed being a bit absentminded but revered and placed in high offices not as much for his intellect as for his holiness.
Antoine-Frederic, a layman, on the other hand was a brilliant and respected lawyer, scholar, and teacher. Instead of high offices he, remained a humble cleric.
Both lived in times that questioned everything about the Church and both saw the truth of the Gospel in the poor.
And that is the point I take away from them today. It often seems like the Church is under attack or the attitude of the world around it is negative toward her teachings, and we can focus there, but these saints tell us that if our true focus is on the poor, "these least ones" then the Truth will always triumph because it happens regardless of the attitudes of the world. Our success is not that the world views us kindly but that we have lived the Gospel. We can be articulate or not but It is our care and compassion, our imitation of Christ, that measures our success. Hopefully the world will see our deeds and give praise to the Father, but if not, then we have helped one another as we should.
Is that good man who does not entertain these sentiments aware said he of the care and pains I have taken to correct those against whom his anger is directed Have I not reproved and exhorted them several times both in public and private and mentioned them as incorrigible to the viceroy and governor of Valentia Let him in short inquire whether St Augustine and St John Chrysostom those two great lights of the Church used anathemas and excommunication to arrest the progress of drunkeness and swearing which were so common among the people under their care No for they were too wise and too prudent They did not think it right to exchange a little good for a great evil nor inconsiderately to use their authority and thus excite the aversion of those whose friendship they wished to obtain in order to influence them for their good.
-- From a sermon quoted in The Life of St. Thomas of Villanova, By Claude Maimbourg
Yesterday I spoke of those who work against a world hostile to the Church. Today, with Peter, we look at someone who worked against those who were supposedly on his side, fellow Christians who enslaved others and treated them with, if not disdain, at least indifference.
Peter was sharp, becoming a Jesuit by the tender age of 20. He came as a missionary to America and in his youth easily saw the injustice and worked to give not conversion but compassion. "We must speak to [the slaves] with our hands by giving, before we try to speak to them with our lips." His "love first" practice supposedly converted over 300,000, a mind-boggling number, but once again, it is his holiness that we celebrate and seek to emulate.
Peter pray that we work with compassion and seek first to relieve injustice rather than imposing our will instead of God's.
After pronouncing his blessing on poverty, the Lord added Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Dearly beloved, this mourning that is promised eternal comfort has nothing in common with the afflictions of this world. No-one is made blessed by the kind of lamentation that the whole human race indulges in. The sighs and blessed tears of the saints have another cause. Holy sorrow comes from contemplating one’s own sins and the sins of others. It does not weep at the actions of divine justice but at the sins committed by human wickedness. It is the one who does evil here who is to be pitied, not the one who suffers it: for what the evil man has done thrusts him down to punishment, while what the just man has put up with leads him up into glory.
Then the Lord added Blessed are the meek, for they shall have the earth for their inheritance. To the meek and gentle, to the lowly and unassuming, to all who are prepared to endure injury – to these the earth is promised. This is not a small or unimportant inheritance, as if “the earth” were somehow distinct from a dwelling-place in heaven: in fact, you must understand it as meaning that only the meek will enter the kingdom of heaven. This earth that is promised to the meek, that is to be given to the gentle to possess, is the body of the saints, whose humility will raise them up and clothe them in the glory of immortality, united at last with the Spirit of unity. Then the outer self will belong to the inner self at last, a peaceful and secure possession.
The meek will possess this inheritance in everlasting peace and their right to it will never grow less. Our present perishable nature must put on imperishability and this mortal nature must put on immortality, so that a danger to the soul becomes a reward and what was onerous becomes an honor.
― Leo the Great, on the Beatitudes
In the last two days, I have mentioned saints who have fought against a world and a Church hostile to their charity. How do we react to such open hostility? Do we withdraw and work quietly, avoiding those who would stop us or do we work openly, ignoring those who oppose us?
Ambrose was baptized Catholic, raised Protestant, came back and was ordained. He returned to England to minister. While many worked in secret with aliases, certainly doing the Lord's work, Ambrose was quite open in his ministry. Arrested several times, he was never convicted. Through it all, he never hid what he did and was probably tolerated until such time as he began to impinge upon the Anglican congregation by the number of faithful and an increasing number of converts. Eventually he was arrested by an armed mob, led by the local vicar. Charged with the crime of being a priest of Rome, he freely admitted it, as he had never hid before he obviously had no reason to now but this time was convicted and killed.
If following Christ is going to get us killed, we might as well be bold about it.
Ambrose, pray that we will be bold in spreading the Gospel.
Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Messiah already appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old. For Moses said: 'A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you. Everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be cut off from the people.’ Moreover, all the prophets who spoke, from Samuel and those afterwards, also announced these days. You are the children of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors when he said to Abraham, ‘In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.” While they were still speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees confronted them, disturbed that they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They laid hands on them and put them in custody until the next day, since it was already evening. But many of those who heard the word came to believe and (the) number of men grew to [about] five thousand.
-- Acts 3:19-4:4