Monday, November 30, 2015
+ We come now to the first Mass in the Liturgical Calendar year 2016. It is the feast of St. Andrew, the Apostle. There must have been something in his voice, there must have been something in the way he said things, there must have been something in his look and manner that would make these four long-time dedicated fishers of fish leave everything immediately and follow someone who has just offered to make them “fishers of men.” What could this possibly mean? But, they didn’t have to stop to figure it all out: their intuition, their instinct, their gut told them to go and find out what this new adventure was all about.
Andrew was actually the first Apostle called by Jesus as seen in another account; he was the brother of Simon Peter and led him to Jesus. He was a follower of John the Baptist; and like John, he spent his life leading people to Jesus, both before and after the Crucifixion. He was a missionary in Asia Minor and Greece and possibly areas in modern Russia and Poland. He was martyred on a saltire (x-shaped) cross and is said to have preached from it for two days before he died. There are several legendary explanations for why St. Andrew became patron of Scotland. The first being that in 345, the Emperor Constantine the Great decided to move Andrew’s bones from Patras, Greece to Constantinople. Then St. Regulus of Scotland was instructed by an angel to take these relics to the far northwest. He was eventually told to stop on the Fife coast of Scotland, where he founded the settlement of St. Andrew. And, when the Pictish King, Angus, faced a large invading army, he prayed for guidance. A white cloud in the form of a saltire cross floated across the blue sky above him. Angus won a decisive victory, and decreed that Andrew would be the patron saint of his country. The Saltire became the national flag of Scotland in 1385.
The first reading today from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans beautifully describes the mission of the apostle and evangelist. The world must hear the Good News in order to believe in it; and someone must be sent to bring that Good News to the waiting world: this would be the Apostles and their successors and helpers. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!” Faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. May we rejoice that their voice has gone forth to all the earth and their words to the ends of the world; and may we do our part today to spread that word, that message, that hope to at least one person, if not many!
Come after me, says the Lord, and I will make you fishers of men.
St. Andrew, pray for us!
When St. Andrew first caught sight of the gibbet on which he was to die, he greeted the precious wood with joy. "O good cross!" he cried, "made beautiful by the limbs of Christ, so long desired, now so happily found! Receive me into thy arms and present me to my Master, that He Who redeemed me through thee may now accept me from thee." Two whole days the martyr remained hanging on this cross alive, preaching, with outstretched arms from this chair of truth, to all who came near, and entreating them not to hinder his passion.
Sunday, November 29, 2015
+ Today we begin again, telling the story of “Jesus come from heaven to be our redeemer and friend”: today is New Year’s Day in the Church! What resolutions have you made for the coming days, weeks and months? In what way are you planning to open yourself more to the influence of grace, and the action of faith and love in your life?
Our readings remind us that we are all part of the great drama of salvation as active participants: the Scriptures are not just something we read in Church and occasionally at home, but have nothing really literally to do with us personally. This is wrong thinking. The Scriptures have everything to do with us as personally, individually and as families and communities. Even if we were the only person living on earth they would have been written for us because of the final page that is not yet written: the page on which the conclusion of the grand drama of salvation takes place when Christ the King comes on a cloud and call us, by name, (if just one of us) to make an accounting of our life and then to be placed where he would have us placed – on his right or left! We must be called or we will not be placed, so this is very personal indeed.
St. Paul tells the Thessalonians in the second reading (and us), that increasing in grace, love and faith is the best way to go, and the only way to be sure that we will end up in the right place and the right time at the end. He tells us to conduct ourselves so as to please God, always, just as we did at the first moment of our baptisms. If we do this at all times, then we will be ready!
Let us therefore, as the gospel urges us, stand straight and tall when some of the calamities that might signal that the end is near, do, in fact, begin to occur - (do you read the newspapers, and watch the evening news on TV?); Be brave, then, for our redemption just might be at hand: but no matter when it will be truly at hand, be ready, clear minded, sober, stress free and alert.
And so vigilance at all times, is the watchword, while rejoicing in the fact that if we are faithful to Christ, he will be faithful to us, and we will stand strong when things really get interesting on that great and Last Day!
O come, O come, Emmanuel!
Friday, November 27, 2015
+ We come now to the last Mass in the Liturgical Calendar year 2015. It has been a year of grace, a year of worship, a year of service. If we have experienced it correctly there has been an ebb and flow, an increase and a decrease, a period of joy followed by a period of sorrow: for this is how faith is tested and strengthened, this is how worship gets its flavor, this is how we get to see grace at work: God breaking into our lives, doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
The first reading today sums it all up by reminding us that all things, all kingdoms and all nations are in the end subject to the one true Lord and King – Jesus Christ: but that he is a compassionate monarch, a loving king, a doting brother who looks out for his family members: who comprise any who want to belong.
The gospel passage punctuates the whole years’ complement of scripture readings by telling us to be constantly vigilant, as the Jesus we have heard about in the scripture readings this year will come again at any time to reward everyone with what their deeds deserve: may we be among the ones deserving of eternal favor, life and bliss – as we contemplate with all the saints and angels the face of God his Father – the true source of light, warmth, happiness, knowledge, love and peace!
Give glory and eternal praise to God!
Today, November 27, is also the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. We recall it, and celebrate it today as members of its Association. On November 27, 1830, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Catherine Laboure, a novice in the Daughters of Charity is Paris, France, and gave her a vision of an image, with instructions to strike the image, front and back, on a medal. With this medal, Our Lady promised, “All those who wear it will receive great graces; these graces will be abundant for those who wear it with faith.” The “Miraculous Medal” as it was called, was an image of Our Lady with hands extended with graces pouring from her hands. The medal spread far and wide and became a source of many graces to its wearers. It is traditionally worn around the neck and has become a loved a treasured sacramental of the Catholic Church. Our Lady under this title is known as Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
+ On this Thanksgiving Day 2015, we pause, reflect and return to the Lord – as did the one truly grateful leper in the gospel passage – and recall and recount all the blessings and benefits that God has given us not only in this past year, but also throughout our whole lives.
We are truly a blessed people! We live in a land blessed by courageous and brave men and women who endured the hardships of colonial life to found this one nation, under God that would become indivisible, and a champion of liberty and justice for all.
We are blessed to belong among the families God has given us and the friends that he has placed in our lives to support and even challenge us to always become more and more who we are. We must never forget however that the largest and most encompassing family that we belong to is the family of God; with Him as our Father, with Jesus as our Brother, with his Mother, Mary as our Mother too – and all the holy souls who have preceded us to the festal gathering in heaven that awaits us – we offer eternal praise and thanks always.
As we feast today, let us remember and bless those who might not have enough to eat, especially those who are victims of the unspeakable violence that erupts daily in many regions of the world, and let us comfort them at least by our prayers – and our sacrificial giving during this upcoming holiday season. There is always a good cause that could use a helping hand.
Jesus, Master! Have pity on us and we shall be grateful and sing your praises among the assembly every day of our lives!
+ The first reading today from the Prophet Daniel encourages us always to read the handwriting on the wall – sometimes it’s the best way God has in communicating with us.
The gospel passage presents a realistic picture of what being a Catholic is all about: it is being a member of a group, a community, who stand alone in the world, contrary to its values, and intent on making a difference in it in order to save it and help transform it into the heavenly reality that it is called to be. This would then mean that this “world” will hate us – if we are doing our part rightly – but we are not to worry because God himself is not only in our midst, he is deep within us – and our baptisms, confirmations and ordinations arm us to deal with whatever it takes to be the evangelists we are called to be.
May it not be said that any of us declined to help the Lord in bringing the Good News of salvation to the ends of the earth as he asked us to do; it is our joy to do this and we will be empowered all the way! This does not mean it will be easy, but it means that it will be doable, and redemptive for ourselves and for others – and what more could we ask for?
Give glory and eternal praise to him!
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
+ It was through the missionary efforts of various religious families, beginning in the sixteenth century and continuing until 1866, the Vietnamese people heard the message of the gospel, and many accepted it despite persecution and even death. On June 19, 1988, Pope St. John Paul II canonized 117 persons martyred in the eighteenth century.
Among these were nine-six Vietnamese, eleven missionaries born in Spain and belonging to the Order of Preachers, and then French missionaries belonging to the Paris Foreign Mission Society. Among these saints are eight Spanish and French bishops, fifty priests and fifty-nine lay people. These martyrs gave their live not only for the Church but for their country as well. They showed that they wanted the gospel of Christ to take root in their people and contribute to the good of their homeland.
On June 1, 1989, these holy martyrs were inscribed in the liturgical calendar of the Universal Church on November 24th.
Our first reading today from the Book of Revelation beautifully describes the definition of the “firstfruits ransomed from the earth”: the hundred and forty-four thousand martyrs who follow the Lamb wherever he goes: “on their lips no deceit has been found; they are unblemished.” St. Andrew Dung-lac and companion martyrs are assuredly among this number.
The gospel passage today speaks of another kind of “martyrdom” that we all can participate in: the “white martyrdom” of total self-gift and sacrificial care for others. Even the poorest of the poor can do these things for one another: and the reward will be great in heaven: a place at the throne of the Lamb is assuredly reserved.
Lord, we all long to see your face. Help us this day to sacrifice for us, and thus one day reach you and the thousands upon thousands who have gone before us.
Monday, November 23, 2015
+ Today we see that the generosity of the widow is a good lesson for us, who are the disciples of Jesus. We can be extremely generous, as the wealthy people that were “putting their gift into the treasure box.” But, none of this will be worth the while, if we only give “from our plenty”, without any loving or generous spirit, without offering ourselves along with the money.
St. Augustine says: “They looked at the great offerings from the wealthy and they praised them for that. And, even if they could see the widow later on, how many did notice those two coins…? She gave whatever she had, for she had God in her heart. But she had plenty, for she had God in her heart. It is better to have God in our soul than gold in the safe.”
The example of the saints also encourages us to follow in their same footsteps and to experience the joys of those who trust in God. To be a saint it is not necessary to perform extraordinary deeds and works, nor is it necessary to possess exceptional charisms. It is our vocation, vigorously reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council, to be members of God’s great family, simply giving what we have for the good of one another, and not to be showy about it.
This is quite true: let us be generous with God and his people, our brothers and sisters, and he will be much more so with us.
Sunday, November 22, 2015
Today is summation Sunday in the Catholic Church! It all comes down to Christ the Lord, Christ the King: Christ the Savior of the World! To think that the world is a random conglomeration of purposely non-interrelating parts and particles is to see things completely amiss! Everything came from One source, and it is all returning there for sure and for certain! All of creation knows this, the trees, the plants, the animals, the birds and the fish – it is the human species – with reason and free-will that seems to have the most problem getting some kind of grasp on the “larger picture” – the “major plan” – the Creator/Father’s “diary!”
God could have drawn us into the life of his unimagined beatitude and bliss simply, effortlessly and without a whimper from us – but he chose not to do it that way. He chose not to make us robot-like clones of his; rather, he wanted us to be graced, truly graced with his most cherished possession: personhood with freedom of will (freedom to love), and a rational mind, the ability to think and to plan the ways of our loving!
We were never meant to be “off on our own” in some fantasy existence apart from him! He is our Father, he is our Protector, he is our Defender and he is our Destiny! And this applies to every person on the earth. And to make this all very clear: he sent his own Son to become one of us, so that he can communicate very clearly of his love, his intentions and his plans. All we have to do is to freely love to cooperate, and cooperate freely in loving one another as he loves us!
The only thing that really matters for humans is “love” – we are born to love, to interact, to be instruments of peace and joy in one another’s lives – in as selfless a way as possible. [Scientific proof of this: “The Brain” on TV PBS – our brains are wired to interact with and be in relation to other brains and persons – plain and simple].
And so Jesus came as the fullness and richness of God to lead us home; he is therefore Lord (as Son of the Father), he is King as the central figure of all human and created history, and he is Savior of the World – as no one else could ever be qualified to do the job: God was offended by man; only a Man-God could repair the damage!
Today then, we hail Christ Jesus not only as our Lord and King and Savior (though he truly is these for sure); but we also hail him as our Brother and Shepherd and Friend! The family that we belong to because of him is enormous and amazing! May we rejoice in our membership in the Kingdom today, and tout the fact that we are members of a truly Royal Family: the Celestial Family of God!
The Lord is King; he is robed in majesty – let all nations fall down and worship him sooner rather than later – it is only in this way that there will be peace on earth and good will towards all people, everywhere!
Thursday, November 19, 2015
+ Today we see Jesus weeping over Jerusalem because he knows that in about 40 years it will be destroyed as is prophesied, with the expulsion of the Procurator Gessius Florus and the successful resistance to the Roman counterattack in the year 66. The Jewish war will have begun, and will not merely be a war against the Romans, but in broader terms it will also be a civil war between rival Jewish factions and their ringleaders. This was what accounted for the full horror for the fight for Jerusalem. And so, Jesus wept. He loved Jerusalem. He loved what he could have done for it, both religiously and politically. He would love it to the end.
But, because it would continue to reject him, to respect him, to focus on him as God’s gift of his presence in their midst – they would lose out on everything.
Jesus sits outside our homes, our cities and our countries – weeping – because we simply do not let him in, we don’t acknowledge his almighty power and presence, we don’t appreciate all he has done and can do for us – and so, we are left out in the cold, to fight amongst ourselves, and out sworn enemies – the Devil and his angels.
If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. Help us, Lord, to “recognize the time of your visitation.”
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
+ Today we celebrate the feast of two of the four major basilicas in Rome: those of St. Peter and St. Paul. The original church built over the tomb of St. Peter was begun in 330 during the reign of the Emperor Constantine, and it was enlarged and modified many times throughout the centuries under the watchful eye of some of the greatest artists and architects of all time: Bramante, Raphael, Peruzzi, Sangallo, Michelangelo, Maderno and Bernini. It is the central church in Christendom and is meant to reflect the very throne of God itself from which all blessings come, and to where all creatures will one day go. The crypts and altars of the basilica contain the burial places of over 130 popes.
The Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls (of Rome) was first built over the relics of the Apostle Paul, by Constantine in the fourth century. It too underwent several revisions. The basilica burned to the ground in 1823 and was rededicated after a complete rebuilding in 1854. The church has been maintained over the centuries by Benedictine monks who live in an adjacent monastery.
The reason that the Church celebrates these two visible church buildings is because of their association with Sts. Peter and Paul upon whom the entire invisible structure of the Church rests. It is the keys of Peter and the preaching and teaching of Paul derived from the action of the Holy Spirit himself that gives the Church its life and credibility.
In a world that in many ways is getting tragically more and more ugly and disfigured every day, may we look to these two magnificent edifices as ineffable symbols of the glory of God of which we are called to share both in this life and in its fullness in the next. We need reliable, beautiful, awe-inspiring symbols to remind us that God is really in charge, just as he always has been, just as he always will be!
Sts. Peter and Paul pray for us!
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
+ St. Elizabeth of Hungary – who lived in the early 13th century – was the patron of Franciscan tertiaries and of Catholic charities. She was born a princess, the daughter of King Andrew of Hungary. She was the great-aunt of St. Elizabeth of Portugal. As was promised when they were children, Elizabeth married Prince Louis of Thuringa at age 13. Using her influence, a hospital was built at the foot of the mountain on which her castle stood; she tended to the sick herself. Her family and courtiers opposed this, but she insisted she could only follow Christ’s teaching, and not theirs.
Once when she was taking food to the poor and sick, Prince Louis stopped her and looked under her mantle to see what she was carrying: the food had been miraculously changed to roses. Upon the death of Louis, Elizabeth sold all that she had, and worked to support her four children. Her gifts of bread to the poor, and of a large gift of grain to a famine stricken Germany, led to her patronage of bakers and related fields. Elizabeth died in 1231 at Marburg, Germany of natural causes. Her relics and a gold crown she had worn in life are preserved at the convent of St. Elizabeth in Vienna, Austria.
The Letter of St. John, of the first reading today, must have meant something special to Elizabeth where it speaks of helping any who are in need, as a way of experiencing the love of God. St. John encouraged the followers of Jesus to love not in word or speech but in deed and truth: this is what St. Elizabeth of Hungary did wholeheartedly!
The passage from St. Luke’s Sermon on the Plain lists any number of practices that must be adopted by the true follower of Christ – but they are summarized by giving, forgiving and helpful actions towards the poor and the needy. May we, along with St. Elizabeth, follow Jesus’ command to love as he loved us – and so experience his joy and his peace – both in this life and in the next!
Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Monday, November 16, 2015
Not much is known about the parents and early life of St. Gertrude the Great. She was born January 6, 1256 in Thuringia (a part now of modern Germany). She may have been an orphan. Raised in the Benedictine abbey of Saint Mary of Helfta in Saxony, from age five, Gertrude was extremely bright and a dedicated student. She excelled in literature and philosophy. When she was old enough she became a Benedictine nun. At age 26 when she had become too enamored of philosophy, she received a vision of Christ who reproached her; from then on she studied the Bible and works of the Church Fathers. Gertrude received other visions and mystical instruction, which formed the basis of her writings. She helped spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Her writings have been greatly praised by Saint Teresa and Saint Francis de Sales, and continue in print today. She died on November 17, 1302 at the convent of Saint Mary’s of Helfta of natural causes.
Prayer of St. Gertrude the Great
Our Lord dictated the following prayer to St. Gertrude the Great to release 1,000 Souls from Purgatory each time it is said.
"Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen."
Our readings today speak of the rootedness in Christ’s love that we each must possess to remain rooted in him as a branch to a vine. This rootedness begins with faith, and ends always with works of charity done by means of the very life of God flowing through us. Our works can thus be of great use both for the world at large both here and hereafter.
And we can affect the future of those in the purgatorial process.
May we be generous in our faith and our works this day! – if only by pausing to say the Prayer of St Gertrude several times to release thousands of captive souls!
The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Today our readings refer to that inevitable time of reckoning that ought not to come as a great surprise to anyone! The entire proclamation of the gospel by Jesus was to make everyone aware of this Great Day that would one day come – the Day of Judgment, the day of reward or punishment. Jesus came to “be the escape” for people from the horror that will occur then. “Be rooted and grafted onto me” and your future will be secure and you will be safe! The converse is also true “be unattached from me, reject me, mock me – believe not in me” – and you will be lost forever!
Sometimes, it is good to simply be reminded of the facts of the matter! Sometimes the horrors of events such have recently taken place in Paris remind us – point blank – that the godless unbelievers do exist, and they place no value whatsoever on human lives – not their own, nor those of others.
For those on the “safe side,” the very angels of God, led by Archangel Michael will battle on your behalf! And you shall be victorious! Side with the fallen angel prince of darkness and his minions – and you will be crushed with them most assuredly!
Our second reading today reminds us that the price of our reconciliation - the self-sacrifice of Christ the Eternal High Priest – has been made once and for all people and for all time! May we cling to that reality, and cling to the Blood of Christ that was shed to make it happen! Without the Blood of the Lamb, we would be doomed; with it, we are heirs of divinity!
What an amazing God we have, to have planned such an elaborate “scheme of redemption” – the coming to earth of the God-Man, and his brutal Death by Crucifixion - just so that we would have the chance to live forever in unparalleled peace and joy, instead of something that could have been quite the opposite!
Let us pray that we are vigilant at all times
so that we might have the strength to stand before the Son of Man
when he comes – for you are our inheritance, O LORD!
Friday, November 13, 2015
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (Mother Cabrini), who was born in Lombardi, Italy in 1850, one of thirteen children. At eighteen, she desired to become a nun, but poor health stood in her way. She helped her parents until their death, and then worked on a farm with her brothers and sisters.
One day a priest asked her to teach in a girls' school and she stayed for six years. At the request of her Bishop, she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for poor children in schools and hospitals. Then at the urging of Pope Leo XIII, she came to the United States with six nuns in 1889 to work among the Italian immigrants.
Filled with a deep trust in God and endowed with a wonderful administrative ability, this remarkable woman soon founded schools, hospitals, and orphanages in this strange land and saw them flourish in the aid of Italian immigrants and children. At the time of her death, at Chicago, Illinois on December 22 1917, her institute numbered houses in England, France, Spain, South America, as well as in the United States. In 1946, she became the first American citizen (she previously became a naturalized American after her arrival from Italy) to be canonized when she was elevated to sainthood by Pope Pius XII. St. Frances is the patroness of immigrants.
Our gospel passage today reminds us that Mother Cabrini was like a wise virgin who had ample supply of the oil of her "good works done for love of God" always ready for when the Lord should return. May we imitate her and stock up on good works done for the right reason: in gratitude and love to God for all that he has done and continues to do for us each and every day! Amen.
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Josaphat was the first Eastern saint to be formally canonized by the Catholic Church. Born Ioann Kunceyvch in 1580, his father was a municipal counselor, and his mother known for her piety. He was raised in the Orthodox Ruthenian Church which, in 1595, in the Union of Brest, united with the Church of Rome. Trained as a merchant’s apprentice at Vilnius, Lithuania, he was offered partnership in the business and marriage to his partner’s daughter, but feeling the call to religious life, he declined both. He became a monk of the Ukrainian Order of St. Basil in Vilnius at age 20, taking the name Brother Josaphat. He then became a deacon and was ordained a Byzantine rite priest in 1609. Now Josaphat’s superior never accepted unity with Rome, and looked for a way to fight against Roman Catholicism. Josaphat, learning of the superior’s work, reported him to his superior, the archbishop of Kiev. The superior was removed and the post was given to Josaphat.
He became a famous preacher and worked to bring unity among the faithful and bringing strayed Christians back to the Church. He did this so well that he was named Bishop (of Vitebsk), and later Archbishop (of Polotsk), in Lithuania in 1617. The antagonism against those believing in Church unity and those who wanted nothing to do with Rome was severe. Josaphat did all he could to defend the unity, but in late 1623, a mob broke into his residence and killed Josaphat who was trying to insure the safety of his servants before fleeing himself. His death was a shock to both sides of the dispute and brought some sanity and a cooling off period to both sides of the conflict. Josaphat’s body was found incorrupt five years after his death. He was canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1876.
The Lord’s Prayer for Unity with his bishops, their successors and their flocks (in the gospel passage today) was a driving force for St. Josaphat: Father I pray for them, that they may be one in us. This dynamic and experience of deep unity of God, in his Church is truly beyond description if you really stop and consider it reflectively and prayerfully. St. Josaphat tried his very best to bring this experience of peace and inner strength and joy to his flock, and to be the instrument of unity with the source – the Roman Church – for those who were choosing not to be plugged in to this key vessel of grace!
May we today count ourselves blessed to be a part of the communion not only of saints, but also of those living today who see the one Church as Christ himself – and union with it as union with him – who leads us all safely to the heart’s embrace of his Father in heaven.
The just will flourish like the palm tree in the garden of the Lord.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Martin of Tours was born to pagan parents in the early fourth century. His father was a Roman military officer and tribune. He discovered Christianity and became a catechumen in his early teens. He joined the Roman imperial army at age 15, serving in a ceremonial unit that acted as the emperor’s bodyguard, rarely exposing him to combat. Then he became a cavalry officer, and assigned to garrison duty in France. Martin was baptized into the Church at age 18.
Just before a battle, Martin announced that his faith prohibited him from fighting; circumstances had it that he was not forced into battle thereafter, most likely because of heavenly intervention. After his military service, Martin became a spiritual student of St. Hilary of Poitiers. He was abused by heretics because of his faith, but converted many of them. Soon Hilary and Martin formed what would become the Benedictine abbey of Liguge. They preached and evangelized through the French countryside.
When the bishop of Tours died in 371 Martin was the immediate choice to replace him; he declined but was declared bishop by popular acclamation and consecrated July 4, 372. As bishop, he lived in a hermit’s cell near Tours. Other monks joined him, and a new house, Marmoutier, soon formed. He rarely left his monastery or see city, but sometimes went to Trier, Germany to plead with the emperor for his city, his church, or his parishioners. When he died in 397, Martin was the first non-martyr to receive the ranking of a saint.
The first reading from Isaiah fits the feast: Martin of Tours was anointed by the Spirit of the Lord to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to prisoners. He did this by allowing the Spirit to work through him. We, each, in our own circumstances of life can do the same today because we are baptized into the life of Christ and possess the same vivifying Spirit.
The gospel passage confirms the ministry of the bishop of Tours: he cared for Christ’s little ones as he would care for Christ himself; and he is now being rewarded for his effort. We must follow Christ’s mandate and Martin’s example and do the same: remembering at all times that whatever we do to anyone, but especially the least brothers and sisters of Christ we do directly to him. We may even dream of Christ appearing to us wearing the clothes of the person we have helped – as he did to St. Martin of Tours.
I give you a new commandment; love one another as I have loved you.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
St Leo the Great was pope from 440-461, and thus far is only one of two popes given the title “the Great.” He was born of Tuscan parents at the end of the fourth century, and served as adviser to two popes, Celestine and Sixtus III. He was elected to the papacy while still only a deacon while away in France on a diplomatic mission. As pope he proved to be a strong advocate of papal authority and of the teachings of the Council of Chalcedon on the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ. He was the first pope to claim to be Peter’s heir, which, according to Roman law, meant that all the rights and duties associated with Peter lived on in Leo. Previous popes had spoken of their succession to Peter’s Chair or appealed to his martyrdom and burial in Rome as the basis of their authority. Thereafter, the popes increasingly regarded themselves as standing in the place of Peter, exercising authority not only over all of the faithful, but over all of the other bishops as well.
An interesting note: Leo was very much for the idea that bishops were to be elected by the local clergy and leading laity, and the election was to be ratified by the people generally. This sentiment is often quoted but unfortunately has not been enforced for centuries. “He who is in charge of all should be chosen by all,” declared Leo the Great. The Church of the East was not as disposed to Leo’s papal claims as the Church of the West. They were less than cooperative when Leo sent delegates to their councils. Leo is also credited with a successful confrontation with Attila the Hun, which saved some property and some lives. Upon his death November 10, 461, Leo was buried in the portico, or porch of St. Peter’s. His body was moved to the interior of the basilica in 688, and he was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1754.
The gospel passage today clearly illustrates how the Church is built upon the confession of Peter’s faith in the divinity of Jesus, and we see reflected in this the assertion that all popes – successors of Peter – have in claiming direct juridical descendancy from Peter. The gifts of wisdom and understanding, given by God, confirm this sacred structuring, and invites our obedient affirmation – for our good and the good of the whole Church.
The mouth of the just man murmurs wisdom.
Monday, November 9, 2015
Today we celebrate the feast of the oldest of the four major basilicas of Rome, St. John Lateran – whose official title is the Patriarchal Basilica of the Most Holy Savior and St. John the Baptist at the Lateran. It stands on the site of an ancient palace on the Celian Hill, which formerly belonged to the Laterani family.
The Lateran Basilica (not St. Peter’s) - originally known as the Church of Savior - is the pope’s cathedral church, in his primary role as Bishop of Rome. It is considered “the mother and head of all churches of Rome and the world.” Five ecumenical councils were held there (in 1123, 1139, 1179, 1215 and 1512-17). The emperor Constantine received the palace as part of his wife’s dowry and then donated it to the Church about the year 312. Thereafter, it was the official residence of the popes until their departure for Avignon, France, in 1309. This feast commemorates the original dedication of the basilica by Pope Sylvester I on November 9, 324.
Any church, cathedral or basilica is meant to be first, last and in all ways, “a house of prayer” – and that according to the desire and formulations of Jesus himself as we see in the gospel passage. They are to be “awesome” places – which stir up a sense of wonder and awe from the most humble and small of expressions to the largest and grandest.
Above all, the faithful that gather there must reflect on the fact that the building they are in represents themselves as spiritual dwelling places for God – they themselves are God’s building, God’s temple, God’s church, with God dwelling in them in a much deeper way than he ever could in a compilation of stone, mortar and glass – beautiful though they may be.
And all of our church buildings are to represent and lead us to the most supreme awesome throne of God – where we will dwell in our spiritual home forever in Christ as One Body, One Temple, and One Church forever!
The waters of the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High!
Sunday, November 8, 2015
Wednesday of this week, though not being a religious holiday, is nevertheless held in great esteem by all Americans, and finds its way into its religious celebrations on this day: the day is November 11, 2015. For us, as Americans, this is traditionally known as Veteran’s Day, being established as such by a Congressional Act at the request of President Calvin Coolidge in 1939, “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and hereafter known as Armistice Day.” This reflects the origins of the day with that of the German signing of the Armistice which was transpired at the 11th hour of the 11thday of the 11th month of 1918, which thus formally ended the major hostilities of World War I. It was President Dwight D Eisenhower who was responsible for changing the word “Armistice” with “Veterans,” in 1956, thus making this date, at least to this point the National “Veterans Day” recognition and celebration.
Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day; Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving.
And so now we reflect for a few moments on what this national day of remembrance has to do with our readings today, and our Eucharistic celebration. It has everything to do with them.
Our readings can speak to us of our nation’s pride in those who served in the military in any capacity for time immemorial. Jesus himself was a member of an amazing, though transcendent native land; and he himself was placed in the charge of maintaining its sovereignty among all the nations of the earth, in a spiritual sense; thus he is also meant to be in charge of loving hearts of those who are willing to help the cause out!
Going ahead first, Jesus, himself bravely and personally cleared the way for all his followers by making the ultimate sacrifice of his own life for the spiritual liberation of all of us, and all in the world. And then he enlisted an army of disciples to help him lead home all who would take refuge in the teeming celestial shores of plenty and prosperity – provided by his Father, who is Lord and Master of all!
What is unprecedented and unrepeatable is that the One Sacrifice of Christ sufficed for everyone, everywhere and at all time; and it is the Truth that he lived and died for, the Life that he made known and desired to share, and the Way that he pointed out quite literally – that can motivate everyone, to live a life of self-sacrifice and helpfulness to all in need.
A soldier, a disciple and a widow with almost nothing to live on can have one thing in common: if they give themselves away completely to God and his will: for them there will be food for a year, a clear path of discipleship and a service record to be proud of!
And so, on this Veteran’s Day, we thank the widow, the disciple and the soldier for surrendering their own fears and input into plans and situations, and choosing what angels and good spirits tell them is the right thing to do!
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!
Friday, November 6, 2015
The gospel passage today has strong reference to career-climbing bishops and priests who are out to serve themselves – and be served – rather than serving the people of God as their vocation requires them to do: this, according to Pope Francis homily this very day at the daily Mass chapel at the Vatican.
Jesus proposed the parable to display his displeasure at the way these very people would “pad their pockets and living quarters” if they were called to give account of their stewardship. He calls them conveniently, and craftily devious in acting in a backhandedly “prudent way.” This is not the kind of compliment that any of us would want Jesus to refer to us.
We are children of light who have the power to admonish one another, to expose the hypocritical and mischievous social/business climbers, even among the clergy. We do that by our insistence on a life of transparency, humility and poverty: especially poverty of spirit. We must trust in God for everything, absolutely everything.
May God’s mercy pierce the hearts of pastors, low or high ranking, who are no pastors at all. May they see the light of God’s children and be led by them, before it is too late.
Whoever keeps the word of Christ, the love of God is truly perfected in him.
Thursday, November 5, 2015
On the one hand, in the first reading today, St. Paul tells the Romans that for the baptized (and of any century and era) life and death are now “in the Lord Jesus” – in whom we “died and rose” when the waters were poured over our heads. We, each, are now “alive for the Lord” – or ought to be – and none other – least especially for our own selves, satisfactions, pleasures and superiority over others.
So, stop judging each other – your life is in God – and if there is going to be any judging at all – it will be when the end comes and we all stand before the judgment seat of God. We must ponder this reality often.
In the gospel passage we see two examples of how heaven rejoices when a man or a woman realizes his errors, his faulty perceptions, his bad judgments and decisions and goes to the Lord’s presence – either in the Sacraments of Reconciliation or simply in private prayer – and allows himself to be found like a lost sheep or coin.
All of heaven, and earth, should rejoice when a rightly formed conscience makes the right choice and the proper creaturely, family relationship is established or re-established. We are not meant to be servants and slaves of God, cowering to his irrational will, but rather pampered children enjoying the abundant gifts and surprises that our loving Father always has in store for those who humble themselves and trust him completely – and not themselves or their own devices.
Let us go to God then, in our labors, and when we are burdened, for he is the source of amazing and deep rest and peace!
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Charles Borromeo was born in 1538 and died in 1584. He is considered one of the most important bishops in the history of the Church and an outstanding figure in the Catholic Reformation. He is the patron of bishops, catechists and seminarians.
Born into a wealthy family, having Pope Pius IV as an uncle, Charles received an excellent education achieving a doctorate in civil, as well as canon law. At a time when the Body of Christ, the Church, was beginning a 500year old shattering and splintering process that goes on to this very day – with individuals and groups thinking they have a "better idea" – Charles was in the forefront of the Catholic Re-formation. He was a churchman through and through - fighting with all his might to keep the Church of Christ as Christ gave it. To this end he drafted a Catechism for the Council of Trent (the official listing of Church teaching on the wide variety of topics), and he contributed to the reform of liturgical books and music.
Seeing how the clergy had become lax and self-indulgent, he formed a society of diocesan priests called: The Society of St. Ambrose and St. Charles (The Ambrosians). Many seminaries and parishes who hold fast to the teachings of the Church are named in his honor.
May all parishes named after him, and institutes of spiritual formation, be reminded often of its true inclusion and membership in the Church of Christ; and as Jesus truly is the Good Shepherd leading all to everlasting life, even those who have splintered themselves off from the main flock, may we pray continually for unity among all those who are legitimately baptized and bear the name of Christian: that we all may be one, AGAIN!
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep, and mine know me.
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
St Martin de Porres was the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a young freed black slave, born in Lima, Peru, in 1579. He grew up in poverty and spent part of his youth with a barber-surgeon from whom he learned medicine and care for the sick. At age 11 he became a servant in the Holy Rosary Dominican priory in Lima. He was soon promoted to almoner and begged more than $2000 a week from the rich to support the poor and sick of Lima. He was at the same time placed in charge of the Dominican’s infirmary. Martin was known for his tender care of the sick and for his spectacular cures. His superiors dropped the stipulation that “no black person may be received to the holy habit or profession of our Order” and Martin took vows as a Dominican brother in 1603.
He established an orphanage and children’s hospital for the poor children of the slums. He even set up a shelter for the stray cats and dogs and nursed them back to health. Martin lived in self-imposed austerity, never ate meat, fasted continuously, and spent much time in prayer and meditation with a great devotion to the Holy Eucharist. He died in 1639 in Lima, from a fever he no doubt contracted from the sick to whom he ministered. He was known by the august title of “the father of charity” and canonized by Pope John XXIII in 1962.
St Martin understood the gospel passage today entirely: there is only one commandment but it has two interlocking parts: the greatest commandment is loving God, but this cannot be separated in any way at all from loving our neighbors and ourselves for his sake. These two, form the one supreme commandment that we are all bound to learn about and follow – or nothing in life will ever really make sense for us!
Then, as St. Paul tells the Philippians in the first reading today, all of the excellent and charitable things that we do for others – especially for the poor – will produce in us a peace that is beyond anything that the world can give us: for it will be the peace which is Christ himself!
I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.
Monday, November 2, 2015
The Feast of All Souls, or the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed is a celebration of the lives of loved ones who have gone before us in death, some of whom may still be in need of the Church’s prayers of petition for their deliverance from purgatory into heaven. The feast is bound entirely on the Church’s doctrine concerning the purgative process encountered by the soul of one who, even though sin may have been forgiven, still has temporal punishment (a justified remnant of sin) to be made up for – very much like one sentenced to so many days or years in prison to make up for an unjust action.
While the process used to be thought of in terms of days, months, years – there is no time after death – and so it is not inconsistent in Church teaching to believe that the purgation process can be instantaneous, but experienced in varying degrees of intensity – depending upon the seriousness of the matter involved. This is where the prayer of the Church can help: it can help the person through the very intense birth unto the Beatific Vision of God, for the person cannot pray for himself at that point and is entirely dependent on others and the mercy of God to see him through!
The first real manifestation of the feast was given in 988, by Odilo, abbot of Cluny, who directed his community to observe November 2 as a day of prayer for the dead. From Cluny the practice spread rapidly and widely to the entire Church.
Of course, we must remember that the entire purgative process has everything to do with the hope that we have of having eternal life at all – which was brought about by the Death and Resurrection of Christ. Dying he destroyed our death; rising he restored our life! This is true! This we believe! This is our faith!
And so let us remember by name all of our loved ones today, and then pray for all who are suffering purgatory in general – so that once on “the other side” and safe in God’s heart, they may intercede for us when we are in need, both in this life and at the hour of our death!
I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.
+ St John Chrysostom was born in 347 in Antioch, Asia Minor. His father died when he was young and he was raised by a very pious mother. ...
+ St. Clare of Assisi became a friend of St. Francis of the same town after hearing him preach. Her father was a count and her mother a coun...
+ We celebrate the Feast today of the Cure of Ars. John Mary Vianney was born to a farm family in Lyons, France in 1786. In his youth he tau...