Friday, January 29, 2016
+ We know that in his parables, Jesus is talking about himself…the “kingdom” and Jesus’ own person belong together – they are one and the same reality. In the gospel passage we see that out of the seeming nothingness of something as insignificant as a mustard seed, greatness can spring. Out of David’s double sin will sprout one of the most profound expressions of sorrow for sin ever written, Psalm 51, the Miserere.
In this Holy Year of Mercy, we need to reflect often on this beautiful song of sorrow, this song of petition, this song of humility because if we too can sing it sincerely, then we are on the path of deep joy and peace in the heart of God’s everlasting mercy and forgiveness.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleans me.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.”
Let me hear the sounds of joy and gladness;
the bone you have crushed shall rejoice.
Turn away your face from my sins,
and blot out all my guilt.
These are magnificent words, and a worthy confession of sin.
Thursday, January 28, 2016
+ Today we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, “The Angelic Doctor,” one of the most influential theologians in all of Church history. He was born, son of the Count of Aquino, near Naples, Italy. He was educated by Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino and at the University of Naples. He secretly joined the mendicant Dominican friars in 1244. His family kidnapped and imprisoned him for a year to keep him out of sight, and to deprogram him, but he escaped imprisonment and rejoined his order in 1245. He then studied in Paris under St. Albert the Great, who sang the praises of his bright, young student: the lowing of this dumb ox would be heard all over the world.
Thomas was ordained a priest in 1250, and then returned to Paris to teach theology at the University of Paris. He wrote defenses of the mendicant orders, commentaries on Aristotle and some bible-related works, usually by dictating to secretaries. He won his doctorate and taught in several Italian cities. He was always in demand for his intellectual prowess, and spiritual insight which he combined in his most classic and famous work: The Synthesis of Theology, or as we know it: The Summa Theologica. In all of his research, writing and teaching, however, Thomas was one of the first to show how faith and reason could be complementary to one another, and how anyone at all – Christian, Jewish, or pagan – could contribute in the final analysis of a given topic so long as they were authentically searching for and in touch with truth in its objective state.
On the 6th of December 1273, Thomas experienced a divine revelation which so enraptured him that he abandoned the Summa (before finishing it), saying that it and his other writing were so much straw in the wind compared to the reality of the divine glory. He died four months later while en route to the Council of Lyons, overweight and with his health broken by overwork.
Because of his penchant to include all sources – sacred and profane – in the search for truth – several bishops condemned some of Thomas’s works shortly after his death, but Pope John XXII, who must have had a deep appreciation for them, canonized Thomas less than fifty years after his death in 1274. Pope Leo VIII commanded that his teaching be studied by all theology students from then on. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1567.
St. Thomas Aquinas understood the readings for Mass today: wisdom is an enormously valuable treasure that must be prayed for and then protected and guarded at all costs: the secrets of God lie in wisdom; the gospel passage reflects, no doubt, Thomas’s humility in knowing that even though he was regarded as a teacher extraordinaire, he paled in comparison with the glory of Christ the Teacher and Master of which his light was but a flicker!
May we never tire of praying for wisdom, and then working to preserve its fruit once it arrives. May study of the things of God be part of our daily routine, our daily bread.
Lord, teach me your statutes for I am open of mind and generous of heart, and ready to be taught.
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
+ Today we celebrate the venerated foundress of the Ursuline Sisters, St Angela Merici, born March 21, 1474 at Lake Garda, Italy. Angela was a Franciscan tertiary at age 15, and at that time she received a vision telling her she would inspire devout women in their vocation. In Crete, during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, she was struck blind. Her friends wanted to return home, but she insisted on going on, visiting the shrines with as much devotion and enthusiasm as if she had her sight. On the way home, while praying before a crucifix, her sight was restored at the same place where it had been lost.
In 1535 she gathered a group of girl students and began what would become the Institute of Saint Ursula (to whom she had great devotion – Ursula being a 5th century virgin martyr), founded to teach children, beginning with religion and later expanding into secular topics. Angela died January 24, 1540 at Brescia, Italy, her relics are in the church of Saint Afra, in Brescia and her body is incorrupt. She was canonized May 24, 1807 by Pope Pius VII.
Though associated strongly with education, her patronage is against bodily ills, illness, sickness, death of parents, and disabled, handicapped and physically challenged people: sick people in general. Thus, through her intercessory power she can still be an “Angel of Mercy” to a great many people!
Our readings today fit the feast: St Peter reminds us to love one another intensely, and show great hospitality, giving to one another because we ourselves have been gifted with heavenly gifts: may all our work be of service to the Lord in building up his people, each according to his or her talent and ability; the gospel passage reminds us that children are not just to be taught with great loving care and devotion, but that they also have something very valuable to teach us: the innocence, the trust, and the total abandon that we each must have in our relationship with God our Father in heaven who has so many things to give us if we just approach him as a true child.
And so we pray today for all of those who bear the name Angela and who are “angelic in their demeanor”, and for the Ursuline Sisters who still in many parts of the world, including our own country, teach the young, and model the virtues of life as a religious whose founder’s motto was always to do in life what you would have wanted to do in death.
Young men and women, praise the name of the Lord.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
+ Saints Timothy and Titus were confreres of St. Paul, whom he appointed as bishops in the Christian communities that he founded in Ephesus and Crete. Each corresponded with Paul and with their people by writing letters, some of which are now canonical, i.e. part of New Testament scripture. In reading the letters we see how the early church with its various ministries functions and outreaches started to take root, grow and develop. Timothy and Titus both died in the late first century.
Our first reading today is a sample of the correspondence between St. Paul and Timothy. He is encouraging his “son in the ministry” [St. Timothy] to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.
This very letter could be written by Pope Francis to the bishops of the world, and the bishops to all of their priests, and the priests to all of their ministers: the pagan secularism of the world, with its penchant towards unbridled barbarism (which is the same as the heathenism of the first century) is a major threat to all of civilization – and to the establishment of God’s reign. With the strength that comes from God, and God alone, we can and must stir up the passion for evangelization that was given by the Holy Spirit on the day of our baptisms, confirmations and ordinations, because the Lord [truly] sends us to bring glad tidings to the poor and to proclaim liberty to captives. [For who else is there to send?]
The Kingdom of God is at hand for those who believe; may more and more come to believe by our powerful words and our self-less example!
Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations!
Monday, January 25, 2016
+ St. Paul, who was named Saul at his circumcision, was born at Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia, and was by privilege a Roman citizen, making him eligible for great distinction and several exemptions granted by the laws of the empire. At a young age he was instructed in the strict observance of the Mosaic Law and lived up to it in the most scrupulous manner. In his zeal for the Jewish law, he became an aggressive persecutor of the Christians.
Saul was involved in the martyrdom of St. Stephen, by his presence at the scene and his unwillingness to intervene to stop it, and in the beginning of the persecution of Christians. By virtue of the power he had received from the high priest, he dragged the Christians out of their houses, loaded them down with chains and threw them into prison. On his way to Damascus to seize Christians and bring them bound to Jerusalem he and his party were surrounded by a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, and suddenly struck to the ground.
And then a voice was heard saying:” Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He replied: “Who are you, Lord?” and the voice replied, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” This comparatively mild reprimand by Jesus, along with a powerful flood of interior grace, transformed Saul’s pride, curtailed his rage, and brought about a total change in him. Saul then cried out: “Lord, what will You have me do?” Our Lord ordered him to arise and to proceed on his way to the city, where he should be informed of what was expected from him.
What happened after that we all know about: he was cured of his physical blindness by a holy man named Ananias: who laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on your journey, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Saul then arose and was baptized; he stayed a few days at Damascus and began immediately to preach in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God. Thus a blasphemer and a persecutor was made an apostle, and chosen as one of God’s principal instruments in the conversion of the whole world.
This feast is all about the truly awesome power of God’s grace to bring about what he Himself ordains: it tells us as well that it is our part simply to cooperate with the movement of God, be filled with his Spirit and willing to proclaim this Good News everywhere and at all times.
Then Paul said: God was merciful to me, because in my unbelief I acted in ignorance. The abundant grace of our Lord was poured out on me, and gave me the faith and love which are ours through union with Christ Jesus.
Sunday, January 24, 2016
+ Our first reading today encourages us to listen to the Law of the Lord not in a negative sense – not as a series of restrictions and binding regulations – but rather as a generous boundary given by the God who orders all things for our welfare, for our benefit and for our good: he knows how everything is supposed to work and interact, he is after all Creator and Designer!
All of the men, women and children who thus heard the Book of the Law were invited then to have a great feast of rich foods and sweet drinks – for “that day was holy to the Lord” – and it was from that time onward to be a day of rejoicing which would be the strength of the people.
In our own day, we come on the Lord’s Day, in a sense, to hear the words of God at Mass in the readings and the homily – which could be also described as his law, his dictates and mandates – but we must take them for what they are – inspired words of encouragement, guidance and love. Only God knows the way to where he is, and so it would behoove us to listen to and follow the words and ways of the One sent to us to show us that way: especially as he is God’s-own-words-now-in-human-flesh
In the gospel passage then we see Jesus announcing quite matter-of-factly that he was indeed the Anointed One of God sent to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. TODAY THIS SCRIPTURE PASSAGE IS FULFILLED IN YOUR HEARING! This was an astounding statement for Jesus to make: no one would ever have dared (in a million years) to say such a thing: but Jesus quite frankly reported: IT’S ME!
How fortunate they were to hear this, how fortunate for us too! For we are incorporated into his very Body the Church by the Holy Spirit who vitalizes every part of the Church so that our salvation can be made available to us as we need it! And so: “It’s him, for us too!”
As Jesus has been anointed to proclaim the Gospel and work great deeds, so have others been appointed and anointed in the same way: the bishops and priests carry on his work and the poor have glad tidings brought to them through parish ministries and programs, captives of all kinds of forces both internal and external are freed because of the spiritual power of bishops and priests, the spiritually and intellectually blind are able to see things as God intends by an awakening of faith, and many of the physically and psychologically oppressed are set free, again by programs set in place that have the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through them.
Jesus came to save the world: it is the least that any of us can do to let ourselves be saved, let us cooperate in our own redemption and help in the renewal and resurrection of all those around us!
Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life; let us, as your emissaries, Lord, speak those words to all we meet today!
Friday, January 22, 2016
+ Today in the United States we celebrate a Mass for various needs dedicated to the legal protection of the unborn. For 43 years now in our country there has been a festering of illogic and misguided reasoning regarding the reality and existence of life itself – in the womb.
Since all law is based on the supernatural law that is already written in each and every human heart – civil law only need to go there to read what is written on the page of justice and mercy regarding the most vulnerable of all in our midst: the unborn human being, the unborn baby, at any stage of its pre-birth growth.
Our first reading today tells us that each human being was thought of by God, before he even created the world, so much did he love us; and then he made us according to the circumstances of his will, being ideally that of the loving embrace of a mother and a father. Each of us, like Jeremiah is called to do something to build a better world here and hereafter – under God’s impulse and guidance. Each of us is meant to be given every chance and opportunity to do just that.
No one has the right to interfere in any way with the growth and development of the human person from the time of its conception to the time of natural death. For at that time and throughout the pregnancy of the mother it is a full, true and authentic human being. When the Blessed Mother of God visited her cousin Elizabeth both babies in the womb leaped for joy at the mere physical presence of the other. Yes, the unborn are fully intact and bonafide human persons with their own personalities, their own characteristic and their own mission to fulfill.
To be for life then, is to be for God; to be for irrational choice, is to be for the devil – plain and simple. He is the Father of Lies, and he will make his false pretenses as attractive and seductively reasonable as ever.
We must resist. On behalf of the unborn who cannot defend themselves, we must fight for them, so the sword or the surgical scalpel cannot destroy them, so that they can be upheld by the God in whom they trust – in their naturally innocent way – because at this stage of their lives – pre-birth - they behold the very face of God.
There is no reasoning or logic on the face of the earth that can replace the truth about any issue or debate – national or otherwise – let the truth prevail in this case, let the truth prevail!
In God (my Father) I trust; I shall not fear, he will take care of me!
Thursday, January 21, 2016
+ St. Agnes was one of the most popular saints of the early Church. At age 12, during the persecution of Diocletian, she was ordered to sacrifice to pagan gods and lose her virginity by rape. She made the Sign of the Cross and then was threatened and tortured when she refused to turn against the One God. Several young men presented themselves, offering to marry her (some out of pity to save her life), but she said that to do so would be an insult to her heavenly Spouse, and that she would keep her consecrated virginity intact, accept death, and see Christ. She was martyred then (the exact method is not known) on January 21, 304 at Rome. She became immediately popular as a model Christian during this very difficult time in Church history. Her name is mentioned in the First Eucharist Prayer – the Roman Canon.
On her feast day two lambs are blessed at her church in Rome, Italy and then their wool is woven into the palliums (bands of white wool) which the pope confers on newly appointed archbishops as a symbol of their jurisdiction. Her name means lamb, chaste or pure one.
The gospel passage tells of the treasure and the pearl of great price that are worth all we have to obtain them: both the treasure and the pearl represent all that goes with being a fully committed member of the Kingdom of Heaven: members of Christ the most treasured One of all: the heavenly Spouse who will live very happily forever with all of us one day, after we, like St. Agnes, suffer all that still needs to be suffered in order to perfect his Church and thus make it fully presentable on the Last Day.
May we boast in the Lord today, who strengthens us to do what we need to be righteous, holy and redeemed people of God.
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
+ Our readings today are about the fruit of trust, but not just any trust, here we speak of trust in the Lord God. The first consideration is obvious: why would anyone not trust God, of all things? “Trust no man,” is a common scriptural theme; but so too is put all your trust in the Lord – and he will sustain you.
David (in our first reading today) put his trust in the Lord and he was victorious over the giant Philistine (Goliath). The man with a withered hand trusted in Jesus and found himself cured of his malady.
May the fruit of our trust in the Lord be seen today in the good that happens to people around us, by means of us: may giant problems be resolved, and may withered parts of us be renewed; as we restate our love for him and our hope in him now, that all will truly be well because there is no one else for any of us to rely on totally!
Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
+ Today we consider the true meaning of “Sabbath.” Saturday, for the Jewish nation, is a symbol of a love Alliance between God and mankind. Creation, and all its manifest glory, is conceived as a space, an arena, for the Alliance, as a meeting place between God and man, as a place to worship.
And so our gospel today is about true worship.
True worship, the true offering to God cannot be the destruction of something (to sacrifice an animal for example), but it is rather the union of man and creation with God.
Belonging to God has nothing to do with destruction or “non-being”, but rather a way of being (“to be with God”).
Sabbath means to return to the origins, to clean up the pollution that our works have produced, but when man refuses the “leisure of God” – worshipping – then he becomes “a business slave”.
Sabbath more importantly has to do with God’s way of seeing it, rather than us. He sees it as the Table of the Last Supper ultimately – and so should we.
Lord, may nothing come before being fed by you, and service to you.
Monday, January 18, 2016
+ In our first reading series, we see today from the Book of Samuel, that newly installed King Saul has already fallen out of favor with God; he defeated the Amalekites, but then his men stole the spoil of sheep and oxen, the best of what had been banned, with the excuse of wanting to offer them in sacrifice to the Lord in Gilgal. God, through Samuel, told this errant people that he desires obedience rather than sacrifice; obedience to his will in all things, even the small details.
In the gospel passage we see another example of obedience to a law: this time the law of fasting. It seems that John the Baptist’s and the Pharisees’ disciples did the accustomed ritual fasting, while Jesus’ disciples did not do this on a regular basis. Jesus intervenes in this case however, being the law, and does in fact excuse his disciples from the ordinary discipline because they are in the presence of greatness, the bounty of the Lord – and they need to be able to take in as much of him as they can, in newer and deeper ways daily, so that one day his example of self-sacrifice would make better sense to them, and be an example to them afterwards, that to really be in touch with him from then on, periods of fasting would definitely then be expected.
May we today receive newer and deeper understandings of God’s will and ways – obediently -- the ways of self-giving and sacrifice – so that we may be pleasing to the Lord when the gates of the great heavenly hall are opened and the wedding feast of the Lamb begins, and all fasting and preliminary disciplining shall have ended.
To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
Friday, January 15, 2016
+ The “splendor of our strength” is the Lord who is our King and our God – it is not “what we can make of ourselves in the sight of the other nations.” It is not up to us – as God’s people – to reinvent anything at all about ourselves – but rather to take the reality of our lives, rejoice, thank God, and live them according to his dictates, not telling him what he ought to be doing in our regard.
Now Israel demanded that Samuel appoint for them a king – so they would be “like the other nations” – thus, in essence, taking away God’s authority over them. This, of course, just begs for God to bring “his kind of justice” later on, with yet another lesson in humility and the need for reconciliation.
The scribes of Jesus day are self-appointed “fashioners of God’s designs” – and they fail to win the respect of others, least of all Jesus who has genuine authority – not only to heal the ills of nature, but also those of super-nature – to forgive sins.
Yes, “the splendor of our strength” is walking in the light of the Lord’s countenance – the light of the Lord of the universe – the Light of Christ himself.
May we count on you to hear our prayers today Lord, because we are not demanding, ungrateful children – who simply want their own way or no way at all.
The Lord is our shield and our joy!
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Our first reading today reminds us that we ought not speak on our own as Catholic Christians – but as called by God to speak, as Samuel was. We, of ourselves, have nothing to say that would truly benefit anyone in the long run, if it were not from God. And who is there who would not want to be listening to the voice of God speaking, if there was a choice.
St, Hilary of Poitiers knew the great value of this lesson in that speaking of Jesus as anything other than what the Church proclaimed him to be was both nonsense and heresy. The Arian heresy was rampant at this 4th century time which was pointless, senseless and heretical to the core.
In the gospel passage, we see Jesus – who was truly divine and human at the same time - indeed as the great healer and restorer to a greater abundance of life than can be imagined (not just to the way things were before) – and eternal life to boot! Amazing! and contrary to any Arian teaching!
St. Hilary the Great wrote a great doctrinal work On the Trinity and governed his diocese with great wisdom. And so today, may we, like him, speak and write as prompted by God - believing in his healing power for all who need it, and look forward to an ever better life ahead in this New Year.
Here I am Lord, I come to do your will!
Monday, January 11, 2016
+ Our readings today for the very first weekday in Ordinary Time for this new Liturgical Year – have to do with the fulfillment of promise. Jesus came to earth to fulfill many promises made long before his arrival: most especially the promise of mercy that he promised our father, to Abraham and his descendants forever. The time of fulfillment is here Jesus begins to announce – the day of his own Baptism – and real repentance is the key to it. No matter which way our lives have been unfolding: it is always a time of pausing, reflecting, reorienting and repenting for the wrongs we have done.
If we follow Jesus, like Peter, Andrew, James and John he will make of us more than we can ever imagine. It is not our dreams that matter most – but the dreams God puts into us – and his dreams for us. They lead to unmitigated fulfillment, peace and joy – and not only for ourselves – but also for others – there is always others that figure into the equation.
In fact, in those areas of our lives that we formerly perceived as barren – as barren as Hannah formerly was – God’s Presence will come to pervade us, accompany us, fill us – and guide us.
We have been made to live successfully and fully only in proximity to this Presence – and the Presence became flesh and his name was Jesus: and he is our Lord, our Brother and our Friend who comes to us powerfully in Holy Communion.
This day let us bask in the radiance of his Holy Presence when we take into ourselves the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation – and our day will be blessed beyond our expectations.
To you, O Lord, today, I will make a sacrifice of praise.
Sunday, January 10, 2016
+ The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord tells us two really astounding facts: that Jesus is the Beloved Son of the Father (and that we had better listen to him); and that after we listen, we are invited to respond to what we have heard by becoming incorporated into his very life, by our own baptism, into the Church that he set up for that very purpose. This makes us astoundingly enough, not only members of his very own Body, but also adopted children of the same Father, with Jesus as our elder brother, and each other as brothers and sisters. Yes, we are God’s children – for real and for sure! There is enough there to meditate on for the rest of our lives!
Our readings today tell us how Jesus’ baptism was not for the repentance of his sin because Jesus never had any sin; Jesus was baptized for us, demonstrating himself the way in which we are to be incorporated into himself. But God the Father used the occasion for a great show light and power when he thundered: THIS IS MY BELOVED SON! LISTEN TO HIM! This is my beloved Son, listen to him! Listen to him and respond to what you hear and you will have everything you need for life here and hereafter: you will be able to have your sins forgiven – when you ask for them to be; and you will be welcomed into eternal life in the Father’s house at the end of your days on earth!
All this: for listening and responding: listening to the Scriptures, listening to the homilies, listening to the teachings of the Church which are there for our guidance and our growth and then responding in love – listening to the inner stirrings of our own minds and hearts!
And it is not to his own people alone that Jesus offers such salvation; but to the whole world – all the nations, everywhere. This is very good news!
May we recall also that the baptized one, whom we recall today, is also the Suffering Servant, the kind, gentle, loving, shepherd of the sheep: who would change everything forever – but at the cost of his own life! Is it even possible for God to die?
Thank you God, for being an amazing elder brother – come to save us; may we be true, authentic, genuine and real adopted sons and daughters of the Father, and brothers and sisters of you to whom we look for help, mercy and forgiveness but most of all: lasting and permanent friendship and peace in your Kingdom!
The Lord will bless his people with peace!
Thursday, January 7, 2016
+ The first reading today – once again from the 1st Letter of St. John – written when John was probably an old man – and with much experience living the Christian way of life – is about the simple and true nature of such commitment to the Person of Jesus and his new Way of life.
A simple statement like: “Don’t say you love God, if you hate your brother(s) (and sisters). How can you say you love God whom you have never seen if you don’t love others (all of whom, including yourself have been loved by God first) who you can seen and interact with?” [John sounds very practical – and a lot like our current Pope, Francis.]
He goes on to say that if we keep God’s commandments of loving: then we will know not only God as a Father, but everyone in the world as our true brothers and sisters. The commandment is not burdensome: to love others unconditionally, if we just make up our minds to try it. The most injurious thing we can do to another is to disrespect, dishonor and disregard their very character, their very unique life stories, their very sacred and revered name. Backbiting and tearing one another down – in any form whatsoever is reprehensible to God, and therefore ought to be off-limits to us.
If we would only spend all of the waking hours of our day in being as creative in our willingness to meet, greet and help all in our path – the arrival and advancement of the Kingdom of God on earth would be impressive.
We with Jesus are meant to bring glad tidings to the poor; to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to set the oppressed free. Can we afford not to accept our commission to do these things if we choose to call ourselves “Christian?”
Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
+ Today the Church on the North American continent rejoices in the third only feast day celebration of Brother Andre Bessette – the Miracle Man of Montreal – as a saint! Canonized on October 17, 2010, St. Andre Bessette is an outstanding example of a poor, humble, servant of the Church as doorkeeper of Notre Dame College, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, as a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross- for forty years. Not even expected to live at birth, always sickly in life, only 4’2” tall – this giant of a compassionate soul touched millions of lives, without even himself trying. To Brother Andre it was all the work of St. Joseph to whom he had a fierce devotion and loyalty. He found early on that St. Joseph was curing people of all kinds of ailments and diseases simply by his encouraging them to pray to him and rubbing oil from the St. Joseph Altar lamp in the college chapel, or a medal of St. Joseph. When the thousands of “miracles” were attributed to Brother Andre he was very quick to disclaim any credit: it is all St. Joseph: it is not me at all: I am only his little “puppy dog!”
It was Andre’s dream to build a worthy shrine to St. Joseph nearby – but with the interference first of his own community, and then World War I, the completion of what is now known as St. Joseph’s Oratory on Mount Royal was a long time in coming, and the result of many temporary stages of development.
At the age of 92, Andre died on January 6, 1937 before seeing the completion of his dream. But he knew it would be completed and he continued to give St. Joseph all the credit to his very last breath! Over a million people came to the oratory to pay their last respects. It almost seems like there is now a fourth member of the Holy Family, for it is almost impossible to even say the words St. Joseph, without now thinking immediately of St. Andre Bessette – his devoted friend in life and his dear companion in death!
And it seems equally impossible to say: St. Andre Bessette without also calling to mind St. Joseph! With such a duo praying on our behalf – we cannot go wrong! St. Andre / St. Joseph – pray for us!
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
+ St. John Neumann is a classic example of God having his way in the story of a man, in the story of a diocese, in the story of a country. John was born in 1811 (that is 204 years ago) in the Czech Republic to a German father and a Czech mother. He was a small, quiet boy with four sisters and a brother. He was an excellent student and felt drawn to religious life. He was a seminarian in Bohemia, but due to an overabundance of priests there, and having his ordination postponed, he decided to go to America to ask for ordination and to work with immigrants like him. He walked most of the way to France, and then took ship for America.
There was certainly no overabundance of priests in America and Bishop John Dubois of New York was very happy to see him as there were but 36 priests for the 200,000 Catholics in New York and New Jersey (that is all of New York State and all of New Jersey combined). His first assignment was in Buffalo, NY, and he chose the rough rural life. His town had a log church and he built himself a log cabin to live in. He learned 12 languages to communicate with his flock who were from many countries. He visited his parishioners walking from farm to farm. He was loved by his people!
But he was still drawn to religious life – so he joined the Redemptorists at Pittsburgh, PA, taking his vows in Maryland in 1841, the first Redemptorist to do so in the United States. He worked as a home missioner with the community in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. He held posts of authority in the Redemptorist Order. Then in 1852 he became Bishop of Philadelphia. Bishop John built fifty churches and began building a cathedral. He opened almost one hundred schools, and the number of parochial school students in his diocese grew from, 500 to 9,000.
He worked with St. Elizabeth Seton of Emmitsburg, MD (whose feast was celebrated yesterday) in establishing the first Catholic School System in the United States.
Bishop John also worked with Franciscan Sisters in Philadelphia and sent them to New York and Ohio to work with immigrants. The foundation at Utica and Syracuse, New York had St. Maryanne Cope as one of its first Superiors. She later went to Hawaii and worked with St. Damien of Molokai of the leper colony.
In addition, Bishop Neumann wrote newspaper articles, two catechisms and many works in German. He died at age 49 prompted most likely by overwork. He is the first American man and first American bishop to be canonized. This took place on June 17, 1977, two years after Elizabeth Seton, his friend and coworker, the first native born American woman was canonized in September of 1975.
Yes, God put St. John Neumann exactly where he wanted him – in America – in Philadelphia – as a Redemptorist Bishop – because he wanted him there at the very beginning of the Catholic faith in our country! It is impossible to imagine what the Church in America would have been like if John Neumann stayed in Bohemia and did not follow his star!
We each have a star to follow: we each have a place to be for others – we each have a place to be loved by God, and to love others because we have been loved by him, as St. John tells us in the first reading today! For us it is here, now! And may we respond even half-as generously as St. John Nepomucene Neumann.
Let all the earth cry out to God with joy!
Monday, January 4, 2016
+ Elizabeth Ann Seton was born into an influential Episcopalian family, the daughter of Dr. Richard Bayley. She was raised in New York high society of the late 18th century. Her mother died when Elizabeth was three years old, her baby sister a year later. In 1794 at the age of 19 she married the wealthy businessman William Magee Seton, and became the mother of five.
About ten years into the marriage, William’s business failed, and soon after he died of tuberculosis, leaving Elizabeth an impoverished widow with five small children. For years Elizabeth had felt drawn to Catholicism, believing in the Real Presence of the Eucharist and in the lineage of the Church going back to Christ and the Apostles. She converted to Catholicism, entering the Church on March 14, 1805, alienating many of her strict Episcopalian family in the process.
To support her family, and insure the proper education of her children, she opened a school in Boston. Though a private and secular institution, from the beginning she ran it along the lines of a religious community. At the invitation of the archbishop, she established a Catholic girl’s school in Baltimore, Maryland (in conjunction with St. John Neumann) which initiated the parochial school system in America.
To run the system, she founded the Sisters of Charity in 1809, the first native American religious community for women, whose Rule was based on that of St. Vincent de Paul, of France. She and eighteen sisters comprised the first community based in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Mother Seton died in Emmitsburg on January 4, 1821.
By her death, her communities were twenty in number and spread throughout the United States, the rest of North America and South America, and Italy. She was beatified in 1963 by Pope John XXIII, and canonized on September 14, 1975 by Pope Paul VI.
Our readings today, though of the Christmas Season, fit in with a celebration honoring St Elizabeth Seton: St. John continues to speak about “children of God:” Mother Seton’s primary goal in life was to teach everyone, especially the young, that they can be – by participation in the life of the Church – real, true and authentic children of God. She also taught that the alternative is being a child of the devil who creates nothing but chaos and confusion, and is therefore easily recognizable.
The gospel passage shows Andrew bringing his brother Simon to Jesus (who names him Rock (on which he would one day build the church)); Elizabeth Seton led so very many people, in so very many lands to Jesus for him to touch, and love and transform and lead to heaven – beginning at “her rock” on what is now the campus of Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg.
All you saints of God, praise the Lord!
Sunday, January 3, 2016
+ Today we celebrate the arrival of the Magi, bearing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. This presentation of gifts to the Christ Child is an obvious reference to the gift-giving nature of this Season of the year. Just as the gifts we give, these gifts were not arbitrary, something they picked up on their way out the door; they were carefully chosen and prophetic in origin and nature: gold for Christ the King, who came from obvious royal lineage; frankincense, for Christ the Priest, who would offer his life on the altar of the Cross; and myrrh, (an embalming ointment) that signified the death of Christ the Savior of the World.
These three Kings, these three Wise Men, these three Magi followed the Star of Bethlehem to find him resting in the arms of his adoring mother, Mary; and guarded by his foster-father, Joseph. And what they found was that the Light that was the Child shone brighter than any star, and they message they got was that this Child would illumine the entire world from that moment on: not just the insular surroundings of Bethlehem, but the entire world: this Child is indeed the Desire of the Nations: all of them: he is Light of all Nations, and the glory of His people Israel: he has come to change nothing, he has come to change everything.
What a magnificent feast this is, both in its revelation of Christ as the one true, awaited Messiah; but as Savior for any in the whole world who would simply believe in Him, and commit themselves to living their whole lives long like they did believe in Him, following his words and ways, as members of his Body, as members of his Church.
The task henceforth for his own people would be to accept him, and believe; for everyone else: the entire Gentile (non-Jewish) world, it would be in gradual stages to get to know about him, by first hearing about him, listening to preaching about him, and then by allowing themselves to be drawn into the life of his Body, the life of his Church, where he and his Father, eventually wants all to be. This would be a long process because the darkness of the human mind is not only very dark, but deceptively so: it tells so many that there is no other way, and that “false lights” are the best hope, as a poor substitute for what hearts deeply long for.
This, of course, is not true; there is another way, a way of Light and Blessed Assurance; a way of truth, and a way of peace. It just takes an initial “leap of faith” – which itself is God’s gift: we really don’t have to do anything at all, except use our precious gift of free-will to acknowledge its Creator, its Sustainer and its Redeemer.
Friday, January 1, 2016
+ Today we celebrate both the august maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as Mother of God, and the naming of her Child, eight days after his birth: the name given by the Angel at his conception: Jesus, Savior. The time of blessing had arrived: God has now entered our world, as one of us, born of a woman, in order to save us from our disconnectedness from God that would have remained permanent and unchangeable, unless God himself did not choose to intervene on our behalf. The mediation of a human birth by means of a humble virgin of Nazareth was sublime in its originality, its simplicity and its faith.
And so we celebrate today Mary’s cooperation with the Divine Plan of Salvation, we celebrate the fact that she became the mother not only of one who had a human nature (like her own), but also a Divine Nature (wholly other, of God himself) combined without confusion in one Divine Person: Emmanuel, Christ the Lord. Mary truly was then, Mother of God (that is Mother of the God-Made-Man) who was wholly God, while being wholly man at the same time.
O wondrous mystery! The mystery of the exchange of divinity with humanity, and humanity with divinity! Man was now capable not only of having his sins forgiven, but of living in God forever – in his heart, where the Divine Person in his Divinity and later humanity always lives.
Mary often pondered on the events of which she was a part; the birth of her Son in a manger, the visitation by shepherds, the prophecies that were just beginning to be externally fulfilled in her infant Son. Yes, on the eighth day, as prescribed by Mosaic Law, Jesus was circumcised and named, as was prophesied, JESUS! And he immediately took on the role of SAVIOR and never let it move from the center of his focus until he breathed his last on the Cross, that he always knew lay before Him.
Thank you Jesus for all you have done and still do for our salvation; and thank you Mary for being not only the Mother of the Savior, the Mother of God; but also the Mother of all who belong to his Mystical Body, the Church: Mother of us. We love you and honor you this day, and ask that you always be our comfort and our joy as we try to live the best we can, the life modeled not only by your Son, but also you, who are our Queen and our Friend.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
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