Sunday, January 29, 2017
+ We generally hear this gospel passage three times a year - so important is it in the description of the life of “discipleship in Christ.” We hear it today, again in the summer months and then on the Feast of All Saints, Nov 1st.
What is so special about it is that it first states, and then constantly reminds us, that most everything that “the world” values, applauds and touts is the exact opposite of what Jesus and his Church (that is us) values, applauds and touts. It is not the rich who are blessed, but the poor in spirit; not the comforted, but rather those who mourn for their sins; not the landowners, but the meek who will inherit land in another kingdom; not the powerful but the lowly; not warriors, but the peacemakers; not the sensual, but the pure of heart; not the merciless, but the merciful: these make up the very Kingdom of God.
And since this perspective is so contrary to that of “the secular world” Jesus tells us to expect to be misunderstood, misquoted, misinterpreted and mistreated and even some, killed – like he was! But he says then a very comforting thing: in the long run, in the big picture, when all is said and done: you will rejoice because you will have a great reward in my Father’s house: eternal life in joy and peace!
God chooses the weak and the meek and the humble to confound the proud, the haughty and the arrogant – not just for the sport of it, but because he is teaching us that all richness, all power, all strength, all intelligence, all of everything comes from him – and the glory for its use needs to be given back to him!
There will always be at least a small remnant of people who truly understand these things! May we be among them – and may we think, talk and act like it is so for us – every single day!
Blessed are the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs! is ours!
Friday, January 27, 2017
+ 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.
Thursday, January 26, 2017
+ 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. They 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” 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 (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 sends us to bring glad tidings to the poor and to proclaim liberty to captives.
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!
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
+ 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 somehow involved in the martyrdom of St. Stephen 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.
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
+ St Francis de Sales was a very important post Reformation Bishop and Doctor of the Church. He was born in 1567 and died in 1622 of natural causes. Francis was the eldest of twelve children born to a well-placed Savoyard family. His parents intended that he become a lawyer, enter politics, and carry on the family line and power. He studied at La Roche and Annecy in France, taught by the Jesuits. He entered the College de Clermont in Paris at age 12. In his early teens, Francis began to have an overly fearful belief in pre-destination, and was so afraid that he had been already condemned to Hell that he became ill and eventually confined to bed. However, in January 1587 at the Church of St. Stephen, he overcame the crisis, decided that whatever God had in store for him was for the best, and dedicated his life to God.
Francis then studied law and theology at the University of Padua, Italy, and earned a doctorate in both fields. He returned home, and found a position as Senate advocate. It was at this point that he received a message telling him to “Leave all and follow Me.” He took this as a call to the priesthood, a move his family fiercely opposed. However, he pursued a devoted prayer life, and his gentle ways won over the family.
Francis became a priest in 1593 and was appointed provost of the diocese of Geneva, Switzerland, a stronghold of Calvinists. He fought hard to win them back to the Church, becoming a preacher and a writer. He even used sign language to communicate with the deaf – thus explaining his patronage of the deaf. His gentle ways brought many people back to the Church. In 1602 he was named Bishop of Geneva. With St. Jane de Chantal he helped to found the Order of the Visitation, as well as many other religious congregations.
He was noted for writing The Introduction to the Devout Life – which emphasized the fact that holiness is not just for the elite, but for everyone; this was not a popular sentiment at the time. But the value of his writing led to his being declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Blessed Pius IX in 1877, and patron of writers and journalists by Pope Pius XI in 1923. He is buried at the basilica of the Visitation at Annecy, France. Pope Francis today in his homily in Rome called Francis de Sales the “doctor of gentleness” as he used a gentle approach (that he had to work for many years to develop and fine tune) to deal with the problems he faced in ministry. He was always about building bridges of understanding, and tearing down the walls of bitterness and resentment.
As it relates in the gospel passage today, St. Francis de Sales found the joy that comes from being friends with Jesus and doing his Father’s will; this is an immense joy that leads to many self-sacrificial works for the greater honor and glory of God.
May we love others today simply, honestly and self-sacrificially as did St. Francis de Sales.
The mouth of the just murmurs wisdom.
Monday, January 23, 2017
Today we celebrate the feast of St Marianne Cope, whose life was called “a wonderful work of divine grace” by Cardinal Jose Martins at her beatification in Rome in 2005. And a life filled with God’s grace it was.
Born on January 23, 1838 in Germany, the girl was named after her mother. The Cope family emigrated to the United States and settled in Utica, New York. Young Barbara began working in a factory, until she went to join the Sisters of the Third Order of St France is Syracuse, New York. After profession she was assigned teaching posts throughout the region. She was later elected provincial of the Order twice.
In 1883 the Hawaiian government was searching for someone to work with those suspected of having leprosy. 50 orders throughout the country responded to the call, and 35 sisters from Syracuse volunteered immediately. When they arrived they opened a hospital and a school for girls.
She and her sisters later went to work with Fr. Damien de Veuster in his leper colony for men and boys. Never once in all their years working there did any of the sisters ever contract the disease. The sisters of her order still work on Molokai.
Mother Marianne died on August 9, 1918, was beatified in 2005 and canonized in 2012. She will be remembered most for her willingness to sacrifice everything for those she was caring for, with unflinching courage, “smiling sweetly through it all.”
The readings today tell us of the fuel of her fire to love souls, and sick bodies for love of God – it was her life as a religious, whose entire focus was on Christ, always. She was a bride of Christ, serving her Bridegroom in his weakest members – and now she reigns with Christ to intercede for us and our needs.
Thursday, January 19, 2017
+ Our readings today reflect a primal human urge that we all have “to reach out and touch someone” – we find attractive, admirable, lovable, consoling, healing: someone we like to be around.
The crowds that followed Jesus wanted to do the same thing. This crowd was different than other spectators and gawkers. This people were touched at their core already by Jesus – and it is because of their newfound, real, spiritual connectedness to him that they wanted to follow him around and to “touch him back” – by their attentiveness, their adulation, their ohhs and ahhs at what he said and did: especially in his poignant “sermons” or reflections on the true nature of human life, and his miracles of healing and restoration, demonstrating his power over human life and nature.
These people knew that Jesus is the one their hearts had been waiting for for centuries – because he is the one, the only one, who could save them from all they needed saving from who approached God.
By ourselves we cannot “reach God” – in a truly deep and effective way; but through his Son – through Jesus – yes, we can reach him, we can touch hear him, we can see him, we can touch him – and he us.
This we celebrate today – this we thank God for today – this good news we must share with others today.
In a world that reflects the undeniable and real presence of the Evil one – in many ways and venues – we must confidently reach out and grasp the hand of the Lord who desires with all his heart to reach back and save us – from all who would harm us.
Save us, O Lord, our God, our Savior and our FRIEND!
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
+ We see a continuation today of our gospel theme of Jesus’ healing. Jesus, the Great High Priest, our first reading tells us, heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath.
Just what day of the week is an appropriate day to heal, or not to heal?
This healing, on this day, is met by the Pharisees’ hardness of heart, which cause Jesus anger and grief. What is so simple, and so obvious can sometimes be hijacked by what is dishonest and self-seeking.
“The Pharisees immediately then took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.” This about this? Death for doing a good deed, and a miraculous one at that – especially on a Sabbath – the day of the Lord of All Healings and Restorations, Renewals, Regenerations and Resurrections!
But Christ is anointed with “the power of a life that cannot be destroyed,” or even delayed. Jesus can and does heal when he wants to, so to demonstrate the power of the Resurrection – his Power over Death, Decay and Disease.
Our withered, hard hearts, if we choose to league in with the Pharisees, will be healed only by the piercing of Jesus’ Heart – and it will be pierced – and an ocean of mercy of forgiveness and compassion with gush forth from it: may we then be open, literally open of mind and heart to receive these life-restoring graces.
He is a priest forever, and a High Priest at that, in the line of Melchizedek.
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
+ The life of St Anthony of Egypt (215-256) reminds us a great deal of that of St Francis of Assisi. Both saintly men were moved by the Gospel imperative “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor.” This Anthony did with his large inheritance. While St Francis stayed among in the world working among the poor, St Anthony found the snares of evil in the world too much for him and so he was moved to a solitary life of mortification and prayer – life in the desert – but great numbers went out to him for spiritual guidance and healing.
And so when he was 54 he set up a series of cells nearby where his devotees could live this first “monastic” kind of lifestyle.
He was also active in fighting the ills that were a part of church life: especially the Arian heresy.
Anthony died in solitude at age 105.
Our first reading today reminds us that if we put on the armor of God – faith in him and trust in his providential care – we can do great things for him. And of course, the gospel is the classic one which inspired a great many saints and not only Anthony and Francis: “Go, and sell what you have, and give to the poor – you will then have treasure in heaven – then, come follow me.” We are saints if we are trending towards this attitude and lifestyle this very day. We are saints of God in the making!
St Anthony of Egypt, pray for us!
Monday, January 16, 2017
+ We have an interesting gospel passage today. The people know what makes sense when it comes to patching an old cloak or storing wine in skins, but the cannot make sense of Jesus.
What does this mean?
They prejudge him according to standards not adequate to his stature.
He is “the source of eternal salvation,” whose perfection is revealed in the obedience with which he faces suffering.
Only those who accept that paradox understand.
May we be among those this day who stop trying to judge Jesus, to make sense of him, to put him into neat little boxes that fit our dwarfed capabilities of real understanding – and accept him and his words and his actions as something entirely new, entirely unpredictable, entirely spontaneous, entirely based in the here and now, the here and now, the HERE and NOW – as it keeps changing all day long.
God is a God of surprises; Jesus is his messenger; the Holy Spirit is the Light and Spark of creativeness, adventure and eternal bliss that comes to those who are simply open to it: our baptism said YES I BELIEVE THIS: will our words and deeds today match our YES?
The world is on the brink of a whole new world order – its fullness can barely be comprehended – but one day it will be our common experience – lets go for this experience, let’s go for this newness of life, let’s go for the Kingdom!
Sunday, January 15, 2017
+ The Christmas Season has come and gone, and now we summarize in one thought what has happened: an amazingly “wondrous exchange” has occurred: the Word of God (existing forever with God) takes on our sinful nature, so that he can redeem us and make us divine and sharers in his life forever! We could spend the rest of our lives meditating on that one sentence!
On this second Sunday in Ordinary Time, as this story of wondrous exchange unfolds from the beginning, we place our focus on John the Baptist as seen in the gospel passage today. Because God formed John the Baptist “as his servant from the womb,” John’s whole being is ordered to God.
Thus when John “saw Jesus coming toward him,” he instantly cried out, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” John immediately recognizes that Christ is the one for whom he heart has been made. That immediate correspondence between what he has been waiting for all his life and what he beholds in the Lamb of God lead him to “testify that he is the Son of God.”
The miracle is that the same grace has been given to us. We are the ones who “have been called to be holy with all those who call upon the name of the Lord.”
By professing the One “who takes away the sin of the world,” we become a light to the nations, through whom God’s salvation reaches to the ends of the earth.
As we glorify the Lamb of God, God show his glory through us, and this is vital and essential in the day and age in which we find ourselves, in which so many who are “driving the civilization bus” have lost sight of the road on which they are leading us all down – it seems to be night-time, more and more – and the vehicle needs headlights: and those headlights needs be us!
Here we are Lord, we come to do your will.
Friday, January 13, 2017
+ Jesus came to us to do two things: to restore life, and to forgive sins. He certainly had the power and authority to do both – and to do both easily and effectively.
Thus, we see him restoring life in many small ways by the healings of mind, body and spirit that he accomplished wherever he went.
But today he demonstrates that his ability to forgive sins was also a vital part of his mission – and in a way connected with the other types of healings that he performed.
Sin is an illness, a sickness, a disordering of the human soul with God the source of life, freedom and peace. And so, to forgive sin in the context of sickness is not foreign to his mission.
Thanks to the powerful sacramental system Jesus set in place in the Church – especially the Sacrament of Penance – we have an opportunity – when we “come to our senses” as the Prodigal Son did – to return to our Father – to place ourselves before him with our sorrow – and experience his great compassion, love and overabundant joy at having us get in right relationship with ourselves and with one another and with him.
This he does with those magnificent words of spiritual health and healing with the words of absolution that are just as earth shattering and effective as the words of consecration at Mass of the elements of bread and wine.
May we avail ourselves often of the “health sacraments” not only of Eucharist, but also Confession. Our lives will profit greatly from it.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
+ We have marvelous yet simple readings today for mass. They speak of the veritable and real partnership with Christ that we each have, thanks to the water-bath that we experienced the day of our baptism.
The day we became incorporated into Christ is the day we became partners with him – partners in sharing a divine life and legacy, partners in sanctifying and transforming the world into the image, idea and plan that God has of it: and that is a family of truly caring brothers and sisters.
This partnership however must be a two-way street of absolute and complete commitment to the other. God never relinquishes his commitment and part of the deal, and neither must we, for when this reality holds firm to the end we win the prize of everlasting bliss and blessings.
This truth is what moved the leper to beg before Jesus: “If you wish, you can make me clean.” The leper recognized in Christ his Maker – the beginning of his reality of partnership and potential family membership.
When we, like the leper claim partnership with Christ in this way, Jesus is moved to pity, he is moved to reach out to help us, he is moved to heal us of what needs healing.
Let us renew our commitment to incorporation into the reality of God’s vision of us – and we shall be blessed eternally.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
+ The gospel passage today sets the theme for this new year of seeking, searching for and finding the Lord Jesus where he is to be found: everywhere, actually.
Jesus came to earth to become us, in our humanity, so he can identify with our needs, desires, wants, ills, joys, sorrows and a host of other life experiences. He came forth from the Father, to be the representation of Him, to invite us all – who would believe – to a family life of unimaginable perks, favors and wealth and life that lasts forever in a paradise magnificent.
“Everyone is looking for you,” the disciples tell Jesus, after he begins to make a difference in people’s lives by touching them and healing them: for example, Simon’s mother-in-law, whom he cures of a fever.
There is a new source of life, of grace, of blessing and yes, even, salvation: and “everyone wants to get a hand in on it” – and Jesus generously and compassionately moves from town to town so that he can be seen, touched and a source of healing.
And so “becoming like his brothers in every way” (I), Jesus became accessible as Savior of the human race.
Today, he wishes to continue his campaign of destroying death and restoring life, by using us as his hands and feet, his voice and his touch: healing still abounds, only now we are real and true instruments of it.
Strengthened and armed, by his very real Eucharistic Presence, let us go forth a cooperate in his wish to minister to the people he will place in our path today – in a variety of venues – and let us feel fulfilled and joy-filled because the very God of the Universe is dwelling in us and using us to make a real difference in the life of others, in the life of the world.
More than ever, we need to see the Light and Truth of Christ, more than ever we need to be the Light and Truth of Christ for others.
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
+ The gospel passage today is about authority. When we meet someone with authority – real, genuine, unassuming authority – we are astonished because somehow that person unseats our deepest fears, fills us with certainty, and realizes the desires crucial to our happiness.
The contrary is also true: when we observe someone with questionable authority – surreal, counterfeit, assumed authority – we are alarmed because somehow that person affirms our deepest fears, fills us with uncertainty, and threatens the desires crucial to our happiness.
For example: we see Jesus today as God Himself coming in our midst to exercise that primal and incontestable authority that is so powerful that it can even expel our unclean spirits. The “new teaching” of Jesus is our salvation.
Likewise, the contestable, unstable, erratic sense of power looming in the gathering administrative structuring of the “new government” in Washington, D.C., ought to alarm the psyche of this great nation, and its sleeping, numb or simply dazed citizens to defend the escalation of their deepest fears of disunity, chaos, uncertainty and destruction of their pursuit of happiness at the core.
Unless those who are imbued with the good sense, and truth, of the rightful authority of Jesus, and the right use of it, stand up and say NO! to what is on the verge of destroying not only our country, but also the unraveling of the very fabric of world civilization – it will be soon too late – and those who were silent and did nothing will be held most accountable on Judgment Day!
Jesus, we collectively say and mean: we trust in You, we trust in your Light, we trust in your Love, we trust in your Joy – HELP US TO STAND UP and cooperate in saving ourselves from DECEIT, LIES and THE EVIL ONE!
Monday, January 9, 2017
+ 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!
Sunday, January 8, 2017
+ On this Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, our reflection is focused on two interrelated events: the manifestation of Christ the Newborn King as LIGHT OF THE NATIONS, LIGHT OF THE WORLD; and the adoration that is his due, by those whose lives were directly affected by his coming! This is why he came: to fulfill the prophecies about the people walking in darkness, who very much needed someone to lead them to safety and to the forgiveness of their sins. That One is Christ Emmanuel: the brightest Light that could ever shine on earth! It is only fitting that the Person of Light should be adored – even from the first moments of his birth!
The first reading today from the Prophet Isaiah tells us that the great Light is none other than the very glory of God in himself made visible. The reality of the Triune God, all by itself, generates, produces and disseminates an astounding array of Glory and Light: “and when the inhabitants of the earth, all of the nations, finally made a joint cry of longing and desire for a savior, a redeemer, the Father sent his Son to be his own Light and Glory in person, for all in the world to see!
The Word was made flesh; the Son of God became the Son of Man; the glory of God filled the earth: but only those with faith could see it. Only those with faith could see it then; only those with faith can see it now! The three magi, kings, who represented the believing world, saw the star, and were led to the place where the Child of Light resided with his parents! And as only fitting, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh; acknowledging him as king, priest and prophet!
It is the Father’s will that one day, all nations shall adore the King of the Universe, Christ the Lord – and it will happen. Perhaps a good New Year’s Resolution for all people everywhere, beginning with us, is to adore him NOW as king, priest, prophet, healer, friend and elder brother! When we believe in him, trust in him and love in him (by loving others) then his light comes into us and we make the world that much brighter – our parish, our families, our schools, our places of work, our government and the whole world!
O come let us adore him, all of us, Christ the Lord!
Friday, January 6, 2017
+ 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!
Thursday, January 5, 2017
+ 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!
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
+ 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!
Monday, January 2, 2017
+ Today we celebrate the feast of two great fourth century Eastern bishops, doctors and saints of the Church: Basil the Great and Gregory of Nazianzen.
To begin with, Basil the Great’s mother, father and four of his nine siblings were also canonized. As a youth Basil was noted for organizing famine relief, and for working in the kitchens himself, quite unusual for a young noble.
He studied in Constantinople and Athens with his friend the future saint Gregory Nazianzen. He then ran a school of oratory and law in Caesarea. He was so successful as a speaker, he was tempted by pride, which resulted in a decision to sell all he had, giving away the money to the poor and becoming a priest and monk.
Basil founded monasteries and drew up rules for monks living in the desert, and is considered as key to the founding of eastern monasticism as St. Benedict of Nursia was to the west. He became Bishop and then Archbishop of Caesarea, celebrating Mass and preaching to the crowds twice a day. He fought Arianism and was declared a Greek Doctor of the Church as well as Father of the Church.
St. Gregory of Nazianzen was son of St. Gregory of Nazianzen the Elder and Saint Nonna, brother of St. Caesar Nazianzen and St. Gorgonius. He spent a wandering youth in search of leaning. He became a friend of and fellow student with St. Basil the Great. He became a monk at Basil’s desert monastery.
Reluctantly Gregory became a priest, believing himself unworthy. He then assisted his bishop father to prevent an Arian schism in the diocese. He opposed Arianism, and brought its heretical followers back to the fold.
He became first bishop of Caesarea and then later Bishop of Constantinople. He endured much opposition and turmoil in this venue, but he worked tirelessly to ensure the credibility of the true faith. Later he retired to live the rest of his days as a hermit, wrote theological discourses and poetry. He was as well named Father and Doctor of the Church.
The gospel passage today talks about the humble being exalted, and the leader being the servant: these two sentiments certainly apply to our saintly focal points of the day: Basil the Great, and Gregory Nazianzen. They unassumingly went about doing what the Lord asked them to do: to keep some theological and religious law and order in the tumultuous fourth century – and now they are held up as models for us – who live in an equally, if not moreso tumultuous 21st century.
May we like them hold on to our faith in Jesus Christ, the Divine Word of God, made flesh, and dwelling among us now in his Mystical Body the Church – and help to bring about real positive change in the world in which we live.
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
+ Our readings today are about unity and community, or a more contemporary way of saying it would be: participation . Jesus makes it ...
+ 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...
+ 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...