25 September 2018

Saints Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs


The commemoration of St. Cosmas and St. Damian is one of the most ancient feasts of the Church, and these two martyrs have been honored in the East and West in many ways, including the building and dedication of churches in their honor in many places, including Rome and Constantinople. Along with St. Luke, they are the patron saints of doctors. Although we cannot be certain of the details of their lives, the information that has come down to us is of very early origin.

Saints Cosmas and Damian were venerated in the East as the "moneyless ones" because they practiced medicine at no charge. They were twin brothers, born in Cilicia (in what is now Turkey). They studied in Syria and became skilled physicians.

Since they were prominent Christians, they were among the first arrested when the great persecution under Diocletian began. Lysias, the governor of Cilicia, ordered their arrest, and they were beheaded in about the year 287. Their bodies, it was said, were carried to Syria and buried at the ancient Syrian city of Cyrrhus, which then became known as Hagioupolis – the City of the Holy Ones.

They were venerated very early and became patrons of medicine, known for their miracles of healing. The Emperor Justinian asked the heavenly aid of these saints, was cured by their intercession, leading the emperor to give special honor to the city of Cyrrhus where their relics were enshrined. Their basilica in Rome, decorated with beautiful mosaics, was dedicated in the year 530. They are named in the Roman Martyrology and in the Canon of the Mass, testifying to the antiquity of the celebration of their feast day.

Cosmas and Damian were not only ideal Christians by their practice of medicine as an act of Christian charity, but they also testify to God's blessing upon the science and art of healing, affirming the Christian understanding of the physical and spiritual unity of each person.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that we who celebrate the heavenly birthday of Saints Cosmas and Damian, thy Martyrs, may by their intercession be delivered from all evils that beset us; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

22 September 2018

Autumn Ember Saturday


Almighty and everlasting God, who through godly continency bestowest healing both of body and soul: we humbly beseech thy majesty graciously to look upon the devout prayers and abstinence of thy people, granting us in this world the succour of thy grace, and in the world to come life everlasting; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

[For those to be ordained]
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who of thy divine providence hast appointed divers Orders in thy Church: give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee, to all who are (now) called to any office and ministry for thy people; and so fill them with the truth of thy doctrine and clothe them with holiness of life, that they may faithfully serve before thee, to the glory of thy great Name and for the benefit of thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

[For the choice of fit persons for the ordained ministry]
O God, who didst lead thy holy Apostles to ordain ministers in every place: grant that thy Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may choose suitable men for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the extension of thy kingdom; through him who is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

19 September 2018

The Holy Martyrs of Korea


On September 20, we celebrate the Memorial of Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon, priest and martyr, and Saint Paul Chong Hasang, martyr, and their companions, the martyrs of Korea.

The Catholic faith came to Korea during the Japanese invasion in 1592 when some Koreans were baptized, probably by Christian Japanese soldiers. Evangelization was difficult because Korea refused all contact with the outside world except for an annual journey to Peking to pay taxes. On one of these occasions, around 1777, Christian literature obtained from Jesuits in China led educated Korean Christians to study. A home Church began. When a Chinese priest managed to enter secretly about twelve years later, he found 4,000 Catholics, none of whom had ever seen a priest. Seven years later there were 10,000 Catholics. Religious freedom didn’t come until 1883.

In the meantime, there were horrible persecutions against the Christians. The major religion in Korea consisted of ancestor worship, and this was considered to be a cornerstone of their society. If anyone refused to take part in ancestor worship, they were considered traitors to the country, and would be killed. Obviously, Catholics would not be able to be part of that, and as a result, more than 8,000 of them were executed, and in unspeakable ways. Most of them were simple country people, whose names were known only to those closest to them. 103 of them were canonized by name, by Pope John Paul II in 1984.

O God, who wast pleased to increase thy adopted children in all the world, and who made the blood of thy Martyrs Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon and his Companions a most fruitful seed of Christians: grant that we may be defended by their help and profit always from their example; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

18 September 2018

A sign in Nain...


[At that time, Jesus] went to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large crowd from the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." And he came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and "God has visited his people!" And this report concerning him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.
- Luke 7:11-17

Jesus comes upon a funeral procession. It’s the funeral of a young man, and he is the only son of a widowed mother. What unspeakable sadness and mourning must have marked that crowd in Nain. The men who were carrying the body to the burial site were probably thinking of the friend they had lost; the woman who had already buried her husband was now having to give her only son over to the grave; the family friends who were with her no doubt felt her deep loss. Jesus happened to be in the city of Nain on this particular day, and He chanced to be nearby when the procession was making its way to the cemetery. And He was obviously very moved by what He saw. St. Luke tells us that Jesus saw the bereaved mother, and “had compassion on her,” and He went to her and said to her, “Do not weep.” And they weren’t just empty words. They weren’t like the words which you and I say embarrassingly when we’re confronted by someone who has lost someone dear to them. No - our Lord was giving the woman a reason not to cry, because after He said it, He went to the coffin and he addressed the dead man, saying “Young man, I say to you, arise!” And the gospel tells us that at that command the young man sat up, alive, and he began to speak!

Why did Jesus do this? Was it just so that this particular woman could have her son back? Certainly, that was the immediate result of Christ’s action - but that wasn’t the primary purpose of it all. No, Jesus was using a very human and tragic situation to show the world that He is Lord of all - that even death is no match for his power. And in this story is given to us a picture of the Gospel: those who were there in Nain on that day, and those of us who hear about it today, can see Jesus reach out and give life to a dead man. And this is the message which the Church has preached and taught ever since - that death has no sting, that the grave has no victory, in the face of Christ’s divine power.

14 September 2018

Our Lady of Sorrows



Immediately following the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Church commemorates the Blessed Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows. This primarily remembers Mary standing at the foot of the cross, keeping a sorrowful vigil as she saw her son dying. Over time it actually developed to include what are called the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, growing out of the prophecy of St. Simeon, who, at the time of the Presentation, told Mary that a sword should pierce through her own soul.

These seven sorrows are:
The Prophecy of Simeon concerning the Jesus, born for the rise and fall of many.
The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family.
The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days.
The Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the way to Calvary.
The Crucifixion, where Mary stands at the foot of the cross.
The Descent from the Cross, with Jesus placed in Mary's arms.
The Burial of Jesus.

The title of Our Lady of Sorrows is very closely related to our own title of Our Lady of the Atonement – we see our primary image of the Blessed Mother holding her Son who holds the cross (St. Simeon’s prophecy), and we have the image of Our Lady of the Atonement as the Pieta, as she holds the lifeless body of her Son when he was taken down from the cross.

This commemoration helps us to remember Mary’s sacrifice for our salvation, and also the importance of avoiding things in our own lives which would cause further sorrow to Mary, who is our Mother.

O God, who didst will that in the passion of thy Son a sword of grief should pierce the soul of the blessed Virgin Mary his Mother: Mercifully grant that thy Church, having shared with her in his passion, may be made worthy to share in the joys of his resurrection; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

10 September 2018

Remember and pray...

World Trade Center, 9/11

O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of thy servants departed, and grant them an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Pentagon, 9/11

For none of us liveth to himself,
and no man dieth to himself.
For if we live, we live unto the Lord,
and if we die, we die unto the Lord.
Whether we live, therefore, or die,
we are the Lord's.


Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 9/11

Thou only art immortal, the creator and maker of mankind; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and unto earth shall we return. For so thou didst ordain when thou createdst me, saying, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." All we go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

06 September 2018

Peace which passes understanding...


One of the things distinguishing mankind from the rest of creation is his desire to understand things beyond himself. No doubt it is because he is created in God’s image, who is the Lord of all knowledge and wisdom.

We do know a great deal about the world around us, and we are able to grasp the transcendent truths which should guide our lives. We can see the smallest part of creation through a microscope, and we can view the farthest horizons through a telescope. We can capture and categorize immense amounts of knowledge -- but there is one thing that eludes any scientific or philosophical system: namely, finding that peace which comes from God. And when dark things happen, which threaten to remove all sense of peace, remember the foundation on which we rest: our Lord Jesus Christ and His love.

St. Paul wrote to the Philippians that “the peace of God, which passes all understanding” is the thing which will keep our hearts and minds in Christ. It’s humbling, that the only thing which really matters is the one thing that we will never completely understand.

04 September 2018

St. Teresa of Calcutta


On August 26, 1910 a baby girl was born to a couple of Albanian heritage in Skopje, Macedonia. She was baptized with the name of Agnes, and she grew up in a loving and devoutly Catholic household. When she was eight years old, her father died, leaving her mother with the responsibility of supporting the family, which she did by opening a shop which dealt in embroidery and fabric.

Young Agnes helped her mother, and was also deeply involved in the life of their parish church, but when she was eighteen she felt the call to religious life. She left home in September of 1928, travelling to Dublin, Ireland, where she was admitted as a postulant at the Loreto Convent. It was there that she received the religious name of Teresa, after her patroness, St. Terese of Lisieux, and she was known as Sr. Mary Teresa.

After her postulancy in Ireland, Sr. Teresa was sent to India, where she was to spend her novitiate. She arrived in Calcutta on the Feast of the Epiphany, 1929, and went immediately into the Loreto convent in Darjeeling. It was on May 24, 1937, that she professed her final vows, and during the 1930’s and 1940’s she taught at a Catholic girls’ school in Calcutta, and came to be known as Mother Teresa.

It was on September 10, 1946 that she was on the train going from Calcutta to Darjeeling. As she later recalled it, it was during that journey that she was given what she termed a “call within a call.” This was when she received the inspiration which would lead to the founding of the Missionaries of Charity. Within her call to religious life she felt the call to establish a new religious institute which would have as its mission, “to quench the infinite thirst of Jesus on the cross for love of souls,” and this would be accomplished by “laboring for the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor.” This came to fruition on October 7, 1950, when the new congregation of the Missionaries of charity was erected as a religious institute for the Archdiocese of Calcutta.

Her work had begun in a small way. She washed the sores of sick children; she nursed a woman dying of starvation and tuberculosis; she cared for a homeless man who was without any family, and near death. One by one, some of her former students joined her in the work. Their day would begin with Mass and Holy Communion, and then they would set out on the streets of Calcutta – they were recognizable by their white saris with blue borders – and they had the purpose of caring for the “poorest of the poor,” who had no one to care for them. They searched them out as though searching for Jesus Himself.

Throughout the 1950’s and into the 1960’s the work expanded, as did the number of those joining the Missionaries of Charity. They worked not only in Calcutta, but throughout India. Then, in 1965, Pope Paul VI raised the congregation from an archdiocesan institute to one of pontifical right, and they began to spread throughout the world, going first to Venezuela, then into Europe and Africa, eventually opening houses in Australia, the Middle East, and North America.

In 1979 Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and by that time there were 158 Missionaries of Charity foundations throughout the world, and its growth continued, until by 1997 there were nearly 4,000 Sisters in 600 foundations, in 123 countries of the world. In the summer of 1997, after an extensive trip to visit her sisters in Rome, New York, and Washington, Mother Teresa’s health was failing. She returned to Calcutta, and on September 5, 1997, she died at the Motherhouse, very near the Loreto convent where she had arrived some sixty-nine years earlier.

At her death she was mourned throughout the world. Hundreds of thousands came to Calcutta to pray and pay their respect to this remarkable woman. She was given a state funeral, and her body was taken in procession throughout the streets of Calcutta, where she herself had searched out the “poorest of the poor.” After only two years, in recognition of her sanctity, special permission was given to open her cause.  She was beatified on October 19, 2003 and was canonized on September 4, 2016. In speaking of her, St. John Paul II called her “an icon of the Good Samaritan.”

O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us, we pray thee, from an inordinate love of this world, that, inspired by the devotion of thy servant, Saint Teresa of Calcutta, we may serve thee with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

02 September 2018

A Prayer for Those Who Labour


O LORD Jesus Christ, who in thy earthly life didst share man’s toil, and thereby hallow the labour of his hands: prosper all those who maintain the industries of this land; and give them pride in their work, a just reward for their labour, and joy both in supplying the needs of others and in serving thee their Saviour; who with the Father and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, ever one God, world without end. Amen.