31 October 2020

Characteristics of the Saints

St. John the Divine was nearly a hundred years old when he was exiled to the island of Patmos. It was there that he had his great vision: “I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

This was his great vision of all the saints, and they were standing there because of everything that has gone before – their holiness is the fruit of all the events in Christ's life, from His Conception and Nativity, to the Resurrection and the Ascension and Pentecost – all those things happened to make saints.

What is a saint? First, we should understand that saints aren’t born; rather, they’re made. We are all born with the potential to become saints. The only difference between those who aren’t saints and those who are, is the difference between people who repent and confess after sinning, and those who refuse to repent and so continue in their sin.

And because one of the purposes of the Church is to make saints, so the characteristics of the saints are the characteristics of the Church. In the Creed we confess that we believe “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” These words which define the Church, also define the saints.

The saints are One because they are together. We speak of the communion of the saints. The saints are One, they are united with one another because they are united with Christ.

The saints are also obviously holy. The word “saint” (from “sanctus”) means holy. They’ve been made holy by Christ, through the sacraments, through prayer, through grasping hold of and using God’s grace daily.

The saints are also Catholic, that is, “universal.” In other words, their holiness is the same in all places and at all times. We commemorate all the saints of all countries and of all centuries and of all backgrounds. We recall saints of all ages, of all nationalities, men, women and children, the poor and the rich, the old and the young, the healthy and the sick. They all confess the same Faith. The holiness of the Saints is universal throughout all ages.

And the saints are Apostolic. They share in the same Faith and Tradition that Christ gave to the Apostles, and they shared this Faith with the world through their words and in their lives. Their holiness wasn’t just for themselves; their holiness was for the whole world.

In keeping this Solemnity we ask the prayers of all the saints, that through their constant intercession we might be made saints, to have our place with them as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic people of God.

Solemnity of All Saints

The Pantheon, built originally in 27 B.C. and rebuilt by the Emperor Hadrian c. 126 A.D. to honor pagan Roman gods, was consecrated by Pope Boniface VI and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and All Martyrs ca. 609, thus beginning the commemoration of All Saints.

O Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord: Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys which thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting.   Amen.

30 October 2020

More on the "Pater noster"

Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

It was an ordinary practice for a rabbi to teach his disciples a simple prayer which they could use on a regular basis, and it would be a prayer that encapsulated the teaching he had imparted to his followers. The prayer Jesus gives to his apostles teaches everything necessary to know about how to pray, and for what to pray.

It begins by addressing God as Father, indicating to us that in prayer we are not coming to someone out from whom we must try and extract gifts, but to a Father who takes delight in supplying His children's needs.

In Hebrew thought the idea of “name” means more than just the name by which a person is called. The name means the whole character of the person as it is revealed and known to us, and this is why Jesus teaches that God’s Name is a holy name. Psalm 9:10 says, "Those who know thy name put their trust in thee." To know the name of God is to know the whole character and mind and heart of God, and makes us willingly put our trust in Him.

The order of the Lord's Prayer is important. Before we ask anything for ourselves, the first order of business is that of God and His glory, and the reverence which is due to Him. Only when we give God His proper place will other things fall into proper order.

This prayer covers everything in life. It covers our present need, in that it tells us to pray for our daily bread, and indeed it is bread for the day for which we ask, providing a link to the story of the manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16:11-21). Only enough for the needs of the day could be gathered. We are not to worry about the unknown future, but to live a day at a time, which is a reminder of our dependence on God.

The prayer refers to our sin. When we pray, all we can really do is pray for forgiveness, because even the best among us is a sinful man coming before the purity of God. And as we seek forgiveness, so we need to give forgiveness.

It covers future trials, asking that we not be brought to them. “Temptation” means any situation in which we are tested. It includes far more than seduction to sin. It covers every situation which is a challenge to us, and which tests a person's humanity and integrity and fidelity. We cannot escape it, but we can meet it with God. People have asked, “Why would God lead us into temptation?” Perhaps a more accurate rendering of the Greek would be more like “Let us not be led into temptation.” In other words, in this prayer we are asking God to protect us from giving into temptation.

The Lord's Prayer is a public prayer of the Church, with its proper place in the liturgy. But it also is a private prayer, which stirs up all manner of holy desires which lead us on into right ways, while at the same time it sums up all we ought to pray for in the presence of God.


Pictured: "Christ teaching the Lord’s Prayer"
by an Unknown French Master
Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, c.1200

29 October 2020

The perfect prayer...

"Pray then like this: Our Father..."

Jesus gave His disciples the perfect prayer which addresses God as "Our Father." It’s probably the most familiar prayer in history, and yet its familiarity means that sometimes we don’t think about the words as much as we should when we say it. Even the first word is important, as it is in our English translation – “Our.” When Jesus taught this prayer, he set it very much in the context of “all of us together.” 

Certainly, God loves each one of us individually, and He deals with us individually, but He has called us individually to be part of His Body, the Church. Throughout the whole prayer, it’s prayed in the plural – and it’s a reminder to us that we are part of something much larger than ourselves, and that what we do or neglect to do has an effect on others.

When we were baptized, that sacrament affected us individually, certainly – it took away the stain of original sin – but it also incorporated us into something; namely, the Church, the Body of Christ. 

When we were confirmed, each of us was sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. But it also made us active members of an army – the army of Christ - and we were given grace and power to join with others in fighting against sin, the world and the devil. 

When we receive Holy Communion, each of us individually receives the Body and Blood of Christ, but we receive it in communion with the Church throughout the world, and in union with the saints throughout the ages.

Even when we pray to God by ourselves, when we say the Amen, we say it with the whole Church – Militant, Expectant, and Triumphant.

The great poet, John Donne, wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself…” which is a reminder that what I do, what I say, or what I neglect to do or say, has to do not just with me, but it also with all those around me.


Pictured: The Lord's Prayer (Le "Pater Noster") 
by James Tissot (French, 1836-1902).

28 October 2020

The Way, the Truth, and the Life


"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but by me."

- St. John 14:6

Perhaps one of the greatest hindrances to the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the heresy called "indifferentism,” a way of looking at things which says that all religious beliefs ultimately get bundled together into one thing, that all paths lead to the same place, that all worship leads to the same god. “Indifferentism” is the driving force behind modern pluralism that says, "It doesn’t matter what you believe, just as long as you believe in something that matters to you." 

This is the underlying reason that every single religion, except one, is openly taught in our public schools. It's why our children can be taught Buddhism, Hinduism, native American spiritism, and whatever other “ism” there may be, in the name of cultural diversity, except the one faith which confesses the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. Ours is the only faith not tolerated in the public square. 

Why is this? Part of the reason is because of the “scandal” of the Gospel -- scandalous, at least, by the world’s standards, because the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is exclusive. 

It's important we should understand that the Gospel isn’t exclusive of people – indeed, the Gospel states without any doubt that it is for all people in all places and at all times; but it’s exclusive when it comes to untruths or partial truths. It will not make room for errors or lies within its system of belief. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is exclusive in the sense that there is no other name on earth, other than the Name of Jesus, in whom there is the certainty of life and salvation. There is only one sacrifice for sin, and that sacrifice is the body of Jesus crucified on the cross of Calvary. It rules out all other gods and all other ways of salvation. There is only one God, the Triune God revealed by Jesus Christ. And there is only one salvation, the salvation which comes because of the sacrifice on the Cross. 

The reality of the situation in our society today is that as long as you preach a generic god, or generic values, then you pose no threat, you offend no one, you challenge no cherished beliefs, you ruffle no feathers. You can talk about “being nice” and “respecting others” and “not being judgmental” and those are good things. No one will argue with you about those sorts of things. But when we look at the witness which came from those in the early days of the Church, we see immediately that they were speaking about much more than just “nice things.” St. Stephen wasn’t martyred because he was being “non-judgmental” nor were St. Peter and the other apostles beaten and thrown into prison because they thought that different religions were just different ways of salvation. 

St. Paul caused riots for preaching the crucified and risen Jesus as the Incarnate God. If St. Paul had subscribed to the indifferentism of this age, he wouldn’t have bothered going to the synagogue with his message. After all, the Jews were already religious people. They believed in God sincerely and earnestly wanted to please Him. If St. Paul had believed that all religious roads lead to the same place, he wouldn’t have made it his weekly Sabbath practice to go to the synagogues and debate from the Scriptures that this Jesus is the Christ, the Saviour, God in human flesh.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And while the world teaches that there are many ways, many truths, many ways of living, Jesus teaches that there is only one. Jesus is not one way among many ways. He is not one truth among various truths. He is not one life, among many lives. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the only way to God the Father, the only Truth who guides us into the truth by His Word and Spirit, the only Life that conquers death and brings eternal life through His suffering, death, and resurrection. 

There are lots of things that hold out the promise of life - new medicines, new diets, new products. And people are constantly chasing after things that offer a supposedly better, fuller life. But Jesus Christ came to turn our hearts from everything that “promises” life, and He claims our hearts entirely for Himself alone. 

Jesus is the Way. He is the Truth. He is the Life. He is the only Way from death to life, from hell to heaven, from the devil to God. He is the only Truth that overcomes the Lie that kills us. He is the only Life that is eternal life. All other roads, in fact, do lead to the same place; namely, death and destruction. These other roads may try to provide nice scenery along the way, and they might be very broad and well-traveled, and they might be filled with crowds of very nice, unobjectionable people, but the Lord Jesus teaches us with His own lips and in His own words, that there is only one road that leads to eternal life with God, and that is Christ Himself, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

27 October 2020

Ss. Simon and Jude, Apostles

Both Simon and Jude were ordinary men who were chosen by Jesus Himself to teach others about God’s love and to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Their lives help us to understand that even the most ordinary people can become saints when they decide to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

Both these men were known by other names during their lives. Simon was often called “the Zealot.” He firmly believed in the importance of people following Jewish law. Once he met Jesus, his life was changed and he became convinced that the most important thing was to follow the Lord and His teachings. We believe that another reason Simon had a nickname was to keep people from confusing him with the other Apostle named Simon, the one Jesus called Peter.

Jude was also known as “Jude Thaddeus.” People used this formal title so that he was not confused with Judas, the Apostle who betrayed Jesus and handed Him over to be arrested. Jude is the patron saint of hopeless cases. People often pray to Jude when they feel that there is no one else to turn to. They ask Jude to bring their problem to Jesus. Because Jude had such great faith, we know that nothing is impossible for those who believe and trust in the Lord.

Simon and Jude traveled together to teach others about Jesus. Because of their eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ miracles and His death and resurrection, many people became believers and were baptized. Simon and Jude died for their faith on the same day in Persia, the land we now call Iran. These two saints remind us to learn all we can about Jesus and to share it with others, as they did.

O God, we thank thee for the glorious company of the apostles, and especially on this day for Ss. Simon and Jude; and we pray that, as they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so we may with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

26 October 2020

Our Lady's Faithfulness

In her life, Our Lady gives us the perfect example of faithfulness. She unhesitatingly and completely accomplished the Will of God as it was manifested to her, by doing her ordinary, commonplace duties – caring for the Infant Jesus, making the home in Nazareth a welcoming place – and she was also faithful to the demands of charity and concern for those whom God placed in her path – such as going to assist her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with St. John the Baptist, or her noticing the embarrassment of the young couple at the wedding feast at Cana, and then seeking to help them.

Mary obeyed the manifestations of the Will of God so faithfully that we cannot help but be filled with admiration, just from our human point of view. We cannot imagine her neglecting to follow the desires of God in any way, whether they were revealed to her by her duties, or the needs of her neighbour, or the message of an angel, or through the inner speaking of the Holy Spirit. Mary was like a leaf on a tree which is moved by the slightest breeze – she responded to His slightest urging and inspiration. Her soul was so attuned to the Spirit of God, that it was impossible for her not to take note of the smallest wish of the Most High God, and certainly she was always ready to respond to His greatest requests.

Here’s an important point: Mary’s faithfulness in the small things prepared her for faithfulness in great things. Her generous response to the demands of God’s Will throughout her early life strengthened her ready response at the time of the Annunciation. Her faithfulness made her completely worthy, completely ready, for God to work His Will in her in the accomplishment of the Incarnation and Redemption.

Her words “Be it done unto me according to thy word,” is our example of wholehearted surrender to the Holy Spirit – that is, her perfect acceptance of the Will of God exactly how and when and in what way He desired it to be accomplished. At every moment of her life – in all her joys and sorrows, in the wonder of Bethlehem and in the horror of Calvary – Mary was always accepting. She was always ready to let God’s Will be done. She was always perfectly conformed to it, and she was always ready to embrace it. 


Pictured: "Madonna and Child" by Charles Bosseron Chambers (1882-1964)

24 October 2020

"You shall love..."

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

-St. Matthew 22:37-40

Our Lord Jesus Christ makes it clear to us: we cannot claim to love God if we don't love our neighbor. On these two commandments -- the love of God and the love of the neighbor -- the entire Law and the Prophets depend. They’re like twin hooks that hold up the entire Law of God. So Jesus teaches that the entire law of God can be boiled down to two simple commandments. 

Love God with your whole being. Love those whom God puts in your path as much as you love yourself. 

St. Paul wrote to the Romans: "He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law…” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. In that way, the Law comes down to one word: Love. 

People often misunderstand what love is. They think of it as a particular feeling. But Jesus teaches us that love isn’t just a feeling. Love is an orientation of the will in action toward another. To love is to be turned inside out, toward someone outside of yourself - toward God, toward your neighbor. 

 As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

Jesus has linked love of our neighbor with our love of God. We love God by loving our neighbor, even when it’s not convenient. The cup of water we give to someone who is thirsty, we’ve given to God. The food we give to the hungry, we’ve given to God. So if we haven’t given the cup of water or the morsel of food where it’s needed, and it’s within our capability to do so, then we’ve denied it to God.

We’re a people who are called to love. Not the squishy-fuzzy-warm feeling kind of love, but a manly and active love, a love that does the right thing. When we love, it’s because we have first been loved by God in Christ Jesus. His death and resurrection free us to love God and to love our neighbor. No longer do we love just because we have to; we love because now we’re actually able to love. 

We love because God has loved us in Christ with the greatest love we will ever know - the crucified love of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

O Almighty and most merciful God: of thy bountiful goodness keep us, we beseech thee, from all things that may hurt us; that we, being ready both in body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish those things which thou commandest; 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.

23 October 2020

St. Anthony Mary Claret

Known as the "spiritual father of Cuba," St. Anthony Mary Claret was a missionary, a religious founder, a social reformer, Chaplain to the Queen of Spain, a writer and publisher, and an archbishop. Born in Spain, his work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and he was one of the Fathers of the First Vatican Council.

As a young man he worked as a weaver in the textile mills of Barcelona, and he was always looking for ways to improve himself. He learned Latin, and he also learned the printing trade – two things he would use during his ministry. He was ordained at the age of 28, but ill-health prevented him from entering religious life as he thought he wanted to, as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but nonetheless, he went on to become one of Spain’s most dynamic and well-known preachers.

He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Then at the age of 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians. In fact, after his death, a group of his Claretians eventually came to San Antonio where they served in San Fernando Cathedral, and also continue to staff the parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

St. Anthony Mary Claret was appointed to be the archbishop of Santiago in Cuba, which had been very much neglected by previous archbishops. The Catholic faith was at a low point there when he arrived. He began to reform things by almost constantly preaching and hearing confessions. He became hated because he told men and women that they needed to marry, rather than just live together, and he was also hated because he gave Catholic instruction to the many black slaves in the area. In fact, his enemies even hired an assassin who tried to stab him to death, and when he failed, St. Anthony forgave him, and managed to get the death sentence commuted to a prison term. Many of the Cubans were living in poverty, and he encouraged family-owned farms which could produce a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This made enemies out of the large sugar crop owners, who depended on the poor to work in the fields for them at very low pay.

He eventually returned to Spain to do a job he didn’t like — that of being chaplain for the queen, but in the revolution of 1868, he fled with the rest of the royal court to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony. All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets.

At the First Vatican Council, he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, and he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, "There goes a true saint." At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.

O God, who for the evangelization of peoples didst strengthen the Bishop Saint Anthony Mary Claret with admirable charity and long-suffering: grant, through his intercession; that, seeking the things that are thine, we may earnestly devote ourselves to winning our brethren for Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

22 October 2020

St. John of Capistrano


From CatholicCulture.org

St. John was born in 1386 at Capistrano in the Italian Province of the Abruzzi. His father was a German knight and died when he was still young. St. John became a lawyer and attained the position of governor of Perugia. When war broke out between Perugia and Malatesta in 1416, St. John tried to broker a peace. Unfortunately, his opponents ignored the truce and St. John became a prisoner of war. On the death of his wife he entered the order of Friars Minor, was ordained and began to lead a very penitential life.

John became a disciple of Saint Bernadine of Siena and a noted preacher while still a deacon, beginning his work in 1420. The world at the time was in need of strong men to work for salvation of souls. Thirty percent of the population was killed by the Black Plague, the Church was split in schism and there were several men claiming to be pope. As an Itinerant priest throughout Italy, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia, St. John preached to tens of thousands and established communities of Franciscan renewal. He reportedly healed the sick by making the Sign of the Cross over them. He also wrote extensively, mainly against the heresies of the day.

He was successful in reconciling heretics. After the fall of Constantinople, he preached a crusade against the Muslim Turks. At age 70 he was commissioned by Pope Callistus II to lead it, and marched off at the head of 70,000 Christian soldiers. He won the great battle of Belgrade in the summer of 1456. He died in the field a few months later, but his army delivered Europe from the Moslems.

Almighty God, who willest to be glorified in thy saints, and didst raise up thy servant St. John of Capistrano to be a light in the world: Shine, we pray thee, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth thy praise, who hast called us out of darkness into thy marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

21 October 2020

Pope St. John Paul II

Karol Josef Wojtyla was born in 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. His mother died when he was just a young boy, and he was raised by his father. Even as a boy he was known for his athletic ability, and was in addition to his studies, he was active in all kinds of sports. As a young man, Karol worked as a laborer in factories and at a variety of physically demanding jobs. It was after the death of his father, in 1942, that he felt the call to ordination. The Nazis had come to power, and seminaries were suppressed, but he studied in secret, and after the liberation of Poland by Russian forces in January of 1945 he was able to study openly at the University. He graduated with distinction, and was ordained on All Saints Day in 1946.

After his ordination to the priesthood and theological studies in Rome, he returned to his homeland and resumed various pastoral and academic tasks. He became first auxiliary bishop and, in 1964, Archbishop of Krakow and took part in the Second Vatican Council. On 16 October 1978 he was elected pope and took the name John Paul II. His exceptional apostolic zeal, particularly for families, young people and the sick, led him to numerous pastoral visits throughout the world. Among the many fruits which he has left as a heritage to the Church are above all his rich teaching on the human person and the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church and for the Eastern Churches. In Rome on 2 April 2005, the eve of the Second Sunday of Easter (or of Divine Mercy), he departed peacefully after whispering "I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you."

O God, who art rich in mercy and who didst will that Saint John Paul the Second should preside as Pope over thy universal Church: grant, we pray; that instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of mankind; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

19 October 2020

St. Paul of the Cross

St. Paul of the Cross was born at Ovada in the Republic of Genoa, January 3, 1694. His infancy and youth were spent in great innocence and piety. When he was still young he was inspired by God to found a religious congregation that would be dedicated to the Passion of Christ as we see it in the Cross, and in fact, God allowed him, in a vision, to see the habit which he and his companions were to wear. The symbol which Passionists still wear is that of Christ’s Sacred Heart, surmounted by a cross. He spoke to his bishop about this, and the bishop understood that this was an inspiration from God. On November 22, 1720, the bishop vested him with the habit that had been shown to him in a vision, the same that the Passionists wear at the present time.

For some fifty years St. Paul of the Cross traveled throughout Italy, preaching missions, and directing people’s attention to Jesus upon the Cross. God lavished upon him the greatest gifts in the supernatural order, but he treated himself with the greatest rigor, and believed that he was a useless servant and a great sinner. His saintly death occurred at Rome in the year 1775, at the age of eighty-one. He was canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1867.

The Passionists continue their work, and a number of the members of this order have been beatified, perhaps the most famous being Blessed Dominic Barberi, notable for having received St. John Henry Newman into the Catholic faith.

May the Priest Saint Paul, whose only love was the Cross, obtain for us thy grace, O Lord: so that, urged on more strongly by his example, we may each embrace our own cross with courage; 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.

Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko

Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko was born September 14, 1947, on a farm in the small village of Okopy located in North Eastern Poland. His parents Wladyslaw and Mariana were devout Catholics and he was baptized Alphons Popieluszko two days after his birth. Blessed Jerzy was a fragile child but as his parents stated he made up for any physical infirmities in strength of character.

The country into which Blessed Jerzy was born was one suffering from the aftermath of the reign of terror by the Nazi’s and the ongoing persecution of the Church by the Communists since the country’s occupation by the Russians in the Second World War. Okopy, the geographical center or “heart” of Poland was a rural village and thus its school system was not as deeply infiltrated with the sociology of the communist regime, but nevertheless Bl Jerzy suffered for his Faith while yet in school. Each morning before classes began Bl Jerzy would walk three miles to serve Mass, and then after classes were over in the evening, would return to the Church to pray the Rosary. His spirituality was ridiculed and he was accused by his teacher of praying too much.

As a precaution due to the harassment he received Bl Jerzy kept secret his intention to join the seminary for fear that if it were known the results of his exams would be altered. After graduating high school in 1965 while his friends were at the school ball, Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko was on a train headed for the seminary in Warsaw. He had chosen Warsaw due to its closeness to the monastery of St Maximilian Kolbe, a favorite saint of Bl Jerzy. Although against the agreement of 1950 between the Church and State, after one year of seminary training Bl Jerzy was drafted into the military for a two year tour in a special unit for clerics in Bartoszyce.

The plan for drafting clerics into the service was to indoctrinate them with the communistic ideal and cause them to lose their vocation. In spite of bitter persecution ensuing from the practice of his Faith, Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko firmly defied the authority’s attempt to marginalize Catholicism. On one occasion, when Bl Jerzy refused to crush his rosary beneath his heel he was cruelly beaten and placed in solitary confinement for a month. Also on account of his refusal to remove a medal from about his neck he was forced to stand for hours in the freezing rain. He was also made to crawl around the camp on his hands and knees as a punishment for saying the rosary. The results of this barbarity were that on the completion of his two year tour, Bl Jerzy had to undergo a life threatening surgery to undo the damage done to his heart and kidneys from his beatings. The recovery caused his ordination to be delayed, but on May 28, 1972, he was ordained with his name changed from Alphons to Jerzy by Cardinal Wyszynski.

Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko was first stationed taking care of several small parishes where his work was greatly appreciated. In January of 1979 he collapsed while saying Mass, and was sent to stay in a hospital to recover. Afterwards, he was given the duty as chaplain for the medical niversity of St Ann in Warsaw. A year later he was transferred to his last parish, St Stanislaus Kostka in Warsaw.

When Solidarity met in the Lenin shipyard in the summer of 1980, Bl Jerzy was the chaplain sent to the striking workers. The success of Solidarity helped to inspire Bl Jerzy, and every month afterwards he would offer a Mass for the Homeland and give a sermon to inspire people to follow the maxims of the Gospel, primarily by abandoning violence. Bl Jersey also organized a relief effort to help the families suffering from the loss of their jobs and livelihood as a result of defending the Faith, or the government having declared martial law. The government grew more and more frustrated with Bl Jerzy as more and more people flocked to him, and at the monthly Mass for the homeland had guards stationed at every block corner to watch him. Bl Jerzy went out of his way to be kind to these guards, calling them his “Guardian Angels” and even bringing them coffee in the cold Polish winter.

On December 13, 1982, a bomb was left on Bl Jerzy’s doorstep which would have killed him if he had answered the door. The next year, in August of 1983, the police opened a formal case against him and in December he was summoned to the prosecutor’s office. While detained, the police broke into his house to fill it with explosives and anti-government propaganda so they could have a cause to arrest him and launch a slur campaign.

While imprisoned with hardened criminals, Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko stayed up all night speaking with a murderer, and finally hearing the man’s confession. After being released from prison, Bl Jerzy was interrogated 13 times between January and June of 1984. In September he was planning his annual pilgrimage to Jasna Gora when he received threats warning him, “If you go to Jasna Gora you are dead.”

On October 13, 1984, an attempt was made on his life by means of a staged car accident, though Bl Jerzy was saved due to his excellent driving ability. On October 19, 1984, after offering Mass in Bydgoszcz, Bl Jerzy left with his driver for the 161 mile return trip to Warsaw. Thirty minutes into the drive the car was flagged down by two uniformed men for a traffic check near the village of Tourn. The uniformed men were actually officers of the security service and, on asking Waldemar Chrostowski, the driver, to hand over the keys to the car, handcuffed him and forced him into the back seat of their vehicle at gunpoint. Bl Jerzy was then grabbed and brutally beaten senseless with fists and clubs and thrown into the trunk of the car, which then sped off.

A few miles later Waldemar Chrostowski managed to escape the car and ran to the local Church to alert the authorities. Meanwhile, the two officers stopped the car to fasten down the trunk and gag Bl Jerzy, who was shouting and had almost managed to pry open the trunk. Bl Jerzy momentarily escaped them and ran into the woods, but was soon recaptured and beaten so savagely that his face and hands were unrecognizable. He was then driven to a reservoir on the Vistula River. Bl Jerzy’s hands and feet were tied with a noose fastened around his neck so that if he straightened his legs it would suffocate him. His mouth was stuffed with cloth, blocking the airway, and his nose was closed with sticking plaster. Finally, having tied a bag of rocks to his feet, they threw him into the reservoir.

The body of Bl Jerzy was not discovered until ten days had passed, and his funeral was held on November 2. An autopsy revealed that he may have still been alive when thrown into the reservoir.

The cause for his beatification began in 1997 and in 2008 Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko was elevated to the status of Servant of God. On December 19, 2009, Pope Benedict signed the decree recognizing the martyrdom of Bl Jerzy Popieluzko. On August 6th, 2010, in the presence of his mother, who was over 100 years old, Bl Jerzy was solemnly beatified. The last public words spoke by Blessed Jerzy Popieluzko during the meditation on the rosary October 19, 1984, give a summary of his life and may serve as a guiding star in ours.

“In order to defeat evil with good, in order to preserve the dignity of man, one must not use violence. It is the person who has failed to win on the strength of his heart and his reason, who tries to win by force…Let us pray that we be free from fear and intimidation, but above all from the lusts for revenge and violence.”

*from a speech delivered by Martha Custis, October 20, 2011

From: https://www.roman-catholic-saints.com/blessed-jerzy-popieluszko.html

18 October 2020

Martyrs of North America

There are eight men whom we know as the Martyrs of North America (known also as the Canadian Martyrs), and they worked in the area of upstate New York and neighbouring Canada. St. Isaac Jogues and his companions were the first martyrs of the North American continent officially recognized by the Church. Isaac Jogues was a man of learning and culture, and he taught literature in France. He gave up that career to work amongst the Huron Indians in the New World, and in 1636 he and his companions, under the leadership of St. John de Brébeuf, arrived in Quebec. The Hurons were constantly being attacked by the Iroquois, and in a few years Father Jogues was captured by the Iroquois and imprisoned for 13 months. His letters and journals tell how he and his companions were led from village to village, how they were beaten, tortured and forced to watch as their Huron converts were mangled and killed.

An unexpected chance for escape came to Isaac Jogues through the Dutch, and he returned to France, bearing the marks of his sufferings. Several fingers had been cut, chewed or burnt off. Pope Urban VIII gave him permission to offer Mass with his mutilated hands, saying "It would be shameful that a martyr of Christ be not allowed to drink the Blood of Christ." Welcomed home as a hero, Father Jogues could have retired, thanked God for his safe return, and died peacefully in his homeland. But his zeal led him back once more to the fulfillment of his vocation to this missionary work. In a few months he sailed for his missions among the Hurons.

In 1646 he and Jean de Lalande, who had offered his services to the missioners, set out for Iroquois country, thinking that a recently signed peace treaty would be observed. They were captured by a Mohawk war party, and on October 18 Father Jogues was tomahawked and beheaded. Jean de Lalande was killed the next day at a village near Albany, New York.

The first of the Jesuit missionaries to be martyred was René Goupil who, with Lalande, had offered his services as an oblate. He was tortured along with Isaac Jogues in 1642, and was tomahawked for having made the Sign of the Cross on the brow of some children.

Jean de Brébeuf was a French Jesuit who came to Canada at the age of 32 and laboured there for 24 years. He went back to France when the English captured Quebec (1629) and expelled the Jesuits, but returned to his missions four years later. Although medicine men blamed the Jesuits for a smallpox epidemic among the Hurons, Jean remained with them. He composed catechisms and a dictionary in Huron, and saw 7,000 converted before his death. He was captured by the Iroquois and died after four hours of extreme torture.

Father Anthony Daniel, Brother Gabriel Lalemant, Father Charles Garnier, and Father Noel Chabanel, were tortured and killed at different times, but all for the same reason – their love for God, their love for the Indians as God’s children, and their desire to bring them the love of God through life in the Church.

O God, who amongst the peoples of North America didst hallow the first-fruits of the Faith both in the preaching and in the blood of many holy Martyrs: graciously grant by the intercession of Saints Jean de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues and Companions; that everywhere from day to day the harvest of souls may abound to the increase of thy faithful people; 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.

St. Luke the Evangelist

St. Luke is the writer of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, and was referred to by St. Paul as our "beloved physician.” We know a few other facts about Luke's life from Scripture and from early Church historians.

Luke was most likely born a Greek Gentile. In his writings we can see an emphasis on Gentiles, and on the fact that Jesus came for Jew and Gentile alike. It is only in his Gospel that we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, that we hear Jesus praising the faith of Gentiles such as the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian, and that we hear the story of the one grateful leper who is a Samaritan.

In our day, it would be easy to assume that someone who was a doctor would be fairly well to do, but it is more likely that Luke had been born as a slave, and later was able to secure his freedom. It was very common for families to educate slaves in medicine so that they would have a resident family physician.

In the Acts of the Apostles we see that St. Luke was very often a companion to St. Paul in the missionary journeys, and in Acts he uses language from time to time which says “We did so and so,” indicating that he was there. Luke was a loyal friend who stayed with St. Paul when he was imprisoned in Rome. After everyone else had deserted Paul in his final imprisonment and sufferings, it was Luke who remained with Paul to the end: "Only Luke is with me" (2 Timothy 4:11).

St. Luke's inspiration and information for his Gospel and Acts came from his close association with St. Paul. St. Luke also had a special connection with the Blessed Virgin Mary, and there are many things in his Gospel that could have come only through conversations with her. For instance, it is only in Luke's Gospel that we hear the story of the Annunciation, of Mary's visit to Elizabeth including the Magnificat, of the Presentation in the Temple, and the story of Jesus' disappearance in Jerusalem. It is in Luke’s Gospel that we hear the Scriptural parts of the Hail Mary: "Hail, full of grace," which was spoken at the Annunciation, and "Blessed are art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb," which was spoken by her cousin Elizabeth – all recorded by St. Luke.

Forgiveness and God's mercy to sinners – Jew and Gentile alike – is the theme that runs through Luke’s Gospel. It’s only from St. Luke that we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Jesus' feet with her tears. Throughout Luke's Gospel, we see Jesus welcoming those who seek God's mercy.

He is often shown with an ox or a calf because these are the symbols of sacrifice -- the sacrifice Jesus made for all the world. St. Luke is the patron of physicians and surgeons.

Almighty God, who didst call Saint Luke, whose praise is in the Gospel, to be an Evangelist and physician of the soul: may it please thee; that, by the wholesome medicines of the doctrine delivered by him, all the diseases of our souls may be healed; through the merits of 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.


Pictured: "St. Luke" by Master Theodoric (14th cent) painted on the upper section of wall in the 
Chapel of the Holy Cross in Karlstein Castle near Prague.

17 October 2020

Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity


"Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (Matthew 22:21).

Those of us who remember the old "Offices of Instruction" found in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer may recall what we were taught about our duty under the commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.” We were instructed that it meant “To keep my hands from picking and stealing: To be true and just in all my dealings.” 

It is a simple instruction, and there is real wisdom in it. It recognizes that there are two kinds of stealing, two ways of depriving someone else of what rightfully belongs to him. The first is "picking and stealing," which is the plain meaning of theft as an act of undisciplined impulse. The impulse to grab what belongs to someone else truly is destructive. Is it not a sign of loving parents to teach their children how to fight this temptation, and to respect the property of others? It is evident that the urge to “pick and to steal” is very much a childish thing, and certainly not "childlike" or innocent in its results. One of the hidden costs of every purchase we make is the storekeeper’s loss through theft, passed on to his customers in higher prices. The weakest and most defenseless members of society who are most hurt most by theft-inflated prices – the sick, widows, orphans, the elderly – are the very people who are most often on severely limited incomes. In fact, there are entire neighbourhoods in our country without a single store because they have been driven out of business by “picking and stealing.” 

However, the second sort of stealing mentioned in the old Instruction might be even more destructive; namely, the planned and unconscionable theft of failing to be true and just in all our dealings. The doing of truth and justice takes real effort, but so does the denying of truth and justice. If “picking and stealing” can destroy a business or a neighborhood, the refusal to be true and just can destroy an entire church, society, or nation. 

People make mistakes, of course, but honest people try to learn from their errors. Honest people spend their lives trying to learn and to do what is true and just; whereas dishonest people actively cultivate an ignorance of what God demands of every human being. Even though we might pass a thousand laws to protect the innocent and to punish the guilty (and we have), no human law can possibly succeed if the law of God is despised. We have no hope of teaching or even of forcing someone else to be honest, until we have worked to keep our own hands from picking and stealing, and until we have given our own hearts over to God's justice and truth in all our dealings. 

Each one of us has been born into this world with the stain of original sin, and because of that, the pursuit of justice and truth takes a life-long effort if we want to be sanctified in Christ. It is Christ who provides for our failures by offering us His Father's pardon any time we repent of our sins and confess them. 

It was this same repentance that Christ was looking for from the Scribes and Pharisees when He said “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” even though it was their intention to trick him, and not to learn about justice and truth. Their question about paying taxes to Caesar was a trap. If Christ had said, “Yes, pay the tax,” the Pharisees could denounce Him to the people as a Roman collaborator. If He spoke against the tax, they could hand Him over to the Roman governour as a revolutionary (which eventually they did anyway). 

Yet the Scribes and Pharisees failed to trap Him immediately, because Christ asked to see their money, which turned out to be Roman coins. Under the Jewish law which the Pharisees were claiming to be following, even touching a coin engraved with the image of a man (in this case Caesar) made a Jewish man unclean and unable to enter the Temple. But they had just come from the Temple with their pouches full of ritually unclean Roman money. The crowd which had gathered, hearing this, probably burst out laughing at the Pharisees’ hypocrisy, and at Christ’s deflation of their supposedly-clever plan to get the best of Him. So the only thing the Pharisees could do was to shake their heads in wonder, as Jesus declared, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 

That word "render" is our key to understanding this teaching of Christ. It means, “to give someone else what is rightfully his.” In this case, the Pharisees had taken not only Caesar's money for their own use, but they also took advantage of the other benefits of the Roman political system. In return, they owed Caesar his taxes on that money. The tax wasn't voluntary. It wasn't a gift to Caesar. The tax was a debt, and failure to pay it would have been theft. 

But if Christ’s words have bound us to meet our obligations to our civil governors, we ought not to forget the rest of His teaching that day, by which He bound us to render to God the things that are God’s. It was the Pharisees’ doctrine, and not Christ’s, that “we have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). Our Lord Jesus Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Whatever lawful authority any king or government may possess can be given only by God. No state can command our worship, because worship belongs to God alone. 

One of the founding principles of the United States, now obscured by secularist propaganda, is that we Americans have no King but Jesus Christ. Our American heritage of national Thanksgiving Days and voluntary annual stewardship drives constitutes our tribute, our custom, our fear, and our honour that are owed to the Sovereign Majesty ruling us and providing for us (compare Romans 13:7, and our duties to earthly rulers). We render to God what belongs to Him by right; namely, our praise and our thanksgiving. We obey His demand for truth and justice in all our doings, and that extends to our dealings with Him. And, so, what do we owe Him? 

We owe Him our first-fruits. “First-fruits” in the Bible are the first, indivisible portion of what we make or do that belongs by right to God, just as “tithes” are God's first tenth of whatever can be divided. Our lives in their totality, therefore, are “first-fruits,” because a life cannot be divided. Either life belongs to God, or it does not. In the same way, we pay to God the first, not the last, portion of our income or increase, not as a gift, but as a debt. If we neglect that, we are not giving Him what already belongs to Him, rather like a bank that refuses to return our deposits. 

We must make no mistake about it: God, our King, requires tribute from us, a return on what He has given us. God is the Lord of the visible, as well as of the invisible, because He made all things – visible and invisible. We owe God our visible tribute for his visible blessings, just as much as we owe Him our spiritual worship for his invisible grace. 

The Church in modern times has been weakened by the childish myth that we have more difficulties and responsibilities than did those who lived in previous generations. We have acted for a century as if we were the first people ever to have the burden of taxes, even though the Lord who taught us to pay first-fruits and tithes was Himself born in Bethlehem because his parents had gone there to pay a tax. We have acted as if money is the issue, and that money is always too scarce. Even billionaires worry that they could use “just a little more.” 

But what matters is truth and justice in all our dealings, even (and perhaps especially) in our dealings with God. We cannot seriously ask for blessings from a God Whom we disobey. We cannot convert the world to a Faith that we do not practice. We cannot help the poor and the weak if we fail to use the time and the money that God has already given to us for these purposes. 

As we sow, so also shall we reap (Galatians 6:7), and sowing means letting go of something, so that God can multiply it and make it great. And if this sounds too direct, consider the bluntness of God in the Holy Scriptures, where He says, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me...in tithes and offerings.” (Malachi 3:8). 

Truth and justice take courage, and we can be courageous together because two thousand years ago the Son of God offered everything to save us and to build His Church. We continue to build that Church with Him when we do our bounden duty together and render to our Father in heaven the physical worship, which is our support for His Church, which is due to Him. 

But we ought also to remember that whether we render to Caesar or to God on the basis of our Lord's teaching, we are not doing something new, but we are only obeying that ancient commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.”

O God, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee: mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

16 October 2020

St. Ignatius of Antioch

St. Ignatius was the second Bishop of Antioch, and had been a disciple of the Apostle St. John. There is a tradition which says that he was the young child whom Christ put in the midst of his disciples and said, “Unless you become as this little child, you cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.” Ignatius was consecrated bishop about the year 69 by the Apostle Peter. He was a holy man who was deeply loved by the Christian faithful, he always made it his special care to defend “orthodoxy” (right teaching) and “orthopraxy” (right practice) among the early Christians.

In 107, during the reign of the brutal Emperor Trajan, St. Ignatius was sentenced to death because he refused to renounce the Christian faith. He was taken under guard to Rome where he was to be publicly executed by being devoured by wild beasts. During his journey from Antioch to Rome, he was taken through Asia Minor and Greece. As he traveled he wrote seven letters to encourage, instruct, and inspire the Christians in the communities along the way, and the texts of these letters survive to this day. They outline the orthodox Christian faith, and in them we find the term “catholic” being used to describe the whole Church. These letters connect us to the early Church and to the unbroken, clear teaching of the Apostles which was given to them directly by Jesus Christ.

St. Ignatius was not afraid of death, because he knew it had been defeated by Christ. He wrote to the disciples in Rome: "Permit me to imitate my suffering God ... I am God's wheat and I shall be ground by the teeth of beasts, that I may become the pure bread of Christ.”

Feed us, O Lord, with the living Bread and make us drink deep of the cup of salvation: that, following the teaching of thy Bishop Ignatius, and rejoicing in the faith with which he embraced the death of a Martyr, we may be nourished for that eternal life which he ever desired; 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.

15 October 2020

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

St. Margaret Mary was born on July 22, 1647 in Burgundy, France, and was the fifth child of seven in her family. When she was eight years old, her father died suddenly, and her mother had to be away from home quite often, so Margaret Mary went away to attend school and came under the care of nuns. At the age of nine, she received her first Holy Communion. Right after that she wrote, "This Communion made all the small pleasures and amusements so repellent to me, that I could no longer take pleasure in any . . . just when I wanted to begin some game with my companions, I would always feel something drawing me, calling me to some quiet corner, giving me no peace till I had followed and then setting me to pray.” It was at that time that she became seriously ill, and she was bedridden with paralysis. For four years she suffered, but she prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary for healing. The time stretched on, and she continued to pray, finding more and more comfort in receiving and adoring the Blessed Sacrament, as Christ made His presence known to her. At the age of fifteen, she was cured and was no longer bedridden.

Back at home with her family, Margaret Mary continued to grow in her spiritual life, and she experienced private visions of Christ, with an increasing sense of His overwhelming love. During this time her mother had been urging her to marry, but there was a developing vocation to religious life stirring within her.

In 1671, at the age of twenty-three, Margaret Mary entered the Convent of the Visitation Nuns, and it was there just two years later, when she was kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, that she experienced a vision in which the Lord told her that He had a particular work for her to do. She later described what she saw in the vision, how our Lord’s Heart appeared to be on fire and surrounded by a crown of thorns. Our Lord told her that the flames represented His love for humanity, and the thorns represented man’s sinfulness and ingratitude. Jesus revealed to her that her mission was to establish the devotion to His Most Sacred Heart.

Over the next year and a half, she had three more visions. In those visions, Jesus explained to her the spiritual exercises that have become part of devotion to Christ’s Sacred Heart. St. Margaret Mary informed her Mother Superior about the visions, who did not know what to think about them. St. Margaret Mary was examined by priests and other experts, who tried to convince her that these experiences were illusions.

All of this led to another time of serious sickness, but her Superior promised that if Margaret Mary were healed, she herself would believe the visions were real. So Margaret Mary prayed and was healed, and her Mother Superior believed her. However, many others did not. Nonetheless, she received some encouragement from a priest who served as her spiritual director, and St. Margaret Mary was given the confidence she needed to encourage others to see in the Sacred Heart of Jesus the great symbol of His love for mankind. The devotion began to spread, first among the nuns in her community, and gradually it was accepted throughout the world.

On October 17, 1690, St. Margaret Mary was approaching death. As she received the last rites of the Church, her final words were, “I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of Jesus.”

O Lord Jesus Christ, who unto thy holy Virgin Margaret Mary Alacoque didst reveal the unsearchable riches of thy Sacred Heart: grant us, by her merits and example, to love thee in all things and above all things, and so find in thy loving Heart an everlasting habitation; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

14 October 2020

St. Teresa of Jesus

St. Teresa was born in 1515, and she lived at an exciting time in history. Columbus had sailed to the new world only about twenty years before. Things were happening in the Church, and during her life, Martin Luther started the movement of protestants out of the Church.  In the midst of all this change and turmoil, Teresa developed her great spirituality which leads to God’s peace.

Teresa's father was honest and pious, but very strict. Teresa's mother loved romance novels but because her husband objected to what he considered to be trashy books, so she hid the books from him. This put Teresa in the middle -- especially since she liked the romances too. Her father told her never to lie but her mother told her not to tell her father. Later she said she was always afraid that no matter what she did she was going to do everything wrong. When she was five years old she convinced her older brother that they should, as she later wrote, "go off to the land of the Moors and beg them, out of love of God, to cut off our heads there." They got as far as the road from the city before an uncle found them and brought them back. After this incident she led a fairly ordinary life, though she was convinced that she was a horrible sinner. As a teenager, she cared only about boys and clothes and flirting and rebelling -- like other teenagers throughout the ages. When she was 16, her father decided she was out of control and sent her to a convent. At first she hated it but eventually she began to enjoy it -- partly because of her growing love for God, and partly because the convent was a lot less strict than her father.

Still, when the time came for her to choose between marriage and religious life, she had a tough time making the decision. She'd watched a difficult marriage ruin her mother. On the other hand being a nun didn't seem like much fun. When she finally chose religious life, she did so because she thought that it was the only safe place for someone as prone to sin as she was.

Once installed at the Carmelite convent permanently, she started to learn and practice mental prayer. Teresa prayed this way off and on for eighteen years without feeling that she was getting results. Part of the reason for her trouble was that the convent wasn’t really as it should have been. Many women who had no place else to go wound up at the convent, whether they had vocations or not. They were encouraged to stay away from the convents for long period of time to cut down on expenses. Nuns would arrange their veils attractively and wear jewelry. Prestige depended not on piety but on money. There was a steady stream of visitors in the parlor and parties that included young men. Everyone liked Teresa and she liked to be liked. She found it too easy to slip into a worldly life and ignore God. For years she hardly prayed at all because she thought it showed humility. She thought as a wicked sinner she didn't deserve to get favors from God.

When she was 41, a priest convinced her to go back to her prayer, but she still found it difficult. As she started to pray again, God gave her an increasingly deep spirituality.

At the age of 43, she became determined to found a new convent that went back to the basics of a contemplative order: a simple life of poverty devoted to prayer. There was great resistance to this – everybody liked things the way they’d been. But she was determined, and going against all the resistance, she persevered. She died on October 4 at the age of 67, having brought about the Order of Discalced Carmelites. In 1970 she was declared a Doctor of the Church for her writing and teaching on prayer.

Merciful God, who by thy Spirit didst raise up thy servant Saint Teresa of Jesus to reveal to thy Church the way of perfection: grant that her teaching may awaken in us a longing for holiness until, assisted by her intercession, we attain to the perfect union of love in 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.

13 October 2020

St. Callistus, Pope and Martyr

Imagine if what anybody knew about you was information that came from someone who really didn’t like you at all. And imagine if there was the added difficulty that the person who didn’t like you was also a saint! That’s the situation with St. Callistus who lived at the end of the 2nd century and into the 3rd century – most of the information about him comes from his enemy St. Hippolytus, who at first was kind of a troublemaker in the early Church, but who later, just like St. Callistus, became a martyr for the Faith.

Callistus was a slave in the imperial Roman household. He was an educated slave, and because of his financial talent, he was put in charge of a bank by his master. Unfortunately, because he made some loans to people who didn’t pay them back, he lost almost all the money that had been deposited. Callistus panicked, and he ran away. Of course, he was eventually caught and was put in jail. After being imprisoned for a while, his master released him and told him to do everything he could to recover the money. Apparently Callistus got a little too carried away, and eventually he was arrested again because he had started a fight in a local synagogue when he went after someone there who hadn’t paid back a loan. This time he was condemned to work in the mines of Sardinia, which usually was a death sentence because of the horrible conditions there. But through the intervention of an influential person who had pity on him, he even managed to be released from the terrible life in the Sardinian mines. So far, it doesn’t sound much like the life of a saint, does it?

After he won his freedom, he was put in charge of the place where Christians buried their departed loved ones – this cemetery was called a catacomb, and in fact this cemetery was the first land actually owned by the Church, and it still exists as the Catacomb of St. Callistus. He was so faithful in this work that the pope ordained him as a deacon, and Callistus became his trusted friend and adviser.

Callistus had such a changed life and had become so faithful that he was himself elected pope, and it was then that the rivalry between Callistus and Hippolytus became so bitter – in fact, Hippolytus himself wanted to be the pope because he didn’t agree with many of the decisions made by Callistus. This rivalry was healed eventually, however, and Hippolytus was eventually martyred, and these two former enemies are now saints together in heaven. St. Callistus was martyred in Rome during one of the persecutions of the Church in the 3rd century.

O God, who didst raise up Pope Saint Callistus to serve the Church and attend devoutly to Christ’s faithful departed: strengthen us, we pray, by his witness to the faith; so that, rescued from the slavery of corruption, we may merit an incorruptible inheritance; 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.

12 October 2020

St. Edward, King and Confessor

Born about the year 1003, St. Edward was the last Saxon king to rule for any meaningful length of time in England. The Saxons were a Germanic people who had moved into Britain around the 5th century and took over the rule of the people. He is called "Edward the Confessor," which distinguishes him from another King of England, who was his grandfather, St. Edward the Martyr (c. 962-979).

Edward was the son of a very difficult father, known as King Ethelred the Unready. This gives us a hint about Ethelred's temperament – “unready” does not mean that he was unprepared, but rather it means that he was stubborn and willful. "Rede" means “advice” or “counsel,” so “un-rede” indicates that Ethelred was unwilling to take anyone’s advice or counsel.

Ethelred was followed in quick succession by several Danish kings of England, and during that time young Edward and his mother took refuge in Normandy, but the last Danish king decided to name Edward as his successor, and he was crowned in 1042. Some historians consider him to have been a weak king, but that would be to misunderstand him. Edward took his Catholic faith seriously. He always sought to settle things peacefully, and he was concerned for the religious practice of his people. He provided priests and churches throughout his kingdom. His holy example and solid leadership meant that there were more than twenty years of peace and prosperity, with freedom from foreign domination, at a time when powerful neighbors might well have dominated a less capable ruler. He himself was very faithful in public and private worship. He was generous to the poor, and he made himself accessible to his people whenever they had some grievance that needed to be settled.

He had wanted to make a pilgrimage to Rome, but his advisors told him that it would not be good for him to be gone so long out of the country. Accordingly, he spent his pilgrimage money instead on the relief of the poor and the building of Westminster Abbey, which stands today (rebuilt in the thirteenth century) as one of the great churches of England, burial place of her kings and of others who have been deemed worthy of special honor.

He died on 5 January 1066, leaving no children, and he was buried in the great abbey church which he had founded.

O God, who hast crowned thy blessed Confessor King Edward with eternal glory: grant that we who venerate him on earth, may be found worthy to reign with him in heaven; 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.

11 October 2020

St. Wilfrid, Bishop and Confessor

St. Wilfrid was born in Northumberland in 634. We know something of his life from the writings of the Venerable Bede in the early eighth century. Wilfrid was born into a wealthy Christian family. His mother died when he was thirteen and he was sent to Lindisfarne to be educated under the Celtic St Aidan. Queen Enflaed of Northumbria was his patron. So, the young Wilfrid had a very good education, impressive connections and, having chosen a religious career, he was sent off to Rome to continue his education. He returned to England in 658 and settled with the Benedictine monks in Ripon Abbey.

It wasn’t long before Wilfrid was caught up in a power struggle in the church between those who favoured the new Roman practices and ideas brought by Augustine rather than some of the older Celtic traditions. There was something of a north-south divide, with the Roman practice centred at Canterbury and the Celtic tradition in the north. There were great arguments about the timing of Easter and whether monks should shave a tonsure, for example. Wilfrid was instrumental in a victory for the Roman view at the Conference of Whitby in 664. Shortly afterwards, he was appointed Bishop of York.

In the following years Wilfrid built magnificent stone churches at Hexham, Ripon and York. However, he was soon at the centre of conflict again, having fallen out with Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, over plans to divide York diocese into two. Wilfrid had to leave York for a while between the years 681 and 686 and it was during this time that he came to the Meon Valley to evangelise the Jutes and Saxons who had recently settled in the area. Wilfrid lived at an extraordinary time for the church. He encountered great controversy, accumulated huge landholdings, befriended kings and rulers across Europe and travelled to Rome three times on horseback and on foot. He suffered shipwreck and was nearly murdered several times – once by natives off the coast of Sussex. He had been a bishop for forty-five years and a pillar of the church during one of the most turbulent periods of its history as it sought to establish itself in a pagan land. Wilfrid died on 12th October 709 at the Minster church of St Andrew’s, Oundle.

St. Wilfrid is often shown holding fishing nets. According to St. Bede, the men of South West Sussex and the Meon Valley were “ignorant of the name and faith of God”. Just before Wilfrid’s arrival there had been the most terrible famine and the distress was so acute that often "forty or fifty, being spent with want, would go together to some cliff, or to the seashore, and there, hand-in-hand, miserably perish by the fall or be swallowed by the waves."

Although there were fish enough to eat in the rivers and sea, the poor country folk did not know how to catch them and could only fish for eels. Wilfrid borrowed these nets and, casting them into the sea, "by the blessing of God immediately took three hundred fishes of different kinds, which they divided into three parts, giving a hundred to the poor, a hundred to those who had lent them the nets and keeping a hundred for their own use. By this act of kindness the Bishop gained the affections of them all and they began more readily, at his preaching, to hope for heavenly goods; seeing that, by his help, they had received those which are temporal."

And so, Wilfrid followed the teaching of Christ himself, as he first fed the people of the Meon Valley and then went on to tell them all about God’s love and grace.

Almighty God, who didst call our forebears to the light of the Gospel by the preaching of thy servant Wilfrid: grant us, who keep his life and labour in remembrance, to glorify thy Name by following the example of his zeal and perseverance; 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.

In 1492...

The second Monday in October is observed as Columbus Day – the anniversary of the day in 1492 when Christopher Columbus and his men first sighted land in their amazing voyage across the ocean from Europe. Some people try to paint a very black picture of Columbus, and you might hear or read things that make him and his motives look very bad – all for the cause of political correctness. But the truth is, Columbus had two reasons and two reasons only for this adventure: one practical, and one spiritual.

Spain had just ejected the Muslims who had overrun huge parts of Europe, and these invaders had ravaged places like Spain, and had made it very poor. So one of the reasons for the voyage was to find another trade route to the Far East, where they hoped to find sources of revenue to rebuild what the Muslims had destroyed; but the other reason – the purpose closest to the heart of Columbus – was to bring the Catholic Faith to the native people in this new world, people who were living in the darkness of paganism.

So on August 2nd 1492 the three ships – the Niña, the Pinta , and the Santa Maria, carrying 120 men, set sail from the shores of Spain. Christopher Columbus was an experienced sailor, having served on ships from the time he was a boy. He was raised in the Catholic Faith, and always took the practice of his faith very seriously. When he received the inspiration for this voyage, he tried to convince the King of Portugal to sponsor him, but with no success. So he set off for Spain, spending years trying to convince King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to support him, which he finally did, with the help of a holy Franciscan priest, Fr. Juan Perez. In fact, it was this priest who would eventually celebrate the first Mass in America on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and that is a reason our nation is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, which is commemorated by the title of our national basilica in Washington, D.C.

Christopher Columbus also convinced the Pope, Alexander VI, to help with the cost of the voyage, because this was to be a great missionary journey. Columbus wrote to the Pope: “I trust that by God’s help, I may spread the Holy Name and Gospel of Jesus Christ as widely as possible.” It was a very difficult voyage. The men began to loose hope. Two months passed, and there was still no land to be seen. The crew grew restless and insisted that their captain turn back. But Columbus was certain that God was guiding them, and he told them that if no land was seen by the time of the Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar, October 12th, he would do as they wanted. The men agreed, and land was sighted, on the very day of the great Feast of Our Lady.

The first act by Columbus upon setting foot on this new land was to set up the Cross and claim it in the Name of Jesus Christ. He named the first island he arrived at “San Salvador” (Holy Savior). In all, Christopher Columbus led four excursions from the shores of Spain to America. He maintained his deep faith, even when things were difficult – and whatever his detractors might say, he accomplished what he set out to do – he brought the Catholic Faith to these new and distant lands, so that those living in darkness would know the Light of Christ. Indeed, his adventures paved the way for missionaries to continue the great work of taking the Catholic Faith to every part of the world.

10 October 2020

The Marriage Feast

At that time: Again Jesus spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast; but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, Behold, I have made ready my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves are killed, and everything is ready; come to the marriage feast.’ But they made light of it and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.

- St. Matthew 22:1-14

A common picture used in the Scriptures to describe our relationship with God, and the eternal life He promises us, is the image of the feast – eating and drinking in the presence of God. In this portion of the Gospel He describes heaven as being like a wedding party thrown by a king. We hear a similar illustration in the Old Testament, when it refers to a great feast of meats and wines.

When the Bible speaks of a feast, it’s not just a matter of sitting down to eat. It’s always food combined with fellowship, eating in the company of your fellow believers, and in the company of God. The message is this: that God is hosting a feast, and at the center of the banquet is His Son, the Lamb who was slain, but who lives.

In scriptural terms, the invitations to God’s feast were sent long ago – they were engraved by his own hand, and they were addressed by name to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to all God's people. God's invitation to feast with him in His Kingdom was written on stone at Mount Sinai. It was written when He said to His chosen people Israel: "I will be your God, and you will be my people," and He extended the invitation over and over again through His prophets.

Israel was a people bound and bidden by God's promises, ancient promises that reached back through the centuries to that first Promise which God spoke after the Fall of our first parents. Actually, it was a promise to Satan, "I will put enmity between you and the woman..." And in that statement, God promised a Saviour, a Deliverer, One who would defeat death and the devil, and who would restore the lost relationship between God and His people.

God made His children a people of His promise. He promised Abraham a homeland and descendants as numerous as grains of sand on the seashore. He repeated His promise to Isaac and to Jacob. Within the adversity of slavery, and in a new way, God conceived His people in Egypt and gave them another birth through the waters of the Red Sea. He raised them in the wilderness and brought them to the promised land of Canaan where they grew and prospered. They were His chosen people - chosen for the great purpose of bringing forth His Son for the salvation of the whole world.

Time after time, God recalled His promises: “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make a feast for all peoples," Isaiah tells us. God promised a feast of salvation, an eating and drinking that would take away death forever. The Passover lamb in Egypt was a foretaste of the feast to come, which would be God and man in communion, eating and drinking together.

In Christ, God had (in a mystical way) come to eat and drink with His people. In fact, actual eating and drinking were so much the mark of Christ’s ministry that His detractors said He was “a glutton and a drunkard.” He shared meals with Pharisees and prostitutes and tax collectors. He ate with the religious and with the nonreligious. He fed five thousand people in the wilderness, and on another occasion four thousand. All that points to the fact that Jesus came to be our Bread, our life-giving Food. He said very plainly, "I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst."

In the parable the king was a gracious host. His table was rich. No expense was spared in preparing this feast for his son's wedding day. As Isaiah would have described it: "a feast of fat things full of marrow, with wine on the lees, well refined.” Who could say "no" to a meal like that?

According to the parable, many of the invited guests did say "no." Some were indifferent to the invitation. Others were too busy. One went to work on his farm; one went off to take care of his business. And others were even hostile in their rejection. They went so far as to kill the king's servants for even bothering them with the invitation.

Why did Jesus tell this parable? Because there are many today who still say "no" to God's “feast of fat things.” The time which should be for worship, the time that should be for God, they fill up with their own work, or with their own idea of leisure. Everyone has his excuse, but those excuses ring hollow when compared with the richness of what God offers. Think for a minute about how people react when there when a particular food that promises some fabulous health benefit - oat bran, or olive oil, or wheat grass, or soy protein - once the word gets out, the stores can't keep it on the shelves. Imagine if there was a food that could cure cancer, or heart disease. And imagine if there was a food and drink that promised to cure death.

There is such a food and drink. Jesus said, "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." If people took Christ at His word about that, the crowds would be lined up beyond one’s sight.

In the parable the king wants his banquet hall to be full. So he sends his servants into the town to invite everyone, "as many as you find,” he says, “the good and the bad." When the respectable refuse, he invites the disreputable and the despised. And this part of the parable is a picture of exactly what God did. When the religious people of Israel rejected Christ, then God went to the Gentiles. The king sent his servants into the highways and byways, into the alleyways and into the darkened doorways – and soon there was no one who wasn’t invited to the son's wedding feast. And that's the point of the parable. When God gives a feast, there isn't a single person who is left off the guest list – just as when Jesus died on the cross for us, no one was left out of the benefits of His death. It’s only indifference to that death, it’s only a stubborn refusal to be fed, that leaves people out of the feast - and then it's entirely their own fault. God's Will is to fill His banquet hall with guests. If they wind up weeping and gnashing their teeth in hell, it's because they have acted entirely against God's desire to save them. God has hosted a banquet, and he's invited the whole world.

And then, what seems to be an odd part of story. When the king entered the hall packed with guests, he saw a man who wasn’t properly dressed for the occasion. This is where the parable can get difficult to understand... after all, remember that the king’s servants had been pulling people off the streets to come to this party. How could they be expected to have all the right clothes?

Let’s suppose for a moment that the king decided that he wanted a well-dressed crowd at his son's wedding. And suppose for a moment that this wedding banquet hall was rather like those restaurants that have coats and ties on hand for patrons who arrive without proper dress. Imagine that the king started handing out beautifully tailored suits and the finest dresses at the door to everyone who came to the party, but this one man says “No, never mind. I’ll keep my own clothes, thanks.” Now we can understand the king’s disgust when he sees him lurking at the corner table, still wearing a dirty t-shirt and ripped jeans.

This is what it’ll be like if we try appearing before God clothed in the filthy rags of our own attempts at righteousness, boasting of our own "good works,” and bragging about all the good things we've done for God all our lives.

God supplies the clothing. He covers us with the perfection of His Son. St. Paul teaches us: "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." God clothes us with Christ in our baptism. He wraps us in His righteousness. He covers us with His perfection. Christ is our wedding garment, and his seamless and spotless robe is our covering. Christ’s death is ours, and Christ’s life is ours. His perfect keeping of the Law is ours. God gives it all to us for free. We’ve put on Christ in our Baptism, and that’s better than any designer clothes could ever be. So we dare not come to the Lord's banquet dressed in anything less than Christ. We come to the feast God's way, or no way at all.

And so that brings us to the end of the parable. It’s a parable of God's kingly love – the King who keeps His promises. It’s a parable of His lavish love – a love which prepares a rich feast of salvation. It’s a parable of God lovingly looking for us, with a love that goes into the highways and alleyways, inviting the good and the bad to come and be fed. It’s a parable of God’s singularly holy love – a love that doesn’t look upon our sin, but upon Christ with whom we are clothed.

At the end of the parable, everyone was invited to the party, but only those gathered from the streets ended up in the king's banquet hall. Salvation was won for everybody by Christ’s dying and rising – everyone was invited -- but it’s only some who take him up on the invitation to be clothed and fed by Christ.

"Many are called but few are chosen." That isn't an explanation; it's an observation. Another way of saying it is: “everyone is invited, but not everyone winds up at the table.” God’s feast of salvation is for everyone, but He won’t force anyone to eat and drink. If we miss out on the banquet and go hungry, we have only ourselves to blame.

Jesus Christ died for us, and He rose for us, and He gives us the spiritual clothing we need for the banquet, where He feeds us with His body and blood in His Church. That’s the banquet hall to which we’ve been invited. We’re invited to live our lives as honoured guests – and indeed, as members of the household. All we need to do is to respond to the invitation, and our place at the feast will be secure.

Lord, we beseech thee, grant thy people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil: and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee the only God; 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.

Pictured: "The Peasant Wedding" by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1567