Friday, January 25, 2019

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul



The Story of the Conversion of Saint Paul

Saint Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like the strength of a boxer swinging wildly. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealot’s hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: “…entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was “entered,” possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior.

One sentence determined his theology: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5b). Jesus was mysteriously identified with people—the loving group of people Saul had been running down like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfillment of all he had been blindly pursuing.

From then on, his only work was to “present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Colossians 1:28b-29). “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and [with] much conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5a).

Paul’s life became a tireless proclaiming and living out of the message of the cross: Christians die baptismally to sin and are buried with Christ; they are dead to all that is sinful and unredeemed in the world. They are made into a new creation, already sharing Christ’s victory and someday to rise from the dead like him. Through this risen Christ the Father pours out the Spirit on them, making them completely new.

So Paul’s great message to the world was: You are saved entirely by God, not by anything you can do. Saving faith is the gift of total, free, personal and loving commitment to Christ.


Franciscan Press.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

St. Vincent of Saragossa



The Feast of Saint Vincent of Saragossa

Most of what we know about this saint comes from the poet Prudentius. His Acts have been rather freely colored by the imagination of their compiler. But Saint Augustine, in one of his sermons on Saint Vincent, speaks of having the Acts of his martyrdom before him. We are at least sure of his name, his being a deacon, the place of his death and burial.

According to the story we have, the unusual devotion he inspired must have had a basis in a very heroic life. Vincent was ordained deacon by his friend Saint Valerius of Zaragossa in Spain. The Roman emperors had published their edicts against the clergy in 303, and the following year against the laity. Vincent and his bishop were imprisoned in Valencia. Hunger and torture failed to break them. Like the youths in the fiery furnace, they seemed to thrive on suffering.

Valerius was sent into exile, and Dacian, the Roman governor, now turned the full force of his fury on Vincent. Tortures that sound very modern were tried. But their main effect was the progressive disintegration of Dacian himself. He had the torturers beaten because they failed.

Finally he suggested a compromise: Would Vincent at least give up the sacred books to be burned according to the emperor’s edict? He would not. Torture on the gridiron continued, the prisoner remaining courageous, the torturer losing control of himself. Vincent was thrown into a filthy prison cell—and converted the jailer. Dacian wept with rage, but strangely enough, ordered the prisoner to be given some rest.


Friends among the faithful came to visit him, but he was to have no earthly rest. When they finally settled him on a comfortable bed, he went to his eternal rest.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

St. Anthony of Egypt



We celebrate the life and legacy of St. Anthony of Egypt, the founder of Christian monasticism whose radical approach to discipleship permanently impacted the Church.  Anthony was born around 251, to wealthy parents who owned land in the present-day Faiyum region near Cairo.  Anthony become the spiritual father of the monastic communities that have existed throughout the subsequent history of the Church.

Anthony's whole life was not one of observing, but of becoming. When his parents died when he was eighteen or twenty he inherited their three hundred acres of land and the responsibility for a young sister. One day in church, he heard read Matthew 19:21: "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." Not content to sit still and meditate and reflect on Jesus' words he walked out the door of the church right away and gave away all his property except what he and his sister needed to live on. 

On hearing Matthew 6:34, "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today," he gave away everything else, entrusted his sister to a convent, and went outside the village to live a life of praying, fasting, and manual labor. It wasn't enough to listen to words, he had to become what Jesus said.

Every time he heard of a holy person he would travel to see that person. But he wasn't looking for words of wisdom, he was looking to become. So if he admired a person's constancy in prayer or courtesy or patience, he would imitate it. Then he would return home.

Anthony went on to tell Greek philosophers that their arguments would never be as strong as faith. He pointed out that all rhetoric, all arguments, no matter how complex, how well-founded, were created by human beings. But faith was created by God. If they wanted to follow the greatest ideal, they should follow their faith.

Anthony knew how difficult this was. Throughout his life he argued and literally wrestled with the devil. anxiety, desire for power, ego and money. Anthony relied on Jesus' name to rid himself of the devil. It wasn't the last time, though. After one particular difficult struggle, he saw a light appearing in the tomb he lived in. Knowing it was God, Anthony called out, "Where were you when I needed you?" God answered, "I was here. I was watching your struggle. Because you didn't give in, I will stay with you and protect you forever."

Anthony died when he was one hundred and five years old. A life of solitude, fasting, and manual labor in the service of God had left him a healthy, vigorous man until very late in life. And he never stopped challenging himself to go one step beyond in his faith.

Saint Athanasius, who knew Anthony and wrote his biography, said, "Anthony was not known for his writings nor for his worldly wisdom, nor for any art, but simply for his reverence toward God." We may wonder nowadays at what we can learn from someone who lived in the desert, wore skins, ate bread, and slept on the ground. We may wonder how we can become him. We can become Anthony by living his life of radical faith and complete commitment to God.

Compiled from various sources.
image: By Master of the Osservanza Triptych (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Friday, January 11, 2019

Reshaped in the image of Christ


Living in the awareness of the risen Christ is not a trivial pursuit for the bored and lonely or a defense mechanism enabling us to cope with the stress and sorrow of life. It is the key that unlocks the door to grasping the meaning of existence. All day and every day we are being reshaped into the image of Christ. Everything that happens to us is designed to this end. Nothing that exists can exist beyond the pale of His presence (“All things were created through him. and for him” — Colossians 1:16), nothing is irrelevant to it, nothing is without significance in it.
Brennan Manning The Rabbi's Heartbeat

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Feast of St. Thomas Becket


The Feast of Thomas Becket.

Help us, like Thomas, defend and preserver our Lord’s church from those who would harm it. Amen.

There is no more celebrated English saint than Thomas Becket. A strong churchman who wavered for a moment, but then learned one cannot come to terms with evil, and so became a a defender of the faith, a protector of the church, a martyr, and a saint. Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in his own cathedral during Christmastide - December 29, 1170.

His career had been a stormy one. While archdeacon of Canterbury, he was made chancellor of England at the age of 36 by his friend King Henry II. Henry and Thomas had been comrades, and the king had nominated him for Archbishop of Canterbury in part because he thought he could influence him.

Thomas gave him fair warning: he might not accept all of Henry’s intrusions into Church affairs.
Nevertheless, in 1162 he was made archbishop, resigned his chancellorship, and reformed his whole way of life.  When Becket took the Chair of St. Augustine, he turned from the convivial life of a courtier to the austere life of an ascetic and became a champion of the poor and of the rights of the church.

Troubles began. Henry insisted upon usurping Church rights. He sought to control and use the church for the crown's political and economic aims. At one time, supposing some conciliatory action possible, Thomas came close to compromise. He momentarily approved the Constitutions of Clarendon, which would have denied the clergy the right of trial by a Church court and prevented them from making direct appeal to Rome.

But Thomas eventually rejected the Constitutions, fled to France for safety, and remained in exile for seven years. When he returned to England he suspected it would mean certain death.  Henry II never intended to have Becket killed, but after years of altercation the King exclaimed, "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?" Four of his knights set out to oblige the king, and a few days later they fell upon the archbishop in his cathedral at Canterbury and killed him near the altar.

Thomas Becket's death signaled a victory for his cause since it resulted in the rallying of enormous public pressure against the king. The slain archbishop became a symbol of the integrity and independence of the church from an oppressive government. The sainted archbishop was laid to rest in Canterbury Cathedral, and the site of his death became a shrine. For many generations it was the most popular place of pilgrimage in the British Isles.

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Feast of the Holy Innocents - December 28



The Feast of the Holy Innocents.

The importance of all life is profoundly evident today.
Herod “the Great,” king of Judea, was unpopular with his people because of his connections with the Romans and his religious indifference. Hence he was insecure and fearful of any threat to his throne. He was a master politician and a tyrant capable of extreme brutality. He killed his wife, his brother, and his sister’s two husbands, to name only a few.

Matthew 2:1-18 tells this story: Herod was “greatly troubled” when astrologers from the east came asking the whereabouts of “the newborn king of the Jews,” whose star they had seen. They were told that the Jewish Scriptures named Bethlehem as the place where the Messiah would be born. Herod cunningly told them to report back to him so that he could also “do him homage.” They found Jesus, offered him their gifts, and warned by an angel, avoided Herod on their way home. Jesus escaped to Egypt.

Herod became furious and “ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under.” The horror of the massacre and the devastation of the mothers and fathers led Matthew to quote Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children…” (Matthew 2:18). Rachel was the wife of Jacob (Israel). She is pictured as weeping at the place where the Israelites were herded together by the conquering Assyrians for their march into captivity.

The Church venerates these children as martyrs (flores martyrum); they are the first buds of the Church killed by the frost of persecution; they died not only for Christ, but in his stead (St. Aug., "Sermo 10us de sanctis”).

St. Paul’s Outside the Walls in Rome is believed to possess the bodies of several of the Holy Innocents. A portion of these relics was transferred by Sixtus V to Santa Maria Maggiore.

Let us pray for life and life in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

December 27th. The Feast of St. John


The Feast of Saint John - the Apostle’s Story

It is God who calls; human beings answer.

St. John "the beloved disciple" was a Galilean, son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother to St. James the Greater, The vocation of John and James is stated in the Gospels: Jesus called them; they followed. The absoluteness of their response is indicated by the account. James and John “were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him” (Matthew 4:21b-22).

Jesus showed St. John particular instances of kindness and affection above all the rest. He had the happiness to be with Peter and James at the Transfiguration of Christ, and was permitted to witness His agony in the Garden. He was allowed to rest on Our Savior's bosom at the Last Supper, and and the one to whom Jesus gave the exquisite honor of caring for his mother, as John stood beneath the cross. “Woman, behold your son…. Behold, your mother” (John 19:26b, 27b). St. John was the only one of the Apostles who did not forsake the Savior in the hour of His Passion and Death.

On the first Easter, Mary Magdalene “ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him’” (John 20:2). John recalls, perhaps with a smile, that he and Peter ran side by side, but then “the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first” (John 20:4b). He did not enter, but waited for Peter and let him go in first. “Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed” (John 20:8).

In the interval between the Resurrection and the Ascension, John and Peter were together on the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1) having returned to their old calling. When Christ appeared on the shore in the dusk of morning, John was the first to recognize him.

The last words of the Gospel reveal the attachment which existed between Peter and John. It was not enough for Peter to know his own fate, he must learn also something of the future that awaited his friend. “Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!’ So the rumour spread in the community that this disciple would not die.” (John 21:22-23)
The Acts show us them still united, entering together as worshippers into the Temple (Acts 3:1).

John was with Peter when the first great miracle after the Resurrection took place—the cure of the man crippled from birth—which led to their spending the night in jail together. The mysterious experience of the Resurrection is perhaps best contained in the words of Acts: “Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, they (the questioners) were amazed, and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus” (Acts 4:13).They were fellow-workers together in the first step of Church expansion.

St. John remained for a long time in Jerusalem with the Blessed Mother of our Lord, though tradition of no great antiquity asserts that he took her to Ephesus. When he went to Ephesus is uncertain. He was at Jerusalem fifteen years after Saint Paul's first visit there [Acts 15:6]. There is no trace of his presence there when Saint Paul was at Jerusalem for the last time. In Ephesus, he founded many churches in Asia Minor.

St. John wrote his Gospel after the other Evangelists, about sixty-three years after the Ascension of Christ; also three Epistles, and the mysterious Book of Revelation. He was brought to Rome and, according to tradition, was cast into a caldron of boiling oil by order of Emperor Domitian. The legend of the boiling oil occurs in Tertullian and in Saint Jerome. Like the Three Children in the fiery furnace of Babylon, he was miraculously preserved unhurt.

He was later exiled to labor at the mines on the Island of Patmos where he wrote the Apocalypse, but afterwards returned to Ephesus. In his extreme old age he continued to visit the churches of Asia.
St. Jerome relates that when age and weakness grew upon him so that he was no longer able to preach to the people, he would be carried to the assembly of the faithful by his disciples, with great difficulty; and every time said to his flock only these words: "My dear children, love one another.”

St. John died in peace at Ephesus in the third year of Trajan (as seems to be gathered from Eusebius' history of the Saint); that is, the hundredth of the Christian era, or the sixty-sixth from the crucifixion of Christ, St. John then being about ninety-four years old, according to St. Epiphanus.

Because of the depth of his Gospel, John is usually thought of as the eagle of theology, soaring in high regions that other writers did not enter. John’s is the Gospel of Jesus’ glory.

Compiled from a collection of sources.

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

The Story of the Conversion of Saint Paul Saint Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with J...