Tuesday, May 24, 2016

May 31--The Visitation

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant." The Virgin Mary spoke these words in response to her cousin Elizabeth's greeting on the day that Mary visited her, which we celebrate today. Mary gave glory to God in recognition of the grace that God had given to her in being the Mother of God. When Mary had agreed, the angel Gabriel told her of Elizabeth's pregnancy. Mary 
immediately set out to help her.

When Elizabeth heard Mary, her son John leapt in her womb for joy. John the Baptist was filled with joy, Elizabeth was filled with joy, Mary was filled with joy. Mary, in her humility, knew her role: "From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name."

What is our role? To be filled with joy! Even in our griefs and anxieties we can remain joyful for God has done great things for us! "He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit." We know that Jesus saves us! "He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly." We know that heaven awaits us! "He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty." We know that God takes care of us! "He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever." We know that God keeps his promise! We can rejoice with our Blessed Mother.

Friday, July 17, 2015

May 25--St. Gregory VII, Pope

What happens when a ruler wants to take over the Church?  Our saint today had that problem back in the  eleventh century.  Pope St. Gregory VII was pope at a time when the emperor was trying to control the Church through his investing of authority to bishops.  If Emperor Henry IV could "hire" the bishops, then he could control them and rule them, and the Church, the way he ruled the empire.  This corrupt use of power was called lay investiture, giving authority to leaders of  the Church by lay rulers.

Pope St. Gregory VII was a reforming pope.  Before he became pope he was an advisor to popes in their efforts to help the Church retain their religious rights and liberties against local rulers who wanted to make those bishops and abbots another part of the government.  Gregory excommunicated Henry at one point, but Henry repented and Gregory lifted the excommunication.  Whereupon, Henry consolidated his power, gathered his forces, arrested Gregory, and exiled him, where Gregory died.

The Church as the right to minister as she sees fit without restriction by the government.  She has the right to teach the faith.  She has the right to choose who may teach the faith and the right to require those teachers to be faithful to her teachings. She as the right to serve the poor without being required to follow the latest government dogmas on a new and unjust standard of equality.  She has the right to speak out against injustices perpetrated by the government.  Pope St. Gregory VII would recognize ours as a time of struggle between Church and State.  Pope St. Gregory VII, pray for us.

May 23--Beatification of Oscar Romero, Bishop and Martyr

Today is not a feast day, but rather a testimony to the Resurrection.  Bl. Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador was murdered while he was saying Mass on March 24, 1980.  In the 1970's El Salvador was a breeding ground of violence and oppression, which eventually erupted into civil war.  This was the situation in which Archbishop Romero found himself.  He became an ardent advocate for the poor.  He spoke as their spiritual father:  

"In less than three years, more than fifty priests have been attacked, threatened, calumniated. Six are already martyrs--they were murdered. Some have been tortured and others expelled [from the country]. Nuns have also been persecuted. The archdiocesan radio station and educational institutions that are Catholic or of a Christian inspiration have been attacked, threatened, intimidated, even bombed. Several parish communities have been raided. If all this has happened to persons who are the most evident representatives of the Church, you can guess what has happened to ordinary Christians, to the campesinos, catechists, lay ministers, and to the ecclesial base communities. There have been threats, arrests, tortures, murders, numbering in the hundreds and thousands....  But it is important to note why [the Church] has been persecuted. Not any and every priest has been persecuted, not any and every institution has been attacked. That part of the church has been attacked and persecuted that put itself on the side of the people and went to the people's defense. Here again we find the same key to understanding the persecution of the church: the poor."

Bl. Oscar Romero is a martyr due to hatred of the faith, odium fidei.  He witnessed for those most beloved of God, the poor and outcast.

Monday, June 8, 2015

May 14--St. Matthias, Apostle

"Hi. I'm the guy who replaced Judas!"  That might be the opening line for today's saint, because that was precisely who he was, the successor to Judas!  Why did the apostles choose a successor to Judas?  Because Jesus chose twelve apostles to represent the twelve tribes of Israel.  The apostles were going to be the foundation for the New Israel, the new People of God, the members of the New Covenant.  So when Judas committed suicide the apostles continued with the first example of apostolic succession.  

Peter led the apostles after Jesus' ascension and said, "For it is written in the Book of Psalms:  May another take his office.  Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which was was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection"  (Acts 1: 20-22). So they chose Matthias from among two suggested.  Thus, he became the next apostle.

Apostolic succession is crucial in our understanding of the authority of the Church. From the apostles came the Apostolic Fathers, men who were instrumental in spreading the faith, including bishops like Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, and Clement of Rome.  After them came the Fathers of  the Church for the first centuries, most of them bishops, like Irenaeus of Lyons, Ambrose of Milan, Athanasius of Alexandria, Basil of Caesarea, Augustine of Hippo, John Chrysostom, Gregory the Great, and more.  These are not just names of dead men from long ago, but rather the patriarchs of the Church who handed down the faith they received from the apostles, like Matthias.

May 3--Sts. Philip and James, Apostles

So you know the names of all the apostles.  Okay, who was St. Philip and what did he do?  How about St. James the Less?  We know about these two only because they are mentioned in the Gospels as two of the twelve apostles.  We know that Philip was from the same town as Peter and Andrew and that he brought Nathanael to Jesus, but other than that we have only a few stories about Philip; one when Jesus asked him where they should buy enough food to feed the 5000.  Philip responded, "Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little [bit]" (Jn 6:7).  This would seem to indicate that Philip had some knowledge of logistics and supplies.  Beyond those few stories, we have from legend that he was stoned to death after preaching the Gospel.  

Of St. James, son of Alphaeus, also known as James the Less to distinguish him from James, the brother of John, we only know his name and the fact that he was an apostle.  That's it!  However as an apostle, he was chosen by Jesus to go forth and spread the Good News.  His anonymity did not prevent him from doing God's will once he was filled with the Holy Spirit.  According to legend, he also died a martyr's death.

What can we learn from these two apostles?  Don't worry about fame.  Don't worry about prestige.  Don't worry about worldly success.  Be faithful to the mission that we have been given.  Be faithful to our calling as disciples.  Be faithful to our faith.  Sts. Philip and James, pray for us.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

April 29--St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor

Mystic, mediator, counselor to popes, Doctor of the Church, third order Dominican, virgin, stigmatist, saint--St. Catherine of Siena had quite a resume!  She dedicated herself to God through the Dominican order as a lay member.  She was not a cloistered nun and could travel.  That was helpful, because as she became known as a holy woman, she gathered disciples and went around Italy to help resolve conflicts.  She was also sent to Avignon, France to convince the pope to return to Rome after the papacy was away for almost 70 years.  She received the stigmata, which are the wounds similar to Christ's wounds from the cross, but they were hidden from view.  

As a Doctor of the Church, St. Catherine is known for her book, The Dialogues, which came to her in a vision. In that vision God spoke to her about prayer and the importance of love and the necessity of charity and the joy of the Eucharist and how we can resist temptation.  She is one of 36 Doctors of the Church, four of whom are women.

St. Catherine's way of dealing with people was both blunt and sophisticated.  She would let popes know what she believed to be God's way and would challenge them to follow it.  But she also prayed extensively and advised people on how they could lead holy lives.  We need to adapt Jesus' message of love to those whom we are witnessing.  We may need to be forthright in some situations and subtle in others.  Prudential judgment needs to guide us to be the best fishers of men.  St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us.

April 25--St. Mark, Evangelist

Even though Mark's Gospel is second in Scripture, it was actually the first one written.  It is also the shortest Gospel and the one that is jam-packed with excitement and miracles.  Mark wrote for the Christians in Rome who were being persecuted about the time of Peter and Paul's martyrdom, so the emphasis in Mark's Gospel is one of Jesus suffering.

What we know about Mark comes to us mainly from Scripture.  He went on the first missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas, but had a falling out with Paul because Paul did not accept him on the second journey.  However, they did reconcile.  We also know that Mark's family was important in the early Church.  When Peter miraculously escaped from prison he went to home of Mark's mother.  Some speculate that he was the young boy who escaped when Jesus was arrested.  According to legend he became the companion of Peter, from whom he received the Gospel.  He also became the bishop of Alexandria.  His relics were eventually taken to Venice and interred within the Basilica of St. Mark.

St. Mark shares with us the message of Jesus:  “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mk. 1:15).  We are called to constant repentance, to turn our lives over every day to God and believe in the message of God's love for us.  Every day is a new opportunity to bring about the kingdom of God by being a true disciple of Jesus:  We hear the Word of God; we accept the Word of God; we spread the Word of God.  Go forth and share God's love with all you meet.  Mark did through his Gospel.