Sunday, December 10, 2017

December 21--St. Peter Canisius, S.J., Priest and Doctor

“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.” This phrase from the Hail Mary is not from Scripture. Instead, tradition has it that St. Peter Canisius added these words, which were then included in the Catechism of the Council of Trent.

St. Peter Canisius was from the Netherlands and became a Jesuit soon after the order was founded. He then spent his time in Germany doing what he could to bring the truth of Catholicism to a Lutheran population. He published a Catechism, imitating Martin Luther, which was highly successful in bringing people back to Catholicism. He founded schools and universities, visited the sick and imprisoned, attended the Council of Trent, wrote books, and more. He is considered the patron of the Catholic press because of his Catechism, which was printed in twelve languages during his lifetime and eventually in 26 languages.

He was known for his charity toward Protestants and his general opposition to debating them. He wanted to win them over with loving actions, rather than by contentious wrangling. He wrote: “Such people should be attracted and won to the simplicity of the faith as much by example as by argument.”

St. Peter Canisius also wrote, “If you have too much to do, with God’s help you will find time to do it all.” So, he helps us remember that Mary brings Jesus to us and us to Jesus through her intercession. He reminds us that love is about living truth humbly. He advised us to continue to do God’s will and God will help us. These are worthwhile admonitions as we prepare for the coming of Jesus into our hearts and homes this Christmas season.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

November 21--The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Presentation of Mary is based not on Scripture, but on the Protoevangelium of James, a document that is not accepted as revealed, written about AD 145. Some may object to having a non-canonical source for a liturgical celebration, but its heritage is ancient, going all the way back to AD 543 with the dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary the New under Emperor Justinian I in Jerusalem. It was introduced into the Latin Church in the 14th century. Bl. Pope Paul VI reaffirmed in his Apostolic Exhortation, Maria cultus, “For the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary,” that some feasts “apart from their apocryphal content, present lofty and exemplary values and carry on venerable traditions having their origin especially in the East” (para. 8).

This is true of the Presentation of Mary, which is about the tradition of how “Mary as a small child was presented to the Lord by her parents in the Temple.” This matters because it shows how Mary was dedicated to God from the very beginning of her life. This continues the chain of events in Mary’s life beginning with her Immaculate Conception, leading to the Annunciation and birth of Christ. Mary is the disciple above all others. She shows us how to live our lives by her selfless devotion to God.

We are called to be disciples. We are called to be holy. We are called to the Kingdom of God. We can best give ourselves over to Jesus by following Mary’s example. We were taught as children to love Jesus. We are the children of God and the children of Mary. Let us invoke Mary to pray for us “now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

November 15--St. Albert the Great, Bishop and Religious

It is rare when a pupil outshines the teacher, but that is the case with today’s saint. However, St. Albert the Great was the teacher and his pupil was St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Albert was a German Dominican. The Dominicans were great preachers and great scholars and St. Albert was among the greatest. He founded the University of Cologne in German, was made bishop of Regensburg, taught in universities, wrote prolifically (His collected works number thirty-eight volumes!), and had an encyclopedic knowledge on numerous topics, including the natural sciences. When he was canonized he was named the patron saint of natural scientists.

There is much fuss and commotion now-a-days about the supposed incompatibility of science and faith. Some say that science can explain everything. Some say that faith doesn’t need science. Both statements are wrong. The natural sciences are human efforts to discover the truths of the universe, which was made by God. Faith does not tell us the details of how the universe works, it tells us that God has a plan for us and that the created universe is a part of that plan. Science is a gift from God that helps us work out the amazing wonder of the universe. Physics, chemistry, biology, geology, botany, and more are awe-inspiring disciplines both in themselves and what they can tell us of the awe-inspiring creation of God!

St. Albert the Great knew the complementarity of science and faith. He wrote, “The aim of natural philosophy (science) is not simply to accept the statements of others, but to investigate the causes that are at work in nature.” He knew that the ultimate cause of nature was God. His great student, St. Thomas developed that in his understanding of God as the “uncaused cause” of all that is.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

November 13--St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Religious

Today's saint was the first American citizen to be canonized. She was born in Italy in 1850 and died in Chicago in 1917. In 1880 she and six other women founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. They came to America in 1889 at the urging of Pope Leo XIII, who wanted her to serve the Italian immigrants. During her 38 years in America she lived a life of dedication to those poor immigrants from Italy who had found their way to America only to lose their faith. She bolstered their faith and founded 67 institutions "dedicated to caring for the poor, the abandoned, the uneducated and the sick." She is the patron saint of immigrants.

We all came from somewhere. Our families originated in Europe, Africa, Asia, or the Americas. Our ancestors braved tragedies, wars, famine, drought, flood, economic hardships, and more so that they could raise their families in a new land with new opportunities for a better life. A better life also needs to be a holy life. But being immigrants means being aliens in a foreign land. Our ancestors needed help. Men and women like St. Frances Xavier Cabrini came to America as missionaries, serving all the poor they encountered, living the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. In turn, we who have benefited from their sacrifice need to feed the hungry, heal the ill, teach the ignorant, shelter the homeless, warn the sinner, protect the vulnerable for all those who are still looking to America as a beacon for hope and opportunity. America is still a land of immigrants. We still need to be like Mother Cabrini.

November 11--St. Martin of Tours, Bishop

The story goes like this: He was a Roman soldier on his horse when he met a nearly naked beggar. He cut his military cloak in half and gave it to the man. That night, he dreamed of Jesus wearing the cloak he cut off. He heard Jesus saying to the angels, “Martin, who is still but a catechumen, clothed me with this robe.” Thus, the saintliness of St. Martin of Tours was established.

The truth may not be far from the legend. St. Martin was a soldier in the Roman army in the 4th century when he declared his allegiance to Christ. He had become a monk and a hermit when he was going to Tours in France and was made bishop by popular acclamation. He founded a monastery near Tours as well as other monastic communities in his diocese. He is one of the first non-martyrs of the Church to have been called a saint.

Finding Jesus in the poor, and marginalized goes back to Jesus’ own words in the Parable of the Last Judgment (Mt. 25:31-46): “‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” May we imitate St. Martin of Tours in giving to others and thus, giving to Christ.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

October 24--St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop and Religious


St. Anthony Mary Claret was a 19th century superpriest! He served the poor as a diocesan priest; practiced medicine in an area ravaged by war; sent as an Apostolic Missionary to his home region; preached parish missions; heard confessions; gave retreats; founded a religious library in Barcelona; established the Claretian missionary order; appointed archbishop of Santiago, Cuba; erected a hospital and schools in Cuba; founded a women’s religious order; stabbed in an attempted assassination; named confessor to the Queen of Spain, exiled to France, where he finally died in 1870 at the age of 62; wrote 144 books; and more!

A priest once remarked that when he became a priest he got to wear a cape, indicating his joy at being a priest and the supernatural powers that were given to him. The cape he was referring to is a cope, which priests and deacons wear when handling the monstrance at adoration or during processions. We should think of priests as superheroes! They get to minister in persona Christi, “in the person of Christ”. When we see the priest consecrating the bread and wine into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ at the Mass, it is Jesus working through him. He is “another Christ”, alter Christus. What a privilege and grace! Priests hear confessions and forgive us through Jesus. Priests baptize, anoint, receive marriage vows, preach, console, exhort, encourage, and guide; all in the name of Jesus; all for the sake of his Body, the Church, so that we may come to know, love, and serve Jesus more fruitfully. Priests aren’t perfect, but who is? Pray for them. St. Anthony Mary Claret, pray for our priests.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

October 16--St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Religious

“From the depth of my nothingness, I prostrate myself before Thee, O Most Sacred, Divine and Adorable Heart of Jesus, to pay Thee all the homage of love, praise and adoration in my power.  Amen.” 

 So prayed today’s saint of the day, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. She entered religious life near the age of 24 in 1671. She had visions of Jesus in her youth, which she thought was normal. But after her entrance into the convent, she had visions in which Jesus wanted her to establish devotion to His Sacred Heart. She maintained a Holy Hour from eleven till midnight on Thursday before the first Friday of every month. He appointed the Friday after the feast of Corpus Christi as the feast of His Sacred Heart. She died in 1690 and was canonized in 1920.

First Friday devotions, Holy Hours, Devotion to the Sacred Heart; all of these can be attributed to God’s work through St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Devotion to the Sacred Heart is devotion to the love of Christ. “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him” (1 Jn 4:16). All the love God has for us has been fully revealed through Jesus, who suffered, died, rose, and ascended into Heaven. God calls us to love him in return. We love him in himself through adoration, prayer, and reception of the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist. But we also love him in one another through the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. We are called to pray and work for the coming of the Kingdom of God. We would do well to follow St. Margaret Mary in her devotion to Our Lord’s Most Sacred Heart.