Tuesday, August 29, 2023
According to the synoptic Gospels, Herod, who was tetrarch, or sub-king, of Galilee under the Roman Empire, had imprisoned John the Baptist because he reproved Herod for divorcing his wife and unlawfully taking Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip I. On Herod's birthday, Herodias' daughter (whom Josephus identifies as Salome) danced before the king and his guests. Her dancing pleased Herod so much that in his drunkenness he promised to give her anything she desired, up to half of his kingdom. When Salome asked her mother what she should request, she was told to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Although Herod was appalled by the request, he reluctantly agreed and had John executed by beheading in the prison. Jewish historian Josephus also relates in his Antiquities of the Jews that Herod killed John, stating that he did so, "lest the great influence John had over the people might incline them to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise), so Herod thought it best to put him to death." He further states that many of the Jews believed that the military disaster that fell upon Herod at the hands of Aretas, his father-in-law, was God's punishment for his unrighteous behavior.
Monday, August 28, 2023
The story of his life, up until his conversion, is written in the autobiographical Confessions, the most intimate and well-known glimpse into an individual's soul ever written, as well as a fascinating philosophical, theological, mystical, poetic and literary work.
Augustine, though being brought up in early childhood as a Christian, lived a dissolute life of revelry and sin, and soon drifted away from the Church - thinking that he wasn't necessarily leaving Christ, of whose name he acknowledges "I kept it in the recesses of my heart; and all that presented itself to me without that Divine name, though it might be elegant, well written, and even replete with truth, did not altogether carry me away" (Confessions, I, iv).
He went to study in Carthage and became well-known in the city for his brilliant mind and rhetorical skills and sought a career as an orator or lawyer. But he also discovered and fell in love with philosophy at the age of 19, a love he pursued with great vehemence.
He was attracted to Manichaeanism at this time, after its devotees had promised him that they had scientific answers to the mystery of nature, could disprove the Scriptures, and could explain the problem of evil. Augustine became a follower for nine years, learning all there was to learn in it before rejecting it as incoherent and fraudulent.
He went to Rome and then Milan in 386 where he met Saint Ambrose, the bishop and Doctor of the Church, whose sermons inspired him to look for the truth he had always sought in the faith he had rejected. He received baptism and soon after, his mother, Saint Monica, died with the knowledge that all she had hoped for in this world had been fulfilled.
He returned to Africa, to his hometown of Tagaste, "having now cast off from himself the cares of the world, he lived for God with those who accompanied him, in fasting, prayers, and good works, meditating on the law of the Lord by day and by night."
On a visit to Hippo he was proclaimed priest and then bishop against his will. He later accepted it as the will of God and spent the rest of his life as the pastor of the North African town, where he spent much time refuting the writings of heretics. Augustine also wrote, The City of God, against the pagans who charged that the fall of the Roman empire, which was taking place at the hands of the Vandals, was due to the spread of Christianity.
Thursday, August 24, 2023
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” John 1:45–46
Tuesday, August 22, 2023
The twentieth century saw a great resurgence in devotion to the Mother of God. Several decades prior to that century, on December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Four years later, the Blessed Mother appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, a fourteen-year-old peasant girl, in Lourdes, France. In this apparition, when Bernadette asked who the Heavenly Lady was, she responded, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” This mystical confirmation of the papal dogma sparked great devotion to the Mother of God, and Lourdes became a frequent pilgrim site where many miracles have taken place.
Monday, August 21, 2023
Sunday, August 20, 2023
Saturday, August 19, 2023
Blessed Guerric (c. 1070/80–1157) was abbot of Igny near Rheims, France, for nineteen years from 1138 till 1157. He died at age 79 or even 89 if the earliest date of his birth is accepted; however the later date, 1180, is more likely. The chronology is far from firm. Guerric became abbot at around 60 years of age, when his health had begun to decline. He was too ill to follow the common life, especially the manual labor.
Guerric came from Tournai, Belgium near the border of France, and received an excellent education in his native city. After studies, he preferred to continue his prayerful and studious life by living as a hermit near a church in Tournai (before the construction of the cathedral that is now a World Heritage Site). His attraction for solitude may have always remained close to Guerric’s heart, even though he chose cenobitic life at Clairvaux under St. Bernard. Bernard, in letters from around 1125, refers to Guerric as a novice. Guerric may have entered at age 45, already mature and formed in his intellectual life. However, he became a student again under his younger master for around thirteen years, before being installed as second abbot of Igny. All knew that he was Bernard’s choice for that office.
Fifty-four of Guerric’s sermons have been preserved. They are assigned to feast days or to the liturgical seasons. One of Guerric’s major themes, although it does not appear in his first sermon, is that our spiritual life consists in taking on the form of Christ as marked by the major events in his life. Christ is born in us, grows to maturity in us, prays and praises in us, is tempted in us, helps others in and through us, suffers and dies in us, and even shares his risen life with us. Thus we take on the form of Christ’s life and become other Christs.
Wednesday, August 16, 2023
Tuesday, August 15, 2023
“Mary’s Assumption is an event that concerns us precisely because every human being is destined to die. But death is not the last word. Death – the mystery of the Virgin’s Assumption assures us – is the passage to life, the encounter with Love. It is the passage to the eternal happiness in store for those who toil for truth and justice and do their utmost to follow Christ.”
Pope Saint John Paul II
“Precisely because Mary is with God and in God, she is very close to each one of us. While she lived on the earth she could only be close to a few people. Being in God, who is actually within all of us, Mary shares in this closeness of God. She knows our hearts, can hear our prayers, can help us with her motherly kindness. She always listens to us, and, being Mother of the Son, participates in the power of the Son and in his goodness. We can always entrust the whole of our lives to this Mother.”
Msgr. Ronald Knox
Monday, August 14, 2023
born January 8, 1894 in Zduńska Wola, near Lodz in the Russian Empire, now part of Poland. His life climaxed in 1941 in Auschwitz, where he volunteered to die in place of a fellow prisoner he hardly knew. On October 17, 1971, Kolbe was beatified by Pope Paul VI, the first Nazi victim to be proclaimed blessed by the Roman Catholic Church. In 1982 Pope John Paul II canonized him, proclaiming also that he was to be venerated as a martyr.
Famous quotes by Saint Maximilian:
Prayer is powerful beyond limits when we turn to the Immaculata who is queen even of God's heart.
If anyone does not wish to have Mary Immaculate for his Mother, he will not have Christ for his Brother.
The conflict with Hell cannot be maintained by men, even the most clever. The Immaculata alone has from God the promise of victory over Satan.
Saturday, August 12, 2023
Thursday, August 10, 2023
St. Lawrence is thought to have been born on 31 December AD 225, in Huesca (or less probably, in Valencia), the town from which his parents came in the later region of Aragon that was then part of the Roman province of Hispania Tarraconensis. The martyrs Orentius and Patientia are traditionally held to have been his parents.
Lawrence encountered the future Pope Sixtus II, a famous teacher born in Greece, in Caesaraugusta (Zaragoza), and they travelled together from Spain to Rome. When Sixtus became the Pope in 257, he ordained the young Lawrence who was only 22, as a deacon, and later appointed him as "archdeacon of Rome", the first among the seven deacons who served in the cathedral church. This was a position of great trust that included the care of the treasury and riches of the Church and the distribution of alms to the indigent.
St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, noted that at the time the norm was that Christians who were denounced were executed and all their goods confiscated by the Imperial treasury. At the beginning of August 258, the Emperor Valerian issued an edict that all bishops, priests, and deacons should immediately be put to death. Pope Sixtus II was captured on August 6, 258, at the cemetery of St. Callixtus while celebrating the liturgy and was executed immediately.
After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church, and St. Ambrose wrote that Lawrence asked for three days to gather the wealth. He worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the indigent as possible to prevent it from being seized by the prefect. On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect. When ordered to deliver the treasures of the Church, he presented the city's indigent, crippled, blind, and suffering, and declared that these were the true treasures of the Church: "Here are the treasures of the church. You see, the church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor!"
Saint Lawrence was martyred on August 10, 258 along with many other members of the Roman clergy. He was the last of the seven deacons of Rome to die.
Wednesday, August 9, 2023
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)Virgin and Martyr Edith Stein, born in 1891 in Breslau, Poland, was the youngest child of a large Jewish family. She was an outstanding student and was well versed in philosophy with a particular interest in phenomenology. Eventually she became interested in the Catholic Faith, and in 1922, she was baptized at the Cathedral Church in Cologne, Germany. Eleven years later Edith entered the Cologne Carmel. Because of the ramifications of politics in Germany, Edith, whose name in religion was Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, was sent to the Carmel at Echt, Holland. When the Nazis conquered Holland, Teresa was arrested, and, with her sister Rose, was sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Teresa died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz in 1942 at the age of fifty-one. In 1987, she was beatified in the large outdoor soccer stadium in Cologne by Pope John Paul II. Out of the unspeakable human suffering caused by the Nazis in western Europe in the 1930's and 1940's, there blossomed the beautiful life of dedication, consecration, prayer, fasting, and penance of Saint Teresa. Even though her life was snuffed out by the satanic evil of genocide, her memory stands as a light undimmed in the midst of evil, darkness, and suffering. She was canonized on October 11, 1998.
Tuesday, August 8, 2023
Sunday, August 6, 2023
Today's Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord takes precedence over the normal Sunday liturgy—it being a feast of the Lord Jesus Christ. Each of the three synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark and Luke—contain an account of the Transfuguration; we heard Matthew's this morning. I believe it was St. Augustine who first analyzed Matthew's gospel using the mountains that loom large in the narrative: first, the mountain of the Beatitudes with its sublime spiritual and ethical teaching contained in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, second, the mountain of the Transfirguration (generally thought to be Mt. Tabor), and, third, the mountain or hill of Calvary. Each mountain can be thought of as representing an important aspect of the Gospel of Christ, and every aspect of Gospel life is mystical. Without Christ we can do nothing, but through, with and in Christ we can do all things.
Thus, the ethical teaching of the Sermon on the Mount can only be truly practiced by people who live for Christ and in Christ. The redeeming co- suffering of Christians that Christ witnessed as the primal example on Calvary is only efficacious when one has identified with Christ in this most radical way—suffering with and in Christ. Yes, Christ tells us, “Without me you can do nothing.” But St. Paul also tells us , “I have the strength for everything through him (that is, Jesus Christ) who empowers me.” Christianity is an essentially mystical way of life, and Mt. Tabor, the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus is an essentially mystical mountain not only for Jesus and Peter, James and John, but for all of us disciples as well.
All three of the Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration follow on the announcement by Jesus of his first prediction of his passion, death and resurrection. Luke alone tells us that they went up Mt. Tabor to pray, but we must remember that the people of Jesus' time looked upon mountains as the usual sites for revelations of God—as many people still do today. The structural purpose of the Transfiguration seems to be to give to the disciples (including us) a needed spiritual uplift in the face of impending challenge and suffering. That uplift is for us, as St. Luke tells us in his version, prayer. We should think not only of private prayer, but liturgical, sacramental prayer as well, prayer that will foster our progress toward intimate union with Christ—mystical prayer.
A beautiful passage in the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the intense contemplative prayer of a simple parishioner of the Cure of Ars. The passage uses the same concepts and vocabulary as the Gospel description of the Transfiguration. “Contemplative prayer is the pre-eminently intense time of prayer. Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. 'I look at him and he looks at me' said the peasant of Ars. This focus on Jesus is a renunciation of self. His gaze purifies our heart; the light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all people... Contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God, is the obedicnce of faith.” In the Gospel today and everyday we disciples are captivated by the transfigured face of Jesus, the beloved Son of the Father, the face which shines in our hearts like the sun, and we listen to his word as we make our obedience of faith. “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”
Furthermore, the Church teaches in the Catechism that as Jesus' baptism proclaimed the mystery of the first regeneration which is our baptism, the Transfiguration is “the sacrament of the second regeneration: our own Resurrection. From now on we share in the Lord's Resurrection through the Spirit who acts in the sacraments of the Body of Christ. The Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ's glorious coming when he will 'change our lowly body to be like his glorious body.'” The Eucharist we are about to receive not only changes bread and wine into the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ, but in receiving it in faith, hope and love we are also given a foretaste of our transfiguration, our being lifted up into resurrection and glory. The grace and strength are given to us to climb the three mountains: first, that of the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount, second, that of the Transfiguration and, finally, our own Calvary—death and transfiguration.
Saturday, August 5, 2023
First raised at the order of Pope Liberius in the mid-fourth century, the Liberian basilica was rebuilt by Pope Sixtus III shortly after the Council of Ephesus affirmed Mary’s title as Mother of God in 431. Rededicated at that time to the Mother of God, St. Mary Major is the largest church in the world honoring God through Mary. Standing atop one of Rome’s seven hills, the Esquiline, it has survived many restorations without losing its character as an early Roman basilica. Its interior retains three naves divided by colonnades in the style of Constantine’s era. Fifth-century mosaics on its walls testify to its antiquity.
St. Mary Major is one of the four Roman basilicas known as patriarchal churches in memory of the first centers of the Church. St. John Lateran represents Rome, the See of Peter; St. Paul Outside the Walls, the See of Alexandria, allegedly the see presided over by Mark; St. Peter’s, the See of Constantinople; and St. Mary’s, the See of Antioch, where Mary is supposed to have spent most of her later life.
Thursday, August 3, 2023
Moreover, if you more closely contemplate every creature, from the first to the last, from the highest to the lowest, from the loftiest angel to the lowliest worm, you will surely discover divine goodness—which we have called nothing other than divine charity—which contains, enfolds and penetrates all things, not by pouring into a place, or being diffused in space, or by nimbly moving about, but by the steady, mysterious and self-contained simplicity of its substantial presence.
Charity joins the lowest to the highest, binds in harmonious peace contraries to contraries, cold to hot, wet to dry, smooth to rough, hard to soft, so that among all creatures there can be nothing adverse, nothing contradictory, nothing unbecoming, nothing disturbing, nothing to disfigure the beauty of the universe, but that all things should rest, as it were, in utterly tranquil peace, with the tranquility of that order which charity ordained in the universe.
From Mirror of Charity, Aelred of Rievaulx
Wednesday, August 2, 2023
Abba Macarius said, "If slander has become to you the same as praise, poverty as riches, deprivation as abundance, you will not die. Indeed it is impossible for anyone who firmly believes, who labors with devotion, to fall into the impurity of the passions and be led astray by the demons." "Oh God, come to my assistance. Oh Lord, make haste to help me."