Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Loving Our Neighbor

Agapeic love is not a sentimental whim or a physical attraction, both of which are doomed to fade away quickly, and anyway do not come at will. No. It is the awareness of God's love for another person. Only God can enable us to understand our neighbor according to the feeling, the intuition of the spirit. Then we perceive in him an irreducible personal existence beyond limitation and errors, Beyond even the disappointment we may have felt for a moment. The other is in the image of God, not of us.

When we begin to feel in its fullness the love of God, we begin also to love our neighbor in the experience of the spirit. That is the love of which the Scriptures speak. For friendship according to the flesh breaks down too easily on the slightest pretext. The reason is that it lacks the bond of the spirit. Therefore even if a certain irritation takes hold of the soul on which God is acting, that does not break the bond of love. For if it has been set ablaze again by the fire of divine love, it seeks with great joy to love its neighbor, even if in return it should have to undergo wrongs or insults. In fact, the bitterness of the quarrel is entirely consumed in the sweetness of God.

DIADOCHUS OF PHOTIKE Gnostic Chapters, 15 Sources Chrétiennes

Monday, October 30, 2023

How We Love God

We only love if we have first been loved. Hear what the apostle John has to say. He it was who learnt on the masters heart and resting there drank in heavenly secrets... Among the other secrets which the great seer drew from that source he showed us this: We love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:10). Ask how anyone can love God and you will find no other answer than this: God first loved us. He whom we love has given himself first. He has given himself so that we may love him. What was his gift? The apostle Paul states it more clearly: God's love has been poured into our hearts. By what means? Through us perhaps? No. Through whom then? Through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us (Romans 5:5).

Full of this testimony let us love God through God... The conclusion imposes itself on us and John states it for us still more succinctly: God is love and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 John 4:16). It is not much to say, love comes from God. But who among us would dare to repeat these words: God is love? They were spoken by someone from experience. Why does the human imagination with its superficial attitude represent God to itself? Why do human beings fashion an idle according to their desire? ...God is love... We see nothing of him and yet we love him... let us seek below what we shall discover on high. Love that is attached only to physical beauty does none the less move us to more profound feelings. A sensual and lecherous man loves a woman of rare beauty. He is carried away by the loveliness of her body, yet he seeks in her, beyond her body, a response to his tender feelings for her. Suppose he learns that this woman hates him. All the fever, all the raptures that those lovely features aroused in him subside. In the presence of that being who fascinated him he experiences a revulsion of feeling. He goes away and the object of his affections now inspires him with hatred. Yet has her body changed in any way? Has her charm disappeared? No. But while burning with desire for the object that he could see, his heart was waiting for a feeling that he could not see. Suppose, on the contrary, he perceives that he is loved. How his ardor redoubles! She looks at him; he looks at her; no one sees their love. And yet it is that which is loved, although it remains invisible...

You do not see God. Love and you possess him...for God offers himself to us at once. Love me, he cries to us, and you shall possess me. You cannot love me without possessing me.

SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO Sermon 34 on Psalm 149, 2-6

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Sacramental Realism

Christ himself declared, speaking of the bread, This is my body. Who will dare then to hesitate in future? And when he himself asserts categorically that, This is my blood, who will doubt it and say it is not his blood?

CYRIL OF JERUSALEM Mystagogical Catecheses, IV,1

For those acquainted with the hidden meaning of the Scriptures, the invitation to the mystery that was given to the apostles is identified with that of the Song of Songs: Eat, O friends, and drink deeply. In both cases, in fact, it is said, Eat and drink deeply...and the intoxication is Christ himself.

GREGORY OF NYSSA Homilies on the Song of Songs, 10

Friday, October 27, 2023

To Pray Everywhere

To pray everywhere is not only possible, it is a duty, because the universe is primarily a place of worship. Prayer, by going deep into transcendence and so demonstrating the human being's transcendence, enables grace to penetrate the creation and reveal its secret holiness.

OLIVIER CLÉMENT, The Roots of Christian Mysticism; Part 3, Approaches to Contemplation

Every Christian, even if he lacks any education, knows that every place is a part of the universe and that the universe itself is the temple of God. He prays in every place with the eyes of his senses closed and those of his soul awake, and in this way he transcends the whole world. He does not stop at the vault of heaven but reaches the heights above it, and, as though out of this world altogether, he offers his prayer to God, led by God's Spirit.

ORIGEN Against Celsus, 7,44

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Pope Francis Calls for Day of Fasting and Prayer

Speaking at the Wednesday, October 18 General Audience, Pope Francis expressed concern for the humanitarian situation in Gaza, calling on all parties to lay down their weapons. The Pope has invited everyone to join in a day of prayer, fasting, and penance for peace. On Friday, Oct. 27, he is encouraging people of different Christian denominations, other religions, and all those who advocate for peace to participate as they see fit. The Holy Father also drew attention to the unsettling possibility of the conflict's expansion.

"The world already witnesses so many open war fronts."

In light of these circumstances, he implored, "Lay down weapons and heed the cries for peace from the poor, the people, and the innocent children."

"War solves no problems," he said. "It only sows death and destruction, increases hatred, multiplies revenge. War erases the future."

The Holy Father went on to urge all believers to take one side only: that of peace. “But not with words,” he continued, “with prayer and with total dedication.”

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Contemplating God

Two men who wanted to see the sunrise would be very foolish to argue about the place where it will appear and their means of looking at it, then to let their argument degenerate into a quarrel, from that to come to blows and in the heat of the conflict to gouge out each other's eyes. There would no longer be any question then of contemplating the dawn...

Let us who wish to contemplate God purify our hearts by faith and heal them by means of peace; for the effort we make to love one another is already a gift from him to whom we raise our eyes

Augustine of Hippo Sermons, 23, 18

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

To Be Prayer

He prays unceasingly who combines prayer with necessary duties and duties with prayer. Only in this way can we find it practicable to fulfill the commandment to pray always. It consists in regarding the whole of Christian experience as a single great prayer. What we are accustomed to call prayer is only a part of it.

ORIGEN On Prayer, 12

Brother Lawrence felt it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times. We are as strictly obliged to adhere to God by action in the time of action, as by prayer in its season. His own prayer was nothing else but a sense of the presence of God, his soul being at that time insensible to everything but Divine Love. When the appointed times of prayer were past, he found no difference, because he still continued with God, praising and blessing Him with all his might. Thus he passed his life in continual joy.

BROTHER LAWRENCE OF THE RESURRECTION The Practice of the Presence of God, CH 1 Conversations

Monday, October 23, 2023

Ten Penetrating Insights on Contemplation and Modernity by Thomas Merton

  1. ”Contemplation must be possible if man is to remain human.”
  2. “Man has an instinctive need for harmony and peace, for tranquility, order, and meaning. None of those seem to be the most salient characteristics of modern society.”
  3. “…there had once existed a more leisurely and more spiritual way of life – and that this was the way of their ancestors.”
  4. “We must face the fact that the mere thought of contemplation is one which deeply troubles the person who takes it seriously. It is so contrary to the modern way of life, so apparently alien, so seemingly impossible, that the modern man who even considers it finds, at first, that his whole being rebels against it.”
  5. “We would like to be quiet, but our restlessness will not allow it.”
  6. “We seek the meaning of our life in activity for its own sake, activity without objective, efficacy without fruit, scientism, the cult of unlimited power, the service of the machine as an end in itself.”
  7. “The reason for this inner confusion and conflict is that our technological society has no longer any place in it for wisdom that seeks truth for its own sake.”
  8. “The contemplative way requires first of all and above all renunciation of this obsession with the triumph of the individual or collective will to power…”
  9. “The basic reality is neither the individual, empirical self nor an abstract and ideal entity which can exist only in reason. The basic reality is being itself…”
  10. “Science and technology are indeed admirable in many respects and if they fulfill their promises they can do much for man. But they can never solve his deepest problems.”


Sunday, October 22, 2023

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Gospel Reflection

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech.  They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status.  Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”Matthew 22:15–17

It has been said that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” In other words, two people who are enemies with each other will often join together if they see an opportunity to jointly attack an even greater enemy. This is what was happening in today’s Gospel. Jesus was considered the greatest enemy of the Pharisees and the Herodians, and both of these groups joined together in a plot to trap Jesus even though they greatly disliked each other.

The Pharisees were very nationalistic and were strict observers of the Law of Moses. It was their view that the people should not have to pay taxes to the Romans, and many of the people agreed. The Herodians supported the Romans and, therefore, were supporters of Herod, the Jewish ruler appointed by the Roman Emperor. One of Herod’s responsibilities was to obtain taxes from the Jews for use by the Roman government. Those who opposed the paying of taxes to the Romans could even be put to death.

This joint questioning of Jesus had one goal: to get Him in trouble. If Jesus said it was unlawful to pay taxes to Caesar, Herod’s soldiers could arrest Him. If Jesus said that the people should pay taxes to Caesar, the Pharisees could turn the people against Him. It appeared to be a lose-lose question posed to Jesus. Of course, Jesus’ answer was perfect. Without violating the Law of God, He also refrained from violating the civil law. Upon hearing His answer, all who heard Him “were amazed, and leaving him they went away.”

Source of content: mycatholic.life

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Robert Louis Stevenson on the Trappist World...

“... the Trappist world appeals to me as a model of wisdom...so infinitesimally is the day divided among different occupations. The man who keeps rabbits, for example, hurries from his hutches to the chapel, or the chapter-room, or the refectory, all day long: every hour he has an office to sing, a duty to perform; from two, when he rises in the dark, till eight, when he returns to receive the comforting gift of sleep, he is upon his feet and occupied with manifold and changing business. I know many persons, worth several thousands in the year, who are not so fortunate in the disposal of their lives... We speak of hardships, but the true hardship is to be a dull fool, and permitted to mismanage life in our own dull and foolish manner.” 

 Robert Louis Stevenson 

Thursday, October 19, 2023


"People will tell you that silence in a monastery is something sad, a difficult point of the Rule. Nothing could be more mistaken than that idea. Silence in a Trappist monastery is the most cheerful jargon imaginable! Indeed, if God enabled us to read hearts, we would see that from a glum-looking Trappist who passes his life in silence, there flows in steady streams a gloriously jubilant song to his Creator, a song full of love for and joy in his God, the loving Father who cares for and comforts him."

Saint Raphael Arnaz Baron

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Saint Luke the Evangelist

 Medallion with Saint Luke from an Icon Frame

Byzantine ca. 1100

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 303Used with permission

Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received. ~Luke 1:1–4

Luke is credited with writing the Gospel of Saint Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. According to the fourth-century historian, Eusebius, Luke “was of Antiochian parentage and a physician by profession, and…was especially intimate with Paul and well acquainted with the rest of the apostles” (3.4). Saint Paul identifies Luke in several of his epistles as being his close companion and as a physician. The fact that Luke was a faithful companion of Saint Paul is also revealed in the Acts of the Apostles when the narrative of Saint Paul’s journeys moves to the first-person plural, to “we,” implying Luke is part of the missionary activity he describes. The “we” passages begin in Acts 16:10–17 when Saint Paul receives a vision to go to Macedonia while in Troas. It appears that from this trip onward, Luke accompanied Saint Paul. The travels included Macedonia and Greece, Antioch, Galatia, Phrygia, Ephesus, back through Macedonia and Greece, and to Jerusalem, where Saint Paul was arrested and sent to Rome, spending two years there before being executed. It appears from Saint Paul’s writings that Saint Luke remained with him until the end.

Based on the prologue of his own Gospel, Luke was not an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry from the beginning; rather, he accurately investigated everything anew and wrote down his findings in an orderly sequence (see Luke 1:1–4). Saint Paul mentions Mark, the author of the first Gospel, next to Luke in his epistles, clearly indicating that Mark and Luke knew each other well. Luke’s Gospel was written after Mark’s, suggesting that Luke used Mark’s Gospel as a source.

Most scholars believe that Luke was a Gentile convert. This conviction is largely based on Colossians 4:10–14, in which Saint Paul does not include Luke in his greetings by those “​​who are of the circumcision,” meaning those who are Jews. He includes Luke after that in the grouping of the Gentiles. Furthermore, Luke’s Gospel and the Acts give special attention to the Gentile converts, holding them in an important position. Thus, Luke was most likely the only one of the four Gospel writers who was not of Jewish origin. This is further evidenced by the fact that Luke’s Gospel appears to have been written in Greek. His Greek grammar and structure are excellent, suggesting he is well-educated in Greek language, literature, and culture.

It should be noted that only Luke includes details from the life of our Blessed Mother. Her Magnificat, experience at the Annunciation, and Presentation in the Temple suggest he either had an intimate knowledge of these events directly from the Blessed Mother or was privileged to receive a reliable and detailed account of them from another source. There is also an ancient tradition that Saint Luke was an artist who painted the first icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus.

Early tradition states that Saint Luke died at the age of eighty-four in Boeotia, Greece. It is also an ancient belief that he died a martyr, though records are unreliable. His writings, however, are reliable. Together, the Gospel of Saint Luke and the Acts of the Apostles make up a significant portion of the New Testament. God clearly used this intelligent and well-educated man when the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to write a thorough, definitive, and orderly account of God’s life-saving actions in the Person of Jesus Christ and the early Church. Saint Luke did the writing, but the Holy Spirit guided the pen, using Saint Luke’s human experience and talent as the instrument.

Source of content: mycatholic.life

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Life at Saint Joseph's Abbey: A Photo Essay

The Monastery speaks to us of a presence,
of someone who lives there,
and invites us to dwell with Him.
We search for God and He for us,
and the Abbey becomes a home for a lifetime.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Brother Joseph's Solemn Profession: Saturday, Oct. 14

Abbot's Homily:

Br. Joseph, the words of the prophet Hosea have been going through my mind in preparation for your solemn profession: “I drew them with human cords, with bands of love. I fostered them like those who raise an infant to their cheeks; I bent down to feed them.” Is this not what Jesus has done for you, drawing you back into this wilderness of Spencer to speak to your heart? Today’s celebration is all about the ways that God has drawn us to himself and you to your monastic consecration. 

But what exactly are these bands of love? When Hosea says that we are drawn by God with bands of love and human cords, he is speaking in metaphor. God’s bands of love are not leather straps or harnesses. No, God draws us by his acts of love, sometimes gently, sometimes forcefully—we learn this quickly in monastic life. At one time, he is like a mother lifting her child to her cheeks and gazing into his eyes; at another, like a father who sees his child about to run out onto a busy street and yanks him back. Both are acts of love. Both draw us into an embrace of love and protection. God is always looking out for us—with human cords, with bands of love, and even with yanks of love. We find some good examples of this in the readings chosen for today’s celebration. Let’s begin with Ezekiel. 

The word of God that came through Ezekiel’s prophecy was anything but gentle. Rather, it was a blunt and provocative prophecy: “Not for your sake do I act, house of Israel, but for the sake of my holy name.” Monastic life can be forceful and blunt as well—we are not here because of our great accomplishments, but because of God’s mercy and the holiness of his great name. We have to learn this lesson. The divine holiness is on our right and on our left, like a consuming fire. If we allow it, it will consume our stubbornness and resistance and create in us a new heart and a new spirit. If we welcome it, God will reveal his great name to us anew, and through it, his inner being, which is love. His name is oil poured out—love leaving a lasting imprint on our memory. Its fragrance enters behind the veils that we put in place, touching our hearts—our hardness of heart at first—to create a heart of flesh. The holiness of his great name is truly a band of love, drawing us and purifying us. What, my brother, could be sweeter to us than this voice of the Lord uttering his great name? And this name you know well: it is Jesu.

Jesu—the name exalted by the Father above every other name. Ezekiel spoke of the divine power and majesty of God’s name. St. Paul in the Letter to the Philippians speaks of its human aspect. Jesus came to us in recognizable form. He “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness...” He is the human cord given us by the Father to move our affections and draw us to himself. If there were a greater human cord that God could have stretched out to us, I do not know what it is. 

Which brings us to the last cord of love, which, actually, is the first. Jesus just said, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you…” from your mother’s womb, from before the foundation of the world. It is this choice of Jesus that has been like “…a seal upon your heart, a seal upon your arm…’ and yet, his choice is even more intimate. For he goes on to say, “Remain in me, as I remain in you…” This mutual indwelling reaches to the “breadth and length and height and depth” of Christ’s love. Here in this place of Spencer, in the presence of your family and friends, your brothers and sisters, he is giving you all things: your cross; your oblation for the salvation of the world; your community where you can empty yourself and be filled again—and the most precious of all bands of love: ejus dulcis praesentia—His sweet presence. 

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Patriarch of Jerusalem Calls for Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace

In a heartfelt call for peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land, the Latin Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, has issued a plea for a day of prayer and fasting set for Tuesday, October 17. As tensions and violence escalate in the region, this initiative aims to deliver a resounding message of hope, unity, and solidarity amidst the chaos. The cardinal has urged Catholics to join together in this spiritual endeavor, with a focus on Eucharistic adoration and the recitation of the rosary. The date, October 17, coincides with the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the first-century bishop and martyr from Syria, adding a layer of spiritual significance to the initiative.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Spiritual Frienship

"In this, truly, friendship shines forth with a special right of its own, that among those who are bound by the tie of friendship, all joys, all security, all sweetness, all charms are experienced."

"And so in friendship are joined honor and charm, truth and joy, sweetness and good-will, affection and action. And all these take their beginning from Christ, advance through Christ, and are perfected in Christ. Therefore, not too steep or unnatural does the ascent appear from Christ, as the inspiration of the love by which we love our friend, to Christ giving himself to us as our Friend for us to love, so that charm may follow upon charm sweetness upon sweetness and affection upon affection. And thus, friend cleaving to friend in the spirit of Christ, is made with Christ but one heart and one soul, and so mounting aloft through degrees of love to friendship with Christ, he is made one spirit with him."

— Aelred of Rievaulx

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Pope Francis on Today's Gospel

From the Gospel according to Luke
Lk 10:38-42

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me." The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."


Martha’s “philosophy” seems to be this: first duty, then pleasure. In effect, hospitality is not composed of fine words, but demands that you roll up your sleeves, that everything necessary is done so the guest feels welcome. Jesus is well aware of this. And indeed, he acknowledges Martha’s effort. However, he wants to make her understand that there is a new order of priorities, different from the one she had followed until then. Mary had sensed that there is a “
good portion ” that must be accorded first place. Everything else comes after, like a stream flowing from the source. And so we wonder: what is this “good portion”? It is listening to Jesus’ words. The Gospel says Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching ” (v. 39). Note: she did not listen while standing, doing other things, but she sat at Jesus’ feet. She understood that he is not like other guests. At first sight it seems that he has come to receive, because he needs food and lodging, but in reality, the Master came to give himself to us through his word. The word of Jesus is not abstract; it is a teaching that touches and shapes our life, changes it, frees it from the opaqueness of evil, satisfies and infuses it with a joy that does not pass: Jesus’ word is the good portion, that which Mary had chosen. Therefore, she gives it first place: she stops and listens. The rest will come after. This does not detract from the value of practical effort, but it must not precede, but rather flow from listening to the word of Jesus. It must be enlivened by his Spirit. (Angelus, 17 July 2022)

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Homily for the 27th Sunday

We are God’s tenants, guests, and stewards.

(Is 5:1-7 and Mt 21:33-43)

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable.” St. Matthew seems to be on a roll! Today’s parable of the “Wicked Tenants” is the second of three parables directed to the chief priest and elders. Preceding it is the parable of the two sons, which we heard last Sunday and which confronted the Jewish leaders with their lack of response to John the Baptist, a failure that is compounded by a subsequent lack of faith in Jesus. That parable issued a summons to change their minds and believe in Jesus before it is too late. The third parable, which we will hear next Sunday, is about a king who gives a wedding feast for his son, but the invited guests repeatedly ignore the invitation and refuse to come, and mistreat and even kill the messengers. In the end, the king’s servants are told to go out into the streets and gather everyone they find, bad and good alike, to be guests at the wedding feast.

But let’s now turn to this morning’s parable. It echoes the passage from Isaiah, which we heard in the First Reading. Both texts relate the same actions of the vine grower: he plants, digs a winepress, and builds a tower. There is the same narrative buildup to the climactic expectation of enjoyment of the produce and the same disappointment that such does not materialize. That provokes the same question posed by the owner: “What will he do?” (The $64,000 question!)

We notice that there is a critical difference in the ending of Matthew’s parable as compared to that of Isaiah 5. In Isaiah, the vine grower is God, the Lord of hosts, who is disappointed with the yield of wild/sour grapes from his carefully cultivated vine, Israel. He announces its fate: let it be destroyed. Matthew, however, does not simply repeat the familiar story but offers a new version in which not the vineyard but the tenants are destroyed. The vineyard remains and is entrusted to others.

Lest we who listen with modern ears be naïve about what is really going on in this parable, it is important that we not regard it as simply an exaggerated story about greedy and murderous tenants. It is actually a familiar story from the world of Jesus. It reflects well the situation of unrest that existed in Galilee at the time and continued to intensify up to the first Jewish revolt against Rome in the years 66-70. The economic situation for many was quite precarious. Famine, lack of rain, overpopulation, and heavy taxes could put a struggling farmer over the brink. In the Palestine of Jesus’ day, it is estimated that somewhere between one- half and two-thirds of a farmer’s income went to taxes that included Roman tribute, payment to Herod and the procurators, and land rent to the large landowners. Land remained all important. Consequently, a peasant would go to any length to retain or regain its ownership. Thus, the murderous hostility of the laborers toward an absentee landlord is a true-to-life detail of first-century Palestine. Of course, several elements in the parable are not realistic and carry an allegorical meaning, serving Matthew’s ever-present intent to interpret the story of Jesus as the fulfillment of the Scriptures. (Rich material there for many homilies....) But what I’d like to focus on this morning, is only the character of the owner of the vineyard and that of his tenants.

1) The character of the owner of the vineyard: Because the owner is a figure representing God, the parable causes the hearer to reflect on what kind of person sends messengers, one after the other, including his own son, each of them pleading with the tenants to come to their senses and honor their agreement with him. His persistence is certainly striking; he just doesn’t let up in trying to get his share of the produce. However, I don’t think Matthew is presenting here an image of God who is impervious to the suffering of the servants he sent, or viciously punishing the wicked tenants who mistreat and kill them. Rather, I think he is holding up to us the pathos of God, who so desires to draw all into divine mercy that he sends

messenger after messenger, even his beloved son, and longs for a positive response to invitation after invitation. Of course, in order to collect his due, he could have sent the police (as we would today) or recruited his own army of thugs. He could have returned violence for violence, but he did not. He is persistent—but in a nearly gracious way.

Nonetheless, the eschatological note of the parable makes it clear that there does come a time when a fruitful response needs to be evident; we cannot continue to spurn the offer indefinitely. And so, the choice that faces us today, as well as the tenants in the parable (and the chief priests and elders in Jesus’ time whom the tenants represent), is this: will we reject God’s offer and incur self-condemnation, or will we recognize God’s invitation even in “the stone rejected by the builders that became the cornerstone”? It is noteworthy that by quoting from Ps.118 and Daniel 2 here, Jesus interprets his own story: the stone which the builders rejected and the son are the same. Commentators point out that in Hebrew the letters of the word for “stone” (eben) are the same as in the word for “son” (ben) but with one letter added.

2) What about the character of the tenants? This is revealed by one key detail of the story: namely, what is at issue throughout is not “ownership” but “stewardship.” “Stewardship” has become something of a buzzword in our day: stewardship of natural resources and the earth we share as home; stewardship of a monastic patrimony or legacy that is to be passed on to future generations; stewardship of our personal health and talents, etc.

It seems that in this story about divine tenants, somewhere along the way someone misplaced the tenant’s agreement and wrote up a deed instead. Regardless of the economic circumstances in Palestine at the time, the tenants were essentially the owner’s guests, entrusted with the job of supervising and caring for the vineyard. What’s more, the owner’s consistently nonviolent response was a way of reminding them that being guests placed them in relationship with a host who placed them in relationship with each other. Those relationships could be based on gratitude, not on competition, so that everything necessary for life could be shared and there would no longer be too little for some because others had too much. What was true for them is also true for us.

The Good News is that, as guests, they had free access to far more than they ever could have earned for themselves! Instead of a vineyard full of one-acre tracts divided by barbed wire, they had acres and acres at their disposal—not to own but to use and enjoy—through the generosity of the owner. All he asked was that they take care of it and that they give him a portion of what they produced, not because he needed it— after all, he probably turned right around and gave it away himself—but because they needed it. They needed to give in order to remember who they were: namely, grateful guests who received their lives into their hands like the gifts they are, and who returned the favor by giving themselves away to others.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that we are God’s guests in the “vineyard” of this world—welcome on this earth and welcome to it so long as we remember whose it is and how it is to be used. We can love it as our own. We can care for it by hand and take deep pleasure in the harvest. But what we may not do is spurn the owner and persecute his messengers, because to do that is to court our own destruction. To do that is to forget who we are and where we came from. We are God’s guests, his stewards—we tend the earth and its riches, and our personal lives with all their graces, on someone else’s behalf. We do not live for ourselves but for Another/others. We are expected to represent God’s interests, being as generous with each other as God is with us. We are not owners. We were never meant to be. That is not the way of the Reign of God.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Saint Bruno the Carthusian

Saint Bruno meditating on a skull

Francesco Rosaspina Italian
After Jusepe de Ribera (called Lo Spagnoletto) Spanish
Publisher Lodovico Inig Italian 1780–1840
From the Met Collection, Used with permission

Saint Bruno is believed to have been born into the wealthy and influential Hardebüst family in the city of Cologne, in modern-day Germany. His family’s status would have ensured him a good education and a successful career. As a teenager, he was sent to the prestigious Cathedral School of Rheims, in the Kingdom of France, about 200 miles from his hometown. After completing his studies, he returned to Cologne where he was made a canon at Saint Cunibert Church. It is most likely at that time that he was ordained a priest. In 1056, when Canon Bruno was about twenty-six years old, he was called back to Rheims by the bishop, given a canonry at the Cathedral, taught at the School of Rheims, and was later made rector of the school. These distinctions speak to his character, holiness, and intelligence. Canon Bruno spent the next twenty-plus years in this capacity, after which time he was made chancellor of the Archdiocese of Rheims.

While he was chancellor, a corrupt and worldly man named Manassès of Gournay was made Archbishop of Rheims. The honest canons firmly opposed the archbishop’s ways, and Canon Bruno led the way. The archbishop was deposed by a local council, but he appealed to the pope and became violent toward his opposition. Around this time, Bruno left Rheims, probably for Rome, until the matter was resolved. Finally in 1080, the pope deposed the archbishop, and there was a cry from the clergy and laity to appoint Bruno as the next archbishop. Bruno, however, had other plans. He resigned from his prestigious positions in Rheims and set out to answer God’s call to a new life.

Bruno is believed to have first traveled about 100 miles south to Molesme where he met with a monk and future founder of the Cistercian order, Saint Robert. After a short stay, he decided to travel farther south with six companions to found a new order under the authority of Bishop Hugh of Châteauneuf, Bishop of Grenoble. Bishop Hugh welcomed Bruno and his companions and told them about a dream he had in which he saw God build a house in the desert for His glory with seven stars showing the way. The bishop believed the seven men were the stars in his dream, so he enthusiastically supported their new mission. With the bishop’s support, Bruno and his companions traveled into the mountain country called Chartreuse, where they built hermitages and embraced a radical life of prayer, study, and manual labor. Peter the Venerable, an abbot of Cluny, later described their early life this way: “There, they continue to dwell in silence, reading, praying, and also undertaking manual work, especially in the copying of books. Within their cells, at the signal given by the church bell, they perform part of the canonical prayer. For Vespers and Matins, they all gather in church. On certain days of celebration they depart from this pace of life…They then have two meals, they sing in church all the regular hours and all, without exception, take their meal in the refectory.”

Bruno enjoyed about six years of solitude in Chartreuse when, in 1090, he was called to Rome by the pope. Pope Urban II, who was elected pope in 1088, found himself in serious conflict with the Holy Roman Emperor and Antipope Clement III. Pope Urban was Bruno’s former student and called on him to become a counselor to assist with the chaos. Bruno obediently went to the aid of Pope Urban, serving him quietly and personally within the Lateran Palace in Rome. Shortly after his arrival, however, the Holy Roman Emperor took Rome by force, and Bruno and Pope Urban had to flee.

Around the year 1091, Pope Urban wanted to make Bruno the Archbishop of Reggio, but Bruno once again opposed the idea and the pope chose another. After pleading to return to his hermitage in Chartreuse, the pope agreed to allow him to found a new hermitage in Italy so he was closer and could be called upon if needed. He and some companions settled in the wilderness of Calabria where they built a hermitage named Sainte-Marie-de-la-Tour. Of this new life, Bruno wrote in a letter, “I am living in the wilderness of Calabria far removed from habitation. There are some brethren with me, some of whom are very well educated and they are keeping an assiduous watch for their Lord, so as to open to him at once when he knocks.” Bruno died in this hermitage a decade later.

Though Bruno never formally wrote a rule for his newly-founded order, he did leave them a way of life. Twenty-six years after his death, statutes were written down that guided their monastic-heremitical vocation. Bruno was quickly considered a saint, but in keeping with their hidden vocation, the order never formally petitioned the pope to canonize him. Over the next five hundred years, the Carthusians grew to 198 monasteries with about 5,600 members. In 1514, during a general chapter of the order, a request was made to Pope Leo X to confirm Bruno’s merits and authorize a liturgical feast for the order. The pope approved and granted an equipollent (equivalent) canonization, which required no lengthy process, but was done solely on the pope’s authority. In 1623, that Carthusian feast was extended to the entire Church and placed on the Roman Calendar.

It is often said that the Carthusian Order is the only order that has never needed to be reformed. The hermit-monks have stayed true to their statutes from the beginning,and remain so today. They live the most radical form of religious life in the Church. They accept no visitors, exist in absolute solitude together, live contemplative lives, embrace penances, intercede for the Church and world, and seek perfect union with God.

“Our principal endeavor and our vocation is to devote ourselves to the silence and solitude of the cell. It is holy ground, the place where God and his servant frequently converse, as between friends. There, the faithful soul is often united to the Word of God, the bride with her Spouse, earth is joined to heaven and the human to the divine” (Statutes 4.1). Furthermore, they live solitude in community: “The grace of the Holy Spirit gathers solitaries together to form a communion in love, as an image of the Church, which is one, though spread throughout the world” (Statutes 21.1). They gather several times a day in their chapel for communal prayer, in addition to long periods of private prayer in their hermitages. Though the monks refrain from talking during the week, they go for a two-hour walk on Sunday during which they freely converse. Though separated from the world, their lives are dedicated to ongoing prayer for the Church and world, and they give a silent witness to the world of that which is most important: union with God.

Source of content: mycatholic.life

Thursday, October 5, 2023


Jesus appointed seventy-two other disciples whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.”  Luke 10:1–3

Why would our Lord send His disciples out like lambs among wolves? At first, this might be concerning and cause us to wonder if our Lord were sending them into a situation in which they would encounter harm. Saint Ambrose, in commenting on this, explains that there is no reason for these disciples to fear, since Jesus is the Good Shepherd Who always protects His sheep. It’s helpful to reflect upon what sort of danger these disciples would encounter on this mission and all future missions and to contrast that danger with the only form of danger we should fear.

The “wolves” in this situation are especially some of the cruel religious and civil leaders of that time, as well as those who would reject the disciples and their teaching. When looking at the worldly danger that our Lord encountered, as well as His disciples, we see that it was a danger of persecution. But is that a “danger” that one should fear? Clearly not, since Jesus never cowered in the face of it. In the Acts of the Apostles, we see how this same fate of persecution befell Jesus’ followers. But in the divine perspective, true “danger” is only that which has the potential to do eternal damage to one’s soul: sin. 

Sin and sin alone has the potential to do true damage, not persecution or even death. So when Jesus sent His disciples out “like lambs among wolves,” He was fully aware of the persecution they would receive in this world. But He exhorted them and sent them, because He knew that even if they were to eventually suffer persecution and death, their faith and courage in the midst of it would gain them merit in eternal life and would become an instrument of grace for others in their life of faith. As was commonly said in the early Church, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.” For that reason, as Jesus sent these sheep out among wolves, He also accompanied their souls as the Good Shepherd, protecting their virtue, strengthening them in their witness to the faith, and keeping them from fear and from sin. He did not want them to fear the death of their body or their worldly reputation—rather, only the death of their souls which He, as the Good Shepherd, vigorously defended.

Source of content: mycatholic.life

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Saint Francis of Assisi

Saint Francis of Assisi receiving the stigmata
Johann Sadeler I Netherlandish
After Bernardo Castello Italian
From the Met Collection; Used with permission

Francis of Assisi was most likely born in the year 1181 in the small town of Assisi, Italy, about 100 miles north of Rome. He was born into the merchant class, his father being a seller of fine silk. As a youth, Francis was known to be quite lively, often the center of attention among friends. As a teenager, he enjoyed parties and singing and was quite worldly.

His father wanted Francis to join him in the family business, which Francis did with disinterest. He was far more interested in his friends and in having a good time than he was in work. This caused tensions at home on a regular basis.

As a young adult, Francis had dreams of doing great things. However, the “great things” he dreamt of had much more to do with obtaining worldly honors than with honoring God. One of his chief desires was to become a great knight. His family also desired he become a knight so that their societal status would be elevated.

Around the year 1202, Francis’s dream of becoming a great knight began to move forward. He was fitted with fine armor, a sword, and a horse and sent into battle against the neighboring town of Perugia. Success in that battle would prepare him to one day become a Crusader in the pope’s army, hopefully earning him the dignity of a knight. But the battle of Perugia was short and ended in Francis’ capture and imprisonment. As Francis waited a year for his father to pay the ransom for his release, he suffered greatly with the other men who were imprisoned.

After his release, Francis spent months with a serious illness. Both his imprisonment and illness affected him greatly, and he began to reevaluate his life. Despite that, in 1205 he set off for another battle in the army of the Count of Brienne, once again well fitted with a horse, sword, and armor. Before he arrived, however, Francis had a vision that would change his life. In that vision, Francis heard a voice say to him, “Who can do more for you? The master or the servant? The rich man or poor man?” Francis quickly answered, “The rich master!” The voice then asked, “Then why do you leave the Lord for the servant and the God of infinite riches for the poor mortal?” This vision was enough for Francis to turn around and return to Assisi in search of God’s will.

Over the next year, Francis and his father regularly were at odds. Francis began to pray and seek God’s will for his life, while his father continued to insist that Francis become a knight or work in the family business. During that year, Francis grew in his love for the poor and even served the lepers at a nearby hospital. While praying one day in the dilapidated Church of San Damiano, Francis heard a voice from Heaven say to him, “Go, repair my house which, as you see, is falling completely to ruin.” With that, he began to physically repair that church, live in solitude, and pray continually.

The family conflict between Francis and his father came to a head in 1206 when Francis was twenty-five years old. He and his father formally parted ways in the presence of the Bishop of Assisi when Francis renounced his inheritance, choosing only God as his Father. Over the next three years, Francis began to live his new life of poverty, prayer, and service of God.

At first, most of the townspeople thought Francis was out of his mind, and they ridiculed him. But as time passed, Francis began to attract some followers. He and his followers spent much time praying, listening to the voice of God, serving the poor and lepers, and working with their hands to repair abandoned churches.

By the year 1209, Francis and his followers numbered twelve. They decided to write a new Rule for their common life and made a pilgrimage to Rome to get papal approval for their Rule. Once the pope verbally approved their Rule, Francis and his companions returned to Assisi and took up residence in a small church called the Portiuncula. From there, Brother Francis and his Friars Minor began their life of prayer and missionary preaching. Now, instead of rebuilding physical churches, they began to rebuild God’s Church, the spiritual Body of Christ.

Over the next ten years, the Order of Friars Minor grew from only twelve to about five thousand. They took up residence across Europe and began to have a powerful effect upon many people. Francis continued to preach and was also the instrument of countless miracles. In 1223, the pope approved the final and definitive Rule of the Friars Minor in writing, and Francis entered into the final years of his life.

In 1224, while on a forty-day retreat, Francis was gifted with the stigmata, the visible wounds of Christ in his hands, feet, and side. Those final two years were also marked with much suffering from various illnesses and the loss of his sight.

On October 4, 1226, after being unable to find a cure for his many illnesses, Saint Francis died surrounded by his brothers in Assisi at the Portiuncula where his life as a Friar Minor began. Just two years later, Pope Gregory IX canonized him as a saint, and his legacy continued to grow.

Source of content: mycatholic.life