Wednesday, January 31, 2024

The Truly Rich

Who is the one that is rich towards God? Clearly it is the one who loves virtue instead of wealth, for whom a few things are sufficient. It is the one whose hand is open to the needs of the poor, comforting the sorrows of those in poverty as fully as he is able. It is the one who gathers in the storehouses above, and lays up his treasures in heaven. Such a person will find that his investments have gained interest, a reward for his upright and blameless life.


Tuesday, January 30, 2024

The Danger of Riches

The most obvious danger which worldly possessions present to our spiritual welfare is that they become practically a substitute in our hearts for that one object to which our supreme devotion is due. They are present; God is unseen. They are means at hand of effecting what we want: whether God will hear our petitions [or not]…they minister to the corrupt inclinations of our nature; they promise and are able to be gods to us, and such gods too as require no service, but, like dumb idols, exalt the worshipper, impressing him with a notion of his own power and security.

ST. JOHN HENRY NEWMAN Parochial and Plain Sermons

Monday, January 29, 2024

More Than All We Can Ask or Imagine

Few persons comprehend what God would effect in their souls if they gave themselves up entirely into his hands and allowed his grace to act within them. The rough and shapeless trunk of a tree, if it were capable of thought, could never believe that it might be formed into a statue, a miracle of sculpture; neither would it place itself under the hands of the sculptor, who by the knowledge of his art, judges what he can form it into. Thus many persons, who hardly live as Christians, are far from realizing that they might become great saints, if they allowed themselves to be molded by the grace of God, and did not resist his beneficent influence.


Sunday, January 28, 2024

Homily for the 4th Sunday in O.T.

Jesus concludes his teaching this morning, and the synagogue at Capernaum is hushed. Then sudden chaos, as a man possessed by a demon shrieks at Jesus in fury, as if to pick a fight with him. “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are…” Born in a Bethlehem cave, raised in obscurity in that nowhere place called Nazareth, Jesus has slipped in behind the scenes. But the demon is well aware of who he is, jealous of his Godly beauty and holiness, and the demon wants Jesus out, he wants Jesus to go back where he belongs, far away in heaven not here of all places. 

The evil one thinks the “flesh-and-blood life” of humanity is his private territory, that’s why he uses the plural “us.” He is outraged by God’s presence among us; the Incarnation drives him absolutely crazy. The demon wants separateness and division. But God is not having any of that. His delight is to dwell here; God with us. He has come to heal, to free, and to console the brokenhearted. Death, evil, demonic possession, whatever impedes human freedom and flourishing infuriate Jesus, and so he speaks to the evil spirit with divine authority, “Quiet! Enough! Shut up and you get out. Be still and know that I am God.” If Jesus’ authority was clear in his teaching, it is now clearer still. The spirit is stung, muzzled; he is no match for Jesus. He departs, shrieking in defeat and convulsing this poor man in a final, futile display of power. God’s love in Christ has broken through to heal and make whole again; God’s creative Word as in the beginning separates light from darkness. The once-possessed man is freed; Jesus has given him back his voice. And once again the synagogue is hushed in spellbound silence.

With this first miracle in Mark’s Gospel, the line has been drawn and Satan’s power over the world has come to an end. It’s over. The authority of God’s mercy and compassion have decisively broken into human history. And what we see this morning in the synagogue at Capernaum is the drama of our redemption in miniature, a foretaste of the struggle that Jesus will engage in for us unto death. For Jesus will choose to die rather than yield to evil. And his resurrection will be God’s final pronouncement on all the false voices that seek to oppress and stifle us. Jesus will confound evil by allowing himself to be possessed by it and then drowning it with his most precious Blood. The evil one has been duped and trampled on, and he is ultimately powerless. He knows it, and he’s angry as hell.

Some years ago when my friend Bryan learned that he was HIV positive, he began closing notes and letters to me and his other friends with a drawing of a huge twisting dragon and the words: “With love from Bryan and the Chaos Monster.” This was all long ago when AIDS meant stigma, isolation and sure death; when the only drug treatments available were just  experimental. The Chaos Monster, Bryan named it, the demon everyone dreaded. Bryan soon passed away, and many would say he lost his battle with the monster. But, my brothers and sisters, we know better; Bryan is now hidden with Christ in God. 

Now I suppose the danger for us when hearing this Gospel is to think it’s rather quaint and unscientific. Certainly, the people of Jesus day felt trapped in a universe that was full of spirits, most of whom were evil and menacing, but c’mon we’re more sophisticated that. I don’t think so. The Chaos Monster is still prowling around looking for someone to devour. We know it; we have only read the newspaper or sadly enough look into the depths of our own hearts. The evil spirit is real and longs to lead us astray. The saints all knew it. And Evagrius that great monastic teacher, will even envision a crowd of nasty little demons jumping around in the church trying to wreak havoc during the liturgy. 

But, worst of all, it is deep inside that I often experience a good deal of chaos: the clamor of old grievances, imagined putdowns and sleezy fantasies that easily muffle Jesus’ voice. And embarrassingly enough I often enjoy listening to it all because of its cozy familiarity. The Chaos Monster is on the prowl. This is not voodoo. It’s simple reality. For if the good spirit, the Holy Spirit of God, wants to draw us closer to Christ, the evil spirit will always want the opposite, always. Not drama, just reality. Why not name it as Jesus and Bryan did and refuse to be mastered by it? Baptized into Christ Jesus our Lord, into his resurrected life, we have more power than we realize. Power to name the demonic powers in our world, in our hearts, and refuse to be mastered by the lies; power to dismiss the evil one and choose instead humility and compassion, realizing our helplessness and relying completely on Christ’s mercy. We have power to choose to listen to Jesus’ voice no matter how quiet.

He is our only Peace; he is the Quiet we long to envelop us more and more. And rest assured; he wants this more than we do. And so relentless in his pursuit, Jesus our Lord comes to feed us with his own flesh and blood, the food of his peace, the medicine of his quiet and consolation. Spellbound, let us open our hands, our mouths, our hearts to receive him who is our only Peace. 

Joint Heirs with Christ

If we are the sons of God then we are “joint heirs” (Rom. 8:17), co-heirs with Christ our brother. The heir is one who has a right to his Father’s possessions. Whoever has the fulness of Christian life is no longer a dog eating the crumbs under the father’s table, but a son who sits and banquets with the Father. This is precisely the lot of the mature Christian, for by the Ascension of Christ, as St. Paul says, “[God] seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”


Saturday, January 27, 2024

The Law of Christ is Love

“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” specifically the law of love. But if loving one’s neighbor fulfills the Law and the love of one’s neighbor is especially urged in the Old Testament also (in which love, the same Apostle says elsewhere, all the commandments of the Law are summed up), then it is clear that the Scripture given to the earlier people is also the law of Christ, which he came to fulfill by love when it was not being fulfilled by fear. The same Scripture and the same commandment, then, is called the Old Testament when it weighs down slaves panting for earthly goods, and the New Testament when it lifts up free people ardent for eternal goods.

SAINT AUGUSTINE Commentary on Galatians

Friday, January 26, 2024

God is Rich in Mercy

We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness…

POPE FRANCIS Misericordiae Vultus

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Christ is Living Now!

Christ is living now! He is teaching now, governing now, sanctifying now—as he did in Judea and Galilee. His mystical Body or the Church existed throughout the Roman Empire before a single one of the Gospels had been written. It was the new Testament that came out of the Church, not the Church which came out of the NewTestament.

FULTON SHEEN Life of Christ

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Saint Francis de Sales – Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Saint Francis de Sales was born in 1567 near Annecy, of noble and pious parents, and studied with brilliant success at Paris and Padua. On his return from Italy he gave up the grand career which his father had destined for him in the service of the state, and became a priest.

When the duke of Savoy resolved to restore the shattered Church in the Chablais, Francis offered himself for the work and set out on foot with his Bible and breviary, accompanied by one companion, his cousin Louis of Sales. It was a work of toil, privation and danger. Every door and every heart was closed against him. He was rejected with insult and threatened with death, but nothing could daunt him or resist him indefinitely. And before long the Church blossomed into a second spring. It is said that he converted 72,000 Calvinists.

He was compelled by the Pope to become Coadjutor Bishop of Geneva, and succeeded to that see in 1602. Saint Vincent de Paul said of him, in praise of his gentleness, How good God must be, since the bishop of Geneva, His minister, is so good! At times the great meekness with which he received heretics and sinners almost scandalized his friends, and they protested when he received insults in silence. One of them said to him, Francis of Sales will go to Paradise, of course; but I am not so sure about the Bishop of Geneva: I am almost afraid his gentleness will play him a shrewd turn! Ah, said the Saint, you would have me lose in one instant all the meekness I have been able to acquire by twenty years of efforts? I would rather account to God for too great gentleness than for too great severity. God the Father is the Father of mercy; God the Son is a Lamb; God the Holy Ghost is a Dove; are you wiser than God? When a hostile visitor said to him one day, If I were to strike you on the cheek, what would you do? Saint Francis answered, with his customary humility, Ah! I know what I should do, but I cannot be sure of what I would do.

With Saint Jane Frances of Chantal, Saint Francis founded at Annecy the Order of the Visitation nuns, which soon spread over Europe. Though poor, he refused provisions and dignities, and even the great see of Paris. He died at Avignon in 1622.

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler's Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894); Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 2


"We must never undervalue any person. The workman loves not that his work should be despised in his presence. Now God is present everywhere, and every person is His work."

"By turning your eyes on God in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with God. Begin all your prayers in the presence of God."

"When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time."

"While I am busy with little things, I am not required to do greater things."

"Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength."

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

The God of the philosophers lives in the mind that knows him, receives life by the fact that he is known, lives as long as he is known, and dies when he is denied. But the true God (whom the philosophers can truly find through their abstractions if they remember their vocation to pass beyond abstractions) gives life to the mind that is known by him…

Therefore Jesus said: “The God of Abraham, the God Isaac, and the God of Jacob…is God not of the dead, but of the living.” So true is it that the Lord is the “living God” that all those whose God he is will live forever, because he is their God.

Such was the argument that Jesus gave to the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. If God was the “God of Abraham” then Abraham must rise from the dead: no one who has the living God for his Lord can stay dead. He is our God only if we belong entirely to him. To belong entirely to life is to have passed from death to life.

THOMAS MERTON No Man is an Island

Monday, January 22, 2024

Clean the Inside of Your Cup

Cleanse your cup, that you may receive grace more abundantly. For though remission of sins is given equally to all, the communion of the Holy Spirit is given in proportion to each man’s faith. If you have labored little, you receive little; but if you have done much, the reward is great. You are running for yourself; see to your own interest.

ST. CYRIL OF JERUSALEM Catechetical Lectures

Sunday, January 21, 2024

True Fulfillment

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14–15)

Jesus begins His public ministry immediately after being tempted by the devil while in the desert for forty days. As He begins His ministry, He declares: “This is the time of fulfillment.” First, the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry was, historically speaking, the “time of fulfillment,” in that the new era of the Gospel and grace had just begun. But the “time of fulfillment” of which Jesus speaks also refers to each and every time that we hear the Gospel and respond. We do this by sincerely repenting of our sins and by becoming a fuller member of God’s Kingdom. But ponder for a moment the specific word “fulfillment.” What does this mean?

The word “fulfilled” can be contrasted with its opposite “unfulfilled.” To be unfulfilled is always undesirable. In this world, many people find themselves unfulfilled and try to fill this void with many things. Interestingly, the three temptations that Jesus had just experienced in the desert are among the temptations that so many people give into during their search for fulfillment in life.

First, Jesus was hungry, and the devil tempted Him to turn stones into bread to satiate that hunger. This is a temptation to fleshly fulfillment. Second, the devil tempted Jesus to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the Temple to prove He was the Son of God. This is a temptation to fulfillment by pride—pride to convince another of one’s importance and identity. Third, the devil showed Jesus all the nations of the world and promised them to our Lord if Jesus worshiped him. This is a temptation to fulfillment by obtaining earthly wealth and power. Of course, Jesus rejected all three temptations as a way of showing that none of these truly fulfill us. And He did this just prior to the beginning of His public ministry so as to then go forth preaching the true message of fulfillment. “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

True fulfillment is only found in the Gospel, the message of Truth that Jesus shared during His three years of public ministry and then brought to completion by His sacrificial death and resurrection. Only those who heed His words and open themselves to the grace poured forth from the Cross are able to find the fulfillment that they seek.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Thoughts on Prayer

"I believe that it is impossible to grasp all the different forms of prayer without great purity of heart and soul. There are as many forms of prayer as there are states of soul. A person pays in a certain manner when cheerful and in another when weighed down by sadness or a sense of hopelessness. When one is flourishing spiritually, prayer is different from when one is oppressed by the extent of one's struggles." - John Cassian

"Any concern too small to be turned into prayer is too small to be made into a burden."- Corrie Ten Bloom

"God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer." - Mother Teresa

"And so I urge you: carry on an ongoing conversation with God about the daily stuff of life, a little like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. For now, do not worry about 'proper' praying, just talk to God." - Richard J. Foster

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Perceiving God’s Invisible Nature

The divine apostle says: ‘Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature…has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made’ (Romans 1.20). If the invisible things are seen by means of the visible, the visible things are perceived in a far greater measure through the invisible by those who devote themselves to contemplation. For the symbolic contemplation of spiritual things by means of the invisible is nothing other than the understanding in the Spirit of visible things by means of the invisible.

MAXIMUS THE CONFESSOR Mystagogia, 2 (PG 91,669)

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Saint Anthony of the Desert

Title: Saint Anthony the Abbot in the Wilderness
Artist: Osservanza Master (Italian, Siena, active second quarter 15th century)
Date: ca. 1435
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 956
Used with permission

Saint Anthony was born in the year 251, in Upper Egypt. Hearing at Mass the words, If you would be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, he gave away all his vast possessions — staying only to see that his sister's education was completed — and retired into the desert. He then begged an aged hermit to teach him the spiritual life, and he also visited various solitaries, undertaking to copy the principal virtue of each.

To serve God more perfectly, Anthony immured himself in a ruin, building up the door so that none could enter. Here the devils assaulted him furiously, appearing as various monsters, and even wounding him severely; but his courage never failed, and he overcame them all by confidence in God and by the sign of the cross. One night, while Anthony was in his solitude, many devils scourged him so terribly that he lay as if dead. A friend found him in this condition, and believing him dead carried him home. But when Anthony came to himself he persuaded his friend to take him back, in spite of his wounds, to his solitude. Here, prostrate from weakness, he defied the devils, saying, I fear you not; you cannot separate me from the love of Christ. After more vain assaults the devils fled, and Christ appeared to Anthony in His glory.

Saint Anthony's only food was bread and water, which he never tasted before sunset, and sometimes only once in two, three, or four days. He wore sackcloth and sheepskin, and he often knelt in prayer from sunset to sunrise.

His admirers became so many and so insistent that he was eventually persuaded to found two monasteries for them and to give them a rule of life. These were the first monasteries ever to be founded, and Saint Anthony is, therefore, the father of cenobites of monks. In 311 he went to Alexandria to take part in the Arian controversy and to comfort those who were being persecuted by Maximinus. This visit lasted for a few days only, after which he retired into a solitude even more remote so that he might cut himself off completely from his admirers. When he was over ninety, he was commanded by God in a vision to search the desert for Saint Paul the Hermit. He is said to have survived until the age of a hundred and five, when he died peacefully in a cave on Mount Kolzim near the Red Sea. Saint Athanasius, his biographer, says that the mere knowledge of how Saint Anthony lived is a good guide to virtue.

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler's Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894); Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 1; The Saints, a Concise Biographical Dictionary, edited by John Coulson (Hawthorn Books, Inc.: New York, 1957).

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Prayer From the Depths

By prayer I mean not that which is only in the mouth, but that which springs up from the bottom of the heart. In fact, just as trees with deep roots are not shattered or uprooted by storms…in the same way prayers that come from the bottom of the heart, having their roots there, rise to heaven with complete assurance and are not knocked off course by the assault of any thought. That is why the psalm says: ‘Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord’ (Psalm 130.1).

JOHN CHRYSOSTOM On the Incomprehensibility of God, Sermon 5

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Come, and You Will See

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —. Then he brought him to Jesus. John 1:40–42

Andrew was a follower of Saint John the Baptist until John directed him to Jesus. One day John saw Jesus walk by and pointed to Jesus, telling Andrew and another disciple, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples followed after Jesus. After spending the day with Jesus, Andrew was so impressed that the next day he excitedly went to find his brother, Simon Peter, to tell him about Jesus. As is mentioned in the passage above, he enthusiastically tells Peter, “We have found the Messiah.” Then, once Peter meets Jesus, Peter also becomes His disciple.

A similar experience occurs between the brothers Philip and Nathanael (see John 1:43–51). Jesus calls Philip to follow Him, and he does. After coming to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, Philip goes to tell his brother Nathanael that he has found “the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets.” Nathanael believes and follows our Lord. Thus, a series of conversions began after John the Baptist gave testimony that Jesus was the “Lamb of God.”

Though we can be certain that Jesus did not need the testimony of John the Baptist to convert Andrew, nor the testimony of Andrew to convert Simon Peter, nor the testimony of Philip to convert Nathanael, this is how it happened. Jesus chose to use these three to bring about the conversion of others.

In God’s divine plan of salvation, He regularly uses the mediation of others to bring forth the conversion of hearts. We see this on many levels. First and foremost, He uses our Blessed Mother as the Mediatrix of Grace to bring forth His grace upon us all. She is the instrument and Jesus is the source. Through her mediation, there are other saints who act as intercessors. And there are countless angels who also act as distributors of God’s grace and mercy. God is the source of all but uses the heavenly hosts to bring forth His grace upon us all.

The same is true within our earthly existence. In addition to the numerous angels and saints who act as intercessors and mediators, God uses each one of us to bring about His Kingdom here and now in the lives of many. Every time we speak God’s words or witness to God through our actions, we become instruments of God’s mercy. And if we fully commit ourselves to the divine will, there are many who will be converted by God’s grace through us.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Our Lady of Silence

Virgin and Child
Workshop of Gerard David Netherlandish
From the Met Collection: Used with permission

"When you no longer see how to continue on your life's path, when every chance seems lost, when your efforts seem to be in vain, then be silent. Let yourself be carried on by silence, let yourself be lifted up by love, without resistance, without interference of the tumult of your thoughts. Then you will find the way to follow and in it you will catch a glimpse of my face, and by following it you will radiate my peace."


Friday, January 12, 2024

Quotes of St. Aelred of Rievaulx

No medicine is more valuable , none more efficacious, none better suited to the cure of our temporal ills than a friend to whom we may turn for consolation in time of trouble, and with whom we may share happiness in time of joy.

Friendship is that virtue by which spirits are bound by ties of love and sweetness and out of many are made one.

“Moreover, one should so respect a friend's presence that he dare not perform anything shameful or speak any unbecoming word, since any fault so reflects on a friend that the friend not only blushes and grieves inwardly but also reproaches himself with what he sees or hears, as if he had committed the sin himself.”

“Here we are, you and I, and I hope that Christ makes a third with us. No one can interrupt us now... So come now, dearest friend, reveal your heart and speak your mind."

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Childlike Trust

Oh smallest of human creatures, do you want to find life? Preserve in yourself faith and humility and…in them you will find the one who protects you and dwells secretly with you. When you come before God in prayer, be in your thought like an ant, like something crawling on the ground, like a child lisping. And in his presence make no pretense of knowledge. Approach God rather with the heart of a child. Go into his presence to receive the loving care with which fathers look after their little children. It has been said, ‘The Lord protects little children.’ When God sees that in all purity of heart you are trusting in him more than in yourself…then a strength unknown to you will come to make its dwelling in you. And you will feel in all your senses the power of him who is with you.

ISAAC OF NINEVEH Ascetic Treatises, 19

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

St. Gregory of Nyssa: God’s House, Inward Birth

What came about in bodily form in Mary, the fullness of the godhead shining through Christ in the Blessed Virgin, takes place in a similar way in every soul that has been made pure. The Lord does not come in bodily form, for ‘we no longer know Christ according to the flesh’, but he dwells in us spiritually and the Father takes up his abode with him, the Gospel tells us. In this way the child Jesus is born in each one of us.

GREGORY OF NYSSA On Virginity (PG 46, 324 & 838)

In order that the dispositions of the Gospel and the things of the Holy Spirit may develop in us, their author has to be born in us.

GREGORY OF NYSSA Against Eunomius (PG 45, 585)

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Eternal Novelty

The deepest love cannot be boring. The vision of Beauty can never be dull. Finite experiences become commonplace, stale, flat, wearying, but never this one. If the mystic cannot find words to describe his enthrallment on earth, who is going to find words to speak of what eye has not seen nor ear heard? But babble on we must.

The weariness and eventual satiety that arise in extended sense pleasures are due to an overstimulation of an expendable (because material) power. Such overstimulation, however, is impossible in any purely intellectual activity because there is nothing expendable in it, and especially is it impossible in the purely intellectual activity of the beatific vision. Even on the natural level of everyday life the more one understands anything the more is his mind vigorous and strong. The intellect is not hurt by its light–it only grows in it. God seen cannot weaken our minds or weary them. Satiety never comes.

FATHER THOMAS DUBAY, S.M. God Dwells Within Us; Chapter 8, Transfiguring Consummation; Dimension Books, 1971

Monday, January 8, 2024

Baptism of the Lord

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is a liturgical bridge that connects the Christmas season to Ordinary Time. During the Christmas season we pondered the Incarnation, Nativity, Presentation in the Temple, and Epiphany. Today, we see Jesus manifesting Himself to the world as He began His three years of public ministry.

Jesus begins His ministry through an act of deep solidarity with the fallen human race. John the Baptist had been preaching in the desert and offering a baptism of repentance. John’s baptism was not the same as our baptism today. Instead, it was only a sign of one’s willingness to turn away from sin and turn toward God. Jesus, of course, had nothing to repent of. He was sinless in every way. But that didn’t stop Him from freely choosing to receive the baptism of repentance. Why would He do that?

Simply put, Jesus chose to unite Himself with fallen humanity, taking upon Himself our own sins and suffering their consequences. He humbly allowed Himself to be identified as a sinner in need of repentance. This was done out of love for us and out of His longing to become one with us so that we could become one with Him.

By bowing His sacred head to receive the baptism of repentance, Jesus united Himself and His divinity to everyone who had already chosen to repent. And He gave power to every forthcoming act of repentance others would make, even until today. When we repent today, we meet Jesus in that same water of repentance.

It was not only the Eternal Son Who was present at that baptism of repentance, but the Father and the Holy Spirit as well. The Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and the Father’s Voice spoke to acknowledge His oneness with His Son. Therefore, every time we make a humble act of repentance, such as when we combine the crucifixion, the Trinity, and holy water upon entering a church and blessing ourselves, we not only meet our Lord but also receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and share more fully in our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father in Heaven.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Saint André Bessette

He was born Alfred Bessette in Saint-Grégoire d’Iberville, Quebec, Canada, and was the eighth of twelve children. His father was crushed by a falling tree and died when Alfred was only three. His mother died three years later of tuberculosis, leaving him and his siblings orphans. From birth, Alfred was a sickly child and remained so throughout his life. Most people thought he would die at a young age, but he lived until he was ninety-one!

Alfred had a distinct smile. It was serious, warm, welcoming, pleasant, and calming. He was a hard worker, but his poor health made it difficult for him to maintain a steady job. At the age of twenty-five, Alfred sought spiritual direction from his pastor, who encouraged him to present himself to the Congregation of the Holy Cross in Montreal for acceptance into religious life. The pastor sent along a letter to the superior, which said in part, “I am sending you a saint.” The problem was that Alfred could hardly read, and the order was a teaching order of well-educated men. After some initial hesitation, the superior welcomed him into the novitiate at the encouragement of the bishop.

Upon making his vows, Alfred chose the name Brother André, and his first assignment was one he would keep for the rest of his life—doorkeeper. In addition to minding the door, he spent his time washing floors and windows, cleaning lamps, carrying firewood, and delivering messages. He was a humble servant content to carry out the most menial of tasks.

How does an illiterate doorkeeper become a saint? Brother André’s path of holiness consisted of living the most attractive virtue of humility, of listening attentively to troubled hearts, of showing a compassion that lifted countless burdens, and of showing a gentleness that put even the worst sinner at ease. Above all, Brother André showed a love of God and trust in the intercession of Saint Joseph that was calm, steadfast, and more certain to him than life itself. In his role of doorkeeper, Brother André had the joy of interacting with countless people for forty years. Over and over, Brother André inspired faith in both the saint and the sinner, the proud and the humble, the well-to-do and the poorest of the poor. Through his lowliness, soul after soul was drawn to God. Every time a life was changed, Brother André gave the credit to Saint Joseph. “Go to Saint Joseph, he will help you,” he would say throughout his life.

Not only was the soul of Brother André filled with the most beautiful virtues, his prayers also worked countless miracles. When people spoke to Brother André and asked for his prayers, a surprising pattern began to emerge—his prayers were answered! The sick were healed, the lame could walk, problems did disappear, and hearts were converted. By the time of his death, the brothers of his order attributed as many as 10,000 miracles to his intercession. But, according to Brother André, it wasn’t he who worked the miracles but Saint Joseph.

At first, word of Brother André’s powerful prayers slowly trickled from person to person, but eventually his renown flowed like a river, roaring from one end of Canada to the other. Lines of people came streaming to him. He prayed for the sick, spent time with those who visited, went out of his way to speak to souls in need, and dispensed mercy and compassion to all. Towards the end of his life, this holy man who struggled with reading received as many as 80,000 letters each year from people asking for his prayers. He entrusted them all to Saint Joseph.

“It is with the smallest brushes that the artist paints the best paintings,” Brother André was fond of saying. The artist was God, and Brother André was the smallest and most humble brush. The living work of art God painted with Brother André was on full display at his wake and funeral. It is estimated that a million people paid their respects during the week that his body lay in state outside of St. Joseph’s Oratory! Brother André’s beautiful legacy was memorialized in a humble chapel he built to Saint Joseph. Over time, that chapel has been transformed and enlarged into the massive St. Joseph Oratory on Mount Royal near the Collège Notre-Dame. The Oratory sits on a hill and towers over its surroundings. It is crowned by one of the largest domes in the world and remains a place of pilgrimage and prayer. On the walls of its crypt hangs a moving testament to Brother André’s healing powers—hundreds of pairs of discarded crutches. The humble are not always exalted in this world, but Brother André truly was.

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Friday, January 5, 2024

A Little Sack Stuffed With Divinity

Behold peace, not promised but present, not deferred but conferred, not prophesied but presented. Behold, God the Father has sent to the earth, as it were, a sack filled with his mercy, a sack that must be cut to pieces in the passion so that it can pour out what is concealed in it for our ransom; a small sack, indeed, but stuffed full. A child has been given us, but in him dwells the whole fullness of divinity. He came in the flesh so that in this way he might be shown to those made of flesh, and in the likeness of humanity so that his graciousness might be recognized. When God’s humanity becomes known, his graciousness can no longer be concealed.


Thursday, January 4, 2024

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first citizen of the United States to be canonized a saint. She was born in New York into a prestigious and loving Anglican family of strong faith just two years before the Declaration of Independence was written. Her father was a well-respected physician. Unfortunately, her mother died when Elizabeth was only three. One of her sisters would die a year later. Her father remarried shortly after, and he and his new wife had seven children. Elizabeth was very fond of her stepmother and often accompanied her on charitable rounds caring for the poor. Sadly, when her stepmother and her father eventually separated, Elizabeth’s stepmother abandoned her, leaving young Elizabeth without a mother once again.

After a materially comfortable but difficult childhood, Elizabeth entered into a beautiful marriage at the age of nineteen with a wealthy shipping magnate named William Seton, with whom she had five children. While Elizabeth was pregnant with their third child, her father-in-law died, so the couple took William’s six younger siblings into their home to care for them. Soon after, a shocking event occurred. William’s business went bankrupt and the entire family had to abandon their home and move in with Elizabeth’s father who died shortly afterward in 1801.

By 1803, William was suffering from tuberculosis. At the recommendation of a physician, Elizabeth, her husband, and their eldest daughter spent their last bit of money to travel to the warmer climate of Italy to see if William could regain his health. Shortly after their arrival, William died. Elizabeth, only twenty-nine years old, was now fatherless, twice motherless, widowed, in a foreign land, and far from four of her children, for whom she had no way to provide.

When one has faith, heavy crosses can elicit much grace, which is what happened to Elizabeth. A month before her beloved William died, Elizabeth wrote in a journal, “Oh well may I love God—well may my whole soul strive to please him, for what but the strain of an Angel can ever express what he has done and is constantly doing for me—While I live—while I have my being in Time and thro’ Eternity let me sing praises to my God.” She was not bitter or resentful; instead, she praised God for all the good He had done for her.

While in Italy, before returning to New York to be reunited with the rest of her children, Elizabeth stayed with a devout Catholic family whose father had been a business partner of her husband. Through their inspiration and example, Elizabeth began to discover the Catholic faith. She visited many churches, discovered the Memorare prayer to the Virgin Mary, experienced the Sacred Liturgy, inquired about Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, and began to understand the Church’s unbroken Apostolic succession.

When she arrived back in New York the following summer, her sister-in-law and closest friend, Rebecca, also died. Though heartbroken, Elizabeth strengthened her faith, deepened her devotion to our Blessed Mother, and continued seeking the will of God. When family and friends learned of her interest in Catholicism, she was shunned. Despite personally experiencing the anti-Catholicism so rampant in that era, Elizabeth persevered and entered the Church the following Ash Wednesday.

The journey that God had in mind for Elizabeth from that point forward would turn out to be monumental. She became a teacher in New York, but when word of her conversion to Catholicism spread, the Episcopalian parents whose children she taught withdrew them. Eventually, in 1809 at the invitation of the Sulpician Order, she moved to Maryland where she founded a congregation of sisters and started the first Catholic grade school in America. The school offered a free education to poor girls. Elizabeth was elected superior of the congregation and was henceforth called “Mother Seton.” Her daughters were able to live with her and continue their education at the school, and her sons lived and were educated at the nearby boys’ school. She remained superior until her death at the age of forty-six. She continued her childhood love of caring for the poor and inspiring many others to do the same.

Mother Seton faced many challenges in life, but she faced them with faith, with the tenderness of her personality, and with affection, determination, and concern for the poor and outcasts. She was a woman of great personal faith who discovered the true objective faith in the Catholic Church. For these and many other reasons, this poor woman became rich in eternity, while also enriching the lives of many others along the way.

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