St. Pius V (1504-1572) was the pope entrusted with enforcing the decrees and reforms of the Council of Trent. Born in Italy as Michael Ghislieri, he came from a humble background, and as a youth entered the Dominican Order. Michael developed a reputation as a preacher and teacher; in 1556 he was appointed a bishop, and the following year, a cardinal.
Cardinal Ghislieri strongly supported the reforms of the Church enacted by the Council of Trent (1545-1563), and in 1566 he was elected pope (with the help of the reform-minded Cardinal St. Charles Borromeo). During his six-year reign, Pius ordered the establishment of seminaries for the training of priests, published a new missal (which remained in use for 400 years), and set up Confraternity of Christian Doctrine classes (CCD) for the young. Pius sought, sometimes unsuccessfully, to uphold the Church’s political authority against various European nations. Queen Elizabeth’s interference with Church affairs in England led to her excommunication by Pius; the pope also struggled against the ambitions of the Holy Roman Emperor and King Philip II of Spain.
Pius’ greatest secular triumph was his sponsorship of the European fleet which defeated the Turkish navy in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, thus saving Europe from a Turkish invasion. Pius was unswerving in his efforts to improve the Church. Many people criticized his methods, but he had the respect of the Roman people, for he established hospitals to care for the sick and distributed food to the poor. In his own personal life Pius remained true to his Dominican origins; unlike some of his predecessors, he lived very simply and devoted much time to prayer.
1. Because of human sinfulness, the Church is always in need of reform — just as are individual Christians. St. Pius responded by implementing Trent’s decrees and by promoting solid religious education.
2. Even saints acting in a just cause aren’t guaranteed worldly or political success; some of Pius’ efforts failed (as when his excommunication of Elizabeth I resulted in a persecution of English Catholics). However, in the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “God calls us not to be successful, but to be faithful.”
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Catherine of Siena (1380), Virgin, Doctor, Patroness of Italy and fire prevention
2 And the twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.
3 Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty.
4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."
5 And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Proch'orus, and Nica'nor, and Ti'mon, and Par'menas, and Nicola'us, a proselyte of Antioch.
6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them.
7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
2 Praise the LORD with the lyre, make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
4 For the word of the LORD is upright; and all his work is done in faithfulness.
5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.
18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death, and keep them alive in famine.
17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Caper'na-um. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.
18 The sea rose because a strong wind was blowing.
19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat. They were frightened,
20 but he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid."
21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth;
7 but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
1 My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
2 and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger for ever.
13 As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
17 But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children,
18 to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
26 yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.
27 All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) was the youngest of twenty-five children, and her parents hoped she would marry a wealthy young man — but she had already dedicated her life to God. When her mother nagged her about making herself attractive, Catherine, in a gesture of defiance, cut off her beautiful hair so no one would want to marry her. She was punished by being given the hardest work and forced to wait on all the other family members; Catherine’s cheerful obedience led to her father’s decreeing that she be left in peace.
For some years Catherine lived as a recluse in her room, praying and meditating; then, at age eighteen, she entered the Dominican Third Order. Italy was touched by a plague, and Catherine spent much time caring for the poor and the sick. Her remarkable love and devotion attracted others, and gradually a group formed about her, including lay persons, priests, and religious.
In 1375 Catherine gained an international reputation by mediating the conflict between the papacy and the city of Florence, and then used her influence to advise kings and make political treaties. Catherine was influential in convincing the timid Pope Gregory XI to leave Avignon in France (where the popes had resided for many years) and return to Rome, freeing the Church from excessive French influence. This success was short-lived, however, for in 1378 Gregory died, and the Great Schism — a division of allegiance between two rival popes — developed. Catherine steadfastly supported Pope Urban VI, the properly-elected successor to Gregory, but the schism was not resolved for almost forty years.
In 1380 St. Catherine died at the age of only thirty-three, surrounded by her followers; much of Europe mourned her passing. She was known as a visionary and mystic, and some of her writings are still widely used. In 1970 Pope Paul VI declared her a Doctor (an eminent and reliable teacher) of the Church — one of the few women to be so honored. St. Catherine was a member of the Dominican lay order, and is a patron saint of the laity.
1. Catherine was “stubborn” as a child in pursuing her vocation, but also cheerful and obedient — and it was these qualities which convinced her father to give in to her wishes. We too must be firm in our faith — but in a way that attracts others, rather than condemning or alienating them.
2. In an era in which women were in many ways oppressed, St. Catherine found true “liberation” — not by political movements or activism, but by surrendering completely to Christ.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Peter of Verona (1252), Priest, Martyr
St. Hugh of Cluny (1109), Monk, advisor to nine popes
35 And he said to them, "Men of Israel, take care what you do with these men.
36 For before these days Theu'das arose, giving himself out to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was slain and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing.
37 After him Judas the Galilean arose in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered.
38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail;
39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!"
40 So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
42 And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.
13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the LORD!
2 And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased.
3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples.
4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.
5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, "How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?"
6 This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.
7 Philip answered him, "Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little."
8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him,
9 "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?"
10 Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.
12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost."
13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten.
14 When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!"
15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
19 For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart."
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,
23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.
6 Sacrifice and offering thou dost not desire; but thou hast given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering thou hast not required.
7 Then I said, "Lo, I come; in the roll of the book it is written of me;
8 I delight to do thy will, O my God; thy law is within my heart."
9 I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; lo, I have not restrained my lips, as thou knowest, O LORD.
17 And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted.
18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."
Our beloved Holy Father calls us to let mercy temper our conversations about publicly sanctioned offenses against the 5th, 6th and 9th commandments, particularly abortion, and indeed there is great wisdom in this. This beautiful call should not be misinterpreted as a “softening” of Church teaching on this most vital and basic issue, but a shift in the tone, clarity and charity with which we speak to our opponents. With this in mind, we ought to clarify the moral and intellectual contradiction of claiming one is “pro-choice” but not “pro-abortion” as if this is a morally tenable position, for it is not. We must concede that emotionally this is a statement professed and held by many who have been confused by the bewildering rhetoric of these troubled times, but it would not be charitable to let our confused brethren sit in this contradiction.The Position of the Enemy
The enemy of God and all His Saints is the bent one who has a vested interest in disorienting us by the misuse of speech. It is fashionable to hold the diabolical contradiction that one can be “pro-choice” but not “pro-abortion” but let it be known that this morally problematic stance proceeds from the father of lies. Human agents tricked into holding this contradiction are not the enemy, Satan is the enemy and our duty is found in charity committed to fraternal correction.
One who illustrates the morally untenable point well in all its illogical refinement is our former president who publically proclaimed that he is “pro-choice” and not pro-abortion. This is absurd coming from the single most pro-abortion president in this country’s history. He would go so far as to support an abortion for his own daughter rather than “see her punished with a baby” in the event of a “sexual mistake.” As abhorrent as this notion is, we must still remember that the human person is in the image and likeness of God and we are to combat the evil of these false notions, not the people themselves who hold them.
The rhetoric justifying abortion has been evolving at an alarming rate. Although “pro-choice” is a euphemism for “abortion” and “abortion” is a euphemism for murder in the womb, it is now impermissible to recognize and publically state that a “pro-choice” person is also one who is at least in some way supportive of abortion. The denial of this connection is due in part by the public assertion that abortion is an undesirable thing but still “rightfully” subordinated to a woman’s “choice.” So to soften the evil of the pro-choice position there is an artificial distinction invented to falsely suggest that pro-choice is a good thing while pro-abortion is a bad thing. The truth is that both are gravely immoral.
If we are going to explain the logical and moral flaws to our “pro-choice” brethren, we must do so on the grounds of truth and rightly ordered reason conveyed with charity. With that in mind, let us uncover the real distinction between the “pro-choice” and “pro-abortion” positions which will reveal a distinction that doesn’t really make much of a moral difference when it comes to moral and principled action.A True Distinction
There is an objective moral difference between toleration and promotion of a vice. St. Thomas Aquinas said “many things are permissible to men not perfect in virtue, which would be intolerable in a virtuous man.” Thomas clarifies the principle that the state ought not to legislate against all viciousness and must be prudential in its law making. He clarifies the point in article 2 of question 96 as he states: “Now human law is framed for a number of human beings, the majority of whom are not perfect in virtue. Wherefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like.” It is legitimate to bring up this principle in discussions about whether or not there ought to be laws concerning alcohol usage or even such serious things as prostitution, but as Thomas mentioned, a thing like murder of innocents is inappropriate to tolerate or promote.The Distinction without a Difference
Clearly there is a type of difference between the two positions of “pro-choice” and “pro-abortion” relative to the distinction between toleration and promotion. In general, it is indeed worse to promote a sin than it is tolerate a sin, but in the case of abortion there is an important qualification. Tolerating the sin of abortion is grave matter and promoting it is graver still. When it comes to grave matter that harms the fabric of society, it is not even licit to tolerate it. The fact that so many people believe that to tolerate abortion by a “pro-choice” stance is morally permissible is the result of generations of misuse of speech following the sexual revolution. Most reasonable people can be jarred out of this moral stupor by a simple thought experiment.
Take the “pro-choice” but not “pro-abortion” incongruity and substitute any other violent crime and a clear picture of the contradiction will emerge. Let’s say that when a person says “I am pro-choice” that the “choice” they are referring to is the choice of a man to rape a woman. The argument would go like this: “I don’t personally believe in rape, I would never rape a woman myself, but I believe every man has the right to choose whether or not he will rape a woman, it is his body and he can do with it what he wants, who am I to tell him he cannot rape a woman?, so I am “pro-choice” for a man, but I am not pro-rape.”
Would anyone in their right mind agree with this absurd and gravely immoral line of reasoning? Is it clear that toleration of rape is intolerable? Are there objections to be made by the analogy? In these confused times, of course there are. In the rape scenario the woman victim is analogous to the baby in the womb for the abortion scenario. Fair enough, but which deserves more protection, the woman victim? Or the child in the womb?
The modern world equivocates when it comes to what exactly is in the womb after conception, but this should be simple. When a sperm fertilizes an egg, conception produces an individuated being with his own unique DNA sequence. This is plainly a human person verifiable by science. Using Aristotle’s four causes, we can clearly see that a newly conceived life has a material cause, a formal cause, an efficient cause and a final cause whose substantial form is clearly a human soul. Using common sense we can know that a new born baby that had been in the womb for 9 months was indeed, from the moment of its conception, a human person. Theologically it is revealed to us that each human person is made in the image and likeness of God. So a grown woman is also a person in the image and likeness of God and if the child and woman don’t deserve equal protection, the more innocent and vulnerable of the two is the unborn child.What is abortion really?
The confusion on the abortion issue is conceived in the collective mind by an abuse of language repeated nearly ad-nauseam in the public square by educators and mass media signaling not just our addiction to false freedom but our acquiescence to the dictatorship of relativism. It is no longer permissible to speak the truth on these matters in public without denigrating reprisals. Yet still, let us as Catholics at least try to continue to make our voices heard for the sake of the unborn souls sacrificed on the altar of free sex.
The word “pro-choice” is a euphemism. It is a dishonest contrivance to say that the unthinkable crime of a woman terminating the life of her unborn child is a right. The misuse of speech is akin to calling a Nazi gas chamber a beauty spa. We rightfully look upon the Aztec human sacrifices with horror and refer to the custom as barbaric, but far worse and more prolific is the western custom of convincing our women that they have a right to kill their own children. We are warned not to use the word “kill” when we talk about this issue because it causes offense, but even this word is too soft if we are going to really call abortion what it truly is.
There are even worse euphemisms for “pro-choice” like “women’s health.” There is nothing healthy or health related about an abortion which kills one patient and emotionally, physically and spiritually scars the other for life. “Pro-choice’s” antecedent is clearly the medical term abortion. The legal antecedent of the medical term is the legal termination of human life in the womb. The moral antecedent is murder in the womb. The ontological antecedent killing an innocent human person. The Biblical antecedent is spilling the blood of Abel, which we must all remember is one of the five sins that cries out to heaven for vengeance.Heed the Call
The above reasoning is what we ought to teach our children and those closest to us, especially our brothers and sisters in the faith. Armed with the truth, those whom we teach can teach others closest to them. If we listen to our Holy Father we must not lead with the stark truth about what “pro-choice” really means. We must begin with the aim of evangelizing and preaching the Gospel of Life.
The most difficult hurdle in the pro-life discussion with souls accustomed to untruth and the place we must begin is the fact that an unborn child is a human person endowed with certain inalienable rights, most notably the right to life. After we establish the worth of the life of the unborn child, we must follow with the importance of the life and health of the mother. All of our arguments in the public square must flow from the truth about the dignity of all human persons.
We are called to display heroic virtue to protect all human life and especially innocent human life. May God grant us the courage and grace to speak more convincingly and charitably in public about the true nature of abortion. May it be that if we establish the building blocks of intelligibility concerning the dignity and worth of each and every human person, especially the unborn, then perhaps the morally incongruent position of “pro-choice” but not pro-abortion may be exposed for the fraudulent position it is. Let us become warriors for the light of truth by putting on the mind of Christ and the armor of God.
image: Paul Keeling / Shutterstock.com
It’s not politically incorrect to believe in God. Just so long as you acknowledge that all are God’s children, and that there are many, equally honorable paths to the Most High.
After all, that’s only fair. How conceited it would be to claim that your way is the only way.
There is nothing really new about this attitude. In the days of the Roman Emperors, no one had any problems with people worshiping some carpenter from Galilee who they believed to be God’s son. As long as they’d be broad-minded enough to worship the emperor and Jupiter, and the rest of the Pantheon as well. But instead, they believed what Peter proclaimed in this Sunday’s first reading: that there is no other name given under heaven by which we can be saved (Acts 4). Not Caesar, or Jupiter, or Mohammed, or Buddha. For such arrogant closed-mindedness they were thrown to the lions.
Does this mean that other creeds have nothing to offer but damnable lies? Not in the least. St. Justin Martyr (d. 165) said that there were “seeds of truth” scattered about in the teaching of the great philosophers. St. Paul honored the Athenians for their pious worship of the “unknown” God (Acts 17).
But we are not talking here about bits and pieces of truth, but about eternal salvation. Redemption required more than some good lectures or inspiring quotes–namely, a perfect sacrifice of a perfect life, a life of infinite value. Buddha did not lay down his life for his followers. Neither did Mohammed. And even if they had, they weren’t “savior” qualified in terms of possessing a sinless life of infinite (read divine) value.
Only the Word made flesh was qualified, and only he dared do it. He is, as Sunday’s gospel teaches us, the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. But he is not exclusivist–his sheep include anyone wants to be one of his sheep, even those who formerly drove the nails into his sacred hands. One sacrifice for all people, for all time.
Does this mean that if people haven’t heard of Him and continue to follow Mohammed or Buddha that they are certainly hell bound? Not exactly. For we are told that there are “other sheep” who do not yet travel with the flock but who do belong to the Shepherd. Responding to the hidden grace of the Holy Spirit, they’ve opened their heart to the truth, wherever it may be found, and seek to do what their conscience tells them is their duty. They may be devotees of Mohammed or Buddha because their hearts have recognized some sparks of truth and goodness in the teaching of those men, and they are hungry for truth and righteousness. If they die good Muslims or Buddhists and are saved, they are saved not by Mohammed or Buddha, but by the only savior, the one who died for them, the unknown God that they secretly sought as they eagerly read the Koran or contemplated the bliss of nirvana.
So we should just leave them alone since they’ll be saved anyway, right? That’s not what the gospel says. The fact that it is possible they’ll be saved doesn’t mean it’s a sure thing. The Shepherd wants to feed his sheep with rich fare, with nourishment adequate for the long and arduous journey home. And he wants to protect them from the thieves and robbers waiting to ambush the sheep as they make their way down the road. He can only do this if he can gather them into one flock that he can lead to the green pastures of the Scriptures, the Sacraments, and the rich Tradition of the Catholic Church, the nourishment that makes for not just survival, but an abundant life (John 10:10). So it’s our duty to do what we can to introduce them to the Shepherd and let them know where the best food is to be found.
A Scripture lesson by a mysterious Stranger on a dusty road prepares two disciples to recognize the Risen Jesus in the breaking of bread; what did they learn?Gospel (Read Lk 24:13-35)
Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus appeared to two “downcast” (Lk 24:17) disciples on Resurrection Day, He didn’t do the very thing that would have broken into their despair—identify Himself? Why were these men traveling away from Jerusalem? Surely it was because Jesus’ death there had deeply disappointed them. They had been “hoping that He would be the one to redeem Israel” (Lk 24:21), and that had fallen to dust and defeat. What was the point of staying in Jerusalem any longer?
When Jesus appeared to them, He could have set all this right. Keeping His identity from them, however, He chose a different way. This should catch our attention immediately. If Jesus had revealed His identity, would they have been able to focus on what followed? Probably not. As it turned out, they were riveted to what He had to say; He had their full attention. He should have ours, too.
What did He teach them? Beginning with the Book of Genesis, the first of the five books attributed to Moses, and then in all the rest of the Old Testament, Jesus revealed to the disciples that His horrific suffering, death, and Resurrection were part of a plan already written down, hundreds of years before. What had the appearance of terrible failure and collapse was precisely how God intended to carry out His plan. Can we imagine the impact of this lesson on the men who first heard it? They were Jews who had known the Scriptures all their lives, yet neither they nor their teachers had ever perceived that the Messiah would be God’s Son, Who would enter the glory of His reign as King of Israel through suffering. How had they missed that? Actually, it wasn’t a case of “missing.” Those Old Testament Scriptures were waiting to be revealed. Their true meaning was not clear until the Incarnation, even though they were there on the page. Until Gabriel appeared to Mary in Nazareth, they were muted, shadowy, and hidden. Jesus wanted the Emmaus disciples to see for themselves that God had not lost control of His Creation, even in the disaster they had recently experienced in Jerusalem. Sometimes this fact makes me wonder if we ourselves now read some parts of the New Testament without full understanding until Jesus returns. St. Paul does suggest as much, when he writes that now we see “through a glass darkly” (1 Cor 13:12). For example, when Jesus tells us, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Mt 5:6), are we foolish and slow of heart to believe? What are the surprises God has in store for us as we wait for the Lord’s Second Coming?
Once the Emmaus disciples had confidence in God’s plan to keep His promises, they were ready to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Here is where the Church learned that the Table of the Word prepares us for the Table of the Eucharist. The lectionary readings help us to “see” God’s plan at work through many ages and authors and events in Scripture; the Eucharist enables us to encounter God’s plan, Jesus.
It was the fullness of knowledge of Jesus from both Scripture and the Eucharist that dazzled the disciples: “Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Lk 24:32) This “holy heartburn” should be ours at every Mass.
Possible Response: Father, teach me to have confidence in Your plan of goodness for Your Creation. I need to remember that You know what You’re doing.First Reading (Read Acts 2:14, 22-33)
We know from the Gospel reading that Jesus wanted to drive away the sadness of the Emmaus disciples not by simply appearing to them (as He eventually did), but by showing them from Scripture that God had always had a plan for His Creation, and that He chose to use suffering (a just punishment on sin) to accomplish this plan.
It should not surprise us, then, to see that on the Day of Pentecost, Peter boldly preached to the Jews of Jerusalem that Jesus’ death on the Cross came “by the set plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). We understood from the Gospel reading how important it was to Jesus, after His Resurrection, that His disciples understand this. While it was unfolding, the Passion looked like chaos and defeat. Afterward, Jesus taught them that it had been His victory and glory.
They got it! That is why Peter could preach so confidently about God’s plan on Pentecost. He went on also to explain Psalm 16 to the crowd (and this from an uneducated fisherman!). How was Peter able to do this? Surely what Jesus began on the Emmaus road was continued with the apostles during the forty days between His Resurrection and the Ascension. Jesus used that time to open the Scriptures to men who could now truly understand them. That is the only explanation for Peter’s deep insight into Psalm 16. He saw that it was a prophetic Messianic psalm written by David, king of Israel, hundreds of years earlier. It actually described Jesus, because it spoke of one whom death could not hold (and Peter helpfully pointed out to the crowd that David’s tomb proved he had died). All the early preaching of the Church to the Jews drew heavily on Old Testament Scriptures. How the apostles savored this joy! Peter wanted the world to know: “God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Exalted at the right hand of God, He received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured Him forth, as you see and hear” (Acts 2:33). All the promises of God are “yes” in Jesus.
Possible response: Lord, Peter helped the Jews understand a new meaning in words of Scripture they had known all their lives. Please give me ears to hear what Your Word is actually saying.Psalm (Read Ps 16: 1-2a, 5, 7-11)
This is the psalm Peter used in our first reading to help the Jews understand that the Resurrection of the Messiah was always part of God’s plan: “You will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will You suffer Your faithful one to undergo corruption” (Ps 16:10). At the time David wrote it, he spoke of himself. He was in a difficult situation and expected God to preserve his life. However, Peter helps us see that David was also writing prophetically about one of his descendants, Jesus. Peter could only have learned this from Jesus Himself. Our fuller understanding of the psalms now enables us to see them as primarily prayers of Jesus, the true King of Israel. In this psalm, Jesus delights in God’s care of Him as His Son, trusting God to free Him from death. Now, of course, the psalms become our prayers, too, as members of Christ’s Mystical Body. We, along with David and Jesus, can rejoice over our own escape from death and corruption. Their words become ours: “Lord, You will show us the path of life” (Ps 16:11).
Possible response: Lord, sometimes I’m not looking for “the path of life,” because I’m busy following my own path. Help me have eyes to see the way in which I should walk.Second Reading (Read 1 Pet 1:17-21)
In the Acts passage, we read a description of Peter’s preaching written by St. Luke. In the epistle, we hear directly from Peter himself. We find once more an emphasis on God’s eternal plan that cannot be thwarted: “[Jesus] was known before the foundation of the world but revealed in the final time for you” (1 Pet 1:20). Can we fathom the meaning of this? “Known before the foundation of the world” takes us way, way back to the beginning of God’s plan. His desire to love and bless us began outside of time and will continue after time has ended. His plan is goodness itself, and nothing in all Creation can derail it. What a help this can be to us, now and always, as we look around and sometimes see only chaos and defeat, as the apostles once did. Jesus has been revealed for us. What should be our response to this great gift from God? “Conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning” (1 Pet 1:17). Reverence comes when we truly believe God is present with us, in control of His plan, seeing it through to its glorious end. As Peter says, our “faith and hope are in God” (1 Pet 1:21).
Possible response: Father, grant me a proper reverence for You in all the circumstances of my life. Help me stay confident that nothing catches You by surprise.
The son of a French peasant, St. Peter Chanel (1803-1841) became a priest as a young man, and within three years brought about a spiritual renewal in his parish by showing great devotion to the sick. However, he desired to be a missionary, and at age twenty-eight joined the Society of Mary (the Marists).
For five years Peter taught in the Marist seminary; then he and several other missionaries were sent to the New Hebrides Islands in the Pacific. Peter, a Marist brother, and an English layman were assigned to the island of Futuna, whose ruler Niuliki had only recently stamped out cannibalism. At first the missionaries were well received, and Peter devoted himself to learning the local language and adjusting to life with whalers, traders, and warring native tribes. He remained gentle and calm in spite of great physical want and an apparent lack of success as a missionary. Eventually Peter won the confidence of many natives, and he began making converts. One of his catechumens said, “He loves us. He does what he teaches. He forgives his enemies. His teaching is good.” However, Niuliki became increasingly suspicious, and when his own son converted to Catholicism, he reacted violently.
In 1841, three years after his arrival on Futuna, St. Peter Chanel was seized by Niuliki’s warriors and clubbed to death, becoming the first martyr of the South Seas.
1. Our Christian example is of vital importance in converting others or in bringing about a spiritual renewal; St. Peter Chanel’s personal example testified to the truth of the gospel he proclaimed.
2. As Niuliki’s reaction shows, some people are threatened by the gospel, and may react unfavorably or even violently, as Jesus foretold (Luke 21:12-17).
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Louis Marie De Montfort (1716), Priest, Founder of Montfort Fathers
St. Paul of the Cross (1775), Priest, Founder of the Passionists
When I was much younger, my father brought me to the house of a very rich relative, a non-Catholic but a very religious man. While my father talked to him, I explored his mansion with my companions. On the second floor we found a big shrine with an enormous Buddha, images of some Chinese gods, statues of Mary and Jesus. There were food, drinks and burning incense, whose scent filled the room.
Back home I asked my father about what we saw. I remember that he said that my uncle was one who never left anything to chance. So, he practiced whatever religion suited him for each particular business situation.
That experience I had as a young person has made a lasting impression on me. It did not fit my belief in the one true God, that our God is not one of many gods.
I could not understand putting together a shrine with images of Jesus and Mary, of Buddha and various Chinese gods.
We could perhaps reflect on a few questions: Are there “other gods” which exist in my life and belief? How does belief in the Lord Jesus affect my daily life? Can people see my faith in Jesus in my actions? How do I share in the great mystery of the God-made-Man?
A little over five years have now passed since the new translation of the Roman Missal went into effect in the various English-speaking countries. In this wonderful new edition, if you turn to the latter part of Appendix VI, there are prayers that the priest is encouraged to say before and after Mass. And one of them – the “Formula of Intent” – is, I think, very important and worth sharing with you today. Here it is:
My intention is to celebrate Mass
and to consecrate the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ
according to the Rite of Holy Roman Church,
to the praise of almighty God
and all the Church triumphant,
for my good
and that of all the Church militant,
for all who have commended themselves to my prayers
in general and in particular,
and for the welfare of Holy Roman Church.
Should a lay person pray this prayer as-written? No. He or she does not share in Christ’s ministerial priesthood. However, by virtue of his or her baptism, a lay person does share in the priesthood of the faithful. That is to say, baptism qualifies every lay person to make a pleasing offering to God and to offer him fitting worship. Perhaps this prayer could be adapted, then? I think so.
Let’s give it a try. What if you were to come to church a good 10 minutes before Mass, and in the process of quietly recollecting yourself, recited devoutly something like the following prayer (adapted from the one above)?
My intention is to participate in this Mass fully, consciously and actively,
and to worship the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ
made present on the altar by the priest according to the Rite of Holy Roman Church,
to the praise of almighty God
and all the Church triumphant,
for my good
and that of all the Church militant,
for all who have commended themselves to my prayers
in general and in particular,
and for the welfare of Holy Roman Church.
Might such prayer change the way that you participate in Mass? I think it would. Saying this prayer each Sunday and Holy Day, and whatever other days you might be able to go to Mass, you would begin to see yourself as part of a larger scene, so to speak: as a soldier in the Church militant who has something to bring to the battle. You might more effectively remember to pray for the many intentions you accumulate throughout each week, by consciously offering them both generally and in particular. You may look upon your baptismal priesthood in a new way: you have something to offer to God as well!
It is so important that we make a fruitful preparation for Holy Mass. If the Eucharist is, as the Church teaches, the “source and summit” of our Christian life, then let us act as if that were the case! We have probably all seen Masses that were celebrated shabbily, by ministers who seemingly did not prepare themselves well for what they were about to do. Do we participate in Mass rather shabbily ourselves?
It surely is a struggle to stay recollected and to give it our all. But it’s easier when we have taken some time to prepare beforehand. The adapted “Formula of Intent” prayer above might help. Try it and see!+
Art for this post Preparing for Mass: Taking a Cue from a Prayer for Priests: Missale Romanum, photographed by Lima, 24 September 2006, CCA-SA 2.5 Generic, Wikimedia Commons.About Fr. Bryan Jerabek
Father Bryan W. Jerabek, J.C.L. is a priest of the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama, currently serving as Rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul in Birmingham, Chancellor of the Diocese, and Judge on the Marriage Tribunal. He received his License in Canon Law from the Pontifical College of the Holy Cross in Rome. His personal blog is fatherjerabek.com. Besides his native English, Father also speaks Spanish and Italian. He enjoys traveling and so far has been to 18 countries. Father’s present favorite food is Spanish tortilla.
This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.
The mission of St. Mary’s Parish is to proclaim and celebrate our salvation through Jesus Christ,our pilgrimage to the Father’s Kingdom enlivened by the Holy Spirit. Our Catholic faith community is nourished by our sacramental life, especially the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. With Mother Mary as our model, we demonstrate our faith through worship, education, vocations and service.