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Why Protestants Err in Claiming ‘Solus Christus’

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 22:05

One of the traditional depictions of Christ on the cross includes tiny angels adorning the bars of cross. In one version, by Gustave Dore, the cross is crowded with angels clinging to it. One medieval painting shows a crowd clustered at the foot of the cross while busy angels dart to and from the cross of Christ and those of the thieves.

These images illustrate a profound truth: we never really encounter Christ alone. This, I believe, is the fundamental error at the root of the Protestant Reformation’s cry of solus Christus.

One explanation of solus Christus is that it is primarily about salvation (the doctrine of justification). The argument is that we need Christ alone — no interference or assistance from the saints, priests, popes, or Mary. But the practical effect of this false teaching is that devotion to the saints and Mary and obedience to priests and popes is eliminated from the life of the Christian.

This is at odds with a fundamental reality of the gospels: Christ is always with other people. Rarely does someone meet with Christ alone. Indeed, one strains to think of when Christ is ever alone. Rather, from the very beginning Christ relates to the world through other persons, through a community.

Consider the Incarnation itself: Christ did not ‘descend’ from heaven but instead was ‘born.’ He certainly could have appeared from the heavens, already fully human while fully divine. That might seem odd to us only because the Christmas story is so intimately familiar. But really it is strange that a being from another world should enter ours in such a manner. There is no counterpart in the modern myths of our culture, nor even in the ancient world, in which there were accounts of divine births but they always involved some element of violence and the prior descent of some other deity. Nor is there precedent in the Old Testament.

But Christ first appeared on this earth as a member of humanity’s primordial community, the family. When the three wise men and the shepherds venerated him, they did so in the presence of St. Joseph and Mary. It was Mary who first introduced Christ to John the Baptist and Mary who first publicly presented him at the temple.

This pattern continues in the ministry of Jesus. What does Jesus do first? Stand in the ancient town square and start proclaiming the good news? No—He first meets someone else who was drawing large crowds to himself, John the Baptist. And what does Jesus then do? Does He then take John the Baptist’s place? No, He presents himself as one of the crowd. And as they did, so He also submits to baptism by John.

Even after this, Jesus does not start preaching alone. Instead, He recruits disciples to first follow Him. Only then, with this company, does Jesus set out to preach and heal. Preaching, by its very nature, is a public act. In our society, healing tends to be the opposite: it is intimate and private. But that’s not how it is in the gospels. Most accounts of Jesus’ healings always seem to involve the presence of other people—from the hemorrhaging woman who snuck through the crowd to the deaf man who was presented to Jesus by a crowd (Mark 7).

In the crucifixion too, Jesus was not alone. John and Mary were at his feet. Even in the moment in which He parts with His mother and experiences the agony of divine abandonment, Jesus was not alone: two others were crucified with Him. This continues in His death. The descent to hell today is sometimes described as a solitary event but in traditional depictions it’s a crowded scene: usually Jesus is seen pulling Adam and Eve out of their graves by their wrists, surrounded by many other Old Testament saints.

The one obvious exception to this in the gospels is those moments when Jesus retires to pray. But this exception explains the pattern we otherwise see: even during these times Jesus is not truly alone because He is praying to God the Father. So Jesus can never be alone: the Trinity, the divine community is always with Him. “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” Jesus said in John 14:10.

This is why Jesus normally appears with others in the gospels. His very manner of appearing reveals a fundamental truth about God. God is not a lonely God. He is not like Adam, in paradise yet lacking for a partner. He is a community. (Yet He is not a plurality of individual beings. He is one because He is perfect.)

Because God is a community held in love, when we encounter God through community we are brought closer to Him. Just as loving others draws us to God, as Pope Benedict XVI, explains in Deus Caritas Est: “[I]f in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be ‘devout’ and to perform my ‘religious duties,’ then my relationship with God will also grow arid. … Love grows through love.”

The special community which introduces us to God by mirroring his very being is the Church. As Cardinal Anders Arborelius of Stockholm put it, the Church is meant to be “the community of saints reflecting the Most Holy Trinity” (This was in an interview with me for a news story.) Pope Benedict XVI elaborates on this point in Caritas in Veritate:

The Trinity is absolute unity insofar as the three divine Persons are pure relationality. The reciprocal transparency among the divine Persons is total and the bond between each of them complete, since they constitute a unique and absolute unity. God desires to incorporate us into this reality of communion as well: ‘that they may be one even as we are one’ (Jn. 17:22). The Church is a sign and instrument of this unity.

Yes, the Church is the Body of Christ, as we often here, but precisely because of this it also a reflection of the Trinity. This is why the Protestant doctrine of solus Christus is so terribly wrong. In a misguided effort to ensure the saints and Mary don’t ‘steal’ any of Christ’s glory as our savior, it misses the big picture and indeed the whole point of what it means to be a Church. For it is precisely through the communion of saints that Christ’s glory shines forth to us. Rather than opening the way to Christ, the solus approach shuts out the very way He speaks to us today.

image: By Hartmann Linge (Own work (Original text: eigene Aufnahme)) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or CC BY-SA 3.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons

Patience: The Virtue We All Need

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 22:02

There is not one person in the world who could say that he does not need the virtue of patience. Jesus said:  By your patience you will save your soul. Given that this virtue is universal and not easy to attain, it shall be our topic for conversation in this brief article!

Patience for Who? 

You might stop and look at your life and ask the question: with whom, where, and when do I need the virtue of patience? Not to be overly simplistic, but I believe we can narrow this question to three distinct categories:

We have to be patient with others—those we meet, those we live with, those we work with, those we associate with, those with whom we come into contact either frequently or less frequently. Then, another very important category or person with whom we must exercise constant and infinite patience—and that is with ourselves, yes, with ourselves! Finally, and this last Person with whom we must practice patience may not be as obvious at first thought, is GOD!

This being said, we must be keenly aware of the hard and cruel fact that people will rub us the wrong way, get on our nerves, provoke us, exasperate us, and sometimes simply drive us bananas—to put it bluntly! As you read this article, I am sure that you have some person in mind, more likely, some persons in mind! Certain idiosyncrasies of others—their tone of voice, the pace they move at, their facial expression, the words they use or fail to use, drive you up the wall. We all know these people, have had contact with them, and probably do even right now. What then are we going to do to remedy this predicament?

Easier said than done—the solution to this problem of patience with the person or persons that seem to be simply intolerable! Let us offer three simple suggestions that can be invaluable!

First, Prayer! 

Jesus says that we have to pray, and not simply for those people whom we see as charming, attractive, likable, holy and unblemished—as if these people really do exist anyway. We must pray for all people because they were created by a loving God, and God wants all of humanity to form a family in which the virtues of love, compassion, mercy, and respect reign supreme! Jesus says very clearly that we have to even pray for our enemies, as He taught us on the cross: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.

Second, Humility! 

Be humble in the midst of your dislike of this person who drives you up the wall due to the many defects that you observe in him. Remember and call to mind your own defects, which might be more serious in the eyes of God than those of the person that you really cannot stand! God loves the humble, but rejects the arrogant and proud. When tempted to look down on this person, call to mind one of your most egregious failures or sins and God’s mercy towards you. This will help you to be more compassionate, kind, and patient toward this intolerable person!

Agere Contra

Third, put into practice what Saint Ignatius of Loyola teaches in the course of the Spiritual Exercises and it is the concept of agere contra. This is a short Latin phrase which literally means to go against! Therefore, when you are tempted to be impatient, unkind, cold or downright mean to this person who presses your buttons, do the opposite.

A smile, a kind word, a nice gesture, or even giving a gift—all this is difficult but very pleasing to God! This conquering of self, though difficult, is possible and once done a true sign of the victory of God’s grace in your life.

Patience With Yourself

Now what about patience with oneself? Those who are so-called perfectionists will always end up defrauded, especially with themselves. Why? For the simple reason that we live in a complex and very imperfect world, better yet a sinful world! Only God is perfect and all of humanity is composed of sinners, hopefully on the pathway of conversion. The Bible teaches us that the just man falls seven times a day. Jesus says that we must forgive those who offend us not seven times, but 70 times seven times.

In other words, even though we have to be constantly fighting to overcome our sinful tendencies, as well as sin itself in our lives, we should strive never to give in to impatience at our many falls, much less discouragement. Indeed, the saints teach us that after sin itself, discouragement is mortal enemy number one! Patience: name it and claim it!

The Founder of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, Venerable Bruno Lanteri expressed it in two short words, and these two words say it all: Nunc coepi, meaning now I begin. In other words, after we fall or fail in one way or another, we should get up, dust ourselves off, launch ourselves into the loving arms of God the Father (the image of Saint Therese of Lisieux), and simply start anew!

We should trust more in God’s grace than in our human weakness remembering the words of the great Apostle Saint Paul: When I am weak, it is then that I am strong! The newly canonized saint, the Missionary of California, Saint Junipero Serra coined this immortal phrase: Siempre Adelante, siempre Adelante y nunca atras, translated as Always forward, always forward and never turn back! Therefore, when we do fall (and no doubt we will fall) we should never give in to discouragement, but rather trust less in ourselves and more in God’s power in our lives. In other words, less self-reliance and more God-reliance! With the Psalmist let us exclaim: Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.

Patience With God

Finally, the last Person and the most important Person to be patient with is God Himself! This may surprise many who, in their hearts, might be thinking: I have never been impatient with God!

Have you ever prayed to God and found that your prayers were not answered according to your criteria? Have you ever asked God to help you in sickness and suffering and it seemed as if God was not listening, absent, or totally indifferent to your situation? Has it ever happened that you made a novena to God, to Mary, or to one of God’s angels or saints and the request made was not answered; instead, your situation seemed to get even worse? Has it ever happened that you prayed for the conversion of somebody and absolutely nothing seemed to happen? Has it ever happened in your life that you begged God with faith for the mountain to be moved, and when you got up the following morning the mountain had not moved or budged a millimeter? With these so called prayers or petitions and unresolved problems or aggravating circumstances where it seemed as if God really did not care, was indifferent, or even uninterested in your sorrowful plight, there is a good chance that you became impatient with God to the point of even becoming angry at God. This plight is more common than we might realize.

What then is the response to this predicament?

Our God is a God of infinite love! Our God is a God of infinite Wisdom! However, the mind of God is not the mind of man. His ways far transcend and supersede ours, in knowledge, wisdom, love, and planning. We can barely see beyond our own nose and we live only in a specific moment of time. Not so with God! He lives in the eternal present.

For an infinite and eternal God, the past, present, and future are all the same. This being said, for the sake of our conversion, sanctification, perseverance in grace, and eternal salvation, God’s plans and decisions will not always meet with our criteria. However, we must believe in God’s loving and providential design! All God does for you individually, personally, socially, and spiritually is always—in the broad and panoramic perspective and in the light of eternity—for your good. Therefore, strive never to be impatient with God but trust Him, trust totally and humbly in His infinite love for you and providential care. Beg Our Lady, who stood beneath the cross watching Jesus suffer and die, to have great trust and patience in God’s plan for your life!

“Receive our Lord, and keep Him

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 22:00

“Receive our Lord, and keep Him as long as you can. Make plenty of room for Him within you. To let Jesus Christ increase in one’s soul is the most perfect act of love.”

-St. Peter Julian Eymard, How to Get More out of Holy Communion

The Gospel reading gives us two

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 22:00

The Gospel reading gives us two parables to help us understand the kingdom of God. It is like a small mustard seed, which grows into a small tree, able to shelter birds in its branches. It is like yeast which leavens flour into bread.

In the first reading Paul tells us how we will enjoy the kingdom of God in its fullness when “we share the freedom and glory of the children of God” in the kingdom of heaven.

Our sins cut us off from the kingdom of God. When we are in sin, we live outside his grace. We banish the Holy Spirit from ourselves.

When we are burdened with troubles of whatever kind, with failures and disappointments, with suffering, the first reading assures us that all this is part of our preparation for full enjoyment of God’s life and glory.

Let our lives be alive and productive like the mustard seed growing into a tree, like the yeast transforming the flour into bread. Let our lives be faithful witnesses to the kingdom of God in this world.

St. Wolfgang

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 22:00

Wolfgang was born in Swabia, Germany in 930 A.D. He studied at Reichenau under the Benedictines and at Wurzburg before serving as a teacher in the cathedral school of Trier. He soon entered the Benedictines at Einsiedeln in 964 and was appointed head of the monastery school, receiving ordination in 971.

He then set out with a group of monks to preach among the Magyars of Hungary, but the following year (972) was named bishop of Regensburg by Emperor Otto II. As bishop, he distinguished himself brilliantly for his reforming zeal and his skills as a statesman. He brought the clergy of the diocese into his reforms, restored monasteries, promoted education, preached enthusiastically, and was renowned for his charity and aid to the poor, receiving the title Eleemosynarius Major (Grand Almoner).

He also served as tutor to Duke Henry of Bavaria’s son, who later became Emperor. Wolfgang died at Puppingen near Linz, Austria. He was canonized in 1052 by Pope St. Leo IX.

Lessons

Wolfgang joined his friend, Henry, in school in Wurzburg, and also went with him as a teacher in the cathedral school of Trier when Henry became the Archbishop there in the year 956.

Our associates help form our consciences. Wolfgang apparently kept good company as he and his friend, Henry, both were holy men who served our Lord.

Prayer

Lord, help us to follow in your footsteps just as your Apostles did, that we may be a good example to others. Grant us the graces we need to be good disciples and always lead our friends on the path to holiness.

Saint Wolfgang, pray for us. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Quentin (287), Martyr

Education and Culture at the Service of the Apostolate

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 02:35
Education and Culture at the Service of the Apostolate

Presence of God – Teach me, O Lord, to put into the service of the apostolate all the talents I have received from You.

MEDITATION

Together with the natural virtues placed at the service of apostolic charity, it is also necessary to consider the other human qualities which give the apostle an ascendency in his field of activity, not for his personal gain, but for the benefit of the Christian ideal. To say that notwithstanding his culture and abilities, the apostle can do nothing without the help of God, is not a condemnation of these natural values; is merely the statement that, of themselves, these qualities are insufficient to attain the essential end of the apostolate, that is, the communication of grace to souls, an end which only the divine action can effect. However, that which does not suffice in itself, can become in the hands of God a most excellent means for procuring the good of souls. The brush of itself can do nothing, but in the hands of a skillful master, it can be used to create great works of art.

The apostle should be conscious of the radical insufficiency of his gifts and talents; but at the same time, he should cultivate these gifts and make these talents bear fruit, so as to put them at the disposal of God for apostolic ends. It is therefore necessary that apostles foster their intellectual formation, together with the interior life. Certainly sanctity is always the more important element; however, when learning is united to sanctity, the results will be better. St. Teresa of Jesus was of this opinion, and she did not hesitate to say concerning spiritual direction:

“The director ought to be a spiritual man, but if he has no learning, it is a great inconvenience” (Life 13).

This is true, not only in the direction of souls, but in any form of apostolate, for “learning is a great help in giving light upon everything” (Way of Perfection 5); furthermore, it is impossible to gain entrance into certain circles without sufficient culture. It is therefore a duty of the apostle to procure an intellectual preparation adequate to the apostolate which he must exercise. It is not a question of seeking knowledge which inflates, nor of cultivating one’s intellect in order to make a display of oneself, but of putting into use for the good of souls all the talents received from God. Under the vivifying influence of charity, such things as education, culture, doctrine, technical capabilities—everything, in fact, is transformed into means of furthering the apostolate.

COLLOQUY

O Lord, I do not desire knowledge that inflates, but the humble learning which comes from You, enlightening minds and enkindling hearts.

“You, O Lord, are He who teaches men knowledge, and to little ones You give a clearer understanding than can be taught by man. If You speak to me, I shall become learned in a short time and will make great progress in the spiritual life.

“It is You, O Lord, who in an instant so enlighten the humble mind that it comprehends more of eternal truth than could be learned by ten years in the schools, You who teach without noise of words or clash of opinions, without contention of arguments” (Thomas à Kempis, Imitation of Christ III, 43,2.3).

Give me this knowledge, O Lord, and I shall be able to enter into study and work without any danger of vainglory. I want to use the intelligence You have given me by employing it in Your service; I want to make it fructify for Your glory and for the good of souls. Everything that I have received from You—intelligence, will, physical and moral energies—should be used for this end, for the apostle must be completely devoted to the fulfillment of his mission, always at his post for the defense and the glory of Your Name.

Sanctify, Lord, my studies, my work, the practice of my profession; grant that love may transform all into a means of apostolate.

“Remember, Lord, that You declared to me, ‘I have come for the salvation of souls.’ I offer You, then, my life, now and forever; grant that it may be pleasing to You; I offer it for Your glory, humbly begging You by virtue of Your Passion, to purify and to sanctify Your people” (St. Catherine of Siena).

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Note from Dan: This post on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity is provided courtesy of Baronius Press and contains one of two meditations for the day. If you would like to get the full meditation from one of the best daily meditation works ever compiled, you can learn more here: Divine Intimacy. Please honor those who support us by purchasing and promoting their products.

Art for this post on Education and Culture at the Service of the Apostolate: Mirror of Thomas von Kempen (Thomas à Kempis), 1380-1431, author unknown, date unknown, PD-US author’s life plus 70 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.

About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio – Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, the High Calling Seminary Preparation Program, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his “contagious” love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN’s Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

 

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This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.

Seven Souls To Pray For This November

Sun, 10/29/2017 - 22:07

The Church dedicates the month of November to praying for the dead. The month begins by remembering All Saints on November 1st, and All Souls on November 2nd. Many parishes hold a special remembrance Mass each year to pray for those who have died over the past 12 months, inviting their families to come to the Church and pray for their loved one’s soul.

As Catholics, we believe that after death there is a period of purification, which occurs in a place called Purgatory. During this month in which we pray for and remember the dead, I wish to propose seven different souls we could pray for, asking God to be merciful to them and bring them into their eternal reward.

1. Parents

One time at Mass, I preached on having Masses said for those who have gone before us. Afterward, a person asked me why they should do that. I gave several reasons, one being, if their soul was detained in Purgatory, it would assist their speedy entry into the Kingdom. The person responded, telling me he believed his parents were in Heaven. Of course, he might have been right, in which case, the Mass intention would have increased their intercessory power for us and accidental glory in Heaven. We know some parents are truly in heaven, as declared by the Church through the process of canonization (i.e. Louis and Zellie Martin, parents of St. Therese; St. Gianna Beretta Molla). The fact is, we shouldn’t canonize our parents; we should pray for them often.

Praying for our parents is an important task, because it is a way that we can still be connected to them from here below. Our prayers are a sign of our affection and love, and the offering a Mass, is a participation in the Heavenly liturgy, which we hope that they too are sharing in, and so we can be united through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Don’t forget about mom and dad, and if you have a chance, perhaps pay a visit to their grave this November.

2. Youth

It is always tragic when a young person dies. During their short life they could have had a deep friendship with God (as was the case with many of our youthful saints and blesseds, like Bl. Chiara Luce Badano or St. Jose Sanchez del Rio) or it’s possible the brevity of their life didn’t afford them time to repent and make amends for their sins. Especially in our day and age, there are many ways young people can fall into sin; temptation surrounds them in many ways, as it does all of us. This November, when you pray for those who have gone before you, don’t forget those who died in their youth.

3. Those Who Die Unexpectedly and Without the Sacraments

Do you know someone who died tragically in a car accident or someone who had a heart attack and passed quickly?  It’s possible that if they died suddenly and unexpectedly, the person didn’t die fortified with the sacraments.  It also means they might not have had time to repent and make reparation for their sins in this life.  It’s important for us to remember them in prayer and perhaps even make small sacrifices on their behalf to atone for the sins of their life.  It’s a simple way we can help out those we loved.

4. Clergy

The following quote is attributed to many saints, but most likely St. John Chrysostom.  He said, the road to Hell is paved with the skulls of priests and bishops. It is very common for us to canonize our clergy, because of who they were in this life, and their closeness to the sacred mysteries. We believe that they must have already received their eternal reward since they labored in the Lord’s vineyard.  The words of Jesus come to mind, “to whom much is given, more is expected” (Luke 12:36).  It is a great responsibility to have the care of souls.  Perhaps the souls of clergy and religious have things for which they must atone. Don’t forget your favorite priest or pastor who has passed away. Say a prayer for them.

5. For those who committed suicide

As I include those who have taken their own life in this listing, I do not wish to pass judgement on their souls. Unfortunately, in the past, this has been done. Today we rightfully understand the interplay of psychology within the role of our decisions, and as believers, hold a belief that in those last moments they could have cried out to God for mercy. Unfortunately, many people still believe suicide is a mortal sin in all instances, which as mentioned, psychological factors lessen culpability.  This mentality may cause some people to lose hope and never offer prayers for their loved one who died in this manner.

A faithful Catholic woman, June Klins, felt called by God to pray for those lost to suicide.  She shared her story on the Marians of the Immaculate Conception website, thedivinemercy.org.  Read about her special calling here.  To fulfill her calling, she maintains a blog and a Facebook page, in which people share names to pray for, and dedicate themselves to this prayerful apostolate.

6. For our Protestant Brothers and Sisters

I am sure you have had friends who were Protestants pass away. Don’t forget to pray for their souls. For the most part, the belief of Purgatory is something believed only by Catholics. For our Protestant brothers and sisters they don’t have much opportunity, if any, for Masses to be offered for their soul, or for prayers to be prayed for their eternal rest. As Catholics, this responsibility falls to us. What a gift you could give your friend, by praying them out of Purgatory and into the kingdom of Heaven.

7. Your Enemies

A while back on social media, I saw a person who rejoiced at the death of someone from their past because of the person’s cruelty toward them. Jesus said in the gospel to do good to those who hate you; love your enemies. When we hear of the passing of someone whom we did not count as a friend, and instead as a foe, offer a prayer for them. It’s a kind thing we can do, and an act of mercy. Perhaps as we forgive and show mercy, God will do the same for us, and that enemy of our ours might return that favor for us, by interceding for you.

Eternal Rest Grant Unto Them O Lord, and Let Perpetual Light Shine Upon Them. May They Rest In Peace.

Fire and Brimstone

Sun, 10/29/2017 - 22:05

I don’t do a lot of fire and brimstone preaching. For one thing, it seems to me that such preaching is often born of a hypocritical hope for the damnation of one’s enemies. We are not to hope for the damnation of anyone. Rather, we are to become ever more like God, who does not desire the death of sinners but rather that they repent and live (cf. Ezekiel 33:11). Life is salvation and it is death that we are saved from (cf. Rom 6:23). Like God, let us desire life for all the sinners – our friends and strangers, our enemies and ourselves.

Nonetheless, Jesus does use the image of flame, for example, to describe the anguish and torment of the rich man in Hades after he dies (Luke 16:24). So, the fire and brimstone preaching comes from somewhere. But let’s look at the whole context surrounding this image. Listen to the conversation between the rich man and Abraham.

The rich man, tormented in Hades, sees Abraham far off and calls out to him, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me…, for I am in anguish in this flame” (Luke 16:24). And Abraham answers him. First of all, he calls him “son” (16:25). I think it’s worthy of note that Abraham still thinks of the rich man as his son, despite all his waste and neglect of the poor beggar Lazarus.

A great deal is often made of the fact that the rich man has no name. We know the name of Lazarus (Luke 16:20). But not the name of the rich man. (Sometimes you hear the rich man named Dives, but this is simply the Latin word for “rich man” and comes from the Vulgate – the Latin Bible). So, in the context of this parable, the fact that the rich man is unnamed in contrast to Lazarus is seen as meaningful, especially in light of what Jesus says in another place to those who do not do the will of his father in heaven. He says he will declare to them, “I never knew you, depart from me, you evildoers” (Matt 7:23). The rich man spends his life in evil neglect of Lazarus who suffers just outside his gates (Luke 16:19-20, 25). Therefore, this reasoning goes, the rich man is unknown to the Lord — and that’s why we do not learn his name. We know the name of Lazarus because he is carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom. He is received by the Lord and known by the Lord, which is indicated by the giving of his name.

But this meaning of the rich man’s anonymity must be held in tension, I think, with the fact that Abraham calls him “son.” The rich man, despite his evil-doing, is not so cut off as to have lost all relationship. Somehow, Abraham is still his father and he is still Abraham’s son.

Now, certainly, this is not all that Abraham has to say. All the rich man was begging for was a drop of water from the end of Lazarus’s finger to cool his tongue (16:24). He didn’t say, “Get me out of here!” He didn’t beg to be delivered from the flame that tormented him. He only begged for a droplet of water. Surely this would not be too much to ask. But it would be a good thing – very like the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table, which he denied to Lazarus who desired them (16:21). So Abraham must remind the rich man that he has already received his good things and must inform him of the great chasm between them over which none may cross (16:25-26). So Abraham speaks the truth even though it is a hard truth, but he speaks the truth in love – not in vindictiveness. Remember, he calls the rich man his son.

So, yes, we must issue the warning of the real possibility of damnation and fire, but, like Abraham, we must issue this warning out of love and truth, not out of some secret desire to cause the wicked to suffer. Very much to the contrary, Abraham doesn’t want the rich man to suffer but rather reveals to the rich man how he is simply suffering the result of his own actions (16:25). The rich man put himself where he is. Maybe he made himself nameless to the Lord.

But, in the context of all the parables, what’s more striking about this parable is not that the rich man is unnamed but that Lazarus is named. In every other parable, the characters go unnamed. Their names are unnecessary to make the point of the parable, and so they’re not given. Bearing that in mind, the anonymity of the rich man may not be as meaningful as is sometimes suggested.

So unusual is this naming of a character in a parable that some have suggested that it indicates that, at least in part, this story is not a parable at all, but a true story. The rich man, they say, may be Herod. He was clothed in purple, which indicates him as connected to the state and possibly a king (16:19). Furthermore, he later says that he has five brothers, who stand in need of warning (16:28). Herod also had five brothers. So, I don’t know, maybe – but, true story or parable, Jesus tells it to teach us about how to live and how to live forever.

This is the only parable that names a character, and so the meaning of that name may be more significant than the meaning of the rich man’s namelessness. St. Jerome says that the name Lazarus means “one who has been helped” because Lazarus “is not a helper but one who has been helped. He was a poor man and, in his poverty, the Lord came to his assistance.”[1]

Another significance of the name Lazarus is that it also belongs to a friend of Jesus who dies and who Jesus raises from the dead, according to the Gospel of John (11:1-44). So, in both biblical cases, Lazarus dies and is helped by the Lord. Both stories are for us important reflections about death — about what happens to us after we die.

What does happen when we die? What happens at the end – at the end of all things?

These are important questions. Maybe some of the most important questions. When studied deeply, I think the parable of the rich man and Lazarus doesn’t so much provide concrete answers as invite contemplation of the mystery of death – so that we might prepare ourselves for it.

First of all, by not only taking the opportunities that come our way but also by seeking out opportunities to give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty, to welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned (cf. Matt 25:31-46). The rich man is given these opportunities by the presence of Lazarus at his gate, and he squanders them. The only misery Lazarus seems to not suffer is imprisonment. But his situation may have been better in prison than lying at the gate of this rich man. Prison would have at least kept out the dogs (Luke 16:21). Anyway, even the dogs were treating him better than the rich man was.

Do not live like the rich man. He stands before us as a warning. But show compassion to all others, whether just or unjust, even as Abraham addresses even the rich man with the warmth of the name, ‘son,’ do not cut off from hope and loving solicitude even those who cut off themselves. Maybe, if we speak the truth in love to them (Eph 4:15), rather than cursing them to hell, they will be stirred to repentance and join us in paradise.

*

[1] Jerome, “On Lazarus and Dives,” in Luke, ed. Arthur Just Jr. (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2003), 261.

To Be In That Number

Sun, 10/29/2017 - 22:02

“Oh, Lord, I want to be in that number, when the Saints go marching in!”

Like every good New Orleanian, I always interpreted the song “When the Saints Go Marching In” as a prophecy of the impossible regarding the day when the home team would finally make it to the Super Bowl.

When that day did come, the streets of New Orleans saw black and white, young and old, rich and poor, friend and enemy celebrating the “Black and Gold victory” in Super Bowl XLIV. It was as if all barriers that had kept people apart were ripped down. Redemption had finally come to our city—new life after the death and destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina four years earlier. By our interpretation of the old gospel ballad, we were now among that number because we were witnesses to the impossible.

The song was originally written about the desire to be counted “among the blessed” in the eyes of God when the final judgment comes—to be in the company of Christ and all the saints. It was first intended as an expression of confidence in the mercy of God that this poor sinner could one day share the indescribable happiness of heaven with even the most noble of saints.

And that’s really what it means to be a saint: to be face to face with God, first of all, but also to share this communion with all the blessed of Heaven. The happiness we seek is communal. All of us, without exception, were made for this gathering, and so all of us, without exception, can attain to this by the grace of God.

But this just makes Heaven sound so boring! We’re limited to dry terminology (e.g., my last two paragraphs) or flimsy turns of phrase (“the path to holiness,” “personal sanctity”) that struggle to convey just how stunningly joyful Heaven will be.

I think the way that the New Orleans Saints’ Super Bowl victory brought together a severely divided and broken city can help us glimpse something about Heaven. Imagine people at Fat Harry’s Bar on St. Charles Avenue watching Tracy Porter’s 4th quarter interception and subsequent 74-yard touchdown return. During those moments of euphoria, how many countless family members forgot the hurts, the grudges, the deep and abiding wounds between them? How many sworn enemies could drop the proverbial weapons and manage an awkward smile and handshake? How many otherwise strangers became best friends that night—knew the names of each other’s wives and kids?

Under normal circumstances, they probably never would have spoken to each other on the street: our natural selfishness keeps us looking out for number one. It keeps us afraid to go out of ourselves and to make contact with that stranger, that old enemy, that hurtful family member.

But what makes those experiences of intense joy so great is that we share them with others—be it random neighbors or close family. They naturally bring people together. And thankfully enough! Because nobody wants to celebrate something so momentous alone.

Wanting to be a part of the communion of saints is the grand-scale version of wanting to be a part of celebrating a Super Bowl win. And it’s this kind of communion with others that we will experience in Heaven, when all wounds will be healed and all tears dried. Our relationships with others will be purified by the fire of God’s love and forgiveness. They will be transformed into the most intense experiences of communion precisely because they were once broken by selfishness and disappointment and now they have God Himself holding them together.

So Heaven will be like a bar: only the celebration of the Victory that brings together the otherwise divided will not just last until morning. It will be so huge and death-destroying that the party goes on for eternity.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Dominicana, the Dominican student blog of the Province of St. Joseph, and is reprinted here with kind permission. 

In the first reading Paul tells us of

Sun, 10/29/2017 - 22:00

In the first reading Paul tells us of our exalted calling as sons and daughters of God and heirs of the Father.

In the Gospel reading Jesus heals on the sabbath a woman crippled for eighteen years. Rather than rejoicing in the cure of the crippled woman, the ruler of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus violated the sabbath by doing the cure on the sabbath. Jesus rebukes him, “You hypocrites! Everyone of you unties his ox or his donkey on the sabbath and leads it out of the barn to give it water. And here you have a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has bound for eighteen years. Should she not be freed from her bonds?”

Are there times we are hypocrites also? Remember God sees and knows all, even our inner hearts.

“If we spent time each day

Sun, 10/29/2017 - 22:00

“If we spent time each day thanking God, we would hardly be able to get angry at him. Instead we tend to take for granted the gifts we have. For these, we should thank God unceasingly.”

-Fr. T. G. Morrow, S.T.D., Overcoming Sinful Anger

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez

Sun, 10/29/2017 - 22:00

Jesuit Doorkeeper and Mystic

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez was born in Segovia, Spain, on July 25, 1532 and died October 31, 1617. He was the son of a wealthy wool merchant who took over the family business after his father’s death.  He married Maria Suarez when he was 26. The couple had a daughter and two sons, but Alphonsus was a widower by the age 31 with only a three-year-old son still living. By the time he was 40, he suffered further loss with the death of his own mother and his son. These losses helped him recognize the Lord was calling him to a different vocation — religious life among the Jesuits, who had instructed him for a short time in his youth before his father died.

Because he lacked an education, the Jesuits initially turned Alphonsus away, twice. However, the Provincial finally accepted him, but as a lay brother rather than as a candidate for the priesthood because of his age and ill health.

Alphonsus began his term of probation at either Valencia or Gandia — and after six months was sent to the recently-founded college at Majorca, where he remained as a doorkeeper for forty-six years. He made his final vows at Majorca in 1585 at the age of 54.

St. Alphonsus is well-known for his saintly obedience to his superiors. In his obedience, he wrote many manuscripts, some of which have been published as “Obras Espirituales del B. Alonso Rodriguez” (Barcelona, 1885, 3 vols., octavo, complete edition, 8 vols. in quarto). His writings exhibit extraordinary correctness and soundness in doctrine, particularly in light of his limited education.

The position of doorkeeper afforded St. Alphonsus the opportunity to influence many, including St. Peter Claver, who was a student at Majorca. St. Alphonsus advised him to ask for the missions of South America. The two saints were canonized together in 1888 Pope Leo XIII. St. Alphonsus Rodriguez is the patron of Majorca where his remains are enshrined.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Marcellus the Centurion (309), Martyr

St. Narcissus

Sat, 10/28/2017 - 22:00

St. Narcissus (2nd century) was consecrated Bishop of Jerusalem about the year 180. He was already an old man, but God blessed him and worked many miracles through him. One of his most famous involves turning water into oil. One Holy Saturday in the church the faithful were in great trouble, because no oil could be found for the lamps which were used in the Paschal feast. St. Narcissus asked them to draw water from a neighboring well, and, praying over it, told them to put it in the lamps. It was changed into oil, and long after some of this oil was preserved at Jerusalem in memory of the miracle.

Unfortunately, the very virtue of the Saint made him enemies, and three wretched men charged him with an atrocious crime (never specified in the history of that time). They confirmed their testimony by horrible imprecations: the first prayed that he might perish by fire, the second that he might be wasted by leprosy, the third that he might be struck blind, if they charged their bishop falsely. The holy bishop had long desired a life of solitude, and he withdrew secretly into the desert, leaving the Church in peace. But God spoke for His servant, and the first two of the bishop’s accusers suffered the penalties they had invoked. The third, terrified, recanted his testimony. Then Narcissus returned to Jerusalem and resumed his office with St. Alexander as his coadjutor (due to Narcissus’ advanced age). He died in extreme old age, bishop to the last.

St. Jude the Apostle

Fri, 10/27/2017 - 22:00

Practically nothing about St. Jude the Apostle’s life is known for certain. It’s not clear when he was called to discipleship or exactly how he spent the years after Jesus’ death and ascension. Scholars believe that he is the same as Thaddeus, the brother of St. James the Lesser, and one of the canonical epistles is attributed to him.

And yet, probably no saint has a greater following and devotion, particularly in times of trouble when people face seemingly impossible odds. Jude has become the Saint of the Impossible. People continue to pray to him for hopeless and difficult favors. It is not uncommon to find entries in the personal ads in local newspapers that say, “Thank you, St. Jude, for favors received.” It is a long-standing tradition that if Jude answers your prayers, you should thank him formally.

How did Jude acquire this reputation? Legends suggest that Jude preached the Gospel in Mesopotamia where he frequently ran afoul of local sorcerers and magicians and performed impressive miracles to establish his own power and authority, often against great odds. For example, he cured a local king of leprosy, tamed two wild tigers that had escaped, and influenced warring armies to make peace. On one occasion, sorcerers struck all the city’s lawyers dumb so they could not speak, but Jude restored their speech by holding up a crucifix before them.

In spite of his successes, Jude, like many first-century Christians, was martyred with stones and clubs.

From Johnnette Benkovic’s Graceful Living: Meditations to Help You Grow Closer to God Day by Day

Click the image above to purchase your own copy of “Graceful Living.”

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.

— John 15:16

This passage from Scripture applies to me just as certainly as it applied to the apostles. In what specific ways am I bearing fruit that will last? How can I plant one more seed today?

Other Saints We Remember Today

Saint Simon (1st Century), Apostle, brother of St. Jude

St. Jude: What’s in a Name?

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 22:07

What’s in a name? As Shakespeare famously noted, a rose would still have the same fragrance no matter what we call it, so does it really matter which name we pick?

Any advertising executive or PR rep would tell you differently though, arguing that names hold the power to shape and warp the world’s perception of the object, and today’s saint may be inclined to agree.

St. Jude Thaddeus was one of Christ’s Apostles, this much is clear.  Equally certain was that he was the brother of James and was present at Pentecost.  Following that, the Apostle preached the Gospel in Judea, Syria and Libya.  He was martyred along with another Apostle, St. Simon the Zealot, and his remains now rest in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

And from there, facts about St. Jude’s life become murky. Some biblical scholars maintain that Jude was the bridegroom at the wedding in Cana, though it’s hard to move this anywhere beyond speculation. Other stories connect him to a convoluted apocryphal story involving the King of Edessa.  This king, confronted by a terminal illness, wrote to Christ asking for a cure.  According to some versions of the legend, Christ was impressed enough by the king’s faith to press His holy face against a cloth, leaving behind a perfect image.  The king venerated this image, and upon Christ’s death, St. Jude sent a disciple to visit the monarch. The king experienced a miraculous healing and then converted to Christianity.  Many statues of St. Jude now include a nod to this tale by having the saint hold a portrait of Christ.

Even St. Jude’s authorship of the Epistle that bears his name is a matter of contention, at least between Catholics and Protestants.  Generally speaking, since the early 3rd century, Catholics have understood the Apostle and the author to be the same person, while Protestants do not.  The source of this disagreement lies in part with Luther.  Since the Epistle of James, with its exhortation that “faith without works is dead” was in clear conflict with the new religion of “sola fide”, Luther was forced to call the Apostleship of James himself into question.  That meant that the Epistle of Jude, which begins with “Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James” would have to strip the Apostleship from Jude as well.

Some of the murkiness around St. Jude’s life and accomplishments can be chalked up to the question of names.  While a rose by any other name smells as sweet, an Apostle sharing the same name as Christ’s betrayer may not, or so the thinking went.  In an attempt at “re-branding” of a sort, Judas Thaddeus became Jude Thaddeus, or simply Thaddeus by the early translators of the New Testament.  “Thaddeus” meaning “gift of God” helped drive home the clear distinction between the betrayer and the faithful, if shortening “Judas” to “Jude” didn’t.

St. Jude is best known as the patron saint of hopeless causes based on this name game.  If you were desperate enough to call on the help of someone who shared a name with Judas Iscariot, you were desperate indeed, and sure to meet a lonely saint with a lot of intercessory time on his hands.  The irony being, of course, that St. Jude is one of our most beloved and invoked saints, second probably only to Our Lady.  This popularity speaks to both our desperation here in the Vale of Tears and St. Jude’s strength as an intercessor.

In fact, we catch a glimpse of Jude’s powerful intercession in his one recorded verse in the Bible.  In the Gospel of St. John, we learn that St. Jude asked the Lord, “why is it that you reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” In response to this question, Christ reveals to the Apostle, and all of us, that anyone who loves and obeys the Son will not only find favor with the Father but also be made a fitting dwelling place for the Holy Trinity.

Such a powerful and comforting assurance obtained for us via St. Jude, powerful intercessor, patron saint of hopeless causes, and a true rose among thorns — no matter what name we know him by.

image: Shrine of St Jude Thaddeus by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr

The Radical Rabbi and the Great Commandment

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 22:05

They are at it again.  In this Sunday’s gospel Jesus’ opponents enlist a lawyer to do what lawyers do best- ask a question that puts a person on the hot seat.  “Which commandment of the law is the greatest?” (Matthew 22:34-40).  If the law consisted in only the Ten Commandments, this would be tough enough.  But the written “Torah” included many more moral, ceremonial, and dietary prescriptions. . . 613 to be exact.

Jesus, of course, is a radical.  A “radical” is one who goes to the “radix” or root of the issue. The root problem was that these Pharisees majored in the minors.  They loved to strain out gnats and swallow camels.  They missed the forest for the trees, going to great lengths to observe the letter of the law while totally missing its spirit.

So Jesus fires a broadside.  Splicing together two passages from the Torah, he sinks them.  “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind” (Deuteronomy 6:5).  “This is the greatest and first commandment.  The second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Leviticus 19:18).

This blows them away them for a couple of reasons.  First it brilliantly sums up the entire law, because every single precept is an expression of these two commandments.  Read the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) and you’ll see that the first three are about loving God and the other seven are about loving your neighbor.  If you read every line of the Bible, you’d be able to put each command in column A (love God) or column B (love your neighbor).  So these two commandments are indeed the root of them all.

But the other reason his answer sinks them is that these two root commandments are precisely the ones the Pharisees keep breaking.  Observance of the law for them is not an act of divine worship but rather of self-promotion. Instead of their observance of the law leading to love of neighbor, it leads to scorn of neighbors who fail to live up to their standards (see how they treat the blind man in John 9:24-34).  Note what Paul, the converted Pharisee, says: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).  Paul knew this from experience–he spent many years as a gong.  On the positive side, St. Augustine says “love and do what you will.”

Yet Jesus did not say just to love.  He said we must love the Lord with our WHOLE heart and soul and with ALL our mind and strength.

I made a discernment retreat at the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani when, at age 21, I felt torn between a desire for religious life and marriage.  As I walked into the retreat house, I shuddered to see this phrase inscribed in the stone over the entryway: “God Alone.”

Does wholehearted love of God leave no room in your heart for a spouse or children?

If that were the case, there would be no second great commandment in this story.  In fact, Jesus says the second commandment is like the first.  That’s because the kind of wholehearted love Jesus is talking about is charity (agape), which means loving God for his own sake and all others for his sake, and doing so not by human strength, but with the divine love that is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). When we love others with charity, we love God through them.  Our every loving act towards them becomes an expression of our love for God.

So, at bottom, the two great commandments are just two sides of the same coin.  Jesus says to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and render to God what is God’s.  The two-sided coin of charity is the only legal tender we can use to pay the obligation that’s even more important than taxes–the one owed to the Creator.

This was originally offered as a reflection upon the readings for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, liturgical cycle A (Exodus 22:1, 20-26), Psalm 18, I Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 22:34-40).  It appears here by permission of the author.

Scripture Speaks: The Greatest Commandment

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 22:02

Today, a Pharisee tries to test Jesus.  Even though he was a legal scholar, his question reveals a stunning ignorance.  How?

Gospel (Read Mt 22:34-40)

Jesus stirred up animosity against Himself among religious leaders by teaching several pointed parables about the kingdom of Heaven.  In our reading today, a Pharisee, “a scholar of the law,” tested Him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment of the law is greatest?”  What prompted this question?  Legal scholars in Jesus’ day spent all their time poring over the Law of Moses and rendering judgment on its meaning.  However, for a man whose vocation was God’s Law, this question shows that something had gone terribly wrong.  He clearly expected Jesus to pick His “pet” commandment, but in doing so, there would be many arguments from those who had chosen other commandments as being most important.  No doubt a good legal case could be made for all the various laws (a total of about 612 in the Pharisees’ count), so by choosing one, Jesus would set the stage for rebuttal, confrontation, and legalistic wrangling.  What was wrong with the question?

The first clue to the problem comes from Jesus.  Notice that in answering the test question, Jesus makes reference to two commandments that were not part of the Ten Commandments (read Ex 20:1-7).  When we read through them, we do not see any commandments like these.  What has Jesus done?  He has summarized the Law, refusing to pit one particular commandment against another.  The reason for that should have been obvious to the legal scholar.  The Law was not a list of rules to be followed.  It was, in its totality, an expression of God’s will for man, given to us out of His love.  Any offense against it was an offense against God Himself.  As St. James writes in his epistle, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.  For He Who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ said also, ‘Do not kill.’  If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become a transgressor of the law” (James 2:10-11).

This is why Jesus refused to answer the scholar’s question.  Instead, He summarized the meaning of the Law:  love God with all that you are, love your neighbor as yourself.  [Note:  Neither the Law of Moses nor Jesus ever directed us to love God, our neighbor, and ourselves.  This is a common misreading of Scripture.  God uses our automatic self-love as a measure by which we need to love others.  We feed, clothe, shelter, and seek protection for ourselves by nature.  Scripture presumes this kind of love in us and directs us to exercise it for others as well.]  When we understand that love is the goal of our lives, because we are made in the image and likeness of God Who is Love, then we understand that the Law of Moses simply described how we reach that goal.  All the commandments, then, are equally important.  Breaking them results in varying degrees of consequences, of course, but because they are all One Word from God, that cannot be ranked in importance (read CCC 2069).

This legal scholar had missed the point of all his studying.  Instead of wisdom, which should be the fruit of much learning, he was trapped in ignorance.

Possible response:  Lord Jesus, help me always to remember, in every situation, that the point of my life is love.

First Reading (Read Ex 22:20-26)

In this reading, we see explicit directions God gave to His people, through Moses, to teach them how to love their neighbors.  We can see from just these few verses how important it was for the people of Israel to treat their neighbors with justice and compassion.  No one was to take advantage of the weak and defenseless.  No one was ever to forget that Israel had been slaves—helpless, disenfranchised, and fully dependent on God for their liberation and their lives.  Their own history was meant to mark them indelibly with humility.  Their law proved to them that they could not truly be God’s people unless they were willing to love their neighbors as they loved themselves.

As St. John wisely wrote in his epistle, “If any one says ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from Him, that he who loves God should love his brother also” (1 Jn 4:20-21).

Possible response:  Heavenly Father, I am susceptible to hollow talk about loving You and yet being indifferent to or annoyed by my neighbor.  Please forgive and heal me.

Psalm (Read Ps 18:2-4, 47, 51)

If the First Reading helped us understand what Jesus meant when He said, “love your neighbor as yourself,” this psalm explains what He meant by, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  When we read this ecstatic profession of love for God, can we imagine the one who wrote it asking himself, “Which one of the commandments in the greatest”?  The psalmist knows that every word that proceeds from the mouth of God is to be treasured, because he knows God is his “rock…fortress…deliverer.”  This is the kind of knowledge of God that Jesus must have wished for the legal scholar who tested Him.  He wants us to have it, too.  The psalmist calls us to express this knowledge in our responsorial:  “I love You, LORD, my strength.”

Possible response:  The psalm is, itself, a response to our other readings.  Read it again prayerfully to make it your own.

Second Reading (Read 1 Thess 1:5c-10)

We might wonder, at first glance, what connection this epistle reading has with the summary of the Law to love God and man.  The challenge here is that we are reading only a small portion of the epistle today.  As we move through it in the weeks ahead, we will see what St. Paul meant in vs. 5:  “You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake.”  St. Paul, along with his companions, Silvanus and Timothy, had not only preached the Gospel to these former pagans, but they had been examples to them of great love, service, and self-sacrifice.  They established a deep affectionate bond with the Thessalonian converts.  This bond of love pervades the entire epistle!  Thus, St. Paul demonstrates for us love of God and man.  He is a living picture of the fulfillment of the Law that Jesus, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, makes possible for all who believe in Him.

So, if we are curious about how to love God and man, St. Paul has something to teach us in the weeks to come.

Possible response:  Lord Jesus, help me remember that love of neighbor includes sharing the Gospel with him, in word and deed, as St. Paul teaches us.

In our yearning for God and in our

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 22:00

In our yearning for God and in our following of his will, we do struggle to do good and be righteous. This is the reality of our life, of our freedom. In the first reading Paul speaks very well about this continuing struggle within us between the spirit of God and the law of God and the spirit of evil, the law of sin and my own body.

We can declare, “What a wretched man I am!” as admission of weakness and helplessness, though we know we also have this innermost desire, almost built-in, for a lasting relationship with goodness and God. This admission and realization are a healthy beginning for God’s grace in us, as we humble ourselves before God. As we humble ourselves, God helps and delivers us through the redemptive grace of our Lord, his Son.

This is the challenge of our being human, called to a higher divine life with God. Let us pray to God that he may be the supreme Lord of our lives.

Quote of the Day

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 22:00

“The altar is the table to which the heavenly Father invites us. Through salvation we have become sons and daughters of God, and His house is ours.”

-Romano Guardini, Meditations Before Mass

St. Frumentius

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 22:00

In the fourth century a philosopher by the name of Metrodorus decided to embark upon a voyage to see the world. He made several voyages, traveling to Persia and into what was then called India, which is modern-day Ethiopia. After one of his journeys, he returned with a great quantity of diamonds and other precious stones, claiming that he would have brought back much more if it had not been that the king of Persia had taken most of his treasure.

Another man, a philosopher of Tyre named Meropius, intrigued by the success of Metrodorus, decided to embark on a voyage of his own. Deciding that this would be a great opportunity to educate his two nephews, Frumentius and Edebsius, he took them along. During the trip they were shipwrecked near Ethiopia and barbarians killed all the crew, sparing the lives of Frumentius and Edebsius since they were youngsters. The two brothers were then taken to the Ethiopian royal court in Accum, a poor village in Abyssinia.

It didn’t take long for the prince to realize the potential of the two boys in the court so he made sure that they received the best education. They were treated well and in turn took good care of the prince. Thankful for their years of service, on his deathbed the prince granted them their freedom. The queen, however, pleaded with them to stay and assist her in governing. Edebsius became the royal cupbearer and Frumentius was made a secretary. The two brothers introduced Christianity to the people. Frumentius also managed many of the affairs of the queen and in his desire to spread Christianity, engaged many Christian merchants to trade in the area.

When Aizan, the young king, came of age to reign, the two brothers decided to resign their posts and leave the country. Edebsius went back to Tyre and became a priest. Frumentius went to Alexandria and pleaded with the archbishop, St. Anthanasius, to send a missionary to Ethiopia. St. Anthanasius called a synod of bishops and it was decided that since Frumentius had already started a great conversion in the people of Ethiopia, that he should be ordained bishop and return to finish the work he began.

So Frumentius was ordained bishop, returned to Ethiopia and gained great numbers of converts to the faith.

Lesson

Both Frumentius and Edebsius (also known as Aedesius) are considered the apostles of Ethiopia. Frumentius is called “Abuna” or father of Ethiopia. The Latins commemorate him on October 27 and the Greeks on November 30. He died in the year 380.

Prayer

Pray for us, dear Frumentius, that we may also “bloom where we are planted.” You were just a young boy in a strange and pagan land, but you made the best of the situation and brought truth and life to that desolate land and lost people. We pray for your intercession that we may bring the light of Christ with us wherever we go in the hope of inspiring others to follow Him. In His name we pray. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Blessed Emilina (1178), lay sister, Patron of lay women

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.