It has been 100 days since the terrible earthquake in Haiti. 1.3 million dollars has been sent to “Haiti” from the United States. Let’s still keep them in our prayers.
Today in Catholic History:
† 303 – Death of Saint George, Roman soldier and Christian martyr
† 997 – Death of Saint Adalbert of Prague, bishop (b. ca. 956)
† 1725 – Birth of Saint Gerard Majella, Catholic saint (d. 1755)
† 1813 – Birth of Frédéric Ozanam, French scholar (Founder of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul) (d. 1853)
† Liturgical feasts: Feast Day of Saint George: [Patron saint and National Day of England, and of Aragon, Celebrated as St. Jordi’s Day in Catalonia, presents of books and roses.] Jurgi festival, in ancient Latvia, Saint Adalbert of Prague, Saint Gerard (d. 1138)
Today’s reflection is about Saul’s encounter with the risen Lord, on the road to Damascus.
Quote or Joke of the Day:
From error to error, one discovers the entire truth. ~ Sigmund Freud
Now Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank. (NAB Acts 9:1-9)
This is the first of three accounts of Paul’s conversion (with Acts 22:3-16 and Acts 26:2-18). This first account occurs when the “Word” is first spread to the Gentiles. The conversion of this hero of the Gentile mission is presented with an emphasis, in this reading, on Paul as a divinely chosen instrument.
Saul was one angry individual. He wanted blood and revenge for the degradation “those people” were doing to his Temple. He had made “murderous threats” against any of the disciples of Jesus Christ. Saul “went to the high priest of the Temple and asked him for letters” of his authority to the synagogues in Damascus. This would allow him to arrest any member of “the Way,” and gave him permission to bring them back to Jerusalem in chains
“The Way” was a name used by the early Christian community for itself (see Acts 18:26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). The Essene community at Qumran (known for the Dead Sea Scrolls) used the same designation to describe its mode of life. Reminds me of another song: ♬ “Do You Know the WAY to Je・e・sus, ?” ♬ (OK, not a great pun of a song, but at least I tried.)
While Saul was nearing Damascus, (one tradition says on a horse), with a couple of other men, he was startled by a light from the sky that suddenly flashed, causing Saul to fall to the ground. There was no such thing as paparazzi way back then, so Saul was truly “Freaked out!”
The words of Jesus projecting at Saul saying, “… why are you persecuting me?” exerted a profound and lasting influence on Paul. Under the influence of this experience, and with the grace of the Holy Spirit, he gradually developed his understanding of justification by faith in Jesus as the Messiah sent from God to redeem the world (see the letters to the Galatians and Romans), and of the identification of the Christian community with Jesus Christ as Lord and God (see 1 Cor 12:27). Saul had his first round of conversion: one that he repeated daily for the rest of his life. This conversion also must be renewed daily by us in order to grow in our love of Christ.
Startled, and probably having difficulty with his bodily functions such as standing and talking, he was able to gain enough strength to utter, “Who are you, sir?”. The response, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting!” probably put a lump in Saul’s throat the size on Mount Tabor! Can you picture this strong man, totally scared out of his wits, thinking “Oh, Oh, I made a big boo-boo!”? Even the men traveling with Saul, and witnessed this entire event, stood speechless’
Jesus tells him to get up and go to Damascus where he will be told what he must do. Saul was made blind, just as Jeremiah was blinded for not believing in the miracles of God. For three days, Saul was unable to see, eat, or drink. This temporary blindness symbolized the religious blindness of Saul as persecutor. ♬“He Was Blind, and Now He Sees”♬ would make a great title for a song about conversion and opening ourselves up to the beauty and light of the Holy Trinity. (Oh, it is already? Oh well.)
“Lord, put a song in my heart, and your words on my tongue. I want to sing your praises always. Amen.”
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
Franciscan Saint of the Day: Blessed Giles of Assisi d.1262
Two companions from Assisi had already joined St. Francis when Giles, a well-to-do young man of the town, heard about it. He repaired to the poor hermitage yard by Assisi, which the three occupied, and prostrate upon his knees, he begged St. Francis to accept him into his company. Francis presented him to the other two, saying: “See here a good brother whom almighty God has sent us.” This was on April 23, 1209. On the same day, both went to Assisi, where Giles begged in God’s name for a bit of cloth to make a habit. Giles divided his entire fortune among the poor. He was plain and simple in mind, of a mild temperament, but also full of power and energy when it served to accomplish anything good.
Recognizing humility as the necessary foundation for perfection, Giles sought humiliation and contempt, but fled from honors. Once when he was passing through the March of Ancona with the holy Founder and at some places special honor was shown to them, he said, “O my Father, I fear we shall lose the true honor if we are honored by men.”
Giles entertained a great desire to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Places, and since Francis knew that he did much good everywhere by his holy example, he gladly granted his desire. The Apostle James at Compostela in Spain, then to the Holy Places of the Passion of Christ in Jerusalem. He also visited the sanctuary of the holy Archangel Michael on Mt. Gargano in Italy, and the town of Bari, there to honor St. Nicholas.
His whole appearance preached poverty, humility, and piety. He also utilized every opportunity to encourage penance and love of God. He endeavored to earn his livelihood mainly through manual work; whatever he obtained over and above his immediate needs, he at once gave to the poor; if he lacked necessities, he begged them for God’s sake. Once a poor woman who was dressed in the barest necessaries asked Brother Giles for an alms. As he had nothing to offer her, he compassionately took off his capuche and gave it to her.
In the year 1219, at the great chapter of 5,000 brothers, St. Francis commissioned Giles to go to Africa with several companions, to preach the gospel to the Mohammedans. But they did not achieve their purpose. As soon as they landed in Africa, the Christians there, who feared a general persecution, led them by force to another ship which brought them back to Italy.
At this time Brother Giles was sent to the quiet convent of Perugia, which remained his abode until his death. He lived practically only for God. Even at his work, thoughts of the last judgment, of eternity, and of the glory of heaven constantly occupied his mind. Once when two distinguished gentlemen asked him to pray for them, he said: “Oh you do not need my prayers.” “Why not?” they asked. Giles answered, “You live among all the comforts of the world and still believe that you will get to heaven; but I, a poor human being, spend my days in labor and penance, and yet I fear I will be damned.” When he reflected on the joys of heaven, he was beside himself with longing. Often when the children in the street called out to him the mere word “paradise,” he was rapt in ecstasy.
Pope Gregory IX had heard of the contemplative gift of Brother Giles, and being just then in the neighborhood of Perugia, he sent for him. When the pope began to speak to Giles about divine and heavenly matters, Giles at once went into an ecstasy. When he came to again, he humbly begged the Holy Father’s forgiveness — it was his weakness, he said, that he was immediately beside himself. The pope required that he give him some good advice for the administration of his burdensome duties. Quite confounded, Giles excused himself saying that he could not advise the head of the Church. But when the pope commanded him in obedience, he said, “Holy Father, you must have two eyes in your soul. The right eye must be kept on heavenly things; the left one, on the things of this earth, which you must regulate.”
St. Bonaventure considered himself fortunate to have lived at the time when he could still see and speak with Brother Giles. When he came to Perugia as provincial of the order, Giles said to him one day,” My Father, God has accorded you great kindness, since you are so learned and can, therefore, serve God so perfectly; but we unlearned ones, how shall we correspond to the goodness of God and arrive at heaven?” The learned general of the order answered him: “My brother, in order to get to heaven, it suffices that one love God, and a poor unlearned woman can love God as well as, maybe even better than, a great theologian.” Thereupon Giles ran out into the garden that led to the street, and filled with joy, cried aloud, “Come, ye simple and unlearned men, and ye poor women! You can love God as well as, and perhaps even more than, Brother Bonaventure and the greatest theologians.”
A religious of great learning, who, however, was much troubled with doubts concerning the virginity of Mary, came to Brother Giles for advise. The holy brother cried out, as he struck the earth with a stick, “Yes! yes! She was a virgin before the birth of Jesus!” and immediately a beautiful lily sprouted forth. Giles struck anew and said, “She was a virgin during the birth,” and again a lily sprouted forth. Then he beat a third time upon the earth, saying the words, “She was a virgin after the birth,” and the third lily sprouted forth.
Finally, pure as a lily, the soul of Brother Giles went to the vision of things divine, which he had so often contemplated. He died on April 22, 1262, on the anniversary of his entrance into the order, to which he had belonged for 53 years. His grave in the Franciscan church at Perugia is highly venerated. Pope Pius VI sanctioned the veneration accorded him from time immemorial.
from: The Franciscan Book of Saints,
ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)
Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #23:
Requests for admission to the Secular Franciscan Order must be presented to the local fraternity, whose council decides upon the acceptance of new brothers and sisters. Admission into the Order is gradually attained through a time of initiation, a period of formation of at least one year, and profession of the rule. The entire community is engaged in the process of growth by its own manner of living. The age for profession and the distinctive Franciscan sign are regulated by the statutes. Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.
Members who find themselves in particular difficulties should discuss their problems with the council in fraternal dialogue. Withdrawal or permanent dismissal from the Order, if necessary, is an act of the fraternity council according to the norm of the constitutions.