Pope Benedicts XVI’s Prayer Intentions for the Month of August, 2010:
The Unemployed and the Homeless:
General: That those who are without work or homes or who are otherwise in serious need may find understanding and welcome, as well as concrete help in overcoming their difficulties.
Victims of Discrimination, Hunger and Forced Emigration:
Missionary: That the Church may be a “home” for all people, ready to open its doors to any who are suffering from racial or religious discrimination, hunger, or wars forcing them to emigrate to other countries.
Today I am hosting the annual Secular Franciscan Picnic for our Fraternity. My wife had literally spent all of yesterday cleaning the house because, as she said, “real holy people” were coming over. I thanked her for the compliment of calling me holy, as I am in the group. Her response put me back into my shoes on solid earth: “You’re just their token misfit that is in all groups!” Anyway, please pray for a successful BBQ.
Today is also “World Scout Day:” the anniversary of the first day of the “Brownsea Island Camp” in 1907, where Robert Baden-Powell began scouting.
Today in Catholic History:
† 371 – Death of St Eusebius of Vercelli, Italian bishop (b. c. 283)
† 1546 – Death of Peter Faber, French Jesuit theologian (b. 1506)
† 1974 – Death of Ildebrando Antoniutti, Italian Catholic cardinal (b. 1898)
† 2001 – Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has a Ten Commandments monument installed in the judiciary building, leading to a lawsuit to have it removed and his own removal from office.
(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
Quote or Joke of the Day:
As for me, I’m just hoping God grades on the curve.
Today’s reflection is about why a person’s life should not consist solely of material possessions, but more importantly on spiritual possessions.
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” 14 He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” 15 Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” 16 Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. 17 He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ 18 And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods 19 and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!” 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ 21 Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” (NAB Luke 12:13-21)
Our economy has been, to say the least, “depressed” for the past several years. Though it may have never been officially called an economic “depression,” I believe we met the unofficial requirements for being in one. There have been many serious financial blows in these past couple of years; collapse of the banking and real estate markets; Government bailouts of financial and automotive infrastructures; inappropriate use of tax financing incentives for big business; and the extreme unemployment, and outsourcing of jobs “offshore.”
I remember when the United States was on the top of the economic world. Our dollar at one time was the most valuable money across the world. It is no longer so. It still has a strong hold, but countries such as China, Japan, and several European countries hold extensive financial holdings and bonds from our country.
Most of us recently have had personal and drastic hits financially. IRA’s, T-bills, retirement plans, and stocks and bonds have all been seriously damaged, and are worth less than just a few years ago. There is even a larger percentage than usual of retired people, some into the 80’s, returning to the work force; solely out of financial need. Home foreclosures are at an all-time high, with more people and families living on the streets.
Today’s Gospel reading will probably mean more to most of us than ever before. Bountiful harvests DO disappear without any warning. Bigger barns, crops, and our homes and jobs are gone; at least for now! Mark Twain once said that we are only obligated to do two things in life: “pay taxes and die.” As a Christian I know the only realistic absolutes in this world are life, death, and judgment. The best success in this life that we can make every effort for, is a spiritual and physical love for God and each other.
Family life helps us learn about the values of shared aims and the common good. As a family of blood relatives and neighbors, we need to strive in the respecting of the rights of each family member. What is so wrong in making decisions that promote the common good?! We are called to share the goods of creation fairly and justly. Jesus, in this parable, challenges us to remember that the goods of the world are intended to be shared by all.
Luke, in this chapter of his Gospel, shows Jesus instructing His disciples and others on how to ready themselves for the coming judgment. In this particular case, a crowd of many thousands have gathered to hear Him. Jesus is speaking to His disciples when He tells them that it is not persecution by others they should fear, but the coming time when we will be held accountable for the use of our treasures before God. I can hear Him saying something like, “Woe to the one who does not acknowledge the Son of Man!”
Someone from the crowd asks Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus uses the statement to teach this point: for anyone inheriting the coming Kingdom; spiritual wealth is to be over material wealth.
Jesus, as he had done many times (about 35 in total; 20 in Luke’s Gospel), tells the crowd a parable. To refresh, a parable is a story with a moral or spiritual point. In this case about a “rich” man whose land yielded a massive amount of produce, much more than he ever expected. His reaction to this great gift from God was not to consider how he might share some of the extra food with others in need, but to contemplate how he could possibly store it all for future personal use, and future $elling. He believed he had a brilliant solution for what to do with his success and excess. He was going to tear down his present barns, and then to build much larger ones. In hoarding all the produce grown, he would have future years of “eating, drinking, and making merry,” and thus felt secure in his lifestyle.
In this parable, God says to the man, “You fool!” I don’t know about you, but THAT is one phrase I would certainly not like to hear from God directed towards me! In God’s infinite and sometimes directly harsh sense of humor, He tells this “man of new found material wealth,” that his life will be taken away from him that very night. What a punch line! Is it inappropriate to go “te-he-he-he, oops, sorry?” “Life is full of surprises indeed.”
The story continues with God asking the “wealthy” farmer to whom his extreme wealth will belong after his death. What can he do with his material possessions after he is dead? NOTHING!! As the old adage clearly states, you certainly can’t take it with you!
Jesus joined together the contrasting views of those whose focus and trust in life is on material possessions, symbolized here by the rich man of the parable with those who recognize their complete dependence on God.
What is life all about? Jesus clearly states what life is about in the moral of this parable: it is not material wealth that matters to God. What matters most to God is each one of us individually, and our sincere and loving relationship we have with Him and all others with whom we come into contact. We MUST acknowledge God in our daily lives, and give alms to help those in need.
Focusing on excess possessions is capable of having deadly effects on people. The vainness of seeking a safe haven from the struggles of life by hoarding possessions is harmful. In this one parable, I see a potential for five of the seven “sins that lead to death” (1 John 5) being violated: Pride in himself as a great farmer; Greed in not sharing what he has; Gluttony by eating more than he truly needs; Envy by boasting on his great success; and Sloth by being lax in his requirement to help others in need, and forgetting God in the big picture.
The man in the story doesn’t seem openly bad. He is not mean or threatening. He does not wish harm to others in this parable. Jesus points out that this man’s flaw was his thinking only about himself, and his own comfort and security. His egotism excluded God and neighbor from his sight, heart, and soul.
The pitiful thing with this man and his ego in this parable is this: I know of friends and family that may be emulating him. They love their families, and shower them with extravagant and beautiful gifts, almost haphazardly. When we fail to think about the needs of others, we may be guilty of the sin of omission. We need to review the seven deadly sins (pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, sloth) daily. I know I need to ask for help in not committing these offenses to God and to His creations on a daily basis.
For some people, not having enough money is worse than death itself. However, the silver lining in this parable and in this economic tribulation we are experiencing so harshly today, IS the lack of $ilver! I firmly believe we all need to take steps toward a simpler lifestyle. On one hand, being financially successful is a grace from God; but as you know, ALL graces and talents are meant to be shared. On the other hand, experiencing limitations and even loss of resources is, from a faith perspective, a grace, an invitation, and a reminder for us to look to God for His help and guidance. Actually, I certainly would not mind an increase in my household income. It would be accepted gladly if anyone wishes to give me some gold, diamonds, silver, or any other type of monetary value.
What I am saying, and what I believe Jesus was stressing in this parable, is that our TRUE treasures are in heaven, and the graces and creations around us. Each one of us is meant to be a grace for each other. Our heaven-dwelling friends and family, our personal angels and saints, our blessed Mother, and our God in three persons are the true treasures that we need to rely on and value more than material possessions; the simple trinkets we have on earth!
The only way to obtain our true treasures is to dig for them here on earth: prayer,
fasting, and Almsgiving. Almsgiving is much more than putting money in the collection basket. It is caring for each other by feeding and giving drink to the hungry and thirsty, clothing, and giving shelter to those without, visiting the sick and imprisoned (even in their own mind and/or broken body) to remind them they are loved, and burying the dead in the hopes of an everlasting life in paradise.
“Prayer in Time of Trial”
“Lord, teach us to love and thus overcome our hatred of those who harm us. Teach us to hope and thus conquer the depression and despair that so often overwhelms us. Teach us courage and sacrifice of self as the Immaculata’s instrument.
Pray for us now Mary, our Mother; and Jesus, her Son to bring our troubled spirit peace, calm, and joy. Amen.”
(Spend two minutes thinking of the good things that God has done for you during your lifetime.)
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787)
Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.
In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.
At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but soon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups.
He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over.
Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions.
He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese.
His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united.
At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent.
Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His Glories of Mary is one of the great works on that subject, and his book Visits to the Blessed Sacrament went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.
St. Alphonsus was known above all as a practical man who dealt in the concrete rather than the abstract. His life is indeed a “practical” model for the everyday Christian who has difficulty recognizing the dignity of Christian life amid the swirl of problems, pain, misunderstanding and failure. Alphonsus suffered all these things. He is a saint because he was able to maintain an intimate sense of the presence of the suffering Christ through it all.
Someone once remarked, after a sermon by Alphonsus, “It is a pleasure to listen to your sermons; you forget yourself and preach Jesus Christ.”
Patron Saint of Theologians and Vocations
Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)
Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #1:
The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of God — laity, religious, and priests – who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi.
In various ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.