Today in Catholic History:
† 1438 – Pope Eugenius IV deallocated council of Basel to Ferrara
† 1531 – Pope Clemens VII forbids English king Henry VIII to re-marry
† 1860 – Death of St John Nepomucene Neumann, 1st male US saints
† 1962 – A replica of the miraculous statue, the Holy Infant of Good Health, is presented to Blessed Pope John XXIII.
† 1964 – Pope Paul VI visits Jordan & Israel
† The eleventh day of Christmas, and the Twelfth Night of Christmas in Western Christianity.
† Feast day: St. John Neumann; Simeon Stylites; Pope Telesphorus
(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
“Today in Catholic History”
Quote or Joke of the Day:
Franciscan Formation Reflection:
This is a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website. It is titled “An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order” by Benedetto Lino, OFS. It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html.
(Continuation from Previous blog)
Part 02 of 13 Parts
“The letter repeats John Paul II’s appeal regarding what the Church has always expected and looked for from us, in order to be able truly to rely on each one of us, just as She could rely on Francis and all his Family.”
“The Holy See constantly reminds us, authoritatively and insistently, that we are a living, integral and essential part of the Church, where we must exercise in full our role as a living body.”
(Continued on next published blog)
From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By: Benedetto Lino OFS
SFO International Council Website
Today’s reflection is about Jesus walking on water during a storm.
45 Then he made his disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray. 47 When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on shore. 48 Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them. 49 But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out. 50 They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” 51 He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were (completely) astounded. 52 They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened. (NAB Mark 6:45-52)
Jesus had just fed 5000 men (and unknown women and children) with just a few fish and loaves of bread. After this “miracle”, He tells His disciples to start for Bethsaida (across the sea) by boat while He prays. A storm surges while they were en-route on their voyage. These scared disciples see Jesus walking on the water obviously near the boat, and call out to Him.
Would Jesus actually just walk “past them” (v. 48)? He told them to go by boat in the first place! He interrupted His prayers and came to them, getting His sandals and feet soaked. (Did Jesus ever get athlete’s feet?) Thus, would Jesus simply walk past them in their time of need?
Heck NO, He would not!! And, He still doesn’t walk by us today when we are in need. Jesus is not indifferent to our tough times and situations. He lives with us in a relationship of love with Him.
This is not the first time Jesus is seen walking on water. In Matthew 14:22-33, not only does Jesus walk on the surface of the water, Peter does the same. Peter steps out of the boat and walks toward Jesus, but Peter apparently lost focus or faith (or something) and starts to sink. I personally believe Peter started sinking because Jesus made him the “ROCK”, and everyone knows rocks sink – like rocks – in water!
In today’s Gospel from Mark, Jesus sends his disciples away to fend for themselves in the dark of the night while a storm begins to brew on the sea. The disciples are engrossed in the labor of paddling, and fighting against the turbulent seas. When they saw Jesus walking on the water, did they think He was a ghost waiting for their imminent deaths? Regardless, Jesus had to calm them with his reassuring voice:
“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” (Mark 6:50)
Jesus shows His power over the raging waters as He also does in Matthew 8:26:
“He said to them, ‘Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?’ Then He got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.”
You have to remember, these men were experienced fishermen. Yet, they feared for their lives. Jesus was not with them in the boat. Yet, He watched over them in His actions and prayers. When Jesus saw their fear and trouble, He came to them on the sea. And even in this action, these disciples were startled by His sudden appearance.
In today’s reading Jesus truly expresses His power over nature through the action of His walking on the sea. Both Mark and Matthew in their Gospels, incorporate a couple of Old Testament Bible readings into this story:
“Through the sea was your path; your way, through the mighty waters, though your footsteps were unseen.” (Psalm 77:20)
“He alone stretches out the heavens and treads upon the crests of the sea.” (Job 9:8)
Jesus sent these “chosen” men ahead of Him “to the other side toward Bethsaida”. Bethsaida was a simple and obscure village at the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. I believe Phillip, Andrew, and Peter (3 of the 12 apostles) were from this tiny village. Bethsaida is mentioned a total of seven times throughout the four Gospels.
After sending His followers off via boat, Jesus “went off to the mountain to pray”. Jesus loves to pray in private, and it is apparent going to mountain enclaves was His preference. Jesus prayed a large amount throughout Holy Scripture, and not always on mountain tops though. Earlier, in Mark 1:35-38, it is written:
“Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”
And, in John 6:15, Jesus withdrew to pray to evade any involvement with open defiance of the government in His role as “Savior.”.
“Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone”. (John 6:15)
Speaking about Jesus’ habit of praying, being a devout Jew, He most certainly had a Tallit, a Jewish prayer robe or shawl, with attached tassels called “Tzitzit” at the four corners. When in prayer, the Tallit is literally wrapped around the person’s torso and over the head. In essence, in doing so, the devout Jew is wrapped in the “actual presence of God”, as they have (even today) a strong belief in God’s presence within the Tallit
Jesus was saying something extremely profound when He said,
“It is I, do not be afraid!” (Mark 6;50)
He is literally saying, “I am.” And, in doing so, Jesus is reflecting a divine revelation of faith and fact in seven statements found in the Old Testament books of Exodus and Isaiah. Mark is truly indicating the hidden identity of Jesus as the “Son of God”.
“God replied, ‘I am who am.’ Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14)
“Who has performed these deeds? He who has called forth the generations since the beginning. I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last I will also be.” (Isaiah 41:4)
“Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed; I am your God. I will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold you with my right hand of justice.” (Isaiah 41: 10)
“Fear not, O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel; I will help you, says the LORD; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:14)
“But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned; the flames shall not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in return for you.” (Isaiah 43:1-3) (“Egypt . . . Ethiopia and Seba” were countries which God permitted the Persians to conquer in return for having given Israel its freedom.)
“You are my witnesses, says the LORD, my servants whom I have chosen to know and believe in me and understand that it is I. Before me no god was formed, and after me there shall be none.” (Isaiah 43:10)
“Yes, from eternity I am He; there is none who can deliver from my hand: who can countermand what I do?” (Isaiah 43:13)
The revelation found in Jesus dividing the loaves and fish; feeding the multitudes; and even His walking on the sea completely escaped His disciples. How could they not see the divinity that had to be associated with these events, these miracles! Yet, they did! Twice, in verse 52 of today’s reading, this lack of realization is proved:
“They had not understood the incident of the loaves”
“Their hearts were hardened”
Their own humanly dispositions may have prevented these men from comprehending Jesus’ self-revelation through the signs offered to them.
“When he became aware of this he said to them, “Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened?” (Mark 8:17)
This lack of understanding and their “hardened hearts” may be attributed to some who did not accept Jesus, and possibly even those plotting His death. Earlier in Mark’s Gospel, a plot was enacted to bring Jesus and His followers down.
“Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.” (Mark 3:5-6)
The Pharisees and Herodians (supporters of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea) want to put Jesus to death after a series of conflicts with Him in Galilee. Mark reports many conflicts with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes. These conflicts come to a head with accounts of later controversies in Jerusalem.
“Then he taught them saying, ‘Is it not written: My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples? But you have made it a den of thieves.’ The chief priests and the scribes came to hear of it and were seeking a way to put him to death, yet they feared him because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching.” (Mark 11:17-18)
“They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to him to ensnare him in his speech. They came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?’ Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, ‘Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.’ They brought one to him and he said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ They replied to him, ‘Caesar’s.’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’ They were utterly amazed at him.” (Mark 12:13-17)
How do you handle adversity in your life? Do you “trust” God totally and completely? Or, do you panic, fret, and become fearful? Fear is a natural reaction, and actually has a medical term associated with the nervous system response to the stimuli of adversity: “sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ reaction”.
However, Jesus wants much more from His followers than just this normal self-preservation bodily reaction. Jesus wants “perfect love!”
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:18-19)
Jesus is the “Shepherd” and we are His sheep (and some say I am the blemished, very dark colored one, who spends a considerable amount of time with the wolves). Being a shepherd can’t be an easy job! Not only does a shepherd feed and guide his flock, he is willing to suffer and die for his flock. A shepherd is with his sheep in good and bad weather, protects the flock from predator animals and robbers, and even sleeps amongst his charges.
Jesus, our “Good Shepherd”, watches over His flock continuously. How often during times of troubles and tribulations do you call out for Him? How often do you truly rely on His providence? How often do you depend on His love for all of us? Jesus assures us that we have no need of fear – – if we TRULY trust in Him and in his immense love for us.
“The 23rd Psalm”
“The LORD is my shepherd;
There is nothing I lack.
You restore my strength.
You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.
Even when I walk through a dark valley,
I fear no harm for you are at my side;
Your rod and staff give me courage.
You set a table before me as my enemies watch;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life;
I will dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come. Amen”
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. John Neumann (1811-1860)
John Neumann was born in what is now the Czech Republic. After studying in Prague, he came to New York at 25 and was ordained a priest. He did missionary work in New York until he was 29, when he joined the Redemptorists and became its first member to profess vows in the United States. He continued missionary work in Maryland, Virginia and Ohio, where he became popular with the Germans.
At 41, as bishop of Philadelphia, he organized the parochial school system into a diocesan one, increasing the number of pupils almost twentyfold within a short time.
Gifted with outstanding organizing ability, he drew into the city many teaching communities of sisters and the Christian Brothers. During his brief assignment as vice provincial for the Redemptorists, he placed them in the forefront of the parochial movement.
Well-known for his holiness and learning, spiritual writing and preaching, on October 13, 1963, John Neumann became the first American bishop to be beatified. Canonized in 1977, he is buried in St. Peter the Apostle Church in Philadelphia.
Neumann took seriously our Lord’s words, “Go and teach all nations.” From Christ he received his instructions and the power to carry them out. For Christ does not give a mission without supplying the means to accomplish it. The Father’s gift in Christ to John Neumann was his exceptional organizing ability, which he used to spread the Good News.
Today the Church is in dire need of men and women to continue in our times the teaching of the Good News. The obstacles and inconveniences are real and costly. Yet when Christians approach Christ, he supplies the necessary talents to answer today’s needs. The Spirit of Christ continues his work through the instrumentality of generous Christians.
“All people of whatever race, condition or age, in virtue of their dignity as human persons, have an inalienable right to education. This education should be suitable to the particular destiny of the individuals, adapted to their ability, sex and national cultural traditions, and should be conducive to amicable relations with other nations in order to promote true unity and peace in the world. True education aims to give people a formation which is directed towards their final end and the good of that society to which they belong and in which, as adults, they will have their share of duties to perform.” (Declaration on Christian Education, 1, Austin Flannery translation).
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 #’s 5& 6 of 26:
5. Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters, in Sacred Scripture, in the Church, and in liturgical activity. The faith of St. Francis, who often said, “I see nothing bodily of the Most High Son of God in this world except His most holy body and blood,” should be the inspiration and pattern of their Eucharistic life.
6. They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.
Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialog of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.