What a week we had. Snow, sleet, wind, and COLD was had by all. Two inches of ice with ten inches of snow on the top at the beginning and mid-week, with an additional 4 inches of predicted “just a dusting” yesterday. More snow predicted for tomorrow.
On the positive side, did not lose power (yet) and we got a lot of “family time”. Playing “Chutes and Ladders” with four teenage boys can be a “hoot and howler” when stir-crazy.
Last weekend, I attended the St. Louis Catholic Men’s Conference, held at St. Louis University. What a great, spiritual, and uplifting time I experienced! The lectures were superb, the fellowship was awesome, and the books and CD’s available were numerous (my wallet was quite a bit lighter at the end of the day). I highly recommend this conference to all, if it is available in your area. Who wants to attend with me next year?
Today in Catholic History:
† 337 – St Julius I begins his reign as Catholic Pope
† 891 – Death of Photius, Byzantine theologist/patriarch of Constantinople/saint
† 1740 – Death of Pope Clement XII (b. 1652)
† 1910 – Death of Alfonso Maria Fusco. Beatified Italian Roman Catholic priest and founder (b.1839)
† 1922 – Cardinal Achille Ratti elected Pope Pius XI
† Feast/Memorials: Saint Amand, Apostle of the Franks; Saint Vedastus; Saint Dorothea, patron saint of florists; Saint Paul Miki; Saint Titus
(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 11 of 13 Parts
It is only through our conversion and our efforts to conform to Christ, like Francis, that our parrhesia and faithfulness to the accomplishment of our Mission can be born and prosper.
It is a matter of recognizing the Plan which God has for each of us, in which we will find our own Truth, which is Christ, and the Grace to accomplish fully our vocation and mission, letting charity in truth, which is God, take hold of us, as we are taught by the Holy Father Benedict XVI in his latest Encyclical, Caritas in Veritate:
Charity in truth… is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity.
(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 teaching that His disciples are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
13 You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp stand, where it gives light to all in the house. 16 Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. (NAB Matthew 5:13-16)
Today’s Gospel reading is quite endearing and timely for the majority us this past week. After “surviving” a declared, genuine, and potentially life-threatening ice storm/blizzard/deep-freeze, I have used mega-amounts of driveway salt in the past few days. (And I am supposed to be on a low-salt diet!)
Jesus just completed the teaching of the Beatitudes. He used the metaphor of “salt and light” to describe our life as His disciples. Jesus seemed to appreciate using fairly ordinary images, (like salt and light), to convey extraordinary truths of fact and spirituality. At every Mass today Jesus will be stating a very deep and prophetic statement in these few sentences, and in the images it creates in our minds. His declaration is not only for those following Jesus nearly two millennia ago, but also for His many disciples today and in the future. He is teaching to His disciples, He emphasized that the results of their (and our) conduct, actions, and activities can influence the world for a divine good. Every single one of us will NOT escape notice in doing God’s will any more than a city set on a mountain can escape notice.
How often do we think of salt and light in our lives and in society as a whole? We seem to take salt for granted (unless it is snowing), but this element of nature was critical in the days before refrigeration and prior to the advances in today’s preservation techniques. During the time of Jesus, salt was also used as a healing agent as well as the aforementioned essential preservative and food flavoring.
In a similar way, the prevalent and common use of electricity in our modern world makes us less perceptive and less insightful to the value, need, and importance of the sun’s light in our lives.
Jesus says to these farmers, fishermen, and laborers, “You are the salt of the earth … the light of the world.” I am sure they were standing there listening to Him start His teaching, and thinking, “Hey, wait a minute. You pulled out the wrong sermon today. That sermon should be for the big city people in Jerusalem. That is where the scholars, priests, lawyers, and philosophers live and work. We are just little ‘nobodies’ that make no difference to anyone, barely surviving each day.” How wrong can they be in this thought?!
Jesus is warning these men (and women) following Him that they would attract strong opposition from the world:
“Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mathew 5:11-12)
God could have destroyed – – wiped out – – ALL evil in His authority, power, and supremacy: in His omnipotence. Yet, He did not. He actually did a much better thing. He allows good to come out of evil! He makes “sanctity” (holiness) come out of evil! When the day of His bountiful harvest comes, sanctity will be found so great and overpowering among us – – solely because of the wickedness, malice, and evil that will cover and take it in. WOW – this paragraph is a reflection just by itself!
Food for thought: Even ONE person in a family or group of friends may be the salvation for the whole family or group. It may not be given to him to see the final results, and ultimate conclusion of his acts and words on the family or group, but God truly works through each of us in unique and special ways. Sin is negative, but sanctity is so much more positive. In fact, sanctity is truly the only REAL power when it comes to evil! SO, when prompted with evil, flip the coin over to see the opportunity for holiness – – for love – – for SANCTITY!
We are never alone in fighting evil. His disciples will exert an influence on the world through and with the power of the Holy Spirit. If we fail in doing good works, we would be as useless as “flavorless salt or as a lamp whose light is concealed”. This simile (a figure of speech or image) is the bases of a fundamental and essential teaching for any Catholic. We all must strive for personal sanctification (a means of achieving holiness or a source of grace), AND, we must also strive to seek sanctification in all others we meet. As salt purifies, preserves, and penetrates, so must we – – as His disciple on earth – – be “salt” in the world to purify, preserve, and penetrate society, for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, love, and peace.
In Jesus’ time, people traded with salt, exactly like we trade with gold, stocks, and bonds today. It was used as a form of “currency”! Why? Salt was used to preserve food from corruption: going “bad” or rotting. Salt also “brings out” flavor in foods to which it is added, usually making it taste better. Salt is not noticed physically in the food we eat, completely disappearing into the cuisine it is placed into. Its “actions” in the food is noticeable, yet remains invisible to the naked eye.
We should also be the same as “salt” among the people around us. We should help others not to sour, not to sin, not to “go bad”. Others we meet should recognize the flavor and zest of our spirituality, trust, and love for God and each other we come into contact, – – truly seeing Jesus in everyone we meet. However, our actions should not draw attention to ourselves, but instead to the magnificent glory and divinity of the Holy Trinity.
“You are salt, apostolic soul. ‘Salt is a useful thing’, we read in the holy Gospel; but if the salt loses its taste, it is good for nothing, neither for the land nor for the manure heap; it is thrown out as useless.” (St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way, 921)
The odd theory of salt “losing its flavor” has led some scholars to reason that the verse refers to salt from the Dead Sea. Since this type of “salt” is chemically “impure”, it could conceivably lose its taste with time and atmospheric conditions. (If you put salt on the bedpost, would it lose its flavor overnight?)
Our good works are the fruits of charity, – – of love. Our works are to love others as God loves each of us individually and as a whole.
“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” (John 15:12)
John Stott, an Anglican clergyman of some notoriety, once commented that when society goes bad:
“We Christians tend to throw up our hands in pious horror and reproach the non-Christian world; but should we not rather reproach ourselves? One can hardly blame unsalted meat for going bad. It cannot do anything else. The real question to ask is: ‘Where is the salt?’”
Do your thoughts, words, behaviors, actions, and life in general, help to hinder and stop the physical, social, and spiritual decay of society that is festering and rancid family, neighborhood, country, and world?
Jesus also used the image of “light and a lamp” to further illustrate His teaching. Lamps in the ancient world served a vital function, as they still do today. They enable people to see and work in the dark. Lamps have saved my shins many times in the middle of the night. (Can you picture urban “rush hours” without intersection signal lights?) The Jewish people of Jesus’ time comprehended “light” a little different than we do now. For them, “light” could also be an expression of an inner beauty, truth, and goodness of, and with God. In His light we see light.
“For with you is the fountain of life, and in your light we see light.” (Psalm 36:10)
God’s word is a lamp that directs our steps on our individual paths to Him.
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
Our duty or mission as Catholics involves the conversion of others to His grace and love. It is one of the clearest expressions of love we can show. The Second Vatican Council emphasized our duty to be apostolic – to be like the Apostles. And what is that duty? Well, simply put, to preach the Gospel in our thoughts, words, and actions – – ALWAYS!!
“It seems to me that this lamp is the symbol of charity; it must shine out not only to cheer up those we love best but to all in the house.” (St. Therese of Lisieux, The Autobiography of a Saint, Chapter 9)
St. Francis preached this notion in his own special way, when he said:
“Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words!”
Our duty to be like the Apostles was conferred to each of us in an individual and specifically unique way with our Baptism and Confirmation (cf., Lumen gentium, 33). We are given untold opportunities for applying our love for each other, for evangelization, and for sanctification. Always let “your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds” (Matthew 5:16).
In regards to our Catholic witness to others, it is said in the “Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church”:
“The Church must be present in these groups through her children, who dwell among them or who are sent to them. For all Christians, wherever they live, are bound to show forth, by the example of their lives and by the witness of the word, that new man put on at baptism and that power of the Holy Spirit by which they have been strengthened at Conformation. Thus other men, observing their good works, can glorify the Father and can perceive more fully the real meaning of human life and the universal bond of the community of mankind.” (Ad gentes, 11)
Many of the speeches given by George H.W. Bush (#43 – Daddy Bush) had a recurring phrase throughout his Presidency about a “thousand points of light”. The phrase was actually created by his speechwriter, Peggy Noonan, and the phrase was first used in his inaugural address on January 20, 1989:
“I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good. We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading, sometimes being led, rewarding. We will work on this in the White House, in the Cabinet agencies. I will go to the people and the programs that are the brighter points of light, and I will ask every member of my government to become involved. The old ideas are new again because they are not old, they are timeless: duty, sacrifice, commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in.”
You may like his politics are not like his politics, but this part of his speech was extraordinary in showing his love for all mankind. God’s grace not only illuminates the darkness in our lives, showing us our sins and iniquities, but it also fills us with the warmth of His divinely spiritual light, joy, and peace. Just as the light from our Sun (in the celestial heavens) illuminates the darkness of the world and enables one to see visually, so does the light of Christ (our heavenly SUN SON on earth) shine in the hearts of His followers and enables all of us to see the heavenly reality of God’s shining kingdom, also on earth.
All Catholics wherever they happen to be, must be living witnesses and examples of God’s kingdom through their words, deeds, and actions. We have an obligation to manifest and reveal the “new being” we became through the sacred Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. In others seeing our witness to God’s word through good works, they may recognize the true meaning of human dignity and life, as well as the universal commonality, unity, and shared aims of mankind as creations of our loving God.
Matthew’s Gospel speaks to the enduring power of imagery that Jesus often presented to His followers two thousand or so years ago (and still today). Jesus’ call to be a “salt for the earth and light for the world” powerfully states our mission as a Church, and as individual Catholics. Our commitment to social justice and peace for God’s creations surges from the two catchphrases that Jesus imparts to us in today’s Gospel. Our obligations and responsibilities as disciples of Jesus Christ, leads us to our situational requirements as Catholics, known to many of us as the “Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy”.
The traditional “Corporal Works of Mercy” are:
•To feed the hungry;
•To give drink to the thirsty;
•To clothe the naked;
•To shelter the homeless;
•To visit the sick;
•To ransom the imprisoned;
•To bury the dead.
The “Spiritual Works of Mercy” are:
•To instruct the ignorant;
•To counsel the doubtful;
•To admonish sinners;
•To bear wrongs patiently;
•To forgive offences willingly;
•To comfort the afflicted;
•To pray for the living and the dead.
Our mission is to be a light-bearer of, and for, Christ so that others may see the love, truth, and grace, of and in, Holy Scripture. When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, console the doubtful, and so on, we exemplify to ourselves – – and to each other – – our witness to being the “salt of the earth and the light of the world”. When we do these things in a “community” of faith, – – the Church, – – we are indeed acting as “a city set on a mountain” that cannot be hidden!
Jesus said that “nothing can remain hidden or secret”. We can try to hide things from others and from ourselves; yet, we cannot hide ANYTHING from God! Many of us yield to the temptation to shut our eyes from the consequences of sinful ways and immoral habits, even when we are fully aware of what the consequences are for such behaviors. Remember, even in those times when we abandon Him, He NEVER abandons us. He will always wait for us to return to Him – – with the open and outstretched arms – – of the Crucified Jesus on that Holy Tree. There is great freedom and joy for those who live in God’s light and who seeks HIs truth through faith.
“Prayer for Enlightenment”
“O Holy Ghost, divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate to you my understanding, my heart and my will, my whole being for time and for eternity. May my understanding be always obedient to your heavenly inspirations and the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church, of which you are the infallible Guide; may my heart be ever inflamed with love of God and of my neighbor; may my will be ever conformed to the divine will, and may my whole life be a faithful following of the life and virtues of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and you be honor and glory forever. Amen.”
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. Paul Miki and Companions (d. 1597)
Nagasaki, Japan, is familiar to Americans as the city on which the second atomic bomb was dropped, immediately killing over 37,000 people. Three and a half centuries before, 26 martyrs of Japan were crucified on a hill, now known as the Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki. Among them were priests, brothers and laymen, Franciscans, Jesuits and members of the Secular Franciscan Order; there were catechists, doctors, simple artisans and servants, old men and innocent children—all united in a common faith and love for Jesus and his Church.
Brother Paul Miki, a Jesuit and a native of Japan, has become the best known among the martyrs of Japan. While hanging upon a cross Paul Miki preached to the people gathered for the execution: “The sentence of judgment says these men came to Japan from the Philippines, but I did not come from any other country. I am a true Japanese. The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason I die. I believe that I am telling only the truth before I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you to become happy. I obey Christ. After Christ’s example I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.”
When missionaries returned to Japan in the 1860s, at first they found no trace of Christianity. But after establishing themselves they found that thousands of Christians lived around Nagasaki and that they had secretly preserved the faith. Beatified in 1627, the martyrs of Japan were finally canonized in 1862.
Today a new era has come for the Church in Japan. Although the number of Catholics is not large, the Church is respected and has total religious freedom. The spread of Christianity in the Far East is slow and difficult. Faith such as that of the 26 martyrs is needed today as much as in 1597.
“Since Jesus, the Son of God, showed his love by laying down his life for us, no one has greater love than they who lay down their lives for him and for their sisters and brothers (see 1 John 3:16; John 15:13). Some Christians have been called from the beginning, and will always be called, to give this greatest testimony of love to everyone, especially to persecutors. Martyrdom makes disciples like their master, who willingly accepted death for the salvation of the world, and through it they are made like him by the shedding of blood. Therefore, the Church considers it the highest gift and as the supreme test of love. And while it is given to few, all, however, must be prepared to confess Christ before humanity and to follow him along the way of the cross amid the persecutions which the Church never lacks” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 42, 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 6 & 7 of 26:
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.
7. United by their vocation as “brothers and sisters of penance” and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel calls “conversion.” Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.
On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace.