Today in Catholic History:
† 303 – Emperor Diocletian orders general persecution of Christians.
† 1417 – Bith of Pope Paul II, [Pietro Barbo], Italy (1464-71)
† 1447 – Death of Pope Eugene IV, [Gabriele Condulmer], Italian (1431-47)
† 1455 – Traditional date for the publication of the Gutenberg Bible, the first Western book printed from movable type.
† 1970 – Holy Eucharist is given by women for the first time in Roman Catholic services
† Memorial/Feasts: Saint Polycarp of Smyrna (died 155).
(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
“Today in Catholic History”
Quote or Joke of the Day:
A man is 72 years old and loves to fish. He was sitting in his boat the other day when he heard a voice say, “Pick me up.” He looked around and couldn’t see anyone. He thought he was dreaming when he heard the voice say again, “Pick me up.”
He looked in the water and there, floating on the top, was a frog. The man said, “Are you talking to me?” The frog said, “Yes, I’m talking to you. Pick me up then, kiss me and I’ll turn into the most beautiful woman you have ever seen. I’ll make sure that all your friends are envious and jealous because I will be your bride!”
The man looked at the frog for a short time, reached over, picked it up carefully, and placed it in his front pocket. The frog said, “What, are you nuts? Didn’t you hear what I said? I said kiss me and I will be your beautiful bride.” He opened his pocket, looked at the frog and said, “Nah, at my age I’d rather have a talking frog.”
With age comes wisdom.
Franciscan Formation Reflection:
A question of people’s salvation. We can all see the urgency of giving a loyal, humble and courageous answer to this question, and of acting accordingly. Such an exhortation seems to us to be of capital importance, for the presentation of the Gospel message is not an optional contribution for the Church. It is the duty incumbent on her by the command of the Lord Jesus, so that people can believe and be saved. This message is indeed necessary. It is unique. It cannot be replaced. It does not permit either indifference, syncretism or accommodation. It is a question of people’s salvation. It is the beauty of the Revelation that it represents. It brings with it a wisdom that is not of this world. It is able to stir up by itself faith – faith that rests on the power of God. (Cf. 1 Cor 2:5) It is truth. It merits having the apostle consecrate to it all his time and all his energies, and to sacrifice for it, if necessary, his own life.
The evangelizing activity of Jesus Christ. The witness that the Lord gives of Himself and that Saint Luke gathered together in his Gospel – “I must proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God” (Lk 4:43) – without doubt has enormous consequences, for it sums up the whole mission of Jesus: “That is what I was sent to do.” (Lk 4:43). These words take on their full significance if one links them with the previous verses, in which Christ has just applied to Himself the words of the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor.” (Lk 4:18; cf. Is 61:1) Going from town to town, preaching to the poorest – and frequently the most receptive – the joyful news of the fulfillment of the promises and of the Covenant offered by God is the mission for which Jesus declares that He is sent by the Father. And all the aspects of His mystery – the Incarnation itself, His miracles, His teaching, the gathering together of the disciples, the sending out of the Twelve, the cross and the resurrection, the permanence of His presence in the midst of His own – were components of His evangelizing activity.
Today’s reflection is about Jesus warning against envy, jealousy, and intolerance toward others; and ecumenism.
38 John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” 39 Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. 40 For whoever is not against us is for us. (NAB Mark 9:38-40)
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus warns His followers about getting caught-up in the grip of jealousy, envy, and intolerance toward others. Though the “exorcists” who did not follow Jesus Christ directly, – – meaning not with His “group” of followers, – – they were still laboring for God, and are part of His kingdom. We cannot lose sight of the real truth that these men were disciples of Jesus. They were, in fact, acting in the name of Jesus!
Jesus’ reply to His jealous followers is filled with a divinely inspired, and Scripturally-based, wisdom:
“The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LORD, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)
“All wisdom comes from the LORD and with him it remains forever.” (Sirach 1:1)
“There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.” (Mark 9:39)
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.” (James 1:5)
A far-reaching principle is further revealed in the very next verse:
“For whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40)
This verse reveals God’s divine acceptance, tolerance, and charity. Even the smallest consideration, civility, and good manners, – – especially made known to those who teach in Jesus’ name – – are noticed in God’s eyes, and rewarded in His kingdom.
There is no “exclusivity” with God. There is not a notion of “good is not good unless I am the one who does the good!” In reality, in God’s kingdom, “good is good, even if it is not I who does it!”
An early church father (330-395 AD), Gregory of Nyssa, comments on other individuals performing acts of “good” in God’s name, and out of love:
“God never asks his servants to do what is impossible. The love and goodness of His [Trinitarian] Godhead is revealed as richly available. It is poured out like water upon all. God furnished to each person according to His will the ability to do something good. None of those seeking to be saved will be lacking in this ability, given by the one who said: ‘whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.’”
From a biblical standpoint, Mark is not the only Gospel writer to cover this specific topic. A very similar version of today’s Gospel can be found in Luke’s gospel:
“Then John said in reply, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.’” (Luke 9:49-50)
We act similar to Jesus’ first disciples when we get upset at the good acts and words of others; actions and words which seem to “emit a glow” brighter than our actions and words. The Evangelist Paul says that:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:4,6)
Envy, jealousy, and intolerance are sinful for the reason that these behaviors shows the way for us to grieve, distress, and sorrow over what, in reality as a Catholic, should make us rejoice and be thankful – our neighbor’s “good”! “Envy, jealousy, and intolerance” are disrespectful and defiant to “love”. Love is found instead through rejoicing with our neighbor’s “good”; while envy, jealousy, and intolerance are the acts of grieving over our neighbors “good”.
So, how can we overcome envy, jealousy, and intolerance? There is a very simple answer given in Holy Scripture; again from Paul:
“The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us.” (Romans 5:5).
The Holy Spirit purifies our love we extend to others. The Holy Spirit also liberates us from envy, jealously, greed, and bitterness – – if we allow Him to work with, in, and through us. The love that the Holy Spirit fills our hearts naturally seeks the highest good of others we meet. So, in daily prayer, simply ask Jesus Christ to convert and fill your heart and soul. That way, you may always be pleased and celebrate the good of others (even those you find unlikable and/or unfriendly).
God the Father created us in love – – to give love. Jesus Christ’s love encourages us to give generously to those in the smallest of need of want. The love we exhibit to others also conveys the appreciation and thankfulness we have for the overflowing righteousness and compassion our Holy Father has towards us.
Have you ever felt “threatened” by other Christian groups? You know; Christians who have a different style of worship and prayer, and/or who act (and maybe react) differently than the typical “cradle” Catholic behave. None of us has a monopoly on God! Remember, Jesus was not Catholic, or for that matter, Christian in His human form – – He was Jewish. The Holy Spirit moves as He wills, and not always in ways we wish or expect.
“The cause of Catholicism is not served by the rejection of other ways of Christian discipleship.” (Fr. Denis McBride, C.Ss.R.)
Jesus is also presenting the idea of “ecumenism”. Ecumenism is once again a very popular concept and topic in today’s Catholic conversations. One in which I rejoice with a glad and joyful heart. I cannot wait until all Christians are home again, back to the first and true Christian Church, – – the Catholic Church (Don’t get mad, please continue reading.).
I know some of my readers are of Protestant faiths and are probably saying, “Say what?!” I pray that I have not upset you too much with my remark. I know you most probably feel the same way toward your denomination as I do toward the Catholic faith. So, please bear with me and you will see that we are also most probably on the same wavelength when it comes to “ecumenism”.
The title I created for this reflection (“You Can’t Love God If You Are A Catholic!”) is a true comment directed to me several years ago. Ironically, it was verbalized in a small crowd of co-workers, and by a person (a friend as well) who is an “ordained” Protestant Minister (as a “side job”) with His own “storefront” church! I attempted to explain to this person about how the Catholic Church IS a faith of Christianity, yet he refused to believe in this fact. He said, “I was not a Christian, but a ‘Papist’”, and he had no need or belief in a “Papacy Religion being Christian in origin”. He had the tightest of closed minds, in my opinion. I honestly believe he felt threatened by my faith. Was the holy Spirit dwelling in him?
However, others in the group that day were impressed with the candor and respect I maintained throughout his “slamming” of my Catholic faith. They were also moved when I approached – – and hugged – – this young man at the end of his diatribe, telling him that I still loved him and would keep him in my prayers.
It soon became apparent to me that several of these people were non-active, apathetic, and/or “fallen away” Catholics. Because of this encounter, I started a dialogue with them (and through the actions of the Holy Spirit) that eventually led them back to full union and participation in the Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a significant amount to say about Christ working in other denominations and people. I have chosen only two for this reflection, but I encourage you to read much more on the subject while in your daily casual reading of this enticing book of information – – the “Catechism” (Ok, maybe not so enticing, to most). Other denominations and individual non-Catholics may well be “elements” of sanctifying grace granted by God, while still not in full union with the true Catholic Church.
“’Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth’ are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: ‘the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements.’ Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to ‘Catholic unity.’” (CCC 819)
Yes, I believe ecumenism can be achieved in our lifetimes. Look at what is happening with the Orthodox and Anglican Churches recently. Protestant Ministers are converting to Catholicism in large numbers recently. God works on His time-table and not ours. All we can do is pray for reunion, and rejoice with every child of God “coming home”. With God all things are possible!
“Concern for achieving unity ‘involves the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike.’ But we must realize ‘that this holy objective—the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ—transcends human powers and gifts.” That is why we place all our hope in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the love of the Father for us, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.” (CCC 822)
At this same time, it seems that a large amount of Catholics are leaving the Church family. I believe this sad event – – an “exodus” – – is due, in part, to poor catechesis since Vatican II. Another reason is the improper, liberal, and sneaky, scheming, and deceitful oversight of the clergy in the past few decades, doing a good job (for awhile) of hiding badly behaved and wayward priests. Thank you Lord, that this heartbreaking and distressing period in our Church is nearing its end.
However, there is also good news for Christianity (the other side of the coin). According to the latest estimations by the International Bulletin of Missionary Research, which annually publishes statistics on Christianity around the world, by mid-2011 the average number of NEW converts to Christianity will increase each day, as the number of atheists drops.
The average number of new Christians per day – 80,000
The number whom will be Catholic – 31,000
The average number of fewer atheists every 24 hours – 300
(source: “Our Sunday Visitor”, February 27, 2011, page 3)
God truly does work in mysterious and glorious ways. It may be hard to follow Him at times, but it is never hard to love Him. At Mass this past weekend, Fr. “Syd” asked a power question with which I will end this reflection today:
“If Christianity were a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict YOU?”
“Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel”
“Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host – by the Divine Power of God – cast into hell, Satan and all the evil spirits, who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. Polycarp (d. 156)
St. Ignatius, on his way to Rome to be martyred, visited Polycarp at Smyrna, and later at Troas wrote him a personal letter. The Asia Minor Churches recognized Polycarp’s leadership by choosing him as a representative to discuss with Pope Anicetus the date of the Easter celebration in Rome—a major controversy in the early Church.
Only one of the many letters written by Polycarp has been preserved, the one he wrote to the Church of Philippi in Macedonia.
At 86, Polycarp was led into the crowded Smyrna stadium to be burned alive. The flames did not harm him and he was finally killed by a dagger. The centurion ordered the saint’s body burned. The “Acts” of Polycarp’s martyrdom are the earliest preserved, fully reliable account of a Christian martyr’s death. He died in 156.
Polycarp was recognized as a Christian leader by all Asia Minor Christians—a strong fortress of faith and loyalty to Jesus Christ. His own strength emerged from his trust in God, even when events contradicted this trust. Living among pagans and under a government opposed to the new religion, he led and fed his flock. Like the Good Shepherd, he laid down his life for his sheep and kept them from more persecution in Smyrna. He summarized his trust in God just before he died: “Father… I bless Thee, for having made me worthy of the day and the hour… .” (Martyrdom, Chapter 14).
“Stand fast, therefore, in this conduct and follow the example of the Lord, ‘firm and unchangeable in faith, lovers of the brotherhood, loving each other, united in truth,’ helping each other with the mildness of the Lord, despising no man” (Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians).
Patron Saint of: Earaches
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 23 & 24 of 26:
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.
24. To foster communion among members, the council should organize regular and frequent meetings of the community as well as meeting with other Franciscan groups, especially with youth groups. It should adopt appropriate means for growth in Franciscan and ecclesial life and encourage everyone to a life of fraternity. The communion continues with deceased brothers and sisters through prayer for them.