Tag Archives: Christ

“The Advent Wreath; Our Lady of Guadalupe; Christ’s Divinity; Creating though Purity, Love, and Spirit, a Worthwhile Community!” –†


 

2ndWednesday of Advent

 

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

  • ·        Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Today in Catholic History
  • ·        Catholic Apologetics
  • ·        A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • ·        Reflection on article  of  the OFS Rule 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:. pencil

 

Today, I will bring to you the origins of, traditions of, and reasons for using the:

The Advent Wreath

The Advent wreath is part of our long-standing Catholic tradition.  However, the actual origins are uncertain.  There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreathes with lit candles during 800px-adventkranz_andreathe cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future for the warm and extended-sunlight days of Spring.  In Scandinavia, during winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light so this god would  turn “the wheel of the earth” back toward the sun in order to lengthen the days and restore warmth.

In the “Middle Ages”, Christians adapted this tradition and used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas.  After all, Christ is “the light come into the world” (John 3:19), dispelling the darkness of sin and radiating the truth and love of God to all.  By 1600, both Catholics and Lutherans had more formal practices surrounding the Advent wreath at Christmas time.

The symbolism of the Advent wreath is indeed spiritually beautiful.  The wreath is made of various evergreens, themselves signifying continuous life.  These various evergreens have a traditional meaning Advent-wreath-wk2-mwhich can be adapted in our faith: The laurels signify victory over persecution and suffering, with pine, holly, and yew, pointing toward immortality; and cedar aimed at strength and healing.

Holly, in addition, has a unique Christian symbolism: The prickly leaves remind us of Christ’s crown of thorns.  One English legend even tells us of the cross being made of holly wood (not from California).  The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ.  Any pine cones, nuts, or seedpods used to decorate the wreath also reinforce the symbolization of life and resurrection.

So, all together, the wreath of evergreens depicts the immortality of our soul AND the new, everlasting life promised to us through Jesus Christ, the eternal living “Word” of God the Father, who entered our world becoming true man, and who was victorious over sin and death through His own passion, death, and resurrection.

The ring of the Advent wreath – – decorated with candles – – was a symbol in northern Europe long before the arrival of Christianity to its shores.  Though some sources suggest the wreath was in common use in the Middle Ages, others say that it was established in Germany as a Christian custom only in the 16th century.  Regardless of the origin, Roman Catholics in Germany began to adopt the custom in the 1920s, and in the 1930s it spread to North America among the German immigrants.

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. I personally know of three separate traditions advent_wreath_sm_wk4involving the lighting of these candles to represent eras of our faith, and the individual meanings of each candle.  If you know of others, please let me know.

One tradition is that each week (and its candle) represents one thousand years, the sum of years – – 4,000 – – from Adam and Eve until the Birth of our Savior.  

Another similar type of tradition has each candle representing a separate era of Christianity: the first being the era before Christ; the second candle being the 33 year era of Christ’s physical human/divine presence on earth; the third “rose” colored candle representing Christ’s continual loving and merciful presence with each of us until the end of time, which is itself represented by the fourth candle signifying the awaiting of the Parousia.

Finally, in this third separate tradition:

    • The first purple candle lit (1st week) is called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets – – primarily Isaiah – – who foretold the birth of Christ; thus representing hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah.  
    • The second purple candle represents “love”, and is called the “Bethlehem Candle”, symbolizing Christ’s manger
    • The third rose-colored candle is customarily called the “Shepherds Candle” and it represents joy
    • The fourth and last purple candle, called the “Angels Candle,” represents “peace”.

In the Catholic Church, the most popular colors for the Advent candle theme are undeniably the colors “purple” and “rose”, corresponding with the colors of the liturgical vestments for the four Sundays of Advent. Thus, three candles are purple, and one is rose.  

Purple is the traditional color of penitential seasons, with the purple candles symbolizing the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken during the Advent Season.  

Rose is the color for the third Sunday of Advent, known as “Gaudete Sunday”, a Latin word meaning “to rejoice” – – and is taken from the first line of the traditional entrance prayer (called the Introit) for the Mass of the third Sunday of Advent.  Rose-colored vestments, worn by the priest at Mass on this day, are a symbol of rejoicing because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and we are ever-so-much closer to Christmas. 

A variation of the Advent wreath adds a white candle in the center to symbolize the “Christ Candle“.  White is the traditional color of “purity” in the Western church.  Jesus Christ is the sinless, spotless, and advent%20wreaththe pure Messiah Savior.  In addition, those who receive Jesus Christ as Savior, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, are washed clean of their sins and made whiter than snow.

The progressive lighting of the candles from week to week symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world AND the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.  This “light” from the candles, as a whole, signifies Christ, the “Light of the world”.  

Since Advent is a time to stir our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the wreath and its associated prayers provide us a great way to augment our special preparations for Christmas.  Moreover, this good symbolic tradition helps us to remain vigilant in our preparations, not losing sight of the TRUE meaning of Christmas (CHRISTinMASS).

Information taken from the following sites:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advent_wreath;
http://catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0132.html;
http://christianity.about.com/od/christmas/qt/adventwreath.htm

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. history colorToday in Catholic History:

†   1098 – First Crusade: Massacre of Ma’arrat al-Numan – Crusaders breach the town’s walls and massacre about 20,000 inhabitants.  After finding themselves with insufficient food, they resort to cannibalism.

†   1212 – Death of Geoffrey, Archbishop of York

†   1524 – Pope Clement VII approves Organization of Jewish Community of Rome

†   1610 – Birth of Saint Vasilije (d. 1671), AKA:Saint Basil of Ostrog, a Serbian Saint venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

†   1769 – Pope Clement XIV proclaims a universal jubilee

†   1779 – Birth of Madeleine Sophie Barat, French saint (d. 1865)

†   2003 – Death of Joseph Anthony Ferrario, American Catholic prelate (b. 1926), the third bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu.

†   2008 – Death of Avery Dulles, Roman Catholic Cardinal, Theologian (b. 1918)

†   Feasts/Memorials: Mexico – Our Lady of Guadalupe Day

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

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. Catholic ApolgeticsCatholic Apologetics:

 

My reason and purpose for this section on my blog is to provide “scriptural confirmation” for our beliefs and doctrines, not to cause dissention or opposition with my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, yet not in union with the Roman Catholic Church.  Whether God speaks to us through the “Bible”, or through “Tradition”, it is the Holy Spirit who inspires the “Word” from which all authentic tradition flows.

Tradition can be separated into two aspects: oral and behavioral.  Oral tradition includes written forms.  After all, it ALL started with oral tradition.  Behavioral tradition includes Baptism, Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, Laying on of hands for healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination. 

All Scriptural verses are taken from both the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible and the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Christ’s Divinity, Part 2:

Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am’ (John 8:58). RSV

Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:58). KJV

*

I and the Father are one (John 10:30). RSV

I and my Father are one.”(John 10:30). KJV

*

For in Him [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9). RSV

“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9). KJV

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: Our Lady of Guadalupe

 

The feast in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe goes back to the 16th century. Chronicles of that period tell us the story.

A poor Indian named Cuauhtlatohuac was baptized and given the name Juan Diego.  He was a 57-year-old widower and lived in a small village near Mexico City.  On Saturday morning, December 9, 1531, he Our%20Lady%20of%20Guadalupe%208_1422was on his way to a nearby barrio to attend Mass in honor of Our Lady.

He was walking by a hill called Tepeyac when he heard beautiful music like the warbling of birds.  A radiant cloud appeared and within it a young Native American maiden dressed like an Aztec princess.  The lady spoke to him in his own language and sent him to the bishop of Mexico, a Franciscan named Juan de Zumarraga.  The bishop was to build a chapel in the place where the lady appeared.

Eventually the bishop told Juan Diego to have the lady give him a sign.  About this same time Juan Diego’s uncle became seriously ill.  This led poor Diego to try to avoid the lady.  The lady found Diego, nevertheless, assured him that his uncle would recover and provided roses for Juan to carry to the bishop in his cape or tilma.

When Juan Diego opened his tilma in the bishop’s presence, the roses fell to the ground and the bishop sank to his knees.  On Juan Diego’s tilma appeared an image of Mary exactly as she had appeared at the hill of Tepeyac.  It was December 12, 1531.

Comment:

Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego as one of his people is a powerful reminder that Mary and the God who sent her accept all peoples.  In the context of the sometimes rude and cruel treatment of the Indians by the Spaniards, the apparition was a rebuke to the Spaniards and an event of vast significance for Native Americans.  While a number of them had converted before this incident, they now came in droves.  According to a contemporary chronicler, nine million Indians became Catholic in a very short time.  In these days when we hear so much about God’s preferential option for the poor, Our Lady of Guadalupe cries out to us that God’s love for and identification with the poor is an age-old truth that stems from the Gospel itself.

Quote:

Mary to Juan Diego: “My dearest son, I am the eternal Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, Author of Life, Creator of all and Lord of the Heavens and of the Earth … and it is my desire that a church be built here in this place for me, where, as your most merciful Mother and that of all your people, I may show my loving clemency and the compassion that I bear to the Indians, and to those who love and seek me…” (from an ancient chronicle).

Patron Saint of: Americas, Mexico, Phillipnes

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)

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. sfo rule tauSecular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 12 & 13 of 26:

12.  Witnessing to the good yet to come and obligated to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters.

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13.  As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.

A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.

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“Candy Cane’s; Christ’s Divinity; Eucharistic Life; And OFS Profession & Intimacy!” – †


 

Wednesday of the 1st Week of Advent

 

. table_of_contents Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations 
  •  Today in Catholic History 
  •  Catholic Apologetics
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • Reflection on article  of  the OFS Rule

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:. pencil

 

Last Sunday and today, I am sharing information on two objects used by all people in a secular way, the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and the “Candy Cane”.  However, these items started out as ways to catechize Catholics during times of suppression from governments of the day.

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The Candy Cane

(Adapted by Charles Kirkpatrick)

The candy cane is a long-time Christmas tradition.  Everywhere we look we see them.  Did you know they are based on Holy Scripture?  Here are two verses from both the Old and New Testaments:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).

 “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His stripes you have been healed (1 Peter 2:24).

The candy cane is a long-time Christmas tradition.  Everywhere we look we see them.  They are used as decorations on Christmas trees and, of course, they are one of the most popular of all Christmas treats.  I have heard several stories about the history and meaning of the candy cane.  I don’t know if they are candy-canetrue, but I do think that the candy cane can teach us a few things about the true meaning of Christmas.

First of all, if you look at the candy cane like this it looks like the letter J.  Jesus starts with the letter J, so that should remind us of Jesus and help us to remember that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday.

If you look at the candy cane this way, it looks like a shepherd’s crook.  The shepherd used candy-cane-04his crook to keep the sheep from wandering away from the flock and getting lost or eaten by a wild animal.  The Bible says, “The Lord is my shepherd.”  The candy cane should remind us that Jesus is our shepherd and He will keep us from wandering away and getting lost or hurt.

The candy cane is mostly white, a symbol of purity.  That should remind us that Jesus was the spotless Lamb of God and that because He came to be the sacrifice for our sin, we can become as white as snow. 

As you know, the candy cane has three red stripes.   The Bible tells us that before He was crucified, Jesus was beaten with a whip which made blood-red stripes across his back.  The Bible says that we are healed by those stripes.  The stripes on the candy cane should remind us that Jesus suffered and died, so that we can have everlasting life.

To many people, the candy cane is a meaningless decoration seen at Christmas time or just a piece of candy to be eaten and enjoyed.  I hope that this year, every time you see a candy cane, you will be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas.

http://www.sermons4kids.com/candycane.html

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 . history color Today in Catholic History:

†   663 – Fourth Council of Toledo takes place.

†   749 – Death of Saint John of Damascus, theologian

†   1301 – Pope Boniface VIII’s degree Ausculta fili (only nominee)

†   1443 – Birth of Pope Julius II, Albisola, Republic of Genoa, Pope (1503-13), patron of Michelangelo, Bramante, Raphael, (d. 1513)

†   1484 – Pope Innocent VIII issues the Summis desiderantes, a papal bull that deputizes Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger as inquisitors to root out alleged witchcraft in Germany and leads to one of the severest witch hunts in European history.

†   1492 – Christopher Columbus (A Secular Franciscan) becomes the first European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola.

†   1590 – Niccolo Sfondrati chosen Pope Gregory XIV

†   2008 – Death of Patriarch Alexy II of Russia, head of the Russian Orthodox Church (b. 1929)

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

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. Catholic Apolgetics Catholic Apologetics:

 

My reason and purpose for this section on my blog is to provide “scriptural confirmation” for our beliefs and doctrines, not to cause dissention or opposition with my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, yet not in union with the Roman Catholic Church.  Whether God speaks to us through the “Bible”, or through “Tradition”, it is the Holy Spirit who inspires the “Word” from which all authentic tradition flows.

Tradition can be separated into two aspects: oral and behavioral.  Oral tradition includes written forms.  After all, it ALL started with oral tradition.  Behavioral tradition includes Baptism, Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, Laying on of hands for healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination. 

All Scriptural verses are taken from both the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible and the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Christ’s Divinity, Part 1:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’” (Isaiah. 9:6). RSV

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah. 9:6). KJV

*

“Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 16:16-17).  RSV

“Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:16-17). KJV

*

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). RSV

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. (John 1:1). KJV

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. Fran st monkA Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. Sabas (b. 439)

 

Born in Cappadocia (modern-day Turkey), Sabas is one of the most highly regarded patriarchs among the monks of Palestine and is considered one of the founders of Eastern monasticism.

After an unhappy childhood in which he was abused and ran away several times, Sabas finally sought refuge in a monastery.  While family members tried to persuade him to return home, the young boy felt drawn to monastic life.  Although the youngest monk in the house, he excelled in virtue.

At age 18 he traveled to Jerusalem, seeking to learn more about living in solitude.  Soon he asked to be accepted as a disciple of a well-known local solitary, though initially he was regarded as too young to live completely as a hermit.  Initially, Sabas lived in a monastery, where he worked during the day and spent much of the night in prayer.  At the age of 30 he was given permission to spend five days each week in a nearby remote cave, engaging in prayer and manual labor in the form of weaving baskets.  Following the death of his mentor, St. Euthymius, Sabas moved farther into the desert near Jericho.  There he lived for several years in a cave near the brook Cedron.  A rope was his means of access.  Wild herbs among the rocks were his food.  Occasionally men brought him other food and items, while he had to go a distance for his water.

Some of these men came to him desiring to join him in his solitude.  At first he refused.  But not long after relenting, his followers swelled to more than 150, all of them living in individual huts grouped around a church, called a laura.

The bishop persuaded a reluctant Sabas, then in his early 50s, to prepare for the priesthood so that he could better serve his monastic community in leadership.  While functioning as abbot among a large community of monks, he felt ever called to live the life of a hermit.  Throughout each year —consistently in Lent—he left his monks for long periods of time, often to their distress.  A group of 60 men left the monastery, settling at a nearby ruined facility.  When Sabas learned of the difficulties they were facing, he generously gave them supplies and assisted in the repair of their church.

Over the years Sabas traveled throughout Palestine, preaching the true faith and successfully bringing back many to the Church.  At the age of 91, in response to a plea from the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sabas undertook a journey to Constantinople in conjunction with the Samaritan revolt and its violent repression.  He fell ill and, soon after his return, died at the monastery at Mar Saba.  Today the monastery is still inhabited by monks of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and St. Sabas is regarded as one of the most noteworthy figures of early monasticism.

Comment:

Few of us share Sabas’s yearning for a cave in the desert, but most of us sometimes resent the demands others place on our time.  Sabas understands that.  When at last he gained the solitude for which he yearned, a community immediately began to gather around him and he was forced into a leadership role.  He stands as a model of patient generosity for anyone whose time and energy are required by others—that is, for all of us.

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)

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. sfo rule tau Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule Article #’s 05 & 06 of 26:

 

05.  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.   

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06.  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.

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“Joseph, Let’s See What We Can ‘Dream Up’ For You!” – Matthew 1:18-24†


 

Six (6) Days till CHRISTmas.  Are You Ready?!

  

   

Make plans to come home to your family, even if it involves some forgiveness.  Come home to the Catholic Church, even if it involves some forgiveness – perhaps in BOTH directions!  No home, NO Church is perfect.  It’s simply a place where imperfect people treat each other with a kindness no one has earned.

  

 

  

    

Yesterday was my youngest Son’s anniversary.  Sadly, an anniversary we do not necessarily celebrate.  My 11-year-old was diagnosed with type I diabetes 6 years ago. 

He is a typical, and sometimes VERY TYPICAL pre-teen.  The difference between him and his three brothers is that he wears a device on his belt with a catheter going under his skin, providing him with the required amount of insulin he has to have to metabolise the “sugars” in his food.

The flip side of this “coin of fate” is that he has become a very sensitive, intelligent, conceptual, and caring person, whom I often say is the most mature person in the family – – and that includes my wife and myself at times.

Thank you God for the grace of his diabetes.  (Now, please give a cure!)

  

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   401 – St Anastasius I ends his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1370 – Death of Urban V, [Guillaume de Grimoard], the first Avignon Pope (1362-70)
†   1744 – Birth of Jacobus J Cramer, priest of Holland/Zealand/West-Friesland
†  1749 – Death of Francesco Antonio Bonporti, Italian priest and composer (b. 1672)
†   1891 – Charles Uncles becomes the first Black Catholic priest ordained in US, in Baltimore
†   1914 – Death of Johann F Ritter von Schulte, German catholic lawyer, at age 87

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

The Franciscan vision stresses the right relationship of justice.

  

“From the very beginning, Franciscans were seen as ‘fraters’ (and ‘sorores’) ‘minors’, lesser brothers (and sisters).  The Franciscan tradition emphasizes a genuine meeting of justice and charity.  Franciscans do not try to domesticate the prophetic words of the Gospel but rather are called to live out a renewed vision of life and relationships based on justice. Like all Christians, Franciscans are called to read the Signs of the Times, critique abuses of power, and follow an ethic based on the inviolable dignity of all people.” 

The following is from St. Bonaventure’s reflection on St. Francis’ image of himself.  St. Bonaventure writes:

In his own opinion he was nothing but a sinner, though in truth he was a mirror and the splendor of holiness.  As he had learned from Christ, he strove to build himself upon this like a wise architect laying a foundation.”  – St. Bonaventure, Major Life, Chapter VI

(From the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) website:
http://www.franciscanaction.org)

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Two Jesuit novices both wanted a cigarette while they prayed.  They decided to ask their superior for permission.  The first asked but was told no.  A little while later he spotted his friend smoking and praying.  “Why did the superior allow you to smoke and not me?” he asked.  His friend replied, “Because you asked if you could smoke while you prayed, and I asked if I could pray while I smoked!”

 

 

(from http://www.thebricktestament.com Website)

Today’s reflection is about Gabriel appearing to Joseph and directing him to take Mary as his wife and telling him that the child she will bear will be called Emmanuel.

 

18 Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.  When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.  19 Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  20 Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  21 She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.”  24 When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.   (NAB Matthew 1:18-24)

 

We are at the fourth (and last) Sunday of Advent.  Our Gospel reading at Sunday Mass finally permits us to begin contemplating the mysteries of the Incarnation Catholics love to celebrate at Christmas:

“Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about” (Matthew 1:18).

The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus from Joseph’s perspective, and not Mary’s.  In the preceding verses, Matthew had listed the genealogy (family tree) of Jesus, following His family tree (or lineage) to King David; and then even further back to Abraham (Luke’s genealogy goes back to Adam).  In the chapter immediately following this one, Matthew recounts the visit and adoration from the Magi visitors from the “east”, the Holy Family’s rapid flight into Egypt after Jesus’ birth, and King Herod’s massacre of the “Holy Innocents” – the infants (two years of age and younger) of Bethlehem who were found and executed mercilessly in order to satisfy King Herod’s greed and selfishness and to relieve him of fear of another king replacing him.  The other stories we often associate with Christmas, – – the Annunciation, the Visitation, and the choir of angels appearing to the shepherds and sending them to the infant Jesus, – – are found only in the Gospel of Luke.

The virginal conception of Jesus is at work in the Holy Spirit: the third “person” of Godhead.  Matthew sees the virginal conception as the transcendent fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”

We should not skim too quickly over the difficult circumstances described in today’s Gospel.  Peel away the top layers of the “onion” of theology and bible study; look under these top layers to find a hidden message meant only for you to discover (a revelation)!  The way Joseph and Mary faced these circumstances tells us a humungous amount about the Holy Parents – and their faith, love, and trust in God.  I have high suspicions that Jesus’ earthly ministry was infinitely and definitely shaped by Mary and Joseph’s parenting and nurturing skills.  

Joseph and Mary are “betrothed.”  This is often described incorrectly as an engagement period; it is much more than an engagement.  In first century Jewish history, Mosaic Law, and cultural tradition, a “betrothal” was the first part of a marriage contract – – a covenant.  It established a couple (the man and woman) as husband and wife in a legal, but not in a physical way.  (Hmm; Sometimes I think my marriage is like that now! – only joking Honey Pie, Sweety, Snookums!)  A betrothal was followed at a later time, usually some months later, by the husband finally and physically receiving his wife into his home.  At this time a normal married life began (per our modern traditions) for the Jewish couple.  Any breach with infidelity or unfaithfulness to this covenant was considered “adultery”.  

A “righteous man” was the term for a devout observer and follower of the Mosaic Law and Jewish religion – – such was Joseph.  Joseph wanted to sever his marriage bond with Mary whom he initially suspected of a morally gross violation of sacred law and tradition.  In reality, the “law” required him to sever his relationship, however, the Mosaic Law used for this requirement or interpretation (Deuteronomy 22:20-21) did not clearly pertain to Joseph’s situation: The Deuteronomical reference flowing states:

“But if this charge is true, and evidence of the girl’s virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsmen shall stone her to death, because she committed a crime against Israel by her unchasteness in her father’s house. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst.” (Deuteronomy 22:20-21)

Mary was never “unchaste!”  She was a virgin, (and remained a virgin for her entire earthly life)!  The Law therefore did not truly apply to her, (and Joseph realized such after his dream revelation), even though Mary is truly found to be with child while still betrothed.  

Mary had to face an enormous challenge to her faith and trust in God.  She was asked to assume a burden of tremendous and unending responsibility.  Pregnancy outside of wedlock was not tolerated well, if at all, in those days.  She easily could have been rejected by Joseph, by her family, and by all her own people.  Mary probably knew that Joseph and her family would not understand without a revelation from God.  She nonetheless believed and trusted in God’s promises.  (Remember, she said to Gabriel, “May it be unto me according to your word!” – Luke 1:38)

   

  

Joseph had to be troubled with the situation, and most likely took this upsetting matter to God in his prayers.  He was not hasty to pronounce judgment or to respond with hurt and anger.  For this, God rewarded Joseph with direction and comfort, AND with a divine assurance that He Himself had “called” Joseph to be Mary’s husband.  God Himself had “called” Joseph to take on a duty that would require the utmost of faith, confidence, and loving trust in God. 

Joseph’s decision to divorce Mary was overcome by a heavenly command delivered by the Archangel Gabriel.  God intervened through this “messenger” in a way that Joseph could understand, believe, and act on.  After this divinely motivating dream, Joseph immediately not only took Mary into his home, but also accepted the child (Jesus) as his own legally, emotionally, fatherly, and spiritually.  

The “natural” genealogical line (on Joseph’s side) may have been broken in physical terms; however, the promises to King David are fulfilled primarily, naturally through Mary, and supported legally through Joseph’s “adoption” of his son Jesus.  Jesus belongs to, and is part of Joseph’s family.  Jesus is now rooted (Hmm, from the root of Jesse; see Isaiah 11:1), received, and welcomed into the line of David, and through the eyes of Mosaic Law.   Jesus is forever rooted in continuity, association, and relationship with all the notable figures of Israel.

In listing Jesus’ genealogy (in Matthew 1:-1-17), Matthew broke with the Jewish tradition of listing ONLY the male descendants.   He breaks tradition by mentioning four (4) women (and mothers): Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bethsheba.  Another split from Jewish tradition and heritage were these women’s behaviors and histories, which definitely did not reflecting the ideal models for womanhood (but neither do some of the men in this genealogical list).  Consider the following:

T   One woman was alleged to be a prostitute (Rahab),

T   Another became pregnant by a scam she played on her father-in-law (Tamar),

T   Three of these women were “foreigners” (Rahab, Ruth, & Bethsheba), and

T   One was a victim of lust, or a consenting collaborator to adultery and conspiracy (Bethsheba).

    

Joseph was unwilling to expose Mary to shame, for he knew she was still a virgin.  Joseph and Mary are both cooperating with God’s plan.  For this trust they both had in God, they are both recognized as the perfect models for Catholic and all Christian followers of Christ.  They both knew what it truly meant to be faithful servants of God.

Four (4) of the five (5) dreams in the birth story of Jesus found in Holy Scripture were Joseph’s.  It seems this man lived through his dreams!  The only other dream in the story of Jesus’ birth was directed to the “Magi” in Mathew 2:12. 

Gabriel, an “angel of the Lord” was the usual “messenger” in the Old Testament and now again in the New Testament.  He is the designated messenger by God for communication with human beings.  The message given to Joseph in his dream tells us much about the child that Mary bears and Jesus’ role in God’s plan.  

Joseph truly dreamed about his future.  As mentioned above, Gabriel came to Joseph four (4) times (see Matthew 2:13, 19, & 22).  Could these dreams be meant to recall the dreams of another Joseph (with the multi-colored dream coat), son of Jacob the patriarch from Genesis 37:5 and 48:19?  Could a closer parallel be found in the dream of Amram, who was the father of Moses, as related by Josephus in “Antiquities 2, 9, 3”
(http://www.ccel.org/j/josephus/works/JOSEPHUS.HTM):

“A man whose name was Amram, one of the nobler sort of the Hebrews, was afraid … was very uneasy at it, his wife being then with child, and he knew not what to do.  … Accordingly God had mercy on him, and was moved by his supplication.  He stood by him in his sleep, and exhorted him not to despair of his future favors.  He said further, that he did not forget their piety towards him, and would always reward them for it, as he had formerly granted his favor to their forefathers, and made them increase from a few to so great a multitude.  … She was afterwards by him enabled to conceive seed, and bare him sons.  … He became well known to strangers also, by the greatness … make thee famous; for that child, out of dread of whose nativity … shall be this child of thine, and shall be concealed from those who watch to destroy him: and when he is brought up in a surprising way, he shall deliver the Hebrew nation from the distress they are under from the Egyptians.  His memory shall be famous while the world lasts; and this not only among the Hebrews, but foreigners also: – all which shall be the effect of my favor to thee, and to thy posterity.”

The name “Jesus” (a Greek form of the Hebrew “Joshua”) is interpreted as “Yahweh saves.”  Jesus IS the fulfillment of the prophecy heard in today’s first reading from Isaiah (7:14):

“. . . The virgin shall be with child . . . and shall name him Immanuel.”

Emmanuel” translates to “God is with us.”  Emmanuel was the “how” of God’s promise of deliverance to Judah to come, as prophesied by Isaiah seven (7) or so centuries before Jesus’.  In knowing prophesies of old, Matthew saw this biblical “Emmanuel” as being fulfilled in the personhood of Jesus.  To strengthen this position, the name Emmanuel is also alluded to at the end of Matthew’s Gospel wherein the Risen Jesus assures his disciples of his continued presence:

I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

(Emmanuel versus Immanuel: WHAT GIVES?!  “I”mmanuel is a transliteration of the Hebrew (OT) and “E”mmanuel is the Greek spelling for the Hebrew (NT).  A simple way to remember the difference is “’I’ before ‘E’, except after the years B.C.!”

Whenever you’re sad, lonely, or afraid, how inspiring and mood elevating it is to have said to you, “I am with you!”  Out of an unlimited, endless, and vast love, God sent His only Son to share our destiny and to live, teach, die, and rise again, solely to save us from the causes of sin (which is spiritual death).  Jesus is “God – With – Us”!

Even when Joseph and Mary’s circumstances seemed unclear for them; when they felt inadequate for their roles, – – they trusted God.  They trusted God individually and together as a couple and family.  Healthy relationships and families are built on a solid foundation of mutual trust in, respect for, and love – – for God – – and for one another.

How important is trust in your personal and family life?  Do your children and spouse trust you?  Do you trust your children and spouse?  Do you trust God in everything?!  Are you ready to believe in the promises of God, even when confronted with circumstances that seem insurmountable?

Pray that your life is built on a SOLID foundation of trust, respect, and love – as was so perfectly modeled by Joseph and Mary.  Let us celebrate Christmas, – – the Feast of the Incarnation, – – with most joyful hearts.  Let us renew our faith, hope, and love in God, and how He works “in” and “through” us.

God thoroughly departed from human expectations of the time and brought about something new and different – – Jesus Christ!  During this Advent and CHRISTmas (or CHRIST@MASS) season, take some time to contemplate on how God is trying to accompany and guide you beyond your believed potential.  God wants to help you see all people and creation in a new, kinder, and loving way.  He wants you to see His face in all people, and especially in the poor, marginalized, and outcast of society.

It is never too late to get ready for God.  It is never too late to see God in others around you.  Just ask Him to give you a new perspective on the ordinary and unexpected (but always amazing) situations in your life.  When you feel “inadequate” for a role, task, or situation – – turn to Jesus.  Never, ever forget that God is with you – Emmanuel!

 

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

 

“O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Pope Urban V (1310-1370)

 

In 1362, the man elected pope declined the office.  When the cardinals could not find another person among them for that important office, they turned to a relative stranger: the holy person we honor today.

The new Pope Urban V proved a wise choice.  A Benedictine monk and canon lawyer, he was deeply spiritual and brilliant.  He lived simply and modestly, which did not always earn him friends among clergymen who had become used to comfort and privilege.  Still, he pressed for reform and saw to the restoration of churches and monasteries.  Except for a brief period he spent most of his eight years as pope living away from Rome at Avignon, seat of the papacy from 1309 until shortly after his death.

He came close but was not able to achieve one of his biggest goals—reuniting the Eastern and Western churches.

As pope, Urban continued to follow the Benedictine Rule.  Shortly before his death in 1370 he asked to be moved from the papal palace to the nearby home of his brother so he could say goodbye to the ordinary people he had so often helped.

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 19 & 20 of 26:

 

19.     Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.  Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance, they should strive to bring joy and hope to others. Since they are immersed in the resurrection of Christ, which gives true meaning to Sister Death, let them serenely tend toward the ultimate encounter with the Father.

 

 

20.     The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into fraternities of various levels — local, regional, national, and international.  Each one has its own moral personality in the Church. These various fraternities are coordinated and united according to the norm of this rule and of the constitutions.

“I Told You So Before, & I’ll Tell You Now; Don’t Break the Law! Now, Go Teach All Those Fools” – Mt 5:17-19†


I want to congratulate five friends and brothers/sister in Christ that are celebrating a Profession in the Secular Franciscan Order tonight.  These good Catholic men and women have studied hard, and had a large amount of reflection, meditation, and prayer to get to this point.  They are already great Franciscans, and are ready to travel this much further on their journey of faith, peace, love, and desire to follow in Jesus’ footsteps as St. Francis of Assisi demonstrated.

        

Today in Catholic History:

        
† 373 – Death of Ephrem the Syrian, Christian hymnodist
† 597 – Death of St. Columba, Christian missionary (b. 521)
† Liturgical feasts: Saint Alexander, martyr; Saint Columba; Blessed Columba, abbot, confessor; Saint Diomedes; Saint Edmund, bishop of Canterbury, confessor (Translation day); Saint Efrem (Saint Ephraim), deacon, Doctor of the Church; Saint Liborius, bishop (of LeMans), confessor; Saint Primus and Felicianus, martyrs; Blessed Richard, bishop of Andria, Apulia; Saint Vincent, deacon, martyr; Saint Pelagia, virgin, martyr; Blessed Diana d’Andalo

Quote or Joke of the Day:
       

It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels. –  St. Augustine

            

Today’s reflection is about the need to follow the laws of old, still present with Jesus.      
     

Jesus said to His Disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.  Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  (NAB Matthew 5:17-19)

Jesus did not come to change, tinker with, amend, or even abolish the Mosaic laws; nor the words and prophesies of the prophets that came before Him.  Jesus came out of a need to literally fulfill the all the laws and ALL prophesy spoken about the “Messiah” and a new kingdom to come!  I know (there may be more) of about sixty (60) prophesies from the Old Testament, which was written between 400 and 1500 years before the birth of Jesus.  To fulfill ALL prophesy is a statistic improbability, except for the true “Messiah!”

In a somewhat bizarre but realistic twist, the “new kingdom” is a direct “child or offspring” of the old.  Catholics, in my opinion are a “second” generation or cousin of the Judaic religion.  Jesus extols this when He said that the smallest tidbit of the law will stay intact for eternity.  Jesus requires us to follow the laws and “the commandments,” which Moses received from God. 

Maybe this is the key to what Jesus is wanting understood: the Laws were given to us by God via Moses, on Mt. Sinai; and since God cannot create anything naturally imperfect, the laws He gave us are indeed perfect in nature; and of no need to be amended, changed, or deleted.

Those who break any of the commandments, even in the smallest of ways; or teaches others to do so, are guilty of a moral evil (sin) that affects the entire body of Christ; the human Church (us), along with the divine Holy Trinity.  The slightest “sin” of any type affects the entire Church, and separates that individual with sin from God. 

Whoever obeys and teaches the commandments are truly walking in the path of Christ.  The greatest gift one can give another is “of themselves!”  Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind, and love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:25-28); and do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law” (Mt 7:12).  Peace, love, and humility were the gifts God gave to us, and a must for us to share with all people we come into contact.  A talent or gift not shared is a talent or gift wasted!

To fulfill the Mosaic Law appeared at first, for me, to mean literally following each of the laws according to the slightest detail, until the end of time.  After a time of reflection, I believe that maybe this “passing away” of heaven and earth is not necessarily the end of the world as most one would think, but the dissolution of our understanding and knowledge of the existing universe for a more divinely inspired understanding.  Maybe, we are living in the new and final age now, as prophesied by Isaiah as the time of “new heavens and a new earth.”  In Isaiah 65:17; 66:22, He declares, “Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind; As the new heavens and the new earth which I will make Shall endure before me, says the LORD, so shall your race and your name endure.)

Jesus’ ministry on earth was the cusp of this “new kingdom,” and His mission did not deviate from previous Old Testament prophesy, and remained within the framework of Mosaic Law; BUT with a significant anticipation of a new age and kingdom to come.  In this new kingdom, He calls ALL of us to witness and teach.  We are all responsible to help others gain knowledge, and to help “shape” the souls of others, as well as our own. 

We remember more through our eyes than we ever will by what we read or hear.  We need to show all others how to live a proper Catholic lifestyle, by demonstrating a proper Catholic lifestyle at all times.  St. Francis was definitely right when he said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”

Just For Today

“Oh, God, give me grace for this day.  Not for a lifetime. Not for this week. Not for tomorrow, but just for this day.

Direct and bless everything I think and speak and do for just this one day, so that I have the gift of grace that comes from Your presence.

Oh God, for today, just for this day, let me live generously & kindly, in a state of grace and goodness that denies my many imperfections, and makes me more like You.  Amen.” – unknown

  

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Ephrem (circa 306-373)
      

Poet, teacher, orator and defender of the faith, Ephrem is the only Syrian recognized as a doctor of the Church. He took upon himself the special task of opposing the many false doctrines rampant at his time, always remaining a true and forceful defender of the Catholic Church.

Born in Nisibis, Mesopotamia, he was baptized as a young man and became famous as a teacher in his native city. When the Christian emperor had to cede Nisibis to the Persians, Ephrem, along with many Christians, fled as a refugee to Edessa. He is credited with attracting great glory to the biblical school there. He was ordained a deacon but declined becoming a priest (and was said to have avoided episcopal consecration by feigning madness!).

He had a prolific pen and his writings best illumine his holiness. Although he was not a man of great scholarship, his works reflect deep insight and knowledge of the Scriptures. In writing about the mysteries of humanity’s redemption, Ephrem reveals a realistic and humanly sympathetic spirit and a great devotion to the humanity of Jesus. It is said that his poetic account of the Last Judgment inspired Dante.

It is surprising to read that he wrote hymns against the heretics of his day. He would take the popular songs of the heretical groups and, using their melodies, compose beautiful hymns embodying orthodox doctrine. Ephrem became one of the first to introduce song into the Church’s public worship as a means of instruction for the faithful. His many hymns have earned him the title “Harp of the Holy Spirit.”

He preferred a simple, austere life, living in a small cave overlooking the city of Edessa. It was here he died around 373.

Comment:

Many Catholics still find singing in church a problem, probably because of the rather individualistic piety that they inherited. Yet singing has been a tradition of both the Old and the New Testament. It is an excellent way of expressing and creating a community spirit of unity as well as joy. Ephrem’s hymns, an ancient historian testifies, “lent luster to the Christian assemblies.” We need some modern Ephrems—and cooperating singers—to do the same for our Christian assemblies today.

Quote:

Lay me not with sweet spices,
For this honor avails me not,
Nor yet use incense and perfumes,
For the honor befits me not.
Burn yet the incense in the holy place;
As for me, escort me only with your prayers,
Give ye your incense to God,
And over me send up hymns.
Instead of perfumes and spices,
Be mindful of me in your intercessions.

(From The Testament of St. Ephrem)

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 #9:
     

The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to His every word and call. She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family. The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently.

 

“Following in Jesus’ Footsteps!“ – Acts 3:1-10†


Happy Easter Wednesday.  I love this Easter Season more than I have any other in the past.  I’m not sure why, but it is probably related to sharing my faith with all of you.  I want to thank you for reading my blogs, and I pray that they have helped you in a little way, to appreciate God a little more.  I love ‘ya.
 

Today’s reflection is about Peter and John continuing miracles through the Holy Spirit.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
  

It is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look. ~St. Francis of Assisi
 

Today’s Meditation:
     

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple area for the three o’clock hour of prayer.  And a man crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of the temple called “the Beautiful Gate” every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple.  When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms.  But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.”  He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them.  Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, (rise and) walk.”  Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong.  He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.  When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the one who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with amazement and astonishment at what had happened to him.  (NAB Acts 3:1-10)

      

This section starts a series of events for the apostles, and for the “new” church of “Christ.”  The dramatic cure of a lame beggar produces a large audience for a proclamation of salvation through Jesus Christ by Peter, in subsequent verses.  The Sadducees, taking exception to the doctrine of resurrection will later have Peter, John, and even the beggar arrested and brought to trial before the same Sanhedrin that persecuted and convicted Jesus in just the recent past.  The issue concerns the authority by which Peter and John publicly teach religious doctrine in the temple.  

With the day beginning at 6 A.M., the ninth hour would be 3 P.M.   This is the same hour that Jesus died, claiming victory over sin.  As Jesus claimed victory, so did these two apostles, and the lame beggar.  The Holy Spirit entered each of these people, and acted in a specific way:  the apostles, through the grace of belief and healing; and through the beggar, by a grace of a new life without defects, and with a belief in the risen Lord.

The miracle proves the saving power of Christ, and leads the beggar to enter the temple, where he hears Peter’s proclamation of salvation through Jesus.  Can you just picture this forty year-old man jumping and yelling, with tears in his eyes out of great joy, exclaiming loudly that “Jesus’ power had cured him!”  I also see Peter and John standing there with a “Jesus told you so” look on their faces; and the temple elders with “Oh no, not again – is this ever going to stop?” looks on their faces.

St. Francis said, “Preach the gospel, and if needed, use words!”  Peter and John, wearing robes with a rope belt, must have been great “Franciscans.”

“Jesus, your magnificence and mercy is beyond our imagination.  Thank you for just being you.  Amen.”
  

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. John Baptist de la Salle

  

John Baptist de la Salle was born at Rheims, France on April 30th. He was the eldest of ten children in a noble family. He studied in Paris and was ordained in 1678. He was known for his work with the poor. He died at St. Yon, Rouen, on April 7th. He was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1900. John was very involved in education. He founded the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (approved in 1725) and established teacher colleges (Rheims in 1687, Paris in 1699, and Saint-Denis in 1709). He was one of the first to emphasize classroom teaching over individual instruction. He also began teaching in the vernacular instead of in Latin. His schools were formed all over Italy. In 1705, he established a reform school for boys at Dijon. John was named patron of teachers by Pope Pius XII in 1950. His feast day is April 7th.

 (From http://www.catholic.org/saints/ website)
 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #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.

“Hey Martha, Some Ghost Left Us Seven Presents! “ – Acts 2:36-41†


Today, in 1830, the Mormon Church was organized by Joseph Smith, Jr. and others at Fayette, New York.  Thirty years later, in 1860, Joseph Smith III created the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints by reorganizing the previous church organized by his father, Joseph Smith, Jr.  Finally, in 1930, Gandhi raised a lump of mud and salt and declared, “With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire.” This started Salt Satyagraha.
 

Today’s reflection is about repentance, baptism, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Bible Study

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

Learning is finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know it just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, teachers. – Richard Bach
  

Today’s Meditation:
   

Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”  Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?”  Peter (said) to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit.  For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.”  He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”  Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.  (NAB Acts 2:36-41)
   

Peter wanted all of the people present to know that Jesus TRULY was the “Messiah,” the “Christ” promised to the Jews for millennia.  Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection after three days, fulfilled the many prophesies from the Old Testament.  Jesus did not fulfill some of these prophesies; He fulfilled them ALL

Those who heard Peter was “cut to the heart,” meaning they were greatly upset.  Upset about what?  Were they upset that Jesus was treated in such a violent and humiliating way?  Were they upset that they did not recognize the divinity of the man they crucified?  Did they believe they were now doomed to the fires and agony in hell?  Probably yes to all these questions.

But they also learned something else about Jesus, and His disciples: forgiveness.  Peter called all present, Christian and non-Christian, “brothers.”  They came to recognize that through the gifts of repentance and baptism, anyone could also receive graces from God; the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  What are these gifts of the Holy Spirit?  From the Catholic Catechism:

  • Wisdom,
  • Understanding,
  • Counsel/righteous judgment,
  • Fortitude/courage
  • Knowledge,
  • Piety/reverence, and
  • Fear of the Lord/wonder and awe

Repentance is a positive concept, a change of mind and heart toward God.  It is reflected in the actual goodness of one’s life, not just in the confession booth.  It is in accord with the apostolic teachings started with Jesus, and ultimately recorded in all four gospels.  Baptism is the expected response to the apostolic preaching about Jesus, and it is associated with the conferring of the Spirit. 

Peter not only promised salvation and redemption to those present; he also promised this gift to “their children, and those far off.”  I relate to the term “far off” in two ways.  First, to those not present due to geography.  Jesus sent His disciples to teach and convert in all nations.  This is still a primary role of the Catholic Church today.

Second, it is another clarification of an eternal Catholic Church.  “Far off” meaning all time in the future.  Jesus promised these gifts, and Peter reiterates that the Holy Spirit, “the Paraclete or Advocate” will be with us forever and ever.

Jesus testified and argued throughout His three year ministry on earth to save yourself, and others, from corruption.  Any corruption (sin) separates one from the gifts God has bestowed on us here on earth, and eternal bliss in heaven.  Peter continues in Jesus’ footsteps as the first Pope, and exhorts the teachings of Jesus.  He must have been filled with the Holy Spirit on this day, and had a great sermon that filled all present with the same Holy Spirit, as he brought three thousand new souls to God in one day’s time.  Can you just imagine individually baptizing just a little over two people a minute, for an entire 24 hours?  That’s a miracle!

“Lord, I was a baby when baptized, but I still love you for the grace I received then, and every time I receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Your magnificent mercy allows me, a sinner, to have hope in gaining eternal bliss with you in heaven.  I love you.  Amen ”
  

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Crescentia Höss  (1682-1744)
   

Maria Crescenzia Höss was born in Kaufbeuren, Bavaria, in the Diocese of Augsburg on 20 October 1682, the seventh of the eight children of Matthias Höss and Lucia Hoermann. In 1703, in spite of family difficulties and the superior’s reluctance, she was admitted to the Franciscan Tertiaries of Mayerhoff where she was professed in 1704 and remained until her death.

From 1709 to 1741 with the election of superiors who were favourably disposed to her, she fulfilled the most important positions of the monastery:  porter, novice mistress, and superior with the greatest dedication and generosity. She was novice mistress from 1726 to 1741. In 1741 sister Maria Crescenzia was elected superior of the community and, despite her attempts to refuse the post, was forced to accept the task. To her sisters she recommended observing silence, recollection, and spiritual reading, especially the Gospels. The teacher of their religious life had to be Jesus on the Cross.

Maria Höss was also a prudent and wise counsellor to all who turned to her for strength and comfort, as can be seen from her numerous letters.

In her three years as superior of the community of Mayerhoff she became its second foundress. She justified her selectivity regarding vocations saying, “God wants the convent rich in virtue, not in temporal goods”. The principal points of her program for the renewal of the house were:  unlimited trust in divine providence, readiness in the acts of the common life, love of silence, devotion to Jesus crucified, and devotion to the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother.

She died on Easter in 1744 and her mortal remains are still very much venerated in the chapel of her monastery.

Source: Vatican website
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)
   

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #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.

“Is the Church Serving Beer at Mass Today?” – 1Cor 5:6-8†


It is Easter Sunday!  ALLELUIA, ALLELUIA, ALLELUIA!!!

For 40 days, we have been meditating and reflecting on the cross, and all that Jesus did, by suffering on it for us.  Now is the time for celebration and joy.  For the next 50 days, it is EASTER.  During this Easter season, show that new life Jesus has bought for us.

Today’s reflection is about Yeast.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

A friend was in front of me coming out of church one day, and the priest was standing at the door as he always is to shake hands.  He grabbed my friend by the hand and pulled him aside.  Father said him, “You need to join the Army of the Lord!”  My friend said, “I’m already in the Army of the Lord, Father.”  The Priest questioned, “How come I don’t see you except at Christmas and Easter?”  He whispered back, “I’m in the secret service.”

http://www.oneliners-and-proverbs.com/
 

Today’s Meditation:
    

Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?  Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  (NAB 1Cor 5:6-8)

    

I LOVE to eat food of any type.  That’s probably why I am so “gravity challenged!”  Per the charts, I should be 9 foot, 10.5 inches; but alas, I am not.  I HATE gravity: it’s such a curse.  Here’s the problem: my absolute favorite food is any baked item.  Carolyn B., that’s a hint if you get my meaning, and I’m ever in your area! (Only joking).

Yeast is a great organism.  It is a living molecule that eats starches (like in dough and especially beer), and creates air bubbles through metabolism.  If I was gross, I would compare its function to a man that had recently eaten White Castle Hamburgers with cabbage and a great glass of beer (Woo!).  Here is the politically correct description of what yeast does: (a very tiny amount) induces “fermentation” (Not as much fun described this way; is it?). 

Paul, the author of this letter, is using yeast, and its reason for its usage, as a natural symbol for sources of corruption that becomes all too pervasive in society then, and now.   The “old yeast” is the remnants of our sinful past, which needs to be purged.  If not, one risks infecting all others.  This is a very conceptual way of talking about sin, which to me can be hard to understand.

Every sin has a social dilemma.  Sin is not a private matter at all.  When you sin, you are separating yourself from God.  In separating yourself, you are causing damage to the Church and its members, as each one of us makes up the body of the Church.  Sin hurts everyone; not just yourself. 

In the Jewish calendar, Passover is followed immediately by the “Festival of Unleavened Bread.”  In preparing for this feast, all traces of any old bread are removed from the home.  During this time, only unleavened bread is eaten. The sequence of these two feasts provides an image for our Christian existence.  Christ’s death, during the Passover celebration, is followed by the new life of “Christ’s” community.  It is marked by a newness, purity, and integrity towards our faith.  We celebrate a visible perpetual feast of unleavened bread in the unleavened host of Jesus’ body and blood, consumed at Mass.  

I would like to end with a little trivia on this beautiful Easter.  Paul was probably writing at Passover time, so this part of the letter may be from an Easter homily; possibly one of the earliest in Christian literature.  I enjoy reading all of Paul’s letters.  He, for me, was definitely the “Gentiles Apostle!”

“Lord, allow me to learn and love as Paul did.  Please knock me of that horse.  Amen.”
 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Isidore of Seville, Doctor of the Church
  

Isidore was literally born into a family of saints in sixth century Spain. Two of his brothers, Leander and Fulgentius, and one of his sisters, Florentina, are revered as saints in Spain. It was also a family of leaders and strong minds with Leander and Fulgentius serving as bishops and Florentina as abbess.

This didn’t make life easier for Isidore. To the contrary, Leander may have been holy in many ways, but his treatment of his little brother shocked many even at the time. Leander, who was much older than Isidore, took over Isidore’s education and his pedagogical theory involved force and punishment. We know from Isidore’s later accomplishments that he was intelligent and hard-working so it is hard to understand why Leander thought abuse would work instead of patience.

One day, the young boy couldn’t take any more. Frustrated by his inability to learn as fast as his brother wanted and hurt by his brother’s treatment, Isidore ran away. But though he could escape his brother’s hand and words, he couldn’t escape his own feeling of failure and rejection. When he finally let the outside world catch his attention, he noticed water dripping on the rock near where he sat. The drops of water that fell repeatedly carried no force and seemed to have no effect on the solid stone. And yet he saw that over time, the water drops had worn holes in the rock.

Isidore realized that if he kept working at his studies, his seemingly small efforts would eventually pay off in great learning. He also may have hoped that his efforts would also wear down the rock of his brother’s heart.

When he returned home, however, his brother in exasperation confined him to a cell (probably in a monastery) to complete his studies, not believing that he wouldn’t run away again.

Either there must have been a loving side to this relationship or Isidore was remarkably forgiving even for a saint, because later he would work side by side with his brother and after Leander’s death, Isidore would complete many of the projects he began including a missal and breviary.

In a time where it’s fashionable to blame the past for our present and future problems, Isidore was able to separate the abusive way he was taught from the joy of learning. He didn’t run from learning after he left his brother but embraced education and made it his life’s work. Isidore rose above his past to become known as the greatest teacher in Spain.

His love of learning made him promote the establishment of a seminary in every diocese of Spain. He didn’t limit his own studies and didn’t want others to as well. In a unique move, he made sure that all branches of knowledge including the arts and medicine were taught in the seminaries.

His encyclopedia of knowledge, the Etymologies, was a popular textbook for nine centuries. He also wrote books on grammar, astronomy, geography, history, and biography as well as theology. When the Arabs brought study of Aristotle back to Europe, this was nothing new to Spain because Isidore’s open mind had already reintroduced the philosopher to students there.

As bishop of Seville for 37 years, succeeding Leander, he set a model for representative government in Europe. Under his direction, and perhaps remembering the tyrannies of his brother, he rejected autocratic decision- making and organized synods to discuss government of the Spanish Church.

Still trying to wear away rock with water, he helped convert the barbarian Visigoths from Arianism to Christianity.

He lived until almost 80. As he was dying his house was filled with crowds of poor he was giving aid and alms to. One of his last acts was to give all his possessions to the poor.

When he died in 636, this Doctor of the Church had done more than his brother had ever hoped; the light of his learning caught fire in Spanish minds and held back the Dark Ages of barbarism from Spain. But even greater than his outstanding mind must have been the genius of his heart that allowed him to see beyond rejection and discouragement to joy and possibility.  His feast day is April 4th.

 (From http://www.catholic.org/saints/ website)
  

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #4:
  

The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.

Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.

Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to gospel.