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♫“Mary, did you know …?♫ – – She Certainly Did Indeed Know!!” – Luke 1:39-45†


 

4thSunday of Advent

. table_of_contentsToday’s Content:

 

  • ·        Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Quote of the Day
  • ·        Today’s Gospel Reading
  • ·        Gospel Reflection
  • ·        Reflection Prayer  

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. pencilDan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

The Nativity Scene

The nativity scene (also known as a crèche, manger scene, or crib) is a depiction of the birth of JeNativity-Scenesus as described in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Nativity scenes display figures representing the infant Jesus, His mother Mary, and His Step-father Joseph.  Other characters from the nativity story such as shepherds, the Magi, and angels may be displayed near the manger in a barn (or cave) intended to accommodate farm animals.  A donkey and an ox are typically depicted in the scene, as well as the camels belonging to the Magi.  (The symbolism of the animals of the crèche will be covered later)

A nativity scene takes its inspiration from the accounts of the birth of Jesus found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Luke’s narrative describes an angel announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherds who then visit the humble site where Jesus is found lying in a manger, a trough for cattle feed (cf., Luke 2:8-20).  Matthew’s narrative tells of “wise men” (in Greek: “magoi”) who follow a star to the house where Jesus dwelt, thus indicating that the “Magi” found Jesus some time later (within two years after Jesus’ birth), rather than on the exact day of His birth (cf., Matthew.2:1-23).  Matthew’s account does not mention the angels and shepherds, while Luke’s narrative is silent on the Magi and the star.  The Magi and the angels are often displayed in a nativity scene with the Holy Family and the shepherds although there is no scriptural basis for their presence (cf., Luke 2:7-17).

Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first nativity scene in 1223 (and a “living” one at that) intending thereby to cultivate the worship of Christ after being inspired by his 220px-Giotto_-_Legend_of_St_Francis_-_-13-_-_Institution_of_the_Crib_at_Grecciorecent visit to the Holy Land where he had been shown Jesus’ traditional birthplace.  Francis wanted to place an emphasis for Christmas being more on the “worship of Christ” than upon the secular materialism and gift giving as the priority. 

Acted out in a cave near Greccio, Italy, St. Francis’ nativity scene was a living one with humans and animals cast in the Biblical roles.  Pope Honorius III gave his blessing to the exhibit.  Such “nativity” performances became hugely popular and spread throughout all of Christendom.  The scene’s popularity inspired communities throughout Catholic countries to stage similar pantomimes. 

Within a hundred years of St. Francis’ act of piety and faith, every Catholic Church in Italy was 5_free_christmas_wallpaper_nativity_sceneexpected to have a nativity scene at Christmastime.  Eventually, figurines replaced the living human and animal participants.  Over time, static scenes grew to elaborate affairs with richly robed figurines placed in intricate landscape settings. 

The scene’s popularity inspired much reproduction and replication in Catholic countries throughout the world.  In the early modern period (1500 – 1700), sculpted cribs were set up in Catholic Church’s and homes, often exported from Italy.  By the end of the 1800’s, nativity scenes became popular beyond Catholic settings, and many versions of various sizes – – and in various materials such as terracotta, paper, wood, wax, and ivory – – were marketed, often with a “stable-style” backdrop setting.  In some Catholic countries still today, the nativity scene is more popular than the Christmas tree.

Animals in nativity scenes

A donkey (or ass) and an ox typically appear in nativity scenes.  Besides the necessity of animals for a manger, there is a biblical reference to Isaiah:

An ox knows its owner, and an ass, its master’s manger; but Israel does not know, my people has not understood” (Isaiah 1:3).

The Gospels, however, do not mention an ox and donkey – – or any other animal – – with Jesus in the “manger”.  XMAS11-nativity-set-2-3

The ox traditionally represents “patience”, the “nation of Israel”, and the Old Testament “sacrificial worship”.  The ass represents “humility”, “readiness to serve”, and “Gentiles”.

The ox and the ass, as well as other animals, became well-entrenched as part of the nativity scene tradition.  Other animals introduced to nativity scenes – – over time and societal culture – – include camels, sheep, and even elephants.

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

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. thought2Quote of the Day:

 

“From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in all things.  From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone.  From Mary we learn to love Christ her Son and the Son of God.” ~ Pope John Paul II

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Today’s reflection: Mary visits Elizabeth, who sings praise to Mary and her child.  How beautiful are YOUR words (prayers) to Mary?

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(NAB Luke 1:39-45)  39 During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit,42 cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  43 And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lordshould come to me? 44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  45 Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

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. ReflectionGospel Reflection:

 

Today is the last Sunday before Christmas.  Our Gospel reading this day prepares us to witness Christ’s birth.  We are shown in this reading “how” Jesus was recognized as Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, even before His AdventWreathbirth.  Today’s Gospel turns our attention from the ministry of John the Baptist – – to events preceding John’s birth.  The story of John the Baptist and his parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, are reported only in Luke’s Gospel.  In reporting this event, Luke connects the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus, thus establishing John’s early relationship to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, some thirty years before Jesus’ public ministry.

Today’s Gospel recalls Mary’s “actions” after the announcement of Jesus’ birth by the Archangel, “Gabriel”.  Mary travels to visit Elizabeth, her cousin, who is also six months pregnant.  Elizabeth greets Mary with a true and full recognition of the “roles” that they, and their unborn children, will play in God the Father’s redemptive plan for salvation.  If we continue to read the verses following today’s reading, in Luke’s Gospel, we would hear Mary respond to Elizabeth’s greeting with her own beautiful song of praise, the “Magnificat”.  Both women – – Mary and Elizabeth – – recall, repeat, and endorse God’s past history of showing favor upon the people of Israel, testified to in their individual “songs of faith and praise”.

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Mary, in the early stages of her pregnancy, is in a hurry to see Elizabeth.  Mary is taking Jesus – – the “Good News”mary goes to elizabeth, the “Word” Incarnate – – to her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth – – a few days’ journey away.  Why?  I don’t believe she is motivated by a personal human fear of her pregnancy and subsequent labor & delivery, and of the fear of caring for and nurturing her soon-to-be newborn infant “king”.  However, she is a young teenager (most believe around age 14), and being pregnant is pretty overwhelming experience for ANYONE, much less a child-woman.  

Mary knows that she needs calming and wise guidance in her life.  She is probably eager and excited to see Elizabeth, and to learn from her.  This whole experience can’t help but be exciting, for both women.   Mary, in travelling to Elizabeth, will certainly help in the delivering and care of Elizabeth’s newborn, just prior to experiencing a similar event herself. 

Mary enters Elizabeth’s home, and greets Elizabeth.  The instant Elizabeth hears the pregnant-virginal Mary, Elizabeth becomes “filled with the Holy Spirit”:1-eisbacher

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit out in a loud voice (Luke 1:41).

In a charismatic moment – – talking through the divine influence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within her – – Elizabeth spontaneously erupts with a beautiful bouquet of words – – a song – – directed at Mary:

“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joyBlessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:42-45).

luke1_42_blessed_art_thou_among_women_postcard-p239058946011173125baanr_400Why is Mary “blessed”?  The word “blessed” [“makarios” in Greek] literally means “happiness” or “beatitude”.  It describes a kind of JOY which is serene, untouchable, self-contained, and independent from chance or changing circumstances of life.  

Mary is “blessed” because she heard the “Word” of God and responded to this “Word” with the gift of her WHOLE being and life!!  We too have hear the “Word” of God and are invited to join with Christ in HIS complete and total offering to God the Father as well.  Are you responding? 

In Luke, even before His birth, Jesus is identified – – as the true Lord of God’s “chosen people”.  Both Mary and Elizabeth are carrying children of destiny – – then, in the future, and forever and ever.  Kind words of love and praise are exchanged between these two women.  Together, their children, Jesus and John the Baptist, will praise God and bless each other as well – – through THEIR words and actions. 

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Elizabeth, the wife of a Temple high-priest, knew Jewish scripture well; probably better than most women of that time.  She was familiar with the verses from Deuteronomy and from the prophetess, Judith:724

Blessed be the fruit of your womb, the produce of your soil and the offspring of your livestock, the issue of your herds and the young of your flocks!” (Deuteronomy 28:4);

“Then Uzziah said to her [Judith], ‘Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth, who guided your blow at the head of the leader of our enemies’” (Judith 13:18).

By reporting that Elizabeth said, “Blessed are you who believed”, Luke is portraying Mary as a true “believer”.  MBeliever_ary’s faith stands in contrast to the disbelief of Zechariah (Elizabeth’s husband):

“Now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time” (Luke 1:20).

Mary’s role as a true “believer” – – in Luke’s infancy narrative (Chapter 2) – – should be seen in connection with the explicit mention of her presence among “those who believedafter the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as found at the beginning of the book, the “Acts of the Apostles”:

All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers” (Acts 1:14).

Mary “believed” – – from the beginning – – and never wavered!!  Can any of us claim this fact as true in our own lives?  I know I can’t – – but I definitely know and BELIEVE it is true now!! 

These few words from today’s Gospel, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45) truly characterizes Mary’s whole, entire, life.  Later in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus will VirginMary2say:

My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it” (Luke 8:21).

In Cana, at a wedding feast, she asks her son to intervene when the wine supply ran short.  Even though Jesus never promises to do anything, she says:

Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5)

Finally, at the Holy Cross, though she did not – – could not – – understand why Jesus, her beloved son, was being Virgin-Mary-Desktop-Backgroundtreated in such a way, she remained (and remains still) the ever-faithful disciple, staying by His side when nearly all others abandon Jesus at His greatest time of need.

Mary truly – – and fully – – “believed!!  Mary was in the thick of human life with Jesus; yet, she was “one-of-us” as well!!    She is THE model for each of us in our individual lives.  Hmm, when I believe as Mary does, I will be blessed indeed!!

To be “chosen” by God is an awesome privilege and responsibility.  Mary received both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow when she said, “your will be done”.  Howe51TERX4XTRL__SL160_ver, her joy was not diminished by her sorrow – – because it was fueled by her faith, hope, and trust in God and in His promises.  God gives us too, a supernatural JOY, enabling us to witness to any sorrow or pain: a JOY neither life nor death can take away.  

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The . summarize titleHoly Spirit helps reveal Jesus’ identity as the saving “God” to those who believe.  Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and “sings” to Mary her praise – – because Mary bears the promised Lord Savior, the true Messiah.  We “sing” thesehailmary-1 words of praise to Mary when we pray the “Hail Mary”.  Even John the Baptist – – the unborn child in Elizabeth’s womb – – is said to recognize the presence of the Lord, showing signs of his own “voiceless” song of praise, by leaping for JOY in Elizabeth’s womb.

I sometimes feel just as Elizabeth felt when Mary arrived to her home with the unborn Lord: a total awe that our heavenly Mother AND – – Jesus Himself – – would come TO me, and to stay WITH me!  It’s is challenging for why-me1me to believe that Mary, and the Trinitarian God, can love me – – a SINNER – – with a love more than I can ever imagine!  How can this happen TO ME; I do not deserve this type and amount of love?!! 

Like Elizabeth in today’s Gospel reading, I feel honored, surprised, and in total awe with what is happening in my faith life.  However, I know that it is by God’s grace that I get everything I need in this life – – His forgiveness, an awareness, love, knowledge, and the tools and abilities I need to do good works for HIM.  Everything I possess, obtain, experience, and produce in life is a blessed gift – – a grace – – from, and to, God Himself.

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It is appropri. conclusionate in this Advent season for each of us to consider the “role” of Mary in God’s redemptive plan of salvation.  Elizabeth describes Mary as the “first disciple” – – as the one who “believed” God’s “Word”, as told to her, “would be fulfilled”.  Mary’s faith enabled arc_magnificather to recognize the work of God throughout, and within, her people’s history AND in her own personal life.  Her willingness and openness to God’s “Word” and “action” in her life, allowed God to work in and through her so that salvation might come to everyone – – FOREVER!!  Because Mary abandoned her “SELF” to God as His instrument, she becomes (and is) a pure and true model and symbol of the Catholic “Universal” Church still today.  May we each be like Mary, open and cooperative in God’s plan for salvation, allowing God to work in, with, and through each us to bring others to His redemptive salvation!

In the coming together of Mary and Elizabeth, as described in today’s Gospel, we can learn that other’s can help us recognize 00000000000000066193God’s presence and action in our own lives.  The young and pregnant Mary traveled to her cousin, Elizabeth, because Elizabeth’s pregnancy was a divine sign that everything said to Mary, by the Archangel Gabriel, would truly happen.  Elizabeth recognized Mary as the mother of her (and ALL Israel’s) Lord in view of the fact that her unborn child, John the Baptist, leapt at the sound of Mary’s greeting.  Elizabeth and Mary rejoiced together at the wonderful things God was doing in their lives.  They each sang songs of praise; they were truly ReJOYSing!!  We too are “blessed” when we have people who help us recognize God’s “Word” and “action” in our lives.  We can be, and are, God’s instrument for others among us, Re-JOY-Sing in God’s plan for us.

Think about the times you helped others, or when other’s helped 2809861_300you, in some way.  We actually need the help of others in order to recognize God’s presence and action in our own lives.  After all, we are a “COMMUNITY OF FAITH”!!  Pray that as we share our faith with others (this is called “evangelization”), we may help others recognize God’s presence and action in their own lives.

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R. prayer sfeflection Prayer: 

 

Hail Mary

 

“Hail Mary,
Full of Grace, Mother-Mary-and-Angel-02
The Lord is with the you.
Blessed art you among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.  Amen.”

http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers/mary3.htm#ixzz2FQ8t95t0

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“He Thinks He Can Walk On Water!” – Mark 6:45-52†


            

Today in Catholic History:

 

†   1438 – Pope Eugenius IV deallocated council of Basel to Ferrara
†   1531 – Pope Clemens VII forbids English king Henry VIII to re-marry
†   1860 – Death of St John Nepomucene Neumann, 1st male US saints
†   1962 – A replica of the miraculous statue, the Holy Infant of Good Health, is presented to Blessed Pope John XXIII.
†   1964 – Pope Paul VI visits Jordan & Israel
†   The eleventh day of Christmas, and the Twelfth Night of Christmas in Western Christianity.
†   Feast day: St. John Neumann; Simeon Stylites; Pope Telesphorus

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

 

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

This is a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website.  It is titled “An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order” by Benedetto Lino, OFS.  It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 (Continuation from Previous blog)

 Part 02 of 13 Parts

“The letter repeats John Paul II’s appeal regarding what the Church has always expected and looked for from us, in order to be able truly to rely on each one of us, just as She could rely on Francis and all his Family.”

“The Holy See constantly reminds us, authoritatively and insistently, that we are a living, integral and essential part of the Church, where we must exercise in full our role as a living body.”

(Continued on next published blog)

From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By:
Benedetto Lino OFS
SFO International Council Website
http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus walking on water during a storm.

 

 

45 Then he made his disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.  46 And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray.  47 When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on shore.  48 Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them.  About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea.  He meant to pass by them.  49 But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out.  50 They had all seen him and were terrified.  But at once he spoke with them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”  51 He got into the boat with them and the wind died down.  They were (completely) astounded.  52 They had not understood the incident of the loaves.  On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.  (NAB Mark 6:45-52)

 

 

 

Jesus had just fed 5000 men (and unknown women and children) with just a few fish and loaves of bread.  After this “miracle”, He tells His disciples to start for Bethsaida (across the sea) by boat while He prays.  A storm surges while they were en-route on their voyage.  These scared disciples see Jesus walking on the water obviously near the boat, and call out to Him.

(Trivia time:  The Jewish people of that time divided the night into four periods.  The “fourth watch” was the period just prior to dawn – the darkest part of the night.)

Would Jesus actually just walk “past them” (v. 48)?  He told them to go by boat in the first place!  He interrupted His prayers and came to them, getting His sandals and feet soaked. (Did Jesus ever get athlete’s feet?)  Thus, would Jesus simply walk past them in their time of need?

Heck NO, He would not!!  And, He still doesn’t walk by us today when we are in need.  Jesus is not indifferent to our tough times and situations.  He lives with us in a relationship of love with Him.

This is not the first time Jesus is seen walking on water.  In Matthew 14:22-33, not only does Jesus walk on the surface of the water, Peter does the same.  Peter steps out of the boat and walks toward Jesus, but Peter apparently lost focus or faith (or something) and starts to sink.  I personally believe Peter started sinking because Jesus made him the “ROCK”, and everyone knows rocks sink – like rocks – in water!

In today’s Gospel from Mark, Jesus sends his disciples away to fend for themselves in the dark of the night while a storm begins to brew on the sea.  The disciples are engrossed in the labor of paddling, and fighting against the turbulent seas.  When they saw Jesus walking on the water, did they think He was a ghost waiting for their imminent deaths?  Regardless, Jesus had to calm them with his reassuring voice:

“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”  (Mark 6:50)

Jesus shows His power over the raging waters as He also does in Matthew 8:26:

“He said to them, ‘Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?’  Then He got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.”

You have to remember, these men were experienced fishermen.  Yet, they feared for their lives.  Jesus was not with them in the boat.  Yet, He watched over them in His actions and prayers.  When Jesus saw their fear and trouble, He came to them on the sea.  And even in this action, these disciples were startled by His sudden appearance.

In today’s reading Jesus truly expresses His power over nature through the action of His walking on the sea.  Both Mark and Matthew in their Gospels, incorporate a couple of Old Testament Bible readings into this story:

Through the sea was your path; your way, through the mighty waters, though your footsteps were unseen.”  (Psalm 77:20)

 “He alone stretches out the heavens and treads upon the crests of the sea.”  (Job 9:8)

 

Jesus sent these “chosen” men ahead of Him “to the other side toward Bethsaida”.  Bethsaida was a simple and obscure village at the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  I believe Phillip, Andrew, and Peter (3 of the 12 apostles) were from this tiny village.  Bethsaida is mentioned a total of seven times throughout the four Gospels.

 

After sending His followers off via boat, Jesus “went off to the mountain to pray”.  Jesus loves to pray in private, and it is apparent going to mountain enclaves was His preference.  Jesus prayed a large amount throughout Holy Scripture, and not always on mountain tops though.  Earlier, in Mark 1:35-38, it is written:

Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.  Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”  He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.  For this purpose have I come.”

And, in John 6:15, Jesus withdrew to pray to evade any involvement with open defiance of the government in His role as “Savior.”.

“Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone”.  (John 6:15)

Speaking about Jesus’ habit of praying, being a devout Jew, He most certainly had a Tallit, a Jewish prayer robe or shawl, with attached tassels called “Tzitzit” at the four corners.  When in prayer, the Tallit is literally wrapped around the person’s torso and over the head.  In essence, in doing so, the devout Jew is wrapped in the “actual presence of God”, as they have (even today) a strong belief in God’s presence within the Tallit

 

Jesus was saying something extremely profound when He said,

It is I, do not be afraid!”  (Mark 6;50)

He is literally saying, “I am.”  And, in doing so, Jesus is reflecting a divine revelation of faith and fact in seven statements found in the Old Testament books of Exodus and Isaiah.  Mark is truly indicating the hidden identity of Jesus as the “Son of God”.

“God replied, ‘I am who am.’ Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14) 

“Who has performed these deeds?  He who has called forth the generations since the beginning. I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last I will also be.”  (Isaiah 41:4)

 “Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed; I am your God. I will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold you with my right hand of justice.”  (Isaiah 41: 10) 

“Fear not, O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel; I will help you, says the LORD; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.”  (Isaiah 41:14)

 “But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine.  When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown.  When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned; the flames shall not consume you.  For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in return for you.” (Isaiah 43:1-3)  (“Egypt . . . Ethiopia and Seba” were countries which God permitted the Persians to conquer in return for having given Israel its freedom.)

“You are my witnesses, says the LORD, my servants whom I have chosen to know and believe in me and understand that it is I.  Before me no god was formed, and after me there shall be none.”  (Isaiah 43:10)

“Yes, from eternity I am He; there is none who can deliver from my hand: who can countermand what I do?” (Isaiah 43:13)

 

The revelation found in Jesus dividing the loaves and fish; feeding the multitudes; and even His walking on the sea completely escaped His disciples.  How could they not see the divinity that had to be associated with these events, these miracles!  Yet, they did!  Twice, in verse 52 of today’s reading, this lack of realization is proved:

They had not understood the incident of the loaves

Their hearts were hardened

Their own humanly dispositions may have prevented these men from comprehending Jesus’ self-revelation through the signs offered to them.

“When he became aware of this he said to them, “Why do you conclude that it is because you have no breadDo you not yet understand or comprehend?  Are your hearts hardened?”  (Mark 8:17)

This lack of understanding and their “hardened hearts” may be attributed to some who did not accept Jesus, and possibly even those plotting His death.   Earlier in Mark’s Gospel, a plot was enacted to bring Jesus and His followers down.

“Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’  He stretched it out and his hand was restored.  The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.”  (Mark 3:5-6)

The Pharisees and Herodians (supporters of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea) want to put Jesus to death after a series of conflicts with Him in Galilee.  Mark reports many conflicts with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes.  These conflicts come to a head with accounts of later controversies in Jerusalem. 

“Then he taught them saying, ‘Is it not written: My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples? But you have made it a den of thieves.’  The chief priests and the scribes came to hear of it and were seeking a way to put him to death, yet they feared him because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching.”  (Mark 11:17-18)

They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to him to ensnare him in his speech.  They came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion.  You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?  Should we pay or should we not pay?’  Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, ‘Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.’  They brought one to him and he said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’  They replied to him, ‘Caesar’s.’   So Jesus said to them, ‘Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’ They were utterly amazed at him.”   (Mark 12:13-17)

 

How do you handle adversity in your life?  Do you “trust” God totally and completely?  Or, do you panic, fret, and become fearful?  Fear is a natural reaction, and actually has a medical term associated with the nervous system response to the stimuli of adversity: “sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ reaction”.

However, Jesus wants much more from His followers than just this normal self-preservation bodily reaction.  Jesus wants “perfect love!”

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.   We love because he first loved us.”  (1 John 4:18-19)

Jesus is the “Shepherd” and we are His sheep (and some say I am the blemished, very dark colored one, who spends a considerable amount of time with the wolves).  Being a shepherd can’t be an easy job!  Not only does a shepherd feed and guide his flock, he is willing to suffer and die for his flock.  A shepherd is with his sheep in good and bad weather, protects the flock from predator animals and robbers, and even sleeps amongst his charges.

Jesus, our “Good Shepherd”, watches over His flock continuously.  How often during times of troubles and tribulations do you call out for Him?  How often do you truly rely on His providence?  How often do you depend on His love for all of us?  Jesus assures us that we have no need of fear – – if we TRULY trust in Him and in his immense love for us.  

 

The 23rd Psalm

 

The LORD is my shepherd;
There is nothing I lack.

In green pastures you let me graze;
To safe waters you lead me;

You restore my strength.
You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.

Even when I walk through a dark valley,
I fear no harm for you are at my side;
Your rod and staff give me courage.

You set a table before me as my enemies watch;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life;
I will dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.  Amen”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. John Neumann  (1811-1860)

 

Perhaps because the United States got a later start in the history of the world, it has relatively few canonized saints, but their number is increasing.

John Neumann was born in what is now the Czech Republic.  After studying in Prague, he came to New York at 25 and was ordained a priest.  He did missionary work in New York until he was 29, when he joined the Redemptorists and became its first member to profess vows in the United States.  He continued missionary work in Maryland, Virginia and Ohio, where he became popular with the Germans.

At 41, as bishop of Philadelphia, he organized the parochial school system into a diocesan one, increasing the number of pupils almost twentyfold within a short time.

Gifted with outstanding organizing ability, he drew into the city many teaching communities of sisters and the Christian Brothers.  During his brief assignment as vice provincial for the Redemptorists, he placed them in the forefront of the parochial movement.

Well-known for his holiness and learning, spiritual writing and preaching, on October 13, 1963, John Neumann became the first American bishop to be beatified. Canonized in 1977, he is buried in St. Peter the Apostle Church in Philadelphia.

Comment:

Neumann took seriously our Lord’s words, “Go and teach all nations.”  From Christ he received his instructions and the power to carry them out.  For Christ does not give a mission without supplying the means to accomplish it.  The Father’s gift in Christ to John Neumann was his exceptional organizing ability, which he used to spread the Good News.

Today the Church is in dire need of men and women to continue in our times the teaching of the Good News.  The obstacles and inconveniences are real and costly.  Yet when Christians approach Christ, he supplies the necessary talents to answer today’s needs.  The Spirit of Christ continues his work through the instrumentality of generous Christians.

Quote:

“All people of whatever race, condition or age, in virtue of their dignity as human persons, have an inalienable right to education.  This education should be suitable to the particular destiny of the individuals, adapted to their ability, sex and national cultural traditions, and should be conducive to amicable relations with other nations in order to promote true unity and peace in the world.  True education aims to give people a formation which is directed towards their final end and the good of that society to which they belong and in which, as adults, they will have their share of duties to perform.”  (Declaration on Christian Education, 1, Austin Flannery translation).

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s  5& 6 of 26:

 5.     Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters, in Sacred Scripture, in the Church, and in liturgical activity.  The faith of St. Francis, who often said, “I see nothing bodily of the Most High Son of God in this world except His most holy body and blood,” should be the inspiration and pattern of their Eucharistic life.

 

6.     They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.

Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialog of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.

“Your House or Mine – God Doesn’t Care!” – Luke 1:39-56†


Today is the “Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Our Mother” to Heaven; Body & Soul. 

 

Today’s feast celebrates Mary’s Assumption into heaven, defined as dogma in 1950 by Pope Pius XII. “Dogma” is an article of faith that has been revealed by God, which the Magisterium of the Catholic Church presents to be believed by all the faithful. This dogma teaches that Mary was truly assumed body, blood, soul, and humanity into the glory and magnificence of the “third” heaven.  (2 Cor 12:2 and 1 Peter 3:22)

It is one of three feasts of Mary that are Holy Days of Obligation  for Roman Catholics in the United States; though “Holy Day of Obligation” is a term, I believe, most Catholics in the U.S. have removed from their vocabulary.  The other “Marian” Holy Days of Obligation are January 1st: the feast of “Mary, Mother of God,” and December 8th: the feast of the “Immaculate Conception of Mary (not Jesus).”

 

 

Next weekend I will be on a retreat with my brothers and sisters of the Secular Franciscan Order.  I will pray for all your intentions, during this spiritually awesome time for me.  As you can tell, I in no way consider retreats as a “chore.”  I truly love encountering Christ in many, and diversified ways.  Hopefully, I will be able to post a reflection next Sunday, but it may be a little later in the day or evening.  Pax et Bonum.

 

 

Today is also my birthday [of sorts]. In renewing a solemn pledge: a “Total Consecration to Jesus, through Mary,” I made a spiritual rebirth.  Today is the beginning of a renewed chapter in my life.  By imitating Mary, I can say, “May it be done according to your will!”  What are the wonderful effects of this devotion on my soul?  They are:

†       “First, through the Holy Spirit, Mary will convey to me a portion of her profound humility.

†       Second, Our Blessed Lady also will give me a portion of her faith, which was the greatest of all faiths ever on this earth. 

†       Third, this Mother of fair love will take away from my heart all scruple disorder of servile fear. 

†       Fourth, Our Blessed Lady will fill me with a great confidence in God, and in herself.  I will not be approaching Jesus by myself, but always by that good Mother. 

†       Fifth, the soul of our Blessed Lady will impart itself to me, to glorify the Lord.  Her spirit will enter into my spirit to rejoice in God. 

†       Sixth, Mary will bear fruit in her own time, and her fruit is none other than Jesus Christ. 

†       And seventh, I gave Jesus more glory in a month, than by any other practice, however difficult, in many years.”  WOW!!!

From the devotion itself

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

A friend is someone who thinks you’re a good egg even though you’re slightly cracked.

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Mary’s Visit with Elizabeth.

 

 

39 During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, 42 cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  43 And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  45 Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  46 And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; 47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  48 For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.  49 The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.  51 He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.  52 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.  53 The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.  54 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, 55 according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”  56 Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.  (NAB Luke 1:39-56)

 

 

The Gospel for today reminds us that Mary’s Assumption into heaven might be best understood as a real experience and preview of the “Parousia” (see last Sunday’s reflection).  This view covers the full realm of Catholic beliefs about the uniquely human and divine person of Jesus Christ, truly human, and the relationship of His whole family, beginning with His mother.  For me, this understanding, or way of looking at the supernatural gift of Mary’s Assumption brings about an abounding and thriving meaning of God’s introduction of His Son, Jesus to the world and to His own Israel, through Mary, for my (and your) personal salvation. This is so strong that Luke actually interprets it TWICE in Mary’s Canticle, in today’s Gospel reading.  The first interpretation we find in verses 1:39-45; and the second is in verses 1:46-56.  The first introduction of Jesus is two-fold: (1) in Mary’s physical traveling to visit Elizabeth and her words of greeting on arrival at Elizabeth’s home; and (2) in Elizabeth’s reaction, her words, and the physical action of Elizabeth’s baby leaping for joy, while still in the womb.  The two mothers-to-be come together to praise a God who is very active and paramount in their lives. 

The second introduction (verses 46-56) is in God’s own action, through Mary, to bring Jesus the Messiah to us, in fidelity to His promises to Abraham and his sons, grandsons, King David, and to all Israel, as well as to all peoples.  What God has done for Mary is universalized into what God intends for each one of us. (That’s you and me, Bubbas!!)

The presentation of Jesus (in the womb) to His cousin John (also in the womb) will be renewed again a little more than 30 years later, with John the Baptist honoring and proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, the promised Lamb of God to come, when Jesus’ presented Himself for baptism at the Jordan river.  This is also the first of only two times in all the Gospels that God speaks, proclaiming Jesus as His only-begotten and well beloved Son.

Can anyone imagine the faith Mary had in God?  WOW!!!  For me, it’s beyond my mental reasoning.  Her mind was uncluttered by any of the effects of sin that mar our soul.  An unblemished soul is something neither I, nor anyone reading this reflection, can claim (regrettably). 

Only Mary, born without the stain of original sin (the Immaculate Conception) could give birth to the mysterious uniqueness of Jesus Christ: truly divine and truly human, undiminished divinity and true humanity in one person forever.  Because of Mary’s role in God’s plan of salvation, she does not suffer from the effects of sin: namely death and decay.  Mary is literally the first person to receive the fullness of the redemption that her son secured for you and me, all of mankind that chooses to believes in God and His revelation of mercy.  

Her role in salvation had been pre-conceived by God before the beginning of time, and any role God would give Mary would be a uniquely special one for her.   Even though she apparently discerned that she was being asked to do the impossible, when the archangel Gabriel said something to her about having a baby, Mary displayed a total and unconditional faith and trust in God AND in the Son that God was promising.  Thank God the Planned Parenthood offices were not open, and trying to encourage Mary to avoid the “inconvenience” of an unexpected pregnancy, and the “embarrassment” of a “virginal” conception!  How often have we done anything as unconditionally as Mary did for God, and for us!? 

Was Mary ready for the rigors of being the Mother of God?  This question is answered in the following verse, “Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah.”  It is not an easy feat for a 14 year-old Jewish child, being pregnant at the time, making a rugged four day trip by herself.  And to accomplish this feat “in haste” even adds to her abilities to handle the bad, as well as the good.  Mary is a tough opponent to evil: one heavenly tough lady!

Elizabeth greets Mary with full recognition of the roles they and their unborn children will play in God’s plan for salvation in their lifetime.  Upon arriving, “She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb.” These verses made me recall a similar thing happening with the leaping of Esau and Jacob in Rebekah’s womb.  This story can be found in Genesis 25:22-23: “the children in her womb jostled each other so much that she exclaimed, ‘If this is to be so, what good will it do me!’  She went to consult the LORD, and He answered her: ‘Two nations are in your womb; two peoples are quarreling while still within you; but one shall surpass the other, and the older shall serve the younger.’”  Interesting to me is that this is a preview of the relation between John and Jesus, just without the quarreling!

 “Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice … saying, ‘most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb …’” Having been graced to be filled with the Holy Spirit during an ACTS retreat several years ago, I can appreciate the energy, joy, and charisma associated with the event of being as one with the Holy Spirit.  I felt literally “on top of the world,” and so filled with love that I felt like I was truly going to burst.  Now, I need to emphasize that I never considered myself a “Charismatic Catholic,” and have never talked in tongues.  Until I had this retreat experience, I thought of “those” people as a little strange.  Through this encounter on my retreat with the third person of the Holy Trinity, I no longer have doubts in the capabilities of God’s graces.

Calling Mary “Most Blessed” brings up the image found in Revelations 12:1: “A woman clothed with the Sun.”  For me, Mary was wearing the mantle of God long before her conception with Jesus.  God, the first person of the Holy Trinity, presented to Mary the grace of bringing into this sinful world, the second person of the Holy Trinity, the complete image of Himself, and His Word – her Son Jesus, through the action of the third person of the Holy Trinity: the Holy Spirit.  This is a mystery of faith probably more complex than the United States Internal Revenue Code for most of us to truly understand.

Mary asks, “How does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  Even before his birth, Jesus was identified as the Lord.  There were no pre-conceived notions from Mary, Elizabeth, or any other individual aware of the promises about the coming Messiah.  No one alive at that time knew exactly what the Messiah’s role would be.  Some, maybe even most, thought Jesus would become some type of warrior king, similar to David.  If so, how surprised were they to be.  All Mary knew was that SOMETHING special was in store for all of them, and that even though totally blind to any future events, she put her total faith and trust in the hands of God!

“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  Luke portrays Mary as a believer whose faith, trust, and fidelity stands in contrast to the disbelief of Zechariah with Elizabeth’s pregnancy of John.  In Luke 1:20, “But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time” Zechariah becomes mute, in response to his questioning of God’s grace.  But when Mary asks a similar question, unlike Zechariah who was disciplined for his doubt, Mary is praised and reassured. 

The difference between the two, I believe, is the level of their faith and trust in God’s capabilities.  Zechariah, an elderly temple priest, had doubt and lack of trust, probably due to the many years of A) strictly human reasoning, and B) concupiscence’s effect on his soul, thus making him skeptical.  Mary, on the other hand, had no sins to mark her soul, and had been nurtured by the faith of the Patriarchs and the Prophets.  Even in her young age, and with a perfectly sinless and grace filled soul, she knew nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1:37).

Mary’s role in this beginning of this infancy narrative should be seen in connection with her presence among “those who believed” after Jesus’ Resurrection that unique Sunday Morning.  Why?  The answer can be found in Acts 1:14, “All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”   Mary was with Jesus His entire life.  Mary saw Jesus, as her son AND as her Lord on earth (But don’t most Jewish mothers? – OK, sorry).  Mary trusted in God wholly and completely, and she continued to say “YES” to God, without fail, her entire life.  We need to see the totality of Mary’s life as we see Jesus in the totality of His life.

The nature of God in Jesus’ conception is proclaimed in Mary saying, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord ….” There is an Old Testament parallel for this New Testament verse: “the Song of Hannah,” found in 1 Sam 2:1-11.  A whole separate reflection can be written on the correlations between the two, so I urge you to find it in your bible and read it.  This “song” is credited to Hannah after her birth to Samuel as her thanksgiving to God because of her giving birth to a son, despite her previous years of sterility.  She praises God as the helper of the weak who casts down the mighty and raises up the lowly, and who alone is the source of true strength. 

Mary praises God for what He has done for mankind through her child, Jesus; and rejoices in God’s fulfillment of His promises in the verse, “my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”  Mary was totally FILLED with the Holy Spirit, so there was NO room for sin, or for the least little self-centeredness.  Mary literally surrendered herself, and gave all she had, body, soul, and spirit, to serve God, in order for Him to live within, and to work through her!  This is EXACTLY what we need to do each and every day of our lives!!!  (TRUE!!!)

In this new era of salvation, Mary will be hailed as the Mother and Queen of Israel and us all.  “For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.”  Mary was humble.  So humble in fact, that I believe she may have had a hard time saying that all generations will honor her.  However, we still have to remember, always, that she WAS absolutely and truly FULL of God, thus making her actions and remarks as truly true.  Mary allowed God to work through her, and to work without any impediments from her, in any way.  This is reiterated in Mary continuing her Canticle, saying, “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”  Her “lowliness,” her humbleness, is contrasted against with the might and majesty of God; for NOTHING is impossible with God. (Are you getting the “nothing is impossible with God” theme yet?)

Should we be afraid of GOD?  After all, the next verse says, “His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.”  “Fear” of the Lord is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in Isaiah 11:2-3: “The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.  Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide.” 

The fullness of Jesus Christ, as shown through Mary – both physically and spiritually, is also available to any Catholic in a state of grace.  We receive these seven gifts when given “sanctifying grace:” the life of God within us.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 1831) notes on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, “They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.”  When we are infused with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in the way that Christ Himself would.

Fear is a curiously strange word for most Americans. Most of us take this word as “bad.”  Instead we need to see this word as more of a “healthy fear.”  Healthy fears keep us from burning ourselves when cooking, shocking ourselves when plugging in a lamp, and keeping us from sinning when tempted.  So, we need not fear God as the world experiences fear, but we need to delight in the healthy fear – the profound respect for an infinitely good and powerful God.

Luke 1:50 ends the first part of the Canticle of Mary and transitions into the second part of the Canticle.  What God has done for Mary is universalized into what God does for those who faithfully and respectfully “fear” Him.

Verse 51: “He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heartHe has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowlyThe hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.”  These six past-tense verbs describe God as the one who performed these actions, and is now in the present tense, operating in the virginal conception of Jesus within Mary.  My question is, “Who are the rich, and who are the hungry?”  Are the “lowly” the Jewish people of Israel, the sick, or the downtrodden?  Is being “rich” a measure of materialist wealth, or is it the proud and arrogant people who have no time or need for God? 

God, through Jesus, is creating a new “exodus,” a new journey that shows a preference for the humble, the poor, and the downtrodden.  This is manifested in Jesus’ ministry, and in the future missions of His disciples. 

Being “poor,” for God, does not come with a social status, or ethnic heritage.  The humble, poor, and downtrodden have to respond to God’s good news, in order to complete this journey with Him.  In the next verse of Mary’s Canticle, “He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever,” God builds a “new covenant” upon the old foundation of Abraham’s.  God’s gift, His grace, that Mary is proclaiming, is NOT contingent solely on the ethnic heritage of Abraham’s genealogy.  It is NOW open to All, regardless of social status, ethnicity, previous religion, or any other origin.

“Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.”  Why would a young woman with the love and charity we all admire in her, leave prior to the birth of Jesus’ precursor: John?  Elizabeth certainly could have used the help with the delivery and other “nursing” and household issues.  Luke, I believe, does this solely in explicitly emphasizing the three main characters in each birth narratives: Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John in one; and Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in the other.

Mary is praised for being the mother of the Lord, Jesus Christ; and, because of her strong faith and belief, she responds as the servant in this psalm (song) of praise, the “Magnificat.”  The Magnificat, with the possible exception of verse 48, “for he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed” may have been an early Jewish-Christian hymn that Luke found appropriate at this point in his story.  Even if not written by Luke, it fits in well with his themes found elsewhere in his Gospel: joy and exultation in the Lord; the lowly being singled out for God’s favor; the reversal of human fortunes; and the fulfillment of the Jewish family prophesies.  

In Summary, Mary’s faith and trust is what God wants each of us to imitate.  Can we imitate her faith? Even though Mary was sinless; and we know ourselves to be sinners endeavoring to sin less and less, these virtues are not something beyond our grasp.  In fact, we can grow in these virtues.  We do this when we try our best to follow her, and HIS path to salvation and redemption.  Imitating Mary leads us to her Son because they walk and exist together.  What is really awesome is that we don’t have to walk this path alone.  As a child of God, we can hold the right hand of Mary – our Heavenly Mother – with one hand, and the left hand (making Him our right hand man) of Jesus – our loving brother and kinsman redeemer – with the other, on the path that we take to the glory of paradise, in the salvation of the third heaven (2 Cor 12:2 & 1 Peter 3:22).

 

“The Hail Mary”

 

“Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death.  Amen.”

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St Maximilian Mary Kolbe

(Actually yesterday’s Saint of the Day, but he is one of my personal patron saints, and the main reason I am a Secular Franciscan)

“I don’t know what’s going to become of you!” How many parents have said that? Maximilian Mary Kolbe’s reaction was, “I prayed very hard to Our Lady to tell me what would happen to me. She appeared, holding in her hands two crowns, one white, one red. She asked if I would like to have them—one was for purity, the other for martyrdom. I said, ‘I choose both.’ She smiled and disappeared.” After that he was not the same.

He entered the minor seminary of the Conventual Franciscans in Lvív (then Poland, now Ukraine), near his birthplace, and at 16 became a novice. Though he later achieved doctorates in philosophy and theology, he was deeply interested in science, even drawing plans for rocket ships.

Ordained at 24, he saw religious indifference as the deadliest poison of the day. His mission was to combat it. He had already founded the Militia of the Immaculata, whose aim was to fight evil with the witness of the good life, prayer, work and suffering. He dreamed of and then founded Knight of the Immaculata,, a religious magazine under Mary’s protection to preach the Good News to all nations. For the work of publication he established a “City of the Immaculata”—Niepokalanow—which housed 700 of his Franciscan brothers. He later founded one in Nagasaki, Japan. Both the Militia and the magazine ultimately reached the one-million mark in members and subscribers. His love of God was daily filtered through devotion to Mary.

In 1939 the Nazi panzers overran Poland with deadly speed. Niepokalanow was severely bombed. Kolbe and his friars were arrested, then released in less than three months, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

In 1941 he was arrested again. The Nazis’ purpose was to liquidate the select ones, the leaders. The end came quickly, in Auschwitz three months later, after terrible beatings and humiliations.

A prisoner had escaped. The commandant announced that 10 men would die. He relished walking along the ranks. “This one. That one.” As they were being marched away to the starvation bunkers, Number 16670 dared to step from the line. “I would like to take that man’s place. He has a wife and children.” “Who are you?” “A priest.” No name, no mention of fame. Silence. The commandant, dumbfounded, perhaps with a fleeting thought of history, kicked Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek out of line and ordered Father Kolbe to go with the nine. In the “block of death” they were ordered to strip naked, and their slow starvation began in darkness. But there was no screaming—the prisoners sang. By the eve of the Assumption four were left alive. The jailer came to finish Kolbe off as he sat in a corner praying. He lifted his fleshless arm to receive the bite of the hypodermic needle. It was filled with carbolic acid. They burned his body with all the others. He was beatified in 1971 and canonized in 1982.

Comment:

Father Kolbe’s death was not a sudden, last-minute act of heroism. His whole life had been a preparation. His holiness was a limitless, passionate desire to convert the whole world to God. And his beloved Immaculata was his inspiration.

Quote:

“Courage, my sons. Don’t you see that we are leaving on a mission? They pay our fare in the bargain. What a piece of good luck! The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win as many souls as possible. Let us, then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content, and that she can do with us anything she wishes” (Maximilian Mary Kolbe, when first arrested).

He is the Patron Saint of Addicts and Drug addiction.

 

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 #15 of 26:

 

Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.

 

“Guilty or Not Guilty: Either is the Ultimate Life Sentence!” – John 12:44-50†


Today is the half-way point of the 50 day Easter Season.  Yes, Easter lasts longer than one day.  He get to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection for a long period of time, and then on Pentecost we celebrate His ascension, body and soul, to heaven.

Also today is the feast for Saint Louis Mary de Monfort, a Catholic Priest and promoter of Marian devotion and Marian consecration.  I do the 33 day “True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary” every year.  I believe I will start around June 13th, but I will let all know in a later blog.
    

Today in Catholic History:
† 1611 – Establishment of the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas, The Catholic University of the Philippines, the oldest existing university in Asia and the largest Catholic university in the world.
† 1716 – Death of Louis de Montfort, French catholic priest (b. 1673)
† 1841 – Death of Peter Chanel, French saint (b. 1803)

 

Today’s reflection is about us believing Jesus as God.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
 

You can delegate authority, but not responsibility. — Stephen W. Comiskey

Today’s Meditation:

Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me.  I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.  And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.  Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day, because I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.  And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So what I say, I say as the Father told me.”  (NAB John 12:44-50)

 

This is a final sermon by Jesus, and alludes to Deut. 18:18-19 [I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kinsmen, and will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him.  If any man will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name, I myself will make him answer for it.], and 31:19, 26 [Write out this song, then, for yourselves. Teach it to the Israelites and have them recite it, so that this song may be a witness for me against the Israelites.  Take this scroll of the law and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD, your God, that there it may be a witness against you.]. 

The Jews present at the temple for this festival; the one’s to whom Jesus is teaching, knew the Old Testament, and especially the “Torah” of which Deuteronomy is one of the five books.  They recognize that those who refuse to heed the prophet sent by God will be condemned.

This sermon is an affirmation of Jesus as the mediator of God.  Rejecting Him is rejecting His Father, and those rejecting Him stand condemned for eternity.

“I am guilty of believing in you as my Savior.  Please sentence me to life with you in eternity.  Amen.”
     

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  Blessed Luchesio (Lucius)
    

Luchesio Modestini was a merchant in the little town of Poggibonzi in Tuscany. More than most merchants, he was so entirely and solely concerned with material success that he was generally reputed to be an avaricious man. His wife, Buonadonna, was of a similar disposition. Then the grace of God touched the husband. He realized how foolish it is to strive only for worldly goods, of which he could take nothing with him to eternity, meanwhile forgetting about his soul’s salvation, as he had, unfortunately, been doing until then. He began to practice works of mercy and to perform his religious obligations with fidelity; he succeeded in winning his wife over to a similar outlook on life.

Since they had no one to care for but themselves, and Luchesio feared that in conducting his business he might relapse into covetousness, he gave up his business entirely. He and his good wife divided everything among the poor and retained for themselves only so much acreage as would suffice for their support. Luchesio tilled this with his own hands.

About this time St. Francis came to Tuscany. After his sermon on penance, hosts of people desired to leave all and enter the convent. But the saint admonished them calmly to persevere in their vocation, for he had in mind soon to give them a special rule according to which they could serve God perfectly even in the world.

At Poggibonzi Francis visited Luchesio, with whom he had become acquainted through former business transactions. Francis greatly rejoiced to find this avaricious man so altered, and Luchesio, who had already heard about the blessed activities of Francis, asked for special instructions for himself and his wife, so that they might lead a life in the world that would be pleasing to God.

Francis then explained to them his plans for the establishment of an order for lay people; and Luchesio and Buonadonna asked to be received into it at once. This, according to tradition, they became the first members of the Order of Penance, which later came to be called the Third Order, (and then Secular Franciscan Order).

If Luchesio and Buonadonna were really the first Tertiaries, they must have become such not long after St. Francis founded his First Order in 1209. The first simple rule of life, which St. Francis gave to the first Tertiaries at that time, was supplanted in 1221 by one which Cardinal Ugolino prepared in legal wording. And in the same year Pope Honorius III approved this rule verbally. For this reason the year 1221 is often given as the date of the founding of the Third Order of St. Francis.

After Luchesio had put on the gray garment of a Tertiary, he rapidly advanced toward perfect holiness. He practiced penitential austerities, often fated on bread and water, slept on the hard floor, and at his work bore God constantly in his heart. His generosity to the poor knew no bounds, so that one day there was not even a loaf of bread for his own household. When still another poor man came, he asked his wife to look whether there was not something they could find for him. That vexed her and she scolded him severely; his mortifications, she said, had well nigh crazed him, he would keep giving so long that they themselves would have to suffer hunger. Luchesio asked her gently to please look in the pantry, for he trusted in Him who had multiplied a few loaves for the benefit of thousands. She did so, and the marvel of it! The whole pantry was filled with the best kind of bread. From that time on Buonadonna vied with her husband in doing good.

When a plague raged in Poggibonzi and the surrounding places, Luchesio went out with his laden donkey, to bring the necessaries to the sick. When he did not have enough to supply all, he begged for more from others in behalf of the distressed.

Once he carried a sick cripple, whom he had found on the way, to his home on his shoulders. A frivolous young man met him, and asked him mockingly, “what poor devil is that you are carrying there on your back?” Luchesio replied calmly. “I am carrying my Lord Jesus Christ.” At once the young man’s face became distorted, he cried out fearfully, and was dumb. Contritely he cast himself on his knees before Luchesio, who restored his speech to him by means of the Sign of the Cross.

The time had come when the faithful servant of God was to receive the reward for his good works. When he lay very ill, and there was no hope for his recovery, his wife said to him, “Implore God, who gave us to each other as companions in life, to permit us also to die together.” Luchesio prayed as requested. and Buonadonna fell ill with a fever, from which she died even before her husband, after devoutly receiving the holy sacraments. Luchesio passed away with holy longing for God on April 28, 1260. At his grave in the Franciscan church at Poggibonzi many miracles have occurred. His continuous veneration as Blessed was approved by Pope Pius VI.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints,
ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)
    

 

Prologue to Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule, Chapter 1:
     

We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united with our Lord Jesus Christ; we are brothers to him when we fulfill “the will of the Father who is in heaven” (Mt 12:50).

We are mothers, when we carry him in our heart and body (cf. 1 Cor 6:20) through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to him through a holy life which must give life to others by example (cf. Mt 5:16).

“Hey Steve, Let’s Get Stoned!” – Acts 7:51-60†


I want to wish a very happy and blessed birthday to a woman I have grown to love.  I think I have read nearly all her books.  This woman raised herself up and out of despair and poverty, to become a poor and simple woman doing God’s work on earth; and doing it exceptionally well: Happy Birthday Mother Angelica.  May you have a blessed day.

Today in Catholic History:
570 – Birth of Muhammed, founder of Islam (d. 632) (date disputed)
1303 – The University of Rome La Sapienza is instituted by Pope Boniface VIII.
1314 – Death of Pope Clement V (b. 1264)
1586 – Birth of Saint Rose of Lima, Peruvian saint (d. 1617)
1923 – Birth of Mother Angelica, American nun and broadcaster
    

Today’s reflection is about the stoning of Stephen.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. — Eleanor Roosevelt
  

Today’s Meditation:
    

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors.  Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.  You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it.”  When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him.  But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.  They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.  As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”   Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep.  (NAB Acts 7:51-60)
     

Israel had generations of resistance to God’s word.  God repeatedly sent prophets to correct their ways, but the Jewish people rejected, persecuted, and murdered the prophets.  There seemed to be in a constant cycle of reverence, then immoral acts leading to destruction or capture.  Then prophets proclaim the fruits of following God’s laws with limited results for long periods.  Finally, the people ask for forgiveness and redemption, which is gained through sacrifice and prayer.  The Jewish people are forgiven and live in peace, harmony, and in the presence of God in a reverent manner; only to repeat the cycle again and again (I believe seven times).    

Stephen affirms to the Sanhedrin that the prophecy Jesus made before them had been fulfilled (see Mark 14:62): Jesus died, and was resurrected on the third day.  His church was torn down (His death on the cross), and was rebuilt in three days (with His resurrection).  The location of God’s “glory” is in heaven with the risen Christ, rather than in the Jewish Temple made by humans.

 The reason they covered your ears, is that Stephen’s declaration, like that of Jesus, is a scandal to the court which regards Stephen’s declaration as blasphemy.  I can picture them all acting like little children with their eyes closed tightly, hands firmly over their ears, looking downwards, and yelling “nani, nani, nani”.   

Stephen is taken outside the city, because any death makes the ground it occurs on as “unclean.”  No one, the Jewish people nor the roman officials, would ever think of making a planned murder on sacred ground.  Murder, in whatever form, is also death to a sacred life from God.  The location of murder is irrelevant to me.  Even in this present era, people are still purposely murdered.  Sacred lives are destroyed out of our immoral thoughts that “this” life is unnecessary or a hassle.  Abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty are all offenses against this sacred life, and are wrong!

Stephen was destined to be our Church’s first martyr.  This man chosen to feed the elderly widows and other members of the Church of Christ is being killed for his faith by a mob.  Stephen sees Jesus standing with God as he is being persecuted.  Stephen is literally walking in Jesus’ footsteps. 

The word “standing” may refer to Jesus’ welcome to his martyr in an individual way.  It is a variation of Jesus sitting at Gods right hand.  When you go to a friend’s house, how much warmer is the welcome when you are met at the door, or on the porch, with a smile and handshake from the home owner.  I think this is what Jesus is doing:  standing on the porch, welcoming Stephen to His abode.

Witnesses” hardly would be probable in a lynching.  These “witness participants” were probably people caught up in the mob hysteria present, and probably threw a stone or two at Stephen.  I wonder how they felt afterwards: was there any remorse?  Stephen forgave them before they even asked; did any ask God for forgiveness?

In the crowd was a young man that will become one of the greatest figures and disciples of the Catholic Church.  This man, at this time, is a strong and devout Jew, who hates any heresy to the current Jewish faith: Saul.  Saul’s presence appears at the precise point when the Churches mission moves outward from Jerusalem to the Gentile world.

“Jesus, I am in awe at the piety of the early followers of your disciples.  Please give me the grace of these early Church Fathers.  I so want to live and die in you presence and love.  Amen.”
   

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Catholic Saint of the Day:  St. Marian
    

When St. Mamertinus was Abbot of the monastery which St. Germanus had founded at Auxerre, there came to him a young man called Marcian (also known as Marian), a fugitive from Bourges then occupied by the Visigoths. St. Mamertinus gave him the habit, and the novice edified all his piety and obedience. The Abbot, wishing to test him, gave him the lowest possible post – that of cowman and shepherd in the Abbey farm at Merille. Marcian accepted the work cheerfully, and it was noticed that the beast under his charge throve and multified astonishingly. He seemed to have a strange power over all animals. The birds flocked to eat out of his hands: bears and wolves departed at his command; and when a hunted wild boar fled to him for protection, he defended it from its assailants and set it free. After his death, the Abbey took the name of the humble monk. His feast day is April 20th

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #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.