Tag Archives: fast


 

“Ash Wednesday – – First Day of Lent” 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote or Joke of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Reflection on Today’s Gospel
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day 
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Today is the start of the Lenten Season.  Most followers of Western Christianity observe Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding on Holy Saturday (April 23, 2011).  The six Sundays in this period are not counted because each one represents a “mini-Easter,” a celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. 

The number forty has many Old Testament Biblical references:

  • the forty days and nights God sent rain in the great flood of Noah (Genesis 7:4);
  • the forty days Moses spent on Mount Sinai with God (Exodus 24:18);
  • the forty years the Hebrew people wandered in the desert while traveling to the Promised Land (Numbers 14:33);
  • the forty days Jonah in his prophecy of judgment gave the city of Nineveh in which to repent (Jonah 3:4).
  • the forty days and nights Elijah spent walking to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8);

AND, Jesus retreated into the wilderness, where he fasted for forty days, and was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-2, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-2).  Jesus said that his disciples should fast “when the bridegroom shall be taken from them” (Matthew 9:15), a reference to his Passion.  Since the Apostles fasted as they mourned the death of Jesus, Christians have traditionally fasted during the annual commemoration of his burial.

The Etymology of the word is interesting for me.  In Latin, the term “quadragesima” (a translation of the original Greek meaning the “fortieth” day before Easter) is used instead.  In the late Middle Ages, as sermons began to be given in the common vernacular instead of the traditional Latin, the English word “lent” was adopted.  This word (lent) initially meant, simply, “spring” (as in German language “Lenz” and Dutch “lente”) and derives from the Germanic root for “long” because, in the spring, the days visibly lengthen.

 

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The Prayer of St. Gertrude, below (after my reflection on the Gospel), is one of the most famous of the prayers for souls in purgatory.  St. Gertrude the Great was a Benedictine nun and mystic who lived in the 13th century.  According to tradition, our Lord promised her that 1000 souls would be released from purgatory each time it is said devoutly.  Please say this prayer each day, during Lent.

            

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Today in Catholic History:


†   1422 – Death of Jan Zelivsky, Hussite priest (b. 1380)
†   1440 – Death of St. Frances of Rome, Italian nun (b. 1384)
†   1452 – Pope Nicolaas I crowns Frederik III RC-German emperor
†   1568 – Birth of Aloysius “Luigi” van Gonzaga, Italian prince/Jesuit/saint
†   1824 – Death of Jacobus J Cramer, priest of Holland/Zealand/Friesland, dies at 79
†   Memorials/Feasts: Saint Gregory of Nyssa; Saint Frances of Rome; Forty Martyrs of Sebaste

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

 

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

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In today’s reflection, Jesus teaches that almsgiving, prayer, and fasting should be done in secret.

 

1 “[Jesus said to His disciples] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.  2 When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, 4 so that your almsgiving may be secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  5 “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  6 But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  16 “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.  They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden.  And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.   (NAB Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)

  

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Today, we celebrate “Ash Wednesday”, the first day of the liturgical season known as “Lent” (explained in detail at the beginning of this blog, above).  We should be preparing ourselves to celebrate the Catholic “summit” of our Spiritual and Liturgical year: Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead on that early Sunday morning we now call “Easter”.  

Each year, the readings for Ash Wednesday are the same.  They instruct us to develop and mature a true and loving change of heart.  This season is a time to build-up our practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; disciplines that are meant to be part of our individual and communal Catholic ways of life during every season – – every day – – of the year.  However, during the Lenten season, we are given an opportunity as a Catholic Family (the Church militant) to renew and refresh our commitment to theses regular “yearly” practices.

The Jewish people considered prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as the fundamental works of religious life.  These three practices were the essential and primary practices of a pious person; the three great pillars on which the good life was based (a Trinitarian statement).  

Jesus is warning against doing good so others can see you.  He then gives three examples in today’s reading: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.  In each example, the conduct of the “hypocrites” is compared with what is actually demanded of His followers.  Jesus is instructing His followers with the aim of praying, fasting, and giving alms, to not draw attention so that others may notice and think highly of them?  He is instead instructing His followers to give glory to God, and not allow glory to self.    

Self-seeking glory is in opposition to “piety”.  True piety is far more than just feeling good or looking holy to others.  True piety is a virtue of loving devotion and surrender to God in all aspects of life.  Piety is an individual and person attitude of awe, reverence, worship, and obedience to our almighty God.  True piety is a grace and action of the Holy Spirit working in, with, and through us, – – individually, – – enabling us to devote our entire lives to God with a righteous longing to please Him in all things, thoughts, and actions.

Jesus warns his followers against acting for the sake of appearance.  When His disciples give alms, pray, and fast, they are to do so in such a way that only God, who sees their heart and soul – – and knows what is hidden, – – will know.  Although our Gospel reading today omits the Lord’s Prayer (cf., Matthew 6:9-15), we can bear in mind that Matthew presents the Lord’s model of prayer for His disciples’.

 Do not pray as the hypocrites, but as the Lord commanded in his Gospel.” (Didache 8:2)

 

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The references to “reward” in today’s reading, is also found in other verses of Matthew’s Gospel:

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:12)

“For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?  Do not the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:46)

“Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward.  And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple–amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:41-42)

It seems that Matthew considered all Christian disciples as “prophets”.  A prophet is, by definition, one who speaks in the name of God.   In addition, being “righteous” is required for all of Jesus’ disciples.  The Prophets, the righteous man, and the “little ones” from Matthew 10:41-42, are used here for different groups within the followers of Jesus Christ – – Christian missionaries of the era – – per se, as compared to His “close group” of Apostles and disciples that stayed near His physical presence.

What is the “reward” that Jesus offers to His disciples – US?  Answer: Communion with God our Father. (WOW!!)  In God the Father, we find the true and complete fullness of life, happiness, truth, beauty, love, and eternal joy. (What else would anyone want?)  Saint Augustine, the great fourth century bishop of Hippo, wrote the following prayer in his Confessions:

“When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrows or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete.  The Lord rewards those who seek him with humble and repentant hearts.  He renews us each day and he gives us new hearts of love and compassion that we may serve him and our neighbor with glad and generous hearts.”

This reference to “reward” in today’s reading shows the word itself is an early part of Christian moral buzz-words.  In using this particular word (reward), Jesus is possibly attempting to emphasize the distinction between the Christian idea of reward and that of the hypocrites, especially the Scribes and Pharisees.  In the original Kenoi (Biblical) Greek, Matthew uses two different Greek verbs to express the reward of the disciples compared to that of the hypocrites.  The “reward” word for the hypocrite is the verb “apecho”, a business-related term meaning to give a receipt for what has been paid in full.

The word “hypocrite” occurs 21 times in the New Testament.  Mark uses it once. Luke uses it four times.  In addition to parallel words and references, Matthew uses it eleven times in passages that are found solely in his Gospel.  All of these are Jesus’ statements in which “hypocrite” refers to the most religious Jews of Jesus’ day – – the Scribes and Pharisees.  Interestingly for me, the word “hypocrite” is not found in the Book of Acts or any of the other epistles, but only in the Gospels.

When Jesus used the word “hypocrites” in verse 2, was He is, in fact, referencing the Scribes and Pharisees of the Jewish temple:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.” (Matthew 23:13) 

 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You pay tithes 12 of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity.  (But) these you should have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23:25)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.” (Matthew 23:27)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous.” (Matthew 23:29)

The designation – – “hypocrite” – – reflects an attitude which resulted, not only from the disagreements and controversies at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry in the early first century A.D., but also continued with antagonisms and disagreements between Pharisaic Judaism and Matthew’s congregation in the later part of the first century A.D., and continuing on throughout history.  I believe we sadly still experience a large amount of hypocrisy in everyday life, in the Catholic Church itself, and even within my own Secular Franciscan Order.  Hypocrisy continues throughout all aspects of earthly existence to one level or another.  How sad!

Jesus, in saying “they have received their reward”(verse 2), is telling His followers that these individuals desired “praise” in their actions instead of a relationship with God, and have received exactly what they were looking for, and not God’s grace.

 

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The only “fast” (verse 16) prescribed in the Mosaic Law is on the “Day of Atonement”:

“Since on this day atonement is made for you to make you clean, so that you may be cleansed of all your sins before the LORD, by everlasting ordinance it shall be a most solemn Sabbath for you, on which you must mortify yourselves. (Leviticus 16:30-31).

However, the practice of regular fasting became a very common practice in later Judaism and Christianity:

“Do not let your fasting be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second day and the fifth day of the week [Monday and Thursday], but you shall fast on the fourth day and the day of preparation [Wednesday and Friday].  (Didache 8:1).

 

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Now, let’s return to the beginning of my reflection.  What is our responsibility during the Lenten Season?  What does rubbing burnt palm leaves on one’s forehead have to do with praying, fasting, and alms-giving?

The meaning behind tracing a cross on our foreheads with ashes at the beginning of Lent (the outward liturgical sign of our inner belief and faith) is a summary of our Catholic Christian life.  The ashes on our foreheads remind us of our origin from God through Adam in that beautiful garden, and of our human death in body.  Today, when receiving ashes, listen to the words prayed by the minister when receiving them on your forehead:

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

There are actually three representations associated with the ashes.  Most know about the ashes representing our origins and death, but there is actually an additional representation most probably don’t think of (Isn’t it interesting that even the ashes have a Trinitarian aspect to them!)

The ashes are also the sign of our victory: that victory being – – the cross of Christ.  As the minister places the ashes on your forehead, he is making the sign of the cross. (Through sometimes it appear to look like a map of Europe or a Rorschach test.)  In Jesus’ death and resurrection, He overcame and conquered death.  Our destiny as Catholics is to receive the same “victory” over death that Jesus Christ triumphed over, and won for us.  We acknowledge Jesus’ victory over death when we:

 “turn away from sin and are faithful to the Gospel.”
(Words from the alternative prayer when receiving the ashes.)

 

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In summary, the season of Lent presents an opportunity to examine our life and to re-commit ourselves to the Catholic practices of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.  Ash Wednesday is a great time to pray and to plan Lenten practices.

Jesus expected His disciples to give alms, pray, and fast.  He gave instructions that when we do those practices, they should not be done solely for public display.  Think of one way YOU will give “alms” during Lent; to share what you have with people in need – – in a private way.  Think of one way YOU will “pray” – – privately – – during Lent.  Choose one thing that YOU will “give up” during Lent as a reminder of your love for God – – without telling others.  

Finally, pray that God blesses your Lenten promises by praying today’s psalm from Mass (Psalm 51), the “Our Father”, or the Prayer of St. Gertrude (below).

 

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The Prayer of St. Gertrude

 

Eternal Father, I offer you the Most Precious Blood of your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family.  Amen.

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Frances of Rome (1384-1440)

 

Frances’s life combines aspects of secular and religious life.  A devoted and loving wife, she longed for a lifestyle of prayer and service, so she organized a group of women to minister to the needs of Rome’s poor.

Born of wealthy parents, Frances found herself attracted to the religious life during her youth.  But her parents objected and a young nobleman was selected to be her husband.

As she became acquainted with her new relatives, Frances soon discovered that the wife of her husband’s brother also wished to live a life of service and prayer.  So the two, Frances and Vannozza, set out together—with their husbands’ blessings—to help the poor.

Frances fell ill for a time, but this apparently only deepened her commitment to the suffering people she met.  The years passed, and Frances gave birth to two sons and a daughter.  With the new responsibilities of family life, the young mother turned her attention more to the needs of her own household.  The family flourished under Frances’s care, but within a few years a great plague began to sweep across Italy.  It struck Rome with devastating cruelty and left Frances’s second son dead.  In an effort to help alleviate some of the suffering, Frances used all her money and sold her possessions to buy whatever the sick might possibly need.  When all the resources had been exhausted, Frances and Vannozza went door to door begging.  Later, Frances’s daughter died, and the saint opened a section of her house as a hospital.

Frances became more and more convinced that this way of life was so necessary for the world, and it was not long before she requested and was given permission to found a society of women bound by no vows.  They simply offered themselves to God and to the service of the poor.  Once the society was established, Frances chose not to live at the community residence, but rather at home with her husband.  She did this for seven years, until her husband passed away, and then came to live the remainder of her life with the society—serving the poorest of the poor.

Comment:

Looking at the exemplary life of fidelity to God and devotion to her fellow human beings which Frances of Rome was blessed to lead, one cannot help but be reminded of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (September 5), who loved Jesus Christ in prayer and also in the poor.  The life of Frances of Rome calls each of us not only to look deeply for God in prayer, but also to carry our devotion to Jesus living in the suffering of our world.  Frances shows us that this life need not be restricted to those bound by vows.

Quote:

Malcolm Muggeridge’s book Something Beautiful for God contains this quote from Mother Teresa say about each sister in her community: “Let Christ radiate and live his life in her and through her in the slums.  Let the poor seeing her be drawn to Christ and invite him to enter their homes and lives.”  Says Frances of Rome: “It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife.  And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping” (Butler’s Lives of the Saints).

Patron Saint of: Motorists; Widows and Oblates

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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New Translation of the Mass

 

In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass.  It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist.  The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades.  It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.

The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text.  At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning.  At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand.  Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole.  It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.

In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.

 

The third form of the penitential rite, with the various invocations of Christ (e.g., “You came to call sinners”) will be much the same (not much of a change), though an option is added to conclude each invocation in Greek:

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison,”

instead of in English: “Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy”, as it is presently.  The first two forms (found in the past two previous blogs) may conclude with this threefold litany too, either in English or in Greek.

Material from “Changing How We Pray”, by Rev. Lawrence E. Mick

 

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Money

How does the monthly fraternity collection fit into your understanding of poverty and penance?  How does shopping at second-hand stores (e.g., garage sales/Good Will/Salvation Army/etc.) for clothing and furniture show concern for the environment and natural resources?  What is your attitude toward money and possessions?  Are you comfortable curbing your desire to “want more”?  Can you think of examples of doing this (curbing your desires)?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 9 & 10 of 26:

 

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.

 

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10.  United themselves to the redemptive obedience of Jesus, who placed His will into the Father’s hands, let them faithfully fulfill the duties proper to their various circumstances of life. Let them also follow the poor and crucified Christ, witness to Him even in difficulties and persecutions.

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“I’m Just a Humble Politician; Yah, Right!!” (Luke 18:9-14)†


Today, I am standing watch and praying for the young ladies and poor souls in their wombs at the local Planned Parenthood death mill.  It is a shame that these girls (most barely ladies) feel so desperate as to kill a human life. 

The forecast is for rain and thunderstorms.  If my misery in advocating against this barbaric act of abortion may save a soul, I gladly accept this distress.

 

 

 

Today is United Nations Day (chartered in 1945).  Please pray for the relief of suffering in the world as a whole. 

Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

            

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   1710 – Birth of Alban Butler, English Catholic priest and writer (d. 1773)
†   1911 – Birth of Paul Grégoire, French Canadian archbishop of Montreal (d. 1993)
†   2004 – Death of James Cardinal Hickey, American Catholic archbishop (b. 1920)

(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:

 

“The value of consistent prayer is not that He will hear us, but that we will hear Him.” – William McGill

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling the parable of the proud Pharisee who prayed from his self-importance, contrasted with the tax collector who prayed with humility and faith.

 

9 He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.  10 “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.  11 The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity–greedy, dishonest, adulterous–or even like this tax collector.  12 I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’  13 But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’  14 I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.  (NAB Luke 18:9-14)

 

Jesus offers a striking story of two men at prayer and is a continuation of last Sunday’s reading.  This is the second of two parables about prayer.  The first is found in Luke 18:1-8 and is about the diligence and perseverance we should display in our prayer life.  This second parable condemns the haughty and judgmental attitudes of the Pharisees.  The story teaches us why we must have a proper attitude in prayer; that the essential need of any follower of Jesus Christ is in recognizing one’s own sinfulness and a further need in acknowledging a total dependence and faith in God’s graciousness.  Jesus teaches us about the character of prayer in regards to our relationship with God by drawing a distinction between these two exceptionally different approaches towards prayer.  Notice that the Pharisee prayed to himself (not God).  The tax-collector believed he needed God’s mercy because he DID believe in God.

This parable gives us a warning about the danger of slighting others around us.  Disrespecting others is more than an action of being mean-spirited.  Conceit and disrespect of others erupts from a self-conceived notion of one’s own goodness and righteousness.  So, that one conceited person feels “competent” to sit in the “judges’ seat” that determines who is a good and just person. 

I bet Jesus’ story offended those present who regarded “tax-collectors” as being “unworthy” of God’s blessing and love.  How could Jesus slight a Pharisee, a temple leader, and praise a known “sinner”?  This parable reminds me of the story of the “pardoning of the sinful woman” found in Luke 7:36-50: – “… Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment …,” – wherein a similar distinction is presented between the judgmental view of the Pharisee “Simon,” and the love and faith shown by the woman now a pardoned [by Jesus] sinner.  

Luke unquestionably loves stories.  He should have had some “Irish” blood in him!  To set the stage for today’s story, Jewish tax-collectors were a quasi-partner with the Roman officials in a practice that allowed the tax-collector to pad their own purses (or coin-bags) by charging much more than the straightforward taxes.  Because of this relationship with the Romans and their “less-than-honest” business practices, the tax-collector was more than aware of his “unworthiness” per Jewish societal norms.  He was well aware how others perceived him; he also knew that he wasn’t even welcomed in the temple for worshipping.  The tax-collector though, never lost his faith and hope IN God.  He was looking for forgiveness FROM God.  And he sought after an internal and spiritual peace THROUGH God.

Remember from last week’s reflection that Pharisees were high-ranking members of the Jewish religion during Jesus’ time.  They taught an oral interpretation of the Law of Moses (the Torah) as a foundation for Jewish devoutness and practices.  If anyone would be an example for prayer, one would think a Pharisee would normally be an expected model to the Jewish community.  

This Pharisee, unlike the “sinful” tax-collector, was very much pleased with himself; he further expected God to also be extremely pleased with him as well.  His prayer was not from his heart (nor from his faith) like the tax-collectors.  The Pharisee represents those who take pride and smugness in their personal religious practices; praising himself at the expense of others.  Engrossed with [self-] approval, pleasure, and opulence, he mainly prayed with himself and not to God!  His prayer consisted of congratulatory declarations of what he did, and of scorn for those he loathed.  In reality, his prayer was just a listing of his political and social achievements.  I can’t believe he actually had the audacity to thank God for his “high” position in society!  This Pharisee believed he justified himself through his prayer.  In reality, only God can justify His creations! – – by Grace!!

The tax-collector in today’s Gospel represents the lowly, despised and desperate of society.  He humbled himself before God and begged God for His mercy.  God was pleased with the humble attitude of faith and reliance of this tax-collector, a self-professed sinner.  This “sinner’s” prayer was truly heard by God, for this person had a true remorse for his sins against God AND his fellow brethren.  This man sought God with a humble heart rather than with a prideful spirit.  The tax-collector, and not the Pharisee, went home “justified”- – vindicated by God. 

I believe this parable shows the tax-collector as THE example of faith and prayer.  Jesus loves the marginalized, the humble “tax-collectors” of society.  He even went so far as to eat with, and touch the lowly “sinners and unclean” of His time.  In Luke 5:30-32, Jesus said that He came, “NOT for the healthy, but for the sick!”  Thank God we, as sinful humans, are “spiritually sick” and thus in need of Jesus daily in our daily lives!  We simply need to recognize this fact and to ask God for His grace and magnificent mercy. – – Daily!

The proud among us, like today’s Pharisee, do not believe they need any help.  They believe they hold their own destiny in their hands.  They don’t realize the danger they are placing themselves in, in not seeing the need for God’s compassion, generosity, and mercy, in their lives. 

Today, we are presented with both an opportunity for betterment and a stern warning.  Pride (a deadly sin) leads one to false assumptions, false impressions, and false honesty.  Humility, the flipside virtue of the coin, helps us to see ourselves as we really are.  A humble approach to prayer disposes oneself to knowledge of God’s love, grace, and mercy.  

In Isaiah 57:15 (NRSV), it is written “For thus says the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”  God does not hear us in prayer if we are not humble in heart, or if we hate and despise any other of God’s creation!

Do you truly trust in the divine mercy and generosity of our Trinitarian God?  Do you ask for help from Him on a daily basis?  Do you realize how weak in spirit and flesh you may be at this time, and how much you need God’s continual compassion?  In 2 Cor 12:10 it is written,”when I am weak, then I am strong.”  How can we emulate the prayer of this “weak” tax-collector? 

We sometimes see and experience a high level of competition between ourselves and others around us.  This behavior happens for many reasons; but usually it is for the purpose of gaining attention or for acknowledgement of one’s skills and talents.  Some even seem to believe that any attention given to one person has to significantly lessen the attention available to be given to another.  In believing this way, people can act like the Pharisee in today’s parable. 

Have you ever compared yourself to another or another to you?  Is it helpful to compare yourself to another? In what ways can comparing yourself to another be a positive experience from a spiritual viewpoint?  In what circumstances might this comparison be unhelpful or dangerous spiritually?

Do you seek God’s love and mercy with a humble or prideful heart?  Do you show love and mercy to others around you? – – especially those you find difficult to love and to forgive, as St. Theresa of Lisieux found happening within her?

If we are pompous and self-important, then there may be far too little room for God to work in and through us!  So, as you pray, please believe in, and remember, to thank God for His unconditional love for you NOW.  Today’s parable tells us that when we pray, we must bear in mind our need for God in our lives. 

 

The Serenity Prayer

 

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.   

Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next.  Amen.”

–Reinhold Niebuhr
(A Lutheran Minister from
the St. Louis, MO area)

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Anthony Claret (1807-1870)

 

The “spiritual father of Cuba” was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop and refugee.  He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and to the First Vatican Council.

In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, he learned Latin and printing: the future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers.

He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand.  At 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians.

He was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba.  He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for stamping out concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves.  A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open his face and wrist.  Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term.  His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market.  This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar.  Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: Reflections on Agriculture and Country Delights.

He was recalled to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen.  He went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace, he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children and he would be exempt from court functions.  In the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen’s party to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony.

All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press.  He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets.

At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, he won the admiration of his fellow bishops.  Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, “There goes a true saint.”  At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.

Comment:

Jesus foretold that those who are truly his representatives would suffer the same persecution as he did.  Besides 14 attempts on his life, Anthony had to undergo such a barrage of the ugliest slander that the very name Claret became a byword for humiliation and misfortune.  The powers of evil do not easily give up their prey.  No one needs to go looking for persecution.  All we need to do is be sure we suffer because of our genuine faith in Christ, not for our own whims and imprudence’s.

Quote:

Queen Isabella II once said to Anthony, “No one tells me things as clearly and frankly as you do.”  Later she told her chaplain, “Everybody is always asking me for favors, but you never do. Isn’t there something you would like for yourself?”  He replied, “Yes, that you let me resign.” The queen made no more offers.

Patron Saint of: Savings & Weavers

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 24 & 25 of 26:

 

 
24.     To foster communion among members, the council should organize regular and frequent meetings of the community as well as meeting with other Franciscan groups, especially with youth groups. It should adopt appropriate means for growth in Franciscan and ecclesial life and encourage everyone to a life of fraternity. The communion continues with deceased brothers and sisters through prayer for them.

  

 

25.     Regarding expenses necessary for the life of the fraternity and the needs of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity, all the brothers and sisters should offer a contribution according to their means. Local fraternities should contribute toward the expenses of the higher fraternity councils.

 

 

 

 

“Not MY Job, It’s HIS; Or Is IT?!” – Mark 13:13-17†


The Holy Father’s (The Pope) Prayer Intention’s for June, 2010:

General Intention: That priests, united to the Heart of Christ, may always be true witnesses of the caring and merciful love of God.

Missionary Intention: That the Holy Spirit may bring forth from our communities numerous missionary vocations, willing to fully consecrate themselves to spreading the Kingdom of God.

 

It is the first day of June, and I hope everyone had a fun and safe holiday weekend.  Hopefully we all remembered and prayed for all veterans and military personnel, living and dead.

 

Today in Catholic History:

† 1480 – Birth of Tiedemann Giese, Polish Catholic bishop (d. 1550)
† 1495 – Friar John Cor records the first known batch of scotch whisky.
† 1571 – Death of John Story, English Catholic
† 1846 – Death of Pope Gregory XVI (b. 1765)
† 1903 – Birth of Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky C.Ss.R Bishop and Martyr (d. 1973)
† Today is Commemoration of Justin Martyr (Eastern Orthodox).

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
     

Men have never wearied of political justice: they have wearied of waiting for it. – G.K. Chesterton
     

Today’s reflection is about Civic and Religious Duties.
     

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.  (NAB Mark 13:13-17)

  

Who were the “Pharisees and Herodians?”  Of the three major religious societies of Judaism at the time of the New Testament, the Pharisees were often the most vocal and influential.  The name Pharisee in its Hebrew form means separatists, or the separated ones.  They were the most bitter and deadly opponents of Jesus Christ, and His message.

The Pharisees perhaps meant to obey God at first, but eventually they became so devoted and extremist to only a small portion of the Jewish Laws that they became blind to the “Messiah” when He was in their very midst.  They saw His miracles and heard His Words, but instead of receiving it with joy they did all that they could to stop Him; to the point of getting Him killed because He truthfully claimed to be the “Son of God.”

The Herodians on the other hand were one of the Jewish parties of Jerusalem and Judea during the human lifetime of Jesus Christ.  Unlike the other Jewish groups, the Herodians were primarily a political group, rather than religious.  The Herodians were supporters of Herod.  While the Pharisees and Sadducees opposed Jesus Christ because they viewed Him as a competitor for religious leadership of the people, the Herodians opposed Jesus because they viewed His growing popularity as a political threat to their Roman masters.

In the conflicts Jesus had with the Herodians, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Temple Scribes, Jesus vanquished his adversaries with simple and honest responses and parables to their questions; reducing them to silence.  In Mark 12:34, it is written, “And when Jesus saw that (He) answered with understanding, He said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And no one dared to ask him any more questions.” 

Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”  What a simple, yet profound, statement!  I firmly believe we have as much difficulty with the concept today, as the Disciples of Christ did two-thousand years ago.  Jesus did not say, “Give to Caesar nothing, and give everything to the Church.”  Nor did He say, “Make sure what you give to Caesar is in no way associated with the Church.”  Jesus made it clear that we had a duty not only to the Church, but also to the people around us, to the civic leaders, and to society as a whole.  To be a good Catholic is to be a good citizen as well.  There is both a “physical” king, and a “spiritual” king to which we answer.  Jesus was not to rule by the force of military might, but by service to all.  He was not to be a political “Messiah.”

What do we owe to the government and others, and what do we owe to Christ and the Church.  Church precepts are easy, because they have been written down, and easily found.  The five duties of ALL Catholics:

1. To attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, and rest from servile labor on these days. 
2. To receive the
Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year, if aware of committing a mortal sin, more often.
3. To receive
Holy Communion at least once a year, between the first Sunday of Lent and Trinity Sunday.
4. To observe the
fast days and abstinence days established by the Church.
5. To contribute to the support of the Church

How sad that so many Catholics today do not adhere to ANY of these five simple precepts of our Church.  Some people get upset and disgusted that these “C&E” (Christmas and Easter) Catholics only come to Mass twice a year if that, AND then go to Communion on top of it!  I instead have a strong feeling of sadness and spiritual pain that these misguided (those usually self-guided) individuals don’t know how bad they are hurting themselves, and the Church community as a whole, by putting their own needs and selfishness over following a few simple rules.

There are other practices that a good Catholic should also be involved with.  The Church has broken them down into two categories:  “Corporal” and “Spiritual” Works of Mercy.  Being a good citizen involves, but is not limited, to these various works.

The Corporal Works of Mercy are the seven practices of Catholic charity toward our neighbor’s body:

1.  Feeding the hungry
2.  Giving drink to the thirsty
3.  Clothing the naked
4.  Sheltering the homeless
5.  Visiting the sick
6.  Visiting the imprisoned
7.  Burying the dead

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are the seven practices of Catholic charity toward our neighbor’s soul:

1.  Admonishing the sinner
2.  Instructing the ignorant
3.  Counseling the doubtful
4.  Comforting the sorrowful
5.  Bearing wrongs patiently
6.  Forgiving injuries
7.  Praying for the living and the dead

Being a good Catholic is nothing more than doing your best, being your best, and living your best.  We are to love all others because they are creations of God, and we are to be good Stewards of the gifts and resources God has given us.  When Jesus said, “Repay to Caesar … and to God …,” He was, and still is, extolling a need for an organizational flow in order to have a safe and orderly society; with realistic requirements, needs, and almsgiving in this world and in the next.  Jesus recognized the civil authority and its rights, but He warned that greater rights belong to God.

In this world, it involves paying taxes, adhering to the laws of society, and value the Church precepts, including the “works of mercy.”  In the next world, it involves simply honoring and praising our Creator, which will be easy for me as I am getting a head start well before getting there!

Give to Caesar the coins, and to God your heart!
    

A Prayer to Mary for Politicians & the USA

“O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, at this most critical time, we entrust the United States of America to your loving care.  We beg you to reclaim this land for the glory of your Son.  Overwhelmed with the burden of the sins in our nation, we cry to you from the depths of our hearts and seek refuge in your motherly protection.  Look down with mercy upon us and touch the hearts of our people.  Open our minds to the great worth of human life and to the responsibilities that accompany human freedom.  Free us from the falsehood that lead to the evil of abortion and threaten the sanctity of family life.  Grant our Country the wisdom to proclaim that God’s law is the foundation on which this nation was founded; and that He alone is the True Source of our cherished rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

O Merciful Mother, give us the courage to reject the culture of death and the strength to build a new Culture of Life.  Amen”
     

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Joseph the Worker
   

Apparently in response to the “May Day” celebrations for workers sponsored by Communists, Pius XII instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1955. But the relationship between Joseph and the cause of workers has a much longer history.

In a constantly necessary effort to keep Jesus from being removed from ordinary human life, the Church has from the beginning proudly emphasized that Jesus was a carpenter, obviously trained by Joseph in both the satisfactions and the drudgery of that vocation. Humanity is like God not only in thinking and loving, but also in creating. Whether we make a table or a cathedral, we are called to bear fruit with our hands and mind, ultimately for the building up of the Body of Christ.

Comment:

“The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it” (Genesis 2:15). The Father created all and asked humanity to continue the work of creation. We find our dignity in our work, in raising a family, in participating in the life of the Father’s creation. Joseph the Worker was able to help participate in the deepest mystery of creation. Pius XII emphasized this when he said, “The spirit flows to you and to all men from the heart of the God-man, Savior of the world, but certainly, no worker was ever more completely and profoundly penetrated by it than the foster father of Jesus, who lived with Him in closest intimacy and community of family life and work. Thus, if you wish to be close to Christ, we again today repeat, ‘Go to Joseph’” (see Genesis 41:44).

Quote:

In Brothers of Men, René Voillaume of the Little Brothers of Jesus speaks about ordinary work and holiness: “Now this holiness (of Jesus) became a reality in the most ordinary circumstances of life, those of word, of the family and the social life of a village, and this is an emphatic affirmation of the fact that the most obscure and humdrum human activities are entirely compatible with the perfection of the Son of God…in relation to this mystery, involves the conviction that the evangelical holiness proper to a child of God is possible in the ordinary circumstances of someone who is poor and obliged to work for his living.”

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 #1:
   

The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of God — laity, religious, and priests – who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi.

In various ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.

 

 

“I Believe in ???? !” – 1 Cor 15:1-8†


Today is the Feast of Sts. Phillip and James.  Philip was born in Bethsaida, and was a disciple of John the Baptist prior to following Jesus.  Philip is the Apostle that asked Jesus how they were going to get all the bread and fishes to feed the crowds on that countryside hill; and also asked Jesus to “show him God!” 

James (the lesser) was the son of Alpheus.  There were many James in the Bible, so be careful.  This James is listed four times in the New Testament, and needs to be distinguished from James “the Greater.”  He became the leader of the Church in Jerusalem, wrote an epistle, and otherwise led an austere life.  Philip was martyred in the year 62.
   

Today in Catholic History:
† 1160 – Death of Peter Lombard, Italian scholar and bishop (b. c.1100)
† 1428 – Birth of Pedro González de Mendoza, Spanish cardinal and statesman (d. 1495)
† 1491 – Kongo monarch Nkuwu Nzinga is baptized by Portuguese missionaries, adopting the baptismal name of João I.
† 1606 – Death of Henry Garnet, English Jesuit (executed) (b. 1555)
† 1622 – Death of Pedro Páez, Spanish Jesuit missionary (b. 1564)
† 1679 – Death of James Sharp, English archbishop (assassinated) (b. 1613)
† 1758 – Death of Pope Benedict XIV (b. 1675)
† 2000 – Death of John Joseph Cardinal O’Connor, Catholic Archbishop of New York (b. 1920)
† Liturgical Feasts: Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross (the Invention of the True Cross), Saint Philip, Saint James “the Lesser,” Saint Alexander I, Saint Juvenal of Narni (d. 369), Saint Ansfrid (c. 1008), Antonia and Alexander (martyrs of 313), Black Madonna of Czestochowa Queen and Protector of Poland (since April 1, 1656); In the Eastern Orthodox Church: St Theodosius of Kiev; Syriac Orthodox Church: Abhai; Coptic Church: Saint Sarah
      

Today’s reflection is about Paul preaching on the Creed.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

Heretics are to be converted by an example of humility and other virtues far more readily than by any external display or verbal battles. So let us arm ourselves with devout prayers and set off showing signs of genuine humility and go barefooted to combat Goliath. –ST. DOMINIC
    

Today’s Meditation:
    

Now I am reminding you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand.  Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.  For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.  (NAB 1 Cor 15:1-8)

   

Paul the writer of this letter to the people of Corinth recalls the tradition, common ground, and starting point for this letter.  These verses are the fundamental content of all Christian preaching and belief for Paul.  The language by which Paul expresses the essence of the “gospel,” meaning good news, is not his own but is drawn from older creedal formulas. This credo highlights Jesus’ death for our sins (confirmed by his burial) and Jesus’ resurrection (confirmed by his appearances); and presents both of them as fulfillment of prophecy, and conforming Jesus’ passion to the scriptures.

Paul is calling these Christians his “brothers.” This is the same man that in the recent past had tried to have these same people killed as heretics.  The “Bible” was not a written document at this time; and everything was spread in the typical verbal fashion of the day.  The “gospel” Paul is exhorting is the “Good News” (its literal translation) that he preached.   

Through this “good news,” many were obviously converted and “saved.”  The next step for these Christians was maybe the hardest for them: to “hold fast to the word” Paul, and the others, preached.  The societal norms of that day condemned Christians as scourges and the “crazies” of the time.  Too bad this is happening again today, in this Country.

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.”   We say these exact words at every mass.  These words are part of both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds.  How often do we actually think about what these words are telling us?

Jesus appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve Apostles” who were hiding in a locked room, afraid of being killed; and with the uncertainty any group would have that had lost its leader without warning and preparation.  I think the pitiful thing is that Jesus had prepared them for their roles, and they just did not realize, and did not have truly trust in Jesus till this point.  Later, Jesus appears again to James, and the Apostles.  I believe this was the “stoking the fire” appearance.  After this appearance, the disciples were so on fire as to cause a conflagration that literally caught the entire world on fire towards Christianity.   

After appearing to the Apostles, “He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once.”  At the time of Paul’s writing this letter, most of these Christians were still living, and some had died in body, but living in divinity with Christ in heaven.  Can you picture the stories they told their grandchildren? 

Finally, Jesus appears to Saul (Paul) and literally scares the hell out of him!  (Sorry, I had to write this little pun/joke.)  Paul calls himself “abnormal.”  His use of this word to describe his life prior to conversion is humorous for me.  I myself, and most of my friends, think of me as abnormal (mentally at least), in a humorous and good way.  I also believe that as a sinner, and in no way even close to the goodness of Jesus, have to purposely convert myself on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis.

“I believe you definitely did die for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; and that you were buried and raised on the third day; that ascended to heaven; and is seated at the right hand of God.  Amen.”
    

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  Bl. Arthur Bell, Henry Heath, John Woodcock, et al
   

Among the Martyrs of England, Scotland and Wales, are found the Blessed Thomas Bullaker, Henry Heath, John Woodcock, Charles Meehan, all Franciscan priests. John Woodcock was born at Leyland, Lancashire, 1603; suffered at Lancaster, 7 August, 1646. He was converted about 1622, and after studying at Saint-Omer for a year was admitted to the English College, Rome, 20 October, 1629. On 16 May, 1630, he joined the Capuchins in Paris, but soon afterwards transferred himself to the English Franciscans at Douai. He received the habit from the Venerable Henry Heath in 1631 and was professed by the Venerable Arthur Bell a year later. For some years he lived at Arras as chaplain to Mr. Sheldon. Late in 1643 he landed at Newcastle-on- Tyne, and was arrested on the first night he spent in Lancashire. After two years’ imprisonment in Lancaster Castle, he was condemned, on his own confession, for being a priest, together with two seculars, Edward Bamber and Thomas Whittaker, 6 August, 1646. When he was flung off the ladder the rope broke. Having been hanged a second time, he was cut down and disemboweled alive. The Franciscan nuns at Taunton possess an arm-bone of the martyr. (from Catholic Encyclopedia Online Edition © 2003 by K. Knight) – These martyrs have been beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1987.

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #3:
   

The present rule, succeeding “Memoriale Propositi” (1221) and the rules approved by the Supreme Pontiffs Nicholas IV and Leo XIII, adapts the Secular Franciscan Order to the needs and expectations of the Holy Church in the conditions of changing times. Its interpretation belongs to the Holy See and its application will be made by the General Constitutions and particular statutes.

“♬ I CAN’T See Clearly Now ♬, or Can I?!” – Acts 9:1-9†


It has been 100 days since the terrible earthquake in Haiti.  1.3 million dollars has been sent to “Haiti” from the United States.  Let’s still keep them in our prayers.
 

Today in Catholic History:
† 303 – Death of Saint George, Roman soldier and Christian martyr
† 997 – Death of Saint Adalbert of Prague, bishop (b. ca. 956)
† 1725 – Birth of Saint Gerard Majella, Catholic saint (d. 1755)
† 1813 – Birth of Frédéric Ozanam, French scholar (Founder of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul) (d. 1853)
† Liturgical feasts: Feast Day of Saint George: [Patron saint and National Day of England, and of Aragon, Celebrated as St. Jordi’s Day in Catalonia, presents of books and roses.]  Jurgi festival, in ancient Latvia, Saint Adalbert of Prague, Saint Gerard (d. 1138)

 

Today’s reflection is about Saul’s encounter with the risen Lord, on the road to Damascus.

Quote or Joke of the Day:
   

From error to error, one discovers the entire truth. ~ Sigmund Freud
   

Today’s Meditation:
   

Now Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.  On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”  The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one.  Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.  (NAB Acts 9:1-9)
  

This is the first of three accounts of Paul’s conversion (with Acts 22:3-16 and Acts 26:2-18).   This first account occurs when the “Word” is first spread to the Gentiles.  The conversion of this hero of the Gentile mission is presented with an emphasis, in this reading, on Paul as a divinely chosen instrument.

Saul was one angry individual.  He wanted blood and revenge for the degradation “those people” were doing to his Temple.  He had made “murderous threats” against any of the disciples of Jesus Christ.  Saul “went to the high priest of the Temple and asked him for letters” of his authority to the synagogues in Damascus.  This would allow him to arrest any member of “the Way,” and gave him permission to bring them back to Jerusalem in chains

The Way” was a name used by the early Christian community for itself (see Acts 18:26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22).  The Essene community at Qumran (known for the Dead Sea Scrolls) used the same designation to describe its mode of life.  Reminds me of another song: ♬ “Do You Know the WAY to Je・e・sus, ?” ♬ (OK, not a great pun of a song, but at least I tried.)

While Saul was nearing Damascus, (one tradition says on a horse), with a couple of other men, he was startled by a light from the sky that suddenly flashed, causing Saul to fall to the ground.  There was no such thing as paparazzi way back then, so Saul was truly “Freaked out!”

The words of Jesus projecting at Saul saying, “… why are you persecuting me?” exerted a profound and lasting influence on Paul.  Under the influence of this experience, and with the grace of the Holy Spirit, he gradually developed his understanding of justification by faith in Jesus as the Messiah sent from God to redeem the world (see the letters to the Galatians and Romans), and of the identification of the Christian community with Jesus Christ as Lord and God (see 1 Cor 12:27).   Saul had his first round of conversion: one that he repeated daily for the rest of his life.  This conversion also must be renewed daily by us in order to grow in our love of Christ.

Startled, and probably having difficulty with his bodily functions such as standing and talking, he was able to gain enough strength to utter, “Who are you, sir?”.  The response, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting!” probably put a lump in Saul’s throat the size on Mount Tabor!  Can you picture this strong man, totally scared out of his wits, thinking “Oh, Oh, I made a big boo-boo!”?  Even the men traveling with Saul, and witnessed this entire event, stood speechless’

Jesus tells him to get up and go to Damascus where he will be told what he must do.  Saul was made blind, just as Jeremiah was blinded for not believing in the miracles of God.  For three days, Saul was unable to see, eat, or drink.  This temporary blindness symbolized the religious blindness of Saul as persecutor.  ♬“He Was Blind, and Now He Sees”♬ would make a great title for a song about conversion and opening ourselves up to the beauty and light of the Holy Trinity. (Oh, it is already? Oh well.)

“Lord, put a song in my heart, and your words on my tongue.  I want to sing your praises always.  Amen.”
   

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  Blessed Giles of Assisi d.1262
     

Two companions from Assisi had already joined St. Francis when Giles, a well-to-do young man of the town, heard about it. He repaired to the poor hermitage yard by Assisi, which the three occupied, and prostrate upon his knees, he begged St. Francis to accept him into his company. Francis presented him to the other two, saying: “See here a good brother whom almighty God has sent us.” This was on April 23, 1209. On the same day, both went to Assisi, where Giles begged in God’s name for a bit of cloth to make a habit. Giles divided his entire fortune among the poor. He was plain and simple in mind, of a mild temperament, but also full of power and energy when it served to accomplish anything good.

Recognizing humility as the necessary foundation for perfection, Giles sought humiliation and contempt, but fled from honors. Once when he was passing through the March of Ancona with the holy Founder and at some places special honor was shown to them, he said, “O my Father, I fear we shall lose the true honor if we are honored by men.”

Giles entertained a great desire to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Places, and since Francis knew that he did much good everywhere by his holy example, he gladly granted his desire. The Apostle James at Compostela in Spain, then to the Holy Places of the Passion of Christ in Jerusalem. He also visited the sanctuary of the holy Archangel Michael on Mt. Gargano in Italy, and the town of Bari, there to honor St. Nicholas.

His whole appearance preached poverty, humility, and piety. He also utilized every opportunity to encourage penance and love of God. He endeavored to earn his livelihood mainly through manual work; whatever he obtained over and above his immediate needs, he at once gave to the poor; if he lacked necessities, he begged them for God’s sake. Once a poor woman who was dressed in the barest necessaries asked Brother Giles for an alms. As he had nothing to offer her, he compassionately took off his capuche and gave it to her.

In the year 1219, at the great chapter of 5,000 brothers, St. Francis commissioned Giles to go to Africa with several companions, to preach the gospel to the Mohammedans. But they did not achieve their purpose. As soon as they landed in Africa, the Christians there, who feared a general persecution, led them by force to another ship which brought them back to Italy.

At this time Brother Giles was sent to the quiet convent of Perugia, which remained his abode until his death. He lived practically only for God. Even at his work, thoughts of the last judgment, of eternity, and of the glory of heaven constantly occupied his mind. Once when two distinguished gentlemen asked him to pray for them, he said: “Oh you do not need my prayers.” “Why not?” they asked. Giles answered, “You live among all the comforts of the world and still believe that you will get to heaven; but I, a poor human being, spend my days in labor and penance, and yet I fear I will be damned.” When he reflected on the joys of heaven, he was beside himself with longing. Often when the children in the street called out to him the mere word “paradise,” he was rapt in ecstasy.

Pope Gregory IX had heard of the contemplative gift of Brother Giles, and being just then in the neighborhood of Perugia, he sent for him. When the pope began to speak to Giles about divine and heavenly matters, Giles at once went into an ecstasy. When he came to again, he humbly begged the Holy Father’s forgiveness — it was his weakness, he said, that he was immediately beside himself. The pope required that he give him some good advice for the administration of his burdensome duties. Quite confounded, Giles excused himself saying that he could not advise the head of the Church. But when the pope commanded him in obedience, he said, “Holy Father, you must have two eyes in your soul. The right eye must be kept on heavenly things; the left one, on the things of this earth, which you must regulate.”

St. Bonaventure considered himself fortunate to have lived at the time when he could still see and speak with Brother Giles. When he came to Perugia as provincial of the order, Giles said to him one day,” My Father, God has accorded you great kindness, since you are so learned and can, therefore, serve God so perfectly; but we unlearned ones, how shall we correspond to the goodness of God and arrive at heaven?” The learned general of the order answered him: “My brother, in order to get to heaven, it suffices that one love God, and a poor unlearned woman can love God as well as, maybe even better than, a great theologian.” Thereupon Giles ran out into the garden that led to the street, and filled with joy, cried aloud, “Come, ye simple and unlearned men, and ye poor women! You can love God as well as, and perhaps even more than, Brother Bonaventure and the greatest theologians.”

A religious of great learning, who, however, was much troubled with doubts concerning the virginity of Mary, came to Brother Giles for advise. The holy brother cried out, as he struck the earth with a stick, “Yes! yes! She was a virgin before the birth of Jesus!” and immediately a beautiful lily sprouted forth. Giles struck anew and said, “She was a virgin during the birth,” and again a lily sprouted forth. Then he beat a third time upon the earth, saying the words, “She was a virgin after the birth,” and the third lily sprouted forth.

Finally, pure as a lily, the soul of Brother Giles went to the vision of things divine, which he had so often contemplated. He died on April 22, 1262, on the anniversary of his entrance into the order, to which he had belonged for 53 years. His grave in the Franciscan church at Perugia is highly venerated. Pope Pius VI sanctioned the veneration accorded him from time immemorial.

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

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #23:
   

Requests for admission to the Secular Franciscan Order must be presented to the local fraternity, whose council decides upon the acceptance of new brothers and sisters.  Admission into the Order is gradually attained through a time of initiation, a period of formation of at least one year, and profession of the rule. The entire community is engaged in the process of growth by its own manner of living. The age for profession and the distinctive Franciscan sign are regulated by the statutes.  Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

Members who find themselves in particular difficulties should discuss their problems with the council in fraternal dialogue. Withdrawal or permanent dismissal from the Order, if necessary, is an act of the fraternity council according to the norm of the constitutions.