I hope all have a splendid and peaceful day celebrating with the Lord in some way. After all, it is “His” day.
I also want to thank a dear friend in helping me “put to pen” some of my thoughts and reflections for this blog. John H., you have helped me in more ways than you can imagine. You are a true friend, and a reflection of Christ on earth. Thank you.
Today in Catholic History:
† 583 – Death of Saint Brendan, Irish navigator (b. 484)
† 1265 – Saint Simon Stock, English saint (b. 1165)
† 1611 – Birth of Pope Innocent XI (d. 1689)
† 1657 – Andrzej Bobola, Polish Jesuit missionary (b. 1591)
† 1920 – In Rome, Pope Benedict XV canonizes Joan of Arc as a saint.
† 1943 – Holocaust: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising ends.
† Feasts: Saint Brendan the Navigator, Saint Germerius, Saint Honoré of Amiens, Saint Andrew Bobola, Saint Ubaldus, Saint Peregrine of Auxerre
Quote or Joke of the Day:
If Jesus didn’t rise, an even greater miracle happened:12 relatively uneducated guys changed the world & were martyred to protect a lie.〜 Unknown
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” (NAB Acts 1:8-11)
The Apostles are finally going to understand all that Jesus had taught them. They are finally going to get a divine power to teach, lead, forgive, and heal (In ten days: at Pentecost). But they are to receive this grace at a price. They, as all Christians then and now, are charged by Jesus to be witnesses to their faith. As priests of today still do, by the miraculous mark on their soul, these men were to leave their old lives behind and take up the mantle of Jesus: and to follow in His footsteps; including the good and the bad times.
Jerusalem was the city of destiny in the Gospel of Luke; the place to be, and to come. In Acts, Jerusalem was also the place where salvation was accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This city was the starting point for the mission of the Christian disciples for destinations to “the ends of the earth.” Jerusalem was the place where the apostles were situated, and thus the focal point in the early days of the Church community. The “ends of the earth” for the people of Jerusalem at this time in history probably meant Rome from a geographical viewpoint, and to the gentiles from a doctrinal view.
Can you just picture Jesus standing on a cloud, with a lovingly coy smile on his face, and His arms outstretched in a way of blessing; as He slowly moved in an upward direction until no longer visible to the naked eye? There is a major amount of symbolism involved with this scene from Catholic history.
The first symbol is the cloud. The cloud is composed purely of water; in a shapeless and ever-changing form. This water moves throughout the cloud in a continuous and living manner, reacting to each other by either combining with other water molecules or by repealing other water molecules. Sounds like a typical Catholic parish to me. Isn’t it interesting that the blood of Jesus washed away our sins, giving us redemption and salvation; and the living water of Baptism, just as the living water of Jesus’ cloud, rises us up to the kingdom of heaven.
Next, I wish to delve into the image of Jesus’ rising to heaven: the Ascension. Jesus’ ascension into heaven, body, blood, soul, and divinity is as of yet beyond my comprehension, but one I do take as a matter of faith. Until Jesus, and later Mary; heaven was, and still is, a timeless, and measureless abode for the souls of the “righteous,” that have been perfected either while still on earth or in purgatory. Again, I believe Jesus and Mary are in heaven “body, blood, and soul,” but I cannot explain how at this time.
Jesus rose to heaven on His own power. Mary on the other hand did not. Although Mary was a living saint; the first disciple of Jesus; and the first Christian, she was still purely, and only human; whereas Jesus was totally human and totally divine (another mystery of faith). Mary did not ascend to heaven, as many Catholics mistakenly believe.
Our blessed Mother, our Queen, was “assumed” into heaven through the action of the Holy Spirit. So, on August 15th, the day we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption, please remember two things. First, this feast is about Mary entering heaven and ruling with Jesus as our heavenly Queen, and as His (God’s) Queen Mother. And secondly, Mary was brought “body, blood, soul, and humanity” to heaven by God for her dedication, purity, and a holy life worthy of God’s graces. All we have to do is be humbly dedicated to Jesus, and lead a worthy life of pure love, as a gift which is heaven. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?!
The Apostles, and I am sure some of His disciples as well, were standing in awe at witnessing Jesus ascending to heaven. They were probably wondering what to do now without their leader physically with them. All of a sudden two men (I believe they are angels) are standing next to them. Dressed in the color of purity and love, they inquisitively ask, “Wats U lookin at?!” (Sorry for the slang phrase. I am using it for descriptive purposes.)
There is another thing I noticed about these two “angels” appearance to all to all these men of faith. I believe this is one of only a very few appearances of angels in the Bible that did not cause some type of “fear factor” among the witnesses involved. I wonder why? Is it because they were already in some type of “mental overload” as to be unaffected by these heavenly beings? Or, was it because these “men in white” comforted and calmed all present by telling them that Jesus would be returning in the future?
I think we Catholics, as a whole, are still standing in awe and looking at the sky for help. We just need to remember that Jesus is still present with us, as He was present to these early Christians. Since our struggles are really no different than those of the first Christians; the awesome fact that He loves us can keep us comforted and calmed in our times of stress, and in our trials of human life. Finally, the members of the first Church were probably no different than today: a combination of sinners and saints.
We are all part of a great and divine phenomenon: Christianity. Take heart, smile, and listen to our Church leaders. They are inspired by the Holy Spirit when in communion with the Magisterium of the Church. And Jesus is never wrong!
“Lord Jesus, give me a generous heart to those I meet. Please make me your instrument on earth. Amen”
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
Franciscan Saint of the Day: St. Margaret of Cortona 1247-1297
This Magdalen of the Franciscan Order came into the world in the year 1247 at Laviano near Cortona in the province of Tuscany. When she was 7 years old, she lost her pious mother. She was neglected by her careless father, who married again within a short time, and her unsympathetic stepmother death harshly with her, so that when Margaret was 18 years old, she left home to earn her bread among strangers.
She was possessed of rare beauty, and ere long this became a snare for her. For the space of 9 years she gave herself up to a life of sin and scandal. Then one day she waited a long time in vain for her accomplice in sin to return home to the place where she lived with him. Presently his dog came to her whining and tugging at her dress. She followed the animal into the heart of the forest, and there she suddenly stood before the blood stained corpse of the unfortunate man; his enemies had murdered him.
At the appalling sight, Margaret was stunned like one struck by lightening. Filled with terror she asked herself, “Where is his soul now?” Then and there she firmly resolved in future to be even greater in penance than she had been in sin. Like the prodigal son she returned repentant to her native town of Laviano.
In a penitential garb, her hair cut short, a cord around her neck, she knelt at the door of the church and publicly asked all the congregation to forgive the scandal she had given. Many people were edified at this public humiliation, but her stepmother was all the more embittered at it. She. as well as Margaret’s father, forbade her to enter the parental home again. This reception severely tempted Margaret to return to the road of vice, but God’s grace sustained her.
Led by divine grace, she repaired to Cortona, made a contrite general confession to a Franciscan there, and submitted to the spiritual direction of her confessor. In a poor little hovel she now lived a secluded life, in penance, tears, and prayer, earning her scanty nourishment by hard manual labor.
Again and again she begged for the habit of the Third Order, that she might be recognized by all the world as a penitent. But not until 3 years had elapsed and she had been severely tried, was her wish granted. She received the habit in 1277. Now her fervor increased, and it is almost incredible what rigorous penances she practiced from then on. Day and night she wept over her sins, and often sobs so choked her voice that she could not speak. Satan made use of every wile and snare to cause Margaret to relapse, but prayer, mortification, and humiliation successfully put him to flight.
When finally, after uninterrupted struggling, she had triumphed over every earthly inclination, God assured her that her sins were fully pardoned and granted her special proofs of His knowledge of the innermost secrets of hearts. In many an instance, even when people came from great distances, she recalled grievous sins to their mind, while her exhortations and prayers were instrumental in bringing about conversion. Many souls were released from purgatory upon her prayers. Almighty God wrought many miracles through her even in her lifetime. Health was restored to the sick, a dead boy was raised to life, and at her approach evil spirits shuddered and left those whom they possessed.
Finally, after 23 years of rigorous penance, in the 50th year of her life, God called the great penitent to the Beatific Vision on February 22, 1297. Her body is preserved in a precious shrine in the Franciscan church at Cortona which bears her name. It is incorrupt even at the present day and frequently emits a pleasant perfume. Several popes have confirmed the public veneration accorded her. Pope Benedict XIII canonized her amid great solemnity in 1728.
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 #16:
Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a sharing in the creation, redemption, and service of the human community.