Today in Catholic History:
† 296 – Death of Pope Caius
† 455 – Petronius Maximus, Roman Emperor
† 536 – Death of Pope Agapetus I
† 1509 – Henry VIII ascends the throne of England after the death of his father.
† 1610 – Birth of Pope Alexander VIII (d. 1691)
† 1864 – Congress authorized the inscription “In God We Trust” on coins minted as U.S. currency.
† 1970 – First Earth Day celebrated.
Quote or Joke of the Day:
We cannot do great things — only small things with great love. — Mother Teresa
Then the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, “Get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.” So he got up and set out. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, that is, the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury, who had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning home. Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, “Go and join up with that chariot.” Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him. This was the scripture passage he was reading: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened not his mouth. In (his) humiliation justice was denied him. Who will tell of his posterity? For his life is taken from the earth.” Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply, “I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this? About himself, or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him. As they traveled along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look, there is water. What is to prevent my being baptized?” (NAB Acts 8:26-36)
Is Phillip responsible for the first Gentile convert to Catholicism? I am not sure, since Peter has a remarkable mass-conversion story as well. It is just remarkable that conversions are literally happening left and right so shortly after the cruelty of Jesus’ execution. I wonder how many possible converts did not commit out of fear of similar fates.
The story of this official’s conversion to Christianity is given a strong supernatural cast by the introduction of an angel, and instruction from the Holy Spirit. Whether sent by an angel or the Holy Spirit, the initiative plan for the mission was God’s: Phillip is only the pawn in God’s plan. Phillip had a northward movement towards Samaria. Now he is told to head south, where he will meet his charge.
This gentleman, a slave to the queen of Nubia is quite impressive. The conversion of this Ethiopian eunuch, gives additional evidence to show the spread of Christianity outside the confines of Judaism itself, and was in accord with the plan of God. This man, having deep African origins conjures up dark skinned converts well beyond the Jewish civilization’s outer boundaries and most definitely on its way to ends of the earth.
It is not clear whether the Ethiopian was originally a convert to Judaism or, as is more probable, a “God-fearer:” such as one who accepted Jewish monotheism and ethic, and attended the synagogue, but did not consider himself bound by some of the regulations like circumcision and dietary laws.
“Candace” is not a proper name, but the title of a Nubian queen. Nubia is the region in the south of Egypt, along the Nile and in northern Sudan, and during this time in history, was a separate kingdom. The name of the Queen, or the slave for that manner, is unknown.
Philip is brought alongside the carriage at the very moment when the Ethiopian is pondering the meaning of Isaiah 53:7-8 (“Like a sheep … taken from the earth.”), a passage that Christianity, from its earliest origins, has applied to Jesus. He was led to slaughter while remaining quiet and humble; killed in a very humiliating way; and was resurrected and ascended to heaven. Isaiah was a “way too cool” prophet!
This Ethiopian, after talking to Phillips for such a small amount of time, has a very profound conversion. He wishes to follow in Christ’s footsteps: on the same journey to salvation. This encounter has a sacramental outcome. He wants to begin his eternal life with the living water washing away his old life.
“My God, and my all. Please allow me to have the obedience and wisdom of Phillip. Tell me which way to turn in order to claim you love for us all. Amen.”
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
Catholic Saint of the Day: St. Abdiesus
Also called Hebed Jesus, a deacon in the Christian community of Persia who was caught up in the persecutions conducted by King Shapur II. Records indicate that Abdiesus was accompanied in his martyrdom by Abrosimus, Acepsimus, Azadanes, Azades, Bicor, Mareas, Milles, and a women named Tarbula. Some were Persian courtiers, others priests and bishops. Tarbula was the sister of St. Simeon, and suffered a particularly cruel death by sawing
(From http://www.catholic.org/saints/ website)
Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #22:
The local fraternity is to be established canonically. It becomes the basic unit of the whole Order and a visible sign of the Church, the community of love. This should be the privileged place for developing a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening the apostolic life of its members.