Monthly Archives: September 2017

Saint Jerome

jerome

St. Jerome, whose feast is September 30, was a scripture scholar who made the bible accessible to Christians of the western church through his translations from the original languages of Greek and Hebrew. He was born in 340 in Stridon, a small town on the eastern Adriatic coast, and received his early education in Rome. He was baptized there in 360 by Pope Liberius.

Brilliant and searching for knowledge, Jerome traveled extensively. While in Antioch in Syria he had a dream and saw himself judged by Christ, who rebuked him for wasting his time on worldly knowledge. Moved by the dream, Jerome withdrew into the Syrian desert where, he was beset by temptations and “threw himself at the feet of Jesus, watering them with prayers and acts of penance.” The picture above portrays him praying to be delivered from temptation.

For penance, Jerome began studying Hebrew under a Jewish teacher, which led him to his later work of translating and commentating on the Bible.

Ordained a priest, Jerome arrived in Constantinople around 380 to study the scriptures under St. Gregory of Nazianzen. Two years later, he returned to Rome where Pope Damasus gave him the monumental task of translating the bible from Greek into Latin,. His translation, called the Vulgate, and learned commentaries and sermons sparked a flowering of spirituality in the western church. Jerome won a devoted following, especially among Rome’s prominent Christian women eager to understand  the bible.

His biting tongue and caustic comments on Roman society drew critics, who resented his criticism. Stung by their attacks, he left Rome in 385 for the Holy Land where he established a community at Bethlehem near the cave where Christ was born and continued studying the scriptures, utilizing the nearby Christian library at Caesarea Maritima.  Friends from Rome joined him, among them the noblewoman Paula and her daughter Eustochia, who founded a monastic community of women in Bethlehem.

St. Catharine Church, Bethlehem. Remains of Jerome's Monastery are under the church

St. Catharine Church, Bethlehem. Remains of Jerome’s Monastery are under the church

“Ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ,” Jerome said, but besides his scripture studies he continually engaged in the church controversies of the day, sometimes dealing harshly and  unfairly with others.

In 410 Alaric and his warriors sacked Rome and a shocked Jerome provided shelter Roman Christians fleeing to the safety of the Holy Land. “I have put aside my studies to help them,” he wrote. “Now we must translate the words of scripture into deeds, and instead of speaking holy words we must do them.”

He died in Bethlehem in 420. His remains are buried in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. A doctor and teacher of the church, he frankly recognized his need for God’s mercy. Jerome is a reminder that saints are not perfect.

“Lord, show me your mercy and gladden my heart.

I am like the man going to Jericho, wounded by robbers.

Good Samaritan, come help me.

I am like a sheep gone astray.

Good Shepherd, come seek me and bring me home safe.

May I dwell in your house all my days and praise you forever.”

Friday Thoughts: Pure Faith

by Howard Hain

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“God won’t let His power flow through someone who demands clarity.”

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“The Crucified One” (H. Hain, 2006)


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Faith. Pure Faith.

 


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain   http://www.twitter.com/HowardDHain

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Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels

Michael

St.Michael, Lucca, Italy

We celebrate the feast of three archangels today, September 29th. St. Gregory the Great says of the angels: “There are many spirits in heaven, but only the spirits who deliver a message are called angels.” Archangels like Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, “are those who proclaim messages of supreme importance…

“And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.”

Their names, Gregory says, tell the service they perform. “Thus, Michael means “Who is like God”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”; and Raphael is “God’s Remedy.

“Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power…

“So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle.

“Raphael means, as I have said, God’s remedy, for when he touched Tobit’s eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of his blindness. Thus, since he is to heal, he is rightly called God’s remedy.”

St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists, dedicated his first foundation on Monte Argentario in Italy to St. Michael and he said the archangel preserved his community from harm. Paul was a Lombard. Historians say the Lombards believed the Saracens where stopped from invading Lombardy in the 6th century by Michael and fostered devotion to the archangel afterwards.

In a world so convinced that human power is the only power, it’s comforting to have another level of power to look towards.

“St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle…”

St. Vincent de Paul (1581-1660)

The opening Mass prayer for St. Vincent’s feast day describes succinctly what made him a great saint:

O God, for the relief of the poor

and the formation of the clergy

you endowed the priest St.Vincent De Paul

with apostolic virtues.

grant, that afire with the same spirit

we may love what he loved

and put into practice what he taught.

God gave Vincent de Paul grace to reach out to the poor and form the clergy. Once Vincent met a Protestant, whom he invited to convert to Catholicism. The Protestant said:

“You told me, Monsieur, that the Church of Rome is led by the Holy Spirit, but I find that hard to believe because, on the one hand, we see Catholics in the countryside abandoned to pastors who are ignorant and given over to vice, with so little instruction in their duties that most of them hardly know what the Christian religion is. On the other, we see towns filled with priests and monks who are doing nothing; there are perhaps ten thousand of them in Paris, yet they leave the poor country people in this appalling state of ignorance in which they are lost. And you want to convince me that all this is being guided by the Holy Spirit! I’ll never believe it.”

That’s a picture of the French church in Vincent’s time. One reason for its sad condition was that the French crown appointed bishops and they, in turn, appointed men from important French families who supported them. Political considerations largely influenced church appointments.

As a result, the priesthood in France was badly off, priests had little education, some could hardly read or write. For financial support, they looked for benefices, usually found in the larger cities among rich families, where they could say Mass and celebrate the sacraments. As a young priest, Vincent himself was chaplain for a wealthy family in Paris.

The decision to become a priest was mostly a family’s decision, which might designate one of its sons as its “offering” to God. The priesthood became a way  to get a son some education and some social standing. Vincent’s own family, who were peasants, were influenced by motives like these. For many the priesthood was a job and not a call.

What Vincent did was to appeal to priests, religious, and even bishops, to begin to look spiritually at their roles. They were called by God to a vocation, not a job or career,  They had a  sacred mission to follow Jesus Christ. Vincent, in fact, called the community he founded the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians), because they were to go to those who were neglected. He encouraged, not only priests, but communities of women to care for the poor, without living the usual cloistered life of that time. Vincent’s network embraced laypeople too, who worked for those Jesus called “the least.”

Through the efforts of this saint communities of Sisters of Charity,  Societies of St. Vincent de Paul, are found throughout the world today.

The following reading for Vincent’s feast captures his powerful message:

Although in his passion he almost lost the appearance of a man and was considered a fool by the Gentiles and a stumbling block by the Jews, Jesus showed them that his mission was to preach to the poor: He sent me to preach the good news to the poor. We also ought to have this same spirit and imitate Christ’s actions, that is, we must take care of the poor, console them, help them, support their cause.Even though the poor are often rough and unrefined, we must not judge them from external appearances nor from the mental gifts they seem to have received. On the contrary, if you consider the poor in the light of faith, then you will observe that they are taking the place of the Son of God who chose to be poor.

Since Christ willed to be born poor, he chose for himself disciples who were poor. He made himself the servant of the poor and shared their poverty. He went so far as to say that he would consider every deed which either helps or harms the poor as done for or against himself. Since God surely loves the poor, he also loves those who love the poor. For when one person holds another dear, he also includes in his affection anyone who loves or serves the one he loves. That is why we hope that God will love us for the sake of the poor. So when we visit the poor and needy, we try to understand the poor and weak. We sympathise with them so fully that we can echo Paul’s words: I have become all things to all men. Therefore, we must try to be stirred by our neighbours’ worries and distress. We must beg God to pour into our hearts sentiments of pity and compassion and to fill them again and again with these dispositions.

It is our duty to prefer the service of the poor to everything else and to offer such service as quickly as possible. If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind. Offer the deed to God as your prayer. Do not become upset or feel guilty because you interrupted your prayer to serve the poor. God is not neglected if you leave him for such service. One of God’s works is merely interrupted so that another can be carried out. So when you leave prayer to serve some poor person, remember that this very service is performed for God. Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity. Since she is a noble mistress, we must do whatever she commands. With renewed devotion, then, we must serve the poor, especially outcasts and beggars. They have been given to us as our masters and patrons.”

More on St. Vincent de Paul

Mission

By Orlando Hernandez

In this Wednesday’s Gospel ( LK 9; 1-6) our Lord sends the apostles out on their own to do His work, a kind of practice run for what will await them for the rest of their lives :

“ Jesus summoned the twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and He sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He said to them, ‘ Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.’ Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere.”

In the previous chapter our Lord has performed miracles filled with awesome power. So when Jesus places such incredible trust in His “twelve” and sends them out to carry out His ministry, they have enough confidence in His “power and authority” to just go out and do it. Perhaps the most important factor in their “empowerment” was that they were to “take nothing for the journey”. They were to go in a state of total humility and poverty. They probably knew instinctively that they had no special ability to do miracles or convert anyone, except for the power of God that would work through them.
Every day I feel the summoning of my Lord to go out and be an instrument of His salvation. Frankly, I often do not have the confidence in myself nor the stamina to do the work of His Kingdom. And yet, I am compelled to try.
The Lord sends me out there to cast out demons, specially starting with my own. So I praise God as much as possible, specially in those moments of self-doubt, for “ The Glory of God lives in the praises of His people.” Such Glory is usually strong enough to drive out spirits of negativity, infirmity, anger, despair.
As for curing diseases, all I can do is have confidence in the goodness of God. This Sunday my wife and I visited our 87 year old friend who lives in a nursing home. She was feeling terrible. That morning she had such low blood sugar that she almost had to be sent to the hospital. All we did was listen to her patiently as she described her ordeal. As time went on she became more animated. She felt better. We were having a good time. God is wonderful ! She has a wooden cross on the wall with the word Rejoice written on it. Amen to that.
Whenever anyone opens for us the door of their hearts, or even their home, we enter in and stay there until it’s time to leave. It is great to make new friends. In the end we become “equals”, receiving as much as we give. It is a humbling experience.
As for those who do not welcome us, well, we give them their space. The dust that we leave behind is the gold dust of our prayers, and sometimes, we have to leave behind the unnecessary soil of our useless resentment. Rejection is not easy.
As for proclaiming the good news, the Lord has blessed me with His living presence often enough in prayer, so that my faith takes me through the surprisingly dry spells. He is the Divine Salesman, and He has sealed the deal for me, and recruited me to boot! I have never taken a course in Theology, although I have read a number of wonderful spiritual books, specially the New Testament. But I also find the example of so many wonderful, holy people (so many, praise God !), the greatest source of God’s message in my life. I pray to be like them. I write for this blog because I am so full of gratitude for Fr. Victor, for his light in my life. Yes, he is a father figure to me. I love him, what can I say?
In the end, I have practically “nothing for the journey “, nothing fancy or impressive that I can offer. But I occasionally feel a Joy that is too much to keep to myself. It overflows. It comes from the knowledge that God loves me immensely, but no more than anyone around me. So I try to tell everyone, often without words : “ I love you. I am at your service. What can I do for you?”
Here are some quotes from St Theresa of Calcutta, a great apostle of the Lord. I just feel like sharing them:
“ Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
Here’s a tougher one : “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
Here is good way to start: “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

Orlando Hernandez

Morning Thoughts: A Delicate Nose

by Howard Hain

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In near darkness silhouettes take hold.

So delicate. Features so fragile.

How can such a perfect little nose exist in such a world?

A world of flying soccer balls.

My hardened features cringe at the thought.

Her delicate little nose and a direct encounter.

A soccer ball, an elbow, another child’s brow…my God, how could such beauty absorb any such kind of blow?

And yet it has, seven years and counting.

Time and again the playground gives what it’s got.

Close encounters and direct hits, this night that little nose as delicate as ever.

The chaos, the screams, the various forms of laughter…they too for the time being stand silent.

Before such a sight.

A simply beautiful child sleeps.

A father smiles.

Such beauty is surely painful.

Innocence is everything.

My Lord and my God.

Thank You.

A beautiful child sleeps.

A father wipes away a tear.


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