Category Archives: Religion

St. Paul of the Cross

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

October 20th, we celebrate the feast of  St. Paul of the Cross in the United States.

A saint leaves a legacy, a blessing for the church and especially for members of communities he founded or inspired. What legacy did the saintly founder of the Passionists leave?

Paul of the Cross died October 18, 1775, a year before our American Revolution and fourteen years before the French Revolution. Twenty three years after his death, the French revolution spilled over into neighboring Italy and the Papal States. Napoleon imprisoned the pope, Pope Pius VI, religious houses and church resources were taken over by French forces; the Catholic Church in Italy, like the Catholic Church in France, was seemingly crushed by the French general and his powerful army.

In May of 1810 the situation got worse. Napoleon declared an end to the Papal States and ordered the new pope Pius VII to be imprisoned in Savona, Italy. His police led thousands of religious from their religious houses back to their homes and told to start another life. Among them were 242 Passionists, the community Paul of the Cross founded in the previous century.

The old church was dead, the emperor said. He would replace it by a new one of his own. In that thinking, the Passionists too were dead; they would hardly have a role in Napoleon’s church. Of course, the church didn’t die and neither did the Passionists.

Historians usually credit the brilliant diplomacy of Cardinal Consalvi, the pope’s secretary of state, for keeping the church alive and getting it on its feet again after Napoleon’s defeat in 1814. But diplomats weren’t the only ones responsible for the church’s restoration. Most of the credit belonged to ordinary believers who kept the faith and remained loyal.

The same was true for the Passionists. We certainly gave the church an inspirational figure at the time, St. Vincent Strambi, the Passionist bishop and first biographer of Paul of the Cross. Before Napoleon’s troops invaded Rome in 1798 Pius VI asked Vincent to preach in the city’s four major basilicas to strengthen the Roman people. After Napoleon’s defeat, Pius VII called Strambi to Rome again to preach a 9 day retreat of reconciliation–not everybody stood up to the French invaders.

But besides Strambi, what kept the Passionists alive were certainly those ordinary religious who were driven from their monasteries and came back to continue the work that St. Paul of the Cross envisioned a century before. They were the faithful ones, faithful to what they learned from him.

Paul of the Cross not only preached the mystery of the Passion of Jesus; he lived it. He held on to his dreams through hard times. Humanly speaking, the Passionists, the community he founded, should have gone out of existence many times, from its tenuous beginnings to the years it waited for acceptance by the church. The mystery of the Cross was present in its birth, its growth and its life.

Now as then, the Passion of Jesus brings life, not death.

The Gospel of Luke

Luke copy

The Feast of St. Luke is October 18th.  If you’re beginning to read the New Testament  Luke’s Gospel is a good place to start;  it’s the longest of the gospels, followed by the Acts of the Apostles, also written by Luke. Together they present a magnificent picture of the life of Jesus, which continues in the life of the church.

Luke’s gospel provides many of the readings for the various liturgical feasts we celebrate yearly in the church, for example most of the stories of Jesus’ early life recalled during the Christmas season.

Luke takes over into his gospel about 65% of Mark’s Gospel, which he modifies for his own purposes. He shares with Matthew’s Gospel material from another source, and he also offers material not found in the other gospels–the infancy narratives, for example. (Luke 1-2).

Like other evangelists, Luke’s  gospel has its own plan. In his commentary on Luke’s gospel, for example, Luke Timothy Johnson speaks of Luke’s positive outlook on the world.

“Luke-Acts is positive toward the world, not only as God’s creation but also as the arena of history and human activity. It is perhaps the least apocalyptic of the NT writings, and the least sectarian. Not only is Luke relatively unconcerned about the end time, his historical narrative bestows value on time itself. Luke is also generally approving of those outside the Christian movement. Outsiders-not counting the Jewish opponents who are not outsiders at all– are generally regarded as reasonable and open-minded, which is a high compliment paid by apologetic literature.” (The Gospel of Luke, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Md. 1991)

Our readings from Luke for the 1st Sunday of Advent (Year C) offer a good example of Luke shaping apocalyptic material to his own purposes. He presents the last days as others do: “signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars and on earth; nations will be in dismay,” but in Luke’s Gospel Jesus says we can stand strong and fearless on that day, if we live each day well in the meantime.

Carry the cross with me each day, Jesus says,  and don’t worry or be anxious. Be vigilant and prayerful each day, the Lord will return on the clouds of heaven. No, we don’t know the day or the hour, but we’ll we ready for the last day if we prepare each day for our redemption.

Isn’t that  good advice for times like ours when enormous problems confront our world and clear solutions and grand designs are nowhere to be found? We can so easily fall into pessimism (a form of spiritual sleep) and lose hope.

We can use Luke’s optimism today.

Ignatius of Antioch

DSC00978

 

Ignatius, bishop of Antioch in Syria, a large early Christian center, was put to death in the third century in the Colosseum where he was devoured by wild animals, during the reign of the Emperor Trajan. His death is vividly portrayed in the picture (above) in the church of San Stefano Rotondo in Rome. We celebrate his feast October 17th..

On the way to Rome, Ignatius wrote seven letters to important Christian churches. The letters show him to be a skillful  teacher and writer; he must have been an eloquent preacher.

In his letter to the Christians at Ephesus,  however, you sense his days for words are coming to an end. He’s entering the silence of death where words are not important, Ignatius writes–  faith and “ being faithful to the end,” are what count. “It is better to remain silent and to be than to talk and not be. Teaching is good if the teacher also acts. One teacher ‘spoke, and it was done,’ yet what he did in silence was worthy of the Father. He who has the word of Jesus can also listen to his silence…”

What does Ignatius mean? The Word of God silent? True, in his early years at Nazareth, Jesus is silent. Before his baptism in the Jordan by John he’s  silent, until the voice of the Father says, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”

Jesus taught during his public ministry, yet many didn’t hear him at all. Finally, when he’s arrested and taken to the cross to die, the evangelists say  Jesus was silent.

Silence is part of facing the mystery of God. Here and now, some things can’t be known or explained. Like terrorism, natural disasters, the suffering of children. Why? God is silent. Again,  Ignatius:

“He who has the word of Jesus can truly listen also to his silence.”

Today’s Saints


I was in St. Peter’s square yesterday when Pope Francis canonized five saints, two of them well known, Paul VI, who was pope as the Second Vatican Council ended and Archbishop Romero of San Salvador who was shot to death while celebrating Mass at the Hospital of Divine Providence on March 24, 1980.

Pope Francis, a believer in symbols, wore the blood stained cincture that Bishop Romero wore when he was shot and celebrated the Mass with Paul VI’s favorite chalice and carried the pastoral cross he carried on his pastoral journeys.

The square was filled on this bright sunny day, the crowd spilling over to the neighboring streets. You can see more here.

I remembered in the square yesterday Blanca and Julio who lived in El Salvador at the time the archbishop was murdered and revere him as a holy man and so I took some pictures of the many who came from their country to honor Romero as a national and even an international hero who spoke for the justice for the poor. Blue was everywhere.

I’m sure Pope Francis was delighted to canonize Romero. We need bishops like him.

And what about those saints canonized yesterday not so well known? The pope said in his homily that holiness takes different forms. The saints not well known are just as important and those that are. That’s true.

St. Theresa of Avila

untitled

October 15th is the feast of Theresa of Avila, one of three women “doctors of the church.” We should listen to her. On the 500th anniversary of her birth, Pope Francis described her as “primarily a teacher of prayer.” “The discovery of Christ’s humanity was central to her experience.”

The aim of prayer for Theresa was not to bring inner balance or get your blood pressure down– a goal you hear for prayer and meditation today, “ The saint opens new horizons for us, she calls us to a great undertaking, to see the world with the eyes of Christ, to seek what He seeks and to love what He loves.”

A good description of prayer. Far from taking us away from the world and retreating into ourselves, prayer calls us to new undertakings, new horizons, seeing the world with the eyes of Christ. It’s something to do every day.

I like hearing prayer described as expanding our vision of life.

Theresa knew what living day by day means. She lived that way herself. How did she do it? By daily prayer, by following Jesus Christ day by day, by looking for the daily bread God gives us, by doing God’s will.

Saint Theresa, wise woman you are, be with us on these days. Make them days of blessing!

Here’s a prayer found in her prayerbook, which she must have said everyday.

Let nothing disturb you,

nothing frighten you.

All things are passing,

God is unchanging.

Patience wins everything.

Who has God lacks nothing.

God alone suffices.

 

28th Week of the Year. b

October 14  TWENTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME 

Wis 7:7-11/Heb 4:12-13/Mk 10:17-30 or 10:17-27 (143) 

15 Monday Saint Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church 

Memorial 

Gal 4:22-24, 26-27, 31—5:1/Lk 11:29-32 (467) 

16 Tuesday

[Saint Hedwig, Religious; Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin] 

Gal 5:1-6/Lk 11:37-41 (468) 38 

17 Wednesday Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr 

Memorial 

Gal 5:18-25/Lk 11:42-46 (469) 

18 Thursday Saint Luke, Evangelist 

Feast 

2 Tm 4:10-17b/Lk 10:1-9 (661) 

19 Friday USA: Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs 

Memorial 

Eph 1:11-14/Lk 12:1-7 (471) 

20 Saturday

[USA: Saint Paul of the Cross, Priest; BVM] 

Eph 1:15-23/Lk 12:8-12 (472)