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Sunday, October 26, 2008

New Saints to Help Take Courage!

I wanted to write briefly about the new saints who I discovered originally through Zenit e-news, the Vatican's daily newsletter. I will also draw from other sources to give a brief synopsis about their lives and the value of seeking their intercession in our day.

The first is St. Narcisa de Jesu Martillo Moran (1832-1869) of Ecuador. As young laywoman, she felt the call to sanctity at an early age and was focused on a path of holiness which she lived from the time of her confirmation. Pope Benedict said this in his homily on Oct. 12, 2008, the day of her canonization:
"To assist with docility the action of the Holy Spirit in her soul, she always sought the counsel and guidance of good and expert priests, considering spiritual direction as one of the most effective means to reach sanctity. Despite the abundant and extraordinary graces she received, her life developed in great simplicity, dedicated to her work as a seamstress and her apostolate as a catechist. In her passionate love for Jesus, that brought her to embark on a path of intense prayer and mortification, she offers us an inviting testimony and a polished example of a life totally dedicated to God and neighbor."  (ZE081012)

The second is St. Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception (1910-1946) of India. She is the first female saint of India to be canonized! Pope Benedict also has wonderful words for her:
"'He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces' (Is. 25:8). These words of the prophet Isaiah contain the promise which sustained Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception through a life of extreme physical and spiritual suffering. This exceptional woman was convinced that her cross was the very means of reaching the heavenly banquet prepared for her by the Father. She wrote, 'I consider a day without suffering as a day lost.' May we imitate her in shouldering our own crosses so as to join her one day in paradise."

The third saint canonized on Oct. 12, 2008 was St. Maria Bernarda Butler (1848-1924), originally of Switzerland, and then missionary to Ecuador and Colombia. Pope Benedict says this:
"In the midst of the serious adversities that she had to face, including exile, she carried engraved on her heart the exclamation from the Psalm we heard today: 'Though I walk through dark valleys, I fear no evil, for thou art with me.' (Psalm 23:4). In this way, docile to the Word of God and following the example of Mary, she did as the servants of the Gospel that we heart: She went in every direction proclaiming that the Lord invites all to his banquet." (ZE081012)

These are just brief excepts from the homily of that day, and I highly encourage you to go to the Vatican website and check out the full description of these amazing womens' lives.

I am grateful that God truly does "raise up saints in every generation,"  and I hope that through their intercession we can all continue down the paths God has given to us!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Taking Courage

Today's Gospel reading is Luke 12:48, where Christ says, "I have come to set the world ablaze, and how I wish it was already burning." 
I have two small reflections.
The first is my own failure, which I hope will push us all on to be more courageous. Today at mass, right after hearing that Gospel (and one would think, right after being thus encouraged), the priest celebrating our mass asked if there was anyone who would like to receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick*. 
* The parish does this every Thurs. morning for those who have serious illnesses but are not in the hospital.. I'm not to judge the appropriateness of that.
Anyway, there were two men within my line of vision who raised their hands when the priest said this, before he continued with "please come to the front of the Church to receive it.. " 
One of these two men goes to mass every day, but my suspicion is that he may not be Catholic because he does not really participate and he never receives Communion. However, he's older and clearly has a hard time walking, so he may just feel it is too much to go up.
Either way, once the priest said "come forward" he did not do so and so he did not receive the Anointing. 
I was very torn because I wanted to motion to the priest to come down to us, in case the man simply couldn't walk up there, but we were sitting near the very back of the Church, which is where this man always sits. Then I thought of going up and mentioning to the priest that he should come down, but I didn't motivate myself enough and then they were done offering the Anointing and moving on with the rest of mass. 
So I was at a crossroads of what was appropriate- did I assume too much either way? Did I do nothing out of fear (which is what I think)? Clearly it comes down to this- I was afraid to offend and do distract. The Sacrament is offered between the homily and the Liturgy of the Eucharist at this parish... therefore I did not want to cause any disruption to the mass itself. Yet, what if this man never discovers that he could sit in the front row and the priest could bless him there, or what if I simply was given the challenge today to reach out to Christ in the form of a stranger and I couldn't do it?
I'm not looking for sympathy or chastisement, I simply want to challenge us all to try not to let the normal social fears and restrictions keep us from acting out of love. I tried to go up to the man after mass just to try to assess the situation, but as I approached I lost all my courage and I left, mostly because he was talking with people and I felt it would be awkward. 
Awkward? Maybe salvation was awkward- Jesus had to die mostly naked on a tree. 
Anyway, try to learn from my mistake and not hesitate when it is LOVE and the Holy Spirit who is motivating your heart!

The second thing I wanted to share was from a homily I heard last night from my boss, Fr. Brian.
The Gospel yesterday spoke of the idea of judgement where Jesus explains via parable that "to those who much is given, much is expected." 
Fr. Brian told a story of himself, as an eighth grade boy at school: (I will paraphrase this)
"I was in eighth grade and ended up in the bathroom with three guys in my class who were probably the most well known for being punks. They were just the 'bad kids,' like I was one of the 'good kids.' We were all standing there when out of nowhere they seemed to simultaneously agree to act out and vandalize. They didn't say anything but within 60 seconds they had emptied a trash container into a toilet and flushed, stuffed towels into the sinks and flooded them, and totally vandalized the bathroom. I didn't participate in it at all, but I also didn't stop them.
When they were done, we all just left and went to our respective classes. 
A little while later all four of us were called down to the Principal's office. She gave all of us our punishments in front of each other. Mine was the worst. When she said it, you could see the faces of the other guys being confused and surprised, and I was certainly shocked. In fact, I went from being frightened (because I had never been in trouble before) to being somewhat angry. 
The Principal said we could go and then asked me to wait and stay behind.
Once the others were gone she asked me, 'Brian, do you know why I gave you a harder punishment?' 
I said that I didn't. 
She said, 'Because I expect so much more from you. You know (here she said the name of one of the students) ____'s Father passed away last year and that his mother hasn't taken it well and that his home life is really bad right now. I'm not that surprised that he acted out. And you know (another one of the guys) _____ is just crazy. He is. 
But you Brian, have no reason or excuse, and so I do expect much more from you.'
It was hard to hear, but I realized then that she was right. I had good parents who loved me and cared for me and no real problems in my life that would be responsible for my acting in a bad way."

Fr. Brian used this story to emphasize to all of the college students present at our Wednesday night 9 o'clock mass that they, too, had been given a lot and therefore had much to be responsible for. 
I think we can all take that message to heart, along with the need for the world to be already blazing, and consider how we need to step out in faith, in courage, and in love, to see Christ's Kingdom built even now in our world. 

Let us pray for one another and that the Holy Spirit will move us past fear and into great faith.