Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 22, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 7:1-5

Jesus said to his disciples: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus clearly did not like hypocrisy. This theme arises over and over again in the gospels. Yet the subject that the gospel treats today, passing judgment on another, is something of which I imagine almost all of us are guilty. When we judge others, we often do not have the courage to level the charge to the person’s face; I suspect we often seek to raise ourselves up by the diminishing another person’s reputation.

We might seek to change this behavior in ourselves, if we were guilty of it, through a resolve to never level a charge against another except in kindness to bring the observation directly to a person. This practice probably would eradicate most of our judgments. In the rare cases where we do speak to people about things we have observed, we either may learn more about them that we did not know, or we may earn their gratitude that we let them know how things they do are perceived.

Saint of the day: Thomas More was born at London in 1478. After a thorough grounding in religion and the classics, he entered Oxford to study law. Upon leaving the university he embarked on a legal career which took him to Parliament. In 1505, he married his beloved Jane Colt who bore him four children, and when she died at a young age, he married a widow, Alice Middleton, to be a mother for his young children. A wit and a reformer, this learned man numbered bishops and scholars among his friends and by 1516 wrote his world-famous book Utopia. He attracted the attention of Henry VIII who appointed him to a succession of high posts and missions, and finally made him Lord Chancellor in 1529. However, he resigned in 1532, at the height of his career and reputation, when Henry persisted in holding his own opinions regarding marriage and the supremacy of the Pope. The rest of his life was spent in writing mostly in defense of the Church.

In 1534, with his close friend, St. John Fisher, whose feast it also is today, he refused to render allegiance to the King as the Head of the Church of England and was confined to the Tower. Fifteen months later, and nine days after St. John Fisher’s execution on June 22, he was tried and convicted of treason. He told the court that he could not go against his conscience and wished his judges that “we may yet hereafter in heaven merrily all meet together to everlasting salvation.” And on the scaffold, he told the crowd of spectators that he was dying as “the King’s good servant-but God’s first.” He was beheaded on July 6, 1535.

Spiritual reading: What men call fame is, after all, but a very windy thing.

A man thinks that many are praising him, and talking of him alone, and yet they spend but a very small part of the day thinking of him, being occupied with things of their own. (Thomas More)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 21, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 4:35-41

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Over and over in the gospel, as in today’s reading, Jesus tells us not to fear and asks us to trust. Our vocations as disciples of Jesus, women and men who follow his path, call on us to give our concerns and troubles to the Lord. Let us make no mistake about this passage from the gospel. It was an entirely reasonable emotional reaction to the situation where the apostles found themselves to be afraid of the storm. But Jesus already had shown the apostles his power, and his rebuke of them for their lack of faith also reflected evidence they had from their own lives.

When I imagine the future, it may be that I imagine disasters will engulf me and swallow me whole. In those moments of temptation, why is it with all the evidence of my life that God has followed me at each step that I should imagine a future that does not enjoy the presence of God? We may be buffeted by the strong winds that blow through our lives, and we may fear we will perish because of them, but our faith instructs us to live in the peaceful certainty that the God who cares for us today also will care for us tomorrow. When life roughs us up, let us make our way to the Lord to ask for help just as the apostles made their way to the Lord on the boat to seek his aid. God is faithful, so let us be, too: peace be to you; be not afraid.

Spiritual reading: Pray regularly! Demand from yourself what you have for yourself as your obligation in prayer!

Be lord over your emotions and moods! Pray regularly! (The Need and the Blessing of Prayer by Fr. Karl Rahner, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 20, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 2:41-51

Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.

Reflection on the gospel reading: I’ve been to Jerusalem. There are steps near the site of the Temple where wise men gathered to consider questions related to the Law of Moses, and scholars seem fairly confident that this location is the site where the young Jesus engaged the older men. The passage says that Jesus asked them questions and also provided them with answers. In other words, there was a dialogue between Jesus and his elders. And the line that closes the reading tells us that Mary thought about the things that she had seen.

A story comes to us about the Hassidim in the 19th century. It is said that when Hassidic children came home, their mothers did not ask them if they learned anything that day but whether they had asked any good questions. Among the lessons we might draw from this passage from Luke’s gospel as we reflect on the examples of Jesus and Mary is to maintain an open heart that is willing in inquire, ask questions, consider the evidence, and learn what God wishes to teach us at each stage of our existence.

Saint of the day: Thomas Whitbread, S.J. was born in Essex, England. He died 1679. Thomas was educated at Saint Omer and joined the Society of Jesus in 1635. He was provincial of the English mission and at the time of the Popish Plot and was convicted with four other Jesuit priests on a false charge of conspiring to murder Charles II. For this, he was hanged at Tyburn.

Spiritual reading: Let us abandon ourselves unreservedly to God; let our thought concern itself only with following the way which God through all eternity has marked out for us and which we now are treading. (Abandonment to Divine Providence by Pere Jean-Pierre de Caussade, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 19, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 19:31-37

Since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and they be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may come to believe. For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled:

Not a bone of it will be broken.

And again another passage says:

They will look upon him whom they have pierced.

Reflection on the gospel reading: This is the feast of the Sacred Heart: the church today recalls the love of God made evident in the symbol of Jesus’ heart. The gospel passage which we receive today tells how when the Roman soldier came to Jesus, he found he already was dead. To make certain of the Lord’s death, he thrust a spear into the Lord’s side and from his side issued blood and water. In our age, we understand that fluid likely gathered around Jesus’ heart as a consequence of his body’s attempt to cope with low blood volume. But in the imagery of the early church, it well might have meant for the evangelist that Jesus’ passion is tied intimately both to the waters of our baptism and the cup of the Eucharistic blood. If the text bears the freight of these symbolic interpretations, we have in this celebration of God’s love for us the mixture of Jesus’ willingness to die on our behalf, his incorporation of us through the waters of baptism into his own life, and the nurture of us through the consumption of his blood in the Eucharist.

Some psychologists interested in questions of human emotion have proposed that love is a sort of compound emotion that involves the combination of acceptance of another and joy in the presence of that other. Jesus in his passion expresses his love of us, that is, his joy in our presence and his acceptance of who and how we are. Out of that joy and acceptance witnessed to by his intense suffering comes our rebirth through baptism and our continuing renewal through the Eucharist. Such is the message of today’s celebration of the love of Jesus for us. Let us then on this day in this rich mixture of symbols be filled with Jesus’ love and life as we strive to live lives of joy and acceptance in Jesus’ and each others’ presence.

Saint of the day: Romuald was born in Ravenna, Italy in about 951. He was Italian nobility who spent a wild youth. Acting as second, he witnessed his father kill another man in a duel, and sought to atone for the crime by becoming a Benedictine monk at Classe, Italy.

He served as abbot from 996 to 999. A wanderer, he established several hermitage and monasteries in central and northern Italy. He tried to evangelize the Slavs, but met with little success. Romuald founded the Camaldolese Benedictines and spent the last fourteen years of his life in seclusion at Mount Sitria, Bifolco, and Val di Castro. He was the spiritual teacher of Saint Wolfgang. He died June 19. 1027 at Val-di-Castro, Italy of natural causes.

Spiritual reading:

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked anything.
‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here’:
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear
I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’
‘Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down, says Love, ‘and taste My meat.’
So I did sit and eat.
(“Love” by George Herbert)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, politics, scripture by Mike on June 18, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This is how you are to pray:

‘Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.’

“If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospels give us two accounts of Jesus teaching his disciples the prayer that we now know as the Lord’s Prayer, or more commonly in the Catholic tradition, the Our Father. The version of the Lord’s Prayer in Luke’s account is comparably spare. The one here, in Matthew’s account, is slightly more elaborate, and we use this version most frequently both in private and public recitation.

The prayer has various characteristics that teach us much about praying: it evokes reliance on God as a parent common to us all, acknowledges God’s greatness, submits to God’s will, and requests the things that sustain our lives: food, the dual graces of personal forgiveness and compassion toward others, being spared, and being saved from evil.

In this gospel passage, Jesus emphasizes the need for mercy: how can we expect mercy if we fail to show mercy?

Saint of the day: Born in 1126 at Germany, Elizabeth of Schonau was a Benedictine abbess who was a gifted mystic. She had her first vision in 1152 and was known for ecstasies, prophecies, and diabolical visitations. She became abbess in 1157.

Her cult was never formalized, but she is listed as a saint in the Roman Martyrology. Her brother, Ethbert, a Benedictine abbot, wrote her biography and recorded her visions in three books. She died June 18, 1164 at Bonn, Germany.

Spiritual reading: Loving your neighbor means living in voluntary poverty, stripping yourself, putting off the old Adam, denying yourself, etc. It also means non-participation in those comforts and luxuries which have been manufactured by the exploitation of others. While our brothers and sisters suffer, we must be compassionate with them, suffer with them. While they suffer from lack of necessities, we will refuse to enjoy comforts.

These resolutions, no matter how hard they are to live up to, no matter how often we fail and have to begin over again, are part of the Vision. And we must keep this vision in mind, recognize the truth of it, the necessity for it, even though we do not, cannot, live up to it…though in our execution we may fall short of the mark over and over. St. Paul says it is by little and by little that we proceed. (“Meditations” by Dorothy Day)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 17, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Today’s reading addresses three pillars of religious practice among Jesus’ people, and by extension and adoption, among us who are Jesus’ followers. Those three practices are almsgiving, prayer, and penance. There is a common theme among the three. Yes, Jesus encourages us to give to the poor, pray, and repent, but he tells us to do each of these things in a way that does not draw attention to ourselves. When we do these things to gain the admiration of other people, we have received our reward. Our religious practice is to be a relationship between God and ourselves: it is not to make us look better in the eyes of other people. Let us give freely to the poor. Let us pray continuously in our hearts. Let us do penance for the injuries we do to our relationship with God. But let us make of each of these practices a truly religious practice between God and ourselves.

Saint of the day Adam Chmielowski was born on August 20, 1845 in Poland to a wealthy aristocratic family. He initially studied agriculture in order to manage the family estate. Involved in politics from his youth, he lost a leg at age 17 when injured while fighting in an insurrection. In Krakow, he became a popular, well-known and well-liked artist. His interest in politics and art made him keenly aware of the human misery around him. A gentle and compassionate soul, he felt called to help those in need. After years of reflection, he understood that this desire was how God was calling him to service and Himself.

A Franciscan tertiary, taking the name Albert, he abandoned painting and began a life of working with and for the poorest of Krakow. In 1887, he founded the Brothers of the Third Order of Saint Francis, Servants of the Poor, known as the Albertines (named for him) or the Gray Brothers (after their rough gray habits). In 1891, he founded the women’s congregation of the Order (Gray Sisters). The Albertines organized food and shelter for the poor and homeless.

Albert preached that the great calamity of our time was that so many refused to see and voluntarily relieve the suffering of their miserable brothers and sisters. The “haves” lived away from the “have-nots” in order to ignore them and leave their care to others.

In 1949, Karol Wotlywa, later elected bishop of Rome, wrote a well-received play about Albert; the work was filmed in 1997, released as Brother of Our God. Albert was the spiritual teacher of Blessed Maria Bernardina Jablonska. He died December 25, 1916 at Krakow, Poland, of natural causes.

Spiritual reading: The holiest, most common, most necessary practice in the spiritual life is the presence of God, that is, to take delight in and become accustomed to His divine company, speaking humbly and talking lovingly with Him at all times, at every moment, without rule or system. (The Practice of the Presence of God by Br. John Lawrence of the Resurrection.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on June 14, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”‘ Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there.” The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover. While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Reflection on the gospel reading: It is a good thing on this feast of Corpus Christi to proclaim that we believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. But the devotion to the Real Presence in the Eucharist over and against the other modes of the Real Presence in the Eucharistic assembly curiously points to areas where we Christians continue to have need for conversion.

We rightly see in the bread and the wine the the Lord’s presence, but in the children that fidget in front us at church and in the strange homily that knocks at the stone in our hearts, we perhaps grow annoyed or even anxious. Our blindness to Christ in the assembly, our deafness to Christ in the Word, and our resistance before Christ in service evince the continuing need for our conversion. May a prayerful and meditative attentiveness to the implications of our Eucharistic faith on this wonderful feast lead us to recognize Christ in all the ways he offers himself to us.

Spiritual reading: We cannot love God unless we love each other. We know him in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone anymore. Heaven is a banquet, and life is a banquet too – even with a crust – where there is companionship.

We have all known loneliness, and we have learned that the only solution is love, and that love comes with community. (Dorothy Day)

A Feast for Us!

Posted in Uncategorized by fatherjimb on June 14, 2009

June is a month of special feasts, including that of the Body and Blood of Christ formerly known as Corpus Christi.  It was created at a time when people lost the belief of the Eucharist as being Christ present among them.  During the reformation this belief was challenged and became for many at best a symbolic action.   During the early 1930’s a movement within the Catholic community began to again look at our Sunday liturgy and recapture the importance of Christ in the Eucharist.  The end result was the revision of the Mass as we know it today, harkening back to an earlier liturgical style yet making it more accessible to 20th century people.

There is a danger, however, that we can get caught up in the rules or go off on making it a multimedia event.  Both have their place in making the Eucharistic liturgy meet our needs yet we should always focus on what it is that makes it special.  Perhaps the story of Babette’s Feast is a good metaphor to help us understand what Eucharist means.

The story concerns two sisters, Martina (named for Martin Luther) and Philippa (named for Luther’s friend and biographer Philip Melanchthon) who live in a small village on the remote western coast of Jutland in the 19th century. They are the daughters of the now deceased pastor who founded his own strict Christian sect. The sect draws no new converts and the aging sisters preside lovingly over their dwindling flock of white-haired believers.

Each in their youth was a ravishing beauty  courted by an impassioned suitor who fell desperately in love, developing grand plans both for themselves and their “angels.”  Each daughter eventually deflects her pursuer, choosing, instead, a life of quiet piety and Puritanical simplicity following in their father’s footsteps. Their father was of the belief that marriage and happiness as such is a falsehood.

Many years later Babette Hersant appears at their door. She bears a letter from Philippa’s former suitor, explaining that she is a refugee from revolutionary bloodshed in Paris, and recommending her as a housekeeper. The sisters take Babette in, and she spends fourteen years as their cook, a modest but benign figure who gradually eases their lives and the lives of many in the remote village. Her only link to her former life is a lottery ticket that a friend in Paris renews for her every year.

One day, she wins the lottery of 10,000 francs.  Rather than return to her former home she instead decides to use the money to prepare a delicious dinner for the sisters and their small congregation on the occasion of the founding pastor’s hundredth birthday. More than just an epicurean delight, the feast is an outpouring of Babette’s appreciation, an act of self-sacrifice with Eucharistic echoes; though she doesn’t tell anyone, Babette is spending her entire winnings on her gesture of gratitude.

The sisters agree to accept Babette’s meal, and her offer to pay for the creation of a “real French dinner”. She leaves the island for a few days in order to return to Paris where she personally arranges for supplies to be sent to Jutland. The ingredients are plentiful, sumptuous and exotic, and their arrival causes much discussion amongst the group. As the various never-before-seen ingredients arrive, and preparations commence, the sisters begin to worry that the meal will be, at best, a great sin of sensual luxury, and at worst some form of devilry or witchcraft. In a hasty conference, the sisters and the congregation agree to eat the meal, but to forego any pleasure in it, and to make no mention of the food during the entire dinner.

The last and most relevant part of the story is the preparation and the serving of an extraordinary banquet of royal dimensions, lavishly deployed in the unpainted austerity of the sisters’ rustic home.

Although the other celebrants do their best to reject the earthly pleasures of the food and drink, Babette’s extraordinary gifts as a Chef de Cuisine and a true connoisseur break their distrust and superstitions, elevating them not only physically but spiritually. Old wrongs are forgotten, ancient loves are rekindled, and a mystical redemption of the human spirit settles over the table – thanks to the general elation nurtured by the consumption of so many fine culinary delicacies and spirits. The Eucharistic celebration around the table portends the grace God has been allotted to them.  For them and us it is an ever present hope for the coming of the kingdom we proclaim.

The menu is a true feast with caviar, turtle soup, quail in stuffed pastry shells, a delightful salad and Blue Cheese, papaya, figs, grapes and pineapple. The grand finale dessert is a rum sponge cake with figs and glacéed fruits). Numerous rare wines along with various champagnes and spirits, complete the menu. Babette’s purchase of the finest china, flatware, crystal and linens with which to set the table ensures that the luxurious food and drink is served in a style worthy of the famous former Chef of “Café Angalis.” Babette’s previous occupation has been unknown to the sisters until she confides in them after the meal.

The sisters assume that Babette will now return to Paris, and when she tells them that all of her money is gone and that she is not going anywhere, the sisters are aghast. Babette then tells them that dinner for 12 at the Café Anglais has a price of 10,000 francs. Martina tearfully says, “Now you will be poor the rest of your life”, to which Babette replies, “An artist is never poor.”

God has prepared a feast for us too through Jesus who is both the reason for the feast and the feast itself.  It is too easy to allow the ritual to become a rote action or to make it into the personal action of the priest and ministers.  This is a feast to which we are all invited to taste of the choicest of food and the finest of drink.  Jesus tells us “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”  let us be mindful of what we do, and say and enjoy this feast which the Lord has made for us for when we east this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes in glory.

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, ethics, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 13, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow. But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the Evil One.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel reading for the day is about our personal integrity and the reliability of our word. Say, “Yes,” when we mean, “Yes,” and, “No,” when we mean, “No.” Our vocations as Christians are to live and speak truthfully. Jesus tells us that we do not need to make oaths, because our integrity is a sufficient guarantee of what we promise. This does not mean that we need to tell everyone everything, but it does mean that whatever we say and do is trustworthy.

Saint of the day: Anthony of Padua was born in 1195 at Lisbon, Portugal as Ferdinand de Bulhoes. At the age of 15, this son of a knight at the court of King Alfonso II became an Augustinian monk at San Vincente just outside Lisbon. He had studied under the priests of the Lisbon cathedral, who had inspired him. In 1212, Ferdinand migrated to the priory of Santa Cruz at Coîmbra because he found the visits of friends too disturbing. At Coîmbra Ferdinand was well-educated by teachers from Montpellier, Toulouse, and Paris in Scripture. He was ordained in 1219 or 1220.

He had lived a quiet life as a canon in Coîmbra for eight years when Don Pedro of Portugal brought from Morocco in 1220 the relics of recent Franciscan martyrs. On hearing of their martyrdom, Anthony was fired with missionary zeal, which he had little hope of fulfilling as a canon regular. He laid his heart bare before some Franciscans who had come to Holy Cross Monastery to beg. With their encouragement, Ferdinand transferred to the Franciscan Order at Olivares in 1221 and took the name Anthony. He left to go to Morocco to evangelize. Shipwrecked at Sicily, he joined some other brothers who were going to Assisi. He lived in a cave at San Paolo leaving only to attend Mass and sweep the nearby monastery. One day when a scheduled speaker failed to appear, the brothers pressed him into speaking. He impressed them so that he was thereafter constantly traveling, evangelizing, preaching, and teaching theology through Italy and France. A gifted speaker, he attracted crowds everywhere he went, speaking in multiple tongues. One of the most beloved of saints, his images and statues are found everywhere. He died June 13, 1231.

Spiritual reading: The moral revival that certain people wish to impose will be much worse than the condition it is meant to cure.

If our present suffering ever leads to revival, this will not be brought about through slogans, but in silence and moral loneliness, through pain, misery, and terror, in the profoundest depths of each person’s spirit. (Simone Weil)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, ethics, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 12, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:27-32

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

“It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus’ teaching on divorce is quite hard, but it does seem for various good scholarly reasons that he was opposed to divorce and remarriage. If we look at scripture as a set of propositions without any greater context, we would have to conclude that divorce and remarriage are forbidden.

But in fact, Jesus lived in a time and a place with a concrete set of circumstances, and even the teaching on divorce is not as easy to understand as we might first think it to be. Women in Jesus’ time relied on their husbands for their well-being, and though a man could divorce a woman, a woman neither could divorce a man nor resist the divorce. In Jesus’ time, if a man divorced his wife, the woman, without any economic power, most often fell into the deepest poverty.

It seems quite possible that our Lord when he condemns divorce was reflecting on the social and cultural circumstances of his day. His preoccupation with the plight of the poor no doubt led him to conclude that divorce forced women into untenable situations. Given the situation of the day, he challenged a system that forced powerless women into poverty.

Of course, in our time, women have the right to divorce, and they have economic power. The social and cultural system is different, and therefore, the moral obligations must fit the needs of our own situation.

Saint of the day: Stephen Bandelli was born in 1369 in Italy into a noble family. Little is known of his early years except that he applied for admission to the Dominicans in his hometown and received the habit while still very young.

Stephen earned a degree in canon law and a master’s degree in theology, and lectured at the University of Pavia. He was a man of superior intellect and a careful student. Tradition holds that he was “another Saint Paul,” and that his sermons were effective in bringing many Christians to a more fervent life and many sinners back into the fold. Aside from this, tradition holds that he was prayerful, penitential, had a spirit of poverty, was charitable, and was a model religious. When Stephen died in 1450, he was buried in the Dominican church of Saluzzo.

Spiritual reading: Beg our Lord to grant you perfect love for your neighbor. If someone else is well spoken of, be more pleased than if it were yourself; this is easy enough, for if you were really humble, it would vex you to be praised . . . Comply in all things with others’ wishes, though you lose your own rights. Forget your self-interests for theirs, however much nature may rebel. (Teresa of Ávila)