Gospel reading of the day:
At that time Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” And he came down quickly and received him with joy. When they saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: This narrative from Luke’s gospel talks about the deep down things hidden in people’s hearts; it also describes the response that an encounter with Jesus creates within us. The passage witnesses to Jesus’ ability to look into hearts to see what is there. While the people around the Lord judged by appearances, Jesus judged by the impulses of a person’s heart. People condemned Zacchaeus because they saw him as a public sinner, but Jesus saw a man whose heart had turned to penance and God. People’s outsides don’t always tell the story: we need to give people the benefit of the doubt, because there are things going on inside of them we cannot possibly know.
A second theme in the passage suggests that Jesus evokes a response in the people who meet him. When we encounter the Lord, we want to do better, just as Zacchaeus wishes to become a new person when he met Jesus. But our encounter of the Lord is not just a chance meeting; Jesus actively looks for us and seeks us out. Zacchaeus is sign and symbol that we can count on the Lord to come and save us, and if our hearts are open, God will respond lavishly to us.
Spiritual reading: If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you, and that He certainly intends to make you a saint. And if you wish to become a great saint, entreat Him yourself to give you much opportunity for suffering; for there is no wood better to kindle the fire of holy love than the wood of the cross, which Christ used for His own great sacrifice of boundless charity. (Ignatius of Loyola)
Luke 14:1, 7-11
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully.
He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: If we are to live a life in the spirit, one of the questions that we must address is the use of our power. The moral question at the center of this issue is the right use of power, power used to safeguard and increase the dignity of persons made in the image and likeness of God. In today’s gospel, we see Jesus commenting on jockeying for position. The commentary is about higher and lower positions at table, but it reflects many situations in life where people set themselves over others. Jesus witnesses to an order of relationships where we use our power to make ourselves small so that we may serve others. A life lived in Christ is a life that embraces a radical reversal of social position and the use of power to increase the stations of those less fortunate than ourselves. A life lived in Christ is a life where the greatest washes the feet of the least.
Saint of the day: Dominic Collins (1566-1602) gave up the life of a soldier for the peace of religious life, but was executed when he accompanied a military force as a chaplain in a campaign to free Ireland from English Rule. Collins was born to a well-established family in Youghal in County Cork about the year 1566 when Elizabeth I was queen of England and Ireland. The Irish Parliament had established Anglicanism six years earlier as the official religion of the land. These laws were not fully enforced yet in Youghal, but young Catholic men had few careers open to them so young Collins chose to leave Ireland to seek his fortune in France. He managed to enlist in the army of the Duke of Mercoeur who was fighting against the Huguenots in Brittany. He served with distinction in the cause of the Catholic League for over nine years and rose through the ranks. His greatest moment came when he captured a strategic castle and was appointed military governor of the region.
With the passing of time Collins became less and less enamored of soldiering, even though King Philip II had granted him a pension and placed him in the garrison at La Coruña on Spain’s Bay of Biscay. During Lent 1598 he met a fellow Irishman, a Jesuit priest called Thomas White, whom he told of his desire to do something else with his life. He decided that he wanted more than anything else to join the Jesuits and serve as a brother. The superiors were initially reluctant to accept him because they felt that a battle-hardened soldier would never be able to settle into religious life. Dominic bombarded the provincial with requests and was finally admitted to the novitiate in Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.
If he was seeking peace and quiet in religious life, he was not to find it. He had barely arrived in Santiago when the Jesuit College was struck by plague. Seven of the community were infected and many others fled for fear of catching the awful disease. Collins stayed on and tended the victims for two months, nursing some of them back to health and comforting the others in their last hours. He had proved his worth and completed his novitiate without further question. A report sent to Rome by his superiors states that he was a man of sound judgment and great physical strength, mature, prudent and sociable, though inclined to be hot-tempered and obstinate.
Ireland was in turmoil at this time. In Ulster O’Neill and O’Donnell were defying the power of the English crown and trying to call all of Ireland into revolt. In 1601 King Philip III of Spain decided to send an army to the help of the Irish rebels. A number of priests traveled with the expedition including an Irish Jesuit, Father James Archer who asked that Brother Collins be sent as his companion for the journey even though the priest had never met Collins. The two set sail on different vessels, however, which became separated during a storm. Collins’ ship had to return to La Coruña before finally reaching Ireland. Collins arrived at Castlehaven on Dec. 1, 1601, only 30 miles from his native Kinsale, where the main part of the Spanish fleet was already ensconced. A large English army under Lord Mountjoy had laid siege to the town.
Irish forces converged on Kinsale from North and South. The leaders were Hugh O’Neill, Red Hugh O’Donnell and O’Sullivan Beare from West Cork. The Irish army surrounded the English on the outside while the Spanish faced the English from inside the town. The Irish attacked at dawn on Christmas Eve, but for reasons never fully understood, suffered a humiliating defeat, with no help from the Spaniards who remained within the town.
The Irish scattered, with the O’Neill and O’Donnell armies marching northward while O’Sullivan Beare led his people home to the Beare peninsula. Dominic Collins accompanied him in his retreat. Thus he found himself some months later besieged inside Dunboy Castle with 143 defenders. As a religious, Dominic Collins could not take part in the fighting but tended the wounded. After a bitter siege, with huge casualties, the defenders surrendered. Almost all were put to the sword, but on June 17 the Jesuit was taken off in chains for interrogation. He was savagely tortured and promised rich rewards if he would renounce his Catholic faith. Even though some of his own family visited him and encouraged him to pretend a conversion in order to save his life, he stood firm.
On Oct. 31, 1602 Dominic was taken to Youghal for execution. Before he ascended the scaffold to be hanged, he addressed the crowd in Irish and English, saying that he was happy to die for his faith. He was so cheerful that an officer remarked, “He is going to his death as eagerly as I would go to a banquet.” Collins overheard him and replied, “For this cause I would be willing to die not once but a thousand deaths.”
Spiritual reading: If you are very busy, you should make a choice and employ yourself in the more important occupations where there is greater service of God, greater spiritual advantage for the neighbor, and the more general or perfect good. (Letter to Father Fulvio Androzzi, July 18, 1556, by Ignatius of Loyola)
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. In front of him there was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply, asking, “Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath or not?” But they kept silent; so he took the man and, after he had healed him, dismissed him. Then he said to them, “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?” But they were unable to answer his question.
Reflection on the gospel reading: It would seem our Lord in today’s gospel is being set up. A Pharisee invites Jesus to his house on the sabbath day, and there just happens to be a sick man in front of him. It would appear that the Pharisee wanted to test whether the Master would heal on the sabbath and, by the Pharisee’s interpretation of the Law of Moses, violate the Sabbath rest. Jesus, however, is unafraid of his test. He recognizes that the Law does not proscribe acts of love and mercy on the sabbath, and he does what love demands, that is, he heals the man. Jesus’ example challenges us to do the right no matter what external pressures we face.
Saint of the day: Born in 1791, Gaetano Errico was the second of nine children born to Pasquale, a pasta factory manager, and Marie Marseglia Errico, who worked weaving plush. He was a good and pious child, always ready to help his father at work, or with his younger siblings. He felt a call to the priesthood at age fourteen. He was turned away by the Capuchins and Redemptorists due to his youth. Instead, he studied at a diocesan seminary in Naples from age sixteen, walking the five miles to class each day. He was ordained in Naples in 1815.
Gaetano was a school teacher for 20 years and the parish priest at the church of Saint Cosmas and Damian. He was known for his devotion to Reconciliation and ministry to the sick as well as his self-imposed austerties and penances. He made yearly retreats to the Redemptorist house in Pagani.
During his retreat in 1818, Saint Alphonsus Liguori appeared to him in a vision, and told him that God wanted Gaetano to build a new church, and to found a new religious congregation. While he initially received strong support from the local people, it faded in the face of fund-raising and work, and it wasn’t until December 1830 that he dedicated and blessed the church of Our Lady of Sorrows at Secondigliano; it has since become one of Italy’s most popular pilgrimage sites.
He built nearby a small house for himself and a lay-brother who took care of the church; this was the beginning of the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Gaetano served as first Superior General. Gaetano died October 29, 1860 of natural causes and was canonized in 2008.
Spiritual reading: If I did not believe, if I did not make what is called an act of faith (and each act of faith increases our capacity for faith), if I did not have faith that the works of mercy do lighten the sum total of suffering in the world, so that those who are suffering in this ghastly struggle somehow mysteriously find their pain lifted and some balm of consolation poured on their wounds, if I did not believe these things, the problem of evil would indeed be overwhelming. (Dorothy Day)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus had many disciples, but he wished to entrust 12 of them with a special mission to carry the gospel into the world. We know from the gospels that Jesus was a person of prayer, and the gospels suggest that whenever he had a special decision to make, he consulted God in prayer before he made his decision. When Jesus selected the 12 apostles, he went up the mountain to pray and ask God to guide his decision. Jesus is the model and pattern of our lives: if we wish to follow Jesus, when we have decisions we need to make, we can turn prayerfully to the God who made and sustains us to seek God’s counsel and guidance.
Saint of the day: Today is the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, the apostles. Jude was the son of Cleophas, who died a martyr and Mary who stood at the foot of the Cross. Mary was one of the women who anointed Christ’s body after death. Brother of Saint James the Lesser; nephew of Mary and Joseph; blood relative of Jesus Christ, and reported to look a lot like him. He hay have been a fisherman. He was a writer of a canonical letter. He preached in Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia with Saint Simon. His patronage of lost or impossible causes traditionally derives from confusion by many early Christians between Jude and Judas; not understanding the difference between the names, they never sought through prayer Jude’s help, and devotion to him became something of a lost cause. Tradition says he was beaten to death with a club, then beheaded post-mortem in 1st century Persia. Simon was an Apostle who evangelized in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Several places claim to have been the site of his martyrdom. The Abbyssinians claim he was crucified in Samaria; Lipsius says he was sawn in half at Suanir, Persia; Moses of Chorene writes that he was martyred at Weriosphora in Iberia; many locations claim to have relics.
Spiritual reading: He received us with joy. We felt remorse about being forced to carry out the order of his execution, because we revered him as a very good and innocent man. He constantly preached to us about the Christian religion. In prison we always saw him praying to his God with a joyful countenance. (Statement by the Executioners of Saint Joachim Royo Pèrez)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from. And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’ And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: At the heart of the passage that we read today lies the question, “How many will be saved?” Jesus, as he so often did, did not answer the question directly. Instead, he addressed the underlying assumptions in the question.
When we read the gospels, we can never lose sight of the fact that Jesus lived in a time and place that had a particular viewpoint. In Jesus’ time and place, the assumption among the people with whom he lived was that they were God’s chosen people. They were a people set apart, a people who knew the rules, a people who had to do a certain set of activities that would guarantee them salvation. Everyone else was just plain out of luck.
Jesus, however, challenges this presupposition. He says that being a member of the “chosen people” does not of itself guarantee a place in the kingdom of God. Moreover, he says that many people who are not among the “chosen,” people who “come from the east and the west and from the north and the south,” will recline at the table of God.
It is easy for all of us to imagine that our membership in some group is the guarantee that we need to be “right,” which may include the implicit suggestion that other people are “wrong.” Jesus in today’s gospel essentially says, “This is not so.”
We too may be tempted to believe that something about us makes us “right” in a way that other people are not. If we are to hear what Jesus says in today’s gospel, we have to let go of this notion. God’s kingdom is not the exclusive property of one people over another people, of one group over another group. It is a place of inclusion, not of exclusion.
Before we speculate on the central question of the gospel passage, “How many will be saved?” we perhaps do well to ask the question, “What exactly does it mean to be saved?” Certainly, in the Catholic tradition, it has meant for a good period of time in Church history to “die in a state of grace” and without mortal sin. But these are cliches that border on meaningless for their overuse. What then does it mean to be saved? Does it not mean to live a life for others? A life that does not close down in and on itself, but instead, an expansive life that frees other people from the bondage of self? A life that so loves that it invites and allows other to love?
Ultimately, we cannot know how many people will be saved, but if the evidence of our lives provides any answer to the question, we perhaps should assume that the answer to the question is, “Many will be saved.” If our God is a God who will let recline at the table of the kingdom people from north, south, east, and west, perhaps the gospel does directly answer the question: the expansive and all embracing love of God will in the end conquer many hearts.
Saint of the day: Saint Abraham was a holy hermit, listed in some records as “the Poor” of “the Child.” Writings have survived that speak of his purity of heart and the simplicity of his lifestyle. He was born in Menuf or Minuf, Egypt, a site northwest of Cairo in the Delta region of the Nile, and became a disciple of St. Pachomius, the founder of cenobitic monasticism. Abraham spent almost two decades in a cave near Pachomius’ foundations in the Delta. Saint Abraham the Poor died 367.
Spiritual reading: You must always reflect on what takes place within your own mind: not what other may do, whether they are good or bad, but what you make of their deeds – in other words, how you can use their deeds, both good and bad, and how much you can profit from them, whether by favoring and helping them, or by having compassion and correcting them. (Meditations by Guigo I)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.”
Again he said, “To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: These two sayings of Jesus remind us that projects which begin small can result in great things: a tiny mustard seed grows into an immense bush and a little yeast and flour rise to a batch of dough. God calls us to trust that our little projects, like a prayer for a suffering friend, a word of encouragement to a homeless person, or patience when a coworker makes a mistake, can bear great results when we trust that it is God who nurtures our little projects. The Kingdom of God is latent in every act of kindness, ready to bring forth prodigies.
Saint of the day: Contardo Ferrini was the son of a teacher who went on to become a learned man himself, one acquainted with some dozen languages. Today he is known as the patron of universities.
Born in Milan, he received a doctorate in law in Italy and then earned a scholarship that enabled him to study Roman-Byzantine law in Berlin. As a renowned legal expert, he taught in various schools of higher education until he joined the faculty of the University of Pavia, where he was considered an outstanding authority on Roman law.
Contardo was learned about the faith he lived and loved. “Our life,” he said, “must reach out toward the Infinite, and from that source we must draw whatever we can expect of merit and dignity.” As a scholar he studied the ancient biblical languages and read the Scriptures in them. His speeches and papers show his understanding of the relationship of faith and science. He attended daily Mass and became a lay Franciscan, faithfully observing the Third Order rule of life. He also served through membership in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
His death in 1902 at the age of 43 occasioned letters from his fellow professors that praised him as a saint; the people of Suna where he lived insisted that he be declared a saint.
Spiritual reading: The everyday itself must be prayed. But how is that supposed to happen? How will the everyday itself become a prayer? Through selflessness and prayer. (The Need and Blessing of Prayer by Karl Rahner, S.J.)
Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath. And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect. When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said, “Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.” He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath, said to the crowd in reply, “There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.” The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites! Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering? This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?” When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated; and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.
Reflection on today gospel reading: The Lord heals a woman on the sabbath and receives a rebuke from the leader of the synagogue for having violated the sabbath rest. Jesus takes him to task for his hypocrisy pointing out that the people of his day even on the sabbath would untie their beasts of burden to lead them to water. He points out that the value of a human being is much greater. How often do we become so bound by laws and regulations that we forget the basic human goods that trumps every other concern? Jesus calls us to a freedom of heart that is prepared to do good no matter the cost.
Saint of the day: Peter de Geremia was born in 1381 at Palermo, Sicily. Educated at the University of Bologna, he was a brilliant law student. One night while he meditated on the worldly success he would have, he was visited by the spirit of a deceased relative, a man who had also been a lawyer, whose pride and perjury had lost him his chance at paradise. Shaken, Peter devoted himself to prayer, asking for his vocation. Soon he received a word that he should become a Dominican. In a rage, his father came to Bologna to stop him, but when he saw completely happy Peter was, the older man gave him his blessing.
One day when there was no food for the community, Peter asked a fisherman for a donation; he was rudely refused. Getting into a boat, Peter rowed from the shore and made a sign to the fish; they broke the nets and followed him. The fisherman apologized, Peter made another sign to the fish, and they returned to the nets. The monastery was ever afterward supplied with fish.
Sent to establish regular observance in Sicilian monasteries. Called to Florence to help heal the Greek schism, he managed a brief union. Offered a bishopric, but refused.
Once when Peter was preaching at Catania, Mount Etna erupted and lava flowed toward the city. The people begged him to save them. He preached a brief sermon on repentance, went to the nearby shrine of Saint Agatha, removed the saint’s veil, and held it towards the lava flow. The eruption ceased, and the town was saved. He died March 3, 1452 in Sicily of natural causes.
Spiritual reading: Contemplation is also the response to a call: a call from Him Who has no voice, and yet Who speaks in everything that is, and Who, most of all, speaks in the depths of our own being: meant to respond to Him and signify Him. Contemplation is this echo. It is a deep resonance in the inmost center of our spirit in which our very life loses its separate voice and re-sounds with the majesty and the mercy of the Hidden and Living One . . . It is awakening, enlightenment, and the amazing intuitive grasp by which love gains certitude of God’s creative and dynamic intervention in our daily life. Hence contemplation does not simply “find” a clear idea of God and confine Him within the limits of that idea, and hold Him there as a prisoner to Whom it can always return. On the contrary, contemplation is carried away by Him into His own realm, His own mystery, and His own freedom. (New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton)
Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity, greedy, dishonest, adulterous, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage today is about prayer. But even more specifically it is about our attitudes in prayer. We may be tempted to come to God as people without need and dependence, as people who feel justified and meritorious, or we may come to God as people who recognize our complete reliance on God’s mercy. The scripture we have here makes clear which of the two God accepts and which of the two God rejects. No matter what good we may do or produce in our lives, all of us are sinners wholly dependent on God’s mercy to lift us up and save us. In this spirit we should approach the God in whose hands rests our salvation.
Spiritual reading: The love of Christ arouses us, urges us to run, and to fly. (Anthony Marie Claret)
Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. He said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”
And he told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”
Reflection on the gospel reading: This passage from Luke’s gospel shows Jesus as a person rooted in his contemporary situation, a person who knew the events of his day, and a person who reflected on the deeper meaning of current events. God likewise has called us to live in a certain time and be people immersed in a situation, people who probe the deepest meanings of the things that occur around us as we look for manifold signs of God’s hand.
Still, there is a caution: our every interpretation of an event is not necessarily correct. The passage demonstrates that Jesus recognized that the things which happened to a person do not reflect God’s judgment on an individual. Bad things do indeed happen to good people, and when they happen, we are left to stare into the face of God, face the reality that the immensity of our challenges fit meaningfully into the tapestry of the whole project God has undertaken in creating us in freedom, and make an act of faith in the dynamism of the ultimate good of God’s creation. It is not always easy, but belief in a loving God calls us to strive to see the bigger picture and take the long view.
Ultimately, as with the parable Jesus teaches us in this passage, we need to wait and test whether the insights we receive bear fruit. We need to remain vigilant and wait upon the Lord.
Saint of the day: Saint John of Capistrano was born in 1386 at Capistrano, Italy. The son of a former German knight, his father died when John was still young. He studied the law at the University of Perugia and worked as a lawyer in Naples, Italy. He served as the reforming governor of Perugia under King Landislas of Naples. When war broke out between Perugia and Malatesta in 1416, John tried to broker a peace, but instead his opponents ignored the truce, and John became a prisoner of war.
During his imprisonment he came to the decision to change vocations. He had married just before the war, but the marriage was never consummated, and with his bride’s permission, it was annulled. He became a Franciscan at Perugia on October 4, 1416. He was a classmate of Saint James of the Marches and a disciple of Saint Bernadine of Siena. A noted preacher while still a deacon, he commenced his work in 1420. An itinerant priest throughout Italy, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia, he preached to tens of thousands. He established communities of Franciscan renewal. John wrote extensively, mainly against the heresies of the day.
After the fall of Constantinople, he preached Crusade against the Muslim Turks. At age 70 he was commissioned to lead it and marched off at the head of 70,000 Christian soldiers. He won the great battle of Belgrade in the summer of 1456. He died of natural causes in the field at Villach, Hungary a few months later on October 23, 1456, but his army delivered Europe from the Turks.
Spiritual reading: Jesus said: “You are the light of the world.” Now a light does not illumine itself, but instead it diffuses its rays and shines all around upon everything that comes into its view. So it must be with the glowing lives of upright and holy clerics. By the brightness of their holiness they must bring light and serenity to all who gaze upon them. They have been placed here to care for others. Their own lives should be an example to others, showing how they must live in the house of the Lord. (Mirror of the Clergy by John of Capistrano)
Jesus said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain–and so it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot–and so it is. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
“Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way; otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the constable, and the constable throw you into prison. I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: All of us who love God seek God’s will; in fact, the spiritual life, in a sense, is a process of discernment of God’s will. Today’s reading counsels us to look at the signs of the times. Where do we look for the signs of God’s activities? We tend to think of things as inside of ourselves and outside of ourselves, but the fact of the matter is that our insides are a part of the whole, and what is inside is continuous with what is outside. What is God saying to us right here, right now? God is in the midst of our thoughts, feelings, and social interactions. God is present in all the facts of our existence, inside and outside of us: God is shouting at us in the midst of all the cacophony of our existence, if only we will attend.
Saint of the day: Peter of Alcantara was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended.
Born into a noble family (his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain), Peter studied law at Salamanca University and, at 16, joined the so-called Observant Franciscans (also known as the discalced, or barefoot, friars). While he practiced many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest; at the age of 39, he was elected provincial; he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude.
Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: “To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara.”
In 1554, Peter, having received permission, formed a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor.
As spiritual director to St. Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars and the Poor Clares.
Spiritual reading: We may, perhaps, imagine that the creation was finished long ago. But that would be quite wrong. It continues still more magnificently, and at the highest levels of the world. (The Divine Milieu by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.)