Gospel reading of the day:
As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.
Reflection on the gospel reading: The Church celebrates today St. Andrew the Apostle. The gospel gives us a portrait of how Jesus called his disciples. They were people enmeshed in a set of circumstances. They had family members and jobs. But they also must have been people who could feel the stirring of their hearts and people who were able to respond generously to their hearts’ impulses, because when Jesus called them, they left what they were doing and responded to his invitation. Our hearts also experience movements. We need to create space in them so that we can hear the Lord’s voice and do the things the Lord calls us to.
Saint of the day: Andrew was St. Peter’s brother, and was called with him. “As [Jesus] was walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is now called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-20).
John the Evangelist presents Andrew as a disciple of John the Baptist. When Jesus walked by one day, John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Andrew and another disciple followed Jesus. “Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day” (John 1:38-39a).
Little else is said about Andrew in the Gospels. Before the multiplication of the loaves, it was Andrew who spoke up about the boy who had the barley loaves and fishes (see John 6:8-9). When the Gentiles went to see Jesus, they came to Philip, but Philip then had recourse to Andrew (see John 12:20-22).
Legend has it that Andrew preached the Good News in what is now modern Greece and Turkey and was crucified at Patras.
When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” He said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In the first century, the God Fearers were Gentiles who attached themselves in varying degrees to Judaism without becoming total converts. They were of significant importance to the growth of early Christianity. They represented a group of Gentiles who to one degree or another shared religious ideas with Jews; however, they were not converts but a separate group of Gentiles who engaged in Judaic religious ideas and practices. Many God Fearers were attracted to aspects of Judaism such as its monotheism and ethical practice. Actual conversion would have required full adherence to the Law of Moses, which included various prohibitions and practices like the dietary laws and circumcision, that did not appeal to many would-be Gentile converts.
The Centurion in this story is just such a person, a Gentile who deeply respected the traditions of Judaism but did not make the final step toward conversion. Even so, as we prepare for Christmas, the Church calls on us to reflect on the universality of Jesus’ mission and Jesus’ invitation to all people to enjoy the moral benefits of the faith of his people. The central theme of Advent and Christmas is that Jesus comes for everyone and the kingdom of God is open to all.
Saint of the day: Dorothy Day was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in San Francisco and Chicago. She was born into a family described by one biographer as “solid, patriotic, and middle class”. Her father was a Southerner of Scotch-Irish background, while her mother, a native of upstate New York, was of English ancestry. Her parents were married in an Episcopal church located in Greenwich Village, a neighborhood where Day would spend much of her young adulthood.
In 1914, Dorothy Day attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on a scholarship, but dropped out after two years and moved to New York City. Day was a reluctant scholar. Her reading was chiefly in a radical social direction. She avoided campus social life and insisted on supporting herself rather than live on money from her father, a characteristic she was to maintain for the rest of her life, to the point of buying all her clothing and shoes from discount stores to save money. Settling on the Lower East Side, she worked on the staffs of Socialist publications (The Liberator, The Masses, The Call) and engaged in anti-war and women’s suffrage protests. She spent several months in Greenwich Village, where she became close to Eugene O’Neill.
Initially Day lived a bohemian life, with two common-law marriages and an abortion, which she later described in her semi-autobiographical novel, The Eleventh Virgin (1924)—a book she later regretted writing. She had been an agnostic, but with the birth of her daughter, Tamar (1926–2008), she began a period of spiritual awakening which led her to embrace Catholicism, joining the Church in December 1927, with baptism at Our Lady Help of Christians parish on Staten Island. In her 1952 biography, The Long Loneliness, Day recalled that immediately after her baptism, she made her first confession, and the following day, she received communion. Subsequently, Day began writing for Catholic publications, such as Commonweal and America.
The Catholic Worker movement started with the Catholic Worker newspaper, created to promote Catholic social teaching and stake out a neutral, pacifist position in the war-torn 1930s. This grew into a “house of hospitality” in the slums of New York City and then a series of farms for people to live together communally. She lived for a time at the now demolished Spanish Camp community in the Annadale section of Staten Island.The movement quickly spread to other cities in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom; more than 30 independent but affiliated CW communities had been founded by 1941. Well over 100 communities exist today, including several in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and Sweden. She was also a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (‘Wobblies’).
By the 1960s, Day was embraced by a significant number of Catholics, while at the same time, she earned the praise of counterculture leaders such as Abbie Hoffman, who characterized her as the first hippie, a description of which Day approved. Yet, although Day had written passionately about women’s rights, free love and birth control in the 1910s, she opposed the sexual revolution of the 1960s, saying she had seen the ill-effects of a similar sexual revolution in the 1920s. Day had a progressive attitude toward social and economic rights, alloyed with a very orthodox and traditional sense of Catholic morality and piety.
Her devotion to her church was neither conventional nor unquestioning, however. She alienated many U.S. Catholics (including some clerical leaders) with her condemnation of Falangist leader Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War; and, possibly in response to her criticism of Cardinal Francis Spellman, she was pressured by the Archdiocese of New York in 1951 to change the name of her newspaper, “ostensibly because the word Catholic implies an official church connection when such was not the case”.
In 1971, Day was awarded the Pacem in Terris Award. It was named after a 1963 encyclical letter by Pope John XXIII that calls upon all people of good will to secure peace among all nations. Pacem in Terris is Latin for ‘Peace on Earth.’ Day was accorded many other honors in her last decade, including the Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame, in 1972.
She died in New York City thirty years ago today on November 29, 1980.
Day was buried in Cemetery of the Resurrection on Staten Island, just a few blocks from the location of the beachside cottage where she first became interested in Catholicism. She was proposed for sainthood by the Claretian Missionaries in 1983. The Archdiocese of New York opened Day’s “cause” for sainthood in March 2000, thereby officially making her a “Servant of God.”
Spiritual reading: It is no use saying that we are born two thousand years too late to give room to Christ. Nor will those who live at the end of the world have been born too late. Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts. Yet now it is with the voice of our contemporaries that he speaks, with the eyes of store clerks, factory workers, and children that he gazes; with the hands of office workers, slum dwellers, and suburban housewives that he gives. It is with the feet of soldiers and tramps that he walks, and with the heart of anyone in need that he longs for shelter. And giving shelter or food to anyone who asks for it, or needs it, is giving it to Christ. (Dorothy Day)
Jesus said to his disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: We enter a new liturgical year today on this first Sunday of Advent as we move into weeks of expectancy and hope before our celebration of the birth of the Lord. In ancient eastern Christianity, the Epiphany was many holidays rolled into one: yes, certainly, the visit of the Magi, but the Church also celebrated at the Epiphany the birth of the Lord, his baptism, the wedding feast at Cana, and the Transfiguration. The Church celebrated on a single and very textured day all the ways the Lord surprises us and manifests his glory. In many churches of the East, catechumens received their baptism on the Feast of the Epiphany because of its connection to the Lord’s own baptism. During the weeks prior to their baptism, catechumens would pray, reflect, and fast in anticipation of their entry into the body of believers. It would seem then that what we begin today in Advent is the remnant of that practice. The Church prays, reflects, and fasts in these days because catechumens once did so before their baptism, but with the passage of time, the practice of baptizing on Epiphany withered away while the Church remembered the prayer, reflection, and fasting at this time of year and began to connect it to Christmas. But it’s no deep concern where the practice arose, because what the Church asks us to do in these weeks is to remember who we are as baptized persons and to renew in ourselves our baptismal promises. In other words, it is entirely appropriate that a season which probably began as a time of baptismal preparation should continue as a time of baptismal renewal.The gospel passage today talks about the nature of our lives as baptized persons. It tells us to stand erect, that is, be people of integrity. It tells us to raise our heads, that is, be people of dignity and hope. It tells us to be vigilant, that is, be people who persevere. It tells us to pray, that is, be spiritual people who spend time talking with God each day. And it tells us to ask God that we may be strong, that is, it calls on us to rely on God’s own power.
The gospel passage today talks about being prepared for the unexpected. Let us embrace our baptism today and all the days of Advent. Let us renew ourselves and prepare ourselves. Let us be open to the God of Surprises who will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves if only we open ourselves to it.
Spiritual reading: Every year we celebrate the holy season of Advent, O God. Every year we pray those beautiful prayers of longing and waiting, and sing those lovely songs of hope and promise. Every year we roll up all our needs and yearnings and faithful expectation into one word: “Come!” (The Divine Dawning, Karl Rahner, S.J.)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Today’s reading is the very last of the liturgical year. Jesus understood the apathy that attends the human condition and called on us to be fully aware and fully alive. The passage cautions us not to give ourselves over to lives of the ordinariness of the day to day, self-indulgence, or anxieties. Instead, Jesus invites us to remain vigilant in prayer that we may withstand the things we face as we make our ways.
On this last day of the Church year, let us recall that we are called to a gathering greatness. Let us pray that we may be open to the mysterious ways that God calls us to stand before the Son of Man.
Saint of the day: Born in Lucera (southeast Italy), Francesco Antonio Fasani entered the Conventual Franciscans in 1695. After his ordination 10 years later, he taught philosophy to younger friars, served as guardian of his friary and later became provincial. When his term of office ended, Francesco became master of novices and finally pastor in his hometown.
In his various ministries, he was loving, devout and penitential. He was a sought-after confessor and preacher. One witness at the canonical hearings regarding Francesco’s holiness testified, “In his preaching he spoke in a familiar way, filled as he was with the love of God and neighbor; fired by the Spirit, he made use of the words and deed of Holy Scripture, stirring his listeners and moving them to do penance.” Francesco showed himself a loyal friend of the poor, never hesitating to seek from benefactors what was needed.
At his death in Lucera, children ran through the streets and cried out, “The saint is dead! The saint is dead!” Francesco was canonized in 1986.
Spiritual reading: No structure of virtue can possibly be raised in our soul unless, first, the foundations of true humility are laid in our heart. (John Cassian)
Jesus told his disciples a parable. “Consider the fig tree and all the other trees. When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near; in the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Luke’s presentation of Jesus’ discourse continues in today’s gospel passage. Jesus tells us to be attentive: his ministry, passion, death, and resurrection inaugurates the inbreaking of the kingdom of God into human history. When Jesus tells us that “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place,” it is his assurance to his people, the Jews, that they are an integral part of God’s plan, and the Jewish faith will remain to the world’s end. The whole passage is a testament that God is not fickle: God keeps God’s promises. We can count on God to remain faithful no matter what happens.
Saint of the day: John Berchmans was born in Diest, Flanders, in Belgium in 1599, the son of a shoemaker and the eldest of five children, three of whom entered religious life. He spent much of his time at home caring for his mother, who was in poor health. His family was very religious and he thought early in life of becoming a priest. He lived in the rectory of Notre Dame parish while he studied but after three years his father told him he would have to leave school and learn a practical trade to supplement his family’s poverty. The pastor of the Diest Béguinage offered to pay for Berchmans’ education in return for his service as a servant. In 1612 the John made the same arrangement in Mechlin in the house of Canon Froymont. In 1615, the Jesuits opened a college at Malines (Mechlin) and John Berchmans was one of the first to enroll. He proved an energetic student and a leader among his peers. He decided to join them rather than become a diocesan priest. His father was disappointed because, as a diocesan priest, John could have supported his family but not as a Jesuit. Nevertheless, he gave his son his blessing.
In 1616, John he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Malines, after reading the life of Aloysius Gonzaga, and came under the influence of Fr Antoine Sucquet. A few months after entering the Jesuits, John’s mother died. His father gave up his shoemaking and entered the diocesan seminary. He was ordained a priest in April 1618.
Meanwhile, the young Berchmans developed a strong and deep spirituality based on faithful observance of the rules of religious life. Apart from Aloysius Gonzaga and he was also inspired by the example of the English Jesuit martyrs (who had spent some of their exile in Flanders).
It was his down-to-earth appreciation for the ordinary things of life, a characteristic of the Flemish mystical tradition, which formed the basis of his spirituality. He had an approachable, kind and outgoing personality which made him attractive to all.
On September 25, 1618 John made his first vows as a Jesuit and went to Antwerp to study philosophy, the next step in his formation. After only three weeks he was told go to Rome to continue his studies. This could indicate he was destined for higher studies in the future. Before he could return to Mechlin to say goodbye to his family, his father died suddenly.
He did very well in his studies and, at the end of his third year, was chosen to defend the whole philosophy course in a public disputation. Due to overwork in preparing for his final exams, his health was affected. He became gradually weaker as he prepared for the disputation on 8 July. When it was over, he was then called on to represent the Roman College at another disputation to be held in the following month of August at the Greek College. The two demanding events so close together were too much for his weakening condition.
On August 7 he suffered an attack of dysentery, followed by a fever. Pale and weak, he was sent to the infirmary. He grew weaker day by day as his lungs became inflamed. When fellow Jesuit students came to his bedside, he spoke of Paradise as if he would soon be there. The brother infirmarian suggested he should receive Communion the next day, even though it was not a Sunday. (Communion was taken only once a week in those days.) The Jesuit community came in procession bringing Viaticum to their dying brother. He asked for his crucifix, rosary and the rule book he so closely followed. There was a steady stream of visitors, including the Superior General. He spent his final night in prayer and died on the morning of August 13. He was just 22 years of age. It was said that numerous miracles were attributed to him even at the time of his funeral. He was beatified in 1865 and canonized in 1888. His body lies in the church of St. Ignatius in Rome, where Aloysius Gonzaga is also buried.
John was beloved by all who knew him and is remembered today for his unfailing cheerfulness and his strong desire to do God’s will, even in the most ordinary of things.
Gospel reading of the day:
As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage that the Church gives us to consider on this Thanksgiving Day is a narrative that we encountered recently. Even so, it bears repeating. It is common to think that God rewards the good and punishes the bad. It is easy to fall into this mindset because we have been raised with the idea that the just are sent to heaven for their deeds and the unjust, to hell for theirs. I think that it is important to remember that God is good every day to all of us, whether or not we are good or bad. As Jesus says elsewhere in the gospels, “God makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike.” It is good to remember this on any day, and Thanksgiving Day provides a special opportunity to bring this to mind. God is good whether or not we are good, and God gives good things to us whether we have behaved well or badly. In the passage, ten lepers are made whole and entire, but only one understands his own obligation of gratitude to the God who has rained down a great gift. In many ways throughout the course of the year, God has made us complete and entire. At the root of this gospel passage today is a notion of gratitude, that we can cultivate in ourselves an attitude of thanksgiving for what God gives us and live through that experience to greet each gift that we receive with joy and humility. Today as every day, let us model ourselves on the pattern of that leper who stopped, reflected, understood what God has done, and fell on his knees to the Giver of All Gifts full of thanks.
Saint of the day: Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi and Maria Corsini were married in Rome on November 25, 1884. Typically, we celebrate a memorial on the day of a saint’s death, but because this couple, who were beatified together, died on two different days, the church celebrates their memorial on the anniversary of the day of their marriage. Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi was born in Catania, Italy in January1880, and Maria Corsini was born in Florence, Italy in June 1884. Together, they lived a life of holiness and devotion which they instilled in their marriage. As their children were born, Maria and Luigi shared with their family attendance each day at Mass, Holy Communion, the rosary, and consecration to Jesus’ Heart. They raised four children. Between 1924 and 1927, their firstborn son Phillipo began to pursue the priesthood, their son Cesare left home to become a trappist monk, and their daughter Stephania entered the Benedictine Cloister to become a nun. They lived the social gospel: during World War II, for example, they opened their homes to shelter refugees. Luigi suffered a heart attack and died on November 9, 1951. Maria died in her daughter Enirchetta’s arms at their house in the mountains in August 1965. They were beatified jointly in October 2001.
Jesus said to the crowd: “They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: More than 2,000 years have passed since Jesus made this prediction, and we know that Jesus’ words about the cost of faith in Jesus have proven true. Carrying the gospel with us can be very costly indeed. No matter the price that we pay for our faith in Jesus, however, Jesus promises to remain with us until the end, giving us wisdom to refute lies and promising that no one will be able to injure our most essential self.
Saint of the day: Persecution strengthened Catholicism in Vietnam. French missionaries in particular introduced Catholicism among the Vietnamese from the early 17th century onward. Conversions were abundant in the 18th century and up till 1819. But when the profligate Emperor Minh-mang ruled (1820-1841), he initiated a brutal persecution of Catholics. In an edict of January 6, 1833, he ordered all Christians to renounce their faith, and as a sign of that renunciation, to tread on a crucifix. This command was followed by the destruction of Catholic churches and religious houses, and the death penalty for all priests. Thousands died in the prolonged massacre, among them not only numerous missionary clergy and religious, but myriads of native Christians, priests, religious and laity, cruelly tortured and executed.
The death of Minh-mang marked a slackening of the murders, but under his successors, new legislation eventually renewed the attack against Christianity. Only in 1862 did the anti-Christian movement begin to give way but only because of French influence; the French justified their occupation of Vietnam in 1883 because of the incomplete implementation of religious liberty. Vietnam remained a French protectorate until it threw off French control in 1954. In the 1960s the country had a population of 31 million and a well-organized Catholic population of 2.25 million, a population that native bishops governed.
Few nations have had to pay so dearly for their Catholicism. As many as 100,000 had died for the faith by 1800. In the 19th century, the number of victims increased, with from 100,000 to 300,000 executed. It would have been impossible to name all these martyrs. The 117 saints that the Church has identified include eight missionary bishops, several missionary priests, and a large number of native victims: priests, religious, and lay people.
Spiritual reading: A slight sabre-cut will separate my head from my body, like the spring flower which the Master of the garden gathers for His pleasure. We are all flowers planted on this earth, which God plucks in God’s own good time: some a little sooner, some a little later . . . Father and Son may we meet in Paradise. I, poor little moth, go first. Adieu. (Theophane Venard)
While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, “All that you see here–the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”
Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus calls us in this passage to be careful and prudent when we read the signs of the times. It is easy to be deceived and to err in our estimations of events. Many Christians read cataclysmic portents into the events of our day, but it is for God to know when time concludes: our task is to be available to the present moment and address what need God sets before us as we make our way. Being available to the present moment and addressing what God sets before us call on us to be people of faith who trust God. We are to put away our fear and cast off our anxiety as we hope in the Lord.
Saint of the day: Miguel Augustin Pro was born in Guadalupe de Zacatecas, Mexico on January 13, 1891 in a large family of seven brothers and sisters. Inspired by two of his sisters entering religious life, Miguel, at the age of 20, entered the Society of Jesus at Hacienda El Llano.
It was a time of political and religious persecution in Mexico under the rule of Presidents Alvaro Obregon and then Plutarco Elias Calles, described by writer Graham Greene as the “fiercest persecution of religion anywhere since the reign of [Queen] Elizabeth.” The Pro family suffered both financial and personal hardship. Miguel and his fellow Jesuit novices were also under threat, as Catholic priests and religious were particular objects of persecution in the reign of terror.
Following a raid of their religious house, the Jesuit superiors ordered Miguel and the other novices to flee Mexico. They went first to Los Gatos, California and from there to Granada, Spain (1915-19) and then Miguel did some teaching in Nicaragua from 1919 to 1922. Because of his background with miners in Mexico and his natural ability to relate well with them, he was sent to Enghein in Belgium to study the Catholic labour movement. He was also ordained priest there on August 31, 1925. His first assignment as a priest was to work with miners in Charleroi, Belgium and he was able to win them over.
A few months after his ordination he had several operations arising from stomach ulcers. He was also distressed by the situation back home. Yet, his companions noted that when he felt the most pain, he would seem at his most cheerful.
With the hope of helping him regain his health, in 1926 he was granted his wish to return to Mexico to be closer to his family, even though the Church in Mexico was facing major challenges from an anti-Catholic government under the presidency of President Calles. Constitutional amendments and legislation had recently been passed which severely restricted public worship. Any Catholic priest daring to celebrate the Eucharist or administer any of the sacraments risked harassment, arrest, torture and even execution.
Under such circumstances Miguel played a cat and mouse game with the police as he secretly ministered to the physical and spiritual needs of the people – rich, poor, business people or laborers, even some Socialists and Communists. Getting around by bicycle and variously disguised as a mechanic, a servant, or an educated person of culture, he was able to give spiritual sustenance to many people. In the spirit of St. Paul, he was all things to all people for the sake of proclaiming the Gospel. He won people over through prayer and his great sense of humor. While the army and police had their guns, Miguel used to say, pointing to his crucifix: “Here is my weapon. With this I do not fear anyone.”
He had also said: “I am ready to give my life for souls but I want nothing for myself. All that I want is to lead them to God. If I kept anything for myself, I should be a thief, infamous; I should no longer be a priest.”
Many of the details of his ministry come from his letters, which he signed ‘Cocol’. In October 1926, a warrant for his arrest was issued. He was arrested, released from prison the next day, but kept under surveillance.
An assassination attempt against former president, Álvaro Obregón, in November 1927 provided the state with an excuse to arrest Miguel and his brother Roberto. A young engineer who was involved and confessed his part in the assassination testified the Pro brothers were not involved but he was ignored. The authorities claimed to link the Pro brothers to the crime through an old car which had formerly belonged to one of the brothers. Even though they knew that the brothers were innocent, it was enough that they were both Catholic priests and so enemies of the regime. Simply on that basis, without due process or a trial, the two brothers were condemned to die. On the morning of November 23, 1927, Miguel Pro was led from his cell to his place of execution. The police and military ignored the shouts of a man outside the execution area who said he had a stay of execution for the two brothers. As Miguel was led to his death, a policeman responsible for his capture asked his forgiveness which was immediately given. Minutes before his execution and declining the usual blindfold, Miguel asked to be allowed to pray. He knelt down on the ground, in front of a wall already riddled with bullets from previous executions. Like his Master, he accepted God’s will, then stood up, stretched out his arms as if on a cross. Like his Master, he forgave his executioners and, as they raised their guns, he shouted in a clear and loud voice: “Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long live Christ the King). When the initial shots of the firing squad failed to kill him, a soldier shot him dead at close range.
Strangely, there is a detailed photographic record of the execution. This was done on the express orders of the president and they appeared on the front page of newspapers all over the country. The idea was to intimidate other rebels against the government but, not surprisingly, they had the opposite effect and are now a precious record of a martyr’s death. Miguel Pro was beatified in September 1988.
Miguel is remembered for his happy disposition, his extraordinary dedication to the priestly ministry under the most harsh conditions, and his devotion to Christ the King. One of his companions, Fr. Pulido, said that he “had never seen such an exquisite wit, never coarse, always sparkling.”
Spiritual reading We ought to speak, shout out against injustices, with confidence and without fear. We proclaim the principles of the Church, the reign of love, without forgetting that it is also a reign of justice. (Miguel Agustin Pro, S.J.)
When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage that we read today contrasts two kinds of religious people. In the first part of the passage, Jesus observes some wealthy people who behave ostentatiously. In the second part of the passage, Jesus comments on the poor widow who, without ostentation, gives of everything she has to support the work of the Temple.
This text comes at the end of Jesus’ public ministry and introduces the account of the Lord’s passion and death. In a way, it sums up everything that has come before. Throughout the gospel to this point, Jesus has decried the falseness of religious people who act outwardly as though God were important in their lives but in their hearts suffer from pride and arrogance. He repeatedly has taught that those who are small in the eyes of the world are great in the eyes of God. Jesus’ praise of the widow encapsulates his entire teaching. Moreover, the widow’s willingness to surrender everything she has for God anticipates Jesus’ own sacrifice and willingness to suffer the loss of everything to achieve God’s purpose.
A side note is worth considering. Christians rightly have seen in the widow’s sacrifice something entirely worthy of praise. After all, her heart taught her to give completely and trust that God would provide. But it is possible that the passage has another lesson to teach. The wealthy with great fanfare give fortunes of donations to the Temple without eating into their capital. It is at least possible that their example led the widow to do something imprudent, to give all she had to survive, and a part of the corruption of the wealthy was their leading the widow to do something which injured her.
Saint of the day: In the fourth century appeared a Greek religious romance on the Loves of Cecilia and Valerian, written, like those of Chrysanthus and Daria, and Julian and Basilissa, in glorification of the virginal life, and with the purpose of taking the place of such sensual romances of Daphnis and Chloe, and Chereas and Callirhoe, which were then popular. There may have been a foundation of fact on which the story was built up, but the Roman Calendar of the fourth century and the Carthaginian Calendar of the fifth make no mention of Cecilia.
According to the tradition that exists, Cecilia was a cultivated young patrician woman whose ancestors loomed large in Rome’s history. She vowed her virginity to God, but her parents married her to Valerian of Trastevere. Cecilia told her new husband that she was accompanied by an angel, but in order to see it, he must be purified. He agreed to the purification and was baptized; returning from the ceremony, he found her in prayer accompanied by a praying angel. The angel placed a crown on each of their heads, and offered Valerian a favor; the new convert asked that his brother be baptized.
The two brothers developed a ministry of giving proper burial to martyred Christians. In their turn, they were arrested and martyred for their faith. Cecilia buried them at her villa on the Apprian Way and was arrested for the action. She was ordered to sacrifice to false gods; when she refused, she was martyred in her turn.
The Acta of Cecilia includes the following: “While the profane music of her wedding was heard, Cecilia was singing in her heart a hymn of love for Jesus, her true spouse.” It was this phrase that led to her association with music. Her martyrdom was about 117. First suffocated for a while, she did not die. She was then beheaded.
Spiritual reading: Jesus is our true Mother in nature by our first creation, and he is our true Mother in grace by his taking our created nature. All the lovely works and all the sweet loving offices of beloved motherhood are appropriated to the second person, for in him we have this godly will, whole and safe forever, both in nature and in grace, from his own goodness proper to him. (The Book of Showings by Dame Juliana of Norwich)
The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.”
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: On this Sunday, the Solemnity of Christ the King, we bring to a conclusion the church year and with it, Cycle C in our readings. Next Sunday, we will commence Cycle A as we enter Advent.
Christ the King sums up what we have been reflecting on throughout the year. It is Jesus, as alpha and omega, beginning and end, the first and the last, who has been the theme of our readings for the last 12 months. In this gospel passage from Luke on the nature of Jesus’ kingship, we can appreciate with special poignancy Paul’s admonition,
We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Our King is a king who chose suffering. Our King is a king who chose the company of those who are of no account in the world and promised to lift them up, even as he did here in this passage, bringing healing and hope even as he himself suffered a cruel and unjust punishment. Our King died as he was born, marginalized and at the edges yet a sign and a challenge to all of us.
The Lord eternal reigned before the birth of every living thing.
When all was made as He ordained, then only He was known as King.
When all is ended He will reign alone in awesome majesty.
He was, He is, and He will be, glorious in eternity.
Peerless and unique is He, with none at all to be compared.
Beginningless and endless, His vast dominion is not shared.
He is my God, my life’s redeemer, my refuge in distress.
My shelter sure, my cup of life, His goodness limitless.
I place my spirit in His care, when I wake as when I sleep.
God is with me, I shall not fear, body and spirit in His keep.
(attributed to Solomon ibn Gabriol, 11th century Spain)