Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 14, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel that we read today is a statement about what constitutes human perfection: be you perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect is how the passage ends, and everything that precedes it is the definition of perfection. The passage is not the usual way we think of perfection. What Jesus says is the perfection to which we disciples must aspire is a radical stance utterly contrary to the wisdom of the world and even many religions. Love, in psychological terms, is joy in the presence of a person accompanied by acceptance of that person. It is easy to feel joy and acceptance in the presence of people who feel joy and acceptance in our presence, but to experience joy and acceptance in the presence of our enemies and persecutors is an an extraordinary thing. It is not a thing we can do naturally; it is the experience of people who are plugged into the life of God. What is difficult for us is easy for God, and the nearer we draw to God through daily prayer and meditation, the more the perfection of the Father flows into us and makes possible for us what otherwise would be unnatural and even impossible. We are not called to keep a rule book perfectly. We are called to love perfectly.

Saint of the day: Joseph the Hymnographer was born in about 810. He was the most prolific of the Greek hymn writers. A native of Sicily, he was forced to leave his island in 830 in the wake of an invasion by the Arabs, journeying to Thessalonica and then to Constantinople. He abandoned the Byzantine capital in 841 to escape the severe Iconoclast persecution, but on his way to Rome he was captured by pirates and held for several years in Crete as a slave. Finally escaping, he returned to Constantinople and founded a monastery. For his ardent defense of the icons, he was sent into exile in the Chersonese. Joseph is credited with the composition of about one thousand canons. He died in 886 of natural causes.

Spiritual reading: There are people who suffer terrible distress, and they cannot tell anyone of it, and they go about full of suffering. But if you meet them with a kindly countenance, you may lighten their load with your joy. And it is no small thing to cheer another. (Martin Buber)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 13, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:38-42

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We return to Ordinary Time now that we have celebrated all the feasts associated with Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection. The gospel passage that the Church offers us today, taken from the Sermon on the Mount, is ultimately about the dignity of Jesus’ followers. The notion that we should fail to offer resistance might at first thought seem a sign of weakness, and it is certainly contrary both to our basic impulses and the wisdom of the world. Does not great provocation and injustice call on us to offer active resistance to injury? To strike when we have been hit; kick back, when kicked; bite, when bitten? Doesn’t the admonition, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth seem to us exactly what justice requires? But Jesus invites us to something both greater and deeper: to not live at the level of those who harm others even when natural justice affords us the right to inflict hurt in return for hurt. Our resistance then, as Christians, is to witness to the dignity of the human person by the strength implicit in our silence before provocations by those who yield to violence. It is this passage of the gospel which most explicitly lends itself to the practice of non-violence that marked the missions of such immense moral authorities as Gandhi and Martin Luther King: the notion that the proper reaction to evil is non-violent action. It is not that we lie down before evil. Rather, it is that we stand up for what is right without the use of injury and harm: this is the dignity, the great moral strength, that is our vocation as Christians. What we are called to is far more courageous than the use of force: it is resistance to evil that wholly rejects the tools of evil.

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 christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 12, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 20:19-23

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Happy Pentecost! The Holy Spirit is our Counselor, our Guide, and our Peace: come, let us embrace the Spirit of God. Let us ask the Spirit for good counsel. Let us plead for the Spirit to give us wisdom. Let us fall down and worship the Holy Spirit of God.

Happy Pentecost when the Seven-Fold Spirit rains down upon us!

Spirit derives from the Latin word spiritus, a word that can mean breath. Holy Spirit of God, animate us! Enliven us!

Spirit derives from the Latin word spiritus, a word that can mean wind. Holy Spirit, surprise and refresh us like a gentle breeze that comes on us by surprise on a hot day!

O bright and true Spirit of God, who loves us into existence, make our relationships with one another and God full of light and faithfulness!

Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blessed!

Spiritual reading: Prayer, fasting, vigil and all other Christian activities, however good they may be in themselves, do not constitute the aim of our Christian life, although they serve as the

indispensable means of reaching this end. The true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done for Christ’s sake, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God. (Saint Seraphim of Sarov)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 11, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 21:20-25

Peter turned and saw the disciple following whom Jesus loved, the one who had also reclined upon his chest during the supper and had said, “Master, who is the one who will betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me.” So the word spread among the brothers that that disciple would not die. But Jesus had not told him that he would not die, just “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours?”

It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.

Reflection on the gospel reading: In contemporary biography, writers seek to present what they know about people, questions like what their subjects liked and disliked, how they went about answering questions, and the ways they related to other people. Ancient biographers, however, weren’t interested in questions like personal predilections or cognitive and social styles; they focused on stories about what people said and what they did.

The gospels, I think, leave us with a somewhat dissatisfying sense of our Lord’s personality, that is, I think they leave us with a somewhat dissatisfying sense of the Lord’s personality right up to the the point of the resurrection accounts. Somehow, the accounts of the resurrected Lord so excited the authors that they left us traces not only of the resurrected Lord’s deeds and sayings but also his attitudes and approaches toward people. This gospel presents perhaps the best example of what I see of the depiction of Jesus’ personality evident in the resurrection accounts.

In today’s passage, Peter apparently exhibited a certain preoccupation with what was going to happen to someone else. While the Lord is talking to Peter about Peter, Peter seems to want to change the subject. He effectively says, “Hey, Lord, what about that guy over there?” And our Lord replies, “Peter, never mind that guy over there. What happens to him is not your concern. Pay attention to what I am telling you: you, Peter, are to follow me.”

So it is with us. We naturally are concerned with what happens to the people around us, but we ultimately exercise responsibility for our own behavior. We need to keep our eye on the ball: Jesus has charged us, just as he charged Peter, to follow him. If we do this, we will discharge our duties to one another, as well.

Saint of the day: All we know of Barnabas is to be found in the New Testament. A Jew, born in Cyprus and named Joseph, he sold his property and gave the proceeds to the Apostles, who gave him the name Barnabas. He lived in common with the earliest converts to Christianity in Jerusalem. He persuaded the community there to accept Paul as a disciple; was sent to Antioch, Syria to look into the community there; and brought Paul there from Tarsus. With Paul, he brought Antioch’s donation to the Jerusalem community during a famine and returned to Antioch with John Mark, his cousin. The three went on a missionary journey to Cyprus, Perga (when John Mark went to Jerusalem) and Antioch in Pisidia, where they were so violently opposed by the Jews that they decided to preach to the pagans. Then they went on to Iconium and Lystra in Lycaonia, where they were first acclaimed gods, then stoned out of the city, and then returned to Antioch in Syria.

When a dispute arose regarding the observance of the Jewish rites, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem, where at a council, it was decided that pagans did not have to be circumcised to be baptized. On their return to Antioch, Barnabas wanted to take John Mark on another visitation to the cities where they had preached, but Paul objected because of John Mark’s desertion of them in Perga. Paul and Barnabas parted, and Barnabas returned to Cyprus with Mark; nothing further is heard of him, though it is believed his rift with Paul was ultimately healed. Tradition has Barnabas preaching in Alexandria and Rome, the founder of the Cypriote Church, the Bishop of Milan (which he was not), and has him stoned to death at Salamis about the year 61. The apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas was long attributed to him, but modern scholarship now attributes it to a Christian in Alexandria between the years 70 and 100; the Gospel of Barnabas is probably by an Italian Christian who became a Moslem; and the Acts of Barnabas once attributed to John Mark are now known to have been written in the fifth century.

Spiritual reading: It is for the prodigal son that the Father lays out his banquet. If the son had lived economically, he would not have thought of returning. (“Prodigal Sons” by Simone Weil)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 10, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 21:15-19

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them, he said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: This passage is my favorite passage in all of the scriptures. Jesus has risen from the dead, and he appears to his disciples at the shore of Lake Tiberius. This passage describes a very human interaction between Peter and the risen Lord. Peter has denied the Lord three times even though he said at the Last Supper that even if all the other disciples abandoned Jesus, he would never abandon Jesus. Of course, Peter after the Lord’s arrest three times denied the Lord.

In this narrative, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these other ones do?” Peter affirms that he loves the Lord, but he doesn’t boast that he loves him any more than the other ones do. “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,” he says, but does not repeat, “more than these,” suggesting that he is chastened by what he did. Then the Lord tells him to minister to his people. Just as Peter three times denied the Lord in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house, Jesus inquires of Peter three times whether Peter loves him. The threefold quest by Jesus for attestation of Peter’s love is not lost on Peter, who is “distressed that he had said to him a third time, ‘Do you love me?’”

We live in relationship to one another, and we too frequently strain the bonds of affection among us. We ever and always need to be ready to forgive, but just as relationship is a process, healing broken bonds in relationships is a process. We see in today’s gospel, Jesus’ readiness to heal injured ties but his simultaneous awareness that both parties must give and take in the restoration of friendship after some form of betrayal.

The passage we read today ends with Jesus’ invitation to Peter and, by extension, Jesus’ invitation to us. As we move through our relationship with Jesus, what is incumbent upon us in this relationship is that we follow him.

Saint of the day: Edward Joannes Maria Poppe was born in Temse in 1890 as the third child and eldest son of a baker. He studied at the college of Sint-Niklaas from 1905 until 1910, where he was a member of De Klauwaerts, a Flemish student association in the Flemish Movement of before World War I.

Although his father died in 1907, he was able to continue his studies and to go to the seminary in 1910 to become a priest. He studied Thomism at the Catholic University of Louvain. Influenced by the works of Louis de Montfort, he became devoted to the Blessed Mother. In 1913, he moved to the Great Seminar of Ghent, where he became a member of Filioli Caritatis, a group of young priests aiming for priestly sanctity.

When the war started in 1914, Poppe was called to arms, but fell sick in Bourlers, part of Chimay. After strengthening again in Temse, he went to the seminar of Mechelen, which stayed open. Finally, on May 1, 1916, he was ordained a priest. His motto was “Accendatur” – “May the fire be kindled,” referring to Luke 12:49.

Poppe became the parish associate pastor in Sint-Coleta, a poor laborers’ parish in Ghent. He started a communion bond for the youngest children, introducing them to many aspects of Christianity. Poppe also chose to live in severe poverty and to be like one of his parishers.

Exhausted, due to his way of living and his weak health, he was transferred to a monastery in Moerzeke. Mostly confined to his bed, he wrote numerous texts for the “Eucharistische Kruistocht” (“Eucharistic Crusade”) of the Averbode Abbey, often appearing in the popular youth magazine Zonneland.

When his health slightly improved, he was appointed as spiritual leader of the military school in Leopoldsburg in 1922. A cardiac crisis in 1923, when visiting his mother with Christmas, made it impossible for him to return to Leopoldsburg, and he again was confined to the monastery of Moerzeke. He died there on June 10, 1924.

Spiritual reading: The one who is always alone is worthy of God, and to the one who is always at home is God present, and in that one who stands always in the present does God the Father bear the Son unceasingly. (Meister Eckhart)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 9, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 17:20-26

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: “I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus continues in today’s gospel his priestly prayer for the unity of his followers. This subject, of course, is a touchy one for those of us who share in modern times the one baptism of Jesus Christ. Various rifts over the course of the history of the Church have splintered us into different traditions. In light of this experience, we might despair and be tempted to believe that Jesus’ prayer has failed and failed badly at that.

But I, for my part, do not believe Jesus’ prayer has failed. The truth about God is very large indeed, and it seems impossible to me that any one narrative about God comprehends the truth about God. God has made all of us in God’s own image, and yet we all exhibit many differences. This fact suggests to me that the truth about God requires many different narratives to explain it. God needs God’s many churches to provide homes for the many narratives that attempt to explain the truth about God and appeal to the hearts of all of those of us who would believe. So I say, rejoice in our Christian plurality, for in it, we draw closer to the one true God.

Saint of the day: Jose Anchieta, S.J., the apostle of Brazil, was born on March 19, 1534 at San Cristobal de la Laguna, Canary Islands, Spain. The son of a wealthy and prominent family, and possibly related to Saint Ignatius of Loyola, he was educated in Portugal. He became a Jesuit in 1551 at age 17.

A missionary to Brazil, he arrived in July 1553. He is called the National Apostle of Brazil. He was a cofounder of the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. In his youth, he dislocated his spine. When he joined the Jesuits, he was sent to Brazil for its mild climate in the hope that his back would improve. It never did, and he was in constant pain for the 44 years he worked in the Americas.

He and the Jesuit Emanuel Nóbrega arrived at Piratininga on the feast of Saint Paul. For this reason, he named the mission Sao Paulo. In 1553, he first met the Tupi Indians who lived on the outskirts of the settlement. Adept at languages, Jose soon learned to speak the language of the Tupis. For two decades, Jose worked on a grammar and dictionary used by Portuguese settlers and missionaries.

Jose was later held hostage for five months by the Tamoyo tribe. During this time, he occupied himself by composing a Latin poem in honor of the Blessed Virgin. Since he had no writing supplies, he wrote in wet sand and memorized the verses. When he again reached Sao Vicente, he committed all 4,172 lines to paper.

Jose converted the Maramomis tribe, and composed plays for his students to perform, writing them in Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, and Tupi. Because his dramas were the first written in Brazil, Jose is known as the Father of Brazilian national literature.

He became a Jesuit provincial in 1577. In letters to his fellow missionaries, he warned that burning desire was not enough: “You must come with a bag-full of virtues.” He died June 9, 1597 at Reritigba, Brazil.

Spiritual reading: God does not seek God’s own benefit. In everything God acts only out of love. Thus, people who are united with God lives the same way – they are innocent and free. They live for love without asking why, and solely for the glory of God, never seeking personal advantage: God alone is at work in them. (Meister Eckhart)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 8, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 17:11b-19

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.

I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel, Jesus continues his prayer to the Father. He asks the Father that his apostles, and by extension, that we, may completely share Jesus’ joy. He does not ask that we be removed from the world; instead he ask that God will shelter us from its evil influences. In doing so, Jesus asks the Father that we be dedicated to the truth.

A word about truth perhaps is in order. As I see it, truth is like a diamond. It has many facets. When you hold it up to the light and turn it, the light glances off the diamond in different ways; it is ever the same diamond, but it is perceived in different ways according to the place where the one who perceives stands. So we should not be too certain of our own truths as being the fullness of revelation. None of us is large enough to see what God sees. So it is that we live in an age that is increasingly comfortable with diversity. We pray with Jesus that in the midst of our diversity of cultures, backgrounds, beliefs, and practices, we always may recognize and honor, as Paul says to us in Ephesians, that there is but one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. I profess that the truth is Jesus Christ, the Word of God spoken in our hearts: how that one truth plays out in individual lives is still unfolding as the mystery of all our lives unfold.

Blessed be the God who keeps us in our diversity in God’s own truth.

Saint of the day: A disputed election as archbishop of York and a mysterious death. Those are the headlines from the tragic life of today’s saint, William of York.

Born into a powerful family in 12th-century England, William seemed destined for great things. His uncle was next in line for the English throne—though a nasty dynastic struggle complicated things. William himself faced an internal Church feud.

Despite these roadblocks, he was nominated as archbishop of York in 1140. Local clergymen were less enthusiastic, however, and the archbishop of Canterbury refused to consecrate William. Three years later a neighboring bishop performed the consecration, but it lacked the approval of Pope Innocent II, whose successors likewise withheld approval. William was deposed and a new election was ordered.

It was not until 1154—14 years after he was first nominated—that William became archbishop of York. When he entered the city that spring after years of exile, he received an enthusiastic welcome. Within two months he was dead, probably from poisoning. His administrative assistant was a suspect, though no formal ruling was ever made.

Despite all that happened to him, William did not show resentment toward his opponents. Following his death, many miracles were attributed to him. He was canonized 73 years later.

Spiritual reading: God does not seek God’s own benefit. In everything God acts only out of love. Thus, the person who is united with God lives the same way – she or he is innocent and free. She or he lives for love without asking why, and solely for the glory of God, never seeking personal advantage: God alone is at work in them. (Meister Eckhart)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 7, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 17:1-11a

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him. Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ. I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began.

“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: John puts the words in today’s gospel on the lips of Jesus at the Last Supper, but they are really words that the resurrected and exalted Jesus in heaven speaks even now into the ear of his Father. The words are Jesus’ prayer of recognition of what has happened to us as the result of his mission. The words are the hope to which we as Christians aspire.

Saint of the day: Antony Mary Gianelli was born near Genoa, Italy, in 1789. As a youth Antony was conspicuous for his gentle docility, industry, and intelligence. A generous benefactress made it possible for this middle-class boy to study in Genoa. He so distinguished himself in his seminary studies that he was allowed to preach while he was still only a subdeacon. Even then his eloquence drew crowds. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1812 by special dispensation because he was not of canonical age for ordination. He engaged in pastoral and educational work as a parish priest, gave numerous missions, and became known for his preaching and as a confessor besieged by penitents. He became archpriest of Chiavari in 1826. Before he was 40, he had founded a congregation of priests (in 1827), Missioners of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, and one of women (in 1829), Sisters of Santa Maria dell’Orto (‘of the Garden’), who were devoted to teaching poor children and caring for the sick. These sisters spread to the United States and Asia. In 1838, he was appointed bishop of Bobbio, where he ruled wisely until his death on June 8, 1846. Because he was a man of extraordinary virtue and prudence, he gained the support of his priests.

Spiritual reading: What God requires of the soul is the essence of self-surrender. The free gifts he asks from us are self-denial, obedience and love. The rest is his business. (St. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 6, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 16:29-33

The disciples said to Jesus, “Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech. Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you believe now? Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone. But I am not alone, because the Father is with me. I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus tells us that in this world, we will have trouble, but that we should have courage because he has conquered the world. But Jesus has promised us that a day will come when he will wipe away every tear. When sorrow surrounds us, and we despair for our troubles, let us still remember that he already has borne the cost and, in this time in between, this already but not yet, what we are watching is how God wins God’s victory. Jesus already has conquered the world, and our troubles are shadows in the bright glow of his ultimate triumph.

Saint of the day: Robert Salt was a Carthusian martyr. Robert was a lay brother in the Carthusian community of London who, with six other members of the order, was starved to death at Newgate by order of King Henry VIII of England after they resisted his Dissolution of the Monasteries. On May 29, 1537 all were sent to Newgate, where they were chained standing and with their hands tied behind them to posts in the prison, and so left to die of starvation. However Margaret Clement, who as Margaret Giggs had been brought up in the household of St. Thomas More, bribed the gaoler to let her have access to the prisoners, and disguised herself as a milkmaid and carried in a milk-can full of meat, wherewith she fed them. After the king’s inquiry as to whether they were not already dead, the gaoler was afraid to let her enter again; but she was allowed to go on the roof, and uncovering the tiles, she let down meat in a basket as near as she could to their mouths. However they could get little or nothing from the basket, and as the gaoler feared discovery, even this plan was soon discontinued. Robert died on June 9 of starvation.

Spiritual reading: We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers. (Martin Luther King)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 5, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Today, the Church celebrates the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. The Ascension is not about Jesus going to a place. Rather, as this passage that we read today indicates, the Ascension is about Jesus’ relationship to the Father, and through his relationship to the Father, to us. Just as God transcends time, so too does the Ascension. The Ascension is about the experience of the resurrected Lord, who has (in the past) been given all power in heaven and earth, who (in the present) gives a portion of that power to his disciples in his commission to preach the gospel, and who (throughout all the future) promises to be with his followers. The Ascension is part of the fourfold Paschal mystery, which incorporates the Lord’s suffering and death, the resurrection, the Ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In short, it is an entirely relational event, an event that relates the resurrected Jesus to the Father, and through the coming of the Spirit, enfolds the life of the Church into the life of the Trinity.

Spiritual reading: Christ is already in that place of peace, which is all in all. He is on the right hand of God. He is hidden in the brightness of the radiance which issues from the everlasting throne. He is in the very abyss of peace, where there is no voice of tumult or distress, but a deep stillness–stillness, that greatest and most awful of all goods which we can fancy; that most perfect of joys, the utter profound, ineffable tranquillity of the Divine Essence. He has entered into His rest. That is our home; here we are on a pilgrimage, and Christ calls us to His many mansions which He has prepared. (Blessed John Cardinal Newman)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 4, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 16:23b-28

Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

“I have told you this in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father. On that day you will ask in my name, and I do not tell you that I will ask the Father for you. For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have come to believe that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: At the conclusion of Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper, the Lord promises that whatever we ask in Jesus’ name, the Father will give us. Jesus assures us that because we love Jesus, the Father loves us, and this is the entire assurance that we need.

Saint of the day: Edfrith of Lindisfarne was a monk of the seventh and eighth centuries. Edfrith’s life is obscure prior to his becoming bishop in 698. He studied in Ireland and was well-trained as a scribe, an artist, and a calligrapher because it seems almost certain that he alone wrote and illuminated the Lindisfarne Gospels, which can now be seen in the British Library.

His masterpiece was dedicated to Saint Cuthbert and would have taken at least two years to complete. He welcomed the new text of the Gospels and the new layout, both of which came to him from Italy via Wearmouth-Jarrow. He provided evangelist portraits as a creative artist in a field of Mediterranean expertise, but he also excelled in insular majuscule script and Irish geometric and zoomorphic decoration of extraordinary delicacy and accuracy. The fusion of all these elements in one work is a tribute to Edfrith’s well-rounded education and the merging of Roman and Irish elements in Northumbria about 35 years after the Synod of Whitby.

The manuscript would have been enough to ensure Edfrith a place in art history; nevertheless, he was also a good bishop. Most of his memorable actions, however, are associated with Saint Cuthbert. The anonymous Life of Cuthbert was dedicated to Edfrith and he commissioned Saint Bede to write his prose Life of Cuthbert. He restored Cuthbert’s oratory on the Inner Farne Island for the use of Saint Felgild. He may also have been the recipient of a letter from Saint Aldhelm. He died in 721.

Edfrith was connected with Cuthbert even in death: He was buried near his tomb. His relics, together with those of Saints Aidan, Eadbert, and Ethelwold, were taken with Cuthbert’s in their wanderings through Northumbria from 875 to 995, when they reached Durham.

Spiritual reading: Pray, trust, and don’t worry. (Padre Pio)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 3, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 16:20-23

Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy. When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. On that day you will not question me about anything. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In this passage from the discourse at the Last Supper, Jesus repeats the themes that we read in yesterday’s gospel. There is the prediction of the disciple’s sorrow and the promise of their inevitable joy. There also is the new assurance that when joy comes, no one will be able to take it away. Finally, there is the reason why we pray in Jesus’ name, the promise we have received that what we ask in Jesus’ name, the Father will give us. Let us pray today, then, that we may be filled with the joy the Lord promises us in awareness of his resurrection.

Saint of the day: For those of us who think that the faith and zeal of the early Christians died out as the Church grew more safe and powerful through the centuries, the martyrs of Uganda are a reminder that persecution of Christians continues in modern times, even to the present day.

The Society of Missionaries of Africa (known as the White Fathers) had only been in Uganda for 6 years and yet they had built up a community of converts whose faith would outshine their own. The earliest converts were soon instructing and leading new converts that the White Fathers couldn’t reach. Many of these converts lived and taught at King Mwanga’s court.

King Mwanga was a violent ruler and pedophile who forced himself on the young boys and men who served him as pages and attendants. The Christians at Mwanga’s court who tried to protect the pages from King Mwanga.

The leader of the small community of 200 Christians, was the chief steward of Mwanga’s court, a twenty-five-year-old Catholic named Joseph Mkasa (or Mukasa).

When Mwanga killed a Protestant missionary and his companions, Joseph Mkasa confronted Mwanga and condemned his action. Mwanga had always liked Joseph but when Joseph dared to demand that Mwanga change his lifestyle, Mwanga forgot their long friendship. After striking Joseph with a spear, Mwanga ordered him killed. When the executioners tried to tie Joseph’s hands, he told them, “A Christian who gives his life for God is not afraid to die.” He forgave Mwanga with all his heart but made one final plea for his repentance before he was beheaded and then burned on November 15, 1885.

Charles Lwanga took over the instruction and leadership of the Christian community at court — and the charge of keeping the young boys and men out of Mwanga’s hands. Perhaps Joseph’s plea for repentance had had some affect on Mwanga because the persecution died down for six months.

Anger and suspicion must have been simmering in Mwanga, however. In May 1886 he called one of his pages named Mwafu and asked what the page had been doing that kept him away from Mwanga. When the page replied that he had been receiving religious instruction from Denis Sebuggwawo, Mwanga’s temper boiled over. He had Denis brought to him and killed him himself by thrusting a spear through his throat.

He then ordered that the royal compound be sealed and guarded so that no one could escape and summoned the country’s executioners. Knowing what was coming, Charles Lwanga baptized four catechumens that night, including a thirteen-year-old named Kizito. The next morning Mwanga brought his whole court before him and separated the Christians from the rest by saying, “Those who do not pray stand by me, those who do pray stand over there.” He demanded of the fifteen boys and young men (all under 25) if they were Christians and intended to remain Christians. When they answered “Yes” with strength and courage Mwanga condemned them to death.

He commanded that the group be taken on a 37 mile trek to the place of execution at Namugongo. The chief executioner begged one of the boys, his own son, Mabaga, to escape and hide but Mbaga refused. The cruelly-bound prisoners passed the home of the White Fathers on their way to execution. Father Lourdel remembered thirteen-year-old Kizito laughing and chattering. Lourdel almost fainted at the courage and joy these condemned converts, his friends, showed on their way to martyrdom. Three of these faithful were killed on road.

A Christian soldier named James Buzabaliawo was brought before the king. When Mwanga ordered him to be killed with the rest, James said, “Goodbye, then. I am going to Heaven, and I will pray to God for you.” When a grief-stricken Father Lourdel raised his hand in absolution as James passed, James lifted his own tied hands and pointed up to show that he knew he was going to heaven and would meet Father Lourdel there. With a smile he said to Lourdel, “Why are you so sad? This nothing to the joys you have taught us to look forward to.”

Also condemned were Andrew Kagwa, a Kigowa chief, who had converted his wife and several others, and Matthias Murumba (or Kalemba) an assistant judge. The chief counselor was so furious with Andrew that he proclaimed he wouldn’t eat until he knew Andrew was dead. When the executioners hesitated Andrew egged them on by saying, “Don’t keep your counselor hungry — kill me.” When the same counselor described what he was going to do with Matthias, he added, “No doubt his god will rescue him.” “Yes,” Matthias replied, “God will rescue me. But you will not see how he does it, because he will take my soul and leave you only my body.” Matthias was cut up on the road and left to die — it took him at least three days.

The original caravan reached Namugongo and the survivors were kept imprisoned for seven days. On June 3, they were brought out, wrapped in reed mats, and placed on the pyre. Mbaga was killed first by order of his father, the chief executioner, who had tried one last time to change his son’s mind. The rest were burned to death. Thirteen Catholics and 11 Protestants died. They died calling on the name of Jesus and proclaiming, “You can burn our bodies, but you cannot harm our souls.”

When the White Fathers were expelled from the country, the new Christians carried on their work, translating and printing the catechism into their natively language and giving secret instruction on the faith. Without priests, liturgy, and sacraments their faith, intelligence, courage, and wisdom kept the Catholic Church alive and growing in Uganda. When the White Fathers returned after King Mwanga’s death, they found five hundred Christians and one thousand catechumens waiting for them. The twenty-two Catholic martyrs of the Uganda persecution were canonized.

Spiritual reading: The more we live with people in a community, the more we must look to ourselves and regard the beam in our own eyes. The more we live with a babbling crowd, the more we must practice silence. “For every idle word we speak we will be judged.” (Dorothy Day)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 2, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 16:16-20

Jesus said to his disciples: “A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me.” So some of his disciples said to one another, “What does this mean that he is saying to us, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” So they said, “What is this ‘little while’ of which he speaks? We do not know what he means.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing with one another what I said, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus, in his discourse at the Last Supper, warns the disciples that they are about to be disappointed. The disciples had clear expectations about what they thought the messiah would be, and Jesus was about to disappoint them as he endured his passion. Even so, Jesus promises his disciples that their sorrow will turn to joy. Jesus’ promise to his followers on the night before he died is his promise to us now. We shall taste tears: this is true. But Jesus promises us that our tears in the end will become joy. We simply must trust and wait on the Lord.

Saint of the day: Erasmus was also known as Elmo. He was the bishop of Formiae, Campagna, Italy, and suffered martyrdom during Diocletian’s persecution of the Christians. He once fled to Mount Lebanon during the persecution and lived a life of solitude there for some time, being fed by a raven. After the emperor discovered his whereabouts, he was tortured and thrown in prison. Legend claims that an angel released him and he departed for Illyricum, eventually suffered a martyr’s death and was one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. Legend records that when a blue light appears at mastheads before and after a storm, the seamen took it as a sign of Erasmus’s protection. This was known as “St. Elmo’s fire.”

The blue electrical discharges under certain atmospheric conditions have also been seen on the masks or riggings of ships. Erasmus is also invoked against stomach cramps and colic. This came about because at one time he had hot iron hooks stuck into his intestines by persecutors under Emperor Diocletian. These wounds he endured with fortitude. He was martyred by disemboweling in 303 at Formiae, Italy.

Spiritual reading: As truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our Mother, and he revealed that in everything, and especially in these sweet words where he says: “I am he; that is to say: I am he, the power and goodness of fatherhood; I am he, the wisdom and the lovingness of motherhood; I am he, the light and the grace which is all blessed love; I am he, the Trinity; I am he, the unity; I am he, the great supreme goodness of every kind of thing; I am he who makes you to love; I am he who makes you to long; I am he, the endless fulfilling of all true desires. For where the soul is highest, noblest, most honorable, still it is lowest, meekest, and mildest.” (A Book of Showings by Dame Juliana of Norwich)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 1, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 16:12-15

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus repeatedly has assured us throughout the Gospel of John that what he tells us he has received from the Father. In today’s gospel, in the promise he makes to send the Holy Spirit, he assures us that what the Spirit tells us also comes from the Father and that the Spirit will guide us according to the Father’s will. As a people committed to the Gospel, we need always to pray that the Spirit guide us into the truth so that we may pass on with fidelity to others what we ourselves have received.

Saint of the day: All the voices around Justin clamored that they had the truth he sought so desperately. He had listened to them all since he first came to Rome to get his education. They each shouted that they held the one and only answer but he felt no closer to the truth than when he had started his studies. He had left the Stoic master behind but the Stoics valued discipline as truth and thought discussion of God unnecessary. He had rejected the Peripatetics who seemed more interested in money than discussion. The Pythagoreans had rejected him because he didn’t know enough music and geometry, the things that would lead him to truth. He had found some joy with the Platonists because the contemplation of ideas gave wings to his mind, but they had promised wisdom would let him see God and so, where was God?

There was one place that Justin always escaped to in order to get away from these shouting, confusing voices and search out the quiet inner voice that led him to truth. This place was a lonely spot, a path that seemed made for him alone in a field by the sea. So sure was he of the isolation of his retreat that he was shocked one day to find an old man following him.

The old man was not searching for truth but for some of his family. Nonetheless they began a discussion in which Justin identified himself as a philologian, a lover of reason. The old man challenged him — why was he not a lover of truth, a lover of deeds. Justin told him that reason led to truth, and philosophy led to happiness. This was certainly an interesting thing for Justin to say since he had not found the truth in the study of reason or happiness in his quest among the philosophers! Perhaps the old man sensed this for he asked for Justin’s definition of philosophy and of happiness.

In the long discussion that followed, Justin spoke eloquently to the old man’s searching questions but even Justin had to admit that philosophers may talk about God but had never seen him, may discuss the soul but didn’t really know it. But if the philosophers whom Justin admired and followed couldn’t, then nobody could, right?

The old man told him about the ancient prophets, the Hebrew prophets, who had talked not of ideas but of what they had seen and heard, what they knew and experienced. And this was God. The old man ended the conversation by telling Justin to pray that the gates of light be opened to him.

Inflamed by this conversation, Justin sought out the Scriptures and came to love them. Christ words “possess a terrible power in themselves, and are sufficient to inspire those who turn aside from the path of rectitude with awe; while the sweetest rest is afforded those who make a diligent practice of them.”

Why hadn’t Justin known about Christianity before with as much as he had studied? He had heard about it, the way other pagans of second century Rome had, by the rumors and accusations that surrounded the persecution of Christians. The fearlessness of their actions made him doubt the gossip, but he had nothing else to go by. Christians at that time kept their beliefs secret. They were so afraid that outsiders would trample on their sacred faith and desecrate their mysteries that they wouldn’t tell anyone about their beliefs — even to counteract outright lies. To be honest, there was good reason for their fears — many actors for example performed obscene parodies of Christian ritual for pagan audiences, for example.

But Justin believed differently. He had been one of those outsiders — not someone looking for trouble, but someone earnestly searching for the truth. The truth had been hidden from him by this fear of theirs. And he believed there were many others like him. He exhorted them that Christians had an obligation to speak of their faith, to witness to others about their faith and their mysteries.

So Justin took his newfound faith to the people. This layman became the first great apologist for Christianity and opened the gates of light for so many others. He explained baptism and Eucharist. He explained to the pagans why they didn’t worship idols and why that didn’t make them atheists. He explained to the Jews how Christians could worship the same God but not follow Jewish laws. He explained to the Greeks and the philosophers how philosophy did not take into account the dignity of humankind. He wrote long arguments known as apologies and traveled to other lands in order to debate publicly. His long education in philosophy and rhetoric gave him the skills he needed to match his opponents and the Holy Spirit gave him the rest.

It is not surprising that Justin was arrested during the persecution under Marcus Aurelius. Along with four others (Chariton, Charites, Paeon, and Liberianus) he was brought before the Roman prefect, Rusticus, to be accused under the law that required sacrificing to idols. When Rusticus demanded that they “Obey the gods at once, and submit to the kings,” Justin responded, “To obey the commandments of our Savior Jesus Christ is worthy neither of blame nor of condemnation.”

When Rusticus asked what doctrines he believed, Justin told him that he had learned all the doctrines available during his quest but finally submitted to the true doctrines of the Christians, even though they didn’t please others. (An understatement when he was under danger of death!)

When Rusticus asked where the Christians gathered, Justin gave a response that gives us insight into Christian community and worship of the time: “Where each one chooses and can: for do you fancy that we all meet in the very same place? Not so; because the God of the Christians is not circumscribed by place; but being invisible, fills heaven and earth, and everywhere is worshipped and glorified by the faithful.”

When Rusticus asked each of them if they were a Christian, they all responded the same way: “Yes, I am a Christian.” When Rusticus tried to put responsibility for this on Justin, they responded that God had made them Christians.

Just before Rusticus sentenced them he asked Justin, “If you are killed do you suppose you will go to heaven?” Justin said, “I do not suppose it, but I know and am fully persuaded of it.”

Justin and his fellow martyrs were beheaded in the year 165 and went to be with the Truth Justin had longed for all his life. He is often known as Justin Martyr and his works are still available.

Spiritual reading: Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime. (Martin Luther)