Jesus said to his disciples: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus in today’s gospel offers two brief parables about the kingdom. In the first of these parables, someone allegorically finds the kingdom by stumbling upon it; in the second of these parables, someone sets out with single-minded determination to find it and doesn’t rest until he achieves it. In these parables, Jesus tells us that conversion can occur in many ways: we may sometimes just happen upon it, and after the encounter, it will consume us, or we may search for the kingdom with great determination and discipline. In either case, once we have encountered the kingdom, an individual understands in her or his heart that it is to be preferred over every other thing. Our encounter with Jesus can occur in many ways, but once we have met him, we understand in our hearts that he is to be preferable to everyone and everything else.
Saint of the day: In 1491, the year before Columbus encountered the New World, Ignatius was born into a Basque noble family in Loyola, Cantabria. The founder of the Jesuits was on his way to military fame and fortune as a knight when a cannon ball shattered his leg. Because there were no books of romance on hand during his convalescence, Ignatius whiled away the time reading a life of Christ and lives of the saints. His conscience was deeply touched, and a long, painful turning to Christ began. Having seen the Mother of God in a vision, he made a pilgrimage to her shrine at Montserrat (near Barcelona). He remained for almost a year at nearby Manresa, sometimes with the Dominicans, sometimes in a pauper’s hospice, often in a cave in the hills praying. After a period of great peace of mind, he went through a harrowing trial of scruples. There was no comfort in anything—prayer, fasting, sacraments, penance. At length, his peace of mind returned.
He finally achieved his purpose of going to the Holy Land, but could not remain, as he planned, because of the hostility of the Turks. He spent the next 11 years in various European universities, studying with great difficulty, beginning almost as a child. Like many others, his orthodoxy was questioned; Ignatius was twice jailed for brief periods.
In 1534, at the age of 43, he and six others (one of whom was St. Francis Xavier) vowed to live in poverty and chastity and to go to the Holy Land. If this became impossible, they vowed to offer themselves to the apostolic service of the pope. The latter became the only choice. Four years later Ignatius made the association permanent. The new Society of Jesus was approved by Paul III, and Ignatius was elected to serve as the first general.
When companions were sent on various missions by the pope, Ignatius remained in Rome, consolidating the new venture, but still finding time to found homes for orphans, catechumens and penitents. He founded the Roman College, intended to be the model of all other colleges of the Society.
Ignatius was a true mystic. He centered his spiritual life on the essential foundations of Christianity—the Trinity, Christ, the Eucharist. His spirituality is expressed in the Jesuit motto, ad majorem Dei gloriam—“for the greater glory of God.” In his concept, obedience was to be the prominent virtue, to assure the effectiveness and mobility of his men. All activity was to be guided by a true love of the Church and unconditional obedience to the Holy Father, for which reason all professed members took a fourth vow to go wherever the pope should send them for the salvation of souls.
At the heart of Jesuit spirituality are the Spiritual Exercises. These exercises are crucial to the formation all Jesuits, but they also provide a handbook for retreat masters and spiritual directors to guide anyone who is under their care. The result of Ignatius’ own experience of conversion, the Exercises are particularly suited to help people individuals to reach sufficient detachment and freedom from inordinate passions when they are trying to make a good choice about their state of life or to achieve some serious reform of character.
These spiritual exercises involve a program in several steps. The full-length version of an Ignatian retreat would involve about a month of praying for four or five distinct hour-long periods each day whole otherwise keeping strict silence, but there are also abridged versions for use on three-day and week-long retreats. The first week invites the person making these exercises to confront sinfulness and to accept God’s mercy. The second week puts the focus of one’s prayer on the public life of Christ, while the third week considers Christ’s passion. In the fourth week, one meditates on Christ arisen and in glory. In addition, there are special exercises at crucial junctures during the exercises where one is invited to hear the call of Christ the King and to ponder the various degrees of humility with which one might be willing to serve Christ.
Spiritual reading: Principle and Foundation–Human beings are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by means of doing this to save their souls. The other things on the face of the earth are created for the human beings, to help them in the pursuit of the end of which they are created. From this it follows that we ought to use these things to the extent that they help us toward our end, and free ourselves from them to the extent that they hinder us from it. To attain this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, in regard to everything which is left our free will and is not forbidden. Consequently, on our own part we ought not to seek health rather than sickness, wealth rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, a long life rather than short one, and so on in all other matters. Rather, we ought to desire and choose only that which is more conducive to the end for which are created. (Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius of Loyola)
A Prayer of Ignatius of Loyola: Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will. All I have and call my own. Whatever I have or hold, you have given to me. I restore it all to you and surrender it wholly to be governed under your will. Give me only your love and grace and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.
Jesus dismissed the crowds and went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the Kingdom. The weeds are the children of the Evil One, and the enemy who sows them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.
“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus invites each of us to live as good seed that produces grain to enrich the kingdom of God, but the Church embraces many kinds of people. We are not the ones to judge the people in the Church. This is for God to sort out on the last day.
Saint of the day: St. Leopold Bogdan Mandic, who lived between 1866 and 1942, was a Croatian-born Franciscan priest and noted confessor who spent most of his priestly life in Padua, Italy. On May 12, 1866, in Croatia, a twelfth child was born to Peter and Caroline Mandic. He was named and baptised Bogdan, ‘the God-given-one’. Although physically frail, from his youth he showed signs of great spiritual strength and integrity. At the age of 16 years, Bogdan left home for Italy to attend the Seraphic School where he was taught by the Capuchins at Udine and was also an aspirant to the order. Life was not easy for him there, since he was physically malformed and still delicate in health.
At the age of 18, Bogdan entered the Capuchin Order as a novice at Bassano del Grappa and took the religious name of Brother Leopold. After his Profession of Vows at 23, he embarked on a course of clerical studies first at Padua and then at Venice. Finally, he was ordained in Venice at the age of 28.
In the mid-1880s, Bishop Joseph Juraj Strossmayer began an ecumenical movement which focused on unity in diversity, consecrating the cathedral of Djakovo i Srijem (Bosnia) “for the glory of God, church ecumenism, and the peace and love of my people.”Father Leopold dedicated himself to the same end.
Refusing to renounce his Croatian nationality during World War I, Leopold was forced to go to southern Italy, where he spent one year in an Italian prison. He wanted to be a missionary in Eastern Europe, torn apart by much religious strife, but was denied by his superiors because of his frailty and general ill-health (In addition to physical deformities, Father Leopold suffered from stomach ailments, poor eyesight, and arthritis.)
For 34 years he heard confessions. He was always quick, serene, affable, available for any sacrifice for the good and service of others. Wherever he was assigned over the years, Leopold was greatly admired and loved by the people. Father Leopold gave tremendous encouragement to many people, especially those despairing of hope because of an enslavement to sin.
Father Leopold also had a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary whom he referred to as “my holy boss.” He was known to pray the rosary quite often and celebrated the Eucharist daily at the side altar in the Little Office of the Virgin Mary. He would then visit the sick in nursing homes, hospitals, and homes all over Padua. He visited the Capuchin infirmary to comfort the sick friars, giving them words of advice and reminding them to have faith. He was an outspoken on issues with children and was especially fond of expectant mothers and young children. He did great work in setting up orphanages for children without parents.
Father Leopold suffered from cancer of the esophagus, which would ultimately lead to his death at age 76. On July 30, 1942, while preparing for the liturgy, he collapsed on the floor. He was then brought to his cell, where he was given the last rites. Friars that had gathered at his bed sang “Salve Regina,” and when they got to the words, “O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary,” Leopold died.
During the bombing of World War II the church and part of the friary where Leopold lived were demolished, but Leopold’s cell and confessional were left unharmed. Leopold had predicted this before his death, saying, “The church and the friary will be hit by the bombs, but not this little cell. Here God exercised so much mercy for people, it must remain as a monument to God’s goodness.” Beatified in 1976, he was canonized in 1983, hailed as the “Apostle of Unity.”
Spiritual reading: I am like a bird in a cage, but my heart is beyond the seas. (St. Leopold Bogdan Mandic)
Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity. Qoheleth, the voice of Ecclesiastes talks of things, possessions and how we hold them in vain. What profit is there when in the end they pass on to another? This same theme we see in the Gospel and in the parable of the rich farmer. Riches and comfort are not what it is about. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with possessions and being rich, the danger lies in greed, in worrying about the “I” rather than what life is about, the “we”. Life and creation is about people and love of God for those made in his image. As a people of God we are called to reach out and share his love in any way we can. Possessions and things are only a means to an end in bringing ourselves to God. Those who are without are not necessarily closer to God, as often the simple task of eking out their existence can be so time-consuming and depressing and tiring, that they have trouble seeing outside of their own situation.
If we look around us today, I am afraid we see a lot of such poverty here in our own country and countries throughout the rest of the world. As Christians, the parable today reminds us that greed and selfishness really has no payoff. What we have is gone when we die. At that point, what we have done and what we have been is important. Things are really only tools or extensions of what we are. We can use them for showing and sharing God’s love or we can hoard them and be like the rich man overly concerned about things and comfort.
Christianity is a challenge, it is a risk. Christ said “take up your cross and follow Me”. That cross is living day after day as he did and walking as he walked seeking out all who would respond. Every day we walk the earth as Jesus did, but how much time and effort do we give to look around and see the good things and share ourselves with one another. No one said it would be easy, but on the other hand it can become second nature if we prayerfully commit ourselves to living out that challenge. The Eucharist is our daily bread given just so we can carry that cross in every moment of our life.
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: My grandmother was an extraordinary person who lived her life in service to her family. There was never a person in need who came to her who did not walk away without something to mitigate at least a part of that need. She was quite devout, too. My grandmother confided to me once that she had a real sympathy for Martha in the narrative that Luke tells us today. “Mary has chosen the better part.” My grandmother retorted with real irony in her voice, “She sure the heck did.”
Today is Martha’s feast. The lovely Marthas, like my grandmother, who people our lives have made possible a world that would not exist without their efforts. Without the people who step into the breach to prepare our meals, clean our homes and offices, and tend to our many needs, the world of learning and reflection, the place that Mary occupied, could not exist. So when we hear today’s gospel, it is an invitation to be not only thankful but considerate of all those who have borne the heavy lifting of toil that has made possible the flights of speculation that have filled our world with meaning. Today is Martha’s feast, and it is the feast of every Martha in our lives. Do something nice today for the Marthas in your life.
Saint of the day: Martha was the sister of Mary and Lazarus; scripture reports that all three were the friends of Jesus. Only Luke 10:38-42 and John 11, 12 mention Martha. John represents Mary, Martha, and Lazarus as living in Bethany, but Luke seems to imply that they lived, at least at one time, in Galilee. Luke does not mention the name of the town. The words of John (11:1) seem to imply a change of residence for the family. It is possible, too, that Luke has displaced the incident referred to in Chapter 10. The likeness between the pictures of Martha presented by Luke and John is interesting. The familiar interaction between the Lord and the family that Luke depicts, John echoes when he tells us that, “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister Mary, and Lazarus” (11:5). Again the picture of Martha’s anxiety (John 11:20-21, 39) accords with the picture of her who was “busy about much serving” (Luke 10:40); so also in John 12:2: “They made him a supper there: and Martha served.” But John has given us a glimpse of the other and deeper side of her character when he depicts her growing faith in Jesus’s divinity (11:20-27), a faith which prompts the Lord to announce, “I am the resurrection and the life.” The Evangelist suggests the change that came over Martha after that interview, “When she had said these things, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying: ‘The Master has come, and he calls for you.’”
Spiritual reading: The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire. (“The Evolution of Chastity” by Père Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.)
Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds. “The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus tells a story of bad seed being sown among good. The servants in the house of the owner of the field wish to pull up the bad seed, but the master counsels to wait and see which seed produces what. In the same way, many of us, as servants in the house of our master, are perhaps tempted to throw out from among the community of believers those who do not conform to our vision of the church, but Jesus in the parable counsels us to wait and let God be the judge. None of us can exercise God’s right to say what is worthy of saving and what is not. Jesus in this passage doesn’t call for a smaller, purer church; he calls for a bigger, messier one.
Saint of the day: Sisto Mazzoldi was born in Nago (Trent) on January 13, 1898. He joined the Comboni Missionaries and at the age of 24 was ordained a priest. After a period of formation in the diocese of Trent he was sent on mission to Sudan, mainly to organize seminaries. He spent the next 57 years of his life in Africa. In 1950 he was appointed Prefect Apostolic of Bahr el-Gebel, in Sudan. The following year he was ordained Bishop of Lamus. His activity from then on was to guide and found new dioceses and he helped found four religious Congregations: two Lay Institutes (the Sisters of the Sacred Heart and St. Martin de Porres Brothers, respectively in 1953 and in 1954, in Sudan) and together with Fr Giovanni Marengoni, the Apostles of Jesus (1968) and the Evangelizing Sisters of Mary, Missionaries, in 1977, both in Uganda. For the Apostles of Jesus Mazzoldi himself, as Bishop of Moroto, Uganda, approved the Constitutions examined by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. In 1980, at the end of his mandate, he stayed on as Bishop Emeritus of Moroto, where he died on July 27, 1987.
Spiritual reading: We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven. God has a soft spot for sinners. His standards are quite low. (Desmond Tutu)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Hear the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the Kingdom without understanding it, and the Evil One comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus explains the parable of the sower of the seeds to his disciples simply. Jesus is being very pragmatic in his assessment of the success of the spreading of the gospel. He says that the gospel will not succeed everywhere the disciples announce it. The reasons for these failures vary, but essentially, the message does not always succeed because the people who hear the message are not in the right state to receive it. Some people stubbornly hold on to attitudes, opinions, and courses of action which make them obdurate. Some appear to receive it, but it doesn’t get under their skin; their lack of resolution or focus keeps them from getting the message. For others, circumstances rise up around the hearers that prevent a successful outcome: sins like anger, greed, sloth, and pride can get in the way. But the gospel will also result in success, Jesus says; the last group receives the message and commits itself to Kingdom values. Jesus is not quantifying the success of the gospel: in some places, of course, the gospel is very successful, and in other places, it meets huge resistance. Jesus gives a lesson here about what we can anticipate when we share the good news, and with this knowledge, attend not only to the outcomes of our missions but also to the outcome of the word in our own lives.
Saint of the day: Born Anno Brandsma, he completed high school studies with the Franciscans before entering the Carmelite monastery in Boxmeer in September of 1898, where he adopted his father’s name, Titus, as his religious name. During the early years as a Carmelite he showed interest in journalism and writing, two activities which would occupy much of his time later on in life. Titus professed his first vows as a Carmelite in October, 1899, was ordained on June 17, 1905, and after further studies at the Roman Gregorian University, graduated on October 25, 1909 with a doctorate in philosophy.
Fr. Titus’ entire priestly life was spent in education, although always with a keen pastoral sense of people’s needs. He joined the faculty of the newly founded Catholic University of Nijmegen in 1923, and served as Rector Magnificus, or President, of the University in 1932-33. After this time he resumed his teaching duties, and in 1935 made a lecture tour of the Carmelite foundations in the United States.
Just before this lecture tour, Archbishop De Jong of Utrecht appointed Fr. Titus as spiritual advisor to the staff members of the more than thirty Catholic newspapers in Holland; around the same time, the policies of Adolf Hitler, the new German Chancellor, began to be felt in Holland, and were openly criticized by Titus in his teaching and in the press. With the Nazi occupation of Holland on May 10, 1940 began the open persecution of the Jews and the active resistance of the Catholic hierarchy, who announced on January 26, 1941 that the sacraments were to be refused to Catholics known to be supporters of the National-Socialist movement.
While Titus’ involvement with this Catholic resistance to Nazi activity was becoming more blatant, it was the Church’s refusal to print Nazi propaganda in their newspapers that sealed his fate. Titus decided to deliver personally to each Catholic editor a letter from the bishops ordering them not to comply with a new law requiring them to print official Nazi publications. He visited fourteen editors before being arrested on January 19, 1942 at the Boxmeer monastery.
Fr. Titus was interned at Scheveningen and Amersfoort in Holland before being sent to Dachau, where he arrived on June 19, 1942. His constitution quickly deteriorated under the harsh regime, forcing him to enter the camp hospital in the third week of July. There he became the subject of biological experimentation, before being killed by lethal injection on July 26, 1942.
Spiritual reading: They who want to win the world for Christ must have the courage to come into conflict with it. (Blessed Titus Brandsma)
The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.” Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: When God uses the ways we think about things to fulfill promises, God does things with a twist so that God remains faithful to the word we have understood but entirely explodes the concepts we have in our heads so that in the end, the reality of what we receive from God totally fulfills but simultaneously defies our expectations. We have a teaching in this gospel passage that exemplifies this observation about God’s behavior. At the time that Jesus lived, messianic expectations ran very high, and it was a common notion that the messiah would be a worldly though righteous king, a king after the model of David. When the mother of James and John comes to Jesus and asks him that her sons may sit at Jesus’ right and left, her model of Jesus’ kingship is the model of one who makes his authority felt. Jesus, however, uses the moment to teach. The kingship Jesus models for us is the kingship of one who comes not to be served but to serve, one who offers a cup he will wish to avoid, a cross he will have to carry, and a life offered as a ransom that others might live. And so it will be with us if we should wish to be first: that we should make ourselves the last and the servants of everyone else.
Saint of the day: Today is the feast of St. James. James the son of Zebedee and his brother John were among the twelve disciples of Our Lord. They, together with Peter, were privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, and the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and to be called aside to watch and pray with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane on the night before His death.
James and John were apparently from a higher social level than the average fisherman. Their father could afford hired servants, and John (assuming him to be identical with the “beloved disciple”) had connections with the high priest. Jesus nicknamed the two brothers “sons of thunder,” perhaps meaning that they were headstrong, hot-tempered, and impulsive; and so they seem to be in two incidents reported in the Gospels. On one occasion, Jesus and the disciples were refused the hospitality of a Samaritan village, and James and John proposed to call down fire from heaven on the offenders. On another occasion, the one recorded in the gospel we read at the beginning of today’s install of “Carry the Gospel with You,” they asked Jesus for a special place of honor in the Kingdom and were told that the place of honor is the place of suffering.
Finally, about AD 42, shortly before Passover, James was beheaded by order of King Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great (who tried to kill the infant Jesus), nephew of Herod Antipas (who killed John the Baptist and examined Jesus on Good Friday), and father of Herod Agrippa II (who heard the defense of Paul before Festus). James was the first of the Twelve to suffer martyrdom, and the only one of the Twelve whose death is recorded in the New Testament.
James is often called James Major (that is, “the greater” or “the elder”) to distinguish him from other New Testament persons called James. Tradition has it that he made a missionary journey to Spain, and that after his death, his body was taken to Spain and buried there, at Compostela (a town the name of which is commonly thought to be derived from the word “apostle,” although a Spanish-speaking listmember reports having heard it derived from, “field of stars,” which in Latin would be campus stellarum). His supposed burial place there was a major site of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, and the Spaniards fighting to drive their Moorish conquerors out of Spain took “Santiago de Compostela!” as one of their chief war-cries. (The Spanish form of “James” is “Diego” or “Iago”. In most languages, “James” and “Jacob” mean the same thing. Where an English Bible has “James,” a Greek Bible has IAKWBOS.)
Spiritual reading: Exhale only love. (Rumi)
On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The sower in the parable works in soil that sometimes is receptive to his efforts, sometimes not, and sometimes in between. Even though the soil produces variable results, the sower’s efforts are ultimately rewarded by the planting of seed that bears an extraordinary harvest. Jesus tells us that the ultimate success of the Kingdom is something to which we ought to give our assent, and the observation implicitly invites us to do just so.
Saint of the day: Ezechiele Ramin was born in Padua in 1953, the fourth of six sons in a modest family. In 1972, he decided to join the religious institute of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus; his studies brought him to move first to Florence, then to Venegono Inferiore, and finally to Chicago, where he graduated from the Catholic Theological Union and served in the St. Ludmila Parish. After having experienced missionary work with impoverished Native Americans in South Dakota and later, for one year, in Baja California (Mexico), he was ordained a priest on 28 September 1980 in his native Padua. He was assigned to a parish in Naples but, following the 1980 Irpinia earthquake, he moved to San Mango sul Calore to assist the victims; he returned to Naples in 1981. The following year he moved to Troia in Apulia, where he acted as a focal point for vocational groups.
In 1984, he was assigned to Cacoal, Brazil. On January 20, 1984, he moved to Brasília, where he underwent further education in pastoral care, and finally reached Rondônia in July of that year. He seemed wary of the situation in Cacoal, but accepted his assignment with the words “If Christ needs me, how can I refuse?” There he encountered a difficult situation: the many small farmers of the area were oppressed, through both legal and illegal actions, by the local landowners. Also, the indigenous Suruí tribes had only recently been forced to become sedentary by being allocated land by the Brazilian government and were growing restless. Inspired by the teachings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, he put himself to the front in their struggle for justice, trying to lead them to a nonviolent protest rather than to start an armed revolution. The situation he was in brought him to fear for his life. In early 1985 he was threatened of being killed; in many of the letters he wrote to his family in that year he wonders if he will ever see them again.
On July 24, 1985, Father Ramin, alongside a local trade union leader, chaired a meeting in the nearby state of Mato Grosso, trying to persuade the small farmers employed there to avoid taking arms against the landowners, going against a request of caution issued by his superiors. On his way back with de Souza, at midday, he was attacked by seven hired gunmen who shot him more than 50 times. Before dying, he whispered the words “I forgive you.” As Father Ramin’s body couldn’t be recovered by his fellow missionaries for about 24 hours after his death, a group of Suruí indios kept vigil until their arrival. He was buried in the Padua Cemetery.
Spiritual reading: O God, teach me to be generous: to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to seek for reward save that of knowing I do your will. (Ignatius of Loyola)
Today, the readings talk of prayer and communication with God. Prayer can be communal, liturgical or personal. Abraham’s prayer today was in the form of a negotiation or bargaining. Ultimately, he lost when ten righteous people couldn’t be found. Jesus sums up how to pray in what we call the Our Father or Lord’s prayer. We see Luke’s version in the gospel today. Prayer by analogy is often seen as a child asking a parent for one thing or another. The gospel points out that as in human terms persistence counts as God like a parent wants the best for his child. Often this means that what is received is not always what is requested, but ultimately what is best for the person. We all know that not getting what we want is part of growing up and part of the human condition, part of how god cares for us. However, God looks after us and hears and opens the way for us as we go forward, even if the path is unknown.
Personal prayer is communicating with God. In this day and age the idea of communicating is complicated or so we think what with electronics, and Facebook and twitter and all the other social media. Texting even seems to have replaced talking in some people’s reality. Really, how often in our day do we experience silence, the lack of sound other than the human voice? When and where can we best think and express ourself, our thoughts, our wishes and concerns to God. It is something we do in our own self in our own mind. Perhaps in the car, turn off the radio and communicate as we drive in a long commute. Many times in our day at work or at home, why not take a few minutes to lift ourselves up by drawing into ourselves. Prayer is not complicated, but a way to know God by turning our thoughts, our mind and heart to him. We can voice our concerns and wishes and needs and turn them over to him. Like the analogy He listens and in some way will reply if we persist.
As we grow and develop, we will come to see prayer is a way of life, of action, of forgiveness, of doing for others as they do for us. Together we seek and knock and God will always open the doors for those He loves.
Gospel reading of the day:
While Jesus was speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with him. Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you.” But he said in reply to the one who told him, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage contrasts two kinds of relationship with Jesus. The first relationship, familial kinship, the natural bonds of affection which connect siblings to one another and their parents powerfully pulls on our psyches. It bears all the weight of shared genes and history, and Jesus in this passage is not belittling the importance of such relationships. In fact, in the implicit acknowledgement of the importance of such relationships, he is pointing to the proportionate weight of a relationship he perceives as even more essential. Jesus is saying that no matter how important family is, the deepest relationship is the one which results from our connection to God. When another believer is mother to us, such a person nurtures us in a life of faith, hope, and love. When another believer is sister to us, such a person sticks with us through the good times and rough patches. When another believer is brother to us, such a person has our back and guards us when we are most vulnerable. Blood may be thicker than water, but baptismal water is thicker than blood.
She lived her married life in the court of the Swedish king Magnus II. Mother of eight children (the second eldest was St. Catherine of Sweden), she lived the strict life of a penitent after her husband’s death.
Bridget constantly strove to exert her good influence over Magnus; while never fully reforming, he did give her land and buildings to found a monastery for men and women. This group eventually expanded into an Order known as the Bridgetines (still in existence).
In 1350, a year of jubilee, Bridget braved a plague-stricken Europe to make a pilgrimage to Rome. Although she never returned to Sweden, her years in Rome were far from happy, being hounded by debts and by opposition to her work against Church abuses.
A final pilgrimage to the Holy Land, marred by shipwreck and the death of her son, Charles, eventually led to her death in 1373. In 1999, she, Saints Catherine of Siena and Edith Stein were named co-patronesses of Europe.
Spiritual reading: Grace, like water, flows to the lowest part. (Philip Yancey)