Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Martyr and Saint; he described the Mass from 165 AD; our 1st Saint for June

St. Justin

Image of St. Justin


Feastday: June 1

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 Peripatetic who seemed more interested in money than discussion. The Pythagorean 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 descrate 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 oponents 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 Saviour 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.

Pope Francis prayer intentions for June

Pope’s June Prayer Intentions Span Old and Young
Asking God that no one be left without a someone
Hand in hand
Pixabay CC0 - Gaertringen
This month, Pope Francis will be praying for the elderly, as well as young people just starting off in their vocations.
The Apostleship of Prayer announced the intentions chosen by the Pope for June.

The Holy Father’s universal prayer intention for June is: “That the aged, marginalised, and those who have no-one may find, even within the huge cities of the world, opportunities for encounter and solidarity.”

His intention for evangelisation is: “That seminarians and men and women entering religious life may have mentors who live the joy of the Gospel and prepare them wisely for their mission.”

A Tuesday morning and Feast Day Homily from Pope Francis

In Morning Homily, Pope Praises Courageous Women of the Church
At Casa Santa Marta, Notes Mary’s Courage Displayed in Today’s Feast of Visitation
L'Osservatore Romano
Mary’s example of reaching out and serving with joy is one that all Christians must follow if we are to be authentic, Pope Francis said today during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.
According to Vatican Radio, the Pope drew from the readings for today’s Feast of the Visitation to encourage Mary’s attitude of service, which resulted in her reaching out to Elizabeth. He lauded the generations of women in the Church who have followed Mary’s example.
“Christians with a grimace or disgruntled expression on their faces, sad Christians, are a very ugly thing.  It’s really ugly, ugly, ugly. However, they are not fully Christian. They think they are (Christians) but they are not fully so. This is the Christian message,” he said. “And in this atmosphere of joy that today’s liturgy gives us like a gift, I would like to underline just two things: first, an attitude; second, a fact.  The attitude is one of service or helping others.”
The Pope pointed out how the Gospel describes Mary as setting off immediately and without hesitation to visit her cousin, despite being pregnant and despite the dangers. This young girl of 16 or 17, he said, showed her courage in getting up straightaway and setting out on her journey.
“The courage of women. The courageous women who are present in the Church: they are like Mary. These women who bring up their families, these women who are responsible for rearing their children, who have to face so many hardships, so much pain, women who look after the sick….   Courageous: they get up and help other people. Serving others is a Christian sign. Whoever doesn’t live to serve other people, doesn’t serve to live.  Serving others and being full of joy is the attitude that I would like to underline today. There is joy and also service towards others.”
The Holy Father pointed out that Mary was able to serve Elizabeth because she reached out to her.
Pope Francis said if we could learn these two things: to serve others and reach out to them, how much our world would change:
“Reaching out to others is another Christian sign.  Persons who describes themselves as Christian and who are unable to reach out to others, to go and meet them are not totally Christian. Being of service and reaching out to others both require going out from themselves: going out to serve and meet others, to embrace another person.  Through Mary’s service towards others, through that encounter, our Lord’s promise is renewed and makes it happen now, just as it did then. And it is really our Lord – as we heard during the first Reading: ‘The Lord, your God, is in your midst’ – the Lord is about helping other people, the Lord is about meeting other people.”

A retired fire department captain ordained a Priest in New York

Retired FDNY captain cheered on by ex-colleagues as he answers holy call as newly ordained Catholic priest

Retired FDNY captain celebrates being ordained Catholic priest
Saturday, May 28, 2016, 7:35 PM

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

Cardinal Timothy Dolan (l.) ordains retired FDNY Captain Tom Colucci (r.) into the priesthood in St. Patrick's Cathedral on Saturday.

(Jefferson Siegel/New York Daily News)
He's now a first responder for the man upstairs.
Retired FDNY Captain Tom Colucci saw his longtime dream of becoming a Catholic priest realized Saturday when he was ordained during a special ceremony at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
"God's been very good to me," a humble Father Colucci said following the service officiated by Timothy Cardinal Dolan. "I'm most excited about working with the people and bringing them to God."
Firefighters from Colucci's past FDNY assignments in the Bronx, Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen were on hand to cheer him on as he took his vows. Several times during the service, Colucci turned and shot firefighters a thumbs up.
EXCLUSIVE: Retired FDNY Captain to become Catholic priest
NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

Colucci blesses freinds and colleagues outside St. Patrick's Cathedral.

(Jefferson Siegel/New York Daily News)
As he exited the church, he was met by bagpipers from the FDNY Pipe and Drums band and a brightly polished fire engine to bless.
"He was a leader of men and now he's going to be a leader in the church," retired Firefighter Tom Kelly, who attended the celebration, said. "We're very proud of him."
Colucci joined the FDNY in 1985. He retired in 2005 as commander of Ladder 21 in Hell's Kitchen on W. 38th St. after a gas explosion left him with a head injury. He endured two brain surgeries to remove blood clots - one so dire that a priest was asked to give him last rites. Once he healed, Colucci began his spiritual mission, first as a Benedictine monk before joining the seminary.
NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

Friends and colleagues cheer on Colucci outside St. Patrick's Cathedral.

(Jefferson Siegel/New York Daily News)
Now that he's ordained, the New York Archdiocese has already given him his marching orders - he'll be tending to the flock at St. Mary's Mother of the Church parish in Fishkill, about 60 miles outside of Manhattan.
But he'll be back in the city come September, when he officiates the FDNY 9/11 memorial Mass, he said.
"It's like getting out of the Fire Academy," Colucci joked. "They give your assignments and off you got to go."

A very interesting Day 107 with the Baltimore Catechism

How can a Catholic best safeguard his faith? A Catholic can best safeguard his faith by making frequent acts of faith, by praying for a strong faith, by studying his religion very earnestly, by living a good life, by good reading, by refusing to associate with the enemies of the Church, and by not reading books and papers opposed to the Church and her teaching.

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will get in among you, and will not spare the flock. And from among your own selves men will rise speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30)

How does a Catholic sin against faith? A Catholic sins against faith by apostasy, heresy, indifferentism, and by taking part in non-Catholic worship.

Why does a Catholic sin against faith by taking part in non-Catholic worship? A Catholic sins against faith by taking part in non-Catholic worship when he intends to identify himself with a religion he knows is defective.

This is why I was born, and why I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice. (John 18:37)

Further reading on our non-Catholic brothers and sisters and working toward unity: CCC 817-

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Feast of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth

Ordinary Time: May 31st

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary


May 31, 2016 (Readings on USCCB website)


Almighty ever-living God, who, while the Blessed Virgin Mary was carrying your Son in her womb, inspired her to visit Elizabeth, grant us, we pray, that, faithful to the promptings of the Spirit, we may magnify your greatness with the Virgin Mary at all times. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

The feast of the Visitation recalls to us the following great truths and events: The visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth shortly after the Annunciation; the cleansing of John the Baptist from original sin in the womb of his mother at the words of Our Lady's greeting; Elizabeth's proclaiming of Mary—under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost—as Mother of God and "blessed among women"; Mary's singing of the sublime hymn, Magnificat ("My soul doth magnify the Lord") which has become a part of the daily official prayer of the Church. The Visitation is frequently depicted in art, and was the central mystery of St. Francis de Sales' devotions. The Mass of today salutes her who in her womb bore the King of heaven and earth, the Creator of the world, the Son of the Eternal Father, the Sun of Justice. It narrates the cleansing of John from original sin in his mother's womb. Hearing herself addressed by the most lofty title of "Mother of the Lord" and realizing what grace her visit had conferred on John, Mary broke out in that sublime canticle of praise proclaiming prophetically that henceforth she would be venerated down through the centuries:
"My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me, and holy is His name" (Lk. 1:46).
—Excerpted from the Cathedral Daily Missal

This feast is of medieval origin, it was kept by the Franciscan Order before 1263, and soon its observance spread throughout the entire Church. Previously it was celebrated on July 2. Now it is celebrated between the solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord and the birth of St. John the Baptist, in conformity with the Gospel accounts. Some places appropriately observe a celebration of the reality and sanctity of human life in the womb. The liturgical color is white.According to the 1962 Missal of Bl. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Petronilla. The feast of the Queenship of Mary is now celebrated in the Ordinary Rite on August 22.Aurelia Petronilla was guided in the Faith by St. Peter, the first pope. She died three days after refusing to marry a pagan nobleman, Flaccus. There is no historic proof that she was martyred, but an early fresco clearly represents her as a martyr. Her feast is no longer on the calendar.

The Visitation
And Mary rising up in those days went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda. [Lk. 1:39]How lyrical that is, the opening sentence of St. Luke's description of the Visitation. We can feel the rush of warmth and kindness, the sudden urgency of love that sent that girl hurrying over the hills. "Those days" in which she rose on that impulse were the days in which Christ was being formed in her, the impulse was his impulse.Many women, if they were expecting a child, would refuse to hurry over the hills on a visit of pure kindness. They would say they had a duty to themselves and to their unborn child which came before anything or anyone else.The Mother of God considered no such thing. Elizabeth was going to have a child, too, and although Mary's own child was God, she could not forget Elizabeth's need—almost incredible to us, but characteristic of her.She greeted her cousin Elizabeth, and at the sound of her voice, John quickened in his mother's womb and leapt for joy.I am come, said Christ, that they may have life and may have it more abundantly. [Jn. 10, 10] Even before He was born His presence gave life.With what piercing shoots of joy does this story of Christ unfold! First the conception of a child in a child's heart, and then this first salutation, an infant leaping for joy in his mother's womb, knowing the hidden Christ and leaping into life.How did Elizabeth herself know what had happened to Our Lady? What made her realize that this little cousin who was so familiar to her was the mother of her God?She knew it by the child within herself, by the quickening into life which was a leap of joy.If we practice this contemplation taught and shown to us by Our Lady, we will find that our experience is like hers.If Christ is growing in us, if we are at peace, recollected, because we know that however insignificant our life seems to be, from it He is forming Himself; if we go with eager wills, "in haste," to wherever our circumstances compel us, because we believe that He desires to be in that place, we shall find that we are driven more and more to act on the impulse of His love.And the answer we shall get from others to those impulses will be an awakening into life, or the leap into joy of the already wakened life within them. Excerpted from The Reed of God, Caryll HouselanderPatronage: St. Elizabeth: Expectant mothers. Symbols: St. Elizabeth or Elisabeth: Pregnant woman saluting the Virgin; Elderly woman holding St. John Baptist; huge rock with a doorway in it; in company with St. Zachary.
St. Zacharias or Zachary: Priest's robes; thurible; altar; angel; lighted taper; Phyrgian helmet.Things to Do:
  • Read Luke 1:39-47, the story of the Visitation. Read and meditate on the words of the Magnificat and the Hail Mary, two prayers from this feast. For those with children, depending on the ages, assign memorization for these prayers. Also discuss the meaning of the text as a family.
  • This feast reminds us to be charitable to our neighbors. Try to assist some mother (expectant or otherwise), visit the elderly or sick, make a dinner for someone, etc.

Pope Francis Monday Morning Homily

Pope’s Morning Homily: Don’t Lose Memory of Gifts God Gave You
At Casa Santa Marta, Francis Speaks on Importance of Memory, Prophecy, Hope
L'Osservatore Romano
Remember the blessings God has given you.
According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis urged faithful to do this during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, drawing from today’s Gospel from St. Mark, in which Jesus addresses the Priests, Scribes and Pharisees with the parable of the murderous tenant-farmers.
In the reading, the tenants revolt against the landowner who planted a well-organized vineyard and entrusted them with its care. They insult, beat and kill, first, the servants that the master sent to reclaim the land and collect his due, and then, at the drama’s climax, murder the owner’s only son, believing– incorrectly–that such an act could earn them a right to inherit the owner’s substance.
The Pope used this passage to reflected on the threefold theme of the dynamic unity in Christian life, the signs of which are memory, prophecy, and hope.
Stressing that those who killed in today’s reading were without these three elements, the Pope lamented that the leaders of the people, in particular, were interested in erecting a wall of laws, a “closed juridical system,” and nothing else.
“Memory is no concern…This is the system through which they legitimate: the lawyers, theologians who always go the way of casuistry and do not allow the freedom of the Holy Spirit; they do not recognize God’s gift, the gift of the Spirit; and they cage the Spirit, because they do not allow prophecy in hope.”
The Pontiff pointed out how Jesus criticized this religious system, which was marked by corruption, worldliness and concupiscence.
Jesus, Pope Francis acknowledged, “was Himself tempted to lose the memory of His own mission, to not give way to prophecy and to prefer security instead of hope,” i.e. the essence of the three temptations suffered in the desert.
Given Jesus knew temptation Himself, He reproached these people, the Pope explained, telling them: ‘You traverse half the world to have one proselyte, and when you find him, you make him a slave.’
“These people thus organized, this Church so organized, makes slaves – and so it is understandable how Paul reacts when he speaks of slavery to the law and of the liberty that grace gives: people are free, a Church is free, when it has memory, when it makes room for prophets, when it does not lose hope,” the Pope said.
The well-organized vineyard, the Pope explained, is in fact “the image of the People of God, the image of the Church and also the image of our soul,” for which the Father always cares “with much love and tenderness.”
In rebelling, the people lose memory of the gift they’ve received from God, the Argentine Pope said.
Urging faithful to remember their roots and blessings, the Pope asked, “Do I have the memory of the wonders that the Lord has wrought in my life? Can I remember the gifts of the Lord?
“Am I able to open my heart to the prophets, i.e. to him, who says to me, ‘this isn’t working, you have to go beyond: go ahead, take a risk’?” He noted that this is what prophets do. am I open to that, or am I afraid, and do I prefer to close myself within the cage of the law?
“Finally: do I have hope in God’s promises, such as had our father Abraham, who left his home without knowing where he was going, only because he hoped in God?”
Pope Francis concluded, urging those present to repeatedly ask themselves these three questions.

Let me tell you about my weekend

Every now and again I am asked about being a Deacon.  What do you do?  How do you spend your time?  How do you find the time?  Is all that really necessary?  For those of you who know me or follow me on this blog or over at Facebook, by now you know what my ministry as a Permanent Deacon means to me.  I'm all in!  I view the call to diakonia as one that comes directly from God and affirmed by His Church!  Therefore, I do not believe that I, or any of my brother Deacons for that matter, can minister as a Deacon casually or infrequently.

Now there are many ways for the Permanent Deacon to minister.  Most commonly, the majority of Catholics encounter us at Mass, where we "assist" not celebrate or serve.  Then the faithful encounter us at the Sacraments specific to the Diaconate, Baptisms and Weddings.  Where the faithful do not normally encounter us is in our call to be and bring Christ to the hurt and lost, the unlovable, as society deems unlovable, and those living often on the fringes of society.

As a Permanent Deacon the best thing that happened to me was an assignment from the Archbishop to minister at a prison.  The time I spend in prison is time spent with those who would not receive Catholic teaching, support and the Sacraments without involvement from others.  I am so privileged to be one of those "others".

This weekend began in prison.  After going to Rayburn Correctional on Wednesday night, my usual night for ministry, I was pleased to return Friday night for a special retreat arranged by our Archdiocesan Prison Ministry Office.  The retreat ran from 5 to 9 PM.  For me, it did not matter that I worked all day, from before 8 that morning, this is where I was called to be.  Now the retreat was led by a Catholic Priest from our seminary and a Catholic Nun, who was making her 3rd visit with us at Rayburn.  So Deacon, what did you do?  My answer might surprise some but it should not.  I was present with the men so they knew I wanted to be with them on this important and special night, and I served pizza.  Yep I served pizza!  So what were those first 7 Deacons from Acts of the Apostles called to do?  Serve at table I believe!  Perhaps the most important thing I did was try my best to shake the hands of almost all of the 165 inmates who attended this Friday night retreat.  I may have missed a few, but not for lack of trying!

Now Rayburn Prison is way up in the woods, quite a few miles from anywhere.  By the time we wrapped up and drove our way home, I was pulling in the driveway at 10 PM.  I can honesty say I've pulled in the driveway on many a Friday night in my life at or after 10 PM, but never from a prison!  And try to understand, for me, on this particular Friday night, there is no other place I would rather be!

I had to work on Saturday morning and that's ok too!  It is so very important for folks in the pews to understand that many of the Permanent Deacons indeed are full-time employed at a secular job.  Mine is that of a banker and we have Saturday morning hours.  This is a cause for careful planning because many events in the life of the Church and my ministry take place on Saturdays!  For the Deacon, if he embraces his ministry fully, he goes about his business at work with joy and an understanding that this is where you need to be, at this time, and in this place!  That careful planning is exactly what was needed as when I left work, I drove straight to my parish, St. Jane de Chantal in Abita Springs, so to be present at the anniversary celebration of one of our Priests, Father Angel Diaz.  While I missed the Mass there was no way I would miss the reception.  Why?  Again the answer is based on presence.  To be able to honor our Priests is a big deal for the Permanent Deacon who spends a great deal of his ministry assisting the Priests of our parishes and the diocese from time to time.  The great lunch that was served at the reception was a nice benefit that I most certainly enjoyed.

This weekend was the Jubilee for Deacons in Rome and I wanted to do something special related to this day even though I, and a vast majority of my brother Deacons, would not be able to go to Rome.  With the support of my Pastor, Father Ken Allen, we agreed to have a small celebration at our 10 AM Mass on Sunday.  All 4 of our Deacons would be present assisting at Mass and I was asked to speak about the diaconate.  This speaking opportunity developed into a full blown homily so it was important to develop a homily that remembered the Feast we were celebrating, the Body & Blood of the Lord, as well as the Jubilee for Deacons.  Suffice to say the homily was a little long but I pray well received.  As plans would change and develop, I wound up assisting and preaching at three masses over the course of Saturday evening, Sunday morning and Sunday evening.  I was both happy and privileged to be able to do this and I hope many in attendance learned a little something about the Permanent Diaconate!

So that was the weekend that past.  For some it might be hard to believe that someone would want to spend so much of their weekend involved in church things and ministry.  It's not hard for me at all; it's truly what I am called to do because of who I am called to be.

I would ask all of you reading this, in the charity of your prayers, to pray for Permanent Deacons who truly come to serve and not be served and for the wives of Deacons, who, in an extreme act of love, give and share their husbands with the Church and the people we serve.  For our wives, they almost always sit in the pews alone while we do our thing at Mass.

Today, I now look forward to not just the next weekend, but the daily ministry of the Deacon, whether at church, the prison, at work, in the community and even at home.

Day 106 from the Baltimore Catechism

What does hope oblige us to do? Hope obliges us to trust firmly that God will give us eternal life and the means to obtain it.

Paul, a servant of God and apostle of Jesus Christ, in accordance with the faith of God's elect and the full knowledge of the truth which is according to piety, in the hope of life everlasting which God, who does not lie, promised before the ages began. (Titus 1:1-2)

What does charity oblige us to do? Charity obliges us to love God above all things because He is infinitely good, and to love our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.

And one of them, a doctor of the Law, putting him to the test, asked him, "Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?" Jesus said to him, "'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.' This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like it, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:35-40)

Further reading: CCC 2104-2109

Deacon Bill Ditewig captures perfectly the mission of Deacon as shared by Pope Francis at the Jubilee for Deacons

Holy Jubilee and Deacons: “Proclaim and Serve”

unnamed-2-740x493The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy focused over the last few days on the ministry of deacons.  Today the Holy Father celebrated Mass in Saint Peter’s Square and thousands of the world’s deacons were there.  The Holy Father’s homily is a short but powerful lesson in diakonia.
In one sense, Pope Francis picks up where St. John Paul II left off sixteen years ago at the 2000 Jubilee.  In his address to deacons during this audience with us, Pope John Paul challenged deacons to be “active apostles of the New Evangelization.”  Today Pope Francis began his homily by quoting St. Paul:
“A servant of Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:10). We have listened to these words that the Apostle Paul, writing to the Galatians, uses to describe himself. At the beginning of his Letter, he had presented himself as “an apostle” by the will of the Lord Jesus (cf. Gal1:1). These two terms – apostle and servant – go together. They can never be separated. They are like the two sides of a medal. Those who proclaim Jesus are called to serve, and those who serve proclaim Jesus.
Active apostles, active servants: no better challenge for deacons!  Not surprisingly Pope Francis reflects what Pope-emeritus Benedict once referred to as “the great et. . .et” (both-and) as contrasted to “aut. . . aut” (either-or).  Pope Benedict was responding to a question from an older priest who had recalled that his seminary spiritual director had once criticized him for preferring playing football over studying, and Pope Benedict rather humorously reassured the priest:
Catholicism. . . has always been considered the religion of the great “et. . . et” [“both-and”]: not of great forms of exclusivism but of synthesis. The exact meaning of “Catholic” is “synthesis”. I would therefore be against having to choose between either playing football or studying Sacred Scripture or Canon Law.
Today, Pope Francis says the same thing about apostles and servants.  We are called to be both, not one or the other.  His simple simile captures it perfectly: apostle and servant “are like the two sides of a medal.”  “A disciple of Jesus cannot take a road other than that of the Master. If he wants to proclaim him, he must imitate him. Like Paul, he must strive to become a servant. In other words, if evangelizing is the mission entrusted at baptism to each Christian, serving is the way that mission is carried out.”
Pope Francis offers three ways deacons can live this great “et. . . et” in our lives:
  1. Be Available.  Most deacons I’ve known over the years readily joke that there’s no such thing as a deacon’s “day off”!  Between responsibilities for our families, our various jobs and professions, as well as ministries, most deacons wouldn’t know what a real “day off” feels like, any more than we can take a “sabbatical” from any of those responsibilities.  I’m sure that Pope Francis’ words touched many a deacon and his family when he observed:
A servant daily learns detachment from doing everything his own way and living his life as he would. . . . [He] has to give up the idea of being the master of his day. He knows that his time is not his own, but a gift from God which is then offered back to him. Only in this way will it bear fruit. One who serves is not a slave to his own agenda, but ever ready to deal with the unexpected, ever available to his brothers and sisters and ever open to God’s constant surprises.
The pope had some words about trying to keep to a “timetable” for service, too:
One who serves is not worried about the timetable. It deeply troubles me when I see a timetable in a parish: “From such a time to such a time”. And then? There is no open door, no priest, no deacon, no layperson to receive people… This is not good. Don’t worry about the timetable: have the courage to look past the timetable. In this way, dear deacons, if you show that you are available to others, your ministry will not be self-serving, but evangelically fruitful.
2.  Be Meek.  Using the example of the centurion who pleads with Jesus to save his servant, the pope stresses that even though the centurion was a man in authority, he was also a man under authority.  The centurion could have thrown his weight around to get help for his servant, but he did not: he approached the Lord meekly and in acknowledgment of Christ’s authority, power, and mercy.  “Meekness,” says Francis, “is one of the virtues of deacons.”
When a deacon is meek, then he is one who serves, who is not trying to “mimic” priests; no, he is meek. . . .  For God, who is love, out of love is ever ready to serve us. He is patient, kind and always there for us; he suffers for our mistakes and seeks the way to help us improve. These are the characteristics of Christian service; meek and humble, it imitates God by serving others: by welcoming them with patient love and unflagging sympathy, by making them feel welcome and at home in the ecclesial community, where the greatest are not those who command but those who serve (cf. Lk 22:26). And never shout, never. This, dear deacons, is how your vocation as ministers of charity will mature: in meekness.
3.  Be Healed.  Finally, Pope Francis turns to the example of the servant whom Christ heals.
The Gospel tells us that he was dear to his master and was sick, without naming his grave illness (v. 2). In a certain sense, we can see ourselves in that servant. Each of us is very dear to God, who loves us, chooses us and calls us to serve. Yet each of us needs first to be healed inwardly. To be ready to serve, we need a healthy heart: a heart healed by God. . . .  .
Dear deacons, this is a grace you can implore daily in prayer. You can offer the Lord your work, your little inconveniences, your weariness and your hopes in an authentic prayer that brings your life to the Lord and the Lord to your life. When you serve at the table of the Eucharist, there you will find the presence of Jesus, who gives himself to you so that you can give yourselves to others. . . ,  to encounter and caress the flesh of the Lord in the poor of our time.
Those final words echo the promise we make at ordination.  The bishop asks, “Are you resolved to shape your way of life always according to the example of Christ, whose body and blood you will give to the people?”  We respond:”I am, with the help of God.”  This Jubilee — this holy season of Mercy — gives us a chance to re-affirm that promise:
“I am, with the help of God!”

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Maid of Orleans; soldier and martyr; a patron Saint of France

St. Joan of Arc


Image of St. Joan of Arc


Feastday: May 30
Patron of soldiers and France
Birth: 1412
Death: 1431
Canonized By: Pope Benedict XV

St. Joan of Arc is the patroness of soldiers and of France.
On January 6, 1412, Joan of Arc was born to pious parents of the French peasant class in the obscure village of Domremy, near the province of Lorraine. At a very early age, she was said to have heard the voices of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret.
At first the messages were personal and general, but when she was 13-years-old, she was in her father's garden and had visions of Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret, each of whom told her to drive the English from French territory. They also asked that she bring the Dauphin to Reims for his coronation.
After their messages were delivered and the saints departed, Joan cried, as "they were so beautiful."
When she was sixteen-years-old, she asked her relative, Durand Lassois, to take her to Vaucouleurs, where she petitioned Robert de Baudricourt, the garrison commander, for permission to visit the French Royal Court in Chinon.
Despite Baudricourt's sarcastic response to her request, Joan returned the following January and left with the support of two of Baudricourt's soldiers: Jean de Metz and Bertrand de Poulengy.
Jean de Metz admitted Joan had confided in him, saying, "I must be at the King's side ... there will be no help if not from me. Although I would rather have remained spinning [wool] at my mother's side ... yet must I go and must I do this thing, for my Lord wills that I do so."
With Metz and Poulengy at her side, Joan met Baudricourt and predicted a military reversal at the Battle of Rouvray near Orléans, which were confirmed several days later by a messenger's report. When Baudricourt realized the distance of the battle's location and the time it would have taken Joan to make the journey, he concluded she had seen the reversal by Divine revelation, which caused him to believe her words.
Once she had Baudricourt's belief, Joan was granted an escort to Chinon through hostile Burgundian territory. For her safety, she was escorted while dressed as a male soldier, which later led to charges of cross-dressing, but her escorts viewed as a sound precaution.
Two members of her escort confirmed they and the people of Vaucouleurs gave her the clothing and had been the ones to suggest she don the outfit.
When she arrived in the Royal Court, she met in a private conference with Charles VII and won his trust. Yolande of Aragon, Charles' mother-in-law, planned a finance relief expedition to Orléans and Joan asked to travel with the army while wearing armor, which the Royal government agreed to. They also provided Joan's armor and she depended on donations for everything she took with her.
With a donated horse, sword, banner, armor, and more, Joan arrived to Orléans and quickly turned the Anglo-French conflict into a religious war.
Charles' advisors worried Joan's claims of doing God's work could be twisted by his enemies, who could easily claim she was a sorceress, which would link his crown to works of the devil. To prevent accusations, the Dauphin ordered background inquiries and a theological exam at Poitiers to verify Joan's claims.
In April 1429, the commission of inquiry "declared her to be of irreproachable life, a good Christian, possessed of the virtues of humility, honesty and simplicity." Rather than deciding on whether or not Joan was acting on the basis of divine inspiration, theologians at Poitiers told the Dauphin there was a "favorable presumption" on the divine nature of her mission.
Charles was satisfied with the report but theologians reminded him Joan must be tested. They claimed, "[t]o doubt or abandon her without suspicion of evil would be to repudiate the Holy Spirit and to become unworthy of God's aid."
They suggested her test should be a test of her claim to lift the siege of Orléans, as she originally predicted would happen.
In response to the test, Joan arrived at Orléans on April 29, 1429, where Jean d'Orléans, the acting head of the ducal family of Orléans, ensured she was excluded from war councils and kept ignorant of battles.
During the five months prior to Joan's arrival to Orléans, the French had only attempted one offensive assault, which resulted in their defeat, but after her arrival, things began to change.
Though Joan claimed the army was always commanded by a nobleman and that she never killed anyone in battle since she preferred only to carry her banner, which she preferred "forty times" better than a sword, several noblemen claimed she greatly effected their decisions since they accepted she gave Divinely inspired advice.
On May 4, the Armagnacs captured the fortress of Saint Loup and the next day led to fortress Saint-Jean-le-Blanc, which was deserted. With Joan at the army's side, English troops approached the army to stop their advance but a cavalry charge was all it took to turn the English away without a fight.
The Armagnacs captured an English fortress build around the Les Augustins monastery and attacked the English stronghold Les Tourelles on May 7. Joan was shot with an arrow between her neck and shoulder as she held her banner outside Les Tourelles, but returned to encourage the final assault to take the fortress. The next day, the English retreated from Orléans and the siege was over.
When Joan was in Chinon and Poitiers, she had declared she would show a sign at Orléans, which many believe was the end of the siege. Following the departure of the Englihs, prominent clergymen began to support her, including the Archbishop of Embrun and the theologian Jean Gerson, each of which wrote supportive treatises.
After the Orléans victory, Joan was able to persuade Charles VII to allow her to march into other battles to reclaim citis, each of which ended in victory. When the military supplies began to dwindle, they reached Troyes, where Brother Richard, a wandering friar, had warned the city about the end of the world and was able to convince them to plant beans, which yields an early harvest. Just as the beans ripened, Joan and the army arrived and was able to restore their supplies.
Following their march to Troyes, Joan and the French military made its way to Paris, where politicians failed to secure Duke Philip of Burgundy's agreement to a truce. Joan was present at the following battles and suffered a leg wound from a crossbow bolt. Despite one failed mission - taking La-Charité-sur-Loire" - Joan and her family were ennobled by Charles VII in reward of her actions on the battlefield.
A truce with England came following Joan's ennoblement but was quickly broken. When Joan traveled to Compičgne to help defend against an English and Burgundian siege, she was captured by Burgundian troops and held for a ransom of 10,000 livres tournois. There were several attempts to free her and Joan made many excape attempts, including jumping from her 70-foot (21m) tower, landing on the soft earth of a dry moat, but to no avail. She was eventually sold to the English for 10,000 gold coins and was then tried as a heretic and witch in a trial that violated the legal process of the time.
Clerical notary Nicolas Bailly, who was responsible to collect testimony against Joan, was unable to find any evidence against her. Without evidence, the courts lacked grounds to initiate trial but one was opened anyway. They denied Joan the right to a legal advisor and filled the tribunal with pro-English clergy rather than meeting the medieval Church's requirement to balance the group with impartial clerics.
When the first public examination opened, Joan pointed out that the partisans were against her and she asked for "ecclesiastics of the French side" to provide balance, but her request was denied.
Jean Lemaitre, the Vice-Inquisitor of Northern France, objected to the trial from the beginning and many eyewitnesses later reported he was forced to cooperate after the English threatened to kill him. Other members of the clergy were threatened when they refused as well, so the trial continued.
The trial record includes statements from Joan that eyewitnesses later claimed astonished the court since she was an illiterate peasant who was able to escape theological traps. The most well-known exchange was when Joan was "[a]sked if she knew she was in God's grace, she answered: 'If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.'"
The question is a trap because the church doctrine was that no one could be certain of being in God's grace. If she answered yes, she would have been charged with heresy, but if she answered no, she would have been confessing her own guilt. Notary Boisguillaume later testified that "[t]hose who were interrogating her were stupefied."
Many members of the tribunal later testified important parts of the transcript were altered.
Joan was held in a secular prison guarded by English soldiers, instead of being in an ecclesiastical prison with nuns as her guards per Inquisitorial guidelines. When Joan appealed to the Council of Basel and the Pope to be placed in a proper prison, Bishop Cauchon denied her request, which would have stopped his proceeding.
While imprisoned, Joan wore military clothing so she could tie her clothing together, making it harder to be raped. There was no protection in a dress, and a few days after she started wearing one she told a tribunal member that "a great English lord had entered her prison and tried to take her by force." Following the attempted rape, Joan returned to wearing male clothing as a precaution and to raise her defenses against molestation.
Jean Massieu testified her dress had been taken by the guards and she had nothing else to wear.
When she returned to male clothing, she was given another count of hersy for cross-dressing, though it was later disputed by the inquisitor presiding over court appeals after the war. He found that cross-dressing should be evaluated based on context, including the use of clothing as protection against rape if it offered protection.
In accordance to the inquisitor's doctrine, Joan would have been justified in wearing armor on a battlefield, men's clothing in prison and dressing as a pageboy when traveling through enemy territory.
The Chronique de la Pucelle states it deterred molestation when Joan was camped in the field but she donned a dress when men's garments were unnecessary.
Clergy who testified at the posthumous appellate trial confirmed that she wore male clothing in prison to deter molestation.
Though the Poitiers record did not survive the test of time, Joan had referred the court to the Poitiers inquiry when questioned about her clothing and circumstances indicate the Poitiers clerics approved the practive. She had also kept her hair short through the military campaigns and during her imprisonment, which Inquisitor Brehal, theologian Jean Gerson and all of Joan's supporters understood was for practical reasons.
Despite the lack of incriminating evidence, Joan was condemned and sentenced to die in 1431.
Eyewitness accounts of Joan's execution by burning on May 30, 1431 describe how she was tied to a tall pillar at the Vieux-Marché in Rouen. She asked Fr. Martin Ladvenu and Fr. Isambart de la Pierre to hold a crucifix before her and an English soldier made a small cross she put in the front of her dress. After she died, the English raked the coals to expose her body so no one could spread rumors of her escaping alive, then they burned her body two more times to reduce it to ashes so no one could collect relics. After burning her body to ash, the English threw her remains into the Seine River and the executioner, Geoffroy Thérage, later said he "... greatly feared to be damned."
In 1452, during an investigation into Joan's execution, the Church declared a religious play in her honor at Orléans would let attendees gain an indulgence by making a pilgrimage to the event.
A posthumous retrial opened following the end of the war. Pope Callixtus III authorized the proceeding, which has also been called the "nullification trial," after Inquisitor-General Jean Bréhal and Joan's mother Isabelle Romée requested it.
The trial was meant to determine if Joan's condemnation was justly handled, and of course at the end of the investication Joan received a formal appeal in November 1455 and the appellate court declared Joan innocent on July 7 1456.
Joan of Arc was a symbol of the Catholic League during the 16th century and when Félix Dupanloup was made bishop of Orléans in 1849, he pronounced a panegyric on Joan of Arc and led efforts leading to Joan of Arc's beatification in 1909. On May 16, 1920, Pope Benedict XV canonized her.

Homily For the Solemnity of Corpus Christi and the Jubilee for Deacons

A couple of weeks ago I had the incredible privilege of preaching at my daughter's wedding.  In my homily I referred to a beautiful song that the children's choir sings at Most Holy Trinity Parish: Love, Love, Jesus is Love, God's greatest gift is the gift of Love.  All creation sings together praising God for Love.  Today we celebrate anew that Love.  In this Solemnity of the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ, we celebrate Love.  So much Love for us that God sent us a Savior in the person of His Son.  Becoming flesh and dwelling among us; Jesus is love!  Teaching, preaching and healing; Jesus is love!  Emptying Himself on dying for us on the Cross, stretching out His arms between Heaven & Earth; Jesus is Love!  Rising from the dead and opening for us the gates of Heaven; Jesus is Love!  And today, in the Eucharist, the Real Presence of His Body & Blood, Jesus is Love!

Today we hear St. Paul telling us that he received what was handed on to him, the celebration of the Eucharist as 1st occurred at the Last Super on that Holy Thursday night.  And that same Eucharist is handed on to us today.  At every Mass, we have the consecration of those simple gifts of bread and wine as they become the real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  We understand that this is not a new sacrifice or re-crucifying Jesus; no!  By the grace of God, time and space is suspended and every Mass is a celebration of that one Sacrifice on the Cross, re-presented in an un-bloody manner.  All of us, in the proper state of grace, can participate in the worthy reception of Jesus, really present, really His Body and Blood!

We must recall that worthy reception means being free of mortal sin, therefore it is expected that we will make a good confession before receiving Jesus if mortal sin exists.  We also want to participate fully in the celebration of the Mass in which we are to receive Jesus an we also remember before Communion to forgive those who have hurt us.  When we go to Communion we should remember that we receive, not take, therefore we should receive the Sacred Host reverently in a true spirit of thanksgiving.  And the same from the Chalice, if the Chalice is available to us.  Now that we have received Jesus in Holy Communion, now what?  Do we leave Mass and become what we believe; do we become what we received?  For us, nourished by the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, we must be ambassadors of Christ in the community, the workplace, out there, among those who perhaps do not believe or simply do not know what they are missing.  And we must witnesses of great joy because, as the song tells us, I received the living God and my heart is full of Joy! 

Today is also a day of great joy for the Permanent Deacons around the world and the four of us who serve you in this wonderful parish of St. Jane de Chantal and St. Michael's Mission.  This weekend is the celebration of the Jubilee for Deacons.  Just this morning, Permanent Deacons from across the world gathered with Pope Francis for Holy Mass in St. Peter's Square.  In this Jubilee Year of Mercy our Holy Father wished to remind the faithful that the Deacon is the minister of mercy, the minister of charity, the minister of service.  Deacons are indeed ordained ministers of Holy Mother Church and receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders upon ordination.  While they assist at Mass, where most of the faithful see us in action, it is the Deacon's charge to minister all week long in nursing homes, hospice care, food banks, jails and prisons, juvenile detention facilities, hospitals, in the streets, among the poor and broken-hearted and in so many other ways.  Our presence here on Sundays at the altar of the Lord sacramentalizes the service shared with the people of God all week long.  Here in the parish, in addition to seeing us at Mass, your Deacons prepare couples for marriage, assist those seeking annulments, help families prepare for baptism, lead prayer groups, Bible studies and offer spiritual direction.  The Deacon serves as an icon of Christ the Servant, who came to serve and not be served.  We honor the service of Deacon Frans LaBranche, ordained in 1981, Deacon Don Bourgeois, ordained in 1989, Deacon Mark Coudrain, ordained in 2006 and yours truly, ordained in 2008.  We also remember those Deacons who, as members of this parish, went on to service elsewhere, Deacons Ed Kelly, Steve Ferran, Norbert Billiot and Kenny Uhlich.

It is a joy for all of us to serve each of you as Permanent Deacons and our prayer that perhaps someone listening to this today may be called to the Diaconate.  Please feel free to contact any one of us for answers, prayers, encouragement and support.  May we also remember to serve and never be served and in the Eucharist, receive Him who we give back to you in our charity, mercy and service!

Pope Francis delivers Angelus Address entrusting the life of all Deacons to our mother Mary

ANGELUS ADDRESS: May Mary Support World Youth Day in Krakow
Recalling Upcoming International Children’s Day, Francis Also Encourages Faithful to Join Syrian Christian Children in Praying for Peace
Papa giubileo diaconi
CTV Screenshot - Pope at Mass for Jubilee of Deacons
Below is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ Angelus address today at the end of the Holy Mass celebrated in St. Peter’s Square on the occasion of the Jubilee of Deacons in St. Peter’s Square. Before reciting the midday prayer, the Pope said the following words:
Before the Angelus:
At the end of this celebration, I wish to extend a special greeting to you, dear deacons, who have come from Italy and other countries. Thanks for your presence here today, but most of all, your presence in the Church!
I greet all the pilgrims, in particular those from the European Association of Schützen historians; participants in the “Way of Forgiveness” promoted by the Celestiniano Movement; and the National Association for the Protection of Renewable Energy, committed to educating others to care for creation.
I also remember that today marks the National Day of Relief, aimed at helping people to live the final stage of their earthly existence well. I also remember the traditional pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine of Piekary in Poland, that is brought to completion today: May the Mother of Mercy support families and young people on their way to the World Youth Day in Krakow.
Next Wednesday, June 1st, on the occasion of International Children’s Day, the Christian communities of Syria, both Catholic and Orthodox, will together make a special prayer for peace, which will have children themselves as its protagonists. The Syrian children invite children from around the world to join their prayer for peace.
For these intentions, let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, as we entrust to her the life and ministry of all the deacons in the world.
Angelus Domini …
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]

Hot off the Vatican Press: The Holy Father's Homily for the Jubilee for Deacons

Pope’s Homily at Jubilee for Deacons
‘Available in life, meek of heart and in constant dialogue with Jesus, you will not be afraid to be servants of Christ, and to encounter and caress the flesh of the Lord in the poor of our time’
Papa giubileo diaconi
CTV Screenshot - Pope at Mass for Jubilee of Deacons
Below is the Vatican-provided translation of the Pope’s prepared homily during the Holy Mass concluding the Jubilee for Deacons this morning in St. Peter’s Square. Deacons and their families from all around the world were invited to make a pilgrimage to Rome in order to participate in this major gathering on the occasion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. This Jubilee for Deacons, May 27-29 in Rome, was a celebration for deacons, along with their wives and children:
“A servant of Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:10). We have listened to these words that the Apostle Paul, writing to the Galatians, uses to describe himself. At the beginning of his Letter, he had presented himself as “an apostle” by the will of the Lord Jesus (cf. Gal 1:1). These two terms – apostle and servant – go together. They can never be separated. They are like the two sides of a medal. Those who proclaim Jesus are called to serve, and those who serve proclaim Jesus.
The Lord was the first to show us this. He, the Word of the Father, who brought us the good news (Is 61:1), indeed, who is the good news (cf. Lk 4:18), became our servant (Phil 2:7). He came “not to be served, but to serve” (Mk 10:45). “He became the servant (diakonos) of all”, wrote one of the Church Fathers (Saint Polycarp, Ad Phil. V, 2). We who proclaim him are called to act as he did. A disciple of Jesus cannot take a road other than that of the Master. If he wants to proclaim him, he must imitate him. Like Paul, he must strive to become a servant. In other words, if evangelizing is the mission entrusted at baptism to each Christian, serving is the way that mission is carried out. It is the only way to be a disciple of Jesus. His witnesses are those who do as he did: those who serve their brothers and sisters, never tiring of following Christ in his humility, never wearing of the Christian life, which is a life of service.
How do we become “good and faithful servants” (cf. Mt 25:21)? As a first step, we are asked to be available. A servant daily learns detachment from doing everything his own way and living his life as he would. Each morning he trains himself to be generous with his life and to realize that the rest of the day will not be his own, but given over to others. One who serves cannot hoard his free time; he has to give up the idea of being the master of his day. He knows that his time is not his own, but a gift from God which is then offered back to him. Only in this way will it bear fruit. One who serves is not a slave to his own agenda, but ever ready to deal with the unexpected, ever available to his brothers and sisters and ever open to God’s constant surprises. A servant knows how to open the doors of his time and inner space for those around him, including those who knock on those doors at odd hours, even if that entails setting aside something he likes to do or giving up some well-deserved rest. Dear deacons, if you show that you are available to others, your ministry will not be self-serving, but evangelically fruitful.
Today’s Gospel also speaks to us of service. It shows us two servants who have much to teach us: the servant of the centurion whom Jesus cures and the centurion himself, who serves the Emperor. The words used by the centurion to dissuade Jesus from coming to his house are remarkable, and often the very opposite of our own: “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof” (7:6); I did not presume to come to you” (7:7); “I also am a man set under authority” (7:8). Jesus marvels at these words. He is struck by the centurion’s great humility, by his meekness. Given his troubles, the centurion might have been anxious and could have demanded to be heard, making his authority felt. He could have insisted and even forced Jesus to come to his house. Instead, he was modest and unassuming; he did not raise his voice or make a fuss. He acted, perhaps without even being aware of it, like God himself, who is “meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). For God, who is love, out of love is ever ready to serve us. He is patient, kind and always there for us; he suffers for our mistakes and seeks the way to help us improve. These are the characteristics of Christian service; meek and humble, it imitates God by serving others: by welcoming them with patient love and unflagging sympathy, by making them feel welcome and at home in the ecclesial community, where the greatest are not those who command but those who serve (cf. Lk 22:26). This, dear deacons, is how your vocation as ministers of charity will mature: in meekness.
After the Apostle Paul and the centurion, today’s readings show us a third servant, the one whom Jesus heals. The Gospel tells us that he was dear to his master and was sick, without naming his grave illness (v. 2). In a certain sense, we can see ourselves in that servant. Each of us is very dear to God, who loves us, chooses us and calls us to serve. Yet each of us needs first to be healed inwardly. To be ready to serve, we need a healthy heart: a heart healed by God, one which knows forgiveness and is neither closed nor hardened. We would do well each day to pray trustingly for this, asking to be healed by Jesus, to grow more like him who “no longer calls us servants but friends” (cf. Jn 15:15). Dear deacons, this is a grace you can implore daily in prayer. You can offer the Lord your work, your little inconveniences, your weariness and your hopes in an authentic prayer that brings your life to the Lord and the Lord to your life. When you serve at the table of the Eucharist, there you will find the presence of Jesus, who gives himself to you so that you can give yourselves to others.
In this way, available in life, meek of heart and in constant dialogue with Jesus, you will not be afraid to be servants of Christ, and to encounter and caress the flesh of the Lord in the poor of our time.
[Original text: Italian] [Vatican-provided translation]

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Cared for orpahns and war refugees, beatified and canonized by St. Pope JPII

St. Julia Maria Ledóchowska

Image of St. Julia Maria Ledóchowska


Feastday: May 29
Birth: 1865
Death: 1939

Julia Maria Ledóchowska was born in Austria in 1865, the daughter of a Polish count and a Swiss noblewoman. Her large family was a school of saints. Her uncle, Cardinal Mieczyslaw Ledóchowski, the Primate of Poland, was persecuted and imprisoned for his opposition to the policies of the Prussian Kulturkampf ["culture war"]. Her older sister, Blessed Maria Teresa Ledóchowska, founded the Missionary Sisters of S. Peter Claver and is affectionately known as the "Mother of Black Africa".
Julia Maria moved with her family to Poland when her father became ill in 1883. He died soon after, having given his blessing to her plans to enter the Convent of the Ursuline Sisters in Krakow. Julia took the religious name of "Maria Ursula of Jesus" and devoted herself to the care and education of youth. She organized the first residence in Poland for female university students.
As prioress of the convent after the turn of the century, she received a request to found a boarding school for Polish girls in St. Petersburg, Russia, then a cosmopolitan, industrial city. The pastor of St. Catherine's Church, Msgr. Constantine Budkiewicz (a Polish nobleman), extended the invitation, and Pope St. Pius X gave his approval. So in 1907 Mother Ursula went with another sister to Russia to found a new convent and work among the Catholic immigrants. Although the nuns wore lay clothing, they were under constant surveillance by the secret police.
At the beginning of World War I, Mother Ursula was expelled from Russia as an Austrian national. The Monsignor would be martyred by the Bolsheviks, and St. Petersburg would eventually be renamed "Leningrad".
Mother Ursula fled to neutral Sweden. She organized relief efforts for war victims and charitable programs for Polish people living in exile, founded a monthly Catholic newspaper, and made extensive ecumenical contacts with Lutherans in Scandinavia.
In 1920 M. Ursula, her sisters, and dozens of orphans (the children of immigrants) made their way back to Poland. During the tumultuous years that they had spent abroad, the growing Ursuline community had developed a distinctive charism and apostolate. Therefore Mother Ursula founded her own Congregation, the Ursuline Sisters of the Heart of Jesus in Agony. Her brother Vladimir, who had become Superior General of the Jesuits, helped to obtain Vatican approval of the new institute, which was to be devoted to "the education and training of children and youth, and service to the poorest and the oppressed among our brethren" (from the Constitutions).
Between the two world wars, M. Ursula and her nuns taught catechism in the enormous factory town of Lodz. She organized a "Eucharistic Crusade" among the working-class children, encouraging those little "Knights of the Crusade" to write to Pope Pius XI in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of his priestly ordination. Some children wrote that they loved the Holy Father as much as their own parents. Others spoke of receiving Our Lord in their First Holy Communion, of wanting to be His apostles and missionaries. One child wrote: "How beautiful it would be if the Holy Father were to come to Poland." Mother Ursula Ledóchowska died on May 29, 1939 at the general house of her community in Rome.
Pope John Paul II beatified her during his second pastoral visit to Poland, in 1983, the Holy Year of Redemption and the sixth centenary of Our Lady of Jasna Gora, in the city of Poznan, with schoolchildren from Lodz in attendance.
While visiting his homeland in June 1983, the Holy Father spoke the following words: "It is the Saints and the Blessed who show us the path to the victory that God achieves in human history. Every individual is called to a similar victory. Every son and daughter of Poland who follows the example of her saints and beati. Their elevation to the altars in their homeland is the sign of that strength which is more powerful than any human weakness and more powerful than any situation, even the most difficult, not excluding the arrogant use of power."
Less than a decade later, in 1991, when Pope John Paul II returned to Poland to beatify Bishop Pelczar, Solidarity had prevailed, the Berlin Wall had fallen, and the Catholic hierarchy had been restored in most Eastern European nations.