Friday, January 31, 2020

This great Irish Saint is our first for February

St. Brigid of Ireland

Image of St. Brigid of Ireland
Saint Brigid was born Brigit, and shares a name with a Celtic goddess from whom many legends and folk customs are associated.
There is much debate over her birthparents, but it is widely believed her mother was Brocca, a Christian baptized by Saint Patrick, and her father was Dubthach, a Leinster chieftain. Brocca was a slave, therefore Brigid was born into slavery.
When Dubthach's wife discovered Brocca was pregnant, she was sold to a Druid landowner. It is not clear if Brocca was unable to produce milk or was not present to care for Brigid, but legend states Brigid vomited any food the druid attempted to feed her, as he was impure, so a white cow with red ears sustained her instead.
Many stories of Brigid's purity followed her childhood. She was unable to keep from feeding the poor and healing them.
One story says Brigid once gave her mother's entire store of butter, that was later replenished after Brigid prayed.
When she was about ten-years-old, Brigid was returned to her father's home, as he was her legal master. Her charity did not end when she left her mother, and she donated his possessions to anyone who asked.
Eventually, Dubthach became tired of her charitably nature and took her to the king of Leinster, with the intention of selling her. As he spoke to the king, Brigid gave his jeweled sword to a beggar so he could barter it for food for his family. When the king, who was a Christian, saw this, he recognized her heart and convinced Dubthach to grant her freedom by saying, "Her merit before God is greater than ours."

After being freed, Brigid returned to the Druid and her mother, who was in charge of the Druid's dairy. Brigid took over and often gave away milk, but the dairy prospered despite the charitable practice, and the Druid eventually freed Brocca.
Brigid then returned to Dubthach, who had arranged for her to marry a bard. She refused and made a vow to always be chaste.
Legend has it Brigid prayed that her beauty be taken so no one would want to marry her, and the prayer was granted. It was not until after she made her final vows that her beauty was restored.
Another tale says that when Saint Patrick heard her final vows, he accidentally used the form for ordaining priests. When the error was brought to his attention, he simply replied, "So be it, my son, she is destined for great things."
Little is known about Saint Brigid's life after she entered the Church, but in 40 she founded a monastery in Kildare, called the Church of the Oak. It was built above a pagan shrine to the Celtic goddess Brigid, which was beneath a large oak tree.
Brigid and seven friends organized communal consecrated religious life for women in Ireland and she founded two monastic institutions, one for men and one for women. Brigid invited a hermit called Conleth to help her in Kildare as a spiritual pastor.
Her biographer reported that Brigid chose Saint Conleth "to govern the church along with herself."
She later founded a school of art that included metalwork and illumination, which Conleth led as well. It was at this school that the Book of Kildare, which the Gerald of Wales praised as "the work of angelic, and not human skill," was beautifully illuminated, but was lost three centuries ago.
There is evidence that Brigid was a good friend of Saint Patrick's and that the Trias Thaumaturga claimed, "Between St. Patrick and Brigid, the pillars of the Irish people, there was so great a friendship of charity that they had but one heart and one mind. Through him and through her Christ performed many great works."
Saint Brigid helped many people in her lifetime, but on February 1 525, she passed away of natural causes. Her body was initially kept to the right of the high altar of Kildare Cathedral, with a tomb "adorned with gems and precious stones and crowns of gold and silver," but in 878, during the Scandinavian raids, her relics were moved to the tomb of Patrick and Columba.

In 1185, John de Courcy had her remains relocated in Down Cathedral. Today, Saint Brigid's skull can be found in the Church of St. John the Baptist in Lumiar, Portugal. The tomb in which it is kept bears the inscription, "Here in these three tombs lie the three Irish knights who brought the head of St. Brigid, Virgin, a native of Ireland, whose relic is preserved in this chapel. In memory of which, the officials of the Altar of the same Saint caused this to be done in January AD 1283."
A portion of the skull was relocated to St. Bridget's Church and another was sent to the Bishop of Lisbon in St. Brigid's church in Killester.
Saint Brigid's likeness is often depicted holding a reed cross, a crozier, or a lamp.

So long January, come on February; the years run too short and the days too fast

Monumentally disappointed in December at the cancellation of my knee surgery, I decided that January, and the new year, and the new decade(although this is debatable) would be a good time to try and put best effort forward no matter what.  My new reality is nightly insulin injections, mounting knee pain and an unexpected flare up of my RA(rheumatoid arthritis).  It's been a good January, not all ups but lots less downs.  There was no cruise this year like January 2019 but that's ok.  Our big project around the house was starting to de-clutter, get rid of lots of physical stuff that no longer needs to be here.  Some of it was thrown out, some donated to charity and some packed and stored for the garage sales of this coming spring.  My big project in church/deacon world was the start of another Bible study program.  This one is a very lovely study; we are following Jesus from the last supper to the Cross with all the Biblical lessons and reminders along the way.  For Catholics you might recognize the name of Dr. Edward Sri, this is his project and it is wonderful.

The month brought great let-down(yep, New Orleans Saints, again) and great euphoria thanks to those world champion LSU Tigers.  I stayed up practically all night on the 13th as LSU dismantled Clemson and we watched LSU put the cherry on top of the 2019 cake that saw nothing but perfection.  On a personal note, we attended a beautiful party where we all learned that Elizabeth & Mark are having a boy!  The baby is expected in late May and big sister Brennan is so excited.  We had yet another "over-nighter" with Brennan who so makes me laugh.  Last week Wendy and I attended a 50th wedding anniversary party for her cousins Trudy & Mike.  These two no way look old enough to be celebrating 50 years but so they did.  Trudy & Mike were big time favorites of Wendy's mom, of happy memory, and we have always been fond of them as once we spent lots of time with them and their three boys, all fine men with great families of their own now.

Everyone who knows me surely knows what great joy I receive from my diaconate.  Always a deacon, those moments when you do, when you interact, when you are helping people; those are great moments.  Having "missed" several deacon functions of late thanks to this bum knee, I managed to assist at 9-10 masses, preached some, presided at a baptism and offered 1st Friday Benediction.  Also, there were two trips to Rayburn and ministry with these faithful Catholics inside a state prison, an important "come and see" meeting for men possibly with a call to diaconate and then the aforementioned Bible Study.

As you can see, life is good.  I even noticed prayer life is better, my spiritual rhythm restored and even working hard to get along in those times and places where sometimes getting along can be a struggle.

Coming soon are plans for reconciliation, more masses and preaching, more prison ministry, more Bible study and more de-cluttering too.  Can you believe February brings the Super Bowl, oh yeah, who cares, and Mardi Gras in all it's glory and soon the beautiful liturgical season of Lent and our big KC fish frys.

Come March the abitadeacon will turn 63.  I really do hope we have a solution to the high A1C so I can move forward with a new knee.  I also hope that this year, there is great spiritual growth, some clarity in view about things like how much longer I work, what will work look like as I grow closer to retirement and also clarity about living on such a big place; just the two of us, growing old and dealing with our own individual aches and pains.  And of course what will our growing role as Pops and Nona be, a new baby boy, a soon to be 2 year old Brennan and those awesome grands who just happen to live 812.5 miles away(Calvin & Katelyn).  There will be at least 2 trips north and east to spend some quality time in the Tar Heel state.

You know what, I did not mention impeachment, politics, local news, current events, all the rest.  I'm not the kind that ignores all such things, but my focus clearly is more on me, us, healing, serving, enjoying more and bitching less.  Will see how all this goes as time continues to flow.

Here is to January 2020 and looking forward to February 2020.  And I thank you for coming along on the journey.

God Bless us everyone!

Did you know: St John Bosco mom on way to Sainthood

“Mama Bosco” is on the way to canonization

Margaret Occhiena


St. John Bosco’s mother is known as a “venerable” in the Catholic Church.

While many know and love St. John Bosco, did you know that his mother is on the way to canonization? Margaret Occhiena was born in Italy in 1788 and married at the age of 24. She had three sons before her husband died in 1817.
She never remarried and committed herself to raising her three boys by example, showing them her own love of the Catholic faith. Author M.S. Pine gives a little taste of her parenting style in
A sketch of the life and works of the Venerable Don Bosco (published in 1916).
Margaret Bosco did not bring her sons up in softness or idleness. They rose with the sun in the summer, and long before dawn in the winter; dutiful children, they worked in the fields and helped in the house — prayer, work and play divided their day; their meals were frugal and they took their night’s rest on the floor. John was inured early, you see, to penance; but under this regime he flourished, and was the delight of his mother’s heart because of his tender piety, his purity of conscience, and his love tor the poor.
Even though Margaret was illiterate, she possessed a great wisdom and love of education that she passed on to her children.
Margaret, though her prospect of education had been blighted by the repressive measures of the time, had a beautiful mind, with rare force of character; she was somewhat of a poet, too, for from nature and from little daily happenings, she could draw analogies most sweetly spiritual, and these have often a lasting influence with children.
Her influence was so great in St. John Bosco’s life, that when he needed help with the orphan boys that he was housing and raising, he instinctively knew they needed a mother. Recalling the love he experienced as a child, Bosco turned to his own mother!
“Madre mia,” he said caressingly, “I need a mother for my poor boys, some one to care for them and love them, some one to manage my large household. Ah, if I could only bring the most precious treasure I have here in Becchi — my mother — to Turin!”
She accepted the mission and had a busy life at the Oratory, helping her son with anything he needed, “Margaret washed and ironed for them, made and repaired their clothes, cooked, swept and did the menial work of the house, besides cultivating a vegetable garden and keeping a poultry yard. She was never idle and no religious was ever poorer. Mamma Margaret, as she was called, was so beloved that she had a host of little self-constituted helpers who took delight in relieving her.”
Besides all of these “household tasks,” Margaret was a comforting and motherly presence for all the boys and she continued to guide her son with her gentle wisdom.
She died at the age of 68 on November 25, 1856 and her official cause for canonization was begun in 1995. Pope Benedict XVI declared her “venerable” on October 23, 2006.

The Pope met with the Argentina President; of interest, no mention of a visit home

© Vatican Media

Pope Francis Welcomes President of Argentina

President Also Met With Cardinal Secretary of State Parolin

On January 31, 2020, in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, His Holiness Pope Francis received in audience His Excellency Mr. Alberto Fernández, president of the Argentine Republic, who subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Monsignor Mirosław Wachowski, Under-Secretary for Relations with States.
During the cordial discussions, satisfaction was expressed over the good relations that exist between the Holy See and the Argentine Republic. Afterward, the situation in the country was examined, with particular reference to problems such as the economic-financial crisis, the fight against poverty, corruption and drug trafficking, efforts to build up society, and the protection of life from conception. In this context, it was noted the significant contribution of the Catholic Church in favor of all in Argentine society, especially the more vulnerable sectors of the population.
Discussions continued and focused on themes of common interest regarding the regional context.

Friday morning Papal homily

© Vatican Media

Pope at Santa Marta Mass: God Grant the Grace ‘To Send Us Always a Prophet’

So as Not to Lose Awareness of Sin

Pope Francis implored the Lord to “grant us the grace to send us always a prophet — who can be our neighbor, a child, mother, father  — who will slap us a bit when we slide into this atmosphere where everything seems legitimate.”
In his homily during the Mass in Casa Santa Marta, the Holy Father reflected on the Second Book of Samuel, focused on the figure of “holy King David,” reported Vatican News.
Awareness of Sin
 In this fragment, David, favoring a comfortable life, forgets that God chose him.
Then, Pope Francis referred to David’s sins: the census of the people and the story of Uriah, whom he had killed, after leaving Uriah’s wife Bathsheba pregnant. He chose murder because his plan, to arrange things after committing adultery, failed. David, the Pope said, “continued his normal life. Silence. His heart wasn’t moved.”
Spirit of Worldliness
 “However, how could the great David, who was holy, who had done so many good things, who was united to God, do that? That’s not something that is done overnight. The great David slid slowly,” said the Pontiff.
“There are sins of the moment: the sin of anger, an insult that I can’t control. However, there are sins into which one slides slowly, with the spirit of worldliness. It’s the spirit of the world that leads one to do these things as if they were normal, even a murder . . . , he continued.
In this connection, the Bishop of Rome described how sin takes hold of man slowly, taking advantage of his comfort. “We are all sinners: “however, sometimes we sin in a moment. I get angry; I insult. Then I repent. On other occasions, however, we get carried away to a state of life that . . . seems normal.” And he gave an example of what can be conceived as normal: “not to pay a maid as she should be paid, or pay half of what is owed to farmworkers.
An Evil of Our Time
 So Pope Francis pointed out that, despite the fact that some might seem to be “good persons,” “who go to Mass every Sunday, who call themselves Christians, commit grave sins because they have fallen “into a state in which they have lost the consciousness of sin. And that is an evil of our time. Pius XII spoke about losing the consciousness of sin.”
To show that this reality isn’t part of the past, the Holy Father referred to a recent incident in Argentina, in which some young rugby players killed a comrade in a fight after quite a night out. The kids that intervened in the event became “a pack of wolves,” he stressed
Listen to Others
 The Holy Father underscored that “many times a slap in life” is necessary to stop, to halt the progressive sliding to sin, and that someone like Nathan is necessary whom God sent to show David his error.
“Let’s think a bit: What is my life’s spiritual atmosphere? Am I careful; do I always need someone to tell me the truth? I don’t think so? Do I listen to the reproach of a friend, confessor, husband, wife, children, which helps me a bit?” he asked.
And, finally, looking at David’s story — of the holy King David” — the Holy Father invited to question ourselves: “if a saint is capable of falling so, let’s be careful, brothers and sisters, it can also happen to us. Moreover, let’s ask ourselves: in what atmosphere do I live?”

February starts tomorrow and here is Pope Francis' special prayer intention for the month


Listen to the Migrants' Cries

We pray that the cries of our migrant brothers and sisters, victims of criminal trafficking, may be heard and considered.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Salesian founder; devoted to young poor school boys.

St. John Bosco

Image of St. John Bosco

John Bosco, also known as Giovanni Melchiorre Bosco and Don Bosco, was born in Becchi, Italy, on August 16, 1815. His birth came just after the end of the Napoleonic Wars which ravaged the area. Compounding the problems on his birthday, there was also a drought and a famine at the time of his birth.
At the age of two, John lost his father, leaving him and his two older brothers to be raised by his mother, Margherita. His "Mama Margherita Occhiena" would herself be declared venerable by the Church in 2006.
Raised primarily by his mother, John attended church and became very devout. When he was not in church, he helped his family grow food and raise sheep. They were very poor, but despite their poverty his mother also found enough to share with the homeless who sometimes came to the door seeking food, shelter or clothing.
When John was nine years old, he had the first of several vivid dreams that would influence his life. In his dream, he encountered a multitude of boys who swore as they played. Among these boys, he encountered a great, majestic man and woman. The man told him that in meekness and charity, he would "conquer these your friends." Then a lady, also majestic said, "Be strong, humble and robust. When the time comes, you will understand everything." This dream influenced John the rest of his life.

Not long afterwards, John witnessed a traveling troupe of circus performers. He was enthralled by their magic tricks and acrobatics. He realized if he learned their tricks, he could use them to attract others and hold their attention. He studied their tricks and learned how to perform some himself.
One Sunday evening, John staged a show for the kids he played with and was heartily applauded. At the end of the show, he recited the homily he heard earlier in the day. He ended by inviting his neighbors to pray with him. His shows and games were repeated and during this time, John discerned the call to become a priest.
To be a priest, John required an education, something he lacked because of poverty. However, he found a priest willing to provide him with some teaching and a few books. John's older brother became angry at this apparent disloyalty, and he reportedly whipped John saying he's "a farmer like us!"
John was undeterred, and as soon as he could he left home to look for work as a hired farm laborer. He was only 12 when he departed, a decision hastened by his brother's hostility.
John had difficulty finding work, but managed to find a job at a vineyard. He labored for two more years before he met Jospeh Cafasso, a priest who was willing to help him. Cafasso himself would later be recognized as a saint for his work, particularly ministering to prisoners and the condemned.
In 1835, John entered the seminary and following six years of study and preparation, he was ordained a priest in 1841.
His first assignment was to the city of Turin. The city was in the throes of industrialization so it had slums and widespread poverty. It was into these poor neighborhoods that John, now known as Fr. Bosco, went to work with the children of the poor.
While visiting the prisons, Fr. Bosco noticed a large number of boys, between the ages of 12 and 18, inside. The conditions were deplorable, and he felt moved to do more to help other boys from ending up there.
He went into the streets and started to meet young men and boys where they worked and played. He used his talents as a performer, doing tricks to capture attention, then sharing with the children his message for the day.
When he was not preaching, Fr. Bosco worked tirelessly seeking work for boys who needed it, and searching for lodgings for others. His mother began to help him, and she became known as "Mamma Margherita." By the 1860s, Fr. Bosco and his mother were responsible for lodging 800 boys.
Fr. Bosco also negotiated new rights for boys who were employed as apprentices. A common problem was the abuse of apprentices, with their employers using them to perform manual labor and menial work unrelated to their apprenticeship. Fr. Bosco negotiated contracts which forbade such abuse, a sweeping reform for that time. The boys he hired out were also given feast days off and could no longer be beaten.
Fr. Bosco also identified boys he thought would make good priests and encouraged them to consider a vocation to the priesthood. Then, he helped to prepare those who responded favorably in their path to ordination.
Fr. Bosco was not without some controversy. Some parish priests accused him of stealing boys from their parishes. The Chief of Police of Turin was opposed to his catechizing of boys in the streets, which he claimed was political subversion.
In 1859, Fr. Bosco established the Society of St. Francis de Sales. He organized 15 seminarians and one teenage boy into the group. Their purpose was to carry on his charitable work, helping boys with their faith formation and to stay out of trouble. The organization still exists today and continues to help people, especially children around the world.
In the years that followed, Fr. Bosco expanded his mission, which had, and still has, much work to do.
Fr. Bosco died on January 31, 1888. The call for his canonization was immediate. Pope Pius XI knew Fr. Bosco personally and agreed, declaring him blessed in 1929. St. John Bosco was canonized on Easter Sunday, 1934 and he was given the title, "Father and Teacher of Youth."
In 2002, Pope John Paul II was petitioned to declare St. John Bosco the Patron of Stage Magicians. St. Bosco had pioneered the art of what is today called "Gospel Magic," using magic and other feats to attract attention and engage the youth.
Saint John Bosco is the patron saint of apprentices, editors and publishers, schoolchildren, magicians, and juvenile delinquents. His feast day is on January 31.