Sunday, January 31, 2021

This Irish Saint kicks off our February Saints


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.

Septuagesima Sunday - still celebrated or not?


What Is Septuagesima? (And Why It’s No Longer in the Current Calendar)

By Jennifer Gregory Miller ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 14, 2020 | In The Liturgical Year


A lady should never reveal her age, but for the sake of honest writing I admit I was born in the late 1960s, which means my conscious memory of Mass was in the vernacular. I don’t remember a transition from the Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite in Latin to the Mass in the Ordinary Form in English. The 1969 Liturgical Calendar reform also would have been implemented before the time I was aware of liturgical seasons and feast days. Basically, I am a child of the post-Vatican II Church.

When I would read books about the Liturgical Year that were written before Vatican II, I would notice a few minor differences compared to the current Roman calendar that I would have to sort out, like changed dates for feast days (i.e., St. Thomas the Apostle moved from December 21 to July 3), different names of seasons (i.e., Ordinary Time instead of “Time after Epiphany” and “Time after Pentecost”), and ranks and categories of feast days (i.e., Solemnity, Feast, Memorial instead of First Class, Double Class, etc.). These were not difficult or too different to understand, and I could easily refer one liturgical calendar to another without a problem.

But there were a few references to certain liturgical days in the older calendars that were a repeating puzzle for me and it took me quite some time to figure them out. The biggest hurdle for me was Septuagesima. What is it? How do you pronounce it? Is it a day or a season? What does it mean? What is its history and significance? Why did this liturgical season disappear in the 1969 Calendar Reform?

Maybe other readers have come across this word and found it head-scratching, so I thought I would touch on this Pre-Lenten season called “Septuagesima” since Septuagesima began this past Sunday, February 9, for those who follow the 1962 Extraordinary Form Calendar.

What is Septuagesima?
The number of liturgical seasons in the 1962 and current Roman Calendars differ only by one season. The Extraordinary Form follows the 1962 calendar which includes a Pre-Lent season called Septuagesima.

1962 Extraordinary Form Liturgical Calendar Wheel

1969 (Current) Ordinary Form Liturgical Calendar Wheel

Images Note: To the left is the 1962 Extraordinary Form Liturgical Calendar Wheel, which includes Septuagesima season. The right image is the Current, Revised in 1969, Ordinary Form Liturgical Calendar Wheel. Visually, there is only one difference between the calendars, and that is the one extra season of Septuagesima.

The word Septuagesima is Latin for “seventieth.” It is both the name of the liturgical season and the name of the Sunday. Septuagesima Sunday marks the beginning of the shortest liturgical season. This season is seventeen (17) days long, and includes the three Sundays before Ash Wednesday. The length of the season never changes, but the start date is dependent on the movable date of Easter that can fall between March 22-April 25. Septuagesima Sunday can be as early as January 18.

The origins of Septuagesima as a liturgical season are obscure. This is one of the last liturgical seasons to be added to the Liturgical Calendar. The roots are Roman, and it is not mentioned until the sixth century during the time of Pope St. Gregory the Great. It is often thought St. Gregory himself might have written the Mass formularies, especially since the content reflects so much of the conflict and suffering during that time:

The note of sadness in most of the texts of these Masses has given rise to the theory that they were composed at a time when Italy, and Rome in particular, were once more exposed to barbarian invasions, and threatened with misfortunes similar to this which had overwhelmed them in the fifth century. The sixth century, the time of the institution of Septuagesima, was also a period of pillage and havoc, and hence we have a sorrowful echo in the petitions framed at this time (The Year’s Liturgy, Vol. 1, Fernand Cabrol, p. 101).

The Septuagesima season was to help people ease into Lent as a type of preconditioning program. Liturgically it looked and felt very much like Lent. The Gloria and Alleluia were no longer allowed, the tone was very penitential with the priest wore purple vestments. The main difference would be that there were no fasting requirements in the later centuries.

What’s In a Number?
As I mentioned, the word Septuagesima is Latin for “seventieth.” Pre-Lent, as this period may be called, consists of three Sundays with particular numbered names, Septuagesima (seventieth), Sexagesima (sixtieth), and Quinquagesima (fiftieth). Before you get out your calendar and start counting, even the Church was aware that these numbers do not properly reflect that number of days before Easter, as their names suggest. Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima Sundays actually fall on the 61st, 54th, and 47th days before Easter, respectively. The titles seem to be arbitrarily chosen. Since the first Sunday in Lent was called Quadragesima (fortieth), the three Sundays before Quadragesima were named after the nearest round figures, 70, 60 and 50.

The Church has always valued the symbolism of numbers. When the penitential season before Easter was added to the Liturgical Calendar, the time was in imitation of Jesus fasting and praying in the desert for forty days. Thus, the Lenten season was created, with the intention of marking forty days of preparation and penance before the feast of Easter, from the First Sunday of Lent including Holy Thursday.

Sundays were never considered as fast days, so the original forty days meant that Lent would only have thirty-six fast-days in the Western or Latin Rite. Thirty-six didn’t meet the special number of Our Lord’s fast days, so adding the supplementary four days beginning with Ash Wednesday brought the number to forty. However, in the Eastern churches there were additional days of the week that were not considered fast days:

We must recognise that this addition to our Roman Lent renders it far more like that of the Greek Church, which, not keeping Thursdays and Saturdays as fast-days, has to anticipate the beginning of her Lent (The Year’s Liturgy, Vol. 1, Fernand Cabrol, p. 102).

and further notes of development:

This season developed from the early sixth to the early seventh centuries as the result of monks extending the forty-day prepaschal fast for progressively longer periods. In doing so they may have been imitating Oriental churches that had to begin their time of penance at least eight weeks before Easter, since they fasted only five days a week, excluding Saturdays as well as Sundays. If Holy Week was not considered part of Lent, then the Lenten fast had to begin nine weeks before Easter, on the day that coincides with the Roman Septuagesima Sunday. Efforts to make the weeks of fasting in Rome match those of the East would have been supported by several seventh-century popes who were Orientals. Another reason for lengthening the fast at this time is that “repeated Gothic and Lombard invasions caused people to be predisposed to supplementary practices of prayers and penance.” By the time of Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), the three Sundays before the beginning of Lent had acquired special Masses, the texts of which are found in the ancient sacramentaries (Patrick Regan, Advent to Pentecost: Comparing the Seasons in the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite, pp. 77-78).

Eventually the Septuagesima season was added to reach the actual number of forty fast days. Later Septuagesima no longer became a time of fasting, but the season remained.

A Need for Reform
It’s easy to see how the Septuagesima season could be bewildering. Visually and liturgically it looked and sounded like Lent: purple vestments, no flowers, no Gloria, no Alleluia, and a very solemn penitential tone. I can imagine the confusion it caused if a person wasn’t in tune with the Church Calendar. “Is it Lent already? Did I miss Ash Wednesday? Am I supposed to be fasting?”

The only difference between Septuagesima and Lent was outside of the liturgy. No fasting was required. In fact, Septuagesima season was the time when Carnival or Mardi Gras would be in high gear for feasting before Ash Wednesday. So there was a juxtaposition of Carnival and Pre-Lent Liturgy.

Interestingly, I found so few pre-Vatican II writings on Septuagesima. Usually liturgical reflections were lumped with the Lenten season, with only a passing reference to Septuagesima. Not a single liturgical author showed a fierce attachment to the season, but usually apologetically explained this “pre-conditioning” time for Lent and then moved on to Lenten reflections.

Vatican II in the document Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium) from 1963 called for the Liturgical Year to be revised, so that it would “duly nourish the piety of the faithful who celebrate the mysteries of the Christian redemption and, above all, the paschal mystery....”

The minds of the faithful should be directed primarily toward the feasts of the Lord whereby the mysteries of salvation are celebrated throughout the year (SC, 108).

A return to essentiality was the main reason for the reform. The central character of the Paschal Mystery of the Liturgical Year needed to be restored.

Septuagesima Removed
With the call for reform by Vatican II, the Liturgical Calendar was reformed. The Motu Proprio Mysterii paschalis of Pope St. Paul VI from 1969 approved the document General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar which details the revised calendar.

Both the Motu proprio and General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar do not mention Septuagesima.

The commentary accompanying the General Norms explains that

Septuagesima time, an anticipation of Lent, is suppressed….This revision returns Lent to its original unity and significance. The season of Septuagesima is abolished since it had no meaning of its own….It was difficult to explain the season to the people, and even the names of its Sundays were obscure. Most of all, it took away from the ‘newness’ of the penitence theme, proper to the liturgy of Lent (Regan, Advent to Pentecost: Comparing the Seasons in the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite, p. 77-78)

Therefore, since 1969, the General Roman Calendar and Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite count the original Septuagesima, Sexagesima, or Quinquagesima Sundays as Sundays in Ordinary Time.

A Positive Change
By removing Septuagesima, there is a central focus on the Paschal Mystery in the Liturgical Year. Easter now has the proper position as central and highest feast of the year.

The year is structured so even my young students can see the visual emphasis on Easter compared to the rest of the year. Removing the extra three Sundays of purple means the preparation period before Easter doesn’t equal or outweigh Easter. Easter, with its eight Sundays is the largest of the liturgical seasons. (As an aside, Ordinary Time or “Time of the Year” is technically not a liturgical season. Ordinary Time does not focus on particular aspects of the Redemption mystery. So while it takes up the largest number of weeks, it is not the longest liturgical season.)

In my experience as a catechist with elementary age children, when they understand the penitential and preparatory color is purple and the celebration color is white, they can look at a Liturgical Calendar wheel and visually assess that Easter is the greatest feast of the year.

And with Septuagesima removed, the solemnness and powerful message of Ash Wednesday for a change of heart and penitence is restored.

I love history and tradition, but in this case, I think this was a very wise reform by the Church to remove Septuagesima and restore an essential Liturgical Year.

Praying with the Pope all February long


The Pope's Monthly Intentions for 2021

February 2021

Violence Against Women

We pray for women who are victims of violence, that they may be protected by society and have their sufferings considered and heeded.


My homily for this 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 I fight authority, authority always wins!  True words from singer John Mellencamp.  Authority always does seem to win.

We all should know quite a bit about authority.  We are subject to authority from  parents, teachers, supervisors and more.  We are taught to respect authority in civil matters when it comes to obeying laws provided they are not immoral laws, how we treat our fellow man, even that dreaded task of paying our taxes.

As people of faith, there is one authority we have no need to fight; the authority of Jesus Christ and His bride, the Catholic Church!

On this 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time there is an emphasis on "authority".  In today's reading from Mark's Gospel we see Jesus teaching for the first time.  This is no ordinary teaching for Scripture tells us that Jesus taught with authority.  So much so that even an unclean spirit obeyed Jesus.  All commented that Jesus taught with authority, a new teaching!  Now Mark does not give us any details on what Jesus was teaching but rather focuses on authoyrity.  There is also another important aspect to this story.  Apparently the synagogue officials do not know who Jesus is.  Yet the unclean spirit identified Jesus as the Holy One of God!  Even the demons and unclean spirits know who Jesus is yet the people miss the clues.  That happens all around us today.  Despite 2,000 years of Church teaching, Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, many miss Jesus, the one who teaches with authority, as the Holy One of God!

How do these teachings continue to be passed on to us today?  How does each subsequent generation know of the Holy One of God?  Where do we find authority today?  Let's be clear, all authority is a gift from God and the teaching authority of Jesus is still that of Jesus.  But in God's plan, by his holy design and perfect will, that authority lies in what we call the Magesterium - the teaching authority of the Church!

We understand the Magesterium is the teaching of the Pope along with the Bishops of the world in union with the Pope.  Church teaching tells us that when teaching definitively on matters of faith and morals we can be assured that this is teaching with authority, the authority of Jesus Christ.  We can also be assured that, as promised, when teaching on matters of faith and morals, that teaching is protected by the Holy Spirit.  The Pope, when teaching ex-cathedra, from the Chair of Peter, is protected from all error.  Now that is authority!  The Magesterium, the teaching authority of the Church, along with Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, combine to make up the full deposit of faith, the three-legged stool that guides us to holiness and salvation.  This is the true fullness of truth that so many of our Christian brothers and sisters miss.  We need all three!

Do we not need such a teaching authority today?  Indeed we do.  It is the Magesterium called upon in every generation to guide the people of God through the storms that an ever increasing secular world and lifestyle throw at us.  Could the Christians of the first few centuries ever have imagined that their descendants, you and I, would be dealing with things like abortion on demand, late-term abortions, hideous forms of chemical, artificial birth control that closes the door to life, making human beings dependent on the chemical companies getting rich while sickening those who take these drugs in more and varied ways as the science reveals the true horror.  How about euthanasia, gender reassignment and the redefininition of marriage.  It is the Magesterium of the Catholic Church that has, is and will continue to teach with authority that we are to do God's will not the will of culture, societies, media and politicians, some who claim to be very Catholic, hell-bent on replacing God with the power they think they have.  Yes it is the magisterium, leading all of us, the people of God, in opposing what is wrong and doing what is right.  Oh yes, sometimes, many times, we stumble and we must acknowledge that even many of our own do not follow Church teaching.  Unlike many other once relevant Christian traditions that bend and sway and change every time they place their finger in the air, Holy Mother Church has held firm in all life issues.  As the bride of Christ, the same Christ that teaches with authority, the Church must teach with that same authority; it is one and the same.

What does this mean for us this week; during these confusing times; what can we do?  As Catholics we must know and understand this teaching authority of the Catholic Church. We need only to go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Don't have one, why not?  There is not one Catholic family that should be without one in each home.  Of course, in today's world, it is on the internet.  Google it!   Now once you have access to the Catechism, our homework this week is to carefully read paragraphs 74-100.  If we read this carefully and thoughtfully, we will learn much of what we need to know about the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, the Magesterium.  Please commit to read these sections of the Catechism, at least twice in the week ahead.  And since in all things we are called to prayer, this week a beautiful and special prayer is available to each of us.  This coming Friday is 1st Friday, we have all day Adoration and evening Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.  Some of us avail ourselves of this beautiful devotion and opportunity to pray but some of us have not been to Adoration and Benediction in a long, long time.  What better week, when the teaching authority of our Church is attacked with more and more evil, attacked even from within, to come and participate in Adoration and even Benediction.  All day, this Friday immediately after morning mass concluding with Benediction at 7 pm.

Yep, when we fight authority, we are told authority always wins.  In the authority of Jesus Christ, and in his bride, the Church, we have no need to fight.  We should take great joy that this authority always wins; and it is a win for each and everyone of us when we  embrace and submit to this authority.  Yes, following the authority of Jesus Christ and His bride, Holy Mother Church, we win!  We win - no matter what! 

A new celebration for grandparents and the elderly


A young girl takes a walk with her grandfatherA young girl takes a walk with her grandfather 

Pope establishes World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly

Pope Francis has decided to institute a Church-wide celebration of a World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. Starting this year, it will be held on the fourth Sunday of July, close to the liturgical memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus.

By Vatican News staff reporter

Following the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis announced the institution of World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, which will take place each year on the fourth Sunday in July, close to the feast of Sts Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus.

Recalling the upcoming feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple – when the elderly Simeon and Anna encountered the child Jesus and recognized Him as the Messiah – Pope Francis said, “the Holy Spirit even today stirs up thoughts and words of wisdom in the elderly.” The voice of the elderly “is precious,” he said, “because it sings the praises of God and preserves the roots of the peoples.”

The elderly, he continued, “remind us that old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between the different generation, to pass on to the young the experience of life.”

The elderly must not be forgotten

The Holy Father said he instituted the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly because “grandparents are often forgotten, and we forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on” what the elderly have received.

He emphasized the importance of grandparents and grandchildren getting to know one another, because “as the prophet Joel says, grandparents seeing their grandchildren dream,” while “young people, drawing strength from their grandparents, will go forward and prophesy.”

First fruits of the Amoris Laetitia Family Year

In a press release following the announcement, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, the establishment of the Day of Grandparents and the Elderly “is the first fruits of the Amoris Laetitia Family Year, a gift to the whole Church that is destined to continue into the future.”

He added, “The pastoral care of the elderly is a priority that can no longer be postponed by any Christian community. In the encyclical Fratelli tutti, the Holy Father reminds us that no one is saved alone. With this in mind, we must treasure the spiritual and human wealth that has been handed down from generation to generation.”

The statement from the Dicastery notes that Pope Francis is expected to celebrate the first World Day by presiding at Mass on the evening of Sunday, 25 July, in St Peter’s, subject to health measures in place at the time. Closer to the Day, the Dicastery “will announce further initiatives that will mark the event.”

Priorities for Pope Francis

Within the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, Vittorio Scelzo is involved with the pastoral care of the elderly. He notes that the celebration of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is connected to the Days established by Pope Francis for the Word of God and for the Poor. In an interview with Vatican News, Scelzo emphasized that “the poor, the Bible and the elderly” are “three priorities” of Pope Francis’ pontificate, priorities that are destined “to mark the future of the Church.”

It is necessary to bridge the gap between the elderly and younger generations, Scelzo said, adding, “The elderly are not saved by themselves. Unfortunately, we have seen during the pandemic how many elderly were not saved.” Pope Francis wants to remind us that similarly, “young people, adults and our society cannot save themselves without the elderly,” said Scelzo. He noted that intergenerational dialogue is essential: “In order to come out of the crisis better and not worse, every society needs to come to terms with its roots and develop a new synthesis of its values, starting also from dialogue with the elderly.”

The dreams of the elderly

Scelzo continued, “The opposite of the culture of discarding is precisely pastoral care for the elderly: putting the elderly at the centre of the life of our communities every day. Not only in emergencies, not only when it is too late to realise this.”

The elderly “are trees that always bear fruit and people who continue to dream.” So young people must be “brought into dialogue with the dreams of the elderly.” Scelzo recalls that this is a message often repeated by Pope Francis. “The dreams of the elderly have built our society; for example, I am thinking of Europe, of a world without war anymore.” The encyclical Tutti fratelli is full of “this dream of a world without war.” It is the dream that “our elders, our grandparents had after the Second World War.”

“Perhaps,” Vittorio Scelzo concludes, “we need to enter into dialogue with these dreams” in order “to understand what the dreams for the future of our society should be.”

Sunday Angelus Address 01.31.2021


Pope during AngelusPope during Angelus  (ANSA)

Pope at Angelus: ‘Let yourselves feel the full force of God’s word'

Pope Francis on Sunday encouraged believers to read the Gospel with an open heart, to listen to Him and follow Him, to experience the signs of His salvation in their lives.

By Vatican News staff writer

Addressing the faithful on the fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time from the Library of the Apostolic Palace, the Pope reflected on the reading from the Gospel of Mark (Mk 1: 21-28), that he explained, tells of a typical day in Jesus’ ministry: The Sabbath, a day dedicated to repose and prayer.

He described the reaction of those present in the synagogue of Capernaum where Jesus was reading and commenting on the Scriptures.

They were attracted by His manner of speaking, the Pope said, and they were astonished because Jesus demonstrates an authority different to that of the scribes.

Furthermore, he said, “Jesus shows Himself to be powerful also in His works. Indeed, a man of the synagogue turns to Him, addressing Him as God’s envoy: He recognises the evil spirit, orders him to leave that man, and so drives him out.”

The Pope said the reading highlights two characteristic elements of Jesus’ work: “preaching, and the thaumaturgical work of the healer.”

Jesus preaches with the authority of God

He added that preaching is emphasised the most, while “exorcism” is presented as a confirmation of the singular “authority” of Jesus and His teaching.

Jesus, he explained, preaches with His own authority, “as one who possesses a doctrine derived from himself, and not like the scribes who repeated previous traditions and laws,” it has the same authority as God who speaks, “for with a single command He easily frees the possessed man from the evil one, and heals him.”

“His word brings into effect what He says, because He is the ultimate prophet; indeed, He is the very Word of God incarnate. That is why He speaks with divine authority,” he said.

He defeats the evil present in the world

The second aspect, healing, Pope Francis continued, shows that Christ’s preaching is intended to defeat the evil present in humankind and the world.

“His word points directly at the kingdom of Satan: it puts him in crisis and makes him recoil, obliging him to leave the world,” he said, noting that the possessed man in the synagogue, “reached by the Lord’s command, is freed and transformed into a new person.”

Jesus’ preaching, the Pope continued, “conforms to a logic contrary to that of the world and of the evil one: His words appear to be the upheaval of a mistaken order of things.”

In fact, the demon who has possessed the man cries out as Jesus approaches: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?”

These words, Pope Francis explained, indicated the total extraneousness between Jesus and Satan: “they are on completely different planes; there is nothing in common between them; they are the opposite of each other.”

Carry the Gospel with you every day

The Pope said that this Sunday’s Gospel should inspire in us too some of the admiration and wonder that the people of Capernaum felt as they listened to Jesus, that Sabbath day, in the synagogue.

And he invited believers to always carry a copy of the Gospel with them and to delve into it with an open heart, allowing themselves to be touched and healed by God’s Word and promise of salvation.

“May the Virgin Mary, who always kept Jesus’ words and gestures in her heart, and followed Him with total willingness and faithfulness,” he concluded, “help us to listen to Him and follow Him, to experience the signs of His salvation in our life.”

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Founded the Salesian Order, a Saint who advocated for children


St. John Bosco

Feastday: January 31
Patron: of apprentices, editors and publishers, schoolchildren, magicians, and juvenile delinquents
Birth: August 16, 1815
Death: January 31, 1888
Beatified: June 2, 1929 by Pope Pius XI
Canonized: April 1, 1934 by Pope Pius XI

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.