Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Saints Simon and Jude

Today on this Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, the Carthusians at Matins listened to an excerpt from the ‘Commonitory’ of Saint Vincent of Lérins. It is believed to have been written somewhere around the year 434. While the author identifies himself as ‘Peregrinus’, it was Gennadius of Marseilles who credits it to Vincent of Lérins. This Treatise is sometimes referred to as a ‘Remembrancer’, because Vincent’s goal was to provide himself with a principle to identify what is Catholic truth and what is error. Thus, he wrote this Treatise as a handy reference in which he could keep the truth ever fresh on his mind. Scripture, for example has many interpretations. Vincent of Lérins supports the idea that the proper interpretation(s) of Sacred Scripture must be supported by the ancient traditions and the universality of the Church – the deposit of faith, ‘the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth’ (1 Timothy 3:15), handed down to us by the apostles, like Simon and Jude, the pillars of faith. All other interpretations contrary, according to this Treatise, are to be rejected. Here is that excerpt.
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It is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation. In the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity and consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we do not depart from those interpretations which were held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if we embrace the definitions and doctrines of almost all the bishops and doctors.

The true and genuine Catholic is one who loves the truth of God, who loves the Church, who loves the Body of Christ. He esteems divine religion and the Catholic Faith above every thing, above the authority of man, above his regard, above his genius, above his eloquence, above his philosophy. Disregarding all these things, he continues steadfast and established in the faith, resolves that he will believe only that which the Church has always and universally believed. Whatsoever new and unheard of doctrine he shall find to have been furtively introduced by someone or another, contrary to that of all the saints, this, he will understand, does not pertain to religion, but is permitted as a trial, being instructed especially by the words of the blessed Apostle Paul, who writes thus in his First Epistle to the Corinthians: ‘There must also be divisions, that they who are approved may be made manifest among you’ (1 Corinthians 11:19). This is the reason why God doesn’t immediately eradicate errors, that it may be apparent of each individual, how tenacious and faithful and steadfast he is in his love of the Catholic faith.

But some one will say, shall there, then, be no progress in Christ's Church? Certainly -- all possible progress. For what being is there, so envious of men, so full of hatred to God, who would seek to forbid it? Yet on the condition that it be real progress, not an alteration of the faith. For progress requires that the subject be enlarged in itself; by alteration, that it be transformed into something else. The intelligence, then, the knowledge, the wisdom, as well of individuals as of all, as well of one man as of the whole Church, ought, in the course of ages and centuries, increase and make much and vigorous progress; but yet only in its own kind; that is to say, in the same doctrine, in the same sense, and in the same interpretation. The growth of religion in the soul must be analogous to the growth of the body, which, though in process of years it is developed and attains its full size, yet remains still the same.

There is a wide difference between the flower of youth and the maturity of age; yet they who were once young are still the same now that they have become old, insomuch that though the stature and outward form of the individual are changed, yet his nature is one and the same, his person is one and the same. An infant's limbs are small, a young man's large, yet the infant and the young man are the same. Men when full grown have the same number of joints that they had when children; and if something new appears, these were already present in the embryo, so that nothing new is produced in them when old which was not already latent in them when children. This, then, is undoubtedly the true and legitimate rule of progress; this is the established and most beautiful order of growth, that the mature age ever develops in the man those parts and forms which the wisdom of the Creator had already framed beforehand in the infant. Whereas, if the human form were changed into some shape belonging to another kind, or if the number of its limbs were increased or diminished, the result would be that the whole body would perish or become monstrous, or at least weakened. It behooves Christian doctrine to follow the same laws of progress. It needs to be consolidated by years, develop over time, and refine by age.

Our Fathers in the past planted in the Church the good seed of faith. It would be most unfair and unseemly if we, their descendants, instead of the authentic truth of grain, should reap the counterfeit error of weeds. On the contrary, from doctrine which was sown as wheat, we should reap, in the increase, the wheat of dogma, so that when in the process of time any of the original seed is developed, and now flourishes under cultivation, this is cause for joy. There may be changes in shape, form, variation in outward appearance, but the nature of each kind must remain the same. God forbid that those rose-beds of Catholic interpretation should be converted into thorns and thistles.

Therefore, whatever has been sown by the fidelity of the Fathers in this husbandry of God's Church, the same ought to be cultivated and taken care of by the industry of their children, the same ought to flourish and ripen, the same ought to advance and go forward to perfection. For it is right that those ancient doctrines of heavenly philosophy should, as time goes on, be cared for, smoothed, polished; but not that they should be changed, not that they should be maimed, not that they should be mutilated. They may receive proof, illustration, definiteness; but they must retain withal their completeness, their integrity, their characteristic properties. For if once this license of impious fraud be admitted, I dread to say in how great danger religion will be of being utterly destroyed and annihilated. For if any one part of Catholic truth be given up, another, and another, and another will thenceforward be given up as a matter of course, and the several individual portions having been rejected, what will follow in the end but the rejection of the whole?

If what is new begins to be mingled with what is old, the profane with the sacred, this disorder will spread universally, till at last the Church will have nothing remaining intact, nothing unchanged, nothing sound, nothing unblemished. Where formerly there was a sanctuary of chaste and undefiled truth, thenceforward there will be a brothel of impious and shameful errors. May God's mercy avert this wickedness from the minds of His servants; be it rather the frenzy of the ungodly. The Church of Christ, the careful and watchful guardian of the doctrines deposited in her charge, never changes anything in them, never diminishes, never adds, does not cut off what is necessary, does not add what is superfluous, does not lose her own, and does not appropriate what is another's.

Finally, what other object have Councils ever aimed at in their decrees, than to provide that what was before believed in simplicity should in future be believed intelligently, that what was before preached coldly should in future be preached earnestly, that what was before practiced negligently should thenceforward be practised with double solicitude? This, I say, is what the Catholic Church, roused by the novelties of divisions, has accomplished by the decrees of her Councils -- this, and nothing else -- she has thenceforward consigned to posterity in writing what she had received from those ancient days only by tradition, comprising a great amount of matter in a few words, and often, for the better understanding, designating an old article of the faith by the characteristic of a new name.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Solemnity of All Saints - November 1, 2015

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First Reading Commentary
Dom Augustin Calmet explains that it was the custom in the ancient East to seal soldiers with an indelible mark, a mark which signified that they belonged to God. In Christianity, it is the Sign of the Cross.

The number of one hundred and forty-four thousand is not to be understood literally. It is designed to show us that the number of the elect is great. Why use the number one hundred and forty-four thousand to signify a large number? It is most likely used to mathematically square the twelve tribes of Israel and then multiply it by one thousand.    

Christ's saving grace is intended for every nation, race, people, and tongue.  The white robes worn by the great multitude represents those who have been purified and cleansed from sin by the merits and grace of Christ crucified.  They have followed in the Footsteps of Jesus by carrying their cross.  Now they stand before God's Throne worshipping Him day and night.   These are the saints.  While this Reading speaks of so many souls that have gone before us, surely it is our hope that this Reading is also prophetic in the sense that this will be our future, if one can use the word future when speaking of eternity.  It is our prayer that we will survive our own time of great distress by staying close to Jesus, trusting that He will lead us to springs of life-giving water in which we will have the privilege of singing His praises before His Throne.  For it is the Lamb Who is in the center of the Throne and we pray that He will shepherd us for all eternity.
Second Reading Commentary
We the baptized are children of God and that will never change.  If we meditate on that alone, eventually we will realize that this is a tremendous gift of which we are not worthy; and that gift within itself is more than sufficient. 

But God’s love for us goes far beyond the privilege of calling Him “Father”.  There is more to come although what is coming has not yet been revealed. 

Our God became like us so that we may become like Him.  And becoming like Him can only be that unimaginable and indescribable beauty of beholding His Face for all eternity.

For now, though, in our culture which often rejects Love Himself, let us remember Scripture teaches us that where sin increases, grace overflows all the more (cf. Romans 5:20).

Saint John concludes this Reading telling us: “Everyone who has this hope based on Him makes himself pure, as He is pure.” And Saint Paul assures us that hope does not disappoint (cf. Romans 5:5).

Gospel Commentary
It is called the greatest homily the world has ever heard or read. It is the Beatitudes. Saint Matthew perhaps mentions Jesus going “up the mountain” to create an image not of a physical mountain but a spiritual mountain. In other words, Jesus climbs the great heights of the spiritual mountain intimating the importance of the message He is about to preach.

Something also of importance could easily be missed by the liturgical translation’s use of the words, “He began to teach them.” The ancient texts translate as: “And opening His Mouth.” This is relevant because that was an ancient Hebrew way of putting hearers on notice that something very important is about to be said; and as Saint Peter proclaimed, Jesus has the words of everlasting life (cf. John 6:68).

The “poor in spirit” quite simply are the humble and contrite of heart; and to them awaits the Kingdom of heaven.

Those “who mourn” are not those who are sad or frustrated with the world and its happenings, but instead those who mourn their own sins. This is truly an elevated, up the spiritual mountain, extraordinary spirituality – loving God so much that the thought of their sins is excruciating. One of the characteristics of being on the path to sainthood is an awareness of one’s own darkness and a willingness to expose that darkness to the Light.

The “meek” are those who have little to no interest in the treasures of this world and endure with patience the sufferings of this world. While they may appear weak by temporal standards, they are a delineation of Saint Paul’s words: “For which cause I please myself in my infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am powerful (2 Corinthians 12:10). And the meek “will inherit the land,” that is, the Promised Land, the land of everlasting life.

Those “who hunger and thirst for righteousness” have an insatiable desire to be holy, serving God and pleasing God. In our weakness we are prone to pleasing ourselves or even someone else for the sake of gaining material riches or notoriety. Again, though, wanting to be very holy is a great grace offered to those desiring and willing to climb that mountain of celestial beauty.

“Blessed are the merciful.” The Latin word for mercy is misericordia. It is a compound word meaning, “misery of the heart”. How does this translate to mercy? Those who are holy, their heart aches over the injustices and immorality experienced in this life because it offends God. What they seek, however, for the world, is not punishment or revenge, but forgiveness. As Catholic Christians, we pray for this at every Mass with the “Our Father” prayer. Love for God is truly transported to the great heights of the spiritual mountain when we sincerely forgive others.

The “clean of heart” are those who have no conscious knowledge of being in mortal sin. This can come to fruition for anyone by means of the Sacrament of Confession. The clean of heart are also concerned about venial sins. Their heart’s disposition is to never offend God. Confession is frequent, relying on the grace of the sacrament. Saint John Paul II, for example, went to Confession every week. There’s much diversity among the saints, but their commonality is their faithfulness to that sacrament. Saint John Chrysostom said that if we are to see God, the virtue of purity is a must.

Saint John Chrysostom also explains what it means to be “peacemakers”: To be peaceful ourselves and with others, and to bring such as are at variance together, will entitle us to be children of God. Thus we shall be raised to a participation in the honor of the only begotten Son of God, Who descended from heaven to bring peace to man, and to reconcile him with his offended Creator. 

Perhaps in this day and age, in our highly secularized culture, it is self-explanatory to comprehend what it means to be “persecuted for the sake of righteousness”. This is the age where religious freedom is being threatened by civil law. This is the age where some would like to see God removed from virtually everything.
Every age in human history has dealt with suffering but it seems so unlikely in this age in which a nation that has been granted so many gifts from God, would pursue moral relativism. Saint Paul advises us, however: “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12).Everyone enjoys a happy ending in a motion picture. Jesus offers us happiness in the end of this sermon that at the moment is unimaginable: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” This is the joy we hope for. This is the joy we celebrate this weekend by honoring those who have already received this great reward.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 25, 2015

Click here for the Readings
First Reading Commentary
This Reading describes the joy of Israel's return from exile; God gathering His people to console them, guide them and lead them.  In a prophetic sense this is Jesus delivering us from sin and death. 

From the ends of the earth He calls us to repentance.  He proclaims that our captivity to sin and death need not be because He is the Way, He is the Truth, He is the Life and He is the Light that removes the darkness of sin and death.  He gives purpose and meaning to the lame, the blind, and the elderly.  He is Consolation for our tears.  He is our Guide when we are fearful and uncertain about what lies ahead.  He invites us to abandon our waywardness and come to Him. 

It's interesting to note that the blind, the lame and the mothers with child described here as an immense throng suggests something that is countercultural in our day because it intimates the dignity that God ordains for the handicapped, the unborn child, indeed, all human life.

Second Reading Commentary
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews is giving a job description of what a priest is and what a priest does.  He is our representative before God; he is in need of forgiveness just like the rest of us.  He does not make himself a priest; he is a priest because God has called him to it. 

When examining Christ's qualifications, what is apparent is that He is God the Son Who is our representative before our heavenly Father because it was God the Father Who called Him to His Priesthood.  He is not in need of forgiveness because He never sinned; but He became sin for us so that He could also become the Sacrifice and atonement for our sins.  He took our sins upon Himself giving Him the incomprehensible vocation of both Priest and Victim.  And there is great comfort and assurance in knowing that He is patient and merciful because His boundless love for us led Him to become like us, living according to our means under extremely humble circumstances so that He could feel our weakness, our hurt, our pain and our shame; and also take it all upon Himself and deal with it in a way that only Almighty God is capable of undertaking.

Gospel Commentary
Who will help lead the blind if not the One Who can see?  As always, God is to be praised for His mercy in performing physical miracles but the healings have a much deeper, spiritual meaning for all of us. 

This weekend's Gospel speaks about conversion and the healing of spiritual blindness.  None of us possess 20/20 vision when it comes to spiritual sight; otherwise, we would all be sinless.  Since all sin can be linked to pride, conversion is thus a daily, on-going process and must begin at the Throne of grace in the practice of daily prayer.  This is exactly what Bartimaeus does here by calling out, "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me." 

The next verse tells us that many rebuked Bartimaeus and told him to be silent.  How true this is today!  Our culture makes attempts to silence our love for our Lord – to remove His Holy Name from the public eye.  Prayer is taken away from schools, Crucifixes are even removed from universities that call themselves Catholic; the Ten Commandments are removed from government buildings and public places, many companies do not allow their employees to display anything of a religious nature at their desks; and the list goes on and on. 

The beginning of this Gospel tells us that Jesus was with a sizeable crowd making it reasonable to assume that Jesus, at this moment, is very busy.  But He stops everything to answer the cry of Bartimaeus.  From this we can see that even though God has an entire universe to care for, somehow on a very personal level, we as individuals are very important to Him.  He loves us collectively and individually with so great a love that it's just not possible for us to understand or fully appreciate. 

Bartimaeus is told by the others to take courage.  Those who say this to him represent what we need to be for each other.  We have to be courageous and at the same time encourage each other. 

Bartimaeus threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.  That throwing aside of the cloak represents an abandonment of a former way of life, a life of immorality, a life that did not include God.  Each day is a struggle for us to throw aside our cloaks because temptation would have us go and pick it up again. But it's precisely in those moments of weakness that Jesus calls out to us: "What do you want Me to do for you?"  Bartimaeus answers, "Master I want to see."  What do we need to see?  There are many answers to that question.  To begin with, we need to recognize and see our own need for conversion.  We need to see that we are in need of each other.  We need to see Jesus as the Gateway Who provides our escape from temptation. 

As Christians, being followers of Christ is not only what we do, but more importantly it is who we are.  The Gospel text tells us that immediately Bartimaeus received his sight and followed Jesus.  This is showing us that Jesus is our Healer, Who gives us comfort in our on-going conversion process. He is the One we can turn to in good times and bad, and the One we follow and serve until He calls us home; and by following Him, home is where He is leading us.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A State of Recollection

Today is the feast of Saint Teresa of Avila. From the Divine Office, at Matins, the Carthusians listened to this great Saint in her own words. Here’s what the monks heard.
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In the beginning, when I attained to some degree of supernatural prayer -- I speak of the prayer of quiet -- I labored to remove from myself every thought of bodily objects; but I did not dare to lift up my soul, for that I saw would be presumption in me, who was always so wicked. I thought, however, that I had a sense of the presence of God: this was true, and I contrived to be in a state of recollection before Him. This method of prayer is full of sweetness, if God helps us in it, and the joy of it is great. And so, because I was conscious of the profit and delight which this way furnished me, no one could have brought me back to the contemplation of the Humanity of Christ; for that seemed to me to be a real hindrance to prayer. O Lord of my soul, and my Good! Jesus Christ crucified! I never think of this opinion, which I then held, without pain; I believe it was an act of high treason, though done in ignorance.

The first consideration is this: there is a little absence of humility -- so secret and so hidden, that we do not observe it. Who is there so proud and wretched as I, that, even after laboring all his life in penances and prayers and persecutions, can possibly imagine himself not to be exceedingly rich, most abundantly rewarded, when our Lord permits him to stand with Saint John at the foot of the Cross? I know not into whose head it could have entered to be not satisfied with this, unless it be mine, which has gone wrong in every way where it should have gone right onwards. Then, if our constitution -- or perhaps sickness -- will not permit us always to think of His Passion, because it is so painful, who is to hinder us from thinking of Him risen from the grave, seeing that we have Him so near us in the Blessed Sacrament, where He is glorified?

No trial befalls me that is not easy to bear, when I think of You standing before those who judged You. With so good a Friend and Captain ever present, Himself the first to suffer, everything can be borne. He helps, He strengthens, He never fails, He is the true Friend. I see clearly, and since then have always seen, that if we are to please God, and if He is to give us His great graces, everything must pass through the Hands of His most Sacred Humanity, in Whom His Majesty said that He is well pleased. I know this by repeated experience: our Lord has told it me. I have seen clearly that this is the door by which we are to enter, if we would have His supreme Majesty reveal to us His great secrets. So, then, I would have you seek no other way, even if you have arrived at the highest contemplation. This way is safe.

Our Lord is He by Whom all good things come to us; He will teach you. Consider His life; that is the best example. What more could we want than so good a Friend at our side, Who will not forsake us when we are in trouble and distress, as they do who belong to this world! Blessed is he who truly loves Him, and who always has Him near him! Let us consider the glorious Saint Paul, who seems as if Jesus was never absent from his lips, as if he had Him deep down in his heart. After I had heard this of some great Saints given to contemplation, I considered the matter carefully; and I see that they walked in no other way. Saint Francis with the stigmata proves it, Saint Antony of Padua with the Infant Jesus; Saint Bernard rejoiced in the Humanity of Christ; so did Saint Catherine of Siena, and many others, who knew better than I do. This withdrawing from bodily objects must no doubt be good, seeing that it is recommended by persons who are so spiritual; but, in my opinion, it ought to be done only when the soul has made very great progress; for until then it is clear that the Creator must be sought for through His creatures.

When God suspends all the powers of the soul – by some means of prayer -- it is clear that, whether we wish it or not, this presence of the most Sacred Humanity of Christ is withdrawn. Be it so, then, the loss is a blessed one, because it takes place in order that we may have a deeper fruition of what we seem to have lost; for at that moment the whole soul is occupied in loving Him Whom the understanding has toiled to know; and it loves what it has not comprehended, and rejoices in what it could not have rejoiced in so well, if it had not lost itself, in order, as I am saying, to gain itself the more. But that we should carefully and laboriously accustom ourselves not to strive with all our might to have always -- and please God it be always -- the most Sacred Humanity before our eyes -- this, I say, is what seems to me not to be right: it is making the soul, as they say, to walk in the air; for it has nothing to rest on, however full of God it may think itself to be. It is a great matter for us to have our Lord before us as Man while we are living and in the flesh.

We are not angels, for we have a body; to seek to make ourselves angels while we are on the earth, and so much on the earth as I was, is an act of folly. In general, our thoughts must have something to rest on, though the soul may go forth out of itself now and then, or it may be very often so full of God as to be in need of no created thing by the help of which it may recollect itself. But this is not so common a case; for when we have many things to do, when we are persecuted and in trouble, when we cannot have much rest, and when we have our seasons of dryness, Christ is our best Friend; for we regard Him as Man, and behold Him faint and in trouble, and He is our Companion; and when we shall have accustomed ourselves in this way, it is very easy to find Him near us, although there will be occasions from time to time when we can do neither the one nor the other. We must not show ourselves as laboring after spiritual consolations; come what may, to embrace the Cross is the great thing.

The Lord of all consolation was Himself forsaken: they left Him alone in His sorrows. Do not let us forsake Him; for His Hand will help us to rise more than any efforts we can make; and He will withdraw Himself when He sees it to be expedient for us, and when He pleases will also draw the soul forth out of itself. God is greatly pleased when He beholds a soul in its humility making His Son a Mediator between itself and Him, and yet loving Him so much as to confess its own unworthiness, even when He would raise it up to the highest contemplation, and saying with Saint Peter: ‘Go away from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man’ (Saint Luke 5:8). I know this by experience: it was thus that God directed my soul. Others may walk by another and a shorter road. What I have understood of the matter is this: that the whole foundation of prayer must be laid in humility, and that the more a soul humbles itself in prayer, the more God lifts it up.

I come, then, to this conclusion: whenever we think of Christ, we should remind ourselves of the love that made Him bestow so many graces upon us, and also how great that love is which our Lord God has shown us, in giving us such a pledge of the love He bears us; for love draws forth love. And though we are only at the very beginning, and exceedingly wicked, yet let us always labour to keep this in view, and stir ourselves up to love; for if once our Lord grants us this grace, of having this love imprinted in our hearts, everything will be easy, and we shall do great things in a very short time, and with very little labour. May His Majesty give us that love -- He knows the great need we have of it -- for the sake of that love which He bore us, and of His glorious Son, to Whom it cost so much to make it known to us! Amen.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Carthusian Saints and Blesseds

Today, the Carthusians honor all those of their Order who are now heavenly intercessors, residents of Paradise – the Saints and the Blessed. At Matins, the monks listened to an excerpt from what is considered a masterpiece in Syrian spirituality titled: "Le Livre de la Perfection" by the seventh-century writer and martyr, Sahdona.
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To all those who care about their salvation, Christ our hope and our God, has taught us in the Gospel to distance ourselves from the world, waiting for God alone, devoting ourselves to prayer and spiritual contemplation. By His words and His example He has shown that no place is more suitable for both prayer and being fixed on God than a place of solitude, away from traffic and favorable to recollection.

There, in fact, the body quiets itself, because the excitements of the external senses are extinguished while at the same time the soul is no longer agitated by internal impulses. As the worldly tumult subsides, it brightens the spirit; the mind becomes liberated from dark earthly concerns: in short, man emerges purified and freed from all physical and spiritual pollution. The discerning eye of his inner light shines and it is good to know himself, to improve and guide his behavior on the clear path of justice. Under these conditions, the man is rushed into the spiritual heights, he stands before the Lord and perceives something glorious, and feels extremely blessed by the Lord Who created him.

He dwells in God alone due to holy purity of life, and God constantly abides in him, waiting to envelop him with the great remembrance of His own manifestation, to burst from the body and impulses man’s thoughts, until the last day, entering into the clouds of heaven, where his covered face will be uncovered and radiant.

Blessed devotion! Your wonders have manifested themselves since the beginning with Adam, our ancestor, and have grown through all generations and achieved miracles for us. These marvelous effects shine in those wonderful beings who are men of truth, who have been able to contemplate its significance. They have taken flight far away from the world and its distractions in order to quiet themselves, body and soul, withdrawing to the desert; by these means they strive for total peace which is rendered to them, the incredible recollection, infused by the Lord supernaturally.

Our Lord, mighty, victorious and holy, source of all holiness, courage and victory, and Who has not disregarded the toil of fasting! Who among us carnal beings can ignore or dismiss You, weak and sinful as we are, continually stuck in the mud of passions?

No one would dare to say that the adverse passions of the flesh have ever been able to touch the Lord's Body, the Receptacle of Perfection, the magnificent Temple of the Divine. Yet, although He did not have the slightest need, the Lord Jesus did not renounce the laborious practice of fasting; in order to better teach the great virtue and holiness that He confers on those who observe it.

Just as He was baptized to teach us in our turn to receive baptism and follow His example, thus He fasted to teach us to fast in His likeness. Every baptized person should feel compelled to fight against evil, as did our Lord, and so to be attached to the weapons of fasting even though we have received the fullness of the Spirit.

We fast according to the will of God, sincerely and wholeheartedly, without altering our fasting obligations to the criteria of Satan. This would occur if fasting hypocritically, being seen by others, in order to please men and receive the reward of vain praise from the people; we would thus be excluded from the divine reward, just as our Lord warned about the Pharisees, blinded, discouraging imitation: When you fast -- He said -- do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. Verily I say unto you, they have received their reward.

Behold, rendered wholly perfect by fasting from all evil, hungry and thirsty for the spirit of felicity that comes from God, we will be able to escape the threat of misery and famine in the last days reserved for those who shall be satisfied on earth. We will merit instead the blessing of contentment that Christ Jesus has promised to the hungry in these terms: Blessed are those who hunger, they shall be satisfied.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 18, 2015

First Reading Commentary
From a Christian perspective, it’s relatively easy to see Jesus as the fulfillment of this prophecy of the suffering servant.  From that understanding, the words “long life” would translate into “eternal life” as Jesus is the One Who gave His life as an offering for sin, taking our guilt upon Himself.  The sufferings of this servant would have a redemptive value. 

This must have been a difficult concept when this message was first proclaimed.  The Jews endured much suffering and spent many hours in prayer, pleading to God for relief; and to hear or read that their hope would be fulfilled by yet more suffering must have seemed absurd. 

Today, not even all Christians see a value in suffering.  Sadly, some believe that suffering is caused by a lack of faith.  From a Catholic point of view, our sufferings are united with Christ's in such a way that we can offer them in union with His redemptive work for the salvation of souls.

Second Reading Commentary
In the Old Covenant, a sacrifice required a priest and a victim.  In the New and Everlasting Covenant, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was both Priest and Victim.
One of the many beauties of our relationship with our Lord is that He was willing to take on our way of life by the most humble means possible, making our ability to relate to Him much easier because we know that He has already endured what we endure, and much more than that.  Jesus not only lived those circumstances which tempt us and often lead us to our shortcomings, He also took those shortcomings and failures upon Himself making it considerably easier for us to relate to Him.  Knowing that, we can indeed, as the last verse says, "confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help."
Gospel Commentary
Jesus, because He is God, already knows what James and John are about ask.  This is a lesson for us to be a people of prayer.  God is Omnipotent and Omniscient but He wants us to have that dialogue with Him. 
There’s something very alluring about greatness.  Many would love to achieve it or minimally be in the presence of it.  Many young adults have spent the night outside of an arena just so they could be one of the first in line to buy tickets to see their favorite rock stars.  At Hollywood movie premiers, look how many people line up along the red carpet just to get a glimpse of their favorite movie stars.  Nowadays, a small fortune is spent to go to professional sporting events to watch athletes perform seemingly super-human feats.  Mostly what’s intriguing about greatness is the power, fame and wealth that goes along with it.  All of these forms of greatness, however, are short-lived. 
In this Gospel, James and John are looking to achieve greatness.  And the greatness they are looking for is not exactly what Jesus had in mind.  They want to sit at the right and left of Jesus.  Jesus tells them they do not know what they are asking.  They are thinking of Jesus as the eventual Head of some sort of world government; and by sitting at His right and left they would be considered powerful men, at least by human standards.  Their minds at this point haven’t really grasped what greatness is in terms of the Messianic mission. 
Take a moment and think of those you would consider to be great Christians.  If you were able to interview all of them you might find very different personalities: some married, some single, some ordained ministers, doctors, lawyers and ditch diggers.  One common denominator, however, that all of them would be able to share with you is the sufferings they have endured. When you are serious about your walk with the Lord, that walk is an extremely difficult one, with many sufferings.  Suffering is an inescapable ingredient for not only being a great Christian but also being human.  With God’s grace, our acceptance of this makes us great Christians; and this greatness is quite different, if not opposite, of the type of greatness mentioned earlier. 
In worldly terms, greatness means being served; in Christian terms, greatness means to serve.  The desire of any great Christian is to follow in the Footsteps of Jesus Who suffered and gave His life as a ransom for many.  Great Christians have also given their lives literally.  But offering one’s life doesn’t have to mean the death of the body.  It could mean death to a way of life: a life of immorality, untrustworthiness, greed and anything else that is contrary to what Jesus taught.  It is much easier to give up and surrender to these immoralities since today’s world is flooded with such things. 
Much of the sufferings that Christians endure are the temptations to give up the good fight and surrender to the ways of the culture.  But we don’t have to fight it alone.  We have our Lord and each other. 
Greatness in a worldly sense is often single-minded and perhaps egotistical.  Jesus tells His apostles and us, His devoted followers, that among us it shall not be so.  Christianity already has One Holy Trinity and there simply isn’t any room for the trinity of me, myself and I.  We are called to be servants and slaves, putting the needs of others before our own.  If we allow temptation to pollute our minds, this way of life may not sound so great.  But our ultimate greatness cannot be achieved in this life; in fact, it cannot be achieved at all by us.  Our ultimate greatness is not something we earn; rather, it is given as a gift by the greatest One of all; and that gift is eternal joy and peace.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Holy Father Bruno

From the Museo della Certosa is the Italian publication titled, "I Colori del Silenzio". And in that publication is a loving tribute to Holy Father Bruno. It is shared here on this day where around the world the Carthusian Order celebrates the Solemnity of Saint Bruno.
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There are lives, my God, which may be approached only with respect, holy grounds where Your mystery shines. No one can contemplate them without being enlightened by You, no one can find them without being inflamed by Your Spirit.
On 6 October 1101, Sunday, at the Hermitage of Santa Maria della Torre in Calabria, Italy there were some monks, and in the midst of them a man laid down. Tears were in their eyes and choking cries in their voices. The guide of their souls, their father . . . had reached the time of his birth into eternity. This man is you, Bruno. In this instant, your whole life, more than seventy years, is in your heart, the final offering to the Father.

Behold your first years in Cologne, where you were born, your departure for Rheims in France, that great and celebrated school of theology, your scholarly enlightened intuitions, and your appointment as canon of that church. The face of Archbishop Gervais, his decision of promoting you, at the early age of twenty-eight, to master of the most celebrated school of this time; students from all over Europe flocked together to listen to you, as your fame continually increased; then came the archbishop’s death in July 1067.
Behold the newly elected Manasse, his greed, his rages, the first discords, the increasing disorder, the scandals, while the Church reforms herself thanks to the Holy Father, Gregory VII; your sufferings, and the firm decision to voice your displeasure of the papal Legate. In the final months of 1076 came the retaliations of Manasse, depriving you of all your charges and goods – leading to the way of exile, a long and painful fight which lasted four years. At last the decision of the Pope: to depose, to dismiss the bishop from his See, while all eyes looked upon you to be the successor. But . . . in the silence of your heart, suddenly, another Heart! Your exile was the first stage of a long interior pilgrimage.

Behold the call of Christ: to leave everything so as to follow Him, to resume the way of the first fathers of the desert; the astonishment of all, the admiration for you, the light of Rheims, who was already fifty-five years old; then Sèche-Fontaine, the first attempt at solitary life with two other monks, but soon they defected and you searched for a second hermitage.

Behold your new companions: Landuin, two men named Stephen, and Hugh; these four were clerics, and with them were Andrew and Guérin, the first lay brothers. Their faces are still now in your heart, your brothers so beloved. And all seven were united as the flames of the archangels before the Almighty. You asked Hugh, the holy Bishop of Grenoble, for a place to live, hidden in God. Hugh of Grenoble was a friend of your heart. He helped you immediately without reservation; he had a dream about seven stars that guided him into the desert of Chartreuse to glorify God.
On June 1084, nearing the feast of Saint John the Baptist, you arrived at the place foreseen in the dream, to begin a great adventure still unknown. Behold your monastery, lost in the mountains, the first years, the ascetic struggle, the peace of the Spirit. Such fire in your souls, such love in your hearts! You, Bruno, already possessed pure praise and cries of amazement: "O Bonitas! O Bonitas!" (O the Goodness! O the Goodness!).

Six years of toils, six years of joy; God, God, God always, only God, together with your brothers! Then, unexpectedly, the trial . . . In the first months of 1090 a courier of the Pope arrived with this message: Urban II, a former student of yours, calls you to his service at his side. The sun sets, it is night. Leaving everything, abandoning all, again, undoubtedly forever, your solitude in God, that blessed solitude, your companions of life, your friends. But in your heart, the "yes", which is your love for God and for the Church. But the tempest overwhelms your brothers, the bewilderment takes them, and they disperse. To be without you, the master, the star of the journey: How could they? This way is so difficult. Everything collapses. Everything! Your heart is on the cross. It is the hour of your passion. Has the beautiful adventure reached its end? "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by! Yet, not my will, but Yours be done." The sky opens, a new day is born. Your brothers again gather in the desert guided by Landuin. Your soul is suffering less, Bruno, at the hour of departure.
Behold Rome, the holy city, the heart of Christianity! But Rome is threatened. Shortly after your arrival, the Emperor Enrico IV and his protected, the antipope Clement III, launched their troops towards it. Urban II and his court fled to the south, near the land of the Norman allies. And still another trial: the Holy Father offers you the archbishopric of Reggio Calabria. What were you to do, Bruno? This is such a difficult time for the Church, as a brilliant future opens up for you – a counsellor for the Pope, a trustworthy man, admired by all. But in your soul still resounds the call, continuous, powerful, captivating, even stronger in the splendour of this court: Only God! Only God! To be His, completely His, only His, together with other brothers! Only God! Your heart, a cry of love for Him! Father, will You forget Your son? It is You Who has sown the cry in him . . . Bruno, the Lord responds, Urban II blesses your vocation: yes, you may resume your solitary life. "O Bonitas! O Bonitas! My life and my all, my beloved forever." (Autumn of 1090).

Your heart would like to return to Chartreuse, to find your brothers. But the Pope asks you to stay in these lands and you accept his words as those of Christ. But where to dwell? A friend of the Holy Father, and soon to be your friend, Count Ruggero, offers you a vast desert territory. Behold your hermitage, Santa Maria della Torre, in the woods of the Serre, and the arrival of new companions, and later others, and yet more, up to thirty-three new sons. Nearby the hermitage stands the monastery of Saint Stephen where the lay brothers lead more a life in community; Landuin guides them, your faithful friend.
Eleven more years, eleven years of hard work and asceticism, eleven years of light and joy in praise, here, in this rich land of monks and hermits, whose history is blessed with their presence. And so, that your joy may be complete, Bruno, one day found the happiness of a visit: Landuin, who brings with him the love of your first sons, and their fidelity. "O Bonitas! O Bonitas!" -- so as to accept this friend of yours in this land that fills your heart, with an embrace and a gaze.
The autumn of life nears the end and your eyes rise towards eternity. Two years have passed since Urban II left this world; a year later, on his return journey, Landuin dies professing the faith in the prisons of the antipope; three months before that, in June, Ruggero died. Bruno, heaven calls you. Now . . .
The breath becomes briefer, perspiration bathes you, with your last brothers, you proclaim your faith, a hymn to the Trinity. The instant is near, time opens. Bruno, look at this grand light, so immense: "My Lord and my God."
"It is Me My friend, come! Enter into My Heart. Come! Come."
"O Bonitas! O Bonitas!"
Bruno, stay with us!
"I will remain in your hearts."
Everything stood still. Silence freezes us in its density. Fire has consumed the last twigs, the flame has vanished. Bruno . . . your face is so beautiful, illuminated by peace; and your eyes, open towards heaven, are overflowing with an infinite tenderness. A hand closes them in the ultimate sleep. Your life is hidden in Him, for all eternity. Fullness of joy! Ocean of love!
But your light still shines in our hearts and in your two letters, for your friend Raoul and your brothers of Chartreuse, who will bear witness forever to your mystery. You are so present in them, your profound humanity, finesse, your sweetness and goodness, your harmony throughout, your wisdom, all tenderness and humility, spiritual joy, simplicity - Bruno, all-burning with your love of God, and the God-Love in you.
Yes, you are alive forever. And, like a planted seed, from you will rise a tree where different birds will make their nests. Are you not seeing it in the Eyes of God?
A life-flame of prayer still consumes itself roundabout you, Bruno; it burns in this place from where now you fly towards heaven, so as to make descend from there a great light of melody and love. Together with the first, behold all your sons and daughters, throughout the centuries, until this day and even further, all of us who, invisibly are around you on this 6 October, in this instant of your great birth, Bruno.