Sunday, July 23, 2017

16th Sunday in OT 2017 - The problem of evil in the world and in the Church



One of the oldest philosophical problems believers in God have had to address is what is called the Problem of Evil. The problem can be stated very simply: If God is so good, why is there so much evil and suffering in the world? If an all-good, all-wise, all-loving, all-just, and all-powerful God is running the show, why does hatred, injustice, and wickedness seem to flourish? Why do bad things to happen to good people?

How do we Catholics answer this question? How do we reconcile our belief in a good, loving God with all the evil and hatred in the world? Believers typically address the “Problem of Evil” starting with human free will. In the book of Genesis, we read how God creates the light, the water, the earth, the stars, the animals, and pronounces them “Good”. God is not the origin of evil; he did not create anything or anyone evil. Rather, evil enters into creation through the free choice of Man. Evil, discord, war, selfishness, divorce, these things result of man utilizing his free will to rebel against God’s plan.

God created us to love Him, to reflect His goodness, and to be in harmony with Him and with each other, and we said, “no, we’ll do it our own way.” Disease, war, famine, and death enter into creation because of us.

Okay. God is not the origin of Evil, but if He is all-good and all-powerful, why does he allow evil to continue? Well, for one, what good is free-will if it has no consequences. To eliminate the consequences of choices, is basically the same as eliminating the ability to choose. So, to respect our freedom, God allows our choices to play out.

Scripture is clear that the choice of Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit had eternal consequences. But, God in his goodness, immediately after announcing the consequences of sin, announces His plan to redeem us from sin. There, in same chapter of Genesis as we read about the sin of Adam and Eve, God announces the birth of one who would crush the head of evil forever. In the fullness of time, Jesus takes our sins, as if they were his own, and pays our debt with his precious blood. The problem is evil is solved. In Christ, God brings a greater good out of the evil caused by us.
What does the problem of evil have to do with our Gospel today? In the parable of the weeds and wheat, Jesus addresses the problem of evil. Jesus likens the kingdom of God to a field, in which is springing up both weeds and wheat.

The Lord is clear, in the Church, his kingdom on earth, there are both weeds and wheat. There are so many good things going on in the Church, Christians truly surrendering to the grace of the sacraments and becoming the people God made them to be, there is a great amount of wheat. But there also seems to be a great amount of weeds these days. Why does the Lord, the Head of the Church, allow this?

Most of us love the Church very deeply, and sometimes we wonder why there is so much error still around, why are there so many Catholics not going to Church, why don’t the Bishops do something about the liturgical abuses, why doesn’t the Pope do something about the immoralities and heresies amongst the clergy.

Today’s parable addressed the concerns of even those first generations of Christians. Even then, there were Christians who turning away from the Gospel, falling back into sin—Christians who received baptism and Eucharist, but seemed to be filled with vile, immorality, and pride. Paul had to write letters to the Christians in Corinth because some of them continued to engage in perversions like sodomy and incest. He had to write to the Thessalonians because there were rich Christians who refused to celebrate the Eucharist with poor Christians.

Jesus helps us understand that in the earthly Church, in this earthly life there will always be both wheat and weeds. There will be Christians who don’t seem to get it. So, be patient with them. Secondly, it’s not always clear to us how to distinguish between weeds and wheat. Even expert farmers have a difficult time telling the difference between the two while they are still growing.  It is only at harvest time when the two can be distinguished. In the end, the Lord will be the judge, who is wheat and who is a weed.

This week, we celebrated the feast of St. Camillus. For many years, it looked like St. Camillus was a good for nothing weed. At the age of seventeen, Camillus joined a group of mercenary soldiers; soon he was engaging in the vices of the military camp—swearing, drinking, visiting prostitutes.  He and his father, Giovanni, even teamed up as a father and son con artists, swindling their fellow soldiers. It appeared he was on the straight road to hell.

After years of crime, violence and immorality, Camillus’ father fell seriously ill.  To Camillus’ surprise, Giovanni sent his son to fetch a priest. Giovanni made a good confession, repented of his sins and crimes, he received Holy Communion, and died in peace.

This was a turning point in Camillus’ life. His father, a life time gambler, cutthroat, and conman called for a priest in order to die in a state of grace. And this shattered Camillus’ own hardness. Camillus went on to become a priest, and even began a religious order caring for the sick and destitute of Rome.

Sometimes those who appear to be weeds, especially in the foolish years of youth, turn out to be wheat for the Lord. So we must not despair over those who leave the Church or appear distant from God. God is at work in their lives. Just as God can use the witness of Camillus’ father to break the hardness in Camillus’ heart, so too God can use our meager witness, to reach even the hardest hearts, and wake dormant souls out of their complacency

Our job isn’t to be the weed puller, to condemn those who continue to engage in sin. Our attitude towards young, immature or confused Christians should be very gentle.  With the immature we should be patient, knowing that Christian growth occurs in the Lord’s time.

We certainly shouldn’t tolerate false teaching, we shouldn’t invite the enemy into our field to sow seeds of error. We should never encourage people to engage in sin. A few years ago, there was a media storm around a comment Pope Francis made…imagine that.  He dared to utter those dangerous words, “Who am I to judge?”

In his comment, the Holy Father was basically quoting scripture.  “There is only one lawgiver and judge,” writes St. James in his Epistle.  “He is the one able to save and destroy.  So, who are you to judge your neighbor?”

Neither the Pope, nor any Christian, can point to anyone and say, “that person is definitely going to Hell because of their sins.”  Such a judgment is reserved to God alone.  Pope Francis isn’t telling us to throw away the Catechism and ignore the Scriptures because everyone automatically goes to heaven no matter what they do or what they believe. He’s just saying, he’s not the one who makes the rules and none of us are either.

Our Gospel this weekend is very clear that there are eternal consequences for rejecting God’s law.  There will be a separation at the end of time, weed from wheat, sheep from goats, the saved from the damned, those who accepted God’s grace and those who rejected it.

Amidst the evils of the world, we are called to faith, to gentleness, patience, and the willingness to endure suffering for the sake of the kingdom, for the glory of God, and salvation of souls.

Friday, July 21, 2017

July 21, 2017 - St. Lawrence of Brindisi - "He is a living Pentecost"

A 17th Century contemporary of his, the Cardinal theologian Cajetan, said that St. Lawrence of Brindisi was “an incarnation of the old apostles, who, speaking to all nations, were understood by all.  He is a living Pentecost.” St. Lawrence was certainly enlivened by the Holy Spirit, he was able to preach effectively in at least 6 languages.

Saint Pope John XXIII honored this gifted son of St. Francis by proclaiming him a Doctor of the Universal Church with the title “Apostolic Doctor”.

St. Lawrence accomplished so many different kinds of service in his sixty years of life: Army chaplain, diplomat & peacemaker, miracle-worker, exorcist, theologian, biblical scholar, linguist, confessor, mystic, and leader of the Counter-Reformation, doctor of the Church.  As vicar general for the Capuchins he combined his brilliance, his great administrative skill, and his great sensitivity and human compassion.  He founded many friaries, in Prague, Vienna, Bohemia, Madrid, and Austria.

What was the source of his greatness, of his devotion, of his fortitude, and courage?  His effectiveness as a preacher derived from an intense interior life—particularly his great love for the Mass and the Blessed Virgin to whom he attributed his vocation. He would sometimes be so caught up in ecstasy during the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice that he would be weeping with love and adoration.

If we wish to become the person God made us to become, we too must make the interior journey: we must come to have a burning love of Christ, seeking purification sins, habituating ourselves in the ways of Christ through a fervent practice of the virtue, enlightenment of mind through meditation of His Holy Word. We must seek to see as our true nourishment prayer and the Sacraments.

Fulton Sheen often said that the reason many of us are not the saints God made us to be, is because we do not wholly wish to become them. We play pretend at seeking God, instead of really making Him our life’s quest.

In the words of St. Lawrence: “Christ came into this world to do battle with Satan, to turn the world to faith and the true worship of God.”

May our faith and worship be purified and strengthened by this holy Saint, may he help us to deepen our zeal and courage for the Gospel, to develop our gifts for the building up of the Church, for the work of God, for his Glory, and the salvation of souls.

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For Bishop Nelson Perez, the next shepherd of our diocese; for our Apostolic Administrator, Bishop Daniel Thomas; for Bishop-emeritus Richard Lennon; that the Holy Spirit will continue to enlighten and empower them with grace, confidence and hope.  We pray.

For our Holy Father’s prayer intention for the month of July: that our brothers and sisters who have strayed from the faith, through our prayer and witness to the Gospel, may rediscover the merciful closeness of the Lord and the beauty of the Christian life. We pray.

That the Holy Spirit may enlighten all Christians, deepening in them conviction for the Gospel. We pray.

That the love of Christ, the divine physician, may bring healing to the sick and comfort to all the suffering. We pray.

For the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, and all the poor souls in purgatory, for deceased priests and religious, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom. We pray.

O God, who know that our life in this present age is subject to suffering and need, hear the prayers of those who cry to you and receive the prayers of those who believe in you. Through Christ our Lord.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thursday - 15th Week of OT 2017 - "For I am meek and humble of heart"

Over the past few days, our first reading has been taken from the book of Exodus. We’ve heard how God hears the cries of his people, burdened by the suffering of Egyptian slavery, he hears their call for deliverance. God chooses Moses to deliver God’s people from the hand of Pharaoh, to lead the enslaved to the rest of the promised land. But before Moses takes up this mission, we heard today, how God revealed his name to Moses.

Jesus reveals Himself as the great deliverer, the one who can lead all mankind to the eternal rest of the promised land of heaven, whose name itself means savior, Jesus, God who saves us from our sins.

Jesus invites all mankind to turn to him for salvation, for rest. He’s not promising a good night’s sleep or the forgetfulness of our problems that comes from the bottle or the little pill. Nor does he promise that he will magically make all of our difficulties vanish. Jesus offers a rest, a peace that nothing in the world can possibly give. “Peace, not as the world gives, do I give” says the Lord. It is rest and peace that comes from his mercy. The forgiveness of the guilt of sin, the knowledge of being reconciled, and being in communion with God, brings life and rest and peace, that no substance, no political or social reform, not amount of amount of physical or mental therapy can provide. Peace of soul. Such peace is available through the Sacraments, through prayer and devotion.

Notice, how Jesus doesn’t promise to unburden us totally. As soon as he promises rest, he commands us to take up a new burden, to take up the yoke, which is an instrument of work, of labor. But his yoke is radically different from the burdens the world places on us, the burdens of our worldly responsibilities and earthly anxieties. The Christian is to take up the yoke of the Lord’s humility and his meekness.

For many of us, learning how to imitate Jesus’ humility and his meekness is hard work. Learning how to lay aside harshness, grumpiness, pride, willfulness, smugness, superiority, this change of mind and heart is taxing, it requires real work, real effort, the mortification of our attitudes and routines.

But it’s the harshness, willfulness and the pride, the spirit of the age, the spirit of disobedience, that causes us to be so unhappy and exhausted all the time. Humility, meekness, gentleness, the heart of Jesus is easy and light compared to the burden of worldliness.

May the Holy Spirit help us to identify what attitudes and behaviors need to be set aside, that we may take up the yoke of the mind and heart of the Lord, that we may know his peace in this life and his rest in eternity for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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For Bishop Nelson Perez, the next shepherd of our diocese; for our Apostolic Administrator, Bishop Daniel Thomas; for Bishop-emeritus Richard Lennon; that the Holy Spirit will continue to enlighten and empower them with grace, confidence and hope.  We pray.
For our Holy Father’s prayer intention for the month of July: that our brothers and sisters who have strayed from the faith, through our prayer and witness to the Gospel, may rediscover the merciful closeness of the Lord and the beauty of the Christian life. We pray.
For deliverance from all disordered affections and attitudes, for detachment from earthly goods in order to value the goods of heaven. We pray.
That the love of Christ, the divine physician, may bring healing to the sick and comfort to all the suffering. We pray.
For the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, and all the poor souls in purgatory, for deceased priests and religious, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom. We pray.
O God, who know that our life in this present age is subject to suffering and need, hear the prayers of those who cry to you and receive the prayers of those who believe in you. Through Christ our Lord.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

July 18 2017 - St. Camillus - The conversion of the hard-hearted

When Jesus began his proclamation of the Gospel around the age of 30, he chose as his early headquarters, Capernaum, on the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee. There he stayed in the home of St. Peter. We read in the early chapters of the Gospels how he worked many miracles there and in surrounding towns, places like Chorazin and Bethsaida.

In the Gospel today, Jesus rebukes these towns for their failure to repent and believe in the Gospel.  Jesus even says, that Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom, some of the most wicked cities in history, would have converted in response to the same miracles.

Yesterday, too, we reflected upon the need to choose, the need to respond to Jesus’ invitation to believe. Why did so many people harden their hearts in the face of the undeniable presence of God? The miracles were undeniable. Jesus spoke with an authority and performed works that nobody had ever witnessed.

Jesus condemns spiritual hard-heartedness throughout the Gospels, which seems to be the primary reason the Pharisees and the unrepentant choose to disbelieve and conspire against him. Spiritual hard-heartedness, sklerocardia. Sklerocardia, though it sounds like a physical illness, is really a spiritual illness. It is when we choose over and over again not to listen to anyone but ourselves, not to seek wisdom, not to see the value of humility, it is the attitude of pride which sees oneself as more important even than God.

I believe the Lord gives the hard-hearted every chance he can, to open their hearts to him. Today’s saint was a man who lived many years with hard-heart. At the age of seventeen, Camillus joined a group of mercenary soldiers, and he quickly picked up a lot of the vices of the military camp—swearing, drinking, visiting prostitutes.  He and his father, Giovanni, even teamed up as a father and son con artists, swindling their fellow soldiers

They went from war to war when Camillus’ father fell seriously ill.  Giovanni sent his son to fetch a priest, and after Giovanni made a good confession, repenting from all his sins and crimes, he received Holy Communion for the last time and died.

This was a turning point in Camillus’ life. His father, a life time gambler, cutthroat, and conman called for a priest in order to die in a state of grace. And this shattered Camillus’ own hardness. Camillus went on to found a religious order caring for the sick and destitute of Rome.

God is at work, even now, working to shatter the hard hearts of our fallen-away family members and non-believers, and to do that, he often utilizes us, our faithfulness, our repentance, our willingness to undergo sufferings and penances for the conversion of sinners. May the Lord, in his mercy shatter the lasting vestiges of our own hard-heartedness, and may we be faithful in being instruments of that same mercy, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That our bishops and clergy may be zealous and clear in preaching and teaching the truth of the Gospel.

For our Holy Father’s prayer intention for the month of July: that our brothers and sisters who have strayed from the faith, through our prayer and witness to the Gospel, may rediscover the merciful closeness of the Lord and the beauty of the Christian life.

That our young people on summer vacation may be kept safe from the poisonous errors of our culture, and that their families may be places where the faith is practiced and cherished.

For all the needs of the sick and the suffering, the homebound, those in nursing homes and hospitals, the underemployed and unemployed, victims of natural disaster, war, and terrorism, for all those who grieve the loss of a loved one, and those who will die today, for their comfort, and the consolation of their families.

For the repose of the souls of our beloved dead, for all of the poor souls in purgatory, for the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, for the deceased priests and religious, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom.

Grant, we pray, O Lord, that your people may turn to you with all their heart, so that whatever they dare to ask in fitting prayer they may receive by your mercy. Through Christ our Lord.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Monday - 15th Week of OT 2017 - I have come to bring not peace but the sword.

Did Jesus not come to bring peace upon the earth? Did he not speak of peacemaking in the beatitudes, did he not command his apostles to pronounce peace on people’s homes? So why does he say in the Gospel today, “I have come to bring not peace but the sword”?

First, the sword here is not to be understood as an actual military weapon. Jesus’ Church is not a military machine, at least, not in the earthly sense. The Apostles’ were certainly not tasked with converting people at sword point.

Rather, Jesus’ sword is spiritual; by the sword of his word, his teachings, the way of wickedness is clearly severed from the way of righteousness. Jesus divides and separates us from all that keeps us from a close, intimate, personal relationship with Him. He wants full communion with us and nothing less. He has come to divide us — to tear us from relationships with people and things that are keeping us from being closer to Him.

Jesus here foreshadows the division that will take place at the end of time when the righteous who choose the path of life are ultimately separated from those who choose the path of death. In Luke’s Gospel, the Lord even says, “I have come not to bring peace but division.” Everyone must choose, even if families become divided.

Responses to Jesus’ invitation will vary—from the full embrace of the saints to the hostile rejection of the godless, or rather, those who make themselves into their own gods. Jesus is also well aware, that this response of faith, or lack thereof, will cause discord—even hostility—within families.
I think Jesus’ teaching here is particularly challenging in our age of tolerance, which often preaches Jesus without the sword, Christianity without the call to repentance, or as St. John Paul called it, an age without “the sense of sin.”

I know it causes great pain to parents and grandparents when their children and grandchildren wander from the way of Christ. We fear for their souls, for we know hell is real, whether they acknowledge that or not. Our culture tells them that they are free to choose their own path. But Christ is clear, we must choose Him, His Church—those who reject his apostles, reject Him.

Great pain, great sadness. So we certainly redouble our prayers and efforts of sharing with them the saving faith, even when it causes a little tension around the dinner table. Yes, we possess the Truth it in its fullness, but we are called to share it gently, with the utmost patience. And, lest we become self-righteous, each of us must keep ourselves honest as well. We must examine the loyalties we continue to flirt with, the small compromises with selfishness.

May the choices we make today, the words we speak, bring us, and those around us closer to the Lord, that divided from sin, we may know the peace of communion with Him for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That our bishops and clergy may be zealous and clear in preaching and teaching the truth of the Gospel.

For our Holy Father’s prayer intention for the month of July: that our brothers and sisters who have strayed from the faith, through our prayer and witness to the Gospel, may rediscover the merciful closeness of the Lord and the beauty of the Christian life.

That our young people on summer vacation may be kept safe from the poisonous errors of our culture, and that their families may be places where the faith is practiced and cherished.

For all the needs of the sick and the suffering, the homebound, those in nursing homes and hospitals, the underemployed and unemployed, victims of natural disaster, war, and terrorism, for all those who grieve the loss of a loved one, and those who will die today, for their comfort, and the consolation of their families.

For the repose of the souls of our beloved dead, for all of the poor souls in purgatory, for the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, for the deceased priests and religious, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom.

Grant, we pray, O Lord, that your people may turn to you with all their heart, so that whatever they dare to ask in fitting prayer they may receive by your mercy. Through Christ our Lord.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

15th Sunday in OT 2017 - Making the soul fertile ground for encountering Christ



You’ve probably heard the news that Holy Father Pope Francis has appointed a new bishop, His Excellency Bishop Nelson Perez to the diocese of Cleveland. I was able to meet Bishop Perez on Tuesday. A number of the clergy were able to concelebrate with him at the Cathedral, and then had lunch with him at the Cathedral rectory.

My first impression is that Bishop Perez is an extremely relatable, congenial man. If you have the means, you should check out on the internet the interview he did on Fox 8. Very relatable. I think he will be refreshing to our diocese, surprising, and also challenging.

At the Mass on Tuesday, Bishop Perez preached on an idea that has come up often in the preaching of Pope Francis over the last few years, that of “encounter”, or “encuentro” in Pope Francis’ native-tongue. Bishop Perez explained how as Christ is filled with compassion and mercy, so too must mercy and compassion be at the heart of the Church, and in the heart of every Christian. And whether we are trapped in sin or steadily progressing in sanctity, we are able to encounter the Lord. In his mercy, the Lord meets us where we are, and calls us to holiness and deeper faith.

The Gospel on Tuesday was all about how the Lord sends his disciples out into the world to preach the Gospel and to perform the works of mercy. Through preaching and living the Gospel, each one of us is called to go out and help others encounter Christ.

Parents are to help their children encounter Christ, spouses are to help their mates encounter Christ. A good neighbor helps us encounter Christ through their kindness and charity.

Tuesday was also the feast of St. Benedict, a very fitting day to preach about “encounter”. St. Benedict is truly one of the most important saints in Church history.  Benedict was born into a rich Italian family in the year 480 and went to complete his studies in Rome.  Around the age of 20, became a hermit; he went to live in a cave for three years in Subiaco, Italy.

Why would a wealthy, academically gifted young man go to live in a cave? For one, he sought what we all seek: happiness! He believed that he could be happy seeking Jesus Christ in the silence and solitude of a cave. He was right. He encountered Christ in a place that very few people choose to look.

Because of his sanctity, Benedict quickly attracted many followers, who like him wished to withdraw from the world in order to strive after holiness through a life of work and prayer.  To house his company, Benedict built twelve monasteries, and around the year 550, he left Subiaco to start the monastery at Montecassino.  It is there that he wrote his famous Rule, “The Rule of St. Benedict”
 Benedict lived in a time when the classical world was breaking apart—bloody wars were tearing down the civilization of the Greco-Roman world.  Barbarians were sweeping through Europe. These were the dark ages. European culture was crumbling. Yet within the Benedictine Monastery a different culture of work and prayer and learning and love of God and encounter with Christ prevailed.  The monasteries became beacons of hope for the people of Europe.

Amidst the barbarian armies and the crumbling culture, Benedict’s monasteries became potent force in rebuilding Europe.  The very first universities sprung up from the monastic schools.  So, if you went to college, or benefited in some way by someone that did, you can thank St. Benedict.
Fast forward 1400 years to the 1950s.  The Bishops of the Second Vatican Council saw danger looming on the horizon again: a new modern barbarism spreading throughout the world, a godlessness threatening the very foundations of civilization.

And, in the documents of Vatican II, the holy bishops stressed that not only monks and priests and nuns and bishops are called to strive for holiness, but all Christians should develop vibrant prayers lives and to generosity in charitable service.

In the monasteries, Benedict’s lived out a rhythm, a harmony of work and prayer; yet the ultimate aim of the monk’s was to seek God. Benedict wrote: Nihil amori Christi praeponere—Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.  Holiness consists of this: preferring nothing to the love of Christ.

So many of our worldly pursuits keep us from real happiness because they keep us from encountering Christ. Sadly, so often, we prefer our cell phones to Christ, our credit cards to Christ, our vices to Christ. We prefer gossip over prayer, lust over purity, and greed over self-giving.

St. Benedict is often depicted in art with a finger pressed to his lips because he so valued silence.  Silence was such an important part of his rule because in silence we learn how to listen to the quiet voice of God. Silence is often indispensable in encounter the love God has for us.

The Christian Philosopher Svoren Kierkegaard said if he were a doctor he would prescribe as a remedy for all the world’s disorders, “silence”.  St. Benedict would no doubt agree.

Our culture abhors silence; it is addicted to stimulation.  We have to constantly have the television or internet going.   The constant stimulation and busyness bring not cheerfulness, but exhaustion and emptiness.  One of the spiritual dangers of having cell phones that can access the internet anywhere, anytime, is that one never learns how to sit in silence.

The cell phones and televisions in every room of the house is a great threat to health and holiness of the family.  I know of many families who therefore have a very healthy rule, that between certain times, all electronics are turned off.  Perhaps between 5:30 and 8pm: no tv, no video games, no cell phones, especially at the dinner table.  Study and conversation build up the family in ways that all of the electronic gadgets cannot possibly.  Perhaps a family rosary must be prayed before the television is even allowed to be turned on.

Through silence, simplicity, and prayer, we make our souls rich soul for the word of God to be planted, as we heard in today’s Gospel.

Parents, if you want your children to be happy, make your family as fertile in faith as possible; don’t teach or pressure our children to have empty lives, to be successful according to the values of our culture, but above all to seek to put their gifts and talents in the service of God. Entering a monastery, where one learns to encounter Christ in simplicity, is not failure. Entering the priesthood, consecrated life, these are not vocations for those who can’t do anything else.

Our seminary here in Cleveland has over 80 young men studying for the priesthood, we’ve seen an increase in young women entering convents, why? Likely because many of our young people, like Benedict, see the emptiness the world offers, and they want something more. And for that they should be encouraged!

But whatever our vocation, each of us, should make time for silence, to make an effort each day to encounter Christ through prayer, to push away the non-essential objects of the world, to prefer nothing to the love of Christ, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

Friday, July 14, 2017

July 14 2017 - St. Kateri Tekakwitha - Lily of the Mohawks

Kateri Tekakwitha is the first Native American woman of North America to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. She was born at Auriesville, New York in 1656, near the place where the Jesuits St. Isaac Jogues and John de Brebeuf had been martyred—tomahawked by Iroquois warriors just nine years before.

Kateri’s mother was an Algonquin who had been baptized, but she was taken captive by the Iroquois and given as a wife to the chief of the Mohawk clan.   Two children were born of this marriage, but only Kateri survived; her parents and her brother died in a smallpox epidemic when Kateri was 4 years old.  Kateri’s own face was permanently disfigured and her eyesight was impaired because of the disease.

Jesuit missionaries came to minister to the Christians who were taken captive by the Mohawks. Though the new chief, Kateri’s uncle, hated the Jesuit missionaries, Kateri began to study the catechism with them.  She was baptized on Easter Sunday at the age of 19.

At 23, she took a vow of virginity, consecrating herself to the Lord. But the celibate life was not held in high regard among the Mohawks, and being the only devout Christian in her lodge, Kateri was subject to constant abuse and insults.  She was ridiculed for keeping Holy the Sabbath and for praying the Rosary.

On the advice of a priest, she fled the abuse and walked two hundred miles to an Indian Mission village near Montreal.  There she devoted herself to prayer and works of charity and penance; dedicated to the Lord in all things, her sanctity blossomed.  She is known as the Lily of the Mohawks.
Kateri herself said: “I am not my own; I have given myself to Jesus.  He must be my only love.”  Her last words were, “Jesus, I love you.”

She was beatified by Pope St John Paul II in 1980 and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.

At her canonization, Pope Benedict said, “Her greatest wish was to know and to do what pleased God. She lived a life radiant with faith and purity.  Kateri impresses us by the action of grace in her life in spite of the absence of external help…”

Jesus taught in the Gospel that we would be hated by all because of him. Kateri was hated because she Christian. Kateri repeats the example of so many saints before her: Holiness thrives on the cross.  Her strength came from her close and constant union with God in prayer.  She is a model for all those who are rejected by their own because of their fidelity to Christ.

May Kateri, Lily of the Mohawks, help us all to endure our crosses faithfully and to blossom in holiness for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That every nation, tribe, and tongue may be gathered into the Church of Christ and magnify Him through works of praise.

That all those persecuted for their faith may know the strengthening grace of the Lord and come to receive the reward of the saints for their perseverance.

For the consecrated virgins of the Church, that as Christ as their spouse, they may inspire us to seek Him above all things.

For the healing of all those afflicted with physical, mental, emotional illness, for those in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice care, those struggling with addictions, for those who grieve the loss of a loved one, and those who will die today.

For the repose of the souls of our beloved dead, for all of the poor souls in purgatory, for the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, for deceased priests and religious, for those who have fought and died for our freedom, we pray to the Lord.

Grant, we pray, O Lord, that your people may turn to you with all their heart, so that whatever they dare to ask in fitting prayer they may receive by your mercy. Through Christ our Lord.