The readings near the end of the Church's liturgical year refer to end times and Christ's second coming. Angels figure prominently is these Scripture passages. Dore's engraving stimulates our imaginations as to their number and majesty.
St. Gertrude the Great was a nun who after an early period in her life when she focused on secular studies, became devoted to the study of theology and more intensely prayerful.
She was an early adopter of piety to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a devotion to Christ's passion including the Five Wounds of Christ and a concern for the souls in purgatory.
This stained glass window depicts her joyful spirit and her reported embrace of the stigmata.
This statue of St. Albert the Great outside the University of Cologne shows the two worlds a scholar/teacher inhabits: the theoretical and the practical. The very best teachers we've had can bring both together to inspire love for God and the world God created.
Archbishop of Dublin and Papal Legate to Ireland, Laurence was known for his holiness and simplicity of life and his courageous peace-keeping efforts. As you may recall, a reliquary containing his heart was stolen some years ago but recently returned to the church from which it was taken.
Lynched by an angry mob in his own episcopal residence, St. Josaphat worked towards unification of the disputing factions of the Catholic Church in the East.
We don't celebrate a building today, per se, but three images in the mass readings are given to us for reflection: the Heavenly Jerusalem, the Mystical Body of Christ of which we are all a part, and Christ's Resurrected Body.
St. John Lateran, the pope's cathedral with his cathedra or chair, symbolizes our unity with the Bishop of Rome, head of the church on earth.
Students of church history know that some views that are mocked and condemned are eventually embraced as church teaching. Such was the case with the Franciscan Duns Scotus, who defended the idea of the Immaculate Conception before it was accepted by the universal church. One sticking point was whether Mary could be conceived without original sin by virtue of the merits of Christ's passion, death and resurrection which had not yet happened in time. The resolution was to insist that Mary, like all of us humans, was redeemed by Christ's merits, but outside of earthly time.
Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have also recently embraced another opinion of Duns Scotus that Jesus's Incarnation had been a plan of God all along, not only after Adam and Eve's sinful disobedience led to "the fall." This to fully sanctify human nature and become one with us.
Sometimes, with humility and trust in God, you have to be willing to be wrong for a very long time!
One of Gustav Dore's illustrations for Dante's Divine Comedy showing the climb through Purgatory.
Today we pray for the faithful departed who are on their journey toward heaven. Our prayers and penance encourage them and speed their journey.
Whenever the class who is preparing to receive First Eucharist gathers for a daily mass in the morning, they participate eagerly in all they can do (except, of course receive communion). That means they answer the prayers, pray the Our Father and usually help me with my homily. We also ask one of the children who has attended Sunday mass to ring the bells for the consecration.
This year's class seems to have developed an exuberant and inclusive "Sign of Peace" ritual which takes quite a bit longer than the cursory nod or glance most adults are accustomed to exchange.
It is well they remind us of the importance of the entire mass - especially the significance of the Sign of Peace wherein we recognize and respect the presence of Christ in each other and Christ's Lordship over us all.
Today two brother martyrs are on the Roman calendar - both shoemakers by trade and evangelists by calling. They preached the gospel by day and cobbled at night - a real-life response to those of us who never seem to have time for anything. They were martyred under the Roman persecutions for refusing to be silent about Christ.
Though they doubtlessly crafted new shoes, they surely repaired old ones too. A lesson for our society which too often sees worn or broken things as disposable.
Inspired by Crispin and Crispian, let us examine whether we can re-apportion our time to do more things which yield everlasting results. We can also pray for those who repair the broken in our world, especially people, that they not lose enthusiasm or become discouraged.
Holy Martyrs and patrons,
protect this land which you have blessed
by the shedding of your blood.
Renew in these days our Catholic faith
which you helped to establish in this new land.
Bring all our fellow citizens
to a knowledge and love of the truth.
Make us zealous in the profession of our faith
so that we may continue and perfect the work
which you have begun with so much labour and suffering.
Pray for our homes, our schools,
our missions, for vocations,
for the conversion of sinners,
the return of those who have wandered from the fold,
and the perseverance of all the faithful.
And foster a deeper and increasing unity among all Christians. Amen.
One of the interesting traditions about St. Luke is that he was an artist and painted an icon/image of the Virgin Mary with Jesus from life. Artists portrayed this idea throughout the ages with interesting anachronisms such as the use of maul sticks, easels, etc.
In the parish office lunchroom there are several well-stocked, large plastic jars of Utz snack foods. My favorites are the unsalted pretzels which I usually raid right around lunchtime. The problem with the jars is that you can stick your hand in and grab a generous fistful of pretzels, but then you can’t get your hand out of the jar!
You have to take your time and remove exactly the number of pretzels you wish to have several at a time. "How many pretzels do I really need to eat today instead of lunch?"
You can get tricky and pour out all the pretzels into a bowl or on the table, OR you can let the lesson of several overtake the desire for handfuls.
There’s a famous painting of the rich young man. It shows mostly his back as he turns away from Jesus with head down. At the end of the sleeve of his fur-lined tunic, a partially clasped hand wearing three expensive, jeweled rings hangs in disappointment.
So like us at times.
Jesus frequently gave life journey advice: Travel lightly, don’t overpack; Take just what you need and nothing more. Don’t build fancy storehouses to warehouse your extra stuff, build up treasures in heaven by helping the poor - especially to food and shelter.
A generous attitude spreads into our whole life – We have time for others, time to volunteer, time to pray, time to spare for important things - Not simply urgent things.
You know the kind of days you can have when you spend most of it doing what cries out for attention and neglect the quiet, really important priorities. You’re left restless and exhausted, instead of tired but fulfilled.
Let us pray for a relaxed attitude toward our possessions, in fact, all our treasures material and immaterial. And cultivate generosity in simple ways, by taking less and giving more.
How sad it would be to get everything else right, and lose the kingdom of heaven over a greedy, clenched fist.
Jesus teaches the prayer today in Luke's version, a beautifully succinct prayer.
Moses had a list of the 70 elders invited to the meeting tent. The disciples of Jesus kept mental track of who was "one of us." In today's readings, inclusion of others not on the lists caused consternation. God's lists are not ours.
Among those included as God's children are those who love Him and His Son Jesus Christ and show that love by worship and praise. Who never miss an opportunity to receive Jesus' Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Who don't simply tolerate others, but treat them with respect and compassion. Who express sorrow for offending God or neighbor. Who never deliberately hurt someone. Who make Jesus the center of their life.
That' what gets us included as a disciple of Jesus, not a list.
Raised by peasant farmers and captured into slavery, one would not expect Vincent de Paul to become a world renowned saint of the Catholic church. Yet his concern for the poor and for education, including the clergy, inspired people throughout the world.
Vanity paintings, like the readings from Ecclesiastes, focus on the transient nature of life and the fleeting nature of natural beauty. In paintings, they may show cherished hobbies, an opened book, a burned out candle, flowers (sometimes past their prime or dying), a half-eaten meal and many times (in case we miss the point) a human skull.
Our belief in eternal life and the permanence of heaven, make vanity scenes nostalgic and sad, but not tragic.
Twin physicians who became Christians and evangelized in word and deed through their free patient care and prayer. They were tortured and martyred under the emperor Diocletian for failing to renounce their faith. Many cures were attributed to their relics and prayerful intercession.
It is well that we remember that prayer and medicine work best together. Nor should necessary health care require that the patients become penniless.
This striking statue of St. Matthew in St. John Lateran show Matthew stepping on his collected taxes and embracing the Word of God.