September 3, 2020 – Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church
Gregory was content to be a monk, but he willingly served the Church in other ways when asked. He sacrificed his own preferences in many ways, especially when he was called to be Bishop of Rome. Once he was called to public service, Gregory gave his considerable energies completely to this work.
Gregory was direct and firm. He removed unworthy priests from office, forbade taking money for many services, emptied the papal treasury to ransom prisoners of the Lombards and to care for persecuted Jews and the victims of plague and famine. He was very concerned about the conversion of England, sending 40 monks from his own monastery. He is known for his reform of the liturgy, and for strengthening respect for doctrine.
His book, Pastoral Care, on the duties and qualities of a bishop, was read for centuries after his death. He described bishops mainly as physicians whose main duties were preaching and the enforcement of discipline. In his own down-to-earth preaching, Gregory was skilled at applying the daily Gospel to the needs of his listeners. Called “the Great,” Gregory has been given a place with Augustine, Ambrose, and Jerome, as one of the four key doctors of the Western Church.
Gregory’s description of bishops as physicians fits in well with Pope Francis’ description of the Church as a “field hospital.”
August 22, 2020 – Memorial of the Queenship of Mary
Today we celebrate the feast of Mary Queen of Heaven.
The following, taken from the Catholic Culture website, speaks to the concept of Mary’s queenship:
Without doubt, then, does our holy Virgin possess a dignity that far transcends all other creatures. In the eyes of her Son she takes precedence over everyone else. In order to help us understand the preeminence that the Mother of God enjoys over all creation, it would help to remember that from the first moment of her conception the holy Virgin was filled with such a plenitude of grace as to surpass the graces enhancing all the saints.
Pius IX wrote in Ineflabilis Deus: “More than all the angels and all the saints has God ineffable freely endowed Mary with the fullness of the heavenly gifts that abound in the divine treasury; and she, preserving herself ever immaculately clean from the slightest taint of sin, attained a fullness of innocence and holiness so great as to be unthinkable apart from God Himself, a fullness that no one other than God will ever possess.”
August 21, 2020 – Memorial of St. Pius X (namesake of my home parish!)
When St. Pius X was named pope in 1903, he used the words of St. Paul to state his most fervent desire: “to restore all things in Christ.” (Eph 1:10) How was this to be achieved? Through education – by teaching Christian doctrine to the young and the old, to the rich and the poor. He felt religious devotion was devoid of meaning unless people understood their faith.
St. Pius X was born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto in a small Italian town near Venice in 1835. He was the second of ten children in a poor family. He was able to obtain scholarships in order to attend seminary and become a priest. At his first parish, he organized a night school to educate adults, and he was known throughout his priesthood for traveling long distances, and spending long hours, in order to teach catechism to children, especially public school children who could not learn about the faith in school.
As pontiff, he insisted that the clergy be properly trained. Only then could they lead the Church back to Christ, as he felt that modern interpretation of doctrine, secularism and general laxity had taken hold. He promoted the daily reception of the Eucharist, which was not a common practice at the time. He once said: “Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to Heaven. There are others: innocence, but that is for little children; penance, but we are afraid of it … the surest, easiest, shortest way is the Eucharist.”
He died in 1914, and was canonized 40 years later in 1954. St. Pius X is famous for the words written in his last will and testament: “I was born poor, I have lived poor, I wish to die poor.”
Thoughts on prayer from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” -St. Therese of Lisieux
God invites us into a relationship with Him that is both personal and communal. He speaks to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, the Word-made-flesh. Prayer is our response to God who is already speaking or, better yet, revealing Himself to us. Therefore, prayer is not merely an exchange of words, but it engages the whole person in a relationship with God the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.
Today, the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On August 22nd, we will celebrate the Memorial of Mary, Queen of Heaven. The Church speaks on the important role Mary plays:
As the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary has a unique position among the saints, indeed, among all creatures. She is exalted, yet still one of us.
Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to Him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth. At the same time, however, because she belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all those who are to be saved. (Lumen Gentium, no. 53)
Mary embraces God’s will and freely chooses to cooperate with God’s grace, thereby fulfilling a crucial role in God’s plan of salvation. Throughout the centuries, the Church has turned to the Blessed Virgin in order to come closer to Christ. Many forms of piety toward the Mother of God developed that help bring us closer to her Son. In these devotions to Mary, “while the Mother is honored, the Son, through whom all things have their being and in whom it has pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell, is rightly known, loved and glorified and . . . all His commands are observed.” The Church honors her as the Mother of God, looks to her as a model of perfect discipleship, and asks for her prayers to God on our behalf.
August 14, 2020 – Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe
St. Maximilian Kolbe was arrested in Poland in February of 1941, and in May was sent to the Auschwitz death camp. As prisoner #16670, he eventually laid down his life for another prisoner on August 14, 1941, at the young age of 47.
When a prisoner escaped late in July of that year, ten men from his barracks were randomly chosen to suffer death by starvation as both punishment and deterrent. Fr. Maximilian offered to take the place of one of the men; Franciszek Gajowniczek had let out a cry of pain for his family and this holy priest volunteered to take his place.
What followed were weeks of unimaginable horror, as the men suffered the pains of dehydration and starvation. But this holy man not only offered to be one of the suffering, he ministered to the other nine as well. After three weeks there were only four prisoners left alive. It was on this day in 1941 that Fr. Kolbe and three fellow prisoners were killed with injections of carbolic acid.
By the late 1940’s the cause for Fr. Kolbe’s beatification had begun. He was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982.
Dominic began itinerant preaching according to the gospel ideal. He did this work for 10 years and was successful with the ordinary people but not with the leaders.
He and his fellow preachers gradually became a community, and in 1215 Dominic founded a religious house at Toulouse, the beginning of the Order of Preachers or Dominicans.
Dominic’s ideal, and that of his Order, was to organically link a life with God, study, and prayer in all forms, with a ministry of salvation to people by the word of God. His ideal: contemplata tradere: “to pass on the fruits of contemplation” or “to speak only of God or with God.”
Prayer of St. Dominic
May God the Father who made us bless us.
May God the Son send His healing among us.
May God the Holy Spirit move within us and give us eyes with which to see, ears with which to hear, and hands by which His work might be done.
May we walk and preach the word of God to all.
May the angel of peace watch over us and lead us at last, with God’s grace, to the Kingdom.
Carol and I have been offering an online, livestream “show” three days per week on our parish’s Facebook page. We call it God Needs Storytellers.
Oftentimes during the show I have emphasized that ALL of us have the obligation to preach the gospel; we are ALL called to evangelize.
The following is a message from the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis that I think shares that same message beautifully:
Evangelization is the Church’s deepest identity. Evangelization brings the good news of the Gospel to all who seek the life-giving message of faith in Jesus Christ.
Catechesis nourishes, forms and deepens the faith one receives through the ministry of the Church.
Stewardship is an expression of discipleship rooted in personal relationship with Christ. Good stewards generously share their gifts and blessings with others for the sake of the Kingdom.
The Church is missionary by her very nature. Her mission is to proclaim the salvation of Christ to the ends of the earth. As teachers and pastors, we bishops are responsible for promoting Catholic world missions in the United States.
We invite you to consider your vocation to share in the Church’s mission. Each one of us, by virtue of our baptism, is called to live our faith and to bear witness to the Gospel in our families, friends, parish communities and society. To share in the Church’s mission of Evangelization and Catechesis is to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ.
It is our prayer that our common witness to faith, hope and love will continue to transform the world in the love of Jesus Christ.
August 1, 2020 – Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori
A reflection on Saint Alphonsus Liguori
Saint Alphonsus was known above all as a practical man who dealt in the concrete rather than the abstract. His life is indeed a practical model for the everyday Christian who has difficulty recognizing the dignity of Christian life amid the swirl of problems, pain, misunderstanding and failure. Alphonsus suffered all these things. He is a saint because he was able to maintain an intimate sense of the presence of the suffering Christ through it all.
Read about the life of St. Alphonsus by clicking on the link below
July 31, 2020 – Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola
Ignatius was a true mystic. He centered his spiritual life on the essential foundations of Christianity—the Trinity, Christ, the Eucharist. His spirituality is expressed in the Jesuit motto, Ad majorem Dei gloriam—“for the greater glory of God.”
On his feast day, let’s pray St. Ignatius’ prayer for generosity
Prayer for Generosity
Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing that I do your will.