Author Archives | Father Michael Van Sloun

About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

The Cross: Our hope for forgiveness and salvation

July 22, 2016

0 Comments

crucifixion

On the day that we die, we want to go to heaven to be with God, the angels and saints, and our loved ones who have gone before us, to live for all eternity in peace and joy, but there is one enormous obstacle to our admittance to heaven:  our sins.

No one is worthy to go to heaven on their own merit.  It is impossible to do enough good works or earn enough graces to pay the price of admission.  The price is too high.  It is beyond us.

St. Paul explains that there is a “bond against us, with its legal claims” (Col 2:14).  The bond is like an indictment handed down by a grand jury or a criminal complaint filed by the county attorney that accuses a person of specific crimes that have been committed.  Spiritually, “the bond against us” is filed by God, and it is a list of all of our sins, our transgressions against “The Law,” either the Mosaic Law and the commandments or the Law of Love and Jesus’ gospel teachings.  The law has legal claims.  We are expected to obey, to live a good and holy life, and if we fail to comply, our violations have dire consequences; we could be barred from heaven and doomed to eternal punishment.

In Roman times “the bond” was nailed to the cross.  When a criminal was sentenced to death by crucifixion, not only were the criminal’s hands and feet nailed to the wood, but a list of the criminal’s crimes were written in large letters in ink on a piece of papyrus and nailed to the cross, posted in plain sight for everyone to read (see Jn 19:19).  Not only was the person’s naked body exposed, so were their crimes.

If we are honest with ourselves, we must humbly admit that “the bond against us” is long.  We have committed many sins over our lifetime.  God has a written criminal complaint against us.  It is humbling, embarrassing.  We are terrified at the prospect.  On Judgment Day God has every right to condemn us and post the list, but God has no desire whatsoever to condemn us.

God so loves the world that he sent his only begotten son Jesus that we might have eternal life (Jn 3:16).  Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to death on the cross (Phil 2:8), and by the price he paid, Jesus has gained our redemption and salvation.  It was on the Cross with the blood he shed and the life he laid down that our sins have been wiped away.

Jesus obliterated our bond that was nailed to the cross (Col 2:14).  The ink on ancient papyrus did not sink into the fabric like modern ink binds to the paper.  The ink laid on the surface, and because papyrus was so expensive it was often reused after the ink had been wiped clean.  Jesus obliterated our sins on his triumphant Cross.  He wiped our list of sins clean, never to be seen again, entirely forgotten, completely absolved.  In the Cross is our salvation!

Continue reading...

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

July 14, 2016

0 Comments

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

July 16 is the memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  It commemorates July 16, 1251, the day when the Blessed Mother Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock in England a number of years after he had made a visit to Mount Carmel.  It is the patronal feast of the Carmelite religious order.

Mount Carmel is a beautiful and picturesque mountain located in northern Israel just south of the modern city of Haifa.  It towers magnificently over the Mediterranean Sea below with an elevation of 470 feet at the coastline and 1742 feet further inland.  The Stella Maris Mount Carmel location provides a panoramic view of the sea to the east and the city to the north.

Mount Carmel is associated with the ministry of the prophet Elijah who lived in solitude in a cave along the mountainside.  It is the place where Elijah successfully confronted the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:19-40).

During the Twelfth Century AD, a number of Christian hermits moved into the same caves, inspired by the prophet Elijah to live a life of poverty and simplicity, silence, solitude, and prayer.   Mount Carmel has been traditionally associated with the glory of Mary while Mount Tabor has been traditionally associated with the glory of Jesus.  The monks who lived on Mount Carmel had a special devotion to Mary, built a small chapel in her honor, and prayed regularly through her intercession.

St. Simon Stock was a baron from England who visited Mount Carmel sometime in the early Thirteenth Century, and upon encountering the Carmelite hermits who lived there, he convinced some of them to accompany him back to England where they would establish a community and monastery.  Upon their return, St. Simon Stock reported that the Blessed Mother appeared to him on July 16, 1251, at Aylesford, England, and that during the apparition she presented him with a scapular which subsequently became a featured aspect of the Carmelite religious habit.  The scapular is a long rectangular piece of brown fabric worn over the shoulders to below the knees over the front and back above the full-length brown robe.

The scapular represents the yoke of Jesus (Mt 11:29-30), and it serves as a constant reminder to comply with the gospel and obey the will of God.  It also is an outward sign of devotion to Mary, and a reminder to imitate her virtues, exceptional holiness, and prayerfulness.

The Blessed Mother made several promises regarding the scapular.  St. Simon Stock was burdened with many worries, as were many of the other monks, and Mary promised that whoever wore the scapular would be given the gift of perseverance.  Furthermore, she promised that whoever was wearing a scapular at the time of death would be released from Purgatory the first Saturday after their death.

The promises at first were understood to be reserved to the members of the Carmelite religious order, but later the promises were extended to members of the laity.  An adapted form of the scapular was developed for lay use, two small rectangular panels joined by two brown strings or cords and worn over the shoulders and usually under the clothing.  The scapular is a sacramental, a sacred object that is blessed and treated with reverence and respect.

Continue reading...

The Dual Citizenship of Catholic Americans

July 1, 2016

1 Comment

Unknown-1

July 4 is the celebration of Independence Day, the birthday of our country, the United States of America, and our citizenship in this great nation.  This national holiday is an occasion to reflect on the nature of dual citizenship, how a Christian is a citizen of a universal spiritual kingdom, the Kingdom of God, and an earthly kingdom, our country, the United States.

A Christian is a citizen of the Body of Christ, the Communion of Saints, and the Kingdom of God.  Therefore, a Christian American has dual citizenship and dual allegiance, God and country.  The order is significant.  Both deserve love and loyalty, but they do not have equal standing.  God comes first.  God ranks above all else.  God is the principle focus of a Christian’s love and affection.  God is to be served first.  The Word of God, whether it is the law of love, the beatitudes, the Ten Commandments, other precepts in Scripture, or the teachings of the Church, are the principle statutes and decrees that govern a Christian’s life.

While spiritual citizenship ranks first and has precedence, earthly citizenship is vitally important.  Jesus highlighted this when he said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mt 22:21).  A Christian has a duty and a moral obligation to “give to Caesar,” to be an active, responsible, contributing member of the earthly kingdom, in our case, the USA.

On Independence Day American citizens celebrate “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” the “sweet land of liberty,” a country with amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties, and fruited plains.  Our ancestors fought for our independence so we could have a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

The Church recognizes the rightful place of countries, governments, government leaders, and civils laws.  They are necessary for a well-ordered society.  Governments come in many forms.  Ours is a constitutional democracy.  All governments must serve the common good:  “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more easily” (Gaudium et spes, 26.1).  It consists of three elements:  respect for the individual person, the social well-being and development of the group, and peace, a prerequisite for the common good to flourish (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 1907-1909).

The Church teaches that Christians have duties as citizens “to contribute along with civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom.  The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity.  Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community” (CCC, No. 2239).

“Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country” (CCC, No. 2240).  All Americans, Christians included, would be well to ask, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” (John F. Kennedy inauguration speech), and as good citizens, it is our civic duty to serve our fellow Americans and to work for the betterment of our city, state, and country, “One nation under God.”

Continue reading...

St. Cyril of Alexandria (370-444), Bishop and Doctor

June 24, 2016

0 Comments

St. Cyril of Alexandria

St. Cyril of Alexandria

St. Cyril was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 370 AD.  His family was of the noble class.  His uncle was Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria.  Cyril received a classical and theological education under his uncle, who eventually ordained him to the priesthood.  A number of years later, in 412 AD, he succeeded his uncle as the patriarch or bishop of Alexandria.

Cyril was a fierce advocate for orthodox teaching and he aggressively went on the offensive against those who taught otherwise.  He strenuously opposed three major heresies that had numerous adherents in the Fifth Century:  Novatianism, which argued that certain sins such as murder, adultery, and apostasy, could not be forgiven by the sacraments; Nestorianism, which held that Jesus has two separate persons, one human, the other divine, and that Mary was the mother only of the human person; and Pelagianism, which held that salvation is achieved only through human effort and not by grace.  With decisiveness and stern authority, he closed the churches of heretical sects and expelled the Jews from Alexandria.

While Cyril’s actions provoked intense anger and bitter opposition, he was supported by Pope Zosimus (417-418) and a large number of bishops.

Meanwhile, Nestorius became the patriarch of Constantinople in 428, and he held that Jesus was the greatest of human beings but not divine, and that Mary was not the mother of God.  Cyril vehemently opposed Nestorius and his teaching, and he brought the matter to the attention of the new pope, Celestine I (422-432), who convoked a synod in Rome that condemned Nestorianism.  A decree was issued that condemned the teachings of Nestorius and removed him as patriarch, but Nestorius rejected the synod’s decision.

With the church beset by controversy, the Roman Emperor, Theodosius I, called for a council to resolve the conflict for the sake of peace in the empire.  The Council of Ephesus was convened in 431, Cyril presided, and two hundred bishops attended.  In a tactical move, the sessions began before forty-three oriental bishops that supported Nestorius arrived.  Under the leadership of Cyril, the council upheld the two natures of Jesus, proclaimed Mary as the Mother of God, and condemned Nestorianism.

When Archbishop John of Antioch and the other bishops that supported Nestorius arrived, they were outraged, convened a counter council, denounced Cyril as a heretic, and deposed him.  Aggravated by the dispute, Emperor Theodosius arrested and imprisoned both Cyril and Nestorius.  Pope Celestine issued a proclamation in support of Cyril and the Council of Ephesus, and when papal legates arrived, Cyril was exonerated and released, while the charges against Nestorius were confirmed and awhile later was exiled.

After the Council of Ephesus, Cyril dedicated himself to writing a number of treatises to explain the doctrine of the Trinity, the mystery of the Incarnation, and the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Mother of God.  He also wrote Scripture commentaries on the Pentateuch and the gospels of Luke and John, and he supported the Egyptian monasticism.  Cyril died in 444 in Alexandria, and he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1882.

Continue reading...

A six week series from the letter to the Galatians

June 17, 2016

0 Comments

StPaulStainedGlassThe second readings for the Sundays of Week Nine through Week Fourteen of Ordinary Time, Year C, are taken from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

The Location of Galatia.  Galatia is a large area in central Asia Minor or Turkey.  It is surrounded by Bithynia to the northwest, Pontus to the northeast, Cappadocia to the east, Cilicia to the southeast, Pamphylia to the south, and the Province of Asia to the west.  It was a Roman province in the First Century AD.  Some of its principal cities were Ancyra, Antioch of Pisidia, Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium.

Galatians.  Galatians is a collective term for the diverse peoples of the cities and regions of the Province of Galatia.  It was a predominantly Gentile area with a variety of pagan cults to the Greek gods, and there was a small minority of Jews and a synagogue in some of the cities.

Paul’s Time in Galatia.  Paul visited Galatia on all three of his missionary journeys.  Paul visited Galatia with Barnabas on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:14-14:25), sometime between 42 and 45 AD.  He went to Galatia again, this time with Silas, as part of his second missionary journey (Acts 16:6), during portions of 46 and 47 AD.  Paul returned to Galatia a final time with Timothy on his third missionary journey (Acts 18:23) in 52 AD.

Paul’s Missionary Activity in Galatia.  Paul initially would go to the local synagogue where he preached the gospel with great fervor, attracted large crowds, and made a number of converts.  This quickly led to bitter opposition from local Jewish leaders who were jealous of his dynamism and popularity, and were enraged that he was taking their members.  Paul, no longer welcome in the synagogue, would then extend his outreach to Gentiles where he also made new believers, but he was opposed by family members who did not convert.  Paul would found a new Christian church in the locality and then travel to another city.  At a later date Paul would circle back to the cities where he had established a community to revitalize and encourage the members.

The Situation in Galatia.  Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians while in Ephesus in spring of 53 AD (see Paul:  A Critical Life, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, 180-182).  The letter was in response to the Judaizers, Christian converts from Judaism, who would sweep into an area after Paul had departed, and vehemently criticize and undermine him and his preaching.  While Paul preached salvation through Jesus and his redemptive death on the Cross, the Judaizers insisted that Gentile converts to Christianity must follow the Mosaic Law and that salvation comes not through Jesus and his grace but through legal observance.  Moreover, they claimed that Paul was not an authentic apostle because he had not been taught by Jesus as were the twelve apostles who accompanied him for three years, that there were discrepancies between the preaching of Paul and the other apostles, and that Paul had wrongly relaxed the requirements of the Law for Gentiles to make the Christian faith easier and more attractive.

The Letter to the Galatians.  The letter has three parts.  Paul begins with a defense of himself as a true apostle who preaches the gospel with full authority.  Next, he uses multiple arguments to explain the difference between faith in Jesus and the works of the Law, and how justification comes through faith.  He concludes with an appeal to new converts to recommit themselves to an active Christian life in accord with the ways of the Spirit.

Save

Continue reading...

St. Barnabas, apostle and martyr

June 9, 2016

0 Comments

StBarnabasBarnabas was born on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.  He was a Jew of the tribe of Levi.  He was given the name Joses or Joseph, but the apostles changed his name to Barnabas, which means the “son of encouragement” or the “son of consolation” (Acts 4:36).

Barnabas is not one of the original twelve apostles, yet he is considered an apostle because of his close association with the Twelve, his advocacy for Paul as a trustworthy apostle, his leadership in Antioch, his companionship with Paul on his first missionary journey, his tenacity as an evangelizer, his prominent role in the Council of Jerusalem in support of the inclusion of the Gentiles, and his work as the founder of the church of Cyprus.

Barnabas first appears in Scripture in Acts 4:36-37.  It recounts how Barnabas “sold a piece of property that he owned, [and] then brought the money and put it at the feet of the apostles.”  Not only was this a powerful act of faith, it also was a demonstration of how to practice stewardship and a validation of the role of the apostles in the fair distribution of donations to the needy.

One of Barnabas’ greatest contributions was his willingness to vouch for Paul’s authenticity as an apostle.  Paul had persecuted Christians (Acts 8:3; 9:1-2; 22:4-5; 26:9-11; Gal 1:13), and his hostility was widely known.  While some had heard of his supposed conversion, they doubted that someone who had opposed them with such ferocity could now be on their side.  It was Barnabas who brought Paul to the apostles, and Barnabas who spoke on his behalf (Acts 9:27).

Barnabas made a number of significant contributions to the early Church.  He was commissioned by the apostles to be a missionary to Antioch of Syria (Acts 11:22).  Barnabas, along with Paul, who he asked to be his partner (Acts 11:25-26), made numerous converts in Antioch.  Barnabas was Paul’s companion on his first missionary journey, and he accompanied him to Cyprus, Perga, Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe (Acts 13 and 14), and he proclaimed the gospel with exceptional conviction.  Barnabas accompanied Paul to the Council of Jerusalem, and he, along with Paul, vigorously defended the inclusion of Gentiles, and he argued that Gentiles should not be subject to the stipulations of the Mosaic Law, a proposition that was accepted and the scope of the Church forever widened (Acts 15:1-21).  Barnabas was commissioned to return to Antioch of Syria to announce the good news that Gentiles are welcome (Acts 15:22-35).  Then, after a dispute with Paul, Barnabas sailed to Cyprus with John Mark to establish the Christian church in his native land (Acts 15:36-41).

Barnabas was bitterly opposed by Greco-Roman pagans on Cyprus, and they eventually killed him by stoning in Salamis, a seaport city, in 60 or 61 AD.

The symbols for Barnabas are a book, because he preached the gospel with Paul on his missionary journeys and to the people of Cyprus, and an olive branch because he was an effective peacemaker.  He is often depicted with St. Paul.

Barnabas is the patron saint of peacemakers because he quelled the antagonism of the apostles toward Paul and helped to resolve the conflict over Gentile admission.  He is also the patron saint of Cyprus, and invoked against quarreling and hailstorms.

Continue reading...

St. Norbert, Bishop

June 3, 2016

0 Comments

StNorbert

Norbert was born in 1080 in Xanten, a town in western Germany.   His father was Count Heribert of Gennep, his mother Hedwig of Guise.  His family was both nobility and Christian.  As a young man he was ordained a subdeacon, not because of his faith, but to gain the advantage of clerical position and a financial subsidy from the church.  He became a spiritual advisor to Emperor Henry V in Cologne, and he reveled in a life of political influence, luxury, and wealth.

Norbert accompanied Henry V to Rome in 1114 for a contentious meeting with Pope Paschal II over lay investiture, the appointment of bishops by secular rulers.  Norbert was moved by the Pope’s firm adherence to spiritual principles, and it proved to be the beginning of his conversion.  A year later Norbert was riding his horse, caught in a thunderstorm, struck by lightning, and thrown from his mount.  Spared, he experienced a conversion like St. Paul.

Norbert resigned his position with the Emperor and withdrew to the Benedictine Abbey of Siegberg outside of Cologne for a period of penance, fasting, and prayer.  At the end of his seclusion, he was ordained a priest in 1115, and to prove the genuineness of his vocation, he sold all of his land and material possessions and gave the proceeds to the poor.

Filled with zeal, Norbert returned to Xanten, but the local clergy were lax, not enamored with his call to holiness, and ostracized him.  Norbert departed for France, barefoot over snowy roads, to meet with Pope Gelasius II who had fled from Rome.   The Pope commissioned Norbert to be a missionary preacher, and for the next several years he traveled throughout northern France preaching Jesus, the gospel, and repentance, and he performed a number of miracles.

In 1120 the new Pope, Callistus II, sent Norbert to Laon to lead a spiritual renewal of the Canons of St. Martin.  Again, he encountered bitter resistance, and unable to lead a reform, he was given permission to found his own community, which he did on Christmas Day, 1120, with thirteen members, at Premontre in northern France.  The new community was called the Canons Regular of Premontre, or simply, the Premonstratensians, today called the Norbertines.  Norbert adopted the Rule of St. Augustine, and implemented some of the practices of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and the Cistercians regarding simplicity of life.  He combined the contemplative spirituality of monastic living with the active spirituality of outside ministry.

Norbert was appointed the Archbishop of Magdeburg, Germany, in 1126.  He instituted a clergy reform that enforced celibacy, eliminated corruption, and ended absenteeism.  Opposition was so intense that several assassination attempts were made on his life, and he fled Magdeburg briefly.

Pope Honorius II died in 1130, and two cardinals were elected separately, one legitimately, Innocent II, and one falsely, Anacletus II, the antipope, which caused a schism.  Norbert went to Rome in an attempt to support Innocent II and resolve the conflict.  Unsuccessful, he returned to Magdeburg, fell ill, and died on June 6, 1134.

Norbert was canonized by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.  He is the patron saint of Magdeburg, Bohemia, and the Premonstratensian Order.  His symbol is a monstrance because he vigorously upheld the doctrine of the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist in his preaching.

Continue reading...

Transubstantiation: A fundamental Catholic belief about the Eucharist

June 3, 2016

0 Comments

EucharistWheatTable

Transubstantiation is a theological term derived from two Latin roots, trans (prefix), a preposition that means “over” or “across,” and substantia (root), a noun that means “substance.”  To transubstantiate is to change one substance into another.  The initial substance is bread and wine, and it changes into a new and different substance, the Body and Blood of Christ.  It is no longer bread, but the Body of Christ under the appearance of bread; and no longer wine, but the Blood of Christ under the appearance of wine.  The physical appearance and chemical composition remain unchanged, but the substance is entirely changed.

This belief is firmly grounded in Sacred Scripture, particularly the words of Jesus at the Last Supper.  “Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’  Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood’” (Mt 26:26-28; see also Mk 14:22-24 and Lk 22:19-20).  During the Bread of Life Discourse (Jn 6:22-59), Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven … and the bread that I will give is my flesh” (Jn 6:51).

St. Paul further reflected on the words of Jesus.  He asked, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?  The bread we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16).   He also provided the earliest written account of the Institution of the Eucharist (1 Cor 11:23-26), written around 56 AD, well before the gospels written sometime between 68 and 100 AD.

This transformation happens by the power of God to whom the Eucharistic Prayer is addressed and through the action of the Holy Spirit who is called down over the offerings at the Epiclesis before the Words of Institution.  The Consecration is the moment when this takes place, yet the entire Eucharistic Prayer is consecratory.

EucharistWheatTransubstantiation only occurs within the context of a valid Mass with a properly ordained priest who is serving in persona Christi, in the person of Christ.  The priest must be in union with the Church and in line with Apostolic Succession.  The priest pronounces the words, but their power and grace are God’s (St. John Chrysostom).

Historically, transubstantiation was first taught by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, and reaffirmed, clarified, and strengthened at the Council of Constance in 1415 and the Council of Trent in 1551.  Trent was the Catholic Counterreformation in response to Protestant reformers such as Calvin and Zwingli who denied transubstantiation entirely and Luther who proposed consubstantiation.  Trent declared that in the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist, “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained” (Trent, 1551; Catechism, No. 1374).

There are several things that transubstantiation is expressly not.  It is not consubstantiation, the Reformation teaching that the bread and wine are simultaneously both bread and wine and the Body and Blood of Christ.  Transubstantiation is also not “transsymbolization,” that the bread and wine are symbols or reminders of the Body and Blood of Christ, or “transignification,” that the consecrated bread and wine come to have new significance or meaning.

The fullness of the true presence of Christ is in each form of the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament alone, the Precious Blood alone, or both together.

There are many other forms of the presence of Christ, particularly in the Word, the people, and the priest, all which are “real,” “but because it is presence in the fullest sense:  that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present” (Pope Paul VI, Mysterium fidei, No. 39).

Continue reading...

The fruits of the Holy Spirit

May 13, 2016

0 Comments

HolySpiritDoveThe Fruits of the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of the Triune God, the Most Holy Trinity, and St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians provides a list of nine fruits of the Spirit:  “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (Gal 5:22,23).  These fruits emanate or proceed from the Holy Spirit, and they reveal what the Holy Spirit is like.  They serve as the Spirit’s character traits.  And because the Holy Spirit is a person of the Trinity, and because the three persons are one, the fruits of the Spirit reveal what God is like.

Good Fruits Intended to Grow.  The grace and power of the Holy Spirit give increase to these fruits.  Wherever the Holy Spirit receives welcome and cooperation, the fruits expand and intensify.  It may be a person or any size group, as small as a married couple or a family, or as large as a school or a parish, a business or an organization, a nation or the Church.  Whenever an individual or a group follows the prompting of the Holy Spirit, love, joy, peace, and the other fruits increase, but when the Spirit is opposed, these fruits diminish or vanish altogether.

Love.   Agape love is the highest form of love, love for both God and neighbor.  It is selfless, focused on the other person, given freely and gladly without condition or the expectation of repayment, expressed in service, and willing to suffer on another’s behalf.

Joy.  Joy is an interior contentment that comes from being close to God and in right relationship with others.  It is joy to know God’s love, presence, and compassion, to realize that all is an undeserved gift from God, and to be in compliance with God’s will.  Joy also comes with speaking and upholding the truth, honesty and integrity in relationships, enduring hardships, and decent conduct.

Peace.  Peace is the harmony that occurs when justice prevails.  It happens when resources are shared equitably, power is used for service, interdependence is fostered, information is shared openly and honestly, the dignity of each person is respected, legitimate differences are tolerated, the disadvantaged receive help, hurts are forgiven, and the common good is upheld.

Patience.  Patience is the virtue of suffering interruption or delay with composure and without complaint; to suffer annoyance, insult, or mistreatment with self-restraint, refusing to be provoked; and to suffer burdens and difficult tasks with resolve and determination.  It is also the willingness to slow down for another’s benefit, to set aside one’s personal plans and concerns, to go at another’s pace, and to take whatever time is necessary to address their need.

Kindness.  Kindness is a warm and friendly disposition toward another.  A kind person is polite and well-mannered, respectful and considerate, pleasant and agreeable, cheerful and upbeat, caring and helpful, positive and complimentary.

Generosity.  God gives beyond all measure and is lavish in generosity, and thus blessed with such munificence, it behooves a person to have an abundance mentality, a bigheartedness, and an unselfishness that shows itself in giving and sharing.  It is extended to family and friends, strangers, and particularly those in need, and is offered not only as money, food, and clothing, but also as time shared and assistance provided.

Faithfulness.  God is faithful to the covenant and infinitely reliable, dependable, and trustworthy.  Faithfulness is demonstrated by loyalty to friends, duties performed, promises kept, commitments fulfilled, contracts completed, vows observed, and being true to one’s word.

Gentleness.  Gentleness is sensitivity for another person.  It is concerned with another’s welfare, safety, and security.  It is grounded in humility.  The approach is careful, tender, delicate, considerate, affectionate, and mild-mannered, free of all pushiness, roughness, or abrasiveness.

Self-control.  Self-control is self-mastery regardless of the circumstances, to be in control of one’s self rather than to be controlled by temptations, events, or other people, especially when under pressure or in times of crisis.  It is a virtue to remain calm, cool, and collected, reasonable and even-tempered; to be alert and conscious, able to slow down, proceed with caution and prudence, and avoid an impulse or kneejerk response; to be a moderating influence; and to have the strength and courage to reject evil and choose good.

Continue reading...

St. James the Lesser, Apostle and Martyr

April 29, 2016

1 Comment

StJamesLesserApostolic Identity.  There are two St. James among the original twelve apostles:  St. James the Greater whose feast is on July 25, and St. James the Less, the Lesser, or the Minor, whose feast is on May 3 and shared with St. Philip.  He is the second James on the New Testament lists of apostles (Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18; Lk 6:15; Acts 1:13).  There are several explanations for why he is called “less.”  The most widely accepted reason is that he was younger than the other James who was greater in years.  Some believe that it was because of his short stature, that he was lesser in height, or because he was called at a later time than James the Greater.

Family Relationship.  St. James was the son of Alphaeus and Mary (Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40).  His brother was Joseph or Joses. He is also known as the brother or cousin of the Lord.  The people of Nazareth asked of Jesus, “[Are not] his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?” (Mt 13:55; see Mt 12:46), or “James and Joses and Judas and Simon” (Mk 6:3).

Special Encounter.  Jesus appeared to James after he rose from the dead (1 Cor 15:7).

Apostolic Ministry.  James was the head of the early Christian church in Jerusalem and is regarded as its first bishop. When Peter was released from prison, he asked that word be sent to James (Acts 12:17).  James presided over the Council of Jerusalem in 51 AD, and with great wisdom and compassion, argued that Gentile converts not be obligated to follow the Jewish dietary laws (Acts 15:13-21), and because of his fairness, he is also known as James the Just.  Paul met with James in Jerusalem at least twice, once in 37 AD after he had spent fifteen days with Peter (Gal 1:18-19), and again in 56 AD when he conferred with James and the other presbyters (Acts 21:18).  Paul called James a “pillar” of the community, along with Peter and John (Gal 2:9), and acknowledged that he had a role in commissioning Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles.  The Letter of James is attributed to him (Jas 1:1).

A Martyr’s Death.  James preached the gospel with exceptional zeal in Jerusalem for over thirty years, and he inspired many people to become believers in Jesus.  His successes were met with fierce opposition by the leaders of the Jews who wanted to kill him.  In 62 AD a group of furious scribes and Pharisees demanded that James renounce Jesus, and when he flatly refused, they apprehended him, stormed to the pinnacle of the Temple and hurled him down to an angry mob below.  Still alive, the mob began to stone him, and as he prayed for their forgiveness, he was bludgeoned to death with clubs.

Symbols.  In religious art, St. James is represented by a bat or a fuller’s club as well as one or more stones, the instruments of his martyrdom, or an image of the Temple because he was thrown from it.  He is also sometimes depicted with a book or a scroll because he preached the gospel, with a pastoral staff or a walking stick because he was the shepherd of the church of Jerusalem, or a green branch or palm because he was a martyr.  There is another not widely accepted tradition that he was cut in half, so he is sometimes represented by a saw.

Patronage.  Along with St. Joseph, he is the patron saint of the dying.  He is also the patron saint of fullers, those who clean, shrink, and thicken cloth; hatters; and druggists.

Continue reading...