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St. Cornelius, Pope, and St. Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs

September 14, 2018

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Saints Cornelius (d. 253) and Cyprian (200-258) are two great Third Century saints, one a Pope, the other a bishop, one in Rome, the other in North Africa, both martyrs, both mentioned in Eucharistic Prayer I, the Roman Canon.

Cyprian and CorneliusThey are celebrated together because Bishop Cyprian was an ally of Pope Cornelius. Cornelius was chosen as Pope in 251 AD over the objection of Novatian, who claimed the papacy for himself and was the first antipope. Cornelius and Novatian took opposite positions in the lapsi controversy. The lapsi were those who had “lapsed” from the faith during the persecution of the Roman emperor Decius (249-251 AD). The lapsi renounced their Christianity to save themselves from martyrdom. When the persecution subsided, the lapsi sought to be readmitted. Novatian, a rigorist, declared that the sin of apostasy was so grave that those who had disowned Christ and the Church could not be forgiven, reconciled with the Church, or readmitted. Cornelius, on the other hand, took a more compassionate stance and held that the Church had the power to reconcile and readmit the lapsi after a period of penance. Cyprian traveled to Rome to be part of a synod of bishops that upheld Cornelius’ authority as Pope and excommunicated Novatian and his followers. The first reflection in the Office of Readings is a letter of support and encouragement that Cyprian sent to Cornelius shortly before his death.

Little is known about the beginning of Cornelius’ life. It seems that he was born into an aristocratic family in Rome, and he was ordained a priest. His predecessor, Pope Fabian (papacy, 236-250 AD), died as a result of brutal treatment in prison on January 20, 250. The persecution of Decius was so intense that it was impossible to conduct an election over the next fourteen months. In March, 251, Decius left Rome on a military expedition and died during the campaign, and in his absence an election was held and Cornelius was chosen. The new Roman emperor Gallus resumed the persecution against the Church; Cornelius was arrested in June, 252, and confined to prison in Civitavecchia, where he died in June, 253, as a result of his physical hardships. His remains were interred in the cemetery of St. Callistus.

CyprianSt. Cyprian was born of pagan parents in Carthage, North Africa, in 200 AD. He had a brilliant mind, and was a lawyer and gifted orator. He converted to Christianity in 245 at the age of 45. He was ordained a priest in 248, one year later was selected as the bishop of Carthage, and quickly became the leader of the bishops of North Africa. He battled multiple heresies which he believed were more dangerous to the Church than the persecutions. He declared that baptisms administered by heretics were invalid. He wrote De unitate ecclesiae, The Unity of the Church, to promote Church unity, to oppose Novatian and his position that the lapsi could not be readmitted to the Church, and to correct erroneous teachings espoused by various bishops. He coined the famous phrase, “One cannot have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.” He was arrested under the persecution of the emperor Valerian, condemned to death by the Roman governor Galerius Maximus, and beheaded on September 14, 258. He was the first African bishop to suffer martyrdom and is the patron saint of North Africa and Algeria.

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The mind: A talent to be invested

September 14, 2018

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Time to Crack the Books. September is here. The summer is behind us. It is back-to-school time. Whether it is preschool or elementary, middle school or high school, college or trade school, or adult education, fall is the time for so many to immerse themselves in their studies.

SolomanLearning, A Noble Christian Activity. A mind is an awesome gift from God and a talent to be invested (see Mt 25:14-23). God wants us to develop our talents and then to put them to the best possible use in order to produce a rich yield for the Master. It is the vocation, privilege, and obligation of students to apply themselves to their studies.

A Model Learner. The best example of a learner in the Hebrew Scriptures is Solomon. When Solomon inherited the kingship from his father David at the age of twenty, he was young, unlearned, inexperienced, and not knowing how to act. At this opportune moment, God appeared to Solomon and said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you” (1 Kgs 3:5b). Solomon replied, “Give your servant an understanding heart” (1 Kgs 3:9). God does not pour understanding or wisdom into a person’s head. It is the outcome of long and diligent study combined with the insights provided by the Holy Spirit. Solomon could have asked for a long life, wealth, or victory over his enemies, but he asked for understanding that he would know what it right (1 Kgs 3:11). It is presumed that tutors came to the palace to provide the young king with private instruction. Solomon had a brilliant mind, but his God-given talent had to be developed. He thoroughly immersed himself in his studies, and the outcome was wisdom unparalleled by any other person in Old Testament times (see 1 Kgs 3:12).

A Greater Learner. Solomon prefigures Jesus, a connection made by a detail regarding their births, the only two biblical figures wrapped in swaddling clothes (Wis 7:4; Lk 2:7,12). Solomon may have been wise, but Jesus is the personification of wisdom itself. Solomon may have been the greatest of the Old Testament, but Jesus said, referring to himself, “There is something greater than Solomon here” (Mt 12:42; Lk 11:31).

The Model Learner. Before Jesus became the greatest of all teachers, he was the greatest of all learners, as St. Luke clearly states, “Jesus advanced in wisdom” (Lk 2:52). Jesus was home-schooled by his parents, Mary and Joseph, both who were wise, well-read, and well-taught, and Jesus devoured every word of their instruction. Mary and Joseph took their son to the synagogue in Nazareth (see Lk 4:16b) where Jesus was taught by the local rabbis. Jesus gave them his full attention and absorbed their reflections, applications, and insights into Scripture. His hunger for learning was so great that it took him to Jerusalem, the pinnacle of learning for the Jewish people. At his own initiative at the age of twelve, he took it upon himself to go to the Temple, sit in the midst of the teachers, a group of scribes, biblical scholars, listen to them, and ask them questions (Lk 2:46). Jesus was in the habit of unrolling Scripture scrolls (Lk 4:17), and he often read Scripture, sometimes in the synagogue, other times by himself alone in the desert (inferred, Mt 4:4,6,10 and Lk 4:4,8,10,11). Jesus had a brilliant mind, learned from his parents, sought out the wisest teachers he could find, listened attentively, was a critical thinker, asked penetrating questions, was an active reader, and studied on his own. Jesus immersed himself in the learning process and developed the gift of his mind to the fullest possible extent. Students of all ages would be wise to look to Jesus for inspiration and for guidance in the educational process.

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Back to School: Jesus, a guide for students’ advancement in wisdom, age and favor

September 6, 2018

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Jesus The Student

Late August and early September signal the beginning of a new school year. Whether a student attends a Catholic school, private school, or public school, education is a spiritual process. Jesus was a student, and his example serves as a guide for all students. As a twelve-year old, “Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Lk 2:52), which is to say that he matured intellectually, physically, and spiritually, and students are to take their cues from him.

Wisdom presumes the mastery of academic subjects like reading, writing, and arithmetic; or history, art, and music; or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. A good student has a strong desire to learn, willingly attends school, pays attention in class, stays on task, asks and responds to questions, completes assignments and projects, and does one’s own work. Jesus is a shining example. He was so eager to learn that he remained behind in Jerusalem, went to the Temple, the center of learning, and sat in the midst of the teachers, listened to them, and asked them questions (see Lk 2:46).

Wisdom is more than the mastery of facts and figures or the ability to conduct an experiment and analyze the results. Wisdom is a gift of the Holy Spirit (Is 11:2). Wisdom combines academic learning, experience, insight, and common sense. It distinguishes between right and wrong, seeks and upholds the truth, applies information constructively, and balances personal good with the common good. Wisdom is the ability to exercise sound judgment.

Jesus also advanced in age. Jesus grew in size physically. He matured from infancy to childhood to adolescence to adulthood. He put on weight, grew taller, and got stronger. Jesus was a good steward of his body, and students are to do likewise. Young people have a spiritual duty to eat a well-balanced diet, get enough rest at night, and exercise regularly. It encompasses healthy practices like brushing your teeth, taking a bath or a shower, and wearing appropriate clothing. At school, physical development includes playground activities, physical education classes, and health classes, as well as extracurricular opportunities like volleyball, dance, soccer, or swimming. Physical safety is also a major concern: the avoidance of dangerous or risky behaviors, caution when crossing the street, and saying no to drugs.

Most importantly, Jesus advanced in favor. He became pleasing to God, and one of the best ways for a young person to please God is to obey one’s parents. When it came to Mary and Joseph, Jesus was “obedient to them” (Lk 2:51). He had a respectful attitude, a cooperative spirit, and a bright disposition; and he listened to his parents, followed their directions, and complied with their house rules. When a child goes to school, the respect accorded to one’s parents is extended to one’s teachers.

To advance in favor is to grow closer to God and to increase in personal holiness. This improvement is fostered by daily prayer, Mass every Sunday, the regular reception of the sacraments, religious education classes, church youth group, and good works. It also includes virtuous behaviors such as telling the truth, getting along with brothers and sisters, performing assigned household tasks, respecting classmates, good behavior on the bus, the use of appropriate language, and playing in a sportsmanlike manner.

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Jesus: The Keystone — Bartholomew: A Foundation Stone

August 24, 2018

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Jesus the keystone

A Grand Edifice. St. Paul describes the church as a magnificent structure or a sacred temple (Eph 2:21). It is a grand and glorious building, breathtaking, a sight to behold. Jesus is the keystone, the apostles are the foundation stones, and the members are living stones. Over the centuries it has become a towering skyscraper, one generation of believers after another, one floor of living stones built upon another.

The Keystone. Jesus is the keystone or capstone of the church (Eph 2:20). Ancient buildings were made of stone blocks. Construction began with the erection of walls built with large blocks that were laid one upon another. Mortar and cement were not used. The great weight of the stones and the force of gravity made the wall rock solid. At the top of the wall, particularly over doorways and windows, there was an arch, and a scaffold was needed to build it. The scaffold supported two rows of angled stones, one row on each side. Then, at the place where the two rows came together in the middle at the top, one triangular-shaped stone was wedged between the two sides and hammered into place. This stone, the keystone or capstone, pushed so forcefully in each direction that it held the entire arch in place. Then the scaffold was removed. With the keystone in position, the building stood firm. If the keystone ever were to be removed, the building would come crashing down. Jesus is the keystone of the structure, the Church, and “through him the whole structure is held together” (Eph 2:21).

House built on a solid foundationThe Foundation Stones. The foundation is the lowest level of the building, either the basement or the ground floor. It is laid first, everything else is built upon it, and it supports the weight of the entire structure. The larger the building, the more important it is to have a sturdy foundation. The Church is massive. It spans the globe. It has a great multitude of members “from every nation, race, people, and tongue” (Rv 7:9). A building of epic size requires foundation stones that will not shift or crack, but remain firmly in place. When it comes to the Church, it is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets” (Eph 2:20a).

Apostolic Foundations. The bottom floor of the Church is twelve courses of stone laid by the twelve apostles (Rv 21:14). The apostles support the building with heavenly teaching. Peter, James, John, and Paul wrote enlightening letters. The apostles were missionaries and took the gospel to all nations (see Mt 28:19), and wherever they went to preach, they laid the foundation for a new Christian community, a new addition to the magnificent building that is the Church.

A Massive Building Project. The apostles traveled far and wide and laid foundations in multiple locations: Peter throughout Israel and in Antioch, Corinth, and Rome; Andrew in Asia Minor and Greece; James the Greater in Spain and Jerusalem; John in Ephesus, Patmos, and possibly Rome; Philip in Phrygia and Hierapolis; Thomas in Syria, Persia, and India; Bartholomew in India, Lycaonia, Mesopotamia, Persia, and Armenia; Matthew in Judea and Ethiopia; James the Lesser in and around Jerusalem; Simon the Zealot in Egypt and Persia; and Jude or Thaddeus in Mesopotamia and Persia. The apostles gave heroic witness with their unyielding commitment to Jesus, the fervor of their prophetic preaching, as well as their courage and determination. All but John died a martyr’s death, and through the blood of the apostolic martyrs seeds were sown and the Church experienced tremendous growth.

St. BartholomewSt. Bartholomew, A Foundation Stone. Bartholomew is an ashlar, a huge multi-ton stone in the foundation of the Church. He was a “true Israelite” (Jn 1:47a), a person who knew God’s law and obeyed it. Jesus said, “There is no duplicity in him” (Jn 1:47b); Bartholomew was not two-faced, he was good inside and out. Jesus also said of Bartholomew, “I saw you under the fig tree” (Jn 1:48), a Jewish saying which means, “I saw you reading Scripture and meditating on it.” Bartholomew told Jesus, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God” (Jn 1:49); he made the earliest major profession of faith by an apostle. After Pentecost, he was a missionary and fearlessly proclaimed the gospel, first in India, then in the Middle East and Turkey, and finally in Armenia where he was martyred, skinned alive. Bartholomew was on Jesus’ first construction crew, and with the other apostles, he buttressed the foundation of the Church.

Living Stones. Jesus is the keystone at the top of the building, the apostles are the foundation stones at the bottom of the building, and the disciples of Jesus are the living stones that make up the rest of the building. Peter wrote that believers are “like living stones” and he taught Christians to “let yourselves be built into a spiritual house” (1 Pt 2:5). With Jesus as the head and the apostles as the foundation, the construction program can move forward.

Stones. Peter says “stones,” not “stone.” One stone does not make a wall, and it takes many believers to build the Church. It is a community project, not a personal endeavor. Christianity is not a private affair. Jesus gathered a diverse group of apostles and prayed that they would be unified as one. Doubting Thomas showed the error of going off alone. Whenever a sheep wanders away, the Good Shepherd wants to rescue it and bring it back to the flock. There are no individual stones in the Church; they are attached to each other.

Living. While a stone or brick is inanimate, a Christian is vibrant and energetic. A living stone is a loving stone. Jesus said, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). A living stone also practices self-denial and is able to endure suffering. Jesus explained, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23). A living stone follows the example of Jesus, as he instructed his apostles at the Last Supper, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (Jn 13:15). A living stone is dynamic, and Matthew Kelly, in his book, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, explained the four distinguishing characteristics of a living stone: one who prays each day, studies the faith, is generous, and evangelizes by sharing their belief in Jesus and the Good News of his gospel with others.

A Towering Skyscraper. Jesus and his apostles did the groundbreaking for his magnificent structure two thousand years ago, and the project continues today. The apostles were the foundation, and every subsequent generation has added a floor. If one generation is roughly twenty-five years, four floors are added every century. The building has been going up for twenty centuries and is now an eighty story skyscraper. Our parents built the eightieth floor. Our grandparents built the seventy-ninth. We are building the eighty-first. Since one floor is set upon another, every floor must be well built and the stones must not be cracked or flawed, otherwise the strength of the building will be compromised. More floors will be added after our time on earth is done. It behooves us to be strong living stones so our floor will be able to carry the weight of the floors that will be added in the centuries to come.

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The pelican and her chicks a symbol for the Eucharist

August 17, 2018

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There is an image of a mother pelican with her chicks carved into the capital at the top of a pillar that supports a stone canopy over a stairway at the Cenacle or the Coenaculum, the upper room on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the place that commemorates where Jesus shared the Last Supper with his apostles and instituted the Eucharist. It is the only artwork in the entire room, and it is singularly appropriate because it is a symbol for Jesus and the Eucharist.

A mother pelican lays its eggs in a nest, and after they hatch, the mother pelican leaves the nest to go hunting for food, and then returns and feeds the chicks. Many species of birds feed their young with worms. Pelicans usually live near the water, have webbed feet, and long beaks with pouches, and their usual prey is small fish or other aquatic animals such as frog tadpoles, crayfish, or even salamanders.

In times of drought the marshes and streams may dry up, or something may cause the fish in the lake to die, and the mother pelican is unable to find food. Her chicks are delicate, need to be fed daily, and without food are quickly in danger of starvation and death. Faced with this crisis, the mother pelican uses its beak to poke holes in its breast which causes blood to come out, and the chicks are nourished with their mother’s blood. The mother dies and the chicks survive.
Mother pelican
Christians see parallels between the mother pelican and her chicks and Jesus and his followers. The mother pelican represents Jesus, the chicks represent us. The chicks dwell in the safety of the nest, believers dwell in the safety of the Church. The mother is the head of the nest, and Jesus is the head of the Church (Eph 1:22). The mother has an intense concern for her chicks and it goes against her nature to allow any of them to perish, and Jesus has a great love for us and wants none of us to perish.

When food is in short supply, the pelican pierces its breast with its sharp, pointed beak, and the side of Jesus was pierced by a sharp, pointed lance (Jn 19:34a). Blood flowed from the pelican’s breast, and blood flowed from Jesus’ side (Jn 19:34b). The mother’s blood was drink for her chicks, and the blood of Jesus is “true drink” (Jn 6:55b). The mother gave her life that her chicks might live, and Jesus laid down his life that we might live (Jn 15:13). The mother’s blood saved the lives of the chicks, and the blood of Jesus is salvation and eternal life (Jn 6:54) to those who receive it. Because of these striking similarities, the mother pelican and her chicks have come to represent the Eucharist, as well as redemption and salvation.

A depiction of the mother pelican and her chicks is frequently on display in places associated with the Eucharist: the doors of the tabernacle, the front of the altar, a hanging in front of the lectern or ambo, a stained glass window in the sanctuary area, the decorative design on a chalice, chasuble or cope, or on the ends of pews.

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The sacrament of marriage: A solemn covenant

August 10, 2018

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sacrament of marriage

The sacrament of marriage is a covenant between a husband and wife patterned on the covenant between God and the human race. God entered a pact with every living being through Noah after the flood (see Gn 9:8-17). God promised to be faithful to the people of the earth, to love them and provide for them, and that it would be an “everlasting covenant” (Gn 9:16), perpetual, permanent, and binding forever.

God is reliable and true, and always upholds his side of the agreement, while the people, on the other hand, through their stubbornness, sins and failings, broke the covenant over and over again. God is offended and disappointed, but instead of annulling the covenant, extends mercy and forgiveness out of his deep compassion, provides a new beginning, and reestablishes the covenant. God cannot go against his divine nature. God is love and is ever faithful.

The Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures provide a list of covenant renewals that confirm God’s faithfulness. The people would sin and break the covenant, and God would try again. After the people built the Tower of Babel (Gn 11), God renewed the covenant through Abram (Gn 15:17-19 and 17). Subsequently God renewed the covenant with Moses at Mount Sinai (Ex 24:3-8), and after the people worshipped the golden calf, again with the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law (Ex 34:10-26); with Joshua (Jos 24:16-28); David (2 Sm 7:8-17; 23:5); Jeremiah (Jer 31:31-34), and Ezekiel (Ez 36:24-28; 37:26). God’s constant and unshakeable promise is this: “You shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ez 36:28b; see also Jer 7:23; 31:33; Ez 37:27). Throughout history God demonstrates continuous, never-ending, enduring love.

Jesus is the final reestablishment of the covenant broken by previous generations. When he offered a cup of wine at the Last Supper, Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk 22:20), and it was sealed with the blood that he shed on the Cross. Jesus is the embodiment of the covenant, and he is constantly faithful to his bride, the Body of Christ, the Church (see Eph 5:25b-27,32; Rv 19:7; 21:9). He is the definitive expression of God’s everlasting bond of love with every person.

When a man and woman enter into the Sacrament of Marriage, they establish of covenant of love that is sealed by God (Mk 10:9), and they pledge to be faithful to each other in the same way that God is always faithful. If one should ever violate the vows of marriage and sin, the other promises to show the mercy and compassion of God, extend forgiveness, and renew the covenant. It is God’s desire that the covenant of marriage be indissoluble.

The Sacrament of Marriage is a spiritual bond, a covenant, not a contract. A contract is written on paper, a covenant is written on the heart; a contract has fine print with terms and conditions, a covenant is unconditional; a contract is closed with signatures, a covenant is sealed with the spoken word; a contract is for a specific amount of time, a covenant is everlasting; a contract may have penalties if specific terms are not met, a covenant when violated extends forgiveness; a contract may have an escape clause, a covenant is binding forever; a contract is designed to protect one’s own rights, a covenant seeks what is best for the other person; a contract makes no mention of God, a covenant is based on faith in God; a contract relies on human energy, a covenant relies on grace; and a contract is executed before a civil official, a covenant is established before a minister who represents God.

Sometimes people wonder whether God is faithful because God is unseen. A married couple that remains true to their wedding promises is a living witness of covenantal love. A wedding anniversary is an excellent time for the Church to reflect upon their fidelity, to celebrate the high ideals of marriage, and to declare, “This couple is proof and a beautiful example of the eternal love of the God of the covenant.”

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Superabundant Grace for the Married Couple

August 3, 2018

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Wedding at Cana

Jesus attended a wedding feast at Cana at the beginning of his public ministry (Jn 2:1-11). Jesus wanted that couple, as well as every married couple, to have a wonderful life together and to be faithful in their love for each other. The bride and groom had looked forward to their wedding day with eager anticipation, and after exchanging their vows they were jubilant. Their family and friends were together. The festivities were in high gear. There was food and drink, singing and dancing, and smiles on every face. A wedding banquet is the greatest of all feasts.

Jesus knew that their marriage would be tested down the road. Every marriage is tested. The vows say, “for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health.” Marriages are tested when one, the other, or both are sick; when faced with economic struggles; or when something else goes wrong. Furthermore, their union will be tested because of their inclination to sin, which leads to “discord, a spirit of domination, infidelity, jealousy, and conflicts that can escalate into hatred and separation” (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1606). Jesus wants to provide divine assistance to every couple to help them deal with their tests successfully.

There was a signal of the tests looming in the future when the wine ran short. Everything had gone perfectly so far. Then a crisis! Would this misfortune wreck the celebration? Will the misfortunes that are sure to spring up over the coming years wreck the marriage? Can Jesus help? Mary was sure of it. She immediately turned to her son and said, “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3), expecting that he would come up with a solution.

There were six stone water jars near the entrance. They were quite large. Each one held twenty to thirty gallons (Jn 2:6), twenty-five on average. Jesus asked the servers to fill them with water, which they did. It was a lot of hauling. A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds, twenty-five gallons weighs 208 pounds. The six stone jars contained one hundred and fifty gallons total.

With the water in place, Jesus asked a server to “Draw some out and take it to the headwaiter” (Jn 2:8). The water had become wine, all one hundred and fifty gallons. That is a huge amount of wine. It would amount to cases and cases of wine by today’s standards.

There are two details that are often overlooked. The average number of guests at a village wedding celebration ranged from one hundred to one hundred fifty, and the guests had been drinking freely all day (see Jn 2:10b). Some of the guests may have been a little tipsy, even though drunkenness was considered a disgrace in Jewish culture. Then Jesus provided an additional one to one and a half gallons of pure choice wine for every single person at the feast. Was Jesus encouraging excessive alcohol use? Did he not care if the party turned raucous? What was the Son of God who embodies virtue doing?

Jesus provided the guests with more wine than they could ever use. It was a superabundant supply that would never run out. The wine represents his grace. On the day the couple was married, Jesus showered them with his divine grace, spiritual blessings and assistance, and it would flow from him to them every day for the rest of their married lives. His grace is superabundant. It never runs out. It is available at all times, particularly when a couple is tested, so they can be faithful in their love for each other for the rest of their married lives.

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St. Peter Chrysologus

July 27, 2018

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St. Peter Chrysologus

St. Peter was born in 380 AD at Imola, Emilia, Italy. He studied under Bishop Cornelius of Imola, and was ordained by him as a deacon.

The emperor Valerian III appointed Peter as archbishop of Ravenna, Italy, in 424, a position of considerable importance since Ravenna was the capital of the Western Empire and was one of the four most prominent cities of the Fourth and Fifth Centuries along with Rome, Constantinople, and Milan.

St. Peter was renowned as an exceptional preacher and teacher. The Empress Galla Placidia, the mother of the emperor, heard his first sermon and was so captivated that she became a major benefactor and strongly supported a number of his building projects.

St. Peter meticulously prepared his homilies. They were concise and focused, instructive and interesting, biblically-based, drawn particularly from the gospels, contained practical applications for how to live Christian life, and frequently included an invitation to conversion and repentance. He also spoke about the value of the Eucharist and encouraged the frequent reception of Holy Communion which he called “daily bread for our souls.” He kept his homilies short because he did not want to cause fatigue in the attention of his listeners. His delivery was energetic, engaging, and positive. In fact, at times he would preach with such passion, intensity, and fervor that he would lose his breath in his excitement.

As bishop, he challenged laxity in his diocese. He taught sound doctrine, corrected heretics, and upheld the primacy of the Pope and the teaching authority of Rome. He spoke out against paganism and pagan practices, particularly the evils of an annual local New Year’s Eve carnival with its drunkenness and debauchery, but did so firmly and respectfully and not in the harsh and condemnatory tone so typical of other Church leaders of that time. He is remembered for the famous quote, “He who delights in the devil cannot rejoice in Christ.”

St. Peter was a prolific writer. One hundred and seventy of his homilies have been preserved, but most of his other writings have been lost. The Collect Prayer of the Mass says that he was “an outstanding preacher of your incarnate Word.” He died in Imola, variously reported as July 31 or December 2, 450.

In the Ninth Century St. Peter was given the added title “Chrysologus.” The Eastern Church had St. John Chrysostom, Greek for “golden-tongued,” the famous preacher of the East, so the West decided to claim for itself an eloquent, illustrious preacher of its own with a comparable title that means “golden-worded” or “golden speech.” Pope Benedict XIII declared St. Peter Chrysologus a Doctor of the Church in 1729.

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Mary and Joseph: the model married couple

July 20, 2018

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Holy CoupleIf Jesus, Mary and Joseph are the Holy Family, then Mary and Joseph are the Holy Couple, and if the Holy Family serves as the model for Christian families, then Mary and Joseph serve as the model for Christian couples that are living the Sacrament of Marriage.

Before they lived together (Mt 1:18). Mary and Joseph were betrothed, a Jewish ritual ceremony in which the bride and groom dedicate themselves to each. The period of betrothal lasts approximately one year, a time when the bride and groom live apart, usually in their parent’s homes, and abstain from sexual relations. Mary and Joseph did not cohabitate before marriage, and the moral standard that they followed still applies to couples that intend to be married today. Decisions about living arrangements before marriage are not to be governed by apartment leases, home purchases, insurance coverage, work or school schedules, or concerns about compatibility, but rather by the conscious decision to reserve one’s self totally for one’s spouse, and to share the intimacy of marriage only after their commitment to love each other for life has been sealed by God in the Sacrament of Marriage and witnessed and ratified by the Christian community gathered at worship in church.

Joseph, “a righteous man”(Mt 1:19), and Mary, “favored one” (i.e., “full of grace”) (Lk 1:28). Even before they were married, Joseph already was a righteous man and Mary already was full of grace. They knew God’s laws and obeyed them, had an established pattern of upright living, practiced the virtues, prayed regularly, and had a strong desire to please God. It was their firm intention prior to marriage to set their union on the solid rock of their faith in God and their spiritual values. Every prospective bride and groom while a child, adolescent, or young adult, before dating or while dating, should spend their days making spiritual headway as devout believers and dedicated disciples, growing in wisdom, favor, and grace (see Lk 2:40), learning and obeying the Gospel, receiving the sacraments, and becoming good and holy people, so when they exchange their vows, their marriage will be anchored upon the foundation of their faith that is deep and solid and constructed over many years.

Obedient to angels. Joseph and Mary received appearances from angels. An angel told Joseph to take Mary as his wife (Mt 1:20), to take Jesus and Mary and flee to Egypt (Mt 2:13), and once harm had passed, to take Jesus and Mary and return to Israel (Mt 2:20), and in each instance, Joseph obeyed immediately without resistance or delay. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce that she would be the mother of the Son of God (Lk 1:31,35), and she replied, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). The angels were messengers of God and conveyed God’s will, and both Joseph and Mary trusted God and obeyed. Likewise a Christian couple, both before they are married and after, pay attention to God’s will, however it is conveyed, and without resistance or delay, obey promptly and completely.

[Joseph] took his wife into his home (Mt 1:24). Joseph and Mary began to live together at the angel’s bidding, and for them to establish a home, it also presumed that their betrothal had ended and that they were married within the Jewish faith. Wherever they were living, probably in Nazareth, they would have gone to the synagogue and exchanged their marriage vows before a rabbi according to the prescribed ritual in the presence of fellow Jews that were members of the local synagogue. Similarly a Catholic, when the engagement ends and before they live together, brings the marriage to a Catholic church, the couple exchanges their consent before a priest or deacon according to the Catholic form, and does so in the presence of their family, relatives, and friends who represent the local parish and the universal Church.

At home together. Mary and Joseph shared a beautiful mutual love. They were not married singles, individuals that happened to be living under the same roof, selfishly pursuing their own interests, with personal gain and fulfillment as their main objectives. Rather, Mary gave her life as a total gift to Joseph, and Joseph, in turn, gave his life as a total gift to Mary. Their love was selfless. Their approach was not, “What is in this for me?” and “What would make me happy?” but rather, “What would make my spouse happy?” They were not focused on compromise, “I get my way some of the time and you get your way some of the time,” but rather, “It is my aim to please you and promote your wellbeing all of the time.” They shared their lives completely. They communicated with each, shared their dreams and disappointments, joys and worries, ate meals together, willingly performed household tasks together, prayed together, and genuinely enjoyed each other’s company.

A home filled with love. Love is a virtue (1 Cor 13:13), it was the bond between Mary and Joseph, and it permeated their home. They were consistently kind and patient with each other. They were humble and modest; polite and respectful; supportive, positive, and encouraging; appreciative and complimentary; calm, composed, and self-controlled; able to see things from their spouse’s point of view; willing to give the benefit of the doubt; compassionate, forgiving, and reconciling; open, truthful, and honest; gentle and tender; generous and grateful; joyful, peaceful, and faithful. By practicing the virtues together, Mary and Joseph made God the center of their marriage. They had the wisdom to know that one spouse goes through the other to God. The more a spouse loves the other, the more the person loves God, and conversely, the less a person loves the other, the less the person loves God.

Mary conceived (Lk 1:31,35). God blessed Mary and Joseph with a miraculous conception. Even though the circumstances at the beginning of their marriage were awkward, and the child in the womb might have been considered a hardship or an inconvenience, Mary and Joseph embraced the new life, safeguarded it, remained unwavering in their love for each other, brought the child to full term, and were overjoyed at his birth. A Christian couple eagerly anticipates the prospect of having children, and if God blesses them with a miraculous pregnancy, even if not under ideal circumstances, the couple welcomes the new life, protects it from all harm, and does everything possible to insure the child’s birth.

[Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son (Lk 2:7). When Jesus was born Mary instantly shifted into service mode when she wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. Married love is generous. Mary and Joseph’s marriage did not revolve around themselves, their pursuits, careers, hobbies, and standard of living. They knew that a child would require time, attention, and sacrifice, and they gladly dedicated themselves to the care of the child that God had entrusted to them. A Christian married couple is not only loving and generous with each other, but eager to share their ever-increasing love with their children.

Traveling partners. Mary and Joseph made one journey after another together. During their early years they traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, Bethlehem to Jerusalem, Israel to Egypt, Egypt to Judea, and Judea back to Nazareth. After they settled in Nazareth they made an annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover. In addition to the long journeys, they made many short trips, to the synagogue, the markets, and friends’ homes. The journey may have been to obey a government order, fulfill a spiritual duty, or for safety and security. Some were made at an easy pace, others made hastily and under great duress. No matter the situation, Mary and Joseph were inseparable, step by step, helping each other along the way, sharing each other’s burdens. Their marriage journey continued for many years and they were ever-faithful. A Christian wife and husband are traveling companions for life, helping each other wherever they may go, particularly when travel conditions are most difficult.

Synagogue and Temple. It was Mary and Joseph’s custom to go to the synagogue on the sabbath day (implied in Lk 4:16), and each year they went to the Temple in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover (Lk 2:41). They were a church-going couple and worship was the centerpiece of their week. They attended sabbath after sabbath and faithfully obeyed God’s commandment (Ex 20:8-11; Dt 5:12-15). In the same way, a Christian marriage is in a spiritual partnership, and in addition to a wife and husband’s daily prayers together at home, they go to church every weekend, and their week revolves around the celebration of the Mass. It is their shared opportunity to give God praise and thanks for their blessings, to be nourished by Word and Sacrament, and to give and receive support from the other members of the community.

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The Unity Candle

July 10, 2018

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The Unity Candle The Unity Candle is a three-candle display, all white in color, one larger pillar candle in the center, flanked by two smaller taper candles, one on each side. Ordinarily they are placed on a Unity Candle stand or a table draped with a cloth. The display is never placed on the altar. The placement may be somewhere in the sanctuary that does not obstruct the view of the altar, pulpit, presider’s chair, or the couple, or may be placed outside but near the sanctuary.

The ceremonial lighting of the Unity Candle is not a part of The Order of Celebrating Matrimony in the Catholic Church. It is not allowed in some dioceses and parishes because it is not included in the ritual, or because those present for the exchange of vows witness the complete Sacrament of Marriage, the sacrament is powerful and stands fully on its own, a symbol is anticlimactic following the real thing, and a symbol does not supplement or augment it.

In many dioceses and parishes, the Unity Candle ceremony is permitted. It is a relatively new tradition that has much sentimental value. It provides the couple an opportunity to act together immediately. The ceremony is elegant, beautiful, and a memorable moment.

When the Unity Candle ceremony is celebrated, it comes after the blessing and giving of rings and before the Universal Prayer or the Prayers of the Faithful. The taper candles usually are lit before the liturgy, often by the mothers, but also possibly by relatives or friends, or if no one is designated, by the sacristan, or the taper candles are lit as the first part of the ceremony itself. Then the bride and groom each take a lit taper candle, and together simultaneously light the pillar candle. The taper candles are returned to their holders and usually left burning. The larger center candle is a symbol that is interpreted in a number of different ways.

The Married Couple. The usual understanding is that one taper candle represents the bride, the other represents the groom, and that the pillar candle represents the bride and groom joined together as a married couple. While each retains their individuality, represented by the taper candles that continue to burn, “they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mk 10:8).

Jesus. The lighted pillar candle represents Jesus who is the light of the world (Jn 8:12). When the bride and groom light the pillar candle, they declare that Jesus is the center of their marriage, that they are joined together by him, that the sacramental grace that he supplies will sustain them and hold them together, and that they will individually and jointly follow his light.

The Sacrament of Marriage. The taper candles represent the baptismal candles of the bride and groom, as well as their faith in Jesus and their commitments to live their lives as his disciples. Baptism is the first Sacrament of Initiation. Then after the reception of Eucharist and Confirmation and the completion of the Sacraments of Initiation, the bride and groom indicate as they light the pillar candle that they intend to live out their baptismal faith as adults in the Sacrament of Marriage, their Sacrament of Commitment.

A New Family. The taper candles represent the immediate families of the bride and groom, their parents and siblings, and from their two families of origin, the pillar candle represents the new family that has begun with their marriage.

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