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Standing alone with our own oil

November 6, 2020

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“Give us some of your oil,” the foolish virgins without enough oil demanded, and the wise virgins with an ample supply of oil brusquely popped back, “No. Go get your own” (see Mt 25:8,9). The reply of those with an adequate supply of oil seems abrupt and terse, callous and insensitive. One of the marks of a true disciple is generosity (Gal 5:22), yet those with full flasks of oil refused to share. Disciples love their neighbors (Mt 22:39), yet those with sufficient oil for the night did nothing to help those in need. Those with oil appear to be cold, heartless, and devoid of love. Unexpectedly, as flawed and sinful as the virgins with full flasks of oil may appear, Jesus called them wise and admitted them into the wedding banquet. How could their refusal to share possibly be acceptable to God? How could their disregard of a needy neighbor be rewarded with a place at the heavenly banquet?

The answer is the symbolism of the oil. The arrival of the bridegroom at an unknown hour in the middle of the night represents the arrival of Jesus at the unknown hour when a person dies and must appear before the Son of Man to make an accounting of his or her life. The five wise virgins passed through the door into the wedding banquet. The question is whether the person who has died will pass through the Gates of Heaven into the Father’s House and take their place at the eternal banquet. The amount of oil in the flask will be the deciding factor.

This is a flask or oil jar. It is part of a larger mosaic in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel.

The oil in the flask represents the accumulation of all the good done over the course of a person’s lifetime. A droplet is added to the flask with every prayer, good work, act of kindness, gift given, service provided, work of mercy performed (see Mt 25:35-36), and sin avoided. Oil also accumulates when a person has a faith-filled loving relationship with God, exhibits character and integrity, and is truthful and honest.

The foolish virgins were under the false impression that they could use someone else’s oil. It does not work that way. Oil is nontransferable. When a person appears before God on Judgment Day, the person stands alone, and the only oil that a person can use is their own. Judgment will be based upon what the person has done, not what someone else has done, their prayerfulness, not someone else’s prayerfulness, their good works, not someone else’s good works, and their faith, not someone else’s faith.

The wise virgins were not being mean and selfish when they refused to share their oil. They were aware that their lifetime of faith and goodness would be of no use to those without sufficient oil. Instead of sharing, which could not be done, they advised the five who were lacking to “go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves” (Mt 25:9). They suggested that they go off with whatever time they had left remaining and do everything in their power to add to their own flasks as quickly as possible.

How much oil is in your flask? If God called you home today, would you have enough oil in your flask to be admitted into the Halls of Heaven? Please remember, you cannot use someone else’s oil. The oil acquisition task rests squarely on our own shoulders.

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The Saints

October 30, 2020

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There are two classifications of saints. The Communion of Saints of the Living are those who are alive, baptized, believe in God, practice their faith, and do their best to live a good and holy life. The Communion of Saints of the Faithful Departed are those who have completed their human journey on earth and have died, fulfilled their calling, been redeemed by Jesus’ saving grace, and have taken their place in heaven with God and the company of angels and saints in light, happiness, and peace for all eternity.

Among the saints in heaven, some are canonized while others are not. A canonized saint is officially recognized by the Church. The selection process is coordinated by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints which reviews a potential saint’s life. Once certain criteria have been met, the Congregation advances the person from beatification to canonization.

Most of the saints in heaven have not received official recognition. These are our deceased fellow parishioners, parents and grandparents, relatives and friends, those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. Although their goodness is not widely known, it is known to us, and most importantly known to God, and they have received the crown of righteousness.

It is extremely important to identify individuals who have led exemplary Christian lives and have been models of virtue and holiness, have been exceptional witnesses, have demonstrated courage and conviction, or have made outstanding contributions to the Church. The designation of a saint is an encouragement to the living: “If they could live a holy life, you can live a holy life; and, if they have gone to heaven, you can go to heaven.”

Those who reflect on the lives of the saints often urge us to imitate the saints, except some saints went overboard in fasting and other ascetical practices and were so severe that they jeopardized their health and well-being. An old priest friend of mine was fond of saying, “The saints are to be admired, not imitated.” It was his way of saying that the saints can inspire and motivate us, but we should be careful about how we imitate them, doing so in a balanced and reasonable way that helps us to make spiritual progress.

The liturgical calendar places saints in a number of categories: the apostles, the foundations of the Church, its first shepherds and teachers, who watch over and protect it still; the martyrs, those who have died for their faith and given heroic witness; pastors, great preachers and teachers; virgins and religious, those who have consecrated their lives to Christ for the sake of the Kingdom; and holy men and women, those who are outstanding in holiness.

The saints can serve as our intercessors. Everyone is free to pray directly to God. But if a saint is already in heaven at God’s throne while we are not, and if a saint enjoys God’s special favor while we are sinners, instead of approaching God directly, it may be beneficial to ask a saint to approach God on our behalf with our prayers and concerns.

Many saints are honored as patron saints. A patron saint is a special intercessor before God for a special concern. The saint and the cause may be chosen by the Church, a Pope, widespread popular acclaim, or by an individual. There are patron saints for dioceses, parishes, schools, hospitals, cemeteries, and religious organizations, as well as individual persons, often as indicated by the saint chosen for one’s name at the time of Baptism. There are patron saints for places such as countries and regions, towns and cities; and for a wide variety of other things such as occupations and professions, diseases and medical conditions, various stages of life, and other problem situations.

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Go ahead: Love yourself

October 23, 2020

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Love yourself. Yes, Jesus wants you to love yourself. He said so. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:39). But this sounds so selfish. When a person hears, “Love yourself,” all sorts of things come to mind. “Put yourself first,” which is egotistical, prideful, self-centered, and individualistic. “Give yourself what you want,” which is selfish, greedy, and materialistic. “The world revolves around you and what makes you happy,” which is narcissistic. “Enjoy the pleasures of life; if it feels good, do it,” which is hedonistic, self-indulgent, and decadent. Certainly, this is not what Jesus means when he says, “Love yourself.”

I had a spiritual director who has a saying, “Good ministry begins with self-care.” This wise advisor would go on to say, “You are no good to anyone else if you are a wreck yourself. You are unable to be of service if you are mentally or spiritually imbalanced, sick or dead. You have to be well if you hope to love your neighbor.”

Love One Another

“Love One Another.”
Immaculate Heart Catholic Church. Cross Lake, MN.

When Jesus says, “Love yourself,” he means, “Take care of yourself. Be a good steward of the gift of your life. Be healthy, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically, so you are able to love and serve your neighbor appropriately.”

When Jesus says, “Love yourself,” he is asking us to take care of our body and physical health. You “love yourself” when you get to bed on time and get enough sleep, eat a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly, practice good hygiene, avoid dangerous activities, follow safety precautions, drive carefully, go to the doctor when sick, and comply with the doctor’s orders.

When Jesus says, “Love yourself,” he is asking us to take care of our emotional well-being. You “love yourself” when you nurture good relationships with family members; be a friend to others and allow others to be a friend to you; have a network of mutually beneficial friendships; have someone with whom you can share your hopes and fears, ups and downs; have one or more hobbies; enjoy the arts, go to movies, plays, concerts, or a museum; take time to read a good book, magazine, or newspaper; engage in enjoyable activities like a picnic, swimming, amusement park, the zoo, or a sporting event; have a reasonable workload; manage stress; reserve time for rest and relaxation; be positive and optimistic; pay special attention to hurts, deal with resentments, and forgive; restrain anger; and, if things are unmanageable on our own, to seek the help of others, either from a trustworthy family member or friend, or professional care from a minister or personal coach, counselor or therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist.

When Jesus says, “Love yourself,” he is asking us to grow intellectually. You “love yourself” when you have an inquisitive mind, pay attention in class, do homework, read books and informational literature, go on field trips, watch educational programming, attend workshops, take enrichment courses, interact with knowledgeable people, explore and investigate, and travel at home and abroad.

When Jesus says, “Love yourself,” he is asking us to have a strong and vibrant spiritual life. Good spiritual health begins with prayer. You “love yourself” when you pray every day, go to Mass every weekend, receive the sacraments regularly, do spiritual reading, practice a devotion like Eucharistic Adoration or the rosary, and do penance: prayer, fasting and self-denial, almsgiving, and works of charity. Other key elements of good spiritual health include being a registered and active member of a parish community, generosity with time and money, on-going spiritual development and faith formation, sharing one’s faith with others, and volunteer service to the parish and wider community. There is nothing selfish about loving yourself when you take care of yourself to honor the gift of life that God has given to you, and to have a strong and healthy foundation to serve your neighbor.

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St. Anthony Mary Claret

October 23, 2020

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(1807-1870), Bishop, Missionary, Founder

Anthony was born in Sallent in the Diocese of Vich in Catalonia, Spain in 1807. His father was a weaver, and he learned his father’s trade as a young man. He made a major shift in 1829 when he entered the seminary in Vich, and he was ordained to the priesthood in 1835.

Statue of St. Anthony Mary Claret

Statue of St. Anthony Mary Claret located in the Courtyard at the Church of Our Lady of Montserrat. Mount Montserrat. Catalonia. Spain. Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Anthony had a great desire to become a missionary, and after serving briefly at his home parish, he went to Rome to seek missionary work at the Propagation of the Faith. He also explored a possible calling to the Jesuits, entered the novitiate, became ill, withdrew, and returned to his native Spain.

Father Anthony was assigned to a parish, but his main ministry over the next ten years was as a missionary traveling from one parish to another throughout the rural areas of Catalonia. He preached retreats and conducted parish missions and clergy conferences. He spoke with incredible zeal, attracted large crowds, and it is estimated that he preached twenty-five thousand sermons over his life. He also was a prolific author and wrote over two hundred books and pamphlets. His most famous book was The Right Way which promoted fidelity to the gospel.

His popularity aroused the jealousy and animosity of the local clergy, and in 1848 he was forced to flee to the Canary Islands where he spent the next year. He returned to Catalonia in 1849, resumed his preaching, gathered a group of five priests, and founded the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Claretians, who have a special charism for missionary work.

In 1850 he was appointed the archbishop of Santiago, Cuba, which proved to be an incredibly difficult assignment. The diocese had been without a bishop for fourteen years, laxity had crept into the clergy, and he conducted a vigorous reform which was not well received. He was a Spaniard, and there was a strong movement within the country against Spain as it strove for independence. He preached against the slavery of the Negroes which was opposed by slave owners. He had a warm pastoral heart, made regular visits to the parishes, had a sincere compassion for the poor, and worked to establish credit unions to help the poor build savings. He was unsuccessful in establishing a school of agriculture but was able to found the Apostolic Institute of Mary. There was a strong anti-Christian sentiment within the country, and resistance to his initiates was so intense that he received numerous death threats and there was one assassination attempt. He resigned in 1857 and returned to Spain.

Archbishop Claret became the personal confessor to Queen Isabella II. While at the royal palace most of the time, he was able to preach on a limited basis. He was a strong proponent of education, served as rector of the seminary at the Escorial in Madrid, founded the Academy of St. Michael for artists and writers, established a science laboratory, a museum of natural history, and an association of artists and writers. The Spanish Revolution took place in 1868. Queen Isabella II fled to France. Archbishop Claret was in Rome to prepare for the First Vatican Council, he departed and followed his queen to France, took up residence at the Cistercian Monastery in Fontfroide, was placed under house arrest, and died there on October 24, 1870, at the age of 63. He was beatified in 1934 and canonized a saint in 1950. He is the patron saint of weavers, savings banks, and the Claretians.

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St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin, Religious, Doctor of the Church

October 9, 2020

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St. Teresa of Jesus was born in Avila, Spain, on March 28, 1515, one of twelve children in a faith-filled home. At age seven she read the lives of the saints and was so inspired by the martyrs that she and her brother Rodrigo began walking south toward the Moors hoping to gain instant access to heaven. They were intercepted on their way by their uncle and returned home.

Young Teresa’s religious fervor cooled during her adolescence. She read racy novels, became preoccupied with her appearance, and used perfume. She later admitted that she was more interested in boys than religion.

St. Teresa of Jesus

“St. Teresa of Jesus.” Museum Teresa de Jesus en Alba. Alba de Tormes, Spain.

Her spiritual life got back on course when she read the letters of St. Jerome and shortly thereafter experienced the call to be a religious sister. She entered the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation in Avila in 1535 and made her first profession of vows in 1537. The next year she came down with a serious illness that persisted for two years followed by partial paralysis for another. The doctors had given up on her. She turned to prayer and recovered.

The convent in Avila was affluent and the nuns enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. It was close to town, the sisters received many guests, and they were caught up in the ways of the world. St. Teresa was a good nun during her initial years in the convent, but when she was older, she described the period as spiritually mediocre.

She went through a dramatic conversion which began in 1554. She prayed before a crucifix and later wrote, “When I looked at Christ hanging poor and naked on the Cross, I felt I could never bear to be rich.” The next year she read the Confessions of St. Augustine and resolved to dedicate the rest of her life to prayer. The same year her mystical experiences began. There were divine revelations from God. She received visions from St. Mary Magdalene and St. Augustine, both who showed her the miserable place in hell that was reserved for her. She had other moments of rapture and ecstasy. The mystical experiences went for six years until 1560.

Fearing hell for herself, she set out to save her soul, as well as the souls of her fellow Carmelites. She returned to the full observance of the Carmelite rule, a strict cloister, more prayer and contemplation, penitential practices, and rigorous austerity. There were 140 nuns in the convent. Many doubted her visions and ridiculed her. Most were content with their pleasant life and bitterly opposed her reform movement. It caused a deep rift and two divergent branches emerged within the community, the non-reformed, relaxed, or Calced Carmelites, those with shoes, and the “the Strict Observance,” the Discalced Carmelites, those without shoes.

St. Teresa founded a new convent in 1562. Thirteen other nuns joined her. She founded sixteen other convents from 1562 to 1576. In 1568 she helped St. John of the Cross found a community of Discalced Carmelites for men. She wrote three spiritual masterpieces: The Life her autobiography and a treatise on mystical prayer, The Way of Perfection on mystical theology, and The Interior Castle, a metaphorical description of the seven stages of spiritual growth.

St. Teresa died on October 4, 1582 in Alba de Tormes, Spain, at the age of 67. She was canonized a saint in 1622 and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970. She is the patron saint of Spain and Croatia and headache sufferers. Her symbols are a book and a quill pen because of her writings and a flaming arrow in a heart because she said, “God’s love is like a lance driven into the heart.”

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The San Damiano Cross

October 2, 2020

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The Franciscan Connection. The San Damiano Cross is especially revered by the Franciscans. The original cross was located in a small, dilapidated country church in Umbria, Italy. One day in 1206 AD St. Francis of Assisi was ambling along a country road, happened upon the church, went inside, and knelt down before the cross. While he was in prayer, he saw the lips of Jesus move and he heard his voice say, “Francis, go and repair my house which, as you can see, is falling completely into ruin.” At first, Francis thought Jesus wanted him to repair the building itself, but over time and upon further reflection, it became apparent to him that Jesus did not want him to fix the church building, but to revive the faith of the people which was crumbling, lax, dilapidated, and in ruins. From that time forward, Francis was an animated preacher. He attracted huge crowds and he drew thousands of people back to Jesus and the gospel. He was a master builder of the Body of Christ, the Church.

The San Damiano Cross Present Location. The San Damiano Cross hung in the San Damiano Church from 1206 to 1257 AD. Then the Poor Clare Sisters moved the cross to the Basilica of St. Clare, and it has remained there until the present day where it is on display in its own chapel.

Description. The San Damiano Cross is a painted, icon-style cross. The artist is unknown. It probably was painted sometime in the Twelfth Century AD.

The Major Witnesses. There are five large figures beneath Jesus’ arms that are the major witnesses of the crucifixion. On the left side beneath Jesus’ right arm there are two figures, the Blessed Mother Mary on the outside and the Beloved Disciple on the inside; and on the right side beneath Jesus’ left arm, there are three figures, the closest, St. Mary Magdalene; Mary, the mother of James in the middle; and the centurion on the outside.

The Minor Witnesses. There are two smaller figures below the major witnesses: St. Longinus on the lower left, holding a lance, the soldier who pierced Jesus’ side (Jn 19:34); and Stephanton on the lower right, holding a reed and a sponge, the one who raised a sprig of hyssop to Jesus’ lips (Mt 27:48; Mk 15:36; Jn 19:29).

Other Noteworthy Details. There is a small face behind the centurion’s left shoulder, the “signature” of the artist; there is a tiny rooster on the lower right between Jesus’ left kneecap and ankle, the rooster that crowed when Peter denied Jesus; and in the dark box at the bottom of the cross, there are six important saints. According to one local tradition, they are Peter and Paul, Michael, John the Baptist, John the apostle, and Rufino, a local martyr. According to another legend, the saints are Peter and Paul, Michael, Damian, Rufino, Victorino, and another local martyr.

The Heavenly Welcome. At the top of the cross there is an outstretched hand, a symbol of God the Father welcoming Jesus into heaven. There are ten angels, five to the left and five to the right, all welcoming the risen Jesus to heaven. The circled figure in the middle is Jesus, gloriously triumphant, victor over sin and death, with the inscription, “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews” (Jn 19:19).

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St. Lorenzo Ruiz and the Nagasaki Martyrs

September 25, 2020

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Between 1633 and 1637 sixteen Christians were martyred for their faith in Nagasaki, Japan. All sixteen were related to the Dominican Order in some way: nine Dominican priests, two Dominican brothers, two consecrated virgins, and three Dominican tertiaries, lay persons who belong to the Third Order of St. Dominic. They belonged to five different nationalities: nine were Japanese, four Spaniards, one Frenchman, one Italian, and one Filipino, St. Lorenzo Ruiz.

St. Lorenzo Ruiz (1600-1637), also known in English as St. Lawrence Ruiz, is named first on the list of sixteen, even though a lay person, because he is the protomartyr or the first martyr from the Philippines. He was canonized by Pope St. John Paul II in Manila on October 18, 1987 and is the patron saint of both the Philippines and the Filipino people. Numerous miracles have been attributed through his intercession and there is a widespread devotion to him among Filipinos.

St. Lorenzo Ruiz was born in Manila in 1600 to a Chinese father and a Filipino mother. His family lived in Binondo, the Chinese section of Manila. Young Lorenzo was raised in the faith by his parents, both who were Christians. He became fluent in three languages, Chinese from his father, Tagalog from his mother, and Spanish from the Dominican friars who were his schoolteachers. As a youth, he was a sacristan and altar server at his parish, and because of his close association with the Dominicans, he became a member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary, a society with a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother Mary and St. Dominic. They are passionate advocates for the value of the Rosary. He was married and the father of three children, two sons and one daughter.

His life took a dramatic turn for the worse when he was falsely accused of a murder. He learned that some Dominican priests were about to set sail, Spanish Fathers Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet, and Miguel de Aozaraza; Japanese Father Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz; and a layman, Lazaro. He asked to join them to flee the country. He learned only after they had departed that they were headed to Japan where a severe persecution was underway under the regime of the cruel anti-Christian ruler Tokugawa Yemitsu.

Shortly after their arrival in Japan, he and the others were apprehended and forcibly transported to Nagasaki. Christians were ordered to trample upon an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the child Jesus, and if they refused, they were subjected to heartless torture. Bamboo needles were inserted under their fingernails. They were made to drink large amounts of water, made to lie on their backs, a board was placed over their stomachs, guards stomped on the boards, and water gushed through their mouths, noses, and ears.

St. Lorenzo Ruiz was called before the Japanese magistrates. They demanded that he renounce his faith. He vacillated momentarily and asked, “If I apostatize, will you spare my life?” His question was met with silence. He paused, prayed, and with amazing courage replied defiantly, “I am a Christian. I shall die for God, and for him I would give many thousands of lives. So do with me as you please.” He, Lazaro, and the three priests were hung upside down over a burning pit. After being suspended for three days, he and Lazaro died. The three priests were still alive and subsequently beheaded. All five gave their lives for Christ on September 28, 1637.

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St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: a unique four-week span

September 16, 2020

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St. Paul sets foot in Greece.

“St. Paul sets foot in Greece.” St. Nicholas Church, Kavala, Greece.

A Four-Part Sampler. Four scripture passages from Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians are featured for the second reading from the Twenty-Fifth to Twenty-Eighth Sundays of Ordinary Time in Year A. It is the only time in the three-year Lectionary cycle that there is a sequential progression of readings taken from this letter following the principle of Lectio continua, a continuous series of passages from the same book over a number of Sundays in a row.

The City of Philippi. Philippi is a city in the district of Macedonia in northern Greece several miles inland from the Aegean Sea. It is the first place in Europe that St. Paul visited on his Second Missionary Journey. St. Paul stayed in Philippi a number of months in late 48 and early 49 AD. He made the trip to Philippi by ship. He set sail from Troas in northwest Turkey, went by way of Samothrace, an island in the Aegean Sea, and arrived at Neapolis, the port city on the northern coastline (Acts 16:11). During his brief stay St. Paul preached the gospel; made his first convert, Lydia, who was baptized at the river; drove an evil spirit out of a slave girl who was possessed by a demon; was attacked by a crowd and beaten with rods, then imprisoned and miraculously released; converted the jailer; and founded a Christian community (Acts 16:12-40).

The Letter to the Philippians. This letter is one of the authentic Pauline letters, one written by Paul himself, not one of his followers using his name. After Paul had been away from one of his new communities, he would write to them to encourage, instruct, or correct them, depending upon their unique situation and the reports that he was receiving. Paul states within this letter that he was writing from prison (Phil 1:7,13,14,17), but the location and date is not known with certainty. At one time it was thought that he wrote this letter from Rome late in his life (Acts 28:16; 61 to 63 AD). Other possibilities include his imprisonments, either in Caesarea (Acts 24:27, 58-60 AD) or Corinth, but most scholars today believe Paul wrote this letter from Ephesus during a confinement in 55 AD.

Week 25A, Life is Christ (Phil 1:20-24,27). St. Paul wonders aloud whether it is better to be alive on earth enjoying the benefits of physical existence or to be dead in heaven enjoying eternity with Christ. As long as a person is alive, a person should live in a manner consistent with the gospel.

Weeks 26A, The Christ Hymn (Phil 2:1-11). St. Paul begins with an urgent plea for unity within the community (2:1-5). Then Paul includes within his letter a hymn that was sung and recited by the first generation of Christians. It was in use as early as the 40s AD and it may be the oldest piece of New Testament literature. It served as a creed and provides a list of what the first Christians believed about Jesus.

Week 27A, Calm and Peace (Phil 4:6-9). St. Paul offers solid spiritual advice. First, there is no need to be anxious about anything. Prayer and a strong relationship with God is the sure pathway to calm and peace. Paul adds an encouragement to strive for Christian ideals of truth, honor, justice, purity, beauty, generosity, and excellence. These also lead to peace.

Week 28A, Christ is our strength (Phil 4:12-14,19-20). St. Paul describes how in every circumstance, good or bad, high or low, well-fed or hungry, easy or difficult, comfortable or suffering, God supplies the grace and strength that is needed to carry on.

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The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

September 11, 2020

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“The Exaltation of the Holy Cross,” Bishop Macarius raises the True Cross on September 14, 335.

Exaltation. The feast was formerly known as the Triumph of the Cross, but it has been renamed the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. “Exaltation” means “to lift up,” and for centuries Christians have elevated crosses so they can be clearly seen and venerated by genuflection, kneeling, a profound bow, singing, dancing, and other expressions of respect and reverence.

Rich Meaning. The Cross is the primary symbol of the Christian faith. It represents Jesus himself, his suffering, his immeasurable love for us, his victory over sin and death, and our redemption. In Cruce salus. In the Cross is our salvation.

The Tree of Defeat and the Tree of Victory. The Cross represents a stunning reversal. The tree of defeat, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gn 2:17), was where the evil one conquered (Gn 3:6), sin was introduced to the world, and death arose. The tree of victory is the tree of the Cross, so that where death arose, life might again spring forth, and that the evil one who once conquered with a tree, might likewise on a tree be conquered. On this great feast and always, “We should glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection, through whom we are saved and delivered” (Entrance Antiphon, see Gal 6:14).

Heraclius I, Byzantine Emperor, carries the True Cross into Jerusalem, March 21, 630.” St. Barbara Catholic Church, Diest, Belgium.

A Multilayered Feast. The Exaltation of the Holy Cross celebrates major historic events associated with the Cross, all which took place in Jerusalem: the triumphant return of the True Cross relic on March 21, 630; the first public veneration of the True Cross relic at the Basilica of the Anastasis on September 14, 335; and the discovery of the True Cross on September 14, 320.

A Glorious Discovery. Queen St. Helena went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 320, and it was her desire to build churches in the locations associated with the most important events in the life of Jesus and also to find the True Cross. When St. Helena arrived in Jerusalem, there was a pagan temple to the Roman goddess Venus over Calvary which her son, the Emperor Constantine, ordered destroyed. As the workers dismantled the structure and reached the foundation, they broke into a cistern which contained three crosses, one which was determined to be the True Cross. Subsequently, two churches were built, the Basilica of the Anastasis over the tomb of Jesus to honor his Resurrection and the Basilica of the Martyrium over Calvary to honor the crucifixion. Both were dedicated on September 13, 335. On September 14, 335, the True Cross was lifted by Bishop Macarius before the crowd. It was venerated with great devotion and then enshrined in the Martyrium.

A Glorious Recovery. Christendom was horrified when Jerusalem was ransacked by the Persians on May 20, 614. The Anastasis was destroyed and the True Cross stolen. The Byzantine emperor, Heraclius I (575-641), a Christian, assembled an army in 622. Historical records differ over what transpired next. One version claims that Heraclius challenged King Chosroes II of Persia to a duel or sword fight and won, while the alternate version reports that Heraclius’ troops conquered the Persian army. One way or the other, Heraclius conquered Chosroes in 628, the relic was returned in 629, and on March 21, 630, the Emperor Heraclius personally carried the True Cross relic in solemn procession into Jerusalem. Immediately a festival broke out. Some knelt in reverence. Others danced in jubilation. All rejoiced, exalting in the glorious Cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

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Labor Day

September 4, 2020

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There is a very spiritual side to this civic holiday. It is a blessing to have a job, to be able to put our God-given talents to good use, provide for ourselves and our families, and contribute to the betterment of society.

It is an occasion to thank God for our health, our talents and abilities, the job we have, the help that God has provided, the opportunities that have opened up for us, the work that we have been able to do, the sense of satisfaction and inner peace that have come with all that we have accomplished, the things that we have learned on the job, the partnerships we have enjoyed with our co-workers, the relationships with clients and customers, and the fruits and rewards that we have received for our labors. This weekend is a perfect time to offer God a prayer of thanks.

Holy Family

Mechelen – The neogothic sculptural group of Holy family in the workroom form 19. cent. st. Katharine church or Katharinakerk. iStock-sedmak

For those who are still working, it is a time to recommit to being industrious and hardworking, diligent and dependable, energetic and responsible – to honor God in the performance of our labors. For those who are retired, it is time to pause, look back, take stock of a lifetime of labor, and offer God praise and thanks for the journey.

It is also a time to be mindful of those who are not able to labor, those who are not able to find work, or have been laid off, or have been eliminated in restructuring, the unemployed, or for those who do not have a good job, the underpaid, or for those who have not been able to find a job that corresponds to their abilities, the underemployed. Many are going through labor woes and are suffering hard times. Let us pray for those enduring labor problems that they will be able to find meaningful jobs that pay a just wage.

There are other terrible labor problems. Many workers labor under adverse conditions. Some are required to work too long or too hard. Some jobs are extremely dangerous. Many are mistreated by their employers. Children are forced to work in some places. Many are injured on the job. Let us pray that the problems and abuses associated with labor would be eliminated.

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