Saturday, February 27, 2010

From the pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world of the Second Vatican Council



Man's deeper questionings
The world of today reveals itself as at once powerful and weak, capable of achieving the best or the worst. There lies open before it the way to freedom or slavery, progress or regression, brotherhood or hatred. In addition, man is becoming aware that it is for himself to give the right direction to forces that he himself has awakened, forces that can be his master or his servant. He therefore puts questions to himself.
The tensions disturbing the world of today are in fact related to a more fundamental tension rooted in the human heart. In man himself many elements are in conflict with each other. On one side, he has experience of his many limitations as a creature. On the other, he knows that there is no limit to his aspirations, and that he is called to a higher kind of life.
Many things compete for his attention, but he is always compelled to make a choice among them. and to renounce some. What is more, in his weakness and sinfulness he often does what he does not want to do, and fails to do what he would like to do. In consequence, he suffers from a conflict within himself, and this in turn gives rise to so many great tensions in society.
Very many people, infected as they are with a materialistic way of life, cannot see this dramatic state of affairs in all its clarity, or at least are prevented from giving thought to it because of the unhappiness that they themselves experience.
Many think that they can find peace in the different philosophies that are proposed.
Some look for complete and genuine liberation for man from man’s efforts alone. They are convinced that the coming kingdom of man on earth will satisfy all the desires of his heart.
There are those who despair of finding any meaning in life: they commend the boldness of those who deny all significance to human existence in itself, and seek to impose a total meaning on it only from within themselves.
But in the face of the way the world is developing today, there is an ever increasing number of people who are asking the most fundamental questions or are seeing them with a keener awareness: What is man? What is the meaning of pain, of evil, of death, which still persist in spite of such great progress? What is the use of those successes, achieved at such a cost? What can man contribute to society, what can he expect from society? What will come after this life on earth?
The Church believes that Christ died and rose for all, and can give man light and strength through his Spirit to fulfil his highest calling; his is the only name under heaven in which men can be saved.
So too the Church believes that the centre and goal of all human history is found in her Lord and Master.
The Church also affirms that underlying all changes there are many things that do not change; they have their ultimate foundation in Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and for ever.

Friday, February 26, 2010

From the Mirror of Love by Saint Aelred, abbot







Christ, the model of brotherly love
The perfection of brotherly love lies in the love of one’s enemies. We can find no greater inspiration for this than grateful remembrance of the wonderful patience of Christ. He who is more fair than all the sons of men offered his fair face to be spat upon by sinful men; he allowed those eyes that rule the universe to be blindfolded by wicked men; he bared his back to the scourges; he submitted that head which strikes terror in principalities and powers to the sharpness of the thorns; he gave himself up to be mocked and reviled, and at the end endured the cross, the nails, the lance, the gall, the vinegar, remaining always gentle, meek and full of peace.
In short, he was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb before the shearers he kept silent, and did not open his mouth.
Who could listen to that wonderful prayer, so full of warmth, of love, of unshakeable serenity – Father, forgive them – and hesitate to embrace his enemies with overflowing love? Father, he says, forgive them. Is any gentleness, any love, lacking in this prayer?
Yet he put into it something more. It was not enough to pray for them: he wanted also to make excuses for them. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. They are great sinners, yes, but they have little judgement; therefore, Father, forgive them. They are nailing me to the cross, but they do not know who it is that they are nailing to the cross: if they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory; therefore, Father, forgive them. They think it is a lawbreaker, an impostor claiming to be God, a seducer of the people. I have hidden my face from them, and they do not recognise my glory; therefore, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
If someone wishes to love himself he must not allow himself to be corrupted by indulging his sinful nature. If he wishes to resist the promptings of his sinful nature he must enlarge the whole horizon of his love to contemplate the loving gentleness of the humanity of the Lord. Further, if he wishes to savour the joy of brotherly love with greater perfection and delight, he must extend even to his enemies the embrace of true love.
But if he wishes to prevent this fire of divine love from growing cold because of injuries received, let him keep the eyes of his soul always fixed on the serene patience of his beloved Lord and Saviour.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

From a homily by Saint Asterius of Amasea, bishop


Be shepherds like the Lord
You were made in the image of God. If then you wish to resemble him, follow his example. Since the very name you bear as Christians is a profession of love for men, imitate the love of Christ.
Reflect for a moment on the wealth of his kindness. Before he came as a man to be among men, he sent John the Baptist to preach repentance and lead men to practise it. John himself was preceded by the prophets, who were to teach the people to repent, to return to God and to amend their lives. Then Christ came himself, and with his own lips cried out: Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. How did he receive those who listened to his call? He readily forgave them their sins; he freed them instantly from all that troubled them. The Word made them holy; the Spirit set his seal on them. The old Adam was buried in the waters of baptism; the new man was reborn to the vigour of grace.
What was the result? Those who had been God’s enemies became his friends, those estranged from him became his sons, those who did not know him came to worship and love him.
Let us then be shepherds like the Lord. We must meditate on the Gospel, and as we see in this mirror the example of zeal and loving kindness, we should become thoroughly schooled in these virtues.
For there, obscurely, in the form of a parable, we see a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. When one of them was separated from the flock and lost its way, that shepherd did not remain with the sheep who kept together at pasture. No, he went off to look for the stray. He crossed many valleys and thickets, he climbed great and towering mountains, he spent much time and labour in wandering through solitary places until at last he found his sheep.
When he found it, he did not chastise it; he did not use rough blows to drive it back, but gently placed it on his own shoulders and carried it back to the flock. He took greater joy in this one sheep, lost and found, than in all the others.
Let us look more closely at the hidden meaning of this parable. The sheep is more than a sheep, the shepherd more than a shepherd. They are examples enshrining holy truths. They teach us that we should not look on men as lost or beyond hope; we should not abandon them when they are in danger or be slow to come to their help. When they turn away from the right path and wander, we must lead them back, and rejoice at their return, welcoming them back into the company of those who lead good and holy lives.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

From a demonstration by Aphraates, bishop

Circumcision of the heart
Law and covenant have been entirely changed. God changed the first pact with Adam, and gave a new one to Noah. He gave another to Abraham, and changed this to give a new one to Moses. When the covenant with Moses was no longer observed, he gave another pact in this last age, a pact never again to be changed.
He established a new law for Adam, that he could not eat of the tree of life. He gave to Noah the sign of the rainbow in the clouds. He then gave Abraham, chosen for his faith, the mark and seal of circumcision for his descendants. Moses was given the Passover lamb, the propitiation for the people.
All these covenants were different from each other. Moreover, the circumcision that is approved by the giver of those covenants is the kind of spoken of by Jeremiah: Circumcise your hearts. If God’s pact with Abraham was firm, so also is this covenant firm and trustworthy, nor can any other law be laid down, whether it originates outside the law or among those subject to the law.
God gave Moses a law together with his prescriptions and precepts, and when it was no longer kept, he made the law and its precepts of no avail. He promised a new covenant, different from the first, though the giver of both is one and the same. This is the covenant that he promised: All shall know me from the least to the greatest. In this covenant there is no longer any circumcision of the flesh, any seal upon the people.
We know, dearly beloved, that God established different laws in different generations which were in force as long as it pleased him. Afterward they were made obsolete. In the words of the apostle: In former times the kingdom of God existed in each generation under different signs.
Moreover, our God is truthful and his commandments are most trustworthy. Every covenant was proved firm and trustworthy in its own time, and those who have been circumcised in heart are brought to life and receive a second circumcision beside the true Jordan, the waters of baptism that bring forgiveness of sins.
Jesus, son of Nun, renewed the people’s circumcision with a knife of stone when he had crossed the Jordan with the Israelites. Jesus, our Saviour, renews the circumcision of the heart for the nations who have believed in him and are washed by baptism: circumcision by the sword of his word, sharper than any two-edged sword.
Jesus, son of Nun, led the people across the Jordan into the promised land. Jesus, our Saviour, has promised the land of the living to all who have crossed the true Jordan, and have believed and are circumcised in heart.
Blessed, then, are those who are circumcised in heart, and have been reborn in water through the second circumcision. They will receive their inheritance with Abraham, the faithful leader and father of all nations, for his faith was credited to him for righteousness.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

From a treatise on the Lord's Prayer by Saint Cyprian, bishop and martyr

He has given us life: he has also taught us how to pray

Dear brothers, the commands of the Gospel are nothing else than God’s lessons, the foundations on which to build up hope, the supports for strengthening faith, the food that nourishes the heart. They are the rudder for keeping us on the right course, the protection that keeps our salvation secure. As they instruct the receptive minds of believers on earth, they lead safely to the kingdom of heaven.
God willed that many things should be said by the prophets, his servants, and listened to by his people. How much greater are the things spoken by the Son. These are now witnessed to by the very Word of God who spoke through the prophets. The Word of God does not now command us to prepare the way for his coming: he comes in person and opens up the way for us and directs us toward it. Before, we wandered in the darkness of death, aimlessly and blindly. Now we are enlightened by the light of grace, and are to keep to the highway of life, with the Lord to precede and direct us.
The Lord has given us many counsels and commandments to help us toward salvation. He has even given us a pattern of prayer, instructing us on how we are to pray. He has given us life, and with his accustomed generosity, he has also taught us how to pray. He has made it easy for us to be heard as we pray to the Father in the words taught us by the Son.
He had already foretold that the hour was coming when true worshippers would worship the Father in spirit and in truth. He fulfilled what he had promised before, so that we who have received the spirit and the truth through the holiness he has given us may worship in truth and in the spirit through the prayer he has taught.
What prayer could be more a prayer in the spirit than the one given us by Christ, by whom the Holy Spirit was sent upon us? What prayer could be more a prayer in the truth than the one spoken by the lips of the Son, who is truth himself? It follows that to pray in any other way than the Son has taught us is not only the result of ignorance but of sin. He himself has commanded it, and has said: You reject the command of God, to set up your own tradition.
So, my brothers, let us pray as God our master has taught us. To ask the Father in words his Son has given us, to let him hear the prayer of Christ ringing in his ears, is to make our prayer one of friendship, a family prayer. Let the Father recognise the words of his Son. Let the Son who lives in our hearts be also on our lips. We have him as an advocate for sinners before the Father; when we ask forgiveness for our sins, let us use the words given by our advocate. He tells us: Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. What more effective prayer could we then make in the name of Christ than in the words of his own prayer?

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Church of Christ rises on the firm foundation of Peter's faith


From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope
Out of the whole world one man, Peter, is chosen to preside at the calling of all nations, and to be set over all the apostles and all the fathers of the Church. Though there are in God’s people many shepherds, Peter is thus appointed to rule in his own person those whom Christ also rules as the original ruler. Beloved, how great and wonderful is this sharing of his power that God in his goodness has given to this man. Whatever Christ has willed to be shared in common by Peter and the other leaders of the Church, it is only through Peter that he has given to others what he has not refused to bestow on them.
The Lord now asks the apostles as a whole what men think of him. As long as they are recounting the uncertainty born of human ignorance, their reply is always the same.
But when he presses the disciples to say what they think themselves, the first to confess his faith in the Lord is the one who is first in rank among the apostles.
Peter says: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replies: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” You are blessed, he means, because my Father has taught you. You have not been deceived by earthly opinion, but have been enlightened by inspiration from heaven. It was not flesh and blood that pointed me out to you, but the one whose only-begotten Son I am.
He continues: And I say to you. In other words, as my Father has revealed to you my godhead, so I in my turn make known to you your pre-eminence. You are Peter: though I am the inviolable rock, the cornerstone that makes both one, the foundation apart from which no one can lay any other, yet you also are a rock, for you are given solidity by my strength, so that which is my very own because of my power is common between us through your participation.
And upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. On this strong foundation, he says, I will build an everlasting temple. The great height of my Church, which is to penetrate the heavens, shall rise on the firm foundation of this faith.
The gates of hell shall not silence this confession of faith; the chains of death shall not bind it. Its words are the words of life. As they lift up to heaven those who profess them, so they send down to hell those who contradict them.
Blessed Peter is therefore told: To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth is also bound in heaven. Whatever you lose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven.
The authority vested in this power passed also to the other apostles, and the institution established by this decree has been continued in all the leaders of the Church. But it is not without good reason that what is bestowed on all is entrusted to one. For Peter received it separately in trust because he is the prototype set before all the rulers of the Church.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The friendship of God


From the treatise Against Heresies by Saint Irenaeus, bishop

Our Lord, the Word of God, first drew men to God as servants, but later he freed those made subject to him. He himself testified to this: I do not call you servants any longer, for a servant does not know what his master is doing. Instead I call you friends, since I have made known to you everything that I have learned from my Father. Friendship with God brings the gift of immortality to those who accept it.
In the beginning God created Adam, not because he needed man, but because he wanted to have someone on whom to bestow his blessings. Not only before Adam but also before all creation, the Word was glorifying the Father in whom he dwelt, and was himself being glorified by the Father. The Word himself said: Father, glorify me with that glory I had with you before the world was.
Nor did the Lord need our service. He commanded us to follow him, but his was the gift of salvation. To follow the Saviour is to share in salvation; to follow the light is to enjoy the light. Those who are in the light do not illuminate the light but are themselves illuminated and enlightened by the light. They add nothing to the light; rather, they are beneficiaries, for they are enlightened by the light.
The same is true of service to God: it adds nothing to God, nor does God need the service of man. Rather, he gives life and immortality and eternal glory to those who follow and serve him. He confers a benefit on his servants in return for their service and on his followers in return for their loyalty, but he receives no benefit from them. He is rich, perfect and in need of nothing.
The reason why God requires service from man is this: because he is good and merciful he desires to confer benefits on those who persevere in his service. In proportion to God’s need of nothing is man’s need for communion with God.
This is the glory of man: to persevere and remain in the service of God. For this reason the Lord told his disciples: You did not choose me but I chose you. He meant that his disciples did not glorify him by following him, but in following the Son of God they were glorified by him. As he said: I wish that where I am they also may be, that they may see my glory.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Prayer is the light of the soul

A homily of Pseudo-Chrysostom

The highest good is prayer and conversation with God, because it means that we are in God’s company and in union with him. When light enters our bodily eyes our eyesight is sharpened; when a soul is intent on God, God’s inextinguishable light shines into it and makes it bright and clear. I am talking, of course, of prayer that comes from the heart and not from routine: not the prayer that is assigned to particular days or particular moments in time, but the prayer that happens continuously by day and by night.
Indeed the soul should not only turn to God at times of explicit prayer. Whatever we are engaged in, whether it is care for the poor, or some other duty, or some act of generosity, we should remember God and long for God. The love of God will be as salt is to food, making our actions into a perfect dish to set before the Lord of all things. Then it is right that we should receive the fruits of our labours, overflowing onto us through all eternity, if we have been offering them to him throughout our lives.
Prayer is the light of the soul, true knowledge of God, a mediator between God and men. Prayer lifts the soul into the heavens where it hugs God in an indescribable embrace. The soul seeks the milk of God like a baby crying for the breast. It fulfils its own vows and receives in exchange gifts better than anything that can be seen or imagined.
Prayer is a go-between linking us to God. It gives joy to the soul and calms its emotions. I warn you, though: do not imagine that prayer is simply words. Prayer is the desire for God, an indescribable devotion, not given by man but brought about by God’s grace. As St Paul says: For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself intercedes on our behalf in a way that could never be put into words.
If God gives to someone the gift of such prayer, it is a gift of imperishable riches, a heavenly food that satisfies the spirit. Whoever tastes that food catches fire and his soul burns for ever with desire for the Lord.
To begin on this path, start by adorning your house with modesty and humility. Make it shine brightly with the light of justice. Decorate it with the gold leaf of good works, with the jewels of faithfulness and greatness of heart. Finally, to make the house perfect, raise a gable above it all, a gable of prayer. Thus you will have prepared a pure and sparkling house for the Lord. Receive the Lord into this royal and splendid dwelling — in other words: receive, by his grace, his image into the temple of your soul.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope


Purification of spirit through fasting and almsgiving
Dear friends, at every moment the earth is full of the mercy of God, and nature itself is a lesson for all the faithful in the worship of God. The heavens, the sea and all that is in them bear witness to the goodness and omnipotence of their Creator, and the marvellous beauty of the elements as they obey him demands from the intelligent creation a fitting expression of its gratitude.
But with the return of that season marked out in a special way by the mystery of our redemption, and of the days that lead up to the paschal feast, we are summoned more urgently to prepare ourselves by a purification of spirit.
The special note of the paschal feast is this: the whole Church rejoices in the forgiveness of sins. It rejoices in the forgiveness not only of those who are then reborn in holy baptism but also of those who are already numbered among God’s adopted children.
Initially, men are made new by the rebirth of baptism. Yet there still is required a daily renewal to repair the shortcomings of our mortal nature, and whatever degree of progress has been made there is no one who should not be more advanced. All must therefore strive to ensure that on the day of redemption no one may be found in the sins of his former life.
Dear friends, what the Christian should be doing at all times should be done now with greater care and devotion, so that the Lenten fast enjoined by the apostles may be fulfilled, not simply by abstinence from food but above all by the renunciation of sin.
There is no more profitable practice as a companion to holy and spiritual fasting than that of almsgiving. This embraces under the single name of mercy many excellent works of devotion, so that the good intentions of all the faithful may be of equal value, even where their means are not. The love that we owe both God and man is always free from any obstacle that would prevent us from having a good intention. The angels sang: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. The person who shows love and compassion to those in any kind of affliction is blessed, not only with the virtue of good will but also with the gift of peace.
The works of mercy are innumerable. Their very variety brings this advantage to those who are true Christians, that in the matter of almsgiving not only the rich and affluent but also those of average means and the poor are able to play their part. Those who are unequal in their capacity to give can be equal in the love within their hearts.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

ASH WEDNESDAY

From a letter to the Corinthians by Saint Clement, pope
Repent

Let us fix our attention on the blood of Christ and recognise how precious it is to God his Father, since it was shed for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to all the world.
If we review the various ages of history, we will see that in every generation the Lord has offered the opportunity of repentance to any who were willing to turn to him. When Noah preached God’s message of repentance, all who listened to him were saved. Jonah told the Ninevites they were going to be destroyed, but when they repented, their prayers gained God’s forgiveness for their sins, and they were saved, even though they were not of God’s people.
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the ministers of God’s grace have spoken of repentance; indeed, the Master of the whole universe himself spoke of repentance with an oath: As I live, says the Lord, I do not wish the death of the sinner but his repentance. He added this evidence of his goodness: House of Israel, repent of your wickedness. Tell the sons of my people: If their sins should reach from earth to heaven, if they are brighter than scarlet and blacker than sackcloth, you need only turn to me with your whole heart and say, “Father,” and I will listen to you as a holy people.
In other words, God wanted all his beloved ones to have the opportunity to repent and he confirmed this desire by his own almighty will. That is why we should obey his sovereign and glorious will and prayerfully entreat his mercy and kindness. We should be suppliant before him and turn to his compassion, rejecting empty works and quarrelling and jealousy which only lead to death.
Brothers, we should be humble in mind, putting aside all arrogance, pride and foolish anger. Rather, we should act in accordance with the Scriptures, as the Holy Spirit says: The wise man must not glory in his wisdom nor the strong man in his strength nor the rich man in his riches. Rather, let him who glories glory in the Lord by seeking him and doing what is right and just. Recall especially what the Lord Jesus said when he taught gentleness and forbearance. Be merciful, he said, so that you may have mercy shown to you. Forgive, so that you may be forgiven. As you treat others, so you will be treated. As you give, so you will receive. As you judge, so you will be judged. As you are kind to others, so you will be treated kindly. The measure of your giving will be the measure of your receiving.
Let these commandments and precepts strengthen us to live in humble obedience to his sacred words. As Scripture asks: Whom shall I look upon with favour except the humble, peaceful man who trembles at my words?
Sharing then in the heritage of so many vast and glorious achievements, let us hasten toward the goal of peace, set before us from the beginning. Let us keep our eyes firmly fixed on the Father and Creator of the whole universe, and hold fast to his splendid and transcendent gifts of peace and all his blessings.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

From the Discourses against the Arians by Saint Athanasius, bishop

We know the Father through creative and incarnate wisdom
The only-begotten Son, the Wisdom of God, created the entire universe. Scripture says: You have made all things by your wisdom, and the earth is full of your creatures. Yet simply to be was not enough: God also wanted his creatures to be good. That is why he was pleased that his own wisdom should descend to their level and impress upon each of them singly and upon all of them together a certain resemblance to their Model. It would then be manifest that God’s creatures shared in his wisdom and that all his works were worthy of him.
For as the word we speak is an image of the Word who is God’s Son, so also is the wisdom implanted in us an image of the Wisdom who is God’s Son. It gives us the ability to know and understand and so makes us capable of receiving him who is the all-creative Wisdom, through whom we can come to know the Father. Whoever has the Son has the Father also, Scripture says, and Whoever receives me receives the One who sent me. And so, since this image of the Wisdom of God has been produced in us and in all creatures, the true and creative Wisdom rightly takes to himself what applies to his image and says: The Lord created me in his works.
But because the World was not wise enough to recognise God in his wisdom, as we have explained it, God determined to save those who believe by means of the “foolishness” of the message that we preach. Not wishing to be known any longer, as in former times, through the mere image and shadow of his wisdom existing in creatures, he caused the true Wisdom himself to take flesh, to become man, and to suffer death on the cross so that all who believed in him might be saved by faith.
Yet this was the same Wisdom of God who had in the beginning revealed himself and his Father through himself by means of his image in creatures (which is why Wisdom too is said to be created). Later, as John declares, that Wisdom, who is also the Word, became flesh, and after destroying the power of death and saving our race, he revealed himself and his Father through himself with greater clarity. Grant, he prayed, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
So now the whole earth is filled with the knowledge of God, since it is one and the same thing to know the Father through the Son, and to know the Son who comes from the Father. The Father rejoices in his Son, and with the same joy the Son delights in the Father and says: I was his joy; every day I took delight in his presence.

Monday, February 15, 2010

From a sermon by Saint Bernard, abbot

On the search for wisdom
Let us work for the food which does not perish – our salvation. Let us work in the vineyard of the Lord to earn our daily wage in the wisdom which says: Those who work in me will not sin. Christ tells us: The field is the world. Let us work in it and dig up wisdom, its hidden treasure, a treasure we all look for and want to obtain.
If you are looking for it, really look. Be converted and come. Converted from what? From your own wilfulness. “But,” you may say, “if I do not find wisdom in my own will, where shall I find it? My soul eagerly desires it. And I will not be satisfied when I find it, if it is not a generous amount, a full measure, overflowing into my hands.” You are right, for blessed is the man who finds wisdom and is full of prudence.
Look for wisdom while it can still be found. Call for it while it is near. Do you want to know how near it is? The word is near you, in your heart and on your lips, provided that you seek it honestly. Insofar as you find wisdom in your heart, prudence will flow from your lips, but be careful that it flows from and not away from them, or that you do not vomit it up. If you have found wisdom, you have found honey. But do not eat so much that you become too full and bring it all up. Eat so that you are always hungry. Wisdom says: Those who eat me continue to hunger. Do not think you have too much of it, but do not eat too much or you will throw it up. If you do, what you seem to have will be taken away from you, because you gave up searching too soon. While wisdom is near and while it can be found, look for it and ask for its help. Solomon says: A man who eats too much honey does himself no good; similarly, the man who seeks his own glorification will be crushed by that same renown.
Happy is the man who has found wisdom. Even more happy is the man who lives in wisdom, for he perceives its abundance. There are three ways for wisdom or prudence to abound in you: if you confess your sins, if you give thanks and praise, and if your speech is edifying. Man believes with his heart and so he is justified. He confesses with his lips and so he is saved. In the beginning of his speech the just man is his own accuser, next he gives glory to God, and thirdly, if his wisdom extends that far, he edifies his neighbour.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Saint Valentine's day


I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY HEART!





From a commentary on the Diatessaron by Saint Ephrem, deacon


God's word is an inexhaustible spring of life
Lord, who can comprehend even one of your words? We lose more of it than we grasp, like those who drink from a living spring. For God’s word offers different facets according to the capacity of the listener, and the Lord has portrayed his message in many colours, so that whoever gazes upon it can see in it what suits him. Within it he has buried manifold treasures, so that each of us might grow rich in seeking them out.
The word of God is a tree of life that offers us blessed fruit from each of its branches. It is like that rock which was struck open in the wilderness, from which all were offered spiritual drink. As the Apostle says: They ate spiritual food and they drank spiritual drink.
And so whenever anyone discovers some part of the treasure, he should not think that he has exhausted God’s word. Instead he should feel that this is all that he was able to find of the wealth contained in it. Nor should he say that the word is weak and sterile or look down on it simply because this portion was all that he happened to find. But precisely because he could not capture it all he should give thanks for its riches.
Be glad then that you are overwhelmed, and do not be saddened because he has overcome you. A thirsty man is happy when he is drinking, and he is not depressed because he cannot exhaust the spring. So let this spring quench your thirst, and not your thirst the spring. For if you can satisfy your thirst without exhausting the spring, then when you thirst again you can drink from it once more; but if when your thirst is sated the spring is also dried up, then your victory would turn to harm.
Be thankful then for what you have received, and do not be saddened at all that such an abundance still remains. What you have received and attained is your present share, while what is left will be your heritage. For what you could not take at one time because of your weakness, you will be able to grasp at another if you only persevere. So do not foolishly try to drain in one draught what cannot be consumed all at once, and do not cease out of faintheartedness from what you will be able to absorb as time goes on.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Today there are two postings

The first posting is from the writings of Blessed Isaac of Stella and is a beautiful lesson on love. This second posting is on how we can show our Love!!

This writing is to ask for your help for a young man by the name of Mamidou Kujabi.
Mamidou came to the hermitage a few weeks ago asking for help as he was having a lot of pain on the stump where his right leg had been amputated below the knee after he suffered a serious bone infection several years ago. There was not much I could do except to offer him one of my socks to cover his stump as the covering he had was too tight. Simple??? Yes, but it worked. As I began to talk with Mamidou I learned quite a bit about him and also how people have treated him since his surgery. He was used to a normal life as a young boy in the village up until his leg became infected and then his life was turned upside down. While he used to have friends, now people avoid him. He told me that he sees folks starting to walk down a road he is on but as soon as they see him they turn back and take another route as they think he is a beggar. But Mamidou is not a beggar. He doesn't have much to do so he will often just sit on the side of a street (a normal sight in any village here) and wishes he had someone to talk with. He told me he seems like he is no longer here because when people do pass by they pretend he is not there and keep moving. If he says hello to them they pretend they don't hear. Then about 8 months ago another young man in this village decided to go over and say hello to him and sat with him and chatted. They became wonderful friends and it was his new friend who brought him to Nazareth Hermitage to see if I could help with his pain. One sock and a few tylenol took the physical pain away but his friend, Alieu Bah, took away his pain of lonliness. Alieu said that he was brought up by his parents to love all people and not to ignore anyone. When he first saw Mamidou he just walked over to him and sat and now they are seen together all the time.


What Mamidou prays for is a new leg. He can get a new prosthesis (artificial leg) at the main Hospital in Banjul but they have none in stock and they don't see any coming soon. The technicians are there who can make the prosthetic leg but they just need the material. Once the leg is made they will fit it for Mamidou and give him physical therapy to train him how to use the leg. The total cost for this prosthesis is only $65.00. Part of that amount would be for his going for physio therapy by local taxi.


Giving this lad a chance to walk again would be such a great blessing for him as it means he could learn a skill, he would no longer be invisible and he could contribute to society. Here is an opportunity to show real love, the love that Blessed Isaac of Stella was talking about in my first posting. If you feel God is asking you to help Mamidou, please let me know and I can give you more details.


God bless you for reading this and may He speak to your heart!




Bro. Dismas Mary of the Cross

From a sermon by Blessed Isaac of Stella, abbot

(Blessed Isaac of Stella was born in England around the year 1100. After his studies in England and Paris he entered the abbey of Citeaux, near Dijon France. He became a Cistercian monk during the time of the monastic reforms carried out by Saint Bernard, abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Clairvaux. He was made abbot and developed a number of profound theological works which are still studied today. He is acclaimed for his knowledge of philosophy and theology and his deep spiritual insights evidenced by his sermons, one of which is presented below. He died at the age of 69 near Poitiers, France in 1169.)

The pre-eminence of love
Why, my brethren, are we so little concerned with finding opportunities to advance each other’s salvation, responding to greater need with greater help and bearing each other’s burdens? This is what St Paul advised: Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ – or, again, forbearing each other in love. For that is most definitely the law of Christ.
When I notice something wrong in my brother that cannot be corrected – either because it is inevitable or because it comes from some weakness of his in body or character – why do I not bear it patiently and offer my willing sympathy? As scripture says, their children will be carried on their shoulders and comforted on their laps. Could it be because there is a lack in me, a lack of that which bears all things and is patient enough to take up the burden, a lack of the will to love?
This is what the law of Christ is like, of Christ who bore our griefs in his passion and carried our sorrows in his compassion for us, loving those whom he carried and carrying those whom he loved. On the other hand, whoever turns on his brother in the brother’s time of need, who exploits his weakness, whatever that weakness may be – without doubt he has subjected himself to the law of Satan and is carrying it out. Let us have compassion for each other and love the brotherhood we share, bear each other’s weaknesses and fight against each other’s vices.
Whatever religious practice or observance it leads to, any teaching or discipline that fosters a stronger love of God and, through God, of our neighbours, is most acceptable to God for that reason. This love is the reason why things should be or not be, why they should remain the same or be changed. This love should be the reason why things are and the end to which all things are directed. For nothing can be considered wrong that is truly directed towards and according to that love.
Without such love we cannot be pleasing to God, and without it we cannot achieve anything at all. May God choose to grant it to us, he who lives and reigns through the undying ages. Amen!

Friday, February 12, 2010

From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope

Recognise the dignity of your nature
Our Lord Jesus Christ, born true man without ever ceasing to be true God, began in his person a new creation and by the manner of his birth gave man a spiritual origin. What mind can grasp this mystery, what tongue can fittingly recount this gift of love? Guilt becomes innocence, old becomes new, strangers are adopted and outsiders are made heirs. Rouse yourself, man, and recognise the dignity of your nature. Remember that you were made in God’s image; though corrupted in Adam, that image has been restored in Christ.
Use creatures as they should be used: the earth, the sea, the sky, the air, the springs and rivers. Give praise and glory to their Creator for all that you find beautiful and wonderful in them. See with your bodily eyes the light that shines on earth, but embrace with your whole soul and all your affections the true light which enlightens every man who comes into this world. Speaking of this light the prophet said: Draw close to him and let his light shine upon you and your face will not blush with shame. If we are indeed the temple of God and if the Spirit of God lives in us, then what every believer has within himself is greater than what he admires in the skies.
Our words and exhortations are not intended to make you disdain God’s works or think there is anything contrary to your faith in creation, for the good God has himself made all things good. What we do ask is that you use reasonably and with moderation all the marvellous creatures which adorn this world; as the Apostle says: The things that are seen are transient but the things that are unseen are eternal.
For we are born in the present only to be reborn in the future. Our attachment, therefore, should not be to the transitory; instead, we must be intent upon the eternal. Let us think of how divine grace has transformed our earthly natures so that we may contemplate more closely our heavenly hope. We hear the Apostle say: You are dead and your life is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ your life appears, then you will also appear in glory with him, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes

St. Augustine's Exposition on Galatians
Let Christ take shape within you
St Paul says, Be like me – who, though I was born a Jew, have learnt through spiritual insight to look down on things of the body – as I have become like you – that is, I am a man.
Next he very properly reminds them of his love for them, so that they should not think that he is their enemy. My brethren, hear me: you have never done me harm – implying, ‘do not therefore think that I mean to do you any harm’.
My children, he adds – so that they should imitate him as they would imitate a parent. I must go through the pain of giving birth to you all over again, until Christ is formed in you. Now he speaks more in the person of the Church, their mother, for as he says elsewhere, I was gentle and unassuming, like a nurse feeding and looking after her children.
Christ takes shape in a believer through the faith that is in his inmost soul. Such a believer, gentle and humble of heart, is called to the freedom of grace. He does not boast of the merit he gains from good works, for they are worth nothing. It is grace itself that is the beginning of merit, so that Christ, who said in so far as you did this to one of the least of these, you did it to me can call the believer the ‘least’ part of himself. Thus Christ is formed within the believer who accepts the form of Christ, who comes close to Christ by means of spiritual love.
Therefore the believer who imitates Christ becomes (as far as he is permitted) the same as Christ whom he imitates. Whoever claims to abide in Christ, says John, must walk as Christ himself walked.
Human beings are conceived and given shape by their mothers, and once they have taken shape, their mothers go into labour and give them birth; so we may wonder what is meant by I must go through the pain of giving birth to you all over again, until Christ is formed in you. We can take the birth-pangs as meaning the anxiety he felt over them, that they should be born in Christ; or again, that he is suffering because he sees them surrounded by dangers that could lead them astray. The care and worry he feels, which he compares to the pangs of giving birth, may last until they are fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself, not tossed one way and another and carried along by every wind of doctrine.
Hence it is not about the beginnings of faith that St Paul is speaking, the faith by which they were born, but about the strengthening and perfecting of that faith: I must go through the pain of giving birth to you all over again, until Christ is formed in you. Elsewhere he talks of the same labour in other words: My anxiety for all the churches. When any man has had scruples, I have had scruples with him; when any man is made to fall, I am tortured.

The Apparitions of Mary at Lourdes
Bernadette and Lourdes - 1858 The apparitions at Lourdes took place only four years after the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, in 1854, and given their nature it is only natural to see a strong link between the two.
On Thursday 11 February 1858, fourteen year old Bernadette Soubirous saw a beautiful young girl in a niche at a rocky outcrop called Massabielle, about a half mile outside the town. She was near a wild rose bush and surrounded by a brilliant light and a golden cloud, smiling, with her arms extended towards Bernadette, who took out her rosary beads.
When she had finished praying the rosary the apparition beckoned to her, but Bernadette did not move and the girl smiled at her before disappearing. She later described how she had seen a young girl of about her own age and height, clothed in a brilliant and unearthly white robe, with a blue girdle around her waist and a white veil on her head.
This was the beginning of a whole sequence of apparitions, eighteen in all, which occurred during the spring and early summer of 1858. Mary first spoke to Bernadette on 18 February when she asked her if she would come to the grotto for a fortnight. Thursday, 25 February, saw a crowd of about three hundred, and the discovery that was to make Lourdes famous, that of the miraculous spring in the grotto.
During subsequent apparitions Mary asked for a chapel and processions, but Fr Peyramale, the local parish priest, insisted that the Lady would have to reveal her name before anything could be done about such matters. Early on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, Bernadette made her way to the grotto, where the beautiful Lady was already waiting for her. Bernadette asked the Lady her name and after joining her hands at the breast and looking up to heaven she said, "I am the Immaculate Conception."
Bernadette hurried off toward the presbytery, repeating the Lady's strange words, so as not to forget them. She met Fr. Peyramale and left him dumbfounded with the words "I am the Immaculate Conception"; he realised that the Lady had indeed answered his request for her name. Although the message of Lourdes was now complete, Bernadette again saw Mary on the Wednesday after Easter, April 7, remaining in an ecstasy for about three quarters of an hour.
She was able to receive her first Holy Communion on the feast of Corpus Christi, and significantly she saw Mary for the last time from outside the grotto, on 16 July, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Bishop Laurence set up a Canonical Commission into the apparitions and their cause on July 28. This body first interviewed Bernadette in mid-November, and was impressed by her testimony and by a growing number of cures. It was not until January 1862 though, nearly four years after the apparitions, that the bishop delivered his verdict on Lourdes in a Pastoral letter, a verdict that silenced those hostile to Bernadette.
"We adjudge that the Immaculate Mary, Mother of God, really appeared to Bernadette Soubirous on February 11th, 1858, and subsequent days, eighteen times in all, in the Grotto of Massabielle, near the town of Lourdes: that this apparition possesses all the marks of truth, and that the faithful are justified in believing it certain. We humbly submit our judgement to the judgement of the Supreme Pontiff to whom is committed the Government of the whole Church."




It is extraordinary, considering its importance, how little was said at Lourdes by Mary. Her words could certainly be contained on a single side of notepaper.




"It is not necessary." (On being offered pen and paper by Bernadette and asked to write down what she wanted)




"Would you have the graciousness to come here for fifteen days?""I do not promise you happiness in this world, but in the next."




"Pray for sinners.""Go drink at the spring and wash yourself in it.""Penance! Penance! Penance!"



Bernadette was also told to eat some leaves from a green herb.



"Kiss the ground as a penance for sinners."






"You will tell the priests to have a chapel built here."




A reiteration of the request for a chapel and a further one that people should come to the grotto in procession. Mary explained to Bernadette why she had not seen her because, "there were people here who wanted to see your face in my presence, and they were unworthy of it. They spent the night at the Grotto and profaned it."



"I am the Immaculate Conception."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Memorial of St. Scholastica, twin sister of Saint Benedict

I wish all the Benedictine Sisters a very Holy Feast day, especially those living in St. Scholastica's Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. I have been a great fan of those Sisters since 1958 when I was stationed in the Air Force in Duluth. One of those wonderful women, Sister Timothy, has always been a real inspiration to me and I thank you, Sister Tim, for all your prayers and help. God bless you on this day!

From the books of Dialogues by Saint Gregory the Great, pope
She who loved more could do more
Scholastica, the sister of Saint Benedict, had been consecrated to God from her earliest years. She was accustomed to visiting her brother once a year. He would come down to meet her at a place on the monastery property, not far outside the gate.
One day she came as usual and her saintly brother went with some of his disciples; they spent the whole day praising God and talking of sacred things. As night fell they had supper together.
Their spiritual conversation went on and the hour grew late. The holy nun said to her brother: “Please do not leave me tonight; let us go on until morning talking about the delights of the spiritual life.” “Sister,” he replied, “what are you saying? I simply cannot stay outside my cell.”
When she heard her brother refuse her request, the holy woman joined her hands on the table, laid her head on them and began to pray. As she raised her head from the table, there were such brilliant flashes of lightning, such great peals of thunder and such a heavy downpour of rain that neither Benedict nor his brethren could stir across the threshold of the place where they had been seated. Sadly he began to complain: “May God forgive you, sister. What have you done?” “Well,” she answered, “I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.”
Reluctant as he was to stay of his own will, he remained against his will. So it came about that they stayed awake the whole night, engrossed in their conversation about the spiritual life.
It is not surprising that she was more effective than he, since as John says, God is love, it was absolutely right that she could do more, as she loved more.
Three days later, Benedict was in his cell. Looking up to the sky, he saw his sister’s soul leave her body in the form of a dove, and fly up to the secret places of heaven. Rejoicing in her great glory, he thanked almighty God with hymns and words of praise. He then sent his brethren to bring her body to the monastery and lay it in the tomb he had prepared for himself.
Their minds had always been united in God; their bodies were to share a common grave.






Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Origen's homilies on Genesis

The sacrifice of Abraham
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering, loaded it on Isaac, and carried in his own hands the fire and the knife. Then the two of them set out together. Isaac himself carries the wood for his own holocaust: this is a figure of Christ. For Christ carried the burden of the cross himself, and yet to carry the wood for the holocaust is really the duty of the priest. So Christ is then both victim and priest. This is the meaning of the expression: they set out together. For when Abraham, who was to perform the sacrifice, carried the fire and the knife, Isaac did not walk behind him, but with him. In this way he showed that he exercised the priesthood equally with Abraham.
What happened next? Isaac spoke to his father Abraham, ‘Father’ he said. This plea from the son was at that instant the voice of temptation. For do you not think the voice of the son who was about to be sacrificed struck a responsive chord in the heart of the father? Although Abraham did not waver because of his faith, he responded with a voice full of affection: ‘Yes, my son’ he replied. ‘Look,’ said Isaac, ‘here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘My son, God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering’.
The careful yet loving response of Abraham moves me greatly. I do not know what he saw in spirit, because he did not speak of the present but of the future: God himself will provide the lamb. His son asks what is to happen now, but Abraham’s reply concerns the future. Indeed the Lord himself provided a lamb, in Christ.
Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he said. ‘I am here’ Abraham replied. ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God’. Compare this to what St Paul says when he speaks of God: He did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. God emulates man with magnificent generosity. Abraham offered to God his mortal son who did not die; God gave up his immortal Son who died for all of us.
Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. We said before that Isaac is a type of Christ. Yet this also seems true of the ram. It is worth understanding how both are figures of Christ – Isaac who was not killed and the ram which was. Christ is the Word of God, but the Word became flesh.
Christ therefore suffered, but in the flesh. Christ, the bodily Christ, endured death; and the ram signifies that body and that death. As John said: Behold the lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. The Word, on the other hand, remained incorruptible. This is Christ according to the spirit, and Isaac signifies that spirit. Therefore, Christ himself is both victim and priest according to the spirit. For he offers the victim to the Father according to the flesh, and he is himself offered on the altar of the cross.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The 'Breviloquium' of St Bonaventure

(see brief biography of Saint Josephine Bakhita after this reading)

From the knowledge of Jesus Christ flows the understanding of the whole of holy Scripture
The stream of holy Scripture flows not from human research but from revelation by God. It springs from the Father of lights, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth takes its name. From him, through his Son Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit flows into us; and through the Holy Spirit, giving, at will, different gifts to different people, comes the gift of faith, and through faith Jesus Christ has his dwelling in our hearts. This is the knowledge of Jesus Christ which is the ultimate basis of the solidity and wisdom of the whole of holy Scripture.
From all this it follows that it is impossible for anyone to start to recognise Scripture for what it is if he does not already have faith in Christ infused into him. Christ is the lamp that illuminates the whole of Scripture: he is its gateway and its foundation. For this faith is behind all the supernatural enlightenments that we receive while we are still separated from the Lord and on our pilgrimage. It makes our foundation firm, it directs the light of the lamp, it leads us in through the gateway. It is the standard against which the wisdom that God has given us should be measured, so that no-one should exaggerate his real importance, but everyone must judge himself soberly by the standard of the faith God has given him.
The substance and fruit of holy Scripture is very specific: the fullness of eternal happiness. For this is what Scripture is – its words are words of eternal life, and it is written not just so that we should believe, but specially so that we should possess eternal life in which we may see, and love, and have all our desires fulfilled. When they are fulfilled, then we shall know the superabundant love that comes from knowledge, and so we shall be filled with all the fullness of God. God’s Scripture tries to lead us to this fullness, and to the truth of the preaching of the apostles. It is to this end, with this intention, that we should study holy Scripture, and teach it, and hear it.
If we are to follow the direct path of Scripture and come straight to the final destination, then right from the beginning – when simple faith starts to draw us towards the light of the Father – our hearts should kneel down and ask the Father to give us, through his Son and the Holy Spirit, true knowledge of Jesus and of his love. Once we know him and love him like this, we shall be made firm in faith and deeply rooted in love, and we can know the breadth, length, depth and height of holy Scripture. That news can then lead us to the full knowledge and overwhelming love of the most holy Trinity. The desires of the saints draw them towards the Trinity, in which all that is good and true is and finds its completion.

Memorial of Saint Josephine Bakhita

Josephine Bakhita was born near Jebel Agilere in the Sud Darfur (Sudan). Kidnapped when still very young, she experienced the cruelty of slavery as she was sold several times in slave markets of Africa. Finally she was rescued by an Italian family and brought to Italy where she not only became a Christian but also felt the call to consecrate her life to God as a sister. She joined the Canossian Daughters of Charity and lived the rest of her life at Schio, a small village near Vicenza. She died on 8 February, 1947.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

From an account of the martyrdom of Saint Paul Miki and his companions, by a contemporary writer


St Paul Miki (1564/6 - 1597)
He was born in Japan between 1564 and 1566. He joined the Society of Jesus and preached the gospel to the Japanese people with great success. When a persecution of the Catholics arose he was arrested together with twenty-five others. Mocked and tortured, they were eventually taken to Nagasaki on 5 February 1597, bound to crosses and speared.
You shall be my witnesses ( St. Philip of Jesus, one of the companions of St. Paul Miki)
The crosses were set in place. Father Pasio and Father Rodriguez took turns encouraging the victims. Their steadfast behaviour was wonderful to see. The Father Bursar stood motionless, his eyes turned heavenward. Brother Martin gave thanks to God’s goodness by singing psalms. Again and again he repeated: “Into your hands, Lord, I entrust my life.” Brother Francis Branco also thanked God in a loud voice. Brother Gonsalvo in a very loud voice kept saying the Our Father and Hail Mary.
Our brother, Paul Miki, saw himself standing now in the noblest pulpit he had ever filled. To his “congregation” he began by proclaiming himself a Japanese and a Jesuit. He was dying for the Gospel he preached. He gave thanks to God for this wonderful blessing and he ended his “sermon” with these words: “As I come to this supreme moment of my life, I am sure none of you would suppose I want to deceive you. And so I tell you plainly: there is no way to be saved except the Christian way. My religion teaches me to pardon my enemies and all who have offended me. I do gladly pardon the Emperor and all who have sought my death. I beg them to seek baptism and be Christians themselves.”
Then he looked at his comrades and began to encourage them in their final struggle. Joy glowed in all their faces, and in Louis’ most of all. When a Christian in the crowd cried out to him that he would soon be in heaven, his hands, his whole body strained upward with such joy that every eye was fixed on him.
Anthony, hanging at Louis’ side, looked toward heaven and called upon the holy names – “Jesus, Mary!” He began to sing a psalm: “Praise the Lord, you children!” (He learned it in catechism class in Nagasaki. They take care there to teach the children some psalms to help them learn their catechism).
Others kept repeating “Jesus, Mary!” Their faces were serene. Some of them even took to urging the people standing by to live worthy Christian lives. In these and other ways they showed their readiness to die.
Then, according to Japanese custom, the four executioners began to unsheathe their spears. At this dreadful sight, all the Christians cried out, “Jesus, Mary!” And the storm of anguished weeping then rose to batter the very skies. The executioners killed them one by one. One thrust of the spear, then a second blow. It was over in a very short time.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

From a homily on Saint Agatha by Saint Methodius of Sicily, bishop



The gift of God, the source of all goodness
My fellow Christians, our annual celebration of a martyr’s feast has brought us together. She achieved renown in the early Church for her noble victory; she is well known now as well, for she continues to triumph through her divine miracles, which occur daily and continue to bring glory to her name.
She is indeed a virgin, for she was born of the divine Word, God’s only Son, who also experienced death for our sake. John, a master of God’s word, speaks of this: He gave the power to become children of God to everyone who received him.
The woman who invites us to this banquet is both a wife and virgin. To use the analogy of Paul, she is the bride who has been betrothed to one husband, Christ. A true virgin, she wore the glow of pure conscience and the crimson of the Lamb’s blood for her cosmetics. Again and again she meditated on the death of her eager lover. For her, Christ’s death was recent, his blood was still moist. Her robe is the mark of her faithful witness to Christ. It bears the indelible marks of his crimson blood and the shining threads of her eloquence. She offers to all who come after her these treasures of her eloquent confession.
Agatha, the name of our saint, means “good.” She was truly good, for she lived as a child of God. She was also given as the gift of God, the source of all goodness to her bridegroom, Christ, and to us. For she grants us a share in her goodness.
What can give greater good than the Sovereign Good? Whom could anyone find more worthy of celebration with hymns of praise than Agatha?
Agatha, her goodness coincides with her name and way of life. She won a good name by her noble deeds, and by her name she points to the nobility of those deeds. Agatha, her mere name wins all men over to her company. She teaches them by her example to hasten with her to the true Good. God alone.

Time to ask for help

There are several items needed at Nazareth Hermitage; some for the sick poor, some for the christians in the village and some religious supplies for making rosaries and items that can be sold in order to buy medicines.
MEDICAL ITEMS----I desperately need a good pair of bandage scissors (the ones I had just broke and the scissors I am using are for cutting paper), a medical tweezer (folks come in with the thorns from Palm nuts and they cause infection unless they can be removed),2 "and 3" roller gauze (conformable), wash clothes (bundles can be bought at Walmart and are inexpensive. I use them to clean up wounds and then rewash daily...the ones I am using have been in use for a year and are turning into rags. Assorted cloth Bandaids especially for fingers and toes as well as extra large type and UrineTest strips to detect blood and sugar in Urine. These strips would be a great help here and would help me make quick referrals when necessary.
Religious supplies:
one heavy Sanctuary globe. (The real sanctuary globes are made from heavy red glass and not the thin globes that break quite easily. In order to save on candles, I use regular cooking oil and cotton wicks made from cotton string ( the type used to tie roasts or turkey legs so they wont fall apart when cooking. I sure could use a large roll of that cotton string. I cannot buy any of these items here. Oil floats for use with cotton string wicks. You can find them on line at most greek or orthodox religious goods stores. They are simple cork floats but after a while they start to sink and need to be replaced. They come in packages of 10 (I believe) and I could use 30 for the chapel votive lights and the sanctuary lamp. We also need a lectionary for mass here at the hermitage. Last week someone donated a Sacramentary (the book used on the altar during mass) but we still need a lectionary for the readers to use at mass. A couple rolls of Duct tape would come in real handy for quick fixes around here. I have used two large rolls in a year and a half. Divine Mercy Holy cards with instructions for the chaplet on the back of the holy card. Catholic Clip art would also be useful. There is a computer program called holy card pro which would be put to great use. I am in real need of Printer Ink (Black and tricolor) for HP officejet printer (J4580) all in one. I use the printer for many of our religious needs and the ink is so expensive over here.
For religious items to sell, I need some strong Jump rings (gold or silver color) They are used to attach crosses to rosaries or to hang medals on chains. The jump rings I have are not strong and after a while spread open and the medal or cross falls off. I need 5mm and 7mm jump rings. Any hobby shop should have them or look on line. Be sure to specify "strong"
Plastic containers that are so popular in the US now (I noticed them when I had my knee scoped a year and a half ago) The round ones with screwtops of all sizes. They are food for keeping medical supplies and storing beads and other religious items.
PERSONAL---If you have any used cotton queen size pillow cases that you are going to replace and/or single flat cotton sheets, I could make good use of them. If they are damaged I can repair them. If they are stained they can be washed and if the stain remains, that is fine. The reason for the queen pillow cases is that the local pillows are filled with local kapock or shredded foam and are very large. The small pillow cases will not fit them.

And that completes the list, dear brothers and sisters. People have been asking me to send them a list of items I could use so I jotted these down. If you can't help donate items, you can help with your prayers.

I always need medicines but most can be bought locally and cash donations would help me to purchase them.

Thank you for taking time to read this 'shopping list' and God bless you.

Brother dismas Mary
Penitent Hermit of Divine Mercy

From the Instructions to Catechumens by St Cyril of Jerusalem

Even in time of persecution let the Cross be your joy
The Catholic Church glories in every deed of Christ. Her supreme glory, however, is the cross. Well aware of this, Paul says: God forbid that I glory in anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!
At Siloam, there was a sense of wonder, and rightly so. A man born blind recovered his sight. But of what importance is this, when there are so many blind people in the world? Lazarus rose from the dead, but even this affected only Lazarus. What of those countless numbers who have died because of their sins? Those miraculous loaves fed five thousand people. Yet this is a small number compared to those all over the world who were starved by ignorance. After eighteen years a woman was freed from the bondage of Satan. But are we not all shackled by the chains of our own sins?
For us all, however, the cross is the crown of victory! It has brought light to those blinded by ignorance. It has released those enslaved by sin. Indeed, it has redeemed the whole of mankind!
Do not, then, be ashamed of the cross of Christ; rather, glory in it. Although it is a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles, the message of the cross is our salvation. Of course it is folly to those to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it was not a mere man who died for us, but the Son of God, God made man.
In the Mosaic law a sacrificial lamb banished the destroyer. But now it is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Will he not free us from our sins even more? The blood of an animal, a sheep, brought salvation. Will not the blood of the only-begotten Son bring us greater salvation?
He was not killed by violence, he was not forced to give up his life. His was a willing sacrifice. Listen to his own words: I have the power to lay down my life and take it up again. Yes, he willingly submitted to his own passion. He took joy in his achievement; in his crown of victory he was glad and in the salvation of man he rejoiced. He did not blush at the cross for by it he was to save the world. No, it was not a lowly man who suffered but God incarnate. He entered the contest for the reward he would win by his patient endurance.
Certainly in times of tranquillity the cross should give you joy. But maintain the same faith in times of persecution. Otherwise you will be a friend of Jesus in times of peace and his enemy during war. Now you receive the forgiveness of your sins and the generous gift of grace from your king. When war comes, fight courageously for him.
Jesus never sinned; yet he was crucified for you. Will you refuse to be crucified for him, who for your sake was nailed to the cross? You are not the one who gives the favour; you have received one first. For your sake he was crucified on Golgotha. Now you are returning his favour; you are fulfilling your debt to him.