Sunday, June 30, 2013

13th Sunday in ordinary time

From a homily by Pope Paul VI

We proclaim Christ to the whole world
Not to preach the Gospel would be my undoing, for Christ himself sent me as his apostle and witness. The more remote, the more difficult the assignment, the more my love of God spurs me on. I am bound to proclaim that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the living God. Because of him we come to know the God we cannot see. He is the firstborn of all creation; in him all things find their being. Man’s teacher and redeemer, he was born for us, died for us, and for us he rose from the dead.
  All things, all history converges in Christ. A man of sorrow and hope, he knows us and loves us. As our friend he stays by us throughout our lives; at the end of time he will come to be our judge; but we also know that he will be the complete fulfilment of our lives and our great happiness for all eternity.
  I can never cease to speak of Christ for he is our truth and our light; he is the way, the truth and the life. He is our bread, our source of living water who allays our hunger and satisfies our thirst. He is our shepherd, our leader, our ideal, our comforter and our brother.
  He is like us but more perfectly human, simple, poor, humble, and yet, while burdened with work, he is more patient. He spoke on our behalf; he worked miracles; and he founded a new kingdom: in it the poor are happy; peace is the foundation of a life in common; where the pure of heart and those who mourn are uplifted and comforted; the hungry find justice; sinners are forgiven; and all discover that they are brothers.
  The image I present to you is the image of Jesus Christ. As Christians you share his name; he has already made most of you his own. So once again I repeat his name to you Christians and I proclaim to all men: Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, Lord of the new universe, the great hidden key to human history and the part we play in it. He is the mediator – the bridge, if you will – between heaven and earth. Above all he is the Son of man, more perfect than any man, being also the Son of God, eternal and infinite. He is the son of Mary his mother on earth, more blessed than any woman. She is also our mother in the spiritual communion of the mystical body.
  Remember: it is Jesus Christ I preach day in and day out. His name I would see echo and re-echo for all time even to the ends of the earth.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

From a sermon by Saint Augustine

The martyrs had seen what they proclaimed
Holy Martyrs, pray for us!
This day has been consecrated for us by the martyrdom of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul. It is not some obscure martyrs we are talking about. Their sound has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. These martyrs had seen what they proclaimed, they pursued justice by confessing the truth, by dying for the truth.
  The blessed Peter, the first of the Apostles, the ardent lover of Christ, who was found worthy to hear, And I say to you, that you are Peter. He himself, you see, had just said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Christ said to him, And I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church. Upon this rock I will build the faith you have just confessed. Upon your words, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, I will build my Church; because you are Peter. Peter comes from petra, meaning a rock. Peter, “Rocky,” from “rock”; not “rock” from “Rocky.” Peter comes from the word for a rock in exactly the same way as the name Christian comes from Christ.
  Before his passion the Lord Jesus, as you know, chose those disciples of his whom he called apostles. Among these it was only Peter who almost everywhere was given the privilege of representing the whole Church. It was in the person of the whole Church, which he alone represented, that he was privileged to hear, To you will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. After all, it is not just one man that received these keys, but the Church in its unity. So this is the reason for Peter’s acknowledged pre-eminence, that he stood for the Church’s universality and unity, when he was told, To you I am entrusting, what has in fact been entrusted to all. To show you that it is the Church which has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, listen to what the Lord says in another place to all his apostles: Receive the Holy Spirit; and immediately afterwards, Whose sins you forgive, they will be forgiven them; whose sins you retain, they will be retained.
Saint Peter and Saint Paul
  Quite rightly, too, did the Lord after his resurrection entrust his sheep to Peter to be fed. It is not, you see, that he alone among the disciples was fit to feed the Lord’s sheep; but when Christ speaks to one man, unity is being commended to us. And he first speaks to Peter, because Peter is the first among the apostles. Do not be sad, Apostle. Answer once, answer again, answer a third time. Let confession conquer three times with love, because self-assurance was conquered three times by fear. What you had bound three times must be loosed three times. Loose through love what you had bound through fear. And for all that, the Lord once, and again, and a third time, entrusted his sheep to Peter.
  There is one day for the passion of two apostles. But these two also were as one; although they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, Paul followed. We are celebrating a feast day, consecrated for us by the blood of the apostles. Let us love their faith, their lives, their labours, their sufferings, their confession of faith, their preaching.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Saint Irenaeus, Bishop, Martyr

From the treatise Against Heresies by Saint Irenaeus, bishop

Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God
The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason God, who cannot be grasped, comprehended or seen, allows himself to be seen, comprehended and grasped by men, that he may give life to those who see and receive him. It is impossible to live without life, and the actualization of life comes from participation in God, while participation in God is to see God and enjoy his goodness.
  Men will therefore see God if they are to live; through the vision of God they will become immortal and attain to God himself. As I have said, this was shown in symbols by the prophets: God will be seen by men who bear his Spirit and are always waiting for his coming. As Moses said in the Book of Deuteronomy: On that day we shall see, for God will speak to man, and man will live.
  God is the source of all activity throughout creation. He cannot be seen or described in his own nature and in all his greatness by any of his creatures. Yet he is certainly not unknown. Through his Word the whole creation learns that there is one God the Father, who holds all things together and gives them their being. As it is written in the Gospel: No man has ever seen God, except the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; he has revealed him.
  From the beginning the Son is the one who teaches us about the Father; he is with the Father from the beginning. He was to reveal to the human race visions of prophecy, the diversity of spiritual gifts, his own ways of ministry, the glorification of the Father, all in due order and harmony, at the appointed time and for our instruction: where there is order, there is also harmony; where there is harmony, there is also correct timing; where there is correct timing, there is also advantage.
  The Word became the steward of the Father’s grace for the advantage of men, for whose benefit he made such wonderful arrangements. He revealed God to men and presented men to God. He safeguarded the invisibility of the Father to prevent man from treating God with contempt and to set before him a constant goal toward which to make progress. On the other hand, he revealed God to men and made him visible in many ways to prevent man from being totally separated from God and so cease to be. Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation gives life to all who live upon the earth, much more does the manifestation of the Father through the Word give life to those who see God.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop, Doctor

From a letter by Saint Cyril of Alexandria, bishop

Defender of the divine motherhood of the Virgin Mary
That anyone could doubt the right of the holy Virgin to be called the Mother of God fills me with astonishment. Surely she must be the Mother of God if our Lord Jesus Christ is God, and she gave birth to him! Our Lord’s disciples may not have used those exact words, but they delivered to us the belief those words enshrine, and this has also been taught us by the holy fathers.
  In the third book of his work on the holy and consubstantial Trinity, our father Athanasius, of glorious memory, several times refers to the holy Virgin as “Mother of God.” I cannot resist quoting his own words: “As I have often told you, the distinctive mark of holy Scripture is that it was written to make a twofold declaration concerning our Saviour; namely, that he is and has always been God, since he is the Word, Radiance and Wisdom of the Father; and that for our sake in these latter days he took flesh from the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and became man.”
  Again further on he says: “There have been many holy men, free from all sin. Jeremiah was sanctified in his mother’s womb, and John while still in the womb leaped for joy at the voice of Mary, the Mother of God.” Athanasius is a man we can trust, one who deserves our complete confidence, for he taught nothing contrary to the sacred books.
  The divinely inspired Scriptures affirm that the Word of God was made flesh, that is to say, he was united to a human body endowed with a rational soul. He undertook to help the descendants of Abraham, fashioning a body for himself from a woman and sharing our flesh and blood, to enable us to see in him not only God, but also, by reason of this union, a man like ourselves.
  It is held, therefore, that there are in Emmanuel two entities, divinity and humanity. Yet our Lord Jesus Christ is nonetheless one, the one true Son, both God and man; not a deified man on the same footing as those who share the divine nature by grace, but true God who for our sake appeared in human form. We are assured of this by Saint Paul’s declaration: When the fullness of time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law and to enable us to be adopted as sons.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wednesday of the 12th week in ordinary time

St Aelred's treatise on spiritual friendship

True, perfect, and eternal friendship
That outstanding youth, Jonathan, son of King Saul, made an alliance with David, but it was not in the hope of obtaining the royal crown or winning the kingdom. For the sake of their friendship, he set David above himself as if he had been his master and not his own father’s servant, expelled, hiding in the desert, sentenced to death, destined for execution – he abased himself and raised David up: You will be king, he said, and I will be next below you in rank.
  What an excellent example of true friendship! What a wonder! The king was raging against his servant and stirring up the whole country as if against a pretender to the throne. He accuses priests of treachery and has them killed on the mere suspicion – he has the forests and the valleys searched – he posts armed guards on cliffs and mountains. Everyone swears to punish the object of the king’s anger; but Jonathan, who alone has the right to envy the designated successor to the throne – Jonathan chose to resist his father, keep his friend supplied with news, give him counsel in his adversity. Thinking it better to be a friend than a king: You will be king, he said, and I will be next below you in rank.
  See how the father tried to make the young man envy his friend, how he goaded him with insults, threatened him with dispossession, and warned him of the honors he would lose. But even when Saul had condemned David to death, Jonathan did not fail his friend. “Why should David die? What has he done wrong? What has he done? It was he who took his life in his hands and struck down the Philistine – you rejoiced, then. So why should he die?”
  At these words the king was beside himself with rage and tried to pin Jonathan to the wall with his spear, pouring out new insults and threats. “Son of a wanton and lascivious woman! I know that you love him, to your own shame and the shame of your shameless mother!” Then he poured out on the young man all the venom he had in him. He tried to stir up ambition and envy, bitterness and jealousy in Jonathan’s breast: As long as the son of Jesse lives, your kingdom cannot be established.
  Who would not have been moved to jealousy by these words? Whose love would not have been corrupted, grace diminished, friendship wiped out? But this most loving youth held fast to the oaths of friendship he had sworn, stood up to the threats, endured the insults, and disdained the kingdom for the sake of friendship, careless of the glory he would miss but mindful of the integrity he would keep. You will be king, he said, and I will be next below you in rank.
  Here is a true and perfect friendship, solid and eternal: a friendship that envy does not corrupt, suspicion does not diminish or ambition wipe out. It does not cease even under such a trial; even under such a battering it does not collapse. Assailed with abuse, it stands firm; beaten with insults, it does not bend. Go thou, and do likewise.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday of week 12 in ordinary time

A treatise on Christian Perfection by St Gregory of Nyssa

Christ should be manifest in our whole life

The life of the Christian has three distinguishing aspects: deeds, words and thought. Thought comes first, then words, since our words express openly the interior conclusions of the mind. Finally, after thoughts and words, comes action, for our deeds carry out what the mind has conceived. So when one of these results in our acting or speaking or thinking, we must make sure that all our thoughts, words and deeds are controlled by the divine ideal, the revelation of Christ. For then our thoughts, words and deeds will not fall short of the nobility of their implications.
  What then must we do, we who have been found worthy of the name of Christ? Each of us must examine his thoughts, words and deeds, to see whether they are directed toward Christ or are turned away from him. This examination is carried out in various ways. Our deeds or our thoughts or our words are not in harmony with Christ if they issue from passion. They then bear the mark of the enemy who smears the pearl of the heart with the slime of passion, dimming and even destroying the lustre of the precious stone.
  On the other hand, if they are free from and untainted by every passionate inclination, they are directed toward Christ, the author and source of peace. He is like a pure, untainted stream. If you draw from him the thoughts in your mind and the inclinations of your heart, you will show a likeness to Christ, your source and origin, as the gleaming water in a jar resembles the flowing water from which it was obtained.
  For the purity of Christ and the purity that is manifest in our hearts are identical. Christ’s purity, however, is the fountainhead; ours has its source in him and flows out of him. Our life is stamped with the beauty of his thought. The inner and the outer man are harmonised in a kind of music. The mind of Christ is the controlling influence that inspires us to moderation and goodness in our behaviour. As I see it, Christian perfection consists in this: sharing the titles which express the meaning of Christ’s name, we bring out this meaning in our minds, our prayers and our way of life.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Birthday of Saint John the Baptist

From a sermon by Saint Augustine

The voice of one crying in the wilderness
The Church observes the birth of John as in some way sacred; and you will not find any other of the great men of old whose birth we celebrate officially. We celebrate John’s, as we celebrate Christ’s. This point cannot be passed over in silence, and if I may not perhaps be able to explain it in the way that such an important matter deserves, it is still worth thinking about it a little more deeply and fruitfully than usual.
  John is born of an old woman who is barren; Christ is born of a young woman who is a virgin. That John will be born is not believed, and his father is struck dumb; that Christ will be born is believed, and he is conceived by faith.
  I have proposed some matters for inquiry, and listed in advance some things that need to be discussed. I have introduced these points even if we are not up to examining all the twists and turns of such a great mystery, either for lack of capacity or for lack of time. You will be taught much better by the one who speaks in you even when I am not here; the one about whom you think loving thoughts, the one whom you have taken into your hearts and whose temple you have become.
  John, it seems, has been inserted as a kind of boundary between the two Testaments, the Old and the New. That he is somehow or other a boundary is something that the Lord himself indicates when he says, The Law and the prophets were until John. So he represents the old and heralds the new. Because he represents the old, he is born of an elderly couple; because he represents the new, he is revealed as a prophet in his mother’s womb. You will remember that, before he was born, at Mary’s arrival he leapt in his mother’s womb. Already he had been marked out there, designated before he was born; it was already shown whose forerunner he would be, even before he saw him. These are divine matters, and exceed the measure of human frailty. Finally, he is born, he receives a name, and his father’s tongue is loosed.
  Zachary is struck dumb and loses his voice, until John, the Lord’s forerunner, is born and releases his voice for him. What does Zachary’s silence mean, but that prophecy was obscure and, before the proclamation of Christ, somehow concealed and shut up? It is released and opened up by his arrival, it becomes clear when the one who was being prophesied is about to come. The releasing of Zachary’s voice at the birth of John has the same significance as the tearing of the veil of the Temple at the crucifixion of Christ. If John were meant to proclaim himself, he would not be opening Zachary’s mouth. The tongue is released because a voice is being born – for when John was already heralding the Lord, he was asked, Who are you and he replied I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.
  John is the voice, but the Lord in the beginning was the Word. John is a voice for a time, but Christ is the eternal Word from the beginning.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday of the12th week in ordinary time

A treatise on the Trinity by St Faustinus

Christ, king and priest for ever
Our Saviour received a bodily anointing and so became a true king and a true priest. Both king and priest he was of his very self; a saviour could be nothing less. Hear in his own words how he himself became a king: I have been appointed king by God on Zion his holy mountain. Hear in the Father’s words that he was a priest: You are a priest for ever in the line of Melchizedek. Aaron was the first under the law to be made a priest by being anointed with chrism, yet the Father does not say, “in the line of Aaron,” lest it be believed that the Saviour’s priesthood could be passed on by inheritance, for at that time Aaron’s priesthood was transmitted by lineal descent. But the Saviour’s priesthood is not inherited because this priest lives on for ever. Therefore Scripture says: You are a priest for ever in the line of Melchizedek.
  There is, therefore, a saviour in the flesh who is both a king and a priest, though his anointing was not physical but spiritual. Among the Israelites, those kings and priests who were actually anointed with oil were either kings or priests. No man could be both king and priest; he had to be one or the other. Only Christ was both king and priest; because he had come to fulfil the law, he alone possessed the twofold perfection of kingship and priesthood.
  Those who had been anointed with the oil of kingship or priesthood, although they received only one of these anointings, were called messiahs. Our Saviour, however, who is the Christ, was anointed by the Holy Spirit so that the passage in Scripture might be fulfilled: God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness and raised you above your companions. The difference, then, between the one Christ and the many christs is in the anointing, since he was anointed with the oil of gladness, which signifies nothing other than the Holy Spirit.
  This we know to be true from the Saviour himself. When he took the book of Isaiah, he opened it and read: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me. He then said that the prophecy was fulfilled in the hearing of those listening.
  Peter, the prince of the apostles, also taught that the chrism which made the Saviour a christ was the Holy Spirit; that is to say, the power of God. When in the Acts of the Apostles Peter spoke to that faithful and merciful man, the centurion, he said among other things: After the baptism which John preached, Jesus of Nazareth, whom God anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power, started out in Galilee and travelled about performing powerful miracles, and freeing all who were possessed by the devil.
  So you see that Peter too said that Jesus in his humanity was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power. Thus Jesus in his humanity truly became the Christ. By the anointing of the Holy Spirit, he was made both king and priest for ever.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saints John Fisher, Bishop, and Thomas More, Martyrs

From a letter written in prison to his daughter, Margaret, by Saint Thomas More

With good hope I shall commit myself wholly to God
Saint Thomas More
Although I know well, Margaret, that because of my past wickedness I deserve to be abandoned by God, I cannot but trust in his merciful goodness. His grace has strengthened me until now and made me content to lose goods, land, and life as well, rather than to swear against my conscience. God’s grace has given the king a gracious frame of mind toward me, so that as yet he has taken from me nothing but my liberty. In doing this His Majesty has done me such great good with respect to spiritual profit that I trust that among all the great benefits he has heaped so abundantly upon me I count my imprisonment the very greatest. I cannot, therefore, mistrust the grace of God. Either he shall keep the king in that gracious frame of mind to continue to do me no harm, or else, if it be his pleasure that for my other sins I suffer in this case as I shall not deserve, then his grace shall give me the strength to bear it patiently, and perhaps even gladly.
  By the merits of his bitter passion joined to mine and far surpassing in merit for me all that I can suffer myself, his bounteous goodness shall release me from the pains of purgatory and shall increase my reward in heaven besides.
  I will not mistrust him, Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear. I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to him for help. And then I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning.
  And if he permits me to play Saint Peter further and to fall to the ground and to swear and forswear, may God our Lord in his tender mercy keep me from this, and let me lose if it so happen, and never win thereby! Still, if this should happen, afterward I trust that in his goodness he will look on me with pity as he did upon Saint Peter, and make me stand up again and confess the truth of my conscience afresh and endure here the shame and harm of my own fault.
  And finally, Margaret, I know this well: that without my fault he will not let me be lost. I shall, therefore, with good hope commit myself wholly to him. And if he permits me to perish for my faults, then I shall serve as praise for his justice. But in good faith, Meg, I trust that his tender pity shall keep my poor soul safe and make me commend his mercy.
  And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious

A letter from St Aloysius Gonzaga to his mother

God's mercies shall be my song for ever
Saint Aloysius Gonzaga                                                                                 

May the comfort and grace of the Holy Spirit be yours for ever, most honored lady. Your letter found me lingering still in this region of the dead, but now I must rouse myself to make my way on to heaven at last and to praise God for ever in the land of the living; indeed I had hoped that before this time my journey there would have been over. If charity, as Saint Paul says, means to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who are glad, then, dearest mother, you shall rejoice exceedingly that God in his grace and his love for you is showing me the path to true happiness, and assuring me that I shall never lose him.
  The divine goodness, most honored lady, is a fathomless and shoreless ocean, and I confess that when I plunge my mind into thought of this it is carried away by the immensity and feels quite lost and bewildered there. In return for my short and feeble labors, God is calling me to eternal rest; his voice from heaven invites me to the infinite bliss I have sought so languidly, and promises me this reward for the tears I have so seldom shed.
  Take care above all things, most honored lady, not to insult God’s boundless loving kindness; you would certainly do this if you mourned as dead one living face to face with God, one whose prayers can bring you in your troubles more powerful aid than they ever could on earth. And our parting will not be for long; we shall see each other again in heaven; we shall be united with our Saviour; there we shall praise him with heart and soul, sing of his mercies for ever, and enjoy eternal happiness. When he takes away what he once lent us, his purpose is to store our treasure elsewhere more safely and bestow on us those very blessings that we ourselves would most choose to have.
  I write all this with the one desire that you and all my family may consider my departure a joy and favour and that you especially may speed with a mother’s blessing my passage across the waters till I reach the shore to which all hopes belong. I write the more willingly because I have no clearer way of expressing the love and respect I owe you as your son.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thursday of the 11th week in ordinary time

St Cyprian's treatise on the Lord's Prayer

After the support of bread, we ask for the forgiveness of sins
As the prayer continues, we ask Give us this day our daily bread. This can be understood both spiritually and literally, because either way of understanding is rich in divine usefulness to our salvation. For Christ is the bread of life, and this bread does not belong to anyone at all, but to us. And so, just as we say Our Father, because he is the father of those who understand and believe, so also we call it our bread, because Christ is the bread of us who come into contact with his body.
  We ask that this bread should be given to us daily, that we who are in Christ and daily receive the Eucharist as the food of salvation may not be prevented, by the interposition of some heinous sin, from partaking of the heavenly bread and be separated from Christ’s body, for as he says: I am the bread of life which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of my bread, he will live for ever; and the bread I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.
  So when he says that whoever eats of his bread will live for ever; and as it is clear that those are indeed living who partake of his body and, having the right of communion, receive the Eucharist, so, on the other hand, we must fear and pray lest anyone should be kept at a distance from salvation who, being withheld from communion, remains separate from Christ’s body. For he has given us this warning: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will have no life in you. And therefore we ask that our bread – that is, Christ – may be given to us daily, so that we who live in Christ may not depart from his sanctification and his body.
  After this we entreat for our sins, saying Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. After the supply of food, pardon of sin is also asked for.
  How necessary, how provident, how salutary are we reminded that we are sinners, since we have to beg for forgiveness, and while we ask for God’s pardon, we are reminded of our own consciousness of guilt! Just in case anyone should think himself innocent and, by thus exalting himself, should more utterly perish, he is taught and instructed that he sins every day, since he is commanded to pray daily for forgiveness.
  This is what John warns us in his epistle: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us; but if we confess our sins, the Lord is faithful and just and will forgive us. In his epistle he combines two things, both that we ought to beg for mercy because of our sins and that we will receive forgiveness when we ask for it. This is why he says that the Lord is faithful to forgive sins, keeping faith with what he promised; because he who taught us to pray for our debts and sins has promised that his fatherly mercy and pardon will follow.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Saint Romuald, Abbot

From the biography of St Romuald
Denying oneself and following Christ
Saint Romuald

Romuald lived in the vicinity of the city of Parenzo for three years. In the first year he built a monastery and appointed an abbot with monks. For the next two years he remained there in seclusion. In that setting, divine holiness transported him to such a summit of perfection that, breathed upon by the Holy Spirit, he foresaw many future events and comprehended with the rays of his intelligence hidden mysteries of the Old and New Testament.
  Frequently he was seized by so great a contemplation of divinity that he would be reduced to tears with the boiling, indescribable heat of divine love. In this condition he would cry out: Beloved Jesus, beloved, sweet honey, indescribable longing, delight of the saints, sweetness of the angels, and other things of this kind. We are unable to express the ecstasy of these utterances, dictated by the Holy Spirit.
  Wherever the holy man might arrange to live, he would follow the same pattern. First he would build an oratory with an altar in a cell; then he would shut himself in and forbid access.
  Finally, after he had lived in many places, perceiving that his end was near, he returned to the monastery he had built in the valley of Castro. While he awaited with certainty his approaching death, he ordered a cell to be constructed there with an oratory in which he might isolate himself and preserve silence until death.
  Accordingly the hermitage was built, since he had made up his mind that he would die there. His body began to grow more and more oppressed by afflictions and was already failing, not so much from weakness as from the exhaustion of great age. One day he began to feel the loss of his physical strength under all the harassment of increasingly violent afflictions. As the sun was beginning to set, he instructed two monks who were standing by to go out and close the door of the cell behind them; they were to come back to him at daybreak to celebrate matins. They were so concerned about his end that they went out reluctantly and did not rest immediately. On the contrary, since they were worried that their master might die, they lay hidden near the cell and watched this precious treasure. For some time they continued to listen attentively until they heard neither movement nor sound. Rightly guessing what had happened, they pushed open the door, rushed in quickly, lit a candle and found the holy man lying on his back, his blessed soul snatched up into heaven. As he lay there, he seemed like a neglected heavenly pearl that was soon to be given a place of honour in the treasury of the King of kings.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tuesday of the 11th week in ordinary time

St Cyprian's treatise on the Lord's Prayer

Hallowed be thy name
How great is the Lord’s indulgence! How kindly he bends down to us, how he overflows with goodness towards us! For he wishes us to pray in the sight of God in such a way as to call God Father and to call ourselves sons of God, just as Christ is the Son of God. No-one would have dared to claim such a name in prayer, unless he himself had given us permission to pray this. And so, beloved brethren, we should know and remember that when we call God our Father, we must behave as children of God, so that whatever pleasure we take in having God for our Father, he may take the same pleasure in us.
  Let us behave like temples of God, so that it may be clear that God dwells in us. Let our doings not fall away from the Spirit, but let us, who have begun to be heavenly and spiritual, consider and do nothing but heavenly and spiritual things. As the Lord God himself has said: Those who honour me, I will honour them; but those who despise me will be despised. And the blessed apostle has also said in his letters: You are not your own property: you have been bought at a great price. Glorify God and carry him in your bodies.
  After this we say Hallowed be thy name. This is not because we want God to be made holy by our prayers: what we are asking God is that his name should be hallowed within us. After all, how can anything be needed to sanctify God, who himself is the source of sanctity? But because he says be holy, as I am holy, we ask and beg of him that we, who have been sanctified in baptism, may continue in that which we have begun to be. And this we pray daily, for our need is for daily sanctification so that we who daily fall away may wash away our crimes by continual sanctification.
  As for the nature of the sanctification that comes to us from God, the Apostle tells us when he says: They will not inherit the kingdom of God, who fornicate, or worship idols, or commit adultery; catamites or sodomites, thieves, cheats, drunkards, slanderers or extortioners. You were like this once, but you were washed, you were justified, you were made holy in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. He says that we are sanctified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. We pray that this sanctification may remain with us; and because our Lord and Judge warns the man who was healed and given life by him not to sin again, lest something worse happen to him, we make this prayer without ceasing, we beg for it day and night, that the sanctification and life that comes from God may be preserved by his protection.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday of the 11th week in ordinary time

St Cyprian's treatise on the Lord's Prayer

              Our prayer is public and communal

Above all, the Teacher of peace and Master of unity did not want prayer to be made singly and privately, so that whoever prayed would pray for himself alone. We do not say My Father, who art in heaven or Give me this day my daily bread; nor does each one ask that only his own debt should be forgiven him; nor does he request for himself alone that he may not be led into temptation but delivered from evil. Our prayer is public and common, and when we pray, we pray not for one person but for the whole people, since we, the whole people, are one.
  The God of peace and the Master of concord, who taught unity, willed that one should pray for all, just as he himself, being one, carried us all. The three children observed this law when they were shut into the fiery furnace, praying with one voice and with one heart: thus our faith in divine Scripture teaches us, and, as it teaches us how such people prayed, gives us an example that we should follow in our own prayers, so that we may become like them: Then these three sang a hymn as if with one mouth, and blessed the Lord. They spoke as if with one mouth, even though Christ had not yet taught them how to pray.
  And therefore, as they prayed, their prayers were heard and were fruitful, because a peaceful, sincere, and spiritual prayer deserved well from the Lord. Thus, too, we find the Apostles and the disciples praying after the ascension of the Lord: They all continued with one accord in prayer, with the women and with Mary who was the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. They continued with one accord in prayer, showing, by the urgency and the unanimity of their praying, that God, who makes the inhabitants of a house to be of one mind, only admits to his divine and eternal home those among whom prayer is unanimous.
  But, dear brethren – what deep blessings are contained in the Lord’s prayer! How many they are, and how great, collected in so few words but so rich in spiritual power! There is nothing at all that is not to be found in these our prayers and petitions, as it were a compendium of heavenly doctrine. Thus, he said, you must pray: Our Father, who art in heaven.
  The new man, re-born and brought back to God by his grace, says Father at the very beginning, for he has just begun to be God’s son. He came to his own, and his own did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name. Whoever believes in God’s name and has become his son, should start here so that he can give thanks and profess himself to be God’s son, by calling God his Father in heaven.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

11th Sunday in ordinary time

St Cyprian's treatise on the Lord's Prayer

Prayer comes from a humble heart
"I thank you Lord that I am not like other men"
Let our speech and our petition be kept under discipline when we pray, and let us preserve quietness and modesty – for, remember, we are standing in God’s sight. We must please God’s eyes both with the movements of our body and with the way we use our voices. For just as a shameless man will be noisy with his cries, so it is fitting for the modest to pray in a moderate way. Furthermore, the Lord has taught us to pray in secret, in hidden and remote places, in our own bed-chambers – and this is most suitable for faith, since it shows us that God is everywhere and hears and sees everything, and in the fullness of his majesty is present even in hidden and secret places, as it is written I am a God close at hand and not a God far off. If a man hides himself in secret places, will I not see him? Do I not fill the whole of heaven and earth?, and, again, The eyes of God are everywhere, they see good and evil alike.
  When we meet together with the brethren in one place, and celebrate divine sacrifices with God’s priest, we should remember our modesty and discipline, not to broadcast our prayers at the tops of our voices, nor to throw before God, with undisciplined long-windedness, a petition that would be better made with more modesty: for after all God does not listen to the voice but to the heart, and he who sees our thoughts should not be pestered by our voices, as the Lord proves when he says: Why do you think evil in your hearts? – or again, All the churches shall know that it is I who test your motives and your thoughts.
Saint Joseph, humble heart
  In the first book of the Kings, Hannah, who is a type of the Church, observes that she prays to God not with loud petitions but silently and modestly within the very recesses of her heart. She spoke with hidden prayer but with manifest faith. She spoke not with her voice but with her heart, because she knew that that is how God hears, and she received what she sought because she asked for it with belief. The divine Scripture asserts this when it says: She spoke in her heart, and her lips moved, and her voice was not audible; and God listened to her. And we read in the Psalms: Speak in your hearts and in your beds, and be pierced. Again, the Holy Spirit teaches the same things through Jeremiah, saying: But it is in the heart that you should be worshipped, O Lord.
  Beloved brethren, let the worshipper not forget how the publican prayed with the Pharisee in the temple – not with his eyes boldly raised up to heaven, nor with hands held up in pride; but beating his breast and confessing the sins within, he implored the help of the divine mercy. While the Pharisee was pleased with himself, it was the publican who deserved to be sanctified, since he placed his hope of salvation not in his confidence of innocence – since no-one is innocent – but he prayed, humbly confessing his sins, and he who pardons the humble heard his prayer.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Saturday of the 10th week in ordinary time

A commentary on the Psalms by St Ambrose

I shall sing in spirit, and with understanding
I  will sing praise
What is more pleasing than a psalm? David expresses it well: Praise the Lord, for a song of praise is good: let there be praise of our God with gladness and grace. Yes, a psalm is a blessing on the lips of the people, a hymn in praise of God, the assembly’s homage, a general acclamation, a word that speaks for all, the voice of the Church, a confession of faith in song. It is the voice of complete assent, the joy of freedom, a cry of happiness, the echo of gladness. It soothes the temper, distracts from care, lightens the burden of sorrow. It is a source of security at night, a lesson in wisdom by day. It is a shield when we are afraid, a celebration of holiness, a vision of serenity, a promise of peace and harmony. It is like a lyre, evoking harmony from a blend of notes. Day begins to the music of a psalm. Day closes to the echo of a psalm.
  In a psalm, instruction vies with beauty. We sing for pleasure. We learn for our profit. What experience is not covered by a reading of the psalms? I come across the words: A song for the beloved, and I am aflame with desire for God’s love. I go through God’s revelation in all its beauty, the intimations of resurrection, the gifts of his promise. I learn to avoid sin. I see my mistake in feeling ashamed of repentance for my sins.
  What is a psalm but a musical instrument to give expression to all the virtues? The psalmist of old used it, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, to make earth re-echo the music of heaven. He used the dead gut of strings to create harmony from a variety of notes, in order to send up to heaven the song of God’s praise. In doing so he taught us that we must first die to sin, and then create in our lives on earth a harmony through virtuous deeds, if the grace of our devotion is to reach up to the Lord.
  David thus taught us that we must sing an interior song of praise, like Saint Paul, who tells us: I shall pray in spirit, and also with understanding; I shall sing in spirit, and also with understanding. We must fashion our lives and shape our actions in the light of the things that are above. We must not allow pleasure to awaken bodily passions, which weigh our soul down instead of freeing it. The holy prophet told us that his songs of praise were to celebrate the freeing of his soul, when he said: I shall sing to you, God, on the Lyre, holy one of Israel; my lips will rejoice when I have sung to you, and my soul also, which you have set free.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday of the 10th week in ordinary time

St Ambrose's commentaries on the psalms

The delightful book of the psalms
Although the whole of Scripture breathes God’s grace upon us, this is especially true of that delightful book, the book of the psalms. Moses, when he related the deeds of the patriarchs, did so in a plain and unadorned style. But when he had miraculously led the people of Israel across the Red Sea, when he had seen King Pharaoh drowned with all his army, he transcended his own skills (just as the miracle had transcended his own powers) and he sang a triumphal song to the Lord. Miriam the prophetess herself took up a timbrel and led the others in the refrain: Sing to the Lord: he has covered himself in glory, horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.
  History instructs us, the law teaches us, prophecy foretells, correction punishes, morality persuades; but the book of psalms goes further than all these. It is medicine for our spiritual health. Whoever reads it will find in it a medicine to cure the wounds caused by his own particular passions. Whoever studies it deeply will find it a kind of gymnasium open for all souls to use, where the different psalms are like different exercises set out before him. In that gymnasium, in that stadium of virtue, he can choose the exercises that will train him best to win the victor’s crown.
  If someone wants to study the deeds of our ancestors and imitate the best of them, he can find a single psalm that contains the whole of their history, a complete treasury of past memories in just one short reading.
  If someone wants to study the law and find out what gives it its force (it is the bond of love, for whoever loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law) let him read in the psalms how love led one man to undergo great dangers to wipe out the shame of his entire people; and this triumph of virtue will lead him to recognise the great things that love can do.
  And as for the power of prophecy – what can I say? Other prophets spoke in riddles. To the psalmist alone, it seems, God promised openly and clearly that the Lord Jesus would be born of his seed: I promise that your own son will succeed you on the throne.
  Thus in the book of psalms Jesus is not only born for us: he also accepts his saving passion, he dies, he rises from the dead, he ascends into heaven, he sits at the Father’s right hand. The Psalmist announced what no other prophet had dared to say, that which was later preached by the Lord himself in the Gospel.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Saint Antony of Padua, Priest, Doctor

Please help! We had to close the gate today because of lack of medicines. Tomorrow will be the same. You can help.....PLEASE

A sermon by Origen
The crossing of the Jordan
The ark of the covenant led the people of God across the Jordan. The priests and the Levites halted, and the waters, as though out of reverence to the ministers of God, stopped flowing. They piled up in a single mass, thus allowing the people of God to cross in safety. As a Christian, you should not be amazed to hear of these wonders performed for men of the past. The divine Word promises much greater and more lofty things to you who have passed through Jordan’s stream by the sacrament of baptism: he promises you a passage even through the sky. Listen to what Paul says concerning the just: We shall be caught up in the clouds to meet Christ in heaven, and so we shall always be with the Lord. There is absolutely nothing for the just man to fear; the whole of creation serves him. Listen to another promise that God makes him through the prophet: If you pass through fire, the flame shall not burn you, for I am the Lord your God. The just man is everywhere welcome, and everything renders him due service.
  So you must not think that these events belong only to the past, and that you who now hear the account of them do not experience anything of the kind. It is in you that they all find their spiritual fulfilment. You have recently abandoned the darkness of idolatry, and you now desire to come and hear the divine law. This is your departure from Egypt. When you became a catechumen and began to obey the laws of the Church, you passed through the Red Sea; now at the various stops in the desert, you give time every day to hear the law of God and to see the face of Moses unveiled by the glory of God. But once you come to the baptismal font and, in the presence of the priests and deacons, are initiated into those sacred and august mysteries which only those know who should, then, through the ministry of the priests, you will cross the Jordan and enter the promised land. There Moses will hand you over to Jesus, and He himself will be your guide on your new journey.
  Mindful, then, of all the mighty works of God, remembering that he divided the sea for you and held back the waters of the river, you will turn to them and say: Why was it, sea, that you fled? Jordan, why did you turn back? Mountains, why did you skip like rams, and you hills, like young sheep? And the word of the Lord will reply: The earth is shaken at the face of the Lord, at the face of the God of Jacob, who turns stones into a pool and rock into springs of water.