Sunday, January 31, 2016

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Image result for images: Christ has called us to his kingdom and glory

From a letter to the Church of Smyrna by Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr

Christ has called us to his kingdom and glory
From Ignatius, known as Theophorus, to the Church of God the Father and of Jesus Christ, his beloved, at Smyrna in Asia, wishing you all joy in an immaculate spirit and the Word of God. By his mercy you have won every gift and lack none, filled as you are with faith and love, beloved of God and fruitful in sanctity.
  I celebrate the glory of Jesus Christ as God, because he is responsible for your wisdom, well aware as I am of the perfection of your unshakable faith. You are like men who have been nailed body and soul to the cross of Jesus Christ, confirmed in love by his blood.
Image result for images: Christ has called us to his kingdom and glory  In regard to the Lord, you firmly believe that he was of the race of David according to the flesh, but God’s son by the will and power of God; truly born of the Virgin and baptized by John, that all justice might be fulfilled; truly nailed to a cross in the flesh for our sake under Pontius Pilate and the Tetrarch Herod, and of his most blessed passion we are the fruit. And thus, by his resurrection he raised up a standard over his saints and faithful ones for all time (both Jews and Gentiles alike) in the one body of his Church. For he endured all this for us, for our salvation; and he really suffered, and just as truly rose from the dead.
  As for myself, I am convinced that he was united with his body even after the resurrection. When he visited Peter and his companions, he said to them: Take hold of me, touch me and see that I am not a spirit without a body. Immediately they touched him and believed, clutching at his body and his very spirit. And for this reason they despised death and conquered it. In addition, after his resurrection, the Lord ate and drank with them like a real human being, even though in spirit he was united with his Father.
  And so I am giving you serious instruction on these things, dearly beloved, even though I am aware that you believe them to be so.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Saturday of week 3 in Ordinary Time

From the pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world of the Second Vatican Council
The mystery of death
In the face of death the enigma of human existence reaches its climax. Man is not only the victim of pain and the progressive deterioration of his body; he is also, and more deeply, tormented by the fear of final extinction. But the instinctive judgement of his heart is right when he shrinks from, and rejects, the idea of a total collapse and definitive end of his own person. He carries within him the seed of eternity, which cannot be reduced to matter alone, and so he rebels against death. All efforts of technology, however useful they may be, cannot calm his anxieties; the biological extension of his life-span cannot satisfy the desire inescapably present in his heart for a life beyond this life.
  Imagination is completely helpless when confronted with death. Yet the Church, instructed by divine revelation, affirms that man has been created by God for a destiny of happiness beyond the reach of earthly trials. Moreover, the Christian faith teaches that bodily death, to which man would not have been subject if he had not sinned, will be conquered; the almighty and merciful Saviour will restore man to the wholeness that he had lost through his own fault. God has called man, and still calls him, to be united in his whole being in perpetual communion with himself in the immortality of the divine life. This victory has been gained for us by the risen Christ, who by his own death has freed man from death.
  Faith, presented with solid arguments, offers every thinking person the answer to his questionings concerning his future destiny. At the same time, it enables him to be one in Christ with his loved ones who have been taken from him by death and gives him hope that they have entered into true life with God.
  Certainly, the Christian is faced with the necessity, and the duty, of fighting against evil through many trials, and of undergoing death. But by entering into the paschal mystery and being made like Christ in death, he will look forward, strong in hope, to the resurrection.
  This is true not only of Christians but also of all men of good will in whose heart grace is invisibly at work. Since Christ died for all men, and the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, that is, a divine vocation, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being united with this paschal mystery in a way known only to God.
  Such is the great mystery of man, enlightening believers through the Christian revelation. Through Christ and in Christ light is thrown on the enigma of pain and death which overwhelms us without his Gospel to teach us. Christ has risen, destroying death by his own death; he has given us the free gift of life so that as sons in the Son we may cry out in the Spirit, saying: Abba, Father!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Saint Angela Merici, Virgin

From the Spiritual Testament by Saint Angela Merici, virgin

He has disposed all things pleasantly
Mothers and sisters most dear to me in Christ: in the first place strive with all your power and zeal to be open. With the help of God, try to receive such good counsel that, led solely by the love of God and an eagerness to save souls, you may fulfil your charge.
  Only if the responsibilities committed to you are rooted firmly in this twofold charity will they bear beneficial and saving fruit. As our Saviour says: A good tree is not able to produce bad fruit.
  He says: A good tree, that is, a good heart as well as a soul inflamed with charity, can do nothing but good and holy works. For this reason Saint Augustine said: Love, and do what you will, namely, possess love and charity and then do what you will. It is as if he had said: Charity is not able to sin.
  I also beg you to be concerned about every one of your daughters. Bear them, so to speak, engraved upon your heart – not merely their names, but their conditions and states, whatever they may be. This will not be difficult for you if you embrace them with a living love.
  Mothers of children, even if they have a thousand, carry each and every one fixed in their hearts, and because of the strength of their love they do not forget any of them. In fact, it seems that the more children they have the more their love and care for each one is increased. Surely those who are mothers in spirit can and must act all the more in the same way, because spiritual love is more powerful than the love that comes from a blood relationship.
  Therefore, mothers most dear to me, if you love these your daughters with a living and unaffected charity, it will be impossible for you not to have each and every one of them engraved upon your memory and in your mind.
  I beg you again, strive to draw them by love, modesty, charity, and not by pride and harshness. Be sincerely kind to every one according to the words of our Lord: Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart. Thus you are imitating God, of whom it is said: He has disposed all things pleasantly. And again Jesus said: My yoke is easy and my burden is light.
  You also ought to exercise pleasantness toward all, taking great care especially that what you have commanded may never be done by reason of force. For God has given free will to everyone, and therefore he forces no one but only indicates, calls, persuades. Sometimes, however, something will have to be done with a stronger command, yet in a suitable manner and according to the state and necessities of individuals; but then also we should be impelled only by charity and zeal for souls.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Saints Timothy and Titus, Bishops

From a homily by Saint John Chrysostom, bishop

I have fought the good fight
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Though housed in a narrow prison, Paul dwelt in heaven. He accepted beatings and wounds more readily than others reach out for rewards. Sufferings he loved as much as prizes; indeed he regarded them as his prizes, and therefore called them a grace or gift. Reflect on what this means. To depart and be with Christ was certainly a reward, while remaining in the flesh meant struggle. Yet such was his longing for Christ that he wanted to defer his reward and remain amid the fight; those were his priorities.
  Now, to be separated from the company of Christ meant struggle and pain for Paul; in fact, it was a greater affliction than any struggle or pain would be. On the other hand, to be with Christ was a matchless reward. Yet, for the sake of Christ, Paul chose the separation.
  But, you may say: “Because of Christ, Paul found all this pleasant.” I cannot deny that, for he derived intense pleasure from what saddens us. I need not think only of perils and hardships. It was true even of the intense sorrow that made him cry out: Who is weak that I do not share the weakness? Who is scandalised that I am not consumed with indignation?
  I urge you not simply to admire but also to imitate this splendid example of virtue, for, if we do, we can share his crown as well.
  Are you surprised at my saying that if you have Paul’s merits, you will share that same reward? Then listen to Paul himself: I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth a crown of justice awaits me, and the Lord, who is a just judge, will give it to me on that day – and not to me alone, but to those who desire his coming. You see how he calls all to share the same glory?
  Now, since the same crown of glory is offered to all, let us eagerly strive to become worthy of these promised blessings.
Image result for images: I have fought the good fight  In thinking of Paul we should not consider only his noble and lofty virtues or the strong and ready will that disposed him for such great graces. We should also realise that he shares our nature in every respect. If we do, then even what is very difficult will seem to us easy and light; we shall work hard during the short time we have on earth and someday we shall wear the incorruptible, immortal crown. This we shall do by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom all glory and power belongs now and always through endless ages. Amen.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

From a homily by Saint John Chrysostom, bishop

For love of Christ, Paul bore every burden
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Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what man really is, and in what our nobility consists, and of what virtue this particular animal is capable. Each day he aimed ever higher; each day he rose up with greater ardour and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him. He summed up his attitude in the words: I forget what is behind me and push on to what lies ahead. When he saw death imminent, he bade others share his joy: Rejoice and be glad with me! And when danger, injustice and abuse threatened, he said: I am content with weakness, mistreatment and persecution. These he called the weapons of righteousness, thus telling us that he derived immense profit from them.
  Thus, amid the traps set for him by his enemies, with exultant heart he turned their every attack into a victory for himself; constantly beaten, abused and cursed, he boasted of it as though he were celebrating a triumphal procession and taking trophies home, and offered thanks to God for it all: Thanks be to God who is always victorious in us! This is why he was far more eager for the shameful abuse that his zeal in preaching brought upon him than we are for the most pleasing honours, more eager for death than we are for life, for poverty than we are for wealth; he yearned for toil far more than others yearn for rest after toil. The one thing he feared, indeed dreaded, was to offend God; nothing else could sway him. Therefore, the only thing he really wanted was always to please God.
  The most important thing of all to him, however, was that he knew himself to be loved by Christ. Enjoying this love, he considered himself happier than anyone else; were he without it, it would be no satisfaction to be the friend of principalities and powers. He preferred to be thus loved and be the least of all, or even to be among the damned, than to be without that love and be among the great and honoured.
  To be separated from that love was, in his eyes, the greatest and most extraordinary of torments; the pain of that loss would alone have been hell, and endless, unbearable torture.
  So too, in being loved by Christ he thought of himself as possessing life, the world, the angels, present and future, the kingdom, the promise and countless blessings. Apart from that love nothing saddened or delighted him; for nothing earthly did he regard as bitter or sweet.
  Paul set no store by the things that fill our visible world, any more than a man sets value on the withered grass of the field. As for tyrannical rulers or the people enraged against him, he paid them no more heed than gnats. Death itself and pain and whatever torments might come were but child’s play to him, provided that thereby he might bear some burden for the sake of Christ.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

From the constitution on the sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council

Christ is present to his Church
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Christ is always present to his Church, especially in the actions of the liturgy. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, in the person of the minister (it is the same Christ who formerly offered himself on the cross that now offers by the ministry of priests) and most of all under the eucharistic species. He is present in the sacraments by his power, in such a way that when someone baptizes, Christ himself baptizes. He is present in his word, for it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. Finally, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he himself promised: Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst.
  Indeed, in this great work which gives perfect glory to God and brings holiness to men, Christ is always joining in partnership with himself his beloved Bride, the Church, which calls upon its Lord and through him gives worship to the eternal Father.
Image result for images: Christ is present to his Church  It is therefore right to see the liturgy as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ, in which through signs addressed to the senses man’s sanctification is signified and, in a way proper to each of these signs, made effective, and in which public worship is celebrated in its fullness by the mystical body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the head and by his members.
  Accordingly, every liturgical celebration, as an activity of Christ the priest and of his body, which is the Church, is a sacred action of a pre-eminent kind. No other action of the Church equals its title to power or its degree of effectiveness.
  In the liturgy on earth we are given a foretaste and share in the liturgy of heaven, celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem, the goal of our pilgrimage, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, as minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle. With the whole company of heaven we sing a hymn of praise to the Lord; as we reverence the memory of the saints, we hope to have some part with them, and to share in their fellowship; we wait for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, until he, who is our life, appears, and we appear with him in glory.
  By an apostolic tradition taking its origin from the very day of Christ’s resurrection, the Church celebrates the paschal mystery every eighth day, the day that is rightly called the Lord’s day. On Sunday the Christian faithful ought to gather together, so that by listening to the word of God and sharing in the Eucharist they may recall the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God who has given them a new birth with a lively hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Lord’s day is therefore the first and greatest festival, one to be set before the loving devotion of the faithful and impressed upon it, so that it may be also a day of joy and of freedom from work. Other celebrations must not take precedence over it, unless they are truly of the greatest importance, since it is the foundation and the kernel of the whole liturgical year.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Saturday of week 2 in Ordinary Time

St Irenaeus, "Against the heresies"

The pure offering made by the Church
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The Lord taught the Church to make an offering throughout the whole world, and God accepts this as a pure sacrifice. It is not that God needs any sacrifice that we might offer, but that whoever offers something is glorified in the act of offering – if, that is, his gift is accepted. Making a gift to a king shows our honor and loyalty to him – and it was because the Lord wanted us to make our offerings in all innocence and without ulterior motives that he said: When you are offering your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there at the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, and then come back and offer your gift.
  We ought to offer to God the first fruits of his creation, as even Moses said: Do not come empty-handed into the presence of the Lord your God. Thus whatever we are grateful for, we can show our gratitude to God by gifts and receive back the honor that God can give us.
  The new law does not abolish offerings. There were offerings under the old law and there are offerings now. Then, sacrifice was made by the people, now it is made by the Church. The only change is that the sacrifice is not now offered by slaves but by free men. The Lord remains one and the same – but an offering made by a slave is of a characteristic kind, and so too is an offering made by a free man: its nature is a sign of his free status. With God, nothing is purposeless, or meaningless, or without a good reason. Thus under the old law they consecrated one tenth of their possessions, while those who have received their freedom set aside everything they have for the Lord’s use. They cheerfully and freely give more than the bare minimum because they have more than the bare minimum of hope. The poor widow put all that she possessed into the Temple treasury.
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  For we must make an offering to God, and show ourselves in every way grateful to him who made us – in purity of thought, in sincerity of faith, in fervent hope and burning love – as we offer the first fruits of the things he has created and that are his. This offering the Church makes alone to her creator, making it with gratitude from his creation.
  For we are offering him the things that are his, preaching our fellowship and union and proclaiming the resurrection of body and soul. Just as bread that comes from the earth, once the words of consecration have been said, is no longer ordinary bread but becomes the Eucharist, made of two things, earthly and heavenly, so our bodies, receiving it, are no longer corruptible but have the hope of resurrection within them.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Saint Vincent, Deacon, Martyr

A sermon of St Augustine on the feast day of St Vincent

Vincent was victorious in him by whom the world was vanquished
To you, said the Apostle Paul, it has been granted for Christ, not only to believe in him, 
 in your own powers when suffering trials or temptations; because it is from him that we have the wisdom to speak good things wisely, from him the patience to endure bad things bravely.
  Call to mind the Lord Christ warning and encouraging his disciples in the gospel; call to mind the king of martyrs equipping his troops with spiritual weapons, indicating the wars to be fought, lending assistance, promising rewards; first saying to his disciples, In this world you will have distress; then immediately adding words that would allay their terrors: But have confidence: I myself have vanquished the world.
  So why should we be surprised, dearly beloved, if Vincent was victorious in him by whom the world was vanquished? In this world, he says, you will have distress; such that, even if it distresses, it cannot oppress you; even if it knocks you down, it cannot knock you out. The world mounts a double attack on the soldiers of Christ. It wheedles in order to lead them astray; but it also terrifies, in order to break them. Let us not be held fast by our own pleasures, let us not be terrified by someone else’s cruelty, and the world has been vanquished.
  At each attack, Christ comes running to the defence, and the Christian is not vanquished. If, in this passion of Vincent’s, one only gave thought to human powers of endurance, it would begin to look unbelievable; but if one acknowledges divine power, it ceases even to be wonderful.
  Such hideous cruelty was being unleashed on the martyr’s body, and such calm serenity was displayed in his voice; such harsh, savage punishments being applied to his limbs, but such assurance echoing in his words, that we would have imagined that in some marvellous way, while Vincent was suffering, that it was someone else and not the speaker that was being tortured.
  And indeed, my dearest brethren, that is how it was; undoubtedly that is how it was: someone else was speaking. Christ, you see, promised even this to his witnesses in the gospel, when he was preparing them for this sort of contest. For he said: Do not think beforehand about how or what you are to speak. For it is not you that are speaking, but the Spirit of my Father who is speaking in you.
  So the flesh was suffering, and the Spirit was speaking. And while the Spirit was speaking, not only was ungodliness being confounded and convicted, but weakness was even being strengthened and comforte

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Saint Agnes, Virgin, Martyr

From a treatise On Virgins by Saint Ambrose, bishop

 Image result for saint agnes martyr
Too young to be punished, yet old enough for a martyr's crown
Today is the birthday of a virgin; let us imitate her purity. It is the birthday of a martyr; let us offer ourselves in sacrifice. It is the birthday of Saint Agnes, who is said to have suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve. The cruelty that did not spare her youth shows all the more clearly the power of faith in finding one so young to bear it witness.
  There was little or no room in that small body for a wound. Though she could scarcely receive the blow, she could rise superior to it. Girls of her age cannot bear even their parents’ frowns and, pricked by a needle, weep as for a serious wound. Yet she shows no fear of the blood-stained hands of her executioners. She stands undaunted by heavy, clanking chains. She offers her whole body to be put to the sword by fierce soldiers. She is too young to know of death, yet is ready to face it. Dragged against her will to the altars, she stretches out her hands to the Lord in the midst of the flames, making the triumphant sign of Christ the victor on the altars of sacrilege. She puts her neck and hands in iron chains, but no chain can hold fast her tiny limbs.
  A new kind of martyrdom! Too young to be punished, yet old enough for a martyr’s crown; unfitted for the contest, yet effortless in victory, she shows herself a master in valor despite the handicap of youth. As a bride she would not be hastening to join her husband with the same joy she shows as a virgin on her way to punishment, crowned not with flowers but with holiness of life, adorned not with braided hair but with Christ himself.
  In the midst of tears, she sheds no tears herself. The crowds marvel at her recklessness in throwing away her life untasted, as if she had already lived life to the full. All are amazed that one not yet of legal age can give her testimony to God. So she succeeds in convincing others of her testimony about God, though her testimony in human affairs could not yet be accepted. What is beyond the power of nature, they argue, must come from its creator.
  What menaces there were from the executioner, to frighten her; what promises made, to win her over; what influential people desired her in marriage! She answered: “To hope that any other will please me does wrong to my Spouse. I will be his who first chose me for himself. Executioner, why do you delay? If eyes that I do not want can desire this body, then let it perish.” She stood still, she prayed, she offered her neck.
  You could see fear in the eyes of the executioner, as if he were the one condemned; his right hand trembled, his face grew pale as he saw the girl’s peril, while she had no fear for herself. One victim, but a twin martyrdom, to modesty and to religion; Agnes preserved her virginity, and gained a martyr’s crown.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Saint Sebastian, Martyr

From an exposition of psalm 118 by Saint Ambrose, bishop

Faithful witnessing to Christ
To enter the kingdom of God we must endure many tribulations. If there are many persecutions, there are many testings; where there are many crowns of victory, there are many trials of strength. It is then to your advantage if there are many persecutors; among many persecutions you may more easily find a path to victory.
  Take the example of the martyr Sebastian, whose birthday in glory we celebrate today. He was a native of Milan. At a time when persecution either had ceased or had not yet begun or was of a milder kind, he realized that there was only slight, if any, opportunity for suffering. He set out for Rome, where bitter persecutions were raging because of the fervor of the Christians. There he endured suffering; there he gained his crown. He went to the city as a stranger and there established a home of undying glory. If there had been only one persecutor, he would not have gained a martyr’s crown.
  The persecutors who are visible are not the only ones. There are also invisible persecutors, much greater in number. This is more serious. Like a king bent on persecution, sending orders to persecute to his many agents, and establishing different persecutors in each city or province, the devil directs his many servants in their work of persecution, whether in public or in the souls of individuals. Of this kind of persecution Scripture says: All who wish to live a holy life in Christ Jesus suffer persecution. “All” suffer persecution; there is no exception. Who can claim exemption if the Lord himself endured the testing of persecution? How many there are today who are secret martyrs for Christ, giving testimony to Jesus as Lord! The Apostle knew this kind of martyrdom, this faithful witnessing to Christ; he said: This is our boast, the testimony of our conscience.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Blessed are the merciful for they shall recieve mercy

Dear friends,
There have been so many interruptions trying to keep this Blog going during the past year but just a few days ago, three donors have given Nazareth Hermitage an iPad and that will make this work a lot simpler.

I want to send this letter out in case any readers might want to assist in the work going on here at Nazareth Hermitage. Please read and then do what the Lord tells you to do!

Image result for images of pope francis with the sick 

Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy!  

Being called to serve Our Lord Jesus Christ by serving the sick poor in The Gambia is such a blessed gift to me. The folks we care for are so happy that we can help. Most poor people have no options. If they or one of their family become ill and they don't have money to get any help they just don't get help. I often see folks here waiting around large delivery trucks hauling rice. When rice falls out of the bags the old women pick up each piece off the street until they have a little amount to cook for their meal. These are the forgotten people. When newscasters report that 500 villagers were killed somewhere, no one blinks an eye and yet if the president's wife wears a new marigold colored dress it is a major news event. "Where has all the mercy gone, long time passing"........ When a mother brings a child to the hermitage who has been severely burned, we can see the desperation in her eyes. After examining the child we have to tell her that her child needs more care than we can offer and that she should go to the big hospital in the capital city.  Because she has no money she cannot take a bush taxi to the hospital and even if she did she still has no money for medicines. The mother wraps her child up puts her on her back and heads back to her home. We just can't let her go so we call her back and explain that we can give the child medicine and do our best with the burned area. That is her only hope and then the Merciful Lord begins his healing power. The Lord never fails.
In November I became ill and I would lose my balance and fall on my head or other selective part. One of my falls was right into the wet compost heap. It was a lesson to me comparing Job sitting on the dung heap. There are some residual problems that I will have looked at when I go to New Mexico in March..
A few weeks ago, I was given a return ticket airfare to New Mexico so I could recharge my spiritual battery at Christ in the Desert Abbey. Though I follow a Franciscan way of life my heart stays close to the Benedictines. I will be going to New Mexico just before Holy Easter and make a three week retreat in the Abbey and then go back down to Santa Fe for three more weeks for one or two medical consults and also, and most important, begging for funds to allow me to purchase and send back medicines to the hermitage in Gambia. There are many medicines and supplies we need that are not available in Gambia at this time.
So now I will begin by begging you to be merciful to the sick poor villagers and send a donation to help us help them. Blessed are the Merciful!
Please send donations as follows:
1. Make check payable to Monastery of Christ in the Desert
2. Memo on check must read: Nazareth hermitage/Gambia sick poor
(My name must not be on the check)
3. Send to:
Monastery of Christ in the Desert
St. Paul's hermitage
PO Box 270
Abiquiu, New Mexico. 87510

In this year of Mercy, I beg for your help. If you are unable to help please ask others to help us.
Please do not post this notice on Facebook or any social networks!

My love and prayers

Brother dismas Mary of the Cross