The Gospel of Matthew 5: 43-48 Reading for June 20th

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43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

During these days of Ordinary time, we draw to a close in the reading of Matthew’s Gospel…more commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount. Today’s Gospel reading is an explanation of how we as Christians are supposed to live. Jesus is not just talking to His apostles…He is not just speaking to a ‘few good men’…no; when Christ says : “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” He is speaking to all of us…to you…to me…He wishes for all of us to reach perfection.

But we are human…stained with original sin, and our inclinations tend to lead us away from this perfection, and instead we are more prone to retort this with, “Hey, nobody’s perfect…’You can’t expect me to be perfect’…’I’m only human after all’…” We’ve heard all these sayings before. Heck, we’ve probably even said them before…But the fact is, God wants us to be perfect. That is why He gave us the Sacred Scripture. In it, He is calling each of us to holiness…and the fullness of charity.

Christ wishes for all to be sanctified. All who approach Him…no matter what their station in  this life…All must strive to follow the Father. We are not perfect on our own…we never will be… but we must rely on our Father in Heaven to give us the graces we need. Our perfection comes from God’s perfection. He will give us what we need to achieve our way to Heaven… He has the power to change the hearts and minds of all men…we just need to be open to His gifts of Sanctifying grace.

In following Christ, there is no call for mediocrity… no call for lukewarmness, but there is a call to love, a call to be a Light of Christ… There is a call to set the world on fire for the Lord. The Lord wants us to be heroic. In whatever we do, whether or not we are called to be martyrs….everything we do should be done with the one desire of pleasing God…and that means being a hero for Christ…in all things. The mundane tasks that fill our days, or perhaps the daring travels we may undertake to share Christ’s word with the oppressed…whatever we are called to do… offer each task for God, and He will grace you with perfection. Now, it may not be perfection as the world judges perfection…but it will be God’s perfection within us…each of us…no matter what…

Sanctification is within each of our grasps. Whatever we are…a child…a teacher… whether we are single or married, a mother or a father…whether we are a doctor or a lawyer… or perhaps one who labors in the fields or collects the trash….Whatever walk or vocation in this life, God will give us the graces we need to walk the path to holiness…

God is calling each of us to holiness, wherever we are…In our families…our towns…our countries…He wants all of us to be holy in whatever circumstances…in sickness or in good health…in poverty or in wealth…in peace or in war….whether in happiness or sadness…God wants holiness. There is no circumstance that man can face, that God will not use to aid him in becoming holy. God created us to be saints. Period. There is no denying that fact. We were created to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him so that we can be happy with Him in this world and the next. That’s sainthood. Being in heaven with God. Nothing else we can ever do do will compare with that.

Of course, we must be on guard and fight the inclinations of the world that tend to pull us away from this path…It is a difficult journey for many. The world is full of countless, empty pleasures that distract…We must work hard in whatever we do. Everything can be offered to the Lord. As long as it is done well and with the purpose of bringing glory to the Lord. So whether you spend your day  fighting for the oppressed or if you spend your day changing dirty diapers and mopping up messes…there is a path to sanctification for every vocation.

We must ask the Lord to help us everyday…That means making time for prayer…and uniting ourselves to the Will of the Father…in all things. If we constantly look at our lives with the eyes of man...If we measure our worth against the world….we will always fall short. We will begin to feel that perhaps we weren’t meant for greatness…we will lose hope and begin to separate ourselves from the One who can make it all possible. And because we are weak on our own, we will fill our lives with every excuse of why we aren’t striving right here and right now for our sanctification. It happens all the time. We like to procrastinate…we like things easy…I know….believe me..I know…

God also knows. That is why He sent His only begotten Son to earth. To teach us about our Father in Heaven. That is why He created the Church and gave us all the wondrous teachings that are the foundation of this great institution. And that is why He gave us Jesus in the Eucharist, to help us maintain our purpose…our focus… on things that are not of this world…on things that are of Heaven…our sanctification included. We will not get to Heaven because of the world. We will get to Heaven despite it. Only God can give us the graces we need to journey that path and enter into our eternal reward with Him. But God is awesome...He wants great things for all of us...whether we realize it or not.

Remember, as you go through your day, there has never been better time to love God with all of your heart…all of your mind…all of your being….than now…this very moment...for with Jesus, everything is made perfect…everything is made new.

 

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Feast of the Corpus Christi – The Body and Blood of Christ

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The Feast of the Corpus Christi is the liturgical solemnity that celebrates the reality of the Eucharist being the actual Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, as given to  man on Holy Thursday at the Last Supper by Christ Himself. It has been celebrated since the 13th century.

 

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1 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;
54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.
58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.”

Gospel: John 6:51-58

 

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There is a great website that has a beautiful article posted on the celebration and how the Feast was instituted. A link to the page can be found here.

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MOST Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifference by which He is offended. And through the infinite merit of His Most Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners.

Happy Feast Day!

 

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Saint Aquilina – Martyr of Syria – June 13th

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Throughout the history of the Church we have encountered many young children and many young adults, who were willing to forgo the  pleasures of the world…and were willing to sacrifice their comfortable lives and suffer great pains for their love of the Lord and the Christian Faith. Many of them tread into dangerous lands…leaving the safety and security of their family behind.  Once these young saints learned about Christ and heard the Truth He came to share…They were willing to lay it all on the line…They were willing to follow His example, and live as a contradiction to the lure of the world and all it’s false promises. These young saints were filled with God’s grace and with the Lord’s help, were able to find the courage they needed for standing in defense of this same Truth…the Christian Faith... Through prayer, many of them were able to detach themselves from the things of the world…uniting themselves instead, to the Lord…and to Christ and His suffering on the Cross...

But times have changed… It seems not a day goes by in which we are  not being bombarded with stories of college students who are ill equipped to handle the everyday pressures that come with being young adults… We watch as they tell the world they need ‘safe spaces’…and that they are unable to cope with what is going on in the world… Many of the young people we see on the evening news describe themselves as ‘fragile’. They haven’t a clue about the True reason they were created…They haven’t been taught about their soul…about God…and His gifts…for them... Without this knowledge, they are unprepared to face anything that doesn’t make them feel ‘loved’… The funny thing is…  they don’t even know what the word means...They have no concept of God…or His Love… They have no concept of anything outside of themselves…and they are afraid…

As we read about martyrs, and other young saints whose very lives were devoted to the Faith,  it is quite comforting to know that there still may be hope… That just maybe, by sharing these forgotten stories about the real life heroics of these young saints and how they embraced the Truth for what it really is, we may be able to help some of our young people understand that they too, were in fact, created for far greater things! If as parents we put more emphasis on teaching our children about the reality of God, we could prepare them…we could help change the way they view the world…and more importantly…their place in it…and their place in the heart of God…a Father who loves them very much….

Sadly, many of today’s young adults don’t have any idea of the past. And unfortunately many are being raised without the Faith, raised in homes that are void of the truth that can only be learned from the knowledge of God, and His Supreme Truth.  I could go on…but, that shall have to wait for another day…Because today, I wish to share the story of a young girl who had more courage and resolve in her short life than most adults have today. Her name was Aquilina, and she was martyred for the Faith.

Aquilina was a native of the Phoenician city of Byblos, who suffered under the Emperor Diocletian. She was raised in a family with Christian values. Her mother was a major influence in developing her Christian faith. Unfortunately, her father wasn’t as strong a man, and when the going got tough,  he refused to take a stand for his daughter…he failed to be the man that God intended him to be… leaving his daughter to suffer in the wretched hands of the Muslims who tortured her.

When she was only 12 years old, she convinced one of her pagan friends to convert to Christ. This upset one of the servants of the Imperial Governor Volusian, and he accused her of teaching others not to follow the religion of their fathers. When taken before the governor, she firmly confessed her faith in Christ. She swore that she would not renounce Christ. This upset Volusian, and over the years, he  tried to influence the young confessor through persuasion and by flattery, but seeing her confidence, he set forth an order, that she was to be tortured.

At first they struck her upon the face, striking her with blows…hoping to break her will. When that didn’t work, they then stripped her of her clothing and beat her bare body with whips. Flesh was torn from her body, but with God’s grace she endured the agony. As the abuse continued, the torturer asked her,  “Where then is your God? Let Him come and take you out of my hands”.

The saint answered, “The Lord is here with me invisibly, and the more I suffer, the more strength and endurance will He give me.”

The physical abuse continued as they drilled through the martyr’s ears with heated metal rods. Due the excruciating pain, the holy virgin fell down, it appeared as if she were dead. The torturer, thinking that the girl had actually died, gave orders to throw her body outside the city to be eaten by wild dogs. But that night a holy angel appeared to Saint Aquilina, rousing her, he said, “Arise and be healed. Go and denounce Volusian, so that his plans may come to nothing.”

The young martyr went to the court of the governor and stood before Volusian. He called once again for her to renounce her Christian Faith and become a Muslim. She answered him by saying:

“Perhaps you think that I have the same little faith as yourself to deny my Maker and Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ Who submitted to the cross and death for our sake? I refuse. I am prepared to undergo the woeful torment, even death, for the love of Christ.Angered at the resolve of Saint Aquilina, and her message, he called for his servants, ordering them to keep watch over her until morning.

In the morning he had Saint Aquilina brought before him. He said that since she was not dead, she must be a sorceress. And because she did not obey the imperial decrees, which he had set forth, he sentenced her to death.  When they led the young saint to her execution, she prayed and gave thanks to God for allowing her to suffer for His Holy Name. A loud voice was heard in answer to her prayer, summoning her to the heavenly Kingdom. Before the executioner could carry out the sentence of death, the martyr gave up her spirit to God. The executioner fearing that his disobedience might cause the Governor to inflict punishment upon him, he carried out his order, and cut off the young girl’s head, even though she was already dead.

Christians gathered her body, and  piously buried the young martyr, hiding her body from the Muslims, whom they feared would destroy it. Many years later, her relics were carried to Constantinople and set in a place of honor, in a church which was named for her. She was 18 years old at the time of her death.

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Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua- June 13th

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Saint Anthony may well be one of the most familiar of all the saints to the Catholic faithful. It seems that everyone has invoked this holy saint at one time or another for help with finding something that had been lost or misplaced….but there is much more to this Holy Saint as we shall soon discover…

Born to a wealthy but pious family in Lisbon Portugal, and baptized with the name Ferdinand, his family wished that he become a wealthy nobleman, but God had other plans for the young lad. At the age of 15 he gave up on his family’s desire that he seek wealth and power, that would have been his, and instead joined the Augustinian Order.

After just two years of study, he requested to be moved to a convent that was further from his home, as he was frequently distracted by visits from his family and friends. He was granted his request and moved to the Convent of Santa Croce in Cóimbra in the year 1212. He remained there for eight years, immersing himself in his studies and developing his prayer life. Having been gifted with an excellent memory and the gift of understanding, he was able to gather a treasure trove of information from the writings of the Holy Fathers and became quite versed in theological knowledge.

In 1220, his heart was stirred by the blood of martyrs. He watched as the bodies of the first Franciscan martyrs, who had suffered death in Morocco, were returned to the Church of Santa Croce, and carried through the monastery were he was serving. His heart became inflamed with the desire of martyrdom, and he resolved to become a Friar Minor, so that he might be able to travel to unruly lands and preach the Faith to the Moors, suffering for Christ’s sake, perhaps even giving his life. In 1221, he joined the Franciscan Order and took the name Anthony.

Soon after joining the Order, as he was preparing to sail for Morocco, he was stricken with a severe illness…God’s plan for Anthony was starting to reveal itself… He was unable to travel to Morocco and set sail for Portugal. However, the ship was overtaken by violent storms and he landed upon the coast of Italy, where he remained for some time until he was able to regain his health. While he recuperated, he read, prayed and continued his studies of the Sacred Scriptures…unbeknownst to AnthonyGod was continuing to prepare him for his future task.

During this time, as Anthony was living his quiet life, an Ordination was planned for the Franciscans and the Dominicans. Through some oversight of the planner, no one was appointed to preach. Though the superior approached the Dominicans, each of them declined, as they were not sufficiently prepared. in a last ditch effort to have someone preach, the Superior turned to Anthony and forced him to speak. Out of obedience, Anthony complied. Though it started out roughly…the more Anthony spoke, the more impassioned he became…the Holy Spirit was moving through him. Soon he was explaining the most hidden sense of Holy Scripture with eloquence and expertise that all assembled were struck with amazement. From that day onward, St. Anthony became one of God’s greatest teachers, speaking in front of vast numbers of Faithful spreading the Word of God throughout the lands….sealing his fate as one of the great Doctor’s of the Church.

With great zeal, Anthony preached to the masses, often confronting heresies and converting many with his sincerity and holiness. He was often called ‘Malleus hereticorum’ or Hammer of the Heretics. He spoke to all with the same air of Truth…rich and poor alike, often bringing the people to feel a true sorrow for their sins without harshness. With his gift of oration, he was able to convey the Good News of the Lord and bring many into the Faith. At one point he was called to preach Catholic doctrine to the Albigensian, who were a heretical group in the southern part of France during the 12th and 13th centuries who believed everything in the material world was evil. With his sincerity and holiness, he converted many back to the True teachings of the Church.

Many miracles surrounded St. Anthony. One such miracle was when a group of heretics had poisoned his food, which became in-noxious as St. Anthony blessed it with the sign of the Cross. One of the most noted miracles was the apparition of the Infant Jesus to St. Anthony.  French writers say it took place in the province of Limousin at the Castle of chateauneuf – las- Forêt, between Limoges and Eymoutiers. However, Italian writers say it happened near Padua. Either way, one evening when St. Anthony was reading and studying Bible Scripture, the Baby Jesus appeared on top of the Bible pages, which was cradled in St. Anthony’s hands. The Infant Jesus, reached up and caressed St. Anthony’s face in a loving manner.

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Eventually, St. Anthony found his way to Padua where he settled. He continued to preach and write. When he was 36, he was stricken again with a severe illness, only this time he did not recover. On June 13th, 1231, he died in Padua. Only one short year later, he was declared a saint.

 

Unfailing Prayer to St. Anthony

Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints

St. Anthony, gentlest of Saints, your love for God and charity for his creatures, made you worthy, when on earth, to possess miraculous powers. Miracles waited on your word, which you were ready to speak for those in trouble or anxiety. Encouraged by this thought, I ask you to obtain for me the favors that I seek (mention your request here).

The answer to my prayer may require a miracle, even so, you are the Saint of Miracles.

O gentle and loving St. Anthony, whose heart was full of sympathy, whisper my petition into the ears of the Infant Jesus, who loved to be held in your arms; and the gratitude of my heart will ever be yours.

Amen 

 

 

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Feast of the Most Holy Trinity- Sunday after Pentecost

Blessed Trinity

 

Today in the Holy Catholic Church we celebrate the very essence of the Christian Faith…the Trinity…As Christians we believe that God is One Person in Three Natures…God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit...All equally God…A God that cannot be divided! As humans, we cannot wrap our heads around this…Yet, it is a tenant of our Faith that we Must believe… “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit… Amen.

The feast of the Holy Trinity reminds the Faithful that the Three Persons of God are Equal and cannot be separated from one another. In fact, each Sunday we are reminded of this very thing…in the Nicene Creed, and other prayers we recite on a regular basis, we are constantly declaring this to be True. And it is... But the feast of the Holy Trinity also reminds us that we have a dynamic God who loves us…and even though we are not able to comprehend His ultimate nature, we know that He is a loving God Who chooses to interact with us on a daily basis. The truth of the Holy Trinity shows us, that God is a loving God, Who is willing to become as we are…so that we may become like Him. God offered us Himself  in the person of Jesus, so that we could be fully redeemed. As St. Athanasius said,  “that which has not been assumed has not been redeemed.” If God had not come to us as Jesus, mankind could not have been redeemed…because only God Himself was capable of truly redeeming humanity. No other creature could have done this. Only one God…God, the Father…God, the Son…and God, the Holy Spirit...So today, as we contemplate the Holy Trinity, let us remember that the Trinity is at the very heart of our salvation.

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Saint Anthony Mary Gianelli – June 7th

As we continue to encounter new saints…we discover that there are many saints who even prior to their birth were being prepared for the great task that God had planned for them… they loved God from their very beginnings…Some of these saints just shine…Their light is so bright, that even as children they were already being recognized for their holiness. Saint Anthony Mary Gianelli was one such saint.

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Anthony Mary Gianelli was born in 1789 to a poor but pious farming family near Genoa in the northern part of Italy. His mother taught catechism and his father was known throughout the town as a generous peace-maker. As a child, people recognized his extraordinary intelligence and were impressed by his gentle nature. Anthony was proving himself to be such a promising student that the woman who owned the farm that the family was working on, became his benefactress and financed his schooling. She then paid for his tuition into the ecclesiastical seminary in Genoa.

As he continued his education, his virtue and eloquence as a speaker continued to grow and separated him from the rank of students, thus he was allowed the special privilege of being able to preach while still a sub-deacon. Then when he was just twenty three years old, he was granted a special dispensation to be ordained a priest, two years before reaching the required age of twenty five.

Father Anthony devoted himself fully to his mission as a priest, serving his flock with upmost care, yet, still finding time to continue with his educational work, as well as developing his preaching skills. He worked tirelessly hosting missions and evangelizing… harvesting many souls for the Faith… for Christ. In addition to his missions, he labored at the required duties of a parish priest. Often times spending hours on end in the confessional, wishing to make himself available to the long lines of penitents who flocked to him for spiritual guidance.

Another of his endeavors, was that he started several religious communities, two of which lasted for twenty years; The Missionaries of St. Alphonsus which he founded in 1827, and lasted until 1848.  In 1828, he founded The Oblates of St. Alphonsus, which also ended in 1848.

In 1829 he founded The Sisters of Our Lady of the Garden, which is presently called Daughters of Our Lady of the Garden, which continues to operate in the United States, Europe and Asia, serving the poor and infirm. They also devote their time to teaching children.

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In 1838, he was ordained a bishop and appointed to the diocese Bibbio in Italy. He led his diocese by his example of extraordinary virtue, and prudence. He actively worked to restore devotions and lead the faithful with a firm, yet gentle hand. He was widely liked and became known as the “People’s Bishop.”  He was very active, organizing two Synods, while at the same time devoting his time traveling between the parishes in in his diocese. After nine years of serving as bishop, he became very ill  with a high fever.  In 1846, he passed away at the age of 57.

In 1925, he was Beatified by Pope Pius XI, by decree of heroic virtue, and was later Canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1951.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Remembering the Lesser Known Saints of Heaven

 

Six months into this, and it still surprises me, how little I know of the lives of saints. I mean sure, there are those saints that everyone has heard of, whether they are Catholic or not….St. Patrick…St. Valentine…St. Francis of Assisi...St. Nicholas. And then there are the saints that most Catholics know; Saint Theresa the Little Flower, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Saint Maria Goretti, Saint Anthony of Padua… you get the idea. Saints.jpgWell in addition to those, there are the numerous saints that very little is known about, and to even try to learn about them, is very difficult. Some days, as I do research for this blog, I imagine myself sitting in the back room of an old, ancient library, flipping through the pages of  ancient books in some foreign text…with dust flying everywherejust trying to scrape together enough information to create a balanced picture of the day’s saint…without losing the important aspects of their life… Since there are so many saints that deserve to be remembered… sometimes I forgo the more widely known saint of the day and try to research these other lesser known saints, those men and women who lived their lives in holiness and served God in their quite corner of the world…and the sometimes, not so quiet corner

These are the saints that are tucked away in the history pages of the  Catholic Church…Those often forgotten souls who displayed heroic virtue in the face of so much vice…So if you’ve ever wondered, “Well, who the heck is that???” Keep checking back…It is my hope that with the continuation of this blog, that I can do my small part to shine a little light back onto the virtuous lives of these lesser known, yet still very, Holy souls. They are in fact a vital part of the Church body. They have volumes to teach us about the Faith and about remaining steadfast in the face of adverse measures. We, the Church Militant can learn a lot from them…they are a shining beacon for us…a Light of Christ…in this sometimes dim and dismal world. So instead of losing hope, let us learn from this vast history of the saints, and let us open our hearts…and a bit of our mind…to these members of the Holy Church Triumphant.

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