Today we celebrate St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist. He is the man referred to in the Gospels as “the beloved disciple”. He is also the one who stood at the foot of the cross with Mary and to whom Jesus said to Mary, “here is your son”. Jesus then said to John, “here is your mother”. There is no doubt that there is something very special about John and his relationship to Jesus and Mary. When you compare the four Gospels, the Gospel of St. John stands out for his deep theological wonders. John starts his Gospel by saying: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” John reveals the true nature of Jesus, long before the incarnation. I thought that since we have just celebrated Christmas, God becoming man, we could look at St. John’s reflection on the Word made flesh. To do this please read over 1 John 1:1-2:3 and then read the following written by St. Augustine.
|A treatise by St Augustine on the epistle of John – The flesh revealed Life itself|
We announce what existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have touched with our own hands. Who could touch the Word with his hands unless the Word was made flesh and lived among us?
Now this Word, whose flesh was so real that he could be touched by human hands, began to be flesh in the Virgin Mary’s womb; but he did not begin to exist at that moment. We know this from what John says: What existed from the beginning. Notice how John’s letter bears witness to his Gospel, which you just heard a moment ago: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.
Someone might interpret the phrase the Word of life to mean a word about Christ, rather than Christ’s body itself which was touched by human hands. But consider what comes next: and life itself was revealed. Christ therefore is himself the Word of life.
And how was this life revealed? It existed from the beginning, but was not revealed to men, only to angels, who looked upon it and feasted upon it as their own spiritual bread. But what does Scripture say? Mankind ate the bread of angels.
Life itself was therefore revealed in the flesh. In this way what was visible to the heart alone could become visible also to the eye, and so heal men’s hearts. For the Word is visible to the heart alone, while flesh is visible to bodily eyes as well. We already possessed the means to see the flesh, but we had no means of seeing the Word. The Word was made flesh so that we could see it, to heal the part of us by which we could see the Word.
John continues: And we are witnesses and we proclaim to you that eternal life which was with the Father and has been revealed among us – one might say more simply “revealed to us.”
We proclaim to you what we have heard and seen. Make sure that you grasp the meaning of these words. The disciples saw our Lord in the flesh, face to face; they heard the words he spoke, and in turn they proclaimed the message to us. So we also have heard, although we have not seen.
Are we then less favoured than those who both saw and heard? If that were so, why should John add: so that you too may have fellowship with us? They saw, and we have not seen; yet we have fellowship with them, because we and they share the same faith.
And our fellowship is with God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son. And we write this to you to make your joy complete – complete in that fellowship, in that love and in that unity.
Lord Jesus, thank you for giving us the gift of St. John. May we always read his Gospel in wonder and awe. May we also be as fervent in spreading the Good News, as he was.
Saint Peter Canisius was born on May 8, 1521 in the Netherlands. His father was the mayor of their town and his mother died shortly after his birth. Peter’s father arranged for him to have an excellent education studying the arts, civil law and theology. Although his father wanted him to marry a wealthy woman, Peter swore a vow of celibacy in 1540. He studied with Saint Peter Faber and in 1543 entered the Society of Jesus. He loved the Jesuits and considered his entrance date in to the order as his second birthday. He loved the Church and was very concerned with what was happening in Germany in the Protestant Reformation.
Saint Peter spent a great deal of his time in trying to call Protestants back in to the Church. He did this in a very loving and gentle manner. He wrote to one of his Jesuit leaders, “It is plainly wrong to meet non-Catholics with bitterness or to treat them with discourtesy. For this is nothing else than the reverse of Christ’s example because it breaks the bruised reed and quenches the smoking flax. We ought to instruct with meekness those whom heresy has made bitter and suspicious, and has estranged from orthodox Catholics, especially from our fellow Jesuits. Thus, by whole-hearted charity and good will we may win them over to us in the Lord.” His gentle manner and great preaching helped bring many Protestants back to the Church.
Saint Peter Canisius loved education and learning and was responsible for revitalizing many Universities. He even founded new ones at Prague and Fribourg. He was also very active in trying to publish Catholic writings. He wrote and published a Catechism that was so popular that it was translated in to 200 languages and helped to launch the Catholic press. Saint Peter was so regarded as a Theologian that he spoke twice at the Ecclesiastical Council at Trent.
Saint Peter Canisius was also a man of the people. He traveled around preaching and teaching and converting many souls. He has been called the 2nd Apostle of Germany. He ministered to many who were sick with the plague. Before his death in 1597, it is estimated that he covered over 20,000 miles on foot or horseback. After his death, there were many reports of miracles attributed to those who prayed for his intercession.
Quotes from St. Peter Canisius:
Let my eyes take their sleep, but may my heart always keep watch for you. May your right hand bless your servants who love you.
May I be united with the praise that flows from you, Lord Jesus, to all your saints; united with the gratitude drawn from your heart, good Jesus, that causes your saints to thank you; united with your passion, good Jesus, by which you took away our guilt; united with the divine longing that you had on earth for our salvation; united with every prayer that welled from your divine heart, good Jesus, and flowed into the hearts of your saints.
For the sake of obtaining that eternal life no works of piety ought to seem too hard to a true believer, no toil too heavy, no pain too bitter, no time spent in labor and suffering too long or too wearisome. For if nothing is sweeter or more desirable than this present life which is so full of calamities, how much more desirable must that other life be deemed which is so far removed from all sense of evil or fear of it, which will in every conceivable way always abound in the unspeakable and unending joys, delight and happiness of heaven.
Better that only a few Catholics should be left, staunch and sincere in their religion, than that they should, remaining many, desire as it were, to be in collusion with the Church’s enemies and in conformity with the open foes of our faith.
We are to pray as though everything depended on God, but work as though everything depended on us, we do have a free will.
If you have too much to do, with God’s help, you will find time to do it all.
THE “O” ANTIPHONS – Deacon Marty McIndoe
The Roman Church has been singing the “O” Antiphons since at least the eighth century. They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from December 17-23. They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative “Come!” embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.
Here are the traditional “O” antiphons for each day. Please note – I wrote this originally for Epic Pew last December. If you go to their site and search for O Antiphons you will see the original WITH pictures and drawings. Check them out at http://epicpew.com/
O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge!
O Leader of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai: come to rescue us with your mighty power!
O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people: come to save us without delay!
O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness!
O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.
O King of all nations and keystone of the Church: come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!
COME LORD JESUS
St John of the Cross
St. John of the Cross was born in 1542 in Spain. He learned self sacrificial love from a very young age. His father came from rich Nobility but fell in love with a commoner. His father married this common young daughter of a seamstress and in doing so gave up all of his wealth and titles of nobility. Unfortunately, his father died when John was quite young, and John’s mother had to work hard and sacrifice a great deal in order to feed her family. They lived a very poor existence.
John did well in school, but when sent to an apprenticeship, he didn’t do well. He then began working in a hospital for the poor and cared for patients with incurable illnesses and mental health problems. He ministered to these patients learning that from poverty and suffering he could find the beauty of God.
John joined the Carmelite order but desired a more prayerful place then they had. He desired to reform the order to its previous rules. He met St. Teresa of Avila and together they worked to reform the order. Unfortunately, some of his brother Carmelites felt threatened by this reform and they locked St. John in a cell and beat him regularly. There was only one tiny window in the cell but even in that unbearable dark, cold and desolation, his love and faith of God brought him comfort. He composed many poems in this cell. After some time, he finally escaped and went on to another monastery. Because of all the sufferings he had during his lifetime, he began calling himself John of the Cross. His love for Jesus and the Cross gave him the power to write many poems and books and other writings. Today the Church considers him a Mystic, and his writings reflect his mysticism. Some of his writings are, “The Ascent of Mount Carmel”; “The Dark Night of the Soul”; “The Spiritual Canticle”; “O Living Flame of Love”;”A Collection of Spiritual Maxims” and several letters and poems. All of these are considered spiritual classics.
I have put together some of his quotes:
“Strive to preserve your heart in peace; let no event of this world disturb it.”
“The endurance of darkness is the preparation for great light.”
“The soul that is quick to turn to speaking and conversing is slow to turn to God.”
“It is best to learn to silence the faculties and to cause them to be still so that God may speak.”
“Who teaches the soul if not God?”
“What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language he best hears is silent love.”
Faith “is like the feet wherewith the soul journeys to God, and love is the guide that directs it.”
“Contemplation is nothing else but a secret, peaceful, and loving infusion of God, which if admitted, will set the soul on fire with the Spirit of love.”
“Take God for your spouse and friend and walk with him continually, and you will not sin and will learn to love, and the things you must do will work out prosperously for you.”
Advent Saints – St. Lucy by Deacon Marty McIndoe
During this Advent season we see that each day gets shorter until we reach the Winter Solstice. There is more darkness and less light. During Advent we celebrate light, by lighting the Advent candles and awaiting Jesus, the Light of the World. December 13th we celebrate the Advent Saint of Light, St. Lucy. She was born in the late 200’s and died in 304 as a Martyr. There are many legends about her and it is difficult to know exactly how true they all are, but at the very least, she was a young Sicilian girl who gave herself to Jesus as a Virgin. She was killed for her decision to follow Jesus.
It appears that St. Lucy had a mother who arranged a marriage for her to a pagan man, but St. Lucy said that she wanted to remain a Virgin and give herself completely to Jesus. Since her mother was very stubborn about this and pushed Lucy towards marriage, Lucy turned in prayer to St. Agatha for assistance. St. Agatha appeared to Lucy and told her that she could persuade her mother by showing her the power of Jesus. St. Agatha said that Lucy’s mother would be healed from a serious illness that plagued her. Lucy’s mother was healed and she committed her life to Jesus. She stopped forcing the marriage and allowed St. Lucy to give her marriage dowry to the poor.
The man that Lucy was to marry was upset by this and told the governor, Paschalis, that Lucy was a Christian (illegal at that time). The governor then wanted to defile Lucy and sent troops to her home to carry her off to a brothel. Lucy refused to go and the troops were unable to move her. They even hitched a team of oxen to her, but she could not be moved. At that point they piled wood around her to burn her, but the wood refused to burn. They finally resorted to using their swords and initially gouged out her eyes and then killed her. Later, when her body was being prepared for burial, they noticed that her eyes had been restored.
Lucy was venerated from the very early days of the Church. Her body remained in Sicily for about 400 years before being transferred to Abruzzi, Italy. In 972 her body was moved to St. Vincent’s Church in Metz and divided up and several pieces of her body can be found in Rome, Naples, Verona, Lisbon, Milan, Germany, France and Sweden. Her name is mentioned in Eucharistic Prayer I, the oldest of our Eucharistic prayers. St. Lucy is the Patron Saint of the Blind and all eye diseases.
I have found only one quote that is attributed to Lucy. It is, “No one’s body is polluted so as to endanger the soul if it has not pleased the mind. If you were to lift my hand to your idol and so make me offer against my will, I would still be guiltless in the sight of the true God, who judges according to the will and knows all things. If now, against my will, you cause me to be polluted, a twofold purity will be gloriously imputed to me. You cannot bend my will to your purpose; whatever you do to my body, that cannot happen to me.”
— Saint Lucy of Syracuse
Early, Aztec Language writings about Our Lady of Guadalupe
Mary appeared as Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th,1531 near Mexico City. Her appearance forever changed the makeup of the Americas. I wanted to share some information about her and would highly suggest you research her more. I start with two noted sources and then give you excerpts from Don Antonio Valeriano’s Nican Mopohua written in 1545, fourteen years after the appearance. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Patron of the Americas.
From “Evangelizer of the Americas” by Elizondo Morenito: The news of the appearance of the Indian mother who left her imprint on the tilma spread like wildfire! Three points were appreciated by the native population. First, the lady was Indian, spoke Náhuatl, the Aztec language, and appeared to an Indian, not a Spaniard! Second, Juan Diego explained that she appeared at Tepeyac, the place of Tonantzin, the mother god, sending a clear message that the Virgin Mary was the mother of the true God, and that the Christian religion was to replace the Aztec religion. And third, the Indians, who learned through pictures and symbols in their culture of the image, grasped the meaning of the tilma, which revealed the beautiful message of Christianity: the true God sacrificed himself for mankind, instead of the horrendous life they had endured sacrificing humans to appease the frightful gods! It is no wonder that over the next seven years, from 1531 to 1538, eight million natives of Mexico converted to Catholicism!
From “Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love” by Carl Anderson and Msgr. Eduardo Chavez: The imprint of Mary on the tilma is striking, and the symbolism was primarily directed to Juan Diego and the Aztecs. Mary appears as a beautiful young Indian maiden with a look of love, compassion, and humility, her hands folded in prayer in reverence to the Almighty God. Her face is also not unlike that of a Jewish maiden. Her rose dress, adorned with a jasmine flower, eight petal flowers, and nine heart flowers symbolic to the Aztec culture, is that of an Aztec princess. Her blue mantle symbolized the royalty of the gods, and the blue color symbolized life and unity. The stars on the mantle signified the beginning of a new civilization. La Morenita appeared on the day of the winter solstice, considered the day of the sun’s birth; the Virgin’s mantle accurately represents the 1531 winter solstice! Mary stands in front of and hides the sun, but the rays of the sun still appear around her, signifying she is greater than the sun god, the greatest of the native divinities, but the rays of the sun still bring light. Twelve rays of the sun surround her face and head. She stands on the moon, supported by an angel with wings like an eagle: to the Aztec, this indicated her superiority to the moon god, the god of night, and her divine, regal nature. Most important are the black maternity band, a jasmine flower, and a cross that are present in the image. Mary wore a black maternity band, signifying she was with child. At the center of the picture, overlying her womb, is a jasmine flower in the shape of an Indian cross, which is the sign of the Divine and the center of the cosmic order to the Aztec. This symbol indicated that the baby Mary carried within her, Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, is Divine and the new center of the universe. On the brooch around her neck was a black Christian cross, indicating she is both a bearer and follower of Christ, the Son of God, our Savior, who died on the Cross to save mankind. In summary, the image signified Mary bringing her Son Christ to the New World through one of their own! As Father Miguel Sanchez noted in 1648, one cannot help but identify Our Lady of Guadalupe with the Woman of the Apocalypse, recorded in the Bible in Revelation 12:
From a report by Don Antonio Valeriano, a Native American author of the sixteenth century
(Nicon Mopohua, 12th ed., 3-9, 21)
The Voice of the Turtledove has been heard in our land
At daybreak one Saturday morning in 1531, on the very first days of the month of December, an Indian named Juan Diego was going from the village where he lived to Tlatelolco in order to take part in divine worship and listen to God’s commandments. When he came near the hill called Tepeyac, dawn had already come, and Juan Diego heard someone calling him from the very top of the hill: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito.”
He went up the hill and caught sight of a lady of unearthly grandeur whose clothing was as radiant as the sun. She said to him in words both gentle and courteous: “Juanito, the humblest of my children, know and understand that I am the ever virgin Mary, Mother of the true God through whom all things live. It is my ardent desire that a church be erected here so that in it I can show and bestow my love, compassion, help, and protection to all who inhabit this land and to those others who love me, that they might call upon and confide in me. Go to the Bishop of Mexico to make known to him what I greatly desire. Go and put all your efforts into this.”
When Juan Diego arrived in the presence of the Bishop, Fray Juan de Zumarraga, a Franciscan, the latter did not seem to believe Juan Diego and answered: “Come another time, and I will listen at leisure.”
Juan Diego returned to the hilltop where the Heavenly Lady was waiting, and he said to her: “My Lady, my maiden, I presented your message to the Bishop, but it seemed that he did not think it was the truth. For this reason I beg you to entrust your message to someone more illustrious who might convey it in order that they may believe it, for I am only an insignificant man.”
She answered him: “Humblest of my sons, I ask that tomorrow you again go to see the Bishop and tell him that I, the ever virgin holy Mary, Mother of God, am the one who personally sent you.”
But on the following day, Sunday, the Bishop again did not believe Juan Diego and told him that some sign was necessary so that he could believe that it was the Heavenly Lady herself who sent him. And then he dismissed Juan Diego.
On Monday Juan Diego did not return. His uncle, Juan Bernardino, became very ill, and at night asked Juan to go to Tlatelolco at daybreak to call a priest to hear his confession.
Juan Diego set out on Tuesday, but he went around the hill and passed on the other side, toward the east, so as to arrive quickly in Mexico City and to avoid being detained by the Heavenly Lady. But she came out to meet him on that side of the hill and said to him: “Listen and understand, my humblest son. There is nothing to frighten and distress you. Do not let your heart be troubled, and let nothing upset you. Is it not I, your Mother, who is here? Are you not under my protection? Are you not, fortunately, in my care? Do not let your uncle’s illness distress you. It is certain that he has already been cured. Go up to the hilltop, my son, where you will find flowers of various kinds. Cut them, and bring them into my presence.”
When Juan Diego reached the peak, he was astonished that so many Castilian roses had burst forth at a time when the frost was severe. He carried the roses in the folds of his tilma (mantle) to the Heavenly Lady. She said to him: “My son, this is the proof and the sign which you will bring to the Bishop so that he will see my will in it. You are my ambassador, very worthy of trust.”
Juan Diego set out on his way, now content and sure of succeeding. On arriving in the Bishop’s presence, he told him: “My lord, I did what you asked. The Heavenly Lady complied with your request and fulfilled it. She sent me to the hilltop to cut some Castilian roses and told me to bring them to you in person. And this I am doing, so that you can see in them the sign you seek in order to carry out her will. Here they are; receive them.”
He immediately opened up his white mantle, and as all the different Castilian roses scattered to the ground, there was drawn on the cloak and suddenly appeared the precious image of the ever virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the same manner as it is today and is kept in her shrine of Tepeyac.
The whole city was stirred and came to see and admire her venerable image and to offer prayers to her; and following the command which the same Heavenly Lady gave to Juan Bernardino when she restored him to health, they called her by the name that she herself had used: “the ever virgin holy Mary of Guadalupe.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary is the greatest of all Saints and is venerated with a special cult. She is called by St. Thomas Aquinas, hyperdulia, as the holiest of all creatures. Her Feast Day on December 8th celebrates her Immaculate Conception. Many people think that this refers to the conception of Jesus, but it is all about the conception of Mary by Saint Anne. The conception of Jesus is celebrated as the Annunciation of the Lord on March 25th, exactly nine months before Jesus’ birthday on December 25th. The birthday of Mary is celebrated exactly nine months after the Immaculate Conception, on September 8th. When you think about it, these dates make a lot of sense.
So what is the Immaculate Conception? Very simply it tells us that by a special grace from God Mary was conceived without original sin. This was to make her ready to receive the God made Man, Jesus. She was to be the New Ark of the Covenant, the very dwelling place of God. Sin could not be present where God was present. Although the doctrine was promulgated fairly recently, in 1854 by Pope Pius IX , it dates back to the very earliest days of the Church. Many of the early Church fathers reflected on it and many scripture passages hint at it, but it took a long time for Theologians to deal with it. Two Franciscans, William of Ware and Blessed John Duns Scotus, helped develop the theology. They pointed out that Mary’s Immaculate Conception enhances Jesus’ redemptive work. Other members of the human race are cleansed from original sin after birth by baptism. In Mary, Jesus’ work was so powerful as to prevent original sin at the moment of conception.
Even though there was no official promulgation until 1854, and even though theologians were late in defining it, the Church and its peoples celebrated it. There are indications the Feast was celebrated as early as the 600’s. Initially it was known as the Conception of Saint Anne. By the 11th century it bore its present name, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. For those who would like some further information on the Feast, I would recommend going to Catholic Answers. I am giving you the link to the page where it shows Scriptural references for the Feast. Just click here: http://www.catholic.com/blog/tim-staples/the-immaculate-conception-in-scripture.
Here are some quotes from early Church fathers about the Immaculate Conception:
“She was the ark formed of incorruptible wood. For by this is signified that His tabernacle was exempt from putridity and corruption.” – St. Hippolytus (circa 235 A.D.)
“This Virgin Mother of the Only begotten of God is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one.” – Origen (244)
“Thou alone and Thy Mother are in all things fair; there is no flaw in Thee and no stain in Thy Mother.” – St. Ephraim (370)
“Mary, a virgin not only undefiled but a virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin.” – St. Ambrose (388)
“A Virgin, innocent, spotless, free of all defect, untouched, unsullied, holy in soul and body, like a lily sprouting among thorns.” – Theodotus of Ancrya (446)
“The very fact that God has elected her proves that none was ever holier than Mary; if any stain had disfigured her soul, if any other virgin had been purer and holier, God would have selected her and rejected Mary.” – Jacob of Sarug (521)
“In the womb of the her mother now begins to blossom the earth which will be the dwelling place of the Creator of the earth, the holy scepter, the new ark, the vessel of manna, … the bush which was not consumed by fire, the golden candelabrum, the living bridal room of the Lord God.” – Hymn for the feast of the Conception of St. Anne (seventh century)
“She is born like the cherubim, she who is of a pure, immaculate clay.” – Theotoknos of Livias (650)
“Today humanity, in all the radiance of her immaculate nobility, receives its ancient beauty. The shame of sin had darkened the splendor and attraction of human nature; but when the Mother of the Fair One par excellence is born, this nature again regains in her person its ancient privileges and is fashioned according to a perfect model truly worthy of God…. The reform of our nature begins today, and the aged world, subjected to a wholly divine transformation, receives the first fruits of the second creation.” – Andrew of Crete (733)
The Basilica of St. Ambrose in Milan. This was originally built by St. Ambrose and when he died he was entombed here.
By the time he was 33 years old, Ambrose was a very successful man. He owned a large estate, was a successful lawyer, was Governor of Milan and was a good friend of the Roman Emperor. He was just a catechumen in the Catholic faith, but loved God and loved peace. He lived at a time and in an area where there was great division in the Church over the heresy of Arianism. In 374 the Bishop of Milan died and those who were for Arianism and those who saw Arianism as a heresy met in the Cathedral to try to determine who the next Bishop would be. There was so much unrest over this that a riot began to break out between both sides. Ambrose, as governor, stepped in to try to bring about peace by making a passionate speech, not favoring either side but seeking peace between the two sides. It was at this time that someone shouted out that Ambrose should be made the Bishop. The people all seemed to consent and Ambrose said that he couldn’t be, because he was just a catechumen and not even baptized. Truthfully, it appears that Ambrose was quite happy with his life and did not want to change it. Now the other Bishops of the Province saw this as a way to avoid making a difficult decision that would certainly upset a large number of people. They too wanted Ambrose and decided to make him Bishop. Ambrose quickly ran away trying to avoid this new vocation.
Ambrose ran to the Emperor trying to get the Emperor to vacate that decision. The Emperor refused to vacate the decision and told Ambrose that he would make a good Bishop. Ambrose then went for instructions in Scripture and the Church studying under Saint Simplician. Ambrose embraced the new vocation fully and was baptized and ordained as Bishop of Milan. He sold his estate and holdings and gave to the poor. Ambrose used his skills as a lawyer and orator to fight the Arians in church, court, senate, and even the Emperor’s own family. The same stubbornness that had made him refuse the position in the first place was now his weapon in fighting heresy and pursuing sanctity.
Besides fighting heresy, Ambrose had to go up against the Goths who were invading the weakened Roman Empire. The Goths often captured the Christians and offered them up for ransom. Ambrose said, “It is a better thing to save souls for the Lord than to save treasures. He who sent forth his apostles without gold had not need of gold to form his Church. The Church possesses gold, not to hoard, but to scatter abroad and come to the aid of the unfortunate. Would not the Lord say to us: ‘Why have you let so many needy perish of hunger? Since you had gold, you should provide for their needs’…Could we say: ‘I feared to leave the temple of God without ornament.’ But that which can’t be bought with gold does not take its value from gold. The best way to use the gold of the Redeemer is for the redemption of those in peril.”
Not only did Ambrose have to deal with the Goths, but when his friend the Emperor died, the new Emperor tried to take Ambrose’s Church away from him and hand it over to the Arians. Ambrose refused and was sentenced to death. Fortunately the people sided with Ambrose and filled his Church. Roman soldiers were surrounding the Church and the people inside stayed there for days singing songs (this is one of the first written accounts of songs being sung in Church). They were so loud and filled with faith that even the soldiers outside began singing the songs. The soldiers were called out for other duties in protecting the Empire. Ambrose kept control of his Church. It is interesting to note that later Ambrose helped out the Emperor who was against him. He showed true forgiveness.
Ambrose is also known for his work with another great Saint, Saint Augustine. It was Ambrose who helped Augustine convert to the faith. Augustine was one of the greatest Saints and impacted the Church tremendously. Saint Ambrose was certainly a great man who changed history and the Church for the better.
There are many quotes from St. Ambrose. I share a few of them here.
The fraternity of Christ, is closer than the fraternity of blood.
Prayer is the wing wherewith the soul flies to heaven, and meditation the eye wherewith we see God.
If it is “daily bread,” why do you take it once a year? . . . Take daily what is to profit you daily. Live in such a way that you may deserve to receive it daily. He who does not deserve to receive it daily, does not deserve to receive it once a year.
By Christ’s Passion our weakness was cured. By His Resurrection death was conquered. Still we have to be sorrowful for the world, as well as joyful in the Lord, sorrowful in penance, joyful in gratitude.
It is not the ambassador, it is not the messenger, but the Lord Himself that saves His people. The Lord remains alone, for no man can be partner with God in forgiving sins; this office belongs solely to Christ, who takes away the sins of the world.
True repentance is to cease from sin.
Our own evil inclinations are far more dangerous than any external enemies.
The rich man who gives to the poor does not bestow alms but pays a debt.
When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ.
No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.
The Devil tempts that he may ruin and destroy; God tests that He may crown.
He took what is mine in order that He might impart to me what is His. He took it not to overturn it but to fill it.
The Lord was Baptized, not to be cleansed Himself, but to cleanse the waters, so that those waters, cleansed by the flesh of Christ which knew no sin, might have the power of Baptism.
God by nature is uncompounded, joined to nothing, composed of nothing, to whom nothing happens by accident; but only possessing in His own nature that which is divine, enclosing all things, Himself closed out of nothing, penetrating all things, Himself never penetrable, everywhere complete, everywhere present at the same time, whether in heaven or on earth or in the depths of the sea, incapable of being seen or measured by our senses, to be followed only by faith and venerated in our religion.
The Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world; it therefore remains unmoved. The Church’s foundation is unshakable and firm against assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly beat upon the Church with crashing sounds, the Church possesses the safest harbor of salvation for all in distress. There is a stream which flows down on God’s saints like a torrent. There is also a rushing river giving joy to the heart that is at peace and makes for peace.
The altar above the tomb of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy
Saint Nicholas is one of our very popular Saints. There are many churches named in his honor and he is the Patron Saint of more causes than any other Saint. He is the Patron Saint of mariners, merchants, bakers, travelers, brides, prisoners, archers, students and especially of children. He is the Patron Saint of many countries and towns and cities, including New York City. His popularity goes from east to west around the world. So who was this man, Saint Nicholas? He certainly was a lot more than the popular Santa Claus.
Saint Nicholas was the bishop of Myra which is in modern day Turkey. He lived in the early 300’s and was known to be a very Holy, devout, loving man. It is difficult to think of Saint Nicholas without thinking of all the legends that surrounded him. However, most of these legends just emphasize the great person that he truly was. We do know that he was the son of wealthy parents who raised him as a devout Christian. His uncle was the local bishop. Nicholas’s parents died when he was quite young. They left him a significant estate. Throughout his life Nicholas used that estate to help the poor. After his parents died, Nicholas was raised by his uncle, the Bishop of Patara. During the Roman Diocletian persecution, St. Nicholas was seized, tortured, and imprisoned. After his release, he continued his many works of charity and served the people of Myra as their bishop.
Nicholas was known for fighting the heresy of Arius. Nicholas attended the Council of Nicea in 325 where Arius tried to push his heresy. Nicholas became so angered at Arius that he slapped him in the face. The other bishops censored Nicholas for this, but later he regained his good status. The love of Jesus and the love of the Church and the love of the poor consumed Nicholas. Bishop Nicholas died on December 6, 343 in Myra and he was buried in his Cathedral of Myra. In later centuries, the area fell in to the hands of non Christians and in the year 1087 a group of Italians took his body and moved it to Bari, Italy where it is today.
There are only a few quotes from St. Nicholas in existence today so I will share two of those, as well as a few quotes from others about him. The last quote is from Anne Frank during the Nazi holocaust.
“The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic Gods giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.” St. Nicholas of Myra
“Children, I beseech you to correct your hearts and thoughts, so that you may be pleasing to God. Consider that although we may reckon ourselves to be righteous and frequently succeed in deceiving men, we can conceal nothing from God. Let us therefore strive to preserve the holiness of our souls and to guard the purity of our bodies with all fervor. Ye are the temple of God, says the divine Apostle Paul; If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy.” St. Nicholas of Myra
“Everybody loves St Nicholas, because St. Nicholas loves everybody.” Fr Andrew Phillips
“Alas! How dreary would be the world if there was no Santa Claus! There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.” Francis P. Church
“Once again St. Nicholas Day Has even come to our hideaway; It won’t be quite as fun, I fear, As the happy day we had last year. Then we were hopeful, no reason to doubt That optimism would win the bout, And by the time this year came round, We’d all be free, and safe and sound. Still, let’s not forget it’s St. Nicholas Day, Though we’ve nothing left to give away. We’ll have to find something else to do: So everyone please look in their shoe!” – Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
Saint Francis Xavier is known as the greatest evangelizer since the Apostles. His zeal for spreading the Gospel seemed to know no boundaries. He was a man who performed many miracles and converted a large number of unbelievers to the Church. He visited many countries and is known for his missionary work in Portugal, India, Goa, Malacca and the Maluku Islands and Japan. In the islands he converted the first Japanese man to the faith. He went to Japan to continue spreading the good news. He also wanted to convert China and headed there reaching one of its islands. He died from disease before he could make the Chinese mainland. He did all of this in just ten years.
Francis was born in the Kingdom of Navarre (Basque, between Spain and France) on April 7, 1506. He attended the University of Paris where he roomed with his good friend, Peter Favre. Francis met Saint Ignatius Loyola at the University and was heavily influence d by him. St. Ignatius urged Francis to become a priest. On August 15, 1534, Francis Xavier along with Peter Favre, and several other friends, made vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Francis was ordained a priest on June 24, 1537. Francis, and his friends formed a new order named the Society of Jesus and Pope Paul III approved the order in 1540. The order is commonly known as the Jesuits. The Pope immediately put the order to work as missionaries. Francis was made Papal Nuncio of the East in 1541, on Francis’ birthday, the same day he left for India. Francis was 35 years old. In India he built over 40 churches along the Pearl Fishery Coast.
It is miraculous that in the short space of ten years (6 May, 1542 – 2 December, 1552) Francis could have visited so many countries, traversed so many seas, preached the Gospel to so many nations, and converted so many unbelievers and built so many churches. His zeal for the Gospel and his great accomplishments led him to be beatified by Pope Paul V on Oct. 25, 1619, and canonized by Gregory XV on March 12, 1622 at the same ceremony as Ignatius of Loyola. He is the patron of Catholic missions and his feast day is on December 3. Here are some of his quotes:
- I will go anywhere and do anything in order to communicate the love of Jesus to those who do not know Him or have forgotten Him.
- We must pray without tiring, for the salvation of mankind does not depend upon material success . . . but on Jesus alone.
- Prayer is powerful! It fills the earth with mercy; it makes the Divine clemency pass from generation to generation; right along the course of the centuries wonderful works have been achieved through prayer.
- If you are in danger, if your hearts are confused, turn to Mary; she is our comfort, our help; turn towards her and you will be saved.
- Did a Magdalene, a Paul, a Constantine, an Augustine become mountains of ice after their conversion? Quite the contrary. We should never have had these prodigies of conversion and marvelous holiness if they had not changed the flames of human passion into volcanoes of immense love of God.
- The world is poisoned with erroneous theories, and needs to be taught sane doctrines, but it is difficult to straighten what has become crooked.
- They who pray with faith have fervour and fervour is the fire of prayer. This mysterious fire has the power of consuming all our faults and imperfections, and of giving to our actions, vitality, beauty and merit.