August 11, 2019

NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

All of today’s readings speak about people on the move in search of a new homeland. The reading from Wisdom reminds us of the night of Passover when the people of Israel, trusting in God’s promises, journeyed from slavery to freedom in a new homeland God had promised.

 

In the reading from Hebrews, we hear how Abraham placed his faith and trust in God’s promises and journeyed to a land promised him and his descendants. “He went out, not knowing where he was to go.” He simply and faithfully trusted in God’s guidance. As the reading states, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”

 

The Gospel reading presents us with a parable in which Jesus reminds his followers to trust in the Father’s promises: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” Followers are to be patient as they await the return of their master, who will bring them into their new homeland. Jesus touches on the yearning for this eternal homeland that lies in the human heart. However, Jesus adds that we must be attentive and prepared for the arrival of this homeland. We must do our part and act as faithful stewards of our talents and obligations. “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

 

We do not journey alone. Our journey is united with others also responding to God’s call to prepare for the coming of God’s kingdom. Ours is the task to support them through lives of service and solidarity.

 

Abraham may not have known where he was going, but he was steadfast in his faith. Quoting from St. Thomas Aquinas, the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that such surety comes from the understanding that the foundation for faith is the Word of God. The Catechism states, “Faith is certain because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. ‘The certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives’” (#157).

 

Abraham trusted in God’s faithfulness. Such trust is essential in a life of faith and a life of prayer. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “When God calls him, Abraham goes forth ‘as the Lord had told him.’ Such attentiveness of the heart, whose decisions are made according to God’s will, is essential to prayer. One aspect of the drama of prayer appears from the beginning: the test of faith in the fidelity of God” (#2570).

 

The faith that Abraham possessed was such that he not only journeyed into the unknown but trusted that a nation would be birthed from an old man and a woman who had been barren. The Catechism states, “Nothing is more apt to confirm our faith and hope than holding it fixed in our minds that nothing is impossible with God” (#274).

 

For Your Reflection: In what ways does your soul wait for the Lord? What have you done by faith? What do you value most in life? Do you realize that the place where you put your time and money is your treasure?

 

FEAST OF ST. CLARE OF ASSISI

Monday, August 12, 2019

 

Clare of Assisi was born on July 16, 1194, and died on August 11, 1253. She founded the Order of Poor Ladies, a monastic religious Order for women in the Franciscan tradition and wrote their Rule of Life—the first monastic Rule known to have been written by a woman. Following her death, the Order she founded was renamed in her honor as the Order of St. Clare, commonly referred to today as the Poor Clares.

 

Clare was born in Assisi, Italy, the eldest daughter of the wealthy Favorino Scifi and his wife Ortolana. Ortolana was a very devout woman who had undertaken pilgrimages to Rome, Santiago de Compostela, and the Holy Land. Clare was always devoted to prayer as a child. When she turned fifteen, her parents, especially her father, wanted her to marry a young and wealthy man, but she originally wanted to wait until she was eighteen. But by the time she turned eighteen, she had heard another citizen of Assisi preaching about Jesus Christ and going about rebuilding churches, i.e., Francis Bernardone. His preaching was beginning to change her life. He told her she was a chosen soul from God.

 

Soon on Palm Sunday, when people went to receive their palm branches, she stayed in her place, and the bishop came down to her with her palm. On that very night she ran away to go to follow Francis. When she arrived, he cut her hair and dressed her in a brown tunic and a veil, with a cord around her waist similar to the one he wore. Clare was at first housed with the Benedictine nuns near Bastia and was almost pulled away by her father, for he truly wanted her to marry. Clare and her sister Agnes soon moved to the church of San Damiano which Francis himself had rebuilt. Other women joined them there, and San Damiano became known for its radically austere lifestyle.

 

San Damiano became the focal point for Clare’s new religious Order, which was known in her lifetime as the Order of San Damiano. San Damiano was long thought to be the first house of the Order, but recent scholarship strongly suggests that San Damiano actually joined an existing network of women’s religious houses organized by Cardinal Hugolino, who later became Pope Gregory IX. Hugolino wanted San Damiano as part of the Order he founded because of the prestige of Clare’s monastery. San Damiano emerged as the most important house in the Order, and Clare became its undisputed leader.

 

Unlike the Franciscan friars whose members moved around the country to preach, St. Clare’s sisters lived in enclosure since an itinerant life was hardly conceivable at that time for women. The life of the Ladies consisted of manual labor and prayer. They wore no shoes, had poor clothing, ate no meat and lived basically on what the townspeople gave them. Because of the holiness of their lives, the people of Assisi admired them and wanted them to have all the necessities they needed in order to both survive and thrive.

 

For a short period of time, the Order was directed by Francis himself. Then in 1216, Clare accepted the role of abbess of San Damiano. As abbess, Clare had more authority to lead the Order than when she was the prioress, who had to follow the orders of a priest heading the community. Clare defended her Order from the attempts of prelates to impose a Rule on them that more closely resembled the Rule of Saint Benedict rather than Francis’ stricter vows. Clare sought to imitate Francis’ virtues and way of life so much so that she was sometimes titled “Another Francis.” She also played a significant role in encouraging and aiding Francis, whom she saw as a spiritual father figure, and she took care of him during his illnesses at the end of his life, until his death in 1226.

 

After Francis’ death, Clare continued to promote the growth of her Order, writing letters to abbesses in other parts of Europe and thwarting every attempt by each successive pope to impose a Rule on her Order which would water down the radical commitment to corporate poverty she had originally embraced. She did this despite the fact that she endured a long period of poor health until her death. Clare’s Franciscan theology of joyous poverty in imitation of Christ is evident in the Rule she wrote for her community and in her four letters to Agnes of Prague.

 

On September 17, 1228, the pope sent her letters because she had filled him with admiration. On August 9, 1253, Pope Innocent IV confirmed that Clare’s Rule would serve as the governing Rule for the entire Order. Two days later, Clare died at the age of 59. Her remains were interred  at the chapel of San Giorgio while a church to hold her remains was being constructed. On August 15, 1255, Pope Alexander IV canonized Clare as Saint Clare of Assisi. Construction of the Basilica of Saint Clare was completed in 1260, and on October 3rd of that year Clare’s remains were transferred to the basilica where they are buried beneath the high altar. Some 600 years later—in 1872—Saint Clare’s remains were transferred to a newly constructed shrine in the crypt of the basilica, where they can still be seen today.

 

Pope Pius XII designated Clare the patron saint of television in 1958, on the basis that when she was too ill to attend Mass, she had reportedly been able to see and hear it on the wall of her room. In art, Clare is often shown carrying a monstrance or pyx in commemoration of the time when she held off the soldiers of Frederick II at the gates of her convent by displaying the Blessed Sacrament and kneeling in prayer.

 

Here at St. Peter’s we will celebrate the Feast of Clare on Monday, August 12, with a Solemn Mass at 11:40 A.M. We hope many people will be able to join us on this festive occasion. Please note that, because of the length of this celebration, there will not be a Mass beginning at 12:15 on this day.

 

We also invite everyone to join us for Solemn Vespers on this feast of St. Clare. Vespers will begin at 5:40 P.M.—shortly after the conclusion of the 5:00 Mass—and will last approximately a half hour. What a magnificent way to end the day on this great feast.

 

COMMUNAL ANOINTING OF THE SICK

 

Here at St. Peter’s we have a tradition of celebrating the sacrament of the sick in a communal way four times a year, and one of these is around the feast of St. Clare. We will therefore celebrate the sacrament of the sick on Wednesday, August 14, within the context of the Eucharist at the 1:15 Mass. Anyone who is about to have a surgery, who is undergoing serious tests with a physician, who suffers from a chronic disease such as diabetes, difficulty breathing, undergoing cancer treatments, or who is over the age of 62 is invited to receive the sacrament during this Mass.

We ask that those who wish to receive the sacrament be present at least five to ten minutes before the beginning of Mass so that you can be properly seated throughout the church in order to allow the priests to come easily for the laying on of hands and for the anointing with the oil of the sick, both of which will take place after the homily. We look forward to seeing many of you here on Wednesday, August 14, at the 1:15 Mass. You might want to alert some of your friends and co-workers of this wonderful opportunity to receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick since it brings the healing power of Christ to us in this special way.

 

THE SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION

Thursday, August 15, 2019

 

The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is always celebrated on August 15th, and this year it falls on this coming Thursday. The feast of the Assumption is one of the holydays of obligation in the United States, so this means that all Catholics are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on this day. Here at St. Peter’s you have the opportunity to fulfill this obligation at any one of thirteen Masses: at the 5:00 P.M. Vigil Mass on Wednesday afternoon, and on Thursday at 6:00, 6:45, 7:30, 8:15, 9:00, 10:00, 11:15, 12;15 (Festive Mass with choir), 1:15, 4:30, 5:15 and 6:00. Please plan ahead now for which Mass is most convenient for you, and don’t hesitate to invite someone else at work to join you.

 

The feast of the Assumption celebrates our belief that Mary “was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #966, quoting Lumen Gentium #59). This unprecedented act by God anticipates “the resurrection of all members of Christ’s body.”

 

In our readings today, we encounter Mary as an expectant mother visiting Elizabeth and sharing with her the joy of motherhood. Tradition locates the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth several miles outside of Jerusalem. This means that Mary’s journey from Nazareth in Galilee to Judea would have taken about three days. There is a heightened sense of joy in Luke’s description of the meeting of the mothers. Even John the Baptist “leaped for joy” in his mother’s womb in response to Mary’s greeting and the presence of the Messiah.

 

 The text in Revelation presents an image that has been applied to Mary over the centuries: “a woman clothed with the sun” and who “was with child.” The mother and child are both threatened by a “huge red dragon.” But the child is “caught up to God,” while the mother “fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God.” Ultimately the dragon is defeated by the child and his supporters.

 

In Corinthians, Paul speaks of Christ as the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Christ’s resurrection is not intended to be unique; it is a foreshadowing of our own resurrection at the end of time. The Bible tells us that death is a result of sin. But “just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.” Mary’s assumption, an anticipation of our own resurrection, is on account of her life lived without sin. Not having sinned, she does not face the consequence of sin and so shares in the resurrected life immediately.

 

PRAYING VESPERS AT ST. PETER’S

 

We invite you to join us for Vespers (Evening Prayer) in church on most Mondays and Wednesdays shortly after the conclusion of the 5:00 P.M. Mass. This is a common prayer with both the friars and laity together praying this liturgical hour of the Church. We provide the book in which the prayer can be found; all you have to do is bring yourself and a desire to join with people around the world who pray this prayer every single day. We are always finished by 6:00, so you should be able to make your train or your bus if you decide to join us. Just come up to the front of church by the St. Joseph altar, and we will show you how the prayer is recited. We hope many people will consider this way of ending your day on a pleasant note.

 

A SUMMERTIME CHUCKLE

 

My wife, a registered nurse, once fussed over every pain or mishap that came my way. Recently, however, I got an indication that the honeymoon is over.

 

I was about to fix the attic fan, and as I lifted myself from the ladder in the attic, I scratched my forehead on a crossbeam. Crawling along, I picked up splinters in both hands, and I cut one hand replacing the fan belt. On the way down the ladder, I missed the last two rungs and turned my ankle.

 

When I limped into the kitchen, my wife took one look and said, “Are those your good pants?”