Saturday, November 30, 2013

Advent Eve St. Andrew's Day

Today is the Feast of the Apostle St. Andrew. He was the brother of St. Peter. Andrew seems to have had a pleasant personality. He never seemed jealous of his more famous brother Peter. He who was a fisherman became a fisher of men. He was called directly by Jesus to follow him and seek to draw men and women into the net of the Faith. As Pope Francis is exhorting us Christians, we too are called to follow the example of Peter and Andrew, James and John who left their nets to follow the Lord.
St Andrew
A priest friend mentioned this morning how he imagines what the people driving near him on the roads and highways really look like. Then he prays for his fellow motorists. For me riding on public transportation, the transit system, or the Metro as it is called in the DC area, serves up a slice of real life. In the car I can't stop to hear a street person ask for a few coins. I can't hear the roar of the trains pulling in or out of the stations, Nor can I hear the fellow playing a recorder as he leans up against an office building. Neither can I hear the jazz and blues belted out by a sidewalk entertainer playing a keyboard atop enormous speakers at the subway entrance. From the car's windshield I never noticed the policemen in bullet proof vests near the subway entrance. In the comfort of our little van I had forgotten the feel of  squeezing into a subway car and holding on tight as the train lurched forward. At the airport stop, some got off, headed for a higher adventure; their plane trip to work or home. Others from the airport entered the rail car, some looked exhausted, others seemed content. Someone got up (a woman) so I could sit down. I really appreciated the chance to stop swaying. The man seated next to me seemed annoyed and morose. I feel sorry for him. He gave off a joyless vibe. Perhaps he was ill, or had experienced a bad day at work.
Scanning the faces of my fellow passengers I wanted to say "Cheer up! The Lord is near. He loves you. You have reason to smile despite your crosses."  I did not feel quite filled enough with the Holy Spirit to actually say these words: "God bless you! Smile, God loves You!"
After the rush of our current Advent/Christmas season, I highly recommend the Holy Father's new Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelium Gaudium, TheJoy of the Gospel. Our Pauline Books & Media publishing house will publish the new document in January: www.pauline.org. Gospel means good news. Each of us Christians who live our faith are living gospels. For Advent a good resolve to prepare for Christ's coming would be to have a "joy" check up every morning in front of the mirror. Am I smiling or at least serene in my appearance? Away with all crankiness and complaining. Enter peace, self-control and joy.
Have a blessed St. Andrew's Day and a super Advent!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Saints Shakers and Movers

Today, November 4, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Charles Borromeo. At a very young age, in his early 20's, Charles' uncle the Pope appointed him a bishop. 21st century opinion would call his a case of pure nepotism. However God Charles' position to help implement the reforms of the Council of Trent--an ecumenical council which last about 20 years. Trent was the council summoned to answer the Protestant Reformation. That Council clarified many issues. spread his new religion using a catechism. Trent issued the Roman Catechism to educate Catholics to the basics of the faith. Luther and other reformers pointed out the failings of many of the clergy and other church officials. To remedy the situation, the council fathers mandated  a more systematic training of future priests: seminaries. Charles Borromeo was especially expert at setting up these centers of priestly formation where men were trained in academic and spiritual subjects. It was important to have clerics steeped in learning to help their parishioners. The seminary fostered growth in the spiritual and ascetical life, with its discipline and prayer, both communal and private. There young men  learned to live more gospel centered, prayerful lives. One of those seminaries, that of the Diocese of Alba, in Italy's Piedmont was instrumental in the forming of our Founder, Blessed James Alberione. When one visits the chapel at the Alba seminary, the influence of St. Charles Borromeo is very evident.
St Charles Borromeo
St. Charles worked and prayed hard for his own Diocese of Milan. He lived from 1538 to 1584--a time of great turmoil in Europe. One of the reforms of the Council of Trent was that of making sure a bishop resided in his own diocese. When Carlo (his Italian name) arrived in Milan the church was reeling from the lack of leadership and organization. With prayer and great tact he set about reforming the clergy and the church in general in that huge northern Italian see. There were some who resented his efforts and even tried to kill him. The Lord spared him from a violent death. He died in Milan and was proclaimed a saint only 26 years after his death.
In the 20th century Milan was a huge industrial city. Immigrants from southern Italy came to work in the auto industry and other related factories. Italy's Communist Party was making headway among factory workers.
A priest who had worked with college students during the time of the Fascists was singled out to work in the Vatican. Giovanni Battista Montini preferred to work with the people and with the ordinary laity. Yet Montini
Pope Paul VI
was eventually appointed Archbishop then Cardinal of Milan.Cardinal Montini went to the factories to bless the machinery and to talk to his flock. He even donned a hard hat at least once to evangelize the men and women who had begun to drift away from the faith, I am sure that Montini, who became Pope Paul VI, learned much from his predecessor Carlo Borromeo. I saw Paul VI when he came to New York City to address the UN and beg for peace. Then I saw him up close in Rome. May he rest in peace with the Lord he served so well. Paul VI traveled outside of the Vatican several times. He was the first Pope in hundreds of years to embrace a Greek Orthodox Patriarch, Athenagoras. Like his predecessor who brought the reforms of the Council of Trent into the real world, so Paul VI did for the renewal called for by the Vatican II Council. He carried the cross of his Pontificate with grace and humility. May he intercede for our bishops, and our Pope Francis.  

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Saints, Sinners, and Memories

November slipped in with the Feast of All Saints on Friday, and of All Souls on Saturday. Saints with the capitol "S" and many, many more with the small "s". When I lived in Hawaii a priest at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace would begin his daily homily like this: "My dear saints." That was always a good pick-me-up, a great way to feel affirmed as we began our day with a very early Mass. Two of our Sisters attended a beautiful wedding on All Souls Day. The groom told the guests at the reception that he and his wife were going to help one another to become saints. What a blessed way to begin their life together, declaring their resolve to become saints by helping one another throughout their lives. Everyone is made to be a saint. Life has built-in aids to sainthood. Another name for these aids is a cross. By taking up the daily duties we have: those we like, and those which annoy us, we travel a bit closer to the goal of sanctity.
Saints are not "born" with halos. God's continuous gift of his grace and effort to accept and bear our crosses help to become daily, saints in the trenches. Or, should I say saints-in-the-pews!
I hope to write more about this month packed with feast days both religious and civil.
Have a blessed week, and be happy saints!