Children of God

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. We take this day to remember all those saints in heaven who may not be known to us or those who may not have their own day. While we don’t the particular people in Heaven (unless they’ve been canonized), we do know there are many. St. John tells us that in Heaven there will be a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.

Heaven is where we all desire to go. It is where we set our “aim” in this life. We all must aspire to live a good life, a holy life, a life close to God, so that we might attain the gift of Heaven. While we always remember that Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb, we also remember that we must live our faith. We must live the faith we believe, otherwise we can’t honestly claim to believe it!

How do we do this? Jesus tells us. The Beatitudes, which Jesus gives today, are a new law. They are the code of conduct for his new kingdom. If we wish to live our faith, to enter Heaven, we must strive to live the Beatitudes. The entire Sermon on the Mount, in fact, gives us a code by which to live. This is no easy code. It is a challenge. Augustine comments that the mountain signifies that this is a higher teaching than the old law. He continues, “the same God gave the lower precepts to a people to whom it was fitting to be bound by fear. Through his Son he gave the higher precepts to a people to whom it is fitting to be set free by love.” 1 God has freed us from the shackles of fear. He has sent his Son so that he might show us his love.

We must take up God’s challenge to love. Through prayer we can come to understand how to live the Beatitudes, both in relation to God and in relation to our neighbor. In this challenge, when the going gets tough, we remember that the Lord will never abandon us, for he calls us all back to himself, saying “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, And I will give you rest.” 2 Through Baptism, we become children of God, and God will never abandon his children.

Today’s Readings:
The Solemnity of All Saints
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; Psalm 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 1-12a

Reflection for the Feast of Saints Philip and James

When I go out to a restaurant, one of the first things I do is order my food and maybe a beverage. To do this, I could shout my order to kitchen, but it’s much more effective to have the waiter or waitress bring it there for me. Since I don’t like shouting in the middle of restaurants and I like my order to stand a chance of getting cooked, I give my order to a cashier, a waiter, or a waitress. This person takes my request to the kitchen, where another person cooks my food. After my food is cooked, someone will either hand it to me or bring it to me. Often, this is the person with whom I placed my order.

Intercession from the saints functions very similar to this. We begin by saying a prayer, during which we ask for a specific saint to assist us. God will ultimately fulfill our prayer, but the saint has a different mode of access to God. The saints take our prayers and make them more pleasing and acceptable to God, then they present them to him on our behalf. God then responds to our prayer in the most fitting way, often returning his response with the saintly messenger who brought the request to him.

The Gospel today confirms this way of understanding intercession. Jesus is the intercessor for humanity. Only through Jesus will we be able to reach the Father. Even the saints must ask for Jesus to present their prayers to the Father, as no one can go to the Father except through Jesus. Philip had difficulty recognizing this reality. His desire to see the Father was good, but he did not realize that the road to the Father was standing right in front of him. Despite all the miracles that Jesus had done, and all the wisdom that Jesus had taught, Philip still couldn’t connect the dots.

Both Philip and James struggled, at times, to understand the meaning of all the signs and wonders that God worked—even those that God worked through them. Eventually, they figured it out and told everyone around them by spreading the Gospel message: Jesus will lead us to the Father and, God-willing, to our eternal reward, because Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. After Philip and James figured it out, amazing things happened. Philip cast out demons and healed the sick. James was the Bishop of Jerusalem and wrote one of the letters of the New Testament. Both were martyred for their faith, but they were happy to do so, because they had put their trust in Jesus to take them with him to the Father, even in death.

Let us all remember that Jesus is the way to the Father, and if we are having a difficult time understanding that Jesus is the way, let us ask the saints to help us in ways we cannot help ourselves.

Today’s Readings: 1 Cor 15:1-8; Ps 19:2-3, 4-5; Jn 14:6-14

St. Methodius

June 14

Methodius I was a Patriarch of Constantinople. Before he became the patriarch, he spent years fighting the second outbreak of the iconoclast persecution in the Eastern Church. Niκephoros, the patriarch of Constantinople, was banished and replaced with an iconoclastic patriarch. Methodius, a monk, was sent by the deposed patriarch to Rome to report the matter. After several years in Rome, and a change in the eastern emperor (Leo V was murdered and replaced by Michael II), Methodius returned with a letter from the pope that attempted to persuade the eastern emperor to change his ways and restore Niκephoros. That didn’t work out so well. Methodius was scourged and imprisoned. After 7 years, Methodius was let out of prison, and he defended the icons even more strongly than before.

When the emperor Michael died, his son Theophilus re-invigorated the persecution. Methodius, after going toe-to-toe with the emperor was again scourged and imprisoned. He managed to escape after a day this time, and continued to work on the emperor.

After Theophilus, the Iconoclast persecution was brought to an end. Theodora, Theophilus’s wife and the regent for Michael III, restored images and freed the prisoners. The current patriarch of Constantinople was an unrepentant iconoclast setup by the government. He was deposed and Methodius was made patriarch. He restored the icons to the Hagia Sophia (yeah, that Hagia Sophia, the one that was a Catholic or Orthodox church from 562 to 1453) in a solemn procession and deposed many iconoclast bishops throughout his patriarchate. The restoration, or “Feast of Orthodoxy” is still celebrated in Byzantine Churches today.

Methodius is a Catholic and an Orthodox saint. He is named in the Roman Martyrology on June 14.

St. Anthony of Padua

Memorial; June 13

The patron saint of lost things devoted his entire life to losing himself in God’s will.

After switching from the Canons Regular of St. Augustine to the Orders of Friars Minor, St. Anthony wanted to go to Africa and spread the faith, but he soon found that God’s plan was different. On the way to Morocco, Anthony became ill and due to poor weather was forced to stay in Sicily to regain his health. After moving around a bit, he stayed in the town of Forli. While he was attending an ordination, those present discovered that no speaker had been appointed. St. Anthony was called to speak. Those in attendance were not expecting much, but the Holy Spirit inspired St. Anthony to give an excellent speech.

After this, St. Francis himself instructed him to teach theology to his brother friars. Later in life, he was a forceful speaker against heretics. He performed many miracles and converted many of them. He was so successful that he was called the “Hammer of the Heretics” (Malleus hereticorum). Some of the miracles he performed while alive include bi-location, rendering poisoned food safe to eat and preserving people from the rain on numerous occasions.

There are many other interesting stories and facts about St. Anthony at the Catholic Encyclopedia.

St. Barnabas

Memorial; June 11

St. Barnabas was a very early member of the Church. Born a Levite on Cyprus, he spent much time in Jerusalem. According to most accounts, he converted during the Pentecost and is mentioned in Acts for selling his property and giving the proceeds to the church (Acts 4:34-37).

Barnabas introduced Paul to the Apostles, who were wary and slow to believe his conversion. Much of Barnabas’s ministry after this involves Paul. He convinced Paul to start his journeys in Antioch, and accompanied on many of his voyages. His desire to bring St. Mark (the Gospel writer) along with them on one of the journeys caused a temporary rift with Paul. Barnabas was present at the Council of Jerusalem, and sided with Paul on the circumcision debate.

After his journeys, not much is written about Barnabas. He was one of the most highly esteemed men of the Church outside of the 12 Apostles. Many writings are attributed to him: Tertullian attributes the Letter to the Hebrews, Photius claims Barnabas, not Luke, wrote Acts of the Apostles and many attribute the Epistle of Barnabas to him, but these claims are doubted.

Further reading:
The Catholic Encyclopedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02300a.htm
Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barnabas

St. Norbert

Note: I promise that I’ll eventually get back to my series about Love, but there is much work for me to do before I continue. For now, I am trying to simply update the site more frequently. I’m hoping to improve my writing skills and simply get in the habit of writing things that are meant to be read. I spend so much time at work writing computer code and technical documentation that I fell this is necessary.

Also, you should go see For Greater Glory. It’s about the Mexican Revolution, and I’m told that it is very powerful. I haven’t had a chance to see it yet, but hope to soon.

Optional Memorial; June 6

St. Norbert was a bishop to Germany a few hundred years after St. Boniface. St. Norbert was especially devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. I could regurgitate his life story here, but the Catholic Encyclopedia and Wikipedia have already done a pretty good job of that.

What strikes me about St. Norbert is his complete devotion to God, as shown through what he said at his ordination:

O Priest! You are not yourself because you are God’s. You are not of yourself because you are the servant and minister of Christ. You are not your own because you are the spouse of the Church. You are not yourself because you are the mediator between God and man. You are not from yourself because you are nothing. What then are you? Nothing and everything. O Priest! Take care lest what was said to Christ on the cross be said to you: “He save others, himself he cannot save!”

St. Boniface

Memorial; June 5

The German Church was in desperate need of reform in the early to mid 700s, and Pope Gregory II thought that St. Boniface was just the man for the job. Boniface, an English Benedictine Monk, gave up his election as abbot and went on a missionary journey to German lands in 719. What he found were pagans and poorly formed Christians. (Remember that at this time, the Catholic Church was the only Christian church.)

Soon after this first journey, Boniface started the hard work of reform. His primary aims were to increase the clergy’s loyalty to their bishop and to the pope and to open many houses of prayer. He was very successful in both of these tasks, and was responsible for getting the Benedictine nuns into the education business.

St. Boniface is also known for chopping down a tree—but not just any tree. He chopped down Donar’s sacred oak tree on Mount Gudenburg. As the people waited for their gods to strike him dead, he kept chopping until the trash crashed down and split into four parts. Legend has it that Boniface used the wood from the tree to build a chapel.

For his efforts and work at reform, Boniface was massacred with 53 companions as he was preparing them for confirmation.