The Feast of Corpus Christi
A Brief History
In the early 13th century a Norbertine Nun in the city of Liege, Belgium named Juliana de Cornillon, received a vision instructing her to promote a feast day honouring the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. With permission from the local bishop, Robert de Torote, this feast began to be celebrated, at first only within that diocese, but gradually throughout all of Europe. By August 11, 1264 Pope Urban IV had issued a papal bull (Transiturus de hoc mundo) which declared Corpus Christi a feast day to be celebrated throughout the entire Latin Rite. This was the very first papally sanctioned universal feast in the history of the Latin Rite. A substantial contributor to this papal bull was St. Thomas Aquinas who composed the hymn Tantum Ergo Sacramentum to be sung during this feast. After the death of Pope Urban IV, this feast was suspended until 1311. From that point it continued to grow in popularity.
Traditions began to develop surrounding the feast day. Jesus, in the Eucharistic Host, was to be placed in a monstrance which was elevated by the priest who would process before the people. A canopy would be held above the priest and Our Lord as protection from the weather. The idea of throwing flowers comes from an ancient tradition. When a king would enter a city, the people would greet him with flowers and petals to express their love, loyalty, and to proclaim their joy at being in his kingdom. In 1496, at a cathedral in Florence, Italy, the tradition of children dressing in white was established. By 1613 celebrations had become more elaborate in places like Mainz, Germany where hundreds of children dressed in white, representing the nine choirs of Angels, processed before the Blessed Sacrament. Other “angels” strewed flowers before the Eucharistic Lord. These traditions became a way for the people of God to proclaim Jesus as King in a special public manner.
Throughout the centuries the Feast of Corpus Christi faced suspension from popes, and suppression by the Protestant Reformation. Even so, to this day it remains a well known and loved celebration of the Church’s belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
One saint who had a particular fondness for this feast day was St. Therese of Lisieux. She said:
“I loved especially the processions in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. What a joy it was for me to throw flowers beneath the feet of God! Before allowing them to fall to the ground, I threw them as high as I could, and I was never so happy as when I saw my roses touch the sacred monstrance.”
Sources: atxcatholic.com, wikipedia.com, catholicculture.org
The Holy Rosary is the chief prayer offered to Mary and probably closest to the hearts of the faithful for the past 800 years. In 2002, Pope Saint John Paul II wrote an apostolic letter devoted to the Rosary of the Virgin Mary. It is a beautiful document that teaches, meditates on the mysteries of the rosary, and encourages us in our prayer. It is with this document that the Holy Father introduces the Luminous Mysteries, which focus on the public life of Christ.
Here are some highlights of this valuable letter:
- “The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a prayer [centered on Christ]…it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety.”
- Praying the Rosary is to “contemplate the face of Christ in union with, and at the school of, his Most Holy Mother. To recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate, with Mary, the face of Christ.”
- “Against the background of the words Ave Maria (Hail Mary),the…life of Jesus Christ [passes] before the eyes of the soul…they put us in living communion with Jesus through…the heart of his Mother.” Also, “the Rosary can be a means to embrace all the events that make up the lives of [all people],” along with “our personal concerns and those of our neighbour, especially those…who are dearest to us.”
- The pope also gives valuable suggestions on how to pray the Rosary well, focussing on ways to better understand its richness, symbolism and how to harmonize it with the demands of daily life.”
- The pope concludes: “I look to all of you, brothers and sisters of every state of life, to you, Christian families, to you, the sick and elderly, and to you, young people: confidently take up the Rosary once again. Rediscover the Rosary in the light of Scripture, in harmony with the Liturgy, and in the context of your daily lives.”
The Rosary is prayed 30 minutes before every Mass in our parish churches. Please join us!
For many centuries, the Catholic Church has set aside the entire month of May to honour Mary, Mother of God. Not just one day in May, but the entire month. The custom of focusing on Mary in a special way during May spans many cultures around the world, and can easily be called globally ancient. The month of May has been important since before Christianity began – both ancient Greeks and Romans celebrated the pagan gods of blossoms and fruitfulness or fertility – Flora and Artemis. May is springtime, when new growth is clear all around us in nature. Many western cultures have come to associate May as a month of life and motherhood.
The Church has kept an entire month dedicated to Mary since at least medieval times (August was the choice early on), but it wasn’t the month of May commonly until the 1700’s.
The Raccolta, a handbook of Catholic prayers from the mid-1800’s, describes May this way:
“It is a well-known devotion, to consecrate to most holy Mary the month of May, as the most beautiful and florescent month of the whole year. This devotion has long prevailed throughout Christendom.”
The ways Mary is honoured in May is as varied as the people who honour her. It’s common for parishes to have a daily recitation of the Rosary during May. Also, it’s a long-standing tradition to crown a statue of Mary during May in the parish. Often, the crown is made of beautiful blossoms representing Mary’s beauty and virtue.
During May, at church and at home, remember Mary in a special way often. Notice and visit Mary in here in our parish churches. Our crowned statues are in the grotto inside the church, and in the garden courtyard of Our Lady of the Assumption. Mary’s crowning was beautifully celebrated May 1.
Saint Bernard says:
“In danger, in anguish…call on Mary. May she never be far from your lips, from your heart…If you follow her, you cannot go astray;
if you pray to her, you cannot despair; if you think of her, you cannot be mistaken. If she sustains you, you cannot fall; if she protects you, you have nothing to fear; if she guides you, do not tire.”
“This triumphant hymn and wonderful sacramental is the prelude to the Easter solemnities. It is a majestic proclamation of the Resurrection of Christ, a dramatic invitation to heaven and earth to join with the Church in joy and jubilation.”
This article at Catholic Culture sheds light on the origins and developments in the history of this great sacramental hymn.
The Exsultet in an 11th Century manuscript from Rochester Cathedral
Victimae paschali laudes immolent Christiani. Agnus redemit oves:
Christus innocens Patri reconciliavit peccatores.
Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando:
dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus.
Dic nobis Maria, quid vidisti in via?
Sepulcrum Christi viventis, et gloriam vidi resurgentis:
Angelicos testes, sudarium, et vestes.
Surrexit Christus spes mea: praecedet suos in Galilaeam.
Scimus Christum surrexisse a mortuis vere:
tu nobis, victor Rex, miserere.
May you praise the Paschal Victim, immolated for Christians.
The Lamb redeemed the sheep:
Christ, the innocent one, has reconciled sinners to the Father.
A wonderful duel to behold, as death and life struggle:
The Prince of life dead, now reigns alive.
Tell us, Mary Magdalen, what did you see in the way?
I saw the sepulchre of the living Christ, and I saw the glory of the Resurrected one:
The Angelic witnesses, the winding cloth, and His garments.
The risen Christ is my hope:
He will go before His own into Galilee.
We know Christ to have risen truly from the dead:
And thou, victorious King,have mercy on us.
In November the Church remembers our Faithful Departed, as is recommended in the Scriptures of the Old Testament: “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.”(2 Macch. 12, 46). This is found not only in public and private prayers but also in the offering of the Mass for the repose of the souls of the departed. Similarly, in November the Church prays for all who are in Purgatory, awaiting for the day, when fully purified ,they will join the company of the saints in heaven. The celebration of Mass is the ultimate means that the Church can provide for charity for the dead. However, the faithful can also relieve their sufferings through prayers, sufferings and penances, or other acts and prayers that have indulgences attached to them.
There are many indulgences, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, that can be obtained during November. During November the Church also meditates on the Communion of Saints, which is the link with the faithful who have already reached heaven (Church Triumphant), the faithful departed who are still expiating their sins in Purgatory (Church Suffering) and of the pilgrim faithful here on earth (Church Militant). “In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1475).
November: The Souls of the Faithful:
Let me see if I can recall, if I can remember
The wintry days of the month of November
The wind above my head blew and swirled
The dark clouds before me were unfurled
The leaves clinging to the windswept trees
Gave up their struggle, to the fierce breeze
My breaking heart sunk deep into my chest
And a myriad of memories became my guest
The souls of the faithful are in God’s hands
Life, a precious gift, lived as God’s commands
We walk this green earth for only a few years
Our tiny steps accompanied by joys and tears
All crammed into the little time we are given
Until we set our sights upon walking in heaven
I pray for the departed loved ones, I will remember
A sacred intention, in the month of November.
Fr. Patrick Brennan
2013 copyright, with permission
“Chalking the door” is a way to celebrate and literally mark the occasion of the Epiphany and God’s blessing of our lives and home. With time the chalk will fade. As it does we let the meaning of the symbols written sink into the depths of our heart and be manifest in our words and actions the Latin words, Christus mansionem benedictat, “May Christ bless the house.”
A traditional way of doing this is to use chalk to write above the home’s entrance, 20 + C + M + B + 19. The letters C, M, B have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the three magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They also abbreviate the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless the house.” The “+” signs represent the cross and 2019 is the year.
Blessing the Chalk:
The following prayer is taken from the book, The Twelve Days of Christmas, by Elsa Chaney.
LEADER (Priest, if present, or father of the family): Peace be to this house.
ALL: And to all who dwell herein.
ALL: From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.
ALL PRAY: The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). During the Magnificat, the room is sprinkled with holy water and incense. After this is completed,
ALL: From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of his burial.
LEADER: Our Father…And lead us not into temptation
ALL: But deliver us from evil.
LEADER: All they from Saba shall come.
ALL: Bringing gold and frankincense.
LEADER: O Lord, hear my prayer,
ALL: And let my cry come to you.
LEADER: Let us pray. O God, who by the guidance of a star didst on this day manifest Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, mercifully grant that we who know Thee by faith may also attain the vision of Thy glorious majesty. Through Christ our Lord.
Instructions for Blessing the Home
Using the blessed chalk mark the lintel of your front door (or front porch step) as follows:
20 + C + M + B + 18 (for 2019, in this example)
The three Wise Men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar followed the star of God’s Son who became human two thousand and sixteen years ago. May Christ bless our home and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen.
Then offer the following prayer: Visit, O blessed Lord, this home with the gladness of your presence. Bless all who live or visit here
Today in Rome Pope Francis will canonize Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, as well as Pope Paul VI. For your consideration and meditation below is a prayer by Archbishop Oscar Romero entitled “The Long View”
“It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
Which is another way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the Master Builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.”
Pope Paul VI presided over the final sessions of the Second Vatican Council which lasted from 1962-65, modernizing the Roman Catholic Church and bringing it forward into the world. Under his leadership the liturgy was permitted to be celebrated in the vernacular and increasing roles for the laity were initiated. As well, an emphasis on improved relations with people of other faiths – ecumenism – was introduced.
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, celebrated every year on September 14, recalls three events: the finding of the True Cross by Saint Helena, the mother of the emperor Constantine; the dedication of churches built by Constantine on the site of the Holy Sepulchre and Mount Calvary; and the restoration of the True Cross to Jerusalem in AD 629 by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius after it had fallen into the hands of the Persian emperor Chosroes II in the AD 614 Sasanian conquest of Jerusalem.Under emperor Constantine, around 327, Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, caused excavations to be made in order to ascertain the location of Calvary as well as that of the Holy Sepulchre. It was in the course of these excavations that the wood of the Cross was recovered. It was determined by Macarius to be authentic (the crosses of the Two Thieves were also recovered) and for it Constantine built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. The feast was observed in Rome before the end of the seventh century.
In Anglo-Saxon literature, the Exaltation of the Cross takes its most vivid form in the epic poem “The Dream of the Rood” written from the perspective of the tree that became the Cross. “Rood” is the Anglo Saxon word for the Cross, and may be seen preserved in usage in such terms as HolyRood, and in the term “rood screen” which was the ornate wooden screen that separated the chancel from the nave.The rood screen is so called because it was surmounted by the Rood itself, a large figure of the crucified Christ. Commonly, to either side of the Rood, there stood supporting statues of saints, normally Mary and St John.
In The Dream of the Rood, the cross has a voice and can feel and express emotion – ripped from its roots in the wood, it says:
“Bæron me þær beornas on eaxlum, oð ðæt hie me on beorg asetton;
gefæstnodon me þær feondas genoge. Geseah ic þa frean mancynnes
efstan elne mycle, þæt he me wolde on gestigan.
Þær ic þa ne dorste ofer dryhtnes word
bugan oððe berstan, þa ic bifian geseah
eorðan sceatas. Ealle ic mihte
feondas gefyllan, hwæðre ic fæste stod.
Ongyrede hine þa geong hæleð – þæt wæs God ælmihtig –
strang ond stiðmod; gestah he on gealgan heanne,
modig on manigra gesyhðe, þa he wolde mancyn lysan.
Bifode ic þa me se beorn ymbclypte; ne dorste ic hwæðre bugan to eorðan,
feallan to foldan sceatum, ac ic sceolde fæste standan.
Rod wæs ic aræred; ahof ic ricne cyning,
heofona hlaford; hyldan me ne dorste.
Þurhdrifan hi me mid deorcan næglum; on me syndon þu dolg gesiene,
opene inwidhlemmas; ne dorste ic hira ænigum sceððan.
Bysmeredon hie unc butu ætgædere; eall ic wæs mid blode bestemed,
begoten of þæs guman sidan siððan he hæfde his gast onsended.
Feala ic on þam beorge gebiden hæbbe
wraðra wyrda: geseah ic weruda God
þearle þenian. Þystro hæfdon violently,
bewrigen mid wolcnum wealdendes hræw,
scirne sciman; sceadu forð eode,
wann under wolcnum. Weop eal gesceaft,
cwiðdon cyninges fyll. Crist wæs on rode.”
“Men bore me on their shoulders there, until they fixed me on a hill;
many enemies fastened me there. Then I saw the Lord of mankind
hasten with great courage, because he wanted to climb upon me.
There I did not dare, against the Lord’s word,
to bend or break when I saw the earth’s surface
tremble. I could have
felled all those enemies, but I stood fast.
The young hero stripped himself – he was God Almighty,
strong and stout-minded. He mounted the high gallows,
courageous in the sight of many, when he intended to save mankind.
I trembled when that man embraced me; yet I dared not bow to the ground,
fall to the surface of the earth, but I had to stand fast.
As a rood was I reared. I lifted the mighty King,
the Lord of the heavens; I did not dare to bend.
They drove me through with dark nails. On me those sores are seen,
open wounds of wickedness. I dared not harm any of them.
They mocked us, both together. I was entirely bedewed with blood
poured out from that man’s side, after he sent forth his spirit.
I experienced on that hill
many cruel events, I saw the God of hosts
severely stretched out. Darkness had
covered with clouds the Ruler’s body,
the shining brightness. A shadow passed
dark under the heavens. All creation wept,
lamented the king’s fall. Christ was on the cross.”
The Catholic Bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories have issued a pastoral response to concerns raised by the recent report of extensive clerical sex abuse in Pennsylvania.
“Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Like you and faithful Catholics everywhere, we heard the most recent revelations of child sex abuse by clergy in the United States with deep dismay.
We share with you a profound sense of disappointment, grief and anger over the actions of people entrusted to act in the name of Christ and guide His Church. We echo the sentiments expressed in the statement released (August 16, 2018) from the Vatican regarding the Interim Report of the Investigating Grand Jury of Pennsylvania:
“The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible. Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith. The Church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur….
The Holy See encourages continued reform and vigilance at all levels of the Catholic Church, to help ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults from harm. The Holy See also wants to underscore the need to comply with the civil law, including mandatory child abuse reporting requirements.
The Holy Father understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and the spirit of believers and reiterates the call to make every effort to create a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the Church and in all of society.
Victims should know that the Pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his priority, and the Church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent.”
Our hearts break when we hear that children have been harmed in such a lasting and destructive way, through absolutely no fault of their own. It is particularly abhorrent when perpetrated by a member of the clergy. We share in the shame and sorrow of those whose faith has been shaken by this news. When a member of the body suffers, the whole body of Christ suffers. We encourage everyone to pray for the victims, and to remember that the power of the Gospel message can never be destroyed by sin.
To our brothers and sisters who have suffered personally or through family members who have been abused in the Church community, we pledge to listen, and to share your pain and anguish. We invite you to contact us at the local diocesan office.
To those who continue to serve the Church in ministry, whether ordained or lay persons, we are grateful for your dedication and faith in this difficult time. We stand with you, and we pray that God give us all the courage and resilience we need to persevere and remain always morally accountable in our ministry.
We all have a sacred trust to protect those who are vulnerable, particularly children, and to stand up and speak when we witness that trust betrayed. We have made Safe Environments and Abuse Prevention programs a high priority in our dioceses. We cannot run or hide from instances of abuse and harm, and we have no desire to do so. We confront these situations with the Gospel principles of truth, justice, repentance and healing.
With this letter, we renew our commitment to ensure that any clergy, employee, or lay volunteer who commits an offence against children or other vulnerable persons is promptly removed from ministry, that any offences are immediately reported to civil authorities, and that victims receive an apology, compassion and assistance in recovering from any harm they have suffered, including compensation where appropriate.
With the help of God’s grace, we must continue to exercise our responsibility for the care of all victims, especially children. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may we always fulfill our moral obligation to uphold and safeguard the dignity of each human person.
Sincerely in Christ,
Catholic Bishops of Alberta and NWT
✠ Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton
✠ William McGrattan, Bishop of Calgary
✠ Gerard Pettipas CSsR, Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan
✠ David Motiuk, Bishop of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Edmonton
✠ Jon Hansen CSsR, Bishop of Mackenzie-Fort Smith
✠ Paul Terrio, Bishop of St. Paul
17 August 2018 “
Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton
Confidential phone line: 1-877-770-6777
Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary
Secure and confidential email:
Catholic Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan
Msgr. Charles Lavoie
Office of the Vicar General and Chancellor
Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Paul
Deacon Ryan Sales
Office of the Safe Parish Coordinator
Roman Catholic Diocese of McKenzie-Fort Smith
Sister Mary Lee
The Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton
Very Rev. Stephen Wojcichowsky, Chancellor
Office of the Chancellor
As recorded in Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2, the Apostles proclaimed the Gospel for the first time on Pentecost. When all was said and done, 3,000 people had been added to the Church. That must have been some proclamation!
What accounts for its power? The crowds who gathered to hear the Apostles weren’t “wowed” by healings or miracles or impressed by soaring rhetoric. Rather, what captured their imagination was the total lack of inhibition displayed by the Apostles; so much so that the crowds commented that perhaps these followers of Jesus had been drinking too much wine. And in truth, the Apostles were preaching while intoxicated—not with “spirits,” but with the Holy Spirit. The crowds saw a group of men who should have been terrified to set foot in public taking to the streets filled with uninhibited joy and enthusiasm for Jesus Christ. It was this dramatic and observable transformation in the behavior of a small group of former fishermen and tax collectors that caught the attention of thousands and led them to “sign on” that very day.
—Excerpted from Under the Influence of Jesus by Joe Paprocki
► Read Pentecost Astonishment by Pope Francis.
► Reflect on the Gospel for Pentecost with the Sunday Connection.
“It takes a great deal of slow, careful, thoughtful work to learn a language. First there must be the example of someone fluent in that language who acts as a model. Next, there must be careful listening, repeating of sounds that are foreign, and memorizing words and their unfamiliar nuances. Over time one builds small sentences to convey basic meanings. Months, even years later, one grows in the ability to write and speak sentences to convey ever more complex ideas: from “I like you” to “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”
We live in an age that suggests that the strictures of church distract one from the spiritual life—that church is all about rules, and spirituality is all about life and love. That opinion is wrong. Church—by which I mean the community of people rooted in a history of worshiping God—is indeed governed by rules, but so is language, and both take hard work to master. But the mastery, the virtuosity, the poetry, is liberating in its beauty. Immersion in the life of the Church is an immersion in the life of Christ writ large over human history. It demands careful learning. For that reason, early Christians designated the period known as the catechumenate as a many-years-long initiation into the life of the Church. Learn the grammar of the Church’s life, its wisdom went, and you will be free. God is there in the unknowing; God is there in the learning; God is there in the deepening of wisdom, the poetry of the Church’s life.”
The full article and much more may be read at https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/
Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ He answered, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’ So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized.”
—Acts of the Apostles 9:10–12,17–18
When Paul—who was also known as Saul—encountered Christ in a vision outside Damascus, he lost his sight. For three days, Paul could not see; nor did he eat or drink.
I think about the times I have been blinded, that is, the times when life’s challenges have left me confused and paralyzed. Unable to see a way out of whatever predicament I find myself in, I am left feeling trapped. In those times, the greatest temptation might be despair.
Following the example of St. Paul, there are two things that I can do to help me resist that temptation. First, I can pray. More than anything else, I can ask the Lord for whatever grace I need to get me through such moments of confusion until the “scales” fall from my eyes and I can see a way forward. Prayer reminds me that it’s OK to be confused, because God is with me in my confusion.
The second thing I can do is to seek help from others, just as Paul relied on Ananias. The love of my wife, the counsel of my friends, and the wisdom of my spiritual director, each in their own way, help me find clarity in times of confusion.
And most importantly, I seek out Christ himself in the Eucharist.
by Bob Burnham, author of Little Lessons from the Saints
► Pray with the 3-Minute Retreat: Here I Am, Lord
“When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.”
—Acts of the Apostles 7:54–60
In giving up his spirit to the Lord, Stephen became poor. He gave up all he had—his spirit and his life—and placed his life in Jesus’ hands. Stephen had nothing, and he suffered death at the hands of those who persecuted him. The Beatitudes remind me that the poor in spirit and those who are persecuted inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:3, 10)
Stephen truly did see the Kingdom of Heaven that day. He saw it when he beheld the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. More importantly, he saw the Kingdom of Heaven when he uttered with his last breath, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
Stephen teaches me that forgiveness allows me to see the Kingdom of Heaven present in the world today. It allows me to overcome the grudges, resentment, and offenses that divide communities. To celebrate the Risen Christ is to acknowledge that mercy and compassion are more powerful than anger and revenge.
When I focus on forgiveness, the Kingdom of Heaven seems more of a possibility. It is no longer something that I passively wait for, but, with God’s grace, it is something I can actively work toward.
by Bob Burnham, author of Little Lessons from the Saints
► Pray with The Beatitudes Examen.
► Read The Way of Discipleship by James P. Campbell.
Faithful servant of God and invincible martyr, Saint George; favored by God with the gift of faith, and inflamed with an ardent love of Christ, thou didst fight valiantly against the dragon of pride, falsehood, and deceit. Neither pain nor torture, sword nor death could part thee from the love of Christ. I fervently implore thee for the sake of this love to help me by thy intercession to overcome the temptations that surround me, and to bear bravely the trials that oppress me, so that I may patiently carry the cross which is placed upon me; and let neither distress nor difficulties separate me from the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Valiant champion of the Faith, assist me in the combat against evil, that I may win the crown promised to them that persevere unto the end.
“As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’”
Upon reading about Cleopas on the road to Emmaus, I realized that his words “Stay with us” are an incredible prayer.
The first word, stay, expresses my desire to be with Jesus. By asking him to stay, I am inviting and welcoming him into my life. Such an encounter, the Gospels make abundantly clear, will transform me in ways I cannot imagine.
The word with helps me remember how close God is to me, and how close I am to God. God is not some distant deity off in the heavens doing whatever it is deities do. Rather, God wants to be present to me and to spend time with me. And like any good friendship, I like to spend time with those who enjoy my company.
Finally, the word us emphasizes that God shares. Nothing is done alone or in isolation. To love, serve, and praise God is something that I do in community: we are all brothers and sisters. A meal with the Lord is a meal that I share with as many people as possible.
“Stay with us” is a prayer that is at once both humble and magnanimous, just like the Lord himself.
by Bob Burnham, author of Little Lessons from the Saints
► Pray with the 3-Minute Retreat: Our Eyes Were Opened.
► Read Our Road to Emmaus by Lisa Kelly.
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (‘ɡaderi deɡaˈɡwita in Mohawk), given the name Tekakwitha, baptized as Catherine and informally known as Lily of the Mohawks (1656 – April 17, 1680), was an Algonquin–Mohawk laywoman. Born in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon, on the south side of the Mohawk River, she contracted smallpox in an epidemic; her family died and her face was scarred. She converted to Roman Catholicism at age nineteen, when she was renamed Kateri, baptized in honor of Saint Catherine of Siena. Refusing to marry, she left her village and moved for the remaining 5 years of her life to the Jesuit mission village of Kahnawake, south of Montreal in New France, now Canada. Tekakwitha took a devout vow of perpetual virginity. Upon her death at the age of 24, witnesses said that minutes later her scars vanished and her face appeared radiant and beautiful. Known for her virtue of chastity and mortification of the flesh, as well as being shunned by some of her tribe for her religious conversion to Catholicism, she is the fourth Native American to be venerated in the Roman Catholic Church and the first to be canonized. Under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, she was beatified in 1980 and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI at Saint Peter’s Basilica on 21 October 2012. Various miracles and supernatural events are attributed to her intercession.
“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’”
Having denied Jesus three times—as the Lord had predicted at the Last Supper—Peter was given a chance to make things right. Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him.
“Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,” Peter answered each time. And a relationship that was damaged by his denial was re-established by his affirmation of love.
But Jesus wanted more than just words. “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, and feed my sheep,” Jesus told Peter. Jesus teaches me that love is more than just saying the words, “I love you.” Peter had to enflesh his words with actions.
That is how I understand faith—it is the enfleshing of love. In Peter’s case, his faith took the form of being the shepherd to the flock (that is, the early Church). And while I’m not called to the priesthood or religious life, I have a vocation that is just as important—that of a husband. I cannot simply tell my wife I love her. I have to live it. After all, anyone can say, “I love you.” That requires no great sacrifice. But to feed and nourish another person—that requires a sacrifice that is truly Christlike.
by Bob Burnham, author of Little Lessons from the Saints
► Read New Life in Front of Me by Becky Eldredge.
► Read Praying in Resurrection Joy by Chris Sullivan.
“Rejoice and be glad!” is what Jesus said on the Sermon on the Mount. It’s also the title of Pope Francis’ new Apostolic Exhortation on holiness in day to day life.
The Full text is available on the Vatican Website at the following link:
“So [Mary Magdalene and the other Mary] left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’”
As I watch this scene unfold in my imagination, I cannot help but laugh.
Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, are running from Jesus’ tomb. They had just seen an angel who told them with great fanfare (the earth itself shook with the news) that Jesus had been raised from the dead. “Go quickly,” the angel tells them, “and tell his disciples to meet him in Galilee!”
I crack up when I hear Jesus say to them, “Greetings!” (although, in my imagination, Jesus shouts “Hey, Mary!”). At that moment, I realize that Jesus is excited to see Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. That makes sense. Jesus is excited to tell the disciples the Good News of his victory over sin and death as much as anyone, if not more so. After all, Jesus knew how defeated, lost, and dejected they must have felt just a few days earlier. They saw him—and with him their hopes and dreams—die on the Cross.
Jesus probably couldn’t wait to see them. And that is why I laugh when I imagine Mary Magdalene’s encounter with Jesus: it is the laughter of excitement that accompanies a surprise.
by Bob Burnham, author of Little Lessons from the Saints
Wēop eal gesceaft, cwīðdon cyninges fyll. Crīst wæs on rōde.
Deað he þær byrigde; hwæðere eft Dryhten aras
mid his miclan mihte mannum to helpe…..
to þan þæt he eall mann cyn fram hellwara wite alysde
All creation wept, wailed because of the fall of the King. Christ was on the cross.
He tasted death there; nevertheless, afterwards the Lord arose
to help mankind with his great might……
So that he might free all mankind from the punishments of hell
– Cynewulf, poet, C860
St. Margaret Clitherow was born in Middleton, England, in 1555, of protestant parents. In 1571, she married John Clitherow, a well-to-do butcher in York , and a few years later converted to Catholicism. During the Reformation she harbored fugitive priests, for which she was arrested and imprisoned by the authorities. Recourse was had to every means in an attempt to make her deny her Faith, but she would not recant, or reveal the identities of fellow Catholics. Finally, she was condemned to be pressed to death on March 25, 1586. She was stretched out on the ground with a sharp rock on her back and crushed under a door over laden with stones. .When she learned of her death sentence said: “The sheriffs have said that I am going to die this coming Friday; and I feel the weakness of my flesh which is troubled at this news, but my spirit rejoices greatly. For the love of God, pray for me and ask all good people to do likewise” A relic of her incorrupt hand is kept at the Bar Convent in York.
Ælfric of Eynsham (Old English: Ælfrīc; Latin: Alfricus, Elphricus; c. 955 – c. 1010) was an English abbot, as well as a consummate, prolific writer in Old English of hagiography, homilies, biblical commentaries, and other genres. Aelfric wrote two series of homiles as well as a work on the lives of the saints, in Anglo Saxon. He is also credited with authoring the Old English Hexateuch, was revolutionary, for it was the first time that the Bible was translated from Latin into the vernacular, that is, into Old English. To his translation of Genesis, he wrote a preface. This preface was to ensure that the uneducated who might read this translation of the Old Testament would understand that they ought not believe that the practices of the ancient Israelites were still acceptable for Christians. In his preface, Ælfric employs the same writing techniques that King Alfred used in his preface to a translation of the Cura Pastoralis. Also notable is that in his translation of Genesis Ælfric did not just translate it word for word from the Latin, which was common due to the belief that the word order of sacred Scripture was itself sacred. Rather, he translated much of it by its meaning; he recognized that the meaning of what the Bible said was the most important thing to be conveyed, not the word order.
Below is an excerpt from his homily for Ash Wednesday – still relevant today
On þone wodnesdæg wide geond eorðan sacerdas bletsiað swa swa hit geset ís clæne axan on cyrcan and þa siððan lecgað uppa manna hæfda þæt hi habban on gemynde þæt hi of eorðan comon and eft to duste gewendað swa swa se ælmihtiga god to adame cwæð siððan he agylt hæfde ongean godes bebod:
‘On geswincum þu leofast and on swate þu etst þinne hlaf on eorðan oðþæt þu eft gewende to þære ylcan eorðan þe þu of come forðan þe þu eart dust and to duste gewendst.’
Nis þis na gesæd be manna sawlum ac be manna lichaman þe formolsniað to duste and eft sceolan on domes dæg ðurh ures drihtnes mihte ealle of eorðan arisan þe æfre cuce wæron swa swa ealle treowa cuciað æfre on lenctenes timan þe ær þurh wyntres cyle wurdon adydde.
On that Wednesday, throughout the world, as it is appointed, priests bless clean ashes in church, and then lay them on people’s heads, so that they may remember that they came from earth and will return again to dust, just as Almighty God said to Adam, after he had sinned against God’s command:
‘In labour you shall live and in sweat you shall eat your bread upon the earth, until you return again to the same earth from which you came, for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’
This is not said about the souls of mankind, but about their bodies, which moulder to dust, and shall again on Judgement Day, through the power of our Lord, rise from the earth, all who ever lived, just as all trees quicken again in the season of spring which were deadened by the winter’s chill.