October 23, 2016

Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 23, 2016, Year C

Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

The gospel account we just heard is famous, one with which we are all familiar. It tells the well-known story of the sinner who sat in the back of the Temple beating his breast while seeking mercy and the Pharisee who sat up in front reminding God what a laudable and holy person he is. The “holier than thou” argument is often used as an excuse by those who don’t go to church in order to criticize those of us who do, calling us hypocrites. But the story goes much deeper than the comparisons people make between themselves and others. The parable deals with our perception of who we are in the eyes of God.

This parable reaches to the core of our relationship with God. We need to understand that the basis of that relationship is the fact that God chooses us. He establishes the relationship. We haven’t won this relationship with our prayers, or our actions. God has chosen us. This has not been easy for many to accept. Taking on our humanity and becoming one of us in His Incarnate Son, God’s effort has been directed toward all of us. The extent of His love for us is proven through His sacrificial love for all of us displayed the Cross. The struggle also includes the Lord’s continual effort through His Son to win each of us into His love. So often, however, you and I have run from Him.

Perhaps we fear that His love for us is too demanding. Maybe we’re afraid that getting close to God means we have to give up all of the fun things in life. Maybe we’re afraid He will ask us to give up things that we feel we simply just can’t give up. Or… maybe it’s a control issue. Do I control my life, or should God govern my life? Our motives are many and complex, God’s motive is simple and uncomplicated.

In our relationship with God each one of us has been gifted with God’s love, a love flowing to us through our family of faith, the Church. Yet at the same time His love is, because we are individuals, unique to each one of us. I stand before God’s eyes all by myself. Each one of you has his or her own unique and individual relationship with God. By that I mean that someone is not better or worse than another person in the eyes of God. God sees you as you, not in comparison with someone else. Take, for example, your own relationship with your own children. Each of your kids is not better or worse than each other. To be sure, they are different, yet all of your children, each and every one, receive all of your love.

And so it is with God. We are all God’s children. Yet God sees us and loves us individually. He doesn’t judge us as better or worse than another person. Our actions and behaviors may be good or bad but we are all God’s children and He loves us all as His children.

One of the ways that we tend to avoid accepting responsibility for our actions is to contrast ourselves with those whose actions appear to be worse than ours. The Pharisee thought: “Look at that guy; he is a sinner and a tax collector. At least I’m better than him.” Is that any different than the thought, “Look at that guy, he’s a drug addict. At least I’m better than him.”

Thank God for your own goodness, but at the same time realize that God sees into the hearts and souls of each of His children. He looks into our hearts and He sees all those hidden forces that have pushed us in one direction or another. He sees the times that He has directly intervened in our lives offering us His presence. And He sees the times that we have accepted His presence and the times that we have told him, “Not now… Not in this matter… Maybe later. You are asking too much.” He judges us as individuals. He is not concerned with who is better than whom. He is only concerned with how well we each individually respond to His love, what we as individuals has done with the gifts He has given us.

Catholicism is often accused of putting people on guilt trips. That is not true. Catholicism puts people on reality trips. Catholicism dares to speak about unpopular topics like sin. Catholicism dares to invite people to consider their own participation in sin and seek God’s forgiveness. Is this really a guilt trip? Or is it a reality trip? I firmly believe that Catholicism fosters a realistic approach to living. It recognizes that our salvation is a process we are engaged in. We are not saved yet, we are being saved. Catholicism recognizes that we are human beings and that we can, because we are wounded, give in to temptations to sin. It tells us that the Lord was one of us and that He experienced temptations and that He understands our need for mercy. He gave us the Sacrament of mercy, the Sacrament of Forgiveness, because He wants His mercy, not our guilt, directing our lives.

Catholicism is not concerned with guilt, it is concerned with mercy. So many times I have had people tell me how much they need the loving mercy of God. They are realists. We all need the mercy of God. As we come to a deeper understanding of all that God has done for us, we also come to a deeper understanding of how much we need His mercy and forgiveness. The greatest saints are people who see themselves as great sinners because they have a profound realization of the extent of God’s love for them and the many times they have not returned His love.

The Orthodox and Eastern Churches favorite prayers that are like mantras, simple and repetitive. They help us to pray constantly… many, many times throughout each and every day. One such prayer is called The Pilgrim’s Prayer. It is simple and yet profound: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.” It was the prayer of the man in the back of the Temple who realized he was totally dependent on God’s love, a love that he had often rejected. The pilgrim’s prayer is a prayer that we all need to say within our hearts throughout our day.

A Pharisee and a tax collector come into the Temple. Both are there to pray. Only one is a humble enough to recognize his need for the healing hand of God. He is the one who truly prays because he realizes how much he really needs God. He is the one who leaves the Temple with God’s arms around him. The Pharisee leaves having nothing but his own self-satisfaction. The tax collector leaves with a great treasure: the love of God in his heart.

October 21, 2016

Novena to Saint Jude 2016 | Day 4

St. Jude icon

October 22, 2016

Most holy St. Jude – apostle, martyr and friend of Jesus, today I ask that you pray for me and my intentions!

(State your intentions here)

You are the patron of the impossible. Pray for me and my intentions! O St. Jude, pray that God’s grace and mercy will cover my intentions. Pray for the impossible if it is God’s will.

Pray that I may have the grace to accept God’s holy will even if it is painful and difficult for me.

St. Jude, pray that I may have your zeal to preach the Gospel.

O St. Jude, pray for me that I may grow in faith, hope and love and in the grace of Jesus Christ. Pray for these intentions, but most of all pray that I may join you in heaven with God for all eternity. Amen.

St. John Paul II on the Meaning of Salvation and the Divine Commission of Every Christian

Before Jesus was taken up to heaven, he gathered his disciples around him, and he explained to them once more the meaning of his mission of salvation: "Тhus it is written", he said, "that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. In his name, penance for the remission of sins is to be preached to all nations" (Lk 24 :46-47). At the moment that he took leave of his Apostles he commanded them, and through them the whole Church, each one of us: to go out and bring the message of redemption to all nations. Saint Paul expresses this forcefully in his second letter to the Corinthians: "He has entrusted the message of reconciliation to us. This makes us ambassadors of Christ, God as it were appealing through us" (2 Cor 5: 19-20).

 — Homily of St. John Paul II at Grant Park, Chicago, October 5, 1979, on his first Apostolic Journey to the United States.

Optional Memorial of Saint John Paul II

St. John Paul the Great

October 22, is the optional memorial of Saint John Paul II. He was elected Pope on 16 October 1978. On 22 October, he began his ministry as universal Pastor of the Church. His papacy was a consequential one, earning him the designation St. John Paul the Great. Here is a retrospective on his life and his deep love for God.

Karol Józef Wojtyła was born 96 on May 18, 1920, in Wadowice, Poland, the youngest of three children, to Karol Wojtyla and Emilia Wojtyla, (née Kaczorowska). The future pope's father was a non-commissioned officer of the Imperial Royal Army and a Polish Army captain. His mother had a premonition about her youngest child saying, "Karol is destined to be a great man." 

Young Wojtyla, c. 1929
Date of birth: May 18, 1920

Date of death: April 2, 2005

Birth place: Wadowice, Poland

Education: Doctorate in Philosophy, Doctorate in Sacred Theology, Jagiellonian University

Feast Day: October 22 (date of papal inauguration)

Apostolic Motto: Totus Tuus (Totally yours)

Notes of Interest:

Upon his election in 1978, John Paul II was the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years. At 58, he was the youngest pope since the election of Pope Pius IX (age 54), in 1846. During his pontificate, he visited 129 countries, travelling over 680,000 miles. He beatified 1,340 individuals and canonized 483 saints. While Bishop of Rome, he survived two attempts on his life. John Paul II is the third longest serving pontiff in history, behind St. Peter (32 years) and Pope Pius IX (31 years 7 months). He authored 14 encyclicals, 7 plays, 3 compilations of poetry and 16 books. He learned as many as twelve languages and spoke nine fluently as Pope: Polish, Latin, Ancient Greek, Italian, French, German, English, Spanish and Portuguese.

First pope to visit the White House.
 As a university student,
c. 1938-39

First modern pope to visit a synagogue.

First pope to visit Cuba.

Most widely traveled pope. (It has been suggested that John Paul II was seen in person by more people than any other figure in history.) 

Canonized more saints than any other pontiff.

Created 232 cardinals.

Re-established diplomatic relations with Great Britain 

Re-established diplomatic relations with the United States


May 18, 1920 - Karol Jozef Wojtyla is born in Wadowice, Poland, at 7 Koscielna Street. Nicknamed Lolek, he is the third and last child of Karol and Emilia. His brother Edmund was born in 1906 and a sister, Olga, died in infancy in 1914.

1938 - Karol graduates from high school. His family moves to Krakow. Karol attends Jagiellonian University until World War II begins in September 1939.

1941 - Wojtyla helps form an underground theater, called the Rhapsodic Theater. It presented works in Polish in defiance of the Nazis. During the day, Wojtyla labors in quarries and chemical factories.

1942 - Wojtyla studies at underground seminary run by Archbishop Sapieha.

Father Wojtyla, c 1947
1946 - Wojtyla is ordained a priest by Cardinal Sapieha.

1946-1948 - Wojtyla studies in Rome, earning a doctorate in philosophy. Later, he earns a doctorate in Sacred Theology from Jagellonian University.

1958 - Wojtyla is consecrated a bishop.

1962-1965 - Wojtyla participates in Vatican II. 

March 8, 1964 - Wojtyla is ordained Archbishop of Krakow.

June 26, 1967 - In a secret consistory, Wojtyla is elevated to cardinal.

October 16, 1978 - Cardinal Karol Wojtyla is elected the 264th pope.

October 2, 1979 - Addresses the General Assembly of the United Nations.

May 13, 1981 - Pope John Paul II is shot by Mehmet Ali Agca in Saint Peter's Square. He is seriously wounded in the abdomen, arm and hand. 

January 27, 1983 - He meets with Ali Agca at Rebibbia Prison.

December 26, 1994 - Time Magazine names him Man of the Year.

April 2, 2005 - Dies at 9:37 p.m. in his apartment in the Vatican.

April 8, 2005 - His funeral takes place in Saint Peter's Square. He is buried in a crypt under Saint Peter's Basilica.

May 2005 - Pope Benedict XVI waives the five year wait period for canonization.

May 1, 2011 - Is beatified by Pope Benedict XVI. 

April 27, 2014 - Is canonized a saint.

Pope John Paul II on Love - Chicago 1979:

Habemus Papam! Pope John Paul II presented to the world upon his election as Supreme Pontiff:

Prayer for the Intercession of Saint John Paul II

O Blessed Trinity,
we thank You for having graced the Church
with Saint John Paul II and for allowing
the tenderness of Your Fatherly care,
the glory of the cross of Christ,
and the splendor of the Holy Spirit,
to Shine through him.

Trusting fully in Your infinite mercy
and in the maternal intercession of Mary,
he has given us a living image of Jesus
the Good Shepherd, and has shown us that
holiness is the necessary measure of ordinary
Christian life and is the way of achieving
eternal communion with You.

Grant us, by his intercession,
and according to Your will,
the graces we implore...
We ask this through Jesus Christ Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
and the Holy Spirit, one God,
forever and ever. Amen.

October 20, 2016

Novena to Saint Jude 2016 | Day 3

St. Jude icon

October 21, 2016

Most holy St. Jude – apostle, martyr and friend of Jesus, today I ask that you pray for me and my intentions!

(State your intentions here)

You are the patron of the impossible. Pray for me and my intentions! O St. Jude, pray that God’s grace and mercy will cover my intentions. Pray for the impossible if it is God’s will.

Pray that I may have the grace to accept God’s holy will even if it is painful and difficult for me.

St. Jude, pray that I may have your zeal to preach the Gospel.

O St. Jude, pray for me that I may grow in faith, hope and love and in the grace of Jesus Christ. Pray for these intentions, but most of all pray that I may join you in heaven with God for all eternity. Amen.

Our Apologetics Page Answers Questions About Catholicism's Beliefs, Practices and History

Christ and St. Thomas in the upper room
Christ was crucified on earth and the Church is crucified by all of us, by her members most particularly, because she is a church of sinners. Christ never said that the Church would be operated in a sinless or intelligent way, but that it would not teach error. This does not mean that each and every priest won’t teach error, but that the whole Church speaking through the Pope will not teach error in matters of faith. The Church is founded on Peter who denied Christ three times and couldn’t walk on the water by himself. You are expecting his successors to walk on the water.
From a letter by Flannery O'Connor in response to a friend's criticism of the Catholic Church's shortcomings.

The articles on our apologetics page explain the beliefs, practices and history of the Catholic Church. As the above quotation cites, it is important to remember that the Church is a human institution with a divine mission. We hope that this information will lead you to a deeper love and greater appreciation for Christ and His pilgrim Church. Answers to questions about the Faith are a click away.

October 19, 2016

10 Quotations From St. Paul of the Cross on Suffering

St. Paul of the Cross

Saint Paul of the Cross' life was marked by hardships. It is not surprising that he developed such a great love for the Passion of Jesus Christ. His namesake, Saint Paul of Tarsus' letter to the Romans, Chapter 5, states "... let us exult, too, in our hardships, understanding that hardship develops perseverance, and perseverance develops character." Likewise, St. Paul of the Cross in the following 10 quotations expresses the immense value and divine blessing that attends our suffering.
The soul is a seed which God sows in the field of the Church; to produce fruits, it must die under the strokes of pains, sorrows, contradictions, and persecutions.
Let us fear more to be deprived of sufferings than a miser fears to lose his treasures.
Suffering is brief; joy will be eternal.
Do you know why God subjects you to so many miseries? That He may bestow on you the riches of heaven.
In your trials, have recourse to Mary, and She will remedy them.
He who truly loves God regards as little what he suffers for God's sake.
The greater our cross, the greater is our gain; the more deprived suffering is of consolation, the purer is it; the more creatures are against us, the more closely united are we to God.
Sufferings are the pearls of Jesus crucified....It happens sometimes that the lightning rends a mountain and discloses therein a mine of treasures. So, also, the thunderbolts of adversity bring forth a gold-mine in certain souls.
I hope that God will save me through the merits of the Passion of Jesus. The more difficulties in life, the more I hope in God. By God’s grace I will not lose my soul, but I hope in His mercy.
One day the Lord caused me to hear these words at the foot of the tabernacle: 'My son, he who embraces Me embraces thorns.'

Novena to Saint Jude 2016 | Day 2

St. Jude icon

October 20, 2016

Most holy St. Jude – apostle, martyr and friend of Jesus, today I ask that you pray for me and my intentions!

(State your intentions here)

You are the patron of the impossible. Pray for me and my intentions! O St. Jude, pray that God’s grace and mercy will cover my intentions. Pray for the impossible if it is God’s will.

Pray that I may have the grace to accept God’s holy will even if it is painful and difficult for me.

St. Jude, pray that I may have your zeal to preach the Gospel.

O St. Jude, pray for me that I may grow in faith, hope and love and in the grace of Jesus Christ. Pray for these intentions, but most of all pray that I may join you in heaven with God for all eternity. Amen.

Optional Memorial of Saint Paul of the Cross, Priest, Mystic and Founder of the Passionists

St. Paul of the Cross
October 20th, is the optional memorial of Saint Paul of the Cross, (1694-1775) the 18th century priest and mystic, best known for his special devotion to the Passion of Christ, who founded the Passionist Order. Born Paolo Francesco Danei, in the town of Ovada, Genoa, (present day Italy) he was the oldest of sixteen children. His parents, Luke Danei and Ann Marie Massari, were devout, but impoverished. (Although of noble lineage, by the time of Paul's birth his family were merchant traders.)

From the very beginning it was clear that Paul possessed a preternatural spiritually ability. From his mother, he received a deep reverence for the sufferings of Jesus crucified. Whenever he whined or complained, she would would show him a crucifix to remind him that our Savior had endured far worse. From his father, Paul received his first catechesis in learning about the lives of the saints and their courageous sacrifices and great devotion serving in imitation of Christ. At 15, upon listening to a sermon on the Passion of Jesus, he adopted a lifestyle of prayer, rigid austerity and mortification. Paul's desire to seek a religious vocation was further strengthened after he read the "Treatise on the Love of God" by Saint Francis de Sales.

In 1714, his religious pursuits were momentarily interrupted when he joined the Venetian army to fight against the Turks. Repulsed by war, he quickly released his mistake. After he was discharged a year later, he refused an inheritance and a promise of marriage to the daughter of a wealthy family. Instead, Paul dedicated his life to God and became a recluse. Returning to his life of prayer and penance, he was clothed in the habit of a hermit by the Bishop of Alexandria in 1720.

That year, he experienced several interior visions of the Blessed Mother wearing a black habit with the name of Jesus in white character surmounted by a cross in white emblazoned on it. Our Lady instructed him to found a new Order dedicated to preaching and mourning continuously the Passion and Death of Christ. From that moment the future saint began writing the Rules of his Order. Pope Benedict XIV approved the Rules in 1741. Meanwhile, Paul founded the Congregation of Discalced Clerks of the Holy Cross and Passion of Our Lord, or the Passionists, and would establish his first monastery at Obitello. Later, a second larger community would be established at the Church of Sts. John and Paul in Rome.

For fifty years, St. Paul of the Cross remained a tireless missionary of the Gospel. He died at the Retreat of Saints John and Paul on October 18, 1775, at the age of 81. He was canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1867. May the Priest Saint Paul, whose only love was the Cross, obtain for us your grace, O Lord, so that, urged on more strongly by his example, we may each embrace our own cross with courage.

Novena to Saint Jude 2016 | Day 1

St. Jude icon

October 19, 2016

Most holy St. Jude – apostle, martyr and friend of Jesus, today I ask that you pray for me and my intentions!

(State your intentions here)

You are the patron of the impossible. Pray for me and my intentions! O St. Jude, pray that God’s grace and mercy will cover my intentions. Pray for the impossible if it is God’s will.

Pray that I may have the grace to accept God’s holy will even if it is painful and difficult for me.

St. Jude, you loved our Lord, help me to love Him more.

O St. Jude, pray for me that I may grow in faith, hope and love and in the grace of Jesus Christ. Pray for these intentions, but most of all pray that I may join you in heaven with God for all eternity. Amen.

Election 2016 | Prayer for the Faithful Witness of Catholics in the United States

American flag

It is crucial that we, as Catholics faithful to the Magisterium, speak with a unified voice because of the reality that certain laws directly contradict Church teaching, the natural law and the good of society. In our country over 1 million unborn children are killed by abortion every year. All Catholics have a moral obligation to keep this human rights catastrophe at the forefront of their minds when voting. Catholics must also open their eyes to the attacks upon religious freedom that are proliferating in our society. More and more, government agencies are attempting to punish individuals and institutions that adhere to the truth that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and that every child needs and deserves a mother and a father.

Finally, Catholics should carefully consider the role that judges increasingly play in deciding issues like abortion, marriage and religious freedom. It is now the case that judges and other unelected officials all too often take these debates out of the hands of the democratic process and decide them for themselves leaving concerned citizens with no recourse. It is essential that we have judges who respect the right to life, and marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman, and who will protect the religious freedom and rights of conscience.

Prayer for the Faithful Witness of Catholics in the United States

(By Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke)

O Lord Jesus Christ, You alone are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In Your Church You show us the Way, You teach us the Truth, and You give us Your Life. Grant, we humbly beg You, that, always and in all things, we may be faithful to You in Your Holy Church, and to Your Vicar on Earth, the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis. Grant also, we beg You, that, in these times of decision, all who profess to be Catholic and who are entrusted with the sacred duty to participate in public life, may, by the strength of Your grace, unwaveringly follow Your Way and faithfully adhere to Your Truth, living in You with all their mind and heart, for Your greater glory, the salvation of souls, and the good of our nation. Amen.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, Pray for us.

Saint Thomas More, Patron of Religious Freedom, Pray for us.

October 18, 2016

The Novena to Saint Jude Begins October 19, 2016

St. Jude icon

The Novena to St. Jude starts on Monday, October 19th, leading up to his feast day on October 28th.

Jude (not to be confused with Judas Iscariot) is one of the twelve Apostles named by Jesus. He is also known as Thaddeus, (meaning sweetness and gentleness of character) as well as Jude of James, Jude Thaddaeus, Judas Thaddaeus or Lebbaeus.

Click here to sign up for daily reminders to pray the St. Jude Novena.

Saint Jude followed Jesus faithfully until our Lord's crucifixion. He then preached the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia and Libya. Jude spoke both Greek and Aramaic, and was a farmer by trade. His New Testament letter stressed the importance of a faithful person persevering despite harsh circumstances. Jude died a martyr around the year 65 AD. Tradition holds he was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.

After his martyrdom, pilgrims came to his grave to pray. Many benefited from his powerful intercession. Hence the title, "The Saint for the Hopeless and the Despaired". St. Bridget of Sweden and St. Bernard had visions from God asking each to accept St. Jude as "The Patron Saint of the Impossible". He is one of the most invoked saints for intercession in desperate situations.

Novena Prayers

Pray the novena to Saint Jude with confidence. Catholics have relied on his intercession in times of extreme need for centuries. This Apostle and Martyr has helped countless souls through his epistle in the New Testament and his intercessions on behalf of those who seek his aid in times of trial.

To pray the novena in full go here.

Memorial of Saints Isaac Jogues, Jean de Brébeuf and Companions, Martyrs

The North American Martyrs

On October 19th, dioceses in the United States observe the memorial of Saints Isaac Jogues, Jean de Brébeuf and companions, also known as the North American Martyrs. The six Jesuit priests and two laymen from France, were the first martyrs of North American to be officially recognized by the Church. At the expense of their own safety and despite great hardship, they brought Christ to the native population. It is estimated they converted some 7,000 members of the Huron tribe. The Huron’s enemies, the Iroquois waged ruthless wars against the Huron and Algonquian nations as well as the French. Iroquois Mohawk braves brutally tortured and killed the North American Martyrs between 1642 and 1649.

In 1534, Jacques Cartier voyaged to the New World where he explored current day Newfoundland and the St. Lawrence River Valley for France. By the 17th century, French Jesuit missionaries were the first to teach the Gospel to the indigenous people living there. Enduring harsh conditions and shifting political loyalties, Jesuits; Fr. Isaac Jogues, Fr. John de Brebeuf, Fr. Gabriel Lalemant, Fr. Noel Chabanel, Fr. Charles Garnier, Fr. Anthony Daniel, Rene Goupil and John de Lalande traveled and worked among the Amerindians of North America.

Born in Orléans, France, Isaac Jogues entered the Society of Jesus in 1624. Twelve years later, he was sent to New France as a missionary to the Huron and Algonquian tribes, allies of the French. In 1642, while on his way by canoe to the country of the Huron, Jogues and several Huron Christians were captured by a war party of Mohawk Iroquois. They were taken to a Mohawk village where they were gruesomely tortured. It was during this torture that Jogues’ fingers were cut off. Jogues survived, and lived as a slave among the Mohawks. Even in servitude, he attempted to teach his captors the rudiments of Christianity.

Thanks to Dutch merchants who smuggled him to Manhattan, Jogues escaped. From there, he sailed back to France where he was greeted with joyous surprise. As a living martyr. Fr. Jogues was given a dispensation by Pope Urban VIII to celebrate Mass with his mutilated hands since, at that time, the Eucharist could not be touched with any fingers except the thumb and forefinger.

Incredibly, the ill-treatment by the Mohawks did not dim Jogues’ missionary zeal. Within a few months, he returned to Canada to continue his work. In 1645, a tentative peace was forged between the Iroquois, Huron, Algonquian and French. In the spring of 1646, Jogues was sent back to the Mohawk territory along with Jean de LaLande to act as ambassadors. However, some among the Mohawks regarded Jogues as a sorcerer and when the double calamity of sickness and crop failure hit the Mohawks, they blamed Jogues. On October 18, 1646, Jogues and LaLande were clubbed to death and beheaded by their Mohawk hosts in present-day Auriesville, New York. Ten years later, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha would be born near the place of Jogues and LaLande’s martyrdom.

John de Brebeuf and five of his companions were martyred after four hours of extreme torture at Sainte Marie, near Georgian Bay, Canada in 1649. After Brebeuf’s demise, his body was stripped, beaten and behead. The details of his martyrdom are as follows. The Iroquois began to win their war with the Herons and destroyed a large Huron village. They captured Brebeuf and his companions. who were fastened to steaks and tortured to death by scalping, mock baptism using boiling water, fire, necklaces of red-hot hatchets and mutilation. According to Catholic tradition Brebeuf did not make a single utterance while he was being tortured. This astounded the Iroquois, who later cut out his heart and ate it in hopes of gaining his courage. In 1984, Saint John Paul II prayed over Brebeuf’s skull before celebrating an outdoor Mass on the grounds of the Martyrs' Shrine.

The Jesuit martyrs of North America were canonized on June 29, 1930 by Pope Pius XI. Pope Pius XII proclaimed them the secondary patrons of Canada on October 16, 1940 (Saint Joseph is the primary patron). O God, who chose to manifest the blessed hope of your eternal Kingdom by the toil of Saints John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues and companions, by the shedding of their blood, graciously grant that through their intercession the faith of Christians may be strengthened.

October 17, 2016

Did St. Luke Write the First Icon of the Mother of God?

Saint Luke painting icon.

Beginning in medieval times, popular piety, credits Saint Luke with writing the first icons of Mary. Upon seeing his depiction, our Lady is alleged to have said, “Let the grace of Him Who was born of Me and My mercy be with these Icons.” In The Liturgical Year, Dom Gueranger O.S.B. presents with cogent eloquence Luke the artist "According to tradition he was an artist, as well as a man of letters; and with a soul alive to all the most delicate inspirations, he consecrated his pencil to the holiest use, and handed down to us the features of the Mother of God. It was an illustration worthy of the Gospel which relates to the divine Infancy; and it won for the artist a new title to the gratitude of those who never saw Jesus and Mary in the flesh. Hence St. Luke is the patron of Christian art."

There are several legends concerning Luke’s writing of icons. According to one, an angel presented Luke with three boards on which he made three pictures of Mary. Another contends he made seven. Numerous monasteries and churches throughout the centuries have claimed to possess these sacred images.

Perhaps St. Luke, a man of tremendous learning and ability, really was the artist of legend? The tens of icons attributed to him from around the world would mark him as a gifted and prodigious iconographer — with abilities like none other.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence that St. Luke wrote icons. Nonetheless, his vivid witness has led countless souls to love Christ and the ways of God. Lord God, who chose St. Luke to reveal by his preaching and writings the mystery of your love for the poor, grant that those who already glory in your name may persevere as one, and that all nations may merit to see your eternal salvation.

Reflection: Considering The Lord’s Prayer

Christ teaching the disciples the Our Father
Christ teaching the Lord's Prayer, unknown artist, c. 1200.

Father Thomas Mattison

To properly engage in a consideration of The Lord’s Prayer we need to consider, first of all, the Lord’s praying. And pray he did! He said grace before meals, he attended the Temple in Jerusalem, followed the liturgical year of his religion, was in the synagogue each weekend and he prayed personally and privately. Indeed, it was because they saw him praying that the disciples asked him to teach them to pray.

What was Jesus’ prayer like? … [It is important to] … notice the results of His prayer. After all, this is what the disciples would have noticed when He finished praying.

Two examples will suffice.

The first occurs early in His public career. After a whole day spent doing healings in Capernaum, Jesus goes to sleep and rises early to go out of town to pray. When His apostles come looking for Him because there are more sick people to be cured, He refuses. I must go into other places too and there proclaim the Kingdom of God. This is why I have come.

This prayer experience for Jesus that leads Him away from a path directed toward people and their happiness to a path directed by and to God alone, a discovery born of prayer.

The Agony in the Garden provides us with a second instance of Jesus’ prayer. And it offers us much the same insight. Jesus begins by asking that the “cup might pass.” He ends by asking “not My will, but Thine be done.”

The result of this prayer is even more radical than in the first example. No longer seeking to please people, Jesus foregoes the desire to please Himself and, in prayer, becomes willing to face hostility and death because they are the Father’s will for Him.

As the Son of God, Jesus’ will is always and everywhere perfectly attuned to that of His heavenly Father. But, as Son of Man, He must be trained and educated in that will and in obedience to it.

This is what it says in the Letter to the Hebrews. Son though He was, Jesus learned obedience from His sufferings and, once perfected in obedience, He became the source of eternal life for those who trust Him.

Jesus’ personal prayer was an ongoing meeting of His own will and His Father’s. Over the course of time, that prayer brought Jesus from a reasonable human love of being loved to a willingness to be unloved by all, if only He was loved by God.

The perfect expression of that prayer experience is found in His last prayer: "Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit." It is movement toward that final prayer of His, that Jesus counsels as the essence of discipleship: "Whoever wishes to follow Me, must take up his cross each day."

It was this prayer experience that Jesus sought to share with His disciples when they asked to pray like Him.

Fr. Thomas Mattison is Pastor of Christ our Savior Parish in Manchester Center and Arlington, VT.