A Relationship in a Name ~ The Rev. Dcn. Mark G. Dickson-Patrick – Novice

What’s in a name?

There is a lot in a name. A name holds the essence of the person, said the ancient philosophers, and can affect many things. A name can evoke fear: “Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself” (Hermione Granger, Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone). A name can evoke feelings of pride or honor: “She was the bravest person I ever knew” (Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird). A name identifies us: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him ‘Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’)” (Matthew 1:23). A name draws us into community within a family.

The change of a name can hold significant meaning. For centuries and in countless texts, change of a name usually indicates a change in mission, in outlook, in journey; it symbolizes something that is new in the person while acknowledging all that has come before. In Scripture, Jesus changes the name of Simon, a humble fisherman disciple, to Peter because, He says, “on this rock [petrus or Peter] I will build my Church” (Matthew 16:18). The change of Peter’s name changed his mission, his outlook, his journey. He was now the rock on which the Church was to be built, all the while not forgetting who he was as a fisherman along the shores of the Sea of Galilee not long before.

In our Gospel reading for this 7th Sunday of Easter, we hear Jesus pray these words:

“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world.
They belonged to you, and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.
Now they know that everything you gave me is from you,
because the words you gave to me I have given to them,
and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you,
and they have believed that you sent me.
I pray for them.”

Jesus tells the Father that He has revealed His name to those whom He called. He reveals the name of God to the disciples, to all of us throughout the centuries who have called upon His name and have desired to follow after Him. He has revealed, in a sense, God’s very self, in revealing His name, in giving us the words that He has to give to us.

What is it about this name? What is it that has made kings fall to their knees and the most raucous grow silent? What is it about the One who created the heavens and the earth, and who formed us in our mother’s womb? What is it about this name? In revealing the name of God, Jesus reveals God’s true desire: to live in relationship with us. What a beautiful thought! That the Lord of all creation, the all-powerful and ever-living God, desires us to know His NAME. He desire us to know His name that He might teach us about who He is, that we might know Him, and grow closer to Him day by day. He reveals to us His name, so that we might love Him, trust in Him, and keep His commandments. This is not found in the name of Buddha, or in the name of Mohammed, or the name of Bahaullah, but in the name of the One True God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “I AM WHO AM,” the Creator of the world.

The Lord of all creation reveals His name to us. In our modern day, it is hard for us to reveal even the most minute piece of ourselves to anyone else, for fear of judgment, condemnation, to be labelled as a “fanatic,” a “liberal,” a “conservative,” a “broken person,” “unworthy.” In the midst of this, Jesus reveals to us the most intimate thing about God that He can, His name. Let us this day open ourselves to the Father, who reveals His name to us, that we might draw closer to Him. Let us show Him all that we are, all of our sins and failures, and let us allow Him to heal us, to cleanse us, to raise us up to live and love in His name.

Let us pray.

Father,

I am scared of revealing myself. I am worried that if I let a piece of myself be seen and known, that I might be ridiculed or that I might be hurt. Father, help me to open up to You, who have revealed Your name, Your very self, to me. Help me to enter into relationship with You, to love You, and to glory in Your presence. Then, help me to draw closer to others that I might join them in the saving work of the Gospel mission.

In the name of Jesus,

Amen.

Be Not Prideful ~ The Rev Deacon Dollie Wilkinson, OPI

 

Proverbs 16:18 (KJV)

  “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

 

I’ve often heard this Proverb quoted, but never thought much about it.  I once thought I was not prideful, until I was called to be a Dominican Sister. Yet still, I looked to others to guide me on my spiritual path.  The problem is when we begin to confuse biblical knowledge with the will of God, we then become prideful.  As illustrated in 1 Peter 3:13-22:
“ Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good. But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.  For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.  For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.  And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you–not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, . who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him. “

 

I cannot begin to interpret the Bible, as to the will of God. I just know that when we begin to use the Bible as a weapon, to suit a random purpose,. We forget who gifted, and empowered  us, with His word.

 

 

The Christian’s Hope ~ Br. Shawn Gisewhite, Novice

John 14:1-3

In the Name of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

In the Scriptures, the word Hope is used over 200 times. But hope in the Bible is not the same as the word “hope” in our modern English dictionary. We use the word “hope” to describe our wants, desires and dreams. We hope that it will rain… We hope that the weather cools off soon… We hope this soon to be Deacon isn’t longwinded today! But as Christians we have another kind of hope. In fact, we have a better kind of hope. The hope that I speak of is not wishful thinking, rather it is a firm assurance of things to come. Hope is faith in the future tense. When faith looks to the future, it’s called hope.

The reason that we can have full assurance of what is to come, is because of the source of our hope. Our hope comes from the Lord. God alone has the right to promise hope and the power to keep the promise. I would like to take some time today and examine the hope that we possess in Christ and preach on “Hopes of the Christian.”

There are many things that we can have full assurance thanks to our relationship with Christ. I would like to start in verse 1 and see that as Christians:

  1. WE HAVE THE HOPE OF A REFUGE – v1

A refuge is a place of shelter, a place of protection, a place that we can run when the storms of life begin to rage. This was exactly what the Lord’s disciples needed at this very moment in their lives. In the previous chapter, Jesus told them that He would soon die. They also learned that one of them (Judas) would betray Christ. Peter was told that he would deny Jesus 3 times before the rooster crowed. Their lives had just taken a devastating turn and their hearts were greatly troubled.

Jesus knew how devastated they were and He was concerned about their “troubled hearts”. He said, “Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me”.  He spoke words of comfort to them and He encouraged them to trust in Him.

In this life, we will face times of great trouble. Problems will come and as a result we will possess “troubled hearts”.  Maybe you are at that point as we speak. I want to remind you of the hope you possess as a child of God. You have a refuge… When trouble comes…TURN TO JESUS!

Jesus made it clear that His followers would face trouble. But HE also reminds us that HE has the power over any circumstance that we face. John 16:33 “In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”. If you heart is troubled today… you have a refuge and His name is Jesus!

Not only do we have the hope of a refuge… Jesus tells us in verse 2 that:

  1. WE HAVE THE HOPE OF A RESIDENCE – v2 “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.”

Though the Disciples were facing the toughest time of their lives, Jesus promised them of a better day and a better place. As His followers, we can cling to that same promise today. We are given a glimpse into that residence in Revelation 21. There we are told of Golden streets, Jasper walls, Gates of pearl and a crystal river. The foundation of that city is made up of precious gemstones.

The beauty of our Heavenly Home is literally indescribable. Our finite minds cannot comprehend the brief glimpse of this place provided in the scriptures. The indescribable beauty of Heaven is summed up in the story of A little girl who was taking an evening walk with her father. Wonderingly, she looked up at the stars and exclaimed; “Oh, Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be!” (Source: Charles L. Allen in Home Fires.)

Dear brothers and sisters, you may live in a home that creaks and leaks, rust and rot may have taken its toll, but you can rest assured that there is a home waiting for you on the other side!

Some of you may never own a home of your own in this life, but if you have been born again, YOU HOLD A CLEAR TITLE TO A MANSION! No landlord will ever bother you for the rent. There will be no mortgage to pay and no one will ever foreclose on the home that is waiting for you. The Bible also tells us that we have the hope of rest in the residence that is waiting for us.  Revelation 21:4 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” What is not going to be in that land is just as exciting as what is going to be there!

I am looking forward to that wonderful residence that Jesus has waiting for us in Heaven. Jesus also tells us in verse 1 that:

III. WE HAVE THE HOPE OF REDEMPTION – v2  “I go to prepare a place for you.”

This is one of the most popular passages of scripture in the Bible, but it is also one of the most misunderstood. Jesus was not telling His followers that He was going to “build them a mansion”. He just asserted the fact that the mansions are already there.  “In my Father’s house ARE many mansions” We are also told in scripture that when Jesus ascended, He SAT DOWN in His rightful place at the right hand of the Father. Hebrews 1:3 “When he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

When Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place” He was saying I am going to make a way for you. He was referencing the Cross. Our entrance into Heaven was secured by Christ on the Cross at Calvary. He was telling His disciples that HE was going to do what we could not do. Jesus went to Calvary, shed His blood and gave His life as a sacrifice for you and me. Because of His finished work there on the Cross we have the hope of redemption. Without redemption, we would not have hope of the residence or refuge that we have already considered.

– Also, seen in this verse is the fact that:

  1. WE HAVE THE HOPE OF A RELATIONSHIP – v3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again.”

This is a very personal promise. Jesus was saying “what I am about to do, I am doing for you”. What He did for Peter, James, John, Andrew, Matthew and the others… HE DID FOR YOU!

– Luke 19:10 Jesus said in Luke 19:10 that He came “to seek and to save that which was lost”.

– Romans 5:8 also tells us that “God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”.

Because of Jesus’ work on the Cross we have the blessed privilege of having a personal relationship with Almighty God. And we don’t have to wait for Heaven for this to occur. You can have a personal relationship with Jesus HERE and NOW! Those that have this relationship will tell you that there is nothing any sweeter than communing with the Savior of the World!

– We are also promised that there is coming a day when Jesus will return for His own. This means that:

  1. WE HAVE THE HOPE OF A RETURN – v3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again.”

Jesus told His Disciples that though He may go away for a time, HE WILL COME AGAIN! Jesus has ascended…. He is in Heaven as we speak. But soon and very soon He will split the eastern sky and come for His Children. This is one of the most prominent promises in the Bible. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

As Christians, we are to be “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13)

Jesus is coming back, this is not wishful thinking on our part, this is our hope… this is a firm assurance of things to come. And when Jesus returns there will be a great reunion. Consider:

  1. WE HAVE THE HOPE OF A REUNION – v3 “I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

There is going to be a reunion one day that is beyond anything we can imagine. All those heroes of the faith that we read about on the pages of God’s Word will be there. (Noah, Moses, Abraham, David, Elijah, John, Peter, Paul etc.)

Some of you have parents waiting for you there. Others have spouses who have already gone on. Some have children in that wonderful land. We all have family and friends that have already stepped out into eternity. We are assured that we will see them again and we long for that blessed reunion.

We are all excited about the beauty of Heaven, we are all excited about the residents of Heaven and we look forward to seeing loved ones who have gone on. But greater than the reunion with our loved ones is the fact that one day we will stand face to face with our Heavenly Father. Revelation 22:3 “The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: 4 And they shall see his face.”

We will spend eternity in the presence of our Heavenly Father. On top of this fact, we are also longing for the day when our Savior wraps His arms around us and welcomes us to our eternal home. We will see our Savior face to face. We will see the scars on His brow, His hands and His feet. We will be reminded that He is the only reason that we made it to that place. On that day, we will shout for joy and we will humbly bow at His precious feet and we will worship Him for making a way for us to enter that promised land.

There is much hope for those who have been born again but for those who are lost, things are much different. Instead of hope, they are living in despair.

One of the most devastating things you will ever hear in this life is “there is no hope”. I am here to tell you, if you are not a child of God you have NO HOPE! You can claim none of the promises that we have examined today.

But I have good news, THERE IS HOPE FOR YOU, and that hope is only found in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! If you will surrender to Him and accept his offer of eternal life, then you too can have hope!

1) You can have the Hope of a Refuge

2) You can have the hope of a Residence

3) You can have the hope of Redemption

4) You can have the hope of a Return

5) You can have hope of a Reunion

These are just a few of the facts concerning “The Christian’s Hope”. I pray that you have that hope today. If not, pray now with me.

Oh Lord, for too long I have hoped for the wrong things in this life.  I now put my hope fully in You.  I hope for a refuge when life is rough, for redemption for all my sins, for your return that I may be taken with You, for a reunion with all those who I have loved and lost, and for a residence in Your Heavenly Kingdom.  For all my sins Lord I am sorry.  Forgive me Lord, forgive me.  Create in me a clean heart oh Lord, and fill me with hope everlasting.  Amen.

 

The Good Pastor ~ Br. Brenden Humberdross, Novice

 

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable to you O Lord, our God and Our Creator.

What makes a good pastor? This is a question that is often on the mind of those who feel called to follow the path of Priesthood and leadership in the Church. It’s also one that many theologians and authors have attempted to answer in a plethora of books, seminars and university courses. There are so many models that a leader in the faith can follow depending on their views of leadership, their secular occupations or even their political views. However, there is one model of leadership that has stood the test of time and has the seal of Gospel approval; the model found in the Gospel reading for today.

Throughout the Gospels Christ conveys the deep message of the mysteries of God’s love in ways that would have been very real to his listeners in a practical sense and well known to them through a lifetime of hearing the messages of the Hebrew Scriptures; today is no exception with Christ invoking the image of the Shepherd as the model of gospel leadership.

If you examine a topographical map of Israel it becomes quickly apparent that the area around Jerusalem, Bethlehem and many of the places mentioned in the New Testament were very hilly. I imagine that these places were not well suited to a lot of different agricultural occupations and that this is why we often see Christ speaking of vineyards and shepherds as these would have been amongst the most common agrarian occupations in the area. Those who were listening to the message Christ was delivering today would have easily understood what He was talking about because they were things they were seeing in their daily lives.

There is also another level of understanding that the Jews listening to Christ’s message of what constitutes a good pastor would have had. From the very dawn of time the message of Shepherds being leaders used for God’s purposes was a part of Jewish history; Abel, Adam and Eve’s son found favour with God and was a tender of animals, a Shepherd. Later in the Old Testament we are introduced to what the Jews consider their greatest prophetic leader, Moses. He may have started his career as a Prince but when he met God in the burning bush what was he doing? He was tending his father in law Jethro’s sheep and God called him to shepherd the flock of Israel out of Egypt, give them God’s law and lead then through the winding path to the Promised Land. Later again, once Israel is established in the Promised Land we see the rise of the greatest political and spiritual leader the nation ever had, King David. And what was it that David was doing when the Prophet Samuel discovered him and proclaimed him the Kings anointed chosen to replace King Saul? He was a Shepherd tending his father’s sheep. So we see that Israel, and therefor Christ’s listeners, were used to the greatest of leaders being associated with the lowly task of tending to the flock.

I want to pose a question; are there Shepherds amongst us today? In the Gospel account Christ highlights that a good pastor is the one who cares for the sheep; that enters through the gate of God’s Word (the scriptures and Jesus himself). He tells us that the Shepherd will know his sheep by name, he will care for them as individuals and want to know them personally and deeply. And that through this caring attitude the sheep will recognise their shepherd.

In some parts of the world today is what is called Vocations Sunday; the time that throughout the Churches the people pray that God will touch the hearts and souls of those who are suitable to Shepherd God’s flock and that those so touched will be brave enough to respond to that call. Do you offer prayers like this? Technically every Sunday should be a day to focus on fostering the life of those called to be pastors of God’s flock but this special Sunday (sometimes called Good Shepherd Sunday) is a great day for us all to take a little time to pray that God will bring more vocations to our Church, to expand the ranks of the Clergy so that the Christian community throughout the Church can be served as best suits their needs.

Those who know me and know of my own sense of calling and vocation know that I have a love for sharing the Gospel and spreading the message of Christ through word and deed. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be a member of the Order of Preachers, Independent; the Dominican Religious Order of our Church. I see in today’s reading and its focus on vocations a call and a challenge. Christ is saying to us, you know what, not everyone has heard my voice, not everyone knows that I am their Shepherd and protector and they need to know! I want all people, all of God’s Children, to be in the fold, I want them all to receive the gift of Salvation through belief in my name and my saving grace and I want YOU to help me do it.

All of us who were baptised were called to be a part of Christ’s people, we were called to be a part of the Great Army of Witnesses to Christ’s life, death and resurrection and as such we have been anointed and given the power and authority of the Great Royal Priesthood of all Believers. The responsibility to share the word and works of Christ for the salvation not only of ourselves but others rests on all of our Shoulders, not just the clergy, not just those called to serve in vowed religious life, not just on the missionaries called to foreign lands. We all have a responsibility to share what we have been given; faith in Christ.

Now I am sure that you are all getting tired of hearing this message, but because it’s my passion I think that it is one worth repeating (and I do so frequently) and Christ did too, because nearly every week I hear the call to evangelism and mission in the scriptures being read. Now, as I’ve said before, I’m not asking any of you to start standing on the street corner on market day and wave your bible preaching fire and brimstone, I’m not sure that would help anyone but there are so many little ways we can all contribute to spreading the Gospel, and if we all do a little then a lot will happen…as the song goes “From little things big things grow.

There is one final powerful message that I want to mention before I end and that is sacrifice. In I hope and pray that this week you will take the message of gospel leadership to heart. I pray that you will look into your own life and find those ways that you can be a shepherd to the people around you. Take the times to listen and get to know those you have responsibility for or who are simply “in your life”. If you listen to them, and minister to them where they are in their lives I know that we can all bring more souls to Christ and together be a great band of shepherds leading God’s flock to salvation in Christ.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sts Philip and James, Apostles ~ Br. Chip Noon, Novice

Today is the feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles.

During this time between Easter and Pentecost, we continue to see that the Apostles still were unsure of what was happening in their lives. At the Last Supper, Philip continues to pester Jesus about his ministry. “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Of course, he lumps the others Apostles in to this plea, perhaps as a way of strengthening his argument. And we do know from other Gospel passages that they really were not sure of their ultimate mission.

But Jesus says to him,  

“Have I been with you for so long a time
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?”

And let’s look at the first reading from Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians. He gives them a version of the Creed, and then lists those to whom Jesus appeared after his death, ending with himself. He says, “I am reminding you…” It’s as if he is reciting known facts in order to strengthen his preaching as well as recapping a message, all the better to strengthen his audience’s understanding.

Similarly, in the Responsorial Psalm, there is a teaching from heaven to all the earth, declaring the glory of God.

For me, this day of Saints Philip and James is like the overture to an opera. Little pieces of the whole, presented as a warm-up to the opening of the curtain and the glorious theatrical production. And isn’t that also what this time between Easter and Pentecost is? Time and again, we are told that certain things happened with Jesus and the Apostles after the Resurrection, but it never really takes hold, the Apostles continue to have doubts and anxieties. We hear themes, we get snippets of the whole, we recognize the very beginnings of the church that Jesus is presenting.

We don’t know much about Philip…some stories in the Gospels, some traditions that he preached in Greece, Syria, and Phrygia, that he was martyred on a cross, upside down, and only recently, that his tomb may have been discovered in Turkey. We know that James, called James the Lesser, became the bishop of Jerusalem and wrote one of the epistles in the New Testament.

But we do know, and especially from today’s Gospel, that eventually all the Apostles and many of the disciples all went out into the world after Pentecost and did what Jesus said: “…whoever believes in me will do the works that I do…”

And we do know that we have thirty-two days before Pentecost. And we do know that during this time, we can gather as many of the tools that we can to do what James says in his epistle, that we may have faith, but we also must have good works.

And so, while we listen to the stories of the overture, we can use them all as review sessions for what we have been, as Christians, chosen to do: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

Lord, help us in these days of Easter to prepare ourselves for your kingdom. Help us to ask of you the things that we need to complete your mission on earth. And help us to store up in heaven the riches of your word and your blessings. In Jesus’ name.

Amen.

Saint Catherine of Siena

She was the youngest but one of a very large family. Her father, Giacomo di Benincasa, was a dyer; her mother, Lapa, the daughter of a local poet. They belonged to the lower middle-class faction of tradesmen and petty notaries, known as “the Party of the Twelve”, which between one revolution and another ruled the Republic of Siena from 1355 to 1368. From her earliest childhood Catherine began to see visions and to practice extreme austerities. At the age of seven she consecrated her virginity to Christ; in her sixteenth year she took the habit of the Dominican Tertiaries, and renewed the life of the anchorites of the desert in a little room in her father’s house. After three years of celestial visitations and familiar conversation with Christ, she underwent the mystical experience known as the “spiritual espousals”, probably during the carnival of 1366. She now rejoined her family, began to tend the sick, especially those afflicted with the most repulsive diseases, to serve the poor, and to labor for the conversion of sinners. Though always suffering terrible physical pain, living for long intervals on practically no food save the Blessed Sacrament, she was ever radiantly happy and full of practical wisdom no less than the highest spiritual insight. All her contemporaries bear witness to her extraordinary personal charm, which prevailed over the continual persecution to which she was subjected even by the friars of her own order and by her sisters in religion. She began to gather disciples round her, both men and women, who formed a wonderful spiritual fellowship, united to her by the bonds of mystical love. During the summer of 1370 she received a series of special manifestations of Divine mysteries, which culminated in a prolonged trance, a kind of mystical death, in which she had a vision of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, and heard a Divine command to leave her cell and enter the public life of the world. She began to dispatch letters to men and women in every condition of life, entered into correspondence with the princes and republics of Italy, was consulted by the papal legates about the affairs of the Church, and set herself to heal the wounds of her native land by staying the fury of civil war and the ravages of faction. She implored the pope, Gregory XI, to leave Avignon, to reform the clergy and the administration of the Papal States, and ardently threw herself into his design for a crusade, in the hopes of uniting the powers of Christendom against the infidels, and restoring peace to Italy by delivering her from the wandering companies of mercenary soldiers. While at Pisa, on the fourth Sunday of Lent, 1375, she received the Stigmata, although, at her special prayer, the marks did not appear outwardly in her body while she lived.

Mainly through the misgovernment of the papal officials, war broke out between Florence and the Holy See, and almost the whole of the Papal States rose in insurrection. Catherine had already been sent on a mission from the pope to secure the neutrality of Pisa and Lucca. In June, 1376, she went to Avignon as ambassador of the Florentines, to make their peace; but, either through the bad faith of the republic or through a misunderstanding caused by the frequent changes in its government, she was unsuccessful. Nevertheless she made such a profound impression upon the mind of the pope, that, in spite of the opposition of the French king and almost the whole of the Sacred College, he returned to Rome (17 January, 1377). Catherine spent the greater part of 1377 in effecting a wonderful spiritual revival in the country districts subject to the Republic of Siena, and it was at this time that she miraculously learned to write, though she still seems to have chiefly relied upon her secretaries for her correspondence. Early in 1378 she was sent by Pope Gregory to Florence, to make a fresh effort for peace. Unfortunately, through the factious conduct of her Florentine associates, she became involved in the internal politics of the city, and during a popular tumult (22 June) an attempt was made upon her life. She was bitterly disappointed at her escape, declaring that her sins had deprived her of the red rose of martyrdom. Nevertheless, during the disastrous revolution known as “the tumult of the Ciompi”, she still remained at Florence or in its territory until, at the beginning of August, news reached the city that peace had been signed between the republic and the new pope. Catherine then instantly returned to Siena, where she passed a few months of comparative quiet, dictating her “Dialogue”, the book of her meditations and revelations.

In the meanwhile the Great Schism had broken out in the Church. From the outset Catherine enthusiastically adhered to the Roman claimant, Urban VI, who in November, 1378, summoned her to Rome. In the Eternal City she spent what remained of her life, working strenuously for the reformation of the Church, serving the destitute and afflicted, and dispatching eloquent letters in behalf of Urban to high and low in all directions. Her strength was rapidly being consumed; she besought her Divine Bridegroom to let her bear the punishment for all the sins of the world, and to receive the sacrifice of her body for the unity and renovation of the Church; at last it seemed to her that the Bark of Peter was laid upon her shoulders, and that it was crushing her to death with its weight. After a prolonged and mysterious agony of three months, endured by her with supreme exultation and delight, from Sexagesima Sunday until the Sunday before the Ascension, she died. Her last political work, accomplished practically from her death-bed, was the reconciliation of Pope Urban VI with the Roman Republic (1380).

Among Catherine’s principal followers were Fra Raimondo delle Vigne, of Capua (d. 1399), her confessor and biographer, afterwards General of the Dominicans, and Stefano di Corrado Maconi (d. 1424), who had been one of her secretaries, and became Prior General of the Carthusians. Raimondo’s book, the “Legend”, was finished in 1395. A second life of her, the “Supplement”, was written a few years later by another of her associates, Fra Tomaso Caffarini (d. 1434), who also composed the “Minor Legend”, which was translated into Italian by Stefano Maconi. Between 1411 and 1413 the depositions of the surviving witnesses of her life and work were collected at Venice, to form the famous “Process”. Catherine was canonized by Pius II in 1461. The emblems by which she is known in Christian art are the lily and book, the crown of thorns, or sometimes a heart–referring to the legend of her having changed hearts with Christ. Her principal feast is on the 30th of April, but it is popularly celebrated in Siena on the Sunday following. The feast of her Espousals is kept on the Thursday of the carnival.

The works of St. Catherine of Siena rank among the classics of the Italian language, written in the beautiful Tuscan vernacular of the fourteenth century. Notwithstanding the existence of many excellent manuscripts, the printed editions present the text in a frequently mutilated and most unsatisfactory condition. Her writings consist of the “Dialogue”, or “Treatise on Divine Providence”; a collection of nearly four hundred letters; and a series of “Prayers”.

The “Dialogue” especially, which treats of the whole spiritual life of man in the form of a series of colloquies between the Eternal Father and the human soul (represented by Catherine herself), is the mystical counterpart in prose of Dante’s “Divina Commedia”.

A smaller work in the dialogue form, the “Treatise on Consummate Perfection”, is also ascribed to her, but is probably spurious. It is impossible in a few words to give an adequate conception of the manifold character and contents of the “Letters”, which are the most complete expression of Catherine’s many-sided personality. While those addressed to popes and sovereigns, rulers of republics and leaders of armies, are documents of priceless value to students of history, many of those written to private citizens, men and women in the cloister or in the world, are as fresh and illuminating, as wise and practical in their advice and guidance for the devout Catholic today as they were for those who sought her counsel while she lived. Others, again, lead the reader to mystical heights of contemplation, a rarefied atmosphere of sanctity in which only the few privileged spirits can hope to dwell. The key-note to Catherine’s teaching is that man, whether in the cloister or in the world, must ever abide in the cell of self-knowledge, which is the stable in which the traveler through time to eternity must be born again.

Born: March 25, 1347 at Siena, Tuscany, Italy

Died: April 29, 1380 of a mysterious and painful illness that came on without notice, and was never properly diagnosed

Canonized: July 1461 by Pope Pius II

Representation:  cross; crown of thorns; heart; lily; ring; stigmata

Patronage:  against fire, bodily ills, diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA, Europe, fire prevention, firefighters, illness, Italy, miscarriages, nurses, nursing services, people ridiculed for their piety, sexual temptation, sick people, sickness, Siena Italy, temptations

 

 

Saint Peter of Verona

Saint Peter’s parents belonged to the heretical sect of the Cathari, theological descendants of the Manichees. Miraculously, he became Catholic, regardless of his heresy believing parents. Because of his Catholic convictions, he was ridiculed for his faith throughout his youth, it was preserved in purity and he became a Dominican. His father sent him to a Catholic school for a good early education, thinking that the heretical environment at home would keep Peter from being “deceived” by the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Nevertheless, one of the first things Peter learned there was the Apostle’s Creed, which the Cathari abhorred. Making conversation on day, his uncle asked him his lesson. The boy recited the creed and explained it in the Catholic sense, especially in those words: Creator of heaven and earth. In vain his uncle tried to persuade him it was false. He said that it was not God, but the evil principle that made all things that are visible; the Cathari viewed the physical world as ugly and bad, which is inconsistent with the concept of an infinitely perfect being. The boy’s resolute steadiness concerned his uncle, but his father laughed at his brother’s fears believing that the world would influence  his son into his beliefs.

When he was 15, Peter was sent to the University of Bologna, a hotbed of licentiousness. There he met Saint Dominic, and instantly threw himself at the saint’s feet to beg admission to the Order of Friar Preachers. Peter was present at the death of the founder soon after, and shared in the primitive zeal and courage of the sons of a saint.

While still a student, Peter experienced a severe trial. He was publicly reprimanded and punished because a brother, passing Peter’s cell late at night, thought he had heard women’s voices in his room. The voices were those of angels, who frequently visited the saint: but in his humility, he thought it better to accept the punishment and say nothing about the favors God had granted him. He was sent to the remote little Dominican convent of Jesi, in the marquisate of Ancona, to do penance, and his ordination was delayed.

Peter found great strength in prayer. Nevertheless, he was human and felt the sting of the disgrace. One day he complained to the Lord: “Lord, You know that I am innocent of this: Why do you allow them to believe it?” A sorrowful voice replied from the crucifix: “And I, Peter, what have I done that they should do this to Me?” Peter complained no more. The truth was eventually discovered, and Peter resumed his studies and was ordained to the priesthood.

Peter soon became a celebrated preacher throughout northern and central Italy, and, in 1232, an inquisitor to fight against the heresy that had infected his family and others in Lombardy. Many miracles (filling 22 pages in folio in the Acta Sanctorum) were worked through his prayers, to the rage of the heretics. Crowds nearly pressed him to death many times: some to ask his blessing, others to offer the sick to him to be cured, others to receive his holy instructions.

In one city, a prominent man had been won to heresy, because the devil, taking the form of the Blessed Virgin, appeared at the heretics’ meetings and encouraged him to join them. Peter, determined to win the man back to the truth, went to the meeting and, when the devil appeared in his disguise, held up a small pox in which he had placed a consecrated Host. “If you are the Mother of God,” cried Peter, “adore your Son!” The devil fled in dismay and many were converted.

Among other miracles, he predicted that he would be murdered by heretics, who indeed waylaid him on the road between Como and Milan. Peter went to his death singing the Easter Sequence, and fell unprotesting beneath the blows of his assassins. Carino cut his head with an ax, and then his companion Dominic stabbed him. As Peter rose to his knees and commended himself to God, Carino killed him with a blow of his axe to Peter’s side. One of his murderers, “Blessed” Carino, was touched by grace at the sight of a saint, was converted, and eventually became a Dominican at Forli. To him as to us, Peter had pointed out the way to heaven when he traced on the dust of the road, in his own blood, the creed that had lighted his path: “Credo in unum Deum.”

Peter’s body was ceremoniously buried in the Dominicans’ church dedicated to St. Eustorgius, in Milan, where he still rests. His head is kept separately in a crystal and gold case. So many miracles were worked at his shrine that many of the Cathari asked to be admitted to the Catholic Church.

Born: Verona, Italy, 1206

Died: Martyred April 6, 1252

Canonized: canonized by Pope Innocent IV in 1253–a single year after his death.

Patronage: Peter is the patron of midwives and inquisitors and venerated in Verona.

Representation: In art, Saint Peter is a Dominican with a gash or knife in his head. Occasionally, the knife is in his shoulder. Sometimes he is portrayed (1) with his finger on his lips; (2) writing credo in unum deum in the dust as he dies; (3) stabbed in the forest with his companion; or (4) with the Virgin and four female saints appearing to him