Wearing Your Faith Like a Tattoo ~ The Rev. Deacon Dollie Wilkinson, OPI

Though I barely remember it, I was baptized as a young girl. My Mother wasn’t very religious, but she saw Sunday church, or Vacation Bible school, as a way to get us out of her hair for a bit. The best thing I can remember is the cookies and cherry kool-aid. I’ve attended many churches since. And watched my daughter and nieces get baptized in the same church where I was married. As a Catholic, I have a greater understanding of baptism and how important it is to develop a stronger relationship with God. In Matthew we learn that though John understood his role in baptizing God’s people, but is vexed when Jesus comes to him to be baptized as well.

Matthew 3:13-17 (NIV) “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Now, Jesus comes into that situation and John says to him, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me (to be baptized)?” (Matthew 3:14). In other words, he makes crystal clear that Jesus does not need this baptism. He does not need to repent. He does not need to confess any sins. So John asks, “why are you here?”.

Jesus gives one sentence in answer, and it is massively important. He says, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). It is fitting. That is why He is doing it. It is fitting. Well, what is fitting? Fulfilling all righteousness is fitting. Evidently, Jesus saw His life as the fulfillment of all righteousness. The fact that participating in a baptism of repentance even though He had no sins to repent of shows that the righteousness He wanted to fulfill was the righteousness required not of Himself, but of every sinful man.

Peter speaks on the good news of the Baptism of the Lord, and what it means for the salvation of God’s people.

Acts 10:34-38 (NIV)

“Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”

But what does baptism really mean? I’m sure most of us think of baptism as just being dunked in water, or having water being poured over our heads. But many Churches and christian denominations each have their own way of baptizing someone. In Christianity, baptism is the sacrament of admission to the church, symbolized by the pouring or sprinkling of water on the head or by immersion in water. The ceremony is usually accompanied by the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” In the doctrine originated by St. Paul, it signifies the wiping away of past sins and the rebirth of the individual into a new life. Judaism practiced ritual purification by immersion, and the Gospels report that John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Baptism was an important ritual in the early church by the first century, and infant baptisms appeared later. Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and most Protestant churches practice infant baptism. The Anabaptist reformers insisted on adult baptism after a confession of faith; modern Baptists and the Disciples of Christ also practice adult baptism.

But there is also baptism by blood, usually reserved for martyrs who were not baptized before their death. But we can also think of baptism in another way. While I don’t have any tattoos, I know many who do, including my best friend and my oldest daughter. There are many reasons why people get them. Some represent a special person or place. Others might represent a loss of a loved one, or pet. I’ve seen many tattoos and I always wonder why that particular tattoo. But its for a very personal reason, yet shown usually on a spot on the body seen by anyone.

Which brings me back to the term “baptism”. Most people participate in a baptism to show to the world their acceptance of the Savior in their hearts. It is an outward sign reflecting their faith, and their rebirth. By accepting Christ in to their life, they are then covered by His mercy and grace. It is much like a tattoo. Just as a tattoo is an outward reflection of something meaningful in our lives, so is our baptism. Now we can show the world that we have been reborn in Christ and are covered by His love and grace.

Let us pray.

Father God, we come before you now, asking that you keep us ever mindful of your presence in our lives, and ask that you help us to wear our faith like a tattoo, ever present, ever a reminder of our baptism.  We love you, Lord.  Amen.

St. Raymund of Pennafort

From the bull of his canonization, by Clement VIII in 1601, and his life, written by several Spanish, Italian and French authors. See Fleury, b. 78, n. 55, 64, and chiefly Touron Hommes Illustres de l’Ordre de S. Domin. t. 1, p. I

The house of Pegnafort, or, as it is pronounced, Pennafort, was descended from the counts of Barcelona, and nearly allied to the kings of Aragon. Raymund was born in 1175, at Pennafort, a castle in Catalonia, which in the fifteenth century was changed into a convent of the order of St. Dominick. Such was his rapid progress in his studies, that at the age of twenty he taught philosophy at Barcelona, which he did gratis, and with so great reputation, that he began then to be consulted by the ablest masters. His principal care was to instil into his scholars the most perfect maxims of a solid piety and devotion, to compose all differences among the citizens, and to relieve the distressed. He was about thirty years of age when he went to Bologna, in Italy, to perfect himself in the study of the canon and civil law, commenced Doctor in that faculty, and taught with the same disinterestedness and charity as he had done in his own country. In 1219 Berengarius, bishop of Barcelona, who had been at Rome, took Raymund home with him, to the great regret of the university and senate of Bologna; and, not content with giving him a canonry in his church, made him his archdeacon, grand vicar, and official. He was a perfect model to the clergy, by his innocence, zeal, devotion, and boundless liberalities to the poor, whom he called his creditors. In 1222 he took the religious habit of St. Dominick at Barcelona, eight months after the death of the holy founder, and in the forty-seventh year of his age. No person was ever seen among the young novices more humble, more obedient, or more fervent. To imitate the obedience of a Man-God, who reduced himself to a state of subjection to his own creatures, to teach us the dangers and deep wound of self-will, and to point out to us the remedy, the saint would depend absolutely on the lights of his director in all things. And it was upon the most perfect self-denial that he laid the foundation of that high sanctity which he made the object of his most earnest desires. The grace of prayer perfected the work which mortification had begun. In a spirit of compunction he begged of his superiors that they would enjoin him some severe penance, to expiate the vain satisfaction and complacency which he said he had sometimes taken in teaching. They indeed imposed on him a penance, but not such a one as he expected. It was to write a collection of cases of conscience for the instruction and conveniency of confessors and moralists. This produced his Sum the first work of that kind. Had his method and decisions been better followed by some later authors of the like works, the holy maxims of Christian morality had been treated with more respect by some moderns than they have been, to our grief and confusion.

Raymund joined to the exercises of his solitude the functions of an apostolic life, by laboring without intermission in preaching, instructing, hearing confessions with wonderful fruit, and converting heretics, Jews, and Moors Among his penitents were James, king of Aragon, and St. Peter Nolasco, with whom he concerted the foundation of the Order of the B. Virgin of mercy for the redemption of captives. James, the young king of Aragon had married Eleonora of Castile within the prohibited degrees, without a dispensation. A legate was sent by Pope Gregory IX. to examine and judge the case. In a council of bishops of the two kingdoms, held at Tar rayon, he declared the marriage null, but that their son Don Alphonso should be reputed lawfully born, and heir to his father’s crown. The king had taken his confessor with him to the council, and the cardinal legate was so charmed with his talents and virtue, that he associated him in his legation and gave him a commission to preach the holy war against the Moors. The servant of God acquitted himself of that function with so much prudence, zeal, and charity, that he sowed the seeds of the total overthrow of those infidels in Spain. His labors were no less successful in the reformation of the manners of the Christians detained in servitude under the Moors which were extremely corrupted by their long slavery or commerce with these infidels. Raymund showed them, by words full of heavenly unction and fire, that, to triumph over their bodily, they must first conquer their spiritual enemies, and subdue sin in themselves, which made God their enemy. Inculcating these and the like spiritual lessons, he ran over Catalonia, Aragon, Castile, and other countries. So general a change was wrought hereby in the manners of the people, as seemed incredible to all but those who were witnesses of it. By their conversion the anger of God was appeased, and the arms of the faithful became terrible to their enemies. The kings of Castile and Leon freed many places from the Moorish yoke. Don James, king of Aragon, drove them out of the islands of Majorca and Minorca, and soon after, in 1237, out of the whole kingdom of Valentia. Pope Gregory IX. having called St. Raymund to Rome in 1230, nominated him his chaplain, (which was the title of the Auditor of the causes of the apostolic palace,) as also grand penitentiary. He made him likewise his own confessarius, and in difficult affairs came to no decision but by his advice. The saint still reserved himself for the poor, and was so solicitous for them that his Holiness called him their father. He enjoined the pope, for a penance, to receive, hear, and expedite immediately all petitions presented by them. The pope, who was well versed in the canon law, ordered the saint to gather into one body all the scattered decree of popes and councils, since the collection made by Gratian in 1150. Raymund compiled this work in three years, in five books, commonly called the Decretals, which the same pope Gregory confirmed in 1234. It is looked upon as the best finished part of the body of the canon law; on which account the canonists have usually chosen it for the texts of their comments. In 1235, the pope named St. Raymund to the archbishopric of Tarragon, the capital of Aragon: the humble religious man was not able to avert the storm, as he called it, by tears and entreaties; but at length fell sick through anxiety and fear. To restore him to his health, his Holiness was obliged to consent to excuse him, but required that he should recommend a proper person. The saint named a pious and learned canon of Gironne. He refused other dignities with the like constancy.

For the recovery of his health he returned to his native country, and was received with as much joy as if the safety of the whole kingdom. and of every particular person, had depended on his presence. Being restored again to his dear solitude at Barcelona, he continued his former exercises of contemplation, preaching, and administering the sacrament of penance. Except on Sundays, he never took more than one very small refection in the day. Amidst honors and applause he was ever little in his own eyes: he appeared in the schools like a scholar, and in his convent begged the superior to instruct him in the rules of religious perfection, with the humility and docility of a novice. Whether he sung the divine praises with his brethren, or prayed alone in his cell, or some corner of the church, ho poured forth an abundance of tears; and often was not able to contain within himself the ardor of his soul. His mildness and sweetness were unalterable. The incredible number of conversions of which he was the instrument, is known only to Him who, by his grace, was the author of them. He was employed frequently in most important commissions, both by the holy see and by the king. But he was thunderstruck by the arrival of four deputies from the general chapter of his order at Bologna, in 1238, with the news that he was chosen third general, Jordan of Saxony being lately dead. He wept and entreated, but at length acquiesced in obedience. He made the visitation of his order on foot, without discontinuing any of his penitential austerities, or rather exercises. He instilled into his spiritual children a love of regularity, solitude, mortification, prayer, sacred studies, and the apostolic functions, especially preaching. He reduced the constitutions of his order into a clearer method, with notes on the doubtful passages. This his code of rules was approved in three general chapters. In one held at Paris in 1239, he procured the establishment of this regulation, that a voluntary demission of a superior, founded upon just reasons, should be accepted. This he contrived in his own favor; for, to the extreme regret of the order, he in the year following resigned the generalship, which he had held only two years. He alleged for his reason his age of sixty-five years. Rejoicing to see himself again a private religious man, he applied himself with fresh vigor to the exercises and functions of an apostolic life, especially the conversion of the Saracens. Having this end in view he engaged St. Thomas to write his work ‘Against the Gentiles;’ procured the Arabic and Hebrew tongues to be taught in several convents of his order; and erected convents, one at Tunis, and another at Murcia, among the Moors. In 1256, he wrote to his general that ten thousand Saracens had received baptism. King James took him into the island of Majorca. The saint embraced that opportunity of cultivating that infant church. This prince was an accomplished soldier and statesman, and a sincere lover of religion, but his great qualities were sullied by a base passion for women. He received the admonitions of the saint with respect, and promised amendment of life, and a faithful compliance with the saint’s injunctions in every particular; but without effect. St. Raymund, upon discovering that he entertained a lady at his court with whom he was suspected to have criminal conversation, made the strongest instances to have her dismissed, which the king promised should be done, but postponed the execution. The saint, dissatisfied with the delay, begged leave to retire to his convent at Barcelona. The king not only refused him leave, but threatened to punish with death any person that should undertake to convey him out of the island. The saint, full of confidence in God, said to his companion, “A king of the earth endeavors to deprive us of the means of retiring; but the King of heaven will supply them.” He then walked boldly to the waters, spread his cloak upon them, tied up one corner of it to a staff for a sail, and having made the sign of the cross, stepped upon it without fear, while his timorous companion stood trembling and wondering on the shore. On this new kind of vessel the saint was wafted with such rapidity, that in six hours he reached the harbor of Barcelona, sixty leagues distant from Majorca. Those who saw him arrive in this manner met him with acclamations. But he, gathering up his cloak dry, put it on, stole through the crowd, and entered his monastery. A chapel and a tower, built on the place where he landed, have transmitted the memory of this miracle to posterity. This relation is taken from the bull of his canonization, and the earliest historians of his life. The king became a sincere convert, and governed his conscience, and even his kingdoms, by the advice of St. Raymund from that time till the death of the saint. The holy man prepared himself for his passage to eternity, by employing days and nights in penance and prayer. During his last illness, Alphonsus, king of Castile, with his queen, sons, and brother; and James, king of Aragon, with his court, visited him, and received his last benediction. He armed himself with the last sacraments; and, in languishing sighs of divine love, gave up his soul to God, on the 6th of January, in the year 1275, and the hundredth of his age. The two kings, with all the princes and princesses of their royal families, honored his funeral with their presence: but his tomb was rendered far more illustrious by miracles. Several are recorded in the bull of his canonization, published by Clement VIII. in 1601. Bollandus has filled fifteen pages in folio with an account of them. His office is fixed by Clement X. to the 23d of January.

The saints first learned in solitude to die to the world and themselves, to put on the spirit of Christ, and ground themselves in a habit of recollection and a relish only for heavenly things, before they entered upon the exterior functions even of a spiritual ministry. Amidst these weighty employments, not content with reserving always the time and means of frequent retirement for conversing with God and themselves, in their exterior functions by raising their minds to heaven with holy sighs and desires, they made all their actions in some measure an uninterrupted prayer and exercise of divine love and praise. St. Bonaventure reckons it among the general exercises of every religious or spiritual men, “that he keep his mind always raised, at least virtually, to God: hence, whensoever a servant of God has been distracted from attending to him for ever so short a space, he grieves and is afflicted, as if he was fallen into some misfortune, by having been deprived of the presence of such a friend who never forgets us. Seeing that our supreme felicity and glory consists in the eternal vision of God, the constant remembrance of him is a kind of imitation of that happy state: this the reward, that the virtue which entitles us to it. Till we are admitted to his presence, let us in our exile always bear him in mind: every one will behold him in heaven with so much the greater joy, and so much the more perfectly, as he shall more assiduously and more devoutly have remembered him on earth. Nor is it only in our repose, but also in the midst of our employments, that we ought to have him present to our minds, in imitation of the holy angels, who, when they are sent to attend on us, so acquit themselves of the functions of this exterior ministry as never to be drawn from their interior attention to God. As much as the heavens exceed the earth, so much larger is the field of spiritual meditation than that of all terrestrial concerns.”

(Taken from Vol. I of “The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints” by the Rev. Alban Butler, the 1864 edition published by D. & J. Sadlier, & Company)

The Epiphany of the Lord ~ Fr. Mike Beatty, Aspirant

Sunday, January 5, 2020 – Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

Is 60:1-6; Ps 72: 1-2, 7-8, 10-13; Ep 3:2-3a, 5-6; Mt 2:1-12

  1. Praised be Jesus Christ!
  2. Now and for ever. Amen.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We come today to the formal end of the Christmas season – hard to believe that it’s been 12 days already, eh? You may now throw out your Christmas tree – Father Bluenose says it’s okay. Christmas is over.

The Solemnity of the Epiphany celebrates the “revelation of the (All-)Highest”; that is, God-made-Man, Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, the incarnate Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, is “revealed” as the All-Highest by the arrival of potentates from the East, about whom I’ll say more in a moment. At the Epiphany, we come, also, to the conclusion of the sequence of revelations which have characterized Our Lord’s earthly ministry from before he was even born. There were three of them – a scripturally- and theologically-significant number! – and the order in which the revelations were made is significant for understanding the identity and ministry of Jesus.

First, He was revealed to Mary, his mother-to-be, in the message of an angel. We need not go over Luke’s majestic account of the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38); it is one of the best-known passages of the New Testament. Next, He was revealed to Joseph, who was a righteous man (cf. Mt. 1:19) and, as such, a bit straitjacketed mentally. Not being privy to the Annunciation, he determined to be rid of his betrothed, who turned up pregnant without her husband having had the pleasure of impregnating her.

Scarcely had Joseph formed the intent to divorce Mary quietly, when he was visited in a dream by an angel, who basically repeated what the Angel Gabriel had told Mary: that the child Mary was carrying in her womb was the product of a supernatural, divinely-ordered union. Joseph believed, and, being a “righteous man” (we would say he was strengthened by Grace), stepped boldly into his role as the foster-father of Jesus. That is the two-part first revelation of Jesus as the All-Highest.

The second revelation was to the shepherds who were “living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.” (Lk. 2:8) The shepherds represent the Children of Israel; that is, the Hebrew people. They were of the land; a land flowing with milk and honey; a land which God had promised to give to their ancestors, and did give to them. In the interim, their ancestors had displeased God and forfeited their inheritance from Him, been driven off the land, driven into exile, redeemed by a temporal ruler (King Cyrus II the Great of Persia) and prophesied to of a coming Messiah who would Israel to a right relationship with her God. The shepherds were not trained in the Law; they probably could not read at all. But they were humble children of Israel, doing what God had intended the children of Israel to do when He delivered them to the Promised Land: they had entered into and taken possession of the land, and were enjoying the fruits of their labor on that land. It is to them, humble shepherds who “bore the smell of their sheep” – not to the perfumed and powdered Pharisees and scribes, sleeping in comfortable beds in Jerusalem! – to whom the cacophonous, raucous celebration of celebration of Heaven at the Nativity of the Lord revealed, through the message of an angel, that “a child is born to you.”

The third revelation is what we commemorate today: the arrival of the pagan, animistic, non-Jewish world, represented by the three (or however many) kings (or whatever they were) bearing gold fit for a king, frankincense “which owns a deity nigh,” and myrrh, the “bitter perfume” that heralded the saving death that the All-Highest would die. These kings, or magicians, came to do homage to the Lord of Creation shortly after His entrance into Creation.

Who were these people? That they were not Jews is clear from the fact that when they arrived in Jerusalem, they asked, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews?” (Mt. 2:2) – not, “Where is our newborn king?” Matthew refers to them as “magi,” which suggests that they were capable of performing “magic” – that is, wonders based on advanced, or arcane knowledge. Other opinions say that they were astronomers, who had predicted the coming of a particularly-bright star, which would herald some great even on earth. Alternately, they have been described as “kings”; the term “magus” may be a corruption of the Latin “magister,” or master, indicating a person of authority. Again, “magi,” in the plural, has a certain relationship to the Arabic word “masjid,” or “majid,” meaning “market,” which suggests that the men were merchants – and, thus, wealthy and cosmopolitan, with ready access to the expensive gifts they brought to lay before the Child.

Whatever their background, whatever their status and role in life, the fact that they came from the East, as Matthew specifies (cf. Mt 2:1) is significant. If we accept the notion that I expressed earlier, that the Magi represent the pagan world coming to do Christ homage, then the journey of the Magi recapitulates, it traces the steps, that Abram (before he was Abraham) took when he came forth from “Ur of the Chaldees,” as the Proclamation of Christmas reminded us 12 days ago. In the same way that Abram, who was not yet the father of nations that he would become, came forth from the Fertile Crescent at the beginning of salvation history, so too do these latter-day devotees of the Living God come from the same area, representing the submission of the non-Jewish world to the King of the Jews.

The arrival of the Magi, the submission of the non-Jewish world to the King of the Jews, completes and perfects the Epiphany; that is, the revelation of the All-Highest. The co-equal and co-eternal Son of God, Jesus, had been revealed, successively, to the specially-graced (first Mary, then Joseph); to the “great unwashed” (the shepherds); and, finally, to the Gentiles. It is fitting and right that we conclude the season of Christmas, which celebrates the coming of the Messiah in the flesh, by celebrating the truth that the Gentile Magi taught: that Jesus is not merely the Son of God, but is God Himself.

What does this mean for us, more than 2,000 years after the fact? How should we respond to the declarations that the Magi made in bringing their gifts: that the Child is a King; that He is God; that He is Victim? We must make our way spiritually to the place where He lay, to receive His visitors. We must see this audience from both perspectives: of God receiving His supplicants, when we understand and share and emulate the adoration and worship that they offered to Him; and of supplicants approaching the Holy of Holies, falling down in worshipful adoration of Him Who above all others is worthy of worship. If we are willing to approach Our Lord and Master with the same humility and joy as the Magi, and to accept the welcome that He offers to us as He offered to them, then we will be able truly to complete and perfect, in our own hearts, the revelation of the All-Highest that is the fit culmination of the Christmas season.

Suffering, Growing, Living in Faith ~ St. Elizabeth Ann Seton ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading 1:1 JN 3:7-10

Responsorial Psalm: PS 98:1, 7-8, 9

Gospel: JN 1:35-42

Liturgical colour: White.

 

Today we  come together as a church to commemorate the Memorial of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton who is my name saint within the Order of preachers Independent, due to our Prior (and Presiding Bishop) feeling there are similarities between the life of St. Elizabeth  Ann Seton and that of my own.

Throughout Biblical history and even in current times, we sometimes come across people who have endured much within their lives and who, regardless of this, remain strong and devout within their faith. Today we remember St Elizabeth, whom is one such person from whose life, heart and devotion, we can take inspiration within our own spiritual life.

Elizabeth was the first native-born citizen of the United States to be Canonized to sainthood.

Elizabeth was born as Elizabeth Ann Bayley in New York city on the 28th August in the year 1774, and she was a child of the Revolutionary war. She was raised Episcopalian which was the faith of her parents.

Elizabeth married at the  tender young age of only nineteen years old, to a man named William Magee Seton. He was a young but wealthy merchant and together they parented a total of five children.

Elizabeth had a very deep devout faith and concern for the poor even as a  very young woman and she shared this devotion with her sister-in-law,  who was Rebecca Seton, and with whom she became very close friends. Together, Elizabeth and Rebecca undertook various missions for the poor and for the needy of their region and they adopted the name of the ‘Protestant Sisters of Charity` for their mission works.

Elizabeth’s life changed after only the short time of four years of marriage and her life became rather burdensome in nature. Elizabeth and her husband were left with the responsibility for seven half-brothers and sisters of William’s father when he died in the year 1798.

 

Elizabeth suffered even further in the year 1801, when her own father with whom she had a  very close relationship, especially since the loss of her mother at aged only three,   himself passed into the care of the Lord.

Then yet again she suffered after only another two years, when both her husband’s business and his health failed. Filing for bankruptcy, Elizabeth and her husband sailed to Italy to help his health and to try to revive his business.

Whilst in Italy, Elizabeth suffered even further, as William’s condition worsened. He was quarantined and subsequently died of Tuberculosis in December of 1803. Elizabeth remained in Italy for several months after his death and during this time, was more fully exposed to the Catholic faith.

Elizabeth returned to New York city in June of 1804, only to suffer yet again with the loss of her dear friend and sister-in=law, Rebecca Seton, in the very next month.

At only the young thirty years of age, Elizabeth had endured the loss of so many who were close to her and she seemed to have the weight of the world upon her shoulders. Even so, throughout all this, Elizabeth still remained fervent in her faith.

The months ahead were life-changing for Elizabeth and she seemed ever more drawn to the Catholic faith and to the Mother Church, much to the horror of her friends and her remaining family who were firmly Protestant.

Elizabeth Ann Seton was received into the Catholic Church on the 4th March 1805. Her conversion cost her dearly in the areas of her friendships and in the support from her remaining family.

Elizabeth relocated to the Baltimore area and there she established a school for girls. She also founded a religious community along with two other young women and she took vows before the Archbishop Carroll as a member of the Sisters of Charity of St Joseph. From this time forward, Elizabeth was known as Mother Seton and she left a legacy of care and education for the poor. She even established the first free Catholic school of the nation.

In so many ways, the journey into the Catholic faith, helped Elizabeth to much more appreciate and to embrace her faith even more profoundly. Elizabeth was willing to endure all things to follow Christ. In her journal, she even wrote, ‘If I am right Thy grace impart still in the right to stay. If I am wrong Oh, teach my heart to find the better way’.

Many of us who have chosen the Catholic faith have experienced some setbacks and have had to endure issues with relationships, but for this brave and devout woman of faith, the cost was even greater.

Elizabeth died aged only 46 on January 4th 1821 from Tuberculosis and she was Canonized on September 14th 1975.

On this your special day, St Elizabeth Ann Seton, Pray for all of us who follow your pathway of faith. Pray that we likewise to yourself will say yes and will accept all that will come to us in the years ahead, and to allow our earthly endurance to further our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Amen.

Mary, Mother of God ~ The Rev. Dcn. Dollie Wilkinson, OPI

I have two very smart and beautiful daughters. As adults, they daily teach and inspire me. Being their Mom, it is my hope that I have raised them well. Somehow I just knew they would turn out to be strong, independent women. But back in Mary’s time, such reassurances were not readily known. So imagine an angel, appearing out of the blue, telling Mary just how precious her child is, and his role in saving us all. If it happened today, would anyone believe it? Probably not….yet Mary accepted the words of the angel, and treasured them in her heart.

Luke 2:16-21 (NIV)

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.”

On January 1st, we celebrated the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. It is a holy day of obligation for Catholics, meaning that Mass attendance is required (though the Mass obligation is sometimes waived by the Bishop for various reasons. The use of the word “Solemnity” here is a designation used for certain days within the liturgical calendar of the Church. Solemnities are the highest rank of liturgical celebration, higher than feast days or memorials. By celebrating a solemnity dedicated to Mary’s motherhood, the Church highlights the significance of her part in the life of Jesus, and emphasizes that He is both human and divine.

Jesus’ nature as both and equally human and divine is something we may take for granted today. But back in the early days of the church, this dogma of our faith was hotly debated. In 431 A.D. during the Council of Ephesus, the title of “Mary Mother of God,” in Greek “Theotokus,” was defended and defined against the heresy of Nestorius. Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, refuted the title of “Theotokus” claiming that Christ had two loosely united natures, and therefore, Mary was only the mother of the human part of Him. Catholic theologians rejected this claim, and defined that Christ indeed has two natures, a divine nature and a human nature definitely united in one divine person, and since Christ’s two natures form one single person, Mary is the mother of the whole Person of Christ.

Therefore, Mary can be properly called “Mother of God,” not in the sense that she came before God or is the source of God, but in the sense that the Person that she bore in her womb is indeed true God and true man.

The Solemnity of Mary Mother of God falls exactly one week after Christmas, the end of the octave of Christmas. It is fitting to honor Mary as Mother of Jesus, following the birth of Christ. When Catholics celebrate the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God we are not only honoring Mary, who was chosen among all women throughout history to bear God incarnate, but we are also honoring our Lord, who is fully God and fully human.

Calling Mary “mother of God” is the highest honor we can give Mary. Just as Christmas honors Jesus as the “Prince of Peace,” the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God honors Mary as the “Queen of Peace.” Pope Paul VI, in his apostolic exhortation Marialis Cultus (1974), called the Solemnity of Mary “a fitting occasion for renewing adoration of the newborn Prince of Peace, for listening once more to the glad tidings of the angels (Lk 2:14), and for imploring from God, through the Queen of Peace, the supreme gift of peace.”

In Galatians 4:4-7 (NIV) we are once again reminded that the gift of a little baby to Mary, is also the most precious gift to us all. Peace ~ Salvation ~ Love

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”

“Family Friendly?” ~ The Feast of the Holy Family ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

 

Reading 1: SIR 3:2-6, 12-14

Responsorial Psalm: PS 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

Reading 2: COL 3:12-21 or: COL 3:12-17

Gospel: MT 2:13-15, 19-23

Liturgical colour: White.

My Dearest brothers and sisters, Today, we come together as a church to celebrate the earthly family of Our Dear Lord and Saviour  Jesus Christ. The Holy Family of Mary, Joseph, and of course, of Our Lord Jesus himself.  This feast challenges us all to look at what it means to be family.  And our eyes turn toward the Christmas nativity scene.  During this time of Christmas, we tend to sentimentalize the Holy Family – they often tend become figures of plaster and paper,  instead of being of true flesh and blood. But we forget: they weren’t all that different from how we are.  They were holy, yes that’s true,.  But they were also human just like us.

The life of the Holy Family is a life not always turning out the way in which they would’ve expected.  It’s the  life story of a teenage mother,  who conceived a child before she was married.  It’s the life story of an anxious father,  who confronted this scandal,  and who at first,  was planning on divorce. It’s the life story of a family forced to become refugees, living as immigrants in the land that once held their ancestors as slaves. It’s the story of a missing child, and days of anxious worry, stress,  and searching by his parents.

But there is even more.  It’s the story of our Lord’s violent death by crucifixion –  where his mother watched with helplessness and unimaginable sorrow.  This family was holy.  But it was also a human family.   We need these reminders.  Especially now.

The Church calendar shows us that the Christmas season is one of light – but it is also of shadow.  The day immediately after Christmas day and the joy of the Lord’s birth, we celebrate the feast of the first martyr, St. Stephen.  Then a couple days after this, we mark the feast of the Holy Innocents,  all the children who were slaughtered by Herod.  The joy of Christ’s birth is suddenly tempered by tragic reminders of what the Incarnation cost.  And the Holy Family shared in that.

It is just a few steps here from the wood of the manger to the wood the cross. But in so many ways, the two singular events are inseparable.   One led inevitably to the other. Joy and sorrow are almost side by side, linked by sacrifice, by faith, and by love.  It is the story of our salvation.  And it is the story of the Holy Family.  he juxtaposition of those two images in this church, the crèche and the crucifix, serves as a powerful lesson for this feast. We realize that when we speak of the Holy Family, we speak of a family that struggled and suffered, like so many of us.

But: this family also knew profound hope. They trusted completely in God. They call all of us to that kind of trust. And they are with us. In our own time, they stand beside all who worry, who struggle, who search, who pray.  The Holy Family stands beside parents anxious about their children, worrying for their welfare.  They walk with immigrants and refugees separated from those they love.  They comfort teenage mothers and single parents.  They console the prisoner, the outcast, the bullied, the scorned—and the parents who love them.  And they offer solace and compassion to any mother or father grieving over the loss of a child.

The Holy Family shares our burdens. But they also uplift us by their example. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were never alone. They endured through the grace of God.  They prayed. They hoped. They trusted in God’s will.  We might ask ourselves where we can find that kind of peace and purpose in our own families, in our own lives.

The Holy Family surely must’ve had moments in their life, when living those virtues which they had, when things seemed so desperately hard, or even impossible. But they did things most of us don’t. They listened to the angels who passed them the will of God. They dreamed.

And they gave themselves fully to God.

They made of their lives a prayer.

When we find ourselves overwhelmed, we need to remember where it is that we must focus on today for our guidance and to remember to look toward the Lord’s Nativity, and His Holy Family and their lives. There is our model for living: Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  But we need to see them in full,  also ensuring that we remember the closeness of the cross. That was their life and it’s our lives too.  Yet, through all their hardships, in a time of anxieties, difficulties, of persecution and tragedy—a time to some extent like our own –they showed us how to be people of  true faith, people of forgiveness,  and people of love.

They show us, in other words, how to be holy in our lives.

The Feast of the Holy Innocents ~ The Rev. Dcn. Scott Brown, OPI

Matthew 2:13-18 New International Version (NIV)

The Escape to Egypt

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”[a]

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”[b]

Imagine you are a parent, enjoying the toddler years, or as we know them today, the terrible twos,  when suddenly your front door is blown open and a soldier slaughters your baby. Your baby was sentenced to death by a tyrannical ruler who is obviously not in his right mind.

To many Christians, King Herod is the bloodthirsty villain of the Bible, the jealous despot who ordered the slaughter of newborn babies throughout his kingdom following the birth of Jesus Christ. To his subjects, he was Herod the Great, the paranoid tyrant who imposed oppressive taxes to fund his massive building projects, and who crushed all opposition. And to his Roman masters, he was little more than a reliably loyal—and wealthy—puppet-king.

Throughout history, opinions of Herod the Great have not been…well, great. Herod was a client king, which means he was subordinate to a larger ruling government. In Herod’s case, that government was Republican Rome. Indeed, Herod wouldn’t have been king of Judea at all had it not been for the Romans: rather than inherit the throne as kings usually do, Herod was declared king by the Roman senate, with the understanding that he would lead Judea in a decidedly pro-Roman direction. With the help of the Romans, Herod was able to put down Antigonus’s revolt. With Phasael (his older brother and Governor of Jerusalem) and Hyrcanus (king of Judea) both killed in the strife, this left Herod as the sole claimant to the throne of Judea. The Romans assented, and Herod claimed the title “basileus,” or king, for himself in 36 BCE.

Though the Romans identified Herod as “King of the Jews,” there is some doubt as to the sincerity of Herod’s faith. By blood, he was an Edomite, an Arabic group who had only recently converted to Judaism. Herod’s frequent clashes with the Sanhedrin, not to mention the observant Pharisees and Sadducees who were his subjects, as well as his pro-Roman attitudes and tolerance of other religions, have led some to allege that Herod was not sincerely Jewish.

Look at what is happening in our country today. We as a country have forgotten how to love one another, we have forgotten how to feed the hungry, how to clothe the naked, and how to shelter the homeless. We are separating children from their parents, locking them up in what are essentially prisons and some of them are even dying in them. These children are the innocents today,  just as the murdered babies were in Herod’s time. King Herod was trying to protect his title of King of the Jews by attempting to kill the Son of God. Herod’s ego activated his paranoia, which in turn caused him to go on a murder spree, killing thousands of innocent children.

Possibly the same could be said for our nation and our leaders now. We are not feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, nor are we sheltering the homeless, all because of our (and our elected leaders’) huge egos. In John chapter 13 Jesus gave us one commandment:

33 Little children, I am with you only a little while longer. You will look for Me, and as I said to the Jews, so now I say to you: ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”…

We as a nation, we as a people, and we as a world. need to love one another so that all will know that we are His disciples. This wasn’t a suggestion from our Lord – it was a commandment. A commandment given not to just Americans, Europeans, Mexicans, or Indians, but to everyone of all ethnicities, colors and creeds. Closing borders to the hungry and oppressed, is not the way of our Lord. Open our borders, open our hearts, open our minds and obey our Lord’s commandment to love one another and stop murdering innocents as Herod did. Stop feeding the egos of the modern-day King Herods, and obey the commandment Jesus left for us.

Heavenly Father in this season of giving and sharing, open our hearts and minds, take away our egos so that we can love one another. Keep our hearts open so that others will know we are Your disciples by our actions and words.  Amen.