We all know the twenty-third Psalm, the Psalm of David. I imagine most of us can recite it almost word for word. But, have you ever thought about what it really means, what it is really saying? It seems with our fast paced, frantic world, people are feeling increasingly stressed, depressed, or lost. And while there are drugs, and therapy to help us deal with any issues we may face, there is also a very powerful tool, a special gift that our heavenly Father has given us – Psalm 23. Let’s take it line by line, and explore how just by reciting, and praying, on each part, it will provide us with a way to cope with the stresses of this world.
Psalm 23 (KJV)
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
What is the purpose of a shepherd? To guide his flock of sheep, to gather any little ones who wander astray. He also must make sure they are well fed, and cared for, to insure they live a long life, so their purpose is assured (the gift of their wool). Isn’t this exactly what God does? He provides us with all of our needs, even if we don’t realize at times what exactly we need. Even if we ask Him for nothing, He still provides. We can be assured that will shall never want. He is our Shepherd!
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures”
I tend to go throughout my day as if it’s a race. I have a mental to-do list in my head, and on top of that I also care for my ailing husband, babysit my granddaughter once a week, and most days run errands, such as go to the store. So you can imagine, I get pretty tired and worn down. Though my best friend cautions me to rest, I don’t always listen. But just as a shepherd knows that his flock must rest at times, so too does our heavenly Father. I’ve noticed that sometimes it takes a major illness, or injury, to get us to stop, to get that much needed rest. And there should be no shame in slowing down at times, and allowing our body, and mind, to recuperate.
“he leadeth me beside the still waters.”
If you know anything about sheep, they are timid creatures. And just like all God’s creatures, they get thirsty. But, they are afraid of fast moving streams. So the shepherd will lead them to a calm pool of water. He doesn’t make fun of the sheep for being afraid, he doesn’t push them in to a place where they are not comfortable. Our Shepherd does the same for us. If we are afraid, He makes a way to calm our fears. He leads us in to the calm pool, and away from the rapids of life.
“He restoreth my soul”
I had a chaotic childhood. My parents divorced when I was little, my mother committed suicide, and now I care for my ailing husband. It has taken me many years to learn to trust people, and to trust myself. When a shepherd takes his flock out for the day, when they pause to rest, I imagine the sheep wander close to the shepherd, maybe for a snack, but I also believe for just a simple ear scratch, or to be petted. This makes the sheep feel loved and cherished, it makes them happy. We cannot be happy all the time, because life has a way of knocking us down. Our soul can feel crushed in the midst of all life’s troubles. But just like the sheep who come to the shepherd for love and care, so too can we go to our Father. He will help restore what has been broken in us.
“he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
Imagine a flock of sheep, on a farm, beside a busy street. What would happen if there were no shepherd? Sheep tend to wander off, if left on their own. Well aren’t we the same? How many times have you made a decision, that on looking back, you realized that was not the best decision at the time. But we have a Shepherd, just like the sheep, who will lead us down the right path.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me”
This one line provides so much comfort, if you will only hear the message. Talking to many people who suffer from depression, or other mental illness, they almost always describe their illness as a black hole, a dark place. And don’t we always fear the dark, the night, at times? I imagine sheep are the same way. But think of the shepherd’s light, which guide the sheep at night, as God’s love and protection, leading us out of the darkness. When you feel darkness, gloom, the bad stuff, all around you, recite this simple prayer. And know, you are never alone in that darkness, because He is always near.
“thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
I love the pictures of baby sheep (lambs)! They are so cute, but also so helpless. When we see pictures of shepherds, usually they carry a staff. Have you ever wonder why it is curved at the top? When the sheep, or lamb, has wondered off, possibly fallen down a hill, the curved end of a shepherd’s staff allows him to grasp the lamb who is out of arm’s reach. And bring it to safety. Our Father carries a rod and staff, so to speak. The rod is to protect us against harm, the staff is used to rescue us when we stray.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies”
How does the shepherd know where the best grasses are, to graze for his flock? What would happen if he wasn’t as vigilant, and they became poisoned by something? We are not always as careful as we should be, in where we go, what we eat, who we meet, etc. As parents, we always, always try to guard our children from the dangers of life. This isn’t always easy. But, because we have a constant Shepherd who goes before us, preparing a way which is safe from our enemies, we, and our children, can continue to come to no harm.
“thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”
At the end of the day, I imagine as the shepherd brought his herd inside the barn, he checked each one for any cuts or scrapes. My granddaughter will be the first to tell you if she has a boo-boo. She then demanded I kiss it first, as if that had some magical healing properties. Then the offending cut was anointed with medicine, and bandaged. Just as I imagine the shepherd does for any hurt ones in his flock. Like the sheep, and my granddaughter, we all need medicine when we are sick. But we also need the anointing grace of our loving God. Only then are we healed, and our cup of blessings will overflow.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”
I’m a worry-wart! I can take a mole hill, and make it a huge mountain. Does what I picture in my mind, actually happen? Most days the answer is NO. But it doesn’t stop me from worrying. We all carry pictures in our head of what we think may happen. For some reason, we always picture the worse. But in this humble verse, we are reminded that God’s goodness and mercy is always with us. It does not leave us…..so when you feel yourself picturing the worse that could happen, remember you are promised His love and mercy, for “all the days of your life”.
“and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
I love this simple declaration by David. He doesn’t say maybe I will, or I hope I will. He declares, “I will”! He gets it, he knows who his shepherd is. Just as the sheep put their absolute trust in the shepherd, so does David put his trust in the Lord. As we should do also, because like sheep in the field, we would be lost without our Shepherd.
Feast of the Annunciation 2017 Reading: Luke 1:26-38
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable to you O Lord, our God and our Redeemer.
Today is a most blessed day for those of us who find ourselves with the Catholic branch of the Christian family; on this day Churches of both the East and the West celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation. Today, all of the Catholic work can forget the divisions amongst us and come together to celebrate the visit of the Archangel to the Blessed Virgin Mary and her humble submission to God’s will.
I’ve heard many a sermon preached on this day over the years and many of them have focussed on what, for many, seems like the obvious message of today’s Gospel but I’m going to take us on a little bit of a different track. However, first for those of you who may not have heard a “traditional” Annunciation sermon I will highlight the usual points.
Tradition tells us that Mary was but a young girl at the time that these events took place and from scripture we know that she was unmarried but betrothed (think of it as engaged), it’s stated clearly twice and implied another time in today’s reading that she was a Virgin. Can you imagine for a second that you’re a young girl, engaged to an older man, in a society with a strict moral code and a penchant for stoning harlots to death and someone tells you (albeit an angel) that you are going to fall pregnant? What would you do? I can tell you what I would do…after changing my soiled clothes I’d either pack up and get out of there or run away screaming thinking I’d lost my mind (and from Gospel stories we know how the mad were treated!). But is that what Mary did? She didn’t, to her credit she appears to have listened calmly to the message, maybe she played it over in her mind and she replied with a resounding “May it be done to me according to your word”.
The traditional Annunciation sermon will often branch of now to talk about how we must all strive to have the faith of Mary; how we too must be ready to answer the call when God comes knocking. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a lovely idea for a sermon and it is one message that can be taken from this event in the life of the Blessed Virgin and our Saviour, however there is a much deeper message to be found within the words of today’s gospel that goes right to the heart of what it is that we believe as Christians and it is this that I want to draw out today.
There are two truths that the Archangel Gabriel’s message highlights in today’s reading; one is that Mary will conceive in her womb, she will find herself with child, and the second is that the child she will bear will not be that of her future husbands but will instead be the very son of God. Now I know right now you’re all thinking I’m a bit loopy, we all know that the reading says that, we all heard it and we all believe it, but it really hasn’t always been the case.
In the days of the early Church there was a Bishop called Nestorius who was Patriarch of Constantinople one of the great leadership roles in the early Church. Nestorius however, did not believe that Jesus was born the Son of God. Nestorius taught that when Jesus was conceived in the womb he was a man human, like you and I; it wasn’t until later that the Son of God, something divine, came down from heaven and joined with the human Jesus. Now, to the rational of mind this might sound more rational, Jesus was born the normal way and then he got a super spiritual hit of Holy Ghost from God to become our Saviour, no need to reject what we know about human conception. However, is this what the scriptures tell us? Is this the faith that the Apostles and Early Christians bled and died for? It most certainly is not!
The Archangel said to Mary, “”The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” The Archangel did not call Jesus the Son of Joseph, nowhere in the accepted teaching of the Church has this ever been the case. The child that was conceived in the womb of Mary was a miracle, the product of God’s divine intervention in this world. As Christians we need to not be afraid of standing up for this long held and defended belief.
Some of you may know that amongst other things, I am a science teacher, and as someone with a love for the natural sciences we need to not be afraid of saying things that seem “odd” not everything in the world can be explained by Science. In fact, take the idea of the Big Bang, do you know that it was first suggested by a Catholic Priest of the Roman Church? His name was Georges Lemaitre and Einstein thought his physics was atrocious though now many accept his work as truths.
It may shock some of you to know that I have actually heard clergy deny the idea of the Virgin Birth, that it was even possible. It seems to me that we are all too quick to try and explain the miraculous away with rationalism. Nowhere in the Scriptures and words of Christ are we told that our God is a rational God who only works according to our finite understanding of the universe! Instead, we see evidence of a God that is bigger than us all, a God who stands outside of the realms of our finite minds and is the author of the laws of this Universe. I’m most sure that when we stand before his throne we will be amazed at the natural laws that exist that we have no idea about.
So there are two things that I want you to take away from today’s celebration of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The first is that it was indeed a real event, that the Church has always taught it and that if we are to be true to our Christian heritage we too must accept it and keep teaching it. The second is to always be open to the miraculous, Mary knew that her faith in God could not be limit by her finite understandings, she didn’t need to question the miraculous, she understood that all our finite minds can do is say yes to God and be prepared for the life of miracles that is sure to follow.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sybillina’s parents died when she was tiny and as soon as she was old enough to be of use to anyone, the neighbors, who had taken her in at the time she was orphaned, put her out to work. She must have been very young when she started to work, because at the age of 12, when she became blind and could not work any more, she already had several years of work behind her.
The cause of her blindness is unknown, but the child was left doubly destitute with the loss of her sight. The local chapter of the Dominican tertiary sisters took compassion on the child and brought her home to live with them. After a little while of experiencing their kind help, she wanted to join them. They accepted her, young though she was, more out of pity than in any hope of her being able to carry on their busy and varied apostolate.
They were soon agreeably surprised to find out how much she could do. She learned to chant the Office quickly and sweetly, and to absorb their teaching about mental prayer as though she had been born for it. She imposed great obligations of prayer on herself, since she could not help them in other ways. Her greatest devotion was to Saint Dominic, and it was to him she addressed herself when she finally became convinced that she simply must have her sight back so that she could help the sisters with their work.
Praying earnestly for this intention, Sybillina waited for his feast day. Then, she was certain, he would cure her. Matins came and went with no miracle; little hours, Vespers–and she was still blind. With a sinking heart, Sybillina knelt before Saint Dominic’s statue and begged him to help her. Kneeling there, she was rapt in ecstasy, and she saw him come out of the darkness and take her by the hand.
He took her to a dark tunnel entrance, and she went into the blackness at his word. Terrified, but still clinging to his hand, she advanced past invisible horrors, still guided and protected by his presence. Dawn came gradually, and then light, then a blaze of glory. “In eternity, dear child,” he said. “Here, you must suffer darkness so that you may one day behold eternal light.”
Sybillina, the eager child, was replaced by a mature and thoughtful Sybillina who knew that there would be no cure for her, that she must work her way to heaven through the darkness. She decided to become a anchorite, and obtained the necessary permission. In 1302, at the age of 15, she was sealed into a tiny cell next to the Dominican church at Pavia. At first she had a companion, but her fellow recluse soon gave up the life. Sybillina remained, now alone, as well as blind.
The first seven years were the worst, she later admitted. The cold was intense, and she never permitted herself a fire. The church, of course, was not heated, and she wore the same clothes winter and summer. In the winter there was only one way to keep from freezing–keep moving–so she genuflected, and gave herself the discipline. She slept on a board and ate practically nothing. To the tiny window, that was her only communication with the outside world, came the troubled and the sinful and the sick, all begging for her help. She prayed for all of them, and worked many miracles in the lives of the people of Pavia.
One of the more amusing requests came from a woman who was terrified of the dark. Sybillina was praying for her when she saw her in a vision, and observed that the woman–who thought she was hearing things–put on a fur hood to shut out the noise. The next day the woman came to see her, and Sybillina laughed gaily. “You were really scared last night, weren’t you?” she asked. “I laughed when I saw you pull that hood over your ears.” The legend reports that the woman was never frightened again.
Sybillina had a lively sense of the Real Presence and a deep devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. One day a priest was going past her window with Viaticum for the sick; she knew that the host was not consecrated, and told him so. He investigated, and found he had indeed taken a host from the wrong container.
Sybillina lived as a recluse for 67 years. She followed all the Masses and Offices in the church, spending what few spare minutes she had working with her hands to earn a few alms for the poor (Attwater2, Benedictines, Dorcy).
Born: 1287 at Pavia, Lombardy, Italy
Died: 1367 of Natural Causes: Her body remains Incorrupt
Beatified: 1853 (Cultus confirmed); 1854 beautified
Patronage: Children whose parents are not married, illegitimacy, loss of parents
- Orphaned when very young.
- Worked as a domestic servant by age 10.
- Blind by age 12; the cause of her blindness has not come down to us.
- Adopted by a community of Dominican tertiaries at Pavia.
- Developed a devotion to Saint Dominic in hopes that his intervention would return her sight; when it didn’t she came to accept it as her lot in life.
- Received a vision of Saint Dominic as confirmation of her desire to join the order.
- At age 15 she became a recluse, living in a walled up cell.
- She spent her time in prayer and devotion, and her cell soon became a point of pilgrimage for Pavians seeking advice and healing; she lived there for over 60 years, doing penance, performing miracles, and spreading devotion to the Holy Spirit.
- Sybillina could sense the Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.
- Once a priest passed her window on his way to a sick call.
- She told him that the host was not consecrated; he checked and found he had taken a host from the wrong container.
Blessed Isnard is another very distinguished and saintly first disciple of Saint Dominic whom Father Touron somehow overlooked. Of Isnard’s life up to the time he entered the Order practically nothing is known with certainty; whilst some of the statements anent his debut as a Friar Preacher are irreconcilable among themselves, and contrary to facts which have been ascertained in later years. Chiampo, a small town not far from Vicenza, Italy, was most likely the place of his birth; yet there are those who give the latter city this honor. Some think he was born of poor parents, and spent his youth in poverty. Others suggest that he belonged to a wealthy family by the name of Isnardi, which has been long extinct.(1)
It is beyond doubt that the future wonder-worker received the habit in Bologna, from Saint Dominic, in 1219; for this is a point on which nearly all the early authors are in accord. This truth seems certainly to prove that he was a student at the university there, and far advanced in his studies, At that time only such applicants were accepted; and this fact is a strong proof that his parents were well-to-do, for only the sons of this kind were given a higher education. Without exception the writers tell us of his singular purity of heart and religious disposition. His mind had been carefully guarded against the evils of the day, and in Bologna he proved faithful to the lessons of his earlier youth. Association with the holy man from Caleruega quickened his efforts for holiness of life and the salvation of souls.
For ten years after he entered the Order of Saint Dominic, we have no positive knowledge of where Isnard made his home. Yet the indications are that he spent this time between Bologna and Milan. In which case, of course, he labored energetically in those parts of Italy. Although a quite corpulent man, we are told, he was endowed with extraordinary energy, and was very gracious in action as well as in word. San Eustorgio, Milan, was most likely his convent for the greater part of this decade. So at least thinks Rudolph Majocchi, Blessed Isnard’s latest hagiographer.(2)
In more than one of our sketches, but especially in that of Saint Peter of Verona, we have seen how the Albigenses and kindred sects overran northern Italy at that date. Milan was one of the centers of Dominican activity against them; and it was from Milan that the convent of the Order in Pavia was founded. At Pavia the heretics were long in the ascendancy. The city was also a stronghold of Frederic II, whose Ghibellines, always opposed to the Holy See, constantly persecuted those who favored the authority of the Church. When, in 1230, zealous Rodobald Cipolla became bishop of Pavia, he found religion in a sad plight in his diocese, and began at once to seek means for a reformation.
Blessed Isnard’s reputation for holiness of life, zeal, eloquence, power over the souls of others, and fearlessness was broadcast. Most likely he had already preached in the Diocese of Pavia — perhaps many times; for the Friars Preacher of Milan carried their work in every direction. Possibly, too, he and Bishop Cipolla, himself an energetic character, had become friends at a prior date. Anyway, one of the new prelate’s first steps for the spiritual betterment of his flock was to invite the subject of our narrative from Milan, that he might establish a house of the Order at Pavia. This was in 1231; and before the close of the year we find the fathers actively engaged in their apostolate under the leadership of the man of God from Chiampo.(3)
The convent, which Rodobald Cipolla generously helped to erect, stood in the little village of Ticino, a short distance outside the walls of Pavia, and was given the name of Saint Mary of Nazareth. Throughout Italy the Friars Preacher were known as an effective aid to the hierarchy against the evils of the day. Thus Bishop Cipolla felt that, at least under Isnard, they would be an immense help to him in putting an end to the inroads of the enemy, and in freeing his diocese from the many ills in which it was enmeshed. He had not long to wait before he saw that his choice of auxiliaries was no mistake.
However, the task proved difficult, trying, and full of danger. On the one hand, the faithful, through long bad associations, had become so cold, careless, and wayward in the practice of their religious duties that it was exceeding hard to arouse them to a sense of their obligations. On the other, the Ghibellines and sectarians, ever of stubborn mood as well as violent in their methods, were even less subject to management. These possessed little or no faith. Besides they were loath to change their views, to amend their lives, or to part with the earthly goods which they had obtained by robbery or dishonesty.
As is ever the case in such conditions, the Friar Preacher’s success began with the poor and the laboring classes. For these he had a special love. He gathered them around him at the conventual church, instructed them in their religion, and inspired them with a love of its practice. Although he met with much opposition at first, it was not long before he had completely changed their lives. Reports of the good thus effected soon spread near and far. Meanwhile, he and his confrères preached throughout the City of Pavia and its environments — in churches, public squares, market places, or wherever they could find a space large enough for an audience. Gradually the wealthier Guelfs, and even not a few of the Ghibellines, began to harken to the call of grace and to receive the sacraments.
Among the little band of missioners Isnard shone with special brilliancy for his saintliness, zeal, and eloquence. The influence which he soon began to wield over the people caused the leaders of the heretics to single him out for their hatred. They mocked and ridiculed him, publicly spurned him, laughed at his corpulent figure, defamed him, threatened him, did everything in their power either to bring him into disrepute or to make him desist from his tireless apostolate. All was in vain. His sermons were incessant. He challenged his enemies wherever he met them. If they undertook to answer him, his inexorable logic put them to shame, or reduced them to silence. Never was he known to be ill natured, or to lose his patience; yet he showed the fire of divine love that glowed within his breast.
No doubt as much to demonstrate the holiness of His faithful servant as for the benefit of those to whom he preached, God blessed Isnard with the gift of miracles. The early writers mention many wrought by him both before and after his death.(4) These, quite naturally, quickened and strengthened the faith of the Catholics. They also gradually undermined the influence and broke the spirit of the heretics, many of whom were brought into the Church. By the time of the holy man’s death, the Diocese of Pavia was free from attacks by Albigenses, Catharists, and similar sects. They bad gone to other parts, been converted, or held their peace. No one could be found who would profess their principles. It was a glorious apostolate brought to a successful termination.
The Ghibellines, or adherents of Emperor Frederic II, gave Christ’s ambassador no end of worry and trouble. These were the rich who were not guided by their consciences in the acquisition of wealth; politicians without scruples; and soldiers of fortune, whose restless spirits ever led them into the service in which they might expect the greatest booty, license, and excitement. The machinations of the German monarch helped to keep them in keen antagonism to ecclesiastical authority and the interests of religion; which, of course, rendered them less responsive to our blessed’s impelling eloquence or the strong influence of his holiness and miracles. We may judge of the contempt of these friends of Frederic for the Holy See from the fact that their acts more than once led to a papal interdict on Pavia.
Still these men, who could laugh at an excommunication and interdict from the highest authority in the Church, perforce loved and admired Father Isnard. His charity, his zeal, his gentle goodness, his purity of heart, his constant efforts for the right, which they witnessed day by day, simply wrung respect from them. His dealings with Frederic II must have been much like those of John of Wildeshausen. Even when Bishop Cipolla was driven into exile, Isnard and his band of missionaries were left to continue their fruitful labors. In the absence of the ordinary, the clergy who still remained in the diocese seem to have gathered around the subject of our sketch for guidance. Possibly the saintly prelate, at the time of his departure, placed him in charge of his spiritual vineyard.(5)
Despite the turbulence and the anti-ecclesiastical spirit of the day, the holy Friar Preacher from Chiampo effected untold good even among this class of citizens. Documents which have escaped the ravages of time show that some, who deferred conversion until on their deathbeds, made him the instrument of their restitution. Others entrusted him with their charity and benefactions. Historians call him an apostle of Pavia, and largely attribute the preservation of the faith in the city to his zeal.
Another proof of the respect and confidence which Isnard enjoyed among all classes, as well as of his reputation abroad, is found in the incident which we have now to tell. From early times the Diocese of Tours, France, possessed landed estates in and around Pavia. Because of the political disturbances and the Ghibelline spirit, to which we have referred, the canons of the Tours cathedral found it impossible to collect their rents. In this dilemma, they appointed our Friar Preacher their agent; for they felt that he was the only man in northern Italy who either could obtain their dues for them, or would dare undertake the task. This was in 1240, the year after the historic excommunication of Frederic 11 by Gregory IX. The affair shows bow wisely Isnard steered his course, how all venerated him at home, and how well his courage and prudence were known even in France.(6)
Like a number of the early disciples of Saint Dominic whose lives we have outlined, the apostle and reformer of Pavia did not feel that he had done his all for the benefit of religion until he established a community of Dominican Sisters. These he placed in the immediate vicinity of his own convent, that he might the better look after their spiritual welfare. Their house bore the same name as that of the fathers — Saint Mary of Nazareth. Although he had perhaps never seen Prouille, his double institution at Pavia must have been much like that with which the Order started in southern France. The dowries of many of these sisters indicate that he founded them, in part, so that wealthy worldly dames, whom he had converted, might have a place in which they could more completely give themselves to the service of God. Saint Dominic, it will be recalled, established the community of Prouille principally with women converted from Albigensianism. When, some years after our blessed’s death, the fathers moved into the city proper, the original Saint Mary of Nazareth was turned over to the sisters.
Isnard had a profound devotion towards the Mother of God. He perpetually preached her protection over the faithful. In every way he propagated love and veneration for her. Father Majocchi thinks that this apostolate was of immense aid to him in his work of reformation; for no other piety seems to be more congenital to the affectionate Italian character. He labored zealously on almost to the very last. At least the Lives of the Brethren (Vitae Fratrum) say his final sickness was a matter of only a few days. The manuscript annals, or chronicles, of the old Friar-Preacher convent at Pavia tell us that he surrendered his pure soul to God on March 19, 1244. He knew that the end was near, prepared for it, and died as holily as he had lived.(7)
We have no account of the funeral of the man of God. Yet the great love and admiration in which he was held justify one in the belief that the Pavians attended it in immense numbers. Perhaps the sad event plunged the city in no less grief than his own community. He was buried in the Church of Saint Mary of Nazareth, where his tomb became at once a place of pilgrimage for the city and province of Pavia. Not a few miracles were wrought in answer to prayers to him. The name Isnard was often given to children at their baptism.
Later, for various reasons, the fathers moved into the city proper. First (1281), they took possession of San Marino, but gave up this place the next year for Saint Andrew’s. There they remained until 1302, when they exchanged Saint Andrew’s for Saint Thomas’, which was better suited to their purposes. At this last location they at once began a splendid temple of prayer, which was completed between 1320 and 1330. The body of Blessed Isnard, which had been brought from the extra-urban Church of Saint Mary of Nazareth to Saint Andrew’s, while the fathers lived in the latter convent, was again translated and enshrined in a marble sarcophagus built for the purpose in a chapel of the new Saint Thomas’ Church. The devotion of the people followed his relies to both of these places of rest. Nor is it any stretch of fancy to imagine that the two translations were times of great fervor for all Pavia.
Unfortunately, in a spirit of zeal and friendship, the fathers gave the use of Blessed Isnard’s Chapel, as it was called, to the University of Pavia for religious functions. Although its walls were afterwards decorated with paintings commemorative of the chief events in his life, these academic associations tended rather to decrease veneration for the saintly Friar Preacher. The misfortunes of Pavia during the Spanish-Austrian reigns of Charles V and Philip III, which lasted almost throughout the sixteenth century, well-nigh caused him (or rather his final resting-place) to be forgotten even by some members of his own Order, and his relies to be scattered to the winds. Happily the researches of Pavian historians helped to avert such a disaster.
In spite of the most thorough identification, however, and to the great sorrow of the fathers, the rector and senate of the university, though without authority in the matter, later compelled our blessed’s sarcophagus to be taken from the chapel and destroyed. This was in 1763. But, before its removal, the community reverently gathered up his relies and placed them in a wooden chest. All this was done in the presence of Cardinal Charles Francis Durini, who then closed the box, and fastened it with his seal. Thence until the suppression of Saint Thomas’ Convent by Emperor Joseph II, in 1785, Isnard’s relies were carefully preserved in the archives. The fathers then took the chest, with its precious contents, to Saint Peter’s. When, in 1799, they were also forced to leave this abode, they gave their spiritual treasure to Bishop Joseph Bertieri, O. S. A. This prelate, after an official examination, not only entrusted Isnard’s relies to the Church of Saints Gervasius and Protasius, but even ordered them to be exposed for public veneration.
It looks providential that, under all these changes and difficulties, popular devotion for Saint Dominic’s early disciple did not completely die out. That it continued to exist shows the unalterable love in which the Pavians held him. Bishop Bertieri’s act gave it new life. In 1850 portions of his relies were given to Chiampo and Vicenza. Old paintings of him here and there, which represented him as a saint, also helped the cause. In 1907 the diocesan authorities of Pavia approved of his cult, and requested the Holy See to accept their decision. The late Benedict XV, of happy memory, after a thorough investigation by the Sacred Congregation of Rites (that is, in 1919), granted his office and mass to the Friars Preacher and the Diocese of Pavia. March 22 was appointed as his feast day.
Isnard is the last of the original disciples of Dominic to be accorded the honors of the altar. The late date of his beatification affords the hope that several others of them may yet he similarly dignified by the Church.
Ambrose was born at Siena on 16 April 1220, of the noble family of Sansedoni. When about one year old, Ambrose was cured of a congenital deformity, in the Dominican church of St. Mary Magdalene. As a child and youth he was noted for his love of charity, exercised especially towards pilgrims, the sick in hospitals, and prisoners. He entered the novitiate of the Dominican convent in his native city at the age of seventeen, was sent to Paris to continue his philosophical and theological studies under Albert the Great and had for a fellow-student there, St. Thomas Aquinas.
In 1248 he was sent with St. Thomas to Cologne where he taught in the Dominican schools. In 1260 he was one of the band of missionaries who evangelized Hungary. In 1266 Sienna was put under an interdict for having espoused the cause of the Emperor Frederick II, then at enmity with the Holy See. The Siennese petitioned Ambrose to plead their cause before the Sovereign Pontiff, and so successfully did he do this that he obtained for his native city full pardon and a renewal of all her privileges. The Siennese soon cast off their allegiance; a second time Ambrose obtained pardon for them. He brought about a reconciliation between King Conradin of Germany and Pope Clement IV.
About this time he was chosen bishop of his native city, but he declined the office. For a time, he devoted himself to preaching the Eighth Crusade; and later, at the request of Pope Gregory X, caused the studies which the late wars had practically suspended to be resumed in the Dominican convent at Rome. After the death of Pope Gregory X he retired to one of the convents of his order, whence he was summoned by Innocent V and sent as papal legate to Tuscany. He restored peace there between Florence and Pisa and also between the dogal republics of Venice and Genoa, another pair of commercial rivals within Italy.
He died at Sienna, in 1286. His name was inserted in the Roman Martyrology in 1577. His biographers exhibit his life as one of perfect humility. He loved poetry, and many legends are told of victories over carnal temptations.
He was renowned as a preacher. His oratory, simple rather than elegant, was most convincing and effective. His sermons, although once collected, are not extant
R 1: 2 SM 7:4-5A, 12-14A, 16
R Psalm: PS 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 & 29
R 2: ROM 4:13, 16-18, 22
Gospel: MT 1:16, 18-21, 24A
St Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom we commemorate today, was a very humble and a Holy man. He was chosen by God our heavenly Father, to be the earthly step-father, guardian and protector, alongside Mary, of his only Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Although we know little about the life of Joseph, we know that by occupation that he was a carpenter, for it tells us in Matt 13.55, about people asking of Jesus, “Is this not the carpenter’s Son?”
Both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, tell us that Joseph’s ancestry was of David. (Matt 1:1=16 and LK 3:23-38).
Joseph supported Mary when he found out she was pregnant. He did not wish to disgrace her, so decided to divorce her quietly, but he had a dream from an Angel who reassured him about Mary’s pregnancy and that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit, and the child would be the Son of God. Joseph accepted the news from the angel and accepted both Mary and the then Unborn baby and after Jesus was born, Joseph brought him up as his own
Joseph was the embodiment of true faith and without question he was obedient to all that the heavenly Father asked of him.
When an angel visited Joseph a second time after the birth of Jesus, to tell him of the danger his family was in, he immediately obeyed, left everything he owned and took his family to the strange land of Egypt, where they remained until an angel visited a third time to tell Joseph it was safe for the family to return. (Matt 2:12=23).
Can you imagine when in LK 2:41=52, when Jesus was found in the Temple after going missing, how anxious and worried Joseph (as well as Mary), must truly have been? Here was Joseph, who had spent many years moving his family and hiding them to keep Jesus safe, only to suddenly find him missing on an annual Passover? I can well imagine very mixed feelings upon finding him, relief, and joy to name just two!!
Joseph represents the true meaning of faith, of integrity, obedience, and of the vital role of fatherhood that God had entrusted to him.
As Joseph is not mentioned in the Holy Word of God during Jesus’ public ministry, we can only assume that Joseph had died prior to this time. We don’t know when Joseph was born or died, but we do know about his character :”He was a righteous man” (Matt 1:18).
Joseph is a perfect example of fatherhood and there is much we can learn from him about how to bring up our children in a righteous way, as well as learning in our lives from his examples of faith and obedience.
Joseph is the Patron Saint of Fathers, carpenters and Social justice, he is also classed as the Father of the Universal church, and the Patron Saint of the dying.
First Reading: Exodus 17:3-7
In those days, in their thirst for water,
the people grumbled against Moses,
saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?
Was it just to have us die here of thirst
with our children and our livestock?”
So Moses cried out to the LORD,
“What shall I do with this people?
a little more and they will stone me!”
The LORD answered Moses,
“Go over there in front of the people,
along with some of the elders of Israel,
holding in your hand, as you go,
the staff with which you struck the river.
I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb.
Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it
for the people to drink.”
This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel.
The place was called Massah and Meribah,
because the Israelites quarreled there
and tested the LORD, saying,
“Is the LORD in our midst or not?”
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
- (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Second Reading: Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
Brothers and sisters:
Since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith
to this grace in which we stand,
and we boast in hope of the glory of God.
And hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For Christ, while we were still helpless,
died at the appointed time for the ungodly.
Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person,
though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.
But God proves his love for us
in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
Gospel: John 4:5-42
Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;
where then can you get this living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob,
who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself
with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty
or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Jesus said to her,
“Go call your husband and come back.”
The woman answered and said to him,
“I do not have a husband.”
Jesus answered her,
“You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’
For you have had five husbands,
and the one you have now is not your husband.
What you have said is true.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;
but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her,
“Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You people worship what you do not understand;
we worship what we understand,
because salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;
and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him
must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;
when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her,
“I am he, the one speaking with you.”
At that moment his disciples returned,
and were amazed that he was talking with a woman,
but still no one said, “What are you looking for?”
or “Why are you talking with her?”
The woman left her water jar
and went into the town and said to the people,
“Come see a man who told me everything I have done.
Could he possibly be the Christ?”
They went out of the town and came to him.
Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.”
But he said to them,
“I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
So the disciples said to one another,
“Could someone have brought him something to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“My food is to do the will of the one who sent me
and to finish his work.
Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’?
I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest.
The reaper is already receiving payment
and gathering crops for eternal life,
so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together.
For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’
I sent you to reap what you have not worked for;
others have done the work,
and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”
Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him
because of the word of the woman who testified,
“He told me everything I have done.”
When the Samaritans came to him,
they invited him to stay with them;
and he stayed there two days.
Many more began to believe in him because of his word,
and they said to the woman,
“We no longer believe because of your word;
for we have heard for ourselves,
and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”
As we have come to the third Sunday in Lent, we are half way through of this journey in the desert. The desert is not a pleasant place to be because the lack of water and one can die of lack of hydration really fast without water. I personally have not seen one while traveling through the desert of the Southwest, but I have heard of an oasis existing in deserts – an isolated source of water in the middle of desert. Travelers who are dying of thirst only pray they come across an oasis.
As we read in the First Reading, we see the Israelites have been led into the desert by Moses. Their journey through the desert has an end objective of being free of slavery and a journey back home to their own land, which this journey has taken a toll on them. They begin to lament to Moses as to why they have been led into the desert; extremely concerned that they and their livestock will die of thirst unless they soon find water. This lamenting is like someone praying they find an oasis. Moses turns to God seeking help in order to find water, and God provides the life-sustaining water by instructing Moses to strike the rock. This striking of the rock parallels with a significant event during the Passion; the parallel is the piercing of Jesus’ side during the Passion. Yet we do not need to get too far ahead of ourselves because we are still in this season of Lent.
In the Gospel, we read the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well seeking water. This story contains themes on various levels; the issue of there should not be interaction between two different cultures is the most obvious, but I am going to discuss another theme. The theme I am going to discuss is how the interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well is another parallel to God providing water to the Israelites while out in the desert.
We see in the Gospels Jesus referring to himself as the Bread of Life many times, but we read Jesus referring to himself in a different way in this story from the Gospel of John. In the dialogue between Jesus and the woman, he refers to himself as the Living Water. This conversation leads to the belief that Jesus is the Messiah.
Our forty day journey through Lent is not an easy one, but it is a journey in which we eventually come to find the Living Water at Easter, after being in the desert. God provides us, just as he provided the Israelites if we choose to believe and follow the message of Jesus like the woman and Samaritans did.
We have heard it over and over regarding Lent being a time of preparation and conversion, but it cannot be expressed too many times. Just because we eventually come to find the Living Water at the end of these forty days does not mean we can turn back to our own ways, but rather we have to take Lent seriously to continue remain changed, or we will continue to remain thirsty.
Father, as we continue our Lenten journey, may we be reminded that this journey is a time to grow and change. It may be a hard journey in the desert, but help us recognize that you gave us Living Water, and that we may always believe in this Living Water to spread the message of Jesus. This we ask through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.