We often hear the common phrase, “He/She must be a saint.” when referencing someone who does good for others, or has suffered much but still perseveres. But what is actually required for the Church to declare someone a saint. Evidently this isn’t a quick, or easy, process. The official process for declaring someone a saint is called canonization. Prior to the year 1234, the Church did not have a formal process as such. Usually martyrs and those recognized as holy were declared saints by the Church at the time of their deaths. Before the legalization of Christianity in the year 313 by Emperor Constantine, the tombs of martyrs, like St. Peter, were marked and kept as places for homage. The anniversaries of their deaths were remembered and placed on the local Church calendar. After legalization, oftentimes basilicas or shrines were built over these tombs.
As time went on, the Church saw the need to tighten the canonization process. In the year 1234, Pope Gregory IX established procedures to investigate the life of a candidate saint and any attributed miracles. In 1588, Pope Sixtus V entrusted the Congregation of Rites (later named the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints) to oversee the entire process. Beginning with Pope Urban VIII in 1634, various Popes have revised and improved the norms and procedures for canonization.
Today the process proceeds as follows: When a person dies who has “fame of sanctity” or “fame of martyrdom,” the Bishop of the Diocese usually initiates the investigation. One element is whether any special favor or miracle has been granted through this candidate saint’s intercession. The Church will also investigate the candidate’s writings to see if they possess “purity of doctrine,” essentially, nothing heretical or against the faith. All of this information is gathered, and then a transumptum, a faithful copy, duly authenticated and sealed, is submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
Once the cause is accepted by the Congregation, further investigation is conducted. If the candidate was a martyr, the Congregation determines whether he died for the faith and truly offered his life in a sacrifice of love for Christ and the Church. In other cases, the congregation examines to see if the candidate was motivated by a profound charity towards his neighbor, and practiced the virtues in an exemplary manner and with heroism. Throughout this investigation the “general promoter of the faith,” or devil’s advocate, raises objections and doubts which must be resolved. Once a candidate is declared to have lived life with heroic virtue, he, or she, may be declared Venerable.
The next step is beatification. A martyr may be beatified and declared “Blessed” by virtue of martyrdom itself. Otherwise, the candidate must be credited with a miracle. In verifying the miracle, the Church looks at whether God truly performed a miracle and whether the miracle was in response to the intercession of the candidate saint. Once beatified, the candidate saint may be venerated but with restriction to a city, diocese, region, or religious family. Accordingly, the Pope would authorize a special prayer, Mass, or proper Divine Office honoring the Blessed. After beatification, another miracle is needed for canonization and the formal declaration of sainthood. So how is it, a mere slip of a girl, become a saint? She is one of eight women who, along with the Blessed Virgin Mary, are commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass. Her feast day, known as Saint Lucy’s Day, is celebrated in the West on December 13th.
St. Lucy was born into a rich noble Roman family. At a very young age she lost her father who was a Christian. Lucy was left behind with a huge dowry. Lucy’s mother wanted Lucy to marry a rich pagan man. Lucy, being a virtuous young woman, did not want to marry a pagan man. Lucy asked her mother to distribute the dowry among the poor. The mother did not agree. As a young teenager, Lucy had already consecrated her virginity and life to God. She was zealously working in the service of God helping the poor.
In addition she helped her fellow Catholics hiding in the dark underground catacombs who were at risk of suffering persecution. She would wear a wreath of candles on her head to find her way in the dark, as her hands were full of food and drink for the people. Lucy was also well known for her beautiful eyes. It was said that her eyes radiated her love for Christ.
Lucy’s mother became very ill from a bleeding problem. She had tried many treatments, but failed. Lucy then asked her mother to accompany her to Saint Agatha’s shrine where they both prayed all night. Due to exhaustion, they both fell asleep near St. Agatha’s tomb. St. Agatha had appeared to Lucy in a dream and gave her the good news that her mother was healed. Saint Agatha further informed Lucy that she will be the glory of Syracuse – the city where Saint Lucy lived.
Lucy’s mother, convinced with her miracle cure, then complied with Lucy’s request to distribute their wealth among the poor. The pagan man who proposed to Lucy was furious when he heard the news. He decided to destroy Lucy’s life denouncing her as a Christian to the Governor of Syracuse, Sicily.
That was a time when many Christians were persecuted for their faith. The governor sent his guards to forcibly take Lucy to a brothel house and then insult her in public. When the soldiers came to take her, Lucy was so filled with the Holy Spirit that she could not be moved. They claimed that she was heavier than a mountain. When the Governor questioned her as to how she could stay strong, she claimed that it was the power of Jesus her Lord and God. Finally they tortured Lucy to death and she died as a martyr.
There are two legendary stories about St Lucy’s eyes. As Lucy had beautiful eyes, the pagan man who was proposed to marry Lucy, wanted Lucy’s eyes. One story tells us that Lucy gifted her eyes to the pagan man, and asked him to leave her alone. The second story tells us that during the torture, Lucy’s eyes were taken out and that God had restored her eyes back. Either way, Lucy’s eyes were taken out and God had restored her eyes. That was the reason she became the patron saint for people who are blind and with eye problems.
The most important aspect of her story was that Lucy was such a brave young woman, who was zealous in giving her life to God. She was ready to give her eyes and even her life, but stood strong in her faith at a time where Christians were persecuted for their faith. This is why St. Lucy is venerated as a virgin and martyr. Matthew 6:22 shows us how important is our eyes, when we are in service to the Lord.
“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.
Lucy sets a good example to our young people today, who are persecuted for their faith at school, at universities and work places. Her message would be, “To stand strong in your faith, no matter how hard the situation may be.”.
St Lucy is also the patron saint of Syracuse. Over the centuries many people have been healed by God through the intercession of St. Lucy. Lucy, whose name can mean “light” or “lucid,” is the patron saint of the blind. She is often seen with the emblem of eyes on a cup or plate. In paintings, she is often depicted with a golden plate holding her eyes and often holds a palm branch, which is a symbol of victory over evil. Lucy, though young, truly exemplified what Paul, in Romans 12:2, strives to tell us all:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
St. Lucy’s Prayer:
Saint Lucy, you did not hide your light under a basket, but let it shine for the whole world, for all the centuries to see. We may not suffer torture in our lives the way you did, but we are still called to let the light of our Christianity illumine our daily lives. Please help us to have the courage to bring our Christianity into our work, our recreation, our relationships, our conversation — every corner of our day.
Open our ears, O Lord, to hear your word and know your voice. Speak to our hearts and strengthen our wills that we may serve you now and always. Amen.
Today in the life of the Church we celebrate a feast day of long standing tradition; in the East it’s called the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple and in our own western tradition the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In my experience though many of us have celebrated the Marian feasts over the years this is one that we understand little about. In my mind there is good reason for this as it is not an event that is recoded in the sacred scriptures, instead we rely on the sacred traditions of the Church and writings outside of the Bible for what we know of this event.
In fact the primary source that many look to for this event is what is called the Protoevangelium of James (or the Gospel of James/Nativity of Mary). This book, though not ascribed divine origins, does have an ancient origin with scholars generally believing that it was written before the year 200AD.
Now I want to make it abundantly clear that this writing is not divine and does not hold the weight of Scripture or divine Tradition. Writings like this should not be used to create a foundation for any Christian belief. However, that being said the Church has accepted this feast day based on the weight of Holy Tradition, the Church Fathers writings and this ancient work.
As many of us would know the parents of the Blessed Mother were St. Anne and St Joachim; tradition tells us that these two were God fearing individuals who were barren and childless. Through the miraculous workings of God they received a vision in which they were promised a child. In their joy over this blessed event they promised to dedicate the life of their child to the service of God. Now at this time amongst the Jews it was common to dedicate all children during pregnancy and after birth. However, St Joachim and St Anne had something very different in mind.
The Protoevangelium records:
7… And the child [Mary] was three years old, and Joachim said: Invite the daughters of the Hebrews that are undefiled, and let them take each a lamp, and let them stand with the lamps burning, that the child may not turn back, and her heart be captivated from the temple of the Lord. And they did so until they went up into the temple of the Lord. And the priest received her, and kissed her, and blessed her, saying: The Lord has magnified your name in all generations. In you, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel. And he set her down upon the third step of the altar, and the Lord God sent grace upon her; and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her.
- And her parents went down marvelling, and praising the Lord God, because the child had not turned back. And Mary was in the temple of the Lord as if she were a dove that dwelt there, and she received food from the hand of an angel.
So the generally held tradition tells us that The Blessed Mother, from a very young age, was dedicated to the special service of God; for 9 years (some of her most formative) she lived every day in constant service of God and His people.
Now many of us may ask why the Church would want to celebrate and commemorate such an event, surely we already know that Mary was a true and faithful servant through her acceptance of the Divine Mission Gabrielle brought to her. To this I want to say: each and every one of us has been a child at least twice in our lives; once we born to our natural parents and had our natural childhood, a second time we were once Children in the faith and the Church. For some of this this childhood started when we first heard of Christ or were first introduced to the Christian faith; for others of us who were born into Christian families this was once we took what had been taught and started to make our faith our own. However we can to this childhood we have each experienced it and today’s memorial holds a significant message for us.
Very early in her Childhood, just when her understanding of the world was forming the Blessed Mother was given a choice. She was taken to the Temple to be given to God and could either accept that and walk forward with faith embracing God, or, she could have turned back and cried for her past life and her parents. From the part of the Protoevangelium we read it is clear that the Blessed Mother not only accepted her life in the Temple but danced with Joy!
Each and every one of us at some point in our walk with God has faced a similar situation. We have all stood at the gate of the path that leads to salvation and had to decide whether we were going to step through the gate to a new life dedicated to God and His ways or are we going to turn back to the life that we had. You are all here today listening to this sermon so it’s evident that you chose to step through the gate.
Some of us may still be lingering around the start of the path and others of us may be some miles into the journey and I want to tell you that that’s more than ok. No matter how far along the path to salvation we may be the temptation is always there to look over our shoulders, to stare back at the gate and desire the life that lay on the other side. However, when that temptation rests upon your should I want you to remember the dedication of that little three year old Mary. She didn’t cry for her parents, she didn’t try and follow them, instead she danced with joy over serving God. If a normal three year old girl can seek after God with such joy surely that would encourage each and every one of us to try and do the same?
When hard times are at your door and it’d be easier to give up your faith and commitment to God I want you to stop, take a deep breath and still your mind. In that moment I want you to envision one image; I want you to think of a little girl, a little girl so filled with Joy that she’s dancing regardless of the difficulties she is about to face, regardless of what’s going on around her and I want you to let the joy of the little girl flow over into your heart and soul and banish the doubt and darkness from your mind.
In that moment I can guarantee you that the Blessed Mother will be with you, she will bring to you the joy that comes from service to God and she will embrace you with the loving embrace of a mother who has stood in the very place where you are now.
Let us pray:
Loving God, we all stand before you daily as children on the path to spiritual maturity just as our Blessed Mother stood before you in the temple at her Presentation. May each and every one of us be constantly inspired by the joy of Blessed Mary as she was dedicated to your service. May we look to her example as a light in our own lives and always strive to step forward on the narrow path that leads to eternal life and the beatific vision that is your presence.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This Sunday we celebrate the great feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. For Catholics, both Roman and Independent, this Sunday is a feast that celebrates a great spiritual mystery and reality: that the bread and wine of the Eucharist became fully and truly the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. It is in this gift of the Eucharist that our Lord Jesus truly gives Himself to us, drawing us in to Himself and bringing us together with our brothers and sisters. St. Paschasius Radbertus, a 9th century theologian and abbot, wrestled with the concept of the Eucharist and what it really means in our lives. He says that the gift of the Eucharist allows Christ to more fully dwell in us: “If the Word had become flesh, and we truly consume the Word as flesh in the Lord’s food, how can it not be justly judged that He dwells in us by His nature.” As we regularly participate in the Mass and receive the great gift of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we are transformed by His dwelling within us.
In our world today, we tend to lean toward materialism, believing only what we can experience with our senses. In this case, our senses tell us that it is not the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ that we receive in this great mystery. Rather, our senses tell us, it is mere bread and wine. In our Gospel passage for this great feast, we see Jesus give a more concrete understanding of what it means to have salvation. He said to the people: “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” What a detestable thought to people with such strict dietary laws and practices which forbid the drinking of blood, and here was this man saying that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have life! As some of the disciples started to walk away and leave Him, Jesus doubles down, and tells the apostles, His dearest followers, that they can leave too if they’d like. If this was meant as mere symbol or conjecture, He would not have allowed His followers to walk away so easily. Instead of stopping them, He adjures them all the more: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”
What a gift this is! The Lord of all creation gives Himself into our hands, at the hands of the priest, to be consumed by us that we might take Him into ourselves and be transformed by Him. What a precious gift!
I urge you, the next time you partake of the Eucharist, to say a prayer asking Jesus to more fully come into your being, and to TRANSFORM you. Transform you into all that you can be in His name, in His person, in His Body and Blood which is within you. As we dwell in the Lord, so too does He dwell in us. Let us not look to materialism, but to Our Lord, who is the source and fount of all life and salvation.
Proverbs 16:18 (KJV)
“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
I’ve often heard this Proverb quoted, but never thought much about it. I once thought I was not prideful, until I was called to be a Dominican Sister. Yet still, I looked to others to guide me on my spiritual path. The problem is when we begin to confuse biblical knowledge with the will of God, we then become prideful. As illustrated in 1 Peter 3:13-22:
“ Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good. But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you–not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, . who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him. “
I cannot begin to interpret the Bible, as to the will of God. I just know that when we begin to use the Bible as a weapon, to suit a random purpose,. We forget who gifted, and empowered us, with His word.
(c. 480 – February 10, 542)
Twins often share the same interests and ideas with an equal intensity. Therefore, it is no surprise that Scholastica and her twin brother, Benedict, established religious communities within a few miles from each other. Born in 480 of wealthy parents, Scholastica and Benedict were brought up together until he left central Italy for Rome to continue his studies. Little is known of Scholastica’s early life. She founded a religious community for women near Monte Cassino at Plumbariola, five miles from where her brother governed a monastery.
Scholastica had been consecrated to God from her earliest years. She was accustomed to visiting her brother once a year. He would come down to meet her at a place on the monastary property, not far outside the gate. One day she came as usual and her saintly brother went with some of his disciples; they spent the whole day praising God and talking of sacred things. As night fell they had supper together. Their spiritual conversation went on and the hour grew late. The holy nun said to her brother, “Please do not leave me tonight; let us go on until morning talking about the delights of the spiritual life.” “Sister,” he replied, “What are you saying? I simply cannot stay outside my cell.”
When she heard her brother refuse her request, the holy woman joined her hands on the table, laid her head on them and began to pray. As she raised her head from the table, there were such brilliant flashes of lightning, such great peals of thunder and such a heavy downpour of rain that neither Benedict nor his brethren could stir across the threshold of the place where they had been seated. Sadly, he began to complain. “May God forgive you, sister. What have you done?” “Well, she answered, “I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.”
So it came about that they stayed awake the whole night, engrossed in their conversation about the spiritual life. Three days later, Benedict was in his cell. Looking up to the sky, he saw his sister’s soul leave her body in the form of a dove, and fly up to the secret places of heaven. Rejoicing in her great glory, he thanked almighty God with hymns and words of praise. He then sent his brethren to bring her body to the monastary and lay it in the tomb he had prepared for himself.– from Dialogues by Pope Saint Gregory the Great
Scholastica and Benedict gave themselves totally to God and gave top priority to deepening their friendship with him through prayer. They sacrificed some of the opportunities they would have had to be together as brother and sister in order better to fulfill their vocation to the religious life. In coming closer to Christ, however, they found they were also closer to each other. In joining a religious community, they did not forget or forsake their family but rather found more brothers and sisters.
Saint Scholastica is the Patron Saint of:
To show us where innocence leads, you made the soul of your virgin Saint Scholastica soar to heaven like a dove in flight. Grant through her merits and her prayers that we may so live in innocence as to attain to joys everlasting. This we ask through our Lord.
~In Jesus’ Name,