What you are is God’s gift to you.
What you become is your gift to God.
We have survived Black Friday and made it through Cyber Monday!!!!! As always at this time of the year, our thoughts turn to gifts: giving and receiving, what we want to give, what we want to receive, what will please those we love, the shopping, the ordering, the wrapping, the general hustle and bustle of the Christmas season centering around gifts ad infinitum, donating to the people with the red kettles and bells so the less fortunate can have gifts…..
And then there’s the practice of ‘re-gifting,’ passing along that unwanted or unusable gift that we were given, to someone else, so that they will have SOMETHING, and so that they too, can possibly pass that pink and orange and green plaid scarf along, re-gifting it themselves to someone else who won’t use it either….and sometimes by some freak chance that unwanted item comes back to us several years later….and not much too worse for the wear…. And is re-gifting, as amusing (and cheap) as it may seem, necessarily a bad thing?
Why all this focus on gift-giving and gift-receiving at this time of year? The union of Christmas and gift giving was a gradual one; actually, the full story of the bright packages beneath the tree, like most of our Christmas customs, begins in the days before the birth of Christ. In ancient Rome, gifts were exchanged during the New Year’s celebrations. At first these gifts were simple, such as a few twigs from a sacred grove and small items of food. Many gifts were in the form of vegetables in honor of the fertility goddess Strenia. During the Northern European Yule, (yep, the yuletide season is a pagan thing) fertility was celebrated with gifts made of wheat products, such as bread and alcohol.
Like many of the old and pagan customs, exchanging gifts was difficult to get rid of even as Christianity spread and gained official status. Early church leaders tried to outlaw the custom, but the people cherished it too much to let it go. St. John Chrysostom urged no compromise with heathen abominations, but he, too, failed in this tenacity of hanging on to the tradition of gift giving. Since there was no general agreement about the exact date of the birth of Jesus, it must have seemed helpful to have it supersede the Saturnalia, so the rebirth of the sun became instead the birth of the Son of God, and the church leaders looked for a Christian justification for the practice of all this gift giving. This justification was found in the Magi’s act of bearing gifts to the infant Jesus, and in the concept that Christ was a gift from God to the world, bringing in turn the gift of redemption and everlasting life.
What you are is God’s gift to you.
What you become is your gift to God.
Wikipedia defines a gift as the transfer of something without the expectation of receiving something in return. Although gift-giving might involve an expectation of reciprocity, a gift is meant to be free. By extension the term “gift” can refer to anything that makes the other happier or less sad, especially as a favor, including forgiveness and kindness.
God’s gifts to us are free and clear. He has given us the gift of His Son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He has given us the gift of eternal life: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (NIV); The gift of salvation: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8 (NIV); And the gifts that are unique to each of us: “We each of us have our own individual gifts: But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” 1Corinthians 7:7 (NIV)
Besides the obvious gift of His Son, and the forgiveness that we receive through Him whom we receive by faith, what other gifts has God given specifically to you? What talents have you received? What blessings have been given to you?
We learn about the 7 Gifts of the Spirit in Isaiah 11:2-3: “2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD— 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;” (NIV)
And more importantly, what are you doing with those gifts? What are you giving back to God? What are you “becoming” as you use your gifts and talents? Which of the gifts that you have been given are you “regifting?” In other words, when we’ve received a gift from God, do we share that gift with others? Do we “regift?” We are told in 1 Peter 4:10, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (NIV) Jesus himself addresses this very thing in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. By using our gifts, they multiply and we bring others to know God, and by recognizing what we have been given and using them for God’s glory, we are giving back to God.
What is the most precious thing we can give to God? The most precious gift we can give is what God wants the most. God wants us to make the fervent attempt to repent, get right with Him, and not lead a double life, trying to follow two contradictory paths, but living our lives according to His will. God simply wants us to give ourselves to Him. This is the best gift we can give! Our gift to Him is how we respond to the gifts He has given us which are the gifts of life and of grace. We can best do this when we are headed in His direction, following His precepts with a grateful, willing heart and mindset, and by striving to be the best that we can be by becoming what it is that He wants us to be.
Barbara Streisand sings in “The Best Gift:”
The best gift
That I ever got
Didn’t really weigh a lot
It didn’t have a ribbon ’round
And it sometimes made a terrible sound
The best of all it seems to me
It wasn’t ‘neath the Christmas tree
And yet, I guess I’d have to say
That it made all the other presents twice as gay
The best gift that I’ve ever known
I’d always wanted most to own
Yet in my dreams of sugar and spice
I never thought it could be so nice
The best gift that I ever get
Was sometimes dry and sometimes wet
Was usually pink but oftentimes red
As it lay so innocently in it’s bed
The best gift of the year to me
The one I hold most dear to me
A gift that simply drove me wild
Was a tiny new born child…
As we celebrate the birth of THE tiny newborn Child, God’s greatest and best Gift to us, let us strive to make ourselves the best gift we can give to others, and to God. Amen.
My dear brothers and sisters, today we rejoice in the Feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the little poor man of God. This beloved saint of the Middle Ages, renown the world over as “patron of animals, ecology and all tree huggers” is in fact, one of the greatest of the saints of his time. With St. Dominic, his friend, their respective religious Orders brought renewal and reform to both the Church and the society of their time. Born into a wealthy merchant family, Francis found himself transformed by Christ in a dramatic way. The once proud son of a Merchant, became the poverello the minstrel of Christ. Singing the stories of the Christ he went about at the beginning of his conversion spreading Christ’s joy. Soon though, he would find his calling deepen and his passion for the Cross enkindled by the Holy Spirit. Moved to tears upon seeing a leper, one who he once reviled, he embraced and kissed the fellow, seeing Christ before him. He began to minister to the lepers around Assisi, allowing them to live in close proximity to him. It was at this time he began to rebuild several small churches as well. Gathering disciples, the radical living of the Gospel attracted and continues to attract many men and women who feel compelled by the Holy Spirit to give up all for the Gospel and identify themselves with the least, lost and forsaken. What is the message of Francis for us…it is simply, the message of the Cross. To glory in nothing but the Cross of Christ. To have nothing, thus allowing God to provide for all our needs. To comfort the afflicted, shelter the homeless, feed the hungry and to set captives free by showing how to live the liberating Gospel of poverty. It is to identify with those no one wishes to associate with and to proclaim to all that, “I see Christ in you, you are therefore, my hope of glory.” You see, when we find Christ in each other, we serve as Christ served, love as Christ loved and live as Christ LIVES! On this Feast day, let us glory in nothing but the cross of Christ, find our joy in him in all we meet and hold out to the end to live with him forever. Friar Ed Cass, CFS
The Lady Clare, “shining in name, more shining in life,” was born in the town of Assisi about the year 1193. Her mother was to become Blessed Ortolana di Fiumi. Her father is said to have been Favorino Scifi, Count of Sasso-Rosso, though whether he came of that noble branch of the Scifi family is not certain. Concerning Clare’s childhood we have no reliable information. She was eighteen years old when St. Francis, preaching the Lenten sermons at the church of St. George in Assisi, influenced her to change the whole course of her life. It is likely that a marriage not to her liking had been proposed; at any rate, she went secretly to see Friar Francis and asked him to help her to live “after the manner of the Holy Gospel.” Talking with him strengthened her desire to leave all worldly things behind and live for Christ. On Palm Sunday of that year, 1212, she came to the cathedral of Assisi for the blessing of palms, but when the others went up to the altar-rails to receive their branch of green, a sudden shyness kept Clare back. The bishop saw it and came down from the altar and gave her a branch.
The following evening she slipped away from her home and hurried through the woods to the chapel of the Portiuncula, where Francis was then living with his small community. He and his brethren had been at prayers before the altar and met her at the door with lighted tapers in their hands. Before the Blessed Virgin’s altar Clare laid off her fine cloak, Francis sheared her hair, and gave her his own penitential habit, a tunic of coarse cloth tied with a cord. Then, since as yet he had no nunnery, he took her at once for safety to the Benedictine convent of St. Paul, where she was affectionately welcomed.
When it was known at home what Clare had done, relatives and friends came to rescue her. She resisted valiantly when they tried to drag her away, clinging to the convent altar so firmly as to pull the cloths half off. Baring her shorn head, she declared that Christ had called her to His service, she would have no other spouse, and the more they continued their persecutions the more steadfast she would become. Francis had her removed to the nunnery of Sant’ Angelo di Panzo, where her sister Agnes, a child of fourteen, joined her. This meant more difficulty for them both, but Agnes’ constancy too was victorious, and in spite of her youth Francis gave her the habit. Later he placed them in a small and humble house, adjacent to his beloved church of St. Damian, on the outskirts of Assisi, and in 1215, when Clare was about twenty-two, he appointed her superior and gave her his rule to live by. She was soon joined by her mother and several other women, to the number of sixteen. They had all felt the strong appeal of poverty and sackcloth, and without regret gave up their titles and estates to become Clare’s humble disciples. Within a few years similar convents were founded in the Italian cities of Perugia, Padua, Rome, Venice, Mantua, Bologna, Milan, Siena, and Pisa, and also in various parts of France and Germany. Agnes, daughter of the King of Bohemia, established a nunnery of this order in Prague, and took the habit herself.
The “Poor Clares,” as they came to be known, practiced austerities which until then were unusual among women. They went barefoot, slept on the ground, observed a perpetual abstinence from meat, and spoke only when obliged to do so by necessity or charity. Clare herself considered this silence desirable as a means of avoiding the innumerable sins of the tongue, and for keeping the mind steadily fixed on God. Not content with the fasts and other mortifications required by the rule, she wore next her skin a rough shirt of hair, fasted on vigils and every day in Lent on bread and water, and on some days ate nothing. Francis or the bishop of Assisi sometimes had to command her to lie on a mattress and to take a little nourishment every day.
Discretion, came with years, and much later Clare wrote this sound advice to Agnes of Bohemia: “Since our bodies are not of brass and our strength is not the strength of stone, but instead we are weak and subject to corporal infirmities, I implore you vehemently in the Lord to refrain from the exceeding rigor of abstinence which I know you practice, so that living and hoping in the Lord you may offer Him a reasonable service and a sacrifice seasoned with the salt of prudence.”
Francis, as we know, had forbidden his order ever to possess revenues or lands or other property, even when held in common. The brothers were to subsist on daily contributions from the people about them. Clare also followed this way of life. When she left home she had given what she had to the poor, retaining nothing for her own needs or those of the convent. Pope Gregory IX proposed to mitigate the requirement of absolute poverty and offered to settle a yearly income on the Poor Ladies of St. Damien. Clare, eloquent in her determination never to break her vows to Christ and Francis, got permission to continue as they had begun. “I need,” she said, “to be absolved from my sins, but I do not wish to be absolved from my obligation to follow Jesus Christ.” In 1228, therefore, two years after Francis’ death, the Pope granted the Assisi sisterhood a Privilegium paupertatis, or Privilege of Poverty, that they might not be constrained by anyone to accept possessions. “He who feeds the birds of the air and gives raiment and nourishment to the lilies of the field will not leave you in want of clothing or of food until He come Himself to minister to you for eternity.” The convents in Perugia and Florence asked for and received this privilege; other convents thought it more prudent to moderate their poverty. Thus began the two observances which have ever since been perpetuated among the Poor Clares, as they later came to be called. The houses of the mitigated rule are called Urbanist, from the concession granted them in 1263 by Pope Urban IV. But as early as 1247 Pope Innocent IV had published a revised form of the rule, providing for the holding of community property. Clare, the very embodiment of the spirit and tradition of Francis, drew up another rule stating that the sisters should possess no property, whether as individuals or as a community. Two days before she died this was approved by Pope Innocent for the convent of St. Damian.
Clare governed the convent continuously from the day when Francis appointed her abbess until her death, a period of nearly forty years. Yet it was her desire always to be beneath all the rest, serving at table, tending the sick, washing and kissing the feet of the lay sisters when they returned footsore from begging. Her modesty and humility were such that after caring for the sick and praying for them, she often had other sisters give them further care, that their recovery might not be imputed to any prayers or merits of hers. Clare’s hands were forever willing to do whatever there was of woman’s work that could help Francis and his friars. “Dispose of me as you please,” she would say. “I am yours, since I have given my will to God. It is no longer my own.” She would be the first to rise, ring the bell in the choir, and light the candles; she would come away from prayer with radiant face.
During her life and after her death there was disagreement at intervals between the Poor Clares and the Brothers Minor as to their correct relations. The nuns maintained that the friars were under obligation to serve their needs in things both spiritual and temporal. When in 1230 Pope Gregory IX forbade the friars to visit the convents of the nuns without special license, Clare feared the edict might lead to a complete severing of the ties established by Francis. She thereupon dismissed every man attached to her convent, those who served their material needs as well as those who served them spiritually; if she could not have the one, she would not have the other. The Pope wisely referred the matter to the minister general of the Brothers Minor to adjust. After long years of sickness borne with sublime patience, Clare’s life neared its end in the summer of 1253. Pope Innocent IV came to Assisi to give her absolution, remarking, “Would to God I had so little need of it!” To her nuns she said, “Praise the Lord, beloved daughters, for on this most blessed day both Jesus Christ and his vicar have deigned to visit me.” Prelates and cardinals gathered round, and many people were convinced that the dying woman was truly a saint. Her sister Agnes was with her, as well as three of the early companions of Francis-Leo, Angelo, and Juniper. They read aloud the Passion according to St. John, as they had read it at the death-bed of Francis twenty-seven years before. Someone exhorted Clare to patience and she replied, “Dear brother, ever since through His servant Francis I have known the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, I have never in my whole life found any pain or sickness that could trouble me.” To herself she was heard to say, “Go forth without fear, Christian soul, for you have a good guide for your journey. Go forth without fear, for He that created you has sanctified you, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother.”
Pope Innocent IV and his cardinals assisted at the funeral of the abbess. The Pope would have had her canonized immediately had not the cardinals present advised against it. His successor, Alexander IV, canonized her after two years, in 1255, at Anagni. Her body, which lay first in the church of St. George in Assisi, was translated to a stately church built to receive it in 1260. Nearly six hundred years later, in 1850, it was discovered, embalmed and intact, deep down beneath the high altar, and subsequently removed to a new shrine in the crypt, where, lying in a glass case, it may still be seen. In 1804 a change was made in the rule of the Poor Clares, originally a contemplative order, permitting these religious to take part in active work. Today there are houses of the order in North and South America, Palestine, Ireland, England, as well as on the Continent. The emblem of St. Clare is a monstrance, and in art she is frequently represented with a ciborium.
Saint Clare, Virgin, Foundress of the Poor Clares. Celebration of Feast Day is August 12th by the pre-1970 liturgical calendar and August 11th (the actual date of her death) by the present one.
A few years ago, areas of my home state, West Virginia, faced a severe water crisis. Due to the carelessness of a company tasked with storing chemicals in huge tanks, our water became contaminated. Not only was it not safe to drink, but we could not even use it to bathe or wash clothes. What we all took for granted on a daily basis, became a precious resource that was very scarce. Businesses shut down, schools were canceled and store shelves became bare pretty quickly. But people came together to help each other. Neighbors shared bottled water, people and companies from out of state sent tankers of water and other items to help WV residents cope with this crisis. After about ten days, the water was deemed safe to use, and life began to return to normal.
Last week, West Virginia faced another water crisis. But this one was not caused by the careless actions of man, but by nature. Torrential rains and storms swept through parts of the state, causing so much damage, devastation, and even loss of life. Here are some facts about West Virginia’s devastating weekend flooding:
•The National Weather Service classified West Virginia’s flooding as a “one-in-a-thousand-year-event.”
•As of Sunday, 25 lives had been lost.
•44 of 55 counties in West Virginia were under a state of emergency, mostly in the southeastern area.
•Greenbrier, Kanawha, and Nicholas counties’ residents qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency aid after West Virginia was declared a federal disaster area.
•In Kanawha County, a temporary gravel road was built to rescue 500 people trapped when the bridge crossing was destroyed by flooding on Thursday.
•Thousands were without power, and more than 60 secondary roads were still closed days afterwards.
•An estimated 8-10 inches of rain led to the massive flooding.
•The Greenbrier Resort, largest employer in Greenbrier County, is closed to the public until further notice but has opened its doors to flood victims and is offering extensive help for its neighbors.
These bare facts cannot give a clear picture of the tragedy and devastation faced by those impacted by the flood waters. As the flood waters recede, the clean-up will last days, weeks, months, and perhaps years. As we watch the news, showing images of towns underwater, mud-caked homes, homes forced off foundations, the twisted metal of vehicles and buildings wrapped around trees, and even a video of a burning house floating downstream, it almost seems surreal. As if this couldn’t possibly happen to us. But it did. I believe one eye witness in Rupert, WV, Davina Agee, best described the scope of the devastation:
“Children were missing parents today, parents were also missing children. One lady escaped her flooding home and slept in her car with two infants and when rescued today, she did not even have shoes. Children were being loaded onto the national guard trucks with people saying, “We don’t know who these children belong to.”There are still people stranded in homes awaiting rescue. People have been without food or water for over 24 hours now. Many are displaced without important medications. Some have lost everything and have yet to even find their loved ones. But our little communities have come together like no other.
Police officers and fireman have been working tirelessly for 36 hours straight. We are feeding the hungry, clothing those that we can, checking on each other and helping as best we can. This is not about a delayed golf game. It’s not about the loss of cars or trucks. It’s not even about the homes or buildings anymore. It’s about the people! The human beings. Who can we save and how can we care for them?! Let’s survive this and help as many as we can.”
When we look at the particulars of this tragedy – 25 lives lost, hundreds of homes destroyed, an entire town under water, it would be easy to seek blame. Though an act of nature, we naturally want to put the blame on someone. And who do we look to blame – God. But this is wrong in so many ways. Our Heavenly Father did not cause the flood. We only have to go back to the first major flood, and the Lord’s response, to see this is true.
Genesis 6:5-22 7:1-17 (KJV)
“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive. And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them. Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he. And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. And Noah did according unto all that the Lord commanded him. And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth. And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah. And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights. In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort. And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the Lord shut him in. And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth.”
We know the rest of the story. The flood waters came, everything on earth was wiped out, and Noah, his family, and all the animals on the ark were spared the devastation. Eventually the flood waters receded, and everyone was able to step on to dry land.
Genesis 8:1-5 (KJV)
“And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged; The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained; And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated. And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.”
So, now you ask – God did it once, why wouldn’t He do it again (such as the recent flooding in WV)? God doesn’t work that way. The flood detailed in the Bible happened for a reason, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth,”. But He later goes on to explain why He will not allow that to happen again.
Genesis 8:21 (KJV)
“And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.”
So while it may be easy to blame the Lord, we now know He only wants to help us, comfort us, be our strength during difficult times. What surprises me, well really it doesn’t, is how so many different people, from all over the state, and across the country, have come together to help those impacted by the flooding in West Virginia. Again, Mrs. Agee says it best:
“People are sending me an overwhelming amount of messages and they all say “thank you for what you’re doing.” Just for the record, I am not to be thanked. I am doing what any red blooded, God fearing, West Virginia girl would be doing at a time like this! I just happen to have resources to tap into and awesome people to help me. I am not alone. God has sent me dozens, if not hundreds, of wonderful people and helpers that are the ones making everything possible. I love my home town and I love the people. I am doing what I love. HELPING PEOPLE! I don’t need to be thanked. The real heroes are the ones that swam in freezing water to save lives; the ones who searched and rescued humans; the ones who got up today and shoveled their lives into trash bags and began to start over; the ones who are grieving loved ones and the ones that still haven’t been rescued yet. Those are the heroes, the ones that are to be recognized and thanked! To God be the glory for all the rescue and relief effort! Thank you to all those helping and recovering. I love you all!”
As we begin the long process of recovering from the recent flood, as we mourn the loss of so many lives, as we strive to rebuild what has been torn apart, we must always look to the Lord, our Heavenly Father, for strength. He will provide for our needs (by sending resources to those who lost everything). He will comfort those who not only lost their homes, but family and friends. And, He will always be there, when all hope seems gone.
Osanna Andreassi was the daughter of the wealthy patrician Andreasio. She experienced visions from her early childhood, but kept the experiences to herself. At the age of six, she saw the Child Jesus carrying a cross and wearing a crown of thorns. He told her that He has a special love of children and purity. She was so impressed, as we all would be, that she immediately consecrated her entire life to God.
Osanna begged her father to allow her to learn to read so that she might be able to pray the Divine Office. He refused her request because it was a waste for a woman who was expected simply to raise a family. Osanna couldn’t explain why she wanted to learn; she couldn’t reveal her plans to him. When she was 14 and knew that he was arranging a marriage for her, she furtively went to the Dominican church and received the habit of its tertiaries. When she appeared at home in her religious garb, she explained that she had made a vow and must wear it until she had fulfilled her promise.
Now, this should not be understood as condoning deceit, but it served God’s purpose. Her pious father accepted her explanation for a time. As the months passed he began to suspect what had happened. He had already refused to give her permission to enter the convent, and he was displeased that she should try to live as a tertiary in his own home. Eventually, his father’s heart melted and he allowed Osanna to continue her routine of prayer, penance, and charity for the rest of her life. She was not professed until a few months before her death forty-two years later.
After the early death of both her parents, Osanna spent her fortune in the service of the poor. Her house became a center for people to discuss spiritual matters, for the needy and the sick, for the wealthy and the noble.
It is said that like Saint Catherine, she miraculously learned to read. One day she saw a piece of paper with two words and said, “Those words are ‘Jesus’ and ‘Mary.'” From that time she could read anything pertaining to spiritual matters. By the same sort of favor, she also learned to write.
At age 28 (1477), Osanna received the mark of the wound in Jesus’ side, caused by a long nail. For the next year various of the sacred wounds would appear, including the crown of thorns. Others saw them only on Wednesdays, Fridays, and during Holy Week, but it appears that they were visible to her and caused both pain and joy.
At this time Osanna felt the need for a spiritual director and prayed for one with wisdom, patience, and understanding. She found him during Mass when an interior voice said to her, “That’s the one you need, the one who is saying Mass.” Osanna thought he was too young, but, upon meeting him in the confessional a few days later, all doubts were erased.
Before her death, the soul of Blessed Columba of Rieti, another Dominican tertiary, appeared to her and told Osanna to prepare for death.
Born: January 17, 1449 at Mantua, Italy
Died: 1505 of natural causes
Beatified: November 24, 1694 Pope Innocent XII (cultus confirmed)
Representation: In art, Osanna is a Dominican tertiary wearing a crown of thorns, surrounded by rays of light (not the halo of a saint), a lily, a broken heart with a crucifix springing from it, the devil under her feet, two angels (one with a lily, one with a cross). This is similar to the image of Saint Catherine of Siena, who has a halo. Osanna is the patroness of school girls.
Stephen Bandelli was born into a noble family. Little is known of his early years except that he applied for admission to the Dominicans in his hometown and received the habit while still very young.
Stephen earned a degree in canon law and a master’s degree in theology, and lectured at the University of Pavia. He was a man of superior intellect and a careful student. Tradition holds that he was “another Saint Paul,” and that his sermons were effective in bringing many Christians to a more fervent life and many sinners back into the fold. Aside from this, one reads only the traditional assurances–that he was prayerful, penitential, had a spirit of poverty, was charitable, and was a model religious.
When Stephen died, he was buried in the Dominican church of Saluzzo. Many miracles were worked at his tomb, and the citizens of Saluzzo invoked him, in 1487, when the town was attacked by one of their neighbors. Their preservation was attributed to Stephen’s intercession, as it was claimed that he had appeared in the sky above them while they were fighting. An annual feast was kept there in his honor for many years.
The viceroy of Peking wrote this about the five martyrs that included Peter Sanz: “What are we to do with these men? Their lives are certainly irreproachable; even in prison they convert men to their opinions, and their doctrines so seize upon the heart that their adepts fear neither torments nor captivity. They themselves are joyous in their chains. The jailors and their families become their disciples, and those condemned to death embrace their religion. To prolong this state is only to give them the opportunity of increasing the number of Christians.”
Peter Sanz was among the first group of martyrs in Tonkin, which also included Bishop Francis Serrano, Father Joachim Royo, Father John Alcober, and Father Francis Diaz.
Peter Sanz was professed a Dominican at Lerida when he was 18 (1697). He was ordained in 1704, volunteered for the Chinese missions, and was sent to Manila, The Philippines, in 1713. After studying the language for two years, he entered China where he spent 31 years evangelizing the Chinese before he was captured. In 1730, he was nominated vicar apostolic of Fukien and titular bishop of Mauricastro. When a renewed persecution of Christians flared up in 1746, he was accused of breaking the laws by converting thousands to Christianity by a man to whom he had refused to lend money, according to one account.
The five men, bound together by their vows and their work, were brought more closely together during their imprisonment at Foochow. Fathers Serrano, Alcober, and Diaz were captured first, and tortured to reveal the whereabouts of Bishop Sanz. They did not break down, but the bishop and Father Royo, hearing about the torture, surrendered in the hope of sparing their brothers’ suffering, says another account.
The five priests were dragged in chains to the emperor’s court, where they were subjected to frightful torments. All of them, with a catechist named Ambrose Kou, were sentenced to death in December 1746. During the long imprisonment, a Dominican, Father Thomas Sanchez, managed to see them. He brought them some clothes and a little money, and all the news he could find.
On May 25, 1747, Bishop Sanz was beheaded at Fu-tsheu. Even the pagans were impressed with his gentle demeanor as he was led out to die, and a fellow prisoner who had been converted in prison, followed him closely through the mob, openly proclaiming his sanctity. As the headsman prepared to swing the axe, the venerable bishop looked at him and said, “Rejoice with me, my friend; I am going to heaven!”
“I wish I were going with you!” blurted out the unhappy man.
Laying his head upon the block, the bishop preached his last sermon: “If you want to save your soul, my friend, you must obey the law of God!” Pagan friends of the priests scurried through the crowd, gathering up the relics which they saved for the Christians. Many of these people, including the executioner, were later baptized.
On October 20, 1747, after the death of Sanz, word arrived that Father Serrano was had been appointed titular bishop of Tipsa and coadjutor to Blessed Peter Sanz. At that point, he and the others were summarily executed at Fukien.
Born: September 22, 1680 in Ascó, Catalonia, Spain
Died: beheaded on May 26, 1747 in Fuzou, China
Beatified: May 14, 1893 by Pope Leo XIII
Saint Servatius was of noble birth, and he was renewed alike for his learning and sanctity. He became Bishop of Tongres in Belgium, which then formed part of Gaul, and in that capacity assisted at the Council of Sardica, where he strenuously defended the Catholic Faith against the Arians. He likewise stoutly resisted these heresies at the Council of Rimini, and labored to prevent the ill consequences which threatened the Church through their frauds and the weakness of the Bishops. Being sent by the tyrant Magnentius, together with Saint Maximin, Bishop of Treves, as ambassador to the Emperor Constantius, he was honorably entertained by Saint Athanasius at Alexandria.
Saint Gregory of Tours states that Saint Servatius foretold the invasion of Gaul by the Huns and implored the Divine mercy by watching. fasting, prayers and many tears to avert so great a calamity from the flock entrusted to his care. For this intention he undertook a penitential pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Peter in Rome. As he was weeping and praying there, the Prince of the Apostles appeared to him and thus addresses him: “Wherefore dost thou importune me? The Lord has decreed that the Huns should enter Gaul and lay it waste in a terrible manner. Take my counsel, therefore; lose no time; set thy house in order, prepare thy grave, make ready a clean winding-sheet. Behold , thou shalt depart this life and shalt not witness the evils which the Huns are to bring upon Gaul, as the Lord our God hath spoken.”
The holy Bishop, therefore returned in all haste to his diocese, and with many tears imparted the sad tidings to his heart-broken flock. “Holy Father , do not abandon us,” they exclaimed; “Good Shepherd, forget us not.” Very shortly afterwards he fell ill, as Saint Peter had foretold, and closed his saintly life by a holy death on May 13th, 384 A.D., after an episcopate of thirty-seven years. It is recorded that when all the country round was white with snow his tomb at Maestricht always remained free from it until the time a church was raised over his holy remains.
Saint Servatius was declared Protector of the Dominican Order in consequences of the following circumstances. In the fourteenth century the Church and the Order of Preachers were suffering bitter persecution from the schismatical Emperor, Lewis of Bavaria. Learning that the General Chapter was convoked to meet in his dominions , at the city of Cologne, 1330, A.D., this prince secretly plotted the death of the capitular Fathers. They had just assembled, when Saint Servatius appeared in a dream to one of their number, a very holy religious, warned him of the danger which threatened himself and his brethren , and bade them to flee to Maestricht. This they accordingly did, thus escaping the snares which had been laid for them. And though their coming to Maestricht was wholly unexpected, God disposed the hearts of the inhabitants to receive them with the utmost kindness.
In gratitude for this providential intervention, the Fathers decreed that the festival of Saint Servatius should henceforth be celebrated in the Order to the end of time. But, as it was at first instituted only under the rite of a Feast of the Three Lessons, the great increase of festivals of higher rank caused it, after the lapse of years, to fall into disuse. To preserve the memory of so great a benefit, the Fathers, therefore, obtained permission from Pope Leo XII that the festival of Saint Servatius should be henceforth celebrated throughout the entire Order with the rank of a Totum Duplex, or Greater Double.
Born: Armenia, unknown date
Died: May 13th 384 at Tongres, Belgium of fever
Canonized: Pre- Congregation
Patronage: against foot problems, against lameness, against leg problems, against mice/rats, against rheumatism, success
Representation: bishop holding a key and accompanied by an angel meeting burghers at a city gate, bishop holding a key in one hand while placing his crozier on a dragon, bishop reading desk where nearby sits a shield with three wooden shoes, bishop with three wooden shoes, man striking water with a staff, pilgrim sleeping in the sun while an eagle fans him
Last Sunday, I attended a baby shower for my niece. It was a bittersweet day because while my niece is thrilled to be expecting her first born child, a little girl, her pregnancy has been fraught with health issues. Also, her own Mom passed away shortly after she was born. So she never knew her Mom, and is sad that her daughter will never know her Grandmother. I also imagine today, being Mother’s Day, will be a joyful, but bittersweet day, for her as well.
Mother’s Day is always a happy day for those who are blessed to have their Mom near, or for Moms who enjoy spending time with their children. The origin of Mother’s Day dates back centuries. The ancient Greeks held an annual festival to honor the goddess Rhea, wife of Cronus and mother of many deities of Greek mythology. Ancient Romans held a spring festival in honor of Cybele, a mother goddess. Early Christians held a festival on the fourth Sunday of Lent in honor of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ. In the U.S., Mother’s Day is a more recent holiday, born of a daughter’s desire to honor the legacy of her mother.
Ann Reeves Jarvis was the mother of eleven children living in West Virginia. She was active in church and civic affairs. Concerned about poor health and sanitary conditions in her community that contributed to the high mortality rate of children, in the 1850s she organized Mothers Day Work Groups at local churches to provide women to care for families with tubercular mothers, inspect milk for children, and procure medicine for the indigent. The work groups also tended to wounded Union and Confederate soldiers returning from the Civil War. After the war ended, Jarvis and other women organized Mother’s Friendship Day picnics and other events as pacifist activities in the hope of uniting former Civil War foes.
In 1905, Ann Reeves Jarvis died. Three years later, on May 10, 1908, through the efforts of Jarvis’ daughter, Anna Marie, families gathered at events held at Ann Reeves Jarvis’ hometown church in Grafton, West Virginia. These events spread to other cities and states until 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day in the U.S. These early celebrations were a time when families gathered at their homes with their mothers. The purposeful designation of “Mother’s” rather than the plural “Mothers’” Day was intended to stress that the holiday is more about honoring your own mother than the collective mom. We all know that none of us would be here without our Moms (obviously), but I also feel that no one of us would be who we are today with out the positive influence of a loving, caring mother. Even for those who lost their Moms way too soon, the impact these women have had on their children will be felt throughout their lives.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day, I cannot help but think about the Mary, mother of our blessed Jesus, who is really the mother of us all. The word “mother” or “mothers” appears in the Bible almost 300 times. A mother’s influence is also stressed in Ezekiel 16:44 where we read the phrase, “As is the mother, so is her daughter.” The love of children was deep in the hearts of the Hebrew women, and the mother was regarded with the deepest reverence. When I think of biblical mothers, the first two who come to mind are Mary and Elizabeth. The world’s most revered mother is Mary, mother of Jesus. Her cousin Elizabeth was also a godly person, who in her old age gave birth to John the Baptist. Mary visited Elizabeth for about three months while both were approaching motherhood. With this common experience their age differences became insignificant as they joyfully planned for the birth of their sons, who were to be so near the same age. They found much joy in each other because they loved and understood each other and had the same strong belief in God.
Another New Testament mother was Salome, mother of the disciples James and John. A few scholars suggest that she was a sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Certainly, she and her sons were very close to Jesus. We think of her as an ambitious person. She was so desirous for her sons to enjoy extra prestige during Jesus’ ministry that she made a special public request to him. (Matthew 20:21 “Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.”) Jesus rebuked her gently, (Matthew 20:23 “To sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.”) We should not be too severe on her, for she remained one of the most faithful followers of Jesus to the end. And evidently she handed down a rich spiritual legacy to her sons. It was to her son John that Jesus entrusted His own mother at the end. Another mother spoke about in the Bible is Rachel. She was the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, and was the first woman on record to lose her life in childbirth. Rachel died when Benjamin was born. Benjamin must have heard a great deal about his mother because Jacob loved her dearly. These are just a few of the Mothers in the Bible. May we be inspired by their lives and the lives of their children.
The Bible never states that every woman should be a mother. However, it does say that those whom the Lord blesses to be mothers should take the responsibility seriously. Mothers have a unique and crucial role in the lives of their children. Motherhood is not a chore or an unpleasant task. Just as a mother bears a child during pregnancy, and just as a mother feeds and cares for a child during infancy, so mothers also play an ongoing role in the lives of their children, whether they are adolescents, teenagers, young adults, or even adults with children of their own. While the role of motherhood must change and develop, the love, care, nurture, and encouragement a mother gives should never cease.
A PRAYER for YOUNG MOTHERS
Our heavenly Father, we thank thee for the gift of motherhood.
Help us as young mothers to seek thy guidance for our children.
Grant us wisdom, strength, patience, faith and love.
Create in us the willingness to dedicate ourselves and our children to Thee.
In the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ,