The Feast of the Archangels ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Feast of Sts Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels.

R1: DN 7:9-10,13-14

or RV 12:7-12AB

R Psalm: PS 138:1-2AB, 2CDE-3,4-5

Gospel: JN 1: 47-51

Today we gather as a church to honour and commemorate the Feast of the Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, the Archangels of God’s Heavenly Hosts. We only know the names of these three, even though there are believed to be seven Archangels if not more. Let us take a look at what we know from the Holy Scriptures about these three Archangels of God. As St. Michael is the Prince of the heavenly hosts, let us begin with him.

St Michael:

His name means “Who is like God”. (This is a rhetorical question, as obviously means nobody is like God as God is the highest there ever was or ever can be).

St. Michael is mentioned by his name in three books of Holy  Scripture:

In Daniel, he is described as “one of the chief princes” in the heavenly hierarchy (Dan. 10:13). He is also described to Daniel as “your prince” (Dan. 10:12). The meaning of this phrase is later clarified, and Michael is described as “the great prince who has charge of your people” (Dan. 12:1). He is thus depicted as the guardian angel of Israel. These same passages also refer to Michael doing battle against the spiritual forces at work against Israel.

In Jude 9, Michael is said to have contended with the devil over the body of Moses. On this occasion, we are told, “he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’”

In Revelation, Michael and his angels are depicted fighting the devil and casting them out of heaven (Rev. 12:7-8). He is also commonly identified as the angel who binds the devil and seals him in the bottomless pit for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3), though the name “Michael” is not given on this occasion.

St. Gabriel:

His name means “God is my warrior” (meaning, essentially, “God is my defender”).

St. Gabriel is mentioned  in two books of Holy Scripture:

In Daniel, he is assigned to help Daniel understand the meaning of a vision he has seen (Dan. 8:16). Later, while Daniel is in a prolonged period of prayer, Gabriel comes to him (Dan. 9:21) and gives him the prophecy of “seventy weeks of years” concerning Israel’s future (Dan. 9:24-27).In Luke, he appears to Zechariah the priest and announces the conception and birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:13-19). Later, he appears to the Virgin Mary and announces the conception and birth of Jesus Christ (Luke 1:26-33).

St. Raphael:

His name means “God heals.”

St. Raphael is mentioned in only book of Scripture: Tobit.

In Tobit, the blind Tobit and the maid Sarah, whose seven husbands have been killed by the demon Asmodeus, pray to God.

The prayer of both was heard in the presence of the glory of the great God. And Raphael was sent to heal the two of them: to scale away the white films of Tobit’s eyes; to give Sarah the daughter of Raguel in marriage to Tobias the son of Tobit, and to bind Asmodeus the evil demon, because Tobias was entitled to possess her (Tob. 3:16-17).

Raphael thus becomes a travelling companion of Tobias, posing as a relative named Azarias son of Ananias (Tob. 5:12). He eventually binds the demon, enabling Tobias to safely marry Sarah, and provides the means for Tobit to be healed of his blindness.

Afterward, he reveals his true identity, saying:

I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One (Tob. 12:15).

These Archangels serve the will of God by protecting , guarding and healing us at God’s request. God has ensured his children always have the full protection not only of God himself, but also from all the hosts of heaven. Our Father loves and protects his children, only ensuring all is best for them. Let us give our thanks and praise for the wonderful gift of His Archangels, and of all the hosts of heaven to our God and heavenly Father.

Let us end with the prayer of St Michael:

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.

Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.

May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,

and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts,

by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits,

who prowl about the world

seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

 

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Blessed Lawrence of Ripafratta

One of the outstanding characters in the Dominican reform of the late fourteenth century was Blessed Lawrence of Ripafratta, who was novice-master of several saints and blesseds of our Order.

Lawrence was born in the fortified city of Ripafratta, in 1359. His noble family had the duty of guarding the outer defenses of the city of Pisa against the depredations of its powerful neighbor cities. It was a warlike place and time to come into the world, but Lawrence gave early evidence of being a man of peace. At the age of twenty, after innocent and promising youth, he entered the convent of Saint Catherine, in Pisa. He made rapid progress, both in prayer and in study, and busied himself with the works of the Order for several years before being called upon to help in the reform movement that was headed by Blessed John Dominici.

In 1402, Lawrence was made novice-master in the novitiate of the reformed congregation of Tuscany, in Cortona. Here the novices were to be trained in the primitive rigor of the Order, in an attempt to by-pass the destructive elements of the past half century, which had reduced religious observance to an alarming state of indifference. Plague and schism had taken toll both in numbers and quality of the religious orders, and the remaining houses were living under a relaxed observance of the rule, in a struggle for survival. John Dominici, under the inspiration of Raymond of Capua, felt that the time had come to tighten up the observance once more and return to the first practices of penance and silence. His suggestions were not popular among those who lived in the relaxed convents. The only alternative was to begin again, with a new novitiate, and hope that the idea would take hold gradually and effect internal reform among the other houses.

Excellent novices soon made their appearances at Cortona: Saint Antoninus and Blessed Peter Capucci, and the artist brothers, Fra Angelico and Fra Benedetto. Several others who were to attain fame in the order came under Lawrence’s influence and were shaped by him and to saintly and useful members of the apostolate, not all in the same fashion- Saint Antoninus was to become Archbishop of Florence, Fra Angelico and his brother made San Marco world famous for its art. Blessed Lawrence is, indeed, an interesting study; a severe and exacting man when it came to keeping the rule, a man of broad vision and great resourcefulness in carrying out the work of preaching. He was obviously not at all afraid of talented people going astray if they were allowed to use their talents for God, and he displayed great insight into the development of each of his novices as individuals.

Eventually, Blessed Lawrence was appointed vicar-general of the reformed congregation and moved to the convent of St. Dominic of Pistoia. Here he preached almost continually, and had a reputation for compassion to the poor whom he tended, taught and visited, even in time of plague.

Lawrence of Ripafratta lived to be ninety-eight, and in his old age we have a touching picture of his novices-now men of distinction and authority- coming back to consult him about this or that detail of their work. He wrote often to St. Antoninus, perhaps feeling that being archbishop of Florence was a job with many worries.

Lawrence of Ripafratta died in 1457, and was beatified, after a long history of miracles at his tomb in 1851.

Born: in Ripafratta in 1359

Died: He died at Pistoia in his 98th year in 1457

Beatified: Pope Gregory XVI confirmed his cult in 1851

 

Blessed Dalmatius Moner

This Dominican Blessed, who was noted particularly for his observance of poverty, lived in the early years of the Order and helped to establish the high reputation of the Spanish religious.

Blessed Dalmatius was born in Aragon, in 1291, and we know nothing else about his life before he entered the Order. He was a member of the province of Aragon and gave a perfect example of strict observance of the rule and the spirit of religious detachment from things of earth. All that we know about him, are a few anecdotes, none of which can be fixed with certainty as to date or place.

We read that his spirit of poverty was so extreme that he never wore a habit or cappa that was not in tatters. He picked up his wardrobe from the cast-offs of his brethren, and, since the spirit of poverty was quite rigid in this providence, the cast-off clothes must have looked a sight. Dalmatius seemed to make a virtue of this, since all the records we have make mention of it. As to food, he never ate fish or eggs, and lived on a diet of hard bread and unseasoned vegetables, to which he added a few ashes during Lent. The beds in the house were hard enough for most people, but not for him. He slept on the bare earth when he could not get into the church to pray and take an occasional nap, his head rested on the altar step.

Dalamtius is credited with several miracles, which included healing and spiritual assistance. At one time, a novice was tempted to leave the Order. Dalmatius, going about it without being told, sought out the novice and solved his difficulties. At another time, a mother whose small child had a serious eye disease came looking for Dalmatius to heal her child. The friar refused, because, he said, this affliction would save her child from serious sin, and that God was waiting till some time in the future to heal him.

During the last forty years of his life, Dalmatius lived in the cave of Saint Mary Magdalene, in the south of France, where he had gone on a pilgrimage of devotion. Here he was favored with numerous ecstasies and great spiritual insight. One time, while he was in the cave, a group of friars from his own province where lost in the woods in a bad storm. They prayed to him to help them, and a young man came with a lantern and guided them home.

Dalmatius died in his own convent in the presence of all the friars and provincials who had gathered for a chapter. He was declared blessed in 1721.

Born: in 1291 near Gerona in Spain

Died: 1341

Beatified: Pope Innocent XIII confirmed his cult in 1721

Equal Work/Equal Pay? Grace and Mercy ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading 1: IS 55:6-9
R Psalm: PS 145: 2-3, 8-9,17-18
Reading 2: PHIL 1: 20C-24, 27A
Gospel: MT 20:1-16A

If we look at today’s Gospel reading of MT 20:1-16A, Jesus is telling us about the Parable of the labourers in the vineyard. This was in response to the question asked by Peter in MT 19:27: “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Peter was asking Jesus what reward would be given to those who give up everything in their lives to follow him. Today’s Gospel reading is the response about the truth of His Kingdom.

As you can imagine, working in a vineyard, especially in first century Israel would’ve been extremely hard toil in the heat of the summer and often extra workers were taken on to ensure the work was done. We read in the the Parable today that Jesus is telling us that some of the labourers who had toiled all day, were paid the same as those who were called maybe to work only the last hour of the day.

There was envy and anger about this as the workers who had toiled all day thought they would be paid more. So why did the landowner decide to pay the full day wage to all regardless of when they started work and what is this telling us in our christian lives today?

The landowner was being fair, keeping his promise of reward and was showing mercy to the other workers.
Our Lord God has fairness, keeps his promise and has mercy. God gives his grace and mercy abundantly upon those of his choosing. “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion’. It does not, therefore, depend on men’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (ROM 9:15-16).
God gives His grace and mercy to those whose self-righteous works could not possibly obtain it. “We are all sinful and fall short of the glory of God” (ROM 3:23), but God’s grace is sufficient to redeem all who believe and serve his ways.

It matters not whether we are called into the Lord’s service either early or later in life to partake of His grace. The glory and praise of our salvation is His and His alone.
As Christians and children of God, we should rejoice in the service which others give to our Lord. He is faithful and will reward us as he has promised.

The message we are being given in verse 16 today, “The last will be first, and the first last,” is telling us that no matter at what stage in life we are called to His service, the reward of eternal life and salvation will be given to all who follow and serve Him. An example of this is the thief on the cross in (LK 23:39-43), whose life was limited to a moment of repentance and confession of faith to our dear Lord Jesus, and he received the same reward of eternal life as given to all the Apostles and saints.
Eternal life shall be granted to all who serve, confess their faith and who follow the ways of the Lord. This is given by the grace and mercy of our Lord and God because of his promise to all who truly serve him. This is the important message that still holds true and is relevant to our lives today.

Mark was born in Modena and entered the convent of the order there in young manhood. He observed the rules with great fidelity, and became noted both for his learning and his holiness, which is a sentence that would fit into nearly every Dominican biography written, and tells us nothing in particular about Mark as a person. However, when we recall the times in which he lived , it becomes clearer to us that anyone who kept the Dominican Rule in its entirety is truly to our notice . The abuses which stirred Savonarola to thundering speech in the pulpits of Ferrara and Florence could not have been absent from all of Italy. It look solid virtue to hold out against the opulent worldliness of the times, and Mark of Modena apparently did a thorough job of it, since he has been beatified.

Mark was made prior of the convent of Pesaro, and the only miracle we have on record (he is supposed to have performed many) took place at his convent. A woman’s little boy had died, and she pleaded with Mark to restore the child’s life. After praying for awhile, Mark turned to her and said, “Madam, your little boy is in paradise. Do not try to get him back again, for his second loss will be worse than this one.” However, she insisted on his working the miracle, and he did so. The child returned to life, and, ten years later, covered with disgrace and opprobrium, died a second time, leaving his mother in worse grief than ever.

Mark of Modena died in 1498, the year that the city of Florence burned Savonarola at the stake. It was a time of terrible happenings in Italy and all Europe. The people of Modena mourned the death of Mark, and went to pray at his tomb. Many of their needs were answered there, and a number of prodigies were reported in connection with the translation of his relics to the Rosary chapel of the church. The bells were said to have rung by themselves, and sweet perfume filled the air. Until recently, his relics were still exposed yearly for veneration during the week of Whitsunday.

Born: in Modena at the beginning of the 15th century

Died: in at Pesaro in 1498

Beatified: by Pope Pius IX in 1857

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Hospitality: The Feast of St. Matthew ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading 1:EPH 4:1=7,11=13

R Psalm: PS 19:2=3,4=5

Gospel: MT 9:9=13

Today we commemorate the Feast of St Matthew the Apostle.

Today’s Gospel reading of the call of Matthew to follow Jesus is fascinating and we can learn much from it that is very applicable to our lives today.

If we look at verse 9, Jesus is walking along when he comes to a tax collector named Matthew who was sat doing his job. Jesus gives him an invitation “to follow him”, and without even a second thought, gets up and immediately follows Jesus. A simple call and a simple and immediate response. There was something in that moment that motivated Matthew to follow Jesus. We don’t know what this was, but we do know that Jesus called and Matthew immediately answered that call.

As the story in today’s Gospel reading unfolds, there is a main point which I feel is very important. This being the Hospitality of Jesus. If we look at verse 10, Jesus was sat having dinner with his disciples and many tax collectors and sinners arrived and we’re welcomed and joined in this dinner. The lesson from this is that Our Lord Jesus is comfortably at home with sinners and with outcasts on all levels and offers all his hospitality.

This is an extremely important message and lesson to each of us, because it clearly shows that Jesus shares his hospitality with us regardless of who we are, of messes and failures we have made in our past or indeed our present circumstances. Jesus does not judge us nor condemns us, he shares himself with us and also invites us to share with him.

Hospitality and love is at the very heart of God’s relationship with us=an essential spiritual gift for any church and every child of God who wants to reflect God in the local community and even thoughout the world.

God in Jesus invited those on the margins of life without judgement and in the same way, we as children and servants of God are to invite people into the home of both our church and our lives also without judgement, following Our Lord’s example, so that we can share hospitality with them and encourage them to partake in the hospitality of Jesus by sharing themselves with us.

Our God is an hospitable God of love=and we as both his church and his children should ensure just as Jesus did, that everyone feels welcome and unturned. Too many churches and Christians sadly only have a tendency to mix with their own kind, or pass judgement on others, making them unwelcome, but Our Lord Jesus’ approach is the exact opposite to this and our approach should mirror the example of Jesus. Some churches and Christians only welcome other others on “conditions” =that they will change their behaviours to fit in with their expectations, for example: “You are welcome at our table =as long as you change and play by our rules”. But the hospitality that Jesus shows is radically different and is how we should be.

Jesus loves everyone, and nobody is asked to change to fulfill expectations and rules at his table. This is truly how we as servants of the Lord should be, following His example and not mankind’s prejudices and rules. We ought to be showing the same the same hospitality, love and acceptance just as our dear Lord Jesus does.

May the Lord bless you on this feast of St Matthew.

 

Blessed Francis Posadas

Few Dominicans have had more difficulty getting into the Order than Blessed Francis de Posadas, and he was one of the glories of the convent of the Scala Coeli, in Cordova. It is embarrassing for us to read that the reason for his exclusion was plain and simple snobbery on the part of the superiors of the convent of St. Paul, in Cordova.

Francis was born of a poor young couple who were war refugees, and who had been shunted from place to place until, when Francis was very small, his father’s health failed, and he died in Cordova. The young widow tried several types of work, and finally she was reduced to selling eggs and vegetables at a street stand. She tried to educate her child, for she knew he was very talented, but, without money, it simply was not possible to send him to school. She encourage him to go to the Dominican Church of St. Paul, and he served Mass there every morning from the time he was six or seven years old.

While he was still a very tiny child, he used to gather the other children together for rosary processions or other devotions. The smile of God seemed to rest upon him. For all his poverty, he was a very happy and attractive child, like by everyone; and he was a natural leader among his fellows. Twice during his childhood, he was miracuously saved from death. This fact and his undoubted piety, should have seemed sufficient reason for admitting him into a religious order. However, by the time Francis was old enough, there were two reasons to make his entry difficult: his mother had remarried, and the step-father would not permit him to enter. The Dominicans, moreover, would not have him. They said that they did not want the son of a street peddler.

Francis had friends in the Order, but the prior of the house he wished to enter took a violent dislike to him. It was several years before the young man could overcome the resistance of this man, who, having some influence with the provincial, was stubbornly determined that Francis should not be allowed to enter. Even when the fathers in the convent of Scala offered to take the boy and train him in Latin- so that he could qualify for clerical studies-the vindictive dislike of the prior followed him and almost prevented his acceptance.

Francis was finally accepted, made his novitiate, and gradually overcame all dislike and distrust by his charming manner and his unquestioned talents as student and preacher. After his ordination, he was sent out to preach, and he earned the reputation of being a second St, Vincent Ferrer. His talents as a preacher were rivaled only by his gifts as a confessor. He not only could read hearts and discover sins that had been willfully concealed, but sometimes he was called to one place or another by an interior spirit and shown someone badly in need of the sacraments.

Francis hated the thought of holding authority in the Order. When appointed prior of one of the convents, he remarked that he would much sooner be sentenced to the galleys. He twice refused a bishopric, and he skillfully eluded court honors.

Several remarkable conversions are credited to Francis Posadas. His last tears were a series of miracles wrought in the souls of his penitents. People followed him about to hear him preach, regarding him as a saint and miracle worker. One of his most noted converts was a woman more than one hundred years old- a Moor- with no intention of deserting Mohammedanism.

Francis of Posadas was the author of a number of books which he wrote to assist him in his apostolate. One was a life of St. Dominic. and several were biographies of other saintly people.

After a life filled with miracles, Francis died in 1713. Being forewarned of his death, he made private preparations, but to the last minute he was busy in the confessional before dying suddenly. By the time of his death, not only the Dominicans of Cordova, but the people of all Spain were happy to have him as a fellow countryman. He was beatified a century after his death, in 1818.

Born: Cordona in Spain in 1644

Died: In 1713 of natural causes

Beatified: He was declared Blessed by Pius VII in 1818