Blessed James Benefatti

Blessed James Benefatti, James is known as the Father of the Poor.  He was a Dominican at Mantua, Italy in 1290, and was a  Doctor of theology and a priest. He was also a friend and brother friar of Nicholas Boccasino who later became Pope Benedict XI, and for whom James held several support offices including papal legate.  He was the Bishop of Mantua in 1303, and noted for his devotion to the poor. James rebuilt his cathedral and refurbished churches and was appointed Papal legate for Pope John XXII.  He died 19 November 1332 at Mantua, Italy of natural causes.  His body was found incorrupt when exhumed both in 1480 and 1604.  He was beatified in 1859 by Pope Pius IX.

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Saint Catherine of Alexandria

Saint Catherine of Alexandria.   According to the traditional story, Catherine was the daughter of Costus, a pagan governor of Alexandria, where she was born.  She is said to have announced to her parents that she would only marry someone who surpassed her in beauty, intelligence, wealth, and social status. This has been interpreted as an early foreshadowing of her eventual discovery of Christ. “His beauty was more radiant than the shining of the sun, His wisdom governed all creation, His riches were spread throughout all the world.” Though raised a pagan, she converted to Christianity in her late teens. It is said that she visited her contemporary, the Roman Emperor Maximinus Daia, and attempted to convince him of the moral error in persecuting Christians. She succeeded in converting his wife, the Empress, and many pagan philosophers whom the Emperor sent to dispute with her, all of whom were subsequently martyred. Upon the failure of the Emperor to win Catherine over, he ordered her to be put in prison; and when the people who visited her converted, she was condemned to death on the breaking wheel, an instrument of torture. According to legend, the wheel itself broke when she touched it, so she was beheaded.

According to Christian tradition, angels carried her body to Mount Sinai, where, in the 6th century, the Eastern Emperor Justinian established Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai, the church being built between 548 and 565 in Saint Catherine, Egypt, on the Sinai peninsula. Saint Catherine’s Monastery survives, a famous repository of early Christian art, architecture and illuminated manuscripts that is still open to visiting scholars. The historian Harold T. Davis says that Catherine’s story dates only from the 10th century AD, and that “assiduous research has failed to identify Catherine with any historical personage”; Davis suggests that the invention of Catherine may have been inspired by the story of the martyred pagan philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria. She did certainly form an exemplary counterpart to Hypatia in the medieval mindset; and it has been suggested that she was invented specifically for that purpose. Like Hypatia, she is said to have been highly learned (in philosophy and theology), very beautiful, sexually pure, and to have been brutally murdered for publicly stating her beliefs. The story of Catherine is placed a hundred years before Hypatia’s death, but there are no contemporary sources for her life.

Because of the fabulous character of the account of her martyrdom and the lack of reliable documentation, the Roman Catholic Church in 1969 removed her feast day from the Calendar. But she continued to be commemorated in the Roman Martyrology on November 25. In 2002, her feast was restored to the General Roman Calendar as an optional memorial.

The 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia describes the historical importance of the belief in her as follows:

Ranked with St Margaret and St Barbara as one of the fourteen most helpful saints in heaven, she was unceasingly praised by preachers and sung by poets. It is believed that Jacques-Benigne Bossuet dedicated to her one of his most beautiful panegyrics and that Adam of St. Victor wrote a magnificent poem in her honour: Vox Sonora nostri chori, etc. In many places her feast was celebrated with the utmost solemnity, servile work being suppressed and the devotions being attended by great numbers of people. In several dioceses of France it was observed as a Holy Day of Obligation up to the beginning of the seventeenth century, the splendor of its ceremonial eclipsing that of the feasts of some of the Apostles. Numberless chapels were placed under her patronage and her statue was found in nearly all churches, representing her according to medieval iconography with a wheel, her instrument of torture. Meanwhile, owing to several circumstances in his life, Saint Nicholas of Myra was considered the patron of young bachelors and students, and Saint Catherine became the patroness of young maidens and female students. Looked upon as the holiest and most illustrious of the virgins of Christ after the Blessed Virgin Mary, it was natural that she, of all others, should be worthy to watch over the virgins of the cloister and the young women of the world. The spiked wheel having become emblematic of the saint, wheelwrights and mechanics placed themselves under her patronage. Finally, as according to tradition, she not only remained a virgin by governing her passions and conquered her executioners by wearying their patience, but triumphed in science by closing the mouths of sophists, her intercession was implored by theologians, apologists, pulpit orators, and philosophers. Before studying, writing, or preaching, they besought her to illumine their minds, guide their pens, and impart eloquence to their words.  At the  beginning of the fifteenth century, it was rumored that she had spoken to Joan of Arc and, together with St. Margaret, had been divinely appointed Joan’s adviser.

In All Things Give Thanks ~ Br. Chip Noon, Novice

“Come, let us sing to the Lord, and shout with joy to the Rock who saves us.

Let us approach him with praise and thanksgiving and sing joyful songs to the Lord.”

These words from Psalm 95 are prayed most days in the Liturgy of the Hours at the Invitatory. Today on this Thanksgiving Holiday, we want to approach the Lord with praise and thanksgiving, even though it seems to many that there is precious little to be thankful for…if we pay attention to the news. Discord, strife, unrest, pain and suffering, all seem to be crowding out the good and the just which we celebrate today.

In today’s Responsorial Psalm, we can read it as ironical, or we can focus on the last line and read it prayerfully: “You have dominion over all, In your hand are power and might: it is yours to give grandeur and strength to all.” Is it too much to ask our Lord that he give us grandeur and strength today, this day of Thanksgiving? In these times?

Of course, Brother Noon (I say to myself) if you paid attention to the First Reading, you’d realize that in your own life, you have nothing to compare with the tribulations of the congregation of Israel in the times before Judas Maccabeus. The destruction of the their homeland, exile, desecration of the sacred alter of worship, war and pillage were real trials, not just those we read about in our Bibles.

And then I remember that this day is also the Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs. Really…what is so bad in my personal life compared to this?

Yes over the past several months I have been besieged by several trials, physical, emotional, family problems. Yes, they absorbed me almost to distraction. And yes, I am beginning to see the light now. But who was there for me?

First, let me recite today’s Allaluia: “My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord; I know them and they follow me.”

God was there for me, even though my prayer life was in shambles. God was there for me. Coming out of the pain and fog of my affliction, I finally recognized that. That time, as it is now, was a time of thanksgiving. I was following the Lord only through his gentle guidance.

And so it should be in these times, and especially on this day.

Whether we are aware or not, we are under the Almighty’s watchful eye and, yes, he give us strength every day. Sometimes, as in my case, we are unaware and inappreciative. No matter. Once you are in the fold, there’s usually no getting out.

Which leads me to today’s Gospel. And to a little more negativity.

Already we’re hearing about why Native Americans don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, the ongoing false battles of the War on Christmas, people complaining about Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving, and the eternal (or so it seems) tussle over how to greet people during the holidays. Such negativity. Such strife amidst a special time of year.

 

The Presentation of The Blessed Virgin ~ The Rev. Dcn. Brenden Humberdross, OPI


 

 

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.

  1. 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.

 

Use Your Gifts ~ The Rev. Shawn Gisewhite, OPI


Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus tells us that one day a man went away on a journey. But before he left, he entrusted his assets to three of his servants. They were each given “talents.” The Greek word talanta literally means “weights.” Back in those days, a talent or weight was valued according to the kind of metal of which the weight consisted. It could be a talent of copper, gold, or silver. The most common talent was silver. Assuming that these were silver talents, then they could have been worth more than $1,000 each. So one servant was given five talents, or over $5,000; another two talents, or more than $2,000; and the last servant was given one talent, a “measly” $1,000 or so. How many of you could use even a measly $1,000 right now?  I know I could!

Now Jesus told many of His parables as a way to explain what the kingdom of God is like. The parable of the talents is another one of those. And so, you see, the characters in the story represent various types of people in the kingdom. Who is this rich master who went away to a far country? It’s the Master…JESUS.

When He told this parable, Jesus was well aware that within weeks He too would go on a long journey. He would depart from the top of the Mount of Olives and ascend up, up and away to a far land—to the distant heavens—and there take up His place at the right hand of the Father. In the same way that verse 19 tells us that the rich man would be away for a long time, Jesus knew that His return would not be as soon as some people might think. Yet Jesus also knew that He, like the rich man, would return to receive back His property and obtain a careful accounting from each servant.

Now who are these three servants in the parable? They represent you and me, and every other person who is called to serve the Master. They symbolize every servant of God who is born into His house, bought with His blood, and employed for His praise and profit.

1. God has entrusted much responsibility to His servants.

Verse 14 says that the man “called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.” So the first point I want to make is that God has entrusted a lot of responsibility to His servants.

While the rich man called his servants to manage his financial empire, the Lord Jesus has called you and me to manage His earthly kingdom. We have been given an enormous responsibility. We manage the earthly affairs of the Master of masters…the Lord of lords.

God has entrusted much to us. King David in Psalm 8:3-6 expressed his wonder at how much trust God has placed into the hands of human beings: 3 “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, 4 what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? 5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” Think of it! God went to all that work to create a perfect world; yet He put man in charge of it all. What incredible confidence He has in His finite and fallible creatures!

Verse 14 tells us that the servants were commanded to manage his “goods,” or his property. Servants in those days owned nothing themselves. Everything they had, even their spouses and their children, were the property of the master. And even when he would go off to a far country, they had no right to say, “The boss is gone now, let’s take our money and run.”

Let’s face it, everything we call ours is really His. Even our own bodies are not ours. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:19,20: 19 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

As servants of Jesus we own nothing. We are managers of God’s property. Our knowledge of the “mysteries” or “secret things” (1 Corinthians 4:1) is still the knowledge of the mysteries of God. Our husbands and our wives, our sons and our daughters, our houses and our land, our spiritual gifts and our ministries, our time and our talents—they are all His property, entrusted into our care until He returns to receive them back.

Now if we would only realize that we are but tenants on His land, we would be less selfish and demanding; if we would only realize that we are not the king of the castle, but He is the King, then we would not be so quick to run away from our responsibilities. In fact, we would ask His permission before we did anything.

Now before I leave this point about God entrusting great responsibility to us, we must not ignore the fact that not all of us have equal responsibility. Verse 15 of our text says, “ ‘And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability….’ ”

Not every servant was entrusted with the same number of talents. One was given five talents, another two, and the third servant was given only one. What we discover is that God makes us managers according to our “manage-ability.”

The master in this parable is not only wealthy; he is also wise. He knew that his servants did not have equal ability. Likewise, God never gives to us more than we can handle. He knows our strengths and He knows our weaknesses. God never demands from a man abilities which he has not got; but he does demand that a man should use to the full the abilities which he does possess. Peter said it well in 1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

2. But many of us don’t make the most of what we’ve got.

So my first point is that God has entrusted to each of us some kind of important responsibility in the kingdom, though it might not be equal to the responsibility given to someone else.

The second point I want to stress, and it’s something that Jesus wished to stress, is the fact that although God has entrusted something to each of us, some of us who have been entrusted with little don’t make the most of the little we’ve got.

Servant number three was given only one talent to invest. We’re told in verse 18 that upon receiving his talent, he “went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.” Now at first glance, this doesn’t appear to be such a terrible thing to do. His master told him to look after one talent and so that’s what he did. He buried the talent for safekeeping. In those days, it was common to hide some of your money in case some invading army conquered the land and took over the banking system.

So this third servant perhaps said to himself, “I’m going to keep my master’s money safe and sound by digging a hole and burying the talent it might get a little muddy, but at least it wouldn’t be stolen.”

But what did the master think of this servant’s logic when he returned? He was not impressed at all. We’re told at the end of the parable that not only was he fired from his job, but the master ordered that he be thrown “into the outer darkness,” a place where there would be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

It’s scary to admit this, but did you know that many of us are just like that poor one-talent servant? Many of us don’t make the most of what we’ve been given. And because we don’t make the most of what we’ve got, even the little we have will one day be taken away.

I want us to take note of the behavior and attitudes that characterized this third servant and caused him to displease his master so much.

The Fear of Failure

Upon the master’s return to ask his servants for an accounting, the third servant tries to justify himself, saying in verse 24 of our text that he knew his master to be a “hard man.” And then in verse 25 he says that he was “afraid,” and therefore went and hid his master’s talent in the ground. So we see that the first thing that characterized this third servant and that caused his master’s displeasure was fear.

He buried his talent because he was afraid.  Afraid that if he took the talent and invested it, he might risk losing it all and then have nothing to return to his master. For fear of losing everything, he did nothing.

Fear is probably the most powerful enemy of success. So many people miss opportunities to do something significant with their gifts or talents or possessions simply because they fear failure. You may have been blessed with a natural ability to sing, but much of this talent has gone to waste because you fear you’d fall apart once you stepped on the stage. Or fear of being booed by an audience. What a tragic thing it will be if you bury your God-given talent.

Some of you have been given a naturally warm and loving personality. Yet you’ve never allowed yourself to get close to anyone because of the fear of rejection. And so you’ve buried a treasure. It’s buried so deep that most people don’t even know that you have it. Instead of warmth and love, they see you as cold or shy. Only you know that deep down inside there is something in your possession of great worth.

Some of you have been given a marvelous gift of communication. But because you think that you might say the wrong thing, you freeze up, you lock your lips, and you’re paralyzed because of fear.

How many of us, because we fear to step out and invest the gifts and abilities God has given us, are missing opportunities to use and develop our talents to their full potential? We leave the treasure lying buried in the dirt.

That’s the first characteristic of the third servant: He was paralyzed by the fear of failure. Now let me mention a second characteristic: laziness.

Laziness

Servant number three had one more tragic flaw. When the master returned to settle accounts, he indicated what he thought of that servant’s decision to bury his talent. In verse 26 the master called him a “wicked and lazy servant!”

If fear of failure is a great enemy of success in the kingdom, laziness at least runs a close second. It probably took servant number three all of five minutes to dig a hole and bury the talent. He saved himself all the time and energy needed to think through all the investment options that were available to him. He couldn’t be bothered researching the possibility of buying a house or a piece of land at a bargain price and finding good tenants. Nor did he even have enough ambition to make a trip to the bank and take the time to decide on whether to invest the talent in a daily-interest shekel account, or a fixed-interest foreign-currency account, or whatever. This man was just plain lazy.

The Bible has a lot to say about lazy people. Proverbs 10:4,5 declares: 4 “He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. 5 He who gathers in summer is a wise son; he who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame.” Proverbs 20:13 advises, “Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread.” And I love this line from Ecclesiastes 10:18, “Because of laziness the building decays, and through idleness of hands the house leaks.”

We can be lazy at school or work. And we may be too lazy to pray for other each day.

So we have seen that God has entrusted us with much responsibility; yet even when this responsibility is smaller than that received by others, many of us fail to make the most of what we have been given. Like servant number three in Jesus’ parable, we may be paralyzed by a fear of failure, or we may be lazy, or both. Now I want to make a third point: There are serious consequences for a person who doesn’t make the most of what he’s got.

3. There are serious consequences in failing to make the most of what you’ve got.

Losing What You Have Been Given

The first consequence of fear and laziness for servant number three was the loss of even the one talent that had been entrusted to him. When his master returned and found that the servant had been negligent and had buried his talent, he was angry. He said in verse 28 that the talent should be taken from him and given to the servant who had 10 talents. Now in this parable Jesus is not justifying taking from the poor and giving to the rich (a kind of Robin Hood principle in reverse). What Jesus is doing is teaching a simple principle of life: If you don’t use it, you will lose it.

This principle has been proved in my own life. Many years ago I played the trumpet and the drums. I practiced hard. I developed a talent. But if you were to hand me a trumpet or a drum right now and I were to try and play them for you, you would plug your ears! I can’t play the trumpet or drums today. Why? Because I haven’t used my talent.

That’s what can easily happen to buried talents. The third servant not only didn’t achieve a profit on his master’s money; he even lost the one talent he was given to manage. This fearful and lazy manager had dug a hole, little realizing that he was digging it for himself! He didn’t realize that if he didn’t use it, he’d lose it.

Sometimes we wonder why others seem to succeed but we don’t. Maybe it’s because we are not using the talents that God has given us. How would you feel if you gave a friend a gift (one you were sure they would like and use) but then you noticed that they never wore the shirt you gave, or never took the game you bought out of the box? Wouldn’t you be a bit offended? You might think twice about ever giving another gift to that thankless person.

I wonder if God sometimes feels that way about us. He has given us gifts. We have buried them in the ground out of fear, or because we’re just too lazy to do anything with them. Why should God ever give us more gifts and more responsibility if we aren’t faithful to use what He has already given us?

Jesus said to a group of “religious” people in Matthew 21:43, “ ‘Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.’ ”

Future Everlasting Darkness

If losing the only talent he had was not enough, then the third servant heard his master call him an “unprofitable servant” in verse 30, and order that he be cast “into the outer darkness,” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Here was the second consequence of his failure to make the most of what he had.

What could Jesus possibly mean by these harsh words? Remember, we learned in verse 19 that the master returned to settle accounts with his managers “after a long time.” This speaks to us of Jesus’ own return. Yes, it’s been two thousand years and He hasn’t returned yet. But this “long time” is coming to a close. The signs are clear. And one of the reasons He is returning is to settle accounts. Paul warns us in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” Jesus will look for a profit on his investment.

Here Jesus is not talking about just our natural gifts or talents. Here He is talking about how we will deal with the greatest gift of all, the one gift that God has offered to everybody…the gift of salvation. The greatest gift that you have been offered is the gift of Jesus, God’s Son…the gift of the Savior. We read in John 3:16-18:

16 “‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.’ ”

God has given us the one gift that, if accepted, will give us eternal life, a life in heaven full of reward and personal fulfillment. But if we reject it, because we’re afraid or too lazy to receive it and act upon it, then even the life we have now will be taken from us. In place of eternal life, we will be cast “into the outer darkness,” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

To conclude, I don’t know about you, but I want to be most like the first servant, not the last one. It says in the parable in verse 16 that the one “who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents.” In another Bible version, we read that this man “went AT ONCE.”

One thing that set this servant apart from the third servant was his faith. And there were two things that showed that he had faith. First of all, he took a certain measure of risk. He could easily have taken the safe route and buried his talents too. But instead, he took his money and invested it.

Another indication that this was a man of faith was the fact that he “went at once.” Alexander the Great, when asked how he had conquered the world, replied, “By not delaying.” This servant didn’t waste any time in investing his master’s money.  He didn’t want to lose even a day’s interest on that money, so he “went at once.” He wasn’t fearful or lazy, but he believed so strongly that he could make a profit with his master’s money that he “went at once.”

There’s a man named Lee Iacocca and he was the chairman of Chrysler Motors. Iacocca said, “Obviously, you’re responsible for gathering as many relevant facts and projections as you possibly can. But at some point you’ve got to take that leap of faith…because even the right decision is wrong if it’s made too late.” “You’ve got to take that leap of faith.” Very few things are ever accomplished unless we step out in faith and take certain risks.

Many of us have problems making decisions, taking steps of faith. And we end up being poor managers of God’s resources.

It’s no accident that I’m sharing this message with you. God planned this encounter before you and I were born; He wanted you to receive this message. God is offering you His free gift—His son Jesus. You can take Him or leave Him. But before you leave Him, before you reject Him, at least take a good look at Him. Take a close look at this gift, this treasure.

Read the instruction manual, the Bible, before you say to yourself, “Jesus doesn’t work for me.” I can tell you from life experience that Jesus works! I’ve read the instruction manual. I’ve read the Bible. And one day I decided to believe that Jesus works, and at that moment God flipped on the power switch and Jesus started working in my life. I have never been the same since.

God has given you gifts and talents. Use them. And God has given you the greatest gift of all, Jesus. Don’t reject that gift. Don’t bury Jesus. Take a step of faith and believe and follow the instruction manual. He’ll work for you too!

Amen.

 

Blessed Lucy of Narni

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Blessed Lucy of Narni was the eldest of eleven children of Bartolomeo Broccadelli and Gentilina Cassio. When she was only five years old, she had a vision of the Virgin Mary. Two years later, she had another vision, this time of the Virgin Mary accompanied by Saint Dominic. Dominic is said to have given her the scapular at this time. When she was twelve years old, Lucy made a private vow of chastity, and determined to become a Dominican nun.

Circumstances, however, changed to make doing so difficult.  The next year her father died, leaving her in the care of an uncle. This uncle determined that the best course of action he could take would be to get Lucy married as quickly as possible.

He made several attempts to do so. One of these included holding a large family party. He had invited the man he had chosen as Lucia’s husband to the party, with the intention of having the couple publicly betrothed. He however had not informed Lucia of his intentions. The suitor made an attempt to put a ring on Lucia’s finger, only to be slapped repeatedly for his efforts by Lucia.

A later attempt involved Count Pietro de Alessio of Milan, an acquaintance of the family. Lucia was actually quite fond of him, but felt her earlier vow to become a nun made the possibility of marriage impossible. The strain Lucia felt as a result of the conflicting feelings made her seriously ill. During this time, the Virgin Mary and Saint Dominic again appeared to her, this time accompanied by Catherine of Siena. They reportedly advised Lucia to contract a legal marriage to Pietro, but to explain that her vow of virginity would have to be respected and not violated. Pietro agreed to the terms, and the marriage was formalized.

In 1491 Lucia became Pietro’s legal wife and the mistress of his household, which included a number of servants and a busy social calendar. Despite her busy schedule, Lucia made great efforts to instruct the servants in Christianity and soon became well known locally for her charity to the poor.

Pietro observed Lucia’s behavior, and occasional quirks, quite indulgently. He never objected when she gave away clothing and food nor when she performed austere penances, which included regularly wearing a hair shirt under her garments and spending most of the night in prayer and acting to help the poor. He also seemed to have taken in stride the story he was told by the servants that Lucia was often visited in the evenings by Saint Catherine, Saint Agnes, and Saint Agnes of Montepulciano who helped her make bread for the poor.

However, when one of the servants came up to him one day and told him that Lucia was privately entertaining a handsome young man she appeared to be quite familiar with, he did react. He took up his sword and went to see who this person was. When he arrived, he found Lucia contemplating a large crucifix. The servant told him that the man he had seen Lucia with looked like the figure on the crucifix.

Lucia left one night for a local Franciscan monastic community, only to find it closed. She returned home the following day, stating that she had been led back by two saints. That was enough for Pietro. He had her locked away for the bulk of one Lenten season. She was only visited by servants who brought her food. When Easter arrived, however, she managed to escape from Pietro back to her mother’s house and on 1494 May 8 became a Dominican tertiary. Pietro expressed his disapproval of this in a rather dramatic form, by burning down the monastery of the prior who had given her the habit.

In 1495 Lucia went to Rome and joined a group of Third order Dominican tertiaries. The next year she was sent to Viterbo and here she found she was frequently the object of unwanted attention. It was here, on February 25, 1496 that she is reported to have received the stigmata. Lucia did her best to hide these marks, and was frequently in spiritual ecstasy. The house had a steady stream of visitors who came to speak to Lucia, and, often, just look at her. Even the other nuns were concerned about her, and at one point called in the local bishop who watched Lucia go through the drama of the Passion for twelve hours straight.

The bishop would not make a decision on Lucia, and called in the local inquisition. Reports here vary, some indicating that he referred the case directly to the Pope, who is said to have spoken with her and, with the assistance of Columba of Rieti, ultimately decided in her favor, telling her to go home and pray for him. Other sources question the accuracy of these reports.

At that time Pietro also came to her, making a final plea to persuade Lucia to return with him as his wife. She declined, and Pietro left alone. He would himself later become a Franciscan monk and a famous preacher.

When Lucy returned to the convent in Viterbo, she found that the Duke of Ferrara, Ercole d’Este I, had determined to build a convent in Ferrara and that, having heard of her, he determined that she would be its prioress. In summer of 1497, he invited her to be the founder of this new monastery. Lucia herself, the Dominican order, and the Pope all agreed quickly to the new proposal. The municipal council of Viterbo, however, objected, not wanting to lose Lucy. Lucia had been praying for some time for a way to create a new convent of strict observance, and agreed to go to the new convent.

 

Lucia’s departure precipitated a conflict between Ferrara and Viterbo which would continue for two years. Viterbo wanted to keep the famous mystic for themselves, and the duke wanted her in Ferrara. After extensive correspondence between the parties, on April 15, 1499 Lucia escaped secretly from Viterbo and was officially received in Ferrara on May 7, 1499. Thirteen young girls immediately applied for admission to her new community; the construction of the monastery began in June and was completed two years later, in August 1501. It contained 140 cells for sisters and the novices, but to fill it with suitable vocations proved to be very difficult. Lucia expressed the wish to have there some of her former friends from Viterbo and Narni. Duke Ercole, in September 1501 sent his messenger to Rome asking for the help of the pope’s daughter Lucrezia Borgia, who was preparing to marry Duke’s son Alfonso. She collected all eleven candidates Lucia had indicated and sent them, as a special wedding present to Lucia and to the Duke, a few days ahead of her bridal party. She herself solemnly entered Ferrara on February 2, 1502.

The Duke petitioned the local bishop for some help for Lucia in governing her new community, and he sent ten nuns from another community to join Lucia’s convent. Unfortunately, these ten nuns were members of the Dominican second order, who were canonically permitted to wear black veils, something Lucia and the members of the Dominican third order community were not allowed to do.

Tensions were heightened when one of these veiled outsiders, Sister Maria da Parma, was made the prioress of the convent on September 2, 1503. When Duke Ercole died on January 24, 1505 the new prioress quickly found Lucia to be guilty of some unrecorded transgression, most probably of the support for the Savonarolan church reform, and placed her on a strict penance. Lucia was not allowed to speak to any person but her confessor, who was chosen by the prioress. The local provincial of the Dominican order would also not permit any member of the order to see Lucia. There are records that at least one Dominican, Catherine of Racconigi, did visit her, evidently by bilocation, and that Lucia’s earlier visitation by departed saints continued. In response to Lucia’s insistent prayer her stigmata eventually disappeared, which caused some of the other nuns to question whether they had ever been there at all. When Lucia finally died, in 1544, many people were surprised to find that she had not died years earlier.

Then suddenly everything changed. When her body was laid out for burial so many people wanted to pay their last respects that her funeral had to be delayed by three days. Her tomb in the monastery church was opened four years later and her perfectly preserved body was transferred to a glass case. When Napoleon in 1797 suppressed her monastery the body was transferred to the Cathedral of Ferrara; and on 1935 May 26 – to the Cathedral of Narni.

Lucia was beatified by Pope Clement XI on March 1, 1710

Saint Albert the Great

Saint Albert the Great was born sometime between 1193 and 1206, to the Count of Bollstädt in Lauingen in Bavaria.  Contemporaries such as Roger Bacon applied the term “Magnus” to Albertus during his own lifetime, referring to his immense reputation as a scholar and philosopher.  Albertus was educated principally at Padua, where he received instruction in Aristotle’s writings. A late account by Rudolph de Novamagia refers to Albertus’ encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary, who convinced him to enter Holy Orders. In 1223 (or 1221) he became a member of the Dominican Order, against the wishes of his family, and studied theology at Bologna and elsewhere. Selected to fill the position of lecturer at Cologne, Germany, where the Dominicans had a house, he taught for several years there, at Regensburg, Freiburg, Strasbourg and Hildesheim. In 1245 he went to Paris, received his doctorate, and taught for some time as a master of theology with great success. During this time Thomas Aquinas began to study under Albertus.

In 1254, Albertus was made provincial of the Dominican Order, and fulfilled the arduous duties of the office with great care and efficiency. During his tenure he publicly defended the Dominicans against attacks by the secular and regular faculty of the University of Paris, commented on St. John, and answered what he perceived as errors of the Arabian philosopher Averroes.

In 1260, Pope Alexander IV made him Bishop of Regensburg, an office from which he resigned after three years. During the exercise of his duties he enhanced his reputation for humility by refusing to ride a horse—in accord with the dictates of the Dominican order—instead walking back and forth across his huge diocese. This earned him the affectionate sobriquet, “boots the bishop,” from his parishioners. After his stint as bishop, he spent the remainder of his life partly in retirement in the various houses of his order, yet often preaching throughout southern Germany. In 1270, he preached the eighth Crusade in Austria. Among the last of his labors was the defense of the orthodoxy of his former pupil, Thomas Aquinas, whose death in 1274 grieved Albertus. After suffering a collapse of health in 1278, he died on November 15, 1280, in Cologne, Germany. His tomb is in the crypt of the Dominican church of St. Andreas in Cologne, and his relics at the Cologne Cathedral.

Albertus was beatified in 1622. He was canonized and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1931 by Pope Pius XI. St Albert’s feast day is celebrated on November 15.