Called to Transfigured Service ~ The Rev. Dcn. Mark G. Dickson-Patrick, Novice

Reading 1 – Genesis 12:1-4A

The LORD said to Abram:
“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you. “I will make of you a great nation,
and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.  All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.”  Abram went as the LORD directed him.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22

  1. (22) Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
    Upright is the word of the LORD, and all his works are trustworthy.  He loves justice and right; of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
    R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
    See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, To deliver them from death
    and preserve them in spite of famine.
    R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
    Our soul waits for the LORD, who is our help and our shield.  May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us who have put our hope in you.
    R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
     

Reading 2 – 2 Timothy 1:8B-10

Beloved:  Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.  He saved us and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works ut according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Gospel – Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.  And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here.  If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”  When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.  But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”  And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the great foundress of the Missionaries of Charity who ministered to the sick, the poor, and the dying in the streets of Calcutta, India, has inspired thousands of people through her life of service to the outcast. Many have been inspired to take up her mantle and continue her work as a member of her order or through their own acts of charity and outreach to the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed. Many thought that her good works were done in order to help people, that she was called to help people. To this claim, the great saint said, “Many people mistake our work for our vocation. Our vocation is the love of Jesus.” This saint who experienced spiritual darkness for a vast majority of her religious life, and yet still devoted her life and the life of her community to aiding the poor stated that her vocation is “the love of Jesus,” her whole being and calling in life was geared to the love of Jesus alone. How beautiful!

To what are we called? What is our vocation? In our readings today, we are given a good visualization to help us to evaluate our own personal individual calls, our vocations, and how they are lining up with what we are doing in our lives. Are we doing what God is calling us to do? In our first reading, we hear the calling of Abraham, previously known as Abram, as God tells him “I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” Abraham’s calling was to be a great nation, a blessing to all the world. Called to be a Dominican deacon on the road to priesthood, I am called to prayer, study, preaching, and teaching in the spirit of St. Dominic de Guzman.

St. Paul tells Timothy in our second reading that we are to “bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” Because of our salvation, our Lord calls us to a life of particular service to the Kingdom of God. How do we discern this? This is something that my husband, Alex, struggled with particularly as he got involved with the local Church. Through prayer and invitation of the Holy Spirit, he has discovered that he really loves teaching little kids in Sunday school. That is where he finds his inspiration, his niche for the growth of the Kingdom of God. Praise God!

Whatever our calling, whether it be to the priesthood, diaconate, religious life, teaching, lay reader, preaching, or any other form of service to the Kingdom of God, I propose today that we are called to live a life of transfigured service. In our Gospel reading, our Lord takes Peter, James, and John atop the mountain and is there transfigured before them, gleaming white and giving them a foretaste of His resurrection and life after the resurrection. In doing so, our Lord called them and so too calls us, to life of transfigured service, transfigured by His grace and His love and bringing that gift to all people.

Let us ask the Lord to daily transfigure us by His goodness, love, mercy and grace, that we might discover and fully live out the duties of our callings in this life, that we might enter our heavenly reward having accomplished all that the Lord has put before us and we are welcomed home, as the Lord says, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your rest, prepared for you from before the foundation of the world.”

Blessed Peter Geremia

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God has a mission for each of us and has given us the gifts to successfully complete the purpose for which He created us. Our job is to discern our role in His creation. The gifts He has given us can be the instrument of our damnation when used against His purposes; when we discern correctly through prayer and spiritual direction these same talents and abilities can sanctify us and those around us. It’s not too late to seek God’s will for your life–in fact, we should attempt to understand His will for our every action, each day, using all the gifts his has given us.

Peter Geremia was unusually gifted. He was sent early to the University of Bologna, where he passed his studies brilliantly, and attracted the attention and praise of all. On the brink of a successful career as a lawyer, he experienced a sudden and total conversion.

Having retired one night, he was pleasantly dreaming of the honors that would soon come to him in his work, when he heard a knock at the window. As his room was on the third floor, and there was nothing for a human to stand on outside his window, he sat up, in understandable fright, and asked who was there.

A hollow voice responded that he was a relative who had just died, a successful lawyer who had wanted human praise so badly that he had lied to win it, and now was eternally lost because of his pride. Peter was terrified, and acted at once upon the suggestion to turn, while there was still time, from the vanity of public acclaim. He went the next day to a locksmith and bought an iron chain, which he riveted tightly about him. He began praying seriously to know his vocation.

Soon thereafter, God made known to him that he should enter the Dominican Order. He did so as soon as possible. His new choice of vocation was a bitter blow to his father, who had gloried in his son’s achievements, hoping to see him become the most famous lawyer in Europe. He angrily journeyed to Bologna to see his son and demanded that he come home. The prior, trying to calm the excited man, finally agreed to call Peter. As the young man approached them, radiantly happy in his new life, the father’s heart was touched, and he gladly gave his blessing to the new undertaking.

Peter’s brilliant mind and great spiritual gifts found room for development in the order, and he became known as one of the finest preachers in Sicily. He was so well known that Saint Vincent Ferrer asked to see him, and they conversed happily on spiritual matters. He always preached in the open air, because there was no church large enough to hold the crowds that flocked to hear him.

Being prior of the abbey, Peter was consulted one day when there was no food for the community. He went down to the shore and asked a fisherman for a donation. He was rudely refused. Getting into a boat, he rowed out from the shore and made a sign to the fish; they broke the nets and followed him. Repenting of his bad manners, the fisherman apologized, whereupon Peter made another sign to the fish, sending them back into the nets again. The records say that the monastery was ever afterwards supplied with fish.

Peter was sent as visitator to establish regular observance in the monasteries of Sicily. He was called to Florence by the pope to try healing the Greek schism. A union of the opposing groups was affected, though it did not last. Peter was offered a bishopric (and refused it) for his work in this matter.

At one time, when Peter was preaching at Catania, Mount Etna erupted and torrents of flame and lava flowed down on the city. The people cast themselves at his feet, begging him to save them. After preaching a brief and pointed sermon on repentance, Peter went into the nearby shrine of Saint Agatha, removed the veil of the saint, which was there honored as a relic, and held it towards the approaching tide of destruction. The eruption ceased and the town was saved.

This and countless other miracles he performed caused him to be revered as a saint. He raised the dead to life, healed the crippled and the blind, and brought obstinate sinners to the feet of God. Only after his death was it known how severely he had punished his own body in memory of his youthful pride (Benedictines, Dorcy).

Born: Palermo, Sicily, Italy, in 1381

Died: March 7, 1432

Beatified: Pius VI confirmed cultus in 1784

Blessed Jordan of Pisa

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At a time when scholars believed that no colloquial tongue could ever replace Latin as a gentleman’s language, Jordan worked to make Italian the beautiful tongue that it is today. That’s not the reason he was beatified by the Church but it’s interesting and sometimes overlooked.

Jordan attended the University of Paris where he first encountered the Dominican friars in 1276. Four years later, probably after obtaining his degrees, he returned to Italy and took the habit. He began a long teaching career there as soon as he was qualified to do so.

Because of the excellence of his preaching in Florence, Jordan was appointed first lector there in 1305. He seems to have been fascinated with the whole question of preaching as an apostolic tool, and to have been one of the first to make a scientific study of it. He pointed out that the Greek church was “invaded by a multitude of errors,” because the Greeks had no preachers; he could never say enough in praise of Saint Dominic’s farsightedness in establishing an order specifically for preaching.

Jordan studied methods of making sermons more effective, both by using examples that would reach the people, and by the use of the vernacular. This latter was a much-disputed subject in his day (they had Dan Amon’s then, too); Jordan was considered a daring innovator. Because it was controversial, he strove to make Italian a beautiful instrument on which he could play the melodies of the Lord.

Blessed with an extraordinary memory, Jordan is supposed to have known the breviary by heart, as well as the missal, most of the Bible (with its marginal commentary), plus the second part of the Summa. This faculty of memory he used in his sermons, but he was quick to point out to young preachers that learning alone can never make a preacher. By the holiness of his own life he made this plain, and continually preached it to those he was training to preach.

Jordan of Pisa had two great devotions–to Our Blessed Mother and to Saint Dominic. Once he was favored with a vision of Our Lady; she came into the fathers’ refectory and served at table. Jordan, who was the only one who could see her, could barely eat for excitement. He spoke often of her in his sermons, and also of Saint Dominic. He founded a number of confraternities in Pisa, one of which has lasted until now.

Jordan died on his way to Paris to teach at Saint Jacques. His body was returned from Piacenza, where death overtook him, to rest in the church at Pisa (Benedictines, Dorcy).

Born:1255 at Pisa, Italy

Died: August 19, 1311 at Piacenza of natural causes while on his way to teach in Paris; relics venerated at the church of Saint Catalina at Pisa, Italy

Beatified: August 23, 1833 (cultus confirmed) by Pope Gregory XVI; 1838 (beatification)

Blessed Henry of Suso ~ Servant of the Eternal Wisdom

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His father belonged to the noble family of Berg; his mother, a holy woman from whom he took his name, to a family of Sus (or Süs). When thirteen years of age he entered the Dominican convent at Constance, where he made his preparatory, philosophical, and theological studies.

From 1324 to 1327 he took a supplementary course in theology in the Dominican studium generale at Cologne, where he sat at the feet of Johann Eckhart, “the Master”, and probably at the side of Tauler, both celebrated mystics. Returning to Constance, he was appointed to the office of lector, from which he seems to have been removed some time between 1329 and 1334. In the latter year he began his apostolic career. About 1343 he was elected prior of a convent, probably at Diessenhofen. Five years later he was sent from Constance to Ulrn where he remained until his death.

Suso’s life as a mystic began in his eighteenth year, when giving up his careless habits of the five preceding years, he made himself “the Servant of the Eternal Wisdom”, which he identified with the Divine essence and, in a concrete form, with the personal Eternal Wisdom made man. Henceforth a burning love for the Eternal Wisdom dominated his thoughts and controlled his actions. He had frequent visions and ecstasies, practised severe austerities (which he prudently moderated in maturer years), and bore with rare patience corporal afflictions, bitter persecutions and grievous calumnies.

He became foremost among the Friends of God in the work of restoring religious observance in the cloisters. His influence was especially strong in many convents of women, particularly in the Dominican convent of Katherinenthal, a famous nursery of mysticism in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and in that of Toss, where lived the mystic Elsbeth Stagel, who turned some of his Latin into German, collected and preserved most of his extant letters, and drew from him the history of his life which he himself afterwards developed and published.

In the world he was esteemed as a preacher, and was heard in the cities and towns of Swabia, Switzerland, Alsace, and the Netherlands. His apostolate, however, was not with the masses, but rather with individuals of all classes who were drawn to him by his singularly attractive personality, and to whom he became a personal director in the spiritual life.

It has often been incorrectly said that he established among the Friends of God a society which he called the Brotherhood of the Eternal Wisdom. The so-called Rule of the Brotherhood of the Eternal Wisdom is but a free translation of a chapter of his “Horologium Sapientiae”, and did not make its appearance until the fifteenth century.

HIS WRITINGS

The first writing from the pen of Suso was the “Büchlein der Wahrheit”, which he issued while a student at Cologne. Its doctrine was unfavourably criticized in some circles — very probably on account of its author’s close relations with Eckhart, who had just been called upon to explain or to reject certain propositions — but it was found to be entirely orthodox.

As in this, so in his other writings Suso, while betraying Eckhart’s influence, always avoided the errors of “the Master”. The book was really written in part against the pantheistic teachings of the Beghards, and against the libertine teachings of the Brethren of the Free Spirit. Father Denifle considers it the most difficult “little book” among the writings of the German mystics.

Whereas in this book Suso speaks as a contemplative and to the intellect, in his next, “Das Büchlein der ewigen Weisheit”, published early in 1328, he is eminently practical and speaks out of the fullness of his heart to “simple men who still have imperfections to be put off”. Bihlmeyer accepts Denifle’s judgment that it is the “most beautiful fruit of German mysticism”, and places it next to the “Homilies” of St. Bernard, and the “Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à Kempis. In the second half of the fourteenth and in the fifteenth century there was no more widely read meditation book m the German language.

In 1334 Suso translated this work into Latin, but in doing so added considerably to its contents, and made of it an almost entirely new book, to which he gave the name “Horologium Sapientiae”. Even more elevating than the original, finished in language, rich in figure, rhythmic in movement, it became a favourite book in the cloisters at the close of the Middle Ages, not only in Germany, but also in the Netherlands, France, Italy, and England.

To the same period of Suso’s literary activity may belong “Das Minnebüchlein” but its authenticity is doubtful.

After retiring to Ulm Suso wrote the story of his inner life (“Vita” or “Leben Seuses”), revised the “Büchlein der Wahrheit”, and the “Büchlein der ewigen Weisheit”, all of which, together with eleven of his letters (the “Briefbüchlein”), and a prologue, he formed into one book known as the “Exemplar Seuses”.

Suso is called by Wackernagel and others a “Minnesinger in prose and in the spiritual order.” The mutual love of God and man which is his principal theme gives warmth and colour to his style. He used the full and flexible Alamannian idiom with rare skill, and contributed much to the formation of good German prose, especially by giving new shades of meaning to words employed to describe inner sensations. His intellectual equipment was characteristic of the schoolmen of his age. In his doctrine there was never the least trace of an unorthodox tendency.

For centuries he exercised an influence upon spiritual writers. Among his readers and admirers were Thomas à Kempis and Bl. Peter Canisius.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII
Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910, Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor
Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of Ne

Born: March 21, 1295 at Uberlingen, Germany as Heinrich von Berg

Died: January 25, 1361 at Ulm, Germany

Beatified: 1831 by Pope Gregory XVI

Representation: Dominican with the Holy Name on his chest

Works: Book of the Eternal Wisdom, The Thirst of God

Ashes Thou Art ~ Ash Wednesday ~ Br. Brent Whetstone

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Lack of proper catechesis is killing the church. Today begins a season of self-reflection on our mortality. It is supposed to be a time where we focus inwardly on who we are as Christians, demonstrated by one act, one ancient act of repentance and holiness:  the act of the imposition of ashes. This one act shows the world that we are followers of Christ. It is not to draw attention to ourselves…but to the sacrifice he made for us.

Sadly, however, this incredibly holy day in the church year, like most things in the church, has been hijacked. It has been hijacked by attention seekers and the one-uppers. From glitter ash…. apparently made from the souls of dead unicorns and used to promote an agenda, to ashes to go, and drive-through services, the solemnity of the observance of Ash Wednesday has been thrown out the window to make way for special interest groups to have the spotlight thrust upon themselves for all the world to see.

It bothers me greatly to see that this solemn day is being used as a day to draw attention away from Christ. Don’t get me wrong, there is some good that can come from ministers being out in the town square with ashes to go. I know that some, like my friend David and his church are out doing ministry and meeting people where they need to be met, but there must be limits, and this holy day should not be used for secular purposes.

Now that we know what Ash Wednesday is not, I want to talk a little bit about what Ash Wednesday is and why Lent is 40 days long.  According to the Gospels, Jesus spent the 40 days in the desert fasting. It was there that he was tempted by Satan and overcame those temptations. As Christians, we make preparations for Easter by fasting for the 40 days of Lent. To begin this 40 day fast we have a service called the Ash Wednesday service, where palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned and the ash is used by the priest to mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross.

But why ashes? Ashes being used as a sign of repentance or of sorrow actually have a biblical basis at its roots. In the Old Testament, we see several examples of this.  From the book of Job: ” I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”  The prophet Jeremiah calls for repentance by saying: “O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes.” Both of these instances are outward signs of repentance using ashes.  Ashes as a sign of repentance is not only something found in the Old Testament.  We see ashes used in the New Testament as well; as a matter of fact, both in the Gospel of Saint Matthew and the Gospel of Saint Luke, Jesus speaks of the practice, “If the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago (sitting) in sackcloth and ashes.”

Ashes are an important sign of our repentance. Ash Wednesday is the day that we mark our 40 day journey of repentance with a simple of act that has so much power and meaning behind it. When the priest or minister takes his thumb and dips it in the ashes and makes the sign of the cross on our foreheads we are acknowledging our willingness to start the journey to the cross with Christ. To reflect on our own faults, to strive to be better Christians, to outwardly say we are sinners in need of a savior. There is nothing political about Ash Wednesday. The only focus should be on those words, “you are dust and to dust you will return.”

Let us pray: Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

 

 

Blessed Villana

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Blessed Villana was the daughter of Andrew de’Botti, a Florentine merchant, and was born in 1332. When she was thirteen she ran away from home to enter a convent but her attempts were unsuccessful and she was forced to return. To prevent any repetition of her flight, her father shortly afterwards gave her in marriage to Rosso di Piero. After her marriage she appeared completely changed; she gave herself up to pleasure and dissipation and lived a wholly idle and worldly life. One day, as she was about to start for an entertainment clad in a gorgeous dress adorned with pearls and precious stones, she looked at herself in a mirror. To her dismay, the reflection that met her eyes was that of a hideous demon. A second and a third mirror showed the same ugly form.

Thoroughly alarmed and recognizing in the reflection the image of herself sin-stained soul, she tore off her fine attire and, clad in the simplest clothes she could find, she betook herself weeping to the Dominican Fathers at Santa Maria Novella to make a full confession and to ask absolution and help. This proved the turning point of her life, and she never again fell away. Before long Villana was admitted to the Third Order of St. Dominic, and after this she advanced rapidly in the spiritual life. Fulfilling all her duties as a married woman, she spent all her available time in prayer and reading. She particularly loved to read St. Paul’s Epistles and the lives of the saints. At one time, in a self-abasement and in her love for the poor, she would have gone begging for them from door to door had not her husband and parents interposed. So completely did she give herself up to God that she was often rapt in ecstacy, particularly during Mass or at spiritual conferences; but she had to pass through a period of persecution when she was cruelly calumniated and her honor was assailed.

Her soul was also purified by strong pains and by great bodily weakness. However, she passed unscathed through all these trials and was rewarded by wonderful visions and olloquies with our Lady and other saints. Occasionally the room in which she dwelt was filled with supernatural light, and she was also endowed with the gift of prophecy. As she lay on her deathbed, she asked that the Passion should be read to her, and at the words “He bowed His head and gave up the ghost”, she crossed her hands on her breast and passed away. Her body was taken to Santa Maria Novella, where it became such an object of veneration that for over a month it was impossible to proceed with the funeral.

People struggled to obtain shreds of her clothing, and she was honored as a saint from the day of her death. Her bereaved husband use to say that, when he felt discouraged and depressed, he found strength by visiting the room in which his beloved wife had died.

Born: 1332 in Florence, Italy

Died: December of 1360 of natural causes; body taken to Santa Maria Novella; the Fathers were unable to bury her for a month due to the constant crowd of mourners

Beatified: March 27 1824 (cultus confirmed) by Pope Leo XII

 

 

Birds and Flowers and Faith ~ Br. Chip Noon, Novice

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Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” This is from today’s Gospel.

The last several weeks have been a particular trial for me…physically and emotionally. It has seemed like there is no anchorage. I felt helplessly adrift, even having fleeting thoughts of calling my mother for advice…my mother who has been gone these last six years.

I, who usually know exactly what I’m doing and what I will do, I who have been asked innumerable times during my life, “So what is your advice here, Chip?”

Adrift and alone in an endless ocean with no lighthouses, harbor buoys, or navigation by the stars.

And then, in preparation for this homily, I turn to the USCCB site for the readings for February 26th and what do I find? “I will never forget you,” says the Lord.

He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold.”

Therefore do not make any judgment before the appointed time…”

The word of God is living and effective;
discerning reflections and thoughts of the heart.”

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

And as has happened so many times before, a mantel of serenity descended upon me and left me comforted.

Every single one of today’s readings has the same message: I am loved and all I need do is trust in God.

Then why do we kick against the traces? How is it we are lured down the path of worry and anxiety? What does being ill at ease gain us?

Well, in my case, if I examine the past few weeks, I think, and erroneously, that that path will lead me to something or someone who will say, “It’s OK, Chip.” I suppose when times get tough, we may get going but we also look for comfort from external sources: spouses, parents, friends, strong leaders. We can’t help it…we’re human, after all. I remember reading several biographies of General George S. Patton from World War II. He was tough, competent, aggressive, and yet he constantly had to tell himself, “Do not take counsel of your fears.” We are all children at our core.

But that’s a biological truth. We are all children. Even to our dying day. We are all seeking comfort, peace, protection. So if that’s the case, that we are all like this, then it must be a gift…or a curse…from God. A curse if we don’t pay attention to what God tells us time and time again: “Quit worrying…I’ve got your back.”

But a gift if we do pay attention, if we adopt a daily exercise of admitting our childhood state, then it’s a part of that exercise to ask God for help. “I’m your child. I need your help.”

There, how hard is that? “I’m your child. I need your help.”

Oh…there’s one other part of the exercise…we have to wait for God’s help with all trust and anticipation. Because as he tells us, “…for behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Lord, make us like little children who want to be held. Help us to turn our will over to you who provide all things for all of us. And Lord, help us to seek first your kingdom and find it everywhere we are.

Amen.