Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Doctors of the Church - St. John Chrysostom

St. John attested to Jesus' divinity against the heresy of Arianism.

How can we be like God?
We can imitate God by loving one another.

“The Holy Scriptures were not given
to us that we should enclose
them in books, but that we should
engrave them upon our hearts.”

When we pray, we come to know God’s love.

“Everywhere, wherever you may find yourself, you can set up an altar to God in your mind by means of prayer.”

When we love God, we learn how to demonstrate our love for one another.

“But first I want you to tell me this: do you know the power of love? Christ passed over all the marvelous works which were to be performed by the apostles and said, "By this shall men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another.”

“No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”

In our hearts, we come to love others through empathy- understanding what it means to live as they do.

“Helping a person in need is good in itself. But the degree of goodness is hugely affected by the attitude with which it is done. If you show resentment because you are helping the person out of a reluctant sense of duty, then the person may receive your help but may feel awkward and embarrassed. This is because he will feel beholden to you. If,on the other hand, you help the person in a spirit of joy, then the help will be received joyfully. The person will feel neither demeaned nor humiliated by your help, …. And joy is the appropriate attitude with which to help others because acts of generosity are a source of blessing to the giver as well as the receiver.”

As we do good for others, we can show love for ourselves as well.

“The Church is a hospital, and not a courtroom, for souls. She does not condemn on behalf of sins, but grants remission of sins....In the Church, the troubled find relief, and the heavy-laden, rest.

“Come to me,” says the Lord, “all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

What could be more desirable than to meet this voice? What is sweeter than this invitation? The Lord is calling you to the Church for a rich banquet. He transfers you from struggles to rest, and from tortures to relief. He relieves you from the burden of your sins. He heals worries with thanksgiving, and sadness with joy.

How has prayer helped you to empathize with others?

Which experiences of helping others have you found personally rewarding in ways which are intangible?

What did you learn and how did volunteering bring you contentment?

A famous literary maxim is “To err is human, to forgive divine.” 

When you attend mass, how do the readings and homilies attest to this?

To read more about St. John, please visit this page or this page from the Vatican.

Laura Ross
Faith Formation Commission member

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Doctors of the Church - St. Cyril of Jerusalem

The early Church had to endure many controversies during the first centuries. During these times, Cyril came into the world at or near Jerusalem. The year was 315 A.D. and not much is known of his parents. However, he did receive a formal education which centered on the Church fathers, philosophers and the Bible. He was ordained a priest. Later, when the Bishop died he became the Bishop of Jerusalem. 

During the time of his See, he was exiled three times. He was the Bishop of his See for 37 years, but spent almost 20 years in exile. The main reason was due to the spread of Arianism. 

Over the course of his time as Bishop, he delivered 24 catechesis. The majority of which are addressed to the catechumens who are about to receive Baptism. They explain the Sacrament of Baptism, conversion from secular morals and explain the 10 dogmatic truths in the Creed.

It is important to note that Cyril, was part of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea. Which gave us The Nicene Creed. 

In one of his lectures he goes on to explain that there are two kinds of faith. The first, is a gift from our Lord, as was given at the last hour to the “Good” thief. The second, type of faith given by our Lord. Is the Holy Spirit. This type of faith goes beyond the doctrinal matters and produces effects beyond any human capability. Cyril sites Matthew 17:20, for further explanation. 

It becomes apparent that Cyril was courage’s during his life as Bishop and his works further reinforce his virtue of fortitude. I am reminded as a cradle Catholic. That it is to one’s best interest to read St. Cyril’s catechesis, to gain a richer and deeper understanding of our Baptism. 

By Jaime Gonzalez
Faith Formation Commission

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Holy Cross & St. Peter Damian

Doctors of the Church: St. Peter Damian 

St. Peter Damian was born in Ravenna, Italy in 1007.

St. Peter Damian was one of the most significant figures in the church during the eleventh century. 

At the age of 34, he left a comfortable life as a professor and writer to join the Monastery of Fonte Avellana, an order of Benedictine monks known for their austere lifestyle. 

St. Peter found his calling within this cloistered, monastic life – a life dedicated to prayer and charity. There are two aspects of St. Peter Damian’s life that elevate him in standing among the saints – his devotion to the Holy Cross and his dedication to the formation of rules for leading a monastic life. 

In his time at Fonte Avellana, Peter was drawn to and embraced the order’s Hermitage of Fonte Avellana; the hermitage focused their devotions on the Holy Cross, the central mystery of faith. 

Peter’s personal devotion to the Holy Cross is reflected in statements in his writings at the time:

‘O Blessed Cross, you are venerated, preached, and honored by the father of the Patriarchs, the predictions of the prophets, the senate of Apostles that judges, the victorious army of Martyrs, and the throngs of all the Saints’. 

The Holy Cross represents the supreme act of love for humanity by God. 

Peter compiled a rule for monastic life in which he stressed the rigor of the life of a hermit devoted to a prayerful life. In the silence of the cloister, the monk is called to spend a life of prayer by day and by night, with strict fasting; a monk must put into practice generous brotherly charity in obedience to the leadership of the monastic order. In his time as a Benedictine monk, St. Peter founded 5 additional monastery based hermitages in Italy.

Peter described the hermit’s life as ‘the parlor in which God converses with men’. 

His example of quiet contemplation and connection with God carries forward to today’s life – the special quality that silence in prayer and reflection brings to our lives as we listen to God’s voice in prayer. 

St. Peter Damian died in 1072; he was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XII in 1828. 

For Reflection:
  • Can you think of opportunities to build time into your daily life for silent prayer and reflection? Think of opportunities to enrich your connection with God through prayer?
  • The Holy Cross is venerated during the Easter season; the rich, moving story of the Passion of Christ calls out the significance of the Holy Cross to Catholic Faith. Can we reflect on the significance of the Holy Cross beyond just the Lenten and Easter seasons? How can we do so? 

By Ken Henriksen
Faith Formation Commission

Note: the quotations from St. Peter Damian are cited from: Church Fathers and Teachers – From Saint Leo the Great to Peter Lombard, by Pope Benedict XVI, published by Ignatius Press, 2010.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Doctors of the Church: St. Ephram the Syrian

St. Ephram the Syrian

Feast Day is June 18.

St. Ephram was subjected to the same type of mass relocation that many Christians in the Middle East are facing today. In the year 363, his lifetime home of Nisibis fell to the Persians forcing Ephram to Edessa (in present day Iraq) where he lived in a cave in monastic seclusion and experienced the most fruitful and productive years of his life.

St. Ephram became known as “the Harp of the Holy Ghost” and composed a prolific number of poems and religious hymns as pioneer in the use of these forms of theological expression. He applied his verse to music in his efforts to combat some of the heresies of the day and address mysteries like the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the Incarnation. Ephram’s descriptions of death, the Last Judgement, heaven and hell later influenced Dante and his work. Several of his prayers and hymns are recited and sung regularly to this day.

Even Ephram’s life in Edessa was filled with challenges. At one point, Valens, and Arian Emperor, camped outside the town and threatened to kill all Christians who did not submit. The Edessans courageously defended their home, attributing their inspiration and determination to St. Ephram’s hymns.

Although he was born to a Christian family, Ephram evolved from a childhood of worldly pursuits in a manner similar to St. Augustine. He stated “I was born in the way of truth: though my childhood was unaware of the greatness of the benefit, I knew it when trial came.” Although there is vagueness to the record of his younger days, some believe the development of his faith was aided by a brief imprisonment after being falsely accused of the theft of sheep. In response to this injustice, he began a life devoted to God. He served as a Deacon in Nisibis before he and his fellow Christians were forced to depart. In his most famous prayer, Ephram seeks the grace to rise above earthly ways.

The Lenten Prayer of St. Ephram
O Lord and Master of my life, take me from the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.
Yea O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen

An extended version of this prayer can be found here.

A rendition of his “Hymn to the Light” can be found here.

  • Do I examine my thoughts and actions as a means of improving my faith?
  • Can I use adversity in my life as a platform for spiritual growth?
  • How can I inspire others to move forward with their own spiritual journey?
By: Carl Casareto
Faith Formation Commission 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Doctors of the Church - St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis defined love as a choice of the will.

“The pleasure and the movement of the will towards kind things is properly speaking, Love.”

We learn to choose love - in part through reception of the Eucharist.

On the Feast of Corpus Christi, the church recognizes the gift that unites us with God and with each other.

”You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves."

“Within the practices of religion, the Blessed Sacrament is what the Sun is to the stars; it is truly the soul of the Christian religion. It is the ineffable mystery that comprehends divine charity, by which God, truly uniting to us, communicates to us his magnificence, graces and favors.”

”I often speak with my Teacher, Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, because I can learn from Him. Jesus is the Teacher of the science of holiness. I go to Him because I would like to learn from Him how to become a saint. Of what use to me is all knowledge and education, if I do not become holy?"

"When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage; speak to Him about your spiritual life, gazing upon Him in your soul where He is present for your happiness; welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence." 

St. Francis worked with and influenced others who became saints.

He and St. Jane de Chantal founded the Order of the Visitation, sisters who served as teachers or nurses. He chose the name in honor of the humility and love Mary showed by attending to her cousin Elizabeth.

Later, prior to the 20th century, St. John Bosco founded a religious congregation inspired by the teachings of St. Francis de Sales. St. John recognized people’s potential and strove to evoke their innate holiness working with young men which society judged to be beyond help.

We can grow in love and should not be discouraged when we find it challenging.

For St. Francis wrote, “Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them -- every day begin the task anew.”
  • How does your participation in the sacraments enrich you?
  • How do you personally demonstrate your love of God with your whole heart, soul, strength, and mind?
  • How does your love of God impact how you love others?
  • How do others inspire you to be your best self?
Read more about St. Francis from Pope Benedict XVI

By Laura Ross
Faith Formation Commission

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Doctors of the Church: St. Leo the Great

Saint Leo The Great
Birthdate Unknown- Died 461
Feast Day: November 10

Leo the Great was recognized as a peacemaker and unifier during an age where the Church and its people were in desperate need of both. The decaying Roman empire was in a state of collapse, leaving room for many forms of heresy to spread and barbarian armies to infiltrate. Leo faced these challenges head on.

“Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife”

Leo was a Deacon resolving a dispute in Gaul for the Imperial Court in 440 when Pope Sixtus III passed and Leo was chosen successor.

Leo’s writing on the Incarnation, originally recorded in a letter to the Patriarch of Constantinople, was adopted as official doctrine of the Church at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. His teaching on the human and divine nature of Christ is captured in his famous quotation:

“It is one in the same Son of God Who exists in both natures, taking what is ours to himself without losing what is His own.”

This thinking, and Leo’s persuasive abilities were used to combat heresies such as Pelagianism (denying original sin, redemption through Christ and the origin of grace from God) and Manichaeism (combining elements of Christianity, Dualism, Buddhism and Babylonian folklore) to further his objective of unity for the Church.

Leo continued to add discipline and depth to his teaching by explaining the importance of Christ’s passion through his writings and many sermons (nearly 100 of which are still preserved today).

“No one, however weak, is denied a share in the victory of the cross. No one is beyond the help of the prayer of Christ.”

“Our sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ has no other purpose than to transform us into that which we receive”

Leo is also famous for using his persuasive abilities to avoid the ravages of attack by brutal enemies. He traveled unarmed to meet the notorious Attila the Hun and somehow convinced him to withdraw the armies advancing on Rome. Raphael’s fresco depicting the meeting is located at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City.

Similarly, Leo convinced the Vandal Gaiseric not to burn Rome at the conclusion of their pillage in 455. Upon their departure, Leo actively aided those who were devastated by the ransacking and those who lost loved ones to captivity by the perpetrators.

Leo’s faith, strength, disciple and administrative talents kept the Church unified through the collapse of Rome and positioned it as one of the most influential institutions of the medieval world. 

  • How can I focus on ways to use my talents to aid our community?
  • How can faith lift me to take on the challenges of our times?
  • How do I fearlessly get involved so my good intentions can affect positive change?
Carl Casareto
Faith Formation Commission Member

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Doctors of the Church - St. John of Avila

The Apostle of Andalusia

John of Avila, was born in Almodovar del Campo, in the Provence of Ciudad Real, on the 6th of January in the year of 1499. His parents, Catalina Xixon and Alfonso de Avila, where a devote Catholic couple. His parents had the means to send him to the University of Salamanca to study Law. He was confronted during his studies in Salamanca and left without a law degree. After some time, he enrolled into the University of Alcala. Under the wings of the Dominican friar Domingo de Soto, he received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and theology.

During his time in school his parents died and they left him substantial inheritance. Thereafter, he liquidated the assets and gave the money to the poor. His spiritual desire was in missionary work. After he was ordained a priest in the spring of 1526, he set his eyes on Tlaxcala. However, while in Seville the Archbishop saw in him the opportunity to evangelize in Andalusia. 

The young priest went on to make missionary contributions; creating a following of disciples; establishing schools and colleges in Andalusia. Some of his note worthy disciples include the Jesuits. He became spiritual adviser to other Saints. These include St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and others. 

St. John of Avila died on the 10th of May, 1569 in the city of Montilla in Cordoba. His remains are located in the Jesuit Church of the Incarnation.

Jaime Gonzalez
Faith Formation Commission Member