Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Doctors of the Church: St. Peter Canisius

Saint Peter Canisius
Feast Day: December 21

Peter Canisius lived at a time of great friction among Christians. The chasm between Protestants and Catholics had become violent and bitter. Peter earned the respect of those from both sides of the dispute through his words and deeds. He was one of the earliest members of the Jesuit order and had many achievements including:
  • forming several colleges and universities, 
  • influencing the emergence of the Catholic press and 
  • authoring Catechisms of the Catholic faith that could be embraced by common people and children. 
Peter was endeared for setting an example for Christian living through his acts of caring for the sick and visiting prisoners even with demanding responsibilities and a hectic schedule. He is believed to have traveled over 20,000 miles on horseback and by foot during his lifetime. Peter once wrote, “If you have too much to do, with God’s help you will find time to do it all”.

Peter engaged non-Catholics with openness and compassion. He once wrote “It is plainly wrong to meet non-Catholics with bitterness or to treat them with discourtesy. For this is nothing else than the reverse of Christ’s example because it breaks the bruised reed and quenches the smoking flax. We ought to instruct with meekness those whom heresy has made bitter and suspicious, and has estranged from orthodox Catholics, especially from our fellow Jesuits.”

In 1547 he attended the Council of Trent. Because he was widely respected by Protestants, Peter was tasked to deliver the Council’s decrees to the eastern Bishops and throughout a hostile Germany after earlier attempts had ended in violence and theft.

At an early age, he authored books on Leo the Great and Saint Cyril that became quite popular. Later his Catechism focused on three primary pillars, wisdom, justice and the sacraments. The concepts of faith, hope, charity and performing good vs. evil were important messages for followers to comprehend in the combative age in which they lived.

Peter had deep faith in Catholicism and God’s intervention. “The fear of many people is greater than necessary, because they look for human and not divine help: they act in despair instead of praying with holy confidence for the oppressed Church.”

Peter Canisius had many talents, but his ability to set an example of faith and love through his actions made him effective at breaking down barriers so his message could be heard. His efforts were instrumental in the Catholic Renewal and the conversion of many Protestants in Austria, Bavaria and Bohemia. Peter became revered as the Second Apostle of Germany for spreading Catholicism through this land in a manner rivaled only by Saint Boniface.

  • Do I worry too much and not pray enough? How can I set aside my fear?
  • Is my example to others as caring, open, and humble as it could be? How can I improve?
  • What simple ways can I find to show the world what being Catholic means?
By: Carl Casareto
Faith Formation Commission

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Doctors of the Church - St. Lawrence of Brindisi

Treasuring that which is of enduring value

This doctor of the church like an earlier St. Lawrence regarded people as treasures.

In the 3rd century, when a deacon, St. Lawrence, was asked to present the treasures of the church he sold what had monetary value to aid the poor. He then presented the people to the Roman official.

Several centuries later, in considering a well-known story of the Pharisees questioning Jesus about paying tribute to Caesar, St. Lawrence of Brindisi remarked upon the worth of people.

“We have been created in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1,26). …. So you are the money in the divine treasure-chest, a coin bearing the image and inscription of the divine emperor. “

The essential likeness that we bear is manifest in our actions. What we do is who we are. If we desire to be like God, we adopt His values.

We can learn to imitate Jesus Him by reading about his life- to read the Bible as His biography.

“For the word of God is a light to the mind and a fire to the will. It enables man to know God and to love him. 

St. Lawrence went on to say “For the soul it is a spiritual treasure of merits yielding an abundance of gold and precious stones.“

Jesus came to live among us to share in our humanity and so we have his example to follow.

“The Most High, the artisan of all things, performed all these works to manifest these treasures of his divinity. That work of God, however, must be considered preeminent in which all these attributes shine out most splendidly. These are much more resplendent and far more evident in the work of the incarnation than in the work of creation.“

St. Lawrence was a Capuchin Franciscan.

He wrote some homilies for the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi who loved God’s creation but especially Christ.

In one St. Lawrence said, “…[God] lavishes the grace by which he deifies men and makes them sharers of the divine nature.” And that "Saint Paul teaches there are two men in each person. One is the external...The other instead is interior, spiritual, immortal and incorruptible. Thus he said in 2 Cor 4:[16] 'what is internal is renewed from day to day.'"

St. Lawrence commended St. Francis for recognizing what is truly valuable.

" The man is perfect who abstains from every offense against God, his conscience and his neighbour....He desires for himself and treasures the good….”

What inspires you to imitate God?

Are there particular people, friends whose outlook and way of doing things influences you to be your best self?

How do you talk about what motivates you to do what you do?

What do you enjoy doing that enriches your life and the lives of others?

To read more about St. Lawrence of Brindisi please visit this page.

I hope you continue to be inspired by reading and praying to the saints.

Laura Ross
Faith Formation Commission Member

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Doctor of the Church: St. Catherine of Siena

St. Catherine of Siena is one of only three female Doctors of the Catholic Church. She is also an uncommon example of a saint and Doctor who served the Church as a layperson. She lived for thirty-three years, and in the course of her short life she composed many prayers and nearly 400 letters that still exist today. Her most notable contribution to the Church, a treatise called The Dialogue of Divine Providence, was dictated by Catherine while in a state of ecstasy over the course of a year. She reveals in detail the relationship between God and a soul, as represented by Catherine herself, with Jesus as the bridge. 

Catherine was an energetic, upbeat, intelligent child, and she was only six years old when she had her first mystical experience. On a walk home, she saw a vision of Christ seated in glory, along with Apostles Peter, Paul, and John. Following this experience, she resolved to dedicate her life to God. 

Catherine’s parents had other intentions for her life. They wanted her to marry, and in response Catherine cut off her hair to make herself unattractive. With her father’s eventual support, she joined the tertiary order of the Dominicans, a group of laity who participate in the works of the order but do not take religious vows. Catherine continued to live at home and committed herself to a life of solitude, intense prayer, and extreme fasting, eating as little food as possible. 

At 19, she had a second mystical experience. Both Jesus and his mother Mary appeared to her, and through this encounter she entered into a spiritual marriage with Christ.

Even though she had committed to a life of solitude, through prayer she felt a call from God to shift towards public service. In her work with the Dominican order, she began to care for lepers and cancer patients, and those suffering from the plague. Catherine was generous and prolific in sharing her intimate knowledge of Christ through her letters to fellow Dominicans and associates, and these letters increased her following in Siena. She was wholly committed to her faith, and challenged others to examine the state of their souls. Catherine also visited men sentenced to death in prison in an effort to help them make peace with God. She accompanied one prisoner to the scaffold, and he called out “Jesus and Catherine!” at his death.

In February, 1375, while visiting St. Christina’s church in Pisa, Catherine received the wounds of the stigmata. They were only visible to her during her life, but could be seen after her death.

Living during a contentious time in Italy’s history, Catherine was often called on to settle disputes. In the political sphere, the Papacy had fallen under the influence of the French crown as seven popes, in succession, resided in Avignon, France, rather than Rome. Catherine was a vocal advocate for unity in the Church. During the summer of 1376, she traveled to Avignon as ambassador of the Republic of Florence to make peace with the Papal States. She was unsuccessful and disowned by the Florentine leaders who used her in their strategy to advance their own political agenda. Catherine responded with a defiant letter. The pope returned to Rome in September of that year, in debatable response to Catherine’s efforts. 

Catherine lived her commitment to God in a broad spectrum. Years in solitude transitioned into serving the poor, imprisoned, and plague-stricken, and, as a lay woman, appealing to leaders for peace and unity in government and the Church with uncommon success.

  • St. Catherine served the poor and sick, and she used persuasion and her peacemaking skills in politics to work for unity in the Church. Do you ever doubt or let self-imposed limits influence what God might otherwise be calling you to do? 
  • Examining the circumstances in your life, are you fully open to the movements of God’s plan for you?
By Annie Syrowski
Faith Formation Commission Member

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Doctors of the Church - St Athanasius of Alexandria

He was born around 296 or 298 in Alexandria, Egypt. His parents where a prominent Christian couple, who had the means to educate the young Athanasius. He was educated in Greek, philosophy, rhetoric and jurisprudence. He studied Hebrew scriptures and the Gospel accounts and Christian texts of which later the Church would recognize as part of the Canon of the New Testament.

He seemed destined to become a Bishop. After Bishop Alexander witnessed the young Athanasius baptizing other children as they played. Immediately, Alexander summoned them and after arriving at his office he encouraged them to become priests. This became Athanasius calling he was ordained deacon about the year 319.

In the year 325, Athonasius served as Alexander’s secretary at the First Council of Nicaea. It was at this council that the term “consubstantial” was suggested by Athanasius. This was incorporated by Hosius into the Nicene Creed. Which was later adopted as the Creed of the Church.

In the year 328, Athanasius became the Bishop of Alexandria, after Alexanders’ death. His bishoproic inspired Athanasius to earn the title of “Athanasius against the world.” for standing against Arianism and the power of Rome. It was Emperor Constantine, who had called the Council of Nicea but later he became sympathetic to Arianism. Despite the Emperor’s change of heart and being exiled from his bishopric. Athanasius continued in Apostolic Faith in the Incarnation by enduring being exiled several times.

It was during one of his exiles in the Egyptian desert that he met the ascetic monk Antony. Their time together resulted in Athanasius writing a biography of “The Life of Antony”. The biography captures Antony’s courage of living life in the desert as a model for Christian living. The book later inspired another Church father, St Augustine of Hippo. Some of Athanasius other writings include “On The Incarnation” and “History of the Arians”. His contribution to the early Church has had a lasting impact. He has given the followers of Christ a large body of work on better understanding our Lord.

In conclusion, St Athanasius was a true defender of Christ’s divinity. 
  • Have you ever found it difficult to speak up for Christ?
  • Do you fear being rejected for being a follower of Christ?

If you are like me, perhaps you answered yes to any of the above questions. The road is not always easy but keep in mind the following scripture verse. 

Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 
Matthew 10:39

By Jaime Gonzalez
Faith Formation Commission Member

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Doctors of the Church: Gregory the Great

Gregory lived from 540 to 604 and was a man these turbulent years. The Roman Empire had fallen, Rome had been sacked several times and most of its grand buildings were in ruins. War, famine and the plague were prevalent throughout Rome and large sections of Europe. The world was desperate for organized, disciplined and visionary leadership. Gregory responded, setting aside personal desires for a detached, secluded life and his impacted is felt to this very day.

Gregory’s family lineage had produced two previous Popes. He was classically educated and won the admiration of Roman citizens for his administrative skills while serving as Prefect of Rome in his early thirties. When Gregory’s father passed in 575, he left public service to pursue his true passion. He converted his home into a Monastery and used his inheritance to establish six more. 

His monastic days were short-lived as Gregory’s skills were needed by the church and he was requested to leave his Monastery to serve in a number of important roles beginning in 579. The plague claimed Gregory’s predecessor, Pope Pelagius II in 590. Gregory reluctantly accepted his ultimate call to duty and became Pope.

Leaving the monastic life behind was a great sacrifice for Gregory. “I remember with sorrow what I once was in the monastery, how I rose in contemplation above all changeable and decaying things and thought of nothing but the things of heaven. I sigh as one who looks back and gazes on the shore he has left behind”.

Gregory’s contributions during his pastoral mission were deep, diverse and far reaching. Among his more impactful actions, Gregory famously promoted the plainsong choral music now known as the Gregorian Chant. 

Among Gregory’s major written works, the “Dialogues” did much to promote the widespread practice of monasticism, it’s lifestyle and Benedictine structure as might be expected from the first monk to become Pope.

Perhaps Gregory’s greatest contribution to the world was commissioning a group of 40 monks under Augustine to bring Christianity to England. These efforts are widely believed to be a catalyst to the unification of the warring tribes of the British Isles as the spread of the gospel brought common ground to the factions. St. Bede documents that Gregory had a very active hand in the conversion with frequent written communication and guidance throughout the process. Inspiring Augustine to forge ahead from trials at Gaul, Gregory wrote “It is better never to undertake any high enterprise than to abandon it when once begun. So with the help of God you must carry out this Holy task… although my office prevents me from working at your side… I hope to share in your joyful reward”

St. Gregory’s feast day is September 3rd.

  • When have I been asked to subordinate my desires to God’s calling?
  • What talents have I been blessed with that can benefit the children of God? 
  • How can I best use my gifts to glorify God and his creation?
By: Carl Casareto
Faith Formation Commission Member

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