Category Archives: Saints

Saint Lawrence

St LawrenceSaint Lawrence, deacon and martyr, is clearly a disciple of Christ that we need to follow. He prayed and worked; he never reduced his ministry to mere activism.

Saint Lawrence was Chief of the seven deacons of Rome. In the year 258 Pope Sixtus was led out to die, and Saint Lawrence followed beside him, weeping because unable to share his fate. Where are you going, my father, without your son? Where are you going, holy pontiff, without your deacon? Never did you offer a sacrifice without my serving you at the altar. In what way have I displeased you? The holy Pope comforted him with the words, I am not abandoning you, my son; a more difficult trial and a more glorious victory are reserved for you; in three days you will follow me.

This prophecy was fulfilled. After the Pope’s martyrdom the prefect of the city, knowing the rich offerings which the Christians put into the hands of the clergy, demanded the treasures of the Roman Church from Lawrence, their guardian. The Saint promised to show him, at the end of three days, riches exceeding all the wealth of the empire. He was granted the time of delay. The Archdeacon of Rome went about assembling the poor, the infirm, and the religious who lived by the alms of the faithful, and he brought them to the prefect on the appointed day. Behold the treasures I promised you; I add pearls and precious stones — these virgins and widows consecrated to God; the Church has no other riches. The prefect replied: How dare you play games with me, miserable one? Is this how you show your contempt for the imperial power?

Christ, whom Lawrence had served in His poor, gave him strength in the conflict which ensued. After being placed on the rack, he was stretched on a grill over a slow fire. He joked about his pains. I am roasted enough on this side, he said, perhaps you should turn me over. Soon, his gaze towards heaven, he gave up his soul to God. He was buried in the catacomb near the Tiburtine Way, called the Verano Field, a little over a mile from the city walls. The faithful watched there for three days to mourn their holy Archdeacon who had been so good to them. God, by the glory of this holy martyr, demonstrates the value He sets upon love for the poor. Innumerable prayers were offered at his tomb. Saint Lawrence continued from his throne in heaven his charity to those in need, granting them, as Saint Augustine says, the smaller graces which they sought, and leading them to the desire of better gifts.

Reflection: Our Lord appears before us in the persons of the poor. Charity to them is a great sign of predestination. It is almost impossible, the holy Fathers assure us, for any one who is charitable to the poor, above all for Christ’s sake, to perish.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 9; Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).

Saint John Mary Vianney

St John VianneyToday is the Feast day of Saint John Mary Vianney, the Curé d’Ars. He died on 4 August 1859, and was canonized and declared the patron of priests in 1929 by Pope Pius XI.

The Curé taught his parishioners primarily by the witness of his life. We recognize that from his example his people learned to pray, to visit Jesus frequently in the Tabernacle.

“One need not say much to pray well”, he explained to them, “we know that Jesus is there in the Tabernacle. Let us open our hearts to him, let us rejoice in his sacred presence. That is the best prayer”. And he would urge them: “Come to communion, my brothers and sisters, come to Jesus. Come to live from him in order to live with him… Of course you are not worthy of him, but you need him!”

Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his letter proclaiming the Year of the Priest, “In his time the Curé of Ars was able to transform the hearts and the lives of so many people because he enabled them to experience the Lord’s merciful love. Our own time urgently needs a similar proclamation and witness to the truth of Love: for God is Love (I John 4:8).”

Let us pray for our parish priests today.

Saints Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany

Raising Lazarus Martha and Mary Hunterian PsalterOn the Universal liturgical calendar of the Church today’s feast is for Saint Martha of Bethany. Yet, on the Benedictine liturgical calendar the Church honors the three of Bethany: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus  described in the Gospels as saints. Revealed in sacred Scripture, these people are acclaimed as the much-loved friends of Jesus (according to Luke and John). In the Gospel of Luke ewe read the well-known story of hospitality noting Martha as a symbol of the active life and Mary of the contemplative. The Lord holds both women in tension of what the disciple is to be: a contemplative in action.

The Lord’s raising of Lazarus from the dead is an anticipation of resurrection and a sign of eternal life for the rest of us who are baptized into the Mystical Body of Christ. Resurrection from the dead becomes, with this pericopy a powerful “game-changer” in the life of every human being. The death and subsequent raising of Lazarus evokes in each of us the acknowledge that we do not make ourselves, that God is the only Creator of who we are and what we are about as persons (not as individuals). This gesture of the Lord’s invites each of us to a deeper faith in the Messiah.

So, why is honoring all three characters crucial in our Christian life? Each person: Mary, Martha and Lazarus are convicted in the friendship with Jesus. If friendship, then fidelity, and perseverance, gratitude and hospitality.

Why is this a true feast for Benedictine monks, nuns, sisters and Oblates (laity)?

Saint Benedict sees all persons as a gift of God. The greatest gift was the person of Jesus who received as the giftedness of each person when he said: “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.” Our Holy Father Saint Benedict is quite direct in how we treat the stranger, how welcome the person who presents himself at the door, we definitive statements. In Chapter 53 of Rule of Saint Benedict we read:

All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35). Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims. Once a guest has been announced, the superior and the brothers are to meet him with all the courtesy of love. First of all, they are to pray together and thus be united in peace, but prayer must always precede the kiss of peace because of the delusions of the devil. All humility should be shown in addressing a guest on arrival or departure. By a bow of the head or by a complete prostration of the body, Christ is to be adored because he is indeed welcomed in them. After the guests have been received, they should be invited to pray; then the superior or an appointed brother will sit with them. The divine law is read to the guest for his instruction, and after that every kindness is shown to him. The superior may break his fast for the sake of a guest, unless it is a day of special fast which cannot be broken. The brothers, however, observe the usual fast. The abbot shall pour water on the hands of the guests, and the abbot with the entire community shall wash their feet. After the washing they will recite this verse: God, we have received your mercy in the midst of your temple (Ps 47 [48]:10). Great care and concern are to be shown in receiving poor people and pilgrims, because in them more particularly Christ is received; our very awe of the rich guarantees them special respect.

The hospitality shown by the the Holy Three is what we come to know as their personal mission given by God, their personal “I Am” and not mere kindness to the other. In the person of Jesus we meet his enjoyment of their company because it show us how the beauty of human friendship and love is at the core of our DNA. The Church’s honoring Saints Mary, Martha and Lazarus is a sign of hope and promise for all who are in Christ Jesus.

Can we live as the Saints of Bethany? Can we live as Saint Benedict shows us?

Saint James the Apostle

St James the ApostleWe honor Saint James, the Apostle. Scripture reveals that James was the first Apostle to be martyred according to the book of Acts of the Apostles. This James carries with him the title of “the Greater,”  who is not to be confused with James the Lesser (May 3) or with the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.

The Church prays,

Almighty everliving God, who consecrated the first fruits of your apostles by the blood of Saint James: Grant, we pray, that your Church may be strengthened by his confession of faith and constantly sustained by his protection.

Some things to remember about Saint James from Scripture:

“My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” (Jesus to James and John, Mt. 20:23)

Jesus questioned their ambition, saying, “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”

At the time of James’ death, we learn that Peter was imprisoned, and then miraculously freed. Why did James die and not Peter?

The Gospel shows us the face of  James and his brother wanting a privileged place with Jesus in his Kingdom. James  got his wish of being first in the Church: he gave his life for the salvation of others.

Saint Mary Magdalen

noli me tangereWe love Mary Magdalen because of the way in which the boldness of her love for Jesus made her stare death down beyond all human logic or hope.  For her there is no question that the Messiah of Israel, sent to redeem all humankind, and the Beloved of her most intimate heart are one and the same person.  She perseveres in weeping at the entrance to the tomb because she perseveres in her love: the presence and actions of Jesus in her own life had taught her that love is indeed stronger than death.  Against all odds and logic, in a sort of sublime madness, she clings to her Jesus dead or alive; and she does not reason about a her relative physical strength when she says ironically to the man she thought was the gardener, “Tell me where you laid him, and I will take him away.” Because she loves Jesus so much, she is prepared to carry his body away single-handed.
Such passionate intensity surely was born from her gratitude at having had no less than seven demons driven out of her by Jesus.  As one transformed by the healing power of Jesus’ love, she becomes “the apostle to the Apostles,” since more than any of them she can easily believe in Christ’s Resurrection. For all time St. Mary Magdalen stands as the foremost embodiment of the soul thirsting for God, the soul passionately seeking God.  And in the end she does find him.  “He whom her heart loves” is also the Beloved of the Father who had first come seeking her.  Mary could find him because he first chose, in utter love, to put himself within her reach.

Reflection by Father Simeon, OCSO (h/t Spencer Abbey blog)

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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