Category Archives: Teaching & Living the Faith

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Trinity image Paris.jpg

God our Father, who by sending into the world the Word of truth and the Spirit of sanctification made known to the human race your wondrous mystery, grant us, we pray, that in professing the true faith, we may acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory and adore your Unity, powerful in majesty. 

For many preachers don’t handle the “idea feast” of the Most Holy Trinity. Their method is typically confused. Admittedly, the theology of the Trinity is not well represented in sacred Scripture in a direct way. You have to be able to read and interpret the indications given by Revelation. You can also read what the theologians have said, but you also may go to the poets and musicians (see the previous post today) but we have other spirited people like the saints. A reflection from Saint Hildegard of Bingen, last Doctor of the Church may shed some light on how we relate to this sublime of Mysteries. I happen to think that the saints and many artists are more successful in teaching some complexities of our faith, for example, a triune God but one.

 Before time, all creatures were in the Father. He organized them in himself and afterwards the Son created them in fact. How is that to be understood? It is similar to the situation among human beings when one carries the knowledge of a great work in herself and then later through her word brings it to the light of day, so that it comes into the world with great acclaim. The Father puts things in order; the Son causes them to be…The Holy Spirit streams through and ties together ‘eternity’ and ‘equality’ so that they are one. This is like when someone ties a bundle together – for there would be no bundle if it weren’t tied together; everything would fall apart. Or it is like when a smith welds two pieces of metal together in a fire as one…The Holy Spirit is the firmness and the aliveness. Without the Holy Spirit eternity would not be eternity. Without the Holy Spirit equality would not be equality. The Holy Spirit is in both, and one with both of them in the Godhead. The one God.”

Vice and good works: where’s the salt of true life?

St John Chrysostom, St Patrick's cathedral, Ne...

St John Chrysostom, St Patrick’s Cathedral, NYC

Let me be presumptuous for a minute: I think few people spend much time considering a life of vice, sin, evil in their own lives. Personal darkness, “dead” salt as Pope Francis mentioned today in homily, is not high on people’s list of things. Many are quick –and I can be accused of this, too– point out the sin in another ignoring the fat elephant of in the living room in need of a wash or a diet. Do you think this is reasonable to say? My friend Henry told me once that people don’t like going to confession because they like their sins. True enough. I agree. But I also like reconciliation. Something new, something happens to my soul after a good confession of sins that no other experience is capable of imparting.

The point of conversion is to develop the better self, not to remain entrenched in a bitter way of seeing things. Lent was supposed to help me seeing things differently; now, perhaps Ordinary Time will lead me in the right direction.

I am across this paragraph from the Prologue from Ochrid that I found interesting and thought I would share. Chrysostom’s insight about vice and good works is correct from my own experience and from what I observe in others. Chrysostom is a heavy hitter.

We see that vice is something shameful and sinful in that it always hides and always takes upon itself the appearance of good works. St. John Chrysostom beautifully says: “Vice does not have its own particular face, but borrows the face of good works.” This is why the Savior said: “they come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (St. Matthew 7:15). Call a liar, a liar; a thief, a thief; a murderer, a murderer; an adulterer, an adulterer; a slanderer, a slanderer and you will infuriate them. However, call a man whatever you want: honest, honorable, unselfish, truthful, just, conscientious and you will make him light up with joy and please him. Again, according to Chrysostom, I quote: “good works are something natural in man while vice is something unnatural and false.” If a man is even caught in a vice, he quickly justifies his vice by some good works; he clothes it in the garments of good works. Indeed, vice does not posses its own particular face. The same is true of the devil, the father of vices!

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The 4 known angels: Gabriel, Michael, Raphael and Uriel

There is an icon of an angel in the daily Mass chapel at Our Lady of Pompeii Church (East Haven, CT) but it is so high that no one can really see the details of the icon, even trying to make out the Greek is difficult for young eyes. The pastor, Father John, promised a gift to the one who identifies the icon at Mass this morning which opened a door for inquiry. Piqued with wonder several, including yours truly, set out to determine the angel’s identity. At first glance I thought it was the Archangel Raphael. But closer examination showed me that it was really Gabriel. In the meantime, I asked one of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart, a curious creature and holy woman, how many archangels are there.

An “angel” denotes a function, not a nature; they are messengers. The archangels are leaders of the other angels, hence they are called the princes of the angels. As you know Western Christians venerate three archangels: Gabriel, Michael and Raphael. But, few know that there is a fourth named archangel (plus three other un-named archangels), one who is little known and not liturgically commemorated in the Latin Liturgy, but the venerated by Christians of Eritrea (related to the Coptic Church), the Anglican Communion, and Judaism. His name, Uriel, meaning “God is my light.”

Archangel Uriel’s feast day is July 11.

St Uriel.jpg

Archangel Uriel, according to pious legend (and I am not being dismissive by using these words because legend isn’t used as fiction), indicates that Uriel is known as the angel of wisdom as he illumines the heart and mind to know God’s truth. He is “The Light or Fire of God.” You might say he’s the archangel of discernment. Perhaps this is the angel who assisted Saint Ignatius of Loyola in writing the principles of Discernment in his Spiritual Exercises! As this Orthodox prayer says, 

Oh holy Saint Uriel, come to our aid with your legion of angels! Intercede for us that our hearts may burn with the fire of God. Obtain for us the grace to use the sword of
truth to fight against all that is not in conformity to the most adorable will of God in our lives.

The apocryphal texts of the biblical tradition in question are the little known Book of Enoch and Esdras. What we learn is that Uriel is one of seven archangels who preside over the world; that Uriel reveals that rebellious and fallen angels will be judged by God and that Uriel warns the prophet Noah about the flood.

Moreover, in 2 Esdras, God sends Uriel to answer a series of questions that the prophet Ezra about recognizing the signs of good and evil at work in the world.

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Frédéric Ozanam at 200

Frédéric Ozanam DR.jpgToday is the 200th birthday of Frédéric Ozanam the famed co-founder of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society (may 1833). Born in Milan and lived in various cities in France, Ozanam was a well-educated man earning doctorates in law and letters; we was a literary critic and professor of literature. In June 1841 he married Amélie Soulacroix.

In the years following the Revolution, Ozanam advocated ideas pertaining to Catholic democracy based on his reading of Church history and knowing the contributions to culture by those who lived the Catholic faith. Some place Frédéric within a movement called ‘neo-Catholic.’
Frédéric Ozanam was an early proponent of a spirituality based on Saint Vincent de Paul that demonstrated that you can see the face of Christ in the poor, the teaching readily known in the biblical narrative.
In honor of Ozanam’s 200th birthday, VinFormation produced 2 videos accessed here.
Pope John Paul beatified Frédéric Ozanam.
His feast day is September 9.

Women in the New Testament

It is true that women have had a better sense in recognizing the risen Jesus than men:  “the women were the first witnesses” of Jesus’ resurrected existence. The teaching of the resurrection from the dead of Jesus and our own future resurrection is undeniably hard teaching to grasp. Yesterday, we heard in the account of the Marys at the tomb. One of the Marys, that of Magdala, is known as the Apostle to the Apostles. Below are three paragraphs on the subject from today’s Wednesday General Audience of Pope Francis. I am sure some will raise the issue that the Pope is not going far enough by denying the ministerial priesthood to women. Of course, we are not talking about ministerial priesthood here; the Pope’s point here is to draw our attention that God’s ways, God’s criteria in selecting those who called to serve Him is not same as human ways of judging AND the identification and verification of the Lord’s truth as the Son of God, alive and present to each of us. As Francis says, “In our journey of faith it is important to know and feel that God loves us, do not be afraid to love: faith is professed with the mouth and heart, with the word and love.”

Noli me tangere Franciabigio.jpg

I would like to dwell the second, on testimony in the form of the accounts that we find in the Gospels. First, we note that the first witnesses to this event were the women. At dawn, they go to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, and find the first sign: the empty tomb (Mk 16:1). This is followed by an encounter with a Messenger of God who proclaims: Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One, he is not here, he is risen (cf. vv. 5-6). The women are driven by love and know how to accept this proclamation with faith: they believe, and immediately transmit it, they do not keep it for themselves. They cannot contain the joy of knowing that Jesus is alive, the hope that fills their heart. This should also be the same in our lives. Let us feel the joy of being Christian! We believe in the Risen One who has conquered evil and death! Let us also have the courage to “go out” to bring this joy and light to all the places of our lives! The Resurrection of Christ is our greatest certainty, it is our most precious treasure! How can we not share this treasure, this beautiful certainty with others! It’s not just for us it’s to be transmitted, shared with others this is our testimony!

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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]
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