Thursday, September 30, 2010

St. Jerome, Priest & Doctor of The Church

Today we honor this great saint who was so instrumental in preserving and translating the Sacred Scriptures.  When I realized it was his "day" I was almost afraid to preach.  LOL.


Profile
Born to a rich pagan family, he led a misspent youth. Studied in Rome. Lawyer. Converted in theory, and baptised in 365, he began his study of theology, and had a true conversion. Monk. Lived for years as a hermit in the Syrian deserts. Reported to have drawn a thorn from a lion’s paw; the animal stayed loyally at his side for years. Priest. Student of Saint Gregory of Nazianzen. Secretary to Pope Damasus I who commissioned him to revise the Latin text of the Bible. The result of his 30 years of work was the Vulgate translation, which is still in use. Friend and teacher of Saint Paula, Saint Marcella, and Saint Eustochium, an association that led to so much gossip that Jerome left Rome to return to the desert solitude. He lived his last 34 years in the Holy Land as a semi-recluse. Wrote translations of histories, biographies, the works of Origen, and much more. Doctor of the Church, Father of the Church. Since his own time, he has been associated in the popular mind with scrolls, writing, cataloging, translating, which led to those who work in such fields taking him as their patron - a man who knew their lives and problems.
Here are a few web pages of this great saint's writings:


 The Perpetual Virginity of the Virgin Mary: Against Helvidius http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf206.vi.v.html
A certain Helvidius said that since Jesus had brothers, Mary was not a virgin after his birth. He also maintained that this demonstrates that marriage is better than virginity. Jerome takes the opposite view.
 The Life of Hilarion http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf206.vi.ii.html
In HTML, with notes, at Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
 The Life of Paulus the First Hermit http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf206.vi.i.html
St. Jerome's first published work. From the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, second series, vol. 6.
 The Life of Malchus, the Captive Monk http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf206.vi.iii.html
In HTML, with notes, at Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
 Against Jovinianus http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf206.vi.vi.html
In two books, each in its own file, with notes. The first book is entirely taken up with Jovinian's assertion that virginity is no better than marriage. The latter book examines Jovinian's propositions about abstinence, degrees of sin, the sinlessness of believers, and degrees of punishment or reward in the afterlife.
 The Dialogue Against the Luciferians http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf206.vi.iv.html
A literary dialogue between "Orthodoxus" and "Helladius the Luciferian". The introduction from A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, second series, vol. 6, sets the stage. Lucifer, a bishop, and his party, against the decision of a council of the Church and against SS. Jerome and Athanasius, wished to show no mercy to penitents who had fallen into Arianism.
 Lives of Illustrious Men http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf203.v.html
And he does mean men. Ernest Cushing Richardson translation. With notes and introduction ("previous"). From the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, second series, vol. 3.
 To Pammachius Against John of Jerusalem http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf206.vi.viii.html
Unpublished during Jerome's lifetime. An ugly little chapter in Church history. Epiphanius of Salamis, a heresy-hunting bishop, had castigated Jerome's bishop John of Jerusalem for Origenism. Epiphanius then urged Jerome to repudiate John, ordained Jerome's brother by force, and Jerome was effectively excommunicated for approximately four years.
 Against the Pelagians http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf206.vi.ix.html
Dialogue Between Atticus, a Catholic, and Critobulus, a Heretic. In three books, with introduction, notes, and author's prologue.
 Against Vigilantius http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf206.vi.vii.html
Jerome turns on his former friend, who had objected to reverencing relics, vigils, the practice of sending alms to Jerusalem, and an exaggerated (in the opinion of Vigilantius) esteem for virginity.
 Apology for Himself Against the Books of Rufinus http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf203.vi.xii.html
W.H. Fremantle translation, from the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, second series, vol. 3. Presented as three books, with notes and links to contents, previous, and next.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

ANGELS AND ARCHANGELS

It is a most extraordinary gift our Heavenly Father has given us in the knowledge and friendship of His holy angels.  As we celebrated Mass this morning on the Feast of St. Michael and the Archangels, I was struck by the beauty of the readings.  Angels were as certainly ascending and descending on us as they were on The Son of Man (John 1:51).

I had a silly remembrance from my childhood.  When I would go swimming I had the habit of cupping my hands and slamming them into the water to make "bubbles".  As a little boy, I used to imagine that the bubbles were Angels in the water.  Then as the water angels would tickle my skin I really thought that the real angels were there with me.  I would do this over and over, all the while splashing and laughing.  I haven't been swimming for a long time, but you can bet that next time I go, I will revive this ancient and venerable practice of water angels while praising God with splashes and laughter.
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For your inspiration

DEEDS

I’d rather see a sermon
Than hear one any day.
I’d rather once you’d walk with me
Than merely show the way.

The eye’s a better pupil
And more willing than the ear,
And counsel is confusing
But the example’s always clear.

I soon can learn to do it
If you let me see it done.
I can see your hands in action
But your tongue too fast may run.

And the lectures you deliver
May be very fine and true,
But I’d rather get my lesson
By observing what you do.

For a person must understand you
And the high advice you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding
How you act and how you live.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My last blog entry was on September 17.  Then I went to our annual Priest Convocation which lasted the whole week.  Now I am back home in our beautiful little parish here in Central Pa.  I mention this previous post because it was all about forgiveness.  I even boasted that I couldn't wait to forgive.  Well guess what...

In the course of the week I saw one of my brother priests with whom I have had difficulties.  All those things I often remind people about a lack of forgiveness were made manifest in my heart and soul.  I grew angry.  I had a difficult time praying.  I was extremely judgmental. I could feel my stomach tighten and my blood pressure rise.  I don't know what went on in him, but my reaction certainly can serve as an object lesson on the results of either refusing or forgetting to forgive.

I say forgetting to forgive because I had forgotten all about the misdeeds I experienced at the hands of this priest.  I forgot, that is, until we were in the same room together.  The need to forgive is so very important to our spiritual, mental and physical well-being.  I am would suggest that it is second only to our need for love.  It is one of the attributes of the Divine Humility of God in Whose Image we are made.  God Loves.  God Creates.  God Forgives.  We, likewise, must love, create and forgive or we will become stymied in our growth or damaged in our being.

So... what did I do?  Like a good Catholic I went to confession.  I did my penance.  I asked God for the grace to forgive my brother and anyone else I have forgotten to forgive.    Looks easy when reading these words, but let me assure you it was very difficult.  I spent quite a bit of time in front of the Blessed Sacrament asking Jesus to infuse my soul with His gift of forgiveness.  I prayed for forgiveness for myself because I am sure that I was not 100 percent innocent in the situation with my brother priest.  Then I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As I meditated on the Passion of our Lord, the source of all forgiveness, I found the bitterness, anger and the desire for vengeance subside.  A beautiful peace overcame me, and I knew that God had done it again.  This peasant heart was set free.  My pea sized brain was enlightened. And my soul and spirit rested in the arms of my Blessed Mother.

I still know what the priest did to me was bad, maybe even an evil abuse of his power.  He may or may not have made his peace with God.  I, however, know that my sin is forgiven and my joy is complete in Christ my Savior!

Friday, September 17, 2010

I can't wait to forgive...

The current wallpaper on my desktop is a picture of wizened hands holding a flower.  The inscription above the hands reads "Forgive everyone for everything."  Now that is a tall order, to be sure!

I mention this because I just witnessed a profound and simple act of forgiveness.  Apparently there was a misunderstanding between two of my dear female friends.  Something was said, something else was not communicated, and hard feelings ensued.  Today, the two ladies apologized to one another for their misstep.  I am so proud that they are my friends.  Neither one of them talked about the other behind her back.  Both took responsibility for their own part.  Neither blamed the other.  They both then affirmed each other.  There were a few tears, and a proud friend and priest.

I LOVE FORGIVENESS

Not just the idea of it...
Not just the fact that Jesus forgives...
And not even just the fact that it is our Christian Duty to forgive...

What I love is that when we forgive everyone for everything WE ARE FREE.
  • The act of forgiving is a true participation in the humility and mercy of God.  It is really difficult to forgive someone who has grievously harmed us.  Gosh, it is hard to forgive someone who just ticked us off.  It takes humility.  It takes courage.  It takes the grace of God to truly forgive from the heart.  By forgiving others we are keeping God in first place and the good of others in second place.  Forgiveness is NOT being a doormat or excusing harmful and sinful actions in others.  
  • Forgiving is a healing act.  Relationships heal.  Memories are healed.  Souls are mended and healed.  Even bodies are healed.  It is well known that many physical ailments are caused by a lack of forgiveness.  Just think about how you feel when someone you are angry with enters the room.  Your neck tightens.  You get that knot in your stomach.  Headaches may ensue.  Some people get stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, or even cancer.  Everyone who persists in unforgiving has a crabby attitude. I know from first hand experience the effect of refusing to forgive someone.  For well over a year I resisted the Lord's pleas for me to forgive people who had deeply hurt me and damaged my priesthood by the abuse of their power.  I held on to my righteous anger.  During those 16 months my health suffered, and my prayer life diminished.  My vocation to the priesthood nearly died.  My love for people morphed into suspicion of their motives.  One day a dear friend of mine, Sr. Joan of the Capuchin Sisters of Nazareth privately challenged me to forgive and ask the other party who was responsible for much of my suffering to forgive me.  I knew it was the voice of the Lord speaking through this humble and loving servant of God.  I prayed, took her advice and...did it.  What sweet relief.  The burden lifted.  My spirit soared as my prayer life came back.  The anger had enslaved me, not the others.  
  • Forgiving is a saving act.   "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us," we read in Sacred Scripture.  What an honor to participate in this Divine Economy in which the Lord purchased for us our salvation at the price of His Most Precious Blood.  He, having made the purchase, bequeaths to us this gift for our personal needs and to share with others who are equally needful of God's forgiveness.
Of course, this beautiful exchange takes place most specifically in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also known as Confession or Penance.  Here God uses the priest to minister the forgiveness of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.  I "get" to offer God's mercy and forgiveness to people.  I utter the words "I absolve you..." in amazement.  It is so beautifully humbling to be in that role as a priest.  People may be inspired by a homily or a word of counsel...or not.  They may like the personality or spiritually of an individual priest...or not.  When it comes to the Sacrament of Confession there is no "may" and no "or not".  When the words of absolution are prayed for you by a Roman Catholic Priest  YOU ARE FORGIVEN.  Jesus made that promise to us in the Bible when He breathed on His apostles, the first priests, and said, "receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven."

We most clearly model our Savior when we forgive.  We are most authentically the Body of Christ when we humbly ask for, give and receive forgiveness.  Forgive  everyone for everything!



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Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Prodigal Son-- A Two Sentence Homily

Hans Sebald Beham engraving of the parable of ...Image via Wikipedia

When it comes to sin, be cautious like the elder son in the parable of the prodigal son.

When it comes to God and His loving forgiveness – through caution to the wind and CELEBRATE!
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I'm baaaack!

New version of Temperature pictureImage via Wikipedia
It has been a rough two weeks since my last post.  I apologize for my absence.  Posting on my blog is one of my favorite ways to share the Faith, but sometimes life intervenes.  Even though we do not have a parish school at our church, the beginning of the school year brings with it an avalanche of activities.  The crazy, hazy, lazy days of summer give way to the blustery winds of autumn and winter.  

We are being reminded of the "cold reality" that life is more than leisure.  Bears hibernate in the winter, but I hibernate when the temperature goes above 80 degrees.  I really come alive when the temperature stays below 70 or so.  So it is back in the saddle again, nose to the grindstone, fingers to the keyboard...

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