When he came to the other side, to the territory of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him. They were so savage that no one could travel by that road. They cried out, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?” Some distance away a herd of many swine was feeding. The demons pleaded with him, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And he said to them, “Go then!” They came out and entered the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea where they drowned. The swineherds ran away, and when they came to the town they reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. Thereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district.Matthew 8:28-34
Pierre Toussaint died in New York City June 30, 1853. Today the remains of Venerable Pierre Toussaint, who came to the United States as a Haitian slave, rest under the altar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. He is venerated by the Catholic Church and his cause for sainthood is underway.
Saints are important in the Catholic Church. They witness to the presence of the Holy Spirit in their time and place, for one thing, but they also have a predictive role. They point out the direction the church and the world should take now under the guidance of the Spirit. For this reason we pay attention to them. They bless their own days and our days too.
What does Pierre Toussaint tell us about our American church today? He brings important issues, racism and systemic racism, before us. When he came to this country in 1787 about half of the households in New York City had slaves. Slaves built much of the city’s early structures. Toussaint only received his freedom in 1807.
After slavery was completely abolished in 1841 in New York, black people and people of color faced systemic discrimination in housing, education, jobs and health care. They still face these issues today.
Toussaint was an example of the goodness and gifts of his race to the people of his time. He changed the way they thought; he gained their appreciation and challenged them to be just. Saints bless their own times and times to come.
So listen for 12 minutes to his story. May he bless us.
June 28 Mon Saint Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr Memorial
Gn 18:16-33/Mt 8:18-22
29 Tue SAINTS PETER AND PAUL, APOSTLES Solemnity
Acts 12:1-11/2 Tm 4:6-8, 17-18/Mt 16:13-19
30 Wed Weekday [The First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church]
Gn 21:5, 8-20a/Mt 8:28-34
July 1 Thu Weekday [USA: Saint Junípero Serra, Priest]
Gn 22:1b-19/Mt 9:1-8
2 Fri Weekday Gn 23:1-4, 19; 24:1-8, 62-67/Mt 9:9-13
3 Sat Saint Thomas, Apostle Feast Eph 2:19-22/Jn 20:24-29
4 SUN FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Ez 2:2-5/2 Cor 12:7-10/Mk 6:1-6a
The Genesis stories read this week recall Sarah’s death and her burial in land promised to Abraham by God. They also recall Isaac’s marriage to Rebecca, securing the promise of heirs to Abraham. The last great test God gives to Abraham is recalled on Thursday, when God asks him to sacrifice his son.
Three important apostles are recalled in feasts this week: Peter and Paul and Thomas.
Morning and Evening Prayer: week 2 here.
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”Mark 5:25-34
For this week’s homily, please watch the video below.
When he entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” He said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.” And at that very hour his servant was healed.Matthew 8:5-13
When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I will do it. Be made clean.” His leprosy was cleansed immediately. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one, but go show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”Matthew 8:1-4
We call Abraham “Our father in faith” in our 1st Eucharistic Prayer. That’s because Abraham believed when God called him to leave his own land and go to a land he did not know. He believed in God’s call.
A pastoral nomad, sometimes settling down but then moving on. Abraham was on the move, on the way to a permanent home. That’s us too. Abraham trusted in God rather than in himself. As an old man, he believed God who said he would generate a child.
The great patriarch was tested. Faith grows through testing. Abraham’s greatest test came when God asked him to sacrifice his only son Isaac.
My favorite reflection on Abraham is Jessica Power’s beautiful poem:
“I love Abraham, that old weather-beaten
unwavering nomad; when God called to him
no tender hand wedged time into his stay.
His faith erupted him into a way
far-off and strange. How many miles are there
from Ur to Haran? Where does Canaan lie,
or slow mysterious Egypt sit and wait?
How could he think his ancient thigh would bear
nations, or how consent that Isaac die,
with never an outcry nor an anguished prayer?
I think, alas, how I manipulate
dates and decisions, pull apart the dark
dally with doubts here and with counsel there,
take out old maps and stare.
Was there a call after all, my fears remark.
I cry out: Abraham, old nomad you,
are you my father? Come to me in pity.
Mine is a far and lonely journey, too.
The “saints next door” are holy “each in his or her own way.” Pope Francis says in Gaudete et Exultate. How about canonized saints? If you look at the saints we celebrate the last few weeks in our liturgy, they’re holy, each in their own way too.
St. Romuald, the founder of the Camadolese, remembered on June 19th, found the religious communities of his day hard to live with– they found him hard to live with too. He liked to be alone, but alone to face the mystery of God, not because he didn’t like other people. He was called to be a hermit. To know God on our own, alone, in our inner room, is part of the call we all have. Romuald reminds us of that.
St. Paulinus of Nola (June 22), a gregarious 5th century bishop, is Romuald’s opposite. He started life in politics as a member of a well-heeled Roman family. After his only child died and then his wife, he accepted God’s call to begin a larger family. As bishop of Nola in Italy he promoted the shrine of St. Felix as a pilgrimage center. The more people came, the better. He liked people. Celebrations with ringing bells and processions and statues were his specialty. In fact, if you head to the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, NY, around his feast, you may see Italians from his area in Italy carrying a gigantic tower honoring the saint. He promoted popular religion.
St. Aloysius Gonzaga ( June 21 ) also belonged to a powerful, aristocratic family, who were shocked when the young man announced, after hearing stories of Jesuit missionaries in China, that he was entering the Jesuits. His family did everything to stop him, but the young man wouldn’t listen. He entered the Jesuits. In 1591 a fierce plague broke out in Rome where Aloysius was studying and he took care of the victims, despite his own bad health. He died from the plague, expressing his conviction that God called him to this dangerous ministry. Today he’s celebrated as a patron of those who care for victims of AIDS.
St. Thomas More (June 22) is known to many through Robert Bolt’s “Man for All Seasons” which follows More’s confrontation with Henry VIII that ended with his death in the Tower of London July 6, 1535. Bolt’s title, taken from a contemporary’s description of More, captures his complex, many-faceted personality. He was learned, devoted to his family (promoted education for women) active in his society and his church. More’s holiness was expansive. It belongs to all of life’s seasons.
Interesting to note that More and Bishop John Fisher are honored in the Church of England’s calendar (July 6) as “saints and heroes of the Christian church.”
JUNE 21 Mon Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious Memorial Gn 12:1-9/Mt 7:1-5
22 Tue Weekday [Saint Paulinus of Nola, Bishop; Saints John Fisher, Bishop, and Thomas More, Martyrs] Gn 13:2, 5-18/Mt 7:6, 12-14
23 Wed Weekday
Gn 15:1-12, 17-18/Mt 7:15-20
24 Thu THE NATIVITY OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST Solemnity
Is 49:1-6/Acts 13:22-26/Lk 1:57-66, 80
25 Fri Weekday Gn 17:1, 9-10, 15-22/Mt 8:1-4
26 Sat Weekday Gn 18:1-15/Mt 8:5-17
27 SUN THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24/2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15/Mk 5:21-43 or 5:21-24, 35b-43
We read from the later part of the Book of Genesis this week in our lectionary. The first 10 chapters described the increase and spread of humanity, beginning with the creation of Adam and Eve. Chapter 11-50 offers the story of Israel, beginning with Abraham. One difference between the two: the first chapters describe the nations settling down. In the story of Israel, Abraham is called to set out to a land God will show.
The Nativity of John the Baptist, June 25th, is a solemnity, celebrating the birth of John 6 months before the birth of Jesus.
Saints like Aloysius Gonzaga remind us that young people can be saints too.
Tuesday we remember English martyrs, John Fischer, Thomas More, “Man for All Seasons.”