Monthly Archives: June 2021

Pierre Toussaint: A Prophetic Figure

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-JULY 4: Readings

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.

Abraham, The Unwavering Nomad

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.

Holy, In Our Own Way

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 21-27: Readings for the Week

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.”

Thy Will Be Done On Earth

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. “This is not that God should do what he wills, but that we may be able to do what God wills,” St. Cyprian says in reflecting on this petition of the Our Father.

Weak as we are, we find it hard to know and to do God’s will, and so Jesus, “ showing the weakness of the humanity which he bore, said Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, and showing his disciples an example, that they should do not their own will but God’s, he went on to say nevertheless, let it not be my will, but yours.”

 Cyprian describes at length how we humans do God’s will: by dealing with others humbly, by holding steadily to our faith, by being just and merciful in what we do, by being moral in our lives.

But God’s will is to be done “on earth,’ we pray. Are only humans involved in doing God’s will, or is the earth itself involved in this petition? 

The psalms call for the earth and all creation to “bless the Lord.” The earth itself is called to do God’s will. It has a place in God’s plan. Our responsibility is to discern what God’s will is for our earthly home and see that it is done. 

Doing God’s will involves more than ourselves and human relationships. It extends to the earth as well.  One of the points Pope Francis makes in Laudato sí.

The Weather of God’s Blessings

The weather’s unpredictable these days. Weather reports have become a major part of the news. Should look at weather in another way.

“Just as from the heavens

the rain and snow come down, and do not return there

till they have watered the earth,

making it fertile and fruitful,

giving seed to the one who sows

and bread to the one who eats,

so shall my word be

that goes forth from my mouth;

It shall not return to me void,

but shall do my will,

achieving the end for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55,10)

Isaiah tells us to look at our weather in a deeper way. Does weather tell us how God blesses us?  Like rain or snow God’s blessings come, making our lives fruitful. Yes, they will surely come, but how about the times we have to wait, when no rain or snow comes at all? Or when storms and drought come?

God’s blessings are like the weather.

Should we think of God’s blessings through the Sign of the Cross. We say “we bless ourselves” when we make this sign. Sometimes God’s blessing comes through the cross of glory and we receive blessings never imagined through his tender mercy. Like a beautiful day.

Sometimes his blessings takes another form of his cross– disappointment, suffering, failure, sickness, death. There God’s blessings are mostly hidden and hard to see. Like a stormy or brutally hot or cold day?

In Matthew’s gospel these days, Jesus speaks about prayer. Is this blessing also like the weather. Prayer is a gift, but it’s a gift like the rain and snow. It’s one of God’s greatest gifts to us, yet sometimes we find it hard to pray while at other times it wells up within us.

Or, as we see our threatened environment today, is our unpredictable weather a warning that we need to take care of this fragile world of ours?

God’s blessing are like the weather.

June 14-20:Weekday Readings

June 14 Mon Weekday 2 Cor 6:1-10/Mt 5:38-42 

15 Tue Weekday 2 Cor 8:1-9/Mt 5:43-48 

16 Wed Weekday 2 Cor 9:6-11/Mt 6:1-6, 16-18 

17 Thu Weekday 2 Cor 11:1-11/Mt 6:7-15 

18 Fri Weekday 2 Cor 11:18, 21-30/Mt 6:19-23 

19 Sat Weekday [Saint Romuald, Abbot; BVM] 2 Cor 12:1-10/Mt 6:24-34 

20 SUN TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Jb 38:1, 8-11/2 Cor 5:14-17/Mk 4:35-41 

Green is the liturgy’s color for ordinary time. Not white, the bright light of Eastertime, or red the color of blood and fire. or purple the color of penance. Green is earth’s color, the color of slow growing trees and grasses– of ordinary time.

An unknown 4th century spiritual writer describes the ordinary ways the Holy Spirit works in us. “‘In varied and different ways’ invisible grace leads us. Ordinary time doesn’t mean that every day’s the same.  Sometimes we find ourselves sad at the state of things; sometimes we joyfully hold the whole world in our arms. Sometimes we feel helpless; sometimes we think there’s nothing we can’t do. Sometimes we’re brave; sometimes we escape into the supposed safety of ourselves looking for peace.”

Far from taking us away from the human condition, the Spirit leads us by human steps in human time. Ordinary time is the natural, slow roller-coaster of life; the Spirit leads us on.

The psalms are great prayers for ordinary time. They take you from one human experience to another. If you don’t experience what a certain psalm describes, wait awhile–you will.

Morning and Evening Prayers, Week 3 see