Monthly Archives: August 2022

Praying the Psalms

The psalms are prayers that never get old. Here’s Pius X, whose feast day was August 20, commenting on the psalms:

“Bless the Lord, O my soul.”

“The psalms are like a garden containing the fruits of all the other books of the Bible. Saints like Athanasius and Augustine recognized these powerful prayers. ‘The psalms seem to me to be like a mirror, in which the person using them can see himself, and the stirrings of his own heart; he can recite them against the background of his own emotions.”

Augustine says in his Confessions: “How I wept when I heard your hymns and canticles, being deeply moved by the sweet singing of your Church. Those voices flowed into my ears, truth filtered into my heart, and from my heart surged waves of devotion. Tears ran down, and I was happy in my tears. “

Pius X continues:  “Indeed, who could fail to be moved by those many passages in the psalms which set forth so profoundly the infinite majesty of God, his omnipotence, his justice and goodness and clemency, too deep for words, and all the other infinite qualities of his that deserve our praise?

Who could fail to be roused to the same emotions by the prayers of thanksgiving to God for blessings received, by the petitions, so humble and confident, for blessings still awaited, by the cries of a soul in sorrow for sin committed? Who would not be fired with love as he looks on the likeness of Christ, the redeemer, here so lovingly foretold? His was the voice Augustine heard in every psalm, the voice of praise, of suffering, of joyful expectation, of present distress.”

The Passion of John the Baptist

IMG_1460

August 29th recalls the the death of John the Baptist. Mark’s gospel tells the gruesome story. King Herod ordered his death, prompted by Herodias. (Mark 6, 17-19) Because his death is like the Passion of Jesus the church calls it “The Passion of John the Baptist”.

 Human sinfulness is on display in this banquet at court, which the artist (above) describes very well. The women smugly presenting John’s head. The man pointing his finger at Herod and Herod denying it all. John’ eyes are still open, his mouth still speaks.

Venerable Bede says that John’s death is like Jesus’ death because they both embraced the same values.  If John stayed silent about Herod’s conduct, he may have gained a few peaceful years of life, but he was more concerned with what God thought than what powerful people on earth thought.

“His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: I am the truth?

He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men; he was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life.

“But heaven notices– not the span of our lives, but how we live them, speaking the truth.” (Bede, Homily)

Wonderful line: It doesn’t matter how many years we live, but how we live them, “speaking the truth.”

For John that meant dying for the truth. What does it mean for us? It may not mean getting our heads chopped off, but we should expect some scars from the daily battle for God’s truth. ” May we fight hard for the confession of what you teach.” (Opening prayer)

Saint Augustine

Augustine baptism
Augustine’s Baptism, Gozzoli

August 28, Feast of St. Augustine

His feast comes the day after we honor his mother Monica. Augustine was changed by encountering the mystery of God. It was not his brilliant mind or human gifts that created the encounter; it was God’s grace, which we all look for.

Yet, look at the scene of his baptism, above. There’s Monica standing behind St. Ambrose. A mother’s prayers had something to do with it too.

Here’s Augustine himself on his conversion: “Urged to reflect upon myself, I entered under your guidance the innermost places of my being; but only because you had become my helper was I able to do so.” 

And God became his Light.

“O eternal Truth, true Love, and beloved Eternity, you are my God, and for you I sigh day and night. As I first began to know you, you lifted me up and showed me that, while that which I might see exists indeed, I was not yet capable of seeing it. Your rays beamed intensely on me, beating back my feeble gaze, and I trembled with love and dread. I knew myself to be far away from you in a region of unlikeness, and I seemed to hear your voice from on high: ‘I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me’”.

The Light was Christ.

“Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!,

Lo, you were within,

but I outside, seeking there for you,

and upon the shapely things you have made

I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.

You were with me, but I was not with you.

They held me back far from you,

those things which would have no being,

were they not in you.

You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;

you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;

you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;

I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;

you touched me, and I burned for your peace.” (Confessions)

Here’s a biography of Augustine by Pope Benedict XVI

Here’s a wealth of material on Augustine from Villanova University

22nd Week of the Year: Readings and Feasts

29 Mon The Passion of St John the Baptist Memorial 1 Cor 2:1-5 (431)/Mk 6:17-29 

30 Tue Weekday 1 Cor 2:10b-16/Lk 4:31-37 

31 Wed Weekday 1 Cor 3:1-9/Lk 4:38-44 

SEPTEMBER 1 Thu Weekday 1 Cor 3:18-23/Lk 5:1-11 

2 Fri Weekday 1 Cor 4:1-5/Lk 5:33-39 

3 Sat St Gregory the Great, Pope, Doctor of the Church Memorial

1 Cor 4:6b-15/Lk 6:1-5 

4 SUN TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Wis 9:13-18b/Phlm 9-10, 12-17/Lk 14:25-33

This week we begin reading from the Gospel of Luke and we’ll continue reading from it  till the beginning of Advent. Takes the account of Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth from Mark’s gospel (Mark 6:1-6),Luke places it at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee as a summary of his whole ministry. Initially Jesus was received favorably, then rejected violently. 

From the 21st to the 24th week of this year we read extensively from Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians, written about 51 AD.  It’s a church from Luke’s own time, with strengths and weaknesses. It offers better insight into early church life than any other book of the New Testament; Luke wrote his gospel with churches like the church in Corinth in mind.

The Passion of John the Baptist, August 29th, a feast from 5th century Jerusalem, was celebrated by the 6th century by the churches of the east and west. An ancient feast remembering the beheading of John, foreshadowing the death of Jesus. 

St. Gregory the Great, September 3, is one of the most important popes in the history of the church. “Servant of the Servants of God.” At a time when the Roman Empire was falling apart, Gregory not only kept the Roman church afloat but reached out to peoples afar to bring them the gospel. 

Fountain of Wisdom and Love

The desire Augustine saw in himself and in the human family brings a restlessness and thirst only satisfied at the fountain of true wisdom and everlasting love – Jesus Christ. 

“‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.’

  “The Lord himself, our God Jesus Christ, is the fountain of life; and he calls us to himself so that we may drink from him. Who will drink? Whoever loves; whoever is filled with the word of God; whoever adores enough, whoever desires enough; whoever is on fire with the love of wisdom.

  See the source from which that fountain flows. It comes from the same place that the manna came from in the wilderness – for the same person is both bread and fountain, Christ our Lord and God, for whom we should always hunger. Even if we eat him, the bread, with love, even if we devour him with desire, let us still hunger for him like starving people. So when we drink him, the fountain, let us always drink him with overflowing love, filled with longing and delighting in the gentle taste of his sweetness.

  For the Lord is gentleness and delight. We may eat and drink of him but still we will be hungry and thirst for more; for he is our food and drink that can never be entirely consumed. He can be eaten but there will always be more left. He can be drunk but he can never be drained dry. Our bread is eternal; our fountain lasts for ever, our fountain is sweet. 

So Isaiah says: come to the water all you who are thirsty – the fountain is for the thirsty, not for the surfeited. He calls the hungry and the thirsty to himself, and they can never drink enough: the more they drink, the more they desire to drink.

The word of God on high is the fountain of Wisdom.

  If you are thirsty, drink from the fountain of life; if you are hungry, eat the bread of life. Blessed are they who hunger for that bread and thirst for that fountain; they eat and drink for ever and still they desire to eat and drink. For it is lovely above all things, that which is always eaten and drunk, always hungered and thirsted for. ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good.’”  St.Columbanus

Lord God, renew your Church

  with the Spirit of wisdom and love

  which you gave so fully to Saint Augustine.

Lead us by that same Spirit to seek you,

  the only fountain of true wisdom

  and the source of everlasting love.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

  who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

  one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

Saint Monica

Monica augustine

We remember a mother and her son this week, St. Monica and her son St. Augustine. I heard a song long ago that said: “A Mother’s Love’s a Blessing.” Augustine could have sung that song.

In his “Confessions,” he praised God for bringing him “late” to a faith he found beautiful; he also acknowledged a mother’s tears and prayers helped bring him to Jesus Christ. She was like the woman in the gospel who, as she brought her dead son to be buried, met Jesus who saw her tears and stopped the funeral procession and raised her son to life.

“ I was like that son,” Augustine says. ‘I was dead. My mother’s tears won me God’s life.”

Like many women of her time, we don’t know much about Monica. She married a man named Patricius, a tough husband who put her down and went out with other women. They had three kids, but Augustine was special; she followed him, hoping be would be the person she knew he could be. Above all, she wanted him to have faith.

He was a hard son to deal with, smart, well educated, hooked on the “lovely things” about him, deaf to her advice, blind to the path she wanted him to take, but she followed him anyway, convinced God had something big for him to do, and she finally got her wish

Doesn’t she sound like many today? How many today love their kids, or their husbands or their wives or their friends, but worry they’ll get mixed up in the wrong things–not going to church, deaf to the gospel? But they stick by them anyway.

That’s not easy to do and so it’s good to remember Monica and the moving words to God Augustine wrote in his Confessions. Did he ever show them to her, I wonder?

“O beauty every ancient, O beauty ever new. Late have I have loved thee. You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”

Fittingly, the church celebrates Monica’s feast on August 27th,  the day before her son’s.

BLESSED DOMINIC BARBERI, Passionist

Blessed Dominic Baberi, CP. August 26

Blessed Dominic Barberi was born in Viterbo, Italy, on May 22, 1792. At 22, he left work as a farmer and, called by God to religious life, he entered the Passionist congregation. Gifted with a good mind and heart, he was ordained a priest and devoted himself to teaching, preaching, spiritual direction and writing philosophical, theological, and spiritual treatises. His feast day is August 26.

In 1840, he established the first Passionist community outside of Italy in Ere, Belgium. He subsequently went to England where in 1842 he established the monastery of Aston Hall, near Stone.

 Blessed Dominic devoted his life to the unity of the Church — a mission God called him to from his youth. He longed for the return of “separated brethren” to the Catholic Church — an expression coined by him. He gave all he had to the Lord for the conversion of England, anticipating by 150 years the present ecumenical movement based on love, dialogue, respect for conscience and mutual discernment. 

People found him intelligent, friendly, respectful, caring and faithful to his religious tradition. The Anglican world found him a man of dialogue who brought the fresh air of a new springtime. Through his works, many Anglicans, including distinguished individuals, turned to the Catholic Church. Blessed Dominic received the profession of faith of the future Cardinal and now Saint John Henry Newman, esteemed as “the Pope of the Protestants, their great spokesman, one of the most learned men of England”. 

Newman admired Blessed Dominic as a good priest, learned and holy. He stated that he was Dominic’s “convert and penitent”.

Domenic died in Reading, near London, England on August 27, 1849. His grave in Sutton, St. Helens, England has become a place of pilgrimage for the English people. Pope Paul VI declared him “Blessed” on October 27, 1963 during Vatican II, offering him as an example of commitment to ecumenism and joyfully proclaiming him an Apostle of unity.

“Hear me, O coastlands, listen, O distant peoples. The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made me a sharp-edged sword.” (Is 49:1-2)

Lord,

you sent Blessed Dominic

to seek out the lost sheep of your flock

by preaching your truth and witnessing to your love.

May we follow his example

and build up the unity of your Church

as a sign of faith and love.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit

one God, for ever and ever.

“Let the Trees of the Forest Exult”

These days where I live in the northeast USA are dry and hot in drought, so I look especially at the trees. Some are shedding leaves. I remember reading “The Hidden Life Of Trees, by Peter Wolhleben, Vancouver,Ca 2016”. Wolhleben began his career as a forester working for a German commercial firm harvesting lumber. Then he switched over to managing a natural forest in Germany and his whole approach to trees changed. 

He began seeing trees, not from a human perspective — dollars and cents or how they fit around your homes or on your street—but from their place in the forest before we humans decided what they’re good for.

He finds that trees communicate with one another, among other things. They have a language all their own.They struggle and strategize and unite to form a glorious whole. Trees are parents helping their kids and kids helping their parents; well trees help the sick. Trees respond to the universe of air, water, and soil. They respond to a drought.

We humans can learn from them. Just go out your back door and see, Wolhleben says. So I’m watching the trees these days. The new trees we planted last year, the red oak and the American elm. The evergreens around our Mary Garden. The big oaks that have watched over us for years. They’re holding on these dry, hot days. So should we.

The Book of Psalms has an abundance of references to trees. The psalmists watched the trees and learned from them before Mr. Wolhleben did. I’m thinking now it’s our turn. We have to think differently about nature than we do.

Bartholomew, the Apostle

IMG (160)

Cana today

August 24th is the feast of the apostle Bartholomew, also identified as Nathaniel,  from Cana in Galilee, only a few miles from Nazareth.  Like Nazareth, Cana attracted little interest in Jesus’ time, yet it played  a major role in Jesus’ early life and  mission.

In John’s gospel,  Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding in Cana, his first “sign” that God’s kingdom would come. (Jn 2, 1-12) The family faced a wedding nightmare: the wine was running out and embarrassment was sure to come.

Catholic Church, Cana

Catholic Church, Cana

Was the family related to Jesus? Or Bartholomew?  At least they were close. Why else would Jesus, his mother and his disciples be at the celebration?cana carol rothstein 7

The miracle was special,. More than saving a family from embarrassment, it’s a sign in John’s gospel of God’s great love for ordinary people in ordinary towns everywhere. God delights in them, says the Prophet Isaiah, whose words often accompany the Cana miracle,  Cana signifies poor Israel, whom God loves with all the ardor of a “young man marrying a virgin,” God’s love, bountiful, restoring, overflowing with delight, goes out to this poor place, as well as poor places everywhere.

Jesus performed another miracle at Cana, John’s gospel says, another sign of the coming kingdom. Besides the miracle at the wedding, Jesus cured the dying son of a government official from Capernaum, whose ” father came to Cana because he heard that Jesus was there. (John 4.46-54) Jesus saved his son from death.

cana carol rothstein

Through the centuries Cana hasn’t prospered much. It’s not much to look at today.  In the late 19th century, a visiting English vicar described it this way:

“ (Kefr Kenna) lies on high ground, but not on a hill…A broad prickly pear led to the group of houses which perhaps represents the New Testament Cana. Loose stones were scattered around the slope. There may be, possibly, 150 inhabitants, but one cannot envy them their huts of mud and stone, with dunghills at every corner. Huge mud ovens, like great beehives, stood at the sides of some of the houses.

“ In one house a worthy Moslem was squatting on the ground with a number of children, all with slates on which verses of the Koran had been written, which they repeated together. It was the village school, perhaps like that at Nazareth eighteen hundred years ago.

“ A small Franciscan church of white stone with a nice railed wall, with a beautiful garden at the side, had over its doorway these startling words in Latin: ‘Here Jesus Christ from water made wine.’ Some large water jars are shown inside as actually those used in the miracle, but such mock relics, however believed in by simple monks, do the faith of other people more harm than good.”

Cana’s still a poor town. Like other poor places in the world it’s waiting to be raised up to share in the splendor of the heavenly Jerusalem. God loves poor places like this, the Cana miracle says. Bartholomew came from here.

cana carol rothstein 11

Church of St. Bartholomew, Cana