Praised be Jesus Christ and Mary His Most Holy Mother! As everyone is undoubtedly well aware, here at St. Paul’s the saints play a very important part in the life of our parish. Each weekday, after the 8.00am Mass, we have a novena to either Our Blessed Mother or one of he saints. Several times a week we venerate the relics of the saints after the morning Mass. Many of you may recall that last All Saints’ Day there were over 50 relics on display in the Church. Yes, the saints are very important to us all; they are our dearest friends.
Besides their intercession for us before the throne of almighty God (as if that were not enough), the saints teach us many things. They inspire us to seek to live holy lives – to live the life of Christ. From the example of thousands of martyrs and God’s servants throughout the ages, we see those who – starting with our sinless Savior Himself – patiently and joyfully endured marginalization, harsh treatment, persecution, the confiscation of their goods, false accusations; cruel torture and death, on account of their adherence to Jesus Christ. Indeed, has Our Lord not told us that we should expect such things to happen?
In the Gospel of St. Matthew, Our Lord takes a multitude of people up a mountain in Galilee, has them sit down, and preaches to them. That event is called The Sermon on the Mount, and what He preached we call The Beatitudes. We know them. We have heard them many times. They begin: “Blessed are the poor in spirit …” Yet though we may know the Beatitudes well, we often forget how they end, when our Lord says: “Blessed are you, when they insult you, and persecute you, and utter every kind of evil against you falsely, because of me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward will be great in Heaven.” Yes, Jesus really said that. Most of us would prefer to overlook that ultimate Beatitude.
The reality of our baptismal call is that we must all be ready to actually live that last Beatitude and we should never be shocked or surprised when it comes; and in whatever particular way that it may come to each one of us. We cannot live the Gospel only when it is easy, but we must especially strive to live it when it is most difficult. Yet when we rely on Him – and not ourselves – for strength and fortitude, we will be given the grace to continue serving Him joyfully and grow in faith, hope, and charity. As the poet Dante reminds us, In His will is our peace.
Because of the communion of saints, we are all united in joy and in suffering. The words of St. Paul ring ever so true where he says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Our blessed Lord did not have such consolations as he carried His Cross on the Via Dolorosa and when he was crucified on Calvary.
When we or someone we love suffers, it can be very easy to let understandable anger fester into something that is unjust and not of God. Hatred, rash anger and bitterness are unacceptable for a Christian. May any of these negative attitudes be banished from our minds and hearts. This only gives the devil (we don’t capitalize the fiend’s name) exactly what he wants. When we see a share in the Cross as a sign that the devil is trying to derail God’s good work, then we get a glimpse of the bigger picture; the view that God wants us to have, and see His hand bringing light out of darkness for the greater good and the salvation of our souls.
When the wonderful work of St. Francis de Sales, the Bishop of Geneva, was being attacked, many urged him to condemn his enemies. He simply replied Would you have me undo in fifteen minutes what the grace of God has taken twenty five years to accomplish? Nothing is ever solved by anger or by arguing. That is why the devil loves arguing. It only robs us of peace of soul and sets us up to commit many other sins.
Prayer is our greatest weapon, and good fruit flows from it. Please remain vigilant in prayer, especially the Holy Rosary. Pray for the conversion of sinners and for those who have less than noble intentions. Our Lady crushes the head of the ancient serpent. Her Immaculate Heart will triumph! May we seek to please God in all things so that we may triumph with her.
LENT: Next week I will be writing more extensively about holy Lent, which begins on February 18th. May this be the most holy and the best lent we have ever had. Please make every effort to make the Lenten Retreat and to participate in the Lenten devotions.
MASS MANNERS: One phenomenon that is seen more and more in Church is the chewing of gum. Several priests and I have discussed this new practice which was unknown as recently as ten years ago. It seems more and more people chew gum in Church. Several priests have suggested that perhaps this is done in these days because of the frenetic pace of life that so many live, much of it brought on by the new technologies which never allow us to have peace of soul.
Whatever may be the reason, as everyone knows eating and drinking are not permitted in the Church. This includes chewing gum. Particularly is this true if someone were planning to receive Holy Communion. Sadly the Church pews are filled with gum, placed there not by strangers, but by our own parishioners. When I served in the USAF it was not permitted to chew gum on base. This regulation was known and followed. Like all regulations in the military it was adhered to. No one to my knowledge rebelled against it saying things like Who are they to tell me what to do? I do what I want? Etc. May I kindly ask everyone fro refrain from eating or drinking (including the chewing of gum) in the Church.