Tag Archives: piety



“In Galilee Jesus announced to the people that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. He invited them to repent of their sins that they might enter the kingdom. He insinuated that He was the Messiah by assuming the title ‘Son of Man,’ and by claiming to be the ‘Lord of the Sabbath.’ He also claimed the divine power to forgive the sins of men. He authenticated these claims by the miraculous cures He worked. The nature of His teaching and His claims and the miracles which accompanied them excited the admiration of the people. Some, such as Peter and Andrew, James, John and Nathanael, attached themselves to Him as disciples. But the Pharisees refused to accept Him or His claims and resolved to do away with Him.


Despite their opposition Jesus continued His work to establish the kingdom of heaven. Some time after the crystalisation of the opposition of the Pharisees to Him He took the first definitive measures to ensure the continuation and the extension of His work on earth. He went up a mountain and prayed to God. Then He summoned His disciples and from them He chose twelve Apostles to assist Him in His work. As St Mark says:

‘… he appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them forth to preach. To them he gave power to cure sicknesses and to cast out devils. There were Simon, to whom he gave the name Peter, and James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (these he surnamed Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); and Andrew, and Philip and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alpheus, and Thaddeus, and Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him’ (Mark 3:14-19).

The choice of the twelve Apostles is an important event in the Galilean ministry of Jesus. It shows, first of all, His intention to broaden the field of His work. He chooses them so that they also may preach the kingdom of heaven, and preach it in power, for He gives them the power to work miracles. They will bring His message and power to those to whom He Himself will not personally appear.


Secondly, by choosing only twelve out of His followers, and by giving only to those twelve the power to preach the kingdom, Jesus Himself establishes a distinction of function and authority among His disciples. Some will be only His disciples; by their belief in Him and by their repentance they will enter the kingdom with Him and enjoy its blessings. But others – the twelve Apostles – will not only enter the kingdom with Him to enjoy its blessings, they will also share in His own power to establish the kingdom, to rule it, to preach its doctrines and to disperse its blessings.

Lastly, it is interesting to note that Jesus chose twelve Apostles. No doubt He chose twelve in remembrance of the fact that God’s blessings were promised to the twelve tribes of Israel. In this way He relates the founding of the kingdom of heaven to the original promises made by God to Israel.


Shortly after the choice of the twelve Apostles Jesus ascended a mountain again and delivered to His disciples, and perhaps to some of the crowd that followed Him the beautiful Sermon on the Mount. The high moral and spiritual tone of this sermon has retained the admiration of all men down to the present time. It is well to remember though, that the sermon does not contain the whole message of Jesus. In it He does not, for example, speak of the nature of His Church nor of the doctrine of Redemption. These and other doctrines He will speak of later. In the Sermon on the Mount He is content to describe to His disciples the moral climate of the Kingdom of Heaven, its identity with and its perfecting the Old Law delivered to the world through Moses and the Prophets.

Jesus begins His sermon with the Beatitudes:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:3-10).


In these Beatitudes Jesus describes both the spiritual attributes of the members of the kingdom of heaven and the blessings which God gives them both in this present world and in the world to come, in this present time and in eternity. The members of the kingdom, the disciples of Christ, must be ‘poor in spirit,’ ‘meek,’ that is, they must be men who turn to God alone for relief from the woes of this world. They are men who mourn their sufferings, but who hope for consolation in union with the sufferings of the Messias. They are men who hunger and thirst for justice, that is, holiness. They are men who extend mercy to all, who live in union with God in purity of heart, who seek to bring peace to the troubled world of men, who suffer persecution for the sake of Christ, the Son of Man.

The men who possess these spiritual qualities will be members of the kingdom of heaven: ‘theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ They will inherit the Messianic blessings. To them will be given purity of heart, real holiness. In eternity they shall be called the children of God and they will see God face to face.


In the Beatitudes Jesus simply but strongly shows the contrast between the conception of life of fallen man and the new idea of life which He has come to realise in the kingdom of heaven.

Fallen man, betrayed by his own weaknesses and misled by the devil, tends to find security and happiness by relying on force and power. He puts his faith in wealth and domination, rather than in God. He seeks security rather than holiness. He chafes under poverty, distress or suffering. He will not forgive injuries or extend mercy to the erring. Insecure in such happiness as he may find, he is ever at odds with his neighbours. Afraid of pain and loss, he will compromise with truth and principle for the sake of comfort.


But in the kingdom of heaven which Jesus is to establish, man, with God’s help, will change his estimate of values. He will no longer be so passionately, so desperately concerned with the pleasures, the wealth, the power of this world. He will raise his eyes on high and seek the holiness, the justice of God. To gain this great blessing he will rely not on his own strength but on the power and the love of God. Trusting in God he will hope for his own ultimate redemption. Buoyed up by this consoling hope he will accept his own sufferings, the penalty of sin, and will extend mercy and peace to his fellow sufferers in the general torment of mankind. Firm in this hope he will suffer persecution, even unto death of his mortal body, for the sake of attaining union with God in justice and holiness.


After the solemn announcement of the Beatitudes Jesus addresses His disciples more directly and tells them that they are the recipients of these blessings, and through them these same blessings will be given to the world.

‘You are the salt of the earth,’ He tells them. ‘You are the light of the world … so let your light shine before men in order that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:13, 14, 16).


Following this admonition to the disciples Jesus goes on to explain the relation between the Law of His kingdom and the Old Law of Moses and the Prophets.

‘Do not think,’ He says, ‘that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For amen I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall be lost from the Law till all things have been accomplished’ (Matthew 5:17-18).

Since Jesus Himself in the rest of the sermon will make some changes in the Old Law, and since His Apostles will later abrogate many of the detailed and minute prescriptions of the Mosaic Law, this statement of Jesus is not easy to understand. Fortunately He Himself provides the clues to His real meaning.


In the first place, we notice that the changes which Jesus Himself institutes are not so much an abrogation of the Mosaic Law as they are an extension of it, or rather an elevation of it to a higher plane of morality. Thus Jesus tells His disciples that not only is murder wrong but even anger against or contempt for one’s fellow man.


It is quite clear also that the foundation of the changes made by Jesus is love or charity.

‘You have heard,’ He says, ‘that it was said, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and shalt hate thy enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute you and calumniate you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, who makes his sun to rise on the good and the evil, and sends rain on the just and the unjust’ (Matthew 5:43, 45).

Men are to love one another as God loves them, loving both friends and enemies, both good and evil, the just and the unjust. In this way, men, as Jesus says to His disciples, ‘are to be perfect, even as (their) heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matthew 5:48).


The bond of continuity or identity between the Mosaic Law and the new Law of the kingdom of heaven is love, the love of God for men and the love of men for God and for their fellowmen in God. Jesus will say later that the two great commandments of the Old Law are the commands to love God and to love one’s neighbour, and He will explain that one’s neighbour is every fellow human being. Even here in the Sermon on the Mount He sums up the Old Law in the Golden Rule:

‘Therefore all things whatever you would that men should do to you, even so do you also to them; for this is the Law and the Prophets’ (Matthew 7:12).

And this Golden Rule is a law of love, for it commands men to love one another with the wholehearted love they give themselves.

When Jesus says, then, that He has not come to destroy the Mosaic Law but to fulfil it, He means that He will not revoke the essential meaning of that Law, the law of love. But He will fulfil it by extending the scope or the object of love and by deepening the quality of love. In His kingdom men must love God and all other men, and in this way Jesus makes all men the object of Christian love.

Moreover Jesus deepens the quality of love by insisting that it is concerned not only with external actions but also with the inner man, with the heart and the mind of man. So he castigates not only the actual adulterer, but even those who look with lust at another human being (Matthew 5:27-28).


Jesus also emphasises the purity of the love which He demands in His kingdom by contrasting the piety demanded of His disciples with the piety of the Pharisees. The Scribes and the Pharisees perform works of piety ostentatiously so that they may be well regarded by men. When they give alms to the poor, they call it to everyone’s attention. When they fast, they disfigure their faces and look gloomy so that all may know they are fasting. On the contrary the disciples of Jesus are not to parade their virtues before the crowd, nor to seek the praise of men for their piety. They are to do good for the sake of God alone, and God will give them their true reward. They are to pray often, for prayer is powerful. God will answer their prayers. They are not to judge others; judgement is reserved to God. Their love of God must be a real, an effective love; it must be a love which produces works of virtue. ‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father in heaven shall enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 7:21).


The primary message of the Sermon on the Mount is the message of love. Jesus accepts what His Father had revealed to mankind through Moses and the Prophets, the law of love. Men are to love not only their friends but also their enemies, not only their fellow countrymen but also all men.

The true child of God loves all men. And this love must be a true interior love, proceeding from the innermost heart of man, a love as strong as his love for himself. Moreover it must be a love patterned after God’s love for men, complete, sovereign and impartial. As such it will go far beyond the demands of the old Mosaic Law. It will rule not only the external actions of a man but also his innermost thoughts and desires. It will be a total, a dedicated love. In this present world it will be a disinterested love, seeking no present reward for men.


When Jesus had finished preaching this message of love, this foundation of His kingdom, as St Matthew tells us, ‘the crowds were astonished at his teaching; for he was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their Scribes and Pharisees’ (Matthew 7:28).

It was clear to the crowd that had followed Jesus that there was something new and strange about the preaching of Jesus. Not only was His message new and startling but He had deliberately emphasised the difference between His preaching and the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees. The latter spoke as theologians, appealing to the authority of other theologians or to the authority of their ancient scriptures. But Jesus dared to speak in His own name and, in His own name, to make changes in the Pharisaic interpretations of the law.

Though the crowds did not fully realise it, Jesus was speaking to them as the Christ, the Messias, instituting the Kingdom of God. He spoke as the Lawgiver, establishing the new law of grace which would be the foundation of the Kingdom of God.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959


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O Lord Jesus,
like St Paul,
may I count everything as loss
in comparison with the supreme advantage of knowing You.
I want to know You
and what Your Passion and Resurrection can do.
I also want to share in Your sufferings
in the hope that if I resemble You in death
I may somehow attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Give me grace to make every effort
to supplement faith with moral courage,
moral courage with knowledge,
knowledge with self-control,
self-control with patience,
patience with piety,
piety with brotherly affection,
and brotherly affection with love.
May these virtues keep me both active and fruitful
and bring me to the deep knowledge of You,
Lord Jesus Christ.


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Holy Spirit, Sanctifier blest,
deign to grant us:
the gift of fear,
which makes us shun all sin;
the gift of piety,
which makes us respect and love
the Three Divine Persons,
our parents and children,
as is proper for true children of God;
the gift of knowledge,
which makes us judge eternal and temporal things
as God judges them;
the gift of fortitude,
which makes us bear all hardships
for the love and greater glory of God;
the gift of counsel,
which makes us be guided, and guide others,
in the Way of Truth, of Christlike Life;
the gift of understanding,
which makes us penetrate deeply into
what You, Holy Spirit, have deigned to reveal;
the gift of wisdom,
which makes us relish all that is right
and is in line with Eternal Wisdom.
This we ask You to grant us,
Gift of God Most High,
who live in perfect unity of Love
with the Father and the Son.


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“Jeanne Jugan was born on October 25, 1792, in the midst of the French Revolution, in the little village of Petites Croix, near Cancale (Ille-et-Vilaine), as the sixth child of a poor fisherman. At the age of only six years she lost her father, who never returned from a fishing expedition at sea. Twice the young girl received marriage proposals. Each time she declined. With regard to a sailor who asked for her hand in 1816, she explained to her mother: ‘God wants me for himself. He wants me for a work that has not yet been started.’

In 1817 Jeanne Jugan began to work in the Hospital Rosais in Saint-Servan, caring for the sick. In this connection she accepted the invitation of a certain Mademoiselle Lecoq to live at her house, not really as a domestic servant but rather as a friend and co-worker. With this pious lady she would call on the sick, day after day, for fifteen years and assist them. During this time Jeanne Jugan became a member of the Third Order of Saint Eudes in the Society of the Heart of the Admirable Mother (Societe du Coeur de la Mere admirable).

After the death of Mademoiselle Lecoq, Jeanne Jugan, together with her friend Francoise Aubert, rented a simple house in Saint-Servan; this served not only as their home, from which they went out to visit poor sick people, but also as a place where they took them in to care for them. The first woman they took in – and Jeanne Jugan gave up her own bed for her – was the blind, half-lame Widow Harraux.


This laid the cornerstone for the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor, which was founded later. Gradually, as the poor sick people who were cared for in the house were joined by still other poor, old individuals, additional helpers, notably the eighteen-year-old orphan Virginie Tredaniel and her friend Marie Jamet, came also to care for the sick, and, together with Jeanne Jugan and Francoise Aubert, they formed the foundation of the future community of Sisters. So as to provide the necessary support for this little community of Sisters, they began collecting alms. This was to become and remain a characteristic feature of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

In 1842 Jeanne Jugan was elected superior of the little community, which more and more was assuming the form of a religious order. On this occasion two priests stood by her side, namely, the secretary (later the provincial) of the Hospitaller order of Saint John of God, Father Felix Massot, who instilled much of his order’s spirituality into the women’s community as it was being formed; and the chaplain in Saint-Servan, Father Augustin Le Pailleur, who indeed was a great help to the Sisters but who began to falsify the history of their congregation, in that he eventually presented himself as its founder and allowed himself too much influence over its direction. When Jeanne Jugan was reelected the superior of the small community in 1843, he considered the election invalid and appointed Marie Jamet as superior, though she was only twenty-three years old, whereas Jeanne Jugan, at age fifty-one, was assigned merely to collect alms, and she was prevented from having any part in the direction of the institute she had founded. In 1852 she had to go back to the novitiate house, which was located first in Rennes, then in La Tour Saint-Joseph (Saint-Pern). Here Sister Jeanne Jugan, who after professing vows had taken the religious name Sister Marie of the Cross, was sentenced to apparent inactivity for twenty-seven years, until her death on August 29, 1879. During all these years, however, she was for the novices of the growing congregation of nuns the embodiment of the ideal of the Little Sisters of the Poor and the living rule of this institute.

Jeanne Jugan was endowed with heroic humility; in 1879; when she fell asleep in the Lord, the community of the Little Sisters of the Poor – which had been approved definitely on March 1, 1879, by Pope Leo XIII – numbered 2,400 Sisters in 177 houses, and these were not only in France but had spread beyond Europe and America. At the beatification of Sister Jeanne Jugan on October 3, 1982, Pope John Paul II charcterised her as follows:


Et exultavit humiles! And he lifted up the lowly! These well-known words of the Magnificat fill my spirit and heart with the feeling of joy since I have just declared the humble foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor one of the Blessed…[A] close reading of the Position on the virtues of Jeanne Jugan, as well as of recent biographies about her and her evangelical charity, inclines me to say that God could glorify no more humble a servant than her. Dear pilgrims, I have no fears about encouraging you to read or re-read these works which speak so well of the heroic humility of Blessed Jeanne Jugan as well as of that wondrous divine wisdom which so carefully arranges events destined to help a vocation to flower and a new order to blossom, an order which is at once ecclesial and social.

Having said this, I would like to meditate with you and for you on the reality of the spiritual message of the new Blessed Jeanne. Jeanne invites all of us, and I quote here from the Rule of the Little Sisters, ‘to share in the bliss of spiritual poverty which leads to total abandonment and lifts the soul to God.’ She invites us to this much more by her life than by those few words of hers which have been recorded and which are so marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit such as these: ‘It is so beautiful to be poor, to have nothing, to wait simply on the good God.’ Joyfully aware of her poverty, she depends completely on Divine Providence which she saw in her own life’s work and that of others.


Still, this absolute confidence did not make her inactive. With the courage and faith that characterises the woman of her native land, she did not hesitate to beg on behalf of the poor whom she cared for. She saw herself as their sister, their ‘Little Sister’. She wanted to identify with all of the elderly who were often so sickly and even abandoned. Is this not the Gospel in its pure form? (cf. Mt 25:34-41). Is this not the way which the Third Order of St John Eudes had taught her, ‘…to have one life, one heart, one soul, one will with Jesus,’ to join together all those whom Jesus singled out, the little ones, and the poor? Thanks to her daily exercises of piety – long periods of silent prayer, participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and reception of Holy Communion more frequently than was the custom at that time, thoughtful recitation of the Rosary which she never stopped, and fervently kneeling as she made the Stations of the Cross – the soul of Jeanne was steeped in the mystery of Christ the Redeemer, especially in his passion and his cross. Her name in religion, Sister Mary of the Cross, is a real and moving symbol of this. From her native village of Petites-Croix (in English, Little Crosses – was this a coincidence or a sign?) until her departure from this world on 29 August 1879, this foundress’ life can be compared to a long and fruitful Way of the Cross, lived in the joyful peace of the Gospel.


Must we not recall here that four years after the foundation of the Order she was exposed to the abusive and public meddling of some of her first companions? She allowed herself to be stripped of the office of superior, and a little later she went back to the Motherhouse for a retreat which was to last twenty-seven years, without the slightest complaint. Saint John Eudes, her spiritual [father], used to say, ‘The real measure of sanctity is humility’. Speaking to the Little Sisters, she would often say, ‘Be little, stay little! If we begin to consider ourselves as something, we would no longer be praising God, and we would collapse!’ Jeanne really surrendered herself to the spiritual life. In her long retreat at the Tour Saint-Joseph, many novices and Little Sisters came under her decisive influence and she left on her Congregation the stamp of her spirit by the quiet but eloquent radiance of her life.

In our day, pride, the search for success, and temptation to power all run rampant, and sometimes, unfortunately, even in the Church. They become an obstacle to the coming of the Kingdom of God. This is why the spirituality of Jeanne Jugan can attract followers of Christ and fill their hearts with simplicity and humility, filled with hope and the joy of the Gospel, strengthened by God and by forgetfulness of self. Her spiritual message can lead all those baptised and confirmed to a rediscovery and a practice of that realistic chaity which is stunningly effective in the life of a Little Sister, or of a lay person whenever the God of mercy and hope reigns over her completely.


Likewise, Jeanne Jugan has left us an apostolic lesson in reality. You could say that she received the Spirit as a kind of prophetic intuition born of the needs and deep desires of the elderly: their desire to be respected, esteemed and loved; their fear of loneliness and at the same time their wish for independence and intimacy; the sadness of feeling no longer useful; and very often, a desire to deepen their life of faith and to live it all the more. I would even add that, never having read the beautiful words of Gaudium et Spes, Jeanne already secretly agreed with what they say about establishing a great human family where all men are treated as brothers (n. 24) sharing the world’s goods according to the law of justice (n. 69) which is inseparable from the law of charity. Though the structures of the social security system have done away which much of the misery of Jeanne Jugan’s time, still her daughters come across the misery of the elderly in many different countries today. And even where these structures do exist, they often do not provide the kind of home atmosphere the elderly so deeply desire and need for their physical and spiritual well-being. You can see it today: in a world where the number of older people is constantly growing…, the timeliness of the apostolic message of Jeanne Jugan cannot be disputed. From the start, the foundress wanted her Congregation not to limit itself to the West of France, but to become a real network of family homes where each person would be received, honoured and even, to the extent possible, brought to a new widening of his or her existence.


The timeliness of the apostolate undertaken by this foundress can be seen from the fact that there are today constant requests to be admitted to these homes and to found new ones. When she died, two thousand four hundred Little Sisters were ministering to the needs of the poor and aged in ten countries. Today, there are four thousand and four hundred of them in thirty nations and on six continents. The whole Church and society itself must admire and applaud the amazing growth of this little seed of the Gospel, sown in the soil of Brittany, and here, a hundred and fifty years later, so poor in possessions but rich in faith.

May the beatification of their dear Foundress bring to the Little Sisters new strength to be faithful to the charism of their mother. May this event have the effect of drawing more and more young girls throughout the world into the ranks of the Little Sisters. May the glorification of their fellow country-woman be a vigorous call to the parishioners of Cancale and the whole Diocese of Rennes to the faith and love of the Gospel. Finally, may this beatification be a source of joyous hope for all the aged of the world, thanks to the great witness of that lady who loved all of them so much in the name of Jesus Christ and of his Church!”
– “Example of Courage and Humility for Today’s World”, L’Osservatore romano, October 18, 1982


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Come, SPIRIT OF WISDOM! Teach my heart to know how to appreciate and love celestial goods and prefer them to all the goods of the earth.

(Say the “Glory be” after each invocation.)

Come, SPIRIT OF UNDERSTANDING! Enlighten my mind to know and embrace all the mysteries and be worthy to obtain full knowledge of You, the Father and the Son.

Come, SPIRIT OF GOOD COUNSEL! Help me in all the matters of this unstable life, make me docile to Your inspiration and lead me always on the right road of the divine commandments.

Come, SPIRIT OF FORTITUDE! Fortify my heart in all pertubation and adversity and give my soul the vigour necessary to resist all its enemies.

Come, SPIRIT OF KNOWLEDGE! Make me see the vanity of all the worn out goods of this world so that I do not use them except for Your greater glory and the salvation of my soul.

Come, SPIRIT OF PIETY! Come live in my heart and lead it to the true piety and holy love of God.

Come, SPIRIT OF THE FEAR OF GOD! Permeate my flesh with Your holy fear in such a way that I always feel the presence of God and avoid everything that might displease the eyes of His Divine Majesty.

Divine Holy Spirit, I offer You all the prayers of the most holy Virgin and the Apostles together in the Cenacle, and I unite my prayers to theirs, begging You to hurry to renew the face of the earth.

V. Send down Your Spirit and things will be created.
R. And You will renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray:
O God, You taught the hearts of the faithful with the light of the Holy Spirit. Grant us, through the same Spirit, knowledge and love of justice, and may we always enjoy His consolation. Amen.


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MARY SAYS: Why do so many hearts that desire perfection rarely attain their objective? How many persons close themselves in silence, abandon the world, seek to free themselves from all that binds the impulses of their heart…and yet they’re always the same!


Look at a shrub covered with ivy! How beautiful it seems! The woody part is completely hidden, its leaves seem to be like a head of hair on a green trunk… That plant doesn’t bear fruit, however; it doesn’t grow; it always remains sterile…why?

The leaves which adorn its trunk are only a parasite. The ivy beautifies the shrub externally, but it also sucks its vital forces and impedes its life. It is necessary that the trunk appears as what it is, namely a trunk, and that the leaves not be the sterile appearance of a plant, but that they be full of flowers and fruit.

How many times you also would like to appear beautiful to your own glance… Your imagination deceives you and you cover your trunk with parasites which seemingly adorn you, but in fact take away your life.

A forced and oppressive silence is nothing other than ivy… You are externally silent, but speak all the more internally with your imagination, with outbursts of temper… Get rid of this ivy! If you must converse, do it with great simplicity and preserve your heart recollected in God…Don’t be negligent and sloppy about your clothing, but be modest and simple. Don’t disguise your egotism with the tinsel of piety, but be charitable and good to all.

I want from you a gentle, sincere, profound, simple virtue, without ostentation, without vanity, without exaggeration… So many times you dream of martyrdom when you are not capable of benefiting from the daily contrariness which you find in your family!

THE SOUL: O my good Mother, how many miseries do you not make me discover in my heart? It’s true, I’m so fanciful that I believe myself to be immediately a saint, when I’m so poor in virtues… Give me a little humility so that the parasites don’t attach themselves to the humble and hidden little plants… Make my poor heart simple so that I may live only for God.
– Don Dolindo Ruotolo


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…Time and again the Pope has insisted that we need to understand the Church as ‘Communion’. The root of this communion comes from the personal holiness of all the individual Christians. Sometimes people mistakenly think that holiness belongs to a particular group in the Church, such as the clergy or the consecrated religious, but ‘Lumen Gentium’ spoke of a universal call to holiness proper to each member of the Church. Thankfully holiness doesn’t depend on our own personal strength or goodness. ‘Lumen Gentium’ speaks of holiness in a realistic way when it says that “the followers of Christ are called by God, not because of their works, but according to his own purpose and grace. They are justified in the Lord Jesus, because in the Baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way, they are really made holy.” Ultimately therefore holiness depends on how fully we accept the Lord’s call in our everyday lives.


If we want to know how to respond to the Lord’s call in a fruitful way, not surprisingly the Pope suggests a number of traditional paths to this holiness. In his first encyclical, ‘Deus Caritas Est’ he proposes the three fundamental activities of the Church as paths to holiness, “proclaiming the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments and exercising the ministry of charity.” The proclamation of the Word of God entails not just giving catechesis or preaching to people. It is mainly in the way we live our lives, in the phrase attributed to St Francis, we need to preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary to use words. Likewise, it is through our active participation in the sacraments that we can become holy. If we are nourished by the Eucharist and by prayer then we can live holier lives. This will necessarily be reflected in our works of Christian charity towards our brothers and sisters.

Indeed the true mission of the Church is to be a sacrament of salvation, as Pope Benedict said in a homily in Berlin in September 2011, “the Church as the Second Vatican Council expresses it, is the ‘universal sacrament of salvation’, existing for sinners, for us, in order to open up to us the path of conversion, healing and life. That is the Church’s great perennial mission, entrusted to her by Christ.


This universal sacrament of salvation is a true hope for today’s generation where so many people are suffering. The Church can be a place of shelter and healing. In his book ‘Light of the World’, the Pope spoke of the mission of the Church today as forming “islands where faith in God and the interior simplicity of Christianity are alive and radiant; oases, Noah’s arks, to which people can always come back for refuge.” According to the Pope, these ‘protective zones’ can be found in liturgical spaces, parishes, movements, pilgrimages and exercises of piety, and we must labour towards providing an open, vital and authentic Christianity so that these ‘protective zones’ can be available for everyone who needs them so that the Church can truly present Christ as the Light of the World to everyone in our generation.
– This is an excerpt from an article by Neil Xavier O’Donoghue, published in “Messenger of Saint Anthony”, issue January 2013. For subscriptions etc., contact “Messenger of Saint Anthony”, Basilica del Santo, via Orto Botanico 11, 35123 Padua, Italy.


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