Patron saints at Confirmation

7864_1In this start of May up to now, we ( the DRE and I) conducted our 2018 Confirmation class interviews with parish teens.   We meet with them a year before their Sacrament time so to perk their interest for preparing for this grace and blessing.  Their summer assignment will be to research and choose a good saint for the patronage in life.  After picking the saint, there are to begin praying along with that saint’s intercession.  They are also to begin working on a poster/display/report on their saint, so to present at the parish Saint Fair near All Saints Feast day.

We keep the interest up in the saints through the year with a pilgrimage to the Basilica Shrine of Mary, where I try to feature saints and patrons on my tour with them of the Church.  ( We usually go on Veterans Day holiday.) Then, next April or May 2018, the Confirmands will receive the Sacrament under the patronage of this great believer in history, whom they have chosen.

In a 2017 Confirmand saint presentation, a young man in the class chose St. Thomas Aquinas for his saint.  His poster featured nine windows of facts for the inquirer to ‘ ‘calculate’ how, what, when and why TA became a saint.  He chose the saint as his own model to grow in wisdom and knowledge in the Church and in Jesus Christ.  We were impressed by the boy’s grasp of Aquinas.  He also really “got it” how saints CAN be our heavenly friends.    imag0742IMAG1050_1IMAG1049_1

Homily Sun. St. Joseph Day

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HOMILY

When I think of St. Joseph on this March 19th, there are a few words or phrases that come to mind to describe him.  One is “good” St. Joseph. Another is Joseph the “just man.”. A third phrase to describe his life is how he was a man committed to “redemptive suffering,” as how he knew it.

Let me expound on each.

And, as we look at St. Joseph (and to Jesus by him), may we ask ourselves:  How am I good?  How am I just?  How do I live out “redemptive suffering?” or make my own sacrifices for good to come about to God’s glory?

Joseph the Good.

Good St. Joseph is a fitting first description of this saint.  The goodness in his character is certainly something that won the loving heart of Mary to him. There was deep goodness in this man, which spoke of what Israel was supposed to produce in its holy nation.  Mary saw that model goodness in Joseph; she loved him for that good fidelity to God’s call, and she knew he would likewise be true to her.  She became betrothed to him, seeing goodness in her future.

Joseph, thus, can be contrasted with the kind of Jews that gave Moses a stubborn, selfish time. In that opening Exodus text today in Mass, Moses loses his temper over the lack of good, courageous people he has to work with in his exodus company.  Yet Joseph, caretaker of the Holy Family, was indeed good, and so reliably good.  Joseph would be a worthy assistant in the Kingdom of God coming in his foster-son, Jesus, in the Savior’s “new exodus” promise, delivered in the Good News, for a new covenant of God to be kept.  

Joseph was a very good father figure to the Lord God Incarnate.  Jesus learned from his promise-keeper, covenant-keeper Joseph, and could trust to be submissive to him (Lk. 2:51-52)– and He was.  Jesus would grow to shine in Joseph’ good example – modeled so well in the Holy Family home.

Joseph the Just

St. Joseph is truly a just man; he is fair in every godly way, and reverent in the soul.  He was just in his work and how he treated people daily. Joseph was respectful always, not just to his family, but also to others he met.  Joseph’s life and social and just influence on Jesus is evident, as I see it, in today’s gospel, as one observes Jesus’ just behavior to the Samaritan woman and her townsfolk.  For instance, Jesus was fair (in some imitation of Joseph) in not excluding the Samaritans in his mission, nor to exclude, particularly, this public female sinner at the well of Sychar.  Hear Jesus’ just, fair approach to her in the John 4 account.  Note his respect to the woman who didn’t even have respect from anybody in her own home town.  She only was their town sinner. Yet, amazingly, she is given respect by this kind man at the well.  He sees her as a human being, somebody made in God’s image first.

Jesus puts her in control by asking her for a favor, a drink. This justly opens a dialogue. It breaks down barriers.   He draws out of her guarded self, even to some reference of faith (as she speaks of Jacob and this well at which they meet at, which was where Jacob’s Ladder had appeared in history).  Jesus is not harsh, but fair, in then raising in the verbal exchange about her immoral activity, to point that she might be thirsty for God’s help. She is.  He notices how her isolation in her sins do cry for mercy, freedom and justice  She responds openly by saying that maybe one day God would use that holy Jacob’s ladder to come down to help people.  Jesus then says:  ‘That day is here. I am the Christ, and I have come to help my people, such as yourself.  I can now offer you a drink in the Spirit of God.’  Friends, this exchange of Jesus, in such total respect to the sinful Samaritan woman, is a tribute to Joseph’s influence, so I think. Sure, the Holy Spirit helped Jesus a lot, as well as His divine nature to his humanity was a big factor to His actions, but do not doubt, for a second, how noticeable Joseph’s great mark is on how Jesus lived His ministry.

St. Joseph the just man helped form Jesus for us.*  Jesus’ own perfect fairness was in Him at birth, surely, but you could say it was planned to be nurtured by the one whom God chose to foster the Christ Child, the model just man:  Joseph.   Into Jesus’ development towards manhood, he and Joseph even worked together in the Nazareth workshop, and perhaps in nearby Sepphoris, as just workers in a just trade, doing it all inspired by faith.  Joseph died before Jesus went into ministry, though we don’t know what year it was.  Jesus’ carpentry times probably stopped at that time, with Him then looking for preparation for the ministry life, once Joseph passed on. 

By the way, and of course, Joseph certainly would have been most blessed in the relationship with Jesus.   He is the most holy male saint in history, just due to the fact that he was in close family contact with God Incarnate, Jesus, for many years.  Being with divinity, in caring for Jesus, The Lord, would highly rub off on him.   He was receiving, even much more than giving, in the pairing with Jesus, and the spousal relationship with Mary, Jesus’ mother.   He would have been aglow in holiness with them.                  

Joseph, the Redemptive Sufferer 

There is a third aspect of Joseph’s life– most apropos to our Lenten season in this Year of Grace–it is the example the Joseph of redemptive suffering.  Redemptive suffering is a term that Deacon and I will address a few times during Lent.  It is defined easily as a holy suffering experience with the good-of-others in mind, pertaining to salvation and God’s glory.

Joseph knew the Old Testament version of redemptive suffering.   It was an involvement, surely, to be “poor in spirit.”   When Jesus began His ministry, His first sermon line was “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”   I believe Jesus was thinking of his foster-father’s example here.  His foster dad was a man of the remnant faithful of Israel, the “anawim,” as they were called.  Joseph’s poor- in-spirit example touched on Jesus.  He had seen Joseph live out Israel’s call to be willing to live in sacrifice and other-centeredness.   Joseph was willing to sacrifice something, endure something, and bear something—in self-suffering—for the cost of someone else’s good.  (Even especially for Jesus Himself.) Jesus would be blessed by that example, then go on to show in Himself just how elevated (in His Grace) that redemptive suffering could go.  (It would save the world via Him.)   sorrow2

Why did Joseph live this way, of being “poor in spirit?”   To live to the glory of God!

When Jesus preached the Beatitudes, He also included the eighth one:  “Blessed are those persecuted, of those who suffer for the sake of My Name and the gospel of the Kingdom come, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”  Again, I think he was remembering Joseph’s example here—never minimize the contribution of a godly father (even foster-father). Joseph had been persecuted by many, such as Herod’s family, but he did not waver.  Jesus says that He came to offer the kingdom of heaven to such as these.

In his poor-in-spirit attitude and suffering for God’s good to come by him, Joseph was most willing to sacrifice himself for the care of Mary and her son, Jesus, the Christ Child.    Joseph was willing to go through confusing times, without God’s full explanation, when he had to give up his home in Nazareth, so to move on to Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and onto Africa for a number of years, for the sake of his family.    As Jesus matured and began ministry, He was also without a home-place (”the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” Mt. 8:20), but he could lean a bit on Joseph’s life.   He also knew how Joseph toiled with the world and his beloved Israel all under Roman rule.   Jesus would borrow from that strength of his foster-father to toil to set the world free, one caught  under sin and Satan’s hold, and Jesus would work to the very end on his human strength for our freedom.  Jesus saw how his strong foster dad had worked hard to provide for the Holy Family; thus would Jesus strives for the human family, to save us, and He’d do it for His Heavenly Father as a gift as one of us on the earth.  We are heading to the Cross and Resurrection this Lent, and for ourselves, like Sychar’s Samaritans, to be saved by The Savior.  Amen.

 

All Saints

Say hello to your “Supernatural Friend” in Heaven. That’s who a heavenly believer is–ready to be friends forever with us. We call them saints.

There are some sure ones in Heaven that the Church has pointed out, or “canonized,” that would be great choices to be your friends in Heaven. There are multitudes of others, too. Each all of them in Glory want to cheer us on to make it to Heaven, too.

Which saint(s) shall be your supernatural friends?

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Can I tell you about mine?
I have my name’s sake: John– to be my holy friend. My first name is for a saint, which also was my grandpa’s name, and a Catholic naval hero guy. I pray to Saint John, as my supernatural friend. He is a favorite. I keep a drawing of him by my front door. His gospel is my favorite Bible book. I think it’s cool, too, that he was at the Last Supper, too, as I have learned to love the Eucharist as Jesus with us. All of this was probably due to his help. John became a priest, and so did I.

Here’s my next friend on my list–Mary. St. John was close to Holy Mary, The Saints of Saints. She is a supernatural friend of mine, and while I share her with billions of Christ’ faithful through time, Mary gives us each of us a personal care in the Church, as we allow. She is our beautiful Mother. I am doing something in return for help. I am consecrating myself anew in our supernatural friendship. I think Saint John recommended it. He wants me to better know Mary. John knew her well, and even took care of her (after Jesus’ Death and Resurrection) until her Assumption.

I have a saint that I chose for Confirmation: Anthony of Padua– to also be my holy friend for life. The friendship is working well. I can’t count the many ways he has assisted me over the 45 years of knowing him. He is always working to fix up the lost ways that I might go, or for me to find the lost things in my life. He is the patron of announcers, and he has inspired me to announce the Gospel with my life. He is depicted holding a child in his arms in his statue, which I saw in Franciscan parishes in my youth. Now I try to have a ministry to children in my life. As I see a child, I see Christ in them.

I have a saint of a new affiliation since my priesthood; he is an English priest saint and martry named John Payne. He was canonized in the 1970′s and given my birthday date as his new saint’s feast day. He is my holy friend of a few years, and I went and paid him respects at where he served and died for the Catholic Faith. I also prayed at St. Edward’s tomb on that pilgrimage.

I have my Irish heritage befriending me supernaturally to St. Patrick, as well.
I think he just automatically became my supernatural friend, with a last name like Barry, and since that he has seen me visiting his cathedral in NYC or marching in his parades with frequency from my childhood on.

These are the top special and supernatural friends in my life. They are each taking part in my life towards my own becoming a saint.

The goal of every Christian is to become a saint. And thus we are reminded– on ALL Saints Day of the Church calendar.

I also have Michael the Archangel, as my supernatural friend, all due to his name given me as my middle name by my parents. He is a supernatural friend to me, too! Make him SF #6.

Last year I began a friendship with St. Gaspar, one of the Magi to Christ. He carried the frankincense, the priestly gift, to the Christ Child on Christmas.
Now Gaspar has a little statue in my car. I made a postcard photo of it. He is SF #7. imag0762_1
I have struck up a supernatural pal in St. Edward since my arrival in Bowie in 2007=. Ditto that for St. Pius X, upon returning to teach at the school I attended in my youth.

It’*s Supernatural Delight– in knowing these living heroes of Heaven and lovers of God– these Supernatural friends.

May the saints and angels guide and bless you to the Glory of God!imag0760_1
Who are your supernatural friends?! We call them the saints.
At our parish saint’s fair, one of our confirmands has chosen St. Thomas Aquinas to be his saint for his full initiation into the Church. imag0742 here he is telling some children about his new supernatural friend.imag0741

Mother Teresa Canonized Sept. 4

While we celebrate with The Church the official recognition of the saintly life of Teresa of Calcutta….I will pass on to you here a commentary on Teresa’s life to sainthood. Do you know her basic story? I can also recommend the Teresa movie starring Olivia Hussey as a good review. It’s been showing on EWTN tv. It’s also available for purchase at the Shrine or via internet… IMAG0585_1“Mother Teresa was a force of nature and wholly unique. She was always her own person, startlingly independent, obedient, yet challenging some preconceived notions and expectations. Her own life story includes many illustrations of her willingness to listen to and follow her own conscience, even when it seemed to contradict what was expected.

This strong and independent woman was born Gonxha (Agnes) Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Yugoslavia, on August 27, 1910. Five children were born to Nikola and Dronda Bojaxhiu, yet only three survived. Gonxha was the youngest, with an older sister, Aga, and brother, Lazar. This brother describes the family’s early years as “well-off,” not the life of peasants reported inaccurately by some. “We lacked for nothing.” In fact, the family lived in one of the two houses they owned.

Nikola was a contractor, working with a partner in a successful construction business. He was also heavily involved in the politics of the day. Lazar tells of his father’s rather sudden and shocking death, which may have been due to poisoning because of his political involvement. With this event, life changed overnight as their mother assumed total responsibility for the family, Aga, only 14, Lazar, 9, and Gonxha, 7.

Though so much of her young life was centered in the Church, Mother Teresa later revealed that until she reached 18, she had never thought of being a nun. During her early years, however, she was fascinated with stories of missionary life and service. She could locate any number of missions on the map, and tell others of the service being given in each place.

Called to Religious Life

At 18, Gonxha decided to follow the path that seems to have been unconsciously unfolding throughout her life. She chose the Loreto Sisters of Dublin, missionaries and educators founded in the 17th century to educate young girls.

In 1928, the future Mother Teresa began her religious life in Ireland, far from her family and the life she’d known, never seeing her mother again in this life, speaking a language few understood. During this period a sister novice remembered her as “very small, quiet and shy,” and another member of the congregation described her as “ordinary.” Mother Teresa herself, even with the later decision to begin her own community of religious, continued to value her beginnings with the Loreto sisters and to maintain close ties. Unwavering commitment and self-discipline, always a part of her life and reinforced in her association with the Loreto sisters, seemed to stay with her throughout her life.

One year later, in 1929, Gonxha was sent to Darjeeling to the novitiate of the Sisters of Loreto. In 1931, she made her first vows there, choosing the name of Teresa, honoring both saints of the same name, Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux. In keeping with the usual procedures of the congregation and her deepest desires, it was time for the new Sister Teresa to begin her years of service to God’s people. She was sent to St. Mary’s, a high school for girls in a district of Calcutta.

Here she began a career teaching history and geography, which she reportedly did with dedication and enjoyment for the next 15 years. It was in the protected environment of this school for the daughters of the wealthy that Teresa’s new “vocation” developed and grew. This was the clear message, the invitation to her “second calling,” that Teresa heard on that fateful day in 1946 when she traveled to Darjeeling for retreat.IMAG0586_1o

The Streets of Calcutta

During the next two years, Teresa pursued every avenue to follow what she “never doubted” was the direction God was pointing her. She was “to give up even Loreto where I was very happy and to go out in the streets. I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve him among the poorest of the poor.”

Technicalities and practicalities abounded. She had to be released formally, not from her perpetual vows, but from living within the convents of the Sisters of Loreto. She had to confront the Church’s resistance to forming new religious communities, and receive permission from the Archbishop of Calcutta to serve the poor openly on the streets. She had to figure out how to live and work on the streets, without the safety and comfort of the convent. As for clothing, Teresa decided she would set aside the habit she had worn during her years as a Loreto sister and wear the ordinary dress of an Indian woman: a plain white sari and sandals.

Teresa first went to Patna for a few months to prepare for her future work by taking a nursing course. In 1948 she received permission from Pius XII to leave her community and live as an independent nun. So back to Calcutta she went and found a small hovel to rent to begin her new undertaking.

Wisely, she thought to start by teaching the children of the slums, an endeavor she knew well. Though she had no proper equipment, she made use of what was available—writing in the dirt. She strove to make the children of the poor literate, to teach them basic hygiene. As they grew to know her, she gradually began visiting the poor and ill in their families and others all crowded together in the surrounding squalid shacks, inquiring about their needs.

Teresa found a never-ending stream of human needs in the poor she met, and frequently was exhausted. Despite the weariness of her days she never omitted her prayer, finding it the source of support, strength and blessing for all her ministry.

A Movement Begins

Teresa was not alone for long. Within a year, she found more help than she anticipated. Many seemed to have been waiting for her example to open their own floodgates of charity and compassion. Young women came to volunteer their services and later became the core of her Missionaries of Charity. Others offered food, clothing, the use of buildings, medical supplies and money. As support and assistance mushroomed, more and more services became possible to huge numbers of suffering people.

From their birth in Calcutta, nourished by the faith, compassion and commitment of Mother Teresa, the Missionaries of Charity have grown like the mustard seed of the Scriptures. New vocations continue to come from all parts of the world, serving those in great need wherever they are found. Homes for the dying, refuges for the care and teaching of orphans and abandoned children, treatment centers and hospitals for those suffering from leprosy, centers and refuges for alcoholics, the aged and street people—the list is endless.

Until her death in 1997, Mother Teresa continued her work among the poorest of the poor, depending on God for all of her needs. Honors too numerous to mention had come her way throughout the years, as the world stood astounded by her care for those usually deemed of little value. In her own eyes she was “God’s pencil—a tiny bit of pencil with which he writes what he likes.”

Despite years of strenuous physical, emotional and spiritual work, Mother Teresa seemed unstoppable. Though frail and bent, with numerous ailments, she always returned to her work, to those who received her compassionate care for more than 50 years. Only months before her death, when she became too weak to manage the administrative work, she relinquished the position of head of her Missionaries of Charity. She knew the work would go on.

Finally, on September 5, 1997, after finishing her dinner and prayers, her weakened heart gave her back to the God who was the very center of her life.

Mother Teresa died in ’97, but not her legacy of love and mercy. It has lived on powerfully for about two decades, especially through her Missionaries of Charity order she started. They have an apostolate in Washington D.C. in our Archdiocese. Her influence has moved forward the faith and live of popes and presidents to common everyday Catholics and people in the world concerned for human dignity.

Her canonization in the Year of Mercy is befitting of her life. She gave herself to be an instrument of mercy to others in utterly amazing ways of service. Now we ponder what next act of loving mercy God would desire of us in our lives.

Models of Freedom (Homily–July 3)

JULY 3RD Sunday Homily 14th Week of Ordinary Time
IMAG0326 *photo from my recent nyc trip

Models of Freedom

When Pope and (now new) Saint John Paul II came to the United States some years ago, he was greeted by an American who said: “Welcome to the land of the free!” The Holy Father thought about that U.S. slogan expression, then asked the man a question: “Free for what?! Free for what?!”IMAG0511_10-
Friends, this is our national holiday weekend for pondering the meaning of freedom, and celebrating thanks upon what freedoms we enjoy and others enjoy in the United States of America. In defining freedom, it would not merely be to say it means that one is free to just do as they please, just for their own pleasure and gratification. Freedom involves the common good. THAT is the what JPII was asking about and inferring that freedom involves pleasing God more than one pleasing themselves. Freedom involves our neighbor and their rights, as well as our own. As Abraham Lincoln pointed out in his time, living out freedom is the doing (or possibility of doing) of what one ought to do, which not necessarily is doing what one always wants to do.

That definition is the starting place for what we are celebrating civilly this holiday. Then there also is the higher and “first freedom” that we Catholics follow. It is of our freedom to each our souls and of all of our being in the Gift and Way of Jesus Christ. When we live in Him, with He in us, then the true and eternal liberation is started, and the Spirit of God comes to support God’s plan for our full freedom. The Bible says: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

For the last six Sundays we have heard the epistle to the Galatians in our Masses. Have you studied it any? The main message of Galatians IS “Freedom in Christ.” It teaches us about our highest and fullest freedoms afforded us now are in Jesus Christ, in His incarnation and union with us and in His victory over sin and death for us. In Galatians 4:31-5:1 it tell us: “We are not children of the slave woman (i.e. bondage to sin, slaves to mankind’s fall) but of the free born woman (the Church, under the Immaculate Mary). For freedom Christ set us free, so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery (and captivity to sin)!” Read Galatians for messages on freedom. A fundamental lesson of the book is that if the soul is in captivity to anything but Jesus, then a person can never really be free, for they will
M have the law expose them as shortcomers of living in truth, as sinners stuck in selfish ways.

This freedom that Paul tells of to the Galatians is so real in Jesus. There have been many heroic witnesses to freedom from the Church’s story, of those who championed it in practice. Using the stories compiled in the U.S. Bishop’s Fortnight for Freedom web site for this Independence Day 2016, I will survey a few of them for you…

That website first heralds two women martyrs of The Faith. In the early Church, many a believer became a martyr as they lived for freedom versus the dominion of the Roman Empire. We know of Peter and Paul’s martyrdom, as well as those first martyrs of Rome–the Church calendar just honored them last Wednesday and Thursday. Yet the Roman Empire’s reign of tyranny lasted centuries, and in North Africa, Catholics like Saints Felicity and Perpetua boldly stood for freedom-in-Christ over bondage to Rome or worldly powers. They were martyred in Carthage in 203 a.d.. They lived and died in liberty. The Catholic Church honors these young mothers and their great intercession from God’s Heaven, with a feast day celebrated each March 7th, and their names put in Eucharistic Prayer 1.

From the early Church to modern times, people have witnessed to freedom even by blood, such as that of Blessed Jesuit Fr. Miguel Pro. He was shot by a firing squad in Mexico for serving as a priest in the land when the Mexican government outlawed Catholicism there. This strong persecution of the Church began about a century ago in Mexico (1914) and continued in practice for many years with severe persecution for any open Catholic practice in that nation. Fr. Pro’s public execution occurred seventy-nine years ago in 1927. In facing death by his government, this priest and once Guadalupe-born Catholic put his arms out in the sign of the cross and publicly shouted “Viva Cristo Rey!” preceding his being shot to death. His witness to Mexico’s government was that they could not take away inner freedom of a man, including his religious faith. This model of freedom saint showed how a person alone can be fully free—it is solely found in one’s complete surrender to Jesus Christ.

A contemporary example of witnesses to freedom are the 21 Coptic Martyrs of 2015. Remember the shocking video or photos of men being marched along a beach by ISIS terrorists to be beheaded? What was their crime? It was that they were practicing Coptic Christians, “people of the Cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian government” –as ISIS put it. Their story was included in the Fortnight to Freedom Witnesses, too. Christian Copts have lineage back to St. Mark in Egypt, 1st century. These believers are persecuted heavily today.

Faith and freedom are tied together. We also know how liberation and the open, full practice of religion in Jesus Christ will be persecuted, as our Savior told in His Beatitudes. Persecution of Catholics and other Christians is today on a major increase in the world. Religious freedoms are being challenged. (In my next blog, I will comment on that going on in America in new levels of religious intolerance of Catholics in society.)

On this 4th of July long weekend, let us also review some female witnesses to freedom (of the non-martyr kind). Do you know who Henrietta Delille was in American history?

Venerable Henrietta Delille lived in New Orleans as a devout Catholic in early 19th century America. A free woman of color, she descended of an enslaved African woman and a white slave owner. Her life’s story was that she was a Catholic with deep convictions and social justice ambitions, being a brave, outspoken witness of love for the Church and society (of her time) to affirm the God-given dignity of persons of African descent. This brave woman did fight for freedom and justice right in the tide of much racism in America. She deplored the conditions of black persons of the South, and sought ways to change them, such as moving the Church’ efforts of getting Sacramants and religious education to Southern Blacks. Her Lay Black Religious Association back then have become today’s Sisters of the Holy Family who still live out Henrietta’s models of freedom and faith, seeking to “proclaim the kingdom of God,” going out there to serve Jesus just like those 72 disciples in Luke 10′s gospel were willing to do.

Another model group for freedom have been the Little Sisters of the Poor of today. The Little Sisters have been around for 200 years already and have constantly cared for poor strangers, elderly and frail people, and old priests with poor health and little money. Locally, they have a St. Jeanne Jugan home on the road besides Catholic University in Washington. Usually these sisters and volunteers in DC (including one of our parishioner helpers there) just quietly go about their loving, caring business. Yet in recent times, with health care approaches being changed in America, they have become a target in the center of a religious freedom controversy in the USA in the past couple of years. There were some bad and demanding elements of secular humanism in the Obamacare renewals, put on Christians to comply versus their own conscience, and it gravely offended these Little Sisters, and other Catholics. It has been ghastly and almost ridiculous to see how the Little Sisters (as representatives for the rest of us Catholics) have been mistreated and dis-respected and mandated to put aside key parts of their Catholic Faith, for mandated participation in a new national health care plan that included immoral cooperation in serious sin. How the Little Sisters have suffered! You see them in their simple habits of service standing outside the Supreme Court steps protesting this aspect of the health care plan, which if they don’t comply with it mwill result in a fine of about $70 million a year. The Obamacare plan mistakenly (or blatantly) disregarded some long time faith practices of some of America’s most fervent health care promoters and caretakers of their neighbor: non-clergy Catholics. The director of the new health care plan (Kathleen Sebelius of HHS) even knew well of the good work done of the Little Sisters in DC and in her home state of Kansas and elsewhere, but she and others pushed the Plan (as it was) through, with demands for all (except some clergy and other narrowly-selected groups) to pay into abortion-inducing practices, sterilization, and free contraception provisions–which affront religious freedoms. These Little Sisters love their neighbor so much in America, that they give their lives to care for the neediest and poorest Americans in elderly health care. This action versus freedom prompted Pope Francis to make an unscheduled stop at their D.C. home last September, right after the Canonization Mass at the Basicila/Shrine. little sisters Now, after a Supreme Court consideration of the matter, after lawsuits–the Justices’ have recognized that so many other options and easy public access are out there for women’s choices in contraception, abortion and sterilization– that a mandate overstepping religious liberty may not be in order. Our own court case of the Archdiocese of Washington (and others) of the same complaint will likely get a second look ahead too. You and I and all ADW persons remain in this stand-by lawsuit vs. HHS. ‘You know that, right?

Are you concerned for America and her abuses of freedom, even in assertion versus the Church? I call your attention on it on this 240th birthday of our nation. Is freedom still an important issue? I think so. Look at the fervor for the play “Hamilton.” I saw the show recently and the cheering audience at the James Joyce theatre for this big Tony award winner was a sign to me how big a deal freedom is now, as it was 250 years ago. The Church is right in the midst of that human longing to be free, and to see Satan’s strongholds of slavery and bondage “fall like lightning,” as today’s Gospel says was those 72 disciples for liberation eye-+ testimony.

In finishing, I think of this Gospel and how it compares easily to the Little Sisters of the Poor. In Luke 10, Jesus sent out new disciples, but with only humble provisions (“carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals of comfort”), and He sent them to towns and villages who would welcome them. He sent these disciples to represent His love and mission in visiting and caring upon the sick and lost, with proclamation of that “God is come here to be among you.” He said to His sent out workers that they might feel like “lambs among wolves” but to take heart. That scenario sounds a lot like the Little Sisters’ service. We stand behind them in caring for the sick and showing God’s kingdom of care is here.

So we pray on this Independence Day weekend Mass: God bless America, this land that we love, stand beside her, and guide her, Lord of Mercy, and bring us Light, to get through this night, with Thy Help from above. Amen. Martha_Mary_140

thWBWL7RXKThe Freedom Mass at Mary’s IC Basilica/Shrine is July 4th with the Little Sisters present and honored, Cardinal Wuerl presiding.

Gaspar the friendly Magi

Saint Gaspar is one of the three magi. He is also called Caspar or Jaspar by some (it’s all in the translation choice of the opening letter). Saint Caspar came along with St. Melchior and St. Balthazar in search of the king of prophecies and astronomical signs. The Gospel of Matthew, verses 2:1-9, mentions their coming to Christ to Bethlehem, though names are not given in the Bible account, nor the number of three. Yet since the seventh century, the Magi have been identified in the Western Church as Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar– all are declared saints. They all were known as outgoing, positive, faith-filled men. (Gaspar the friendly Magi!)

In their rest in the Communion of Saints, their bodies are all buried in the same location: in the majestic, historic Cathedral in Cologne, Germany. Matthew wrote that the Magi brought three gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts have significance, in that the gold signified the regal status of Jesus, the frankincense His divinity, and the myrrh His human nature.

According to tradition St. Caspar became a martyr. Some consider that the other two Magi also met with the same fate. The relics of the Magi were found in Persia by St. Helena. These were later brought to Constantinople and then to Milan in Italy. From there they reached Germany, where they became housed in the Cologne Cathedral in its Shrine of the Three Kings.

I happen to like Gaspar these days. I have begun a devotion to the saint. I like how he visits the infant Christ Jesus, face to face, so to bring to Him frankincense as a gift befitting a holy, priestly king. He has come on a long journey of over 100 days. He kept at it! His endurance paid off big time!
Tonight in Holy Mass I used frankincense over the bread and wine gifts to be consecrated on the altar. I thought of it being a small gift to Jesus tonight: to burn the incense and to pray the Roman Canon for such a solemn Mass as Christmas Eve Vigil.

I bought a statue of Gaspar this week, and, since he was a travelling saint, and that he was guided aright by God and a star appointed for Christ’ Coming, I have put the statue in my car. I will pray many prayers to St. Gaspar now. I will likely use GPS though, instead of using stellar charts, to get where I am going.

Magi like Caspar are called astrologers in some books, which could be a little misleading. Magi were “men who studied the stars”, in seeking the foretold promises of God to be fulfilled. A Logos or Word or God/man was expected to come. Cultures across the region of the Middle East and connecting regions shared this expectation. The Creator would become creature, and most likely a king. These Magi were not fortune tellers, then, nor whimsical dreamers hoping upon odds and long shots.

One modern thought of Gaspar’s roots and home base go to Iran. There are ruins of a Zoroastrian temple in the city of Urumia which today is named Orumiyeh, and its in the north west corner of Iran. Some say that from here that the King or Wise Man who went to Bethlehem (to adore Jesus at the time of his birth). In the 19th Century there was a Catholic nun and mystic by the name of Anna Katharina Emmerich, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II. She had visions and like revelations from God throughout her life that could back this Iranian place as the site, and you can read all those reports in the books written by Clemens Brentano called THE LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST AND BIBLICAL REVELATIONS, published by TAN BOOKS PUBLISHERS INC. Rockford, Illinois 61105 USA.

Yet Indians claim Gaspar too.
St. Gaspar is often considered to be an Indian scholar. An old article in the 1913 Encyclopædia Britannica states that “according to Western church tradition, Balthasar is often represented as a king of Arabia, Melchior as a king of Persia, and Gaspar as a king of India.” Historian John of Hildesheim relates a tradition in the ancient silk road city of Taxila that one of the Magi passed through the city on the way to Bethlehem.
As an internet source explains, some consider Gaspar to be King Gondophares mentioned in the Acts of Thomas–but that is not an approved book of Scripture, because it has inaccuracies in it anyway. Others consider him to have come from the southern parts of India where, according to tradition, Thomas the Apostle visited decades later. The town by name Piravom in Kerala State, Southern India has for long claimed that one of the three Biblical Magi went from there. The name Piravom in the local Malayalam language translates to “birth”. It is believed that the name originated from a reference to the Nativity of Jesus. There is a concentration of three churches named after the Biblical Magi in and around Piravom, as against only another three so named in the rest of India.

There are some who consider that Gaspar’s kingdom was located in the region of Egrisilla in India Superior on the peninsula that forms the eastern side of the Sinus Magnus (Gulf of Thailand) by Johannes Schöner on his globe of 1515. On it can be seen Egrisilla Bragmanni (“Egrisilla of the Brahmans”), and in the explanatory treatise which accompanied the globe, Schöner noted: “The region of Egrisilla, in which there are Brahman [i.e. Indian] Christians; there Gaspar the Magus held dominion”.[3] The phrase hic rex caspar habitavit (here lived King Caspar) is inscribed over the Golden Chersonese (Malay Peninsula) on the mappemonde of Andreas Walsperger made in Constance around 1448. Whether it was a latter day king who took the name of Caspar is also not known.

So, there are a few different claims on Gaspar. In any case, whoever and wherever he was, it must have been very interesting to have heard his accounts, post First Christmas, of being led to a child-babe King. This high school play seems to be on that topic, as Gaspar could be the middle figure, relating his story.
SEHS_EP_0190_Joseph_11-20-13

The Magi are not considered kings by some historians, yet there is no questioning the regal honor they had. The reference to “kings” is believed to have originated due to the reference in Psalms “The Kings of Tarsis and the islands shall offer presents; the kings of the Arabians and of Seba shall bring him gifts: and all the kings of the earth shall adore him” Psalm 71:10. This Psalm is used in Epiphany Masses today.

Though the feasts of the Magi are not celebrated liturgically, yet the Martyrology mentions St. Gaspar, on the first, St. Melchior, on the sixth, and St. Balthasar, on the eleventh of January. Therefore, I will definitely be praying at Mass on this January First for the help of St. Gaspar, even while I also chiefly honor Mary, the Mother of God, on her feast day of New Year’s Day.

In some parishes, it is traditional to bless chalk for each family so that they may mark the first initial of each of the three Magi over their doors as a blessing for protection. This is done after the new year, and usually on Epiphany Sunday or on January 5th. Then the Year is put in-between the initials in the chalk. Here’s an example of it: 2 G 0 M 1 B 6