SAINTS: Augustine — The Grace Of Conversion, by Greg Friedman

March 18, 2017

From: Lent With The Saints Micah 7:14-15; Psalm 103:1-4, 9-12; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 The story of the Prodigal Son in Luke’s gospel personifies the mercy of God.  Many commentators and homilists suggest the story is mistitled and think it should be called, The Father Who Couldn’t Forget.  The father, who is spurned by a selfish, insensitive son who squanders his share of the family fortune, suffers not only personal shame but public embarrassment as his close-knit community watches him wait daily for his son’s return. The story of Saint Augustine is, in part, the story of a mother who couldn’t forget. A talented and scholarly young man, Augustine immersed himself in all the shallow pursuits of his pagan society.  [...]

SAINTS: The Patriarch Joseph — A Story Of A Dreamer, by Greg Friedman

March 17, 2017

From: Lent With The Saints Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a; ; Psalm 105:16-21; Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46 Two Biblical characters are the subject of Broadway musicals by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, and both are featured in today’s readings.  They are Joseph, the son of Israel (Jacob) in Genesis, and Jesus, the “superstar” of Matthew’s gospel!  Webber seized on the detail of Joseph’s coat (here simply a “long tunic”) as the launch point for one musical.  But there’s much in the Joseph story to entertain. Joseph the dreamer is the victim of violence at the hands of his jealous brothers.  He goes on to have interesting adventures in Egypt and rises to become Pharaoh’s adviser in a time [...]

SAINTS: André Bessette — The Doorkeeper Saint, by Greg Friedman

March 16, 2017

From: Lent With The Saints Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1:1-4, 6; Luke: 16:19-31 Jesus tells the parable of a rich man who lived in luxury, failing to notice the beggar named Lazarus at his front door.  Only too late – after death – does the rich man take notice of the poor man who had daily suffered on his doorstep. The French Canadian saint André Bessette would not have been blind to a beggar on his doorstep.  After twenty-five years of struggle with sickness and poverty, and having tried various trades, including working in a New England factory during the Civil War, he joined the Congregation of Holy Cross in Montreal in 1872.  Weak health had delayed his profession, and he was assigned the job of doorkeeper.  He joked much later [...]

SAINTS: James And John — From Arrogance To Witness, by Greg Friedman

March 15, 2017

From: Lent With The Saints Jeremiah 18:18-20; Psalm 31:5-6; Matthew 20:17-28 To read today’s gospel, one would think that Jesus’s apostles could have really used a public-relations advisor!  The story of the mother of James and John, requesting places for her sons at Jesus’s right and left hands in his kingdom, does not reflect well on these followers of the Lord.  What makes it worse, Jesus has just predicted his passion and death.  Were they even listening? At least, the arrogant request gives Jesus the opportunity to challenge James and John to share in his sufferings.  He goes on to urge his followers not to imitate the gentile rulers and their hangers-on.  Instead, they are to seek to serve if they want to rank [...]

SAINTS: Thérèse Of The Child Jesus — Service In Humility, by Greg Friedman

March 14, 2017

From: Lent With The Saints Isaiah 1:10, 16-20;  Psalm 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21, 23; Matthew 23:1-12 Priests get asked occasionally – usually by folks of a fundamentalist Christian bent – about today’s gospel text, in which Jesus tells us we should not use the title father for anyone on Earth – only for our Father in Heaven.  Leaving aside the question of what they might call their own dads, they are missing the point of Jesus’s words, which come at the end of the passage: The greatest among you must be your servant.  All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted. We are not to use titles but rather serve in humility.  A saint who embodied that ideal bore the religious name [...]

SAINTS: John Vianney — Ministering God’s Forgiveness, by Greg Friedman

March 13, 2017

From: Lent With The Saints Daniel 9:4b-10; Psalm 79:8-9, 11, 13; Luke 6:36-38 Confession of sin is the theme of our First Reading today, as the people of God confess their disobedience to the Lord and seek God’s forgiveness.  Conversion and confession remain a powerful Lenten theme.  Parishes celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation in communal liturgies during this season, and our Lenten practices are meant to inspire us in our ongoing conversion. The saint best known for his ministry in the sacrament of reconciliation is John Vianney, who was ordained in 1815 in France, after years of study that were interrupted by seminary officials who thought him inadequate for the priesthood as well as by political upheaval.  The French [...]

SAINTS: Abraham — A Legacy Of Faith, by Greg Friedman

March 12, 2017

From: Lent With The Saints Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 33:4-5, 18-20, 22; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Matthew 17:1-9 In Lent we read stories about Abraham – the description of God’s covenant with him and the story of his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac, for example.  These stories have undergone a long process of telling and retelling.  Many hands have worked over these stories, for theological purposes. Nevertheless, the stories communicate the common understanding we share about Abraham; that is, his strong faith in God.  We marvel at this man’s willingness to trust in God so much that he would undertake a long, difficult journey to seek a land and a heritage promised by God.  Though separated by millennia and by different [...]

SAINTS: Pio Of Pietrelcina (Padres Pio) — Signed With Christ’s Love, by Greg Friedman

March 11, 2017

From: Lent With The Saints Deuteronomy 26:16-19; Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8; Matthew 5:43-48 Padre Pio was spiritual inspiration for the older Italian members of my family.  He was for that generation what Mother Teresa is to mine.  I recall reading stories and seeing photos of Padre Pio in the Italian religious magazines my Nonna received, and hearing from my cousin in Italy of a visit to the saint’s shrine after his canonization. Francesco Forgione entered the Capuchin Franciscans as a teenager.  He received the name Pio and was ordained in 1910.  In 1918, praying after Mass, Father Pio saw Jesus in a vision and afterward saw that he had received the wounds of Christ – the stigmata – in his hands, feet, and side. His [...]

SAINTS: Cornelius And Cyprian — Reconcilers In The Ancient Church, by Greg Friedman

March 10, 2017

From: Lent With The Saints Ezekiel 18:21-28; Psalm 130:1-8; Matthew 5:20-26 The church has always been in need of reconciliation.  Our human nature means that there will always be a need to forgive each other.  Today’s Gospel offers us Jesus’s guidelines for forgiveness in the community.  Matthew’s “parish,” the communities for whom he wrote, must have needed those guidelines – no surprise there.  We’re fortunate to have Jesus’s instructions on how to be a reconciling community. Saints Cornelius and Cyprian faced one of the early church’s thorniest problems.  In the third century they wrestled with the problem of how to deal with Christians who had renounced their faith and sacrificed [...]

SAINTS: Queen Esther — A Royal Request, by Greg Friedman

March 9, 2017

From: Lent With The Saints Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25; Psalm 138:1-3, 7c-8; Matthew 7:7-12 The tale of Queen Esther has all the elements of a great story.  We can imagine her, the beautiful bride of a pagan king, ruler of Persia, reigning in a lavish Middle Eastern court.  Into this scene of elegance and splendor comes a threat of Esther’s kin – the Jewish people who are exiled in her land. The drama, essential to any good story, develops as the king’s advisor, Haman, is angered by the refusal of Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, to bow down to Haman in the court.  In revenge, Haman plots to destroy all the Jews in the land. When Esther learns of the plot, she risks her life to go to the king, her husband, and plead on behalf [...]

SAINTS: Jonah — The Sign Of God’s Mercy, by Greg Friedman

March 8, 2017

From: Lent With The Saints Jonah 3:1-10; Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19; Luke 11:29-32 Most of us know the story of Jonah and the whale.  But today’s readings give us the rest of the story. Jonah’s mission as a prophet was to deliver a warning from God to the pagan city of Nineveh; his watery adventure was part of his wish to escape that mission.  God ensures that Jonah does deliver the message, and when he does the results are overwhelmingly positive.  Sadly, Jonah cannot accept the mercy God shows in the face of the surprising repentance of a whole city – including the livestock.  (Jonah’s disappointment is related in another part of the Biblical book not given in today’s selection.) The point of this delightful [...]

SAINTS: Isidore The Farmer — Prayer In The Midst Of Our Labors, by Greg Friedman

March 7, 2017

From: Lent With The Saints Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 34:4-7, 16-19; Matthew 6:7-15 An old joke defines a farmer as someone “outstanding in his field.”  Saint Isidore the Farmer not only stood out for his work in tilling the soil but was also a deeply prayerful man. Today’s First Reading uses images familiar to farmers.  Isaiah describes the fertility of the word of God, comparing its power to that of the rain and snow in watering the Earth, allowing it to bear fruit, producing seed for the sower and bread for the hungry. Isidore lived from 1070 to 1130 in the vicinity of Madrid, Spain, where he worked on the estate of a wealthy landowner.  He was generous to the poor, helping to feed them, and sensitive to the care of [...]

SAINTS: Frances of Rome — When You Did For The Least Ones, by Greg Friedman

March 6, 2017

From: Lent With The Saints Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18; Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 15; Matthew 25:31-46 The first days of Lent feature scriptural selections that emphasize the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Today Moses articulates the love of neighbor as part of God’s law.  The people’s conduct is motivated by the holiness of the God they worship.  Jesus makes that motivation even more personal, in the famous Matthew 25 passage, in which he identifies himself with the poor and needy to whom we should minister in the world. Frances of Rome, in the fourteenth century, can easily be patron of our Lenten almsgiving, as we seek the face of Jesus in hungry, naked, homeless, ill, or imprisoned people.  Married to a [...]

SAINTS: Noah — A Creation Covenant, by Greg Friedman

March 5, 2017

From: Lent With The Saints Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Psalm 51:3-6, 12-23, 17; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11 Author’s Note: The Old Testament readings for the Lenten Sundays present the history of salvation, one of the teaching themes of Lent.  I’ve chosen a figure from the Old Testament for several of these Sundays to assist you in your Lenten prayer. We can’t help but look at Noah through the lens of our modern sense of what’s acceptable behavior.  Building an ark in your neighborhood is probably not calculated to win the approval of your neighbors.  Comedian Bill Cosby, as well as the film, Evan Almighty, saw the potential for humor in the story of Noah. In reality, though, Noah’s response to God’s [...]

SAINTS: Levi (Matthew) The Tax Collector — Sinners Are Welcome, by Greg Friedman

March 4, 2017

From: Lent With The Saints Isaiah 58:9b-14; Psalm 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6; Luke 5:27-32 Luke – and Mark – tell us the story of Levi, a tax collector whom Jesus calls as a follower in today’s Gospel passage.  Levi promptly throws a party for Jesus.  More tax collectors and others show up as well, prompting criticism from the Pharisees and scribes.  Their disapproval draws one of Jesus’s most important responses: Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance. Why did Levi not get numbered among the disciples of Jesus whose stories are told in the Gospel, such as Peter, Andrew, James, and John?  We don’t know.  In Matthew’s [...]

SAINTS: Sharbel Makhluf — Fasting With A Purpose, by Greg Friedman

March 3, 2017

From Lent With The Saints Isaiah 58:1-9a; Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 18-19; Matthew 9:14-15 Fasting is one of the three traditional ways to observe Lent (prayer and almsgiving are the other two), based on Jesus’s description of them in our Ash Wednesday Gospel. Today the scripture readings focus on fasting.  The prophet Isaiah chides the people for their behavior on fast days, pursuing evil and not God’s ways.  The Lord wants works of justice and compassion connected with fast days.  In the Gospel, Jesus explains to the followers of John the Baptist that while he (Jesus) is with his disciples, they will not fast; only after he has left them will they fast. Sharbel Makhluf was known for both his fasting and his care for those who [...]

SAINTS: Thomas More — What Does It Profit Us?, by Greg Friedman

March 2, 2017

From: Lent With The Saints Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 1:1-2, 3-4, 6; Luke 9:22-25 In the movie (based on the play by Robert Bolt), A Man For All Seasons, Sir Thomas More is on trial on trumped-up charges, having angered King Henry VIII, who had set himself up in place of the pope as head of the Church of England. A young protégé of More, Richard Rich, supports the king and commits perjury to give evidence that condemns More to death.   Rich’s reward for his treachery is appointment as attorney general for Wales.  More looks at Rich and asks, Why, Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world.  But for Wales?  In today’s Gospel, Luke gives the source of the line More is quoting, as Jesus [...]

SAINTS: Do You Want To Be A Saint?, by Greg Friedman

March 1, 2017

From: Lent With The Saints Joel 2:12-18; Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17; 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 In The Seven Storey Mountain, the Trappist monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton explains how, when asked by his friend, Robert Lax, what he, Merton, wanted to be, he replied that he wanted to be a good Roman Catholic.  Lax, a poet and mystic, told him, What you should say is that you want to be a saint.  Merton deferred, conscious of his own failings and inadequacies.  But Lax persisted: All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one.  By desiring sainthood, Lax said, we consent to become what God has created us to be.  God, in turn, will make us saints. As we begin these Lenten meditations with the saints, [...]

SAINTS: Saint Alice The Leper

February 20, 2017

From Vultus Christi Ablaze With the Love of Christ Today’s Saint Alice of Schaerbeek, a Cistercian-Benedictine nun, was one of a constellation of holy women who in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries set the Low Countries all ablaze with love for Christ and, in particular, for the mystery of the Eucharist. Dame Alice died on June 11th, 1250; the Cistercian Order began celebrating her feast in 1702. Deus Crucifixus Thomas Merton wrote that the life of Saint Alice should be placed in the hands of every monk; he presented her as the perfect illustration of Chapter Seven of the Rule of Saint Benedict, On the Degrees of Humility. Father Chrysogonus Waddell ranked her with Thérèse of the Child Jesus and Elizabeth of Trinity; he saw her as [...]

POETRY: All-Saints’ Day, by Ada Cambridge

November 1, 2016

Blessed are they whose baby-souls are bright, Whose brows are sealèd with the cross of light, Whom God Himself has deign’d to robe in white— Blessed are they! Blessed are they who follow through the wild His sacred footprints, as a little child; Who strive to keep their garments undefiled— Blessed are they! Blessed are they who commune with the Christ, Midst holy angels, at the Eucharist— Who aye seek sunlight through the rain and mist— Blessed are they! Blessed are they—the strong in faith and grace— Who humbly fill their own appointed place; They who with steadfast patience run the race— Blessed are they! Blessed are they who suffer and endure— They who through thorns and briars walk safe and sure; Gold in the fire [...]

SAINTS: Saint Patrick Speaks To The Dead, by Whitley Stokes

October 31, 2016

From The Tripartite Life of Patrick with Other Documents Relating to That Saint. It was Patrick’s custom to make the sign of the cross one hundred times every day and every night.  And whether he was in a chariot or on horseback, he would visit every standing cross, sometimes leaving the road to do so, even if it was a thousand feet away, provided that he saw it from a distance or knew that it was there.  Once on a certain day Patrick did not visit a standing cross that was on his route.  In fact, he did not even realize that it was there.  Then at the end of the day, his chariot driver remarked that the saint had passed by a standing cross without stopping to visit it.  Hearing this, Patrick abandoned the guesthouse where he [...]

SAINTS: Saint Germanus Quiets A Specter, by Constantius of Lyon

October 31, 2016

From Life of Saint Germanus of Auxerre Once when Germanus was on the road in the winter and had passed the entire day in fasting and weariness, he was advised to find shelter somewhere with the approach of evening.  There was a little house some distance from the road.  Now long abandoned, its roof had partially collapsed and it was covered in foliage due to general neglect, so it seemed almost better to brave the night in the cold of the open air rather than to find shelter in that place of danger and horror, especially since two old men had claimed that this particular house was uninhabited because something terrible dwelt there.  When the most blessed man learned this, he approached the dreadful ruin as though it was a place of [...]

SAINTS: Saint Martin And The Bandit’s Ghost, by Sulpicius Severus

October 31, 2016

From The Life of Saint Martin There was a place not far from the town [Tours] and near to the monastery [Marmoutier], which the false belief of men considered to be sacred, as though martyrs had been buried there.  And there was even an altar there, set up by past bishops.  But Martin, not one to believe idly in rumors, sought the name of this martyr and the date of his death from presbyters and priests older than him.  He felt considerable doubt because no established tradition had been passed down.  For a while he stayed away from that place, neither speaking out against the veneration of the martyr, because he was unsure of his identity, nor lending his authority to the rumor, because he did not wish to strengthen a false belief. [...]

PRAYER: Prayer On Our Cloud Of Witnesses

October 24, 2016

From The Book of Common Prayer (1928) Seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1) Almighty God, who hast called us to faith in thee, and hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses; Grant that we, encouraged by the good examples of thy Saints, and especially of thy servant [Saint——], may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, [...]

PRAYER: Praying Ephesians 4:1-16, by Becky Pliego

October 17, 2016

From Daily On My Way I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore he says: “When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that he also first descended [...]

POETRY: All Saints’ Day, by John Keble

October 12, 2016

Why blow’st thou not, thou wintry wind, Now every leaf is brown and sere, And idly droops, to thee resigned, The fading chaplet of the year? Yet wears the pure aërial sky Her summer veil, half drawn on high, Of silvery haze, and dark and still The shadows sleep on every slanting hill. How quiet shews the woodland scene! Each flower and tree, its duty done, Reposing in decay serene, Like weary men when age is won, Such calm old age as conscience pure And self-commanding hearts ensure, Waiting their summons to the sky, Content to live, but not afraid to die. Sure if our eyes were purged to trace God’s unseen armies hovering round, We should behold by angels’ grace The four strong winds of Heaven fast bound, Their downward sweep a [...]

POETRY: Called To Be Saints, by Christina Rossetti

October 12, 2016

The lowest place. Ah, Lord, how steep and high That lowest place whereon a saint shall sit! Which of us halting, trembling, pressing nigh, Shall quite attain to it? Yet, Lord, Thou pressest nigh to hail and grace Some happy soul, it may be still unfit For Right Hand or for Left Hand, but whose place Waits there prepared for [...]

SAINTS: At The Well Of Tears — Margery Kemp, by Colin Dickey

October 11, 2016

From Afterlives of the Saints Tears did not enter the world through the saints; but without them we would have never known that we cry because we long for a lost paradise.  So wrote the Romanian philosopher E. M. Cioran, whose nihilism and atheism didn’t stop him from approaching the saints.  As I searched for tears, he tells us, I thought of the saints.  The two are inextricably linked: weeping and sainthood.  Despite the various stories and legends, the transcendent artwork and architecture and literary masterpieces, perhaps it is only in tears that we can really hope to understand the saints. More then laughter, mourning, or sex, crying (which can encompass all of these things) is the truly excessive gesture, the limit of [...]

LEADERSHIP: Saints Aren’t All They’re Cracked Up To Be, by Arthur Boers

October 11, 2016

From Servants and Fools The word, saint, can be contested and controversial terminology. New Testament Greek employs hagios, a word translated as “saints,” over sixty times.  It has connotations of holiness, being set apart.  “Saints” is originally a designation that refers to all believers, people we might now just plainly call “Christians.”  Paul writes, for example, “to all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints,” (Romans 1:7).  This term carries both affection and an aspirational challenge to grow into holiness.  (Paul uses hagios frequently but not in his letter to the Galatians, a group about which he had significant reservations and no small anger.) [...]

PRAYER: Why Do We Include Saints In Our Prayers?

October 10, 2016

From Orthodox Prayer In our prayer rule we can also ask the saints to intercede for us and to help us in our worldly struggles. Saints are those holy individuals who have died as martyrs, who have made a fearless confession of faith often with the threat of death, who have demonstrated self-sacrificing service, who have a special gift of healing and perform miracles after their death when remembered in prayer. These holy people the Lord calls his friends. You are my friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:14-15) They are those he has received [...]