Saturday, October 31, 2009

St. Wolfgang of Regensburg (c. 924-994)

Wolfgang was born in Swabia, Germany, and was educated at a school located at the abbey of Reichenau. There he encountered Henry, a young noble who went on to become Archbishop of Trier. Meanwhile, Wolfgang remained in close contact with the archbishop, teaching in his cathedral school and supporting his efforts to reform the clergy. At the death of the archbishop, Wolfgang chose to become a Benedictine monk and moved to an abbey in Einsiedeln, now part of Switzerland. Ordained a priest, he was appointed director of the monastery school there. Later he was sent to Hungary as a missionary, though his zeal and good will yielded limited results. Emperor Otto II appointed him Bishop of Regensburg (near Munich). He immediately initiated reform of the clergy and of religious life, preaching with vigor and effectiveness and always demonstrating special concern for the poor. He wore the habit of a monk and lived an austere life.

The draw to monastic life never left him, including the desire for a life of solitude. At one point he left his diocese so that he could devote himself to prayer, but his responsibilities as bishop called him back. In 994 he became ill while on a journey; he died in Puppingen near Linz, Austria. His feast day is celebrated widely in much of central Europe. He was canonized in 1052.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 14.7-11)

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table, he told them this parable: When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, 'Give this man your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honoured in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Being Humble
(Homily by Fr. E. J.Tyler)

In a certain sense, it is not difficult being religious. By that I mean that there is an instinctive tendency in the heart of man to seek the divine - often referred to as the numen by anthropologists and sociologists - and to strive to be pleasing to him. His displeasure is feared, and his favour is sought by observance of the rites and by behaviour that is understood to be required by him. So widespread is the evidence of this in human societies that many have chosen to regard man as a religious animal. The hypothesis of evolution would presumably regard religious practice as a distinctive marker of the appearance of man in the process. Once human societies appear in archaeological, literary or other indicators, so do religious rites. The people’s myths are populated by their deities. In this sense, the revealed religion of Abraham, Moses and the prophets was, in the best sense of the word, profoundly natural, while in its doctrine and central rites being divinely revealed. It fulfilled man’s natural tendencies and yearnings while actually excelling them. There is this to be noticed, though. While religion tends to pervade man’s culture and society because it is so natural to him (excepting modern secular cultures), at the same time there tends to be a divorce between religious practice and man’s best moral instincts. In practising his religion man tends to remain proud, selfish, lazy. Indeed, his religion can very easily become a channel for these immoral tendencies to gain expression. In indigenous societies religious leaders and certain groups can impose their power through the religion, as can be the tendency in any society. That is to say, the core of man’s heart - his will - can become and remain irreligious in the midst of all his religious practice. Secretly he can be worshipping himself while sacrificing to the gods. This brings us to our Gospel passage today, which places us once again in the scene of the chasm between our Lord and many religious professionals of the chosen people of God. They professed to practice revealed religion, but their hearts were far from being pleasing to God.

Our Lord has been invited to the house of a leading Pharisee. Others of his party and experts in the law have also been invited, and they are observing our Lord narrowly. It is the Sabbath day, and before their eyes he has healed someone of their affliction - thus calmly flouting yet another of their fussy and burdensome impositions. As was often the case, they had been unable to answer his logic. But our Lord then proceeds to expose the moral decay he sees active in them even during the meal. Their religion is largely a means of self-aggrandisement. They wish for the honourable places in the estimation of men. They are not aware of the cancer that is at work in every heart, the cancer of pride and vanity, a spiritual disease that must be identified and attacked. Our Lord, seeing everything and being far more astute than any of those who were crouching to pounce, observed the other guests picking the places of honour at table. Silently, deftly, subtly, each was trying to manoeuvre himself into a position of special respectability. Our Lord had the attention of all, for all were watching him. Do not be vain, he told them. The atmosphere here is one of self-seeking, the seeking of human honours and not the seeking of what was pleasing to God. Perhaps our Lord noticed that this had caused a complication for those managing the dinner. This or that guest had to be asked to move to another position at the table. Rather, our Lord said, abase yourselves before God and be content with whatever place turns out to be yours. Look at what happens even from a human point of view. “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, 'Give this man your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honoured in the presence of all your fellow guests” (Luke 14: 1, 7-11).

Our Lord is saying that religion must be a religion of the heart. The worship of God and the exalting of his person must not be merely a matter of external appearances and objective ritual. It must mark the action of the secret heart of man. In his heart man must seek the lower place before God and others, and in this way serve to glorify and honour God. Seek the lower place, and God will in due course exalt you - when, how and in what sense, we must leave to him. Our example in this, as in everything, is Jesus Christ himself. He humbled himself and was exalted above every other name. Let us then follow in his footsteps of humility of heart and life!

Friday, October 30, 2009

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez (c. 1533-1617)

Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer. Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23. Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor. Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life. He sold the business and, with his young son, moved into his sisters’ home. There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation. Years later, at the death of his son, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits. He was not helped by his poor education. He applied twice before being admitted. For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca. When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations. His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including St. Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian. Alphonsus’s life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems. Alphonsus died in 1617. He is the patron saint of Majorca.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (14.1-6)

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not? But they remained silent. So he took the man, healed him and sent him away. Then he asked them, If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out? To this they could find no answer.

Brother to all
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

There are a few details in our Gospel passage today (Luke 14: 1-6) which help us appreciate the manner, the style and the very person of our Lord. It is a Sabbath day, and the Synagogue service is over. We may presume it is our Lord who was the reader and speaker at the Synagogue. A classic description of our Lord teaching in a synagogue is given earlier in this very Gospel by St Luke. At the start of his public ministry and following his baptism and his rejection of the temptations of Satan, Jesus returns to Galilee and in due course to his home town of Nazareth (Luke 4: 16). We are told that “he went into the Synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read.” The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him, and “when he had opened the book, he found the place” he was looking for, and read it to the people assembled. Then, we are told, “he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.” Then he began to speak on his theme, and the people were riveted by his discourse. That description we could take as applying to the numerous times he spoke in the various Synagogues, including on the Sabbath of our Gospel passage today. The service being over, the people went their ways back to their homes or to activities of Sabbath rest. For instance, we read that on one Sabbath our Lord was walking with his disciples through the cornfields, and they began to pick ears of corn. Presumably this happened following the Sabbath service. That is to say, our Lord was observing the Sabbath rest with a stroll through the fields with his disciples. Again, on a separate occasion (Mark 1:29) following his address and exorcism in the Synagogue at Capernaum, he and his closest disciples immediately went to the home of Simon and Andrew. There he cured Simon’s mother-in-law of her fever, and she rose up and served them. So it was in Simon’s house that they rested. On the Sabbath of our Gospel passage today, our Lord is invited to the home of a leading Pharisee. The Pharisee, hospitable to his honoured guest, watched him closely.

At times we can form the impression that there was something of a war between Jesus and all the Pharisees. Not so, it seems. John tells us in his Gospel (3:1) that Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a leading Jew. He was a disciple and came to Jesus by night for instruction - secretly, for fear of his colleagues. Joseph of Arimathea was, it seems, a member of the Sanhedrin and yet a secret disciple of Jesus. It looks as if the Pharisees formed the strongest knot of opposition to Jesus but this does not mean that all were opposed to him, nor that they were opposed to him to an equal degree. We read in John 12: 42 that “there were many of the rulers who believed in him, but because of the Pharisees did not acknowledge this.” In any case, we read of our Lord dining in the homes of Pharisees on different occasions. Whatever about their attitude to our Lord, it was plain to them that he himself was entirely open to their advances. He responded to their invitations and they felt able easily to approach him, if often only to attack him. All of this tells us of the heart of Jesus himself and of the style of his ministry. He was open to all. He sought all. He wished to save all, including those who were making his ministry more and more difficult. He loved all with a divine love, a love that opposed sin nevertheless, and exposed it in order to bring forth repentance. He sought out all, from the smallest to the most important. On one occasion word came from a centurion, asking that he come to heal his servant. Our Lord rose and made his way towards the centurion’s dwelling. Our Lord invited himself to dine in the home of a leading tax collector, Zacchaeus. On the request of the ruler of a Synagogue, Jairus, he went to heal his daughter. We remember the simple courtesy with which he addressed Pilate during his Passion. The point is that our Lord came to serve those who held prominent positions and those that did not — to bring life, life in abundance to all. Today his contact is with the leading Pharisee, another day it is with a poor unknown woman who is healed by her grasping at his garment. Jesus Christ is brother to all.

This is what God is like. He is not a God who is remote and withdrawn. He is not a God who threatens the helpless. He is a God who loves and is entirely accessible. If we place the image of the divine as it is in the Christian religion next to that of Islam, Hinduism, and so many of the religions of traditional indigenous societies, what stands out is the extraordinary accessibility of God. God in Christian revelation loves man. He inclines towards him and seeks him out. He is like a good shepherd. He is our Father. We can turn to him and depend on his love. Let us see our Lord’s dining with the leading Pharisee in our Gospel today as all of a piece with this wondrous revelation.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

St. Narcissus of Jerusalem (d. 215)

Life in second- and third-century Jerusalem couldn’t have been easy, but St. Narcissus managed to live well beyond 100. Some even speculate he lived to 160. Details of his life are sketchy, but there are many reports of his miracles. The miracle for which he is most remembered was turning water into oil for use in the church lamps on Holy Saturday when the deacons had forgotten to provide any. We do know that Narcissus became bishop of Jerusalem in the late second century. He was known for his holiness, but there are hints that many people found him harsh and rigid in his efforts to impose church discipline. One of his many detractors accused Narcissus of a serious crime at one point. Though the charges against him did not hold up, he used the occasion to retire from his role as bishop and live in solitude. His disappearance was so sudden and convincing that many people assumed he had actually died. Several successors were appointed during his years in isolation. Finally, Narcissus reappeared in Jerusalem and was persuaded to resume his duties. By then, he had reached an advanced age, so a younger bishop was brought in to assist him until his death.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (13.31-35)

At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to Him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you." He replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will attain my end.' But for today and tomorrow and the next day I must keep going — for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! So be it! Your house will be left to you. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.' "


Peter the Great demonstrated a far-sighted vision for Russia and many have maintained that it was he who set the nation on the road to being a modern state. Many other examples could be given of persons who, having attained great prominence in society and with the forces of society now at their command, displayed great insight and ability. In such cases, though, their civil powers and their achievements - for good or for ill - depended on their securing and retaining positions of influence and even dominance. Peter the Great was impressive precisely as one who was in full mastery and seen to be so. So too with Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar long before him - without their military and political power to impose themselves, what would they have been or done? Their success was visible and enforceable. Thus, we may say, it has always been. Success is deemed to be visible success and failure is visible failure. In modern societies the influence of the media is proverbial. When Pope Paul VI visited Sydney at the end of 1970, among the groups he addressed were the journalists. He told them they were world power number one. Now, in the media’s presentation of the world, politics and economics, there is nothing like success to be successful, and there is nothing like failure to be a failure. However, all this can be a house of cards, for all the props of success in these terms can suddenly crumble, and this we often see. A question we should ask is, Is there a success which is not dependent on social approval, adulation or coercion? Indeed, is there a success which comes forth from evident failure? In a word, is there a success which is open to anyone, in any and every circumstance? Can a person be successful in the midst of a very ordinary life, or a life of manifest failures, or even opprobrium? To answer such a question we may think the matter through in a philosophical fashion, or look to examples. Both are important, but examples convince and inspire the imagination to action.

In our Gospel passage today (Luke 13:31-35), the Pharisees come to Jesus and urge Him to flee because Herod was after Him. Perhaps the Pharisees had been told this by the Herodians, and we have instances in the Gospels of the Pharisees and the Herodians colluding in their opposition to Jesus - though there were Pharisees who were secret believers, such as Nicodemus. Perhaps the Pharisees of our Gospel passage today were testing the courage of Jesus, or hoping to see Him on the run. Christ knows that the forces against Him were growing and closing in on Him. As He would say to the Twelve at the Last Supper, the prince of this world was on his way. Our Lord’s seeming success was draining away, and the spectre of failure in visible terms was looming large. Let us notice, though, there is no panic in Christ, no confusion, no radical change of course in order to retrieve a crumbling dream. On the contrary, the vision splendid grows as the apparent failure grows. Success looms in proportion to the looming failure. He can see, He knows, and He teaches, that it is “failure” that will give Him the victory. His rejection by those who matter is the way His mission will attain its end. It is precisely the Cross which will take Him and all others to Glory. No matter what the circumstances might be, Christ possessed the key to success. It had nothing to do with visible success, approval, adulation or the possession of the means of influence and command. This is a resounding message to the ordinary man of history, the man of numerous failures and disappointments, the man who has nothing of the means of success as ordinarily regarded. Herod was after Him, but Christ knew that this mattered little. What mattered was doing the will of His heavenly Father and completing the work He - He, not others - gave Him to do. “Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will attain my end.'” His end - His success - is attained by doing the will of His Father.

Let us not be distracted in ways we may not fully realize by the standards of the world. Let us not allow to lurk deep within our imaginations an image of success in life that is worldly, dependent on what is seen and approved by others. Let us look to Christ and His pre-eminent example. The only success that matters here and hereafter is that which is accounted such by God, who sees all. Success is the success which Christ sought and most assuredly attained, and he did this in the midst of seeming failure. Indeed, His “failure” was an integral element in his success. He had to undergo the Cross in order to enter His Glory - and to bring all others into Glory with Him. Let us, then, for love of Him take up our cross every day and follow closely in His footsteps.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sts. Simon and Jude Thaddaeus, Apostles and Martyrs

St. Jude Thaddaeus is so named by Luke and Acts. Matthew and Mark call him Thaddaeus. He is not mentioned elsewhere in the Gospels, except, of course, where all the apostles are referred to. Scholars hold that he is not the author of the Letter of Jude. Actually, Jude had the same name as Judas Iscariot. Evidently because of the disgrace of that name, it was shortened to "Jude" in English. Simon is mentioned on all four lists of the apostles. On two of them he is called "the Zealot." The Zealots were a Jewish sect that represented an extreme of Jewish nationalism. For them, the messianic promise of the Old Testament meant that the Jews were to be a free and independent nation. God alone was their king, and any payment of taxes to the Romans — the very domination of the Romans — was a blasphemy against God. No doubt some of the Zealots were the spiritual heirs of the Maccabees, carrying on their ideals of religion and independence. But many were the counterparts of modern terrorists. They raided and killed, attacking both foreigners and "collaborating" Jews. They were chiefly responsible for the rebellion against Rome which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

As in the case of all the apostles except for Peter, James and John, we are faced with men who are really unknown, and we are struck by the fact that their holiness is simply taken to be a gift of Christ. He chose some unlikely people: a former Zealot, a former (crooked) tax collector, an impetuous fisherman, two "sons of thunder" and a man named Judas Iscariot. It is a reminder that we cannot receive too often. Holiness does not depend on human merit, culture, personality, effort or achievement. It is entirely God's creation and gift. God needs no Zealots to bring about the kingdom by force. Jude, like all the saints, is the saint of the impossible: only God can create his divine life in human beings. And God wills to do so, for all of us.

"Just as Christ was sent by the Father, so also he sent the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit. This he did so that, by preaching the gospel to every creature (cf. Mark 16:15), they might proclaim that the Son of God, by his death and resurrection, had freed us from the power of Satan (cf. Acts 26:18) and from death, and brought us into the kingdom of his Father" (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy).

Prayer for the intercession of St. Jude Thaddaeus

Most holy apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honours and invokes you universally, as the patron of hopeless cases, of things almost despaired of. Pray for me, I am so helpless and alone. Make use I implore you, of that particular privilege given to you, to bring visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and help of heaven in all my necessitites, tribulations, and sufferings, particulary - (Here make your request) and that I may praise God with you and all the elect forever. I promise, O blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favour, to always honour you as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to you. Amen.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (6.12-16)

Now it came to pass in those days, that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all in prayer to God. And when day broke, He summoned His Disciples; and from these He chose twelve (whom he also called Apostles): Simon, whom He named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; Jude the brother of James, and Judas Isacariot, who turned traitor.


(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

Our Gospel reading today is a momentous one in Our Lord's public ministry, which is already well I process and many disciples are following Him. The implacable hostility of the scribes and Pharisees has begun and it will not abate till Our Lord is on the Cross. Our Lord could see the final upshot and He now takes a decisive step, the establishment of the Twelve among His Disciples. They will constitute the foundation of His Church, and a little later from among these Twelve, He would appoint Simon to be the Rock on which the enduring structure will stand. The seriousness of this step is shown in the fact that, as we are told, "Jesus went out to a mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God." He, Divine Son of the Father, spent the whole night in prayer before taking this step. He was contemplating the Church, His creation and praying for its mission in the long history of the world. He was founding a dynasty, a Kingdom that would never end. He had before Him those whom He was about to appoint as its formost officers, its founding generals. He would be with them and with His Church until the end of the age. Bonaparte attempted to found an empire at the beginning of the nineteenth century that would outshine all other empires. Marching on Europe and overwhelming formidable enemies, he installed his family members on various European thrones. But as is the case with earthly kingdoms, it came to its end. In his particular case, it was a rapid and ignoble ruin that left him with nothing. But Christ was establishing the Messianic Kingdom that would last forever and would triumph in complete glory. He knew exactly what was best, and he could not make a mistake. As Saint John points out, He knew what was in a man. He knew His men, and He chose them with great care and decision.
Yet- we might wonder-He chose Judas! I do not of course to Judas, the son of James, whom feast we celebrate today. I refer to Iscariot. Our Gospel passage tells us that "when morning came, He called His Disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also designated Apostles: Simon (whom He named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor."(Saint Luke 6.12-16) Judas turned out so very badly. The inspired authors of the Gospels did not hesitate to include this seemingly embarassing fact that one who lived in such intimacy with Jesus, one who was personally chosen by Our Lord Himself, turned his back on his wondrous Master and betrayed Him. Did Jesus of Nazareth make a serious mistake? Surely he could have chosen instead, say, Matthias, who would, after his ascension into heaven, replace Judas Iscariot as one of the Twelve. We read that Matthias was among the disciples who had been with our Lord from the baptism of John right to his ascension (Acts 1:21-22). Perhaps Matthias had been present among the disciples when from their number our Lord chose Judas. Perhaps Judas had even been near Matthias at the moment of his being chosen. What an honour had come to Judas! Our Lord had made no mistake. Judas was the man intended by God from all eternity to be one of the Twelve. He could have been a great saint, with his day celebrated in the Church’s Liturgical Year till the end of the world - like his namesake Judas the son of James. But he opened his heart to Satan, and Satan carried him off. Imagine the profound concern of Christ as he saw this happening! It is the mystery of sin and we must all of us take notice. St Paul writes in one of his Letters that we have been chosen by God from before the foundation of the world to be in Jesus Christ, holy and full of love in his sight. This is the deliberate choice by God of each of us. But we can fall away if we do not guard our hearts from sin. We can deliberately turn from Christ and, indeed, be damned forever. How is it that God can choose one who, in the event, himself chooses to reject his call? It is the mystery of God creating persons with free will and able to sin.
Let us ponder on that tragic significance of the mention of Judas in the inspired text. He was the traitor. On one occasion two of the Twelve approached Our Lord to ask for places to His right and to His left in His Kindgom. Our Lord countered with a fundamental question. Could they drink His cup? we can, they said. Our Lord proceeded to promise that they would drink His cup. But elsewhere (St. John 6.70), He describes Judas, whom He had deliberately chosen to be His special companion and collaborator. He was, He said, a devil. Let us, each take heed, and every day renew our stand with Jesus, affirming our choice for Him, and our renunciation of sin and satan.
Blessed Bartholomew of Vicenza (c. 1200-1271)

Dominicans honour one of their own today, Blessed Bartholomew of Vicenza. This was a man who used his skills as a preacher to challenge the heresies of his day. Bartholomew was born in Vicenza around 1200. At 20 he entered the Dominicans. Following his ordination he served in various leadership positions. As a young priest he founded a military order whose purpose was to keep civil peace in towns throughout Italy. In 1248, Bartholomew was appointed a bishop. For most men, such an appointment is an honour and a tribute to their holiness and their demonstrated leadership skills. But for Bartholomew, it was a form of exile that had been urged by an antipapal group that was only too happy to see him leave for Cyprus. Not many years later, however, Bartholomew was transferred back to Vicenza. Despite the antipapal feelings that were still evident, he worked diligently—especially through his preaching—to rebuild his diocese and strengthen the people’s loyalty to Rome. During his years as bishop in Cyprus, Bartholomew befriended King Louis the Ninth of France, who is said to have given the holy bishop a relic of Christ’s Crown of Thorns. Bartholomew died in 1271. He was beatified in 1793.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke (13.18-21)

Jesus asked, "What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches. Again he asked, What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."

Kingdom and Church
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

In October of 2009 there was a presentation (Compass) by Australian ABC television on the Sydney Anglicans. It showed its impressive evangelical dynamism, the active involvement of youth, and the thought and perspective of its current Archbishop. What was particularly manifest in the Anglicanism of Sydney was the centrality of Scripture. It was shown to be an Evangelical diocese and this meant that the all-important issue was the proclamation of the message of Scripture, as it is understood by evangelical Anglicanism. It was clear that Sydney Anglicanism in the main stood in the tradition of English Puritanism, in which all that truly matters is the word of God. The Archbishop was interviewed at length during the programme and the Church and its institutions were viewed as an adjunct to the word as proclaimed by its ministers. Sydney Anglicanism strongly resisted movements which undermine the clear teaching of Scripture. The observer would notice, though, that in the Evangelical scheme everything hinges on the individual interpreter of Scripture. His personal judgment on the teaching of Scripture is pivotal. The notion of a definite, structured, divinely instituted Church which guides the reader is discounted. While the Evangelical would strongly deny that theirs is ultimately a subjectivist principle, it is obviously the seed of profound divergences in Christianity. What one man or body accounts to be the clear teaching of Scripture, another will in all sincerity contradict. When it becomes accepted in society that the Christian religion is a vast cluster based on various and conflicting interpretations of a sacred text, then it is a short step to a widespread assumption that Christ came to begin nothing more than a movement. He began a movement in history of those who prize the recorded text of his words and make it their business to shape their lives according to their reading of this sacred text. But Christ did not come to begin a movement of those who look to an inspired text. He came to establish a definite and structured Kingdom, the life of which would be nourished by this sacred text, but not reducible to the individual’s reading of it.

It is clear from the Gospels that Christ came establishing a Kingdom, which is none other than God’s promised rule. It consists in union with Jesus who is its King, and all those who are in union with Him. It is also clear from the Gospels that this Divine Kingdom is inextricably bound up with the Church. The Church is the locale of this Kingdom, the means of entry to it, and the instrument of its growth and spread. As we read in the Gospel of St Matthew, Christ appointed one to be the visible rock on which he would build this Church, and to him he gave the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. That rock was Simon Peter, the first of the holders of the Keys. Christ the King thus appointed a prime minister to govern this Church in his name. It is the bearer of the Kingdom. Peter would bind and loose, his decisions would be ratified in heaven, and the powers of Hell would never prevail. The point is that Christ did not present a text for His disciples to bring to the world. He entrusted not a text to them but His very Self. It is He who is brought to the world by His Church. In Him is present the Kingdom, and entry into the Kingdom comes from union with Him, and that is achieved by means of His body the Church. Christ and union with Him is the Kingdom, and the Church is His body. The Church is Christ’s direct creation and precedes the inspired text of the Gospels and the New Testament. The Twelve and all the disciples were to bring Him to the world, making disciples of all the nations. The inspired text arose from within the Church as the Church’s Book to help nourish all her children. There is a further point. It is clear that our Lord taught that this Divine Kingdom here on earth would grow and develop. As we read in today’s Gospel passage, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches” (Luke 13: 18-21). Thus the Church, central to the mission of Christ and His Kingdom, develops in history. It is not a static reality, but in its various features develops, including in its doctrine which is none other than her official understanding and teaching of the word of her Divine Master.

As we think of our Lord’s words on the Kingdom and its growth, let us think of the Church which is Christ’s grand instrument of the presence and advancement of this Kingdom. Let us love the Church and understand that in her we find all that Christ bestowed on His faithful. It is in the Church and by her teaching that the inspired text is truly understood. It is in the Church’s Sacraments and life that the Person of her Lord is encountered. Let us never in our hearts say, Christ and His word, yes! But the Church, no! Rather, Christ my Lord and the Church, yes! Christ with the Church, Christ in the Church, Christ through the Church, yes and always!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blessed Contardo Ferrini (1859-1902)

Contardo Ferrini was the son of a teacher who went on to become a learned man himself, one acquainted with some dozen languages. Today he is known as the patron of universities. Born in Milan, he received a doctorate in law in Italy and then earned a scholarship that enabled him to study Roman-Byzantine law in Berlin. As a renowned legal expert, he taught in various schools of higher education until he joined the faculty of the University of Pavia, where he was considered an outstanding authority on Roman law. Contardo was learned about the faith he lived and loved. "Our life," he said, "must reach out toward the Infinite, and from that source we must draw whatever we can expect of merit and dignity." As a scholar he studied the ancient biblical languages and read the Scriptures in them. His speeches and papers show his understanding of the relationship of faith and science. He attended daily Mass and became a lay Franciscan, faithfully observing the Third Order rule of life. He also served through membership in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. His death in 1902 at the age of 43 occasioned letters from his fellow professors that praised him as a saint; the people of Suna where he lived insisted that he be declared a saint. Pope Pius XII beatified Contardo in 1947.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (13.10-17)

On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, Woman, you are set free from your infirmity. Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath. The Lord answered him, You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her? When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

Christ and satan
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

Our scene today finds us “in one of the synagogues,” and Jesus is teaching there. It is the Sabbath, the day of the Lord when God’s chosen people gathered in his presence to hear the word of the Lord. Our Lord is teaching. Consider the marvel of that very fact! The congregation is gazing on God Incarnate, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity become man. This, I suggest, ought be the abiding wonder of the Gospel scenes. The people mixed familiarly with this marvellous man. They heard His voice, they watched His expressions, they caught His eyes, they were captivated by His speech, they gazed upon the moral beauty of His Person. So authentic and total was the incarnation that the majority did not yet perceive His lofty and transcendent identity. But there he was, the beloved Son of the Father, the Lord God Himself. We read that “the people were delighted with all the wonderful things He was doing.” But now, during the course of His address, Our Lord noticed a woman who had been crippled for eighteen years. The Greek text of the Gospel, explaining her condition, says that she had been having “a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years, bending over double and quite unable to straighten up.” Notice that Luke has firm details about the facts of her case. We are not told her age, but we are told exactly how long she had been in her physical condition. It had been going on for eighteen years. Luke had obviously obtained his information from those who knew the facts of her situation well. Moreover, Luke - physician as he was - adds a detail. It is that her physical condition involved “a spirit.” There was a demonic agency involved in some sense in her pitiable condition, “a spirit of infirmity.” Seeing her, our Lord’s heart was filled with compassion and, finishing His address, he called her forward from the congregation. There she stood, bent over, perhaps leaning on some support. Before them all, our Lord forthwith released her from her infirmity. Our Lord’s power and mercy was manifested, and the longstanding and crippling burden of the woman was gone. Radiant, she stood erect.

In His ensuing clash with the jealous synagogue official who was routed in the encounter, Our Lord makes a remark about the woman that provokes further thought. He said before them all that it was satan who had held her bound all those years. “Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” (Luke 13: 10-17). Somehow satan had been very much involved in her sad affliction, and this had been going on long before our Lord arrived on the scene of her life. Our Lord does not specify in what sense satan had held her bound, and we may suppose that Luke, the physician for St Paul, would have been interested to know. But we have it on the word of our Lord that satan had been cruelly at work on her. Our Lord does not say that satan’s was the only influence. But it is clear that among all the factors that had contributed to her physical condition, satan was an active element. We remember how satan successfully encouraged Adam and Eve’s revolt against God which brought to pieces the resplendent condition in which they had come from the divine hand. In that ultimate sense satan had held bound not only this poor woman but the rest of mankind who inherited a broken human nature. But our Lord’s words imply more than this. Elsewhere in the Gospels, we read that our Lord expelled a demon from a boy who had been in his hopeless condition for a long time. Clearly, there could not have been moral fault in the boy. So it is that as we think of the broad sweep of human history, with its wars, its oppression, its fire and fury and mayhem, our Lord’s words about this poor woman suggest a strong demonic element in many of the catastrophes of human history. The inexorable rise of a murderous Nazism had, assuredly, much of the demonic in it. We may imagine the crackling laughter of satan as the thundering fireball of Genghis Khan’s forces burst forth from Mongolia and reduced to smoke, blood and rubble the cities and peoples in their path.

In our Gospel scene today, Christ confronts satan and expels him from the scene. He departs, cowering and full of hate. And so the battle continues to the end of human history when God will be shown as the Conqueror. There are thus two great Standards before us, the Standard of Christ and the standard of satan. Let us take our place with Christ and fight with him against all that smells and smacks of satan. Our weapons are those of Christ, and the route we follow is His. We follow in His footsteps as He makes His way to the point of victory, which is Calvary. Let us be up and doing, then!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

St. Antônio de Sant’Anna Galvão (1739-1822)

God’s plan in a person’s life often takes unexpected turns which become life-giving through cooperation with God’s grace. Born in Guarantingueta near São Paulo (Brazil), Antônio attended the Jesuit seminary in Belem but later decided to become a Franciscan friar. Invested in 1760, he made final profession the following year and was ordained in 1762. In São Paulo, he served as preacher, confessor and porter. Within a few years he was appointed confessor to the Recollects of St. Teresa, a group of nuns in that city. He and Sister Helena Maria of the Holy Spirit founded a new community of sisters under the patronage of Our Lady of the Conception of Divine Providence. Sister Helena Maria’s premature death the next year left Father Antônio responsible for the new congregation, especially for building a convent and church adequate for their growing numbers. He served as novice master for the friars in Macacu and as guardian of St. Francis Friary in São Paulo. He founded St. Clare Friary in Sorocaba. With the permission of his provincial and the bishop, he spent his last days at the "Recolhimento de Nossa Senhora da Luz," the convent of the sisters’ congregation he had helped establish. He was beatified in Rome on October 25, 1998, and canonized in 2007. During the beatification homily, Pope John Paul II quoted from the Second Letter to Timothy (4:17), "The Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the word fully," and then said that Antônio "fulfilled his religious consecration by dedicating himself with love and devotion to the afflicted, the suffering and the slaves of his era in Brazil." The pope continued, "His authentically Franciscan faith, evangelically lived and apostolically spent in serving his neighbour, will be an encouragement to imitate this ‘man of peace and charity.’" (

The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark (10.46-52)

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, Son of David, have mercy on me! Jesus stopped and said, Call him. So they called to the blind man, Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you. Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. What do you want me to do for you? Jesus asked him. The blind man said, Rabbi, I want to see. Go, said Jesus, your faith has healed you. Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

The Holy Name
(Homily by Fr. E.J.Tyler)

It is a commonplace observation that modern Western society and culture is secular. That is to say, at the very least, it does not have a religious face. An observer, gazing at its public institutions and its public conversation, would not be led to think of God. Its life, its laws and its literature hum with incessant activity without reference to a transcendent reality on which it acknowledges dependence. That is the broad picture, but it varies greatly in its spectrum. The United States, though secular, has a much more religious culture than does Britain, and both have a more religious culture than do certain European countries. It could be argued that Australia is among the most secular countries in the world, even though a considerable portion of its citizens are religious and there is a great vitality among certain of its religious bodies and institutions. Nevertheless the culture is a secular one, and this culture is a challenge to religion. There are some obvious indicators of this secular character. How rare it is for a public official to acknowledge personal belief in God, let alone belief in Jesus Christ as the saviour from sin! Were a prime minister or other minister of Government to refer publicly to such matters in a personal way it would, I surmise, bring immediate notoriety. While the fact of crime and wrongdoing is constantly referred to and governments readily place law and order on their agendas, is “sin” ever found in public discourse? It is not. It would be a profound embarrassment to colleagues if a Government minister were to mention “sin” seriously. The fact is that the public canvassing of such matters as “sin” and, say, “Jesus as the Saviour from sin,” would probably be inappropriate - and the reason is precisely that the public culture is profoundly secular. The present secular character of Western culture has been centuries in the making. European culture was once professedly Christian. All this is to say that the Christian has a great mission ahead of him, and that mission is to bring forward in social and public discourse the name of Jesus. That name is the name that is now not mentioned - Jesus and his mission to deliver all men from sin.

In this sense our Gospel today (Mark 10:46-52) has a special relevance for the modern world, a world so profoundly influenced by Western secular culture. Jesus was passing by in the midst of a thronging crowd. We may perhaps see in that scene elements of every time and place. The crowds flow on in the great river of human societies, and in the midst of the river is the One who brings life to all. A river proverbially brings life, but in fact there is but one element in the river of humanity which brings true life, and that is the man Jesus. He has come to bring life, life in abundance, eternal life, life divine. The blind man learns that Jesus of Nazareth is in the midst of the throng of humanity passing him by and immediately he raises his voice stridently and allows nothing and no one to muffle it. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Let that cry be a symbol of the mission ahead of the modern Christian. The name of Jesus Christ has to be uttered and heard. His mission has to be proclaimed. The name means, “God saves!” At the annunciation the angel Gabriel gave this very name to him, a name coming from heaven. It expresses his unique identity and his unique mission to save his people from their sins. The salvation of the human race is dependent on him alone. One of the characteristic assumptions of a secular culture, though unmentioned and almost unconscious, is that, just as there is wrongdoing but no sin, so there is no need of salvation from sin. It is allowed that man needs rescuing from various evils - illness, disease, natural catastrophes, hunger, illiteracy, unethical and criminal behaviour - but not from “sin.” Least of all is it admitted that the “sin” which is said to afflict him is the most profound of his afflictions, indeed the one from which spring the others and the one which will damn him forever if it remains unchecked. Modern secular man makes no acknowledgment of needing a Saviour from sin. The world needs, then, to hear that cry of the blind man resounding in the public square, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

As St Paul writes in one of his Letters, the name of Jesus is above every other name. As Peter bore witness before the Sanhedrin, there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12), and as our Lord himself said, no one comes to the Father except through me. Let us pronounce this holy name frequently, every day of our lives. Let us so live that this name will be honoured and glorified not only in the hearts of men but by societies, cultures and by, indeed, the whole world. For, as Jesus Christ himself said, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. By this name do we live!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

St Anthony Claret, bishop (1807-1870)

The "spiritual father of Cuba" was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop and refugee. He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and to the First Vatican Council. In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, he learned Latin and printing: the future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers. He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand. At 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians. He was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba. He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for stamping out concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves. A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open his face and wrist. Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term. His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar. Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: Reflections on Agriculture and Country Delights. He was called back to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen. He went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace, he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children and he would be exempt from court functions. In the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen’s party to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony. All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets. At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, "There goes a true saint." He died in exile near the border of Spain at the age of 63. Jesus foretold that those who are truly his representatives would suffer the same persecution as he did. Besides 14 attempts on his life, Anthony had to undergo such a barrage of the ugliest slander that the very name Claret became a byword for humiliation and misfortune. The powers of evil do not easily give up their prey. No one needs to go looking for persecution. All we need to do is be sure we suffer because of our genuine faith in Christ, not for our own whims and imprudences. Queen Isabella II once said to Anthony, "No one tells me things as clearly and frankly as you do." Later she told her chaplain, "Everybody is always asking me for favours, but you never do. Isn't there something you would like for yourself?" He replied, "Yes, that you let me resign." The queen made no more offers.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (13.1-9)

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. He said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them— do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” And he told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”

Suffering and Sin
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

In the last decade of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty first, Peter Singer has been considered as one of Australia’s foremost public intellectuals. He occupied stellar positions in academic philosophy in both Australia and the United States, specialising in applied ethics and approaching ethical issues from a secular preference utilitarian perspective, of which he is a leading exponent. In common with other utilitarians, he believes that right action is that which produces the most favourable results for those who are involved. Singer interprets “the good” as being the satisfaction of each person’s preferences, and a right action is that which leads to this satisfaction. Thus there is nothing that is “good” (or bad) in itself except for the person’s resulting state of mind. I mention Singer only to quote what he said on one occasion about God and creation. Singer was asked on television if he believes in God, and he smilingly dismissed such an idea. There cannot be a God because the obvious mess everywhere precludes such a proposition. There is too much suffering, too much evil, too much disorder for this world to be the work of an all-powerful, all-wise, and all-holy Creator - which is what God is supposed to be. Of course, there is nothing very original about this remark, which is not to say that it is not a telling one. There are so many things in life which we, from our perspective, find very puzzling indeed in view of the fact that all is in the hands of a loving Creator. The man of religion believes in God with conviction, but that does not eliminate his problems with the state of the world. The man without religion likewise has his problems with the state of the world, and these problems can lead him to reject or ignore God. The evil, the suffering and the disorder are just that - they constitute a problem which in philosophical discourse is typically called the problem of evil. I can think of one prominent anthropologist who wrote that indigenous religions could be understood and described in terms of the answer their myths and rituals give to this problem.

In our gospel passage today, our Lord is informed of an injustice of which there are countless instances in the great course of human history. “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.” The Roman procurator had massacred several persons in the Temple itself. The Jew would not call into question the very existence of God because of his allowing this injustice to happen - as might the modern man. Rather, typically he thought that such a tragic mishap was due to the victim’s own sin. Sin ultimately brings the punishment of God, and so, he thought, what one suffers in this world is due to one’s own sin. Further, the suffering in this world is proportionate to the degree of one’s sins. Suffering, then, is a personal punishment for sin. The greater the suffering, the greater a sinner must the sufferer be. But no, our Lord tells them. Just because sin ultimately attracts divine punishment and, with it, suffering, this does not mean that all suffering is in fact a divine punishment for the one who is suffering. It certainly does not mean that the suffering a person undergoes in this life is an indicator of the scale of his sin when compared to the sin of others. “Jesus answered, Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13: 1-9). Our Lord does not, here in this scene, explain why God allowed those who suffered this injustice inflicted on them by Pilate. He does say, though, that it is an indicator of the punishment that will fall on the unrepentant sinner. “I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Of ourselves, we cannot plumb to its depths the reason why a good and all powerful God allows people to suffer - although, actually, much has been revealed by God about this. But our Lord does make it clear that God wants the evil and suffering of the world to remind us of the ultimate suffering that will be ours if we do not repent of our sins. That is to say, God will judge and condemn the unrepentant.

Let us remember that it is the Saviour who utters these words about the judgment that will fall on the sinner who refuses to repent. He Himself took the part of sinners and on His shoulders was laid the burden of the sins of the world. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and He did this precisely by His suffering. Thus has suffering been transformed into a means of redemption. Furthermore, the Christian is invited by his Lord to come and follow Him. This means dying with Him so as to share in His resurrection, and to bring a share in His resurrection to others. Suffering is now the greatest means of good, provided we suffer with Christ. Let us then do as He says and take up our cross every day and follow in His footsteps.

Friday, October 23, 2009

St. John of Capistrano (1386-1456)

It has been said the Christian saints are the world’s greatest optimists. Not blind to the existence and consequences of evil, they base their confidence on the power of Christ’s redemption. The power of conversion through Christ extends not only to sinful people but also to calamitous events. Imagine being born in the fourteenth century. One-third of the population and nearly 40 percent of the clergy were wiped out by the bubonic plague. The Western Schism split the Church with two or three claimants to the Holy See at one time. England and France were at war. The city-states of Italy were constantly in conflict. No wonder that gloom dominated the spirit of the culture and the times. John Capistrano was born in 1386. His education was thorough. His talents and success were great. When he was 26 he was made governor of Perugia. Imprisoned after a battle against the Malatestas, he resolved to change his way of life completely. At the age of 30 he entered the Franciscan novitiate and was ordained a priest four years later. His preaching attracted great throngs at a time of religious apathy and confusion. He and 12 Franciscan brethren were received in the countries of central Europe as angels of God. They were instrumental in reviving a dying faith and devotion. The Franciscan Order itself was in turmoil over the interpretation and observance of the Rule of St. Francis. Through John’s tireless efforts and his expertise in law, the heretical Fraticelli were suppressed and the "Spirituals" were freed from interference in their stricter observance. He helped bring about a reunion with the Greek and Armenian Churches, unfortunately only a brief arrangement. When the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, he was commissioned to preach a crusade for the defense of Europe. Gaining little response in Bavaria and Austria, he decided to concentrate his efforts in Hungary. He led the army to Belgrade. Under the great General John Junyadi, they gained an overwhelming victory, and the siege of Belgrade was lifted. Worn out by his superhuman efforts, Capistrano was an easy prey to the infection bred by the refuse of battle. He died October 23, 1456. On the saint's tomb in the Austrian town of Villach, the governor had this message inscribed: "This tomb holds John, by birth of Capistrano, a man worthy of all praise, defender and promoter of the faith, guardian of the Church, zealous protector of his Order, an ornament to all the world, lover of truth and religious justice, mirror of life, surest guide in doctrine; praised by countless tongues, he reigns blessed in heaven." That is a fitting epitaph for a real and successful optimist.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (12.54-59)

Jesus said to the crowd: "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, 'It's going to rain,' and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, 'It's going to be hot,' and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time? Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right? As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled to him on the way, or he may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny."

The Great Sign
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

In his book, A History of Apologetics, Cardinal Avery Dulles speaks with praise of the Christian apologetics mounted by some Anglican authors against the prevailing deism during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Deism typically allowed a religion based on rational consideration of the world of Nature. Nature was the voice of its creator, and reason was the instrument that attains its religious meaning. Nature constituted a natural revelation and was a reliable basis of religion, whereas supernatural and historical revelation was ultimately doubtful. Its basis was faith, and faith in the final analysis was not reasonable. There were various answers to this, but one famous one - noted by Dulles in his historical survey - was that of Anglican Bishop Joseph Butler (1692-1752), entitled The Analogy of Religion. The work had a considerable influence on John Henry Newman, later Cardinal, during the height of his Anglican years. Butler’s pivotal point is that there is a likeness between the course and constitution of the world and the doctrines of religion - suggesting that the Author of nature is the same as the Author of the doctrines of religion, both natural and revealed. This is not the place to discuss this as an argument supporting revealed religion - in any case it assumes that the audience accepts a creator God who is the author of nature. My point is to highlight the analogy Butler sees between the course and constitution of the world and the doctrines revealed by God. I believe this very point is implied in so many of our Lord’s parables. The same God, who reveals Himself and His plan above all in Christ and His teaching, is the God who rules the world - and the world can be thus seen as illustrating certain of revealed doctrines. Our Lord himself draws on what happens in the world to illustrate the doctrines He is revealing. There is something of a likeness there that we can advert to, which will help us realize with greater effect the doctrine being considered.

Consider the doctrine of the Judgment of God. In our Gospel today our Lord says that people can see the signs of a coming change in the weather, but do not notice the signs given by God of His coming judgment. “Jesus said to the crowd: When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, 'It's going to rain,' and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, 'It's going to be hot,' and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time?” What is our Lord referring to here, and that His audience is incapable of interpreting from the signs available? He provides an illustration, this time not from the workings of the world, but from ordinary social and civil life. It is the imminent threat of civil judgment and punishment. Everyday life suggests the imperative of reconciling to one’s obligations in order to avoid this most certain judgment. “Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right? As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled to him on the way, or he may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny” (Luke 12: 54-59). On the way to the court, all the signs indicate that you may be found guilty and thrown into prison. So, you ought know you had best be reconciled with your adversary on the way so as to avoid this. Our Lord is saying, just so - see the signs! Be reconciled to God and keep His commandments! In the concrete this means, hear the saving news of the Gospel and receive with obedience and joy the tidings of Christ and His Revelation. Do not truculently refuse Christ, for He is the great sign from God of His saving plan. He is the sign that reveals and indeed embodies it, for in seeing Him we see the Father. As the Father said from the cloud on the mountain, this is My Beloved Son. Listen to Him! Let us bow in spirit before Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Our Divine Friend. He is the manifestation of God and of His Divine Plan. He is The Sign of all Signs, a notice of what is coming. By receiving Him into our hearts, we embrace already the life that will be ours, hereafter, ...Life Divine...Life Abundant...Life Everlasting. He is the image of the unseen God. He is God Incarnate - the term of all human longing and striving. Let us not so foolish, as to do what the prudent man would not do in ordinary life, ignoring this sign and gift that has been bestowed on us by Our Loving God.

Let us bow in spirit before Jesus Christ our Lord and our Divine Friend. He is the manifestation of God and His divine plan. He is the Sign of all signs, the Notice of what is coming. By receiving him into our hearts, we embrace the life that will be ours hereafter, life divine, live abundant, life everlasting. He is the image of the unseen God, God incarnate, the term of all human longing and striving. Let us not be so foolish as to do what the prudent man would not do in ordinary life, ignoring this sign and gift that has been bestowed on us by our loving God.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

St. Peter of Alcantara (1499-1562)

Peter was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended. Born into a noble family (his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain), Peter studied law at Salamanca University and, at 16, joined the so-called Observant Franciscans (also known as the discalced, or barefoot, friars). While he practised many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest; at the age of 39, he was elected provincial; he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude. Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: "To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara." In 1554, Peter, having received permission, formed a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor. As spiritual director to St. Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars and the Poor Clares. He was canonized in 1669. “I do not praise poverty for poverty's sake; I praise only that poverty which we patiently endure for the love of our crucified Redeemer and I consider this far more desirable than the poverty we undertake for the sake of poverty itself; for if I thought or believed otherwise, I would not seem to be firmly grounded in faith" (Letter of Peter to Teresa of Avila).

The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (12.49-53)

Jesus said, "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

The Truth

It is often thought that philosophy is a discipline of the university alone. By that I mean that philosophical issues and a philosophical consideration of those issues is considered to be the business of departments of philosophy or those who are their products. It is deemed that the ordinary person, the ordinary family man, the ordinary worker or professional, is scarcely caught up in such matters. In fact, the establishment of departments of philosophy in Anglo-Saxon universities considerably postdated the rise of the discipline itself. Philosophers were writing in England who had little connection with the universities. This was to be expected, for philosophical questions underpin every position the ordinary person takes. One of the most characteristic issues of the modern mind is that of the status of his knowledge and, especially, of his basic convictions: are they, and can they be said to be, objective? If all are agreed on something, the question scarcely arises. Let us say that the whole country is agreed that an economic downturn or upturn is in process as the case may be. In such a setting, no one would think of asking whether man’s opinions and convictions can be properly regarded as objective. But consider matters of religion, where there is no such agreement. The community of nations includes a vast spectrum of religious belief, and in the typical secular society every man’s street includes those of deeply divergent religious convictions. A courteous tolerance is imperative for social order and if the rights of others are to be respected. But the ordinary man in this pluralist setting can be induced to think that all talk of objective truth is a fruitless fancy. By this I mean, not that he thinks that it is merely difficult to attain to religious truth (which it is), but that there is no such thing as objective truth. All there can be said to be is, personal opinion. As theologian Cardinal Avery Dulles once said, "Religion tends to be regarded as a purely subjective preference, a mere matter of taste or custom, incapable of making objective truth-claims."

This is one of the challenges the proclamation of the person and teaching of Christ faces in the modern world. The baptized Christian, and the Church of which he is called to be a member, will not allow that “truth” is relative to each person and that therefore it does not represent a moral obligation on the one to whom it appeals. This is an illustration of the fact that the Christian religion does indeed involve fundamental philosophical positions which are opposed to certain other philosophical positions. The Church has in the past condemned various philosophical views and systems because ultimately they endanger man’s salvation. The famous Syllabus of Errors (1864) of Pope Pius IX (now beatified), a document much lampooned at the time and even now, included condemnations of certain philosophical positions. The implicit and scarcely conscious view of many that truth in religion is a phantom must be confronted, if Christ and his Church is to be known and accepted by modern man. This is a direct implication of our Gospel today, in which our Lord warns that he and his revelation will be a cause of profound discomfort in society. “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12: 49-53). Our Lord was saying to his disciples that central to their mission is the conviction and the teaching that the Truth (about Him) is absolutely objective and that it imposes a moral obligation of assent. They must expect that the proclamation of this as the objective truth will arouse the ire of many in society. Our Lord warns explicitly of the division that the Truth about Him will cause, even, at times, within the family circle.

During the early stages of his Passion, Christ came face to face with the Empire as represented by Pilate. We may say it was a confrontation with the gentile world. As one having worldly power, Pilate questioned Him about His identity and mission. Christ replied by referring to the objective truth. "For this was I born", he said to Pilate, "to bear witness to the truth and those who are of the truth listen to my voice". He had said to His own disciples that he was the way, the truth and the life. Pilate responded with a rhetorical question: “What is truth?” Let us proclaim it in our hearts and, to the extent our circumstances allow, from the housetops: Christ is the Truth!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

St. Hilarion

Despite his best efforts to live in prayer and solitude, today’s saint found it difficult to achieve his deepest desire. People were naturally drawn to Hilarion as a source of spiritual wisdom and peace. He had reached such fame by the time of his death that his body had to be secretly removed so that a shrine would not be built in his honour. Instead, he was buried in his home village. St. Hilarion the Great, as he is sometimes called, was born in Palestine. After his conversion to Christianity he spent some time with St. Anthony of Egypt, another holy man drawn to solitude. Hilarion lived a life of hardship and simplicity in the desert, where he also experienced spiritual dryness that included temptations to despair. At the same time, miracles were attributed to him. As his fame grew, a small group of disciples wanted to follow Hilarion. He began a series of journeys to find a place where he could live away from the world. He finally settled on Cyprus, where he died in 371 at about age 80. Hilarion is celebrated as the founder of monasticism in Palestine. Much of his fame flows from the biography of him written by St. Jerome.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke ( 12.39-48)

Jesus said, "Understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him." Peter asked, "Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?" The Lord answered, "Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants, will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

Divine Judgment
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

A great difference to the policing of traffic was made when speed cameras began to be installed. Now cameras are commonplace on our roads, and the issue facing motorists is to remember to watch for them. The likelihood of not noticing the camera surely induces the motorist to be very careful to observe the rules of the road. It was once canvassed in the New South Wales Parliament the possibility of installing numerous camera look-alikes all across the states, thus having the effect without having the expense. The aim was to educate the motorist to observe the law for fear of being caught. In a few countries the possession of certain drugs attracts capital punishment, and it is said that this law has had a dramatic effect on drug dealing there. The point I am making here is that the fear of being suddenly caught can induce a policy of compliance. The same pattern is present in other areas of life. For example, health authorities urge a universal screening for bowel cancer, for the disease can silently advance like a serpent approaching its prey. Then it strikes with deadly effect, the victim is caught unawares and his life is lost. Again, great efforts are made to establish warning systems for certain regions of the world against tsunamis. Those who manage the systems are on constant alert lest populations be caught unawares. Or again, whole nations build up a readiness against terrorist threats, for experience has shown that the innocent can be engulfed in sudden horror. The point is the same: if at all possible we must stand ready and not be caught off guard against the known threat. The threat is to life, for life is the dearest possession. But now, it is obvious that whatever man may do to protect his life from threats, he cannot ward off the coming of death, and he cannot ensure that death will not be sudden. The issue is, if death comes suddenly, will he be prepared for what follows death? This is the greatest question of all because the revealed fact is that what follows death is the Divine Judgment. No matter how advanced civilization becomes in a technological sense, the fact of threats and sudden death cannot be eliminated. At any point we can die. A person with the cleanest bill of health begins his walk in the tracks of New Guinea and on the way suddenly dies of a heart attack. No test predicted this eventuality. This pattern applies to every time and every place. So we do not know - as our Lord says in our Gospel today - at what hour the Son of Man is coming. What we must do is so live as to be ready, were the Son of Man to come suddenly. That is to say, we must live in the light of the Last Things which every man and woman will most assuredly face: death and the Divine Judgment. There is not very much about the future that we can be absolutely sure of. I am sure that if the average person who is well on in life were to look back to his childhood and youth, he would admit that he could never have predicted his future course. No, there is little of the future we can predict. But there are a few things that are absolutely certain. The first thing is that we shall die, and every passing second brings us closer to that most certain of future events. The second great certainty is that we shall face the awesome judgment of God our Creator and Redeemer. His searching gaze will bring to light in an instant all that we have thought, said and done. The books will be opened and the judgment made. Our Lord tells us in simple and figurative language the upshot of this single pivotal event in the existence of every person. “But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers” (Luke 12: 39-48). The wise and prudent person lives in the light of this tremendous reality. There is the glorious promise of heaven to those who love and serve God in the fulfilment of their duties in life. In our passage today our Lord speaks of God’s judgment and the threat of divine punishment. St Teresa of Avila, doctor of the Church on the spiritual life, was shown her place in hell were she to fail to serve God and turn away from Him. What Christ says in today’s Gospel must be borne in mind. Let his words prompt us to keep close to God and to do all we can to save others from the risk of eternal damnation.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

St Maria Betilla Boscardin

If anyone knew rejection, ridicule and disappointment, it was today’s saint. But such trials only brought Maria Bertilla Boscardin closer to God and more determined to serve Him.

Born in Italy in 1888, the young girl lived in fear of her father, a violent man prone to jealousy and drunkenness. Her schooling was limited so that she could spend more time helping at home and working in the fields. She showed few talents and was often the butt of jokes.

In 1904 she joined the Sisters of St. Dorothy and was assigned to work in the kitchen, bakery and laundry. After some time Maria received nurses’ training and began working in a hospital with children suffering from diphtheria. There the young nun seemed to find her true vocation: nursing very ill and disturbed children. Later, when the hospital was taken over by the military in World War I, Sister Maria Bertilla fearlessly cared for patients amidst the threat of constant air raids and bombings.

She died in 1922 after suffering for many years from a painful tumor. Some of the patients she had nursed many years before were present at her canonization in 1961.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (12.35-38)

Jesus said, "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night."

Personal convictions

(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

Consider some of the great figures of history and ask, what would society and the world have been like had they not appeared on the scene and gained the power they wielded? Napoleon Bonaparte dazzled Europe by his military prowess following his rise from utter obscurity, and, having attained the title of Emperor, proceeded virtually to march on all Europe, with great designs on England too. The prodigy from Corsica brought fire and sword, smoking cities, untold carnage of human life - some two million dead - and the greatest European war to that point. Now, let us ask, what was the mind within him that led to all this? Obviously personal ambition drove him - his vision was a lasting empire in Europe ruled by the French, with the Church and indeed the papacy itself subject to him and his dynasty. But what was the seed-ground of his notions? Born into a Catholic Corsican family, as a boy he entered the military school of Brienne, and in 1783 the military school of Paris. In 1785, when he was in garrison at Valence as a lieutenant, he occupied his leisure by reading many of the philosophers of his time, particularly Rousseau. This reading left him in a kind of Deism, a mere admirer of the personality of Jesus and with no observance of religious practices. He imbibed and represented the anti-Christian rationalism of the Revolutionary leaders. He married civilly. He eschewed the religion of Christian revelation. Christ as the living Lord meant little or nothing to him. How different would Europe have been if Napoleon had discovered by true conviction the person of Christ and the Church His body. Imagine if he had discovered the truth of his native Catholicism! The fundamental convictions of this one man made an enormous difference to Europe, as had the rationalism of many who spearheaded the Revolution before him. They were agents of great change. The change that was effected was the fruit of convictions. I use all this as an example to illustrate the immense importance of basic personal convictions.

In our Gospel passage today our Lord says, "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him." Firstly, then, we are to be "dressed ready for service" - which is to say, busy about our work in life whatever that may be. We must be coming to grips with our responsibilities. We must keep our "lamps burning." We must be people of our work in life. That "work" in life may even be the "work" of being sick. St Bernadette Soubiroux (who received the appearances of Our Lady at Lourdes in 1858) spoke of her last sickness as a nun as being her last "job." She was resolved to do it well, and she died a very holy death. Each individual and all of society depend on the fulfilment of responsibility through work. Bonaparte worked - and worked furiously, and his fundamental convictions shaped the tenor and direction of his work. Our fundamental convictions will shape the tenor and direction of our work, and in our Gospel today our Lord speaks of what ought be those fundamental convictions. We must be convinced that this life is no more than a pilgrimage. We are on our way to our true homeland, and what we do here ought be done with the thought of Christ our Lord and Judge before us. So it is that the parable of today’s Gospel (Luke 12: 35-38) refers also to the conviction underlying our work. Christ tells us that our work and our service must be such as to leave us constantly ready for the arrival of Him, our Master. Of course, this was the last thing that Bonaparte bothered himself with. We must so work that at a moment’s notice - such as if we were suddenly to succumb to a terminal condition - we would with joy open the door to the Master’s arrival. All this will depend on our convictions - which is to say, on our acceptance of Jesus Christ as Master, Lord and Judge. With such a conviction we will work day by day in a way which is according to the will and revelation of God. Let us then build the house of our life on rock, the rock of Christ our Redeemer.

Napoleon’s life ended in ruins. There is evidence that he came to a greater religious belief during these last years. Gaoled on the far-flung island of St Helena, treated harshly by his guards, he died 1821 of bowel cancer (like his father before him) and probably of poisoning. The humble and dedicated disciple of Christ may also come to temporal ruin, but his fidelity will pay off. He has a wonderful assurance from his beloved Master. "It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Saint John de Brébeuf and Saint Isaac Jogues, priests and martyrs, and their companions, martyrs

Isaac Jogues (1607-1646): Isaac Jogues and his companions were the first martyrs of the North American continent officially recognized by the Church. As a young Jesuit, Isaac Jogues, a man of learning and culture, taught literature in France. He gave up that career to work among the Huron Indians in the New World, and in 1636 he and his companions, under the leadership of John de Brébeuf, arrived in Quebec. The Hurons were constantly warred upon by the Iroquois, and in a few years Father Jogues was captured by the Iroquois and imprisoned for 13 months. His letters and journals tell how he and his companions were led from village to village, how they were beaten, tortured and forced to watch as their Huron converts were mangled and killed. An unexpected chance for escape came to Isaac Jogues through the Dutch, and he returned to France, bearing the marks of his sufferings. Several fingers had been cut, chewed or burnt off. Pope Urban VIII gave him permission to offer Mass with his mutilated hands: "It would be shameful that a martyr of Christ be not allowed to drink the Blood of Christ." Welcomed home as a hero, Father Jogues might have sat back, thanked God for his safe return and died peacefully in his homeland. But his zeal led him back once more to the fulfillment of his dreams. In a few months he sailed for his missions among the Hurons. In 1646 he and Jean de Lalande, who had offered his services to the missioners, set out for Iroquois country in the belief that a recently signed peace treaty would be observed. They were captured by a Mohawk war party, and on October 18 Father Jogues was tomahawked and beheaded. Jean de Lalande was killed the next day at Ossernenon, a village near Albany, New York. The first of the Jesuit missionaries to be martyred was René Goupil who, with Lalande, had offered his services as an oblate. He was tortured along with Isaac Jogues in 1642, and was tomahawked for having made the Sign of the Cross on the brow of some children. Jean de Brébeuf (1593-1649): Jean de Brébeuf was a French Jesuit who came to Canada at the age of 32 and laboured there for 24 years. He went back to France when the English captured Quebec (1629) and expelled the Jesuits, but returned to his missions four years later. Although medicine men blamed the Jesuits for a smallpox epidemic among the Hurons, Jean remained with them. He composed catechisms and a dictionary in Huron, and saw 7,000 converted before his death. He was captured by the Iroquois and died after four hours of extreme torture at Sainte Marie, near Georgian Bay, Canada. Father Anthony Daniel, working among Hurons who were gradually becoming Christian, was killed by Iroquois on July 4, 1648. His body was thrown into his chapel, which was set on fire. Gabriel Lalemant had taken a fourth vow—to sacrifice his life to the Indians. He was horribly tortured to death along with Father Brébeuf. Father Charles Garnier was shot to death as he baptized children and catechumens during an Iroquois attack. Father Noel Chabanel was killed before he could answer his recall to France. He had found it exceedingly hard to adapt to mission life. He could not learn the language, the food and life of the Indians revolted him, plus he suffered spiritual dryness during his whole stay in Canada. Yet he made a vow to remain until death in his mission. These eight Jesuit martyrs of North America were canonized in 1930. "My confidence is placed in God who does not need our help for accomplishing his designs. Our single endeavour should be to give ourselves to the work and to be faithful to him, and not to spoil his work by our shortcomings" (from a letter of Isaac Jogues to a Jesuit friend in France, September 12, 1646, a month before he died).

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (12.13-21)

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me. Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed Me a judge or an arbiter between you? Then He said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And He told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God."

Material possessions
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

A professorship of political economy at Oxford was established in 1825, with Nassau William Senior as the first professor. He was followed by his old university tutor, Richard Whately who shortly afterwards was appointed Anglican Archbishop of Dublin. That founding of the Oxford professorship we may take as symbolic of the modern rise of the discipline of economics. With its foundations in moral philosophy, political economy originally was the term for the study of production, buying and selling, and their relations with law, custom, and government. It developed in the 18th century as the study of the economies of states - hence “political economy.” Karl Marx understood history to consist of the struggle between opposing classes over mastery of the economy. In the late nineteenth century, the term "political economy" was generally replaced by the term “economics,” often used by those seeking to place the study of economy upon mathematical bases, rather than the relationships of production and consumption. So it is that economics is a principal discipline of the modern age. Business Studies is a popular elective at the final level of Secondary School, while Economics and Commerce remains ever strong at Universities. The combined Law/Economics degree has a high entrance requirement. The principal minister of Government after the Prime Minister is often the Treasurer or his equivalent, and a dominant Government department is the Treasury. The world pulsates with the importance of the economy - which is to say, with the importance of maximizing the availability of money and material goods for the short and long term. An observer of the modern world would be forgiven for gaining the impression that what matters most in the lives of human beings is money-making and the possession or control of material goods. But a little philosophical reflection ought dispel any conviction that this is as it should be, widespread though it might be. The fact is that money and material goods are manifestly ephemeral and profoundly vulnerable.

Yes, indeed. If an individual’s life and work has been directed towards economic goals alone or principally, he has spent his efforts on what can and (ultimately) will pass uncontrollably through his fingers. As it has always been said, you cannot take it with you. Because of divine revelation we know that there is a Hereafter, and we know a good deal about it. Ordinary common sense would suggest that our lives ought be spent working for what we will be able to retain - forever. Our economic interests and goals ought be sought only within this ultimate perspective. This common sense consideration brings us to our Gospel today, in which our Lord is asked a very practical question by a person in His audience. “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” How common is this problem, the matter of the Will! The point here, though, is that our Lord uses the occasion to drive home a few simple and central points for human life. “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Many have made their life to consist in the abundance of possessions, so as even to lead them into a variety of forms of theft on a massive scale. It has been argued that the great economic problem of 2009 was ultimately an ethical failure due to a rapacious desire for profits. A man’s life does not consist simply in possessions, let alone an abundance of possessions. He must have the use of some things, but those things ought be oriented towards the truly central goals of human flourishing. At the heart of the flowering of the human person is love - loving and being loved - and ultimately this is achieved in the love of God. Material goods and prosperity ought support and assist the attainment of the love and service of God. This applies to the life of the individual as well as to the life of society. It is this which a man takes with him, and if he cannot take this, he takes nothing. For all his labour and his talents, he goes from this life with everything having slipped through his fingers.

Our Lord tells the parable of the man who built large barns for his abundant possessions. But it was all so very vulnerable. He was about to lose it all, for “God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God”(Luke 12: 13-21). Let us heed our Lord’s words and make the love and service of God the great goal of every day, with the business of material security and prosperity serving that one all-important aim.