Saturday, November 7, 2009

St. Didacus (1400-1463)

Didacus is living proof that God "chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong" (1 Corinthians 1:27). As a young man in Spain, Didacus joined the Secular Franciscan Order and lived for some time as a hermit. After Didacus became a Franciscan brother, he developed a reputation for great insight into God’s ways. His penances were heroic. He was so generous with the poor that the friars sometimes grew uneasy about his charity. Didacus volunteered for the missions in the Canary Islands and laboured there energetically and profitably. He was also the superior of a friary there. In 1450 he was sent to Rome to attend the canonization of St. Bernardine of Siena. When many friars gathered for that celebration fell sick, Didacus stayed in Rome for three months to nurse them. After he returned to Spain, he pursued a life of contemplation full-time. He showed the friars the wisdom of God’s ways. As he was dying, Didacus looked at a crucifix and said: "O faithful wood, O precious nails! You have borne an exceedingly sweet burden, for you have been judged worthy to bear the Lord and King of heaven" (Marion A. Habig, O.F.M., The Franciscan Book of Saints, p. 834). San Diego, California, is named for this Franciscan, who was canonized in 1588.

"He was born in Spain with no outstanding reputation for learning, but like our first teachers and leaders unlettered as men count wisdom, an unschooled person, a humble lay brother in religious life. [God chose Didacus] to show in him the abundant riches of his grace to lead many on the way of salvation by the holiness of his life and by his example and to prove over and over to a weary old world almost decrepit with age that God's folly is wiser than men, and his weakness is more powerful than men" (Bull of Canonization).

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (16.9-15)

Jesus said, I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.

(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

There is a vast industry designed to ensure the comfortable retirement of the older population. There is the pension, but people are nevertheless urged to prepare well for this final stage of life, by contributing well to their superannuation, by looking after their health, by getting regular exercise, and in general by saving up their finances for it. People are even urged to take out an insurance for their own burial. A lot of time has to be put into considering whether it is financially wise to buy into a retirement home, or to have a more independent and private arrangement. Financial planning for the sunset of life is necessary in modern society. Of course, all through life there has to be financial planning. The fact is that so much of individual, social, national and international life is take up in the pursuit of money and economic prosperity. Now, it could be argued that, notwithstanding the terrible poverty of considerable portions of the globe, there never has been a time of such material prosperity for so many. The obvious question is, how ought all this be used, especially when so many have little or nothing - and certainly no way to prepare for the future? In this respect, our Lord puts a special twist on the question of the use of our material means to prepare for the future. He asks, what about the future beyond this life? How are you using your financial means to prepare for that? That is surely a pivotal question because this life is brief, and any years of retirement will also be very brief. But the next life will be eternal, and this eternity will depend on the use we make of the material means that have come our way. This is surely a matter of ordinary common sense, but so many do not consider this because they have little faith in the word of Christ. As I say, our Lord puts a twist on this. Gain for yourselves friends with the money you have, he says, so that you will be welcomed into your eternal homeland (Luke 16: 9-15). What does he mean? He means that we ought use our money to serve the needs of others (and so to “make yourselves friends”) in such a way that God will be pleased with us.

The best way to prepare for our real future - which is in heaven - is to love our neighbour as Christ has loved us. As St Paul writes in one of his Letters, though he was rich, Christ became poor in order that we might be rich. Our true “retirement” - let us say - is in heaven, which in any case is in just a little while. All our life we ought be preparing for that, and our utmost concern for our children ought be that they, too, reach that final goal. As our Lord says elsewhere in the Gospel, what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? In one of his parables he tells the story of the successful farmer who has a string of bumper crops, so much so that he simply has nowhere to store all the grain. So he builds much larger barns, and places his abundant produce in them, and settles back with a great sense of security. He is prepared for the years to come. But all the while God has - as we might say - been shaking his head. You fool! You have this day alone left to you, and what use will all this be to you thereafter? The implication is that he should have been using his wealth to provide security for himself in the hereafter. How could he have done this? His wealth would have been of eternal use to him if he had helped the poor and, in general, had supported the advancement of God’s reign in the hearts of men. Our Lord says, “use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” The money you have is actually in itself little in the sight of God. However much it is, absolutely speaking it is little when compared with the real wealth he wants to give you. Well now, if you cannot be trusted with what is in reality a pittance, how can you expect the real wealth that God wants to give you? That wealth is the divine life of union with Jesus both here and hereafter. Our Lord is drawing parallels between the affairs of this life and those of the next. Very ominously, he warns that we cannot be the slave of money and material goods, and at the same time slaves of God. We must choose.

So then, let us resolve to use the money and material wealth that come our way - and there is nothing wrong with making plenty of money - in a fashion that pleases God. What is wrong is, not making money and even plenty of it, but using it in a way that displeases God. If we are blessed with talent and opportunity for the making of plenty of money, we must remember that it is God who has placed this in our hands. He expects it to be used truly wisely - which is to say, in the light of his will, of his judgment, and of the eternity which will follow his judgment. That is to say, we ought use our material goods to fulfill God’s will, especially in the service of neighbour. In this way we shall be making friends, and will be received into our true homeland.

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