Monday, March 15, 2010

Prayers today: Lord, I put my trust in you; I shall be glad and rejoice in your mercy, because you have seen my affliction. (Ps 30:7-8)

Father, creator, you give the world new life by your sacraments. May we, your Church, grow in your life and continue to receive your help on earth. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns world without end through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Amen.

St. Louise de Marillac (d. 1660)

Louise, born near Meux, France, lost her mother when she was still a child, her beloved father when she was but 15. Her desire to become a nun was discouraged by her confessor, and a marriage was arranged. One son was born of this union. But she soon found herself nursing her beloved husband through a long illness that finally led to his death. Louise was fortunate to have a wise and sympathetic counsellor, St. Francis de Sales, and then his friend, the Bishop of Belley, France. Both of these men were available to her only periodically. But from an interior illumination she understood that she was to undertake a great work under the guidance of another person she had not yet met. This was the holy priest M. Vincent, later to be known as St. Vincent de Paul. At first he was reluctant to be her confessor, busy as he was with his "Confraternities of Charity." Members were aristocratic ladies of charity who were helping him nurse the poor and look after neglected children, a real need of the day. But the ladies were busy with many of their own concerns and duties. His work needed many more helpers, especially ones who were peasants themselves and therefore close to the poor and could win their hearts. He also needed someone who could teach them and organize them. Only over a long period of time, as Vincent de Paul became more acquainted with Louise, did he come to realize that she was the answer to his prayers. She was intelligent, self-effacing and had physical strength and endurance that belied her continuing feeble health. The missions he sent her on eventually led to four simple young women joining her. Her rented home in Paris became the training centre for those accepted for the service of the sick and poor. Growth was rapid and soon there was need of a so-called rule of life, which Louise herself, under the guidance of Vincent, drew up for the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul (though he preferred "Daughters" of Charity). He had always been slow and prudent in his dealings with Louise and the new group. He said that he had never had any idea of starting a new community, that it was God who did everything. "Your convent," he said, "will be the house of the sick; your cell, a hired room; your chapel, the parish church; your cloister, the streets of the city or the wards of the hospital." Their dress was to be that of the peasant women. It was not until years later that Vincent de Paul would finally permit four of the women to take annual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. It was still more years before the company would be formally approved by Rome and placed under the direction of Vincent's own congregation of priests. Many of the young women were illiterate and it was with reluctance that the new community undertook the care of neglected children. Louise was busy helping wherever needed despite her poor health. She travelled throughout France, establishing her community members in hospitals, orphanages and other institutions. At her death on March 15, 1660, the congregation had more than 40 houses in France. Six months later St. Vincent de Paul followed her in death. Louise de Marillac was canonized in 1934 and declared patroness of social workers in 1960.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (4.43~54)

After the two days Jesus left for Galilee. (Now Jesus Himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honour in his own country.) When He arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed Him. They had seen all that He had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there. Once more He visited Cana in Galilee, where He had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to Him and begged Him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. "Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders," Jesus told him, "you will never believe." The royal official said, "Sir, come down before my child dies." Jesus replied, "You may go. Your son will live." The man took Jesus at His word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he enquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour. Then the father realised that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live." So he and all his household believed. This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.

God, Saviour of all
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

There is a detail in our Gospel passage today which could prompt thoughts about the saving plan of God for the whole world. I refer to the departure of our Lord from Samaria and his return to Galilee. John, the author of the account, mentions that the event he is about to describe, occurred in “Cana of Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine.” This mention by John of specific locations and what happened twice at this particular location reminds us of the historical and geographical character of revealed religion. Revealed religion is an historical religion rooted in facts that, of course, occurred in precise places. God had drawn very near to man in precise locations which are with us today. In Jesus Christ he had personally come to dwell among a particular people as one of them, in a particular part of the world at a particular time. Places are specifically mentioned and the number of occurrences are specified. Cana is with us today, and it has a beautiful church to commemorate our Lord’s visit and two miracles there. Some archaeological work done there can be viewed. But let us expand our vision a little, beyond the scene of our Gospel. The passage mentions that “a royal official” — a “nobleman” as Knox chooses to translate the Greek — approached our Lord with his request for a healing of his son at Capernaum. Was the royal official a Hebrew, an adherent of the Jewish religion? We may presume so, but it may not have been the case. In any event, those to whom he was attached in his work may not have been. We are reminded by this event of the centurion who asked our Lord to come and heal his servant. The centurion had faith that evoked the high praise of Christ. Presumably the centurion was not an adherent of the religion of the Hebrews, even though he was friendly to it. He had built the synagogue, we read. Our Lord’s personal mission was to the lost sheep of the House of Israel, but he constantly bore in mind the pagan world, for it was all around him. He had grown up in a village that was very near the cosmopolitan city of Zephoris, and had perhaps regularly worked there with Joseph on all the construction continually going on.

Jesus our Lord visited Cana and worked two spectacular miracles there. God was present in person there. But let us try to imagine the saving work of God among the nations. God was not neglecting his children, the vast majority of whom were beyond the confines of his chosen people. In this respect, let us remember a detail from the infancy narratives of the Gospel of St Matthew. The Magi from the east — presumably Zoroastrians — received the guidance of a star. God was intervening in a circle of professional adherents of that venerable natural religion to set them on the path to Christ. The path he drew them along led directly to Christ, but the notable thing here is that he was granting them a form of revelation prior to their journey to Christ. We may surely presume that God was, in diverse ways, attempting to draw the peoples along paths that were not unrelated to that which leads to Jesus Christ, the one and only Redeemer of the world. Some of the early Fathers of the Church spoke of the “seeds of the Word” in the philosophies and religions of the world. Cardinal Newman spoke often of a universal revelation. This universal revelation, while in no way serving as a substitute for the Revelation that is Christ who is the only way to the Father, drew the peoples closer to the Father of all and prepared them for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In this extended sense we may accept the terminology of various religions which speak of their founders as “prophets.” To an extent, they may have been directly assisted by God in their perception of certain great truths that subsequently guided countless souls after them in the pursuit of the good life. The fact that these great truths — say, of one only God, and of his holy character — were mixed up with many untruths that led subsequently to certain evils, need not gainsay the fact of a certain revelation by God. Newman allowed the same point to be made of the work of certain great philosophers. Indeed, the point may be even more applicable to those great philosophers, for Augustine understood Christianity to be the successor of the best of philosophy rather than of religion.

As we think of Christ visiting Cana of Galilee for the second time and working yet another miracle there, let us also think of God’s action across the mighty span of mankind. His Gift of gifts that absolutely opened the gates of heaven was Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son. By entering into communion with Jesus Christ and living according to the demands of that communion, we shall be saved. But God is and has always been reaching out to all of his scattered children of every age and place. He is constantly endeavouring to lead them to him and along the path of good and towards the person of the Saviour. How good the great God is!

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