Category: Saint


AMDG   

download (4)Today we are moving into the Third Week of the Exercises – where we contemplate Christ in his Passion.  It is a ‘test’ of discipleship and any elections made in the Second Week.  Often a dry and difficult period in prayer – as the mystery of the cross is so difficult to penetrate.  Luckily we have a great saint today – Edith Stein.  I am privileged to be celebrating mass today too, so this is my reflection on this great woman.

On the eve of the third millennium, John Paul II named three women as new patrons of Europe, one of them was St Theresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein.  She was a saint of the second millennium, who would accompany us into the third millennium, the Pope said.

Why was Edith Stein so close to the Popes heart?  Why did he feel she was such a powerful patron for us as we entered the new millennium?

It may be helpful to think of three stages to Edith’s Life  1) The towering intellect and public genius   2) Conversion and an irresistible call to a hidden contemplative life      3) Her embrace of the cross and Confronting evil in Auschwitz…. And in this incredible journey she synthesised the dramatic history of the twentieth century in her own heart.

The first part of her life was a journey from Judaism to atheism, of outstanding intellectual achievements, as a pupil and then teaching assistant of the famous phenomenologist Husserl who supported her ambition to be the first female professor – she was fascinated with truth and with empathy, the subject of her doctoral dissertation.  She had built a great intellectual tower – but she did not stay on top of it looking down at the rest of us – like so many of the so called ‘new atheists’

World War One intervened – she worked as a nurse  – but the moment when her unbelief collapsed was when one of her colleagues was killed in Flanders.  She visited his widow and encountered a women with deep faith –  This was in her own words:  My first encounter with the cross and the divine power that it imparts to those who bear it .    ….……  This was a generation whose experience of War had penetrated their hearts, and the search for truth was not a merely intellectual exercise

download (5)So the second phase of her life began – resuming lecturing after the War – she read the New testament, and Kierkegaard and interestingly the Spiritual Exercises – all of which made a deep impression on her (notice she only read the Exercises – she didn’t make them)   However the  breakthrough was when visiting a friend she picked up the biography of St Teresa of Avila and read it all night –  at the end she simply said ‘this is the truth’  – she was to be baptised a Catholic and her work became a combination of Scholarship and Faith ….. ten years later she entered the contemplative Carmelite life – and took up the religious name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Like our own Hopkins – she was to stop writing as she enthusiastically immersed herself into religious life.  This self-imposed silence was to finish as she published a book called ‘The Science of the Cross’ to mark the 400th anniversary of St John of the Cross birth…..  This immersion into the mystery of the Cross was to be prophetic as she was to imitate her beloved Jesus …..

He turned his face to Jerusalem and his passion – she was to be taken to Auschwitz with her sister who had followed her into ‘Carmel’ .  The rounding up of Jewish converts was in retaliation to the Dutch Bishops letter condemning Nazism and its ethnic cleansing.  Her last words to her sister were Come we are going with our people’ as they were rounded up with 987 Jewish Christians and sent today to the gas chambers.

So three steps – from an intellectual tower, to a silent life of adoration and then this profound welcoming of the cross.

One of my fellow Jesuits said yesterday – so many of us want Christianity without the cross – let us pray with Teresa Benedicta that we learn to serve our crucified Lord.

AMDG

loyola2Thanks for all the messages on this feast of St Ignatius…..  I have fond memories of celebrating this feast in Tanzania in recent years with our pupils, and in India with the Dalits, and in Manchester with some of the students.  This year seems special, here at St. Beunos, in North Wales, directing the 30 days – in the silence of the Exercises, at the beginning of the Second Week.  Now our retreatants are praying for a growing interior knowledge of Christ. Having meditated on the Call of the King they are now contemplating, step by step, the life of Jesus.    After the intensity of the First Week it is a rich and vivid journey they are making, using imaginative contemplation. If we are to remember Ignatius for anything – it is not necessarily for the Jesuits, for our works, for the apostolates – Ignatius knew that we are founded to serve the church, to help souls.  Famously Ignatius said if we were to be disbanded it would take 15 mins in the chapel for him to reconcile himself to that.

The heart of St Ignatius is found most clearly in making the Exercises.   That is a legacy of his that we can never lose.  This uniquely transformative tool that has changed so many lives.  And in the privilege of giving the exercises, I feel very close to him.   One of the things we are encouraged to do is review our own notes of the Exercises we made in Tertianship.  I was in Manila – three years ago – and during the second week I read a biography of St Ignatius by the Basque Historian José  Tellechea Idígoras.  It is the best biography I have read.  I have been thinking a lot over the past few days about how Ignatius would ‘give’ the Exercises.  There were no retreat houses in his day, no en-suite facilities!  He would invite someone he had got know, for whom he thought it would be profitable. They would often stay in a spare room in his house and he would meet them after dinner to listen, to help and then set them points for the next day.  Maybe we need to renew that practice ourselves…..   and then there is beautiful description Idigoras leaves us with of Ignatius….  you can imagine him towards the end of his life…. perhaps leaving the house after having met his exercitant….

He wore a simple austere cassock and fought off the cold with a large cloak.  When he left the house he wore a voluminous cape and a broad brimmed hat with attached chords that he tied to his chin. It was impressive to see him walking in the street. He was always going, because of some business, to some specific place or to see some particular person. At this period in his life his fair hair had disappeared, he was bald and wore a short beard from which loomed an aquiline nose and high cheekbones.  His complexion had become darker, weather-beaten, perhaps even yellowish because of his liver ailment? His countenance, serious and peaceful, was the image of circumspection and a life lived interiorly. Some found it particularly luminous and expressive. His eyes which at one time had been sparkling and bright were now blurred by work, old age and copious tears. They had lost their gaiety but not their penetrating force. He seldom looked at people straight on.  When he did, however, people said he took in the person from head to toe. His gaze seemed to have the power of seeing straight through a person right into his heart. 

 

AMDG

Thanks for all the messages about yesterdays homily on Radio 4  (available on listen again for 6 days from now  Link )

 In response for a few requests for a copy of it – below is the original unedited version ( we had to cut it to allow it to fit into a 38min live broadcast) 

Guido_Reni_-_Sts_Peter_and_Paul_-_WGA19309

Guido Reni’s St Peter & Paul

In a culture that can seem obsessed with celebrity, that even grades them A-List, B-List etc. – the church celebrates today two of our foremost saints…. Saints Peter and Paul have been called the indispensable men of the early church, Peter with the unique authority that Jesus conferred to him, as we heard in today’s Gospel, Petrus the Rock who is given the keys to heaven, on which Jesus says I will build my church – and Paul the great missionary who first takes the News of the Risen Christ to those outside of the Jewish community. It may be fitting in these days of the World Cup to compare them to a defensive and attacking midfielder, Peter anchoring the team built around him and Paul making ranging runs into the opponent’s box. Different roles, and as any team knows, there may be tensions between their star players, but if that energy can be harnessed and becomes a creative tension, if the egos (and perhaps I should say teeth!) can be kept in check and when we’re playing for the team not for ourselves, when we remember it’s God’s Kingdom rather than our own we’re building – these different but complementary roles can become great channels of grace. Peter and Paul certainly had their differences, notably Paul rebukes Peter in his Letter to the Galatians, for Peter’s decision to stop eating with Gentiles to appease the hardliners in the early church. But Paul always ultimately deferred to the senior apostle.   Both were to die a martyr’s death in Rome, sometime in the AD 60’s, Peter reputedly crucified upside down in the area of Rome known as the Vatican Circus, and Paul beheaded.  Ever since then

Catholics believe that the leadership of Peter has continued down the years in the Popes, some saintly men, others certainly not – and these saints and sinners have exercised what we call the Petrine ministry. It‘s been a great scandal and a great sadness that this Petrine ministry has become a source of division for so many Christians – so much so that Pope John Paul II appealed to all Christians to help him explore how the Petrine ministry could be at service to unity….. a crucial question that we have to take seriously. We can see the damage that inter-religious feuding can wreak, looking at the painful history in our islands, but also now in the poisonous conflict between the Sunni and the Shi’ite.    It is clear after Pope Francis’ recent visit to the Middle East that he, following in the footsteps of  John Paul II, wants his role to be at service to unity.  He surprised the world with his invitation to both the Presidents of Israel and Palestine to join him for prayer – and it was great to see how quickly they responded, joining him in prayer in the Vatican Gardens and giving people a new hope and a new dream of peace.

images (2)Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis – was never meant to be Pope. He’s a Jesuit like me , and when he took his final vows, he took private vows never to seek authority or status in the Church or within our Order – Jesuits call it ‘ambitioning’ and it’s strictly forbidden, as St Ignatius – the founder of the Jesuits saw clerical ambition as one of the main sources of corruption in the Church. In the influential Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius we are asked at one point to meditate on how power, wealth and honour can in a very subtle but deadly way to undermine our commitment to be disciples of Jesus.  So Pope Francis has an inbuilt aversion to careerism in the church……  so how did he become a bishop – let alone sit on the Chair of Peter?  Because as a Jesuit he has also promised special obedience to the Pope – which took priority when first he was asked by the Pope to be a Bishop in Argentina – and then was elected Pope by his peers.

 

I think the other key to understand him is to understand the significance of the Spiritual Exercises.  Jesuit training is called formation – it often lasts for longer that ten years, but the key experience of that formation is a 30 day silent retreat called the Spiritual Exercises.  This is a programme written and honed by St Ignatius which is split into Four Parts.  Each day is split into 5 hour long slots of prayer – interspersed with mass and also a daily meeting with their spiritual director.  The four parts –are referred to as’ weeks’, although the Director decides how long is spent in each week – for some it can be a couple of days, for others it can be up to ten or more days.  For each week there is a grace that is being prayed for and series of meditations which are leading towards that grace. To understand Pope Francis is to see someone who is profoundly marked by the grace of the first week – which is a gentle, but deep and honest assessment of life, warts and all.  And when it is when we honestly look at our mistakes, at how we’ve hurt others and inspite of all of that – we are still loved unconditionally – that our life changes.  It happened to me and I am sure it happened to Pope Francis.  Somehow this sense of being loved inspite of all my messiness – and my sinfulness, as well as being a healing experience it unlocks a great compassion in us.  And more that his simplicity, and his integrity people sense a deep compassion there. And I think there is wonderful parallel with Peter there – who denied Christ three times and was forgiven three times.  Both are leaders who made mistakes early on and have encountered a Risen Christ who is only compassionate.

 

Francis is a man who knows he made many mistakes as young Jesuit – who was thrust into authority at a young age in a toxic political situation in Argentina – the Dirty War.  Through the spiritual exercises he has faced up to this, his mistakes, his weakness, and has experienced that like St Peter – even though he is frail, God still loves him.  He often describes himself as a loved sinner – and someone who has experience of the mercy of God, becomes more and more compassionate themselves.  The courage to go deeply into silence – to honestly assess one’s life and to experience the love of God – as happens so often in the Spiritual Exercises – gives one great freedom – freedom from fear, and also great compassion.  These graces are not instantly available – they take commitment to prayer, the courage to seek silence and the wisdom of a Spiritual Guide.

 

So what about us? As we remember how the risen Jesus undoes Peters threefold denial – by offering Peter the chance to express his love three times ….. so we too are offered that same encounter with the unlimited mercy of God.,  Only this encounter can change hearts and change minds – and an increasingly angry world is thirsting for this.  Let us,  like St Peter, and Pope Francis dedicate our lives to sharing this compassion…..Let us be the blessing which Zechariah recognised was coming from God in Jesus: ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: for he hath visited and redeemed his people.’

 

 

The Holy Name

AMDG

859744_10151803274681496_264154740_oYesterday was the Titular Feast of the Society of Jesus. ‘The most Holy Name of Jesus’.  The Jesuit ‘mother-church’ in Rome is the Church of the Gesu.  Originally here in Manchester the founding fathers of the mission wished to call our church the Gesu – but the bishop of Salford, Bishop Turner, rightly  intervened and said it would sound a bit weird.  We have to remember that in 1870’s Catholicism was only just re-emerging into British public life and there was an acute sensibility to how we would be re-established.  So following his advice, the Gesu became the Holy Name.  Yesterday Pope Francis celebrated the feast of the Holy Name with Jesuits in the Gesu. It was a great occasion – and a double celebration of the Holy Name and the canonisation of the Jesuit Peter Faber.

In his homily, Pope Francis praised Faber’s “restlessness” to his brother Jesuits: “This is the restlessness that Peter Faber had, a man of great dreams.” He was, said the Pope, a “modest man, sensitive, with a deep inner life and endowed with the gift of making friends with people of all kinds…… However, he was also a restless spirit, indecisive, never satisfied…He was a man of great desires, and he took charge of his desires, recognized them….. An authentic faith always implies a deep desire to change the world. Here’s the question we must ask ourselves: Do we also have great vision and momentum? Are we too bold? Do our dreams aim high? Does our zeal devour us (cf. Ps 69.10) or are we mediocre and are satisfied?”

1601218_10151803281286496_1118849445_nAt the end of mass a gift (seen on the right)  was presented to Pope Francis by the postulator of the cause of St. Peter Faber, Father Anton Witwer, SJ, and the Vice-Postulator Father Marc Lindeijer, SJ. It is a facsimile of the Final Vows of St. Peter Faber in 1541.  Final Vows represent the full incorporation of a man into the Society of Jesus – often taking place 20 or so years after you entered as a novice.  Every Jesuit takes simple and perpetual vows after two years in the Novitiate. One way of looking at it that at First Vows, you accept the Society; at Final Vows, the Society accepts you, “for better or worse.”  Final Vows included a Fourth Vow of obedience to the Pope – to be available to be sent anywhere on Mission.  At end of the final vow mass – the now fully professed Jesuit will take 5 Private Vows in the Sacristy – surrounded by his fellow Jesuits.   These vows show how well St. Ignatius understood human nature and are described very well by James Martin –   First, there is a  vow never to change anything in the Jesuit Constitutions about poverty–unless to make it “more strict.”  Second, a vow never to “strive or ambition” for any dignity in the church, like becoming a bishop.  Third, never to “strive or ambition” for any high office in the Jesuits.  Fourth, if we find out that someone is striving for these things, we are to “communicate his name” to the Society.  (A friend calls this the vow to rat out someone, but it’s another indication of how much Ignatius wanted to eliminate ambition, as far as possible, from the Jesuits.)  Finally, we take a vow that, if we are somehow made bishop, we will still listen to the superior general.

Speaking Truth to Power

AMDG

This is my homily for tomorrow – the Second Sunday of Advent 

john_baptistSpeaking Truth to Power is a phrase that is often used to describe people who bravely stand up against injustice.  It takes courage, it takes integrity to put your head above the parapet.  It probably explains something behind the overwhelming reaction to the death of Nelson Mandela this week.  Whenever there is a media frenzy there is a lot of nonsense spoken about someone’s life – and this week is no exception to this – however it cannot be denied that Mandela become a powerful symbol for many people.  He spoke truth to power, and they tried to silence him, but in the end truth won out.  He was lucky – he wasn’t silenced – he didn’t become a political martyr.   Speaking truth to power is part of the job description for an Old Testament Prophet.  And today in the Gospel – on the second week of our Advent Journey we meet the greatest prophet of them all, according to Jesus, John the Baptist. Unlike Nelson Mandela – we know that John was eventually silenced – beheaded by Herod.  John is one of the great advent figures – bridging the gap between the NT & OT.  He speaks with great authority, and that authority is recognised by the people and so he attracts great crowds.

What is his message for this advent ?  I think that he is warning not to be complacent in our faith.  He calls the Pharisees and the Sadducees ‘A brood of vipers’.  He is not confronting the power of Herod yet – but a much more subtle power – the power of respectability and the power of a good reputation and keeping a public face.   So let us examine our own faith and our own lives.

roman-triumphSt Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises writes very clearly about the seduction of power and honour.  In his meditation on the Two Standards – he talks about how the trappings of fame and honour are used by the enemy to seduce us …. to pull us away from God, so that we come to believe that we are all powerful.  There is a fascinating index called ‘The Power Distance index’ which measures how much a country respects authority and values hierarchies.  The higher the country is the more likely it is to be totalitarian and score high on corruption scales.  In ancient times when a Roman General or a Roman Emperor used to have a victory triumph (or parade) and was receiving the adulation of the masses – a slave would stand behind him and according to Tertullian whisper in his ear “Look behind you! Remember that you are a man! Remember that you’ll die”…..the famous memento mori.

So this Advent – let us heed John’s challenge.  Let us be honest about the little ways we are seduced into thinking that we are great, we are clever, lest we become complacent.  Advent is a time for our hearts to become humbler – that we dust away the complacency – as we would preparing a guest room – for a special guest.  But this time the room is our hearts – and for the grace of Christmas to go really deep – our hearts have to mirror that humble manger in Bethlehem.

AMDG

Icon of Pierre Favre by Fr. William McNichols

Icon of Pierre Favre by Fr. William McNichols

There have been many whispers but today it seems to be confirmed in the Italian Press.  Pierre Favre, the first Jesuit priest (he was already ordained when he joined with the group of men who were gathering around St Ignatius in Paris) is to be declared a saint in December.   This is a great joy for many of us Jesuits, he is often quoted as being one of the favourite first companions but relatively unknown outside of the Society of Jesus.  It seem that Pope Francis shares his fellow Jesuits affection for this great man.  In the interview he gave to Jesuit magazines including Thinking Faith  in October the Pope said this about Favre,

“[His] dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain naïveté perhaps, his being available straightaway, his careful interior discernment, the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions but also capable of being so gentle and loving.”

Pope Francis PrayingPierre Favre (or Peter Faber) was highly esteemed by St Ignatius as the companion he trusted the most to give the Spiritual Exercises.  He had a remarkable skill in what we call ‘spiritual conversation’. a great preacher, and a remarkable ability to reconcile warring factions, particular families that were divided.  This ‘spiritual skill set’ which would be valuable at any time was especially needed in the spiritual fractious times of the Reformation.  He was sent by St Ignatius to be a ‘periti’ (an expert) at the Council of Trent.  His reputation grew so fast that the he was missioned directly by popes and sent into flash points in Germany such as Speyer, Mainz, and Cologne,  where Catholic Bishops were teteering towards Lutheranism.

Antonio Spadaro who gave the interview to Pope Francis provides this commentary As Pope Francis lists these personal characteristics of his favorite Jesuit I understand just how much this figure has truly been a model for his own life. Michel de Certeau, S.J., characterised Faber simply as “the reformed priest,” for whom interior experience, dogmatic expression and structural reform are intimately inseparable. I begin to understand, therefore, that Pope Francis is inspired precisely by this kind of reform.

Already beatifed, Pope Francis is following a  process for Favre’s canonization called “equivalent canonization” – when he omits the judicial process and ceremonies involved and orders the new saint to be venerated in the Universal Church.  John Paul II, decreed 3 such canonizations, Benedict XVI decreed 1Here is a link to the report http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/favre-gesuita-santo-30065/

Unblocking Romero

AMDG

Statue of Oscar Romero outside Westminster Abbey

Statue of Oscar Romero outside Westminster Abbey

We had a special night last Thursday here in Manchester hosting the Romero Trust and Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP. Fr Timothy gave an engrossing talk entitled the Disturbing Truth, Oscar Romero, The Church & the Poor – he spoke with a compassion and authority that kept the packed church of 400+ gripped. Oscar Romero was the Bishop of El Salvador who was killed in 1980 for his commitment to the poor.  We were reminded how this quiet, ‘bookish’ bishop was ‘converted’ to the cause of the poor, when he looked on the bullet ridden body of his friend the Jesuit Rutilio Grande who had been assassinated by right wing paramilitaries.  Romero spoke out fearlessly against the repression of the poor from that point on – till it became inevitable that he would have to be silenced.  He was shot dead during mass in his Cathedral, and it was shocking to find out that when they prepared his body for burial they discovered that the inside of his trousers was coated with salt.  It is probable that he saw the assassin at the back of the cathedral before he was shot – and that the anxiety caused an excessive sweating – but he would not abandon the prayer of the mass.

 Timothy Radcliffe lecture 31 10 2013 (6)People came from all over the North of England to hear Fr Radcliffe – and it was clear that there is a great love for Romero. So it is heartening to hear that Pope Francis has unblocked his cause for canonisation.   Timothy argued that for Romero, the fundamental moral choice was between dialogue and violence. Patient dialogue is not about negotiation but transformation. The deepest truths are only attainable through patient exchange, building friendship, transforming our hearts and minds. It is the very opposite of violence. Britain at one level is more tolerant than El Salvador was in the 80’s however a more subtle dynamic of violence is at work.  In modern Britain, the contempt for the poor often takes the form of contrasting the so-called good, hard-working poor, and the imagined multitude of ‘skivers’, parasites devouring benefits.  The uncomfortable truth is that the vast majority of poor people in this country work but simply are not paid enough.  Romero had to be assassinated because he refused to collude in the myth of the wickedness of the poor.

Timothy Radcliffe lecture 31 10 2013 (105) In giving a vote of thanks, Eammon O’Brien, the president of the Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy, commended Timothy for inspiring a new generation of Catholics.  He pointed out that the Chaplaincy has just opened the first student-run foodbank in the country, and that his words would inspire them to deepen their commitment to the poor through the regular soup runs, and supporting a breakfast club at a local primary school.  They would challenge the globalisation of indifference and the denigrating language of the poor. It was great to have Bishop Brain of Salford & Bishop Rawsthorne of Hallam with us for the talk.

All the Saints

AMDG

All-SaintsToday’s celebration of all the Saints is a very special one for the church.  All Saints day grew out of a need in the early church to remember all the martyrs that couldn’t fit into the emerging  liturgical calendar.  Initially every martyr (saint) was given their own feast day – but in the first three hundred years of the church, so many were killed by Roman emperors (about 100,000 according to some scholars)  – that they couldn’t fit them in the emerging liturgical calendar – hence the birth of all saints day.    The status of Christianity changed dramatically during the reign of Emperor Constantine.  He was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christian, and agreed on the Edict of Milan, which stressed religious tolerance.  His mother St Helena is credited with discovering the true cross of Christ. Christianity went from being a sect, heavily persecuted and underground, to becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire.  A bit further down the line Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs.  This was a remarkable moment  where the ancient temple to all the gods of ancient Rome became a Christian church dedicated to all the saints of the early church.  Pope  Gregory IV (827-844) extended this celebration to the entire Church and gave the feast universal status – So for Catholics it is called a Holy Day of Obligation (i.e. they must go to mass) . Such important feast days have their own vigil – hence Halloween – the evening of all Hallows.  Wearing costumes / jack-o-laterns etc / partys (fiestas) can all be traced back to the start of this three-day holiday.

1970405592_0e3f9698f0There are two paths to ‘sainthood’ in the Catholic Church.  One is to be a martyr –  or to be killed distinctly out of hatred for the faith (“odium fidei”), the other is to live a life of heroic virtue.  The second process usually requires independent proof of miracles as a result of someone praying for your intercession.  The pictures on either side of the blog today come from a marvellous set of tapestries in the Cathedral of Our Lady and the Angels in  Los Angles.    THe tapestries are called the communion of Saints consisting  of females and males of all ages, races, occupations and vocations the world over. Saints from the Renaissance are intermingled with people from the 1st century and the 20th century. The artist – John Nava –  combined digital imaging and “Old Master” methods in creating the saints for the tapestries. He constructed figures from multiple studies, combined drawn and painted elements, had costumes made when needed and even drafted family members to serve as models on occasion. He wanted the figures to look like people we know now, and did not use a highly stylized form to depict the saints. Nava’s desire is that people identify and see that “a saint could look like me.”

Communion-of-Saints-tapestry-300x192

 

You can see these marvelous tapestries in more detail by clink on this link 
 

 

AMDG     Taken from today’s chaplaincy newsletter (click)

franshals_stlukeLast Thursday we celebrated the Feast of St Luke, apostle and evangelist. Each of the Gospels gives us a slightly different portrait of Jesus and what following him (discipleship) entails.  One of the themes that Luke is keen on in his Gospel is that of perseverance.  It is something that Luke would have valued himself as he accompanied St Paul on his many journeys and chronicled the events of the Early Church as he wrote the Acts of the Apostles.   Today’s Gospel is often referred to as the parable of the Persistent Widow, and develops this Lucan theme of perseverance.   As the nights get longer and colder and the summer fades away, it may be important to pray for this gift of perseverance. For some of us – even just making it to mass this Sunday or during the week is a victory of perseverance, especially when it is tempting to curl up at home.

Resilience

 

The path to joy and fulfillment can be made up of these small heroic victories. However God wishes us to thrive not just to preserve.   Persevering in the faith is a lot easier when we feed our faith regularly with the sacraments, in fact the more frequently we engage with God at this sacred level, whether at mass or confession, we can make that shift from a faith where we are just hanging on in there, to a faith that is alive, growing and flourishing.  I have heard people say – it is not about keeping the faith, but giving the faith away.  Jesus knows how hard it can be at times, when we are surrounded by cynicism and negativity – he knows how hard it is for the widow in the Gospel to get justice from the dishonest judge.  Let’s prepare for winter by strengthening our faith – even if all that means is putting 10 minutes aside each day to come and sit in the sacred silence of the Church.

Heroic Self Sacrifice

AMDG

FotoAsuwitchTomorrows  Saint is the remarkable St Maximiliam Maria Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan who famously gave up his life in place of another in the Nazi death camp Auschwitz.    Before his arrest Kolbe was famous in Europe for his ministry in promoting the veneration of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. He had founded the monastery of Niepokalanów near Warsaw, a seminary, a radio station, and several other organizations and publications.

German Stamp commemorates Kolbe (with Auschwitz stamp on it)

German Stamp commemorates Kolbe (with Auschwitz stamp on it)

His arrest by the Gestapo was partly due to his heroic effort in sheltering Jews, with over 2000 being hidden in his monastery.  It was after three prisoners successfully escaped from the camp, that he deputy camp commander, picked 10 men to be starved to death in an underground bunker in order to deter further escape attempts. One of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, “My wife! My children!”, so Kolbe volunteered to take his place.  After two weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe remained alive. The guards wanted the bunker emptied and they gave Kolbe a lethal injection of carbolic acid.

Something that brought this amazing story vividly alive to me was listening to an interview on the internet.  Saint Cast is an excellent website run by a marathon running brain surgeon from America, Paul Camarata.  A few years ago he posted a fascinating audio file – of an interview and translation of  an eye-witness to this event.  One of the saint cast listeners – found that a member of his parish in Uppsala, Sweden, a guy called Tadeusz Raznikiewicz, was an eyewitness to the last days of St. Maximilian Kolbe.

 

This amazing interview can  be listened to by visiting the saint cast website here >  Eyewitness acount to Kolbe’s last days 

 

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