We celebrated Padre Pio's feast day last Friday. He is a very beloved member of the community of saints. He brought healing and reconciliation into many of the faithful. His reputation spread greatly by US servicemen who met him during their service in Italy in WWII. Here is a great quote from Padre Pio: " Pray, hope and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayers."
Monday, September 26, 2016
I remember my Cubbies losing more than 100 games in a season. Now we have reached 100 wins this season. Growing up in the Rogers Park neighborhood on the Northside of Chicago, I grew up as a Cubs fan as a part of my DNA. Especially my mom's family, they were Cubs fans to the core. Mom, Uncle Spud, Aunt Alice, Auntie Bea, Grandpa, and Tatarata, I think of all of you tonight and what huge Cubs fans you were. Great memories. Go Cubs.
The passage we hear from Luke today is the same Gospel that I read when I have a house blessing. I think that we can often take our houses for granted. I was just talking to a parishioner about the conditions that the poor often live in in the large cities of Latin America, squatting on land that is not their own, building shelters out of cardboard and old wood, material that someone would throw away. We take for grant our homes and apartments here in the United States. Even the most humble of our dwelling places would be luxurious compared to most standards in the world. Yet, it is an honor to be a guest in someone’s home. Jesus and his disciples went from town to town preaching the Gospel, being appreciative for the welcome was accorded them. If by chance they received hostility or anger, they shook the dust off their feet and moved on. May we not be discouraged on our journey of faith. And may we be thankful for those who receive us with warmth and generosity.
When Bishop Kopacz came to Tupelo several weeks ago to celebrate a mass for the Year of Mercy for the Catholic parishes of Northeast Mississippi, he was asking me about how things were in the community of Tupelo. I told him about some of the challenges our community was going through recently, and I told him about this Blue Mass that we are celebrating today in honor of our police officers, fire fighters and first responders in our community.
You may not have heard about a Blue Mass before. The first Blue Mass was celebrated on September 29, 1934 at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Washington, DC by Rev. Thomas Dade, who had founded the Catholic Police and Firemen's Society. On that day, 1,100 police officers and firemen dressed in blue uniforms processed into St. Patrick's to honor the fallen members of their ranks.
The Blue Mass began to spread to other cities in the northeastern United States from that day on. Following the events of 9/11, the Blue Mass began to be celebrated in cities from coast to coast to honor the many law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel who gave their lives so that others might live.
Today, we honor these men and women who are heroes in our community, men and women who put themselves in harm’s way daily to serve, protect, and defend us.
Today is the vigil of the feast of the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, the evening before their feast day of September 29. St Michael is the patron saint for police officers and first responders and the men and women in the military, which is why this feast is a traditional date for the Blue Mass. Our English word “angel” comes from the Greek word “angelous” which means messenger. There are untold millions of angels in heaven, all created as pure spirits, in continual praise and adoration of our God. In Scripture, we see how in great events in salvation history, God sends an “archangel” to proclaim an important message from God to his people.
Often, when God wants to do something requiring courageous effort, he sends St Michael. Michael did battle with Satan and cast him out of heaven after he revolted. St. Michael the Archangel. Michael is the head of the Heavenly Host, the Five-star General of God's Angelic Army. Michael is also the protector of Israel, Protector of the Chosen People
God has sent the Archangel Gabriel to announce something that would require strength from the meek and lowly. God sent Gabriel to announce to the Virgin Mary his plan for her to be the Mother of God.
Raphael has been sent by God when a message of healing was needed. In the book of Tobit in the Old Testament, Raphael healed Tobit’s blindness.
With the angels, with the archangels, with the community of Saints, with our Catholic community here in Tupelo, we come together to praise God this evening. We pray for peace, reconciliation and healing for our community of Tupelo. We pray for an end to violence, war, and terrorism, an end to anger, hatred, and arrogance, those things that are dividing our community. Our gratitude, love, and prayers go out to those men and women who protect us each day. May St Michael and all your patron saints always be there to watch over you.
When one of the disciples calls out to Jesus today, “I will follow you wherever you go,” I wonder if he realized the implications of such a statement. All of us may feel something like that in our hearts, following him wherever he goes and wherever he calls us, but it could lead us to some very difficult and challenging places. I am getting ready to head off for Indiana tomorrow to be a presenter at a workshop at St Meinrad Benedictine Abbey in southern Indiana. Back when Indiana was the American frontier, a French nun named Mother Theodore Guerin, the founder of the Sisters of Providence, traveled with 5 of her other sisters from their motherhouse in France to Indiana. It was the year 1840. They attracted postulants to their order, as well as students to their school, from the pioneer families in the area, creating a thriving, prosperous community. Their biggest hardship was the local bishop, who treated them very cruelly. At one point Mother Theodore offered to resign as superior of the community. The bishop was not content with that, declaring that she was no longer a Sister of Providence at all. He expelled her from the diocese and threatened to excommunicate any sister who followed her. All of the sisters decided to leave to go back to France and to start anew. Their bags were already packed when they received news from the Vatican that a new bishop had been appointed. Prayers had been answered. Mother Theodore Guerin had followed Jesus many places in her life as a nun. She was canonized a Saint in 2006. I love this quote from her - "We are not called upon to do all the good possible, but only that which we can do." When never know how a story is going to turn out, do we?
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Jesus was intent to continue on his journey to Jerusalem, even though he knew that the destination of Jerusalem would bring an end to his life here on earth. At different points on his journey he would be welcomed or he would meet opposition or anger. Our own journey through faith is like that as well. We meet those who help us on our journey, who provide us encouragement and new life, but we also meet those who put roadblocks in our way.
Today, we celebrate a very beloved saint in our Catholic faith - St Vincent de Paul. He was a French priest who was born at the end of the 16th century to a humble family of farmers. He is known as being the founder of two important religious congregations in our Catholic Church - the Vincentians & the Daughters of Charity. Both of those congregations reflect de Paul’s charism of compassion, humility, and service to the poor and the marginalized. This saint is also known throughout the modern world for the social service organization that was named after him more than 200 years after his birth by some students at the University of Paris - the Society of St Vincent de Paul.
St Vincent de Paul believed that true Christian charity did not just consist in distributing alms and financial assistance to the poor, but also in helping the poor feel the fullness of their dignity and freedom. He taught his followers that good works cannot be separated from our faith. Those good works must flow directly out of our faith. But he did believe that faith has to be connected to action, as he wrote: “There is nothing more in keeping with the Gospel than, on the one hand, to gather up light and strength for the soul in prayer, spiritual reading, and solitude, and then to go forth and dispense this spiritual good to men. This is how we should act; that is how we should by our deeds bear witness to God, that we love Him.”
As a young priest, Vincent de Paul was on a journey to sell some property that he inherited from a wealthy benefactor. He was captured by the Barbary pirates and sold into slavery. He spent two years in bondage before he was returned to freedom by his master. In fact, de Paul convinced that master who had been a convert to Islam to return to the Christian faith.
All of us face hostility or obstacles of one type or another on our journey of faith. Perhaps not as extreme as what St Vincent de Paul and Jesus faced, but obstacles and hostility none the less. Let us maintain the courage to move forward on our journey no matter how difficult it may seem some days.