“Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, 'We have found the Messiah' (which is translated Anointed). Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, 'You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas' (which is translated Peter).” - John 1:40-42
As we celebrate the Feast Day of St. Andrew the Apostle, I am always reminded of the hidden nature of St. Andrew’s ministry. As seen in the passage from the Gospel of St. John above, Andrew is one of the first two apostles called by Jesus. Yet, we see very little of the rest of St. Andrew’s specific ministry as an apostle outside of his crucial role in bringing St. Peter, his brother, to Christ. This action taken by St. Andrew – his ‘yes’ to Jesus’ mission – was crucial to the conversion of the rock of our Church, and requires greater reflection to see how just like St. Andrew, we are called to a hidden, simple, and apostolic life that leads to the raising up the next leaders of the Church.
Like all things in the Christian life, St. Andrew’s life changed when he met Jesus and was called to follow Him. Earlier in the first chapter of John, St. Andrew leaves behind everything to follow Jesus, recognizing Him as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Similarly, we in living the Christian life have all experienced that moment when we heard Jesus calling us into relationship and adventure with Him, and responded enthusiastically to that call, leaving behind the ways of the world to follow Christ. After being called, we see that St. Andrew helped to bring other people to Christ – he didn’t want to keep the good news that he had found to himself. Not only did St. Andrew want to bring his brother Peter to Jesus, but he recognized that Peter had a mission in the Church as well, and he rejoiced in what God wanted to do with the life and talents of his brother.
In stepping out in the apostolic life, the first step in evangelization is to go out and share the good news with those we encounter. However, the second, and I believe more important step, is to recognize gifts in others that can help to build up the kingdom, and calling those people to use their gifts for God’s will. This kind of evangelization is very hidden – no one knows the people who helped to build up the great saints of the Church – and yet this ministry is so crucial. Evangelizing and accompanying, as St. Andrew exemplifies, allows us to rejoice in God’s movement in the world, and allows others to fulfill the fullness of their personal vocation. Who in your life has been given gifts that can be used to build up the kingdom on earth? Take a step of boldness and guide them towards the Lord so that their gifts can be used for the greater glory of God. With the intercession of St. Andrew, let us pray that the Lord will give us the grace to live out the last line of the Litany of Humility fully: “That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.” St. Andrew, the hidden apostle, pray for us!
**This image is from: https://www.wga.hu/html_m/r/roelas/sandrew2.html**
Last Tuesday, November 21, we celebrated the feast of the Presentation of Mary. According to tradition on this day, Mary, at the age of 3, was presented in the temple by her parents St. Ann and St. Joachim, and her life was consecrated to God. For many years this feast was something I didn’t understand, and it wasn’t until last spring when I had the opportunity to visit the Holy Land that I was able to more fully appreciate this beautiful feast.
When in the Old City of Jerusalem, you are able to see how small the city was at the time of Jesus’s life. One example of this is the proximity of the place where Mary was presented to Mount Calvary. It only takes a few minutes to walk from one place to another. During the passion, Mary would have passed this place. In other words, in the midst of the greatest suffering of her life, Mary would have passed the place where her parents, in gratitude, gave her life entirely to God – the place where her ‘fiat’ began.
I often find myself meditating on this idea when praying the fourth sorrowful mystery of the Rosary – that Mary in suffering would be consoled with the memory of God’s faithfulness to her parents in bringing them a child. In passing the place where both she and her son were presented to God, how her heart must have felt both the overwhelming joy and premature sorrow of the sword Simeon promised would pierce her heart as he sang his canticle rejoicing in the Incarnation. In the midst of watching her only Beloved Son mocked, beaten, and killed, she remembered the song of her Magnificat and sang the praises of the psalms in her heart. Her heart must have been pulled into the prayer of Psalm 23 as she walked up towards Golgotha, “Even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.” Mary did not forget that God had been faithful her entire life, and did not doubt His faithfulness at the darkest hour of history. Rather, she clung to Him and obediently received His will, despite the sorrow it caused her immaculate heart.
We learn to suffer well from the model of Our Blessed Mother, and one of the most important aspects of faith in suffering is to remember God’s own faithfulness. Like Mary, we can turn back towards God in the midst of suffering, we can remember the moment that we met Jesus and our lives changed, remember the moments where we experienced the overwhelming radical love of God, and hold onto that love and faithfulness as truth. Mary’s presentation calls us to reflect on all the different times throughout our life that we have seen God be faithful, and trust that He will be faithful once again. This feast calls us to give ourselves wholly to God as Mary did, and trust that His will be done – and that His will is good – in all things.
Many people do not like to wait. Western culture is instant. Waiting in line or waiting for something to arrive often creates impatience. The oft said line “patience is a virtue,” seems not to apply. We want whatever the thing is according to our schedule.
God’s time, though, is not our time. We can be as impatient as we wish, but God will decide when the time is right. We need to decide if we are willing to wait, trust, and prepare. Christ is in our lives and wants to deepen his presence in us. Advent offers us a time to patiently wait for Christ who will come at the end of time and the one who is already incarnate among us which is what we celebrate at Christmas.
The time of Advent also offers an opportunity to give thanks for all that Christ has done for us in our lives. It is a call to conversion of heart and deeper life in him. This is part of our preparation as we patiently wait. Conversion of heart may be a call to the Sacrament of Penance, so that we can receive the Eucharist in fuller love and openness.
The Catholic Apostolate Center provides many resources for the Advent and Christmas seasons. We invite you to explore them and hope that they assist you in your preparation and waiting.
For those in the United States, may you have a blessed Thanksgiving. For all, may you have a good and prayerful beginning to the Advent season.
In God, the Infinite Love,
Pope Francis eloquently writes in his post-synodal exhortation Christus Vivit, “After this brief look at the word of God, we cannot just say that young people are the future of our world. They are its present.” In the last decade, and especially since Christus Vivit was promulgated in 2019, the Church has sought to help the Church’s youth become protagonists in their own right. This is seen in many parish, diocesan, and archdiocesan initiatives to form young Church leaders. Some examples of this include creating new diocesan offices for youth and young adult ministries and the growth of many high school and collegiate campus ministry offices. Nevertheless, young people crave young role models for the Faith. Pope Francis recognized this and listed many examples, including Mary, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Joan of Arc. In this blog, I wish to discuss three saints in particular--Bl. Carlo Acutis, St. Jose Sanchez del Rio, and St. Therese of Lisieux—and how their witnesses are a model for young people (especially youth leaders) who wish to dive deeper into a relationship with Christ and his Church.
Young people everywhere crave to see an aspect of themselves in the people they look up to, and Bl. Carlo Acutis is a soon-to-be saint who allows young people to see commonalities between themselves and the saints. Carlo was a typical Italian teenager who played soccer and video games. Nevertheless, he also made great strides for God in his work, uploading Eucharistic miracles to a website to spread devotion to the Body and Blood of Christ. He was called “an influencer for God” by his mother in an America Magazine article. Bl. Carlo stands as a soon-to-be saint accessible to the Church’s youth because of his young age and his connectedness to 21st-century culture. Bl. Carlo Acutis models for youth leaders how evangelization must occur within the culture and modern media, not from an ivory tower of formal theology and scholarship. The Gospel must be spread in a way that all generations can appreciate, and Bl. Carlo accomplished that with the creation of his website.
Another young person who bore witness to the Faith in the context of his own time was St. José Sánchez del Rio. Saint José was a young man growing up in Mexico during the Cristero Wars. The Cristero Wars were a series of conflicts between the Mexican President Plutarco Calles's secularist government and Cristero fighters (formally known as the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty). The Calles government imposed the 1917 Mexican Constitution, which contained anticlerical policies and sought state atheism. Catholics across the country opposed this and began resisting through liturgical services and military resistance against the Mexican army. Saint José was a young man during the war and wanted to fight to defend his Faith. His mother, however, refused to let him formally join the Cristero Movement. This made St. José contribute to the movement indirectly and attend Mass whenever possible. Nevertheless, when a Cristero General lost his horse in battle, young José offered his, and this led to his imprisonment by the Mexican army. After being tortured to renounce his Faith, José refused and was martyred. St. José Sánchez del Rio’s witness to the Faith is one of the best examples of what a Catholic is called to do by Christ: witness the Faith within your own culture and times while not renouncing our Lord. Despite his young age, St. José believed in Christ’s love and graces, and that gave him the strength to be countercultural and stand with Jesus instead of with the popular culture and the government that stood against Him.
Finally, St. Thérèse of Lisieux remains one of the most commanding forces in the Church’s lexicon for youth witnesses. Becoming a Carmelite at age fifteen, Thérèse began to pray incessantly and pioneered her famous “Little Way” for the spiritual life. St. Thérèse’s “Little Way” seeks to help people encounter Christ in their day-to-day activities and pray to Jesus with childlike dependency. St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s powerful devotion to the Eucharist, prayer, and a joyful attitude allow many to realize that one can be close to Christ no matter what they are doing. St. Thérèse stands as a strong role model for young Catholics since her relationship to Christ reached such profound depths at her young age.
Young people crave role models in the Church, and older generations can find powerful witnesses and wisdom from young Catholics as well. The Church has been and must remain dedicated to telling and promoting the stories of young saints to inspire every generation to become protagonists in the Church and saints for Christ’s kingdom. Young people can be inspired by these saints since they can “…offer the Church the beauty of youth by renewing her ability to ‘rejoice with new beginnings, to give unreservedly of herself, to be renewed and to set out for ever greater accomplishments’” (Pope Francis, Christus Vivit).
**This blog was originally published on August 5, 2021.**
In college, I spent a semester living in the heart of Rome. The Cathedral of John Lateran was a short walk away and I visited it a number of times. Many may wonder, why do we have a feast that celebrates a building? I would like to reflect on that question today because this feast can unite, ground, and inspire us.
One of my favorite parts of being Catholic is being able to find a home no matter where I am in the world. Christ is our shepherd and said he would never abandon us. There is a bishop who overlooks every square foot of land in the world. Though some of the most rural dioceses may stretch with many miles between churches, we belong to a local flock. We are not alone. When I travel, I can find a Catholic Church and feel at home even if I do not speak the same language!
Rome feels like home because it is where the Holy Father resides, the representative of the head of the Body of Christ. Though the pope lives in Vatican City, he is the Bishop of Rome. The seat of the bishop is at the Cathedral. In this case, the Church of St. John Lateran. So, no matter where we live in the world, we all call the Pope, “Papa.” The Seat of Peter then can be a sign of unity of the one Church.
We are human and God meets us in a time and place. Though we never want to grow too attached to things of the world, the world is where we encounter Our Lord through our senses. When people mention grounding techniques, it usually means to stop and notice where you are, what you are sitting or standing on, what you hear, what you see, and what you taste. This exercise is a go-to for returning to the here-and-now. God meets us right now. We do not want to miss out on today by worrying about tomorrow.
Though God can meet us anywhere, we can notice the difference when we gather together in a space dedicated to worship. As a marriage counselor, I often encounter the objection to getting married in the church due to other aesthetic locations being preferred for wedding venues. Fr. Mike Schmitz does a beautiful job explaining this by pointing out the reality of laying down our lives in front of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. He humbled himself to become bread for us and we can humble ourselves to be in His Real Presence. Yes, the Franciscan in me loves nature, but sacraments such as marriage belong in the sacred space of churches. Our vocations are not about us, but about following Christ in the Church and being a gift to the Kingdom of God.
I have heard the argument that parishes spend too much money on architecture and design of church buildings and instead should give that money to the poor. Though I am an advocate for caring for the poor, it is not an “either-or” dilemma, but rather a “both-and” situation. Throughout Scripture, we read about the materials, time, and attention that went into building the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant. The space in which God dwells is sacred. He is the King of the Universe and gives us the gifts and talents we return to him through our jobs. When we consecrate our work to God, it is an act of praise. In Rome, there are incredible, awe-inspiring churches on every street corner. I hope that each one of you gets to visit Rome Sweet Home someday or at the very least visit a local cathedral or church that is known for its beauty.
As the media makes it seem as if we are divided, this feast reminds us that we are united. We all share a home where Christ built His Church. Let us take care of our spiritual homes in our neighborhoods. After working on a parish staff, I am aware of all the work that goes into keeping a parish functioning and open to everyone. As members of this one family, we can all chip in to do our part. Let us pray this week about what our Father may be asking us to do in our local and universal Church.
On November second every year, we celebrate the Feast of All Souls’ Day. It is a day when we are meant to remember and pray fervently for the souls of those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, especially our loved ones. While it isn’t a holy day of obligation, it is a beautiful opportunity to go to Mass if you are able.
At Mass on All Souls’ Day, there’s a chance you might hear special music that you’re not used to hearing every Sunday. The reason for this is that there is a long and storied tradition of praying for the repose of souls in our music. This dates back to the very beginnings of Gregorian chant hundreds and hundreds of years ago. The sheer volume of work dedicated to this subject shows us the importance of the day and the importance of praying for our dead and remembering them always.
Going back all the way to the beginning, we look to the simple chants sung at requiem Masses (Masses for the dead) that have implanted themselves in the musical tradition of All Souls’ Day. For instance, you might be familiar with the beautiful chant “In Paradisum,” the text of which is sung at every funeral, in which we ask for eternal rest in paradise for the deceased, entrusting them to the angels to take them to the bosom of Abraham. There are many different versions of this chant, from very modern to traditional and choral. The same goes for the other requiem texts, the “Dies Irae” being another.
Moving forward in history, we see some of the greatest composers creating masterworks called “requiems.” In these, the special prayers for Masses for the dead mentioned above as well as the prayers that are sung at ordinary Masses (like the “Kyrie”) are set to music. Usually they were written for choir as well as orchestra or organ, some requiring hundreds of musicians. Some of the most famous requiems are Mozart’s, Verdi’s, and Fauré’s. You may hear selections of these at All Souls’ Day Masses, or at special concerts dedicated to the feast, or during the season of Lent. Listening to recordings of them is also a wonderful supplement to your prayers during this time.
One of the most famous pieces of music within the tradition of All Souls’ Day is the “Pie Jesu.” Again originating from the prayers of the Mass for the Dead, the text reads, “Pious Lord Jesus, give them rest. Pious Lord Jesus, give them everlasting rest.” This prayer has become one of the most frequent inspirations for performances and composers, as the prayer itself is so simple and beautiful. There are so many beautiful versions, including one—among the most popular—composed by Andrew Lloyd Weber, the composer of The Phantom of the Opera.
Whatever your taste in sacred music, there is much to be gleaned from the vast stores of music history with regard to All Souls’ Day. For a thousand years, composers have taken to the page to help us better pray for our deceased loved ones. This year, why not find a requiem that you haven’t heard before, or listen to Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Pie Jesu”? Ask God to help you to pray for the souls of your loved ones through this music as millions of people have done before you and will continue to do as long as music lives.
**This blog was originally published on November 2, 2022.**