Peter and Paul or Peter vs Paul


St Augustine writes (Sermon 295): ‘Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; and, even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles’ blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labours, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith.’

The Church is founded on the apostles, especially on St. Peter, the first Pope, and on St. Paul, an apostle and the first Christian missionary. Therefore, today’s solemn feast day of Saints Peter and Paul is a celebration in which we thank the Lord for His great gift to us of the Church. Saints Peter and Paul each played a unique part in setting the foundations of the Church as we know it today. The all-too-human Peter ensured Christianity’s roots were anchored firmly in Jewish Old Testament tradition. Peter, as leader of the apostles, was chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him.  He was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover before Jesus’ death. Quite rightly, his name is first on every list of apostles. His choice as the rock, upon which Christ would build the Church, established a fresh tradition that has extended down through history to the present Pope.

We would probably go to confession to Peter sooner than to any of the other apostles. He is perhaps a more striking example of the simple fact of holiness. Jesus says to us as he said, in effect, to Peter: “It is not you who have chosen me, but I who have chosen you. Peter, it is not human wisdom that makes it possible for you to believe, but my Father’s revelation. I, not you, build my Church.” Paul’s experience of the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus was the driving force that made him one of the most zealous, dynamic and courageous ambassadors of Christ the Church has ever had. But persecution, humiliation and weakness became his day-by-day carrying of the cross, material for further transformation. The dying Christ was in him; the living Christ was his life.

 

Paul’s experience of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus ensured that the Church would be extended to the Gentiles worldwide, as Christ had commanded. Paul’s central conviction was simple and absolute: only Christ can save humanity. No human effort, not even the most scrupulous observance of law, can create a state of human goodness, which we can bring to God as reparation for sin and payment for grace. To be saved from sin, from the devil and from death, humanity must open itself completely to the saving power of Christ.

Peter and Paul never taught the same gospel. When Peter taught the kingdom gospel at Pentecost Saul was rejecting the Messiah. When Paul preached the gospel of the grace of God Peter’s gospel of the kingdom to Israel was limited to the circumcision.

However, the main similarity between their messages exists in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 1:10).

In comparison, let’s look at the differences in Peter’s and Paul’s ministries.

1. Peter was called by the Lord as he appeared in a human body on the earth; Paul was called by the ascended, glorified Lord from heaven.

2. Peter was given the “gospel of the kingdom“ (gospel of the circumcision, ref. Acts 2:38,39). While he did take it to one Gentile, he was told to go only to Israel with it (ref. Matt. 10:5,6); Paul was given the “gospel of Christ”(gospel of the uncircumcision) . While he did offer it to the Jews, he was told to take it “far hence unto the Gentiles.”3

3. Peter was given the keys of the kingdom, and with them the power to retain or remit sins; Paul, while he manifested all the signs of an apostle, received no such power.

4. Peter told Israel, at Jerusalem, to “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins… and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.4 Paul told a group of Jews and Gentiles at Antioch ( through Christ’s death and resurrection) “that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”5 (Acts 13:38,39) This effectively removed the keeping of the law from the salvation equation. No such declaration was ever made by Peter, either in the Acts or his letters. In chapter one of his first letter to “the strangers” who had been “scattered throughout” the provinces of Asia Minor, Peter instructs them that “the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” would come at the end of a faithfully lived life, which matches the Lord’s requirement to Israel in the gospels of Matthew and Mark that they must “endure unto the end” to be saved.6 There is no such requirement of faithfulness/continuance7 in Paul’s gospel, but rather that one only trust (believe on) the Lord Jesus Christ (believing that he died for your sins), and thou shalt be saved,8 i.e., your sins are  atoned for now , not at the end of your life of faith.

5. Peter was told by the Lord in His earthly ministry, that his reward would be to sit on one of twelve thrones in an earthly kingdom, “judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”10 Paul, because he was counted “a blasphemer”,11 could not be a part of this particular kingdom (ref. Matt. 12:31,32 to see why this was the case). He was told that his destiny was a heavenly kingdom (2 Tim 4:18)

6. Peter was the pattern for believing, repentant Israel. Paul was the pattern for the first of “them that should hereafter believe on him (Christ, that he died for their sins) to life everlasting.”12

7. While Peter claimed his gospel was prophesied of in the old testament (Acts 3:24); Paul said his gospel was a mystery, not made known until it was revealed through him (Romans 16:25,26; Eph. 3:5)

From all this we can readily see that it was the same Lord who gave Peter and Paul their marching orders, but in no way did he give them the same message to be delivered to their respective hearers.

 

 

 

Opus Dei; for Work of God.


Opus Dei is a Catholic institution founded by Saint Josemaría Escrivá whose feast we celebrate today. Its mission is to spread the message that work and the circumstances of everyday life are occasions for growing closer to God, for serving others, and for improving society.

Opus Dei was founded in Madrid, Spain, on October 2, 1928, by St. Josemaria Escriva. In 1982, Pope John Paul II established it as a personal prelature of international scope through the Apostolic Constitution Ut Sit. Its full name is The Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei. Personal prelatures are canonical structures, foreseen by the Second Vatican Council, which are established to carry out special apostolic tasks: in the case of Opus Dei, to spread through every sector of society a deep awareness of the universal call to sanctity and apostolate, and more specifically of the sanctifying value of ordinary work.

“Yours is truly a great ideal,” said Pope John Paul II in 1979, “which from its beginnings anticipated the theology of the laity which later characterized the Church of the Council and the post-conciliar era. Such is the message and the spirituality of Opus Dei: to live united to God in the midst of the world in any situation, each one struggling to be better with the help of grace and to make Jesus known with the testimony of his or her own life.” At present there are over 84,000 members of the Prelature, priests and laity from every continent. The majority of its membership are lay people.

Opus Dei organizes training in Catholic spirituality applied to daily life. Aside from personal charity and social work, Opus Dei members are involved in running universities, university residences, schools, publishing houses, and technical and agricultural training centers. Opus Dei complements the work of local churches by offering classes, talks, retreats and pastoral care that help people develop their personal spiritual life and apostolate.

However, Opus Dei has been described as the most controversial force within the Catholic Church.According to several journalists who researched Opus Dei separately, many criticisms against Opus Dei are based on fabrications by opponents, and Opus Dei is considered a sign of contradiction. Several popes and other Catholic leaders have endorsed what they see as its innovative teaching on the sanctifying value of work, and its fidelity to Catholic beliefs.In 2002, Pope John Paul II canonized Escrivá, and called him “the saint of ordinary life.” Criticism of Opus Dei has centered on allegations of secretiveness, controversial recruiting methods, strict rules governing members, the practice by celibate members of mortification of the flesh, elitism and misogyny, and the support of or participation in authoritarian or right-wing governments, especially the Francoist Government of Spain until 1978. Within the Catholic Church, Opus Dei is also criticized for allegedly seeking independence and more influence.

I recommend this message for your reading. Just click HERE

If you are in Kampala, Uganda, come to Christ the King Church this evening and you will get to know more about Opus Dei.

 

The Secular Institutes have then an important role to play in the church. Their very ‘newness” makes them at times difficult to understand.


CONSECRATION IN THE MIDST OF THE WORLD–THE SECULAR INSTITUTES

You may be a mechanic, an office assistant, a doctor, an engineer, a business man, a teacher……. As a member of a Secular Institute approved by the Church, you can help make the kingdom of God come alive on earth by consecrating your life to the Lord while still remaining a layperson. A Secular Institute is a vocation approved by the Catholic Church

The search for the perfection of love in the midst of the world has always existed in the church. Secular Institutes have emerged as a way of consecration in the midst of the world.

A Secular Institute may be described as a spiritual community of Christians who live a consecration in the midst of the world, and who work for its satisfaction, especially from within. The member of a Secular Institute lives a life of consecrated secularity. Thus, ‘Consecration’ and ‘ Secularity’ sum up what a Secular Institute is all about.

Consecration is an action of God on a person who accepts God’s initiative and surrenders himself into God’s hands. Consecration fills such a person with an infinite tension that aims to attain perfection in God and fills the person with the capacity of loving in the likeness of God. Consecration thus implies a divine initiative, a certain degree of separation where the person is transferred from the purely human to the divine order, and gains a newness of life. It is being gripped by the power of God in Christ and separated from sin. There is the universal call to live the evangelical virtues or evangelical imperatives as explained in the Gospels. Among them poverty, chastity and obedience have a special symbolic meaning and function in and for the Church and the world. These virtues customarily called ‘evangelical counsels’. Secular Institutes involve a true and full profession of the Evangelical Counsels in the world.

Secularity on the other hand is the attitude of people who are living in the world not as a mere external condition, but as people who are aware that they have a responsibility being in the world to serve the world, to make it as God would have it – more just, more human – to sanctify it from within.

The prayer of Jesus has special significance for Secular Institute members – – “I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one. And for their sake, I consecrate myself (immolate and sacrifice myself) that they may also be consecrated in truth”.

The mystery of the Kingdom has a special significance for the way Secular Institute members must function. Christ likened the Kingdom of God to leaven which a woman put in three measures of wheat till the whole was leavened (Mat 13:37). The simile suggests both the hidden and mysterious aspects of the Kingdom of God and the vitalizing effect it has on the very ordinary material which it is in contact with. The growth of the Kingdom depends more on an inner response to the grace of God than on external manifestations. The Secular Institute member is hidden not by enclosure, but by the very lack of it. By being an ordinary person among other people, with God’s grace he hopes to establish the world in Christ. Secular Institute members have an important role to play in transforming the world from within. As the leaven in the mass, their members must be immersed in the world around them. Every sphere of life, every profession compatible with Christians life must be used. The press, radio, television, ect. can be channels of apostate for the members of Secular Institutes. By their nature of being hidden they can penetrate and enter every area of life, and with fellow workers witness to the spirit of the divinization of the human.

The essential goodness of creation and its corruption by sin is clear to us even today. The words of St Paul might be addressed to Christians today : “You live in an age that is twisted out of its pattern and among such people you shine out, beacons to the world, upholding the message of life” (Phil 2:15). Christ became man to restore the pattern, to bring back under His dominion the whole of creation which has been disrupted creating a gap, as it were, between the Creators and His creatures. Excessive financial profits and aggressive individualism rather than integral humanism …..rugged competition rather than harmonious co-operation appears to be the situation in the most parts of the world. The profound meaning of the Incarnation, the sanctification of the profane, the divinization of humanity – -this has been obscured, as man searches the world for the message of Christ Jesus reminds us “I have come that they may have it to the full” (Jn 10:10).

Every initiative in the Church belongs to the work of the Holy Spirit who continues to renew the face of the world. A new way of life has developed over the years, flowering as Secular Institutes. The documents of the Church have repeatedly addressed the nature and role of Secular Institutes – from Provida Mater Ecclesia (1947), Prima Feliciter (1947), the documents of Vatican (1962-1965), and Perfectae Caritatis to the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

The Church has been very attentive to the Secular Institutes. Pius XII wrote “The Holy Spirit … has called to himself …many beloved sons and daughters whom with great affection we bless in the Lord”. Paul VI frequently spoke of the nature and the role of the Secular Institutes and reminded the members that are in the world, not of the world but for the world. He emphasized that this was not just a play on words but that the Secular Institutes had a mission in the salvation of humanity today. He also spoke about them as a “Model” of the untiring impulse towards the new attitudes the Church wishes to have with the world. They are, in his words, “providential instruments” through which the channels of consecrated secularity can be transmitted to the world. Finally they are “laboratories of experience” of its relationship with the world. John Paul II praised the Secular Institutes as “eruptions of grace” in the life of the Church.

The Secular Institutes have then an important role to play in the church. Their very ‘newness” makes them at times difficult to understand. Many who do not find them fitting into familiar categories have a tendency to reject them. On the other hand, the simplest and most tempting way of presenting them – as modern religious or lay religious – is misunderstanding of the divine intention to which it is called to respond. Among the different states of the life like marriage and Institutes, as recognised and recommended by her in the name of the Lord, as a way to attain holiness for the layperson whom the Lord calls in and for the world.

Click HERE to know more about The Christ the King Secular Institute.

 

YOU TURNS youth ministry products


  

Simply put, Youth Ministry is the Church’s efforts to help each & every young person grow personally & spiritually.

The purpose of the Youth Ministry program is to prepare students for effective ministry to middle high, senior high, or college students and their families within the context of a local church or a parachurch organization.

Training young people to lead the cause of Christ, and apply Christianity to every area of life is what “youth ministry” is about. If we don’t know that, the kids won’t either.

Youth ministry is more than programs and events. Click HERE for a variety of youth ministry products that I recommend for use with your parish youth group, your school’s youth group and with your children at home.

Youth Ministry is every effort by the Christian community to reach out to the youth with the love of God as revealed to us in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Youth Ministry is a means for both junior high and high school students to grow as individuals while exploring ideas, values, and faith within the context of a supportive community of peers and adults.

Youth Ministry is a church-wide ministry which strives to provide a variety of opportunities and experiences to draw teens into active, responsible participation in the life, mission, and work of the faith community and the greater church.

Youth Ministry is designed to help spiritually train and equip teens in a fun and Godly atmosphere to the Glory of God.

Youth Ministry is an umbrella term that describes the systematic attention the faith community gives to young people which enables them to reach their full God created potential. That is, everything the faith community is involved in that promotes both healthy development and faith growth in adolescents.

Youth Ministry works to foster the total personal and spiritual growth of each young person and seeks to draw young people into responsible participation in the life, mission and work of the faith community.

Youth ministry is the Church in its pastoral concern, reaching out to young people to embrace their gifts and to walk with them in their process of becoming all they can be.

Youth Ministry is defined as the response of the Church to the needs of young people, fostering their faith in Jesus Christ and their communion with the Blessed Trinity, and drawing them into responsible participation in the life, mission and ministry of the Church.

Youth Ministry seeks to help youth share their gifts, grow in life skills, develop a positive self-image, overcome prejudices, develop respect for differences, serve those in need, and foster social change, participate in the sacraments, develop a personal spirituality and prayer life, apply Catholic faith to daily life, integrate Catholic values, participate in the Church, and develop a personal relationship with Jesus.

Youth Ministry is fun, faith, and friends, usually with a little food added to keep our engines going!

Youth Ministry is a series of programs and activities to give young people a chance to participate in Church life, develop their own faith and spirituality, and discover new friendships.

 

 

Happy Feast day to all Youth


Today is the Feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, the Patron of Catholic youth.

In 2010, I organized a youth seminar at my local parish during the days World Youth Day was going on in Madrid, Spain, and among the topics we shared was one about Youth and the Saints. I was lucky to find the files on my computer this morning, and I am sure it will be helpful posting today.

“Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (cf. Col 2:7)

Youth and the Saints:

Who is a saint?

How are Saints chosen?

Life and biography of some saints for the youth.

·         A saint is a holy person. A saint is always someone through whom we catch a glimpse of what God is like — and of what we are called to be. Only God ‘makes’ saints, of course. The church merely identifies from time to time a few of these for emulation. The church then tells the story. But the author is the Source of the grace by which saints live. And there we have it: A saint is someone whose story God tells.

·         The Catholic Church teaches that it does not, in fact, make or create anyone a saint. Rather, it recognizes a saint. In the Church, the title of Saint refers to a person who has been formally canonized (officially recognized) by the Catholic Church, and is therefore believed to be in Heaven. By this definition there are many people believed to be in Heaven who have not been formally declared as saints (most typically due to their obscurity and the involved process of formal canonization) but who may nevertheless generically be referred to as saints. All in Heaven are, in the technical sense, saints, since they are believed to be completely perfected in holiness.

In Church tradition, a person who is seen as exceptionally holy can be declared a saint by a formal process, called canonization. Formal canonization is a lengthy process often taking many years, even centuries.

The first step in this process is an investigation of the candidate’s life, undertaken by an expert. After this, the report on the candidate is given to the Bishop of the area and more studying is done. It is then sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome.

If the application is approved, the person may be granted the title of “Venerable”. Further investigations may lead to the candidate’s beatification and given title of “Blessed.” At a minimum, two important miracles are required to be formally declared a saint. These miracles must be posthumous.  Finally, when all of this is done the Pope canonizes the saint.

Here are the steps that must be followed in the process of canonization:

  1. A local bishop investigates the candidate’s life and writings for evidence of heroic virtue. The information uncovered by the bishop is sent to the Vatican.
  2. A panel of theologians and the cardinals of the Congregation for Cause of Saints evaluate the candidate’s life.
  3. If the panel approves, the pope proclaims that the candidate is venerable, which means that the person is a role model of Catholic virtues.
  4. The next step toward sainthood is beatification, which allows a person to be honored by a particular group or region. In order to beatify a candidate, it must be shown that the person is responsible for a posthumous miracle. Martyrs — those who died for their religious cause — can be beatified without evidence of a miracle. On Oct. 20, 2003, Mother Teresa was beatified. She is now known as Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata.
  5. In order for the candidate to be considered a saint, there must be proof of a second posthumous miracle. If there is, the person is canonized.

These alleged miracles must be submitted to the Vatican for verification.

E.g  Sister Teresia Benedicta of the Cross was canonized in 1997 after the Vatican verified that a young girl who ate seven times very harmful medicines was suddenly cured. The girl’s family was said to have prayed to the spirit of Sister Teresia for healing.

In Mother Teresa’s case, her supporters are arguing that she has performed at least two posthumous miracles. In one case, a French woman in the United States broke several ribs in a car accident — reportedly, her wounds were healed because she was wearing a Mother Teresa medallion. Another possible miracle occurred when Mother Teresa appeared in the dreams of a Palestinian girl, telling the girl that her cancer was cured.

Once a person is a Saint, he or she is recommended to the entire Catholic Church for veneration. Some saints are selected as patron saints, special protectors or guardians over particular occupations, illnesses, churches, countries or causes.

SOME OF THE SAINTS CONNECTED WITH YOUTH

                    St. Dominic Savio

St. Dominic Savio is a junior-member of the family of saints in the Roman Catholic Church in two ways: Not only did he die aged only 15, but it was also not before 1954 that he was formally canonized.

Born on April 2, 1842 to Carlo and Birgitta Savio in a small city in Italy, Dominic was one of 10 children of a peasant family. Despite the fact that his illiterate parents could not teach Dominic and his brothers and sisters intellectually and academically, Mrs. Savio had taken special effort to raise and nurture her children in the Roman Catholic faith and tradition, teaching the principles of religion instead. Eventually, Dominic was able to read and write at age 6, and he also made his first holy communion at an unusually early age, his resolutions being, “I will go often to Confession and Holy Communion”, “Jesus and Mary will be my Special Friends”, and “I wish to die rather than commit a sin”.

By 1854 Dominic started to find special attraction to the priesthood and to feel a special vocation, drawing him very close to God. At the age of 12, he initially became acquainted with St. John Bosco – Don Bosco –, the founder of the Salesian order and the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales in Turin. Encouraged by Don Bosco’s message that it was necessary for everyone to become a saint, making it God’s will for everyone, and that becoming a saint was actually easy for everyone to achieve, Dominic started taking this “matter” very seriously soon. However, seeing such a young boy isolating himself from his peers and extending the times he spent in prayer to the point that he even “offered up” his lunch breaks in order to pray, Don Bosco put him back on a more realistic way of achieving saintliness. He pointed out that one becomes a saint by fulfilling one’s daily duties and not by neglecting any of them in any way, holiness consisting of being happy and helping others be happy. Dominic quickly put this advice into practice. He was a diligent and cheerful student. With a real concern for the spiritual welfare of his friends, he would encourage boys to go to confession when he saw them sinning, and would not allow them to swear or curse while they were playing with him. Sometimes he would invite them to make visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament or say the rosary with him. Dominic also had a great love for purity. Once he came across a group of boys laughing over an impure magazine one of them had brought into the Oratory. When Dominic saw the pictures, he tore the magazine into pieces and scolded his friends for putting their souls in such danger.

The graces Dominic Savio had begun to receive were great and plentiful. Even though Dominic felt a great desire to do penance, Don Bosco put him back on a more “realistic” level since he saw that the boy’s health was slowly deteriorating. Don Bosco encouraged Dominic to make obedience his sacrifice and penance and to seek sanctification by the martyrdom of daily duty, having Dominic arrive at the conclusion, “I can’t do big things but I want everything to be for the glory of God.” So Dominic made small, everyday things into sacrifices for God; never complaining about the weather or food, doing little odd jobs for the other students, and faithfully controlling his eyes to guard his purity.

In 1857, Dominic contracted tuberculosis at the age of 15; he was not able to recover, and after but a few weeks of illness, he received the Last Rites from a priest on March 9, 1857. Dominic died with a radiant smile on his face, exclaiming in the very moment before his death, “Oh, what lovely things I see!”

Dominic’s humble holiness in every-day life has given him saintly regard by others already shortly after his death; he was declared Venerable in 1933 by Pope Pius XI, was beatified in 1950 by Pope Pius XII, and declared a saint in 1954. St. Dominic Savio, PRAY FOR US!

St. Charles Lwanga

Charles was one of 22 Ugandan martyrs who converted from paganism. Charles Lwanga was a Muganda who belonged to the Ngabi (Bush-Buck) clan. However, members of this clan were not allowed by custom to reach the royal palace, and when Lwanga took service at court he passed as a member of the Nkima ( Monkey) clan, the clan of his former master and patron. His father and mother are said to have been Musazi and Meme and it has been claimed that he was born in Ssingo County, and was a younger brother of his fellow martyr, Noe Mawaggali. Whatever the truth of this claim, it is certain that, at a very early age, he was sent to Buddu in the south west to be brought up by Kaddu whom some believed to be his biological father, but who may have been an uncle.

Though he was baptized the night before being put to death, he became a moral leader. He was the chief of the royal pages and was considered the strongest athlete of the court. He was also known as “the most handsome man of the Kingdom of the Uganda.” He instructed his friends in the Catholic Faith and he personally baptized boy pages. He inspired and encouraged his companions to remain chaste and faithful. He protected his companions, ages 13-30, from the immoral acts and homosexual demands of the Babandan ruler, Mwanga.

Mwanga was a superstitious pagan king who originally was tolerant of Catholicism. However, his chief assistant, Katikiro, slowly convinced him that Christians were a threat to his rule. The premise was if these Christians would not bow to him, nor make sacrifices to their pagan god, nor pillage, massacre, nor make war, what would happen if his whole kingdom converted to Catholicism?

When Charles was sentenced to death, he seemed very peaceful, one might even say, cheerful. He was to be executed by being burnt to death. While the pyre was being prepared, he asked to be untied so that he could arrange the sticks. He then lay down upon them. When the executioner said that Charles would be burned slowly so death, Charles replied by saying that he was very glad to be dying for the True Faith. He made no cry of pain but just twisted and moaned, “Kotanda! (O my God!).” He was burned to death by Mwanga’s order on June 3, 1886. Pope Paul VI canonized Charles Lwanga and his companions on June 22,1964. We celebrate his memorial on June 3rd of the Roman Calendar. Charles is the Patron of the African Youth of Catholic Action.

St. Aloysius Gonzaga

Born in the castle of Castiglione, 9 March, 1568; died 21 June, 1591. At eight he was placed in the court of Francesco de’Medici in Florence, where he remained for two years, going then to Mantua. At Brescia, when he was twelve, he came under the spiritual guidance of St. Charles Borromeo, and from him received First Communion. In 1581 he went with his father to Spain, and he and his brother were made pages of James, the son of Philip II. While there he formed the resolution of becoming a Jesuit, though he first thought of joining the Discalced Carmelites. He returned to Italy in 1584 after the death of the Infanta, and after much difficulty in securing his father’s consent, renounced his heritage in favor of his brother, 2 November, 1585, a proceeding which required the approval of the emperor, as Castiglione was a chief of the empire. He presented himself to Father Claudius Acquaviva, who was then General of the Society, 25 November, 1585. Before the end of his novitiate, he passed a brilliant public act in philosophy, having made his philosophical and also his mathematical studies before his entrance. He had in fact distinguished himself, when in Spain, by a public examination not only in philosophy, but also in theology, at the University of Alcalá. He made his vows 25 November, 1587. Immediately after, he began his theological studies. Among his professors were Fathers Vasquez and Azor. In 1591 when in his fourth year of theology a famine and pestilence broke out in Italy. Though in delicate health, he devoted himself to the care of the sick, but on March 3 he fell ill and died 21 June, 1591. He was beatified by Gregory XV in 1621 and canonized by Benedict XIII in 1726. His remains are in the church of St. Ignazio in Rome in a magnificent urn of lapis lazuli wreathed with festoons of silver. The altar has for its centerpiece a large marble relief of the Saint by Le Gros.

The Lord can make saints anywhere, even amid the brutality and license of Renaissance life. Florence was the “mother of piety” for Aloysius Gonzaga despite his exposure to a “society of fraud, dagger, poison and lust.” As a son of a princely family, he grew up in royal courts and army camps. His father wanted Aloysius to be a military hero.

At age seven he experienced a profound spiritual quickening. His prayers included the Office of Mary, the psalms and other devotions. At age nine he came from his hometown of Castiglione to Florence to be educated; by age 11 he was teaching catechism to poor children, fasting three days a week and practicing great austerities. When he was 13 years old he traveled with his parents and the Empress of Austria to Spain and acted as a page in the court of Philip II. The more Aloysius saw of court life, the more disillusioned he became, seeking relief in learning about the lives of saints.

A book about the experience of Jesuit missionaries in India suggested to him the idea of entering the Society of Jesus, and in Spain his decision became final. Now began a four-year contest with his father. Eminent churchmen and laypeople were pressed into service to persuade him to remain in his “normal” vocation. Finally he prevailed, was allowed to renounce his right to succession and was received into the Jesuit novitiate.

Like other seminarians, Aloysius was faced with a new kind of penance—that of accepting different ideas about the exact nature of penance. He was obliged to eat more, to take recreation with the other students. He was forbidden to pray except at stated times. He spent four years in the study of philosophy and had St. Robert Bellarmine (September 17) as his spiritual adviser.

In 1591, a plague struck Rome. The Jesuits opened a hospital of their own. The general himself and many other Jesuits rendered personal service. Because he nursed patients, washing them and making their beds, Aloysius caught the disease himself. A fever persisted after his recovery and he was so weak he could scarcely rise from bed. Yet, he maintained his great discipline of prayer, knowing that he would die within the octave of Corpus Christi, three months later, at the age of 23.

St. John Bosco

What do dreams have to do with prayer? Aren’t they just random images of our mind?

In 1867 Pope Pius IX was upset with John Bosco because he wouldn’t take his dreams seriously enough. Nine years earlier when Pope Pius IX met with the future saint who worked with neglected boys, he learned of the dreams that John had been having since the age of nine, dreams that had revealed God’s will for John’s life. So Pius IX had made a request, “Write down these dreams and everything else you have told me, minutely and in their natural sense.” Pius IX saw John’s dreams as a legacy for those John worked with and as an inspiration for those he ministered to.

Despite Scripture evidence and Church tradition respecting dreams, John had encountered skepticism when he had his first dream at the age of nine. The young Bosco dreamed that he was in a field with a crowd of children. The children started cursing and misbehaving. John jumped into the crowd to try to stop them — by fighting and shouting. Suddenly a man with a face filled with light appeared dressed in a white flowing mantle. The man called John over and made him leader of the boys. John was stunned at being put in charge of these unruly gang. The man said, “You will have to win these friends of yours not with blows but with gentleness and kindness.” As adults, most of us would be reluctant to take on such a mission — and nine year old John was even less pleased. “I’m just a boy,” he argued, “how can you order me to do something that looks impossible.” The man answered, “What seems so impossible you must achieve by being obedient and acquiring knowledge.” Then the boys turned into the wild animals they had been acting like. The man told John that this is the field of John’s life work. Once John changed and grew in humility, faithfulness, and strength, he would see a change in the children — a change that the man now demonstrated. The wild animals suddenly turned into gentle lambs.

When John told his family about his dream, his brothers just laughed at him. Everyone had a different interpretation of what it meant: he would become a shepherd, a priest, a gang leader. His own grandmother echoed the sage advice we have heard through the years, “You mustn’t pay any attention to dreams.” John said, “I felt the same way about it, yet I could never get that dream out of my head.”

Eventually that first dream led him to minister to poor and neglected boys, to use the love and guidance that seemed so impossible at age nine to lead them to faithful and fulfilled lives. He started out by learning how to juggle and do tricks to catch the attention of the children. Once he had their attention he would teach them and take them to Mass. It wasn’t always easy — few people wanted a crowd of loud, bedraggled boys hanging around. And he had so little money and help that people thought he was crazy. Priests who promised to help would get frustrated and leave.

Two “friends” even tried to commit him to an institution for the mentally ill. They brought a carriage and were planning to trick him into coming with him. But instead of getting in, John said, “After you” and politely let them go ahead. When his friends were in the carriage he slammed the door and told the drive to take off as fast as he could go!

Through it all he found encouragement and support through his dreams. In one dream, Mary led him into a beautiful garden. There were roses everywhere, crowding the ground with their blooms and the air with their scent. He was told to take off his shoes and walk along a path through a rose arbor. Before he had walked more than a few steps, his naked feet were cut and bleeding from the thorns. When he said he would have to wear shoes or turn back, Mary told him to put on sturdy shoes. As he stepped forward a second time, he was followed by helpers. But the walls of the arbor closed on him, the roof sank lower and the roses crept onto the path. Thorns caught at him from all around. When he pushed them aside he only got more cuts, until he was tangled in thorns. Yet those who watched said, “How lucky Don John is! His path is forever strewn with roses! He hasn’t a worry in the world. No troubles at all!” Many of the helpers, who had been expecting an easy journey, turned back, but some stayed with him. Finally he climbed through the roses and thorns to find another incredible garden. A cool breeze soothed his torn skin and healed his wounds.

In his interpretation, the path was his mission, the roses were his charity to the boys, and the thorns were the distractions, the obstacles, and frustrations that would stand in his way. The message of the dream was clear to John: he must keep going, not lose faith in God or his mission, and he would come through to the place he belonged.

Often John acted on his dreams simply by sharing them, sometimes repeating them to several different individuals or groups he thought would be affected by the dream. “Let me tell you about a dream that has absorbed my mind,” he would say.

The groups he most often shared with were the boys he helped — because so many of the dreams involved them. For example, he used several dreams to remind the boys to keep to a good and moral life. In one dream he saw the boys eating bread of four kinds — tasty rolls, ordinary bread, coarse bread, and moldy bread, which represented the state of the boys’ souls. He said he would be glad to talk to any boys who wanted to know which bread they were eating and then proceeded to use the occasion to give them moral guidance.

He died in 1888, at the age of seventy-two. His work lives on in the Salesian order he founded.

John Bosco found God’s message in his dreams. If you have some question or problem in your life, ask God to send you an answer or help in a dream. Then write down your dreams. Ask God to help you remember and interpret the dreams that come from God.

John Bosco’s theory of education could well be used in today’s schools. It was a preventive system, rejecting corporal punishment and placing students in surroundings removed from the likelihood of committing sin. He advocated frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. He combined catechetical training and fatherly guidance, seeking to unite the spiritual life with one’s work, study and play.

St. Bridget of Sweden

Saint Bridget was the daughter of Birger Petersson and his wife, Ingeborg, who was a member of the same clan as the reigning family. Bridget’s family was pious; her father went to confession every Friday and made long and arduous pilgrimages as far away as the Holy Land.

Bridget’s mother died, leaving Bridget, ten years old, Katharine, nine and a newborn baby boy, Israel. The children were sent to their maternal Aunt for further education and care.

It seems that as a young child, Bridget had a dream-vision of The Man of Sorrows. This dream was very vivid. Bridget asked Him who had done that to Him. His answer: ‘All those who despise my love.’ The memory of this dream never left Bridget and may have even left an indelible mark on her sub-conscious. As was usual during the Middle Ages, Bridget was married when she was 13 years old to a young man, Ulf Gudmarsson with whom she had eight children, four daughters and four sons, all of them survived infancy, and that was very rare at that time.

From age seven on, Bridget had visions of Christ crucified. Her visions formed the basis for her activity—always with the emphasis on charity rather than spiritual favors.

She lived her married life in the court of the Swedish king Magnus II. Mother of eight children (the second eldest was St. Catherine of Sweden), she lived the strict life of a penitent after her husband’s death.

Bridget constantly strove to exert her good influence over Magnus; while never fully reforming, he did give her land and buildings to found a monastery for men and women. This group eventually expanded into an Order known as the Bridgetines (still in existence).

In 1350, a year of jubilee, Bridget braved a plague-stricken Europe to make a pilgrimage to Rome. Although she never returned to Sweden, her years in Rome were far from happy, being hounded by debts and by opposition to her work against Church abuses.

A final pilgrimage to the Holy Land, marred by shipwreck and the death of her son, Charles, eventually led to her death in 1373. In 1999, she, Saints Catherine of Siena and Edith Stein were named co-patronesses of Europe. Her feast day is July 23.

In conclusion, we are all called to Holiness and Sainthood. It iseasy for any one of us to become a Saint. Let us always ask the intercession of the Saints before us.

The Burning Bush


     

The burning bush that Moses saw just kept burning and burning. The bush did not extinguish itself. To me, the burning bush stands as a symbol of God’s everlasting love for each one of us. His love for us keeps on and on whether we accept Him or reject Him.

This true story might help us understand that love better. One night a fire broke out in a little home where a young mother and her two little girls lived. The mother broke from her sleep and faced a wall of flame between her and the girls’ bedroom. Without hesitating, she stepped through the fire and saved the lives of her children. She paid a dreadful price. The flames scarred her once beautiful face and left it ugly and repulsive looking. People would turn their eyes away when they met her on the streets. Thought the years the girls heard often of their mother’s sacrifice on the night of the fire. They fell deeper and deeper in love with her and her deformed face.

In His love for us, God sent His Son to rescue us from sin. His son, Jesus of Nazareth, God among us, knew beforehand what sufferings this mission would entail. But, like the young mother in the story above, Jesus stepped through the wall of brutality that faced Him. He did not flinch.

At the scourging at the pillar, the Roman soldiers struck His face repeatedly in an effort to make Him plead for mercy. Christ was silent. The once handsome face of Christ turned into a bloody caricature of a human appearance. On the Way of the Cross, in His three or more falls, His face smashed into the stony road, adding more fearful bruises to it.

How wise would it be for us to bring the disfigured face of Jesus to mind? As the children in the story came to treasure their mother more and more, so we could do the same for Christ. Jesus Christ of Nazareth carried out the will of His Father whose love for us never fails. Like the burning bush, this love just keeps burning on and on.

 

GOD IS NEVER WRONG


A family member has just shared this story during our night prayers only a few minutes ago. Probably he also heard it from a friend, or got it from the internet. It has so much to teach to all of us.

A king who did not believe in the goodness of God, had a slave who, in all Circumstances, said: My king, do not be discouraged, because everything God does is perfect, no mistakes!

One day they went hunting and along the way a wild animal attacked the king. His slave managed to kill the animal, but could not prevent his majesty losing a finger.

Furious and without showing his gratitude for being saved, the nobleman said “Is God good? If He was good, I would not have been attacked and lost my finger.” The slave replied: “My king, despite all these things, I can only tell you that God is good, and he knows “why” of all these things. What God does is perfect. He is never wrong!”

Outraged by the response, the king ordered the arrest of his slave.

Later, he left for another hunt and was captured by savages who made human sacrifices.

In the altar, ready to sacrifice the nobleman, the savages found that the victim had not one of his fingers, so he was released. According to them, it was not so complete to be offered to the gods.

Upon his return to the palace, he authorized the release of his slave that he received very affectionately.

“My dear, God was really good to me! I was almost killed by the wild men, but for lack of a single finger, I was let go! But I have a question: if God is so good, why did he allow me to put you in jail?”

“My King, if I had gone with you in this hunt, I would have been sacrificed for you, because I have no missing finger, therefore, remember everything God does is perfect. He is never wrong.”

Often we complain about life, and negative things that happen to us, forgetting that nothing is random and that everything has a purpose.

Every morning, offer your day to God, don’t be in a rush. Ask God to inspire your thoughts, guide your actions, and ease your feelings.

And do not be afraid. God is never wrong! You know why this message is for you? I do not know, but God knows, because he never makes mistakes…

The path of God and his word is perfect, without impurities. He is the way of all those who trust in Him, as he says in 2 Samuel 22: 31