Second Thought for the Day – 31 January – The Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier Bianchi CRSP (1743-1815) “Apostle of Naples”
Trainer of many candidates for the altars
In 1776 he met a Franciscan Tertiary, Maria Francesca delle Cinque Piaghe (aka Anna Maria Rosa Nicoletta Gallo, Canonised in 1867), to whom supernatural gifts were attributed. He was her Spiritual Director until her death on 6 October 1791.
Among his disciples for whom the causes of Beatification and Canonisation have been opened, in addition to the aforementioned Francesco Maria Castelli, there are Don Mariano Arciero (Beatified in 2012), Don Placido Baccher, Don Agnello Coppola and Giovanni Battista Jossa.
Don Vincenzo Romano (Canonised in 2018) and Queen Maria Clotilde of Savoy, in exile in Naples with her husband Carlo Emanuele IV, as well as many cardinals and bishops, also had spiritual relationships with him.
His style, between special gifts and cheerfulness
Father Francesco Saverio remained in his convent even when the subversive laws of 1809 suppressed his Order. He had the gift of prophecy and visions of events distant in time and space. Miracles and charismatic gifts increased his reputation for holiness – one of many, the arrest, with a sign of the cross, of the lava erupted by Vesuvius in 1804 and 1805.
Similar in joyfulness to Saint Philip Neri, he had mysterious tremors like him and heart palpitations during the prayer and the celebration of the Mass, which he officiated with a fervour, which amazed those who attended. Maria Francesca delle Cinque Piaghe said: “We have two Filippo, one black and one white”, referring to similar spiritual qualities and also to the two surnames “Neri” and “Bianchi.”
Never underestimate the power of the Saints to assist us on this journey home!
Thought for the Day – 31 January – Meditations with Antonio Cardinal Bacci (1881-1971)
Blessed are Those who Love Peace
“Blessed are the peacemakers,” Our Lord says, “for they shall be called children of God” (Mt 5:9).
All those who are in the state of grace and, therefore, living on the supernatural plane, are the adopted sons of God and shares in His divine nature (Cf 2 Peter 1:4), which they will enjoy one day in the Beatific Vision. Our Saviour, however, refers to those who love peace, as being in a special way, the sons of God. Why is this? St Augustine offers the real explanation (Cf De Serm Domini, lib 1, Cap 2). God is perfect peace and harmony. In Him, there is no conflict. His being and His activity, are identical. He is perfect unity and simplicity, eternal and unaffected by the limitations of space and time. Now, the son, should be a living image of the father. Those who reflect, although necessarily in a limited way, this peace, harmony and serene activity in their own personality, deserve to be called, in a special way, the sons of God. They are the true lovers of peace.
One Minute Reflection – 31 January – Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Year A, Readings: 2 Samuel 11:1-10, 13-17, Psalm 51:3-7, 10-11, Mark 4:26-34 and the Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier Bianchi CRSP (1743-1815) “Apostle of Naples” and St John Bosco (1815-1888)
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed…” … Mark 4:30-31
REFLECTION – “The Word of God is like a grain of mustard seed, before cultivation it looks extremely small. But when it is cultivated in the right way, it grows so large, that the highest principles of both sensible and intelligible creation, come like birds to revive themselves in it. For the principles – or inner essences of all things, are embraced by the Word but the Word is not embraced by anything. Hence, the Lord has said, that whoever has faith like a grain of mustard seed, can move a mountain by a word of command (cf. Mt 17:20), that is, he can destroy the devil’s dominion over us and remove it from its foundation.
The grain of mustard seed is the Lord, who by faith is sown spiritually in the hearts of those who accept Him. Whoever diligently cultivates the seed by practising the virtues, moves the mountain of earthbound pride and, through the power thus gained, expels the obdurate habit of sin. In this way, the activity of the principles and qualities, or divine powers, present in the commandments, is revived as though they were birds. (…) Those who seek the Lord should not look for him outside themselves. On the contrary, they must seek Him, within themselves, through faith made manifest in action.
For it is written, “The word is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart” (Rm 10:8), that is, the word of faith, Christ, being Himself, the word that is sought.” … Saint Maximus the Confessor (c 580-662) Monk and Theologian – Second Century on Theology, nos. 10-11, 35
PRAYER – Almighty Father, we bless You Lord of life, through whom all living things tend. You are the source of all, our first beginning and our end! Grant holy Father, that we may allow the Word to enter our hearts and grow by Your grace, so that we may always live for Your glory. May the intercession of St Francis Xavier Bianchi and St John Bosco, who consistently tended Your seed, grant us strength and zeal. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord with the Holy Spirit, God forever, amen.
Our Morning Offering – 31 January – Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Year A and the Memorial of St John Bosco (1815-1888) Founder of the Society of St Francis de Sales now known as the Salesians
Come, O Spirit, from on High! A Salesian Morning Invocation
Come, O Spirit, from on high!
Shine upon our inward eye,
Pierce the blindness of our sight!
Come, O Kinsman, to our aid.
Come with gifts that never fade,
Come and bathe us in Thy light!
Come, Consoler Spirit best,
Troubled Soul’s most welcome Guest,
Soothing hand on fevered brow!
Restful ease in toil and stress,
Cooling wind when heats oppress,
Comfort in all grief art Thou!
Light of lights in darkness shine,
Flood our hearts with light divine,
Burn within us, living Fire!
Saint of the Day – 31 January – Saint Francis Xavier Bianchi CRSP (1743-1815) “Apostle of Naples” – Priest of the Barnabite Order (The Clerics Regular of St Paul), Apostle of the poor, Eucharistic Adorer, Marian devotee, Ascetic and Mystic, Spiritual Director and Confessor, Professor – born as Francesco Saverio Maria Bianchi on 2 December 1743 in Arpino, Frosinone, Italy and died on 31 January 1815 in Naples, Italy of natural causes. Patronage – Naples. St Francis gained a reputation for sanctity during his lifetime from his commitment to his students, his guidance of all who sort his spiritual direction and to the poor of Naples.
Francis was born in 1743 in Arpino in the Lazio region, then part of the Papal States, into a loving and pious family. His mother taught him to care for the poor around them, giving him example by setting up a small clinic in the family home where she would nurse up to 16 needy people. He was, nevertheless, far from a standard pious child. He would later confess to how he would occasionally pilfer money from his parents.
He made his first studies in the Collegio dei Santi Carlo e Filippo in Arpino, run by the Regular Clerics of San Paolo, also called Barnabiti, founded in 1530 in Milan by Father Antonio Maria Zaccaria (Canonised in 1897). What changed Bianchi’s life was a slow and steady resolve to conquer his own will. As he grew older, he felt called to religious life. He initially thought of entering the Society of Jesus but then he chose the Order to which his teachers belonged. The parents, on the other hand, would have preferred to see him as a diocesan priest. As a result, at the age of 15 he was enrolled in a minor seminary in Nola, while at the same time, he began the study of law at the University of Naples Federico II. During this period, he came under the spiritual guidance of St Alphonsus Maria de Ligouri, the founder of the Redemptorists.
In 1757, Francis was admitted by the Barnabite Order into their novitiate in Zagarolo that same year, professing religious vows as a member of the Order the following year. He was then sent to pursue his study of philosophy and theology, first at Macerata, followed by Rome and Naples, where he was ordained a priest in 1767. Prior to his ordination he had taught at the Barnabite college in his hometown. He was immediately appointed the Superior of the College of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Portanova, which office he filled for 12 years.
His superiors then assigned him to the Barnabite monastery attached to the Church of Santa Maria di Caravaggio, Naples, where he was to spend the rest of his life. In 1778 he was appointed a professor at Regia University (now the University of Palermo), as well as a member of the Royal Academy of Science and Letters of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. Despite his academic honours and pride of place in the Order, his fellow Barnabites also saw another side to him, as he became known among them for the deeply ascetic way of life he followed, with a deeply contemplative prayer life and for his constant concern for the poor of the cities where he lived.
He became part of a circle of notable religious figures living in Naples in that era. He became the Spiritual director and Confessor of Mary Frances of the Five Wounds, a Franciscan tertiary, who lived in one of the most crime-ridden neighbourhoods of the city and is now also honoured as a saint. In turn, he became friends and under the guidance of such figures as Placido Baccher, the Blessed Mariano Arciero, his fellow Barnabite and student, the Venerable Francesco Maria Castelli, Giovanni Battista Jossa, the Servant of God Agnello Coppola. He was in frequent communication with the Blessed Vincent Romano as well as with King Charles Emmanuel IV of Sardinia and his niece, Princess Maria Clotilde of Savoy, then in exile in Naples.
Fr Francis’ life changed in 1800, when he fell into a state of religious ecstasy while praying before the exposed Blessed Sacrament on Pentecost of that year. Shortly after this, he developed an illness which left his legs twisted and with open sores for the rest of his life. During the last three years of his life, he continued to preside daily at Mass, despite the agony of having to stand. Mostly bedridden, he used this time to deepen his spiritual life even further as well as guiding others spiritually and hearing Confessions.
Fr Francis also begun to tremble and experiences palpitations of his heart whenever he prayed, in a manner similar to that which had been experienced by St Philip Neri two centuries earlier. The tertiary Mary Frances commented that we have two Philip’s, one white and one black, which was a pun on the meanings of their family names in Italian.
He was still living in the Barnabite monastery of Naples when it was closed in 1809, as part of the suppression of all monasteries and religious houses under the Napoleonic Kingdom of Naples. He was able to remain in the city, where he died in 1815.
Fr Francis was Beatified on 22 January 1893 by Pope Leo XIII, who also declared him to be the “Apostle of Naples.” He was Canonised on 21 October 1951, by Pope Pius XII. His remains are enshrined in the Church of Santa Maria di Caravaggio in Naples. His feast day is celebrated on 30 January by the Barnabites (moved to avoid being in conflict with St John Bosco’s feast) but the Catholic Church in Naples celebrates today, the feast of their beloved Saint with great honour and festivities each year.
St Abraham of Abela
Bl Adamnan of Coldingham
St Aedan of Ferns
St Athanasius of Modon
St Bobinus of Troyes
St Eusebius of Saint Gall St Francesco Saverio Maria Bianchi/Francis Xavier Bianchi CRSP (1743-1815) “Apostle of Naples”
St Geminian of Modena
Bl John Angelus
St Julius of Novara
Bl Louise degli Albertoni
Bl Luigi Talamoni
Bl Maria Cristina di Savoia
St Martin Manuel
St Nicetas of Novgorod
St Tryphaena of Cyzicus
St Ulphia of Amiens
St Waldo of Evreux
Martyrs of Corinth – 14 saints: A group of Christians tortured and martyred together in Corinth, Greece in the persecutions of Decius. We know nothing about them except some names – Anectus, Claudius, Codratus, Crescens, Cyprian, Diodorus, Dionysius, Nicephorus, Papias, Paul, Serapion, Theodora, Victor and Victorinus.
Martyrs of Canope:
Cyrus the Physician
John the Physician
Martyred in Alexandria, Egypt
Martyred in Alexandria, Egypt:
Martyred in the Spanish Civil War:
José Acosta Alemán
Juan José Martínez Romero
Pedro José Rodríguez Cabrera
Martyrs of Korea: Thousands of people were murdered in the anti-Catholic persecutions in Korea.
• Saint Agatha Kwon Chin-i
• Saint Agatha Yi Kyong-I
• Saint Augustinus Park Chong-Won
• Saint Magdalena Son So-Byok
• Saint Maria Yi In-Dok
• Saint Petrus Hong Pyong-Ju
Second Thought for the Day – 30 January – The Memorial of Blessed Sebastian Valfrè CO (1629-1710)
Blessed Sebastian’s sanctity, under God, arose from his struggles to conform himself to Saint Philip – and that was quite a task. Whereas Philip was gentle and kind by nature, Sebastian was harsh and prone to outbursts of anger. Philip had to refrain from extended prayer in public for fear of going into ecstasy. Sebastian experienced nothing but dryness in prayer and had to keep his mind from wandering. The thought of death and judgement so tormented him, that he could not sleep at night.
And Sebastian found one of the principal works of the Oratory – the hearing of confessions – so repugnant that the congregation could not prevail upon him to accept faculties until ten years after his ordination. Yet, he was able to overcome all these difficulties and always to maintain a serene and joyful expression, so that everyone considered him to be another Saint Philip.
Community life presented Sebastian with many opportunities for mortifying his short temper. When teaching theology to the novices, he had to endure a student who had no interest in the subject and showed his annoyance by constantly arguing and contradicting the professor.
Sebastian patiently answered his objections and did not betray his own displeasure, although, as he confided to one of the fathers, the very sight of the man filled him with repugnance. The novice subsequently left the congregation; more serious, however and more enduring was Sebastian’s natural antipathy for one of the fathers. He admitted that there was nothing objectively wrong with the priest but that the dislike was so strong that he had to take a private vow to endure the father’s company. Sebastian believed that he never once betrayed his feelings and was grateful for the opportunity to mortify his nature which he recognised to be imperfect.
Sebastian had a beautiful plaster Crucifix, over the prie-Dieu in his room, to which he was quite attached. He once asked a father to get some papers for him which were inside the flap of the prie-Dieu. In opening the flap, the priest let it slip and it shattered the crucifix into tiny pieces. Sebastian, although he was in the room when it happened, remained calm, told the father not to trouble himself with it and swept up the pieces himself.
The Congregation of the Oratory derives its name from a place of prayer and Saint Philip used to say that anyone who did not intend to pray should leave the community. Sebastian, although he was intent on praying, found prayer extremely difficult. He found it dry and God seemed to be very far away from him. When engaged in mental prayer, Sebastian found it hard to concentrate, although he was careful to prepare his meditations. The inability to concentrate was especially painful to him when saying his office and he seems to have given in to scruples on occasion, reciting the office more than once. And at Mass, too, he found it difficult to concentrate, although for a brief time after Communion, his soul found some peace.
Sebastian remained in this state of anguish for many years. But, although he suffered interiorly, he was able to lead his penitents in the way of Christian joy associated with his spiritual father, Saint Philip. Sebastian, himself, acknowledged the value of these torments in teaching him perfect detachment from all earthly things. Others have seen them as protecting his humility from his admiring disciples who were intent on bestowing every honour upon the Saint.
Blessed Sebastian is a model of perseverance and a great source of hope. He fought against imperfections such as his temper and repugnances and prevailed. And he persevered in prayer although he did not find any consolation there but, more often than not, spiritual torment. Yet, God used these means to purify him and present him to the outside world as a great saint full of Christian joy. His exemplary life of holiness would inspire the Church in Turin for many generations and now, he inspires the faithful in perseverance, hope and humility, knowing that we are all called to be Saints too! It is comforting and a source of consolation to realise, that the Saints too, experienced the hardships we sometimes do – let us never give up the pursuit of holiness, amen.
Thought for the Day – 30 January – Meditations with Antonio Cardinal Bacci (1881-1971)
How to Guard Holy Purity
“Purity of heart is a quality which attracts everybody, even those who are evil themselves. It makes a man seem like an angel in human form, for it shines from his countenance.
Unfortunately, the virtue of purity, is as difficult as it is beautiful.
It is fatal for anyone to cast himself into the mire.
The first sin of impurity is a disaster, because it is often the first link in a tragic chain, which makes him the salve of his lower impulses and of the tyrannical enemy of souls, the devil.
We must resist the earliest suggestions of the flesh, by every means in our power, both natural and supernatural.
St Thomas Aquinas tells us that none of the passions dethrones reason so much as sensuality (Summa Theologiae, II-II, q.53, a.6).
St Augustine warns us also in his Confessions, that lust has it’s cause in a perverse will and if anybody surrenders to it, he acquires the evil habit.
If this habit is not resisted, the sin becomes a frightening necessity.
Resist from the beginning, if you wish to avoid ruin and the slavery of the devil, who cunningly uses this passion, to capture souls.
If a man is overcome by violent temptation and falls into sin, however, he should not lose courage.
God is infinitely good and merciful.
He knows our weakness.
When anyone falls, let him rise immediately.
Let him return to God by repenting and making a good confession.
Let him resolve to make any sacrifice, rather than fall again!”
Quote/s of the Day – 30 January – The Memorial of Blessed Sebastian Valfrè CO (1629-1710)
Some of his advice, given to the novices, suffice for us all:
“Live at peace with everyone and to live thus, at peace, it is necessary to make war against yourself, for annoyance with your neighbour invariably proceeds from attachment to yourself.”
“Give yourself to prayer and try by it, to procure, first the amendment of your fault then the practice of Christian virtues and finally a great love of God.”
“Keep careful guard over your tongue, for remember, that much talking is a sign of little spirituality…”
“He who is wise, holds his tongue in his heart and he, who is foolish, carries his heart on his tongue. He who can keep silence is near to God.”
He was much in demand as a spiritual father and would advise the Fathers of his Congregation:
“A confessor should above all, give a good example to his penitents, especially by practising the virtues he wishes to impress upon them. If he exhorts them to humility, let him first be humble; if to devotion, let him be devout himself; if he is to do this he will more readily be believed and obeyed. Woe to confessors and preachers who teach virtue without practising it. Woe to him who counsels, instructs and directs others, if he be not virtuous himself! Let such a man dread the Judgement!”
Blessed Sebastian speaking of the Shroud of Turin to which he had a great devotion:
“The Cross received the living Jesus and gave Him back to us dead, the Shroud received the dead Jesus and restored Him to us alive.”
“When it is all over, you will not regret having suffered, rather, you will regret, having suffered so little and suffered that little so badly.”
One Minute Reflection – 30 January – Thursday of the Third week in Ordinary Time, Year A, Readings: 2 Samuel 7:18-19, 24-29, Psalm 132:1-5, 11-14, Mark 4:21-25 and the Memorial of Blessed Sebastian Valfrè CO (1629-1710)
He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand?” … Mark 4:21
REFLECTION – “A well, when pumped regularly, produces purer water. If neglected, and no-one uses it, it changes into a source of pollution. Use, keeps metal brighter but disuse produces rust. For, in a word, exercise produces a healthy condition both in souls and bodies. So “No-one lights a candle and puts it under a bowl but upon a candlestick, that it may give light.” For of what use is wisdom, if it fails to make those who hear it wise.” … St Clement of Alexandria (150-215) Father of the Doctor
PRAYER – Lord God, in Your wisdom You created us, by Your providence You rule us, You have planted us, penetrate our inmost being Your holy Light, so that our way of life may always be one of faithful service to You. Grant us the grace and love to walk in Your ways and to radiate Your Light by our lives. May the prayers of all the angels and saints and of Blessed Sebastian Valfrè be unfailing assistance to us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever, amen.
Our Morning Offering – 30 January – Thursday of the Third week in Ordinary Time, Year A and the Memorial of Blessed Sebastian Valfrè CO (1629-1710)
I am wholly Thine! St John Henry Newman CO (1801-1890)
Thou, O my God,
have a claim on me
and I am wholly Thine!
Thou are the Almighty Creator
and I am Thou workmanship.
I am the work of Thou Hands
and Thou are my owner.
As well might the axe or the hammer
exalt itself against it’s framer, as I against Thee.
Thou owe me nothing,
I have no rights in respect to Thee, I have only duties.
I depend on Thee for life and health
and every blessing every moment.
If Thou withdraw Thy breath from me
for a moment, I die, I am wholly and entirely Thy property
and Thy work and my one duty is to serve Thee.
Saint of the Day – 30 January – Blessed Sebastian Valfrè CO (1629-1710) Oratorian Priest, Apostle of the poor, the ill, widows and orphans, prisoners, Confessor with deep insight, Writer – known as the Apostle of Turin and St Philip of Turin, Marian devotee. Born on 9 March 1629 in Verduno, Duchy of Savoy (in modern Italy) and died on 30 January 1711 in Turin, Duchy of Savoy of natural causes. Blessed Sebastian is known for his service to the poor during the famine of 1678-80 and the 17-week siege of Turin during the war between Piemonte and Louis XIV. He is still invoked as patron of Military Chaplains for his ministry to soldiers during the war. Patronage – Turin, the Oratory in Turin and Military Chaplains and soldiers. His body is incorrupt.
Sebastian Valfrè was born on 9 March 1629 at Verduno in the southern Alps. His background was humble – his mother and father were poor farmers and the dull routine of work in the fields with his parents and seven siblings took up much of his childhood. He felt a call to the priesthood at an early age but ran into difficulties with his family, who were loathe to lose his assistance with the farm work, however, he persevered and eventually won them over. He left Verduno to begin his studies in 1641 at the age of twelve and again, these days were not easy for him – at one stage he had to stay up most nights copying out books, to pay for his education, which took him, in its later stages, to Turin for studies with the Jesuits.
Also at Turin was the Oratory, which had in earlier years been influential, particularly on the youth of the city but by 1650 was rather down-at-heel – only one priest, Fr Cambiani, remained and he is described as ‘ragged and eccentric’. It can hardly have been an enticing prospect in human terms but Sebastian nonetheless joined, on St Philip’s Day, 26 May 1651, being Ordained Deacon only a week later. By the end of the year, the community had been bolstered by the arrival of three new priests, so by the time Sebastian was Ordained Priest in February 1652, the Oratory showed signs of life once more.
Turin soon began to benefit from his presence as a priest. In common with many cities of that and other ages, it had its share of poverty, which Sebastian did much to alleviate. He was not afraid to ask the rich for alms to give to the poor but he took care to be as discreet as possible, doing much of the distribution at night when it was easier to remain anonymous. These activities took on heightened importance from 1678 to 1680, when famine struck Piedmont and again, during the war between Piedmont and Louis XIV, which culminated for Turin in a seventeen-week siege which caused great hardship as well as anxiety — and which Sebastian’s prayers are said to have been efficacious in bringing to a successful end for the inhabitants.
Sebastian’s interests and influence were not limited to the duchy. He helped to found the Pontifical Academy of Ecclesiastical Nobles in Rome in 1701, which was established to train diplomats for the Papal States. Under its current name of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, it still fulfils that function for the Vatican City State.
If Sebastian was esteemed by the less well-off, he was also on good terms with those who were more fortunate. In particular, he maintained good relations with the Dukes of Savoy, one of whom, Victor Amadeus II, he had helped to form, from the age of nine, into the just ruler he later became. Sebastian was the spiritual director to the entire court of the Duke and such was the esteem in which he was held, that at one stage the Duke did his best to procure the Archbishopric of Turin for Sebastian. His cause was furthered by the good reputation which he had in the Vatican but Sebastian’s humility led him to dread this ecclesiastical dignity and was profoundly grateful to be able to avoid accepting it. Additionally, through his devotion to the Blessed Mother, he inspired the duke to erect the Basilica of Superga.
Sebastian’s corporal works of mercy went hand- in-hand with the spiritual. He was very reluctant at first to start taking on the special responsibility for souls involved in hearing confessions — again, his humility is evident — but, once he did, his reputation spread throughout the city. He also searched out penitents far and wide — hospitals, schools, convents, barracks, prisons, galleys all benefited from his concern for spiritual well-being. His success in this field, as well as in his approach to life in the Oratory in general, was probably due, above all else, to his blending of careful attention to detail with a genuine compassion and, his penances reflected this. His penitents told of his ability to read souls . Sebastian’s work in the confessional was, at the very least, instrumental in sparking something of a revival of religious observance in Turin – like St Philip, it was said that he had the gift of discernment of spirits.
The life of Sebastian Valfrè was not one of extravagant and heroic deeds done for God but of the sanctification of an existence of regular routine, year in, year out and of service to God in the circumstances of ordinary life. His cheerful and attractive manner were an example to all and he also had his fair share of difficulties which he had to work hard to overcome. He was, for example, rather petulant and sensitive by nature, being easily offended – he remedied this by trying to be unfailingly polite even to those who hurt him. He also knew what it was to suffer from spiritual darkness, finding prayer a real struggle at times and study even more unattractive. But his perseverance, which manifested itself from his earliest years, stood him in good stead.
The Father who had Paradise in his eyes, Blessed Sebastian, died early in the morning of 30 January 1710. Miracles began even before he could be buried and he was Beatified by Pope Gregory XVI in 1834. His incorrupt body is now preserved in a silver urn in the Oratory Church of Turin.
When Father Sebastian died and his body was laid out in the church, Turin’s citizens wanted to say goodbye to the priest who walked with them, through all the joys and difficulties in life, for sixty years. Father Sebastian’s legacy was the extroversion of the faith preached by Christ for the dignity of all people, the witness of Christian charity knew no boundaries.
The Archives of the Turin Oratory possess some 22 volumes of his writings. One of his most important works was his ‘Compendium of Christian Doctrine’, a Catechism organised on a question and answer basis. This rapidly became a well-used teaching aid and lasted until the introduction of the Catechism of Pope Pius X.
In 1835, a year after Sebastian was Beatified, there was a solemn translation of his relics.
Overshadowed at the time by royalty and ecclesiastical dignitaries, there were three future saints in the crowd. There was Saint Joseph Benedict Cottolengo (1786-1842) – known as “The Labourer of Divine Providence”, who devoted himself to the care of the destitute sick; Saint Joseph Cafasso (1811-1860) “The Priest of the Gallows”, whose work with prisoners caught the imagination of all Turin and Saint John Bosco (1815-1888), whose work with children is known to the whole world and whose feast day we celebrate tomorrow. All of these could draw their spiritual lineage both by inspiration and imitation to Blessed Sebastian Valfrè .
Grant us, we beseech You, O Lord, that, as You did wonderfully raise Your priest, Blessed Sebastian, for the salvation of many, so we may persevere in Your love, for the sake of helping souls. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bl Carmen Marie Anne García Moyon St David Galván-Bermúdez (1881-1915) Martyr of the Mexican Revolution Biography here: https://anastpaul.wordpress.com/2018/01/30/saint-of-the-day-30-january-st-david-galvan-bermudez-1881-1915-martyr/St Felician of Africa
St Felix IV, Pope
Bl Francis Taylor
St Hippolytus of Antioch
St Hyacintha of Mariscotti
Bl Margaret Ball
Bl Maria Bolognesi
St Martina of Rome
St Matthias of Jerusalem
St Mutien Marie Wiaux
St Paul Ho Hyob
St Philippian of Africa
St Savina of Milan Blessed Sebastian Valfrè CO (1629-1710)
St Theophilus the Younger
St Tôma Khuông
Bl Zygmunt Pisarski
Thought for the Day – 29 January – Meditations with Antonio Cardinal Bacci (1881-1971)
Blessed are the Clean of Heart
“Understood in it’s entirety, as embracing it’s higher grade, that is, perpetual virginity consecrated to God, purity of heart is a gift which only Christianity can give (Encyclical, Sacra Virginitas, Pope Pius XII, 1954).
If we have been called to receive this wonderful gift, let us humbly thank God.
It is a sublime dignity to belong, body and soul, to God.
Sacred Scripture says of men: “What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man, that you should care for him? You have made him a little less than the angels and crowned him with glory and honour. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under his feet” (Ps 8:5, Heb 2:7).
But, under a certain aspect, those who are living in virginity, can be said to be superior to the angels.
Since an angel has no body, he offers God only the homage of his spirit.
A virgin, on the other hand, must bear the burden of an earthly body.
He must offer continually, on the altar of his heart (and often, after a heroic battle), not only his soul with it’s appetites and will but also, all the impulses and lower faculties “which wage war against the soul” (1 Pter 2:11).
This is a double sacrifice, which St Ambrose calls, a continual martyrdom of body and soul.
But the reward lies in the joy and peace which flow from this perpetual offering of soul and body to the Immaculate Lamb.
This happiness is a compensation, for any conflict, which must be endured and is, a foretaste of the joys of Heaven.
Quote/s of the Day – 29 January – Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Year A – Readings: 2 Samuel 7:4-17, Psalm 89:4-5, 27-30, Mark 4:1-20
“The sower sows the word. … And others are the ones sown among thorns, they are those who hear the word but the cares of the world and the delight in riches and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the word and it proves unfruitful.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus invites us today to look inside ourselves – to give thanks for our good soil and to tend the soil that is not yet good. Let us ask ourselves, if our heart is open to welcome the seed of the Word of God with faith. Let us ask ourselves, if our rocks of laziness are still numerous and large, let us identify our thorns of vice and call them by name… Let us find the courage to reclaim the soil, to effect a new conversion of our heart, bringing to the Lord in Confession and in prayer our rocks and our thorns. In doing this, Jesus, the Good Sower, will be glad to carry out an additional task – to purify our hearts, by removing the rocks and the thorns which choke His Word.”
One Minute Reflection – 29 January – Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Year A – Readings: 2 Samuel 7:4-17, Psalm 89:4-5, 27-30, Mark 4:1-20
And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God but for those outside, everything is in parables…” … Mark 4:11
REFLECTION – “… This Gospel also puts the accent on Jesus’ preaching “method”, that is, on His use of parables. “Why do you speak to them in parables?”, his disciples ask (Mt 13:10). And Jesus answers distinguishing between them and the crowd – to His disciples, namely to those who have already decided for Him, He can speak openly about the Kingdom of God, to others, instead, He must proclaim it in parables, precisely to encourage their decision, conversion of the heart, indeed, by their very nature parables demand the effort of interpretation, they not only challenge the mind but also freedom. St John Chrysostom explained: “And this He [Jesus] says to draw them unto Him and to provoke them and to signify that if they would convert, He would heal them” (cf. Homily on the Gospel of Matthew, 45, 1-2).
Basically, God’s true “Parable” is Jesus Himself, His Person who, in the sign of humanity, hides and at the same time, reveals, His divinity. In this manner, God does not force us to believe in Him but attracts us to Him with the truth and goodness of His incarnate Son – love, in fact, always respects freedom.” … Pope Benedict XVI – Angelus, Sunday, 10 July 2011
PRAYER – Lord God, in Your wisdom You created us, by Your providence You rule us, You have planted us, penetrate our inmost being Your holy Light, so that our way of life may always be one of faithful service to You. May we never hesitate to run to Your all-forgiving arms of mercy, when we allow the rocks and thorns of this life to prevent our growth and our steps as we return home to You. May the prayers of the Blessed Virgin, our Mother, all the angels and saints be unfailing assistance to us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever, amen.
Saint of the Day – 29 January – St Pope Gelasius II (c 1060–1119) born Giovanni Caetani or Giovanni da Gaeta (also called Coniulo), was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 24 January 1118 to his death in 1119. A monk of Monte Cassino and chancellor of Pope Paschal II, Caetani was unanimously elected to succeed him. In doing so he also succeeded to the conflicts with Emperor Henry V over investiture. Gelasius spent a good part of his brief papacy in exile.
He was born between 1060 and 1064 at Gaeta into the Pisan branch of the Caetani family, and became a monk of Monte Cassino. Pope Urban II, who wished to improve the style of papal documents, brought him to Rome and made Caetani a Papal subdeacon (August 1088) and Cardinal deacon of Santa Maria in Cosmedin (probably on 23 September 1088). As Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church from 1089 to 1118, he drastically reformed the papal administration, establishing a permanent staff of clerks for the papacy, overcoming the previous custom of relying on Roman notaries to write Papal documents and introducing the minuscule curial script. His tenure also established the precedent of the Papal Chancellor always being a cardinal and holding the office for life or until elected pope.
Shortly after his unanimous election to succeed Pope Paschal II in 1118, he was seized by Cencio II Frangipane, a partisan of Holy Roman Emperor Henry V but was freed by a general uprising of the Romans on his behalf.
Henry V sought to enforce the privilege of investiture conceded (and later revoked in 1112) by the Papacy, under duress, by Paschal II. He drove Gelasius II from Rome in March 1118, pronounced his election null and void and set up Maurice Bourdin, Archbishop of Braga, as antipope under the name of Gregory VIII.
Gelasius II fled to Gaeta, where he was Ordained a Priest on 9 March 1118 and on the following day received Episcopal Consecration. He at once excommunicated Henry V and the antipope and, under Norman protection, was able to return to Rome in July. But the disturbances of the imperialist party, especially those of the Frangipani, who attacked the Pope while celebrating Mass in the church of St Prassede, compelled Gelasius II to go once more into exile. He set out for France, consecrating the Cathedral of Pisa on the way and arrived at Marseille in October. He was received with great enthusiasm at Avignon, Montpellier and other cities, held a Synod at Vienne in January 1119 and was planning to hold a General Council to settle the investiture contest when he died at the Abbey of Cluny.
St Abundantia the Martyr
St Aquilinus of Milan
St Barbea of Edessa
St Blath of Kildare
Bl Boleslawa Maria Lament
St Caesarius of Angoulême
Bl Charles of Sayn
St Constantius of Perugia (Died 170) Martyr St Dallan Forgaill (c 530- 598) Martyr St Dallan’s story: https://anastpaul.wordpress.com/2018/01/29/saint-of-the-day-29-january-st-dallan-forgaill-c-530-598/
Second Thought for the Day – 28 January – The Memorial of St Joseph Freinademetz SVD (1852-1908) “Fu Shenfu” – Lucky Priest
Man of Prayer
Freinademetz was what one would call a ‘great man of prayer’ and a ‘spiritual’ person. In his preparatory work for the first diocesan synod of South Shandong, his fundamental attitude became clear in the synod paper on “The Clergy.” “Do you imagine you can become holy without meditation, something no saint was able to do? Meditation is a waste of time? The very opposite is true. Without meditation life is lost. Furthermore, set aside one day a month for prayer and meditation. Such days, are among life’s most beautiful and enriching. On such days the Holy Spirit has promised to speak to our hearts.”
Just to see him at prayer was edifying for many – “Mostly he knelt in the sanctuary of the church and for us, it was an extraordinary experience, to see him at prayer. The image of that kneeling priest is indelibly impressed in my memory. You got the impression that nothing could disturb him . He was a great man of prayer. His piety was open and aroused fervour” (Cardinal Tien).
Henninghaus states straight out, that “Prayer” was his “life element and life’s joy,” it was the “source from which he lived.” Even when he had to work until late at night, he still took time for prayer and spiritual reading. In summer, Freinademetz often began his working day at 3 a.m., with prayer and meditation. He preferred to pray the breviary kneeling, mainly very erect without any support. He may often have recalled his childhood when the whole family knelt every day on the hard boards of the living room, praying the rosary before the house altar.
He celebrated holy Mass “in a dignified and devout manner, without haste but without irritating slowness” (Henninghaus). The man from Tyrol obviously did not wish to be importunate in these things either.
The official name of the Steyl missionaries, ‘Society of the Divine Word’, fitted as if tailored made for him: “Daily spiritual reading. Do not let even a single day pass without meditating on sacred scripture which has been called the Priest’s Book. Woe to you if the well-springs of devotion in you run dry!” he exhorted in one of the synod papers.
He himself knew the Bible inside out. He frequently quoted scripture, mostly in Latin, and above all he was always able to find suitable comparisons for current situations – i.e. he had truly internalised the Bible. It was not a dead letter for him, not ‘dry’ but full of life, a well from which he knew how to draw water.
With the same intensity he challenged his confreres to continue to update themselves – “Cultivate serious study! Sacred scripture says, ‘Because you have despised wisdom, I will despise you’.” That, too, is an example of the way in which he could quote the Bible.
The cross of Christ, the Eucharist and contemplation of God’s Word were the central pillars of the missionary life of Joseph Freinademetz, may they be our central pillars too!
Prayer to St Joseph for Missionaries
You have given us your graces
and blessings through the saints.
We thank You for choosing St Joseph Freinademetz,
a zealous missionary to China, to be our model.
He was a man of prayer who prayed without growing weary.
Prayer was the air he breathed and the joy of his life.
Prayer nourished his missionary vocation,
his love of neighbour,
his enthusiasm and readiness for sacrifice
and his profound faith.
Through the intercession of St Joseph
we implore You to shower Your graces on all missionaries
so that they become persons of prayer
and adopt the culture of the people they are sent to.
Enlighten them to discover the road
You want them to travel
and the plan You have mapped out for them.
May they have courage like St Joseph to keep going,
in spite of many trials and hardships in their mission work
and to live out their vocation faithfully.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Thought for the Day – 28 January – Meditations with Antonio Cardinal Bacci (1881-1971)
Blessed are the Merciful
If we want God to show mercy to us, we must be merciful to those who are in material or spiritual distress.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7)
Let us recall the Gospel parable about the king who was making out the accounts of all his servants. One man was brought before him who owed him the enormous sum of ten thousand talents. He had no means of paying the debt. In order to obtain at least some compensation, the king ordered that this servant should be sold, together with his wife and children. But the servant wept and implored, so that the king was moved with pity and pardoned him completely. When the servant had left the king’s presence, he met a fellow servant who owed him a small sum, namely, one hundred pieces of silver. He threw himself angrily upon him immediately. The unfortunate fellow began begging for mercy with tears in his eyes but, it was no use. He was flung into prison and condemned to forced labour until such time as the debt would be paid. Soon afterwards, the king came to hear of this incident. He was furious with the cruel servant and ordered him to be put in prison and severely punished (Mt 18:23-25).
This parable refers to all of us. What debts we have contracted before God! Nevertheless, He is prepared to forgive us everything, provided that we are also merciful towards our fellowmen. This should be a comforting assurance.
One Minute Reflection – 28 January – Tuesday of the Third week in Ordinary Time, Year A, Readings: 2 Samuel 6:12-15, 17-19, Psalm 24:7-10, Mark 3:31-35 and the Memorial of Joseph Freinademetz SVD (1852-1908) “Fu Shenfu” – Lucky Priest-
“Here are my mother and my brethren! Whoever does the will of God, is my brother, and sister and mother.”…Mark 34-35
REFLECTION – “Grace is thicker than blood – As mother, Mary made significant appearances in the life of Jesus. She followed Him in His ministry.
In today’s short Gospel text, she is outside with the relatives of Jesus asking for Him.
Notice the delicacy of Mary. She neither interrupts the ministry of Jesus nor enters the room where Jesus is ministering. She waits outside.
The response of Jesus to the one who brought the message seems like a rebuff.
In fact, it is a tribute to Mary.
She was His mother, not merely because she gave Him birth but even more, because she did the will of God.
Blood is thicker than water no doubt – but Grace is thicker than blood.
She conceived Jesus in faith, even before she conceived him in her womb.” … Msgr Alex Rebello – Diocese of Wrexham, Wales – Daily Reflections, Year A
PRAYER – Loving Father, You gave us Your only-begotten Son to teach us, to make us Your adopted children by His adoption of ourselves as His siblings. What grace, what mercy, what love, is this! We give You our gratitude and our love. Mary, holy and blessed Virgin, Mother of God, pray for us. St Joseph Freinademetz, you survived solely on faith in a strange land and brought Christ to those who spoke another language by the language of Grace, please pray for us. Through Jesus, our brother and our Saviour, who gave us His mother to guide and protect us, we pray, with the Holy Spirit, God forever, amen.
Our Morning Offering – 28 January – Tuesday of the Third week in Ordinary Time, Year A and the Memorial of Joseph Freinademetz SVD (1852-1908) “Fu Shenfu” – Lucky Priest – Priest and Missionary of the Society of the Divine Word
On the Feast Day of St Joseph Freinademetz, let us pray St Arnold’s daily Quarter-Hour Prayer
Quarter-Hour Prayer By St Arnold Janssen (1837-1909), Founder of the Missionaries of the Divine Word
O God, eternal truth,
I believe in You.
O God, our strength and salvation,
I trust in You.
O God, infinite goodness,
I love You with my whole heart.
St Arnold, in his youth, invented a means of personally keeping in contact with God. To do so, he prayed the acts of faith, hope and charity every quarter hour at the signal of the church tower clock or the chime of the clock at home or in school.
Saint of the Day – 28 January – Saint Joseph Freinademetz SVD (1852-1908) Priest and Missionary of the Society of the Divine Word, the First Saint to Ever Serve in Hong Kong, Missionary to China, St Joseph had an immense devotion to Eucharistic Adoration – born on 15 April 1852 in Pedraces in Val Gadena, the Tyrolean Alps, Italy and died on 28 January 1908 in Taikia, China of tuberculosis and typhus. St Joseph is also known as Giuseppe Freinademetz, Joseph of Shantung, Jozef Freinademetz, Ujoep (nickname), “the Saint of Charity” and his Chinese name “Fu Shenfu” – Lucky Priest.
Joseph Freinademetz was born on 15 April 1852, in Oies, a small hamlet of five houses situated in the Dolomite Alps of northern Italy. The region, known as South Tyrol, was then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, it is now part of Italy. He was Baptised on the day he was born and he inherited from his family a simple but tenacious faith.
While Joseph was studying theology in the diocesan seminary of Bressanone (Brixen), he began to think seriously of the foreign missions as a way of life. He was ordained a priest on 25 July 1875 and assigned to the community of Saint Martin very near his own home, where he soon won the hearts of the people. However, the call to missionary service did not go away. Just two years after ordination he contacted Fr Arnold Janssen, the founder of a mission house which quickly developed into the Society of the Divine Word.
With his Bishop’s permission, Joseph entered the mission house in Steyl, Netherlands, in August 1878. On 2 March 1879, he received his mission cross and departed for China with Fr John Baptist Anzer, another Divine Word Missionary. Five weeks later they arrived in Hong Kong, where they remained for two years, preparing themselves for the next step. In 1881 they travelled to their new mission in South Shantung, a province with 12 million inhabitants and only 158 Christians.
Those were hard years, marked by long, arduous journeys, assaults by bandits and the difficult work of forming the first Christian communities. As soon as a community was just barely developed, an instruction from the Bishop would arrive, telling him to leave everything and start anew.
Soon Joseph came to appreciate the importance of a committed laity, especially catechists, for first evangelisation. He dedicated much energy to their formation and prepared a catechetical manual in Chinese. At the same time, together with Anzer (who had become Bishop) he put great effort into the preparation, spiritual formation and ongoing education of Chinese priests and other missionaries. His whole life was marked by an effort to become a Chinese among the Chinese, so much so that he wrote to his family: “I love China and the Chinese. I want to die among them and be laid to rest among them.”
In 1898, Freinademetz was sick with laryngitis and had the beginnings of tuberculosis as a result of his heavy workload and many other hardships. So at the insistence of the Bishop and the other priests he was sent for a rest to Japan, with the hope that he could regain his health. He returned to China somewhat recuperated, but not fully cured.
When the Bishop had to travel outside of China in 1907, Freinademetz took on the added burden of the administration of the diocese. During this time there was a severe outbreak of typhus. Joseph, like a good shepherd, offered untiring assistance and visited many communities until he himself became infected. He returned to Taikia, the seat of the diocese, where he died on 28 January 1908. He was buried at the twelfth station on the Way of the Cross and his grave soon became a pilgrimage site for Christians.
Freinademetz learned how to discover the greatness and beauty of Chinese culture and to love deeply the people to whom he had been sent. He dedicated his life to proclaiming the gospel message of God’s love for all peoples and to embodying this love in the formation of Chinese Christian communities. He animated these communities to open themselves in solidarity with the surrounding inhabitants. And he encouraged many of the Chinese Christians to be missionaries to their own people as catechists, religious, nuns and priests. His life was an expression of his motto: “The language that all people understand is that of love.” … Vatican.va
He was beatified 19 October 1975 by Pope Paul VI and Canonised by St John Paul II on 5 October 2003, on which occasions he said:
” “And they went forth and preached everywhere” (Mk 16: 20). The Evangelist Mark ends his Gospel with these words. He then adds that the Lord never ceases to accompany the activity of the Apostles with the power of His miracles. Echoing these words of Jesus, the words of St Joseph Freinademetz are filled with faith: “I do not consider missionary life as a sacrifice I offer to God but as the greatest grace, that God, could ever have lavished upon me.” With the tenacity typical of mountain people, this generous “witness of love” made a gift of himself to the Chinese peoples of southern Shandong. For love and with love he embraced their living conditions, in accordance with his own advice to his missionaries: “Missionary work is useless if one does not love and is not loved.” An exemplary model of Gospel inculturation, this Saint imitated Jesus, who saved men and women by sharing their existence to the very end.”
St Aemilian of Trebi
St Agatha Lin
Bl Amadeus of Lausanne
St Antimus of Brantôme
Bl Bartolomé Aiutamicristo
St Brigid of Picardy
St Cannera of Inis Cathaig
Bl Charlemagne (a decree of canonisation was issued by the anti-pope Paschal III but this was never ratified by valid authority.)
St Flavian of Civita Vecchia
St Glastian of Kinglassie
Bl James the Almsgiver
St James the Hermit
St Jerome Lu
St John of Reomay St Joseph Freinademetz SVD (1852-1908)
Bl Julian Maunoir
St Julian of Cuenca
St Lawrence Wang
St Leucius of Apollonia
Bl María Luisa Montesinos Orduña
St Maura of Picardy
Bl Mosè Tovini
Bl Odo of Beauvais
Bl Olympia Bida
St Palladius of Antioch
St Paulinus of Aquileia
Bl Peter Won Si-jang
St Richard of Vaucelles
St Thyrsus of Apollonia
Martyrs of Alexandria: A group of 4th-century parishioners in Alexandria, Egypt. During the celebration of Mass one day an Arian officer named Syrianus led a troop of soldiers into their church and proceded to murder all the orthodox Christians in the place. 356 in Alexandria, Egypt.
Thought for the Day – 27 January – Meditations with Antonio Cardinal Bacci (1881-1971)
Sacred Scripture has some very severe and terrible things to say to the rich. “Woe to you rich! for you are now having your comfort” (Lk 6:24). “Amen, I say to you, with difficulty will a rich man enter the kingdom of heaven. And further, I say to you, it is easier for a camel top pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19:23-24, CF Mk 10:24-25, Lk 18:24-25). St James adds: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl over your miseries which will come upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are rusted and their rust will be a witness against you and will devour your flesh as fire does. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the labourers who reaped your fields, which have been kept back by you unjustly, cry out and their cry has entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You have feasted upon earth and you have nourished your hearts on dissipation in the days of slaughter” (Js 5:1-5).
These passages are not concerned with the rich as such, for men like Abraham, Job and St Louis, the King of France, were wealthy. They are directed against those who have become absorbed in their wealth (Mk 10:24) and have grown deaf to the rightful promptings of justice and charity.
Nevertheless, it is not only the wealthy and unjust who should reflect seriously on these stern words but also, those who have more than they need in life and are never moved by compassion for their less fortunate fellowmen. Can we be counted amongst these?
Quote/s of the Day – 27 January – Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Year A and the Memorial of Blessed George Matulaitis MIC (1871-1927)
“My motto shall be: to seek God in all things, to do all things for the greater glory of God, to bring the Spirit of God into all things and to fill them with it. May God and His glory be the centre of my life, the axis of all my thoughts, feelings, desires and works.”
From the Journal of Blessed George, Archbishop. (I Part: St Petersburg 1910-1911)
“But you must never despair on account of your defects and failings. The weaker we feel ourselves to be, the more should we confide in God. He is our strength and salvation. Valiantly cry out in the words of St Paul: “I can do all things in him, who strengthens me.” And fight. God will not abandon you.”
From a letter to Miss Minetaite in Obeliai
“Moreover, we should find time everyday, or at least, every other day, for more serious reading. Without it, a man’s mind, becomes very shallow and vain.”
From a letter to Rev. Dvaranauskas in Pilypava
“We need patience, too. Once we start a task, trusting in God’s help, we should stubbornly bring it to its conclusion. If it is not a success, we will at least, have the consolation, that it is not our fault – we will perceive that it was not in God’s will.”
From a letter to Rev. Vaitkevičius in Częstochowa
“O Holy Church of God, true kingdom of Christ on earth, my dearest beloved!”
From the Journal of Blessed George, Archbishop. (I Part: St Petersburg 1910-1911)
One Minute Reflection – 27 January – Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Year A – Readings: 2 Samuel 5:1-7, 10, Psalm 89:20-22, 25-26, Mark 3:22-30 and the Memorial of Blessed George Matulaitis MIC (1871-1927)
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.”...Mark 3:22
REFLECTION – “It is characteristic of evildoers, stirred by envy, to shut their eyes as much as they can, to other people’s merits and when, overcome by the evidence, they cannot do so any longer, to depreciate or undervalue it. Thus, when the crowd rejoiced in devotion and marvelled at the sight of Christ’s works, the scribes and Pharisees either closed their eyes to what they knew to be true, or minimised what is great, or undervalued what is good. Once, for example, feigning ignorance, they said to Him who had worked so many wonderful signs: “What sign can you do that we may believe in you?” (Jn 6:30). In this case, unable to blatantly deny the facts, they wickedly depreciate them… and they devalue them by saying: “It is by Beelzebub, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.”
Now this, dear brethren, is the blasphemy against the Spirit that binds all those he has seized with the bonds of an eternal sin. This is not to say that it would be impossible for the repentant to gain forgiveness for it all if they “produce fruit as evidence of their repentance” (Lk 3:8). The only thing is that, crushed beneath such a weight of malice, they lack the strength to aspire to that praiseworthy repentance worthy of forgiveness… Those who, perceiving the proofs of grace and the Holy Spirit at work in a brother…, are not afraid to undermine and calumniate and brashly ascribe to the evil spirit what they clearly know to be of the Holy Spirit, such as these have been so forsaken by this Spirit of grace, that they no longer even desire the repentance that would obtain pardon. They are completely in the dark, blinded by their own malice. Indeed, what could be more serious than to dare, out of envy for a brother one had been commanded to love as oneself (Mt 19:19), to blaspheme God’s goodness… and insult His majesty by wanting to discredit another?”…Isaac of Stella (c 1100-c.1171) O.Cist. Cistercian monk
PRAYER – Lord, our God, keep us free from envy of others, for this is a poison that can destroy all community and love. Help us to know that to each You have given gifts and all are Your wonder and made to honour You alone. Help us to appreciate our neighbour’s talents and understand that we are all one in the Mystical Body of Your Son. Grant that by the prayers of Bl George Matulaitis, we may grow in love and sanctity. We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, God forever, amen.
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