Category Archives: Saints

We are all called to be saints!

Revelation 7:9-14

After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.”

All the angels stood around the throne
and around the elders and the four living creatures.
They prostrated themselves before the throne,
worshiped God, and exclaimed:

“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me,
“Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”
I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.”
He said to me,
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;
they have washed their robes
and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Today is All Saints’ Day — the day when we remember and honor the saints.

Do not be intimidated by the word “saint” — it simply means “holy”.

The Oxford Dictionary defines “holy” as a person who is dedicated to God, who is morally and spiritually excellent.

Today is the feast day of all holy persons, among whose ranks may be your family and friends who have passed away, whose numbers are far greater than those formally declared as saints by the Catholic Church.

Among the many things that distress me about the Church today is how rarely, if ever, priests make mention of the saints in their homilies. That puzzles me because the saints are our role models. They were, like us, wholly imperfect human beings. As an example, St. Jerome (331-420) is described as “By nature an irascible man with a sharp tongue” who “made enemies as well as friends” — which goes to show that one doesn’t have to be perfect to be a saint!

1 John 3:1-3

Beloved:
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure,
as he is pure.


God created us so that we eventually will join Him in Heaven for all eternity.

Since saints are holy, and only holy people will see God face to face, that means we are all called to be saints.

This morning, on All Saints’ Day, I’ll say it outright:

I want to be a saint!
And I want all of you to be saints!

Please join me in making the same affirmation. And let us help each other to become saints.

For the lives of some saints, please go to our “Angels & Saints” page.

The Greatest Commandment is to love God with our whole hearts, our whole souls, our whole minds, and with all our strength.

May the peace and joy and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~Éowyn

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Sunday Devotional: Be persistent in proclaiming the truth

2 Timothy 4:1-8

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
who will judge the living and the dead,
and by his appearing and his kingly power:
proclaim the word;
be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient;
convince, reprimand,
encourage through all patience and teaching.
For the time will come
when people will not tolerate sound doctrine
but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity,
will accumulate teachers
and will stop listening to the truth
and will be diverted to myths.
But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances;
put up with hardship;
perform the work of an evangelist;
fulfill your ministry.
For I am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have competed well;
I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day,
and not only to me,
but to all who have longed for his appearance.

Sometimes God uses a drastic method to get our attention. That’s what happened to an awful man named Saul.

Born c. AD 5 in the Mediterranean city of Tarsus (in today’s south-central Turkey), Saul was a Hebrew of the tribe of Benjamin, whose father and grandfather were Pharisees.

An approximate contemporary of the twelve Apostles, Saul neither followed nor even saw Jesus preach. Instead, being a zealot for Jewish law and traditions, he saw Jesus’ disciples as enemy and dedicated himself to the persecution of the early Christians, most notably the killing by stoning of St. Stephen.

When Saul was in his late 20s, as he was approaching Damascus from Jerusalem on a mission to arrest all Christian Jews in Damascus, he and his company were struck by a great light and fell to the ground. Saul alone heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul asked the voice to identify  himself. The voice answered, “Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute.” Trembling, Saul cried out, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” The resurrected Christ told Saul that in Damascus, he would learn what would be expected of him.

As Saul got off the ground, he realized he had become blind. He was led to Damascus, where he remained blind for three days, without eating or drinking.
Like all genuine encounters with God — including our own, should we be so graced — Saul’s dramatic encounter with the risen Christ changed him forever.

Now renamed Paul (which means Little), not only did he stop persecuting Christians, he became a devoted follower of Christ, perhaps the most influential early Christian missionary. The first Christology — doctrines and theories of the meaning of the belief in Christ — was developed by Paul.

More importantly, more than any of Christ’s disciples, it was Paul who fully understood that, by His incarnation, death and resurrection, Jesus replaced the convenant of the Old Testament with a new convenant. This was made clear by Christ Himself in the Last Supper:

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11.25; cf. Mt 26.27-29; Mk 14.24, Lk 22.20; Heb 8.6, 9.15)

Henceforth, God’s chosen are all who “take up their cross” and follow Jesus the Christ. In other words, what once was a tribal religion — Judaism — is now superceded by the universal faith of Christianity.

That is why St. Paul is called the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” Without the work of Paul, formerly the sinful Saul of Tarsus, you and I might not be Christians.

Paul was beaten, arrested and imprisoned on more than one occasion. Neither the Bible nor other sources say how or when Paul died, but Ignatius, probably around 110, wrote that Paul was martyred. According to Christian tradition, St. Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Nero, on June 29, AD 67 — the same day as St. Peter was crucified upside down.

Shortly before he was martyred, St. Paul had written to St. Timothy these famous words:

“I am even now ready to be sacrificed, and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith. As for the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice which the Lord, the just judge, will render to me in that day: and not only to me, but to them also that love His coming.”

For all these reasons — the sinful pre-conversion Saul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, teaching us about Jesus’ New Covenant — I love St. Paul with all my heart. I hope that, should our time darken to that point when Christians are persecuted as in the days of the early Church, I too will “finish my course,” “keep my faith,” and stand “ready to be sacrificed.”

I now conclude this “Sunday Devotional” with my favorite passage from St. Paul (letter to the Ephesians 6:10-16):

Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~Eowyn

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St. Francis of Assisi’s end times prophecy and the two popes

At the end of the book, Works of the Seraphic Father St. Francis Of Assisi (London: R. Washbourne, 1882), is a section titled “Some Prophecies of the Holy Father St. Francis.” On pp. 248-250 is the following prophecy about the Church (paragraph breaks added):

Shortly before he died in 1226, St. Francis of Assisi called together the members of his order and warned them of great tribulations that would befall the Church in the future, saying:

Act bravely, my Brethren; take courage, and trust in the Lord. The time is fast approaching in which there will be great trials and afflictions; perplexities and dissensions, both spiritual and temporal, will abound; the charity of many will grow cold, and the malice of the wicked will increase.

The devils will have unusual power, the immaculate purity of our Order, and of others, will be so much obscured that there will be very few Christians who will obey the true Sovereign Pontiff and the Roman Church with loyal hearts and perfect charity. At the time of this tribulation a man, not canonically elected, will be raised to the Pontificate, who, by his cunning, will endeavour to draw many into error and death.

Then scandals will be multiplied, our Order will be divided, and many others will be entirely destroyed, because they will consent to error instead of opposing it.

There will be such diversity of opinions and schisms among the people, the religious and the clergy, that, except those days were shortened, according to the words of the Gospel, even the elect would be led into error, were they not specially guided, amid such great confusion, by the immense mercy of God.

Then our Rule and manner of life will be violently opposed by some, and terrible trials will come upon us. Those who are found faithful will receive the crown of life; but woe to those who, trusting solely in their Order, shall fall into tepidity, for they will not be able to support the temptations permitted for the proving of the elect.

Those who preserve their fervour and adhere to virtue with love and zeal for the truth, will suffer injuries and, persecutions as rebels and schismatics; for their persecutors, urged on by the evil spirits, will say they are rendering a great service to God by destroying such pestilent men from the face of the earth. But the Lord will be the refuge of the afflicted, and will save all who trust in Him. And in order to be like their Head [Jesus Christ], these, the elect, will act with confidence, and by their death will purchase for themselves eternal life; choosing to obey God rather than man, they will fear nothing, and they will prefer to perish [physically] rather than consent to falsehood and perfidy.

Some preachers will keep silence about the truth, and others will trample it under foot and deny it. Sanctity of life will be held in derision even by those who outwardly profess it, for in those days Jesus Christ will send them not a true Pastor, but a destroyer.

H/t Yahoo News commenter Sabazios for the St. Francis prophecy.

Below are 6 facts for your reflection and discernment:

Fact No. 1

“Church law says a pope’s resignation is valid only if he takes the decision in full freedom and without pressure from others.” (Reuters)

Fact No. 2

On Feb. 28, 2013, after serving 8 years, Pope Benedict XVI stepped down from the papacy. He is the first pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII in 1415, and the first to do so on his own initiative since Pope Celestine V in 1294.

Described as “the main intellectual force in the Church” since the mid-1980s, now-Pope Emeritus Benedict was originally a liberal theologian, but adopted conservative views after 1968. A genuine scholar, Benedict’s prolific writings defend traditional Catholic doctrine and values. During his papacy, Benedict XVI advocated a return to fundamental Christian values to counter the increased secularisation of the West. He regards relativism’s denial of objective truth, and the denial of moral truths in particular, as the central problem of the 21st century. Pope Benedict also revived a number of traditions, including elevating the Tridentine Mass to a more prominent position.

Fact No. 3

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and his spokesmen repeatedly deny he was forced to resign. (Reuters)

Fact No. 4

Despite the denials, speculations that Benedict had been forced to resign persist to this day.

“Two years ago this week, [Pope] Benedict’s announcement that he was stepping down for health reasons shocked the Catholic Church and much of the world. It also loosed conspiracy theorists who believe Benedict was forced to resign…. The circumstances surrounding Benedict’s decision to step down have titillated scholars and the journalists alike, especially given the fact that his resignation came not long after the ‘Vatileaks’ scandal. The release of internal Vatican memos, by some accounts, revealed how Benedict’s efforts to reform the church, like provide transparency on the global sex abuse scandal and the management of the Vatican bank, were undercut by internal politics. (The Atlantic)

Fact No. 5

Homosexuals love Pope Francis:

  • Pro-homo GQ loves the Pope
  • Pope Francis made the cover of Time, New Yorker, Rolling Stone and The Advocate, an LGBT magazine that makes no secret of its problems with previous Popes but chose Francis as “person of the year”. (CNN)

Fact No. 6

The satanic pop singer who calls herself “Madonna” — she who dressed up as the Baphomet in the 2012 Super Bowl halftime show and cavorted with horned masked demons in the recent Grammy Awards show before a cheering crowd also wearing horns — calls Pope Francis “kind of groovy.” (Billboard)

Draw your own conclusion!

See also Joan’s post on St. Francis of Assisi.

~Éowyn

Drudge Report has gone to the dark side. Check out Whatfinger News, the Internet’s conservative frontpage founded by ex-military!

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St. Francis of Assisi

This is a re-publishing of Joan’s 2014 post.

Today, October 4, is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226).

St. Francis is an unusual saint in that he is known and admired by even non-Catholics and non-Christians. Lamentably, most of his admirers know only one facet of St. Francis — his endearing closeness with birds and animals. But there is so much more to this saint.

Did you know that St. Francis was called by Jesus Christ our Lord to reform and repair the Catholic Church, which had fallen to a corrupt and heretical clergy?

History repeats itself, and we find a Church similarly in disrepair in our own time. May St. Francis be a reminder and role model for all faithful clergy and laity as we are called, as he was, to repair and reform a Church in disarray.

See also “St. Francis of Assisi’s end times prophecy and the two popes“.

~Eowyn


I cannot tell you how much St. Francis has helped me in my life with all of the wonderful creatures that Our Dear Lord has entrusted to me, protecting and healing them.  St. Francis is one of my favorite saints, and I love him very much, a “giant” of holiness.  Today, the Universal Church celebrates his Feast Day.

Dante Alighieri, the famous poet, the author of the Divine Comedy, said of St. Francis, “A sun was born into the world.”  Francis was born at the end of 1181 or the beginning of 1182, to a rich family, his father being a successful cloth merchant and being raised by an adoring French mother.  He lived a carefree life, most interested in chivalrous ideals and chivalrous dreams of greatness and nobility.  Francis, age 20, participated in a military campaign, was taken prisoner and later released because he was so very ill.  This illness caused Francis to search his soul and look inward to his purpose in life, to determine and define what was important in life.  He had abandoned his worldly lifestyle and began to notice the beauty, purpose and virtues of God’s creatures, whom he loved and how they lived in simplicity.

One day, Francis rode the plain of Assisi and noticed a disfigured and horrible looking leper man.  Francis got off his horse, wherein the leper outstretched his hands to receive alms.  But Francis did more than give him money, he kissed the leper because he saw Jesus in Him, he saw “Jesus in disguise,” as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta would say – an event that changed Francis’ life.

After his exchange with the leper, Francis visited hospitals, served the sick and the forgotten, gave clothes and money to those who needed it.  On a particular day in or about 1205, Francis was praying at the Church of St. Damian outside the walls of Assisi when he heard a voice, an interior instruction that he took to heart, “Francis, go and repair my house, which you see is falling down.”  Francis thought that Our Lord meant to repair that specific Church, when indeed and in fact Our Lord was referring Francis to renew and repair His Church.  Pope Benedict XVI tells us, “…that at that moment, St. Francis was called to repair the small church, but the ruinous state of the building was a symbol of the dramatic and disquieting situation of the Church herself.  At that time, the Church had a superficial faith which did not shape or transform life, a scarcely religious clergy, and a chilling of love.  It was an interior destruction of the Church which also brought a decomposition of unity, with the birth of heretical movements.  Yet, there at the centre of the Church in ruins was the Crucified Lord, and he spoke:  He called for renewal, He called Francis to the manual labour of repairing the small Church of St. Damian, the symbol of a much deeper call to Renew Christ’s own Church, with her radicality of faith and her loving enthusiasm for Christ.”

Francis took clothes and supplies from his father’s storage house, selling these items, as well as selling his father’s horse.  He brought these monies to the priest at St. Damian, but the priest would not take the money, Francis leaving the money on a window sill.  Francis’ father learned what had happened and demanded that Francis return everything that he had taken from him, reporting the matter to Bishop Guido of Assisi.  The Bishop told Francis to return these monies to his father, “He (God) does not wish His Church to profit by goods which may have been gotten unjustly.”  Francis responded, “The clothes I wear are also his.  I’ll give them back.”  He stripped off his clothes and gave them to his father saying, “Hitherto I have called you father on earth; but now I say, ‘Our Father, who art in Heaven. “ Clothes of a laborer were found and given to Francis, wherein Francis made a cross upon the cloth with some chalk and left.

Pope Benedict tells us about another event that comes to mind , of the dream of Pope Innocent III in 1207.  “…he saw the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the mother of all churches, collapsing and one small and insignificant brother, whom the Pope recognized as Francis , when Francis later visited him.”  Pope Benedict goes on to say, “…it is important to note that St. Francis does not renew the Church without or in opposition to the Pope, but only in communion with him.  The two realities go together:  the Successor of Peter, the Bishops, the Church founded on the succession of the Apostles and the new charism that the Holy Spirit brought to life at that time for the Church’s renewal.  Authentic renewal grew from these together.”

In 1208, Francis lived as a hermit, but then had another internal transformation, affected by the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ discourse to the apostles whom he sent out to evangelize and teach the nations.  Accordingly, Francis went out just as the apostles did to teach by example, living in poverty and preaching the Gospel.  He had other brothers, companions who followed his way of life.  On one particular day, Francis told the brothers they were going to preach.  Francis and his band of brothers walked through a town but said nothing.  One of the brothers asked Francis why they didn’t preach.  Francis told him that they did preach saying, “Preach the Gospel constantly, and when necessary, use words.”  It was, therefore, Francis’ incredible example of holiness, and that of the brother companions, that taught the people of God.

In 1209 Francis and his brother companions travelled to Rome to propose to Pope Innocent III the plan for a new kind of Christian life.  The Pope welcomed Francis and of course, recognized Francis from the dream that he had.  The Pope welcomed Francis and encouraged him.  Pope Benedict XVI tells us that “St. Francis really did have an extremely intimate relationship with Jesus and with the word of God, that he wanted to pursue …: just as it is, in all its radicality and truth.  It is also true that initially he did not intend to create an Order with the necessary canonical forms.  Rather, he simply wanted, through the word of God and the presence of the Lord, to renew the People of God, to call them back to listening to the Word and to literal obedience to Christ.  Furthermore, he knew that Christ was never “mine” but is always “ours”, that “I” cannot possess Christ that “I” cannot rebuild in opposition to the Church, her will and her teaching.  Instead, it is only in communion with the Church built on the Apostolic succession that obedience too, to the Word of God can be renewed.”  And Pope Benedict goes on to say that “Francis knew that the centre of the Church is the Eucharist, where the Body of Christ and His Blood are made present through the priesthood, the Eucharist and the communion of the Church.  Wherever the priesthood and the Eucharist and the Church come together, it is there alone that the world of God also dwells.  The real historical Francis was the Francis of the Church, and precisely in this way he continues to speak to non-believers and believers of other confessions and religions as well.”  Indeed and in fact, in St. Francis’ “First Admonition,” he says very passionately:

“Wherefore, O you sons of men, how long will you be dull of heart (Ps. 4,3)?  Why do you not recognize the truth and believe in the Son of God (John 9, 35)?  Behold:  daily he humbles himself (Phil 2,8) as when from heaven’s royal throne (Wisd 18, 15) he came down into the womb of the Virgin.  Daily He Himself comes to us with like humility; daily he descends from the bosom of the Father (John 1, 18; 6, 38) upon the altar in the hands of the priest.  And as he appeared to the Apostles in true flesh, so now also he shows himself to us in the sacred bread.  And as they by their bodily sight saw only His flesh, yet contemplating Him with the eyes of the spirit believed Him to be very God, so we also, as we see our bodily eyes the bread and wine, are to see and firmly believe that it is His most holy body and blood living and true.  And in this way, the Lord is always with His faithful, as he Himself says:  “Behold, I am with you until the end of the world (Mt 28, 20).”

And in the writings of St. Francis, (Francis of Assisi, Scritti, Editrici Francescane, Padova 2002, 401), Pope Benedict reminds us of the love that Francis had for Jesus in a special way in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, “Let everyone be struck with fear, let the whole world tremble, and let the heavens exult, when Christ, the Son of the living God, is present on the altar in the hands of a priest.  Oh stupendous dignity!  O humble sublimity, that the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles himself that for our salvation He hides himself under an ordinary piece of bread.”

Francis and his friars became numerous and established themselves at the Portiuncula, or the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the center of Franciscan spirituality.  Clare, a young woman of Assisi from a noble and wealthy family loved Franciscan spirituality, and established the Order of Poor Clares, the second Franciscan order.

Pope Innocent III’s Successor, Pope Honorius III, in 1218, issued a “Bull” which is a formal document, a pronouncement, which supported Francis and his development of the first Friars Minor, who began to spread the Gospel to other European countries, and even in Morocco.  In 1220, Francis visited the Holy Land, sowed the seed which is evident in today’s world, making this place the Site for the Order, showing today the great merits of the Franciscans in the Holy Land.  After Francis returned to Italy from his missions, he developed his “Rule” which was approved by the Pope.

Francis also had great communication skills with God’s creatures and control of them, a gift given to Him by God.  “His love for and power over the lower animals were noted and often referred to by those who knew him:  his rebuke to the swallows while he was preaching at Alvian, “My sisters the swallows, it is now my turn to speak.  You have been talking enough all this time;” the birds that perched around him while he told them to praise their Creator; the rabbit that would not leave him at Lake Trasimene; and the tamed wolf at Gubbio…”  Francis even had a pet falcon that he loved very much, who accompanied him where he went.

In 1224, Francis saw a vision of Jesus crucified in the form of a seraph, and after that vision, received the stigmata from the Seraph Crucifix, becoming one with the Crucified Jesus.  Francis, thus, suffered with the wounds of Christ.  Francis died humbly, on the earthen floor, on October 3, 1226, in the Portiuncula with his brother friars.

Pope Benedict XVI I believe summarizes St. Francis beautifully.  He said:  “It has been said that Francis represents an alter Christus, that he was truly a living icon of Christ…Indeed, this was his ideal: to be like Jesus, to contemplate Christ in the Gospel, to love him intensely and to imitate his virtues.  In particular, he wished to ascribe interior and exterior poverty with a fundamental value, which he also taught to his spiritual sons.  The first Beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3) found a luminous fulfilment in the life and words of St. Francis.  Truly, dear friends, the saints are the best interpreters of the Bible.  As they incarnate the word of God in their own lives, they make it more captivating then ever, so that it really speaks to us.  The witness of Francis, who loved poverty as a means to follow Christ with dedication and total freedom, continues to be for us too an invitation to cultivate interior poverty in order to grow in our trust of God, also by adopting a sober lifestyle and a detachment from material goods…”

Finally, Pope Benedict XVI  says, “Dear friends, Francis was a great Saint and a joyful man.  His simplicity, his humility, his faith, his love for Christ, his goodness towards every man and every woman, brought him gladness in every circumstance.  Indeed, there subsists an intimate and indissoluble relationship between holiness and joy.  A French writer once wrote that there is only one sorrow in the world:  not to be saints, that is, not to be near to God.  Looking at the testimony of St. Francis, we understand that this is the secret of true happiness:  to become saints, close to God!”

Happy Feast Day, dearest St. Francis!  I hope you are having a big party in heaven today with Our Lord, the Blessed Mother Mary whom you loved and honored, with the angels and the saints, along with all of God’s blessed creatures!  I love you!

-Joan

Sources:

  • General Audience of Pope Benedict XVI, Paul VI Audience Hall, January 27, 2010, website of the Vatican, the “Holy See”.
  • “The Body of the Lord,” website of the Vatican, the “Holy See”.
  • One Hundred Saints, Bulfinch Press, AOL Time Warner Book Group.
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Sunday Devotional: You were called for freedom!

Galatians 5:1, 13-18

Brothers and sisters:
For freedom Christ set us free;
so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.
But do not use this freedom
as an opportunity for the flesh;
rather, serve one another through love.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement,
namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
But if you go on biting and devouring one another,
beware that you are not consumed by one another.

I say, then: live by the Spirit
and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. 
For the flesh has desires against the Spirit,
and the Spirit against the flesh;
these are opposed to each other,
so that you may not do what you want.
But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters…so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”

Let those words ring in your ears, and in the ears of all despots, in America and across the world, who are bent on imposing their will and dicta on us, always cloaked in the cover of “good” intentions, whether they be the Marxist false siren of utopian communism, or the neo-Marxist “climate change” save-the-world cultists, or the LGBT-pronoun cultural-Marxists of ivory-tower academe.

For our freedom comes not from men, but from God. As it is said in Sirach 15:14, 16:

God in the beginning created human beings
and made them subject to their own free choice….
Set before you are fire and water;
to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.

Thomas Aquinas conceived an act of free will to be any thought, word, deed, desire, or omission that comes from a person acting with full knowledge of what s/he is doing, “who is free to act or to refrain from action, and who gives the full assent of his will to the act.”¹ The essence of free will, therefore, is choice—the favoring of one thing and the eschewal of another—informed by reason.

But God’s supreme gift of free will does not mean license, the freedom to break rules or principles, to “do as thou wilt” — that first temptation “to be as gods” whispered by the serpent in the first Garden. As Sirach 15:17-20 reminds us:

Before man are life and death, good and evil,
whichever he chooses shall be given him.
Immense is the wisdom of the Lord;
he is mighty in power, and all-seeing.
The eyes of God are on those who fear him;
he understands man’s every deed.
No one does he command to act unjustly,
to none does he give license to sin.

The gift of free will is terrifying, for when it is exercised to evil, the consequences are disastrous.

Terrifying though it is, free will is given to humans (and angels) because only by freely electing to believe in, obey, honor, and love God do the preceding acts have authenticity and meaning. For what good is a love that is coerced? As St. Thomas put it, “Man has free will: otherwise counsels, exhortations, commands, prohibitions, rewards and punishments would be in vain.”²

Choose wisely! Choose to be good.

Psalm 119:1-5, 10

Blessed those whose way is blameless,
who walk by the law of the LORD.
Blessed those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with all their heart.
They do no wrong;
they walk in his ways.
You have given them the command
to observe your precepts with care.
May my ways be firm
in the observance of your statutes!
With all my heart I seek you;
do not let me stray from your commandments.

May the love and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!

~Eowyn


¹Paul J. Glenn, A Tour of the Summa (Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1978), p. 99.
²Summa Theologia of St. Thomas Aquinas, Volume One (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1947), p. 418.

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Sunday Devotional: The Mystery of Three Persons in One God

Matthew 3:1, 13, 16-17

In those days came John the Baptist,
preaching in the wilderness of Judaea….
Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John,
to be baptized of him….
And Jesus, when he was baptized,
went up straightway out of the water:
and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him,
and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove,
and lighting upon him:
And lo a voice from heaven, saying,
This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Today, the universal Church celebrates the Holy Trinity — the mystery of Three Persons in One God.

That there is but one God and three Persons — the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit — is not only found in the above passage from Matthew 3, but also in other places in Holy Scripture:

Genesis 1:26

And God said,
Let us make man in our image,
after our likeness

John 5:7

For there are three
that bear record in Heaven,
the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost;
and these three are one.

Matthew 28:18-20

Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Our greatest theologians had sought in vain to plumb the mystery of the Triune Godhead — of three Persons in one God.

St. Thomas Aquinas concluded in Summa Theologica:

We cannot come to the knowledge of the Trinity by reason alone, that is, by the natural and unaided efforts of the human mind. By our natural reason, we can know that God exists; that he is the First Cause of all; that he is one, infinite, simple, immutable, etc. But that the one God subsists in three really distinct Persons is a truth that can be known only by supernatural means. That is a truth beyond the reach of human reason to know, to prove, or to disprove. We know this truth by divine revelation, and accept it by supernatural faith; we take it upon the authority of God himself.… By aid of the light of glory the soul in heaven sees God himself clearly and truly.

And so we accept our human limitation and believe, putting our trust in the words of St. Paul that we shall understand fully when we see God face to face:

1 Corinthians 13:11-12

When I was a child, I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child;
when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror dimly,
but then face to face.
Now I know in part;
then I shall understand fully,
even as I have been fully understood.

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~Eowyn

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The Face of the Man on the Shroud

One of the mysteries of the New Testament is that there are no descriptions of what Jesus Christ looks like. Nothing about how tall He is, the color of His hair or of His eyes, or . . . .

None.

But being the sensory creatures as God made us, we can’t help but wonder what Jesus looks like.

How we thirst for and yearn to see His face. Psalm 27:8 gives voice to humanity’s sorrowful yearning:

“Your face, Lord, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me.”

Our crie de coeur is given eloquent expression by St. Anselm (1033-1109) in Proslogium:

But if thou hast found him, why is it that thou dost not feel thou hast found him? Why, O Lord, our God, does not my soul feel thee, if it hath found thee? [My soul] strains to see thee more . . . but it sees that it cannot see farther, because of its own darkness . . . . Everywhere thou art wholly present, and I see thee not . . . and therefore my soul still walks in its darkness and wretchedness. For it looks, and does not see thy beauty. It hearkens, and does not hear thy harmony. It smells, and does not perceive thy fragrance. It tastes, and does not recognize thy sweetness. It touches, and does not feel thy pleasantness.

Artists, like Jon McNaughton, have used their imagination to fashion their images of Jesus.

In 2015, the scientific unit of the police force in Rome, Italy, used computer software that’s normally used to age an individual and reversed the process to generate the angelic face of what the man whose face and body are imprinted onto the Shroud of Turin would look like as a 12-year-old boy.

In 2018, Dr. Giulio Fanti, Professor of Mechanical and Thermal Measurements at the University of Padua, created a 3D carbon copy from meticulous measurements of the imprinted image of the Man on the Shroud. Master sculptor Sergio Rodella then made a statue in plaster from the 3D carbon copy.

Professor Fanti said:

“Christian tradition believes that the image that is seen on the Shroud is that of the crucified Jesus. And now science is of this opinion too. For years, using the most sophisticated 3D technologies, we have studied  the image left by the body on the sheet. And the statue is the final result.

This statue is a life-size, three-dimensional representation of the Man of the Shroud, based on the millimetric measurements obtained from the shroud in which the body of Christ was wrapped after the crucifixion.

On the Shroud I counted 370 scourge wounds, without taking into consideration the lateral ones, which are not imprinted into the Shroud because it enveloped only the front and back of the body. We can therefore hypothesize Jesus suffered a total of at least 600 scourges. Moreover, the three-dimensional reconstruction has allowed us to reconstruct that at the time of death, the man of the Shroud has slumped to the right because His right shoulder was dislocated in such a severe way as to damage the nerves.

According to our studies, Jesus was a man of extraordinary beauty (“bellezza straordinaria”). Long-limbed, but very robust; almost six feet tall, while the average height of the time was around 5′ 5″; with a regal and majestic expression.

We therefore believe that we finally have an accurate picture of what Jesus was like on this earth. From now on, it will no longer be possible to portray His image without taking this work into account.”

Here’s the face of the Man on the Shroud:

But in the end, it doesn’t really matter what we think Jesus looks like because when we finally see Him face to face, we will know it’s Him. To quote McNaughton:

“Someday when I actually meet the Savior, I’m not going to recognize Him because of how long His hair is or the color of His eyes, or whether He has a short beard or long beard, or how dark His skin is. I’m gonna recognize Him because of the way I feel, standing in the presence of the Savior.”

See also:

~Eowyn

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Sunday Devotional: The persecution of Paul and Barnabas

Acts 13:14, 43-52

Paul and Barnabas continued on from Perga
and reached Antioch in Pisidia.
On the sabbath they entered the synagogue and took their seats.
Many Jews and worshipers who were converts to Judaism
followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them
and urged them to remain faithful to the grace of God.

On the following sabbath almost the whole city gathered
to hear the word of the Lord.
When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy
and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said.
Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said,
“It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first,
but since you reject it
and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life,
we now turn to the Gentiles.
For so the Lord has commanded us,
I have made you a light to the Gentiles,
that you may be an instrument of salvation
to the ends of the earth.”

The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this
and glorified the word of the Lord.
All who were destined for eternal life came to believe,
and the word of the Lord continued to spread
through the whole region.
The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers
and the leading men of the city,
stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas,
and expelled them from their territory.
So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them,
and went to Iconium.
The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

St. Barnabas was a Jew named Joseph, born in Cyprus. He sold his property and gave the proceeds to the Apostles, who gave him the name Barnabas, and lived in common with the earliest converts to Christianity in Jerusalem. He was sent to Antioch, Syria, to look into the community there, and brought Paul to Jerusalem from Tarsus.

St. Barnabas’ missionary journeys took him to Cyprus, Perga; Antioch in Pisidia, where he and St. Paul were so violently opposed by the Jews that they decided to preach to non-Jews, the Gentiles; Iconium and Lystra in Lycaonia, where he and St. Paul were stoned out of the city. When a dispute arose regarding the observance of the Jewish rites, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem, where, at a council, it was decided that non-Jews did not have to be circumcised to be baptized.

Christian tradition holds that St. Barnabas was martyred, stoned to death, at Salamis, Cyprus, in 61 AD. He is traditionally identified as the founder of the Cypriot Orthodox Church. St. Barnabas’ feast day is June 11.

St. Paul was born Saul, c. AD 5, in the Mediterranean city of Tarsus (in today’s south-central Turkey). A Hebrew of the tribe of Benjamin, Saul’s father and grandfather were Pharisees. The Pharisees claimed prophetic or Mosaic authority for their interpretation of Jewish laws. Though a Jew, Saul was by privilege a Roman citizen.

An approximate contemporary of the twelve Apostles, Saul neither followed nor even saw Jesus preach. Instead, being a zealot for Jewish law and traditions, he saw Jesus’ disciples as enemy and dedicated himself to the persecution of the early Christians, most notably the killing by stoning of St. Stephen.

When Saul was in his late 20s, as he was approaching Damascus from Jerusalem on a mission to arrest all Christian Jews in Damascus, he and his company were struck by a great light and fell to the ground. Saul alone heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul asked the voice to identify  himself. The voice answered, “Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute.” Trembling, Saul cried out, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” The resurrected Christ told Saul that in Damascus, he would learn what would be expected of him.

As Saul got off the ground, he realized he had become blind. He was led to Damascus, where he remained blind for three days, without eating or drinking.
Like all genuine encounters with God — including our own, should we be so graced — Saul’s dramatic encounter with the risen Christ changed him forever.

Now renamed Paul (which means “little”), not only did he stop persecuting Christians, he became a devoted follower of Christ, perhaps the most influential early Christian missionary. The first Christology — doctrines and theories of the meaning of the belief in Christ — was developed by Paul. More importantly, more than any of Christ’s disciples, it was Paul who fully understood that, by His incarnation, death and resurrection, Jesus replaced the convenant of the Old Testament with a new convenant. This was made clear by Christ Himself in the Last Supper:

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11.25; cf. Mt 26.27-29; Mk 14.24, Lk 22.20; Heb 8.6, 9.15)

Henceforth, God’s chosen are all who “take up their cross” and follow Jesus the Christ. In other words, what once was a tribal religion — Judaism — is now the universal faith of Christianity. That is why St. Paul is called the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” Without the work of Paul, formerly the sinful Saul of Tarsus, you and I might not be Christians.

Paul was indefatigable in bringing the Word of Christ to both Jews and Gentiles, in a time when travel was arduous and dangerous. Through his missionary activity and writings he eventually transformed religious belief and philosophy around the Mediterranean Basin.

Paul was beaten, arrested and imprisoned on more than one occasion. Neither the Bible nor other sources say how or when Paul died, but Ignatius, probably around 110, wrote that Paul was martyred. According to Christian tradition, St. Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Nero, on June 29, AD 67 — the same day as St. Peter was crucified upside down.

Shortly before he was martyred, St. Paul had written to St. Timothy these famous words:

“I am even now ready to be sacrificed, and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith. As for the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice which the Lord, the just judge, will render to me in that day: and not only to me, but to them also that love His coming.”

In a powerful passage in his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul specifically addresses unbelieving Jews. His words should be a reminder to us that, however difficult, we are to pray for instead of curse them.

Romans 11:13-15, 29-32

Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking to you Gentiles.
Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles,
I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous
and thus save some of them.
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world,
what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy.
For God delivered all to disobedience,
that he might have mercy upon all.

See also:

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~Eowyn

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Holy Saturday: Our Lord stormed the gates of Hell

“. . . was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead….” –Apostles’ Creed

The Saturday between Good Friday (when our Lord was crucified) and Easter Sunday (when He rose from the dead) is given little attention, although what Jesus did in that interregnum is no less significant.

On Holy Saturday, Jesus Christ our Lord undertook some of the most dramatic and important work of His salvific mission.

He went into the depths of “hell” — a realm of the dead called “the limbo of the patriarchs,” which was without the punishments of the damned and which no longer exists.

There, awaiting His coming, were the departed just. Among them were Adam and Eve (despite their terrible sin of grandiosity and disobedience, the lasting legacy of which is the Original Sin that stains every human), St. John the Baptist, and Jesus’ foster-father St. Joseph. To the souls of the just, Jesus proclaimed He had won their salvation and led them as the first entrants into Heaven.

What a magnificent sight that must have been!

From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday:

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him, Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying:

“Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise.

I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth.

For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God.

The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.”

Be Joyous!

~Eowyn

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Sunday Devotional: Salvation is from and also for the Jews

John 4:5-7, 21-26

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water….

Jesus said to her,
“Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You people worship what you do not understand;
we worship what we understand,
because salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;
and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him
must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;
when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her,
“I am he, the one speaking with you.

“…salvation is from the Jews”

What does that mean?

The best explanation I’ve found is in the book, Salvation is from the Jews, by Roy H. Schoeman, a Jewish convert to Catholicism, on the critical salvific role played by Jews and Judaism. From pp. 20-21:

[T]hree of the roles that the Jewish people were called upon to play in salvation history — first, to give themselves completely to God, resulting in a uniquely intimate covenant between them and God; second, by their loyalty and virtue to bring blessing, and eventually the ultimate blessing of the Redeemer, to all of mankind; and third, to foreshadow prophetically later salvation history in their own history.

Yet this does not exhaust the role that the Jews were to play. The Jews were also to host the Incarnation itself, to be the people among whom God would become man. If God were to be on a uniquely intimate basis with the Jews and eventually to incarnate among them, they would have to be free from all involvement with other deities, free from all spiritual pollution. Hence the severity of the restrictions in the Old Testament against any form of idolatry or sorcery, both of which establish ties between the practitioners and fallen spirits. This purity, and the development of virtue and piety among at least some of the Jews, would have to reach its ultimate fruition later in producing an individual of such devotion and virtue that she could give her flesh to be the flesh of the God-man, that she could be His human mother. This individual was, of course, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

But salvation is also for the Jews.

I love St. Paul, the former Saul, because he, though a Jew, was the apostle who most championed the bringing of the gospel — the good news of Jesus Christ — to non-Jews, the Gentiles. Christians through the ages and throughout the world have St. Paul to thank. (See “St. Paul, whom Christ struck blind”)

Paul the Apostle, by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn c. 1657

In a powerful passage in his Letter to the Romans, however, St. Paul specifically addresses unbelieving Jews. His words should be a reminder to us that, however difficult, we are to pray for instead of curse them.

Romans 11:13-15, 29-32

Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking to you Gentiles.
Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles,
I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous
and thus save some of them.
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world,
what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy.
For God delivered all to disobedience,
that he might have mercy upon all.

See also:

May the peace and love of our Lord, Jesus the Christ, be with you,

~Eowyn

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