In My Father’s House There Are Many Mansions


We are now in November (where has the year gone??) and, as usual, we dedicate special prayers and penance for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. This year, Holy Mother Church graciously extends the related indulgences through November, just as it was done last year, for similar reasons. One of our brothers found out via the FSSP newsletter, and we gladly share here the good news. Please see below the details!

For those who want to understand the topic of indulgences a bit more, we suggest going over the relevant portions of our article on the Portiuncula Indulgence.

For those who don’t mind a bit more of reading, here is a link to a 7-page reflection, based on Sacred Scripture, on All Souls Day and All Saints Day, written by one of the brothers: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zGlBpOZPVp10OMppYT2lHk9_x2YQHopp/view?usp=sharing

click to zoom

Some details from the extended 2020 decree:
“a.- the Plenary Indulgence for those who visit a cemetery and pray for the deceased, even if only mentally, normally established only on the individual days from 1 to 8 November, may be transferred to other days of the same month, until its end. These days, freely chosen by the individual believers, may also be separate from each other;
b- the Plenary Indulgence of 2 November, established on the occasion of the Commemoration of all the deceased faithful for those who piously visit a church or oratory and recite the “Our Father” and the “Creed” there, may be transferred not only to the Sunday before or after or on the day of the Solemnity of All Saints, but also to another day of the month of November, freely chosen by the individual faithful.
The elderly, the sick and all those who for serious reasons cannot leave their homes […] will be able to obtain the Plenary Indulgence as long as they join spiritually with all the other faithful, completely detached from sin and with the intention of complying as soon as possible with the three usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father’s intentions), before an image of Jesus or the Blessed Virgin Mary, recite pious prayers for the deceased, for example, Lauds and Vespers of the Office of the Dead, the Marian Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, other prayers for the deceased dearest to the faithful, or occupy themselves in considered reading of one of the Gospel passages proposed by the liturgy of the deceased, or perform a work of mercy by offering to God the sorrows and hardships of their own lives.
Finally, since the souls in Purgatory are assisted by the prayers of the faithful and especially by the sacrifice of the Altar to God (cf. Conc. Tr. Sess. XXV, decr. De Purgatorio), all priests are strongly invited to celebrate Holy Mass three times on the day of the Commemoration of all the deceased faithful, in accordance with the Apostolic Constitution “Incruentum Altaris“, issued by Pope Benedict XV, of venerable memory, on 10 August 1915.”
Below are some prayers from the Liturgy for the Saints and for the Holy Souls!

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It Seems Fitting!


We have observed in the span of a few days, some major celebrations, namely the feast of our patron Saint Maximilian Kolbe OFM Conv., confessor and martyr, and the great Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady!

The fact that St. Max was martyred on the vigil of the Assumption and his body cremated in the ovens of Auschwitz is no coincidence. He spent his existence at the service of his Queen, striving to earn the two spiritual crowns She had offered him when just a boy – purity and martyrdom – and he once wrote to his brothers:

Would that my ashes might be scattered to the four winds in order to bring Jesus to souls, to bring to them the cause of His Mother and our Mary!

We invite you to read more about St. Max on our blog as well as on St. Max’s Parish website, but in this article we’d like to highlight the glory that is the Assumption (known in some places as the Dormition) of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

Had you attended the 11 AM Mass this morning at St. Max, you’d have heard a wonderful theological sermon on the subject by our good friend and “out of the ordinary” preacher, Dcn. Pierre. You were right – I should have taken notes!

We will however do our best to celebrate the momentous occurrence with a few words.

Fr. Ludwig Ott wrote in his eminent work on Dogmatic Theology, “it seems fitting that Mary’s body, which was by nature mortal, should be, in conformity with that of her Divine Son, subject to the general law of death…” and, on that same note, St. John Damascene wrote:

It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in the act of giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.

“Encomium in Dormitionem Dei Genetricis Semperque Virginis Mariae, Hom. II, n. 14” (as quoted by Ven. Pius XII)

and, in a more “eastern” tone, bishop Theoteknos of Livia wrote:

It was fitting that the most holy body of Mary, God-bearing body, receptacle of God, divinized, incorruptible, illuminated by divine grace and full glory, should be entrusted to the earth for a little while and raised up to heaven in Glory, with her soul pleasing to God.

The Venerable Pius XII, who infallibly defined what the Church always believed on this matter in his Apostolic Constitution “Muneficentissimus Deus” on November 1st, 1950, also wrote in the same document:

Immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendor at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages.

Such is a summary of a doctrine that was already believed and accepted by Christianity from the very beginning! Indeed Ven. Pius XII reminds us:

the liturgy of the Church does not engender the Catholic faith, but rather springs from it, in such a way that the practices of the sacred worship proceed from the faith as the fruit comes from the tree…it follows that the holy Fathers and the great Doctors, in the homilies and sermons they gave the people on this feast day, did not draw their teaching from the feast itself as from a primary source, but rather they spoke of this doctrine as something already known and accepted by Christ’s faithful

It seems fitting. St. Paul makes it clear in his first letter to the Corinthians:

I delivered to you first of all, which I also received: how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures: and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures: and that he was seen by Cephas; and after that by the eleven.

[…] if the dead rise not again, neither is Christ risen again. And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain […] But now Christ is risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep […]

For by a man came death, and by a man the resurrection of the dead. And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But every one in their own order: the firstfruits Christ, then they that are of Christ, who have believed in his coming.

Our Lord Jesus Christ never found more perfect believer in his coming that She who conceived Him in her immaculate womb, so much so that Christ Himself found it fitting to underscore this aspect of the Immaculata’s glory:

A certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to him: “Blessed is the womb that bore thee…” But He said: “Rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it!”

Luke 11:27-28

This is emphasized in today’s Gospel readings in the words of St. Elizabeth:

How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled!

This blessing, this glory, is in primis of Our Lady, the perfect disciple. In imitation of Christ, she died, was buried, rose again, and she was seen by so many witnesses (we bear in mind in a special way St. Francis, St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Bernadette…though so many from the very early days of the Church attest to Her visits and support…).

Yet, a most kind mother, and in perfect alignment with the divine economy, she wills us to be her imitators in her belief until that glorious day when we, too, will be reunited to our glorified bodies and rejoice with the angels and the saints, God willing.

What Deacon Pierre stated this morning, St. Ambrose made extremely clear in one of his own homilies:

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit after con­ceiving a son; Mary was filled before. “You are blessed,” said Elizabeth, “because you have believed.”

You too are blessed because you have heard and be­lieved. The soul of every believer conceives and brings forth the Word of God and recognizes his works. Let Mary’s soul be in each of you to glorify the Lord. Let her spirit be in each of you to rejoice in the Lord. Christ has only one Mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ by faith. Every soul free from contamination of sin and inviolate in its purity can receive the Word of God.

from the Little Office of the B.V.M.

Oh, Immaculata, beloved mother, who in your great sorrow consoled your Lord and Savior on the way to Calvary, rejoice and be glad, for today He in His great joy consoles you on the way to Eternity! Pray for us, your children, your servants! We are all yours, o Mary, this is our fiat to you, o Immaculata, that through your intercession we poor sinners may be made fit instruments to extend the kingdom of Christ!

Image edited by one of our brothers, based on the icon of the IV Station of the Cross at St Maximilian Kolbe Parish

“remember me, your poor mother…”


Today many Franciscan communities celebrate as a Solemnity the feast of our Holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi, Virgin.

(holy card courtesy of the Poor Clares of Our Lady of Solitude Monastery)

Born of a noble family, she chose to follow the example of her townsman St. Francis, wishing to follow the Lord with her whole heart in an austere life of poverty, but rich in the practice of charity and loving care.

She professed vows in the hands of Saint Francis on March 18, 1212, thus founding the “second order”, whose nuns would be first known as Poor Ladies. (In her honor, in 1263 Pope Urban IV officially changed the name of the Poor Ladies to the Order of Saint Clare.)

St. Damiano – where Christ had deigned to speak to St. Francis – was eventually the chosen residence of their first community. St. Clare was joined by her sister Agnes and even by her own mother!

Much could be said about their spiritual relationship to the other Franciscan orders, and to how she encouraged and supported St. Francis (particularly after he received the Stigmata, whose secret he kept from all but a few…)….of her miracles…of how she protected Assisi…but perhaps she would like us to remember in particular her Franciscan devotion to holy poverty, whom Franciscan scholars point out as the foremost characteristic of her spirituality.

When Cardinal Ugolino (Pope Gregory IX) imposed the Benedictine rule on them, for years she strived to have a rule in the spirit of Saint Francis for her sisters, and her rule was approved by Pope Innocent IV two days before her death, the privilege of “highest poverty” being the final gift in this earthly life by her Divine Spouse…she died at the age of 60 on August 11, 1253.

“The Apostolic See usually acquiesces in the pious and honest wishes of those who ask that a kindly favor be given them. Therefore, beloved Daughters in the Lord, inclined to your prayers, we confirm with the same apostolic authority the Rule and way of life of your Order…”

“Solet Annuere (1245)”, Pope Innocent IV

At her funeral, Pope Innocent IV insisted the brothers perform the Office for the Virgin Saints rather than the Office for the Dead…indeed, she was formally canonized just two years later by Pope Alexander IV, who would call her “Clara claris praeclara meritis“, “a clear mirror of example”, and would say of her: “O clarity of blessed Clare to be admired!

O blessed poverty who bestows eternal riches on those who love and embrace her!” – she would write. And to her Divine Spouse she would say: “Contempt of the world has pleased You more than honors, poverty more than earthly riches“.

She wrote several letters to St. Agnes of Prague, who was the daughter of Queen Constance and King Ottokar I of Bohemia. St. Agnes of Bohemia (as she is also known) refused marriage proposals from the kings of Germany and England, and from the Holy Roman Emperor himself – all for the sake of following in the footsteps of Christ! Her family financed the construction of a monastery in Prague, where she entered with seven other ladies in 1236. Pressured to be elected Abbess, she insisted she be called “senior sister” and often cooked for the sisters. She died on March 2nd 1282, was beatified in 1874, and was canonized in 1989. To one such letter belongs the title of this article, specifically found in today’s Office of Readings:

“Happy indeed is she who is given the grace of sharing this holy way of life, of clinging to it with every fiber of her being…behold the poverty of him who was laid in the manger…What wondrous humility! What astonishing poverty! Note the countless toils and sufferings he endured to redeem the human race…As you meditate in this way remember me, your poor mother, and know that I have inscribed your happy memory deeply on the tablets of my heart”

from a Letter of St. Clare to St. Agnes of Prague

I wish to close this post with some of today’s antiphons. They are, in themselves, a powerful summary of our Holy Mother’s life.

Clare was concerned with the things of the Lord to be holy in body and spirit……she wore and humbled her body with fasts…she accounted all else rubbish therefore she found better and more permanent possessions. She spurned the world’s perishable glory to gain Christ.

The hand of the Lord strengthened her, she will therefore be blessed forever. She cast all her care upon God. She hoped in him and he came to her assistance.

Come, let us adore Christ the king whom Clare loved with all her heart.

Proper offices of franciscan saints and blessed in the liturgy of the hours

“I want to send you all to Heaven!”


“[A] lovely, subdued melody floated through the forest above the solitary and forsaken little chapel of Our Lady of the Angels, just when a shepherd was passing by with his sheep. The shepherd turned pale and looked up at the fallen-in roof, but there was nothing to be seen. “Have they got an organ now?” he wondered. He pushed the little door open. All was dark and still within. Overhead the music was becoming more and more heavenly, as a hundred golden voices seemed to mingle in counterpoint. “Lord, how beautiful! It’s enough to make one want to die, it’s so beautiful!” he thought, for he was so moved that he could not utter a word. His heart told him what was happening…” 

From “The Perfect Joy of St. Francis”, Timmermans

August 2nd is coming along, and with it, two happy occasions – the “Great Pardon” (as the Portiuncula Indulgence is known in some places) and the “flocking” of the Franciscans of Life (regulars and externs) to the Motherhouse after a bit of a hiatus from community gatherings.

There will be a note of sadness, as our dearest brother Leo will not be with us for the first time…since his passing on May 26th of 2020. Four hundred years earlier, St. Philip Neri passed away on the very same day. Let’s pray for the repose of our dear brother Leo, and ask in a special way for the intercession of St. Philip, “Pippo Buono” as the Romans called him due to his kind and gentle disposition… All who knew our Brother Leo knew of his natural gentleness and kindness, which is what, perhaps, inspired our Superior to name him Leo at Novitiate, in honor of that first brother Leo, a gentle soul whom St. Francis used to call “ you little lamb of God”.

But this article – which from its prolixity you will most likely know is authored by brother Bernardo – is not so much about our community as it is about the Portiuncula Indulgence! We will go over the Porziuncola, “Santa Maria degli Angeli”, and then we will dig a bit more into the matter of indulgences – a matter of heavenly and motherly love – and its relationship to the wonderful Sacrament of Confession – so, please, stay with us!

On Saint Mary of the Angels, called Porziuncola (“little portion“)

 1704 illustration from “Collis Paradisi Amœnitas, seu Sacri Conventus Assisiensis Historiæ“, as found on p.107 of “The Story of Assisi” by Lina Duff Gordon

If we dig a bit, we find a nice summary by Pope Benedict XV on the salient points regarding this very special place, which we summarize below:

  • It is taught that in the days of Pope Liberius (IV century) pilgrims from Palestine brought here a fragment of the sepulcher of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that is to say, the place of the Assumption, and thus was the place named Saint Mary of the Angels.
  • Here St. Francis wrote the rule approved by Pope Innocent III (“admonished by divine vision”, writes Benedict XV).
  • Here Clare, the noble virgin of Assisi, having forsaken the world, was clothed in the poor Franciscan habit, and instituted the second Order.
  • Here also originated the Third Franciscan Order [note of clarification: that of the Penitents, whose ancient rule we follow].
  • By this place were the first Chapters of the Franciscan order, including the famous “Chapter of Matts” of Pentecost.
  • Here St. Francis, after refusing six times, finally agreed that he and the brothers would share a meal with St. Clare and the sisters. It is recounted that their souls glared so brightly that the people from the surrounding areas thought the forest was ablaze.
  • Here St. Francis had a vision of the Lord and Our Lady, and went to Perugia to implore Pope Honorius III in 1216 for a most extraordinary and unusual favor: “that anyone who comes [to the Portiuncola] confessed and penitent be absolved from the punishment and guilt from the day of baptism to the day and hour of entrance in said church”. Such an indulgence was unheard of in those days! Yet, three times did the Supreme Pontiff give his assent. Upon the Saint rejoicing and departing his presence, came the Pope’s affectionate remark and the Saint’s moving reply:
    • You simpleton, where are you going? What proof do you carry?
    • Your word suffices to me! I seek no further instrument, other than the Virgin Mary be the parchment, Christ the notary, and the Angels the witnesses!”.
      • There is a pious story coming from the nephew of one of the early brothers, who accompanied Francis back from Perugia to Assisi. They stopped to rest a while and, upon awakening, St. Francis said: “Brother Masseo,I tell you from God that the Indulgence that the Supreme Pontiff gave me is confirmed in heaven!
  • Here Francis stood by the entrance after returning from Perugia and, stretching his fatherly arms, said to all:

“I want to send you all to heaven!

I announce to you an Indulgence

which I obtained from the mouth of the Supreme Pontiff…”

St. Francis at the Portiuncola, 1226
  • Here Francis implored his Guardian and his brothers to take him to die. 
    • “No, no! To Our Lady of the Angels! – Francis begged – I want to die where I began!” (from “The Perfect Joy of St. Francis”, by Timmermans)
  • Here that he dictated his wondrous Testament: https://ofm.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Testament.pdf
  • Finally, here he died, naked on the floor (ref. Job 1:21), a broken, small 43-year-old man, marked with the Stigmata of the Lord he so loved, surrounded by his brothers who so loved him, under the loud warbling of hundreds of larks soaring heavenward…St. Francis of Assisi, whom Holy Church would call the Seraphic Father, the Alter Christus, but who, in his letters, introduced himself as little brother Francis….the little one….your servant…a worthless and weak man.

On the Great Pardon, or the Portiuncula Indulgence

One scholar wrote: 

“it seems incredible that a perpetual plenary indulgence with no attached condition of almsgiving or personal sacrifice should have been granted in favor of an obscure chapel in Umbria. Yet we have six sworn statements of contemporaries, regulations of the General Chapters of the Order, and 53 pontifical acts of the XIVth century either confirming it or defending it”.  

The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Jan., 1939), p. 466

This is just as St. Francis had told Pope Honorius: “If it is the work of God, He will make it manifest” – and this He has done – through His Church – through the centuries!

Of this plenary indulgence can benefit the faithful – for themselves or for a deceased as suffrage

(a) either by directly visiting Santa Maria degli Angeli and the Porziuncola shrine it contains (in Assisi)

or (b) by visiting, within the US (to our understanding) a minor basilica, a cathedral, or a parish church.

The conditions, to our understanding, are as follows:

  • Receive absolution in sacramental Confession
    • (in the time period including the 8 days before and the 8 days after the visit of the church)
  • Attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion within the same time period
    • (although it is convenient that this occur on the day the work is performed)
(CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • Visit the church
    • …where they will renew the profession of faith through the recitation of the Credo (which, to our understanding, can be either the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed…).
    • …and they will recite a Pater (Our Father) to reaffirm their dignity as children of God received in Baptism
    • …and they will pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff, condition which is satisfied by reciting one Pater and one Ave, although one may also recite any other prayer if recited for this intention. This would also be fittingly performed on the same day.

On Indulgences in general, and Plenary Indulgences in particular – or, how to gain one

To benefit from an indulgence, the person must be baptized, must not be excommunicated, and hopefully in the state of grace. Furthermore, one must have the general intention of gaining the indulgence, and of course carry out the works mentioned above.

Most importantly, however, for the indulgence to be plenary and not partial, it requires the exclusion of all attachment to sin, even venial sin

This has been historically considered the most complex of the conditions: no man, however holy, can call himself free of sin, but many can honestly call themselves free of affection towards sin, to the best of their knowledge!

In 2004, the Apostolic Penitentiary used the following language:

…as long as they are totally free from any desire to relapse into sin…

https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/tribunals/apost_penit/documents/rc_trib_appen_doc_20041225_miraculorum-maximum_en.html

On SpiritualDirection.com (an apostolate of the Avila Institute by our kind friend Dan Burke) , Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC writes (we paraphrase!):

“The requirement is not “freedom from all sin“, rather, that “there is no sin which the soul is unwilling to renounce”.

A person should know if he’s in compliance, because an attachment implies a refusal to fix a situation – as when sometimes, deep down, we don’t want to let go of certain sins, even if “small”.

This is quite different from weakness, or habitual sin that is being battled…to souls in these situations, the Church is ready to aid!”

Confession, Reparation…and Indulgences – or, how they are closely related!

Pray to the good Lord to take away any desire, albeit small or hidden, for sins both grave and venial, and go as far as to bring forth in your heart a salutary hatred of sin, remembering that God is all-good and all-loving and that even the smallest sin displeases him. 

After all, what is an indulgence if not but a “continuation” of the Sacrament of Penance? That is to say, “a remission before God of temporal punishment for sins whose guilt is already forgiven”? 

We know that the matter of sacramental Confession is the acts of the penitent: contrition, confession and satisfaction.

say NO to sin!

We should strive to a perfect contrition (CCC 1452) and perfect contrition builds more and more on detachment from sin, first from the “great” sins and then from the “small” ones! A devout soul, then, should not find much difficulty in complying with the requirement to be detached from all sin. The rest of us should simply keep working our way there, knowing that it is entirely up to us to not want to sin, while it is entirely a gift of God to bless us with the grace needed to overcome sin. “Without me – says the Lord – you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5), but He also says, “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48), and later, to St. Paul, “my grace is enough for you” (2Cor 12:9).

In the form of the Sacrament, “I absolve you, assuming the penitent did not put any obstacles, such as willfully lying or withholding, or later failing to do any satisfaction, but rather that the penitent had a sincere sorrow for their sins and a firm resolution to avoid them in the future, all their sins from the very moment of Baptism (or from their last Absolution) till that moment are forgiven and remitted through the power of the Keys – even sins that you may have forgotten to mention!

The pains of Purgatory in a painting by Fontebasso

Yet, such forgiveness and remission of sin does not imply the forgiveness of the temporal punishment due to every sin.

Sin carries both a stain and a punishment. When the stain is cleansed from the soul by sacramental absolution, the temporal punishment is not always remitted, except through the remedy of satisfaction, by avoiding near occasions of sin, resolving to sin no more, and doing works of penance. Such satisfaction also atones to our Mother the Church, whom we often forget is injured by our sins, and it also deters others from sin by way of example.

Last but not least, temporal punishment is the reason for Purgatory…the ecclesia dolens… Someone reported that St. Padre Pio once said: “let us do our Purgatory here on earthby accepting everything from God’s hand“. (ref. Job 1:21…again…)

Interiorly, satisfaction heals the wound caused by sin. St. Bernard taught that “the stain is removed from the soul by God’s mercy, while the wound is healed through the remedy of penance…and even then, some scar remains”.

In this we see the great love and care of Holy Mother Church, Bride of Christ and as such minister of Redemption, custodian of that great treasury of expiatory works of Christ and the Saints! By granting an Indulgence, our Mother the Church is coming to our help in ridding us of the temporal punishment we have accumulated by our sins – or, when we apply the indulgence to a faithful departed, to help us help one another!

St. John Paul II summarized this wonderfully in 1999:

“[indulgence] is a sensitive subject, which has suffered historical misunderstandings […]

The starting-point for understanding indulgences is the abundance of God’s mercy revealed in the Cross of Christ. The crucified Jesus is the great “indulgence” that the Father has offered humanity through the forgiveness of sins […]   in the logic of the covenant, which is the heart of the whole economy of salvation, this gift does not reach us without our acceptance and response. […] 

[I]t is not difficult to understand how reconciliation with God, although based on a free and abundant offer of mercy, at the same time implies an arduous process which involves the individual’s personal effort and the Church’s sacramental work.

For the forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism, this process is centered on the sacrament of Penance, but it continues after the sacramental celebration. The person must be gradually “healed” of the negative effects which sin has caused in him (what the theological tradition calls the “punishments” […] Precisely for the sake of complete healing, the sinner is called to undertake a journey of conversion towards the fullness of love.

The temporal punishment itself serves as “medicine” to the extent that the person allows it to challenge him to undertake his own profound conversion. This is the meaning of the “satisfaction” required in the sacrament of Penance.

The meaning of indulgences must be seen against this background of man’s total renewal by the grace of Christ the Redeemer through the Church’s ministry.

The Church has a treasury, then, which is “dispensed” as it were through indulgences. This “distribution” should not be understood as a sort of automatic transfer, as if we were speaking of “things”. It is instead the expression of the Church’s full confidence of being heard by the Father when – in view of Christ’s merits and, by his gift, those of Our Lady and the saints – she asks Him to mitigate or cancel the painful aspect of punishment by fostering its medicinal aspect through other channels of grace. In the unfathomable mystery of divine wisdom, this gift of intercession can also benefit the faithful departed […]

We can see, then, how indulgences, far from being a sort of “discount” on the duty of conversion, are instead an aid to its prompt, generous and radical fulfilment. This is required to such an extent that the spiritual condition for receiving a plenary indulgence is the exclusion “of all attachment to sin, even venial sin” […]

Therefore, it would be a mistake to think that we can receive this gift by simply performing certain outward acts. On the contrary, they are required as the expression and support of our progress in conversion. They particularly show our faith in God’s mercy and in the marvellous reality of communion, which Christ has achieved by indissolubly uniting the Church to himself as his Body and Bride.”

St. John Paul II, PP – General Audience – 29 Sep 1999
“Virgo Ecclesia Facta” – the Church is our loving Mother

My Sins and The Nails that Pierced Christ


Holy Week is an invitation by Christ and the Church to meditate not only on the suffering of Christ on the cross, but especially on the cause of Christ’s Passion.  For centuries, we Christians have proclaimed that Christ died on the cross to redeem us.  But very rarely do we say It is my sins that led Christ to be executed by the cruelest form of capital punishment of the time.

Today we hear many sermons and read many spiritual books on God’s love for us and our obligation to love God and others.  These points are true.  However, we rarely hear Your sins contributed to the cruel passion of Christ.  It has become unfashionable to speak to people directly about personal sin.  The excuse that we most frequently hear is It is not for me to judge.  It is true that it is not for us to judge the state of another person’s soul.  But we certainly have a duty to reflect on the state of our soul.  

It is not enough to say I have always been a good person, or I have always tried to do the best that I could in any given situation.  These statements are like the clouds that block the light of the sun from reaching us on a dreary day.  I am a good person is often cloud cover.

When mediating on the suffering of Christ and His Blessed Mother we must ask ourselves some very important questions, such as:

  1. Do I tell myself that God is a loving god who, in the end, will pardon my sins and welcome me to heaven?

That is presuming God’s mercy while not considering his justice.  The mercy of God is an absolute truth. So is His justice.  We must pay for our sins.  Otherwise, we are guilty of the sin of presumption.

  1. Have I ever believed myself or my community to be superior to others?

Looking down at others is a sin of arrogance.  It may be true that I live a more virtuous life than the person next door.  But we can only see external acts, we do not see what God sees.  He sees the whole person.  He does not measure a person’s value by their race, culture, achievements, sexual orientation, parentage, or religion.  God knows about all these things and what He blesses and what He condemns.  However, Christ tells us, “do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matt 7:1).

  1. Do I truly believe doctrine and moral law that the Church teaches, or do I create my own doctrine and my own moral law?  

Maybe I question the Church’s teaching on same sex marriage, abortion, birth control, marriage of divorcees, sex outside of marriage celibacy. 

Maybe I believe that Christ is in the host, but not that the host is the real body and blood of Christ.  However, the host is not an outer shell within which hides the Lord Jesus Christ…the consecrate host is the Lord Jesus Christ.  Christ makes this very clear when He told his followers, Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life . . . “(Jn 6:54).

  1. Do I look down on non-Catholics or maybe I do not ever think about non-Catholics?

Catholics are often indifferent to other religions, believe that all religions are the same, or are hostile toward non-Catholics.  When we are indifferent about the existence of other religions, we are indifferent about our own Catholic religion.  We fail to see the need to bring others into the fulness of the Gospel which subsists only in the Catholic Church. 

To subscribe to the idea that all religions are the same is as intelligent as believing that all cultures are the same.  They are not the same.  Other religions have some beliefs that are the same as Catholic beliefs, and some beliefs that are completely mistaken because they ignore or distort Truth. 

Hostility toward people of other faiths contradicts what Jesus has taught us.

Jesus was asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” “

Do this and you will live.” (Lk 10:25-28)

I must never stay silent in the face of error for the sake of political correctness.  To do so is to give consent to the error.  But I must never consider myself above others.  Truth comes from Christ, not from man.

If I consider myself above non-Catholics, then I am as wrong as they are.  Because my Catholic faith is not of my creation, but a gift from God.  I must share this gift whenever the situation presents itself, with respect and kindness.  Never with aggression or condescension. 

In conclusion, let us not think only those sins which are observable: adultery, impurity, injustice, slander, rudeness, vulgarity, passing up an opportunity to practice charity…  We are guilty of many sins that are not easily observable and which we believe can be swept under the rugs.  Yet, no sin in hidden from the sight of God. The nails that pierced the hands and feet of Christ are my sins along with those of others.

REMEMBER THAT UNTO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN


Today we are seeing people dying in the hundred thousand from COVID-19.  Just as we are celebrating that vaccines are created by several pharmaceutical companies, along come variations and mutations of the original virus. There are still areas in the United States and countries with fewer resources where the vaccine has not reached and there is no set date for its arrival.

In the United States millions of people are living in arctic conditions, thousands without electricity.  No electricity means no heating.  Already, people have died from complications caused by frigid temperatures.  People are leaving their homes to shelter in facilities that have electricity, such as enclosed stadiums.  Let us not forget the thousands of people who are stranded in airports because the weather has caused more than 3,000 flight cancellations and hundreds of delays.  Driving home is not always possible.  The safest place to protect oneself and one’s family is the airport.

Around the world, people die from hunger, violence, wars, and natural disasters.  The point is that we are probably more aware of death today than we were twenty years ago.  Death is knocking at doors that are too close to home for comfort.

Ash Wednesday, being the first day of Lent in the Christian world, calls us to forty days of reflection and sacrifice.  The number 40 is not random.  We remember Noah in the ark for 40 days, Jewish slaves fleeing Egypt through the desert for 40 years. Christ retreated into the desert for 40 days. Finally, the risen Lord remained 40 days with His apostles before His Ascension.  Forty were periods of suffering, atonement, penance, and the journey to glory.

With the number of deaths around us, the Church invites us to remember that Christ carried the cross up Mount Calvary.  On the pinnacle of Mount Calvary, He died and redeemed all of humanity.  Redemption is not to be mistaken with forgiveness.  Redemption is a moment in time that makes forgiveness possible for all who are willing to carry the cross.

For some people, the cross may be living through COVID-19 patiently, trusting that God will do what is best for our salvation.  It is a time of suffering and an opportunity to place our trust in God.

The Arctic conditions that millions of people are experiencing, perhaps without electricity to heat their homes, can be offered as a cross that, if carried with faith in God and charity toward our neighbor, can be the best Lenten sacrifice.  If one does not suffer from COVID-19 or Arctic weather, we can remember to make a daily sacrifice for the benefit of those who are suffering and remember them in our daily prayer.

Lent is a time for conversion, change.  We carry our crosses with patience and trust that God knows what is best for us.  In times of crisis, we reach out to our neighbor to offer our help or to ask for help.  Sometimes, asking for help is more difficult than helping.

Why do we take up our cross during these 40 days?  At the end of his life, Christ died for all men.  Three days later he rose from the dead no more to die. “He who wishes to be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me.”  Christ does not invite us to carry our cross for the sake of imitation.  He invites us to carry our cross so that we may never forget that we are not omnipotent and will leave this world on a given day and time.  Those who have carried their cross with the same love as Christ, will also rise to eternal life in Paradise.

“Was crucified, died, and was buried…On the third day, He rose again. “

The Case for the Mask – on God’s Care for our Health


The Christmas season is upon us, and I find myself with a few days of “vacation” allowing me to reflect on a number of issues I ordinarily entrust entirely to the Divine Providence. Br. Jay always teaches us, “do not get upset at things you cannot control, focus on preserving interior peace at all times”. Yet these days I have meditated upon some such matters – matters “great, too difficult for me”, if only to remind myself that I am not – and should not – be in control.

During this process, which also involved some online reading, I stumbled upon an article trying to make a case against wearing masks in times of Covid through the arguments of faith and philosophy. I have heard and overheard many arguments for or against masks over the past year, but never had I seen such a bold attempt, and I was moved to address it here. Life calls out to life, and I feel urged to speak in defense of it, inasmuch as I am keenly aware that not wearing masks (among many other precautions) directly increases the spread of this deadly virus.

The article, when read according to the light of the Catholic faith and not someone’s political agenda, actually helps those who strive to be good Christians to understand a few important things, in spite of its flawed conclusions. There are a few key points I wish to quote and go over, not for argumentation but merely for the sake of reflection.

 

(0) “There is not a consensus among doctors and scientists, at the end of 2020, about the infectious nature of [Covid-19] or the efficacy of wearing masks.”

In other words, there is debate about how helpful it is, due to the question of how exactly does the virus work. However, there is no debate as to the fact that masks help. It is a basic tenet of the Faith that people should clearly do what they can to help others, even when it is burdensome to themselves. The crown of thorns was much more burdensome to wear.

 

(1) “It is wholly un-Christian to consider any other human person first as a threat to oneself. Man is called to love his neighbor and to be in communion with him.”

When we encounter our brothers and sisters, we should not consider them a danger to us. Our attitude should be one of love and communion.

Furthermore, we are not called to be apprehensive when we see another human being – unless there is an overt threat to our safety. We are not considering the person to be a threat – the threat is there, invisible, and it is the threat that we single out as a danger, not the person. This is not unlike an early Christian who may have felt fear when seeing an approaching Roman soldier – not so much in his person but in the potential threat of persecution and death. And do not reply that “perfect charity casteth out fear“, for the Good Lord himself “began to fear and to be heavy” at the prospect of His Passion, so much so that he sweat blood, yet He remained firm in the Father’s will, teaching us that it is natural to fear danger, and there is supernatural merit in facing it with God’s help.

 

(2) “Charity is any action we do for God or do for others for the sake of God. If we do not act for the sake of God, the action, while good, is not charity. Is charity actually the reason why many wear masks?

When encountering our brothers and sisters, a loving attitude of communion is reflected when we think that perhaps I may be a carrier unbeknownst to all – even me – and wearing a face mask lowers the risk that my coughing or sneezing or even just talking would expose my neighbor to a potentially deadly disease. My wearing a mask says to my neighbor ” I love you, therefore I am doing something to care for you“. It is both a physical and a spiritual act of charity – physical inasmuch as it aims to protect my neighbor’s health, spiritual inasmuch as I am acting out of love of God and neighbor. I am certainly grateful when a surgeon wears gloves, so let us be grateful when we see each other wearing a face mask.

 

(3) “Masks indirectly promote thinking of others in terms of oneself. ‘You are not wearing a mask; you are a danger to me. You are making me feel uncomfortable by failing to wear a mask.’

Yet a good Christian does indeed focus on himself rather than others, inasmuch as he is called to a personal obedience of God’s will. I must not focus on whether the other is not wearing a mask, but on whether I am. For it is my duty to help, nay, even to lay down my very life for my neighbor. Let us not forget that just yesterday we commemorated St. Stephen, whose last words were to the Father regarding his unjust oppressors, who were killing him: “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge!” In spite of the “discomfort” that they made him feel, the Protomartyr acted towards them in faith and love.

Does our neighbor’s failure to act on wearing the mask make us feel uncomfortable? I would say that all manners of sin (should) make us feel uncomfortable, whether the sin is an objective reality or a mere subjective understanding of our mind. We see this very clearly in the many occasions when men are scandalized by the actions of the Lord or the Apostles, whom they thought were contravening the Law, and never does the Lord or the Apostles rebuke them, but always do they instruct them to an objective and orthodox understanding of things. Sin is only that which offends the Divine Will, not the will of men. When I see my neighbor failing to wear a mask, and I am stirred to discomfort in what appears to be sin (considering that this act of omission exposes others to potential dangers and also scandalously manifests one’s potential lack of care and concern for neighbor) I must first and foremost be reminded of the Lord who once said: “Do not judge! Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly”… My attitude must also be devoid of all pride: just because I happen to be wearing a mask while others fail to do so (or advocate against it), I must not imitate the proud man who says “O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men”, but rather I must obey the Divine Precept that commands us, “when you shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say: We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do.”

 

(4) “Physical health is neither the primary nor the sole determinant of a man’s actions. There are more important realities than bodily health, especially spiritual health.”

Yet it is written, “The light of thy body is thy eye”, and also, “know you not, that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own?”. The preservation of physical health is part of the Lord’s Holy Will, as he said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”. It is not above the spiritual health, it is wholly part of spiritual health.

Hence, Christ on the Sabbath allowed His Apostles to contravene the law and pick grains, for they hungered, and the Divine Teacher manifested that in the eyes of God, such an act was fully lawful, as it was already manifested in the days of King David.

The Incarnate Word once rebuked Satan’s temptation by declaring that “Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.” Yet after He Himself having spoken to the people, He said to the Apostles, “I have compassion on the multitudes, because they continue with me now three days, and have not what to eat, and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.” And lo, He went and performed the astounding sign that is the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes.

Let us not forget other equally wholesome examples such as the Passover Meal, the provision of Manna in the desert, the splitting of the rock to provide water, and many other ways in which God’s Divine Providence has time and again tended to the care of our physical health.

Therefore, a man’s duty to preserve physical health becomes wholly aligned with the Lord’s will when done out of love of God and neighbor and out of reverence for deeper, invisible spiritual realities inherent to man being both flesh and spirit by the Divine Will.

If you are not fully convinced of this argument, consider that consuming wine at a wedding is not a health nor a nutritional necessity, yet the good Lord deigns to provide wine at Cana in a miraculous way, thus meeting a much simpler need – yet we know that there was a profound spiritual significance to His action.

Let us also remember that we do not need to see, hear, or walk in order to go to Heaven – yet, time and again the Lord has mercifully healed such merely physical needs, and the Blessed Virgin herself deigned – and still deigns – to intercede for the healing of many at the miraculous spring of Lourdes.

Holy Church herself was gifted by Christ with a Sacrament specifically intended to heal the physical health: “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well”. Clearly, there is a deep relationship between physical and spiritual health. “For which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or ‘Arise and walk’?”

 

(5) “When one looks at the body, to the exclusion of the face, one encounters an object, a thing, rather than a person. Objects are meant to be used; that is, to be used as a means to an end. Persons are primarily subjects to be known and loved.”

We must always encounter and commune with our brothers and sisters in the way God intended us to: as our brothers, human beings with a body and

a soul. Different cultures and standards lead to wearing more – or less – articles of clothing, and it has been one of the sharpest thorns of modern secular culture to promote objectification by means of the removal of clothing, whereby most contradictorily to the original tenet, it is the lack of coverage and not its presence, which leads to objectification. When we encounter a fellow human being, whether he or she wears a mask or not, whether he or she wears something that makes us feel uncomfortable or not, we always approach them with the same love that Christ modeled for us. Why, I have no doubt that on his first encounters with the Touareg – their face fully covered by the tagelmust and their voice absent or altogether incomprehensible – Blessed Charles de Foucauld still managed to commune with them in the love of Christ, so much so that he became known to them as “the Christian Marabout” (“holy man”).

 

 

(6) “Man communicates most profoundly with his face—with words, looks, facial expressions. [The mask] muffles the human voice; it hides the human smile; it obscures the deeply human facial expressions which are integral to forming human friendships.”

The Holy Father with Mr. Oreste Tornani

Yet the Seraphic Doctor recounts in his Vita Maior [p.1 c.1] that one day St. Francis met a leper and “felt sick at the sight of him”. Given this sharp description and the knowledge most of us have of the terrible progression of Hansen’s disease, it is fairly possible that the leper no longer had what we commonly describe as a face, or at least was unable to produce facial expressions beyond terrible distress. Yet Bonaventure recalls that Saint Francis “remembered his resolve to be perfect and the need to overcome himself first”, and proceeded to show brotherly love to the sick man.

This story, as do many others – I am reminded of the entire life of St. Damien of Molokai – show that the burden is on us to perceive, understand, and treat our neighbor with love, rather than blaming them – or their lack of facial expressions or voice – for “obstructing the development of genuine community“, as that article does (perhaps inadvertently).

The Holy Father with Mr. Vinicio Riva.

Let us strive in these difficult times to show ourselves ever more empathetic and comprehensive towards one another when we do not have the luxury of being able to expose our face without risk to our health – an experience quite common in places of extreme heat or cold, or in general in the field of healthcare.

 

 

In conclusion, let us cast aside – if only for a moment – all manner of ecclesial or secular politicking, and be reminded that it is but a small act of love to wear a face mask and keep a 6 ft distance from our neighbors during times of pandemic. It is on us to embrace these measures out of love of God and neighbor and to strive to show even more love and care than under usual circumstances to our brothers and sisters who – no doubt about it – live in a world that is making of fear one of its primary movers.

Please forgive any imprecisions in my writing – these are merely my thoughts – and please pray for the end of this health crisis through the special intercession of St. Joseph most obedient, terror of demons, patron of the Church,  mirror of patience. By the will of the Holy Father, we are now in his year, so let us reach out to him, now more than ever!

Br. Bernardo D’Carmine, a sinner.

St. Joseph, Pray For Us

 

Light In The Darkness


My mother always said, “Darkness can never conquer light.”  Looking at the world today things look dark if we don’t seek out the light.

Covid-19 has done more than making some people sick and kill others.  It has thrown families into crisis.  Some mourn a loved one.  Others wonder about an elderly relative in a nursing home where visitors are not allowed.  Spouses spend hours sitting, praying, and wondering if their partner is ever coming off the ventilator.  Patients struggle to breathe.  Their bodies ache.  They have lost all sense of taste and even of smell.  The endless coughing does not allow them a peaceful night’s sleep.

We must also consider how this virus has impacted the lives of healthcare professionals. They do not lose their humanity.  Many have loved ones, including spouses, parents, children.  Upon entering nursing school or medical school, they never dreamed that their lives would be on the line.  Those things happened to people in the armed forces, not to healthcare professionals.  

Long days on your feet were to be expected, but caring for more than ten patients was not a common occurrence among nurses.  There was little fear of taking home a virus that could literally kill one of your children or elderly loved ones. As the number of nurses, doctors, medical technicians, and others contracted the virus, the workload became heavier.  Instead of 12-hour shifts, some people were putting in 18-hour shifts.  Yet, these people have spouses, children, parents, and even pets at home, waiting for them.   

When your loved one is a patient in a hospital, a resident in a lockdown nursing home, a nurse, physician, or technicians, one doesn’t always enjoy a good night’s rest, wondering, worrying.

Also, the loss of income to many workers has stretched their resources beyond their means.  When businesses are locked down, real people are home paying bills and buying groceries, with no idea when they will go back to work and bring home a paycheck.   People who have worked hard all their lives to open a small retail store are now paying bills with no income.

Then there is also violence, looting, and confrontations on our streets.  This has been one of the most active hurricane seasons in decades.  Wildfires have left thousands of people homeless.  Terrorism and military posturing have not taken vacations.

People wonder: “where is God in all of this?  If God is so loving and merciful, why are so many people suffering?  Does prayer really produce results?”  Some are angry at God.  They feel abandoned.

Given the picture of the world today, it is very natural to question one’s faith.  God does not get angry because we doubt, or because we are angry at Him.

We find answers to our questions of faith when we reflect on the lives of men and women of faith such as: Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe who died in a concentration camp to save the life a family man; Saint Teresa of Calcutta who left home at the age of 18 to become a missionary in one of the poorest countries in the world. 

Then there are spouses and parents such as Saint Gianna Beretta Molla who chose to give her life rather than abort her preborn child.  She delivered this child and died shortly after. 

Speaking of people with strong faith, I can never forget what the Blessed Mother said to Saint Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, as she lay, dying of very painful bone disease, at the age of 35: 

I cannot promise you happiness in this life, only in the next.

Christ never promised us that life in this world was going to be painless.  As we enter the Christmas Season, we must meditate on the fact that the Son of God was born with a price on His head.  Herod was looking to kill the little boy.  His parents had to flee with Him into Egypt.  Despite the threat of infanticide and later execution on a cross, God chose to be born into a world that offered Him no exemption from suffering and loss.

God chose to be born into a world filled with suffering and loss of many kinds.  He navigated through this world always remembering that nothing is impossible for the Father.  Let us never forget that God brought light into the world at a stable in Bethlehem and later at the resurrection from the dead. 

Christmas is a commemoration of the time when God broke into the darkness of humanity to bring the light of faith, hope and charity.  It is also a time of anticipation.  Christ promised that He would return to judge the living and the dead.  He will return to shed light on our sins and our acts of love.

Christ said the greatest act of love man can do is to lay down his life for his neighbor.

The chaos, fear, conflicts, and confusion that we’re experiencing can be moments of light if we reach out to those who suffer.  We don’t have to give them anything. The shepherds who went to the manger to see the divine infant didn’t come bearing gifts.  They were poor themselves.  But they brought the greatest gift of all: support, love, and companionship to a young family in trouble.

Beware of Interior Demons


When will it be enough?  To protest injustice is the obligation of all just men and women.  There is a moment when protest can lose its sense of reason.  We become irrational and do things that we would not normally condone. 

Examples of this demise in reason become obvious when those who begin a protest for a just cause raise it a few notches where they are destroying private property of people who need said property to support their families. 

When people are injured, even killed, a protest ceases to be a protest and turns into chaos.  Often, innocent children are the victims, as are those who have no guns and panic to find shelter. 

Taking a life does not restore the life of a victim.  When protest evolves into destruction, we must understand that we have crossed a moral threshold that should never be crossed. Killing in defense of the self, family and other innocent people is a proportionate response to a threat.  However, killing out of anger and destroying private property is uncontrolled rage.   

Rage does not see the difference between righteous anger and violence.  The Apostle St. Paul warned us about this almost 2,000 years ago:

Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27) 

Anger such as that fails to think first, before acting.  We allow ourselves to lose control.  We lose our ability to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, anger and rage.  We lose a piece of our humanity: the ability to discriminate between right and wrong and to choose that which is right.  The Apostle St. Peter warned us about this more than 2,000 years ago:

“Beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability” (2 Peter 3:17b)

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice,” (1 Peter 4:31) 

Our expression of anger must always be justified by absolute moral rules that dictate what is right and guide us away from what is wrong.  Let us be careful not to become the demon we are trying to slay.   

God’s Justice and Mercy Are Within Our Reach


At the end of the Roman Empire, Romans blamed Christians for the fall of the Roman State.  Saint Augustine’s response was true then and is still true today.  The pagan gods did not save Rome because they were nothing more than statues and myths.  If Roman and Greek literature were to be believed, the gods loved themselves, not each other…and much less humanity.

But Augustine also taught a great truth: our God is merciful and just.  The difficulties that men experience are the product of Original Sin.  It is just that man should make reparation for the sins of our first parents and our own that followed.  However, God’s merciful arm is longer than His arm of justice.  While He allows Mankind to experience suffering, He is also present to save us from tragedy, if it’s good for our salvation and that of others.  He gives us an opportunity to offer our sufferings in reparation for our sins.  It is not God’s wish that any of us be lost.  Those souls who lose Heaven do so because they did not take advantage of the opportunity to reconcile with Christ by offering up their sufferings.

But God does not only allow suffering consequently for sin.  Suffering is also a great opportunity for us to engage in the corporal works of mercy.

  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matt 25:34-36).

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of these, the least of my brothers, you did it for me…as long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ (Matt: 25:40,45).

 

Today it seems as if the world is falling apart.  There are wildfires, floods, hurricanes, blizzards, melting ice caps, crime, wars, and now a virus that could kill us without warning.  In justice. God allows these things as a consequence for our sins:  greed, bigotry, lying, pride, pornography, sex for recreation not for love, adultery, child abuse, neglect of the older members of society, wanting for more than we need, while others do not have satisfaction for their basic necessities, and there is much more that we can add to this list; but I believe that this gives us something to think about.

Saint Francis of Assisi became one of the best known and beloved saints because of his poverty.  But poverty was detachment from anything and everyone that led him away from God, including his father.  Francis fell in love with the Crucified Christ.  He wanted to share in Christ’s sufferings for two reasons.

First: he felt remorse for his sinfulness.  He could see how his sins contributed to the suffering of Christ on the cross.  His entire life was dedicated to making reparation by doing simple things such as fasting and abstinence – and extraordinary things, such as throwing himself naked into snow and later thorny bush when he felt tempted to sin against purity.

          Second: Francis saw Christ crucified in those who suffered leprosy, poverty, injustice, hunger, abuse of any kind.  When one of these sinful events took place within his reach, he protected the suffering, corrected the offender, and counseled those who were on the wrong path.

Francis never saw natural or human disasters as something to be wished for, or to be cursed.  He certainly did not wish for the atrocities committed against Christians in the Holy Land.  He set out to convert the sultan and offer his life in martyrdom.  He was unsuccessful in both.  The sultan grew to respect him and admire him, but Francis did not convert him, nor did the sultan execute Francis for being a Christian intruder.  He admired his courage and his faith – even though he believed that Francis was in error.  But the sultan learned a great lesson in love.  Francis arrived with a few friars, not with a company of Crusaders.  He was there to speak the truth, not for revenge or hatred of Islam.  He pointed out the errors of Islam to the sultan and his court, without intimidation and without argumentation.

         Leprosy was out of control during the Middle Ages, as COVID-19 is today.  St. Francis referred to the lepers as his “Christian brothers”.  He did whatever he could to make them more comfortable and to remind them that they were human, therefore part of humanity and worthy of love.  Francis exposed himself to leprosy, in part because he didn’t know any other way to care for the lepers than to bathe and feed them.  But he also remembered what Scripture said, “[Jesus Christ] laid down his life for us. And likewise we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1John 3:16).

There are many ways of offering one’s life for one’s brother.  We don’t have to walk into a minefield to do so.  Every cross that we must bear can be offered for those who suffer as much as – or more than – we do.  In doing so, with faith and without complaining, we earn grace toward our salvation and that of others.

Tragedy can be an experience of God’s justice and an opportunity to ask for His mercy, which He wants to give more than we desire it.