Two little neighbor girls about the same age, one Christian and one Jewish, were constant companions. After one Easter holiday, the grandfather of the Christian girl asked her what her friend had received for Easter. The girl looked at her grandfather in surprise, and said, "But Grandpa, you should know that Becky is Jewish and she wouldn't get anything for Easter." Then she went on to explain patiently, "You see, I'm Easter and she's Passover. I'm Christmas and she's Hanukkah." Then with a big smile, she added, "but I'm really glad that both of us are Halloween." [Buddy Westbrook in Loyal Jones: The Preacher’s Joke Book (Little Rock, Arkansas: August House, 1989), p. 26.]
Websites of the week
1) Oscar Romero film in YouTube: Story of a modern martyr
William Hinson recalls the time when his children were younger and one child's pet died. Dr. Hinson says that he practiced "replacement therapy." When one pet died it was replaced by another pet. One time his youngest daughter Cathy's cat died. Together they went to find another pet. Cathy selected a tiny peekapoo puppy. When they got home Dr. Hinson agreed to build a doghouse for the new pet to live in. "The only kind of dog I knew very much about was a really big bird dog," he recalls, "so when I built the doghouse, I built a very large house." In fact the house was too large for the small dog. The size of the doghouse scared the little peekapoo puppy. No matter what they did the little dog would not go near the doghouse. In disgust, Dr. Hinson went inside, and sat down in the den while his daughter, Cathy, stood outside crying over her dad's impatience and the refusal of her puppy to cooperate. After a while, Cathy got down on her hands and knees and crawled into the doghouse herself. When she crawled into it something wonderful happened. That little puppy trotted right in beside her and stretched out on the doghouse floor. Before too long the dog was taking a nap. All the shadows now stood still for him, and all the fear was taken out of the darkness, because the one whom he loved and trusted had preceded him into that dark and frightening place. It no longer caused him fear. [William H. Hinson. Triumphant Living in Turbulent Times (Nashville: Dimensions for Living, 1993), pp. 119-120.] There's a lesson here for us. We can surrender our wills to God's will, knowing that God loves us. Wherever He leads us, He will be with us. We don't have to enter dark doghouses alone. Saints trust in God and God alone. Saints submit their will to God's will.
2) “ :"
When Margaret Helminski was seven, she received a gift from her grandmother. It was a tiny cross on a wisp of gold chain, so fine its weight was barely perceptible. "Never forget what this cross means," her grandmother said as she fastened it carefully around Margaret's neck. Over the years, Margaret says, that cross became a part of her, like the lone freckle on her left cheek. She could look at herself in the mirror and not even see it.
As a graduate psychology student, Margaret took a job tutoring at a school for emotionally disturbed children. Suddenly surrounded by children who expressed their displeasure by kicking, biting, and screaming, she was terrified, though determined not to let it show. On her first night there, the head counselor said that three of the boys had asked to escort her to dinner. Alone! How would she handle it if all three decided to act out at once? She swallowed hard. She desperately needed this job so she fought back the panic and walked with her charges to the dining hall. They passed through the cafeteria line as tantrums and fights erupted around them. Fortunately none of her boys exhibited any kind of behavioral outburst. They made their way to a table in the center of the busy cafeteria and the boys took their seats. Margaret picked up her fork and was about to take the first bite when she noticed that all three boys were staring at her. "What's the matter?" she asked. Aren't you going to ask a blessing?" asked eight-year-old Peter. "I didn't think I was supposed to," she responded. "This is a state school, isn't it?" "Yes," said David, his blue eyes brimming, "but you wear a cross." Her grandmother's words surged to the surface of her memory. "Never forget what this cross means," her grandmother said. "We thought that meant something," said Roman, clearly disappointed. "It does. Thank you for reminding me," Margaret said, as she bowed her head, no longer afraid. [Catholic Digest (Feb. 92), p. 64] Margaret learned something about sainthood that day. Saints trust in God and God alone for their ultimate security. Saints submit their will to the will of God. Saints stand firm and witness to their faith.
Francis of Assisi bears the title of Saint but according to Mark Galli, in an article in Christianity Today, Francis wasn't always a nice guy to be around. For example, he had this thing about money: his friars were not to touch it. And he did not mean the "You can touch money but just don't let it grip your heart" stuff. One day a worshiper at the Church of Saint Mary of the Portiuncula, Francis's headquarters, left a coin as an offering at the base of the sanctuary cross. This was a common offering of gratitude to God in that day, but when one of Francis' friars saw the money, disturbed by its presence at the cross, or perhaps knowing Francis's revulsion of money he tossed it over to a window sill. When Francis learned the friar had touched money, he did not take the errant brother aside, explain his point of view, and then hug him so as to be sure there were no hard feelings. Instead, Francis rebuked and upbraided the brother. He then commanded him to lift the money from the window sill with his lips, find a pile of donkey dung outside, and with his lips place the coin in the pile. Was that nice? How could a saint be so nasty? Is he an exception to the larger guild of saints? Actually, when compared to the hundreds of stories of saints that can be culled from the Bible and Church history, Francis was merely fulfilling his job description. ["Saint Nasty," Christianity Today (June 17, 1996), pp. 25-28.]
A traveler reported a sign on the wall of a restaurant in Wyoming, "If you find your steak tough, walk out quietly. This is no place for weaklings." Sainthood is not for weaklings! [John Bardsley. Quote is from Emphasis (Nov/Dec 1993), p. 21.] Felix Adler put it like this: "The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by. The saint is the man who walks through the dark paths of the world, himself a light. [Quoted in Daily Guideposts (1996).] Saints are people we look up to. They are people of integrity who will stand their ground regardless of the standard the world may set.
Though his name might not be well known today, in 1972 and 1973 Stan Smith was known throughout the world for being the best of the best in the world of tennis. But many of those who knew of his athletic prowess were unaware that Stan Smith was also a Christian, a gracious, friendly man, and a person of integrity. Stan Smith was good friends with another man of great character and integrity, Arthur Ashe. One year, Arthur and Stan were competing against one another in the World Champion of Tennis competition. The winner would gain instant fame and a great deal of money. The two men were well matched in skill, and the score was tied at match point. Arthur hit a very tricky drop shot that just barely cleared the net. To the crowd's amazement, Stan caught the shot and returned it in time, winning the game. But the umpires were not convinced that Stan had hit a legitimate shot. If the ball were "up," still in play, then Stan won the match. But if the ball had bounced twice before Stan reached it, then his hit was illegitimate, and Arthur won the match. The angle and nature of the shot made it almost impossible to see it clearly. Review of the videotape didn't provide a conclusive answer. Neither the umpire, nor Arthur Ashe had a clear view of the ball. According to the rules of tennis, the umpire asked Stan if the ball had been up when he hit it. He replied that it had been. Stan won. A minor controversy arose over this matter, and Arthur Ashe was asked many times why he had not contested the call in some way. Arthur answered, "If Stan says it was up, it was up." He believed in the integrity of his friend so much that he trusted his honesty in a close situation. [Bob Briner, Lambs Among Wolves (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), p.124-126.] As far as I know Stan Smith is not a candidate for sainthood. But he did bear one of the characteristics. His words and his actions were one. Sainthood is a lifestyle.
West Point Military Academy just up the Hudson River from New York City, has a beautiful campus. The style of architecture is military Gothic, the grounds are well-groomed and immaculate, and the views of the Hudson River valley can be breathtaking, especially during autumn, when the leaves are changing color. Among the most impressive aspects of the campus decoration are the monumental bronze statues of famous West Point graduates. All the great American generals are there, in one form or another: McArthur, Eisenhower, Grant... The statues are placed in conspicuous locations, and each hero is depicted in uniform, in a posture that expresses his greatness. They serve as a constant reminder to the young cadets that they are called to greatness, to self-sacrifice, to do worthwhile deeds of valor for the sake of their homeland. For us Catholic Christians, our heroes are not military or political. Rather, they are those who have done great deeds of valor for the sake of our eternal homeland: The Kingdom of Christ, the Church. They have not necessarily received exceptional natural talent from God, developing and using that talent energetically, responsibly, and courageously, as military and political heroes have. Rather, they are the ones who have let God tend the garden of their souls, as the First Reading puts it. They welcomed God's grace through the Sacraments, prayer, and obedience to God's will, as explained by the Church, and a well-formed conscience. And as a result, truly supernatural virtues took root, grew, and bore fruit in their lives. And this is why images of the saints abound in Catholic churches and homes, just as those bronze statues decorate West Point. Keeping the saints in mind, studying and contemplating their example, can give direction, hope, and energy to our lives, just as the statues of great generals do for the West Point Cadets. (E- Priest)
Julius Caesar, the founder of the Roman Empire, history's most expansive and longest-lasting Empire, was a selfish, dissipated, mediocre government bureaucrat until he was 40 years-old. At that time he was stationed in Spain. One day he was walking across the city center to his offices and he noticed a statue of Alexander the Great, the young Macedonian who had single-handedly conquered and ruled the entire Near East, from Greece to Turkey to Palestine to Egypt to Arabia to Afghanistan, all the way to India, before he was 33-years-old. For some reason, seeing the noble statue of that amazing man on that particular day made Julius Caesar think about what little he had done with his own life. And it was the beginning of his incomparable military and political career, one that helped forge the civilization we still enjoy. He needed an ideal to strive for, and he found it in Alexander that Great. As human beings, we all need an ideal to strive for; otherwise our lives stay mediocre. As Christians, following Christ is our ideal, and the saints are the ones who show us how to follow Christ. St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, began his remarkably fruitful spiritual journey while he was stuck in bed recovering from a second surgery following a cannonball wound. He had nothing to do but read, and the only books in the house were a biography of Christ and the Lives of the Saints. As he read, the thought came to him: "If St. Francis and St. Dominic did it, why can't I?" And thus was born one of the most influential saints who ever walked the earth. He discovered God's plan for him by studying the lives of the saints. We can do the same. (E- Priest).
St. Polycarp lived about 200 years after the Christian church was founded. Polycarp was Bishop of the Church at Smyrna (in present-day Turkey). Persecution broke out in Smyrna, and many Christians were fed to the wild beasts in the arena. The bloodthirsty crowd would not be satisfied until they had killed the leader of the Christian Church and sent a search party to find him. Polycarp was brought before the Roman authorities and told to curse Christ and he would be released. He replied, "Eighty-six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong: how then can I blaspheme my king who saved me?" The Roman officer replied, "Unless you change your mind, I will have you burnt alive." But Polycarp said, "You threaten a fire that burns for an hour, and after a while is quenched; for you are ignorant of the judgement to come and of everlasting punishment reserved for the ungodly. Do what you wish." It was as much a day of victory as it was a day of tragedy. Polycarp illustrated the power of knowing Jesus, intimately enough to follow Him into the flames. As Jesus said, "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?"
Here is a children’s story. The pastor was explaining the pictures of his Church’s stained glass windows to the third graders. The first stained window is really red, the next window is really blue, the next window is really green, and the next window is really yellow. The sun has come up in the south and wonderful light is coming through these four windows. The pastor says, “This first window with all the reds is dedicated to St. Matthew and it has a picture of St. Matthew on it. The second window with all the blues is dedicated to St. Mark and it has a picture of St. Mark, the second of our Gospels. The third window with all the greens is dedicated to St. Luke and has a picture of St. Luke on it. The fourth window with all the yellows is dedicated to St. John and has a picture of St. John in it. All the windows are so beautiful, especially with the sunlight shining through them.” And one of the little girls says, “Do you know what a saint is?” “Yes,” replied the pastor. “A saint is somebody that the light shines through.” Yes, the light of God shines through the lives of the saints. It is not your light that is shining; it is the light of God shining through your lives. The windows sparkle and inspire your lives. . (Rabbi Edward F. Markquart).
Their lives inspire you and lift you up to be better people. A saint doesn’t say, “I want you to be a Christian. I am going to try to subtly force you to be a Christian. I am going to drag you to Church today.” No. By the nature of their lives, these saints inspire you to be holy. Let me explain by means of a famous example from the lives of Dr. David Livingston and Henry Stanley. Dr. David Livingston was a famous missionary in Africa and he had been there in the heart of Africa and had disappeared into the jungles. Henry Stanley went on a search for Dr. Livingston after he had long disappeared. Henry Stanley, after a lengthy search, finally found Dr. Livingston and gave us a famous line from history. “Dr. Livingston, I presume?” The two men lived together for three months and sometime after that Henry Stanley wrote his memoirs and he said: “Dr. Livingston made me a Christian, and he didn’t even know he was doing it. He inspired me and didn’t even try to.” Saints inspire you to live a life of holiness. (Rabbi Edward F. Markquart).
A story is told of a traveling portrait painter who stopped in a small village hoping to get some business. The town drunk -- ragged, dirty and unshaved -- came along. He wanted his portrait done and the artist complied. He worked painstakingly for a long time, painting not what he saw but what he envisioned beneath that disheveled exterior. Finally, he presented the painting to his customer. "That's not me," he shouted. The artist gently laid his hand on the man's shoulder and replied, "But that's the man you could be." Today’s feast remind us that we all can become saints. St. Augustine asked: “ If he and she can, why can’t I?” (Al Carino).
St. Therese was a young, sickly Carmelite contemplative. She was the apple of her father's eye but when she obtained permission to enter the convent at the age of 15, he happily brought her there. As a contemplative, she did not do anything extraordinary. Like the rest, she followed the daily and ordinary routine of the monastery. But there was something special in her. She did the ordinary in an extraordinary way. How? By doing them out of a single motive -- love for God -- and whatever she did, she presented to her Beloved as little flower offerings. She called her way of doing little things out of love for God her "Little Way." She died of tuberculosis, September 30, 1897, at the age of 24. She was beatified April 29, 1923 and canonized a saint May 17, 1925, just 28 years after her death, by Pope Pius XI. In 1927 he named her co-patron of the missions with St. Francis Xavier. In 1998, Pope St. John Paul II added one more title, Doctor of the Church, and two years later made her patroness of the 2000 Jubilee Year celebrations, because of her writings on her "Little Way," that is, the doing of the ordinary in an extraordinary way. (Wikipedia). To be this kind of a saint, we do not have to do anything extraordinary. Rather, we just do ordinary things. But what is asked of us is to do these ordinary things in an extraordinary way -- for love of God. (Al Carino).
On Halloween we dress up and "pretend" to be someone or something other than ourselves. On Halloween we "pretend" to believe that the people jumping out at us and scaring us in the "haunted houses" we paid $25 to get into are monsters and zombies. On Halloween we happily "pretend" that the scariest stuff in life are those things that "go bump in the night." On Halloween we revel in "pretend" bumps instead of bumping into the terrifying realities of evil and cruelty that appear on any street, in any office, at any school, in broad daylight, on any given day - and that's just a rundown of the terrors of the last two weeks. The day after "All Hallows Eve" is known in the liturgical calendar as "All Saints Day." "All Saints" is a celebration and commemoration of those who were never about pretense, but who devoted their lives to expressing true faithfulness and genuine piety. The Church lives, not by the majesty of its beliefs but by the manifestation of its manifold witness through the magnificence of its "Communion of Saints." (Fr. Kayala).
St Jerome says in his writings that as a boy he and his friends used to play in the catacombs. Centuries after St Jerome, Roman boys still played in the catacombs. One day a group of boys was wandering through the maze of tunnels. Suddenly their only flashlight gave out. The boys were trapped in total darkness with no idea of the way out. They were on the verge of panic when one boy felt a smooth groove in the rock floor of the tunnel. It turned out to be a path that had been worn smooth by the feet of thousands of Christians in the days of the Roman persecutions. The boys followed in the footsteps of these saints of old and found their way out of the darkness into sunlight and safety.
(Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quote by Fr. Kayala).
Thomas Merton was one of the most influential American Catholic authors of the twentieth century. Shortly after he was converted to Catholicism in the late 1930s, Thomas Merton was walking down the streets of New York with a friend, Robert Lax. Lax was Jewish, and he asked Thomas what he wanted to be, now that he was Catholic. “I don’t know.” Merton replied, adding simply that he wanted to be a good Catholic. Lax stopped him in his tracks. “What you should say,” he told him, “is that you want to be a saint!” Merton was dumbfounded. “How do you expect me to be a saint?” Merton asked him. Lax said: “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you consent to let him do it? All you have is to desire it.” Thomas Merton knew his friend was right. (John Payappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Kayala).
15) God’s Noblest Creation –The Saints:
In the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, under the commanding mosaic of Christ in glory, are six pillars. Atop each is a statue of a Saint. There, side-by-side, are the figures of a queen (St. Elizabeth), a vagrant (St. Benedict Joseph Labre), a cook (St Zita), a doorman (St. Conrad), a Mystic (St Gemma), and a parish priest (St John Vianney). For some of them, the road to holiness was easy, for others very hard. Some saints had gifts of great natural talent; others seemed devoid of it. Some saints were fiery, others gentle. Some were gregarious, others loners. There are old saints (such as St. Anthony of the Desert, who lived to be 105) and young saints (such as Aloysius Gonzaga and Maria Goretti). There were brilliant saints (such as Thomas Aquinas) and dense saints (such as Joseph Cupertino). There were tough saints (such as Teresa of Avila) and emotional saints (such as Therese of Lisieux). There were innocent saints (such as Dominic Savio) and reformed sinners who became saints (such as Augustine). There are also saints who did not always agree with each other, such as Jerome and Augustine, who had a running battle of words for years. Nevertheless, the saints belong together. They all responded to God’s invitation to sainthood commemorated in today’s liturgy.
(Harold Buetow in God Still Speaks –Listen!; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
(Harold Buetow in God Still Speaks –Listen!; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
Six months before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967. Part of his “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” speech is the tale of the street sweeper. It is inspiration that regardless of what we do we should always aspire to be the best we can at what we do. It is the secret of living saintly lives as well. “If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music ... Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the host of Heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.” (Martin Luther King) L/17