From Leonard Piasta our Faith Formation Chairperson
Sixth Sunday of Easter
1 Peter 3:15-18 Christian suffering
In 1 Pt 3:15-18, Peter writes to the early Christian community that there will be suffering in their new Christian lifes. "If it should be God's will that you suffer, it is better to do so for good deeds than evil ones.The reason why Christ died for sins once for all, the just man for the sake of the unjust, was that he might lead you to God." (1 Pt 3:17-18) Peter tells the household slaves, "When a man can suffer injustice and endure hardship though his awareness of God's presence, this is the work of grace in him. If you do wrong and get beaten for it, what credit can you claim? But if you put up with suffering for doing what is right, this is acceptable in God's eyes." (1 Pt 2:19-20)
"I prefer to be accused unjustly, for then I have nothing to reproach myself with, and joyfully offer this to the Good Lord, then I humble myself at the thought that I am indeed capable of doing the thing of which I have been accused." (St.Theresa of Lisieux) "What was the life of Christ but a perpetual humiliation." (St. Vincent de Paul)
We as Catholics, like the early Christian community, also face suffering for what we believe in and how we are to live and love one another. It is a different type of suffering. We experience suffering by others though acts and words of gossip, lies, physical violence and mental pain, humiliation, injustice, predjudice, slander, a me first attitude, need for power over others and wanton consumerism.
"Anyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus can expect to be persecuted." (2 Tm 3:12)
In our suffering, let us pray for strength and courage and patience. "Blest are those persecuted for holiness' sake; the reign of God is theirs. Blest are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of slander against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is great in heaven."(Mt5:10-12)
"To sit at the right hand."
In the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed is found the phrase, "He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father." And in the baptismal Profession of Faith are the words, "...and is now seated at the right hand of the Father."
The following are the accounts of the Ascension event:
Mk16:19, "Then after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up to heaven and took his seat at God's right hand."
Lk24:51, "As he blessed, he left them, and was taken up to heaven."
AA1:9, "No sooner had he said this than he was lifted up before their eyes in a cloud which took him from their sight."
1Eph1:20-21, "He (the Father) showed in raising Christ from the dead and seating him at His right hand in heaven, high above every principality, power, virtue and domination, and every name that can be given in this age or in the age to come."
Sitting at one's right hand is found in Mk12:36 and Ps110:1, "The Lord said to my Lord; 'sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool.'." When at table or other affairs it was seen as a place of honor to be at one's right hand. To sit at the right hand of the royal throne showed great honor, esteem and respect to that person.
St. John Damascene (675-749) writes, "By 'the Father's right hand' we understand the glory and honor of divinity, where he who exists as Son of God before all ages, indeed as God, of one being with the Father, is seated bodily after he became incarnate and his flesh was glorified."
Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464) presents the importance of the Ascension of Jesus and his place next to his Father. "... thus Christ has ascended above every place and every time, since He is Truth Itself and does not sit, as it were, at the edge of the cosmos, but at the center."
The rosary is attributed to St. Dominic (1170-1221) and the Dominican Order as a means of praying for the laity. The monks in monasteries would chant throughout the week all 150 Psalms as part of their community prayer life. So for the laity in reciting the 150 Hail Mary, three rosaries, that would then match what the monks prayed. In 1569, St. Pius V (1504-1572) recommended the praying "of 150 angelic salutations...with the Lord's prayer at each decade...while meditating on the mysteries which recall the entire life of our Lord Jesus Christ." (United States Catholic Catechism for Adults p. 298) And in 1571 St. Pius V established the memorial celebration of "Our Lady of the Rosary" and celebrated on October 7.
During the time of Pius V, the rosary was recited with the Our Father, the Hail Mary and meditating on the mysteries of Christ's life; the Joyful Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries and the Glorious Mysteries. In 2002, St. John Paul II (1920-2005) in his Apostolic Letter "On the Most Holy Rosary" he added the Luminous Mysteries to the meditations of the rosary.
The name of this beaded instrument of prayer comes from the Latin word "rosarium" (rose garden). One of the titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Latin is "rosa mystica" (mystical rose). Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903) is called "The Rosary Pope." He taught that the rosary was a means to participate in the life of Mary and find the way to Christ. He also added to the Litany of Loretto another title of Mary "Queen of the Most Holy Rosary."
St. John XXIII (1881-1963) in 1962 asked for the rosary to be prayed in preparation of Vatican II.
St. Paul VI (1897-1978) in "For the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary" (1974) states, "The rosary takes its inspiration from the gospels to suggest the attitude with which the faithful should recite it." Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI presented that the meditations on the rosary presents all the important moments of salvation history. Fr. Romano Guardini (1885-1968) in his book "Rosary of Our Lady", "It is Mary on whom the rosary is centered in a focus ever new. This prayer means a lingering in the world of Mary, whose essence was Christ."
Fr. Patrick Peyton CSC (1909-1992) is called "The Rosary Priest." He began "The Family Rosary Crusade." His ministry was to help people know the Blessed Virgin Mary and the spiritual power of the rosary. HIs mission on prayer and the rosary came about from a serious illness in his youth. He was the force behind the saying, "The family that prays together stays together."
During the month of May to honor Mary, "Queen of the Holy Rosary" take time and pray the rosary and meditate on those mysteries of Christ. As we pray why not offer our rosary prayer to those most in need of prayer at this time.
My Father's Rosary
My late father found much comfort in praying his rosary. He prayed a simple rosary of Hail Mary's and Our Father's. His rosary was well worn and was repaired a few times. Dad carried his rosary loose in his pocket most of the time. In later life each trip to the hospital for some health issue he had his rosary. When he had a couple of heart surgeries we would find him with his rosary in hand or next to him. Dad once told me that the rosary was his comfort prayer. When dad could no longer go to church he found praying the rosary a special connection with God.
Dad suffered a back injury due to an auto accident and his back was never quit right after the accident. His rosary prayers helped him deal with the back pain and the loss of the ability to bowl, play golf and go fishing in his little boat. Dad developed a spinal issue where the vertebrae became soft and fractured. Dad ended up having three back surgeries and the severe pain continued. His last months were spent in an assistant living facility, rehab facility or the hospital. Dad developed pneumonia and went back to the hospital for the last time. It was during his last few days while in the hospital his well worn rosary was lost. On one of my visits at the hospital with him I gave him the rosary I had with me. He prayed the rosary until he was no longer conscious and died very shortly thereafter.
At dad's wake he had the rosary I gave him in his hands. When we buried him we left the rosary in his hands so dad would be with his beloved rosary of comfort forever.
The Silent Rosary
When I was in the seminary at Orchard Lake an upper graduate seminarian classmate decided to enlist in the army before his ordination as a deacon. This classmate served in Viet Nam during the height of the war. His duty was as a chaplain's aid. He came back to visit us while on leave. He told us of what life was like as a soldier in Viet Nam. He was often chopper into sometimes hostile territory to drop supplies to orphanges, or to troops or to deal with the remains and personal affects of deceased soldiers. There were times he spent talking and praying with the soldiers. He himself felt the reality and fear that death could happen any time and any place in such a hostile situation as war.
One hot item for the soldiers in the field was "the Silent Rosary." This rosary was made of camouflage green twine. The beads were knots tied along the twine. The crucifix was of a soft plastic and greenish blue. When in hostile areas the soldiers could pray this rosary because it blended in the surroundings and made no noise. This rosary brought much comfort and helped to calm the soldiers' fears in the field. Something as simple as knotted green twine and a soft plastic crucifix could prove such a spiritual power to these soldiers.
A Sacrament for the Sick and Aged
As we continue to hear on the daily news reports of the Covid-19 virus and its effects, we need to continually pray for those who are sick, their families and all those involved in the care of the sick. It is the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick we find a special grace and comfort.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus sends the Apostles out, two by two, giving them authority over unclean spirits, "With that they went off, preaching the need of repentance. They expelled many demons, anointing the sick with oil, and worked many cures." (Mk6:12-13) And in the Epistle of James, "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." (Jas5: 14-15)
It was at the Chrism Mass at the beginning of Holy Week when Archbishop Vigernon blessed the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumen and Chrism. In celebrating the Anointing of the Sick, the priest lays hands of the head of the person in silence. As he anoints the forehead of the person with the Oil of the Sick he prays, "Though this holy anointing, may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit." As he anoints the hands of the person with the Oil of the Sick he prays, "May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up." (Rite of Anointing)
From the Vatican ll Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, "By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of the priests the whole Church commend those who are ill to the suffering and glorified Lord. That he may raise them up and save them. And indeed she exhorts them to contribute to the good of the people of God by freely uniting themselves to the passion and death of Christ." (11)
From the Catechism of the Catolic Church, "The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick has its purpose the conferral of a special grace on the Christian experiencing the difficulties inherent in the condition of grave illness or old age." (1527) And, "The special grace of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has its effects: -the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church; -the strengthing, peace and courage to endure a Christian manner the suffering of illnes or old age; -the forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the Sacrament of Penance; -the restoration of health, if it conducive to the salvation of his soul; -the preparation for the passing over to eternal life." (1532)
In the Acts of the Apostles 2:42-47, we read of the very first Jewish Christian community and the beginnings of a church community. This first community would be have been heavily flavored with Jewish knowledge of the scriptures (Old Testament to us), Jewish prayers and the Psalms as well as Jewish celebrations, traditions and life style. This first community were Jews who believed in the risen Jesus.
From the instructions of the Apostles these believers in the risen Jesus lived a communal style of life. As a believing community they prayed together and broke bread together most likely in one of the community member's house. Those who had the means sold their property and goods to care for those in need. This group of believers living in Jerusalem went daily to the Temple area to pray as they had always done before. They returned to one of the member's home and broke bread together. The group would have recalled the words of Jesus at his last Passover Supper with his Apostles and disciples and they ate a meal together. This was the beginning roots of the "domestic church."
A favorite story of mine is from a later gathering and time of the early Christian community as found in the Acts of the Apostles 20:7-12. On the first day of the week, St. Paul was preaching to a group of Christians in Troas (in Asia Minor) gathered together to listen to Paul and break bread together before he leaves to his next stop. They were all gathered together listening to Paul in a third story upper room. Paul talked on and on. There was a young lad, Eutychus, sitting on a windowsill who feel asleep. He feel out of the window and was declared dead. Paul went down to him, threw himself on the boy and said, "Don't be alarmed." And, "There is life in him." They all returned to the upper room and broke bread together and ate. Paul continued talking till dawn. Talk about a long homily!
We need to ask ourselves, do I live and support my Catholic community? Do I pray for my brothers and sisters in our parish and those around the world in need and do I try to help them in their needs? Do I read and pray the scriptures as well as read, listen and view religious materials to help me grow in my faith? Do I celebrate the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Reconciliation and Anoining of the Sick in my life and the life of our parish? Do I pray for those who live daily the Sacrament of Marriage? Do I pray for my spouse and our life together? Do I pray and support those in the Sacrament of Holy Orders? This is how we live as a Catholic community in faith.
During this Easter season let us rejoice and pray from Psalm 118:1, "Allelluia. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever." In the risen Christ there is always hope.
Growth of the Early Christian Community
During the Easter season we hear of the first preaching of the Apostles and disciples of the saving words of Jesus, and, the growth of of the early Christian community. In Mt28:19, Jesus commissions the Eleven (Apostles) to, "Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptize them in the name of the of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." In Mk16:16, Jesus says, "The man who believes in it (the Good News) and accepts baptism will be saved; the man who refuses to believe in it (the Good News) will be condemned." And in Jn3:5, Jesus tells Nicodemus, "I solemnly assure you, no one can enter into God's kingdom without being begotten of water and Spirit." In AA1:5, Jesus tells His disciples, "John baptized with water, but within a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
We hear and read the stories of the growth of the Christian community who come to believe in the risen Jesus.
AA2:36-41, the Apostles are asked by those who heard their preaching, "what are we to do, brothers?" Peter tells them, "You must reform and be baptized." Those who accepted the message were baptized. That day three thousand were added to the faith community.
AA8:4-39, we read of Philip, one of the Seven, preaching and the conversion and baptism of Simon the Magician and the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch.
AA9:10-19, presents the conversion and baptism of Saul (Paul).
AA16:14-15 is about the baptism of Lydia and her household.
AA16:29-33, is the story of the imprisoned Paul and Silas, an earthquake and the conversion of their jailer and his household.
1Cor1:14-16, Paul tells that he baptized Crispus, Gaius and the household of Stephanas.
1Pt1:3-4:11, Is seen as a consolation by Peter to the Christians of Asia Minor the meaning of their new life in Christ after receiving their Christian baptism.
From the "Didache" (The Teaching of the Apostles) a short Greek work by an unknown author from the late first century. He writes a sction on baptism."Baptize thus: having first recite all these things, baptize 'in the name of the Father, and of the Son , and of the Holy Spirit,' in running water. If you have no running water, baptize in other water; if you cannot baptize in cold water, use warm. If you have neither, pour water on the head thrice 'in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit'. Before baptism, the baptizer and baptized should fast and any others who can: and you must order the baptized to fast for a day or two before baptism." (7) Condensed version.
By our baptism, we too became a member in the life of the faith community, the Church, and believe in the risen Jesus.
The Domestic Church
In Unleash the Gospel, the pastoral letter from Archbishop Vigneron presents, "The family is the "domestic church" - the primary social unit which life in Christ, the life of the church, is experienced and lived." (Guide Post 7 - Families) "The family lives it's spirituality precisely by being at one and the same time a domestic church and a vital cell for the transforming the world." (Amoris Laetitia - Pope Francis) " Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst." (Mt18: 20)
During this "stay-at home" order, we can still be very active in practicing our faith in our domestic church. Though the parish web site, the Archdiocesean web site, other religious web sites of prayer and reflection, Mass for the shut-ins, private and family prayer (saying grace together at meals, pray the rosary, pray the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be or some other prayers that touch you) call or email someone and take time for silence in your life. We can use what is available to us and enjoy the presence of Jesus in our homes and families. We await the day when we will be able again to celebrate as a gathered community in Jesus Christ. Peace be with you.
The Easter (Paschal) Candle
When we are able to return and enter church, please take a few moments an examine the Easter (Paschal) candle. We see it lit at Sunday Masses, at Baptisms, the renewal of baptismal promises and during various prayer services. The Paschel candle is lit and placed by the casket at a funeral service.
The rite of lighting the Easter candle likely came from the Jewish custom of lighting a lamp at the conclusion of the Sabbath.This practice was carried over by the very beginnings of the Jewish Christian community. At the Easter Vigil we then prepare and light the Easter candle. On the candle are the Greek letters of Alpha and Omega, a cross and the numbers of the year. The priest uses a stylus to scribe on the Alpha, the Omega, the cross and the year.
He scribes across the vertical line of the cross and says, "Christ yesterday and today."
Then scribes the horizontal line of the cross and says, "the Beginning and the End."
Next he scribes the letter Alpha saying, "the Alpha."
He continues with the letter Omega saying, "and the Omega."
At the first number of the year, he scribes and says, "All time belongs to him."
He continues the same with the second number, "and all the ages."
The third number, "To Him be glory and power".
And the fourth number, "though every age and for ever. Amen."
The priest next inserts the five grains of incense into the candle in the form of the cross.
As he inserts the first grain of incense and says, "By His holy,"
then the second grain, "and glorious wounds,"
the third grain, "may Christ the Lord",
the fourth grain, "guard us,"
and fifth grain, "and protect us. Amen." (from the Roman Missal)
The Easter candle is lit from the new fire and the priest prays, "May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds." As the candle is carried into the church the priest sings, "the light of Christ" and the people respond with "thanks be to God." All the other candles in the church are lit from the Easter candle.
The theme of light connects the Easter mystery to Jesus as the, "Light of the world." (Jn8:12)
The flame recalls the "pillar of fire" that led the Isrealites out of Egypt.
In the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) is the phrase, "This is the night that with a pillar of fire banished the darkness of sin."
The cross is the instrument that Jesus saves the world from sin and death.
The Alpha and the Omega are from Rev.21:6, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end."
The year calls to mind that God is here today and all ages.
The five grains of incense synbolize the "holy and glories wounds." of Jesus
If you watched any of the Easter Masses you might have notice that the Easter candle was incensed during the preparation of the gifts.When we see the Easter candle let it remind us of the risen Jesus and that light overcomes darkness and sin.
Second Sunday of Easter - Divine Mercy
Divine Mercy Sunday finds its origin in the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska (08/25/1905-10/05/1938). This young uneducated Polish nun who belonged to the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy received from Jesus the gifts of visions and revelations. It is in her diary and written in Polish that we read of her thoughts and requests of Jesus. Sr. Faustina writes, "My Jesus, you know that from my earliest years I have wanted to become a great saint; that is to say, I have wanted to love you with a love so great that there would be no soul who has hitherto love you so." (1372)
Sr. Faustina was given the following mission by Jesus. "My daughter, be diligent in writing down every sentence I tell you concerning my mercy, because this is meant for a great number of souls who will profit from it." (1142) And, "Today I am sending you with my mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind. But I desire to heal it, pressing it to my merciful heart." (1588)
Jesus says to Sr. Faustine, 'Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in you. I desire the image be venerated, first in your chapel, and [then] through the world." (47) And, "My image already is in your soul. I desire that there be a Feast of Mercy. I want this image, which you will paint with a brush, to be solemly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter; that Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy." (49) The image was painted by E. Kazimirowski between January and June 1934 at the request and direction of Sr, Faustina.
In her diary, Sr. Faustina records 14 requests by Jesus for the observance of the Feast of Mercy on the first Sunday of Easter. John Paul II was instrumental in the the process of sainthood of this Polish nun as well as the observance of Divine Mercy Sunday. On April 30, 2000 Sr. Faustina was declared a saint and on May 5, 2000 the Church decreed the First Sunday after Easter would be Divine Mercy Sunday.
To conclude in the words of Jesus, "My daughter, tell the whole world about my inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. ... The soul that will go to confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day, all divine floodgates through which graces flow are open, let no soul fear to draw near to me, even through its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel will be able to fathom it thoughout all eternity." (699)