Thor’s Mighty Oak

Bonifacius_by_Emil_Doepler

Recent events in the city of Chicago remind me of an earlier event in the history of Christianity. Winfrid, born in Wessex in Anglo-Saxon England in the year 672, is better known as St. Boniface. Boniface (which means “good fate”) is considered the apostle to Germany. In 721 Boniface went to Hesse in central Germany to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. After the conversion two chieftains Dettic and Deorulf, who were twin brothers, thousands of Germans converted to Christianity.

Upon hearing news of this successful mission to the Germans, Pope St. Gregory II called Boniface to come to Rome at which time he consecrated him as bishop of all of Germany, even without an episcopal seat. Boniface took an oath at that time that is very significant and powerful:

I, Boniface, by the grace of God, bishop, promise to thee, Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and to thy Vicar, the Blessed Pope Gregory and his successors, by the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, undivided Trinity, and by thy most holy body, to proclaim the whole Catholic faith in all its purity; and by the help of God, to remain steadfast in the unity of that faith, in which, without doubt, is the Christian’s hope of salvation. Never, at the bidding of anyone, will I do anything against the unity of the One Universal Church; but, as I have said, I will in all things be faithful and helpful to thee and to the interests of thy Church (to which God has given the power of binding and loosing), and thy said Vicar and his successors…. This oath I, Boniface, a lowly bishop, have written out with my own hand; and, according to what is prescribed, have placed it on the most holy body of Blessed Peter, and, in the sight of God, have sworn to keep it. (from Warren H. Carroll, The Building of Christendom).

With his new ecclesiastical authorization, Boniface returned to Hesse the following year. There he found that many had gone back to their pagan ways. He confirmed those who had stood fast in the faith and directly challenged “entrenched paganism by personally chopping down the ‘Thunder Oak’ of Giesmar, a huge old tree dedicated to Thor.”* He did not act alone but in consultation with the Hessian Christians who knew culturally and religiously that this would be “the most effective way of dramatizing for these largely barbarian people the powerlessness of their old gods and the victory of Christ in their land.”**

Commenting on this episode, church historian James Hitchcock writes: “The Germans expected Boniface to be struck dead, and when he was not, they concluded that the power of his God was greater than that of their own and used the wood of the tree to build a church.”*** As a result the true religion was firmly established in Germany and many others from Boniface’s native England came to help with catechesis as the task of converting pagan Germany was vast.

Now back to Chicago. Until Saturday Fr. Paul Kalchik was the pastor of Resurrection Church in Avondale, a community area of Chicago. Fr. Kalchik has been pastor there eleven years. A survivor of homosexual rape twice, once by a homosexual priest, he has been faithful in his call to “love the sinner, but hate the sin” and at the same time be faithful to the teachings of Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium.

Recently he found the rainbow banner with a cross superimposed that earlier had been a fixture in the church, hanging in the sanctuary, from when it was dedicated by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, as the “gay parish” of Chicago. In the example of St. Boniface, Fr. Kalchik announced he would burn it. However, he evidently heeded his bishop’s warning not to, but a small number of the parishioners took the banner and burned it last week. On Saturday, under the direction of Cardinal Cupich the priest was removed from his parish.

I admit not knowing all the inner details and particulars of this case, but where there’s smoke there’s fire. Blessed Pope Paul VI said in 1972, after Vatican II, “… We would say that, through some mysterious crack—no, it’s not mysterious; through some crack, the smoke of Satan has entered the Church of God. There is doubt, uncertainty, problems, unrest, dissatisfaction, confrontation.” The enemy still seeks to obfuscate his machinations with smoke and mirrors!

St. Boniface, pray for us!

*Carroll, The Building of Christendom, p. 276.
**Ibid.
***Hitchcock, History of the Catholic Church, p. 112.

In Silence No More!

One of my spiritual disciplines for 2018 is reading from “A Year with the Church Fathers: Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living” by Mike Aquilina. I find the excerpts challenging and edifying. Such was the case as I read from Day 264, an article that Aquilina titled, “We are all equal in God’s sight.” I was challenged to consider what should be expected of our political leaders and us who profess faith in Christ, and especially those who are  Catholic.

In the introduction Aquilina writes: “When riots broke out in Thessalonica, the emperor Theodosius (347–395) furiously ordered that the city should be punished. Thousands died when soldiers were let loose on their own fellow citizens. When Theodosius came home, the bishop, St. Ambrose, refused to let him into church until he had gone through months of public penance.”

Theodoret, a church historian, wrote about this in Ecclesiastical History, 5.17:

When the emperor arrived in Milan, he as usual went to enter the church. But Ambrose met him outside the outer porch and refused to let him cross the threshold.

“Sir, you don’t seem to understand what a bloody crime you have committed,” said Ambrose. “Your rage has settled down, but you still don’t understand what you’ve done.

“You rule, sir, over people whose nature is the same as yours. In fact, they are your fellow servants—for there is one Lord and Ruler of all humanity, the Creator of the universe.

“How will you look on the temple of our common Lord? How will you walk across that holy threshold? How will you hold up your hands, still dripping with the blood of unjust slaughter? How can those hands receive the all-holy body of the Lord? How will you lift the precious blood to your lips, when you in your fury poured out so much blood?

“Go. Do not try to add another crime to the one you have already committed. Submit to the restriction to which you are sentenced with the agreement of God, the Lord of all. He will be your physician. He will give you health.”

Theodosius was well learned in Scripture; he knew what belonged to priests and what belonged to emperors. So he bowed to Ambrose’s rebuke and went back to his palace, sighing and weeping.

Theodosius was excommunicated by the bishop of Milan, Ambrose, for the massacre. He was told to imitate the famous royal penitent David in his repentance as he had imitated him in guilt; Ambrose readmitted the emperor to the Eucharist only after several months of penance.

What would it look like if those in governmental leadership today were held to the same standard? The position taken by many Catholic prelates such as in the case of abortion and euthanasia is toothless and actually puts them and their sheep: Catholic political figures and Catholic voters in mortal sin and in danger of losing their souls. Tough language, but true!

Go back to 2004, when then Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, conveyed in a letter to then Cardinal McCarrick (Washington) and Cardinal Gregory (Atlanta) that denial of Communion is obligatory “regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia.” And further that a priest should warn “the person in question” of the consequences, including the denial of Communion. Ratzinger further said that if “the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it,” And then the final paragraph of the letter addresses those who knowingly vote for a pro-choice candidate: “If he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia,” that Catholic too “would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion.” (Quotes from The Washington Times, July 7, 2004).

Unfortunately ex-Cardinal McCarrick took it upon himself to misrepresent the direct order from Rome and told the USCCB that the decision was up to them. What happened next is “their bad” for voting 183-6 on a compromise statement allowing each bishop to decide whether to give Communion to pro-choice politicians or not. Fourteen years later we have to wonder what would have happened if the truth had been told, and even if not, if our bishops would have had the spirit of St. Ambrose.

We have an election on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. It behooves us to find out where the candidates for every office stand on the issues as they relate to our faith. I live in New Jersey where in the U.S. Senate race, incumbent Bob Menendez (D) is running against Bob Hugin (R). They are both pro-choice. I will not be voting for either one, and I have let them know that. I do appeal to Joseph Cardinal Tobin of Newark to take seriously his role of shepherd of Mr. Menendez, who is Catholic, regarding the grave position he places his soul to support abortion. I live in congressional district 1 where incumbent Daniel Norcross (D) is running against Paul Dilks (R). Mr. Norcross is pro-abortion and I have already informed him that I will be voting for his opponent, Mr. Dilks, who is pro-life.

I appeal to all Christians, but especially to my Catholic brothers and sisters to do the right thing. This is not something we dare take lightly.

St. Ambrose, pray for us!

Take COURAGE!

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Image: St. Matthew and the Angel | Guido Reni

Daily there is conflict in his soul as he makes his way to work. He thinks about what he will earn from “under the table” deals and the kickbacks from his superiors for the excess taxes he will charge. He is a rich man in his town. And therein lies the conflict. He is hated by that same town because he is perceived to be an enemy, an agent of the state. But deeper still is the turmoil in his soul, He seems so far removed from his righteous Jewish upbringing, what he learned in Torah school and the hopes and prayers of his parents that he would become a rabbi.

Then one morning as he is sitting at the customs post, having already taken in almost a full day’s quota, he sees a man he has seen before in Capernaum. Just a few minutes before some of the passersby were excitingly talking about a paralytic who had just been healed. They were in wonder of the miracle, but what seemed to have caused more notice was that the man who they called Jesus had forgiven the sins of the bed-ridden man before he healed him. Imagine that! Who can forgive sins but God?

And just like that, Jesus is standing before him. Matthew feels his eyes boring deep into him, not in condemnation, although he certainly feels guilty. It seems this man is the very essence of all that is good and holy. And as Matthew wants to turn his head or look down to avoid his stare he hears surprising words: “Follow me.” In that moment, the path to more riches seems insignificant and the possibility of healing and hope for his future seizes him. He gets up from his post and follows Jesus.

Today is the feast day of St. Matthew, one of the twelve original disciples/apostles. Matthew is one of two known tax collectors that have a dramatic, life changing conversion upon meeting Jesus. The other is Zacchaeus. Why the big deal? Well, in the New Testament there were special categories of people who were known to be “honest to goodness” sinners, and probably unredeemable: tax collectors and prostitutes! Matthew, also known as Levi, was one of these.

Today St. Matthew is known as the Evangelist who wrote the Gospel that bears his name. His special focus in the Gospel is to convince his largely Jewish audience that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, the Holy One of God, who has fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies to the Jewish people that God is now among them in the person of Jesus.

  • Matthew 1:22–All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us”.
  • Matthew 2:5-6–They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”

And that’s just in the first two chapters!

St. Matthew is known as the patron saint of accountants, actors, bankers, bookkeepers, tax collectors, and taxi drivers. But I have discovered that Matthew has become very important as an intercessor for a group of dear Christians who struggle with same-sex temptations and sins. Not because Matthew struggled with same-sex realities, but because he calls people who are surrounded by a dominant cultural narrative to step out of that narrative and humbly and steadily cling to Jesus and his power that calls all of us to his love and mercy.

I regularly pray this prayer for my brothers and sisters who seek to follow Jesus in this way: “O Glorious St. Matthew, in your Gospel you portray Jesus as the longed-for Messiah who fulfilled the Prophets of the Old Covenant and as the new Lawgiver who founded a Church of the New Covenant. Obtain for these the grace to see Jesus living in his Church and to follow his teachings in their lives on earth so that they may live forever with him in heaven. Amen.”

I am so thankful for faithful faith siblings like Daniel, Rosaria, Christopher, and Bill who have taught me so much about what it looks like to get up and follow Jesus. And not only that, but they do as Matthew did by setting a table and inviting others to encounter our loving Lord.

St. Matthew, pray for us!

The Golden-Mouthed One

Chrysostom

Today is the feast of St. John Chrysostom, the fourth-century bishop and doctor of the Church born in Antioch, Syria. He is also known as the greatest preacher ever heard in a Christian pulpit, hence the name Chrysostom, meaning “golden-mouthed” referring to his eloquence.

John spent his early years as a monk in the desert. There he abused his body with fasting and deprivation, finally forcing him to return to the city for the sake of his health. Even though his physical health suffered over the years, “his tongue was powerful. The content of his sermons, his exegesis of Scripture, were never without a point. Sometimes the point stung the high and mighty. Some sermons lasted up to two hours.” (Franciscan Media). It was not unusual for his listeners to break out in frequent and sustained applause when he preached!

He spoke to the rich…
—”The rich exist for the sake of the poor. The poor exist for the salvation of the rich.”
—”If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will not find Him in the chalice.”
—”Not to share our own wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life; we do not possess our own wealth, but theirs.”

He spoke to husbands and wives… 
—”But if a man and a woman marry in order to be companions on the journey through earth to heaven, then their union will bring great joy to themselves and to others.”
—”The love of husband and wife is the force that welds society together. Men will take up arms and even sacrifice their lives for the sake of this love….when harmony prevails, the children are raised well, the household is kept in order, and neighbors, friends, and relatives praise the result. Great benefits, both of families and states, are thus produced. When it is otherwise, however, everything is thrown into confusion and turned upside-down.”

He spoke to the sanctity of human life…
—”To destroy the fetus ‘is something worse than murder.’ The one who does this ‘does not take away life that has already been born, but prevents it from being born.'”

He spoke about sin and repentance…
—”Do not be ashamed to enter again into the Church. Be ashamed when you sin. Do not be ashamed when you repent. Pay attention to what the devil did to you. These are two things: sin and repentance. Sin is a wound; repentance is a medicine. Just as there are for the body wounds and medicines, so for the soul are sins and repentance. However, sin has the shame and repentance possesses the courage.”
—”It is impossible to be saved without the help of the Most Blessed Virgin, because those who are not saved by the justice of God are saved by the intercession of Mary.”

He spoke to the religious of his day…
—”The road to Hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lamp posts that light the path.”

Our good bishop did not hold back. He called a spade a spade. It sometimes got him into trouble. In fact, he died in exile in 407. His last words are said to be, “Glory be to God for all things.”

St. John Chrysostom pray for us!

 

 

 

 

Defend Us in Battle

“Saint Michael the Archangel defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the Power of God cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”

September 29 is the feast day of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. There are believed to be seven archangels according to Scripture (Tobit 12:15; Revelation 8:2), but only three of them are mentioned by name.

The prayer that opens this blog dates back to October 13, 1884 and Pope Leo XIII. Following the daily Mass that day, the pope had a vision of a conversation between God and the evil one. The devil was boasting that he could destroy the Church if God would give him more time and power. In the vision, God basically told Satan to give it his best shot. Leo took this vision very seriously and immediately went to his desk and wrote the prayer that the Church prayed at the end of the daily Mass around the world until the mid-1960s when the new order of the Mass was introduced.

We know from Sacred Scripture that the archangel Michael is a warrior and fights God’s battles and does battle for us. In Daniel 10:13 and 12:1 Michael is mentioned as the prince who does battle for God’s people. In Revelation 12:7-9 (NRSV) Michael and the angels do battle against the dragon and his angels.

And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

The battle that Pope Leo XIII saw in his vision continues. Some days it seems that the enemy has the upper hand. Yet we are assured by our Lord that his Church will prevail. In Matthew 16:18 (NRSV) he tells Peter, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” Now is no time to take a break, the battle continues, heaven continues to wage war against the powers of darkness that seek to destroy the Church and we who are part of her.

At every daily Mass in my home parish we end it with this powerful prayer asking St. Michael to be God’s instrument to do battle. Beginning on September 2, our priest informed us that we would be praying this prayer after every weekend Mass as well as we do battle for our Church. His Excellency Frank Caggiano, Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, announced that as of September 15, 2018, all 82 parishes would be expected to recite the St. Michael’s prayer after each Holy Mass.  At church or at home with your family, or even alone, join your brothers and sisters around the world in prayer as the battle rages!

Happy Birthday Mother!

Today is not my mother’s birthday, not the mother who gave me birth. Her birthday is September 26, and I haven’t been able to celebrate that day with her for the past 27 years, since her unexpected death in 1991.

However, I do get to celebrate the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of our God, Jesus Christ. Each September 8 the Roman Church, as well as many Anglicans, celebrate the birth of Mary, nine months following the Immaculate Conception on December 8. The Church has been celebrating Mary’s birth since the sixth century. The Church only celebrates the births of three people: Jesus on December 25, Mary on September 8, and John the Baptist on June 24.

The “Saint of the Day” website from Franciscan Media for this day refers to St. Augustine:

Saint Augustine connects Mary’s birth with Jesus’ saving work. He tells the earth to rejoice and shine forth in the light of her birth. “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.”

In honor our blessed Mother’s birthday, let us pray the words of the Collect from today’s Mass.

Impart to your servants, we pray, O Lord, the gift of heavenly grace, that the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin may bring deeper peace to those for whom the birth of her Son was the dawning of salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Happy birthday Blessed Mother! Pray for us!

A Little Pencil in His Hand

News coming out of the Archdiocese of Chicago has been horribly ugly and disgusting, especially since Cardinal Blase Cupich reminded us that there is a “bigger agenda” to give attention to. Reading some of the news reports of incidents coming from his archdiocese caused my throat to constrict and my chest to feel very heavy. I came home not wanting to focus on “Chicago Concupiscence.” To be fair to Chicago, it’s happening in other U.S. cities as well.

My salvation as I write this blog is realizing that today is the feast day of one of our newer saints: St. Teresa of Kolkata. She was canonized two years ago yesterday. Most of you readers lived during part of the time that Mother Teresa, born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, August 26, 1910, in Skopje, in present-day Macedonia. then part of the Ottoman Empire, had her ministry. She left home at the age of 18, the last time she saw her mother, for Ireland, and from there went to India. Already a Roman Catholic nun in 1950, she founded the Missionaries of Charity and she and her sisters ministered to the least of the least in the city of Kolkata for the rest of her life. Today there are more than 4,500 religious sisters serving throughout the world.

Our dear friends, Matt and Laurie, volunteered with the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, India, for a month in 2015. It was that experience that began to lead them into the Catholic Church. I met with Matt soon after their return and asked him if he had seen the face of the Jesus in the poor. His experience there was life-changing, and our conversation impacted me greatly as well as I was already on my journey to the Church.

Mother Teresa was a small woman in stature, but mighty in faith and action. In one of the last interviews she gave, the reporter asked about her role in the work of the Missionaries of Charity. She answered, “I don’t claim anything of the work. It’s His work. I’m like a little pencil in His hand. That’s all. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do it. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used.”

Mother did so much of her work off the world stage, but occasionally she found herself in a very public setting such as receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and in 1994 speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast with then President Bill Clinton present.

Mother Teresa died September 5, 1997, less than a week after the death of Princess Diana, whose passing captured worldwide attention, putting less focus on the saint’s death, as she probably would have wanted.

Here are some of Mother Teresa’s statements that still ring true 21 years after her death.

  • “If you can’t do great things, do little things with great love. If you can’t do them with great love, do them with a little love. If you can’t do them with a little love, do them anyway.”
  • “If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway.”
  • “Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.”
  • “Abortion kills twice. It kills the body of the baby and it kills the conscience of the mother. Abortion is profoundly anti-women. Three quarters of its victims are women: Half the babies and all the mothers.”

St. Teresa of Kolkata, pray for us! Pray for our Church! Pray for our prelates! Pray for our Holy Father!

  • “My prayer for you that you may grow in holiness because Jesus very clearly said, ‘Be holy as the Father of heaven is holy.’ And holiness is not the luxury of the few. It is a simple duty for you and for me. That is right. We have made one strong resolution: I will, I will with God’s blessing, be holy. This is my prayer for you that you grow in holiness to want that love for one another, and by sharing this love with all you know.” — Mother Teresa at the 1992 States Dinner of the Knights of Columbus.

I’ll take “Quotable Quotes” for $100

I am a fan of the TV show Jeopardy, although I don’t see it as often as I used to. One of the categories that has stood the test of time is “Quotable Quotes.” It’s probably right up there with “Potent Potables.”

Whenever I come across a meaningful quote that speaks to me in my spiritual journey I write it down in my journal or put it in the Notes app on my phone. Allow me to share some of these quotes with you and I trust they will be an encouragement to you.

  • Holiness is not the privilege of the few: it is the simply duty of each of us. — St. Teresa of Calcutta
  • He who has himself as spiritual director has an idiot for a disciple. — St. John of the Cross
  • Commitment is doing what you said you would do, after the feeling you said it in has passed. — St. Camillus
  • Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them, every day begin the task anew. — St. Francis de Sales
  • Cast yourself into the arms of God and be very sure that if He wants anything of you, He will fit you for the work and give you strength. — St. Philip Neri
  • For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy. — St. Therese of Lisieux
  • Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious. — St. Thomas Aquinas
  • Eternal God, eternal Trinity, you have made the blood of Christ so precious through his sharing in your divine nature. You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for you. — St. Catherine of Siena
  • While the world changes, the cross stands firm. — St. Bruno
  • Our task is not one of producing persuasive propaganda; Christianity shows its greatness when it is hated by the world. — St. Ignatius of Antioch
  • All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle. — St. Francis of Assisi
  • Let us never forget that if we wish to die like the saints we must live like them. — St. Théodore Guérin
  • All the way to heaven is heaven, because Jesus said, ‘I am the way’. — St. Catherine of Siena

It’s hard to stop, but I must. Another reason why I love the Catholic Church and her saints!

Following In Jesus’s Steps

It’s a very heroic thing when a person gives up his or her life for another. It usually makes the news, books are written and movies are made.

The greatest example we have of this is described by St. Paul in Romans 5 when he refers to Jesus Christ:

Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath.Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life (5:7-10 NABRE).

St. Peter tells us in his first letter “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps” (2:21 NABRE). So just as Christ suffered and gave up his life, it will come to us to suffer, and maybe even fully follow in his steps to surrender our life.

Today is the feast day of the Polish Franciscan martyr, St. Maximilian Kolbe. In 1941 at the German concentration camp of Auschwitz, one prisoner disappeared which prompted the deputy camp commander to pick ten men to be starved to death to discourage further escapes. One of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, had a wife and children and cried out for mercy. Fr. Kolbe volunteered to take his place. In their underground bunker Kolbe led the men in constant prayers and after two weeks he was the only left alive. He was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid and died on August 14, 1941.

At his canonization in 1982 the verse from John 15:13 was read: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (NABRE). Ellyn von Huben writes about that special day.

There was one extraordinary man in attendance at St. Maximilian’s canonization: Franciszek Gajowniczek. Though spared the torture of the starvation bunker, Gajowniczek had still suffered greatly. He was in Auschwitz for over five years and his sons did not live to see the day of his release. Those prisoners who had grown so fond of Fr. Kolbe were particularly cruel to Gajowniczek, as they blamed him for the loss of their beloved friend and priest. But he received consolation in 1982, in St. Peter’s Square, when the man who offered his life for Franciszek’s was declared a saint.

As Paul Harvey used to say, “Now you know the rest of the story!” St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us!

Welcome Damian More!

Our second godson was born on July 7, 2018. His parents gave him the name Damian More. That’s a lot to live up to when you consider the saints whose names he bears. Today we have the privilege of standing with his parents and older brother as he is baptized and by virtue of the sacrament is born into the God’s family, the Church.

Paragraph 1213 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: ‘Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word'”.

Little Damian More won’t have any real understanding of all that will take place in his life by grace through the faith of his parents today, but knowing his parents very well, they are committed to lead him day by day into a knowledge of his Savior Jesus Christ and how he will become a sharer in the mission of Christ’s Church.

That brings me to his two onomastic saints: Peter Damian and Thomas More.

Peter Damian lived in the 11th century. He was a Benedictine monk and a cardinal of the Church in the time of Pope Leo IX. In 1828 he was named a Doctor of the Church. In his time he was mostly known as a reformer of the Church. In 1050 he wrote a very direct treatise on the vices of the clergy, which included fornication, homosexuality and abuse of minors, as well as the attempts by church officials to cover up these abuses. This was nearly 1,000 years ago!

Thomas More lived in the 16th century and is no doubt better known due to his close relationship with King Henry VIII of England. Sir Thomas More was a close friend of the king, served as his secretary and personal advisor and in 1529 was named Lord Chancellor. More served the king well, but his first allegiance was to Christ, his Church, and the Vicar of Christ, the Bishop of Rome, Pope Clement VII. When the pope would not grant the king an annulment from his wife Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn, Henry broke from the Church and declared himself head of the Church of England and was granted a divorce. Thomas More could not support the king and resigned his position. He could not justify the king’s action against the Church and the dissolution of his marriage. More paid for his conviction regarding the Sacrament of Marriage with his life. His last words before being beheaded were: “I die the good King’s servant, but God’s first.”

My dear godson Damian More, only God knows what you will be called upon to give witness to, to proclaim and to defend. May the power of the Holy Spirit flood you and empower you, and may the intercession of Peter Damian and Thomas More enable you to stand true in this your century of service to God. You have my prayers always!