October 22, 2010
There are very many hill top towns and villages dotted around the picturesque mountainous region of Italy known as the Abruzzo. Many were, sadly, devastated in the earthquake in 2009. One of them was the little town of Capestrano. The great shrine of the saint we celebrate tomorrow is there.
St John of Capestrano was born there in 1386. As a young man he had a very promising career as a lawyer ahead of him. Butit wasn’t sufficient and John eventually became a Franciscan friar. Doubtless using the oratorical skills he had picked up in this training for the law. John became a renowned preacher not just in his native Italy but across much of Europe. He died in1456 worn out by the preaching of the gospel.
Today we can do three things: firstly, let us pray for the people of the Abruzzo region who are still trying to rebuild their shattered lives; secondly let us thank God for the men and women in every age who cast aside their own careers to put their talents at the service of the gospel; thirdly, let us pray for lawyers, on this the feast of their patron saint.
October 18, 2010
Discussions about the pros and cons of the ordination of women often start in the wrong place. The whole debate is constructed in terms of rights and power. It might be better if both sides thought about the call that Christians have to serve each other. The woman whose feast we celebrate today was, of course, never ordained but she had and has tremendous power over the Church.
Teresa of Avila is one of the towering giants of Christian spirituality. Against an atmosphere of almost lax indifference she travelled up and down Spain in the sixteenth century founding convent after convent dedicated to perfection of the Christian life. Her nuns were renowned for a way of life that was austere yet sensible, single minded and yet open. In her own life she combined the qualities of the ‘eagle and the dove’.
Teresa has left us masterpieces of spiritual writing which are still devoured today. She was part of that wonderful, positive tide of reform that swept the church in the wake of Luther’s challenge. And at the centre of all her writings is the solid conviction that God’s love will triumph. Christians are called not to exercise power or demand their rights but rather to serve and in that lays our true authority.
October 11, 2010
St John Leonardi
Tomorrow we celebrate the feast day of Saint John Leonardi. Some readers may have visited the beautiful little city of Lucca in Tuscany where John was born in 1541. He was ordained a priest in 1572 and was very concerned to teach the children and young people in that place.
John was one of a group of saints who lived out the ideals of the Counter – Reformation and emphasized the importance of the Eucharist and devotion to Our Lady in his sermons and teaching. He founded a religious order to help him in this task. It was characteristic of John that he should die in the service of others nursing those who were victims of the flu epidemic raging in Rome in 1609.
When we read about the saints of this period what is striking is how faith and works went together in their lives. They were not concerned with doctrine alone but how that doctrine was lived out in love. John’s devotion to the Body of Christ was not just to that body sacramentally present in the eucharist but also physically present in those in need ñ the poor, the sick, the destitute.
Let us pray that through his prayers we may always venerate the presence of Christ wherever he is to be found – at the altar but also in the street and in our daily lives.
October 1, 2010
We live in a celebrity obsessed age, and the effects that obsession is having with our children is increasingly clear to see. More and more youngsters simply want to be famous for being famous, and the powerful forces of advertising and marketing puff up their products to make them attractive to the young and vulnerable. The saint we celebrate today is renowned throughout the Catholic world. Her statue and picture are found in thousands of churches and millions of homes. And yet in her lifetime she knew none of this. She simply did her duty and said her prayers, and died in obscurity in the northern French town of Lisieux in 1897 at the age of 24.
Therese’s fame comes from her little book, The Journal of a Soul which was published after her death. She speaks there with great candour about her difficulties and doubts but also about her overwhelming belief in the power of love. It was this that won for her a devoted following. Therese insisted that God could be loved in the little things, the ordinary, everyday, humdrum things of life. Her own brief life was a celebration of that conviction, and millions have tried to imitate her.
We should ask Therese for her prayers so that we come to realise that what really matters in life is not fame and fortune but love of God and neighbour.