October 15, 2009
How can we know that what we believe is what Christ actually taught? Some would have us believe that the Church has distorted the simple original teaching of Jesus. That is where saints like the one we celebrate today are very useful guides. Ignatius was the second or third bishop of Antioch. By the time he was martyred in 107AD he was already an old man. He had learnt his faith from the Apostles themselves and like them he was prepared to die for it.
Ignatius wrote a number of letters to other Christian communities which we can still read today. They show us what the Church was like in the opening century of its life. And, we can clearly recognise in these letters what we believe today. For instance, Ignatius was insistent that Christians should meet together to celebrate the Eucharist Sunday by Sunday. They are to do this because Christ commanded it, and also because there they meet Christ in word and sacrament.
The idea of a ‘simple Christianity’ devoid of leaders, sacraments, doctrine is a very late invention. The writings of Ignatius and the other early martyrs show us clearly that we believe the ‘faith that comes to us from the Apostles’.
October 12, 2009
Today 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 – the poor, the sick, the destitute.
Let us pray that through his prayers we may always venerate the present of Christ wherever he is to be found – at the altar but also in the street and in our daily lives.