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Inquietum Est Cor Nostrum

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From Saul to Paul

Written by: Courtney Diviney, a Catholic Gator

     ‘Saul the Persecutor’ to ‘Paul the Apostle’, that’s the name of the first article I found when I googled St. Paul’s conversion story. What a connection I feel there, by no means was I killing Christians and sending them to jail, but I definitely saw this all as a joke before my encounter with Christ. I’m sure we have all heard Paul’s conversion story before, and if you have not open Acts because the synopsis I’m about to give could never compare to how it is displayed in the Bible.

     Saul was one of the many who after the crucifixion of Christ dedicated his life to making Christians suffer for their beliefs. After gaining the approval to imprison the followers he found, Saul set out to do just that. On the road to Damascus though something strange happened, he was struck down by the Lord in a flash of light and was blinded. The Lord spoke to him, calling out and asking why he persecuted Him. Leaving Saul with the note to travel, and sending him visions of a believer who would give him back sight. Saul, being left with no choice was blindly led into the city on a three day journey, and as promised once he arrived Ananias greeted him and laying hands on him proclaimed that Jesus desired he be filled with the Holy Spirit and it broke Saul’s blindness. Saul was baptized and began to proclaim the gospel. Once baptised, Saul receieved a great blessing that was pretty unheard of back then, Jesus called him by a new name Paul. Paul having the meaning little one, while that seems like a decrease from Saul (meaning Great one), being little is how Paul changed the future of christianity forever.  Much can be learned from this, God certainly does call the ones who farthest away to serve his Kingdom. Much like Saul, I had to learn this the hard way, so I wanted to share my story.

     I was born in the Baptist belt of North Carolina but I never was into my faith. I had many friends who lived, breathed, and will probably die it but back then that wasn’t me. I went to church from time to time but to me it was more of a joke than anything else. I literally picked on people who thought it was the way.  I saw no importance in spending a Sunday in church when I could work, sleep in, or have fun. As a senior in high school I took a leap and I accepted an offer to move to Florida and start at UF in the fall. Once I got settled in, I quickly realized I had no friends (awk) so I dove into the “fun” parts of college, long nights, and little sleep. Fun fact: that wasn’t the life I wanted.

         When life got hard and roommates got feisty, my suite mate Lauren recommended I go to Christian Campus House (CCH), because there I could meet people. My first time there was rather interesting and despite the obvious love of God I still tried to fit in. I didn’t yet have that fire in my heart to love Jesus so most of the people I met at my first time at CCH just seemed weird, and weird is my middle name so I just acted like they did so they wouldn’t know I wasn’t in love with God the same way they were. This came with randomly putting my hands in the air while singing, because I thought you had to, and lying about my prayer revelations because I wasn’t having any. I lived that first month going to CCH on Sunday and roasting them with my friends who liked to sit in our kitchens talking till 3 a.m. the other 6 days of the week. Then home sickness kicked in and real sickness too; laying in my bed with no one to really take care of me left me feeling very alone. The people who I thought were my friends carried on their 3 a.m. conversations without me, but I missed one Sunday at CCH and a sweet girl named Darcy reached out to me. Not only did she go GROCERY SHOPPING for me, but she checked in every day, so I thought “lets give this a real try.”

        After committing to a church and to volunteering I fell in love with the Lord, but isn’t it funny sometimes how long your story has to be before it even begins? November of 2015 I thought I was as far as long in my faith as I never needed to be, but still I couldn’t fully accept this Jesus gig. Instead of now picking on all Christians I focused in on one group, if you don’t know the map of Gainesville in your head, you have to pass St. Augustine’s to get to CCH. I would be going to hang out on a Tuesday at CCH and would see the Catholics going to church, many, many times I remember turning my aggression towards the ones who ‘had to go to Church everyday to feel saved, when I already was. I was good at that you know, picking on other people when I felt deep in my soul that they had something I didn’t.

     Much like St. Paul I was just doing what I was good at, what was easy, and what gained attention. I was doing what I thought the crowd wanted, even if the crowd at this point was just me. I felt lost again, these people looked so content and I felt like I needed to do more. So I started a mission to find where I fit in, because I felt nothing pulling me close to Christ and saw no reason to keep trying to make an effort where I was when obviously it is not a place for me to be. Here I was again, losing sight of what’s important, I may not have been blind like St. Paul, but I blinded myself, by taking my sight off Jesus and selfishly focusing on how I wanted to feel.

     Three short months later when I joined my Christian sorority (which is what I thought my missing piece was) I met the girl I wanted to be my BIG, and to my surprise I saw her tabling for the Catholic church as I was passing for CCH…. “well guess that won’t work out, cant have a Catholic telling me how to grow in my faith”….. Here we are again, playing ourselves before we know it. The lost little Courtney was sent an angel on a Friday night. Walking through Midtown just trying to get home I was stopped by a sophomore, Catherine Caldwell, and when the sentence “Do you wanna go to adoration with us, it’s just inside the Church?” reached my ears, I might have actually cringed, but because of fear of rejection I said “maybe”. Maybe means Yes in Catherine’s mind, so into Night fever I went. If you’re unaware of what Night Fever is, it’s an event St. Augustines Catholic Church puts on about three to four times a semester where they open the church doors to everyone passing by. When I say open the church doors I mean we have people on the street welcoming people in to light a candle and pray and when you get inside they have our Lord present in Eucharistic Adoration. January 29, 2016 will forever be the marker when my life changed, I entered the doors, I looked up, and I saw Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time. I had no idea what “it” was, I had no idea what to do, but I felt it across my whole body…. I was home.

     I couldn’t let people know though, I had been trashing the Catholic Church as long as I could remember, so how was I supposed to now be for it? I didn’t want to be like St. Paul, people couldn’t know that I wanted to be Catholic, so instead of telling my pals, I snuck to Mass like it was my mistress. I went to my Non-denominational church at 9:00 a.m. and Mass at 7:30 p.m. But after a period of time that wasn’t enough, I was going to daily Mass, I joined a Bible Study, I stopped my 3 a.m. talks… I wanted to be better, I wanted what I was missing, I wanted to be Catholic.

     It really is funny how fast someone’s true colors are revealed when you present something they disagree with. Some of my friends at CCH didn’t understand why I changed my mind, people at church who I babysat for began to try to convince me how wrong it was, it felt like everyone wanted to change my mind. The attacks from the devil were awful, I went nights without sleep, I lost so many friends, and for a short period of time it even deeply disturbed my relationship with Jesus. But despite all of that I still knew what I needed to do, so I signed up for RCIA and I told everyone I could (RCIA, for those who are unaware is Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, this is how any adult would enter the Catholic Church by receiving baptism, confirmation, and first communion on Easter Vigil). Then summer came and I went home, and being “Catholic” alone was difficult, I missed so many Masses and I struggled to remember why I was doing this, I don’t think I was blind again, I just think I closed my eyes and was too afraid to open them. When August brought me back to Florida, I was greeted with friendly faces at Mass and the memory of the feeling I once had.

     I remember a good gal pal of mine reached out and wanted to catch up from the summer we had spent apart, and I was pumped. I walked into that Dunkin’ feeling good, and I left in tears because that meet up wasn’t what I expected. I spent an hour being told every reason the Catholic Church was corrupt, and how the only way to save my soul was to leave. My support system no longer existed and so quickly again I had no one. Much like St. Paul here, I had been deserted by the people who used to walk with me, who used to support me, and when I turned to my new group I was almost faced with the same fate. As much as I wanted to be friends with these amazing Catholic women I had met, I even felt rejected by them. I wasn’t really in their group so most of my time at St. A’s was spent surrounded by people but feeling completely alone. I don’t mention this to put down anyone, my friend group now is amazing and the majority of them saw this part of my life, where I was during this phase of life and needed some desert. I don’t think I ever felt like a true member of my community here until Catherine became my sponsor, that was my in, she was my Barnabas. Barnabas was the only apostle who welcomed Paul when he turned to the christian community. So many others feared that it was a trick and Paul was still trying to arrest or kill them, but Barnabas he took a chance. Barnabas poured into Paul and carried out many journeys to spread the Gospel with him, he was Paul’s first taste of discipleship. She challenged me to be better, she encouraged me to let go of my anger, and she prayed for me more than anyone I had ever met. I had a community now, the devil attacked me but I didn’t feel alone because I had people who wanted me to win the battle and I knew that God had already won the war I was facing, so regardless of my downfalls I was still going to make it through.

     Much like St. Paul, my story continued with winding roads, graces from God, and pain from time to time. I went from being good at being judgmental, angry, and being good at really faking my faith to classes every Sunday, challenges to grow, and a feeling of freedom that I needed to share.

     “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15). God calls us, the ones who are far, the ones who are broken, the ones who don’t even want to be around, and He changes us into the instruments He needs for His kingdom. I think that’s what He did with me. He sent me a group of women to help form me and He prepared me to tell all the people what good had happened to me. I thought that alone I could figure it out, I didn’t need to ask God for help because if I worked hard enough it would all fall into place. But once I finally gave that up, so much good came. Anyone who went to SLS ’18 (this is Student Leadership Summit, it is a bi-annual conference put on by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students) will remember this line “Saul means great one, Paul means little one” I think that sums up these stories rather well, to be great you must be small and rely on God for all you need, not yourself.

Saint Paul, pray for us!

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Written by: Carina Marchetti, Catholic Gator

The year is 1531. The Virgin Mary appears on a barren, desolate hill in Mexico in the middle of December. This is her story — and mine.

 

The Story.

 

If you would like to read the full story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, this goes more in depth- https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=456

 

TL;DR: The Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, a middle-aged lower class native Mexican who had never received any formal education. She wanted a Church built in the location where she appeared so that she could hear petitions and heal the suffering of the Mexican people. The Bishop said no; Mary said try again. The Bishop said no again and asked for a sign. Juan Diego’s uncle got sick, but Mary healed him so that Juan Diego could continue his mission. Mary had Juan Diego gather flowers in his tilma in the dead of winter to bring to the Bishop as a sign. When Juan released the flowers from his tilma in front of the Bishop, an image was left behind: the image that we know as Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Bishop instantly believed and repented. A church was built where Mary had requested and the tilma was displayed for all to come and see. As millions flocked to see her, Our Lady of Guadalupe was responsible for the conversion of most of Mexico.

 

My Saint Stalker.

 

Fast forward a mere 486 years to December 12th, 2017, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day. I learned a lot about her that day (mostly via the many Catholic women I follow on instagram). I had known about Our Lady of Guadalupe before (whom I so affectionately call Guady) . My main memory of her was a cartoon I watched in Catholic School that depicted her story. I had purchased a Guady medal the summer before, but the first time I ever wore it was on her feast day. It was an ordinary day and a minor start to my devotion to her, but I always felt that I didn’t have a reason to have a devotion to her. I had never been to Mexico, I am not Mexican, I didn’t feel that I was justified in a devotion to her. (It’s silly, I know. I think she thought so too.) That’s where the fun began.

 

The next day, I was in Publix with my mom. We were buying taco seasoning and tortillas for taco night. In the ethnic food section (literally right by the tortillas) there were religious candles…..one of which had Our Lady of Guadalupe on it. I pointed it out to my mom and we agreed that this was strange. We moved on with our grocery shopping and I moved on with my life. I thought.

 

A few days later, I had a friend staying with me and I brought him to a church for an award ceremony. As we were leaving, we saw a rather large statue of Guady being loaded onto a truck (presumably being put back where she belonged following the celebration for her feast day). I joked that maybe she was stalking me. If only I knew…

 

Another couple of days passed and I had two more friends come to stay with me. To thank me for my hospitality, they brought me a gift: a journal. Who was on the journal? None other than Our Lady of Guadalupe. At this point I was starting to get a little weirded out.

 

The next week, I went to John 15, a retreat for past Life Teen Summer Missionaries that’s held every December. I had several encounters with Guady at John 15, but most notably on the last day. I was sitting in mass next to the (old) sacristy at Hidden Lake. I happened to glance over into the sacristy and just sitting there, watching me, was a large image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Why was she in there? Why was she watching me? Why did I just so happen to sit in the one seat right next to the sacristy???? Heck if I knew.

 

I went home from John 15 and told my mom that Our Lady of Guadalupe was stalking me, to which she responded sarcastically, “yeah, okay…” My friend Sophia was still staying with me and we were browsing through the app for FOCUS’ SLS Conference (which we were both going to in January). Sophia stopped suddenly and said, “Carina. Go look at who the patron saint of SLS is.” Can you guess who???? Obviously, Guady.

 

The next crazy instance was 3 days later, on Christmas. I went to the church that I always go to at home for Christmas Morning Mass with my family. I saw Our Lady of Guadalupe not one, not two, not three, not even four times that morning — I saw her FIVE, yes five, times. I think this was the moment that I knew this was so real. She was stalking me. My mom still thought it was just a coincidence.

 

I had no idea what Guady wanted from me or what she was trying to tell me. I figured she wanted me to go to SLS (which I was already planning to do). I thought that maybe I needed to go to Mexico. But other than that, I was at a loss.

 

Wanna go to Mexico?

 

At SLS, I told my discipler Hayley about this wild chain of events. Her response was, “Did you know that Kassandra (one of our other FOCUS Missionaries) is leading the spring break mission trip to Mexico City? You should talk to her about it.” Mission trip applications were due back in November. It was January. I never even considered that as an option.

 

I talked to Kassandra and she said, “Do you want to come?”

 

W H A T ?

 

I had nothing to lose. I didn’t have spring break plans. I would have to fundraise but I figured that if I was supposed to do this, I would be able to raise the money. Why the heck not?

 

I applied as soon as I got home.

 

All through this time, I was still seeing Guady in the most random places, almost every day. I discovered a book on my bookshelf all about her, which I didn’t even know I had.

 

I began fundraising less than a month before we were to leave, not really knowing where I was going to get $1200. I asked Guady for help. Within a matter of days, I received a $1000 donation and I was fully funded. I was going to Mexico.

 

Our Life, Our Sweetness, and Our Hope

 

In the weeks leading up to leaving for the mission trip, I was having a very rough time. I was not doing well. I got to a place that I truly never thought I would reach: rock bottom. I felt like I had lost my grip on everything, especially my mental health. I was failing my classes. I was bailing on all my commitments. I was in a very dark valley. I was considering medically withdrawing from all my classes. I dropped everything and decided to completely disappear by going home for a week. That was the mental state that I was in when I got on a plane to Dallas to meet up with the rest of the group.

 

To say that the mission trip was perfectly timed is an understatement. It was exactly what I needed. I was able to to get away from everything and everyone. I was able to to get out of myself and serve others and be surrounded by new people. I was able to forget about the dark valley, even for just a minute. I was able to experience true joy and remember what it feels like. For the first time, I was completely vulnerable with a group of my peers, and it was refreshing to just be real for once.

 

I brought all of my suffering to Our Lady of Guadalupe. In our daily visits to her, she spoke to the depths of my heart, “let me be your hope.” The famous words she spoke to Juan Diego when she healed his uncle rang loud and clear, “Am I not with you who am your mother?” As it turns out, she was with me. Not just in that moment, but since she started stalking me in December. She had been a beacon of hope every single time I spotted her in the most random places at the most unexpected times. She was always there. My mother, there to protect me, to guide me, to pray for me. When I looked up into her eyes, I saw her sorrow. I felt her weeping for me and with me. I felt how deeply she wanted to be my hope, to lead me to her Divine Son.

 

One of the most significant experiences I had in Mexico was finally gaining clarity. I knew that I needed to withdraw from my classes and allow myself time to heal and learn how to take care of myself. I am not sure that I would have had the strength or the courage to actually go through with it if it were not for all the time I spent in front of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

 

I finally started to grasp what the Lord was calling me to for my future. For a while, I had wanted to be a FOCUS Missionary, but with everything I was going through, I doubted that I could even do it. I was a mess and I didn’t have any of my life together — at all. How could I possibly be a missionary? But the funny thing about God is that He doesn’t care about our mess. Through the people who were on the trip with me, I started to understand that it doesn’t matter if I have it all together. I knew that if the Lord was calling me to do this, He would give me the ability to do it well. I decided that I definitely needed to apply.

 

What Now?

 

The intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe has radically changed my life. When I got back from Mexico, I went through with my medical withdrawal. It is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I took concrete steps to heal and mend my broken soul. I stopped letting my brokenness define me. I realize now that I had allowed Guady to find me and bring me to Jesus so that He could carry me out of my dark valley. I think that is what she wanted to do all along.

 

Our Lady of Guadalupe wants me to be a FOCUS Missionary. I say this a lot, but I really believe that it’s true. The clarity that I gained in Mexico was not a coincidence. I decided a few months ago that when I renewed my Consecration to Jesus through Mary that I would do it on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (For more on Marian Consecration please see https://totalconsecration.newevangelizers.com/consecration-explained/). The 33 days preparation for my reconsecration started on November 9th, the day that just so happened to be the first day of the FOCUS Recruitment Weekend that I went to for my interviews. I saw her  e v e r y w h e r e while at Recruitment Weekend. I saw her as I walked to my interview and in a different place as I left my interview. I absolutely knew that this is what the Lord was calling me to, and I knew that Our Lady of Guadalupe wanted it for me; perhaps even more than I did. Well, let me tell you, Jesus gives His mother what she wants. FOCUS offered me a spot as a missionary for next year and I accepted. I’m going to be a FOCUS Missionary!

 

The last year of my life has been a whirlwind with Guady. She has been with me through it all, through my lowest lows and my highest highs. She has been praying for me so intensely. I firmly believe that I would not be where I am right now had it not been for Guady stalking me, praying for me, and literally bringing me to her so that she could bring me to Jesus.

 

I still see her every single day, without fail, in the most unexpected places.

 

Our Lady of Guadalupe is our most kind and merciful mother. She embodies the very definition of compassion: “to suffer with”. She suffers with every one of her children. She desires to do for each one of us what she did for the Mexican people: to hear our petitions and heal our suffering; to bring us to the child in her womb, Jesus Christ. All we have to do is turn to her and ask her to do it.

 

So will you? Will you let our mother be your hope?

 

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Saint Andrew the Apostle

Written by: Lisette Koessick, UF Student

     Saint Andrew is not an apostle that is well known or mentioned often in the gospels. He is the older brother of Simon Peter and was first a disciple of St. John the Baptist. A quiet example of faith, Saint Andrew diligently followed Jesus without ambition or seeking of fame.

     The story of Saint Andrew the Apostle seems like an unattainable idea. Following Jesus without request or complaint is indeed a noble goal, but in practice is trying. Often we find ourselves walking a path similar to the brother of the Prodigal Son. We are faithful sons and daughters of God until the first signs of trial; it is when we see the flames begin to rise that our pride consumes us, and we burn for more, more than we need or deserve. The father loved each of his sons equally; the second son mistook his father’s joy at the return of the prodigal son for favoritism and he hardened his own heart. Every day, we see others receiving blessings from the Lord, and it is tempting to judge them, to believe that they are somehow unworthy, and we are somehow worthy. But God the Father loves each of us uniquely, wholly, with equal strength, and despite our unworthiness. He rejoices every time a child of His runs to him with open arms, and He delights in the son or daughter who serves without fanfare.

     There are many times when we do not receive recognition, and in this way we can choose to follow Saint Andrew’s example. He led his brother to Jesus through Saint John the Baptist, watched his brother receive the keys to heaven even though Peter denied Christ. He faithfully followed Jesus even to his own crucifixion in Patras. Famously he chose to be crucified on an x-shaped cross as opposed to a traditional cross, because he did not feel worthy to be sacrificed in the same way as our Lord.

     There is nothing we could ever do to be worthy of love – but we don’t need to be. He loves us infinitely, whether we are closer to the second son or have chosen to follow the way of Saint Andrew. Loving God truthfully includes humble service. It includes serving the greater mission of Christ without an expectation of praise. Through the actions of Saint Andrew, we can learn how to be a better reflection of Christ in this world.
Saint Andrew the Apostle, pray for us!

Pope Saint Leo the Great

Written by: Sam Abbott, UF Student

Alexander. Charlemagne. Catherine. Throughout history, people have used the moniker, “the Great” to describe influential and powerful rulers. However, in the two thousand year history of the Papacy, only three Popes have been honored with such a title. The first Pope to be dubbed “the Great” was St. Leo I, Doctor of the Church who, by the grace of God, strengthened the role of the Papacy and protected the Church from its spiritual and temporal enemies.

St. Leo is believed to have been born in Tuscany to an aristocratic family between the years 390-400.  As a young man, Leo dedicated his life to Christ and quickly became an influential figure in the early church. Under the Papacy of Pope Celestine (422-432), Leo was appointed archdeacon of Rome. Leo was also known for his mediator skills, as he would resolve disputes within the Church and the Roman government. While mediating a dispute in Gaul between imperial generals in the year 440, Leo was notified that Pope Sixtus III had died and that he was chosen as his successor.

Once back in Rome, Pope St. Leo soon went to task promoting the Catholic faith and fighting the heresies that threatened the unity of the One, True Church. As Pope, Leo emphasized the importance of Christmas and established new feast days throughout the liturgical year. Leo  also waged war against the heresy of Pelagianism and its adherents within the church. Pelagianism was a heresy that denied original sin and believed humans could achieve salvation without the grace of God. Leo forbade any priests, deacons, or clerics from receiving the Eucharist if they had not formally renounced this heresy. Upon discovering that Manicheans (another heretical group) were secretly living in Rome due to Vandal invasions in their homeland of Carthage, he quickly wrote letters to the faithful imploring them to point out these heretics to their priests and along with senators and magistrates, conducted in person an investigation into the secret Manichean groups in Rome. Manicheans denied the goodness of the human body, creation, and matter itself- to them the material world was evil. Due to the actions of Leo, a large portion of Manicheans converted, while those who remained obstinate were exiled from Rome.

Leo’s most important defense of the Catholic faith was when he defended the Church’s teaching on the Incarnation and the dual natures of Christ. The Patriarch of Constantinople, who was named Flavian,  and an abbot in the same city had been feuding and sent letters to Leo to help resolve the dispute. The dispute had split the Christian community in the Eastern Roman Empire into two rival factions and threatened the unity of the true faith. The abbot, named Eutyches, wrote letters to Leo claiming Flavian was a heretic that believed that Christ was two separate persons, one human and one divine and asked Leo to relieve the excommunication that Flavian had placed upon him. However, in his letters, Eutyches revealed to Leo that he denied the human nature of Christ. Upon receiving news of the attack on the traditional faith, Leo sent papal legates to Constantinople with a letter, known as Leo’s Tome, defending the Church’s teaching on the Incarnation and elucidating the hypostatic union of Christ’s two natures, one human and one divine, in one person.  At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, Leo’s concise defense of Catholic doctrine was read aloud to the 600 bishops in attendance, causing some to exclaim, “Peter has spoken through the mouth of Leo!” Once again, Leo had saved the Church from heresies intent on ripping it apart.

During Leo’s papacy, the Western Roman Empire was disintegrating into anarchy and chaos and its political authority was crumbling. Leo used his administrative abilities to make up for the lack of leadership and protect Rome from external foes. When Attila the Hun, “the scourge of God,” invaded Italy and planned on sacking and plundering everything in his sight, Leo knew he had to do something. Attila had conquered and destroyed the cities of Aquileia, Pavia, Milan and then marched his army of Huns towards the gates of Rome. Upheld by his sense of duty to protect his flock, Leo went out to meet Attila, accompanied only by two Roman officials and a few priests. Leo was able to convince Attila to turn his army around and save Rome from destruction. A few years later Leo met with the Vandal king Genseric outside of Rome and also tried to persuade him to spare the city. This time Leo was less successful, as Genseric pillaged  and plundered Rome, but was able to get the Vandal king to restrain his troops from arson and carnage and spare the Churches of St. Peter and St. Paul.

Pope Leo continued to serve the church until his death in 461. During his reign he was called by God, to not only protect the Church from heresy and teach the true faith, but to fill the power vacuum left by the crumbling Western Roman Empire. Through his actions, Leo strengthened papal authority over political and spiritual matters. This is the reason why Pope Benedict XVI stated that Leo’s papacy, “was undoubtedly one of the most important in the Church’s history.

St. Leo the Great, pray for us!

 

The Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

Written by: Peter Nguyen, UF Student

     “At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress…” (Daniel 12:1). When I hear this verse from the Book of Daniel, I can’t help but think of our current crisis in the Church. With all these atrocities and indifference among notable members of the Church hierarchy, I think that it’s fair to say that we are currently in a time of major distress. But even through this, it is important to remember the graciousness that God has provided His people throughout the history of Judeo-Christianity. In the times of prophets and kings of the Old Testament, God sent St. Michael the Archangel to guard and defend the Israelites, the chosen people. With the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ, we, as baptized Christians, have all been welcomed as God’s chosen people. And with that, the Lord has and continues to send St. Michael the Archangel to defend us in battle.

     As parishioners at St. Augustine Parish and members of Catholic Gators, we are very familiar with the Prayer to St. Michael, as it is prayed at the end of every daily Mass. But the history of the prayer is very interesting. The Prayer to St. Michael was composed by Pope Leo XIII after having a vision. In the vision, he heard a conversation between God and Satan, in which God allowed Satan to choose one century in which to do his worst work. In this dialogue, Satan chose the 20th century. Although we are no longer in the 20th century, it is clear that Satan never stops seeking to steal souls away from God. It is even more true, however, that God never stops pursuing us and longs for us to be in perfect communion with Him.

     It is in this perfect communion that Christ, in our Gospel reading for today, proclaims His Second Coming. When the time comes, Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead, and the souls who have died will be united again to their bodies. As stated by Daniel, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and grace” (Dn 12:2). This should not scare us; rather, it should inspire us to live out our very existence for Christ, in order that we may receive eternal life and experience God’s everlasting love in its fullness. But we must be aware and renew our faith now, for “no one knows [the day or hour which Christ will come], neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 12:32). In this, I am reminded of the Latin phrase momento mori, which means “reminder of death.” We should not fear death; rather we should reflect on mortality and turn towards the immortality of the soul and our goal of entering Heaven, our eternal home. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that “Christ died so that by dying he might deliver us from the fear of death.” May we be inspired by the example of Christ and His saints, in order that we may continually strive for sainthood.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.

 

[1] https://aleteia.org/2017/09/25/the-demonic-vision-that-inspired-the-st-michael-prayer/

[2] https://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/judga2.htm

Saint Albert the Great

Written By: Summer Jarro, UF Student

     Saint Albert the Great was born in Swabia, an area now located in Stuttgart, Germany, around 1200. He is the oldest son of a German lord of military rank. In 1254, he joined the Dominican Order and was the first German Dominican friar to receive a master’s degree in theology. He is considered today and during his lifetime as a great scholar and intellectual having attended the University of Padua and University of Paris. With his knowledge of theology he introduced Aristotle’s writings to Western civilization. Some of his writings include three volumes on the Books of the Sentences of Peter Lombard, and two volumes on the Summa Theologiae. He he was renowned for his knowledge of other subjects including the natural sciences, physics, astronomy and geography to name a few. In his life he created 40 volumes of writings on an array of topics that were used as encyclopedias during the time.

     Saint Albert the Great had a big influence in the Catholic Church most notably for his work changing the Church’s stance toward Aristotelian philosophy. He did so by creating paraphrases of most of Aristotle’s work, and when there seemed to be some missing Saint Albert produced them himself. This indicates his understanding of Aristotelian philosophy. Along with his student Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Albert was under the opinion that Aristotelian philosophy did not present a roadblock in developing a Christian perspective on natural philosophy. To present this to the Church, Saint Albert analyzed the way that Aristotle proposed natural philosophy. Saint Albert concluded that he method that Aristotle used was experimentally based and proceeds to draw conclusions through inductive reasoning – a method of starting with specific instances and reaching a general conclusion, and deductive reasoning – a method of starting with general principles to reach a specific conclusion.

     Albert the Great died on Nov. 15, 1280 due to his deteriorating health. In 1931, Pope Pius XI made Albert a saint and doctor of the Church and in 1941, Pius made him the patron saint of the natural sciences. His feast day – a day set to celebrate and remember the legacy of certain saints in the Catholic Church –  is November 15.

Saint Vincent DePaul

Written by: Sam Abbott, UF Student

     The “Father of the Poor” was born into a peasant family in France in the late sixteenth century. One would assume that his humble origins would be the reason for his dedication to the less fortunate, but as a child, St. Vincent had only worldly aspirations. Surprisingly, he believed his best opportunity to fulfill his ambition and achieve the wealth and fame he desired was to become a priest!

     A few years after he was ordained in 1600, St. Vincent was captured by North African pirates while traveling across the Mediterranean. After a few years as a slave, he was able to escape and returned to France. After returning to Paris, St. Vincent became acquainted with Fr. (and later Cardinal) Pierre de Berulle, who was attempting to create an order of spiritual priests who would reform the impious ways of the French clergy. Inspired by this friendship and from the death bed confession of a French peasant, St. Vincent set forth on a path to sanctity. From then on, his life’s mission can be summed up by his declaration, “Go to the poor: there you will find God.”

     St. Vincent began to work tirelessly for the spiritual and physical relief for the poor and sick in the neglected parishes of France. With the help of St. Louise de Marillac, St. Vincent established the Daughters of Charity, a religious confraternity “whose convent is the sickroom, whose chapel is the parish church, whose cloister is the streets of the city.” He also established a prison ministry, distributed his money to the deserving poor, and organized the ransoming of over 1,200 Christian galley slaves from North Africa. He also helped reform the priesthood in France by developing the precursor to modern-day seminaries and holding retreats where he would help French priests refocus their lives on God and serving their parishes.

     The most notable achievement of St. Vincent de Paul was his establishment of the Congregation of the Mission, now known as the Vincentians. This order of priests took vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and stability and devoted themselves to the peasants in rural towns and villages. The Vincentians would establish hospitals and schools as well as administer to the destitute and homeless of these communities. During his life, the Vincentians spread across Europe from Italy to Poland.

     The Vincentian Order would continue St. Vincent’s work all over the world. The success of St. Vincent and his order led to the fame he had hoped as a youth to achieve, but it was from his service to the poor, his humility, and his simplicity that gave prominence. Rather than bask in his glory, St. Vincent rejected his younger self’s ideals and continued to serve the poor until his death in 1660. St. Vincent de Paul had dedicated his life to help the less fortunate in any way possible. He was a servant to the poor and therefore, a servant to God.

     The legacy of “The Apostle of Charity” continued long after his death. In 1833, Blessed Frederic Ozanam was inspired to establish the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a charity dedicated to helping the impoverished in communities across the world. If you would like to get involved with the St. Vincent de Paul Society here in Gainesville, contact Betty Lynn Brown-Spears at (352) 222-0588 or at bbrownspears@yahoo.com.

     Today on September 27th, the Feast day of St. Vincent de Paul, may we be reminded of Proverbs 19:17: “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.

St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us.

Pope Saint John Paul II

Written by: Summer Jarro, UF Student

     Throughout his life and years of service, Pope John Paul II has become a symbol and major figure in the Catholic life. He has been a true father of the Church spreading love and knowledge of the Catholic faith to everyone around the world.

     Pope John Paul II was born Karol Wojtyla on May 18, 1920, in Wadowice, Poland. At a young age he dealt with tremendous loss. His older sister, Olga, died as an infant, his mother Emilia died of kidney failure when Karol was 12 and his older brother, Edmund, died while helping those with scarlet fever. Even dealing with tremendous suffering growing up, Karol never lost sight of the faith, crediting his father for helping him maintain his religious beliefs. “My father’s words played a very important role because they directed me toward becoming a true worshiper of God,” Wojtyła said, according to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine.

     In 1938, Karol began attending Jagiellonian University. His time at the university would become a titular moment for the life he would lead later on.  While studying topics like Polish language, literature, theater and poetry, Jagiellonian University is where Karol met his spiritual mentor, Jan Tyranowski, and was introduced to the Carmelite mysticism of St. John of the Cross, which ultimately led him to the priesthood.

     When World War II started and Germany invaded Poland, Karol dealt with several events that helped him mature and shape his identity as a future priest. During the war, he was forced to put his studies on hold and work in a stone quarry and chemical plant, he lost his father from a heart attack in 1941 and was almost killed in 1944 when he was hit by a German truck. Through all of this, Karol’s strength and faith never wavered. During the war, he secretly joined the seminary in Krakow showing him as a true disciple of God.

     In 1946, Karol was ordained on the Feast of All Saints. On July 4, 1958, he was consecrated an auxiliary bishop of Krakow, the youngest in Poland’s history. His attendance and support in the Second Vatican Council starting in 1962 helped him become a cardinal in 1968. Cardinal Wojtyla was elected Pope on Oct. 16, 1978, taking the name Pope John Paul II. He remained in the position for 27 years, one of the longest in the history of the Church. As Pope, John Paul II, became a true missionary traveling to over 129 countries to spread love and teach God’s word to others. He helped with the removal of Communism in Eastern Europe, stopped a war between Chile and Argentina, and even restored peace and relationships with the major religions of the world.

     On May 13, 1981, Ali Agca attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square. Being the Godly man he is, Pope John Paul II didn’t show hatred or anger to his attacker but love and forgiveness even visiting him while Agca was in prison.

     Throughout his years, Pope John Paul II has become a legacy in the Church by transforming it for modern times, and continuously spreading love and the word of God to everyone around him until his death on April 2, 2005.

     Pope John Paul II has become an inspiration to many especially through his ability to show love and forgiveness even through time of adversity. He was beatified on May 1, 2011 and canonized April 27, 2014. To celebrate his life and lasting legacy for the Church, the Vatican also dedicated Oct. 22 as the feast day of St. John Paul II. The Vatican chose this this day because it was the day he was inaugurated as pope, and to recall the momentous days that proceeded.

 

Information from the Saint John Paul II National Shrine website.

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