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Catholic Gators Blog

Inquietum Est Cor Nostrum

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November 2018

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!

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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.

The Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Written by: Thomas Boyle, UF Student

     Hypocrisy, vanity, pretentiousness. Jesus goes after them all in today’s Gospel reading. We see two distinct teachings of Christ here, firstly a public criticism of hypocritical religious authorities and then a discussion of the true depth of different people’s generosity.

     Jesus’ first message in today’s reading seems increasingly apt for reflection given the current scandals that are harming His Church. With so much evil and hypocrisy from certain Catholic clergy around the globe being brought to light in recent times, it makes many question the legitimacy of religious authorities at all. It is important for Christians to consider the content of Jesus’ critique here, specifically that He is harsh against hypocrisy of religious authorities, not the reality of their authority itself. It is easy to draw parallels between the leaders of Christ’s time “who go around in long robes…and take places of honor at banquets” and bishops in today’s Church. Surely there were virtuous scribes in the first century, and Jesus does not say that their teachings are false and that his disciples, rather He tells us to “beware.” Today, many bishops and clergy are great people who spread the light of Christ, yet we also ought to beware that merely because somebody has a legitimate position of authority does not mean that they are always good people to emulate on the basis of their actions. A fulfilled Christian life needs to have interaction with the Sacraments which clergy minister and the communities which they head.

     The second main teaching presented in today’s Gospel is that we should focus on giving our all more than we focus on giving a lot. Christ specifically highlights the life of a poor woman who gives a very little amount of money, but claims that she is giving more than the rich people who donate big sums of money. It is obvious that society is not made up of all equally wealthy people, and as such, Jesus shows us that we are called to pursue lives, at whatever socioeconomic status we have, that are dedicated to giving of what we have. Followers of Christ are not guaranteed earthly riches, but we are also not judged by our earthy economic status, and so we should always be at peace with ourselves so long as we truly give all that we have to give even if it does not appear to make much objective difference financially. The crux of Jesus’ message here is that the authentic love of God is so consuming that it can be recognized by sincere and absolute generosity and dedication to virtuous acts.

     One might wonder why Christ is not mentioned warning the widow to stop donating because some of the Jewish authorities were corrupted morally, but again we should remember that Jesus speaks out against their vanity and hypocrisy, while maintaining that the work they do as part of their ministry is still good and important. This ties into the first part of this reflection because even though we may have concerns about the state of the Church’s clergy, that we should not forget that they perform the work that God wills for us to experience Himself through. As such, we ought to be mindful of where we can give our “two small coins” in order to aid the good work of the Church.

     To summarize, though some clergy are guilty of awful acts, the work of religious authorities is still good for Christians to participate in and to help foster by giving our talents and resources. We should reflect personally on the ways that we may better give what we have to God’s community on Earth and in what ways we have been hypocritical in our own lives so that we may humbly seek to grow in virtue in ourselves, even if our faith in the holiness of others is shaken.

The Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time

Written by: Evan Cowie, UF Student

     All things have their end in God. We are created to be in eternal union with Him, and He alone can provide the satisfaction we so desperately seek. He’s the only one that can fill that peculiarly God-shaped hole in our hearts. So, of all the commandments, the greatest is this:

The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

     This commandment is presented to us in the first reading for a reason – it is what gives the rest of the commandments, and the whole of our lives meaning. It is the foundation on which our relationship with God is built, and when observed, it animates us and moves us to action.

     We see this in the second Greatest Commandment. Let’s take a look: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Why is this? Indeed, it is because our neighbor, too, is made in the image and likeness of God. If we humans were not created in this image of God, this great dignity and destiny for union to the Divine, any love directed toward us would be in vain, as is love towards any temporal thing. Temporal things will all go away, but the human soul is immortal. So, we see that the second Great Commandment is not separate from the first: to love God is to love neighbor.

     Christ fulfills both of these commandments perfectly in His ministry as Eternal High Priest. Let’s review exactly what makes a priest a priest: out of love of God and love of neighbor, a priest offers sacrifice to God on behalf of neighbor, intercedes for him before God, and distributes to him the fruits of this sacrifice. It is to exercise this priestly ministry that Christ becomes our neighbor in the Incarnation: taking our humanity, so that He may offer it to the Father as a perfect and total sacrifice, and distribute the graces of that sacrifice to us.

     The Levitical priests of the Old Testament exercised a hereditary priesthood – they offered material, temporal sacrifices to God. While these were indeed pleasing to God, they could not hope to amend the infinite debt owed by sinful man to God. The sacerdotal priesthood of the New Covenant, however, is different: it is not merely natural, it is supernatural – one and the same with the Eternal Priesthood of Christ. Not because our priests are in any way equivalent to Christ, but because Christ acts through their ministry, offering through them the same Eternal Sacrifice at every Mass, and distributing its graces in each of the Sacraments.

     While this privileged participation in the sacerdotal priesthood of Christ is restricted to those ordained, we all have a royal priesthood by virtue of our baptism. So, we also can live the two Great Commandments according to Christ’s model of priestly service. First, notice that the commandments pertain to the interior disposition of charity. We are commanded to love God and neighbor from the heart – not to act as if we love them, but to actually love them. Yet, it’s also clear that we aren’t to stop here. These commandments are concrete instructions, not nebulous sentiments. To love God, follow His laws. To love neighbor, offer sacrifice and intercede for them. To perform real and meaningful service. But always, we need to keep in mind that without the spirit of charity, all of these works are empty and void. It matters not how much you have sacrificed, or how well you have kept the law: to love God and neighbor “is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Faith needs works, and works need faith. The two are inseparable.Do these things, and it will be said: “You are not far from the kingdom of God.

The Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Written by: Thomas Mooney

     We need to be more like Bartimaeus. It is tempting, when we believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good God, to sit back and expect the Lord to cater to our needs while we sit in waiting. In our lives, it is very tempting for us to become over expectant of the Lord to fill our needs. However, as a priest told me this last summer, if we want something from the Lord, we should ask. In the Gospel today, Bartimaeus was a man stricken with blindness. Jesus did not walk up to Bartimaeus and heal him immediately. No, Jesus granted Bartimaeus the opportunity to act in faith and in love through his calling upon our Lord and asking for healing. Because of this, we get the verse from Jesus: “Go your way; your faith has saved you.

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