Wednesday, 5 June 2013

A profile in courage: Examining the Christian heart

I know, I'm a little behind in my blogging. I think at this point, I'll blog whenever I can, and the days that I don't blog, I won't make up for them...I'll simply pick up  the blogging from which ever day I'm at. The exception being  this entry..I will write an entry for yesterday's readings because I've already begun my reflections on it. I'll skip today's readings and St -Boniface!- and be ready for an entry For St Norbert the meantime...

St. Francis Caracciolo
Feast: June 4

Feast Day:June 4
Born:October 13, 1563, Villa Santa Maria, Province of Chieti, Region of Abruzzo, Kingdom of Naplesa
Died:June 4, 1608, Agnone, Province of Isernia, Region of Molise, Kingdom of Italy
Canonized:May 24, 1807, Rome by Pope Pius VII
Major Shrine:Church of Santa Maria di Monteverginella, Naples
Patron of:of the city of Naples, Italy and of Italian cooks

Tuesday, we encountered another super holy person, one who was called to love God and humanity  from a young age.  As a boy, rather than playing games with his mates, Francis  made constant visits to the Blessed Sacrament. He was also very big on charity, always looking to give food and other reliefs to the poor. "His desire  for renewal in the Church came to fruition  when The Holy Father approved  his Congregation on 1st July of 1588."

"The new Congregation of the Minor Clerks Regular thus established was one of considerable severity. At his solemn profession at Naples, 9th April, 1589, Fr. Caracciolo took the name of Francis, from his great devotion to the holy Founder of the Seraphic Order. He quite surpassed all his brethren in the matter of prayer and austerity. He meditated several hours daily on the sufferings of Our Lord, and spent most of the night before the Blessed Sacrament. This he did, among other reasons, to make up as far as he could for the coldness and ingratitude of men, and often, too, the culpable negligence of indifferent ecclesiastics which so frequently caused the churches to be practically abandoned day after day."the zeal of Thy house hath eaten me up!" (Ps. lxviii. 10.)"
"  Besides his work for the Congregation, Francis unceasingly interested himself in the salvation of souls generally. He was much sought after as a confessor while his exhortations brought to repentance numerous public sinners, and he fortified the wavering and the despondent by personal encouragement and the recommendation of the two great Catholic devotions, those to the Blessed Sacrament and to Our Lady. He had the gift of discerning hearts and of prophecy, and his own approaching death was made known to him one day, when, according to custom, he was praying before the altar of the Church of St. Lauretana. He was at that time in negotiation with the Oratorian Fathers with reference to taking over their house at Agnone in the Abruzzi for the use of his Congregation, and he lost no time in going to that place. Arrived there, he was shortly after seized with fever, and having received all the last rites, he died surrounded by the Oratorian Community of the place on the Vigil of Corpus Christi, 4th June, 1608. His body was removed to the Church of St. Mary Major, Naples, where it remained till it was transferred to the Church of Montivergonella."
"  In addition to the Rule which he drew up in conjunction with his two holy coadjutors, St. Francis Caracciolo also left a devotional treatise on the Passion, this work, apart from the inherent value of the subject, is precious as containing the holy reflections and aspirations of one of the outstanding notabilities of the Church in the last period of the Counter-Reformation—the lover of souls—who did so much to heal by his zeal and piety the wounds which heresy and iniquity had inflicted upon the Mystical Body of the Lord."

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I've spent a good chunk of our recent reflections looking at the challenges of our faith, and the invitation to radicality we received from Christ, echoed in the words of Pope Francis and in the lives of our Saints. A radical faith sounds like something that's pretty scary, but really, when we say radical, we just mean to go against what is common, what is usual, what is the norm, when that norm doesn't go far enough to bring love and charity into the world. To be creatively caring in an uncaring world. To focus our heart's energies on good when our world sees (and does) evil.  There are many radicals in our world today doing great deeds that are not Christians or not people of faith at all, but I still believe people of faith have the greatest potential for this radicality of love.  For us Christians, being radical is all about keeping a courageous heart set on God and on the greater good. All we're being invited to do is to spend more time in prayer, and to intentionally give more of our time and energy to those in need -as st Francis Caracciolo was-

 That is not to say that the path to holiness is easy. In our first reading, Tobit, who is considered an intentionally  pious man, encounters many struggles on that path.Partly because he has his own conception of what that holiness should be. It's a strange reading, no doubt, but the gist of it is, he loses his temper, and jumps to conclusions about his wife's actions, which leads her rather distraught, and in her grief, she wails at him : "Where are your charities and your righteous deeds? You seem to know everything!"
 Her words are justified, as he genuinely does lose his patience and turns into a strangely intolerant and angry man because of 'his holiness'.  Tobit's story is in some ways, the story of many people of faith today, who seem to assume that our faith gives us the authority to angrily judge the world.  It's a fine line between one who does righteous deeds before God, whose heart (as the Psalm says) is steady, and one who is misguided and even intolerant in their 'piety'. We often complain about people like that in our Church today, but it's a problem that's rather old.
  Jesus dealt with such people all the time. The Evangelists mention the Sadducees and Pharisees often, but really, it could have been any temple leader who felt that he could obtain prestige, power, or riches through his position, who  felt threatened by the call to a radical simplicity that Jesus was inviting the people to.  Suddenly, prestige and wealth was not something that was desired or valued anymore. According to Jesus, in the eyes of God, it never was. 

 A simple, humble faith, where one's heart is lovingly turned to God, and to  what is good not just for oneself, but for all people around us, is all God truly wants from us. The rest, all these ideas of righteousness, all these 'holy plans' we make for ourselves, these are at times, completely inconsequential to God. A difficult truth to bear, as we are a people who need to be in charge and in control of everything in our lives. Like Tobit, after a while, we also begin to make our own version of what is holy, what is good and right. This is why we must turn ourselves to God so be renewed, to be re centered on what the Divine wills for us!

Tobit 2: 9 - 14

9On the same night I returned from burying him, and because I was defiled I slept by the wall of the courtyard, and my face was uncovered.10I did not know that there were sparrows on the wall and their fresh droppings fell into my open eyes and white films formed on my eyes. I went to physicians, but they did not help me. Ahikar, however, took care of me until he went to Elymais.11Then my wife Anna earned money at women's work.12She used to send the product to the owners. Once when they paid her wages, they also gave her a kid;13and when she returned to me it began to bleat. So I said to her, "Where did you get the kid? It is not stolen, is it? Return it to the owners; for it is not right to eat what is stolen."14And she said, "It was given to me as a gift in addition to my wages." But I did not believe her, and told her to return it to the owners; and I blushed for her. Then she replied to me, "Where are your charities and your righteous deeds? You seem to know everything!"

Psalms 112: 1 - 2, 7 - 9

1Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!
2His descendants will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.
7He is not afraid of evil tidings; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.
8His heart is steady, he will not be afraid, until he sees his desire on his adversaries.
9He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever; his horn is exalted in honor.
Mark 12: 13 - 17

13And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Hero'di-ans, to entrap him in his talk.
14And they came and said to him, "Teacher, we know that you are true, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?
15Should we pay them, or should we not?" But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, "Why put me to the test? Bring me a coin, and let me look at it."
16And they brought one. And he said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" They said to him, "Caesar's."
17Jesus said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were amazed at him

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