Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Saint Augustine

On August 28th the Church remembers St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo and Doctor of the Church. Augustine was about 37 when he became a priest. Here is a except from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Augustine did not think of entering the priesthood, and, through fear of the episcopacy, he even fled from cities in which an election was necessary. One day, having been summoned to Hippo by a friend whose soul's salvation was at stake, he was praying in a church when the people suddenly gathered about him, cheered him, and begged Valerius, the bishop, to raise him to the priesthood. In spite of his tears Augustine was obliged to yield to their entreaties, and was ordained in 391.

He was elected Bishop of Hippo 5 years later in A.D. 396. All this was after he had lived with his girlfriend for 14 years and had a child with her. He was also member if the Manichean cult.

Saint Augustine is a patron of this blog and a quote from his Confessions is at the top of the blog. At 37 and given his dissolute life before his conversion I wonder how many vocation directors would consider him as a candidate for the priesthood?

Saint Augustine, pray for us!

Monday, August 27, 2007

My Saint Monica

Today, August 27th, is the feast of Saint Monica, mother of Saint Augustine. Saint Monica prayed for her son's conversion for 17 years before she saw him come to the faith of the Catholic Church. She died shortly thereafter in A.D. 387.

Thinking about this reminded me of the Saint Monica in my life, my mom. I was raised Catholic, left the Church for about 25 years, joined a Southern Baptist Church (in upstate NY!), went to a Southern Baptist seminary (in Texas!) and eventually stopped attending church altogether, although I still considered myself a Christian. I came back to the Catholic Church in 2004
(more details here).

I am sure that my Mom was praying for me all those years. She passed away in January of this year, a little over two years after her prayers for me were answered. I picture her and Saint Monica comparing notes on their sons. Monica was told "the child of those tears shall never perish." Amen.

Mom, I still need your prayers. I'm glad I have them.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Late to the Grapes

In the Gospel of Matthew 21:28-32, Jesus tells the story of a man who has two sons. He asks both to work in his vineyard. The first says no, but later goes to the vineyard. The second says he will, but doesn’t go. Jesus asks, “Which did his father’s will?” They answer, “The first.”

Those with late vocations are like that first son. They may or may not have actively said no to God and his call for their lives. Perhaps they weren’t ready to hear God’s still small voice until after turning 40 or later. But when they finally hear the Spirit in their hearts, they go to the vineyard; they do the Father’s will.

Let’s pray that the Church will receive them so that, like Pope Benedict XVI, they will become humble workers in God’s vineyard.

St. Clare, pray for us.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

St. Thomas

Today is the feast of St. Thomas, one of this blog's patrons. After expressing doubt that the risen Christ had appeared to the other disciples, Jesus appeared to Thomas and invited him to examine his wounded hands and side.

I have often wondered why Jesus resurrected body would still have his wounds. The account in John's gospel would suggest that this was believed by the Church in the first century! It has been carried forward in religious art. In today's meditation in Magnificat, St. Anthony of Padua relates the wounds of Christ to Isaiah saying that God has written us in the palms of his hands (Isaiah 49.16). St. Anthony gives 3 reasons for this: 1) to show the scars of his wounds to the Father as a reminder of our need for mercy, 2) in order not to forget us, and 3) "He has written in his hands what kind of people we should be and in whom we should believe."

We are all like Thomas. We believe yet we want proof. By his wounds Jesus is telling us as he told Thomas "be not faithless, but believe." (John 20:27). As it says in the Anima Christi, "O good Jesus hear me, within thy wounds hide me..."

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Blessed Francis Faà di Bruno

One of our patrons (see And Now a Word from Our Sponsors, below) is Blessed Francis Faà di Bruno.

If you’re thinking “Faà who?--you’re not alone! Blessed Francis Faà di Bruno was born in 1825, the youngest of 12. He became first a mathematician and later a priest. How late? He was ordained at the age of 51!

Here’s a quote from AmericanCatholic.org (Read the full entry here.)

It wasn’t Francis’ lack of scholarly ability or deep-down goodness that almost kept him from the priesthood, but his bishop’s distrust of “late vocations.” Until the later part of the 20th century, most candidates for the priesthood entered the seminary right out of grade school. Today no bishop would refuse a middle-aged applicant—especially someone whose care for people in need is constant. Francis is a holy reminder that God’s call to reassess our life’s direction can reach us at any age.

Hmm, I’m not sure that “today no bishop would refuse a middle-aged applicant”! But the need for such to show that their late vocation comes from a life of openness to the Holy Spirit’s leading is well taken.
Blessed Francis Faà di Bruno, pray for us!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

St. Thomas--doubting and late!

The disciples are gathered. In fact they are in hiding! Some of them have seen the empty tomb, some have seen the risen Jesus; others have not. Some believe, some doubt.

Then Jesus appears in their midst. They all see him, except Thomas. He is absent. Perhaps he is buying provisions. Perhaps he is off by himself trying to understand the stories he has heard about Jesus being raised from the dead.

Thomas returns. The others tell him, "we have seen the Lord!" Thomas has missed seeing Jesus. Thomas is late. Then he gets defensive. “Unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands and put my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later, the Gospel of John tells us, Jesus again appears to the disciples, who are gathered behind locked doors. After greeting them with “Peace be with you”, Jesus turns to Thomas and invites him to do exactly what he said he needed to do to believe. “Put your finger here and see my hands, put your hand into my side. Be not faithless, but believe.”

Thomas’ answer is “My Lord and my God”. It has echoed down the centuries from the lips of those who, like Thomas, have seen the risen Christ. It is whispered in fervent intensity by Catholic believers when the consecrated bread and wine are presented for a moment of adoration during the Mass, as they affirm the Real Presence of the risen Christ in the Eucharist. Thomas saw Jesus in the flesh by sight. We see Jesus in the flesh by faith. We see him in his Body, the Church, and especially in the Eucharist.

Thomas was late to see the risen Christ. I don’t think it’s too much to say that Jesus appeared that second time to the disciples in order to answer Thomas’ prayer and challenge his faith. Jesus came and appeared to a late and unbelieving Thomas and brought him back into the community of the disciples. Jesus continues to come to the late and unbelieving through the Church and the Eucharist to grant them the opportunity to “not see and believe.”

If Jesus did that for Thomas, can we do any less?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Visitation

One of the questions regarding late vocations is "how late is late?" Some religious orders have a cut-off age of 35 or so. They want young postulants and novices because of the time needed not only for spiritual formation but also formation in the community. Diocesan vocations tend to be more flexible. 40 seems to be the usual cut-off age, but they will often consider older candidates who are well qualified.

Today, May 31st, is the Feast of the Visitation. Elizabeth, who was 6 months pregnant when Mary came to visit her, was an older woman. She had been barren, but the Lord had blessed her to be the mother of John the Baptist. Luke writes that Elizabeth was well "advanced in years". Her fruitfulness came late in her life! "Nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). Every time we pray the Hail Mary, we remember Elizabeth's words to Mary, "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!" (Luke 1:42).

If Elizabeth and her husband Zachariah, a Levitical priest, could bring forth life in their later years, giving birth to John the Baptist, then clearly God is not limited by our mortal lifetime. It is never too late with God!