Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Hail,holy Queen, Mother of mercy, 
Our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
To thee we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us;
and after this our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Feast of Saint Clare

Illustration by Mark Balma

Saint Clare of Assisi was born in 1194. A daughter of a noble Italian family of the city of Assisi. This young lady, who was not particularly interested in entering a noble marriage, heard Saint Francis preaching, and wanted to live the Gospel life he espoused. Because of the social strictures of her times, she began living the Gospel life behind the walls of a monastery.

From behind those walls, she was still able to inspire people to follow Christ. Women came to be admitted to her community located around the chapel of San Damiano, one of the first churches Francis repaired. They lived a simple life of prayer and work. They claimed nothing for their own, no dowries, no financial endowments. People came from all around Assisi, seeking her advice and guidance.

Her influence could be felt beyond the Italian borders; when a noble woman, Agnes of Prague, inspired by lives of Franciscan friars in Hungary, sought Clare’s advice. Agnes would herself establish a Franciscan monastery. Clare, would advise her in several letters. In her second letter to Agnes, she wrote:

O most noble Queen,
gaze upon Him,
consider Him,
contemplate Him,
as you desire to imitate Him.
If you suffer with Him, you will reign with Him.
If you weep with Him, you shall rejoice with Him;
If you die with Him on the cross of tribulation, you shall possess heavenly mansions in the splendor of the saints and,in the Book of Life, your name shall be called glorious among men.

Saint Clare died on August 11,1253.

Feast Day of Saint Bonaventure, Franciscan

“Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages.

A person should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity; devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked with gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ, a pasch, that is, a passing over. Through the branches of the cross, he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulcher, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’”

From “Journey of the Mind to God” By Saint Bonaventure, Seventh Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans)

Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.” We see Jesus taking an important step in his ministry in the Galilee. Up to now, it has been just him proclaiming the Good News; just him healing the sick; and those suffering from demons and evil spirits. Now, he was sending his twelve disciples out, to proclaim the glory, the mercy of God; sending them out drive out demons, and heal the sick. In a sense, he was sending them out as his front men, to get the word out to a wider audience, to give hope to more people of the Galilee. I would have loved to know what pairings of the Apostles were. Who was Judas paired with? How did that go? Some ago, a book came out, based on the TV mini-series; “Jesus of Nazareth;” a novelization of the mini-series. In the telling of this story, Peter, the rough, tough fisherman was paired with the Matthew, the tax collector! Not exactly a match made in heaven. The story goes on telling how Matthew worked at keeping Peter out of trouble because of his temper. All of the Apostles fulfilled the mission, given to them by Jesus. The groundwork had been done, that when Jesus went into greater Galilee, thousands of people came to see him, came to hear him, came to be healed by him.

We seemed to have turned the corner on this pandemic we are going through, though this variant has people worried. Our churches are fully opened, people are being invited back; yet, the mainstream press, secular and religious, are reporting a severe drop in the number of people attending church, a drop in the number of people who identify themselves as Catholic, or even Christian. Now, there could be many reasons for this, going to church is no longer a habit, people have found other things to fill their time, people have been put off by the division in the some areas of the Church, they felt alone, scared, and losing hope, and for whatever reason, they feel nobody is reaching out to them.

Now, there are programs and approaches to answer this growing situation , all coming under the umbrella of the “New Evangelization;” but in the light of today’s Gospel, I would suggest that each one of us are called to bearers of the Good News, to be evangelists. Now some may object, “I do not have training!” I would agree, we do need trained evangelists. But we also need people who have strived to live the Gospel, at home, on the job, with family, friends and strangers. Amos was not a trained prophet, he was shepherd, something of a gardener. The Apostles were mostly fisherman, who probably knew just enough Hebrew that they could read, barely, the Torah. Matthew was probably the most educated, he had to know some arithmetic, and enough Latin or Greek to communicate with his Roman overseers. But they were ordinary folks, like you and me, but they were inspired by the Gospel that Jesus preached; they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

We, who strive to live the Gospel, try to put into practice the commandments to love God with all our mind, with all our heart, with all our soul; and love our neighbors as ourselves, with all that it implies; have that same Spirit within us. And people will recognize that, recognize the authenticity of our lives, both with the struggles and joys. And they will be drawn to Christ, drawn to the God who loves us and cares for us.

I would remind us again what Saint Paul said to the Ephesians; “In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit;”. May the Holy Spirit guide us, inspire us to be evangelists for others, by the example of our lives, our lives of faith.

Saint Elizabeth of Portugal

Born in 1271, Elizabeth was a daughter of one of the rulers of the kingdom of Aragon; which would eventually become part of modern Spain. At age 12, she was married to the king of Portugal, who at that time was named, Denis. She would eventually give birth to two children. While her husband was a philanderer, she remained faithful to him, and fulfilled all her royal duties. She was also a woman of faith, attending church regularly, and maintaining a life of prayer and charity.

She was drawn into royal politics and diplomacy, when her husband and her son’s relationship had deteriorated to the degree that civil war threatened the country. Through her efforts, peace was maintained. Much later in her life, she worked to prevent war between the kingdom of Portugal and the Spanish kingdom of Castile. For her efforts, she became known as “the Peacemaker!”

When her husband died, she left the royal court and took up residence in a Poor Clare monastery. She put on the habit of a Third Order Franciscan tertiary, and lived a life of prayer and charity. Still, she was continually called on to come out and apply her diplomatic skills to keep peace on the Iberian Peninsula.

Elizabeth died in 1336; in 1625, she was canonized as a Saint, in the Roman Catholic Church.

All Franciscans are called to be peacemakers; in our families, communities, churches, nations, the whole world. We do this by actively working for peace, speaking out for peace, supporting peacemaking organizations. And ultimately, maintaining peace within ourselves!