St. Catherine was born into a noble family of Bologna, Italy, in 1413. As she grew into a teenage girl, it became obvious that she wanted to live a life very different from other daughters of the nobility. She persuaded her parents to allow her to join a community of lay Franciscan women (Secular Franciscan Order).
As a member of that community, she grew in the spiritual life, both the joys and challenges. She became known as a mystic; known to have experienced intense visions of Christ and the Blessed Mother. Now Bologna had a community of Poor Clare sisters, that must have been afflicted with laxity, because Catherine was ordered to take over the community.
She lead the convent by example, gentleness, and wisdom. The community became known for it’s holiness of life, attracting many new novices.
Saint Catherine died in 1463. She was canonized a Saint in 1712. Her feast day is March 9.
Today’s readings provides us with a short lesson on salvation history. In the first reading, from the Book of Genesis, we have a description of how humanity came to be; how God brought about the parents. And how he blessed them with a paradise, a wondrous garden that would provide for their every need. So what happened? They messed up, that is what happened! They gave into temptation to want more, disobeying God and resulting in humanity losing Paradise!
But the Father was not going to abandon us. He set into motion those events, that would lead eventually to the birth of a savior; God’s own Son, Jesus. We have read and have celebrated what follows; Jesus comes to the Jordan River, is baptized by John the Baptist; the Holy Spirit descends upon him, and the Father declaring that Jesus is His Son. In today’s Gospel, continuation of Matthew, we see that Jesus was lead by the Spirit into the desert.
Now, in preparation for this homily, I came across a painting that illustrates what we have just heard in the Gospel reading. The title of the painting is “Christ in the Desert.” It was painted in 1872, by a Russian painter, whose name was Ivan Kramskoi. It portrays Jesus at the end of his forty days fast; he is seating on a rocky hill. We see him worn out by the ordeal, and we know that the devil is coming soon. Or maybe he already there, invisible, but already tempting Jesus, whispering in his ear; pushing him hard to give in, to surrender to the Evil One, to screw up like Adam and Eve did. However, Jesus holds true. Jesus overcomes the Tempter.
Fast forward to today; to us hearing this Gospel; it calls us to reflect on those times we have been tempted, and how hard it is for us to resist; and whether we either succeed is resisting temptation, or not. Call him “Evil,” “the Devil,” “the Tempter,” or “Mr. Scratch,” he is out there. And by every subtle means, he is always trying to trip us up. And let’s be honest with ourselves, sometimes we do!
However, we have a companion who is with us, who is always walking with us! And he has showed us how to deal with temptation, by turning to Scripture, reflecting on the Good News that God is there with us, strengthening us. We are to pray; seeking the help of our Heavenly Father, to overcome the temptation to sin. Now sometimes, we do fail; sometimes, we do not follow the teachings of Jesus as we are called to do. It is moments like that, when we should turn to the Sacrament of reconciliation; to heal our soul, and be strengthened to resist sin.
So this Lent, let us reflect on how well, or not; we have tried to live the Gospel life . And then rededicate ourselves to following Jesus, more closely, more intensely; during the time of Lent, and for all time.
O God, whose Son, baptized by John in the waters of the Jordan, was anointed with the Holy Spirit, and, as he hung upon the Cross, gave forth water from his side along with blood, and after his Resurrection, commanded his disciples: “Go forth, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” look now, we pray, upon the face of your Church and graciously unseal for her the fountain of Baptism.”
From the Order of Baptism for Children
On February 19, 2023, I had the honor and joy to baptize 4 beautiful children; welcoming them into the Catholic Church!
Was not able to snap any good pictures, but I would like to share what I did snapped!
We begin a new year, it is mixed with both anticipation and fear, beginnings and endings. For us Catholics, we end this year with the sad news of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He had an definite affect on the Catholic Church, before he became Pope, during his Papacy, and afterwards; and on the world around us.
We are beginning a new year. Liturgically, we are celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. We are reflecting on the important role of Mary in the salvation of humanity. We celebrate her courage to say yes, her willingness to say yes to bearing the child who would be the savior of the world. She was willing to become Mother of God the Son.
For that reason, for that courage, for that love that she had for God, for that love she had for all humanity; she is remembered and celebrated by Catholics and other Christians.
But I would challenge us to see Mary as a real human person. I am sometimes concerned, afraid that we treat Mary and our other saints, as characters in a show, play, movie and not as a real person. And Mary was a real human person. It was her courage and her love for God that allowed her to say response to the angel’s declaration, the Annunciation: “ Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1)
She should courage and strength, making that journey with Joseph to Bethlehem; and finding out that they had to stay in stable. She had the courage and the strength to give birth to the baby who would soon be named Jesus.
We have little information on what life was like for this little family when they finally were able to return to Nazareth. How often did she reflect on what had happened to her, her little child and her husband. Today’s gospel mentioned that she kept all that she experienced in her heart, reflecting on them, what they meant for her and for her son. We know that she cared for her neighbors, friends and relatives. She and Jesus were invited to a wedding, what the relationship they had with the wedding party, we do not know; but it was there that she asked Jesus to come to the aid of the bridegroom with their wine shortage. And a son cannot say “no,” to his mother.
Mary was present at her Son’s suffering and death on the cross. She must have mourned deeply over witnessing that sight. In our reflections on Mary, we need to remind ourselves that she was as human as the rest of us. That she experienced great joy, great hope; as well as great pain, and great sorrow. And it is these experiences that makes her a good advocate for us before God. So we can turn to her in our need:
“Hail holy Queen, mother of mercy, Our life, our sweetness and our hope. To you we do cry, poor banished children of Eve. To you do we send up our sighs; mourning and weeping in valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy toward us, and after this exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!”
Working at home can distract one from other things happening in the world. Today I was busy, so I missed looking at my Franciscan calendar; and towards the end of the day, I suddenly found out that today was the feast day of all saints of the “Seraphic” Order; the Franciscan Order. It was a day to remember in prayer, those who had lived the Gospel, according to the example of St. Francis of Assisi, and lived it well.
I think is was originally established to recognize the the known and unknown saints of the Order of Friars Minor; all three branches, Regular, Conventual, and Capuchin. But on this day, I would remember those persons who were either Poor Clare’s, Third Order Franciscan Brothers and Sisters, or members of the Secular Franciscan Order. I am sure that there are many out, whose lives of prayer and charity has been an example for others.
“Almighty, eternal God, you were pleased to make your churchillustrious through the varied splendor of the saints of the Seraphic Order. As we venerate their memory in one festival, may we also follow such shining examples of virtue on earth and thus obtain merited crowns in heaven.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen”
“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” (Isaiah 2).
A very long time ago, while I was in college, a group of my classmates decided to go up to the White Mountains, and climb one of them. Which one, I cannot remember, I want to believe it was one of the smaller ones. I was invited to join in this “adventure.” Now keep in mind, I was much heavier than I am now, and I was definitely out of shape. But I went anyway.
Now it was fall, the leaves on trees in New Hampshire were just coming into their peak color. We had rented a large cabin for the weekend, we slept on the floor in sleeping bags, and the next morning, we began our hike.
It did not take long for me to realize that this may not have been one of my brighter ideas. I was starting to have having problems; I told them to leave me, I was going to sit on some rocks by the trail, and I would join them on their way down. They were not having it. They literally dragged me up to the summit. And when we made it to the top; and I could catch my breath; I looked out over the mountain range. It was one of those rare days when everything was crisp and clear, and beautiful. The foliage was in full color; you could see the beauty of the mountain range for miles. And I thank God for getting me up there.
We are all at the beginning of another Advent season, the first of two penitential periods on the Church’s calendar. A time of preparation, a time of reflection, a time for penance, a time of renewal. We are all called to make that journey up to “the mountain of the Lord’s House.” To reach where God dwells. It is a journey, a climb that began the moment we were born; the moment we were baptized and confirmed. But how many of us take this journey seriously? Or have we come to believe that this journey is too much for us, that we will just stop here and “rest.” But Jesus is not willing to give up us, He continually calls us again and again, to go forward! He gives us His body and blood to refresh us, to strengthen us; and the Holy Spirit will continue to inspire us, show us the path we are called to travel, and give us that kick in the pants to get up, and get going. And the Father waits for us patiently, lovingly.
Now there are many paths up that mountain, and we each have our own unique journey to make. And Advent is a perfect time to reflect on how our journey, how our life of faith is going. And we can see if a course correction is needed; to and determine what might be holding us back, and what needs to be jettisoned. Advent is an opportunity to refresh our soul, and begin the journey again, reaching for the top, and experiencing the glory and love of God!
“So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
Born in the year, 1207, she was the daughter of the King of Hungary. At age three, she was betrothed to the Prince of Thuringia (part of Germany). Growing up, she began developing a strong prayer life and desire to help the poor. Married to Prince Louis, they would have four children.
She was known to be a loving mother, a person of deep faith, of prayer, and great charity. She endowed a hospital and regularly provided food for the poor in her city. And she believed that giving charity should be a hands on experience. She could be seen both serving food to the poor, and caring for the sick.
She encountered Franciscan friars; and was impressed with them and their way of life. She joined the lay Franciscans; now known as the Secular Franciscan Order. Her desire to live humbly, helping the poor, did not win her friends among the nobles of her husband’s court. When he died on his way back from the Crusades, they took advantage of the moment. They stripped her of her rightful assets, and cast her and her children from the palace.
She lived in poor accommodations, continued her charitable work. Finally, her supporters were able obtain better living quarters, supplies and clothing. She continued her work among the poor.
She passed away in 1231. Four years later, she was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. She would be named as patroness of the Secular Franciscans; and of Catholic Charities.
Father, you helped Elizabeth of Hungary to recognize and honor Christ in the poor of the world.
Let her prayers help us to serve our brothers and sisters in trouble and need.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reign with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen!
From the Proper Offices of Franciscan Saints and Blessed in the Liturgy of Hours.