Angelic Doctor, pray for us!

Image

Today is the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, Italian Dominican priest, whose influence on the study of philosophy, ethics, natural law, and theology is still felt today throughout spheres of both Catholic and secular thought.  Born in the Kingdom of Naples to a noble family around the year 1225, Thomas determined by the age of 19 that he wanted to join the Dominican Order, facing intense pressures from his family (and even imprisonment at the family castles) not to do so.  He eventually traveled to Paris to study under St. Albert the Great.  He proceeded to teach in Cologne and Paris before being summoned back to Italy to assume duties for the Dominicans.  In 1265, he came to Rome at the summons of Pope Clement IV, who asked him to serve as papal theologian.  It was during this time in Rome that he began work on the Summa Theologica, his most revered work.  From Rome, he traveled back to Paris for a second time to teach, and eventually took leave to return to Italy, where he spent the remainder of his days preaching, writing, and teaching.

It is said that in December 1273, a Dominican sacristan saw Thomas levitating in prayer, tears in his eyes, before an image of Christ at the Crucifixion.  “You have written well of me, Thomas,” Our Lord said to him.  “What reward would you have for your labor?”  Thomas responded simply: “Non nisi te, Domine: Nothing but you, Lord.”

In March of the following year, near a Cistercian Abbey in Fossanova, Italy, he took ill after striking his head on the branch of a tree.  When he received the last rites from the monks of the abbey, he prayed, “I receive Thee, the ransom of my soul.  For love of Thee have I studied and kept vigil, toiled, preached and taught…” He died shortly thereafter, on March 7, 1274.  He was canonized fifty years after his death, on July 18, 1323.

Thomas’s feast day is celebrated in the liturgical calendar on this day.  His patronages include, but are not limited to: academics, apologists, Catholic academies, schools and universities, learning, scholars, students, and theologians.

Why not ask the intercession of St. Thomas today for success in your work and study?

Advertisements

The Conversion of St. Paul : A Call for Rebirth and Renewal

Today we celebrate our parish patronal feast, The Conversion of St. Paul.  As luck would have it (and by luck I mean what was most likely many hours of prayer and planning on the part of the Vatican) this day also marks the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  On this day last year Pope Benedict XVI spoke hopefully of not only conversion and renewal in our hearts, but of renewal in the Christian community as a whole in the form of  true Christian unity. Here are a few excerpts from his homily giving during Solemn Vespers:

 Following the extraordinary event happened on the road to Damascus, Saul, who was distinguished for the zeal with which he persecuted the early Church, was transformed into a tireless apostle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the story of this extraordinary evangelist, it is clear that this transformation is not the result of a long inner reflection and not even the result of personal effort. It is first and foremost by the grace of God who has acted according to his inscrutable ways.This transformation has its basis in our participation in the mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and presents itself as a gradual process of being conformed to Him.

The song of victory over death is transformed into a song of gratitude to the conqueror  And we too this evening, as we raise our evening praises to God, we want to unite our voices, our minds and hearts to this hymn of thanksgiving for what God’s grace has done through the apostle of the Gentiles and for the wonderful plan of salvation that God the Father does in us through the Lord Jesus Christ. As we lift our prayers to him, we are confident that we will be transformed and conformed to the image of Christ. This is particularly true in our prayer for Christian unity. In fact, when we plead for the gift of unity of the disciples of Christ, we make ours the desire expressed by Jesus Christ on the eve of his passion and death in the prayer to his Father: “May they all be one” (Jn 17.21).

The presence of the risen Christ calls all Christians to act together for the common good. United in Christ, we are called to share his mission, which is to bring hope to the places where there is injustice, hatred and despair. Our divisions diminish our witness to Christ. The goal of full unity, which we await with active hope and for which we pray with confidence, it is a secondary victory but important for the good of the human family.

In the dominant culture of today, the idea of victory is often associated with immediate success. For the Christian, however, victory is a long and, in the eyes of men, a not always linear process of transformation and growth in goodness. It is achieved according to God’s timing, not ours, and requires of us a profound faith and patient endurance.

St. Paul, pray for us, that we may be ever drawn into a closer relationship with our Lord, and a deeper unity with Christians everywhere.

His Holiness’ homily can be found in its entirety here.

“There is nothing better or more necessary than love.”

John of the Cross

Today is the feast day of St. John of the Cross, the Spanish Carmelite to whom the above quote is attributed.  Very often, feast days for canonized saints fall either on their birthday or on the day they entered eternal life.  In the case of St. John of the Cross, he died on this day in 1591.  Born Juan de Yepes y Alvarez, he entered the Carmelite order around the age of twenty.  In September of 1567, he met Teresa of Avila and together they led a major reform for the Carmelites, which lead to increased prayer, study, and fasting throughout the order.

Between 1574 and 1577, John received a vision of the Crucified Christ from which came his famous drawing of Christ below.

John_of_the_Cross_crucifixion_sketch

Throughout his life, St. John of the Cross embraced a spirit of self-denial and love of the Cross of Christ.  Following his death in 1591, he was beatified in 1675 and eventually canonized in 1726.  In 1926, Pope Pius XI declared St. John of the Cross a Doctor of the Church, recognizing the significant contribution of his writing and teaching for the good of the whole Church.

Let us ask St. John of the Cross to pray for us especially in those times when we encounter great difficulty or suffering, that through his prayers a great love of the Cross of Christ would abide in our hearts!