"Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious." — St. Thomas Aquinas
MEDITATION OF THE DAY
"I saw my Guardian Angel, who ordered me to follow him. In a moment I was in a misty place full of fire in which there was a great crowd of suffering souls. They were praying fervently, but without effect for themselves; only we can come to their aid. The flames which were burning them do not touch me at all. My Guardian Angel did not leave me for an instant. I asked these souls what their greatest suffering was. They answered me in one voice that their greatest torment was long for God… [I heard an interior voice] which said, My mercy does not want this, but justice demands it." — St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, p. 35 AN EXCERPT FROM Hungry Souls
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St. Alphonsus Liguori
Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.
In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.
At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but he soon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups.
He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over.
Alphonsus' great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions.
He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese.
His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united.
At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of "dark night" scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent.
Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His Glories of Mary is one of the great works on that subject, and his book Visits to the Blessed Sacrament went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.
St. Alphonsus was known above all as a practical man who dealt in the concrete rather than the abstract. His life is indeed a "practical" model for the everyday Christian who has difficulty recognizing the dignity of Christian life amid the swirl of problems, pain, misunderstanding and failure. Alphonsus suffered all these things. He is a saint because he was able to maintain an intimate sense of the presence of the suffering Christ through it all.
Someone once remarked, after a sermon by Alphonsus, "It is a pleasure to listen to your sermons; you forget yourself and preach Jesus Christ."
Patron Saint of:
Sacred Space (stop, slow down, breathe, we're about to receive the Word of God)
Daily Prayer - 2016-08-01
Dear Lord, help me to be open to you for this time as I put aside the cares of this world. Fill my mind with your peace, Your Love.
I will ask God's help, to be free from my own preoccupations, to be open to God in this time of prayer, to come to know, love and serve God more.
To be conscious about something is to be aware of it. Dear Lord help me to remember that You gave me life. Thank you for the gift of life. Teach me to slow down, to be still and enjoy the pleasures created for me. To be aware of the beauty that surrounds me. The marvel of mountains, the calmness of lakes, the fragility of a flower petal. I need to remember that all these things come from you.
The Word of God
Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church audio readings
Reading 1 Jer 28:1-17
In the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, the prophet Hananiah, son of Azzur, from Gibeon, said to me in the house of the LORD in the presence of the priests and all the people: "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: 'I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I will restore to this place all the vessels of the temple of the LORD which Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, took away from this place to Babylon. And I will bring back to this place Jeconiah, son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles of Judah who went to Babylon,' says the LORD, 'for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.'"
The prophet Jeremiah answered the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people assembled in the house of the LORD, and said: Amen! thus may the LORD do! May he fulfill the things you have prophesied by bringing the vessels of the house of the LORD and all the exiles back from Babylon to this place! But now, listen to what I am about to state in your hearing and the hearing of all the people. From of old, the prophets who were before you and me prophesied war, woe, and pestilence against many lands and mighty kingdoms. But the prophet who prophesies peace is recognized as truly sent by the LORD only when his prophetic prediction is fulfilled.
Thereupon the prophet Hananiah took the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah and broke it, and said in the presence of all the people: "Thus says the LORD: 'Even so, within two years I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, from off the neck of all the nations.'" At that, the prophet Jeremiah went away.
Some time after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: Go tell Hananiah this: Thus says the LORD: By breaking a wooden yoke, you forge an iron yoke! For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: A yoke of iron I will place on the necks of all these nations serving Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and they shall serve him; even the beasts of the field I give him.
To the prophet Hananiah the prophet Jeremiah said: Hear this, Hananiah! The LORD has not sent you, and you have raised false confidence in this people. For this, says the LORD, I will dispatch you from the face of the earth; this very year you shall die, because you have preached rebellion against the LORD. That same year, in the seventh month, Hananiah the prophet died.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 119:29, 43, 79, 80, 95, 102 R. (68b) Lord, teach me your statutes. Remove from me the way of falsehood, and favor me with your law.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes. Take not the word of truth from my mouth, for in your ordinances is my hope.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes. Let those turn to me who fear you and acknowledge your decrees.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes. Let my heart be perfect in your statutes, that I be not put to shame.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes. Sinners wait to destroy me, but I pay heed to your decrees.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes. From your ordinances I turn not away, for you have instructed me.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
Alleluia Mt 4:4 R. Alleluia, alleluia. One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mt 14:13-21
When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, "This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves." He said to them, "There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves." But they said to him, "Five loaves and two fish are all we have here." Then he said, "Bring them here to me," and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over— twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.
How has God's Word moved me? Has it left me cold? Has it consoled me or moved me to act in a new way? I imagine Jesus standing or sitting beside me, I turn and share my feelings with him. .
I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.
Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Memorial)
Hear this, Hananiah! The Lord has not sent you, and you have raised false confidence in this people. (Jeremiah 28:15)
Imagine you're walking into a performance evaluation. This evaluation is unique because you can choose what feedback you'll be hearing. On the one hand, you can choose an honest review. Your hard work will be recognized. But your weaknesses will also be identified, and strategies for improvement will be outlined. On the other hand, you can choose to hear only glowing praise of your work, with no insights on how you can do better or hold onto your job.
You know you probably should opt for an honest review, right?
Today's first reading offers us a dramatic example of contrasting spiritual evaluations. Hananiah probably wanted to boost morale among his countrymen, who were facing a threat from the Babylonian army. So he prophesied that they would triumph, and very soon. But because his "prophetic" words didn't really come from the Lord, they didn't help. By contrast, Jeremiah offered God's honest assessment of the situation in the hopes of preparing the people for the challenges to come.
How about you? How have you experienced the Holy Spirit's "honest assessments"? Maybe you've discovered that more than any supervisor, he appreciates and values you even when your "performance" isn't stellar. He sees the potential in you and wants to help you reach it. And whether or not you always feel it, he honors you for all the ways you are serving him—even if they seem small and imperfect to you.
Of course, the Spirit is no stranger to your weaknesses. Even as he honors you, he also calls attention to your thought patterns and attitudes that don't represent him well. But he's careful not to condemn. Neither does he leave you feeling mired in your weaknesses. Instead, he offers grace to change and encouragement every step of the way.
So try to be extra aware of the Spirit's helpful convictions today, both the positive and the negative. Try to look on them as divine opportunities for advancement and transformation.
The Prophet Jeremiah was probably like "are you serious right now?" are you kidding? Here were all of Judah, Israel gathered, neutral, worshiping other gods, under the rule of a king that would soon make them bow down before a molten god of gold, and a false prophet was proclaiming a prophecy of wealth and prosperity and a false peace. And this false peace is being offered to this day, and it leads to a false hope, and at the end, you end in nothing, no joy filled end, no everlasting glory, only to self...and this is not the end the Lord desires. We prayed today " Lord, teach me your statutes." and "Let my heart be perfect in your statutes, that I be not put to shame." And the shame is the reward of sin, that's how the devil pays you for doing its acts...shame, the shame of lust, the shame of pride, the shame of veering off the way of the Lord, that what leads to the Lord and true joy. In comes the Lord or our lives and before the feeding of thousands, with what little is offered, notice the beginning as we break the Word "When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick". It reminds me of a little puppy, all those people, He was wanting to be alone to pray because His cousin had just been beheaded, for doing the Lord's work. But the puppy finds Him, and wants His attention. He is moved with such great love, and His heart is filled with such love that He heals any one of them who needs it; Here, the Lord needs healing time, and He winds up healing. It is the story of a pilgrim world. We are pilgrims on a journey. Those who journey to Him find true peace and healing. Yet, how can you love someone and save them without feeding them first? So, He bounds the wounds, wraps them with love, and then feeds them. Much like the story of the Good Samaritan. Then, He blesses them, and then they can leave, much like in a Holy Mass, where we break the bread, the Consecrated Body of Christ as handed down by thousands of years by our Lord Himself. Then we can leave after the blessing. What is at hand is the story of amazement, the story of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is moved, amazed at the people (the puppy) which is us, you and me today. We must find Him every day, seek Him, go where He is suffering and our needs will move His heart. This is an AWESOME GOD. For you in a sincere heart...be prepared to be amazed. For you, seeking true joy and true peace, be prepared for another world. And the Lord lets Himself be broken to thousands of pieces, in millions of bodies. How precious the Lord is. And how soon I forget, we are the body of Christ.
St. Alphonsus De Liguori's Short Act of Perfect Love: My God, I love Thee above all things, and in all things, with my whole soul, because Thou art worthy of all love!