Archive for the ‘St. Augustine’ Category

Returning the Favor — Holy Thursday Homily

March 24, 2016

St. Augustine wrote a famous reflection on Proverbs 23:1 :

“If you sit down to eat at the table of a ruler,
observe carefully what is set before you.”

Why? Because you will be expected to provide the same kind of meal for him. This proverb is a practical tip of worldly wisdom, but St. Augustine goes deeper; what is its spiritual meaning for the Christian?

Who is our ruler?  It is Jesus our Lord.
Where is his table? It is here, his altar.
Now carefully observe the food he sets before us: it is the Eucharist, his very self.

Jesus, like others in the ancient world, reclined at table.Jesus calls us to prepare the same kind of meal for him. He says, “This is my body, given up for you. Do this in memory of me.” We must make a gift of ourselves by living our lives for him, and we are to serve him in others for he tells us, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

After washing his disciples feet at the Last Supper where he institutes the Eucharist, Jesus says to his disciples, and to us: “Do you realize what I have done for you? … I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.


The Dying Words of Jesus & His Saints

November 14, 2014

Each November, when the dark nights lengthen and trees become bare skeletons, we especially pray for the souls of those who have gone before us in death. This is also a fitting time of year to remember and consider the certainty of our own mortality. How did Jesus and his holy ones face the end of their lives? Their dying words can both instruct and inspire us:

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

—Our Lord Jesus Christ, c. 33 AD

“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

—St. Stephen, martyr, c. 34 AD

“Glory to God for all things!”

—St. John Chrysostom, 407 AD

“Your will be done. Come, Lord Jesus!”

—St. Augustine, 430 AD

“May God forgive you, brother.”

—St. Wenceslaus, martyr, 935 AD

“I have loved justice and hated iniquity. Therefore I die in exile.”

—Pope St. Gregory VII, 1085 AD

“If all the swords in England were pointed against my head, your threats would not move me. I am ready to die for my Lord, that in my blood the Church may obtain liberty and peace.”

—St. Thomas Becket, martyr, 1170 AD

“When you see that I am brought to my last moments, place me naked upon the ground just as you saw me the day before yesterday; and let me lie there after I am dead for the length of time it takes one to walk a mile unhurriedly.”

—St. Francis of Assisi, 1226 AD

“Be assured that he who shall always walk faithfully in God’s presence, always ready to give him an account of all his actions, shall never be separated from him by consenting to sin.”

—St. Thomas Aquinas, 1274 AD

“Leave the doors open, so that everyone may enter and see how a pope dies.”

—Bl. Pope Urban V, 1370 AD

“Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”

—St. Bridget of Sweden, 1373 AD

“Blood! Blood! Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

—St. Catherine of Siena, 1380 AD

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!”

—St. Joan of Arc, martyr, 1431 AD

“I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

—St. Thomas More, martyr, 1535 AD

“O, my God!”

—St. Ignatius of Loyola, 1556 AD

“After all I die as a child of the Church. My Lord, it is time to move on. Well then, may your will be done. O my Lord and my spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time for us to meet one another.”

—St. Teresa of Avila, 1582 AD

“Jesus, I love you.”

—St. Kateri Tekakwitha, 1680 AD

“In all things I adore the will of God in my regard.”

—St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle, 1719 AD

“Be children of the Church.”

—St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, 1821 AD

“My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.”

—St. Andrew Kim Taegon, martyr, 1846 AD

“Holy Mary, pray for me, a poor sinner.”

—St. Bernadette Soubirous, 1879 AD

“I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me. My God, I love you.”

—St. Therese of Lisieux, 1897 AD

“To restore all things in Christ.”

—Pope St. Pius X, 1914 AD

“Long live Christ the King!”

—Bl. Miguel Pro, S.J., martyr, 1927 AD

“Jesus. Maria.”

—St. Pio of Pietrelcina, 1968 AD

“Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you.”

—Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 1997 AD

“Let me go to the house of the Father.”

—St. John Paul the Great, 2005 AD

What do you want to be your dying words?

Ghost Stories From Sts. Augustine & Gregory

October 31, 2014

In 398 AD, St. Augustine shared the following story about a probable visitor from beyond the veil in a letter to his friend, Evodius:

“Our brother, Gennadius … told us that he doubted once … whether there was any life after death. As God would not abandon a man of his disposition and works of mercy, there appeared to him in sleep a handsome youth of dignified appearance, who said to him: ‘Follow me.’ He followed and came to a certain city, where he began to hear, on his right, singing of such exquisite sweetness that it surpassed all known and ordinary sweetness. Then, as he listened, he asked what it was and his guide said it was the hymns of the blessed and the saints. I do not clearly remember what he said he saw on his left. When he awoke, the dream vanished and he thought of it only as one does of a dream.

But, on another night, behold, the same youth appeared to him again and asked whether he recognized him; he answered that he did so fully and perfectly. Then the youth asked where he had known him. He remembered what to reply to that, too, and described the whole vision and the hymns of the saints which the other had led him there to hear, recalling them with ease as a recent experience. Thereupon, the youth asked whether he had been asleep or awake when he saw what he had described. He answered: ‘It was in a dream.’ The other said: ‘You remember well, it is true, that you saw all that in a dream, but you must know that even now you see, although you are asleep.’ When he heard that, he believed it was so and expressed it by his answer.

Then the one who was teaching him continued and said: ‘Where is your body now?’ He answered: ‘In my bedroom.’ ‘And do you know,’ said the other, ‘that in that same helpless body, your eyes are fast shut and useless, and that you see nothing with those eyes?’ Gennadius answered: ‘I know it.’ His guide went on: ‘Then, with what kind of eyes do you see me?’ He fell silent at this, finding no reply, and, as he remained in doubt, the youth made known what he was trying to teach by these questions.

He went on: ‘As those eyes of flesh are now inactive and perform no function while your body lies asleep in bed, yet you have eyes with which you behold me and a sight of which you make use, so, when you die and the eyes of your flesh see nothing, there will be in you another life by which you will live and sense by which you will perceive. See to it that henceforth you do not doubt of the life which remains after death.’ Thus this faithful man says that his doubt on this matter was removed, and what was his teacher but the providence and mercy of God?”

In 593 AD, Pope St. Gregory the Great related this story in his Dialogues:

“Bishop Felix…said that he had been told of such a case by a saintly priest who was still living two years ago in the [Italian] diocese of Centum Cellae as pastor of the Church of St. John in Tauriana [on the toe of Italy.] This priest used to bathe in the hot springs of Tauriana whenever his health required. One day, as he entered the baths, he found a stranger there who showed himself most helpful in every way possible, by unlatching his shoes, taking care of his clothes, and furnishing him towels after the hot bath.

After several experiences of this kind, the priest said the himself: ‘It would not do for me to appear ungrateful to this man who is so devoted in his kind services to me. I must reward him in some way.’ So one day he took along two crown-shaped loaves of bread to give him.

When he arrived at the place, the man was already waiting for him and rendered the same services he had before. After the bath, when the priest was again fully dressed and ready to leave, he offered the man the present of bread, asking him kindly to accept it as a blessing, for it was offered a token of charity.

But the man sighed mournfully and said, ‘Why do you give it to me, Father? That bread is holy and I cannot eat it. I who stand before you was once the owner of this place. It is because of my sins that I was sent back here as a servant. If you wish to do something for me, then offer this bread to almighty God, and so make intercession for me, a sinner. When you come back and do not find me here, you will know that your prayers have been heard.

With these words he disappeared, thus showing that he was a spirit disguised as a man. The priest spent the entire week in prayer and tearful supplications, offering Mass for him daily. When he returned to the bath, the man was no longer to be found. This incident points out the great benefits souls derive from the Sacrifice of the Mass. Because of these benefits the dead ask us, the living, to have Masses offered for them, and even show us by signs that it was through the Mass that they were pardoned.”

“Late Have I Loved You…”

August 28, 2014

Saint Augustine in his Study by Botticelli, 1480In “The Confessions,” the first autobiography in Western history, St. Augustine of Hippo tells of his sinful youth away from the Lord prior to his conversion. In perhaps its greatest passage, Augustine pens these words to God:

“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!  You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.  In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created.  You were with me, but I was not with you.  Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all.  You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.  You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.  You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.  I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.  You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”

Insights Into The Rich Man & Lazarus

September 29, 2013

● The name Lazarus means “one who has been helped.”

● Though presumably well known while he lived, the rich man’s name is never mentioned. St. Augustine says this is because God did not find the rich man’s name written in heaven.

● The rich man has traditionally been given the name “Dives” (the Latin word for “rich.”)

● Purple was the ancient world’s most expensive clothing color; it took 240,000 sea snails and a complex process to produce one ounce of “Royal Purple” dye.

● Being rich, in and of itself, is not a sin; Abraham, David, and Joseph of Arimathea were all rich and friends of God.

● Dives’ sin was his loveless indifference to a person in need he could have easily helped.

● Dives did not use his mammon to win friends like last week’s Gospel teaches.

● Dogs’ saliva has healing properties. In licking Lazarus’ (salty) wounds the dogs did him more good than Dives ever did.

● Dives couldn’t have missed Lazarus lying at his gate. In fact, Dives apparently even knew his name: “Send Lazarus…”

● Even after his condemnation for failing to serve Lazarus, Dives asks that Lazarus serve him; he asks Abraham to send Lazarus to “cool my tongue” and “to my father’s house.”

● St. Peter Chrysologus sees envy behind Dives’ requests: “He does not ask to be led to Lazarus but wants Lazarus to be led to him.”

● St. Augustine speculates that Dives and his brothers used to make fun of the prophets and doubted there was any existence after death.

● Those who do not see that Moses and the prophets speak about Jesus Christ are also unconvinced by Jesus’ rising from the dead.

● St. Jerome suggests that Dives’ five brothers are the five senses he served and loved so much.

● Even after he is condemned, Father Abraham still calls Dives “Son.” St. Ephraim notes that Abraham, who showed strangers kindness & asked mercy for Sodom, was unable to have mercy on one who showed no mercy.

● Abraham represents God, who forgives only the merciful, but who loves even those who are separated from him forever.

The Wisdom of the Saints

July 25, 2013

“You cannot be half a saint; you must be a whole saint
or no saint at all.”

-St. Therese of Lisieux

“If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!”

St. Catherine of Sienna

“You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by  working, and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves.”

-St. Francis de Sales

“Let us go forward in peace, our eyes upon heaven,
the only one goal of our labors.”

-St. Therese of Lisieux

“Love God, serve God; everything is in that.”

-St. Clare of Assisi

“Pray as though everything depended on God.
Work as though everything depended on you.”

-St. Augustine

“Pray, hope, and don’t worry”

-St. Pio of Pietrelcino

Willing, Yet Unwilling — 1st Sunday of Advent—Year A

November 28, 2010

This morning, I’m going to tell you the true story of a friend of mine, a person whom I respect, who was once addicted to sensual sins. As he tells the story, when he was 32 years old, he found himself in an intense spiritual struggle; my friend found himself willing, and yet unwilling, to change his life for Christ.

When he would turn and honestly look at himself, at the things he was doing and the way he was living, what he saw was ugly, sordid, and ulcerous. He desired life with Christ. He knew that holiness should mean more to him than all bodily pleasures, but he could not seem to detach himself from his sins. He hesitated to die to death and to live to life. Old enticements tugged at him and softly whispered: “Are you going to part with us?” Doubts kept nagging him, “Do you really think you can live without these pleasures, forever?”

But together with these temptations, other thoughts beckoned to him. He could envision a smiling multitude of saintly men and women of every age, who had lived both chastely and happily. A voice seemed to say to him, ‘You can also do what these men and women did, but none of them did it by themselves. The Lord their God gave it to them. Why do you try to stand by your own strength, only to fall over and over again? Cast yourself on Christ; don’t be afraid. He will not flinch and you will not fall. Cast yourself on him without fear, for he will accept and heal you.’

My friend was both willing and unwilling, attracted to both and repulsed by both. There were times when he would even pray, Lord, give me chastity, but not yet.” One day, these struggles came to a head for him, as he happened to be sitting in a garden outside of his house. Like Adam and Jesus in their gardens, he had come to a crucial moment of agonizing decision. With tears, he cried, ‘Why do I keep delaying to until tomorrow? Why not now? Why not end my uncleanness this very hour?’ Yet he could not find the strength to do it.

As he was saying these things, he heard the voice of child coming from the house next door, chanting over and again, “Pick it up and read it; pick it up and read it.” Thinking this a rather strange thing for a child to say at play, he took it a divine command to open his Bible and to read the first thing his eyes should fall upon. I took his Bible, opened it, and read these words in silence, words from today’s second reading: “Let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.”

That moment changed my friend’s life for as instantly as he finished reading those words he says that his heart was infused with something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away. By this God-given grace, his life began to change, and he went on to become a saint. Actually, you know my friend too, because he’s a friend of yours as well. We call him Saint Augustine of Hippo, and he tells us his own story in Western history’s first autobiography, The Confessions by St. Augustine. [see Book 8, Chapter 11]

All of us here are recovering sinners, and we all struggle with personal addictions to sins large or small. Maybe we find ourselves committing and confessing the same sins over and over again. Maybe we are tempted to doubt that we can really change our lives for Christ. If we try to exert ever-greater efforts of personal will power, and find ourselves failing and falling again, perhaps a new approach is needed.

Instead of making promises and firmly resolving, that this time, somehow, I will amend my life and sin no more, try praying in this way: “Lord Jesus, I want to sin no more, but I have proven again and again, to myself and to You, that I can’t do it. I can’t do it, but You can. Please, give me the gift of your grace. Show me your power working in me. Jesus, live your life through me. I can’t do it, but You can.” Humble yourself and accept the gift of grace. Rely on Christ, for apart from Him we can do nothing. Pray everyday and confess your poverty, and Christ will provide what you need. If we neglect to pray or to humble ourselves, we are showing the pride of a branch that thinks it can produce fruit without the vine. If we do that, we should know that our next fall is near.

This season of Advent is for us to prepare for the Christmas coming of Christ. This year, He is asking us for only one thing; the gift of ourselves. Let us ask for the gift of His grace, so that we may present ourselves to Him, holy, pure, and whole.

[A similiar homily about St. Augustine’s mother, St. Monica.]

The Joyful Mysteries, Meditations with the Saints

October 28, 2010

The 1st Joyful Mystery: 
The Annunciation

The Blessed Virgin Mary may have been just 13 years old when the angel Gabriel announced to her that she would give birth to Jesus. She shows us that even if you are young, God can still do big things with you, if you say “Yes” to Him.

On May 13, 1917, three Portuguese children were praying the rosary after lunch in a field on a clear blue day.  The eldest was Lucia, age 10, and she was with her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta, ages eight and seven. Suddenly, they saw two bright flashes. They looked up and saw “a lady, clothed in white, brighter than the sun…” The Lady smiled and said, “Do not be afraid, I will not harm you.” Lucia asked her where she came from. The Lady pointed to the sky and said, “I come from heaven.” Lucia asked what she wanted. The Lady said, “I have come to ask you to come here for six months on the 13th day of the month, at this same hour.”

On July 13, the incredibly beautiful Lady appeared again. Lucia asked her who she was, and for a miracle so everyone would believe. The Lady answered, “Continue to come here every month. In October, I will tell you who I am and what I want, and I will perform a miracle for all to see and believe.” Then she taught them this prayer: “Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy Mercy.”

At noon, on October 13, 1917, some 70,000 people were gathered in the field. With a flash of light, the Lady appeared to the children and declared, “I am the Lady of the Rosary.” Some spectators cried out and the crowd turned their eyes upward to the cloudless sky, and they gazed on the sun without the least discomfort.  They saw it tremble and danced in a miraculous way.

Mary, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta teach us this lesson: Even if you are young, God can do big things with you, if you say “Yes” to Him. Let us pray that we would be open to doing God’s will every day.

The 2nd Joyful Mystery:
The Visitation

“During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.’” (Luke 1)

Imagine how St. Elizabeth must have felt to have Mary, Mother of God, walk in through her door. Elizabeth could not see the tiny Jesus, a fetus in Mary’s womb, but she was convinced that He was hidden there. How would you treat someone if you knew that Jesus was hidden inside of them?

Blessed Mother Theresa cared for the poorest of the poor in the streets of Calcutta, India. Despite years of strenuous physical, emotional and spiritual work, Mother Teresa seemed unstoppable. Though frail and bent, with numerous health problems, she always returned to her work, to those who received her compassionate care for more than 50 years. How did she do it? She could do it because she encountered her beloved Christ both in times of prayer and in the people she cared for. Mother Teresa remembered Jesus’ words, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) Mother Teresa loved others as if they were the Lord Himself.

Blessed Mother Teresa and St. Elizabeth teach us this lesson: Jesus is present in your classmates here at school, so you should always be welcoming and loving toward them. Let us pray for the grace to love others in this way.

The 3rd Joyful Mystery:
The Nativity

In his youth, Francis had been quite rich, the son of a wealthy merchant, yet he sensed that there was more to life. He put his former life behind him and devoted himself to following Christ. One day, at Mass, the Gospel told of how Christ’s disciples were to possess neither gold nor silver, nor traveling items, but were to exhort sinners to repentance and announce the Kingdom of God. Francis took these words as if spoken directly to himself, and as soon as Mass was over he threw away what little he had and went forth at once, exhorting the people of the country-side to penance, brotherly love, and peace. He was poor, but clearly happy, and others were attracted to join his movement. By the time of his death, hundreds had joined his religious order. On October 3, 1226, St. Francis died a penniless, but happy man. 

St. Francis of Assisi loved Christmas.  In fact, one story tells of how he petitioned the Holy Roman Emperor to make an edict that grain and bread should be provided to birds, beasts, and the poor this day, so that all God’s creatures would have occasion to rejoice in the Lord. St. Francis also invented the Christmas tradition of making a model of the nativity scene. These nativity scenes, called Crèches, remind us that even though Christ was rich in Heaven, he became poor when he was born on earth in a barn. Yet, Jesus was a happy man, despite his poverty.

Jesus and St. Francis teach us this lesson: You do not need to be wealthy in order to be happy. Let us pray that we may be content and happy with the riches that we have.

The 4th Joyful Mystery: 
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

In the year that Jesus was born, “there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout” and he longed to see the Messiah who would save God people. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would indeed see the Christ before he died and Simeon trusted and hoped in that promise.

One day, the Spirit inspired him to come into the temple. When he say Mary and Joseph carrying in the baby Jesus to offer a sacrifice for Him, Simeon “took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: ‘Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.’” (Luke 2)

What are the promises the Lord has made to us?  Do we trust and hope in these promises? Simeon teaches us this lesson: That we ought to trust and hope in the Lord’s promises, for all of them will be fulfilled in the sight of all someday.

The 5th Joyful Mystery:
The Finding of Jesus in the Temple

This is a true story, the story of a Catholic mother of three whose oldest son joined an anti-Catholic religious cult. It started him down a path of sinful pride and many sensual sins. It broke her heart and for years she prayed tearful prayers for his conversion.

She even asked the bishop to intervene in winning over her son. He counseled her to be patient, saying, “God’s time will come.” When she persisted in asking, the bishop (perhaps busy with many other things) famously reassured her: “Go now, I beg you; it is impossible that the son of so many tears should perish.”

That mother was St. Monica, and that son of hers, who was lost and found, was the great St. Augustine. Sts. Monica and Augustine teach us this lesson: that your persistent prayer can help people to find Christ. Let us pray for someone that we know, that he or she may be drawn closer to Jesus Christ.

On Fatima
On St. Francis
On Blessed Mother Teresa

Augustine on Humility — Thursday, 15th Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

July 18, 2010

A Thought on Humility from St. Augustine:

‘You are to “take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” You are not learning from me how to refashion the fabric of the world, nor to create all things visible and invisible, nor to work miracles and raise the dead. Rather, you are simply learning of me: “that I am meek and lowly in heart.” If you wish to reach high, then begin at the lowest level. If you are trying to construct some mighty edifice in height, you will begin with the lowest foundation. This is humility. However great the mass of the building you may wish to design or erect, the taller the building is to be, the deeper you will dig the foundation. The building in the course of its erection rises up high, but he who digs its foundation must first go down very low. So then, you see even a building is low before it is high and the tower is raised only after humiliation.

August 27 – St. Monica

August 27, 2009

Today I would like to tell you a true story, the story of a Catholic woman in a very difficult marriage to a non-Christian husband. Her husband was a man with a hot temper and hostility towards Christianity. He was unfaithful in their marriage, but she remained faithful to him—not out of weakness, but out of an inner-strength.

She bore his faults with patience and persistently sought after his conversion. The daily example of her gentleness and kindness finally had its victory. Her husband became a Christian one year before his death. However, the year after that, she had to face a new burden alone.

The oldest of her three children joined an anti-Catholic religious cult. It started him down a path of sinful pride and many sensual sins. It broke her heart. Then one night, she had a dream.

She was standing on top of a wooden ruler, and she saw a young man coming towards her, surrounded by a glorious halo. Although she felt sad and full of grief, the young man smiled at her joyfully. He asked her for the reason for her sadness and daily tears. (This wasn’t because he didn’t know, but because he had something to tell her—this is the way things happen in visions.) When she answered that her tears were for the lost soul of her son he told her to take heart for, if she looked carefully, she would see that where she was, there also was he. And when she looked, she saw her son standing beside her on the same ruler. Reassured by this dream she continued, for years to come, praying tearful prayers for his conversion.

She even asked the bishop to intervene in winning over her son. He counseled her to be patient, saying, “God’s time will come.” When she persisted in asking, the bishop (perhaps busy with many other things) famously reassured her: “Go now, I beg you; it is impossible that the son of so many tears should perish.”

That son, as you may have guessed by now, was the great St. Augustine. And his mother is St. Monica. May her story encourage us to pray and strive for the conversion of our loved ones to the Catholic faith. Remember and take hope: God loves us with a human heart and He cares about your loved ones even more than you do.