Thursday, June 30, 2016

Saint Lucina of the Catacombs of Callistus: Reflecting the Savior’s Kindness and Love

Lucina (or Lucy) was a wealthy Roman woman who, according to ancient legends, was converted to the Christian Faith by Saint Peter. When the persecution of the Emperor Nero began (in the year 64), Lucina showed kindness to the imprisoned Christians, including Saints Martinian and Processus, who had served as Saint Peter’s guards while he was in prison awaiting execution. These two men were converted to the Faith by Peter and were executed a few days after the Apostle.

Saint Lucina is remembered for courageously giving proper burial to the martyrs. She is believed to have suffered martyrdom herself and has been honored as a martyr since the fourth century. She is buried in the Catacomb of Saint Callistus in Rome. Today, the relics of Saints Martinian and Processes are enshrined in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Detail of the Catacomb of Callistus

In today’s Gospel (Thursday of the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time) we hear how Jesus restored a paralyzed man to health. But this healing was also a sign that what was broken within the man—his sins—were forgiven. Jesus didn’t simply come performing miracles. Instead, he came to transform lives by offering God’s healing and transforming grace and forgiveness to everyone in need. The miracles and signs that we find in the Gospel were symbols of the power of God’s love and grace.

The history of our Faith is filled with stories of individuals who have experienced this grace and who have been inspired to reach out to others in service and love. At other times, Christian men, women, and children have shown extraordinary courage in the face of suffering and death. Saint Lucina, whom we honor today, was inspired through her own relationship with Christ to care for the martyrs while they were imprisoned and to practice the work of mercy of burying their remains after they were killed. Her courage and charity weren’t simply expressions of pious charity or an attempt to do the “right thing.” Instead, her works were a reflection of the kindness and love of the Savior at work in her own life.

How have you experienced God’s healing and transformative touch? How have you shared the graces you have received with others who are in need? Ask Saint Lucina to help you be attentive to how you can help relieve the suffering of others.

Prayer +

O God, by whose gift strength is made perfect in weakness, grant to all who honor the glory of blessed Lucina that she, who drew from you the strength to triumph, may likewise always obtain from you the grace of victory for us. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(from The Roman Missal: Common of Martyrs—For a Holy Woman Martyr)

Monday, June 13, 2016

Blessed Francisca de Paula de Jesus Isabel: Learning to Love Our Enemies

Francisca was born in São João del Rei, Minas Gerais, Brazil, in 1810. Born into poverty (with no record of her father), she and her brother were orphaned when their mother died in 1820. Francisca never received any formal education and remained illiterate throughout her life. As she grew into adulthood, she chose to never marry and devoted her life to her faith, particularly her devotion to the Blessed Virgin.  
Blessed Francisca de Paula Jesus Isabel

In time, she won the love of the local people, who came to honor her as Nha Chica—“Aunt Chica.” She eventually settled in the village of Baependi and many came to ask her counsel and prayers. She received everyone with a spirit of true hospitality. In time, she used her meager resources to begin construction of a chapel in honor of the Virgem da Conceição (Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception), next to her small home. This chapel remains a popular place of pilgrimage.

Nha Chica died in Baependi on June 14, 1895, and was beatified 2011. The liturgical commemoration of Blessed Francisca is celebrated on June 14.

In today’s Gospel (Tuesday of the Eleventh Week of Ordinary Time), Jesus reminds us—in no uncertain terms—that we are to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. For the Christian, being guided by the Gospel, there can be no “other.” Everyone we encounter is a neighbor, a brother, and a sister. This was certainly true for Blessed Francisca as she welcomed pilgrims, seekers, the sick, and the poor into her home and chapel. She welcomed everyone who came to her as a sister or brother and everyone was welcome to share what little she had.

As we continue to grieve the tragic and senseless loss of life that took place in Orlando this past Sunday, there are some who are trying to politicize these events, encouraging us to place blame on those whom they perceive to be “other.” For us, as Christians, this is never an option and that attitude will never help us realize the justice and peace we all so desperately desire.

Pray today for a sense of openness to those who might be different from you, recognizing that they too are our brothers and sisters, deserving of our love. Pray, too, that God will soften and convert the hearts of those who promote violence, hate, and division. Ask Blessed Nha Chica to help you to love as Jesus wants you to love.

Prayer +
O God, who declare that you abide in hearts that are pure, grant that through the intercession of the Virgin blessed Francisca we may be so fashioned by your grace, that we become a dwelling pleasing to you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal: Common of Virgins—For One Virgin)

Originally written for and published on their site on June 14, 2016.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Feast of Saint Mathias: Called to Go Forth

According to the Acts of the Apostles, Matthias, a witness of the Lord’s ministry and resurrection, was chosen by the apostles to take the place of Judas Iscariot (cf. Acts 1:15-26). Saint Matthias received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and he is said to have preached the Gospel in Judea. Later traditions link him to the churches in Cappadocia and Ethiopia. Honored as a martyr, his relics were translated from Jerusalem to Rome by the Empress Saint Helena.

Saint Matthias from the workshop
of Simone Martini
It is fitting that we celebrate the feast day of an Apostle on this final day before Pentecost. The witness of Saint Matthias and the other Apostles and early Church leaders who left behind home and family to preach and teach about Jesus is an important lesson for us today: Each of us has received the same Holy Spirit that inspired their ministry and service and we too are called to go out from our homes into our parishes and communities to invite others to follow Jesus.

Take time today to reflect on how the Holy Spirit is at work within your heart and soul. How do you feel God calling you to “go forth”? What does it mean for you that you have been chosen by God and entrusted with a unique vocation for the building up of the Kingdom of God?

Prayer +
O God, who assigned Saint Matthias
a place in the college of Apostles,
grant us, through his intercession,
that, rejoicing at how your love has been allotted to us,
we may merit to be numbered among the elect.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)

This reflection was originally written for and published on their website on May 14, 2016.