Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday of the First Week of Advent: Blessed Ivan Sleziuk

Ivan was born in 1896 in the village of Zhyvachiv (in modern-day Ukraine). He was ordained a priest in 1923.

In April 1945, Bishop Hryhory Khomyshyn, Greek Catholic eparch of Stanislaviv (now Ivano-Frankivsk), ordained Ivan as coadjutor bishop with the right to succeed him in case Bishop Khomyshyn should be arrested or killed by the Communist leadership. However, on June 2, 1945, Ivan was arrested and deported to the labor camps in Vorkuta, Russia. In 1950, he was transferred to labor camps in Mordovia, Russia.

Following his release in 1954, Ivan returned to Stanislaviv. He was arrested again in 1962 and imprisoned for five years in a camp known for its harsh treatment of prisoners. Although he was released on November 30, 1968, he was interrogated by KGB officials every few weeks. The last visit was two weeks before his death, which was on December 2, 1973, in Stanislaviv.

Because of his imprisonment and suffering, Blessed Ivan Sleziuk is honored among the “Martyrs Killed Under Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe” and was beatified in 2001. Beatified with Blessed Ivan was Bishop Hryhory Khomyshyn, the bishop who had ordained him and who died in a Communist prison in Kiev in 1947.  

In today’s First Reading, the Prophet Isaiah envisions a day in which the forces of evil will be vanquished: “But a very little while… the tyrant will be no more and the arrogant will have gone. All who are alert to do evil will be cut off, those whose mere words condemns a man, Who ensnare his defender at the gate, and leave the just man with an empty claim.” Although we still wait in hope for an end to evil and injustice in the world, the saints and martyrs remind us that there is a power at work in the human heart that is greater than any worldly power: the grace of God. It was God’s grace that allowed Blessed Ivan to endure years of torture and abuse, all the while empowering him to remain faithful to his commitment to serve God as a bishop. He was able to boldly proclaim with the Psalmist, “I believe I shall see the bounty of the Lord / in the land of the living. / Wait for the Lord with courage; / be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.”

The long night of Advent is a stark reminder of the darkness of sin and injustice that still exist in the world. And yet, these days call us to watch for the glimmer of dawn as we wait for the Sun of Justice to rise and drive away darkness and despair. Reflect today on how you see the light of heaven piercing the darkness of the world around you. Ask Blessed Ivan to help you persevere in your own search for God’s peace and justice.

Prayer +Almighty and merciful God, who brought your Martyr blessed Ivan to overcome the torments of his passion, grant that we, who celebrate the day of his triumph, may remain invincible under your protection against the snares of the enemy. 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 One Martyr)

This reflection was originally written for and posted on their website on December 2, 2016.

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.