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Young Grafton

(Reprinted for the most part from the Focus blog)

It may be self-serving of me to say so, but I think that parish priests are some of the hardest working members of the Church. The typical parish priest works every weekend and holiday, often lives in the same building as their office, and only gets one day off a week, not to mention they’re being asked to care for more souls and take on more responsibilities and roles than ever before.  Within the “Continuing Church”, parish priests most often work at below a subsistence level, having to take on outside work or to rely on their wife’s income to sustain their ministry.

Focus.com asked a few parish priests how we could best let them know we’re thankful for them and all the work they do for us. In no particular order:

1. Pray for Your Priest(s)
“The most important thing a parishioner can do for his/her priest is pray for them. We are always praying for someone, even required to offer a Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation on behalf of our parishioners. It’s just good to know that they pray for us everyday.”
“A rosary, a holy hour, a small offering or a daily suffering offered for the priest.”
“Send cards to priests with assurances of prayer for their intentions.”
“The offering of prayers for the priest and his ministry. (It’s a great joy to know of prayers since I know that my life and ministry are only as fruitful as the people praying for me.)”

2. Cook Them a Meal, Especially on Their Busy Days
“It would be nice if someone made sure that the single priest(s) of the parish had a nice home-cooked meal on Sundays and major holidays. Unmarried clergy often have no cooks and after a long morning, it would be nice to come home to something we didn’t have to make.”
“Find out his favorite meal and make it for him.”

3. Celebrate Their Special Days
“Celebrating the priest’s birthday and ordination day are good thoughts, too.”
“It’s nice to be remembered on the day of my priestly ordination.”

4. Pray More, Complain Less
“The vast majority of interactions seem to revolve around a complaint about the priest, the parish, a parishioner, the music, the temperature in the church, a burned out lightbulb, a decision, etc. and rarely about the supernatural realities.”

5. Offer to Help
“Don’t wait to be asked! Priests are ordained to give, and it’s hard for us to ask for things.”
“Volunteer your time to the parish as a sign of support and service.”
“Consider increasing your tithe to show your support for the parish and priest.”

6. Go to Mass and/or Confession
“Nothing will make a priest happier.”
“Pick a day, go to a Mass that he’s celebrating, and get a bunch of people to sit in the front rows. When Father asks you after Mass why, tell him you were offering your participation at Mass in thanksgiving for His priesthood.”

7. Write Them a Note Expressing Your Gratitude
“A note, especially to a priest with whom you’ve lost touch, letting him know how his priesthood impacted your life – and that you’re still with the program – means a lot.”
“My favorite thing to receive from people is a letter. Not a card with a few words. Those are nice too, but I love receiving a letter or a card with a substantial message in it. It is very powerful to hear somebody describe exactly HOW the thing I said or did was so fruitful for them. It is a reminder that Jesus is a lot bigger than me and he can do great things with the little I have to offer.”
“I really appreciate when people say to me personally or send notes of gratitude: “Thanks for your priesthood”, “Thanks for being our pastor.” ‘Thanks for answering the call.’”
“Tell them that they have made a difference in your life.”
“Write them a thank you with a tone of appreciation.”
“Simple notes mean a great deal to priests these days. Things like notes of appreciation after funerals and weddings a simple compliment after a well prepared homily.”
“Being specific helps!”

8. Say Thank You
“Thank the priest for every Mass. Even if you don’t necessarily like the priest, as the Mass is always about the presence of Jesus.”
“Even something as simple as saying to the priest”Thank you for your ministry and I will pray for you” can mean a great deal.”
“Make a video asking random parishioners one thing they would like to thank Fr. ____ for.”

9. Give Them a Compliment
“Look for opportunities to compliment priests. Even ones you don’t particularly like.”
“I always cheer up when someone tells me after Mass, ‘That was a beautiful Mass, Father.’”

10. Look Out for Their Wellbeing
“Encourage priest to take time off.”

11. Save the Drama for Yo Mama
“Avoid and discourage gossip about priests and parishes.”
“Don’t gossip or criticize, instead offer to help and to build up. I wonder how many vocations were ruined when young people hear adults tear down the priest, usually because of some petty parish dispute.”

12. Let Him Know You Have His Back
“When you witness a situation when someone is being rude to a priest, let him know that you noticed and express compassion.”

13. Establish a Relationship
“Don’t tell him what you don’t like if that’s the first time you’ve bothered to talk to him.”
“Say hello before telling him what’s wrong.”

14. Have Realistic Expectations and Be Helpful
“He’s probably not a plumber, so don’t expect him to fix the leaky pipe. But definitely do ask him if he knows it’s leaking.”
“Always assume good will. Offering feedback is helpful, but criticism and complaint given without humility and sincere love is draining after a while.“

15. Don’t Be a “Priest Collector”
“Don’t think that you have to have the priest over every Sunday. Don’t expect to be the priest’s friend – he is your pastor/assistant and he needs to keep things professional. Don’t brag to fellow parishioners how “Close you guys are” as then that creates animosity or jealously – and THAT stresses the priest out.”

16. Be Supportive
“Whenever there is something that is stressful, such as a difficult time during the parish, I know “reinforcement” is appreciated. I recall some tremendously difficult funerals where people sent a nice note.

17. Give Him Space
“Sometimes it’s good to be just left alone, too. Stay away from what is called “unkind kindness” which is assuming Father is (Lonely, depressed, stressed, anxious, etc) when sometimes he needs to just blow off some steam.”

18. Invite Him Over
“It’s nice when people think to invite me to family gatherings: special birthdays or anniversary celebrations, holiday dinners (even though I usually decline because I’m with my own family — it’s nice to be invited).”

19. Strive for Holiness
“Ultimately, being the saint God desires them to be! There’s nothing more exciting for a priest than witnessing holiness in the lives of the people to whom he ministers; not only is that an experience of grace that his labor is bearing fruit but it’s also tremendously edifying in his own pursuit of holiness.”

I hope this list has inspired you to do something for your priest. Remember, each priest has his own preferences and ways that make him feel appreciated. Some may really like being invited over for dinner, while other priests may recharge with a quiet dinner alone in the rectory. No matter what you do, let’s make sure we let our priests know just how much we care for them.

The Training of a Priest


clergy

CHAPTER 6

It is appropriate that we should include here some discussion of the training which is required for a man who is to give his life to, and draw all his cares and studies toward, the ministry of Christ’s Church in the sacred office of the priesthood. The period of training which one must undergo has much to do with the quality of his priesthood in the years after he is ordained. Men have often said that they were “formed,” both in their understanding of the nature of their ministry and in their own approach to it, by the years which they spent in preparation.

With the advent of distance learning since the original edition of this book, there are any number of cost-effective options for delivering “content” to the aspiring clergyman. Distance learning allows a man to pursue studies on a schedule that permits him to continue to earn a living and to contribute to the support of his family. The problem that remains is one of formation, an inchoate process that takes place in the life of a priest during his education. In the past, this has taken place in the context of a traditional seminary education. I note, however, that the seminary is no guarantee of orthodoxy or stability as events have sadly proven. Nevertheless, formation in community is essential, in my view, to a full preparation for the priestly vocation.

We will not need, of course, to discuss the actual canonical requirements for ordination, the studies which are prescribed by the Church’s regulations for candidates for holy orders, nor the procedure through which one must go in order to be ordained to the sacred ministry. Suffice to say, these are somewhat consistent among similar bodies in the branches of the Anglican “continuum”, although there may be wide differences in the rigor in which standards are applied. This poses a very difficult problem, and must be a focus of any discussion of Anglican unity. Our purpose, here, is rather to look at the whole question of training and see what sort of things should be included, so that the candidate may have the possibility of the richest and most serviceable ministry.

Now the conception of the priestly “call” which was developed in the earlier chapters will be of considerable importance in this context. In a sacramental understanding of the office, a man is not made a minister simply by a divine command, thereby receiving as it were “from on high” the message which he is to preach. On the contrary, if the priesthood is to be understood as requiring the commissioning, the authentication, the authorizing, of the Body of Christ in its historical, empirical expression, then it is obvious that the priest is one who stands for, labors for, speaks for, the whole tradition of the Christian Church.

If a priest is one who so represents the tradition of Christian faith, worship, and life-in-grace, it is obvious that he must know that tradition. He must know it intimately, as one who believes in it and is himself living in terms of it. He must also know it in its long development from apostolic beginnings through the centuries to our own day. Unless he has this deep knowledge, he is quite likely to be one whose approach to his people has no background of historical understanding. His proclamation of the gospel will lack the wholeness that comes from entrance into the varied yet wonderfully integrated life of the Christian fellowship.

Because a man who is to enter the priesthood must be concerned with al broad range of disciplines, he should first of all have as thorough a grounding in the liberal arts and philosophy as is possible. Normally, this implies an undergraduate college experience of four years. It is of course true that many men who have lacked this advantage have been most useful and dedicated priests. For example the Cure d’Ars, made by the Roman Catholic Church the patron saint of parish priests, was from the strictly intellectual side a very simple man. Yet he was a holy, consecrated pastor and confessor, whose spiritual insight and profound grasp of the secrets of human souls have never been surpassed.

For these reasons, exceptions can be made. It is one of the most difficult and exacting tasks of a bishop and his examiners to make sure in a given instance such an exception should be made. It is also one of the hardest duties facing seminary officials and standing committees to determine whether a man who is not adequately prepared on the intellectual side should be recommended for ordination.

By and large it is true that a priest should be a man whose secular education has been sufficiently thorough to make him acquainted with “the best that has been thought and said.” He ought to have familiarity with the whole humanistic tradition, for this is the material out of which, humanly speaking, religion is made. Broadly speaking, he ought to have a good grounding in philosophy in its several branches; some knowledge of secular history, especially in its European phase since the dawn of the Christian era; some acquaintance with the literatures of the world, in their great range and sweep; some grasp of the meaning of the scientific method and the veracity of thought which the mathematical disciplines demand. Latin and Greek, despite their unpopularity in most educational circles today, have an enormous value for the future minister, as does a knowledge of some modern language other than his own, sufficient for him to read in that tongue and understand what he is reading. This latter study is particularly important in light of the growth of immigrant communities and whether the candidate wishes to enter the mission field.

If I were asked in what particular fields candidates for holy orders tend to be particularly weak today, one would say that it is in literature and philosophy, with history and English grammar as close third and fourth subjects. For the most part, men may have some knowledge of history, although they appear to be increasingly lacking in a comprehensive understanding of European history owing to the current disfavor shown the Western canon in many colleges and universities. during its formative period through the middle ages. Again, because of the disdain for metaphysics and epistemology and the pervasive emotivism in academe, men generally have little any grasp of the great philosophical problems which have always plagued the mind of man.

What is real? What is the process of knowing? What is the relation of matter and spirit, of soul and body? How about time and eternity and their bearing on each other? Questions such as these, with the answers proposed by thinkers from Socrates and Plato through Aristotle down to Descartes and Hume, and on to Kant and more contemporary thinkers like Kierkegaard, are not usually questions with which candidates have wrestled long and earnestly. In fact, they may not even be questions about which they have done much thinking. Yet their answers to these basic questions will have a profound effect upon their ministry.

When it comes to the great writing in the non-technical fields, many men entering seminaries these days are very badly off. The roll of names from Homer to Hardy seems to mean little to them. One might well ask how it is possible for a man to understand the depths of human experience unless he has felt “the surge and thunder of the Odyssey”; has followed Aeneas on his long journey to Italy and has seen Anchises “stretch forth his hands in longing towards the farther shore”; has gone with Dante in exploration of the Inferno, the Purgatorio and the Paradiso; has heard Lear cry, “Tears, tears, tears, tears”; and with Hamlet has pondered the lot of man in this “weary, unintelligible world.” Surely, too, he ought to know the writers like Goethe, Dostoyevsky, Dickens, and the rest. This need not necessarily be in detail or with scholarly exactness, but at least well enough to see with them the heart of man as he tries to live significantly and with dignity in this world where he has been placed by God.

So, in purely secular pre-theological training, it is good that a man who is to be ordained have as rich an acquaintance with the culture of the world as he can acquire. The priest ought to continue his reading and keep up his study in this wide cultural field after ordination. Otherwise, he is likely to grow stale intellectually or, worse perhaps, to be so sunk in his own immediate situation, culturally speaking, that he is shallow and superficial in his thinking and preaching.

But beyond this, and much more important, a young man looking forward to the ministry ought to be very sure that he is learning the things of God. He needs a knowledge of Scripture to be attained only by constant and devoted reading of the Bible from day to day. It is astounding, and disconcerting, to see how few men seeking ordination have a deep knowledge of Holy Scripture. At best they may know the passages which appear in the Sunday lections in the appointed services of the Church. Such ignorance handicaps them in their seminary studies, requiring them to spend hours in learning that which they could just as readily have mastered during earlier years.

Of course it is not the Bible alone which is needed. We hope that we may assume regular churchgoing, especially the fulfilment of the duty of assisting at the celebration of the Eucharist Sunday by Sunday and at other times. But a man who plans to be ordained should see that his own personal spiritual life is not neglected. For this reason, a rule of life is invaluable, since it guarantees that proper time will be allowed for prayer and the cultivation of one’s inner life. It is not necessary to go into detail here, since it is included in the techniques of the devotional life to be discussed in a later chapter. Perhaps the only difference is that the postulant or candidate for holy orders is not likely to be so far advanced in this respect as the ordained man, but he does need to learn the vital lesson that the spiritual life is central, and that prayer is the very breath of the Christian without which his life as a believer cannot flourish.

Those who know college students well, and especially those students who have a sentimental attachment for the priesthood as a possible vocation, know also that much that passes for incipient vocation is nothing of the sort. It is very easy for a student to fancy himself as a future priest and in this to be guilty of self-regarding wishful thinking. The test of a true vocation, discussed in a preceding chapter, lies frequently in the willingness of a student to live under a rule, of which more will be said. later. The student even in college must learn to take heed to his own spiritual growth, relying upon God’s grace in prayer and sacrament. Something must be learned, and learned before seminary, of the need for discipline.

Men who think they have a vocation, and who yet cannot get up in the morning in time to serve at the altar when scheduled, have all too often substituted a sentimental notion for the rigorous demands which are made upon one who is seriously concerned to become a priest of the Church. It is in the days before one has gone to the seminary that one can best acquire the sense of discipline and the habits of religious practice which should mark the life of a servant of God in the sacred ministry.

In the theological seminary, whether in house or by distance, the course of study is carefully prescribed. Few “electives” are permitted, since the necessary subjects have been set down in the canons of the Church and must be acquired by the ordinand. A great deal depends, however, on the way in which the seminarian approaches his studies. Are they merely something to be got through in order to be ordained? Or do they have a deeper value and meaning? Surely, one who is to be a faithful priest must try to learn from his seminary studies more than those minimum to pass canonical examinations. He must seek that profound understanding of the Christian tradition which will make him a worthy representative of the Church, wherever he may be.

Certainly, he will study the Church’s theology, both in its development and in its dogmatic form. To appreciate these, he must know the Scriptures, which record the events from which our religion took its rise and which always constitute, for the Anglican, the “proving-ground” for all doctrine. He will learn of the way in which the Christian Church has developed through the centuries. He will study the Christian moral tradition, both in its theological statement and in its practical application. He will learn of Christian worship, its theological grounding, its liturgical expression, and its implied results in the life of the worshipper. He will be acquainted with the principles of pastoral care, and he will learn how to conduct services to the glory of God and the edifying of His people. He will be instructed in the cure of souls, so that he may ad-minister counsel and absolution to sinners. So one could go on, through the whole round of the theological curriculum.

All of this is taught, all of this is learned, not by rote so that one may “get it out of the way,” but in the heart so that one may have it at the very root of one’s being. The priest is to be the Church’s man. The life of the Church is to flow through him to such a degree and in such a fashion that he thinks and speaks, works and lives, the Church’s tradition.
Not the problem of distance learning. It is not the classroom which is at the heart of seminary life. The chapel is there, and it is in chapel, as the future priest joins in the daily round of worship with his brethren who like him are preparing for holy orders, that he can most effectively develop the disposition and bent of personality which will make him a worthy priest.

Dutiful and devoted participation in worship in the chapel, especially at the Eucharist, will do much to deepen and strengthen his personal conviction. It will clarity and meaning to classroom studies and the underlying reading and writing which he must follow. He is learning to serve God with his mind; and he must also learn to bring to the altar that which, intellectually speaking, he has made his own. There his mind, his heart, and his soul, together with his very body itself, are offered to God for His service in the priesthood. It is in chapel, too, that he can acquire that habit of saying the daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer which will give stability and form to his life in the priesthood as he joins with the whole Church throughout the world in its fulfilment of what St. Benedict called the opus Dei, “the work of God.” This becomes far more complex for the distance learner, and the local priest and mentor needs to arrange for the parish seminarian to have this experience in the home church.

In his life with his brethren, in classroom, in dining hall, on the walks of the seminary campus, at social functions, as well as in the worship of the chapel, the future priest learns the charity and forbearance which are the marks of the Christian man, and above all the marks of the Christian priest. Here, in a place where everything is directed toward one end, God and His will, as known in His Church,there is a unique opportunity to grow in the grace of Christian life, with its little courtesies, its remembrances, especially its willingness to let others be themselves and not merely serve as adjectives which modify one’s self.

Here is a supreme opportunity to discover, and to incorporate into one’s own life, the truth that the Church is indeed, as St. Augustine said, a corpus permixtum; and that its very variety of membership, and its rich differentiation in thought and approach, is a sign of its divine quality and nature. In the seminary one can begin friendships in Christ, friendships which perhaps are deeper and more enriching than those known anywhere else, because they are grounded in an undergirding devotion to Christ and His Church, and are set in the context of the life of Him whom we cannot lose because He is our God as well as our Brother. Again, for the distance learner, the sponsoring parish must make accommodation to replicate this experience, at least in part, by working to draw the seminarian into the various aspects of the community’s life.

The life of a seminarian is not without its problems. He must learn discipline, and the average young American certainly does not like this. However, many, particularly those who have had military service, have found themselves in situations where discipline was both necessary and enforced, and have come to recognize that one of our greatest needs today is precisely such a patterned and ordered life as discipline provides.

In other ways, too, life in a seminary is not always easy. The studies are exacting; the obligations regarding chapel attendance may be irritating; there may be many other community problems, quite apart from personal ones. Above all, there is the readjustment of one’s whole life to a new point of view. For even if a man, before he has come to seminary, has been a devout Christian, loyally practicing his religion, he has not been obliged constantly to bring everything into line with this single all-encompassing aim: the knowledge of God, the service of God, as this is expressed in the Church’s ministry. Thus, there may come periods of disturbance, emotional upset, staleness or dryness in prayer and worship, a sense of partial frustration. But these can be met and conquered, if the initial commitment has been made and if the seminarian will follow the advice given earlier and learn where necessary to “take it easy.” Most men now in the priesthood will say that with all the questions and problems that seminary years raised for them, those years were among the happiest, the most fruitful, and the most rewarding they have ever known.

I would offer two or three remarks in conclusion. The first is that the man who is planning on entering the ministry must be one who is teachable. Far too often, a seminarian, or even one who has not yet reached that stage of his preparation, thinks and acts as if he were in complete possession of the face of it. Yet, the lesson of humility before the tradition, and teachability in the presence of those who are commissioned to train ordinands, needs to be learned over and over again.

Intellectual freedom is encouraged in most seminaries. The future priest must learn to think through the content of Christian teaching and make it come alive to himself, as he freely studies it with no other commitment than the great commitment to God and his revelation as the Church proclaims them.

It is plainly true that the Christian faith and much that is contained within the tradition must be studied critically and analyzed fearlessly; and the seminary is the place where this is done. Students in seminary are often startled by new ways of stating the faith or by new theories concerning its origins, by biblical criticism both of the Old and New Testament, by distinctions between “central” and “peripheral” beliefs and the like. In the face of these new and different ideas, they need to remember that their teachers, men who have given their lives to the Church’s tradition, are themselves men of faith as well as men of intellectual integrity. Their task in a theological institution is so to think through and so to present the truth, that the historic faith may be soundly and firmly based in the light of modern knowledge and with relevance to modern problems.

Secondly, I would offer a word about the need for a wholesome “secularity” on the part of those training for the priesthood. While it is true that such men are concentrating on one goal, which is their future ministry in the service of God and his Church, it is also true that they need some “nature” upon which “grace” can work. This principle holds true for the ordained man as well as for the man looking forward to ordination. Baron von Hugel used to recommend to those who came to him for spiritual counsel that they should have some non-theological or non-religious interest to which they could turn from time to time.

It may be music, it may be poetry, it may be current affairs, it may be any one of a number of things. Yet it is necessary that there be something which is not strictly directed toward the theological or religious goal. Of course, in the long run and ultimately, any good thing is God’s and leads to God, even though it be God under one of his million incognitos; but it is right that it should not be “religious” in the narrower sense. In this way, the ordinand will have a balance which will make him a healthier and better integrated person.

In sum, the years spent in the seminary provide the opportunity for a great development in the personal religious life of the future priest. Here, he can learn the techniques of meditation and mental prayer; he can strengthen his grasp on the principles of the spiritual life so that he may himself be one who walks with God and hence one who can help his people. Here are older and more experienced men to whom he can turn for advice and assistance, and from whom he can learn much that he needs to know about the spiritual life.

All that we have said in this chapter leads directly into our next subject. For the man who is training for the priesthood is training so that he may be a worthy representative of the Church’s tradition, functioning for Christ in His Mystical Body and carrying on Christ’s work in the world today. But he is a priest in one branch of the Church, the Anglican communion, and more particularly that part of it known as the Episcopal Church in the United States. He will soon promise to be loyal to the doctrine, discipline and worship of that Church. He will be a “man under authority.” To that subject we will now turn.

Psalms That Speak


I always am amazed, but never surprised, at the way Scripture speaks to my condition or needs at any given time. This particularly is the case with the Psalms.  This morning at Matins, we came around to Psalm 56.  It is spot on for me on this rainy Saturday.Psalm 56

Psalm 56. Miserere mei, Deus.
BE merciful unto me, O God, for man goeth about to devour me; * he is daily fighting, and troubling me.
2 Mine enemies are daily at hand to swallow me up; * for they be many that fight against me, O thou Most Highest.
3 Nevertheless, though I am sometime afraid, * yet put I my trust in thee.
4 I will praise God, because of his word: * I have put my trust in God, and will not fear what flesh can do unto me.
5 They daily mistake my words; * all that they imagine is to do me evil.
6 They hold all together, and keep themselves close, * and mark my steps, when they lay wait for my soul.
7 Shall they escape for their wickedness? * thou, O God, in thy displeasure shalt cast them down.
8 Thou tellest my wanderings1; put my tears into thy bottle: * are not these things noted in thy book?
9 Whensoever I call upon thee, then shall mine enemies be put to flight: * this I know; for God is on my side.
10 In God’s word will I rejoice; * in the LORD’S word will I comfort me.
11 Yea, in God have I put my trust; * I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.
12 Unto thee, O God, will I pay my vows; * unto thee will I give thanks.
13 For thou hast delivered my soul from death, and my feet from falling, * that I may walk before God in the light of the living.

Blessing of the Badges


Badge

ST. MICHAEL (AND ALL ANGELS)
PATRON OF LAW ENFORCEMENT

“BLESSING OF THE BADGES”
FOR
LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS AND FAMILIES

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2003

NOON

ST. ALBAN’S PARISH
4600 HERMITAGE ROAD
RICHMOND, VA 23227

Gather in the parking lot, weather permitting for blessings and presentation of St. Michael’s medals. In the event of rain, the blessing will be in the sanctuary.

For Further Information Please Contact:
Fr. Charles H. Nalls, Rector
202-262-5519
stalbansrector@outlook.com

What to Look for in a Bishop


LJ

We all know them.  These are the blokes who have a miter, ring, pectoral cross and crozier carefully stashed in the closet on the first day of seminary.  They yearn for the episcopal state, and can be very inventive with reasons they believe that they are entitled to the office.  Some claim with dewy eyes that the Holy Spirit has revealed their elevation to them.  Others view it as a deserved “promotion”-a sort of key to the ecclesiastical executive washroom, if you will.  Indeed, one of these “bishops-in-waiting” solemnly shared to all in the zip code that day that God viewed his military service and subsequent executive positions as qualifying for the office.

Today’s bit of unsolicited advice is, “Fear the man that wants to be a bishop.  Look for the one who tries to flee at the thought of it.”  That latter bit, and, of course, an holy life are the “gold standard” of qualifications.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the life of St. Lawrence Justinian whose festival w mark today.

St. Lawrence was born 1380, of very pious parents. When still quite young, he lost his father, Bernard, and his mother took up care and education of the family. One day, she expressed he concern to the boy that he harbored ambition or pride. Lawrence answered: “fear not, mother; I have only one ambition, and that is to become a great servant of the Lord, and to be more pious than my brothers.” Although he lived at a period when the morals of Venice were very corrupt, his life was regarded by everyone with surprise and admiration.

To escape the danger which threatened him, he prayed most fervently to God to give him the grace to know the vocation to which he was called. One day, kneeling before a crucifix and an image of the Blessed Virgin, he prayed this intention and then felt deep an intense desire to leave the world, and to serve God in the religious state. He obeyed, renounced the world and all its pomp, and went to the Regular Canons of St. George on Alga, an island near Venice. There, the young man requested to enter the order, and he began his novitiate cheerfully. Soon, he showed that he was no beginner in the science of holiness, but a proficient. His superiors had much more difficulty in moderating his zeal than in animating it.

Among other austerities which he practiced to mortify himself, he never warmed himself by the fire even on the coldest days. In summer, he took nothing to allay his thirst except with his meals at noon and evening. At night, he slept on a pallet of bare boards.
After Lawrence had been ordained priest, he daily said Mass with great devotion and seldom without tears. During the Mass on Christmas-night, he received the grace to behold his Saviour in the form of a lovely child.

He constantly fought to remain free from all offices of honor, especially the episcopate. Nevertheless, he was chosen general of his order, and sometime later was named bishop of Venice, by Pope Eugenius IV. However, this humble servant of Christ tried in every possible manner to escape this dignity. At last obliged by obedience, he accepted it. As bishop, however, he altered nothing of the austerities he had practiced in the monastery. He visited his whole diocese, and with apostolic zeal, animated his flock to observe the Commandments of God and the Church.

He used the income from his family for the benefit of the Church and the relief of the poor. Besides several collegiate Churches, he founded fifteen religious houses, and daily fed a great number of poor.

Pope Nicholas declared St. Lawrence the first Patriarch of Venice, an office that eventually caused his strength gradually to give way. On the feast of the Nativity, he felt, during Holy Mass, an intense desire to be admitted into the presence of his God. A fever, which seized him soon after the Mass, ended with his death in a very few days. He lay on the bare floor, and, not even in his last days, could he be persuaded to make use of a softer bed.

“Jesus Christ,” said Lawrence, “died upon the hard wood of the Cross, and you desire that a sinner, like me, should lie soft and comfortable!” After receiving the holy Sacraments, he gave his last instructions to those around him. “Keep the Commandments of the Lord,” said he; “nothing is more noble or excellent than to serve God.” He then raised his eyes to Heaven and said: “I am coming, O my Jesus!” and his soul went to God. Thus, he began his life in heaven in the seventy-third year of his age. the intercession of the Saint, miracles took place at his tomb, in favor of the infirm and the possessed.

Humble, pious, charitable to a fault, austere in life, prayerful and not desiring any higher office than that of a priest.  Now, that’s a bishop.

Suffer the Little Ones


chrysostom

In the context of the saint’s day and the latest scandal involving the abuse of children by clergy as well as those in power who promote anti-life agendas, we have solemn admonitions in an “Homily by St. John Chrysostom” for August 27th (emphasis added).  The saint says to us:

Take heed that ye despise not one of these least little ones, saith the Lord, for their Angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. It was as though he had said: it was for them that I came, because this is the will of my Father. Thus doth he make it our duty to be full of thought and care for the protection and safety of these little ones.

Yea, he pronounceth extreme penalties on them that despise them; and for them that undertake to care wholeheartedly for them he promises most high rewards. In all these things of his teaching, he doth further enforce by his own example and by the example of the eternal Father himself.

Let us therefore take to heart what he saith, and imitate his example. Let us neglect nothing which is in our power to do for these our little brothers and sisters. Let us be ready to undertake any work on their behalf, even the most homely and mean, (that is, homely and mean in the eyes of men).

And if there should be some further need of our assistance, even to the point of self-denying and laborious effect on our part, let us render it graciously; and let us do these things the more so when our help is required for one that is tiny and unloved and unwanted.

And let us practice ourselves in these things until they become tolerable to us, and even easy, because we do them for the sake of one who is our little brother or sister in Christ.

For God hath made evident that every soul is worthy of so much diligent care that he spared not his own son for the sake of such.

-From The Anglican Breviary


 

Calasanza

As we reflect on the extraordinary evils perpetrated by clergy upon the young as revealed in the recent Pennsylvania cases, we do well to reflect on the life and witness of those in the Church of those who have sought the good of our “least little ones”. In particular, today is the Feast day of St. Joseph Calasanz, Sch.P. (September 11, 1557 – August 25, 1648), also known as Joseph Calasanctius and Josephus a Matre Dei, a Spanish Catholic priest, educator and the founder the founder of the first free public school in modern Europe. It was a revolutionary initiative, a radical break with the class privileges that kept the masses marginalized and in poverty.

St. Joseph Calasanz displayed great moral courage, in his attitude to victims of the Inquisition, such as Galileo and Campanella, and in the acceptance of Jewish children in his schools, where they were treated with the same respect as other pupils. Similarly, Protestant pupils were enrolled in his schools in Germany. So great and universal was St. Joseph Calasanz’s prestige that he was even asked by the Ottoman Empire to set up schools there, a request which he could not, to his regret, fulfill, due to a lack of teachers. He organized and systematized a method of educating primary school pupils through progressive levels or cycles, a system of vocational training, and a system of public secondary education.

In an era when no one else was interested in public education, the saint managed to set up schools with a highly complex structure. He was concerned with physical education and hygiene. He addressed the subject in various documents and requested school directors to monitor children’s health. He taught his students to read both in Latin and in the vernacular. While maintaining the study of Latin, he was a strong defender of vernacular languages, and had textbooks, including those used for teaching Latin, written in the vernacular. In that respect he was more advanced than his contemporaries.

As well, St. Joseph Calasanz placed great emphasis on the teaching of mathematics, but his main concern was undoubtedly the moral and Christian education of his students. As both priest and educator, he considered education to be the best way of changing society. All his writing is imbued with his Christian ideals, and the constitutions and regulations of the schools were based on the same spirit. He created an ideal image of a Christian teacher and used it to train the teachers who worked with him.

COLLECT

O God, who for the teaching of youth in the spirit of understanding and godliness didst through thy blessed Confessor St. Joseph vouchsafe to provide thy Church with a new succor, grant we beseech thee; that by his example and intercession we may learn so to do and to teach , that we may be found worthy to attain to the reward of everlasting felicity. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and forever. Amen.-From The Anglican Breviary