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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

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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.

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Finally, there are the Fourth and Fifth Marks of St. John Baptist. St. John was a bold rebuke vice and a prophetic call to righteousness. His was an imperfect baptism, but the summons to holiness was clarion. In the end, unjustly condemned and murdered as would be the master, St. John would patiently suffer for the truth’s sake.

So, this month let us meditate on these Marks of St. John Baptist, and lead lives that will allow us to constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord. That is authentic Christian witness.

ALMIGHTY God, by whose providence thy servant John Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour by preaching repentance; Make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through† Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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St John the Baptist 011The third Mark of St. John Baptist is simply humility. It is inexorably tied to a life that points toward Christ. The first chapter of St. John’s Gospel affords us a succinct picture.

19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.
22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?
23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.
25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?
26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;
27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.

St. Augustine offers this brilliant exposition of the Mark of Humility in St. John Baptist as described in these passages. He notes:

And yet, just notice how this forerunner of his Lord, of one who is God and man, how much he humbles himself. No one has arisen greater among those born of women than this man, and here he is, questioned about whether he is himself the Christ. He was so great that people could make this mistake. They wondered whether he was himself the Christ, and they wondered about it seriously enough to question him. Now if he had been a son of pride, not a teacher of humility, he would not have taken steps to make them think that, but he would simply have accepted what they were already thinking. It would possibly have been overreaching himself to wish to persuade people that he was the Christ. If he had tried to do so and had not been believed, he would have been left high and dry, both rejected and dejected, both despised among people and condemned in God’s eyes. But there was no need for him to persuade people. He could already see they were thinking this about him. He could simply accept their mistake and boost his own prestige.…

Consider how inferior to him he would have been, even if he had been worthy. Consider how much he would have been debasing himself if this is what he had said: “He is greater than I am, and I am only worthy to undo the strap of his sandal.” He would have been calling himself worthy at least to stoop down to his feet. But now, as it is, see how exalted he proclaimed him to be when he declared himself unworthy even to touch his feet, or rather his sandals! So John came to teach the proud humility, to proclaim the way of repentance. St. Augustine of Hippo-SERMON 293A.4.

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Baptist.jpg

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”-John 1:6-9

The second mark of St, John Baptist is “pointing”.  His entire life pointed toward Christ even from the womb:  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the first chapter of the Gospel according to St. John.

“He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.”-John 1:27

“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”-John 1:29

St. Cyril of Alexandria noted that St. John Baptist was essentially a sign post pointing away from himself and toward Christ, He says nothing else than other than that “the one you are looking for is finally at the doors. Indeed, the Lord is within the doors. Be ready to go [with Christ] whatever way he asks you.” COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 1.10.

This is the essence of witness-a point that escapes too many in modern ministry.  To evangelize aright, our words and our lives must point toward Jesus Christ.  So, for today’s meditation on the second “mark of St. John Baptist, let us consider how our we my better point to Christ especially through lives that have been wholly directed to Christ Jesus.

ALMIGHTY God, by whose providence thy servant John Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour by preaching repentance;* Make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through† Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

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Saint-John-the-Baptist-web

Before leaving for Synod last week, I prepared an homily so as to be ready on Sunday morning.  On returning and re-reading the , I discovered that the wise words I had left to age were…well….so much rubbish.  As these things go, I was prompted to preach on the Five Marks of the Life of St. John Baptist and how to live them.

First, there is joy at the presence of the Incarnate Christ.  Indeed, St. John, himself in utero, leapt when the Blessed Virgin, with child, entered into his house. As we hear,

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:…-St. Luke 1:41.

How this prefigures the words of the Apostle, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

Here, we find joy in recognition.  These pose today’s meditation questions.  Do we react in joy in the presence of Christ?  Do at least our hearts leap in joy, if not our whole selves?  Or, do we even recognize Him and that we are always in His presence?

Think on recognition and joy as we pray this week noting particularly toe portions of the Collect in boldface,

ALMIGHTY God, by whose providence thy servant John Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour by preaching repentance;* Make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through† Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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gregory

Today is the feast day of St. Gregory the Great of Rome.  Of his remarkable life, work, and witness, I will leave it to the reader to peruse the internet for factual or fictitious accounts.  Today, I will celebrate the saint by simply repeating an homily to which all clergy ought to pay serious and considered attention.  I have added any emphases that may show.

SERMON: ST. GREGORY THE GREAT ON THE PASTORAL OFFICE
Addressed to Bishops and Clergy assembled in Council at the Lateran Basilica, circa 591

Dearly beloved brethren, from none, in my opinion, does God receive such prejudice as from priests, when they who are set up for the reformation of others set an example of wickedness, and when we ourselves, who should correct the faults of others, are guilty of sin. And what is still worse, oftentimes priests, who ought to give what is their own in alms, take what belongs to others. Often times they deride such as live in humility and continence. Consider, then, what is the fate of the flock when the pastors become wolves.

For there are men who undertake the care of souls, and yet they are not afraid to lay snares for the flock of the Lord, which needs to be protected against them. We seek not the good of souls, we are intent on our own interests ; we covet earthly things, we strive to obtain the praise of men. And since our rank above others gives us greater liberty to act as we please, we make the ministry of blessing a means to further our ambition.

We abandon the interests of God, and give ourselves up to worldly business ; we occupy a position which is holy, and we entangle ourselves in the affairs of the world. Truly the words of Scripture are fulfilled in us, “There shall be like people, like priest” (Hosea 4:9). For the priest does not differ from the people when he does not surpass the people by the merits of his life.

Let us then make our own the lamentation of Jeremias; let us consider our state and say: “How is the gold become dim, the finest colour changed; the stones of the sanctuary are scattered in the top of every street?” (Lamentations 4:1). The gold is become dim, because the life of priests which formerly shone with the splendour of virtue has now become vile through the baseness of their actions. The finest colour is changed because the habit of sanctity, through the abject occupations of the world, is degraded and despised. The stones of the sanctuary were carefully guarded, and were worn by the High Priest only when he went into the Holy of Holies to appear before God in secret. We, dearly beloved brethren, are the stones of the sanctuary, and we should always remain in God’s sanctuary, and not be seen abroad, that is occupied with what does not concern our vocation. But the stones of the sanctuary are scattered at the top of every street, when those, who by their action and their prayer should ever abide within, live abroad by their vicious conduct.

For behold, at the present time there is hardly any kind of secular business in which priests do not take a part. Hence, as in spite of the sanctity of their state they are engaged in exterior things, it comes to pass that the stones of the sanctuary are scattered.
And as in Greek, the word, street, lateia, is derived from breadth; the stones of the sanctuary are in the streets when religious persons walk in the broad paths of the world. And they are scattered not merely in the streets, but at the top of the streets, because through covetousness they do the works of the world, and yet by their religious profession they seek to occupy the place of honour. They are scattered at the top of the streets, because while their occupations degrade them, they desire to be honoured for the sanctity of their profession.

You yourselves are witnesses of the wars which afflict the world, and the scourges by which the people perish every day. To what is this to be ascribed but to our sins? Lo! cities are devastated, fortresses are overthrown, churches and monasteries are destroyed, the fields are laid desolate. And we who ought to lead the people to life are the cause of their destruction. For through our fault many of the people have perished, because through our negligence we did not instruct them unto life.

What appellation should we give to the souls of men but the food of God, for they were created to be incorporated in His body? that is, to increase the Church which is eternal. Now we ought to be the seasoning of that food. For as I have already said, when He sent His preachers, He said to them, “You are the salt of the earth.” If, then, the people are God’s food, priests should be its seasoning. But as we have abandoned prayer and sacred learning, the salt has lost its savour, and cannot season God’s food, and therefore God does not partake of it; because, as we have lost our savour, it is not seasoned.

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