Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Saint Irenaeus

Irenaeus was a highly influential writer, bishop, and theologian of the early Church. Born in Asia Minor, he was a student of St. Polycarp, who had known some of the apostles. This link with apostolic tradition became important in his later work. Irenaeus traveled to Gaul and was ordained a priest in Lyon. He later became bishop there and around 180 wrote an important work, Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies.) The Church in Gaul had been troubled by the false teachings of the Gnostics, who were confusing people. They claimed to have secret knowledge and rejected Christian teachings. In his 5-volume book, Irenaeus detailed where the Gnostics went wrong. He explained Christian teachings in light of Scripture and the apostolic tradition, underlining that the true teaching was passed on through the bishops in the Church. Except for another book called Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, his other writings have been lost.
Irenaeus is also an important figure in Marian teaching, being one of the first theologians to develop the parallel between Eve and Mary. He saw Mary’s role as the New Eve, undoing the damage from the original sin and cooperating in the redemptive work of Christ.

The name Irenaeus means “man of peace,” and although he was involved in controversies, Irenaeus was a peacemaker. He persuaded Pope Victor I to lift a ban of excommunication that had been imposed on some Eastern Christians who didn’t accept the Western date for Easter. The pope agreed and this matter was resolved amicably.

St. Irenaeus, intercede for us that we too may be peacemakers and seek unity. Pray that those who turn to violence to achieve their goals may be converted to the way of love, and follow Jesus who taught us to love one another.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Novena to the Holy Spirit Day Seven: Faithfulness (Thur.)

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . faithfulness" (Gal 5:22)

The word Paul uses here (pistis) can be translated as faith or faithfulness. But in the context of Galatians, in which Paul speaks about how faith in Christ justifies us, it can probably be best seen as a trust founded on God's own faithfulness (that's from Matera's commentary.)

This kind of faithfulness leads us to trust that God will always be with us no matter what trials we are going through. This makes me think of an incident from the life of St. Thomas. As a young man he decided he wanted to join a new order called the Dominicans. They were mendicants--traveling preachers who depended on people to help them with food and other necessities.
Thomas was from a noble family in Italy. They wouldn't have minded if he had wanted to become a Benedictine. Since he had studied at the Abbey of Monte Cassino, they thought he could enter there and eventually become the Abbot. But the idea of him going around begging for food horrified them. His mother in particular adamantly opposed Thomas on this.

But Thomas had other ideas. He wanted to follow the poor Christ, without a position of power (in those days abbots sometimes had a good deal of power and influence). So when he entered the Dominicans and they sent him on a journey to Paris, his family intervened. His brothers went after him and took him against his will back to the family castle in Aquino.
There they kept him under a sort of house arrest. They thought he wouldn't last too long and would eventually give in. But he resisted all their pressure to make him change his mind. Finally, after about a year, they realized he wasn't going to follow their plans. Instead, Thomas was faithful to the plans that he believed God had for him. That was faithfulness in action.

Is there some area in my life where I can be more faithful to what God is asking of me right now?

Prayer to the Holy Spirit for the Gift of Courage (public domain):

Come, O Holy Spirit of Courage, uphold my soul in time of trouble and adversity, sustain my efforts after holiness, strengthen my weakness, give me courage in the trials of life, that I may never be overcome and separated from you, my God and greatest Good. Amen.

Below is another version of the Taize chant of the Veni Sancte Spiritus.

Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day Six Goodness (Wed.)

"The fruit of the Spirit is ... goodness." Gal 5:22

 In high school I had a wonderful teacher who was a mentor for me. She would often say, "Be good." Even though it sounds so simple, it sums up the essence of the Christian life. By being good we can act  with goodness toward others. The way we act reveals what is in our hearts. And by good acts, we become better persons. That was the main idea St John Paul wanted to get across in his book Person and Act. The opposite is also true; if we do evil things our heart changes and is drawn more to evil. But the power of good is greater; whatever little good we do can turn our hearts more and more to God, who is Goodness itself.
St. Paul often encouraged his Christians to be good: "I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness..." (Rom 15:14).
The Holy Spirit is the source of our goodness, for the Spirit is Love. When we open ourselves more fully to the Spirit, we can expect to be filled with an abundance of grace and spiritual gifts.

How can I show goodness to others today?

Prayer for Holiness of Life
 By St. Augustine

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
that I may love only what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
that I may defend all that is holy.
Guard me, O Holy Spirit,
that I always may be holy.

And here is the traditional Come, Holy Ghost: