One of my favorite Old Testament figures is Elijah the prophet. Though we know little about him prior to his call to speak the message of God in opposition to an evil regime, we may unwittingly harbor a few misconceptions about him. Perhaps one of these is visualizing him only as an old man. In ancient times, age was thought to be synonymous with wisdom, so while we can be sure Elijah was an adult when he was called to deliver the messages of God, he was perceived by those who revered him to be wise, thus he has often been depicted as elderly, though hardy. He had a long tenure as a prophet, culminating in a dramatic exit from this life when a fiery chariot brought him into Heaven. (2 Kings 2) Even with his auspicious and quite unique departure, he did give many years of service to the Lord, which means that during at least part of his ministry he was not an old man. We may also mistakenly think of him as imparting nothing but challenge, with vitriolic words directed towards evil leaders such as Jezebel and Ahab. While he did indeed do that, he also acted with sensitivity for the poor and downtrodden, such as that shown to his hosts, the pagan widow and her son to whom he repaid kindness when they were about to starve. In gratitude and sincere care, Elijah prayed for them, and thus their oil and flour miraculously lasted until God lifted the drought after three years. (1 Kings 17-18)
For the most part, Elijah did what all prophets do: he shook people up so that they would examine their way of life and make some changes in order to return to a relationship with God. What is most important is to remember that he loved God fiercely and this was the motivation for everything he did. He was a rather sensitive man, even if it seems like he had a constitution of steel; he loved mercy and compassion, justice and truth, but he was also vulnerable, even struggling with his ministry from time to time, just as any person of faith might. There were times when he prayed with obvious boldness, and times when he was so desperate for God’s help that he seemed ready to give up. Indeed, this is a realistic description of a true person of prayer. Prayer does not always mean we will experience consolation, but it rests on trust in God and in His love which enables us to make a response of love in turn. God gives us the gifts we need to move to action, including the gift of discernment which can be best developed by learning how to recognize God and how He acts, something which can only be done through prayerful consideration.
The story of Elijah can help us to see that the foundation of prayer is our relationship with God, a relationship grounded in covenantal love. It is true that the more time we spend with God, the more we get to know Him and therefore, the more like Him we become. In other words, to become holy, we need to do more than to say we desire it; we have to spend time with God in order to be open to His grace and to learn how to discern what leads us closer to Him and what leads us away, choosing accordingly. In the Scriptures Elijah is presented without any introduction, but we can imagine that he spent a long time cultivating a relationship with God in order to know His voice and therefore respond to it. Through his prayer, the disposition of his heart moved him to greater openness to God’s call. He had to love God greatly and rely completely on Him in order to have had the ability to stand before his enemies and challenge them. He had to know God in order to know the message he was to convey. This is also true for us: if we are to serve God, no matter how we are called, we need to develop intimacy with Him to discern how to proceed.
Our prayer, then, is an opportunity to get to know God better. It is also God’s opportunity to aid us in our ability to recognize Him, to share the depth of His love for us, and to empower us so that in whatever way we are gifted we might live a prophetic life, that is, a life in which our faith is obvious. (Remember, in baptism we were anointed as priest, prophet, and king!) A good example is found in the story of Elijah when he confronted the king and queen who were ruining Israel with their poor example and pagan practices. He had a public confrontation with their ‘prophets:’ through Elijah’s prayer God revealed His power, proving that the prophets were indeed false, leading to their demise and the people’s return to the one true God. But the evil Queen Jezebel sought to kill Elijah who fled out into the desert so depressed and frightened that he prayed for death at God’s hands rather than hers. The writer was not implying that Elijah, who had previously been amazingly bold, was retreating in a startling ‘about-face,’ but rather he was indicating that after a long, three year battle he was almost completely spent, having tried his best. (And who of us has never felt like that?) Therefore God sent an angel to guide Elijah to Mt. Horeb where He revealed His presence in the most gentle, tender way. God knew beyond Elijah’s words what the prayer of his heart truly was. Elijah did not really want death; but he was feeling desperately alone and needed friendship. And friendship is exactly what God gave him, both through His own loving presence and through the gift of Elisha, a prophet/companion who met Elijah as he came down from the mountain. (1 Kings 18-19)
The point of this is that we are all called to live prophetically as true people of prayer. Because prayer is about a relationship, we can be like Elijah, being moved to make a loving response to the call of God, accepting our vulnerabilities as well as our strengths. Time spent with God in prayer will help us to learn discernment so that we will have a sense of when it is time to act and when it is time to ‘retreat and recharge,’ just as Elijah so poignantly learned. Discernment also teaches us that not all are called to confront the power structures of the world face-to-face, but that we are called to confront anything that leads us away from God, something which can be done through the way we live our lives, the daily choices we make, how we vote, how we use our resources, and the witness we give by helping the poor, the alien, the lonely, and the marginalized. It is done by offering mercy, especially when mercy is absent, as a witness to those who have forgotten what it is to use power correctly. And like Elijah, one of the greatest of the prophets, turning to God in our prayer daily is essential in learning to trust that He knows the depths of our hearts and that He will always guide us to Himself.
Perhaps spending a little time with Elijah through reading and praying with the Scriptures from 1 Kings 17 through 2 Kings 2, we can be inspired by his actions, his leadership, and his sincere care and concern for others, even those of different faiths and backgrounds. We can even be taught by the vulnerabilities which led to the complete disposal of himself to God for help, something we should do when we feel like everything we do is turning to dust. Elijah teaches us to discern: he could have ignored the angel who instructed him to go to the mountain, but relying on his faith through prayer, he recognized that he was being led to God. Elijah shows us that the actions which lead us to God do save us and they do reveal the greatness of God’s love. Let us be like him, searching and acting, witnessing and trusting: ultimately accepting the gift of God’s love from which all life flows.
May we trust in the Holy Spirit to guide us through the choices of our daily life! May we spend time with God in personal prayer so that we learn to recognize the movements of the Holy Spirit! May we grow in our faith, hope, and love as well as in our courage to act! May we offer mercy and compassion where it is needed, including to ourselves! May we recognize our call as prophets, enlivened at Baptism, so that we may have a clearer understanding of the witness of our actions and how they affect others! And may we come to a deeper intimacy with God so that we learn to recognize Him in every moment of our lives! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L Catanese
Notes: The next post will be on August 13.
Also, a few words on distractions in prayer: Distractions are indeed part of prayer, and if all we seem to do is wrestle with them during any particular prayer time, we should offer these to God, too. He will accept our distractions as much as He will accept prayer which ‘flows easily.’ It is what is in our hearts that matters and it is our time spent with Him which He cherishes, not the ‘quality’ of our prayer. Distractions are not all bad, and in fact, they can help us to understand a lot about ourselves. They can reveal what areas need healing, where our weaknesses lie, what concerns us, what we might struggle with, and even can reveal who and what we love. Therefore, distractions can actually be useful if we pay attention to them.
1. This is a photo of the setting sun which I took in Silverthorne, Colorado. The fiery appearance of the cloud and the mountains made this seem like a fitting choice given that fire and cloud are Old Testament symbols for the presence of God's Spirit (Shekinah). The image also made me think of the fiery whirlwind which took Elijah into Heaven.
2. This is an icon by Fr. William Hart McNichols called Holy Prophet Elijah. It depicts the raven feeding Elijah at the beginning of his ministry in 1 Kings 17, (specifically verses 4-6). I like that Fr. Bill painted Elijah as a younger man with dark hair and confess to this being an inspiration for some of my thoughts on Elijah. You can find this icon at http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/holy-prophet-elijah-009-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
3. This painting by Gustav Klimt called Apple Tree (1912) seemed to fit here for a lot of reasons. The first is that one has to be quite attentive to this painting in order to see where the tree begins and the flowers in the surrounding grass end. In other words, one has to spend time learning to discern 'what is what' in the painting. It also spoke to me of the bounty with which God nourishes us, not just through food, but by spiritual nourishment which comes to us through the graces with which He feeds our souls. You can find more description of this painting at http://www.reproduction-tableaux.fr/produit/klimt-pommier/
4. In a completely different style and period of history, this is a painting by Tintoretto called Elijah Fed by the Angel. (1577-78) This is a depiction of Elijah in the desert just after he prayed for death, when God sent His angel who fed Elijah so that he had the strength to make it to Mt. Horeb where he was told that God would meet him. Again, I love that Elijah was painted as a younger man: his hair is brown, and if one looks really closely, one can decide if he even has a beard. (I cannot detect one, and if so, I suspect it is not to denigrate his wisdom, but to give a sense of his vigor, which is now seemingly stretched to the limit.) You can find this painting at https://wga.hu/html_m/t/tintoret/3b/2upper/1/ and also at https://wga.hu/support/viewer_m/z.html.
5. I took this photo of a rock under water in a crystal clear river in Colorado. I chose to use it here as a symbol of our need to be transparent with God. Transparency may make us feel vulnerable, but when we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, and truly try to follow His movements, our transparency is what enables us to live prophetically. People will see God and His message through our words and deeds, even when we do small things.
6. This is a photo I took at the shoreline in Matagorda, Texas. This plover was running into and then out of the surf in what looked like a funny dance, but was actually its way of finding food. I chose to use it here, however, because the bird had to know when to be led into the water and when to move away from the powerful surf: it is an example of discernment as we seek to know whether something is moving us toward God or away from Him. And of course, we choose what moves us toward Him.
7. Finally, this image of the Holy Spirit is an inset from a larger icon by Fr. William Hart McNichols. He calls it Viriditas - Holy Spirit Detail. You can find it at http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/viriditas-holy-spirit-detail-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
In compliance with GDPR rules, I wish to make it clear that I do not gather any information on any of my readers at any time.
Of the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit I think that joy is often a bit misunderstood. It is sometimes equated with happiness, and while there is obvious overlap, they are truly not the same. The ‘joy’ of the Fruits is spiritual joy, and that is the first important distinction. Second, we need to think of happiness as a response to a person or experience which emanates from within us, while we can define spiritual joy as a response to God’s presence, with God as its origin. In truth, all nine Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) are virtues which reveal the presence of God. The term ‘fruit’ comes from something Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. Though He was speaking about how to discern true prophets from false, He said we know a tree is healthy if it produces robust fruit, and when the tree is unhealthy it puts forth diseased fruit. (Matthew 7:17-20) This is also true spiritually: when God is present virtues such as kindness, generosity, love, and joy are present. Because it is about God’s presence, it is just as possible to experience spiritual joy when things are going well as it is to have joy in the midst of suffering. In fact, if we look to the lives of the saints we see that many of them suffered immensely yet reported having spiritual joy. It was not that they were enjoying the suffering, (something which makes no sense), but rather that they knew God was with them and so His presence comforted them to the extent that they had a deep sense of gratitude and yes, joy in His presence.
Indeed, joy springs from a recognition that God is ‘in this place,’ or that God is present deeply within one's heart and soul. Happiness is a wonderful gift, too, and we enjoy it especially if we have come to understand what we truly value, such as who the important people in our lives may be and what the blessings we have received are, and to appreciate it all with gratitude. Happiness is a contentment that is no less important than joy, but it can be fleeting if we are placing it in material things or personal achievements or even in an inflated sense of self. Not to be misunderstood, we are meant to be happy and we are meant to enjoy that which we have been given. But what is always important is that we do not elevate material things, ambition, or relationships with people above our relationship with God. We are called to be good stewards, and that means that we do not really possess things, but enjoy their good use and also share our gifts with others, (as time, talent, and treasure.)
Spiritual joy comes directly from God: it is not necessarily elation, (though it can include it), but rather a deep interior sense that God is holding us close to His heart, an experience which can give us a sense that is so profound it can seem otherworldly, as if one is experiencing a preview of what Heaven will be like. When this happens a person is so filled with the Holy Spirit that the virtues arise, especially love, graces which they know do not come from them, but rather come from God. Some saints experienced this quite a bit, like St. Teresa of Avila. She would go into what appeared to be a swoon, but was actually what is referred to as an ecstasy, a unitive experience with God. Ecstasies are not common, but every member of the Body of Christ can experience the Fruits of the Spirit which are defined as “the virtues put into action through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.” * Whenever we respond to God and one of the virtues is put into action, God is present.
Luke’s Gospel is filled with examples of the joy which is brought by having a relationship with Jesus. In fact, it was so apparent to Luke that it is one of the main themes of his gospel. In the first two chapters alone the word ‘joy’ appears or is implied numerous times. Among the many examples, most notable would the joy which erupted when Mary greeted Elizabeth causing the baby (John) to leap in her womb, and Mary’s response through prayer, her Magnificat, an ode to the joy of God’s favor poured out to His people. Luke continued this theme in the Acts of the Apostles, best exemplified when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles at Pentecost, and again when Peter was with the family of Cornelius and they experienced what is often referred to as the Pentecost of the Gentiles. (Acts 10, particularly verses 44-46) We can see that when God acts and one is open to Him, joy ensues: when God is present, joy is present. And beyond the Scriptures, we have Saints like Ignatius of Loyola who not only experienced incredible moments of spiritual joy, but came to describe a type of joy as spiritual consolation. Briefly, he labeled as consolation all which leads us closer to God and to a deeper love for Him.
A woman with a fascinating story which involves joy in the midst of suffering is St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be canonized. In 1658 Kateri was born in upstate New York to an Algonquin mother and a Mohawk father. When she was four, smallpox wiped out many in her village, including her parents, and the disease left her with a terribly disfigured, pockmarked face and severely impaired vision. She was sent to live with relatives, and while there, was exposed to some “Blackrobes,” (what the natives called the Jesuit missionary priests), who taught her about Christianity. She was baptized at 19, taking the name Kateri, (after St. Catherine). “Tekakwitha” was a nickname, however. It translates to “she who bumps into things and then puts them back in order,” a reference to her near blindness. Soon after becoming Catholic she had to flee because of animosity directed at Christians; she ended up in a small town outside Montreal, having made the 200 mile trip on foot. Kateri only lived a few years after that, dying in 1680 at the young age of 24.
St. Kateri was known for her humility, kindness, charity, and intense devotion to prayer and sacrifice. Two characteristics that stand out, however, are that she meditated continuously on the “immense dignity of being baptized,” and the joy which this produced within her.** She was ridiculed for her appearance and her near-blindness as well as for her desire to live as a virgin, unheard of in Mohawk culture. But none of this dampened her joy in knowing, loving, and serving Jesus as taught to her by the Jesuits. She had come to understand that baptism was an extraordinary gift, bringing her the dignity of being loved by God despite her disfigurement or her disabilities. Her response to this great gift was to offer kindness to others and to offer penances as prayer for the conversion of her people. She suffered greatly, yet she was filled with the joy of God’s presence and with deep gratitude for being so loved by Him. An amazing testimony to the grace of spiritual joy within Kateri is that within a few minutes after her death her face became quite beautiful as she was totally healed of all the pockmarks and scars, and a smile crept onto her lips.
What we learn from St. Kateri Tekakwitha is that we can open ourselves up to the gift of spiritual joy by growing in relationship with God through time spent in prayer and adoration. We also learn that it does not necessarily take a long time to become holy. Kateri, who only lived 24 years and who was nearly blind, found a way to see Jesus and His love in everyone to whom she ministered with kindness and charity. She prayed for a people who misunderstood her, continually offering penances on their behalf; we learn that while we can choose meaningful penances, in life they can also come unbidden and so we can offer all these up as prayer. She teaches that spiritual joy is a gift which assures us that we are never alone, especially in the midst of suffering when we may not feel God, but can rely on faith to know He is actually closer to us than ever. Like Kateri, we can learn to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit whom we received at Baptism and Confirmation, thus giving us great dignity and the ability to recognize the dignity of others. Through the life of St. Kateri we see that joy invites us to rest in the arms of Jesus and also to share the deep sense of being at home with those whom we meet. Perhaps we can be like St. Kateri, letting the inner beauty which comes from the dignity of being a child of God bring joy to others with a smile on our lips and gratitude in our hearts.
May we request the intercession of St. Kateri when we are burdened by cares and cannot see a way through! May we rely upon the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit which we have received through the Sacraments! May we learn to recognize the presence of God and open ourselves up to responding by putting the virtues into action! May we be an example to others by our desire to grow in holiness, doing small things with great love! And may we find comfort and inspiration in the presence of God who never leaves us, continuously guides us, and ceaselessly loves us! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
Notes: Next post on July 30.
* This definition is found in the Catholic Encyclopedic Dictionary found in the back of the New American Bible Revised Edition.
** This information was taken from Franciscan Media found at https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-kateri-tekakwitha/
For more on St. Kateri, including the site where I found the meaning of her name, go to:
1. My husband Tony took this photo in an outdoor market in Siracusa, Sicily. I chose it here as a representation of the bounty of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit.
2. I took this photo while on an airboat on a trip up the Rees River in the Glenorchy area, north of Queenstown, New Zealand. I chose it here as an example of a spot where I truly felt that "God is in this place."
3. This icon is St. Teresa of Avila, by Fr. William Hart McNichols. I felt it was appropriate to present this icon here since it depicts St. Teresa in ecstasy. The hands are God's hands, a reference to her famous words saying that the only hands God has now are ours. You can find the icon, and purchase a copy in one of many mediums if you so desire, at http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/st-teresa-of-avila-177-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
4. This is a photo of a stained glass window which I took at the Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem, Israel. It shows the moment after Mary greeted Elizabeth. Elizabeth has one hand pointing toward Mary's womb, indicating that she, and her baby who had 'leapt', had recognized the special Child within Mary's womb: there is great joy in this image as they all know they are in the presence of God.
5. This is another of the icons of Fr. William Hart McNichols, called The Apparition of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. While this image of St. Kateri depicts an apparition of her after her death, it is nonetheless appropriate here. It shows her face clear, as she looked after death, but I particularly liked that instead of the usual halo around her head, there are rays which speak of the joy of being in the presence of the Holy, and perhaps the spiritual joy which she experienced during her life. You can find the image at frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/the-apparition-of-st-kateri-tekakwitha-192-william-hart-mcnichols.html
6. I took this photo in the gardens at Larnach Castle near Dunedin, New Zealand. I loved the beauty of the butterfly which spoke to me of joy. God is present in simplicity and beauty.
7. This painting is Still Life with Peaches and Pears, by Paul Cezanne. (1888-90) I love the impressionist artists, but sometimes we get so caught up in their landscapes and outdoor scenes, that we forget their wonderful still life paintings. Again, it is the simplicity of the peaches and pears, sitting atop a simple wooden table on a tea towel which is evident; it seems like a scene which could be present in any ordinary kitchen. God is present in the ordinary, making even the simplest places and times extraordinary.
(In remembrance of Max Finney whose joy was contagious. Rest in Peace!)
NOTE: In compliance with GDPR rules, I wish to make it clear that I do not gather any information on any of my readers at any time.
Near the end of June we celebrated the birth of St. John the Baptist, the Forerunner of Christ. It may seem odd at that particular time, but if we investigate closely, we would see that our liturgical calendar has this feast in its place to align with the celebration of the birth of Jesus on December 25. The solemnity reminded us of the story of John that we know so well, especially that he prepared people for the coming of the Messiah and that he put himself aside to do it. The action of pointing others away from self and to Jesus is the very definition of humility. Yet, I suspect when most people imagine John they do not think of humility right away. In fact, with his yelling at the Pharisees and King Herod and with his insistence that everyone repent, we might picture him as wild-eyed and even a bit 'rabid.' That depiction could not be further from the truth since he was actually quite prayerful and was obedient to God in all he did. Once John baptized Jesus, he directed his closest followers to leave him and follow Jesus instead, and in that process he publicly stated, “He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30) John always knew that his life was not about himself, and so he freely gave everything to the service of Jesus. In love and with joy he embraced that call and therefore he revealed the path to holiness, a path which is true for each man or woman: if we want to be a follower of Jesus, we must lead by the way of humility.
If we want to imitate the saints, then, the one thing we absolutely must do is live a humble life. As we see in the life of John the Baptizer, being humble does not necessarily mean being quiet. In fact, sometimes it might require making a little noise. The ‘noise’ must never be about one’s own self, however: it must always point others to Jesus and to the way of the Gospel, particularly to mercy and justice offered through the lens of love. Recently, a saint who lived this way came to my attention. Most likely unknown by many, (except perhaps our friends from Scotland), I am referring to St. Kentigern, sometimes referred to as St. Mungo. In brief, Kentigern was born in Culross, Scotland in the 6th century, eventually leaving home to study with a holy hermit who became fond of him, nicknaming him Mungo, or “dear one,” (“Mwyn-gu” in the native tongue.) After his studies, Kentigern began his ministry, and after a number of years was made bishop, ministering to the community until his death in 603. *
Stories of St. Kentigern depict him as leading an austere life of humility, yet he seems to have been larger-than-life when it came to standing up for justice. One story tells of his defense of a local queen suspected of adultery by her husband, the king, who imprisoned her mercilessly and then tricked the suspected paramour into relinquishing a ring the king had given his wife, but which the suspect now wore. Upon obtaining the ring, the king threw it in the river. Apparently, the queen sent for Kentigern, who subsequently dispatched someone to the river to fish. The fisherman caught the fish that had swallowed the ring and Kentigern was then able to return it to the queen, thus forcing the king to release her from prison. The story seems a bit far-fetched, but the point of it is evident: it highlights Kentigern’s mercy and his desire for justice which freed the woman from the violent wrath of her husband. The king had been cruel because he never even bothered to find out why the man had her ring, (perhaps he had stolen it), but instead used his power to entrap the suspected paramour and to punish his wife. For standing up to those who perpetuate cruelty, Kentigern, or Mungo, earned a reputation as the patron of those who are bullied. He also founded a large church community, calling it “Clasgu,” (which translates to “dear family”), and it eventually grew into the city of Glasgow.
While many stories of the early saints contain hyperbole, (exaggeration) there is always a kernel of truth which is being highlighted. The use of hyperbole should not cause us to dismiss to the realm of falsehood all anecdotes that seem ‘over the top’. And we should not let these fantastic stories turn us off on the saints, either. Hyperbole does not render a story false; rather, we need to look into the heart of it, realizing that hyperbole was common to the people who received these narratives. We, on the other hand, are so wary of being lied to (and justifiably so) that if we sniff out anything which seems 'a bit too much to take,’ we dismiss it altogether. Indeed, we need to use the gift of discernment and a whole lot of common sense to know what is true and what is not, but we also must be sure to look for the truth which is within any exaggerated story, whether it is told in a gospel – Jesus employed hyperbole in some of his parables – or in reference to the life of a saint. For the faith community to have accepted a particular story tells us that they understood the truth within, and so we should trust that which has come down through the ages, too, distinguishing the message from the elements in which it is set.
All that being said, what we learn from St. Mungo is that he was deserving of the nickname given him. He was not only a ‘dear one’ to his teacher, but he saw everyone with whom he came into contact as a dear one, too. What he received, he gave. He received mercy and wisdom from God, and so he shared that mercy and wisdom with everyone from serfs to royalty. His ‘dear’ community thrived because his imitation of the gospel was obvious. His life was centered upon Jesus and not on himself. Kentigern lived the humility which was evident in John the Baptist because he was willing to make some noise in championing the cause of those who were mistreated and he stood up to those who bullied them so that justice would be done and mercy would be taught. He teaches us that the humble one is the holy one, and that humility and meekness are not about becoming a ‘shrinking violet’ that hides away, but rather that these virtues require courage and the ability to act.
St. John the Baptist and St. Mungo both teach that everyone is called to the level of spiritual heroism called holiness. If we attempt to live the gospels, we are to be seen and heard at appropriate times, but not so that the message or the focus is on ourselves. Rather, we are to do as Jesus did in standing up to those who bully while also reaching out a hand to the one who is victimized. Sometimes this means direct action, although for others it means to be of support through prayer and ‘behind the scenes’ work. Always it means living our lives with love, mercy, and in the truth of the gospel, even if we are not called (or are not able) to be an activist about anything. In living humbly we are activists because we call attention to the way of Christ which is about mercy and justice. If we can remember that Jesus must increase and we must decrease, and then act accordingly, we will be living humbly. Pointing others to Jesus is the greatest act of humility because it helps us to realize that we need to turn to Jesus at all times in this challenging world.
The lives of the saints teach us that no matter what we do, it must be done with love as our intention, and that even if our efforts seem fruitless or have come to ruin, we will have been true to our call. From St. Mungo we learn that all our brothers and sisters should be considered as dear ones, since this is how we are valued by God. Our community, the Body of Christ, would be deficient if we were to exclude any of those He considers dear simply because we are not up to the task of welcoming them. St. Mungo lived the humility of reaching out to holy ones and sinners alike, just as Jesus taught. Thus he challenges us to see each one as dear and to act accordingly, whether it is to challenge or to console, whether it is to work for justice with mercy, or whether it is to simply be as a friend. In all we do, we should strive to decrease so Jesus can increase so that His gospel message and His love might be evident to those who seek. This is our call to holiness, and it is what our world so desperately needs.
May we learn from the saints how to live the virtue of humility, decreasing so that Jesus may increase! May we call upon holy ones like St. Mungo to intercede for those who are weak and to help us stand against those who misuse power! May we call upon the Holy Spirit to empower us with the graces necessary that we might use our voices and direct our actions for justice with mercy! And may we be true to our call to treat others as dear ones, bringing them to the Lord who loves all His children with tenderness and care! Let us continue to meet in the merciful and just heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
* For more details on the life of St. Mungo here are three sites you can check out:
Note: Next entry will be July 16.
1. This is a photo I took of the Jordan River as it looks today. This is said to be the spot where John baptized Jesus. It does not look as it did then, of course, mostly because the water has become murky due to farming run-off and that sort of thing.
2. This is a mosaic of St. Kentigern, known as St. Mungo, which comes from Glasgow, Scotland. I liked it because it has the symbols of the little verse which goes with the story told about the queen and her ring and a few of Mungo's other reported miracles.
3. This is a stained glass window from the Cathedral in Glasgow where the tomb of St. Mungo is located. (I did not take this photo; I have not yet been to Scotland.) I liked it because it shows the fisherman with the fish which had ingested the ring, mentioned in the text of this entry. Here is the link to the site where I found the image. https://www.window-clings.uk/LNCECShowProduct.cfm?Id=59
4. This is a painting called La route de Cailhau by Achille Laugé (1893). I chose it because the soft hues spoke to me of humility. However, there is a strength to the painting which comes from the image itself: the path is strong and defined, a reminder of how the way of humility gives strength, yet always points away from self. The image is painted from the viewer's vantage point, looking into the distance and hence, away from self.
5. This is John the Forerunner Also the Baptist, an icon written by Fr. William Hart McNichols. I want to point out that while he looks a bit rough, John is in prayer, and is filled with the Holy Spirit. He stands out, and will begin to shout out God's powerful message of repentance and salvation, which has become one with him. He directs us to Jesus always. You can find this icon at http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/st-john-the-forerunner-also-the-baptist-082-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
6. This is one of my photos. If you are a movie lover, you will recognize it as the town square featured in the classic film Cinema Paradiso. The town is actually called Palazzo Adriano and it is in central Sicily. I chose to use it here because both in real life, as well as in the film, it is a humble town. I loved the imagery of the church bell tower and the church worship space located right behind the fountain. I did not realize the sacramental imagery of that till I posted the photo here. The waters remind me of Baptism and the church speaks of the community who are joined through that sacrament... a connection to John the Baptist, of course.
7. This is a painting called Uisken, Mull (1997) by a wonderful British artist, Nicholas Hely Hutchinson. It is a painting of a small town, Uisken, which is located on the Isle of Mull which is a large island to the west of the mainland of Scotland. I had to include some scene of Scotland, of course, but I chose this because I loved the humility of the place. The goats are roaming the street on the softly rolling hills, with the water and sky a peaceful vista below. This painting simply made me smile; it made me wonder who the dear ones are that reside in this place who are neighbors to one another and are beloved of God. You can find it at http://www.nicholashelyhutchinson.com/gallery/uisken-mull-1997/
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Heart Speaks to Heart