Conversion of St. Paul

Mark 16:15-18
Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News

Jesus showed himself to the Eleven and said to them:
‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’


Acts 22:3-16
‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’

Paul said to the people, ‘I am a Jew and was born at Tarsus in Cilicia. I was brought up here in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was taught the exact observance of the Law of our ancestors. In fact, I was as full of duty towards God as you are today. I even persecuted this Way to the death, and sent women as well as men to prison in chains as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify, since they even sent me with letters to their brothers in Damascus. When I set off it was with the intention of bringing prisoners back from there to Jerusalem for punishment.

‘I was on that journey and nearly at Damascus when about midday a bright light from heaven suddenly shone round me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I answered: Who are you, Lord? and he said to me, “I am Jesus the Nazarene, and you are persecuting me.” The people with me saw the light but did not hear his voice as he spoke to me. I said: What am I to do, Lord? The Lord answered, “Stand up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told what you have been appointed to do.” The light had been so dazzling that I was blind and my companions had to take me by the hand; and so I came to Damascus.

‘Someone called Ananias, a devout follower of the Law and highly thought of by all the Jews living there, came to see me; he stood beside me and said, “Brother Saul, receive your sight.” Instantly my sight came back and I was able to see him. Then he said, “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Just One and hear his own voice speaking, because you are to be his witness before all mankind, testifying to what you have seen and heard. And now why delay? It is time you were baptised and had your sins washed away while invoking his name.”’

Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News.
O praise the Lord, all you nations,
acclaim him all you peoples!
Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News.
Strong is his love for us;
he is faithful for ever.
Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News.

Source: Jerusalem Bible
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Christ’s Baptism

1223 All the Old Covenant prefigurations find their fulfillment in Christ Jesus. He begins his public life after having himself baptized by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan. After his resurrection Christ gives this mission to his apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

1224 Our Lord voluntarily submitted himself to the baptism of St. John, intended for sinners, in order to “fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus’ gesture is a manifestation of his self-emptying.20 The Spirit who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation, and the Father revealed Jesus as his “beloved Son.”

1225 In his Passover Christ opened to all men the fountain of Baptism. He had already spoken of his Passion, which he was about to suffer in Jerusalem, as a “Baptism” with which he had to be baptized. The blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus are types of Baptism and the Eucharist, the sacraments of new life. From then on, it is possible “to be born of water and the Spirit” in order to enter the Kingdom of God.
See where you are baptized, see where Baptism comes from, if not from the cross of Christ, from his death. There is the whole mystery: he died for you. In him you are redeemed, in him you are saved.

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 21:28-32

Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, ‘What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He went and said to the first, “My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not go,” but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, “Certainly, sir,” but did not go. Which of the two did the father’s will?’ ‘The first’ they said. Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you, a pattern of true righteousness, but you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after seeing that, you refused to think better of it and believe in him.’


Ezekiel 18:25-28

When the sinner renounces sin, he shall certainly live

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘You object, “What the Lord does is unjust.” Listen, you House of Israel: is what I do unjust? Is it not what you do that is unjust? When the upright man renounces his integrity to commit sin and dies because of this, he dies because of the evil that he himself has committed. When the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live. He has chosen to renounce all his previous sins; he shall certainly live; he shall not die.’


Psalm 24(25):4-9

Remember your mercy, Lord.

Lord, make me know your ways.

  Lord, teach me your paths.

Make me walk in your truth, and teach me:

  for you are God my saviour.

Remember your mercy, Lord.

Remember your mercy, Lord,

  and the love you have shown from of old.

Do not remember the sins of my youth.

  In your love remember me,

  because of your goodness, O Lord.

Remember your mercy, Lord.

The Lord is good and upright.

  He shows the path to those who stray,

He guides the humble in the right path,

  He teaches his way to the poor.

Remember your mercy, Lord.


Philippians 2:1-11

Be united in your love

If our life in Christ means anything to you, if love can persuade at all, or the Spirit that we have in common, or any tenderness and sympathy, then be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind. That is the one thing which would make me completely happy. There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead. In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus:

His state was divine,

yet he did not cling

to his equality with God

but emptied himself

to assume the condition of a slave,

and became as men are;

and being as all men are,

he was humbler yet,

even to accepting death,

death on a cross.

But God raised him high

and gave him the name

which is above all other names

so that all beings in the heavens,

on earth and in the underworld,

should bend the knee at the name of Jesus

and that every tongue should acclaim

Jesus Christ as Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Symbols of the Church

753 In Scripture, we find a host of interrelated images and figures through which Revelation speaks of the inexhaustible mystery of the Church. The images taken from the Old Testament are variations on a profound theme: the People of God. In the New Testament, all these images find a new center because Christ has become the head of this people, which henceforth is his Body. Around this center are grouped images taken “from the life of the shepherd or from cultivation of the land, from the art of building or from family life and marriage.”

754 “The Church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ. It is also the flock of which God himself foretold that he would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human shepherds, are unfailingly nourished and led by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of Shepherds, who gave his life for his sheep.

755 “The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God. On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about again. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly cultivator. Yet the true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ, without whom we can do nothing.

756 “Often, too, the Church is called the building of God. The Lord compared himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was made into the corner-stone. On this foundation the Church is built by the apostles and from it the Church receives solidity and unity. This edifice has many names to describe it: the house of God in which his family dwells; the household of God in the Spirit; the dwelling-place of God among men; and, especially, the holy temple. This temple, symbolized in places of worship built out of stone, is praised by the Fathers and, not without reason, is compared in the liturgy to the Holy City, the New Jerusalem. As living stones we here on earth are built into it. It is this holy city that is seen by John as it comes down out of heaven from God when the world is made anew, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

757 “The Church, further, which is called ‘that Jerusalem which is above’ and ‘our mother’, is described as the spotless spouse of the spotless lamb. It is she whom Christ ‘loved and for whom he delivered himself up that he might sanctify her.’ It is she whom he unites to himself by an unbreakable alliance, and whom he constantly ‘nourishes and cherishes.'”

Saturday of week 25 in Ordinary Time

Luke 9:43-45

They were afraid to ask him what he meant

At a time when everyone was full of admiration for all he did, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘For your part, you must have these words constantly in your mind: “The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men.”’ But they did not understand him when he said this; it was hidden from them so that they should not see the meaning of it, and they were afraid to ask him about what he had just said.


Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:8

Remember your creator in the days of your youth

Rejoice in your youth, you who are young;

let your heart give you joy in your young days.

Follow the promptings of your heart

and the desires of your eyes.

But this you must know: for all these things God will bring you to judgement.

Cast worry from your heart,

shield your flesh from pain.

Yet youth, the age of dark hair, is vanity. And remember your creator in the days of your youth, before evil days come and the years approach when you say, ‘These give me no pleasure’, before sun and light and moon and stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain;

the day when those who keep the house tremble

and strong men are bowed;

when the women grind no longer at the mill,

because day is darkening at the windows

and the street doors are shut;

when the sound of the mill is faint,

when the voice of the bird is silenced,

and song notes are stilled,

when to go uphill is an ordeal

and a walk is something to dread.

Yet the almond tree is in flower,

the grasshopper is heavy with food

and the caper bush bears its fruit,

while man goes to his everlasting home. And the mourners are already walking to and fro in the street

before the silver cord has snapped,

or the golden lamp been broken,

or the pitcher shattered at the spring,

or the pulley cracked at the well,

or before the dust returns to the earth as it once came from it, and the breath to God who gave it.

  Vanity of vanities, the Preacher says. All is vanity.


Psalm 89(90):3-6,12-14,17

O Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next.

You turn men back to dust

  and say: ‘Go back, sons of men.’

To your eyes a thousand years

  are like yesterday, come and gone,

  no more than a watch in the night.

O Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next.

You sweep men away like a dream,

  like the grass which springs up in the morning.

In the morning it springs up and flowers:

  by evening it withers and fades.

O Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next.

Make us know the shortness of our life

  that we may gain wisdom of heart.

Lord, relent! Is your anger for ever?

  Show pity to your servants.

O Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next.

In the morning, fill us with your love;

  we shall exult and rejoice all our days.

Let the favour of the Lord be upon us:

  give success to the work of our hands.

O Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

A foretaste of the Kingdom: the Transfiguration

554 From the day Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Master “began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. . . and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Peter scorns this prediction, nor do the others understand it any better than he. In this context the mysterious episode of Jesus’ Transfiguration takes place on a high mountain, before three witnesses chosen by himself: Peter, James and John. Jesus’ face and clothes become dazzling with light, and Moses and Elijah appear, speaking “of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem”. A cloud covers him and a voice from heaven says: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

555 For a moment Jesus discloses his divine glory, confirming Peter’s confession. He also reveals that he will have to go by the way of the cross at Jerusalem in order to “enter into his glory”. Moses and Elijah had seen God’s glory on the Mountain; the Law and the Prophets had announced the Messiah’s sufferings. Christ’s Passion is the will of the Father: the Son acts as God’s servant; the cloud indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit. “The whole Trinity appeared: the Father in the voice; the Son in the man; the Spirit in the shining cloud.”

You were transfigured on the mountain, and your disciples, as much as they were capable of it, beheld your glory, O Christ our God, so that when they should see you crucified they would understand that your Passion was voluntary, and proclaim to the world that you truly are the splendor of the Father.

556 On the threshold of the public life: the baptism; on the threshold of the Passover: the Transfiguration. Jesus’ baptism proclaimed “the mystery of the first regeneration”, namely, our Baptism; the Transfiguration “is the sacrament of the second regeneration”: our own Resurrection. From now on we share in the Lord’s Resurrection through the Spirit who acts in the sacraments of the Body of Christ. The Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ’s glorious coming, when he “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body.” But it also recalls that “it is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God”:

Peter did not yet understand this when he wanted to remain with Christ on the mountain. It has been reserved for you, Peter, but for after death. For now, Jesus says: “Go down to toil on earth, to serve on earth, to be scorned and crucified on earth. Life goes down to be killed; Bread goes down to suffer hunger; the Way goes down to be exhausted on his journey; the Spring goes down to suffer thirst; and you refuse to suffer?”

Friday of week 25 in Ordinary Time

Luke 9:18-22

‘You are the Christ of God’

One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of his disciples he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter who spoke up. ‘The Christ of God’ he said. But he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

  ‘The Son of Man’ he said ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’


Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

There is a time for every occupation under heaven

There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven:

A time for giving birth,

  a time for dying;

  a time for planting,

  a time for uprooting what has been planted.

A time for killing,

  a time for healing;

  a time for knocking down,

  a time for building.

A time for tears,

  a time for laughter;

  a time for mourning,

  a time for dancing.

A time for throwing stones away,

  a time for gathering them up;

  a time for embracing,

  a time to refrain from embracing.

A time for searching,

  a time for losing;

  a time for keeping,

  a time for throwing away.

A time for tearing,

  a time for sewing;

  a time for keeping silent,

  a time for speaking.

A time for loving,

  a time for hating;

  a time for war,

  a time for peace.

What does a man gain for the efforts that he makes? I contemplate the task that God gives mankind to labour at. All that he does is apt for its time; but though he has permitted man to consider time in its wholeness, man cannot comprehend the work of God from beginning to end.


Psalm 143(144):1-4

Blessed be the Lord, my rock.

Blessed be the Lord, my rock.

He is my love, my fortress;

  he is my stronghold, my saviour

my shield, my place of refuge.

Blessed be the Lord, my rock.

Lord, what is man that you care for him,

  mortal man, that you keep him in mind;

man, who is merely a breath

  whose life fades like a passing shadow?

Blessed be the Lord, my rock.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Good News: God has sent his Son

422 ‘But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.’ This is ‘the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’: God has visited his people. He has fulfilled the promise he made to Abraham and his descendants. He acted far beyond all expectation – he has sent his own ‘beloved Son’.

423 We believe and confess that Jesus of Nazareth, born a Jew of a daughter of Israel at Bethlehem at the time of King Herod the Great and the emperor Caesar Augustus, a carpenter by trade, who died crucified in Jerusalem under the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of the emperor Tiberius, is the eternal Son of God made man. He ‘came from God’, ‘descended from heaven’, and ‘came in the flesh’. For ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. . . and from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace.’

424 Moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit and drawn by the Father, we believe in Jesus and confess: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ On the rock of this faith confessed by St. Peter, Christ built his Church.

“To preach. . . the unsearchable riches of Christ”

425 The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in him. From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ: “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” It and they invite people of every era to enter into the joy of their communion with Christ:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. and we are writing this that our joy may be complete.

Thursday of week 25 in Ordinary Time

Luke 9:7-9

‘John? I beheaded him; so who is this?’

Herod the tetrarch had heard about all that was being done by Jesus; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life. But Herod said, ‘John? I beheaded him. So who is this I hear such reports about?’ And he was anxious to see Jesus.


Ecclesiastes 1:2-11

Nothing is new and all is vanity

Vanity of vanities, the Preacher says. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity! For all his toil, his toil under the sun, what does man gain by it?

  A generation goes, a generation comes, yet the earth stands firm for ever. The sun rises, the sun sets; then to its place it speeds and there it rises. Southward goes the wind, then turns to the north; it turns and turns again; back then to its circling goes the wind. Into the sea all the rivers go, and yet the sea is never filled, and still to their goal the rivers go. All things are wearisome. No man can say that eyes have not had enough of seeing, ears their fill of hearing. What was will be again; what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun. Take anything of which it may be said, ‘Look now, this is new.’ Already, long before our time, it existed. Only no memory remains of earlier times, just as in times to come next year itself will not be remembered.


Psalm 89(90):3-6,12-14,17

O Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next.

You turn men back to dust

  and say: ‘Go back, sons of men.’

To your eyes a thousand years

  are like yesterday, come and gone,

  no more than a watch in the night.

O Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next.

You sweep men away like a dream,

  like the grass which springs up in the morning.

In the morning it springs up and flowers:

  by evening it withers and fades.

O Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next.

Make us know the shortness of our life

  that we may gain wisdom of heart.

Lord, relent! Is your anger for ever?

  Show pity to your servants.

O Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next.

In the morning, fill us with your love;

  we shall exult and rejoice all our days.

Let the favour of the Lord be upon us:

  give success to the work of our hands.

O Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to the next.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Christ

436 The word “Christ” comes from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah, which means “anointed”. It became the name proper to Jesus only because he accomplished perfectly the divine mission that “Christ” signifies. In effect, in Israel those consecrated to God for a mission that he gave were anointed in his name. This was the case for kings, for priests and, in rare instances, for prophets. This had to be the case all the more so for the Messiah whom God would send to inaugurate his kingdom definitively. It was necessary that the Messiah be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord at once as king and priest, and also as prophet. Jesus fulfilled the messianic hope of Israel in his threefold office of priest, prophet and king.

437 To the shepherds, the angel announced the birth of Jesus as the Messiah promised to Israel: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” From the beginning he was “the one whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world”, conceived as “holy” in Mary’s virginal womb. God called Joseph to “take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”, so that Jesus, “who is called Christ”, should be born of Joseph’s spouse into the messianic lineage of David.

438 Jesus’ messianic consecration reveals his divine mission, “for the name ‘Christ’ implies ‘he who anointed’, ‘he who was anointed’ and ‘the very anointing with which he was anointed’. The one who anointed is the Father, the one who was anointed is the Son, and he was anointed with the Spirit who is the anointing.'” His eternal messianic consecration was revealed during the time of his earthly life at the moment of his baptism by John, when “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power”, “that he might be revealed to Israel” as its Messiah. His works and words will manifest him as “the Holy One of God”.

439 Many Jews and even certain Gentiles who shared their hope recognized in Jesus the fundamental attributes of the messianic “Son of David”, promised by God to Israel. Jesus accepted his rightful title of Messiah, though with some reserve because it was understood by some of his contemporaries in too human a sense, as essentially political.

440 Jesus accepted Peter’s profession of faith, which acknowledged him to be the Messiah, by announcing the imminent Passion of the Son of Man. He unveiled the authentic content of his messianic kingship both in the transcendent identity of the Son of Man “who came down from heaven”, and in his redemptive mission as the suffering Servant: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Hence the true meaning of his kingship is revealed only when he is raised high on the cross. Only after his Resurrection will Peter be able to proclaim Jesus’ messianic kingship to the People of God: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Saint Pius of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)

Luke 9:1-6

‘Take nothing for the journey’

Jesus called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there. As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave their town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere.


Proverbs 30:5-9

Give me neither riches nor poverty, only my share

Every word of God is unalloyed,

  he is the shield of those who take refuge in him.

To his words make no addition,

  lest he reprove you and know you for a fraud.

Two things I beg of you,

  do not grudge me them before I die:

keep falsehood and lies far from me,

  give me neither poverty nor riches,

  grant me only my share of bread to eat,

for fear that surrounded by plenty, I should fall away

  and say, ‘the Lord – who is the Lord?’

or else, in destitution, take to stealing

  and profane the name of my God.


Psalm 118(119):28,72,89,101,104,163

Your word is a lamp for my steps, O Lord.

My soul pines away with grief;

  by your word raise me up.

The law from your mouth means more to me

  than silver and gold.

Your word is a lamp for my steps, O Lord.

Your word, O Lord, for ever

  stands firm in the heavens:

I turn my feet from evil paths

  to obey your word.

Your word is a lamp for my steps, O Lord.

I gain understanding from your precepts

  and so I hate false ways.

Lies I hate and detest

  but your law is my love.

Your word is a lamp for my steps, O Lord.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Consecration and mission: proclaiming the King who is coming

931 Already dedicated to him through Baptism, the person who surrenders himself to the God he loves above all else thereby consecrates himself more intimately to God’s service and to the good of the Church. By this state of life consecrated to God, the Church manifests Christ and shows us how the Holy Spirit acts so wonderfully in her. and so the first mission of those who profess the evangelical counsels is to live out their consecration. Moreover, “since members of institutes of consecrated life dedicate themselves through their consecration to the service of the Church they are obliged in a special manner to engage in missionary work, in accord with the character of the institute.”

932 In the Church, which is like the sacrament – the sign and instrument – of God’s own life, the consecrated life is seen as a special sign of the mystery of redemption. To follow and imitate Christ more nearly and to manifest more clearly his self-emptying is to be more deeply present to one’s contemporaries, in the heart of Christ. For those who are on this “narrower” path encourage their brethren by their example, and bear striking witness “that the world cannot be transfigured and offered to God without the spirit of the beatitudes.”

933 Whether their witness is public, as in the religious state, or less public, or even secret, Christ’s coming remains for all those consecrated both the origin and rising sun of their life:

For the People of God has here no lasting city, . . . [and this state] reveals more clearly to all believers the heavenly goods which are already present in this age, witnessing to the new and eternal life which we have acquired through the redemptive work of Christ and preluding our future resurrection and the glory of the heavenly kingdom.


Padre Pio, also known as Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (Italian: Pio da Pietrelcina), O.F.M. Cap. (May 25, 1887 – September 23, 1968), was a friar, priest, stigmatist, and mystic, now venerated as a saint of the Catholic Church. Born Francesco Forgione, he was given the name of Pius (Italian: Pio) when he joined the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin.

Padre Pio became famous for exhibiting stigmata for most of his life, thereby generating much interest and controversy. He was both beatified (1999) and canonized (2002) by Pope John Paul II.

Early life

Francesco Forgione was born to Grazio Mario Forgione (1860–1946) and Maria Giuseppa Di Nunzio (1859–1929) on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, a town in the southern Italian region of Campania.His parents made a living as peasant farmers. He was baptized in the nearby Santa Anna Chapel, which stands upon the walls of a castle. He later served as an altar boy in this same chapel. His siblings were an older brother, Michele, and three younger sisters, Felicita, Pellegrina, and Grazia (who was later to become a Bridgettine nun). His parents had two other children who died in infancy. When he was baptized, he was given the name Francesco. He stated that by the time he was five years old, he had already made the decision to dedicate his entire life to God. He began taking on penances and was chided on one occasion by his mother for using a stone as a pillow and sleeping on the stone floor. He worked on the land up to the age of 10, looking after the small flock of sheep the family owned. This delayed his education to some extent.

Pietrelcina was a town where feast days of saints were celebrated throughout the year, and the Forgione family was deeply religious. They attended daily Mass, prayed the Rosary nightly, and abstained from meat three days a week in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Although Francesco’s parents and grandparents were illiterate, they memorized the scriptures and narrated Bible stories to their children. His mother said that Francesco was able to see and speak with Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and his guardian angel, and that as a child he assumed that all people could do so.

According to the diary of Father Agostino da San Marco, who was his spiritual director in San Marco in Lamis, the young Francesco Forgione was afflicted with a number of illnesses. At six he suffered from a grave gastroenteritis which kept him bedridden for a long time. At ten he caught typhoid fever.

As a youth, Francesco reported that he had experienced heavenly visions and ecstasies. In 1897, after he had completed three years at the public school, Francesco was said to have been drawn to the life of a friar after listening to a young Capuchin friar who was in the countryside seeking donations. When Francesco expressed his desire to his parents, they made a trip to Morcone, a community 13 miles (21 km) north of Pietrelcina, to find out if their son was eligible to enter the Capuchin Order. The friars there informed them that they were interested in accepting Francesco into their community, but he needed first to become better educated.

Francesco’s father went to the United States in search of work to pay for private tutoring for his son, so that he might meet the academic requirements to enter the Capuchin Order. It was in this period that Francesco received the sacrament of Confirmation on September 27, 1899. He underwent private tutoring and passed the stipulated academic requirements. On January 6, 1903, at the age of 15, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin friars at Morcone. On January 22, he took the Franciscan habit and the name of Fra (Friar) Pio, in honor of Pope St. Pius I, whose relic is preserved in the Santa Anna Chapel in Pietrelcina. He took the simple vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Priesthood

Commencing his seven-year study for the priesthood, Fra Pio traveled to the friary of Saint Francis of Assisi by oxcart. At 17, he suddenly fell ill, complaining of loss of appetite, insomnia, exhaustion, fainting spells, and terrible migraines. He vomited frequently and could digest only milk and cheese. Religious devotees and hagiographers point to this time, when he was suffering physical illness, that inexplicable phenomena allegedly began to occur. During prayers, Pio appeared to others to be in a stupor, as if he were absent. One of Pio’s fellow friars later claimed to have seen him in ecstasy, levitating above the ground.

In June 1905, Fra Pio’s health worsened to such an extent that his superiors decided to send him to a mountain convent, in the hope that the change of air would do him some good. This had little impact, however, and doctors advised that he return to his home town. Even there his health failed to improve. Despite this, On January 27, 1907, he still made his solemn profession.

In 1910, Pio was subsequently ordained a priest by Archbishop Paolo Schinosi at the Cathedral of Benevento. Four days later, he offered his first Mass at the parish church of Our Lady of the Angels. His health being precarious, he was permitted to remain with his family until 1916 while still retaining the Capuchin habit.

On September 4, 1916, however, Pio was ordered to return to his community life. He moved to an agricultural community, Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary, located in the Gargano Mountains in San Giovanni Rotondo in the Province of Foggia. At that time the community numbered in total seven friars. He went on to remain at San Giovanni Rotondo until his death in 1968, except for a period of military service. Padre Pio celebrated the Mass in Latin, as was the widespread custom of the time.

Military service

When World War I started, four friars from this community were selected for military service. At that time, Padre Pio was a teacher at the seminary and a spiritual director. When one more friar was called into service, Padre Pio was put in charge of the community. On November 15, 1915, he was drafted into the Italian army and on December 6, assigned to the 10th Medical Corps in Naples. Due to poor health, he was continually discharged and recalled until on March 16, 1918, he was declared unfit for military service and discharged. In all, his military service lasted 182 days.

Stigmata

On September 20, 1918, while hearing confessions, Padre Pio had his first occurrence of the stigmata: bodily marks, pain, and bleeding in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ. This phenomenon continued for fifty years, until the end of his life. The blood flowing from the stigmata smelled of perfume or flowers, a phenomenon mentioned in stories of the lives of several saints and often referred to as the odour of sanctity. Though Padre Pio said he would have preferred to suffer in secret, by early 1919, news about the stigmatic friar began to spread in the secular world. Padre Pio’s wounds were examined by many people, including physicians.

People who had started rebuilding their lives after World War I, began to see in Padre Pio a symbol of hope. Those close to him attest that he began to manifest several spiritual gifts, including the gifts of healing, bilocation, levitation, prophecy, miracles, extraordinary abstinence from both sleep and nourishment (one account states that Padre Agostino recorded one instance in which Padre Pio was able to subsist for at least 20 days at Verafeno on only the Eucharist without any other nourishment), the ability to read hearts, the gift of tongues, the gift of conversions, and the fragrance from his wounds.

His stigmata, regarded as evidence of holiness, were studied by physicians whose independence from the Church is not known. The observations were unexplainable and the wounds never became infected. His wounds healed once but reappeared.They were examined by Luigi Romanelli, chief physician of the City Hospital of Barletta, for about one year. Dr. Giorgio Festa, a private practitioner, also examined them in 1920 and 1925. Professor Giuseppe Bastianelli, physician to Pope Benedict XV, agreed that the wounds existed but made no other comment. Pathologist Dr. Amico Bignami of the University of Rome also observed the wounds but could make no diagnosis. Both Bignami and Dr. Giuseppe Sala commented on the unusually smooth edges of the wounds and lack of edema. Dr. Alberto Caserta took x-rays of Padre Pio’s hands in 1954 and found no abnormality in the bone structure.

He was said to act embarrassed by this condition and most photographs show him wearing red mittens or black coverings on his hands and feet where the bleeding occurred. At the time of Padre Pio’s death, his body appeared unwounded, with no sign of scarring. There was a report that doctors who examined his body found it empty of all blood.

There were both religious and non-religious critics who accused Padre Pio of faking his stigmata, saying he used carbolic acid to make the wounds. In 2007, The Telegraph reported on the book, The Other Christ: Padre Pio and 19th Century Italy, by the historian Sergio Luzzatto. He recounted that in 1919, according to one document in the Vatican’s archive, Padre Pio requested carbolic acid from a pharmacist. She said it was for sterilization. The Catholic Anti-Defamation League said Luzzatto was spreading “anti-Catholic libels” and needed to learn more about religion. Luzzatto was awarded the Cundill Prize in History for the book.

The Church dismissed charges that he had faked the stigmata. “The boys had needed injections to fight the Spanish Flu which was raging at that time. Due to a shortage of doctors, Padres Paolino and Pio administered the shots, using carbolic acid as a sterilizing agent.”

Transverberation and visible stigmata

Based on Padre Pio’s correspondence, even early in his priesthood he experienced less obvious indications of the visible stigmata for which he would later become famous. In a 1911 letter, Padre Pio wrote to his spiritual advisor Padre Benedetto from San Marco in Lamis, describing something he had been experiencing for a year:

Then last night something happened which I can neither explain nor understand. In the middle of the palms of my hands a red mark appeared, about the size of a penny, accompanied by acute pain in the middle of the red marks. The pain was more pronounced in the middle of the left hand, so much so that I can still feel it. Also under my feet I can feel some pain.

His close friend Padre Agostino wrote to him in 1915, asking specific questions, such as when he first experienced visions, whether he had been granted the stigmata, and whether he felt the pains of the Passion of Christ, namely the crowning of thorns and the scourging. Padre Pio replied that he had been favoured with visions since his novitiate period (1903 to 1904). He wrote that although he had been granted the stigmata, he had been so terrified by the phenomenon he begged the Lord to withdraw them. He wrote that he did not wish the pain to be removed, only the visible wounds, since at the time he purportedly considered them to be an indescribable and almost unbearable humiliation. The visible wounds disappeared at that point, but reappeared in September 1918. He reported, however, that the pain remained and was more acute on specific days and under certain circumstances. He also said that he was suffering the pain of the crown of thorns and the scourging. He did not define the frequency of these occurrences but said that he had been suffering from them at least once weekly for some years.

These events are alleged to have caused his health to fail, for which reason he was permitted to stay at home. To maintain his religious life as a friar while away from the community, he celebrated The Holy Mass daily and taught at school.

St. John of the Cross describes the phenomenon of transverberation as follows:

The soul being inflamed with the love of God which is interiorly attacked by a Seraph, who pierces it through with a fiery dart. This leaves the soul wounded, which causes it to suffer from the overflowing of divine love.

A strong believer in Christian meditation, Padre Pio stated: “Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds him.”

World War I continued and in July 1918, Pope Benedict XV, who had termed the World War “the suicide of Europe,” appealed to all Christians urging them to pray for an end to the World War. On July 27 of the same year, Padre Pio offered himself as a victim for the end of the war. Days passed and between August 5 and 7, Padre Pio had a vision in which Christ appeared and pierced his side. As a result, Padre Pio had a physical wound in his side. This occurrence is considered as a “transverberation” or piercing of the heart, indicating the union of love with God. (On 8 August, the Allies began the Hundred Days Offensive, which led to the armistice with Germany and the end of the war.)

As a side-note, a first-class relic of Padre Pio, which consists of a large framed square of linen bearing a bloodstain from “the wound of the transverberation of the heart” in his side, is exposed for public veneration at the St. John Cantius Church in Chicago.

The occasion of transverberation coincided with a seven-week-long period of spiritual unrest for Padre Pio. One of his Capuchin brothers said this of his state during that period:

During this time his entire appearance looked altered as if he had died. He was constantly weeping and sighing, saying that God had forsaken him.

In a letter from Padre Pio to Padre Benedetto, dated 21 August 1918, Padre Pio writes of his experiences during the transverberation:

While I was hearing the boys’ confessions on the evening of the 5th [August] I was suddenly terrorized by the sight of a celestial person who presented himself to my mind’s eye. He had in his hand a sort of weapon like a very long sharp-pointed steel blade which seemed to emit fire. At the very instant that I saw all this, I saw that person hurl the weapon into my soul with all his might. I cried out with difficulty and felt I was dying. I asked the boy to leave because I felt ill and no longer had the strength to continue. This agony lasted uninterruptedly until the morning of the 7th. I cannot tell you how much I suffered during this period of anguish. Even my entrails were torn and ruptured by the weapon, and nothing was spared. From that day on I have been mortally wounded. I feel in the depths of my soul a wound that is always open and which causes me continual agony.

On September 20, 1918, accounts state that the pains of the transverberation had ceased and Padre Pio was in “profound peace.” On that day, as Padre Pio was engaged in prayer in the choir loft in the Church of Our Lady of Grace, the same Being who had appeared to him and given him the transverberation, and who is believed to be the Wounded Christ, appeared again, and Padre Pio had another experience of religious ecstasy. When the ecstasy ended, Padre Pio had received the visible stigmata, the five wounds of Christ. This time, the stigmata were permanent. They stayed visible for the next fifty years of his life.

In a letter to Padre Benedetto, his superior and spiritual advisor from San Marco in Lamis, dated October 22, 1918, Padre Pio describes his experience of receiving the stigmata:

On the morning of the 20th of last month, in the choir, after I had celebrated Mass I yielded to a drowsiness similar to a sweet sleep. […] I saw before me a mysterious person similar to the one I had seen on the evening of 5 August. The only difference was that his hands and feet and side were dripping blood. This sight terrified me and what I felt at that moment is indescribable. I thought I should have died if the Lord had not intervened and strengthened my heart which was about to burst out of my chest. The vision disappeared and I became aware that my hands, feet and side were dripping blood. Imagine the agony I experienced and continue to experience almost every day. The heart wound bleeds continually, especially from Thursday evening until Saturday. Dear Father, I am dying of pain because of the wounds and the resulting embarrassment I feel deep in my soul. I am afraid I shall bleed to death if the Lord does not hear my heartfelt supplication to relieve me of this condition. Will Jesus, who is so good, grant me this grace? Will he at least free me from the embarrassment caused by these outward signs? I will raise my voice and will not stop imploring him until in his mercy he takes away, not the wound or the pain, which is impossible since I wish to be inebriated with pain, but these outward signs which cause me such embarrassment and unbearable humiliation….the pain was so intense that I began to feel as if I were dying on the cross.

Poor health

In addition to his childhood illnesses, throughout his life Padre Pio suffered from “asthmatic bronchitis.” He also had a large kidney stone, with frequent abdominal pains. He suffered from a chronic gastritis, which later turned into an ulcer. He also suffered from inflammations of the eye, nose, ear, and throat, and eventually formed rhinitis and chronic otitis.

In 1925, Padre Pio was operated on for an inguinal hernia, and shortly after this a large cyst formed on his neck that was surgically removed. Another surgery was required to remove a malignant tumor on his ear. After this operation Padre Pio was subjected to radiological treatment, which was successful, it seems, after only two treatments.

In 1956, he came down with a serious case of “exudative pleuritis”. The diagnosis was certified by Cataldo Cassano, a professor who personally extracted the serous liquid from the body of Padre Pio.He remained bedridden for four consecutive months. In his old age Padre Pio was tormented by painful arthritis.

Controversies

Because of the unusual abilities Padre Pio was said to possess, the Holy See instituted investigations of the related accounts. The local bishop, P. Gagliardi, did not believe Padre Pio’s alleged miracles, suggesting that his Capuchin brothers were making a display out of the monk to gain financial advantage. When Pius XI became pope in 1922, the Vatican became extremely doubtful. Padre Pio was subject to numerous investigations.

The Vatican imposed severe sanctions on Padre Pio to reduce publicity about him: it forbade him from saying Mass in public, blessing people, answering letters, showing his stigmata publicly, and communicating with Padre Benedetto, his spiritual director. Padre Pio was to be relocated to another convent in northern Italy. The local people threatened to riot, and the Vatican left Padre Pio where he was.

Fearing these local riots, the Vatican dropped a plan to transfer Padre Pio to another friary, and a second plan for removal was also changed. From 1921 to 1922 he was prevented from publicly performing his priestly duties, such as hearing confessions and saying Mass. From 1924 to 1931, the Holy See made statements denying that the events in Padre Pio’s life were due to any divine cause.

The founder of Milan’s Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, friar, physician, and psychologist Agostino Gemelli, met Padre Pio once, for a few minutes, and was unable to examine his stigmata. According to Agostino Gemelli, Padre Pio was “an ignorant and self-mutilating psychopath who exploited people’s credulity.”  Gemelli speculated that Padre Pio kept his wounds open with carbolic acid. As a result, Padre Pio was required to wrap the wounds in cloth. For many years, he wore fingerless gloves that concealed his wounds. According to believers, the bleeding continued for some 50 years until the wounds closed within hours of his death.

A pharmacist sold four grams of carbolic acid to Padre Pio in the year 1919. The archbishop of Manfredonia, Pasquale Gagliardi, reported this as evidence that Padre Pio could have effected the stigmata with acid. This suggestion was examined and dismissed by the Vatican.

By 1933, the tide began to turn, with Pope Pius XI ordering the Holy See to reverse its ban on Padre Pio’s public celebration of Mass. The pope said, “I have not been badly disposed toward Padre Pio, but I have been badly informed.” In 1934, the friar was again allowed to hear confessions. He was also given honorary permission to preach despite never having taken the exam for the preaching license. Pope Pius XII, who assumed the papacy in 1939, encouraged devotees to visit Padre Pio.

In 1940, Padre Pio began plans to open a hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo, to be named the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza or “Home to Relieve Suffering.” The hospital opened in 1956. Barbara Ward, a British humanitarian and journalist on assignment in Italy, played a major role in obtaining for this project a grant of $325,000 from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). In order that Padre Pio might directly supervise this project, Pope Pius XII in 1957 granted him dispensation from his vow of poverty. Padre Pio’s detractors used this project as another weapon to attack him, charging him with misappropriation of funds.

Pope Paul VI (pope from 1963 to 1978), in the mid-1960s dismissed all accusations against Padre Pio.

In 1947, Father Karol Józef Wojtyła (later Pope John Paul II), a young Polish priest who was studying in Rome at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum, visited Padre Pio, who heard his confession. Austrian Cardinal Alfons Stickler reported that Wojtyła confided to him that during this meeting, Padre Pio told him he would one day ascend to “the highest post in the Church though further confirmation is needed.” Cardinal Stickler said that Wojtyła believed that the prophecy was fulfilled when he became a cardinal. (John Paul’s secretary, Stanisław Dziwisz, denies the prediction, while George Weigel’s biography Witness to Hope, which contains an account of the same visit, does not mention it.)

According to oral tradition, Bishop Wojtyła wrote to Padre Pio in 1962 to ask him to pray for Dr. Wanda Poltawska, a friend in Poland who was suffering from cancer. Later, Dr. Poltawska’s cancer was found to be in spontaneous remission. Medical professionals were unable to offer an explanation for the phenomenon. John Paul II, who was the Pope from 1978 to 2005, started the canonization process of Padre Pio and canonized him in 2002.

Padre Pio became a very well-known priest. Franciscan spirituality is characterized by a life of poverty, love of nature, and giving charity to those in need. Franciscan prayer recognizes God’s presence in the wonder of creation. This is seen clearly in St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun. Franciscan spirituality is focused on walking in Christ’s footsteps, understanding God by doing what Christ asked, experiencing and sharing God.

Later Padre Pio became a spiritual director. He had five rules for spiritual growth: weekly confession, daily Communion, spiritual reading, meditation, and examination of conscience.

Padre Pio was devoted to rosary meditations and said:

“The person who meditates and turns his mind to God, who is the mirror of his soul, seeks to know his faults, tries to correct them, moderates his impulses, and puts his conscience in order.”

He compared weekly confession to dusting a room weekly, and recommended the performance of meditation and self-examination twice daily: once in the morning, as preparation to face the day, and once again in the evening, as retrospection. His advice on the practical application of theology he often summed up in his now famous quote, “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry”. He directed Christians to recognize God in all things and to desire above all things to do the will of God.

The novelist Graham Greene had two photos of Padre Pio in his wallet after attending one of his Masses. He said that Padre Pio had “introduced a doubt in my disbelief.”

Many people who heard of him traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo in the south of Italy to meet him and confess to him, ask for help, or have their curiosity satisfied. Padre Pio’s mother died at the village around the convent in 1928. Later, in 1938, Padre Pio had his old father Grazio living with him in the village of San Giovanni Rotondo. His brother Michele also moved into the village with their father. Padre Pio’s father lived in a little house outside the convent, until his death in 1946.

Death

Padre Pio died in 1968 at the age of 81. His health deteriorated in the 1960s but he continued his spiritual works. On September 21, 1968, the day after the 50th anniversary of his receiving the stigmata, Padre Pio felt great fatigue. The next day, on September 22, 1968, he was supposed to offer a Solemn Mass, but feeling weak, he asked his superior if he might say a Low Mass instead, as he had done daily for years. Due to the large number of pilgrims present for the Mass, Padre Pio’s superior decided the Solemn Mass must proceed. Padre Pio carried out his duties but appeared extremely weak and fragile. His voice was weak and, after the Mass had concluded, he nearly collapsed while walking down the altar steps. He needed help from his Capuchin brothers. This was his last celebration of the Mass.

Early in the morning of September 23, 1968, Padre Pio made his last confession and renewed his Franciscan vows. As was customary, he had his rosary in his hands, though he did not have the strength to say the Hail Marys aloud. Till the end, he repeated the words “Gesù, Maria” (Jesus, Mary). At around 2:30 a.m., he said, “I see two mothers” (taken to mean his mother and Mary).At 2:30 a.m. he died in his cell in San Giovanni Rotondo with his last breath whispering, “Maria!”

His body was buried on September 26 in a crypt in the Church of Our Lady of Grace. His Requiem Mass was attended by over 100,000 people. He had often said, “After my death I will do more. My real mission will begin after my death.” The accounts of those who stayed with Padre Pio till the end state that the stigmata had completely disappeared without a scar. Only a red mark “as if drawn by a red pencil” remained on his side but it disappeared.

Reported supernatural phenomena

Padre Pio was said to have had the gift of reading souls, the ability to bilocate (according to eyewitness accounts), among other supernatural phenomena. He was said to communicate with angels and worked favors and healings before they were requested of him. The reports of supernatural phenomena surrounding Padre Pio attracted fame and legend. The Vatican was initially skeptical.

In the 1999 book, Padre Pio: The Wonder Worker, a segment by Irish priest Malachy Gerard Carroll describes the story of Gemma de Giorgi, a Sicilian girl whose blindness was believed to have been cured during a visit to Padre Pio. Gemma, who was brought to San Giovanni Rotondo in 1947 by her grandmother, was born without pupils. During her trip to see Padre Pio, the little girl began to see objects, including a steamboat and the sea. Gemma’s grandmother did not believe the child had been healed. After Gemma forgot to ask Padre Pio for grace during her confession, her grandmother implored the priest to ask God to restore her sight. Padre Pio told her, “The child must not weep and neither must you for the child sees and you know she sees.”

Padre Pio believed the love of God is inseparable from suffering, and that suffering all things for the sake of God is the way for the soul to reach God. He felt that his soul was lost in a chaotic maze, plunged into total desolation, as if he were in the deepest pit of hell.

Father Gabriele Amorth, senior exorcist of Vatican City, stated in an interview that Padre Pio was able to distinguish between real apparitions of Jesus, Mary and the saints and the illusions created by the devil, by carefully analysing the state of his mind and the feelings produced in him during the apparitions. In one of Padre Pio’s letters, he states that he remained patient in the midst of his trials because of his firm belief that Jesus, Mary, his guardian angel, St. Joseph, and St. Francis were always with him and helped him  During his period of spiritual suffering, his followers believe that Padre Pio was attacked by the devil, both physically and spiritually. His followers also believe that the devil used diabolical tricks in order to increase Padre Pio’s torments. These included apparitions as an “angel of light” and the alteration or destruction of letters to and from his spiritual directors. Padre Augustine confirmed this when he said:

Now, twenty-two days have passed since Jesus allowed the devils to vent their anger on me. My Father, my whole body is bruised from the beatings that I have received to the present time by our enemies. Several times, they have even torn off my shirt so that they could strike my exposed flesh.

Padre Pio reported engaging in physical combat with Satan and his minions, similar to incidents described concerning St. John Vianney, from which he was said to have sustained extensive bruising. On the day of Padre Pio’s death, mystic and Servant of God Maria Esperanza de Bianchini from Venezuela reported that he appeared to her in a vision and said, “I have come to say good-bye. My time has come. It is your turn.” Her husband saw his wife’s face transfigured into that of Padre Pio. On the following day, they learned that Padre Pio had died. Witnesses say they later saw Esperanza levitating during Mass and engaging in bilocation. Padre Domenico da Cese, a fellow Capuchin stigmatist, reported that on Sunday, September 22, 1968, he saw Padre Pio kneeling in prayer before the Holy Face of Manoppello, although it was known that Padre Pio had not left his room.

Sainthood and later recognition

Padre Pio was considered holy even during his lifetime. In 1971 three years after his death, Pope Paul VI said to the superiors of the Capuchin Order about the monk:

“              Look what fame he had, what a worldwide following gathered around him! But why? Perhaps because he was a philosopher? Because he was wise? Because he had resources at his disposal? Because he said Mass humbly, heard confessions from dawn to dusk and was–it is not easy to say it–one who bore the wounds of our Lord. He was a man of prayer and suffering. ”

In 1982, the Holy See authorized the archbishop of Manfredonia to open an investigation to determine whether Padre Pio should be considered a saint. The investigation continued for seven years. In 1990 Padre Pio was declared a Servant of God, the first step in the process of canonization. The investigation however did not lead to any public factual clearance by the Church on his previous ‘excommunication’ or on the allegations that his stigmata were not of a supernatural kind. Moreover, Pio’s stigmata were remarkably left out of the obligatory investigations for the canonization process, in order to avoid obstacles prohibiting a successful closure.

Beginning in 1990, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints debated how Padre Pio had lived his life, and in 1997 Pope John Paul II declared him venerable. A discussion of the effects of his life on others followed. Cases were studied such as a reported cure of an Italian woman, Consiglia de Martino, associated with Padre Pio’s intercession. In 1999, on the advice of the Congregation, John Paul II declared Padre Pio blessed. A media offensive by the Capuchins was able to realise a broad acceptation of the contested saint in spe in society.

After further consideration of Padre Pio’s virtues and ability to do good even after his death, including discussion of another healing attributed to his intercession, the pope declared Padre Pio a saint on June 16, 2002. An estimated 300,000 people attended the canonization ceremony.

On July 1, 2004, Pope John Paul II dedicated the Sanctuary of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (sometimes referred as Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church), built in the village of San Giovanni Rotondo to the memory of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina. A statue of Saint Pio in Messina, Sicily attracted attention in 2002 when it wept tears of blood.

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina is known as the patron saint of civil defense volunteers, after a group of 160 petitioned the Italian Bishops’ conference for this designation. The bishops forwarded the request to the Vatican, which gave its approval to the designation. He is also “less officially” known as the patron saint of stress relief and the “January blues,” after the Catholic Enquiry Office in London proclaimed him as such. They designated the most depressing day of the year, identified as January 22, as Don’t Worry Be Happy Day, in honor of Padre Pio’s famous advice: “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.”

Padre Pio has become one of the world’s most popular saints. There are more than 3,000 “Padre Pio Prayer Groups” worldwide, with three million members. There are parishes in Vineland and Lavallette, New Jersey, and Sydney, Australia, and shrines in Buena, New Jersey, and Santo Tomas, Batangas, Philippines, dedicated to Padre Pio. A 2006 survey by the magazine Famiglia Cristiana found that more Italian Catholics pray to Padre Pio for intercession than to any other figure. (This prayer, more properly understood as a request that the saint intercede to God, is not to be confused with worship, which the Catholic Church teaches is due only to God.)

It was announced in 2009 that a renewable energy statue of Padre Pio was to be built on a hill near the town of San Giovanni Rotondo in the south-eastern province of Apulia, Italy, the town where he is commemorated. The project would cost several million pounds, with the money to be raised from the saint’s devotees around the world. The statue would be coated in a special photovoltaic paint, enabling it to trap the sun’s heat and produce solar energy, making it an “ecological” religious icon.

On March 3, 2008, the body of St. Pio was exhumed from his crypt, forty years after his death, so that his remains could be prepared for display. A church statement described the body as being in “fair condition”. Archbishop Domenico Umberto D’Ambrosio, Papal legate to the shrine in San Giovanni Rotondo, stated “the top part of the skull is partly skeletal but the chin is perfect and the rest of the body is well preserved”. Archbishop D’Ambrosio also confirmed in a communiqué that “the stigmata are not visible.”[63] He said that St. Pio’s hands “looked like they had just undergone a manicure”. It was hoped that morticians would be able to restore the face so that it will be recognizable. However, because of its deterioration, his face was covered with a lifelike silicone mask.

Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, celebrated Mass for 15,000 devotees on April 24 at the Shrine of Holy Mary of Grace, San Giovanni Rotondo, before the body went on display in a crystal, marble, and silver sepulcher in the crypt of the monastery. Padre Pio is wearing his brown Capuchin habit with a white silk stole embroidered with crystals and gold thread. His hands hold a large wooden cross. 800,000 pilgrims worldwide, mostly from Italy, made reservations to view the body up to December 2008, but only 7,200 people a day were able to file past the crystal coffin. Officials extended the display through September, 2009.

Saint Pio’s remains were placed in the church of Saint Pio, which is beside San Giovanni Rotondo. In April 2010 they were moved to a special golden “Cripta”.

The remains of Saint Pio were brought to the Vatican for veneration during the 2015-2016 Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Saint Pio and Saint Leopold Mandic were designated as saint-confessors to inspire people to become reconciled to the Church and to God, by the confession of their sins.

Source: Wikipedia

Tuesday of week 25 in Ordinary Time

Luke 8:19-21

‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God’

The mother and the brothers of Jesus came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd. He was told, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you.’ But he said in answer, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’


Proverbs 21:1-6,10-13

On wickedness and virtue

Like flowing water is the heart of the king in the hand of the Lord,

  who turns it where he pleases.

A man’s conduct may strike him as upright,

  the Lord, however, weighs the heart.

To act virtuously and with justice

  is more pleasing to the Lord than sacrifice.

Haughty eye, proud heart,

  lamp of the wicked, nothing but sin.

The hardworking man is thoughtful, and all is gain;

  too much haste, and all that comes of it is want.

To make a fortune with the help of a lying tongue,

  such the idle fantasy of those who look for death.

The wicked man’s soul is intent on evil,

  he looks on his neighbour with dislike.

When a mocker is punished, the ignorant man grows wiser,

  when a wise man is instructed he acquires more knowledge.

The Just One watches the house of the wicked:

  he hurls the wicked to destruction.

He who shuts his ear to the poor man’s cry

  shall himself plead and not be heard.


Psalm 118(119):1,27,30,34-35,44

Guide me, Lord, in the path of your commands.

They are happy whose life is blameless,

  who follow God’s law!

Make me grasp the way of your precepts

  and I will muse on your wonders.

Guide me, Lord, in the path of your commands.

I have chosen the way of truth

  with your decrees before me.

Train me to observe your law,

  to keep it with my heart.

Guide me, Lord, in the path of your commands.

Guide me in the path of your commands;

  for there is my delight.

I shall always keep your law

  for ever and ever.

Guide me, Lord, in the path of your commands.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Family And The Kingdom

2232 Family ties are important but not absolute. Just as the child grows to maturity and human and spiritual autonomy, so his unique vocation which comes from God asserts itself more clearly and forcefully. Parents should respect this call and encourage their children to follow it. They must be convinced that the first vocation of the Christian is to follow Jesus: “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

2233 Becoming a disciple of Jesus means accepting the invitation to belong to God’s family, to live in conformity with His way of life: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Parents should welcome and respect with joy and thanksgiving the Lord’s call to one of their children to follow him in virginity for the sake of the Kingdom in the consecrated life or in priestly ministry.

Saint Matthew, Apostle, Evangelist

Matthew 9:9-13

It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick

As Jesus was walking on, he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

  While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’


Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13

We are all to come to unity, fully mature in the knowledge of the Son of God

I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.

  Each one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. To some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.


Psalm 18(19):2-5

Their word goes forth through all the earth.

The heavens proclaim the glory of God,

  and the firmament shows forth the work of his hands.

Day unto day takes up the story

  and night unto night makes known the message.

Their word goes forth through all the earth.

No speech, no word, no voice is heard

  yet their span extends through all the earth,

  their words to the utmost bounds of the world.

Their word goes forth through all the earth.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Sacrifice

2099 It is right to offer sacrifice to God as a sign of adoration and gratitude, supplication and communion: “Every action done so as to cling to God in communion of holiness, and thus achieve blessedness, is a true sacrifice.”

2100 Outward sacrifice, to be genuine, must be the expression of spiritual sacrifice: “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit. . . . ” The prophets of the Old Covenant often denounced sacrifices that were not from the heart or not coupled with love of neighbor. Jesus recalls the words of the prophet Hosea: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” The only perfect sacrifice is the one that Christ offered on the cross as a total offering to the Father’s love and for our salvation. By uniting ourselves with his sacrifice we can make our lives a sacrifice to God.


Matthew the Apostle (Hebrew: מַתִּתְיָהוּ‎‎ Mattityahu or מתי‎ Mattay, “Gift of YHVH”; Greek: Ματθαῖος Matthaios; also known as Saint Matthew and as Levi) was, according to the Christian Bible, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, according to Christian tradition, one of the four Evangelists.

In the New Testament

Among the early followers and apostles of Jesus, Matthew is mentioned in Matthew 9:9 and Matthew 10:3 as a publican who, while sitting at the “receipt of custom” in Capernaum, was called to follow Jesus. Matthew may have collected taxes from the Hebrew people for Herod Antipas. Matthew is also listed among the twelve, but without identification of his background, in Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13. In passages parallel to Matthew 9:9, both Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 describe Jesus’ calling of the tax collector Levi, the son of Alphaeus, but Mark and Luke never explicitly equate this Levi with the Matthew named as one of the twelve apostles.

Early life

Matthew was a 1st-century Galilean (presumably born in Galilee, which was not part of Judea or the Roman Iudaea province), the son of Alpheus. As a tax collector he would have been literate in Aramaic and Greek. His fellow Jews would have despised him for what was seen as collaborating with the Roman occupation force.

After his call, Matthew invited Jesus home for a feast. On seeing this, the Scribes and the Pharisees criticized Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners. This prompted Jesus to answer, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17, Luke 5:32)

Ministry

The New Testament records that as a disciple, he followed Jesus, and was one of the witnesses of the Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus. Afterwards, the disciples withdrew to an upper room (Acts 1:10–14) (traditionally the Cenacle) in Jerusalem. The disciples remained in and about Jerusalem and proclaimed that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

In the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 43a) “Mattai” is one of five disciples of “Jeshu”.

Later Church fathers such as Irenaeus (Against Heresies 3.1.1) and Clement of Alexandria claim that Matthew preached the Gospel to the Jewish community in Judea, before going to other countries. Ancient writers are not agreed as to what these other countries are. The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church each hold the tradition that Matthew died as a martyr, although this was rejected by the gnostic heretic Heracleon as early as the second century.

Matthew’s Gospel

The Gospel of Matthew is anonymous: the author is not named within the text, and the superscription “according to Matthew” was added some time in the second century. The tradition that the author was the disciple Matthew begins with the early Christian bishop Papias of Hierapolis (c. 100–140 CE), who is cited by the Church historian Eusebius (260–340 CE), as follows: “Matthew collected the oracles (logia: sayings of or about Jesus) in the Hebrew language ( Hebraïdi dialektōi), and each one interpreted (hērmēneusen – perhaps “translated”) them as best he could.”[Notes 1]

On the surface, this has been taken to imply that Matthew’s Gospel itself was written in Hebrew or Aramaic by the apostle Matthew and later translated into Greek, but nowhere does the author claim to have been an eyewitness to events, and Matthew’s Greek “reveals none of the telltale marks of a translation”. Scholars have put forward several theories to explain Papias: perhaps Matthew wrote two gospels, one, now lost, in Hebrew, the other our Greek version; or perhaps the logia was a collection of sayings rather than the gospel; or by dialektōi Papias may have meant that Matthew wrote in the Jewish style rather than in the Hebrew language. The consensus is that Papias does not describe the Gospel of Matthew as we know it, and it is generally accepted that Matthew was written in Greek, not in Aramaic or Hebrew.

Non-canonical or Apocryphal Gospels

In the 3rd-century Jewish–Christian gospels attributed to Matthew were used by Jewish–Christian groups such as the Nazarenes and Ebionites. Fragments of these gospels survive in quotations by Jerome, Epiphanius and others. Most academic study follows the distinction of Gospel of the Nazarenes (26 fragments), Gospel of the Ebionites (7 fragments), and Gospel of the Hebrews (7 fragments) found in Schneemelcher’s New Testament Apocrypha. Critical commentators generally regard these texts as having been composed in Greek and related to Greek Matthew. A minority of commentators consider them to be fragments of a lost Aramaic or Hebrew language original.

The Infancy Gospel of Matthew is a 7th-century compilation of three other texts: the Protevangelium of James, the Flight into Egypt, and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.

Origen said the first Gospel was written by Matthew. This Gospel was composed in Hebrew near Jerusalem for Hebrew Christians and translated into Greek, but the Greek copy was lost. The Hebrew original was kept at the Library of Caesarea. The Nazarene Community transcribed a copy for Jerome which he used in his work. Matthew’s Gospel was called the Gospel according to the Hebrews or sometimes the Gospel of the Apostles and it was once believed that it was the original to the Greek Matthew found in the Bible. However, this has been challenged by modern biblical scholars such as Bart Ehrman and James R. Edwards.

Jerome relates that Matthew was supposed by the Nazarenes to have composed their Gospel of the Hebrews though Irenaeus and Epiphanius of Salamis consider this simply a revised version canonical Gospel. This Gospel has been partially preserved in the writings of the Church Fathers, said to have been written by Matthew. Epiphanius does not make his own the claim about a Gospel of the Hebrews written by Matthew, a claim that he merely attributes to the heretical Ebionites.

Veneration

Matthew is recognized as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran and Anglican churches. (See St. Matthew’s Church.) His feast day is celebrated on 21 September in the West and 16 November in the East. (For those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, 16 November currently falls on 29 November of the modern Gregorian Calendar). He is also commemorated by the Orthodox, together with the other Apostles, on 30 June (13 July), the Synaxis of the Holy Apostles. His tomb is located in the crypt of Salerno Cathedral in southern Italy.

Like the other evangelists, Matthew is often depicted in Christian art with one of the four living creatures of Revelation 4:7. The one that accompanies him is in the form of a winged man. The three paintings of Matthew by Caravaggio in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, where he is depicted as called by Christ from his profession as tax gatherer, are among the landmarks of Western art.

In Islam

The Quran speaks of Jesus’ disciples but does not mention their names, instead referring to them as “helpers to the work of God”. Muslim exegesis and Qur’an commentary, however, name them and include Matthew amongst the disciples. Muslim exegesis preserves the tradition that Matthew, with Andrew, were the two disciples who went to Ethiopia (not the African country, but a region called ‘Ethiopia’ south of the Caspian Sea) to preach the message of God.

Source: Wikipedia

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 20:1-16

Why be envious because I am generous?

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “Because no one has hired us” they answered. He said to them, “You go into my vineyard too.” In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.’


Isaiah 55:6-9

My thoughts are not your thoughts

Seek the Lord while he is still to be found,

call to him while he is still near.

Let the wicked man abandon his way,

the evil man his thoughts.

Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him,

to our God who is rich in forgiving;

for my thoughts are not your thoughts,

my ways not your ways – it is the Lord who speaks.

Yes, the heavens are as high above earth

as my ways are above your ways,

my thoughts above your thoughts.


Philippians 1:20-24,27

Life to me is Christ; but death would bring me more

Christ will be glorified in my body, whether by my life or by my death. Life to me, of course, is Christ, but then death would bring me something more; but then again, if living in this body means doing work which is having good results – I do not know what I should choose. I am caught in this dilemma: I want to be gone and be with Christ, which would be very much the better, but for me to stay alive in this body is a more urgent need for your sake.

  Avoid anything in your everyday lives that would be unworthy of the gospel of Christ.


Psalm 144(145):2-3,8-9,17-18

The Lord is close to all who call him.

I will bless you day after day

  and praise your name for ever.

The Lord is great, highly to be praised,

  his greatness cannot be measured.

The Lord is close to all who call him.

The Lord is kind and full of compassion,

  slow to anger, abounding in love.

How good is the Lord to all,

  compassionate to all his creatures.

The Lord is close to all who call him.

The Lord is just in all his ways

  and loving in all his deeds.

He is close to all who call him,

  who call on him from their hearts.

The Lord is close to all who call him.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Church’s Origin, Foundation And Mission

758 We begin our investigation of the Church’s mystery by meditating on her origin in the Holy Trinity’s plan and her progressive realization in history.

A plan born in the Father’s heart

759 “The eternal Father, in accordance with the utterly gratuitous and mysterious design of his wisdom and goodness, created the whole universe and chose to raise up men to share in his own divine life,” to which he calls all men in his Son. “The Father . . . determined to call together in a holy Church those who should believe in Christ.” This “family of God” is gradually formed and takes shape during the stages of human history, in keeping with the Father’s plan. In fact, “already present in figure at the beginning of the world, this Church was prepared in marvellous fashion in the history of the people of Israel and the old Advance. Established in this last age of the world and made manifest in the outpouring of the Spirit, it will be brought to glorious completion at the end of time.”

The Church – foreshadowed from the world’s beginning

760 Christians of the first centuries said, “The world was created for the sake of the Church.” God created the world for the sake of communion with his divine life, a communion brought about by the “convocation” of men in Christ, and this “convocation” is the Church. the Church is the goal of all things, and God permitted such painful upheavals as the angels’ fall and man’s sin only as occasions and means for displaying all the power of his arm and the whole measure of the love he wanted to give the world:

Just as God’s will is creation and is called “the world,” so his intention is the salvation of men, and it is called “the Church.”

The Church – prepared for in the Old Covenant

761 The gathering together of the People of God began at the moment when sin destroyed the communion of men with God, and that of men among themselves. the gathering together of the Church is, as it were, God’s reaction to the chaos provoked by sin. This reunification is achieved secretly in the heart of all peoples: “In every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable” to God.

762 The remote preparation for this gathering together of the People of God begins when he calls Abraham and promises that he will become the father of a great people. Its immediate preparation begins with Israel’s election as the People of God. By this election, Israel is to be the sign of the future gathering of All nations.158 But the prophets accuse Israel of breaking the covenant and behaving like a prostitute. They announce a new and eternal covenant. “Christ instituted this New Covenant.”

The Church – instituted by Christ Jesus

763 It was the Son’s task to accomplish the Father’s plan of salvation in the fullness of time. Its accomplishment was the reason for his being sent. “The Lord Jesus inaugurated his Church by preaching the Good News, that is, the coming of the Reign of God, promised over the ages in the scriptures.” To fulfill the Father’s will, Christ ushered in the Kingdom of heaven on earth. the Church “is the Reign of Christ already present in mystery.”

764 “This Kingdom shines out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ.” To welcome Jesus’ word is to welcome “the Kingdom itself.” The seed and beginning of the Kingdom are the “little flock” of those whom Jesus came to gather around him, the flock whose shepherd he is. They form Jesus’ true family. To those whom he thus gathered around him, he taught a new “way of acting” and a prayer of their own.

765 The Lord Jesus endowed his community with a structure that will remain until the Kingdom is fully achieved. Before all else there is the choice of the Twelve with Peter as their head. Representing the twelve tribes of Israel, they are the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem. The Twelve and the other disciples share in Christ’s mission and his power, but also in his lot. By all his actions, Christ prepares and builds his Church.

766 The Church is born primarily of Christ’s total self-giving for our salvation, anticipated in the institution of the Eucharist and fulfilled on the cross. “The origin and growth of the Church are symbolized by the blood and water which flowed from the open side of the crucified Jesus.” “For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth the ‘wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.'” As Eve was formed from the sleeping Adam’s side, so the Church was born from the pierced heart of Christ hanging dead on the cross.

The Church – revealed by the Holy Spirit

767 “When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that he might continually sanctify the Church.” Then “the Church was openly displayed to the crowds and the spread of the Gospel among the nations, through preaching, was begun.” As the “convocation” of all men for salvation, the Church in her very nature is missionary, sent by Christ to all the nations to make disciples of them.

768 So that she can fulfill her mission, the Holy Spirit “bestows upon [the Church] varied hierarchic and charismatic gifts, and in this way directs her.” “Henceforward the Church, endowed with the gifts of her founder and faithfully observing his precepts of charity, humility and self-denial, receives the mission of proclaiming and establishing among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is on earth the seed and the beginning of that kingdom.”

The Church – perfected in glory

769 “The Church . . . will receive its perfection only in the glory of heaven,” at the time of Christ’s glorious return. Until that day, “the Church progresses on her pilgrimage amidst this world’s persecutions and God’s consolations.” Here below she knows that she is in exile far from the Lord, and longs for the full coming of the Kingdom, when she will “be united in glory with her king.” The Church, and through her the world, will not be perfected in glory without great trials. Only then will “all the just from the time of Adam, ‘from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,’ . . . be gathered together in the universal Church in the Father’s presence.”

Saturday of week 24 in Ordinary Time

Luke 8:4-15

The parable of the sower

With a large crowd gathering and people from every town finding their way to him, Jesus used this parable:

  ‘A sower went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell on the edge of the path and was trampled on; and the birds of the air ate it up. Some seed fell on rock, and when it came up it withered away, having no moisture. Some seed fell amongst thorns and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell into rich soil and grew and produced its crop a hundredfold.’ Saying this he cried, ‘Listen, anyone who has ears to hear!’

  His disciples asked him what this parable might mean, and he said, ‘The mysteries of the kingdom of God are revealed to you; for the rest there are only parables, so that

they may see but not perceive,

listen but not understand.

‘This, then, is what the parable means: the seed is the word of God. Those on the edge of the path are people who have heard it, and then the devil comes and carries away the word from their hearts in case they should believe and be saved. Those on the rock are people who, when they first hear it, welcome the word with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of trial they give up. As for the part that fell into thorns, this is people who have heard, but as they go on their way they are choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of life and do not reach maturity. As for the part in the rich soil, this is people with a noble and generous heart who have heard the word and take it to themselves and yield a harvest through their perseverance.’


1 Corinthians 15:35-37,42-49

The resurrected body is heavenly by nature

Someone may ask, ‘How are dead people raised, and what sort of body do they have when they come back?’ They are stupid questions. Whatever you sow in the ground has to die before it is given new life and the thing that you sow is not what is going to come; you sow a bare grain, say of wheat or something like that. It is the same with the resurrection of the dead: the thing that is sown is perishable but what is raised is imperishable; the thing that is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; the thing that is sown is weak but what is raised is powerful; when it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit.

  If the soul has its own embodiment, so does the spirit have its own embodiment. The first man, Adam, as scripture says, became a living soul; but the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit. That is, first the one with the soul, not the spirit, and after that, the one with the spirit. The first man, being from the earth, is earthly by nature; the second man is from heaven. As this earthly man was, so are we on earth; and as the heavenly man is, so are we in heaven. And we, who have been modelled on the earthly man, will be modelled on the heavenly man.


Psalm 55(56):10-14

I shall walk in the presence of God in the light of the living.

My foes will be put to flight

  on the day that I call to you.

This I know, that God is on my side.

I shall walk in the presence of God in the light of the living.

In God, whose word I praise,

  in the Lord whose word I praise,

in God I trust; I shall not fear;

  what can mortal man do to me?

I shall walk in the presence of God in the light of the living.

I am bound by the vows I have made you.

  O God, I will offer you praise

for you have rescued my soul from death,

  you kept my feet from stumbling

that I may walk in the presence of God

  and enjoy the light of the living.

I shall walk in the presence of God in the light of the living.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Facing difficulties in prayer

2729 The habitual difficulty in prayer is distraction. It can affect words and their meaning in vocal prayer; it can concern, more profoundly, him to whom we are praying, in vocal prayer (liturgical or personal), meditation, and contemplative prayer. To set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all that is necessary is to turn back to our heart: for a distraction reveals to us what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before the Lord should awaken our preferential love for him and lead us resolutely to offer him our heart to be purified. Therein lies the battle, the choice of which master to serve.

2730 In positive terms, the battle against the possessive and dominating self requires vigilance, sobriety of heart. When Jesus insists on vigilance, he always relates it to himself, to his coming on the last day and every day: today. The bridegroom comes in the middle of the night; the light that must not be extinguished is that of faith: “‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!'”

2731 Another difficulty, especially for those who sincerely want to pray, is dryness. Dryness belongs to contemplative prayer when the heart is separated from God, with no taste for thoughts, memories, and feelings, even spiritual ones. This is the moment of sheer faith clinging faithfully to Jesus in his agony and in his tomb. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if dies, it bears much fruit.” If dryness is due to the lack of roots, because the word has fallen on rocky soil, the battle requires conversion.

Friday of week 24 in Ordinary Time

Luke 8:1-3

The women who accompanied Jesus

Jesus made his way through towns and villages preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God. With him went the Twelve, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments: Mary surnamed the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and several others who provided for them out of their own resources.


1 Corinthians 15:12-20

If Christ has not been raised, your belief is useless

Now if Christ raised from the dead is what has been preached, how can some of you be saying that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ himself cannot have been raised, and if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is useless and your believing it is useless; indeed, we are shown up as witnesses who have committed perjury before God, because we swore in evidence before God that he had raised Christ to life. For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins. And what is more serious, all who have died in Christ have perished. If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people.

  But Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep.


Psalm 16(17):1,6-8,15

I shall be filled, when I awake, with the sight of your glory, O Lord.

Lord, hear a cause that is just,

  pay heed to my cry.

Turn your ear to my prayer:

  no deceit is on my lips.

I shall be filled, when I awake, with the sight of your glory, O Lord.

I am here and I call, you will hear me, O God.

  Turn your ear to me; hear my words.

Display your great love, you whose right hand saves

  your friends from those who rebel against them.

I shall be filled, when I awake, with the sight of your glory, O Lord.

Guard me as the apple of your eye.

  Hide me in the shadow of your wings

As for me, in my justice I shall see your face

  and be filled, when I awake, with the sight of your glory.

I shall be filled, when I awake, with the sight of your glory, O Lord.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

“The kingdom of God is at hand”

541 “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying: ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe in the gospel.'” “To carry out the will of the Father Christ inaugurated the kingdom of heaven on earth.” Now the Father’s will is “to raise up men to share in his own divine life”. He does this by gathering men around his Son Jesus Christ. This gathering is the Church, “on earth the seed and beginning of that kingdoms”.

542 Christ stands at the heart of this gathering of men into the “family of God”. By his word, through signs that manifest the reign of God, and by sending out his disciples, Jesus calls all people to come together around him. But above all in the great Paschal mystery – his death on the cross and his Resurrection – he would accomplish the coming of his kingdom. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” Into this union with Christ all men are called.