The prodigal son
The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:
‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.
‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.
‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.
‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”
‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”’
Source: Jerusalem Bible
Catechism of the Catholic Church
THE DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN PERSON
1700 The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God (article 1); it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude (article 2). It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment (article 3). By his deliberate actions (article 4), the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience (article 5). Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth (article 6). With the help of grace they grow in virtue (article 7), avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust themselves as did the prodigal son to the mercy of our Father in heaven (article 8). In this way they attain to the perfection of charity.
The prayer of one afflicted and wasting away whose anguish is poured out before the LORD.
LORD, hear my prayer; let my cry come to you.
Do not hide your face from me now that I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.
For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn away as in a furnace.
I am withered, dried up like grass, too wasted to eat my food.
From my loud groaning I become just skin and bones.
I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake and moan, like a lone sparrow on the roof.
All day long my enemies taunt me; in their rage, they make my name a curse.
I eat ashes like bread, mingle my drink with tears.
Because of your furious wrath, you lifted me up just to cast me down.
My days are like a lengthening shadow; I wither like the grass.
But you, LORD, are enthroned forever; your renown is for all generations.
You will again show mercy to Zion; now is the time for pity; the appointed time has come.
Its stones are dear to your servants; its dust moves them to pity.
The nations shall revere your name, LORD, all the kings of the earth, your glory,
Once the LORD has rebuilt Zion and appeared in glory,
Heeding the plea of the lowly, not scorning their prayer.
Let this be written for the next generation, for a people not yet born, that they may praise the LORD:
“The LORD looked down from the holy heights, viewed the earth from heaven,
To attend to the groaning of the prisoners, to release those doomed to die.”
Then the LORD’S name will be declared on Zion, the praise of God in Jerusalem,
When all peoples and kingdoms gather to worship the LORD.
God has shattered my strength in mid-course, has cut short my days.
I plead, O my God, do not take me in the midst of my days. Your years last through all generations.
Of old you laid the earth’s foundations; the heavens are the work of your hands.
They perish, but you remain; they all wear out like a garment; Like clothing you change them and they are changed,
but you are the same, your years have no end.
May the children of your servants live on; may their descendants live in your presence.
Source: The New American Bible
Saint Katharine Drexel, S.B.S., (November 26, 1858 – March 3, 1955) was an American heiress, philanthropist, religious sister, educator, and foundress. She was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 2000; her feast day is observed on March 3. She was the second canonized saint to have been born in the United States and the first to have been born a U.S. citizen.
Katharine Mary Drexel was born Catherine Mary Drexel in Philadelphia on November 26, 1858, the second child of investment banker Francis Anthony Drexel and Hannah Langstroth.
Hannah died five weeks after her baby’s birth. For two years Katharine and her sister, Elizabeth, were cared for by their aunt and uncle, Ellen and Anthony Drexel. When Francis married Emma Bouvier in 1860 he brought his two daughters home. A third daughter, Louisa, was born in 1863. Louisa would marry General Edward Morrell. The Morrells “…actively promoted and advanced the welfare of African Americans throughout the country. The Morrells used their wealth to build magnificent institutions that served and aided the education and upward mobility of African Americans. Gen. Morrell took charge of the Indian work, while Katharine Drexel was in her novitiate.”
Private tutors educated the girls at their home. They toured parts of the United States and Europe with their parents. Twice weekly, the Drexel family distributed food, clothing, and rent assistance from their family home at 1503 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. When widows or lonely single women were too proud to come to the Drexels for assistance, the family sought them out, but always quietly. As Emma Drexel taught her daughters, “Kindness may be unkind if it leaves a sting behind.”
As a young and wealthy woman, Drexel made her social debut in 1879. However, watching her stepmother’s three-year struggle with terminal cancer taught her the Drexel money could not buy safety from pain or death. Her life took a profound turn. She had always been interested in the plight of Native Americans, having been appalled by what she read in Helen Hunt Jackson’s A Century of Dishonor.
When her family traveled to the Western states in 1884, Katharine Drexel saw the plight and destitution of the Native Americans. She wanted to do something specific to help. Thus began her lifelong personal and financial support of numerous missions and missionaries in the United States. After her father died in 1885, Katharine and her sisters had contributed money to help the St. Francis Mission on South Dakota’s Rosebud Reservation. For many years she took spiritual direction from a longtime family friend, Father James O’Connor, a Philadelphia priest who later was appointed vicar apostolic of Nebraska. When Kate wrote him of her desire to join a contemplative order, Bishop O’Connor suggested, “Wait a while longer……. Wait and pray.”
Katharine and her sisters Elizabeth and Louise were still mourning their father when they sailed to Europe in 1886. Their high-powered banker father left behind a $15.5 million estate and instructions to divide it among his three daughters after expenses and specific charitable donations. However, to prevent his daughters from falling prey to “fortune hunters”, Francis Drexel crafted his will so that his daughters controlled income from his estate, but upon their deaths, their inheritance would flow to their children. The will stipulated that if there were no grandchildren, upon his daughters’ deaths, Drexel’s estate would be distributed to several religious orders and charities—the Society of Jesus, the Christian Brothers, the Religious of the Sacred Heart, a Lutheran hospital and others. Because their father’s charitable donations totaled about $1.5 million, the sisters shared the income produced by $14 million—about $1,000 a day for each woman. In current dollars, the estate would be worth about $400 million.
In January 1887, the sisters were received in a private audience by Pope Leo XIII. They asked him for missionaries to staff some Indian missions that they had been financing. To their surprise, the Pope suggested that Katharine become a missionary herself. Although Drexel had already received marriage proposals, “…after consultation with her spiritual director, Bishop James O’Connor, she made the decision to give herself totally to God, along with her inheritance, through service to American Indians and Afro-Americans.”Her uncle, Anthony Drexel, tried to dissuade her from entering religious life, but she entered the Sisters of Mercy Convent in Pittsburgh in May 1889 to begin her six-month postulancy. Her decision rocked Philadelphia social circles. The Philadelphia Public Ledger carried a banner headline: “Miss Drexel Enters a Catholic Convent—Gives Up Seven Million”.
Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament
On February 12, 1891, Drexel professed her first vows as a religious, dedicating herself to work among the American Indians and African-Americans in the western and southwestern United States. She took the name Mother Katharine, and, joined by thirteen other women, soon established a religious congregation, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. Mother Frances Cabrini had advised Drexel about the “politics” of getting her new Order’s Rule approved by the Vatican bureaucracy in Rome. A few months later, Philadelphia Archbishop Ryan blessed the cornerstone of the new motherhouse under construction in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. In the first of many incidents that indicated Drexel’s convictions for social justice were not shared by all, a stick of dynamite was discovered near the site.
Requests for help and advice reached Mother Katharine from various parts of the United States. After three and a half years of training, she and her first band of nuns opened a boarding school, St. Catherine’s Indian School, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1897, Mother Drexel asked the friars of St. John the Baptist Province of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans) in Cincinnati, Ohio, to staff a mission among the Navajos in Arizona and New Mexico on a 160-acre tract of land she had purchased two years earlier. Mother Katharine Drexel stretched the Cincinnati friars apostolically since most of them previously had worked in predominantly German-American parishes. A few years later, she also helped finance the work of the friars among the Pueblo Native Americans in New Mexico. In 1910, Drexel financed the printing of 500 copies of A Navaho-English Catechism of Christian Doctrine for the Use of Navaho Children, written by Fathers Anselm, Juvenal, Berard and Leopold Osterman. About a hundred friars from St. John the Baptist Province started Our Lady of Guadalupe Province in 1985. Headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, they continue to work on the Navajo reservation with the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. In all, Drexel established 145 missions, 50 schools for African Americans, and 12 schools for Native Americans. Xavier University of Louisiana, the only historically black Catholic college in the US, also owes its existence to Drexel and the Sisters.
Death and legacy
Mother Katharine Drexel died at the age of 96, on March 3, 1955, at her order’s motherhouse in Cornwells Heights, Pa., where she is buried.
Because neither of her biological sisters had children, after Mother Katharine’s death, pursuant to their father’s will, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament no longer had the Drexel fortune available to support their ministries. Nonetheless, the order continues to pursue their original apostolate, working with African-Americans and Native Americans in 21 states and Haiti.
Her cause for beatification was introduced in 1966. Pope John Paul II formally declared Drexel “Venerable” on January 26, 1987, and beatified her on November 20, 1988, after concluding that Robert Gutherman was miraculously cured of deafness in 1974 after his family prayed for Mother Drexel’s intercession. Mother Drexel was canonized on October 1, 2000, one of only a few U.S. born saints and the second natural-born U.S. citizen saint (Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first native-born U.S. citizen canonized, in 1975). Canonization occurred after the Vatican determined that two-year-old Amy Wall had been miraculously healed of nerve deafness in both ears through Katharine Drexel’s intercession in 1994.
The Vatican cited fourfold aspects of Drexel’s legacy:
a love of the Eucharist and perspective on the unity of all peoples;
courage and initiative in addressing social inequality among minorities – one hundred years before such concern aroused public interest in the United States;
her belief in quality education for all and efforts to achieve it;
and selfless service, including the donation of her inheritance, for the victims of injustice.