Vocations find their true meaning in Christ
Three young men share their stories as they are just days away from receiving an irreversible grace of being ordained priests. They speak about how they were influenced by others and how they could not avoid the call from God to be men who serve others.
Click here to see their video.
Keeping the Light Burning
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A Tale of Two Mothers
Easter Week V/Mother's Day
Acts 9:26-31; Ps. 22:26-27,28,30,31-32; 1 Jn 3:18-24; Jn 15:1-8
Fr. Dismas Sayre, OP
This weekend, we have the pleasure and gift of honoring our mothers on Mother's Day. So what does that have to do with today's readings? Actually, I think we can tie them together pretty well. I would like to cite the great French Dominican priest of the 19th century, Jean-Baptiste-Henri Lacordaire, in one of his famous conferences, who said of mothers, "To the mother alone it has been given, that her soul during the nine months should touch the soul of the child, and impose upon it predispositions to truth, to gentleness, goodness, the culture of which precious germs she should complete in the light of day, after having sown them in the mysterious mysteries of her maternity." To which this 21st century Dominican replies, "Amen, Amen, Alleluia!"
Yes, our Dominican brother Lacordaire very poetically describes this intimate union between mother and child, especially in the womb. She is bonded in life-giving union to the precious soul in her womb, feeding the child, body and soul, and then preparing him for this life we are living now. It is a connection every bit as intimate and as life-giving as of the connection of the Vine and the Branches that our Lord speaks to us today. There is this very real, very personal bond, that cannot be severed, without damaging the branch, or in this case, the child. Unfortunately, our world is a little over-eager to "prune," shall we say, to sever this beautiful, spiritual and corporeal connection between mother and child. As far as our society and state are concerned, regretfully, the child may be considered a parasite, and the union is only voluntary on the part of the mother. If the unborn child is not wanted, it is cut off, and dies. How sad!
And this relationship between mother and child is not so different, my friends, between Holy Mother Church and Her children, no sir. There used to be a common theme in the art of many churches; I'm sure you've seen it, of "Pie Pellicane, Jesu" or that is, "Jesus, Kind Pelican." A little odd a title for us today, but it was a traditional image, of a mother pelican over its brood. And the mother pelican would pluck at her own chest, drawing out blood from her side to feed her young when in time of mortal famine. She would sacrifice herself for the good of her young, giving of her body and blood. That beautiful, motherly image is, my brothers and sisters, like the connection between Christ and His Church, the same life-giving unity He desires between His spouse, the Church, and Her members.
And yes, although there is no umbilical cord between Holy Rosary Parish or the Catholic Church in general to each of us, that sacrificial, life-giving spirit is just as intimate, just as necessary for us, the children of Holy Mother Church to have life in this world and the next. We are just as united to Holy Mother Church, and She feeds us, especially from the side of the one to whom She is united, Jesus Christ her Lord and Spouse. I would, then, paraphrasing our good friar Lacordaire say, "to Holy Mother Church it has been given, that Her soul, the soul of Christ, during the earthly life of Her children, should touch the souls of the children, and impose upon them predispositions to truth, to gentleness, goodness, the culture of which precious germs she should complete in the light of day, after having sown them in the mysterious mysteries of Her maternity, as Holy Mother Church." The reason that Holy Mother Church exists is the same reason that our mothers exist: to love, to nurture, to form her children, preparing them for the life which is to come in the next world. Just as our mothers prepare us for this life we live outside the womb, so does Holy Mother Church prepare us in this life to be good citizens of the world to which we are born in eternal life.
This spiritual union is also intimate and life-giving, and cannot be severed without damage to the child, any more than you can sever the branch from Jesus the Vine and expect it to live and bear good fruit. And yet, that is what many politicians, many pundits, and sadly, even some Catholics do, or try to do. They try to sever the connection between the Vine and the Branches. They tell the branches, "It's ok, go do your own thing." Most grievously, they try to separate the universal and local heads of the Church from the branches. They say "Oh well, that's just something the Pope thinks," or "That's just something the bishops say, but we know by our poll data that this percentage of Catholics, for example, thinks this is ok, or this is not ok." Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, wisely reminds us that "Truth is not determined by a majority vote." No, what they are trying to do is hack off the branch from the vine, or sever the children from Holy Mother Church, and plant them instead in the soil of this world, to form a different vine, to bear the fruit of THIS world. Those vines will wither and die, spiritually, for they are cut off from the true life-giving Vine.
So how do we stay united, in this world to the one Vine? By staying united to the bishops. Our local patron, St. Ignatius of Antioch, who learned at the feet of St. John the Evangelist, the disciple whom our Lord Jesus loved, is very, very clear. He teaches his little flock, "Where the bishop is, there is the Church." You have to have that unity to be a living branch in the Vine of the Church of Christ. But St. Ignatius knew that individual bishops could fail and go astray, oh yes, even in his time, so he also lets us know that even he has to be united to the Bishop in Rome. Of the bishop of Rome he says, "You have envied no one, but others you have taught. I desire only that what you have enjoined may remain in force." See how much St. Ignatius loves unity!
And let no one think that this is an archaic teaching, banished to the ashbin of history, for our own Second Vatican Council teaches us, "This Sacred Council... teaches and declares that Jesus Christ, the Eternal Shepherd, established His holy Church, having sent the apostles as He Himself had been sent by the Father; and He willed that their successors, namely the bishops, should be shepherds in His Church even to the consummation of the world. And in order that the episcopate itself might be one and undivided, He placed Blessed Peter over the other apostles, and instituted in him a permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion." Notice how we are united! As early as today's first reading, the disciples are afraid of Saul, or St. Paul, because they thought him against the Church, but once they see him acting boldly in unison with St. Peter and the apostles of the Church and what they taught, then they knew that he was one of them, a true branch of the true Vine.
Now, before I get accused of clericalism, I want to be perfectly clear: I, Fr. Dismas, am NOT the vine. I am not DI-VINE either. If you are united with me and not the bishops and the bishop of Rome, you do so at your own risk. If I ever teach you or do anything contrary to what the bishops in union with Rome teach, you can tell me to get lost. Push me aside (gently, though, I have a bad back). The Church, as much as I might not like to admit it, can survive without me, and even without priests. As Vatican II tells us, She cannot survive without bishops, those bishops in union with the pope, in union with Christ. Do not believe anyone who tells you otherwise, who tries to sever that tie between the bishops of the Church and Her believers.
So today, brothers and sisters, let us honor mothers. Let no person, no state ever dare to sever that most precious, life-giving bond between a mother and her child, be it in the womb, in the home, or in the life of the Church. In each of those, let the mother, be she biological or Holy Mother Church, ever seek to raise her children in love and perfect concordance with God's holy commandments. Amen.
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