Remembering St. John Neumann

From a letter to Cardinal Barnabo by John Neumann, bishopI have labored with all my powers to fulfill the duties of my office
Indeed, I have apparently delayed too long in writing to the Holy See the letter promised by the Archbishop of Baltimore in the name of the council. However, this delay was not without reason. For the council was scarcely finished and I was discussing the division of Diocese of Philadelphia and my translation to a new see with one of the Fathers of the council, when the Father intimated to me [that he did not know] whether that could more probably be hoped for, since the Holy See thought that I would resign from the episcopate, or wished to resign. In the same way when the Archbishop of Baltimore informed me of the designation of a coadjutor, he added that in the event that I should persevere in the desire to resign, the Holy See would permit me to give the title of the ecclesiastical property to the same coadjutor.
I was no little disturbed by the fear that I had done something that so displeased the Holy Father that my resignation would appear desirable to him. If this be the case, I am prepared without any hesitation to leave the episcopacy. I have taken this burden out of obedience, and I have labored with all my powers to fulfill the duties of my office, and with God’s help, as I hope, not without fruit. When the care of temporal things weighed upon my mind and it seemed to me that my character was little suited for the very cultured world of Philadelphia, I made known to my fellow bishops during the Baltimore council of 1858 that it seemed opportune to me to request my translation to one or the other see that was to be erected (namely in the City of Pottsville or in Wilmington, North Carolina). But to give up the episcopal career never entered my mind, although I was conscious of my unworthiness and ineptitude; for things had not come to such a pass that I had one or the other reason out of the six for which a bishop could safely ask the Holy Father permission to resign. For a long time I have doubted what should be done….
Although my coadjutor has proposed to me that he would take the new see if it is erected, I have thought it much more opportune and I have asked the Fathers that he be appointed to the See of Philadelphia, since he is much more highly endowed with facility and alacrity concerning the administration of temporal things. Indeed, I am much more accustomed to the country, and will be able to care for the people and faithful living in the mountains, in the coal mines and on the farms, since I would be among them.
If, however, it should be displeasing to His Holiness to divide the diocese, I am, indeed, prepared either to remain in the same condition in which I am at present, or if God so inspires His Holiness to give the whole administration of the diocese to the Most Reverend James Wood, I am equally prepared to resign from the episcopate and to go where I may more securely prepare myself for death and for the account which must be rendered to the Divine Justice.
I desire nothing but to fulfill the wish of the Holy Father whatever it may be.

Via divineoffice.org

Whether they like it or not, those who are outside the Church are our brothers–St. Augustine

From a discourse on the psalms by Saint Augustine, bishop
Whether they like it or not,
those who are outside the Church are our brothers

via divineoffice.org

We entreat you, brothers, as earnestly as we are able, to have charity, not only for one another, but also for those who are outside the Church. Of these some are still pagans, who have not yet made an act of faith in Christ. Others are separated, insofar as they are joined with us in professing faith in Christ, our head, but are yet divided from the unity of his body. My friends, we must grieve over these as over our brothers; and they will only cease to be so when they no longer say our Father.

The prophet refers to some men saying: When they say to you: You are not our brothers, you are to tell them: You are our brothers. Consider whom he intended by these words. Were they the pagans? Hardly; for nowhere either in Scripture or in our traditional manner of speaking do we find them called our brothers. Nor could it refer to the Jews, who do not believe in Christ. Read Saint Paul and you will see that when he speaks of “brothers,” without any qualification, he refers always to Christians. For example, he says: Why do you judge your brother or why do you despise your brother? And again: You perform iniquity and common fraud, and this against your brothers.

Those then who tell us: You are not our brothers, are saying that we are pagans. That is why they want to baptize us again, claiming that we do not have what they can give. Hence their error of denying that we are their brothers. Why then did the prophet tell us: Say to them: You are our brothers? It is because we acknowledge in them that which we do not repeat. By not recognizing our baptism, they deny that we are their brothers; on the other hand, when we do not repeat their baptism but acknowledge it to be our own, we are saying to them: You are our brothers.

If they say, “Why do you seek us? What do you want of us?” we should reply: You are our brothers. They may say, “Leave us alone. We have nothing to do with you.” But we have everything to do with
you, for we are one in our belief in Christ; and so we should be in one body, under one head.

And so, dear brothers, we entreat you on their behalf, in the name of the very source of our love, by whose milk we are nourished, and whose bread is our strength, in the name of Christ our Lord and his gentle love. For it is time now for us to show them great love and abundant compassion by praying to God for them. May he one day give them a clear mind to repent and to realize that they have nothing now but the sickness of their hatred, and the stronger they think they are, the weaker they become. We entreat you then to pray for them, for they are weak, given to the wisdom of the flesh, to fleshly and carnal things, but yet they are our brothers. They celebrate the same sacraments as we, not indeed with us, but still the same. They respond with the same Amen, not with us, but still the same. And so pour out your hearts for them in prayer to God.

From the treatise on Flight from the World by Saint Ambrose

From the treatise on Flight from the World by Saint Ambrose, bishop
Hold fast to God, the one true good

Where a man’s heart is, there is his treasure also. God is not accustomed to refusing a good gift to those who ask for one. Since he is good, and especially to those who are faithful to him, let us hold fast to him with all our soul, our heart, our strength, and so enjoy his light and see his glory and possess the grace of supernatural joy. Let us reach out with our hearts to possess that good, let us exist in it and live in it, let us hold fast to it, that good which is beyond all we can know or see and is marked by perpetual peace and tranquillity, a peace which is beyond all we can know or understand.

This is the good that permeates creation. In it we all live, on it we all depend. It has nothing above it; it is divine. No one is good but God alone. What is good is therefore divine, what is divine is therefore good. Scripture says: When you open your hand all things will be filled with goodness. It is through God’s goodness that all that is truly good is given us, and in it there is no admixture of evil.

These good things are promised by Scripture to those who are faithful: The good things of the land will be your food.

We have died with Christ. We carry about in our bodies the sign of his death, so that the living Christ may also be revealed in us. The life we live is not now our ordinary life but the life of Christ: a life of sinlessness, of chastity, of simplicity and every other virtue. We have risen with Christ. Let us live in Christ, let us ascend in Christ, so that the serpent may not have the power here below to wound us in the heel.

Let us take refuge from this world. You can do this in spirit, even if you are kept here in the body. You can at the same time be here and present to the Lord. Your soul must hold fast to him, you must follow after him in your thoughts, you must tread his ways by faith, not in outward show. You must take refuge in him. He is your refuge and your strength. David addresses him in these words: I fled to you for refuge, and I was not disappointed.

Since God is our refuge, God who is in heaven and above the heavens, we must take refuge from this world in that place where there is peace, where there is rest from toil, where we can celebrate the great sabbath, as Moses said: The sabbaths of the land will provide you with food. To rest in the Lord and to see his joy is like a banquet, and full of gladness and tranquillity.

Let us take refuge like deer beside the fountain of waters. Let our soul thirst, as David thirsted, for the fountain. What is that fountain? Listen to David: With you is the fountain of life. Let my soul say to this fountain: When shall I come and see you face to face? For the fountain is God himself.

Complete Fullness of Christ

From a homily by a spiritual writer of the fourth century
May you be filled to the complete fullness of Christ

Those who have been considered worthy to go forth as the sons of God and to be born again of the Holy Spirit from on high, and who hold within them the Christ who renews them and fills them with light, are directed by the Spirit in varied and different ways and in their spiritual repose they are led invisibly in their hearts by grace.

At times, they are like men who mourn and lament over their fellow men, and pouring forth prayers for the whole human race, they plunge into tears and lamentation, on fire with spiritual love for mankind.

At other times they are enkindled by the Spirit with love and exultation that, were it possible, they would clasp in their embrace all mankind, without discrimination, good and bad alike.

Sometimes they are cast down below all mankind in lowliness of spirit, so that they reckon theirs to be the lowest and most abject of conditions.

And sometimes they are held by the Spirit in ineffable joy.

At one time they are like a brave man who puts on the king’s full armor and goes down into battle; he fights bravely against the enemy and defeats them. In like manner, the spiritual man takes up the heavenly arms of the Spirit and marches against the enemy and engaging in battle tramples the foe beneath his feet.

At another time the soul is at rest in deepest silence, tranquility and peace, existing in sheer spiritual pleasure and in ineffable repose and a perfect state.

Again, the soul is instructed by grace in a certain understanding in the ineffable wisdom and the inscrutable knowledge of the Spirit on matters which neither tongue nor lips can utter.

Then again, the soul becomes like any ordinary man.

In such varied ways does grace work within them and many are the means by which it leads the soul, renewing it according to God’s will and training it in different ways so that it may be set before the heavenly Father pure and whole and blameless.

We, too, therefore must make our prayer to God and entreat in love and in great hope that he may bestow upon us the heavenly grace of the gift of the Spirit. We pray that we, too, may be guided by that Spirit and that he may lead us into the fullness of divine will and refresh us with the varied kinds of his repose, that by the help of this guidance, exercise of grace and spiritual advancement, we may be considered worthy to attain to the perfection of the fullness of Christ, as the Apostle says: that you may be filled to the complete fullness of Christ.

Office of Readings – St. Gregory of Nazianzen

From a sermon by Saint Gregory of Nazianzen, bishop

Serve Christ in the poor

Blessed are the merciful, because they shall obtain mercy, says the Scripture. Mercy is not the least of the beatitudes. Again: Blessed is he who is considerate to the needy and the poor. Once more: Generous is the man who is merciful and lends. In another place: All day the just man is merciful and lends. Let us lay hold of this blessing, let us earn the name of being considerate, let us be generous.

Not even night should interrupt you in your duty of mercy. Do not say: Come back and I will give you something tomorrow. There should be no delay between your intention and your good deed. Generosity is the one thing that cannot admit of delay.

Share your bread with the hungry, and bring the needy and the homeless into your house, with a joyful and eager heart. He who does acts of mercy should do so with cheerfulness. The grace of a good deed is doubled when it is done with promptness and speed. What is given with a bad grace or against one’s will is distasteful and far from praiseworthy.

When we perform an act of kindness we should rejoice and not be sad about it. If you undo the shackles and the thongs, says Isaiah, that is, if you do away with miserliness and counting the cost, with hesitation and grumbling, what will be the result? Something great and wonderful! What a marvellous reward there will be: Your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will rise up quickly. Who would not aspire to light and healing.

If you think that I have something to say, servants of Christ, his brethren and co-heirs, let us visit Christ whenever we may; let us care for him, feed him, clothe him, welcome him, honor him, not only at a meal, as some have done, or by anointing him, as Mary did, or only by lending him a tomb, like Joseph of Arimathaea, or by arranging for his burial, like Nicodemus, who loved Christ half-heartedly, or by giving him gold, frankincense and myrrh, like the Magi before all these others.

The Lord of all asks for mercy, not sacrifice, and mercy is greater than myriads of fattened lambs. Let us then show him mercy in the persons of the poor and those who today are lying on the ground, so that when we come to leave this world they may receive us into everlasting dwelling places, in Christ our Lord himself, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Church Fathers and Lent

As celebrations for Mardi Gras are well underway, my thought is obvious.  For God’s sake and ours, there’s got to be a better way.  The Divine Office for today includes this from the Office of Readings:

“I thought to myself, ‘Very well, I will try pleasure and see what enjoyment has to offer.’ And there it was: vanity again! This laughter, I reflected, is a madness, this pleasure no use at all. I resolved to have my body cheered with wine, my heart still devoted to wisdom; I resolved to embrace folly to see what made mankind happy, and what men do under heaven in the few days they have to live.”

My reflections then turned to wisdom, stupidity, folly. For instance, what can the successor of a king do? What has been done already. More is to be had from wisdom than from folly, as from light than from darkness; this, of course, I see:”   Ecclesiastes 2:1-3
“The wise man sees ahead,
the fool walks in the dark.”   Ecclesiastes 2:14

The Church Fathers showed the Church the way though centuries of attack and heresy.  They speak loudly today as the world speaks heretically louder than ever.  Now the attacks on the Church and Truth are both more blatant and more subtle.  So ready, set, go!  Take on the liars for Lent!

For the “wise man”  looking forward to this time of new submission, here’s the ticket!

Compiled by Church Year. Net

Church Father Lenten Reading Plan Logo

2009 Date Day in Lenten Fast Lite Reading
2/25 1 Epistle to Diognetus: 1-6
2/26 2 Epistle to Diognetus: 7-12
2/27 3 St. Ignatius of Antioch: Letter To the Ephesians: 1-7
2/28 4 St. Ignatius of Antioch: Letter to the Ephesians: 8-14
3/2 5 St. Ignatius of Antioch: Letter To the Ephesians: 15-21
3/3 6 St. Ignatius of Antioch: Letter To the Magnesians: 1-5
3/4 7 St. Ignatius of Antioch: Letter To the Magnesians: 6-10
3/5 8 St. Ignatius of Antioch: Letter To the Magnesians: 11-15
3/6 9 St. Justin Martyr: First Apology: 1-7
3/7 10 St. Justin Martyr: First Apology: 8-14
3/9 11 St. Justin Martyr: First Apology: 15-21
3/10 12 St. Justin Martyr: First Apology: 22-29
3/11 13 St. Justin Martyr: First Apology: 30-37
3/12 14 St. Justin Martyr: First Apology: 38-45
3/13 15 St. Justin Martyr: First Apology: 46-53
3/14 16 St. Justin Martyr: First Apology: 54-60
3/16 17 St. Justin Martyr: First Apology: 61-68
3/17 18 St. Cyprian: On the Unity of the Church (Treatise I): 1-9
3/18 19 St. Cyprian: On the Unity of the Church (Treatise I): 10-18
3/19 20 St. Cyprian: On the Unity of the Church (Treatise I): 19-21
3/20 21 St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: 1-9
3/21 22 St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: 10-16
3/23 23 St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: 17-25
3/24 24 St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: 26-33
3/25 25 St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: 34-41
3/26 26 St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: 42-49
3/27 27 St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: 50-58
3/28 28 St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: 59-66
3/30 29 St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: 67-73
3/31 30 St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: 74-81
4/1 31 St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: 82-89
4/2 32 St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: 90-94
4/3 33 St. Cyril of Jerusalem: Catechetical Lectures: Lecture XX
4/4 34 St. Cyril of Jerusalem: Catechetical Lectures: Lecture XXII
4/6 35 St. Cyril of Jerusalem: Catechetical Lectures: Lecture XXIII (1-11)
4/7 36 St. Cyril of Jerusalem: Catechetical Lectures: Lecture XXIII (12-23)
4/8 37 St. Ambrose of Milan: Concerning the Mysteries: 1-4
4/9 38 St. Ambrose of Milan: Concerning the Mysteries: 5-9
4/10 39 St. Leo the Great: Sermon XLIX (On Lent XI): complete
4/11 40 St. Leo the Great: Sermon LXXII (On the Lord’s Resurrection): complete


Click on  compilation of Lenten readings.

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