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ST. FRANCIS CARACCIOLO FEAST DAY JUNE 4

It would have been easy for St. Francis Caracciolo to be a name dropper; born at Naples into Italian nobility in 1563, he was related on his mother's side to the great St. Thomas Aquinas. But the word that described him best was humility, for it was this virtue that guided him throughout his life.

When he was 22, Francis developed a skin condition resembling leprosy; he vowed that, if he was cured, he would devote the rest of his life to God. When the condition disappeared, Francis made good on his promise; he sold everything he owned, gave the proceeds to the poor, and went to Naples to study for the priesthood.

While there, he became cofounder of a religious order, the Congregation of the Minor Clerks Regular. Members of this new order took the usual three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, to which they added a fourth–that they would not actively seek positions of authority either within the Church or the order itself. Even though elected superior several times, Francis kept that vow by doing whatever menial tasks the members needed.

Francis, the patron saint of Naples, died of natural causes in 1608. His feast day is June 4.

Sources for these articles include:

www.americancatholic.org
www.catholiconline.com

Paoli, Francesco. "St. Francis Caracciolo." The Catholic Encyclopedia.Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909.

"Saint Francis Caracciolo," CatholicSaints.Info. 29 May 2015.

Schreck, Alan. Catholic Church History from A to Z. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Publications, 2002.

 

 

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ST. JUSTIN MARTYR, FEAST DAY JUNE 1

It is ironic, perhaps, that it was the witness of the martyrs that helped inspire the conversion of St. Justin from paganism to the Christian faith; it was because he clung to and defended that faith that his own life would end in martyrdom in 165.

Though his exact birth date is unknown, scholars surmise that he was born into a pagan family sometime around the year 100. As a young man, he was drawn to the study of philosophy as a way of discovering truth, and he spent a great deal of time reading and contemplating the works of Plato. As profound as those works were, they did not satisfy his desire to fully understand the most basic and important questions he was asking about life.

It was a chance meeting on a beach that led him toward the answers he was seeking. There he fell into conversation with an old man who shared with him the message of Jesus Christ. This, coupled with the witness of the Christian martyrs, convinced him that the truths he sought could be found, not in the speculations of philosophy alone, but in the person of the Word made Flesh–Jesus of Nazareth.

Justin, however, did not abandon his intellect or his intellectual pursuits. He simply put them to use defending his newfound faith, writing Christian apologies (a word which means, in a theological sense, explanations of the faith) for both Jews and Romans. He was able to combine the best elements of Greek philosophy with Christian theology to both defend Christianity and correct erroneous assumptions about it. Some of those errors–such as believing that Christians were "cannibals" because they spoke of "eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ"–we would find preposterous today. However, in Justin's time, such misconceptions were believed and his writings did much to dispel these misunderstandings. Two of his "Apologies," one each written to the Roman emperor and to the Roman Senate, as well as a "Dialogue to the Jew Tryphon" have survived.

When Marcus Aurelius became emperor in Rome in 161, an era of increased persecution of Christians began. Among those martyred for the faith was St. Justin, whose name would even come down to us with the cognomen "Martyr." One of Christianity's greatest apologists, Justin Martyr is honored as the patron saint of philosophers. His feast day is celebrated June 1.

 

Sources for these articles include:

www.americancatholic.org
www.catholiconline.com

Lebreton, Jules. "St. Justin Martyr." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.

"Saint Justin Martyr," CatholicSaints.Info. 8 August 2015. 

Schreck, Alan. Catholic Church History from A to Z. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Publications, 2002.

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Reflections on Parenting

Each year we celebrate Mother's Day and Father's Day. More than just a Hallmark holiday whereby we send cards of greetings, these special Sundays hold great meaning to parents and children alike. It is a way to honor those who give life.

It is within the family unit that children first experience love and learn to love themselves and others. Pope Francis emphasized this when speaking with a group of parents in Rome recently. "Dear parents, your children need to discover by watching you that it is beautiful to love another," he said.

We can agree that the American family has changed profoundly in recent decades. What constitutes a family? A mom, dad and children? Multi-generational family structure? Single parenthood? Today, even if the household is comprised of two parents, it can be tough. Work schedules often compete with family needs. Parents striving to provide for their families, while remaining present to their children, are working against the clock. Both employer and employee must value family time: meaning that a balance must be reached in agreed importance and financial compensation.

The challenge of single parenting is compounded by the demand that all responsibility will be provided by a single person. Routine tasks and day-today obligations can become overwhelming. Doing it all requires great love.

Many families rely on childcare providers to offer a safe environment for their children. Be it full-time, part-time, afterschool centers, these are the places where children form friendships within a family-like atmosphere. In order for daycare centers to be outstanding places for children to develop socially, providers must be appreciated and compensated.

Today's families experiencing the stress and strain around issues of time, childcare, finances can take great solace in the example of the Holy Family. The family actually started with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy "conceived by the Holy Spirit." There was an extended separation while Mary visited and cared for Elizabeth; a period of homelessness and economic uncertainty in Egypt, a trip back to Nazareth and even a 12-year-old Jesus apparently lost. We can ask the Holy Family for help and intercession as we deal with serious struggles today.

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, let us each show appreciation and respect for all of those who are raising the next generation–parents, teachers, coaches and others. Let us also be aware and inclusive of those who need our help but are often without a voice. Consider volunteering in your parish, school, local hospital or other organization dealing with children and their needs. Your gifts are needed. Ask for the Lord's guidance as to how you might be able to help in these others by demonstrating mercy and compassion.

Deacon Pete Gummere, M.S., M.A. serves at Corpus Christi Parish. He is a bioethicist and an adjunct faculty member at Pontifical College Josephinum, where he teaches courses in medical morality and moral theology in the Josephinum Diaconate Institute.


Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 19, 2016

Zechariah 12: 10-11, 13:1; Psalm 63;

Galatians 3: 26-29; Luke 9: 18-24

"O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water." (Ps 63:2)

"Then [Jesus] said to all, 'If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'" (Lk 9:23)

It is rather ironic–or maybe not ironic at all and simply God's plan–that these readings would be assigned to this particular Sunday in June. This weekend in the Diocese of Burlington Bishop Coyne will ordain Mr. Joseph Sanderson to the transitional diaconate and Deacons Matthew Rensch and Curtis Miller to the priesthood. Following their ordinations, Deacon Sanderson and Fathers Rensch and Miller will either assist at or celebrate Masses of Thanksgiving at which these readings will be used. How these readings speak to those of us in Holy Orders! Both quotes above are great beginning points for those to be ordained priests and a reminder for someone like me who is already a priest.

The journey to the priesthood begins when the candidate realizes his "flesh pines and...soul thirsts" for God. While all people experience this call, the one to enter Holy Orders realizes in the depths of his heart and soul that God has called him to enter an ordained relationship with him. "This sacrament configures the recipient to Christ by a special grace of the Holy Spirit," says the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1581), "so that he may serve as Christ's instrument for his Church. By ordination one is enabled to act as a representative of Christ, Head of the Church . . . "

The priest feels drawn into a life in which he gives himself totally, body, mind, heart, and soul, to Christ and his Church. Through the priesthood, he satisfies the thirst of his soul as recounted in Psalm 63. This relationship with Christ then overflows into service to God's people. It is a total giving of one's self, and thus it is a joyful life marked by simplicity, obedience, and celibacy. The heart, mind, body, and soul are given to God.

Jesus makes it clear that anyone who wishes to follow him must "deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow [him]." On Good Friday, the priest holds the wooden cross for all to venerate. He knows from his own prayer that it is only through the cross of Jesus that salvation and redemption will come to God's people. The individual crosses of the people must come to the cross of Christ, which is a window to resurrection and hope. The priest has given his life for that cross, and now leads others through it. A priest's life is not a career. He does not seek advancement or career opportunities. His life is set before him. He sets out to minister in the places the Church needs and directs him, as that is how he knows and hears God's will. The priest knows it is not about him, but about Christ and his Church.

The celebrations of the sacraments are the center of the priest's life. His life comes together fully in those moments. He has felt God's call into a deep, unique relationship with him that is marked by prayer. He celebrates the sacraments in humility as he himself is in need of the forgiveness and healing of those same sacraments he provides for God's people. He does so in the person of Christ, for it is Christ who baptizes, forgives sins, and anoints through the priest. It is Christ's body and blood that is made evident upon the altar in the Eucharist.

The priest has felt the need of Christ in his own life. He has given his life for that relationship. He now brings that relationship to each person he meets in celebrating the sacraments, healing God's people. Indeed, he is an icon of Christ, for it is through him that the faithful see Christ, the one to whom the priest is configured through Holy Orders.

Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois is the principal of Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington. Msgr. Bourgeois may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. (See official on page 3.)

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Miracle at Janet's Mountain

By Richard L. Hatin. West Virginia: Headline Books, Inc., 2015. $23.28 paperback, $4.99 Kindle or Nook. 448 pages.

When I first met the author of "Miracle at Janet's Mountain," he was doing a book signing and waving a light saber at the Barnes and Noble on Dorset Street in South Burlington. As it turned out, the store was hosting a special Star Wars promotion that day, and Hatin was more than willing to participate in the celebration, even though his newest work is a far cry from the adventures of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.

To call "Miracle at Janet's Mountain" a feel-good book doesn't quite do it justice, although most readers will feel very good while reading it. As its title implies, it is about a miracle–several of them, in fact–and what can happen when people are brought face to face with a direct intervention from the divine.

There are some strong positives in this story. To begin with, the main character, Janet, the woman through whom the miracles take place, has Down syndrome. Though in her early 30s, she lives at home with her parents and works as a bagger at the local supermarket. When she is not helping her favorite cashier, Mrs. Wannamaker, Janet has a special place she goes to in the meadow adjacent to her family's home. A relatively small granite outcropping, it has never-the-less become known in the family as "Janet's Mountain," and it is where she loves to go to draw.

It doesn't take long for the miraculous events to begin. Janet has an encounter at her mountain with a "pretty lady" who looks vaguely familiar to her. Running back to the house, she retrieves a holy card with a picture of the Blessed Mother on it. Showing it to her new friend, Janet remarks that not only does she look like the lady on the card, but "You even look like the statue at church." Mary–for indeed, it is the mother of Jesus–then tells Janet that she has come to her because God has chosen her to do a very special job.

Suffice it to say that the story progresses from there. There are miracles and healings, but perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is how various people react to and are changed–or not–by their encounters with this remarkable young woman and what she allows God to do through her. The author has managed to include just about every segment of society we would expect to become involved in such an event. The Catholic Church and its representatives, for instance, have very different reactions to what has happened (along the way, the reader will no doubt learn something about the Church's protocol for dealing with such things.) The media, so prominent in every other part of our lives, is omnipresent here also–in fact, we get a glimpse of what Jesus' life might have looked like had he been born into a world of 24/7 cable news. People, both supporters and protesters, show up in the thousands, and a famous televangelist also becomes part of the story.

The only flaws are minor, grammatical ones (there are a number of places, for instance, where the author switches tenses from one sentence to the next, and some details are over-explained). But overall, both the story and the tone in which it is told reminded me very much of the late Father Joseph Girzone's "Joshua" series. If you are familiar with and liked those books, you will very likely enjoy this one as well.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Richard Hatin was born in Burlington, Vermont. He attended local elementary and high schools and graduated from St. Michael's College in Colchester in 1971, where he earned a bachelor's in English Literature.

In 1974, Hatin joined the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, working for the New England Office of Community Planning and Development. He retired from that position as Deputy Director in 2010, at which time he turned his attention to writing.

Since then, Hatin has published two other books of fiction in addition to "Miracle on Janet's Mountain." "Evil Agreement" was released in 2012, and "Deadly Whispers," which won an Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles, Great Southeast and San Francisco Book Festivals, was published in 2013.

"My first and greatest passion is to explore the eternal conflict of good versus evil," he said of his writing. "As a young child I was hooked on stories from the Bible. I was schooled early on that 'good always triumphs over evil'" although, as he also noted, "evil may lose in the end, but it sure can produce a great deal of pain until it's defeated."

Currently, Hatin lives in Hooksett, N.H. with his wife, Anne Marie. Together, they have three sons and three granddaughters.

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Joan of Arc, FEAST DAY MAY 30

Both the world and the Church have changed so much in the past 600 hundred years that many parts of the story of Joan of Arc sound very foreign to us today. Yet, despite the obvious differences in culture, there are two things regarding this saint that remain constant–the first is her willingness to respond to God, and the second is her commitment to persevere in that response no matter what the cost.

Protecting Religious Freedom

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . ."

From the First Amendment to the Constitution

Religious freedom is no trivial or mere theoretical issue. It has a direct impact on every person regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof and is an essential dimension of social justice.

Religious freedom is under attack nationally and here in Vermont.

Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary

A few months back a couple of Catholic friends of mine were discussing their experiences with different types of prayer. All was going along rather smoothly until one of them brought up the topic of Mary; at that point, opinions were exchanged and I was surprised to hear the conversation take a rather heated turn. The issue in dispute? The speed with which the Hail Mary should be said when praying the Rosary. One was inclined toward a rapid though prayerful recitation, while the other favored a slower, more meditative approach.

Things that can't change

When the Second Vatican Council was putting the finishing touches on one of its key documents, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), Pope Paul VI proposed that it include a statement that the pope is "accountable to the Lord alone."

The suggestion was referred to the Council's Theological Commission, which, perhaps to Pope Paul's surprise, flatly rejected it: the Roman Pontiff, the Theological Commission noted, "is . . . bound to revelation itself, to the fundamental structure of the Church, to the sacraments, to the definitions of earlier Councils, and other obligations too numerous to mention." The pope cannot, in other words, change the deposit of faith, of which he is the custodian, not the master. The pope can't decide that the Church can do without bishops, or that there really are eleven sacraments, or that Arius had it right in denying the divinity of Christ.

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