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Saints & Sacred

St. John Leonardi

St. John (or Giovanni) Leonardi was born about 1541 into an interesting time in European history.  The Protestant Reformation was underway, and the Church, though disagreeing with the separation that had occurred, acknowledged that reforms within Catholicism needed to be undertaken.
 
The youngest of seven children, Giovanni at first studied to be a pharmacist, but by the age of 27 had decided that his true vocation was to the priesthood.  Ordained in 1572, Giovanni soon attracted a small group of men who were also interested in religious life.  He became their spiritual director, and the communal form of life they lived eventually led to the formation of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God.
 
Becoming a recognized order did not go smoothly, however; the political pressures of the time forced Giovanni and his fellow priests into a kind of exile outside their native town of Lucca.  When they were finally approved in 1595, Giovanni sought to aid the efforts of the Church’s Counter Reformation by educating both the clergy and the laity, emphasizing the need for holiness for all.  His work laid the foundation for the Vatican department now known as the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
 
St. Giovanni Leonardi died in 1609 of disease contracted while tending the victims of plague.  His feast day is Oct. 9, and he is the patron of pharmacists.
 

St. Faustina Kowalska

Sometimes that which seems most ordinary is, in fact, the hiding place of something truly extraordinary.  Such was the case with Maria Faustina Kowalska, who is known today as the saint through whom God chose to communicate His Divine Mercy to the world.  Her humility was such that most people didn’t realize what a remarkable soul they had had the privilege of encountering until after her death.
 
St. Maria Faustina was born Helena Kowalska in a small village in western Poland in 1905.  The third of ten children in a poor family, Helena received only three years of formal education before going to work as a housekeeper in the homes of more well-to-do families.  She had had a desire early on to enter religious life, but her parents were reluctant to give her permission to do so.  Consequently, it was not until she was 20 that she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw, Poland, where she took the name Sister Maria Faustina of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
 
The Order to which Maria Faustina belonged was devoted in particular to the care and education of troubled young women.  Although her place within the congregation was very unpretentious – Maria was a cook, gardener and porter in various houses during her 13 years as a nun – it was not long before she began to receive visions and revelations.  These she recorded in a diary which her confessors – and God – requested her to keep.
 
The essence of these messages to Sister Maria and the world was the incredible extent of God’s Divine Mercy.  It was a time when many Catholics harbored an image of God as such a strict judge that some were tempted to despair of ever being truly forgiven by Him.  What God revealed to Sister Maria was quite the opposite:  “Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world,” Jesus once said to her.  “I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart” (Diary, 1588).
 
Outwardly, Sister Maria did not seem to be anything special.  She went about her work within the order with kindness and serenity, observing its Rule and treating those around her with mercy and love.  In her heart, she grew in child-like trust in God, offering her own life in imitation of His for the good of others.
 
In the 1930’s, Sister Maria was directed by Jesus to have a picture painted of Him containing the inscription “Jesus, I Trust in You.”  The image, which she commissioned in 1935, also has a red and white light emanating from Christ’s Sacred Heart and is the portrait of Divine Mercy which hangs in many chapels and churches throughout the world today.
 
Sister Maria Faustina died in 1938 of tuberculosis.  Although she had a reputation for holiness, it would be three decades before her beatification process would begin.  Her diary, written as it was by a barely literate woman, was composed phonetically with no punctuation or quotation marks, so when a bad translation of it reached Rome in 1958, it was initially rejected as being heretical.  However, when a later and more accurate translation was undertaken, the Vatican realized that Sister Maria had actually left the world, not a heretical document, but a beautiful work proclaiming God’s love.  Called “Divine Mercy in My Soul," it has been translated into more than 20 languages. 
 
Sister Maria Faustina was canonized in 2000, and her feast day is commemorated on Oct. 5; Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter.
 
 
 

Thomas of Villanova

St. Thomas of Villanova would never have been accused of being a practical man.  Given his habits and proclivities, some might have termed him “eccentric,” and considered that a kind judgment.  But so often what the world considers impractical, God declares to be holy.  So it was with Thomas of Villanova, who lived from 1488 until 1555.

Thomas was an intelligent and well educated man — he graduated from the University of Alcala and stayed on to become a professor of philosophy there — but he also suffered from absentmindedness, which was probably the result of his poor memory.

When he became an Augustinian friar, he continued to teach but became better known for his embrace of personal poverty and love of the poor.  Throughout his life, he wore the same habit he had received in the novitiate, mending it himself year after year.  The poor flocked to his door in droves and he never refused them, even when others said he was being taken advantage of.   He took in orphans and dealt mercifully with sinners.  All of these things resulted in criticism from his contemporaries, including members of his own order, but Thomas never wavered from what he felt God was calling him to do.

He died peacefully at age 77, his last words being, “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.”  His feast day is Sept. 10.    


Sources for these articles include:

www.americancatholic.org

Dohan, Edward. “St. Thomas of Villanova.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York:
        Robert Appleton Company, 1912.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Nobel Lecture, 11 December, 1979

“Saint Teresa of Calcutta.” CatholicSaints.Info. 12 July 2016. 

“Saint Thomas of Villanova.” CatholicSaints.Info.
        19 May 2016.

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

Teresa of Calcutta

When Pope Francis officially pronounces Blessed Teresa of Calcutta a saint this month, he will be confirming what many have believed for decades — that those who lived in the 20th century were privileged to watch and learn what a living saint had to teach.  So sure were most people of her sanctity that her name has entered the lexicon as a synonym for holiness.  All of this Mother Teresa would have eschewed, of course.  She once said of herself that she was merely “a pencil in the hand of God,” but she was a pencil that wrote in large letters what an often indifferent world needed to hear.

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in what is now Macedonia in 1910.  Even as a young child she showed an interest in foreign missions and, at age 18, she left her home and her mother (her father had died when she was nine) to join the Loretto Sisters of Dublin.  From there she was sent to India to teach history and geography in a wealthy girl’s school in Calcutta; but even within its sheltered walls Teresa could not avoid the suffering and destitution that surrounded her.

 In 1946, while on her way to her annual retreat in Darjeeling, she heard what she would later term “the call within the call.”  The message was clear, she said.  “I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them…to follow Christ into the slums to serve Him among the poorest of the poor.”

After receiving permission to leave Loretto and found a new congregation, Mother Teresa began to prepare herself for her new vocation.  She took a nursing course and then moved into the slums, where she opened a school for poor children.  She adopted as her “habit” a simple white sari and sandals, because this was the clothing worn by ordinary Indian women.  Visiting her neighbors, she began to learn of their needs and worked to help provide for them.

She was soon joined by other young women, some of them girls she had taught, and the core of the Missionaries of Charity began to take shape.  As more and more people began to learn of what she was doing, they helped as they could with donations of food, clothing and whatever else the sisters needed.  By 1952, the city of Kolkata (Calcutta) gave Mother Teresa a hostel to use as a home for the dying and destitute.

Mother Teresa spent the rest of her life caring for those she called “Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor.”  She became known around the globe and traveled extensively, seeking support for the work of the Missionaries of Charity and encouraging others to see the poor as God saw them.  “Find your own Calcutta,” she said.  “Find the sick, the suffering and the lonely right there where you are — in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools. You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have the eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society — completely forgotten, completely left alone.”

In 1979, Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize.  She died of natural causes on Sept. 5, 1997, and the process for her canonization began soon after. At her beatification in 2003, Pope St. John Paul II called her “one of the most relevant personalities of our age…an icon of the Good Samaritan.”

Mother Teresa’s feast day is Sept. 5.


Sources for these articles include:

www.americancatholic.org

Dohan, Edward. “St. Thomas of Villanova.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York:
        Robert Appleton Company, 1912.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Nobel Lecture, 11 December, 1979

“Saint Teresa of Calcutta.” CatholicSaints.Info. 12 July 2016. 

“Saint Thomas of Villanova.” CatholicSaints.Info.
        19 May 2016.

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

Franciscan may be Canada’s next saint

Canada owes him the return of the Franciscans, the founding of the country’s largest Marian sanctuary and the development of strong and lasting ties between the French Canadians and the Holy Land. Yet, 100 years after his death and though he might become Canada’s next saint, Blessed Frederic Janssoone still remains largely unknown to many people in Quebec.

Franciscan Father Roland Bonenfant, vice postulator of his sainthood cause, said Pere Frederic’s “first and foremost heritage is the way he developed strong bonds between the Catholics of Canada and the spiritual roots of their religion – namely the Middle East places where Jesus, the apostles and the first witnesses of Christ have lived.”

Born in 1838 in northern France, Frederic Janssoone joined the Franciscans in 1864 and was ordained in 1870. From 1876 to 1888, he was the custodial vicar of the Holy Land, assisting the custos with care of holy places. These 12 years left a strong imprint on him; he developed a deep attachment to the Holy Land as he got more and more involved in its development and renewal. He re-established the Way of the Cross processions on Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa – a first in almost 250 years.  He also built ecumenical ties with representatives of other Christian churches.

In 1888, his superiors sent him to Canada to resurrect the Franciscans and establish the Commissariat of the Holy Land.

“When he arrived here, he was surrounded by the aura of the Holy Land and the aura of the Recollects, who were deeply loved, back then,” said Father Bonenfant. As time went by, Pere Frederic became more and more involved in the spiritual life of the Canadian Church. He contributed to the foundation and the development of a Marian shrine in Trois-Rivieres.

One key aspect of his work often overlooked today are his door-to-door visits to the local people. “He was considerate and had a special connection with the French Canadian families, as well as with poor people,” said the vice postulator.

Local historian Rene Beaudoin also stressed the impact of Pere Frederic’s visits in the Trois-Rivieres region.

“It gave him the chance to build ties with families and to become a popular figure in the region. This has had a tremendous impact,” said Beaudoin, who teaches history at Trois-Rivieres’ Lafleche College.

Over the years, however, the Church has been faced with a challenge: How is the faith of Pere Frederic still relevant, today? The Franciscan and his austere piety were grounded in the Church of his time, but might seem outdated in today’s reality.

“We now live in a thoroughly secular world and in a society that has a tormented relationship with its own history and religious heritage. We’re not trying to adulterate the spiritual journey of an individual such as Pere Frederic. Yet, we try to put forward the aspects (of his spirituality) that are the most universal,” said Oblate Father Pierre-Olivier Tremblay, rector of Our Lady of the Cape Shrine.

Father Bonenfant said he hopes his fellow Franciscan will be canonized sometime in 2017.

“I’m only sure of one thing: His canonization will happen in due time. “He’s somehow special and has an extraordinary stature, as his own personal story is interwoven with the land of Jesus of Nazareth,” he said. “And he’s injected that in the bloodstream of the Canadian people.” (CNS)

St. Alphonsus Liguori: Feast Day August 1

An intellectual prodigy – St. Alphonsus Liguori earned a doctorate in both civil and canon law by the age of sixteen – this future Doctor of the Church was not, however, destined to remain in the secular legal profession.  After the humiliating loss of a court case in his mid-twenties, he gave up the law and instead turned his heart and his life toward serving God’s people as a priest and preacher.

Alphonsus Liguori was born in Naples, Italy, in 1696 to a noble and pious family.  Against the wishes of his father, who had encouraged his legal career, Alphonsus was ordained a priest in 1726 and soon became known as a particularly articulate preacher.  His gentleness, especially in the confessional, was a matter of controversy for some, as this was a time when the Church was struggling with the heresy of Jansenism; this teaching, which was actually a form of Calvinism, was condemned by the Pope in 1713, but vestiges of its austerity and scrupulosity were still being felt in the actions of some religious orders and confessors.

In 1732, Alphonsus Liguori founded a religious order dedicated to working among the rural poor.  The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, popularly known as the Redemptorists, lived in community in imitation of Christ and preached parish missions throughout the countryside of Italy. Liguori himself worked at this calling for over twenty-six years but was, ironically, expelled from his own order for a time due to internal strife and the desertion of some of the original members of the community.

His contributions to the life of the Church did not end with the Redemptorists, however.  As a moral theologian, Liguori stressed, not the condemnation of God, but His mercy and readiness to forgive sins.  (Were he alive today, he would no doubt have rejoiced at Pope Francis’ “Year of Mercy.”)  His two-volume work, “Moral Theology”, has become a classic of Catholic teaching, and has subsequently been translated into more than sixty languages.  In addition to his theological writing, he also authored several devotionals, many of which are still readily available today at www.amazon.com. (Simply search under the name “Alphonsus Liguori”.)

Alphonsus Liguori was particularly devoted to the Blessed Mother.  It was she who gave him comfort and strength in times of his greatest struggles.  Although not in the best of health throughout his life, Liguori was especially debilitated during his last years, suffering from arthritis and rheumatism so painful that it deformed his body.  Confined to a wheelchair and nearly blind, his head was permanently bent forward onto his chest; as a result, for years he had to drink from tubes in order to get any nourishment at all.

 It was during this time that his enemies in the government, in an attempt to revise the Rule of the Redemptorists to better suit themselves, tricked him into signing a document that effectively removed him as head of his own order.  This led Liguori to spiral into a “dark night” of fear, uncertainty and scrupulosity, which took years to overcome and was ultimately relieved by his devotion to Mary. 

St. Alphonsus Liguori died peacefully on August 1, 1787 at the age of ninety-one.  Canonized in 1839, he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1871.  The patron of theologians and vocations, his feast day is celebrated on August 1.


Sources for this article include:

www.americancatholic.org

www.catholiconline.com

www.cssr.news

“Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori“. CatholicSaints.

Info. 19 March 2016.

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

St. Jeanne Jugan ‘walked the talk’ on mercy

During this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has encouraged us to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy with new enthusiasm. A member of my religious community recently noted how blessed we are as Little Sisters of the Poor to have multiple opportunities each day to practice mercy: serving meals to the elderly, bathing and dressing those who need assistance, comforting those who are sad or lonely, keeping vigil with the elderly who are dying and accompanying them all the way to the grave.

St. Jeanne Jugan, who established our congregation in France when she offered her home and her heart to a homeless elderly woman, is our inspiration and example in the practice of mercy. Each time I enter our chapel I pass an icon of our foundress with two elderly residents; this image reminds me of her kindness and compassion toward the poor. 

Inside the chapel, there is another image, a statue depicting Jeanne Jugan sitting alone in a posture of prayer. This image reminds me of how she practiced the spiritual works of mercy in a profound way, especially when she was deprived of her role as foundress and forced into the shadows.

Although Jeanne had been legitimately elected superior by her companions, in 1843 she was removed from office by a priest who served as the community’s advisor. She was recalled to the motherhouse in 1852 and spent 27 long years there in forced retirement, enduring an obscurity so extreme that the young members of her congregation eventually had no idea that she was the foundress. Although she was no longer able to participate directly in our mission of hospitality, Jeanne continued to practice mercy in two remarkable ways.

First, she played a unique role at our motherhouse, even as she grew increasingly frail in her old age. Among the young novices, Jeanne practiced the spiritual works of mercy by instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful and fervently praying for others. As she gave them moral support, practical advice and spiritual counsel, they felt loved by her, and in return, loved her as a mother. Several Little Sisters ultimately attributed their perseverance to her.

Many of the young sisters who knew Jeanne Jugan admired her spirit of faith and her profound humility, but the most striking example she gave them was the way she bore wrongs patiently and willingly forgave those who treated her unjustly. Placed in a similar situation, most of us would fight back, considering it a matter of justice to reclaim our rightful place, or at least to let others know about the wrongs committed against us. 

But in the case of St. Jeanne Jugan, there is not a single recorded instance of her trying to set the record straight or assert her legitimate authority. Among the numerous testimonies collected in view of her canonization there is just one incident in which she told the priest responsible for her deposition, “You have stolen my work — but I give it to you willingly!”

Such was St. Jeanne Jugan’s practice of the spiritual works of mercy. Her humility and long suffering were truly heroic. 

What was the secret to her sanctity? Jeanne found consolation and courage in the merciful heart of Jesus, gentle and humble of heart. She saw her life as a continuation of His and, out of love for Him, tried to incarnate His merciful love for the poor. Inspired by her love for Christ, she also bore her share of his cross joyfully until death.

Article written by Sister Constance Veit, director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Communion of Saints: St. Hyacintha of Mariscotti

Feast day January 30

Often, the stories of the saints inspire by showing us, not so much the holiness they eventually attained, but the very human obstacles they overcame to get there. St. Hyacintha of Mariscotti is one such example; although indulging in a luxurious, spoiled existence – even in the midst of convent life – God found a way to soften her heart and reform her ways, so that it was her humility and penitential heart that eventually inspired those who lived with her.

Hyacintha was born in 1585 near Viterbo, Italy, and entered the Convent of St. Benardine after her hopes for marriage did not come to pass. For 10 years, however, she virtually ignored her vows, using her family's wealth to provide herself with rich foods and luxurious clothes. It was only when a serious illness forced her confessor to bring Communion to her in her cell that he observed her manner of life; he advised her most strongly to cease what she was doing and cultivate a life of humility instead. Inspired by his words, Hyacintha changed completely; by the time she died in 1640, she had become a model of humble service to others and an inspiration to all.

St. Hyacintha's feast day is Jan. 30.

Sources for these articles include: www.americancatholic.org

Butler, Edward Cuthbert. "St. Anthony." The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907.

Mershman, Francis. "St. Hyacintha Marisco_i." The Catholic Encyclopedia, 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.

"Saint Anthony the Abbot". CatholicSaints.Info. 1 July 2015.

"Saint Hyacintha of Mariscotti". CatholicSaints.Info. 29 January 2013.

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

 

St. Anthony of Egypt: Feast Day Jan. 17

Feast day January 17

It is interesting that someone who once hoped to be a martyr would instead live to be 105 years old – thus it was with St. Anthony (or Antony) of Egypt. Born in the year 251, he would not only live through the last of the persecutions of Christians by the Roman Empire, but he would then go on to fight the heresy of Arianism and eventually become known as "the father of monasticism."

Anthony was born in Coma, Egypt, to affluent parents who died when he was only 20 years old. Left with a substantial material inheritance, it would be the spiritual foundation that his family had impressed upon him which would have the greatest influence on his life. Not long after their death, Anthony heard a Gospel reading at church that he felt was spoken directly to him: "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven." (Mt 19:21)

Much like St. Francis of Assisi, Anthony took this Scripture passage quite literally; after providing for a younger sister, he gave up all his material belongings and began to live a life of self-denial and asceticism. Unlike Francis, however, Anthony went on to live the majority of his life in solitude, devoting himself to prayer and contemplation of the bible.

Anthony began his spiritual journey not too far from his home, in an empty tomb where he remained apart from the world for 15 years. During this time, St. Athanasius, whose Life of St. Anthony is the source for much of what we know of the saint, tells us that he did battle with demons, which often came to him in the guise of wild beasts. Not only did they torment him spiritually, but physically as well, occasionally leaving him nearly dead.

At about the age of 35, Anthony felt God calling him to even greater solitude, and so he moved into the desert, occupying an abandoned fortress there for the next 20 years. During that time, which was filled with intense prayer, further battles with demons, and the overwhelming presence of God, it is said that he never saw the face of another human being. When Anthony finally emerged from solitude, it was not as an emaciated, damaged man, but rather as one who was robust, healthy, and on fire with the love of Christ.

Despite his desire for solitude, Anthony's reputation for holiness and joy had a_racted others to him, and he soon found himself providing them with spiritual guidance and even physical healing. Many of them wanted to follow the same kind of vocation as Anthony, and so the solitary saint organized a "monastery" of sorts, composed of individual cells scattered around his retreat, where monks could live their lives in prayer and contemplation. For about six years, this "desert father" ministered to them, and it was for this reason that he became known as the father of the "eremitical" life – that is, the life of a hermit.

Although the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire ended in 313 with the Edict of Milan, the Church would go on to endure an even greater threat – the Arian heresy. At the age of 88, Anthony became a vigorous opponent of this teaching, which maintained that, although Jesus is Lord and Savior, he is not equal to the Father, but instead is merely the highest creation of God.

Anthony spent the last years of his life as a hermit but, unlike his earlier withdrawal from the world, he did meet periodically with the pilgrims who came to seek his advice. He died in solitude in the year 356, at the age of 105. His feast day is Jan. 17.

Articles written by Kay Winchester Vermont Catholic staff writer

 

The Sword of the Spirit: Something too good to be told

It was Bishop Robert Barron, in one of his marvellous film reviews, who pointed out that the key to understanding Terrance Malik's movie "The Tree of Life," is the Book of Job. The movie, made in 2011, won the Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Unusually, it was hated by most of the critics; probably a good sign. However Roger Ebert called it "one of the greatest movies of all time" – critics are given to superlatives. It is a strange film; it requires patience, but as Barron suggested, the clue to the entire film is given by the fact that it opens with the words of God to Job: "where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth … when the morning stars sang together and all the Sons of God shouted for joy?"

The movie spends the first fifteen minutes, with no speaking, showing images of creation – volcanoes, the sea, nature – probably why critics hated it and movie renters pressed pause and went to get a stiff drink. The movie tackles the enigma of innocent suffering – and so much more.

Chesterton regarded the Book of Job as the most important book in the Bible. He said it was both the most interesting of ancient books and the most interesting of modern books. "The patience of Job" is a phrase everyone with a modicum of education once knew, along with many other biblical phrases. Now that "nones" – those who claim no religious affiliation, are the largest group in the 18 to 35 age group, both in the U.S. and the UK, quoting anything from the Bible is likely to be met with a blank stare – far better to use a line from Star Wars.

Chesterton makes the point in his introduction to an edition of the Book of Job, published in 1916, that the book, "stands apart from most of the books in the Old Testament." He argues that the central idea of the Old Testament is what he calls, the "personality of God," almost to the point of the impersonality of man – "unless this gigantic cosmic brain has conceived a thing, that thing is insecure and void; man has not enough tenacity to endure its continuance." Job, he asserts, stands alone because it asks, "But what is the purpose of God?"

Job suffers, unjustly, undeservedly. He laments – he stands as an exemplar for all innocent suffering – but even more – he had been prosperous and successful, a sign, the ancients thought, of God's blessing. His famous lament is a questioning of God's purposes but, as GKC said, what makes the book so splendid is that "God asks questions!"

A central question of the book, Chesterton asserts, is whether God "invariably punishes vice with terrestrial punishment and rewards virtue with terrestrial prosperity." If that is the case, then the great danger, exemplified by the so-called "prosperity Gospel" of the likes of Joel Osteen, will be that if "prosperity is regarded as the reward of virtue it will be regarded as the symptom of virtue."

Yet when God speaks, when He questions Job, something changes. Job was "comfortless before the speech of God and is comforted after it." God has not explained anything – He has not justified Job's suffering or given reasons for it. The "refusal of God to explain His design is itself a burning hint of His design." Job experiences what Chesterton calls, in a sentence of mystical elegance, the "terrible and tingling atmosphere of something which is too good to be told."

Chesterton, it has been argued persuasively by Father Robert Wild, is a mystic, and may even be canonized for his theology of wonder. The Book of Job, GKC wrote, comforts, not by answering the questions, but is a "psalm or rhapsody of wonder." This is the reason Malik's film opens with scenes of the creation and God's awesome and poetic question to Job: "where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth … when the morning stars sang together and all the Sons of God shouted for joy?"

A Christian does not answer the question of innocent suffering, but they do experience the "terrible and tingling atmosphere of something which is too good to be told." We were not there when the sons of God were shouting with joy, or when the morning stars were singing. We all suffer and question, but we know know what St. Paul called the "hope in which we are saved." Jesus Christ, and God's unconditional love revealed in the Paschal Mystery, is the thing almost "too good to be told."

Benedict XVI wrote in his encyclical on hope, 'Spe Salvi,' that "if this absolute love exists," we will have hope, the knowledge of redemption, the experience of the Good News. Life, said Pope Benedict, "in its totality is a relationship with Him who is the source of life. If we are in relationship with Him who does not die – who is Life Itself – then we are in Life – then we live."

"The secret of God," said Chesterton, "is a bright and not a sad one." The mystery of the redemption is intuited by Job in his comforting and not in his patience. The story "too good to be told" is the Gospel.

Father Benedict Kiely is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Stowe, director of Continuing Education for Clergy for the Diocese of Burlington, and Burlington Police Department chaplain.

Copyright 2016, Father Benedict Kiely

 
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