Saul of Tarsus: Conversion of Paul

Today, January 25th, we celebrate the feast of the conversion of St. Paul. Paul originally was known as Saul of Tarsus. Saul was a bad guy. He was a real persecutor, even a murderer, of those who believed in Jesus Christ. He was a ruthless soldier, determined to eliminate those who believed.

Saul of Tarsus was not a guy to mess with.

The conversion of Paul is one of my favorite stories. On his way to Damascus, Saul was struck down off his horse by a bolt of lightning, and blinded. He heard a voice calling to him. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” The voice said to him, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.”

Saul was instructed to continue to Damascus and to pray. Jesus sent Ananias to find Saul and help him with his conversion. Ananias restored his vision and told him “God has designated you to know his will, to see the righteous one, and to hear the sound of his voice. For you will be His witness before all to what you have seen and heard.”
(And here’s the best part)…

Ananias told him “Now, why delay?”

Saint Paul - Saul of TarsusWith that, Saul became a ruthless warrior for Jesus Christ. Talk about a 180 degree turnaround! Some of Paul’s letters that we read in the Liturgy carried the deepest meaning and the greatest thoughts. What God was able to see in Saul was his tireless ambition and drive. Until his conversion, Saul was using that ambition and drive in the wrong direction.

The message I take away from Paul’s conversion is that:
Anyone can have their eyes opened,
Anyone can still learn a new thing or two, and
Anyone can still come to believe in the hope in Jesus Christ.

It’s never too late to become a warrior for God.

Newark, NJ and St. Francis de Sales

What does Newark, New Jersey and St. Francis DeSales have in common?

Today, January 24, we celebrate the feast day of St. Francis DeSales.  At Mass this morning, we heard the story of the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey.  I have never been there, but I heard the story how the pulpit in the Cathedral is surrounded by two statues: one of St. John Chrysostom, and one of St. Francis DeSales.

St. Francis de Sales

Patron Saint of Schools

As the story goes, St. Francis de Sales is the patron saint of schools and of wisdom.  St. Francis DeSales is also known as the doctor of the Church Lectionary.  And St. John Chrysostom was known for his homilies — and his brevity.  Our priest this morning was kidding about how most of the homilies he heard there were neither wise nor brief!

I’m sure he was kidding when he said that.

St. Francis DeSales is also the patron saint of writers and journalists.  In the 1600s, St. Francis DeSales was having a tough time dealing with those Calvinists.  When St. Francis DeSales was the Bishop of Geneva, he gained quite a reputation as a preacher.

Here is a wonderful series of photographs of the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey (found on Flickr)

Feast of The Holy Name of Jesus

Today is January 3rd, which is the day we celebrate the Feast of The Holy Name of Jesus.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Medal

Holy Name of Jesus

As if we didn’t already know that Jesus is a very holy name. This was the name given by the angel to Mary, before He was conceived in the womb.

But, at Mass this morning, our celebrant spoke about how we have seen so many athletes with unusual names over the past thirty or forty years. What he explained was, at the time “Jesus, the Christ” and also “Jesus the Annointed One” were such very unique and so very special names used to describe Jesus.

While someone can name their child “LeBron” or “Anfernee” it certainly carries special meaning for their immediate families. But terms like “Jesus the Christ” carry so much more meaning — for such a large percentage of the population, not just some family members. It truly IS a holy name: Jesus.

As a parent, we find that our children often try to emulate the parents. So it’s not a surprise to see your kids making the same torturous mistakes and missteps you made. It’s all a part of growing up. For the children, AND the parents! But, besides love, parents really GIVE their kids one thing: a name. Please parents, for goodness sake, don’t mess this up!

To a certain extent, remember, we have all become members in one large extended family. And today we celebrate the Holy Name of Jesus.

Thou Shall Not Steal

Christmas is known as the season of giving, and Advent the time of preparation and anticipation.   But in case you have purchased some Mens Catholic Jewelry or some Catholic Jewelry for Women, you need to also know that this is the season for stealing.  So let’s be careful out there!

And sometimes, theft happens in other forms.  And right under our noses, too.

Everything we post on our sites are copyrighted material.   It says so very clearly at the bottom of every single page of our website.  So it burns us up when we see our material lifted 100% from our site and posted elsewhere.  When you swipe copyrighted content from an employer’s website, well, that is also stealing too.   We thought grown-ups would know that.

So, in the spirit of Advent, PREPARE FOR and ANTICIPATE the cease and desist letter you WILL be getting from our attorney.

And Joy to the World.

More about Silence

I just read a post by a young woman talking about the “quiet” of the Catholic Church as opposed to the Presbyterian church she recently visited in the South.

One of her comments really struck me. She said “I think if we actually believed that Christ was there, all our attention would be focused on Him”. I don’t think she meant this to be a question of Catholic teaching, it was a personal question for us to consider invidually. Our Catholic faith tells us HE is really there. We know this and it’s the reason we offer the sacrifice of the Mass to Him. I admitted I would remember her comment the next time I felt the urge to be “chatty” (see my previous post) in church.

My children attend Catholic Grammar School and families join them for First Friday Mass each month. It’s so exciting as the children enter the church, there are hundreds of smiles, giggles, feet stomping, kneelers falling and a restlessness you can actually feel. There is quite a bit of “Shushing” going on too. The entire Student Body is then reminded that they are in the presence of our Lord and should remain quiet and in prayer. I think that might be what has gotten lost over the years, prayer before Mass begins. Mass was not intended to be a place to “catch-up”. We come to church to give thanks to the Lord and participate in the Eurcharist.

Catholics are often considered “unwelcoming” to other Christians and maybe that’s because we do behave differently while at Mass. It’s wonderful to see the groups of people gathered outside the Church after Mass saying hello, shaking hands even giving one another hugs. We are friendly. We are supportive of each other. I won’t include those that almost run you over getting out of the parking lot to be first in line at the bakery (that’s where I assume they’re headed anyway).

Does your parish have a gathering center that people meet after Mass? My parish hosts Hospitality Sunday gathering once per month but I bet there are some that do this weekly? Would you like your church community to offer something like this?

I’m thankful that I was given this rather gentle reminder to reconsider my reverance while in the church, both before and after Mass. I hope this might be an Advent reflection for you as well.