Monthly Archives: July 2020

Lazarus, Martha, and life in the face of death

Although today is the feast of Saint Martha in the Catholic Church, the Benedictines celebrate Saint Martha, together with her sister, Mary, and her brother, Lazarus.

In today’s Gospel, (John 11: 19-27),  Jesus had come to the tomb of Lazarus; Martha runs to Jesus and asks him to raise her brother. The dialogue is moving as Jesus identifies Himself as the Resurrection and the Life and Martha affirms that He is the Christ, the Messiah. In the verses after the Gospel Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb – to live.

Lazarus had a new chance to live. He could start over again. And it was his sister Martha who interceded for him.

After meditating on this Gospel, I came up a song of John McCutcheon, “Dearest Martha.” McCutcheon has a way of bringing out the pain and the pathos all around us. The song is a letter of a farmer to his wife. His farm was going under and, as happened with a good number of farmers in the MidWest during the farm crisis of the 1980s, he was going to kill himself. This was his failure letter.

As I listened, I thought of the many who are depressed, the many who are desperate, the many who cannot see a way out. They are like Lazarus in the tomb.

But Lazarus had a sister who loved him and intervened with Jesus for his life.

How can I be one who intervenes for those who are desperate, helping them see that new life is possible, that God is calling them out of their tombs?

The raising of Lazarus can give us hope, but it also calls on us to be there, in the midst of the pain, in the midst of the desperation.

Drawing by Cerezo Barredo

Many paths to holiness

There are many paths to sainthood and holy people are found in every corner of the globe.

I keep a calendar of witness to holiness and justice with quotes from many of them. Today and tomorrow are filled with witnesses.

Today, July 13, is, in Chile and among the Discalced Carmelites, the feast of Saint Teresa de Jesús de los Andes (1900-1920). Born into a well-off family, at 19 she entered a very poor convent of Carmelites – without electricity or adequate sanitation. She contracted typhus with the year and died young, as did the Carmelite Saint who inspired her, Saint Thérèse of Lisiuex, the Little Flower.

Today is, among the Orthodox, the feast of the holy martyr Saint Alexander Schmorell (1918-1943), who was a member of the White Rose, a group of mostly young Germans who opposed the Nazi regime and clandestinely distributed pamphlets and wrote on walls. He was arrested and executed as were many members of the White Rose.

Today is also the feast of Blessed Carlos (Charlie) Manuel Rodríguez Santiago (1918-1963), a lay promoter at the Catholic University Center of the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Among his concerns was the reform of the liturgy.

Today is also the anniversary of the death of the Little Brother of the Gospel, Arturo Paoli (1912-2015), an Italian missionary, who lived more than thirty years in Latin America, working as a poor man and living the spirituality of Saint Charles de Foucauld. His writings have inspired me and many others.

Tomorrow, July 14, the church also celebrates several witnesses.

The Franciscans and the church of Perú celebrate Saint Francis Solano (1549-1610), a Spanish missionary who spent years among the native peoples on Perú. He tried to defend them and spoke forthrightly against corruption and injustice.

The Church in the United States celebrates Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks (1656-1680), the first Native American to be canonized. Born in what is now New York State, she died in Canada, having left her home to escape persecution.

July 14 is also the feast of St. Camillus de Lellis (1550-1614), an Italian who after living the life of a rowdy soldier began to care for the sick and founded the Ministers of the Sick.

On July 14, 1980, Brother Mauricio Silva, Uruguayan priest, Little Brother of the Gospel, street sweeper, was killed, Buenos Aires, Argentina, another victim of the Dirty War.

On July 14, 2002, Sister Marta Inés Velez Serna, member of the Little Sisters of the Poor of St. Peter Claver, active and peace and human rights work, was killed, Mogotes, Santander State, Colombia.

I have written about some of these in other posts. (Click to access)

      Blessed Carlos, Saint Teresa, and Saint Kateri

     Saint Kateri and Saint Francisco

     Saint Kateri

    Arturo Paoli 1

Arturo Paoli 2

Saint Camillus

All these holy people lived very different lives but they sought to follow Christ. Quotes from two of them may help us contemplate how they sought to follow Jesus.

Hermano Mauricio Silva

When loving is a humble and dark furrow
which claims the grain in order to be fertile and die in solitude,
then I know that You are present, Lord.

From the last letter of St. Alexander Schmorell to his parents

This difficult ‘misfortune’ was necessary to put me on the right road, and therefore was no misfortune at all…. What did I know until now about belief, about a true and deep belief, about the truth, the last and only truth, about God? Never forget God!”

Photos of mosaics in the church of San Apolinare, Ravenna

St. Thomas and the Church in India

Today is the feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle. He is known as “doubting Thomas,” though he is the only person in John’s Gospel to call Jesus “My Lord and my God.”

According to tradition, after Pentecost he evangelized the people of India and was martyred there. The church he established there has endured to this day. When the Portuguese arrived in southern India, they were surprised to find a flourishing Christian community.

All too often western Christians identify Christianity with its western manifestations. This reminds me of something that happened in Ames, Iowa, many years ago, that some friends shared with me.

There was an Indian family who were members of the parish. He was a professor at Iowa State University. One of their sons became a diplomat.

One day someone asked the wife, “When did your family become Catholic?”

Of course, the answer which followed was unexpected.

“We became Catholics when St. Thomas the Apostle came to India.”

I recall this today in the midst of the trials of the Church in the United States in the face of racism. There were followers of Christ in India and Ethiopia (Acts 9: 26-40) way before any western European heard about Jesus. They are our foremothers and forefathers in the faith.

Don’t forget that.

A Last Supper from Ethiopia