St. Terese of Lisieux

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Today we honor St. Terese of Lisieux. She was born in France in 1873 and she died at age 24 in 1897. The cause of her death was probably tuberculosis, but back then it was called "consumption." I know this because my mother's mother died back then at about the same age of the same cause.

Some of the other nuns in the Carmelite community thought of her as just a quiet, ordinary little nun. But she has become the favorite saint of many Catholics who have read her Diary of a Soul that she wrote under obedience to her sister Paulina, the mother superior of her convent.

She has become known for what she called her own "little way to sanctity." It consisted of joyfully accepting other nuns' complaints about her. From reading the Diary of a Soul, one item was her reaction to a sister complimenting her for looking fine. Ten minutes later another sister said "Oh Terese, you're looking very poor today." From that pair of comments, she took away the resolution to place her faith only in Jesus and not in what people said.

St. Jerome

Friday, 9/30/16

The Catholic Church has St. Jerome to thank for the Latin version of the Bible that was its standard text for fifteen hundred years. Taking its name from vulgus, the Latin word for ordinary people, Jerome’s Bible was known as the Vulgate. 

Jerome, a bright young man, came to Rome from Dalmatia. While engaged in classical studies, he became attracted to the monasteries founded on the Egyptian model. (People who didn’t care for Jerome said he only sought Baptism as an entry ticket for a monastery. I once knew a Buddhist nun who wanted to become a Catholic nun without first becoming a Catholic.)

Pope Damasus took Jerome from the monastery to help him in administrative work, giving him to think he would follow him as pope. But at the death of Pope Damasus, Jerome found he had made so many enemies that he would do well to flee from Rome. He settled in the Holy Land where he worked translating the Bible. In 1954, Phyllis McGinley wrote a poem about Jerome’s temper.

God’s angry saint, his crotchety scholar
Was St. Jerome, the great name caller.
He cared not a dime for the laws against libel, 
And in his spare time, he translated the Bible.

He couldn’t stand Romans, he couldn’t stand Greeks,
He couldn’t stand women for their painted cheeks.
He couldn’t stand pagans for their pagan ways,
But he doted on Cicero all his days.

As I remember it, the poem concluded with:
But he filled the world with a Christian leaven,
It takes all kinds to make a heaven.

After translating the New Testament from Greek into Latin, Jerome translated into Latin the accepted Greek translation of the Old Testament that was known as the Septuagint. Iin 410 when he heard that Alaric, king of the Visigoths, had sacked Rome. Jerome wrote:

“When the bright light of the world was put out, or rather
when the Roman Empire was decapitated, the whole
world perished in one city.

Everything, however long, has its end; the centuries that have passed
never return, and it’s true to say that all that begins must perish.

But Rome! Who would believe that Rome would have collapsed?”

Many ancient peoples believed in the one true God.

Thursday, 9/29/16

To honor the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael the Lectionary gives us a reading that says, “War broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. 

We never heard anything like that before. We didn’t think there were wars in heaven. Actually, the story of that war came from the Persian holy book of Zoroaster.

Most of us were raised believing that God dictated all the Bible stories to us. It is only in the last fifty years that we are waking up to the fact that the Bible borrowed from other writings.

For instance, this week we have been treated to fine stories about Job, and those stories all came from other sources. The names of Job’s comforters: Billdad and Zophor, are not Bible names.

Rather than feeling disappointed at finding that many Old Testament stories came from outside the Bible, we should be happy at finding that other ancient peoples believed in the one true God who was served by angels.  

No one who sets his hand to a plow should look back.

Wednesday, 9/28/16

Jesus said, “No one who sets a a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom.” What he means is that if the man plowing keeps looking back he will serve out of line.

Beyond that, what Jesus particularly had in mine was that once you or I have decided on doing God’s work, we should not be distracted from it by our desire to be more popular or to have more money in the bank.

I have known farm boys who, after going on to being priests, have begun wearing spats and behaving like high class gentry.  I have teased them by saying, “Once you took your hand from the plow, you never looked back at your humble beginnings,”

We should never forget Jesus telling us, "You know how among the Gentiles those who exercise authority lord it over them. It cannot be like that with you. You must be a servant to the rest."