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St. Lucy

In 13 Today's Church on 2017/07/21 at 12:00 AM
  • One of the most famous and highly venerated saints amongst the early Christians was St. Lucy. In fact, Lucy was so highly esteemed that she is one of only seven women whose name is listed in the 1st Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass, which dates from the 4th century.
  • To tell you a little about St. Lucy, we know that she was born of noble parents and grew up in Sicily. Her father died while she was still quite young, and she was raised by her mother to be pious and well educated in her faith.
  • At a young age and unbeknownst to her mother, Lucy vowed herself to a life of virginity as a means of fully dedicating her life to Christ. However, her mother wished that she be married, and thus Lucy was betrothed – against her will – to a pagan man.
  • Looking for an opportunity to get out of the engagement, Lucy decided to make a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Agatha, and she invited her mother who had been suffering from an incurable hemorrhage for 4 years to join her and pray for a cure.
  • After praying to St. Agatha, Lucy’s mother was miraculously cured, and so Lucy asked if she could dedicate her life fully to Christ by remaining a virgin and distributing her inheritance to the poor. Full of a newfound faith, Lucy’s mother agreed.
  • Unfortunately, Lucy’s fiancé didn’t take the news so well, and he denounced Lucy as a Christian to the governor of Sicily. And as there was a persecution against Christians taking place at the time, Lucy was sentenced to serve as a prostitute in a brothel.
  • However, when the guards came to take Lucy away, she refused to go with them, and when they tried to move her by force, they found her body too heavy to move.
  • Eventually, Lucy was sentenced to torture and death, and the most reliable sources report that she was killed by the sword, but not before they cut out her eyes.
  • Thus, St. Lucy is often depicted in art holding her eyeballs on a platter. And as you might guess, Lucy is the patroness of those who are blind or suffer with any disease of the eye. Today, December 13th, is St. Lucy’s feast day.
  • But St. Lucy is also a good saint not only for those who have difficulty with their physical vision, but with spiritual vision as well. Her name literally means “light”, the type of light that elucidates or makes something clear and understandable.
  • And certainly the spiritual life is, in large part, a process in growing in our understanding of our Lord and of ourselves.
  • As we reflect upon St. Lucy and the meaning of her name during this Advent season, it should lead us to consider how well we truly see and understand Jesus. Moreover, it should lead us to consider how well we truly see and understand ourselves.
  • One of the hallmarks of saints is that as they grow closer to Christ and know Him more intimately, the more aware they become of their own shortcomings and faults. As one draws nearer to the light of Christ, the more apparent our faults and failings become.
  • So the more a person knows Christ, the more he knows himself. The more a person grows in holiness, the more clearly he sees his sins.
  • And yet for the saint, the deeper knowledge and understanding of his sinfulness is not a cause for depression or sadness. Paradoxically, saints always see in this type of knowledge a cause for rejoicing.
  • Today is the third Sunday of Advent, popularly known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is a Latin word that means rejoice! And so we are called to rejoice, to be overcome with joy, because our Lord is near.
  • As Advent is historically a penitential season, we use the color violet in our liturgical celebrations because violet is the color of penance. But so that we might have a break from the rigors of fasting and penance, the Church has always designated this particular Sunday as a time to rejoice – to sample early a little bit of the joy that is to come.
  • Thus we put away the violet for a day, and the color rose is used today as a sign of our rejoicing! The rose that I am wearing today is a sign of our hope and the deep and abiding joy that we should have in Christ Jesus and in His power to save us from our sins.
  • Certainly, we get a sense of this call to rejoicing from the first and second readings today. We are called to be joyful because of God’s mercy toward us in sending us His Son to be our Savior.
  • And this is exactly why the saints rejoice in the self knowledge that makes them so keenly aware of their sins. For the greatness of God’s mercy is felt all the more acutely when we see just how much we need His mercy.
  • Truly, my friends, to fully appreciate the beauty of the Father’s gift of His Son, we must first recognize the depth of our sinfulness.
  • Think of an analogy with physical health. The sicker we are, the more we appreciate and realize our need for a doctor.
  • But if we don’t recognize that we’re ill, we won’t realize our need for a doctor. If we don’t think we’re sick, we won’t call upon the doctor.
  • Yet when it comes to the spiritual life, we are all sick to some degree. All of us suffer with various sins and spiritual maladies. All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Thus, all of us have need for the divine physician.
  • Moreover, the more we realize just how sick we are, the more we rejoice in the presence of the One we know can heal us and the more grateful we are for the healing He brings.
  • The Gospels are full of stories of how our Lord healed the sick and cast out demons. And yet the most profound healings our Lord ever effected were the spiritual healings which brought about conversions.
  • The good news is that our Lord continues to heal people today. If we simply have the courage to draw near to Him in prayer, to place ourselves into the light of His truth and allow Him to expose all of our darkness, then He will give to us the light of His healing grace.
  • My dear friends, as we continue to celebrate this special day on which we are called to rejoice, let us pray that through the intercession of St. Lucy, virgin and martyr, we may all draw near the light of Christ so that our eyes may be opened to the truth of His love.
  • May we draw nearer to our Lord and seek to grow more intimate with Him, and in so doing may we come to see ourselves as we truly are: sinful, yet very redeemable.
  • And as we consider the depth of our sinfulness, let us rejoice in the even greater depths of God’s mercy and love.
  • May Jesus Christ be praised, now and forever. Amen.

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio .
To enable the audio, please go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

Link to Homilies:
http://stanncharlotte.org/content/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=8&Itemid=61

Beauty of Stained-glass Windows

In 13 Today's Church on 2017/07/21 at 12:00 AM

 

  • If you asked me what I thought was the most beautiful church in the world, I would have to say the Cathedral of Chartres in France. And perhaps the most famous and most beautiful element of this church is its famed stained glass windows.
  • For centuries people from around the world have gone on pilgrimage to Chartres in order to view these artistic masterpieces. Not only are they aesthetically splendorous, but they also teach us about the history of our faith as their artwork contains the story of salvation history.
  • Bear in mind that this stained glass is not just mere window dressing, but that along with the other art and the architecture of the church, these windows create a certain atmosphere that transports those inside the cathedral to the very heights of Heaven.
  • Most importantly, these windows – and indeed the entire church – are a testament to God’s power and glory and a testament to the great faith of the medieval French people.
  • Last week I spoke a bit about the visible and invisible realities of our Catholic faith and how the invisible realities, the things that we cannot perceive with our physical senses but that we know by faith, are really “more real” than the visible realities of our world.
  • In order to make these invisible realities visible, the Church has always relied on Her liturgy and on Her art and architecture. Embedded within our liturgies, our church architecture, and our art are signs and symbols that speak of the invisible realities of our Faith.
  • So for example, our church buildings themselves are meant to symbolize Heaven. When we walk into a church, the art and architecture should, in a sense, remind us of the celestial realms and thereby lead us to contemplate God.
  • Church buildings are like bridges that connect us with Heaven. Not only are they places where we go to worship God, but they should speak of the Heavenly realities to which we are all called and to which we must all aspire.
  • Thus, it is so very important that church buildings be beautiful. Beauty is truth! Therefore, beauty for a church building should not be an option but should be integral to the design. Accordingly, churches should be built with an eye to proportion and symmetry, grace of design, and a verticality that draws our hearts and minds to up to God.
  • Noble and worthy materials should be used in the construction of the church and its furnishings, and every effort should be made to incorporate artwork and symbolism that speak of the mysteries of our faith and help us to meditate on Heaven itself.
  • Our reasoning for building churches this way is two-fold. Not only do churches connect us with Heaven by leading us to contemplate the heavenly realities of our faith, but they are also meant to give glory and honor to our Lord.
  • There are some people who are of the opinion that churches should be built inexpensively so that more money can be directed toward the poor, but Scripture reveals that perhaps Jesus had a little different opinion.
  • In Matthew 26:11 our Lord rebukes the disciples for complaining about the woman who anointed His feet with costly perfume, as they were saying that the perfume could have been sold for money to give to the poor.
  • Jesus, however, reminds the apostles and us that we will always have the poor with us, and that we should make it a point to serve Him generously in recognition that He is our sovereign Lord. His point is that we owe Him every ounce of respect and gratitude that we can muster, even if it costs a lot of money!
  • So while our own new church could have been built with less money, we have made it a point to spend a little more money in order to make it a dwelling that is truly worthy of God’s holy presence. And this is a distinction that is so important for us to bear in mind.
  • For us Catholics our churches are not only places that should lead us to contemplate God, but through the Eucharist they are actually places in which God dwells!
  • While our Catholic art, architecture, and liturgy are suffused with beautiful symbols that speak of the invisible realities of our faith, God loves us so much that He doesn’t make us rely on these symbols alone to commune with Him.
  • Out of His great love for us, Jesus actually dwells with us in the Eucharist. This is a magnificent truth and an astonishing privilege that we Catholics enjoy whenever we walk into our one of our churches: that God is really and truly present in our churches.
  • Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist, as present to us as He was to His disciples 2000 years ago.
  • And through the Eucharist, not only does He dwell with us in our churches and chapels, but He also dwells within us. As our Lord attests in today’s Gospel: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
  • Not only can we go to be with our Lord in a Catholic church, but by receiving Holy Communion, we can take our Lord into ourselves! What can be more magnificent and yet intimate than that?
  • So as we consider this incredible gift of the Eucharist, the challenge for us is not simply to conform our exterior actions to our belief in the Lord’s True Presence in the Eucharist.
  • In addition to treating the Eucharist with the proper respect through our personal piety,manner of dress, and reverential decorum in the church, we must also try to make our souls aworthy place to receive Him.
  • Our new church is going to be absolutely beautiful, and rightly so because it will be thedwelling place of God. But if we’re spending all this time, money and energy to make ourchurch worthy for God, should we not do the same with our souls?
  • My point is that it’s not enough for us just to build a beautiful church. If we are going to giveGod the proper glory and honor He deserves, we need to be beautiful ourselves!
  • And the way that we beautify our souls is through our good works, by diligently striving forvirtue in all things, and most especially through our prayerful communion with the Lord.
  • Holiness of life should be the goal for which we are constantly striving. And when we findthat we have fallen short and committed sin, we should hasten quickly to the confessionalwhere we can receive our Lord’s tender mercy and forgiveness.
  • My friends, I know that holiness can seem elusive and difficult to attain, but the witness ofthe saints shows us that it is possible, despite whatever weaknesses, short-comings andfailures we may have in life.
  • Just remember that true sanctity is not simply a matter of not sinning. It’s a matter ofpersevering in virtue and prayer. It’s a matter of humbly asking for forgiveness whennecessary and relying on God’s grace. It’s a matter of living in faith, hope, and charity.
  • In a few short weeks we will be moving into our beautiful new church that (hopefully) willlead us to meditate on the heavenly realities and be a worthy home for our Lord.
  • Let us pray, my friends, that through our prayer, good works, and reliance on God’s grace and mercy, our souls, too, may become beautiful and worthy homes for our Lord to dwell.

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio .
To enable the audio, please go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

Link to Homilies:
http://stanncharlotte.org/content/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=8&Itemid=61

How Others Influence

In 13 Today's Church on 2017/07/21 at 12:00 AM
  • My paternal grandfather was a commercial artist. While he was generally employed to paint billboards and signs rather than create works of fine art, he still had a marvelous aesthetic sense.
  • Grandpa’s house and yard were a wonderful combination of creativity, color, and order, and I always felt a great sense of peace and delight in his home.
  • My father has never been an artist, but he did inherit his father’s deep appreciation of beauty – an appreciation that he very consciously passed along to me.
  • So while it was my mother who really taught me to love and serve God, it was my father who taught me to see and appreciate our Lord through the beauty of this world. From my dad I learned that man needs beauty in order to get through life.
  • To this day I rarely see something beautiful, whether it be a beautiful sunset or a truly beautiful piece of artwork, without thinking of how much my dad would enjoy it.
  • When I began studying philosophy in the seminary, I was delighted to learn that beauty, according to St. Augustine, is really just another word for God, and that the unity, truth, goodness, and beauty we find in this world all point us to God.
  • The great philosophers teach us that the essence or heart of beauty is order. So in other words, if something is beautiful, it is by definition well-ordered; all of its elements form a harmonious, integrated whole.
  • It is this harmony, this integrated wholeness, this order that elicits delight and peace and calms all restlessness within the one who beholds the beauty – much like the feelings I had as a child in my grandfather’s home.
  • I suppose this is one of the reasons why I love the saints so much. Regardless of what any of the saints looked like physically, all of them possessed a beauty of soul that radiated through their countenance.
  • The saints were beautiful because their souls were well ordered. There was no division in them, no conflict between the way they lived their lives and what they knew to be true. In a saint there is harmony between his actions and his beliefs.
  • If we can understand order as the heart, the essence of beauty, then we can understand disorder as the essence of ugliness. Ugly things lack harmony, order, and integrity. Ugliness is chaotic. Rather than peace and delight, ugliness foments disturbance.
  • Both beauty and ugliness can be understood in either an aesthetic or moral sense. Of course, moral ugliness is much more serious than aesthetic ugliness, just as moral beauty is superior to aesthetic beauty.
  • Moral ugliness in a person indicates some amount of disorder within that person, and disorder is created within us by sin. Every sin is a disordered act because it is contrary to the great schema of order by which our Lord has created us and all of creation.
  • Anyone who has ever studied nature in any depth can tell you that there is a wonderful harmony, a wonderful order to our world and all of its elements. The order that we find in creation is a sign of the larger order by which God created the entire universe.
  • But God’s ordering of the world is not only a physical or natural phenomenon; there is also a moral order to our world as well, which is indicated by the natural law.
  • All of us have the law of God written upon our hearts. Because of this, everyone knows at his deepest core that things like stealing, telling a bold-faced lie, or murder is morally wrong.
  • Just as we disrupt the natural order of the world by abusing the environment or misusing the things of this world, so too do we disrupt the natural order by acting in a way contrary to the laws of God.
  • This Wednesday we will enter once again into the holy season of Lent, which is our annual time of the year to take stock of our moral lives in order to prepare ourselves for the glory of Easter.
  • If we wish to experience our own personal resurrection some day and go to Heaven, our souls must be properly ordered – which means that we must try to correct our sins.
  • To this end Holy Mother Church gives us the 3 very important spiritual practices of prayer, alms-giving, and fasting as a means of reordering our lives and our souls.
  • Through the practice of prayer, we come to a greater understanding of the truths of our faith; we come to a personal knowledge of God! In coming to know God better, we come to a greater knowledge of the moral order He has set forth for us.
  • Through prayer we also come to a greater knowledge of ourselves and of all of the ways that we are disordered because of our sins. It is in prayer, as well, that we are given the courage to repent of our sins and overcome them by God’s grace.
  • Through the practice of alms-giving we grow in generosity and give honor to our Lord, as well as help to those in need. Proper alms-giving should cost us a bit; it should involve true sacrifice, but without being imprudent.
  • And through the practice of fasting we make reparation for our sins, we find strength to say no to the temptations of sin, and we express our contrition for our sins. In some ways this spiritual practice is the most helpful in correcting our disorders.
  • This is why Catholics are obliged under the pain of sin to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday; it’s why we are obliged to abstain from meat on Fridays; and it’s why Catholics traditionally give up something during the 40 days of Lent.
  • So as we approach Ash Wednesday this week, I’d ask you to give some serious consideration to what it is you’re going to give up this Lent. If you wish for your fasting to have its intended effects, you should be a bit rigorous in your fasting.
  • But before deciding on what you will fast from, I encourage you to think about your sins. In what ways are you most disordered? In answering that question, try to fast from something that will really help you overcome your disorders.
  • So if you struggle with gluttony, fast from your favorite foods and drinks. If purity is your worst disorder, fast from the forms of media that can be an occasion of sin for you. If you struggle with anger, fast from yelling at your kids.
  • Just as with alms-giving, your fasting should pinch a bit; it should cost you something. It’s a bit disingenuous to fast just from chocolate or desserts if you don’t really have that much of a sweet tooth or if gluttony is not a real problem for you.
  • Brothers and sisters, during the Holy Season of Lent Holy Mother Church encourages us to take stock of our lives and try to remove from within ourselves all that is displeasing to our Lord, all that disorders us and makes us ugly.
  • Through the tools of prayer, alms-giving, and especially fasting, may each of us bring harmony and order to our souls so that we may grow ever more beautiful in God’s eyes.

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio .
To enable the audio, please go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

Link to Homilies:
http://stanncharlotte.org/content/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=8&Itemid=61