Christus Vivit 59: Blessed Isidore Bakanja

Pope Francis looks to sub-Saharan Africa for an example of saintliness in the young:

59. Blessed Isidore Bakanja was a layman from the Congo who bore witness to his faith. He was tortured at length for having proposed Christianity to other young people. Forgiving his executioner, Isidore died in 1909.

It is interesting to note that Isidore’s persecutors were not Africans, but Europeans. Check a brief, but informative essay here on this victim of racism, colonialism, inter-Christian bitterness, and how unchecked capitalism becomes exploitation.

Remember to check Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on this link at the Vatican site.

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Sharing Hysteria

Over the years, many Catholic bloggers have gone gah-gah over preachers who utilized one of the proclamations of Jesus feeding the multitudes to preach on what a miracle the sharing of loaves and fish might have been.

Applying some reverse snark, maybe there was some proto-capitalist in the five thousand who thought, “This dude is producing some serious quantity of baked goods and piscine protein. We should set up shop here in this lonely place.” No wonder those baskets full were on the next day’s clearance sale. And no wonder it was such a miracle that people got fed before hoarding-for-profit went into effect.

Taken as an isolated incident, I don’t have a problem with preaching on a miracle of sharing. Given the level of self-interest among human beings, it might be a miracle worthy of four gospels in some quarters. I certainly know I’ve seen it complained about far more often than I’ve heard it live. I tend to tune it out like criticisms of hated liturgical songs.

Personally, this strikes me as a better homily, and a superior metaphor for grace: God can take very meager resources–including our own selves–and make something substantial of it. I need to hear that preached often enough. Thank heaven my wife pounds my stubborn brain with that notion. Sometimes more than once a day.

The problems connected with this reading on both sides of the commentary follow:

  • People who promote the miracle of multiplication might place too much emphasis on the supernatural, if not the magic moment. The point of attending carefully at Mass is not what happens to ordinary bread, but how ordinary people are transformed into active disciples. It’s not about Jesus as spectator sport. It’s about acting like him.
  • People who are satisfied with a casual reading of William Barclay or Stone Soup might actually consider widening their horizons to note how God’s grace works in mighty wonderful ways. Including the inside of people’s brains when they become converts.
  • Preachers who repeat either homily on sharing or miracle might want to put a lid on that theme, whichever it is. Find some new insight to startle or surprise people who have already heard your homily once and may not need to tune out as you preach it again.

That said, if there are any listeners out there with a story to share from yesterday’s homily, I’m all ears. But not twelve baskets’ worth.

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Christus Vivit 58: Blessed Ceferino Namuncurá

The eighth of the Holy Father’s youthful saints is a fellow countryman. Other connections: the boy studied with the Salesians and adopted Dominic Savio as a role model. Like Dominic, he also died of illness in his teens while aspiring to the priesthood. The Salesians have a short bio here.

58. Blessed Ceferino Namuncurá was a young Argentinian, the son of the chief of a remote tribe of indigenous peoples. He became a Salesian seminarian, filled with the desire to return to his tribe, bringing Jesus Christ to them. Ceferino died in 1905.

Remember to check Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on this link at the Vatican site.

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Christus Vivit 57: Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus

Pope Francis profiles not just another saint, but a Doctor of the Church. To get to know her, read her autobiography. If you prefer a listening experience, hear what Bishop Sheen said of her.

57. Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus was born in 1873. At fifteen years of age, having overcome many difficulties, she succeeded in entering the Carmelite convent. Thérèse lived the little way of complete trust in the Lord’s love and determined to fan with her prayers the fire of love burning in the heart of the Church.

Remember to check Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on this link at the Vatican site.

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An Answer To A Question

This response answers the question I’ve asked many times (like here or here or here) on this site: What if we didn’t fire the person?

Sometimes the answer is obvious. A person with authority continues to manipulate and abuse younger employees and creates an atmosphere of intimidation, if not immorality. A person who has embezzled money continues to skim off the income. A serial molester, assisted by people in a new environment, victimizes new people as opportunities present themselves.

Sometimes compassion is shown and an employee who is less competent for one job can get transferred to another. That can happen in big places with thousands or even dozens of workers. Sometimes transfers don’t work out as well as new victims are generated. Sometimes professional connections can be engaged and a manager is transferred to another outlet with fewer responsibilities and possibly a friendlier approach.

One of my fb friends asked the what-about question on unmarried pregnant women. One of his friends said that didn’t happen in Catholic schools. But it has. A simple ask of the Google will solve that query.

But scandal. That’s what some people say. But some people go looking for scandal. And if they blame social media for announcements or evidence of impropriety, they can often find it. Are scandal-hunters really scandalized? Or are they just gleeful?

So, what if we didn’t fire the person? I suspect justice would be served more than if we did. More often than not, when somebody didn’t get pink-slipped, after I read the details, I’m inclined to cheer.

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Christus Vivit 56: Saint Dominic Savio

Another saint, an associate of St John Bosco, and revered by the Salesians, which is enough of an endorsement for me:

56. Saint Dominic Savio offered all his sufferings to Mary. When Saint John Bosco taught him that holiness involves being constantly joyful, he opened his heart to a contagious joy. He wanted to be close to the most abandoned and infirm of his fellow young people. Dominic died in 1857 at fourteen years of age, saying: “What a wondrous thing I am experiencing!”

A more extended (but still brief) biography is here. That site relays this conversation when Dominic met Fr Bosco:

“Father, will you take me to Turin with you to the Oratory to study?”
“Well, you look like good material to me!” Don Bosco exclaimed.
“Good material, Father? Good for what?”
“To make a beautiful garment for the Lord, son.”
“Then take me with you, Father. You can be the tailor, and I’ll be the cloth. Make me into a beautiful garment for Our Lord.”

A lovely metaphor: we are the cloth for the tailor’s hand. Remember to check Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on this link at the Vatican site.

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Christus Vivit 55: Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

Another saint, well known to many in North America.

55. In that same century, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, a young native of North America, was persecuted for her faith and, to escape, walked over three hundred kilometers in the wilderness. Kateri consecrated herself to God and died saying: “Jesus, I love you!”

Others may find devotional/hagiographical writings a bit saccharine. But I think they reveal something of how people adopt favorite saints and suggest something of human aspirations to holiness as well as hero-worship. Certainly not all bad. I do like to read these–like this one about Saint Kateri–not for historical or authenticated detail, but because of the friendship it represents with the saint.

Remember to check Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on this link at the Vatican site.

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