The Catechism wraps up our “I Believe in God” paragraphs with an In Brief and “The Implications of Faith in One God”—or, what God’s being means for us and our lives. Faith in our God means knowing his greatness, living in thanksgiving, knowing the dignity of all men, making good use of creation, and trusting God in every circumstance. Fr. Mike reminds us that “in every circumstance,” meaning even in adversity, God uses all things for the good. Today’s readings are Catechism paragraphs 222-231.
Saint John Bosco’s Story (August 16, 1815 – January 31, 1888)
John Bosco’s theory of education could well be used in today’s schools. It was a preventive system, rejecting corporal punishment and placing students in surroundings removed from the likelihood of committing sin. He advocated frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. He combined catechetical training and fatherly guidance, seeking to unite the spiritual life with one’s work, study and play.
Encouraged during his youth in Turin to become a priest so he could work with young boys, John was ordained in 1841. His service to young people started when he met a poor orphan in Turin, and instructed him in preparation for receiving Holy Communion. He then gathered young apprentices and taught them catechism.
After serving as chaplain in a hospice for working girls, Don Bosco opened the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales for boys. Several wealthy and powerful patrons contributed money, enabling him to provide two workshops for the boys, shoemaking and tailoring.
By 1856, the institution had grown to 150 boys and had added a printing press for publication of religious and catechetical pamphlets. John’s interest in vocational education and publishing justify him as patron of young apprentices and Catholic publishers.
John’s preaching fame spread and by 1850 he had trained his own helpers because of difficulties in retaining young priests. In 1854, he and his followers informally banded together, inspired by Saint Francis de Sales.
With Pope Pius IX’s encouragement, John gathered 17 men and founded the Salesians in 1859. Their activity concentrated on education and mission work. Later, he organized a group of Salesian Sisters to assist girls.
John Bosco educated the whole person—body and soul united. He believed that Christ’s love and our faith in that love should pervade everything we do—work, study, play. For John Bosco, being a Christian was a full-time effort, not a once-a-week, Mass-on-Sunday experience. It is searching and finding God and Jesus in everything we do, letting their love lead us. Yet, because John realized the importance of job-training and the self-worth and pride that come with talent and ability, he trained his students in the trade crafts, too.
Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska’s Story (May 16, 1825 – October 10, 1899)
Today we honor a woman who submitted to God’s will throughout her life—a life filled with pain and suffering.
Born in 1825 in central Poland and baptized Sophia, she contracted tuberculosis as a young girl. The forced period of convalescence gave her ample time for reflection. Sophia felt called to serve God by working with the poor, including street children and the elderly homeless in Warsaw’s slums. In time, her cousin joined her in the work.
In 1855, the two women made private vows and consecrated themselves to the Blessed Mother. New followers joined them. Within two years, they formed a new congregation, which came to be known as the Felician Sisters. As their numbers grew, so did their work, and so did the pressures on Mother Angela (the new name Sophia took in religious life).
Mother Angela served as superior for many years until ill health forced her to resign at the age of 44. She watched the order grow and expand, including missions to the United States among the sons and daughters of Polish immigrants.
Pope John Paul II beatified Mother Angela in 1993. Her liturgical feast is celebrated on October 10.
Like Saints Francis of Assisi and Ignatius of Loyola, Blessed Mary Angela experienced a conversion while convalescing from an illness. The Lord can use sickness as well as other situations to speak to the heart of an individual. This does not imply that God caused the illness; just that he used the opportunity to speak to Mother Angela’s heart.
God is truth, God is love, and God is being itself. Today’s Catechism readings begin to unpack the eternal nature of God and share with us God’s “innermost secret.” Fr. Mike teaches us that because God made us in his image and likeness, then we too are called to embody truth and love. Today’s readings are Catechism paragraphs 212-221.
A good spirituality achieves two huge things simultaneously: It keeps God absolutely free, not bound by any of our formulas, and it keeps us utterly free ourselves and not forced or constrained by any circumstances whatsoever, even human laws, sin, limitations, failure, or tragedy. “It was for freedom that Christ has set us free!” as Paul writes (Galatians 5:1). Good religion keeps God free for people and keeps people free for God. We cannot improve on that.
—from the book Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps by Richard Rohr
Much derails us. Noise, distraction, an inability to say no, an inability to have boundaries for a healthy self. Our internal worrier will continue to pester us: “What’s the secret? How do we actually practice it?” But that is the enigma, isn’t it? Life turns left and does somersaults when we least expect it. So, we juggle and we multitask. And we want someone to give us the answers. We want someone to balance it all or give us the list. Living in the present, fully alive and wholehearted, is not a technique. There is no list. And chances are, we pass by life—the exquisite, the messy, the enchanting, the untidy, the inexplicable—on our way to someplace we think we ought to be. When life throws us a curve that makes our present moment loom larger than anything else, we learn to shift our focus. There is meaning—consequence, value, import—only when what we believe or teach touches this moment. In other words, it’s the small (and specific) stuff that really does matter. Belief is all well and good, but there has to be skin on it—something we touch, see, hear, taste, and smell. The ordinary really is the hiding place for the holy.
To stand still is to practice Sabbath—meaning literally, to rest. To stop. To savor uncluttered time. To be gentle with yourself. And yes, to waste time with God. The bottom line? I’m no longer chasing what I assume will fill empty spaces in order to make me something I am not. Replenishment begins here: “I am enough.” In our Western mindset, living in the present becomes a staged event—staged to be “spiritual,” as if this is something we must orchestrate or arrange. No wonder we sit stewing in the juices of our self-consciousness (“Am I present? What am I doing right or wrong?”), all the while missing the point.
—from the book Stand Still: Finding Balance When the World Turns Upside Down, by Terry Hershey, page ix
There is nothing small about compassion. There is nothing small about making a difference in the life of one human being. But sometimes, we need an experience that rocks our world. Or, to invite us to hit the reset button. You know, back to what makes us human. To say yes to whatever connects us, as humans, as children of God, as people who need compassion and mercy for sustenance, as people who cannot walk this journey alone. And to say no to whatever divides or demeans or belittles or degrades or incites hate and exclusion. And I must speak that yes, and speak that no, not only with my voice, but with my hands and my feet. Lord hear my prayer. When the world feels small and dark and frightful, it is not surprising we choose to protect our hearts. We do not easily give them away.
This happens when we live from the notion that we carry only so much emotional capital—you know, that precious commodity which allows us to pay attention, to focus, to contribute, to care, to forgive, to set free. So, it goes without saying that conservation is called for. And it becomes our default. “There is no need to spend empathy on just anybody,” we think. “We need to pick and choose.” Or more bluntly, “There are those who deserve care, and those who don’t.” Lord, help us. We lose track of the values that sustain us. There is nothing small about compassion. It is the thread of life woven through each day. As humans—in the image of God—we touch, love, give, receive, and redeem. It’s time to rethink our notion about the scarcity of compassion. This is an affirmation of what is already alive and well within each of us. We have the capacity to be places of shelter and hope and inclusion and healing.
—from the book Stand Still: Finding Balance When the World Turns Upside Down, by Terry Hershey, page 53
We can learn a lot about the nature of God from his Divine Name revealed in Scripture. When God said to Moses, “I am who I am,” this was a revelation of a name as well as a refusal of a name. Fr. Mike explains how this mystery reveals truths about God: he is infinitely above all things; we cannot comprehend him, yet he draws close to us. This Divine Name expresses the steadfast, faithful, unchanging love of God for his people, even when we betray and abandon him. Today’s readings are Catechism paragraphs 205-211.