Fr. Mike examines the words, actions, music, and singing involved in how we celebrate the Liturgy. He discusses how, at many Masses, there are signs that accompany the Word of God to emphasize the importance of the Word being proclaimed. He further explains that sacred music is a combination of music and words drawn chiefly from Sacred Scripture. When we sing during the Liturgy, we are making art out of God’s Word, itself, and that art forms a necessary part of the Liturgy. Today’s readings are Catechism paragraphs 1153-1158.
Blessed Franz Jägerstätter’s Story (May 20, 1907 – August 9, 1943)
Called to fight for his country as a Nazi soldier, Franz eventually refused, and this husband and father of three daughters—Rosalie, Marie and Aloisia—was executed because of it.
Born in St. Radegund in Upper Austria, Franz lost his father during World War I and was adopted after Heinrich Jaegerstaetter married Rosalia Huber. As a young man, he loved to ride his motorcycle and was the natural leader of a gang whose members were arrested in 1934 for brawling. For three years he worked in the mines in another city and then returned to St. Radegund, where he became a farmer, married Franziska and lived his faith with quiet but intense conviction.
In 1938, he publicly opposed the German Anschluss–annexation–of Austria. The next year he was drafted into the Austrian army, trained for seven months and then received a deferment. In 1940, Franz was called up again but allowed to return home at the request of the town’s mayor. He was in active service between October 1940 and April 1941, but was again deferred. His pastor, other priests, and the bishop of Linz urged him not to refuse to serve if drafted.
In February 1943, Franz was called up again and reported to army officials in Enns, Austria. When he refused to take the oath of loyalty to Hitler, he was imprisoned in Linz. Later he volunteered to serve in the medical corps but was not assigned there.
During Holy Week Franz wrote to his wife: “Easter is coming and, if it should be God’s will that we can never again in this world celebrate Easter together in our intimate family circle, we can still look ahead in the happy confidence that, when the eternal Easter morning dawns, no one in our family circle shall be missing—so we can then be permitted to rejoice together forever.” He was transferred in May to a prison in Berlin.
Challenged by his attorney that other Catholics were serving in the army, Franz responded, “I can only act on my own conscience. I do not judge anyone. I can only judge myself.” He continued, “I have considered my family. I have prayed and put myself and my family in God’s hands. I know that, if I do what I think God wants me to do, he will take care of my family.”
On August 8, 1943, Franz wrote to Fransizka: “Dear wife and mother, I thank you once more from my heart for everything that you have done for me in my lifetime, for all the sacrifices that you have borne for me. I beg you to forgive me if I have hurt or offended you, just as I have forgiven everything…My heartfelt greetings for my dear children. I will surely beg the dear God, if I am permitted to enter heaven soon, that he will set aside a little place in heaven for all of you.”
Franz was beheaded and cremated the following day. In 1946, his ashes were reburied in St. Radegund near a memorial inscribed with his name and the names of almost 60 village men who died during their military service. He was beatified in Linz on October 26, 2007. His “spiritual testament” is now in Rome’s St. Bartholomew Church as part of a shrine to 20th-century martyrs for their faith. Blessed Franz’s liturgical feast is celebrated on August 9.
We continue to examine the celebration of the liturgy and sacraments. In the context of how the liturgy is celebrated, Fr. Mike explains that we are both body and spirit, and so signs and symbols are the way in which we communicate with and understand the world around us. God communicates spiritual realities in the same way. The signs and symbols which are utilized in the liturgy not only point to spiritual realities, but also make them present. Today’s readings are Catechism paragraphs 1145-1152.
Together, with Fr. Mike, we examine “who celebrates the liturgy.” Fr. Mike emphasizes that when we celebrate the sacraments, the whole Christ, not just the body on Earth, but also the body in Heaven, celebrates with us. The Church enables us to participate in the eternal liturgy through the sacraments, and our baptismal priesthood allows us to have full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgy. Today’s readings are Catechism paragraphs 1135-1144.
We’ve seen how the sacraments re-present what Christ worked for us in his Passion and death, but the Catechism also explains to us how the sacraments prefigure our eternal inheritance in heaven. Fr. Mike uses this “nugget day” as an opportunity to ensure we understand what the sacraments are and what they’re for. Today’s readings are Catechism paragraphs 1130-1134.
Jesus uses his sacraments to save his people. The Catechism proclaims that the sacraments are “efficacious”, the sacraments are “wrought…by the power of God” alone, and the sacraments are “necessary for salvation”. Fr. Mike doubles down on the reality that sacraments cause what they signify. They are not merely signs pointing to an already present reality—Jesus, himself, is at work in each and every expression of the sacraments throughout time and in all places. Today’s readings are Catechism paragraphs 1127-1129.
In the 12th century in the French region of Premontre, Saint Norbert founded a religious Order known as the Praemonstratensians or the Norbertines. His founding of the Order was a monumental tasks: combating rampant heresies—particularly regarding the Blessed Sacrament, revitalizing many of the faithful who had grown indifferent and dissolute, plus effecting peace and reconciliation among enemies.
Norbert entertained no pretensions about his own ability to accomplish this multiple task. Even with the aid of a goodly number of men who joined his Order, he realized that nothing could be effectively done without God’s power. Finding this help especially in devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, he and his Norbertines praised God for success in converting heretics, reconciling numerous enemies, and rebuilding faith in indifferent believers. Many of them lived in central houses during the week and served in parishes on weekends.
Reluctantly, Norbert became archbishop of Magdeburg in central Germany, a territory half pagan and half Christian. In this position he zealously and courageously continued his work for the Church until his death on June 6, 1134.
A different world cannot be built by indifferent people. The same is true in regard to the Church. The indifference of vast numbers of nominal faithful to ecclesiastical authority and essential doctrines of the faith weakens the Church’s witness. Unswerving loyalty to the Church and fervent devotion to the Eucharist, as practiced by Norbert, will continue immeasurably toward maintaining the people of God in accord with the heart of Christ.
Boniface, known as the apostle of the Germans, was an English Benedictine monk who gave up being elected abbot to devote his life to the conversion of the Germanic tribes. Two characteristics stand out: his Christian orthodoxy and his fidelity to the pope of Rome.
How absolutely necessary this orthodoxy and fidelity were is borne out by the conditions Boniface found on his first missionary journey in 719 at the request of Pope Gregory II. Paganism was a way of life. What Christianity he did find had either lapsed into paganism or was mixed with error. The clergy were mainly responsible for these latter conditions since they were in many instances uneducated, lax and questionably obedient to their bishops. In particular instances their very ordinations were questionable.
These are the conditions that Boniface was to report in 722 on his first return visit to Rome. The Holy Father instructed him to reform the German Church. The pope sent letters of recommendation to religious and civil leaders. Boniface later admitted that his work would have been unsuccessful, from a human viewpoint, without a letter of safe-conduct from Charles Martel, the powerful Frankish ruler, grandfather of Charlemagne. Boniface was finally made a regional bishop and authorized to organize the whole German Church. He was eminently successful.
In the Frankish kingdom, he met great problems because of lay interference in bishops’ elections, the worldliness of the clergy and lack of papal control.
During a final mission to the Frisians, Boniface and 53 companions were massacred while he was preparing converts for confirmation.
In order to restore the Germanic Church to its fidelity to Rome and to convert the pagans, Boniface had been guided by two principles. The first was to restore the obedience of the clergy to their bishops in union with the pope of Rome. The second was the establishment of many houses of prayer which took the form of Benedictine monasteries. A great number of Anglo-Saxon monks and nuns followed him to the continent, where he introduced the Benedictine nuns to the active apostolate of education.
Boniface bears out the Christian rule: To follow Christ is to follow the way of the cross. For Boniface, it was not only physical suffering or death, but the painful, thankless, bewildering task of Church reform. Missionary glory is often thought of in terms of bringing new persons to Christ. It seems—but is not—less glorious to heal the household of the faith.
Blessed Angeline of Marsciano’s Story (1377 – July 14, 1435)
Blessed Angeline founded the first community of Franciscan women other than Poor Clares to receive papal approval.
Angeline was born to the Duke of Marsciano near Orvieto. She was 12 when her mother died. Three years later, the young woman made a vow of perpetual chastity. That same year, however, she yielded to her father’s decision that she marry the Duke of Civitella. Her husband agreed to respect her previous vow.
When he died two years later, Angeline joined the Secular Franciscans and with several other women dedicated herself to caring for the sick, the poor, widows and orphans. When many other young women were attracted to Angeline’s community, some people accused her of condemning the married vocation. Legend has it that when she came before the King of Naples to answer these charges, she had burning coals hidden in the folds of her cloak. When she proclaimed her innocence and showed the king that these coals had not harmed her, he dropped the case.
Angeline and her companions later went to Foligno, where her community of Third Order sisters received papal approval in 1397. She soon established 15 similar communities of women in other Italian cities.
Angeline died on July 14, 1435, and was beatified in 1825. Her liturgical feast is celebrated on July 13.
Priests, sisters and brothers cannot be signs of God’s love for the human family if they belittle the vocation of marriage. Angeline respected marriage, but felt called to another way of living out the gospel. Her choice was life-giving in its own way.