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September 25 is the feast day of Blessed Hermann of Reichenau.
 
Blessed_HermannPeople of a certain vintage will recall a time when after every “low” Mass we prayed the “Hail Mary” three times and then “Hail Holy Queen” — known in Latin as “Salve Regina.”
 
When I was a youngster I said those prayers every Sunday and on the frequent weekdays when I was the altar boy for a daily Mass.
 
In addition, on most Wednesday evenings, I assisted at devotions to Our Lady of Fatima in which we prayed the rosary, followed by “Hail Holy Queen.”
 
I was always attracted to the “Salve Regina,” and in those days I was not yet aware of its remarkable origins.
 
That prayer — “Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope” — is essentially a poem written by Hermann of Reichenau, an 11th century Benedictine monk who was beatified by Pope Pius IX in 1863.
 
Hermann was a composer, a poet, a music theorist, a mathematician, an astronomer, and an historian.
 
The range of his scholarship and his achievements would have been remarkable if he had been in good health, but he was actually severely disabled.
 
He was born with a cleft palate and spoke only with great difficulty.
 
He had cerebral palsy and, researchers believe, either amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) or spinal muscular atrophy. He could barely move and had to be carried from place to place.
 
Because his condition was so extreme, his parents couldn’t give him the care he needed, and they placed him with a community of Benedictine monks.
 
Hermann spent the rest of his life in a monastery, professing as a monk himself when he was 20 years old, eventually becoming the abbot. He died when he was 40.
 
Like Stephen Hawking in our own time, Hermann had a natural curiosity about the world around him, and a desire to learn, that were greater than his disabilities.
 
He was a well-known composer of religious music, and some of his work survives today. He wrote extensively about the science of music which, in his era, was considered a branch of mathematics. He also wrote on geometry and arithmetic.
 
He introduced to central Europe, from sources originating in Arabic Spain, a portable sundial and devices used for measure angles and distances in astronomy.
 
Also among his achievements in astronomy was accurately calculating the length of a lunar month.
 
Somehow, Hermann found time to write the first comprehensive history of the events of the first millennium, beginning with the birth of Jesus.
 
By the time he wrote the “Salve Regina,” he was blind.
 
It must take an almost unique combination of qualities for a person like Hermann to not only lead a productive life but also excel in multiple disciplines.
 
He may be an encouraging model for folks who have more than their share of physical challenges.
 
But while I have been spared any such disabilities, and even lesser ones, I apply Hermann’s example to myself, too.
 
Self- pity, fatigue, impatience, boredom, and indolence at times make it seem more attractive to patronize myself than to learn more about the world and put to good use what gifts God gave me.
 
But I think about Blessed Hermann, and I tango on.
 
This post first appeared in The Catholic Spirit, Diocsese of Metuchen.
 
Charles Paolino is a member of the RENEW staff and a permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Metuchen.

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Lazarus_the_Rich_Man“Jesus said to the Pharisees: ‘There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, “Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.” Abraham replied, “My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours”’ (Luke 16:19-26).
 
This passage from the Gospel of Luke offers a vivid image of the longing that is present in those separated from God for eternity. The rich man is a sinner who has violated, largely by his apathy, the beggar Lazarus—a sign of God’s presence. This reading is a rallying point for what is called the “preferential option for the poor”—putting those who have been denied the necessities of life ahead of those who have plenty and speaking for those who have no one to speak for them.
 
Many great Catholic saints, canonized and uncanonized, such as St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, and Dorothy Day, were known for their tireless devotion to the poor. This story may seem to be pretty far from our experience—we usually don’t wear fine linen, feast sumptuously, or have a personal gate outside which poor people lie. Maybe we just prefer jeans to fine linen, but still, we have privileges available to us that extend far beyond what most of the world experiences.
 
Many of the great saints were relatively affluent yet were compelled not to ignore the poor. An heir to a wealthy father, Francis of Assisi left behind all his fine clothing. Mother Teresa, before ministering to the poor in Calcutta, taught at a school for wealthy girls. Dorothy Day, before founding the Catholic Worker for the homeless and poor in New York City, spent much of her time amidst rich and famous writers and artists in Greenwich Village.
 
Saints are not simply to be held up for our admiration but serve as models of Christian discipleship. Following Christ means identifying with Lazarus, not with the rich man. This is what taking the Gospel seriously implies. These “saints” lived out their service to the poor in very personal and unique ways because it was who they felt God was calling them to be.
 
– Are you ready to recognize and to respond to the Lazarus in your life?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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WYD_Krakow_Cardinal_OMalley“Sometimes we think we are doing God a favor when we do a work of mercy. But actually we find mercy and salvation for ourselves.”
 
That’s what Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, told the 2016 World Youth Day audience in Krakow, Poland, in July.
 
“Only by making a gift of ourselves will we find fulfillment, happiness, and salvation,” he said.
 
Isn’t this the very difference between serving God and serving mammon, the biblical name given to the greedy pursuit of gain?
 
In an interview for the opening of this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis described the duplicitous spirit of mammon that grips today’s world:
 
“We’re used to bad news, to cruelty and ever-greater atrocities that offend the name and the life of God. The world must discover that God is a Father, that there’s mercy, that cruelty isn’t the way.
 
What the world needs, the pope added, is a “revolution of tenderness.”
 
Perhaps this is what Jesus was telling us when he was nearly thrown off a cliff after his first preaching in a Nazareth synagogue. That threat did not stop him from talking about mercy throughout his ministry.
 
The Year of Mercy is a chance to reboot, to start over again, Cardinal O’Malley said. “We need to find a new route to take us where we need to go.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

Lord Jesus,
show us the way of mercy
and grant us the courage and perseverance to follow it.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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Parable of the Crafty Steward“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. He summoned him and said, “What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.” The steward said to himself, “What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do so that, when I am removed from the stewardship, they may welcome me into their homes.” He called in his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” He replied, “One hundred measures of olive oil.” He said to him, “Here is your promissory note. Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.” Then to another the steward said, “And you, how much do you owe?” He replied, “One hundred kors of wheat.” The steward said to him, “Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.” And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently. For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.
If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon’” (Luke 16:1-8; 11-13).
 
The crafty manager knows he is on the way out, so he decides to create some friends who can help him when he is thrown out the door. After all, he freely admits that he is not one to beg or dig ditches! But the scheme works even better than expected as the master praises the unrighteous manager for looking after his own interests so well.
 
Some scholars suggest that this parable is about how we are “tested” on earth. Use your wealth and influence wisely on earth, and your reward will be great when you leave this earth. Those who build trust (through good management and appropriate giving) can be trusted with the greatest reward.
 
But Christian discipleship requires even more. No one, Jesus says, can serve two masters. You cannot serve God and wealth.
 
The ending of this parable offers a warning. We can be like the crafty and conniving manager, being successful in the ways of this world and finding ways to get our own cut. Or we can serve the master who survives beyond the “things” of this world. We are frequently tempted to keep our vision limited to simple material existence. Yet we are called to keep our minds and hearts on the prize that the world cannot give.
 
– What are the difficulties of serving two masters—God and wealth—and how do you find the proper balance between them?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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ground_zeroThe Holy Cross is a sign of God’s mercy. God in his mercy allowed his Son to die in order to heal the rift caused by original sin.
 
The significance of the Cross can be found not so much in “suffering” as in “obedience”—Christ’s willing and passionate surrender to his Father.
 
This is the truth we must make our own—that we live for
God alone.
 
It sounds so simple, but sacrifice and surrender is never easy. St. Peter Damian, eleventh-century hermit, bishop, and Doctor of the Church, once preached these words: “There is no burden heavier than our ego. What tyrant is crueler, what master more pitiless for man than his own will?”
 
St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, described Jesus as our inspiration and model in following the will of the Father: ‘He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him.” (Ph 2:8-9)
 
It is through the wounds of Jesus that we can recognize and acknowledge the great mystery of his love and mercy. As St. Bernard said, “Where have your love, your mercy, your compassion shone more luminously than in your wounds, sweet, gentle Lord of mercy.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

Merciful Jesus,
for our sake you died in agony on the cross.
Help us never forget
that your mercy comes alive within us.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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