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artisan_potterSome 25,000 people attended Pope Francis’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square a few days after the canonization of Saint Teresa of Kolkata.
 
Before delivering his final blessing, the pope called on young people to follow her example and be “artisans of mercy.”
 
Why did he use the example of an artisan to illustrate his call for us to do God’s missionary work through “an authentic evangelic path?”
 
An artisan is a worker in a trade that demands special skills, especially work that involves producing useful things by hand.
 
Both Jesus and his earthly father, Joseph, labored as skilled carpenters. Using handheld tools, they shaped wood for new uses and, therefore, could be called artisans.
 
Men and women today create false images of God, the pope said. They often think of him as a “psychological refuge” that provides comfort during difficult times. Or they reduce Jesus to just another teacher of ethics.
 
These erroneous perceptions “cancel out his missionary impulse that is capable of transforming the world and history.”
 
Christians, Francis said, believe in the God of Jesus Christ, who wants us “to grow in the living experience of his mystery of love.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

Lord Jesus,
grant us the gift of great faith
so that we can become signs and instruments of your mercy.

 
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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mustard_seed_faith“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you. Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here immediately and take your place at table”? Would he not rather say to him, “Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished”? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do”’” (Luke 17:5-10).
 
Some students quickly figure out ways to do as little as possible while earning as high grades as they can. “Is this going to be on the test?” they ask in every class. Idealistic, dedicated professors find such questions exasperating, as if the knowledge they impart can simply be distilled down to a single exam in which students simply regurgitate information.
 
In this story Jesus is much like a professor. His top-flight students, the apostles, are seeking the gift of faith. He tells them something they may not want to hear: you who have been blessed are expected to do so much more. Don’t expect to be praised because you have done the barest minimum.
 
What Jesus expects is nothing less than the integration of our faith into all aspects of life. We who have been privileged to receive that saving message of Jesus can’t rest on our laurels. Luke is recalling the challenges of true discipleship — much more than doing just enough to get by. There are ways of nourishing this integration: personally through honest prayer and communally through our participation in the Sunday Eucharist, by service and by sharing faith.
 
If only we had faith as small as a mustard seed, we wouldn’t simply meet the barest minimum requirements: weekly Mass attendance and an occasional prayer uttered in a crisis. Instead, we would be on fire with faith and it would transform our lives. Its truth would grow in us, slowly and tentatively at first but eventually consuming us if we let it. In this test, we can’t be satisfied with just learning the answers. We will have to live them as well.
 
– In whose faith do you see evidence of a “faith the size of a mustard seed?”
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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sleeping_on_streetWho is the Lazarus among us?
 
Our newest saint, Mother Teresa, recognized him in alleys and gutters:
 
“The outcasts, those who are rejected, the unloved, prisoners, alcoholics, the dying, those who are alone and abandoned, the marginalized, the untouchables and lepers, those in doubt and confusion, those who have not been touched by the light of Christ, those starving for the word and peace of God, sad and afflicted souls.”
 
Like Lazarus in the parable, the poor thirst for water. But the new Lazarus, St. Teresa reminds us, also thirsts “for peace, truth and justice. The poor are naked and need clothing, but also need human dignity and compassion for those who sin. The poor have no shelter and need shelters made of bricks, but also need a joyful heart, compassionate and full of love. They are sick and need medical attention, but also a helping hand and welcoming smile.”
 
In other words, the Lazarus among us needs not only God’s mercy, but ours as well.
 
The psalmist knew this in his darkest hour when he sang, “Your mercy is better than life itself.” (Psalm 62)
 
And St. Augustine, too, confessed, “On your exceedingly great mercy, and on that alone, rests all my hope.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

Jesus,
help us always be wholehearted in showing mercy to the needy among us,
just as you shower us with the full measure of your love.

 
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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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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