Tonight on Perspectives: vigils of prayer in Rome and across the globe for peace in Syria; the conditions for following Christ; and Salt and Light's brand new synod documentary is set to premiere!
Today, people around the world are responding to the call of Pope Francis and uniting in the cause for peace through fasting and prayer. We do so with the hope that these offerings may place us in solidarity with those who suffer the tragedies of violence and aggression, especially in Syria. We do so in order to contribute to bringing about a just and harmonious peace across nations, cultures, and differences in a world that too often cares only for division and resorts to brutality as a viable option.
Let us therefore dare to go about the cause of peace. Let us do so simply, in our own place, in our own neighbourhoods, beginning with those around us; that the ripples of our love and fraternity for one another may radiate outwards and extend to the whole human family, uniting us in bonds of cooperation, dialogue, compassion, and understanding. The goal of peace may seem lofty, but it is within our grasp. We ourselves are capable of bringing about a change for the better, towards a more peaceful tomorrow and a more peaceful today. In the words of Mother Teresa, "Peace begins with a smile"--it begins with you and me.
As we commemorate this day called for by our Holy Father, Francis, let us take to heart the words of the great Francis, that we also may be instruments of the peace we seek:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
For events taking place in your region, visit your diocesan website or contact your local parish. Let us unite in the cause for peace! It begins with you and me.
Pope Gregory the Great
Few popes in the Church’s history have had as great of an influence on the shaping of the Church as Pope Gregory. Born into a wealthy patrician family in Rome around 540, Gregory rose to prominence within the Roman government. Highly regarded by many as a distinguished speaker and writer, he established himself as a person well versed in imperial law and the subjects of the day.
However, after a period of deep prayer, Gregory discerned the call to the monastic life. Shaped by the faith of his family and the witness of his father who converted his many properties into monasteries, Gregory had a profound love for the Scriptures and a desire to live the Gospel virtues. By entering into the contemplative life, he sought to live a life of simplicity and strict penance.
Despite his desire to live the monastic life, Pope Pelagius II ordained Gregory as one of the seven deacons of Rome. The city of Rome at the time, and much of the Italian peninsula, was threatened by the invasion of the Lombards and the people suffered from the constant threat of disease. No longer the seat of a great empire, Rome now stood in the shadow of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Hoping to win the aid of the Emperor of Constantinople, Pelagius sent Gregory there as an ambassador. The Byzantine Empire, however, had other matters to attend to, with threats of invasion in their own lands. Realizing the emperor’s lack of interest in safeguarding the Italian peninsula, Gregory devoted the remainder of his time in Constantinople to nurturing the faith of many women and men and engaging in dialogue with the Patriarch of Constantinople.
Gregory returned to Rome in 585 and returned to his monastery. However, his time in the monastery would not last long. Immediately following the death of Pope Pelagius II, Gregory was elected to the Chair of Peter in 590. After much protestation and avoidance, Gregory was consecrated Bishop of Rome in St. Peter’s Basilica on 3 September, 590.
As pope, Gregory would leave his mark upon the Church and become known by many as one of the last of the Fathers of the Church. Gregory was an outstanding pastor, dedicating his ministry to the good of the people and ensuring the nourishment of both their bodies and souls. Under Gregory’s papacy, the Bishop of Rome would become a prominent figure both spiritually and politically.
Perhaps the greatest of Gregory’s achievements as pope, and one in which we find inspiration today, was his missionary zeal. He sent St. Augustine of Canterbury, an abbot of his former monastery, to preach the faith in England. Augustine’s mission to England was so successful that it led to the later conversion of Northern Europe to Christianity.
Gregory’s passion for evangelization is reflected in the immense record of his writings. Author of hundreds of letters, commentaries and sermons, Gregory is most well known for his Rule for Pastors. In it, Gregory challenges bishops and priests to live the Gospel virtues faithfully and humbly and to passionately care for the spiritual well-being of the faithful. Gregory lived what he preached. He tirelessly served the women and men entrusted to his care and loved them deeply. His life and preaching exemplified the Gospel. Thousands came to hear him preach and he invigorated a renewal within the Church. Upon his death, people called for his immediate canonization.
For those of us entrusted with the New Evangelization, Gregory serves as an example for living and proclaiming the Gospel. Aside from his simplicity of life and extraordinary teaching, Gregory not only preached the Gospel in word but also in deed. He devoted his life and the work of the Church to heal the wounded, serve the poor and feed the hungry. It is for these things that generations of women and men acclaim him Pope Gregory the Great.
This reflection comes to us from Don Beyers, Marketing Manager for English Books & Resources at Novalis Publishing.
Memorial: August 20
Considered the last of the Fathers of the Church, St. Bernard of Clairvaux has been celebrated for centuries as a man of great intellect and greater holiness. As is evident in his prolific writings, Bernard was one for whom the Word of God impregnated every aspect of the human experience. He knew the Bible by heart and was said to speak and write scripturally.
Relying solely on the pages of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Early Church Fathers in the development of his theology, Bernard rejected philosophical traditions that detracted from the integrity of the faith, and dismissed those who sought knowledge for the sake of curiosity, personal profit, or their own renown. In his seminal collection of sermons on the Song of Songs, he stated: “There are also those who seek knowledge in order to edify, and this is charity. And there are those who seek knowledge in order to be edified, and this is prudence.”
Bernard’s theology was mirrored in his spirituality, which was grounded in his love of scripture and his special devotion to the Blessed Virgin. He was a champion of Lectio Divina, and a leading figure in the explosion of Marian devotion that dominated Catholic piety in the twelfth century. For Bernard, life was a radical experience with the love of God; his was a life of fraternity, asceticism, and a daily encounter with the humanity of Christ—love for whom he credited as the first step to genuine prayer.
Born in 1090 to a Burgundian family of great wealth and prestige, in 1113, he entered the premier Cistercian monastery at Cîteaux accompanied by thirty noblemen he had convinced to join him. His life’s work would be the renewal of the Cistercian order and monastic life in general, in addition to the refinement of Marian devotion and theology. Within three years of his arrival at Cîteaux, he was sent to establish a Cistercian house at Vallée d’Absinthe, which as abbot he renamed Claire Vallée, or Clairvaux. From Clairvaux, the “Valley of Lights,” he would reignite the vigor and vibrancy of Western monasticism, and return it to its roots through strict adherence to the austere Rule of St. Benedict. After overcoming its initial growing pains, under Bernard’s guidance the abbey would attract a flurry of postulants, including the saint’s widower father and five brothers.
Before long three more Cistercian monasteries would spring up to accommodate the overflow of vocations flocking to Clairvaux. All in all, Bernard’s work resulted in the foundation of 163 Cistercian monasteries across Europe. At the time of his death on this day in 1153, Clarivaux boasted 700 religious and 363 monasteries attributed their establishment to his influence. The adept abbot was known for his affection for his brother monks, and his reintegration of manual labour into the daily life of the monk, following the model and motto of St. Benedict: Ora et labora, “work and prayer.”
In addition to his pastoral duties as abbot, Bernard played an key role in the suppression of numerous heresies that arose in his day, and was charged with preaching the Second Crusade, which under his spiritual direction was wildly successful in attracting recruits: common-folk and nobility alike. In his day, he was among the most influential figures in all of Christendom, admired as the “conscience of all Europe.” He secured the election of Pope Innocent II over the antipope Analectus III, and in 1145 his disciple and confrere, Bernardo of Pisa, became Eugenius III. The example and influence of St. Bernard’s austerity revolutionized the practice of Western monasticism, and prompted Pope Alexander III’s formulation of the Code of Canon Law. His canonization in 1174 made him the first Cistercian monk to be raised to the glory of the altar, and his eloquence as a preacher gained him the title Doctor Mellifluus, which means “Honey-Sweet(-voiced) Doctor.” For ages untold, the great abbot of Clairvaux will be extolled for what Pius XII termed the “brilliance of [his] doctrine and splendor of [his] holiness” (Doctor Mellifluus 2).
May we look to his life as an example of the beauty of our faith and the simplicity with which we are to live it out. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, today and always, pray for us!
An excerpt from Sermon 83 of St. Bernard’s Sermons on the Song of Songs
“Love is sufficient of itself; it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in its practice. I love because I love; I love that I may love. Love is a great thing so long as it continually returns to its fountainhead, flows back to its source, always drawing from there the water which constantly replenishes it. Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be. For when God loves, all he desires is to be loved in return; the sole purpose of his love is to be loved, in the knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him.
The Bridegroom’s love, or rather the love which is the Bridegroom, asks in return nothing but faithful love. Let the beloved, then, love in return.”
Memorare of St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, and sought thy intercession was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence,
I fly unto thee O Virgin of Virgins, my Mother, to thee I come, before thee I stand sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate! Despise not my petitions, but, in thy mercy, hear and answer me.