How easy it is to take the Eucharist for granted. The ability to receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion is a great gift, one worth dying for. In fact, Christians did die, just to go to Mass and to bring Holy Communion to the sick.
St. Tarcisius—Martyr of Eucharistic Love
In the middle of the third century, severe persecutions against Christians broke out in Rome, during the reign of emperor Valerian, around 258. Christians were often subjected to arrest, cruel tortures, and execution, often taken to the Coliseum for sport, to fend off lions and other wild beasts before spectators who usually cheered on the devouring animals.
The Roman emperor decreed death to all Christians; those who would offer pagan sacrifice to the Roman emperor as a god could save their lives. Christians who remained faithful to Christ were executed, as well as any bishop, priest, or deacon. To avoid arrest, Christians would gather for Mass in secret. After Mass, deacons would bring Communion to Christians who were sick and those who were in prison, especially those condemned to death. Although the catacombs—underground cemeteries—were originally considered safe, out of respect for the dead, now even they became risky.
One day the persecution became particularly fierce, such that one day no deacons appeared for Mass. So, no one was available to take Holy Communion to the Christians in prison after Mass. Tarcisius volunteered. He was a 12-year-old acolyte—an altar boy—who had experience assisting the deacons on past occasions when they brought the Eucharist to the sick and imprisoned. The bishop asked Tarcisius if he was OK with doing this, and he said “yes,” knowing that it was risky. He also knew that the Roman soldiers would not suspect a young person like Tarcisius. The bishop then wrapped the Sacred Hosts and put them into a little pouch, which Tarcisius carried around his neck as he left.
On the way to the prison, a group of neighborhood boys saw Tarcisius. He knew these boys and as a group they had played their boyhood games and sports together. They approached him, wanting him perhaps to hang out and play with them. Tarcisius clutched the linen pouch containing the Sacred Hosts and told them he was busy.
Seeing that he was carrying something valuable, the boys try to get Tarcisius to show them his little treasure and then to hand it over to them. He refused, holding the pouch even tighter to his chest. One of the boys spouted out: “He is a Christian carrying a mystery.” They then began to taunt him, and call him embarrassing and shameful names. He remained silent.
The gang of boys tried to pry the pouch from his hands, but he resisted with strength that surprised them, who—like a pack of dogs—began to shove and beat Tarcisius with sticks and stones; they then pushed him over and kicked him, while trying to pry the pouch loose from his hands. Tarcisius lost consciousness; but he would not release the pouch.
A Christian soldier heard the commotion. He rescued Tarcisius and carried him back to the catacombs where he died. The dead boy would not release the pouch he was protecting until the priest came and touched his body; then Tarcisius released the pouch containing the precious treasure of the Eucharist. Tarcisius was then buried in the catacombs of St. Callixtus.
Christ told us: “Greater love than this no man has than a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13): Jesus did so for Tarcisius and for all of us. Tarcisius returned the gift by laying down his life for Jesus. May we learn from him to value the Eucharist with our life.
Fr. John Waiss
We have new leadership in the Archdiocese that is directing all of us to become better stewards of the financial resources entrusted to us. For us at St. Mary of the Angels, we have set the goal to put our operations “in the black” by the end of the fiscal year, which comes at the end of June. With the grace of God and your generous help, our parish will reach that goal.
This past year, we made extraordinary progress toward eliminating the parish’s deficit and pay down our South Tower loan ($57,300 remaining). In addition, our parish and school has raised $88,000 for the Fr. Hilary Mahaney Scholarship Fund, half of which will benefit the school this year and half will be set aside to build up this fund for the future. Our portion of the To Teach Who Christ Is account has reached $31,000 to add bathrooms in the church. Also, we have begun to receive rent from Catholic Charities for the use of the old convent, which will help meet our expenses in the coming years. (PS: In August we will publish the full annual report for St. Mary of the Angels).
Yet, as of May 22, we have about $38,000 in the bank to pay $216,000 in outstanding bills for the parish and school. We are behind, in part, due to higher heating costs for the last two brutally cold winters (this year we had to pay $25,000 for heating cost beyond our budget for the 2014 winter and an additional $24,000 beyond what was budgeted for this year’s, 2015, winter). To help us make up the $178,000 difference (=$216,000 – $38,000), we ask you to please consider an extraordinary “Christmas in June” contribution. May God reward you for your ongoing generosity.
Cold and hot weather takes its toll on the finances in other ways as well, as bad weather often causes attendance at Mass to drop off. This means that our Sunday collections go down. Fortunately, God’s generosity does not drop off with the weather, but he continues to pour out his blessings upon us in good weather and in bad. Let’s do the same with our tithe—the gift of the first fruits of our labors. Our gift to God shows our gratitude to him for all the good he has given to us, it acknowledges that he is the number one priority in our lives, and it shows him that we entrust our future wellbeing to his almighty providence.
So, if bad weather, vacations, or other circumstances ever keep you from coming to St. Mary of the Angels and showing your gratitude and trust in God, would you consider online giving, where your contribution is donated automatically from your credit card or checking account. We appreciate those of you who are already doing this.
To set up online giving, go to www.GiveCentral.org and search for St. Mary of the Angels (search on our zip code—60622—for example). Then click away and start giving. If you have any problems, just call the parish office and Maria, Martha, or Gary will give you a hand.
Thank you for your ongoing support in our joint work of evangelization. I keep you all in my prayers and please keep praying for the continual growth of St. Mary of the Angels.
Fr. John Waiss
We celebrate the feast of Pentecost, the day when God the Father communicated the Holy Spirit to the apostles in Christ’s name (see John 14:26), and in a few days—Tuesday—some 75 of our parishioners, school and CCD students will receive His outpouring in the Sacrament of Confirmation.
After the gift of Baptism (whereby we become God’s children) and the Eucharist (whereby we become one body with Christ), Confirmation is the greatest Gift—the gift of God’s Spirit—whereby God’s New Life comes to dwell in us, conferring upon us a share in Christ mission. This Sacrament gives our lives purpose, a reason to keep living as Confirmation calls us to nurture the new life of grace in us so as to bring others to the joy of knowing true Love: Jesus Christ.
Consider the apostles’ joy on Pentecost. They were “drunk” with the Holy Spirit. All fear and sadness had disappeared as the Holy Spirit moved them to preach the Gospel with boldness to their fellow Jews (see Acts 2). He gives us this same joy at Confirmation as we are sent forth. This joy keeps arising in us over and over again as we serve others, especially when we share our Faith with others; when we see our shared Faith take root in them, bringing them the joy we have received.
Graduation is a similar kind of moment. We have eighth graders graduating on to high school, seniors graduating on to college, and college students graduating on to “real” life. This fills them and their families with great joy. With graduation there is a real sense that each on of them is being sent forth anew; they are now ready for new challenges and new opportunities to witness to Christ in a world antithetical to their Catholic Faith.
Just as our Lord prepared his disciples to take on the responsibility to bear witness to him (see John 15:26-27), St. Mary of the Angels’ families and school has been preparing our young people for their mission in the world as witnesses to Christ. Along with the Faith, we have preparing our young men and women by teaching them the three R’s: “Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic” as well as a smattering of History, Science, Foreign or Classical Languages, and perhaps Calculus, in due time. These give our young people the ability to speak to and to engage the world on its own terms.
As we share the joy of our young people as they are being sent forth, let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide them and set them on fire with love for God and their neighbor. May Today’s good citizens of the family, community, and Church become Tomorrow’s good spouse-parents, friend-leaders, and saint-apostles. May they too have an impact on their family, friends, and the world.
Fr. John Waiss
We have been reviewing the Beatitudes and the Sermon of the Mount, which is a wonderful summary of Christian morality.
When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17, he goes on to develop the full meaning of those Commandments and their consequences in the following chapters (Exodus 20:18-23:33). Similarly, our Lord develops the full meaning of the Beatitudes throughout the Sermon of the Mount, linking each Beatitude with the Commandments so as to explain their consequences. Toward the end of the Sermon of the Mount, Christ reminds us the ultimate goal of Christian morality:
“Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Beatitude is about reaching “kingdom of heaven”—“being comforted,” “inheriting the earth,” “being satisfied,” “obtaining mercy,” “seeing God,” “being children of God,” rejoicing with a great reward in heaven (cf. the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12). And to reach this heavenly reward, it is not enough to teach our Faith to others (“prophesy”) or to help other people overcome their “demons” or to do great “works” of philanthropy; no, we must do the will of God the Father who is in heaven. His will is nothing else than the whole Sermon of the Mount, which is summarized in the Beatitudes.
Another wonderful summary of Christian morality is our Lord’s description of the Last Judgment:
“When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him…, he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats… Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty…, a stranger…, or naked…, sick or in prison…?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food…’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-46).
St. Pope John Paul II tells us: “This Gospel text is not a simple invitation to charity: it is a page of Christology which sheds a ray of light on the mystery of Christ. By these words, no less than by the orthodoxy of her doctrine, the Church measures her fidelity as the Bride of Christ” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49). Let us be faithful to Christ by living out the Beatitudes, by seeing him in the needy, and by living out his Gospel in all our actions.
Fr. John Waiss
The last Beatitude is: “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). Rather than corresponding to any Commandment, this beatitude gives us the ultimate paradigm of Christ’s moral teaching: martyrdom (cf. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 90-94). What distinguishes Christian morality from non-Christian ethics and ways of life is our willingness to put Christ above ourselves, above pain or sorrow, above comfort and pleasure; that we are ready to die than sin, ready to give our life as a witness to our love for Jesus Christ.
Our Lord knew that following him would entail persecution and misunderstandings: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you…, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:18-20). So, Jesus’ disciples must expect the cross: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). If we run away from the cross, from the persecution that arises from being Christian, we are effectively running away from Christ: “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).
Our goal is to be a saint. For this reason Christian morality is really about loving God with our whole heart, mind, strength, and soul. If we put anything or anybody ahead of our true love, then we are not ready for God; we are not ready for heaven: “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39).
So, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all things shall be yours as well” (Matthew 6:33). Then we won’t worry about meeting opposition because of our faith, or about the possibility of suffering or of losing some comfort or pleasure… because the kingdom of heaven awaits us. As Pope St. John Paul II tells us: “Although martyrdom represents the high point of the witness to moral truth, and one to which relatively few people are called, there is nonetheless a consistent witness which all Christians must daily be ready to make, even at the cost of suffering and grave sacrifice. Indeed, faced with the many difficulties which fidelity to the moral order can demand, even in the most ordinary circumstances, the Christian is called, with the grace of God invoked in prayer, to a sometimes heroic commitment” (Veritatis Splendor, 93).
So, let us expect to experience opposition for following Jesus Christ. If we do, we are “blessed” and we can “rejoice and be glad, for our reward is great in heaven.” As St. Peter summarizes this beatitude: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:12-14).
As persons of love, let us rejoice in suffering that comes with having Christ.
Fr. John R. Waiss