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Tirana, Albania, Sep 21, 2014 / 03:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- God’s consolation for Albania’s martyrs and other persecuted Christians is a reminder for us all of the intimate consolation that God offers amid suffering, Pope Francis said at a Sunday vespers service.

“The Lord consoled them because there were people in the Church, the people of God – the old ladies, holy and good, many cloistered sisters... who prayed for them. And this is the mystery of the Church: when the Church asks the Lord to console his people, the Lord consoles humbly, even clandestinely. He consoles in the intimacy of the heart and he consoles with strength.”

“Woe to us if we seek another consolation” than in the Lord, the Pope said. “Woe to priests, religious, sisters, novices and the consecrated who seek consolation that is distant from the Lord!”

Albania lived under state-imposed atheism from 1967 to 1991, but priests and other religious leaders began to endure persecution when dictator Enver Hoxha took power in 1946.

The regime conducted a war against religions: almost 2,100 people, including Catholic priests and adherents of other religions, were brutally killed because of their religious beliefs.

Pope Francis spoke about the country’s history of persecution at a Sep. 21 vespers service at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Albania’s capital of Tirana.

He said he had been surprised to learn of the severity of Albania’s suffering.

He recounted seeing the images of Albania’s martyrs that lined his route from the airport to Mother Teresa Square. At the vesper service, the Pope also met an elderly priest and a nun persecuted under Albania’s oppressive twentieth century atheist dictatorship.

“One sees that this people still has memory of their martyrs, of those who have suffered greatly! A people of martyrs,” Pope Francis said.

“And today, I was touched by two of them.”

The Pope noted the “simplicity” of the priest’s and the nun’s speech even though they told of “much suffering.”

He suggested the reasons they could survive their tribulations could be found in the vesper service reading from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, which speaks of “the God of every consolation.”

God still consoled the persecuted despite their physical and mental suffering and their fears of being sent to the firing squad, he said.

“Blessed be God the Father, God of every consolation, who consoles us in all of our trials, in order that we may console those who we find in every kind of affliction, with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God,” the Pope said.

“We are sinners,” the Pope said. But in the martyrs, “the Lord was with us.”

“This is the way. Do not be discouraged!”

The Pope said that these martyrs have provided an example, but we must be an example for others. As we go home today, the Pope concluded, we might think: “Today we have touched the martyrs.”

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Tirana, Albania, Sep 21, 2014 / 12:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis visited an Albanian center for abandoned children on Sunday, emphasizing in his remarks that Christian charity can help bring oneself and others closer to God.

“This faith, working through charity, dislodges the mountains of indifference, of disbelief and of apathy, and opens hands and hearts to work for what is good and share this experience,” the Pope said in an evening speech Sept. 21. “Through humble gestures and simple acts of service to the least among us, the Good News that Jesus is risen and lives among us is proclaimed.”

“We see how faith brings light and hope in situations of grave hardship; we observe how faith is rekindled in hearts touched by the Spirit of Jesus who said, ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me’.”

Pope Francis’ remarks came at the Bethany Center in Albania’s capital city Tirana. The center cares for abandoned children and adolescents. He also met with representatives from other charities in Albania.

The Pope said that the center’s work shows that it is possible for people of different ethnicities and religions “to live together peacefully and fraternally.”

“Here differences do not prevent harmony, joy and peace, but rather become occasions for a greater mutual awareness and understanding,” he said. “The variety of religious experiences reveals a true and reverential love of neighbor; each religious community expresses itself through love and not violence, and is never ashamed of showing goodness!”

Pope Francis stressed the importance of doing good.

“Goodness is its own reward and draws us closer to God, who is the Supreme Good. It helps us to think like him, to see our lives in the light of his plan of love for each one of us, and enables us to delight in life’s daily joys, helping us in difficulties and in trials,” the Pope explained.

The Pope’s remarks included a bracing warning about the dangers of worldly wealth and power.

“Goodness offers infinitely more than money, which only deludes, because we have been created to receive the love of God and to offer it, not measuring everything in terms of money or power,” he said.

People “who frantically seek the key to existence in earthly riches, possessions and amusements” instead discover “estrangement and bewilderment.”

He said that giving of oneself “for the love of Jesus” gives birth to joy and hope while showing “how serving one’s brothers and sisters is transformed into an experience of sharing God’s kingdom.”

“The secret to a good life is found in loving and giving oneself for love’s sake. From here comes the strength to ‘sacrifice oneself joyfully,’ and thus the most demanding work is transformed into a source of a greater joy.”

“May the Lord Jesus and his Mother, the Virgin Mary, bless your association, this Bethany Center and the other centers which love has initiated and providence has built,” he said, asking for blessings on all volunteers, benefactors, and the children and adolescents the center serves.

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Seeing the Face of Christ in the Poor

Each Sunday, we hear St. Vincent’s name mentioned along with St. Louis and St. Rose Philippine Duchesne during the Eucharistic prayers. St. Louis we know was the King of France. We know St. Rose was a teacher and brought education to all children, especially the Native American Indians. We have heard of St. Vincent and we know he is associated with the poor and that the St. Vincent de Paul Society provides resources to those in need. St. Vincent was involved in the formation of priests and set up missionaries to go out among ordinary people and tell them about Jesus. About 150 years after his death, his missionaries came to the St. Louis area. They asked his intercession on their great mission of reaching out to the people in the wilderness of St. Louis, asking him to be our patron. 

In 1581, St. Vincent de Paul was born to poor farmers. He was the third son and learned how to tend the animals. His father thought this would be good for him, but Vincent was smart and everyone noticed. The neighbors convinced his father to send him to school and let one of his other brothers tend the animals. Therefore, Vincent went away to school. He got along very well and taught others. His teaching ability would become an asset to him and allow him many opportunities to bring others to Christ. Although, he lived almost 500 years ago, St. Vincent had a very interesting life. While making a journey by boat to a new city where he was assigned, St. Vincent was captured by pirates and sold into slavery. After years as a slave, his master decided to help him escape and chose to go with him. St. Vincent’s Christian example would lead his master to repent and return to the Catholic Church. 

The St. Vincent de Paul Chapel at the Cardinal Rigali Center

Everywhere St. Vincent lived and worked the example of his life would bring others to Christ. He was a tutor in a very rich household. He affected the parents of the children he tutored. In the 1500’s, dueling was the answer to any offense. Honor was everything. One day, the father of his students was in church praying before going off to duel. St. Vincent convinced the father that taking another’s life in a duel was cruel and God did not approve. The father amended his ways and followed the example of St. Vincent. The father and mother became St. Vincent’s greatest supporters and after the mother’s death, the father would go on to become a priest. 

This was the effect St. Vincent had on people. People would change their behaviors and amend their ways to live according to the church doctrines and follow the ways of Christ. St. Vincent had no desire to be rich or famous. Although he had influential friends, he was happy to stay working with the poor in every community. In a time when people lived extravagant lives with no regard to how the poor people lived, he would remind them of the vast differences in lifestyles. He found priests to be missionaries and formed Lady’s Charities. While volunteering for these charities, wealthier women would work alongside not so wealthy women to feed and shelter the poor. They founded hospitals and orphanages. Where there was a need, St. Vincent found ways to go to these people and meet them where they were. One day he decided to visit the prisoners who served their sentence rowing the large ships. The inhumane way in which these prisoners were treated saddened and shocked him. He appealed to the ship owners and gained permission to take care of these men. It was difficult work, but St. Vincent managed again to con-vert souls and bring more people to the Church. He said to his followers, “Love makes us see God and nothing else but God in each of those whom we love.” St. Vincent gave his life for others and taught everyone by his exam-ple. 

Each month our Pope has special intentions. He has general and missionary intentions. In September 2012, he asked God to send: “Help for the poorest Churches that Christian communities may have a growing willingness to send missionaries, priests, and lay people along with concrete resources to the poorest Churches.” On September 27, we celebrate St. Vincent de Paul’s feast day. This is an appropriate time to ask God to help the poorest. St. Vincent would approve, he once said, “By mutual support the strong will sustain the weak, and God’s work will be accomplished.” St. Vincent wants everyone to be an example of Christ in the world. To love all people as God loved us. --- Alethea Paradis, M.T.S.

 

St. Vincent de Paul's Legacy

Jesus said, “this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 15:12) As Christians we are called by these words of Christ to love and care for one another. The greatest way to outwardly express our love for one another is through charity- by donating our time, talent, and treasures to those in need.

There are many ways to get involved in the Catholic ministries in the Archdiocese of St. Louis that help the poor,
abused, neglected, elderly, disabled and lonely in our community, and one way is through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. 

“Serving Christ’s needy is the first purpose of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.”

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul provides services in crisis intervention, housing, criminal justice ministry, transportation, and health.

Photo courtesy of svdpstlouis.org

Most parishes have a Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference, which are “chapters” of the Society. To find volunteer opportunities with your parish SVDP conference, you can call your parish office or look at the list of SVDP conferences.

To volunteer or donate to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul call 314.881.6000 or donate online.

 

Read more about the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.


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St. Matthew, Apostle
9/21/2014 12:00:00 AM
Saint Matthew, the first-century tax collector turned apostle who chronicled the life and ministry of Christ in his Gospel, is celebrated by the Church today, September 21. Although relatively little is known about the life of St. Matthew, the account he wrote of Christ's ministry – traditionally considered to be the first of the four Gospels - is of inestimable value to the Church, particularly in its verification of Jesus as the Messiah. Eastern Catholics and the Orthodox churches celebrate St. Matthew on November 16, along with St. Fulvianus, a prince who is recorded in some traditions as converting from paganism after Matthew's martyrdom. The Gospel accounts of Mark and Luke, like Matthew's own, describe the encounter between Jesus and Matthew under the surprising circumstances of Matthew's tax-collecting duties. Jewish publicans, who collected taxes on behalf of the Roman rulers of first-century Judea, were objects of scorn and even hatred among their own communities, since they worked on behalf of the occupying power and often earned their living by collecting more than the state's due. Jesus most likely first encountered Matthew near the house of Peter, in Capernaum near the Sea of Galilee. The meeting of the two was dramatic, as Matthew's third-person account in his Gospel captured: “As Jesus passed on,� the ninth chapter recounts, “he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, 'Follow me'. And he got up and followed him.� Matthew's calling into Jesus' inner circle was a dramatic gesture of the Messiah's universal message and mission, causing some religious authorities of the Jewish community to wonder: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?� Jesus' significant response indicated a central purpose of his ministry: “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners." A witness to Christ's resurrection after death, as well as his ascension into heaven and the events of Pentecost, Matthew also recorded Jesus' instruction for the apostles to “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.� Like 11 of the 12 apostles, St. Matthew is traditionally thought to have died as a martyr while preaching the Gospel. The Roman Martyrology describes his death as occurring in a territory near present-day Egypt. Both the saint himself, and his Gospel narrative, have inspired important works of religious art, ranging from the ornate illuminated pages of the Book of Kells in the ninth century, to the Saint Matthew Passion of J.S. Bach. Three famous paintings of Caravaggio, depicting St. Matthew's calling, inspiration and martyrdom, hang within the Contarelli Chapel in Rome's Church of St. Louis of the French. Reflecting on St. Matthew's calling, from the pursuit of dishonest financial gain to the heights of holiness and divine inspiration, Pope Benedict said in 2006 that “in the figure of Matthew, the Gospels present to us a true and proper paradox: those who seem to be the farthest from holiness can even become a model of the acceptance of God's mercy and offer a glimpse of its marvelous effects in their own lives.�
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First Reading - Is 55: 6-9
9/21/2014 12:00:00 AM
6 Seek ye the Lord, while he may be found: call upon him, while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unjust man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God: for he is bountiful to forgive. 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts. 
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