A Saint’s Advice for Discouraged Priests

From Fr. Anthony Perkins at Good Guys Wear Black – I came across this gem while preparing for a Bible Study class on the readings for the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee (esp. 2 Timothy 3:10-15).  This mirrors the advice given to a friend by his doctor when my friend complained about the pain an upcoming procedure was sure to inflict.  In his best pastoral bedside manner the doctor replied to my friend’s complaints by saying; “Suck it up, buttercup.”  My friend went through the procedure and is better for it.  Life is hard.  Priesting is hard.  People are often thoughtless or even mean.  This doesn’t excuse their behavior, but it does help pastors frame their understanding of and place in it.  Note that I have paraphrased parts of the translation to make it easier to read. 

 

by St. Leo the Great, Pope of Rome

Leo, the bishop, to Rusticus, bishop of Gallia Narbonensis.

I received your letter with joy, my brother.  I understand that two of your priests, Sabinian and Leo, caused you problems and expressed their dissatisfaction with your leadership.  I also note that they have withdrawn their complaints against you.  It is up to you how and whether to discipline them, but I do advise you that love is to guide all applications of spiritual medicine to the sick.  This requires that the healer follows the guidance of Scripture which says “be not over just”.  As such,  you should act with mildness towards these who in their zeal for chastity seem to have exceeded the limits of vengeance, lest the devil, who deceived the adulterers, should triumph over the avengers of the adultery.

Having said that, I am surprised, my beloved, that you are so upset by what happened that you say you would rather be relieved of the labors of your assignment and live in quietness and ease than continue in the office committed to you. But since the LORD says,

“blessed is he who shall persevere unto the end,”

where will this blessed perseverance come from, if not from the strength of patience in the face of such struggles? For as the Apostle proclaims,

“All who would live godly in Christ shall suffer persecution.”

Sword, fire, and the like are not the only sources of persecution against the Christian religion; the most common and most dangerous persecution is often inflicted by nonconformity of practice and persistent disobedience and the barbs of ill-natured tongues.

Moreover, seeing as how all members of the Church are always liable to these attacks, and no portion of the faithful are free from temptation, so that a life neither of ease nor of labour is devoid of danger, who shall guide the ship amidst the waves of the sea if the helmsman quits his post? Who shall guard the sheep from the treachery of wolves, if the shepherd himself be not on the watch? Who will resist the thieves and robbers, if love of quietude draws away the watchman from the strictness of his watch?

One must continue, therefore, in the office committed to him and in the task undertaken. Justice must be steadfastly upheld and mercy lovingly extended. Not men, but their sins must be hated. The proud must be rebuked, the weak must be borne with; and those sins which require severer chastisement must be dealt with in the spirit not of vindictiveness but of desire to heal.

And if a fiercer storm of tribulation falls upon us, let us not be terror-stricken as if we had to overcome the disaster in our own strength, since both our Counsel and our Strength is Christ, and through Him we can do all things, without Him nothing.  He is the One, Who, to confirm the preachers of the Gospel and the ministers of the mysteries, says,

“Lo, I am with you all the days even to the consummation of the age.”

And again He says,

“these things I have spoken unto you that in me ye may have peace. In this world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, because I have overcome the world.”

The promises, which are as plain as they can be, we ought not to let any causes of offense to weaken, lest we should seem ungrateful to GOD for making us His chosen vessels, since His assistance is powerful as His promises are true.

You can read the entire letter here.

HT: Good Guys Wear Black

The Transfiguration, the Manifestation of the Beloved Son

transfiguration

by St. Leo the Great

For the apostles, who really needed to be strengthened in faith and initiated into a knowledge of every thing, from that miracle comes another lesson. In fact, Moses and Elijah — the Law and the Prophets — appeared hobnobbing with the Lord. This happened so as to perfectly accomplish through the presence of five people what is written:

“Every word is confirmed, if delivered in the presence of two or threewitnesses “(Deut. 19.15 Mt 18:16).

To proclaim it, the two trumpets of the Old and New Testament resound in full agreement and everything needed to witness to it in ancient times is reunited with the teaching of the Gospel! The pages of both of Testaments, in fact, confirm each other, and he who was promised by the ancient symbols under the veil of mystery is now manifested by the blaze of his glory. It is He – as St. John would say:

“The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came to us through Jesus Christ” (Jn 1.17),

in whom has been fulfilled not only the promises by the prophetic figures, but also the meaning of the precepts of the Law , because, by his presence, he teaches the truth of prophecy, and by His grace, makes possible the practice of the commandments.

Inspired by the revelation of the mysteries and taken up by contempt and disgust for earthly things, the apostle Peter was in ecstasy at the desire of eternal things, and, filled with the joy of all this vision, wanted to live with Jesus, there where His glory was manifested. That’s why he said:

“Lord, it is good for us to be here if you want, we here three tabernacles, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Matt. 17.4).

But the Lord did not reply to this suggestion, certainly not to show that this desire was bad, but to signify that it was out of place. The world could not be saved without the death of Christ, you see. Thus, the Lord’s example calls on the faith of believers to understand that, no doubt against the promise of happiness, we must nevertheless, in the trials of this life, ask for patience before glory; the happiness of the kingdom can not, in fact, precede the time of suffering.

And so, while he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them and a voice from the cloud said,

“This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, listen to him” (Mt 17.5).

The Father, no doubt, was present in the Son, and in that light that the Lord had measured out to the disciples, the essence of Him who generates is not separated from the generated Only Begotten, but to highlight the proper characteristics of each Person, the Voice coming out of the cloud announced the Father to human ears, just as the splendor coming forth from the body revealed the Son to human eyes. When they heard the voice, the disciples fell face down, very frightened, trembling not only before the majesty of the Father, but also before that of the Son: through the motion of a deeper understanding in fact, they understood that the Divinity of both was unique. And since there was no hesitation in faith there was discretion in fear. That divine testimony was so wide and varied, and the power of words made them realize more than the sound of the voice can express.

In fact, when the Father says:

“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, listen to him,”

one should not perhaps understand clearly: “This is my Son,” for which to be “from me” and to be “with me” is a reality that is not time-bound? Neither is He who Generates prior to Him who is Generated; nor is the one Generated posterior to the One who Generates.

“This is my Son,” who does not take away from me my Divinity, nor does He divide power, nor eternity.

“This is my Son,” — He is not adopted, but really, not indeed created, but generated from me, no different in nature and made similar unto me. But He is of my very being and was born equal to me.

“This is my Son”, through whom all things were made and without whom nothing was made” (Jn 1.3): all that I do he also does it (Jn 5.19) and as I work, he works with me without a difference. In fact, the Father is in the Son just as the Son is in the Father (Jn 10:38), and our unity never separates. And though I the one who generates is different from the one generated, it is not however allowed to have a different opinion about him that one can have of me.

“This is my Son,” who did not count equality of with me something to be grasped at (Phil. 2.6), or to usurp, appropriating it for himself; rather, while remaining in the condition of his glory, he, to complete the design of the restoration of mankind, brought to humility the immutable Divinity to the condition of a servant.
To Him, therefore, in whom is all my pleasure, and whose teachings I manifest, whose humility glorifies me — listen to him without hesitation, for he is truth and life (Jn 14.6), he is my strength and my wisdom (1 Cor 1.24).

“Listen to Him,” he whom the Mysteries of the Law announced; whom the voice of the prophets sang about.

“Listen to Him,” he who has redeemed the world with his blood, who has chained the devil and who has snatched away the spoil(Matt. 12:29), who has torn up the document of our debts (Col. 2:14), and the covenant that oppressed us.

“Listen to Him,” he who opens the way to heaven, and with the agony of the cross, prepares there the stairs leading up to the Kingdom. Why are you afraid of being redeemed? Why are you afraid of being dissolved from your chains? Let it happen that, what I wish, Christ also wills. Throw away that carnal fear and arm yourself with the constancy that inspires faith. It is unworthy of you, in fact, to be afraid of what in the Lord’s passion you would not fear in death, with his help.

These things, beloved, were said not only for the good of those who heard it then with their ears. Rather, in the person of the three apostles, it is the whole Church which learns what they saw with their eyes and perceived with their ears. May it strengthen the faith of all according to the preaching of the holy Gospel, and let no one ashamed of the cross of Christ, through which the world has been redeemed. Consequently, let no one be afraid of suffering for righteousness (1 Peter 3.14), nor hesitate to receive the promised reward, because it is through labor that we are led rest, and life through death. In fact, he took upon himself the weakness of our own lowliness; and — if we stay with Him (Jn 15.9) in his confession and his love — we are winners of what he has won and will receive what he promised.

Whether it is then to perform the commandments or whether to endure the hardships of life, the voice of the Father which has sounded forth must always resound in our ears:

“This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, listen to him”;

for He lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.

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The Transfiguration, the Manifestation of the Beloved Son

The Holy Spirit Rules the Church

leo_the_great

by St. Leo the Great

The bishop of Rome during difficult times, he was an eminent scholar of Scripture and rhetoric. During an invasion by Attila the Hun, St. Leo met him outside the gates of Rome. After some short words, to everyone’s surprise, Attila turned and left. Three years later, during an invasion by Genseric the Vandal, St. Leo’s intercession again saved the Eternal City from destruction. Now that’s great preaching. Note the final paragraph and ask yourself who is still doing it.

I. The Giving of the Law by Moses Prepared the Way for the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

The hearts of all Catholics, beloved, realize that to-day’s solemnity is to be honored as one of the chief feasts, nor is there any doubt that great respect is due to this day, which the Holy Spirit has hallowed by the miracle of His most excellent gift. For from the day on which the Lord ascended up above all heavenly heights to sit down at God the Father’s right hand, this is the tenth which has shone, and the fiftieth from His Resurrection, being the very day on which it began, and containing in itself great revelations of mysteries both new and old, by which it is most manifestly revealed that Grace was fore-announced through the Law and the Law fulfilled through Grace.

For as of old, when the Hebrew nation were released from the Egyptians, on the fiftieth day after the sacrificing of the lamb the Law was given on Mount Sinai, so after the suffering of Christ, wherein the true Lamb of God was slain on the fiftieth day from His Resurrection, the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles and the multitude of believers, so that the earnest Christian may easily perceive that the beginnings of the Old Testament were preparatory to the beginnings of the Gospel, and that the second covenant was rounded by the same Spirit that had instituted the first.

II. How Marvelous Was the Gift of “Divers Tongues”

For as the Apostles’ story testifies:

“while the days of Pentecost were fulfilled and all the disciples were together in the same place, there occurred suddenly from heaven a sound as of a violent wind coming, and filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them divided tongues as of fire and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance.”

Oh! how swift are the words of wisdom. and where God is the Master, how quickly is what is taught, learnt. No interpretation is required for understanding, no practice for using, no time for studying, but the Spirit of Truth blowing where He wills, the languages peculiar to each nation become common property in the mouth of the Church. And therefore from that day the trumpet of the Gospel-preaching has sounded loud: from that day the showers of gracious gifts, the rivers of blessings, have watered every desert and all the dry land, since to renew the face of the earth the Spirit of God

“moved over the waters,”

and to drive away the old darkness flashes of new light shone forth, when by the blaze of those busy tongues was kindled the Lord’s bright Word and fervent eloquence, in which to arouse the understanding, and to consume sin there lay both a capacity of enlightenment and a power of burning.

III. The Three Persons in the Trinity are Perfectly Equal in All Things

But although, dearly-beloved, the actual form of the thing done was exceeding wonderful, and undoubtedly in that exultant chorus of all human languages the Majesty of the Holy Spirit was present, yet no one must think that His Divine substance appeared in what was seen with bodily eyes. For His Nature, which is invisible and shared in common with the Father and the Son, showed the character of His gift and work by the outward sign that pleased Him, but kept His essential property within His own Godhead: because human sight can no more perceive the Holy Spirit than it can the Father or the Son. For in the Divine Trinity nothing is unlike or unequal, and all that can be thought concerning Its substance admits of no diversity either in power or glory or eternity. And while in the property of each Person the Father is one, the Son is another, and the Holy Spirit is another, yet the Godhead is not distinct and different; for whilst the Son is the Only begotten of the Father, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son, not in the way that every creature is the creature of the Father and the Son, but as living and having power with Both, and eternally subsisting of That Which is the Father and the Son. And hence when the Lord before the day of His Passion promised the coming of the Holy Spirit to His disciples, He said,

“I have yet many things to say to you, but ye cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of Truth shall have come, He shall guide you into all the Truth. For He shall not speak from Himself, but whatsoever He shall have heard, He shall speak and shall announce things to come unto you. All things that the Father hath are Mine: therefore said I that He shall take of Mine, and shall announce it to you.”

Accordingly, there are not some things that are the Father’s, and other the Son’s, and other the Holy Spirit’s: but all things whatsoever the Father has, the Son also has, and the Holy Spirit also has: nor was there ever a time when this communion did not exist, because with Them to have all things is to always exist. In them let no times, no grades, no differences be imagined, and, if no one can explain that which is true concerning God, let no one dare to assert what is not true.

For it is more excusable not to make a full statement concerning His ineffable Nature than to frame an actually wrong definition. And so whatever loyal hearts can conceive of the Father’s eternal and unchangeable Glory, let them at the same time understand it of the Son and of the Holy Spirit without any separation or difference. For we confess this blessed Trinity to be One God for this reason, because in these three Persons there is no diversity either of substance, or of power, or of will, or of operation.

IV. The Macedonian Heresy is as Blasphemous as the Arian

As therefore we abhor the Arians, who maintain a difference between the Father and the Son, so also we abhor the Macedonians, who, although they ascribe equality to the Father and the Son, yet think the Holy Spirit to be of a lower nature, not considering that they thus fall into that blasphemy, which is not to be forgiven either in the present age or in the judgment to come, as the Lord says:

“whosoever shall have spoken a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him, but he that shall have spoken against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him either in this age or in the age to come.”

And so to persist in this impiety is unpardonable, because it cuts him off from Him, by Whom he could confess: nor will he ever attain to healing pardon, who has no Advocate to plead for him. For from Him comes the invocation of the Father, from Him come the tears of penitents, from Him come the groans of suppliants, and

“no one can call Jesus the Lord save in the Holy Spirit,”

Whose Omnipotence as equal and Whose Godhead as one, with the Father and the Son, the Apostle most clearly proclaims, saying,

“there are divisions of graces but the same Spirit; and the divisions of ministrations but the same Lord; and there are divisions of operations but the same God, Who works all things in all.”

V. The Spirit’s Work is Still Continued in The Church

By these and other numberless proofs, dearly-beloved, with which the authority of the Divine utterances is ablaze, let us with one mind be incited to pay reverence to Whitsuntide (Pentecost), exulting in honor of the Holy Spirit, through Whom the whole catholic Church is sanctified, and every rational soul quickened; Who is the Inspirer of the Faith, the Teacher of Knowledge, the Fount of Love, the Seal of Chastity, and the Cause of all Power. Let the minds of the faithful rejoice, that throughout the world One God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is praised by the confession of all tongues, and that that sign of His Presence, which appeared in the likeness of fire, is still perpetuated in His work and gift.

For the Spirit of Truth Himself makes the house of His glory shine with the brightness of His light, and will have nothing dark nor lukewarm in His temple. And it is through His aid and teaching also that the purification of fasts and alms has been established among us. For this venerable day is followed by a most wholesome practice, which all the saints have ever found most profitable to them, and to the diligent observance of which we exhort you with a shepherd’s care, to the end that if any blemish has been contracted in the days just passed through heedless negligence, it may be atoned for by the discipline of fasting and corrected by pious devotion.

On Wednesday and Friday, therefore, let us fast, and on Saturday for this very purpose keep vigil with accustomed devotion, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

 

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Sermon on the Day of his Ordination

by St. Leo the Great

leo_the_greatHaving been elected in absence he returns thanks for the kindness and earnestly demands the prayers of his church

“Let my mouth speak the praise of the Lord,”

and my breath and spirit, my flesh and tongue bless His holy Name. For it is a sign, not of a modest, but an ungrateful mind, to keep silence on the kindnesses of God: and it is very meet to begin our duty as consecrated pontiff with the sacrifices of the Lord’s praise.

Because

“in our humility”

the Lord

“has been mindful of us “

and has blessed us: because

“He alone has done great wonders for me,”

so that your holy affection for me reckoned me present, though my long journey had forced me to be absent. Therefore I give and always shall give thanks to our God for all the things with which He has recompensed me. Your favorable opinion also I acknowledge publicly, paying you the thanks I owe, and thus showing that I understand how much respect, love and fidelity your affectionate zeal could expend on me who long with a shepherd’s anxiety for the safety of your souls, who have passed so conscientious a judgment on me, with absolutely no deserts of mine to guide you.

I entreat you, therefore, by the mercies of the Lord, aid with your prayers him whom you have sought out by your solicitations that both the Spirit of grace may abide in me and that your judgment may not change. May He who inspired you with such unanimity of purpose, vouchsafe to us all in common the blessing of peace: so that all the days of my life being ready for the service of Almighty God, and for my duties towards you, I may with confidence entreat the Lord:

“Holy Father, keep in Your name those whom You have given me,” (John 17:11)

and while you ever go on unto salvation, may

“my soul magnify the Lord,” (Luke 1:46)

and in the retribution of the judgment to come may the account of my priesthood so be rendered to the just Judge that through your good deeds you may be my joy and my crown, who by your good will have given an earnest testimony to me in this present life.

On The Lord’s Ascension II

by St. Leo the Great

Our father among the saints, Leo the Great was the bishop of Rome during difficult times. He was an eminent scholar of Scripture and rhetoric. During an invasion by Attila the Hun, St. Leo met him outside the gates of Rome. After some short words, to everyone’s surprise, Attila turned and left.

Three years later, during an invasion by Genseric the Vandal, St. Leo’s intercession again saved the Eternal City from destruction.

The Ascension Completes Our Faith in Him, Who Was God As Well as Man.

The mystery of our salvation, dearly-beloved, which the Creator of the universe valued at the price of His blood, has now been carried out under conditions of humiliation from the day of His bodily birth to the end of His Passion.

Continue reading On The Lord’s Ascension II

On The Lord’s Ascension I

by St. Leo the Great

St. Leo the GreatOur father among the saints, Leo the Great was the bishop of Rome during difficult times. He was an eminent scholar of Scripture and rhetoric. During an invasion by Attila the Hun, St. Leo met him outside the gates of Rome. After some short words, to everyone’s surprise, Attila turned and left.

Three years later, during an invasion by Genseric the Vandal, St. Leo’s intercession again saved the Eternal City from destruction.

I. The Events Recorded as Happening After the Resurrection Were Intended to Convince Its Truth.

Since the blessed and glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby the Divine power in three days raised the true Temple of God, which the wickedness of the Jews had overthrown, the sacred forty days, dearly-beloved are to-day ended, which by most holy appointment were devoted to our most profitable instruction, so that, during the period that the Lord thus protracted the lingering of His bodily presence, our faith in the Resurrection might be fortified by needful proofs.

Continue reading On The Lord’s Ascension I

Sermon on the Day of His Ordination

by St. Leo the Great

Our father among the saints, Leo the Great was the bishop of Rome during difficult times. He was an eminent scholar of Scripture and rhetoric. During an invasion by Attila the Hun, St. Leo met him outside the gates of Rome. After some short words, to everyone’s surprise, Attila turned and left. Three years later, during an invasion by Genseric the Vandal, St. Leo’s intercession again saved the Eternal City from destruction.

Having been elected in absence he returns thanks for the kindness and earnestly demands the prayers of his church

“Let my mouth speak the praise of the Lord,”

and my breath and spirit, my flesh and tongue bless His holy Name. For it is a sign, not of a modest, but an ungrateful mind, to keep silence on the kindnesses of God: and it is very meet to begin our duty as consecrated pontiff with the sacrifices of the Lord’s praise.

Because

“in our humility”

the Lord

“has been mindful of us “

and has blessed us: because

“He alone has done great wonders for me,”

so that your holy affection for me reckoned me present, though my long journey had forced me to be absent. Therefore I give and always shall give thanks to our God for all the things with which He has recompensed me. Your favorable opinion also I acknowledge publicly, paying you the thanks I owe, and thus showing that I understand how much respect, love and fidelity your affectionate zeal could expend on me who long with a shepherd’s anxiety for the safety of your souls, who have passed so conscientious a judgment on me, with absolutely no deserts of mine to guide you.

I entreat you, therefore, by the mercies of the Lord, aid with your prayers him whom you have sought out by your solicitations that both the Spirit of grace may abide in me and that your judgment may not change. May He who inspired you with such unanimity of purpose, vouchsafe to us all in common the blessing of peace: so that all the days of my life being ready for the service of Almighty God, and for my duties towards you, I may with confidence entreat the Lord:

“Holy Father, keep in Your name those whom You have given me,”John 17:11

and while you ever go on unto salvation, may

“my soul magnify the Lord,” Luke 1:46

and in the retribution of the judgment to come may the account of my priesthood so be rendered to the just Judge that through your good deeds you may be my joy and my crown, who by your good will have given an earnest testimony to me in this present life.

Transfiguration, Law and Grace

by St. Leo the Great

The Lord reveals his glory in the presence of chosen witnesses. His body is like that of the rest of mankind, but he makes it shine with such splendor that his face becomes like the sun in glory, and his garments as white as snow.

The great reason for this transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of his disciples, and to prevent the humiliation of his voluntary suffering from disturbing the faith of those who had witnessed the surpassing glory that lay concealed.

With no less forethought he was also providing a firm foundation for the hope of holy Church. The whole body of Christ was to understand the kind of transformation that it would receive as his gift. the members of that body were to look forward to a share in that glory which first blazed out in Christ their head.

The Lord had himself spoken of this when he foretold the splendor of his coming: Then the just will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Saint Paul the apostle bore witness to this same truth when he said:

I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not to be compared to the future glory that is to be revealed in us.

In another place he says:

You are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

This marvel of the transfiguration contains another lesson for the apostles, to strengthen them and lead them into the fullness of knowledge. Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets, appeared with the Lord in conversation with him. This was in order to fulfil exactly, through the presence of these five men, the text which says: Before two or three witnesses every word is ratified. What word could be more firmly established, more securely based, than the word which is proclaimed by the trumpets of both old and new testaments, sounding in harmony, and by the utterances of ancient prophecy and the teaching of the Gospel, in full agreement with each other?

The writings of the two testaments support each other. The radiance of the transfiguration reveals clearly and unmistakably the one who had been promised by signs foretelling him under the veils of mystery. As Saint John says:

The law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

In him the promise made through the shadows of prophecy stands revealed, along with the full meaning of the precepts of the law. He is the one who teaches the truth of the prophecy through his presence, and makes obedience to the commandments possible through grace.

In the preaching of the holy Gospel all should receive a strengthening of their faith. No one should be ashamed of the cross of Christ, through which the world has been redeemed.

No one should fear to suffer for the sake of justice; no one should lose confidence in the reward that has been promised. The way to rest is through toil, the way to life is through death. Christ has taken on himself the whole weakness of our lowly human nature. If then we are steadfast in our faith in him and in our love for him, we win the victory that he has won, we receive what he has promised.

When it comes to obeying the commandments or enduring adversity, the words uttered by the Father should always echo in our ears:

This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him.

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