Monday, May 3, 2010

The Apostles Sts. Philip and James - "Father Fitz" - Clara's First Holy Communion

Today we venerate in the liturgy two lesser known members of Our Lord's group of twelve apostles.

Saint Philip was one of the first chosen disciples of Christ. On the way from Judea to Galilee Our Lord found Philip, and said, “Follow Me.” Philip straightway obeyed; and then in his zeal and charity sought to win Nathaniel also, saying, “We have found Him of whom Moses and the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth.” And when Nathaniel in wonder asked, “Can any good come out of Nazareth?” Philip simply answered, “Come and see,” and brought him to Jesus.

Another saying of this Apostle is preserved for us by Saint John. Christ in His last discourse had spoken of His Father; and Philip exclaimed, in the fervor of his thirst for God, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough!” The tradition of the ancients has established that he died a martyr at Hierapolis in Phyrgia. There the remains of a church known to be dedicated to him have been identified, north of the entrance to the great necropolis. His relics were later transported to Rome, to the church of the Holy Apostles.

Saint James the Less (the Younger), perhaps the author of the canonical Epistle, was the son of Alpheus, the brother of Saint Jude and a cousin of Our Lord, whom he is said to have resembled. Saint Paul tells us that he was favored by a special apparition of Christ after the Resurrection (I Corinthians 15:7). On the dispersion of the Apostles among the nations, Saint James remained as Bishop of Jerusalem, where the Jews held in such high veneration his purity, mortification, and prayer, that they named him the Just. He governed that church for 30 years before his martyrdom.

Hegesippus, the earliest of the Church’s historians, has handed down many traditions of Saint James’s sanctity. Saint James was a celibate Nazarite consecrated to God; he drank no wine and wore no sandals. He prostrated himself so long and so often in prayer that the skin of his knees was hardened like a camel’s hoof. It is said that the Jews, out of respect, used to touch the hem of his garment. He was indeed a living proof of his own words, “The wisdom that is from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, modest, ready to listen, full of mercy and good fruits” (James 3:17).

James sat beside Saint Peter and Saint Paul at the Council of Jerusalem. When Saint Paul at a later time escaped the fury of the Jews by appealing to Caesar, the people took vengeance on James, and crying out, “The just one has erred!” stoned him to death. During his martyrdom he prayed for his persecutors in the same words pronounced by Jesus: “Heavenly Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

[Sources: Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894]

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Family and Friends, Joys and Sorrows...

At Eastertime, during a quick trip to Montreal, I was able to visit with long-time priest-friend Father J. David Fitzpatrick. I knew he had not been well--he had been diagnosed with cancer--so it was good to get caught up with him (we had seen each other only fleetingly since his celebration in 2007 of the Golden Anniversary of his priestly ordination at St. Ignatius Loyola Parish.

Father Fitz was posted to our parish of St. Rita in Ahuntsic for a month during the summer of his ordination, then permanently that fall. We became friends and he encouraged my vocation, especially when it took a turn from a call to the diocesan priesthood towards the Jesuits. He could see it coming a mile away and gave me his blessing. During the quarter century he was at St. Ignatius, I would drop by to concelebrate Mass with him (even after becoming a bishop he generally presided and I in effect served and concelebrated with him, though there were times he insisted I preside). He always told the people, "you know my friend Terry" before he gave his simple yet touching daily homilies.

Afterwards we'd go back to the kitchen for coffee and toast that he prepared for me and we would chat, getting caught on the latest news of friends, family and the church local or universal. Regularly we were interrupted as there were folks who dropped in for conversation, getting his bear hug greeting that always seemed appropriate coming from him.

A few days ago, his condition deteriorated, so that he is now in palliative care. Please keep in your prayers this wonderful servant of the gospel and of the love of Jesus.

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Following the long flight home from Rome on Saturday, yesterday was a full day with Confirmation celebrations at Paroisse St. Mathieu in Hammond and Paroisse Sainte Felicite, Clarence Creek in the morning and the Wedding Anniversaries Mass in the afternoon at the Cathedral (more that a hundred couples celebrating 5 to 65 years of marriage were registered for the Mass of Thanksgiving and the presentation of certificates after. Photos of these events will appear in the next few days; this will be a significant catch-up, wrap-up week.

These commitments kept me from attending the First Holy Communion of my niece Clara at the Ascension of Our Lord Parish in Westmount/Montreal.

Here's a picture of this pretty young lady taken at Easter. Congratulations!

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