Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.
The Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, Pope & Doctor of the Church.
Lessons from the primary feria for yesterday,* according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Romans 14: 7-12.
• Psalm 27: 1, 4, 13-14.
• Luke 15: 1-10.
…or, from the proper:
• Sirach 39: 6-11.
• Psalm 37: 3-6, 30-31.
• Matthew 16: 13-19.
…or, any lessons from the common of Pastors for a Pope, or the common of Doctors of the Church.
If the option indicated in the first footnote below had not been taken, the lessons for the Thirty-First Friday would be as follows:
• Romans 15: 14-21.
• Psalm 98: 1-4.
• Luke 16: 1-8.
The Third Class Feast of Saint Andrew Avellino, Confessor; and, the Commemoration of Saints Tryphon, Respicius & Nympha, Martyrs.**
Lessons from the common "Os justi…" of a Confessor not a Bishop, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Ecclesiasticus 31: 8-11.
• Psalm 91: 13-14, 3.
• Luke 12: 35-40.
If a Mass for the commemoration is taken, lessons from the proper:
• Romans 8: 18-23.
• Psalm 78: 10, 2.
• Luke 12: 1-8.
The Twenty-Second Friday after Pentecost; and, the Feast of the Holy Apostles Erastus, Olympas, Rhodion & their Companions.***
Lessons from the pentecostarion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• I Thessalonians 2: 14-19.
• Luke 13: 31-35.
7:53 AM 11/10/2017 — When the Roman Missal was re-translated some time ago I wasn’t serving in the Latin Church; I was pastor of two Ruthenian Catholic parishes and, while I always had faculties to function in the Latin Church, being that I was technically a priest of the Latin Church, I never had the time to assist any Roman Catholic parish near me by taking an occasional Mass; I had two churches of my own. When my service in the Ruthenian Church was over and I returned to my own diocese—and came to this Shrine—I had to get used to a Missal I had never seen, since the last Roman Missal I had used was the Second Edition, the translation of which was very different, as I’m sure many of you remember. The Third Edition we now have is superior in many ways, but the most important improvement—as far as I’m concerned—is in the Collects, what the Second Edition called the Opening Prayer. In the Second Edition, these prayers had been so dumbed-down and made so politically correct that they bore very little resemblance to the Latin originals. Some of the most beautiful ones in the current edition occur this time of year in this post-Pentecost season, and many—if not most—of them were composed by the man whose memorial we observe today: the outstanding Pope and Doctor of the Church, Leo I or, as is known today, Leo the Great.
He was an Etruscan by birth, and was Pope when Attila the Hun invaded Italy. He was a great preacher, and by the shear force of his eloquence he was able to persuade Attila to bypass Rome, leaving it unharmed. He pulled off the same stunt again when Genseric threatened to invade and burn the city. He fought against a number of virulent heresies that threatened the true Faith, eventually calling the Council of Chalcedon to condemn them. He built a number of churches, built a monastery near Saint Peter’s, and finally died on this day in the year 461 after having served as Pope for twenty-two years, leaving behind a voluminous collection of eloquent writings.
So, if you’ve ever paid particular attention to the Collect prayed by the priest at the beginning of Holy Mass and been struck by it’s theology and beauty, you owe a debt of gratitude to Pope Saint Leo.
But now we must turn our attention to today’s Gospel lesson—which is actually yesterday's—which presents to us another of those instances in which our Lord maneuvers Himself into the company of sinners and is castigated for it. Sometimes He answers the criticism and sometimes He doesn't. My favorite come-back is the one He used when he invited himself to the home of the tax collector, Zacchaeus: “It is not the healthy who need the physician” (Mark 2: 17 Knox). That was a one-liner; in today's Gospel lesson He's a bit more verbose and actually answers His critics with two parables: one about a shepherd who lost a sheep, and one about a woman who lost a coin. The bottom line is that something has been lost and must be found.
Teresa of Avila, in her own peculiar way,—and she could be peculiar at times—likens the zeal of our Lord for souls to the woman who is compelled by some defect of self-esteem to seek out the one man she can't have, as if attracting him presents a challenge to her vanity. She's not ascribing to our Lord the vanity; she's ascribing to Him the drive, the compulsion to pursue the one soul who has not come seeking Him. In the case of Zacchaeus, our Lord sees him in a tree and perceives that he's interested enough to try and get a better look, but would never approach our Lord on his own initiative; so, our Lord provides the initiative for him and rudely invites himself to Zacchaeus' house, in much the same way that a woman will scan the face of a man to see if he betrays some kind of hidden signal that he's attracted to her, the only difference being that the vain woman will often see signals that aren't really there. Saint Teresa actually puts herself in the woman's place, and meditates: “Ah, how hard a thing am I asking of Thee, my true God! I ask Thee to love one who loves Thee not, to open to one who has not called upon Thee, to give health to one who prefers to be sick and who even goes about in search of sickness” (Exclamations of the Soul to God, #8).
You can see why the Spanish Mystics were suspect for a long time, as their highly romanticized verbal images require some maturity to process properly. More to the liking of the Church at the time was the more manly image provided by Pope Saint Gregory the Great, who likened our Lord's parables about the lost sheep and the lost coin to a commander in battle: the soldier who flees the field in cowardice, but who later has a change of heart and returns to the fray, is more valuable than the soldier who never ran away but who never displayed any particular valor either. Both images provide us with a way to view our own internal struggles. The most common complaint a priest hears in Confession from souls sincerely striving for perfection is how they are not making any progress, how they come to confess the same faults over and over again, how there never seems to be any light at the end of the tunnel.
Father Francis Fernandez, a priest of Opus Dei, reflecting on today's Gospel lesson, reminds us of why our Lord allows these struggles in our lives: in order to increase our desire for Him, which only happens if we successfully resist the added temptation to lapse into discouragement. “Whenever we begin again,” he says, “each and every day, our heart is filled with joy—and so is the Master's. Every time we allow Jesus to enter into our life we please God immeasurably. The Sacred Heart of Jesus ‘overflows with joy whenever a lost soul has been recovered.’”†
At the beginning of this month we observed the remembrance of All Souls, and in a more Catholic age the words of the Dies Iræ from the Requiem Mass would be fresh in our minds: Quærens me, sedisti lassus: Redemisti Crucem passus: Tantus labor non sit cassus. “Lord, you have worn yourself out looking for me: O that your labors will not have been in vain.”
* The lessons given here are those indicated for the Thirty-First Thursday of Ordinary Time. From the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 358: "Should, however, the continuous reading during the week from time to time be interrupted, on account of some Solemnity or Feast, or some particular celebration, then the Priest shall be permitted, bearing in mind the scheme of readings for the entire week, either to combine parts omitted with other readings or to decide which readings are to be given preference over others." Inasmuch as yesterday was the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Baslica, the lessons for which displaced these, I have chosen to replace today's lessons with yesterday's.
** Andrew Avellino was a holy priest who served as a member of the ecclesiastical court in Naples before entering the congregation of Clerks Regular, known today as the Theatine Order. He died at the foot of the Altar just as he was beginning Holy Mass in the year 1608.
Tryphon and his convert, the tribune Respicius, were scourged to death at Nicea under Decius in 250. Nympha was a Sicilian virgin; the date and circumstances of her martyrdom are unknown, but believed to be sometime in the beginning of the fourth century. Her commemoration is linked to Tryphon's and Respicius' because of writings by the monk Theodoric in 1005 which mention her relics being housed with theirs, with them eventually being transferred to the Church of St. Augustine in Rome by Pope St. Pius V.
*** Olympus and Rhodion were Roman Christians to whom St. Paul sends his greetings at the end of his Epistle to the Romans. Their companions were Sosipater, Tertius, Erastes and Quartus, who were Corinthian Christians, Tertius being the scribe who penned the Epistle to the Romans as it was dictated to him by the Apostle.
Some Eastern Churches add to this feast the Holy Martyr Orestes who was Treasurer of the City of Rome.
† In Conversation with God, vol. 5, p. 399, quoting G. Chevot, The Gospel in the Open Air.