|How to Get Thrown Out of the Yale Club.
The Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours.
Lessons from the secondary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• II John 4-9.
• Psalm 119: 1-2, 10-11, 17-18.
• Luke 17: 26-37.
…or, from the proper:
• Isaiah 61: 1-3.
• Psalm 89: 2-5, 21-22, 25, 27.
• Matthew 25: 31-40.
…or, any lessons from the common of Pastors or the common of Holy Men & Women for Religious.
The Third Class Feast of Saint Martin, Bishop & Confessor; and, the Commemoration of Saint Mennas, Martyr.*
Lessons from the proper, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Ecclesiasticus 44: 16-27; 45: 3-20.
• [Gradual] Ecclesiasticus 44: 16, 20.
• Luke 11: 33-36.
If a Mass for the commemoration is taken, lessons from the common "Lætábitur…" of a Martyr not a Bishop:
• II Timothy 2 8-10; 3: 10-12.
• Psalm 36: 24, 26.
• Matthew 10: 26-32.
The Twenty-Fifth Friday after Pentecost; the Feast of the Holy Martyrs Menas, Victor & Vincent; the Feast of the Holy Martyr Stephanis; the Feast of Our Venerable Father & Confessor Theodore the Studite; and, the Remembrance of the Passing of the Blessed Martyr & Bishop Vincent Eugene Bossilkov.**
First & fourth lessons from the pentecostarion, second & fifth from the menaion for the Martyrs, third & sixth from the menaion for the Venerable, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• I Timothy 4: 4-8, 16.
• Ephesians 6: 10-17.
• Hebrews 13: 17-21.
• Luke 13: 31-35.
• Matthew 10: 32-33, 37-38; 19: 27-30.
• Matthew 4: 25—5: 12.
8:40 AM 11/11/2016 — You’ll recall that a couple of weeks ago I was away on retreat. The very first time I went on retreat at Arnold Hall was over thirty years ago, just as I was preparing for my ordination to the Holy Priesthood; and, the retreats at Arnold Hall are silent retreats, so there is no talking. Nowadays, during meals, they play a tape of a spiritual book, but in those days they passed a book from table to table and we all took our turn at reading from it; and, as it happened to be the feast of Saint Martin, the book selected that day for the evening meal was a very old biography of Saint Martin of Tours. And when the book was finally passed to me—and I had to stop eating for the next five or ten minutes to read out loud—I read from where the last guy had left off; and, it was one of these nineteenth century Lives of the Saints written for the benefit of the simple-minded, and it fell to me to read the passage about Bishop Martin making a journey to Gaul to visit the King, and he had a mule with him to carry his luggage. I don't know if it was poorly written or poorly translated from the French, but I had to read the passage which read, “And a bear came out of the woods and ate his ass.” And everyone in the room busted out laughing. The book went on to say that Martin punished the bear by making him carry his luggage the rest of the way. So there you have my significant memory of my first encounter with Saint Martin of Tours.
With all due respect to whoever the author of that unfortunate biography was, Saint Martin is not important to the Catholic Church because of his encounter with a bear. There are a lot of different reasons why Saint Martin of Tours is such an important saint to the Catholic Church, and I will mention only a couple since I really want to reflect on today’s Gospel lesson. Saint Martin is significant as the founder of the first monastery in the Western Church, long before Saint Benedict; he was also the first non-martyr to have a feast day on the Roman Calendar. He was born in the year 316, and was a soldier. Converted to Christ at the age of eighteen, principally through the influence of Saint Hilary, he went on to become the bishop of Tours, and from there sent the first missionaries into Gaul. Although a very gentle man by reputation, he raised his voice a couple of times, primarily in opposition to the practice of executing heretics. He died in 397, and is the patron saint of France.
Now, to today's Gospel lesson: there are four or five instances in the Holy Gospel wherein our Lord seems to be in an odd humor, launching into a diatribe of sorts that leaves us dumbfounded as it must have the Pharisees with whom he's speaking, and today's Gospel lesson is perhaps one of the most extreme examples. What makes this one in particular so difficult is that it's both overly simplistic and extremely convoluted all at the same time.
The question was put to our Lord by the Pharisees in yesterday's Gospel lesson;—I chose to preach instead on the Apostolic lesson from Philemon—they ask him when the Kingdom of God will come. He answers them in two parts: yesterday's lesson is just a warning about allowing oneself to become too obsessed with these kinds of eschatological questions, and chasing after every prophet or preacher who comes around spouting off about it. He says, “Men will be saying to you, See, he is here, or See, he is there; do not turn aside and follow them…” (Luke 17: 23 Knox). We talked about this once before, when I told you about the woman I met here at the Shrine many years ago who was running bus trips out to Bayside, New York, because someone said she was seeing Jesus and Mary. There is a certain brand of Catholic who is drawn to that sort of thing like a mosquito to a light bulb, or, as our Lord puts it at the end of today's lesson, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather” (v. 37 NAB). Why are some people drawn to such things so fanatically? Because their faith is a fraud. The Christian sure in his faith shrugs his shoulders at such things; it's only the unbeliever cloaked in a facade of faith who is constantly chasing after any promise of proof.
But the real meat of our Lord's response to the Pharisees' question is contained in today's lesson, wherein our Lord actually gets around to answering their question; or so they think, because, in reality, they've asked him one question but he answers another. Some years ago a priest friend of mine invited me to “lunch with him”—which is how they say it—at the Yale Club in New York, of which he was a member; and, as we were sitting in the lounge sipping exotic beverages which I couldn't possibly pronounce, a rather distinguished looking gentleman walked up, recognizing us as priests, and started going on about how much he admired Pope John Paul II, who was pope at the time, even though he himself was not what he called a “religionist,” and how a practical atheist like him could still find much merit in what this particular Pope had done for Western Civilization. And without any regard for where I was, I replied, much to the shock of my companion, that he couldn't have admired him that much if he couldn't bring himself to investigate the faith for which he stood. I haven't been invited back to the Yale Club since.
But our Lord does exactly this very same thing. The question they asked him, in yesterday's lesson, was simple, abstract and safe: when is the Kingdom of God going to come? He responds, in today's lesson, with these metaphors: two people in one bed, one being taken and the other left; two women grinding corn together, one taken the other left. In other words, what their asking him about is a theological concept; what he's telling them about is themselves. They want to know about the final judgment; what he's telling them about is the particular judgment. They want to know what's going to happen when the world comes to an end; he saying to them, Don't waste your time musing over when the world is going to come to an end; worry instead about what's going to happen when you come to an end, and that can happen at any time.
“Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it” (v. 33). To you and me it's common sense, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't constantly remind ourselves that, so long as we keep our souls in the State of Grace through frequent confession and Communion, when the world comes to an end is God's business, not ours.
* Mennas, an Egyptian who served in the Roman Legion, was beheaded under Diocletian in the year 295.
** Menas is the same Mennas referred to above.
Victor and Stephanis (also called Stephanida) were martyred in Egypt under Antonius (138-161).
Vincent, a Spanish Archdeacon, was martyred toward the beginning of the fourth century under Maximianus.
Theodore the Studite was born in Constantinople in 759, and entered the monastery of Sakkhoudion in Bithynia, where he eventually became hegumen (abbot), eventually moving to the monastery of Studion, named after its founder, Centurion Studius. Exiled and recalled several times by various Emperors, he died in 826 after much suffering for the faith.
The Passionist Bishop and Martyr, Eugene Bossilkov, was born November 16, 1900, in Belene, Bulgaria, a village in the Danube Valley. His family were farmers and Catholics of the Latin Rite. Ordained for the Passionists in the Latin Rite, he studied in Rome and wrote his thesis on the union of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church with Rome in the 13th century, but returned to his own country in 1933 as secretary to his bishop. After Bulgaria joined the Axis powers in 1940, and the Soviets invaded, he was chosen to succeed the late Bishop Theelen in 1946, becoming a member of the Bulgarian Catholic Church. He was executed by the Communists on this day in 1952 at the prison at Sophia, being buried in a common grave which has yet to be found. He was beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II on March 15, 1998.