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March 8, 2013
Stories of and for All
HOSEA 14:2–10; MARK 12:28B–34
The stories that fill the Bible are the stories of hundreds of men and women and their struggles to walk with God, to make the journey of the soul, to surrender and allow God to save them. These are the stories of men and women who have tried and succeeded, or struggled and failed, in their quest to become the-best-version-of-themselves.

In some of these characters we find great success in this journey. In others we find great failure. But in most we find an intriguing mixture of both failure and success, the humanity that resonates with us deeply because it reminds us of our own struggles. Most draw near to God only to abandon his ways; then from the anguish of the brokenness and emptiness of their sin, they once again draw near to God and return to his ways.

There is perhaps no better example than Peter. One of the first to be gathered into Jesus’ inner circle, Peter leaves everything behind to follow Jesus. Later, he turns his back on Jesus, denying he even knows him. But after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter becomes the unifying voice for the early Church.

Stories have a very powerful impact on our lives. They can transform civilizations. A story can win or lose a war. Stories can conquer the hearts of millions and transform enemies into friends. They can help heal the sick. The proud despise them because they are simple, but stories are one of the most powerful agents in history. They can reform the political or spiritual temperament of an age.

What biblical stories will you allow to direct your life?

Can I relate to Peter? Have I ever ignored what I knew was the right thing to do because I was afraid what people might think of me?
from Rediscover Lent by Matthew Kelly


Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

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