25 May, Monday — Seasons

May 25 – Memorial for St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Worker; Memorial for St. Gregory VII, Pope; Memorial for St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Virgin

Bede (672-735) was born around the time England was finally completely Christianized. He was raised from age seven in the abbey of Sts. Peter and Paul at Wearmouth-Jarrow, and lived there the rest of his life. He was a Benedictine monk, and the spiritual student of the founder, St. Benedict Biscop. He was ordained in 702 by St. John of Beverley. He was a teacher and author; he wrote about history, rhetoric, mathematics, music, astronomy, poetry, grammar, philosophy, hagiography, homiletics, and Bible commentary.

He was known as the most learned man of his day, and his writings started the idea of dating this era from the incarnation of Christ. The central theme of Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica is of the Church using the power of its spiritual, doctrinal, and cultural unity to stamp out violence and barbarism. Our knowledge of England before the 8th century is mainly the result of Bede’s writing. He was declared a Doctor of the Church on 13 November 1899 by Pope Leo XIII.

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Gregory (1020-1085) was educated in Rome, Italy. He was a Benedictine monk, and chaplain to Pope Gregory VI. He was in charge of the Patrimony of St. Peter. He was a reformer and an excellent administrator. He was chosen the 152nd pope, but he declined the crown. He was chief counsellor to Pope Victor II, Pope Stephen IX, Pope Benedict X, and Pope Nicholas II. He eventually became the 157th pope.

At the time of his ascension, simony and a corrupt clergy threatened to destroy faith in the Church. Gregory took the throne as a reformer, and Emperor Henry IV promised to support him. Gregory suspended all clerics who had purchased their position, and ordered the return of all purchased church property.

The corrupt clergy rebelled; Henry IV broke his promise, and promoted the rebels. Gregory responded by excommunicating anyone involved in lay investiture. He summoned Henry to Rome, but the emperor’s supporters drove Gregory into exile. Henry installed the anti-pope Guibert of Ravenna, who was driven from Rome by Normans who supported Gregory; the Normans were, themselves, so out of control that the people of Rome drove them out. Gregory then retreated to Salerno, Italy, where he spent the remainder of his papacy.

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Catherine (1566-1607) had a religious upbringing. She was initially sent to a convent at the age of 14, but was taken back home by her family who opposed her religious vocation and wanted her to marry well. They eventually gave in, and Catherine became a Carmelite of the Ancient Observance at 16, taking the name Sister Mary Magdalene. She was a mystic, and led a hidden life of prayer and self-denial, praying particularly for the renewal of the Church and encouraging the sisters in holiness. Her life was marked by many extraordinary graces.

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Acts 19:1-8
Jn 16:29-33

… the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.

It is almost Summer here in my back garden. The buds are breaking, green shoots are sprouting, and in their beds, flowers wrestle it out with the weeds. Nature has marched on resolutely here, oblivious to the chaos in the world outside. Whenever I am overwhelmed, which is quite often these days, I am reminded that Life finds a way. As surely as Summer follows Spring, Life always finds a way.

Like Nature, our faith journey too has its seasons. The trials we endure now allow the gifts of the Holy Spirit to deepen within us — wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:1-2). For many of us, much is uncertain. All this talk about when ‘things go back to normal’ is well and good, but what will ‘normal’ look like exactly? Does anyone really know? How will our lives be changed by what has happened? So many questions don’t have answers to them. I am trying to be ‘ok’ with all this. I am trying to be calm and live with not knowing or being in control of things, but even on the good days, it is hard. I can’t see an end in sight. Maybe this heightened uncertainty is our new normal. Maybe not knowing is the new normal?

I’m reminded that when the first disciples of Christ received the Holy Spirit, there were many questions they didn’t have answers to as well. What was their new life going to be like? What would ‘normal’ entail? Like them, I have to learn to just roll with it. Whether I like it or not, I have to adapt as things evolve. I am grateful that scripture has provided me with a guidebook of sorts. I am also extremely grateful that I do not have to face it alone. The Holy Spirit is at work within me, just as it was with the early Christians. I can feel it sometimes, keeping me calm when I am anxious, tired and burned out. Whatever ‘normal’ might look like when we are done with COVID-19, I know the Holy Spirit will guide me. Maybe, like the onset of Spring and Summer in my garden, this experience will bring rebirth and renewal. Whatever happens, I intend to move forward, placing my faith entirely in The Lord. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the fortitude to get through this, for the wisdom to make good decisions and for the piety to understand that all things happen in God’s time, not ours.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Let’s take this time to reflect on how we can use our recent experiences to deepen our faith.

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