8 February, Tuesday – Laws and the Spirit

8 Feb – Memorial for St. Jerome Emiliani; Memorial for St. Josephine Bakhita, virgin

St. Jerome (1481–1537) was born wealthy, the son of Angelo and Eleanor Mauroceni Emiliani. His father died when Jerome was a teenager, and he ran away from home at age 15. After a dissolute youth, he became a soldier in Venice in 1506. He commanded the League of Cambrai forces at the fortress of Castelnuovo near Trevso. He was captured by Venetian forces on Aug 27, 1511, and was chained in a dungeon. Here, he prayed to Our Lady for help and was miraculously freed by an apparition. He hung his chains on a church wall as an offering. He became Mayor of Treviso while studying for the priesthood, and was ordained in the spotted-fever plague year of 1518.

He cared for the sick and housed orphans in his own home. At night, he roamed the streets, burying those who had collapsed and died unattended. He contracted the fever himself, but survived. He founded six orphanages, a shelter for penitent prostitutes, and a hospital.

He founded the Order of Somaschi (Company of Servants of the Poor, or Samascan Fathers) in 1532. It is a congregation of clerks regular vowed to the care of orphans, and named after the town of Somasca where they started, and where they founded a seminary. The society was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540 and it continues its work today in a dozen countries. Jerome is believed to have developed the question-and-answer catechism technique for teaching children religion.

In 1928, Pope Pius XI declared him the patron saint of orphans and abandoned children.

  • Patron Saint Index

St. Josephine (1868–1947) was born to a wealthy Sudanese family. At age 9, she was kidnapped by slave-traders who gave her the name Bakhita. She was sold and resold in the markets at El Obeid and Khartoum, finally purchased in 1883 by Callisto Legnani, an Italian consul who planned to free her. She accompanied Legnani to Italy in 1885, and worked for the family of Augusto Michieli as nanny. She was treated well in Italy and grew to love the country. She joined the Church as an adult convert on Jan 9, 1890, taking the name Josephine as a symbol of her new life.

She entered the Institute of Canossian Daughters of Charity in Venice, Italy, in 1893, taking her vows on Dec 8, 1896 in Verona, and served as a Canossian Sister for the next 50 years. Her gentle presence, her warm, amiable voice, and her willingness to help with any menial task were a comfort to the poor and suffering people who came to the door of the Institute. After a biography of her was published in 1930, she became a noted and sought-after speaker, raising funds to support missions.

She was canonized on Oct 1, 2000 by Pope John Paul II, and is thought to be the only saint originally from Sudan.

  • Patron Saint Index

1 Kgs 8:22-23,27-30
Mk 7:1-13

“How lovely is your dwelling-place, Lord, God of hosts”

I always found it fascinating how lawyers can identify a particular loophole within a law to win their argument. It almost seems that there is a desire to win their argument at all costs. That, I feel, is similar to what we read in the Gospel of today, where Jesus admonishes the Pharisees for their method of interpreting the law.

Laws are designed to ensure that people adhere to a minimum standard of behaviour. This means that the individual should go beyond that in order to live the life of a Christian. Jesus calls each one of us to look at the purpose and intent of our actions. He invites us to look at how these actions act in unison with each other to glorify his name. Our actions must stem from a desire to help the other person and importantly, to bring the other person closer to Jesus. A relationship with Jesus is important and it will manifest itself in both the personal and social aspect of our faith. There will be a recognition that we have grown in our level of love for ourselves. This means we grow in tenderness and acceptance of our weaknesses. At the social level, our relationships with others are also made more authentic — these relationships become those which allow us to be open in our communication and allow us to grow in love and fellowship for the other.

I believe that this is what having a true relationship with God will look like. It will be one which does not focus on laws, but rather one which is animated by the desire to help out the other person. That would allow us to fully live a life of a Christian.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I pray for all who seek you with a sincere heart.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who continue to share the faith with those who struggle with doubt.

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