Blog Post - February 23rd
S. Polycarp| S. Peter Damian| Daily Meditation| Daily Quote by S. Padre Pio| Divine Mercy Reflection
Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey), disciple of St. John the Apostle and friend of St. Ignatius of Antioch was a revered Christian leader during the first half of the second century.
St. Ignatius, on his way to Rome to be martyred, visited Polycarp at Smyrna, and later at Troas wrote him a personal letter. The Asia Minor Churches recognized Polycarp’s leadership by choosing him as a representative to discuss with Pope Anicetus the date of the Easter celebration in Rome—a major controversy in the early Church.
Only one of the many letters written by Polycarp has been preserved, the one he wrote to the Church of Philippi in Macedonia.
At 86, Polycarp was led into the crowded Smyrna stadium to be burned alive. The flames did not harm him and he was finally killed by a dagger. The centurion ordered the saint’s body burned. The “Acts” of Polycarp’s martyrdom are the earliest preserved, fully reliable account of a Christian martyr’s death. He died in 156.
Polycarp was recognized as a Christian leader by all Asia Minor Christians—a strong fortress of faith and loyalty to Jesus Christ. His own strength emerged from his trust in God, even when events contradicted this trust. Living among pagans and under a government opposed to the new religion, he led and fed his flock. Like the Good Shepherd, he laid down his life for his sheep and kept them from more persecution in Smyrna. He summarized his trust in God just before he died: “Father... I bless Thee, for having made me worthy of the day and the hour... .” (Martyrdom, Chapter 14).
“Stand fast, therefore, in this conduct and follow the example of the Lord, ‘firm and unchangeable in faith, lovers of the brotherhood, loving each other, united in truth,’ helping each other with the mildness of the Lord, despising no man” (Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians).
Patron Saint of:
St. Peter Damian
Maybe because he was orphaned and had been treated shabbily by one of his brothers, Peter Damian was very good to the poor. It was the ordinary thing for him to have a poor person or two with him at table and he liked to minister personally to their needs.
Peter escaped poverty and the neglect of his own brother when his other brother, who was archpriest of Ravenna, took him under his wing. His brother sent him to good schools and Peter became a professor.
Already in those days Peter was very strict with himself. He wore a hair shirt under his clothes, fasted rigorously and spent many hours in prayer. Soon, he decided to leave his teaching and give himself completely to prayer with the Benedictines of the reform of St. Romuald (June 19) at Fonte Avellana. They lived two monks to a hermitage. Peter was so eager to pray and slept so little that he soon suffered from severe insomnia. He found he had to use some prudence in taking care of himself. When he was not praying, he studied the Bible.
The abbot commanded that when he died Peter should succeed him. Abbot Peter founded five other hermitages. He encouraged his brothers in a life of prayer and solitude and wanted nothing more for himself. The Holy See periodically called on him, however, to be a peacemaker or troubleshooter, between two abbeys in dispute or a cleric or government official in some disagreement with Rome.
Finally, Pope Stephen IX made Peter the cardinal-bishop of Ostia. He worked hard to wipe out simony (the buying of church offices), and encouraged his priests to observe celibacy and urged even the diocesan clergy to live together and maintain scheduled prayer and religious observance. He wished to restore primitive discipline among religious and priests, warning against needless travel, violations of poverty and too comfortable living. He even wrote to the bishop of Besancon, complaining that the canons there sat down when they were singing the psalms in the Divine Office.
He wrote many letters. Some 170 are extant. We also have 53 of his sermons and seven lives, or biographies, that he wrote. He preferred examples and stories rather than theory in his writings. The liturgical offices he wrote are evidence of his talent as a stylist in Latin.
He asked often to be allowed to retire as cardinal-bishop of Ostia, and finally Alexander II consented. Peter was happy to become once again just a monk, but he was still called to serve as a papal legate. When returning from such an assignment in Ravenna, he was overcome by a fever. With the monks gathered around him saying the Divine Office, he died on February 22, 1072.
In 1828 he was declared a Doctor of the Church.
Peter was a reformer and if he were alive today would no doubt encourage the renewal started by Vatican II. He would also applaud the greater emphasis on prayer that is shown by the growing number of priests, religious and laypersons who gather regularly for prayer, as well as the special houses of prayer recently established by many religious communities.
Quote:“...Let us faithfully transmit to posterity the example of virtue which we have received from our forefathers” (St. Peter Damian).
Fasting for a day is not simply giving up food in order to lose a pound or two. Rather it is freely choosing to be uncomfortable, if only for a brief time, so that God can share with me the transforming beauty of offering myself for something greater.
Quote by S. Padre Pio:
May the good Jesus console you...and give you even more strength to overcome and defeat our common enemy... Do not fear him at all; trust more and more in... our Jesus Christ, who never leaves you alone.
Divine Mercy Reflection
Reflections on Notebook One: 11-111
This first notebook of Saint Faustina begins her private revelations given from the Heart of Jesus to her. She writes in a beautiful and simple way. Though, as mentioned in the introduction to this book, her actual words are not quoted in these reflections that follow, the messages that she received and articulated are presented.
In truth, her messages are those contained in Sacred Scripture and in the Tradition of our Church. And if you were to read through the lives and teachings of the saints, you would find the same revelations. God has always spoken to us throughout the ages. He speaks the one Message of Truth, and He reveals that Message in love. The revelations to Saint Faustina are one new way that God continues to speak and reveal Himself to us, His sons and daughters.
The reflections in this first chapter, based on the first notebook, are intentionally short and focused. They are a way for you, the reader, to slowly and carefully listen to the Heart of God spoken to this great saint. Read these reflections slowly and prayerfully. Ponder them throughout the day and allow the Lord to speak to You the message He wants to give.
Reflection 53: Difficulties in Prayer
There are both interior and exterior difficulties we encounter as we attempt to form a daily habit of prayer. Interior difficulties: discouragement, dryness, heaviness of spirit and temptations. These difficulties are overcome through patience and perseverance. Exterior difficulties: fear of what others may think or say, and setting time aside. These difficulties are overcome through humility and diligence (See Diary #147).
Try to set a daily time for prayer and do not be afraid if others become aware of this commitment. Make it a time where you set aside every distraction and diligently focus in on the voice of God. Try kneeling or, even better, try laying prostrate before our Lord. Kneel or lay prostrate before the crucifix in your room or before the Blessed Sacrament at church. If you do, you will most likely encounter immediate temptations and difficulties. Do not be surprised by this. You will find yourself thinking about other things that you should do and you may even worry that others will discover you are praying. Persevere, stay focused and pray. Pray deep and pray hard and you will see the good fruits of this commitment in your life.
Lord, give me the strength I need to persevere through any and every difficulty that tries to keep me from my prayer with You. Make me strong so that I can set aside any struggle or temptation that comes my way. And as I press on in this new life of prayer, please take my life and form me into a new creation in Your love and Mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.