Take Five for Faith: September 17-22

Monday, September 17

Make care for the poor a cardinal virtue
Feast of Robert Bellarmine, bishop, doctor of the church

The Italian Jesuit Robert Bellarmine (d. 1621) is rightly remembered for his brilliance—he was made a cardinal by Pope Clement VIII on the grounds that “he had not his equal for learning.” But while Bellarmine wore the red hat and had an apartment in the Vatican, he refused to live the high life. He maintained his austere disciplines, spending the bare minimum on his own needs and eating only the food available to the poor. It is said that he even used the tapestries he found in his Vatican apartment to clothe poor people, remarking, “The walls won’t catch cold.” Pray that all the leaders of the church share Bellarmine’s vision of what it means to be a servant of God.

Today’s readings: 1 Corinthians 11:17-26, 33; Luke 7:1-10 (443)
“I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed.”


Tuesday, September 18

What you do for the least helps the most

One of Jesus’ greatest gifts was his ability to comfort people who were suffering. He did that by performing miracles, of course, but also by simply accepting each person he encountered. Jesus’ method was simple, but 2,000 years later it is apparent that we still have much to learn about how to treat the most fragile and vulnerable among us. The French geophysicist Xavier Le Pichon, in a profoundly personal and moving essay titled “Ecce Homo” (“Behold Humanity”), writes that when people turn toward the suffering ones in their midst, the entire community is transformed. Take some time today to read Le Pichon’s essay and hear his extraordinary life story at onbeing.org. You won’t be sorry.

oday’s readings: 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27-31a; Luke 7:11-17 (444)
“When the Lord saw her, he was moved to pity for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ ”


Wednesday, September 19

They’re there when you need them
Feast of Januarius, bishop, martyr

The bishop Saint Januarius, who died near the beginning of the fourth century, is known primarily for the San Gennaro festival named after him and for a famous miracle: the liquefying of a vial of his blood that has been going on several times a year in Naples, Italy since at least the 13th century. Apparently he was an inspiring presence even before that. When Saint Paulinus of Nola was dying in 431, he called out to Saints Januarius and Martin of Tours, “who a little while ago were speaking to me and promising me that soon I would join them,” a biography says. Saints are always available. Pray to them for help and let them serve as examples of love and service in your life.

Today’s readings: 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Luke 7:31-35 (445)
“Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.”


Thursday, September 20

Give your faith some creed-ence

“I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,” the church says at Mass every Sunday and holy day. The word creed comes from the Latin credo, “I believe,” the first words of the Nicene Creed. Creeds originated as formal statements of faith the newly baptized would profess in the early church (an action reflected in the current Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults when those seeking Baptism receive the Creed). When you pray the Creed, you do much the same thing: expressing your acceptance of the beliefs that hold the members of the church together.

Today’s readings: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 7:36-50 (446)
“I handed on to you . . . what I also received: Christ died for our sins . . . that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day.”


Friday, September 21

Riches you can collect on
Feast of Matthew, apostle, evangelist

Tax-collector-turned-apostle Matthew may not have had the most popular job when Jesus called him, but the key is not what we do before we hear the call but what we do after. Matthew dropped his lucrative post and followed Jesus without looking back. Would you do the same? If you sense that you often lack the courage of your convictions, look to Matthew for inspiration. He gave up the big bucks for even greater treasure. Let the richness of faith guide you on the right road.

Today’s readings: Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13; Matthew 9:9-13 (643)
“He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, ‘Follow me.’ ”


Saturday, September 22

Come again?

Jesus sometimes said things in the gospels that are puzzling, or at least perplexing on the surface. For example, when he took the disciples aside to explain to them the famous parable of the sower who went out to sow, he told them, “Knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you; but to the rest, they are made known through parables so that they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.” Why didn’t he want the others to understand? Wasn’t that the whole point of his mission? Jesus was using some good old ancient Near Eastern exaggeration to say that not all who hear will choose to understand his message and take it to heart. Let the word of God sharpen the focus in your life.

Today’s readings: 1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-49; Luke 8:4-15 (448)
“Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”