Glorious St. Joseph

As we focus on Joseph, it might be good to dispel some rumors about him, helping us to see him for the glorious saint that he is. The following words rely heavily on Mike Aquilina’s St. Joseph and His World, recently published by Scepter.

As one option for the Gospel today, we hear of Joseph’s first encounter with the archangel Gabriel, in which he is told not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. What is going on here? Was Joseph, the Just Man, planning to do something unjust? 

Joseph lived in the small town of Nazareth, named after the Messianic title of “Branch,” a term for the offspring of David. The inhabitants of Nazareth were descendants of King David, eagerly anticipating and praying for the coming of the Messiah. They did not know exactly when he would come, but they knew he would come from their line, and they waited in hope.

In normal Jewish society, many marriages would be arranged when the spouses-to-be were very young, and then were solemnized later with erusin, a betrothal. This involved formal terms and gifts from both families, and after this ceremony the bond could only be broken by divorce. Notice that here the couple is united in a solemn bond, but this is not quite a marriage; it is breakable by divorce. This was the state of Joseph and Mary. The marriage was finalized, and then (usually) consummated, after a ceremony called kiddushin (sanctities).

Adultery was a capital crime, so Mary would have been stoned if guilty. Divorce would have been the logical option here, but a desire to preserve Mary from this punishment doesn’t mean that Joseph actually suspected her of adultery. He may have just been confused, or he may have known exactly what was happening, intending to lay low and give Mary space, only presuming to assist if asked by the Lord.

Which was it? We are permitted to believe different interpretations of this text, but it makes sense to say that St. Joseph understood that Mary really did conceive of the Holy Spirit. She may have told him as much, and he had no reason to distrust her, likely being childhood friends in a small town. He would have had deep knowledge of the Messianic prophecies. Joseph knew that the Messiah was coming from his people, and he could have gathered from Isaiah that he would come from a virgin. Upon finding out that this virgin was his betrothed, he was probably struck with awe.

This is especially persuasive when we consider that St. Joseph had a special relationship with St. Gabriel the Archangel. His vision in our Gospel may not have been the first, and it certainly wasn’t the last. St. Joseph understood that God works miracles, and he was ready to drop everything and follow God’s will as soon as it was made clear to him. He followed Gabriel’s advice and took Mary as his wife, and they dedicated themselves to bringing up the Messiah, following a tradition of celibate asceticism often practiced in the Essene community, with which they were likely associated.

This day is a good opportunity to reflect on the virtues of St. Joseph, a powerful intercessor sporting titles like “Terror of Demons.” Dying as he did in the presence of Our Lord and Our Lady, he is the patron of a happy death. As is clear in his conduct surrounding the Incarnation, he is a prudent, patient, understanding, and just man ready to stand by his loved ones no matter the cost. Glorious St. Joseph, foster father of the Savior, spouse of Our Lady, pray for us!

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David Dashiell is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader based in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. His writing has been featured in Crisis Magazine and The Imaginative Conservative, and his editing is done for a variety of publishers, such as Sophia Institute and Scepter. He can be reached at ddashiellwork@gmail.com.

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Stay Close to Christ

As with Lent itself, our readings today are sobering. We might not recognize it at first, focusing instead on the message of hope: “If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed … he shall surely live, he shall not die”; “For with the Lord there is kindness and with him plenteous redemption” (Ezek. 18:21; Ps. 130:7). That message is real, but to truly appreciate it we first need to understand the more difficult message.

Jesus says in the Gospel that our righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, and that even saying so much as “You fool” merits the fires of Gehenna. Speaking through Ezekiel, God says that if the righteous man turns back to iniquity, he will surely die. We hear at one and the same time that God judges sin harshly, expecting perfection from us, and also that He is merciful and does not desire the death of the wicked.

Both are true, and this is the drama of Lent and the drama of the Christian life. God makes demands of us and issues commandments, and He expects us to live up to the call. The Ten Commandments are difficult for sinful man. Despite this, Jesus raises the standard in the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon is summarized by His stark injunction: “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). These are not idle words!

But who can live up to this? “If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand” (Ps. 130:3)? No one, really. Through our sin, even through something so apparently small as yielding to wrath, we merit the fires of hell. We choose a finite good over the infinite, often knowing exactly what we do. But that is not the end of the discussion.

Christ comes to redeem, and His words are not idle when He speaks of this side of the drama. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Our Lord gives us humanly unattainable demands, but He provides us with divine grace, the life of God in our souls.

How can we access this grace? Generally, by remaining close to Jesus and by turning from sin. This is what we hear at the beginning of Lent: Repent! We are sinners, and we do not deserve heaven. Yet, life is open to us if we turn away from sin and keep the Lord’s statutes. We ought to seek forgiveness and follow the Commandments, Beatitudes, and the other teachings of God.

More specifically, we need to stay close to the seven sacraments and the sacramentals (holy water, blessed objects, etc.). Jesus Christ instituted the sacraments as the means of incorporation into Himself. This means that He intended us to receive Baptism, go to Confession frequently, and receive the Eucharist in order to be saved. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

It is through the sacraments and the Sacrifice of the Mass especially that we are so incorporated into Christ as to share in His claim to heaven. Through the sacraments we are cleansed of our sins, receive God’s life in us, and are equipped to avoid sinning and live a life of holiness in the future. Let us take advantage of these great graces during the season of Lent, and throughout the drama of our Christian lives.

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David Dashiell is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader based in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. His writing has been featured in Crisis Magazine and The Imaginative Conservative, and his editing is done for a variety of publishers, such as Sophia Institute and Scepter. He can be reached at ddashiellwork@gmail.com.

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Memento Mori – Remember That You Will Die

We hear a strange reprimand from St. James today: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit’—you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow.” (Jas 4:13–14). He says that instead of speaking like this, we should say, “If the Lord wills it…”

It doesn’t seem like a big deal to speak about the future in this way, but St. James is trying to tell us that the future depends on God. Even if God does not directly cause every event in life, He at least allows it to happen, and He does so for good reason. Most of us understand that almost nothing in life goes exactly as planned. At this point, I’ve taken to planning for the future with the mindset of St. James: “These are my plans, but if the Lord wills it, something else will happen and I’ll adjust.”

There is a deeper truth here, and St. James makes it rather explicit when he says that “you are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears” (Jas 4:14). This reminds me of the popular Christian phrase memento mori, “Remember that you will die.” Saints have kept this phrase in mind through the centuries, knowing that one day all of their earthly plans will come to an abrupt end.

This need not be depressing; in fact, it served as a motivator for these saints. St. Jerome, for example, is said to have kept a skull in his workspace to remind him of this truth and motivate him to do good work for the Lord. We can react to the truth of our death with despair, or we can let it motivate us to strive without ceasing to enter heaven. Death can be our destruction, translating us into the infernal kingdom, or it can be a glorious beginning, translating us into the heavenly Kingdom with God.

The attitude fostered by this preparation for death is one of humble resignation and poverty of spirit, spoken of by St. James and the Psalmist today, and exemplified by the martyrdom of St. Polycarp, whose feast we celebrate today.

If we know death is coming and seek to prepare in hope of spending eternity with the Lord, we will strive to accept everything that comes our way, no matter how difficult, as something that God permits for our holiness. We will understand, as the Psalmist does, that we cannot take riches with us beyond the grave, but we can take the divine life of grace given to those who live a life of virtue and frequent the Sacraments.

Reading the brief account of the martyrdom of St. Polycarp, a direct disciple of John the Apostle and Bishop of Smyrna, we can see how this plays out when we are face to face with death. Polycarp did not panic when he heard of his martyrdom: he initially stayed put and prayed. When questioned by the Roman official, he firmly defended Christianity and declined to be nailed in place, explaining that he would not try to run from the fire prepared for him.

St. Polycarp completed his life at the age of eighty-six, stabbed after glowing gold and smelling of baked bread in the fire that was supposed to kill him. His holy resignation to the will of God, even when expressed through martyrdom, is an inspiration for all of us. We may not have to face what he did, but we all must face death, and the more we prepare to meet Our Lord the better off we will be when that day comes. Memento mori!

Contact the author

David Dashiell is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader based in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. His writing has been featured in Crisis Magazine and The Imaginative Conservative, and his editing is done for a variety of publishers, such as Sophia Institute and Scepter. He can be reached at ddashiellwork@gmail.com.

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Blasphemy Against the Spirit?

Our Gospel gives us an opportunity to address one of the more confusing passages in Scripture: “‘Amen, I say to you, all sins and blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.’ For they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’” (Mark 3:28–30). We must keep in mind that Our Lord means what He says and He does not contradict Himself. We have to wrestle with the hard sayings, and every difficulty in Scripture can be solved, even if we do not yet have the tools to do so.

So, what is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? St. Thomas Aquinas, a Doctor of the Church, summarizes the issue neatly. In his Summa Theologiae (II-II, q. 14), he mentions the interpretations of Sts. Athanasius, Hilary, Ambrose, Jerome, John Chrysostom, and Augustine, holy Fathers of the Church.

All but St. Augustine interpret blasphemy against the Spirit as literally speaking a blasphemy against the Third Person of the Trinity, namely by attributing His work to Satan. This is what the Jews did in our Gospel. Jesus had been performing miracles by His own power, glorifying God, but the Jews called Him possessed, saying that He was casting out demons by Satan’s power. In reality, Jesus performed miracles by the power of the Spirit. But the Jews said that the Spirit’s work was Satan’s work, gravely offending God.

St. Augustine interpreted blasphemy against the Spirit as final impenitence, which is the refusal to accept the mercy of God. According to Aquinas, this can happen through despair or presumption. In despair, we think ourselves unworthy of God’s mercy and resign ourselves to Hell, never daring to ask forgiveness for our shameful sins. In presumption, we think ourselves too good for God’s mercy, never stooping to ask forgiveness because we think we are perfect. Either way the result is the same: a direct offense against God’s mercy or justice, and death in the state of unrepented mortal sin.

These interpretations are not mutually exclusive, but St. John Paul II emphasizes Augustine’s interpretation in his encyclical on the Holy Spirit, Dives in Misericordia (part II, section 6). There he describes the “unforgivable sin” as unforgivable by its very nature, since it rejects the salvation offered to us through the Holy Spirit.

Whether we side with either or both interpretations, this shouldn’t be an issue for most of us. Chances are that if we are reading this, we are in the habit of turning to God for His mercy and confessing our sins in the confessional. However, it is always good to be on our guard against despair, presumption, and calling God’s good work evil. It can be easy sometimes to think that we are either too far gone or too good for God’s forgiveness.

(On his feast day, I’d also like to recommend St. Francis de Sales, another Doctor of the Church. His Introduction to the Devout Life is incredibly practical, and his section on ordinary temptations (part 4) is especially helpful.)

Contact the author

David Dashiell is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader based in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. His writing has been featured in Crisis Magazine and The Imaginative Conservative, and his editing is done for a variety of publishers, such as Sophia Institute and Scepter. He can be reached at ddashiellwork@gmail.com.

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Christ is Lord

The Pharisees react understandably to Jesus in our Gospel. As He is teaching, Jesus sees a man being brought down through the roof on a stretcher, and He immediately forgives his sins. It must have been a shock to hear Jesus claim divinity. After all, as the Pharisees point out, only God can forgive sins.

But of course, as we know, Jesus is God. The Pharisees are correct in thinking that any mere man claiming divine powers of His own authority is blaspheming, but they did not realize that Jesus, the Son of Man, truly does have this authority. Those he healed did realize this, and they returned home glorifying God.

Though it is easier to see in hindsight, it was often difficult for Jesus’ listeners to understand that the Messiah was to be divine and human. If they never understood it, they resisted Jesus as a blasphemer, as one who deeply offends God by claiming His authority and powers. They plotted His death, because in their mind He was sacrilegious, and was quickly leading the multitudes to worship a man. If they did understand who the Messiah was to be, they fell down and worshiped Jesus as God incarnate. 

This is important for us to reflect on, because although we know that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, true God and true man, we do not often treat Him as seriously as did the Pharisees and disciples. Jesus claimed to be God, and was right. That changes everything. Isaiah has this note of significance in His description of the Messiah’s reign in our First Reading: “Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you” (Isa. 35:4).

The coming of God into the world is something of the greatest significance, bringing with it both natural and supernatural wonders, as Isaiah says. And as Jesus shows in His ministry, the Messiah truly sets the captives free and works miracle after miracle. God has visited His people.

He has done this as the God-man. Bringing God and man together in His very Person, Jesus Christ is holiness. Holiness is union with God, and in His very being Jesus Christ is the intimate union of God and man. If we want to be made fit for heaven, where we experience the joy of this union eternally, we need only to become incorporated into that same union.

Christ, in His Person, shows us the way to finally be free from sin, to be saved, and to lead a holy life, achieving the purpose for which we were made. Nothing else could have achieved this in so perfect and glorious a manner as God Himself taking on our flesh. 

Not only this, but He adopts us into that same relationship using means which we can understand and physically connect to. In the sacraments, Christ’s grace comes to us and incorporates us into His hypostatic union of God and man. We are initiated into His New Covenant and perfected along the way so that we can be with God in heaven. Let us realize the significance of Jesus Christ’s divinity and of His hypostatic union, looking forward with great anticipation to the day when He first graced the earth with His infinite presence.

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David Dashiell is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader based in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. His writing has been featured in Crisis Magazine and The Imaginative Conservative, and his editing is done for a variety of publishers, such as Sophia Institute and Scepter. He can be reached at ddashiellwork@gmail.com.

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Doing God’s Will

Every now and again, we hear something in Scripture, as in our Gospel today, that reminds us to not just listen, but act. We need to be doers of the Word, not just hearers, as St. James says (James 1:22). Easy, right? It seems that way, but we have to recognize that this is something Jesus thought was worth emphasizing to His own listeners. It would be worthwhile to look at exactly how we can carry out this admonition.

We first need to listen. Notice that Christ praises the one who “listens to these words of mine and acts on them” (Matt. 7:24). There is a difference between listening and merely hearing. I noticed this recently in my own life. I had been preventing myself from listening. While engaged in conversation, I found myself either passively doing something else, like listening to a podcast, or paying just enough attention to be able to repeat what the other person said, but no more. I heard what was being said, but I did not internalize, process, or integrate it.

For me, this was because I was not paying enough attention, dropping both my external and internal distractions in order to be a true listener. As part of this process, I have begun to return to conversations in my down time, reflecting on what was asked of me and how I can implement it. For example, if my spouse or friend expresses a desire to go camping soon, how can I take concrete steps to make it a reality, rather than simply agreeing before moving on with my own concerns?

Christ asks us to listen. That means during Mass and while meditating on the Word, we must eliminate those distractions within our power: our thoughts of errands, our cell phones, noise. With distractions minimized, we can be receptive and attentive, which takes its own kind of energy. Then, we ought to return to the Word throughout the day, perhaps during the time that we’d normally be scrolling social media or letting our mind wander. What does it really mean, and how can we carry it out in our lives?

This will help us to listen, but then we need to act. How do we do God’s will? It’s a good step to do our own reflection on the readings at Mass and read Scripture consistently. Things like the Homily and the lives and writings of the saints can be helpful here as well. It’s good to see how others are making God’s Word practical, especially when those others are now praising Him in heaven.

Once we have listened to and reflected upon the meaning of the Word, we should actually do it. Understanding what to do is not quite doing God’s will; we need to make a practical plan. What concrete things will we do, today or this week, to make Christ’s words a reality? How will we turn the most significant resolutions into consistent, lasting practices? Who can help us do this?

The only thing left, then, is to start doing. Let us pray that the Lord will give us the grace to listen, understand, and act.

 Contact the author

David Dashiell is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader based in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. His writing has been featured in Crisis Magazine and The Imaginative Conservative, and his editing is done for a variety of publishers, such as Sophia Institute and Scepter. He can be reached at ddashiellwork@gmail.com.

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Prepare for Battle

This week we have occasion to think of the end of time. Immediately, Jesus’ words in the Gospels are referring to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70. Think of the phrase, “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place” from Luke 21:32, read two days from now. While the destruction of the Temple is the historical context of these Gospel readings, the saints have also interpreted these words as prophetic, speaking of the end of time.

We are reminded to be vigilant and rely on the strength of the Holy Spirit. This theme of readiness will continue throughout Advent. Christ is coming in the flesh, and we must do penance and prepare our hearts to receive Him joyfully. He is also coming at the end of time to judge the world, and we ought to be ready to be judged.

These themes in our Gospels this week (persecution, conflict, readiness) also remind us of the conflict we can expect well before the end comes. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.” (Matt. 10:34–36). “You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22). “Many are the troubles of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:20).

Following Christ is not supposed to be easy (although we are promised comfort in our afflictions many times). Often, readings like these make us wonder if we’re really living up to God’s call. If we were, surely we’d be more afflicted, specifically for our faith. Or at least we’d experience more struggles in general.

Our First Reading reminds us that often, more is expected of us. King Belshazzar was not only idolatrous; he was sacrilegious. He mistreated the sacred vessels of the Lord. How often do we think about things like that? Reverencing the sacred — sacred vessels, a sacred space in the home, sacred time (the liturgical year). All have a place in the Christian life.

While we may not be constantly afflicted for following Christ, it should give us pause if we do not occasionally experience the conflict He mentions. Are we really letting the Faith permeate our lives? There are a number of cultural religious practices that have fallen out of favor in the past millennium, not to mention the basics of Christian life. Few would think it strange that you go to Mass, receive the sacraments, and pray regularly; many would think it strange if you celebrated feast days in the home, used sacramentals like holy water and blessed salt, and fasted or sacrificed regularly.

Regardless of the specifics, the fact remains that many of us ought to be doing more to let God’s Kingdom permeate our lives. It should be visible to others, so much so that those who are not prepared for it resist. We should be prepared for battle, both now and through to the end of time. Frequent, fervent Christian practices will accomplish this.

Contact the author

David Dashiell is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader based in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. His writing has been featured in Crisis Magazine and The Imaginative Conservative, and his editing is done for a variety of publishers, such as Sophia Institute and Scepter. He can be reached at ddashiellwork@gmail.com.

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Tips on the Rosary

“You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God, and what do we profit by keeping his command, and going about in penitential dress in awe of the LORD of hosts?’” (Mal 3:14). So begins our First Reading. When taken figuratively, it can lead to a fruitful reflection on the Holy Rosary on this celebration of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Many of us want to pray the Rosary frequently, but struggle to do so, sometimes out of a similar concern to what the prophet Malachi speaks of here. “What good is it to pray the Rosary? It’s a lot of repetition that I can’t focus on easily, and I’m always failing to pray it when I say I will. What’s the point?”

Often, the Rosary seems like a futile effort, especially for those of us with young children. We try to pray as a family, we try to mediate on the mysteries, but we’re constantly distracted by our children and ourselves. By the time we finish, we realize we’ve been thinking of our laundry list of tasks, about our personal needs, or about something we can’t even remember now. What’s the point if we can’t even focus?

Our Lord gives a direct answer to our question in the Gospel, when speaking of a visit to a friend at midnight. It might seem like a pointless endeavor, showing up at midnight for some bread, expecting your friend to both be awake and be willing to get out of bed to lend you some food. And at first, for the man in the Gospel, it is fruitless. However, Jesus points out the value of persistence: “I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence” (Lk 11:8).

Though we may not have the perspective to see the results through our own distractions, the Lord is always listening to our faithful prayers. Every Rosary reaches His ears, and He sees our persistence. 

Of course, it helps to have some practical help in praying the Rosary, too. It’s nice to know that it’s still fruitful, but it would be great if we could experience that fruitfulness personally. The first step here is recognizing that the Rosary is an optional devotion, and as such does not have quite the same fixed character as something like the Bible does. You can add the Luminous Mysteries to the Rosary, as John Paul II did, but you cannot add another book to the Bible.

In fact, the Hail Mary was originally shorter, ending with “the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” The Rosary, too, was much shorter because of it. Then there is the practice of the scriptural Rosary, and the practice of using the mysteries to intercede for specific people or meditate on other moments of Our Lord’s life. Whatever the case, there are many ways to pray the Rosary, and we don’t have to feel bad if one is more fruitful for us than another. The point is to ask for Mary’s intercession and meditate on the mysteries of Our Lord’s life and ministry.

My own experience praying the Rosary (almost) every night with my family has shown me that you cannot expect children to sit perfectly still and levitate while praying it. It’s completely fine if your kids are playing by themselves or with toys while everyone prays. They’re taking in much more than you think.

Whatever the case, Our Lord tells us today that persistence is effective. Even if you’ve been having trouble getting into it, take some time to pick up the Rosary, even just a decade every now and again. While it’s by no means required, it comes with many blessings.

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David Dashiell is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader based in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. His writing has been featured in Crisis Magazine and The Imaginative Conservative, and his editing is done for a variety of publishers, such as Sophia Institute and Scepter. He can be reached at ddashiellwork@gmail.com.

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Zeal for the Lord

Saint Jerome, Doctor of the Church, was a towering figure in the Church’s history, and we can learn some interesting things from the way he served the Lord.

The First Reading from his specific memorial readings is a good overview of his ministry: “Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed. … All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work”. (2 Tim 3:14–17)

After a loose early life, Saint Jerome converted and dedicated himself to asceticism and to study. He learned as much as he could, taking on linguistic studies and devoting himself to Scripture. In his own writings, he began to prove the truth of Paul’s second letter to Timothy, using Scripture for teaching, refutation, correction, and for training in righteousness. This came out especially in Scripture commentaries, polemical works, harsh criticism of heretics, meditations, and hagiographies. By the end of his life, he exemplified the Psalmist’s love of Scripture and the law of the Lord.

Reading Saint Jerome can be a shock at times. Take, for example, the beginning of his treatise of the perpetual virginity of Mary: “I was requested by certain of the brethren not long ago to reply to a pamphlet written by one Helvidius. I have deferred long in doing so, not because it is a difficult matter to maintain the truth and refute an ignorant boor who has scare known the first glimmer of learning, but because I was afraid my reply might make him appear worth defeating.”

Though it may seem off-putting to us, we have to remember that for centuries, this type of exchange, invective, was a literary style. Saint Jerome is not attacking anything beyond his opponent’s views, pride, intelligence, and learning, and he is doing so in an environment where it would have been taken more lightly. Of course, he immediately goes on to ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in writing, and promptly begins quoting Scripture in direct reply to Helvidius’s arguments.

Saint Jerome’s disposition and writings are a good reminder that we do not need to fit into a specific personality mold to reach the kingdom of heaven. In fact, there’s quite a bit of room for diversity. Jerome’s invective is harsh, but it shows forth his zeal for the kingdom of God and his unrelenting drive to root out heresies and prevent enemies from subverting the true faith of Christ.

Even with this constant correspondence with the enemies of Christ, Saint Jerome dedicated long hours to painstaking copying of books and translations of Scripture. It is thanks to Jerome’s immense zeal that we have the main Latin translation of the Bible, the Vulgate. This translation had been the foundation of the Scripture readings for centuries in the Roman rite, and it remains significant today.

Saint Jerome’s untiring effort and passion for the truth of the Scriptures shines forth in his writings and friendships, and it is something we ought to imitate in our lives as Christians. Though we do not have to use invective, we should never be afraid to speak of Christ and defend the Faith in times of confusion and trial. Saint Jerome, pray for us!

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David Dashiell is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader based in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. His writing has been featured in Crisis Magazine and The Imaginative Conservative, and his editing is done for a variety of publishers, such as Sophia Institute and Scepter. He can be reached at ddashiellwork@gmail.com.

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The Holy Archangels

Today, we celebrate the feast of the archangels, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. We don’t use many occasions to speak about the angels, but they are all over Scripture. From our readings, we see that the angels minister to the Lord, some singing His praises and some bringing particular messages. They protect us from harm, fight demons, and worship God face to face. As Jesus says in the Gospel, they ascend and descend upon the Son of Man, working closely with the ministry and mediation of the Messiah.

Like the angels, the archangels are messengers of God. The name “angel” means “messenger,” and the name “archangel” means “chief messenger.” Drawing from this, Saint Thomas Aquinas points out that the archangels bear the greatest messages of God to man. Whether by direct battle (Michael), by prophecy (Gabriel), or by healing (Raphael), these angels relay the most significant communications from God.

In Tobit 12:15, Raphael calls himself “one of the seven angels who stand and serve before the Glory of the Lord.” From this, the Church has gathered that there are seven archangels in total. They each have a particular role, signified by their Hebrew names. Michael, “Who is Like God,” defeats Satan, as recounted in Revelation 12, with his humble acknowledgement of God’s omnipotence. Gabriel, “Strength of God,” foretells the Messiah to Daniel and Mary, telling of the King who will put all kingdoms under His feet. He also warns Joseph of the coming persecution in a dream. Raphael, “God heals,” cures Tobit’s cataracts and casts out the demon Asmodeus, clearing the way for the marriage of Tobias and Sarah. We cannot be certain of the names of the other archangels.

In former Missals, separate feasts were assigned for each archangel. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael each had a feast, each with his own specific readings, and in even older times Michael had a second feast to commemorate a special apparition at Gargano. Aside from our readings today, which focus on the angels in general and on Saint Michael, the other feasts showcased Gabriel and Raphael in Daniel 9 and Tobit 12 respectively, where they are sent to assist the prophet Daniel and to aid Tobit and Tobias.

It is good to be remind of the angels and of the archangels every now and again, even if we are used to invoking Saint Michael’s intercession in the Saint Michael Prayer. These readings and the writings of the saints on the angels remind us that angels (and demons) are real, and are part of the Catholic Faith. We can pray for the archangels’ intercession by name, and we already know of the mighty deeds they have performed in salvation history for the glory of God.

We ought to remember this spiritual reality often, bearing in mind that, as Saint Paul says in Ephesians 6:12, “our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.” Satan and his demons would love to have us in Hell, but God and His angels are much more powerful. We can not only rely on their intercession, but can also be consoled in knowing that they join us at Mass and assist us in our prayers to God.

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David Dashiell is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader based in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. His writing has been featured in Crisis Magazine and The Imaginative Conservative, and his editing is done for a variety of publishers, such as Sophia Institute and Scepter. He can be reached at ddashiellwork@gmail.com.

Feature Image Credit: Luis Ca, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/6327-cruz-cementerio