Friday, October 9, 2009


“St. Denis”
Artist and Date are UNKNOWN 


Biographical Information about St. Denis [1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Denis

Readings and Commentary:

2 Corinthians 6:4-10

Brothers and sisters:
In everything we commend ourselves as ministers of God,
through much endurance, in afflictions, hardships, constraints,
beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts;
by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness,
in the Holy Spirit, in unfeigned love, in truthful speech,
in the power of God;
with weapons of righteousness at the right and at the left;
through glory and dishonor, insult and praise.
We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful;
as unrecognized and yet acknowledged;
as dying and behold we live;
as chastised and yet not put to death;
as sorrowful yet always rejoicing;
as poor yet enriching many;
as having nothing and yet possessing all things.

Commentary on
2 Cor 6:4-10

St. Paul’s main message in this passage is to encourage those of the faith to remain steadfast as he and his companions have done. He describes nine different trials they have encountered (“afflictions, hardships, constraints, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts”) and provides a litany of seven contrasting negative external perceptions with positive internal spiritual realities.

CCC: 2 Cor 6:4 859
Psalm 126:1bc-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6

R. (5) Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.

When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with rejoicing.

R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.

Then they said among the nations,
"The LORD has done great things for them."
The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad indeed.

R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like the torrents in the southern desert.
Those who sow in tears
shall reap rejoicing.

R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.

Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves.

R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
Commentary on
Ps 126:1bc-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6

Psalm 126 is a lament. In this short psalm the singer rejoices at the return of Israel following the Diaspora, the conquering of Israel and its enslavement. In this hymn, the people remember the greatness of God as he restores their nation and brings the people back to their own land ("Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, they shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves."). The sense is one of being overflowing with thanksgiving.

Matthew 5:13-16

Jesus said to his disciples:
"You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lampstand,
where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father."

Commentary on
Mt 5:13-16

In this selection from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus uses allegory to push the Word of God into the world. He tells his disciples they are an integral part of the faith of the people in God. Like seasoning is to food, so the Word of God is to faith. They must remain steadfast so they do not lose zeal for God, that is the taste of that seasoning. It is that which sets it apart.

He uses a second allegory, light, to provide still more direction. The light of faith will be seen by all because it is reflected in the actions of those who believe. That light serves to guide others to God, when they may otherwise become lost in darkness, and wander into paths of desolation. That light that pours from the disciples will be seen as a gift, not from them, but from the Father, and the Father will be glorified because of the light.
“Salt and light each impart their own virtue, provided they remain fully what they are. Christians are the means whereby God wants to flavor life, to illuminate life. Do we not too often want to be receivers rather than the givers, and do we not in this way become insipid and dark? The disciple himself is responsible if the world around him remains crouching in lethargy, untransformed.” [3]
CCC: Mt 5:13-16 782, 2821; Mt 5:14 1243; Mt 5:16 326

As we pause to consider the plight of St. Denis and other martyrs of the early Church, we might think that their light was more important to Catholics of an earlier age – an age in which blatant persecution was rampant.  On the contrary, even in the comparative comfort of the United States, the Church and its membership face a build-up of resistance that will surely lead to physical persecution.  We don't need to look far to see how the assumptions about religious freedom of an earlier generation have been challenged, eroded, and dismissed. It started with legal challenges against prayer in schools (victorious) and continues with challenges to religious symbols in public places.  It has in recent years begun challenging the law itself starting most prominently with the Roe v. Wade decision permitting abortion on demand; a battle which has more or less culminated in the recent HHS Mandate which requires all employers (in addition to taxpayer sponsored healthcare plans) to provide coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortificants.

If we look ahead, perhaps 50 years and extrapolate the erosion of our religious freedom in society at large, it is not unreasonable to assume that the faithful of 2060 might face prison or even violent physical discrimination on the part of a fully secularized society, not bound, ironically, by the tolerance and acceptance fomented by a Christian value system.

The Gospel and indeed all sacred scripture call us to be courageous in our practice of the faith in the public square.  The Lord asks us to be beacons of light in an increasingly dark world.  Saints like St. Denis are an example of fidelity in the face of violent resistance.  We ask also for the prayers of St. Denis and all the brave missionary martyrs as we find ourselves in the missionary role we are called to live as part of the new evangelization.

Today we ask – Saint Denis, pray for us!


[1] The Icon is “St. Denis” Artist and Date are UNKNOWN 
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.
[3] Fire of Mercy Heart of the Word Volume I. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA, © 1996 p. 207

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