Model Saints

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2015/01/23 at 12:00 AM

 To my right – in between St. Clare and St. Rita – is our statue of St. Teresa of Ávila. She was a Spanish Carmelite nun who lived from 1515 – 1582, and she is without a doubt one of the most remarkable women to ever walk this earth.

 Along with St. John of the Cross, it is St. Teresa who has taught the Church how to pray. To her were granted some of the most intense ecstatic spiritual experiences man has ever known, and through her writings she has passed along to us the means for uniting oneself with God.
 Moreover, her writings are of such importance and value to the Church that St. Teresa of Ávila was the first female saint to be named a doctor of the Church. It is for this reason that we have her depicted with the Holy Spirit over her shoulder and the doctor’s hat on her head.
 But Teresa wasn’t always the saintly mystic that we know her to be. In fact, Teresa wrote that she felt like she wasted much of her first 20 years in the convent.
 Because she was vivacious and out-going, Teresa was often asked to entertain guests of the convent, and she developed tendencies toward vanity and gossip. For many different reasons, she even gave up praying for a time during the first half of her religious life.
 While perhaps she wasn’t the most terrible of sinners, St. Teresa claims that it wasn’t until she was over 40 that she had a true conversion and began seeking holiness in earnest.
 And we are all blessed that she did, for our Catholic Church would be all the more impoverished had St. Teresa not accepted God’s call to holiness, which ultimately led to so many great works on her part, and to the sanctification of so many who have followed her.
 Truly, deep interior conversion, like what St. Teresa experienced, is vitally important for all of us, for just one person can lead an entire society to conversion, just as we see in our first reading today.
 Today we hear about Jonah, who is called by God to preach a message of conversion to the inhabitants of Nineveh, explaining to them that God plans to destroy them for their wickedness. And because they listen and repent, God spares Nineveh from His wrath.
 In our Gospel today we see Jesus preaching a message of conversion to the people of Galilee, calling them to “repent, and believe in the Gospel” – and of course many of them did!
 Added to this message of conversion and repentance in our readings today is the sense of urgency we get from St. Paul, who urges the Corinthians to change their lives while there is still time to do so.
 It seems providential to me that we have these readings on repentance today as our country marks the 39th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion. While there are many moral ills in our society, none is more heinous than abortion.
 Truly, abortion represents the very worst part of our society, for it shows a willingness to murder the most innocent and vulnerable of persons – often for purely selfish reasons.
 So we must pray and work for an end to this horrendous scourge, all the while praying for the victims of this barbarity, as well as for those who support abortion or work within the abortion industry.
 The anti-life, pro-abortion lobby in this country consistently promotes abortion as a woman’s fundamental right. They promote abortion as an answer to the “problem” of an unplanned pregnancy (as if a pregnancy is a pathology), and thus many women turn to abortion in times of fear and confusion.
 Like most priests who have served for a while in large cities, I’ve endured many heart- rending confessions by post-abortive women harboring terrible guilt and remorse.
 While it is true that abortion is a most terrible sin, we mustn’t turn our backs on these women or on the men who pushed them toward abortion. Instead we must pray for their healing.
 Our Lord is gentle and kind, my friends. He is always merciful to the repentant sinner, and so should we be, bearing in mind that all of us are sinners in need of God’s mercy.
 But in addition to being merciful to those who chose abortion, we must look for ways to prevent abortion by providing support to those vulnerable pregnant women who have no means of supporting their unborn child.
 Of course here in Charlotte we are blessed to have Room at the Inn who does such great work on behalf of these vulnerable women so that abortion doesn’t have to be a woman’s only choice when faced with an unplanned pregnancy.
 We must also put pressure on abortion mills to close through peaceful demonstration, which we can do through campaigns like 40 Days for Life.
 Furthermore, as I recently mentioned in the bulletin, as Catholics we are morally bound to vote only for pro-life political candidates – which is an issue we must seriously consider as we prepare for the elections later this year.
 But there’s one other thing we must also do: and that is make reparation for this terrible sin. Reparation is a spiritual practice by which we try, in some measure, to make up for the damage we’ve caused by our sin. It’s our means of showing God that we’re sorry for our sins.
 As such, reparation is a means of restoring justice. Whenever we sin, we offend our all-good God; we commit an injustice toward Him. Reparation is the way we make up for this injustice.
 This is precisely why priests give us a penance whenever we go to confession. The penance we perform after a confession is how we make reparation for the sins we confessed.
 But when it comes to abortion, we must remember that this terrible evil is not just the sin of those who perform the abortions or of those who have them. It’s a societal sin because we fund it through our tax dollars, and soon we will be funding abortifacient drugs through our insurance premiums. Whether we like it or not, we all cooperate with it in some way now.
 And it is time for us who are people of faith and who know that abortion is a grave evil to stand together and pray for our country – to make reparation for this terrible sin.
 This we can do through the offering extra prayers for an end to abortion and other threats to life; this we can do through voluntary penances and fasting.
 Simply denying oneself something that one enjoys – like sweets, or wine, or coffee – or by taking on chores that we don’t enjoy and offering that sacrifice up to our Lord as a means of making reparation for our sins, is a powerful and effective way to pray.
 What matters most is not the act itself, but rather the love for God with which we do the penitential act.
 My brothers and sisters, we live in the most blessed country our world has ever known. But our greatness as a country has been severely compromised by some of the sins we pass off as “human rights” – most especially abortion.
 While I don’t know if our Lord plans to destroy our country for its sinfulness, as He planned with Nineveh, I do know that the sin of abortion greatly offends Him, and that we should do what we can now to show Him how sorry we are that our country allows it to continue.
 Moreover, we must all seek constant conversion and repentance, and thereby grow in holiness, so that we might become fishers of men.
 May God bless our country and save us from our sins. St. Teresa of Ávila, pray for us.

22 January 2012

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

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