On the day of 16 August
Of Saint Stephen, king of the Hungarians, who, reborn in baptism, received the crown of the kingdom from Pope Silvester II, attended to the spread of faith in Christ among the Hungarians, established the Church in his kingdom and provided for the poor and for monasteries until his soul migrated to heaven from Alba Regalis* on the day of the Assumption.
*Royal White Castle, present day Székesfehérvár **Saint/Feast of the day segment copied from the USCCB page.

Finally! One I understand! See, back in the day - Abraham, Moses, etc., God was punishing the children for the sins of the parents. (Hence the footnotes: Fathers . . . on edge: a proverb by which the people claimed that they were being punished for their ancestors' sins rather than for their own; cf Jeremiah 31:29. ) Ezekiel comes around, and God declares a change. Everyone has to start paying for their own sins. Then he lays it out for us. He gives us a list of actions to take if we want to be virtuous, and live. Then he gives us the list of what-not-to do, or we'll die. Okay, easy enough to follow. I'm thinking about printing it out and carrying it around with me. There are some that seem weird and outdated, like the whole menstrual period thing, but I'm game. Whatever.

This is a nice story that we have been hearing since Sunday school. This is the story that we are told to let us, as children, know that even we have a place in the church. I think that it is sweet and a nice light reading after the kind of heavy lecture we just got from the Old Testament. It also goes with the themes from this week, about how children have the proper state of mind to commune God, because of their innocence. The footnotes also brought up a new point that I never got from this reading before, that I thought was faintly interesting:

This account is understood by some as intended to justify the practice of infant baptism. That interpretation is based principally on the command not to prevent the children from coming, since that word sometimes has a baptismal connotation in the New Testament; see Acts 8:36.

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary  

Posted by siouxbhoney

On the day of 15 August
The solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when the course of her earthly life was complete, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory. Pope Pius XII solemnly defined this belief received through the tradition of the Church. **Saint/Feast of the day segment copied from the USCCB page.

I really need to take a class on Revelation. I've learned that this reading is supposed to pertain to Mary, but I'm not sure if she's the woman in the desert. Also, I may be very, very wrong, because the footnotes say little to back this up:

The woman adorned with the sun, the moon, and the stars (images taken from Genesis 37:9-10) symbolizes God's people in the Old and the New Testament. The Israel of old gave birth to the Messiah (Rev 12:5) and then became the new Israel, the church, which suffers persecution by the dragon (Rev 12:6, 13-17); cf Isaiah 50:1; 66:7; Jeremiah 50:12. This corresponds to a widespread myth throughout the ancient world that a goddess pregnant with a savior was pursued by a horrible monster; by miraculous intervention, she bore a son who then killed the monster.

Still confused. I'm going to church today, 'cause for us Catholics, it's a day of obligation. Maybe the priest will explain it in his homily.

Today is hard. The resurrection of humans has always been the most difficult christian concept for me to grasp, and Paul is facing it head-on in this letter. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Isn't this one of the most common childhood questions about God and Jesus? If God is good, why do people have to die? I've gotta stop using the footnotes as a crutch sometime, but not today. This is what they have to say:

The last enemy . . . is death: a parenthesis that specifies the final fulfillment of the two Old Testament texts just referred to, Psalm 110:1 and Psalm 8:7. Death is not just one cosmic power among many, but the ultimate effect of sin in the universe (cf 1 Cor 15:56; Romans 5:12). Christ defeats death where it prevails, in our bodies. The destruction of the last enemy is concretely the "coming to life" (1 Cor 15:22) of "those who belong to Christ" (1 Cor 15:23).

Gospel: Luke 1:39-56

This is my favorite Mary story. I imagine a lot of affection between these two cousins. Mary is coming to help Elizabeth while she is pregnant, too old to have a baby, and probably feeling pretty sick. Mary, on the other hand, is displaying a lot of courage to travel in her own pregnant state, being a teenage unwed mother and all. They are both pregnant with children that are definitely going to change the world, and have both had major religious discoveries about it. They must have each felt so alone in the world, with the knowledge that they were carrying along with their children. It's nice that they had each other to talk to. No wonder that Mary stayed for three months.

Memorial of Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe, priest and martyr  

Posted by siouxbhoney

On the day of 14 August
In commemoration of Maximilian Mary (Raymond) Kolbe, priest of the Order of the Friars Minor Conventual and martyr, founder of the Militia of Mary Immaculate,* who, deported to different places of captivity, at length delivered himself up to the executioners for the sake of a fellow prisoner in the death camp of Oswiecim or Auschwitz near Cracow in Poland, offering his own ministry as a holocaust of charity and an example of faithfulness toward God and men.
*Known in the United States as the Knights of the Immaculata. **Saint/Feast of the day segment copied from the USCCB page.

Reading 1: Ezekiel 12:1-12

My first thought on this is: Wow what an elaborate piece of performance art! The footnotes don't exactly argue with me on this point:

1 [5] Dig a hole in the wall: the exiles are to leave Jerusalem through the broken walls of the ruined city.
2 [13] But he shall not see it: Zedekiah was blinded by Nebuchadnezzar before being deported to Babylonia; cf 2 Kings 25:7.

God was so anxious for his people to understand what was in store for them that he actually had his prophet act this scene out. God talks to us all the time, in so many ways. We should actually listen sometime.

This is a familiar theme. Forgive other people what you expect, want, need to be forgiven. The forgiveness will be returned to you by God. It seems so simple, except for me, this is the most difficult concept. I don't have a hard time grasping the idea, just doing it. I should have it written on the back of my hand so that I can see it all the time, because when I'm mad, or feel slighted, this is the easiest one to forget.

On the day of 13 August
At Rome, of Saint John Berchmans, religious of the Society of Jesus, most loving to all by reason of a sincere piety, unfeigned charity, and unfailing cheerfulness, who came to his last day joyfully after a brief illness.

**Saint/Feast of the day segment copied from the USCCB page.

First Reading: Ezekiel 9:1-7; 10:18-22

I'm making an assumption that this is a prophetic vision, and not something that was actually happening as Ezekiel was describing it. I'm also assuming that the meaning of this is that the Israelites are about to have some really bad stuff happen to them, and the only ones that will be spared among them are the merciful. That little piece of information I stole from the footnotes: Ezekiel is pre-eminently the prophet of personal retribution; the innocent inhabitants of Jerusalem are to be spared when the idolatrous are punished. An X: literally, the Hebrew letter taw, which had the form of a cross. My question is: Which disaster was he prophesying about?

I'm just going to copy and paste two of the footnotes for this one. It reads to me like direct New Testament (are those words supposed to be capitalized?) law, so I don't want to mess it up with my uneducated opinion:

[15-20] Passing from the duty of Christian disciples toward those who have strayed from their number, the discourse now turns to how they are to deal with one who sins and yet remains within the community. First there is to be private correction (Matthew 18:15); if this is unsuccessful, further correction before two or three witnesses (Matthew 18:16); if this fails, the matter is to be brought before the assembled community (the church), and if the sinner refuses to attend to the correction of the church, he is to be expelled (Matthew 18:17). The church's judgment will be ratified in heaven, i.e., by God (Matthew 18:18). This three-step process of correction corresponds, though not exactly, to the procedure of the Qumran community; see 1QS 5:25-6:1; 6:24-7:25; CD 9:2-8. The section ends with a saying about the favorable response of God to prayer, even to that of a very small number, for Jesus is in the midst of any gathering of his disciples, however small (Matthew 18:19-20). Whether this prayer has anything to do with the preceding judgment is uncertain.

[17] The church: the second of the only two instances of this word in the gospels; see the note on Matthew 16:18. Here it refers not to the entire church of Jesus, as in Matthew 16:18, but to the local congregation. Treat him . . . a Gentile or a tax collector: just as the observant Jew avoided the company of Gentiles and tax collectors, so must the congregation of Christian disciples separate itself from the arrogantly sinful member who refuses to repent even when convicted of his sin by the whole church. Such a one is to be set outside the fellowship of the community. The harsh language about Gentile and tax collector probably reflects a stage of the Matthean church when it was principally composed of Jewish Christians. That time had long since passed, but the principle of exclusion for such a sinner remained. Paul makes a similar demand for excommunication in 1 Cor 5:1-13.

On the day of 12 August
Of Saint Jane Frances Fremiot de Chantel, religious, who from Christian marriage had six children that she piously educated; after the death of her husband, she hastened eagerly along the way of perfection under the direction of Saint Frances de Sales and occupied herself in works of charity, especially on behalf of the poor and the sick. She founded the Order of the Visitation of Saint Mary, which she also directed wisely. Her death occurred at Molins on the banks of the Allier near Nivern in France on the thirteenth day of December.

**Saint/Feast of the day segment copied from the USCCB page.

First Reading: Ezekiel 2:8—3:4

I love all of this description of the meetings with God that we are having lately. I also like to take them literally. First of all, it's easier for me than trying to find imagery and symbolism, and also, it's frankly lovely to imagine it all happening just like the prophets say it did. Even with the lamentation and woe, the picture that my mind forms about being in the presence of God is beautiful. There were also not many footnotes except for the for this one: [3] As sweet as honey: though the prophet must foretell terrible things, the word of God is sweet to him who receives it. I love that!

This is what the footnotes had to say about verse 3: Become like children: the child is held up as a model for the disciples not because of any supposed innocence of children but because of their complete dependence on, and trust in, their parents. So must the disciples be, in respect to God. I think this tells us not only how we should behave towards God, but also how to behave with children. If we try to be the parent that God is to us, even to other people's kids, we may go wrong a lot less often.

Memorial of Saint Clare, virgin  

Posted by siouxbhoney

On the day of 11 August

The commemoration of Saint Clare, virgin, who followed Saint Francis as the first sprout of the Poor Ladies of the Order of Minors leading a severe life, but one which was rich in works of charity and piety, at Assisi in Umbria; an extraordinary lover of the poor, from whom she never, whether by extreme need or infirmity, permitted herself to be separated.

**Saint/Feast of the day segment copied from the USCCB page.

Reading numero uno: Ezekiel 1:2-5, 24-28c

The footnotes in the online NAB tell me that the date on this occurrence is July 31, 593 B.C. So, on to "wow!". Ezekiel gets this view of heaven and the angels, and possibly God, though I'm not so clear on that. The footnotes identify the angels as: [5] Four living creatures: identified as cherubim in Ezekiel 10:1-2(20-21). This is truly receiving a call from God. This passage doesn't even tell us what God wanted, he's showing off his glory and his kingdom. I guess he's showing Ezekiel why he should obey God's will. Good enough.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 17:22-27

To me, there are two separate little stories going on here. First, they open with Jesus telling his disciples that he is going to be killed and rise from the dead. They are overwhelmed with grief, and the story moves on to the group traveling to Capernaum. No more mention of death. Just taxes. I love this, because Jesus says "I don't really have to pay taxes for my father's house, because I live here too. By the way Peter, you are special and chosen by God, so neither do you, but let's go miracle up some money and give it to the tax collectors so that we don't have to hear them nag on about it." I don't know. For all we know, Jesus did speak in run-on sentences. In case you want a little more authority, this is what the footnotes from the New American Bible online say about it:

[24-27] Like Matthew 14:28-31 and Matthew 16:16b-19, this episode comes from Matthew's special material on Peter. Although the question of the collectors concerns Jesus' payment of the temple tax, it is put to Peter. It is he who receives instruction from Jesus about freedom from the obligation of payment and yet why it should be made. The means of doing so is provided miraculously. The pericope deals with a problem of Matthew's church, whether its members should pay the temple tax, and the answer is given through a word of Jesus conveyed to Peter. Some scholars see here an example of the teaching authority of Peter exercised in the name of Jesus (see Matthew 16:19). The specific problem was a Jewish Christian one and may have arisen when the Matthean church was composed largely of that group.

[24] The temple tax: before the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70 every male Jew above nineteen years of age was obliged to make an annual contribution to its upkeep (cf Exodus 30:11-16; Nehemiah 10:33). After the destruction the Romans imposed upon Jews the obligation of paying that tax for the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. There is disagreement about which period the story deals with.

[25] From their subjects or from foreigners?: the Greek word here translated subjects literally means "sons."

[26] Then the subjects are exempt: just as subjects are not bound by laws applying to foreigners, neither are Jesus and his disciples, who belong to the kingdom of heaven, bound by the duty of paying the temple tax imposed on those who are not of the kingdom. If the Greek is translated "sons," the freedom of Jesus, the Son of God, and of his disciples, children ("sons") of the kingdom (cf Matthew 13:38), is even more clear.

[27] That we may not offend them: though they are exempt (Matthew 17:26), Jesus and his disciples are to avoid giving offense; therefore the tax is to be paid. A coin worth twice the temple tax: literally, "a stater," a Greek coin worth two double drachmas. Two double drachmas were equal to the Jewish shekel and the tax was a half-shekel. For me and for you: not only Jesus but Peter pays the tax, and this example serves as a standard for the conduct of all the disciples.