Selected Text from the February 2017 issue of The Catholic Islander
The Magazine of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands
Most Rev. Herbert Bevard - PUBLISHER
Father John Matthew Fewel -EDITOR
Sarah Jane von Haack - MANAGING EDITOR
Brother James Petrait, OSFS - WEBMASTER
Msgr. Michael Kosak - PROOFREADING, Advantage Editing
Deacon Emith Fludd- CIRCULATION
Jenny Bis - GRAPHIC DESIGNER
Scroll below for the text from the following articles from the February 2017 issue of The Catholic Islander:
From the Editor's Desk: Serve others with joy - from page 4
Cover story: The feast of the Presentation of the Lord- from page 13
Saint of the Month, St. Polycarp, Feast Day: February 23 - from page 15
Theology 101 - Sharing the Good News - from pages 16,17
From the Editor's Desk
By Father John Matthew Fewel
Serve others with joy
Serve others with joy Service is what we do. With joy or with grumbling, is how we do it.
Popular culture inundates us with images and endorsements of following your dreams, finding your passion, and striving and excelling at what you love to do.
How wonderful is the life blessed to be so spent in satisfaction, in accomplishment, and in waking up every day eager to set about the day’s tasks.
Most blessed indeed is such a life for it is the life of Our Blessed Lord who came to serve, to suffer, and to save.
During their hidden years together at Nazareth, Our Lady became the first disciple to serve in adoration, love, suffering, tears and labor our God, now dwelling among us
Our Lord went forward in due course from His Immaculate Mother to preach, to teach, to heal, to forgive sins, to suffer and, finally, to die
We understand that all that He set out to do He accomplished. Our symbol of this is the crucifix.
Every year at Advent, we await His coming. At Christmas, we celebrate His birth. During Lent, we prepare ourselves for His Passion. At the Sacred Triduum, we follow Him from the cross, to the grave, right up to His glorious resurrection.
A life lived perfectly. Modelled for us and lived for our eternal happiness: The life of Jesus, from beginning to end, is our very plan of life.
Only One deserves the Glory. Only One is worthy of praise. Only One is to be honored. God Himself lived, suffered, died, and rose, so that you and I could be saved from eternal loss. Then, finally, to begin to live just as He did.
When our service is difficult. When strength ebbs and complaints arise, we go as He did for the joy of the cross and what lay beyond it. Not looking to the left nor to the right, but with our eyes fixed upon our crucified Savior, and the joy of all that He accomplished,
Without grumbling, without murmuring, with joy!
COVER STORY: The feast of the presentation of the Lord - For my eyes have seen your salvation
By Father John Matthew Fewel
"Now let your servant depart in peace for my eyes have seen your salvation".
This prayer from the Gospel of Luke is prayed by priests, religious and dedicated laity at the end of each day. It is a prayer of great peace, joy and satisfaction with the glories revealed by God for the salvation of mankind.
Simeon, the faithful priest who had served long and well in the Lord's holy temple in Jerusalem, represents all of the prophets, holy kings and priests of old, who had so longed for the coming of the Lord, at the Christmas which we have just celebrated. For the ancients, this joyous event was long centuries delayed. There was to be, by God’s perfect and holy design, so much labor, toil and suffering in the waiting for the Promised One of Israel.
But the blessed event, so long anticipated, has arrived! Old Simeon was, as even we are today, at peace with the beholding of the Baby Jesus, king of kings and lord of lords.
In his many years, he had been present for some of the final and most important of milestones in the salvation history of the world.
Simeon had greeted tiny Mary, who was to become the mother of this infant God man, when she was herself presented in the Temple at Jerusalem by Joachim and Anne, her mother and father. Hidden from Simeon, her parents and even from little Mary — who had been selected by God Himself to become the mother of Jesus — the great plan of our Almighty Father in heaven took its final shape on the old priest’s watch, so to speak.
Joseph and Mary, as they presented the child Jesus in the Temple, were well-known to this holy and venerable priest as a couple of true sanctity without parallel in all of Judea and the world. Though it may have been speculated, that such a holy mother and father as they were would likely be chosen by God to bring the Savior into the world, no one knew. Cloaked and veiled in secrecy and known only to God was the manner, and the moment, when it would please the great and good God to send His Chosen One, at long last, into our suffering world.
It certainly seems that the miraculous and divine secrets of Mary’s identity and perpetual virginity, kept even from the her, secured God’s wonderful secret all the more from revelation before its time.
With the miraculous birth now a matter of sacred history, in time and in space, the Word now dwells with mankind for all eternity, and as never before in all of creation.
Now we remain mindful of the promised summation of all things that is yet to be. Serving with the faithfulness and expectancy of dear Simeon of old, all of the blessed will find that final day, which fast approaches, will be joyous and happy beyond telling. We, if we have been found watching, and waiting and doing all that we have been commanded to do, will depart in peace, as did Simeon — but this time, with Our Lord, Blessed and Immaculate Mary, St. Joseph and all saints and angels to dwell with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit for all eternity!
SAINT OF THE MONTH
FEAST DAY: February 23
As the bishop of Smyrna in the second century, St. Polycarp (69-155) was one of the most important leaders of the Christian Church. Smyrna was an important city in Asia Minor because Christianity had taken root there very early on.
And how did Polycarp first hear the words of the Gospel of this new religion? By sitting at the feet of St. John the Evangelist at a young age. As one of the first disciples of the apostles, especially John, he was taught the truth from eyewitnesses to Jesus. Imagine that! He heard firsthand about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and became a devoted follower.
St. Polycarp is known for squelching heresies that cropped up in the new Church in the early years after Jesus’ death. Although it is believed he wrote many letters to early Church members during the course of his life, his letter to the Philippians is the only one that has survived. In his letter, he exhorts the Philippians to virtue, details the duties of deacons and presbyters and encourages members of this early community to persevere “in hope and patience.”
At a time of great persecution of Christians, he was martyred by being stabbed with a spear. He died from this wound only after a crowd attempted to burn him at the stake, but his body was not consumed by flames.
DID YOU KNOW? On the day of his martyrdom, St. Polycarp refused to denounce Jesus, saying: “Eighty- six years I have served Christ, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”
By Doug Culp
SHARING THE GOOD NEWS
In 2017, Theology 101 will focus on the topic of evangelization. Specifically, the task will be to offer some ways of approaching various questions Catholics may encounter from co-worlcers, family and friends regarding the practice of the faith. Of course, this undertaking represents only possibilities, and we must remember that nothing can replace the power of witnessing to the Good News through our own actions and words, combined with our willingness to accompany others on their faith journey. This means patiently engaging others in dialogue, asking questions and truly listening to responses and, perhaps most importantly, not insisting on “winning” a debate.
In 2017, The question What do I say to my Protestant co-worker who asks why we worship Mary and the saints?
Seek common ground
In approaching an answer to this question, it would be helpful if you cortld first find common ground, i.e., something about which you and the co-worker can agree. So let’s begin there.
Now we know Catholics do not worship Mary and the saints. Catholics worship God alone. So what is the nature of our relationship to Mary and the saints that could give a Protestant the impression that we do worship them? Well, we pray to them. However, more specifically, we pray to them in order to ask for their intercession, and it is precisely the notion of intercession where we find common ground with our Protestant sisters and brothers.
Intercessory prayer, or prayer that asks on the behalf of another, is a common practice for all Christians. We pray for each other — for all kinds of reasons. When one of our loved ones is sick, we ask those around us to pray for the person’s recovery, whether they personally know our loved one or QQ The faith and devotion of Mary and the saints can support our own weaknesses and supply what might be lacking in our own faith and devotion. dd The Catholic Islander / February 2017 / www.catholicvi.com not. When we are about to face a major challenge or when we are dealing with any kind of adversity, we ask others to pray for us. It is simply a natural part of our shared faith. Catholic Christians do it, Protestant Christians do it — and for good reason.
The practice of intercessory prayer is affirmed and encouraged by the sacred Scriptures. The Bible contains many passages that either provide us with examples of intercessory prayer (Gn 17:18, Gn 24:12-14, Nm 12:13, 1 Sm 7:5-9), of its effectiveness (e.g., Mt 5:44, 8:13, 15:28, 17:15-18, Mk 9:17-29, Lk 8:49-55) and of our need to directly engage in intercessory prayer for others (e.g. 1 Tm 2:1-4, Rom 15:30-32, Col 4:3, 1 Thes 5:25, Jas 5:14).
Build upon the foundation
With intercessory prayer as a point of agreement, you can now begin to elaborate upon the Catholic understanding of the expansiveness of the prayer “network” accessible to us. For the Catholic Christian, the boundary between this earthly existence and a heavenly existence is death, but this does not mean that heaven is a place for the dead. The saints in heaven are very much alive. Therefore, this boundary loses its power and its “sting.” We could say that it does not exist at all for the Catholic Christian, just as the boundary for who we should pray for (a president, a pauper, an enemy or a soul in purgatory (a topic for another day) does not exist.
In other words, the prayer circle for a Catholic extends beyond earth to heaven. Consequently, we can just as readily ask for the prayers of Mary and the saints as we can ask our next door neighbor or as a Protestant Christian can ask his or her pastor to pray for them.
Why ask for the prayers of Mary and the saints?
Several good reasons why Catholics ask for the prayers of Mary and the saints are given in a piece on the Catholic Answers website. One benefit that is listed is the faith and devotion of Mary and the saints can support our own weaknesses and supply what might be lacking in our own faith and devotion. The Gospels witness to the fact that Jesus often healed someone based on the faith of another. Perhaps the most striking example of this is the story of the healing of the centurion’s servant in the Gospel of Matthew (8:5-13).
Another reason is found in the Letter of James (5:16): “The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.” If this is the case, then the prayers of Mary and the saints must be particularly powerful as they have truly been made perfect in heaven (see Heb 12:22-23).
Now, this does not mean that Catholics should not pray directly to Jesus, the one mediator between God and humanity. In fact, Catholics do exactly this, especially in the prayers of the Mass. However, this does not mean we should not also ask our fellow Catholics and Christians, both on earth and in heaven, to pray for us, as Christ has allowed us all the privilege of sharing in his one mediation.
For further reflection Consider prayerfully reading the following passage from the Gospel of John (2:1-10):
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." (And) Jesus said to her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servers, "Do whatever he tells you."
Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding 20 to 30 gallons. Jesus told them, "Fill the jars with water." So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter." So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now."
1. What does this passage teach you about the relationship between Mary and Jesus?
2. What does this passage say about the nature of Mary’s intercessory prayer?
3. How might this passage help you explain to a Protestant brother or sister why Catholics pray to Mary?