Saturday, March 28, 2020

Homily for 5th Sunday of Lent

Homily for the
5th Sunday of Lent

March 9, 2008
John 11: 1-45
Willow Towers, New Rochelle, N.Y.
St. Vincent’s Hospital, Harrison, N.Y.

During our corona virus shutdown, I can offer you only an old homily.  May God's Word still speak to you.

“This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God” (John 11:4).

Christ calls Lazarus out of the tomb (Giotto)
Our gospel readings the last 2 Sunday were leading us toward the sacraments of Christian initiation with their allusions to water and washing, to anointing, to the gift of the Spirit.  Today the gospel points us to where the sacraments take us:  to life in Christ, to the glory of God.

We can’t consider every last aspect of the story of the raising of Lazarus, of course, certainly not in one homily.  Let’s consider 3 aspects:  fear, love, and glory.

There’s a lot of fear in the Bible:  fear of encountering the all-holy God; fear of enemies; fear of suffering and death.  In today’s gospel the sisters of Lazarus send for Jesus because they’re afraid their brother will die (11:3).  The apostles are afraid that if Jesus returns to Judea he’ll be killed, and maybe they will too (11:8,16).

When Martha and Mary send for Jesus, they tell him, “Master, the one you love is ill” (11:3).  When the Jews see Jesus weeping at Lazarus’s tomb, they exclaim, “See how he loved him” (11:36).

Jesus’ 1st reaction to the sisters’ message is that Lazarus’s illness will end not in death but in the glory of God.  Jesus tells Martha that if she believes, she’ll see the glory of God (11:40).

We fear death.  Why?  Because it may be painful.  Because we’ll be separated from those we love.  Because we don’t know what’s beyond it—maybe nothing.  Because we’re sinners and face judgment:  “If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand?” (Ps 130:3); “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:8).  That’s the common experience of humanity.  Jesus himself shrank from suffering and death, asking his Father not to make him drink that cup.  That’s why we regard as heroes those who risk their lives for others:  police officers, firemen, soldiers, sometimes ordinary people; and why we regard the martyrs as heroes, because they accept suffering and death rather than deny Christ or surrender some Christian principle.  No matter how much our minds tell us that death is a fact of life, and no health regimen, no scientific breakthru, no miracle will do more than postpone the inevitable, we’re afraid, we do all we can to look young, feel young, act young, and not face death. 

Repeatedly in the Bible we’re told not to be afraid:  not in an encounter with the Divine, not of death.  Those who walk in the light—Christ, of course—don’t stumble, don’t trip over death and doom (cf. John 11:9).  “Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live” (11:25).  Jesus asks Martha whether she believes that (11:26), and indeed that’s the question for every one of us.  Our answer is what draws us to Christ and to life, or not.  Our positive answer enables us to face our fear, to some degree to be unbound and set free (cf. 11:44).

The greatest reason not to be afraid of death is the 2d theme of the story.  When the evangelist quotes the sisters of Lazarus “sending word to Jesus:  ‘Master, the one you love is ill,’” he is alluding not only to Lazarus but to every one of Jesus’ disciples.  “I have called you friends,” Jesus will tell them at the Last Supper (John 15:15).  Earlier, the evangelist comforted us:  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).  Every one of us is one whom he loves.  Over every one of us does Jesus weep at the thought that we might die, as he wept over his friend Lazarus, as he lamented the fate of Jerusalem (Luke 13:34).  The Father loves us, and he has sent us Jesus as the sign of his love.  Jesus loves us and will not allow us to perish if we give him the slightest bit of our own friendship and trust.  The raising of Lazarus is a sign of Jesus’ own resurrection, and Jesus’ resurrection is a pledge that God will raise us up too.

St. Irenaeus, a Father of the Church who wrote at the end of the 2d century —and who was one of those heroic martyrs who died for Christ—tells us that “the glory of God is man fully alive.”  That’s why God wants to give us life.  That’s why Jesus could say that the illness of Lazarus was “for the glory of God” even tho it brought Lazarus to the tomb, and say to Martha, “Did I not tell you that you if you believe you will see the glory of God?” (11:40).  Jesus reveals the glory of God by giving life, even temporal life, to Lazarus (because Lazarus eventually died and was buried again).  How much more will the resurrection of all God’s faithful people to eternal life give glory to God!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Nothing Is Impossible with God

Nothing Is Impossible with God

by Deacon Greg Kandra

My friend the Deacon found one of his old homilies that he thinks is especially apropos in these times, so he posted it at his blog.
The Annunciation (John William Waterhouse)
How many of us have been blindsided by events we never expected – a twist on  life’s path that we never saw coming, for better or for worse — and asked  ourselves, in fury or despair or bewilderment:


How can this be?

And here Mary is told, simply:

“Nothing is impossible with God.”

And that is enough.
Read the rest: https://thedeaconsbench.com/how-can-this-be-a-message-from-the-annunciation-for-all-of-us-now/

Fr. Robert Bauer, SDB (1941-2020)

Fr. Robert Bauer, SDB (1941-2020)

Fr. Robert Bauer died peacefully around 10:00 p.m. on March 23, apparently of heart failure, at United Hebrew Nursing Home in New Rochelle, N.Y., where he’d been resident for a few months.  He was 78 years old and had been a professed Salesian 59 years and a priest 48 years.

Bob Bauer was born in Chicago on June 25, 1941, the son of Viktor and Mildred Paulsen Bauer.  Bob was baptized within a month at St. Viator Church in Chicago.

Fr. Bauer during his Josephinum days
(New Rochelle Province Archives)
He entered Don Bosco Juniorate at Haverstraw, N.Y., and was admitted from there to St.  Joseph’s Novitiate in Newton, N.J., in September 1959.  On September 8, 1960, he made his first profession of vows, and six years later (on June 25) made his perpetual profession at Newton.

In June 1964 Bro. Bob graduated magna cum laude from Don Bosco College in Newton and began his practical training there as assistant to the Sons of Mary, post-high school candidates for Salesian life (1964-1966).  He completed his practical training teaching at Salesian High School in New Rochelle, N.Y. (1966-1967).

While Bro. Bob was still in college he took on the task of teaching Greek 101 to the Sons of Mary at Mt. Don Bosco in Ellenville, N.Y.  One of those Sons in 1962 was the future Fr. Tom Ruekert, who “is grateful for Bob’s presence in my life,” and offers many specifics of that presence.  He still recalls Bro. Bob’s daily mantra:  “Greek is easy; Greek is fun”—a mantra that he continued to use when teaching Greek at the Josephinum years later, and in table conversation at the provincial house in his last years.

Fr. Ruekert also remembers Bro. Bob’s contribution to community life at Don Bosco College.  “Often,” he writes, “Bro. Bob would skillfully accompany our community services by playing the organ. He was a talented musician.”  On one particular feast of St. Patrick, “he and I danced an Irish reel during one of those community entertainment times.  Imagine: two Germans doing the Irish reel!”

Bro. Bob undertook theological studies at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio, in 1967, earned a Master’s degree in religious education in 1970, and was ordained on September 11, 1971, in Hackensack, N.J.  He earned another Master’s, in English, from The Ohio State University in 1971.

According to Fr. Ruekert, “as a theology student, Bob was well-respected.  In his fourth year he was elected as president of the Student Senate, a group of students who would bring issues to the administrators and help with seminary life at the Josephinum.”

Following ordination, Fr. Bob spent two years teaching at St.  Dominic Savio High School in East Boston.  One of his students the first year was future Salesian John Nazzaro, a senior at that time.  He remembers:  “I first had the privilege of meeting Fr. Bob when he was a newly ordained priest at St. Dominic Savio High School….  For a young priest, teaching our senior class was a challenge, but Fr. Bob quickly became one of our favorite Salesians because he was there for us.  His office was in the gym building, and he would always be available to open the gym for us to play basketball at nights to keep us off the street.  Six of us made a TEC (Teens Encounter Christ) retreat, and Fr. Bob took the time on a Sunday night to be at our final Mass at the Cenacle Retreat House in Brighton, Mass.”

In East Boston, Fr. Ruekert notes, “he was a special friend to Fr. Joseph Caselli, whom he admired very much.  He looked forward to visiting Fr. Caselli whenever he could.”  Fr. Caselli, the founding director of Savio in 1958, was retired from teaching by that time but remained a highly regarded senior confrere (and was renowned all over East Boston, and perhaps farther, for visiting the sick—walking when he could, and otherwise using the T).

In 1973 Fr. Bob moved to the San Tarcisio community in Rome and began his specialization in biblical studies at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, coming away with a licentiate in Scripture in 1976.  He returned to the Josephinum that year as professor of Old Testament, proving himself over the next 25 years one of the most popular teachers among both the Catholic seminarians and the Protestant students from the Lutheran and Methodist schools in the Columbus theological consortium. 

A typical appreciation comes from Fr. Ken Shaw:  “Bob was an outstanding Biblical scholar of the Old Testament.  He had the gift of teaching that was recognized by both Catholic and non-Catholic students. You had to arrive at his teaching sessions early in order to be guaranteed a seat.”

Fr. Ruekert observes that one of his teaching techniques—rooted in his personality, and so it wasn’t just a “technique”—was “that he sought to get to know each of his students on a one-to-one basis.  He preferred ‘walking and talking’ oral exams to written ones.”

Fr. Bob brought his biblical learning to bear in his preaching, as Adam Rudin, director of the Salesian Lay Missioner program in New Rochelle, testifies:  “I certainly enjoyed his homilies and appreciation of the Old Testament.  He always made it so relevant to today in such an effortless way.”

Fr. Nazzaro had Fr. Bob as a Scripture professor for all four years in Columbus.  “He was always available and was my spiritual director before we called it spiritual direction,” he writes.  “We will miss him….”

Fr. Bob also taught Hebrew and Greek.  Fr. John Serio was in a Greek class.  “When we had Bob for Greek at the Josephinum, his first lesson was ‘Greek is easy!  Greek is fun!  Don't panic!’  He was right.  It was a great class, we learned a great deal, and it was painless.  It was a very practical approach.  We must have translated almost the entire New Testament.  Class met at the difficult time of 3:30—it was never boring.”

He also served for several years as director of the PCJ Master of Arts program and, for approximately six years, book review editor of the Josephinum Journal of Theology.

His particular ministry outside the classroom was visiting juvenile offenders in local confinement, together with some of the Salesian theology students.  Of this ministry, Fr. Serio writes:  “I don’t think many people know how dedicated Bob was to visiting and ministering to incarcerated young men in Columbus.  He often said Mass, heard confessions, and counseled young men at Buckeye Training Center and TICO (Training Institute of Central Ohio), a maximum security facility for adolescents on the west side of Columbus.  He helped introduce me to ministry at TICO.  On my first day, he took me on a tour, and in the middle of it he said, ‘Well, I have to go back to the ’Phinum for my Greek class.’  He left me at the intersection of two long corridors.  But that was my introduction to a ‘part-time-that-became-almost-full-time’ ministry during my Columbus days.  Bob enjoyed this immensely, and he was very instrumental for me and many others in this ministry.”

A friend from his time at the Josephinum, Dr. James A. Yeager, a church musician now living in New Mexico who remained a presence in Fr. Bob’s life until his last days, recalls him as “a good friend, colleague, funny, at times devilishly so.  Yet he always was a man of honor and good faith. He was beloved by his students and rightfully so. He was dedicated to the best things that his vocation demanded, and he never swerved from the work or the study.”

Another friendship formed in the Salesian community in the 1970s was with Bill Moriarty, who later left the Congregation, but feeling a great debt of gratitude to Fr. Bob.  Bill shares some this reason for gratitude:  “Because of Bob, I taught adult Scriptural studies, first in the Formation for Ministry Program in Syracuse, N.Y., later for the diaconal classes there, and later in my parish in Marblehead, Mass. I would never have been able to do that if Bob had not whetted my appetite for the wonder of God’s word.”

Ann Brown, a Salesian Cooperator from Columbus, writes:  “Heartbreaking.  I spoke with him a week ago and he sounded better than he had in a long time.  Our family loved him like family.  I will miss him so.”

Fr. Bob left the Josephinum in 2001 to teach at St.  Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach, Fla., until 2004.  He resided in the Salesian community in St.  Petersburg for one year, then another year at the Institute of Salesian Studies in Berkeley, Calif.  In 2006 he retired to the Salesian provincial house in New Rochelle, where he suffered for many years with various health problems, including diabetes, Parkinson’s, and congestive heart failure.  After several hospitalizations, early in 2020 he entered United Hebrew Nursing Home.

One of Fr. Bob’s gifts was making guests and newcomers to the provincial house community feel welcome.  For example, Fr. Thomas Pallithanam, who joined the community in 2019, states:  “He was always very welcoming and in the days I was new to the community he made sure that I felt at home.  He helped me navigate the early days, introduced me to the library, helped me with my driving routines as he sat beside me I while I drove him to the library.  I was happy to do that and he was always very grateful for that and would tell me that every time.  He did not take that for granted.”

Another who appreciated Fr. Bob’s thoughtful welcomes was Mr. Rudin:  “While at the provincial house, he always kept a steady supply of children’s books for all the [Rudin] kids (usually trucks, dinosaurs, or trains ;-), and would always wipe the book covers clean to ensure they were safe for the kids.”

Another way in which he supported his confreres and friends was by some unexpected remembrance.  Bro. Tom Sweeney recalls that “Bob would mail a note with a holy card, an article he knew you might be interested in, a card congratulating you on a particular occasion (birthday, Christmas, profession anniversary, graduation, or something you’d accomplished).  It was totally unexpected, but I really appreciated that he took the time to do this.  He will be missed.”

Besides the sacred Scriptures—the Psalms, especially—Fr. Bob had two abiding passions:  aircraft and ships.  (If you got him started on the Titanic, which didn’t take much, he could go on for an hour or more.)

Fr. Ruekert again:  “If an airplane were flying overhead, Bob could tell you precisely what make and model it was, as well as how much it cost to manufacture it.  He would often drive near an airport, just to watch the planes land and take off.”

Bill Moriarty learned of Bob’s early life:  “His father was a baker, whose only day away from the oven was Sunday.  When it was only Bob, his mother and his father, each would pick a different restaurant to go to on Sunday.  As Bob said to me and Marian [Bill’s wife] with that mischievous gleam in his eye, ‘Every third Sunday we went to the airport’ so he could see the planes taking off and landing.”

Fr. Bob always retained a love for good music, both liturgical and classical.  Another of Mr. Moriarty’s recollections:  “One day, while Bob was visiting the East Boston community, he drove to our house in Marblehead, and entered waving a CD.  He immediately made us sit on the sofa, popped the CD into the player hooked to the Bose speakers, and said, ‘You have to listen to this.’  ‘This’ was Evgeny Kissen playing Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto. It was glorious.”

A great many confreres and friends would endorse what Fr. Tom Ruekert prays:  “May God reward him for all the good he has done for so many, especially to his former students.”

On account of the corona virus pandemic and restrictions on any large gathering of people, there was no funeral for Fr. Bob other than a Mass for the deceased at the provincial house the morning after his death, and his burial in the Salesian Cemetery in Goshen, N.Y., was private.  A memorial Mass is to be planned at a later date.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent

Homily for the
4th Sunday of Lent

April 1, 1984
John 9: 1-41
1 Sam 16: 1, 6-7, 10-13
Eph 5: 8-14
St. Joseph’s Rest Home, Paterson, N.J.

Today's Laetare Sunday; hence the rose-colored title.  As we all know, there aren't any public Masses in most of the country because of corona virus.  So here's an oldie from my digital strongbox.

“I came into this world to divide it, to make the sightless see and the seeing blind” (John 9:39).

Christ and the Blind Man (Andrey Mironov)
Seeing and not seeing, light and darkness are the themes of today’s readings.

How does the Lord choose a king for Israel?  Not by physical appearances, nor by seniority.  “The Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16: 7).  He chooses a baby-faced shepherd boy, and to him he gives his Holy Spirit.

Jesus offers a blind man the chance to see.  St. John loves to play with words.  Jesus heals the man physically, but he also gives the man insight, the spiritual gift of perception.  He looks on this man’s heart, and he sees who Jesus is.  He proclaims his new faith even in the face of those who will not see.

Spiritual insight doesn’t belong to everyone.  The Pharisees, who have seen all of Jesus’ works, sneer at them and at Jesus:  “Are you saying we’re blind!” they ask (John 9:40).  Tho they see, they don’t perceive.  And so they become persecutors rather than disciples, men continuing in their guilt rather than receiving forgiveness.

God’s Spirit has come mightily upon us, too, to give us insight.  “Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.”  Nor is it enuf to be light, but we must “walk as children of light” (Eph 5:8), proclaiming our faith, sharing our insight with the whole world, like the man whom Jesus healed.  We have put behind us the darkness of sin—or, really, we’re still trying to do that, and that is what Lent challenges us to do.  We have to allow Jesus to lead us into the light of forgiveness and the ways of holiness.

And that means that we have to change our ways of looking at each other, too.  We cannot walk as children of light while condemning our neighbors to live in darkness.   We who cannot see the heart must avoid the temptation to judge our neighbors by outward appearances.  We must want the insight to find the hidden virtues, the Spirit-filled goodness inside one another.  We must give the Spirit a chance to move in the lives of one another.  We must show one another what is pleasing to the Lord.  Then Jesus will be able to judge us as among those who truly see.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Homily for Friday, Week 3 of Lent

Homily for Friday 
3d Week of Lent

March 20, 2020
Collect

I was scheduled to celebrate Mass at Salesian Missions in New Rochelle on Friday, but on Wednesday the office was closed, due to the corona virus crisis, until at least March 30.  Since I already had this homily 95% written, I’m posting it.

We prayed in the Collect that we would “be constantly drawn away from unruly desires.”  When the Bible uses the passive voice like that—“may we be drawn away,” with no actor specifically identified, it’s understood that God is the actor.  May you, O Lord, draw us away constantly from unruly desires.”

We could be more specific:  “from our unruly desires.”  In this Collect we’re not talking about the unruly desires of the jihadists in Nigeria or of the Kremlin or of Kim Jong-un.  As Pogo said a long time ago, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Pogo, 1970, and various later usages
What do we mean by “unruly desires”?  Unruly could mean just rowdy or rambunctious, like school kids at 2 p.m. on Friday.

No, we mean something more disordered and disorienting.  We mean those passions and desires that would lead us astray, what we’ve traditionally called “concupiscence.”  Our tendency to pass judgment on others, to find fault with them, and to talk about them—sometimes rashly and falsely—is an unruly desire.  Our desire to possess more and more material objects and to consume more food and drink than we need is an unruly desire.  Our lust to posses and use another person for our own gratification is an unruly desire.  Our reluctance to fulfill our responsibilities at work and at home and to indulge in distraction or loafing is an unruly desire.  When we reject the teaching of the Scriptures or of the Church because we disagree and want to do what we want, that an unruly desire.

Instead, we pray that by God’s “grace poured into our hearts” by his good gift, we may obey “the heavenly teaching” he gives us.  We know well from our own experience how hard it is to fight against our own unruly desires.  We need the power that comes from God thru our Lord Jesus Christ, who has already crushed the supposed power of Satan.  Even when we fail, Christ’s power is still at hand with the gift of forgiveness and the encouragement to keep on trying to be faithful to his “heavenly teaching.”

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Homily for 3d Sunday of Lent

Homily for the
3d Sunday of Lent

March 15, 2020
John 4: 5-42

Early Saturday afternoon (great timing!), the archdiocese of New York announced the cancelation of all Masses until further notice as a precaution against the corona virus, which has had a great impact in the N.Y. metro area, including New Rochelle particularly.  Well, the homily, intended for 2 Masses this weekend, was already done.  So here it is.

“If you knew the gift of God …, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4: 10).

“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink” was the plight of the Ancient Mariner in Coleridge’s famous poem.  Not our problem, as we hear in today’s Scriptures.  Rather, our problem is the source of the water and its meaning.

Thru Moses, the Lord provides an abundance of water in the desert for the thirsty Israelites and their flocks, when they’ve grown testy--testing the Lord and his faithfulness to them even as they demonstrate their lack of faith in him, “tempting him and testing him altho they had seen his works” (cf. Ps 95:9).

St. Paul reminds us that “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts thru the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5).  In John 8, Jesus teaches us that living water is a sign of the Holy Spirit; he says, “Whoever believes in me …, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him,’” to which the gospel writer adds, “He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive” (John 8:38-39).  So, that water pouring out upon us is a symbol behind Paul’s words:  “the love of God has been poured into our hearts thru the Holy Spirit.”

Most obviously, water is the central image in Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.  Jesus calls what he offers her “living water,” i.e., water that contains life—something more than the ordinary water we all need in order to live (and should be drinking more of in these days when disease lurks around us!).  St. John uses here one of his customary word plays that lead to misunderstanding.  For “living water” could also mean simply “flowing water,” like a rushing stream—cool, refreshing, inviting, delightful.  And so the woman takes it as she continues her dialog with Jesus:  “Sir, give me this spring of water welling up to eternal life, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water” (4:14-15).

Jesus’ thirst, however, isn’t only for the literal water in the well—a natural enuf need for a Palestinian traveler in the noonday heat.  He thirsts with the same thirst that he demonstrates when he exclaims on the cross, “I thirst” (John 19:28).  It’s not for water but for her soul.

This thirst is what leads Jesus to break 2 taboos when he speaks with this woman.  1st, that he speaks to her at all; in traditional Middle Eastern society, men don’t speak to women in public, especially women to whom they aren’t related.  That’s still true, as you know if you’re paying attention to happenings, e.g., in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan.  2d, this particular woman is a Samaritan, as St. John notes (4:9).  As we know from other gospels, as well, Jews and Samaritans weren’t on speaking terms with each other, to put it mildly.  Yet Jesus not only addresses this woman, but he takes the initiative—he’s the 1st to speak.

Further, as we soon learn, this woman is a social outcast even in her own town.  She’s a sinner.  She’s run thru 5 husbands and is now living with a 6th fellow.  That’s why she has to come to the well to draw water at noon, in the heat, rather than early in the morning with the rest of the village women—a time for sharing female company and chattering about their husbands, their children, and everything going on around them.

But Jesus thirsts for her soul.  He reaches her gradually thru his patient dialog with her, leading her slowly to recognition of his identity.  (We might note that this patience, this taking people where they start from and leading them gradually, is what Pope Francis keeps asking the Church to do, rather than whacking them immediately over the head with canon law or even divine law.)  She sees him not just as a passer-by, but as a man of distinction, addressing him as  “Sir” (κυριε in John’s Greek text); then not just as a man of distinction, but a prophet; not just a prophet, but the Messiah.

Convinced, she becomes an apostle, perhaps with more enthusiasm than the 12 have.  She leads the town to Jesus and to faith in him.

This anonymous woman’s story is part of the process of preparation every year for all those who will be baptized or received into the full communion of Christ’s Church at the Easter vigil.  The rest of us read it, usually, only during the A cycle of readings, the one we’re using this year.  But the story of the woman at Jacob’s well is meant for us too, that we might hear the teaching of Jesus and be converted.  He thirsts for our souls too.  He has the living water of the Holy Spirit to offer to us too.  We, too, are outcasts, the children of the couple who were cast out of Paradise.  If we haven’t run thru 5 spouses, we have wreaked our share of havoc with the 7 capital sins.

When Jesus cried out on the cross, “I thirst,” the soldiers guarding him responded with “a sponge soaked in wine” that they put up to his mouth (John 19:29)—a sop of compassion, true, but a compassion lacking faith, not the same response that Jesus received finally from the woman at the well.  She was led, slowly, to admit her moral failure and take that as a basis for believing in Jesus as the Christ, the one who leads people to “worship the Father in Spirit and truth” (4:23), and then acting on her belief.  Two quite different ways of responding to Jesus’ thirst.

During Lent all of us outcasts are invited to respond to Jesus’ thirst for our souls:  to respond by confessing our sinfulness (literally, in the sacrament of Reconciliation) and by believing in Jesus as the Messiah, as our Savior, and then acting on our belief.  Jesus gives us in the gospel a strong pointer to what that means when he tells the disciples, “I have food to eat of which you do not know. My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work” (4:32,34).  To act on our belief in Jesus as our Savior, we must do his Father’s will, by worshiping God with pure, spiritual hearts and by loving our neighbor.  We might show that love concretely in this time when there’s so much anxiety and fear about public health by being patient and understanding with our family members and neighbors and by extending care to those who may need it, rather than treating everyone like a leper—all of us taking appropriate cautions, of course, as health care officials advise us.  Unlike Jesus, we can’t “finish” the Father’s work, but we can cooperate with him on the project.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Extraordinary Novena to Mary Help of Christians

Extraordinary Novena 
to Mary Help of Christians   


(ANS – Rome – March 12) – Considering the emergency created by the spread of coronavirus across most of the globe, the Rector Major, Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime, invites the Salesians, members of the Salesian Family, and young people to renew their trusting faith in Mary Help of Christians, following the example of Don Bosco in similar circumstances. For this reason he proposes an extraordinary novena from March 15 to 23, to conclude on March 24, the monthly commemoration of Mary Help of Christians, with a prayer of entrustment.

Text of the novena and consecration to Mary Help of Christians
Recite for nine consecutive days:

Three Our Fathers, Hail Marys, Glory Bes, and “O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.”
Hail, Holy Queen ... with the invocation: “Mary, help of Christians, pray for us.”

Remember, Most Holy Virgin Mary, that it has never been heard that someone sought your protection, begged your patronage, asked for your help, and was abandoned. With this confidence, I turn to you, Mother, Virgin of virgins. I come to you, tears in my eyes, guilty of so many sins, I bow down at your feet and ask for mercy. Do not despise my supplication, O Mother of the Word, but listen to me with kindness and hear me. Amen.

Prayer for deliverance from the coronavirus
Almighty and eternal God, from whom the whole universe receives energy, existence, and life, we come to you to invoke your mercy, because today we are still living the fragility of the human condition in the experience of a new viral epidemic.

We believe that it is you who guide the course of human history and that your love can change our destiny for the better, whatever our human condition may be. This is why we entrust the sick and their families to you: for the paschal mystery of your Son gives salvation and relief to their body and their spirit.
Help all members of society do their jobs by strengthening the spirit of mutual solidarity. Support doctors and health workers, educators and social workers in the performance of their duties.

You who are comfort in fatigue and support in weakness, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of all the holy doctors and healers, keep all evil away from us.
Free us from the epidemic that is affecting us so that we can calmly resume our usual occupations and praise you and thank you with a heart renewed.
We trust you and address our plea to you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

CONSECRATION of the world to MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS [March 24]
Most holy and immaculate Virgin Mary, our tender and powerful Mother of Christians, we consecrate ourselves entirely to you, so that you may lead us to the Lord. We dedicate our spirit to you with its thoughts, our heart with its affections, the body with its feelings and all its strength, and we promise always to want to work for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls.

Meanwhile, O incomparable Virgin, who have always been the Mother of the Church and the Help of Christians, continue to show yourself thus, especially these days.
Enlighten and strengthen bishops and priests. Keep them always united and obedient to the Pope, our infallible teacher. Increase priestly and religious vocations so that, also through them, the kingdom of Jesus Christ be preserved among us and extend to the very ends of the earth.

We ask you once again, sweet Mother, always to keep your loving eyes on the young exposed to so many dangers, and on poor sinners and the dying.
Be for all, O Mary, sweet hope, mother of mercy, door of heaven. But we also beg you, O great Mother of God, for ourselves. Teach us to copy in ourselves your virtues, especially your angelic modesty, your profound humility, and your ardent charity.

Mary Help of Christians, gather us all under your motherly mantle.
Grant that in temptations we immediately invoke you with trust: in short, let the thought of you – so good, so kind, so dear, the memory of the love you bring to your devotees – grant such comfort that it makes us victorious against the enemies of our soul, in life and in death, so that we can come to be your crown in the beauty of Paradise. Amen.

28th General Chapter Ends Early

28th General Chapter Ends Early

On March 13 the Salesians announced that our 28th General Chapter, meeting in Turin since Feb. 16, would conclude prematurely on March 14. It had been scheduled to run until April 4.

A press release stated simply:  "In consideration of the current situation in Italy and in compliance with current regulations, the 28th General Chapter of the Salesian Congregation, has decided to conclude activities on Saturday March 14. The Rector Major with his new general council will find ways to ensure that all planned topics and deliberations can be addressed later."

The "current situation," of course refers to the corona virus pandemic that has struck Italy very hard, and the restrictions that the Italian government has put on public gatherings.

The elections of the Rector Major (preceding post) and the rest of the general council were anticipated to this week.  The vicar of the Rector Major and the departmental general councilors were elected on Thursday, and the regional councilors on Friday.

Fr. Stefano Martoglio, who had been regional councilor for the Mediterranean countries, was elected vicar.  Besides him, the only holdovers from the old general council are Fr. Ivo Coelho, responsible for formation, and Bro. Jean Paul Muller, the treasurer general.

The councilors for youth ministry (Fr. Miguel Angel Garcia), communications (Fr. Gildasio dos Santos), and the missions (Fr. Alfred Maravilla) and all seven regional councilors are new to the council.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime Re-elected Rector Major

Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime 
Re-elected Rector Major

(ANS – Turin – March 11) – The 28th General Chapter of the Salesian Congregation has re-elected as Rector Major the incumbent, Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime, for 2020-2026. The election was decided at the first round of voting.

Fr. Fernandez, 59, was born on August 21, 1960, in Gozon-Luanco, Asturias, Spain; he made his first profession on September 3, 1978, and his perpetual vows on June 17, 1984, in Santiago de Compostela. He was ordained on July 4, 1987 in Leon.

Originally from the Leon Province, he has been youth ministry delegate, director of the school at Ourense, member of the provincial council and vice provincial and, from 2000 to 2006, provincial of Leon.

He has a Doctorate in pastoral theology and a Licentiate in philosophy and pedagogy.

He was a member of the technical commission that prepared General Chapter 26 (2008). In 2009, he was appointed provincial of South Argentina, one of two Salesian provinces created from the consolidation of five Argentine provinces. Thanks to this position, he also got to know and collaborate personally with the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires, Card. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, today Pope Francis.

On December 23, 2013, not having completed his term in Buenos Aires, he was appointed provincial of the new province of Mary Help of Christians in Spain (the result of the consolidation of six Spanish provinces into two). That was an office he couldn’t take on, because the 27th General Chapter on March 25, 2014, elected him the tenth successor of Don Bosco.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Homily for 2d Sunday of Lent

Homily for the
2d Sunday of Lent

March 8, 2020
Gen 12: 1-4
Matt 17: 1-9
Holy Name of Jesus, Valhalla, N.Y.

“Abram went as the Lord directed him” (Gen 12:4).

Abram's journey (Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione)
Abram—whom the Lord will later rename Abraham (ch. 17)—appears quite suddenly in the narratives of sacred history, and the 1st thing we hear of him is God’s command that he should pack up and move—move his family and his servants; move his flocks and herds, his tents, and his household goods; move from his father’s house and country in northern Mesopotamia (what is now northern Iraq) and away from the gods of that land; move into a new land; move into a relationship with a new God who promises him blessings of family, territory, and heritage—all of that unseen and unknown.

“Abram went as the Lord directed him.”  He went without a roadmap or, as far as we know, an advanced scouting of the route and destination; he went only with the Lord who was beginning to reveal himself to him and to establish a relationship destined to change not only Abram but the rest of humanity as well:  “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.  All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you” (12:3).

And so God began the long process of redeeming mankind after our sins of disobedience and arrogance, like the one described in last week’s 1st reading (Gen 2:7-9; 3:1-7), as well as in the stories that follow it in Genesis.

That long process of redemption culminated in the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, foreshadowed in today’s gospel.  Jesus tells his 3 closest disciples not to speak of his transfiguration “until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead” (Matt 17:9), a command implying his suffering and death—which he explicitly predicted to the 12 on other occasions—and foretelling his resurrection, as his transfiguration foretold his glorification and his fulfillment of all the promises God made thru the Law and the prophets.

Jesus was able to effect our redemption because he was the Father’s beloved Son (17:5), a Son completely obedient, who listened to the Father in everything he did, from his birth thru his public ministry to his passion.  He “went as the Lord directed him,” and so he became the source of blessing for all of humanity, completing what had begun with Abram some 2,000 years earlier.

In the vision, Peter, James, and John were instructed, “Listen to him” (17:5), to Jesus the beloved Son.  This becomes their command, and our command, to leave their homeland and their familiar world, not in a geographical sense like Abram but in a spiritual sense.  It’s a call to conversion, to a change of interior attitude, a change of orientation in their life.  It’s a much bigger challenge than the one given to Abram.

The apostles had to be converted from their material, earth-centered way of thinking, from arguing among themselves about who was most important, from asking what power and wealth they might gain from following Jesus, from limiting the forgiveness they might extend to those who offended them, from lack of concern for the welfare of their non-Jewish neighbors, from their own fears of suffering and death.  Except for Judas, who couldn’t overcome his own covetousness and ambition, by the grace of God and by their experience of Jesus risen from the dead, they were converted and were ready to “bear [their] share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God” (2 Tim 1:8); were ready to go forth from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth “as the Lord directed” them with the Good News that “our savior Christ Jesus [had] destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light thru the Gospel” (1:10).

As I said, the command to listen to Jesus, God’s beloved Son, is our command too.  In this season of Lent, this season of repentance and conversion, what is Jesus commanding us to be converted from, what sin to turn away from?  Is it something in our family relationships, some form of selfish or overbearing behavior toward a spouse, a child, a parent?  Is it a habit of fudging the truth, of laziness at work or school, of pornography, of wasting time on the internet or with video games?  Is it an invitation from Jesus to spend more time with him in prayer or reading the Scriptures, or to pray together as a family?  Is Jesus challenging us to return to the sacrament of Reconciliation (and to make a habit of frequent confession and spiritual guidance)?  Is Jesus challenging us to take this year’s elections seriously from the perspective of our Catholic faith?

For sure, we can’t listen to God’s beloved Son Jesus if we’re not meeting him regularly in the Scriptures and in personal prayer and the sacraments.  In the collect of today’s Mass, in fact, we prayed that God the Father would “nourish us inwardly by [his] word” and purify our spiritual sight.  That prayer and purification will lead us to the joy of beholding God’s glory, not just temporarily like Peter, James, and John atop that high mountain—but forever alongside our risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Fr. Dominique Britschu, SDB (1937-2020)

Fr. Dominique Britschu, SDB 
(1932-2020)

At the end of a long and distinguished priestly service in the Salesian Society, Fr. Dominique Britschu passed into eternity on February 27 at the age of 87.  He would have been 88 in three more days.  He had suffered a brain hematoma earlier in the month. 

Fr. Britschu was a professed Salesian for 65 years and a priest for almost 55 years.  His service had two important phases, one focused on the worldwide Congregation at the Generalate as a secretary and regional councilor, the other dedicated to priestly ministry in the Salesian parishes in Montreal.  He served in the Canada Vice Province/U.S. East Province from 1996 to July 21, 2018.  Most recently, he had served in Messina, Sicily, as confessor at the Salesian school of theology.

Fr. Britschu in 2009 (by Fr. Richard Authier)
Dominique Britschu was born in Strasbourg, France, on March 1, 1932, to Georges Joseph and Marie Angélique Britschu.  He was baptized five days later at Clinique Ste. Anne in Strasbourg.

Dominique earned both a degree in classical literature in 1951 and his Bachelor’s in philosophy in 1952 at the Lycee Fustel de Coulanges in Strasbourg, after which he entered the Salesians at St.-Dizier, France, in 1952.  He made his novitiate at Dormans, France, in 1953-1954, and professed vows on September 4, 1954, at Dormans as a member of the Paris (North France) Province.

After a year of practical training as teacher and assistant at Coat-an-Doc’h, France, he did further studies at the Scolasticat Salésien in Andrésy, France (1955-1956).  He then completed his practical training as teacher and assistant at St.-Dizier (1957-1959).  He was called to military service in 1961-1963, apparently interrupting his theological studies, which he completed at the Université Catholique in Lyons, coming out with a Master’s in theology in 1966, a year after his ordination on May 1, 1965, in Lyons.

Fr. Dominique was called immediately into the service of the Congregation at Salesian General HQ in Rome as a translator and secretary to the general councilor for the Northern Europe Region.  Besides his native tongues of French and German (Strasbourg being a border city), he was fluent in Italian and able to read Spanish and English.  He filled those two responsibilities for five years, 1966-1971, before the Rector Major, Fr. Louis Ricceri, appointed him secretary general of the Congregation.  He held that office for 13 years, until the 22d General Chapter elected him regional councilor for the North European provinces and French-speaking Africa.  He served two terms as councilor (1984-1996).

Bishop Luc Van Looy, SDB, was on the Salesian general council for many years before Pope John Paul made him bishop of Ghent, Belgium.  He writes of Fr. Britschu:  “I worked with him for 18 years in the generalate. He was first and foremost a friend, who could lift you up in his dialogue to a higher level. I have always treasured his friendship and also the way he was able to switch after being a secretary general.  A great Salesian has left us.  I am particularly happy to have known such a bright confrere.”

And so in 1996 he began what might be considered a new career as a parish priest in Montreal:  assistant pastor at Maria Ausiliatrice (1996-1997), pastor of St. Dominique Savio (1997-2005), and assistant pastor at St. Joseph (2005-2010), including a term as director of the community (2006-2009).  In 2010 he moved into the Salesian residence of Montreal, remaining a treasured member of the community until he “retired” to the Sicily Province in 2018 at the suggestion of the vicar general, Fr. Francesco Cereda; he became the confessor of the community of the students of theology at Messina.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

New Auxiliary for Newark Was a Salesian

New Auxiliary for Newark 
Was a Salesian

(Archdiocese of Newark)
On Feb. 27, the Holy See announced the appointment of 3 new auxiliary bishops for the archdiocese of Newark.  One of them, Bishop-elect Elias Lorenzo, OSB, began his religious life as a Salesian of Don Bosco, and Don Bosco’s Salesian Family are duly proud of him.

Born in Brooklyn in 1960, he was baptized Richard, entered the Salesians as a candidate at Don Bosco College Seminary in Newton, N.J., in 1978, and made his novitiate year in 1979-1980.  He professed temporary vows as a Salesian on Sept. 1, 1980.

Over the following 3 years, while earning his Bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Don Bosco College, with the guidance of his superiors he gradually discerned a calling to monastic life.  With the assistance of the provincial, Fr. Dominic DeBlase, when his Salesian temporary vows expired in 1983, he entered the Benedictines at St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, taking the monastic name Bro. Elias.  He professed vows as a Benedictine in 1985 and was ordained at the abbey in 1989 by Bp. Frank Rodimer of Paterson. 

Fr. Elias assumed various responsibilities in the abbey and its Delbarton School, and also did additional studies in liturgy, counseling, and canon law.  He was prior of the abbey for a dozen years, served as procurator general of Benedictine Order in Rome, and in 2016 was elected abbot president of the American Cassinese Congregation, an association of 25 Benedictine monasteries with 650 monks present in six countries.

Read more: https://www.rcan.org/three-auxiliary-bishops-named-archdiocese-newark

https://www.saintmarysabbey.org/news/fr-elias-lorenzo-elected-abbot-president

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Homily for 1st Sunday of Lent

Homily for the
1st Sunday of Lent

March 1, 2020
Gen 2: 7-9; 3: 1-7
Holy Name of Jesus, Valhalla, N.Y.

3 days ago most of us were signed with ashes, and many of us heard the ritual formula, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  (Others were told, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”)  The “dust” formula evokes the story of man’s creation, read to us a few minutes ago:  “The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gen 2:7).

Virtually all Scripture scholars today will tell us that this isn’t a scientific or a historical account of human origins.  For that, we have to rely upon paleontologists and other scientists.  None other than St. John Paul II stated that we may put a Christian interpretation upon the hypothesis of evolution.

That, however, isn’t the point of what the sacred author of Genesis teaches us.  Rather, we are to see that we are God’s handiwork—however it may have been that God made us—and there’s something divine in what makes us up.  In what we call the 1st version of Genesis’s creation narratives, ch. 1 teaches us that we—both men and women—are made in God’s image (v. 27).  The version that we heard a snippet of this afternoon says the same thing in different language:  God put his own divine breath—his spirit, if you will—into us, “and so man became a living being” (2:7).

Temptation and Fall of Man
(Michelangelo)
The Scripture goes on to tell us in story form how we sinned, how we fell from grace, how we spoiled the divine image in our souls.

That story is rich in human psychology, as we know from our own experience.  It’s also consistent with today’s gospel story about how Satan tempted Jesus.  The Gospel tells us bluntly that the Devil “is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44) and has been a liar from the beginning.  So if you want to be truly demonic, tell lies.

The serpent—Satan—begins with a lie posed as a question:  “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” (3:11).  In verses omitted from our reading we read God’s actual command:  “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad.  From that tree you shall not eat” (2:16-17).  God’s plan, his wisdom, for human beings was that we should not know anything of evil but be surrounded and familiar only with the goodness and beauty of what he’d created for us, and with himself.           

Responding, the woman speaks a half-truth of her own:  “God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die’” (3:3).  But God’s command concerned only eating, not touching.  So the woman is misstating God’s command—even if it would truly be wise not to come near enuf the tree to touch its fruit and so be severely tempted.  As we all know, the longer we dally with a temptation, the more alluring it becomes.

The Devil, that liar, proposes a doubt.  Why would God keep this one tree, this one form of knowledge, from his creatures?  If he’s their friend, why would he not want them to know the secret of the tree’s fruit?  Could he be hiding something from them, or protecting his own power?  It’s a subtle temptation, isn’t it?

Then the serpent springs his trap, tells his fatal lie:  “God knows well that the moment you eat of it yours eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil” (3:5).

There is the real temptation:  not to eat a piece of fruit, not even to amplify our knowledge—for God did create us with minds meant to seek and know the truth.  The temptation is to desire to be gods, to desire to rank with God himself.  That, incidentally, is Satan’s own aspiration.  His 3d temptation of Jesus involves Jesus’ worshiping him:  that Jesus should submit himself to Satan’s lordship rather than to the lordship of God his Father.

And that, brothers and sisters, is the lie that the Evil One ever uses to try to deceive us:  that our own wisdom is wiser than God’s wisdom, God’s plan for us as individuals or as the human race.

Satan lies to us about stealing or cheating in this or that case—such a small thing, who would care or even notice?  He lies to us about the goodness of pornography or some sexual escapade; or about the benefits of some drug or about the threat to our well-being presented by people who are different from ourselves or about the justice of getting even with someone because of a wrong done to us.  Satan proposes to us that we are godlike enuf in our wisdom to pursue our own goals and purposes, to make our own life-rules.

Satan has succeeded marvelously in so deceiving our society.  We’ve made ourselves into gods by deciding who is human and who is not, who is fit to live and who is not; thru our laws allowing abortion, euthanasia, and capital punishment and a culture that praises them as moral goods.

On the flip side, Satan has deceived into thinking we can be like God and create human life—manufacturing human beings in a lab thru cloning, in vitro fertilization, and other forms of technology, and that this is good.

Satan has deceived us into thinking we’re gods who may treat other people with disdain, as subhuman, because of their race, religion, national origin, or poverty.

Satan has deceived us into defying science and natural law by destroying slowly the created world God gave us, for the sake of an immediate economic profit; and by denying the biological facts of maleness and femaleness and denying the nature and purposes of human sexuality.

Part of the serpent’s temptation was, “You certainly will not die!” (3:4).  St. Paul shows that for the lie it was:  “Thru one man sin entered the world, and thru sin, death, and thus death came to all men” (Rom 5:12).  How can humanity thrive when we make ourselves into God, which plainly we are not, and seek truth, goodness, and happiness where they’ll never be found—in our own willfulness, in the worship of our own powers?

During Lent we’re invited to examine our lives, starting with our interior attitudes, to acknowledge our offenses, as the responsorial psalm (51) said; to take Jesus Christ as our model of complete fidelity:  “The Lord, your God, shall you worship, and him alone shall you serve” (Matt 4:10).  That commitment of Jesus is what compels Satan to leave him (4:11) and allows Jesus to give us “the abundance of grace and the gift of justification” and “to reign in life” thru him—to be redeemed, restored as images of God, children of God for eternal life.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Homily for Ash Wednesday

Homily for Ash Wednesday         

Joel 2: 12-18
Feb. 26, 2020                             
Christian Brothers, Iona College, New Rochelle, N.Y.

“The Lord was stirred for his land and took pity on his people” (Joel 2: 18).

We can agree that our land is in trouble—great political unrest, worry about an epidemic, all manner of social concerns—and the latest polls on Catholics are hardly comforting.

Yet the Lord invites us to return to him to receive his pity (Joel 2:12-13), and Paul tells us this is an acceptable time (2 Cor 6:2)—which is the reason for our Lent, for today’s ritual.

Any resolution of our concerns begins with us individually—as followers of Jesus, as faithful religious, as evangelizers of the communities of the young whom we serve.  But it has to start with our own hearts—“return to me with your whole heart, says the Lord” (Joel 2:12)—with our commitment to prayer, to fasting from vice, to giving the alms of our brotherly love.

Monday, February 24, 2020

First of Many Salesian Martyrs

Feb. 25, 1930: 1st of Many Salesian Martyrs

90th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Sts. Louis Versiglia and Callistus Caravario

 (ANS – Rome – February 24, 2020) – In one of his dreams Don Bosco saw two large chalices rise to Heaven, chalices with which his children would water the Salesian mission in the Orient: one was full of sweat, the other of blood. A few decades later, Fr. Louis Versiglia wrote from China to another Salesian who had given him a chalice: “May the Lord ensure that I return the chalice that has been offered to our Pious Society. May it overflow, if not with my blood, with at least my sweat!”

Louis Versiglia was born in Oliva Gessi (Pavia) on June 5, 1873. At the age of twelve, he entered the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales at Valdocco (Turin), where he met Don Bosco. After ordination in 1895, he was master of novices at Genzano (Rome), then was chosen in 1906 by Fr. Michael Rua to lead the first Salesian missionary expedition to China. In 1918, the Salesians were given the mission of Shiu Chow in southern China. Soon after, Fr. Versiglia was appointed vicar apostolic, and on January 9, 1921, he was ordained bishop. He was a true shepherd, entirely devoted to his flock. He gave the vicariate a solid structure with a seminary, houses of formation, and various residences and shelters for the elderly and needy. He looked after the formation of catechists with true conviction.

Callistus Caravario was born in Cuorgné (Turin) on June 8, 1903, and was a student at the Valdocco oratory. In 1924, still a cleric, he left for China as a missionary. He was sent to Macao, and then for two years to the island of Timor in the East Indies. He edified everyone with his goodness and his apostolic zeal. On May 18, 1929, Bp. Versiglia ordained him a priest in China.

On February 25, 1930, the two missionaries were travelling by boat for a pastoral visit to Fr. Caravario’s mission at Linchow when a gang of Communist pirates intercepted them. They boarded the vessel and, finding three young women catechists, wanted to take them away with them. The two missionaries interposed and were attacked and tied up, while the pirates ransacked their possessions. One of the bandits, snatching crucifixes from a catechist, shouted: “Why do you love these crosses? We hate them with all our souls!” The young women, who were left aboard after all, saw the missionaries hear each other’s confession before being shot in the woods onshore. Thus the two chalices dreamed by Don Bosco were raised to Heaven!

St. John Paul II beatified them on May 15, 1983, and canonized them on October 1, 2000. On the occasion of the beatification, the Pontiff said: “The blood of the two blesseds is at the foundations of the Chinese Church, just as the blood of Peter is at the foundations of the Church of Rome.”

Because of this 90th anniversary, the provincial of the China Province, Fr. Joseph Ng, based in Hong Kong, is promoting a series of commemorative events from February 25 to November 13. He issued a message in which he said: “I hope that through the various activities that we are organizing this year we will know how to learn the spirit of martyrdom from these two saints.... Every Christian participates in a ‘white martyrdom’ [distinguished from blood martyrdom] if he puts the Gospel into practice and carries his own cross. Let’s model ourselves on the example of Sts. Louis Versiglia and Callistus Caravario!”

The saints' feastday is February 25.

They were the 1st of many martyrs, as this post's title indicates.  95 Salesians (including FMAs and lay colleagues) were martyred during the Spanish Civil War and have been beatified.  6 Polish victims of the Nazis also have been beatified, and others are under study, including most of the clergy assigned to Karol Wojtyla's parish in Krakow.  2 martyrs under the Communist persecutions in Eastern Europe have been beatified.  Others suffered imprisonment.  In more recent time, Salesians have been killed in mission lands including Brazil and Burkina Faso for reasons related to the faith and its practice.  The bloody chalice that Don Bosco foresaw is flowing over.