Christ the Lord was tempted and suffered for us. Come, let us adore him.
Liturgical Colour: White.
|Other saints: Saint Laserian or Molaise (- 639)|
He was born in Ireland, became a monk on Iona, and was ordained priest in Rome by St Gregory the Great. Returning to Ireland, he entered the monastery at Leighlin, of which he became abbot a few years before his death. He was active in promoting harmony between the Celtic and Roman churches, notably in the matter of the date on which Easter should be celebrated.
|Other saints: Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin (1809-1890)|
Esther Blondin was born in Terrebonne (Quebec, Canada) on 18 April 1809, to a family of deeply Christian farmers. Esther and her family were victims of illiteracy so common in French Canadian milieux of the nineteenth century. Still illiterate at the age of 22, Esther worked as a domestic in the Convent of the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame, which had been recently opened in her own village. A year later, she registered as a boarder in order to learn to read and write. She then became a novice in the Congregation but ill health forced her to leave.
In 1833, Esther became a teacher in the parochial school of Vaudreuil. Little by little, she found out that one of the causes of widespread illiteracy was a Church ruling that girls should not be taught by men, nor boys by women. As a result of this ruling, many parish priests, not able to finance two separate schools, had no schools at all.
In 1848, under an irresistible call of the Spirit, Esther presented to her Bishop, Ignace Bourget, a plan she long cherished: that of founding a religious congregation “for the education of poor country children, both girls and boys in the same schools”. Bishop Bourget authorised this revolutionary move, not least because the State was in favour of such schools and the Church should not be left behind.
The Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Anne was founded in Vaudreuil on 8 September 1850 and Esther, now named “Mother Marie-Anne”, became its first superior. The community grew rapidly and in the summer of 1853 Bishop Bourget transferred the Motherhouse to Saint Jacques de l’Achigan and appointed a new chaplain, Father Louis Adolphe Maréchal.
Father Maréchal set about getting absolute control of the Community he was meant to serve. He took it on himself to change the pupils’ boarding fees while the Foundress was absent, and forbade the Sisters from confessing to any priest but him. Mother Marie-Anne, as was her duty, fought to protect the rights of her Community, until on 18 August Bishop Bourget instructed Mother Marie-Anne to resign, called for new elections, and warned Mother Marie-Anne “not to accept the superiorship, even if her sisters wanted to reelect her”. Even though she could be reelected, according to the Rule of the Community, Mother Marie-Anne obeyed her Bishop, whom she considered God’s instrument. And she wrote: “As for me, my Lord, I bless Divine Providence a thousand times for the maternal care she shows me in making me walk the way of tribulations and crosses”.
Mother Marie-Anne was moved to the convent at Sainte-Geneviève, where she was named director of the school. Father Maréchal and the new leaders of the Congregation continued to persecute her and in October 1858 she was accused of mismanagement and recalled to the Motherhouse, where the Bishop warned the authorities to ensure that “she will not be a nuisance to anyone.”
Mother Marie-Anne never exercised authority again. For the rest of her life she was kept to domestic chores, mostly in the laundry and ironing room. The General Chapters of the congregation in 1872 and 1878 showed their respect for her by electing her as General Assistant; but the General Council barred her from attending any of its meetings.
Mother Marie-Anne led a life of total self-denial and thus ensured the growth of the Congregation. In the Motherhouse basement laundry room in Lachine, where she spent her days, many generations of novices received from the Foundress a true example of obedience and humility, imbued with authentic relationships which ensure true fraternal charity. To a novice who asked her one day why she, the Foundress, was kept aside in such lowly work, she simply replied with kindness: “The deeper a tree sinks its roots into the soil, the greater are its chances of growing and producing fruit”.
As she felt the end approaching, Mother Marie-Anne left to her daughters her spiritual testament in these words which are a résumé of her whole life: “May the Holy Eucharist and perfect abandonment to God’s Will be your heaven on earth”. She then peacefully passed away at the Motherhouse of Lachine, on 2 January 1890, “happy to go to the Good God” she had served all her life.
Mother Marie-Anne remained ignored by the congregation she had founded for almost another generation, due to long-held prejudices about her character. It was only in 1917, after a chaplain at the Motherhouse had come to know the details of her life and gave a series of talks about her to the community, that enthusiasm arose among the Sisters for honouring her. The Sisters began to collect the information necessary for having Mother Marie-Anne canonized. In 1950 the Archbishop of Montréal gave permission to introduce the cause of Mother Marie-Anne in Rome. Her first complete biography was published in 1956, entitled Martyre du silence. The Sacred Congregation of Rites approved the writings of Mother Marie-Anne on 15 December 1964. Pope John Paul II granted her the title of Venerable in 1991 and beatified her on 29 April 2001.
The attitude of Mother Marie-Anne, who was a victim of so many injustices, allows us to bring out the evangelical sense she gave to events in her life. Just as Jesus Christ, who passionately worked for the Glory of His Father, so too Mother Marie-Anne sought only God’s Glory in all she did. “The greater Glory of God” was the aim she herself gave her Community. “To make God known to the young who have not the happiness of knowing Him” was for her a privileged way of working for the Glory of God. Deprived of her most legitimate rights, and robbed of all her personal letters with her bishop, she offered no resistance and she expected, from the infinite goodness of God, the solution to the matter. She was convinced that “He will know well, in his Wisdom, how to discern the false from the true and to reward each one according to his deeds”.
Prevented from being called “Mother” by those in authority, Mother Marie-Anne did not jealously hold on to her title of Foundress; rather she chose annihilation, just like Jesus, “her crucified Love”, so that her Community might live. However, she did not renounce her mission of spiritual mother of her Community. She offered herself to God in order “to expiate all the sins which were committed in the Community”; and she daily prayed Saint Anne “to bestow on her spiritual daughters the virtues so necessary for Christian educators”.
Like any prophet invested with a mission of salvation, Mother Marie-Anne lived persecution by forgiving without restriction, convinced that “there is more happiness in forgiving than in revenge”. This evangelical forgiveness, guarantee of “the peace of soul which she held most precious”, was ultimately proven on her death bed when she asked her superior to call for Father Maréchal “for the edification of the Sisters”.
|Other saints: Bl Mary of the Incarnation|
18 Apr (where celebrated)
Barbe Avrillot was born in Paris in 1566. At the age of sixteen she married Pierre Acarie, by whom she had seven children. Through her household duties and many hardships, she attained the heights of the mystical life. Under the influence of Saint Teresa’s writings, and after mystical contact with the saint herself, she spared no effort in introducing the Discalced Carmelite Nuns into France. After her husband’s death, she asked to be admitted among them as a lay sister, taking the name of Mary of the Incarnation; she was professed at the Carmel of Amiens in 1615. She was esteemed by some of the greatest men of her time, including Saint Francis de Sales; and she was distinguished by her spirit of prayer and her zeal for the extension of the Catholic Faith. She died at Pontoise on April 18, 1618.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
|Second Reading: Saint Melito of Sardis (- c.180)|
Melito was the bishop of Sardis near Smyrna in western Anatolia, and a great authority in early Christianity. Jerome, speaking of the Old Testament canon established by Melito, quotes Tertullian to the effect that he was esteemed as a prophet by many of the faithful. Most of his works have not survived. His Apology to Marcus Aurelius, now known only in a Syriac translation, explains the origins of the Christian faith and tries to dissuade the emperor from persecuting Christians. His On the Passover, which was rediscovered only in 1940, sets the Last Supper and the Passion in the context of the Jewish Passover and thus relates Christianity to its roots in Judaism.
|40 Days and 40 Ways: Maundy Thursday|
When he had washed their feet and put on his clothes again he went back to the table. “Do you understand” he said “what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet.” (Jn 13: 12-14)
Ex 12:1-8, 11-14
The festival on which Passover was based was originally a nomad festival at the move from winter pastures in the plains to summer pastures in the hills. A fine lamb was offered to placate the gods, so that they would not harm the rest of the flock; it was eaten at the first full moon of spring, after the spring equinox (20th March). Blood on the doorposts of the tents was a sign that the offering had been made. Water is scarce for nomads, so the lamb was roasted, not boiled – cooking pots were packed, anyway! This primitive festival was taken up by the Hebrews to commemorate the great move from Egypt through the desert, and – most of all – the covenant made in the desert of Sinai, when God made Israel his own people. It was celebrated each year, and the blood of the lamb sprinkled over the altar (representing God) and the people signified their union in the covenant.
This feast was taken up by Jesus as the occasion for him to make his own new covenant, fulfilling the promises made by the prophets of a new covenant to replace the old covenant so definitively broken at the time of the Babylonian Exile. Whether Jesus celebrated it on the traditional evening or the day before is unclear (see yesterday’s discussion); if it was not the conventional day he must have taken this last opportunity to make it his own Passover Festival with his community. Paul gives us the story of this meal, which he himself had received from what was already traditional, hardly a dozen years after the Last Supper, well before the Gospels were written.
1 Co 11:23-26
Jesus himself was the lamb who was to be sacrificed, and his new covenant was sealed, not in blood sprinkled, but in his own blood consumed. It was a ‘memorial’, that is, an effective re-enactment, actually renewing the act of dedication and union. In today’s reading Paul is rebuking the Corinthians for re-enacting this significant moment thoughtlessly, as though it was an ordinary festal meal; they had lost the intention and the seriousness. They were no longer proclaiming the death of Jesus, no longer engaging themselves in the new covenant. It is a dangerous thing to commit oneself to a new covenant sealed by death and leading to new life.
Jesus’s extraordinary gesture recorded in the Gospel of John shows us the full meaning of what he was doing. The narrative stresses that Jesus knew what was to come; he was showing his disciples the meaning of the events. By the act of rising from the table and performing the demeaning act of stripping down and washing the feet of his followers, his guests, he was showing the meaning of the dire events to come – Peter’s horror says it all, but there was far worse to come. It was a pre-enactment of his great act of serving his community, the new family which he was binding to himself by this new covenant, the foundational act of service in the Church.
Is there an act of service I can perform to share in Jesus’s foot-washing?
This passage is an extract from the booklet “40 Days and 40 Ways” by Dom Henry Wansbrough OSB, published by the Catholic Truth Society and used by permission. “40 Days and 40 Ways” has meditations for each day in Lent. To find out more about the booklet, or to buy it, please visit the CTS web site.
The Universalis Readings at Mass page shows the readings for today’s Mass.
White is the colour of heaven. Liturgically, it is used to celebrate feasts of the Lord; Christmas and Easter, the great seasons of the Lord; and the saints. Not that you will always see white in church, because if something more splendid, such as gold, is available, that can and should be used instead. We are, after all, celebrating.
In the earliest centuries all vestments were white – the white of baptismal purity and of the robes worn by the armies of the redeemed in the Apocalypse, washed white in the blood of the Lamb. As the Church grew secure enough to be able to plan her liturgy, she began to use colour so that our sense of sight could deepen our experience of the mysteries of salvation, just as incense recruits our sense of smell and music that of hearing. Over the centuries various schemes of colour for feasts and seasons were worked out, and it is only as late as the 19th century that they were harmonized into their present form.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||Hebrews 4:14-15 ©|
Since in Jesus, the Son of God, we have the supreme high priest who has gone through to the highest heaven, we must never let go of the faith that we have professed. For it is not as if we had a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us; but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Hebrews 7:26-27 ©|
The ideal high priest would have to be holy, innocent and uncontaminated, beyond the influence of sinners, and raised up above the heavens; one who would not need to offer sacrifices every day, as the other high priests do for their own sins and then for those of the people, because Jesus Christ our Lord has done this once and for all by offering himself.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Hebrews 9:11-12 ©|
Now Christ has come, as the high priest of all the blessings which were to come. He has passed through the greater, the more perfect tent, which is better than the one made by men’s hands because it is not of this created order; and he has entered the sanctuary once and for all, taking with him not the blood of goats and bull calves, but his own blood, having won an eternal redemption for us.