How wonderful is God among his saints: come, let us adore him.
Year: B(II). Psalm week: 1. Liturgical Colour: White.
|Other saints: St Roque González and his companions (-1628)|
Saint Roque González de Santa Cruz was born in Asunción, the capital of Paraguay, on 17 November 1576. He came from a noble Spanish family but also spoke the local language, Guaraní, from an early age.
He was ordained priest at the age of 22 and joined the Jesuits in 1609 to work as a missionary. He was the first European to enter the region that is now the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. Delicate diplomacy was required to convince the local Indian leaders that he, as a priest, was not there to prepare the way for European settlement of the land.
From 1613 onwards he founded several of the Jesuit ‘reductions’ which brought Indians together to learn to live in settlements. The ‘reductions’ later became part of Brazil as a result of a territorial exchange between the Spanish and Portuguese empires, and because of the support they gave the Indians as against the colonial authorities, they were one of the reasons for the suppression of the Jesuits by the Portuguese Empire in the mid-18th century.
In the region of Iyuí (now in Brazil) he had difficulties with the local chieftain and sorcerer (‘cacique’) Nheçu (Spanish ‘Ñezú’), who had him killed on 15 November 1628, along with his Spanish companions Juan de Castillo and Alfonso Rodríguez.
They were beatified in 1934 and canonized by Pope John Paul II on 16 May 1988.
|Other saints: St Raphael Kalinowski (1835-1907)|
19 Nov (where celebrated)
Raphael Kalinowski was born to Polish parents in the city of Vilnius in 1835. Following military service, he was condemned in 1864 to ten years of forced labour in Siberia. In 1877, he became a Discalced Carmelite and was ordained a priest in 1882. He contributed greatly to the restoration of many Discalced Carmelite communities in Poland that had previously been suppressed under Russian occupation. His life was distinguished by zeal for Church unity and by his unflagging devotion to his ministry as a confessor and spiritual director. He died in Wadowice, Austria-Hungary, in 1907.
Sometimes there is a message for us in some words of the Gospel that even the evangelists don’t notice. There is an example here, hidden in words so uninteresting that we can’t even be sure who said them. Matthew and Mark say Jesus, while Luke says the scribe.
Jesus (or the scribe) appears to be quoting from the Old Testament, but one phrase does not exist in any text of the Commandments: that we should love the Lord our God with all our mind.
It is easy not to notice this phrase, and indeed Matthew, Mark and Luke don’t notice it. We know this because normally when Jesus departs from the Old Testament it is noticed, and remarked upon, and made the subject of a whole “But I say to you…” discourse.
There are two aspects to this. One is what it says about the past, the other is what it says to us. The past is straightforward. The Jews have never been “people of the Book” in the sense of believing in the Bible and nothing but the Bible. They have, it is true, had a peculiar reverence for every sacred word, but they have lived not in unthinking obedience to those words alone but in a dialogue, you might even say in a relationship, with the sacred text. So the fact that “all your mind” appears here, without attracting notice or comment, must mean that it had become a part of the generally accepted interpretation of the words of Scripture. When, centuries after the Pentateuch, the Jews came across the new, Greek ways of thinking – as the Wisdom literature shows that they did – they immediately realised that this new thing called “mind” was included, no doubt about it, in the commandment to love.
What this says to us is more important than just a footnote in the history of ideas. It is the foundation and justification of all science. God does not command the impossible. If he is to be loved with the mind, that can only be because he is lovable with the mind, or, to detheologize the language, because Ultimate Being can be related to rationally. The Gospel phrase tells us that things make sense and that we have the equipment to make sense of them.
What does omnipotence mean? Does it mean that the Omnipotent can do anything at all? If that were true, all science would be at an end. If God willed that when I dropped a glass on the floor it would shatter, then even if God had willed the same whenever anyone in the past had ever dropped a glass, that would still not bind God. God would still be free to decide, if I dropped a glass on the floor now, that this particular glass, alone among all the glasses in history, should bounce and not break.
Which is to say: on this interpretation of divine omnipotence, science is impossible. We cannot predict the result of an experiment, because next time God may decide differently. We cannot even lay down laws of nature based on previous experience, because to call a law a “law” is to claim to be able to bind God, which is blasphemy.
This is not merely an academic quibble. When the 11th-century Muslim philosopher al-Ghazāli propounded this very idea, it captured the mainstream of Islamic thinking and led to the virtual suicide of science in Islam and the abandonment of rational thinking about the physical world, as being unnecessary, or sacrilegious, or both.
We are saved from this by this one little phrase in the Gospel, about loving God with all our mind. It is more than mere permission, it is a command to understand, to go out and do science, and it was followed whenever Christians had leisure to think. It led to the dazzling 13th-century renaissance and the birth of modern science, and we are still living through its consequences.
As for divine omnipotence, this is not the place to go into it in detail, but the answer to al-Ghazāli must surely be that God can indeed make the glass bounce, but God cannot make the glass bounce and still be God, since to break the laws and regularities of nature whimsically and without reason would be to abandon lovability-with-the-mind. This is exactly the argument that theologians use against pointless or frivolous miracles, but it applies to science as well, and to the possibility of doing science at all.
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)||Romans 13:8,10 ©|
Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love. If you love your fellow men you have carried out your obligations. Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.
|Noon reading (Sext)||James 1:19-20,26 ©|
Be quick to listen but slow to speak and slow to rouse your temper; God’s righteousness is never served by man’s anger. Nobody must imagine that he is religious while he still goes on deceiving himself and not keeping control over his tongue; anyone who does this has the wrong idea of religion.
|Afternoon reading (None)||1 Peter 1:17,18,19 ©|
You must be scrupulously careful as long as you are living away from your home. Remember, the ransom that was paid to free you was not paid in anything corruptible, neither in silver nor gold, but in the precious blood of a lamb without spot or stain, namely Christ.
Free audio for the blind
Office of Readings for Monday of week 33
Morning Prayer for Monday of week 33
Evening Prayer for Monday of week 33
Full page including sources and copyrights