As you are likely aware, the Church celebrates the feast days of saints throughout the year. Many Catholics look forward to these different feast days for various reasons. For example, in places like Poland, the feast day connected to your name is a very big deal, even bigger than your own birthday in some cases! It is also common to celebrate the feast day of the saint that was chosen for one’s Confirmation. We also celebrate saints for whom we have a special devotion.
Every so often, the liturgical celebration of these feast days is skipped when there is a higher-ranking feast. Today is one such example. In a normal year, on October 4 we would be celebrating the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. But since Sundays generally take precedence over most feast days for saints, St. Francis has to take a back seat in most places, though Franciscan communities would celebrate today as a Solemnity, which would take precedence over the Sunday. Hopefully this explanation is not too complicated, and maybe you even learned a new fact!
I bring up St. Francis because he has long been one of my favorite saints. In fact, I had briefly entertained the possibility of discerning a vocation to religious life as a Franciscan before I entered the seminary for the diocese. While I realize that it is normally Father Rankin’s job to reflect on the saints in our Cathedral Weekly, I could not miss the opportunity to say something about this great saint.
There is a phrase connected with St. Francis that has come up in my prayer over the past couple of months. The phrase is the words that Our Lord gave to St. Francis toward the beginning of his vocation. In the run-down church of San Damiano, he heard these words: “Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.” Other translations use the word “rebuild”, but I think I prefer repair, for the Church, founded by Christ, can not be rebuilt, strictly speaking. The divine aspect of the Church is holy and not in need of anything. The human aspect, however, is always in need of repair. The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church articulates this well:
While Christ, holy, innocent and undefiled (Heb. 7:26) knew nothing of sin, (2 Cor. 5:21) but came to expiate only the sins of the people, (Cf. Heb. 2:17) the Church, embracing in its bosom sinners, at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewal. (Lumen Gentium, §8)
There is no doubt that the Church in our present times needs repair. And the first place we need to look to begin that process of repair is in our own hearts, acknowledging that we are in constant need of purification and renewal. When we have committed ourselves to that task, we will be making as great of a contribution to the renewal of the Church as pointing out everything other than ourselves that needs renewal in the Church. That is not to say that we remain silent or that we do not do anything to work for the needed repair in the Church. That is badly needed, but so is our renewal.
Our theme for this month is “God is the source of all life and What is a sacrament?” The sacraments are the greatest resources that we have in this important work of repairing the Church. The sacraments help us to be more firmly rooted in God’s grace so that we can more closely imitate Christ and His holiness. We are also called to be missionary disciples who lead others to the sacraments in order to experience that renewal in their lives. The more the faithful center their lives in the sacraments, the more we will allow God to truly work in and through His Church. When this happens, we will experience a remarkable repair and renewal in the Church, so that she will shine with ever greater brightness and purity in a world that desperately needs the hopeful message of the Gospel entrusted to the Church.