- From: "Hildi" <hildigard8@xxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 15 Jan 2006 10:54:56 -0600
- Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 -
Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.
No matter what the mysteries and apparent contradictions of life are, we
must work toward the single purpose of knowing God. All people will have to
stand before God and be judged for what they did in this life. We will not
be able to use life's inconsistencies as an excuse for failing to live
properly. To live properly, we need to (1) recognize that human effort apart
from God is futile; (2) put God first NOW; (3) receive everything good as a
gift from God; (4) realize that God will judge both evil and good; (5) know
that God will judge the quality of every person's life. How strange that
people spend their lives striving for the very enjoyment that God gives
freely as a gift!
January 15th - Saint Paul, the First Hermit
It was in Egypt that the great monastic movement began in the fourth
century. Thousands upon thousands of men and women moved into the nearby
deserts to undertake lives of penance and prayer. One of the leaders in this
mass movement was St. Anthony the Hermit. But Anthony himself, though a
pioneer, was eventually informed in a dream that the first Egyptian to
undertake the monastic life, years before, was St. Paul the Hermit, who
still lived in the remote wasteland.
Most of the early monks entered the desert when Christianity was no longer
persecuted. St. Paul had fled during the persecution of the Roman Emperor
Decius, which raged in the years 250-251. Decius' attack on Christianity
was particularly diabolical in that he sought less to kill Christians than
to encourage them to apostatize. To that end he made the denial of faith a
very easy thing.
Paul, a native of Upper Thebes in Egypt, was only 15 when Decius issued this
decree, but he was already well educated in letters and in Christian faith.
Fearing that he would be sought out and tempted by government officials, he
went into hiding at the farm of a friend. (Our Lord himself had advised,
"When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next." Matt. 10:23).
When he learned later that his brother-in-law, who coveted his property, was
about to betray him to the government, Paul fled once more, now to the wild
desert. Here he found some caves formerly occupied by counterfeiters. An
ancient palm tree gave shade to the oasis, and a spring of clear water
It had been Paul's intention to live in the desert only until the
persecution was over. But the longer he remained, the more content he
became with the solitary life of work and prayer. The tree gave him food
and clothing (and after 21 years a crow daily brought him a half loaf of
bread). Thus the life of prayer and penance became St. Paul's second
nature, and he remained in this secret garden of delights for the remaining
90 years of his life.
God did not permit Paul to die utterly unknown to the rest of humankind.
St. Anthony of Egypt, who headed a monastery a three-days' journey away from
St. Paul's cell, and was now himself 90, was apprised in a dream of the
existence and whereabouts of this original Egyptian hermit. He found the
old man in time to have with him a moving discussion of holy things. Paul,
knowing that he was about to die, asked Anthony to bring him the cloak that
St. Athanasius had given to Anthony. He wanted to be buried in it, he said.
Anthony obeyed, but when he returned from his monastery with the cloak, he
discovered that St. Paul had died while kneeling in prayer. The first
hermit was then 113 years old.
While St. Anthony was wondering how to dig the grave without a shovel, two
lions came up, mourned over the body of St. Paul, and then dug a grave for
him. Their task finished, they came up to Anthony as if to seek a blessing
from him. He blessed them and dismissed them. He then laid the aged saint
into the grave they had dug. But he kept for himself, as a precious relic,
the tunic made of palm leaves that Paul had worn. Ever after, St. Anthony
would wear this tunic on the solemnities of Easter and Pentecost.
St. Jerome is the principal source of our information about St. Paul the
First Hermit. He wrote a short, perhaps fictionalized, biography of him
around 376, with an eye to popularizing the hermit life. Jerome himself was
living as a hermit in those days and he saw in the story of Paul a good
illustration of the value of the hermetic vocation as a means of detachment
from both the threats and the seductions of the secular world.
-Father Robert M. McNamara
We must begin with a strong and constant resolution to give ourselves wholly
to God, professing to Him, in a tender, loving manner, from the bottom of
our hearts, that we intend to be His without any reserve, and then we must
often go back and renew this same resolution.-St. Francis de Sales
11 For the grace of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men; 12 Instructing
us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly,
and justly, and godly in this world, 13 Looking for the blessed hope and
coming of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, 14 Who
gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and might
cleanse to himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works. 15 These
things speak, and exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise
thee. (Titus 2:11-15)
A RENEWAL OF THE BAPTISMAL VOWS
O my Lord and my God,
I humbly prostrate in spirit before Thy Divine Majesty,
I adore Thy sovereign justice and Thine infinite mercy.
I am penetrated with fear
at the consideration of Thine awful judgments,
and my great ingratitude for Thy benefits,
since I was ranked by baptism among Thy children,
raised to the glorious dignity of a Christian
and thus entitled to enjoy Thee eternally in heaven.
I was not then conscious
of the precious grace bestowed upon me,
nor of the awful obligations I contracted
when I promised to renounce the devil,
the world, and the flesh.
But I am now fully conscious of both;
I most humbly thank Thee
for having brought me safely to the waters of baptism,
and I detest,
from the bottom of my heart,
every thought, word and action of my life
which has been unworthy of a Christian.
Thou knowest, O my God,
how often I have stained the robe of innocence
with which I was then clothed,
and how frequently I have violated my sacred promises;
but Thou seest the contrition of my heart,
and the sincerity with which I now renew,
in the presence of heaven and earth,
my profession of faith in the doctrines
proposed to my belief by the Holy Catholic Church;
as well as the promises made for me
when I was regenerated in the waters of baptism.
I firmly believe in God the Father Almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth;
in Jesus Christ,
His only Son our Lord,
Who was born and suffered for us;
in the Holy Ghost;
the holy Catholic Church;
the Communion of Saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the Resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.
I renounce the world,
with its pomps, vanities,
and false maxims,
which I despise because they are accursed by Thee.
I renounce the flesh,
with all its temptations,
and sincerely resolve to endeavour to amend my faults,
to conquer my passions,
and to sacrifice all that is most dear to me
rather than again deliberately sully that robe
which I promised to carry unstained before the judgment seat of Christ.
O my good God,
Who didst love me before I could love Thee,
and didst apply to my soul the merits,
of Jesus Christ when I was unable to implore that favour,
look on me with compassion,
and grant me all those graces,
which will enable me to keep my baptismal engagement without reproof.
Increase in my soul the heavenly virtues of faith, hope and charity,
which I received at baptism,
and teach me to make faith the rule of my conduct,
that it may avail me to life everlasting;
through the infinite mercies and merits
of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
Who, with Thee and the Holy Ghost,
liveth and reigneth,
one God, world without end.
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