Friday, February 6th, 2009
At Wednesday’s general audience, Pope Benedict concluded his extended treatment of the life and writings of St. Paul. In so doing, he honored the witness of the Apostle’s martyrdom as well as the enduring Pauline legacy that continues to shape the Church, especially in religious life.
With the Pauline series now concluded, I’m curious to see what the Holy Father will announce as his next theme. Any thoughts?
GENERAL AUDIENCE ADDRESS
February 4, 2009
Dear brothers and sisters:
The series of our catechesis on the figure of St. Paul has arrived to its conclusion: We wish to speak today of the end of his earthly life. Ancient Christian tradition testifies unanimously that the death of Paul came as a consequence of martyrdom suffered here in Rome. The writings of the New Testament do not take up this fact. The Acts of the Apostles ends its report indicating the Apostle’s condition as a prisoner, who nevertheless could receive all those who visited him (cf. Acts 28:30-31).
Only in the Second Letter to Timothy do we find these, his foreboding words: “For I am at the point of being poured out like a libation, and the time of my releasing the canvas [departure] is at hand” (2 Timothy 4:6; cf. Philippians 2:17). Two images are used here, the liturgical one of sacrifice, which he had already used in the Letter to the Philippians, interpreting martyrdom as part of the sacrifice of Christ; and the seafaring [image] of casting off: two images that together discreetly allude to the event of death, and of a bloody death.
The first explicit testimony about the end of St. Paul comes to us from the middle of the 90s of the first century, and therefore, something more than 30 years after his death took place. It comes precisely from the letter that the Church of Rome, with its bishop, Clement I, wrote to the Church of Corinth.
In that epistolary text, the invitation is made to have the example of the apostles before our eyes, and immediately after the mention of Peter’s martyrdom, it reads thus: “Owing to envy and discord, Paul was obligated to show us how to obtain the prize of patience. Arrested seven times, exiled, stoned, he was the herald of Christ in the East and in the West, and for his faith, obtained a pure glory. After having preached justice in the whole world, and after having arrived to the corners of the West, he accepted martyrdom before the governors; thus he parted from this world and arrived to the holy place, thereby converted into the greatest model of patience” (1 Clement 5,2).
As chairman of the US Bishops’ Pro-Life Activities Committee, Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, sent a letter to Congress yesterday urging our nation’s representatives to safeguard in upcoming federal spending bills the protections given to innocent human life. Over the past thirty years, these protections have been incrementally adopted and widely supported.
These include the Hyde Amendment, which restricts taxpayer money from being used to promote or subsidize abortion in federal programs; the Dickey/Wicker Amendment, which restricts federal dollars from being used in embryonic stem cell research; the Hyde/Weldom Amendment, which protects medical professionals who refuse to participate in abortion; and the Kemp/Kasten Amendment, which channels taxpayer money away from governments and organizations that support or conduct forced sterilization.
Click here to read Cardinal Rigali’s letter.
The holy friends of Christ rejoice in heaven;
they followed in his footsteps to the end.
They have shed their blood for love of him
and will reign with him forever.
Paul was the son of a Japanese military leader. He was born at Tounucumada, Japan, was educated at the Jesuit college of Anziquiama, joined the Jesuits in 1580, and became known for his eloquent preaching. He was crucified on Februay 5 with twenty-five other Catholics during the persecution of Christians under the Taiko, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, ruler of Japan in the name of the emperor. Among the Japanese layment who suffered the same fate were: Francis, a carpenter who was arrested while watching the executions and then crucified; Gabriel, the nineteen year old son of the Franciscan’s porter; Leo Kinuya, a twenty-eight year old carpenter from Miyako; Diego Kisai (or Kizayemon), temporal coadjutor of the Jesuits; Joachim Sakakibara, cook for the Franciscans at Osaka; Peter Sukejiro, sent by a Jesuit priest to help the prisoners, who was then arrested; Cosmas Takeya from Owari, who had preached in Osaka; and Ventura from Miyako, who had been baptized by the Jesuits, gave up his Catholicism on the death of his father, became a bonze, and was brought back to the Church by the Franciscans. They were all canonized as the Martyrs of Japan in 1862. Their feast day is February 6th.
For more on the martyrs honored today, click here.
God our Father,
source of strength for all your saints,
you led Paul Miki and his companions
through the suffering of the cross
to the joy of eternal life.
May their prayers give us the courage
to be loyal until death in professing our faith.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Click below for today’s edition of “Word to Life.” Joining me on the show were Fr. John Farren, OP, Director of Advancement for the Province of St. Joseph, and Fr. Gabriel Gillen, OP, associate pastor of the Church of St. Catherine of Siena here in New York city. We discussed the readings for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
“Word to Life” is broadcast live every Friday afternoon at 1:00 Eastern on The Catholic Channel, Sirius 159 and XM 117.
Click below for a glimpse inside The Catholic Channel’s studio.