Tuesday 10 January 2023

What happened after Jesus "went down with them to Nazareth?"

Lately, I have come to observe that there is a tendency in some Catholic circles to view the Holy Family as plaster statues. That is, they are still, solid, and unmoving. In a word, this is erroneous. The Holy Family, being the most perfect human beings to ever walk the Earth in every sense of the term, had human needs and concerns. Like you and I, they ate, they drank, they spoke with one another, and they did household work. Mary did not sit and pray all day. She mended garments, baked bread, washed clothes, fetched water from the community well, and had relationships with the neighbors. It was similar for Jesus and Joseph. 

The Holy Family did not exist in a bubble. They were far removed from everyone in only one sense: sin. In everything else, they shared the same sort of life you and I live in the here and now. When one realizes this, we can connect with them better, and come to a greater understanding of the hardships they faced while on Earth. One such hardship was felt in the immediate aftermath of the Incident in the Temple when Jesus was twelve. Aside from mentioning that Jesus went "down with them to Nazareth, and was subject to them," all the while advancing in "wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men," as well as the fact Mary kept "all these words in her heart," Holy Scripture does not reveal the changes that took place after the Incident in the Temple. It has been left to later authors to offer some text for meditation on the subject.

One such author was Reverend Franz Michel Willam. We provide the following from his book Mary the Mother of Jesus for your august meditation. God love you.
Mary and Joseph were both consoled and surprised when Jesus joined them again and went down with them to Nazareth. Would it not have seemed natural for Him to attach Himself to one of the doctors of the law and remain in the vicinity of the Temple? But "he went down with them, and came to Nazareth."

After the anguish of their search in Jerusalem other mental sufferings awaited them on their return to Nazareth. What should they say to the inquisitive neighbors who would rush to the doors and besiege them with questions: "How long did you look for Him? Where did you find Him?" What answer should they make, now that they themselves no longer understood the Boy? They could indeed tell how they found Him in the Temple, but not the answer He had given them, that "word" which they did not understand: "Did you not know, that I must be about my Father's business?" They could not tell of these words of their Son, which they themselves did not understand, and reveal them to others who might misinterpret them. 

How quickly gossip flew back and forth in the neighboring houses in Nazareth upon their return? We must remember how in these small villages everyone is interested in any unusual occurrence and how the matter is discussed and judged again and again. Mary and Joseph were obliged to submit to all of this. Jesus' stay in the Temple was not only a manifestation of Himself to the doctors in the Temple; it was also a revelation to Mary and Joseph and to His relatives. For Mary all this was a prelude to that loneliness on Calvary when she could not justify her Son before men because she was too close to Him and knew the mystery of His being.

"He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them." This sentence may lead us to believe that, after the mysterious occurrence in Jerusalem, life continued in Nazareth as before. But it was not so.

After those anxious days of the Passover pilgrimage, life in the home at Nazareth was very different. Nothing changes and intensifies our love for another so much as to lose him for a while. A mother stands at the bedside of her sick child; it is night and she is alone with him. Beads of respiration stand on the youthful brow - she does not know whether it is a sign of strength or weakness; the breathing is softer and softer - she does not know whether it is health-bringing sleep or a gradual sinking into death; little sounds come from the child's lips - are they signs of that he still lives or they the last expiring sighs. In the moment when her anxiety has reached the breaking point, and in them is the look of one who has returned to himself. Now a new love awakens in the mother's heart; and from now on her attitude toward the child will be changed. 

 After Jesus' return to Nazareth, Mary's love for Him experienced this change and intensification. But He did not recover from some sickness which, if it should recur, would be promptly recognized. He had gone from her unexpectedly and, when she found Him, gave no clear explanation for His act, leaving the future uncertain. Possibly He would again be in similar circumstances; would again separate Himself from Her without giving word beforehand. From this day on, Mary's love for Jesus was mingled with anxiety.

Mary could no longer feel secure that the morrow or the next year would be as today. The days went by uneventfully, and for Mary and Joseph this itself was incomprehensible and mysterious. Jesus' obedience was as incomprehensible as His remaining in the Temple. The shadow of sorrow which had enveloped Mary during the search at Jerusalem never left her. Her joy in Jesus and her anxiety for Him increased with her love for Him; she could no more cease being anxious for Him than she could cease loving Him.

In pictures and legends popular fancy has supposed many wonderful events to have happened during the period of the hidden life. Among these the most cherished scene is as follows: Jesus is working in the shop of His foster father, imitating Joseph at work after the manner of children. He takes some beams of wood and forms a cross while Mary and Joseph, deep in thought, look on. A similar thing actually happened in the spiritual realm, not once, but daily. And every day Mary recalled the words of Simeon and thought of all the pain and sorrow awaiting her Son.

Sunday within the Octave of the Epiphany, according to Fr. Leonard Goffine

Sunday last was the Sunday within the Octave of the Epiphany, otherwise known as the Feast of the Holy Family. The Holy Family is one of my treasured devotions, as there is so much fruit for meditation in the subject. I encourage everyone to foster a devotion to the best representation of the Trinity on Earth.

Today, I post a lengthy discourse on the Feast from Father Leonard Goffine's Devout Meditations. Father Goffine, a German Norbertine monk, was alive from 1648 to 1717, and thus avoided the chaos of the French and American Revolutions. Since discovering a physical copy of his magnum opus last year, I have come to love his meditations more and more, and prefer him to modern authors. A link to an online copy of his work is located in the right sidebar under "Useful Links."

Below is Father's discourse with the Gospel included. Father Goffine also wrote some words on obedience and piety for this Sunday, which I am also adding for the nourishment of the august reader. God love you.

The Gospel for the Sunday within the Octave of the Epiphany:
(Lk. 2:42-52). And when Jesus was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast, and having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not. And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day's journey, and sought him among their kinsfolks and acquaintance. And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers. And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? did ye not know that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth; and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wis­dom, and age, and grace with God and men.

Fr. Goffine's exegesis:

 Why did our Savior go with His parents to Jerusalem to the temple?

Because God commanded (Deut. 16:16) that all the male Israelites should appear, three times a year on certain festivals, and offer sacrifice to Him in the temple; Jesus fulfilled this commandment to set us an example that we, according to the will of the holy Catholic Church, should willingly and devoutly be present at the services of the Church on Sundays and holydays of obligation. Neither the distance from the church nor the difficulties of the way should prevent our attendance, since Jesus did not shun a three days' journey to the temple.

Why does the gospel say according to the custom of the feast?

That we may understand, that like Mary and Joseph, we should be punctual in observing the ecclesiastical festivals and holy usages, and like true Catholics, should observe them. Parents should require their children at an early age to take part in prayer, attend church and school, and see that they conduct themselves quietly and reverently while there. Mary and Joseph took the holy Child Jesus with them to the temple.

Why did the child Jesus remain in Jerusalem?

Because of His love of prayer and communion with His Heavenly Father, and to show, even then, some rays of His divinity, by which to make known that He had come for the glory of His Father, and to procure our salvation. The glory of God and the salvation of our souls should be our chief object in life.

Why did Mary and Joseph search so diligently for Jesus?

Because they were fearful lest they should lose Him Whom they loved so exceedingly. We should learn from this, how careful we should be not to lose Jesus by sin, or having lost Him, how anxiously we should seek by penance to find Him. The parents of Jesus, by their diligent search and inquiries for the divine Infant, teach and rebuke those parents who care less for the Christian education of their children than for their temporal advantages, who pay no attention to the persons with whom their children associate, nor to the places which they frequent, whether they learn things that are useful to them, and who for the sake of some temporal advantage permit their children sinful intimacy with evil-minded persons. From these parents God will one day demand the souls of their children with severest justice.

Why was our Savior found in the temple in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions?

To teach us that we ought to seek the knowledge necessary for our salvation, and attend carefully to the sermons and instructions on Christian doctrine; we should by no means be ashamed to ask questions of our pastors when we are in doubt, and should listen to their answers. Was Christ, the Eternal Wisdom, ashamed to ask questions and to answer? Why should we ignorant people hesitate? It is much to be regretted that persons who have many important things concerning their spiritual welfare on their minds, through pride and false shame, would rather go to perdition than ask advice, solely for fear of showing their ignorance.

Why did Mary say: Son, why hast thou done so to us?

These words were forced from her by pain at the absence of her Son, Whom she loved above all things, and not by indignation, for He was blameless. Mary's conduct should teach parents to remember their duty of caring for their children, and punish them when they do wrong.

Instruction on the Virtue of Obedience:

 He was subject to them (Lk. 2:51).

From this all Christians should learn to be obedient to the commandments of God and of the Church. God has united life or death, blessing or malediction with obedience or disobedience to His commandments, and the Bible (I Kings 15:22) shows that obedience pleases God more than sacrifices or the fat of rams, and that He despises disobedience as He does witchcraft and idolatry. We must be obedient to the Church, because Christ Himself with His holy Spirit lives in her, and governs her, and has said: Who hears not the Church, let him be to thee a heathen and a publican, therefore, shut out from eternal life. We must be obedient to our parents, because they are placed over us by God, and we are indebted to them, under Him, for life and many benefits. Those children who do not assist their parents when they are old, poor, and helpless, or are ashamed of them, have reason to be afraid, since even Christ Jesus, the God-Man, was obedient and subject in all things to His poor mother, and to a humble mechanic who was only His foster-father. Cursed be he that honoreth not his father and mother (Deut. 27:16); how much more cursed those who despise, deride and abandon their parents? Their eyes will one day be picked out by ravens (Prov. 30:17). If God commanded obstinate and disobedient children to be stoned (Dent. 21:20), what do those not deserve who even strike or abuse their parents?

How did Jesus advance in age, wisdom and grace?

He showed new effects of the wisdom and grace with which He was filled, as He advanced in years, and thus teaches us to progress the more in virtue, and fulfill the duties of our state in life that we may attain perfection hereafter.

ASPIRATION Most amiable Jesus! Who in the twelfth year of Thy age, didst permit Thyself to be found in the temple by Thy parents, and, as an example for us, wast humbly obedient to them, grant that we may diligently attend to the important affair of our salvation, willingly carry the yoke of Thy law from our youth, and be always obedient to the laws of Thy Church, to our parents, and superiors. Prevent uneducated youth from growing reckless, and preserve them from a scandalous life. Give parents wisdom and grace to educate their children according to Thy will in all virtue. Grant to us all, that we may never lose Thee by sin, or if we have lost Thee, anxiously to seek Thee, happily find Thee, and with Thy grace more and more increase in wisdom and in virtue. Amen.

On True Piety:

They found Him in the temple (Lk. 2:46).

Many people deceive themselves in regard to true piety, because their imagination represents it to them according to the effect produced by their passions or disposition of mind. He who fasts often and willingly believes that he is pious, though in his heart he nourishes a secret hatred, and while he fears to wet the tip of his tongue with wine, even with water, lest he should not live temperately enough, finds pleasure in detraction and slander, that unquenchable thirst for the blood of his neighbor. Another, because he is accustomed daily to recite a long string of prayers, esteems himself pious, though he gives vent afterwards to haughty, bitter, offensive language, hurting people at home and abroad. Another keeps his purse open for the poor, but keeps his heart ever closed to the love of his enemy, whom he will not forgive; another forgives his enemy with all his heart, but will not pay his creditors, until forced by law. All these think themselves pious, and are perhaps so regarded by the world, but in truth they are far from being pious. In what then does true piety consist? In the perfect love of God. This love is called the beautiful love, because it is the ornament of the soul, and attracts to itself with complacency the eyes of the Divine Majesty. When it strengthens us to do good, it is called the strong love; when it causes us to do that good quickly, carefully, and repeatedly, it is called piety. The ostrich has wings, it is true, but never uses them to fly; the chickens fly heavily and not high; but the eagles, the doves, and the swallows, fly high and swiftly, and do not easily tire. The sinners are but earthly people, they creep upon the ground; the just, who are still imperfect, rise, it is true, towards heaven but seldom, and then but slowly and heavily. But there are some, true, pious souls, who like the doves and the eagles soar high on strong, swift wings to God. In a word, piety is nothing else than a certain active, swift energy of the spirit, with which the strong love in us, or we with it, performs, as far as it is possible to us, all good. As the strong love urges us to keep God's commandments, the perfect love, that is, piety, urges us to keep them carefully and with all possible zeal.

No one is just or pious who does not keep all God's commandments without exception; for, to be just we must possess the strong love, and to be pious we must possess besides, a certain eagerness to profit by all the occasions of doing good, that present themselves. Thus St. Francis de Sales writes in his Philothea, from which it is seen that true piety consists not in special devotions, or the practice of special good works, but in the zealous, earnest, continuous obedi­ence to the commandments and performance of duty for the love of God.

Wednesday 4 January 2023

Cardinal Collins on the late Pope Benedict XVI

Thomas Cardinal Collins has some kind and moving words on the late Pope Benedict XVI. 

Have a read, and then continue to march on for Christ.

God bless you.

Vatican Radio: Your Eminence, welcome to Vatican Radio. It's a bit of a sad and somber moment for us, but we'd like to talk a little bit about your memories of Pope Benedict, Joseph Ratzinger.

You were named archbishop of Toronto by Benedict XVI, as pope, and later created cardinal by him, in fact, in one of the last consistories in his pontificate, about a year before his resignation. Could you just share with us some of your memories of the late Holy Father?

Cardinal Collins: Well, the time when I first really met him was when we had, in 2006, an ad limina visit of the Canadian bishops, which bishops do every five years or so. And so it was my turn as archbishop of Edmonton to meet the Holy Father. And so I went in, and that's really the only time I've had a lengthy time with Pope Benedict. And he was just so very gentle and very kind. You know, people often speak of that. The kind of gentleness and loving presence which he had was a real sense of holiness. And so he asked me about the diocese, [of] which I was the bishop.

And then we talked about how to reach out to young people, how to care for families, and things of that nature. And so I was just very touched by his presence, just gentleness and kindness.

And then, of course, shortly after that, it was around the time when I was archbishop of Toronto, and a few years later, I was made a cardinal by Pope Benedict. And I remember coming with my two sisters, and it was so, so wonderful. We were there the day after the cardinals were created. And we were in the big audience hall there. And each one of us had a chance to go up, and it was it was a great joy for me to present my two sisters, Catherine and Patricia, to Pope Benedict. And he was just just so loving. And that's the sense people have, I think, with him, just so kind.

So those are the main occasions in which I met him. I did not really know him that personally, but I've known him, of course, through his writings and through just the way he would speak and lead the Church.

VR: And in fact, Joseph Ratzinger, the man, has had a profound influence on the Church through his writings, through his teachings, not only as Pope but already as a young priest. He served as an emeritus, an expert, at the Second Vatican Council, later as a profound theologian, as prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the side of Saint John Paul II. What do you see as Benedict's legacy, the most significant gifts that he leaves for the Church?

CC: Well, I think his partnership with Pope John Paul was a very great blessing for the Church. They had different approaches, different backgrounds. Pope John Paul was more of a philosopher and a poet, [a] dramatist. And Pope Benedict, or Cardinal Ratzinger at the time, was certainly the greatest – one of the greatest, if not the greatest – theologian of the 20th century and maybe beyond. So I think the partnership there was extraordinary. You see several of the – not only of the teachings of Pope Benedict when he was pope, but I think the teachings of Pope John Paul, for example, Veritatis splendor and things like that. Many of the teachings, I think, certainly had the influence of Cardinal Ratzinger.

I think that what we see in him is a great sense of the personal relationship with Christ. If indeed, I hear his last words were, “Jesus, I love you,” and that is maybe the summary of his work. Jesus, I love you. And he used his head and heart and hands, his whole self, to proclaim that. And as a theologian, I think even people I've heard – I wasn't there, but I've heard people who saw him as a professor when he was a young professor – they sensed something different in him. He wasn't just an academic theologian. He was a man of incredible intellect, of massive learning, but of a deep piety and a deep “Jesus, I love you” was at the heart of his life, even when he was a great professor. And so I think that's the thing that touches the heart of the things he wrote and which will continue for millennia yet to come. That that sense, as he said, is not simply acceptance of a message, but it's an encounter with the person of Christ. And I think that is throughout all of his writings.

VR: And one final question. You yourself have served as a priest now for 50 years and for many years as a bishop and archbishop and now a cardinal. A pope always has an influence, not just for the universal Church, but for the particular churches. Can you talk about Pope Benedict's influence on the Church in Canada?

CC: Well, I think it's it's really remarkable that when he was in office as pope... I think his teachings guided us very much. And I think he had, I remember he had a great bit of wisdom for all bishops. And when we're talking about having, you know, some somebody once mentioned we should have some kind of a parliament of bishops in Rome to kind of govern the Church or whatever… And he said the best thing a bishop can do for the universal Church is to be a good bishop in his diocese. That's the best thing you can do for the universal Church. And I think that is that's I've always thought of that. I think all the bishops think of that, that if you try to serve faithfully, to teach clearly, I'll proclaim the faith with clarity and charity, then I think that's what Pope Benedict taught us how to do. Certainly with charity, a more gentle, loving man would be hard to find.

But also with clarity. And that's why we see, even in this time, as we mourn his death, we see different people, you know, attacking and so on, as you might expect. It's a tribute to him, a tribute to him. What a great tribute, that he who proclaimed the faith with clarity and charity is mourned by so many who love him and love him because he loved Jesus. “I love you.” He loved the Lord. But also people… he exercised his responsibilities. Ezekiel says the shepherd must speak the truth. And if he speaks the truth, that he is doing his duty before the Lord. And this gentle, gentle man spoke the truth. And that sometimes made people react. And that reaction is a tribute to his integrity and to his witness.

He was just an amazing man. Very, very amazing and a true model of a bishop and an exemplary pope. And I don't know whether he'll be named a Doctor of the Church or not, but certainly he should. But it's not for me to say. But even now, he is a teacher of the Church, and people like his books, like Introduction to Christianity, and many other things. He wrote a lot of little books. You know, he didn't write some great huge thing except maybe his volumes on Jesus of Nazareth – which is interesting, “Jesus, I love you.” But he guided us so beautifully. And that, I think, will continue to guide us in the centuries and millennia to come.

VR: And in just a couple of days, we'll be celebrating with Pope Francis the Requiem of Pope Benedict, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Any final thoughts as we prepare for our final farewells?

CC: No, I think it's something where I think we just…. Well, the words that come to my mind are well done, good and faithful servant. That's who he was. He said, “I'm a coworker in the truth. I am a worker in the vineyard of the Lord. That's all he ever sought to be. And he did that faithfully all the days of his life, right to the end. And I think that's what we’re so sad to to lose him, although at his age, advanced age, we would expect it, obviously, but so deeply touched by his his holiness, his wisdom, which will be forever a blessing for the whole Church and for all of us.

Monday 2 January 2023


Pope Benedict XVI has died in Rome at the age of 95. 

God rest his soul. Eternal light shine upon him, and may he, in the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Thank you.

"Youth has strong arms to boast of, old age white hairs for a crown." (Prov. 20.29)