Feast Day of Thomas Aquinas

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“Nothing in the definition of charity can set a limit to its growth, for it is a sharing in the limitless charity of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, its agent of growth is God with unlimited power. And even on our side, each increase in charity produces an even greater increase in our capacity to grow–our heart is enlarged.”–Thomas Aquinas

Pope Francis: ‘Politics Is One of the Highest Forms of Charity’

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“Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good”, Pope Francis says. “Where, then, should a healthy economic policy begin? What are the necessary pillars for public administration? The answer is precise: the dignity of the human person and the common good. Unfortunately, however, these two pillars, that ought to structure economic policy, often seem to be a mere addendum imported from without in order to fill out a political discourse lacking in perspectives or plans for integral development. … Please, be courageous and do not be afraid, in political and economic projects, to allow yourselves to be influenced by a broader meaning of life as this will help you to truly serve the common good and will give you strength in ‘striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all’”.–Pope Francis to business leaders focused on “Feeding Our Planet – Energy for Life” on Feb. 7, 2015

St. Thomas: ‘Anticipate the Needs of the Poor’

ST. THOMAS OF VILLANUEVA DIVIDING HIS CLOTHES AMONG BEGGAR BOYS (1667) by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo at the Cincinnati Museum of Art
St.Thomas Villanueva (Cincinnati Museum of Art)

“If you want God to hear your prayers, hear the voice of the poor. If you wish God to anticipate your wants, provide those of the needy without waiting for them to ask you. Especially anticipate the needs of those who are ashamed to beg. To make them ask for alms is to make them buy it.”–St. Thomas de Villanueva

Thomas Merton: Grace Like an Acorn

oaktree“Grace, which is charity, contains in itself all virtues in a hidden and potential manner, like the leaves and the branches of the oak hidden in the meat of an acorn. To be an acorn is to have a taste for being an oak tree. Habitual grace brings with it all the Christian virtues in their seed.”–Thomas Merton

Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merson (New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1999, p 20.)

Francis of Assisi: Obama’s Saint?

tablet-orig1The Franciscan Catholic religious order is celebrating its 800th birthday this year. I grew up around the fantastic women and men who are members of the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity and the Order of Friars Minor on the West Coast.

The spirits of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare have had a profound influence on my faith, ministry, and vision of and for the world.

Check out the current issue of The Tablet, a U.K.-based Catholic magazine, which has a great article by literary critic Philip Hoare examines the influence of Francis on arts and culture–not to mention, President Obama. Here’s an excerpt:

Francis’ message of poverty was a potent antidote to an age obsessed with material advancement at the cost of both human lives and earthly resources. This was nowhere more noticeable than in Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem “The Wreck of the Deutschland”, published a year after Ruskin’s visit to Assisi. It dwelt upon the fate of five German Franciscan nuns fleeing anti-Catholic laws and who drowned together as their ship sank in a storm off Harwich, the sisters holding hands as their leader called out, “O Christ, come quickly!” In his exquisite verse, Hopkins elided the nuns’ fate with their founder’s, “With the gnarls of the nails in thee, niche of the lance/his/ Lovescape crucified.” In Hopkins’ words, St Francis’ stigmatic body became a landscape of Christ’s love.

Throughout the twentieth century, Francis remained an inspiration to artists and dramatists. In 1922, Laurence Housman, brother of A.E. Housman and a socialist and pacifist, wrote a series of playlets based on the life of St Francis. In 1950, Roberto Rossellini directed the beautifully shot Francesco, giullare di Dio (Francis, God’s Jester). By the 1960s, Francis was recast as a radical, the Che Guevara of the faith. Franco Zeffirelli portrayed him in his 1972 film Brother Sun, Sister Moon, as a proto-hippie in soft focus – complete with a poster displaying the naked saint and a soundtrack by Donovan. In 1989, a tougher Francis was played by the New York-born Catholic Mickey Rourke, in Francesco, a film by Liliana Cavani based on a novel by Hermann Hesse.

Yet even as a new generation embraced Francis’ proto-ecological message, welcoming his recognition as patron saint of the environment, Francis’ words were being invoked to herald an era of materialism. When Margaret Thatcher entered Downing Street on 4 May 1979, she intoned the saint’s prayer: “Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.” Recently, critics of Barack Obama’s tax plans have also quoted Francis at the president: “It is not lawful to take the things of others to give to the poor.” More optimistically, Francis’ embrace of change may be seen in the ambitions of the new leader – who, as a boy, attended the St Francis of Assisi school in Jakarta.

Read the whole article here.