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Profiles in Fortitude

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“If you embrace all things in this life as coming from the hands of God, and even embrace death to fulfill His holy will, assuredly you will die a saint.” ~ Saint Alphonsus Liguori

This month’s First Saturday Devotion brings with it the Memorial of the wise and ever-quotable Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. Remarkably gifted by God, something of a “Divine Swiss Army Knife” if you will, Saint Liguori was a spiritual writer, composer, musician, artist, poet, lawyer, scholastic philosopher, and theologian. He is the Patron Saint of arthritis sufferers, lawyers, and the cities of both Pagani and Naples in Italy. More on Saint Alphonsus in a moment.

“As for me, I am in your hands; do with me what you think good and right.” These were the words of the prophet Jeremiah in today’s 1st Reading (Jer 26:11-16, 24), who found himself in hot water as a result of his dire chastisement and warning to the people of Judah as captured in yesterday’s 1st Reading https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Saint-Ignatius-of-Loyola-and-the-Supreme-Virtue-of-Obedience. He would go in to warn them “but if you put me to death, it is innocent blood you bring on yourselves, on this city and its citizens. For in truth it was the Lord who sent me to you, to speak all these things for you to hear.”

As this tale unfolded at Mass this morning, I couldn’t help but think of the Saint we celebrated yesterday, Ignatius of Loyola. It was he who promoted the idea of “Ignatian Indifference,” which supported the notion that human freedom, when harnessed properly, allows the individual to grow in perfect relationship with God and thus share in God’s redemptive work. He understood that this required fortitude, a gift of the Holy Spirit https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Fortitudes-Role-in-the-Faith-Journey and internal freedom, or what Ignatius called “indifference.” He defined indifference as being detached enough from things, people, or in the case of Jeremiah in today’s Reading, his very life. Saint Ignatius knew that if he were to perfect this mindset, results and outcomes were largely immaterial against the backdrop of eternity. They were, in essence, merely a matter of God’s perfect will unfolding in conjunction with His larger, overarching divine plan. Jeremiah would ultimately be spared as the people of Judah would go on to discern that he was indeed a true prophet of the Lord.

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 14:1-12) we revisit the demise of another brave and fervent disciple and cousin of Jesus, Saint John the Baptist. Beheaded by King Herod at the whim of his mistress Herodias who, like many today, found the truth to be inconvenient to her wants and desires, this Protomartyr of the Church displayed that which goes far beyond ordinary fortitude, a courage elevated and transfigured through love. We see a willingness to give away even one’s life out of love for Christ and his people. To quote Saint Alphonsus Liguori, "the sufferings endured for God are the greatest proof of our love for Him."

The author of many prayers, Saint Alphonsus Liguori wrote the Prayer of Spiritual Communion that so many of the faithful relied on during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak due to an inability to receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus by way of the Holy Eucharist https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/On-Spiritual-Communion. On the topic of prayer, Saint Alphonsus Liguori said that “prayer is the necessary and sure means of obtaining salvation, and contains all the graces we need to attain salvation. To save one's soul without prayer is most difficult, and even impossible…but by praying, our salvation is made secure, and very easy.”

With this in mind, I leave you with a very powerful prayer written by Saint Alphonsus Liguori, a prayer which speaks to the power of repentance and living one’s life with their eyes fixed on eternity:

“O my God, help me to remember, that time is short, eternity is long. What good is all the greatness of this world at the hour of death? To love You, my God, and save my soul is the one thing necessary. Without You, there is no peace, no joy. My God, I need fear nothing but sin. For to lose You, my God, is to lose all. O my God, help me to remember, that to gain all I must leave all, that in loving You I have all good things: the infinite riches of Christ and His Church, the motherly protection of Mary, peace beyond understanding, joy unspeakable! Eternal Father, your Son has promised that whatever we ask in His Name will be given to us. In His Name I pray: give me a burning faith, a joyful hope, a holy love for Jesus Christ. Give me the grace of perseverance in doing Your will in all things. Do with me what You will. I repent of having offended You. Grant, O Lord, that I may love You always and never let me be separated from You. O my God and my All, make me a saint.“ ~ Amen.

For more on the First Saturday devotion and the many divine graces associated with it, I invite you to revisit the Hub below:

https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/From-Thorns-to-Roses

Saint Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us . . .

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