From a letter to the Corinthians by Saint Clement I, Pope

Who can express the binding power of divine love?

Let the man truly possessed by the love of Christ keep his commandments. Who can express the binding power of divine love? Who can find words for the splendor of its beauty? Beyond all description are the heights to which it lifts us. Love unites us to God; it cancels innumerable sins, has no limits to its endurance, bears everything patiently. Love is neither servile nor arrogant. It does
not provoke schisms or form cliques, but always acts in harmony with others. By it all God’s chosen ones have been sanctified; without it, it is impossible to please him. Out of love the Lord took us to himself; because he love us and it was God’s will, our Lord Jesus Christ gave his life’s blood for us — he gave his body for our body, his soul for our soul.

See then, beloved, what a great and wonderful thing love is, and how inexpressible its perfection. Who are worthy to possess it unless God makes them so? To him therefore we must turn, begging of his mercy that there may be found in us a love free from human partiality and beyond reproach. Every generation from Adam’s time to ours has passed away, but those who by God’s grace
were made perfect in love have a dwelling now among the saints, and when at last the kingdom of Christ appears, they will be revealed. Take shelter in your rooms for a little while, says Scripture, until my wrath subsides. Then I will remember the good days, and will raise you from your graves.

Happy are we, beloved, if love enables us to live in harmony and in the observance of God’s commandments, for then it will also gain for us the remission of our sins. Scripture pronounces happy those whose transgressions are pardoned, whose sins are forgiven. Happy the man, it says, to whom the Lord imputes no fault, on whose lips there is no  guile. This is the blessing given those whom God has chosen through Jesus Christ our Lord. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Dear Friends,

In our first reading we heard that Samuel was sleeping in the temple and today I have a story about a man who also slept while the Lord called to him, in fact spiritually speaking he slept most of his life. His name was Andreas Wouters he was a Dutchman living in 16th century Holland during the Protestant Reformation. Andreas was a priest, but he wasn’t a very good priest. He caused a great deal of scandal. He was a drunkard and a prolific womanizer, fathering many children. Not a good role model. Needless to say the Bishop suspended him from actively serving as a priest. He lived in disgrace.

At that time, June of 1572, Andreas was living in a sea side town by the name of Gorkum. And during that month a band of Dutch pirates captured the town. They had no love for the Catholic Church and so they rounded up all the priests, they captured 18. The pirates had plans of torturing and killing them. The pirates ignored Andreas and given his history he should have run as far away as possible. But he didn’t, he woke up, he woke up to the call of the Holy Spirit. He went to his brother priests where they were being held and he volunteered to join them. The pirates were amazed; they took him in and put him with the other priests.

The 19 priests were tortured and subjected to every type of humiliation and mockery, especially Andreas who was constantly reminded of what a disgrace he was. At the very end all the priests were given a choice, they could save themselves if they would renounce their belief in Papal Supremacy and the Eucharistic Real Presence. All of them refused. So on July 9, 1572 all 19 priests were hanged. Andreas was saved for last and as the noose was being fastened around his neck, his captors kept mocking him. They mocked him to the very end. His last words before entering into eternity were, “Fornicator I always was, but heretic I never was!” The martyrs of Gorkum were canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1865. St. Andreas Wouters woke up and gave great witness and glory to God.

Now as we heard in the 1st reading Samuel was asleep in the Temple, and to read this in the spiritual sense this is a sign of trouble. To be asleep in the presence of the Lord is never a good thing. Think of the 3 disciples who slept in the garden while our Lord prayed. He asked them, “Could you not stay awake for even one hour?”

Now at the time of our first reading Eli was the chief priest of the Temple in Shilo, this was before the time of the Temple in Jerusalem, it hadn’t been built yet. In this Shilo Temple the Ark of the Covenant was housed. Eli was not the best of priests, he was lazy, unfocused, and a bad supervisor of his sons Phineas and Hoffney who were also bad priests. Eli was indifferent to what his corrupt sons were doing. His sons abused the priesthood taking advantage of the people in their care. And it’s in this atmosphere that Samuel sleeps. And so the Lord called to Samuel 4 times and at that last call Samuel finally says “Speak Lord for your servant is listening.” His eyes were wide open; he’s awake to the ways of the Lord. Meaning he was ready to do the will of God. And he did, serving as a prophet to the people of Israel.

So what about us? Where are we asleep to the Lord’s presence, a presence that calls to us. Where do we not recognize his presence? Because he is there! Is it a temptation that we just can’t seem to overcome, an addiction, a place of shame, or maybe it’s a relationship we just can’t seem to mend, a loss, any suffering we don’t bring to him, or maybe we just don’t think God is there for us. Spiritual theologians will sometimes say that these are our places of poverty. And it’s in these places exactly that our Lord calls to us, because he knows we can’t do it on our own. He meets us in our poverty. And so we pray to be open to hearing our Lord in these places. But it sometimes requires patience on our part and making time for quiet prayer every day. God overcame the barriers of Samuel and St. Andreas. He can overcome ours. The saints, the martyrs, Samuel and St. Andreas came to know that God is always with them.

Let us pray to have that same awareness, to be awake to this reality. Our Lord meets us in the poverty of the crib, the poverty of the cross, the poverty of the altar, and our own poverty. And in all these places he brings the riches of His healing and consoling Grace, let us be humble enough to receive.

Peace and all good,
Fr. Christopher J. Ankley

Join us for a 10-week small-group retreat that delves into the simplicity and grandeur of Consoling spirituality. This retreat is based on the popular book by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, Consoling the Heart of Jesus. Gain new insights into how you can console Jesus; learn the keys to the great sanctity of the saints and blessed like Therese of Lisieux, Faustina Kowalska, and Mother Teresa; and have all the tools you’ll need to “become a saint, a great saint, and quickly.”

Tuesday’s beginning January 16th – March 20th from 6:30 p.m. – 8:15 p.m. in St. Joseph School library OR Thursday’s beginning January 18th – March 22nd from 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. at St. Jerome Church.

Cost of Materials: $20.00

RSVP to Barb Kincaid at or sign-up in the vestibule
of the church.

BLESSINGS: A New Year…A New Beginning
NEEDS: BLANKETS (All Sizes), PILLOWS; Small Kitchen APPLIANCES; BOOTS for the Family, WINTER Coats for Men & Children; Dinner Plates & Bowls (Microwavable) JANUARY NEW YEAR SPECIALS:30% OFF All Clothing OVER $1 (Except WINTER Coats/Jackets/Boots); 20% OFF All Home DÉCOR; BROWN BAG of $1 Clothing – $5; Discount with every purchase.

We wish you all a very Happy and Blessed New Year! We thank you for all your clean, gently-used donations and we invite you to visit us at the shop, check out our merchandise, and help us raise money for the church (Wed. – Fri.) and the charitable organizations which help run the shop (Sat.): CCW, St. Vincent DePaul, The Knights of Columbus, and the Tri-Parish Youth Group. Gifts for St. Valentine’s Day are now on the Shelves, priced for every budget and always with a discount. Please take a few minutes and come take a look. A hot cup of coffee and friendly conversation are waiting for you…and maybe a bargain or two. New Year Blessings to you all!

Lenten luncheons are quickly approaching. Help is need for donating soups, furnishing cookies, and clean-up. A sign-up sheet is located in the vestibule of the church. Please consider volunteering for these special even

Dear Friends,

In Rome, in St. Peter’s Square, there stands an ancient Egyptian obelisk, a single block of granite in the shape of the Washington monument, it’s almost 100 feet high and it weighs 330 tons. It’s the oldest obelisk in Rome, dating back to 1850 BC. At that time it had been erected as a monument to the Pharaoh, and it stood for over two thousand years of Egyptian history. That obelisk was standing when Abraham was called; it was standing when Joseph the son of Jacob was viceroy of Egypt, and it was standing when Moses led his people out of Egypt.

At the time of Jesus’ birth and not long after the Magi came to worship him, the Roman Emperor Caligula brought the obelisk to Rome as a sign of Rome’s superiority over the conquered Egypt. And there in Rome it stood for four more centuries, it stood as a symbol of the Roman Empire, the largest empire in human history. A golden urn with Julius Caesar’s ashes was once placed on top of it. It stood in the arena where St. Peter himself was martyred, along with countless other early Christians. Then the barbarians invaded Rome, and Rome decayed, in the Middle Ages the obelisk fell. Weeds and vines grew all around it. It was half-buried near the old St. Peter’s Basilica.

But then with time, the Church converted the barbarians, and a new Christian culture emerged and flourished, and St. Peter’s Basilica was rebuilt and expanded, Pope Sixtus V had the obelisk re-erected in the center of the square, where it now stands. It’s no longer a reminder of the long-gone empires of Egypt or Rome. The obelisk is now topped with a bronze cross, containing within it a small fragment of the True Cross. It’s now a symbol of the universal and eternal Kingdom of Christ to which men and women of all times and all places are called.

In today’s Gospel we hear the call of the Magi, they represent the Gentile nations, and they too are called to this everlasting kingdom. The Magi were basically the scientists of the ancient world. They rationally and logically studied philosophy, medicine, and the natural world, including the stars. They were the scholars and professors of their time. But instead of working in universities, they worked for kings. A king would finance his own group of magi, using them as consultants and translators, and to also enhance his kingdom’s reputation. It was only the best of kingdoms that had the smartest magi. These magi to the East, very learned men, had no doubt heard of the Hebrew prophesies of a star signaling the birth of a King. And tempted to know the God of Israel they looked to the sky for signs of a divine “King of the Jews.”

Now much has been written about the star the Magi followed. And there is verifiable proof of major stellar events taking place at that time in those years around the birth of Christ. Halley’s Comet appeared during this time period, there was also an alignment of the planets Jupiter and Saturn and this would have produced a very bright star; there was also a stellar explosion, an exploding star, called a nova which also occurred during that time period. One shortcoming of these naturalistic explanations is that the star in Matthew’s Gospel leads the magi and then comes to rest over a house, something an ordinary star doesn’t do. This suggests that whatever the nature of the star might have been, God intervened in an extraordinary way to lead the magi to the messiah. One interesting proposal, one that the early Church Fathers write about, is that the star guiding the Magi was an angel. In the Jewish tradition stars were associated with angels and the guiding star in Matthew’s Gospel recalls the angel God sent to guide the people in the desert on their way to the Promised Land. So while some natural starry phenomenon might have initially led the Magi in search of a king, God later provided an Angel to finish leading the Magi to Jesus. Whatever the case, a star led the Magi to Jesus; a star led them to our Lord, led them to the eternal kingdom and to true worship.

Now in a way all of us here today are meant to imitate that Star of Bethlehem. Each one of us as a Christian should make it a goal to be like the star that guided the Magi.  That means being a steady witness to Christ, a gentle, but clear and attractive invitation to this Eternal Kingdom of God.

That obelisk in St. Peter’s square is a sign of God’s Kingdom but we too are signs. Like that star that guided the Magi to Jesus we guide our families, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers we guide them by our example, our words, and our actions. But as you know we are not perfect, we sin, we make mistakes. In the moments after receiving Holy Communion, after thanking Him, ask our Lord how you can be a better guiding light or inspiration to those around you, and then listen, and then pray for that grace. More people than we realize, people who live right beside us, are searching, and if we let our lives shine in Christ, we can help them. God will use us to help them as the star helped the Magi to find True Joy.

Peace and all good,
Fr. Christopher Ankley

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