Dear Friends,

On the outskirts of Rome there is a church by the name of, “Chiesa del Domine Quo Vadis.” Which translates to, “Church of,
Lord where are you going?” According to the tradition of this church, (tradition with a little “t”) during the persecutions of the
Emperor Nero, Peter was running away from Rome. And as he was fleeing the city he met Jesus on the way. And so he asks Jesus,
“Lord, where are you going?” To which Jesus responds, “I’m going to Rome to be crucified again.” This shames Peter, so
Peter then gains the courage to continue his ministry and he returns to the city, where eventually he is martyred by being crucified

This little episode is not part of the Canon of Scripture but it is consistent with a scene from John 13:36. In that passage, right
before the Passion, Jesus predicts Peter’s three time denial. Peter, not totally understanding says to him, “Master where are you
going?” Jesus answers, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” This is a prediction of Peter’s
own eventual crucifixion.

Jesus went to the Cross, Peter went to the Cross, and every Christian ever since has gone to the Cross. And it starts at the very
beginning of our Christian life. St Paul writes in our second reading, “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into
Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” We were baptized into the Cross, which we are reminded of every time we enter
our church and bless ourselves with holy water.
And in our Gospel we heard, “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Whether we
follow Christ or not, we will suffer during our earthly journey. But if we choose to suffer with Christ, our suffering will take on a
meaning and fruitfulness beyond anything we could have imagined.
Jesus today is inviting all of us, once again, to take up our crosses and follow him. He knows that by following him, even though
it’s hard, we will discover the meaning and lasting happiness that we long for. Let’s not ever leave Mass without responding to
this invitation. And we can’t respond to it unless we identify what cross he is asking each one of us to take up, and unite it to
Christ’s own cross. Maybe your cross is an illness, or the illness of a loved one. If so, when Jesus comes to you in the Eucharist,
unite your suffering to his. Say to Him, “Jesus I do this with you.”
Maybe Jesus is asking you to leave behind a sinful habit – dishonesty, lust, greed, or neglect. Habits are always hard to change,
but with God’s grace, all things are possible. Our Lord knows that sin only makes us miserable. If that is the cross he is asking
you to embrace, he will give you the strength you need. When Jesus comes to you in the Eucharist, unite your suffering to His.
Say to Him, “Jesus I do this with you.”

Maybe he is calling you to a new project, or to set out on a new path. Maybe you feel fearful at the prospect, at the uncertainty, at
the risk. Jesus comes to you in Holy Communion. He wants to be your strength, your confidence, your courage. And so
he feeds your soul with his soul, your body with his body, your blood with his blood, and your humanity with his divinity. This is
the love of our God – a love that makes himself present in our lives. It is a love that never leaves us alone, that never leaves us to
carry our cross alone. When Jesus comes to you in the Eucharist, unite your suffering to His, say to Him, “Jesus, I do this with

Our Lord asks us to take up our cross, but only so that, by dying with him, we can also rise with him, and live with him, meaningfully,
here on earth and forever in heaven.
At that church on the outskirts of Rome, Peter asked our Lord, “Where are you going? To which he answered, “I’m going to the
Cross.” Each one of us is asked the same, “Christian, where are you going?” How do we respond? Whether we follow Christ or
not, we will suffer during our earthly journey. But if we choose to suffer with Christ, our suffering will take on a meaning and
fruitfulness beyond anything we can imagine. And to avoid the Cross is to avoid the life that follows.

St. Paul says in our 2nd reading, “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in
newness of life.” This fills us with great hope.

Peace and all good,

Fr. Christopher J. Ankley

A reading from the works of St. Bonaventure

 With you is the source of life

You who have been redeemed, consider who it is who hangs on the cross for you, whose death gives life to the dead, whose passing is mourned by heaven and earth, while even the hard stones are split. Consider how great he is; consider what he is.

In order that the Church might be formed from the side of Christ as he slept on the cross, in order that the word of scripture might be fulfilled – ‘They shall look on him whom they have pierced’ – God’s providence decreed that one of the soldiers should open his sacred side with a spear, so that blood with water might flow out to pay the price of our salvation. This blood, which flowed from its source in the secret recesses of his heart, gave the sacraments of the Church power to confer the life of grace, and for those who already live in Christ was a draught of living water welling up to eternal life.

Arise, then, bride of Christ, be like the dove that nests in the rock-face at the mouth of a cavern, and there, like a sparrow which finds its home, do not cease to keep vigil; there, like a turtle-dove, hide the fledglings of your chaste love; place your lips there to draw water from the wells of your Savior. For this is the spring flowing from the middle of paradise; it divides and becomes four rivers, then spreads through all devout hearts, and waters the whole world and makes it fruitful.

O soul devoted to God, whoever you may be, run to this source of life and light with eager longing. And with the power of your inmost heart cry out to him: ‘O indescribable beauty of God most high! O pure radiance of everlasting light! O life that gives life to all life! O light that illuminates every light, and preserves in its undying splendor the myriad flames that have shone before the throne of your godhead from the dawn of time!

‘O water eternal and inaccessible, clear and sweet, flowing from the spring that is hidden from the eyes of all mortal men; the spring whose depths cannot be plumbed, whose height cannot be measured, whose shores cannot be charted, whose purity cannot be muddied.

From this source flows the river which makes glad the city of God, so that with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving we sing to you our hymns of praise and by experience prove that with you is the fountain of life; and in your light we shall see light.


“On the feast of Corpus Christi”, by St. Thomas Aquinas 

O precious and wonderful banquet!

Since it was the will of God’s only-begotten Son that men should share in his divinity, he assumed our nature in order that by becoming man he might make men gods. Moreover, when he took our flesh he dedicated the whole of its substance to our salvation. He offered his body to God the Father on the altar of the cross as a sacrifice for our reconciliation. He shed his blood for our ransom and purification, so that we might be redeemed from our wretched state of bondage and cleansed from all sin. But to ensure that the memory of so great a gift would abide with us forever, he left his body as food and his blood as drink for the faithful to consume in the form of bread and wine.

O precious and wonderful banquet that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness! Could anything be of more intrinsic value? Under the old law it was the flesh of calves and goats that was offered, but here Christ himself, the true God, is set before us as our food. What could be more wonderful than this? No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift. It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all. Yet, in the end, no one can fully express the sweetness of this sacrament, in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source, and in which we renew the memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in his passion.

It was to impress the vastness of this love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful that our Lord instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper. As he was on the point of leaving the  world to go to the Father, after celebrating the Passover with his disciples, he left it as a perpetual memorial of his passion. It was the fulfillment of ancient figures and the greatest of all his miracles, while for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation.


A Letter of St. Athanasius

 Light, radiance and grace are in the Trinity and from the Trinity

It will not be out of place to consider the ancient tradition, teaching and faith of the Catholic Church, which was revealed by the Lord, proclaimed by the apostles and guarded by the fathers. For upon this faith the Church is built, and if anyone were to lapse from it, he would no longer be a Christian either in fact or in name.

We acknowledge the Trinity, holy and perfect, to consist of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In this Trinity there is no intrusion of any alien element or of anything from outside, nor is the Trinity a blend of creative and created being. It is a wholly creative and energizing reality, self-consistent and undivided in its active power, for the Father makes all things through the Word and in the Holy Spirit, and in this way the unity of the holy Trinity is preserved. Accordingly, in the Church, one God is preached, one God who is above all things and through all things and in all things. God is above all things as Father, for he is principle and source; he is through all things through the Word; and he is in all things in the Holy Spirit.

Writing to the Corinthians about spiritual matters, Paul traces all reality back to one God, the Father, saying: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone.

Even the gifts that the Spirit dispenses to individuals are given by the Father through the Word. For all that belongs to the Father belongs also to the Son, and so the graces given by the Son in the Spirit are true gifts of the Father. Similarly, when the Spirit dwells in us, the Word who bestows the Spirit is in us too, and the Father is present in the Word. This is the meaning of the text: My Father and I will come to him and make our home with him. For where the light is, there also is the radiance; and where the radiance is, there too are its power and its resplendent grace.

This is also Paul’s teaching in his second letter to the Corinthians: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. For grace and the gift of the Trinity are given by the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Just as grace is given from the Father through the Son, so there could be no communication of the gift to us except in the Holy Spirit. But when we share in the Spirit, we possess the love of the Father, the grace of the Son and the fellowship of the Spirit himself.



From the treatise “Against the Heresies” by St. Irenaeus

The sending of the Holy Spirit


When the Lord told his disciples to go and teach all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he conferred on them the power of giving men new life in God.

He had promised through the prophets that in these last days he would pour out his Spirit on his servants and handmaids, and that they would prophesy. So when the Son of God became the Son of Man, the Spirit also descended upon him, becoming accustomed in this way to dwelling with the human race, to living in men and to inhabiting God’s creation. The Spirit accomplished the Father’s will in men who had grown old in sin, and gave them new life in Christ.

Luke says that the Spirit came down on the disciples at Pentecost, after the Lord’s ascension, with power to open the gates of life to all nations and to make known to them the new covenant. So it was that men of every language joined in singing one song of praise to God, and scattered tribes, restored to unity by the Spirit, were offered to the Father as the first-fruits of all the nations.

This was why the Lord had promised to send the Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to God. Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of bread, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven. And like parched ground, which yields no harvest unless it receives moisture, we who were once like a waterless tree could never have lived and borne fruit without this abundant rainfall from above. Through the baptism that liberates us from change and decay we have become one in body; through the Spirit we have become one in soul.

The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of God came down upon the Lord, and the Lord in turn gave this Spirit to his Church, sending the Advocate from heaven into all the world into which, according to his own words, the devil too had been cast down like lightning.

If we are not to be scorched and made unfruitful, we need the dew of God. Since we have our accuser, we need an advocate as well. And so the Lord in his pity for man, who had fallen into the hands of brigands, having himself bound up his wounds and left for his care two coins bearing the royal image, entrusted him to the Holy Spirit. Now, through the Spirit, the image and inscription of the Father and the Son have been given to us, and it is our duty to use the coin committed to our charge and make it yield a rich profit for the Lord.


From a sermon by Saint Augustine

No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven

Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.

Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this when he cried out from above: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? and when he said: I was hungry and you gave me food.

Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and love that unites us to him? While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love.

He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven. The fact that he was in heaven even while he was on earth is borne out by his own statement: No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven.

These words are explained by our oneness with Christ, for he is our head and we are his body. No one ascended into heaven except Christ because we also are Christ: he is the Son of Man by his union with us, and we by our union with him are the sons of God. So the Apostle says: Just as the human body, which has many members, is a unity, because all the different members make one body, so is it also with Christ. He too has many members, but one body.

Out of compassion for us he descended from heaven, and although he ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace. Thus, no one but Christ descended and no one but Christ ascended; not because there is no distinction between the head and the body, but because the body as a unity cannot be separated from the head.


Dear Friends,

As a seminarian I regularly visited a couple of nursing homes, I visited Saint Patrick’s Manor and I visited the Lutheran Netherland home.  It was at this second place, the Lutheran Netherland Home, that I visited a woman by the name of Firminia, and she was neither Dutch nor Lutheran.  She was a Portuguese Catholic and she was 105 years old.  Firminia was born in Portugal where there wasn’t much opportunity, so after marrying she and her husband immigrated to the USA.  They landed in Boston and began to live the American dream.  This was back in the 1920s.

Firminia and her husband quickly added four children to their family.  Their son Johnnie came of age at the time of World War II.  And Johnnie, like many of the young men of his generation, felt it was his patriotic duty to enlist into the army.  And he did.  His mom did not want him to go, she had already left Europe and she had left for good.  She didn’t want her son going there.  Once overseas Johnnie experienced the terrors of war and in battle, he was lost very quickly.  He was killed by enemy fire within a very short time of setting foot on the continent of Europe.

As you can imagine Firminia was heartsick for her dead son.  He was gone, taken from her at such a young age. Firminia would never see him marry and never see him have children of his own.  There wouldn’t be any grandchildren from her son Johnnie.  And then about a month or so after his death a letter from an insurance company arrived in Firminia’s mailbox.  It contained a check; and the letter accompanying the check stated that she was the recipient of her son’s insurance policy.  Before going overseas to Europe, on an impulse Johnnie had taken out an insurance policy in case he should die.  On this insurance policy he named his mother, Firminia, as the beneficiary.  She was surprised.  She hadn’t expected this and it brought about another wave of sorrow and she started crying.  She didn’t know that more checks were to follow.  Every month year after year Firminia receive a check from this insurance company.  She received these checks every month for 64 years.  Until she died she received a monthly check and whenever a check would come, if someone was present she would say, “My son Johnnie still takes care of me.  Even though he’s been gone all these years he still takes care of me, I still feel his presence.”  Her sorrow had been replaced by joy.

Jesus promised not to leave us alone. In the Gospel He says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.”  He promised to send us the advocate, to send us the Spirit of Truth.  “He will remain with you, and will be in you.  I will not leave you orphans.”  He promised to continue to take care of us and to be present with and within us.  Leading us to truth, strengthening us and giving us the courage to say yes to God’s will.  From the catechism we have this; Jesus came to us to give us the Spirit, and by the Spirit we come to share God’s life.  This is the Catholic understanding of grace:  it is a sharing in divine life.  “As fire transforms into itself everything it touches, so the Holy Spirit transforms into the divine life whatever is subjected to his power.”

At the seminary before every class one of my teachers, Fr. Moriarty, would begin each class with the short prayer, “Come Holy Spirit!”  Whether he said it for himself or for us, I’m not sure.  But it’s a good prayer to always have on our lips and in our minds. It’s a good prayer to begin each day.  Praying it in those difficult moments when we are in need of heavenly aid, when we are in need of the right words and the right actions in our home, our place of work, or school.

Saint Hilary a fourth century bishop and Doctor of the Church once wrote this about the Holy Spirit (It’s so good); “We receive the Spirit of truth, he wrote, so that we can know the things of God.”  He then used the example of our eyes, ours ears, and our nose in order to explain the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s relationship to our soul.  The eye does not work without light, the ear does not work without sound, and the nose does not work without a scent to smell.  Our organs of sense need light, and sound, and odor to work properly.  And it’s the same with the human soul.  Unless the soul absorbs the gift of the Spirit through faith, the mind won’t have the ability to know God it would lack the grace necessary for that knowledge.

This unique gift which is in Christ is offered in its fullness to everyone.  It is everywhere available, but it’s given to each person in proportion to his or her readiness to receive it. The more we desire the more we receive.

Firminia received a monthly gift from her son.  This gift supported her and gave her comfort and security.  How much more and in a more real way does the gift of the Holy Spirit support us giving us wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.  Never neglect the gift of the Holy Spirit, let these words always be on our lips, “Come Holy Spirit Come!”

Pax et Bonum,

Fr. Christopher J. Ankley


Dear Friends,

I want to tell you about a woman whose heart was troubled and restless. She was also a woman of great intelligence who searched for truth. She searched for truth in psychology and philosophy, once thinking that truth had nothing what so ever to do with God. This woman’s name was Edith Stein. Edith Stein was born in 1891 in Breslau Germany. She was the youngest of eleven children born into a very devout Jewish family. Edith’s fa-ther, who ran a successful timber business, died when she had only just turned two. Her mother, a very devout, hard-working, and strong-willed woman, now had to fend for herself and look after the family and their large business. Which she did, however, she did not succeed in keeping up a living faith in her children. As a teenager Edith lost her faith in God, she quit praying, and became an atheist and began her search for truth in the class-room.

Edith was a brilliant student and after High School she went on to the University of Breslau where she studied philosophy and women’s issues. “For a time,” she wrote “I was a radical suffragette.” She had planned on becoming a teacher. But after graduating she served as a nurse for a short time in an Austrian field hospital during World War I. When the hospital dissolved she went back to school to finish her doctorate which she earned summa cum laude, writing a thesis on “The problem of Empathy.” It was at about this time that one of her associates from the University had been killed on the battlefield. And this dead man’s young widow invited Edith to her home to help her get her husband’s academic papers in order. Edith hesitated; she had no belief in life after death so she wasn’t sure what she would say to this young Christian widow. She wasn’t sure she’d find the right words to console her. But what Edith Stein encountered when she met the widow struck her like a ray of sunlight. Rather than appearing crushed by her suffering, the young widow was filled with a hope that offered all the other mourners a sense of consolation and peace. Edith’s rational atheistic arguments crumbled in the face of the experience. Not any intellectual insight or argument convinced her. What convinced her was contact with the essence of truth itself. The light of faith broke in on her. And this light of faith, this transformation of faith, came to her in the mystery of the Cross.

Years later she would write about this incident, “It was my first encounter with the Cross and the divine power that it bestows on those who carry it. For the first time, I was seeing with my very eyes the Church, born from her Redeemer’s sufferings, triumphant over the sting of death. That was the moment my unbelief collapsed and Christ shone forth – in the mystery of the Cross.” In a search for truth Edith never dreamed she’d find it in Christ. She began to read the New Testament and the question became, would she convert to Lutheranism or Catholicism. Two events would help her make this important decision. First, while helping tutor a student she and this student out of curiosity went into a Cathedral for a few moments, just to look around, and as they stood there just taking everything in a woman came in with her shopping basket and she knelt down in one of the pews to say a short prayer. This was something new for Edith. In the synagogue, as in the Protestant churches she had visited, people only went in at the time of the service. But here was someone coming into the empty church in the middle of the day as if to talk with a friend. She was never able to forget that. And the second event that helped her in her decision to become a Catholic involved reading the life of St. Teresa of Avila. She had picked up the book while staying at a friend’s house. And once she’d begun reading it she couldn’t put it down. She read it through the night and after finishing it the next morning the very first words out of her mouth were, “This is the truth.” God is love. He doesn’t reveal his mysteries to deductive intelligence, he reveals himself to the heart that surrenders itself to him. It’s humility.

She soon sought baptism and after being received into the Church she pursued scholarship and study as a service to God. Teaching, writing, and learn-ing all she could about her new found faith. It wasn’t until eleven years later that she eventually entered the Carmelite Convent of Cologne, this was the year 1933. “Henceforth my only vocation is to love,” she would say, praying to God for everyone. She was now known as Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and while in the convent she pursued more studies and wrote more academic papers.

With World War II, Edith was moved from convent to convent across Europe trying to evade the Nazi forces. In 1942 she found herself in Holland and at last she thought she was safe. However, on August 2nd she was arrested by the Gestapo. All Jewish converts to the Catholic faith were rounded up in retaliation for a statement put out by the Dutch Bishops in which they condemned the pogroms and deportation of Jews. On August 9th she was killed at Auschwitz. A fellow professor later wrote, “She is a witness to God’s presence in a world where God is absent.”

At her canonization Pope St. John Paul II said that, “Her heart remained restless and unfulfilled until it finally found rest in God.” The truth that she found was Truth in itself, truth without beginning or end. And from it springs all other truths, just as all love springs from this Love and all glory from this Glory.

Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” And as we know this way, this journey of our whole life, has its struggles and crosses and sometimes we even struggle with our faith itself. Sometimes we struggle in certain areas maybe finding certain truths that we profess hard to accept. But we don’t give up we continue that struggle to know and to understand, we continue to study, we continue to pray for that understanding of Christ and His Church. And in that struggle for Christ’s truth we pray asking to be taken by the heart as St. Theresa Benedicta once was grabbed by the heart.

For two thousand years, many have found Jesus to be the way. They have trusted him, staked everything on him and he has not disappointed: in him they have truly found life.

Let us be great Saints,

Fr. Christopher J. Ankley



From a homily on the Gospels by:

Saint Gregory the Great, pope

 Christ the Good Shepherd

I am the good shepherd. I know my own – by which I mean, I love them – and my own know me. In plain words: those who love me are willing to follow me, for anyone who does not love the truth has not yet come to know it.

My dear brethren, you have heard the test we pastors have to undergo. Turn now to consider how these words of our Lord imply a test for yourselves also. Ask yourselves whether you belong to his flock, whether you know him, whether the light of his truth shines in your minds. I assure you that it is not by faith that you will come to know him, but by love; not by mere conviction, but by action. John the evangelist is my authority for this statement. He tells us that anyone who claims to know God without keeping his commandments is a liar.

Consequently, the Lord immediately adds: As the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. Clearly he means that laying down his life for his sheep gives evidence of his knowledge of the Father and the Father’s knowledge of him. In other words, by the love with which he dies for his sheep he shows how greatly he loves his Father.

Again he says: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them; they follow me, and I give them eternal life. Shortly before this he had declared: If anyone enters the sheepfold through me he shall be saved; he shall go freely in and out and shall find good pasture. He will enter into a life of faith; from faith he will go out to vision, from belief to contemplation, and will graze in the good pastures of everlasting life.

So our Lord’s sheep will finally reach their grazing ground where all who follow him in simplicity of heart will feed on the green pastures of eternity. These pastures are the spiritual joys of heaven. There the elect look upon the face of God with unclouded vision and feast at the banquet of life for ever more.

Beloved brothers, let us set out for these pastures where we shall keep joyful festival with so many of our fellow citizens. May the thought of their happiness urge us on! Let us stir up our hearts, rekindle our faith, and long eagerly for what heaven has in store for us. To love thus is to be already on our way. No matter what obstacles we encounter, we must not allow them to turn us aside from the joy of that heavenly feast. Anyone who is determined to reach his destination is not deterred by the roughness of the road that leads to it. Nor must we allow the charm of success to seduce us, or we shall be like a foolish traveller who is so distracted by the pleasant meadows through which he is passing that he forgets where he is going.


Dear Friends,

A few years ago I went on a pilgrimage to Rome.  I went with a group of priests from my seminary and we went for the canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II.  My seminary was named for Pope John XXIII.  I was able to celebrate Mass in some very beautiful Churches including St. Peter’s Basilica.  As for the canonizations I didn’t get as close as I wanted.  The crowds of mostly young people were in the way, and we were edged out.  Only Bishop Uglietto who travelled with us and two of the priest faculty at my seminary were able to concelebrate Mass. We had to watch the Mass from a screen, still an awesome experience.

Now we began our Pilgrimage in Assisi and we started by visiting St. Clare’s Monastery of the Poor Clares, founded way back in the 13th century.  St. Clare was the first woman to write a rule of life for a religious community.  She was very adamant about being the one to write the rule, and the pope of the time eventually gave in and accepted her written rule.  This monastery was at the top of a hill that overlooked a valley of fields.  It was about a 90 degree angle walk, going up the hill to see the monastery.

In this monastery we were shown where St. Clare ate, and slept, and prayed.  Our tour guide also showed us a statue of Clare positioned on the edge of the hill.  It overlooked the valley below.  This statue showed St. Clare holding a monstrance.  As we know a monstrance is used to display the Eucharist during adoration.  Our tour guide went on to tell us why the citizens of Assisi had commissioned this statue.

In her 80’s towards the end of her life Clare was very sick and was confined to her cell, which she rarely left.  This time of the 13th century was also a very dangerous time.  That region of Italy was at war with the Saracens.  The Saracens were looking for territory to conquer and to plunder.  The men of Assisi had left the town to fight.  Only women and children were left behind.  One of the Poor Clare Sisters who was keeping watch at the wall surrounding the monastery saw down in the valley a group of Saracens making their way up the hill.  The wall at that point was very low and easily scaled, it was an easy access into Assisi.  This sister was worried and scared about what would happen to them if the Saracens made it over their wall and entered the monastery.  She’d heard the rumors of what had happened to the other woman who had met the Saracens.  And so to Mother Clare she ran.

She found Clare sleeping on her mat of straw so she woke her up to tell her that they were about to be overrun by an army.  “Tell us what to do Mother Clare!” the nun yelled.  So St. Clare told her, “Go to the chapel and get the Eucharist, get the Blessed Sacrament.  Put Him in the monstrance and bring Him to me.” And so the sister did as she was told, and brought the monstrance back containing our Lord, the Blessed Sacrament.

So Clare held the monstrance and asked for two sisters to help her up and to take her to the top of the wall overlooking the valley. So there, on top of the wall she stood praying, praying full of confidence. Here was an 80 year old woman standing on top of a wall praying.   And as she prayed she held the monstrance as high as she could, pointing it towards the advancing army.  And what happened next has been noted in history books.  The advancing army stopped, turned away, and retreated.  We might ask ourselves, “What did they see when looking at an aged nun holding aloft the Blessed Sacrament?  What Divine power and strength did they recognize?  Did they see the power of Heaven?  The prayers of a Saint are a powerful thing, but even more powerful is the Eucharist.  When the priest elevates the Sacred Host that is our window into Heaven.  As we know the Mass joins Heaven and Earth, we all worship together.  We all look upon the same Sacred Host.  We see what looks to be bread, but in faith, we know that it is Jesus.  Those in Heaven look upon the same Host, but instead of what looks to be bread they see Jesus, they see Jesus offering Himself to the Father on our behalf.  The Mass makes present to us the one saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

From the gospel today the two disciples on the way to Emmaus at first didn’t recognize our Lord.  It was only in the breaking of the Bread that they really saw Him.  And after receiving the Eucharist they knew Him, their eyes were opened.  Thirteen centuries later on the plains of Assisi the Saracens saw something they didn’t fully understand, they experienced a power they didn’t understand and they retreated, running in the opposite direction.  They ran from the Eucharist.

My prayer for us today is that we are always doing the exact opposite of what the Saracens did, they ran from the Eucharist, let us, instead, run to the Eucharist, always running to that Divine power and strength, in moments of sorrow and anxiety but also in moments of joy and thanksgiving, always running with our eyes wide open always praying for the grace to recognize our Lord in every Holy Eucharist we receive.

Peace and all good,

Fr. Christopher J. Ankley