ON THIS TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME we hear about the Canaanite woman in our Gospel today (Matt 15:21-28). The woman was refused three times by Jesus before he granted her request. The first time Jesus didn’t answer her. The second refusal was when Jesus refused his disciples’ request on her behalf. The third refusal was when Jesus said the children’s food shouldn’t be thrown to the dogs. By that Jesus meant it was not correct to give her, who was not a Jew, what was meant for the Jews. “Dogs” was a frequent description of Gentiles (non-Jews) at the time of Jesus. Finally, the fourth time, her plea was answered. Jesus said: “Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted” (Matthew 15:28). From that moment her daughter was well again. The Canaanite woman persisted in prayer before God, and her persistent prayers were answered. The story of the Canaanite woman always reminds me of St. Monica, and her persistent prayers for the conversion of her son, Augustine. As a teenager, Augustine was influenced by the loose living of his friends. Augustine was, as we would say now, such a spoiled brat that he even once said to Monica his mother that there would be no problems between them if she gave up her faith! After that Monica was so desperate that she went to a bishop who advised her to be patient. He told her it would be impossible that a son over whom she had shed so many tears would perish and that he would soon return to the faith. From then on she stayed as close as possible to Augustine and she prayed and fasted for his conversion. When Augustine was 29 he moved to Rome to teach rhetoric, and then he moved to Milan where he received a position teaching rhetoric. Monica moved to Milan after him. Augustine often heard Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, preaching and this is probably what sowed the seed of faith in his heart. All the prayers of his mother Monica for his conversion were now beginning to be heard after many years of seemingly being unheard. Augustine began to study the New Testament and especially the writings of St. Paul (formerly Saul, who also underwent a great conversion of mind and heart). The turning point came when Augustine read a passage from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans 13:13-14 which said” “put on the Lord Jesus and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.” Augustine described in his book Confessions telling his mother that his struggle was over. She leaped for joy and understood that God had given Augustine more than she had begged. Augustine was baptized by Bishop Ambrose of Milan and he and Monica decided to return to North Africa. While waiting in Ostia (the ancient port of Rome) to catch a boat back home, Monica said to Augustine, “I have no further delight in anything in this life…There was one thing for which I desired to linger a little while in this life, that I should see you a Catholic Christian before I died…Why am I still here?” Five days later Monica caught a fever and went into a coma and died after nine days. Augustine devotes many passages of his Confessions to his mother and all he owed her. Augustine went on to become a priest at the age of 36, a bishop at the age of 41, and was Bishop of Hippo in North Africa for 35 years, and later was named a Doctor of the Church and Saint. Folks, as we endure trials and challenges of life, let us have faith like the Canaanite woman and St. Monica. Let us not lose hope or give up but let us persist in prayer so that we too may hear the same words of Jesus, “You have great faith, let your wish be granted” (Matthew 15:28).
• Throughout the United States this Sunday there are special prayers for peace in Iraq, as requested by the U.S. bishops. This bulletin includes several Iraq updates from religious people on the ground in Iraq, from the Holy See, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Pray for that peace!
• We congratulate Mr. Paul Davis of our parish staff who has taken a new position in the Church – Director of Religious Education at Saint Paul Church in Westerville. Paul has also served as an anchor in the Diocesan Office of Divine Worship for a number of years – a knowledgeable, hard-working liturgist whose presence in that office will be greatly missed. The good news is that Bishop Campbell and I look forward to seeing Paul and his family at the Cathedral not only as parishioners, but also seeing Paul continue to serve as Master of Ceremonies for the major liturgies take place here at Saint Joseph Cathedral, and training our own liturgical ministers. Blessings to you, Paul, in your new endeavors, and to your family!
• We welcome Mr. Jake Neal of our parish to the parish staff as the Director of RCIA. Jake is a very knowledgeable person in the teachings of the Church and, being a convert to the Catholic faith himself, brings unique perspectives that will help all persons better understand, embrace and live the teachings of our faith. Jake will be assisted this year by Deacon Jim Gorski, Carol Keene, and our parish RCIA team. Information on the RCIA program, which begins next month, is included in this bulletin. Blessings to you, Jake, in your new evangelizing position, and to your growing family!
• We have a missionary priest next Sunday. In advance of his visit he writes: I am Fr. Mirosław Dawlewicz, CSsR. I belong to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists). I was born in northern part of Poland in small city called Szczecinek. I am one of 16 Redemptorists working in the Russia trying renewal the Catholic Church. What do we do here? How do we do it and much more I will talk to you next Sunday.
• Please remember me in your prayers. My cancer treatment journey continues this week with the beginning of chemotherapy. For me this will be a three-day chemo infusion process, every-other week, for the next six months.
-Fr. Mike Lumpe