Readings & Reflections with Cardinal Tagle’s video: Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time A & St. Bernard of Clairvaux, August 20, 2017

Readings & Reflections with Cardinal Tagle’s video: Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time A & St. Bernard of Clairvaux, August 20, 2017

Pope Benedict XVI wrote that “faith makes us light, enabling us to escape our own gravity, which drags us down. The terrible trial of a chronically ill child could have wrecked the Canaanite woman’s spirit, weighing her down with despondency and defeat. But faith lifts her from the heaviness of hopelessness and carries her to the “holy mountain” who is Christ. The promise proclaimed by Saint Paul – that God desires to have mercy on all – moves the woman beyond the burden of fatalism and doubt. Before the Answer who is Christ she will not take no for an answer. Even Christ’s silence does not dissuade her. Instead, it serves to steel her belief, showing her a new tack by which to beg for what God is eager to give her. ‘My God, your silence replies better than the many fervors of my love for you’” (Marthe Robin).


Opening Prayer

“Lord Jesus, your love and mercy knows no bounds. May I trust you always and pursue you with indomitable persistence as this woman did. Increase my faith in your saving power and deliver me for all evil and harm.” In your Mighty Name, I pray. Amen.

Reading 1 IS 56:1, 6-7 – I will bring foreigners to my holy mountain.

Thus says the LORD:
Observe what is right, do what is just;
for my salvation is about to come,
my justice, about to be revealed.

The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
ministering to him,
loving the name of the LORD,
and becoming his servants—
all who keep the sabbath free from profanation
and hold to my covenant,
them I will bring to my holy mountain
and make joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be acceptable on my altar,
for my house shall be called
a house of prayer for all peoples.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm PS 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8

R/ (4) O God, let all the nations praise you!
May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
R/ O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
R/ O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
R/ O God, let all the nations praise you!

Reading 2 ROM 11:13-15, 29-32 – The gifts and the call of God for Israel are irrevocable.

Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking to you Gentiles.
Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles,
I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous
and thus save some of them.
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world,
what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy.
For God delivered all to disobedience,
that he might have mercy upon all.

The word of the Lord.

Gospel MT 15:21-28 – O Woman, great is your faith.

Bishop Robert Barron’s Homily: A religion of grace click below:

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon.”
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.
Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection 1 – A foreigner’s faith

Dr. Scott Hahn’s reflection click below:

Download Audio File

Most of us are the foreigners, the non-Israelites, about whom today’s First Reading prophesies.

Coming to worship the God of Israel, we stand in the line of faith epitomized by the Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel. Calling to Jesus as Lord and Son of David, this foreigner shows her great faith in God’s covenant with Israel.

Jesus tests her faith three times. He refuses to answer her cry. Then, He tells her His mission is only to Israelites. Finally, he uses “dog,” an epithet used to disparage non-Israelites (see Matthew 7:6). Yet she persists, believing that He alone offers salvation.

In this family drama, we see fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy and the promise we sing of in today’s Psalm. In Jesus, God makes known among all the nations His way and His salvation (see John 14:6).

At the start of salvation history, God called Abraham (see Genesis 12:2). He chose his offspring, Israel, from all the nations on the face of the earth, to build His covenant kingdom (see Deuteronomy 7:6-8Isaiah 41:8).

In God’s plan, Abraham was to be the father of many nations (see Romans 4:16-17). Israel was to be the firstborn of a worldwide family of God, made up of all who believe what the Canaanite professes— that Jesus is Lord (see Exodus 4:22-23Romans 5:13-24).

Jesus came first to restore the kingdom to Israel (see Acts 1:613:46). But His ultimate mission was the reconciliation of the world, as Paul declares in today’s Epistle.

In the Mass we join all peoples in doing Him homage. As Isaiah foretold, we come to His holy mountain, the heavenly Jerusalem, to offer sacrifice at His altar (see Hebrews 12:22-24,28). With the Canaanite, we take our place at the Master’s table, to be fed as His children. – Read the source:

Reflection 2 – How do you approach the Lord in your prayer?  

In today’s Gospel (Mt 15:21-28), a Canaanite woman from the region of Tyre and Sidon called out Jesus, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David. My daughter is tormented by a demon.” Jesus was silent but the disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” Then Jesus replied to the woman, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” Jesus replied, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus replied, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

At this point, Jesus explained His current mission that both the woman and his disciples could understand. At that time, Jesus’ mission was to the people of Israel, not to the Gentiles (Mt 15:24). In violation of His mission, Jesus would be like a father taking food from his children in order to throw it to their pets (Matthews 15:26). Similarly, Jesus tested the woman to prove her intention as found in John’s Gospel (cf. Jn 4:16 & Jn 4:50-53) and the woman was persistent in her request that live out the teaching of Jesus in the parable of the persistent widow (Lk 18:1-8). In her response, she understood fully what Jesus was saying, yet had enough courage to ask on her knees in worshipful prayer to the living God (Mt 15:27). Then, Jesus acknowledged her faith and said, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour (Mt 15:28). Like this woman, how do you approach the Lord in your prayer?
Here are the testimonies from the saints: 1) ‘Faith furnishes prayer with wings, without which it cannot soar to heaven.’ (St. John Climacus); 2) ‘Prayer ought to be humble, fervent, resigned, persevering and accompanied with great reverence. One should consider that he stands in the presence of a God, and speaks with a Lord before whom the angels tremble from awe and fear.’ (St. Mary Magdelen de Pazzi); 3) ‘Without prayer we have neither light nor strength to advance in the way which leads to God.’ (St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori); 4) ‘It is true that God’s power triumphs over everything, but humble and suffering prayer prevails over God Himself.’  (St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina). 5) The Blessed Virgin Mary: A woman of faith and prayer click this link:

Reflection 3 – Have pity on me

It may have appeared that Jesus had deep contempt for people outside the Jewish nation in the way He initially responded to the Canaanite woman’s request for help as her daughter was being tormented by a demon. When Jesus’ said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel “, it seemed Jesus was way out of line and His action quite a contradiction from what He preached. The balance of the story showed that this was not actually the case. As a matter of fact, it was exactly the opposite.

Jesus showed His apostles and all men who shall believe and come after His time that no barriers should be placed among peoples in their faith with Him. Rich or poor, learned and illiterate, Jew or gentile, all have a special place in His heart. The faith of the Canaanite is so touching as she spoke, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters”, and to which Jesus responded, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

Our gospel today highlights the great faith of the Canaanite. Despite what was set before her, she persevered and believed in Jesus.   We too in our desire to be with God, in our struggle to seek His will should be faithful even amidst great difficulties. As instruments of God in His work to bring ALL to His kingdom, we should follow Jesus and remove every obstacle and barrier from everyone’s spiritual path. Race, social status and rank should not be of any importance. The sinful, broken and wounded should never be received in a different way as those who appear to be holy and pious. At the very least they should be given more love, care and mercy. Nothing should be in the way of every man who seeks God and His will.

As our faith teaches, our Church is Catholic which means UNIVERSAL and as such should be open to ALL, with no ‘if’s and buts’! The same applies to all Christian spiritual communities… it applies to our very own church!

Let us ask ourselves the following: Is our community free of any discrimination? Do we give everyone in community equal opportunity to serve God and His people and be fruitful according to one’s God-given gifts?


Encourage every church/community member to be fruitful. Open up ways by which everyone can serve through new mission fields.


Heavenly Father, remove my self righteousness and enable me love and serve all despite our differences. I pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Reflection 4 – Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” —Matthew 15:28

In 1953, a fledgling business called Rocket Chemical Company and its staff of three set out to create a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for use in the aerospace industry. It took them 40 attempts to perfect their formula. The original secret formula for WD-40—which stands for Water Displacement, 40th attempt—is still in use today. What a story of persistence!

The gospel of Matthew records another story of bold persistence. A Canaanite woman had a daughter who was possessed by a demon. She had no hope for her daughter—until she heard that Jesus was in the region.

This desperate woman came to Jesus with her need because she believed He could help her. She cried out to Him even though everything and everybody seemed to be against her—race, religious background, gender, the disciples, Satan, and seemingly even Jesus (Matt. 15:22-27). Despite all of these obstacles, she did not give up. With bold persistence, she pushed her way through the dark corridors of difficulty, desperate need, and rejection. The result? Jesus commended her for her faith and healed her daughter (v.28).

We too are invited to approach Jesus with bold persistence. As we keep asking, seeking, and knocking, we will find grace and mercy in our time of need.  — Marvin Williams

Something happens when we pray,
Take our place and therein stay,
Wrestle on till break of day;
Ever let us pray. —Anon.

Persistence in prayer pleases God (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).

Reflection 5 – Truly Catholic

A little girl asked her mother, “Mom, where did the human race come from?” The mother answered, “God created Adam and Eve and they had children. That was how the human race came into being.” The next day the girl asked her dad the same question. The father answered, “Millions of years ago there were monkeys. They gradually evolved into humans.” The girl was confused. So she went back to her mother and asked, “Mom, which is true? You said the human race was created by God, but Dad said we evolved from monkeys?” The mother answered, “Well, my dear, it’s very simple. I told you about my side of the family and your father told you about his.”

It has always been said that man is a social being. No man is an island. We always interact with one another – in families and in communities. However, this desire to belong to a group has a strong tendency to become exclusive, and consequently, divisive. We find it difficult to welcome those who do not belong to our group. We oftentimes operate on the basis of our personal biases and culturally established criteria in judging people, as shown in the case of Nathanael: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Jn 1:46). This invariably leads to social discrimination and the polarization and fragmentation of society.

Exclusivism, discrimination, social prejudices and divisions are definitely not pleasing in the eyes of God. Indeed, God wants all people to be united in love and harmony for it was He who created them all. That is why He made sure that His house “shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Is 56:7) so that all nations will praise Him: “O God, let all the nations praise you” (Ps 67). As the Psalmist exclaimed, “How good it is, how pleasant, where the people dwell as one! Like precious ointment on the head, running down upon the beard, Upon the beard of Aaron, upon the collar of his robe” (Ps 133:1-2).

The Gospel this Sunday teaches us a lesson on unity and fraternal solidarity among all of God’s people. Interestingly, this lesson comes neither from the disciples nor from any member of God’s Chosen People, but from an outsider – a Canaanite woman.

She was not just a pagan. She was a Canaanite. We remember that the Promised Land was originally occupied by the Canaanites. They were pushed out by the Israelites. That is why, since then, the relationship between the Jews and the Canaanites was that of deep animosity. But the woman did not mind that. She mustered all courage to come near Jesus.

Secondly, she was a woman. In the prevailing culture of their society, it was not proper for a woman to speak to a man in public. And she was asking a favor in behalf of her daughter, not a son. Again she did not mind that. Her love for her daughter was overwhelming as to think about all these issues.

At first, Jesus seemed cold and indifferent: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He even said something, which may have sounded insulting, which again, the woman did not mind. But Jesus did not mean to degrade or malign her. He was simply testing her faith, making sure her faith is pure and strong.

And she passed the test! She could not be dissuaded. She truly believed in Jesus. She addressed Him “Lord” (Kyrios), a sublime messianic title. She repeatedly called out, “Lord, help me!” She was persistent, but, at the same time, profoundly humble: “Lord, even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.” Jesus, who always looks into the heart, praised her: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

Jesus acted in her favor because of her true faith. She was a Canaanite, but she truly believed in Jesus, unlike the Jews of his time who rejected him. She was a woman, but she had greater faith than Peter who sank in the water because, according to Jesus, he had “little faith”. She was nobody, an unnamed woman, and even a nuisance in the eyes of the disciples; but she was really “great” in the eyes of Jesus. Clearly, then, it is faith, not social or religious affiliation, that unites us to Jesus.

In baptism, we have received the gift of faith, and have become members of the Catholic Church founded by Jesus Christ himself. And so we call ourselves Catholics. The word “catholic” means “universal”. The Catholic faith, therefore, means a faith that welcomes everybody as Jesus does. True faith does not discriminate; nor does it divide, nor exclude. True faith always welcomes and unites people. When we have true faith in Jesus, like the Canaanite woman, we do not anymore mind our petty differences, economic standing, group affiliations and cultural backgrounds. We simply belong to Jesus; and so we also belong to one another. That is because when we have true faith in Jesus, we see everything with the eyes of God. In His eyes, we are all His beloved children. The blood of Jesus was shed on the cross for all peoples of all times. Salvation is offered to everybody. For those who accept Jesus in faith, salvation is theirs.

Before going to Holy Communion, we exchange the sign or kiss of peace with one another. The General Instruction on the Roman Missal reminds us: “It is, however, appropriate that each person offer the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner” (GIRM, 82). This is, therefore, not an occasion to go around, exchanging pleasantries. It is not also the time for the children to go to their parents and grandparents to kiss their hands. Rather, it is a beautiful expression of our unity as members of Christ’s Mystical Body.

Early this month (Aug 03, 2014), the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments released guidelines on the Rite of the Sign of Peace during Mass. The guidelines pointed out several ‘liturgical missteps’ that are made during the Sign of Peace that should be avoided, including: the singing of a ‘song of peace’, that does not exist in the Roman Rite; the people moving around in order to exchange the sign of peace; the priest leaving the altar to give the greeting of peace to the faithful.

One of the early Church Fathers, Theodore of Mopsuestia, explains the meaning of this practice: “This kiss that all exchange constitutes a kind of profession of unity and charity that exists among them. Each of us gives the kiss of peace to the person next to him, and so in effect gives it to the whole assembly, because this act is an acknowledgment that we have all become the single Body of Christ the Lord and so must preserve with one another that harmony… loving one another equally, supporting and helping one another, regarding the individual’s needs as the concerns of the community, sympathizing with one another’s sorrows and sharing one another’s joys.” (Baptismal Homily 4.39)

In closing, we pray in the words of the Eucharistic Prayer II: “Humbly we pray that, partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit.” Amen” (Source: Fr. Mike Lagrimas, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Palmera Springs, Camarin Road, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1423).

Reflection 6 – O Woman, Great is Your Faith

The prophet Isaiah foresees the day when Gentile foreigners will join themselves to the Lord, when they will love the name of the Lord and keep the Sabbath. On that day, they will observe the covenant and worship on God’s holy mountain and rejoice in God’s house of prayer.

This universal dimension was part of the promise made to Abraham: “by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves” (Genesis 12:3); “by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves” (Genesis 22:18). The kingdom of David had the mission of fulfilling this covenant promise to Abraham and bringing blessing to all the nations of the world. “The liturgy of the Temple is the means by which the children of Abraham are to bestow God’s blessings upon the families of the world” (S. Hahn, “Liturgy and Empire”, Letter and Spirit 5 (2009), 42).

Israel was supposed to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6). However, history shows that they failed in this, falling into idolatry and sin. The nations of Israel and Judah were exiled and sent out and into the nations by God. When Jesus, the Son of David, comes, his mission is first to gather the lost sheep of the house of Israel. At the same time, he will gather all men and all nations to himself when he is lifted up.

In this way we understand Jesus response to the Canaanite woman, who addresses him as “Son of David”. Through his initial silence and challenging responses, Jesus is able to bring her to profound faith in him. The woman speaks to Jesus three times, each time calling him “Lord”. First, she asks for pity and mercy for herself and for her daughter. Second, she asks for help. Third, she tells Jesus that she is content even with what is left-over from his table.

Last week, Jesus called his disciples “men of little faith”, this week he calls the Gentile woman a “woman of great faith”. Because of her faith and perseverance, she receives mercy and help and her daughter is healed.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we see that the mission to the Gentiles starts on the day of Pentecost. Jesus had given his disciples the great commission on the day of his Ascension: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). But they were also told to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, who would empower them to preach the Gospel and work mighty signs among the people.

Paul is the vessel chosen by God to bring the Gospel of the Kingdom to the Gentiles. He is rightly the Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul writes that all have sinned, both Jews and Gentiles. The Jews disobeyed the Law given through Moses; the Gentiles disobeyed the natural law given to all men. Those who have disobeyed, can still receive God’s mercy. Just as the Canaanite woman and her daughter received mercy, healing and salvation, through persistent prayer and Jesus’ power, we too receive mercy, healing and salvation from Jesus Christ. We only have to ask for it. – Read the source text:

Reflection 7 – Great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire

Do you ever feel “put-off” or ignored by the Lord? 
This passage (Matthew 15:21) describes the only occasion in which Jesus ministered outside of Jewish territory. (Tyre and Sidon were fifty miles north of Israel and still exist today in modern Lebanon.) A Gentile woman, a foreigner who was not a member of the Jewish people, puts Jesus on the spot by pleading for his help. At first Jesus seemed to pay no attention to her, and this made his disciples feel embarrassed. Jesus does this to test the woman to awaken faith in her.

Jesus first tests the woman’s faith
What did Jesus mean by the expression “throwing bread to the dogs”? The Jews often spoke of the Gentiles with arrogance and insolence as “unclean dogs” since the Gentiles did not follow God’s law and were excluded from God’s covenant and favor with the people of Israel. For the Greeks the “dog” was a symbol of dishonor and was used to describe a shameless and audacious woman. There is another reference to “dogs” in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus says to his disciples, “Do not give to dogs what is holy” (Matthew 7:6).  Jesus tests this woman’s faith to see if she is earnest in receiving holy things from the hand of a holy God. Jesus, no doubt, spoke with a smile rather than with an insult because this woman immediately responds with wit and faith – “even the dogs eat the crumbs”.

Seek the Lord Jesus with expectant faith
Jesus praises a Gentile woman for her faith and for her love. She made the misery of her child her own and she was willing to suffer rebuff in order to obtain healing for her loved one. She also had indomitable persistence. Her faith grew in contact with the person of Jesus. She began with a request and she ended on her knees in worshipful prayer to the living God. No one who ever sought Jesus with earnest faith – whether Jew or Gentile – was refused his help. Do you seek the Lord Jesus with expectant faith?

“Lord Jesus, your love and mercy knows no bounds. May I trust you always and pursue you with indomitable persistence as this woman did. Increase my faith in your saving power and deliver me from all evil and harm.” – Read the source:

Reflection 8 – History of the Church 

Purpose: To explain some major heresies and problems faced by the Church–(1) in the past, and (2) as they recur in our times.

A priest once met with a young woman, and it came out in the conversation that she was having premarital relations with her boyfriend. The priest asked her what she was planning to do to end that, but she said she had no plans to end it. She said, “I have an agreement with God and it’s going fine.” The priest responded, “You may have an agreement, but it’s not with God. It’s with Satan. God doesn’t make agreements like that.”

Every age has its controversies, and its heresies. In this age, it’s about sexuality: premarital sex, contraception, in vitro fertilization, even abortion. The Church has made its teaching clear, but there are some who would like to change that teaching or ignore it.

When Pope Paul VI published his prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968, many theologians, and others, tried to undermine his teaching, but all his predictions have come true. He warned of more “infidelity and the lowering of morality”; that the man “may lose respect for the woman” and see her as “an instrument of selfish enjoyment,” not “his respected and beloved companion”; and that governments might impose contraception on their peoples, interfering with “the most personal … sector of conjugal morality” (HV, n. 17). All of these things have happened.

Meanwhile, those who have practiced Natural Family Planning have experienced increased communication and a divorce rate of one in twenty-five or less, compared to the national average of one in two. And, as a method, it is 98 percent effective or better.

In vitro fertilization has been surpassed by natural procreation technology (known as NaPro technology) both in success rate and in economy. Couples who are having difficulty in conceiving have been delighted with this highly scientific, moral, and effective way of helping them conceive naturally.

Regarding premarital sex, secular studies have shown that the divorce rate among those who live together before marriage is, surprisingly, 74 percent, compared to the national average of 50 percent. And, according to a 1992 study published by the University of Chicago, men who have had premarital sex are 63 percent more likely to get divorced than if they had not. Women are 76 percent more likely to divorce if they have had premarital sex (The Family Portrait, Washington, DC: The Family Research Council, 2002, p. 63).

And today, we see many women coming forth to proclaim that their abortions hurt them deeply. There is an association of such women called “Silent No More.”

Every age has its controversies. In the early Church, the controversies were about who Christ was. Arianism claimed he was more than man, but less than God. This error was so widespread that St. Jerome wrote, “The whole world groaned and marveled to find itself Arian.” Yet, the truth of Christ’s divinity won out in the end. There were controversies over the number of wills in Christ, the number of natures, and the number of persons (there are two wills, two natures, but just one divine person).

In the first three or four centuries, there was the Gnostic heresy, which claimed that the body was not important, only the spirit. This error, known as dualism, prompted some Gnostics to treat sexual promiscuity lightly. This same error reappeared in the 1970s, and beyond when dissenters from Humanae Vitae claimed it was “physicalism” to describe certain acts as immoral. One of the key points of Pope John Paul II’s “theology of the body” was to deny such claims, and proclaim that “the body expresses the person” and, thus, is of great significance.

In the 11th and 12th centuries, as well as the 16th century, the issue was corruption in the Church. Did the fact that a number of priests were living with women, or that bishops were grabbing for all the money they could get, mean that people could, in essence, form their own Christian churches? The Albigensians and Waldensians, although they began as dedicated, poverty-living Catholics, decided to start preaching without the permission of the bishops and, in time, fell into all sorts of errors, including dualism, and denying many of the sacraments, and the existence of purgatory. The same sort of thing happened with the reformers of the 16th century who broke from Rome.

Thus, we can see that every age has had its controversies in the Church, but despite the weaknesses and faults of her leaders, the Church has survived and remained the “pillar and bulwark of truth,” as she is described in 1 Tim. 3:14. Those who have tried to reform the Church by breaking with the pope have fallen into all sorts of errors. In our time, it will be no different, with those who try to change the teachings on sexuality.

Jesus loves his Church, and will continue to guide it until the end. This was his promise: “I will be with you always until the end of time” (Matt. 28:20).

Suggested reading: Catechism of the Catholic Church, 285, 495, 817-821, 2089, 2127-2128.  – Read the source text:

Reflection 9 – The Canaanite woman

This is the time, at least in the United States, when vacations are coming to an end, and people are starting preparations for a new academic year. While it is not possible for everyone to get away for an extended period of time, it is a great gift for those who can do so. The human person needs adequate rest, and holy leisure, for their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

Our Lord was no different. At this point in the Gospel, Jesus must have been beyond exhausted. He returned to Nazareth but could work no miracles because of the people’s lack of faith. His relative, John the Baptist, was put to death. He fed 5,000 men and their families, walked on water, got into debates with the scribes and Pharisees, following it all up by healing many people. One gets exhausted just by reading about it.

Jesus then goes to the region of Tyre and Sidon. It was a place he thought he would not be recognized, and not be bothered—neither by the hypercritical scribes and Pharisees, nor by the people who wanted him to work miracles. He was also looking for a place to pause and prepare his disciples before he began his final battle against evil. It was not meant to be. This is a reminder for all of us who have been claimed by Jesus Christ in Baptism that there is no place in the world where Christ is not needed. Nor is there a time in which we can take a vacation from our Christian faith.

We can also look to the Canaanite woman as an example. She is a woman of humility, cheerfulness, and above all, faith. My favorite description of humility comes from Saint Josemaria Escriva:

Humility means looking at ourselves as we really are, honestly and without excuses. And when we realize that we are hardly worth anything, we can then open ourselves to God’s greatness: it is there that our greatness lies.

A prideful person is convinced of his own self-sufficiency. The Canaanite woman knew that she didn’t have what was necessary to remove the demon from her daughter. Therefore, she had no problem begging for the mercy of God. Self-emptying humility allowed her to break through her pride. She uttered the prayer only a humble person could offer, “Lord, help me!”

The Canaanite woman is also an example of cheerfulness, even in the face of great adversity: “He said in reply ‘It isn’t right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs. She said, ‘Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.’” Among the conversations that Jesus had, I have to believe that this was one of his favorites. The Lord’s final reply, as recorded by Saint Matthew, is: “O woman, great is your faith!” Yet, in my mental prayer, I also imagine a bit more. Looking at her with a raised eyebrow, a sly smile spreads across his face and he says, at least to himself: “Well played, my lady, well played!”

We know that “God loves a cheerful giver,” but we also need to learn that “God loves a cheerful beggar.” God is our Father who loves us more than we can imagine. We come to Him in hopeful confidence, offering our prayers of petition with a spirit of cheerfulness. I have nothing, He has everything, and He wants to give me what I need. How can I not be cheerful, even in the midst of the greatest responsibilities, trials, and challenges? The Canaanite woman reveals to us how one can remain cheerful amidst great turmoil and difficulties.

That cheerfulness is a by-product of her third characteristic—faith. Faith is an unmerited gift from God that, metaphorically speaking, gives us spiritual eyesight. A faithful person is able to look on the things of this world with supernatural eyesight. This woman had no right to claim the riches of the house of Israel, but she still requests it—not out of justice or fairness, but out of God’s mercy. Faith allowed her to see this.

When a child is baptized, his parents are asked, “What do you ask of God’s Church?” One possible response is, “Faith.” In baptism, we enter into the house of God, into a family that allows us to call God “our Father.” We do not receive the gift of faith and God’s sanctifying grace because we deserve it—out of justice or fairness—but rather out of God’s redeeming mercy. This woman was not of the house of Israel. She had no right to the portion given to the Chosen People. Yet, she still asks, and because she asks, a portion is granted to her out of God’s mercy.

Let us pray that we may be like the Canaanite woman, a woman of humility, cheerfulness and faith. – Read the source:

Reflection 10 – A cry that gets salvation

1) The cry of faith to invoke a gift not to claim it.

Last Sunday, we meditated on the filial prayer of Christ who expresses his need to be with the Father, and Peter’s prayer who, to be with Christ, cries out to him “Lord, save me.” Today Gospel makes us hear the cry of a pagan woman who pleadingly and confidently turns to the Messiah saying, “Have mercy of me, Lord, son of David!” This woman begs Christ to release her daughter from devil. She humbly begs the Lord to do a miracle, but does not require divine intervention as a right. She expects it as a gift. She asks the One who is a gift recognizing in him the Lord and Messiah. Her faith is all enclosed in the expression: “Have mercy of me, Lord, Son of David.”

Once again the liturgy makes us contemplate the “Gospel of Grace” that responds to the desire for salvation, and for this reason, we pray: “Infuse in us the sweetness of your love so that loving you in everything and above all, we get the promised things that exceed every desire “(Opening prayer of today’s Mass).

Praying in this way, we put ourselves in the boundless horizon of God’s love, a love that attracts us to Him to be filled with joy.

The episode reported by the today Gospel is embodied and understood in the logic of the tender and infinite love of God. Saint Matthew tells us about a meeting that takes place “in a foreign land” with a pagan woman, who is a mother oppressed by anguish (“My daughter is tormented by a demon”). This mother gets what she was asking for. Today’s evangelical tale tells us the story of a pain open to faith and of a faith which becomes miracle and liberation.

The Canaanite woman turns to Jesus, sure to be satisfied. Her faith is insistent, brave, humble, and stronger than the apparent refusal. Faith must be both certain and patient. It must not be discouraged even by the silence of God “He did not even say a word”. The silence of Jesus may seem disconcerting, so much that it arouses the intervention of the disciples, but it is not about insensitivity to the pain of the woman.

Saint Augustine rightly comments “Christ seemed indifferent not  because he want to refuse mercy to her, but to inflame her desire “(Sermo 77, 1: PL 38, 483). The apparent distance taken by Jesus, who says, “I was not sent except for the lost sheep of the house of Israel “(Mt 15, 24) does not discourage the Canaanite, who insists “Lord, help me!”(Mt 15:25). And even when she receives an answer that seems to close any hope -“It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (Mt 15, 26) -, she does not desist. She doesn’t want to take anything from anyone: in its simplicity and humility little is enough, crumbles are enough, just one glance and a good word from the Son of God is enough. And Jesus is admired by the answer of such a great faith and says to her, “Let be done for you as you wish” (Mt 15:28). And from that moment her daughter is healed.

2) A persistent question to the one who loves us.

The healing of a young woman is not the only miracle narrated in the today Gospel. During the dialogue between Christ and the Canaanite woman, who begged a grace, it happened another miracle, greater than her daughter’s healing. This mother has become a “believer,” one of the first pagan believers.

If the Messiah had listened to her at the first request, all that this woman would have obtained is the healing of her daughter. Life would have gone through with less annoyances but everything would have ended there, and mother and daughter would have died in anonymity. Instead, they will be spoken about until the end of the world. Perhaps, Jesus took the inspiration from this meeting to propose the widow’s parable about the “Need to pray always, without getting tired”.

In the insistence of the Canaanite woman transpires the confidence in the power of Jesus. He was trying to hide, but the fame accompanying him prevented a single moment of solitude. He was there for her (and today he is here for us) and she knew it. Her presence in a territory that was not Jewish, “in the area of ​​Tire and Sidon”, could not be casual. She had guessed the favorable time for her daughter’s salvation. This certainty moves her and pushes her to Jesus. The certainty of a faith full of hope throws her at Christ’s feet, who says “Woman, great is your faith! Let be done as you wish “(Mt 15:28). Yes, this woman has a great faith. “Not knowing the ancient prophets, nor the recent miracles of the Lord, nor his commandments or his promises, indeed, rejected by him, she persists in her request and does not get tired of knocking at the door of the one who, by fame, had been named Savior. So her prayer is granted in a visible and immediate way”(Saint Bede the Venerable, Homely on the Gospels I, 22: PL 94, 102-105).

The insistent prayer of this woman does not arise solely from the need to obtain her daughter’s healing. It is born from a faith that is not the result of a theory or a need, but of an encounter with Christ, the Son of the “living God who calls and reveals his love” (Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei, 4) with a gesture of mercy.

In addition, the episode on which we are meditating makes us understand that when we pray the Lord we must not expect an immediate fulfillment of what we ask for, but rather rely on Christ’s heart trying to interpret the events of our life in the perspective of his design of love, often mysterious in our eyes. Therefore, in our prayer praise and thanks should merge together, even when it seems to us that God does not respond to our concrete expectations. The abandonment to the love of God, who precedes us and always accompanies us, is one of the fundamental attitudes of our dialogue with Him.

A clear example of this attitude is offered by the consecrated virgins, who are called to live in particular the “service of prayer,” as it is said during the Rite of Consecration when the Book of the Hours is given to them.

Moreover, with the full donation of self to Christ, these women testify how to ask and how to pray. Before the gift (= grace) is granted, they adhere to Jesus, who in his gifts gives himself. The Giver is more valuable than the gift; He is the ” invaluable Treasury”, the” precious Pearl “; the gift of the miracle is granted “in addition” (cf. Mt 6, 21 and 6:33).

These consecrated ones testify a very important thing: before the gift is granted, it is necessary to adhere to the One who gives: the giver is most valuable of the gift. Therefore, even for us, beyond what God gives us when we ask, the greatest gift he can give is his friendship, his presence, and his love. He is the precious treasure to ask for and guard all time.

Let us not forget the deep bond between the love for God and love for the neighbor that must also enter in our prayer. Our prayer opens the door to God, who teaches us to go out of our way to be able to become closer to the others, especially in moments of trial, to bring them consolation, hope and light. May Jesus the Lord allow us to be able to have a persevering and intense prayer to strengthen our personal relationship with God the Father, widen our hearts to the needs of those who are next, and feel the beauty of being “sons in the Son” together with so many brothers and sisters.

Patristic Reading

Saint Augustin of Hippo (354 – 430)

Sermon XXVII. [LXXVII. Ben.]

On the words of the gospel, Mt 15,21 “Jesus went out thence, and withdrew into the parts of Tire and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman,” etc.

1). This woman of Canaan, who has just now been brought before us in the lesson of the Gospel, shows us an example of humility, and the way of godliness; shows us how to rise from humility unto exaltation. Now she was, as it appears, not of the people of Israel, of whom came the Patriarchs, and Prophets, and the parents of the Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh; of whom the Virgin Mary herself was, who was the Mother of Christ. This woman then was not of this people; but of the Gentiles. For, as we have heard, the Lord “departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, and behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts,”1 and with the greatest earnestness begged of Him the mercy to heal her daughter, “who was grievously vexed with a devil.” Tyre and Sidon were not cities of the people of Israel, but of the Gentiles; though they bordered on that people. So then, as being eager to obtain mercy she cried out, and boldly knocked; and He made as though He heard her not,2 not to the end that mercy might be refused her, but that her desire might be enkindled; and not only that her desire might be enkindled, but that, as I have said before, her humility might be set forth. Therefore did she cry, while the Lord was as though He heard her not, but was ordering in silence what He was about to do. The disciples besought the Lord for her, and said, “Send her away; for she crieth after us.” And He said, “I am not sent, but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”3

  1. Here arises a question out of these words; “If He was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel, how came we from among the Gentiles into Christ’s fold? What is the meaning of the so deep economy4 of this mystery, that whereas the Lord knew the purpose of His coming—that He might have a Church in all nations, He said that ‘He was not sent, but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel’?” We understand then by this that it behoved Him to manifest His Bodily presence, His Birth, the exhibition of His miracles, and the power of His Resurrection, among that people: that so it had been ordained, so set forth from the beginning, so predicted, and so fulfilled; that Christ Jesus was to come to the nation of the Jews, to be seen and slain, and to gain from among them those whom He foreknew. For that people was not wholly condemned, but sifted. There was among them a great quantity of chaff, but there was also the hidden worth5 of the grain; there was among them that which was to be burnt, there was among them also that wherewith the barn was to be filled. For whence came the Apostles? whence came Peter? whence the rest?
  1. Whence was Paul himself, who was first called Saul? That is, first proud, afterwards humble? For when he was Saul, his name was derived from Saul: now Saul was a proud king; and in his reign he persecuted the humble David.6 So when he who was afterwards Paul,7 was Saul, he was proud, at that time a persecutor of the innocent, at that time a waster of the Church. For he had received letters from the chief priests (burning as he was with zeal for the synagogue, and persecuting the Christian name), that he might show up whatever Christians he should find, to be punished.8 While he is on his way, while he is breathing out slaughter, while he is thirsting for blood, he is thrown to the ground by the voice of Christ from heaven the persecutor, he is raised up the preacher. In him was fulfilled that which is written in the Prophet, “I will wound and I will heal.”9 For that only in man cloth God wound, which lifteth itself up against God. He is no unkind10 physician who opens the swelling, who cuts, or cauterizes the corrupted part. He gives pain, it is true; but he only gives pain, that he may bring the patient on to health. He gives pain; but if he did not, he would do no good. Christ then by one word laid Saul low, and raised up Paul; that is, He laid low the proud, and raised up the humble. For what was the reason of his change of name, that whereas he was afore called Saul, he chose afterwards to be called Paul; but that he acknowledged in himself that the name of Saul when he was a persecutor, had been a name of pride? He chose therefore a humble name; to be called Paul, that is, the least. For Paul is, “the least.” Paul is nothing else but little. And now glorying in this name, and giving us a lesson11 of humility, he says, “I am the least of the Apostles.”12 Whence then, whence was he, but of the people of the Jews? Of them were the other Apostles, of them was Paul, of them were they whom the same Paul mentions, as having seen the Lord after His resurrection. For he says, “That He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.”13
  1. Of this people too, of the people of the Jews, were they, who when Peter was speaking, setting forth the Passion, and Resurrection, and Divinity of Christ (after that the Holy Ghost had been received, when all they on whom the Holy Ghost had come, spake with the tongues of all nations), being pricked in spirit as they heard him, sought counsel for their salvation, understanding as they did that they were guilty of the Blood of Christ; because they had crucified, and slain Him, in whose name though slain by, them they saw such great miracles wrought; and saw the presence of the Holy Ghost. And so seeking counsel they received for answer; “Repent, and be baptized every one of you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and your sins shall be forgiven you.”14 Who should despair of the forgiveness of his sins, when the crime of killing Christ was forgiven to those who were guilty of it? They were converted from among this people of the Jews; were converted, and baptized. They came to the Lord’s table, and in faith drank that Blood, which in their fury they had shed. Now in what sort they were converted, how decidedly,15 and how perfectly, the Acts of the Apostles show. “For they sold all that they possessed, and laid the prices of their things at the Apostles’ feet; and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need; and no man said that ought was his own, but they had all things common.”16 And, “They were,” as it is written, “of one heart and of one soul.” Lo here are the sheep of whom He said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” For to them He exhibited His Presence, for them in the midst of their violence against Him He prayed as He was being crucified, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”17 The Physician understood how those frenzied men were in their madness putting the Physician to death, and in putting their Physician to death, though they knew it not, were preparing a medicine for themselves. For by the Lord so put to death are all we cured, by His Blood redeemed, by the Bread of His Body delivered from famine. This Presence then did Christ exhibit to the Jews. And so He said, “I am not sent, but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel;” that to them He might exhibit the Presence of His body; not that He might disregard, and pass over the sheep which He had among the Gentiles.
  1. For to the Gentiles He went not Himself, but sent His disciples. And in this was fulfilled what the Prophet said; “A people whom I have not known hath served Me.” See how deep, how clear, how express the prophecy is; “a people whom I have not known,” that is, to whom I have not exhibited My Presence, “hath served Me.” How? It goes on to say, “By the hearing of the ear they have obeyed Me:”18 that is, they have believed, not by seeing, but by hearing. Therefore have the Gentiles the greater praise. For the others saw and slew Him; the Gentiles heard and believed. Now it was to call and gather together the Gentiles, that that might be fulfilled which we have just now chanted, “Gather us from among the Gentiles, that we may confess to Thy Name, and glory in Thy praise,”19 that the Apostle Paul was sent. He, the least, made great, not by himself, but by Him whom he once persecuted, was sent to the Gentiles,20 from a robber become a shepherd, from a wolf a sheep. He, the least Apostle, was sent to the Gentiles, and laboured much among the Gentiles, and through him the Gentiles believed. His Epistles are the witnesses.
  1. Of this you have a very sacred figure in the Gospel also. A daughter of a ruler of the synagogue was really dead, and her father besought the Lord, that He would go to her; he had left her sick, and in extreme danger.21 The Lord set out to visit and heal the sick; in the mean time it was announced that she was dead, and it was told the father; “Thy daughter is dead, trouble not the Master.” But the Lord who knew that He could raise the dead, did not deprive the despairing father of hope, and said to him,” Fear not: only believe.” So he set out to the maiden; and in the way a certain woman, who had suffered from an issue of blood, and in her lengthened illness had spent to no purpose all that she had upon physicians, pressed herself in, how she could, amongst the crowds. When she touched the border of His garment, she was made whole. And the Lord said, “Who touched Me?” The disciples who knew not what had taken place, and saw that He was thronged by the multitudes, and that He was troubling Himself about one single woman who had touched Him gently, answered in astonishment, “The multitudes press Thee, and sayest Thou, Who touched Me? And He said, Somebody hath touched Me? for the other press, she hath touched. The many22 then rudely23 press the Body of Christ, few touch it healthfully. “Somebody,” saith He, “hath touched Me, for I perceive that virtue is gone out of Me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she fell down at His feet,” and confessed what had taken place. After this He set out again, and arrived whither He was going, and raised to life the young daughter of the ruler of the synagogue who was found to be dead.
  1. This was a literal fact, and was fulfilled as it is related i but nevertheless these very things which were done by the Lord had some further signification, being (if we may so say) a sort of visible and significative words. And this is especially plain, in that place where He sought fruit on the tree out of season, and because He found none, dried up the tree by His curse.24 Unless this action be regarded as a figure, there is no good meaning in it; first to have sought fruit on that tree when it was not the season for fruit on any tree; and then even if it were now the time of fruit, what fault in the tree was it to have none? But because it signified, that He seeketh not for leaves only, but for fruit also, that is, not for the words only, but for the deeds of men, by drying up that tree whereon he found only leaves, he signified their punishment who can speak good things, but will not do them. And so it is in this place also. For surely there is a mystery in it. He who foreknoweth all things saith, “Who touched Me?” The Creator maketh Himself like one who is ignorant; and He asketh, who not only knew this, but who even foreknew all other things. Doubtless there is something which Christ would speak to us in this significant mystery.
  1. That daughter of the ruler of the synagogue was a figure of the people of the Jews, for whose sake Christ had come, who said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman who suffered from the issue of blood, figured the Church from among the Gentiles, to which Christ was not sent in His bodily presence. He was going to the former, He was intent on her recovery; meanwhile the latter runs to meet Him, touches His border as though He knew it not; that is, she is healed by Him who is in some sense absent. He saith, “Who touched Me?” as though He would say; I do not know this people; “A people whom I have not known hath served Me. Some one hath touched Me. For I perceive that virtue is gone out of Me;” that is, that My Gospel hath gone out and filled the whole world. Now it is the border that is touched, a small and outside25 part of the garment. Consider the Apostles as it were the garment of Christ. Among them Paul was the border; that is, the last and least. For he said of himself that he was both; “I am the least of the Apostles.”26 For he was called after them all, he believed after them all, he healed more than they all. The Lord was not sent but “unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But because a “people whom He had not known, was also to serve Him, and to obey Him in the hearing of the ear,” He made mention of them too when He was among the others. For the same Lord said in a certain place, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, that there may be one fold and one shepherd.”27
  1. Of these was this woman; therefore she was not refused, but only put off. “I am not sent,” saith He, “but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And she was instant in her cries: she persevered, she knocked, as if she had already heard, “Ask, and receive; seek, and thou shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto thee.” She kept on, she knocked. For so the Lord when He spake these words, “Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you;”28 had also said before, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you;”29 that is, lest after despising your pearls, they should even ill use you.30 Cast not therefore before them what they despise.
  1. And how distinguish we (as might be answered) who are “swine,” and who are “dogs”? This has been shown in the case of this woman. For He only answered to her entreaties, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.”31 Thou art a dog, thou art one of the Gentiles, thou worshippest idols. But for dogs what is so proper32 as to lick stones? “It is not”

“With the wish to have the experience that prayer is a dialogue with God who save.” Mgr Follo – Read the source:

Reflection 11 – What Moved the Woman to Jesus

“We are united to Christ, we are one, and it is when his Passion becomes real to us, through experience and love, that we grow aware of his presence in us. But for this presence of Christ, his living in us, his actually being our life, we could not bear the things which have actually happened to some, indeed to many, and which are more than a threat to everyone. We can bear them for one reason only, because Christ, who is identified with us, who is in us, has already suffered and overcome everything that we shall suffer, or even can suffer.

“We cannot shed a tear, but that tear has already blinded the eyes of Christ. We cannot be without tears, but that constriction of the heart has constricted his heart. He has known all and every kind of fear that we know, and there is no possible loneliness, no agony of separation, but it is Christ’s; indeed, not one of us can die, but it is Christ dying. And Christ, who faces all these things in our lives, has overcome them all and has sanctified them by his limitless love. His love made every moment of his Passion redeeming and healing and life-giving, and this love, this Christ-love, is ours, just as much as his suffering is.

“We are now beginning in very earnest to experience the contemplation which consists in suffering with Christ, and the way to sanctify it is not so much to suffer with him as to ask him to let us realize that he it is who suffers in us. For, this understood, we cannot help abandoning our will to his completely, and letting him suffer in us in his way, and his way is the way of love. Complete though it is, in his grief there is no bitterness; and what seems to be frustration and waste is not, it is fruitful; this is because every moment of his Passion is informed by love.

Our work is to love too, to love always, to love everyone, and to love to the end” (Source: Caryll Houselander, +1954, Magnificat, Vol. 16, No. 6, August 2014, pp. 268-269).

Reflection 12 – Outsiders

The Gospel reading for this Sunday challenges us to examine our tendency to judge others. The Canaanite woman had two reasons why the disciples might have judged her as unworthy of Jesus’ attention: her gender and nationality.

Of course, Jesus was there as Savior for the whole world, but the disciples didn’t know it yet. To stretch their minds (and ours), Jesus waited for the Canaanite woman’s faith to become so obvious that it would overshadow every limitation that had been imposed upon her.

For Jesus, the only outsider is someone who refuses to come into the kingdom of God. But we don’t readily think like this. Our Church is full of people who have been misjudged. Many feel outcast. We easily jump to wrong conclusions about each other.

For example, how readily do you greet the people near you in the pew if you don’t know them? How comfortable are you about engaging in friendly conversation after Mass someone who looks unhappy? Does your parish make it easy for single parents to come to extra activities at church by providing free babysitters?

If you’re divorced, do you assume that others are deliberately excluding you? That too is usually a misjudgment.

Why do homosexuals feel outcast even though Church teachings have been issued that compassionatelyinvite them to a holy lifestyle?

Why are there lay people who feel blocked from being collaborators in ministry with their priests?

Judging our fellow Christians causes them to suffer. It also allows unmet needs to continue in the Church, because the giftedness of the judged is being rejected. But if we remain conscious of our own tendencies to react to others with assumptions and judgments, we have the power to choose to be Christ for them and to receive Christ from them.

Questions for Personal Reflection:
Have you ever felt like an outsider? Even in the presence of Christ? How have you been pushed aside and neglected? What kind of damage did it do? Are you willing to try to again to get more involved?

Questions for Community Faith Sharing:
Whom are we most likely to judge? What is your parish doing — or what have you personally done — to heal some of the damage that was caused when others were misjudged? What else needs to be done? – Read the source:

Reflection 13 – How to respond to God’s no?

Everyone has experienced it: the terrible moment when God says, “No.”

No, you may not have that job you have been praying for. No, that temptation will not go away. No, your family member will not convert. Sometimes the No is final; sometimes God is saying it will take a while for our petitions to be resolved.

It is easy to simply give up and give in — to stop asking and live like it will never happen.

That is where persistence comes in.

Today’s Gospel tells us: Don’t take “No” for an answer.

“Have pity on me!” the Canaanite woman cries out to Jesus. “My daughter is tormented by a demon.”

First, Jesus ignores her — “Jesus did not say a word in answer to her,” says the Gospel. Then his disciples tell him: “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”

So he does. He tells her: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Being ignored didn’t make her give up. Hearing this “No” didn’t either.

“The woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’”

Then he made his “No” harsher: “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

She still won’t take “No” for an answer: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”

Only then does Jesus say, “O woman, great is your faith!”

We often get exactly these answers from God.

“Why is Jesus ignoring me?” we often wonder, maybe even thinking, “Apparently those granted jobs are more worthy. Why do others get the gift of a family full of faith, but not my family? Why are others not struggling as I am? Is the grace of the basics of a Godly life — work, faith and moral fortitude — not something God will extend to me?”

If the Canaanite woman feels offended, she doesn’t show it. She won’t stop asking. Instead, she adds an act of humility to her petition. She grants the premise that she is less worthy — and would like something small all the same, a “scrap that falls from the table” of those who are more favored.

We can do the same thing — because we are not worthy either.

God is infinitely greater than us and sees that better people than us are enduring far worse suffering and staying way more faithful.

We have not been perfect like the foreigners God answers in the first reading. We Catholics, the “People of God,” have disobeyed him as surely as the “Chosen People” did, as St. Paul points out in the second reading.

Tell God you know all that — and you would like a scrap anyway. Jesus responds to that kind of humility.

Take a tip from salesmen: You never get what you don’t ask for, and you can’t close the deal if you take “No” for an answer too soon.

“Persevere in prayer. Persevere, even when your efforts seem barren. Prayer is always fruitful.” So St. Josémaria Escriva reminds us. – Read the source:

Reflection 14 – On the need for unwavering faith

Today’s Gospel (Matthew 15:21-28) presents to us a singular example of faith in Jesus’ meeting with a Canaanite woman, a foreigner for the Jews. The scene unfolds while He is on the way to the city of Tyre and Sidon, northwest of Galilee: it’s here that the woman implores Jesus to heal her daughter who, the Gospel says, “is severely possessed by a demon” (v. 22). Initially the Lord seems not to listen to this cry of grief, so much so as to arouse the intervention of the disciples, who intercede for her. Jesus’ apparent detachment doesn’t discourage this mother, who insists on her invocation.

The inner strength of this woman, which enables her to surmount every obstacle, is found in her maternal love and in her confidence that Jesus can hear her request. And this makes me think of the strength of women. With their fortitude they are able to obtain great things. We have known so many! We can say that it’s love that moves faith and faith on her part becomes the reward of love. Her heartrending love for her daughter induces her “to cry: ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!’” (v. 22). And her perseverant faith in Jesus enables her not to be discouraged, not even in face of His initial refusal; so the woman “knelt before Him, saying: ‘Lord, help me!’” (v. 25).

At the end, in face of such perseverance, Jesus remains in admiration, almost astonished by the faith of the pagan woman. Therefore, He consents saying: ”’O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’” And her daughter was healed instantly” (v. 28). Jesus points out this humble woman as an example of unwavering faith. Her insistence on invoking Christ’s intervention is a stimulus for us not to be discouraged, not to despair when we are oppressed by life’s harsh trials. The Lord doesn’t turn away in face of our needs and, if at times He seems insensible to requests for help, it’s to test and strengthen our faith. We must continue to cry as this woman: Lord, help me! Lord, help me!” — so, with perseverance and courage. And this is the courage we must have in prayer.

This evangelical episode helps us to understand that we are all in need of growing in faith and of strengthening our trust in Jesus. He can help us to rediscover the way, when we have lost the compass of our way; when the way no longer seems flat but rough and arduous; when it’s hard to be faithful to our commitments. It is important to nourish our faith every day, with attentive listening to the Word of God, with the celebration of the Sacraments, with personal prayer as “cry” to Him ––“Lord, help me!” — and with concrete attitudes of charity to our neighbor.

We entrust ourselves to the Holy Spirit so that He will help us to persevere in faith. The Spirit infuses audacity in the heart of believers; He gives our life and our Christian witness the strength of conviction and persuasion; He encourages us to overcome incredulity towards God and indifference towards brothers.

May the Virgin Mary render us increasingly aware of our need of the Lord and of His Spirit; may She obtain for us a strong faith, full of love, and a love that is able to become entreaty, courageous entreaty to God. – Source: Pope Francis

Reflection 15 – St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153 A.D.)

Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe’s “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days.

In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light.

His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know.

Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope.

The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster.

Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.


Bernard’s life in the Church was more active than we can imagine possible today. His efforts produced far-reaching results. But he knew that they would have availed little without the many hours of prayer and contemplation that brought him strength and heavenly direction. His life was characterized by a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. His sermons and books about Mary are still the standard of Marian theology.


“In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal” (St. Bernard).

Read the source:

Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God’s invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

The “Last of the Fathers,” Bernard was born near Dijon, France. He joined the Cistercians and at twenty-four he was sent to the “Valley of Wormwood,” where he led his fellow monks in clearing the land to found Clairvaux, the “Valley of Light,” one of the great medieval monasteries. Bernard heeded the requests of popes and bishops to arbitrate disputes and rouse the faithful throughout Europe. He liked to call himself Beatae Mariae capellanus, “Mary’s faithful chaplain.” Bernard was one of the Church’s great thaumaturges or wonder-workers. Thousands would line the roads he traveled, waiting for his healing touch. Bernard was an austere reformer, a tireless preacher and an affectionate correspondent. He never left a letter unanswered. In his celebrated exchange with Peter Abelard, Bernard counseled against the hubris of the intellect, insisting that theology must be rooted in Scripture and fed with prayer. “The reason for loving God is God himself,” he wrote. “The measure is to love him beyond measure.” Bernard suffered from lifelong stomach trouble and died in 1153 A.D. “What we love,” he taught, “we shall grow to resemble.”

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: 
Bernard of Clairvaux - Gutenburg - 13206.jpg

St Bernard in “A Short History of Monks and Monasteries” by Alfred Wesley Wishart (1900).
BORN 1090
Fontaine-lès-Dijon, France
DIED 20 August, 1153 (aged 62–63)
Clairvaux, France
VENERATED IN Roman Catholic Church,Anglican ChurchLutheran Church
CANONIZED 18 January 1174, Rome byPope Alexander III
MAJOR SHRINE Troyes Cathedral
Ville-sous-la-Ferté, religious vocations, preachers.
FEAST 20 August
ATTRIBUTES White Cistercian habit, devil on a chain, white dog
PATRONAGE CisterciansBurgundy, beekeepers, candlemakers,GibraltarAlgecirasQueens’ College, CambridgeSpeyer CathedralKnights Templar

Bernard of Clairvaux (LatinBernardus Claraevallensis), O.Cist (1090 – 20 August 1153) was a French abbot and the primary reformer for the Cistercian order.

After the death of his mother, Bernard sought admission into the Cistercian order. “Three years later, he was sent to found a new abbey at an isolated clearing in a glen known as the Val d’Absinthe, about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) southeast of Bar-sur-Aube. According to tradition, Bernard founded the monastery on 25 June 1115, naming it Claire Vallée, which evolved into Clairvaux. There Bernard would preach an immediate faith, in which the intercessor was the Virgin Mary.”[1] In the year 1128, Bernard attended the Council of Troyes, at which he traced the outlines of the Rule of the Knights Templar,[a]which soon became the ideal of Christian nobility.

On the death of Pope Honorius II on 13 February 1130, a schism broke out in the Church. King Louis VI of Franceconvened a national council of the French bishops at Étampes in 1130, and Bernard was chosen to judge between the rivals for pope. After the council of Étampes, Bernard spoke with King Henry I of England, also known as Henry Beauclerc, about Henry I’s reservations regarding Pope Innocent II. Henry I was sceptical because most of the bishops of England supported Antipope Anacletus II; Bernard persuaded him to support Innocent. Germany had decided to support Innocent through Norbert of Xanten, who was a friend of Bernard’s. However, Innocent insisted on Bernard’s company when he met with Lothair II, Holy Roman Emperor. Lothair III became Innocent’s strongest ally among the nobility. Despite the councils of Étampes, WurzburgClermont, and Rheims all supporting Innocent, there were still large portions of the Christian world supporting Anacletus. At the end of 1131, the kingdoms of France, England, Germany, Portugal,Castile, and Aragonsupported Innocent; however, most of Italy, southern France, and Sicily, with thepatriarchs ofConstantinopleAntioch, and Jerusalem,[clarify] supported Anacletus. Bernard set out to convince these other regions to rally behind Innocent. The first person whom he went to was Gerard of Angoulême. He proceeded to write a letter known as Letter 126, which questioned Gerard’s reasons for supporting Anacletus. Bernard would later comment that Gerard was his most formidable opponent during the whole schism. After convincing Gerard, Bernard traveled to visit William X, Duke of Aquitaine. He was the hardest for Bernard to convince. He did not pledge allegiance to Innocent until 1135. After that, Bernard spent most of his time in Italy convincing the Italians to pledge allegiance to Innocent. He traveled to Sicily in 1137 to convince the king of Sicily to follow Innocent. The whole conflict ended when Anacletus died on 25 January 1138.[2] In 1139, Bernard assisted at the Second Council of the Lateran. Bernard denounced the teachings of Peter Abelard to the pope, who called a council at Sens in 1141 to settle the matter. Bernard soon saw one of his disciples elected as Pope Eugene III. Having previously helped end the schism within the church, Bernard was now called upon to combat heresy. In June 1145, Bernard traveled in southern France and his preaching there helped strengthen support against heresy.

Following the Christian defeat at the Siege of Edessa, the pope commissioned Bernard to preach the Second Crusade. The last years of Bernard’s life were saddened by the failure of the crusaders, the entire responsibility for which was thrown upon him. Bernard died at age 63, after 40 years spent in the cloister. He was the first Cistercian placed on thecalendar of saints, and was canonized by Pope Alexander III on 18 January 1174. In 1830 Pope Pius VIII bestowed upon Bernard the title “Doctor of the Church“.

Early life (1090–1113)[edit]

Bernard’s parents were Tescelin de Fontaine (de), Lord of Fontaine-lès-Dijon and Alèthe de Montbard (fr), both belonging to the highest nobility of Burgundy. Bernard was the third of a family of seven children, six of whom were sons. At the age of nine years, he was sent to school at Châtillon-sur-Seine, run by the secular canons of Saint-Vorles. Bernard had a great taste for literature and devoted himself for some time to poetry. His success in his studies won the admiration of his teachers. He wanted to excel in literature in order to take up the study of the Bible. He had a special devotion to the Virgin Mary, and he would later write several works about theQueen of Heaven.[3]

The Vision of St Bernard, by Fra Bartolommeo, c. 1504 (Uffizi).

Bernard would expand upon Anselm of Canterbury‘s role in transmuting the sacramentally ritual Christianity of the Early Middle Ages into a new, more personally held faith, with the life of Christ as a model and a new emphasis on the Virgin Mary. In opposition to the rational approach to divine understanding that the scholasticsadopted, Bernard would preach an immediate faith, in which the intercessor was the Virgin Mary.

Bernard was only nineteen years of age when his mother died. During his youth, he did not escape trying temptations and around this time he thought of retiring from the world and living a life of solitude and prayer.[4]

In 1098 Saint Robert of Molesme had founded Cîteaux Abbey, near Dijon, with the purpose of restoring the Rule of St Benedictin all its rigour. Returning to Molesme, he left the government of the new abbey to Saint Alberic of Cîteaux, who died in the year 1109. At the age of 22, while Bernard was at prayer in a church, he felt the calling of God to enter the Cistercian Monks of Cîteaux.[5] In 1113 Saint Stephen Harding had just succeeded Saint Alberic as third Abbot of Cîteaux when Bernard and thirty other young noblemen of Burgundy sought admission into the Cistercian order.[6] Bernard’s testimony was so irresistible that 30 of his friends, brothers, and relatives followed him into the monastic life.[5]

Abbot of Clairvaux (1115–28)[edit]

Bernard exorcising a possession, altarpiece by Jörg Breu the Elder, c. 1500.

The little community of reformed Benedictines at Cîteaux, which would have so profound an influence on Western monasticism, grew rapidly. Three years later, Bernard was sent with a band of twelve monks to found a new house at Vallée d’Absinthe,[5] in the Diocese of Langres. This Bernard named Claire Vallée, or Clairvaux, on 25 June 1115, and the names of Bernard and Clairvaux would soon become inseparable.[4] During the absence of the Bishop of Langres, Bernard was blessed as abbot byWilliam of ChampeauxBishop of Châlons-sur-Marne. From that moment a strong friendship sprang up between the abbot and the bishop, who was professor of theology at Notre Dame of Paris, and the founder of the Abbey of St. Victor, Paris.[3]

The beginnings of Clairvaux Abbey were trying and painful. The regime was so austere that Bernard became ill, and only the influence of his friend William of Champeaux and the authority of the general chapter could make him mitigate the austerities. The monastery, however, made rapid progress. Disciples flocked to it in great numbers and put themselves under the direction of Bernard. The reputation of his holiness soon attracted 130 new monks, including his own father.[5] His father and all his brothers entered Clairvaux to pursue religious life, leaving only Humbeline, his sister, in the secular world. She, with the consent of her husband, soon took the veil in the Benedictine nunnery of Jully-les-NonnainsGerard of Clairvaux, Bernard’s older brother, became the cellarer of Citeaux. The abbey became too small for its members and it was necessary to send out bands to found new houses.[7] In 1118 Trois-Fontaines Abbey was founded in the diocese of Châlons; in 1119 Fontenay Abbeyin the Diocese of Autun; and in 1121 Foigny Abbey near Vervins, in the diocese of Laon. In addition to these victories, Bernard also had his trials. During an absence from Clairvaux, the Grand Prior of the Abbey of Cluny went to Clairvaux and enticed away Bernard’s cousin, Robert of Châtillon. This was the occasion of the longest and most emotional of Bernard’s letters.[3]

The abbey of Cluny as it would have looked in Bernard’s time.

In the year 1119, Bernard was present at the first general chapter of the order convoked by Stephen of Cîteaux. Though not yet 30 years old, Bernard was listened to with the greatest attention and respect, especially when he developed his thoughts upon the revival of the primitive spirit of regularity and fervour in all the monastic orders. It was this general chapter that gave definitive form to the constitutions of the order and the regulations of the Charter of Charity which Pope Callixtus II confirmed 23 December 1119. In 1120, Bernard authored his first work, De Gradibus Superbiae et Humilitatis, and his homilies which he entitled De Laudibus Mariae. The monks of the abbey of Cluny were unhappy to see Cîteaux take the lead role among the religious orders of the Roman Catholic Church. For this reason, the Black Monks attempted to make it appear that the rules of the new order were impracticable. At the solicitation of William of St. Thierry, Bernard defended the order by publishing hisApologywhich was divided into two parts. In the first part, he proved himself innocent of the charges of Cluny and in the second he gave his reasons for his counterattacks. He protested his profound esteem for the Benedictines of Cluny whom he declared he loved equally as well as the other religious orders. Peter the Venerableabbot of Cluny, answered Bernard and assured him of his great admiration and sincere friendship. In the meantime Cluny established a reform, and Abbot Suger, the minister of Louis VI of France, was converted by the Apology of Bernard. He hastened to terminate his worldly life and restore discipline in his monastery. The zeal of Bernard extended to the bishops, the clergy, and lay people. Bernard’s letter to the archbishop of Sens was seen as a real treatise, “De Officiis Episcoporum.” About the same time he wrote his work on Grace and Free Will.[3]

Doctor of the Church (1128–46)[edit]

Christ Embracing St Bernard byFrancisco Ribalta

In the year 1128 AD, Bernard participated in the Council of Troyes, which had been convoked by Pope Honorius II, and was presided over by Cardinal Matthew of Albano. The purpose of this council was to settle certain disputes of the bishops of Paris, and regulate other matters of the Church of France. The bishops made Bernard secretary of the council, and charged him with drawing up the synodal statutes. After the council, the bishop of Verdun was deposed. It was at this council that Bernard traced the outlines of the Rule of the Knights Templar who soon became the ideal of Christian nobility. Around this time, he praised them in his Liber ad milites templi de laude novae militiae.[8]

Again reproaches arose against Bernard and he was denounced, even in Rome. He was accused of being a monk who meddled with matters that did not concern him. Cardinal Harmeric, on behalf of the pope, wrote Bernard a sharp letter of remonstrance stating, “It is not fitting that noisy and troublesome frogs should come out of their marshes to trouble the Holy See and the cardinals.”[3]

Bernard answered the letter by saying that, if he had assisted at the council, it was because he had been dragged to it by force. In his response Bernard wrote,

Now illustrious Harmeric if you so wished, who would have been more capable of freeing me from the necessity of assisting at the council than yourself? Forbid those noisy troublesome frogs to come out of their holes, to leave their marshes . . . Then your friend will no longer be exposed to the accusations of pride and presumption.[3]

This letter made a positive impression on Harmeric, and in the Vatican.


Bernard’s influence was soon felt in provincial affairs. He defended the rights of the Church against the encroachments of kings and princes, and recalled to their dutyHenri Sanglier, archbishop of Sens and Stephen of Senlis, bishop of Paris. On the death of Honorius II, which occurred on 14 February 1130, a schism broke out in the Church by the election of two popes, Pope Innocent II and Antipope Anacletus II. Innocent II, having been banished from Rome by Anacletus, took refuge in France. Louis VI convened a national council of the French bishops at Étampes, and Bernard, summoned there by consent of the bishops, was chosen to judge between the rival popes. He decided in favour of Innocent II. This caused the pope to be recognized by all the great powers. He then went with him into Italy and reconciled Pisawith Genoa, and Milan with the pope. The same year Bernard was again at the Council of Reims at the side of Innocent II. He then went to Aquitaine where he succeeded for the time in detaching William X, Duke of Aquitaine, from the cause of Anacletus.[4]

Saint Bernard and the Duke of Aquitaine, by Marten Pepijn

In 1132, Bernard accompanied Innocent II into Italy, and at Cluny the pope abolished the dues which Clairvaux used to pay to that abbey. This action gave rise to a quarrel between the White Monksand the Black Monks which lasted 20 years. In May of that year, the pope, supported by the army of Lothair III, entered Rome, but Lothair III, feeling himself too weak to resist the partisans of Anacletus, retired beyond the Alps, and Innocent sought refuge in Pisa in September 1133. Bernard had returned to France in June and was continuing the work of peacemaking which he had commenced in 1130. Towards the end of 1134, he made a second journey into Aquitaine, where William X had relapsed into schism. Bernard invited William to the Mass which he celebrated in the Church of La Couldre. At the Eucharist, he “admonished the Duke not to despise God as he did His servants”.[3] William yielded and the schism ended. Bernard went again to Italy, where Roger II of Sicily was endeavouring to withdraw the Pisans from their allegiance to Innocent. He recalled the city of Milan to obedience to the pope as they had followed the deposed Anselm V, Archbishop of Milan. For this, he was offered, and he refused, the archbishopric of Milan. He then returned to Clairvaux. Believing himself at last secure in his cloister, Bernard devoted himself with renewed vigour to the composition of the works which would win for him the title of “Doctor of the Church”. He wrote at this time his sermons on theSong of Songs.[b] In 1137, he was again forced to leave his solitude by order of the pope to put an end to the quarrel between Lothair and Roger of Sicily. At the conference held at Palermo, Bernard succeeded in convincing Roger of the rights of Innocent II. He also silenced the final supporters who sustained the schism. Anacletus died of “grief and disappointment” in 1138, and with him the schism ended.[3]

In 1139, Bernard assisted at the Second Council of the Lateran, in which the surviving adherents of the schism were definitively condemned. About the same time, Bernard was visited at Clairvaux by Saint MalachyPrimate of All Ireland, and a very close friendship formed between them. Malachy wanted to become a Cistercian, but the pope would not give his permission. Malachy would die at Clairvaux in 1148.[3]

Contest with Abelard[edit]

Towards the close of the 11th century, a spirit of independence flourished within schools of philosophy and theology. This led for a time to the exaltation of human reason and rationalism. The movement found an ardent and powerful advocate in Peter Abelard. Abelard’s treatise on the Trinity had been condemned as heretical in 1121, and he was compelled to throw his own book into the fire. However, Abelard continued to develop his teachings, which were controversial in some quarters. Bernard, informed of this by William of St-Thierry, is said to have held a meeting with Abelard intending to persuade him to amend his writings, during which Abelard repented and promised to do so. But once out of Bernard’s presence, he reneged.[10] Bernard then denounced Abelard to the pope and cardinals of the Curia. Abelard sought a debate with Bernard, but Bernard initially declined, saying he did not feel matters of such importance should be settled by logical analyses. Bernard’s letters to William of St-Thierry also express his apprehension about confronting the preeminent logician. Abelard continued to press for a public debate, and made his challenge widely known, making it hard for Bernard to decline. In 1141, at the urgings of Abelard, the archbishop of Sens called a council of bishops, where Abelard and Bernard were to put their respective cases so Abelard would have a chance to clear his name.[10] Bernard lobbied the prelates on the evening before the debate, swaying many of them to his view. The next day, after Bernard made his opening statement, Abelard decided to retire without attempting to answer.[10] The council found in favour of Bernard and their judgment was confirmed by the pope. Abelard submitted without resistance, and he retired to Cluny to live under the protection of Peter the Venerable, where he died two years later.[4]

Cistercian Order and heresy[edit]

Bernard had occupied himself in sending bands of monks from his overcrowded monastery into Germany, Sweden, England, Ireland, Portugal, Switzerland, and Italy. Some of these, at the command of Innocent II, took possession of Tre Fontane Abbey, from which Eugene III would be chosen in 1145. Pope Innocent II died in the year 1143. His two successors, Pope Celestine II and Pope Lucius II, reigned only a short time, and then Bernard saw one of his disciples, Bernard of Pisa, and known thereafter as Eugene III, raised to the Chair of Saint Peter.[11] Bernard sent him, at the pope’s own request, various instructions which comprise the Book of Considerations, the predominating idea of which is that the reformation of the Church ought to commence with the sanctity of the pope. Temporal matters are merely accessories; the principles according to Bernard’s work were that piety and meditation were to precede action.[12]

Having previously helped end the schism within the Church, Bernard was now called upon to combat heresy. Henry of Lausanne, a former Cluniac monk, had adopted the teachings of the Petrobrusians, followers of Peter of Bruys and spread them in a modified form after Peter’s death.[13] Henry of Lausanne’s followers became known as Henricians. In June 1145, at the invitation of Cardinal Alberic of Ostia, Bernard traveled in southern France.[14] His preaching, aided by his ascetic looks and simple attire, helped doom the new sects. Both the Henrician and the Petrobrusian faiths began to die out by the end of that year. Soon afterwards, Henry of Lausanne was arrested, brought before the bishop of Toulouse, and probably imprisoned for life. In a letter to the people of Toulouse, undoubtedly written at the end of 1146, Bernard calls upon them to extirpate the last remnants of the heresy. He also preached against Catharism.[11]

Second Crusade (1146–49)[edit]

News came at this time from the Holy Land that alarmed Christendom. Christians had been defeated at the Siege of Edessa and most of the county had fallen into the hands of the Seljuk Turks.[15] The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the other Crusader states were threatened with similar disaster. Deputations of the bishops of Armeniasolicited aid from the pope, and the King of France also sent ambassadors. In 1144 Eugene III commissioned Bernard to preach the Second Crusade[5] and granted the same indulgences for it which Pope Urban II had accorded to the First Crusade.[16]

Bernard of Clairvaux, true effigy by Georg Andreas Wasshuber (1650–1732)

There was at first virtually no popular enthusiasm for the crusade as there had been in 1095. Bernard found it expedient to dwell upon the taking of the cross as a potent means of gaining absolution for sin and attaining grace. On 31 March, with KingLouis VII of Francepresent, he preached to an enormous crowd in a field at Vézelay. James Meeker Ludlow describes the scene, in The Age of the Crusades:

A large platform was erected on a hill outside the city. King and monk stood together, representing the combined will of earth and heaven. The enthusiasm of the assembly of Clermont in 1095, when Peter the Hermit and Urban II launched the first crusade, was matched by the holy fervor inspired by Bernard as he cried, “O ye who listen to me! Hasten to appease the anger of heaven, but no longer implore its goodness by vain complaints. Clothe yourselves in sackcloth, but also cover yourselves with your impenetrable bucklers. The din of arms, the danger, the labors, the fatigues of war, are the penances that God now imposes upon you. Hasten then to expiate your sins by victories over the Infidels, and let the deliverance of the holy places be the reward of your repentance.” As in the olden scene, the cry “Deus vult! Deus vult! ” rolled over the fields, and was echoed by the voice of the orator: “Cursed be he who does not stain his sword with blood.”[17]

When Bernard was finished the crowd enlisted en masse; they supposedly ran out of cloth to make crosses. Bernard is said to have given his own outer garments to be cut up to make more.[16] Unlike the First Crusade, the new venture attracted royalty, such as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of FranceThierry of AlsaceCount of FlandersHenry, the future Count of Champagne; Louis’s brother Robert I of DreuxAlphonse I of ToulouseWilliam II of NeversWilliam de Warenne, 3rd Earl of SurreyHugh VII of Lusignan; and numerous other nobles and bishops. But an even greater show of support came from the common people. Bernard wrote to the pope a few days afterwards, “Cities and castles are now empty. There is not left one man to seven women, and everywhere there are widows to still-living husbands.”[16]

Bernard then passed into Germany, and the reported miracles which multiplied almost at his every step undoubtedly contributed to the success of his mission. Conrad III of Germany and his nephew Frederick Barbarossa, received the cross from the hand of Bernard.[15]Pope Eugenius came in person to France to encourage the enterprise. As in the First Crusade, the preaching inadvertently led to attacks on Jews; a fanatical French monk named Radulphe was apparently inspiring massacres of Jews in the Rhineland, CologneMainzWorms, and Speyer, with Radulphe claiming Jews were not contributing financially to the rescue of the Holy Land. Thearchbishop of Cologne and the archbishop of Mainz were vehemently opposed to these attacks and asked Bernard to denounce them. This he did, but when the campaign continued, Bernard traveled from Flanders to Germany to deal with the problems in person. He then found Radulphe in Mainz and was able to silence him, returning him to his monastery.[18]

The last years of Bernard’s life were saddened by the failure of the Second Crusade he had preached, the entire responsibility for which was thrown upon him.[11]Bernard considered it his duty to send an apology to the Pope and it is inserted in the second part of his “Book of Considerations.” There he explains how the sins of the crusaders were the cause of their misfortune and failures. When his attempt to call a new crusade failed, he tried to disassociate himself from the fiasco of the Second Crusade altogether.[19]

Moved by his burning words, many Christians embarked for the Holy Land, but the crusade ended in miserable failure.[5]

Final years (1149–53)[edit]

Bernard receiving milk from the breast of the Virgin Mary. The scene is a legend which allegedly took place atSpeyer Cathedral in 1146.

The death of his contemporaries served as a warning to Bernard of his own approaching end. The first to die was Suger in 1152, of whom Bernard wrote to Eugene III, “If there is any precious vase adorning the palace of the King of Kings it is the soul of the venerable Suger”. Conrad III and his son Henry died the same year. From the beginning of the year 1153, Bernard felt his death approaching. The passing of Pope Eugenius had struck the fatal blow by taking from him one whom he considered his greatest friend and consoler. Bernard died at age sixty-three on 20 August 1153, after forty years spent in the cloister.[11] He was buried at the Clairvaux Abbey, but after its dissolution in 1792 by the French revolutionary government, his remains were transferred to Troyes Cathedral.


Main article: Doctor Mellifluus

Bernard was named a Doctor of the Church in 1830. At the 800th anniversary of his death, Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical on Bernard, Doctor Mellifluus, in which he labeled him “The Last of the Fathers.” Bernard did not reject human philosophy which is genuine philosophy, which leads to God; he differentiates between different kinds of knowledge, the highest being theological. Three central elements of Bernard’s Mariology are how he explained the virginity of Mary, the “Star of the Sea”, how the faithful should pray on the Virgin Mary, and how he relied on the Virgin Mary as Mediatrix.

Bernard, like Thomas Aquinas, denied the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.[20][irrelevant citation][21][22] John Calvinquotes Bernard several times[23] in support of the doctrine of Sola Fide,[24]which Martin Luther described as the article upon which the church stands or falls.[25] Calvin also quotes him in setting forth his doctrine of a forensic alien righteousness, or as it is commonly called imputed righteousness.[26]

Temptations and intercessions[edit]

One day, to cool down his lustful temptation, Bernard threw himself into ice-cold water. Another time, while sleeping in an inn, a prostitute was introduced naked beside him, and he saved his chastity by running.[5]

Many miracles were attributed to his intercession. One time he restored the power of speech to an old man that he might confess his sins before he died. Another time, an immense number of flies, that infested the Church of Foigny, died instantly after the excommunication he made on them.[5]

So great was his reputation that princes and Popes sought his advice, and even the enemies of the Church admired the holiness of his life and the greatness of his writings.[5]


Stained glass representing Bernard. Upper Rhine, ca. 1450.

Bernard was instrumental in re-emphasizing the importance of lectio divina and contemplation on Scripture within the Cistercian order. Bernard had observed that when lectio divina was neglected monasticism suffered. Bernard considered lectio divina and contemplation guided by the Holy Spirit the keys to nourishing Christian spirituality.[27]

Bernard “noted centuries ago: the people who are their own spiritual directors have fools for disciples.”[28]


Bernard’s theology and Mariology continue to be of major importance, particularly within the Cistercian and Trappist orders.[c]Bernard led to the foundation of 163 monasteries in different parts of Europe. At his death, they numbered 343. His influence led Alexander III to launch reforms that would lead to the establishment of canon law.[29] He was the first Cistercian monk placed on the calendar of saints and was canonized by Alexander III 18 January 1174. Pope Pius VIII bestowed on him the title “Doctor of the Church”. He is labeled the “Mellifluous Doctor” for his eloquence. Cistercians honour him as the founder of the order because of the widespread activity which he gave to the order.[11]

Saint Bernard’s “Prayer to the Shoulder Wound of Jesus” is often published in Catholic prayer books.

Bernard is Dante Alighieri‘s last guide, in Divine Comedy, as he travels through the Empyrean.[30] Dante’s choice appears to be based on Bernard’s contemplative mysticism, his devotion to Mary, and his reputation for eloquence.[31]

He is also the attributed author of the poems often translated in English hymnals as “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” and “Jesus the Very Thought of Thee”.


An engraving of The Lactation of Saint Bernard. The Virgin Mary is shooting milk into the eye of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux from her right breast which allegedly miraculously cured an eye affliction.

The modern critical edition is Sancti Bernardi opera (1957–1977), edited by Jean Leclercq.[32][d]

Bernard’s works include:

  • De gradibus humilitatis et superbiae [The steps of humility and pride] (in Latin). c. 1120. his first treatise.[33]
  • Apologia ad Guillelmum Sancti Theoderici Abbatem [Apology to William of St. Thierry] (in Latin). written in the defence of the Cistercians against the claims of the monks of Cluny.[34]
  • De conversione ad clericos sermo seu liber [On the conversion of clerics] (in Latin). 1122. A book addressed to the young ecclesiastics of Paris.[35]
  • De gratia et libero arbitrio [On grace and free choice] (in Latin). c. 1128. in which the Roman Catholic dogma of grace and free will was defended according to the principles of St Augustine.[36]
  • De diligendo Dei [On loving God] (in Latin). Outlines seven stages of ascent leading to union with God.[37]
  • Liber ad milites templi de laude novae militiae [In Praise of the new knighthood] (in Latin). 1129. addressed to Hugues de Payens, first Grand Master and Prior of Jerusalem. This is a eulogy of the Knights Templar order, which had been instituted in 1118, and an exhortation to the knights to conduct themselves with courage in their several stations.[38]
  • De praecepto et dispensatione libri [Book of precepts and dispensations] (in Latin). c. 1144. Answers questions about which parts of Rule of Saint Benedict an abbot can, or cannot, dispense.[39]
  • De consideratione [On consideration] (in Latin). c. 1150. Addressed to Pope Eugene III.[40]
  • Liber De vita et rebus gestis Sancti Malachiae Hiberniae Episcopi [The life and death of Saint Malachy, bishop of Ireland] (in Latin). [41]
  • De moribus et officio episcoporum (in Latin). A letter to Henri Sanglier, Archbishop of Sens on the duties of bishops.[42]

His sermons are also numerous:

  • Most famous are his Sermones super Cantica Canticorum (Sermons on the Song of Songs). Although it has at times been suggested that the sermon form is a rhetorical device in a set of works which were only ever designed to be read, since such finely polished and lengthy literary pieces could not accurately have been recorded by a monk while Bernard was preaching, recent scholarship has tended toward the theory that, although what exists in these texts was certainly the product of Bernard’s writing, they likely found their origins in sermons preached to the monks of Clairvaux.[e] Bernard began to write these in 1135 but died without completed the series, with 86 sermons complete. These sermons contain an autobiographical passage, sermon 26, mourning the death of his brother, Gerard.[43][44]After Bernard died, the English Cistercian Gilbert of Hoyland continued Bernard’s incomplete series of 86 sermons on the biblical Song of Songs. Gilbert wrote 47 sermons before he died in 1172, taking the series up to Chapter 5 of the Song of Songs. Another English Cistercian abbot, John of Ford, wrote another 120 sermons on the Song of Songs, so completing the Cistercian sermon-commentary on the book.
  • There are 125 surviving Sermones per annum (Sermons on the Liturgical Year).
  • There are also the Sermones de diversis (Sermons on Different Topics).
  • 547 letters survive.[45]

Many letters, treatises, and other works, falsely attributed to him survive, and are now referred to as works by pseudo-Bernard.[46]These include:

  • pseudo-Bernard (pseud. of Guigo I) (c. 1150). L’échelle du cloître [The scale of the cloister] (letter) (in French). [46]
  • pseudo-Bernard. Meditatio [Meditations] (in Latin). This was probably written at some point in the thirteenth century. It circulated extensively in the Middle Ages under Bernard’s name and was one of the most popular religious works of the later Middle Ages. Its theme is self-knowledge as the beginning of wisdom; it begins with the phrase “Many know much, but do not know themselves”.[47][48][46]
  • pseudo-Bernard. L’édification de la maison intérieure (in French).[46]

See also[edit]


  • On consideration, trans George Lewis, (Oxford, 1908)
  • Select treatises of S. Bernard of Clairvaux: De diligendo Deo & De gradibus humilitatis et superbiae, (Cambridge: CUP, 1926)
  • On loving God, and selections from sermons, edited by Hugh Martin, (London: SCM Press, 1959) [reprinted as (Westport, CO: Greenwood Press, 1981)]
  • Cistercians and Cluniacs: St. Bernard’s Apologia to Abbot William, trans M Casey. Cistercian Fathers series no. 1, (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1970)
  • The works of Bernard of Clairvaux. Vol.1, Treatises, 1, edited by M. Basil Pennington. Cistercian Fathers Series, no. 1. (Spencer, Mass.: Cistercian Publications, 1970) [contains the treatises Apologia to Abbot William and On Precept and Dispensation, and two shorter liturgical treatises]
  • Bernard of Clairvaux, On the Song of Songs, 4 vols, Cistercian Fathers series nos 4, 7, 31, 40, (Spencer, MA: Cistercian Publications, 1971–80)
  • Letter of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux on revision of Cistercian chant = Epistola S[ancti] Bernardi de revisione cantus Cisterciensis, edited and translated by Francis J. Guentner, (American Institute of Musicology, 1974)
  • Treatises II : The steps of humility and pride on loving God, Cistercian Fathers series no. 13, (Washington: Cistercian Publications, 1984)
  • Five books on consideration: advice to a Pope, translated by John D. Anderson & Elizabeth T. Kennan. Cistercian Fathers Series no. 37. (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1976)
  • The Works of Bernard of Clairvaux. Volume Seven, Treatises III: On Grace and free choice. In praise of the new knighthood, translated by Conrad Greenia. Cistercian Fathers Series no. 19, (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications Inc, 1977)
  • The life and death of Saint Malachy, the Irishman translated and annotated by Robert T. Meyer, (Kalamazoo, Mich: Cistercian Publications, 1978)
  • Bernard of Clairvaux, Homiliae in laudibus Virginis Matris, in Magnificat: homilies in praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary translated by Marie-Bernard Saïd and Grace Perigo, Cistercian Fathers Series no. 18, (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1979)
  • Sermons on Conversion: on conversion, a sermon to clerics and Lenten sermons on the psalm “He Who Dwells”., Cistercian Fathers Series no. 25, (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1981)
  • Bernard of Clairvaux, Song of Solomon, translated by Samuel J. Eales, (Minneapolis, MN: Klock & Klock, 1984)
  • St. Bernard’s sermons on the Blessed Virgin Mary, translated from the original Latin by a priest of Mount Melleray, (Chumleigh: Augustine, 1984)
  • Bernard of Clairvaux, The twelve steps of humility and pride; and, On loving God, edited by Halcyon C. Backhouse, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1985)
  • St. Bernard’s sermons on the Nativity, translated from the original Latin by a priest of Mount Melleray, (Devon: Augustine, 1985)
  • Bernard of Clairvaux : selected works, translation and foreword by G.R. Evans; introduction by Jean Leclercq; preface by Ewert H. Cousins, (New York: Paulist Press, 1987) [Contains the treatises On conversion, On the steps of humility and pride, On consideration, and On loving God; extracts from Sermons on The song of songs, and a selection of letters]
  • Conrad Rudolph, The ‘Things of Greater Importance’: Bernard of Clairvaux’s Apologia and the Medieval Attitude Toward Art, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990) [Includes the Apologia in both Leclercq’s Latin text and English translation]
  • Love without measure: extracts from the writings of St Bernard of Clairvaux, introduced and arranged by Paul Diemer, Cistercian studies series no. 127, (Kalamazoo, Mich. : Cistercian Publications, 1990)
  • Sermons for the summer season: liturgical sermons from Rogationtide and Pentecost, translated by Beverly Mayne Kienzle; additional translations by James Jarzembowski, (Kalamazoo, Mich: Cistercian Publications, 1991)
  • Bernard of Clairvaux, On loving God, Cistercian Fathers series no. 13B, (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1995)
  • Bernard of Clairvaux, The parables & the sentences, edited by Maureen M. O’Brien. Cistercian Fathers Series no. 55, (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 2000)
  • Bernard of Clairvaux, On baptism and the office of bishops, on the conduct and office of bishops, on baptism and other questions: two letter-treatises, translated by Pauline Matarasso. Cistercian Fathers Series no. 67, (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 2004)
  • Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons for Advent and the Christmas seasontranslated by Irene Edmonds, Wendy Mary Beckett, Conrad Greenia; edited by John Leinenweber; introduction by Wim Verbaal. Cistercian Fathers Series no. 51, (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 2007)
  • Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons for Lent and the Easter Season, edited by John Leinenweber and Mark Scott, OCSO. Cistercian Fathers Series no. 52, (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 2013)


  1. Jump up^ André de Montbard, one of the founders of the Knights Templar, was a half-brother of Bernard’s mother.
  2. Jump up^ Other mystics such as John of the Cross also found their language and symbols in Song of Songs.[9]
  3. Jump up^ His texts are prescribed readings in Cistercian congregations.
  4. Jump up^ For a research guide see McGuire (2013).
  5. Jump up^ For a history of the debate over the Sermons, and an attempted solution, see Leclercq, Jean. “Introduction”. In Walsh (1976), pp. vii–xxx.


  1. Jump up^ Smith, William (2010). Catholic Church Milestones: People and Events That Shaped the Institutional Church. Indianapolis: Left Coast. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-60844-821-0.
  2. Jump up^ Cristiani, Léon. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090-1153. Translated by Bouchard, M. Angeline. Boston: St. Paul Editions. OCLC 2874038.
  3. Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i Gildas 1908.
  4. Jump up to:a b c d Bunson 1998, p. 129.
  5. Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i Pirlo 1997.
  6. Jump up^ McManners 1990, p. 204.
  7. Jump up^ “Expositio in Apocalypsim”Cambridge Digital Library(manuscript). Cambridge Digital Library. MS Mm.5.31. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  8. Jump up^ Durant (1950) p.593.
  9. Jump up^ Cunningham & Egan 1996, p. 128.
  10. Jump up to:a b c Evans 2000, pp. 115–123.
  11. Jump up to:a b c d e Bunson 1998, p. 130.
  12. Jump up^ McManners 1990, p. 210.
  13. Jump up^ Alphandéry 1911, pp. 298–299.
  14. Jump up^ McManners 1990, p. 211.
  15. Jump up to:a b Riley-Smith 1991, p. 48.
  16. Jump up to:a b c Durant (1950) p.594.
  17. Jump up^ Ludlow 1896, pp. 164-167.
  18. Jump up^ Durant (1950) p. 391.
  19. Jump up^ Runciman 1952, pp. 232–4, 277.
  20. Jump up^ Allestree, Richard (1684). “Sermon | 13. | The Believers Concern | to pray for Faith. | Mark 9. 24. | Lord, I believe, help thou my Unbelief.Forty sermons, whereof twenty one are now first publish’d, the greatest part preach’d before the King and on solemn occasions. Oxford; London: for R. Scott, G. Wells, T. Sawbridge, R. Bentley. p. 188. OCLC 659408239. Retrieved 2015-02-23.
  21. Jump up^ James 1998, ep. 174.
  22. Jump up^ Most 1996.
  23. Jump up^ Lane, Anthony N. S. (1999). John Calvin: student of the church fathers. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. p. 100. ISBN 9780567086945.
  24. Jump up^ Calvin 1960, bk.3 ch.2 §25, bk.3 ch.12 §3.
  25. Jump up^ Luther 1930, p. 130.
  26. Jump up^ Calvin 1960, bk.3 ch.11 §22, bk.3 ch.25 §2.
  27. Jump up^ Cunningham & Egan 1996, pp. 91–92.
  28. Jump up^ Cunningham & Egan 1996, p. 21.
  29. Jump up^ Duffy 1997, p. 101.
  30. Jump up^ Paradiso, cantos XXXI–XXXIII
  31. Jump up^ Botterill 1994.
  32. Jump up^ SBOp.
  33. Jump up^ PL, 182, cols. 939–972c.
  34. Jump up^ PL, 182, cols. 893–918a.
  35. Jump up^ PL, 182, cols. 833–856d.
  36. Jump up^ PL, 182, cols. 999–1030a.
  37. Jump up^ PL, 182, cols. 971–1000b.
  38. Jump up^ PL, 182, cols. 917–940b.
  39. Jump up^ PL, 182, cols. 857–894c.
  40. Jump up^ PL, 182, cols. 727–808a.
  41. Jump up^ PL, 182, cols. 1073–1118a.
  42. Jump up^ Ep. 42 (PL, 182, cols. 807–834a).
  43. Jump up^ Verbaal 2004.
  44. Jump up^ PL, 183, cols. 785–1198A.
  45. Jump up^ SBOp v. 7–8.
  46. Jump up to:a b c d Gildas 1907.
  47. Jump up^ PL, 184, cols. 485–508.
  48. Jump up^ Bestul 2012, p. 164.


  • PD-icon.svg Alphandéry, Paul D. (1911). “Henry of Lausanne”. In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica13 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 298–299.
  • Bernard of Clairvaux (1976). On the Song of Songs II. Cistercian Fathers series. 7. Translated by Walsh, Kilian. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications.OCLC 2621974.
  • Bernard of Clairvaux (1998). The letters of St Bernard of Clairvaux. Cistercian Fathers series. 62. Translated by James, Bruno Scott. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications. ISBN 9780879071622.
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  • Calvin, John (1960). McNeill, John T., ed. Institutes of the Christian Religion1. Translated by Battles, Ford Lewis. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.OCLC 844778472.
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  •  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGildas, Marie (1907). “St. Bernard of Clairvaux“. In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia2. New York: Robert Appleton.
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