Saturday, May 16, 2009

One Step At A Time

Whenever I log on, click on to Documents, then Tribunal, I am sure that the documents contained therein are related to my ministry as an Offical of the Tribunal of my diocese. There are no surprises.

But, whenever I click on Documents, then Homilies, to prepare a homily for the Sunday Mass, or a Reflection for “Bear Witness”, I often get surprised by what I discover.

This morning, when I logged on (a bit late for the Saturday reflection, admittedly), I was brought back to the joys of my youth, when, during the summer, I would spend a week or two at Brightside, the orphanage ministered to by the Sisters of Providence of Holyoke, where my father, John Patrick, and his brothers, James Anthony and William Daniel, spent their childhood and their youth after my grandmother, Margaret O’Connor, wife of John Lawrence Sullivan, passed from this universe to a more perfect one.

The sensory memory was that of the farm located just south and west of Brightside. It was not a cattle farm; the meat of the animals raised there was not beef, but pork; and on a bright and humid summer day, the air was thick with the pungent perfume of the piggery.

The owner-operator of the piggery, a contemporary and good friend of my dad, was Joe Bobala. The reason I remember him today is that May 16 is the feast day, on the current church calendar, of Saint Andrew Bobala, S. J., who has to be a collateral ancestor of Joe’s.

Andrew Bobala was born a member of a noble Polish family in 1591. He entered the Society of Jesus at Vilnius in 1622, and became a preacher at the Church of Saint Casimir there. He took solemn vows in 1630, and was appointed superior of the Jesuit community at Brobusik, where he preached and distinguished himself by works of mercy during a plague.

In 1636, Andrew was sent to the Jesuit mission in Pinsk, Belarus, where a house was furnished to him by Prince Radziwill. He ministered there in spite of attacks by enemies of the Church – not pagans, but adherents of other communities that called themselves Christians.

On May 10, 1657, Andrew was captured by two Cossacks who beat him, tied him to the saddles of their horses, and dragged him off to a place of torture. He was flayed alive and then decapitated. His remains were buried in Pinsk, and later moved to Potosk.


The life and death of Saint Andrew Bobala echoes the theme of today’s readings.

Paul went to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived. His mother was Jewish, and a believer, but his father was Greek. The brethren at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the missionary journey, but because of the Jews in Lystra, who know that Timothy’s father was Greek, he first had him circumcised.

As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." After Paul had seen the vision, Luke writes, “We sought passage to Macedonia at once, concluding that God was calling us to proclaim the Good News there.”
(Acts 16:1-10)

Jesus said to his disciples: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master. 'If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me."
(John 15:18-21)

I close with a message I remember hearing long ago: “If folks don’t make fun of you for following Jesus, you might not be following him as closely as you ought to; if you’re not being persecuted, you’ve still got a way to go before you’re doing it perfectly.” And I conclude with a message I’ve learned more recently, one that you’ve heard before, “Don’t try to do it perfectly all at once. Set your goal on doing better tomorrow than you did yesterday. And if you didn’t do it today as well as yesterday, just try to do better tomorrow than you did today.” The way to perfection is not travelled by leaps and bounds, but one step at a time."

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