Today, in the United States, the prayers at Mass focus on yet another Francis. Yesterday, the focus was on St. Francis of Assisi, known and loved throughout the world; today, in the United States, the focus is on Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos. Born in Germany where he joined the Redemptorists, he later was sent to our country, where he served in parishes in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Cumberland, Maryland. He catechized school children and spent long hours in the confessional. During the Civil War, he ministered to those on both sides. Sent to New Orleans, he was there for less than a year when he contracted yellow fever, while taking care of the sick. He died in 1867 at the age of 48.
When we carefully reflect on both scripture readings, we note that in the first, Saint Paul went to Jerusalem to consult with those called “pillars,” that is, Saints James, Peter (Cephas) and John, on the content of his teaching. He entered into a dialogue; he listened, they listened, and he was affirmed. Yes, later in Antioch, Saint Paul opposed Saint Peter, because he was convinced that Saint Peter was in error. He did this out of love for the truth, that it might be proclaimed clearly; out of love for his fellow apostle whom he wanted to assist in seeing the truth of the issue, that is, salvation is open to all, both Jews and Gentiles; and out of love for people that they may be taught correctly. Here we see the importance of listening carefully, of consulting, of proclaiming the truth in love and out of love.
In today’s Gospel account, we see the disciples asking Jesus “Lord teach us to pray just as John (the Baptist) taught his disciples.” Then Jesus gave them — and us — the Our Father, a prayer that reveals what we should pray for, for what is so fundamental, and also to pray in unity with one another, because we say “Our Father.”
Two lessons then: the necessity of listening, consulting, and proclaiming the truth in love and the necessity of praying if we are to remain faithful and strengthened to live our individual vocations.
Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos is a model of these crucial lessons, which he implemented as he catechized, celebrated the Sacrament of Penance, and reached out in charity to all.
Bishop Burbidge emphasized yesterday both the need to listen, to consult and to proclaim the truth, and, as well, the absolute need to pray if we are to live as Jesus taught. We purposely desired to celebrate this Mass together, to affirm boldly and clearly our unity in teaching, in prayer, and in charity. I will be at his side in ways that are helpful to his new ministry.
United with you, we will “walk humbly with God” as we “encourage and teach with patience.” Pray for us as we do for you!