This year being “The Year for Priests”, our celebration of the feasts of Sts. Monica and Augustine emphasizes the priesthood of the laity and the priesthood of the ordained. St. Monica is an example of the priesthood common to the baptized. By her prayers she was able to regain her son and bring him over to the Catholic Church. Augustine is the example from the ordained priesthood. The overall theme of the novena is a slightly modified Augustinian quote: “With you I am a Christian; for you I am a Pastor”. So for a period of eleven days beginning on August 12 with the first day of the novenario, we at the Mother of Good Counsel Parish (San Pedro, Laguna PH) will be celebrating the memory of this mother and son team with a view to a more lively participation in the Church’s Year for Priests.
The themes for the novena masses this year were dependent on one or the other readings for the day.
- Day 1 — Monica and Augustine — Examples for the Priesthood of the Laity and the Priesthood of the Ordained (Matthew 19:23-30)
- Both Augustine and St. Monica exemplify those who have left everything else in order to follow the Lord (Matthew 19:23-30). The gospel reading gives us an occassion to reflect on our baptism and the three-fold office of Christ that we began to participate in, especially, the office of priest. Without the common priesthood of the baptized, there wouldn’t a priesthood of the ordained.
- Day 2 — Love the Church, Your Mother (Matthew 20:1-6)
- In Christifideles laici, John Paul II explained the parable of the vineyard owner who calls in workers at different times of the day as an invitation for the lay faithful to participate in the work of the Church. The original idea may have been from Pope Gregory the Great.: it doesn’t matter at what time God calls one; the important thing is that one responds to the call.
- John Paul II’s reflection on the call to the laity to evangelize finds an echo in Augustine’s Enarration on Psalm 89 where he invites his faithful to love God as Father and the Church as mother. One cannot say one loves God unless one also loves the Church. And one loves such a mother by doing what she wants: serve her Lord.
- Day 3 — Grow in Love by Extending Your Love (Matthew 22:1-14)
- Augustine understood the wedding garment required by the king from one of the guests as that charity which Paul sings about in 1 Cor. 13. It is the lifestyle of charity that the Lord demands from those who belong to Him. “Love one another as I have loved you.” Like the love of the Lord our love should keep on expanding by including in its embrace even the unlovable.
- Day 4 — There is nothing in Scriptures but Charity (Matthew 22:34-40)
- “All the law and the prophets” hang on the two commandments of love. In a sense, this also means that there is nothing in Scriptures but love. In fact, Augustine writes that the criterion by which one knows that one has understood Scriptures is the life of charity.
- Day 5 — Communion in the Eucharist: Our Communion with the Church (The Sunday Gospel)
Day 6 — Communion in the Eucharist: Communion in the Spirit and with Life (The Sunday Gospel) (See it here)
- Since the novena masses are celebrated in the evening, Saturday posed a particular problem. We normally celebrate the Sunday liturgy in the 7 PM Mass. In addition, so that the novena for Saturday and Sunday remain distinct from one another, two themes were formulated based on the same Gospel reading. For Day 5 emphasis was placed on the loyalty that the Twelve showed to the Lord whom the other disciples have begun to abandon. For Day 6, emphasis was laid on the faith of the Twelve as expressed by Peter on the Words of Spirit and Life coming from the Lord.
- Day 7 — Our Transcendent Hope (Feast of St. Bartholomew, Rev. 21:9b-14)
- The vision of the New Jerusalem descending from the heavens serves as the day’s Augustinian inspiration. A line from Benedict XVI’s Spe salvi completed the day’s Augustinian theme. At the beginning of his encyclical on hope, Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present.” The Scriptures offer us a vision of the New Jerusalem, the Heavenly City, the object of our hope. We have become citizens of that Heavenly City by our baptism, but we are to live as citizens of that City even now — to live in faith, hope and charity — that we may enjoy the benefits of such citizenship forever. This transcendent hope helps us to live generously in this life. Pope Benedict XVI writes about Augustine’s hope thus: On the strength of his hope, Augustine dedicated himself completely to the ordinary people and to his city—renouncing his spiritual nobility, he preached and acted in a simple way for simple people (Spe salvi, 29)
- Day 8 — Return into Yourselves (1 Thess 2:1-8)
- A line from St. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians gives the occassion for introducing the theme of Augustinian Interiority. The idea is related to authenticity and sincerity since interiority is about Truth: the truth of oneself before God and before others. The Christian has been consecrated to the Truth and it is this consecration which should make him/her constantly aware of the dangers of duplicity and inauthencity.
- Day 9 — Lightening Up the Burden (1 Thess. 2:9-13)
- Once more, a line for Paul suggests the theme. The faith of the Thessalonians makes Paul exceedingly grateful; it is the consolation he receives for all his toil on their behalf. The pastor is the ordained priest; the faithful share in the priestly office of Christ. But all, by virtue of their baptism have become “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people set apart for God”. All have a share in the proclamation of the Gospel of God: the pastor to preach and proclaim it, the flock to heed and obey it. All however are subject to the burden of the Gospel and as brothers and sisters are called to lighten one another’s burden. The novena ends with a thought from Augustine that is quite apt for the Year of Priests: “In all the vast and varied activity involved in fulfilling such manifold responsibilities, please give me your help by both your prayers and your obedience. In this way I will find pleasure not so much in being in charge of you as being of use to you.” (Augustine, Sermon 340)
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