The saints whose feast we celebrate this day are united by a common Christian trait, i.e. the human tongue. The earliest among those is Saint Julia Eustochium (367-419). She lived on Coelian Hill in Rome and was a disciple of Saint Jerome (345-420). Known by her middle name, Eustochium, she was a favorite disciple, along with her mother and sisters, in venerating the martyrs who lived and died on that holy hill. She desired to lead the monastic life and accompanied her mother, Saint Paula as well as her spiritual father, Saint Jerome to Bethlehem in Palestine. She had her own spirituality. When Saint Angela Merici established the Ursaline Congregation in the 16th Century, Eustochium was the model for the religious discipline of that famous Religious Family. Commemorated today also is Saint Wenceslas, Patron of Czechoslovakia, who was martyred in 929. As king, he did much to spread the faith. His name means “greater glory of God.” His death came as a result of an assassination by his brother, Boleslas. He reigned for only a short time, but established a domestic policy that was both just and exuded the highest standards of Christian culture. Saint Lawrence Ruiz was a catechist of the 17th Century, born in the Philippines. He traveled to Japan where, in the midst of teaching early Japanese Christians, he perished in the persecutions of 1637. There were 15 others who died with him and they exuded that faith that can only come from an intense study of theology. Finally, the Church today commemorates Saint Catharine Yi, a Korean catechist who was also a widow and martyr. Together with her daughter, Saint Magdalene of Seoul, Korea and the Bishop, Saint Lawrence Imbert, she died a martyr in 1839. Her public ministry was the catechetical education of children.
All of the above cited Christian heroes were involved in imparting the Word of God among men, women and their children. The content of their speech and their instruction is found in the reading from the Book of Ecclesiastes. It deals with God’s appointed time and the significance of Divine Providence. Among those of us who are alive from the time of the assassination of President Kennedy, who among us would not remember the reading that was executed by Philip Hannan, the Auxiliary Bishop of Washington. D.C.? Instead of a written text, the future Archbishop of new Orleans read slowly and lyrically this passage of the Old Testament, since it was the President’s favorite.
“There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant,
and a time to gather the fruit of the planting…”
In so many words and often in different ways, every Christian needs to be reminded that these are the fundamental facts of life. The very name of Holy Wenceslas tells us that the very essence of human existence is for the greater glory of God.
Today’s Gospel is short. Jesus repeats words that define fundamental Christology. These same words are found in the other Gospels: Jesus is Son of Man and Son of Mary. He is also the source of our redemption, for only by his blood and death are we healed, saved and delivered. Then Jesus rebukes the Apostles. “Don’t go telling this around,” he advises them. In other words, he tells us about the nature of gossip – repeating, repeating is trite. It cheapens the message; mere gossip is a leveling dynamic in society. It is God alone who gives the Great Commission which is for the greater glory of God.
Today’s saints are Czech, Philippino, Korean and of the classic Roman tradition. Together they form the company of those who proclaim Laus Deo (Praise to God). This is the highest distinction of the human tongue, whether in education or in prayer.
- Father Jerome Vereb, C.P.