St. Euphemia, tradition claims, lived between the 3rd and 4th centuries in Chalcedon in the days of Priscus, who had then decreed all inhabitants of the city should take part in the sacrifices made to Ares, the Greek classic god of warfare. Euphemia was discovered, alongside 49 more Christians, hiding in a house worshiping Christ, defying the governorâ€™s orders.
After being tortured, Euphemia was sent to die in the arena, where wild beasts were supposed to kill her. Hagiography says that, instead of attacking, the beasts (bears included) licked her wounds.
However, some other accounts of her story claim that, whereas lions tried to protect her, a bear killed her in the arena.
The different accounts of the death of St. Euphemia, one version making bears responsible for her death, the other one claiming all beasts protected her, show the complicated place bears occupy in Christian iconography.
The meaning of bees and beehives in Christian Art
The bearÂ has often symbolized cruelty. In fact, in the Book of Daniel (Cf. Daniel 7, 5) the bear represents the Kingdom of Persia, which is understood as corrupt and death-bringing:
Another beast appeared, a second one, that looked like a bear. It was raised up on one side, had three tusks in its mouth among its teeth and was told, â€œArise, devour many bodies!â€
George Fergusonâ€™s classic Signs and Symbols in Christian Art also points out that in the Second Book of Kings, two bears are said â€œto have appeared from the woods and eaten the children who mocked Elisha because of his baldnessâ€:
While he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, â€œGo away, baldhead! Go away, baldhead!â€ When he turned around and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and then returned to Samaria.
But not only biblical sources inform Christian iconography. Old legends, some of them compiled in the Physiologus (a didactic Christian text written or compiled in Greek by an unknown author, consisting of descriptions of animals, birds, and fantastic creatures, sometimes stones and plants, provided with moral content, dated somewhere around the end of the 3rd century) would claim bear cubs were born shapeless, and that their mother would then give them form, â€œlicking them into shape.â€ This was understood by many as a symbol of Christianity, which re-forms and re-generates the sinner. Because of that reason, bears eventually became symbols of the Church itself.Â
In fact, according to Ferguson, the many legends including saints taming bears can be interpreted as metaphors for the overcoming of sin, or the evangelization of non-Christian peoples.
Worried about the future? Find peace in this short prayer
It’s relatively easy to be worried about the future. We simply don’t know what is going to happen today, tomorrow, or next year. This state of uncertainty can cripple us at times, keeping us from doing anything out of fear of the unknown. St. Josemaria Escriva consoled someone in a similar frame of mind, who…
It’s relatively easy to be worried about the future. We simply don’t know what is going to happen today, tomorrow, or next year. This state of uncertainty can cripple us at times, keeping us from doing anything out of fear of the unknown.
St. Josemaria Escriva consoled someone in a similar frame of mind, who said to him (as quoted in The Way of the Cross), “Father, I am having a very rough time.”
In response, the saint composed a short but peaceful prayer of abandonment, entrusting to God everything past, present and future.
My Lord and my God: into your hands I abandon the past and the present and the future, what is small and what is great, what amounts to a little and what amounts to a lot, things temporal and things eternal.
Asking his friend to pray this prayer, St. Josemaria wrote, “Then, don’t worry any more.”
The only way we can move forward in calm is to entrust our “rough times” to God and then let the worry go. He is in control, and will be with us every step of the way.
Pope Francis reminisces about 6th grade
Perhaps it wouldn’t be wrong to say that our Jesuit pope also has Salesian roots. Pope Francis hinted at this on Sunday, May 24, the feast of Mary Help of Christians, which is an important Salesian feast. “Today, on the day of Mary Help of Christians, I address an affectionate and cordial greeting to the…
Perhaps it wouldn’t be wrong to say that our Jesuit pope also has Salesian roots. Pope Francis hinted at this on Sunday, May 24, the feast of Mary Help of Christians, which is an important Salesian feast.
“Today, on the day of Mary Help of Christians, I address an affectionate and cordial greeting to the Salesians,” he said, following the midday Regina Coeli prayer at the Vatican’s Apostolic Library. “I recall with gratitude the spiritual formation I received from the sons and daughters of Don Bosco.”
The Pope did not mention it directly, but he was referring to 1949 when he and his younger brother, Oscar, were enrolled as boarders at Colegio Wilfrid Barón de los Santos Ángeles run by the Salesians at Ramos Mejía.
Pope in Salesian school
The Virgin Mary, under the title Mary Help of Christians, is the principal patroness of the Salesians of Don Bosco, the religious congregation that Don Bosco founded in 1859 in the northern Italian city of Turin, to serve the young people.
The city’s Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, which was commissioned by Don Bosco himself, remains the heart of the Salesians of Don Bosco.
The Argentine Pope’s remarks on Sunday is not the first time that he has spoken about the influence of the Salesians of Don Bosco in his childhood.
Turin, June 22, 2015
Pope Francis visited Turin, June 21-22, 2015, during which he joined the Salesians in celebrating the 200th birth centenary of Don Bosco, who was born on August 16, 1815, and died on January 31, 1888.
During his visit, the Pope met the Salesians, including the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, known as the Salesian sisters, which Don Bosco co-founded with Saint Mary Mazzarello.
While commending Don Bosco’s ministry for young people, the Pope recounted fond childhood memories of his family’s closeness to the Salesians and how, when his mother was ill, he was taken out of public school to spend one year studying with the Salesians.
The Holy Father spoke of how he grew very attached to the Salesian community in the year he spent with them and that one priest, in particular, followed him from Baptism to the realization of his vocation, accompanying him ultimately on his journey to the Jesuit Order.
Salesian priests Fathers Enrico Pozzoli and Cayetano Bruno are particularly remembered by the Pope.
“Evangelii gaudium with St John Bosco”
Again, in January 2019, Pope Francis wrote a preface to the book, “Evangelii gaudium con don Bosco” (Evangelii gaudium with St John Bosco), a collection of reflections by 25 members of the Salesian family.
Commending the spirit of joy of Don Bosco, despite the thousands of “difficulties that besieged him every day”, the Pope recalled his association with the Salesians as a boy in Argentina.
While studying in a Salesian school, he wrote in the preface, he found that same “climate of joy and family.” The Salesians, he said, trained him to appreciate beauty, work, and cheerfulness – and this, he told the Salesians, “is your vocation.”
Houston church closes again after priests test positive for COVID-19
Catholic churches in Texas had begun offering Mass for the public again in early May. But at one parish, public Masses were abruptly suspended again after three priests tested positive for COVID-19. “Today we learned that three members of the Redemptorists community living and working at Holy Ghost Parish have tested positive for COVID-19, Fr.…
Catholic churches in Texas had begun offering Mass for the public again in early May. But at one parish, public Masses were abruptly suspended again after three priests tested positive for COVID-19.
“Today we learned that three members of the Redemptorists community living and working at Holy Ghost Parish have tested positive for COVID-19, Fr. William Bueche, C.Ss.R., pastor of Holy Ghost, said in a statement May 16. “While the individuals themselves are asymptomatic, they, and the other members of the community, are in quarantine in the residence isolated from the others. All members of the household have been tested and are awaiting results.”
Fr. Bueche said that one of the individuals who tested positive had been active in celebrating public Masses at Holy Ghost since the church reopened on May 2. He urged anyone who has attended Masses in person at Holy Ghost since the reopening to “monitor your health for any symptoms and be tested for COVID-19, as a precautionary measure.”
The priest said he informed the City of Houston Health Department about the situation.
In a statement issued Monday, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston noted that, Fr. Donnell Kirchner, a 79-year-old priest at Holy Ghost died. “The specific cause of death is unknown, but he had been recently treated at an urgent care clinic who referred him to a hospital emergency room,” the statement read. “He was diagnosed with pneumonia but he was not admitted to the hospital and ws sent home with medication. It is not clear if he was tested for covid-19 at either faciity. He returned to the residence he shared with seven other members of his religious order.”
The statement said that following Fr. Kirchner’s death, the other Redemptorists “sought medical advice, and all were tested for the coronavirus. Although the parish had followed cleaning, sanitation and social distancing guidelines described by State health officials since reopening on May 2, they determined at that time it was best to close the church immediately to public Masses until the results of their tests were known.”
The archdiocese also noted that in-person attendance at Holy Ghost had been “closely controlled” and that attendance at Mass on Sunday never exceeded 179, far short of the 900-person capacity. Weekday Mass attendance as a “small fraction of that amount.”
An earlier statement on the parish website said that Masses would be canceled as of May 14 because the Redemptorist community was self-quarantining while awaiting results of the COVID-19 tests. Suspension of Masses included the funeral for Fr. Kirchner originally scheduled on Saturday, May 16.