Aware of the Signs of the Times

In the Eucharistic Prayer called the Swiss Canon, we find the following:

Strengthen your people by the Body and Blood of your Son and renew us all in his image…that all members of the Church come to know how to discern the signs of the times and grow in faithfulness to the Gospel; that we might be concerned in charity to share the anxieties and sorrows, joys and hopes of all, and so show them the way of salvation.

In the last week we celebrated the memory of both San Martín de Porres and San Carlo Borromeo. These two saints lived the above admonition of the Eucharistic Prayer and thus the core of what the Eucharist is about. The Eucharist is more than the reception of the host and drinking of the cup, as we learn from even a superficial awareness of the lives Sts. Martin and Charles.

St. Martin, a mulato, spent his adult life as a Dominican Friar working among the abandoned
children and African slaves brought to Peru. The Roman Missal calls his witness a secret: it was only a secret to those who thought their way of life of domination and exploitation was just and proper. The sin of the distinctions between classes perpetrated by the wealthy was a blessing to the poor and abandoned by providing them with the presence of St. Martin. To the poor and destitute his activity was anything but a secret. He was sought after by many for his compassionate accompaniment.

As powerful the witness of St. Martin was for the poor of Lima, so to was the witness of St. Charles in Milan. But Charles’ witness comes from the other end of the spectrum. He was born into wealth and privilege. His uncle was the pope and ordained Charles as priest and bishop of Milan and appointed him cardinal. It was a feather in the cap of his noble family.

Then a funny thing happened. St. Charles had a conversion at the time of the Black Death. He went into the streets to accompany the dying and destitute, turning his resources and wealth, property and position into their service. He broke through the same barrier that kept St. Martin from moving out of the lower classes. They both responded to the Gospel by attending to the emarginated and outcast of society. They became the “image” of God’s son. They were faithful to the Gospel at their time by reading the signs of the times sharing “in charity to share the anxieties and sorrows, joys and hopes of all.” By living their lives in this way, Charles and Martin have become beacons in the life of faith in order to “show [others] the way of salvation,” both then and now.

May we have the grace to open our hearts to the signs of the times and discerning together the manner in which our community and our parish organizations may move in witness to live the Gospel today.

peace, fr. Charles


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