Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Some people give things, the saints give themselves

Father John J. Lombardi

Some people give things, the saints give themselves. The total gift of self= selflessness.

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mk. 12:30ff ) a poor lady is contrasted to the Pharisees legalism: the Pharisees give things, she gave herself. Hmmm: they’re the "professional religionists" and she is a poor widow-outcast and Jesus Christ upholds her life because it’s like His: Total Gift of Self. We’re supposed to imitate her to image Him. After all, He gives us His Scared Heart, Body and Soul­and still does in Mass-Eucharist.

So, in marriage give yourself; your whole self, selflessly. Don’t’ contracept or hold back: give your whole self­naturally, organically, spiritually, sacred-sensually. The parents of St Catherine of Siena gave 22 children to the world. You can give saints to the world and church too! The saint-martyrs do give Total Gift of Self by their very lives­dying for Jesus Christ: like St Peter our hero-patron and First Pope, and St Patrick gave his life in being a missionary and changed Western Civilization. Virgins and noble men give the Gift of Self by their inner purity: they re-direct their powers and energies for prayer and charity.

As Catholics we can imitate Christ by our lifestyles. Protestants give so much of their time, talent and treasure. Jehovah’s Witnesses donate on average 5.6 hours a week of time to their churches. Catholics give an a average of a hour and a half. Give yourself and help our parishes grow in spiritual, service and social ways. Protestants outdistance Catholics in financial giving, often times tithing (10 % of initial income to church). Thankfully over the last years people have been very generous financially­so keep giving the Gift of Self. And talent: if you’re an artist, musician, counselor or carpenter­donate your time and yourself to our Lord and Churches. Don’t hold back. Our goal is, like the "Widow’s Mite," to gradually become saints by giving our entire self to the Lord and others without fear or worry.

I just visited my sick friend Fr Bayer who gave his life to Christ as a priest fifty years ago. Lying in his sick bed he told me how we need to continue surrendering to Christ, trusting in Him totally. What is our challenge here?: blockages: holding back from Jesus­not wanting to give Him everything or completely surrender to Him or allow Him to work in all areas of our lives. The saints, meanwhile, were gung ho in giving Jesus their very selves. Or, better yet, since they were sinners like us, they learned how to do it. So should we.

In prayer: give yourself. Deeper prayer is not just saying words or repeating fossilized faith formulas. It is about a relationship and completely surrendering yourself, body and soul­to the living God. Contemplation means giving your deepest self, your will (your choice-making faculty and power within your soul) to God. So give more time and soul to God by deeper, intimate prayer …

In Mass don’t be distracted­give yourself to God. We may do this thru holy postures. Bowing our heads my help us concentrate; folding hands and when genuflecting before Christ in the Sacrament or bowing to Him in the Altar of sacrifice is holy: we may die to self and live, lift to God. These are ways to give the Gift of Self.

One time when leaving a church after preaching about helping others, a little boy, John Paul came up to me and gave me fifty cents. What’s that for I asked him. He said: "It’s a gift for poor people." Little virtues and gifts lead to Big Ones!

Now read below about a man who tried to "take the self’ of another thru sexual assault. Following are the Last Words of Allseansdro Serenelli, the man who killed St Maria Goretti in1902, and who miraculously converted after receiving a vision from her while in prison (she mystically gave him white roses and forgave him). Maria Goretti gave the Gift fo Self­her whole being and chaste, beautiful body, and teaches us, and ever killers, to do the same. We must learn like Allesandro: what we feed upon will eventually feed upon us­whether good or evil, and we will then be able or not to Give the Gift of Self, as Allesandro did, even after his horrendous crime. We can all still convert! After thirty years of prison he was later freed and even lived for a time with Maria Goretti’s mother after she forgave him. He then became a third Order Franciscan brother. He gave God the Gift of Self totally and heroically.Now his wise words:

"Looking back at my past, I can see that in my early youth, I chose a bad path which led me to ruin myself. My behavior was influenced by print, mass-media and bad examples which are followed by the majority of young people without even thinking. And I did the same. I was not worried. There were a lot of generous and devoted people who surrounded me, but I paid no attention to them because a violent force blinded me and pushed me toward a wrong way of life. When I was 20 years-old, I committed a crime of passion. Now, that memory represents something horrible for me. Maria Goretti, now a Saint, was my good Angel, sent to me through Providence to guide and save me. I still have impressed upon my heart her words of rebuke and of pardon. She prayed for me, she interceded for her murderer. Thirty years of prison followed.

"If I had been of age, I would have spent all my life in prison. I accepted to be condemned because it was my own fault. Little Maria was really my light, my protectress; with her help, I behaved well during the 27 years of prison and tried to live honestly when I was again accepted among the members of society. The Brothers of St. Francis, Capuchins from Marche, welcomed me with angelic charity into their monastery as a brother, not as a servant. I've been living with their community for 24 years, and now I am serenely waiting to witness the vision of God, to hug my loved ones again, and to be next to my Guardian Angel and her dear mother, Assunta. I hope this letter that I wrote can teach others the happy lesson of avoiding evil and of always following the right path, like little children. I feel that religion with its precepts is not something we can live without, but rather it is the real comfort, the real strength in life and the only safe way in every circumstance, even the most painful ones of life." Signature, Alessandro Serenell Pace-

Peace-­Fr Jack Lombardi

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi