The month of October is a compendium of feasts that emphasize the mission Our Lord gave His Apostles to go and teach all nations all that He commanded, and to baptize them with the assurance that He would be with His Church until the end of the world as he asserts in St. Matthew 28: 19-20 and St. Mark 16: 15-16 and again in St. John 21: 15-17. Each saint honored during this month embodies this mission.
Therefore it is most appropriate that the month begins with the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels (October 2), since every creature is assigned a Guardian Angel at their conception who remain with them until death. The story of Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life is not as far-fetched for either idealists or realists. It doesn't matter that we can't see them, our Guardian Angels are very, very real. Make friends with your Guardian Angel, give him or her a name and let your Guardian Angel guide and guard you. Don't forget to say the Guardian Angel Prayer every morning and night. Your Guardian Angel is, outside of Christ and His Blessed Mother, the greatest friend you'll ever have.
And speaking of friends and guides, few are as giving as the Little Flower, Saint Therese of Lisieux (October 3). Despite her youth, she had the wisdom of ages with her selfless giving of self for the souls in Purgatory and her fellow sisters in her convent. She is the epitome of doing the ordinary in extraordinary ways. She is a rose that continues to bloom perpetually, and there are countless accounts of roses turning up through the intercession of this gentle, loving Saint of the Child Jesus.
The Famous Founder who took God literally
St. Therese's feast is followed immediately by the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4). In celebrating the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, we may recall so many reasons why he is truly one of the greatest saints God has given us, but perhaps we may be simple as Francis was simple and distill the message of St. Francis down to one simple sentence, one basic mission and one central call: To save others and ourselves, we must all be builders for Christ. The implications of this call, if taken to heart, can do no less than carry us to eternal paradise.
We may recall that Our Lord requested that Francis "go out and build upon My house, for it is nearly falling down" as he looked upon The Cross of San Damiano. We all have our San Damiano crosses, meaning that the call to the founder of the Order of Friars Minor is not limited to Francis but, rather, is directed at each of us in this age where Our Lord's House is in great disrepair and nearly falling down.
Definitely not recognizable as the Church Jesus established upon the Rock of Peter.
If Francis taught us something it was that following Christ was uncompromisingly not a passive duty or mindless service. Rather, such a following demands activity and consistent, devoted energy on our part. Even if the holy, humble Francis did mistake Christ's call to rebuild His Church in thinking Jesus wanted a physical building rebuilt as Francis did with the Portiuncula, he was obedient and for that obedience and surrender to the divine will, was greatly rewarded with graces in building an incomparable order of men dedicated to spreading the Word of God and rejecting the world.
As they so often do, radical environmentalists and humanists, those committed to the world rather than God, often latch onto Francis as some twisted example of love of nature and concern for our world and environment. In Christian truth, we are wards of this world in taking care of what God has given us as a means to the end, but not the end in itself. Where these fools fail is in realizing that Francis held nature in very high priority but never above his beloved God. Many of today's liberal, radical environmentalists and faddists want to worship nature above all else in a pantheistic manner, and that is where they not only fail miserably but distance themselves from the holy Francis.
We can do far worse than develop a close devotion to St. Francis and what he stood for. Such a mission and path is truly a shortcut toward salvation for it appreciates God's goodness, His desire for our good, and, consequently, His blueprint toward Paradise. But we must be willing to work for it, to build up rather than tear down.
From Francis' example we can also see that following Christ, then, is more about building than merely following. Each of us has been called to build something. For some it may be greater love among those around them. For others, that construction could very well be greater understanding or greater learning. Still others may be called to build bridges to Christ and to salvation. No matter who we are, we have all been called upon to become builders for Christ. Christ has called each of us to build, to react, and to construct. He has asked this of His Disciples, of Saint Paul, of Francis, of every saint and of us.
The Implications of Constructing the Faith
Being a true builder for Christ implies that we be humble and obedient workers for God. One cannot build unless one is building toward something and one cannot build toward something unless one implicitly recognizes the inherent need or desire for that thing.
In the first week we celebrate the feasts of the holy martyrs Saints Placidus and his companion martyrs (October 5). He is actually known as St. Placid to many and that very word means calm, peaceful and that was the state of his soul and therefore he showed how the blood of martyrs builds great faith in those who witness to sacrifice of their lives for Christ. It is particularly pertinent to today's time that St. Placid, his sisters and several monks sent by Saint Benedict from Subiaco and Monte Cassino were martyred in Sicily by Saracens. Even before Mohammed the mentality of the Arab was of violence.
Some may say that the worker who builds a structure for money cares or ponders little of the need or desire for the structure he builds but, nevertheless, that worker is not so much building something because he believes it to be important but because he has determined that creating something will provide him with some benefit, in this case money. It is difficult if not impossible to build unless one humbly and patiently adheres to the blueprint for what is to be built. That is why the next day's feast of the holy Confessor Saint Bruno (October 6) is pertinent for this eleventh century saint from Cologne, Germany gave up wealth like Francis had done, and founded the first monastery of the Order of the Carthusians, considered one of the Church's most august Religious Orders. With that kind of edification shown by Therese, Francis, St. Placid and St. Bruno, should one ignore that blueprint and discard one's humility and obedience, one may very well build themselves their own Tower of Babel, that is, away from God and toward evil, wrong or harm. Confusion is certain to reign for certainly those who refuse to humbly build toward God's Will can only end up building contrary to the divine blueprints of the Will of God.
If humility and obedience are implied by being a builder for Christ, then transforming potential into actuality closely follows. All construction is basically a transformation of what can possibly be into what is and merely requires that one adhere to instructions, plans and materials needed for the job. If one does not follow instructions to the letter, leaving nothing out, then one can be confident that the structure will be strong. The final implication of being a builder for Christ means that we create a strong, firm, consistent and practical bridge toward the salvation of souls including our own. Unless we are willing to build toward God we cannot expect to lead anyone toward God, and leading people in this way is the heart of following Christ. Lukewarm, calculator or cafeteria Catholics build their bridges to God out of spin, numbers or polls and then wonder why their bridges either fail or lead to nowhere. But if one decides to cut corners, leaving out the necessary Corner Stone, girders, buttresses, joints and beams then there is no assurance what they have built will last. Jesus warns of this in his parable of building on sand vs. building on the solid foundation of the rock.
Christ did not come among us to simply make us aware of our potential for good and bringing glory to God. Rather, He frequently calls upon us to activate, to trigger that potential into action, example and devoted service of others. Simply put, following Christ is about turning possibility for good into good itself, and He has left us through Divine Revelation - Sacred Scripture and Tradition, the perfect blueprint for building a staircase to Heaven.
Passing the Stress Test in turning vice into Victory
Unless we can confidently answer "yes" to the question "have you led others to Christ", we cannot save our souls or that of others. That very truth dovetails into the magnificent feast of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary (October 7), this year also being the First Saturday of October. This feast was first established by Pope Saint Pius V when he entreated the Church Militant to pray for victory over the Turks at the crucial Battle of Lepanto. The surest way to guide others to Christ is through His holy Mother, whose feast of the Divine Maternity as Theotokos is celebrated on the eleventh of this month. She reveals one sure key to Heaven is through her holy Psalter - the Rosary bestowed to Saint Dominic for our protection, not just physical protection, but spiritual protection. I mentioned the roses of St. Therese and rose is synonymous with Rosary for what we offer Our Lady is a bouquet of spiritual roses in with each rose being a Hail Mary bunched together in decades to present to God a most pleasing array of prayers possessing the fragrance of goodness and grace granted by the merits of Jesus Christ. Devotion to Our Lady and adherence to her constant request to pray the Rosary provide us a clear example of how simplicity and humility is the fast track toward God despite the distorted views of this society.
The Rosary, so powerful that it stopped the curse of Islam at Lepanto in 1571, continues to be one of the most powerful weapons we have today. It is a powerful, rhythmic song of praise, adoration and thanksgiving to God through Mary, second only to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in building that solid staircase to Heaven. The Mass is the staircase, and commitment to praying the Rosary turns that staircase into an escalator of lightspeed unheard of in reaching God's ears and Heart. That swift ascending way is a simple path strewn with spiritual roses that will forever bloom, while the path to hell is strewn with physical roses that soon wilt amidst the hidden thorns that forever prick.
A powerful promise that must never be ignored
At Fatima the Blessed Virgin said, "In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph." When that will be is both contingent on God's timeline and our cooperation. The Rosary is the link that can hasten that wonderful, glorious day.
Is it any wonder then that it's the holy Rosary that Mary constantly calls for in all her approved apparitions from Quito to Lourdes, from La Salette to Fatima? Any Catholic worth his or her salt will understand the total fusion of Scripture and Devotion contained in the simple, masterful Holy Rosary and it is that weapon which will play an important role in defeating satan as Our Lady promised at Fatima 89 years ago which we commemorate on the second Friday this month when we celebrate the final apparition in Portugal and the occasion of the miracle of the sun (October 13). But even with this visual wonder, man's heart still remains cold as Christ said often, that even if they see with their eyes and hear with their ears, they will not see nor hear, so hardened are their hearts. Many attribute that claim to the Jews of His time. Au contraire, He was speaking directly to this generation right now here in 2006 for never have hearts been colder or harder.
A cornucopia of commitment
The other feasts we celebrate this month is an Octoberfest Feast of role models to emulate in our journey toward Heaven. The holy widow Saint Bridget of Sweden (October 8) is known for the Heavenly messages she received that reinforce what we must do as our part in rebuilding His Church. Then there are the holy confessors Saint John Leonardi (October 9), Saint Francis Borgia (October 10), and Saint Edward (October 13). The first two rejected riches for the greater riches inherent in serving God and the last, a holy Monarch of England as King Edward II used riches to help his people attain salvation. The week is bookmarked by two holy martyrs, Saint Denis and his companion martyrs (October 9) and Pope Saint Callistus I (October 14); one a bishop, the other a Sovereign Pontiff, both willing to give their lives for Christ in building up His Church.
The second half of October begins with the Feast of the holy Virgin Saint Teresa of Avila (October 15) who was one of God's great reformers in bringing discipline and order back to the Carmelites. Truly a builder in the Church Militant. So also the Polish empress Saint Hedwig (October 16) who gave away all for spiritual riches as did the holy Confessor Saint Peter of Alcantara (October 19). Other Confessors like Saint John Cantius (October 20), the Abbot Saint Hilarion, and the Bishop Saint Anthony Mary Claret (October 23) all realized the necessity of following the divine blueprint for building up His Church.
A Heart So Full of Love
It was the thirteenth century when the Rosary was bestowed to St. Dominic; it was in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation and the Counter-Reformation in rebuilding Christ's Church in the seventeenth century that Our Lord Himself appeared to the holy Virgin Saint Margaret Mary Alocoque (October 17) and revealed the Promises of His Most Sacred Heart to those who fulfill what He asks. He revealed a Heart so full of love for all His children and provided even more guidelines for better understanding the divine blueprint. Most of this was first revealed and recorded in the Gospel of Saint Luke the Evangelist (October 18), a physician who realized healing souls took precedent over the body, though he remained concerned for the physical health of all those who approached him. He exemplified the love Christ taught in body, mind and soul.
Building the Kingdom
Less than a month after honoring the greatest of Archangels Saint Michael, and exactly seven months after honoring Saint Gabriel the Archangel we celebrate the feast of the third in that triumverate,Saint Raphael the Archangel (October 24). How appropriate that he follows St. Luke's feast for the name "Raphael" means "God heals." Raphael is, as the Hymn at Lauds for the day says, "physician of our salvation, help us from the heights of Heaven, heal all diseases and guide our faltering steps towars the true life."
To finish the last weeks of the month we commemorate the feasts of more holy martyrs such as Saints Chrysanthus and Saint Daria, husband and wife martyrs (October 25), the holy martyr Pope Saint Evaristus (October 26) and the Feast of the holy Apostles Saints Simon and Jude (October 28). St. Jude is known to all as the patron saint of hopeless cases and never was there a time which seemed more hopeless than our present time when mammon rules the roost. One would think there is no hope, but it's all there right before our eyes if only the world would acknowledge the significance and necessity of recognizing and living the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ
The last Sunday of October is traditionally the Feast of Christ the King and holy Mother Church, in her wisdom completes the month thusly by reminding us that we must be faithful servants to our King. All throughout the month She has given us the clearest blueprints for rebuilding His Church, for returning it to what He intended when He founded His Church upon the Rock of Peter and which was carried out from St. Peter through the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. What has happened since the latter's death is proof that the New Order church has been built not on the rock of the 2000 year foundation, but on the shifting sands that will collapse. The only way for them to be saved and all others is to recognize Christ as their Sovereign King in every nation and to realize the dogma of the Church is not opinion, but fact: Outside the Church there is No Salvation! Bow down to your Sovereign King and proclaim your everlasting allegiance. It's the only way.
The Octoberfest of Feasts is the perfect preparation for reminding us of November's mission - to pray for the holy souls in Purgatory as our loving responsibility to the Church Suffering in the great Communion of Saints. October provides the blueprint for the Church Militant to celebrate on the first day of November the Church Triumphant. We carry out our mission by adhering to all His holy Church has taught for two millennium and taking advantage of the tools He has given us: from our Guardian Angels to the holy Rosary, from the Promises of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary to emulating the saints who mark the calendar of this tenth month of the year.
St. Francis is famous for his love of nature, of animals and of simple obedience and adherence to the example of Christ. He is known for turning prayer into song and song into an offering to God. The Rosary is a perfect compendium of this and respect and appreciation of the Rosary is clearly a very powerful path to salvation. Likewise, simple humility as these saints all exemplified, can bring great graces for that humility portrayed into beautiful creation is what following Christ is truly about.
Like St. Therese, St. Francis, St. Bridget, St. Teresa, St. Margaret Mary, and all the other saints of this month, they provide classic examples of achieving greatness through total humility and simplicity. We need their example to stay the course for we all live in a society and world where destruction and demolition of the Faith is the path most taken. Like these saints we have a choice to choose the world or God, to serve and build or to be served and abuse. Like all these saints this month and throughout the year in holy Mother Church's traditional liturgical calendar, we are called upon to be instruments of God's love and peace. Only then can we be assured we are building on solid ground with a solid foundation that will not crumble and will provide for us to come before our King and proclaim to Him and to the world those famous words of the martyred Mexican priest Father Miguel Pro, "Vivo Christo Rey."