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The saints of June offer words of wisdom about the love of Christ on the Cross

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Annabelle Moseley - published on 06/01/22

The month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an opportunity to reflect on God's great love and mercy.

The world may recoil from the cross, but we see the intense beauty of God’s redemptive suffering. And it’s that love that we lean on when we trust in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

During June, the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we are reminded of Christ’s totally unguarded, sacrificial love each time we look at that Heart. Let us be inspired to share the depth and beauty of His Passion and sacrifice with others, and let us turn to the wisdom of four great saints this month who can inspire us to do this.

All of these saints were so consumed by their love for Christ that they spoke with great poetic beauty and truth about the depth of the Lord’s sacrificial love through images: a door, a lamb, a cross, and a tree.

These saints were known for their eloquent writing or preaching (or both!). May we turn to their words the next time we want to teach someone else how an image of Christ on the cross is synonymous with love.

So meet a cave-dwelling deacon, an eloquent finder of lost things, an itinerant desert preacher, and a father of the Church who all have something to say about the love we can encounter through Christ’s cross. 

June 9 — St. Ephrem (died 373)

St. Ephrem the Syrian is a Doctor of the Church. He was a deacon and in his great humility never became a priest. This deacon lived in a cave after he was forced to flee his home with other Christians running from attacks. Beautiful titles of St. Ephrem include “Harp of the Holy Spirit” and “Zither of Mary” because he was a prolific writer of many inspired songs, and is even credited with bringing song into the liturgy.

As we teach others about the love of Christ on the cross, we can be inspired by these eloquent words of St. Ephrem the Syrian:

“Blessed be the Merciful One, who saw the weapon by Paradise, that closed the way to the Tree of Life; and came and took a Body which could suffer, that with the Door, that was in His side, He might open the way into Paradise.”

We read in Scripture that Christ referred to Himself as “the Door.” It is powerful to visualize that Door opening in the lanced side of Christ, as a way to Paradise.

To journey deeper with this, we contemplate John 10:9: “I am the door. By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved: and shall go in, and go out, and shall find pastures.”

St. Ephrem’s quote is a beautiful companion to the Divine Mercy devotion, and so to celebrate his feast day today, set your alarm for 3 p.m. to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet. This time as you pray, “You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world,” let us visualize, as St. Ephrem describes, Christ’s lanced side upon the cross as the Door opening the way to Paradise.

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy

June 13 — St. Anthony of Padua (died 1231) 

St. Anthony of Padua is famous for his eloquent sermons. He was declared a doctor of the Church in 1946. So many of us pray to St. Anthony whenever we lose something. This comes from an incident in St. Anthony’s own life when a novice leaving his community stole St. Anthony’s treasured handmade psalter that contained his own personal notes that assisted him in teaching his students. St. Anthony prayed for the return of this book and the novice did return it and asked his forgiveness, which was granted.

It’s nice to know that the patron saint of lost things understands what it feels like when we lose something; no wonder prayers invoking his intercession are so efficacious!

St. Anthony was such a fine orator and teacher; he preached with a pure heart and humble tongue. A testament to his gift, his tongue is an incorruptible relic that pilgrims can find in Padua, Italy. 

In the words of St. Anthony of Padua: “Christians must lean on the Cross of Christ just as travelers lean on a staff when they begin a long journey.” 

St. Anthony also had this to say, “Christ, who is your life, is hanging before you so that you may look at the cross as in a mirror. There you will be able to know how mortal were your wounds, that no medicine other than the Blood of the Son of God could heal … Nowhere other than looking at himself in the mirror of the cross can man better understand how much he is worth.”

Perhaps we might try remembering these words of St. Anthony next time we are looking in a mirror, recalling that we can only understand our true worth when looking at ourselves “in the mirror of the cross.”

In honor of St. Anthony of Padua and perhaps to thank him for all the times he has helped us find something that was lost, why not make a donation to the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement.

June 23 — The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

John the Baptist was born to Zachariah and Elizabeth, who was past her childbearing years, but this was made possible by God’s grace. The angel Gabriel visited the couple to bring this news and to make it known that the child should be called John. He baptized his followers, and instructed His followers to follow Jesus; they became the first Christians. On the day of the Baptism of the Lord, when John recognized Christ, John told Him “I ought to be baptized by thee, and comest thou to me?”

In the words of St. John the Baptist in John 1:29: “Behold the Lamb of God; behold Him who who taketh away the sin of the world!”

To honor these words, it is important that we pay special attention to them during the Liturgy of the Eucharist each time we are at Mass. St. John the Baptist tells us to “Behold!” and so let us be sure to look up at the Host as the priest raises it, and behold Our Lord and Our God. We should teach our children to do the same.

June 28 — St. Irenaeus (died 202) 

St. Irenaeus was the second bishop of Lyons. He was heavily influenced by his mentor, St. Polycarp, who had known the apostles. As Gnosticism spread and was a threat to Christianity, the brilliant St. Irenaeus wrote a five-book series revealing the errors of gnosticism and refuting it perfectly. His work was the death-blow to gnosticim.

This Father of the Church knew how to defend and promote the faith. In the words of St. Irenaeus: “Just as a tree was the cause of the curse, so also we were saved through a tree: the cross.”

To be reminded of this and honor the words of St. Irenaeus, plant a garden around a tree with a garden cross or religious statue beneath, and teach your children this quote.

Saints of June, as we seek and savor your words of wisdom, pray for us! 

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