Fr. Joseph Aytona of the Congregation of the Fathers of Mercy gave our advent mission here at St. Joseph Catholic Church, in the Diocese of St. Augustine. He spoke principally on the Holy Eucharist, Adoration, and Mary the Mother of God
This week (December 10-13, 2018) at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jacksonville, Florida, Fr. Joseph Aytona, CPM - Congregation of the Fathers of Mercy, offered our Advent Parish Mission. The most remarkable thing was that there were four to five priests available to hear confession an hour before Fr. Aytona’s talk and the hours after. We had Eucharistic exposition an hour before and throughout the talk. I did not know which way to look, should I gaze in wonder at the Blessed Sacrament or at the six foot something thin Filipino priest born in Los Angeles? I would take turns doing both because the Priest is in persona Christi, in the person of Christ.
It was a wonderful thing to see a religious Priest. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that the religious state for Priests is higher than the holy Priesthood alone. The religious lives in community life and practices the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, in imitation of Christ, who was poor, chaste and obedient to His Father’s will. The fruits of living a contemplative life, frequent examinations of conscience, frequent confession and Mass, daily spiritual reading, the practice of obedience, chapters-perhaps?, can be witnessed in a soul in love with Christ. In my humble opinion, Fr. Aytona was a religious priest striving for beauty of soul, perfection in obedience to Christ, true charity for his neighbor. On top of that he was poised, active, and he spoke slowly, so slowly at times.
His message was simple, he covered certain topics and Catholic doctrine thoroughly; those who thought they knew, knew better and those who did not were amazed. A topic, Fr. Aytona stressed was sanctifying grace. Before the coming of Christ, men could not enter heaven, regardless of how righteous they were when they passed away; Jesus brought something new. The life of grace that we receive when we receive the Blessed Sacrament with a proper disposition is beyond anything ever experienced before the coming of Christ. For this reason Our Lord said that John the Baptist was the least in the Kingdom of Heaven: human beings were only capable of living in Heaven after Jesus obtained for their souls sanctifying grace.
Fr. Aytona explained that it would be beneath us to enter into a dog’s body and live the life that a dog lives while maintaining the use of our reason and the other potentials of our soul. In a similar way it was beneath God who was immaterial to confine Himself to a human body. Yet humility and conformity to the Father’s holy will drew Christ to live among us. This being with us physically continues to this very day in the most Blessed Sacrament. This demonstrates God’s great humility. And this requires faith from the part of the Faithful. God’s actual presence under the humble aspects of bread and wine defy the senses and our pride.
Fr. Aytona stressed attendance at holy Mass and Adoration. God being outside of time can take an event in history and make it present now. During the holy Sacrifice of the Mass we are actually present at Calvary - taking place before us in an unbloody manner. The highest sacrifice we can offer in turn is conformity to God’s will and we should offer our own lives in union with the hosts being offered to God. The Eucharist then is the source and summit of our Christian life. Adoration is an important aspect of Christian worship, and it is always an act of reparation. At Eucharistic adoration we are in the presence of the living Christ who is at the same time physically present at the right hand of the Father.
Fr. Aytona relayed historical events like the Battle of Lepanto, the Protestant revolt, the death of St. Imelda Lambertini in 1333. We learned that St. Nobert had a poisonous spider come out of his nose after he successfully swallowed the wine and spider at holy Mass, preferring to die rather than disrupt the holy Sacrifice of the Mass and leave the Precious Blood. Fr. Aytona stressed that grace unites Christians more closely to one another and to God than family or blood ties.
The advent mission also included the very interesting story of Fr. Joseph Aytona’s own conversion and call to the holy Priesthood. We learned about the events leading up to and surrounding his father’s death during Fr. Aytona’s first year in the seminary. Between similar stories related in Scripture and by other Priests, I have come to the conclusion that mothers should always consecrate their children to God and the Blessed Virgin Mary while their children are yet in the womb. This is important. And Jesus’ promise remains firm, that those who leave father and mother, sisters and brothers, children and lands for the sake of the Kingdom of God receive a hundred times more. I also came to the conclusion that we should consider all Priests billionaires in virtue of their ordination and office. Fr. Aytona certainly now has more than he ever wished for. We can expect that Heaven will also fulfill his holy desires for levitation.
I highly recommend the talks available through the Fathers of Mercy. You can learn about this congregation and purchase their talks on the following website: https://fathersofmercy.com/