‘Faith and persistence’

Bishop Raica marks the feast day of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

On Aug. 9, Bishop Raica celebrated Mass at the Our Lady of the Angels Chapel located on the Eternal Word Television Network’s (EWTN) studio campus in Irondale, marking the feast day of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. During the Mass, the bishop presented Colin Donovan, EWTN vice president of theology, with a diploma from the Pontifical Marian Academy, establishing his membership. The complete text of the bishop’s homily and remarks follow herein.

My dear sisters and brothers in Christ, in today's Gospel, we encounter a powerful example of faith and persistence. A Canaanite woman (whose name is not revealed to us) comes to Jesus, begging for her daughter's healing. Her plea reveals the depth of her faith and the strength of her love for her child. Despite the initial response from Jesus (or lack of response and ignoring her plea), which seemed harsh and uncharacteristic of Jesus, she nevertheless persists, illustrating an unwavering trust in Him.

This woman's faith resonates with the words of Edith Stein, also known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She once said, "Whoever seeks the truth is seeking God, whether consciously or unconsciously." Just as this woman sought healing for her daughter, her relentless pursuit of Jesus reflects her yearning for truth and divine intervention. Her actions teach us that seeking God's presence requires determination, perseverance, and tenacity, even in the face of challenges and obstacles.

The Canaanite woman's dialogue with Jesus also exemplifies the quote of St. Teresa, "Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth." Her plea was rooted in a genuine love for her daughter's well-being, and that is very often the case in caring families. Her persistent faith was based on her unwavering belief in the truth that Jesus held an astonishing power to heal. She knew this deep down in her heart and would not be deterred. This interaction reminds us, moreover, that our faith should be intertwined with love and truth, guiding our actions and prayers.

In the Gospel, Jesus acknowledges the woman's faith and grants her request: “’Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour.” This miraculous event reveals the profound connection between faith and miracles, reminding us that the Lord oftentimes responds to our sincere and persistent faith. We might say, in a paradoxical way, it is a weakness of God that He hears and responds to our plea, at our initiative, and at the same time a strength of God – because He knows what we need and gives it at the proper time, so that His glory will be revealed through a miraculous intervention.

As we journey through life, we often face obstacles that challenge our faith and trust in God. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross reminds us, "The world doesn't need what women have. It needs what women are." This sentiment can be extended to all of us—what the world needs from us is not just our external possessions or abilities, but our authentic and unwavering faith, our persistent pursuit of truth, and our deep love for God and one another.

The Canaanite woman’s example is a lesson of God’s merciful touch in our lives in countless ways both known and unknown, especially at the behest of those who pray for us and our wellbeing and for those for whom we pray. Through it, may we nurture a faith that seeks God in all circumstances, and cultivates a love grounded in truth and action. Just as this woman's faith moved Jesus to perform a miracle, our faith can impact more profoundly our lives and can transform the lives of those around us. Perhaps the simple thing to remember is: “Just ask and don’t give up.”

Today, I also acknowledge a member of the EWTN community who was nominated to the Pontifical Marian Academy, Colin B. Donovan. While every month seems to have some festal celebration for our Blessed Mother, August is dedicated in a particular way to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In fact, many of the saints have been impacted in powerful and personal ways by our Blessed Mother, especially in the West. Particularly, I think of Irenaeus, Ambrose, Augustine, Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis de Sales, Louis de Montfort, Maximilian Kolbe, and many others. Our saint today, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross often spoke and wrote about Mary as the ideal of womanhood, fulfilling the longing of her nature. 

A brief historical note: The Pontifical Marian Academy was established in 1946 by Pope Pius XII to promote Mariology, that is the serious study of the Blessed Virgin Mary and true devotion to her through consecrations and popular piety. The academy is also responsible for organizing scientific debates and conferences and publishing a journal of their work, called Mariana. On Dec. 8, 1959, Pope St. John XXIII gave the title “Pontifical” to the academy, and, more recently, Pope St. John Paul II, who was also a member of the academy, approved its statutes. Pope Francis has placed the Academy under the Dicastery for Culture and Catholic Education.                                   

Colin Donovan has been especially invited to be a member of that academy, and I congratulate him this morning and present him with his credentials from the Vatican: On behalf of the Pontifical Marian Academy, I admit to the academy Colin B. Donovan with all the rights and privileges that accompany this membership, and it is my honor and duty to present Colin with this letter of appointment from the Vatican and his diploma which establishes his membership.

Here is a letter of appointment, written in Latin, signed by Father Stefano Cecchin, OFM, president of the academy, and the accompanying diploma or certificate of appointment. On behalf of the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama and EWTN, Colin, I congratulate you and extend our prayerful best wishes to you. May God bless you and the work of the academy abundantly.