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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Introduction to Tobit[1]


Tobit, a devout and wealthy Israelite living among the captives deported to Nineveh from the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722/721 B.C., suffers severe reverses and is finally blinded. Because of his misfortunes he begs the Lord to let him die. But recalling the large sum he had formerly deposited in far-off Media, he sends his son Tobiah there to bring back the money. In Media, at this same time, a young woman, Sarah, also prays for death, because she has lost seven husbands, each killed in turn on his wedding night by the demon Asmodeus. God hears the prayers of Tobit and Sarah and sends the angel Raphael in human form to aid them both.





JULY 20 Saturday

Tobit, Chapter 1, Verse 18-19
18 Sennacherib returned from Judea, having fled during the days of the judgment enacted against him by the King of Heaven because of the blasphemies he had uttered; whomever he killed I buried. For in his rage he killed many Israelites, but I used to take their bodies away by stealth and bury them. So, when Sennacherib looked for them, he could not find them. 19 But a certain Ninevite went and informed the king about me, that I was burying them, and I went into hiding. When I realized that the king knew about me and that I was being hunted to be put to death, I became afraid and took flight.


Tobit although righteous was also not stupid, even though he opposed the evil in his neighborhood he did not like to suffer for it so he naturally kept his good deeds secret and did not want to be found out by the evil oppressors.

Tobit[1]
  1. Both names, Tobit and Tobias (sometimes written Tobiah), mean “Yahweh is my good.” Tobit was the son of Tobiel, which also means “Yahweh is my good.” He was a native of Thisbe in Naphtali.  Their land allotment lay NW of the Sea of Galilee.  After the division of David’s kingdom, Naphtali was one of the northern tribes.
  2. Tobit lamented the split, but that concern paled in contrast to his sadness over the people’s refusal to worship in the temple in Jerusalem. Jeroboam, the king of the northern kingdom, had set up “golden calves” at Dan (in the north) and Bethel (in the south) to make it easier for northern citizens not to have to go to Jerusalem.  Most were taking full advantage of that.  Tobit, however, continued to make the trek to Jerusalem to worship. He claimed he was the only one who did so.  He obviously felt very isolated from his countrymen, though occasionally he took his wife and relatives with him.
  3. Tobit offered sacrifices and gave alms to the temple, the priests, and the poor. When it was time for him to marry, he took a wife from his tribe. His wife’s name was Hannah, which means “Grace.” According to the story, Tobit was among those who were exiled to Nineveh during the reign of Shalmaneser (727-722 BCE).  Most scholars, however, think the deportation of Naphtali occurred under Tiglath-pileser (745-727 BCE). Tobit was a “young man” when this happened. He continued to be an observant Jew while in exile, refusing to eat Gentile food.
  4. As an observant Jew, he followed not only the spirit but also the letter of the law, even in Nineveh. Because he was faithful to the covenant, he was blessed by God. He was in good standing with Shalmaneser and worked in his court. It seems that his position might have been “buyer of provisions.”  This allowed him to travel frequently to Media, where he had family.
  5. His was an important position in Shalmaneser’s court. In gratitude for his services, Shalmaneser gave him ten talents of silver.  Scholars argue over the value of this amount, but it might have been $10,000-$20,000, surely a tidy sum in antiquity. On one of his trips to Media, he managed to give this money to his cousins for safekeeping.
  6. In addition to his work in the court, Tobit gave alms to poor people in Nineveh and made sure that every dead Jew had a proper burial.  Ironically, it would be those good deeds that would get him into trouble. When Sennacherib took over in 705 BCE, he instituted a new policy that the bodies of dead Jews should be left to rot as a message for others.  Undaunted, Tobit defied this law and carried off the bodies to bury them. For a Jew to remain unburied and have his body rot in the open or eaten by animals was the ultimate degradation.
  7. Burying bodies is the main “good work” of the book of Tobit.  After the new king came to power, such actions became very risky.  Tobit was essentially risking his life each time he did it. It was not long before his neighbors turned him in. When the authorities heard what Tobit was doing, they confiscated all of his possessions and would have killed him if he had not vanished, taking his wife and son with him.
Mountaineering[2]

Sir Edmund Hillary born on this day. He was the first man to summit Mt. Everest on May 29, 1953. Climbing a summit is deeply spiritual. Christ climbed tabor, Moses Sinai and even St. Patrick had a favorite climb today call Patrick’s Croagh. We even have Saints that were mountaineers. Today we will look at Pier Giorgio.

Pier Giorgio Michelangelo Frassati was born in Turin, Italy on April 6, 1901. His mother, Adelaide Ametis, was a painter. His father Alfredo was the founder and director of the newspaper, La Stampa," and was influential in Italian politics, holding positions as an Italian Senator and Ambassador to Germany.

At an early age, Pier Giorgio joined the Marian Sodality and the Apostleship of Prayer, and obtained permission to receive daily Communion (which was rare at that time). He developed a deep spiritual life which he never hesitated to share with his friends. The Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin were the two poles of his world of prayer. At the age of 17, he joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society and dedicated much of his spare time to serving the sick and the needy, caring for orphans, and assisting the demobilized servicemen returning from World War I.

He decided to become a mining engineer, studying at the Royal Polytechnic University of Turin, so he could
serve Christ better among the miners," as he told a friend. Although he considered his studies his first duty, they did not keep him from social and political activism. In 1919, he joined the Catholic Student Foundation and the organization known as Catholic Action. He became a very active member of the Peoples Party, which promoted the Catholic Churchs social teaching based on the principles of Pope Leo XIIIs encyclical letter, Rerum Novarum.  

What little he did have, Pier Giorgio gave to help the poor, even using his bus fare for charity and then running home to be on time for meals. The poor and the suffering were his masters, and he was literally their servant, which he considered a privilege. His charity did not simply involve giving something to others, but giving completely of himself. This was fed by daily communion with Christ in the Holy Eucharist and by frequent nocturnal adoration, by meditation on St. Paul’s “Hymn of Charity” (I Corinthians 13), and by the writings of St. Catherine of Siena. He often sacrificed vacations at the Frassati summer home in Pollone (outside of Turin) because, as he said, “If everybody leaves Turin, who will take care of the poor?”

In 1921, he was a central figure in Ravenna, enthusiastically helping to organize the first convention of Pax Romana, an association which had as its purpose the unification of all Catholic students throughout the world for the purpose of working together for universal peace.

Mountain climbing was one of his favorite sports. Outings in the mountains, which he organized with his friends, also served as opportunities for his apostolic work. He never lost the chance to lead his friends to Mass, to the reading of Scripture, and to praying the rosary.

He often went to the theater, to the opera, and to museums. He loved art and music, and could quote whole passages of the poet Dante.

Fondness for the epistles of St. Paul sparked his zeal for fraternal charity, and the fiery sermons of the Renaissance preacher and reformer Girolamo Savonarola and the writings of St. Catherine impelled him in 1922 to join the Lay Dominicans (Third Order of St. Dominic). He chose the name Girolamo after his personal hero, Savonarola. “I am a fervent admirer of this friar, who died as a saint at the stake," he wrote to a friend. Like his father, he was strongly anti-Fascist and did nothing to hide his political views. He physically defended the faith at times involved in fights, first with anticlerical Communists and later with Fascists. Participating in a Church-organized demonstration in Rome on one occasion, he stood up to police violence and rallied the other young people by grabbing the group’s banner, which the royal guards had knocked out of another student’s hands. Pier Giorgio held it even higher, while using the banner’s pole to fend off the blows of the guards.


Just before receiving his university degree, Pier Giorgio contracted poliomyelitis, which doctors later speculated he caught from the sick whom he tended. Neglecting his own health because his grandmother was dying, after six days of terrible suffering Pier Giorgio died at the age of 24 on July 4, 1925. His last preoccupation was for the poor. On the eve of his death, with a paralyzed hand he scribbled a message to a friend, asking him to take the medicine needed for injections to be given to Converso, a poor sick man he had been visiting.

Pier Giorgio’s funeral was a triumph. The streets of the city were lined with a multitude of mourners who were unknown to his family -- the poor and the needy whom he had served so unselfishly for seven years. Many of these people, in turn, were surprised to learn that the saintly young man they knew had actually been the heir of the influential Frassati family. Pope John Paul II, after visiting his original tomb in the family plot in Pollone, said in 1989: “I wanted to pay homage to a young man who was able to witness to Christ with singular effectiveness in this century of ours. When I was a young man, I, too, felt the beneficial influence of his example and, as a student, I was impressed by the force of his testimony."

On May 20, 1990, in St. Peter’s Square which was filled with thousands of people, the Pope beatified Pier Giorgio Frassati, calling him the “Man of the Eight Beatitudes.”


His mortal remains, found completely intact and incorrupt upon their exhumation on March 31, 1981, were transferred from the family tomb in Pollone to the cathedral in Turin. Many pilgrims, especially students and the young, come to the tomb of Blessed Frassati to seek favors and the courage to follow his example.

Daily Devotions
·         Drops of Christ’s Blood
·         90 Days for our Nation, Total Consecration-Day 11



[1]http://www.biblewise.com/bible_study/characters/tobit-and-tobias.php
[2] https://frassatiusa.org/frassati-biography

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