Introduction to Philippians
Philippi, in northeastern Greece, was a city of some importance in the Roman province of Macedonia. Lying on the great road from the Adriatic coast to Byzantium, the Via Egnatia, and in the midst of rich agricultural plains near the gold deposits of Mt. Pangaeus, it was in Paul’s day a Roman town, with a Greek-Macedonian population and a small group of Jews. Originally founded in the sixth century B.C. as Krenides by the Thracians, the town was taken over after 360 B.C. by Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, and was renamed for himself, “Philip’s City.” The area became Roman in the second century B.C. On the plains near Philippi in October 42 B.C., Antony and Octavian decisively defeated the forces of Brutus and Cassius, the slayers of Julius Caesar. Octavian (Augustus) later made Philippi a Roman colony and settled many veterans of the Roman armies there. Paul established at Philippi the first Christian community in Europe. He came to Philippi, via its harbor town of Neapolis (modern Kavalla), on his second missionary journey, probably in A.D. 49 or 50, accompanied by Silas and Timothy and Luke, if he is to be included in the “we”. The Acts account tells of the conversion of a business woman, Lydia; the exorcism of a slave girl; and, after an earthquake, while Paul and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi, the faith and baptism of a jailer and his family. None of these persons, however, is directly mentioned in Philippians. Acts 16 concludes its account by describing how Paul (and Silas), asked by the magistrates to leave Philippi, went on to Thessalonica, where several times his loyal Philippians continued to support him with financial aid. Later, Paul may have passed through Philippi on his way from Ephesus to Greece, and he definitely stopped there on his fateful trip to Jerusalem. Paul’s letter to the Christians at Philippi was written while he was in a prison somewhere, indeed in danger of death. Although under guard for preaching Christ, Paul rejoices at the continuing progress of the gospel and expresses gratitude for the Philippians’ renewed concern and help in an expression of thanks. Much of the letter is devoted to instruction about unity and humility within the Christian community at Philippi and exhortations to growth, joy, and peace in their life together. Paul warns against false teachers who threaten to impose on the Philippians the burdens of the Mosaic law, including circumcision. This beautiful letter is rich in insights into Paul’s theology and his apostolic love and concern for the gospel and his converts. In Philippians, Paul reveals his human sensitivity and tenderness, his enthusiasm for Christ as the key to life and death, and his deep feeling for those in Christ who dwell in Philippi. With them he shares his hopes and convictions, his anxieties and fears, revealing the total confidence in Christ that constitutes faith. The letter incorporates a hymn about the salvation that God has brought about through Christ, applied by Paul to the relations of Christians with one another. Philippians has been termed “the letter of joy”. It is the rejoicing of faith, based on true understanding of Christ’s unique role in the salvation of all who profess his lordship.
SEPTEMBER 21 Ember Wednesday
FEAST OF ST. MATTHEW International Day of Peace
Philippians, Chapter 1, Verse 12-14
12 I want you to know, brothers, that my situation has turned out rather to advance the gospel, 13 so that my imprisonment has become well known in Christ throughout the whole praetorium* and to all the rest, 14 and so that the majority of the brothers, having taken encouragement in the Lord from my imprisonment, dare more than ever to proclaim the word FEARLESSLY.
Christ is preached fearlessly by those who have known Him. You cannot preach Christ unless you know Him. Paul was always a warrior and as such he sought as Saul, before he met Christ, to kill any who got in the way of his purpose and then when Saul met Christ and became Paul; he discovered to live is Christ. To the warrior his purpose is to serve his king.
The power of Purpose
Paul was a leader who never drifted from his mission. George Washington Carver wrote: “No individual has any right to come into the world and go out of it without leaving behind him distinct and legitimate reasons for having passed through it.” Paul purpose kept him in the battle even in prison. Consider the following:
1. A purpose will motivate you.
2. A purpose will keep your priorities straight.
3. A purpose will develop your potential.
4. A purpose will give you power to live in the present.
5. A purpose will help you evaluate your progress.
Ember Days The profound importance of total conversion.
Before the revision of the Catholic Church's liturgical calendar in 1969 (coinciding with the adoption of the Mass of Paul VI), the Church celebrated Ember Days four times each year. They were tied to the changing of the seasons, but also to the liturgical cycles of the Church. The spring Ember Days were the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the First Sunday of Lent; the summer Ember Days were the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Pentecost; the fall Ember Days were the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the third Sunday in September (not, as is often said, after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross); and the winter Ember Days were the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the Feast of Saint Lucy (December 13).
· The Roman Origin of Ember Days: It's common to claim that the dates of important Christian feasts (such as Christmas) were set to compete with or replace certain pagan festivals, even though the best scholarship indicates otherwise. In the case of the Ember Days, however, it's true. As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes: The Romans were originally given to agriculture, and their native gods belonged to the same class. At the beginning of the time for seeding and harvesting religious ceremonies were performed to implore the help of their deities: in June for a bountiful harvest, in September for a rich vintage, and in December for the seeding.
· Keep the Best; Discard the Rest: The Ember Days are a perfect example of how the Church (in the words of the Catholic Encyclopedia) "has always tried to sanctify any practices which could be utilized for a good purpose." The adoption of the Ember Days wasn't an attempt to displace Roman paganism so much as it was a way to avoid disrupting the lives of Roman converts to Christianity. The pagan practice, though directed at false gods, was praiseworthy; all that was necessary was to transfer the supplications to the true God of Christianity.
· An Ancient Practice: The adoption of Ember Days by Christians happened so early that Pope Leo the Great (440-61) considered the Ember Days (with the exception of the one in the spring) to have been instituted by the Apostles. By the time of Pope Gelasius II (492-96), the fourth set of Ember Days had been instituted. Originally celebrated only by the Church in Rome, they spread throughout the West (but not the East), starting in the fifth century.
· The Origin of the Word: The origin of the word "ember" in "Ember Days" is not obvious, not even to those who know Latin. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "Ember" is a corruption (or we might say, a contraction) of the Latin phrase Quatuor Tempora, which simply means "four times," since the Ember Days are celebrated four times per year.
· Optional Today: With the revision of the liturgical calendar in 1969, the Vatican left the celebration of Ember Days up to the discretion of each national conference of bishops. They're still commonly celebrated in Europe, particularly in rural areas. In the United States, the bishops' conference has decided not to celebrate them, but individual Catholics can, and many traditional Catholics still do, because it's a nice way to focus our minds on the changing of the liturgical seasons and the seasons of the year. The Ember Days that fall during Lent and Advent are especially useful to remind children of the reasons for those seasons.
· Marked by Fasting and Abstinence: The Ember Days are celebrated with fasting (no food between meals) and half-abstinence, meaning that meat is allowed at one meal per day. (If you observe the traditional Friday abstinence from meat, then you would observe complete abstinence on an Ember Friday.) As always, such fasting and abstinence has a greater purpose. As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, through these activities, and through prayer, we use the Ember Days to "thank God for the gifts of nature, teach men to make use of them in moderation, and assist the needy."
The term “Ember Days” is derived from the Latin term Quatuor Tempora, which literally means “four times.” There are four sets of Ember Days each calendar year: three days each – Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Ember Days fall at the start of a new season, and they are ordered as days of fast and abstinence. The significance of the days of the week are that Wednesday was the day Christ was betrayed, Friday was the day He was crucified, and Saturday was the day He was entombed. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the purpose of Ember Days, “besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy.” 
Fall Ember Days
Football games and pumpkin spice beverages and foods return; Autumn is upon us. Sadly, that is what the fall season means to so many people. We have lost contact the actual natural signs of the seasons of the year and turn to manmade expressions as signals for the change of seasons. But a pumpkin spice latte and football game aren’t true signals of the season change, because the specially flavored latte tends to return earlier each year, and added pre-season games blur the true end of summer and beginning of Fall. Once again, I turn to the Church’s Ember Days as an aid to looking at nature and the change of seasons and recognizing them all as a gift from God. Ember Days are a quarterly observance the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of one week of each season that “the Church is accustomed to entreat the Lord for the various needs of humanity, especially for the fruits of the earth and for human labor, and to give thanks to him publicly.” (Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, 45).
In addition, the Church provides us two seasons of preparation, Advent and Lent. Both seasons are a time for change of heart and renewal. But naturally the change of seasons seems to tug and encourage us for renewal and change (spring and fall cleaning, anyone?). Although not required, the traditional fasting and abstaining of these days are an external expression of turning our hearts and focusing back to God. Practicing Ember Days is not intended to be a backward-looking movement or living in the past. Ember Days are still a part of the Church’s tradition. There is an unbroken continuum within the Church’s Liturgy. Ember Days may look a bit different than pre-Vatican II (but even before 1962 Maria von Trapp was bemoaning how they were different and disappearing in her contemporary 1955 America), but the Ember Days are still a part of the Church’s living tradition. Ember Days are part of the agrarian heritage of our Faith. The Church recognizes our dependency on God for His gifts of nature. The Liturgy has reflected this connection with nature and God. Before man become so civilized, weather, crops, farm animals and the change of seasons were a part of daily life for everyone. Not everyone lived in rural locations, but there was a recognition of that connection of the land to our life. The agrarian connection also recognized that while man could work the land, he can never control the elements.
Returning to our agricultural roots brings true humility in remembering man’s role on earth as being completely beholden to God. The gift of nature is from God, and man is not and can never be in control of it. While Liturgy always has the balance of the four forms of prayer: adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication, our personal prayers tend to lean heavily on the petition form. The Ember Days were a time dedicated to continuing that petition to help us with our needs, especially with harvests, but also stressing on giving gratitude to God for His generous gifts.
The September Ember Days were one of the first Ember Days established, and they are the most prominent of the quarterly days. The Ember Days in September are outside the main liturgical seasons (Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter) and are closest to the Fall Equinox. The Church recognized the pattern of change of seasons and bringing in the harvest man needs to give thanks and renew our hearts. The public practice of Ember Days within the diocese or parish is dependent on the local Ordinary, so there are many locations that do not observe Ember Days at all. But that doesn’t mean that Ember Days can’t be observed in small ways in our domestic churches. There are prayers, food, decorations and activities that can easily be incorporated by your family. Even if no extra external activities or food are added, the Ember Days can be a simple three-day exercise of remembering to look with wonder at our gifts of nature from God, see the connections in our life, and to use this time to turn our hearts in praise and thanksgiving.
Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, 14 September, are known as "Michaelmas Embertide," and they come near the beginning of Autumn (September, October, November). The Lessons focus on the Old Covenant's Day of Atonement and the fast of the seventh month, but start off with this prophecy from Amos 9:13-15:
Behold the days come, when the ploughman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed, and the mountains shall dop sweetness, and every hill shall be tilled. And I will bring back the captivity of My people Israel, and they shall build the abandoned cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine of them; and shall make gardens and eat the fruits of them; and I will plant them upon their land: and I will no more pluck them out of their land which I have given them; saith the Lord thy God.
Embertides but Whit Embertide, the Lessons end with the story of the three boys
in the fiery furnace, as told by Daniel.
The Gospel readings recount how Jesus exorcised demons from a possessed boy and tells the disciples about fasting to cast out unclean spirits (Matthew 9:16-28), forgave Mary Magdalen (Luke 7:36-50), and healed the woman on the sabbath after telling the parable of the fig tree (Luke 13:6-17).
Feast of Saint Matthew
Put your hope in Christ and not in money, possessions, or position as did the Apostle Matthew.
MATTHEW, also called Levi, a son of Alpheus, and brother of the holy apostle James the Less, was a receiver in the Roman customhouse on Lake Tiberius. Such officers were hated by the Jews for their injustice, and were called publicans, or public sinners. While he was sitting at the receipt of custom, he was called by Christ to be one of His disciples, and immediately leaving his lucrative office and all that he had, followed Him. On account of his distinguished zeal he was afterwards received into the number of the apostles. After the descent of the Holy Ghost he remained in Judea, preached the Gospel, wrote the passion of Our Lord as contained in his gospel, and lived strictly in the fear of God. At a later day he travelled through Persia, Ethiopia, and other countries. At last he was killed at the altar, by command of King Hirtacus, for opposing his marriage with the Princess Iphigenia, who, by St. Matthew’s direction, had vowed to God perpetual virginity. His holy remains were brought to Salerno, Italy in the tenth century. Thus, may great sinners become great saints by following faith fully, like St. Matthew, the voice of God.
At the Introit of the Mass the Church sings: The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom, and his tongue shall speak judgment; the laws of God is in his heart.
Prayer. May we be assisted, O Lord, by the prayers of the blessed apostle Matthew, that what of ourselves we are unable to obtain may be given to us by his intercession.
EPISTLE. Ezech. i. 10-14.
The likeness of the face of the four living creatures: the face of a man, and the face of a lion on the right side of all the four: and the face of an ox on the left side of all the four: and the face of an eagle over all the four. And their faces, and their wings were stretched upward: two wings of every one were joined, and two covered their bodies: and every one of them went straight forward: whither the impulse of the spirit was to go, thither they went: and they turned not when they went. And as for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like that of burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps. This was the vision running to and fro in the midst of the living creatures, a bright fire, and lightning going forth from the fire. And the living creatures ran and returned like flashes of lightning.
GOSPEL. Matt. ix. 9-13.
At that time Jesus saw a man sitting in the customhouse, named Matthew: and He saith to him: Follow Me. And he rose up and followed Him. And it came to pass as He was sitting at meat in the house, behold many publicans and sinners came, and sat down with Jesus and His disciples. And the Pharisees seeing it, said to His disciples: “Why doth your master eat with publicans and sinners? But Jesus hearing it, said: They that are in health need not a physician, but they that are ill. Go then and learn what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice. For I am not come to call the just, but sinners.
Explanation. This gospel teaches us:
1. That when God calls, we should obey at once, lest, by not giving heed to His voice, he should cease to call us, or withdraw from us His grace.
2. To forsake the occasions of sin; as St. Matthew not only left the place where he sinned, but abandoned entirely the very house and office which had led him into sin.
3. That we should not only cease to sin, but, like St. Matthew, should follow Christ in poverty, humility, meekness, patience, if we would enter the kingdom of God.
Prayer. O holy apostle, who hast made ready for us a glorious feast in thy gospel, pray for me that thy gospel may be in truth food for my soul; pray that in it I may devoutly consider the life, virtues, passion and death of Jesus Christ, that I may faithfully follow, in all things, thy words, written by inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and by the operation of the same Spirit may be able to exclaim: How sweet are thy words to my palate! more than honey to my mouth.
St Matthew Facts
· Tax collectors worked for Rome, and not only did Jews pay Roman taxes to them, the collectors received a percentage for their own profit. Jews in good standing did not associate with publicans.
· Once Matthew begins to follow Jesus, he holds a dinner for other tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10). The Pharisees, the strict Jewish law abiders that were leaders in the community, complained about Jesus, a teacher eating with sinners. Jesus said, "For I have come to call the not the righteous but the sinners." (Matthew 9:13)
· Early church writers claim that after Jesus' death and resurrection that Matthew preached Christianity in Persia, Macedonia, and Syria.
· In the Orthodox Church, tradition says that St. Matthew refused to die even after several attempts. He was first placed upside down and lit on fire, then sunk in a coffin in the sea overnight. The ruler of Ethiopia, who tried to kill Matthew, apologized to the apostle and converted to Christianity.
· St Matthew was one of Jesus' 12 disciples and writer of the Gospel of Matthew. His feast day is held on September 21 in the Roman Catholic Church and November 16 in the Orthodox faith.
Things to Do
· Do something for the needy: money for missions, donations of clothing or toys, canned goods drive, etc.
· Take time to read St. Matthew's Gospel, keeping in mind that St. Matthew depicts the humanity of Christ and emphasizes His physical sufferings. He makes frequent reference to the fulfillment of prophecies because he wrote to Jews and to Jewish Christians.
· Discuss St. Matthew's call from Christ "Follow me" with your children and how we are all called to belong to the family of God.
· Pray for people who work for financial institutions.
· Make Silver Dollar Pancakes, you can use this recipe on Catholic Cuisine's website or one of the suggestions we offer under recipes.
International Day of Peace
International Day of Peace seeks to promote peace among nations and peoples. Peace is recognized as both an innate state of being, and a dynamic evolutionary process wherein constructive growth can occur and the children of this and future generations may gain hope for a better world to inherit. International Day of Peace was established by the United Nations in 1981. In 2002, the United Nations declared it a permanent holiday. Through education and public awareness events, the UN endeavors to strengthen the ideals of peace among all of the world's inhabitants. International Day of Peace is observed on September 21st each year. On this day, the UN urges all hostilities to stop, worldwide.
Inner Peace of Christ
On Dec. 14, 1989, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released its "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation." This document, approved by Pope John Paul II, recognizes that some Christians, experiencing a "spiritual restlessness arising from a life subjected to the driving pace of a technologically advanced society," have investigated certain Eastern techniques of prayer, seeking "a path to interior peace and psychic balance." Eastern methods of prayer often depart from Christian principles by "abandoning not only meditation on the salvific works accomplished in history by the God of the Old and New Covenant, but also the very idea of the One and Triune God." Instead, inner peace and union with the Absolute is attained by "immersion 'in the indeterminate abyss of the divinity'"; hence, a person can lose his identity by being "swallowed up" by the Deity. Contemporary Catholics seeking inner peace need not dive headlong into Eastern mysticism. A host of Catholic writers has advocated ways by which spiritual happiness may be realized. One of the best but least recognized guides is Saint Leonard of Port Maurice (1676-1751), a Franciscan friar known for his preaching in defense of the Immaculate Conception. He offered four "rules" to help achieve peace of soul.
1. To be attached only to God. Status and wealth may be beneficial, but to be overly concerned about them is to invite inner spiritual havoc. The soul's primary need is communication with its Creator. One needs to view objects and persons in reference to God and His will if peace is to reign. To be "dead" to the world and creatures is paramount.
2. To surrender to Divine Providence. All Catholic spiritual writers are unanimous on this point: Sanctity and inner peace are attained only when God's will holds sway. The Lord knows best. Humbly accepting His will is vastly different from reluctantly putting up with it. When a person yields to the divine plan, he demonstrates a belief that God will sustain him--come what may.
3. To welcome suffering and hardship. Human nature tends to resist difficulties. Yet, spiritual perfection entails carrying the cross of Jesus. Scorn and rejection from others--while hardly pleasant--must be seen as an opportunity to experience solidarity with the suffering Christ.
4. To undertake only that which our situation in life demands. Often a person takes upon himself too many activities at once. "The more, the better" does not necessarily apply in the realm of good works. Prudence dictates what one can accomplish. Inner turmoil may spring from a plethora of activities, even when they are morally good acts. Prayer and counsel will determine what to undertake and what to forego.
When thousands are turning to Eastern methods of prayer in search of peace, Catholics should take heed of the advice offered nearly three centuries ago by this Italian preacher. Happiness of soul occurs when a person conforms himself to Christ through acceptance of the Father's will. Only then may one experience the peace which the world cannot give (cf. John 14:27).
Catechism of the Catholic Church
PART TWO: THE CELEBRATION OF THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY
SECTION TWO-THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS OF THE CHURCH
Article 7-THE SACRAMENT OF MATRIMONY
VI. The Domestic Church
1655 Christ chose to be born and grow up in the bosom of the holy family of Joseph and Mary. the Church is nothing other than "the family of God." From the beginning, the core of the Church was often constituted by those who had become believers "together with all [their] household." When they were converted, they desired that "their whole household" should also be saved. These families who became believers were islands of Christian life in an unbelieving world.
1656 In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. For this reason the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica. It is in the bosom of the family that parents are "by word and example . . . the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each child, fostering with special care any religious vocation."
1657 It is here that the father of the family, the mother, children, and all members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way "by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity." Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and "a school for human enrichment." Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous - even repeated - forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one's life.
1658 We must also remember the great number of single persons who, because of the particular circumstances in which they have to live - often not of their choosing - are especially close to Jesus' heart and therefore deserve the special affection and active solicitude of the Church, especially of pastors. Many remain without a human family often due to conditions of poverty. Some live their situation in the spirit of the Beatitudes, serving God and neighbor in exemplary fashion. the doors of homes, the "domestic churches," and of the great family which is the Church must be open to all of them. "No one is without a family in this world: the Church is a home and family for everyone, especially those who 'labor and are heavy laden.'"
Every Wednesday is Dedicated to St. Joseph
The Italian culture has always had a close association with St. Joseph perhaps you could make Wednesdays centered around Jesus’s Papa. Plan an Italian dinner of pizza or spaghetti after attending Mass as most parishes have a Wednesday evening Mass. You could even do carry out to help restaurants. If you are adventurous, you could do the Universal Man Plan: St. Joseph style. Make the evening a family night perhaps it could be a game night. Whatever you do make the day special.
· Litany of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus
 John Maxwell, The Maxwell Leadership Bible.
 Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896.