Paul is the author of nearly half of the New Testament. He was an enemy of the Gospel and an enemy of Jesus, thinking Him a perversion of all that he was taught and taught himself as a Jewish Pharisee. Shortly after the event of the Resurrection of Jesus, as the Christian Church was just beginning to grow, Paul was on his way to arrest and possibly execute Christians in Damascus. He had already been involved in the death of the first martyr, Stephen. On his way to the great city, Paul encountered the risen Jesus. In a moment his life was changed and shortly thereafter was baptized. Paul went from being a persecutor of Jesus’s followers to His foremost preacher in the first century. The result of his encounter with the risen Jesus was not so much a conversion as it was an understanding that Jesus was the totally unexpected fulfillment of all the prophecies and longings of his people.
Acts 17:6 records that one of the accusations against Paul and his Christian companions was that they were “turning the world upside down.” Indeed they were! They were doing so because the Gospel is liberating and life-changing; it knocks down walls of division, whether those walls are Jew-Gentile, rich-poor, black-white, or any other divisions. Paul was at the forefront of the Church that grew because of the witness of lives that were dramatically different. The first Christians were recognized by the radical love they had for each other, regardless of race or class, and most especially by their love for their enemies.
We long to see the Lord turn our world upside down with the Gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit, and to knock down the walls as only He can.
St. Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene is known as “the apostle to the apostles” in the Catholic Church. She was the privileged one to be the first to meet the risen Jesus on that Sunday we call Easter. According to the Gospel of Luke, Mary was a woman out of whom Jesus drove seven demons. You could say this was one messed up woman! But Jesus freed her, and because of the new life He gave her she not only accompanied Jesus and apostles but helped provide for them out of her financial means. She is an extraordinary model for the work of evangelization, and demonstrates the power Jesus possesses to heal and free like no other.
It has been said that those who have been rescued, rescue others. These words wonderfully describe Mary. She was rescued by the Lord Jesus, and then spent the entirety of her life doing all she could to tell others of the One who came so as to free us from the powers of Sin and Death. We aspire to do the same!
St. Anne is the mother of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Anne is the patroness of the Archdiocese of Detroit and has been linked with the Church in Detroit from the very beginning. On July 24, 1701, Antoine de la Mothe-Cadillac and his companions landed in Detroit. Two days later, Mass was celebrated in a make-shift chapel on the feast of St. Anne (July 26). Saint Anne Parish–beginning with the first settlement until now–is the second oldest continuously operating Catholic parish in the United States.
Blessed Solanus Casey
Detroit is the burial place of the newest blessed in the Catholic Church in the United States, Fr. Solanus Casey. Fr. Solanus was a Capuchin friar who served in Detroit, Indiana, and New York. There are countless stories of men, women, and children who came to St. Bonaventure Monastery on Mt. Eliot in Detroit to meet him, seek his counsel, and especially to be prayed with by him. There are numerous stories of miraculous events taking place after those meetings, and even unto this day from people who come to pray at his tomb, a growing place of pilgrimage.
Fr. Solanus was a simple man of simple faith. In many ways, you could say, he didn’t do anything remarkable. He was what was called a simplex priest, meaning that he was not allowed to preach doctrinal sermons or to hear confessions. He was given the task of being the porter at the monastery. He was the door man! In a certain sense, we could say, Solanus did nothing. But he did nothing extraordinary well–because he did everything animated with the love of Jesus. This simple man with simple faith is the one who is remembered by all those who came to the Monastery. He was, in the words of one man who knew him, a “replica” of St. Francis of Assisi.
Archbishop Vigneron describes Solanus as “a model for the work of evangelization…In his years of humble service as doorkeeper to St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, Father Solanus met everyone who came to him—Catholic or non-Catholic—with the warmth and compassion of Christ. He provided soup for the hungry, kind words for the troubled, and Christ's healing grace for the sick—always with the good news that in Christ God loves and cares for his world. Father Solanus was a walking proclamation of God's love. May we follow his example!”
Fr. Gabriel Richard
The motto of the city of Detroit was penned in 1805. It was written shortly after a fire that devastated the entire city. In English, the motto reads, “We hope for better things; she will arise from the ashes.” The word translated “arise” in English is the Latin word for resurrect. This word, obviously, is a deeply Christian word; so too is the word “hope.” Hope is not mere wishful thinking; hope is certainty. It finds its reason for certainty in the power, action, and love of God, a love that is fully seen in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This motto was written by the French priest Fr. Gabriel Richard, one-time pastor of St. Anne in Detroit, and now buried in one of the Church’s chapels.
We in Acts XXIX find this motto to be one that is being actualized in our day and age. We have witnessed a remarkable transformation in the City of Detroit in recent years. There is still a long, long way to go, but the city is experiencing building and revival on a scale we have not seen in decades. People are moving back into the city in droves, new restaurants, shops, and hotels are popping up almost every week. These things are all signs of new life arising from the ashes.
Spiritually speaking, Archbishop Allen Vigneron has been at the forefront of the renewal of the Catholic Church in Detroit, first by calling for a synod on the New Evangelization, then writing his apostolic letter, Unleash the Gospel, and now going about the work of helping people to encounter Jesus so as to grow as His disciples so as to bear witness to others of the difference He, and He alone, can make.
We find Fr. Gabriel Richard to be a most timely figure for the work we are about. Acts XXIX is eager to partner and collaborate with other Catholics in the city, as well as other Christian brothers and sisters, and indeed all men and women of good will. We passionately and firmly believe God wants to do something extraordinary here in our city. Quite simply, if Detroit can resurrect, any place can.
The Archbishop writes, “Some might say that the Archdiocese of Detroit is a most unlikely setting for a large-scale revitalization of the Church. But is it not in the most unlikely settings that the Lord loves to show forth his divine power? Our acknowledgement of our own spiritual poverty is precisely what can lead us to rely wholly on God. Then it becomes clear that success belongs to him alone and not to any human ingenuity.”