you increased my strength of soul.
Psalm 137 
. . .
This morning before looking at the Mass readings, I read the excerpt from a sermon of Pope Leo the Great, which was set for the office of reading, paraphrasing the bits about St Gabriel for my 5-year-old son. His middle name (one of his middle names) is Gabriel, so this is his feast day. We talked about Gabriel's Very Important Message to Mary, and Gabriel being the strength of God. If it had been possible, I would have taken him to Mass. Probably it is just as well: sitting still and paying attention don't seem celebratory when you're five. Better to have a treat at your favourite bakery to mark the day. But I was glad for the moment for a conversation, to remind us why we were marking the day.
Rich Mullins wrote a song called 'Boy like me'. The chorus goes something like this: 'Did they tell you stories 'bout the saints of old, / stories about their faith? / They say stories like that make a boy grow bold / stories like that make a man walk straight.' It strikes me that one of the key ways that our souls are strengthened is through those stories, the stories that identify us with 'the saints of old'. One of the most important lessons I have learned through those stories--especially in the Psalms, perhaps, but elsewhere in the scripture also, as well as in the lives of the saints--is that the shape of my life as a Christian should follow the very basic plot outlined in the above verse from Psalm 137. In times of need, call on God. God will answer, and God will increase my strength of soul--sometimes through the stories (and the prayers) of those very saints.