Monday, November 28, 2011

The Present Moment

Meanwhile, the present alone is ours, and we let it slip through our fingers. The past is gone, whether for evil or for good, to be stored up in better hands than ours. The future still belongs to God alone; and it is not the least of His wonderful mercies that He keeps it entirely to Himself. It is what I am now, not what I have been or shall be, it is what I do now, not what I have done or shall do, that here and now matters most, to me, to God and to all the world besides.
Those who face what is actually before them, unburdened by the past, undistracted by the future, are they who live, who make the best use of their lives. These are those who have found the secret of contentment. For such, there is no day that cannot be lived through, no matter what it may bring. There is no circumstance that cannot be put to the best advantage, no matter how contrary and galling.
~ from Spiritual Excellence by Alban Goodier

Thursday, November 24, 2011

In Thanksgiving to God

From a homily by Fr. Mark:
   The Mayflower Puritans, you will remember, fled Europe to put far behind them, once and for all, altar and priest, chalice and paten, saints, feast-days, and every Popish trapping and Romish invention.  The Puritans of Plymouth and of New Haven deemed the Mass an abomination.  They judged even the Protestantized Communion Service of the Church of England by far too Catholic.  The Puritans grasped the link between thanksgiving and fruitfulness but, having rejected the Mass, they had no way to express it sacramentally.  The Thanksgiving festival emerged in a Eucharistic void, in a culture bereft of altar and of priest.  The Puritans of Plymouth and of the New Haven Colony would be horrified to see their “Thanksgiving” observed today in a Papist nunnery with the Romish Sacrifice of the Mass!

     For our part, being incurably Papist and given to everything Romish, Thanksgiving Day falls within the greater Catholic rhythm of a life measured by thy Holy Sacrifice.  We live from Mass to Mass, from one Great Thanksgiving to another.  To be Catholic is “always and everywhere to give thanks.”  To be Catholic is to live eucharistically, drawn into the prayer of Christ to the Father and the fruitfulness that comes from the Holy Spirit.

     The Eucharistic life is a ceaseless thanksgiving; it is thanksgiving, semper et ubique, always and everywhere.  Saint Benedict teaches us the same thing: to bless always giving primacy to the praise of God, to forswear grumbling and murmuring, so as to enter, day after day, into the thanksgiving of Christ to the Father.

     We go the altar today, as we did yesterday and as we will tomorrow: to enter into the Great Thanksgiving of Christ our Eternal High Priest.  We go to the altar because there is no other way for us to be fruitful, no other way to bear “fruit that will abide” (Jn 15:16).  May he take us to himself, and draw us after him, beyond the veil (cf. Heb 6:19), into the presence of the Father.  There it is always Thanksgiving; there is made ready for us a feasting that “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived” (1 Cor 2:9), the wedding feast of the Lamb (cf. Rev 19:9). (Read entire homily.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

When Chastity is Loveless

Fr. Mark quotes the saints.
A haughty and coldhearted chastity is an affront to the King of Virgins. Purity of heart disposes one to receive the living flame of divine love, a love that manifests itself above all in mercy, in gentleness, and in humility. In this regard, I cannot help but think of Father Lev Gillet -- the "monk of the Eastern Church" -- who synthesized in his very person a childlike purity and a boundless compassion in the face of every weakness and sin. In one of his dialogues with Our Lord, Father Lev hears Him say:
Take to thyself everything in the sinner which, however deviously, comes from Me and continues to be Mine. Discover in the midst of the visible impurities and egoisms the secret action of My absolute Purity, and of the generosity of Love. Unite thyself to My effort to transfigure what is not of Me. By thy brotherly prayer, by thy sympathy, not for the sin but for the sinner, join in My work of purification (In Thy Presence, p. 64).
(Read entire post.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Return to Paris

The Carmelite friars have returned to Paris.
PARIS-FRANCE (16-10-2011).- On the feast of St. Teresa, the Discalced Friars of Paris returned to the very heart of Paris, 400 years after the original foundation.

The return of the Carmelites to “Rue de Vaugirard” -the site of their home on their arrival in 1611 - marked a very special occasion for the Carmelite Province of Paris and, indeed, for the whole Church in Paris. It was heralded with a series of conferences at the Catholic Institute of Paris and a special concert. It concluded with solemn celebration of the Feast of St. Teresa in the Carmelite Church of San Jose.

During the series of lectures, a distinguished group of historians, theologians and philosophers analysed the repercussion of the arrival of Carmelites in the religious and cultural context of 17th century France. Their contribution to the Catholic Reform was also discussed as were themes of personal relationship with God and Carmel’s place in contemporary society.

Celebrations marking the re-inauguration of a Carmelite presence in central Paris concluded with solemn Eucharist in the Church of San Jose on St. Teresa’s feast day. The Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, presided and Fr. General was also present. (More.)

Friday, November 18, 2011

The New English Translation of the Missal

"This is the chalice of my blood."
Currently, the priest refers to Jesus’ blood as having redemptive value “for all”:

“This is the cup of My blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins…”

But as of November 27, the new translation replaces the words “for all” with “for many.”

Some have raised concerns that the words “for many” limit the universal scope of Jesus’ saving mission.  They hold that the revision implies that Jesus did not die on the cross for everyone—that he offered his blood on Calvary not “for all” but just for a select group of people, “for many.”  This is a misunderstanding of the text.
First, we should happily note that the new translation renders more exactly Jesus’ words at the Last Supper. There our Lord said that His blood was shed “for many” (see Matthew 26:28). It is also more harmonious with the Latin text of the Mass, as has been used for centuries.

Above and beyond all else, the new translation points to the grievous reality that, although Jesus died for all, not everyone chooses to accept the gift of salvation. Every individual must choose, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, to embrace salvation in Christ and live according to God’s grace, and so be counted among “the many,” the holy elect.

A number of Scripture scholars have observed that the particular language of the Last Supper recalls “the many” that are three times mentioned in Isaiah 53:11-12.  In this prophecy, Isaiah foretold that God would eventually send His servant as “an offering for sin,” to bear the transgressions of “many” and making “many” righteous (Isaiah 53:10-12).  Jesus, by speaking thusly of His own blood being poured out “for many,” consciously associated Himself with the Suffering Servant foreshadowed by Isaiah.  Jesus is the One who offers His life for the “many.”

[....]

In closing, let us briefly consider one other change to the words of consecration: This is the cup of my Bloodwill soon become, This is the chalice of my Blood.
The choice to use “chalice” instead of “cup” reflects a formalized rendering of the Latin text. It underscores the solemn and sacred qualities of the liturgy. It also reminds worshipers that the bread and wine are no ordinary meal, but the Body and Blood of the Lord, offered in holy vessels set aside from daily use. (Read entire post.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Meditation on Death, Part III

Here are more words from St. Alphonsus Liguori, a Doctor of the Church. Gentle and scholarly, the saint did not mince words when it came to warning people about the end of life.
Consider that death is a moment on which eternity depends. Take a view of a man who is on the point of expiring, and reflect that he is just going to enter into one or other of two eternities; his fate is pending but for a moment: when that is expired, he is either saved or condemned forever. O this last breath! O this moment on which depends an eternity!an eternity either of torment or of glory; an eternity either always happy or always miserable; an eternity either of all that is good or of all that is evil; an eternity either of heaven or of hell. If you are then saved, you will be secure from all evils, and at the summit of happiness and content; if you are condemned, you will live in punishment and despair as long as God will be God. In death you will understand the meaning of heaven, hell, sin, an offended God, the contempt of divine laws, sins concealed in confession, ill-gotten goods unrestored, injustices not pardoned. "Unhappy me!" will the dying man say, "in a few moments I must appear in the presence of God. What will my sentence be? Whither shall I go? To heaven or to hell? Shall I be happy with the saints or burned with the damned? Shall I be a child of God or a slave of the devil? Alas! But a minute more and I shall know; and the destiny which I shall then receive will last for all eternity." Then will you detest a thousand times the day on which you had the misfortune to sin. But it will be too late; your sorrow will be fruitless, because it will proceed from the fear and not from the love of God. Ah, my God! from this hour I will turn to thee: I will not delay my repentance until death. I now love thee, I embrace thee, and I wish to die in Thy embraces. O Mary! my true Mother, let me die under thy protection: help me at that critical and decisive moment.
~from Preparation for Death by St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 396-397

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Meditation on Death, Part II

St. Alphonsus continues to explain why it is important to be prepared for death ahead of time.
Consider that, at the hour of your death, you will be extended on a bed, with your relatives and friends weeping over you, a priest to assist you, a lighted taper by your side, within one step of the terrible passage into eternity. Your head will be oppressed with pain, your eyes will become dim, your tongue parched with heat, your blood cooling in your veins, and your heart in agony: you will see the world passing from before you. No sooner will your soul become separated from your body than you will be stripped of all things, and cast into the earth to rot. There you will become the food of worms, which will gnaw and devour your flesh, and in a short time nothing will remain of your body but a few withered bones and a little dust. Open a grave, and take a view of the state of that rich and avaricious man! of that vain woman! Ah! Such is the termination of human life; such is the end of mortal man, and such will soon be yours. But penetrate with the eyes of faith into the other world, and see the condition in which your soul will be placed. It will instantly be surrounded by the monsters of hell, representing before you all the sins that you have committed from your very childhood. At present the devil hides from you the malice of your crimes: he persuades you that there is little evil in this act of vanity, this indulgence, this resentment, this dangerous company; but in death he will display before your eyes the enormity of your sins, to make you despair. Then you will discover in the light of God himself the evil which you have committed in offending his infinite goodness. Ah! Hasten then, whilst time remains, to make reparation for what is past: at the hour of death it will be too late.

~from Preparation for Death by St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 395-396

Thursday, November 10, 2011

St. Leo the Great

From Nobility:
Leo’s pontificate, next to that of St. Gregory I, is the most significant and important in Christian antiquity. At a time when the Church was experiencing the greatest obstacles to her progress in consequence of the hastening disintegration of the Western Empire, while the Orient was profoundly agitated over dogmatic controversies, this great pope, with far-seeing sagacity and powerful hand, guided the destiny of the Roman and Universal Church.

Leo was descended of a noble Tuscan family, but born at Rome. His father’s name was Quintianus. Our earliest certain historical information about Leo reveals him a deacon of the Roman Church under Pope Celestine I (422-32). Even during this period he was known outside of Rome, and had some relations with Gaul, since Cassianus in 430 or 431 wrote at Leo’s suggestion his work “De Incarnatione Domini contra Nestorium” (Migne, P.L., L, 9 sqq.), prefacing it with a letter of dedication to Leo.

During the pontificate of Sixtus III (422-40), Leo was sent to Gaul by Emperor Valentinian III to settle a dispute and bring about a reconciliation between Aëtius, the chief military commander of the province, and the chief magistrate, Albinus. This commission is a proof of the great confidence placed in the clever and able deacon by the Imperial Court. Sixtus III died on 19 August, 440, while Leo was in Gaul, and the latter was chosen his successor. Returning to Rome, Leo was consecrated on 29 September of the same year, and governed the Roman Church for the next twenty-one years.

Whilst the Eastern empire was distracted by heretical factions, the Western was harassed by barbarians. Attila the Hun, enriched with the plunder of many nations and cities, marched against Rome. The Huns, a savage nation from that part of Scythia which now lies in Muscovy, had passed the Palus Mæotis, in 276, and made their first inroads upon the coasts of the Caspian Sea, and as far as Mount Taurus in the East. Almost two hundred years after this, Attila, the most powerful and barbarous of all the kings of that nation, in 433, had marched first into the East, then subject to Theodosius the Younger, and having amassed a vast booty in Asia, returned into Pannonia, where he was already master of a large territory. (Read entire article.)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Blessed Francisco Palau y Quer

A saint with a passion for the Church.
In 1860-61 he (Bl. Francisco Palau) founded the Congregations of the Carmelite Brothers and Sisters in Balearic Islands. In 1867 the Apostolic Commissary of the Discalced Carmelites of Spain appointed Fr. Francisco to be the Director of the Tertiaries of the Order and in 1872 he wrote the Rules and Constitutions of the Tertiary Order.

His spiritual life centered on the Church as a "loved person", a Mystical Body, but also a Mystical Person with whom he could relate. No where in Christian history do we have anyone else with this Church-centered mysticism. He sees the personality of the Church is mystical and the living reality of the Church is an unfathomable mystery. One of the aspects of this mystery is the joining of Her visible structures with the supreme reality of love among men and their love of Christ in the Holy Spirit, Who gives Her life and gathers Her into unity. He teaches that Christ and mankind cannot be separated from each other and he sees the Church as The Whole Christ, The Mystical Christ. This is a bountiful topic for meditation that can bring us a deeper love of, and Obedience to, the Church.

His second original intuition for the spiritual life, and later corresponded with Vatican II, is that to think of Our Blessed Mother independently of the framework of the Church would distort her person and her mission. Mary is the perfect model of the Church's holiness and purity and the mirror in which all the perfections of the Church are reflected.

Our beloved brother in Carmel left us with an indispensable condition for keeping our apostolic service free from purely human interest and professional attitudes. He taught that supernatural motivation nourished by prayer is required. And he stressed that prayer and the theological virtues are the double cornerstone of the spiritual life, but it cannot endure without a constant attitude of self-denial. This is shared from his personal experiences.

Bl. Palau enlarged the spirituality of the Teresian Carmel. He challenges us to press on tirelessly whenever love may call us in the service of our brothers and sisters and of the Church. He says, "I live and will live for the Church; I live and will die for her." 
(Read more.)

More HERE.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Praying for the Holy Souls

Some thoughts from Fr. Mark:
The offering of the Precious Blood of Christ for the Holy Souls is a mighty form of intercession on their behalf. Given that I am a firm believer in the value of repetitive prayer, of simple invocations repeated over and over again in the form of a chaplet or rosary, I began to pray for the Holy Souls in this way. Readers of Vultus Christi may want to make this prayer their own during the month of November, even on a daily basis. It is prayed on an ordinary rosary.
On the large beads:
V. Eternal Father,
I offer Thee the Precious Blood of Thy Beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Lamb without blemish or spot (1 P 1:19) --
R. For the refreshment and deliverance of the souls in Purgatory.

(One can add here, especially those of my family, or of my ancestry, or of priests. The Holy Spirit sometimes moves one to pray for particular groups of Holy Souls.)
Ten times on the small beads:
V. By Thy Precious Blood, O Jesus --
R. Purify and deliver their souls.

After having said five decades, one concludes with:
V. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
R. And let perpetual light shine upon them.
V. May they rest in peace.
R. Amen.

(Read entire post.)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

To Hope Against All Hope

Some wisdom from Dom Marmion:
Nothing is more pleasing to God than unshaken faith and confidence in the midst of darkness. Make great practice of acts of confidence, even when you feel nothing. It is precisely in these moments of dryness and darkness that these acts are most meritorious, most pleasing to God and most useful to your soul. Ordinary souls, that have not given themselves without reserve to God, find no difficulty in making acts of love and confidence in God during times of consolation and success, but it is the property of those whom God calls to union, to more intimate familiarity with Himself, to persist in hoping in Him in spite of every appearance which might tend to make them doubt the Divine promises. Such as these say with holy Job: ‘Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him.’ (Job 13:15). They say to God: ‘My God you are my Father, Your Son Jesus has said that You are our Father, that you love us, that You never refuse anything we ask in His Name. My God I believe all this, and although the world, the devil and all Hell should tell me the contrary, I believe Your word simply because You have said it.’ Never forget that faith is the beginning, the progress and the consummation of perfection.” (13th January 1895) (Read entire post.)

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Abyss of Death

From a recent homily by Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI:
The passage taken from the prophet Hosea turns our thoughts immediately to the resurrection of Jesus, to the mystery of his death and his rising to unending life. This text of Hosea -- the first half of Chapter 6 -- was deeply impressed upon the heart and mind of Jesus. In fact, more than once in the Gospels he repeats Verse 6: "I want love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God more than holocausts." Jesus does not cite Verse 2 but he makes it his own and he realizes it in the Paschal Mystery: "After two days he will give life back to us and on the third he will raise us up again, and we will live in his presence." In the light of these words the Lord Jesus entered into the passion, he decisively embarked upon the road to the cross; he spoke openly to his disciples of what must happen to him in Jerusalem, and the words of the Prophet Hosea echoed in his own words: "The Son of man will be given over into the hands of men and they will kill him; but, once he is killed, after three days, he will rise again" (Mark 9:31).

The evangelist observes that the disciples "did not understand these words and they were afraid to question him" (9:32). We too, in the face of death, cannot fail to experience the sentiments and thoughts characteristic of our human condition. And we are always surprised and overcome by a God who draws so close to us that he does not even stop before the abyss of death, who rather passes through it, remaining for two days in the tomb. But exactly here the mystery of the "third day" occurs. Christ takes on our mortal flesh completely that it might be invested with the glorious power of God, by the breath of the life-giving Spirit, who transforms and regenerates it. This is the baptism of the passion (Luke 12:50), which Jesus received for us and about which St. Paul writes in the Letter to the Romans. The expression used by the Apostle -- "baptized into his death" -- never ceases to strike us, such is the concision with which he summarizes the dizzying mystery. Christ's death is the font of life, for into it God poured all of his love, as in a great cataract, which makes us think of the image of Psalm 41: "Abyss calls to abyss, in the roar of your torrents; all your billows and waves have passed over me" (8). The abyss of death is filled by another abyss that is greater still, namely, the love of God, which is such that death no longer has power over Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 8:9), nor over them who, by faith and baptism, are associated with him: "If we have died with Christ," says St. Paul, "we believe that we will also live with him" (Romans 8:8). This "living with Jesus" is the fulfillment of the hope prophesied by Hosea: "… and we will live in his presence" (6:2).

In truth, it is only in Christ that such a hope finds its real foundation. Before [Christ] it ran the risk of becoming an illusion, a symbol taken from the rhythm of the seasons: "like the autumn rain, like the spring rain" (Hosea 6:3). At the time of the Prophet Hosea the faith of the Israelites was in danger of being contaminated with the naturalistic religions of the land of Canaan, but this faith is not able to save anyone from death. But God's intervention in the drama of human history does not obey any natural cycle; it only obeys his grace and faithfulness. The new and eternal life is the fruit of the tree of the cross, a tree that blossoms and bears fruit from the light of the sun of God. Without the cross of Christ all the energy of nature remains impotent before the negative force of sin. A beneficent force greater than that which moves the cycles of nature, a Good greater than that of creation itself: a love that proceeds from the "heart" itself of God and that, while it reveals the ultimate meaning of creation, renews it and directs it toward its original and final goal. (Read entire homily.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Meditation on Death, Part I

Consider that this life may soon terminate. The sentence is already passed: You must die. Death is certain, but the moment of it is uncertain: we know not when it will come. But to how many casualties and accidents is human life constantly exposed? The bleeding of an artery, a stroke of apoplexy, the bite of a venomous animal, an inundation, an earthquake, a thunderbolt, and numberless other causes that we can neither foresee nor prevent, may deprive you instantly of human life. Death may surprise you when you least expect it. How many have gone to bed at night in apparent good health, and in the morning have been found dead? And may not the same happen to you? Numberless others, who have been visited by sudden death, never expected to die in that manner; and, if they were then found in mortal sin, what is now their fate, and what will it be through all eternity? But, at all events, it is certain that either the night, or the day will come, when you will no more see the night. "I shall come," says Jesus Christ, "like a thief in the night, when I am the least expected." Matt. xxiv.44. Your good master warns you of this beforehand, because he wishes your salvation. O Sinner! Correspond, then, with this mercy, profit by this admonition, hold yourself always in readiness for death. When that moment comes there will be no time for preparation. Consider well that you must certainly die. The scene of this world must soon terminate for you, though you know not when. Who can tell whether it will be within a year, within a month, within a week, or even whether you will be alive tomorrow? Oh my Jesus! Give me light, and pardon me.

~from Preparation for Death by St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 394
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