Monday, October 31, 2011

All Hallows' Eve

For the ancient Celts, November 1 was Samhain, their New Year's day. It is not necessary to detail some of the more gruesome pagan customs which accompanied the festivities in pre-Christian times, customs which eventually disappeared as the Faith spread and took hold. Nevertheless, on a more positive note, the Celts believed that on the day in question the veil between the worlds grew thin, and one could easily pass from world to world, from time into eternity.

As Christians, in celebrating the Solemnity of All Saints, the sacred liturgy permits us to glimpse the place where the blessed ones dwell in light. We are led to think of all the dead, of the awe-inspiring realties of death, judgment, heaven and hell. On All Souls' Day we recall those who are still undergoing purgation in the realm beyond time. We, too, through the Mass and through prayer, pass from world to world, for all is present to God.

Here is an article (via A Conservative Blog for Peace) which elucidates on the history of All Hallows' Eve, the pagan versus Christian aspects and how the Irish, French, Germans, and English brought it all to North America. To quote:
Halloween can still serve the purpose of reminding us about Hell and how to avoid it. Halloween is also a day to prepare us to remember those who have gone before us in Faith, those already in Heaven and those still suffering in Purgatory. The next time someone claims Halloween is a cruel trick to lure our children into devil worship, I suggest you tell them the real origin of Halloween and let them know about its Catholic roots and significance. (By Fr Scott Archer)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween: Christian or Pagan?

Here is an excellent bit of exegesis from Mystagogy:
The story is, in fact, more complicated. By the mid-fourth century Christians in the Mediterranean world were keeping a feast in honour of all those who had been martyred under the pagan emperors; it is mentioned in the Carmina Nisibena of St Ephraim, who died in about 373, as being held on 13 May. During the fifth century divergent practices sprang up, the Syrian churches holding the festival in Easter Week, and those of the Greek world preferring the Sunday after Pentecost. That of Rome, however, preferred to keep the May date, and Pope Boniface IV formally endorsed it in the year 609. By 800 churches in England and Germany, which were in touch with each other, were celebrating a festival dedicated to all saints upon 1 November instead. The oldest text of Bede’s Martyrology, from the eighth century, does not include it, but the recensions at the end of the century do. Charlemagne’s favourite churchman Alcuin was keeping it by then, as were also his friend Arno, bishop of Salzburg, and a church in Bavaria. Pope Gregory, therefore, was endorsing and adopting a practice which had begun in northern Europe. It had not, however, started in Ireland, where the Felire of Oengus and the Martyrology of Tallaght prove that the early medieval churches celebrated the feast of All Saints upon 20 April. This makes nonsense of Frazer’s notion that the November date was chosen because of ‘Celtic’ influence: rather, both ‘Celtic’ Europe and Rome followed a Germanic idea…. (Read entire post.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Saints Crispin and Crispianus

Crispin and Crispinian are the patron saints of shoemakers, saddlers, and tanners.
Martyrs of the Early Church who were beheaded during the reign of Diocletian; the date of their execution is given as 25 October, 285 or 286. It is stated that they were brothers, but the fact has not been positively proved. The legend relates that they were Romans of distinguished descent who went as missionaries of the Christian Faith to Gaul and chose Soissons as their field of labour. In imitation of St. Paul they worked with their hands, making shoes, and earned enough by their trade to support themselves and also to aid the poor. During the Diocletian persecution they were brought before Maximianus Herculius whom Diocletian had appointed co-emperor. At first Maximianus sought to turn them from their faith by alternate promises and threats.

But they replied: “Thy threats do not terrify us, for Christ is our life, and death is our gain. Thy rank and possessions are nought to us, for we have long before this sacrificed the like for the sake of Christ and rejoice in what we have done. If thou shouldst acknowledge and love Christ thou wouldst give not only all the treasures of this life, but even the glory of thy crown itself in order through the exercise of compassion to win eternal life.”

When Maximianus saw that his efforts were of no avail, he gave Crispin and Crispinian into the hands of the governor Rictiovarus (Rictius Varus), a most cruel persecutor of the Christians. Under the order of Rictiovarus they were stretched on the rack, thongs were cut from their flesh, and awls were driven under their finger-nails. A millstone was then fastened about the neck of each, and they were thrown into the Aisne, but they were able to swim to the opposite bank of the river. In the same manner they suffered no harm from a great fire in which Rictiovarus, in despair, sought death himself. Afterwards the two saints were beheaded at the command of Maximianus. (Read entire post.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

St. Raphael the Archangel


When thou didst pray with tears, and didst bury the dead, and didst leave thy dinner, and hide the dead by day in thy house, and bury them by night, I offered thy prayer to the Lord. And because thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptation should prove thee. And now the Lord hath sent me to heal thee, and to deliver Sara thy son's wife from the devil. For I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord. ~Tobias 12:11-15
He is one of the mysterious seven who stand before God. More HERE. The late Fr. John Hardon wrote an essay on the on-going mission of St. Raphael in our lives, saying:
Thank God for the trials in your lives. Express your gratitude for the hardships and trials He gives us. Quoting the archangel Raphael, God sometimes enables us who love Him to love Him more through trials. How we need to hear this. God’s graces can be pleasant and enjoyable, but the graces can also be difficult and painful. Never deceive yourself that what is pleasing to us is displeasing to God. Raphael talked to Tobias’ son and is teaching us this.
Finally, Raphael told father and son to be at peace. As we have seen on Christmas morning, again not just one angel, but a host of angels tell us “Peace on earth to men of Good will”. Whatever else we should learn but from not only Raphael, but from God speaking through His angels, is that we should not just be at peace but cultivate peace in our minds and in our hearts. What is peace of mind? Peace of mind is the experience of knowing the truth. Behind that statement stands years of experience. One allegedly developed country after another has tried everything that this world can offer, but are not at peace. Why not? Because we are only as much at peace in our minds as our minds possess the truth. That is why when God became man, He identified Himself as, “I am the truth.”
What is the truth? Truth is our minds corresponding with reality. Yet, millions are living in a dream world of unreality. They do not posses the truth, and the truth, I repeat, is the agreement of the mind with reality. I keep telling one audience after another, statisticians tells us that ninety percent of reading American read is fiction. How we need to guard our minds from reading bewitched by the untruth.
How do we acquire the truth? We acquire it, of course, from God’s revelation. But it is one thing to say posses the truth-such as there are three persons in one God, or I know that God became man in the person of Jesus Christ, and that Jesus Christ, the living God-man is present here on earth in the Holy Eucharist. But if we are to grow in this peace of mind, we are to grow in our understanding of the truth that God has revealed.
That is the main purpose of meditation. By prayerfully reflecting on God’s revealed truth we grow in our grasp and understanding of what God has revealed. And our minds grow in this blessed gift of peace of mind. But, as Raphael told father and son and is telling us, we are to have also peace of heart. A synonym for peace of heart is peace of will.
What is peace of heart? Peace of heart is the experience of doing God’s will. And that is the only true source and foundation of joy in this valley of tears. We shall have peace of heart only in the measure that we are doing God’s will. Ah, what an examination of conscience we must all make. How faithful to God’s will am I? How ready am I to accept the cross He sends me? How willing am I to share with others what God has so generously given me? How much attention do I give to prayer in my life? So the litany goes on. Peace of heart is the experience of doing the will of God, and that experience is the happiness of spirit. Know God’s will with the mind and doing it with the will.
As Christ later on will tell us, we are to be peace makers. We shall bring peace to others only if we are at peace ourselves. We will bring peace to others by sharing with them the truth which we believe. We shall bring peace to others only in the degree that we ourselves are generous, loyal and doing the will of God. All of this and far more is locked up in the most detailed and deepest revelation of an angel sent by God to teach us how we are to live our lives here on earth in anticipation of joining the choirs of angels in a heavenly eternity.
Lord of the angels, we thank you for providing for our needs by sending your angels to help us. Your angel Raphael’s name means “God heals,” send us your angels to heal us from such bodily infirmity as you wish us to have removed. But, dear Lord, heal us especially in our spirit from the sickness of soul so that healthy in mind and body we may bless you, the Lord of the angels, and that we may grow in our love for you, healed by you through your angels here on earth and that we may reach you and join you for all eternity.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Has the Virgin Mary Appeared Again in Egypt?

A report from the OCP Media Network:
It is reported that, after the events of the massacre of Copts in Maspero, Virgin Mary appeared in Cairo and Alexandria.

Reports says that, Virgin Mary in the sky, in Cairo and Alexandria and at different areas nearby. Lights appeared in the sky, followed by voice. Copts believe that the voice came from heaven to reassure that their prayers are heard after what they have suffered severely in the events of Maspero, which killed 27 believers and left dozens wounded.

Some of the TV channels have broadcasted the miraculous appearance of the holy Theodokos.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Carmelite Nun to be Beatified

The Catholic News Agency reports:
Sister Maria Carmen Crespo Roig, or Teresa of the Incarnation, was born in Beniarres, Spain on March 25, 1912. “From a young age she was very involved in the life of her parish and worked tirelessly in its activities and movements,” the Archdiocese of Valencia said.

During the Spanish Civil War in 1936, she risked her life to help priests and nuns who were in need of assistance. In 1941, she entered the Carmelite convent at Ontinyent, “where she lived for the Church and the salvation of souls” until her death on Feb. 4, 2006.

“Day after day, during her 93 years of life and 65 years as a religious, Maria Carmen Crespo learned to offer her joys and sufferings to God in good spirits.” As a Carmelite, “she was an example to her religious sisters and to those she met with and were her friends,” the archdiocese said.

She also patiently bore her sufferings, as she was of frail health from a young age.  At the end of her life, she suffered both from a stroke that left her unable to move and from cancer. (Read entire article.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

On Holy Humility

Thoughts of Blessed Charles de Foucauld.
God has not bound salvation to science, to intelligence, to riches, to much experience, to rare gifts which not all have received, no.  He has bound it to that which is within the reach of everyone, absolutely everyone, the young and the old, human beings of every age and class, of whatever degree of intelligence and of whatever condition…He has bound it to that which everyone, absolutely everyone, can give Him, to that which every human being, whoever he may be, can give Him, having a little good will: a little good will is all that is necessary in order to gain this Heaven which Jesus binds here to humility,  in making yourself little,  in taking the last place,  in obeying, and which elsewhere He links to poverty of spirit, to purity of heart, to love of justice, to a spirit of peace, etc. (Read entire post.)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Maxims of St. Teresa

Here are the spiritual maxims of the Holy Mother St. Teresa, for her nuns.
1. Untilled ground, however rich, will bring forth thistles and thorns; so also, the mind of man.
2. Speak well of all that is spiritual, such as religious, priests, and hermits.
3. Let thy words be few when in the midst of many.
4. Be modest in all thy words and works.
5. Never be obstinate, especially in things of no moment.
6. In speaking to others be always calm and cheerful.
7. Never make a jest of anything.
8. Never rebuke any one but with discretion, and humility, and self-abasement.
9. Bend thyself to the temper of whomever is speaking to thee: be merry with the mirthful, sorrowful with the sad: in a word, make thyself all things to all, to gain all.
10. Never say anything thou hast not well considered and earnestly commended to our Lord, that nothing may be spoken which shall be displeasing unto Him.
11. Never defend thyself unless there be very good reasons for it.
12. Never mention anything concerning thyself which men account praiseworthy, such as learning, goodness, birth, unless with a hope of going good thereby, and then let it be done with humility, remembering that these are gifts of God.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Prayer Tips from the Carmelites

I found these suggestions worth pondering:
  • Take a line from the liturgy of the day and repeat it during the day – a new line every day. The responsorial psalm and the Gospel Acclamation theme are good ones to use.
  • Let a spiritual thought from a hymn or a book or Mass be as background music in your mind during the day.
  • Take a holy card (or picture) of Christ and place it where you can see it so that you may think of Him.
  • Make a spiritual communion every hour. I set the stop watch I use.
  • Fix your inward gaze upon Him amidst your occupations.
  • Find a “trigger moment,” such as putting your keys on the desk; turning off the computer, or laying out clothes for the next day that can serve as a reminder to take a moment for short prayer.
  • Instead of a coffee break, take a short prayer break. In the mid-morning or mid-afternoon, get up and move into a different space and think of God.
  • I think of God every time I look at a watch or clock.
  • I sing hymns in my heart during the day.
  • Make Spiritual aspirations during the day. (Read entire post.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Our Lady of the Pillar

"I dwelt in the highest places, and my throne is in a pillar of cloud." Ecclesiasticus 24:7

On this feast day, Columbus first glimpsed the New World, bringing with him a great devotion to Our Lady, as Plinthos explains:
The ship that brought Columbus was Holy Mary of the Immaculate Conception. Spanish Catholics have had a clear and unrelenting devotion to the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary for at least five hundred years.

Just thirty nine years later Our Lady herself from Guadalupe converted millions in New Spain to faith in Jesus Christ. There were countless tireless and very effective Spanish missionaries in the first century of the evangelization of America, including the Apostle of South America. It is no accident that the patroness of USA, therefore, is The Immaculate Conception. She was brought here on Columbus Day!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Temple of God

The little world of each of us with its persons and places, its sunshine and its shadows, its joys and its pain, is the one and only Holy of Holies, in which is tabernacled the Will of God, the chosen temple in which He alone accepts our worship. "I shall dwell in their midst" was His promise, and He is present in every happening.

The saints are those who see God speaking His desires to them in every situation of their lives. They were not less human than we, and God's Will is not less in our lives than in theirs.

Whatever the future holds, your part is peaceful abandonment- there is no greater gift to God. It makes one a living Amen to His least good pleasure.

Love and sacrifice are the essentials for a life of union with God. How many opportunities for both lie daily around us. Grace and great graces are hidden in every one, if we are but generous enough to correspond with the designs of Divine Providence in fashioning them. An ever increasing faith sees God's design in even the most trivial things- His design to sanctify us.
~Fragrance from Alabaster by Mother Aloysius of the Blessed Sacrament, OCD

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Simple English Propers

For those who are tired of having banality at Mass, Fr. Mark recommends a wonderful book.
This extraordinary book has been met with widespread acclaim for the beauty and versatility of the music - and also for being the first generally accessible book of chanted propers in English for every parish. It provides complete entrance, offertory, and communion propers in English with Psalms in modal chant, with four-line notation, for all Sundays and feasts. They can be sung by a single cantor or a full choir. The modes from the Gregorian original are wholly preserved to capture the sound and feel of the Graduale Romanum proper chants. They follow a total of 24 chant formulas to make singing easy for any choir in any parish. (Read entire post.)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cling to Jesus

Michael O'Brien passes on some powerful advice.
Confusion is created everywhere through media.  Media is the primary shaper of consciousness of our times.  In every nation it was the primary worry of apostolic people—clerics as well as lay apostles.  The unprecedented power of film and television is something we Christians have never had to deal with before on this scale. So new strategies are being initiated everywhere in every country that I went.”

“Everywhere there is the sense of facing a Goliath, a monster that feeds or is driven by money, profit and an underlying agenda of social revolution on a scale I don’t think we have ever seen before in the history of man.  What we are looking at is the dismantling of the great treasure Christianity gave Western civilization.”

“When I was in Italy, I had the most awesome privilege of meeting the fiction writer in his 80’s named Eugenio Corti. His name is being touted around for the Nobel Prize in literature, but I don’t think that is going to happen.”

O’Brien asked Corti: ‘Do you have a word of advice for me?.’  “He leaned forward and he took my hand and he said, ‘We are at war.  We are at war and we will be at war until the end of time.  Cling to Jesus—through everything that is about to happen.’” (Read entire article.)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Propers of the Mass

Then and now. Fr. Mark explains.
Until the approval of The New Roman Missal by Pope Paul VI on 3 April 1969, there had existed for four hundred years a substantial unity between the texts of the Proper of the Mass contained in the Graduale Romanum and those given in the Roman Missal. The Missal, in effect, reproduced the complete texts of those sung parts of the Mass that in the Graduale Romanum are fully notated.

The Missal takes the text of the Chants of the Proper of the Mass from the Graduale Romanum, and not the Graduale Romanum from the Missal. The Missal, in fact, contains the very same texts found in the Graduale, but in the Missal they are printed without the musical notation that allows them to be brought to life in song and, in a certain sense, interprets them in the context of the liturgy. The melodic vesture of the texts functions as a liturgical hermeneutic, allowing them to be sung, heard, and received in the light of the mysteries of Christ and of the Church.

Originally Mass was always sung. Not until the eighth or ninth century did the so called Low Mass or missa privata come to be celebrated at the lateral altars and private chapels of abbatial and collegiate churches. The Chants of the Proper of the Mass were not omitted at these Low Masses; they were recited by the priest alone. This fact, of itself, suggests that well before the eighth century, the Proper Chants were, in effect, considered to be constitutive elements of the Mass, deemed indispensable to the very shape of the liturgy.

What are the Propers? (Read entire article.)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In the Garden of the Rosary

Fr. Mark reflects on the mysteries.
The Rosary, like the Psalter it parallels, grows with the one who prays it. It is like the manna in the desert that accommodated itself to the taste of each one. There are seasons in each man's life with God, and the garden of the Rosary changes with these seasons. The Rosary is especially valuable in times of dryness; it becomes a way of inviting Our Blessed Lady into one's desert. When Mary comes into the dry and weary land of our soulscapes, she irrigates it with the grace of her presence, causing it to blossom like the rose.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

St. Francis of Assisi


It is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Here is an excerpt from one of his letters:
It was through his archangel, Saint Gabriel, that the Father above made known to the holy and glorious Virgin Mary that the worthy, holy and glorious Word of the Father would come from heaven and take from her womb the real flesh of our human frailty. Though he was wealthy beyond reckoning, he still willingly chose to be poor with his blessed mother. And shortly before his passion he celebrated the Passover with his disciples. Then he prayed to his Father saying: Father, if it be possible, let this cup be taken from me. 
Nevertheless, he reposed his will in the will of his Father. The Father willed that his blessed and glorious Son, whom he gave to us and who was born for us, should through his own blood offer himself as a sacrificial victim on the altar of the cross. This was to be done not for himself through whom all things were made, but for our sins. It was intended to leave us an example of how to follow in his footsteps. 
And he desires all of us to be saved through him, and to receive him with pure heart and chaste body.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sufferings and the Soul

The uses of adversity.
Entrust yourself to God and abandon yourself to His holy action. Consent to all the designs that He has to bring you, by means of these troubles and sufferings, to nothingness. You must be more passive than active in your state. Even if the violence [of these troubles and sufferings] sometimes sweeps you away, the powerful hand of God will one day calm this tempest. Wait upon Him for everything, and lose yourself in the infinite goodness of His that bears with you in the rebellions of nature. (Read entire post.)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Passion of Saint Thérèse


In June of 1895, two years before her death, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face made an "Act of Oblation to Merciful Love." She expressed her gratitude to God for the grace of suffering: "Since you deigned to give me a share in this very precious Cross, I hope in heaven to resemble You and to see shining in my glorified body the sacred stigmata of Your Passion." (The Story of a Soul, trans. by Fr. John Clarke, OCD, p.277)

In the mental and physical sufferings that St. Thérèse experienced in the weeks preceding her early demise, she came to resemble her Crucified Spouse very much. As the tuberculosis consumed her body, a trial of faith and hope, in which heaven and eternity seemed closed to her, tortured her soul. The coughing of blood and persistent sore throat led to a treatment of painful cauterization with silver nitrate. Eventually, "gangrene ate away her intestines and she lost blood two or three times a day. Drinking only intensified her burning thirst. She had a terrible feeling of suffocation which could not be eliminated by the administration of ether. Finally, her bones protruded through her flesh to such an extent that, when she was made to sit upright to get some relief, it seemed to her that she was seated on iron spikes." (Complete Spiritual Doctrine of St. Therese of Lisieux by Rev. Francois Jamart, pp. 187-188) She confided to her sister, Mother Agnes of Jesus, that her pain was so intense that at times she was tempted to commit suicide: "What a grace it is to have faith! If I had no faith I would have inflicted death on myself without hesitating a moment!" (The Story of a Soul, p. 264)

On the afternoon of September 30, 1897, she entered into her agony. "Everything I have written about my desires for suffering," she gasped. "Oh, it is true just the same. I am not sorry for having surrendered myself to love. Oh, I am not sorry, on the contrary!" (The Story of a Life by Bishop Guy Gaucher, p. 204)

Nevertheless, Mother Agnes was so distressed by her sister's ordeal that she knelt before a statue of the Sacred Heart and begged for the grace of final perseverance for her little Thérèse. When the other nuns of the Carmel were summoned to the infirmary to support their sister with prayers in her dying moments, they saw her purplish hands holding her profession crucifix. Shortly after seven o'clock in the evening, the saint looked at the crucifix and breathed forth her last words: "My God, I love You!" After gazing a few moments with an expression of ecstatic joy at the statue of Our Lady, the beloved "Virgin of the Smile," brought from her childhood home, she died peacefully, her own face transfigured and smiling. On October 4, she was buried in the cemetery of the town of Lisieux. Only a few relatives and friends were present at the burial of the twenty-four year old nun. No one guessed that a storm of glory, a shower of miracles, was about to break forth.
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