Monday, February 18, 2013

Thirty Days Prayer to St. Joseph

This exercise, to be made in preparation for the feast of St. Joseph on March 19, begins today. Let us unite in praying for Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI as he prepares to retire, as well as for the conclave in which the new Pope will be elected. And please remember my family in your prayers as we are faced with major decisions.
Ever blessed and glorious Joseph, kind and loving father, and helpful friend of all in sorrow!  You are the good father and protector of orphans, the defender of the defenseless, the patron of those in need and sorrow.  Look kindly on my request.  My sins have drawn down on me the just displeasure of my God, and so I am surrounded with unhappiness.  To you, loving guardian of the Family of Nazareth, do I go for help and protection.

Listen, then, I beg you, with fatherly concern, to my earnest prayers, and obtain for me the favors I ask. I ask it by the infinite mercy of the eternal Son of God, which moved Him to take our nature and to be born into this world of sorrow.

I ask it by the weariness and suffering you endured when you found no shelter at the inn of Bethlehem for the holy Virgin, nor a house where the Son of God could be born.   Then, being everywhere refused, you had to allow the Queen of Heaven to give birth to the world's Redeemer in a cave.

I ask it by that painful torture you felt at the prophecy of holy Simeon, which declared the Child Jesus and His holy Mother future victims of our sins and of their great love for us. I ask it through your sorrow and pain of soul when the angel declared to you that the life of the Child Jesus was sought by His enemies.  From their evil plan you had to flee with Him and His Blessed Mother to Egypt.  I ask it by all the suffering, weariness, and labors of that long and dangerous journey.

I ask it by all your care to protect the Sacred Child and His Immaculate Mother during your second journey, when you were ordered to return to your own country.  I ask it by your peaceful life in Nazareth where you met with so many joys and sorrows. I ask it by your great distress when the adorable Child was lost to you and His Mother for three days. I ask it by your joy at finding Him in the Temple, and by the comfort you found at Nazareth, while living in the company of the Child Jesus.  I ask it by the wonderful submission He showed in His obedience to you.

I ask it by the perfect love and conformity you showed in accepting the Divine order to depart from this life, and from the company of Jesus and Mary.  I ask it by the joy which filled your soul, when the Redeemer of the world, triumphant over death and hell, entered into the possession of His kingdom and led you into it with special honors. I ask it through Mary's glorious Assumption, and through that endless happiness you have with her in the presence of God. O good father!  I beg you, by all your sufferings, sorrows, and joys, to hear me and obtain for me what I ask.

(make your request)

Obtain for all those who have asked my prayers everything that is useful to them in the plan of God.  Finally, my dear patron and father, be with me and all who are dear to me in our last moments, that we may eternally sing the praises of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Joining God in Penance and Suffering

Only someone whose spiritual eyes have been opened to the supernatural correlations of worldly events can desire suffering in expiation, and this is only possible for people in whom the spirit of Christ dwells, who as members are given life by the Head, receive his power, his meaning, and his direction. Conversely, works of expiation bind one closer to Christ, as every community that works together on one task becomes more and more closely knit and as the limbs of a body, working together organically, continually become more strongly one.

But because being one with Christ is our sanctity, and progressively becoming one with him our happiness on earth, the love of the cross in no way contradicts being a joyful child of God. Helping Christ carry his cross fills one with a strong and pure joy, and those who may and can do so, the builders of God’s kingdom, are the most authentic children of God. And so those who have a predilection for the way of the cross by no means deny that Good Friday is past and that the work of salvation has been accomplished. Only those who are saved, only children of grace, can in fact be bearers of Christ’s cross. Only in union with the divine Head does human suffering take on expiatory power.

To suffer and to be happy although suffering, to have one’s feet on the earth, to walk on the dirty and rough paths of this earth and yet to be enthroned with Christ at the Father’s right hand, to laugh and cry with the children of this world and ceaselessly to sing the praises of God with the choirs of angels this is the life of the Christian until the morning of eternity breaks forth.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bishop Challoner on Fasting

The holy bishop speaks:
Consider first, that fasting, according to the present discipline of the Church, implies three things. First, we are to abstain from flesh meat on fasting days; secondly, we are to eat but one meal in the day; and thirdly, we are not to take that meal till about noon. The ancient discipline of the Church was more rigorous, both in point of the abstinence, and in not allowing the meal in Lent till the evening. These regulations are calculated to mortify the sensual appetite by penance and self-denial. If you find some difficulty in the observance of them, offer it up to God for your sins. Fasting is not designed to please, but to punish. Your diligent compliance on this occasion with the laws of your mother the Church will also give an additional value to your mortifications, from the virtue of obedience.

Consider 2ndly, that we must not content ourselves with the outward observance of these regulations that relate to our diet on fasting days, but we must principally have regard to the inward spirit, and what we may call the very soul of the fast, which is a penitential spirit; without this the outward observance is but like a carcass without life. This penitential spirit implies a deep sense of the guilt of our sins; a horror and a hearty sorrow for them; a sincere desire to return to God, and to renounce our sinful ways for the future; and particularly a readiness of mind to make the best satisfaction we are capable of to divine justice by penancing ourselves for our sins. Fasting, performed in this spirit, cannot fail of moving God to mercy. O my soul, let thy fasting be always animated with this spirit

Consider 3rdly, that fervent prayer and alms-deeds also, according to each one’s ability, ought to be the inseparable companions of our fasting. These three sisters should go hand-in-hand, Tob. xii. 8, to help us in our warfare against our three mortal enemies, the flesh, the world, and the devil. The practice of these three eminent good works we must oppose to that triple concupiscence which reigns in the world, and by means of which Satan maintains his unhappy reign. By fasting we overcome the lusts of the flesh by alms-deeds we subdue the lusts of the eyes, by which we are apt to covet the mammon of the world, and its empty toys; and by fervent and humble prayer we conquer the pride of life, and put to flight the devil, the king of pride. O let us never forget to call in these powerful auxiliaries to help us in our warfare. Let alms-deeds and prayer ever accompany our fasts.

Conclude to follow these rules, if you desire your fast should be acceptable; if you fail in them, it will not be such a fast as God hath chosen. (Read entire post.)

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Song of Bernadette (1943)


The Song of Bernadette is one of my favorite films. The bleak poverty, the depth of winter, the chilling remoteness of the Pyrenean village are captured magnificently, so that Lourdes appears as the most unlikely spot for miracles that would shake the world. There are few more majestic moments in cinema than when the dying baby is plunged into the newly dug spring at the grotto of Massabielle, to come forth with a hearty, healthy cry. (Such a miracle did happen at Lourdes. I always cry at that scene.) Jennifer Jones becomes St. Bernadette; she resembles her a great deal, other than the divergence in height. The tall Jennifer communicates quite masterfully the littleness of the petite Bernadette, as well as her purity and simplicity. Charles Bickford's portrayal of the crusty, skeptical Abbé Peyramale, who becomes Bernadette's indefatigable champion, inspired me to visit the Abbé's tomb in the crypt of the parish church of Lourdes. The Abbé died two years before Bernadette, and so was not at her deathbed as shown in the movie.

The film was based upon the novel by Franz Werfel, one of the greatest Catholic novels written by a non-Catholic. When Werfel, who was Jewish, was escaping the Nazis, he and his wife (the notorious Alma Mahler) stopped in Lourdes on their way to Spain. Werfel found a great deal of spiritual consolation in Lourdes, and promised the long dead Bernadette that he would write down her story. The novel and film romanticize some aspects of Bernadette's life; a few historical liberties are taken. But the portrayal of Bernadette and her family, particularly her horrified parents, already overwhelmed by trials, is fairly accurate, as is the recounting of the amazing events at the grotto.

Remarkably, both the book and film emphasize that it was not the apparitions that made Bernadette into a saint. Rather, it was how she accepted the trials sent by God, from the humiliations in the convent to the debilitating and agonizing health problems that killed her. In the final scene, the faith of a dying nun illuminates a darkening world. I rejoice that her moment of light is artistically captured on film for posterity.
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