Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

As Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus said, "As this year has gone, so our life will go, and soon we shall say 'it is gone.' Let us not waste our time; soon eternity will shine for us."

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Feast of the Holy Family

St. Joseph most obedient. To quote:
Look closely at the obedience of Saint Joseph, his obedience in the dark night of faith. Joseph’s obedience allows the whole mystery of Israel — the going down into Egypt and the back up — to be revealed and completed in Christ. In some way the “Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19) of the Last Supper is made possible by Joseph’s obedience to the commandments delivered to him in the night.
Twice Saint Joseph obeys the word of the angel who visits him by night. Twice Saint Matthew uses the very same formula to evoke the obedience of Saint Joseph: “And Joseph rose and too the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt” (Mt 2:14); and again, “And he rose and took the child and his mother and went into the land of Israel” (Mt 2:21).
 Where is the source of Saint Joseph’s obedience? Is it in the word of the Angel? The Angel appears in a dream. Is anything more fleeting than a dream? If we remember our dreams at all in the morning, we do so in a vague and hazy way. Rarely do we find in our dreams the strength to make great changes in our lives. Dreams may sow suggestions in the imagination; rarely do we translate them into action, especially when they ask of us what Saint Benedict calls “things that are hard and repugnant to nature in the way to God” (RB 58:8). (Read more.)

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Mystical Doctor

A few years ago our Pope Emeritus offered a beautiful meditation on Our Holy Father Saint John of the Cross.
John is considered one of the most important lyric poets of Spanish literature. His most important works are four: "Ascent of Mount Carmel," "Dark Night of the Soul," "Spiritual Canticle," "Living Flame of Love."

In the "Spiritual Canticle," St. John presents the path of purification of the soul, that is, the progressive joyful possession of God until the soul feels that it loves God with the same love that it is loved by him.

The "Living Flame of Love" continues in this perspective, describing in greater detail the transforming union with God. The example used by John is always that of fire: as the fire burns and consumes the wood, it becomes incandescent flame, so also the Holy Spirit, who during the dark night purifies and "cleanses" the soul, then in time illumines and warms it as if it were a flame. The life of the soul is a continuous celebration of the Holy Spirit, that enables one to perceive the glory of the union with God in eternity.

The "Ascent of Mount Carmel" presents the spiritual itinerary from the point of view of the progressive purification of the soul, necessary to ascend to the summit of Christian perfection, symbolized by the summit of Mount Carmel. This purification is proposed as a journey that man undertakes, collaborating with divine action to free the soul from all attachment or affection contrary to the will of God. The purification, which to arrive at union of love with God must be total, begins with the way of the senses and continues with the one obtained through the three theological virtues -- faith, hope and charity -- the purification of intention, memory and will.

The "Dark Night" describes the "passive" aspect, that is, God's intervention in the process of "purification" of the soul. On its own, in fact, human effort is incapable of getting to the profound roots of the person's bad inclinations and habits: It can restrain them, but not uproot them totally. To do so, the special action of God is necessary, which purifies the spirit radically and disposes it to the union of love with him. St. John describes this purification as "passive" precisely because, though accepted by the soul, it is realized by the mysterious action of the Holy Spirit who, as a flame of fire, consumes every impurity. In this state, the soul is subjected to all types of trials, as if it were in a dark night.

These indications on the saint's principal works help us to approach the outstanding points of his vast and profound mystical doctrine, whose objective is to describe a sure way to arrive at sanctity, the state of perfection to which God calls us all. According to John of the Cross, everything that exists, created by God, is good. Through creatures, we can come to the discovery of the One who has left his imprint on them. Faith, however, is the only source given to man to know God exactly as he is in himself, as God One and Triune. All that God willed to communicate to man he said in Jesus Christ, his Word made flesh. He, Jesus Christ, is the only and definitive way to the Father (cf. John 14:6). Anything created is nothing compared with God, and nothing is true outside of him. Consequently, to come to perfect love of God, every other love must be conformed in Christ to divine love.

This is where John of the Cross derives his insistence on the need for purification and interior emptying in order to be transformed in God, which is the sole end of perfection. This "purification" does not consist in the simple physical lack of things or of their use. What the pure and free soul does, instead, is to eliminate every disordered dependence on things. Everything must be placed in God as center and end of life. The long and difficult process of purification exacts personal effort, but the true protagonist is God: all that man can do is to "dispose" himself, to be open to the divine action and not place obstacles in its way.

Living the theological virtues, man is elevated and gives value to his own effort. The rhythm of growth of faith, hope and charity goes in step with the work of purification and with progressive union with God until one is transformed in him. When one arrives at this end, the soul is submerged in the very Trinitarian life, such that St. John affirms that the soul is able to love God with the same love with which he loves it, because he loves it in the Holy Spirit. This is why the Mystical Doctor holds that there is no true union of love with God if it does not culminate in the Trinitarian union. In this supreme state the holy soul knows everything in God and no longer has to go through creatures to come to him. The soul now feels inundated by divine love and is completely joyful in it. (Read more.)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Virgin of Guadalupe

Women's Guild explores the symbols hidden in the miraculous image, saying:
Clothing is often so much more than a few pretty things to wear, as the iconography of Our Lady of Guadalupe shows. It is important to bear in mind her status as the most important Mexican religious and cultural symbol, from her apparition to an indigenous Mexican, Juan Diego, during a period of conversion to Christianity from the Aztec religion, to her role as a symbol of national unity during the War of Independence.

Sun and moon: as in Revelation 12:1, "arrayed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars". However in this case the stars are on the cloak and there are far more than twelve. Another interpretation is of an image of triumph over the Aztec sun and moon deities -in fact the little squashed figure underneath may be a winged moon god.

Cloak: Blue and green were Aztec colours of divinity. I have seen detailed argument that the arrangement of stars is that which appeared in the night sky on the date of the apparition, although to my untrained eye they do seem quite regularly spaced.

Dress: Rose coloured, as one might expect given that the apparition story involves the production of Castilian roses from a Mexican hill. Interpretations of the pattern range from more roses, to a contour map of Mexico.

Belt: A black belt was an Aztec symbol of pregnancy.

Brooch: On the original icon, and some detailed reproductions, it is possible to see a cross shaped brooch at her neck. Despite the indigenous influences, she is definitely a Christian figure.

So, the clothing of one relatively simple and well known image of Our Lady can lead to many interesting discoveries -more of her political and social implications as a Mexican national symbol are discussed in this essay.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Jubilee of Mercy

"The Immaculate Conception" by Bartolomeo Altomonte
The Jubilee of Mercy begins today, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and will end on the Solemnity of Christ the King on November 20, 2016. Any Jubilee Year is a time when the Church opens the coffers of her graces to the faithful and penitent. Our Holy Father Pope Francis has placed a special emphasis on the Mercy of Our Savior, which brings to mind the devotions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Divine Mercy. There is also special relation of today's feast with the Mercy of God. To quote from Our Holy Father's Bull of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy:
This liturgical feast day recalls God’s action from the very beginning of the history of mankind. After the sin of Adam and Eve, God did not wish to leave humanity alone in the throes of evil. And so he turned his gaze to Mary, holy and immaculate in love (cf. Eph 1:4), choosing her to be the Mother of man’s Redeemer. When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive. I will have the joy of opening the Holy Door on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. On that day, the Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope. 
On the following Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, the Holy Door of the Cathedral of Rome – that is, the Basilica of Saint John Lateran – will be opened. In the following weeks, the Holy Doors of the other Papal Basilicas will be opened. On the same Sunday, I will announce that in every local church, at the cathedral – the mother church of the faithful in any particular area – or, alternatively, at the co-cathedral or another church of special significance, a Door of Mercy will be opened for the duration of the Holy Year. At the discretion of the local ordinary, a similar door may be opened at any shrine frequented by large groups of pilgrims, since visits to these holy sites are so often grace-filled moments, as people discover a path to conversion. Every Particular Church, therefore, will be directly involved in living out this Holy Year as an extraordinary moment of grace and spiritual renewal. Thus the Jubilee will be celebrated both in Rome and in the Particular Churches as a visible sign of the Church’s universal communion. (Read more.)
Here is a Litany of Trust in the Mercy of Christ from Vultus Christi:
Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us,
as we have placed our trust in Thee.
For myself, a poor sinner,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all whom I have offended,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all who have offended me,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all whom Thou hast brought into my life,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all whom Thou hast entrusted to my prayer,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all Thy priests,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For my family
I trust in Thy mercy.
For the sick,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For the dying,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For prisoners,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who are farthest from Thee,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who persecute Thee in the members of Thy Mystical Body,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who kill Thee in the unborn,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who perpetrate violence,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who harbour resentment in their hearts,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those enslaved to money, pleasure, and power,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who treat with irreverence, mockery, and scorn
the adorable Mysteries of Thy Body and Blood,

I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who blaspheme Thy Most Holy Name,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who dishonour Sunday, the Day of Thy Resurrection,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who revile Thy Bride, the Church,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who have fallen away from the Holy Catholic Faith,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who are consumed by hatred,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who will face death in despair,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who remain impenitent in their last hour,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who have taken their own lives,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all the Holy Souls in Purgatory,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who will die this day,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who no longer believe in mercy,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who refuse to show mercy,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all poor sinners,
I trust in Thy mercy.
Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us,
as we have placed our trust in Thee.

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Fr. Angelo has a magnificent post about our Queen. To quote:
This interpretation of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is confirmed and strengthened with the support of the Church’s understanding of Apocalypse 12, another militant passage in which the Woman is pitted against the serpent (this time in the form of a red dragon). In this passage Our Lady is clothed with sun, stands on the moon and is crowned with twelve stars. In some images of the Immaculate Conception of the Imagery of Genesis 3 and Apocalypse 12 are combined, both strengthening the symbolism and using the one passage to interpret the other (as Ruben’s renders it above). This imagery of Apocalypse 12 indicates both a state of militancy and triumph. Our Lady is both suffering here on earth and glorified in heaven. This is because She is the personification of the Church, which is both militant and triumphant. Those of us who still suffer already share in the victory of those who have passed through the veil. This is particularly true in the way in which we participate in the victory of the Woman. (Read more.)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ad te levavi

It is the First Sunday of Advent. Here is the Entrance Antiphon (Introit):
Unto you have I lifted up my soul. O my God, I trust in you, let me not be put to shame; do not allow my enemies to laugh at me; for none of those who are awaiting you will be disappointed.
V. Make your ways known unto me, O Lord, and teach me your paths (Ps 24:1-4).
From Vultus Christi:
 There is movement in today’s liturgy: a great sweep upward and away from all that holds us bound and confined “in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Lk 1:79). This is the ecstatic movement of prayer, of all right worship: out of self, upward, and into “the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19). The Introit sets the tone, not only for this the first Mass of Advent, but also for the rest of the Advent season and, indeed, for the whole new liturgical year. “To Thee, my God, I lift up my soul” (Ps 24:1) or, as Ronald Knox translated it, “All my heart goes out to Thee, my God.”

The heart, in going out to God, leaves much behind and cannot look back. This is the law of prayer, this is what it makes it costly, sacrificial and, at the same time, unspeakably sweet. The things we leave behind are mere trifles but, oh, the hold they can have on us! The old self, fearful and anxious about many things, grasps at every illusory promise of security, clings to things, arranges them in great useless piles, looks on them caressingly and takes inventory of them. The loss of any thing, even the most insignificant, represents for the old self, the loss of control, the loss of power, and of comforting familiar pleasures. All of this in incompatible with the prayer that the liturgy places on our lips today: “All my heart goes out to Thee, my God” (Ps 24:1). The upward flight of today’s Introit has nothing to do with cheap pious sentiment. It is an uncompromising call to detachment, to poverty of spirit, and to an obedience that is off and running with all speed, ready for the leap of hope. (Read more.)
More First Sunday of Advent meditations from Silverstream Priory, here:
 There is a second way of hearing today’s Introit. The stational church in Rome for the First Sunday of Advent is the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, the oldest temple in Christendom dedicated to the Mother of God. By singing this particular psalm in this particular place the Church is suggesting that we are to hear the voice of the Virgin Mary in it. Everything in Our Blessed Lady is in readiness for the advent of God. The Mother of God, Our Lady of Advent, prays and teaches us to pray, “All my heart goes out to thee, O God” (Ps 24:1). The second part of the verse is equally important. “Of those who wait for thee, not one is disappointed” (Ps 24:3). The Virgin Mary teaches us to pray Psalm 24 as she prayed it; by teaching us to pray with her, she becomes the Mother of our Hope. (Read more.) 

 Many people struggle with loneliness during this season of the year. Here are some words from the great Benedictine Dom Hubert van Zeller: 
After sin, the three evils most to be dreaded are doubt, fear and loneliness. Of these, loneliness is the worst. Loneliness can give rise to doubt and fear, while if a man knows he is not alone he can fight his doubt, and disguise- which is half the battle- his fear. We can force ourselves to laugh at our doubts and fears, but loneliness forbids laughter. Loneliness is an echoing ache in the soul, it hollows out the heart and scoops away at our reserves. It even communicates itself to the senses, and all the outer world seems indifferent and hostile. We must have something with which to meet this evil. We must find something which will turn it into good....

This is where we need to have faith. This is where we pull ourselves up and cry "It's a mood. It will pass. It is only a mood." That désespoir des lendemains de fête will melt away in time, giving place to color and light and normality and, finally, joy.
~ Dom Hubert van Zeller's We Die Standing, pp.62-63

Novena to the Immaculate Conception

Drawing close to Our Lady in the mystery of her Immaculate Conception is one of the best ways I can think of to spiritually ready the soul for the great feasts that are to come. The novena in honor of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States of America, begins today. And here is an excerpt from the Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, much of which is based on Sacred Scripture:
Holy Mary, Mother of God, I firmly believe in thy Immaculate Conception. I bless God for having granted thee this glorious privilege. I thank Him a thousand times for having taught it to me by the infallible voice of the Church. Receive my heart, O Immaculate Virgin; I give it to thee without reserve; purify it; guard it; never give it back to me, preserve it in thy love and in the love of Jesus during time and eternity. AMEN.

V. Thy name, O Mary, is as oil poured out.
R. Thy servants have loved thee exceedingly.

Let us pray.
O God, Who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, did prepare a worthy habitation for Thy Son: we beseech Thee, that as in view of the death of that Son, Thou didst preserve her from all stain of sin, so Thou wouldst enable us, being made pure by her intercession, to come unto Thee. Through the same Christ Our Lord. AMEN.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Solemnity of Christ the King

It would be a grave error, on the other hand, to say that Christ has no authority whatever in civil affairs, since, by virtue of the absolute empire over all creatures committed to him by the Father, all things are in his power. Nevertheless, during his life on earth he refrained from the exercise of such authority, and although he himself disdained to possess or to care for earthly goods, he did not, nor does he today, interfere with those who possess them. Non eripit mortalia qui regna dat caelestia.[27]
Thus the empire of our Redeemer embraces all men. To use the words of Our immortal predecessor, Pope Leo XIII: "His empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons who, though of right belonging to the Church, have been led astray by error, or have been cut off from her by schism, but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ."[28] Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the family or the State; for all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ. In him is the salvation of the individual, in him is the salvation of society. "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved."[29] He is the author of happiness and true prosperity for every man and for every nation. "For a nation is happy when its citizens are happy. What else is a nation but a number of men living in concord?"[30] If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ. What We said at the beginning of Our Pontificate concerning the decline of public authority, and the lack of respect for the same, is equally true at the present day. "With God and Jesus Christ," we said, "excluded from political life, with authority derived not from God but from man, the very basis of that authority has been taken away, because the chief reason of the distinction between ruler and subject has been eliminated. The result is that human society is tottering to its fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation."[31]
~Pope Pius XI "Quas Primas"

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Presentation of Mary

Father Mark offers some history and thoughts to ponder on the feast commemorating Our Lady being taken to the Temple at the age of three by her parents.
In the hidden recesses of the old Temple, the Holy Ghost prepares the new Temple, the all-holy Virgin, to become the Mother of God . Destined to be the living Temple of the Word, Mary dwells in the Temple of the Old Dispensation. She hears the chanting of the psalms, the prophets, and the Law. Was it there that the Most Holy Virgin learned Psalm 118, the long litany of loving surrender to the Word? And was it from Psalm 118, held in her heart from so tender an age, that she drew her response to the message of the Angel, “Be it done unto me according to Thy Word” (Luke 1:38)?
There planted in the Lord, the dew of His Spirit made her flourish in the courts of her God, and like a green olive she became a tree, so that all the doves of grace came and lodged in her branches. (Saint John Damascene, Upon the Orthodox Faith, Book IV, ch. 15)
Virgin Mother of the Lamb
There Mary smells the fragrance of incense and burnt offerings. There she observes the faithful of Israel streaming towards Zion, filling the Temple, seeking the Face of the Lord. Priest, altar, and oblation are not unfamiliar to the Virgin who, gazing upon her Son, will recognize in Him the Eternal priest, the Altar of the New Covenant, the pure Victim, the holy Victim, the spotless Victim offered in unending sacrifice.
To Belong to God
In the seventeenth century — the age of France’s “mystical invasion” — the mystery of the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple captivated the hearts of Monsieur Olier and of others on fire with zeal for the holiness of the priesthood, for the beauty of the consecrated life, and for the worthy praise of God. The so-called French School of spirituality, marked above all by the imperative of adoration and the virtue of religion, gravitated to the feast of November 21st as to the purest liturgical expression of the desire to be offered to God, to belong to God, and to abide in God’s house.
Virgo Sacerdos
When, in 1641, Jean-Jacques Olier (1608 – 1657) established the seminary of Saint-Sulpice, he placed it under the patronage of the Virgin Mary in the mystery of her Presentation in the Temple. The Child Mary, hidden in the Temple, learns the meaning of sacrifice and oblation; she is the sacerdotal Virgin, prepared by the Holy Spirit to stand at the altar of the Cross united to her Son, High Priest and immolated Lamb. Under the influence of the French Sulpicians, many religious congregations, established after the horrors of the French revolution, chose the feast of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary as their foundation day, the day of religious profession, and of the renewal of vows.
This feast is a wonderful prelude to Advent. According to Dom Gueranger:
Mary, led to the Temple in order to prepare in retirement, humility, and love for her incomparable destiny, had also the mission of perfecting at the foot of the figurative altar the prayer of the human race, of itself ineffectual to draw down the savior from heaven. (From Abbot Gueranger's The Liturgical Year, Vol XV )

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Litany for France

From Vultus Christi:
O God the Father of mercies: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ O God the Son, who wept over Lazarus: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ O God the Holy Ghost, the Comforter: — Have mercy upon us. ✢ Holy Mary, assumed into heaven: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Mother of Christ, Lady of Sorrows: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Mary, our Advocate in this vale of tears: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Michael, heavenly defender of Christians: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Denis, faithful martyr of the Lamb: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Martin, merciful Confessor of Christ: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Genevieve, protector of Paris: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Remigius, Enlightener of the Franks: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Francis, Apostle to the Muslims: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Louis, champion of justice: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Joan, valiant in battle: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Vincent de Paul, captive of the Turks: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Therese, little martyr of love: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Blessed Charles, brother of Christ and of all men: — Have mercy on us.
✢ All ye Saints of France: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ All ye holy Martyrs and Confessors: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ All ye Saints of God, men and women: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ O Lord, be merciful: — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From all evil, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From all sin, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From thy wrath, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From a sudden and unprovided death, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From anger, hatred, and all ill-will, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From plague, famine, and war, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From everlasting death, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, grant them rest.
✢ O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, grant them rest.
✢ O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, grant them rest eternal.
V. Give peace in our time, O Lord.
R. For it is thou, Lord, only, that makest us dwell in safety.
Let us pray.
Do well, O Lord, unto those that are good and true of heart; grant the rule of thy salvation, watch over thy people’s safety with constant care, and restrain with thy right hand the rage of the enemy. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord: Who livest and reignest with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
✢ Most Sacred Heart of Jesus: — Have mercy upon us, and upon France.
✢ Most Sacred Heart of Jesus: — Have mercy upon us, and upon France.
✢ Most Sacred Heart of Jesus: — Have mercy upon us, and upon France.

Dom Benedict wrote this litany upon hearing of the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, 13 November 2015.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Blessed Francisco Marto

From Fr. Mark:
The words of the Angel of Fatima,  “Console your God”,  engraved themselves in young Francisco’s heart. They became the compelling inspiration of his short life of eleven years (1908–1919). Francisco wanted, more than anything else, to be the Consoler of the Hidden Jesus. He did this by praying rosary after rosary, and by spending hours close to the tabernacle of the parish church.

Readers familiar with the story of Fatima will recall that on 13 May 1917, after hearing the Lady say, “I come from heaven”, Lucia asked if she and her little companions would go to heaven. The Lady replied that both Lucia and Jacinta would go to heaven , but that Francisco would need to say many rosaries first.

This enigmatic utterance concerning Francisco has, over the years, given rise to a certain amount of speculation as to its meaning. Various interpretations have been ascribed to it, but I found none of them satisfying. Some commentators even suggested that Francisco was somehow held back in his spiritual development and, therefore, needed more prayer than his sister Jacinta and his cousin Lucia. (Read more.)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Praying the Rosary

From Fr. Mark:
In a not so distant past, when the Rosary was prayed aloud, the individual leading the prayers would, invariably, do so while kneeling at a prie–dieu facing the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. All were united in turning to the representation of Our Lady’s presence. The shift from the prie–dieu to the ambo, and the change in direction, has brought about and continues to foster an altogether unsettling development in the public recitation of the Rosary, analogous to what happens when the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated at a forward–facing altar. Inevitably, the Rosary takes on a didactic character, in contrast to the contemplative, supplicatory, and doxological movement that has always been its very soul.

During my pilgrimage I could not help but notice the inflation of a verbose didactic approach to the Rosary. Each decade of the Rosary became an opportunity for someone to hold forth about something. These were not mere meditations on the mysteries but, rather, moralising and exhortatory fervorini stitched together with all the fashionable pastoral buzz words. My sense was that people would have preferred to get on with their prayers, and found all this holding forth wearisome. (Read more.)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Angels Everywhere

From Fr. Mark on the feast of St. Michael:
Are we in danger of forgetting the angels? While the liturgy mentions them repeatedly, all too often we assist at the Sacred Mysteries as if the angels were not there, joining in our praises, observing our attitudes, grieving over lack of zeal, and rejoicing to see us recollected and reverent. Saint Benedict speaks explicitly of the presence of the angels in Chapter 19 of the Rule: “We must therefore consider how we should behave in the sight of the Divine Majesty and his Angels, and as we sing our Psalms let us see to it that our mind is in harmony with our voice” (RB 19:6-7).
One thing is certain. We need the angels. God created the angels for the praise of his glory and for our salvation, that is, to participate in his work of bringing us to wholeness, to peace, and to life everlasting in his presence. The angels are sent to us to comfort us in the hour of trial and affliction. Saint Luke, the evangelist most sensitive to angelic interventions, relates that an angel was sent to console Jesus during His agony in the garden (cf. Lk 22:43).
The angels are sent to bring us the healing of heavenly medicine, and the brightness of God’s deifying light. The angels are sent before every advent of the Word, to dispose our hearts and unstop our ears. The angels are sent before Christ, our Priest and our Victim, present in the offering of His Body and of His Blood. The angels are sent to bear our prayers up to heaven, and to descend to us, laden with heavenly blessings. The angels protect us in all our ways. They do all of these things gladly, joyfully, and unhesitatingly in obedience to the command of God. (Read more.)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Habit of a Cloistered Heart

From The Cloistered Heart: "The habit of a cloistered heart is a habit of seeking God's will. It is a habit of prayer, of virtue, of choosing Our Lord above all. It is a habit of holy actions acquired over time, through repetition." (Read more.)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Learning from Elijah's Despair

From Catholic Exchange:
In his despair, Elijah takes refuge from the sun in the shade of a broom tree. (Some have suggested that this was the beautiful Retama raetam with white flowers.) Noticeably, in his depressed state, Elijah hides from the light. In fact, another biblical prophet prayed for death in the shade of a plant too (see Jonah 4:8). Shade, of course, is an essential survival tool in a hot desert, but Elijah’s shrinking away from the light might symbolize his shrinking away from God’s calling on his life.
After letting the prophet mope for a bit, the angel of the Lord taps him on the shoulder and commands him to eat. Note how “pro-life” God appears here. He is not willing to let his prophet die through voluntary self-starvation, but actually commands him to eat (1 Kgs 19:5) and provides him with a special meal (19:6). The meal consists of water and a round flat loaf of bread baked on hot coals. This is not an elaborate feast, but a simple affair. Yet this meal miraculously sustains Elijah for a forty-day and forty-night journey.
This meal is truly “bread for the journey,” one of the names for the Eucharist. Indeed, this is why we read this passage in conjunction with John 6, where Jesus describes the new “bread for the journey” which he will provide. Like Elijah’s bread, which took him from black despair to seek out the Lord at Mt. Horeb, the Eucharist can take us from the darkness of sin and empower us for the voyage ahead. If we lose sight of our purpose, get down in the dumps, or find ourselves wallowing in the shade of a broom tree, the Eucharist can bring us back to God’s plan for us. It can sustain us when we feel like giving up. (Read more.)


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Our Holy Mother St. Teresa and Fr. Domingo Bañez

On St. Dominic's day we cannot forget how much his spiritual sons helped Our Holy Mother St. Teresa in her spiritual struggles, in her writings and in her foundations of monasteries. The friar who perhaps helped St. Teresa the most was Fr. Domingo Bañez. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
In another way, Bañez in his prime was rendering memorable service to the Church as director and confessor of St. Teresa (1515-82). Her own words mark him as the spiritual adviser who was most relied upon as a guide and helper, both in her interior life and in her heroic work of the Carmelite reform. "To the Father Master Fra Dominie Bañez, who is now in Valladolid as Rector of the College of St. Gregory, I confessed for six years, and, whenever I had occasion to do so, communicated with him by letter. . . . All that is written and told, she communicated to him, who is the person with whom she has had, and still has, the most frequent communications." (See "Life of St. Teresa of Jesus, by herself", tr. by David Lewis, 3d ed., London, 1904, Relation VII, 448, 450.) Of the first foundation of the reform, St. Joseph's Monastery at Avila, she wrote that Bañez alone saved it from the destruction resolved upon in an assembly of civil and religious authorities (op. cit., ch. xxxvi, 336 sqq.). He did not then know the saint, but "from that time forth he was one of her most faithful friends, strict and even severe, as became a wise director who had a great saint for his penitent." He testifies, in the process of her beatification that he was firm and sharp with her, while she herself was the more desirous of his counsel the more he humbled her, and the less he seemed to esteem her (op. cit., p., xxxvi). He looked for the proof of her love of God in her truthfulness, obedience, mortification, patience, and charity towards her persecutors, while he avowed that no one was more incredulous than himself as to her visions and revelations. In this his mastery of the spiritual life was shown to be as scientific as it was wholesome and practical. "It was easy enough to praise the writings of St. Teresa and to admit her sanctity after her death. Fra Bañez had no external help in the applause of the many, and he had to judge her book as a theologian and the saint as one of his ordinary penitents. When he wrote, he wrote like a man whose whole life was spent, as he himself tells us, in lecturing and disputing" (ibid.).
The Holy Mother had earlier gone through a great deal of persecution and calumnies from certain religious who did not understand her gifts and accused her of being either crazy or possessed by the devil. The sound judgment and discernment of directors such as Fr. Bañez helped her not only to grow in sanctity but probably saved her as a person.

Of the Saint's Autobiography, Fr. Bañez penned the following words:
Of one of her books, namely, the one in which she recorded her life and the manner of prayer whereby God had led her, I can say that she composed it to the end that her confessors might know her the better and instruct her, and also that it might encourage and animate those who learn from it the great mercy God had shown her, a great sinner as she humbly acknowledged herself to be.
Then as now, there is no replacement for a learned and holy priest. Let us pray for those priests who persevere in their vocation to shepherd and guide us.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sacred Fire: Practicing Devotion to the Heart of Jesus

Sacred Fire by Philip Michael Bulman is a gem of a book about the development of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus among the Catholic faithful. From the words of Jesus Himself and the piercing of his Heart to the mystic writings of St. Gertrude and St. Margaret Mary, to the Carmelite saints and ending with St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy revelations, the author shows how the Sacred Heart devotion is firmly rooted in Scripture and Tradition. Not only has the devotion long been a part of the piety of the faithful but in times of crisis the symbol of the Heart of Our Savior has emerged with special power. The back of the book has many prayers, litanies and other devotions. Sacred Fire is a book for every Catholic household.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Elias as a Type of Our Savior

From St. Augustine:
Brethren dearly beloved, in the Lessons which are now being read to us day by day, I have warned you that we must not follow the letter which kills, and thereby abandon the quickening spirit.  For it is thus that the Apostle says: “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”  If we desire to understand only what is in the letter, we shall get little or no edification from our readings in the sacred Scriptures.  All those things whereof we hear were types and images of things to come; and those things which were foreshadowed in the history of the Jews are, by the gift of God, fulfilled in us.
The blessed Elias, for instance, was a type of the Saviour.  Just as Elias was rejected by Jewry, so was the true Elias, even our Lord, rejected and despised by Jewry.  Elias went away out of his own country, and Christ must needs leave the synagogue.  Elias went into the desert, and Christ has come into the world.  Elias, when he was in the desert, was fed by ravens, and Christ in the desert of this world is comforted by the faith of the Gentiles.

For the ravens which, at the command of the Lord, ministered to Elias, may be understood as a type of the flock of the Gentiles.  Wherefore also it is said for the Gentile Church: “I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem.”  Why is the Church black but comely?  She is black in the natural order but comely by grace.  Because she must own this truth: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”  Why is she comely by grace?  Because she can go on and say: “Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Read more.)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Gertrud von le Fort and the Martyrs of Compiègne

I have long been an admirer of Gertrud von le Fort and her novel Song at the Scaffold, about the Blessed Martyrs of Compiègne. Baroness von le Fort's short but powerful depiction of the sixteen Carmelite nuns guillotined in 1795 during the Reign of Terror was the inspiration for the play by Bernanos and the opera by Poulenc, Dialogues des Carmelites. To Quell the Terror by William Bush is an excellent historical treatise on the martyrdom of the Carmelites. It is not widely known that Queen Marie-Antoinette provided a dowry for a poor, pious girl named Mademoiselle Lidoine, so that she could enter the Carmel of Compiègne. Mademoiselle Lidoine became the Mother Prioress of the heroic Martyrs of Compiègne, who like Marie-Antoinette, died on the guillotine during the French Revolution.

There is more HERE from The Inn At The End of the World.

HERE is the final scene from Poulenc's opera.

Here is a short account of Gertrud von le Fort's life: 
Baroness Gertrude von Lefort (1876–1971) is the author of over 20 books (poems, novels and short stories), honorary Doctor of Theology and «the greatest contemporary transcendent poet». Her works are appreciated for their breath-taking profoundness and virtuosity, beauty and actuality of her ideas, and for the sophisticateGertrud von le Fortd refinement of the form. Hermann Hesse, who evaluated her talent, proposed her as a candidate for the Nobel Prize. 
Von le Fort was born in Westphalia, Germany, and studied at the Universities of Heidelberg and Berlin. A Protestant of Huguenot descent, von le Fort converted early to Catholicism.Her novel Die Letze am Schafott (The Last or Song at the Scaffold), by far her most famous work, was the basis for Dialogues of the Carmelites. Set during the time........... of the French Revolution, the von le Fort novel tells the story of a troubled, frightened, and strange girl, Blanche de la Force, who has lived in fear from the moment of her birth. To overcome her affliction, she decides to become a nun of Carmel. Little does she know that she is no safer from fear at this convent than in the secular world.
The character of Blanche was von le Fort’s creation, but the other nuns in the story historical figures. Notice the similarity of "von le Fort" to "de la Force." This was no coincidence: much of Gertrud von le Fort’s inspiration for her novel came from her own experiences during World War II and her hatred of Nazism.
She recorded the origin of her 1931 novel: "The point of departure for my creation was not primarily the destiny of the sixteen Carmelites of Compiègne but the figure of the young Blanche. In a historic sense she never lived, but she received the breath of life from my internal spirit, and she cannot be detached from the origin, which is hers. Born in the profound horror of a time darkened by the signs of destiny, this figure arose before me in some way as the embodiment of the mortal agony of an era going totally to its ruin."

Monday, July 6, 2015

Our Lady of America

Here is the story of the approved apparitions:
 It was on the eve of the feast of the North American martyrs, September 25, 1956, that Our Lady appeared to Sr. Mildred Mary Neuzil during a private Holy Hour in the chapel at Kneipp Springs in Rome City, Indiana. In 1938, Sr. Mildred began to have spiritual experiences. She thought little of them, presuming all religious have them. With their increase over the next ten years, she decided to bring them to her confessor who warned her of a possible over-active imagination. As these visits took on the nature of a specific program of devotion to Mary which Sr. Mildred was asked to propagate, she then turned to her bishop, Paul F. Leibold, as Our Lady had directed. Bishop Leibold, later Archbishop of the Cincinnati, Ohio archdiocese, would be her spiritual director from 1940 to 1972 when he died an untimely death due to an aneurysm. Archbishop Leibold had become so convinced of the authenticity of this message that he approved Sr. Mildred's Diary and placed his imprimatur on the sketch of the medal Our Lady had asked Sr. Mildred to have struck, a medal that would bear the image of Our Lady of America on the front and the symbol of the Christian Family and the Blessed Trinity on the back.

Our Lady promised that greater miracles than those granted at Lourdes and Fatima would be granted here in America, the United States in particular, if we do as she desires. Sr. Mildred Mildred stated that Our Lady called herself Our Lady of America in response to the love and desire that reached out for this special title in the hearts of her children in America. This title is a sign of Our Lady's pleasure in the devotion of her children of America towards her, and this visit is a response to the longing, conscious or unconscious, in the hearts of her children in America.

"It is the United States that is to lead the world to peace, the peace of Christ, the peace that He brought with Him from heaven," Sr. Mildred Mildred quoted the Virgin as saying. "Dear children, unless the United States accepts and carries out faithfully the mandate given to it by heaven to lead the world to peace, there will come upon it and all nations a great havoc of war and incredible suffering. If, however, the United States is faithful to this mandate from heaven and yet fails in the pursuit of peace because the rest of the world will not accept or cooperate, then the United States will not be burdened with the punishment about to fall." "Weep, then, dear children, weep with your mother over the sins of men," said Mary. "Intercede with me before the throne of mercy, for sin is overwhelming the world and punishment is not far away." "It is the darkest hour, but if men will come to me, my Immaculate heart will make it bright again with the mercy which my Son will rain down through my hands. Help me save those who will not save themselves. Help me bring once again the sunshine of God's peace upon the world."

"If my desires are not fulfilled much suffering will come to this land. My faithful one, if my warnings are taken seriously and enough of my children strive constantly and faithfully to renew and reform themselves in their inward and outward lives, then there will be no nuclear war. What happens to the world depends upon those who live in it. There must be much more good than evil prevailing in order to prevent the holocaust that is so near approaching. Yet I tell you, my daughter, even should such a destruction happen because there were not enough souls who took my warning seriously, there will remain a remnant, untouched by the chaos who, having been faithful in following me and spreading my warnings, will gradually inhabit the earth again with their dedicated and holy lives."

On October 13, 1956, Our Lady again appeared as Our Lady of America, but instead of a lily in her hand, she held, with both hands, a small replica of the finished Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. "This is my shrine, my daughter. I am very pleased with it. Tell my children I thank them. Let them finish it quickly and make it a place of pilgrimage. It will be a place of wonders. I promise this. I will bless all those who, either by prayers, labor, or material aid, help to erect this shrine." According to Sr. Mildred Mildred, Our Lady often emphasized her desire that the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., be made a place of special pilgrimage and that she be honored there under this image and this title "Our Lady of America, the Immaculate Virgin."

Strong warnings were repeated by Our Lady throughout 1957 and 1958, and there-after, indicating that the hour grows late and Sr. Mildred must tell the Bishops of the United States of Our Lady's desires and how she wishes them to be carried out. Our Lady spoke: "Unless my children reform their lives, they will suffer great persecution. If man himself will not take upon himself the penance necessary to atone for his sins and those of others, God in His justice will have to send upon him the punishment necessary to atone for his transgressions." (Read more.)
More HERE.

Here are some more of the messages of Our Lady of America (from a 2008 article):
 Now, at last, we come to the prophesies of Our Lady of America. Here is a several-paragraph excerpt describing one apparition. The emphasis is mine.

On the evening of the feast of the Most Holy Rosary, October 7, 1957, Our Lady again appeared. Her hands were clasped in an attitude of prayer. Her look was serious, though her countenance retained its usual deep serenity. Hanging from her right hand was a blue rosary of a glass-like quality. I was conscious of the fact that what she was about to say to me was not only very grave but of the utmost importance. Our Lady reiterated in a similar manner her first warnings:

“My beloved daughter, what I am about to tell you concerns in a particular way my children in America. Unless they do penance by mortification and self-denial and thus reform their lives, God will visit them with punishments hitherto unknown to them.

“My child, there will be peace, as has been promised, but not until my children are purified and cleansed from defilement, and clothed thus with the white garment of grace, are made ready to receive this peace, so long promised and so long held back because of the sins of men.

“My dear children, either you will do as I desire and reform your lives, or God Himself will need to cleanse you in the fires of untold punishment. You must be prepared to receive His great gift of peace. If you will not prepare yourselves, God will Himself be forced to do so in His justice and mercy.

Making the rosary a family prayer is very pleasing to me. I ask that all families strive to do so. But be careful to say it with great devotion, meditating on each mystery and striving to imitate in your daily lives the virtues depicted therein. Live the mysteries of the rosary as I lived them, and it will become a chain binding you to me forever. They who are found in the circle of my rosary will never be lost. I myself will lead them at death to the throne of my Son, to be eternally united to Him.

‘”Write these words upon your hearts, my dear children, because of the compassion I have for you in my Immaculate Heart. Oh, if you knew the punishments I am holding back from you by my pleading and intercession on your behalf!

“Will you do as I wish at last, my children?” (Read more.)
There is a movement to petition His Holiness Pope Francis to enthrone the statue of Our Lady of America at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in September of 2015.

Statement of the local Ordinary on the apparitions of Our Lady of America.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

God Save America


3 And I set my face to the Lord my God, to pray and make supplication with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes. 4 And I prayed to the Lord my God, and I made my confession, and said: I beseech thee, O Lord God, great and terrible, who keepest the covenant, and mercy to them that love thee, and keep thy commandments. 5 We have sinned, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly, and have revolted: and we have gone aside from thy commandments, and thy judgments. (Daniel 9: 3-5)
(Artwork courtesy of Holy Cards for your Inspiration)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Bright Side

On the bright side, those of us who have been chosen, from all eternity, to live in these times will be granted the graces we need to be faithful, if we accept them, and will have a more glorious crown in the Kingdom for having to struggle with the devil unchained. "Where sin abounds, grace does more abound." And furthermore, God is not mocked.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Seven Archangels

Since every Tuesday is traditionally dedicated to honoring the Holy Angels, I thought I would share an interesting post about the seven archangels. From Faith Warriors:
The most powerful angels are the seven Archangels—“And I saw seven Angels standing in the sight of God…” Revelation 8:2 (Read more.)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Novena to St. Anthony of Padua


THE MIRACULOUS RESPONSORY OF ST. ANTHONY
By St. Bonaventure
1. If then you ask for miracles,
Death, error, all calamities,
The leprosy and demons fly,
And health succeeds infirmities.
Chorus:
The sea obeys, and fetters break,
And lifeless limbs thou dost restore,
Whilst treasures lost are found again,
When young and old thine aid implore.
2. All dangers vanish at thy prayer,
And direst need doth quickly flee;
Let those who know thy power proclaim,
Let Paduans say: "These are of thee."
Chorus:
The sea obeys, and fetters break,
And lifeless limbs thou dost restore,
Whilst treasures lost are found again,
When young and old thine aid implore.
3. To Father, Son, may glory be,
And Holy Spirit eternally.
Chorus:
The sea obeys, and fetters break,
And lifeless limbs thou dost restore,
Whilst treasures lost are found again,
When young and old thine aid implore.
Pray for us, St. Anthony,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray.
O God! May the votive commemoration of St. Anthony, Thy Confessor and Doctor, be a source of joy to Thy Church, that she may always be fortified with spiritual assistance and may deserve to possess eternal joy. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Jehanne la Pucelle


"O how beautiful is the chaste generation with glory: for the memory thereof is immortal...." Wisdom 4:1

Today her feast coincides with the Vigil of Trinity Sunday, but in 1431 May 30 fell upon a Wednesday, the Vigil of Corpus Christi. It was around noon when Jehanne Darc, or Jehanne la Pucelle, "the Maid," as she called herself, was led into the public square of Rouen by enemy soldiers to where the stake awaited her. Nineteen years old, her head shaven, surrounded by placards branding her a witch, idolatress, and abjured heretic, she invoked the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, and St Michael the Archangel. She had been calumniated and condemned by those whose holy office it was to guide and protect her soul; she had been exposed to lewdness and impurity by those whose sacred duty it was to shelter her innocence and virginity. She was abandoned by the king whose crown her victories had won. She was in great interior darkness; the voices of her saints were silent.

Although she conversed with angels and saints, Joan the Maid was known to be practical and blunt. Very feminine, she missed her embroidery and her mother, yet she emerges on the pages of late medieval history like someone from the Acts of the Apostles. Surrounded by miracles, she was herself a Miracle; she led an army to victory at the age of 17, an illiterate peasant girl, who knew nothing of war or politics. She saved France as a nation, for it had all but ceased to exist when she came on the scene.

Such was her Faith that she confounded her judges, while exhausted, frightened and pushed to the breaking point of her mental and physical strength. Denied the Sacraments by her persecutors, she gazed upon the upheld crucifix, calling out, "Jesus! Jesus!" as the flames consumed her. When Joan's ashes were scattered in the river, her heart was found, untouched by the flames, and still bleeding.

"If I walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me, O Lord Jesus." Communion Antiphon for the Feast of St Joan

St. Joan, pray for us!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Sanctifying the Intellect

From Mary Victrix:
At the time when our particular observance was in question, Fr. Peter provided the intellectual defense and the Franciscan-Marian metaphysics for St. Maximilian’s establishment of the City of the Immaculate, and the reason why this contribution to the Order was a true and permanently valid gift from the Immaculate.  Fr. Peter’s own personal commitment to this ideal has been an inspiration for many of us.

I can never be grateful enough to Fr. Peter, who through the years has been a source of inspiration, strength and enlightenment to me to persevere in this Franciscan vocation.  I know he has influenced and inspired many other friars, priests, religious and laypeople.  I am very thankful that the importance of his work is being acknowledged in this way.  Hopefully, it will inspire others to learn from this great Marian scholar. (Read more.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pope Francis on Salvation

From Scott Richert:
Beginning with the reading from Acts, which speaks of the persecution in the wake of the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, the Holy Father stressed the centrality of the Church's missionary activity. Rather than continuing to preach only to the Jews, some reached out to the Greeks, prompted, Pope Francis said, by the Holy Spirit. But the Church in Jerusalem, the Holy Father noted,
became nervous and sent Barnabas on an "apostolic visitation": perhaps, with a little sense of humor we could say that this was the theological beginning of the [Congregation for the] Doctrine of the Faith: this apostolic visit by Barnabas. He saw, and he saw that things were going well.
This visit was important, because what Acts calls "the Church in Jerusalem" was the Church, and so the Church in Jerusalem was responsible for spreading and safeguarding the Gospel. She was a "Mother"; a "Mother who gives us the faith, a Mother who gives us an identity." It is through her that we have our identity as Christians: "Christian identity is belonging to the Church."
And now Pope Francis has arrived at the crux of the matter, the part that will surprise both those who trumpet "the spirit of Vatican II" and those who denounce the council as a departure from tradition. We can only be Christians through the Church,
Because it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church. The great Paul VI said: "Wanting to live with Jesus without the Church, following Jesus outside of the Church, loving Jesus without the Church is an absurd dichotomy." And the Mother Church that gives us Jesus gives us our identity that is not only a seal, it is a belonging. Identity means belonging. This belonging to the Church is beautiful.
This is why the missionary activity of the Church is so essential: We cannot know Christ outside of the Church. We are called to preach the Gospel to all nations, because that is the only way they can know Christ. Unless the Church is growing, preaching the Gospel and adding new members, we are not doing what we are called to do as Christians:
Think of this Mother Church that grows, grows with new children to whom She gives the identity of the faith, because you cannot believe in Jesus without the Church. Jesus Himself says in the Gospel: "But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep." If we are not "sheep of Jesus," faith does not come to us. It is a rosewater faith, a faith without substance.
"Now this is eternal life: That they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). Yet we can know Christ only through the Church.
The Holy Father's words aren't a message of universal salvation; quite the opposite. Those who do not come into the Church "cannot believe in Jesus," and if they cannot believe in Jesus, then, as Christ Himself tells us, they cannot have eternal life. And that places a tremendous responsibility on our shoulders: We must expand the missionary activity of the Church in our own lives, bringing others to the Church not by "travel[ing] a little along the road of worldliness, negotiating with the world," but by preaching the Gospel in its fullness, despite the very real possibility of persecution by a world that hates Christ as much today as it did at the time of Saint Stephen's martyrdom. (Read more.)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Song of the Found Sheep

Good Shepherd mine;
Whatever made You leave the ninety-nine
To come like this in search of one lost sheep?
What raging fire
Constrained Your loving Heart? What mad desire
Impelled You on to comb the mountain steep?

Strange mystery:
That you should find such joy in finding me
When it should seem the joy should all be mine.
Please hold me fast;
Don't let me stray again as in days past,
But hide me safe within Your arms divine.

When in the West
The sun of my life's day shall sink to rest,
Enfold me still, O Lord, in Love's embrace.
Then with the dawn
Of that new Day, when night fore'er is gone,
Dear Shepherd mine, let me behold Your Face.
By a Carmelite Nun

Published with the kind permission of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Rochester, NY

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Value of Suffering

From the late Fr. John Harden, SJ, of blessed memory:
Suffering by itself is not sanctifying. Many people who are suffering are not necessarily profiting from their suffering. Evidently, then, we should do something with and about the suffering to profit from the experience. Hence the importance of knowing what suffering is and how we can alchemize it from mere pain to sanctity.

Moreover, the role of suffering in the spiritual life is ultimately based on mysteries of our faith; and, as with so many mysteries, we are likely to live with them without attempting to fathom them. That is a mistake. We can never fully comprehend their meaning; but suffering is surely a mystery which needs to be better understood so that, as with other mysteries, we may more effectively experience it. This is one mystery that we don’t merely read about.

There is such a thing as making the mistake of identifying progress in virtue with the amount of suffering. This is very hard to disassociate, once people have made that wrong identification. Certainly suffering has much to do with sanctity, but it is not an arithmetic equation, “Suffering equals sanctity”. A person must not think, “The more suffering, the more holy I must be getting!” Maybe, but maybe not. In other words, those who suffer the most are not necessarily more holy than those who suffer less. It is what we do with the suffering, not the amount that we experience, that makes the difference.

There are three areas in our immediate scope of coverage. First, to examine what suffering is. Second, why there is suffering in the world. And third, how we can use the suffering that God sends us—or offers us—to grow in holiness. (Read more.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Easter Sequence

Here is the Easter Sequence, to be sung before the Gospel during the Easter Octave:
Victimae Paschali laudes immolent Christiani.
Agnus redemit oves: Christus innocens Patri reconciliavit peccatores.
Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando: dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus.
Dic nobis Maria, Quid vidisti in via?
Sepulcrum Christi viventis, et gloriam vidi resurgentis.
Angelicos testes, sudarium et vestes.
Surrexit Christus spes mea: praecedet suos in Galilaeam.
Scimus Christum surrexisse a mortuis vere: Tu nobis, victor Rex miserere.
Amen. Alleluia.

++++++++++

Christians, to the Paschal victim offer sacrifice and praise.
The sheep are ransomed by the Lamb; and Christ, the undefiled,
hath sinners to his Father reconciled.
Death with life contended: combat strangely ended!
Life's own Champion, slain, yet lives to reign.
Tell us, Mary: say what thou didst see upon the way.
The tomb the Living did enclose; I saw Christ's glory as He rose!
The angels there attesting; shroud with grave-clothes resting.
Christ, my hope, has risen: He goes before you into Galilee.
That Christ is truly risen from the dead we know.
Victorious King, Thy mercy show!
Amen. Alleluia

Saturday, March 28, 2015

500th Birthday of Our Holy Mother St. Teresa

The Great Teresa, of Jewish descent, was born this day, 500 years ago. From Nobility:
The third child of Don Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda by his second wife, Doña Beatriz Davila y Ahumada, who died when the saint was in her fourteenth year, Teresa was brought up by her saintly father, a lover of serious books, and a tender and pious mother. After her death and the marriage of her eldest sister, Teresa was sent for her education to the Augustinian nuns at Avila, but owing to illness she left at the end of eighteen months, and for some years remained with her father and occasionally with other relatives, notably an uncle who made her acquainted with the Letters of St. Jerome, which determined her to adopt the religious life, not so much through any attraction towards it, as through a desire of choosing the safest course. Unable to obtain her father’s consent she left his house unknown to him on Nov., 1535, to enter the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation at Avila, which then counted 140 nuns. The wrench from her family caused her a pain which she ever afterwards compared to that of death. However, her father at once yielded and Teresa took the habit. (Read more.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Of His Kingdom There Shall Be No End

A meditation on the Annunciation by Father Thomas de Saint-Laurent:
God chose the Archangel Gabriel from among the princes of the celestial court who remained constantly before the throne of the Almighty. He entrusted to him the most important and glorious assignment ever confided to a creature, the mission of announcing to the Virgin the awesome mystery of the Incarnation. All Heaven now looked upon that simple house of Nazareth, where a profound peace reigned. Joseph probably rested from his hard labor. In the adjoining room, his virgin spouse was praying. The angel appeared and respectfully bowed before his Queen. His countenance resplendent with supernatural joy, he said to her, “Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”18 Saint Gabriel uttered but the strictest truth. At the moment of Mary’s conception, divine grace flooded her magnificent soul. Ever since then, this grace had grown ceaselessly in proportions far surpassing our feeble understanding. Now, at this moment, the adorable Trinity wanted this already extraordinary holiness to shine with even greater brilliance: Our Lady would shelter in her womb the very Author of grace.

Yet, the Archangel’s salutation troubled the Immaculate Virgin. By divine enlightenment she had long understood the immensity of God and the nothingness of creatures. In her prodigious humility, she considered herself the lowliest of creatures and thus wondered at receiving such praise. She pondered what hidden meaning could be shrouded in such words.

Seeing this most incomparably perfect of all creatures with such a humble opinion of herself, the celestial ambassador exulted with admiration. “Mary,” he said to the trembling Virgin, “fear not, for thou hast found grace with God.”19

Then slowly, majestically, in the name of the Eternal God, he communicated his sublime message: “Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David His father, and He shall reign in the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.”20
These words were far too clear to Our Lady for any hesitation in grasping them. She immediately understood the incomparable honor reserved for her. It seems that she experienced no hesitation on account of her virginity. Indeed, it would be a gratuitous insult to her intelligence to suspect her of such ignorance. She was aware of the prophecy of Isaias that the Emmanuel would be born of a virgin. Rather, she simply sought to know how God, so rich in miracles, would accomplish such a marvel. “How shall this be done,” she asked the angel, “for I know not man?”21 “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. Therefore, the child which shall be born of thee shall be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her who is called barren; for nothing shall be impossible with God.”22 Profound silence filled that small room in Nazareth, one of those dramatic silences wherein the world’s destiny hangs in the balance.

The angel had ceased speaking and Mary was quiet. How many thoughts crowded in upon her! In her mind’s eye, she saw the resplendent crown divine motherhood would place on her head, yet she remained too profoundly humble for any complacency about this singular grandeur. She saw the indescribable joys that would surely fill her heart when holding her dear treasure against her bosom, her Jesus, both God and infant. Yet again, her self-mortification would not allow that she be guided by the allure of joy alone, even the most holy of joys.

She also saw the awful martyrdom that would rend her soul. Through Holy Scripture she knew that the Messias would be delivered to His death like a tender lamb to the slaughter. She foresaw and heard the mournful cry: “I am a worm, and no man; the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people.”23 Yet, such was her fortitude that she would not allow future sorrow to dishearten her. Above everything, she saw the extremely lofty, fatherly, and holy will of God. She owed obedience to Him; she did not hesitate.
The Immaculate Virgin at last broke the solemn silence. The angel waited to receive her consent in the name of the Holy Ghost. In accepting, she pronounced one of those sublime expressions that only the genius of humility can find. It was the most simple and modest formula of a soul completely submissive to the will of God: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word.”24 At that, the grandest of all miracles took place. From the very flesh of the Immaculate Virgin, the Holy Ghost formed a small human body. To this body He joined a human soul; to this body and soul He united the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Word of God. (Read entire post.)
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