Sunday, March 26, 2017

Laetare Sunday

Laetare Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: ut exsultetis, et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae. (Psalm) Laetatus sum in his, quae dicta sunt mihi: in domum Domini ibimus. Gloria Patri.
Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation. (Psalm) I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord. Glory be to the Father.
It is Laetare Sunday. As Fr. Mark explains so well:
Jerusalem is, according to the psalmist, “the dwelling of all joy” (cf. Ps 86:7). In Rome, where the Lenten liturgy is celebrated in ancient stational churches, the Mass of Laetare Sunday is set in the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. In that context, the great cry, “Jerusalem!” has a special resonance. You may ask why this basilica came to be called “in Jerusalem” when, in fact, it stands in Rome. In antiquity, it was called simply, “Jerusalem.” To go to the Basilica of the Holy Cross was to go “up to Jerusalem.” When, in the year 326, Saint Helena returned from the Holy Land, laden with relics, she had with her the most astonishing treasure: she had filled the entire hold of a ship with earth excavated from the holy places in Jerusalem. She had this sacred earth from Jerusalem deposited beneath the Sessorian palace that, enriched with relics of Our Lord’s blessed Cross and Passion, was to become her own church. Saint Helena’s church became “Jerusalem come to Rome.” Today’s stational celebration is a way of going “up to Jerusalem” without leaving Rome and, in a very real sense, a going up to the joys of heaven, a foretaste of the joy that lies beyond the gates of heaven thrown open by Christ the Prince of Life. The psalm that accompanies the entrance antiphon sings just that: “O my joy when they said to me: Let us go up to the house of the Lord” (Psalm 121:1). To go up to Jerusalem is to go up to the highest joy. The psalmist prizes Jerusalem “above all his joys” (cf. Psalm 136:6).(Read more.)
Here is a meditation from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger, O.S.B.:
This Sunday, called, from the first word of the Introit, Lætare Sunday, is one of the most solemn of the year. The Church interrupts her lenten mournfulness; the chants of the Mass speak of nothing but joy and consolation; the organ, which has been silent during the preceding three Sundays, now gives forth its melodious voice; the deacon resumes his dalmatic, and the subdeacon his tunic; and instead of purple, rose-coloured vestments are allowed to be used. These same rites were practised in Advent, on the third Sunday, called Gaudete. The Church's motive for introducing this expression of joy into today's liturgy is to encourage her children to persevere fervently to the end of this holy season. The real mid-Lent was last Thursday, as we have already observed; but the Church, fearing lest the joy might lead to some infringement on the spirit of penance, has deferred her own notice of it to this Sunday, when she not only permits, but even bids, her children to rejoice!...
The blessing of the golden rose is one of the ceremonies peculiar to the fourth Sunday of Lent, which is called on this account Rose Sunday. The thoughts suggested by this flower harmonize with the sentiments wherewith the Church would now inspire her children. The joyous time of Easter is soon to give them a spiritual spring, of which that of nature is but a feeble image.
 Hence, we cannot be surprised that the institution of this ceremony is of a very ancient date. We find it observed under the pontificate of St. Leo IX (eleventh century); and we have a sermon on the golden rose preached by the glorious Pope Innocent III, on this Sunday, and in the basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem. In the middle ages, when the Pope resided in the Lateran palace, having first blessed the rose, he went on horseback to the church of the Station. He wore the mitre, was accompanied by all the Cardinals, and held the blessed flower in his hand. Having reached the basilica, he made a discourse on the mysteries symbolized by the beauty, the colour, and the fragrance of the rose. Mass was then celebrated.
After the Mass, the Pope returned to the Lateran palace. Surrounded by the sacred college, he rode across the immense plain which separates the two basilicas, with the mystic flower still in his hand. We may imagine the joy of the people as they gazed upon the holy symbol. When the procession had reached the palace gates, if there were a prince present, it was his privilege to hold the stirrup, and assist the Pontiff to dismount; for which filial courtesy he received the rose, which had received so much honour and caused such joy. ~ Dom Gueranger's The Liturgical Year, Vol. V

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Lady Day

 From A Clerk of Oxford:
Today is the feast of the Annunciation, 'Lady Day'. As I explored last year, the medieval church considered 25 March to be the single most important date in history, at once the beginning and the end of Christ's life on earth: it was the date of the Annunciation, the Crucifixion, the eighth day of Creation, the crossing of the Red Sea, and the sacrifice of Isaac, all profoundly meaningful events in the carefully-crafted divine story of salvation history. Its resonances reached even unto Middle Earth, as Tolkien aligned the downfall of the Ring to this most auspicious of dates. (Read more.)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Glory of St. Joseph

Here is a beautiful meditation given by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira:
Saint Joseph—prince of the House of David, prince of a royal family that, although dethroned and decadent, was at its apogee because from it was born the Hope of the Nations—knocks at the door and is rejected! But in this rejection is his first glory....He took the first step of his martyrdom: he led Our Lady to a cave suitable only for animals, where the Child Jesus was born.

To this glory—which was certainly a negative one—were added many others: the glory of being considered a person of no consequence although all public honors were due him; the glory of taking upon himself all the humiliation, all the ignominy and all the weight of the opprobrium that was to fall upon Our Lord. From the very beginning, he had the special bliss of being refused for his love of justice and his grandeur of soul. (Read more.)

Third Sunday of Lent

It is Scrutiny Sunday.
Formerly, on this day, candidates were examined in preparation for Baptism on Holy Saturday. The first effect of Baptism is to free the souls from the power of the devil. The house of which Jesus speaks, is the human soul before His coming, degraded by idolatry, by sensuality, under the tyranny of the evil spirit. Mary holding the Infant...is a symbol of our Baptism. Mary gives birth to us as members of the Mystical Body of her Christ. Moreover, like her, "blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it" (Gospel). These baptismal duties of death to sin and life in God (Epistle are meant to gladden, not to oppress the human heart (Offertory), intended by God for Divine possession (Communion Verse), safe from diabolical obsession. (Read entire post.)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Visions of St. Patrick

Saint Patrick had many visions during his life. He once spent forty days and forty nights in deep prayer on a mountain, in imitation of Moses. According to New Advent:
His only shelter from the fury of the elements, the wind and rain, the hail and snow, was a cave, or recess, in the solid rock; and the flagstone on which he rested his weary limbs at night is still pointed out. The whole purpose of his prayer was to obtain special blessings and mercy for the Irish race, whom he evangelized. The demons that made Ireland their battlefield mustered all their strength to tempt the saint and disturb him in his solitude, and turn him away, if possible, from his pious purpose. They gathered around the hill in the form of vast flocks of hideous birds of prey. So dense were their ranks that they seemed to cover the whole mountain, like a cloud, and they so filled the air that Patrick could see neither sky nor earth nor ocean. St. Patrick besought God to scatter the demons, but for a time it would seem as if his prayers and tears were in vain. At length he rang his sweet-sounding bell, symbol of his preaching of the Divine truths. Its sound was heard all over the valleys and hills of Erin, everywhere bringing peace and joy. The flocks of demons began to scatter, He flung his bell among them; they took to precipitate flight, and cast themselves into the ocean. So complete was the saint's victory over them that, as the ancient narrative adds, "for seven years no evil thing was to be found in Ireland." The saint, however, would not, as yet, descend from the mountain. He had vanquished the demons, but he would now wrestle with God Himself, like Jacob of old, to secure the spiritual interests of his people. The angel had announced to him that, to reward his fidelity in prayer and penance, as many of his people would be gathered into heaven as would cover the land and sea as far as his vision could reach. Far more ample, however, were the aspirations of the saint, and he resolved to persevere in fasting and prayer until the fullest measure of his petition was granted. Again and again the angel came to comfort him, announcing new concessions; but all these would not suffice. He would not relinquish his post on the mountain, or relax his penance, until all were granted. At length the message came that his prayers were heard:
  • many souls would be free from the pains of purgatory through his intercession;
  • whoever in the spirit of penance would recite his hymn before death would attain the heavenly reward;
  • barbarian hordes would never obtain sway in his Church;
  • seven years before the Judgment Day, the sea would spread over Ireland to save its people from the temptations and terrors of the Antichrist; and
  • greatest blessing of all, Patrick himself should be deputed to judge the whole Irish race on the last day.
Such were the extraordinary favors which St. Patrick, with his wrestling with the Most High, his unceasing prayers, his unconquerable love of heavenly things, and his unremitting penitential deeds, obtained for the people whom he evangelized.
Saint Patrick, although he did not die for the faith, came very close to red martyrdom.
He tells us in his "Confessio" that no fewer than twelve times he and his companions were seized and carried off as captives, and on one occasion in particular he was loaded with chains, and his death was decreed. But from all these trials and sufferings he was liberated by a benign Providence. It is on account of the many hardships which he endured for the Faith that, in some of the ancient Martyrologies, he is honoured as a martyr.
The reward of his sufferings was an extraordinary vision that was granted him before he died.
He saw the whole of Ireland lit up with the brightest rays of Divine Faith. This continued for centuries, and then clouds gathered around the devoted island, and, little by little, the religious glory faded away, until, in the course of centuries, it was only in the remotest valleys that some glimmer of its light remained. St. Patrick prayed that the light would never be extinguished, and, as he prayed, the angel came to him and said: "Fear not: your apostolate shall never cease." As he thus prayed, the glimmering light grew in brightness, and ceased not until once more all the hills and valleys of Ireland were lit up in their pristine splendour, and then the angel announced to St. Patrick: "Such shall be the abiding splendour of Divine truth in Ireland."
Many in Ireland said, after Saint Patrick passed from this world, that the night was no longer as dark as it had been before.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Second Sunday of Lent

The Transfiguration by Alexander Ivanov
Moses and Elias witness the Transfiguration.
The Gospel is from St. Matthew 17:1-9. This momentary vision of Christ, in his glory, was given in order to strengthen the three principal Apostles to face the trials to their faith, which the sufferings and crucifixion of their beloved master would bring on them. For the very same reason it is retold to us today, in the early part of Lent, to encourage us to persevere in our Lenten mortification. It reminds us that, very soon, the Easter bells will be ringing out their message of joy once more. If we are sharers with Christ in his sufferings, we shall be sharers with him in his glory as St. Paul reminds us.
This is a truth we all too easily forget, namely, that we cannot and do not get to heaven in a limousine. Our spell on earth is the chance given us by our heavenly Father to earn an eternal reward. This reward surpasses even the wildest imagination of man. We could never earn it, but God accepts the little we can do and provides the balance of his infinite mercy. And yet there are many, far too many, who refuse even that little bit that is asked of them, and are thus running the risk of not partaking in God's scheme for their eternal happiness.
And are they any happier during their few years on this earth by acting thus towards the God of mercy? Can they, by ignoring God and their duties towards him, remove all pain, all sorrow, all sufferings, from their daily lives? Death, which means a total separation from all we possessed and cherished in this world, is waiting around the corner for all of us. Who can face it more calmly and confidently —he man who is firmly convinced that it is the gateway to a new life, and who has done his best to earn admission through that gateway, or the man who has acted all his life as if death did not exist for him, and who has done everything to have the gate to the new life shut forever in his face?
Illnesses and troubles and disappointments are the lot of all men. They respect neither wealth, nor power, nor position. The man who knows his purpose in life, and is ever striving to reach the goal God's goodness has planned for him, can and will see in these trials of life the hand of a kind father who is preparing him for greater things. His sufferings become understandable and more bearable because of his attitude to life and its meaning. The man who ignores God and tries to close the eyes of his mind to the real facts of life has nothing to uphold him or console him in his hours of sorrow and pain. Yet, sorrow and pain will dog his footsteps, strive as he will to avoid them, and he can see no value, no divine purpose in these, for him, misfortunes.
Christ has asked us to follow him, carrying our daily cross, and the end of our journey is not Calvary but resurrection, the entrance to a life of glory with our risen Savior. The Christian who grasps his cross closely and willingly, knowing its value for his real life, will find it becomes lighter and often not a burden but a pleasure. The man who tries to shuffle off his cross, and who curses and rebels against him who sent it, will find it doubles its weight and loses all the value it was intended to have for his true welfare.
(Read entire post.)
Here are some profound reflections from Fr. Mark in Ireland:
 It is a curious fact of liturgical history that originally the Second Sunday of Lent had no Mass of its own. The Roman clergy and people were tired from the long night vigil that began on the evening of Ember Saturday and ended at dawn with the Holy Sacrifice. Only when the solemn night vigil was pushed back to Saturday morning did it become necessary to put together a separate Mass for Sunday morning.

In Rome, the stational church is Saint Mary in Dominica, originally a Roman deaconry, that is, a dispensary for the poor. For us, this means, that today’s Mass is a kind of pilgrimage in honour of the holy Mother of God, the Virgin of the Poor, who accompanies us throughout the Lenten journey. Our Lady is the dispensatrix of the graces of God: divinarum gratiarum primaria dispensatrix. We enter today’s Holy Mass, then, as poor people enter a dispensary to wash, to find warmth, and to receive food, medicine, clothing, and shelter. It is the Mother of God herself who presides over this dispensary and she, being the humble handmaid of the Lord, places herself at the service of all who come seeking relief, for she «receives all guests who come like Christ Himself» (RSB 53). (Read more.)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Novena to St. Joseph

Today begins the nine-days of intensive prayer to Saint Joseph, the foster-father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the patron and protector of fathers and of families, and of the dying. The month of March is dedicated to Saint Joseph. Let us beg his direct intercession. His intercession is powerful; all those who have experienced his intervention know what I am talking about. Really, he will help in any dire situation. I love Saint Joseph. Here is another little prayer as well:
Dear Saint Joseph, you who have the power to render possible that which seems impossible, come to our aid in our present trouble and distress. Take this important and difficult affair under your particular protection that it may end happily.
Dear Saint Joseph, all our confidence is in you. Let it not be said we have invoked you in vain. Since you are so powerful with Jesus and Mary, show that your goodness equals your power.
Divine Providence did provide. Divine Providence can provide. Divine Providence will provide. Amen.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Faith

Here is a meditation on the Eucharist by a Carmelite tertiary who shall be known on this blog as Mi Amigo
If God, by His Word, who incarnated as Jesus of Nazareth, created the world, if He breathed into each of us His life, why cannot God submit Himself in all His fullness into bread and wine so that we may eat with Him in communion? If He chooses this manner of giving Himself to us, this simple and humble form of communion that, in our “advanced” modern age, really makes more sense than any other way, if He chooses this manner to feed us while at the same time forming us by His sustenance into a temple in which He desires to dwell, we who so earnestly desire His presence, what is there to doubt? 

Our being, and its development during the short period of our lives, alone, is a miracle in itself. We take in food to give our bodies sustenance, as He determined from the beginning of ages; how simply, magnificently meaningful, that He has determined to build and sustain each of us as His temple to receive His presence by giving Himself to us as food?

Giving Himself to us in consecrated bread and wine is Wisdom: the Wisdom spoken of and anticipated by Moses, Noah, David, Solomon, Daniel, Ben Sirach, Elijah who was fed by the raven, and Isaiah, among others, and possibly most notably, the Wisdom that Melchisedec celebrated with Abraham. This Wisdom calls us to step out onto the water and keep our gaze fixed on His, knowing and trusting in His power, His fidelity, His interest in our individual and communal fulfillment, trusting that this world, after all, is His, to step out of our comfort zones walled in by insubstantial pride, to follow after Him with trust and love, without shame or fear, and to experience, live and share, the continuing miracle, the gift, the freedom, of His being, His life, the answer to the human inquiry, "what is love?"

This is the day the Lord has made; this is the way He has chosen to give Himself to us, Himself being the Way. Faith.

In a world in which we take pride in our technological advancement, cell phones, internet, medicine, political correctness, and a short period of relative self-dependence that ends in the earth from which it emerged, God gives Himself to us in the simple elements of bread and wine, a Stone upon which the proud trip and stumble.

"If deliberately cultivated, doubt can lead to spiritual blindness." CCC 2088

First Sunday of Lent

From Vultus Christi:
If you want to experience the grace of Lent this year, go boldly into the desert of your weakness, into the wilderness of your sins, into the wastelands of your fears and brokenness. Make a good Confession and do it soon. It is there that the Lord Jesus waits for you. He comes to meet us in our deserts in order to lead us back into The Garden.

When you are lonely, when you are weak, when you have fallen into sin, the only way out is to remember that Jesus chose to experience the desert with us and that He awaits us there, to take us by the hand and lead us out.

Saint Athanasius tells us that when the great Saint Anthony of Egypt was living in the desert in fasting and prayer, the devil assaulted him with violent and frightening temptations. Anthony struggled and fought to the point of exhaustion. Soon after, Our Lord appeared to him. Bewildered, Anthony asked: “Why did you leave me alone in this desert waste to fight off the Evil One and struggle against his attacks?” Our Lord answered: “Anthony, you were not alone. I was invisibly present to you in your temptation and it is through Me and because of My grace that you came through your trial victorious.”

So it is in our lives. No matter how dark the night, no matter how terrifying the desert, no matter how miserable our weakness or how shameful our sins, Jesus Christ is invisibly present to save and deliver. “Christ . . . died,” said Saint Peter in our Second Reading, “the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” (1 P 3 :18)

What begins in the confessional is perfected at the altar. In every celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Christ, Warrior and Prince, Priest and Victim brings us to God. Receive His Body and Blood and you will pass through Him and with Him out of the wastelands of sin into the Garden of the Father’s delight. In Paradise Lost the old Adam heard the grieving Father ask, “Adam, where are you?” (Gn 3:9). In the Mass — the very heart of Paradise Restored — the New Adam raises His voice to offer the Father the one answer He has been waiting for: “Father, the hour has come.” (Jn 17:1). And to the voice of the New Adam, a New Eve joins her voice: it is the voice of Mary His Virgin Mother. It is the voice of the whole Church, and in it the Father hears your voices and mine. (Read more.)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ash Wednesday

Remember, man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.
Our forty days of penance commence with the reception of blessed ashes. The words from the book of Genesis (3:19) help us to think of the shortness of life, of our last end, and of that moment when each shall come before God to be judged. "Remember," wrote Saint Teresa of Avila, "that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; that there is only one glory, which is eternal."

Since Old Testament times, ashes have been a symbol of sorrow for sin. "For I did eat ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping." (Psalm 101:10) In the early Church, only "public" sinners, those guilty of murder, adultery, or idolatry, who had formally repented, would receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. During Lent, they would humbly kneel at the doors of the church, not entering until they were given absolution on Holy Thursday. The famous liturgist, Abbot Gueranger, gives a description of the ceremony "of the Wednesday in Quinquagesima:"
Before the Mass of the day began, they [the penitents] presented themselves at the church....The priests received the confession of their sins, and then clothed them in sackcloth, and sprinkled ashes on their heads...the clergy and the faithful prostrated themselves and recited aloud the seven penitential psalms. A procession, in which the penitents walked barefooted, then followed; and on its return, the bishop then addressed these words to the penitents: 'Behold, we drive you from the doors of the church by reason of your sins and crimes, as Adam, the first man, was driven out of paradise....' The clergy then sang several responsories, taken from the book of Genesis....The doors were shut, and the penitents were not to pass the threshold until Maunday Thursday, when they were to come to receive absolution. (The Liturgical Year, Vol IV , p 204-205)
During the Middle Ages, it became the custom for all of the faithful to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. We are blessed that so many indulgences can now be gained with very little effort on our part. How light are the penances now demanded of us; what little fasting is required of us! Perhaps the best penance is the patient and loving endurance of hardships and sorrows which come our way; those unchosen mortifications can be heavy enough. Interiorly, we can share the contrition of the brave penitents of old by receiving the ashes with great love for Christ and a determination to follow Him, no matter what. It is time for a new beginning, and for trying, again, to be a disciple.

Lent is like a retreat for the entire church in which all Christians strive more vigorously against the world, the flesh, and the devil, our spiritual enemies. The three works which Holy Mother Church exhorts us to perform during Lent in order to overcome those enemies are prayer, fasting, and alms giving. Through prayer, we grow in strength to conquer the evil one. It is important to make more time for prayer during Lent because it arouses compunction, charity, humility, and other dispositions without which the other two practices would be empty of merit.

We fast in order to imitate Our Lord's forty day fast in the desert. Unlike Him, we need to tame the concupiscence of the flesh, acquire self-discipline, and atone for our personal sins. It was by breaking God's commandment to abstain from eating a certain fruit that Adam and Eve lost the earthly paradise. Both Moses and Elias fasted for forty days before encountering the living God. (Exodus 24:18 and 3 Kings 19:8)

In former times, every day of Lent (except for Sundays and first-class feasts) was a fast day. Now, only two fast days remain -- Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also days of abstinence from meat, as are all Fridays of Lent. Many people think that the Second Vatican Council did away with Friday abstinence, but it did not. Every Friday of the year is a day of abstinence from meat unless the bishops of the country decide to substitute another form of penance. In the United States, it is up to every individual to perform some other Friday penance if they are not able to abstain from meat. However, every Friday of Lent remains a day of strict abstinence.

The third Lenten good work is almsgiving, by which we overcome the "world," that is, the love of riches, luxuries, and honors. Through almsgiving we not only help the poor, the missions, and the temporal needs of the Church, but we mortify any inordinate desires for material things. By having Masses offered, our alms can assist the "Church Suffering" in purgatory. As the aged Tobias said to his son: "Prayer is good with fasting and alms more than more than to lay up treasures of gold. For alms delivereth from death, and...purgeth away sins." (Tobias 12:8-9) As Jesus commands in the Gospel for Ash Wednesday: "Let not your right hand know what your left hand is doing." (Matthew 6:3) It is most important that all our good works are accompanied by charity, humility, and the desire to please God alone.

(Artwork courtesy of Micki)
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