Saturday, August 18, 2018

St. Helena the Empress


My patron saint. She discovered the True Cross. Don Marco says:
Saint Helena was not merely collecting relics for posterity. Her discovery of the True Cross saved the Orthodox Catholic faith from being submerged in a sea of speculative philosophies that denied the true Flesh and Blood of Christ. Saint Helena’s discovery points to the God who became man and suffered death on a real cross in a particular place at a precise moment in history. Mary Magdalene, the Apostle to the Apostles was the herald of Christ’s resurrection; Saint Helena became the herald of the mystery of the Cross. (Read more.)


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

54-day Rosary Novena

From August 15 until Oct 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Let us join in prayer for our country, especially for the November elections. From Roman Catholic Man:
The novena consists of five decades of the Rosary (one set of mysteries) each day for twenty-seven days in petition; then immediately five decades each day for an additional twenty-seven days in thanksgiving, regardless of whether or not the request has been granted yet. So began six novenas of Rosaries — which became known as the 54-day Rosary Novena. To do the novena properly — one must pray the Rosary for 54 consecutive days, without missing a day, and must pray the particular Mystery indicated for that day following the correct sequence. That is, the first day of the novena always begins with the Joyful Mysteries (regardless of what day of the week the novena is started); the second day, the Sorrowful Mysteries are prayed; and the third day of the novena, the Glorious Mysteries are prayed. The fourth day of the novena begins again with the Joyful Mysteries and continues on in that sequence throughout the 54 days of the novena...(Read more.)

The Assumption of Mary

"And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars...." (Apocalypse 12:1)

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII in the bull Munificentissimus Deus defined the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The teaching that the Immaculate Mother of God was taken body and soul into heaven at the close of her earthly existence has been the constant belief of the universal Church, as ancient liturgical manuscripts bear witness. "Everything tends to indicate that the privilege of the Assumption was explicitly revealed to the Apostles...and that it was transmitted subsequently by the oral tradition of the Liturgy," wrote Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange in The Mother of the Saviour and Interior Life.

It was not until the middle of the twentieth century, a century so traumatized by genocide, mass murders, world wars, the breakdown of modesty, morality, and family life; the spread of false ideologies such as communism, socialism, and feminism, which promise to liberate but in reality only enslave and destroy, that the pope was moved to declare the dogma. "The political, social, and religious atmosphere in the middle of the twentieth century influenced greatly the decision of the Pope" so that "mindful of the human misery caused by war, of the ever present threat of materialism and the decline of moral life, and of the internal problems that disturbed the Church, [he] turned to Mary, confident of her intercession." Pope Pius XII "believed...that calling attention to the bodily Assumption of Mary would remind all men and women that the human body is sacred, that the whole person is holy and destined to live forever." (Fr. Kilian Healy, O.Carm. The Assumption of Mary)

For those who struggle to offer to God hearts free from all stain of actual sin, who strive to experience even in this life the joys of union with God through contemplation, the mystery of the Assumption is one which characterizes a way of life. According to Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. in his classic work Divine Intimacy:
Mary's Assumption shows us the route we must follow in our spiritual ascent: detachment from earth, flight towards God and union with God....It is not enough to purify our heart from sin and attachment to creatures, we must at the same time to direct it towards God, tending toward Him with all our strength...Mary's Assumption thus confirms in us this great and beautiful truth: we are created for and called to union with God. Mary herself stretches out her maternal hand to guide us to the attainment of this high ideal.
On our journey to Heaven, we confidently grasp the hand of our merciful Mother, the Mediatrix of all Grace. As St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus wrote a few months before her death: "It is true that no human life is exempt from faults; only the Immaculate Virgin presents herself pure before the Divine Majesty. Since she loves us and knows our weakness, what have we to fear?" (Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, Vol II, trans. by Fr John Clarke, O.C.D.) How fitting that the acclamation from the Book of Judith is so often applied to Our Lady: "Thou art the glory of Jerusalem, thou art the joy of Israel, thou art the honor of our people." (Judith 15:10)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Prayer, Mortification and Fraternal Charity

On the feast of the Franciscan martyr St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe it is a privilege to read one of his homilies translated from Polish by Fr. Angelo. In the words of the heroic priest-martyr:
Prayer, above all prayer, is the effective weapon to use in the fight for the liberty and happiness of souls. Why?

Because only supernatural means lead to a supernatural end. Heaven—if one may say—is the divinization of the soul, a supernatural reality in the full sense of the term. Consequently, it cannot be attained by merely natural power. It is also indispensable to have a supernatural means, that is, divine grace. And this is obtained by humble and confident prayer. Grace, and only grace, which enlightens the intellect and strengthens the will, is the cause of conversion or the liberation of the soul from the bonds of evil.

But a prayer lifted up to God through the hands of the Immaculate cannot remain without effect, as it is said in the invocation of St. Bernard: "Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection was ever abandoned by You." So before all else there must be humble, confident and unfailing prayer. (Read more.)
More HERE about the saint of Auschwitz.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Mind of the Immaculate

From Fr. Angelo:
The Immaculate is a living ideal, a pattern of life to be replicated by our external comportment, and more importantly, by our interior lives. She lives enthroned, not merely in paradise, but in the hearts and minds of those who truly love Her. In this way She is alive and active in and through us, influencing directly the choices we make as a Mother who loves and nurtures us. This we must remember every time we think of Her. Here we will find true enlightenment and our feet will be led into the way of peace (Luke 1:79) to “the summits of our desired holiness,” to peaceful rest and blissful union with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But to achieve this our thought of Her must be prayerful and profound. This is only made possible by humble meditation and prayer.

Thinking about the Immaculate

St. Maximilian Kolbe was a man who during his whole life meditated and contemplated in this fashion. He was consumed by a truth in which he believed with all his mind and heart. Often he spoke of his love and zeal for the Mother of God in terms of a “fixed ideal,” and for love of Her he wished to live, work, suffer, be consumed and die.

Now, St. Maximilian was not an idealist, not a man chasing after a dream. Nor was his ideal some abstract principle formulated by philosophers, rather it was a person, the knowledge of whom had been handed on to him through infallible divine revelation. This person, the Church taught him, is the Immaculate Mother of God, given to us as our Mother by Her divine Son. Throughout the Christian era the Church had spoken about Her in the most solemn fashion, indicating the central and unique role She plays in salvation history, and defining precisely the nature of Her dignity and role in the lives of men. For this reason St. Maximilian came to fully appreciate the holiness of this Woman without stain, and the love of the Mother of God who became also our Mother.

For good reason, then, Saint Maximilian links together a disciplined reading or study habit with a filial prayer relationship with Mary. Perfectly harmonized spiritual reading or study and a prayerful dependence on grace constitute the kind of meditation, leading to contemplation that fuels progress in the interior life. This is not merely a philosophical approach to life, which deals with everything in terms of some abstract ideal, nor is it simply a convenient or consoling spiritual experience of a transcendent person. Rather, it is a deep relationship with God who reveals and saves, and who is the only theoretical and practical basis for resolving the demands of life in this world.

Truth and Life

In the person of St. Maximilian, truth and life are perfectly harmonized. A man of great apostolic works and a hero of charity, St. Maximilian is hailed by our production-preoccupied culture as a practical man. Publisher, journalist, founder, reformer, missionary, scientific and organizational genius: he was a man ahead of his times. However, his indomitable energy, productivity and his concern for his fellow man are senseless if not for his life-long contemplation of the truth. In particular, one question preoccupied his thoughts from his youth to the death cell: Who are you, O Immaculate? In his blurring activity St. Maximilian was not a fanatic, nor a superman. He was a poor banished child of Eve, like the rest of us, who had been transformed by his ideal, because this ideal was true, and because this truth was the Woman conceived without sin, who became the Mother of God and the Mediatrix of All Grace. (Read more.)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Current Crisis in the Catholic Church

From Fr. Heilman:
On October 7, 2017, over one million Catholics in Poland rose up and grabbed their rosaries and, mainly on their borders, called out to God with the powerful intercession of Our Lady....This was a grassroots effort that was, in essence, saying, “The demonic secular forces of this world are not welcome on our soil!” While not immune to the infiltration of modernism in Poland’s Catholic Church, they remain one of the strongest on the planet. In St. Faustina’s diary, she relates how our Lord told her,
“I bear a special love for Poland, and if she will be obedient to My will, I will exalt her in might and holiness. From her will come forth the spark that will prepare the world for My final coming” (Diary, 1732)
Inspired by Poland — Ireland, the British Isles and Australia followed suit in praying for their respective countries with rosaries in hand (all “grassroots” efforts of the laity). The United States has been praying this way since 2016 (and the lead up to the Presidential election), with Novena for Our Nation, with over 40,000 USA Catholics praying the miraculous 54 Day Rosary Novena from August 15 (Feast of the Assumption) to October 7 (Our Lady of the Rosary). With the inspiration of Poland, we (USA) have reframed the concluding October 7 prayer campaign with the new title of “Rosary Coast to Coast” (Go to rosarycoasttocoast.com). Now, many nations have accepted the clarion call, and will be praying together on October 7, 2018 in what we now call the “Holy League of Nations” (Go to holyleagueofnations.com).
In the lead up to our launch of this 2018 enormous “Rosary Coast to Coast” nation-wide (now worldwide) prayer campaign (We launched on March 31, 2018), our planning team sought the support of all of the USA bishops. I warned the team that we would not get many to respond, much less support. And, as I predicted, only a handful responded and what support we received was timid (barring a few, including my own Bishop Morlino, Bishop Conley and Cardinal Burke). Why did I accurately predict this? Because I knew full well the “condition of our prelates in America.” I knew we would be received as more “dangerous” than “beneficial” to the Church in America. Why? Let me explain …
There was one reply, in particular, that still rings (stings) in my mind and heart, nearly on a daily basis, that, sadly, truly expressed this “condition of our prelates.” It came from a very prominent prelate who will remain nameless. Here was his reply …
“Father, I’m not fond of these national campaigns.  I don’t know that they accomplish a whole lot and because of that, I just haven’t been willing to offer endorsements.”
Yes, you read that correctly. Tens of thousands of people joined together in prayer to call out to God, through the powerful intercession of our Lady, to protect and heal our nation does not “accomplish a whole lot.” St. Louis de Montfort once wrote:
“When people say the Rosary together, it is far more formidable to the devil, than one said privately. Because in this public prayer, it is an army that is attacking him. He can often overcome the prayer of an individual, but if this prayer is joined to other Christians, the devil has much more trouble in getting the best of it.” -St Louis de Montfort.
You see? This is the “problem” … this is the “condition” of the vast majority of our prelates. To them, St. Louis de Montfort and all of those crazy saints were just that … “crazy.” You see? WE have arrived on the scene and, thank God, WE are here now to take the “crazy” out of Catholicism. No more of this silly hocus pocus superstitious nonsense, under our watch. No more of this ridiculous belief in the supernatural power of God and the power of prayer, as long as we are here. In fact, those who advocate “the supernatural” are to be considered “dangerous” in our Church. Also, anyone who would actually defend the teachings of the Church is to be considered “dangerous.”
(Read more.)

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Saint Clare

Today is the feast of the great Holy Mother St. Clare. Fr. Mark reflects:
There is something singularly appealing about Saint Clare of Assisi. In many ways she resembles her brother and father in Christ, Saint Francis, and yet Clare is Clare . . . fearless, spontaneous, unconventional, and strong-willed. She could have satisfied the expectations of her family and of society by marrying some promising young nobleman. Or she could have entered some respectable and established monastery; with her family background and her personal gifts, she would certainly have become a grand Lady Abbess and wielded the crosier over a comfortable little monastic domain, but Clare cared little for conventions and respectability. She did not hesitate to put behind her “houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children and land” (Mt 19:29) for the sake of Jesus Christ and of His Gospel. (Read more.)

Friday, August 10, 2018

St Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

Fr. Mark's reflections are worth reading year after year. Of St. Lawrence Father gives us a lesson in the meaning of sacred art as well as of the life of the saint. To quote:
I wish that I could put you all in a bus today and accompany you to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City just to see there the small round glass medallion dating from the fourth century that depicts Saint Laurence. The medallion bears the simple inscription: “Live with Christ and Laurence.” What some would see as a simple cultural artifact is for us a witness to the unchanging faith of the Church. The saints are those who have passed into eternal life with Christ. “Live with Christ and Laurence.” To live with Christ is to live in the society of the saints. Not only do we remember each year the anniversary of their birthday into the life of heaven; we seek their intercession and rely on it. We make our pilgrimage through this life in their company, having “over our head,” as the Letter to the Hebrews says, “so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1).

I also wish that I could transport all of you to the Chapel of Pope Nicholas V in the Vatican to see there the series of frescoes that Blessed Fra Angelico painted to depict the life of Saint Laurence. This in itself is remarkable: a saint painting a saint.

In one scene of the series he shows Saint Laurence coming out of a basilica to meet the poor who are waiting for him. Laurence is youthful; he is dressed as a deacon for the liturgy. His dalmatic is deep rose in colour, suggesting joy, and trimmed in gold, hinting at the glory that is already transforming him. On the ground in front of him is a crippled man holding out his hand and begging for alms. To his right is an old man with a white beard, quite bent over, and leaning on his walking stick; he too is asking for alms. To Laurence’s left stands an impoverished widow in a dark dress and, just behind her, a young mother with a baby in her arms. Again to his left, is a man in need of medicine, pointing to a wound in his knee. On both sides of Laurence are little children; two of them, having already received their alms, are walking away, while a third is still waiting to receive something. (Read more.)

Thursday, August 9, 2018

St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein)

On October 11, 1998, Pope John Paul II canonized St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a Discalced Carmelite nun known in the world as Dr. Edith Stein. Edith Stein was born to a German Jewish family on October 12, 1891, the Day of Atonement on the Hebrew calendar. She grew up to become a brilliant philosopher and university professor, as well as a feminist. Her purely secular lifestyle eventually brought her to a state of melancholy. She began to search for a deeper meaning of life.

One evening, while at the home of some Catholic friends, Edith read the Life of St. Teresa of Avila, and when she finished it she said: "This is truth." Edith was baptized in 1922, and for the next decade was a dedicated teacher in Catholic schools, as well as a lecturer on women's issues. The confusion of today concerning the role of women in the home, in the Church, and in public life was also rampant in the Europe of the 1920's and 30's. Dr. Stein gave a series of lectures on such topics as "Ethos of Women's Professions" and "Vocations of Man and Woman," in which she discussed the controversy in the light of Sacred Scripture and Tradition.

At a convention of Catholic Academics in 1930, Dr. Stein said:
Many of the best women are almost overwhelmed by the double burden of family duties and professional life-- or often simply of gainful employment. Always on the go, they are harassed, nervous, and irritable. Where are they to get the needed inner peace and cheerfulness in order to offer stability, support, and guidance to others?...To have divine love as its inner form, a woman's life must be a Eucharistic life. Only in daily confidential relationship with the Lord in the tabernacle can one forget self, become free of all one's wishes and pretensions, and have a heart open to all the needs of others. ( The Collected works of Edith Stein, Vol 2, ICS Publications, 1987)
Edith presented the Blessed Virgin Mary as being the role model for all women.
Whether she is a mother in the home, or occupies a place in the limelight of public life, or lives behind quiet cloister walls, she must be the handmaid of the Lord everywhere. So had the Mother of God been in all the circumstances of her life....Were each woman an image of the Mother of God, a Spouse of Christ, an apostle of the Divine Heart, then would each fulfill her feminine vocation no matter what conditions she lived in and what worldly activity absorbed her life. (Collected Works, Vol 2)
At the age of forty-two, Edith Stein entered the Carmel of Cologne, where she made her first profession on Easter Sunday, 1935 and her final vows in April of 1938. Due to the Nazi persecution of the Jews in Germany, Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, as she was known in the cloister, was transferred to the Dutch Carmel of Echt on December 31, 1938. On Passion Sunday, 1939, she asked her superior for permission to "offer herself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement for the peace of the world" and the conversion of the Jewish people. (J. Fabrerues, "The Science of the Cross," Carmelite Digest, 1994)

Soon afterwards, Holland ceased to be a refuge; it was invaded by the Germans. In July of 1942, the Dutch bishops protested the Nazi mistreatment and deportation of the Jews. The Nazis retaliated. On August 2, all Catholics of Jewish descent were arrested, including Sr. Teresa Benedicta and her sister Rosa Stein. Beaten and half-starved, the sisters were deported first to Westerbork prison prison camp in Northern Holland. Sr. Teresa was able to send a message to her superior that she was still wearing her Carmelite habit, and planned to keep wearing it as long as she could. (Fabrerues)

At the camp, St. Teresa Benedicta comforted and cared for frightened mothers and their little children. Before her arrival in Auschwitz on August 9, 1942, she managed to smuggle one last message to her mother prioress: "I am content now. One can only learn the Scientia Crucis if one truly suffers under the weight of the Cross. I was entirely convinced of this from the very first and I have said with all my heart: Hail, Cross, our only hope." (Fabrerues)

After disappearing into the hell of the death camp, it is assumed that the brave Carmelites were gassed almost immediately, but the exact date and hour of the death of St. Teresa Benedicta has never been known for certain. She was beatified as a martyr of the Catholic faith on May 1, 1987 by Pope John Paul II.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

St. Dominic and the Triumph of Grace

From Vultus Christi:
If Saint Dominic preached the rosary and prayed it, it was because he knew it to be a prayer capable of winning every grace. The rosary is a prayer of repetition. It is a prayer of confidence. It helps one to persevere in supplication, bead by bead, and decade by decade. Our Lord finds the rosary irresistible because His own Mother “subsidizes” it. She stands behind it. The rosary is the voice of the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, and the weak. Persevere in praying the rosary and one day you will hear Our Lord say to you what He said to the woman of the Gospel: “Great is thy faith! Be it done for thee as thou wilt” (Mt 15:28). Saint Dominic shows us that, with the rosary in hand, we will experience the triumph of grace. (Read more.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

St. Albert of Trapani


Also known as St. Albert of Sicily. Today in the Carmelite Order water is blessed known as "St Albert's Water." Sr. Mary, the late departed extern sister at the Carmel of Loretto, PA., kept a generous supply of jars filled with St Albert's water in the pantry near the Turn. Sometimes the water would be there for so long that the jars began to look like small aquariums of interesting life forms. But people would take them home anyway, because of the connection to the Carmelite priest who was a man of prayer and a worker of miracles. And the miracles never cease....

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Transfiguration

Let us run with confidence and joy to enter into the cloud like Moses and Elijah, or like James and John. Let us be caught up like Peter to behold the divine vision and to be transfigured by that glorious transfiguration. Let us retire from the world, stand aloof from the earth, rise above the body, detach ourselves from creatures and turn to the Creator, to whom Peter in ecstasy exclaimed: Lord, it is good for us to be here.
~Anastasius of Sinai, from The Liturgy of the Hours according to The Roman Rite, 1975

Assumption Novena

Mary, Queen Assumed into Heaven, I rejoice that after years of heroic martyrdom on earth, you have at last been taken to the throne prepared for you in heaven by the Holy Trinity.
Lift my heart with you in the glory of your Assumption above the dreadful touch of sin and impurity. Teach me how small earth becomes when viewed from heaven. Make me realize that death is the triumphant gate through which I shall pass to your Son, and that someday my body shall rejoin my soul in the unending bliss of heaven.
From this earth, over which I tread as a pilgrim, I look to you for help. I ask for this favor: (Mention your request).
When my hour of death has come, lead me safely to the presence of Jesus to enjoy the vision of my God for all eternity together with you.

For those who like to pray Scripture as part of a novena, here are some favorite passages:
And the temple of God was opened in heaven: and the ark of his testament was seen in his temple, and there were lightnings, and voices, and an earthquake, and great hail. And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars....(Apocalypse 11:19-12:1)
  But as the same Lord liveth, his angel hath been my keeper both going hence, and abiding there, and returning from thence hither: and the Lord hath not suffered me his handmaid to be defiled, but hath brought me back to you without pollution of sin, rejoicing for his victory, for my escape, and for your deliverance. Give all of you glory to him, because he is good, because his mercy endureth for ever. And they all adored the Lord, and said to her: The Lord hath blessed thee by his power, because by thee he hath brought our enemies to nought....Blessed art thou, O daughter, by the Lord the most high God, above all women upon the earth. Blessed be the Lord who made heaven and earth, who hath directed thee to the cutting off the head of the prince of our enemies. Because he hath so magnified thy name this day, that thy praise shall not depart out of the mouth of men who shall be mindful of the power of the Lord for ever, for that thou hast not spared thy life, by reason of the distress and tribulation of thy people, but hast prevented our ruin in the presence of our God....Blessed art thou by thy God in every tabernacle of Jacob, for in every nation which shall hear thy name, the God of Israel shall be magnified on occasion of thee....And when she was come out to him, they all blessed her with one voice, saying: Thou art the glory of Jerusalem, thou art the joy of Israel, thou art the honour of our people....(Judith 13:20-2, 23-25, 31,15:10 )

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Our Lady of the Snow

The legend, the feast and the basilica.
The most important church in the city of Rome dedicated to Our Lady is the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, erected around the year 352, during the reign of Pope Liberius. (352-366)  According to legend, a member of an aristocratic family, John and his wife were childless and prayed that the Blessed Mother might designate an heir to bequeath their wealth.  They were favored with a dream in which Our Lady appeared to them on the night of August 4-5. She requested that they build a church in her honor on the Esquiline hill and the sign to accompany this dream is that the exact location would be marked out in snow.

During that hot summer evening, a miraculous snowfall traced the form of the basilica on the hill.  Our Lady also appeared to Pope Liberius in a dream that same night so that he too could arrive at the location to see the miraculous snowfall.  Many people gathered to see the unusual event of snow glistening in the August sun.  Upon awakening, John and his wife rushed to the site and Pope Liberius arrived in solemn procession.

Realizing that the snow marked the exact location of the church, the people staked off the area before the snow melted.  The basilica was completed within two years and consecrated by Pope Liberius; that is why it is sometimes referred to as the Basilica Liberiana, after the Pope who consecrated it.
When the Council of Ephesus defined Mary as Theotokos, the God-bearer, in 431 A.D., Pope Sixtus III (432-440) rebuilt and embellished the basilica.  From the seventh century onward, it was referred to as St. Mary the Great or Major.  The Basilica has also been called Our Lady of the Snows in commemoration of the miraculous snowfall.  The imposing facade was built by Pope Eugene III (1145-1153).

Among its great treasures is a painting of the Madonna and Child known as the Salus Populi Romani, the Protectress of the People of Rome, which is attributed to St. Luke.  This image had been brought back from the Holy Land by St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, who also located the true cross and other relics of the Passion in Jerusalem.  The venerable picture hung in the private chapel of Pope Liberius, and he ordered that it be brought to the Basilica for public veneration by the faithful.

Throughout the centuries, there has been a special devotion to this famous picture of Our Lady.  During the pontificate of Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604) a plague attacked the people of Rome and the Pope carried the image in procession to pray to their Protectress for an end to the plague.  In 1837, Pope Gregory XVI (1830-1846) also carried the image in procession throughout Rome to ask Our Lady for an end to an epidemic of cholera.  When it soon ended, the Pontiff solemnly placed crowns of gold and gems on the heads of Mary and the child Jesus on the miraculous image. 
Today is the anniversary of my grandmother's death. Please pray for the repose of her soul.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

St. John Vianney

He is the patron saint of parish priests. Fr. Mark has a beautiful post about St John Vianney and his incendiary preaching. I will never forget our brief visit to Ars in September 1999, when my husband and I decided to rent a car in Toulouse and drive up the east side of France to Paris. We motored along winding and precipitous roads through the mountains of Auvergne to Le Puy-en-Velay, the site of the shrine of Our Lady of France, popular in the Middle Ages. I could not imagine the rigors of reaching the shrine via horse or mule when it was difficult enough to reach it by car.

The next morning we drove up to Lyon and then made our way on the back roads to Ars. It was noon; most of the pilgrims were at dinner so we had the church pretty much to ourselves. They were repairing the roof but other than that it was a stunningly beautiful church. I wandered around, lighting candles for those with grave needs. I turned a corner and almost jumped, because there he was-- the Curé d'Ars in his glass coffin, incorrupt, looking as if he were asleep. It was like being at a wake rather than visiting the tomb of someone long dead. His expression was so peaceful and serene, communicating both the shortness of life and the joy of final victory. Even in death, the holy Curé preaches to us.

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Brown Scapular: Its Modern Day Significance

From Mount Carmel:
The Brown Scapular is a miniature form of the habit worn by Carmelites. The significance of the Scapular to Carmelites is very much tied up to the place of Mary in the Order. It summarizes Marian devotions and piety. The Scapular does not have any value or meaning, if it is not contemplated in relation to Mary. This is because this sacramental of the Church came to us through the initiative of Mary. To understand Mary’s role and place in our modern day existence is to understand well the significance of the Brown Scapular of Carmel in our lives and the world. What does this tiny, brown piece of cloth, have anything to do with our Christian life?

The Brown Scapular embodies Mary’s spirit. In our world of noise and frenzied activities, the Scapular invites us to remember our origin and roots as Carmelites. Anyone who wears the Brown Scapular implicitly ties him or herself to the spirit and life of Carmel. We should remember that we were founded in the caves of Mount Carmel, in the spirit of Elias, to contemplate God “in whose presence we stand.” The Brown Scapular calls us to silence and contemplation and intimacy with God. This intimacy must be sought not just by the “contemplatives” of the Order but by anyone who wears the Carmelite scapular.

In our world of consumerism and materialism, the Brown Scapular reminds us of the simplicity of Mary in Nazareth, content with what God had to offer. The simple brown cloth worn as an apron should remind us of the Gospel call to service and humility. At the Last Supper, our Lord put on an apron and began to wash the apostles feet. It should be a constant reminder to us of an interior disposition to make ourselves available in any way we are called upon to serve. The brown color of the Scapular reminds us of earth from which we were formed in creation and a reminder that it is through our frail humanity that we ascend to God. The Scapular, which is worn over the shoulder, is a “yoke” that we put on. Once we put on this yoke, we freely commit ourselves to a “way of life” that will lead us to the mountain of Carmel which is Christ. I emphasize "way of life" because the Brown Scapular should signify a life- changing commitment. We try to re-orient our life and gear it to the Gospel ideals embodied by the Scapular, daily, and with determination. It is not just the act of wearing it but a firmness of purpose to live out the challenge. It is entering into a covenant.

The Brown Scapular, being totally Marian, symbolizes the virtue of chastity. We are "clothed in the habit of our Lady", as St. Teresa of Avila loved to remind her nuns. How can we worthily wear the Scapular of Mary Most Pure, if we don't shun impurity in all shapes and forms? In this modern culture glamorizing sex and the idolatrous worship of the body, we have the work cut out for us. We do not mean to be prudish here since we acknowledge the fact that we are not angels but endowed with a human body, with all of its normal operations, desires and processes. But the virtue of chastity is first of all born in the will. "It is not what enters a man's heart from the outside which renders him impure, but rather what comes out of him," as Jesus wisely stated. We must try to shun occasions against the virtue of chastity but it may happen that a situation beyond our control presents itself. We must simply turn our heart away from it and invoke Mary's help to keep us pleasing to God, and remain at peace. Temptations against chastity are often better dealt with flight than fight. It is not worth our time fighting it in its face but to simply ignore it and to elevate our intentions to a higher level.

In our modern age, there is a growing fascination with different schools of spirituality. More and more people show a growing thirst for spiritual things. I believe that there is a richness to be re-discovered in the Brown Scapular. There is a growing awareness , even within the Order, of the great treasure we have in the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. A final document pertaining to this topic was published by the Order. This document is named "The Official Teaching of the Church and of Carmel on the Scapular Devotion." This document was released by the Congregation for Worship in Rome and was published in “Carmel in the World,” a publication of the Order. (Read more.)

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Our Lady of the Angels

Today we mystically kneel at the Portiuncula, to gain the triple indulgence of Rome, Compostela, and Jerusalem. To quote:
According to a legend, the existence of which can be traced back with certainty only to 1645, the little chapel of Portiuncula was erected under Pope Liberius (352-66) by hermits from the Valley of Josaphat, who had brought thither relics from the grave of the Blessed Virgin. The same legend relates that the chapel passed into the possession of St. Benedict in 516. It was known as Our Lady of the Valley of Josaphat or of the Angels — the latter title referring, according to some, to Our Lady's ascent into heaven accompanied by angels (Assumption B.M.V.); a better founded opinion attributes the name to the singing of angels which had been frequently heard there. However this may be, here or in this neighbourhood was the cradle of the Franciscan Order, and on his death-bed St. Francis recommended the chapel to the faithful protection and care of his brethren. Concerning the form and plan of the first monastery built near the chapel we have no information, nor is the exact form of the loggia or platforms built round the chapel itself, or of the choir for the brothers built behind it, known. Shortly after 1290, the chapel, which measured only about twenty-two feet by thirteen and a half, became entirely inadequate to accommodate the throngs of pilgrims. The altar piece, an Annunciation, was painted by the priest, Hilarius of Viterbo, in 1393. The monastery was at most the residence, only for a short time, of the ministers-general of the order after St. Francis. In 1415 it first became associated with the Regular Observance, in the care of which it remains to the present day. The buildings, which had been gradually added to, around the shrine were taken down by order of Pius V (1566-72), except the cell in which St. Francis had died, and were replaced by a large basilica in contemporary style. (Read more.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

St. Alphonsus Liguori

Today is his feast. Here is an excerpt from his book The Glories of Mary:

And here we say, that although Mary, now in heaven, can no longer command her Son, nevertheless her prayers are always the prayers of a Mother, and consequently most powerful to obtain whatever she asks. "Mary," says Saint Bonaventure, "has this great privilege, that with her Son she above all the Saints is most powerful to obtain whatever she wills." And why? Precisely for the reason on which we have already touched, and which we shall later on again examine at greater length, because they are the prayers of a mother. And therefore, says Saint Peter Damian, the Blessed Virgin can do whatever she pleases both in heaven and on earth. She is able to raise even those who are in despair to confidence; and he addresses her in these words: "All power is given to thee in heaven and on earth, and nothing is impossible to thee, who canst raise those who are in despair to the hope of salvation."
And then he adds that "when the Mother goes to seek a favor for us from Jesus Christ" (whom the Saint calls the golden altar of mercy, at which sinners obtain pardon), "her Son esteems her prayers so greatly, and is so desirous to satisfy her, that when she prays, it seems as if she rather commanded than prayed, and was rather a queen than a handmaid. Jesus is pleased thus to honor His beloved Mother, who honored Him so much during her life, by immediately granting all that she asks or desires. This is beautifully confirmed by Saint Germanus, who addressing our Blessed Lady says: "Thou art the Mother of God, and all powerful to save sinners, and with God thou needest no other recommendation; for thou art the Mother of true life." — From Glories of Mary, Chapter VI.
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