Thursday, December 30, 2010


A virtue I need to cultivate in the New Year. According to Father Mark:
Patience derives from the Latin patior, meaning to suffer, to undergo, to bear, or to endure. The connotation of Saint Benedict's patientia is a humble acceptance of the hard and painful things that come upon us, motivated by a desire to imitate Our Lord Jesus Christ and to be united to Him in His love of the Father and in His obedience to the Father's will. Saint Benedict is telling us that by accepting the weaknesses, losses, detachments, and other sufferings that come upon us in the course of a day or a lifetime, and by uniting our acceptance of these painful things to the Passion and Death of Christ, we will, at length, come to share in the glory of His Kingdom.

Blessed William Howard

Author Stephanie Mann tells the story of a little known martyr, the grandson of St. Philip Howard.

Spiritual Weapons

Our Holy Father offers us some thoughts from St. Catherine of Bologna.
In 1431 the saint had yet another vision, this time of the Final Judgement, which led her "to intensify her prayers and penance for the salvation of sinners. Satan continued to assail her as she increasingly entrusted herself to the Lord and the Virgin Mary. In her writings, Catherine left us essential notes on this mysterious struggle, from which, by the grace of God, she emerged victorious".

These notes are contained in her one written work, the "Treatise on the Seven Spiritual Weapons" in which Catherine teaches that to combat evil it is necessary: "(1) to be careful always to do good; (2) to believe that we can never achieve anything truly good by ourselves; (3) to trust in God and, for His love, never to fear the battle against evil, either in the world or in ourselves; (4) to meditate frequently on the events and words of Jesus' life, especially His passion and death; (5) to remember that we must die; (6) to keep the benefits of heaven firmly in our minds, (7) to be familiar with Holy Scripture, keeping it in our hearts to guide all our thoughts and actions".

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Divine Audacity

There is nothing more audacious than the Birth of Our Lord. As Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira observed:
Something happens on Christmas night. It is as if through the power of God an immense impossibility becomes possible, and a shower of graces flows from Heaven to earth, turning into marvelous realities all of our impossible dreams. And how so? Because apparuit salvator noster Domini Nostri Jesu Christi. The Savior becomes incarnate in a Virgin and dwells amongst men. He comes with everything He brought for men. This is more audacious than any other utopia, but grace, miracle and the power of God turn it into reality.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Consoling the Sick

It is hard to be ill this time of the year but it can be a source of grace. As Our Holy Father says:
I still have in my heart the moment when, during the course of the pastoral visit to Turin, I was able to pause in reflection and prayer before the sacred Shroud, before that suffering countenance, that invites us to meditate on him who took upon himself man's suffering of every age and place, even our sufferings, our difficulties, our sins. How many faithful over the course of history have passed before that sepulchral winding sheet, which covered the body of a crucified man, which in everything corresponds to what the Gospels transmit about the passion and death of Jesus! Contemplating him is an invitation to reflect on what St. Peter writes: "By his wounds we have been healed" (1 Peter 2:24).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ceaseless and Incandescent

The sacred liturgy of Advent. Fr. Mark discusses the antiphons of the season.
The Sacred Liturgy is -- and this is often overlooked or forgotten -- the primary and indispensable school of the prayer of the heart. The febrile pursuit of trendy methods of meditation and esoteric approaches to prayer comes from having lived apart from The Prayer of the Church. I have noticed, for example, that in religious communities where the Divine Office is neglected, minimized, or even performed regularly, but in a perfunctory manner, souls tend to gravitate to things like "Centering Prayer" or lose themselves in private devotions that are, at best, marginal to The Prayer of the Church.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Missa Aurea

The Golden Mass of  Ember Wednesday of Advent.
During the Middle Ages, the Mass of the Missus Est -- the first words of the Gospel of the Annunciation -- on the Ember Wednesday of Advent was celebrated very solemnly as a kind of festival of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The stational church in Rome is the Basilica of Saint Mary Major; this choice signifies that today’s Mass is equal to that of the greatest feasts of the Mother God. It was called the Missa Aurea, the “Golden Mass.” In manuscripts of the Middle Ages, the capital letters of the text of the Annunciation Gospel were written in gold. The letters of gold were but a sign of the secret grace hidden within the words of the Angel Gabriel and within the response of the Virgin Mary.

Enriching the Sabbath

Entering into the Lord's peace. To quote:
So, if you would begin to consider how God is calling you to keep the Sabbath holy, you must first see that He is giving you time-within-time, not robbing you of time you can barely spare. The key to better understanding of what kinds of activities to engage in or to avoid on Sundays, is this:  the human person.  God created this day of rest for you, for human beings, so to find out what makes it holy, we must look at what makes people whole. What makes us more whole, more integrated, more human?  Leisure – the capacity of our souls to be at rest, to be patient, to cease acting upon and using the created world, to simply be.  What mitigates against our personhood, deforms our souls, fractures and disintegrates human communities?  Whatever compromises true leisure.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Day Draws Near

Cast off the works of darkness. To quote:
For those who are unprepared -- for people who live according to the standards of this world, calling darkness light, and light darkness -- the coming of the Son of Man will be a shock. They will be like the homeowner, Jesus warns, who sleeps soundly while the burglar taps on the mud brick wall of the man's Palestinian house, to discover the hollowed-out place inside containing the family's savings. When the burglar finds the spot, he digs through and takes everything. Too late, the homeowner discovers that he has been picked clean.
For those who are prepared, however, God's final intervention will be a day of joy and fulfillment. These are the people who live in the darkness of this world with their faces turned toward the light of Jesus Christ. "The night is advanced," Paul tells us, "the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light" (Rom 13:12).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wasted Pain

Some wisdom on suffering by Fulton J. Sheen. To quote:
There's nothing more tragic in all of the world than wasted pain. Think of how much suffering there is in hospitals, among the poor and bereaved. Think also of how much of that suffering goes to waste. How many of those lonesome, suffering, abandoned, crucified souls are saying with Our Lord at the moment of Consecration: "This is my body, take it?"And yet, that is what we should be saying at that second. "Here is my body, take it! Consecrate it! Offer it ! Offer it to the Heavenly Father with yourself, in order that He, looking down on this great Sacrifice, may see only you, His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. Transmute the poor bread of my life into your life; thrill the wine of my wasted life into your divine Spirit; unite my broken heart with your Heart; change my cross into a crucifix. Let not my abandonment and my sorrow go to waste. Gather up the fragments, and as the drop of water is absorbed by the wine at the Offertory of the Mass, let my life be absorbed in you. Let my little cross be entwined with your great Cross so that I may purchase the joys of everlasting happiness in union with you.

Consecrate these trials of my life which would go unrewarded unless united with you; transubstantiate me so that , like bread which is now your Body and wine which is now your Blood, I, too, may be wholly yours. I do not care if the species remain, or that, like the bread and the wine, I may seem to all earthly eyes the same as before. My station in life, my routine duties, my work, my family-- all these are but the species of my life which remain unchanged; but the substance of my life, my soul, my will, my heart, transubstantiate them, transform them wholly into your service so that through me all may know how sweet is the love of Christ!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

First Approved Apparition on American Soil

The miracles of Our Lady of Good Help. I am happy to say that I visited the shrine back in 1993, long before it became famous. To quote:
As they approached the hallowed spot, Adele could see the beautiful lady, clothed in dazzling white, with a yellow sash around her waist. Her dress fell to her feet in graceful folds. She had a crown of stars around her head, and her long, golden, wavy hair fell loosely around her shoulders. Such a heavenly light shone around her that Adele could hardly look back at her sweet face. Overcome by this heavenly light and the beauty of her amiable visitor, Adele fell on her knees.
" 'In God’s name, who are you and what do you want of me?’ asked Adele, as she had been directed.
“ ‘I am the Queen of Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same. You received Holy Communion this morning, and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession, and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners. If they do not convert and do penance, my Son will be obliged to punish them’
“ 'Adele, who is it?'' said one of the women. 'O why can't we see her as you do?' said another weeping.
“ ‘Kneel,’ said Adele, ‘the Lady says she is the Queen of Heaven.’ Our Blessed Lady turned, looked kindly at them, and said, ‘Blessed are they that believe without seeing. What are you doing here in idleness…while your companions are working in the vineyard of my Son?’
“ ‘What more can I do, dear Lady?’ said Adele, weeping.
“ ‘Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation’
“ ‘But how shall I teach them who know so little myself?’ replied Adele.
“ ‘Teach them,’ replied her radiant visitor, ‘their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the Cross, and how to approach the sacraments; that is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing. I will help you.’ "
The manifestation of Our Lady then lifted her hands, as though beseeching a blessing for those at her feet, and slowly vanished, leaving Adele overwhelmed and prostrate on the ground.
When the news spread about Adele Brise’s vision of the Blessed Virgin, most people believed the account and were astonished. Some considered the event a demented delusion. Adele Brise, however, considered it a commission to catechize the children and admonish the sinners of the Bay Settlement. To honor the alleged apparition, Adele’s father erected a makeshift chapel near the spot of Adele’s vision.
More HERE.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Laying the Stars at Our Feet

From an Advent homily by the Capuchin Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa:
We now come to the Christian vision. Celsus is not mistaken in making it stem from the great affirmation of Genesis 2:26 about man created "in the image and likeness" of God.[14] The biblical vision has its most splendid expression in Psalm 8:

"When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers,
The moon and stars that you set in place,
What are humans that you are mindful of them,
Mere mortals that you care for them?

"Yet you have made them little less than a god,
Crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them rule over the work of your hands,
Put all things at their feet."

The creation of man in the image of God has implications on the concept of man that the present debate drives us to bring to light. All is based on the revelation of the Trinity brought by Christ. Man is created in the image of God, which means that he participates in the intimate essence of God which is a relationship of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is obvious that there is an ontological gap between God and the creature. However, through grace (never forget this specification!) this gap is filled, so much so that it is less profound than the one that exists between man and the rest of creation.

Only man, in fact, in as much as person capable of relations, participates in the personal and relational dimension of God, he is His image. Which means that he, in his essence, even though at a creaturely level, is that which, at the uncreated level, are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in their essence. The created person is "person" precisely because of this rational nucleus that renders it capable to receive the relationship that God wishes to establish with it and at the same time becomes generator of relations towards others and towards the world.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Eyes of Mary

Scientists study the eyes of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (Via Spirit Daily)
In 1929, an image was discovered in the right eye of the image of the Virgin on Juan Diego's tilma. [In her left eye, but as we face her, it is the eye to our right]. Alfonso Marcue, official photographer of the old Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, discovered an image of a bearded man reflected within the eye of the Virgin. At first doubting his own senses, Alfonso Marcue subsequently made many black-and-white photographs of the image. He then went to the authorities of the basilica with his finding, but was told to remain silent about his discovery. Out of respect for the church officials, he did. On May 29, 1951, the image of the bearded man, reflected in both eyes was rediscovered by Jose Carlos Salinas Chavez.

On March 27, 1956, Dr. Javier Torroella Bueno, an ophthalmologist, certified the presence of the triple reflection (Samson-Purkinje effect) characteristic of all live human eyes and stated that the resulting images of the bearded man were located precisely where they should be according to such an effect, and that distortion of the images agreed with the normal curvature of the cornea.

In that same year, Dr. Rafael Torrija Lavoignet, using an ophthalmoscope, studied the apparent human figure in the corneas of both eyes, with the location and distortion of a normal human eye, and found that the Virgin's eyes appeared "strangely alive".

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

St. Ambrose Speaks about Our Lady

The first thing which kindles ardor in learning is the greatness of the teacher. What is greater than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose? What more chaste than she who bore a body without contact with another body? For why should I speak of her other virtues? She was a virgin not only in body but also in mind, who stained the sincerity of its disposition by no guile, who was humble in heart, grave in speech, prudent in mind, sparing of words, studious in reading, resting her hope not on uncertain riches, but on the prayer of the poor, intent on work, modest in discourse; wont to seek not man but God as the judge of her thoughts, to injure no one, to have goodwill towards all, to rise up before her elders, not to envy her equals, to avoid boastfulness, to follow reason, to love virtue. When did she pain her parents even by a look? When did she disagree with her neighbors? When did she despise the lowly? When did she avoid the needy? Being wont only to go to such gatherings of men as mercy would not blush at, nor modesty pass by. There was nothing gloomy in her eyes, nothing forward in her words, nothing unseemly in her acts, there was not a silly movement, nor unrestrained step, nor was her voice petulant, that the very appearance of her outward being might be the image of her soul, the representation of what is approved. For a well-ordered house ought to be recognized on the very threshold, and should show at the very first entrance that no darkness is hidden within, as our soul hindered by no restraints of the body may shine abroad like a lamp placed within.
~St. Ambrose, Concerning Virgins

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mother Julian of Norwich

In the words of Our Holy Father Pope Benedict:
Inspired by divine love, Julian made a radical choice. Like one of the ancient hermits, she chose to live in a cell, which was near a church dedicated to St. Julian, in the city of Norwich, at the time a very important urban center, near London. Perhaps she took the name Julian precisely from that saint to whom the church was dedicated and next to which she lived for so many years, until her death. We might be surprised and even perplexed by this decision to live as a "recluse," as this was called in her time. However, she was not alone in making this choice: During those centuries a considerable number of women opted for this kind of life, adopting rules elaborated purposefully for them, such as that composed by St. Aelred of Rievaulx. The anchorites or "recluses" dedicated themselves within their cells to prayer, meditation and study. In this way, they developed a very fine human and religious sensitivity, which made them venerated by the people. Men and women of every age and condition, in need of advice and comfort, sought them devotedly. Hence, it was not an individualistic choice; precisely with this closeness to the Lord, what matured in her also was the capacity to be a counselor to many, to help those who lived in difficulty in this life.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Bishop Speaks

On having an attitude of contrition as the Christ Child approaches. To quote Bishop Dr. Franz-Josef Bode:
A reading from the Book of Ezra (Ezra 9, 5-8 RSV-CE)
And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garments and my mantle rent, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God, saying:
"O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to thee, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt; and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hands of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as at this day. But now for a brief moment favour has been shown by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant, and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage.
"Here we are, Lord, Holy Spirit. / Here we are, burdened with sin, / but gathered here solely in Your name. / Come in our midst, / be with us, / pour yourself in our hearts!" This is how the Church prays at the beginning of a council or gathering, according to a tradition that's over a thousand years old. Today, we can also pray in this way in these turbulent times, because we are entering after a devastating year a new liturgical year.
Ezra's words are even older, which we can, we even have to internalize the "I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to thee, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads"
Yes, these strong words are fitting this evening. We cannot go on the road to Christmas without taking anything with us what we learned in the past months:
  • the suffering from victims from abuse and violence
  • the guilt of the perpetrators
  • the darkness and the shadowy side of a church in which an atmosphere could be found which enabled obfuscation of the crimes.
  • all painful experiences in which situations of trust have been abused by corporal and mental violence, the Gospel being twisted into the opposite.
    Those who learned about some acts by reading letters or reports, who has listened to victims struggling to find words for it or has seen the burden they are carrying for the rest of their lives, who has seen what happened without looking the other way, those cannot do anything else but present themselves in front of the Lord. What individuals acting in the name of the Church did to the young, very young people, has to be discussed in front of God. Only in front of his eyes, when He is looking at us, in His presence, can we find out what happened in our church.
    Therefore I ask the victims once again for forgiveness. And we want the counselling, we want to work it out, to offer real help and exhaust all options. But in the end the damage cannot be repaired fully. We have to give it up to God. These acts must not poison the climate in the church any more, where they could happen undiscovered.
    Ten years ago, at Palm Sunday, I performed, as a bishop, an act of penance in the Dom of Osnabrück following the gesture of Pope John Paul II. Back then I didn't realise how much it was needed. Tonight we must go a step further into the "Cleansing of Conscience", which the Pope talked about back then. We confess the same "structural sins" in the Church, which also enabled abuse here and which has made discovery very difficult and even prevented it.
    This is why I will stand at the bottom step of the sanctuary in a moment as a bishop, alone in my responsibility as a bishop, but with everybody's prayers in my back, like we always pray during the Confiteor: "I ask to you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God."
    I will pray the Prayer of Penance alone to the Triune God, which is something different and more at the same time as asking the victims or the public for forgiveness. It is holding up the dark shadows in the shadow of the Cross suspended over us, in which all our shadows are lifted up, because Christ has carried all sins and has suffered all the victims' sufferings.
    Only He can transform them in grace and healing, in future and hope for all. The wounds of mankind are in the end only healed by His wounds. "But now for a brief moment favour has been shown by the Lord our God," says Ezra. God can now transform the sorrow and devastation in strength. He who has the power to raise the dead; the power to change us by giving Himself in the signs of bread and wine. The reading for this first Sunday of Advent from the prophet Isaiah speaks of "beat their swords into ploughshares". 'Beating' our failures in new possibilities is something only God can do in the end.
    Only by such a transformation is our desire to only do good, living truthfully, being transparent and pure made possible. The "Cleansing Consciousness" means to forget nothing what happened, but to see it as a purifying, cleansing experience for the future. Everything we do at this moment are signs of change and renewal we want in our diocese: providing new ways of dealing with the crimes, more preventive measures, more tangible help for the victims and to have real dialogues inward and outward in a listening and humble Church.
    Dear sisters and brothers,
    Making our way into Advent, in a new liturgical year, is a good moment to be open to God about the past and accept the challenges of the present in order to shape the future with the power of the Holy Spirit. We experience how, especially now, Christ's redemption is not something that has happened to us in the past, but also is something happening in the future.
    Therefore we may stress it in our Advent songs this year, which contain the word "Come!" so often. In the same way in the longing prayer to the Holy Spirit, the Pentecost Sequence, which we sing in a moment.
    Let us keep the first stanza of the Advent hymn we sang at the beginning of this service in our hearts. In the middle of the atrocities of the Thirty Year War (1618-1648), Friedrich von Spee wrote:

    Where dost thou tarry, comforter of the whole world,
    On whom she places all her hope?
    O come, ah come from the most exalted hall,
    Come comfort us here in the valley of sorrow.
    O clear sun, thou beautiful star,
    We much desire to behold thee.
    O sun, rise, for without thy light
    We are all in darkness.


    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    The Future of Advent

    Scott Richert reflects.
    That is why my friend Fr. John P. Mack, Jr., has said, "If you want to keep Christ in Christmas, keep Advent in Advent." By keep here, he means the sense of honoring or observing something, as in "Remember, keep holy the Sabbath day." Keeping or observing Advent helps us keep Christ in Christmas because Advent is meant to be a time of waiting, watching, hoping, longing, expectation—for the coming of Christ in the flesh at the first Christmas; for the coming of Christ in our hearts at this Christmas; and, ultimately, for the glorious Second Coming of Christ at the end of time, of which the first coming at Christmas was but a foreshadowing.
    Unless we watch and hope and long for His coming, we cannot fully experience the joy that will accompany it.
    By depriving ourselves of this period of waiting and expectation, by laying aside our spiritual preparations for the coming of Christ in order to enjoy more quickly the pleasures of the Christmas season, we not only destroy Advent, but the future of Advent, in both senses. And so if, in the future, Advent disappears from our lives altogether, we should not be surprised to find that the true meaning of Christmas—the coming of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and His Second Coming at the end of time—is lost to us as well.
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