Tuesday, April 18, 2023

How True Stories of the Dying Can Help the Living

 From Francis Slobodnik at TFP:

The prism of death often provides an excellent perspective to influence how to live. Thus, the book Life Stories of Dying Penitents or Sick Calls from the Diary of a Missionary Priest invites the reader to make serious, profound, hopeful and tragic reflections. Originally published in the late nineteenth century, the book is a compilation of accounts of sick calls to the dying written by an anonymous Irish priest at a parish in London, England.

In the Litany of the Saints, there is the invocation: “From a sudden and unprovided death, deliver me, O Lord.” After reading this book, the reader can see why the Church makes this plea. Death comes to all, and it is best to be prepared.

The rich descriptions in the book provide a snapshot of how death visits all the social classes. It offers insights into the complex situations priests faced at the time.

Most accounts end happily with the priest hearing the final confession and administering Extreme Unction. However, others are tragic. Some cases involved situations where the family contacted the priest on behalf of a dying relative who had not practiced the Faith for a long time. It is pretty sobering to consider that such dying people often refuse to confess and repent despite the pleadings of the priest and family members. The tragedy contradicts the Hollywood narratives, where everything turns out fine in the end. As Saint Alphonsus Liguori wrote, “most die as they lived.” (Read more.)

Monday, April 17, 2023

Novena to Our Lady of Good Counsel

The feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel is April 26. Let us pray for the Holy Father.

Holy Virgin, moved by the painful uncertainty we experience in seeking and acquiring the true and the good, we cast ourselves at thy feet and invoke thee under the sweet title of  Mother of Good Counsel.  We beseech thee: come to our aid at this moment in our worldly sojourn when the twin darknesses of error and of evil that plots our ruin by leading minds and hearts astray.

Seat of Wisdom and Star of the Sea, enlighten the victims of doubt and of error so that they may not be seduced by evil masquerading as good; strengthen them against the hostile and corrupting forces of passion and of sin.

Mother of Good Counsel, obtain for us from thy Divine Son the love of virtue and the strength to choose, in doubtful and difficult situations, the course agreeable to our salvation. Supported by thy hand we shall thus journey without harm along the paths taught us by the word and example of Jesus our Savior, following the Sun of Truth and Justice in freedom and safety across the battlefield of life under the guidance of thy maternal Star, until we come at length to the harbor of salvation to enjoy with thee unalloyed and everlasting peace. Amen.
(By Pope Pius XII, 23 January 1953)

Litany of Our Lady of Good Counsel
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us.
Beloved Daughter of the Eternal Father, pray for us.
August Mother of God the Son, pray for us.
Blessed Spouse of God the Holy Ghost, pray for us.
Living temple of the Holy Trinity, pray for us.
Queen of Heaven and earth, pray for us.
Seat of Divine Wisdom, pray for us.
Depositary of the secrets of the Most High, pray for us.
Virgin most prudent, pray for us.
In our doubts and difficulties, pray for us.
In our tribulations and anguish, pray for us.
In our discouragements, pray for us.
In perils and temptations, pray for us.
In all our undertakings, pray for us.
In all our needs, pray for us.
At the hour of death, pray for us.
By thine Immaculate Conception, pray for us.
By thy happy nativity, pray for us.
By thine admirable presentation, pray for us.
By thy glorious Annunciation, pray for us.
By thy charitable Visitation, pray for us.
By thy Divine Maternity, pray for us.
By thy holy Purification, pray for us.
By the sorrows and anguish of thy maternal heart, pray for us.
By thy precious death, pray for us.
By thy triumphant Assumption, pray for us.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
R. And obtain for us the gift of good counsel.

Let Us Pray.
V. Lord Jesus, Author and Dispenser of all good, Who in becoming incarnate in the womb of the Blessed Virgin hast communicated to her lights above those of all the Heavenly intelligences, grant that in honoring her under the title of Our Lady of Good Counsel, we may merit always to receive from her goodness counsels of wisdom and salvation, which will conduct us to the port of a blessed eternity.
R. Amen.

Friday, April 14, 2023

The Angels at the Resurrection

"The Angel Seated on the Stone" by Tissot

 From Catholic Exchange:

Angels have a glorious sense of humor. When the disciples came to find Jesus after hearing of his resurrection, they ran as fast as they could to the tomb where angels greeted them with holy wit. They told them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead?” One can only imagine the snicker they had to hold back at their statement.

And yet, their comment served as the key that unlocked the greatest realization the world has ever known. For they continued saying, “‘He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.’ And they remembered his words.” (Read more.)

Saturday, April 8, 2023

The Harrowing of Hell

 From The Imaginative Conservative:

Our Lord’s descent into hell is well attested to by divine revelation. For example, Christ says, “as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the belly of the earth” (Mt. 12:40). Further, in Acts of the Apostles, St. Peter says, “[David] foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption” (2:31). Likewise in the Apostles’ Creed we profess, “He descended into hell.”

Besides making clear that the soul of Christ descended into hell, these texts clearly refer the descent into hell to the Person of Christ. And this is supremely fitting. For, since the personal union of the Word of God with both His body and soul remained even after death, whatever could be attributed to either of these principles of His human nature, while they were separated, was also attributable to God the Son. Thus, in the Apostles’ Creed we profess that He (i.e., God the Son) was buried insofar as His body was placed in the tomb. In like manner, we profess that God the Son descended into hell on account of His soul going to the underworld.

Connected with this, St. Thomas Aquinas points out that it is even true to say that “during the three days of His death, the whole Christ was in the tomb, in hell, and in heaven, on account of His Person, which was united to His body lying in the tomb, and to His soul-harrowing hell, and which was subsisting in His divine nature reigning in heaven” (Compendium Theologiae, ch. 229). Indeed, insofar as by His divine immensity the Son of God comprehends or contains all things, we must affirm that the whole Person of Christ is both in every place and in all places put together, yet He is not wholly contained by any one place nor by all places put together (Summa Theologiae, III, q 52, a. 3, ad 3um).

When reflecting on our Lord’s harrowing of hell, it is, of course, necessary to distinguish different meanings of the name “hell.” In its most general meaning, “hell” signifies “the underworld,” which the Hebrews refer to as, Sheol, and the Greeks call by the name, Hades (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #633). Further, as the Roman Catechism teaches, there are three main parts to the underworld. There is gehenna, or hell in the strict sense, which is the abode of the damned. There is also purgatory wherein the punishments, unlike those of gehenna, are cleansing and only temporary in character. Lastly, there is that part of the underworld known as “Abraham’s bosom” (see, Luke 16:22-26). It was in here that “the souls of the just prior to the coming of Christ the Lord were received, and where, without experiencing any sort of pain, but supported by the blessed hope of redemption, they enjoyed peaceful repose” (Roman Catechism, pt. 1, art. 5).

So, into which part or parts of hell did Christ descend and why? Taking St. Thomas Aquinas as our guide, we can affirm both that our Lord descended into all three parts of hell and that He descended into only one part of hell (i.e., into Abraham’s bosom). But to see how both of these statements are true without contradiction, we must distinguish two ways in which something can be somewhere.

Thinking of everyday examples first, it is true that one and the same fire is simultaneously both in the fireplace and in every part of the room which it heats. The fire is in the fireplace as in a proper place, while it is in every part of the room through its effect, that is, through the heat which it produces. Likewise, it is true that one and the same musician is simultaneously both on the stage and in every part of the concert hall. For the musician is on the stage insofar as that is his proper place, yet he is also present in every part of the concert hall through his effect, that is, through the music that he produces.

Applying this distinction to our Lord’s descent into hell, it is true to say that Christ’s soul, through its essence, only entered Abraham’s bosom. Nonetheless, through its effect, Christ’s soul was in some way present in every part of hell. As St. Thomas puts it, “being in one part of hell, his effect in some way spread to every part of hell, just as by suffering in one place on earth, he liberated the whole world by His passion” (Summa Theologiae, III, q. 52, a. 2). More specifically, St. Thomas teaches that the proper effect of Christ in the underworld was the bestowal of the beatific vision on the souls of the just waiting for Him in Abaham’s bosom. This, properly speaking, constitutes the harrowing or despoiling of hell. For, through granting the souls of the just the vision which beatifies, the King of all things “robbed” hell of its most prized possessions. But Christ’s presence in hell also had the effects of giving hope of attaining eternal glory to the souls in purgatory and of confounding and bewildering those in gehenna (Summa Theologiae, III, q. 52, a. 2).

These considerations, in turn, cast some light on the reasons for God the Son’s descent into hell. For one thing, He went there to manifest His power and authority to the underworld. As St. Paul writes, “at Jesus’ name every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father: Jesus Christ in Lord!” (Phil. 2:10-11). But secondly, and more importantly, our Lord came to deliver His loved ones from their exile. He came to reward those who, from our first father, Adam, to His own foster-father, St. Joseph, had fought the good fight and had finished the race. The King descended into Hell in order to bring nothing less than His own beatific vision, the very paradise which He promised to Dismas just a few hours before (Lk. 23:43), to these just and holy souls. (Read more.)

Friday, April 7, 2023

Prefigurations of the Crowning with Thorns

 Scholarly and devotional. Worth a listen on Good Friday.

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