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First Reading: Sirach 50:22-24

Daily Scripture Reading - 9 hours 30 min ago
22 And now bless the God of all, who in every way does great things; who exalts our days from birth, and deals with us according to his mercy.
23 May he give us gladness of heart, and grant that peace may be in our days in Israel, as in the days of old.
24 May he entrust to us his mercy! And let him deliver us in our days!

Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 138:1-5

Daily Scripture Reading - 9 hours 30 min ago
1 I give thee thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing thy praise;
2 I bow down toward thy holy temple and give thanks to thy name for thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness; for thou hast exalted above everything thy name and thy word.
3 On the day I called, thou didst answer me, my strength of soul thou didst increase.
4 All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O LORD, for they have heard the words of thy mouth;
5 and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Daily Scripture Reading - 9 hours 30 min ago
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus,
5 that in every way you were enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge --
6 even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you --
7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ;
8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Gospel: Luke 17:11-19

Daily Scripture Reading - 9 hours 30 min ago
11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Sama'ria and Galilee.
12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance
13 and lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us."
14 When he saw them he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were cleansed.
15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice;
16 and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.
17 Then said Jesus, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?
18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"
19 And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well."

The First Thanksgiving was Catholic

Catholic Exchange Articles - Wed, 11/22/2017 - 23:07

Forget everything you’ve ever heard about the pilgrims, the Mayflower, and the friendly Indians.

The first Thanksgiving was held about half a century earlier and more than a thousand miles to the south. And it was held by Catholic explorers.

There are actually several claimants to the first Catholic Thanksgiving.

One is the celebration held by a hardy band of Spanish settlers in 1598 in San Elizario, in what is present-day Texas. The expedition, which included women and children, had braved the Chihuahuan Desert and hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for days. Once they reached the Rio Grande, the settlers paused and held a Thanksgiving Mass, celebrated by Franciscan missionaries, according to the account by journalist Melanie Kirkpatrick in her book, Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience.

Then there was the Spanish mission to St. Augustine, Florida in 1565, which Michael Gannon, a Florida historian, has called “the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent settlement in the land.” No turkey or cranberry sauce here—instead, the menu for the feast included salted pork, garbanzo beans, and red wine, according to Kirkpatrick.

The Spanish in Florida, in turn, came one year after the French Huguenots, who also had their own Thanksgiving in 1564.

And there may have been one even earlier—in Texas in 1541, led by yet another Spanish conquistador named Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, according to the Washington Post.

There are other Protestant contenders as well. They include Popham Colony in Maine in 1607, Jamestown in 1610, and Richmond Virginia in 1619, according to the Post.

But the very first one may have been far earlier even than the one in Texas. Some say the first to give thanks was Ponce de Leon, who voyaged with Christopher Columbus in 1493, the year after the explorer’s first trip.

Ponce de Leon landed in Florida in 1513, reportedly on an epic hunt for the legendary Fountain of Youth, but more likely on a mission to claim new territory for Spain. “Thanks be to Thee, O Lord, who has permitted me to see something new,” de Leon exclaimed upon his arrival. He is credited with giving Florida its name, which comes from the Spanish phrase pascua florida—“the feast of flowers,” which was the Easter season.

But being historically first still does not dislodge the place of primacy held by the pilgrims. For their celebration is the basis for the American holiday. Yet, even here, Catholics play an indispensable part of the story through the most seemingly unlikely character—Squanto. Usually, as the story is told, Squanto seems to appear out of nowhere, like some angelic figure out of the wilderness, fluent in English and willing to help the starving settlers.

What is less known is that Squanto had been captured by John Smith to be sold into slavery but had been rescued by Franciscan friars. Squanto was baptized into the Catholic faith and lived in England before returning to his home. So yes, we owe our ‘first’ Thanksgiving to an act of Catholic charity. (Special credit goes to Taylor Marshall for ferreting out this forgotten story.)

It’s further noteworthy that at least two of the first Catholic Thanksgivings were Masses because our term the Eucharist comes from a Greek word whose literal meaning is thanksgiving. Every time we attend Mass we participate in the most important thanksgiving feast there is. As the catechism states, “The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that He has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification.”

As Catholics, then, this holiday reminds us of the ultimate source of all our thanksgiving.

Mary’s Role in Thanksgiving Day

Catholic Exchange Articles - Wed, 11/22/2017 - 23:05

It’s Thanksgiving week, and everywhere I look, everyone’s talking about thankfulness.

You don’t need me to remind you that this is a time to be thankful.  I’m sure that, like me, you’re hearing it everywhere.

Sometimes, when I’m doing these thankful exercises, I start out specific and work my way into general things.  I might think about the food that feeds my family; the work that provides the money for the food, the store in town where I buy it; the farmers who work so hard in the fields around our house; the system that allows us to have access to so much food.

Other times, I do things the opposite way.  I might see the blue sky and the lovely weather of a late fall day and, in being thankful, turn my attention to my specific patch of land, and then to my old farmhouse — which, though I love it and hate it at the same time, is a house nonetheless.  Then I’ll look inside the house, beyond the stuff and junk, to the people who make this old house a place where I want to be.

At the heart of my thankfulness is my faith.

I look at the person I almost was, at the path my life was taking, and I thank God for the series of interventions that led me to this point, where I live in a home filled with kids and a dog and a husband, with family just down the road.

I can’t help but be thankful for the divine hand that led me to Mother Church, that saved me from the person I almost was.

And when I think about my conversion to the Catholic Church, I can’t help but think about Mary.

Mary has been many things to me over the last 12 years.  She has been a lovely statue, a nice idea, a remote figure in a Bible story.

She has been the gentle touch during a sob-fest, a shoulder to rest my head on, the hand I hold when I don’t know how to pray.

She has been inspiration for pursuing a dream.  She has been confidence in my parenting journey.  She has been comfort during storms and trials.

But most of all, for me, she has been an example and an inspiration.  As my mother, she has never let me down, has never hurt me, has never pushed me away.  As my comrade-in-arms, she has never failed to encourage me, never stopped me from trying to do good, never pointed anywhere but heavenward.

I can look to Jesus with some measure of love because of Mary.  I can think of Him holding me close because I have experienced the love of His mother.

That’s what she does, you know.  She leads you to her Son.  This Thanksgiving, may Mary point you in the direction of her Son in a new and special way.

image: Our Lady Crowned by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr

In the first reading we see the

Catholic Exchange Articles - Wed, 11/22/2017 - 23:00

In the first reading we see the fidelity of Mattathias and his family to Yahweh their God and to their people’s covenant with Yahweh, despite the order of King Antiochus that they abandon their religion or suffer death.

In the Gospel reading Jesus weeps over Jerusalem: he wept not only because Jerusalem rejected his teaching and salvation but also because the city itself would be destroyed and annihilated, “they will dash you to the ground and your children with you, and leave not a stone within you, for you did not recognize the time and visitation of your God.”

Jesus loved Jerusalem: it was the city of David, it was the seat of the temple of Solomon, it was the seat of the Holy of Holies. It was the city of Yahweh, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.

Yet Jerusalem did not recognize and welcome the Messiah when he same. Instead Jerusalem crucified the Messiah on Calvary, just outside its walls.

We pray that we may “recognize the time and visitation of our God” in our lives. We pray that our eyes may see and recognize him, that our ears may hear and listen to him and that our hearts may embrace and love him.

Finally, we pray for one another, for those who have asked our prayers and for those who need our prayers the most.

Pope St. Clement I

Catholic Exchange Articles - Wed, 11/22/2017 - 23:00

We know that Pope St. Clement was Roman, was our fourth pope and was martyred outside of Rome, but this information is about all we know with certainty. According to tradition he was probably a freed man in the imperial household and was baptized by St. Peter. He succeeded Cletus as pope in 91, and was exiled to the Crimea by Emperor Trajan. He preached with great zeal to the prisoners working in the mines there. Because of this he was condemned to death, bound and thrown into the sea with an anchor around his neck. It is also agreed by scholars that he was the author of a letter to the Corinthians in which he rebuked them for a schism that had broken out in their church. The letter is of particular historical importance as one of the outstanding documents of the early Church and significant as an instance of the bishop of Rome intervening authoritatively as the pre-eminent authority in the affairs of another apostolic church to settle a dispute as early as the first century.

About 868 St. Cyril, when in the Crimea on the way to evangelize the Chazars, dug up some bones in a mound (not in a tomb under the sea), and also an anchor. These were believed to be the relics of St. Clement. They were carried by St. Cyril to Rome, and deposited by Adrian II with those of St. Ignatius of Antioch in the high altar of the basilica of St. Clement in Rome. The history of this translation is evidently quite truthful, but there seems to have been no tradition with regard to the mound, which simply looked a likely place to be a tomb. The anchor appears to be the only evidence of identity but we cannot gather from the account that it belonged to the scattered bones.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, we thank you for this holy pope that You gave to shepherd Your flock as well as all those whom You have put in authority. Help us, Father, to be submissive and docile to them, knowing that when they make infallible statements that they are speaking for You. Amen.

From Johnnette Benkovic’s Graceful Living: Meditations to Help You Grow Closer to God Day by Day

Click the image above to purchase your own copy of “Graceful Living.”

If man applies the virtues planted in his soul to the right purpose, he will be like God. The image we depict must not be that of one who is unlike God; for one who is harsh and irascible and proud would display the image of a despot. Let us not imprint on ourselves the image of a despot, but let Christ paint his image in us.

— From an instruction of St. Columban

Which virtues are the opposites of harshness, irascibility, and pride? How can I employ these virtues today to be more like God?

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Columban (615), Abbot, Missionary

Blessed Migeul Agustin Pro (1927), Priest, Martyr

St. Felicitas (2nd Century), Martyr, mother of the 7 Holy Brothers (July 10)

First Option - First Reading: 2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31

Daily Scripture Reading - Wed, 11/22/2017 - 01:00
1 It happened also that seven brothers and their mother were arrested and were being compelled by the king, under torture with whips and cords, to partake of unlawful swine's flesh.
20 The mother was especially admirable and worthy of honorable memory. Though she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord.
21 She encouraged each of them in the language of their fathers. Filled with a noble spirit, she fired her woman's reasoning with a man's courage, and said to them,
22 "I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you.
23 Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws."
24 Antiochus felt that he was being treated with contempt, and he was suspicious of her reproachful tone. The youngest brother being still alive, Antiochus not only appealed to him in words, but promised with oaths that he would make him rich and enviable if he would turn from the ways of his fathers, and that he would take him for his friend and entrust him with public affairs.
25 Since the young man would not listen to him at all, the king called the mother to him and urged her to advise the youth to save himself.
26 After much urging on his part, she undertook to persuade her son.
27 But, leaning close to him, she spoke in their native tongue as follows, deriding the cruel tyrant: "My son, have pity on me. I carried you nine months in my womb, and nursed you for three years, and have reared you and brought you up to this point in your life, and have taken care of you.
28 I beseech you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being.
29 Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God's mercy I may get you back again with your brothers."
30 While she was still speaking, the young man said, "What are you waiting for? I will not obey the king's command, but I obey the command of the law that was given to our fathers through Moses.
31 But you, who have contrived all sorts of evil against the Hebrews, will certainly not escape the hands of God.

First Option - Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15

Daily Scripture Reading - Wed, 11/22/2017 - 01:00
1 Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry! Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!
5 My steps have held fast to thy paths, my feet have not slipped.
6 I call upon thee, for thou wilt answer me, O God; incline thy ear to me, hear my words.
8 Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of thy wings,
15 As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with beholding thy form.

First Option - Gospel: Luke 19:11-28

Daily Scripture Reading - Wed, 11/22/2017 - 01:00
11 As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.
12 He said therefore, "A nobleman went into a far country to receive a kingdom and then return.
13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten pounds, and said to them, `Trade with these till I come.'
14 But his citizens hated him and sent an embassy after him, saying, `We do not want this man to reign over us.'
15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by trading.
16 The first came before him, saying, `Lord, your pound has made ten pounds more.'
17 And he said to him, `Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.'
18 And the second came, saying, `Lord, your pound has made five pounds.'
19 And he said to him, `And you are to be over five cities.'
20 Then another came, saying, `Lord, here is your pound, which I kept laid away in a napkin;
21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man; you take up what you did not lay down, and reap what you did not sow.'
22 He said to him, `I will condemn you out of your own mouth, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow?
23 Why then did you not put my money into the bank, and at my coming I should have collected it with interest?'
24 And he said to those who stood by, `Take the pound from him, and give it to him who has the ten pounds.'
25 (And they said to him, `Lord, he has ten pounds!')
26 `I tell you, that to every one who has will more be given; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before me.'"
28 And when he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

Second Option - First Reading: Hosea 2:16-17, 21-22

Daily Scripture Reading - Wed, 11/22/2017 - 01:00
16 "And in that day, says the LORD, you will call me, `My husband,' and no longer will you call me, `My Ba'al.'
17 For I will remove the names of the Ba'als from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more.
21 "And in that day, says the LORD, I will answer the heavens and they shall answer the earth;
22 and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel;

Second Option - Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 45:11-12, 14-17

Daily Scripture Reading - Wed, 11/22/2017 - 01:00
10 Hear, O daughter, consider, and incline your ear; forget your people and your father's house;
11 and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him;
13 with all kinds of wealth. The princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes;
14 in many-colored robes she is led to the king, with her virgin companions, her escort, in her train.
15 With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king.
16 Instead of your fathers shall be your sons; you will make them princes in all the earth.

Second Option - Gospel: Matthew 25:1-13

Daily Scripture Reading - Wed, 11/22/2017 - 01:00
1 "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.
2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.
3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them;
4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.
5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.
6 But at midnight there was a cry, `Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.'
7 Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps.
8 And the foolish said to the wise, `Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'
9 But the wise replied, `Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.'
10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut.
11 Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, `Lord, lord, open to us.'
12 But he replied, `Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.'
13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Spiritual Warfare Weapon: Gratitude

Catholic Exchange Articles - Tue, 11/21/2017 - 23:07

“It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Father most holy.” This text of the second Eucharistic prayer of the Mass not only states the primacy of gratitude, but also reveals a powerful defense against the evil one. Lucifer, once a magnificent angel of light, fell from heaven due to pride. Rebellion and ingratitude are cousins of pride. Now, one third of the fallen angels tempt humanity into pride, rebellion and ingratitude to God.

A person who has cultivated an attitude of gratitude to God in all things has formed a powerful weapon against evil spirits. This is precisely a Marian characteristic. I discovered the efficacy of turning ordinary temptations into a prayer of gratitude from the lives of the saints. In deliverance and exorcism ministry work, we note a difference when a prayer of gratitude is formed — even, before liberation. Such faith acts lessen the diabolical grip on a person.

St. Paul helps us understand this, “Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So, we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:15-16). When we lose heart (faith in God) we are more prone to fall into temptation or cooperate with evil.

Christ taught St. Faustina, “But child, you are not yet in your homeland; so go, fortified by My grace, and fight for My kingdom in human souls; fight as a king’s child would; and remember the days of your exile will pass quickly, and with them the possibility of earning merit for heaven. I expect from you, my child, a great number of souls who will glorify My mercy for all eternity.” (St. Faustina, Diary, no. 1489 quoted by Beckman, God’s Healing Mercy, p.113)

This applies to all believers. A greater number of souls will eternally glorify The Divine Mercy because they received mercy in the way that David did in the defeat of Goliath (cf. 1 Sam. 17). If, for a time we are tested by diabolical vexation, in faith we trust that God is about a great work in and through us. We believe that God will bring greater good out of the evil trials. For this we give thanks—even before the day of liberation. Like Job, during diabolical oppression, we bless the name of the Lord; thank Him for the liberation and restoration that is sure to come through perseverance.

The Church encourages believers to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. There is profound wisdom here, distinct from something shallower such as secular positive thinking or optimism. For Catholics, gratitude is foundational to living a fully human life. Why? Because when we give thanks to God in all things we walk humbly as Eucharistic disciples.

The source and summit of our faith is the Eucharist which means thanks-giving, thanks-saying, thanks-doing. Eucharistic life produces the fruit of gratitude, graciousness, goodness.

An enormous gratitude deficient exists in the world, personally and collectively. Unhappiness, rage, violence, are evidence of a gratitude deficit. It seems impossible for a person to be simultaneously thankful and unhappy, angry, violent, etc. Perhaps ingratitude also contributes to empty seats at Mass on Sunday. An ingrate is not very likable. Sometimes the problem is we don’t like ourselves very much. A solution could be to thank God for creating you; for loving you into existence, for accompanying you always, for gazing upon you with holy love.

Be grateful for the gift of life, faith, family, friends, education, job and everything else that is yours as gift of God. Gratitude keeps our spiritual armor well-oiled so that we can “fight like a knight” against the devil and his minions. Prayers of gratitude are repugnant to evil spirits.

Blessed James Kern, O. Praem. Priest of Gratitude

Thanks to my friend, Fr. Gregory Dick, O. Praem., of St. Michael’s Norbertine Abbey, I can share a powerful Litany of Abundant Thanksgiving to God. The author is anonymous, but this litany was a cherished devotion of Blessed James Kern, a Norbertine priest, who offered himself in substitution for a brother priest who had led a schism (the Czech National Church). Fr. Kern went to the extent of joining the Norbertine Order and Abbey from which the schismatic priest once belonged. The Lord accepted Fr. Kern’s offer of reparation; he suffered greatly and died shortly after his ordination to the priesthood. Fr. Kern desired to spread this litany of gratitude to God. He had several thousand copies of the litany printed. He died before he could distribute them. In the words of Fr. Gregory Dick, “I suppose he left that to us, his fellow Norbetines”.

Litany of Abundant Thanksgiving to God

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right and just.

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give You thanks,

Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, hear us.

Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of heaven,

have mercy on us.

God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
God the Holy Spirit,
Holy Trinity, one God,
Holy Mary, Mother of God, lead our song of thanksgiving.

For light, life and all creation,
  we give thanks to you O God.
For the manger, the cross, and the dawn of Easter,
For the Dove and the seven flames of heavenly Fire,
For the revelation of the mystery of Yourself, the most holy Trinity,
For the Queen of Heaven, Your Son’s mother and ours,
For the cleansing waters of Baptism,
For those who led us into Your Church,
For my father, mother, relatives and friends,
For my homeland, government and native tongue,
For my daily bread, my home, and my vocation,
For consolation, success and protection in danger,
For the works of penance that You have given us,
For the bitter cup of suffering which makes us strong,
For the Anointing of Confirmation, which conforms
us to the Holy Spirit,

For the Sacrifice of Christ’s Body and Blood,

For the daily nourishment of this heavenly Bread,
For Jesus dwelling amongst us in the tabernacle,
For healing and strengthening us in the Sacrament
of Reconciliation,

For the consoling Anointing of the sick, which
heals and redeems,

For the power of priests to call upon You,
For the nobility, honor and dignity of marriage,
For the glorious gift of the Sacrament of
Matrimony,

For the Church who raises us up and binds us
together,

For this Rock of Truth withstanding storms and
distress,

For Peter, holding the keys of heaven in his hand,
For Your shepherds’ priesthood which serves as
Jesus served,

For the royal priesthood of the baptized who offer
spiritual worship,

For religious orders, the flowers on the tree of Your
Holy Church,

For the perfect proof of faith,
For the hope of beholding You face to face,
For the privilege of being able to love Your Name
and glory,

For the assistance of angels in this earthly battle,
For our Guardian Angels, our friends and
protectors,

For the courage we are given from the merits of the
Saints,
For all the Saints who are interceding for us before
Your throne,
For the guidance You give us in the Saints of our
age,

For the immaculate purity of the Virgin Mary,
For the Scriptures and the teaching of the
Magisterium,

For all the glorious victories of Your kingdom,
For all the illustrious feast days of the Church,
For Your hearkening to our intercessions for the
dead,

For having given us an immortal soul endowed
with intellect,
For having ennobled our will with freedom,
For having given us a will for good,
For having promised eternal rewards for even the
smallest of good deeds,

For Your kind providence leading us through life,
For Your light burning in the darkness of the night,
For Your voice sounding in the clouds of
disappointment,

For Your hand supporting us when the ground
shakes beneath us,

For the Sacred Heart of Jesus,
For the revelations of His unfathomable Mercy,
For all graces given us when we have deserved only
punishments,

For the resurrection of the dead,
For the coming of Christ on the clouds,
For judging the righteous in justice,
For bringing the proud to their knees,
For calling us to our true homeland in heaven,

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,

    spare us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,

    graciously hear us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,

    have mercy on us.

Let us pray.

O God, who has said, “Always give thanks in everything,” we humbly beseech You to give us the grace of beginning our thanksgiving here on earth in such a way that we may be able to finish it in heaven. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

For more information about Blessed James Kern, O. Praem., or St. Michael’s Norbertine Abbey: stmichaelsabbey.com

image: Adoration in the Assumption Chapel by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr

The Supernatural Side of Stranger Things

Catholic Exchange Articles - Tue, 11/21/2017 - 23:05

My husband, Ben, and I recently finished watching Season 1 of Netflix’s retro miniseries, Stranger Things. Since I’m not a huge fan of sci-fi or supernatural fantasy, I reluctantly agreed to stick through all ten episodes, if only to convince myself that I could truly be open-minded about such fantastical stories. In the end, however, both of us were sorely disappointed and briefly discussed the reasons. That’s why I was surprised to see some Catholics favorably review the show while they dissected and looked for theological themes in the series.

Suffice it to say that I wanted to delve into their explanations and offer my own, which I’ll admit will likely be unpopular and perhaps even ridiculed. I’ll begin with the affirming points of the show, namely the nostalgic aspects that appeal to us Gen Xers; the virtuous qualities of many characters in the show – sacrifice, loyalty, honesty, to name a few; and the superb plot that unfolds intensely but steadily. There’s plenty of reasons why 80’s kids love Stranger Things, but we should also acknowledge that the show presents a distorted view of the battle against evil and unseen worlds.

The series arc eventually introduces viewers to The Upside Down, a mirror universe that is occupied by diabolical creatures. In this way, even the residents of a small town can be caught up in something greater than them, which is certainly part of the appeal. We long for something bigger than what we see in front of us. We can observe a longing for something more than what this world offers, and certainly the flip-side of this ethereal realm (e.g., The Upside Down) is for us to face the reality that there are frightening and mysterious spiritual realities that we cannot fully grasp or manage.

The foulness of The Upside Down now threatens our realm and many seem powerless to stop it.

When contemplating the dangers of spiritual battles, we must affirm what power we have, though, through our faith. We can control, via our free will, whether or not the presence of evil pervades our lives. I know this personally. The entire time I watched Stranger Things, I felt a sense of impending doom. There was never evidence that the people who entered The Upside Down or even those who tried to control it in the Laboratory understood that they could face and rebuke the demonic. In fact, as Christians, we must do this with confidence!

Why admonish something that has no counterpart, though? That’s another issue I had with the show: no trace of holy redemption. Sure, the human characters exhibited heroic and redeeming qualities, especially when Eleven sacrificed her life to save the boys who had become her friends, but where was the Redeemer Himself? Nowhere. We see this ghastly and clearly evil monster that is other-worldly, but no angel or God to save His people.

There is no mention of a Rightside Up. There’s nothing to suggest that the preternaturally evil monster has an omnipotent and benevolent nemesis, namely, someone who is sublimely holy – God!

When I was a young teen, I dabbled in the occult for a short period of time, which I explained in detail in an article I wrote three years ago for Catholic Exchange. The result was the same sort of experience I witnessed in Stranger Things: fear, anxiety, and the false sense that this bizarre and inexplicably evil presence was too powerful and could not be contained. But, perhaps like the characters in Stranger Things, this belief deceived me.

I lived much of my life – decades even – with this spiritual oppression looming behind me and hovering over me. It was subtle, to be sure, especially after I had confessed my involvement with the occult and did my best to live a life indicative of sanctity. It wasn’t until recently, however, that I learned I had to officially renounce the evil, and I did this with the help of two lay Catholic women trained in deliverance ministry.

One cannot close the portal to The Upside Down, so to speak, without acknowledging the all-sovereign Creator who is the only One we serve. We do not obey Him out of fear. Instead, it is out of love – the same love that was alluded to through the characters’ vague sense of sacrificial compassion in Stranger Things. But it was a finite love, of course, conditional in some regards. Every character was flawed, representing the human condition of concupiscence.

Where was the antidote to the hideous monster in The Upside Down? The characters had to investigate it for themselves, often at very high costs, and they went to great lengths to unravel the mystery that the laboratory was hiding from the public. In many cases, they committed crimes and sins, which the creators of the show clearly wanted us to justify because of the main premise – that the evil must be discovered and destroyed at all costs.

Is it necessary to lie in order to destroy evil? Or to break into a high-security facility? I’m not sure I have the exact answer, but evil is not conquered with sin.

There were several other articles I read that I intended to dissect in this article, but space and time have limited my ability to do so. I will mention that the other two blog posts I wanted to mention both stated that they saw elements of the gospels, Theology of the Body, and a glimpse of heaven in Stranger Things. Maybe I missed something huge, but I never saw any sign of heaven or even anything remotely related to it.

My point is this: I’m entirely in favor of creative licensing and our ability to enjoy a variety of fictional stories that utilize our imaginations. There’s nothing inherently wrong with watching Stranger Things. But when Catholics attempt to convince the populace that there are clear elements of Catholic spirituality woven throughout the miniseries, I have a problem with that.

We can, and should, see the good in everything around us, including the movies or TV shows we watch. Stranger Things absolutely has components of human goodness. But it was lacking in one glaring necessity: God. We saw the demonic; we understood and accepted that evil does exist. But we did not seek or name the only One who created all things and can vanquish such malevolence.

My hope was to see a beneficent deity introduced in Season 2, but it appears that it’s just a continuation of chasing the Demagorgon into oblivion, along with the intriguing unraveling of backstories, including that of Eleven’s cruel abduction and the abuse of her psychic powers.

After I completed the deliverance prayers to renounce my participation in the occult, I was enveloped in God’s healing mercy. This joy elevated me to shed tears of gratitude as His peace settled in my soul. Isn’t it more empowering to be spiritually liberated by our Triune God than to succumb to spiritual pessimism?

True Gratitude is Enough

Catholic Exchange Articles - Tue, 11/21/2017 - 23:02

Years ago I pasted up a comic that features a matronly character with a cat purring at her feet. Ironically, it was from the strip called “Mutts,” but it wasn’t the mismatch between title and illustration that caused me to cut it out. Instead, it was the accompanying quotation attributed to Meister Eckhart, a late-medieval Dominican mystic. The quotation is this: “If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would suffice.”

That yellowed comic still hangs on a wall in our home, but it’s not in a place where I look at it every day. Nonetheless, the sentiment it conveys, that particular strip’s message and challenge, has never been far from my thoughts – it’s been nagging me and bothering me ever since I taped it up.

And just last week, it came leaping out at me at daily Mass. The Gospel was from Luke 17, the one where the ten lepers begged Jesus for pity and healing. Jesus promptly sends them on their way to – a doctor? a hospital? Nope, a priest! Yet, they went anyway and – lo and behold – they were all immediately freed from their disease and restored to wholeness! Alleluia!

You’ll probably recall what happens next: Nine of the ten take off – presumably to enjoy their newfound health, to share their miraculous recovery with family and friends, to pick up the loose ends of their lives that they’d abandoned years before – but one, only one, turned back to Jesus to give thanks.

That doesn’t mean the other nine weren’t grateful – no doubt, they were, and maybe they even pondered the connection between Jesus’ odd directive and their sudden good fortune. But, for whatever reason, only the one – an outsider, it turns out, a Samaritan – considered it needful, even necessary, to return to Jesus, glorify God, and give thanks.

Now what’s noteworthy – even startling – is Jesus’ response to this one: “Stand up and go,” he says. “Your faith has saved you.” In a sense, it was faith that saved all ten, at least from their leprosy. All of them clearly took it on faith that following Jesus’ offbeat command might lead to a satisfactory outcome – which it did. Yet there was something more going on in the one who expressed his gratitude: His physical healing was accompanied by – or, most likely, almost assuredly, preceded by – a spiritual healing. His was a temporal restoration that aligned with an eternal one.

And I think that’s what the Meister Eckhart quotation is all about: that a heartfelt and robust prayer of thanksgiving – not just thanksgiving itself – constitutes a bare minimum. At least for Christians.

We’re just a couple days away from our national Thanksgiving observance. It’s a most excellent holiday, not just for the family and friends, the feasting and football, but also for the opportunity to dwell as a people – even briefly, before the Mall opens – on what we’re grateful for. And we will do that. We’ll go around our tables and name people and events and things for which we are thankful, no matter how corny it seems – and that’s all right and good. Despite our ills and travails, even the unspeakable ones, we can all come up with something to be grateful for.

But it’s the next part that’s so important – the moment when most of us will follow our declarations of thanks with bows of head and voiced acknowledgements of God. That’s what transforms our natural thanksgiving into something supernatural – the same thing that set apart the one leper from the other nine. Moreover, it’s an indispensable dimension of our Catholic identity. “Eucharist,” after all, literally means “thanksgiving” – it is a sacrament of gratitude, the sacrament of gratitude – and since the Eucharist is the “source and summit” (CCC 1324) of the Christian life, then it’s fair to say that gratitude is Christianity, gratitude is Catholicism.

Which brings me back to that Samaritan leper, the one who came back to give thanks. Despite his disfiguring illness and isolation, which he shared with the other nine, this one apparently had somehow retained a fundamental gratitude – stubbornly, I suspect, perhaps even foolishly in the eyes of his comrades. They were lepers, after all, outcasts already dead in society’s eyes. Yet thanks came readily to this one’s lips. It was there all along and it compelled him to act.

Similarly, we do well to remember that Jesus instituted the Eucharist – our defining sacrament of gratitude – on the eve of his crucifixion. He knew what lay ahead, and yet he still gave thanks – and directed his followers to do likewise. Thus, for Christians, gratitude is essential regardless of circumstances. It’s the key, it’s the secret of our religion: A gratitudinous faith is authentic only to the degree that we embrace it – or at least attempt to embrace it – when giving thanks isn’t so easy.

That’s why the Mutts comic featuring that Eckhart quotation continues to bug me, because it’s a tall order to prayerfully and sincerely give thanks in the midst of our struggles, burdens, and disappointments. Apparently it also bugs Patrick McDonnell, the creator of the Mutts strip, because he’s been featuring the same quote around Thanksgiving intermittently for years. If you get Mutts in your local paper, look for it this Thursday – it might be there. But even if it’s not, keep it in mind and re-commit yourself to living gratitude, not just on Thursday, but every day. Do it with a Eucharistic mindset and commitment, and it will indeed suffice.

*

This essay was adapted from a reflection given on Grandparents’ Day (21 Nov. 2017) at Marian High School, Mishawaka, Indiana.

In the parable of the talents in the

Catholic Exchange Articles - Tue, 11/21/2017 - 23:00

In the parable of the talents in the Gospel reading, we are told that we must make the best use of the gifts given us in life: we will be rewarded or punished accordingly.

Our God-given gifts win for us much coveted worldly honors: power, prestige, fame. They could be boon or bane depending on how we use them. Success and fame could be all-consuming passions, leading to our own destruction. Our talents could remain dormant in us for a variety of reasons: such would be a great lack of responsibility on our part.

No one is without talents and gifts. Everyone has something to offer and to work with. Even in old age, we can give good example and guidance.

In the first reading and in the life of St. Cecilia, virgin and martyr, whose memorial is celebrated today, we see courage, faith and love of God even unto death.

May we have the faith and courage of the mother of the seven brothers: “I ask you now, my son, that when you see the heavens, the earth and all that is in it, you know that God made all this from nothing, and the human race as well. Do not fear these executioners, but make yourself worthy of your brothers – accept death that you may again meet your brothers in the time of mercy.”

“Since Jesus has gone to Heaven,

Catholic Exchange Articles - Tue, 11/21/2017 - 23:00

“Since Jesus has gone to Heaven, I can follow Him only by the traces He has left. But how radiant and how fragrant these traces are!”

-St. Therese of Lisieux, Mornings with Saint Therese

Saint Cecilia

Catholic Exchange Articles - Tue, 11/21/2017 - 23:00

Cecilia, also known as Cecily, was born in Rome and educated in the teachings and perfect practice of Catholicism. In her youth she made a vow of virginity to God. However, she was forced by her parents to marry a noble pagan youth named Valerianus. Refusing to forgo her vow, she convinced her new husband to respect her virginity, and eventually also won him over to Christianity.

Later, his brother Tiburtius was converted to the faith and both brothers practiced it with great zeal. Consequently, the prefect Turcius Almachius condemned them to death. Their executioner Maximus, however, himself was converted and suffered martyrdom along with the two brothers. Their remains were buried in one tomb by Cecilia.

At this point Cecilia came under the eye of the prefect and was soon sought by his officers. Before being taken prisoner, she made arrangements to have her house converted into a place of worship for the Roman Church. After a glorious profession of faith, she was condemned to be suffocated in her bath. Miraculously, this failed to harm Cecilia, so a soldier was assigned to behead her. Striking the neck of Cecilia three times without completely decapitating her, the soldier fled, leaving the virgin soaked in blood. She lived for three more days, during which time she was able to make dispositions for the poor. She was buried in the Catacombs of Callistus among the bishops and confessors who were martyred for the faith.

St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music. Many medieval pictures of Cecilia show her either holding a crown of martyrdom in her hand or playing the organ. While musicians played at her wedding, Cecilia sang in her heart to God. When the Academy of Music was founded at Rome in 1584, Cecilia was made patroness of the institute, whereupon her veneration as patroness of church music in general became more universal. Today, Cecilian societies (musical associations) exist everywhere, and the organ has become the primary attribute depicted in Cecilian art.

From Johnnette Benkovic’s Graceful Living: Meditations to Help You Grow Closer to God Day by Day

Click the image above to purchase your own copy of “Graceful Living.”

“Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright.
Praise the Lord with the lyre,
Make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song,
Play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.”

— Psalm 33:1–3

What is my song of praise to the Lord today?

Prayer

St. Cecilia, pray for us that we make music in our hearts to God and manifest our love for Him in our daily deeds. In the holy name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

The mission of St. Mary’s Parish is to proclaim and celebrate our salvation through Jesus Christ,our pilgrimage to the Father’s Kingdom enlivened by the Holy Spirit. Our Catholic faith community is nourished by our sacramental life, especially the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. With Mother Mary as our model, we demonstrate our faith through worship, education, vocations and service.

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