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Confession

Catholic Exchange Articles - 13 hours 27 min ago
Confession

Presence of God – At the foot of Your Cross, O Jesus, I confess my sins. Pour over me Your Precious Blood that it may purify my soul.

MEDITATION

Penance is the sacrament of Christ’s Precious Blood in which God—according to the eloquent words of St. Catherine of Siena—“has bathed us in order to cleanse the face of our souls from the leprosy of sin.” If mortal sin only is the necessary matter of this sacrament, venial sin is sufficient matter, since all Catholic tradition insists on frequent confession, even when one has only venial sins to confess. However, those who confess weekly must take great care lest their confessions become a mere routine, instead of the really vital acts which would enable these souls to profit fully from all the graces offered by the sacrament.

“Do not despise the Blood of Christ!” exclaims St. Catherine of Siena.

Certainly anyone who appreciates it will not approach the sacrament of penance lightly. To this end it is useful to recall that absolution is truly the pouring forth of the Precious Blood which, inundating and penetrating the soul, purifies it from sin, and restores sanctifying grace if it has been lost, or increases this gift if it is already present in the soul. The remission of sin and the imparting of grace are the fruits of the action of Jesus, expressed by the formula the priest pronounces in His Name: “I absolve thee.” At that moment it is Jesus who is acting in the soul, either by remitting sin or by producing or increasing grace. It is well to remember that the efficacy of the absolution is not limited merely to sins that have already been committed, but that it even extends into the future. By means of the particular sacramental grace, the soul is strengthened beforehand against relapses and it is offered the fortitude to resist temptations and to carry out its good resolutions. The Blood of Christ is, in this sense, not only a remedy for the past, but also a preservative and a strengthening help for the future. The soul which plunges into it, as into a healthful bath, draws from it new vigor and sees the strength of its passions extinguished little by little. We see then the importance of frequent confession for a soul desirous of union with God, a soul which must necessarily aspire to total purification.

COLLOQUY

“Sweet Jesus, in order to clothe us again with the life of grace, You stripped Yourself of the life of Your body. The body which You stretched on the wood of the holy Cross is like a lamb which has been sacrificed and which is shedding its blood from every part of its body. In Your Blood, You have created us anew to the life of grace.

“Sweet Jesus, my soul ardently desires to be bathed and entirely submerged in Your Blood … since in Your Blood, I find the source of all mercy; in Your Blood are clemency, fire, piety. In Your Blood, mercy abounds for our faults. In Your Blood, justice is satisfied and our hardness is melted; what is bitter becomes sweet and what is heavy becomes light. And since all virtues reach maturity in Your Blood, O Christ, inebriate my soul, engulf it in Your Blood, so that it will be adorned with real and solid virtues” (St. Catherine of Siena).

O Jesus, if just one drop of Your Precious Blood has the power to wipe out all the crimes of the world, what will it not do in me when You pour it so abundantly over my poor soul at the moment of absolution! O Jesus, revive my faith and give me a complete understanding of the immense value of the sacrament of Your Blood. Only Your Blood can wash away my sins, purify the stains on my soul, and heal and vivify it. Oh! grant that this salutary bath may cleanse my whole being and restore it entirely to Your grace and love!

Through the merits of Your passion, grant, O Lord, that I may always bring to the tribunal of penance a truly humble and contrite heart, an increasingly perfect sorrow for my faults, and a deeper and more sincere horror of anything that offends You, my God. Only if it finds no attachment to sin in me, will Your Precious Blood be able to penetrate the depths of my soul, renew it and vivify it wholly. O Jesus, grant that Your Precious Blood may bear its full fruit in me.

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Note from Dan: These posts are provided courtesy of Baronius Press and contain one of two meditations for the day. If you would like to get the full meditation from one of the best daily meditation works ever compiled, you can learn more here: Divine Intimacy. Please honor those who support us by purchasing and promoting their products.

Art for this post on confession: Confession of Bern Cathedral, Bernardine Cathedral In Lviv Church Of Saint Andrew, Vodnik, January 2007, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.

About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio – Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, the High Calling Seminary Preparation Program, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his “contagious” love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer, speaker and pilgrimage director who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN’s Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

 

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This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.

First Reading: Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18

Daily Scripture Reading - 15 hours 2 min ago
1 And the LORD said to Moses,
2 "Say to all the congregation of the people of Israel, You shall be holy; for I the LORD your God am holy.
11 "You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.
12 And you shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.
13 "You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning.
14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.
15 "You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.
16 You shall not go up and down as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand forth against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD.
17 "You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason with your neighbor, lest you bear sin because of him.
18 You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 19:8-10, 15

Daily Scripture Reading - 15 hours 2 min ago
7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever; the ordinances of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46

Daily Scripture Reading - 15 hours 2 min ago
31 "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.
32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,
33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.
34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'
37 Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?
38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?
39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?'
40 And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'
41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;
42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'
44 Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?'
45 Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.'
46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Our daily lives are confounded with

Catholic Exchange Articles - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 00:57

Our daily lives are confounded with many choices, and with the seeming scarcity of time available for us to accomplish what we want, our decisions are often guided by what is most convenient for us. Oftentimes what we desire does not take into consideration the commandment to “Love our neighbor as ourselves”. Self-centeredness, taking the easy way out, or doing things to promote ourselves often influences our actions. As our Father is the abundant well-spring of love, being connected to Him could only bring us to be closer to our brothers and sisters, the same way our loving God is unconditionally devoted to us.

In Questioning Us, Jesus Invites Us to a Personal Encounter

Catholic Exchange Articles - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 23:07

Some of the most memorable words of Jesus from the gospels come in the form of questions.

  • “What are you looking for?” (Jesus to his first disciples in John 1:38).
  • “Who do you say that I am?” (Jesus to his disciples in Matthew 16:15).
  • “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (After the calming of the storm in Matthew 14:31).
  • “Do you love me?” (Jesus to Peter three times in John 21:15-17).

According to one count, Jesus asks 135 questions in the gospels. They are among some of the most striking moments in the gospels, including the Passion, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. Many parables contain puzzling questions. And Jesus often scolds His disciples and followers for their lack of faith in the form of a question, such as the above example from the calming of the storm.

I propose that what Jesus is saying in these moments maybe almost as important as how He is saying it. The form of His sentences has significance itself.

Here, I am extending the insight of the celebrated twentieth century media theorist, Marshall McLuhan, who famously declared that the “medium is the message.” (McLuhan, incidentally, was Catholic.) What McLuhan meant was that the medium through which we receive information affects the message and even becomes the message. McLuhan was talking about the differences between media such as print newspapers and television, but we can see how the same principle applies even on the microscopic level of grammar.

When Jesus asks the woman accused of adultery where her accusers had gone (John 8:10), He could have just as easily delivered that information in the form of a statement. By asking her a question, He makes her respond to Him and participate in her redemptive moment. She is not a passive bystander, or a victim immobilized as Jesus sends her accusers scattering. She becomes part of the story.

But such questions also change the way that Jesus participates in the story. Think, for a moment, about the three main types of gospels narratives prior to the Passion: there are speeches or sayings in the form of sermons and parables, there are healings, and there are also miraculous interventions in the order of nature, such as the calming of the storm, the multiplication of the loaves, and the turning of the water into wine.

Punctuating these narratives with questions personalizes Jesus. He uttered divine sayings, He healed, and He performed miracles. But He did more than all this. He was more than an oracle, more than a divine doctor, more than a performer. He personally interacted with those He taught, healed, and saved. Questions are a sign of His personal presence and engagement with those he encounters in the gospels.

In everyday interaction questions are how we make sure that people are really listening to us—that they are ‘really there.’ Questions are how teachers make sure students are paying attention and how all of us really know that a close friend, a mentor, or a significant other has been truly listening to our story or our particular problem. So also in the gospels.

The questions of Jesus put the lie to the Docetist heresy that He was merely some sort of fleshly automaton operated by God. We could perhaps imagine a fleshly phantasm declaring divine words like some kind of possessed oracle. We can imagine such a thing being a conduit for healing powers. But it’s harder to reconcile this heretical distortion of Jesus with the gospel account of the questions He asked. Jesus was really there and the questions He asked confirm it.

The questions actually have a twofold effect. Not only do they affirm the presence of Christ, they draw His interlocutors, and, by extension us as readers, into a personal relationship with Him. Recall the story of the woman accused of adultery. She participates in the event by answering Jesus’ question and, by so doing, she is no longer a passive recipient of forgiveness but someone who acts in the story. Indeed, this small act leads directly to a larger one: after she recognizes no one stands to accuse her, Jesus commands her to go and sin no more (John 8:12).

Today, Jesus’ questions reach across the centuries and draw us into the gospel. He asks who do we say that He is? Do we love Him? Why do we doubt? As challenging as these questions can sometimes be for us, we ought to be grateful that we have a personal God who cares enough to ask them in the first place.

(Note: For more on how questions engender a personal encounter, consult I and Thou, a book by Martin Buber, a twentieth century Jewish philosopher who influenced popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. I credit Buber with helping me to understand the significance of these questions.)

image: Diego Delso [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Changing Our Judgmental Character

Catholic Exchange Articles - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 23:05

In almost every show or movie there is a character that is completely annoying.

You know exactly who I’m talking about. They’re mean, constantly complaining, gossiping, wimpy, and judgmental. Basically, they’re annoying and you just don’t like them.

I’ve always wondered: if I were a character in a movie, how would I be perceived?

I would like to think that I would find my character nice, helpful and maybe even somewhat humorous.

But those are on my good days. How about my bad days?

If I were to see myself in a movie, as an observer, I might not always like my character. In fact, I might even dislike him.

Think about this, too. When there is a character in a movie that is annoying, judgmental or even wicked … and in time they start to change for the better, what naturally happens to us as the viewer?

We want them to be better.

We begin to like them.

We even start to root for them.

Take Ebenezer Scrooge for instance. A terrible, horrible, judgmental person. He is truly an awful person, and I doubt anyone goes into that story liking him.

But near the end of the story, when he ‘wakes up’ and becomes a better person, you start to like old Scrooge. You just can’t help it.

Personally, I have had many moments in my life that I’m not proud of. And sometimes within hours, or heck, even minutes, I’ll think to myself, “Wow, I would totally hate my character in a movie right now.” Especially when I’m being judgmental.

Because when I become judgmental, I become the character in the movie who I’d like to give a good punch in the head.

So, how does one conquer their temptations to judge others? Well, initially, by keeping them just as temptations. When the thoughts to judge others come into your mind, try your best to get rid of them or simply ignore them. Eventually they will go away, but only if you do not give in to them.

In the end we really need to mind our own business and not set ourselves up as judge, jury and executioner to those around us.

We should also remind ourselves throughout the day that when we are tempted to be judgmental towards another person that there is also a good deal that we do not even know about that person.

When we fall into judging others, it’s very rare that we will ever judge justly. Only God can do that – only God knows the heart. We never will.

Instead, it would be much wiser to try our best to think the best of other people, giving them the benefit of the doubt, and leave all judgment to God.

An interesting thought, too – we have our own faults to contend with! It’s better to look at oneself with a more critical eye, rather than those around us. In fact, unless you’ve tapped into a magic spring of perfection, you can keep fairly busy just correcting your own faults.

As for the faults of others, the best you can do is to be a good example, offer a bit of advice if you are asked and pray for others, versus criticizing and gossiping about them.

By not judging others, you will have more peace in your own soul.

One of the worst faults of human nature is that of condemning others. That is why Jesus taught His doctrine of charity. As we judge others, so will God judge us. If we condemn others, so too we run the risk of being condemned. A true follower of Christ is more ready to think well of others than to think evil.

In your life, try to no longer be the movie character that is judgmental towards others, picking out people’s faults and failings. The movie character that everyone wants to punch.

Instead, be the movie character that recognizes and works to diminish his or hers own faults and failings.

That’s a character you might even like — a lot.

Celebrating Human Life in the Holy Land

Catholic Exchange Articles - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 23:02
Michele Bowe of the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation

I was recently able to interview Michele Bowe, DM, President of the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation (headquartered in Washington, DC, and supporting the Hospital itself in Bethlehem). Michele, who is a “Dame of Malta” (DM), is a member of the international Catholic Order of Malta, the world’s oldest Christian charity.

Enjoy Michele’s insights regarding the efforts in support of human life carried out by the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation.

1.) Please share a little about your faith journey – what role does your faith play in your life?

My faith is central to my life. My husband and I will celebrate our thirtieth anniversary in February. We have five children, mostly grown. We still have a junior in high school, but the others are grown. We integrate our faith into our daily life; we don’t save it for Sunday.

2.) Could you describe for us the efforts of the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation? Also, how does Bethlehem being the place of Christ’s birth correspond to the Foundation’s mission?

It’s an interesting place – it’s an infant and maternity hospital. We delivered just over 4,300 babies last year, and provided 30,000 services to women and children, between the Hospital and the Mobile Clinic (which has a set path that it travels each week, between villages and Bedouin encampments). Children are all about hope – when a couple learns that they’re expecting their first child, they experience so much hope. We have a NICU to help take care of babies. It’s a very beautiful Catholic witness to life, and to our faith. We are there for a number of reasons: we’re associated with the Order of Malta, which started in Jerusalem over 900 years ago, caring for men, women, and children, caring for Christians (then all Catholics), Muslims, and Jews.

The Order of Malta took care of pilgrims and the inhabitants of the region. We care of the sick and the poor. This is particularly important for a place like Bethlehem, which is such a holy city – King David’s city. On the outskirts is where the first Christians (the shepherds) came from. They shared the Good News. The Holy Family went to Bethlehem to deliver Christ. We employee 170 Palestinians, many of whom are descendants of those first shepherds, who have been there for two thousand years. It is really a privilege to deliver babies right in the place where Jesus was born.

3.) How did you come into the role as President of the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation?

I was a supporter of the Foundation for a number of years. They were looking for a Board member. Since I speak Arabic, and had spent a lot of time in the region, I was first a Board member for a number of years. After a few years, there was a change in the leadership, and they asked me if I would take it. I took a few days to pray about it, to see if that was where I was called, and I said yes.

4.) How does the Foundation’s headquarters in the United States interact with the Hospital itself in Bethlehem?

Two of the Board members from the Foundation are also Board members of the Hospital. I am one of those Board members. The purpose of our Foundation is to deliver life, peace, and hope in the Holy Land. We were founded to share the Good News of Bethlehem with the people in the United States – with parishes, with people who are interested in peace, in education (for instance, we have a residency program where we train OBGYNs and pediatricians). We teach peace through medicine. There are also many members of the Order of Malta.

We have two mottos for the hospital: “The best for the poor” and “The door is always open.” You know that this is a Catholic hospital: we have crucifixes and other Catholic imagery everywhere. We are preaching the Gospel through our actions.

5.) I typically ask this question of my interviewees – what is your favorite scriptural passage, and why?

My favorite Gospel passage is the Road to Emmaus: “Were not our hearts burning within us while [Jesus] spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32). Sometimes, we think that Christ is behind a veil without realizing that he is right there with us. Also, the Fiat: “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). When I was praying whether or not I should accept the role of president, I meditated about this a lot. Another one is “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4), because that is what the Foundation does every day. In the Old Testament, we have Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

6.) Do you have any parting words for readers interested in supporting the ministry provided by the Foundation?

Donating to Holy Family Hospital should be a family decision. Parents should make a nice donation to the Hospital, maybe on their birthday or other birthdays in the family. Take out a Nativity scene and talk about the Infant Jesus and Mary and Joseph, about the angels and the shepherds. I would encourage families to make as generous of a donation as possible. Speak with your children about what it means to share that gift of life, in Bethlehem, 1,500 steps away from where Christ was born.

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I greatly value Michele’s time and her uplifting remarks. Please greatly consider making a generous donation to the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation. You can learn some more by watching this YouTube video: “Holy Family Hospital – Bethlehem.”

image: By Britchi Mirela (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“God can redeem our past. It is

Catholic Exchange Articles - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 23:00

“God can redeem our past. It is quite mysterious how He can take any terrible thing and make something far more beautiful out of it than we ever could have imagined.”

-Julie Onderko, Discover Your Next Mission from God

St. Conrad of Piacenza

Catholic Exchange Articles - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 23:00

Conrad was a member of one of the most noble families of Piacenza. He married while still very young. He was known to be a most pious and honest person.

One day while out with friends on a hunting expedition, he thought he saw some game in an area of brush. He ordered his attendants to set fire to the brush in order to scare the animals out of hiding. The dry brush quickly ignited and, because there was a prevailing wind, the fire started to spread. Soon the surrounding fields and forest were engulfed in the flames.

A man who happened to be in the area was thought to be the arsonist and was seized. He was imprisoned, tried and condemned to die. He was on his way to his execution when Conrad, full of remorse and guilt, halted the proceedings and made an open confession. To make restitution for the damages, Conrad had to sell all his belongings, reducing him to poverty. Conrad decided to retire to a hermitage, where he became a hermit of the Third Order of St. Francis. Conrad’s wife entered the Order of Poor Clares.

In later years, Conrad went to Rome and then to Sicily and lived there for 30 years leading a penitential life and working miracles. He died at Noto in Sicily on February 19, 1351.

Lessons

Leo X allowed the town of Noto to celebrate a feast in honor of Conrad in the year 1515. Later, Urban VII extended this permission to the Order of St. Francis. Although Conrad bears the title of Saint, he has never been officially canonized. The Franciscans recognize his feast day on this day, February 19.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, we pray that, like Conrad, we will always strive to do the right thing, even if it means suffering humiliation and the loss of all our possessions. Conrad suffered these things, but in dying to himself and living for You, he has gained the respect and veneration of many, and now has his eternal reward which far surpasses any earthly possession or honor. Thank you, Father, for Your love and mercy on us all. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Gabinus (296), Priest, Martyr, brother of Pope St. Caius, father of St. Susanna, ordained in old age

First Reading: Genesis 9:8-15

Daily Scripture Reading - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 01:00
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,
9 "Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you,
10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.
11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth."
12 And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:
13 I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,
15 I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 25:4-9

Daily Scripture Reading - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 01:00
4 Make me to know thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.
5 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me, for thou art the God of my salvation; for thee I wait all the day long.
6 Be mindful of thy mercy, O LORD, and of thy steadfast love, for they have been from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth, or my transgressions; according to thy steadfast love remember me, for thy goodness' sake, O LORD!
8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:18-22

Daily Scripture Reading - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 01:00
18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit;
19 in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison,
20 who formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.
21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

Gospel: Mark 1:12-15

Daily Scripture Reading - Sun, 02/18/2018 - 01:00
12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him.
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God,
15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel."

St. Simon (or Simeon)

Catholic Exchange Articles - Sat, 02/17/2018 - 23:00

Simon is mentioned in Sacred Scripture and has been identified as one of the “brothers of the Lord.” Of course, Simon was not a blood brother of Jesus, but because the Aramaic and Hebrew language does not have a word for a close relative such as cousin, the word brother is often used. St. Simon was apparently a cousin of our Lord. Scripture tells us that his father was Cleophas, the brother of St. Joseph, and that his mother was the sister (or certainly the sister-in-law) of the Blessed Mother. This would make Simon the first cousin of Jesus. Simon’s brother, called James the Less, was bishop of Jerusalem, and when he was martyred the Apostles met together and chose Simon to take his brother’s office of Bishop.

Civil war broke out in the year 66 and the Christians, believed to have been forewarned by our Lord (Mt 24:16), fled from Jerusalem. Most went with Simon to the other side of the Jordan and settled in a small city called Pella. Later, after Jerusalem had been burned, the Christians returned and dwelt among the ruins until Emperor Hadrian completely razed the city. According to the writings of Eusebius, the Church historian, there were great miracles being performed by the saints during this time and many Jews were converting to Christianity because of these miracles. The Church was flourishing amidst the persecutions.

Simon was able to avoid being arrested when the Roman rulers and persecutors, Vespasian and Domitian, ordered the destruction of all who were of the race of David. However, when Trajan later gave a similar injunction, Simon was not only denounced as being one of David’s descendants, but also a Christian. He was brought to the Roman Governor, Atticus, and sentenced to death. At this time, Simon was extremely old, having lived to be 120 years old. Even though he was so elderly, the persecutors still tortured him before crucifying him.

Lessons

There is much confusion about the “brothers of the Lord.” Catholic Tradition teaches that our Lord had no blood brothers and our Blessed Mother had no other children other than Jesus. A careful reading of Scripture will show that those same “brothers” are also mentioned in other areas of the Bible as being either the son of another man (other than Joseph) or of a woman named Mary, wife of Cleophas, and not the Virgin Mary. For further information on this topic, please refer to the book, Catholicism and Fundamentalism by Karl Keating.

Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus, we know that You are not only our Creator, Savior and God, but also our brother. In this respect, like Simon, we are all your brothers and sisters. We thank you, our Savior, for making us part of Your family and we pray that we will always remain in the Body of Christ. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Bernadette Soubirous (1879), Virgin, Saint of Lourdes

St. Flavian (449), Bishop, Patriarch, Martyr

Three Secular Maxims for the “New Evangelization” Evangelist

Catholic Exchange Articles - Sat, 02/17/2018 - 13:52

It’s odd to me that the term “New Evangelization” has yet to catch real fire in the Catholic Church.  What I mean is that it has yet to become a common enough term that the vast majority of Catholics not only recognize it but that they also know what it means.

In a nutshell, it carries forth the evangelical mission of the Second Vatican Council, whose purpose was not to modernize the Church to fit the world but rather to evangelize the world to become more like the Church.  The main component is to evangelize the evangelizers, meaning to rekindle the fire within Catholic hearts so they in turn may light the fire in the hearts of others.

Here’s the rub: Since the Second Vatican Council, many argue that the Church did not find a renaissance but instead experienced more growing pains.  Mass attendance is down worldwide with many Catholics leaving for non-Catholic faiths or worse yet, for the modern philosophies of atheism and relativism.  There are other examples of struggle, but there’s little value added in listing them all.

Instead of COEXIST bumper stickers and the like, I offer a short bridge between the secular world and the Catholic Church through three simple maxims which may help to carry out the New Evangelization.

  1. “It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.” –Anonymous

I know there are many of you reading this who feel the same way I do about turning on or reading the news.  If you’re like me, your blood pressure rises just a few notches.  To blow off steam, many of us turn to blasting out a torrent of social media interactions as if they were our very own Lincoln-Douglas debates.

Well if you’re a Catholic man, fear not because you are in the winter of your discontent.  Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle.  It’s one thing to express your thoughts and emotions, but to turn them into meaningful action—that is the true art of Catholic manliness.

This means that instead of decrying the laziness of others to get a job, help them get jobs.  You can help teach them skills or maybe find job openings for which they qualify.  Instead of critiquing the sacrilegious behaviors of some fellow parishioners at Mass, lovingly show them the beauty of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.  You’d be surprised at how many Catholics there are who don’t even know about Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist.  Of course these are just a few examples, but the point is to be part of the solution instead of merely pointing out the problem.

  1. “Duty then is the sublimest word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more, you should never wish to do less.” –Gen. Robert E. Lee

The next step is to focus our actions toward a purpose.  This particular maxim holds a lot of meaning for me, who while attending four years at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina and now having currently served 13 years in the United States Air Force, the term duty grew beyond mere definition.

As a Catholic man, how often do you realize the words at the end of the Mass?  Do you know that when we are dismissed from Mass, we are sent like soldiers on a mission?  Our actions must be directed toward the purpose for which we were born anew as Christians, which is to go and make disciples both in word and deed! (Cf. Matthew 28: 19)

We are sent out into the world to evangelize.  We must evangelize ourselves, each other, and those who may not know the good news of Christ.  This is more than handing out pamphlets and miniature Bibles.  Those are printed ink on pages.  As Catholics, we know the true meaning of The Word made Flesh.  I know it can be intimidating and more often than not uncomfortable.  What rescue mission isn’t without risk?

But at the end of the day, it is our duty as Catholics!

  1. “The measure of who we are is what we do with [Who] we have.” –Vince Lombardi

The next and last simple step after becoming mission focused and duty driven: Be Christ to others and see Christ in others.  There are many who enter into evangelization too focused on themselves.  They’re driven to win arguments rather than winning souls.  If they really stopped to think about it, it’s not their job to do the converting.  Conversion happens between the individual’s exercise of free will and the action of the Holy Spirit.

Looking at the maxim provided, we’re prompted to do constant introspection.  You might even consider it prayer and examining your conscience.  Why?  Because the world is consumed with measuring quantity and quality.  If you listen, you’ll hear the world constantly pass judgement on all of us.  If you don’t look, sound, or act a certain way by the world’s standards, then you’re cast aside.

If you’re a Catholic, there is only one standard—God.  We’re called to the measure of holiness, not because we’re holy in and of ourselves but because God gave us His only Son and also sent His Spirit.  Can we then hide these Gifts under the bushel basket of our pride?  Of course not!

How often we were Christ to others and how often we recognized Christ in others…that’s how we’ll be measured.

The post Three Secular Maxims for the “New Evangelization” Evangelist appeared first on Those Catholic Men.

This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Those Catholic Men.

First Reading: Isaiah 58:9-14

Daily Scripture Reading - Sat, 02/17/2018 - 01:00
9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am. "If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.
13 "If you turn back your foot from the sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
14 then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 86:1-6

Daily Scripture Reading - Sat, 02/17/2018 - 01:00
1 Incline thy ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
2 Preserve my life, for I am godly; save thy servant who trusts in thee. Thou art my God;
3 be gracious to me, O Lord, for to thee do I cry all the day.
4 Gladden the soul of thy servant, for to thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
5 For thou, O Lord, art good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on thee.
6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; hearken to my cry of supplication.

Gospel: Luke 5:27-32

Daily Scripture Reading - Sat, 02/17/2018 - 01:00
27 After this he went out, and saw a tax collector, named Levi, sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, "Follow me."
28 And he left everything, and rose and followed him.
29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house; and there was a large company of tax collectors and others sitting at table with them.
30 And the Pharisees and their scribes murmured against his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"
31 And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick;
32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Seven Holy Founders of the Order of Servites

Catholic Exchange Articles - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 23:00

In 1240 seven noblemen of the prosperous and cultured Italian city of Florence decided to exchange the bustle of city life for a simple lifestyle of prayer, penance, and service of God. It is said that the Virgin Mary appeared to Bonfiglio Monaldo, Bonaiunta Manetto, Manetto Antellese, Amedeo Amedei, Uguccione Uguccioni, Sosteneo Sostenei, and Alessio Falconieri, urging them to devote themselves to her service. Upon making arrangements for their families (for two of the seven were married, and two others were widowers), the men established themselves near the city. However, their solitude was disturbed by constant visitors from Florence, so they withdrew to the slopes of Mt. Senario and established a community there.

In 1244 the group adopted a religious habit and chose to live under the rule of St. Augustine; at the same time, they named themselves the “Servants of Mary” (or “Servites”). Instead of choosing a more traditional form of monastic life, the original group and its newer members developed as mendicant (begging) friars, actively involving themselves in serving others and caring for the poor. The Order’s first leader was St. Bonfiglio Monaldo, who died in 1261; the best known was St. Alessio Falconieri, who helped establish a Servite community in Siena and in other cities. He outlived the other founders, and is said to have been 110 when he died. The Servite Order continues to be active in caring for the poor today.

Lessons

1. Fellowship and mutual support can be an important part of life for Christian men, and the existence of such contemporary groups as Promise Keepers and St. Joseph’s Covenant Keepers emphasizes the need for male faith support networks or groups in today’s society.

2. As the Seven Servites discovered, holiness involves a combination of time with God (prayer and solitude) and time with one’s neighbor (community and service).

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.”

“In the beginning our Lady was the chief architect of this new order which was founded on the humility of its members, built up by their mutual love, and preserved by their poverty.”

-Legenda de Origine of the Order of Servants of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Johnnette’s Meditation

Is the Blessed Mother the “architect” of my hopes and dreams, my plans and my way of life? How can I entrust everything to her?

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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