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Today we celebrate the feast of St.

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 22:00

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Matthew, a tax collector who left his old way of life to follow Jesus. His response to our Lord’s invitation later bore fruit in the gospel of the New Testament which tradition attributed to him. How do we respond to our Lord’s invitation to follow him? Would we be too concerned with worries and things of this world to respond to the call of the Lord? Or have we already responded favorably but after a while, gave up when faced with trials or adversity? Finally, would we respond like Matthew, very much aware of our brokenness and sinfulness but also confident that as we receive and keep the word or call of the Lord in a gentle and generous heart, we can, by persevering patiently, also bear fruit?

St. Matthew (Apostle and Evangelist)

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 22:00

St. Matthew, one of the Twelve Apostles, was originally a tax collector in the city of Capernaum. Many local tax collectors (known as “publicans” in some Bible translations) were known to be corrupt, demanding more money from the people than the Romans required and keeping the difference for themselves. This, and their apparent lack of patriotism, made them hated figures in first-century Palestine.

Whether or not he was dishonest, Matthew eagerly accepted Christ’s invitation to follow Him. The call of Matthew is described in St. Mark’s Gospel (2:13-17). Matthew, also known as Levi, the son of Alphaeus, was at his tax collector’s post when Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.” Matthew did so without a moment’s hesitation. Later, Matthew invited Jesus and the disciples to dine at his home. Jesus’ acceptance of the invitation caused great rejoicing among Matthew’s friends (many themselves publicly despised as tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners). When the Pharisees objected, Jesus said, “I have come to call sinners, not the self-righteous.”

Matthew was present for all the major events of Christ’s life. Little is known about St. Matthew’s life after Jesus’ death and Resurrection. There are various legends regarding his missionary activity and subsequent martyrdom. Ethiopia and Persia are two of the places mentioned as sites of his death.

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.”

The other Evangelists, out of respect for Matthew, did not call him by his common name, so they said Levi. But Matthew called himself Matthew and a publican [tax collector], that he might show his readers that no one ought to despair of salvation . . . since he himself suddenly changed from a publican to an apostle.

— from St. Jerome’s Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew

What sudden change might God be asking me to make today? St. Matthew, pray for me.

How to Trust God

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 02:35

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
-Hebrews 10:23

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks very movingly about the need to rely on our Father’s loving care: “Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? . . . Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Matt. 6:25-27, 31-33)

We are completely dependent on God’s mercy and grace. We must trust that God wants to save us and that He will give us the resources we need to cope with life’s challenges and to achieve our eternal destiny. The saints had a profound awareness of the Lord’s presence in their lives — so profound that they didn’t seek miraculous confirmation or run after wonders and signs. Once, during the reign of St. Louis IX of France, when Mass was being said in the palace chapel, a miracle occurred during the Consecration: Jesus appeared visibly at the altar, in the form of a beautiful child. Everyone there gazed on Him in wonderful awe and contemplation, recognizing this miracle as a proof of the Real Presence. Someone hurried to tell the king, who was absent, so that he might come and witness the event. But Louis declined, explaining, “I firmly believe already that Christ is truly present in the Holy Eucharist. He has said it, and that is sufficient; I do not wish to lose the merit of my faith by going to see this miracle.”

God meets our spiritual needs, just as He promised. He also provides for our physical needs, as long as we place our trust in Him. St. John of the Cross, on being informed by the cook in his monastery that there was no food for the following day, answered, “Leave to God the care of providing food. Tomorrow is far enough off; He is well able to take care of us.” The next morning there was still no food — until a wealthy benefactor came to the door. He explained that he had dreamed the previous night that the monks might be in need and had brought enough food and supplies to sustain them, just in case that was so.

Other saints had similar experiences. In the early nineteenth century, Bl. Anne-Marie Jahouvey established a religious congregation, over the strong objections of her father. She and the other sisters were running an orphanage, and when they ran out of money for food one day, Anne-Marie went into church to pray: “I need help. I know that I have been imprudent, and perhaps I have gone beyond Your will in many ways. But I have done it for the children. They are more Yours than they are mine. If I have made mistakes, punish me — not them. I beg You, don’t forsake them. Please, please help.” Anne-Marie then heard the voice of the Lord clearly: “Why have you come here to expose your doubts? Have you no faith in me? Have I ever disappointed you? Go back to the children.” There with a wagonload of food was her father, who said, “I don’t know why I am doing this, but I suppose I can’t let you starve.” Anne-Marie realized that God had not only tested her faith, but had also confirmed His loving care for her — for indeed, moving her unwilling father to bring assistance for all the orphans and sisters was perhaps a greater miracle than if He had stocked the pantry shelves with food suddenly created out of nothing.

St. John Bosco amazed many people by managing to care for a large number of orphans and other boys apparently without sufficient resources. Each time his assistants told him that dire financial problems could no longer be put off, he assured them, “God will provide” — and in every instance, he was right.

Another famous Italian, St. Frances Cabrini, showed this same childlike trust during her long ministry in the United States. She and the sisters of her religious order encountered many difficulties in their labors on behalf of poor Italian immigrants, but they managed to create and staff many schools, hospitals, and orphanages. Whenever a problem arose, Mother Cabrini would ask, “Who is doing this? We — or the Lord?”

Trusting God means believing in His care for us even when evil seems to be gaining the upper hand — a point understood by the sixth-century abbot St. Stephen of Rieti. When a wicked man burned down the barns holding all the monastery’s corn, the monks exclaimed to Stephen, “Alas for what has come upon you!” The abbot answered, “No, say rather, ‘Alas for what has come upon him that did this deed,’ for no harm has befallen me.” As Stephen knew, God’s providential care is far greater than any human treachery.

According to St. Albert the Great, “The greater and more persistent your confidence in God, the more abundantly you will receive all that you ask.” This point is echoed by St. Teresa of Avila, who reassures us, “God is full of compassion and never fails those who are afflicted and despised, if they trust in Him alone.”

If, indeed, we are trying to do God’s work, instead of our own, we need not fear the results. The Lord is an expert at solving problems and providing for us in our need (even to the point of working miracles, if need be). The one thing He can’t do, however, is force us to trust in Him. If we freely choose to do this, we’re cooperating with His grace, and the results are guaranteed to be wonderful and amazing.

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This article was adapted from a chapter in Saintly Solutions to Life’s Common Problems by Fr. Joseph Esper which is available from Sophia Institute Press

Art for this post on how to trust God: Detail of The Virgin in Prayer by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato, between 1640 and 1650, National Gallery, London, United Kingdom, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.  Cover of Saintly Solutions to Life’s Common Problems used with permission.

Read more about trust in God HERE.

About Charlie McKinney

Charlie McKinney is the Publisher of Sophia Institute Press and President of Sophia Institute for Teachers, CatholicExchange.com, CrisisMagazine.com, and EpicPew.com. Charlie is a convert to the Catholic Faith and is a regular guest on Catholic radio and television. He and his wife have four children and they reside in New Hampshire.

 

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

61. Give and Take (Matthew 20:1-19)

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 02:30

“It is not only as past history that we know all that the Son of God did and taught for the reconciliation of the world; here and now we feel the effects of its power.” – Pope St. Leo the Great

Matthew 20:1-19: ‘Now the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage. So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, Why have you been standing here idle all day? Because no one has hired us, they answered. He said to them, You go into my vineyard too. In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first. So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. The men who came last they said have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat. He answered one of them and said, My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous? Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.’

Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, and on the way he took the Twelve to one side and said to them, ‘Now we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the chief priests and scribes. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the pagans to be mocked and scourged and crucified; and on the third day he will rise again.’

Christ the Lord Christ is the generous landowner. To pay these hired workers a full day’s wage for only a few hours of work is the epitome of generosity. Palestine’s day laborers had no steady work and no steady income; they were hired on a daily basis. The workers still waiting to be given work late in the day were probably resigned to another hungry evening for themselves and their families. Only a man with a generous heart would take the trouble to put them to work when only an hour remained till sundown, and only an extraordinarily generous man would pay them the full day’s wage.

Jesus Christ is extraordinarily generous; the history of salvation is the story of his boundless giving. First he gives life, then after the Fall he gives hope, then he gives redemption, and finally he gives everlasting heavenly bliss. Ultimately, we deserve none of those gifts, but his generosity is so great that he even creates a chance for us to “earn” them. Just as the landowner gave the laborers real work to do in his vineyard, Christ has arranged the economy of salvation so that it is administered through his Church, through our own efforts to defend and extend his Kingdom throughout the world. We have a Lord whose infinite wealth is wholly at our service.

Christ the Teacher If our Lord and Leader is bountifully generous, how can we claim to be his followers if we don’t follow suit? The landowner was looking out for the needs of his fellow men. He did not carelessly over commit himself in order to meet them, and he did not sacrifice justice (he fulfilled his agreement with the first workers) or prudence (he made sure they all worked to gather the harvest, even if only for an hour), but he went beyond the confines of mere duty. How rarely we do this! We stand by our “rights” when they are not rights at all, grumbling enviously because someone else is more successful or more fortunate than us. What peace we would have if we rejoiced in all of God’s gifts, and not only those he gives to us.

Christ the Friend “The last will be first, and the first will be last.” This is a warning. Christ tells this parable after Peter asks him what the Twelve will get in return for having given up everything to follow him. It most obviously applies to the Jewish people in general, and to the Twelve in particular: the Jews were the Chosen People, but when the eternal Kingdom appears, they may find others honored more than them; the Twelve were chosen to be the visible foundation of the Church, but in the end, others will achieve greatness in Christ’s name as well.

Jesus wants us to have interior peace. Nothing disturbs us more than vying for honors and worrying over coveted esteem – and this can occur even within our own Christian communities. If we recognize the abundant generosity of God’s love, we will trust him enough to discard such selfish motives, and we will look only to Christ for the unshakable security that only he can give.

Jesus not only teaches that lesson in this parable; he also clears the path with his own actions. At the end of this passage, St Matthew places the third prediction of Christ’s passion. This time Jesus gets more specific, indicating the collaboration between Jewish and Gentile leaders, and even listing the different types of mistreatment he will suffer. Instead of honor, he will be scorned; instead of a reward, he will receive punishment; instead of praise, mockery. Accepting unjust humiliation and rejection is an odd recipe for success, but true nonetheless – those who seek first place will end up in last place, but those who humble themselves will be exalted. He treads the path first, so his friends won’t fear to follow.

Christ in My Life Why am I resentful when others succeed more than me? Why do I grumble when others are praised and I am overlooked? Is it because I love you above all things and my neighbor as myself? Envy, jealousy, backbiting, criticism: these are the exact opposite of what you lived and what you call your disciples to live. Give me strength to master my emotions; make my heart more like yours…

You knew exactly what awaited you on your last trip to Jerusalem. And you didn’t avoid it. You have called me to follow in your footsteps, and that means you will give me a share in your cross as I journey through my vocation. At times it makes me tremble. But all fear subsides when I remember that the cross unites me more to you, and that you never ask me to carry it alone…

You never tire of giving. You only want to give. You are pure love, pure generosity. Thank you, Lord, for all the gifts you have given to me. Thank you, Lord, for giving me a mission in life, and giving me the generosity to accept it. Now please give me the grace to persevere and please you…

PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.

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Art for this post on Matthew 20:1-19: Cover of The Better Part used with permission. Detail of The Parable of the Vineyard, Andrey N. Mironov, 2011 own work, CCA-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons.

About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, “Inside the Passion”–the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: “The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer”. His most recent books are “Spring Meditations”, “Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength”, and “Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions”. Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

 

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

Forgiveness in the Midst of Grief

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 22:07

“In order to forgive, something has to die.”

~ Brene Brown

All of us face the opportunity for forgiveness. Some of us can both forgive and forget, while others of us cling tightly to the wound created by sin – ours or someone else’s. We pray to forgive. We believe forgiveness means possibly exonerating someone’s horrific behavior or choosing to ignore what happened so that no ill feelings will develop.

And some of this is true, but it’s only a partial truth. Many of us find it difficult to forgive, not because the act of forgiveness itself is impossible, but because of the misnomers surrounding the concept of forgiveness. We see the “forgive and forget” mentality as falling short of some deeper, more important act – a healing act.

Perhaps the word forgiveness falls on deaf ears, because we haven’t yet understood it in its entirety as it relates to grief. The truth is, in order for us to fully discover healing and peace in the wake of abuse, division, dissension, isolation, or any other means by which our hearts and lives are severed in some way, we must accept the truth that something must die in order for us to forgive.

To pardon a person, especially when s/he has not sought pardoning, means we must allow the pain we endured, the memory of the incident, or the relationship itself to perish. Life as it once was must become something different, something new. Otherwise neither forgiveness nor healing can fully transpire. And therein lay the component of grief.

We don’t forgive, because we haven’t acknowledged what needs to change in order for us to let go of what happened to us. There’s a death and rebirth that must occur before forgiveness can take full effect in our lives. Again, the cliché, “you’re only hurting yourself when you don’t forgive” comes to mind here. But the partial truth neglects the fact that full forgiveness does, in some way, heal both the offender and the offended.

I remember the day I lost my job as a high school counselor. It was not a good fit for me, and I tried desperately to make it work. I was young, inexperienced, and overly zealous in my pursuit of reclaiming the profession as a true form of counseling rather than a glorified administrative position. I loved the kids I served, and I loved their families. Every day I went to work, closed my office door, and prayed a sincere but swift prayer to the Holy Spirit to guide my actions and decisions. I took my job seriously.

Since I had no concept that many of the staff with whom I worked closely were gossiping about me, I didn’t see what was ahead: a libelous laundry list of everything I had done wrong since I started my job. I was crushed. This devastating blow was subsequent to a glowing quarterly review. Both were handed to me by my principal. Talk about betrayal. I felt alone, isolated, and entirely shocked at some of the allegations against me. My response? Anger.

I attempted to remedy the claims against me, but I knew my reputation would never fully recover. Several weeks later, I sat down with my high school principal, who brought in the middle school principal as a witness, I suppose. I could do nothing but resign myself – both literally and figuratively – to resigning my position. I left at the end of the school year “to pursue other interests,” but I didn’t leave behind the gift of forgiveness. Instead, I felt justified in my bitterness and stewed in what I rationalized as righteous anger (more like self-righteous anger).

In typical melancholic fashion, I threw an interior temper tantrum for a few days. Nothing made sense, but I thought – at the exhausting end of my rope – that I had made peace with it all and had forgiven everyone involved.

A year later, I was pregnant with Felicity, our first daughter, and Ben and I took some time in the summer to attend a silent retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani. I had built up the anticipation of solitude and resting with the Lord through prayer and reflection, but I didn’t realize God would give me an opportunity to forgive.

As Ben and I traveled on the elevator to the second floor where we were staying for the weekend, I realized I was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the middle school principal who had been involved in my job termination only a year prior. He didn’t look at me, but I knew he knew who I was, just as I recognized him. We never spoke, never acted as if we had ever met, yet we spent an entire weekend sharing a silent retreat, sitting in the same cafeteria for every meal, and walking the grounds in supposed inner peace side by side.

I had quite the reality check that weekend, because all sorts of ugliness surfaced inside me every time I saw the man. A part of me wanted to confront him. Another part of me wished that he would have approached me and initiated a conversation of apology or at least acknowledgment that we had worked together. And still another part of me – the smallest iota – wanted to forgive him. But I couldn’t.

It wasn’t until several years after the fact that I realized why. It was because I had not allowed that part of my life to truly die. I didn’t let go of what once was. Instead, I was still shamelessly yet uselessly clutching what I hoped existed, what I wanted to happen, what I wished had been – instead of the reality of what was.

Forgiveness, then, does not only mean we must allow our memories, our feelings, and even relationships to end, but it also means we must open ourselves to the opportunity of what might begin or be renewed. When something ends, something new is waiting on the cusp of our decision to surrender to what once was but is no longer. Forgiveness is an act of courageous living. It requires the vulnerability of letting go.

I had to let my dreams of becoming a successful school counselor fade away. I had to individually name the people who had hurt me, and let go of the relationship I thought I had with them. I had to let every memory of the spiteful words spoken to my face and behind my back slip into the hands of God.

Forgiveness is an act of the will, but it’s far more than merely forgetting. It’s beyond the self-righteous act of “doing it for my own sake” rather than for the sake of the other. It means I must allow my wounds to be reopened and reexamined by the Divine Physician. And I must hand them to the God who heals. Then He who heals will extend the grace of forgiveness to the offender, too, even if I am never aware of it in this life.

If I truly desire peace and lasting healing, I have to face the grievance and sit with the pain for a while. When I make a cursory motion of forgiveness, I may momentarily feel relief. But a deeper healing requires a bold and courageous look within, and that means I must face what I’d rather avoid: the reminder of the pain.

I didn’t fully forgive my coworkers until I examined myself. That took a heavy dose of humility. But I saw where I had failed. I noticed missed opportunities for conversations that might have led to a different outcome. I realized my mistakes and misgivings. And that is what opened my heart to seek understanding rather than being understood.

That’s the beauty of forgiveness: with every painful death there is a new beginning awaiting us. When we forgive, we mourn the loss (grief) and embrace the opportunity to become something more, to grow into greatness.

Divine Revelation:  A Look at Dei Verbum

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 22:05

In my years as a Protestant a topic of great passion was just how God reveals Himself to mankind.  Sola scriptura, or the Bible alone, was my battle cry for many years. However, once I started reading the early church fathers, something hit me.  These sound a lot like Catholic teachings.  After further research I found that there was a piece of revelation that I had ignored, but it was one that answers many questions. The purpose of the article is to go over how God reveals himself and to answer some of the very questions that I had in my faith journey.  This will be done with the aid of Dei Verbum, which was written at Vatican II.

What is divine revelation?  Through the mercy of God, He has decided to make His will known by various means.  This was necessary so that we can draw near to the Father, through the son, and with assistance of the Holy Spirit to participate in the divine nature (Dei Verbum, para 2).  The pattern of revelation is contained in the deeds and works of God that match His words.  God backed up his words and put into motion His plan for salvation history.  Evidence of God is everywhere and evident in all areas of creation, and preserves all things.  As a result, when Adam and Eve fell it was then that God set forth a plan for redemption instead of destroying creation and starting over.  What great love God has for us!

He initiated this plan through Abraham and fulfilled His promise of making Abraham a great nation.  After Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “He taught this nation, through Moses and the prophets, to recognize him as the only living and true God (Dei Verbum, para 3).”  Through God’s work, He taught Israel to look for the messiah.  As St. John the evangelist tells us “the word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  God sent his son to tell the people about God’s love and how He works.  Through His son we are able to have life through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

Obedience in faith should be our only real response to this revelation.  It is through this faith that we give of ourselves; we submit ourselves to God and enter into a relationship with Him.  We love Him because He first loved us and gave Himself for us.  He paid a debt we did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay.  This is done only by the grace of God, and through the working of the Holy Spirit.  Through the gifts of the Spirit, our understanding of this revelation grows stronger and is understood in a more profound way.

Through the revelation of God we see that God is manifested not only through sacred scripture, but also in nature.  This is done through reason because man knows deep within his soul that there is something out there greater than himself.  Though he may not know what it is it is ingrained in all of us to understand that it was not accidental.  It is the teaching of the church that “these things themselves are not beyond the grasp of human reason, can, in the present condition of the human race, be known to all with ease, with firm certainty, and without the contamination of error (Dei Verbum, para 6).”

So far we have discussed a lot about sacred scripture.  The Church has taught from the beginning that the scriptures are the word of God.  As the word of God they are to be treated reverently and with the tradition of the church make up the full teaching of the Apostles.  The church has gone through great trial to deliver the proper scriptures to us.  According to the Council of Trent, there are forty six books that make up the Old Testament.  These books include Wisdom, Sirach, Tobit, Judith, and 1 and 2 Maccabees.  Our Protestant brethren do not acknowledge these books.  All Christian churches are in agreement with the books of the New Testament which is twenty seven in number.  We will now look deeper at the Old and New Testament which make up the written part of the tradition.

The Old Testament is a collection of writings that have narratives about the creation of the world, the fall, and prophecies about the messiah.  In it we find a truth that becomes lost in some people’s minds.  “In his great love God intended the salvation of the entire human race (Dei Verbum, para 14).”  This was obviously plan B because our first parents fell from grace.  However in preparation for the salvation of all he chose a small nation.

God entered into a covenant with Abraham and made a great nation that is as numerous as the stars in the sky.  God revealed himself through words and deeds as the one true living God (Dei Verbum, para 14).  God chose Israel as a type of pet project to show himself and to teach them by experience.  In turn Israel would use this experience to teach other nations about God.  The books of the Old Testament are vital to the revelation that God gave man.  In the books we have life lessons and stories of hope that are still valid today.

Stories of hope and the patriarchs are great, but there is one theme that is overwhelming in the Old Testament.  That theme is the coming of Christ. The prophecies starting in Genesis 3:15 all thru the rest of the prophets prepare the people for the Son of God.  He was revealed in signs, little by little, to prepare the hearts and minds of the people. While some people find it very startling to see stories of violence these stories show the mercy of God. God had every right to terminate our existence, but the writings of the Old Testament show how merciful God is with humanity.

The Old Testament is a vital part of the liturgy of the church and should be a vital part of each individual’s biblical study.  There is a tendency to only read the New Testament, because some mistakenly think that is the only part of scripture that discusses Christ.  A closer look at the Old Testament shows that Christ is revealed throughout.  The new is hidden in the old and the old is fulfilled in the new.  There are several places where a working knowledge of the Old Testament helps explain things in the New Testament.  A good example of this in the letter to the Hebrews which discusses what the Hebrew priests do.

The New Testament contains autobiographies of our Lord (Gospels), writings of apostolic origin, and an early history of our church.  In these writings the saving power of God is manifested throughout. This Testament would be worthless without one thing, and that is Christ incarnated as the Word who dwelt among us.  The Son of God humbled Himself, took on human form and established the kingdom of God on Earth.  He revealed himself and the Father by performing various works and deeds to establish and show who He was.  His work on earth culminated in giving himself as the propitiation for the sins of all mankind.  When He ascended to Heaven He sent the Holy Spirit as a guide to teach the people through the ministry of the Apostles.

Christ alone has the words of eternal life; after all it was He that said He is the way, the truth, and the life.  The twenty seven books of the New Testament bear witness to these things.  From these twenty seven books the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John hold a special place for Christians.  It is in them that we find the words and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.  From the beginning the church “has maintained the apostolic origin of the four gospels (Dei Verbum, para 18).  Matthew being written by the tax collector, Mark being written by Mark but dictated by Saint Peter, Luke was written by Saint Luke who was a companion of Saint Paul, and John by Saint John also known as the disciple that Jesus loved.

The church has taught with absoluteness that the four gospels historically and faithfully pass on what “Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among men and women, really did and taught for their salvation, until he was taken up (Dei Verbum, para 19).”  After the Lord ascended into Heaven the Apostles spoke about what he did and said.  The Apostles were now blessed with the Holy Spirit and fully understood everything that the Lord had told them.

Each of the Gospels is written in its own form and style.  However it is important to note that the message of Christ in the Gospels is absolute, and the authentic message of Jesus was presented.  When Christ presented the apostles with the Great Commission they had no intention of writing down what the Lord had taught them.  Later on it became necessary to ensure that the truth about Jesus and His teachings were maintained within proper orthodoxy.

In addition to the Gospels we have other books in the New Testament, such as the writings of Saint Paul.  These writings were also done under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  These writings involve things as proper Christian living, church order, and further clarification of the teachings of Christ.  These writings are great and further establish just want the Lord meant in certain areas, and preach about the saving power of Christ through His death burial, and resurrection.

Looking back on salvation history we can clearly see the plan of God from the beginning.  There is little doubt that our ancestors in faith, and the patriarchs of Israel went remember that God is always in control and knew that we could only handle small amounts of his revelation at one time.  Just as we need to prepare our souls to receive Holy Communion the souls of our ancestors needed to be prepared for Christ to come.

This happens by God revealing himself in His creation, the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament, and finally through Christ Himself and the teaching of the Apostles.  The gift of sacred scripture and the tradition handed on from the Apostles equips us to understand the revelation of God.  This understanding should put us in a state of awe, and render us speechless and teary eyed.  God has done great things for us.  Now let us do great things for Him.

image: Bible and Rosary by jclk8888 / Pixabay

A Friend’s Glimpse of Heaven

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 22:02

“That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD…” (Ps 27).

I sat in my usual place on Mary’s side of the church for the 5:30 evening Mass, which is why I didn’t spot Felicia until it was time for Holy Communion. She’d come to St. Matt’s with Anthony, and Anthony always sits on the Joseph side off the main aisle.

It must’ve been a Thursday, my day to serve as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. Following the fraction rite and the centurion’s prayer, the celebrant entrusted me with the Precious Blood, and I made my way over to the Joseph side of the church to await communicants.

“The Blood of Christ,” I said as I presented the chalice.

“Amen,” the first recipient replied with a bow before receiving. Once the vessel was returned, I swiped it with a purificator, rotated it slightly, and held it ready for the next in line.

Only the next in line eventually was Felicia – and I admit I was taken aback. “The Blood of Christ,” I said holding the chalice aloft, and I know my eyebrows went up as well. St. Matt’s wasn’t Felicia’s parish, and I’d never seen her there for daily Mass before. Plus I knew she’d been sick, very sick – too sick, I would’ve surmised, to be out to a parish on the other side of town.

Felicia caught my expression and flashed her wide smile. “A-men,” she said with emphasis. After receiving her sacred sip and handing back the cup, she leaned in: “Come talk with me afterwards.”

Following the closing prayers, I tracked her down in Anthony’s pew. They were talking – rather Felicia was talking and Anthony was listening. She looked fatigued, but she spoke with her characteristic passion nonetheless, expostulating, pointing. When I walked up, she grabbed my hand, clutched it, clasped it tight – and kept on talking. “It’s in the way,” she was saying to both of us as she motioned toward the altar with her free hand. “Someone needs to tell the priest to get that cross out of the way – get a smaller cross.” She was referring to our altar crucifix, which, admittedly, is on the tall side. “It’s in the way,” Felicia repeated. “It blocks the gestures, the epiclesis. Nobody can see the epiclesis.” Still hanging on to my hand – as if to ensure I was listening, that I was catching the urgency of her entreaty – she emphasized the importance of an unimpeded line of sight during the consecration.

It was awkward – I felt like I was intruding on a moment of intimacy, for it was clear that there was more behind Felicia’s animated pleas than a liturgical preference. She kept staring at the altar, staring at the place where her visual participation in the epiclesis and Eucharistic offering had been disrupted – gestures that, in the words of Sofia Cavalletti and Patricia Coulter, “express the covenant in a visible way: God’s self-giving to us, our gift of self to God.” Through her eyes, Felicia seemed to be reaching out to the Good Shepherd whose self-giving appearance on the altar had been momentarily obscured.

In time, the three of us made our way to the exit where we briefly embraced and said our goodbyes. I took off, but Felicia remained behind on the steps to continue tutoring Anthony – to extend and expand the delight of that shared liturgical encounter.

The whole episode was somewhat dreamlike, even strange, yet I was so glad for it. It turned out to be a blessed and serendipitous opportunity to take leave of an old friend. A week and a half later, I heard that she’d passed away – at home, surrounded by her family, peaceably.

Fr. Tom Shoemaker, Felicia’s former pastor, came over from Fort Wayne to celebrate her funeral Mass. “That was her place, right down there,” he said during the homily, pointing out the first pew where Felicia’s family was seated. “She’d sit there in the front, leaning over, on the edge of her pew – as if to be as close as possible to the Word, listening with full attention, ready to respond.”

Listening – and watching, I’ll bet. Just like she did at St. Matt’s, yearning and stretching, thrusting aside distractions, zeroing in on the Good Shepherd, and inviting others to join her – through her words and teaching, yes, but particularly through her forward-looking example.

“Here below we know God…by the idea we have formed of him,” writes Frank Sheed, but “in heaven, our seeing will be direct…. That is why the very essence of the life of heaven is called the Beatific Vision – which means the seeing that causes bliss.”

Felicia’s life revolved around promoting and instilling blissful sight – in her family and friends, in her school, in the children given into her care, including my children. What a blessing to be remembered that way. God, I hope I live my life such that I can be similarly remembered. Toward that end, I’m banking on Felicia’s prayers, like an unseen clutch of the hand, like a nudge. Redirect my vision accordingly, Lord. Help me see what she saw.

In the gospel, Jesus says that people

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 22:00

In the gospel, Jesus says that people nowadays are like children. Either they are too worldly, too selfish or too stubborn. He says that his detractors would not accept John the Baptist’s call for repentance and self-denial. When Jesus proclaimed the Good News to them, they neither listened. They called John possessed, and branded Jesus as a glutton and a drunkard because he ate with tax collectors and sinners. Why were these people so unbelieving?

But that is precisely how our Christian way of life goes. God’s love for each and everyone of us is boundless, but He does not force us to follow Him and love Him in return. God gave us the freedom to follow His path or to go the other way. William Barclay considers this as love’s greatest tragedy – “to look at some loved one who has taken the wrong way and to see what might have been, what could have been and what was meant to have been. That is life life’s greatest heartbreak.”

At this point in my life, have I been using my freedom to follow the straight path, or have I been turning a deaf ear to God’s call which continues to come to me through my friends in my community?

“We must seek the real reason for

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 22:00

“We must seek the real reason for going to Mass: to share in Jesus’ Sacrifice at the altar and to worship the Lord. The first purpose of our worship is to adore God. We adore Him for Who He is: all good and worthy of all of our love.”

—Fr. Andrew Apostoli, Answering the Questions of Jesus

Sts. Andrew Kim Taegon and Paul Chong Hasang and Companions (Martyrs)

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 22:00

The Korean martyrs St. Andrew Kim Taegon, St. Paul Chong Hasang and their companions were canonized by Pope John Paul II during his pilgrimage to Korea on May 6, 1984. This ceremony was the first canonization in modern Church history to take place outside Rome.

Christianity was introduced in Korea by a group of Catholic laypersons in 1784; the laity kept their faith alive until the first religious missionaries arrived in 1836, over half a century later. During four separate persecutions of the Church — in 1839, 1846, 1866, and 1867 — 103 Koreans were martyred, including St. Andrew Kim Taegon (the first Korean priest), and St. Paul Chong Hasang (a lay apostle). Eleven of the martyrs were priests; the other ninety-two were lay persons (forty-seven women and forty-five men).

Lessons

1. The laity (ordinary men and women who are not ordained or called to be religious sisters or brothers) can play a very important role in establishing and preserving the life of the Church. It was lay persons who brought Catholicism to Korea, and who preserved it (without the benefit of the Mass or other sacraments) for over fifty years until the arrival of missionary priests.

2. Much Church history is written from a Western perspective, but it is important for European and American Catholics to remember that other cultures have much to contribute to the life of the Church, and are entitled to hear the gospel. Instead of worrying about being criticized for “cultural imperialism” (in which the Church is supposedly guilty of “imposing” its religious beliefs on other cultures), we must remember that Jesus instructed His followers to “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).

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.”

Hold fast to the will of God and with all your heart fight the good fight under the leadership of Jesus; conquer again the diabolical power of this world that Christ has already vanquished.

— From the final words of St. Andrew Kim Taegon

Given the tenor of our times, in what ways am I called by God to “hold fast” and conquer the diabolical powers of the world? In what areas of influence can I be effective in some way?

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Eustace and Companions (c. 118), Martyrs; St. Eustace is the Patron of protection from fire (temporal or eternal) and of people in difficult circumstances.

Worried About the State of the World? Here Are 5 Bible Verses You Should Know!

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 22:08

Let’s be honest…there are some frightening things going on in the world. Every day we are bombarded with news about terrorism, natural disasters, war and many other threats. While it’s not necessarily a bad thing, advanced technology now makes it possible for weather forecasters to alert us to the possibility of tornadoes and hurricanes weeks in advance. In the same way, the popularity of the Internet makes it difficult to escape from “bad news”. It often seems like there is no place to hide. As soon as we wake up in the morning, we are deluged with troublesome news. When we couple that with our family, job and personal concerns it’s easy to see why worrying has become an epidemic.

As someone who has always tended to be anxious and the author of several books on anxiety, I get it…I really do. It’s understandable that so many people worry. Fortunately, I’ve discovered that with the Lord’s help and a little effort on our part, we can experience peace even as the world around us seems to be falling apart. The good news is that God is still in charge and that nothing that happens surprises Him. If you’re worried about the state of the world, here are 5 Bible verses that you need to know. While the messages contained in these verses may seem simple, remember that they aren’t being expressed by “just another person”. These are God’s words and they are addressed to you. Take them seriously!

1. “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) – Jesus never said that we wouldn’t have problems, but He did tell us that He is bigger than any catastrophe or threat that could occur in the world. He also assures us that we can experience peace if we stay close to Him. That’s a very nice promise.

2. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though it’s waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. (Psalm 46:1-3) – This is a great prayer for those times when you feel overwhelmed. It might not feel like it, but the Lord is always in control.

3. “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” (Matthew 8:25) – Even though Jesus was in the boat with the disciples during the storm at sea, they panicked because He was asleep. With these words, they woke the Lord up and He calmed the seas. Instead of worrying, try using these words the next time you feel like the world is falling apart. Jesus loves it when we turn to Him when we’re afraid!

4. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7) – What makes this passage so amazing is that it was written by St. Paul while he was in prison. Have no anxiety? Pray with thanksgiving? You’ll receive peace? Pretty convincing advice coming from someone who is sitting in a jail cell! Although Paul wrote these words, he was inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is God’s message to you. It’s one that should be read often.

5. “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) – The final verse of Matthew’s gospel assures us that Jesus will never leave us. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget to turn to Him when we are anxious and troubled. Even though the world seems crazy, Jesus is right next to you. That makes me feel good. How about you?

So what do you think? After reading these Bible passages, do you feel a little better? I’m guessing that you do. While there are many similar messages contained in the pages of Sacred Scripture, these passages give us a good starting point. Pull out your Bible, highlight them and make it a point to read them the next time you begin to panic about what’s going on in the world. The more you get used to hearing God speak to you through the Bible, the less you’re going to be overcome with fear about terrorism, floods and the threat of war. Instead you’ll be hearing another message, one which we should never forget…

“Do not be afraid!” (Matthew 28:10)

image: Bible Sunday by Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP / Flickr

Prayers of Hope

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 22:05

Humility is a liberating virtue, for it takes away from the soul the burden of any injustice. It gives us the freedom to leave everything in God’s hands and the contentment to be satisfied with His plan in our lives.

Humility is an exhilarating virtue that keeps us from dis­couragement at the sight of our frailties. It is coupled with Hope in an indissoluble union, and together they bring our souls to great heights of holiness.

The first Christians were not afraid to remember their past. Humility covered it like a blanket. Neither did they fear the future, for Hope lit the way and they were assured the path would lead directly to God.

They knew that Faith, Love, and Grace were gifts from God, and Hope gave them the assurance that the invisible reality was their possession now. They had only to correspond with these gifts and give the Spirit the freedom to work in their lives.

The Father had given them the greatest gift of all — His Son — and He would not refuse them lesser gifts.

The first Christians possessed a tremendous sense of expectation for the glorious gifts reserved for them at the Second Coming and in Heaven. Their Hope gave them the enthusiasm to look forward to His coming with eagerness. Salvation meant the resurrection of the body, the fullness of the gifts of the Spirit, the inheritance of sons of God, the glory of the Kingdom and the eternal embrace of God, their Father.

This article is from “Mother Angelica on Prayer & Living for the Kingdom.” Click image to preview or order.

They knew that in their lives they had already begun this glorious heritage by sharing the greatest gift of all — the Holy Spirit. Unlike the hope in the Old Testament, which was an expectation of something to come, the hope the first Christians possessed made their Heaven begin here and now by the fact that they were the Temples of the Spirit.

Their hope was secure because it was based on God Him­self, who gave them His Son. He invited them to go to Him through Jesus. He manifested His love by giving His Son’s life for their Redemption and then releasing the power of His Spirit to fill their hearts.

Their lives were full of the joy of realizing that someday their bodies would rise and Jesus would come again and show the whole world that He was Lord.

Expectant Hope

It is important to remember that the Hope the first Christians possessed was based on a promise fulfilled. Unlike the Hope of Abraham, who waited for something to come, they saw the promise of the Father made manifest in Jesus. The life of Jesus gave them concrete proof of what lay in store for them.

He was their Hope fulfilled, and so they did not need to be men of desires but men of expectation. Although their eyes had not seen the Glory to come, they did know the Source of that Glory — Jesus. They “felt” His Presence in their souls. They “saw” His Power manifested by great and marvelous works in His Apostles.

His own Spirit spoke to them in the depths of their souls and guided their lives with a loving Providence. They were like children looking to their Father for guidance, love, and protection, and His Presence surrounded them with an abiding sense of expectant Hope.

“Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ,” Saint Peter told them, “who, in His great Mercy, has given us a new birth as His sons, by raising Jesus Christ from the dead so that we have a sure Hope, and the promise of an inheritance that can never be spoilt or soiled, and never fade away, because it is kept for you in the Heavens” (1 Pet. 1:3-4).

“You did not see Him,” Peter told them, “yet you love Him; and still without seeing Him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe; and you are sure of the end to which your faith looks forward, that is, the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet. 1:8-9).

The word “sure” describes what the Apostle expected of the first Christians. Their Hope was not a “waiting” Hope, but a “sure” Hope. It was Faith that made them look forward, but Hope made them sure, positive, and expectant of the possession of God in His Glory.

These Christians looked forward to the Second Coming and to Heaven with a greater enthusiasm than we do for feast days, jubilees, holidays, and Christmas. We look forward to the pleasure and joy of a feast that comes and goes, but they looked forward to that Eternal Banquet that would one day come but never go.

This Hope in them was so great that it brought upon them persecution and distress. Paul told King Agrippa, “And now it is for my Hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors that I am on trial. . . . For that Hope, I am actually put on trial by Jews! Why does it seem incredible to you that God should raise the dead?” (Acts 26:7-8). “It is on account of the Hope of Israel that I wear this chain” (Acts 28:20).

The Resurrection of Jesus was the foundation of their Hope, and because they were sons of God through Grace, they too would rise from the grave. This realization took away the fear of death. Their souls would enjoy the Beatific Vision, and then on the last day, their mortal bodies would rise and be reunited in a glorious state forever.

It is difficult for most of us, who have been born and raised in the concept of eternal life, to fully realize what it meant to hear and believe this truth for the first time. Their souls would never die — only pass over from one mode of existence to another; they would never cease to be. What a thrill that truth must have been for these new Christians!

“Yes,” Paul told the Roman Governor, “there will be a res­urrection of good men and bad men alike” (Acts 24:15). “We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus, God will bring them with Him.”

These Christians were so excited over the prospect of ris­ing from the dead as Jesus did that they began to wonder what would happen if they were alive when Jesus came again. When would He come? Would it be soon? Maybe tomorrow?

St. Paul told them at the trumpet of God, the Archangel would call out the command and Jesus would come down with all those who died in Him, and those who were living at that time would “be taken up in the clouds together with those that are risen, and meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:16-17).

These Christians were curious about time and place. Paul, like Jesus, told them not to expect to know “times and seasons for the Day of the Lord is going to come like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:1-2).

They were to live in the “light” and not like those who had no faith and hope. God had enlightened their minds to know with a certainty that He would come again, and like Him, they would rise from the grave. Faith and Love were their shield and Hope their helmet. Their souls were to be united to Jesus in such an intimate way that it would make no difference whether they lived during that glorious coming or not (1 Thess. 5:7-8).

Living with God was to be a “now” experience, and they were to be ready at any time the Master would call. This time of waiting was to be filled with good works and interior change. It was not a time for idle waiting and speculation. They were to give courage to the apprehensive, take care for the weak, and be patient with everyone. Most of all, they were to “pray constantly” by being happy in the Lord, and giving thanks for every detail in their life situation (1 Thess. 5:12, 18).

Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from Mother Angelica on Prayer Living for the Kingdomwhich is available from Sophia Institute Press

Imitating Mary

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 22:02

Mary is the Masterpiece of creation, in the words of St. Louis de Montfort. She is worthy of imitation. Mary is the Daughter of the Eternal Father; she is the Mother of the Eternal Son and she is the Mystical Spouse of the Holy Spirit. In other words, Mary is intimately united to the Trinity and therefore she can unite us with God. For that reason, Saint Louis de Montfort says: “Mary is the quickest, shortest, and easiest path to Jesus.”

If we get to know Mary, then we love her; if we love her, then we want to imitate her; and imitation leads to a desire to make her known. Finally, we become like the one we love, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”… and now we can say, “It is no longer I who live, but Jesus and Mary who live in me.” Therefore, let us pray for the grace to imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary in her most sublime virtues; she will lead us to heaven.

Let us learn the ten virtues of Mary and beg Our Lady for the grace to put them into practice!

1. Mary was truly a woman of great faith. At the prospect and reality of the death of Jesus, the faith of the Apostles was deeply shaken, shaken to its very foundation. Our Lady suffered intensely, but her faith never wavered. So let us turn to Mary in the midst of the storms, tempests, and intense trials of life to have faith. Mary, strengthen my faith! Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, specifies that Mary was the first disciple of Jesus—indeed the most faithful disciple!

2. Not only did Mary have a deep and solid faith, but she had unwavering hope. Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Catholic tradition have pointed out that Jesus first appeared to His Mother Mary after He rose from the dead. Our Lady helps us to lift our mind, our heart, our soul, our total being to God and heaven. More than anything else Mary wants to help us to get to heaven. This is hope—trusting that through Mary’s prayers we will arrive safely at heaven.

3. Mary possessed charity and supernatural love. The greatest of all virtues is charity—supernatural love: to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Nobody ever loved God and neighbor more than Mary. Her love for God was a blazing fire, and her zeal for the salvation of souls has no limits, and will never have limits! Mary sparks love in our hearts, and due to her powerful intercession an ardent love for God and neighbor. Dear Mother Mary, teach me how to love like you, and like you to die of love!

4. Model of patience. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, one of the virtues that we need most is that of patience, better yet, heroic patience!Our Lady patiently waited upon the Lord; she patiently accepted all of the contradictions and sufferings that God allowed her to undergo. She patiently accompanied Jesus on the Way of the Cross. But most especially, Mary patiently stood beneath the cross suffering with Jesus for the salvation of the world. Dear Mother Mary, teach me to grow in patience.

5. Model of purity. Our Lady of Fatima said that most souls are lost for all eternity due to the sins of the flesh—that is to say, due to the sins against the sixth and ninth commandments related to purity. Consecration to Mary and to her most pure and Immaculate Heart is a most powerful means to attain purity, be an example of purity, live modesty, and die with a pure heart. Mary most holy, Mary most pure, attain for me purity of heart, mind, body, and soul. Help me to live out the Beatitude: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.”

6. Obedience of Mary. Jesus was “obedient to death, even to death on a cross.”(Phil. 2) Like Jesus, Mary treasured and lived out that most demanding virtue of obedience. By pronouncing her Fiat (Yes), Mary was expressing her desire to be totally submissive to the will of God in obedience. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.” Dear Mary, in a world marked by so much rebellion and disobedience, help me to treasure and live out obedience.

7. Deep and constant prayer. Our Lady had a constant, dynamic, and profound union with God at all times and places—this is prayer! One of the primary messages of Our Lady is to pray, and to pray constantly. Our Lady teaches us how to pray. But of great importance, Mary’s prayers for us are all-powerful! The first Public Miracle of Jesus, at the Wedding Feast of Cana, came about through the powerful intercession of Mary. Mary, I beg you, teach me how to pray and grant me a great desire to pray. Mary, pray and intercede for me always!

8. Mortification and penance.  At both Lourdes and Fatima Our Lady mentioned the dire need for prayer, but also for the practice of penance, or if you like, the importance of offering sacrifices, especially for the conversion and salvation of sinners. At Fatima, Our Lady said that many souls are lost because not enough people offer prayers and sacrifices for them. Our Lady told the children at Fatima that they could offer everything as a sacrifice to God, especially for the conversion of sinners. It is not so much the greatness of the act, but the love that accompanies the act that gives power and merit to the action. Let us offer our penances to God through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

9. Angelic sweetness and meekness. Another sublime virtue of Mary is that of her angelic sweetness or sublime meekness. By this we mean that Mary was very kind, loving, meek, affable, attractive, and appealing, and always pointing to God. In our dealings with others, may Our Lady inspire in us great sentiments of kindness, compassion, gentleness, meekness. As Our Lady greeted Saint Elizabeth with exquisite charm, may we do the same in our social meetings and encounters. Pope Francis expressed this in his document Joy of the Gospel.

10. Mary most holy embodied a true gentle and meek spirit, this is so true. However, she also was a strong woman. This is exemplified most clearly as she stood at the foot of the cross, the Stabat Mater (the Mother Standing). In the last moments of our life, when we are about to breathe forth our spirit, let us turn to Mary and beg her for courage and strength, and for the grace of all graces, to die in the state of grace so that we will be united with her forever in heaven praising the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

In conclusion let us go to the saints, also called the Masterpieces of God (Pope Saint John XXIII) and meditate upon their words of praise given to God through the Glorious Blessed Virgin Mary.

image: By Sailko (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Many of us are already dead without

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 22:00

Many of us are already dead without knowing it. When we have lost grasp of the true meaning of life, we are actually dead, even if our bodies move around physically. We are like zombies, working hard, eating and living just to satisfy our concupiscence of the flesh, running the rat race without any spiritual direction. We never really have time to think about what life is all about. We have very little time or no time for God. Our perennial excuse is “We are too busy.” When sickness makes us bedridden, sometimes it is a blessing in disguise for us to stop and pause, take account of our lives and start examining what is really important in life.

Today Jesus is also attempting to resurrect us from our deep sleep, inviting us to wake up to see the bigger picture of life. We were created, we LIVE in order to LOVE. Love is what makes life meaningful. It is to give ourselves for others, as Christ has done. Let us have this “holy fear” to be alive and not be overwhelmed to dwell too much in the world that we forget that this world is passing and we are just passing through. We may be physically alive but in a state of eschatological death. Christ comes today to “fill our lives” with faith and love. When we lose our life, we will find it and really be alive.

 

“God answers every prayer, but

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 22:00

“God answers every prayer, but sometimes the answer is no. And, if it is no, we’re better off — if we love God. That’s why Jesus wants us to say, ‘Thy will be done’ in the Our Father. That is the sure way to happiness — the will of God.”

– Fr. T. G. Morrow, Overcoming Sinful Anger

St. Januarius (Bishop and Martyr)

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 22:00

Januarius was bishop of the Italian town of Benevento. Legend has it that his martyrdom was horrific. Along with six companions — imprisoned deacons and laymen he was visiting during the persecution by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in 305 — Januarius was thrown to the bears in the amphitheater of the town of Pozzuoli. He was later beheaded, and his blood ultimately taken to Naples.

Little is known about St. Januarius, but an inexplicable phenomenon continues to keep his memory alive today. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia , “a dark mass that half fills a hermetically sealed four-inch glass container, and is preserved in a double reliquary [a container for relics] in the Naples cathedral as the blood of St. Januarius, liquefies eighteen times during the year. This phenomenon goes back to the fourteenth century. Tradition connects it with a certain Eusebia, who had allegedly collected the blood after the martyrdom. Various experiments have been applied, but the phenomenon eludes natural explanation. Similar phenomena have been observed with the blood relics of other saints, such as Nicholas of Tolentino, Aloysius Gonzaga, and Bernardine Realino.”

St. Januarius’ Feast Day is September 19 and he is the Patron Saint of blood banks.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Our Lady of La Salette (1846)

The Many Gifts of St. Hildegard of Bingen

Sun, 09/17/2017 - 22:07

Abbess. Botanist.  Physician.  Theologian. Playwright. Composer. Doctor of the Church.  In another example of God exulting the lowly, all these titles and more have been given to St. Hildegard of Bingen, who was born the sickly youngest child of minor nobility, and eventually presented as a political offering to the Benedictines.

St. Hildegard was born around 1098, in what is today Germany. She entered the monastery at Disibodenberg 1112, and by the age of 38 became Prioress.  Due to the rapidly growing increase of vocations under Hildegard, one of her first moves was to request that she and her nuns be allowed to move to a rural, primitive monastery, possibly to separate the sincere applicants from those jumping on the bandwagon.  After refusal from the Abbot at Disibodenberg, St. Hildegard sought permission from the Archbishop of Mainz, which she received.  The Abbot still refused to let Hildegard establish a new monastery however, but he eventually changed his mind when the saint was struck with a mysterious illness she attributed to God’s displeasure with the Abbot’s reluctance.

Such close, physical connection with God wasn’t an unknown occurrence to St. Hildegard.  From a very young age, she had experienced mystical visions.  These visions closely involved all five of the human senses in a manner consistent with the saint’s spirituality. In all her works, a strong grounding in the physical world is apparent, and the concept of “viriditas”, or the lush greenness of nature, was frequently used by the saint to describe the heavenly abundance that overcomes earthly failures.  Despite the intensity and clarity of these visions though, Hildegard was tremendously reluctant to commit them to writing.

However, after being instructed by God (and a number of contemporaries) to do so, suffering another mysterious illness and ultimately receiving papal approval to document them, St. Hildegard began writing down her visions.  The first of these manuscripts is titled Scivias, and is a massive 600 pages long.  In it, details about creation, salvation, and the nature of the Trinity are interspersed with 35 beautiful illustrations.  Hildegard went on to write another two volumes documenting her visions, supervising the creation of the manuscripts- some of which still survive today- well into her seventies.

Despite her unwillingness to set her visions to paper, St. Hildegard was a voracious and enthusiastic author on other topics.  Her letters alone make up one of the largest collections of personal correspondence to survive from the Middle Ages, and her audiences range from popes to emperors to abbesses of other monasteries.

Adding the title of composer to this remarkable saint’s list, Hildegard wrote vast amounts of music, enough of which survive to make one of the largest surviving collections from a medieval composer.  Chief among them is a musical morality play titled Ordo Virtutum, which is not only the earliest example of this genre on record, but is also the only medieval drama in which both text and music have survived together.  An example of plainchant, modern recordings of it can be heard online.

St. Hildegard’s numerous medical texts, though archaic to modern standards, are innovative in their linking of human health to both the patient’s inner world as well as the environmental factors of the outer one.

Unable to contain her written expression to the known languages of the time, Hildegard invented her own- dubbed Lingua Ignota or the “Unknown Language”.  The saint constructed a 23-letter alphabet for this language, which contained over a thousand words and appeared to rely on Latin grammatical constructs.  The exact purpose of this language isn’t clear, with speculations ranging from it being a tool to encourage camaraderie among Hildegard’s nuns to it being presented by God in a vision for use as a universal language.

This remarkable woman left behind a legacy and body of work that has vast appeal, from New Agers to feminists to botanists (a genus of plant has been named after her) and astronomers (minor planet 898 Hildegard is in her honor).  In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI named her a Doctor of the Church, one of only thirty-three people to be called thus.

In Hildegard, we are given an example of a saint whose love of God manifested so strongly that it spilled over into nearly every aspect of earthly experience.  From inspiring holiness in those around her, to glorifying God in music and language and studied observation of the natural world, St. Hildegard is an example on how to fully and robustly enter into a relationship with the Divine.

Eternal America?

Sun, 09/17/2017 - 22:05

It may seem inappropriate to compare Caesar Augustus to George Washington, that is, Rome’s first emperor with a president who rejected any idea of kingship. Both men, however, made strikingly similar statements, as their death approached and they left their beloved governments in the hands of other men. Their thoughts were of eternity, not only in a land beyond, but here on these earthly shores.

“May it be my privilege to establish the republic safe and sound on its foundations, gathering the fruit of my desire to be known as author of the ideal constitution, and taking with me to the grave the hope that the basis which I have laid will be permanent.”

Augustus wrote this in his final life statement (Res Gestae Divi Augusti) inscribed on the bronze pillars of his tomb, believing with the rest of Rome that Rome could last forever. His immediate successor, Tiberius, overwhelmed by the bloodbath which broke out during his reign, famously declared: “After me, the deluge.” And so ran the course of Rome until its inevitable collapse, as its august foundations proved anything but permanent.

In his farewell address, George Washington says to his fellow countrymen that having passed together through the years of discouragement and rivaling passions and shifty fortunes, it is their constant support which has made the dream a reality.

“Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained.”

American still stands, yet the party factions which our first president warned against nearly tore the country apart, beginning with his immediate successors (the Adams and Jefferson political war), and up to a Civil War, and up to today.

This is in no way meant to be a gloom and doom assessment of America. It’s a simple fact, verified by all of the history before us. Nothing earthly lasts.

There is another man who who knew this well, and who advised to go ahead and render to Caesar what is his, for Caesars come and go as do their empires, so long as we give God’s what is his. That man is Jesus, and to him belong some of the most sobering and practical words in the history of man.

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Mt 24:35).

Jesus is very clear, but do we take him at his word? How much time do we actually spend with his words, instead of the passing this which surround us. Even the best Catholic commentators on social issues aren’t an adequate substitute for, simply, time we spend with Christ’s words.

Yet the question also remains why we’re this way, why we humans fall into the same trap every generation, that far from accepting this fact, we behave as if heaven and earth depend upon our response, our take on the issues of our day, our war to wage. We behave as if America must go on. That’s a good instinct, in a way. The crumbling of any nation is never pretty and seldom just. And, yes, there is reason to be worried about certain events and trends in our society, on both sides of the party line. But what society has ever escaped these? The more we read our history books, that imagined place becomes very difficult to identify. Still, America may be the one, we must press on…

So why do do we believe that? The historian Charles Norris Cochrane is helpful in assessing why the Romans did.

“They truly believed it was possible to attain a goal of permanent security, peace and freedom through political action, especially through submission to the ‘virtue and fortune’ of a political leader. The Christians denounced this and… traced this superstition to the acceptance of a defective logic, the logic of classical ‘naturalism’, to which they ascribed all the characteristic vices of the classical world” (Christianity and Classical Culture, 18).

Who of us hasn’t seen this in our own day, the “naturalism” of which he speaks, that if we let everything simply be as it is, the world will get better. But it simply never has and never shall. T.S. Eliot was once taught by Henri Bergson, before rejecting his philosophy as the source of most modern error, a progressive movement of history where it’s simply bound to always get better. For Eliot and for all Christians, humankind is a bit more cyclical than that, still glorious in its saints and sages of each age, still stumbling into the same sins, all stemming from the one we call original.

I love America, just not her headlines. I love her history, even as I learn more of its complexity. I love her the more that I meet many of the faces living in this land, all of us who have received from her more than we could ever pay pack, which leads to the classical virtue of piety. But I don’t pretend she will last forever on this earth, as neither will I. We are both here for a time. And so for a time, I stay involved, but always with one foot very much on the other side of the sea, in Rome. Not the one which has long since dissolved, but the new Rome which is truly eternal, the Church, because She is the Body of Christ, Christ’s one true love, and so mine as well. America has given me shelter and provided for all of my needs on earth. The Church has given me heaven already, in the grace of the Son of God, whose words shall not pass away.

So, without further ado, I bow out of any further commentary, at peace with God to guide the world as He wills, and I hope to spend more time listening to His words. The Lord knows we need that more than all else, in times like these, or in any time at all. In this land of ours, or in any land at all.

image: US Flag and Church by Quinn Kampschroer / Pixabay 

Rediscovering Matthew Kelly

Sun, 09/17/2017 - 22:02

I hadn’t thought much about spiritual reading, the Catholic intellectual tradition, the Catholic artistic and literary imagination, or really living one’s Catholic faith amid today’s secular-seeped, in many ways post-Christian culture, especially with “passion and purpose,” until I discovered Matthew Kelly.

Leading up to that discovery, I sensed I was on the path of looking for more meaning. I just needed a guide; one who could identify and acknowledge that the faith still mattered in this emerging millennial adulthood. Friends and peers were abandoning the church in droves, and one crisis or another seemed that the two-millennia old foundation was about to crumble for good.

It was Christmas Eve 2010. At the end of the Christmas Eve Mass at St. Michael Church in Independence, Ohio, the pastor, Fr. Pete, announced the ushers would be distributing a free book to every family in the congregation as we left to begin our Christmas festivities. I walked with my mother out the side door. True to Fr. Pete’s words, a friendly usher held out a book. “Some light reading,” he joked.

I took it, feeling the 300-plus-page paperback. I had never heard of it or the author. I notated my first impression: surprise that someone actually took this subject on. This is exactly what I have been thinking about. I thought I was alone.

Surprise…and admiration. Perhaps indeed there was indeed someone, I thought, who had a sense our collective moral compass had long since broke—and unafraid to speak about the Catholic faith in our time. By then I had so bought in to believing the church had little wise input on living reality in the new millennium, especially after the death of John Paul II, that I unwittingly and unknowingly echoed Nathanael’s own incredulity: “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”

“Come and see,” his friend, Philip, replied in John 1:46.

The book was Matthew Kelly’s Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide to Living with Passion & Purpose. And here was someone doing something about it. “The loss of our essential purpose,” he writes in it, “is the cause of the great modern madness.”

It was the beginning for me of realizing a life philosophy: there are two paths in life—action, and reaction. There are those who do something, who “put out into deep water” (cf. Luke 5:4), and there are those who react to it. Indeed, Kelly touched on it in that very same book. “The whole world will get out of the way for the man who knows where he is going. For the man who does not, the world becomes a playground filled with distractions and nothingness.”

Here was action being done.

The world got out of the way for Matthew Kelly a long time ago. In turn, he devoted it to bringing it back to Christ. His spiritual memoir, A Call to Joy: Living in the Presence of God, was published in 1997. Kelly was in his early 20s. It is less about the author than it is about what the author wants his readers to feel—and do. And even then he makes it clear how one’s priorities should be oriented: “Prayer is the key to all the deepest desires of our hearts.”

Indeed, as is so often with Kelly, just now as I went to quote that line about prayer from my own copy of A Call to Joy, I got caught in momentary contemplation reading the paragraph above it. There he is talking about how too much television can command one’s life to destruction. His continual emphasis is to preserve one’s immortal soul to achieve communion with God, both here and in the life to come.

“Being concerned with the life of the soul is about being countercultural,” he writes in this paragraph. “It is about expanding the mind beyond the things of the material realm. The television and the world are concerned with the body and the temporal” (emphasis mine).

Here summarizes the discontent I felt as a cog in the secular machine. Life was becoming too temporal. Frustration over only the tangible was mounting. Where was the transcendence, wonder and awe?

And then I rediscovered Catholicism.

Today, Kelly’s Dynamic Catholic Institute is practically a household name among Catholic families and others seeking deeper meaning. Dynamic Catholic has dove into reshaping the culture through its events in parishes and dioceses, pilgrimages, talks and lectures that have been distributed by listeners to friends and family, or by Kelly’s videos series, such as Decision Points on EWTN. By now, Kelly himself has authored over two dozen books, such as The Rhythm of Life, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, Rediscover Lent, Rediscover Jesus, Resisting Happiness, and The Seven Levels of Intimacy. Dynamic Catholic’s publishing arm, Beacon, has given authors and readers an avenue to help rebuild the Catholic intellectual tradition.

But the fundamentals—prayer, the sacraments, “the classroom of silence”—listening for the answer, What does God want from me?—remain Kelly’s priorities.

It is telling that Kelly chose the title and theme “rediscover.” It is not Discover Catholicism, or Discover Lent, or Discover Jesus. It is Rediscover Catholicism and Rediscover Jesus. Matthew Kelly is telling his audience of Catholics to seize the name, identity, and meaning of “Catholic,” to revive it anew, to imbue it into one’s everyday life, and embrace the results of how it will change you.

In this way, addressing the rather uncomfortable observation in Gaudium et Spes, no. 19, emerges. While so often secular humanism and materialism are cited as reducing the active living of the faith, here Gaudium et Spes points within: “[B]elievers can have more than a little to do with the birth of atheism. To the extent that they neglect their own training in the faith, or teach erroneous doctrine, or are deficient in their religious, moral or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than reveal the authentic face of God and religion.”

This is what Matthew Kelly seeks to address and topple in his work. Conversion is never out of one’s reach.

Action…and reaction. “Thought determines action,” he has said. “Do not let your whole life be a reaction to the things that happen around you. Let your life be an action.”

Rediscover Catholicism ignited a renewed, serious engagement with the faith. It ignited approaching the liturgy more reverently, listening and reading Scripture for its wisdom, even in the Mass’s orations, such as the Collect. It ignited incorporating the sacraments more seriously. It ignited thinking about God and humanity’s relationship with Him. It opened the floodgates to others who have actively set out to understand what being Catholic means: it introduced me to the Church Fathers, St. Catherine of Bologna, Dante, Pascal, Chesterton, Joseph Pearce, Peter Kreeft, Robert Spitzer, SJ, James Schall, SJ, Mary Eberstadt, Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, among countless others. And it challenged me to consider how I would contribute.

There is a prayer in Rediscover Lent that summarizes believing in our times:

“God of deep waters and infinite riches, challenge me to go where I fear, to do what is difficult and what I thought could never be done. Push me to go to the deep waters of life and cast my net wide, for I put all my hope, trust and faith in you. Amen.”

Matthew Kelly’s trendsetting ideas—particularly his trademark exhortation to become the “best version of yourself”—is culturally pervasive now. There are yet others who still need to hear the message. When leaders lead, everyone else turns corners. There are many who still need to rediscover Catholicism. Matthew Kelly would say, “Every journey toward something is a journey away from something.”

What is it we are journeying away from and towards? Do we have the courage to discover who God wants us to be? Could it not be found within the home of the very faith we in our hardness of hearts think we have outgrown?

When the centurion asked Jesus through

Sun, 09/17/2017 - 22:00

When the centurion asked Jesus through other people to heal his servant, he did not expect him to come. He simply believed that if Jesus would only will it, it would happen. He asked great things from a great God. Yet what he asked was not for himself but for someone who worked for him.

Being a Gentile, the centurion probably felt that Jesus, who was already quite famous at that time, would think of him as an outsider. It was, however, his great desire to see his servant healed that he made the effort to ask people for help. Knowing that powerful people could do many things, he believed that Jesus need not come to his house, for he only had to will it and his servant would be healed.

The believing centurion is the opposite of Thomas who needed physical proof before believing that Jesus did rise from the dead. Time and again, Jesus would remind us of our need to believe in what we could not see. Proof of Jesus’ existence is often debated upon. Also our own notion of God is different from who God really is. After asking too many questions about God, we come up with one inevitable answer: God is a mystery. And when we come to this conclusion, what would assure us that He is there and He is in charge would not be news reports of sightings, pictures on the internet, ads on TV, detailed miracles on video but our own faith experiences which make us sure that HE IS HE.

Faith focuses on God as its proper object. It does not require visible audience. Most of all faith, like the faith of the centurion, is a blessing for others. Have we taken a leap of faith?

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.