Catholic Exchange Articles

Syndicate content
Catholic News, Catholic Articles, Catholic Apologetics, Catholic Content, Catholic Information
Updated: 27 min 42 sec ago

General Audience

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 23:00

St Peter`s Square
Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Dear brothers and sisters: In our catechesis on Holy Mass, we now turn to the Profession of Faith and the Universal Prayer of all the Christian faithful. In the Liturgy of the Word, after the homily and a time of silence, the whole assembly professes its faith: we recite the Creed, which bridges the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. In doing so, we respond to what we have heard and received; this will lead us, in turn, to the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The Apostles’ Creed, which is the Church of Rome’s Baptismal Creed, may be appropriately taken up especially in Lent and Eastertide. Particularly on Sundays and feast days, we then offer the prayers of all the faithful: “for holy Church, for the civil authorities, for those oppressed by various needs, for all mankind, and for the salvation of the entire world.” After each intention, we pray together: “Lord, graciously hear us” (or similar words), confident that God takes care of his sons and daughters.

St. Claude de la Colombiere

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 23:00

Claude de la Colombiere was beatified in 1929 and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1992.

Claude was born of noble parents in 1641 in Saint-Symphoriend’Ozon, which is between Lyons and Vienne in France. In 1659, he entered the Society of Jesus. After living the religious life for 15 years, Claude decided to make a vow to live as perfectly as he possibly could, observing faithfully the rule and constitutions of his order under the penalty of sin. All who knew him well and lived with him in the monastery attested to the fact that he did this with utmost exactitude.

He later was made superior at the Jesuit house at Paray-le Monial and while there became the spiritual director of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Being her spiritual director, he naturally developed a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He was sent to England in 1676 to be a priest for the Duchess of York and later the Queen of Great Britain. He still maintained his lifestyle as much as possible at the royal Court of St. James and continued his missionary work. Although separated from Margaret Mary, he counseled her through written correspondence.

He suffered health problems primarily with his throat and lungs, which often caused problems with his preaching. While anxiously awaiting a summons back to France, he was arrested as a conspirator and imprisoned. Because of his friendships with both the Duchess of York and Louis XIV, he was able to escape the death penalty, but was sent into exile. He spent the last two years of his life at Lyons and died there on February 15, 1682.

Lessons

Among the writings of St. Colombiere are “Pious Reflections,” “Meditations on the Passion,” and “Retreat and Spiritual Letters.” These were published under the title, Oeuvres du R.P. Claude de la Colombiere in 1832. St. Colombiere’s relics can be found in the monastery of the Visitation nuns at Paray-le-Monial.

Prayer

Dear Father in heaven, we adore you and thank you for the wisdom of the Jesuits, most especially Saint Colombiere. As confessor and advisor to St. Margaret Mary, he assisted spiritually in bringing to the world the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. For this alone we are blessed, but we thank you also for the life of St. Colombiere, which he lived so perfectly for Your glory. May we also seek to live holy lives that are pleasing to You, through Your grace. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Saints Faustinus and Jovita (121), Martyrs, brothers

Return to Me

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 02:35
Return to Me*


Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.
Perhaps he will again relent
and leave behind him a blessing,
Offerings and libations
for the LORD, your God.


Joel 2:12-14
(an excerpt from the first reading for today’s Ash Wednesday Mass)

*Return to me with all your heart [Joel 2:12] and show a spirit of repentance with fasting, weeping and mourning [Joel 2:12]; so that while you fast now, later you may be satisfied, while you weep now, later you may laugh, while you mourn now, you may some day enjoy consolation [cf Luke 6:21; Matthew 5:4]. It is customary for those in sorrow or adversity to tear their garments. The gospel records that the high priest did this to exaggerate the charge against our Lord and Savior; and we read that Paul and Barnabas did so when they heard words of blasphemy. I bid you not to tear your garments but rather to rend your hearts [Joel 2:13] which are laden with sin. Like wine skins, unless they have been cut open, they will burst of their own accord. After you have done this, return to the Lord your God, from whom you had been alienated by your sins. Do not despair of his mercy, no matter how great your sins, for great mercy will take away great sins [cf Luke 7:41-47].

For the Lord is gracious and merciful [Joel 2:13] and prefers the conversion of a sinner rather than his death. Patient and generous in his mercy, he does not give in to human impatience but is willing to wait a long time for our repentance. So extraordinary is the Lord’s mercy in the face of evil, that if we do penance for our sins, he regrets his own threat and does not carry out against us the sanctions he had threatened. So by the changing of our attitude, he himself is changed. But in this passage we should interpret “evil” to mean, not the opposite of virtue, but affliction, as we read in another place: Sufficient for the day are its own evils [cf Matthew 6:34]. And, again: If there is evil in the city, God did not create it.

In like manner, given all that we have said above – that God is kind and merciful, patient, generous with his forgiveness, and extraordinary in his mercy toward evil – lest the magnitude of his clemency make us lax and negligent, he adds this word through his prophet: Who knows whether he will not turn and repent and leave behind him a blessing? [Joel 2:14]. In other words, he says: “I exhort you to repentance, because it is my duty, and I know that God is inexhaustibly merciful, as David says: Have mercy on me, God, according to your great mercy, and in the depths of your compassion, blot out all my iniquities [cf Psalm 51:1]. But since we cannot know the depth of the riches and of the wisdom and knowledge of God, I will temper my statement, expressing a wish rather than taking anything for granted, and I will say: Who knows whether he will not turn and repent? [cf Joel 2:14]. Since he says, Who, it must be understood that it is impossible or difficult to know for sure.

To these words the prophet adds: Offerings and libations for the Lord our God [cf Joel 2:14]. What he is saying to us in other words is that, God having blessed us and forgiven us our sins, we will then be able to offer sacrifice to God.

*From a commentary on the book of Joel by Saint Jerome, priest (PL 25, 967-968) as found in the Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings, Second Reading, 21st Week in Ordinary Time.

+

Art for this post titled “Return to Me”: Popielec (Ash Wednesday), Julian Falat, 1881, PD-US author’s life plus 80 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.

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.

 

|

|

 

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

The sacred season of Lent begins with

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 23:58

The sacred season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, a day when we stress our nothingness and sinfulness, a day when we stress deeds to atone for our sinfulness and to show the genuineness of our repentance.

The imposition of ashes stresses our nothingness and sinfulness. Both formulas for the imposition of ashes say this: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return,” and “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

The Gospel reading tells us of the key practices for Lent to show our sincere sorrow and repentance for our sinfulness: almsgiving and good works, prayer, fasting and abnegation.

First, Lent invites us to be more generous to those in need, to give something extra to the poor. Many dioceses and parishes have special collections  for this purpose.

Secondly, we are reminded to be more prayerful during Lent. Many attend many weekday Masses during Lent. The Stations of the Cross are a special devotion during Lent. Many go on retreats or recollections to deepen their spiritual life.

Thirdly, fasting is strongly encouraged. The prophet Isaiah extends the true meaning of fasting: “Is fasting merely bowing down one’s head, and making use of sackcloth and ashes? … See the fast that pleases me: breaking the fetters of injustice and unfastening the thongs of the yoke, setting the oppressed free an breaking every yoke. Fast by sharing your food with the hungry, bring to your house the homeless, clothe the man you see naked and do not turn away from your own kin.” (Is 58: Sb, 6- 7)

All these we do, not to be seen or to impress others, but to honor our Father and as penance for our sins and for the sufferings of Christ caused by sin.

We pray the Prayer over the Offerings for Ash Wednesday, “As we solemnly offer the annual sacrifice for the beginning of Lent, we entreat you, 0 Lord, that, through works of penance and charity, we may turn away from harmful pleasures and, cleansed from our sins, may become worthy to celebrate devoutly the Passion of your Son.”

Ash Wednesday Leads to Easter

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 23:07

In the partly-churched world of my youth, we never got any down times. The Protestant churches I knew, mainstream and Evangelical, observed a church year, kind of. But only the high points.

Everyone celebrated Christmas. Even in that very secular college town, a lot of people actually went to church on Christmas Eve. Even if they didn’t believe that God was born of a virgin in Bethlehem, even if they didn’t believe in God period, it’s a great story. It makes you feel good about everything.

Many people also celebrated Easter by going to church. Not nearly as many as went to church on Christmas, but a surprisingly high number, considering how secular was the world in which I grew up. They didn’t believe Jesus rose from the dead, but the persecuted hero returning from the dead was another great story. Plus it provided a nice spring festival after the long New England winter.

What Christianity remained in that town mostly observed the high points without the hard parts. Outside the small Catholic church on the main street and the Catholic chapel at the university, no one observed Ash Wednesday or Lent in a way anyone else would notice. The Episcopalians on the town common must have observed it, but they certainly didn’t make their observance public. The rest of us knew about Ash Wednesday, if we did, only because later in the day we’d see a few people with smudges on their foreheads.

High and Low Points

My town’s secularish religion worked only so far. Just celebrating the high points doesn’t really help much. In life we have high points and we have low points. The world gives us great friends who have our back and it gives us enemies who plot against us. It gives us eyes to see the sunset and cancer that takes away the last thirty years of our lives. It gives us beautiful spring days and hurricanes that flatten whole towns.

We have our own low points, and some of those low points are our own fault. We know that. We know we’re not the men and women we should be. We need someone to tell us the whole truth, to say something about our faults. And especially about our sins.

I felt that need growing up in that secular world. We were taught that we were good people.  Life was basically good and that things would work out well enough. Sometimes bad things happened and some people turned out to be really bad, but all in all, things were okay. That was the gospel my world proclaimed.

But things clearly weren’t okay. The newspapers were filled with stories of mass suffering and human evil. People killed, raped, destroyed, wiped out whole cities. And I knew that I wasn’t the person I should be. I did things I shouldn’t do. I hurt people to get what I wanted, and often didn’t realize it. I didn’t do the things I should. I knew genuinely good people and I wasn’t one of them. I felt a guilt that my world couldn’t explain and couldn’t heal.

I Found Ash Wednesday

Then, as a newish Christian, I found out about Ash Wednesday and Lent, and thought “This is so cool.” Finally, finally, someone was saying, “No, things are not all right. And no, you’re not all right. You feel guilty because you sin and you keep sinning.” Here I found a real gospel, a real good news, precisely because it was so realistic about the bad news that was me and the world. The Church wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know deep down, but it was helping me face it.

Sitting in the church on Ash Wednesday was like going to the doctor after suffering for a long time, when you hear the doctor tell you what’s wrong with you. Even if the news is bad, at least you know. Now you can face it and deal with it. You no longer have that worry bothering you from the back of your mind. You know the truth, and even the hard truth will set you free.

I know some people find the day hard because they grew up in a world that made them feel guilty about everything. Life can be hard enough without someone telling you that you’re no good. You may not hear the good news behind the priest’s “remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

But for me it was a liberation. It still is, after all these years. The news is always bad. The world remains fallen. I remain a sinner. I am dust and to dust I will return.

The news is bad, really, really bad, but it’s not terminal. That’s just the diagnosis. The Church also points to the cure. After the ashes comes the Eucharist. Ash Wednesday and Lent lead to Easter. To enjoy the cure, though, you need to know that you’re sick.

image: Ash Wednesday by SJV Denver / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This Lent, Here’s One Thing Not To Give Up

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 23:05

The correspondence of Ash Wednesday and St. Valentine’s Day almost writes its own joke.  Sadly, for some couples, getting ashes for Valentine’s Day is not only no laughing matter, it seems like an all-too-appropriate sign of the state of their marriage.

It’s no coincidence that March is one of the two most popular months for divorce filings. (The other is August).  Struggling couples pray for the strength to make it through the holidays, and then, start meeting with attorneys through January and February. By the time they get their affairs in order, March is upon them and they are ready to file.

If you find yourself in this position, I have a not-so-simple request that I would like you to take to prayer. Namely, this Lent, don’t give up on your marriage.

The truth is, marriage can be incredibly, terribly hard sometimes. We are all broken, sinful people. Sometimes the person we sin against the worst is our spouse.  We fail to love each other as we deserve to be loved. We take each other for granted.  We betray each other’s trust. We hurt each other in ways that only two people who know each other terrifically well can; deeply and personally.

Sometimes, marriage can seem like a real cross. But that insight can also be a source of real wisdom for how to move forward.  The Douay-Rheims bible’s translation of Jesus’ last words are, “It is consummated” (John 19:30)!  The marriage of heaven and earth, the sacrificial outpouring of love that saved humankind for all time takes place in that moment where, in spite of all the pain we have inflicted him, Jesus make a total self-gift. The bridegroom gives himself to his unworthy bride freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully. Archbishop Fulton Sheen, once shocked people by pointing at the cross and saying, “Do you know what is going on there?  Nuptials!  I tell you, nuptials!”

But lest we get too focused on Christ’s seemingly depressing, final moment, it’s critical to remember that by responding to the agonizing pain and rejection he felt on the cross with a miraculous outpouring of love, Jesus made the resurrection—and our salvation–possible. Without Christ’s willingness to embrace the cross, there could be no honeymoon for the Bridegroom and his Bride.

So what?  Jesus was God. We’re not.  What difference does any of this make to a married couple suffering in 2018?

Well, that’s up to you.  I’m not asking you to deny the real pain you are in. I’m not asking you to pretend that somehow your spouse deserves the heroic effort it would take to work out your issues.  In fact, I’m sure they don’t.  I’m pretty confident that your marriage is every bit the disaster you think it is. What I am suggesting is that Jesus gave us a model for how to deal with this. He showed us what God can do when, despite all the very good reasons there are to the contrary, we embrace our cross all the way through.  He showed us that when we unite the pain to his grace, a resurrection follows.

The truth is, the science of marriage therapy has advanced tremendously in the last 20 years.  If you work with a trained, marriage-friendly therapist (instead of an individual therapist who “does marriage therapy”), research shows that you have over a 95% chance of working through your issues.  It won’t be easy, but as one of those marriage-friendly therapists, I can tell you that not only is it possible, but that every single one of those couples who let me walk with them from their cross to their resurrection would tell you that it was worth it. Staying with it, embracing the cross, and doing the work that their transformation required ultimately led to a marriage that was more satisfying, supportive, and grace-filled than they imagined was possible.

Getting the right kind of help makes all the difference.  If you have talked to your friends, or read some books, or met with your pastor a couple times, or gone on a retreat, or even done “some counseling” but have not worked with a trained marriage-friendly therapist who has supervised experience in doing marital therapy properly, you have not gotten the right kind of help. There is still reason to hope.  A lot of it.

Of course, if you or your children are being physically abused, you have an obligation to see your and your children’s safety. If that requires a separation, then the church certainly supports you (c.f., Catechism #2383).  But almost anything short of that can be overcome with proper assistance.  You can learn more about appropriate, marriage-friendly help from sites like The National Registry of Marriage-Friendly Therapists (MarriageFriendlyTherapists.com) or The Pastoral Solutions Institute’s Catholic tele-counseling practice (CatholicCounselors.com).

No one gets married to get divorced. I know you didn’t. And there are professionals who can help you through the long Lent you have been living and give you the skills you need to experience a resurrection of love, passion, and joy in your relationship once again. Please, let them help you.

There are many things you could give up this Lent.  But I ask you, respectfully, for the sake of the promises you made at the altar, your children’s well-being, and your own hopes and dreams, don’t let your marriage be one of them.

image: Palm Sunday by George Martell / Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Setting the World Ablaze With Love

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 23:02

Jesus said, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Lk. 12:49). What kind of fire is Jesus talking about? Is he thinking of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:23-25)? Fire certainly conjures up terrifying images of punishment for sins, such as the very real “eternal fire” about which St. Jude warns his readers (Jude 7).

Think instead about Pentecost: “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:3-4). That’s not punishment. That’s being on fire with the Holy Spirit. Mary is a beautiful example of this life in the Spirit. Dominican author Father Marie Vincent Bernadot hails her, “O Mary, Temple of the Trinity! Hearth of the divine fire!” She is a dwelling place for God, holding within and emanating forth the great love of the Trinity. Being on fire with the Holy Spirit is not reserved to Mary or to the apostles at Pentecost. God worked in their lives to raise up brilliant examples of what other human beings are destined to share in.

St. Paul exhorts us: “be aglow with the Spirit” (Rm 12:11). As a burning brand is one with a fire, so we can be one with God. The brand is not the fire, yet it is nearly indistinguishable from the fire because it has the same fiery redness, emanating an intense heat that is its own yet is received from and sustained by another. In the Holy Spirit, we are ablaze with the same fire of love that is at the heart of the Trinity itself. In a certain way we can share in the great outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost.

Dominicans, it seems, have a kind of personal calling to be on fire. Blessed Jane of Aza, St. Dominic’s mother, had a vision of a dog with a torch in its mouth, setting fire to the whole world. This vocation is beautifully captured in I’m a Dog on our new album:

I’m a dog with a torch in my mouth for my Lord

Making noise while I got time

Spreading fire while I got earth

How you wish it was already lit

Give me your fire I’ll do your work

I’m just a dog for my Lord

Dominican or not, as Christians we are called to satisfy the Lord’s desire and set the world ablaze. As we cannot do this without his Holy Spirit, we can pray with St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, “O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, ‘come upon me,’ and create in my soul a kind of incarnation of the Word: that I may be another humanity for Him in which He can renew His whole Mystery.” By offering our entire self, we are asking to be consumed by the fire of divine love, and for this fire to remain alive in our souls, we must be preserved from sin. The Eucharist, St. Thomas Aquinas explains, acts precisely to this end. Quoting St. John Chrysostom, he writes, “Like lions breathing forth fire, thus do we depart from that table, being made terrible to the devil.”

In the end, the fire with which Jesus wishes the world to be ablaze is a fire from God that springs up within each of us, enkindled by his own gifts of his Holy Spirit and the Holy Eucharist. What a great fire this is, St. Thomas affirms, quoting St. John Damascene: “The fire of that desire which is within us, being kindled by the burning coal [the Eucharist], will consume our sins, and enlighten our hearts, so that we shall be inflamed and made Godlike.” This is what Jesus yearns to do: to meet us in the intimacy of our hearts and set them on fire with the very same love that he himself enjoys.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared on Dominicana, the Dominican student blog of the Province of St. Joseph, and is reprinted here with kind permission. 

Saints Cyril and Methodius

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 23:00

St. Cyril (827?-869) and St. Methodius (815?-885) were brothers who became famous as missionaries to the Slavic peoples of southeastern Europe. They were born in Greece, where their father served as an army officer in the Byzantine Empire. Cyril became a brilliant instructor at the imperial university in Constantinople, and Methodius served as governor of one of the empire’s provinces. After some years, however, Methodius withdrew to a monastery. Cyril was offered the chance to take his brother’s place, but instead he followed his example and also became a monk.

Early in the 860s the Duke of Moravia asked the Emperor for political and religious independence from German rule, and this request — in spite of German opposition — was granted. Cyril and Methodius were sent to recruit local (non-Germanic) clergy and to establish a Slavonic liturgy. Cyril invented a Slavonic alphabet (possibly the source of the modern Russian alphabet), and he and his brother translated much of the Bible into Slavonic. Their great success as missionaries provoked envy and opposition from German religious and political authorities. When the local German bishop refused to consecrate Slavic clergy, the brothers traveled to Rome in 869 and appealed to Pope Adrian II. The pope upheld their authority and approved their liturgy; soon after this St. Cyril, who had long been ill, died.

Methodius was consecrated a bishop by the pope, and he spent the remaining years of his life in missionary activity, despite the continued opposition of his German colleagues. At one point he was forced into exile, and he was later summoned to Rome to defend himself against his opponents’ accusations. St. Methodius died in 885; he and St. Cyril are today honored by Catholics throughout southeastern Europe.

Lessons

1. Saints Cyril and Methodius represent the Church’s recognition of the importance and uniqueness of individual cultures. God is able to speak through every language and to every people.

2. Human jealousy can hinder and delay missionary activity, but not prevent it. As St. Paul noted, “There is no chaining of the word of God” (2 Tm 2:9).

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Valentine (269), Priest, Martyr, Patron of Greetings and Lovers

Why You Should Go to Confession This Lent

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 23:07

Lent is the time of year when God obligates us to prepare our hearts and to purify our souls so that we are ready to receive Our Lord in His glorious coming at Easter. There’s no time to delay. The Bible says, “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

During this season, every day we should try to make a good examination of conscience by asking ourselves these questions:

  • Is there something I can do to get closer to God?
  • Is there something I can do to know God better and to love Him more?
  • Is there some way I can increase my desire for prayer?
  • Is there some way I can rekindle that fire of divine love that might have gone out in my life?
  • Is there some way I can rid myself of the spiritual mediocrity, the spiritual indifference that I find myself in so much of the time?
  • Is there something I can give up?
  • Is there something in my life right now that is not pleasing to Almighty God?
  • Is there some sin that I am holding on to?
  • Is there some habitual sin that is separating my heart from God’s loving grace?
  • Is there something I need to confess?
  • Am I crucifying Our Lord all over again by living in my sins?

Further, we should pray every day:

Lord, let there be less of me and more of You. Let me say no to my will and yes to Yours. God, give me the grace to love You more today than yesterday and more tomorrow than today.

The Fatima seer Jacinta spoke this challenging truth: “If men only knew what eternity is, how they would make all possible efforts to amend their lives.” With this in mind, let us explore the special grace God gives us in the sacrament of Confession to help us on that journey of sanctification.

Be Watchful

Our Lord warned us throughout the Gospel to be watchful. We must be on our guard, and that means keeping our souls in the state of grace, because we can never know the day or the hour when He will come.

To help us to do that, Almighty God has given us the great gift of His Mercy in the Sacrament of Penance. It has become painfully obvious to me, both from personal pastoral experience and from polling data, that the vast majority of Catholics in our country gave up the practice of sacramental Confession long ago. This is truly a tragedy. First of all, the sacrament of Penance is the ordinary means for the forgiveness of mortal sins committed after Baptism. But it is also a veritable treasure of graces and spiritual strength for us in our daily struggle against sin and temptation.

This article is adapted from “Making a Holy Lent.” Click image to preview or order.

Pope Pius XII said many times that the great sin of our age is, in fact, the denial of sin. “Sin” has become a dirty word that we don’t want to mention anymore, even from the pulpit. Doesn’t it strike you as odd that the more sin there is in the world, the less Catholics — clergy, theologians, and laypeople — seem to say about it? This is theological insanity. Worse, it is spiritual suicide. There is only one thing that can separate us from God, and that is mortal sin. To conceal the reality of sin is, quite simply, to play the devil’s game. It is to fall into his trap.

I am reminded of the words of St. Paul: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings” (2 Tim. 4:3). That day has now arrived. Most people today see enjoyment of this life as being more important than eternity. We don’t want to hear the truth because the truth makes us feel uncomfortable — because the truth sometimes demands that we change our lives, our minds, and our hearts toward God and toward others.

Biblical Repentance 

When Jesus called the twelve Apostles and began to send them out to preach, He gave them authority and the power to cure the sick and to raise the dead and to give sight to the blind, the power to cast out demons and to make cripples walk — the power, that is, to bring healing to every kind of human suffering. But the Gospel also tells us that, despite that awesome authority, the most important mission that Christ gave the Apostles was to preach the need for repentance. “Repentance” is one of the most important and most frequently used words in all of Sacred Scripture.

Jesus’ first words when He began His public ministry were, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). And Our Lord told the Apostles that, in any place where people refused to hear that word and act on it, they were to leave that place and to shake the dust from their feet as a testimony against those people (Matt. 10:14.) Every messenger ever sent by God in both the Old and New Testaments was sent to preach a message of repentance. No one can be a disciple of Christ, or even claim the name “Christian,” unless that person is willing to repent.

What is Repentance?

What exactly are we talking about when we speak of repentance? First and most simply, to repent means to recognize the reality of personal sin in your life — and to turn away from it. It means putting sin out of your life and changing your life according to God’s Will, even when God’s Will doesn’t conform to your opinions.

Secondly, to repent means to seek the loving mercy of God with a spirit of true contrition. Contrition is more than just sorrow for sin; there are three elements to true contrition: sorrow for the sins you’ve committed, hatred for those sins and all sin, and a firm purpose of amendment, which means that you intend to try, with the help of God’s grace, not to commit the same sins in the future.

Third, to repent means to accept God’s word and God’s law and to make it your way of life. It means putting faith into action. We are saved by faith working through love. Salvation is not by faith alone, and it never was. The Apostle St. James wrote, “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17). Our faith must be a living faith. It can’t be inactive or moribund. That won’t cut it with God.

And finally, to repent means to do penance. Whether we realize it or not, even our most hidden sins in some mysterious way disturb the entire order of God’s creation. They cause a diminishing of grace in the Mystical Body of Christ. God expects us to make reparation for the harm caused by our sins against Him and against our neighbors.

None of us will ever see the vision of God in Heaven unless we are humble enough to know and to admit that we are sinners in need of God’s mercy. There are no excep­tions. We should never be ashamed or afraid to admit that because the Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

Sacrament of Penance

Jesus said to His Apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). All of us feel the attractive power of sin in our lives. All of us have to struggle to control our disordered passions. There’s always the danger that we can give in to temptation and fall into mortal sin in a moment of weakness. Therefore, there’s an ongoing need for repentance in our lives.

This is why Our Lord in His infinite wisdom gave us the sacrament of His Mercy, the Sacrament of Penance! He gave it to us on that first Easter Sunday, when He appeared to the Apostles in the Upper Room after His Resurrection, a critical moment in the history of the Church. We are told about this in the Gospel of St. John: “He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’ ” (John 20:22–23).

Every Catholic should have those verses memorized. We should know them by heart so that we can be ready to answer whenever our faith is called into question on this matter. The Gospel shows us clearly that Jesus gave His disciples the power to forgive sins in His Name. But — and this is important — He did not give them the power to read minds! How could the disciples know which sins to forgive and which to retain if no one would confess? We have the practice of sacramental Confession because it has been handed down to us from the Apostles by the will of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That is why Confession, in one form or another, has been the practice of Christian believers from the very beginning.

Interior Transformation

You see, Jesus left us this sacrament because He knew well what sin and guilt can do to the human soul. They can tear the human soul apart — separate it from God. They can drive a person to despair. God knows we need to have some way to be free of sin and guilt because they can rob us of the inner peace and joy that should be ours as Christian believers — the peace and joy that come with having a clear conscience before God.

The human spirit needs to be at peace with God, and we need to be at peace with ourselves. We need to know for sure that God has forgiven us. We need to be able to experience God’s merciful love as it touches our lives. There will be times in our lives, we know well, when we will need to make a new start spiritually, when we will need to wipe the slate clean and start over again. When we do this, we will need to be strengthened by God’s grace to avoid the same sins in the future. That is how the sacrament of Confession helps to transform us interiorly.

Confession Leads to Holiness

The beauty of the sacrament of Penance is that whenever you confess your sins to the best of your ability and the best of your memory — when you don’t hold anything back and you are truly sorry and you have a firm purpose of amendment — you always leave the confessional with that confident assurance of God’s complete forgiveness.

Many people worry unnecessarily about the sins they might have forgotten in their Confession. But the human mind is not like a computer that can access all the data it needs at just the right moment. Our memories are dimmed with our fallen human nature. When you’ve made a good Confession, all your sins are forgiven, so long as you have a contrite heart. God sees the interior of the heart. And if later you should remember some sin that you have forgotten to confess, just bring it up in your next Confession. It’s as simple as that.

The idea is to avoid mortal sin completely and to seek true holiness of life! The objective is to become saints! Those who have lapsed into this complacent mind-set have forgotten about the power of sacramental grace — that it is an effective barrier against sins and a very effective means to personal holiness.

It is because of God’s infinite love for us that He commands us to make use the sacrament of Penance. It is in this sacrament that we release the past to God’s mercy, the present to His love, and the future to His providence.

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from Fr. Casey’s Making a Holy Lent: 40 Meditations to Prepare You for the Church’s Holiest Seasonwhich is available from Sophia Institute Press

For more help in going to Confession this Lent, see Fr. Broom’s Ten Tips for a Better Confession.

How to Explain Those Ashes to Your Child

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 23:05

In the world of millennial Catholics, there is no more highly anticipated annual hashtag than “#ashtag.” (Unless, of course, you have given up social media for Lent.) I live in a very Catholic city, so it isn’t considered strange to walk around town with a smudge of ashes on your forehead. It’s not unusual to have someone see your ashes and remark, “Oh, that’s right! It’s Ash Wednesday! I have to get to church later!”

Even the least religious of adults can admit their failings and need for improvement. Ash Wednesday and Lent isn’t such a huge logical leap for adults, and it’s much easier to explain why adult Catholics need this reminder.

What is harder to explain is why babies and children need those ashes, too. I remember my oldest daughter’s first Ash Wednesday, and the little smear of ashes on her baby head. Of course, I thought it was adorable, but I also remember being struck by the implications of those ashes. Did I really just assent to and publicly declare by that assent that my sweet baby girl was “dust and to dust” she would one day return?

That little baby is receiving First Communion this year, and she understands what Ash Wednesday is now. But seeing those ashes on her little forehead (and on the little foreheads of her four-year-old and seven-month-old little sisters) is still cause for pause. It’s moments like that when I am reminded that we Catholics really are a little bit counter-cultural. Everyone else gushes about how sweet and innocent babies are…but we acknowledge that our babies are stained by original sin and that they will spend their lives struggling with concupiscence (i.e. the propensity to sin). (Of course, we also believe that those same babies of ours are called to be great saints and one day experience perfect union with God in heaven, so there’s that.)

So how do we explain those ashes to our children? “Mommy and Daddy know you need that reminder that you are a sinner from the start.” Nope. “Mommy and Daddy want you to remember that one day you will die and turn into ashes and dirt.” Ummm…not quite. What do we say?

We begin by sharing with our children the story of Adam and his creation by God. God formed him from the clay of the earth, and so Adam is formed of dust and dirt. It isn’t until God breathes life into Adam that Adam becomes human, made in the image and likeness of God.

So, the origin of humanity is dust. Without God we are but dust.

This is what our bodies are destined for. We believe that, one day, Jesus will come again. When he does, he will raise our bodies up and glorify them, reuniting our souls (which can be in heaven prior to that) and our bodies.

But until then, when we die, and our bodies are buried, they will eventually become dust again — just like Adam was before God made him.

But why would we want to be reminded of that? Why would we want to remind our children of that? Doesn’t that sound morbid?

Before I explain that further, let me point you to an old trend in the Catholic world, one that has recently seen a resurgence (on social media, actually!) — the “Momento Mori,” loosely translated “reminder of death/mortality.” This age-old practice usually involves the placement of a skull somewhere – on one’s desk, etc. The idea is that, in acknowledging our mortality, there is a freedom. When we are free to face death, we are free to hope in the resurrection. We are free to say, “O death, where is your victory?!”

So, back to our children and their questions about ashes. Being reminded of our eventual death can seem scary, until we are reminded that Jesus has already conquered death. As we say in our family, “Jesus already defeated the scary things!”

So, we receive these ashes on our forehead to remind ourselves that we are but dust, and that it is God’s life in us that makes us more than dust and ashes. But we also remember that that means that we are little and weak. We are but dust, and we need God’s grace to free us from the ashes.

This is why we begin Lent with ashes, to remember who we are without God’s breath giving us life. On our own, we are but dust and ashes. We need God.

The ashes remind us that we need God’s grace, but they also remind us that one day we will die. However, given to us in the context of Lent, they remind us that death isn’t the end of the story.  With God’s life in us, we don’t need to fear death. We can live in hope of the resurrection. First, there will be the resurrection of our souls, i.e. our souls can go to heaven (and purgatory, but that’s a can of worms for a different day). Then, one day, Jesus will come again and glorify our bodies. When he does this, body and soul will be reunited, and we will live forever.

(On a funny note, ever since losing our third child to miscarriage, my older daughters have been fascinated by the glorification of the body and it factors frequently into their conversation. Of special concern to my four-year-old is whether Jesus will let her have all her stuffed animals in heaven/at the glorification of the bodies. I may have studied theology, but I tell her there are some things we just can’t know.)

So, despite seeming morbid, those ashes really aren’t. They are a reminder of who we are without God, but they are also a reminder that we are not without God. As we turn from sin and embrace God’s gift of grace, we can begin to look forward – with hope! – to the resurrection.

(For more on this, here’s a little piece I wrote about teaching sensitive children about Lent, from back when my oldest child was a toddler.)

image: Ash Wednesday by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr

Consoling the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 23:02

After Jesus, nobody has loved us more than Mary, in her most pure Immaculate Heart. Also, after the sufferings of Jesus, there is nobody on earth who suffered more than Mary.

The Seven Sorrows of Mary

The Church invites us to contemplate the Passion of Jesus through the eyes and Heart of Mary. Classically, there are seven sorrows of Mary. Especially the Franciscans have a charism of promoting this powerful devotion. These seven sorrows start when Jesus is a little baby in the arms of Mary, up through Jesus’ mangled, bloody, sword-pierced Body in the arms of Mary at the foot of the cross, if you like, the Pieta of Michelangelo!

The following is an orderly chronological listing of the seven sorrows of Mary, from the Infancy of Jesus up to His death and laying in the arms of Mary, ending with His burial:

  • 1. The Prophecy of Simeon — A sword will piece your heart.
  • 2. The Flight Into Egypt —Herod in pursuit to kill the Child Jesus.
  • 3. Jesus Lost in the Temple — Mary’s sorrow in losing Jesus for three days!
  • 4. Mary Meets Jesus on Calvary — Mary meeting the eyes of Jesus carrying the cross.
  • 5. The Crucifixion of Jesus — Mary present and witnessing the crucifixion of her Beloved Son.
  • 6. The Lowering of Jesus in Mary’s Arms — After dying, the dead Body of Jesus is lowered into the arms of Mary.
  • 7. The Burial of Jesus — The separation of Jesus and Mary with the burial of Jesus.

In each one of these seven sorrows of Mary, we are invited to enter into the mind, soul, and Heart of Mary to experience, at least to a limited degree, some of the sorrow of Mary and then to console her. If we truly love a person, we want to share our life with that person, in good times and in bad, in health and in sickness, in riches and in poverty, until death do we part (Marriage promises). Our love for Jesus and Mary can and should far transcend our love on a human and natural level. As the Song of Songs expresses it: Love is stronger than death.

Therefore, we will offer some concrete means by which we can contemplate the sorrows of Mary and at the same time offer her our consolation. The lover rejoices with the beloved, but is also willing to weep and suffer in the pains and sorrows of the beloved.

The Prophecy of Simeon

“A sword of sorrow will pierce your heart so that the thoughts of many may be revealed.” A concrete way in which we can console the Heart of Mary in this contemplation would be to go to confession in honor of Mary.

Mary’s powerful prayers and presence will attain for us the grace to examine our conscience and reveal our inmost secrets of conscience to the priest who represents Jesus. The end result will be absolution, forgiveness, and re-birth into a life of grace. Mary, whose title is full of grace, will rejoice in your opening up your mind, heart, and soul to Jesus’ Mercy in Confession.

The Flight Into Egypt

Saint Joseph got up and taking the Mother and the Child fled into Egypt… 

How can we console the Heart of Mary in this painful sorrow? We all live in perpetual spiritual combat, spiritual warfare. We can console the Heart of Mary by imitating good Saint Joseph in fleeing from moral evil—that we call temptation to sin. When you are tempted to sin, run to Mary; throw yourself into the arms of Mary; seek refuge in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She is a sure refuge!

Losing and Finding of Jesus in the Temple

After three days of searching they found Jesus in the temple listening to and teaching the Jewish teachers…

What might be a concrete application of this third sorrow of Mary? Many mothers and fathers over the past fifty years have lost their children spiritually. That is to say, despite the hard efforts of parents, children may still wander from the faith, no longer assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and worse still, willfully choose a sinful lifestyle.

Just as Jesus was lost and Mary suffered excruciating pains, so do parents suffer intensely at the moral and spiritual loss of their children, whom they love so much! Like Saint Monica and the eventual conversion of Saint Augustine, why not pray? Especially pray the rosary so that these lost and wandering prodigal sons and daughters, these lost sheep of the fold, will return. In other words, through the Holy Rosary, place these children in the Heart of Mary.

Jesus Meets Mary on the Way of the Cross

As Jesus climbs Calvary on His way to crucifixion, He meets Mary. A concrete manner in which we can console Mary is to imitate Jesus in carrying our own crosses. However, with this important stipulation: share your crosses with Mary. The mere presence of Mary contemplating Jesus with the cross on His shoulders, consoled Jesus.

Dig deep into your own heart so as to identify your biggest cross as well as your smaller ones. Then bring these crosses to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary. Imitating a little child in the arms of his mother, talk to Mary about these crosses. She is very interested in helping you to carry your cross with faith, confidence, trust, and love. Often our crosses are overwhelming; they are just too heavy, thorny, and splintery to carry because we are trying to carry them by ourselves, without inviting Mary to help us! We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Mary at the Foot of the Cross

In this most painful mystery of the crucifixion, passion, suffering, and death of Jesus, Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, was present the whole time. Jesus spoke from the cross to John and Mary: Woman behold thy son; son behold thy mother. The disciple took her into his home. In that moment Jesus gave Mary—in the person of Saint John—to the world as the universal spiritual Mother, as your Mother! 

Our way to console Mary in this mystery? Imitate Saint Juan Diego and the little boy in the movie Marcelino, pan y vino. In what way? Very simple: be like a small child and tell Mary everything that happens in your life. Trust totally and unreservedly in the Maternal Presence and Heart of your loving Mother.

Jesus Placed in the Arms of Mary

The artist Michelangelo depicted this masterfully in the famous Pieta. The film producer Mel Gibson presented this in the movie The Passion of the Christ in a most powerful and moving fashion. How can we console the Heart of Mary? To love Jesus is to love Mary; they are inseparable! The suffering Body of Jesus is present in His Mystical Body, the Church. In a most powerful and special way, The Body of Christ comes to us in the greatest of all the Sacraments, the most Holy Eucharist within the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The greatest single gesture that we can do on the face of the earth is to receive Jesus, the Son of Mary, in Holy Communion. Therefore, a superb way in which we can console the Heart of Mary is to pray to receive Jesus in Holy Communion through Mary’s most pure and Immaculate Heart. Nobody ever received Jesus with greater love than the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Jesus Taken From Mary and Buried in the Tomb

In this last of the seven sorrows we witness the separation of Jesus and Mary, when Jesus is placed in the tomb and buried. Without a doubt, one of the best ways we can console and rejoice the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary is to beg Mary for the grace to die daily to sin—the greatest evil that exists! Then, of greatest importance, beg Mary for the grace of a holy and happy death.

By constantly praying to Mary the Hail Mary and the Holy Rosary, with Mary’s help we are preparing ourselves for the most important moment in our life: the very moment that we die! This will determine our eternal destiny — eternal salvation or eternal loss. We trust that through Mary’s prayers we will gain our eternal salvatio

May this be our prayer every night, and the moment we die:

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, make my heart like unto thine. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, assist me in my last agony. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I breathe forth my soul unto thee. O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine!

The first reading tells us clearly that

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 23:00

The first reading tells us clearly that God does not tempt man to do evil actions. It is the devil who does that. When we are able to resist a temptation, our faith and love for God grows stronger. But when we succumb to the temptation, we realize our human frailty and inability to do good all the time.

Let us not be discouraged but ask forgiveness from God or the person we have sinned against. If necessary, let us confess our evil deeds to a priest. Then after sincere repentance, we stand up and go to battle again with the devil who will keep on tempting us to sin. Let our failures to do good make us more humble and prayerful to the Lord who will come to our aid in times of difficulties or temptations.

In the gospel, after Jesus had a discussion with the Pharisees, he tells his disciples to be on guard against their mentality. But the disciples who have forgotten to bring food with them thought he is talking about bread. So Jesus rebukes them saying why they are so concerned about food when they have already seen so many miracles he has performed producing food for them and for the people.

Sometimes we are like the disciples who are overly concerned with material needs and not trust in the Lord’s ability to provide. We have short-term memory when our bellies start to growl. We are no better than the animals who are always looking for food. We should laugh at our shallowness because that is what we are at times. Then let us remember that we have a mission as spiritual guides for this generation.

“My Jesus, although we are

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 23:00

“My Jesus, although we are accused daily of being fools, let the vision of Quiet Dignity standing before Monstrous Injustice give us all the courage to be your followers.”

-Mother Angelica, Praying with Mother Angelica

St. Catherine de Ricci

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 23:00

Born in Florence, Italy, in 1522, Saint Catherine was baptized Alexandrina. When she was only six years old, her father placed her in the convent of Monticelli in Florence. Her aunt, Louisa de Ricci, was a nun there and she and the other sisters watched over young Alexandrina and administered her catechesis. When Alexandrina was a teenager she returned home for a brief visit.

Soon afterwards, at the age of 14, she entered the convent of the Dominican nuns at Prat in Tuscany, taking the name Catherine. When she was still a young woman she was made Mistress of Novices, then sub prioress. At the age of only 25, she became perpetual prioress. Over time, her reputation for devotion and holiness grew and she received much attention and many visitors. Like all very holy persons, others wanted to be near her and be advised by her. Three of these later became popes: Marcellus II, Clement VII and Leo XI. Also among the illustrious who were drawn to Catherine were Cerveni, Alexander de Medici and Aldo Brandini. Catherine also corresponded with Philip Neri and through an apparent miracle while still alive, reportedly appeared to Philip while he was in Rome. After a long illness, Catherine went home to the Lord in 1589.

Lessons

During her life, Catherine experienced what is called the “Ecstasy of the Passion” every Thursday from noon until Friday at 4:00 p.m. This continued for 12 years.

Prayer

Father, we pray that St. Catherine will continue to influence people on earth to be great spiritual leaders just as she did while here among us. She inspired many people who in turn inspired many others. Give us the grace to die to ourselves, Lord, that we may be vessels, like Catherine, through whom you reach many. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Polyeucte (259), Roman officer

Sidelining Sadness: 3 Things to Remember When You’re Discouraged

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 18:51

If you have ever tried to build a piece of furniture, or anything for that matter, you know the feeling… you get done and look at your accomplishment and say, “That did not turn out quite like I expected.”  When I first started learning how to build furniture it happened all the time.  I went into projects with grand expectations, but later have to face a disappointing outcome.

This doesn’t just happen in woodworking…

I took a job for a company and in a place that I thought would be a great place to work and live with my family…it turns out the workplace is dysfunctional and the community can be rather unwelcoming.

There are other examples. I set up times to meet with other men in the area to foster a brotherhood where we can help motivate each other to strive for virtue, but work schedules change and the regular meetings fall by the wayside.

Or the most difficult of all, I try to live a marriage that is centered on the Lord and His Church by having regular prayer time and Mass together as a family.  Life with kids is anything but regular and Mass together feels more like herding cats into a dryer than being in the presence of Lord of life.

The feeling of disappointment is real and the effects can be dramatic.  Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands in the air wondering what is the point of it all.  The question that begins to go through my head is, “Lord, why did you lead me down this path only to bring me here?”  It can get pretty dark and sound strikingly similar to Job in the Old Testament, “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?…Remember that my life is like the wind, I shall not see happiness again.” (Job 7:1,7)

I was talking to a priest friend of mine and was telling him about these disappointments and frustrations and his response was, “sounds like you need to zoom out a bit.”  He explained that it is easy at times to have the camera lens of our life zoomed so far in on disappointments/frustrations that it nearly impossible to see the big picture.  He told me that I need to zoom out and get the wide angle view.  My next question was, “Well, how do I do that?”

We came up with three ideas to help “zoom out.”  Maybe they’ll help you see the big picture too:

  1. Start with Gratitude. I attempt to start everyday with a “thank you.” “Thank you for my wife.  Thank you for my kids.  Thank you for my job and the people that I meet at my job.  Thank you for my home.  Thank you for of the things that I need to do today.  Thank you Lord!”  This seemed kind of shallow and insincere when I first started it, but as I have continued to practice it I have found myself filled with more gratitude throughout the day.  Interestingly I also find that when I begin to slip in this practice I am more easily disappointed and frustrated.
  2. Have brothers/friends to help you see the big picture. It takes work to build friendships that you can “vent” to, but can also expect brotherly challenge and encouragement. The work is worth it.
  3. Look at things from my deathbed. This one may sound a little morbid, but hey we are in this battle for the long haul, which as a Christian means that we are in it for a haul that is even longer than death. This practice is helpful to me when I start to feel overwhelmed by life.  The kids are screaming. My wife is having a tough day and I find myself right in the middle of it.  My boss is giving me a correction that I do not think is my fault.  I try to think about these things from my deathbed.  How will I look back on these events?  In the end it only matters in so far as it will matter at that point and the moment shortly after when I hopefully see the Lord face to face.

If you are anything like me you search for wisdom or encouragement or something to help with disappointments and letdowns.  I’m not sure a simple tidbit is out there to cure the blues, but these small things have had a big impact for me by putting things in right order, beginning with my perception of reality.  If life has you down, maybe give them a shot.

Peace on the journey!

The post Sidelining Sadness: 3 Things to Remember When You’re Discouraged appeared first on Those Catholic Men.

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

Voluntary Attachments

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 02:35
Voluntary Attachments

Presence of God – O Lord, I place myself in Your presence, begging You to enlighten my soul so that I may see what are the obstacles to my union with You.

MEDITATION

“To be perfectly united to God by love and will, the soul must first be cleansed of all appetites of the will, even the smallest” (John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel I, 11,3). In the language of St. John of the Cross, appetites are disordered inclinations or affections for oneself or creatures, tendencies which are, according to their seriousness, more or less contrary to the divine will. God wishes us to love ourselves, as well as all created things, in the measure assigned by Him, with a view to His pleasure and not to our own selfish satisfaction. These inclinations or appetites always give rise to venial sins, or at least to deliberate imperfections, when one willingly yields to them, even though it be only in matters of slight importance. The will of the soul which freely assents to these failings, slight though they be, is stained by this opposition to the will of God; for this reason a perfect union cannot exist between its will and God’s. Moreover, if these imperfections become habitual and the soul does not try to correct them, they form a great obstacle to divine union; and according to St. John of the Cross, “they prevent not only divine union but also advancement in perfection” (ibid.). He gives a few examples of these unmortified “habitual imperfections”: the habit of talking too much, unrestrained curiosity, attachment to little things—whether persons or objects—such as food and so forth, which the soul refuses to give up. There is also the attachment to one’s comfort, to certain sensible satisfactions, little vanities, foolish self-complacency, attachment to one’s own opinion or reputation. There is a real mushroom-bed of “appetites” and disordered inclinations from which the soul will not free itself, precisely because it is attached to the meager selfish satisfaction which it finds in these wretched things. It is “attached” to them; that is why it cannot make the decision to give them up completely. These are precisely the “habitual voluntary appetites” of which St. John of the Cross says, “One single unmortified appetite is sufficient to fetter the soul” (ibid.).

On the other hand, when it is a question of imperfect inclinations arising solely from human weakness, of those which do not get beyond the stage of “first movements” in which the will has no part, “either before or after,” but rather tries to repress as soon as it notices them, “these do not prevent one from attaining divine union” (ibid., 11,2). It is the will that counts and it must be completely free from the slightest attachment.

COLLOQUY

“Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved Thee. Thou wert within me, and I looked outside; I sought Thee, and miserable as I was I longed for creatures, I was detained by the wonderful works of Thy hands. Thou wert with me, but I was not with Thee, though that which kept me far from Thee could exist only in Thee. Thou hast called and cried to me in my deafness. Thou hast shone as lightning, brilliant enough to drive away my blindness. Thou hast scattered Thy perfume; I breathed it, and now I sigh for Thee. I have tasted Thee, and now I hunger and thirst for Thee. Thou hast touched me, and I burn with desire for Thy peace” (St. Augustine, Confessions).

My God, give me the light necessary to recognize in myself all that keeps me from union with You. Grant me the light to recognize all the attachments which still bind me to creatures, and especially those which are most displeasing to You because they proceed directly from pride and self-love. In the secrecy of my heart You teach me sweetly and gently, You show me clearly that I am still far from conforming my will to Yours, in all things and for all things. I love and desire so many trifles, so many imperfections which You neither love nor desire because they are contrary to Your infinite perfection. Give me strength to wage a constant and courageous battle against them. You know, O Lord, that I have great need of Your help, for I am too attached to myself to be capable of struggling against my disordered affections, of giving up so many little pleasures which feed my egotism. I love myself too much to sacrifice what separates me from You. Then, let me present myself to You, O Lord, as a sick person to a surgeon; plunge the knife into my soul, cut away and destroy all that displeases You and that is not in accord with Your will.

+

Note from Dan: This post on voluntary attachments is provided courtesy of Baronius Press and contains 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 voluntary attachments: St. John of the Cross, Francisco de Zurbarán, 1656, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, 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.

 

|

|

 

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

When Jesus Asks: ‘What Are You Looking For?’

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 23:07

In context, it’s easy to miss the question.

Jesus is departing, after meeting his cousin John and being baptized by him. He notices two disciples following Him. Jesus turns around and asks what most people would in that situation: “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38).

What are you looking for? What are we looking for today?

The question jumps out at us when we reread the verse. Its position in the opening narrative of John is significant. Preceding it is John’s majestic prologue retelling the genealogy of Christ in cosmic terms, followed by the account of his earthly forerunner, John the Baptist, and concluding with the baptism of Jesus.

So the question Jesus poses to his disciples contains His first words in the entire gospel (as this commentator observes). It marks the very beginning of His ministry.

What are you looking for?

I propose that the entire gospel of John can, in a way, be read as a series of responses to this question.

Are you looking for bread, for the basic needs of life? Jesus is the bread (John 6:35).

In fact, Jesus has a very distinctive way of offering Himself up as the bread. Jesus doesn’t say He will provide bread. He doesn’t say He is like bread. He actually says, “I am the bread of life.” There are up to ten such ‘I am’ statements in the Gospel of John. Each of these can be read in a similar manner:

Are you looking for enlightenment? I am the light (John 8:12).

Are you looking for hope in the darkness of this world? I am the light of the world (John 8:12).

Are you looking for the way to live? I am the way. (John 14:6).

Are you looking for the truth? I am … the truth (John 14:6).

Are you looking for an abundance of life? I am … the life (John 14:6).

Are you looking for meaning in the face of death? I am the resurrection (John 11:25).

Are you hoping for life after death? I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).

Some of the other ‘I am’ statements must be read more metaphorically, but they nonetheless have meaning for us today.

A sense of belonging

In John 10:14, Jesus identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd. As Pope Benedict XVI notes in his book, Jesus of Nazareth, in the Greek the sheep are identified as belonging to the shepherd. But they belong not in the same way that a possession belongs to its owner. As Benedict explains,

The true shepherd does not ‘possess’ the sheep as if they were a thing to be used and consumed; rather, they ‘belong’ to him, in the context of their knowing each other, and this ‘knowing’ is an inner acceptance. It signifies an inner belonging that goes much deeper than the possession of things (Jesus of Nazareth, 281).

A desire for communion

A closely related set of images comes five chapters later, when Jesus declares Himself as the true vine with the Father as the vinedresser. This metaphor recalls the bridal imagery of Song of Songs and the Eucharistic wine, a recurrent theme of John. Together, these themes combine to drive home the message that just as Christ has identified Himself with humanity through the Incarnation so we in turn are called to unite ourselves with Him. As Jesus says in verse 4, Abide in me and I in you. (I’m again indebted to Pope Benedict’s treatment of this topic in Jesus of Nazareth, 248-263).

Deliverance from evil

In addition to being the shepherd, Jesus is also the gate to the sheepfold. In John 10, this imagery emphasizes the way in which Christ saves us from evil:

So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.

All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.

I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:7-10).

Here deliverance from evil is paired with its opposite: participation in the good, which Aristotle defined as ‘human flourishing.’ That is clearly promised here: ‘I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.’ (Another source for this section is this outline, which has a breakdown of additional possible spiritual meanings for the ‘I am’ statements.)

Seeking God

Ultimately, of course, what we should seek is God. The above ‘I am’ statements confirm that Jesus is the way to God and is God. These statements do this in a double move. First, they allude back to Exodus 3:14 where God reveals Himself as ‘I am Who I am’—self-existent Being. Second, they also set up a contrast between Jesus and the Egyptian God Isis, for whom a similar set of ‘I am’ statements existed. The point here is that Jesus is the true God, as opposed to the false God of Isis. (For a source on this, see this scholarly introduction to the New Testament.)

Jesus is the destination for all desire because He is God. Not all of us realize that the end of all our seeking is God, but one way or another, all paths lead to God. There is one way—Jesus—but there are many ways to Jesus.

Whatever you are seeking, whether the bare necessities of life, a sense of belonging and meaning, life after death, or the truth about the universe, the answer rests in Jesus, Who is God-made-man.

What are you looking for?

image: Tama66 via Pixabay / CC0 creative commons

The Church in India: A Conversation with Fr. Franklin Joseph Pottananickal

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 23:05

I recently had the opportunity to ask Fr. Franklin Joseph Pottananickal, of the Diocese of Kalyan in Mumbai (on the western coast of India, on the Arabian Sea), some questions about his faith and the situation of the Church in India. Fr. Franklin has traveled around the world, evangelizing through his media presence. He has celebrated Mass for EWTN, and is active on social media, including Twitter. May you be inspired by Fr. Franklin’s labors in the vineyard, serving the faithful of the Indian sub-continent!

1) Please briefly describe your faith journey, and how you came to discern a call to the priesthood. Also, what is your diocese, and what year were you ordained?

I belong to the Diocese of Kalyan, India. I was ordained on December 30, 2004. Growing up, my home was the closest house to the parish church. Therefore, there was a good relationship built with all of the parish priests. I was an altar boy since the time I received my First Holy Communion, and I was active in the pious associations for the children, such as the Sodality and Mission League. My closeness to the Church and friendships with the priests were the inspiring factors that began my journey of discerning my call to the priesthood.

2) In what specific ministerial capacities have you served as a priest?

I have worked as an associate parish priest, a parish priest, secretary to the bishop, chief editor of the Diocesan Bulletin, director of the Diocesan Youth Apostolate, and director of the Diocesan Department of Faith Formation. After these services in the Diocese, I pursued a Licentiate in Institutional Communication from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. At present, I am serving as the director of the Diocesan Media Department, public relations officer of the Diocese, and a parish priest.

3) What are your greatest joys about being a priest?

One of the most joyous moments in my life is being with the Lord in the Eucharist. It strengthens me to be with the faithful in every walk of their life.

4) What are some challenges that the Church in India faces?

The influential nature of multi-cultural and multi-religious contexts of society are one of the biggest challenges to the Church in India to continue her mission. Another challenge to the Church in India, since I am involved with media, is how to utilize the present media for the continuation of her mission.

5) What are some ways in which the Church in India is thriving?

In being a helping hand to the needy and providing a better life to the other. Today, the Church in India is becoming the voice of the voiceless, with a presence in every corner of the nation.

6) What advice do you have for young Catholics around the world?

God has blessed us with a life. The world is filled with lots of opportunities. Use the openings in life for the greater glory of God.

7) What is your perspective on the New Evangelization?

Today the world is looking for correct ideologies and guidelines. Therefore, witnessing the nature of our Catholic life can strengthen the process of the New Evangelization.

8) I tend to ask this same question in my interviews – what is your favorite scriptural passage, and why?

“Be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). God’s blessing has been bestowed on us in each moment of our life. Therefore, we are called to provide the same to others.

9) In what ways does being a disciple of Jesus Christ bring you joy?

I am thankful to him for making me instrumental in the hands of the Lord by providing happiness to others. The love, care, and friendship of the faithful makes my life more meaningful in each moment.

***

I thank Fr. Franklin for the chance to speak with him, and for his candid responses. Fr. Franklin’s service both within and beyond the continent of Asia are admirable. Hopefully, you will continue to follow his holy efforts – particularly via his media presence – in the interest of the New Evangelization.

image: Chennamkary St.Joseph’s Syro-Malabar Catholic Church By Civi.vm (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

St. Therese of Lisieux, Pope Benedict & The Miracle at Lourdes

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 23:02

On the night I arrived at Lourdes, I made my way to an English language Mass. Facing the Grotto on the far side of the river Gave was a modern church, concrete and ascetically uninspiring, however, within minutes of walking into its packed auditorium a voice called my name, and turning I saw some familiar faces.

It was a family I had known back in England. They were not vacationing at Lourdes, just passing through, staying over the border in Spain. They were not supposed to have attended that particular Mass but somehow their plans had derailed and had ended up there nonetheless. And so we were reunited.

Afterwards we retired to a restaurant overlooking the Gave. The hostelry was an excellent choice: the food, the wine, the setting – but there proved to be another facet of that evening much more memorable.

The family consisted of two married lawyers with three small boys. He Catholic, she nominally Anglican – I say ‘nominal’ because they were married in a Catholic Church, the boys were brought up Catholic and she had attended Holy Mass faithfully throughout her married life, but still, inexplicably, she was not Catholic. When we lived in the same parish, I watched as she had attempted instruction not once but twice, only for it all to fall apart, and then she had left London to settle with her husband and family in Surrey. And that was that, or so I thought.

Now, reunited again by the river at Lourdes, the same river on whose banks St. Bernadette had had her visions in 1858, slowly and deliberately what had happened next was recounted to me…

***

It had all started with a French woman. She had died young, just twenty-four years old, and one who had barely left her small provincial town in Normandy. Her name: Therese Martin – also known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, Doctor of the Church. Her relics came to England in the fall of 2009, and as part of that tour they arrived at a small town in Kent. Our friends decided to go on pilgrimage there, not easy with three boys varying in ages from ten to two years old and combined with a car ride for hours. Inevitably, when they reached the church there was a queue; standing in line, they waited their turn. Hot and tired, the boys became restive. Finally, the family entered the church and there before them was a small casket holding the relics of the Carmelite saint. Whatever the boys’ expectations, it was not this – it appeared an anti-climax. Their mother was having none of it though, and ordered them to kneel down and pray, which they did. And, with that, they made to leave, but as they did so a stranger approached the mother. He had watched it all, and aware of what she had endured and how she had reacted said the following to her:

‘You will be given a gift from God for what you have done today…’

In the fall of 2010, Pope Benedict arrived in the United Kingdom to a nation indifferent if not openly hostile. Nevertheless, come he did, and like another Roman of old: came, saw and conquered — only this time it was the hearts of the British that were won.

For that occasion the boys were bundled onto a train bound for London as the family made its way to Hyde Park for Benediction at which the Pope was to preside.  I was also present that evening, albeit in a different part of the park, but still remember it as a night like no other.  I watched the huge television screens in the park as, past rows of sneering protesters, the Pope travelled serenely towards us as expectancy grew amongst the Faithful then corralled into the park by a heavy police presence. At last when he arrived, there followed the rising of the Monstrance. And as we fell to our knees in adoration of the Holy Eucharist, all London seemed to fall silent as a strange hush descended at that moment upon the city. And, then, as suddenly as he had arrived, he was gone.

The Faithful made their way back to underground train stations past rows of taunting malcontents but the vitriol made little difference such was the supernatural sense of wonder now held in our hearts.  This sense was no more pronounced than with that young mother for she too had watched the Pope arrive and ascend to the park’s temporary altar; she had watched as the Monstrance was taken in his hands and held aloft to London and to the World – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, as real as He who had hung upon the Cross outside another city. She had contemplated this living catechesis present before her eyes, and, with it, her heart dissolved, and as it did so she heard herself say: ‘What am I waiting for?’

A day or so later, a presbytery door was being hammered on. Surprised, the priest opened it.

‘I want to become a Catholic.’

‘Well, we have the RCIA [program for instruction]…’

‘No!’

The woman standing on that doorstep went on to tell him of her years married to a Catholic, the years of faithfully attending Holy Mass with her family, and her two abortive attempts at instruction… No, she wanted to be received into the Church – the Body of Christ: the same Body that had called to her when raised high by the Vicar of Christ himself in Hyde Park.

The priest explained he needed time, at least a little, to sort out practical matters. Nevertheless, a date was set a few weeks hence when the woman was to be received into the Church.

The night before the ceremony, however, something odd occurred. As she reached out for her copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church a card fell from it. Picking it from the floor, she beheld the face of St. Therese staring back at her. It was then she remembered the cryptic words spoken to her when the previous fall she had venerated that saint’s relics. She gazed at the card, then a thought struck her and as it did she glanced up at the calendar…

The date that had been fixed for her reception was one year after that fateful pilgrimage.

***

By now night was falling at Lourdes, and as it did so bells started calling pilgrims to the evening procession at the shrine, and so we too made our way to the Grotto.

Later, as my friends and I walked together in procession with thousands of others – sick and well, disabled and healthy, old and young – with candles held aloft, and the prayer of the Rosary rising ever higher into the night sky, I began to understand anew: this was indeed a place of miracles, and with some more mysterious than others if all the more beautiful for that.

In the first reading James says that

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 23:00

In the first reading James says that our faith must be put to the test to strengthen it, that, when we ask for wisdom, we do so with great confidence, and that God favors the poor and the humble.

Indeed we should find trials to our faith as challenges to increase and strengthen our faith. And we should realize that the wisdom we need is a gift which God freely gives to those who ask. Jesus showed in his life his special care and love for the poor and those who humble themselves before God and people: “Fortunate are those who have the spirit of the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5: 3) “Whoever becomes lowly like this child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 18: 4)

In the Gospel reading, Jesus is disappointed, angry and exasperated with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. They refuse to hear what Jesus is teaching. They refuse to see the signs of his credentials in his many good works and miracles. Yet they insist on asking for a “sign.”

God gives us countless signs of his presence and love for us. Let us pray we are able to see and read them, unlike the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in the time of Jesus. We see God’s love and power in the many blessings we have received from him. We see his love and goodness in the goodness and generosity of so many people around us

May we see and be thankful for God’s continuing presence and blessings for us.

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.