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Longing for the Freedom Found Inside the Home

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 22:02

I was thirty-eight weeks pregnant and our entire department was being forced to watch a comedy sketch involving Twinkies. Suddenly actual Twinkies were being thrown at us, bouncing off cubicle walls, and I longed for the home, the baby, and the domestic realm—enough of team-building exercises and staff pep talks. That freedom G.K. Chesterton wrote about sounded like a promised land to me:

I would give a woman not more rights, but more privileges. Instead of sending her to seek such freedom as notoriously prevails in banks and factories, I would design specially a house in which she can be free.
— G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong World

The very next day, I went into labor.

I became a mother and quit my job. And somewhere between the elation of giving birth and the first weeks at home with a newborn, I thought of Chesterton’s words again. Only this time I was pretty sure prisoners had more freedom than mothers. They got more sleep. They didn’t have to cook meals one-handed, and they had the privilege of eating their food warm. They had time to read.

I have now been “free” for four years. Would it be more “freeing” to catch a bus downtown and work in an office all day? In many ways it would. There wouldn’t be the unrelenting questions, the diapers, the discipline that begins when I am woken up by a child and ends when they finally fall asleep. I could leave at the end of the day—just walk right out the door. I could even quit. There would be weekends.

I have worked jobs that I thoroughly enjoyed, jobs where I felt I was “making a difference.” But motherhood has changed me.

When I worked in an Ethiopian orphanage, that choice was lauded by strangers, friends, and coworkers as an incredible sacrifice. But nothing could have made me happier than boarding a plane to Africa with a one-way ticket. To me that was freedom.

I am not always thrilled with the freedom inside the home. There’s always running water and electricity, but patience and fortitude run out regularly.

Expectations are high, failure happens on a daily basis, and some days real freedom comes only with the end of the day, a prayer that tomorrow will be better, and falling asleep.

As a mother, I’m no longer pelted with Twinkies, but regularly deflect blocks and stuffed animals. Pep talks are more nuanced, even brilliant, as they occur, not under the fluorescent lights of an office building, but during Mass and concern the soul and the love of God—not the almighty dollar. The stakes are higher, for they have an eternal dimension for myself, my husband, and our children. This is not a job; it is a vocation.

I am free—to love in abundance and sacrifice for the least of these: the unborn child in the womb and the crying ones in my arms. On any given day (sometimes hourly), there is another opportunity to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, counsel the doubtful, and admonish the sinner—days, nights, and years spent practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, the means of grace. There is certainly abundant freedom, but it is less freedom from something and more freedom to do something and to become some one who is willing to serve and sacrifice, joyfully and abundantly, for another.

Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.
—Saint Ignatius of Loyola

image: Procession on Woodstock Road by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr 

Jesus preached and performed many

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 22:00

Jesus preached and performed many miracles in Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida in Galilee. But very few received his message and repented, despite his many great deeds.

We may no longer worship false gods and images, as the ancient Greeks and Romans did; but we do have many gods in our lives- money and success, power and prestige, the approval of others and our own self-esteem, sex and drugs – the list goes on. The evil one is very good in turning what may be good in itself into idols to replace God in our lives. In pursuing these, we may be shutting out the voice and values of Christ in our lives.

Despite the many good things and talents God has given us, we can forget about him in our pursuit of these false gods and values. We can be so attached to our own will and “success” that we forget God’s will and values.

“Let nothing disturb you, nothing cause

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 22:00

“Let nothing disturb you, nothing cause you fear. All things pass; God is unchanging. patience obtains all. Whoever has God needs nothing else; God alone suffices.”

~St. Theresa of Avila, from Saintly Solutions to Life’s Common Problems

St. Arsenius

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 22:00

Although there is some question about his early life, it seems that St. Arsenius was born in Rome around the year 354, became a deacon, and later tutor to the sons of the Emperor Theodosius I of Constantinople. He lived at court amid great wealth and pomp, had splendid apartments, rich clothes, and a host of servants. After ten years of this kind of life, Arsenius began to feel the need to renounce the world and flee to the desert. It is said that he heard a voice saying, “Arsenius, flee the company of men, and thou shalt be saved.”

Around the year 400, Arsenius joined the desert monks at Skete; later he went to Canopus and Troe. He lived the most austere of lives, performed penances, and prayed unceasingly. When told that he had been left a legacy by a relative who was a senator, he refused it saying, “I died eleven years ago and cannot be his heir.” When Arsenius did indeed die, he was 95 years old.

Lessons

St. Arsenius left us with forty-four maxims and moral anecdotes. His sayings give us much food for thought:

Asked one day why he, a learned man, sought the advice of a monk who had no education, he replied, “I am not unacquainted with the learning of the Greeks and the Romans; but I have not yet learned the alphabet of the science of the saints, whereof this seemingly ignorant Egyptian is master.”

Again, when asked why many uneducated Egyptians seemed to make more progress in the ways of virtue than educated men, Arsenius answered, “We make no progress because we dwell in that exterior learning which puffs up the mind; but these illiterate Egyptians have a true sense of their own weakness, blindness, and insufficiency; and by that very thing they are qualified to labor successfully in the pursuit of virtue.”

Employed as many of the monks were in making mats of palm leaves, Arsenius never changed the water in which he moistened the leaves, allowing it to become fetid. He claimed, “I ought to be punished by this smell for the self-indulgence with which I formerly used perfumes.”

His abbot once asked him why he so much shunned the company of the other monks. The saint answered, “God knows how dearly I love you all; but I find I cannot be both with God and with men at the same time; nor can I think of leaving God to converse with men.”

Although St. Arsenius did give spiritual instruction to many of his brethren, he often said, “I have always something to repent for after having talked, but have never been sorry for having been silent.”

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Vincent de Paul (Extrordinary form), Priest and Founder of the Vincentians, Patron of all charitable societies

Prepare Your Heart to Pray

Mon, 07/17/2017 - 22:07

Prayer is, as it were, being alone with God. A soul prays only when it is turned toward God, and for so long as it remains so. As soon as it turns away, it stops praying. The preparation for prayer is thus the movement of turning to God and away from all that is not God. That is why we are so right when we define prayer as this movement. Prayer is essentially a “raising up,” an elevation. We begin to pray when we detach ourselves from created objects and raise ourselves up to the Creator.

Now, this detachment is born when we clearly realize our nothingness. That is the real meaning of our Lord’s words: “He that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” His whole life was a continual abasement, always more and more profound. St. Bernard does not hesitate to say that such an abasement brings us face-to-face with God. Hence the peace of souls that have fallen, when, raised up by God, they find themselves in His presence. And it is precisely in their abasement, once they have recognized and admitted it, that they find Him, because it is there that He reveals Himself. The only thing that prevents Him from doing so is our “self.” When we own to our nothingness, this “self” is broken down, and once that happens, the mirror is pure, and God can produce own image in the soul, which then faithfully reproduces His features that are revealed in all their harmony and perfect beauty.

This article is from “The Prayer of the Presence of God.” Click image to preview or order.

This is what our Lord meant in that vital passage in the Sermon on the Mount, and what all human considerations on prayer repeat endlessly but without arriving at its full splendor: “But thou, when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber and, having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret.” Enter this sacred chamber of your soul and there, having closed the door, speak to your Father, who sees you in these secret depths, and say to Him, “Our Father, who art in Heaven. . . .” This intimate presence; your faith in Him who is the secret depth of it and gives Himself there; the silence toward all that is not God in order to be all to Him — here is the preparation for prayer.

It is obvious that we do not reach such a state of soul without being prepared for it by quite a combination of circumstances. And this is just what we do not know sufficiently in practice. The way to prepare for prayer is by leading a divine life, and prayer, after all, is that divine life. Everything that reproduces God’s image in us; everything that raises us beyond and above created things; every sacrifice that detaches us from them; every aspect of faith that reveals the Creator to us in creatures; every movement of true and disinterested love making us in unison with the Three in One — all this is prayer and prepares us for a still more intimate prayer. All this makes real the divine word of the Sermon on the Mount and the dual movement it recommends: shut the door and pray to thy Father. When He spoke thus, the divine Word showed that He knew our being and its laws. He revealed Himself as our Creator and made Himself our Redeemer. He showed that He made us and that He alone can remake us.

We do not suffice to ourselves; we have not in us that which can complete us; we need to be completed. I know I am putting it badly when I say that this complementing thing is not in us. Actually, it is in within us, but it is in a part of us that is, as it were, outside of us. In us, as in God, there are “many mansions.” God is within us in the depths of our soul, but by sin we no longer occupy those depths. When Eve looked at the forbidden fruit and stretched out her hand to take it and eat it, she went out of those secret depths in her soul. It was these depths that were the real terrestrial paradise, where God visited our first parents and spoke to them. Since the Fall, God is in us, but we are not!

The preparation for prayer consists in returning to those depths. Renunciation, detachment, recollection — whatever word we use, the reality is the same, and that reality is the true secret of prayer. Close the door and enter. . . . It needs only these two phrases to explain this, but in reality they are only one thing. They represent a movement, for all that unites us to God is movement. The words are related to two “terms,” or ends. If we speak of the terminus a quo (that is, from), they say (and they do what they say): Close. If we think of the terminus ad quem (that is, to), they say: Enter. We have to close the door on all that is not, and enter into HIM WHO IS. There you have the secret of all prayer.

Enter your “inner chamber”

God is a brazier of love. Prayer brings us near to Him, and in coming near to Him, we are caught by His fire. The soul is raised by the action of this fire, which is a kind of spiritual breath that spiritualizes it and carries it away. The soul frees itself from all that weighs it down, keeping it attached to this wearisome earth. The psalmist compares this breath to incense. Now, incense is a symbol universally known and exceptionally rich. But from all the substances that fire penetrates under the form of flame or heat, there follows a movement by which it spreads, causing it to increase by communicating itself to all that surrounds it.

The movement of the soul that prays has something special about it. It goes out from itself and yet remains in itself. It passes from its natural state to its supernatural state; from itself in itself to itself in God. At first glance, these expressions may seem strange. The mystery is not in the realities but in our understanding of them. Our mind is not used to these realities; we have to become accustomed to them.

Our soul is a dwelling with many apartments. In the first, it is there with the body; that is to say, with all the body’s sensitiveness.

It sees when the eye sees, hears when the ear hears. It moves with the muscles; it remembers, imagines, and appreciates distances, when we take part in all the activities that are the common ground of its action with the body. In the second, the soul is alone and acts alone. The body is there — it is always there — but it no longer acts; it has no part in the soul’s action. The soul alone thinks and loves. The body with its senses prepares the matter and elements, the conditions of this spiritual activity, but it has no part in producing it. That room is closed; the soul is there alone and dwells there alone.

In that spiritual dwelling there is a part still more remote. It is the dwelling-place of being, who communicates Himself and makes us to “be.” We are so accustomed to live turned outward (and objects of sense keep us so turned), we hardly ever open the door of that chamber, and scarcely give it a glance; many die without ever suspecting its existence. Men ask, “Where is God?” God is there — in the depths of their being — and He is there communicating being to them. They are not HIM WHO IS and who gives being to all other things. They receive being; they receive a part of being that does not depend upon themselves. They receive it for a certain time and under certain forms. And from His “beyond” God gives them existence. They exist only by His power and are only what He enables them to be. He is at the source of all they do and, no matter how much they may desire to continue those activities, they cannot do so if He is not there. To understand this, we have to think a great deal, and reflection — perhaps the highest form human act can take — has given place to exterior action and to local movement, both of which are common to animals and matter.

The soul that prays enters into this upper room. It places itself in the presence of that Being who gives Himself, and it enters into communication with Him. To communicate means to have something in common and, by this common element, to be made one. We touch, we speak, we open out to one another. Without this “something,” we remain at a distance; we do not “communicate.” God is love. We enter into communication with Him when we love, and in the measure of our love. The soul that loves and that has been introduced by Love into that dwelling-place where Love abides can speak to Him. Prayer is that colloquy. God will not resist that love which asks. He has promised to do the will of those who do His will.

It is to love that is due these divine communications which have drawn from those happy recipients the most amazing exclamations. “Lord, stay, I beg you, the torrent of your love. I can bear no more.” The soul, submerged and ravished, has fainted under the weight of these great waters and has asked to be allowed to take breath for an instant, in order the better to renew its welcome. The anchorite in the desert, when he prayed, had to forbear extending his arms, so as not to be rapt in his prayer. St. Mary the Egyptian, St. Francis of Assisi, were raised up from the ground and remained upheld by a power greater than the weight of their body.

Editor’s note: This article has been excerpted from The Prayer of the Presence Godwhich is available from Sophia Institute Press

The Groaning of the Christian Life

Mon, 07/17/2017 - 22:05

Our Lord Jesus Christ used the image of a woman in labor to speak to His disciples of the imminent grief and joy that they would experience from His Passion and the arrival of the Holy Spirit: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy. When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.” (Jn 16:20-21) As certain as the labor pains are for the woman in labor, so is the joy of new life that comes after the pain.

The woman in labor can only experience of the joy of the new life to come by embracing and enduring the labor pains of the present moment. Likewise, the disciples will never know the joy of the Resurrected life of the Spirit without embracing the pains of the present moment. The Christian life is the new life of Christ within us by the power of the Spirit and this life is meant to grow through the trials and pains of life, striving to be brought to perfection and maturity in the life to come. On its journey to glory, the Christian life is one of constant struggle to do and to endure many things so that word of life grows within us.

St. Paul reminds the Romans in today’s Second Reading that because of this new life that we have now, we are certain that “the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared to the glory that is to be revealed for us.” He then uses the same image of the woman in labor to depict the spiritual life: “We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.”

Today’s Gospel shows us three ways in which the Christian groans today so as to enter into the joy of new life tomorrow. First, there is the groaning that arises from our constant struggle to grow in our faith and to withstand temptations from the devil: “The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.” The evil one targets the new life of grace in us to destroy it by making us lose our faith in what Jesus Christ has done for us and our new status as God’s beloved children called and equipped for holiness now and eternal glory in the life to come. This is why those who have the new life of Christ are constantly tempted by the devil.

Secondly, there is the groaning that comes from the trials and persecutions of the world, “The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy…But when some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.” We do not find joy by turning back or by compromise with the world when persecuted but by our perseverance through it all, “You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”(Mt 10:22)

Lastly, there is the groaning that comes from that constant struggle to resist anxiety from worldly desires, “The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.” We groan as we strive to keep our hearts grounded in God and His love for us and not in earthly things and pleasures.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, when we face those nagging temptations that we cannot break free from, when we are unjustly treated, persecuted, or face trials, when our future looks bleak or hopeless, it is so easy for us to think that we have been abandoned by God or to think that we are facing divine punishment for our sins. On the contrary, these things come our way because we have this new life of the Spirit within us. This new life must grow, mature, and be made visible by the things that we do and endure through the trials and hardships of life. We are no strangers to the groaning and anguish of the Christian life even as we have the certain hope of eternal life to come.

We must recall that the entire life of Jesus was one of groaning and pain. King Herod persecuted Him before He spoke a single word and caused Him to flee into Egypt as an infant. Jesus would later summarize his entire life in these words, “There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished.”(Lk 12:50) Even His prayers were not lacking in that anguish of heart, “In the days when He was in the flesh, He offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save Him from death.”(Heb 5:7) He entered His Passion in the Garden of Gethsemane with this anguished heart, “My soul is sorrowful even to death.”(Mk 14:34) All this anguish was His because He alone is “The Way, the Truth and the Life,” bearing that life of communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit and He desired to bring this life to fruition and communicate it to us by His death and Resurrection. He faced the groans of the present for the sake of the new life to be manifested in us in the future, “For the sake of the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross.”(Heb 12:2) How then can we bear the life of Christ Jesus within us and still hope to be free from the groaning of a new life that grows and matures in a world of pains and temptations?

Our Lord Jesus knew our weakness, reluctance, and fright to embrace the groaning of the new life. That is why He gave us His own mother Mary at the cross to be our own spiritual mother too. Mary is that “rich soil” who bears the greatest fruit, Jesus Christ, in all conditions of her earthly life. She received the Word Himself by her immense faith. She is the New Eve, the woman of Genesis, who has the power and the mission from God to crush the head of the devil. Mama Mary is the one who shared so deeply in the suffering of Christ throughout all the mysteries of His life, groaning with Him till His last breath on the cross so that His life may be in us too. In short, she is our Mother who continues to labor today to nurture the life of Christ in us. Mary has been tested and trusted to help us in our groaning as we grow in the life of Christ. She did not disappoint the Father who gave her His only begotten Son and she will never disappoint us too if we take her as our Mother, advocate, exemplar, and guide in the Christian journey.

Our Eucharist is always an encounter with Jesus Christ, who never ceases to sow His words of life in our hearts. Temptations, trials, tribulations and worldly anxieties may have quenched His words in our lives in the past because we were reluctant to groan as these seeds grew in us. But Jesus continues to sow His seeds of new life in us. Let us never strop striving today to let this seed of new life grow within us continuously even as we groan now so that we will experience the joy of the Lord to come.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

Jesus Our Healer

Mon, 07/17/2017 - 22:02

One of the principal activities that Jesus exercised in His Public Life was that of Healer! Jesus, the Healer, the Divine Physician of our lives came into a wounded, suffering, broken world.

Recognition

There is no way any one us can be healed unless we first recognize that we are wounded and in dire need of healing. The Spanish have a saying: “No hay peor ciego que no que ver; no hay peor sordo, que aquel que no quiere oir.” Translation: “There is no worse blind man than the one who does not want to see; no worse deaf man than the one who does not want to hear.”  Sad to say, many of us are willfully blind and deaf, and we fail to admit this reality!

Jesus Healed the Wounded Who Trusted in Him

Time and time again in the Gospels we witness Jesus healing the sick, the diseased, and the wounded. However, there were conditions! They were especially two: recognition of their wounded state, accompanied with a limited trust that Jesus the Divine Physician could heal them.

For our meditation, let’s look at a few examples. The Blind Bartimeus—to whom Jesus gave sight to his eyes when he implored the Lord in humility and trust: Lord I want to see!

Then, there is the woman with the bleeding or hemorrhage. Her desire for healing and her faith in Jesus was so great that she believed if she only could touch the hem of His garment, she would be healed. Her healing was immediate corresponding to her faith.

The Centurion’s servant was healed due to one thing: the faith of the Centurion. This healing was spectacular. The faith of the Centurion was so great that he felt himself unworthy for Jesus to enter his home. However, if Jesus would only utter a word, a mere word, the Centurion trusted that his servant would indeed be healed. And so it happened! Jesus healed the servant from a distance by His word alone. Of course this healing depended on the limitless faith of the Centurion, who was not even a man of the Jewish faith.

There are so many examples of Jesus healing, but one more: the paralytic carried on the mat. This case is interesting because the healing came about by team effort. Obviously the paralytic could not move by himself and thus had to be moved by his friends. We do not have the number, but maybe four. In any case, all five trusted that Jesus, the Divine Physician, could heal this paralytic. The house where Jesus was engaged in preaching was packed to the gills. Unable to enter through the front door, with incredible ingenuity, the friends decided to cut an opening through the roof (we can only imagine the reaction of the owner of the house!) and lower him through the roof towards Jesus. Rejoicing immensely at the creativity, persistence, and perseverance of these men, Jesus said the man’s sins were forgiven, and then Jesus healed him of his physical condition of paralysis. Once again, healing came about through faith, confidence, and in this case perseverance.

What about us? Do we recognize that we’re wounded? Jesus earnestly desires to heal all of us, not in a crowd, but individually. However, this all depends on our willingness to admit that we are wounded, as well as having total confidence in Jesus the Healer, Jesus the Divine Physician.

Spiritual Wounds

Among all of the wounds that we experience, spiritual or moral wounds are the most serious; these are the wounds that are present in the very depths of our souls.

The very origin of these wounds goes back to the first fall that we call Original Sin. Due to Original Sin all of us are wounded in mind, in soul, and even in body due to sicknesses. Only Jesus and Mary did not have this original wound. Jesus because was God; He was the “Holy of holies”. Mary was preserved due to a unique privilege that we call The Immaculate Conception.

JESUS AWAITS US, TO HEAL US OF OUR MORAL WOUNDS, OUR MORAL SICKNESSES. The arms of Jesus are open, we see this from the cross, to heal us of our moral wounds.

The Father of the Prodigal Son (Lk. 15) is waiting with his arms wide open to receive us home, irrespective of the many times we might have failed. Saint Paul reminds us: Where sin abounds, the mercy of God abounds all the more. (Rom 5:20)

When is the Time?

Now is the time, now is the hour of salvation. The wounds of your soul can be healed as soon as you desire! This can happen today. God calls you now; better not put it off until tomorrow because, to be honest, tomorrow may not come. Who knows if we will have a tomorrow? That depends upon God’s providential will!

But how may we be healed? Jesus heals in many ways. However, morally and spiritually Jesus heals through the Church which is His Mystical Body. To be more specific, Jesus heals through the Sacraments, and most specifically through the Sacrament of Confession, sometimes called Penance, other times called Reconciliation, in which we experience His Infinite Mercy, a mercy that cannot even be described by words.

Why not head off to the Church that is nearest to you and seek out that little booth that we call the Confessional. Seek out a priest and ask him if he can hear your confession. Even if you do not remember the Act of Contrition, even though you do not remember the protocol or exact method, still go and simply ask the priest to lead you through the process, and he will be more than willing to help you through it all. Then after you have finished confessing your sins, you will hear these words of Jesus speaking through the priest, the wonderful and all-consoling words of Absolution: And I absolve you of your sins; go in peace!

In that moment, once again, as in the Gospels, Jesus is healing, and it all depends upon your trust and your faith that the Divine Physician can heal you. As Jesus healed 2000 years ago, He still can heal today, if we place our trust, our faith, our confidence in His might and His words!

image: By Diana Ringo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 at], via Wikimedia Commons

Jesus preached and performed many

Mon, 07/17/2017 - 22:00

Jesus preached and performed many miracles in Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida in Galilee. But very few received his message and repented, despite his many great deeds.

We may no longer worship false gods and images, as the ancient Greeks and Romans did; but we do have many gods in our lives- money and success, power and prestige, the approval of others and our own self-esteem, sex and drugs – the list goes on. The evil one is very good in turning what may be good in itself into idols to replace God in our lives. In pursuing these, we may be shutting out the voice and values of Christ in our lives.

Despite the many good things and talents God has given us, we can forget about him in our pursuit of these false gods and values. We can be so attached to our own will and “success” that we forget God’s will and values.

Let us heed the warning of Jesus in the Gospel reading, that we may discern God and his actions in our lives, repent and keep his commandments,

“Our Lord does not come down from

Mon, 07/17/2017 - 22:00

“Our Lord does not come down from Heaven every day to lie in a golden ciborium. He comes to find another heaven which is infinitely dearer to Him—the heaven of our souls.”

-St. Therese of Lisieux, Mornings with St. Therese

St. Frederick

Mon, 07/17/2017 - 22:00

St. Frederick, grandson of King Radbon of the Frisians, was educated by the clergy of the church of Utrecht, and later became a priest known for his great piety and learning. He was placed in charge of instructing catechumens and was eventually elected Bishop of Utrecht around the year 825.

The new bishop at once began to put his diocese in order and sent St. Odulf and other missionaries into the northern parts to dispel the paganism which still existed there. For himself, Frederick reserved the most difficult territory, Walcheren, an island belonging to the Netherlands which was rampant with incestuous marriages. He worked unceasingly to eradicate this evil and brought countless penitents back to God.

During this same period, Frederick was told of immoralities committed by the Empress Judith. The saintly bishop went to the court with the purpose of admonishing her with charity, but only succeeded in incurring the Empress’ ill will.

On July 18, 838, after Frederick had celebrated Mass and was about to make his thanksgiving in a side chapel, he was stabbed by two assassins. He died a few minutes later, reciting the psalm “I will praise the Lord in the land of the living.” One theory claims that the assassins were sent by the Empress in revenge; more likely, however, is that they were sent by some inhabitants of Walcheren who deeply resented the bishop’s evangelization efforts in their territory.

St. Frederick composed a prayer to the Blessed Trinity which for centuries was used in the Netherlands. The reputation of his sanctity appears in a poem in praise of his virtues by Blessed Rabanus Maurus, his contemporary.

Lessons

1. Correcting others with charity is not something most people enjoy doing; however we have our Lord’s admonition to do so in the Gospel of Matthew: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault….” Let us ask Christ for the grace to know when to speak and when to keep silent, and like St. Frederick, not to be afraid of possible retribution when we do speak the truth.

2. Paganism and incest sound like sins of the past that have no bearing today. While they may not worship gods of stone and wood, many today still worship the gods of fame, power, and wealth. Incest may not be as common, but unspeakable sins of the flesh are still rampant. Let us pray to St. Frederick for help in eradicating these evils from our lives and the lives of those around us.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Camillus de Lellis (1614), Priest, Founder, Patron of the sick and nurses

St. Symphorosa and her 7 sons (120), Martyrs

God’s Infinite Goodness

Mon, 07/17/2017 - 02:35
God’s Infinite Goodness

Presence of God – O my God, You alone are good; deign to clothe me with Your goodness!

MEDITATION

When Moses asked God to show him His glory, God replied: “I will show thee all good” (cf Exodus 33:19 [Douay-Rheims]), as if to say that His glory is infinite goodness, the good that He possesses in such plenitude that all good is in Him and no good exists independently of Him. God possesses good, not because He has received it from anyone, but because He Himself is, by His nature, the sovereign good, because His Being is infinite goodness. If creatures are good, they are so, only because God has communicated to them a little of His goodness. Of itself, the creature cannot even exist, therefore it cannot possess any good of its own. That is why Jesus said to the young man who had called Him “Good Master,” “Why callest thou Me good? None is good but one, that is God” (Mark 10:18). Not even Jesus, as man, possessed goodness as His own; but He possessed it only because the divine nature, which was hypostatically united to His human nature, communicated it to Him. Only of God can it be said that He is good, in the sense that He is goodness itself, that goodness belongs to Him by nature, as divinity belongs to Him by nature; and just as it is impossible for His divinity to be lessened, so it is impossible for His goodness to be lessened. Heaven, earth, and the ages will pass away, but the goodness of God will never pass away. Man’s wickedness may accumulate sin upon sin, evil upon evil, but over all, God’s goodness will remain unchangeable. The shadow of evil will not mar it; instead, God who is always benevolent, will bend over the evil to change it into good, and to draw a greater good from it. Thus infinite Goodness stooped over man, the sinner, and made an immensely superior good come from Adam’s fall: the redemption of the world through the Incarnation of His only-begotten Son. This is the distinctive character of God’s goodness: to will the good, only the good, even to the point of drawing good from evil.

COLLOQUY

“If a soul understood Your goodness, O God, it would be moved to work with all its strength to correspond to it; it would run quickly to meet You who are pursuing it and entreating, ‘Open to Me, My friend!’

“What advantage does a soul receive from understanding Your goodness? The advantage of being clothed with Your goodness. Oh! if we would only open our eyes and see how great it is! But sometimes we are blind and do not see. The precious Blood of Christ is the only remedy which can open, not only our eyes, but also our heart, and make our soul understand the immensity of God’s goodness…. O my God, You reveal Your infinite goodness to me as a great river flowing over the earth, into whose waters all creatures are immersed and nourished like the fish in the sea. I am absorbed in the contemplation of this great river; but when I look around and see human malice so opposed to Your goodness, I grieve exceedingly. O infinite Goodness, my soul desires to honor You in two ways; first by praise—recounting Your splendors, thanking You, blessing You unceasingly for all the gifts and graces You are always bestowing, and narrating all Your grandeurs; and then by my works—not spoiling Your image in me, but keeping it pure and spotless as You created it from the beginning” (cf. St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).

“O Lord, I want to trust always in Your goodness which is greater than all the evil we can do. When, with full knowledge of ourselves, we desire to return to friendship with You, You remember neither our ingratitude nor our misuse of the favors You have granted us. You might well chastise us for these sins, but You make use of them only to forgive us the more readily, just as You would forgive those who have been members of Your household, and who, as they say, have eaten of Your bread. See what You have done for me, who wearied of offending You before You ceased forgiving me. You are never weary of giving and never can Your mercies be exhausted: let us not grow weary of receiving” (Teresa of Jesus, Life, 19).

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Note from Dan: This post on God’s infinite goodness 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 God’s infinite goodness: Ecstacy of St Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, attributed to Alessandro Rosi, circa 1670, PD-US author’s term of 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, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, and his newest books Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep and Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux. 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 and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN’s Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

 

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

What It Means That God Is Pure Act

Sun, 07/16/2017 - 22:07

On its face, the traditional doctrine that God is pure act —actus purus— may seem strange.

First, in colloquial terms, we don’t usually think of God as being active when considered in Himself. Even in relation to creation, God’s power is such that He merely says the word and it is so. After all, God created the whole world merely by speaking and it was so, as Genesis tells us.

The modifier pure can throw us off too. How could God be purely act? In our world, nothing is pure act. I walk over to a chair, but there is more to me than the act of walking—a lot more.

The traditional doctrine cannot be understood apart from the classical distinction between potentiality and actuality in the philosophy of Aristotle. The contrast with potentiality helps us get to the meaning of actuality. Here the technical meaning is the same as the ordinary one: something that is potential is simply something that has not yet come to be.

To borrow one example, the wood of a tree is a potential table, chair, or house. Some kind of change or motion is necessary to bring the wood from a potential table to an actual table.

This explanation makes it clear why it would be wrong to speak of potentiality in the context of God. God is not potentially God. He is actually God. Put another way: one of the traditional teachings about God is that He is eternally unchanging. To change normally means that something is either corrupted and declines or is perfected. Wood rots and ceases to become a table. And, conversely, a loose pile of wood is perfected into a table.

Were God to experience either kind of change then He would not be God. If He declined, He would become less than what He is, no longer God. And conversely were we to say that He was perfected we would be claiming that He had not been previously perfect and therefore not God. Both would be heretical positions.

There are at least two other reasons God must be pure act.

First, everything in created reality passes from potentiality to actuality. In order to bring things from potentiality to actuality some act is necessary. The action of a carpenter is needed to craft potential wood into an actual table. But this means at the very beginning of things there must have been some ‘primal act’ to bring every other thing from potentiality to actuality, according to St. Thomas Aquinas. This should ring familiar: it’s essentially another way of restating the Unmoved Mover argument for the existence of God.

The second reason has to do with the infinity of God. This means that He comprehends “in Himself all the plentitude of perfection of all being,” according to Aquinas. There is nothing he could gain that He does not already have. Nor is there any place He could be moved to that He does not already fill, Aquinas says.

And it is precisely here that the immediate relevance of this doctrine becomes apparent.

One critic of the classical doctrine, an evangelical writer, says that for us potential is a positive thing. “For example, part of what makes us consider humans to have more value than (say) cattle is that humans have far more potential to do positive things than cattle do,” this writer says.

But this writer has it all backwards. It is precisely God as pure act that makes possible all potentiality for us. Remember, Aquinas’ point that some initial act is necessary to bring a thing from potentiality to actuality. For Aquinas God is that pure, initial, eternal act. God is the one who, as pure act, makes possible all possibility for us.

This doctrine also has ramifications for how we understand God’s intervention in our world. We all pray and yearn for God to ‘act’ in our lives in some way. When God does ‘act’ within His creation He is not undergoing any change in His being. He has not suddenly gone from being potentially merciful to being actually so. Rather, His ‘action’ in our world merely manifests His ongoing eternal actuality.

Of course, sometimes the sought-after intervention is not apparent. We might pray that someone is healed. Instead, they get sicker. We might pray that for help in making ends meet. Instead, our financial situation worsens.

The doctrine that God is pure act means, in a sense, that God has not stopped being loving, kind, compassionate, merciful or wise. He is always these things. He never goes from being potentially compassionate to being compassionate. He is always actually compassionate. So it is with His goodness, His awareness of our needs, and His knowledge of where our lives are headed.

This means that the best response to God’s apparent inaction in response to our prayers is to draw yet closer to Him in His very being—because He is already acting on our behalf. We may not know or understand why God’s actions are not manifest to us, but we can rest assured that God does know and understand.

St. Zélie Martin and Overcoming Grief in Hope

Sun, 07/16/2017 - 22:05

This morning I went to a funeral Mass. It was the first funeral Mass I’ve gone to since Gabriel’s (the little one I miscarried last year). Sadly, it was a funeral for a baby – a little girl who had Trisomy 18 and was born still.

Her funeral Mass was absolutely beautiful, and imbued with the hope of the resurrection. In her mother’s eyes,I saw a grief I know all too well — the grief of losing a baby you loved and longed for.

I have long loved St. Therese of Lisieux, and been fascinated by her family. The focus of their whole family was heaven. In The Story of a Soul, Therese’s autobiography, the number of times she refers to her hope of heaven is striking. What is even more striking is the fact that, for Therese’s entire life, she and her family were almost constantly talking about heaven.

When I became a mother, I wondered at this. I could hope for heaven, my husband could…but how could we nurture this kind of longing for heaven in our children? How could we make heaven so real for them that it was part of our daily reality and conversations?

Then, we lost Gabriel.

Suddenly, our children were faced with the reality of death. I get very sick during pregnancy, due to hyperemesis gravidarum, so we told our older daughters we were expecting very early. From the beginning, they talked to the baby, kissed my stomach, and told baby they loved him or her. We couldn’t hide the loss of their baby sibling. Our toddler was confused, and our five year old was devastated.

At the funeral this morning, the memories came rushing back – the tiny white casket, visiting the funeral home and cemetery to make arrangements, planning a burial and a funeral instead of preparing for a birth and a baptism party. And, of course, the siblings – the little ones who are missing their baby sibling, yet instinctively looking to the hope of heaven which has been instilled in them from the cradle.

Hanging on our bedroom wall is a beautiful print that a friend gave to me after losing Gabriel, with the simple quote, “We shall find our little ones again up above.” The quote is from St. Zelie Martin, the mother of St. Therese.

In addition to raising five daughters who grew up to become nuns (one who is canonized and one – Leonie – on the road to canonization), St. Zelie and St. Louis also had several little ones they lost as infants or young children. It was not uncommon for children not to survive infancy or childhood at the time, but what was remarkable was how the Martin family viewed those losses.

The four children they lost were as much a part of the Martin family as their living children. (There have been some beautiful icons depicting the entire Martin family – with all nine of their children, released since their beatification.) This awareness was so instilled in their living children that her brothers and sisters in heaven were an instrumental part of St. Therese’s vocation story.

St. Therese’s siblings had died before her birth, but she had often been reminded of their role as family intercessors. When struggling to grow in holiness, St. Therese shares that she asked her older siblings in heaven to pray for her. She was confident that they pitied their younger sister in her earthly struggles.

I recently gave birth to a living child, our first baby after Gabriel. Throughout my pregnancy, labor, delivery, and post-partum, whenever my newest daughter was in danger or difficulty, I invoked the intercession of her big brother. At her first ultrasound (held in the same room where we found out that Gabriel had died) they could only find a yolk sac. No baby. No heartbeat. I was sure that my dates were correct, and she should have been visible at that point. We were instructed to have a repeat ultrasound a week later, and prepared ourselves for the news that we were losing another baby. I begged Gabriel to join us in praying for the survival  of his baby sibling. The following week, there was a tiny baby with a strong heartbeat. From the beginning, there were little reassurances that someone was praying for her.

It was no coincidence that this newest daughter of ours is named Zelie, after the saint whose example gave me hope in my own time of loss.

The secret of the Martin family’s focus on heaven wasn’t a book or a curriculum – it was their lived experience. Once you have lost a little one, and prayed for that child to safely enter heaven (a prayer of particular importance for parents of a miscarried child, who they were unable to baptize), the focus of the family changes. You know that the only hope of reunion is heaven, and with a renewed sense of purpose, you journey to heaven as a family. Your family life becomes divided, with one foot on Earth, and one in heaven.

This process doesn’t happen overnight. It isn’t linear. The grieving process is full of tears and prayers of frustration, disbelief, or even anger. The living children and future babies are seen as more fragile, and life doesn’t feel as safe and secure as it once did.

But there is hope. In time, the hope grows. With grace, this hope of the resurrection can shift the awareness of the family to a deeper appreciation of heaven. Heaven can no longer be dismissed as “someday” if it is the present reality of a member of the family.

Therein lies the secret of the Martin family. Therein lies the beauty of the Church’s teaching on the resurrection.

Our love doesn’t end in this life. The reality of heaven, of purgatory, and of the Communion of Saints is that we are all connected, bound together in the mystical body of Christ.

Yes Straight Out: Halpin and the Compiègne Martyrs

Sun, 07/16/2017 - 22:02

“Baba O’Riley” is my favorite song by The Who, but “Who Are You?” is a close second, mainly because of the drums. It came on the radio recently and I turned up the volume. “Listen to this,” I told my son, an aspiring drummer. “Keith Moon is amazing.”

And he was, a great drummer and a great performer…when he was sober. Unfortunately, he was frequently under the influence of various substances, and Moon literally passed out on stage on more than one occasion.

Such was the case on November 20, 1973, when The Who appeared at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Moon actually passed out twice that night, and after the second time, guitarist Pete Townshend, utterly exasperated, turned to the assembled crowd for help. “Can anybody play the drums?” he pleaded. “I mean somebody good.”

Scot Halpin was a drummer and present at the concert.He’d just moved to California from Iowa and had gone to see The Who with his buddy, Mike. The two of them ended up at the side of the stage near the event’s promoter, Bill Graham, who was trying to salvage the concert after Moon’s exit. Here’s how Halpin described what happened next in an NPR interview:

My friend, Mike Deniseph, basically was pushing me forward to do this, and really interfacing with Bill Graham once he got there, nose to nose. And so he looks to me square in the eye and says, Can you do it? And I said yes, straight out.

“Yes, straight out.” That’s so great. Here’s a kid from Muscatine, Iowa, barely out of high school, and he’s put on the spot to back up one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Without hesitation, without it seems even a second thought, Halpin rose to the occasion. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that came suddenly and out of the blue, yet he took it on and, the story goes, acquitted himself pretty well.

How?

The bare outline of Halpin’s story gives us a clue. First, he practiced – not because he thought he’d be a big star someday, but because he wanted to get better at what he loved. Second, he had people around him – Mike in particular – who believed in him, even more than he believed in himself.

And finally, Halpin found the courage to say “yes, straight out” at a critical juncture, despite the lack of warning or preparation. The key there is the word “found,” for it doesn’t appear to be the case that Scot was spectacularly courageous by nature. Still, at an historic moment, a now-or-never crossroads, he found enough courage – reckless courage, some would say – and he followed through.

Playing drums in a rock concert is one thing; martyrdom is quite another.But I think there are some parallels with how ordinary people manage to hang on to their faith when thrust into the most trying circumstances. Like the Blessed Carmelites of Compiègne whose feast we celebrate today.

Flash back to 1794 and the French Revolution in full swing. The Carmelites of Compiègne in northern France were feeling the brunt of the Reign of Terror, having been deprived of their habits and dispersed by the government two years before. Still, they’d made adjustments, donning simple attire and living together in several groups. Despite the open persecution and social disintegration, the eleven nuns and their five lay associates were attempting to maintain their communal life of prayer as best they could.

These were women who’d entered religious life with an expectation of an orderly rhythm of quiet prayer and piety. They weren’t escaping the world, nor were they insulating a refined way of life against the hoi polloi – most of them came from working class families, and only one had upper class connections. Nevertheless, they hadn’t signed up to be heroes, and the only martyrdom they had anticipated was the ordinary day-to-day martyrdom associated with celibacy and the cloister.

Here’s the deal with heroism though: Once you throw in your lot with ordinary heroics, you open yourself up for the most extreme forms, which is what we Christians ought to expect in any case.

Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves…. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name (Mt. 10.16, 21-22).

We fall in love with Jesus and embrace the Cross because we want to be like him and follow him as closely as possible; we receive the Sacraments, pray, and carry out our daily responsibilities; we strive to avoid sin and to grow in holiness. Is that the end of it? Do we get to coast then all the way to heaven?

The Compiègne Carmelites found out otherwise. The authorities had convicted the 16 women on trumped up charges and transferred them to Paris. On July 17, 1794, the women, now back in their religious garb, were paraded through the streets and brought to the place of execution. At first accompanied by the assembled crowd’s jeers and cheers, the women sang hymns as they were beheaded one by one – a horror captured so movingly in François Poulenc’s opera Le Dialogue des Carmélites (The Dialogue of the Carmelites). The dignity and bravery of the nuns and their companions was such that the raucous crowd was silenced – a silence and sobriety that persisted beyond the events of that day and that some believe contributed to the sudden termination of the Reign of Terror a short time later.

All of these women could have avoided the scaffold by renouncing their faith, but they didn’t. So how is it that a group of women given over to prayer and a quiet life hidden from the world could rise to such a height of fortitude and heroism. I think it’s the same pattern on display in Scot Halpin’s little brush with history – a pattern we do well to emulate as well.

  1. Regular practice: It’s funny to talk about “practicing” our faith the way Halpin practiced the drums, but that’s exactly what we do – because we never are quite finished polishing our skills. In fact, the Catechism directly associates the word “practice” with the idea of “heroic virtue” (CCC 828), which implies that the kind of heroism the Compiègne martyrs demonstrated is rooted in the ordinary heroics we perform every day.The Carmelites practiced through prayer and penance in the cloister, but we’re called to practice in a similar way out in the world, which includes carrying out the duties associated with our state in life – single, married with family, whatever. Such matters might not seem like the stuff of sainthood, but God can create saints out of very little – as the Carmelite St. Thérèse of Lisieux observed in her writing about the “little way.” We measure bigness on a different scale than God does.
  1. Communal support: Heroes, in real life, are not loners, and they always have people rooting for them from the sidelines. That’s true for martyrs as well, and we see it at work even in the brief records we have of what happened in Compiègne. Although the sisters had anticipated the guillotine, it was undoubtedly a shock to find themselves actually facing execution as an imminent reality.In their case, it was one of their own that provided the fortifying support, their youngest member who started off the singing, giving courage to the rest of her community. Plus, the silenced crowd gave an almost implicit form of support, and, of course, the sisters were surrounded by an invisible “cloud of witnesses” as the Scriptures attest (Heb. 12.1). We must not forget, as we go about our days, that we’re surrounded by that cloud as well.
  1. Reckless courage: On this point, we have the words of two Pope Benedicts to guide us. In the 18th century, Benedict XIV wrote that heroic virtue enables one “to perform virtuous actions with uncommon promptitude, ease, and pleasure, from supernatural motives and without human reasoning.” Certainly that was the case with the Carmelite martyrs who, as one body, gave themselves over to their fate with confidence and a song on their lips.But what of us? How do we live out reckless courage in our humdrum lives with no guillotines on the horizon? Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI pointed the way when he said that “heroic virtue does not mean that the saint performs a type of ‘gymnastics’ of holiness, something that normal people do not dare to do. It means rather that in the life of a person God’s presence is revealed….”

Practice of our faith. Mutual support and encouragement. Reckless courage in the ordinary activities of life. This is how people like you and me become saints. This is how we become martyrs when it comes down to it.

In other words, saying yes, straight out, on the scaffold means that we’ve together been saying yes, straight out, over and over and over again every day. And if we haven’t, it’s never too late to start.

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

In the first reading we see the

Sun, 07/16/2017 - 22:00

In the first reading we see the Egyptians wary of the great number of Israelites in Egypt; they feared them and oppressed them with forced labor and treated them as slaves. It is this oppressed people whom God will rescue with his mighty works to bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey.

Like the Israelites, we too can be slaves of money, comfort, affection or power. We can be slaves of sin.

But Christ came to save us from sin and our slavery to it.

In the Gospel reading Christ invites us to the world of his Good News, where the utmost priority is doing the will of God, even against family and friends. The follower of Christ follows his master, the suffering Servant on the cross. And he promises a reward for those who accept him and those he has sent to bring the Good News. He promises a reward to those who do good deeds to the little ones in Christ’s name.

The Blessed Martyrs of Compiègne

Sun, 07/16/2017 - 22:00

In September of 1792, by decree of the French Revolution’s National Assembly, the Carmelites of Compiègne, France, had been cast out of their convent and forced to live as private citizens. Though they had been required to give up their religious habits and wear lay clothes, the nuns bravely continued to follow their Rule and to meet daily to recite communal prayers. This insistence on living out their vows coupled with their refusal to take the oath of allegiance to the new constitution ultimately led to their arrest and imprisonment on June 22, 1794.

Convicted of crimes against the state on July 17, 1794, the sixteen Carmelite nuns met their deaths by the guillotine in Paris. The usually raucous Parisian crowd was utterly silent as the nuns mounted the scaffold singing the Salve Regina and the Veni Creator after having first renewed their vows of baptism and religious profession. The first to go to her death was the novice, Sister Constance (Marie-Geneviève Meunier); the last to die was the Prioress, Mother Teresa of St. Augustine (Madeleine-Claudine Ledoine). The oldest of the nuns at the age of 79 was Sister of Jesus Crucified (Marie-Anne Piedcourt), who said to her executioners, “I forgive you as heartily as I wish God to forgive me.”

The heads and bodies of the martyrs were thrown into a deep sandpit in a cemetery at Picpus. Because this pit contains over 1300 victims of the Revolution, there seems to be no hope of their relics being recovered; however the Benedictine nuns of Stanbrook Abbey, Worcestershire, England, have five articles of the Carmelites’ clothing which was given to members of their order who had been imprisoned with the Carmelites in Paris.

The martyrs of Compiègne have been models of inspiration for all Carmelites, including Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Saint Julie Billiart, Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, Blessed Titus Brandsma, and Saint Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein). Their story has been the subject of numerous articles, books, a film, and even an opera, Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Alexis the Beggar (5th Century)

“There are three things we must

Sun, 07/16/2017 - 22:00

“There are three things we must do to be at peace: have a pure intention to desire the honor and glory of God in all things; do the little that we can unto that end, following the advice of our spiritual father; and leave all the rest to God’s care.”

-St. Francis de Sales, Roses Among Thorns

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Sat, 07/15/2017 - 22:00

The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the patronal feast of the Carmelite order. Following is an excerpt from the Carmelite Constitutions of 1995:

Mary, overshadowed by the Spirit of God, is the Virgin of the new heart, who gave a human face to the Word made flesh. She is the Virgin of wise and contemplative listening who kept and pondered in her heart the events and the words of the Lord. She is the faithful disciple of wisdom, who sought Jesus, God’s Wisdom and allowed herself to be formed and molded by his Spirit, so that in faith she might be conformed to his ways and choices. Thus enlightened, Mary is presented to us as one able to read “the great wonders” which God accomplished in her for the salvation of the humble and of the poor.

Mary was not only the Mother of Our Lord; she also became his perfect disciple, the woman of faith. She followed Jesus, walking with the disciples, sharing their demanding and wearisome journey — a journey which required, above all, fraternal love and mutual service.

At the marriage feast in Cana, Mary taught us to believe in her Son; at the foot of the Cross, she became Mother to all who believe; with them she experiences the joy of the Resurrection. United with the other disciples “in constant prayer,” she received the first gifts of the Spirit, who filled the earliest Christian community with apostolic zeal.

Mary brings the good news of salvation to all men and women. She is the woman who built relationships, not only within the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples, but, beyond that, with the people: with Elizabeth, with the bride and bridegroom in Cana, with the other women, and with Jesus’ “brothers.”

Carmelites see in the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and archetype of the Church, the perfect image of all that they want and hope to be. For this reason, Carmelites have always thought of Mary as the Patron of the Order, its Mother and Splendor; she is constantly before their eyes and in their hearts as “the Virgin Most Pure.” Looking to her, and living in spiritual intimacy with her, we learn to stand before God, and with one another, as the Lord’s brothers. Mary lives among us, as mother and sister, attentive to our needs; along with us she waits and hopes, suffers and rejoices.

The scapular is a sign of Mary’s permanent and constant motherly love for Carmelite brothers and sisters. By their devotion to the scapular, faithful to a tradition in the Order, especially since the 16th century, Carmelites express the loving closeness of Mary to the people of God; it is a sign of consecration to Mary, a means of uniting the faithful to the Order, and an effective and popular means of evangelization.

St. Bonaventure (Bishop and Doctor)

Fri, 07/14/2017 - 22:00

St. Bonaventure (1221-1274) was a great Franciscan bishop and theologian. He was born in the town of Bagnorea in central Italy, and as a youth was cured of a serious illness through the prayers of St. Francis of Assisi. This, and the fact that one of his teachers at the University of Paris was a Franciscan, prompted Bonaventure to join the Franciscan order.

He remained in Paris for many years, preaching and teaching theology and Scripture; in 1257 both he and St. Thomas Aquinas (the great Dominican theologian) received the degree of Doctor of Theology. Some opponents of the Franciscans attacked the lifestyle of the monks; along with Aquinas, Bonaventure defended them, and in 1257 he was chosen general minister, or head, of the order. Bonaventure implemented many reforms during his seventeen years of leadership, and became known as the “second founder” of the order (after St. Francis himself).

In 1265 Bonaventure was nominated as bishop of York by the pope, but declined the position. Eight years later he was appointed cardinal of Albano; his humility is illustrated by the story that, when the pope’s messengers brought the red cardinal’s hat to him, he asked them to hang it on a nearby tree, as his hands were still wet and greasy from doing the dishes. St. Bonaventure wrote many works of theology, philosophy, and mysticism, and died in 1274.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Henry II (1024), Emperor

Blessed Simon of Lipnicza (1482), Priest and Religious

Cross Fit: 10 Ways to Stay Spiritually Healthy

Fri, 07/14/2017 - 08:33

Healthy organic foods, physical health centers, taking various vitamin pills, exotic vacation resort getaways, and many others are all attempts to maintain good bodily health. No doubt, all of this can be good for this simple reason: our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we should be responsible guardians and custodians of this gift of our body that God has in His generosity given to us.

However, there often exists this error: we place the needs of the body over those of the soul and this is a wrong hierarchy of values. The words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ teaches this truth: “What would it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul. What can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mk 8:36-37)

Avoid the Damage  

On a human and natural level, we should make a concerted effort to avoid that which could damage our body. Good parents have taught this to their children from the start. Do not play with fire… look twice before you cross the street… do not hang out with bad companions… eat your vegetables… get to bed on time… brush your teeth before going to bed… wash your hands before you eat… clean your room; cleanliness is next to godliness.

All of the above are common words of advice that parents have given their children for years on end. Let us lift this to a higher supernatural plane and offer advice on how to avoid that which damages our immortal soul, which has more value than the whole created universe! Indeed, we can sin through thought, word, deed, and omission—by not doing what we are required by God to do! Avoiding the near occasion of sin is an indispensable quality in our pursuit of holiness and acquiring the crown of glory that we call eternal life.

1. Avoid Gossip and Gossipers

Jesus says clearly that we will be judged on every word that issues forth from our mouth and He also says that from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. If we have formed the habit of meeting with people who are perpetual “Gossipers” then make a change; do not frequent this company anymore. Read James chapter 3—excellent chapter in Scripture on the sins of the tongue!

2. Dress Properly

We do not want to be an occasion of sin for others. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit from Baptism. Saint Paul reminds us that we are ambassadors of Christ—that means representatives of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. We should dress accordingly. When we say dress properly we do not mean only in Church, as if it were the only place where we should dress with decorum and modesty, but rather in all times and places. Never forget: we are Christians 24/7—meaning always!

3. Avoid Bad Company in General

Saint Paul says that bad company corrupts morals. The proverb succinctly expresses this truth: Tell me with whom you associate and I will tell you who you are. We do not have to be rocket scientists to know that we tend to imitate our friends and our associates. Pray for the grace to find a friend or two who are really noble, honest, pure, hard-working Christians and you will have discovered a real treasure. Old Testament Wisdom teaches us that to find a true friend is to find a treasure.

4. Wandering Eyes

Another proverb is apropos of this concept: Curiosity killed the cat. Worse yet, the wandering eyes of King David resulted in adultery with Bathsheba, and eventually even killing her husband, the valiant and honest Hittite soldier Urias, (II Samuel 11). The holy man Job asserted: “I have made a pact with my eyes: not to look upon a woman,” (Job 31:1). Finally, Jesus drives the point home with one of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the pure of heart; they will see God.” (Mt 5:8) In a world abounding with impure images, human and electronic, more than ever do we need to practice strict custody of the senses, especially our eyes!

5. Impulsiveness

Another attitude or disposition that we must avoid is that of giving into our impulsivity, in all ways, but especially in speech. A good proverb:Think before you speak. Another somewhat down to earth proverb for those who speak before thinking is the following: Open up mouth, insert foot. Lifted to a more spiritual level Saint James admonishes us: We should be slow to speak and quick to listen.” Saint Thomas Aquinas offers this important insight: God has given us two ears and one mouth so as to listen twice as much as we speak. Meditate on this before speaking up!

6. Electronic Media

Of paramount importance for all of us who now live in this electronic cosmos is the dire need to pay strict attention over our use of all the present electronics media. “Obviously we would never open up our mouths to shovel in garbage”, Venerable Fulton Sheen once stated, but we can easily be imbibing and absorbing with our eyes moral garbage. A good vomit can release the physical garbage consumed. However, it can take years to expunge and delete ugly images that we have seen from one of the many sources in the modern world of electronic media.

Our mind is a huge archive that stores all of our experiences—all that we have done, as well as all that we have seen. Therefore, we must be very strict with ourselves and with our children in what we bring into our minds and hearts through what we see.

7. Couch-Potato Syndrome!

Another proverb for you: Idleness is the workshop of the devil. In other words, if you don’t have anything to do, then the devil will give you plenty of things to do! Saint John Bosco had a mortal fear of vacation time for the youth—teens! Work is good for all of us. Work perfects our nature; it helps us to cultivate our talents. Work serves as a means of helping others. Work was what God commanded of Adam after Original Sin: “You will earn your bread by the sweat of your brow.” (Gen. 3:19)

8. Mental Laziness

As a follow-up to Number 7—the couch-potato syndrome is the reality of mental laziness. Another youthful slogan: If you don’t use, it you lose it. God has endowed all of us with a mind which He desires that we cultivate. A garden that is not cultivated well quickly grows weeds. A mind that is not cultivated allows for the growth of mental weeds. This mental laziness can be prevented or corrected through the excellent habit of good reading.

We have never lived in a world with so much confusion. However, we have never lived in a world with so much good literature. It is up to us to find good literature and form the habit of reading. Some of our best-friends can be good books. Saint Ignatius received the grace of his conversion by reading good books—the lives of the Saints!

9. Avoid Over-Eating

Gluttony is one of the seven capital sins. Definition of gluttony: It is a disordered desire to eat and drink. Many health problems result from bad eating habits. Also Gluttony, Lust and Laziness often work together as a team to drive us into actual sin. Want a remedy? Here it is! Pray for an authentic hunger for Jesus, The Bread of Life. (Read John chapter 6:22-71—the Bread of Life discourse). In the Our Father we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  This can be interpreted in a sacramental way—the habit of going to daily Mass and receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, the true Bread of Life! He will help us to subordinate the desires of the body to the command of the will.

10. Avoid Contrary Views of Mary

Many Protestants reject vehemently the power of the intercession of Mary, to their own serious spiritual detriment. Mary will never, and I say never, distance us from Jesus. On the contrary, as Saint Louis de Montfort asserts: “Mary is the quickest, safest, and shortest path to Jesus.” If you like, Mary is the SHORT-CUT to union with Jesus. The last words of Mary recorded in Sacred Scripture were spoken at the Wedding Feast of Cana: “Do whatever He tells you.” (Jn. 2:5) No doubt, the best advice in the entire world! Our Lady serves as a bridge to union with Jesus. Listen to the words of the Cure of Ars, Saint John Marie Vianney: “Everything that the Son asks of the Father is granted. Likewise, everything that the Mother asks of her Son is granted.” Saint Ephrem, with his mystical and poetic flare exclaims: “The incomparable Mother of God is the purest golden censer. In her prayers are offered to the Eternal God.” Finally, prayerfully meditate upon the words of Saint Maximilian Kolbe: “Place yourself in Mary’s hands; she will think of everything and provide for the needs of body and soul. Therefore, be at peace, be at complete peace, with unlimited confidence in her.”

In conclusion, it is most true that we must avoid all the dangers that can so easily jeopardize the health of our body, that which pertains to our natural life. However, we should make it a more firm decision on our part, and for the benefit of those entrusted to our care, to avoid all the moral poison that can possibly kill the spiritual life in our souls. May Our Lady attain for us the grace to love God with all of our hearts, minds and souls so that one day heaven will be our perpetual home and perpetual resting place!

Holy Mary, pray for us poor sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Father Ed Broom is an Oblate of the Virgin Mary and the author of From Humdrum to Holy, which offers more words of wisdom for how to become a saint today. He blogs regularly at Fr. Broom’s Blog. This post originally appeared at Catholic Exchange and is reprinted with permission. 

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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.