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Quote of the Day

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 23:00

“Our most hidden secrets are not secrets to Him. He comes right into our mind. Our thoughts are not only our thoughts; our desires are not only our desires — they may also be God’s thoughts and desires.”

Fr. Kilian J. Healy, Awakening Your Soul to the Presence of God

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St. Saturninus and Companions (martyrs)

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 23:00

In the year 304, Africa was under the rule of the pagan emperor Diocletian. Under this emperor, persecution of Christians was brutal. The place where the persecutions were the worst was in a city named Abitina. Diocletian issued an order that all Christians, under penalty of death, had to deliver up Holy Scriptures to be burned. Saturninus was a priest of Abitina and every Sunday he celebrated Mass in the house of Octavius Felix. It was on one such Sunday that a group of soldiers came and seized 49 persons, including women and children. Among the 49 were Saturninus, his four children, a senator named Dativus, and Mary, a young virgin consecrated to the Lord. Prior to their arrest, the bishop of Abitina had complied with the magistrates and brought them the sacred Scriptures to be consumed by fire. This act of sacrilege was followed by a hailstorm, which ravaged the whole country, and a violent rainstorm that extinguished the fire. When Saturninus and his companions were brought before their judges, however, they so zealously professed Jesus that even their tormentors were impressed with their faith.

Unfortunately, though, they were not freed, but instead were shackled and sent to Carthage, the residence of the proconsul. On the way, they rejoiced in their sufferings for Christ and sung hymns of praise and thanksgiving. Upon their arrival, some were put on the rack, their bodies torn with iron hooks. Other forms of torture were inflicted on the rest. The proconsul focused on the youngest child of Saturninus and tried to get him to reject his faith. Young Hilarianus, however, filled with the Holy Spirit, was not afraid and announced, “I am a Christian; I have been at the collect [gathering to worship], and it was of my own voluntary choice, without any compulsion.”

The proconsul then threatened him by telling him that he would cut off his nose and ears. The child replied, “You may do it; but I am a Christian.” With this, the proconsul ordered the child and all the others to prison. They all ended their lives under the hardships of their imprisonment except for two, who on February 11 died from their wounds.

Lessons

There is much to be learned from the early martyrs. So many take for granted the Lord’s Day and fail to take seriously our duty to assemble and worship God. It is a mortal sin, but many do not listen to the authority of the Church. Yet these martyrs gave up their very lives rather than dismiss their Sunday obligation. God said to keep holy the Sabbath day. One early Church father said, “Without this religious observance, a man cannot be a Christian.” Let us remember these individuals that died so that we might be able to continue to keep holy the Lord’s Day.

Prayer

Father in heaven, forgive us for our neglect and for the times that we offend you. Help us to be beacons of light to those in darkness. We pray that the blinders may be removed from the eyes of those who fail to gather together on Sundays for Mass. Forgive them for their ignorance, Father, and help us to know how to help them see the error of their ways in a charitable manner. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Seven Holy Founders of the Order of Servites (1233), Religious, Founders

St. Eulalia (304), Virgin, Martyr

Our Lady of Lourdes

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 23:00

The year was 1858 and the place was the French foothills of the Pyrenees. A young girl named Bernadette Soubirous, her sister Toinette, and their friend Jeanne Abadie were out gathering firewood for their families. Toinette and Abadie crossed a stream to gather wood on the other side, but Bernadette hesitated, fearing that wading in the cold water would bring on an asthma attack.

When her sister and friend moved out of her sight, she decided to take a chance anyway, and started to remove her shoes. It was at that moment that she was startled by a great noise like thunder. Turning towards a grotto behind her, she saw a single rosebush swaying as if being blown by a strong wind. Almost immediately she also saw a golden cloud form over the rosebush and a young and beautiful lady appear in the cloud. The lady smiled at Bernadette and motioned for her to come closer. All the fear that Bernadette had felt a few moments earlier faded away at the sight of this lady. She felt safe as if with her mother.

The Lady was dressed in an ivory-colored robe tied at the waist with a sapphire-colored sash. A long ivory-colored mantle trimmed in gold hung in folds flowing down to her feet. On her bare feet were two golden roses than shone like the gold trim on her mantle. Bernadette was awestruck by the vision of this Lady and didn’t speak, nor did the Lady. Bernadette found herself reaching for her rosary, which she always carried with her, and dropping down on her knees. It was then that Bernadette noticed the pearl rosary hanging on the Lady’s right arm, which she now also took into her delicate hands. Bernadette tried to lift her hand to cross herself before reciting the rosary, however, her arm seemed paralyzed. It was only after the Lady crossed herself that Bernadette was able to move her arm and do likewise. Bernadette prayed aloud, by herself. The Lady was silent except at the end of each decade when she recited, with Bernadette, the Gloria. When Bernadette finished praying the Rosary, the Lady and the golden cloud disappeared.

Bernadette had many other visions of the Lady in the grotto. At first her parents were very upset and unbelieving of the visions. Her mother thought that either Bernadette was imagining things or that what she was seeing was demonic. Word spread in the small village about her visions of this mysterious lady and crowds of people started following Bernadette to the grotto. Many ridiculed her, but some were supportive. One woman thought Bernadette might be encountering the spirit of one of her deceased friends. Bernadette’s family implored her to take holy water and throw some on the Lady. She did take some with her, but poured in on the ground.

The Lady repeatedly asked Bernadette to pray for the conversion of sinners and asked for penance for sins. When she instructed Bernadette to wash herself and drink from a place at the base of the grotto, Bernadette was perplexed. She looked, but could find no water. The Lady told her to dig in the ground, which Bernadette did, which caused quite a stir among the onlookers. Some thought she was insane. Bernadette continued to dig in the gravel and dirt until the ground started to feel damp. Then a trickle of water appeared and more started bubbling up from the ground forming a small puddle. Following the Lady’s instructions, Bernadette rubbed the water on her body and cupped some in her hands and drank it.

Still Bernadette’s mother refused to believe her daughter and other family members continued to ridicule her. When Bernadette spoke to the Lady about this, the Lady replied, “I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the next.”

The next request of the Lady to Bernadette was to have a chapel built on the site of her visits. For Bernadette, a shy, 14-year-old girl, this was an impossible task. She felt compelled, though, to go to the parish priest with the request. She received a curt dismissal from him with these words: “Tell the beautiful Lady that the Cure of Lourdes is not in the habit of dealing with mysterious strangers. If she wants a chapel and has the right to one, she must reveal her identity.”

On the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1858, Bernadette got the answer to her question. “I am the Immaculate Conception,” replied the beautiful Lady. Bernadette was so excited to have an answer for the priest that she immediately set out for the rectory, repeating the words over and over to herself so as not to forget them. Although Bernadette didn’t understand the words, when she repeated them to the priest he was convinced that the mysterious Lady was the Blessed Virgin Mary. He knew that Bernadette, a poor, uneducated young girl, could not have been aware of the term “Immaculate Conception,” especially since this was a newly-proclaimed dogma in the Church that most people were not familiar with.

In 1864, Bernadette entered the order of the Sisters of Nevers and went to live in a convent. Two years later a chapel was erected and dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. The puddle that had appeared when Bernadette scratched at the soil continued to get larger and larger and today produces 32,000 gallons of water daily. Thousands of pilgrims visit Lourdes each year to bathe in the miraculous waters. Today Lourdes is the most well-known healing and pilgrimage site in the world.

On January 18, 1862, the Church officially confirmed the apparitions at Lourdes. Sixteen years later, in 1879, Sister Bernadette died. Her body, however, on display in the Sister’s Chapel, has never decomposed. Bernadette was canonized on December 8, 1933.

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

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

“I am the Immaculate Conception.”
—The Blessed Virgin to St. Bernadette Soubirous

Johnnette’s Meditation

Do I understand the meaning of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception—that Mary was conceived without the blemish of original sin? I will ask the Blessed Mother today to enhance my appreciation of this great truth.

Prayer:

Blessed Mother, our Lady of Lourdes, we thank you for appearing to the child Bernadette so as to show the world the power of God. The miracles brought forth then and even until now are a great testimony of His Love and Mercy. Thank you, Mother, not only for the miraculous healing power of the waters of Lourdes, but also for the love and compassion that prevails there. We thank our Father in heaven for you, dear Mother and also for Saint Bernadette and we implore your intercessions for us that we will always be like little children, docile and loving and open to His Will. Amen.

image: Andreas F. Borchert/ Wikimedia Commons

St. Scholastica

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 23:00

St. Scholastica (480-543) was the twin sister of St. Benedict, the founder of the Benedictine Order. Benedict and Scholastica were born of wealthy parents in fifth-century Italy. They were raised together until Benedict left for Rome to continue his studies.

Scholastica was dedicated to God at an early age, though for a time she probably continued to stay with her parents. Some years later she left home and founded a religious order for women near Monte Cassino in central Italy, where Benedict had established his famous monastery. The twins used to visit each other once a year. Since Scholastica, as a woman, was not allowed inside the monastery, their meetings occurred in a nearby farmhouse. During these occasions Benedict and his sister spent hours discussing spiritual matters. In the last of these meetings, Scholastica implored her brother to stay the entire night with her, so that they could continue talking until morning about the joys of heaven.

Benedict refused, since that would mean he and the monks accompanying him would have to break his rule about not spending a night outside the monastery. Scholastica thereupon prayed, asking God that her brother might remain. In response to her prayer, a severe thunderstorm suddenly broke out, preventing the monks from leaving. Benedict cried out, “God forgive you, sister! What have you done?” Scholastica answered, “I asked a favor of you and you refused. I asked it of God and He granted it.” Benedict and Scholastica thus spent the night discussing the nature of Heaven — a fitting subject, for Scholastica was soon to experience its joys. Three days after this conversation Benedict was at prayer in his monastery when he saw the soul of his sister ascending to Heaven in the form of a dove. Benedict then announced her death to his monks, and later buried her in the tomb he had prepared for himself.

Lessons

1. Sibling rivalry — while a very common condition in many families — is not supposed to prevent spiritual growth. Just as parents are supposed to help their children grow in holiness, so brothers and sisters are meant to be a good influence upon one another.

2. When her brother denied her request, St. Scholastica was confident enough to turn to God in prayer. She recalled Jesus’ words, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Mt 7:7).

How to Receive Communion to the Fullest

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 23:07

To the victor I will give the right to eat from the
tree of life that is in the garden of God.

— Revelation 2:7

Any road trip requires energy. Fast-food restaurants know this, and their siren songs — the waft of cooking oil carrying the unmistakable scent of french fries — have tempted many a traveler to pass through their drive-throughs. Gas stations also gear their business to the weary wanderer, their aisles filled with every imaginable road snack. But such food, while providing a short-term carbohydrate gain is often a long-term digestive loss. Rarely is the pilgrim unequivocally satisfied after succumbing to the variety in road-trip fare. Indeed, Twinkies, beef jerky, potato chips, and caffeine- and sugar-laced drinks are nowhere to be found by the USDA on yesterday’s food pyramid or today’s nutrition food plate.

The famed and famished Israelite pilgrims of the Old Covenant could probably relate to the modern-day road trip. True, they passed no roadside convenience store on their desert trek — even if their stomachs growled for the apparently unhealthy cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic of their former lives (Num. 11:5). (How the food pyramid has changed over the centuries!) They knew that crossing over the desert required nourishing food and drink. God knew this too and — even if He and His people quibbled from time to time about just what was on the menu — being the good Father He is, He provided manna from heaven and water from a rock.

As the pilgrim Church on earth traveling to our final home in heaven, Catholics also know something about the necessity of food for the journey. Recall that, as baptized priests, all the Catholic faithful are passing over a bridge that spans fallen earth to glorious heaven. Jesus has made it less laborious — He does most of the heavy lifting in the project — but for the rest of us, suffering from the effects of original sin, it is nonetheless dangerous (for that sinful chasm is deep) and still requires effort. Here too God has provided food and drink to sustain us: the Eucharist. But unlike roadside junk food that kills the digestion, or even the Manna from heaven that sustained only for the short term (“Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died” [John 6:49]), the Mass’s Eucharistic bread and wine is out of this world.

Many of the Mass’s roads converge when it comes time for receiving Holy Communion. The Cross is likened to the tree of life. In the Garden of Eden stood a tree of life, one from which our first parents were free to eat; in heaven’s “garden of God” stands another tree of life from which the victorious have the right to eat (Rev. 2:7); and in between rises the Cross of Jesus, whose fruit is the Eucharist — and from which the world’s pilgrims must eat along the journey. Thus, the wood of the Tree of the Cross that built the heart’s bridge to God in the Eucharistic Prayer presents us now with another way to participate in the divine life of Jesus.

This article is from a chapter in “A Devotional Journey into the Mass.” Click image to preview or order.

“Active participation” in the Mass — called by the Second Vatican Council “the aim to be considered before all else” — is intimately associated with the worthy reception of the Eucharist. Sixty years before the Council, Pope St. Pius X (d. 1914) first used the term “active participation” on behalf of the magisterium shortly after assuming the throne of St. Peter. On the doorstep of the First World War, Pius X sought “to restore all things in Christ” (his papal motto) by infusing the unstable world with a healthy dose of the true Christian spirit. The two emphases may seem unrelated, but where is this Christian spirit to be found? In the active and authentic participation by the faithful in the saving work of Jesus made present to us today in the liturgy.

But the Eucharist isn’t a magic pill, some kind of supernatural vitamin. On the contrary, the Mass’s consecrated bread and wine are the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus offered to the Father in the Holy Spirit — and more. Remember all those prayers, works, joys, and sufferings; the fears, loves, sins, hopes, and thanksgivings — that is, your entire human life — that you added to the Church’s gifts of bread and wine when the altar was prepared? These, along with the same sacrifices of each cell of the Mystical Body of Christ, have likewise been given to God and are returned to us transformed. It was the Great Animator, the Holy Spirit, who transformed these gifts, and even He Himself is a part of our lively reception. “He who eats it with faith,” said St. Ephrem, “eats Fire and Spirit. . . . Take and eat this, all of you, and eat with it the Holy Spirit.” Charged with Jesus, on fire with the Holy Spirit, divinized by the Father, and prepared in part by the heartfelt intentions of the world, food like this can only be called “heavenly” — or as we said earlier, “out of this world.” The Mass’s fare is, in fact, the main course of the eternal wedding banquet of Jesus and His Bride, the Church.

But as heavenly as the Eucharist is, it can be hellish to those not ready to receive it — much as the Word of God was sweet as honey in the mouth of St. John before turning sour in his stomach (Rev. 10:10). Food and drink as powerful and substantial as the Blessed Sacrament can be received fruitfully only if we are properly disposed. Not just anyone can eat fire (as St. Ephrem says) without getting burned!

Proper disposition, then, is paramount. The Eucharistic bread and wine is the same for one who is prepared and one who is not — or, similarly, for me on one day when disposed and the next day when not. But the effects could not differ more.

If Communion on a stomach empty of the proper disposition harms us, how can we be sure we have the proper disposition? At a minimum, we are to be free from mortal sin. “To choose deliberately — that is, both knowing it and willing it — some­thing gravely contrary to the divine law and to the ultimate end of man is to commit a mortal sin” (CCC 1874). Mortally sinful acts kill all life in the soul, withering it up like the dead chaff of a field. When it encounters the divine fire of God’s love in the Eucharist, the soul cannot withstand the heat. A proper disposition for Communion includes a soul capable of Eucharistic transformation.

But being in a state of grace is only the minimum required for a fruitful encounter with Jesus. The reason Holy Communion can either save us or damn us is, in part, because of what — or whom — it contains: Jesus, on fire with the Holy Spirit, given to us from the hands of the Father. But the purpose of Jesus’ pres­ence in the Sacrament isn’t simply so He can “remain with us always” in the tabernacle. Rather, the Eucharistic Christ desires an even greater intimacy with us, one brought about through our ingesting Him and our willingness to be changed into Him. And the ingredient (or perhaps the seasoning) necessary for healthy Eucharistic eating is a large dose of humility — the larger, the better.

So again, let us return to Mass to find out how and when best to prepare for receiving this divine feast. The Mass’s preparatory rites immediately prior to receiving Communion dispose us to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord in the spirit of docility, humility, and desire to be transformed into Him. The Lord’s Prayer, the exchange of peace, the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, and the Lamb of God each expresses in its own way how Jesus wishes to bring us from sin, evil, and selfishness to mercy, grace, and communion with Him and the Church. The invitation to Communion puts a great act of humility heard once by a Roman centurion on our lips — making our mouths water for Christ. This soldier’s story ought to be a model for our Eucharistic preparation.

The story begins in Capernaum, a village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee and the site of many of Jesus’ miracles. On one occasion, Jesus enters the town and is met with the request of a Roman centurion with a suffering servant near death. The centurion asks Jesus to come and heal his servant, yet he does so in all humility. “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (Matt. 8:8–9). A Roman centurion, as his title suggests, commanded up to one hundred Roman soldiers. He was a man of power and authority. Certainly in the eyes of the world he was more important and prestigious than a lowly Jewish carpenter — and more entitled to respect than the Jews at the time, who were subject to Roman, and therefore this centurion’s, authority.

The centurion’s humility is all the more striking because of his high office: it was not as if he were a leprous outcast or a sinful Samaritan. In response to such humility in the face of the Lord, Jesus, “amazed,” responds: “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Matt. 8:10). In humility, this authoritative centurion was disposed to receive Jesus under his roof. With his example before our minds and his words in our mouths — “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed” — his humility can become ours. And his would-be guest can become ours.

Our posture for receiving Communion can also express and foster our proper disposition to receive Christ in humility. Today, both standing and kneeling are options for the recipient, even though kneeling has been the Mass’s traditional posture. Stand­ing signifies respect and readiness to act, but also independence and self-assurance. Kneeling symbolizes supplication and surren­der: one is nearly incapable of acting according to his own power when kneeling, which is an appropriate attitude for divinization.

Like posture, the manner of reception also helps or hinders transformation. Receiving the Lord in the hand or directly on the tongue are the usual options in today’s Mass. If receiving in the hand, do as St. Cyril recommends: “In approaching, come not with your wrists extended, or your fingers spread; but make your left hand a throne for the right, as for that which is to receive a King.”26 Over the centuries, Communion on the tongue has established itself as the normative manner for receiving Com­munion, since, like kneeling, it signifies the necessary humble disposition of receiving, not actively taking. Whichever op­tion you choose, the spiritual attitude of docile transformation must accompany it — without this, the manner risks becoming meaningless.

But even after receiving, Communion is not over any more than the last bite on your plate signals the end of a family meal. Conversation in either case ought to ensue. In Mass, that conversation should take the form of prayer — a prayer for surrender. As St. Augustine and the Capernaum centurion teach us, an encounter with Jesus should transform our fallen selves into Christ’s own heavenly image. Another powerful soldier, St. Ig­natius of Loyola, became an authoritative warrior for Christ. His strength was found in humility and surrender, and his prayer, the Suscipe (“Receive!”), is as perfect a prayer after Communion as the centurion’s was before it:

Receive, Lord, my entire freedom. Accept the whole of my memory, my intellect, and my will. Whatever I have or possess, it was You who gave it to me; I restore it to You in full, and I surrender it completely to the guidance of Your will. Give me only love of You together with Your grace, and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more. Amen.

Learning and praying this prayer for surrender after returning to our pew after Communion will ignite in us the humble power of Jesus.

The worthy reception of Holy Communion — when we are in a state of grace and truly desire to be transformed into Jesus — is the most effective way (short of martyrdom) God gives us to attain Him. Through this “fruit of the Cross” we become what we eat.

St. Athanasius famously said, “God became man so that man might become God.” If this is true — and it is! — we become divinized, true sons and daughters of God by the Eucharist. St. Paul encourages us: “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed ” (Rom. 12:1–2, emphasis added). Eucharistic transformation, first of the bread into the Body of Christ, and then of us into the Body of Christ, is the high point on our journey into the Mass.

The items on today’s USDA “food plate” give energy and life to any task or trek. The Eucharistic food on the Mass’s paten bestows the fire of divine life for our journey to God. But as so many Gospel stories recount, encountering God impels us to tell others about Him.

Editor’s note: This article is from a chapter in A Devotional Journey into the Masswhich is available from Sophia Institute Press

image: By English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Lessons From the Leper

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 23:05

Many Catholics are confused about suffering. Some writers extol its surpassing value. But does that mean that we should look for suffering? Or, if suffering should come our way, that it would be unspiritual to seek relief from it?

Jesus & the Leper

The story of Jesus and the leper in Mark 1:40-45 provides us with a case study on the subject. In biblical times, “leprosy” encompassed many different skin diseases. We don’t know what kind of leprosy the man had, exactly. It could have been Hansen’s disease, which is what we call leprosy today. In that case, he would not have been in a lot of physical pain, since this disease takes away one’s ability to feel much of anything in many parts of the body.

Leprosy & Pain

This, in fact is one of the problems with the disease. Pain actually is actually designed to be a gift from God — it tells us that there is something wrong so we can attend to it before it gets worse. Without this unpleasant sensation we might be tempted, for example, to ignore an infection or continue to put stress on an overworked muscle that desperately needs a rest. The consequence can be permanent damage to the organ in question, and this is why lepers are often horribly disfigured, with missing digits and extremities. This hideous appearance causes the leper further suffering.

But regardless of what kind of leprosy the man had, there is yet another kind of suffering experienced by all lepers in ancient Israel. Leviticus 13 tells us that, to protect others from infection, lepers had to isolate themselves from the rest of society, living outside city limits, obliged to warn all who approached them that they were “unclean.”

Mercy Relieves Suffering

So the leper asked Jesus to rid him of his despicable disease, with all its ugly consequences. Jesus promptly healed him. He did this not to prove he was a prophet, the Messiah, indeed, the Son of God. In fact, he gave the man strict orders not to broadcast the news of the miracle. Jesus healed him, instead, out of compassion. It was a work of mercy, which is love’s response to suffering. Notice Jesus did not scold him for wanting to be relieved of the suffering associated with this dreadful disease. He had the power to free him from it and so He did.

So there are at least two lessons here — it’s OK to seek relief from suffering and, should we encounter it in others, we must do all we can to relieve it.

Suffering as a Discipline

But there is more. Jesus took away one source of suffering but imposed another. The former leper was understandably thrilled at his change of fortune and passionately wanted to tell everyone about it. Jesus commanded him to restrain his passion and be quiet. This by the way, was for the good of others — to make it possible for Jesus to move freely through the towns of Galilee preaching the gospel and revealing His identity in His own way and according to His own timetable.

But the leper would not accept the discipline imposed upon him by the Son of God, and the result was that from that point on it was Jesus, instead of the leper, who had to stay out in the wilderness, away from the towns.

Joining Our Suffering to His

We need not go looking for suffering. It will inevitably find us. Generally, we should seek relief from many forms of suffering, such as physical illness. But as long as we find suffering to be our traveling companion, we should bear it with as much joy and faith as possible in the name of the Lord, who suffered for us, joining our suffering to His for the redemption of the world. This is what St. Paul says — whatever we do, and whatever we have to endure, we must do for the glory of God and the salvation of all (I Corinthians 10:31-33).

image: Gebhard Fugel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Scripture Speaks: “You Can Make Me Clean”

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 23:02

What can we learn today from a leper who kneels before Jesus in the hope of being healed?

Gospel (Read Mk 1:40-45)

We know from our reading of St. Mark’s Gospel that as Jesus began His public ministry, He drew large crowds (see Mk 1:28, 33, 37).  Today, we meet a leper who had apparently seen or heard enough about Jesus to make him take a bold action.  Jewish law kept lepers away from the worshiping community, because the leprosy made them ritually unclean, unable to participate in the liturgical life of Israel.  This can be difficult for us, in our day, to understand.  In the Law of Moses, in order to teach the people about God’s holiness—a lesson they desperately needed in order to be His chosen people—they had to learn in simple, obvious ways that God is Life Itself, pure goodness, perfect justice.  Nothing associated with death (the result of man’s disobedience) could enter His presence.  That meant that blood, disease, or death (a corpse) made a man ritually unclean, keeping him away from worship.  Ritual defilement always called for ritual purification.  These exterior practices, given early in Israel’s history, were meant to teach the people the difference between holiness and impurity, between righteousness (life) and sin (death).  Ritual impurity, like a contagious disease, could be spread by contact from one person to another.  Thus, lepers were required to live apart from the liturgical communion of Jews, and they were never to have physical contact with anyone who was ritually clean.  It is good to remember, too, that ritual uncleanness, which said nothing about the state of a person’s soul, was different from personal uncleanness, caused by actual sin, which did.

Knowing this, we can better appreciate the courage of this leper in our reading.  What made him disregard the restrictions of Jewish law and drop down on his knees before Jesus?  Was it the reputation Jesus had already earned as One who taught with authority, cast out demons, and cured the sick?  The leper longed to be “clean.”  He wanted not just to be healed of a dreadful disease but also to be able to enter again the worship of God’s people.  He must have been convinced that Jesus could do this, and so he pressed forward.

Look at his request: “If You wish, You can make me clean.”  This one statement is a window into the leper’s heart.  Even though his need was great, he makes a request, not a demand.  He longed to be clean, but he acknowledges that the prerogative lay entirely with Jesus.  It is an amazingly humble posture.  His terrible misfortune had not made him angry or bitter; it had not filled him with so much self-pity that he expected Jesus to make him clean.  Such is the heart of a true Israelite.

See the impact of the leper and his words on Jesus.  He was “moved with pity.”  Here is where we begin to understand the deepest meaning of this encounter.  The “unclean” leper stands for sinful man (us, in other words), whose disobedience (the disease of sin) prevents him from communion with the holy God.  The Law given to Moses identified and contained the sickness but was not able to heal it.  Jesus can.  The sinner has no “right” to this healing; he is utterly cast upon the mercy and grace of God.  On his knees, in a posture of adoration, the sinner, too, must say, “If You wish, You can make me clean.”  What happens when we do this?

Jesus “stretched out His hand, touched him, and said to him, ‘I do will it.  Be made clean.’”  Not only had the leper acted courageously in approaching Jesus, but our Lord did the unthinkable by stretching out His hand to touch the leper.  Here was something new in Israel!  The Law required holiness to be preserved by not coming into contact with impurity, because impurity was contagious.  Now, however, the holiness of Jesus reaches out and itself becomes contagious.  It conquers and heals the impurity.  Why?  Because God wills it.  We can almost hear the delight in Jesus’ words when He makes this clear.  This is exactly what He came to do.  As Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis has written, “Christ’s fingers, which had so joyfully created man out of the clay of the earth, now exult as they receive admission into poor human flesh in need of regeneration” (Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word, pg 324).

See the power of Jesus’ touch and words:  “the leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.”  This episode is wonderfully iconic of what the Church teaches us about a sacrament.  Here, again, we are helped by Leiva-Merikakis:  “In Christ’s action of healing as the visible sign of God’s invisible grace and the leper’s invisible faith, we have the perfect form of a sacrament.  The physical gesture of Jesus’ hand touching the man’s body accompanied by the words, ‘I want it; be healed!’  God’s intervention in the human scene becomes word that is saving act; man is to be invaded by the divine flood of life at every level of his being at once.” (ibid., pg 326)

Jesus sends the leper to the priest to be re-admitted to the worshiping liturgical community (just as we are sent to our priests when our sin separate us from worship).  He also warns the man not to spread the news of what happened.  Why?  Jesus knew He needed time to complete His preaching mission to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  He did not want people to attempt to make him king prematurely, or for the wrong reason, nor did He want to arouse the suspicion of the authorities in Jerusalem.  The leper couldn’t contain himself (do we blame him?).  As a result, “people kept coming to [Jesus] from everywhere.”

What can we learn from the leper today?  Not a bad question to ask ourselves.

Possible response:  Lord Jesus, I learn from the leper that You are delighted, not disgusted, when I kneel before You to cure my sin.

First Reading (Read Lev 13:1-2, 44-46)

Here we see a portion of the Law concerning leprosy.  In reading it, we should be able to understand that the disease represents sin (why would it be a priest, not a doctor, who examines the leper?).  The Law separated a leper as “unclean” and required him to live “outside the camp.”  This phrase appears again in the description of Israel’s Day of Atonement.  After animals had been slain as an offering for sin outside the Tabernacle (the tent of worship before the Temple in Jerusalem was built), the carcasses were dragged “outside the camp” to be burned (see Lev 16:27; Heb 13:11).  In this we see again the removal of impurity away from the presence of God.  The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus, Who from eternity willed us to “be clean,” was willing to become like a leper and suffer “outside the gate [the city] in order to sanctify [or make clean] the people through His own blood” (see Heb 13:12).

We always need to make the connection between physical disease as a representation of sin in Scripture.  Jesus healed physical infirmity as a sign that He came to heal us of sin, a disease that corrodes our souls the way leprosy corrodes skin.  The visible act of physical healing represented the invisible act of a cure for sin.  It is good to remember that the apostles, after the Ascension and Pentecost, did not set up public health programs.  They preached repentance and faith in the One willing to make His abode “outside the camp” in order to make us clean.

Possible response:  Lord Jesus, thank You for coming “outside the camp” to find and rescue me.

Psalm (Read Ps 32:1-2, 5, 11)

Here is a song of praise from one who has experienced healing from the disease of sin:  “Blessed is he whose fault is taken away, whose sin is covered.”  The psalmist describes doing with his sin what the leper did with his disease: “I acknowledged my sin to You, my guilt I covered not.”  Just as a sick man must expose his illness to a doctor for a cure, a sinner must confess his faults to the LORD in order to be forgiven and thus healed.  Our responsorial gives us a refrain that describes what the leper did in his hour of need and what we do in ours:  “I turn to you, LORD, in time of trouble, and You fill me with the joy of salvation.”

Possible response:  The psalm is, itself, a response to our other readings.  Read it again prayerfully to make it your own.

Second Reading (Read 1 Cor 10:31-11:1)

St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was filled with practical instruction about the many problems they experienced in their church.  One of their biggest challenges was disunity.  His advice was simple.  It began with “do everything for the glory of God.”  The alternative to that, of course, is to do everything for ourselves and our own purposes, and that leads to fractures in the Christian community.  Then he says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” St. Paul means that the Corinthians should follow his example of “not seeking my own benefit but that of the many.” He thought of this as a summary of what Jesus did for us, to heal “the lepers” of our disease of sin: Jesus gave His life for mine; now, I give my life for yours.

Are there “lepers” in our lives from whom we want to recoil and separate?  Do we still think we can?

Possible response:  Lord Jesus, help me remember St. Paul’s example to seek the benefit of others, especially the difficult people in my life, instead of my own.

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 23:00

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus restores speech to a deaf man who had difficulty speaking. How joyful and grateful the man must have been for Jesus’ kindness and miracle.

If people lose the ability to speak, most would feel frustration and even anger. How does one communicate readily if one cannot speak? Surely one can gesture or write, but this is not easy. Similarly if one is unable to hear, he misses so much of life, especially of easy communication with others. Being able to hear and speak is such a great gift: so often we take this for granted. We should be grateful for these facilities from God.

As we consider Jesus’ miraculous cure of the deaf and dumb man, we are invited to reflect on how we use our gift of speech. Do our words help and build up others? Or do our words so often discourage and destroy others? Do we speak in joy and gratitude of the many blessings we receive? Or do we so often speak only of discontent and complaints? How often have our words disappointed and hurt others? Have we used our gift of speech to spread God’s Good News and Kingdom?

St. Caedmon

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 23:00

Caedmon lived in the seventh century and was a herdsman by trade. According to St. Bede, who wrote about him, Caedmon was an unlettered cow herdsman who had no training or gifts for poetry. During local feasts at which singers and musicians would demonstrate their talents, Caedmon would feel embarrassed, believing he had no talents to share. Legend has it that Caedmon left one such feast to be with his cows in the pasture, feeling he could contribute nothing to the merriment. He fell asleep and dreamed that a man appeared to him and told him to sing him a song. Caedmon at first rejected his request, but the man persisted until Caedmon finally asked what he should sing. He was told that he should sing about the Creation of all things. Immediately, Caedmon began to sing verses in praise of God. When he awoke he was amazed that he not only remembered the verses he had just sung but was able to continue the poem. When his friends heard this new talent, they immediately suspected divine intervention and took Caedmon to see the abbess of Whitby, a holy woman named Hilda. She gave him several scripture verses, telling him to render them in prose. When he completed the task, she was thoroughly convinced that God had bestowed a great talent upon him. She advised him to leave his life as a herdsman and enter religious life. Caedmon did so, becoming a monk of Whitby. He was soon singing not only about the creation of the world but the origin of the human race, the whole story of Genesis, the Lord’s Incarnation, Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection, and much more. He also composed poems on the terrors of hell and the joys of heaven. St. Bede wrote of him, “Caedmon was a deeply religious man who firmly resisted all who tried to do evil, thus winning a happy death.”

Lessons

Saint Caedmon died in the monastery surrounded by his Christian brothers. He made the sign of the cross, commended his soul into the hands of his Creator, and passed peacefully into eternity.

Prayer

Saint Caedmon, we pray for your intercession on behalf of all who feel unworthy. Satan tries to steal so many souls by making them feel they have nothing to offer, or convincing them that God could never really love them. Please help these souls to realize that God loves us all and that He has given each of us gifts that can only be discovered by turning to Him. We pray that all His children may turn to Him today and receive the gifts He longs to give. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Cyril of Alexandria (444), Bishop, Doctor

St. Apollonia (249), Virgin, Martyr, Patron of Dentists

St. Nicephorus (260), Martyr

image: St. Caedom on Whitby Cross via Soloist / Wikimedia Commons

Grieving for Aborted Children and Their Parents

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 23:07

Recently I got a phone call from the college students who pray at our local Planned Parenthood most Saturdays of the year. I have come to know them through my own involvement in 40 Days for Life. Two years ago, Our Lord called me to share openly my own pain of pre-born baby loss shortly after my fourth miscarriage. I would stand week after week holding my sign sharing the deep pain of loss I have experienced and my desire to help those entering Planned Parenthood for abortions. God has asked me to unite my own deeply painful Cross to the agony that goes on in abortion centers. My hope was — and still is — to help these women and men avoid the devastation of killing their own child. I know what it is to lose a child, but I can’t imagine the unbelievable pain of killing your own child. I want to save them, by God’s grace, from that kind of horror and regret.

I carry the pain of losing four children and the reality that it does not appear to be God’s will for my life for me to have anymore biological children. Before people start emailing and commenting on their solutions to my very real and debilitating hormone issues, I have been through every test under the sun. I’ve been treated with Church-approved Natural Procreative Technologies (NaPro) bio-identical hormones. I had to stop because of the side effects in my particular case. I’ve done my due diligence. I lost my last child while on NaPro injections. It is now time to accept God’s will and learn to carry this very heavy Cross. I’ve been told this on three separate occasions in Confession by the same priest who is also a friend of mine. I believe this is from the Holy Spirit and He is trying to help me embrace this agonizing Cross.

Just because I cannot have any more biological children, does not mean that my husband and I have not sought other avenues for growing our family. We have an approved adoption home-study, and now that he appears to be in remission, we can begin to look at adoption as a very real possibility for our family, as long as it is in accordance with God’s will. This is why I received a phone call from a college student standing outside of Planned Parenthood.

Adoption and Abortion

This college student and dedicated sidewalk counselor spent quite a bit of time talking to a young couple about adoption. They had an appointment for a surgical abortion that morning and he was doing everything in his power to provide them with resources in order to help them make a choice of life for them and their baby. This woman had already given up a previous child for adoption, so she already knew the process. This sidewalk counselor told them about my husband, our daughter, and me and how we would be happy to adopt their child. He gave them his cell number so that he could connect us when they were ready. The couple left Planned Parenthood. There was great hope that maybe this couple would choose adoption, even if it wasn’t us as the parents. Unfortunately, they came back and went in. They didn’t come back out during the time my friend was there and we know that the baby is now dead at his or her own parents’ hands.

This is common. I know that it’s common. I’ve been praying at our local Planned Parenthood for years. I know that most people would rather abort their own child than give him or her up for adoption. I don’t fully understand it. It can be quite frustrating and even maddening at times. I understand the fear in unplanned pregnancies — that’s one of the reasons I am out there to help — but there’s more to it than that. The theologian in me knows that the very deadly and heavy sins of pride and envy also play a role. These sins tend to lead to heinous crimes in those whose consciences are not properly formed and who do not have the light of grace in their souls. This is not a judgment on this couple or any other woman seeking an abortion. It is a reality about our Fallen state. Even those of us in the Church must guard against soul-killing sins. We too are weak. For these women and men, it’s easier to kill one’s own child than it is to let someone else raise their child. People have told us that if they can’t raise their child, then no one will. Let that sink in and then pray for them.

This was the first time in a while that a couple seemed open to the idea of adoption. My friend was very hopeful and he knows that Phil and I would take any child in need in a heartbeat. He also knows how much agony I have suffered through my miscarriages and secondary infertility. Even though I’ve been out praying when countless abortions have taken place, this one hit me hard. I found myself sobbing in my parish bathroom shortly after I found out. I was there for, of all things, sidewalk counselor training to help me serve those seeking abortions even more.

Grieving another lost child

I am heartbroken that this little boy or girl is now dead, having been murdered by those entrusted with their care and love. I am grief-stricken that this child could have had a good life and that these parents had very real options, but they chose a violent death for their child instead. I am sad for the mother and the father because they have no idea the joy and love they have now missed out on. I hurt for them and their horrendous choice. I thought of the mother, groggy, cramping, numb at home and her partner who didn’t help her be brave and courageous. He did not protect her and she did not protect her child. I ache for them and grieve for those who do not have a life in Christ. Situations like these should enliven us to evangelize. What kind of life is it without Christ?

I took my grief to Our Lord in His Real Presence as I prayed before the Tabernacle for a couple of hours and then offered up Mass for them. I cried for this lost child and his or her parents. I prayed for the soul of this baby and for all of the others lost through this genocide. I prayed for the conversion and repentance of the parents. I offered my own grief — knowing at the deepest level what it is to lose a child — for their baby and for them. I allowed Our Lord to cut me open once again so that I could unite my own suffering in some way to help in this very real spiritual war we are embroiled in. I united the agony of my own losses to the loss of this child. I’ve been called to the front of this horrific battle against “powers and principalities” and this is how Our Lord has called me to fight: prayerful witness, redemptive suffering, and sacrifice. He is asking me to allow Him to cut my heart open in love of these precious souls in union with my love for Him and my miscarried babies: Victoria, Caleb, Marie-Therese, and Andrew.

The power of uniting our Crosses to Christ’s

I believe God has called me to grieve in a very specific way for these babies who are aborted and for their parents. A priest told me a couple of years ago that he believes this is a special mission God has given to me in particular. I was confused and hurting about why God would call me of all people to the front lines of a fight where millions of unborn babies are murdered. He pointed out that my grief at having lost four babies gives me a unique perspective on how great the loss of each child really is in reality.

In our culture, even miscarriage is treated in a manner that ignores the dignity of each human being. Pro-lifers can even dehumanize miscarried babies with ridiculous statements such as: “You can always have another baby” or “There was clearly something wrong with the baby.” So, they weren’t a unique human person worthy of love? We should be careful not to violate or contradict our own position. This contradicts our own understanding and also betrays an over-dependence on control over our fertility that only belongs to God. Our family size is up to God.

Do not become numb in the abortion fight

There is a danger as we fight to bring about the end of abortion to become numb to it all. It is difficult to contemplate what is going on inside these buildings as we pray outside. It is discouraging that more people go in than are willing to come to us for help. Seeing women stumble out after they’ve aborted their child is heart-wrenching and painful. They are vulnerable and for all intents-and-purposes, alone. They were abandoned in their hour of need and they gave into fear and despair. The reasons may be complicated, but the truth is these women have been let down and now another child is dead and these women are not any better off. They are worse off. We can’t lose sight of this truth. We cannot become numb because then we will become complacent or despair.

Whether it is an abortion or a miscarriage, a unique human being made imago Dei is lost. One is a moral evil and the other is largely mysterious, even when there are some medical answers. They are not the same, but there are similarities in the loss. God is using me to grieve these unique persons and to remind my fellow brothers and sisters on the front lines of this intense spiritual battle that we cannot become numb. We cannot constantly focus on the astronomical numbers—and they are horrifying—we must also remember each individual life that is lost and that it is a good thing to grieve. It teaches us to love more and Christ promises consolation to those who mourn. Who else will grieve for these children and their parents if we do not?

Lent and God’s Answer to Suffering

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 23:05

Why does God allow suffering?

I wish I had a satisfying answer to that. I can give you my best theological explanation, but it won’t satisfy what that question is really seeking. (The theological answer: God doesn’t create suffering, but he allows it. Through our free will, we have chosen evil and suffering has entered the world. But, of course, there is the follow-up question…why does he allow it?) I could also tell you that the answer is, ultimately, a mystery, but that isn’t very satisfying either.

However, I can give you the only answer I’ve found any satisfaction is, an answer that is worthy of reflection as we enter this Lenten season.

The only real answer to suffering in this world is the cross.

But first, let me tell you a little story.

The summer after my freshman year of college, I was recovering from a break-up with my freshman year boyfriend. While I don’t number it as one of the worst sufferings in my life, it certainly felt like it at the time.

One Saturday evening that summer, I went to the vigil Mass for Sunday. Before Mass, I was praying with the readings and was startled by the reading from the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. St. Paul is sharing with the Corinthians about a personal (unnamed) struggle of his, a “thorn in his side.” Paul says, “Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Those words from Scripture bolstered me like nothing else had. My weakness could be a strength.

Therein lies the truth of the cross.

The Catholic answer to the problem of suffering looks different than that of some other Christian denominations. I remember realizing this when reading the memoir of a famous evangelical mother. She shares how she was near tears from exhaustion, folding laundry late one night. In that moment, she realized that she should have been praising God in the midst of her suffering, rather than succumbing to her sorrow. In response, she forced herself to smile and sing a hymn of praise.

This is a beautiful reaction, but it bypasses an important step. Jesus was not smiling and singing songs of praise on the cross. His mother was not doing that at the foot of the cross (or else we would wouldn’t have a song like Stabat Mater). The normal stages of grieving do not preclude holiness. It is not necessary to undergo suffering with a cheery look on your face. The tears, the cries of anger, the emotional roller coaster — they are a part of the cross. Sainthood, thankfully, is not about keeping up appearances.

What is God’s answer to suffering? How is the cross an answer? There are two facets to consider, and both involve a deeper look at Christology (the study of who Christ is) and soteriology (the study of salvation).

From a Christological perspective, who is Jesus? Our faith proclaims that Jesus is “true God and true man,” both completely God and completely man. Jesus is the divine person of God the Son, the second person of the Trinity. As such, he possesses a divine nature (since he is God). However, in the Incarnation, he freely takes up a human nature. (If we look at the implications of this even more deeply, this means that human nature is forever caught up in the love of the Trinity, thus elevating us to a state above even the angels.) However, Jesus is without sin, including original sin. In him, we see what man was truly created to be. Jesus is far more than a mere moral example and teacher, but we can learn something from looking at his life. Too often, the life of Jesus is watered down to appear to be that of someone who was merely good and kind and peaceful. Of course, there is some of that, but Jesus himself says, “I have come to bring not peace but the sword.” That sword includes the cross, which is, as St. Paul writes, “…a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…”

Here is where the soteriological point comes in. The punishment for Adam’s sin was death, and this created a “debt.” Jesus, free of sin, did not owe that debt. Yet, out of immense love for us, he died and paid that debt. Because he was free of sin, he paid it superabundantly, thus opening the way to heaven.

Jesus did not have to choose to suffer. He didn’t have to undergo the normal sufferings of being human — yet, he embraced those in the Incarnation. He also didn’t have to undergo the suffering of death — yet, he embraced that suffering in the most painful way imaginable.

For Jesus (who is God and therefore all-knowing) to choose to love in this way, there must be some value in it.

On the one hand, there is the answer to loneliness. Through his life and death, Christ unites himself to our suffering. This is a very different God than the one taught by pagan religions. For one who is omnipotent, eternal, all-knowing, etc. to chose to be born in poverty and die a violent death – it makes absolutely no sense. The only answer for the actions of God is his love. God loves us in such a radical way that he thought that we were worth it. Because Jesus (who is God) chose to suffer in his human nature, we no longer suffer alone. He has suffered, too. When we suffer, we don’t face a God who is cold and unfeeling, but one who entered into suffering for love of us.

On the other hand, he who united himself to our human suffering, invites us to unite ourselves to his cross.  As Catholics, we don’t believe that suffering is pointless, meaningless, or worthless. We believe it can be “offered up” – united to the suffering of Christ, in order to be a part of his work in redeeming the world.

Any parent can tell you that it is more difficult to let a toddler help with a task than to do it yourself. The gap between God’s greatness and our littleness is even greater than that between a parent and toddler. Why would God allow us to be a part of his salvific work? It is a part of his love, and his trust in us.

But…what if we don’t want to be a part of that suffering? I wish I could say that I gladly welcomes the sufferings that God has given me, but I haven’t always. When we lost our tiny Gabriel, and I found myself weeping at his grave site, you better believe I had some choice words for God. I couldn’t imagine why he had taken my child away. I still can’t understand it, and I still long for the pitter patter of those little feet that will never run down my hallway, for those little hands that will never grab my cheeks.

As a miscarried baby, I only knew Gabriel for a short time. I have friends and family who have lost babies to stillbirth or even later in childhood. I cannot begin to imagine their grief. I cannot begin to imagine the questions they have for God. Although my suffering is not the same as theirs, I continue to grieve for my little lost baby.

But, as with other sufferings in my life, I have found comfort in knowing that I am not alone in my suffering. And I have found hope in offering up my sufferings, uniting them, in love, to the love of Christ.  This seemingly meaningless suffering of mine can find some meaning in that. My suffering can become an act of love.

This kind of love, this love of the cross, is the mystery we enter into during Lent. It is in this mystery that we find our hope.

Praying Our Way Into God’s Plan for Us

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 23:02

Jesus Christ, true God and true man, lacks nothing because “all things were created through Him and for Him.”(Col 1:16) In today’s Gospel, He successfully shows His power to heal the sick and to drive out demons. He wins the esteem and admiration of the crowd who pursue Him as attested by Simon Peter, “Everyone is looking for you.”

He owns all things. He is all powerful. He is successful and yet He makes out time for prayer, “Rising very early before dawn, He left and went off to a deserted place where He prayed.” What is He praying for? What does this show us about prayer?

Prayer is not just about getting results but it is primarily about deepening our relationship with God. The more we are ready and committed to life of honest prayer, our relationship with God is strengthened and in that deepened bond with God, we begin to grasp the beauty, love, power and wisdom of God’s plan for us even when our prayers are unanswered.

The fruit of Jesus’ prayer to the Father was to keep His focus on the Father’s plan for Him to be raised from the grave after His death on Calvary. By embracing this divine plan for Him in and through His early morning moments of solitude, Jesus was not swayed by the passing enthusiasm of the crowd that was searching for Him. He was ready to leave the place where He was successful and the people who esteemed Him and to journey to the place of rejection and to people who would condemn Him to death and crucify Him, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” Through prayer, Jesus never lost contact with the beauty, power, love and wisdom of His Father’s plan.

What happens when we do not pray as we should? What happens when we give up prayer because we do not get favorable results? Then we begin to lose the sense of God’s plan for us in those difficult and painful moments just like the faithful Job did in today’s First Reading. Having lost his wealth, children and health, Job lamented how futile and meaningless life was, “Is not life’s man on earth a drudgery?… My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope…I shall not see happiness again.” He grasped the beauty of God’s plan for Him only when he later surrendered to God’s hidden wisdom, power and love.

Today’s Second Reading shows us the zealous St. Paul maligned and accused of selfish motives in preaching the Gospel. He is not distracted but embraces the divine plan for him even in the midst of all the false accusations, “For an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it.” He remains faithful to the Father’s plan to preach the Gospel free of charge.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is so easy for us today to say that we do not pray because we do not have the time to pray. It is so easy for us in our secular times to grow and advance in age, status, materially, academically, technologically, etc., and still be very immature in our relationship with God simply because we are not ready to sacrifice anything to make time and space for deep and honest prayer with God.

It is also so easy for us to limit our time of prayer to communal prayer in the SundayEucharist or daily Mass. The Mass remains the highest prayer itself because it is the prayer of Jesus Christ and a way for us to participate in His own perfect prayer. But we must also be ready to sacrifice something for that one-on-one prayer time with our Loving Father who has given us in His Son, Jesus Christ, the Spirit to assist us in our prayer, “We do not how to pray as we ought to prayer; but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”(Rom 8:26) Nothing kills personal prayer like that self-indulgence that refuses to sacrifice anything for the sake of a deeper relationship with God.

In today’s Gospel, after Jesus had left the communal prayer of the synagogue, He still sacrificed His early morning sleep just to have some quiet time with the Father. Why then should we think that communal prayer of the Mass is enough prayer for us? Unless we nurture and grow in our relationship with God through that privileged one-on-one encounter with the Lord, we will never grasp God’s loving, wise and powerful plan for us and for the world. But when we grasp His plan for us, we become beacons of hope, bringing souls to Jesus like the disciples in today’s Gospel, “They immediately told Him (Jesus) about her (Simon’s mother-in-law)…After sunset, they brought to Jesus all who were sick or ill or possessed with demons.”

I recall that my very first month in the seminary in Boston was very difficult for me. I performed poorly in my first few classroom exams. I was struggling to get used to the new culture, language, and food. I felt I would die of the cold soon enough. I was in hospital twice in that first month alone. I felt I was not fitted at all for this religious and priestly life.

I also felt a strong desire to pray more intensely and I did not know how to respond. I make a deal with Mother Mary that if she would wake me up by 4.30am every morning, that I would pray for at least an hour every day before the time for community morning prayer. I know for sure that Mama Mary took my challenge seriously because I have never been more awake at 4:30 in the morning with an intense desire to open my sinful and wounded heart to God in prayer! I would pray the Rosary and spend time meditating on the word of God. Of course, I still had my struggles in the seminary but I began to grasp more deeply and certainly the divine love, wisdom and power behind my vocation to the priesthood and religious life despite my weaknesses and failures. I don’t think that I would have persevered in my vocation without this signal grace in prayer from Mother Mary.

We may be in that position where our prayer does not seem to be bearing visible fruit. We may be tempted to make that usual excuse that we do not have time to pray. We may be falling into the temptation of limiting our prayer time to only Eucharistic worship. Let us make a serious and honest deal with Mother Mary too as I did. She is more than equal to the task. She will do anything for us to pray as we should because her greatest desire for us is that we embrace the plan of God for us just as she did and thus know the power, wisdom and love of God for us all.

In our Eucharist today, Jesus comes with both grace and a renewed invitation for us to embrace His plan for us. No matter our sins and failings, our sufferings and pains, our answered or unanswered prayers, God’s loving plan is ever intact for us. With the help of Mother Mary, let us be ready to sacrifice anything just to pray as we ought so that we will know that God has a beautiful plan for us that is filled with nothing but His power, wisdom and love.

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

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 23:00

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus rewards the faith and humility of the Syrophoenician woman by driving away the demon tormenting her daughter.

Using the image of a house-owner, his children and dogs, Jesus reiterates that his mission was primarily for the Jewish people: “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

In utmost humility, the desperate mother counters, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the crumbs from the children’s bread.”

How could Jesus not give a woman with such humility and faith what she was asking for?

St. Jerome Emiliani

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 23:00

Jerome Emiliani (Gerolamo Emiliani) was born in Venice, Italy, in 1481. He became a soldier and eventually was made a commander of a fortress in Treviso. When this fortress fell to the Venetians, he was captured and imprisoned. It was during this time spent in a dark, damp cell that Jerome had time to reflect upon his life. He had never given much thought to God and had always felt very much in charge of his own life. He realized, however, that stripped of his army and weapons he was helpless. He called out to God in his weakness and God responded. Suddenly Jerome’s mind and heart were freed. His life had changed. Jerome was able to escape the dungeon in which he was being held captive and returned to Venice where he was ordained a priest in 1518. He began caring for and ministering to many famine and plague victims, and soon came to focus his attention on the many children who had been orphaned by these epidemics. Using his own money to rent a house for the orphans, he began feeding, clothing and educating them. He helped them learn their faith through the method of question and answer. He later founded orphanages at Brescia, Bergamo, and Como, as well as a hospital at Verona and a home for repentant prostitutes. In the year 1532, Jerome, along with two other priests, founded a congregation known as the Clerks Regular of Somascha. Jerome’s constant devotion to the poor and sick took its toil on his health, and in 1537, while helping others, he fell ill and died at the age of 56.

Lessons

Jerome devoted his life to helping others, especially children, and therefore is known as the patron saint of abandoned children and orphans.

Prayer

Saint Jerome Emiliani, please pray that we are good guardians of our children who are gifts from God. Help us to love them and protect them from the evils of this present age and to nourish them in their faith as you did. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Josephine Bakhita (1947), Virgin, Religious

St. John of Matha (1213), Priest, Founder of the Trinitarians

Seeing the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Our Lives

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 23:07

“How does a person know if she is bearing good fruit for God?” A young woman asked me this question following an Advent retreat in which I’d presented about the spiritual benefits of waiting. It’s a common question, I realize — one without a clear, universal answer.

Maybe it’s a cop-out to respond, “There’s no panacea,” but I frequently do. And then I read about the fruits of the Holy Spirit in scripture, recalling that there are definite signs that one is, indeed, fruitful in one’s work.

Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” The short answer to the initial question, of course, is that our lives will exemplify a melange of these spiritual fruits if we are, in fact, following God’s will. But how can we recognize these fruits, and what can we do to foster them in our lives?

Let’s begin by differentiating between the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the Holy Spirit. “The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit…complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.” (CCC 1831) “The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory.” (CCC 1832)

In other words, spiritual gifts are those that God chooses to bestow on us without any merit or practice on our part. We cannot earn or acquire these gifts. But if we use them by being attentive to the ways in which God is calling us to share them with others, we will see the consequences of these gifts — which are the spiritual fruits, or results, of our good deeds.

How can we share the charisms God has given us so that the following spiritual fruits will be evident through our lives? Without delving into the dense theological attributes of each, here are some practical ways we can grow in each:

Love

A foundational theological virtue, it’s safe to assume that all other fruits fall back to the “greatest of these,” as St. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13. Authentic Christian love requires self-abnegation on a daily basis. It means we must deny ourselves little pleasures or comforts in order that the Spirit overcomes the flesh. Not contingent upon emotion, love – or charity – is a conscious act of the will. It means we will the good of the other. At times that might mean speaking truth that challenges a loved one. At other times, it might mean we should quiet ourselves and listen to another. No matter, when we are refined in the school of suffering, we will know more deeply and clearly what it means to love.

Joy

Though it is right to pray that we will be “reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy in the next,” the secular definition of happiness is not even close to the spiritual fruit of joy. It is quite possible to experience supernatural joy in the midst of great trials and hardship. The juxtaposition of experiencing both pain and joy is a beautiful spiritual gift that allows us to be visible witnesses of the hope we have in the Resurrection.

Peace

Peace is likely what we long for above all else, but how to attain it? St. Teresa of Avila once said, “Let nothing disturb you.” How is that possible in our complex tech society? There are times when God will impart peace as supernatural grace upon our souls when we least expect it, yet need it as consolation to continue in fidelity to our spiritual journey. This is the “peace that surpasses all understanding” written about in Philippians 4:7.

Patience

If we truly want to be holy, practicing patience is an excellent starting point. If we pray for this gift of “long-suffering,” God will deliver us plenty of opportunities for us to practice it. Often, when we undergo seasons of waiting — in which our lives seem to be in a holding pattern and nothing is really moving forward with projects or plans — we are asked to trust and wait. Waiting necessitates patience, because we don’t know how long we will need to hold still.

Kindness

A popular quote today is, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” It’s a choice on our part as to how we will respond to those we encounter. Will I be rude, insensitive, quick-tempered, judgmental? Or will I pause, be patient, and respond with mercy? It is true that we are all fighting battles unknown to the rest of the world, so smiling, offering a helping hand, and being “slow to anger” are all superb ways we can exemplify kindness in our daily lives.

Goodness

In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul wrote, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” When I think of goodness, this is what I imagine — integrity, honesty, truth, beauty. Let’s do more than think about these things; let’s put them into effect by our words and deeds.

Faithfulness

Fidelity to God and in our human relationships is often tried throughout the course of our lives. The Psalmist cried, “How long, O Lord, how long will you forget me?” in Psalm 13. When we feel abandoned by God, or perhaps our marriage has become stagnant, or maybe a parent or sibling has hurt us deeply throughout many decades, we are tempted to sever the ties. True faithfulness involves perseverance through the ups and downs, good and bad – and mediocre. We remain rooted to the True Vine, and in time, as branches we will bear “fruit that will last” (John 15).

Gentleness

Akin to meekness, when we are gentle, we have a quiet way about us. We’re not constantly chattering or loudly interrupting (as I often do, much to my chagrin). Instead, we listen. We wait to respond to someone else. We don’t allow our emotions to override reason. It seems that, in order to grow in gentleness, we need a healthy dose of humility. Maybe it’s because humility humiliates — we become little in the sight of God and others, and so we are less inclined to judge harshly. This does not mean we don’t stand for what’s true and against what is evil. It simply means we respond to others, in their own weaknesses and foibles, with charity.

Self-Control

I can think of nothing more apt than to end with self-control. In a world that lauds instant gratification, what could be more counter-cultural than exhibiting self-control? On the one hand, we’re praised for refraining from eating pesticide-laden produce or hormone-pumped animal products, but on the other hand, we’re encouraged to indulge – in spa treatments, shopping sprees, or ice cream sundaes. True self-control, however, is a spiritual fruit, because it involves the virtue of temperance – balancing our strong impulses specifically toward sensory pleasures and delights. We refrain and restrain not out of guilt, only to overindulge later, but rather we moderate our senses and their pleasures.

There’s no reason to measure ourselves by how many or how often spiritual fruits are evidence of good works or following God’s will. Instead, we would do well to simply remain receptive to the movements and musings of the Holy Spirit, guided by the sacraments and sound spiritual direction, so that our daily lives will bear whatever God wills — in His time, His way, and by His methods. If we remain open to Him always, He will never disappoint. In fact, He will make all things great, and greater still than we can possibly fathom — in and through us.

image: By Dnalor 01 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 at], via Wikimedia Commons

The Art of Cultivating a Heavenly Perspective

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 23:05

“Let your thoughts be ever in the kingdom of heaven and soon you will possess it as an heritage.”

-Abba Hyperechius, Desert Father, fourth-century

With his usual erudition, C.S. Lewis provides a helpful, guided tour of the landscape of the human soul:

The Christian says, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

We cannot adequately understand the world within us and without us without consulting a biblical anthropology. We were created in Eden; we were created for heaven (Phil. 3:20); the Preacher (Qoheleth) in Ecclesiastes says that God has “set eternity in their hearts” (emphasis mine; Eccles. 3:11b). Our deepest yearnings draw us heavenward.

But now we live east of Eden in a fallen world, and, in our quiet, honest moments, we have a “something’s missing” feeling and a longing for heaven or something like the perfection of Eden. The cherubim stand guard at the entrance of Eden and won’t let us back in.

Life can feel like living in a motel room, and, despite the cable TV, free Continental breakfast, and comfortable queen-sized bed, it’s not home. How we respond to this yearning will greatly influence the health of our interpersonal relationships.

We can try to find heaven on earth through other people. Think of the engaged couple who really does believe that their betrothed will make all their dreams come true.

The corrective letter that C.S. Lewis wrote to Sheldon Vanauken in A Severe Mercy also comes to mind in the aftermath of his wife Jean “Davy” Vanauken’s illness and death. Lewis rightly pointed out that Vanauken hoped to keep his marriage in a perpetual state of nuptial bliss, an eternal springtime of poetry and verdant pastures, insulated from the disappointment and “soul-making” nature of a fallen world.

Think of the wife who demands that her husband be able to read her mind in buying her the perfect gift for her birthday. She won’t even drop subtle hints for him, because, if he really loved her and was sensitive to her needs, he wouldn’t need them.

It could be a husband who demands that his wife have a similar sexual nature to his own despite the fact that, as Louann Brizendine points out, the area of the hypothalamus in the human brain related to sexual pursuit is 2.5 times bigger in men than women. Also, the fuel that runs sexual desire is testosterone and men, in general, have ten times more of this than women.

Many divorces are rooted in the soil of a toxic romantic idealism. People make lousy gods and the perfect becomes the enemy of the good.

If misplaced yearnings for heaven wreak havoc in human relationships, then the salutary response to this problem would be to place those yearnings where they really belong: heaven. This will help us defer gratification in this life in our dealings with other people and fulfill this Pauline directive:

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1,2).

By doing this we trod the path of Jesus (Matthew 6:33), the Old and New Testament saints (Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:14-16) and all the spiritual luminaries throughout over two thousand years of church history. They were walking on a Bridge called the Hope of Heaven that stands between this present Vale of Tears and the future Beatific Vision

In cultivating a heavenly perspective, it is good for the practicing Catholic to know at least three things. This is by no means an exhaustive list but a good conversation-starter.

Believers would understand and put into practice the truth that they have a dual citizenship. We are in Christ; he is in us. He is seated at the right hand of the Father; therefore we are also “seated in heavenly places” (Eph. 2:6) and “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).

This means that we may be a citizen of the U.S. celebrating the Mass on a Sunday morning at Our Lady of Sorrows in Akron, Ohio, but we are also in heaven celebrating the Holy Sacrifice with the saints and countless angels. These realities are true whether we feel them or not. This needs to be emphasized in a feeling-based American culture that puts a new spin on Descartes: “I feel; therefore I am.”

Believers would know that seeing life through a heavenly lens will help them with immediate needs in their daily lives. Imagine a man in his early 30s sitting in his backyard alone on a Saturday morning. Many things in his life feel a little out of control: marriage and family life, work, finances, and his health.

In his time of prayer and meditation he knows he is seated in heavenly places and, because of this, has a renewed understanding of the sovereignty of God. God is in control: his anxiety begins to give way to peace.

He also has a big decision to make by Monday morning. He has been offered a promotion at work that would mean a substantial raise with more authority and prestige in the company. It would also mean more traveling, longer hours, and a lot less time with his wife and three small children.

Because he is seated in heavenly places, he can look at the decision with an eternal perspective and see things through the lens of sacrificial love and what it means to truly gather up treasure in heaven. It’s a no-brainer: he decides he doesn’t want to sacrifice important relationships on the altar of money and achievement and declines the offer.

Believers would learn to live in the tension of the Already/Not Yet of heaven. Jesus inaugurated the kingdom of heaven and the transcendence of the future invaded the present moment with the Incarnation. In one sense heaven is already here, breaking into our lives in many diverse and wonderful ways. A practicing Catholic who prays the Rosary receives graces from heaven from the Queen of Heaven and enjoys a foretaste of the Beatific Vision in the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

In another sense the fullness of heaven is not here yet until we see the Beatific Vision. On this side of eternity we are betrothed to Christ and wear his engagement ring; on the other side we will enter into the fullness of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

Put in culinary terms, we get the salad and the appetizer in the Already and then the main course and dessert in the Not Yet. Because, as Lewis says, we were created for the next life, there will always be a “something’s missing” feeling in this life. This dissatisfaction, by the grace of God, can be transformed into Hope that becomes a bridge between the Already and the Not Yet.

Keeping Lent Real with Mary

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 23:02

I consider myself a Lent dropout, but that’s not entirely accurate, because I keep re-enrolling. I’m not so different from a lot of people, I’m sure.

I start off strong and motivated and full of ideas and plans and ways that this will be the Best! Lent! Ever!

Except I didn’t start out any of those things this year. This year, I started off weak-kneed and cowed and way off my game. This year, I was full of dread and trembling and fear.

I can’t even say why, except that I was in the midst of a bad stretch and…I just wasn’t on my game.

This year, as I near the end of my fourth pregnancy, juggle three kids and a busy work schedule and a ton of other things going on non-stop, I need the reminder I often give others about keeping Lent real: real for who I am this year, real for what my family needs from me, real for where I am in my spiritual journey at this moment in time.

The truth is, Lent can — and does — help me live my vocation as a wife and mom more fully and deeply. However much I may feel like I fail Lent, each failure brings me a step closer to success. It’s a lesson in humility, for sure, but it’s also a lesson in perseverance.

During Lent, I can learn lessons to help me become the woman that God intends me to be, but only — ONLY — if I keep it real.

In my ongoing journey through Lent, and especially this year as I’m ready to pop on so many levels, I’ve found that there is one person, more than any other, who helps me.

The image of Mary in all the artwork and icons and on the pedestals of churches around the world isn’t necessarily helpful when I’m looking for a mentor. Her hair, after all, is flawless. She looks so serene. There’s not a mess anywhere near her, and I just can’t relate. This is not a woman I know. In many ways, she’s not a woman I want to know: I am intimidated by what I see.

What I’m forgetting, looking at these images of The Perfect Mary, is that these are inspired and idealistic. They’re not so different from the author photo on the cover of my books. Do I look like that author photo? Well, yes, when I’m posing for a picture. The rest of the time, not so much.

Mary does not represent impossible perfection; she is the embodiment of grace in action. She had to feed her family, deal with single parenthood, juggle the demands of life in first century Palestine, stay out of the limelight, and face the torture of grief of her Son and his disciples.

Who better to turn to, then, this Lent?

Here are four ways to turn to Mary this Lent and keep things real.

Try a new devotion.

Inspired by Katie Warner, my devotion this year has been something that’s not necessarily new, though I’ve not done it this way before. I made a list of the 40 days of Lent and inserted names beside them. Then I assigned saints from my personal litany. Each day, I’m praying for that person and for that saint’s intercession.

For you, it may be praying a decade of the rosary or trying a Hail Mary at some set time of the day, like when you’re in the bathroom brushing your teeth. A few years ago, when I still lived in a house with stairs, I got in the habit of praying a Hail Mary whenever I went up or down the stairs.

The idea is to make the devotion and the prayer a habit. You want to walk away from Lent using Mary’s example — she was praying always, glorifying the Lord. Experiment and try a new devotion that will help you turn to God throughout your day.

Bless the ordinary and mundane moments.

There’s a lot more ordinary than exciting in my life, unless you count the puketivities and snowmaggedon. God so often speaks to me with soft little voices and tiny little cues, rather than fireworks and loud announcements.

I have more laundry than drama, so I might as well embrace what’s in front of me and let Mary show me how to use it to grow closer to God. I suspect she understands my qualms as I look at Mount Laundryest and wonder how we possibly created all that folding.

The dishes, the dinners, the endless paperwork: these are all opportunities to let Mary remind me how my soul, too, can magnify the Lord, even in the midst of dirty toilets and overflowing inboxes.

Use art and share it with the family.

It’s fun to look through old photo albums. I still grab boxes of old photos when I’m at my grandma’s and let her regale me with the stories behind them. My kids love to look at the scrapbooks I’ve made over the years, from my wedding album to the pictures of my college days.

A number of years ago, I was in my kitchen praying when my then-two-year-old came trotting in to sit with me. I had a book of Marian art beside me, because I was trying to use it to inspire my prayer time. She and I sat there and went through it, and it amazed me how she knew that the pictures were “Mama Mawy.” She didn’t need me to tell her. She knew already.

Lent isn’t a time to shun beauty, though we spend it in the desert. Find some Marian art, whether it’s from a book or from an online resource, and let it inspire you. Let those pictures remind you of the pretty and the beautiful, rather than intimidate you with images of perfection.

Keep it simple.

This should go without saying, but I need this particular reminder every year, without fail. The temptation is to see what the Perfect People are doing, to skim Pinterest and get overwhelmed, to beat myself up for all the things I don’t or can’t do.

But the truth is, there is plenty I can do, and the first is this: keep it simple. Keep what I’m doing with my kids simple. Keep what I’m doing for myself simple. Keep my whole approach simple.

Things have a way of getting complicated all by themselves.

The best way to keep Lent real, really, is to ask Mary to help you. In fact, she probably already has…

“To see light, all we need do is

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 23:00

“To see light, all we need do is open our eyes; the light comes in by itself. There is no other path that we need to take to light. Now truth is more light than light itself, so nothing can take us to truth other than truth itself. It must approach us, humble itself, and make itself lowly.”

-Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent

In our society today, what we eat and

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 23:00

In our society today, what we eat and how much we consume has become a major obsession in almost everybody’s life. We spend a big chunk of our time thinking about the when’s and what’s of food that goes in our body. And for some, they worry about food that will “defile” their body to the extent that it borders on obsession. Seldom, do we spend the same amount of time thinking about “the things which come out of a man”— out of us?

Today, let us spend some time to reflect on ourselves. To reflect on what is inside of us. Are there things in our life that is bothering us? Where are we in our life now? Are we happy with who-we-are? Are we grateful of God’s many blessings in our lives? Or do we feel lost and unhappy? Do we exercise control over the negative tendencies inside us? Or do we just pass them of as harmless incidents and healthy ambitions? Do we try to live our life for Jesus? Or are we ashamed of him? Do we worry about what Jesus will say or are we more afraid of what others will say about our belief in him?

As Christians, we are mandated by Jesus to let our “Christ light” shine for all to see. Let us pray for his guidance and also for the will to stay on the righteous course.

St. Egidio Maria (St. Giles Mary)

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 23:00

The simple humility and obedience of St. Egidio Maria, born Francis Pontillo in 1729, are virtues sorely needed in today’s world. At age 25 he responded to God’s call to be a discalced friar in Naples. He hoped to become a priest, but he did not have the necessary education and instead consented to enter the order as a lay brother.

As gatekeeper to his monastery, he began vigorously attending to the needs of all those who came to the monastery seeking help. In his own time he became famous for helping the diseased and poverty-stricken folk of the region, and when he died massive throngs of people attended his funeral.

He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1996.

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.