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“We must express joy and thanks

Sun, 09/17/2017 - 22:00

“We must express joy and thanks to the Lord in our problems. Joy and thankfulness transform our problems into opportunities for the Lord to work in our lives. They turn our minds from our problems to Him.”

-Bert Ghezzi, Getting Free: How to Overcome Persistent Spiritual Problems

St. Joseph of Cupertino

Sun, 09/17/2017 - 22:00

Let no one say the Catholic Church hasn’t a sense of humor, particularly in the manner she chooses to reward saints. We only need to look to the example of St. Joseph Cupertino for our proof.

St. Joseph lived in the 17th century and was a faithful and passionate young boy, yet he was lacking in strong intelligence and common sense. His pious qualities went unnoticed by his family and the people who lived in Cupertino, because he appeared to be an incompetent and forgetful fool. His mother was so embarrassed by his failures that she sent him away to be a servant for the Franciscans in Grotella, Italy, when he was just seventeen years old.

It was here that Joseph expressed his desire to become a priest. But he was not a good student and failed miserably in his studies. As Providence would have it, the one question asked of him at his oral test for the transitional diaconate was the one answer that he knew. And then again at his review for the candidacy to the priesthood, he was blessed by following on the heels of some very smart seminarians. They answered their questions so well that the bishop just passed the others, including Joseph, without further questions.

Joseph is considered one of the great mystics, perhaps even greater than St. Francis. Following his ordination, he was gifted with the charism of levitation at the mere glimpse of a statue of Our Lady or the mere mention of the name of the Lord. He would fall into a rapture of weightlessness and hover several feet above the ground in silent prayer. Sometimes he was seen flying around the church from balcony to balcony or from statue to statue.

For over thirty years, he was kept in seclusion at the request of Church officials, who found his “flights” embarrassing. Pope Benedict XIV disagreed and determined that his levitations and other mystical gifts met the criteria for sanctity. He was canonized in 1767 and in all seriousness (with a little laugh!) is the Patron of Students and Aviators.

St. Hildegard von Bingen

Sat, 09/16/2017 - 22:00

Hildegard was born the tenth child of a noble family at Bockelheim, Germany, in 1098. She was dedicated to the Lord, and grew up with a deep faith. Hildegard was attracted to the ascetic life and frequently visited her aunt, Blessed Jutta, who lived as an “anchor” next to a Benedictine monastery, spending her life as a recluse in prayer, meditation, and quiet contemplation.

Several young women were attracted to the holy life of Jutta, and a convent was founded. After Jutta died in 1136, Hildegard succeeded her as the prioress of the new convent. The community moved to the area of Bingen on the Rhine, and established another convent in the mid-12th century.

Hildegard’s talents were many! Her musical plays were performed in her convents, and her beautiful choral compositions were sung in church. Musicologists and historians of science and religion initiated revival of interest in this extraordinary woman of the middle ages; her music has a lovely ethereal quality, which is highly appreciated to this day. Hildegard believed in natural remedies, and produced writings about natural history and medicinal uses of plants, trees, and stones.

Hildegard was accustomed to seeing visions, and recorded them at the request of her spiritual director. She produced major works of theology. She wanted her visions to be formally approved by the Catholic Church, though she herself never doubted the divine origins to her luminous visions. She sought the recommendation of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who brought the writings to the attention of Pope Eugenius III (1145-53); he, with the archbishop of Mainz, approved them and exhorted Hildegard to finish her writings.

Like St. Catherine of Siena, Hildegard advised bishops, popes, and kings. She was considered to have great knowledge of the faith and the natural life. In a turbulent age, Hildegard used her talents in the quest for obtaining true justice and peace. She corresponded with four popes, two emperors, King Henry II of England, and famous clergy. Her works include commentaries on the Gospels, the Athanasian Creed, and the Rule of St. Benedict as well as Lives of the Saints and a medical work on the human body. Hildegard is regarded as one of the greatest figures of the 12th century — the first of the great German mystics, a poet, a physician, a musician, and a visionary. Hildegard died on September 17, 1179. Miracles were reported at her death, and the people honored her a saint. Beatified but not formally canonized, her name was inserted in the Roman Martyrology in the fifteenth century. Her feast day is September 17.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Thomas of Villanova (1555), Bishop, Religious, Patron of Valencia

St. Maurice and Companions (285), Martyrs

St. Robert Bellarmine (Bishop and Doctor)

Sat, 09/16/2017 - 22:00

St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) played a major role in the Catholic Reformation. Born in Italy, he was ordained a priest in the Jesuit Order in 1570. He taught as a professor at the University of Louvain in Belgium, while devoting himself to the study of Scripture and Church history, and he defended the authority of the Church against the attacks and counterclaims of the Protestants.

Robert tried to take a moderate approach to the issues of the day. He upheld the Church’s position and pointed out Protestant errors, but in a way which relied upon persuasion, not polemics. He argued against the “divine right of kings” — the belief that royal authority comes directly from God. He thereby indirectly promoted the possibility of modern democratic thought, angering the kings of England and France in the process.

Robert was assigned to the Roman College in 1576, and became its rector in 1592. In 1597 Pope Clement VIII made him a cardinal because, as he said, “he has not his equal for learning.” Bellarmine served as the archbishop of Capua from 1602-1605, and was the first to establish seminaries there for the training of future priests.

It was Robert who admonished Galileo when it seemed the astronomer’s theories were in conflict with Scripture (though he actually defended Galileo from even harsher critics, and remained personally friendly with him). St. Robert Bellarmine died in Rome on September 17, 1621, and was later canonized and declared a Doctor (an eminent and reliable teacher) of the Church.

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.”

Prosperity and adversity, wealth and poverty, health and sickness, honors and humiliations, life and death, in the mind of the wise man, are not sought for their own sake, nor avoided for their own sake. But if they contribute to the glory of God and your eternal happiness, then they are good and should be sought. If they detract from this, they are evil and must be avoided.

— St. Robert Bellarmine, On the Ascent to the Mind of God

What current joy and what current sorrow has God permitted me to contribute to my good?

Other Saints We Remember Today

The Imprinting of the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi (1224)

St. Hildegarde (1179), Abbess

Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 22:00

St. Cornelius was elected to succeed St. Fabian as the Bishop of Rome (pope), after Fabian was killed in a persecution in the year 250. The Church faced not only persecution, but also opposition from within. A priest named Novatian denied the Church’s authority to forgive serious sins, such as apostasy (abandoning the faith during a time of danger). Novatian even had himself consecrated as a rival bishop of Rome, thereby becoming an anti-pope.

Pope Cornelius, backed by St. Cyprian and other bishops, upheld the Church’s teaching, and allowed sinners to do penance and return to the Church. In 253, St. Cornelius was exiled by the authorities, and died a martyr soon afterward. His friend St. Cyprian wrote of Cornelius’ gentle and forgiving manner.

Cyprian was a famous lawyer and orator in North Africa. He didn’t become a Christian until age forty-six, then later he received the sacrament of Holy Orders, and soon became bishop of Carthage. Cyprian went into hiding during the Roman persecution of 250, to allow himself to continue ministering to his people. During this time another priest usurped his position and then forgave all apostates without requiring any penance of them at all. This position was too lenient, and Cyprian succeeded in having it condemned by the Church. Though Cyprian was gentle and forgiving, like Cornelius, he could also be stern and uncompromising. He was executed during a persecution in 258, and St. Augustine later wrote that St. Cyprian atoned for his frequent anger and impatience by his glorious martyrdom.

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.”

Petition is ineffectual when it is a barren entreaty that implores God. . . . The Holy Scripture instructs us saying, “Prayer is good with fasting and almsgiving.”

— St. Cyprian, “On the Lord’s Prayer”

What is my most pressing petition to God? What can I do to make it more effective? Am I willing? Why or why not?

Other Saints We Remember Today

Saints Euphemia, Lucy, and Geminianus (4th Century), Martyrs

Our Lady of Sorrows: An Example of Trust

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 22:07

While contemplating the Pieta in the Vatican on a pilgrimage to Rome, a mother in my group asked me: “How did she do it? How was she not angry?” I realized that these questions are not easily answered and since then, I have been meditating on Our Lady of Sorrows to be better able to reply.

Let us contemplate the Pieta for a moment. What could be more sorrowful, more painful, than a mother holding her only son — her son who is dead — in her arms? Pope Francis stated: “At that moment, at the foot of the Cross, none of us could say which was the cruelest passion: whether that of an innocent man who dies upon the gibbet of the Cross, or the agony of a mother who accompanies him in the last moments of her son’s life.”

The Pieta is the visible manifestation of the worst fruit of sin: death. On full display is all the sorrow, suffering, and pain that death brings. By external appearances, it seems that Satan has won: the promised Messiah has been murdered and His disciples have been scattered.

Is suffering and death really the last word, however? Is the Pieta only about suffering and death? Let us look more intently and gaze deeper into the mystery of Our Lady of Sorrows. Is not the Pieta also the visible manifestation of Our Lady’s unshakeable faith and trust?

All too often when looking upon human tragedy and sin, our gaze is too superficial. As Christians we are privileged to look upon reality – with its grandeurs and its sorrows – through the prism of faith.  Our faith expresses itself through unconditional trust, so let us take one step further in our contemplation of the Pieta and try to imagine how Mary gazed upon her Son through the eyes of her faith. Only then can we answer the question: “How did she do it?”

St. Pope John Paul II can help us imagine Our Lady at the Cross. We recall that at the Annunciation, she received the promise of the Archangel Gabriel: “[the] Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:32-33). Mary certainly remembers these words, for Luke reminds us twice that Our Lady remembered all the events that were happening – the nativity and the visit of the shepherds (Lk 2:19) and the finding of the boy Jesus in the temple (Lk 2:51).

Now, there is clearly a dilemma: the promise of the Angel says nothing about crucifixion. in fact, taken at face value the words of the angel promise an eternal kingdom upon the throne of David in Jerusalem. But Mary stands at the Cross – an unlikely substitute for a throne – in what would seem a complete contradiction to the promise given her by the Archangel.

Satan loves to point out contradictions to tempt us to not trust in God. I imagine that Satan must have tempted Our Lady (without success): “You were promised that He would be King! Look at Him now: do you really believe He is the Son of God? God’s promises aren’t true. Give up!” How often Satan tempts us in the same way, trying to show us how God’s promises ultimately do not happen because in the end there is only pain and death. Looking back after Easter, Christians understand that the Cross precisely is Jesus’ throne, from which He reigns as King.

Did Our Lady understand the plan of the Father in all its details? Scripture tells us that she did not (Lk 2:50). Like us, Our Lady walked by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). Despite the contradictions she saw visibly with her eyes, Our Lady remained firm in her faith in the word spoken to her by the Archangel.

The visible expression of her steadfast faith is her standing beneath the Cross. St. John Paul II described her standing in this way:

“By using the verb ‘to stand’, which literally means ‘to be on one’s feet’, ‘to stand erect’, perhaps the Evangelist intends to present the dignity and strength shown in their sorrow by Mary and the other women. The Blessed Virgin’s ‘standing erect’ at the foot of the Cross recalls her unfailing constancy and extraordinary courage in facing suffering.”

Our Lady shows us what to do when confronted with the Cross in our daily lives: stand in faith and trust. How often we do many other things instead! Basic human instinct in the face of evil and danger is fight or flight. All the Apostles fled in fear (Mk 14:50). To avoid being crucified with Jesus, Peter denies Him three times (Lk 22:54-62). Our Lady exhibits no such fear — she even walks through the crowd to meet her Son along the Way of the Cross and stands by Him confidently at Calvary. While Peter opposes the Cross (Mt 16:23) and even uses his sword to defend Jesus (Jn 18:10), Mary does not fight nor rebel.

No. Mary neither fights nor flees. She stands in faith and trust, in complete silence, offering her pain to the Father as her plea for mercy. The sword certainly pierced her heart (Lk 2:35), for while Jesus victoriously descended into Hell to bring victory, Our Lady remained to hold the sacred Body of her Son. The lance pierced Jesus’ Heart, but He had already died. In her sorrow, that lance also pierced Our Lady’s Heart and renewed her pain. What unimaginable pain must have seared Our Lady’s heart!

“How did Mary do it?” She stood in faith and trust. She held onto two seemingly opposite realities: the word of God and the awful reality of sin in the world. Where we often give up, either fleeing in fear or fighting in rebellion, Our Lady stood. Pope Benedict XVI, describing Christian faith, says that our faith must face all of reality. Otherwise, it is not faith. “In contrast to that, true believing means looking the whole of reality in the face, unafraid and with an open heart, even if it goes against the picture of faith that, for whatever reason, we make for ourselves.” Often, we do not want to see the full reality of sin and death, that our faith not be shaken. As did all but one of the Apostles, we hide from the reality of the Cross – not having the courage and patience to stand with Mary, as did John.

True faith takes God the Father at His word, staking one’s whole life upon His promises, which He fulfills in due time (Dt 7:9). We know, however, that for the Father’s plan to be fulfilled, there must be suffering and pain. How often, like the disciples walking to Emmaus, we initially believe, but are weakened and scandalized by the Cross (Lk 24:13-35). Like the seed sown in thin soil, the seed of our faith often sprouts, but dies because of a lack of root and depth (Mt 13:5-6).

Our Lady’s faith took deep root. When the winds blew and the storm came, her house remained on solid ground (Mt 7:25). Except for her Son, Our Lady experienced more pain than anyone else – and also had more faith and trust. The two are related. She could endure such pain because she never doubted the Father’s goodness and never lost hope in His mercy. “Mary’s hope at the foot of the Cross contains a light stronger than the darkness that reigns in many hearts.” Mary’s trust — exemplified in her living faith and hope at Calvary — conquered the darkness of sin and death. Her trust can conquer that darkness in our own hearts, too!

The more trust we have, the more capable we are of carrying the Cross and bearing pain. In a word, to trust means to be willing to take Jesus at His Word – that we must take up our Crosses and follow Him (Lk 9:23). Our Lady trusted and so lived her life based on that Word, and her trust was rewarded with the Resurrection.

“How did she do it?” She trusted. She never took her eyes off the Lord. She was not absorbed in her pain. She confronted the darkest parts of reality with that trust, and her trust conquered Satan. She stepped on the head of the serpent – Satan – by her trust. The Pieta is not an image of sorrow alone. It is an image of the victory of trust over distrust.

Editor’s note: This article is adapted by the author from his new book, Stepping On The Serpent: The Journey of Trust With Mary. It is available through Shop Mercy, which supports Marian priests and brothers at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy. 

image: By Stanislav Traykov (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Extending Mercy in Forgiveness

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 22:05

Just about everyone can recite the Lord’s Prayer from memory.  That’s precisely the problem, though.  We often rattle it off without really thinking about what we are saying.

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Whenever we pray this line, we are asking God to forgive us exactly in the same way as we forgive those who hurt us.  In other words, if we are harboring unforgiveness in our hearts as we say this prayer, we are calling a curse down upon ourselves.

Let’s face it.  We are all in desperate need of the mercy of God.  But time and time again, the Word of God makes clear that the greatest block to his mercy is resentment.  In the Old Testament, the book of Sirach (27:30-28:7) tells us how wrath and anger, cherished and held tight, are poisons that lead to spiritual death.

Jesus thinks this is so important that he includes a reminder of this lesson in the central prayer that he teaches to his disciples.  And to drive the point home, he tells us the parable of the merciless servant, recorded in the Gospel of Matthew (18:21-35).  As we listen to the story, we are incensed at the arrogance and hard-heartedness of someone who is forgiven a huge debt yet immediately throttles the neighbor who owes him a fraction of the amount he himself once owed.  Incensed, that is, until we realize the story is about us.  For all of us who have ever nurtured a grudge are guilty of exactly the same thing.

Bringing up this issue is rather uncomfortable because we all have been hurt by others.  Many have been hurt deeply.  Think, for example, of the widows and orphans of September 11 and other acts of terrorism.  Is it wrong to have feelings of outrage over such crimes?  Does forgiveness mean that we excuse the culprit and leave ourselves wide open to further abuse?

Not at all.  First of all, forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling.  It is rather unlikely that the Lord Jesus, in his sacred yet still human heart, had tender feelings of affection for those mocking him as his life blood was being drained out on the cross.  But he made a decision, expressed in a prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 22).

In other words, there was no vindictiveness, no desire to retaliate and cause pain, suffering and destruction to those who delighted in causing him pain.  Such desire for destructive vengeance is the kind of anger that is one of the seven deadly sins.  Rather, Jesus prayed to the Father for their good even as they caused him harm.

Did Jesus ever experience anger against those who sought his life?  Absolutely.  Righteous anger is the appropriate response to injustice.  It is meant to give us the emotional energy to confront that injustice and overcome it.  Recall how livid Jesus was in the face of the Pharisees’ hypocrisy, because it was blocking the access of others to his life-giving truth.  But notice as well that he overturned the money-changer’s tables, not their lives.

Forgiveness does not mean being a doormat.  It does not mean sitting passively by while an alcoholic or abusive family member destroys not only your life but the lives of others.  But taking severe, even legal action does not require resentment and vindictiveness.  Pope John Paul II did not request the release of the man who shot him.  But note that he visited him in prison to offer him forgiveness and friendship.   In so doing, stunned not only the assailant, but the whole world. 

This is offered as a reflection upon the readings for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, liturgical cycle A (Sirach 27:30–28:7), Ps. 103, Ro 14:7-9; Mt 18:21-35).  It appears here with the permission of the author.

Scripture Speaks: Forgiving Your Brother

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 22:02

Today, Peter asks Jesus how many times he has to forgive a brother who sins against him.  Jesus tells him to forget the math.  Why?

Gospel (Read Mt 18:21-35)

In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus instructed the apostles on how to handle problems that would arise in His Church when brother sinned against brother.  Today, Peter asks the question that cuts to the heart of what makes Jesus’ teaching so difficult:  How many times do I have to forgive a brother who keeps sinning against me?  What an honest question!  Peter wants to put a limit on forgiveness, because as we well know, nothing makes us angrier, more frustrated, or more disgusted than having someone wrong us over and over with the same offense.  Whatever we have in the way of patience, compassion, or tolerance gets completely spent on the repeat offenders in our lives.  As Peter listens to Jesus describe the long, drawn-out process of correcting a sinner (read Mt 18:15-20), he wants to make sure that the sinner doesn’t get treated too leniently.  Seven “second” chances seem like enough, seven being the number that represented fullness to the Jews.  Was he prepared for the answer?

“I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”  Did Peter’s heart sink?  “Seventy-seven times” was Jesus’ way of saying, “Don’t bother counting.”  What?  How contrary to human nature this is!  So many objections rise up in us:  “Not fair!  What am I, a doormat?  How can this be good for anyone?”  Jesus knows how foreign this kind of forgiveness is to us, so He illustrates why it is necessary in the kingdom of Heaven He is building on earth, His Church, with a parable.

A king was settling debts owed to him by his servants.  The first debtor to appear before him was one who owed him “a huge amount.”  More accurately, the amount was “ten thousand talents,” representing about 2700 years worth of work.  It was a debt that could never be repaid in the servant’s whole lifetime, so the king requires his whole life from him:  “his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.”  The servant’s debt was so large that he would have to forfeit everything, with no hope of ever being free from it.

Realizing his predicament, the servant falls down before the king, paying him respect, and asks for patience (interestingly, not for mercy).  He also makes a rash promise:  “I will pay you back in full.”   This response from the servant, both his humility and his desire to set things right, if only the king will be patient, moved the king to compassion.  He “let him go” and “forgave him the loan.”  It wasn’t reduced to a manageable size, nor was the servant jailed briefly to teach him a lesson.  In an amazing act of mercy, not patience, the king wiped everything away.  The servant had a fresh start in life, completely free from indebtedness.

As we read on, we can see for ourselves how inappropriately outrageous it was for this servant to attack a fellow servant who owed him much less than the debt he’d been forgiven.  The “smaller amount” was about three months wages, easily repaid if the fellow servant got the patience he requested.  The forgiven servant refused and put his fellow servant in prison for repayment.  News of this got back to the king, and the forgiven servant had to forfeit all he had received through the king’s mercy.  Jesus ends this story with a solemn warning:  “So will My Heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

We understand from this that our Heavenly Father has forgiven us much more than we will ever have to forgive anyone who sins against us.  If, at the end of our lives, we have not forgiven those “who trespass against us,” as we say in the Our Father, then we prove ourselves to be outsiders to the kingdom of Heaven and not interested in living in its light.  In the exaggerated drama of the parable, we can see what hardness of heart looks like and the ultimate price we will pay for it.  Even a casual reading of this parable should put us on alert to follow Jesus’ advice and toss our forgiveness calculators.  However much we need God’s forgiveness of our sins becomes the measure of how much we must offer it to others.

Possible Response:  Lord Jesus, I surely need Your help to quit counting when I forgive others.

First Reading (Read Sirach 27:30-28:7)

The Book of Sirach is a book of Hebrew wisdom, probably written about 200-175 B.C.  We can easily see how much of this wisdom appears in the what Jesus taught His disciples about forgiveness:  “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.”  Even before the appearance of Jesus, the Jews knew that anyone who needs God’s mercy cannot refuse one who needs it from him.  So, Jesus’ teaching was not new, but what was new was the spectacle of the Cross.  In His Passion, Jesus proved forever what God’s forgiveness of sin cost Him; He willingly paid the price.  His demonstration of loving forgiveness dwarfs anything required of us by the sins of others.  In addition, the gift of His own Spirit now makes it possible for us to “think of the commandments, hate not [our] neighbor; remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.”

Possible response:  Heavenly Father, forgive me when I so easily look for faults in others.   Wisdom tells me to be blind to them.

Psalm (Read Ps 103:1-4, 9-12)

This psalm is a magnificent song of praise for the unfathomable mercy of God.  It establishes the theme that the Gospel reading elaborates:  “The LORD is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion.”  In particular, the psalmist gives us an exquisite poetic description of what God has done with the debt we owe Him because of our sin:  “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He put our transgressions from us.”  Our response to God’s great kindness should be as the psalmist’s:  “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”  If we remember God’s mercy to us, the teaching of Jesus in the Gospel, although it stretches us, makes all the sense in the world.

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

Second Reading (Read Rom 14:7-9)

In the epistle, St. Paul explains why lack of forgiveness for others simply won’t work in the Christian life:  “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself…whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (RSV translation).  Our lives, bought with the price of Christ’s own life, are not our own.  If we are His servants, then we are like the servant in the Gospel parable.  We have been forgiven and set free from our debt of sin.  We are to live as true servants of our King, extending to others what we have received.  That is what establishes the kingdom of Heaven on earth, where Christ is “Lord of both the dead and the living.”

Possible Response:  Lord Jesus, You bought me out of mercy.  May I become a vessel of that mercy to others.

“Work is a sacred thing; it is a

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 22:00

“Work is a sacred thing; it is a “sacramental” — an outward sign that can give grace. Hence, you can go to work for the same reason you go to church to worship God! Work is a religious thing. It is holy.”

 

-Fr. M. Raymond, O.C.S.O, Spiritual Secrets of a Trappist Monk

Simeon’s prophecy marked the

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 22:00

Simeon’s prophecy marked the first of Mary’s sorrows by predicting the future and tragic fate of her Child Jesus. Not knowing God’s plan for him and for her, it was painful to hear that “a sword will pierce your own soul.” As at the birth of her Son and the visit of the shepherds from the field, Mary “treasured all these messages and continually pondered over them.” (Lk 2: 19)

As we contemplate Our Lady of Sorrows we feel with Mary the pains brought to her by what happened to her Son: the flight into Egypt in the night to escape the envy of the King who wanted to kill the child, the frantic scare of missing the twelve-year old Boy in crowded Jerusalem, meeting and consoling her Son carrying the cross to Golgotha, standing at the foot of the cross below her crucified Son, and cradling her Son’s body brought down from the cross. In her pain and sorrow, Mary was a witness and participant in how God worked his mercy through Jesus.

Like Mary, each one of us has our shares of pains and sorrows in life. Somehow, as given in Laura Story’s song “Blessings,” these sorrows are also blessings in disguise. Our travails in life are challenges and trials to see how faithful we are to our good God. Like Mary, we can ponder them in our hearts.

When our faith is tested by pains, difficulties and challenges, may we see God’s loving hand helping us. We can surely depend on the care and intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows and our Mother, to help us through the pain and sorrows to the joy and peace of God’s unwavering love and care.

Our Lady of Sorrows

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 22:00

This devotion began in the thirteenth century, recalling the Sorrows the Virgin Mother of God endured in the suffering and death of her Divine Son. The Seven Sorrows chaplet consists of seven Hail Marys For each of the seven Sorrows. One Our Father is said before each group of seven Hail Marys. On the three beads, three Hail Marys are said at the end of the prayer in honor of the Tears of our Sorrowful Mother. Following are the sorrows to meditate on.

THE FIRST SORROW: The Prophecy

Simeon tells our Sorrowful Mother of the bitter passion and death of Jesus, and that a sword shall pierce her heart too.

Our Father, Seven Hail Marys

THE SECOND SORROW: The Flight

Our Sorrowful Mother is forced to flee into Egypt to save her beloved Son from the death decreed by Herod.

Our Father, Seven Hail Marys

THE THIRD SORROW: The Loss

Our Sorrowful Mother is separated From Jesus for three long days while He is lost in Jerusalem.

Our Father, Seven Hail Marys

THE FOURTH SORROW: The Meeting

Our Sorrowful Mother meets Jesus on the road to Calvary and sees Him fall under the cruel weight of the cross.

Our Father, Seven Hail Marys

THE FIFTH SORROW: Jesus Dies

Our Sorrowful Mother watches as Jesus dies on the Cross.

Our Father, Seven Hail Marys

THE SIXTH SORROW: Mary Receives Jesus (Pieta)

Our Sorrowful Mother receives the dead body of Jesus in her arms.

Our Father, Seven Hail Marys

THE SEVENTH SORROW: The Burial

Our Sorrowful Mother sees Jesus placed in the tomb.

Our Father, Seven Hail Marys

THREE HAIL MARYS

Three Hail Marys are said in honor of the Tears of our Sorrowful Mother

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be for the intention of the Holy Father

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.”

Our Lady of Sorrows
They warned Our Lady for the Child
That was Our Blessed Lord,
And She took Him into the desert wild,
Over the camel’s ford.
And a long song She sang to Him
And a short story told:

And She wrapped Him in a woolen cloak
To keep Him from the cold.
But when Our Lord was grown a man
The Rich they dragged Him down,
And they crucified Him in Golgotha,
Out and beyond the Town.

They crucified Him on Calvary,
Upon an April day;
And because He had been her little Son
She followed Him all the way.
Our Lady stood beside the Cross,
A little space apart,
And when She heard Our Lord cry out
A sword went through Her Heart.

They laid Our Lord in a marble tomb,
Dead, in a winding sheet.
But Our Lady stands above the world
With the white Moon at Her feet.

— “Our Lord and Our Lady,” Hilaire Belloc

Of the seven swords that pierced Our Lady’s heart, how many are represented in this poem? How do her swords relate to the pains of my heart?

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Nicomedes (90), Martyr

St. Catherine of Genoa (1510), Widow

The Precious and Life-Giving Cross of Christ

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 02:35
The Precious and Life-Giving Cross of Christ*

 

How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not death but life, not darkness but light. This tree does not cast us out of paradise but opens the way for our return.

This was the tree on which Christ, like a king on a chariot, destroyed the devil, the Lord of death, and freed the human race from his tyranny. This was the tree upon which the Lord, like a brave warrior wounded in his hands, feet, and side, healed the wounds of sin that the evil serpent had inflicted on our nature. A tree once caused our death, but now a tree brings life. Once deceived by a tree, we have now repelled the cunning serpent by a tree. What an astonishing transformation! That death should become life, that decay should become immortality, that shame should become glory! Well might the holy Apostle exclaim: Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world! [cf Galatians 6:14] The supreme wisdom that flowered on the cross has shown the folly of worldly wisdom’s pride. The knowledge of all good, which is the fruit of the cross, has cut away the shoots of wickedness.

The wonders accomplished through this tree were foreshadowed clearly even by the mere types and figures that existed in the past. Meditate on these, if you are eager to learn. Was it not the wood of a tree that enabled Noah, at God’s command, to escape the destruction of the flood together with his sons, his wife, his sons’ wives and every kind of animal? And surely the rod of Moses prefigured the cross when it changed water into blood, swallowed up the false serpents of Pharaoh’s magicians, divided the sea at one stroke and then restored the waters to their normal course, drowning the enemy and saving God’s own people? Aaron’s rod, which blossomed in one day in proof of his true priesthood, was another figure of the cross, and did not Abraham foreshadow the cross when he bound his son Isaac and placed him on the pile of wood?

By the cross, death was slain and Adam was restored to life. The cross is the glory of all the apostles, the crown of the martyrs, the sanctification of the saints. By the cross, we put on Christ and cast aside our former self. By the cross, we, the sheep of Christ, have been gathered into one flock, destined for the sheepfolds of heaven.

* From a sermon by Saint Theodore the Studite: Oratio in adorationem crucis: PG 99, 691-694, 695,698-99.

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Art for this post: Crucifixion, Anthony van Dyck, circa 1622, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less; Detail of St Theodore the Studite mosaic from Nea Moni monastery in Chios, author anonymous, 11th century, PD-US author’s life plus 70 years or less Wikimedia Commons.

About Dan Burke

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

 

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

A Work of Watchfulness

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 22:07

In the beginning, God created light, and of all inanimate things, it remains the one most fascinating to us. It is by light that we see; the colors of the things that we see are borne to our eyes on beams of light that differ in wavelength and intensity. It is true that there are some creatures with much better eyesight than ours, and it is also true that we exceed the other creatures chiefly in the use of our hands, the tool of tools, by which we shape and form and bring to perfection all that we need for life. Nevertheless, we human beings are sight-dominant creatures. Just as dogs are led by their noses, so we are led by our eyes, sometimes to dreamy reverie, as we gaze at a lovely sunset or dawn, and sometimes to quick and alarmed reaction, as when our reflexes save us from impending disaster while driving.

It is our sight-dominance that makes the digital age at once so promising and so logical a development of human culture, and also so dangerous. We are apt to be drawn to the light of a screen, whether it be a television or a smartphone, and captivated by its colors. More dangerously—and perhaps diabolically—we are apt to be drawn into different worlds altogether, virtual worlds created by and in light. If we are to navigate this digital era, we must learn how to discern true from false seeing.

We come to the crossroads of our subject: the habit of using our sense of sight. We must now consider directly the most iconic artifact of the digital age: the smartphone. Portable, interactive, and infinite in its possibilities, the smartphone is said to have abolished boredom. Yet we must think about what a claim such as this might mean. It does not mean that the smartphone has given us a deep, meaningful sense of purpose and peace. It does not mean that the smartphone gives us mindfulness, meditation, or contemplation. It does not mean that the smartphone provides focus, insight, patience, and joy. It does not mean that the smartphone makes us watchful. Would Jesus have been pleased with the disciples if, instead of finding them asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane, he found them gazing into flickering screens? We can say that the smartphone has abolished boredom only in the sense that it gives a constant stream of stimulation. The smartphone is a distraction device.

This article is from “A Mind at Peace.” Click image to preview/order

It is also an addiction device. Empirical data in support of that conclusion are coming in fast and furious. Some of the data are just what we would expect: students performing poorly in their academic pursuits; youth spending more time on their smartphones each day than in any other activity—and sometimes more than all other activities put together; a chronic tendency of those surveyed to underreport their actual usage of the devices; and, for the leading brand, a 99% renewal rate, a level of commercial success hitherto unheard of and perhaps even undreamt of. Other signs are more alarming: drastic disturbances of sleep habits; the menace of internet bullying and stalking; an increase in clinical anxiety; the scourge of pornography; a spate of suicides associated with the use of social media. Yet the studies and trends only confirm what we all know and feel to be true. Some two-thirds of adult Americans now use smartphones; we all possess sufficient anecdotal experience to persuade us that what the headlines suggest ought to be taken seriously.

The morbid subject of smartphone addiction must be squarely confronted, lest we mistakenly persuade ourselves that it is a passing phase. Quite the contrary: smartphone addiction is the coming to fruition of well over fifty years of deepening addiction to the lights and colors of screens. Given our physiology, it is a development that makes sense. And for some, it makes lots and lots of dollars. It is possible today to invest in a company that researches and implements methods of inducing addiction to smartphone apps. What does it mean to be addicted to distractions? It will take the balance of this book to follow the ramifications of the malady, but, in short, it is the loss of the ability to have thoughts that are sufficiently deep and long to be adequate to our interior needs.

The phenomenon of addiction reminds us that habits are not always good habits. What is the difference between distraction and responsible attention, between mind-numbing watching and mindful seeing, between losing oneself in keeping up with the next thing, and finding oneself in sustained reflection? To answer that question, we need to reflect on the virtues and vices of attention. The power to notice or pay attention to the world is one of our most basic powers, and like every other power it can be used well or poorly. As we have seen, attention is a cognitive power, but not purely an intellectual one: it is first located in the brain with the power Aristotle called the common sense. It is involved not only in theoretical reflection but in fact in all realms of human activity, including every-day, mundane tasks. Our attention is aroused by and oriented toward things, and it moves us to be disposed toward things positively or negatively. Human attention is as closely connected to our own subjective desiring (or being averse to) objects as it is to apprehending the content of those objects themselves.

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In treating our need to be resilient to physical pain and to have silence as a context for attentive hearing, we have laid a foundation of fruitful asceticism for our sensory lives. Now it is time to take a positive step by making a choice for a work of attention through the control or custody of our eyes, a work of watchfulness. There are two necessary starting points for that work. The first is to recognize that not every possible object of sight is equally worthy. The second is to be persuaded that the office of sight is not chiefly to serve our sensory delight, but to serve our good as creatures with intellect and will, creatures who know and love. Instead of allowing appearances to direct and control our desire to see, we must let rightly ordered desire direct our vision, so that objects may be to us like icons through which to discern hidden spiritual realities.

Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distractionwhich is available as an ebook and paperback from Sophia Institute Press.

Finding Laughter and Joy Amidst Suffering

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 22:06

I will continue my series on the Beatitudes and the work of Servais Pinckaers next week. My husband was in the hospital for 2.5 days with a partially collapsed lung, so I was unable to delve deeper into the Beatitudes. Since I spent more time in the hospital with my husband this week, I thought the topic of laughter in relation to suffering would be a good choice. It is something my husband and I rely on to get through our struggles with his illness.

As many regular readers know, my husband has been diagnosed with the rare auto-immune disease Wegener’s Granulomatosis (GPA). We have been working with a Rheumatologist to get it into remission. We are now in the stage of testing the waters to see if his first round of infusion antibody treatment has put the disease into remission for however long we can keep it there. Things seemed to be going more smoothly until Sunday night when he started coughing up a bit of blood again and developed intense pain when he would lie down on his back. We ended up in the Emergency Room where the ER doctor quickly discovered a pneumothorax (air pocket) and partial collapsed lung. My husband was admitted to the hospital and a chest tube placed in his lung.

Spiritual growth through laughter

Throughout our experiences over the last few months—besides our dependence on Christ through prayer, daily Mass, Adoration, etc.—my husband and I have found that laughter is a critical aspect of our journey with suffering. On this side of eternity, suffering is largely mystery. My husband and I do not get to know why he has this disease. Instead, we have to learn to trust God as we walk this path He has given to us. Suffering is a nasty business. It comes with deep physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual pain. It cuts to the very core of our being. It is a great equalizer. This we all know from our experiences of suffering, but if we focus solely on our pain and never add levity to the situation, we run the risk of falling into despair.

My husband repeatedly jokes around with hospital staff and plays jokes on his nurses whenever he is in the hospital. He possesses a great capacity for mirth and merriment even in the most trying of times. Our ER doctor this week had the same dry—and somewhat disturbing and macabre—sense of humor that my husband and I both possess. Through laughing about a situation that we cannot control, my husband and I are able to embrace each new trip to the hospital. We then draw the hospital staff into our acceptance of the Cross we have been given by our willingness to step into joy while suffering. It’s not easy, and we have our moments, but we are much more able to handle each new trip to the hospital the more we can laugh at the circumstances we cannot change or control.

I think it’s clear that my husband and I were put together partly because we both use laughter to respond to stress and pain. It is also a way that we are able to grow spiritually. It is quite a feat to see my husband laughing and joking with the medical staff who are caring for him while he has a chest tube in his right lung. He even joked around with the ER doctor who had to cut a hole in his chest and shove a tube into his lung, and he can laugh with the doctors while they try to figure out how to treat a man who has a disease most of them have never seen (some have never even heard of it), or have only seen once or twice in their entire time practicing medicine.

Laughter reminds us of God’s goodness

The last two hospital visits my husband has had chest tubes of varying sizes. He likes to roam the halls with his Pleurevac (the suction vacuum that gets rid of excess blood, fluid, and air in the lungs) in tow and threaten to go down to the cafeteria or head home with the vacuum in tow. It’s always amusing to see which nurses know he’s kidding and which ones think he’s serious. Many get the joke and join in, which allows all of us to take a difficult situation and enter into some joy and happiness through laughter in the midst of terrible suffering. We also invite other patients who are suffering to join us.

This laughing together in a community born of circumstance, reveals that there is in fact joy in pain. We do not have to give into the nihilistic tendency of despair and nothingness. There is hope no matter what happens in this life. Our hope is always in Christ. God is goodness, beauty, and truth. Laughter is a reminder of this truth. We also share this ultimate reality with others when we draw them into our moments of joy in the midst of suffering. I have noticed that there are far too many lonely people suffering alone in our hospitals. Laughter is a way to reach out to those who are marginalized and who not only suffer physical pain, but who know the deep poverty of loneliness and abandonment.

G.K. Chesterton and the need for laughter.

As I contemplated laughter in relation to suffering, the first Catholic writer who came to mind was G. K. Chesterton. He was a man who understood the need for levity in this Fallen world. He knew that this world is largely shrouded in mystery, but it is a world that teaches us in some way about Heaven.

Laughter has something in it common with the ancient words of faith and inspiration; it unfreezes pride and unwinds secrecy; it makes people forget themselves in the presence of something greater than themselves.

Gilbert K. Chesterton

Laughter frees us from the prison of our own pride and misery, even if it is only for a short while. Laughter unites people together who may never be united outside of the present circumstance. It is a universal aspect of the human experience.  Our burden is made light when we can smile or laugh in the midst of darkness. If anything, laughter in the face of suffering reveals to us our hope in Christ. The suffering we endure in this life will not have the last say. Even though we must carry our often seemingly unbearable Crosses, we can find joy in the journey. A husband and wife who have been dealt a shocking hand rather early into their marriage, can in fact laugh together and invite others into that lightness. It is not to misunderstand the seriousness of suffering; rather, laughter draws us closer to acceptance of the Cross and one step closer to the Beatific Vision.

image: By MM (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ecclesiology and the Four Marks of the Church

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 22:02

The Study of Ecclesiology is interesting in that it raises a dichotomy that ripples through the very fabric of Christianity.  Ecclesiology is the branch of theology that deals with the study of the church.  What is the church?  What are its functions?  Is it visible, invisible, or both?  These are questions that are often discussed in the field, but the root of Ecclesiology is the Greek word ekklesia.  When this word is translated into our own language we get the word “church” (McMahon 1).

The church proclaims the Gospel of Christ, and spreads his message across the world to all peoples.  The church is tasked to be a beacon of hope, and all who enter through her doors are taught the ways of salvation.  Just how the church does this is the subject of debate.  The church finds its foundation from Christ in Matthew 16:18 when our savior says, “And I say unto thee:  That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Douay-Rheims). Saint Paul calls the church the bulwark and pillar of truth in 1 Timothy 3:15. The church is categorized by the four marks of being One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. These four marks, along with why the church is more Marian than Petrine in her nature, will be elaborated on in this article.

The Church is One

The first mark of the church is that it is one. One is more than just a number, it also conveys unity.  This unity comes from her source which is the eternal Godhead itself.  This is seen clearly in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states, “the highest exemplar and source of this mystery is the unity, in the Trinity of Persons, of one God, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit (Catechism 233).”  This does not mean that disagreements do not exist, but it does mean that doctrinally we have a united front.

Within the church there are many gifts and charisms that people have.  That is the beauty of unity.  One person may be good at administration, another in teaching, and yet another may be able to speak in tongues.  In this way the church has a valuable lesson for society.  Every gift that a person possesses is useful in the building up of the church.  This is another way that the church is one.  The individuals in the church come together to build each other up and proclaim the faith that was proclaimed by the apostles.  The Vatican II document titled Lumen Gentium states in Paragraph four, “He leads the church in all truth, and he makes it one fellowship and ministry, instructing and directing it through a diversity of gifts both hierarchical and charismatic, and He adorns it with His fruits (Norman Tanner 108).”

The Church is Holy

The second mark of the church is that it is holy. The church is holy based on Jesus Christ who is its founder. This can be seen in the salutation of Saint Paul to the Corinthians where he writes, “to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints (1 Corinthians, 1:2, RSV).”  The church is sanctified, or made holy, by virtue of its call and mission. The church is made up of sinners who, by the grace of God, carry out the great commission of teaching and baptizing.

The church is the bride of Christ, and just as a husband and wife are one flesh, so is the church holy because of the bridegroom. This is seen in paragraph 824 of the Catechism which states, “United with Christ, the church is sanctified by him; through him and with him she becomes sanctifying (Catechism 237).” The church acknowledges that the people within are not perfect, but are in need of God’s saving grace. Like a loving mother, the church holds those souls closely and provides them the means of which to be saved. The church, through its liturgy and sacraments, provides the means of grace which Christ instituted fully and perfectly.

The Church is Catholic

The third mark of the church is that it is catholic, but this means so much more than the name of the Roman Catholic Church.  The word first came into use by St. Ignatius of Antioch in the second century.  Saint Ignatius writes in his epistle to the Smyrneans, “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church (Alexander Roberts 701).”

In using this word, St. Ignatius tells his readers that the church is universal. It is a church not just for the Jews and gentiles, but for all people. It is for the rich, the poor, slave, or free because we are all children of God and his message is to be taught to everyone. The church is also Catholic because the full deposit of faith, sacred scripture and sacred tradition, have been given to her. Through these deposits she can fulfill the final command of Christ laid out in Matthew 28:19-20.

How does this relate to other ecclesial communities?  The church is also Catholic because of its structure of Bishops, Priests, and deacons.  Of course, the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, has authority.  This, or course, is a big hurdle for some Protestants.  However, this does not mean that they are not Christians and are not somehow part of the universal church.  They are just not in full communion with the Church that was established by Christ.

The Church is Apostolic

The church is apostolic because the apostles were given the authority from Christ to establish it.  The Catechism in Paragraph 857 states, “the church was built on the foundation of the Apostles, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching, she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by Christ through their successors (Catholic Church 247)”.  As previously stated, the Catholic church is made up of bishops along with the Pope.  This group of men have the great honor of carrying on the teaching of the apostles.  This is known as the teaching office of the Magisterium.  Contrary to what some think, scripture is not self-interpreting and interpretation can change based on one’s presupposition.  The church is apostolic because the teaching office of the church, the Magisterium, was given the divine task to interpret scripture (Hitchcock 79).

The apostolicity of the church is seen clearly in sacred scripture.  In particular is Acts 1:24-25 which states, ““And they prayed and said, ‘Lord, you know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place (New American Bible).”  Since the apostles replaced Judas, it is only natural that this was meant to continue.  History shows that the apostles appointed men who would take over their ministry (LG 20).

Marian and Petrine Influence

In the four marks, we see the church’s mission, structure, and its establishment in scripture and tradition.  In addition to the four marks, the church also has Marian and Petrine charisms.  In the Petrine charism, we see the church linked with the apostles.  As an example, Pope Francis is Saint Peter’s successor, and thus the church today has the historical link to the apostles.  Each bishop can trace their ecclesial heritage to one of the twelve apostles, and history shows that there was an early understanding of Papal primacy. This fact is often disputed with our Protestant brethren

The Marian charism is no doubt a very significant area of disagreement with other Christian churches. As Mary was a mother to Christ, the church is a mother to the faithful. Regarding Mary and the church the catechism states, “The faithful still strive to conquer sin and increase in holiness.  And so, they turn their eyes to Mary:  In her the Church is already all-holy (Catechism para 829).”  There are many sources in sacred scripture that allude to the Marian influence. One such passage is John 19:26-27 “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home (NRSV).” Our Lord was giving his mother to John, and in the same way he gave us Mary to be our spiritual mother.  By teaching and administering the sacraments the church acts in this motherly role for her children.  Though the Marian and Petrine charisms have their place, the Marian has a larger significance.

Conclusion

In Ecclesiology, we study the church and its doctrines.  The four marks of the church make u the theological foundation that differentiate it from other religions.  In John 17 Christ prayed for unity, and in Christianity this is hardly the case.  We have the promise of Christ that the powers of evil will not overcome what he has established.  We should take great joy and courage in that as we participate with the church in its mission to the world.  The Catholic church can trace its lineage and doctrine to the very foundations of Christendom.  AS a result, the church is not only the body of believers as Protestants believe, but is a visible entity in which the faithful can go for comfort and guidance.

image: By Szilas (photo by Szilas) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Works Cited

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2 ed.  New York:  Doubleday, 2003.

Hitchcock, James. History of the Catholic Church: From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012. .

McMahon, Christopher. Called Together: An Introduction to Ecclesiology. Winona, MN: Anselm Academic, 2010.

Roberts, Alexander, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Vol. 1. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885. Print. The Ante-Nicene Fathers.

Tanner, Norman ed.  Vatican II:  The Essential Texts.  New York:  Image Books, 2012.

General Audience

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 22:00

Dear Brothers and Sisters: My recent Pastoral Visit to Colombia, in the footsteps of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, sought to encourage the process of reconciliation in that country following a half century of conflict and division. Its motto – Let us Take the First Step – was also an appeal to the nation to discover in its deep Christian roots the spiritual resources needed to advance the work of healing and rebuilding. In Bogotá, I was warmly welcomed, especially by the young, who are the future of the country. The Beatification of two martyrs and the reconciliation service celebrated in Villavicencio were particularly moving. In Medellín, the emphasis was on Christian discipleship and mission, exemplified in the help given to youth through the Hogares group homes and in the faces of the many young men and women who are responding to Jesus’ call to the priesthood and the consecrated life. In Cartagena, the example of Saints Peter Claver and Maria Bernarda Bütler reaffirmed our evangelical commitment to human promotion and the defence of human rights. Through the prayers of Our Lady of Chiquinquirá, Patroness of Columbia, may the nation continue to progress in the way of peace in love, justice and truth.

 

Reclaiming a Mind at Peace with Christopher O. Blum

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 22:00

Are you increasingly frustrated and perplexed in this age of technology? While you might be reading this on a your phone, maybe you’ve noticed that our technology can unite us but, more often, seems to make us more isolated and anxious. Professor Christopher O. Blum has been considering our digital age in light of the Catholic tradition and he has brought together his analysis and advice in his new book, A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction

Today, Michael and Prof. Blum tackle how we can reclaim a peaceful soul and mind amidst the many distractions that surround us. More than turning away from technology, Prof. Blum shows how the best course of action is to properly order our souls to the good, the true, and the beautiful in such a way that we replace the noise and anxiety with a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Resources Mentioned in this Episode 

“Experience itself will show you,

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 22:00

“Experience itself will show you, if you will make trial of it, that this path of charity and love toward God and our neighbor is the most clear and plain road leading to eternal life.”

-Lorenzo Scupoli, Spiritual Combat

In the liturgy of Good Friday there is

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 22:00

In the liturgy of Good Friday there is a public adoration of the Holy Cross where the Cross is uncovered, “Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world,” and venerated by the faithful.

This Feast echoes the same celebration, “We should glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, life and resurrection, through whom we are saved and delivered.”

Adoration of the Holy Cross is adoration of Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our salvation. The Cross symbolizes for us the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.

Because of what it represents, the Cross is the most powerful and universal symbol of Christian faith and love. The sign of the Cross invokes the Triune God and is used at all blessings:

The first reading tells us about the bronze serpent Moses made at the instruction of Yahweh: “Whenever a man was bitten [by a fiery serpent], he looked toward the bronze serpent and he lived.” Jesus on the cross is our salvation.

Jesus refers to the bronze serpent in his conversation with Nicodemus, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

In the reading from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Paul tells us how God has glorified Jesus for his obedience, “He humbled himself by being obedient to death, death on the cross.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola recommends that, as we contemplate Jesus on the Cross, we ask: “What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for him? What ought I do for him?”

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 22:00

In the fourth century in the Isles of Britain, Constantine the Great was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

When Constantine then marched on Rome with his army, he had a vision of a cross of stars in the mid-day sky, which he believed assured his victory over Maximus. This vision was confirmed in a dream in which he saw the Cross of the Lord, and the words, “By this sign, conquer.” Constantine did indeed defeat the more powerful army of Maximus and took possession of the Roman throne.

St. Helen, Constantine’s mother, journeyed to the Holy Land and the Cross of the Lord was uncovered, along with the two crosses of the criminals who were crucified with Him.

The true Cross was identified when each cross was in turn placed over the body of a man being taken for burial. When he was covered with the Lord’s Cross, he was miraculously resurrected. The people then venerated the Cross of Christ. The great crowds made it impossible for all to kiss the Cross itself, so it was raised high by Macarius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, so that the people might see and venerate it. This was the origin of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Precious Cross. The feast was regularly celebrated in the Eastern Churches as early as the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, in which is found Christ’s tomb, around the year 335, and was adopted by the Roman Church in the 7th century.

The feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, or Triumph of the Cross, is celebrated on September 14. The Cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified is the doorway to His conquering of sin and death by His Resurrection. Through the Cross and resurrection all have have been redeemed and have the hope of salvation, eternal life in heaven with our loving God.

We venerate and exalt and love the Cross of Christ, for by the suffering and death of God’s only Son on the Cross, we have new life.

“We adore You O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.” — St. Alphonsus de Liguori

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.”

Faithful Cross, above all other, one and only noble tree. . . . Sweet the wood, and sweet the iron, and thy load, most sweet is He.

— Venantius Fortunatus, Crux Fidelis

In what one area of my life have I most recently seen the lib¬erating power of Christ’s Cross? Today, I will offer a sacrifice of praise for His gracious mercy.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Maternus (1st Century), Bishop

St. Notburga (1313), Virgin, Patroness of peasants, servants, and the poor

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.