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In the Gospel reading Jesus heals a man

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 22:00

In the Gospel reading Jesus heals a man suffering from dropsy on the sabbath day, despite the presence of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who found such healing as a violation of the sabbath. They could not refute Jesus, “If your lamb or your ox falls into a well on a sabbath day, who among you doesn’t hurry to pull it out?”

In their dedication to the letter of the Law as they read and saw it, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law missed the whole point of the Law based on love of God and neighbor.

In the first reading Paul mourns the reality that the people God had chosen, loved and shepherded did not accept the Messiah when he came: they failed to recognize him and his visitation. “How often would I have gathered your children together, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you refused!” (Mt 23: 37)

“Woe to you! You do not forget the mint, anise and cumin seeds when you pay the tenth of everything, but then forget what is more fundamental in the Law: justice, mercy and faith.” (Mt 23: 23) May God preserve us from such blindness and hypocrisy in our lives.

“Saint Martin lived and breathed

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 22:00

“Saint Martin lived and breathed the virtue of liberality, since he gave all he had, not in worldly possessions, since he had next to none to give, but he gave back to his neighbor through his good works all the invaluable spiritual gifts God had given him.”

-Kevin Vost, Hounds of the Lord

St. Martin de Porres

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 22:00

On May 16, 1962, Pope John XXIII, in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, made Martin de Porres the first black American saint. Martin was born on December 9, 1579, in Lima, Peru, the illegitimate son of Don Juan de Porres of Burgos, a Spanish nobleman, and Ana Velasquez, a young, freed, Negro slave-girl.

From early childhood Martin showed great piety, a deep love for all God’s creatures and a passionate devotion to Our Lady. At the age of eleven he took a job as a servant in the Dominican priory and performed the work with such devotion that he was called “the Saint of the broom.” He was promoted to the job of almoner and soon was begging more than $2,000 a week from the rich. All that was begged was given to the poor and sick of Lima in the form of food, clothing, or medicine.

Martin was placed in charge of the Dominican’s infirmary where he became known for his tender care of the sick and for his spectacular cures. In recognition of his fame and his deep devotion, his superiors dropped the stipulation that “no black person may be received to the holy habit or profession of our order” and Martin was vested in the full habit and took the solemn vows as a Dominican brother.

As a Dominican brother he became more devout and more desirous to be of service. He established an orphanage and a children’s hospital for the poor children of the slums. He set up a shelter for stray cats and dogs and nursed them back to health.

Martin lived a life of self-imposed austerity. He never ate meat. He fasted continuously and spent much time in prayer and meditation. He was venerated from the day of his death.

Many miraculous cures — including the raising of the dead — were attributed to Brother Martin. Today, throughout South America, Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean, people tell of the miraculous powers of St. Martin de Porres.

A close friend of St. Rose of Lima, this saintly man died on November 3, 1639.

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

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

The virtuous example and even the conversation of this saintly man exerted a powerful influence in drawing men to religion. . . . If only everyone could learn this lesson from the example that Martin gave us.

— Pope John XXIII at the canonization of St. Martin de Porres

What do my example and my conversation with others speak about me?

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Malachy O’More (1148), Primate of Armagh, Ireland

Blessed Ida of Toggenburg (1226), Matron

Pray for the Dead, On All Souls Day and Every Day

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 22:07

It is a hallmark of the modern mind to reduce incredible things to their lowest utilitarian component. The splendor of nature becomes an evolutionary algorithm, the mysterious workings of love are reduced to chemical reactions in the brain. Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist-turned-celebrity, is notorious for this on Twitter, sending out depressingly reductionist gems like “Total Solar Eclipses occur somewhere on Earth every two years, or so. Just calm yourself when people tell you they’re rare”.  For some people, it seems, the world can only be endured if it is stripped of anything mysterious or sublime.

Few concepts in Catholic theology suffer from this treatment quite like Purgatory. It is a thing steeped in confusion and misunderstanding, not only among non-Catholics, but Catholics as well. A common response to that confusion is to reduce Purgatory down to a bare bones utilitarian concept, to sanitize it by distilling it into clinical observations.

Even the treasure trove that is the Catechism has something of a dry feel to its description:

“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” – CCC 1030

There is a danger in reducing the sum total of Purgatory down to “purification”.  That is, of course, its nature and purpose, but to the modern ear, the “process of purification” sounds like something with little room for third party involvement.  It becomes something tidy and safe and understandable, something like a chemical reaction that takes place just between the soul and the process.  So, by reducing Purgatory down to its lowest utilitarian components, we fool ourselves into thinking we’ve got it all figured out, and the process, the place, and the souls slip from our active thoughts.

The truth is that Purgatory is far more complex, rich, mysterious, and plain old weird than the modern mind is comfortable with.  Rather than a predictable, straightforward process, numerous people, from saints to sinners, have been given glimpses of the mystical, strange landscape of Purgatory.

In his excellent article, “Fourteen Questions about Heaven”, Peter Kreeft discusses the existence of Purgatorial ghosts: the sad, joyless, wispy apparitions who appear to be earthbound as part of their purification process.  To hear a respected scholar like Dr. Kreeft talk about such things should give a body pause next time a story about a ghostly spectre is passed around a campfire.  We enjoy the shiver of fear such tales send up our spine, but far more efficacious it would be if we followed that shiver with a prayer for Holy Souls experiencing just such a purification.  Instead, how many of us write off ghosts as “not real”, and thus smugly excuse ourselves from having to pray for the dead?

Anyone steadfastly refusing to believe in ghosts would do well to read the visions of the saints on the subject.  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was visited numerous times by Purgatorial ghosts, souls of departed religious who begged her for prayers and assistance in relieving the pain of  purification. Far from being a tidy, understandable process, the stories revealed by these ghosts show how complex and strange Purgatory is, and how much the prayers of the living are needed.  St. Brigid of Sweden was shown a vision of Purgatory, where an angel was comforting  the Holy Souls there by constantly repeating:

“Blessed is he that, living still upon the earth, gives aid to the souls in Purgatory with their prayers and good deeds, because the justice of God demands that without the help of the living, these would necessarily need to be purified in fire.”

Christ Himself explained the great benefit of praying for the dead to St. Gertrude after she recited a Psalm for a toad-like Purgatorial ghost she encountered. “Certainly, the souls in Purgatory are lifted up by such supplications,” Christ revealed, “but also brief prayers that are said with fervor are of even greater benefit for them.”

To reduce Purgatory down to a some sort of clinical process, to deny the existence of spirits reported throughout space and time to diverse multitudes of saints, is to attempt to reduce our duty towards those suffering souls. If these spirits and their appearance aren’t real, if places like the Little Museum of Purgatory house nothing but piously fraudulent items, if there is nothing odd and messy and weird and challenging about it, then Purgatory becomes a domesticated sort of place, and it’s very easy for us to let the Holy Souls who reside there slip from our attention and go unprayed for.

How lucky we are then, that Holy Mother Church gives us an annual reminder in the form of All Souls Day.  Following the great feast of All Saints Day, where the universal Church celebrates those who have gone before us and now enjoy perfect unity with God, All Souls Day is a sobering reminder of the poor souls suffering greatly and greatly in need of our prayers.

The saints who have had direct interactions with the Holy Souls and their temporary home of Purgatory send us postcards of a sort.  Postcards from a weird, unsettling, deeply strange land that many of us will consider ourselves lucky to skid into upon death.  Rather than shy away from contemplating this foreign landscape, of attempting to control it by stripping it of its strange other-worldliness, it would benefit us to spend this year’s All Souls Day learning more about what God has allowed the saints to see of Purgatory, and let our hearts soften towards our brothers and sisters residing there. Someday, they may be us, clinging to the prayers of those to come.

Whatever Happened to Limbo?

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 22:05

Dear Father Kerper: Last April, I heard that the Church had abolished Limbo. Years ago, my grandmother told me that non-baptized babies go to Limbo instead of Heaven because of original sin. Now I hear that Limbo was just an opinion, not a Church teaching. How can I know what’s really true and what’s just opinion?

Thank you for your note of interest in this subject, which reflects your honest concern for the salvation of all of God’s children. Yet I also realize that your question reflects the reality that some of us get very frustrated when ideas and practices suddenly change.

In order to answer your question we must distinguish doctrine from opinion based on what the Church calls the hierarchy of truths. This means that some teachings are more important than others.

Think of it this way. The owner’s manual of your car will show you clearly how to turn on the engine, shift gears, and use the brake. Later, perhaps in a bad snowstorm, you’ll learn how to use your defroster and rear window deicer. Someday when you have nothing to do, you may even read about oil changes, tire pressure, and maintenance.

All these instructions are true and helpful, but each one is not equally important. You need to know where to put the key before you worry about tire pressure. Think of Church teaching as a spiritual owner’s manual.

This article is from “A Priest Answers 27 Questions You Never Thought to Ask.”

The Church has at least four markers for permanent teach­ings: Sacred Scripture, ancient creeds, council statements, and ex cathedra papal statements.

  • First, Sacred Scripture expresses key beliefs, such as the oneness of God, the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Resurrection of Christ.
  • Second, ancient creeds, such as the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds, contain settled doctrines.
  • Third, core doctrines of faith proposed by ecumenical councils are also permanent, although open to refinement, new formulations, and development.
  • Fourth, teachings declared ex cathedra (from the chair) by the pope are unchangeable. So far, only two popes — Pius IX and Pius XII — have used this form of teaching.

Many older Catholics probably learned about Limbo in religion class. For years, Limbo was proposed as one possible way of resolving the apparent contradiction between two genuine Church teachings, namely, the necessity of Baptism for salvation and God’s desire that everyone be saved.

As much as we want to know precisely what happens to non-baptized persons — children and good people — the simple truth is that God’s revelation doesn’t tell us. In the past, Limbo became the favored opinion because many in the Church stressed the necessity of Baptism. Today, however, many theologians, including Pope Benedict XVI, see that opinion as explaining too much, thereby foreclosing possibilities known to God alone.

If you study Scripture and key Church documents you will find that nothing proposes Limbo as a settled and indisputable teaching. Indeed, it has none of the markers needed for permanent teachings.

Let’s go back to the hierarchy of truths. God’s revelation enlightens us only about matters essential for our salvation. Hence, God tells us how to live a good and moral life, confident that we come from Him, have been redeemed by Christ, and have the hope of eternal life. This information is like knowing how to switch on the engine and use the brake.

But God doesn’t explain every detail of how His saving love works in the world. Such details are akin to a car’s clock and DVD player. We can drive the car perfectly well without the correct time and music. Similarly, we can live the Christian life fully and joyfully without clear answers to every possible theological question.

One way of approaching this subject with those who have lost children through miscarriage, sickness, or even abortion is to reflect on God’s mercy. The one consistent mystery of God that is found in all four markers of the truth is that God is not merely the God of justice, but also the God of mercy and love.

The point is to drive the car rather than to become too engrossed or even distracted by the owner’s manual. And on our road to God, there must, and always will be, mysteries. Our challenge is to let those mysteries serve not as obstacles, but as opportunities for increasing our faith and desire to arrive at our destination, where, we are assured, all things will be revealed.

Can I baptize someone?

Every human being, even a nonbeliever, has the ability to baptize another person validly. However, the Church authorizes this only in cases of imminent death. A Catholic should therefore refrain from baptizing someone else’s child, even a grandchild, and should not feel guilty about it. Such a situation calls for patient sensitivity toward the rights of the parents who have chosen not to baptize their child.

Editor’s note: This article is from a chapter in Fr. Kerper’s A Priest Answers 27 Questions You Never Thought to Ask, which is available through Sophia Institute Press

Remembering All Souls Day

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 22:02

The Church has consistently encouraged the offering of prayers and Mass for the souls of the faithful departed in Purgatory. At the time of their death, these souls are not perfectly cleansed of venial sin or have not atoned for past transgressions, and thereby are deprived of the Beatific Vision. The faithful on earth can assist these souls in purgatory in attaining the beatific vision through their prayers, good works and the offering of Mass.

In the early days of the Church, the names of the faithful departed were posted in Church so that the community would remember them in prayer. In the sixth century, the Benedictine monasteries held a solemn commemoration of deceased members at Whitsuntide, the days following Pentecost. In Spain, St. Isidore (d. 636) attested to a celebration on the Saturday before Sexagesima Sunday (the second Sunday before Lent, the eighth before Easter, in the old calendar). In Germany, Widukind, Abbot of Corvey (d. 980) recorded a special ceremony for the faithful departed on Oct. 1. St. Odilo, the Abbot of Cluny (d. 1048), decreed for all of the Cluniac monasteries that special prayers be offered and the Office of the Dead sung for all of the souls in purgatory on Nov. 2, the day after All Saints. The Benedictines and Carthusians adopted that same devotion, and soon Nov. 2 was adopted as the Feast of All Souls for the whole Church.

Other customs have arisen over time in the celebration of All Souls Day. The Dominicans in the 15th century instituted a custom of each priest offering three Masses on the Feast of All Souls. Pope Benedict XIV in 1748 approved this practice, and it rapidly spread throughout Spain, Portugal and Latin America. During World War I, Pope Benedict XV, recognizing the number of war dead and the numerous Masses that could not be fulfilled because of destroyed Churches, granted all priests the privilege of offering three Masses on All Souls Day: one for the particular intention, one for all of the faithful departed and one for the intentions of the Holy Father.

Other customs have developed regarding All Souls. In Mexico, relatives make garlands, wreathes and crosses of real and paper flowers of every color to place on the graves of deceased relatives the morning of All Souls. The family will spend the entire day at the cemetery. The pastor will visit the cemetery, preach and offer prayers for the dead, and then bless the individual graves. “Skeleton” candy is given to the children.

Similar practices occur in Louisiana. The relatives whitewash and clean the tombstones, and prepare garlands, wreathes and crosses of real and paper flowers to decorate them. In the afternoon of All Saints, the priest processes around the cemetery, blessing the graves and reciting the rosary. Candles are lit near the graves at dusk, one for each deceased member. On All Souls day, Mass is usually offered at the cemetery.

In the Middle Ages, superstitious belief, probably influenced from Celtic paganism, held that the souls in purgatory appeared on All Souls Day as witches, toads, goblins, etc., to persons who committed wrongs against them during their lives on earth. For this reason, some ethnic groups also prepared food offerings to feed and to appease the spirits on this day. These practices are probably remnants of the Celtic Samhain festivities.

Nevertheless, All Souls Day as well as all Saints Day are rooted in Christian belief and arose in this life of the Church through a healthy spirituality, despite some pagan trappings that may have survived and have remained attached to their celebration.

Editor’s Note: This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.

“The souls in purgatory are so

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 22:00

“The souls in purgatory are so thankful for all that is done for them that persons who have relieved them receive proofs of their gratitude before they can join them in heaven.”

-François René Blot, In Heaven We’ll Meet Again

Commemoration of All The Faithful Departed

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 22:00

The practice of praying for the faithful departed goes all the way back to the early Christian era when names of the deceased were posted in places of worship so that all could pray for them. The catacombs of Rome testify to this practice.

Purgatory is not a physical location but a stage for the purification of souls before entrance into God’s heaven. St. Pope Gregory the Great reminds us that souls needing purification undergo a process of further cleansing which allows them to enter heaven. Jesus tells us that whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will be condemned (Mk 3: 29) but for lesser offenses there would be purification before entrance into heaven. Based on Scriptural passages which speak of cleansing and purification, the Church teaching on purification was formulated at the Councils of Trent and Florence (CCC# 330, 331)

When we pray for the faithful departed we simply practice what we profess in Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in the communion of saints … the resurrection of the body.” We are all adopted sons and daughters of God. The deceased have gone ahead to be with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. While we grieve at the loss of loved ones, we trust in Jesus’ words that all who believe will be saved.

Purgatory is not some kind of prison where one is expected to make restitution for offenses of the past; rather purgatory provides for inward transformation to make it possible to be united with God.

Perhaps purgatory may be likened to a boot camp for heaven. No matter who or how we may be, boot camps are meant to prepare us for future tasks and responsibilities. It is a time to deepen one’s relationships with the merciful and loving Father who sent his only begotten Son so that we may have eternal life.

The celebration of All Souls reminds the living to pray for the departed that they may rise again as promised by Jesus to his followers.

Feast of All Souls

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 22:00

Since the eleventh century, the Feast of All Souls has been celebrated for deceased Christians that they might “rest in peace.” Catholics believe, as we recite in the Creed, in the “communion of saints.”

In the Feast of All Saints and the Feast of All Souls, we solidify that belief. This is the union of the faithful on earth (the Church Militant), the saints in Heaven (the Church Triumphant) and the souls in Purgatory (the Church Suffering). This is the body of believers, with Christ as the head. We are united in a spiritual bond.

Through prayer we communicate, and since we never die, but live forever through the death and resurrection of Christ, we can still communicate with each other. As believers on earth, we can pray to our brethren who are in Heaven or Purgatory. Those in Purgatory benefit from our prayers, and we from theirs. They cannot pray for themselves, so we need to remember to pray for them. And we can ask those in Purgatory and those in Heaven to pray for us while we are on our earthly pilgrimage with our destination being Heaven.

The Feast of All Saints and All Souls has been lost to the secular celebration of Halloween, just as our Lord’s birth has been lost in the celebration of the coming of Santa Claus. Traditions that are not lived are soon forgotten.

Keep the feast days and give the saints the remembrance and honor they deserve. And remember that they surround us, cheering us on and always interceding for us.

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.”

“Some souls would suffer in Purgatory until the Day of Judgment if they were not relieved by the prayers of the Church.”

— Traditionally attributed to St. Robert Bellarmine

What offering or sacrifice can I make today to benefit the holy souls in Purgatory?

Prayer

Thank you, dear brothers and sisters in Heaven, for your intercession for us. Please ask our Lord to grant us the graces we need to keep our eyes focused on the goal of Heaven and the courage to finish the race in faithfulness to Him. Amen.

What Does It Mean to Want to be a Saint?

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 22:07

I wish that I could say that I have submitted and relinquished my will entirely to God. I can’t say that, yet. I’ve spent more days sitting beside my husband in hospital rooms than I care to count. Hospital visits are a monthly, weekly, or bi-weekly occurrence for us. I have had to stand by in horror and fear watching my husband nearly lose consciousness and cough blood into bowls. I have had to quietly finger my Rosary through Divine Mercy Chaplets with tears streaming down my face while my husband lies in the hospital bed next to me completely disoriented. My husband is 40 years old. He’s not 70 or 80. He’s 40. Each new episode reminds me that I may become a widow at any point: next week, next year, in ten years, twenty years. We don’t know, but we know this disease could become unmanageable at any point.

In truth, the possibility of my becoming a widow or him a widower has always been the case because we don’t know what will happen from day-to-day. Death comes at God’s appointed time and often without warning, but there is something different about finding out that my husband has a rare and dangerous auto-immune disease. It makes that reality tangible. It is front and center in our lives. He has good days and days he suffers greatly. Each new day brings more uncertainty. In that uncertainty, God is calling me to trust Him and love Him fully. He offers His Sacred Heart to me each day and I only need to fully accept that love in all of its awe, wonder, joy, terrible suffering, and sorrow.

The furnace of love is suffering

When we enter into our vocation the fire is lit and the furnace begins to warm. It is through our vocation that we learn to relinquish ourselves in self-emptying love. This process is often slow and painful. We are often reminded of our selfishness and weakness when confronted with those God has given us to care for and love. This is just as true for the priest who has been entrusted with a flock who he must teach, lead, and walk with in periods of joy and sorrow, as it is for the husband and wife who move towards Heaven together with or without children. Love demands a relinquishment of self. Divine Love requires the total relinquishment of self to God. Often, we must learn to relinquish our will to God through trials of fire, that is, suffering.

In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:7

God uses these trials to teach us to love. In standing beside my husband through agony and suffering, I am taught how to love as God loves. This life isn’t about amassing as many pleasures and material possessions as possible. Life is about loving others and learning to love with the love of Christ. This love is not sentimental and very often it doesn’t “feel” good at the time. It is a love grounded in the reality of the Blessed Trinity in all of its great mystery.

Learning to trust when we feel helpless

If there is one word that can sum up how I have felt these past few months it is helpless. When my husband gets really sick, all I can do is care for him and be present to him. I am not able to make him feel better. I cannot cure him. I cannot take away his pain. I have to stand by his side and give him completely back to God in the face of total and utter helplessness. It is in this helplessness that I am learning trust.

God is teaching me that I can’t change any of this because it is His plan, not mine. No matter how much I want to grasp at a false sense of control, I do not have any control. I can fight, kick, scream, cry, or flee, but God truly is the “Hound of Heaven” and He isn’t going to let me go far. He is there no matter how much I hurt, no matter how scared I feel, or how helpless I am in the face of my husband’s suffering and the pain our daughter is carrying from seeing her father suffer. In the end, all I can do is turn to Him and relinquish my heart, my will, my plans, and my dreams to Him. He is my Father—as He is your Father—who loves me with a pure love that I cannot fully comprehend. All of this is for my good, even though I can’t see it or feel it at times. Faith isn’t about how we feel. It is choosing to believe and knowing God is there even in periods of darkness and dryness. Faith employs the faculties of the soul—intellect and will—and is not dependent upon the passions (emotions/feelings).

What being a saint actually means

When I first got married and I came back to the Church, I prayed fervently for God to make my husband, me, and any of our children saints. I meant it at the time, but I did not understand what I had asked for then. My faith was newer and filled with some false notions of piety that are common among reverts and converts. My idea of holiness was largely sentimental, and for lack of a better word, shallow. I didn’t understand what it takes to make saints. Now I know.

God is answering my prayer. That doesn’t mean I am even close to being a saint. I have a very long way to go. This just means that I understand now what He is asking of me and what I asked of Him in that prayer. He wants all of me. Everything. I don’t get to hold back any part of myself or my life from Him. It also means that suffering is necessary. It is not the greatest evil, as our culture would have us believe. In fact, oftentimes, we miss out on growing in our faith, depth, love, and understanding when we flee from suffering. This does not mean we should be looking for suffering. Send the hairshirt back to Amazon and don’t go out into your backyard looking for sticks for self-flagellation. This means that God is going to allow us to suffer at different points in our lives. Some of us may suffer more than others for reasons that will remain mysterious to us on this side of eternity. I think, from a practical perspective, some of us are harder headed, so we need longer in the furnace of refinement. I know I am hard headed, and far too often, hard-hearted.

Being a saint means to be like God. We are called to love like God. The Church Fathers understood that we are called to be divine. A friend of mine recently commented to me on Facebook: “We are beasts who are called to be gods.” This is exactly how the Church Fathers saw it and this is indeed our call. Ask anyone who has been woken up from a sound sleep by their husband calling out for them because he’s about to collapse on the floor or is coughing up blood again, how long it takes the meat (our body) to wake up and want to help. Our weakness says “sleep”, but love says “serve” until we have nothing left to give and then Christ will give the grace to do even more than we ever thought possible.

How did the God of the Universe, creator of all things, love us? He died a brutal, torturous, humiliating death for us on a Cross. The God of the Universe gave us everything: Himself. He shows us complete and total self-emptying love on the Cross. That is the very same call for you and for me. A saint loves as God loves. A saint desires to give everything to God. They hold nothing back and they joyfully accept whatever life brings. Growing in holiness means learning to joyfully embrace the Cross. Most of us aren’t quite there yet, but if we truly want to be a saint then we understand what God is really asking of each one of us. The joy part can be difficult for us in the face of suffering. It’s a process, but God will help and guide us as long as we turn to Him constantly. We must give everything to Him and trust that the glory He has in store for us is far greater than any debilitating disease, natural disaster, violence, or suffering that we may endure in love and hope here on earth. We live in the hope that regardless of how terrible the refinement in the fire may be, we will be made new creations worthy of Heaven in the process.

Loving God & Neighbor: Why and How?

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 22:04

I can still remember his face and the passionate tone of his voice when he spoke some words to me and other seminarians. It was at the height of the clergy sexual abuse scandal of 2002 in the United States. Some priests in a diocese had recommended to their bishop that one way to deal with the low morale and burnout of the clergy was to allow them more days-off during the week. Our priest-professor in the seminary, obviously enraged by such a request, said to us:

When you become priests, I don’t care how many days-off you may have during the week, or how long a vacation you have yearly or what exotic places you go to for your vacation; as long as you are not growing in you love for God and for His flock entrusted to you as priests, you will never know true joy.

Why is it imperative for us to keep the two inseparable Commandments to love God and neighbor that Jesus gives in Sunday’s Gospel? Some of us may have asked our parents or other authority figures why we should obey their instructions only to receive that familiar answer, “Because I say so.” Can we and do we keep the two-fold Commandment of love simply because God says so? What then is the deeper reason that sustains our striving to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and our neighbors as ourselves?

The newly liberated Israelites are warned by Moses in today’s First Reading not to molest or oppress the aliens because they themselves have experienced God’s liberating power that freed them from oppressive slavery, “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.” Having experienced the compassionate love of God that liberates, they must extend a liberating and compassionate love to the widows, aliens and orphans.

This is the very first reason why we must keep the commandment of love: we have received this love as a gift. We are not the origin of this love but we have this love simply because God has loved us first, “Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God.” (1Jn 4:7) In addition, this love is a gift from God, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He has loved us first.”(1 Jn 4:10) This gift of divine love is received through the person of the Holy Spirit, “The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Spirit that has been given to us.”(Rom 5:5)

The Second Reading points us to the second reason why we must keep the Commandment to love God and neighbor. The Christians in Thessalonica had received the Gospel wholeheartedly and had experienced persecution because of their new faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Moved by the Holy Spirit, they “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to await His Son from heaven,” thus becoming “models for all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” Though they “received the word with great affliction,” they experienced “joy from the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit moved them to concrete acts of love for God even in their affliction and, once they responded positively to the promptings of the Spirit, they experienced a joy that could not be quenched by their earthly travails. We too strive to keep the commandment to love God and neighbor because we want to have the unquenchable joy of the Lord in our hearts.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we have the Spirit of love and joy from the moment of our baptism. This Spirit is always moving us to love God and neighbor more and more with all that we have. When we respond to the Spirit’s call to love God and others more, we have the deep joy of the Lord that abides even in the midst of the trials of life. This is why we must strive to keep the greatest Commandment of love in all that we do, think and say.

God desires our deepest joy always and He does all things so that this joy becomes ours. God, “who is love,”(1 Jn 4:8) made us through love and calls us to love Him in others for His own sake. God so desires that we live in this love that He “gave us His only begotten Son so that those who believe in Him may not perish but may have everlasting life.”(Jn 3:16) Jesus Himself came that we “might have life and have it abundantly.”(Jn 10:10) The Father and the Son never cease to send forth the Spirit of Love into our hearts to move us to deeper spiritual joy along the path of greater love for God and neighbor.

So how is the Spirit of God moving us today to greater love for God and how are we responding? Maybe the Spirit is moving us to go deeper in our prayer life or to confess a particular sinful habit and amend our lives. Maybe the Spirit is moving us to end a sinful relationship or to serve Him more selflessly in our apostolate. Maybe the Spirit is moving us to participate more actively in liturgical celebrations or to attend the sacraments more frequently or spend time in delving into His word in Scripture.

So how is the Spirit of God moving us today to greater love for our neighbor? Maybe we are being moved to reach out to someone whom we have written off in life or to reconcile with one who has hurt us. Maybe we are being inspired to speak kind words to someone we always put down or to spend time with someone that we would rather avoid. Maybe we are being moved to intercede for those who lack faith and strength to pray or to instruct the ignorant in faith and morals. A deep and unquenchable joy awaits us as we pursue the will of God and His greater glory and strive to meet the spiritual and temporal needs of others.

The example of Mama Mary shines out so brightly in this regard. Mary’s act of charity is exceptional because, in her love for God and for us her sinful children, she received and responded to the gift of the Holy Spirit, “The Holy Spirit will overshadow you,” with a complete gift of herself to God, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.” Filled with this Holy Spirit, Mary was so powerfully moved by the Spirit that she “arose and went in haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered into the house of Zachariah and greeted Elizabeth,” serving Elizabeth’s needs for three good months. Can we think of a more profound hymn of joy than Mary’s Magnificat, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior?” With and through Mary, the ever-faithful Spouse of the Holy Spirit, we too can believe in the gift of love received through the Holy Spirit and let this Spirit move us to seek for that deep and lasting joy which remains the sure reward of a growing love for God and neighbor.

Having all that we need to love God and neighbors more in this world of selfishness and greed, a world where individualism and egoism is rampant, where consumerism and hedonism dictates life choices, where it is so easy to use others as means to our selfish goals, the words of my seminary professor ring out as true as ever: “No matter what we have or do or enjoy, if we are not loving God and others more and more, we will never have deep and lasting joy.”

In our Eucharist today, Jesus renews in us the outpouring of His Spirit because He wants us to be truly joyful even in this world as we await the perfect joy of heaven. We have the gift of the Spirit of love that never ceases us to inspire us to greater love for God and others no matter the cost. Let us love God and neighbors just as He is moving us and we will also have the joy of the Lord in our hearts, a joy that nothing in this world can take away from us.

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

All Saints Day Means Holiness is For All

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 22:02

At age 16, I thought that aspiring to holiness was out of the question.  If you really wanted to be holy, I thought, you had to be a priest, nun, or brother.  And you had to spend your days doing “religious stuff” like praying, preaching, teaching catechism, or serving the poor.  But I had developed an interest in the opposite sex and was headed toward a career in music.  So I was disqualified.  The best I could hope for was to avoid breaking the 10 commandments, get to confession when I failed, not miss Mass on Sunday and toss a few bucks in the collection each week.  That way, I could at least make it to heaven after a stay in Purgatory.  But true sanctity, that was out of my reach.

If holiness were about marital status or what you do for a living, I would have been right. But the Second Vatican Council made very clear that my assumptions were wrong.  Holiness is not about what you do but with how much love you do it.  Holiness is really the perfection of faith, hope, and sharing in God’s very nature, which is love (I Jn. 4:8).  We are talking about a special kind of love here, the love that gives freely of itself to another, that even lays down its own priorities, interests, and very life, for another.

So is holiness difficult to attain?  No.  It is impossible.  At least on our own steam.  But that’s the thrill of it all.  God invites us into an intimate relationship with Him through Jesus.  He takes up residence within us and makes it possible to love with His love. Grace is the love of God that comes into our hearts as a free, undeserved gift and enables us to be like God.

So that means spending all our time in chapel?  No it means doing daily, ordinary things with extraordinary love.  The Virgin Mary, our greatest example of holiness, was a housewife and a mother.  Jesus and his foster father, St. Joseph, apparently spend most of their lives doing manual labor.  But when Mary did the wash, she did it for love.  When Joseph made a table, he did it for love.  When hardship and danger threatened, they met it with faith, hope, and love.

So holiness is for every baptized person, regardless of personality type, career, age, race, or marital status.  In baptism, we are all reborn with the spiritual muscles necessary to get us across the finish line.  Yet these muscles must be nourished and exercised if they are ever to develop and carry us the full distance.  God provides the necessary nourishment in the Word of God and the Eucharist.  And he sends us ample opportunities to exercise.

But there’s the rub–many of us don’t want to exert ourselves.  It can be uncomfortable.  We stretch a bit to finish school, to excel at sports, to win the heart of the love of our lives.  But when it comes to the things of the Spirit, we often settle with being couch potatoes.

Leon Bloy, a French Catholic writer, once said “the only tragedy in life is not to become a saint.”  Holiness is about realizing our deepest, greatest potential, becoming who we were truly destined to be.  What a shame it would be to miss it.

The saints were just like us…

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 22:00

The saints were just like us… with one difference: they strove, in everything they did, to discover Jesus and to live as signs and servants of His Presence.

-Fr. Joseph Esper, Saintly Solutions to Life’s Common Problems

Feast of All Saints

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 22:00

Today is the Feast of All Saints, which is celebrated every November 1. By the fourth century, this Feast of All Martyrs, as it was then known, was celebrated on May 13. The words “martyr” and “saint” originally meant basically the same thing — someone who is a witness to Christ even unto death.

The early Christians usually placed the body of the martyr who had died for his faith in a tomb that was easily accessible. Then on the anniversary of that martyr’s death, the faithful would come and pray and celebrate the Eucharist. Eventually, these celebrations were held in local churches to commemorate not just one martyr, but all who had given their lives for their faith. By the fifth century, this feast of “All Saints” was held on the Friday of Easter week.

However, in the ninth century, Pope Gregory the IV changed the date to November 1. Those Christians who endured torture for the faith, but did not die, were treated with great respect. Therefore, their local church often acclaimed those who led heroic and faithful lives as saints after their deaths.

The theology of this feast emphasizes the bond between those Christians already with God and those still on earth. Consequently, the Feast of All Saints points to our ultimate goal — eternity with God.

In 1484 Pope Sixtus IV established November 1 as a holy day of obligation. The vigil for this feast day was known as “All Hallow’s Eve,” today called by its shorter version. Hallowed means holy (as in “hallowed be Thy name”). The abbreviated name for evening became “e’en” and this is where we get the name “Halloween.”

Rather than concentrating on witches, ghosts, and goblins, let us think on those who have gone before us, having persevered in holiness and faithfulness, setting before us the way unto salvation of our souls. This is a time to celebrate their lives and give our children real heroes that they can look up to and pattern their lives after.

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

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

The saints have no need of honor from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself enflamed by a tremendous yearning.

— From a discourse of St. Bernard

Johnnette’s Meditation
Of all the saints, who enflames me the most with “a tremen­dous yearning” for the things of God? Why? How can I emulate him or her in one specific way today?

Prayer

Holy Spirit, anoint us with the oil of joyfulness in the midst of our sufferings and the gift of perseverance during persecution, that we may run the race of those saints who have gone before us, keeping our eyes on the crown of glory and eternity with You. Amen.

Padre Pio, Purgatory, and Praying for Souls in the Cemetery

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 22:07

A frail old man lay on his deathbed. In a chair beside his bed, a priest sat with him and wiped away the tears that flowed quietly from the dying man’s eyes. The old man asked the priest to hear his confession.

After receiving the sacrament, he said to the priest, “My son, if the Lord calls me tonight, ask all my brothers to forgive me for the trouble I’ve caused them. Ask them also to pray for my soul.”

From these words, one might think the old man had many regrets and much to repent. Just a few days earlier, however, the whole town had held a huge celebration to honor him. The year was 1968, and the occasion was the fiftieth anniversary of the day he had received the stigmata.

The old man was Padre Pio.

He was known to read souls, to see heavenly apparitions, to bilocate, and to obtain miraculous cures. He slept only one or two hours each night; the rest of the time, he prayed. His reputation for sanctity brought pilgrims from around the world to visit him at San Giovanni Rotondo.

And yet, in the last hours of his life, as told in the book Padre Pio: Man of Hope, he made a request that seems bewildering in light of his holiness.

Why would Padre Pio, whom many considered a living saint, who seemed to have one foot in heaven throughout his entire life, beg prayers for his soul? When he was moments away from meeting his Lord, his humility convicted him. He was a saint; and still, he was a sinner in need of mercy.

Dear Suffering Friends

“How grateful I should be,” writes St. Margaret Mary in her Life and Writings II, “if you would help me by your prayers to relieve my ‘dear suffering friends,’ for so I call them. There is nothing I would not do or suffer to help them. I assure you they are not ungrateful.”

When St. Margaret Mary writes of her “dear suffering friends,” the phrase resonates with me. I’ve spent so many hours near tombstones that the souls now feel like old friends.

One of the loveliest places in our town is our local cemetery. Drawn to its beauty and peace, I wind its paths several times a week. Reading the weather-worn headstones there, I wonder about the lives they honor. A Union soldier who fought in the Civil War. A three-month-old baby and her father, both born in the 19th century. A husband and wife with nicknames like “Sweets” and “Lovie.”

I can easily get lost in thought there, and it usually takes some time before I remember that even now, long after they lived, there is something I can do to help these people. That’s when this simple variation of the Jesus Prayer (one I mentioned in an article last November) comes to mind, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, I repeat it:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on the souls in this cemetery.

It fills my heart to pray for the people whose graves I pass—and also for my relatives and other “dear suffering friends.”  And in the bounty of divine mercy, I find added peace in knowing that my prayers in the cemetery are not one-sided: When I have intentions close to my heart, I also ask these souls to pray for me.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says something amazing about praying for the dead: “Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.”

When I pray for the souls in Purgatory, it makes them better able to pray for me. What a reciprocal blessing of unity in the Body of Christ!

The Gift of Prayers

When Padre Pio asked that his brothers pray for his soul, he was no stranger to the souls in Purgatory. In fact, he said that “more souls of the dead than of the living climb this mountain to attend my masses and to seek my prayers.”

He told stories of souls who had come to him in visible human form to ask for his intercession. He mystically understood what kinds of sins brought people to Purgatory. Padre Pio was so busy trying to empty Purgatory that, for those who knew him, it must have seemed that he would never need to land there himself.

But still, he asked for prayers for his soul. He knew that he sinned; and even if he went straight to heaven, those prayers would never be wasted. Other souls in Purgatory could benefit from the offering.

It is a comfort to us on earth, when a loved one dies, to think that the person is in heaven. This consolation is real and sweet; it is right and good for us to hope for heaven. But we must not forget what Padre Pio understood: Death is not always a free pass to heaven. In order to get there, many souls need the gift of our prayers.

Each November, the Church gives us an extraordinary gift that we can extend to our “dear suffering friends.” From November 1-8, a plenary indulgence is available for Catholics in a state of grace who visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the dead. This indulgence can only be applied to the souls in Purgatory.  On other days, the indulgence is partial.

In addition to praying in the cemetery, the conditions for a plenary indulgence are: (a) to receive Communion once for each intended indulgence; (b) go to Confession—a single Confession will suffice for all; and (c) pray at least one Our Father and one Hail Mary for the pope’s intentions.

Padre Pio reminds us that it is never too late to pray, whether a person died recently or long ago:For the Lord, …everything is an eternal present. Those prayers had already been taken into account so that even now I can pray for the happy death of my great-grandfather!”

I hope and pray that when I leave this life, my loved ones will pray for my soul. I have no doubt that I will need those prayers desperately. And I hope and pray that I will always remember to offer the same act of mercy for my “dear suffering friends,” so that, by God’s grace, we will all meet one day, with the angels and saints, together in the Sacred Heart, for all eternity.

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

image: Saint Pius of Pietrelcina by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Why Protestants Err in Claiming ‘Solus Christus’

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 22:05

One of the traditional depictions of Christ on the cross includes tiny angels adorning the bars of cross. In one version, by Gustave Dore, the cross is crowded with angels clinging to it. One medieval painting shows a crowd clustered at the foot of the cross while busy angels dart to and from the cross of Christ and those of the thieves.

These images illustrate a profound truth: we never really encounter Christ alone. This, I believe, is the fundamental error at the root of the Protestant Reformation’s cry of solus Christus.

One explanation of solus Christus is that it is primarily about salvation (the doctrine of justification). The argument is that we need Christ alone — no interference or assistance from the saints, priests, popes, or Mary. But the practical effect of this false teaching is that devotion to the saints and Mary and obedience to priests and popes is eliminated from the life of the Christian.

This is at odds with a fundamental reality of the gospels: Christ is always with other people. Rarely does someone meet with Christ alone. Indeed, one strains to think of when Christ is ever alone. Rather, from the very beginning Christ relates to the world through other persons, through a community.

Consider the Incarnation itself: Christ did not ‘descend’ from heaven but instead was ‘born.’ He certainly could have appeared from the heavens, already fully human while fully divine. That might seem odd to us only because the Christmas story is so intimately familiar. But really it is strange that a being from another world should enter ours in such a manner. There is no counterpart in the modern myths of our culture, nor even in the ancient world, in which there were accounts of divine births but they always involved some element of violence and the prior descent of some other deity. Nor is there precedent in the Old Testament.

But Christ first appeared on this earth as a member of humanity’s primordial community, the family. When the three wise men and the shepherds venerated him, they did so in the presence of St. Joseph and Mary. It was Mary who first introduced Christ to John the Baptist and Mary who first publicly presented him at the temple.

This pattern continues in the ministry of Jesus. What does Jesus do first? Stand in the ancient town square and start proclaiming the good news? No—He first meets someone else who was drawing large crowds to himself, John the Baptist. And what does Jesus then do? Does He then take John the Baptist’s place? No, He presents himself as one of the crowd. And as they did, so He also submits to baptism by John.

Even after this, Jesus does not start preaching alone. Instead, He recruits disciples to first follow Him. Only then, with this company, does Jesus set out to preach and heal. Preaching, by its very nature, is a public act. In our society, healing tends to be the opposite: it is intimate and private. But that’s not how it is in the gospels. Most accounts of Jesus’ healings always seem to involve the presence of other people—from the hemorrhaging woman who snuck through the crowd to the deaf man who was presented to Jesus by a crowd (Mark 7).

In the crucifixion too, Jesus was not alone. John and Mary were at his feet. Even in the moment in which He parts with His mother and experiences the agony of divine abandonment, Jesus was not alone: two others were crucified with Him. This continues in His death. The descent to hell today is sometimes described as a solitary event but in traditional depictions it’s a crowded scene: usually Jesus is seen pulling Adam and Eve out of their graves by their wrists, surrounded by many other Old Testament saints.

The one obvious exception to this in the gospels is those moments when Jesus retires to pray. But this exception explains the pattern we otherwise see: even during these times Jesus is not truly alone because He is praying to God the Father. So Jesus can never be alone: the Trinity, the divine community is always with Him. “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” Jesus said in John 14:10.

This is why Jesus normally appears with others in the gospels. His very manner of appearing reveals a fundamental truth about God. God is not a lonely God. He is not like Adam, in paradise yet lacking for a partner. He is a community. (Yet He is not a plurality of individual beings. He is one because He is perfect.)

Because God is a community held in love, when we encounter God through community we are brought closer to Him. Just as loving others draws us to God, as Pope Benedict XVI, explains in Deus Caritas Est: “[I]f in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be ‘devout’ and to perform my ‘religious duties,’ then my relationship with God will also grow arid. … Love grows through love.”

The special community which introduces us to God by mirroring his very being is the Church. As Cardinal Anders Arborelius of Stockholm put it, the Church is meant to be “the community of saints reflecting the Most Holy Trinity” (This was in an interview with me for a news story.) Pope Benedict XVI elaborates on this point in Caritas in Veritate:

The Trinity is absolute unity insofar as the three divine Persons are pure relationality. The reciprocal transparency among the divine Persons is total and the bond between each of them complete, since they constitute a unique and absolute unity. God desires to incorporate us into this reality of communion as well: ‘that they may be one even as we are one’ (Jn. 17:22). The Church is a sign and instrument of this unity.

Yes, the Church is the Body of Christ, as we often here, but precisely because of this it also a reflection of the Trinity. This is why the Protestant doctrine of solus Christus is so terribly wrong. In a misguided effort to ensure the saints and Mary don’t ‘steal’ any of Christ’s glory as our savior, it misses the big picture and indeed the whole point of what it means to be a Church. For it is precisely through the communion of saints that Christ’s glory shines forth to us. Rather than opening the way to Christ, the solus approach shuts out the very way He speaks to us today.

image: By Hartmann Linge (Own work (Original text: eigene Aufnahme)) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or CC BY-SA 3.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons

Patience: The Virtue We All Need

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 22:02

There is not one person in the world who could say that he does not need the virtue of patience. Jesus said:  By your patience you will save your soul. Given that this virtue is universal and not easy to attain, it shall be our topic for conversation in this brief article!

Patience for Who? 

You might stop and look at your life and ask the question: with whom, where, and when do I need the virtue of patience? Not to be overly simplistic, but I believe we can narrow this question to three distinct categories:

We have to be patient with others—those we meet, those we live with, those we work with, those we associate with, those with whom we come into contact either frequently or less frequently. Then, another very important category or person with whom we must exercise constant and infinite patience—and that is with ourselves, yes, with ourselves! Finally, and this last Person with whom we must practice patience may not be as obvious at first thought, is GOD!

This being said, we must be keenly aware of the hard and cruel fact that people will rub us the wrong way, get on our nerves, provoke us, exasperate us, and sometimes simply drive us bananas—to put it bluntly! As you read this article, I am sure that you have some person in mind, more likely, some persons in mind! Certain idiosyncrasies of others—their tone of voice, the pace they move at, their facial expression, the words they use or fail to use, drive you up the wall. We all know these people, have had contact with them, and probably do even right now. What then are we going to do to remedy this predicament?

Easier said than done—the solution to this problem of patience with the person or persons that seem to be simply intolerable! Let us offer three simple suggestions that can be invaluable!

First, Prayer! 

Jesus says that we have to pray, and not simply for those people whom we see as charming, attractive, likable, holy and unblemished—as if these people really do exist anyway. We must pray for all people because they were created by a loving God, and God wants all of humanity to form a family in which the virtues of love, compassion, mercy, and respect reign supreme! Jesus says very clearly that we have to even pray for our enemies, as He taught us on the cross: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.

Second, Humility! 

Be humble in the midst of your dislike of this person who drives you up the wall due to the many defects that you observe in him. Remember and call to mind your own defects, which might be more serious in the eyes of God than those of the person that you really cannot stand! God loves the humble, but rejects the arrogant and proud. When tempted to look down on this person, call to mind one of your most egregious failures or sins and God’s mercy towards you. This will help you to be more compassionate, kind, and patient toward this intolerable person!

Agere Contra

Third, put into practice what Saint Ignatius of Loyola teaches in the course of the Spiritual Exercises and it is the concept of agere contra. This is a short Latin phrase which literally means to go against! Therefore, when you are tempted to be impatient, unkind, cold or downright mean to this person who presses your buttons, do the opposite.

A smile, a kind word, a nice gesture, or even giving a gift—all this is difficult but very pleasing to God! This conquering of self, though difficult, is possible and once done a true sign of the victory of God’s grace in your life.

Patience With Yourself

Now what about patience with oneself? Those who are so-called perfectionists will always end up defrauded, especially with themselves. Why? For the simple reason that we live in a complex and very imperfect world, better yet a sinful world! Only God is perfect and all of humanity is composed of sinners, hopefully on the pathway of conversion. The Bible teaches us that the just man falls seven times a day. Jesus says that we must forgive those who offend us not seven times, but 70 times seven times.

In other words, even though we have to be constantly fighting to overcome our sinful tendencies, as well as sin itself in our lives, we should strive never to give in to impatience at our many falls, much less discouragement. Indeed, the saints teach us that after sin itself, discouragement is mortal enemy number one! Patience: name it and claim it!

The Founder of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, Venerable Bruno Lanteri expressed it in two short words, and these two words say it all: Nunc coepi, meaning now I begin. In other words, after we fall or fail in one way or another, we should get up, dust ourselves off, launch ourselves into the loving arms of God the Father (the image of Saint Therese of Lisieux), and simply start anew!

We should trust more in God’s grace than in our human weakness remembering the words of the great Apostle Saint Paul: When I am weak, it is then that I am strong! The newly canonized saint, the Missionary of California, Saint Junipero Serra coined this immortal phrase: Siempre Adelante, siempre Adelante y nunca atras, translated as Always forward, always forward and never turn back! Therefore, when we do fall (and no doubt we will fall) we should never give in to discouragement, but rather trust less in ourselves and more in God’s power in our lives. In other words, less self-reliance and more God-reliance! With the Psalmist let us exclaim: Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.

Patience With God

Finally, the last Person and the most important Person to be patient with is God Himself! This may surprise many who, in their hearts, might be thinking: I have never been impatient with God!

Have you ever prayed to God and found that your prayers were not answered according to your criteria? Have you ever asked God to help you in sickness and suffering and it seemed as if God was not listening, absent, or totally indifferent to your situation? Has it ever happened that you made a novena to God, to Mary, or to one of God’s angels or saints and the request made was not answered; instead, your situation seemed to get even worse? Has it ever happened that you prayed for the conversion of somebody and absolutely nothing seemed to happen? Has it ever happened in your life that you begged God with faith for the mountain to be moved, and when you got up the following morning the mountain had not moved or budged a millimeter? With these so called prayers or petitions and unresolved problems or aggravating circumstances where it seemed as if God really did not care, was indifferent, or even uninterested in your sorrowful plight, there is a good chance that you became impatient with God to the point of even becoming angry at God. This plight is more common than we might realize.

What then is the response to this predicament?

Our God is a God of infinite love! Our God is a God of infinite Wisdom! However, the mind of God is not the mind of man. His ways far transcend and supersede ours, in knowledge, wisdom, love, and planning. We can barely see beyond our own nose and we live only in a specific moment of time. Not so with God! He lives in the eternal present.

For an infinite and eternal God, the past, present, and future are all the same. This being said, for the sake of our conversion, sanctification, perseverance in grace, and eternal salvation, God’s plans and decisions will not always meet with our criteria. However, we must believe in God’s loving and providential design! All God does for you individually, personally, socially, and spiritually is always—in the broad and panoramic perspective and in the light of eternity—for your good. Therefore, strive never to be impatient with God but trust Him, trust totally and humbly in His infinite love for you and providential care. Beg Our Lady, who stood beneath the cross watching Jesus suffer and die, to have great trust and patience in God’s plan for your life!

“Receive our Lord, and keep Him

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 22:00

“Receive our Lord, and keep Him as long as you can. Make plenty of room for Him within you. To let Jesus Christ increase in one’s soul is the most perfect act of love.”

-St. Peter Julian Eymard, How to Get More out of Holy Communion

The Gospel reading gives us two

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 22:00

The Gospel reading gives us two parables to help us understand the kingdom of God. It is like a small mustard seed, which grows into a small tree, able to shelter birds in its branches. It is like yeast which leavens flour into bread.

In the first reading Paul tells us how we will enjoy the kingdom of God in its fullness when “we share the freedom and glory of the children of God” in the kingdom of heaven.

Our sins cut us off from the kingdom of God. When we are in sin, we live outside his grace. We banish the Holy Spirit from ourselves.

When we are burdened with troubles of whatever kind, with failures and disappointments, with suffering, the first reading assures us that all this is part of our preparation for full enjoyment of God’s life and glory.

Let our lives be alive and productive like the mustard seed growing into a tree, like the yeast transforming the flour into bread. Let our lives be faithful witnesses to the kingdom of God in this world.

St. Wolfgang

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 22:00

Wolfgang was born in Swabia, Germany in 930 A.D. He studied at Reichenau under the Benedictines and at Wurzburg before serving as a teacher in the cathedral school of Trier. He soon entered the Benedictines at Einsiedeln in 964 and was appointed head of the monastery school, receiving ordination in 971.

He then set out with a group of monks to preach among the Magyars of Hungary, but the following year (972) was named bishop of Regensburg by Emperor Otto II. As bishop, he distinguished himself brilliantly for his reforming zeal and his skills as a statesman. He brought the clergy of the diocese into his reforms, restored monasteries, promoted education, preached enthusiastically, and was renowned for his charity and aid to the poor, receiving the title Eleemosynarius Major (Grand Almoner).

He also served as tutor to Duke Henry of Bavaria’s son, who later became Emperor. Wolfgang died at Puppingen near Linz, Austria. He was canonized in 1052 by Pope St. Leo IX.

Lessons

Wolfgang joined his friend, Henry, in school in Wurzburg, and also went with him as a teacher in the cathedral school of Trier when Henry became the Archbishop there in the year 956.

Our associates help form our consciences. Wolfgang apparently kept good company as he and his friend, Henry, both were holy men who served our Lord.

Prayer

Lord, help us to follow in your footsteps just as your Apostles did, that we may be a good example to others. Grant us the graces we need to be good disciples and always lead our friends on the path to holiness.

Saint Wolfgang, pray for us. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Quentin (287), Martyr

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.