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St. Josaphat Kuntsevych

Sat, 11/11/2017 - 23:00

Josaphat, an Eastern Rite bishop, is held up as a martyr to Church unity because he died trying to bring part of the Orthodox Church into union with Rome.

In 1054, a formal split called a schism took place between the Eastern Church centered in Constantinople and the Western Church centered in Rome. Trouble between the two had been brewing for centuries because of cultural, political, and theological differences. In 1054, Cardinal Humbert was sent to Constantinople to try to reconcile the latest flare-up and wound up excommunicating the patriarch. The immediate problems included an insistence on the Byzantine rite, married clergy, and the disagreement on whether the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son. The split only grew worse from there, centering mostly on whether to accept the authority of the pope and Rome.

More than five centuries later, in what is now known as Belarus and Ukraine, but what was then part of Poland-Lithuania, an Orthodox metropolitan of Kiev and five Orthodox bishops decided to commit the millions of Christians under their pastoral care to reunion with Rome. Josaphat Kunsevich, who was born in 1580 or 1584, was still a young boy when the Synod of Brest Litovsk took place in 1595-96, but he was witness to the results, both positive and negative.

Many of the millions of Christians did not agree with the bishops’ decision to return to communion with the Catholic Church and both sides tried to resolve this disagreement — unfortunately not only with words but with violence. Martyrs died on both sides. Josaphat was a voice of Christian peace in this dissent.

After an apprenticeship to a merchant, Josaphat turned down both a partnership in the business and a marriage to enter the monastery of the Holy Trinity at Vilna in 1604. As a teenager he had found encouragement in his vocation from two Jesuits and a rector who understood his heart. And in the monastery he found another soul mate in Joseph Benjamin Rutsky. Rutsky, who had joined the Byzantine Rite under orders of Pope Clement VIII after converting from Calvinism, shared the young Josaphat’s passion to work for reunion with Rome. The two friends spent long hours making plans on how they could bring about that communion and reform monastic life.

The careers of the two friends diverged when Josaphat was sent to found new houses in Rome and Rutsky was made abbot at Vilna. Josaphat replaced Rutsky as abbot when Rutsky became metropolitan of Kiev. Josaphat immediately put into practice his early plans of reform. Because his plans tended to reflect his own extremely austere ascetic tendencies, he was not always met with joy. One community threatened to throw him into the river until his general compassion and his convincing words won them over to a few changes.

Josaphat faced even more problems when he became first bishop of Vitebsk and then Polotsk in 1617. The Church there was literally and figuratively in ruins, with buildings falling apart, clergy marrying two or three times, and monks and clergy everywhere not really interested in pastoral care or model Christian living. Within three years, Josaphat had rebuilt the Church by holding synods, publishing a catechism to be used all over, and enforcing rules of conduct for clergy. But his most compelling argument was his own life which he spent preaching, instructing others in the faith, and visiting the needy of the towns. Josaphat became the first saint of the Eastern church to be formally canonized by Rome in 1867.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Martin I (654), Pope, Martyr

How Do You Navigate Through Spiritual Direction?

Sat, 11/11/2017 - 02:35
Introduction to Spiritual Direction

 

Who needs spiritual direction?

“Who needs spiritual direction? Everyone who desires a deeper relationship with God – everyone who has blind spots – everyone who takes their faith seriously – said another way, every serious Catholic with a pulse.” – Dan Burke

Introduction to Spiritual Direction will provide an overview of one of the most powerful tools available for spiritual growth. Participants in the course will come away with a very clear understanding of the foundational truths every spiritual director and every seeker of spiritual direction should know. The course will be taught by Dan Burke on Thursdays from 8:30 – 10:30 pm Eastern Standard Time Jan 4, 11, 18, 25, Feb 1, and 8. Apply today at avila-institute.com.

“Simply put, spiritual direction is a relationship through which we come to better know, love, and follow Christ through the help of a kind of spiritual coach. It is a process through which we come to know and love Christ and ultimately experience the heights of spiritual union with Him, even in this life. The director and the directee work together, through the grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit, to understand God’s will, and then determine how to follow that leading in a concrete way on a day-to-day basis, into a deeper intimacy with Him.” – Dan Burke, Navigating the Interior Life

The course will cover: what spiritual direction is and is not, erroneous views of spiritual direction, how to conduct or participate in spiritual direction, how to establish a fruitful relationship with your director, how to progress in spiritual life, how to develop a rule of life and a daily examen, the progress of the soul in the context of the three ways of spiritual life, dark night of the soul, and navigating through stages of development of prayer.

“As she has never failed to do, again today the Church continues to recommend the practice of spiritual direction, not only to all those who wish to follow the Lord closely but to every Christian who wishes to live responsibly his baptism, that is, the new life in Christ. Everyone, in fact, and in a particular way all those who have received the divine call to a closer following needs to be supported personally by a sure guide in doctrine and expert in the things of God. A guide can help defend oneself from facile subjectivist interpretations, making available his own supply of knowledge and experiences in following Jesus. [Spiritual direction] is a matter of establishing that same personal relationship that the Lord had with his disciples, that special bond with which he led them, following him, to embrace the will of the Father (cf. Luke 22:42), that is, to embrace the cross.” – Pope Benedict XVI

Dan has indicated that “St. Bernard of Clairvaux once said, “He who constitutes himself his own spiritual director is the disciple of a fool.’ Why would such a gentle saint make such a harsh statement? It is because he saw many good souls get stuck spiritually. He once also lamented that many who make initial progress in the interior life get stuck and very few make it past the most basic progress. St. John of the Cross also reveals in his writings that very few gain the great graces of the life that God desires to give them because they don’t understand the spiritual life. The good news is that God has provided all we need to gain every grace He intends for us. Beyond the sacraments and prayer, there is no more powerful tool than spiritual direction.” In this course, Dan reveals what it is, how you can engage in spiritual direction, and if you are so engaged, how you can get more out of this powerful gift of the Church.

Check out more information on another course at the Avila Institute called Contemplative Prayer and the Angelic Doctor. St. Thomas Aquinas’ insights into our Lord’s Heart offer the Church a model of apostolic life and Christian contemplation. John Johnson will teach this course on Fridays 8:30 – 10:30 pm Eastern Standard Time Nov 10, 17, Dec 1, 15, 22, and Jan 5. Apply today on avila-institute.com.

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Art for this post from How Do You Navigate Through Spiritual Direction: Modification of the cover of Navigating The Interior Life Spiritual Direction And The Journey To God by DBurke, Avila-Institute.com used with permission.

About Kristin Aebli

Kristin Aebli is the Event Coordinator and Marketing Assistant at the Avila Foundation, parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and Divine Intimacy Radio. Receiving the position was providential and in God’s perfect timing. Although cradle Catholic, in college she reverted and became confirmed in the Church. Kristin graduated with a degree in Communications from Samford University and she still enjoys ministering to college students through the Samford Catholic Student Association. Kristin is happy to be a part of the Firelight college ministry, is involved with Apostoli Viae and also a Young Professionals Bible study. For fun, Kristin enjoys discussing theology with friends, recording her podcast “Catholic After Dark”, dancing, singing, cooking, writing and painting. She hopes to continue growing in her faith through the sacraments and involvement with faithful community.

 

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

St. Martin of Tours

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 23:00

Martin was born in Hungary around 315 A.D. He was the son of a pagan army officer and at 15 he was inducted into the army against his will. Once, while stationed in Amiens, he saw a poor beggar in the freezing cold wearing only skimpy and ragged clothes. Martin took pity on this man and cut his own cloak in half, giving one part to the beggar.

That night he had a vision of Christ wearing half of his cloak. He soon after became a Chrisitian and refused to fight, and was thus discharged from the army. He returned home and converted his mother and others. Martin later became a hermit and with some others established the first monastic community in Gaul.

Ten years later, in 371, Martin was named bishop of Tours. He lived privately as a monk, establishing the great monastic center of Marmoutier while zealously devoting himself to his episcopal duties. He worked ceaselessly to spread the faith and convert pagans. After establishing a religious center in Candes in Touraine, Martin died there on November 8, 397 A.D.

Lessons

It is said that St. Martin experienced visions and revelations and had the ability to prophesy. He was certainly one of the great saints of Gaul and the outstanding pioneer of Western monasticism before St. Benedict. Martin’s shrine at Tours became one of the most popular pilgrim centers in Europe, and he is one of the patron saints of France.

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.”

Death could not defeat him nor toil dismay him. He was quite without a preference of his own; he neither feared to die nor refused to live. With eyes and hands always raised to heaven, he never withdrew his unconquered spirit from prayer.

— From a letter of Sulpicius Severus on St. Martin of Tours

Which descriptions in this quotation describe me? Which do not?

Prayer

St. Martin, pray for us that we, too, may have the compassion that you had for the poor. Pray also, St. Martin, that we be bold in defending the faith and tireless in our evangelization efforts, that many will be brought out of darkness and into the fullness of faith. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Mennas (3rd Century), Martyr

Ten Ways to Win the Battle Against Porn

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 09:13

The most strenuous battles today is that against the ravenous wolf  that we call porn. We can safely say, with great sorrow and pain, that one of the most powerful and prevalent addictions today is that of porn. Because of the easy and all too prevalent availability and access to porn, more and more people—teens and even children—are viewing porn.

This being the case, we must have some concrete strategy or game-plan to fight against this powerful enemy of the salvation of our immortal soul. The following are ten positive steps to win the battle. Let us fight the battle, not by ourselves, but with the help of Almighty God and His Blessed Mother!

1. Love of God. First and foremost, I must be convinced of the great love that God has for me. His love for me is infinite, non-changing and eternal. Even when I fall, God still loves me as portrayed in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, or you might even call it “The Parable of the Merciful Father.”

2. Battlefield. Our life on earth is a constant battle between good and evil, the spirit and the flesh, light and darkness, the good spirit and the bad spirit. Therefore, we should always be vigilant, prayerful, alert and on guard. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We have to know our weak point, or if you like, our “Kryptonite.”  For many, it is to view progressively more revealing images—that is to say, porn.

3. Desolation. When we find ourselves in a state of desolation, that is when the enemy or the devil will attack us. By desolation we mean that in our soul we are experiencing sadness, depression, discouragement, lack of faith, hope, and love. We feel like life has no real meaning and it would be best to simply throw in the towel and give up the fight. Review your life now! Before falling into viewing porn, you were probably in a state of desolation. That being the case, what measures should you take? That is the next step!

4. Prayer and Wholesome Distraction.  To exit desolation and the temptation that goes with it—often the temptation to view porn—we must take certain steps to conquer the temptation. First, quick and fervent prayer! We cannot conquer temptation by our own human efforts; we need the grace of God that comes through prayer. Then we should move into wholesome, absorbing, and healthy distractions. Examples? Sports, good conversation with a friend, an absorbing book, a hobby… All of these serve to distract our minds from being engrossed in the desire for porn and giving in to it.

5. Failure (and recovering).  If we have the misfortune of falling into the trap and temptation of viewing porn, then we should never give into despair and losing all hope. On the contrary, we should be humble, admit our sin, have recourse to the Sacrament of Confession, and trust in the infinite mercy of God! Remember the consoling words of the Apostle Saint Paul: “Where sin abounds, the mercy of God abounds all the more.”

6. Self-Knowledge.  Saint Ignatius of Loyola insists on our having self-knowledge so as to grow in the spiritual life. The daily examen can be invaluable in overcoming any sin or sinful pattern, especially related to lust and the sin or vice of pornography. Addictions are not easy to conquer, but with the grace of God all is possible. The following are the five steps in making a good daily examen:

  • Place yourself in the presence of God who truly loves you totally.
  • Give thanks to God for all of the blessings He has given you.
  • Beg for the grace to see yourself as God sees you in total honesty.
  • Reflect on the events of your life, your failures, and why you fell.
  • Resolution, Reconciliation. Resolve to amend your life. Change!

7. Joy and Self-Fulfillment.  A very key element in conquering the sin and vice of porn is by experiencing joy in our lives. Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul insists on joy: “Rejoice in the Lord; I say it again: rejoice in the Lord.” (Phil. 4:4) Joy comes from the Lord, but it also comes from cultivating a spirit of service and going out of ourselves. Here is a short but helpful acronym for joy. J.O.Y. J= Jesus… O= Others… Y= Yourself. If indeed we put Jesus first, others second, and ourselves last, then we will experience joy, and the dark and bad spirit of porn’s grip will be weakened. Both Saint Philip Neri and Saint John Bosco insisted on creating a joyful atmosphere for the young people. As the flower flourishes in the sun, so the human soul flourishes under the sun rays of joy!

8. Hard Work.  It is so true the proverb or saying: “Idleness is the workshop of the devil.” How true this is related to porn! Wherever there is an abundance of free time, which promotes laziness and boredom, then the spirit of lust and the devil of porn work strenuously. Physical labor or sports, mental efforts, and spiritual activities all serve as dams to block the deluge of temptations to seek out porn materials! The saints all agree on this: Let us work hard now and we can rest forever in heaven!

9. Confessor/Spiritual Director.  The battle to conquer porn cannot be won alone. Honestly, it has to be fought with the help of a Confessor and Spiritual Director. Both are important and necessary. The following is the reason. Grace and healing come through the Sacrament of Confession which only a priest-confessor can administer. At the same time, a person struggling to overcome and conquer a serious problem with porn needs to be listened to, receive advice and counsel, as well as be held accountable. Therefore, the person of the Spiritual Director is indispensable. The priest-confessor and the spiritual director can be the same person, or they can be two separate persons. Saint Ignatius of Loyola insists that to conquer the enemy, the temptation must be exposed to the light! The devil works in darkness and secrecy!

10. Call on the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Experience has proven in the history of the great friends of God—the saints—that a strong, loving, filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary has helped immensely to conquer many of the demons, many of the sins, many of the sinful patterns in our lives. Our Lady is especially strong in helping those who entrust their lives to her with the grace to overcome the sins against the virtue of purity. Those who have fallen into porn should consecrate themselves to Mary, pray the Rosary every day, wear the Scapular, and invoke Mary especially in moments of temptation.

“Remember, O gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known, that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession, was left unaided!”

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

The post Ten Ways to Win the Battle Against Porn appeared first on The Catholic Gentleman.

This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at The Catholic Gentleman.

St. Martin of Tours, a Saint for Veterans Day & Non-Violence

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 23:07

On November 11 the Church celebrates the feast of St. Martin of Tours while the United States honors Veterans Day. The two celebrations—one religious and one secular—have a lot in common. St. Martin is the patron saint of soldiers and conscientious objectors. At first sight, this may seem incongruous and even contradictory. In reality, St. Martin’s patronage is the meeting together of two long-standing traditions of the Church: just war theory and radical non-violence. The Church is always calling the world to balance these two teachings.

In a world of Fallen men and women, it can be difficult to know when violence should be employed and when standing up in a non-violent manner is required. St. Martin’s example as a soldier who eventually became a conscientious objector is a reminder that we are called to constantly discern our choices and actions in light of Christ crucified.

St. Martin of Tours gives to a beggar.

Much ink has been spilled on just war theory. It is a popular topic in social media and it is thrown around too casually. It is deeply difficult for any war in human history to fully meet the requirements of both jus ad bellum and jus in bello. Setting aside the theological and philosophical arguments on war, it is clear that the Catholic tradition upholds both the heroism of combat Veterans and those who choose to conscientiously object. Some of the latter choose to serve their fellow man during wartime in a manner that does not require them to be armed with a weapon and intentionally cause harm or death to another human being. This long tradition is seen in the Catholic chaplaincy in the Armed Forces, as well as the once common practice of medics remaining unarmed.

Combat and military service leads members to form deep bonds that can be difficult for civilians to grasp fully. The reliance upon one’s brother to the right or left in a firefight forges profound connections among men. I witnessed this brotherhood while I served in the U.S. Navy. As a woman, it was something I watched with deep regard and respect. I couldn’t ever fully enter into that brotherhood. First, because I don’t think women belong in combat, but that’s for another piece. And second, there is something about brotherhood that is ontological. It is an aspect of masculinity that is different from femininity. This does not mean the sexes are not equal. It merely means we are different at the very depths of reality. Men connect with one another in combat in a manner that goes beyond words and that extends into spiritual realities related to their God-given masculinity.

This brotherhood is best understood through Our Lord’s words to His Apostles in John 15:13: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” War brings this reality to the forefront. Each new day brings the possibility of death, including heroic death. Many service members have given the ultimate sacrifice not only for their country, but for their brethren in arms. It is indeed a mark of heroism and fortitude to jump on a grenade in order to save one’s brothers nearby. The Medal of Honor was created for such heroism and it is an awesome thing to behold. This heroism is not only illustrated by service members who go to war as combatants.

For Catholics, some of the most moving pictures from wars, since the advent of the camera, have been of our priests offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for those about to go into combat. The pictures of Masses before D-Day are truly inspiring. The same can be said for the more recent pictures from Iraq and Afghanistan. It is the ultimate act of non-violence as the un-bloody sacrifice of Our Lord—who sacrificed Himself for us—is made present to those who may die in the hours to come.

Catholic chaplains bring the Sacraments to those serving in war zones. They bring the Divine Physician to those in need through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Those who may have wandered far from God are able to return to Him before they meet their ultimate end. The Eucharist, made present through the priest, nourishes those who suffer the torments of war. These very same priests put themselves in harm’s way to offer Last Rites to the dying within their reach. Yes, the hell of war is sometimes necessary, but Christ is truly present in the radical non-violence of His priests.

This radical non-violence in combat—often from conscientious objection—has been portrayed in multiple movie and television programs in the last two decades. The most recent is Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, in which one godly conscientious objector saved hundreds of lives. I myself could not watch the movie because it is too gruesomely violent for me, but my husband relayed to me with tremendous awe the incredible feats of the real-life main character. This man chose to exude Our Lord’s call in love by saving wounded men at considerable risk to his own life.

The other example that comes to mind I regard it as one of the greatest television events of my lifetime: Band of Brothers. My dad told me to watch it years ago when I was still in the Navy. I purchased a copy and ended up watching all ten episodes in one sitting on one of my days off. To this day my favorite episode is “Bastogne.” The episode primarily centers around “Easy” Company’s brutal winter outside of Bastogne, Belgium. Medic Eugene Roe is the focus of the episode as he treats and serves the men of his company, unarmed, while suffering physically, mentally, and spiritually.

The entire series is a dramatization of real events of World War II in the European theater and this episode not only reveals the heroic sacrifice of those who choose service through non-violence, but how we are called to persevere in the most brutal of circumstances. The end of the episode is heart-wrenching and tragic, but it highlights this message of perseverance even in the midst of despair and seemingly pointless violence against innocents. We are called to serve as Our Lord served; we are to empty ourselves completely in love regardless of the circumstances.

St. Martin is an example to us of how the Church unites the necessity of just warfare with the call to radical non-violence. His patronage continues to be relevant in an age—not much different than any other—when violence demands a response, whether it be a just use of force or radical non-violence. There are times justice demands that we fight through force. There is little doubt that human history has been filled with horrors–such as genocide–that require the use of military force. It is also clear that not everyone is called to serve God and their nation in this capacity. The heroes of Veteran’s Day are both combatants and conscientious objectors; as long as their work is ordered to God. May St. Martin of Tours pray for all our Veterans on this day and every day.

image: Father Bill Devine, the 7th Marines’ Regiment Chaplain, speaks to U.S. Marines assigned to the 5th Marine Regiment during Catholic Mass at one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces in Tikrit, Iraq. By U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew P. Roufs. (http://www.news.navy.mil/view_single.asp?id=16655) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Foolish and Wise Bridesmaids

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 23:05

Many people don’t have much of a problem with God theoretically.  They believe he exists and even admit that they maybe owe him something.  But their reasoning goes something like this:  “The religion thing can wait.  After all, I believe in God and am basically a good person.  I really did intend to go to church this morning, but last night’s dancing took a lot more out of me and I had one drink too many.  I’ll catch it next week.”

Foolishness is a matter of priorities.  The foolish person majors in the minors, investing money and time in things that really don’t pay very well.  Wisdom is a matter of putting first things first, not last.  Prudence, which is the practical side of wisdom, is about making a plan to pursue and acquire the things that matter most (Wis 6:12-16).

“God is love.  If I come up short, he’ll cover my tab.  I’m too busy and tired right now.”

Not sweating it when it comes to preparing for the final exam is not necessarily faith.  Blowing off necessary preparations it is not a manifestation of faith but rather of the sin of presumption.  When we trust Him to forgive us our bungled attempts to obey Him, God is pleased.  When we neglect to bother because we expect Him to dismiss our ticket, God is not amused.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  Forgetting about the Lord is the epitome of stupidity.  So is forgetting that we are not immortal, that though God is timeless, we are not.  Our nations, companies, and even our bodies will not last forever.  They will either suddenly come to a screeching halt, or die a slow death of gradual disintegration.  It’s hard to believe, but time will some day run out – for America, for me, even for the Apple Corporation.

Jesus said many times that though this world and its affairs seem so real, so urgent, society will one day vanish like smoke and all its pressing business will be consigned to oblivion.  Christ will return to claim his bride.  We’ll either be caught with oil in our lamp–prepared and eager–or it will be like the rude surprise of guests who come early for dinner when the house is still a mess.  Only this guest will be coming not to eat, but to inspect and to judge.

We’ve all had the bad dream of being back in school again and suddenly finding out that we must momentarily sit for an important exam for which we are totally unprepared.  Well, maybe this dream, like the parable of the foolish bridesmaids, is meant to be a warning to us.  For though we may not be the generation to witness the end of the world (1 Thes 5:13-18), each one of us will experience the end of our own private world.  He will come, perhaps suddenly, for each of us, at a time of His choosing, not ours.

Many have speculated about when he will come in glory.  They’ve pored over the book of Revelation and other passages of Scripture such as Paul’s description of being caught up in the air (I Thes 4).  Will there be a secret rapture before he comes?  Will it happen before the great tribulation, or after?  Is what happening currently in the Middle East foretold in the Bible and therefore a sign that the end is near?

Preoccupation with such things is simply a pious form of snoozing on the job.  The end is, in fact near.  Our role is not to calculate the day, but rather prepare for the day.  If we live always ready, with extra oil for our lamps, never so absorbed that we are not at least watching out for Him with our peripheral vision, we’ll never be caught off guard.  We can still enjoy this life while using it as a springboard into the next.

]This post is offered as a reflection upon the readings for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, liturgical cycle A (Wisdom 6:12-16), Psalm 63, I Thessalonian 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13).

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

Scripture Speaks: the Wise and the Foolish

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 23:02

Jesus tells a parable to explain that the coming of God’s kingdom will separate the wise from the foolish.  What will bring that moment of truth?

Gospel (Read Mt 25:1-13)

Today’s parable about wise and foolish virgins presumes understanding of a Jewish wedding custom of Jesus’ day.  The betrothed bride and her entourage (family, bridesmaids, friends) waited in her home for the arrival of the bridegroom.  He came to her home to take her, as his wife, to their own new home, where a week-long celebration would be held.  The bride’s entourage joined in this procession, which took place after sunset.  Jesus tells us from the outset that the bridesmaids were an assortment of wise and foolish virgins.  What made some of them wise?  They realized that they would not know the precise time the bridegroom would appear, so they took along enough oil for their lamps to cover any delay that might occur.  They knew that a lamp was useless without oil to keep it lit.  A night-time procession would need light on the path.  In other words, they thought ahead about the purpose of the evening—the bridegroom’s arrival and the wedding procession—and went to the bride’s home prepared.

The foolish virgins failed to do this.  What might have prevented them from anticipating a possible delay of the bridegroom’s arrival and their need for extra oil?   Perhaps they were too busy thinking about what they would wear to the celebration, or what food was likely to be served, or who would and wouldn’t be there, or if they might meet eligible bachelors.  In other words, perhaps they were too self-absorbed to remember why they were in attendance at the bride’s home in the first place—they had forgotten about the bridegroom’s arrival and the need for light during the procession out into the night.

In the parable, the bridegroom was “long delayed,” and everyone fell asleep.  Suddenly, “at midnight, there was a cry.”  The bridegroom had arrived, and the purpose of the evening was suddenly brought to life.  The reason they had all gathered together was to participate in the procession to the wedding feast.  The lamps they brought needed to give off light.  Only the wise virgins were ready for this.  The foolish virgins had to go out in search of oil for their lamps.  This made them late to the feast; the door had already been shut to outsiders.  Even when they banged on the door and pleaded to enter, the master of the home did not recognize them as being part of the original wedding party (they could simply have been party-crashers), and they were denied entrance.

What point did Jesus make with this parable?  “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”  That’s mysterious!  In its context in St. Matthew’s Gospel, we understand that Jesus means us to see that he is the Bridegroom.  He will appear at a time unknown to us, His Bride, to bring us to the consummation of our betrothal to Him.  What then, will we always need in order to be ready for this happy event?  One thing we don’t need is to try to figure out a timetable for His return!  That, indeed, would be the height of foolishness after reading this parable.  No, what we do need is oil in our lamps to make them burn brightly, to light the way to the wedding feast.  Earlier in this Gospel, Jesus already explained what makes the lamps of our lives bright with light:  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid.  Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 5:14-16)  What are these “good works”?  Jesus went on to explain them at length in the Sermon on the Mount (see Mt 5-7).  Interestingly, at the end of this Sermon, Jesus also divides the wise from the foolish.  The wise man hears and puts into practice all that Jesus taught in His sermon.  This wisdom prepares a man for the storms of life.  In today’s parable, a virgin’s wisdom prepares her for feasting with the bridegroom.  In both cases, wisdom anticipates the future, looking beyond just the concerns and distractions of the now.  The foolish are earth-bound, and thus they seek to please themselves.  The wise know there is more to life than what earth can offer, and thus they seek God’s face, to please Him with their faith and obedience.  For the wise, Jesus can come at any time and will find them ready, their lives bright with the life of His own life in them.  What a celebration that will be!

Possible response:  Lord Jesus, help me stay focused on the purpose of my life.  I want always to be ready for You.

First Reading (Read Wis 6:12-16)

Here is a glorious salute to the beauty of wisdom personified, “resplendent and unfading.”  Jesus, in His praise of wisdom and His exhortation to His followers to be wise, embraced the Jewish tradition of giving high honor to living wisely:  “For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence, and whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care.”  Wisdom is to be treasured because it provides a guide for us to live well, to live in the way God designed us, to know our true end and live accordingly.  Happily, as these verses assure us, those who earnestly desire wisdom will find it:  “She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire; whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed.”  This is exactly what St. James wrote in his epistle about wisdom:  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, Who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him” (Jam 1:5).  The challenge for us is to remember to ask, to recognize that we need it, and to understand the difference between knowledge (or information) and wisdom.  Once we actively desire wisdom, “she is readily perceived by those who love her; and found by those who seek her.”

Possible response:  Heavenly Father, thank You for Your generous promise to grant wisdom to all who seek it.  I’m counting on that promise today.

Psalm (Read Ps 63:2-8)

If we ask ourselves how we can be ready for Jesus when He comes for us, either at the end of time or at the end of our lives, the psalmist gives us one wise answer—to keep God always at the center of our lives, remembering at all times that we came from Him and will one day return to Him.  We can use every line of this psalm to check ourselves to see if it describes our own relationship with God.  This will give us wisdom about where we are now and perhaps where we need to be in that relationship.  For example, do we share the psalmist’s experience expressed here:  “I will remember You upon my couch [bed] and through the night watches, I will meditate on You:  You are my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I shout for joy.”  A person who thinks and lives this way is one who is ready to see the face of Jesus without fear.  He can say with the psalmist:  “My soul is thirsting for You, O LORD, my God.”

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

Second Reading (Read 1 Thess 4:13-18)

St. Paul, in writing to the Thessalonians, wants to answer a specific question about a moment of interest to us all—the Second Coming of Jesus, to which our Gospel alluded.  He wants to assure his Christian friends that those who have already died in Christ will be the first to arise.  They are not lost in death.  They have “fallen asleep,” so we do not grieve “like the rest [unbelievers], who have no hope.”  He then describes the sudden return of Jesus, Who, “with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven.”  At this historical moment, believers alive then will not have the experience of physical death.  The Lord will simply take them as His own, and the new existence for man, eternal life, will begin.  The reference to Jesus “in the clouds” and “in the air” have more to do with this translation from one mode of existence into another, as happened on Ascension Day (read Acts 1:9-11), than as a description of what it will look like.

See how matter-of-factly St. Paul writes about the return of Jesus.  Yes, two thousand years have gone by, but the reality of His coming unexpectedly, at any moment, should never be dulled.  On a calendar day within history, either at our own departure through death or His glorious return in victory to get us, it will happen.  Here is the only question that matters:  Will we have lived wisely or foolishly?  Will we be ready, as St. Paul writes, “to always be with the Lord”?

Possible response:  Lord Jesus, someday I will see Your face.  Please keep me free from sin and protect me from all anxiety as I wait in joyful hope for You.

image: Mueffi at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In the Gospel parable of the crafty

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 23:00

In the Gospel parable of the crafty steward, the master in the parable commended the dishonest steward for his astuteness: he planned wisely with foresight and dishonest craftiness to provide for his future once he was dismissed from his master’s service for his dishonesty.

Jesus reminds us to exercise the same foresight and planning that the dishonest steward showed. In another parable Jesus insisted that we be responsible stewards of the gifts, talent and indeed world that God has given us. In the parable of the talents the master rewards those who were good and faithful servants, who were faithful in little things, and punishes the one who just buried the talent. (Mt 25: 14 – 30)

“No group equally large is so

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 23:00

“No group equally large is so revered as the fighting forces. It is their high calling to the defense of justice and freedom that makes them loved.”

-Fulton Sheen, Fulton Sheen’s Wartime Prayer Book

Praying the Contemplative Rosary | An Interview with Dan Burke

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 23:00

The Rosary is one of the most salient features of Catholic spirituality, beloved by many for countless generations. However, convert and cradle Catholics alike have found this practice to be daunting and some may not even know how to begin to pray the Rosary.

Whether you’re new to the sweet prayers of the Rosary or want to know how you can bring your spiritual life to a new level, today’s podcast will introduce you to the Contemplative Rosary. Michael is delighted to welcome Dan Burke of the Avila Foundation and SpiritualDirection.com to talk about how you can use the practices of St. Teresa of Avila and Pope St. John Paul II to dive into the mystical depths of the Rosary.

Resources We Talked About

The Contemplative Rosary by Dan Burke & Connie Rossini is available from Sophia Institute Press and your local Catholic bookstore.

Learn more about Mr. Burke and his many great projects at SpiritualDirection.com. We briefly discussed his previous book, Into The Deep—Finding Peace Through Prayer. 

St. Leo the Great

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 23:00

Today is the feast day of St. Leo the Great. St. Leo is believed to have been born in Rome. He was a deacon under Popes Celestine I and Sixtus III and was elected pope to succeed Sixtus III. He reigned as pope between 440 and 461.

He persuaded Emperor Valentinian to recognize the primacy of the Bishop of Rome in an edict in 445. He formulated the doctrine of the Incarnation in a letter to the Patriarch of Constantinople, who had already condemned Eutyches. (Eutyches was abbot of a monastery at Constantinople who was deposed Patriarch Flavian for denying the two natures of Christ.) At the Council of Chalcedon, this same letter was confirmed as the expression of Catholic Faith concerning the Person of Christ.

All secular historical treatises eulogize his efforts during the upheaval of the fifth-century barbarian invasion. His encounter with Attila the Hun, persuading him to turn back at the very gates of Rome, remains a historical memorial to his great eloquence. When the Vandals under Genseric occupied the city of Rome, he persuaded the invaders to desist from pillaging the city and harming its inhabitants. He died in 461, leaving many letters and writings of great historical value.

Lessons

St. Leo advanced the influence of the papacy to unprecedented heights with his authoritative approach to events, buttressed by his firm belief that the Holy See is the supreme authority in human affairs because of divine and scriptural mandate. In a time of great disorder, he forged an energetic central authority that stood for stability and wisdom. His pontificate affected the concept of the papacy for centuries to come. He was declared a doctor of the Church in 1754.

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 word made flesh lived among us, and in redeeming the whole race, Christ gave himself entirely.

— From a homily of St. Leo the Great

How do I see this definition of love as total self-donation lived out in God the Father? In God the Son? In God the Holy Spirit? In the Blessed Virgin Mary? In myself?

Prayer

Dear St. Leo, I pray for all to understand that the office of the pontificate was first given to Saint Peter as recorded in sacred scripture (Mt 16:18), and that the power of this office comes directly from God. There are so many in the world who do not accept or understand this truth — even many Catholics. Please St. Leo, intercede for those who are in darkness concerning the Church and the office of the papacy and ask our Lord to remove the scales from their eyes so that they may understand and be docile to this authority that God, Himself, has given. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Andrew Avellino (1608), Priest

Saints Tryphon and Respicius (3rd Century), and Saint Nympha, Virgin (4th Century), Martyrs

Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 02:35
Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

“I have chosen and consecrated this house, says the Lord,
that my name may be there forever.”+

2 Chronicles 7:16

The Archbasilica of St. John Lateran is the oldest and most important of the four Major Papal Basilicas in the Catholic Church. And, it is this because it is the seat, or cathedra, of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome. The present basilica stands on the site of an ancient palace on the Caelian Hill (one of the famous seven hills) of Rome which formerly belonged to the family of the Laterani. This palace was part of the dowry of Fausta, the wife of the Emperor Constantine; and, Constantine gave it to the Church* when he converted a portion of the Laterani palace to serve as the papal residence.** The original dedication in 324 A.D. was to the Redeemer (S. Salvator–see the words [Christo Salvatore] in the picture above); but after destruction by an earthquake in 896 A.D., the church was rebuilt by Pope Sergius III (904–11), who dedicated it to St. John the Baptist.

“The anniversary of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, which was erected by the Emperor Constantine, has been observed on this day since the 12th century. This feast was at first observed only in Rome but later in honor of the basilica, which is called the mother church of Christendom, the celebration was extended to the whole Latin Church. This action was taken as a sign of devotion to and of unity with the Chair of Peter which, as Saint Ignatius of Antioch wrote, ‘presides over the whole assembly of charity.’”***

Inscription on Saint John Lateran Archbasilica: “The Mother and Head of all Churches, in the City and of the World”

After the fire of 1308, it was restored by Pope Clement V (1305–14); but it was again burnt down in 1361. The present church was built under the direction of a succession of Popes beginning with Pope Urban V.*  St. John Lateran has been host to a number of Lateran councils (some ecumenical) from the 7th to the 18th centuries.* Very fittingly, two inscriptions on the façade say that it is is “the Mother and Head of all Churches, in the City and of the World” (see picture on the right). It’s commonly known as St. John Lateran because it was dedicated to both St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist (see inscription on picture above)** as well as to our Savior. It is located outside of Vatican City, but retains all the diplomatic status of the Vatican as an extra-territorial property of the Holy See.

Meditation:

In honor of today’s very special festival, then, we offer this meditation:****

All of us who believe in Christ Jesus are said to be living stones, according to the words of Scripture: But you are living stones, built as a spiritual house in a holy priesthood, that you may offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ [cf 1 Peter 2:5].

When we look at an earthly building, we can see that the larger and stronger stones are the first to be set in place as the foundation, so that the weight of the whole structure may rest on them securely. In the same way understand that some of the living stones become the foundation of the spiritual building. What are these living stones placed in the foundation? They are the apostles and prophets. That is what Paul says when he teaches: We have been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with our Lord Jesus Christ himself as the cornerstone [cf Ephesians 2:20].

You … must learn that Christ himself is also the foundation of the building we are now describing, so that you may prepare yourselves more eagerly for the construction of this building and become stones that lie closer to the foundation. As the apostle Paul says: No foundation can be laid other than the one that has been laid already: I mean Christ Jesus [cf 1 Corinthians 3:11].  Blessed are those, therefore, who build a religious and holy structure upon such a noble foundation.

In this building of the Church, there must also be an altar. I think that if those of you, disposed and eager for prayer, offer petitions and prayers of supplication to God day and night, you will become the living stones for the altar which Jesus is building.

Consider what praise is ascribed to these stones which make up the altar. The lawgiver Moses said that the altar was to be made of stones, uncovered by iron [cf Deuteronomy 27:5]. What are those stones? Perhaps those uncut and undefiled stones are the holy apostles, all making a single altar, because of their unity of mind and heart. For it was known that with one accord they all opened their lips to pray: You, Lord, know the hearts of all [Acts 1:24].

Therefore, these who were able to pray with one mind, one voice and one spirit, are perhaps worthy to form together one altar, where Jesus may offer his sacrifice to the Father.

Let us strive to agree among ourselves and to have one mind and voice. May we never quarrel or act from vainglory. But may we remain united in belief and purpose. Then even we may hope to become stones fit for the altar.

+ Gospel Acclamation for the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome; courtesy USCCB Daily Readings for November 9.
* cf Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., p. 958). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
** cf Tylenda, J. N. (2003). Saints and Feasts of the Liturgical Year (p. 239). Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.
***From the Liturgy of the Hours précis for the celebration of the feast.
****Liturgy of the Hours Common of the Dedication of a Church, Second Reading, from a homily on Joshua, son of Nun, by Origen, priest (Homilia 9, 1-2: SC 71, 244-246).

+

Art for this post on the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica: Archbasilica of St. John Lateran HD, Livioandronico2013, 21 April 2015, CCA-SA; “Sacrosancta Lateranensis ecclesia omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput”, incised in the front wall of the basilica, Laurel Lodged, 1 April 2010, PD-Worldwide; both Wikimedia Commons.

About Liz Estler

Editor, SpiritualDirection.com. Liz holds a Master of Arts in Ministry Degree (St. John’s Seminary, Brighton, Massachusetts), Graduate Certificate in Spiritual Theology (Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation), Liturgy Certificate (Boston Archdiocese), and a BS degree in Biology and Spanish (Nebraska Wesleyan University – Lincoln). She has served as hospital chaplain associate, sacristan, translator and in other parish ministries. She was a regular columnist for a military newspaper in Europe and has been published in a professional journal. She once waded in the Trevi Fountain!

 

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

“It’s Not About Me”: National Vocation Awareness Week

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 23:07

“This is not about me. My vocation story is all about God.” These words of Bishop Michael C. Barber, S.J., were spoken at a Magnificat Prayer Breakfast that I attended in Oakland, California. His testimony, along with nineteen other clergy is now published in a new book titled, Holy Orders: A Collection of Inspiring Clergy Testimonies.

Bishop Barber’s vocation story is filled with surprising twists and turns in a tumultuous time of the Church. He was faithful to what the Lord asked along the sometimes-confusing way. In the end, he was ordained into the Order of St. Ignatius and St. Xavier.

From the time when he served as military chaplain to the Marines:

We flew to the Middle East, and the war began shortly thereafter, when the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003. It was one of the best times of my life as a priest. I was needed! We were on the Kuwait side of the Iraq border. I had my own convoy to attend to the soldiers who were dug in along the border preparing to invade. When I arrived, the men stopped their war plans. The colonel gathered everyone together.

“I am a Catholic priest,” I said, “and I have been sent here. The battle will begin soon, and I would like to say Mass.” Everyone attended. “If it is not your time to die no bullet will find you,” I told them. “If it is your turn to die there is only one thing that will keep you from getting into heaven, and that is mortal sin. But we have the sacrament of Confession that can wash away any sin—any mortal sin. I will not leave this camp until everyone who wants to confess can.” There was a huge line. All the Marines—even the Protestants—came up and said, “I’m not a Catholic, but I have got to get this off my chest.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s (USCCB) website states, “National Vocation Awareness Week (NVAW) is an annual week-long (November 5-11, 2017) celebration of the Catholic Church in the United Sates dedicated to promote vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations.”

Vocations to the ministerial priesthood, diaconate or consecrated life are central to life of the Church for the salvation of souls. It is the duty and privilege of the entire Church to intentionally pray for vocations, since it is a divine mandate: “He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’” (Luke 10:2).

In my work for the Foundation of Prayer for Priests apostolate, and on Radio Maria programs, I interviewed several seminarians and priests. It’s fascinating to hear how God knocked on their heart, shook up their plans, stretched their imagination, and tugged on their soul to say “yes” to His call on their life. Their yes required Goliath courage, and a breathtaking leap of faith as evidenced in the following excerpts from the book.

Fr. Donald Calloway, M.I.C., “I didn’t know how to pray. I couldn’t remember ever having said a prayer in my life. I didn’t realize that I had hung the image with the heart of Jesus right above my dresser. As I looked at that picture, trying to pray, suddenly I snapped. I realized that Jesus was truly God and that He wanted me. I looked at His heart, and it was on fire. His hands were in a gesture of invitation. I began to cry uncontrollably. It was pure contrition and repentance. I was so sorry for all my sinfulness, all my perversions, all my wretchedness—all of the wrong things I had done in my life.”

Fr. Raniero Cantalmessa, OFM, “It was as if Jesus stood beside me and gently said, ‘Do you want to give Me the reins of your life?’ There was a moment of panic. I understood this was serious. But at the same time, I immediately realized that no one can be in control of his or her life, so I said, ‘Yes, Lord, take the reins of my life.’ I must confess that later on sometimes I tried to get back control of the reins. This is why we have such a merciful Lord, always ready to forgive us.”

Fr. Harold Cohen, S.J., “The two years of my novitiate were the hardest in my life. I was homesick, and I threw myself into scrupulously obeying the rules. I had tremendous temptations against my faith. Thoughts such as, ‘This is not worth believing’, etc. came to mind. I thank God for my novice mater, Father Mangiacina, who became both father and mother to me. Without him I would never have made it.”

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, “My father’s leadership in our family helped me to understand the importance of father in every family, especially their effect on children and their relationship with Christ. One of my earliest childhood memories is of those few times when we started dinner before my father arrived home. While sitting at dinner table, my little sister and I would hear his footsteps coming up the stairs to the back door; we would push our chairs back from the table, jump up, and turn to the back door waving our arms and yelling, ‘Daddy!’  No matter how tired he was, our father had enough strength to pick us both up at the same time, one in each arm. That memory of my own father has stayed with me vividly, and mirrors such a powerful image of the love and tenderness of God our Father.”

Msgr. Stephen Doktorczyk, “The decision for me to move forward toward the priesthood came in 1998 during a retreat where I assisted. I enjoyed my involvement in the confirmation retreat, which was held in the mountains of San Bernardino, California. Near the end of the retreat, I asked one of the other helpers what he planned to do once he finished his advanced degree. He mentioned that first he would need to better consider ‘this priest thing.’ I believed the words coming out of his mouth were intended for me. I was the one who needed to consider ‘this priest thing,’ and without further delay. I could not continue to run from the Lord and delay giving an answer. Enough was enough. I soon took the proper steps—finding a good spiritual director and making an appointment with the director of vocations—before submitting my application to the seminary. We don’t know what the Lord has in store for us when we are obedient to His will. For seminarians, priests, and deacons, the Lord works through competent superiors. One who holds on too tightly to his own will and plans may miss out on the many surprises from God.”

Msgr. David Toups, “One seminarian shared the story of his calling. It impacted me, and I was deeply moved. …’My heart was burning within me.’ The bishop walked by. Knowing my family as he had for years, he paused and gave me one of those nice Italian slaps on the cheek like in “The Godfather”. He looked at me and said, “Jesus told the apostles, ‘Drop your nets and follow Me.’”. Then he walked off.”  …The Holy Spirit had been saying this to me already in a deep and profound way. But to now have a successor of the apostles calling me out was life changing. I looked at the seminarian next to me and felt myself turn white as a ghost.”

USCCB Prayer for Vocations

Hail Mary, full of grace; all generations call you blessed. Hail Mother of God; when asked by the angel to bear the Son of the Most High, filled with faith, you responded: “Let it be done unto me.”

Holy Mother of Jesus, at the wedding feast at Cana, you prompted your Son to perform his first sign. Be with us as we discern our life’s work and guide us in the way we are called to follow in the footsteps of your Son.

Holy Mother of the Savior, at the foot of the cross you mourned the death of your only Son. Bless and embrace the loving parents of all priests, deacons, brothers and sisters.

Holy Mother of the Good Shepherd, turn your motherly care to this nation. Intercede for us to the Lord of the harvest
to send more laborers to the harvest in this land dedicated to your honor.

Queen of Peace, Mirror of Justice, Health of the Sick, inspire vocations in our time. Let the word of your Son be made flesh anew in the lives of persons anxious to proclaim the good news of everlasting life. Amen.

Author’s note: Magnificat, A Ministry to Catholic Women published Magnificat Proclaims: Holy Orders: A Collection of Inspiring Clergy Testimonies. The fifth objective of Magnificat is to imitate the Virgin Mary in her spiritual motherhood of priests. The book is available at www.magnificat-ministry.org or on Amazon.

For more resources on vocations, priesthood, spiritual motherhood and fatherhood of clergy, visit www.foundationforpriests.org.

image: Easter Monday High Mass by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr

Will We Know Each Other in Heaven?

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 23:06

All the blessed, admitted into heaven, know each other perfectly, even before the general resurrection. This is proved by Scripture as well as by tradition.

I shall confine myself to quoting the New Testament to you; I shall content myself, too, with the parable of the rich man, and with some words that have reference to the Last Judgment.

This parable is so fine that I cannot resist the pleasure of placing some of its leading points before you.

There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and feasted sumptuously every day; and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus who lay at his gate, full of sores, desiring to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table — but none were given to him; moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died, and he was buried in hell. And, when he was in torments, lifting up his eyes, he saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom, and he cried and said: “Father, Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.”

And Abraham said to him: “Son, remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. . . .

And the rich man said: “Father, I beseech thee that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house, for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they come also in this place of torment.” (Luke 16:19-31)

In the eighth century, the Venerable Bede put this question to himself: “Do the good know each other in the kingdom of heaven, and do the bad know the bad in hell?” He answered in the affirmative:

This article is from the book “In Heaven We’ll Meet Again.” Click image to preview or order.

I see a proof of it, clearer than day, in the parable of the bad rich man. Does not our Lord there openly declare that the good know each other, and the wicked also? For if Abraham did not know Lazarus, how could he speak of his past misfortunes to the bad rich man who is in the midst of torments? And how could this rich man not know those who are present, since he is mindful to pray for those who are absent? We see, besides, that the good know the wicked, and the wicked the good. In fact, the rich man is known to Abraham; and Lazarus, in the ranks of the elect, is recognized by the rich man, who is among the number of the reprobate.

This knowledge fills up the measure of what each shall receive; it causes the just to rejoice the more, because they see those they have loved rejoice with them; it makes the wicked suffer not only their own pains, but also in some sort the pains of others, since they are tormented in company with those whom they loved in this world to the exclusion of God. There is, even for the blessed, something more admirable still. Beyond the recognition of those whom they have known in this world they recognize also, as if they had seen them and previously known them, the good whom they never saw. For of what can they be ignorant in heaven, since all there behold, in the plenitude of light, the God who knows all?

On the Last Judgment, we have these words of Jesus Christ to his disciples: “Amen, I say to you, that you who have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit in the seat of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28). We have these words of St. Paul to the Corinthians: “Know you not that the saints shall judge this world? Know you not that we shall judge angels?” (1 Cor. 6:2, 3).

Such is the basis of the argument of St. Theodore Studites (d. 826), in a discourse that he composed at the end of the eighth or the commencement of the ninth century, to refute the error that we are here combating. He said:

Some deceive their hearers by maintaining that the men who rise again will not recognize each other when the Son of God comes to judge us all. How, they exclaim, when from perishable we become incorruptible and immortal — when there will no longer be Greek or Jew, barbarian or Scythian, slave or freeman, husband or wife — when we shall all be as spirits, how could we recognize each other?

Let us, in the first place, reply that that which is impossible to man is possible to God; otherwise, blinded by human reasons, we should even disbelieve the resurrection. How, in fact, can a body already in a state of corruption — perhaps devoured by wild beasts, by birds, or by fishes, themselves devoured by others — and that in several ways and at various times successively, be reunited or gathered together on the last day? It will be thus, however, and the hidden power of God will reunite all its scattered parts and raise it up. Then each soul will recognize the body in which it lived.

But will every soul recognize also the body of its neighbor? We cannot doubt it, unless, at the same time, we doubt the general judgment. For no one can be summoned to judgment without being known, and a person must be known to be judged, according to this expression of Scripture: “I will reprove thee and set [thy own transgressions] before thy face” (Ps. 49:21 [RSV = Ps. 50:21]).

The value of this reasoning depends upon the following distinction: in the private judgment, we are judged by God alone, but in the general judgment we shall be, in some measure, judged by one another. Whilst the former will manifest the justice of God only to the soul that is judged, the latter will make it evident to every creature. Therefore, all await that great day for “the revelation of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19), which will alter all the estimations of men.

The saint continues in these terms:

This is why, if we do not recognize one another, we shall not be judged; if we are not judged, we shall not be rewarded or punished for that which we shall have done and suffered while we were of the number of the living. If the apostles are not to recognize those whom they will judge, will they see the accomplishment of this promise of the Lord: “You shall sit on twelve seats, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28)? If he is not to recognize them in the kingdom of heaven, will the blessed Job be able to receive twice as many children (Job 42:10-13)? For here below he received only a part, and in order that the promise made to him may be fully accomplished, is it not a necessity that he should receive the remainder in the life to come? Besides, from these words: “No brother can redeem, nor shall man redeem” (Ps. 48:8 [RSV = Ps. 49:7]), does not the holy king David suppose a brother to know his brother?

From all quarters we can collect arguments and authorities against those who assert that we do not recognize one another in heaven — a senseless assertion, whose impiety may be compared to the fables of Origen. For us, my brethren, let us believe still and ever that we shall rise again, we shall be incorruptible, and that we shall know one another, as our first parents knew each other in the earthly paradise, before the existence of sin, when they were yet exempt from all corruption. Yes, it must be believed — the brother will know his brother, the father his children, the wife her husband, the friend his friend. I will even add, the religious will know the religious, the confessor will know the confessor, the martyr his fellow soldier, the apostle his colleague in the apostleship — we shall all know one another, in order that the habitation of all in God may be rendered more joyous by this blessing, added to so many others — the blessing of mutual recognition!

The light thrown by Catholic tradition upon this sub­ject is so vivid and constant that it dissipates all the clouds of sophistry and prejudice.

The testimonies from tradition may be divided into two classes — those that simply affirm the fact and those that draw consolation from it.

Among the works commonly attributed to St. Athanasius (c. 297-373), that pure glory of the fourth century, is one that has for its title Necessary Questions of Which No Christian Should Be Ignorant. Now, in reply to the twenty-second question we read, “To the souls of the just in heaven God grants a great gift, which is mutual recognition.”

In the seventh century Pope St. Gregory the Great (c. 540-604), after having related that a religious saw, when dying, the prophets come toward him, and that he addressed them by their names, added: “This example makes us clearly understand how great will be the knowledge which we shall have of one another in the incorruptible life of heaven, since this religious, though still in a corruptible flesh, seemed to recognize the holy prophets, whom, however, he had never seen.”

The most illustrious of the abbots of Clairvaux, St. Bernard (1090-1153), also said in the twelfth century: “The blessed are united among themselves by a charity which is so much the greater as they are the nearer to God, who is charity. No envy can throw suspicion into their ranks, for there is nothing in one which is concealed from the other; the all-pervading light of truth permits it not.”

Have you lost a brother or a sister? Console yourself, then, as St. Ambrose (c. 340-397) did:

Brother, since you have preceded me thither, prepare for me a place in that common abode of all, which is for me henceforward the most desirable; and as, here below, everything was in common between us, so in heaven let us remain ignorant of any law of division. I conjure you, keep me not waiting long, so pressing is the desire I experience of rejoining you, help me who am hastening forward, and if I seem to you still to tarry, make me advance; we have never been long separated, but it is you who were in the habit of returning to me. Now that you can no longer return, I will go to you. O my brother! What comfort remains to me but the hope of soon meeting you again? Yes, I comfort myself with the hope that the separation that your departure has caused will not be of long duration, and that by your prayers you will obtain the grace to hasten the coming of him whose regrets for you are so bitter.

Have you lost a son or a daughter? Receive the consolations of a patriarch of Constantinople addressed to a bereft father. This patriarch, Photius, can no more be counted among great men than among saints, as he was the author of the cruel schism that separates the East and the West. Nevertheless, his opinions only prove the better that, on this point, the Greeks and the Latins entertain the same views. Photius says:

If your daughter were to appear to you, and, placing her face, resplendent with glory, against your face and her hand within yours, thus were to speak to you, would it not be to describe the joys of heaven? Then she would add: “Why do you grieve, father? I am in paradise, where felicity is unbounded. You will come someday with my beloved mother, and then you will find that I have not exaggerated the delights of this place, so far will the reality exceed my description. O dearly beloved father, detain me no longer in your arms, but be pleased to permit me to return whither the intensity of my love attracts me.” Let us then banish sorrow, for now your daughter is happy in Abraham’s bosom. Let us banish sorrow; for it is there that, after a very little time, we shall see her in the ecstasy of joy and delight.

Have you lost your husband? Alas! The mourning gar­ments you so constantly wear show plainly the misfortune that you have sustained; they show, also, how affection has survived the tie broken by death. Seek aid, then, in the consolations so frequently presented by the Church to Christian widows.

St. Jerome (c. 347-420) wrote to a widow:

Regret your Lucinius as a brother; but rejoice that he reigns with Christ. Victorious and secure of his glory, he looks down upon you from the heights of heaven; he is your support in your works and woes, and he prepares for you a place by his side, ever preserving for you the same love and charity that, making him forget the names of husband and of wife, compelled him, during his life, to love you as his sister, and to live with you as a brother. For, in the pure union that chastity forms between two hearts, the difference of sex that constitutes marriage is unknown.

St. John Chrysostom (c. 349-407), in a homily on St. Matthew, said, as if to each of his hearers individually:

Do you wish to behold him whom death has snatched from you? Lead, then, the same life as he in the path of virtue, and you will soon enjoy that blessed sight. But you would wish to see him even here. Ah! Who prevents you? It is both easy and allowable, if you are virtuous; for the hope of future goods is clearer than the possession itself.

This sublime orator found, in his own history, all that could make him sympathize with the sorrows of the wife who has lost her husband. The only son of a young woman, weak alike from her age and her sex, and early left a widow to struggle with the world, he had been the confidant of her tears and of her grief, when he made her as though a second time a widow, by escaping from her love to plunge into solitude. He has himself related to us that the pagan rhetorician Libanius, learning that his mother had been bereft of her husband from the age of twenty, and would never be induced to contract another marriage, exclaimed, turning toward his idolatrous hearers: “O ye gods of Greece! What women there are among those Christians!”

Divine Providence found means to supply Chrysostom with an opportunity of exercising the compassionate feelings of his heart toward the widowed, by consoling another young woman who had passed only five years of her life with her husband, Therasius, one of the principal personages of his time. He wrote two treatises for her, and they are among his most remarkable productions. He says to her, among other comforting things:

If you desire to see your husband, if you wish to enjoy each other’s presence, let your life shine with purity like his, and be assured that you will thus enter into the same angelic choir that he has already reached. You will abide with him, not only during five years, as on earth — not only during twenty, a hundred, a thousand, two thousand, ten thousand, or many more years, but during ages without end. Then you will once more find your husband, no longer with that corporal beauty with which he was gifted when he departed, but with a different splendor — beauty of another sort, which will surpass in brilliancy the rays of the sun.

If it had been promised to you that the empire of the whole earth should be given to your husband, on condition that during twenty years you should be separated from him, and if, in addition, you had received a pledge that after those twenty years, your Therasius should be restored to you, adorned with the diadem and the purple, and you yourself placed in the same rank of honor as he, would you not have resigned yourself to this separation, and easily have preserved continence? You would even have seen in this offer a signal favor, and something worthy of all your desires. Now, therefore, bear with patience the separation which gives your husband the kingdom, not of earth, but of heaven; bear it, that you may find him among the blessed inhabitants of paradise, clad, not with a vesture of gold, but with one of glory and immortality.

This is why, in thinking of the honors that Therasius enjoys in heaven, you must cease to weep and lament. Live as he lived, and even with more perfection. By this means, after having practiced the same virtues, you will be received into the same tabernacles, and you can once more be united to him in the eternal ages, not by the tie of marriage, but by another and a better tie. The first unites bod­ies only, while the second, more pure, more blissful, and more holy, unites soul to soul.

image: © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / , via Wikimedia Commons

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter from In Heaven We’ll Meet Again: The Saints and Scripture on our Heavenly Reunion, which is available through Sophia Institute Press.

Called to Holiness and National Vocation Awareness Week

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An Interview with Fr. Pietro Rossotti on Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s Called to Holiness

November 5-11, 2017 is this year’s annual celebration of “National Vocation Awareness Week.” This is a time to reflect on how the Lord is calling each of us to follow him in some way, as we recall his words: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you, and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain…” (John 15:16a).

In light of National Vocation Awareness Week, I recently had the opportunity to speak with Fr. Pietro Rossotti, who compiled Pope [Emeritus] Benedict XVI’s Called to Holiness: On Love, Vocation, and Formation (Catholic University of America Press, 2017). Here are Fr. Rossotti’s inspirational words regarding vocations, with a particular focus on seminarians and priests, in light of Pope Emeritus Benedict’s own reminders.

How did this book come to be?

There are a couple of reasons: 1) at the time, I was teaching in the Seminary at Mount Saint Mary’s, so I had the opportunity to be in touch with seminarians. It was important for them to know Benedict XVI’s teachings about seminaries and seminarians, because there is a treasure there at the service of the Church. Being a professor and spiritual director there allowed me to reflect on this more. Another reason is intrinsic to Benedict XVI in particular – there is a novelty with which Benedict XVI teaches, as he introduces seminarians to the time of seminary formation. So, one reason was personal, and the other was more theological, as it was related to what Benedict XVI has taught within the Church.

Did you collaborate with Benedict XVI on the book?

I sent a draft of the manuscript to Benedict, and he replied indicating that he was very happy that it would be published. After the book’s publication, I sent him a copy, and he requested more in order to share them with some of his friends, so I sent him thirty-five copies of the book. Fr. Paolo Sottopietra, the superior general of my congregation (the Fraternity of Saint Charles Borromeo), is a friend of Benedict’s, as well as the current Holy Father, Pope Francis. As far as I know, Benedict was happy with the book.

Tell us more about your religious congregation.

It is the Fraternity of Saint Charles Borromeo, which was founded in 1985 by Fr. Massimo Camisasca. It was inspired by the experience of Communion and Liberation (founded in 1984 by Luigi Giussani). There are 120 total priests, with fifteen in the United States: in the Archdioceses of Washington, Boston, Denver, and Saint Paul-Minneapolis.

What year were you ordained?

I was ordained in Rome in 2009, at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, by the Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, the Latin Rite Metropolitan Archbishop of Moscow (Russia).

What have some of your priestly ministries been?

I have taught at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary, and I am now working in a parish in Saint Paul as a parochial vicar, as well as teaching at Saint Paul’s Seminary here in Saint Paul.

Do you have any words of advice for future seminarians?

From Benedict XVI, I learned not to be afraid of being called and accepting God’s call to follow him. A vocation is a call; once we accept what God has called us to, God will bring that to fulfillment. Do not be afraid of being called to love. Also, it is important to be open to this love, and to allow yourself to be educated and exposed, opening yourself to Christ. Also, do not be afraid of the sacrifices. Sacrifices are the path to a truer way of living life, and are necessary for our conversion. It is the path to holiness. Be open to the love of God, and do not be afraid of the sacrifice.

Do you have any parting words?

There are many other words that Benedict has shared. No matter what vocation you are called to, there is a beauty to being a part of the Church, which is building the kingdom of God. We receive love through the tradition and laws of the Church. Our lives are a response, and we are called to give our life to Christ. It is very difficult, because the world thinks a different way, and there is a temptation to think about life on our own terms, but we only experience joy in following Christ.

General Audience

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Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Today begins a new series of catecheses devoted to the Eucharist. The Mass is the very “heart” of the Church and the source of her life. How many martyrs have died to defend the Eucharist! Their witness confirms our Lord’s promise that by partaking of his body and blood we pass with him from death to life (cf. Jn 6:54). At every celebration of Mass, our lives, offered in union with Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, become, in him, an offering of praise and thanksgiving pleasing to the Father, for the salvation of the world. The liturgical renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council sought to help the faithful understand more fully and share more fruitfully in the Eucharist. At Mass, Jesus becomes truly present and allows us in some way, like the Apostle Thomas, to touch his flesh and renew our faith in him. In coming weeks, we will seek to grow in our appreciation of this great gift, so as to share more fully in its spiritual riches and beauty, which give ultimate meaning and direction to our lives.

“The saints assure us that

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“The saints assure us that turning to the Lord in our sorrows and placing our hopes in Him can give us strength here and now, and help prepare us for a future of new life and joy.”

-Fr. Joseph Esper, More Saintly Solutions

The book of Ezekiel is divided into two

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The book of Ezekiel is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on judgment and the second on restoration. The first part is about judgment against Judah and the glory of God leaving Jerusalem; the second part is about the glory of God returning to Jerusalem. That is why some have characterized the first part as “The Lord is not there” and the second as “The Lord is there.”

Today’s first reading belongs to the second part: the Lord is there in Jerusalem; the has returned to the temple in Jerusalem.

In many world religions, temples and places of worship are set on top of mountains just as the temple of Jerusalem sits atop Mt. Zion. Temples serve to connect earth and heaven, humans and God. And so our reading today tells that, after Judah had sinned, God forgave the Hebrews and so once again returns to the temple in Jerusalem. God is once again united with his people in his holy city.

The reading also mentions the four corners of the world – west and north, east and south. West is presumed when it says that the water is flowing towards the east. With the mention of the four cardinal directions, the reading considers the Jerusalem temple as the center of the world, axis mundi, the navel of the earth. Navel, of course, brings to mind the birth of a child. Water is a symbol for life and so “there will be all kinds of fruit trees with foliage that will not wither and fruit that will never fail.”

Today is the feast of the dedication of the Lateran basilica in Rome, the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, and, as such, “the mother and head of all churches of Rome and of the world.” Any cathedral and any church stand for the Church and the people of God.

The next time you enter a church, be aware that the Lord is indeed there, that the church is filled with God’s presence, if you have eyes of faith to see. May you also believe that, when you enter a church, you have a chance to be connected or re-connected with God.

May this encounter with God help you to grow in faith, hope and love and so exude energy, vitality and life.

Dedication of St. John Lateran Basilica

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St. John the Lateran Basilica in Rome is the oldest of the four great “patriarchal” basilicas of Rome. In ancient times, the land where it stands was occupied by the palace of the family of the Laterani. In the time of Nero, a member of the family, Plautius Lateranus, was accused of conspiracy against the emperor, and his goods were confiscated. The palace came eventually into the hands of Constantine, the first Christian emperor, through his wife Fausta, and it is from her that it derived the name by which it was then sometimes called, “Domus Faustæ.” Constantine must have given it to the Church no later than about 311, for we find a council against the Donatists meeting within its walls as early as 313. From that time on it was always the center of Christian life within the city; the residence of the popes and the cathedral of Rome.

It seems probable, in spite of the tradition that Constantine helped in the work of building with his own hands, that there was not a new basilica erected at the Lateran, but that the work carried out at this period was limited to the adaptation, which perhaps involved the enlargement of the already existing basilica or great hall of the palace. This original church was probably not of very large dimensions, but we have no reliable information on the subject. It was dedicated to the Savior, “Basilica Salvatoris”; the dedication to St. John being of later date, and due to a Benedictine monastery of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist which adjoined the basilica and whose members were charged at one period with the duty of maintaining the services in the church. Its splendor at an early period was such that it became known as the “Basilica Aurea,” or Golden Church. This splendor drew upon it the attack of the Vandals, who stripped it of all its treasures.

St. Leo the Great restored the church around 460, and it was restored again by Hadrian I, but in 896 it was almost totally destroyed by an earthquake. The damage was so extensive that it was difficult to trace in every case the lines of the old building, but these were for the most part respected and the new building was of the same dimensions as the old. This second church lasted for four hundred years and was then burnt down. It was rebuilt by Clement V and John XXII, only to be burnt down once more in 1360, but again rebuilt by Urban V.

It was not until the latter part of the seventeenth century that the church took its present appearance, in the restoration carried out by Innocent X, with Borromini for his architect. The church lost its appearance of an ancient basilica and was completely altered in character.

The ancient apse, with mosaics of the fourth century, survived all the many changes and dangers of the Middle Ages, and was still to be seen very much in its original condition as late as 1878, when it was destroyed in order to provide a larger space for the ordinations and other pontifical functions which take place in this cathedral church of Rome. The original mosaics were, however, preserved with the greatest possible care and very great success, and were re-erected at the end of the new and deeper apse which had been provided. In these mosaics, as they now appear, the center of the upper portion is occupied by the figure of Christ surrounded by nine angels. This figure is extremely ancient and dates from the fifth, or maybe even the fourth century. It may be regarded as going back to Constantine and the first days of the basilica. The remaining mosaics of the apse are of the thirteenth century, and the signatures of the artists, Torriti and Camerino, may still be read upon them. Camerino was a Franciscan friar; perhaps Torriti was one also.

The high altar, which formerly occupied the position customary in all ancient basilicas, in the center of the chord of the apse, has now beyond it, owing to the successive enlargements of the church, the whole of the transverse nave and of the new choir. It has no saint buried beneath it, since it was not, as were almost all the other great churches of Rome, erected over the tomb of a martyr. It stands alone among all the altars of the Catholic world in being of wood and not of stone, and enclosing no relics of any kind. The reason for this peculiarity is that it is itself a relic of a most interesting kind, being the actual wooden altar upon which St. Peter is believed to have celebrated Mass during his residence in Rome. It was carefully preserved through all the years of persecution, and was brought by Constantine and Sylvester from St. Pudentiana’s, where it had been kept till then, to become the principal altar of the cathedral church of Rome. It is now, of course, enclosed in a larger altar of stone and cased with marble, but the original wood can still be seen. A small portion was left at St. Pudentiana’s in memory of its long connection with that church, and is still preserved there.

Lessons

Unfortunately, we live in an age where many feel that old things and old ways are to be done away with. How wonderful that our ancestors were so wise as to preserve the beautiful and sacred buildings of the past. We need to take lessons from our ancestors and instead of tearing down, restoring — not only our churches, but our traditions and our Catholic faith, which is truly a gift from God.

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.”

When Christ came, He banished the devil from our hearts, in order to build in them a temple for Himself. Let us therefore do what we can with His help, so that our evil deeds will not deface the temple.

— From a homily of St. Caesarius of Arles

Johnnette’s Meditation
What stone of virtue can I use today to help build a temple for Christ within myself? What one defaced stone can I work to remove?

Prayer

Thank you, Father, for the preservation of this ancient and sacred basilica. May we learn from this dedication day the importance of preserving not only sacred buildings but our holy traditions. We thank you, Lord, for Your many blessings. Help us not to take them for granted, but to always treasure and venerate Your holy gifts. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Theodore the Recruit (306), Martyr

 

The Saints on Purgatory

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[Judas Maccabeus] took up a collection . . . to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.
– 2 Maccabees 12:43-44

When loved ones die, many people experience, in addition to grief and loneliness, a concern over the state of those loved ones, particularly if those departed souls weren’t the saintliest people in their lifetime or if they died sudden, unprovided deaths. What has become of these souls? Those who are left behind wonder.

The Church has always taught the existence of Purgatory, a place or state of existence after death, where, if necessary, we’re cleansed of any remaining effects of our sins and made ready to enter into Heaven. Moreover, as Scripture attests, our prayers and sacrifices can be of immense spiritual help to the persons undergoing this purification process; we can pray for specific persons, such as deceased loved ones, or for the souls in Purgatory in general.

Because God loves us and wants us to be with Him in Heaven, there must be some opportunity for us to finish being healed, or purged of our sins, after death, should this be necessary.

This cleansing process is what we call Purgatory. The saints believed without reservation in this reality. They themselves, because of their immense love of God, were ready to enter Heaven immediately after death, but they were mindful of those who were not as fortunate; after all, this is one of the signs of true love: caring for those in need, whether that need be physical or spiritual.

St. Elizabeth of Portugal, who reigned as queen of that country at the beginning of the fourteenth century, had a much-loved daughter named Constance. The young princess died very suddenly after being married, causing Elizabeth and her husband, King Denis, much grief. Soon after this, a hermit came to the queen with a shocking story: while he was praying, Constance had appeared to him, beseeching him to take a message to her mother. She was suffering terribly in Purgatory and would remain there a very long time unless Mass was offered for her each day for a year.

The king responded, “I believe that it is wise to do that which has been pointed out to you in so extraordinary a manner. After all, to have Masses celebrated for our dear deceased relatives is nothing more than a paternal and Christian duty.” Elizabeth accepted this advice, and arranged for the Masses to be said by a holy priest. One year later her daughter appeared to her, clothed in a brilliant white robe, and said, “Today, dear mother, I am delivered from the pains of Purgatory and am about to enter Heaven.” St. Elizabeth gave thanks to God and expressed her gratitude by distributing alms to the poor.

A number of saints (plus other mystics and visionaries) have allegedly seen Purgatory (and also Heaven and Hell). St. Frances of Rome was granted such a vision; she said that it consists of three levels. The lowest level is like a vast burning sea, where the persons undergo various sufferings related to the sins they committed on earth. The middle level is less rigorous, but still unpleasant. The highest level of Purgatory is populated by those who are closest to being released. These persons suffer mainly the pain of loss: that of yearning for God and of not yet truly possessing Him.

There’s consolation in all three levels, but especially in the highest. The souls in Purgatory know that, sooner or later, they’ll be with God in Heaven and that all their present sufferings are valuable and redemptive. Other saints and visionaries confirm this description, adding that our prayers and sacrifices — because they’re freely given — are immensely helpful to those in Purgatory, for God greatly values each one of our freely offered sacrifices, no matter how small. Some mystics have supposedly learned that when we pray for specific persons who are in Purgatory, they see us at that instant and are strengthened by the knowledge that we’re remembering them.

Many of the saints are said to have had experiences that confirmed the Church’s teaching on Purgatory. For instance, St. Louis Bertrand, a seventeenth-century priest, offered Masses, prayers, and sacrifices for his deceased father until finally he was granted a vision of his entry into Heaven. This happened only after eight years of prayer on his part. In the twelfth century, the famous Irish bishop St. Malachy learned that his sister was destined to suffer a long time in Purgatory, for she had lived a very sinful life before repenting; his prayers eased her sufferings, but did not significantly lessen her time there. In the fifteenth century, the sister of St. Vincent Ferrer appeared to him as she was about to enter Heaven and revealed that had it not been for the many Masses he offered on her behalf, her time in Purgatory would have been much longer.

A story is told about St. Teresa of Avila in this regard. A priest she knew had just died, and God revealed to her that he would remain in Purgatory until a Mass was said for him in the chapel of a new Carmelite house that was to be built. Teresa hurried to the site and had the workmen begin raising the walls of the chapel immediately, but as this would still take too long, she obtained permission from the bishop for a temporary chapel to be erected. Once this was done, Mass was celebrated there, and while receiving communion, Teresa saw a vision of the priest thanking her most graciously before entering God’s kingdom.

Showing concern for the dead and the dying is a great sign of love. Bl. Raymond of Capua, the biographer of St. Catherine of Siena, wrote that she attended her father, Jacomo, during his final hours. Learning in a revelation that this holy man nonetheless would require some purification in Purgatory, Catherine begged God to let her suffer pains of expiation on his behalf so that he might enter Heaven immediately. God agreed; Jacomo, who had been suffering greatly, thereupon experienced a happy and peaceful death, while Catherine was seized with violent pains that remained with her for the rest of her life. Raymond witnessed her suffering, but he also took note of her incredible forbearance and patience, along with her great joy on her father’s behalf.

An incident from the life of the Italian priest Padre Pio indicates that souls in Purgatory may request our prayers. One day in the 1920s, he was praying in the choir loft when he heard a strange sound coming from the side altars of the chapel. Then there was a crash as a candelabra fell from the main altar. Padre Pio saw a figure he assumed to be a young friar. But the figure told him, “I am doing my Purgatory here. I was a student in this friary, so now I have to make amends for the errors I committed while I was here, for my lack of diligence in doing my duty in this church.” The figure said that he had been in Purgatory for sixty years, and after requesting Padre Pio’s prayers, he vanished. Many other souls in purgatory are said to have asked for his assistance, including four deceased friars sitting around the fireplace in a state of great suffering; Padre Pio spent the night in prayer, securing their release.

Other saints are said to have had similar experiences, including St. Odilo, the eleventh-century abbot who began the practice of offering Mass for all the souls in Purgatory on what is now known as All Souls Day, the day after the feast of All Saints.

Our prayers for those who suffer there can be spiritually valuable to them. Because the saints believed in both sin and redemption, mercy and justice, they also acknowledged the existence of Purgatory and did everything possible to relieve those undergoing purification there. As the saints were far more conversant with the ways of Divine Providence than any of us could honestly claim to be, we would do very well to follow their example.

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This article is an excerpt from Saintly Solutions by Fr. Joseph Esper, which is available from Sophia Institute Press

Art for this post about the saints on purgatory: Detail of An Angel Frees the Souls of Purgatory, Ludovico Carracci, circa 1610, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Cover of Saintly Solutions used with permission.

About Charlie McKinney

Charlie McKinney is the Publisher of Sophia Institute Press and President of Sophia Institute for Teachers, CatholicExchange.com, CrisisMagazine.com, and EpicPew.com. Charlie is a convert to the Catholic Faith and is a regular guest on Catholic radio and television. He and his wife have four children and they reside in New Hampshire.

 

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

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.