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Lessons I Learned From Scripture After My Mom Passed Away

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 23:07

In September my life changed dramatically. A sheriff’s deputy rang my door bell and notified me that my mother, at the age of 51, had passed away. While the news came as a bit of surprise, I also could say it wasn’t surprising at the same time. She struggled with diabetes from her youth, and in recent years lost several toes on one foot, and further amputations in the future would be required. The challenges she faced with the one leg, were now beginning in the other leg, it seemed like a long, arduous journey. I believe, that God foresaw her suffering and chose to spare her of it by granting her eternal rest.

As a priest, I’ve celebrated many funerals. I’ve walked with individuals and their families during times of sickness, from this life into eternal life. Ministry changes by experience, and now having experienced the loss of my mother, I know that I can walk with others in a new way going forward. In my own grieving process, and through my personal prayer and reflection, I’ve found the scriptures to provide me with support during this difficult time. I hope these insights, while beneficial for myself, may prove to be so for you as well.

It’s Okay to Cry

In John 11:35 we are told that Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus.  As you mourn the death of your loved one, give yourself permission to cry.  If the son of God cried over the death of his friend, you can cry when someone you loved passes away.  Psalm 56:8 also tells us that tears are received as a prayer before our God.  In a time of loss, if you can’t find words to pray, let your tears be a prayer.

You will be Comforted

This is the promise of Jesus’ teaching of the Beatitudes.  Blessed are those who mourn, they will be comforted.  This comfort might come in many different ways.  For starters, many people provide us comfort by their words, prayers, help, and support during this difficult time.  As I mourn my mother’s death, I also receive comfort knowing that she has been spared all future pain and suffering she would have endured given her medical condition.  There is comfort in knowing that something better awaits us after this life.  Yes, there is mourning, but within that experience you find comfort in varied ways.

You can talk to your loved one

One day Jesus took Peter, James, and John aside and led them up Mount Tabor in order to reveal the grandeur and majesty of God to these disciples. Jesus’ clothes become dazzling white, but another key moment in this story is what happens—Jesus talks to Moses and Elijah. That’s the beauty of eternal life. Our loved ones who have gone before us can be intimately involved in our daily experience of life. They may be separated from us physically, but they are able to be with us in ways we cannot even fathom. As I went through my mother’s belongings and cleaned up her house, every now and again I found myself talking with my mother. “Why didn’t you ask me for help?” “I’m sorry I didn’t help you more.” Or when I brought in a lamp she gave for Christmas that has emblems of the Virgin Mary on the glass, I thanked her for that gift.  If there are things you never said to a loved one, don’t be afraid to speak them now. They can hear you.

Friends Will Support You

John tells us that Mary, Jesus’ mother, stood at the foot of the cross. She was not there by herself. She had people around her and they were supporting her and consoling her. Being an only child and the sole remaining person in my family, I had to sort through everything on my own. Thankfully I had a good number of friends around me who were willing to help me at a moment’s notice. After I received word of my mother’s death, and was later praying in the Church, I said to myself, “I’m all alone now.” But I quickly realized that wasn’t true. I had so many people surrounding me, who wanted to support me. They stood by me, and still do, just as the disciple whom Jesus loved, Mary Magdalene, and Mary of Clopas did for Mary.

You Need to Support Others

As you can imagine, my mom had friends. I realized in the few weeks after her death, that I need to be present to them and support them. That’s what Mary, as a grieving mother, did for so many following the death of Jesus. She had to console the disciples who abandoned Jesus and those who were closest to him. Not only did she need to be supported, but she supported others in the time of their grief. Don’t forget the people your loved one had in their lives. Be sure to be present to them in some way as they grieve their loss and adjust to their life without their friend.

Make Visits to the Cemetery

The morning of the Resurrection, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb in order to anoint the body of Jesus. She was going to visit his grave. One of the reasons why we bury our loved ones in cemeteries is so that we have a place to go and visit our loved one. Be sure to visit the cemetery from time to time, bringing flowers, and spending time with the one you loved. Some people I follow on social media bring a can of soda or a favorite food for their loved one as they visit the cemetery. This is a custom especially in Latin America with a special celebration called Dia de los Muertos—translated, Day of the Dead. Also, try to visit during the first eight days of November, because the Church gives a special indulgence applicable only to the Holy Souls for those who visit a cemetery during that time-frame and pray for the dead. The cemetery can become a place of prayer, as you pray for your loved one, and treasure their life in your heart.

image: Pieta by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr

Catholicism and the Call to Humility

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 23:05

When Jesus was presented in the temple by Mary and St. Joseph, the aged Simeon described Jesus’ mission: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel.”(Lk 2:34) Faced with Jesus and the demands of the Gospel, some people will be humbled while some will be exalted. In today’s Gospel, Jesus describes those who would be humbled and those who would be exalted, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” The choice before each of us boils down to this: self-exaltation or God-exaltation? Are we going to try to exalt ourselves and risk divine humiliation or humble ourselves so that God can exalt us?

If Jesus and His kingdom demands from us a choice between self-exaltation and God-exaltation, then there must be present in the Church founded by Jesus many invitations to this indispensable virtue of humility. Let us reflect on a few of them:

The nature of the Church: The very nature of the Church herself calls us to humble ourselves. The humble soul realizes and believe that, despite our sinfulness, Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, unites Himself so intimately with the visible Church that the Church becomes His own mystically Body and He remains forever her invisible Head. The proud cannot accept this truth of the faith and would see the Church as only a human institution composed of pathetic sinners that must change with the times so as to remain relevant. Aware of our sinfulness even in our union with the risen Christ, the humble soul begs, “Remain with us, Lord,”(Lk 24:29) while the proud soul adamantly exclaims, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.”(Lk 5:8)

The Eucharist: Ever wondered about the depth of humility required to believe in the Real Presence of Jesus under the sacramental signs of bread and wine? It takes a very humble soul to kneel in faith in hours of Eucharistic adoration before what appears like a piece of bread simply because they believe in the words of Jesus, “This is my body, which will be given up for you…This is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.”(Lk 22:19,20) The humble soul sees divine life and presence being mediated through the ordinary elements of the Eucharist while the proud person cannot see beyond the senses. The humble soul approaches this mystery with faith in the words of Jesus while the proud, succumbing to the dictates of emotions and the logic of human reason, exclaims, “How can this be? Besides, I do not feel the presence of Jesus in this sacrament.”

The ordained priesthood: It takes humility to accept that God has given to a few men the power to forgive sins and to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice in His name and person. The proud person is so focused on egalitarianism that he cannot accept any distinction between the priesthood of the baptized and the ordained priesthood. The humble soul, aware of his own baptismal consecration, makes use of the gifts of the Spirit to worship and give witness to God according to his vocation. The proud soul cannot accept that he is not the beneficiary of such power which a few have received and he can even accuse the Church of being unjust or denying him his “right” to the ordained priesthood. The ordained priest also faces the temptation to exalt himself, forgetting that he is ordained not for his own glory but for the service to God in His people and for the sanctification of the Church.

The Church’s Magisterium: That Christ has a vicar and collaborators in the Pope and bishops through whom He acts to teach, govern and sanctify His Church today is another stumbling block to the proud. The proud will focus on the weakness and failures of such men and ponder what good the teaching of a group of celibate men can be in our modern world. Jesus addresses such proud thoughts in the minds of his listeners about the hypocritical Jewish leaders in today’s Gospel, “Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.” Despite the sins and shortfalls of the visible leaders of the Church, the humble soul accepts their definitive teaching with the conviction that God can and does speak to us infallibly about faith and morals through these men today.

Confession: Only truly humble souls can approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation and humbly confess their sins with sincerity to Jesus through the ministry of the ordained priest. The proud person will find this rather unnecessary and beneath him and would choose to only confess sins directly to God. The humble soul reasons that if God can become present sacramentally on the altar through the ministry of the priests, then He can also definitively forgive all sins through this same priestly ministry. The sinfulness of the priest or what he may think of the penitent does not hinder the humble from approaching this sacrament. unlike the humble, the proud person is scandalized by both the humanity and sinfulness of the priest and would easily give up this sacrament in the face of his repeated sins.

Mary and the saints: It takes a humble person to ask for the prayers of others and to depend on others. The proud person is self-confident and dismissive of the truth of faith that God helps us through our brothers and sisters saints who have walked the path of Christian faith heroically. The humble person, rejecting any form of individualism, looks to the saints for example, encouragement and help in his journey of faith.

The mission of the Church: The mission of the Church as the Universal sacrament of salvation demands that we humble ourselves, serve God for His own sake, and strive to make others know and love God more. The proud soul, reluctant to see himself in mission to others while struggling with sin himself, either abandons this call to mission or begins to water down the demands of the Gospel in a false sense of mercy. The humble soul embraces this mission to evangelize simply because he has encountered the gift of God’s love and he cannot but bring the fullness of the Gospel and the accompanying power of diving grace to others despite his own failures.

The Church’s liturgy and prayer: That liturgy in the Catholic Church is a participation in the very prayer of Christ implies that we cannot measure our prayer by visible results. This is not easy for the proud soul to accept because the focus is not on our performance at worship or the eloquence of the preacher of the word. The humble soul is satisfied to know that it is the prayer of Christ, His own thanksgiving, reparation, adoration and petition to the Father that matters. The humble soul is content to participate in this liturgical prayer without trying to take the center stage and to know that the temporal and eternal fruits of his prayer united with that of Christ is not in question even if it is not visible to him.

Suffering: Jesus warns us we would be humbled if we continue to exalt ourselves in our infidelity. God permits sufferings like painful scandals in the Church to bring us to humble repentance. Time of scandal reminds us that we are all sinners in need of repentance and renewal individually and communally. The proud person cannot see in the scandals in the Church a painful purification and an invitation to humble and contrite hearts. Then there are persecutions that the Church faces from within and without in which our humility is put to the test. Only a humble soul will persevere in his faith even in the face of scandals and persecutions because he is not seeking himself. The proud soul, always seeking self, will be discouraged and devastated by scandals, rejections, misunderstandings, and persecutions. The humble knows that his suffering united with that of Christ is redemptive while the proud rejects any value in suffering and would abandon the Church in the moments of pains and suffering in his life or in the Church.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our Catholic faith is imbued with numerous invitations to humble ourselves so that God will exalt us. The nature, composition, mission and experiences of the Church are invitations to humble ourselves in several ways so that God will exalt us. Our response to this invitation will determine the depth and endurance of our inner peace as the Responsorial psalm’s refrain attests: “In you, Lord, I have found my peace,” and the psalmist reminds us that peace is ours because of our humility: “O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor are my eyes haughty.” Only the one who humbles himself allows God to exalt him and finds his peace in God alone.

Mary, the Mother of the Church, responded to this invitation to humility first among all the children of God as she exclaimed, “He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the humble.”(Lk 1:52) St. John the Baptist expressed his own self-humbling and God-exaltation in these words, “He must increase; and I must decrease.”(Jn 3:30) The enduring peace of Mary and the saints call us to imitate their resoluteness to humble themselves.

Our Eucharistic Lord comes to us today with the same challenge for each and every one of us: self-exaltation or God-exaltation? Our response will determine our inner peace as members of Christ’s own mystical body of the Catholic Church.

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

FOCUS Puts Legs on the Gospel

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 23:02

The early Church’s commitment to serving Christ in the least of these moved their contemporaries to exclaim, “See how these Christians love one another!” In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis reflects on the connection between serving others and spiritual conversion: “[N]one of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice: Spiritual conversion, the intensity of the love of God and neighbor, zeal for justice and peace, the Gospel meaning of the poor and of poverty, are required of everyone.”

One organization working to fulfill Pope Francis’ call to mission is the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). It was founded in 1998 and invites college students into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church, inspiring and equipping them for a lifetime of Christ-centered evangelization, discipleship and friendships in which they lead others to do the same.

One of their initiatives—FOCUS Missions—offers young adults the chance to serve others through mission trips and other opportunities both abroad and in their own communities. During the 2017–2018 academic year, FOCUS Missions will host more than 130 trips in nearly 50 countries. New locations for FOCUS Missions this year include Albania, Poland, Uganda, Uruguay and Southeast Asia. Spring break trip applications are due Nov. 30, and summer trips applications are due Jan. 15, 2018.

Monique Brunello, a senior at UCLA, has participated in three FOCUS mission trips and reflected on her life-changing experiences. “The FOCUS mission trip to Brazil rocked my world. We visited different homes and were often met with arms literally wide open. I will never forget the words of a fragile, elderly woman who told me, ‘Come in. I may be poor, but I’m rich in love.’”

“I had always known about God and believed Him to be true, but I lacked a personal and intimate relationship with Him,” said Brunello, a FOCUS student leader and president of the pro-life club on campus. “After going to daily Mass, praying a holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament each day and encountering Christ for myself, I realized that a personal relationship with Christ was attainable, and I wanted one.”

More than 7,000 college students and FOCUS missionaries have served on more than 400 mission trips around the world since 2004. They reach out to some of the most impoverished people on the planet and cultivate a heart for the poor. Most trips result in one participant entering a religious vocation. FOCUS projects have included:

  • Patient care services at medical clinics in Argentina and the Philippines
  • Corporal works of mercy to the sick and dying in Cambodia, Ecuador, Haiti, Jamaica, Kolkata, Mexico and India
  • Homeless ministries in Colombia, New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago
  • The building or renovation of seventeen homes in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru and the Philippines
  • The building or renovation of thirteen churches and schools in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Yucatán of Mexico
  • Established sports camps for youth in the Dominican Republic, Panama, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia and Trinidad & Tobago

Dominic Paolucci, Director of FOCUS Missions, says, “FOCUS Missions has helped to me to come to a deeper understanding of the person of Christ. Encountering Jesus in the poor has helped me to see him in the people I am around every day. I love begin able to take students away from the distractions of the world and see life from a new perspective on mission. It’s life-changing and they come back home on mission!”

David Hickson, Mission Trip Expansion Specialist, adds: “FOCUS missions promote true encounters with the human person and with the living God. The missions facilitate the ‘Culture of Encounter’ that Pope Francis calls us to, to be in solidarity with the neglected and ignored by the wider world. When faced with that reality like never before, we learn while on mission that we are all beloved children of God and that He loves us for who we are not what we have done or not done; from that we learn how to love better. Each trip I have discovered the gift that I am called to be for the world and thus the gift that others can be to me and the world, for as Pope Saint John Paul II said, ‘Man cannot fully find himself, except through a sincere gift of himself.’

“As Pope Emeritus Benedict calls us to, we go on mission to bring ‘truth and charity’ to those we serve. We bring The Truth of Jesus, in the form of the Eucharist, the Gospel, the Sacraments and His Body, us, the Church. We share the life of Grace with them as we witness to daily prayer as young Americans desiring a deeper personal relationship with Christ. We also bring them charity through building projects, teaching in schools, cleaning up, door-to-door prayer ministry, retreats, soup kitchens, and the like. Those that we serve learn to receive gifts from another part of the Body of Christ as we learn to receive the greater gift that God gives us through them, for ‘it is in giving that we receive.’”

FOCUS Missions coordinates several FOCUS Greek trips and sports camps for student-athletes in conjunction with Varsity Catholic. Medical mission trips to Peru, Argentina and Uganda give students in the medical field an opportunity to share their medical skills and the love of Christ. A full list of trips is at focusoncampus.org/missions.

Many benefactors help change the lives of students and those whom they serve by supporting them on mission. Students are seldom well off, and live lives of poverty and prudence that are greatly helped by the generosity of donors in the Body of Christ such as the readers of this piece. If you wish to help them, the donation page is at https://focusoncampus.org/missions/donate.

More than 24,000 students have been involved with FOCUS, and after graduation they have the opportunity to move into parish life to continue their missionary work. Within this number, 674 have made decisions to pursue Catholic religious vocations. By 2022, FOCUS expects — God willing — to have 75,000 students transitioned into many of America’s 17,000+ Catholic parishes. FOCUS missionaries are typically recent college graduates who devote two or more years of their post-collegiate lives to reach out to peers on campus. As part of its effort to inspire and encourage young Catholics to get involved and serve others, FOCUS recently partnered with Catholic Charities in ten cities around the country to host fundraising and awareness events in conjunction with the opening of the new Pure Flix/Paramount film, Same Kind of Different as Me. Based on a true story, the movie dramatizes how a connection with a homeless man positively impacted the life of not just one family, but the entire city of Fort Worth, Texas.

In the first reading Paul reminds the

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 23:00

In the first reading Paul reminds the Romans about the commandment of love: “You will love your neighbor as yourself. Love cannot do the neighbor any harm; so love fulfills the whole Law.”

In the Gospel reading Jesus tells us that the following of Christ demands we learn to bear our own crosses as Jesus did and that we be ready to give up whatever or whoever hinders our following of Christ. The follower of Jesus should be ready even to give up family and family ties as may be required in his service and following of Jesus.

Jesus also compares the following of Jesus to the planning and determination needed to finish the construction of a house and to the planning and strategy needed to wage and win a war against the enemy. We must plan to do properly what is needed in my following of Christ. As needed, we should assure that we have the proper resources and disposition to successfully follow Christ.

Lord, teach me to follow you as you deserve and please help me to have the proper resources and determination to follow and serve you.

St. Godfrey

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 23:00

Godfrey was born in 1065 in Sossians, France. When he was only five years old, he was placed in the care of the abbot of Mont-Saint-Quentin Abbey where he grew up and became a monk. Later he was ordained and became abbot of run-down Nogent Abbey in Champagne. Gregory restored discipline and rebuilt it into a flourishing community. He refused the abbacy of Saint-Remi, but in 1104 was appointed bishop of Amiens. There his strict discipline, insistence on clerical celibacy, and struggle against simony aroused much bitter opposition and even caused an attempt on his life. He died on the way to Soissons to visit his metropolitan see.

Lessons

St. Godfrey is a good example to us that our surroundings and those with whom we associate powerfully influence how we live our lives. St. Godfrey, having been raised in an abbey and thus surrounded by holy men, grew up to be a monk and an abbot who remained true to his faith and the disciplines of his vocation, and expected the same of others.

Prayer

St. Godfrey, help us to see the importance of having relationships with those who have centered their lives on God and are not only good examples to us, but supportive of us in our daily walk with Him. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Four Crowned Martyrs – Severus, Severian, Carpophorus, and Victorinus (306), Patrons of stonemasons, sculptors, and marble workers.

How Does God Console?

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 02:30

 

How Does God Console? The Lord (Week 21 of 23)

How does God console? Not by saying: Your trials are not really so terrible; they are terrible, and he sees them as terrible. Nor does God promise miraculous intervention. History has its time and its power, also history directed against God, and he does not cancel them. But over and above earthly reality, he gives us a glimpse of heavenly reality. Over and above the storm and press of historical power, appears the One against whom it is directed, the silent, waiting Christ. Eternity is his.

The Lord, Part 7: Chapter 1, Paragraph 3

It’s all too easy to downplay my sufferings, to even consider them “sufferings” and not take them seriously at all.

I mean, after all, I haven’t really suffered anything major. My kids are healthy, my husband is doing well, we’re gainfully employed, our house isn’t so bad. We have the material possessions we need, enough food to eat, some candy as a treat, and plenty others.

We’re not at war within our family unit, either in our immediate family nor in our extended families.

To put it mildly, I live a pretty charmed existence.

It doesn’t take me long to find someone who’s way ahead of me on the suffering front. There’s that friend who has chronic physical pain, that family member with anxiety, and the person who has buried three of five immediate family members.

How about the lonely elderly relative, slowly drifting into forgetfulness? Or the person on the prayer request chain who is having custody issues and struggling with addition?

What do I know about suffering?

Guardini reminds us that God’s not playing “suffering as a comparison game.”

He also unpacks the Book of Revelation in a way that I never before considered it: as a consolation.

The consolation, we read, is “the comfort of faith there for all hearers who have ‘overcome’ in faith.”

I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to reread this section at least a few more times. I’m still puzzling through it…and I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Reading Assignment:

Part 7: Ch. III-VII

Discussion Questions:

1. When are you tempted to play the one-up suffering game? How might you turn it around and use what Guardini has brought up in today’s reading?

2. What’s the biggest challenge you face when you read the Book of Revelation? What’s helping you in how Guardini is presenting it so far?

Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

Read More: https://spiritualdirection.com/topics/book-club

For More Information on the Book Club:  https://spiritualdirection.com/csd-book-club

About Sarah Reinhard

Sarah Reinhard continues to delight ”and be challenged by” her vocations of Catholic wife and mother. She’s online at SnoringScholar.com and is the author of a number of books for families.

 

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

The Fire of Love in Purgatory

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 23:07

Nota bene: The following words of St. Catherine of Genoa are selections from her book, Fire of Lovewhich record her meditations and prayerful insights on purgatory. We offer this for November, the month dedicated to praying for the dead.

All these things, which I have securely in mind to the extent that in this life I have been able to understand them, are, compared with what I have said, extremely great. Beside them, all the sights and sounds and justice and truths of this world seem to me lies and nothingness. I am left confused because I cannot find words extreme enough for these things.

I perceive there to be so much conformity between God and the soul that when He sees it in the purity in which His Divine Majesty created it, He gives it a burning love, which draws it to Himself, which is strong enough to destroy it, immortal though it be, and which causes it to be so transformed in God that it sees itself as though it were none other than God. Unceasingly God draws the soul to Himself and breathes fire into it, never letting it go until He has led it to the state from which it came forth — that is, to the pure cleanliness in which it was created.

When with its inner sight the soul sees itself drawn by God with such loving fire, then it is melted by the heat of the glowing love for God its most dear Lord, which it feels overflowing it. And it sees by the divine light that God does not cease drawing it, nor from leading it, lovingly and with much care and unfailing foresight, to its full perfection, doing this out of His pure love. But the soul, because it is hindered by sin, cannot go where God draws it; it cannot follow the uniting look by which God would draw it to Himself. Again the soul perceives the grievousness of being held back from seeing the divine light; the soul’s instinct, too, since it is drawn by that uniting look, craves to be unhindered.

I say that it is the sight of these things that begets in the souls the pain they feel in Purgatory. Not that they make account of their pain; although it is most great, they deem it a far less evil than to find themselves going against the will of God, whom they clearly see to be on fire with extreme and pure love for them.

This article is from “Fire of Love.” Click image to preview other chapters.

Strongly and unceasingly this love draws the soul with that uniting look, as though it had nothing else than this to do. Could the soul who understood this find a worse Purgatory in which to rid itself sooner of all the hindrance in its way, it would swiftly fling itself therein, driven by the conforming love between itself and God.

Mercy in Purgatory 

When I look at God, I see no gate to Paradise, and yet he who wishes to enter there does so, because God is all mercy. God stands before us with open arms to receive us into His glory. But well I see the divine essence to be of such purity, far greater than can be imagined, that the soul in which there is even the least note of imperfection would rather cast itself into a thousand Hells than find itself thus stained in the presence of the Divine Majesty. Therefore the soul, understanding that Purgatory has been ordained to take away those stains, casts itself therein, and seems to itself to have found great mercy in that it can rid itself there of the impediment that is the stain of sin.

No tongue can tell nor explain, no mind understand, the grievousness of Purgatory. But although I see that there is in Purgatory as much pain as in Hell, I yet see the soul that has the least stain of imperfection accepting Purgatory as though it were a mercy, as I have said, and holding its pains of no account as compared with the least stain that hinders a soul in its love. I seem to see that the pain that souls in Purgatory endure because of that in them which displeases God (that is, what they have willfully done against His great goodness) is greater than any other pain they feel in Purgatory. And this is because they see the truth and the grievousness of the hindrance that prevents them from drawing near to God, since they are in grace.

Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from Fire of Love: Understanding Purgatorywhich is available through Sophia Institute Press.
image: Peter Paul Rubens [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

What I Learned From Father Benedict

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 23:05

A year ago, Sophia Institute Press took a chance on an unknown, largely untested writer who had not a single published book to his name before Father Benedict: The Spiritual and Intellectual Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI was released in November 2016. I was that greenhorn, and a year later, I have learned still a few things more about both Pope Emeritus Benedict and the world the Catholic finds herself at the end of 2017.

The following points were formed from listening and chatting with others on their impressions of Benedict’s legacy. They reveal a public still grasping much of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict’s contribution to the life of the faith. His resignation in 2013 still looms as a point for many of confusion. Yet as committed Catholics continue navigating a post-modern, post-religious faith landscape (I have even heard it referred to as a “post-truth” era), Pope Benedict remains a guide—if only we give him a chance—in peeling the prideful scales from our eyes towards a deeper responsibility to the mission put forward by Christ Jesus.

A Smaller Church

The endurance of the haunting, prophetic words Joseph Ratzinger made in 1970 that has been cited not only in Father Benedict but in other articles and videos from other Catholic commentators has clearly struck a chord: “The reduction in the number of faithful will lead to [the Church] losing an important part of its social privileges. It will become small and will have to start pretty much all over again” (quoted from Faith and the Future, p. 116). The frequency of this passage cited to me personally by folks has been the most consistent reference to Benedict XVI in the past year.

We would be blind not to admit such a reduction has occurred over the last generation as Ratzinger predicted. I grew up outside Cleveland, Ohio, where bustling suburban parishes and ethnic inner-city parishes equally existed, yet a slow decline was palpable. In the last fifteen years, swaths of parishes across Cleveland have closed or merged, a prototype for an endemic that has seized the nation. In many communities across the United States, the small groups of faithful Catholics who have noted the shrinking congregation around them at Mass are all too aware of a general air of indifference to matters of faith. In this way, they are not unlike the early Christian movement, the Way, that convened clandestine and underground as the status quo—the Roman Empire—sought to destroy it.

And yet, Joseph Ratzinger in this prophetic passage finds in these smaller numbers hopeful signs: “[The Church] may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”

As secular culture continues to drown in the heap of man-made distractions and unfettered morals nearly fifty years later, perhaps indeed the future pope was right all along.

Processing the Resignation

“Pray for me,” the new Pope Benedict XVI implored at his Inaugural Mass in 2005, “that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.” To not a few since his stunning abdication, it actually seems he did flee from the wolves. Almost from the beginning, the factual and the conspiratorial have blurred. If anyone were to spend time tracing some of the Internet theories they would soon resemble Alice down the rabbit hole into Wonderland.

But one thing is certain: Benedict’s decision was unprecedented. He broke the long, unspoken rule about the papacy: popes don’t resign. But for whatever the reason—and we must still take Benedict’s own words to heart that he simply could not go on—in withdrawing he made it clear that a papal reign is anything but personal. Benedict thought it better for the church that another pick up the crozier. And when papal secretary Archbishop Ganswein mentioned in 2016 an “expanded” Petrine Office—one active, another contemplative—there was another explosion of uproar in various circles. But could he not mean simply that in his retirement Benedict remains committed to his ministry in prayer? Why should we undermine the power of prayer from someone as spiritually connected as Joseph Ratzinger? And yet, theories and confusion will continue to be sown, even some thinking that Benedict remains the one true pope (an idea not to be confused with sedevacantists, who recognize no elected pope after Pius XII.)

So much of life is out of our control. Not everything needs to be fully explained. We can choose to dwell in intrigue, or we can make something of our time beyond the politics of the moment. How will we answer the question, “[W]hen the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).

The Highest Responsibility

He was ordained in 1951. In June, he will celebrate his 67th year as a priest. In those decades, Joseph Ratzinger has left us volumes of work, such as his three-volume Jesus of Nazareth, singularly related to one thing: bringing the people to God and God to the people. In this way, he is not unlike the prophets of old. And like those prophets, Benedict knows being Christian is not without difficulty. So he has given us a plethora of material to find something that can speak to each of us. I suggested a few in my article, “Father Benedict: 5 Must Reads.”

Additionally, the liturgy remains the most pivotal part of our lives. Thanks to Pope Benedict’s tireless efforts in renewing the importance of the liturgy, the faithful have a responsibility in ensuring a respectful commemoration of Jesus Christ’s Passion at every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

And that responsibility, that commitment, that flourishing of The Catholic Mind is Benedict’s final entrustment to the faithful: Now it is up to us. Catholics have a higher standard, a greater responsibility than most. Expectations are higher; we are leaders, not followers. We cannot simply react, comment, and idly pass judgment on what is transpiring around us. Instead, Catholics have a duty, indeed the highest responsibility to “enlighten consciences.” Who else but the Church Universal? Benedict XVI himself said:

The Church proclaims and proposes truth not only with the authority of the Gospel, but also with the power that derives from reason. This is precisely why she feels duty bound to appeal to every person of goodwill in the certainty that the acceptance of these truths cannot but benefit individuals and society.

It is time for the Catholic to quit being embarrassed or silent about matters of the faith. Your very existence is to live and impart that faith to others. Imagine the possibilities, and then go and do it—until you can do it no more. Like Joseph Ratzinger.

image: By WolleHolzwickede (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Make Christ the Center of Your Prayer Life

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 23:02

Jesus Christ is the center of all human history, the alpha and the omega, the principle and foundation, the beginning and the end, the key that unlocks eternal life to all who believe and place their trust in Him. By His Incarnation, life, death, and Resurrection, Jesus has divided history into two blocks of time: B.C. and A.D.  Never has any other person come onto the stage of human history and had such a huge impact, and Jesus did this all in no more than 33 years.

The following exposition, in its essence, is a prayer to Jesus. These short prayer expressions or prayer gems are taken from Sacred Scripture, most of them from the texts of the Gospels.  If you like, these are Christological titles transformed into short prayers.  It is our intention and desire that you will very slowly pray over these titles in imitation of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who pondered the Word of God in her Immaculate Heart.

Christological titles transformed into prayer 

Titles for Jesus are many and rich indeed!  Let us learn to pray, to really talk to Jesus through the many and various titles inspired by the Holy Spirit.

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Jesusyou are the Bread of Life, give me a growing hunger and insatiable thirst for you. (Jn. 6)

Jesusyou are The Good Shepherd, grant me the deep inner security that I am never really alone because you are walking next to me, side by side, guiding me by your rod and staff. (Psalm 23/Jn. 10)

Jesusyou are truly The Resurrection and The Life, attain for me an ardent yearning to live with you for all eternity in heaven. (Jn. 11)

Jesus, your name means Savior, I beg you to stretch out your gentle but strong hand to save me. Lord Jesus, save me from doubt, from my inner fears and anxieties, from my lack of trust in your Divine Providence. Lord, in the midst of the storms of life, when it seems as if my life is on the verge of capsizing and sinking, descend upon me with your calm. Lead me to a safe haven. (Lk. 1)

Jesus you are truly the Divine Physician, the Divine Doctor, I implore you to touch me with your hand and heal me. (Mt. chapters 8 and 9) Lord Jesus, I admit my infirmities. Heal my mind with your light. Heal my soul with your grace. Heal my memory with your peace. Heal my body with your strength.

Jesusyou are the best of all Teachers. (Jn. 20:16) As I sit before you, I beg for your light to truly become my Teacher. I thank you for the Gospels, (Good News) in which I can sit at your feet and absorb and drink in the words of your Truth.

Jesus, you are The Way, the Truth, and the Life. Pave the way for me on the highway to heaven. Inundate me in the rays of your truth. Finally, attain for me eternal life in heaven. (Jn. 14:6)

Jesus, you are The Alpha and Omega, the Principle and Foundation of my life. Attain for me fullness of life by having you at the very center of my lifemy thoughts, words, decisions, and actions. (Rev. 22: 13)

Jesus, you said: “I am the Light of the world”, cast out the dark regions present in my mind, memory, understanding, intentions, and my life. Shine on me and in me, so that your Presence in my life may enlighten many others. (Jn. 8: 12)

Jesus, you are truly the Logos—the Word of God issuing forth from the Eternal Father.  May your Words be engraved deeply in my whole being so that I will be a living expression of your truth in the world. (Jn. 1:1)

Jesus, you are Emmanuel—God with us!  In this journey of life heading toward our eternal destiny—heaven—may I constantly be aware of your gentle and consoling presence.  May my prayer be that of the disciples on the road to Emmaus:  “Stay with us, Lord, for the day is far spent.” (Lk. 24)

Jesus, you are the Christ-Messiah, the Anointed One.  Through Baptism and Confirmation, I have received a double-anointing. I implore you to anoint my thoughts and words so that I will be an anointed presence for my brothers and sisters. (I Jn. 5:1)

Jesus, you indeed are The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.By your Precious Blood, that I receive through the Sacraments of Confession and Communion, may I be cleansed and purified of all my past sins and live the liberty of the sons and daughters of God. (Jn. 1:29)

Jesus, you are the Healing Hand that saves. Stretch out your hand to touch my festering wounds and heal me and all of suffering humanity. (Mt 8:1-4)

Jesus, you are indeed the Wounded-Healer. Indeed, it is by your wounds that we are healed.  May I seek refuge in your wounds, especially your wounded Sacred Heart! Indeed, this is my true and eternal refuge. (Is 53:5)

Jesus, you are the Friend that is always faithful. May I always experience you as a true Friend, always willing to walk with me, talk with me, welcome me, and be present to me.  You indeed are my true Friend who will never fail me. (Jn. 15:15)

Jesus, you are the Son of God made man. I am eternally grateful to you for becoming like us in all things except sin.  I praise and thank you for assuming your humanity from the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Jesus, you are the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.  As such I adore you and pay you homage as King of my whole being.  Jesus, as King I beg you to reign over my whole being. Reign over my mind, my thoughts, my imagination, my feelings, my intentions, my body and soul in time and for all eternity. (Rev. 19: 16)

Jesus, you indeed are the Crucified Savior.  May my love and devotion to you result in crucifying and putting to death all in me that is unworthy of you—that is to say, sin and all of its negative effects.  We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. (Mt 27: 32-56)

Jesus, your Most Sacred Heart is a burning furnace of charity.  Set my heart on fire with love for you and with love for souls.  You said: “I have come to cast fire on the earth and I am not at peace until that fire be enkindled.”  Lord Jesus, give me that fire! (Lk. 12: 49)

Jesus, you are the Son of God, the Son of man, and the Son of Mary!  Through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your loving Mother, may I arrive at a deeper knowledge of you, a deeper love for you, a deeper understanding of you, and a more earnest yearning and longing to follow you all the days of my life!  Jesus, Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may you be the very center of my life, now and for all eternity. Amen. (Mk. 6:3)

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

“To discover that you are loved

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 23:00

“To discover that you are loved is the center of all existence. And when we are filled with this total and delirious love, little by little, we grow and love in turn. That gradualness in our journeys is a sign of the infinite tenderness of God.”

-from Chiara Corbella Petrillo

In the first reading Paul reiterates

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 23:00

In the first reading Paul reiterates Our Lord’s teachings about love of neighbor: “Let love be sincere. Hate what is evil and hold to whatever is good. Love one another and be considerate. Outdo one another in mutual respect.” “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not wish evil on anyone. Rejoice with those who are joyful and weep with those who weep. Live in peace with one another.”

Life is indeed about loving God and loving neighbor. And “if you say, ‘I love God,’ while you hate your brother or sister, you are a liar. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your brother whom you see?” (1 Jn 4: 20)

In the Gospel reading Jesus tells us that the heavenly banquet is prepared for all.

St. Maura

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 23:00

Maura was born in the ninth century at Troyes in Champagne.  A very prayerful child, she was able through her example and fervent prayers to convert her entire family to Christ.

Throughout her life, this virgin remained devoted to prayer and was most obedient and charitable to all. After her father’s death, she cared for her mother as well as serving the poor and the Church. It delighted her to make sacred vestments, trim the lamps, and prepare wax and other things for the altar. She spent long hours in church, adoring God, praying to her divine Redeemer, and meditating on His life and passion.

She fasted twice weekly, on Wednesdays and Fridays, on bread and water only. She visited with her spiritual director frequently, walking barefoot over five miles to the monastery to see him.

So wonderful was her gift of tears, that she was seen often on her knees with tears streaming down her face out of love and joy. God performed many miracles in her favor, but out of humility she would avoid all recognition or praise from humans.

St. Maura died at age twenty-three. Her relics and name are honored in several churches in France and she is also mentioned in the Gallican Martyrology.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Saints Carina, Melasippus, and Antony (360), Martyrs

St. Willibrord (739), Bishop, Patron of Holland

St. Engelbert (1225), Archbishop, Martyr

The Holy Spirit and the Apostolate

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 02:35
The Holy Spirit and the Apostolate

Presence of God – O Holy Spirit, take possession of my soul and transform it into a chosen instrument for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

MEDITATION

The heart of the apostolate is love. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus understood this well; after having passed in review all possible vocations, and recognizing that they would not suffice to appease her immense apostolic desires, she exclaimed: “My vocation is found at last—my vocation is love!… In the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be love! Thus shall I be all things” (Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul 13). Where can we obtain such a complete and transforming love? We must never forget that the source of charity is the Holy Spirit, who is the personal terminus of the love of the Father and of the Son, the eternal breath of Their mutual love. This Spirit “has been given” to us, He is “ours”; He dwells in our hearts precisely to pour forth in them that supernatural love which makes us burn with love for God and for souls. “The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us” (Romans 5:5). By communicating the flame of divine charity to men and associating them to His infinite love, the Holy Spirit is the secret animator and sustainer of all apostolate; “It is He,” Pius XII teaches, “who through His heavenly breath of life is the source from which proceeds every vital and efficaciously salutary action … in the Mystical Body of Christ” (Mystici Corporis). He is the soul of the Church. Do we wish to become apostles? Let us open our hearts wide to the outpourings of the Holy Spirit, in order that His love may invade and penetrate us to the point of absorbing our poor love into Himself. When the love of a soul is united to “the living flame of love” which is the Holy Spirit, so as to “become one thing with it” (cf John of the Cross, Living Flame of Love 1,3), then it becomes a vivifying love in the heart of the Church. This is the only way to realize the magnificent ideal: “In the heart of the Church I will be love. Thus I shall be everything” (Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul 13). To attain to this supreme summit of love and of the apostolate, we must follow, day by day, moment by moment, the motions of the Holy Spirit, open ourselves submissively to His action, and allow ourselves to be directed and governed by Him. Above all, we must yield ourselves to His infinite love which diffuses itself totally in the Father and the Son, and then overflows on souls, to draw them all into the Blessed Trinity.

COLLOQUY

“Pardon me, my Jesus, if I venture to tell You of my longings, my hopes that border on the infinite; and that my soul may be healed, I beseech You to fulfill all its desires. To be Your spouse, O my Jesus … and by my union with You, to be the mother of souls, should not all this content me? Yet other vocations make themselves felt, and I would wield the sword, I would be a priest, an apostle, a martyr, a doctor of the Church…. O Jesus, my Love, my Life, how shall I realize these desires of my poor soul?

“You make me understand that all cannot become apostles, prophets, doctors; that the Church is composed of different members; that the eye cannot also be the hand…. You teach me that all the better gifts are nothing without love, and that charity is the most excellent way of going in safety to You.

“At last I have found rest…. Charity gives me the key to my vocation. I understand that since the Church is a body composed of different members, she could not lack the most necessary and most nobly endowed of all the bodily organs. I understand, therefore, that the Church has a heart—and a heart on fire with love.

“I see too, that love alone imparts life to all the members, so that should love ever fail, apostles would no longer preach the Gospel and martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. And I realize that love includes every vocation, that love is all things, that love is eternal…. O Jesus, my Love! my vocation is found at last—my vocation is love! I have found my place in the bosom of the Church, and this place, O my God, You Yourself have given to me: in the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be love. Thus shall I be all things and my dream will be fulfilled” (cf Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul 13).

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Note from Dan: This post on the Holy Spirit and the Apostolate is provided courtesy of Baronius Press and contain one of two meditations for the day. If you would like to get the full meditation from one of the best daily meditation works ever compiled, you can learn more here: Divine Intimacy. Please honor those who support us by purchasing and promoting their products.

Art for this post on the Holy Spirit and the Apostolate: Gravure de “Sainte Thérèse de l’Enfant Jésus, Histoire d’une âme écrite par elle-même, Lisieux, Office central de Lisieux (Calvados), & Bar-le-Duc, Imprimerie Saint-Paul, 1937, édition 1940″; PD-US copyright expired, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.

About Dan Burke

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

 

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

What It Really Means that God is Everywhere

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 23:07

Each of the divine attributes is both a cause for wonder at the majesty of God and a source of comfort for us in our daily lives.

This is particularly true of divine omnipresence, the reality that God is everywhere and is absent from no place.

Natural reason tells us this naturally follows from God’s very nature.

It’s also affirmed in Scripture. As Jeremiah 23:23-24 declares,

Am I a God near at hand only and not a God far off?
Can anyone hide in secret without my seeing them?
Do I not fill heaven and earth?

And also Psalm 139:7-9,

Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence, where can I flee?
If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;
if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.
If I take the wings of dawn
and dwell beyond the sea.

That God must be omnipresent follows from nearly every other attribute. Some are obvious: Take His greatness. What could be greater than God? What could possibly be ‘larger’ than Him? What could possible contain Him? God is all-powerful. What could therefore be powerful enough to box Him?

Then there is God’s infinity. In terms of time we speak of His eternity. In terms of space we speak of His immensity. But remember, nothing can contain God, including conceptual categories. He does not merely have more time or more space than anything or anyone else. God is beyond time and space. His absolute transcendence is precisely what makes his immanence possible.

Another pathway to the same conclusion is through the attribute of simplicity. Everything around us compound: we are bodies and souls. All living things are compounds of cells. And most of the matter around us—the bacteria around on my desk, the plastic chair I am sitting in, the air I am breathing in, is comprised of molecules, which, in turn consist of atoms.

Even if we drill down to the smallest units of matter, quarks and leptons, they are ‘compound’ in the sense that they are complex. They have attributes and qualities. (A particle physicist will tell you there are six ‘flavors’ of quarks and leptons.)

But it is not so with God. He is absolute simplicity. First, this is because He is a pure spirit. He is not a body. He is not composed of matter. He created those things.

But this is so even with regards to His spiritual nature. God is His thoughts. Actually God does not think in the way we do. He does not ruminate. He does not toss and turn an idea over in His mind (to paraphrase Augustine). His thoughts are complete. So it is better to say God is His thought. And because His thought is complete we refer it to as the Word (as Augustine explains). God is His Word. The Word is God (John 1:1).  Likewise God does not have love. God does not sometimes love and sometimes not. God is love (1 John 4:8).

So it is with God’s attributes. He does not have justice and mercy, as if these were things he could acquire or lose. For where would He obtain them? Who could take them from Him? Rather, He is justice and mercy. As Augustine explains in De Trinitate, using the example of greatness:

In things that are great by partaking of greatness, things where being is one thing and being great another, like a great house and a great mountain and a great heart, in such things greatness is one thing and that which is great with this greatness is another—thus greatness is certainly not the same thing as a great house. … God is not great by participating in greatness, but He is great with His own great self because He is His own greatness. The same must be said about goodness and eternity and omnipotence and about absolutely all the predications that can be stated of God.

This truth should stir our wonder at God but it is also a great consolation.

First, God’s absolute simplicity—His lack of complexity—means that He is not ‘more’ in one place than another. His being is not accumulated in one place and diminished in another. Otherwise He wouldn’t truly be omnipresent as we have defined it. This means that God is always fully present to us. As the Psalm quoted above says, “Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee?” And as Jeremiah puts it, “Do I not fill heaven and earth?”

Second, it is more accurate to say that all things are in God. So it’s not so much that He is everywhere as to say that everywhere is within Him. He is not just in this place and that place. All places are in Him (as Aquinas says). As Colossians 1:17 declares, “in Him all things hold together.”

Third, the doctrine of divine simplicity indicates that God’s whole being is everywhere—not just some part or extension of Him. This means that His truth and goodness, His justice and mercy, His wisdom and love are also everywhere (see this source). This is not only a great comfort but also a cause for joy.

Blood, Water, and the Sacraments

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 23:05

John’s Gospel records one of the most well-known elements of the story of Jesus’ crucifixion: the spear in his side. Jesus died pretty quickly, so to make sure he really was dead, a Roman soldier stabbed him with a spear (John 20:34). When he did this, blood and water flowed out from the wound, and this event has stuck firmly in the minds of many Christians ever since. However, what is not nearly as well known is that when this happens, John brings the narrative to a screeching halt and addresses his readers directly:

“He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth—that you also may believe.” (John 19:35)

John makes a point to tell us that this really happened. He was there, and he saw the blood and water flow from Jesus’ pierced side. Why is this so important? Why does John make sure we know that he was not making this up? At first, we might be tempted to think that it’s because this event fulfills some prophecies from Scripture (John 19:36-37). However, John points out fulfilled prophecies elsewhere (for example, John 2:17, 19:24), but this is the only time he stops the narrative to point out that the event really happened. As a result, there has to be some deeper meaning to this event, some spiritual significance that John wants us to see in it. Let’s examine the passage and see just what that deeper meaning is.

“I Thirst”

To begin, we need to go back a few verses to the scene of Jesus’ death:

“After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished’; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:28-30)

There is a lot going on in this passage, so let’s start with Jesus’ words “I thirst.” They seem fairly straightforward, but when we look at them more closely, questions begin to arise. He said this only when he knew that he was about to die (“knowing that all was now finished”), but why would he wait till then? He was going to die in a few moments, so why even bother?

This is a clue that there is something more here than meets the eye. Yes, Jesus was genuinely thirsty and really did want to quench that thirst, but his words also contain a second, deeper meaning. On a spiritual level, they tell us something about his impending death. Specifically, these words call to mind an event that happened near the beginning of John’s Gospel.

The Samaritan Woman

The only other place in this Gospel where Jesus asks for a drink is his encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well. He asks for a drink when they first meet (John 4:7), and then after a short exchange, he offers her some water (John 4:10-15). Specifically, he offers her “living water” that will result in eternal life. This conversation mirrors the scene of Jesus’ death perfectly: they both begin with Jesus asking for a drink and then end with him becoming a source of water.

This parallel sheds significant light on the meaning of Jesus’ death. By highlighting Jesus’ request for a drink on the cross, John was subtly telling us that the water that flowed from Jesus’ side (we’ll get to the blood later) was a symbol of the living water he offered to the Samaritan woman.

The Holy Spirit

And what was that living water? John does not tell us right away; instead, we have to wait a few chapters for an explanation:

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, ‘If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.”’ Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive.” (John 7:37-39)

Here we finally learn what this “living water” is, and it’s the Holy Spirit. However, there is a problem. In this passage, Jesus says that this water will flow from believers, but both in his conversation with the Samaritan woman and at his crucifixion, it comes from him. The problem, I would suggest, is with our English translations. In the original Greek, the text can be translated as I have quoted it above, or it can be translated to mean that the “rivers of living water” will flow from Jesus himself. That may seem strange to English speakers, but ancient Greek sentence structure is very different from that of modern English, so either translation is possible.

Now, while the grammar of the text is ambiguous, in the context of the entire Gospel of John, the translation I am proposing makes more sense. We see Jesus depicted as the source of this living water everywhere else it appears, so it makes sense that he would be its source here as well. As a result, when we put this all together, we can see that the water that flows from Jesus’ side at his death represents the Holy Spirit. It symbolizes the gift of the Spirit that Jesus won for us by His sacrifice on the cross.

A Novel Phrase

And in case there’s any doubt, there is one more piece to this puzzle. When John narrates Jesus’ death, he says that Jesus “gave up his spirit” (John 19:30). Again, this seems simple enough, but there is a deeper meaning here as well. The Greek literally means that Jesus “handed over the spirit,” and this phrase was never used as a euphemism for death in ancient Greek literature. John made it up, and that has to be significant. If he had meant it to refer to Jesus’ death and nothing more, he would have used another, more common expression. However, he instead chose to make up a new one, and he must have done so for a reason.

You may be able to guess why John described Jesus’ death this way. By saying that he “handed over the spirit,” John was teaching us that at Jesus’ death, he handed over the Holy Spirit to his followers, thereby confirming everything we’ve seen about the symbolism of the water that flowed from his side. However, this leaves us with one last question: what about the blood?

The Sacraments

In John’s Gospel, the word “blood” appears with its normal meaning in only one other passage (elsewhere, we find it only as part of an idiom referring to birth). In a sermon dubbed by scholars the “Bread of Life Discourse,” Jesus tells us repeatedly that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood (John 6:53-56), a clear reference to the Eucharist. Consequently, in the context of this Gospel, the blood that flows from Jesus’ side has to symbolize the Eucharist.

Once we realize this, we can see that the water has a sacramental meaning as well. Like the phrase John used to describe Jesus’ death, this water also has a double meaning. In addition to symbolizing the Holy Spirit in general, it also represents baptism. Towards the beginning of John’s Gospel, Jesus describes baptism as a birth “of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5), so just as the blood calls to mind his words about the Eucharist, so too does the water call to mind these words about baptism. And if we think about it, this dual meaning makes perfect sense. Baptism is the first time we receive the Holy Spirit and the prerequisite for receiving the Spirit in other ways, so it’s fitting that the water would symbolize both baptism and the Spirit.

The Importance of the Sacraments

Now that we’ve seen what the blood and water symbolize, we have one final question to answer: What does this all mean when we put it together? In other words, is there any relation between the sacraments and Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit?

Yes, there is. By linking the Spirit with baptism and the Eucharist, John is telling us that we receive Jesus’ parting gift to us primarily through the sacraments. Granted, the blood and water that flowed from Jesus’ side only call to mind two of them, but as Catholics, we can extrapolate from that and conclude that God gives us the Spirit in all seven sacraments. This is extremely important because the Holy Spirit enables our faith (1 Corinthians 12:3), our good works (Romans 8:3-4), and our prayer (Romans 8:15, 1 Corinthians 12:3), the three pillars of the Christian life. Simply put, we can’t be Christians without the Spirit, and we can’t have the Spirit without the sacraments.

From Fear to Fear

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 23:02

What are we afraid of? Exams, physical harm, awkward social situations, the loss of loved ones. All of our fears refer to some upcoming difficulty which we can’t see a way out of. And many of our fears seem reasonable—who wouldn’t be afraid of failure or injury or embarrassment? But one of God’s most regular demands on his followers is that they not be afraid: “Fear not Abram! I am your shield” (Gen 15:1). Is God telling us that all fear is sinful? Is it possible to “fear not”?

Mary herself, born without sin, was anxious as she searched for Jesus (Lk 2:48). How should we understand this sinless fear? St. Thomas is helpful here. As a natural passion, fear in its general sense simply describes a movement away from an impending unpleasantness. And sometimes avoiding this bad thing is good and reasonable: “reason dictates that we should flee the evils that we cannot withstand, and the endurance of which profits us nothing” (ST II-II.125.1, reply to objection 3). Mary and Joseph’s anxiety in their search for Jesus arose because they quite rightly wished to avoid his being lost for one moment longer.

But the frequency of God’s demand to “fear not” shows just how often our fears lead us to reject the salvation that God is offering. For example, even after the Israelites had seen the many signs that God had worked against Egypt, they were so frightened by the sight of the pursuing Egyptians that they said, “What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? . . . Far better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness” (Ex 14:11–12). St. Thomas explains what makes this type of fear sinful: “fear is a sin through being inordinate, that is to say, when one flees what, according to reason, he ought not to flee” (ST II-II.125.3). In other words, when we fear something to the point of trying to avoid a trial that we should endure and know that we can endure—for example, the attack of the Egyptians—we commit a sin.

So while not all fear is sinful, very few of us only fear those things that are reasonable to fear. We find ourselves caught in a web of fears that are more morally compromising. What should we do? God in his mercy asks us to transfer our fears from the temporal realm to the eternal realm: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna” (Matt 10:28). We are asked to fear God, which is a very different kind of fear. Fearing God transforms our fears from the kind of fear a child has of the monsters under his bed, to the kind of loving fear a child has for his father. This fear arises out of trust and respect rather than out of insecurity and superstition.

We often let our silly fears of things that can only harm the body and the ego weaken our trust in God’s benevolent plan. But God is working in our hearts to heal us from our empty fears, giving us a loving fear of our Father. Especially in the confessional, we can bring to God our lack of faith in Providence, our misplaced fears, our bonds of sin. Turning to his mercy, we can know beyond a doubt that he wants us to be “free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight, all the days of our life” (Lk 1:74–5).

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Dominicana and is reprinted here with kind permission. 

“There is nothing so wonderful in

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 23:00

“There is nothing so wonderful in power as the humility of Christ, who, resting the created nature of His humanity wholly upon His Divine nature, ascribes nothing whatever to that human nature, which He knew so perfectly to be nothing without God.”

-Fr. William Ullathorne, Patience and Humility 

Whenever Jesus acts, he acts because

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 23:00

Whenever Jesus acts, he acts because it’s the right thing to do, never simply because it’s the politically correct thing to do. One thing we can never accuse Jesus of is “political correctness.” In the earlier mentioned Gospel passages, the politically correct thing for him to have done was, not to have cured on the Sabbath, not to have ridiculed the Pharisees’ honor-seeking game, not to have urged the Pharisees to invite the outcasts of society to their parties. Jesus’ behavior was never determined by political correctness.

Political correctness can limit the degree to which we can become Christ-like. It can prevent us from reaching out as Jesus did to those people whose local, family or class culture insists are socially unacceptable. Pride is an insistent accomplice of political correctness and is a powerful motivating force urging us to never associate, for instance, with former prisoners, or only with those who are “cultured,” wealthy, and powerful.

Jesus’ example provides us with a challenge to make ourselves available to all men and women, no matter how badly society has treated them or how badly they have treated society or themselves.

St. Leonard of Limoges

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 23:00

Unfortunately, there is little reliable information about St. Leonard. Some sources state that he was a Frank courtier who was converted by St. Remigius. It is also said that he refused the offer of a see from his godfather, King Clovis I, and instead became a monk at Micy. He lived as a hermit at Limoges where he was allegedly rewarded by the king with all the land he could ride around in a day on a donkey.

Apparently the king believed that Leonard’s prayers had brought the queen and their child through a very difficult delivery safely. Leonard used the land awarded him by the king to build a monastery known as Noblac Monastery. This monastery grew into the town later known as Saint-Leonard.

Leonard remained there evangelizing the surrounding area until his death in 559.

He is the patron saint of captives.

St. Sylvia

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The Church venerates the sanctity of Sylvia and Gordian, the parents of Pope Saint Gregory the Great, as well as his two aunts, Tarsilla and Emiliana. St. Sylvia, who was a native of Sicily, and St. Gordian who was from the vicinity of Rome, also had another son, but unfortunately his name has been lost to us.

After her husband, Gordian, died around 573, St. Sylvia decided to retire to a solitary and quasi-monastic life in a small abode near the Church of St. Sava on the Aventine. Gregory then converted his father’s home into a monastery. St. Sylvia often enjoyed sending her son Gregory fresh vegetables on a silver platter. One day when a poor beggar approached St. Gregory and he had nothing to give him, he presented him with the silver platter of vegetables.

St. Sylvia died sometime between 592 and 594 A.D. After her death, Pope Gregory, who was the holy Pontiff, had a picture of both of his parents put in the Church of St. Andrew. Much later, in the sixteenth century, Pope Clement VII had St. Sylvia inscribed in the Roman Martyrology.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Saints Zachary and Elizabeth (1st Century), parents of John the Baptist

St. Bertilia (692), Virgin

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.