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Ten Ways to Grow in Friendship with Jesus and Mary

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 22:02

The ultimate purpose of our life is to grow to know, love and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus who said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus is the real purpose of our existence. He gives meaning to all that happens in our lives—our joys and sorrows, successes and failures our life and death. Our Lady is always close to Jesus. The saints emphasize that Our Lady is the short-cut to the heart of God.

The following are ten short suggestions how we can grow daily in Friendship with Jesus and Mary His Mother so as to be happy in this life as well as the life to come!

1. Avoid Sin

The reality of sin is the chief stumbling block on our way to friendship with God. In one of the meditations in the Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius says that we should be ready to die before giving in to mortal sin.  The motto of Saint Dominic Savio, before his first Communion, was, “Death before sin.” Unanimously, the martyrs chose death over sin or denying Christ. The Church is already being persecuted and we could be called to the glory of martyrdom. May God’s grace in us triumph!

2. Know God

We cannot love God if we do not know Him.  Best way? Reading, meditating on the Word of God.  Saint Jerome stated: “Ignorance of the Word of God is ignorance of Christ.”  When reading the scriptures, use the method of Lectio Divina that Pope Benedict suggested in one of his documents on the word of God:

  • Lectio (read),
  • meditacio (meditate and think deeply about God)
  • contemplacio (imagine that you are with God).
  • Oracio (talk to God)
  • accio (put into practice what you have learned.

As a result of living out this method of prayer that we call Lectio Divina, the end result will be “transformacio”—transformation.  As Saint Paul says: “It is no longer I who lives but it is Christ who lives in me.”

3. Lives of the Saints

Get into the habit of reading the lives of the saints. The saints were God’s friends, confidants, as well as heroes. We believe in the Communion of Saints. The Catechism teaches us that the saints can help us in many ways, but especially two:

  • 1) Power of intercession—they can pray for us as well as present our prayers to God.
  • 2) Examples to imitate—They were like as  born in sin and sinners, but through the help of God’s grace they overcame human weakness and lived lives of heroic virtue as we are all called to do!  Saint Ignatius of Loyola received many graces on his path of conversion by reading the lives of the saints.
4. Live in God’s Presence

A secret of many saints in growing in Friendship with Jesus is the daily effort to live in God’s presence. We must become more keenly aware of the fact of God’s omnipresence—He is everywhere in the universe. Saint Paul reminds us of this as he quotes the Greek poet:  “in Him we live and move and have our being.”  Brother Lawrence insisted that striving to live constantly in the Presence of God is a sure way to holiness.  Saint Teresa of Avila affirmed this truth by asserting that we sin because forget about the presence of God.

5. WWJD/WWMD

Related to living in the presence of God is  a daily effort to imitate Christ and His Mother Mary. One of the most famous books every written was the Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis. Our daily aspiration and yearning should be to imitate both Jesus and Mary.   The youth used to wear a wrist-band with the four letters WWJD— meaning, “What would Jesus do?”  A great question! Let us accept the challenge.

WWMD?—Let us add to it: what would Mary do?  May we always have both Jesus and Mary before our eyes as our models!

6. The Penitential Life

Even though it goes against the grain of the flesh and our fallen human nature we should try to live a penitential life-style.  If we really love Jesus then we should be willing to sacrifice ourselves for love of Him and the salvation of immortal souls; read the lives of the saints as our models and examples. Jesus Himself reminds us: “Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny himself, take up His cross and follow me.”

If you are not in the habit of practicing penance then start with something that is small and build on it! Athletes start small, build up their wind and will-power and keep adding more. We are all called to be athletes for Christ, to run the race and receive the merited crown which is the eternal glory of heaven. A life of ease, leisure and laziness does not harmonize with the following of Christ! Upon entering a Carmelite cell there is a cross without the corpus on it. Why? Because the Carmelite nun is called to mount the cross and live a life of denial for love of her mystical spouse, Jesus the Lord.

7. Be Merciful and Learn to Forgive

It is impossible to live in this life without being hurt or wounded by others. There are two reactions to being hurt by others: revenge and bitterness or forgiveness and mercy. If we want to be pleasing to Jesus and Mary, best to choose the hard path of mercy and forgiveness   Jesus challenges us:  “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.”

The English poet Alexander Pope reiterates the same theme: “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”   A key element in forgiveness is to do it right away. The Word of God reminds us: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” This is especially pertinent for husbands and wives in the married life.

8. Seek to Serve Others

Do not seek to be served; rather, seek out opportunities to be of service and to serve others. Saint Paul once again reminds us: “There is more joy in giving than in receiving.” The Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Foundress of the Missionaries of Charity encourages us to do the same in a challenging short statement:  “Give until it hurts!”

Of course looking up at Jesus on the cross and contemplating His wounds is the most sublime example of giving; He gave all even up to the last drop of His Precious Blood for love of you and for love of me! Either we choose a Christocentric life of service or an egocentric life of self-glorification. Once a Protestant Pastor chimed in with these words: “It is either theology or me-ology!” Read Mt 25:31-46—in this powerful passage you have the Corporal works of mercy listed. Which one of these Corporal works of mercy do you think God is challenging you to live out right now?

9. Thanksgiving

One of the most pleasing sentiments that can flow from the human heart is that of thanksgiving. The Psalmist commands us frequently: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His mercy endures forever.” At the Last Supper Jesus took bread and gave thanks.  Actually the Greek word “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving.”  How much Jesus suffered after healing ten lepers and only one came back to render Him thanksgiving.(Lk. 17:1-9) Shakespeare in Macbeth offers his words of wisdom on ingratitude: “More painful than a serpent’s tooth is that of an ungrateful child.”  The famous medieval writer Meister Eckhart puts it succinctly: “If the only prayer we ever did were that of thanksgiving to God that would be sufficient.”  Therefore it is not surprising that Saint Ignatius of Loyola stated that the essence of sin is ingratitude. May God fill our hearts with an overflowing expression of gratitude.

10. Learn to Walk with Mary

In the prayers we say to conclude the most Holy Rosary, the Hail Holy Queen, we pray: “Hail Holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope…” In the midst of the trials, afflictions, uncertainties and insecurities of life, immersed in times of moral confusion and political upheaval, submerged in times of war, suffering and constant bloodshed, we must lift up our eyes with great hope and trust toward the Star of the Sea.  This beautiful image and poem penned by the mellifluous Doctor, Saint Bernard, encourages us to trust that Our Lady is there for us to help us through the storms of life and make it safely to heaven. Therefore, as a pilgrim on your journey to heaven do not walk alone. Walk with Mary, talk to Mary, imitate Mary and love Mary. Indeed she will be your life, your sweetness and your hope.”

What does it mean to “wrestle&

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 22:00

What does it mean to “wrestle” with God? In the first reading Jacob wrestles with a man, is given a new name and receives the man’s blessing. Jacob realizes he had met and wrestled with God, and lived. We wrestle with God when we present our problems to him, when we ask God for favors and blessings, when we ask God to forgive our many failures and weaknesses. We ask God for grace and courage to accept our problems and crosses. With God we are assured we can face our problems and the world with confidence.

In the Gospel reading we see Jesus curing a man unable to speak because he was possessed by an evil spirit. We see Jesus preaching the Good News; we see Jesus moved with pity for the crowds for they were “harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.”

We hear Jesus telling his disciples to pray for the Lord of the harvest to send laborers to gather his harvest. We make the same prayer today.

St. Benedict

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 22:00

The founder of the Benedictine Order, St. Benedict (ca. 480-547) came from a distinguished Italian family (his sister was St. Scholastica). He studied in Rome as a young man, but disturbed by the city’s sinful and chaotic nature, he chose to live as a hermit at the age of twenty. Soon afterward some monks asked Benedict to be their leader; though this initial experiment failed (as the monks were upset by Benedict’s high standards, and even tried to poison him), the saint was enthusiastic over the idea of monasticism: hermits or monks living together in a community, combining contemplation, work, and shared prayer.

Benedict organized twelve small communities, and in 529 established the famous monastery of Monte Cassino (with his sister establishing a religious community for women nearby). The Benedictine Rule emphasizes ora et labora (“pray and work”); under Benedict’s version of monastic life, a religious community devoted itself to prayer, study, and manual labor, living together under the leadership of an abbot. Benedict’s rule is characterized by moderation (unlike some early Christian movements, which stressed severe acts of self-discipline), and Benedict himself, in spite of his high standards, was a gentle and peaceable man. The saint performed many miracles, and when he died, he was buried in the same grave as his sister St. Scholastica. The monasteries established under his influence played a vital role in preserving learning and culture during the Dark Ages, and the Rule of Benedict has guided many monks and religious up to the present day.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Pius I (167), Pope and Martyr

“We must not gauge our devotion

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 22:00

“We must not gauge our devotion by what we feel, but rather by what we are ready to endure. Indeed, it often happens that God tries the most advanced by letting them experience a coldness and deadness in prayer such as ordinary people seldom experience, and none could endure in such times if their love for God were not very deep and strong, ruling and sustaining the will.”

—Fr. Basil W. Maturin, Spiritual Guidelines for Souls Seeking God

Living with the Trinity

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 02:35
Living with the Trinity

Presence of God – O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, take me into Your embrace and deign to admit me to intimacy with You.

MEDITATION

If we wish the great gift of the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity to bear its full fruit of intimate friendship with the three divine Persons, we must become accustomed to living with the Trinity, since it is impossible to have a real bond of friendship with someone if, after offering him the hospitality of our home, we immediately forget him. In order to live with the Trinity, it is not necessary to feel God’s presence within us; this is a grace which He may give or withhold. It is sufficient to be grounded in the faith by which we know with certitude that the three divine Persons are dwelling within us. By relying on this reality which we cannot see, feel, or understand, but which we know with certainty because it has been revealed by God, we can direct ourselves toward a life of true union with the Blessed Trinity.

First, we should consider the three divine Persons present within us, in Their indivisible unity. We already know that everything done by the Trinity “ad extra,” that is, outside the Godhead, is the work of all three divine Persons without distinction; hence, this applies to Their action in our soul. All Three dwell equally in us. They are there simultaneously and They all produce the same effects in us. All Three diffuse grace and love in us; They enlighten us, offer us Their friendship and love us with one and the same love. Still this does not prevent each of Them from being present in our soul with the characteristics proper to His Person: the Father is there as the source and origin of the divinity and of all being; the Word is present as the splendor of the Father, as light; the Holy Spirit, as the fruit of the love of the Father and of the Son. Each divine Person, then, loves us in His own personal way and offers us His special gift. The Father offers us His most sweet paternity; the Son clothes us with His shining light; the Holy Spirit penetrates us with His ardent love. And we, insignificant creatures, should try to realize that we have such great gifts, so that we may fully profit by them.

COLLOQUY

“O my God, Trinity whom I adore! Help me to become wholly forgetful of self, that I may be immovably rooted in Thee, as changeless and calm as though my soul were already in eternity. May nothing disturb my peace or draw me forth from Thee, O my unchanging Lord, but may I, at every moment, penetrate more deeply into the depths of Thy mystery!

“Establish my soul in peace; make it Thy heaven, Thy cherished abode, and the place of Thy rest. Let me never leave Thee alone, but remain ever there, all absorbed in Thee, in living faith, plunged in adoration, and wholly yielded up to Thy creative action!

“O my Christ whom I love! Crucified for love! Would that I might be the bride of Thy heart! Would that I might cover Thee with glory and love Thee … even until I die of love! Yet I realize my weakness and beseech Thee to clothe me with Thyself, to identify my soul with all the movements of Thine own. Immerse me in Thyself; possess me wholly; substitute Thyself for me, that my life may be but a radiance of Thy life. Enter my soul as Adorer, as Restorer, as Savior!

“O eternal Word, Utterance of my God! I long to spend my life in listening to Thee, to become wholly ‘teachable,’ that I may learn all from Thee! Through all darkness, all privations, all helplessness, I yearn to keep my eyes ever upon Thee and to dwell beneath Thy great light. O my beloved Star! so fascinate me that I may be unable to withdraw myself from Thy rays!

“O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love! Come down into me and reproduce in me, as it were, an incarnation of the Word, that I may be to Him a super-added humanity, wherein He may renew all His mystery! And Thou, O Father, bend down toward Thy poor little creature and overshadow her, beholding in her none other than Thy beloved Son in whom Thou art well pleased.

“O my ‘Three,’ my all, my beatitude, infinite solitude, immensity wherein I lose myself! I yield myself to Thee as Thy prey. Immerse Thyself in me that I may be immersed in Thee until I depart to contemplate in Thy light the abyss of Thy greatness!” (St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, Elevation to the Most Holy Trinity).

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Note from Dan: These posts are 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 living with the Trinity: Angels at Mamre (Holy Trinity) Icon, Andrei Rublev (1360-1430), 1411 or 1425-27, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, published in the U.S. prior to January 1, 1923, 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, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, and his newest books Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep and Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux. 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.

Why It Matters That God is Justice and Mercy

Sun, 07/09/2017 - 22:07

It can be easy to think God is sometimes angry and sometimes merciful.

And it is true that sometimes His mercy may be more apparent while at other times His judgment seems to be the forefront, as St. Thomas Aquinas says.

But in all His works, God’s justice is never without His mercy and vice versa, according to Aquinas, who devotes Article 4 of Question 21 in the Summa Theologica to this truth.

This should be both a bit jarring and comforting to us. It means that even when it seems that God is at His angriest with us or when we seem most deserving of His judgment and condemnation that His mercy is too far away either. But it also means that in His mercy doesn’t occur without also making things right. Put another way: there is no mercy without repentance and renouncing of sin and self.

But why do justice and mercy always go together in God?

Our answer starts with the traditional doctrine of the absolute simplicity of God.

This is best explained by way of contrast with creatures. We’re certainly not simple. To begin with, we have bodies and souls. God, on the other hand, is pure spirit. (The Incarnation did not change God. Rather, in the Incarnation God assumed human nature, changing humanity.)

But the differences do not stop here. Even in the realm of the immaterial, there is composition within us where there is none in God. Some of us have wisdom, prudence, and courage. But not all of us do. These are characteristics that we acquire. In the very odd-sounding terminology of Thomism we would say that wisdom was an ‘accident’—that is something added on to our being or substance.

In creatures, accidents, or characteristics are something we gain or lose. A white table can become stained with use. Wine can sour. Wise men can become fools and the powerful can become weak.

It should be apparent now God does not have any ‘characteristics’ in the sense of ‘accidents’ that are added on. God cannot lose His wisdom and power; otherwise, He’d be less than God. God, the creator of the universe, cannot lose His power. What could possibly take it away from Him? Likewise, as one who is all-knowing how could God lose His wisdom?

Moreover, if He acquired power and wisdom then He was once not God and but became so, acquiring them from somewhere or someone else. And that would put us deep into rabbit hole of heresy and pantheism, believing in another god as the source of power and wisdom. (For more on why God does not have ‘accidents’ see Aquinas here.)

Thus, the very concept of an all-knowing, all-powerful God requires that He be every ‘characteristic’ He ‘has.’ Here is the example St. Augustine offers, speaking directly of God the Father’s greatness and wisdom:

[W]hy is He not also the Father of His own greatness by which He is great, and of His own goodness by which He is good, and of His own justice by which He is just, and whatever else there is?

In other words, Augustine is reminding us that God is the source of His own greatness, goodness, justice, wisdom, and power. Because these things are not acquired from anywhere else they are God’s very being. If this is true, then God is His own attributes, at least those we could positively affirm of Him. He is His own goodness. And He is His own greatness, wisdom, and power because they are indistinguishable from His being. As Augustine puts it,

Or if all these things are understood, although under more names than one, to be in the same wisdom and power, so that that is greatness which is power, that is goodness which is wisdom, and that again is wisdom which is power, as we have already argued; then let us remember, that when I mention any one of these, I am to be taken as if I mentioned all.

And again:

[I]t is not one thing to Him to be great and another to be God …For as He is great, only with that greatness which He begot, so also He is, only with that essence which He begot; because it is not one thing to Him to be, and another to be great. Is He therefore the Father of His own essence, in the same way as He is the Father of His own greatness, as He is the Father of His own power and wisdom? Since His greatness is the same as His power, and His essence the same as His greatness.

This brings us back to our present topic, regarding God’s justice and mercy. We know that God has justice. We also know that He is merciful. Because of our understanding of who God is, thanks to Augustine and Aquinas, we also know that mercy and justice are not some added-on qualities that God got from someone else. They are intrinsic to who He is.

To paraphrase Augustine from above, it is not one thing to Him to be and another to be merciful. His essence is the same as His mercy. And likewise, His essence is the same as His justice. This helps to explain why justice and mercy—together—are present in all of God’s works.

For us it means that in the face of the injustices of the world, God’s justice endures nonetheless. It may seem like there is no justice in the world but that’s not because God has lost His justice. And conversely for sinners—that is, all of us—it means that God’s mercy is never far behind His judgment. And it means that just as there is justice and mercy in everything God does, so also is there wisdom, power, and greatness.

image: Christ our Gateway to Life by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Ministry in Matrimony & the Destruction of Divorce

Sun, 07/09/2017 - 22:05

Our culture tends to take one of two opposing views on marriage. One is that “happily ever after” is yours so long as you find the right person. The other is that once you say the words “I do” your freedom is gone forever and your life is over (at least until a judge determines otherwise).
But the sacrament of marriage, rightly understood, is a ministry, a service, the lifelong advancement of two souls striving to sanctify themselves, one another, and the children that may come of their union. With the ceremony comes a vocation in mission, as well as a cross.

Jesus’ ministry began similarly: it was at the wedding feast that he performed his first miracle, turning water into wine. And so his earthly ministry began, as did his path to the Cross.

Marriage is hard, but the sacred institution is meant for our good and the good of our children, the Church, and society.

There is a saying, “blood is thicker than water,” and yet the closest, most intimate relationship on earth is that between a man and a woman who share not an ounce of the same blood, but are sacramentally united. And from this union God brings forth new life, with all the joys and responsibilities and burdens that come with raising children.

It is the sacred duty of parents to provide not only for their children’s physical needs, but their spiritual and emotional growth as well. And children are very willing to be tiny disciples, looking to their parents with trust and love, asking endless questions, and studying their every word and deed, what is “caught” and what is taught.

As adopted sons and daughters of God, we are told to be like children in the faith, trusting that our Father knows what we need (Matt. 6:8). We are to rely on God and place our trust in Him. The Gospel of Luke asks us: “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” (Luke 11:11-13). Like a good earthly father, our Heavenly Father always desires our good and acts accordingly.

Yet how many children and adults have had that faith, trust, and reliance in their earthly father and mother shattered through divorce?

It was the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage that brought my husband to the Catholic faith. And it was his conviction that ultimately brought me to the Church years later. It’s a common draw for children of divorce: the Church as Mother, God as Father, the emphasis on the priest as “Father” and the Blessed Virgin Mary as mother to us all. For me, this was an unexpected gift received with conversion: the restoration of family and the importance of family.

There is so much confusion and heartbreak in our culture today that divorce seems an almost quaint problem. But that is not so for the children of divorce, no matter how much time has passed. Time does not heal all wounds; many of them change and morph over time. This brokenness becomes more apparent with time as parents age, remarry, re-divorce, and grandchildren enter the picture.

There is no easy ministry, no simple mission, and no vocation that comes without crosses. There is no shortcut to that 50th wedding anniversary. Tolstoy began Anna Karenina with the line, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

But reading the book Primal Loss: The Now Adult Children of Divorce Speak by Leila Miller, provides ample evidence that despite the circumstances, the effects of divorce on children are remarkably similar. The seventy anonymous authors write of a common and shared pain. As Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted wrote: “Primal Loss records for us the actual pain of those most wounded by divorce—children. This makes it countercultural in the best of ways. Some suffering today is not allowed to be called suffering. It is not politically correct to say that children suffer greatly from the divorce of their parents.”

While the breakdown of the family, and its effects, become more apparent with each passing day, the faithful search for answers. And an intact marriage, with a loving mother and father, is a deep desire of both children and adults—which makes sense, because this union mirrors the love of Christ for the Church. There is great hope in those spouses who have embraced the ministry of marriage and remain committed to raising their children together for the glory of God our Father and Holy Mother Church—despite the crosses that inevitably come their way.

There is no greater force against evil in the world than the love of a man and woman in marriage.
—Cardinal Raymond Burke

The Young Girl and the Sea

Sun, 07/09/2017 - 22:02

St. Thérèse loved the sea. When she first saw it, she was captivated by its majesty:

I was six or seven years old when Papa brought us to Trouville. Never will I forget the impression the sea made upon me; I couldn’t take my eyes off it since its majesty, the roaring of its waves, everything spoke to my soul of God’s grandeur and power. (Ms A, 21v)

Thérèse beheld the sea, and she peered into the mystery of God. In her writings, though cloistered in landlocked Lisieux, she remained the young girl pondering the majestic sea. She used images from the sea in frequent and various ways. For a summertime reflection, let’s focus on one theme.

For Thérèse, the sea symbolized the greatness of Jesus’ love for her. She often wrote of the “shoreless ocean of Your Love.” In a beautiful way, she used this image as she retells her first Holy Communion:

Ah! how sweet was that first kiss of Jesus! It was a kiss of love; I felt that I was loved, and I said: “I love You, and I give myself to You forever!” There were no demands made, no struggles, no sacrifices; for a long time now Jesus and poor little Thérèse looked at and understood each other. That day, it was no longer simply a look, it was a fusion; they were no longer two, Thérèse had vanished as a drop of water is lost in the immensity of the ocean. Jesus alone remained. (Ms A, 35r, emphasis added)

Thérèse undoubtedly rejoiced in Jesus’ sea-sized love, but she didn’t stop there. Her personal motto was to return love for love. If Jesus’ love for her was as big as the sea, then she wanted her love for him to be just as big. She knew that Jesus thirsts for love, and she dared to quench his thirst with a whole ocean. Yet how could her love—so human and limited—be the size of the ocean?

Love attracts love, and, my Jesus, my love leaps toward Yours; it would like to fill the abyss which attracts it, but alas! it is not even like a drop of dew lost in the ocean! (Ms C, 35r, emphasis added)

Standing on the shore of Jesus’ infinite love, Thérèse confronts her littleness. Jesus is greater than the ocean. Thérèse is less than a drop. She accepts her littleness, but with childlike boldness, she continues:

For me to love You as You love me, I would have to borrow Your own Love, and then only would I be at rest. (Ms C, 35r, emphasis added)

God’s shoreless ocean and Thérèse’s drop are not to remain separate. By grace, God will unite Thérèse to himself. His love will fill her heart, and with this selfsame love, Thérèse will return love for love. She wrote to her sister Céline:

Let us remain joyfully His drop, His single drop of dew!… And to this drop that has consoled Him during the exile, what will He not give us in the homeland?… He tells us Himself: “He who is thirsty, let him come to me and drink,” and so Jesus is and will be our ocean…. Like the thirsty hind, we long for this water that is promised to us, but our consolation is great: to be the ocean of Jesus also. (LT 142, emphasis added)

In this life, she will be but a drop for Jesus. But in the next, she will be almost like his ocean. Yes, she will remain finite, but for heaven’s eternity, Jesus and Thérèse will exchange love for love.

Whether we are at the seashore or in the church pew, let us meditate on the shoreless love of Jesus’ love for each of us. And like Thérèse, let us ask for the grace to be united to God and to return love for love. In our littleness, we offer ourselves as a little drop to Jesus. And in our boldness, we beg him to share with us his sea-sized love that our heaven will be an eternal exchange of love.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Dominicanathe Dominican student blog of the Province of St. Joseph, and is reprinted here with kind permission. 

The Gospel reading narrates two

Sun, 07/09/2017 - 22:00

The Gospel reading narrates two miracles of Jesus: the cure of the woman with the severe bleeding merely by her touching the cloak of Jesus and the bringing back to life of the young daughter of the synagogue official. Is our faith ever as strong as the woman’s who believed that by merely touching the cloak of Jesus she would be cured? And she was cured.

In the first reading we hear Jacob making a vow to God, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac.

Our faith in God is tested in difficult times, in unexpected tragedies, when we have great disasters in nature, when we see disease and unexpected deaths. We do not understand why. And yet we know God does not cause evil things to happen; he allows evil things to happen.

We may not have the strong faith of the woman with the severe bleeding or of the synagogue official who believed that Jesus could bring her daughter back to life. Let us pray that God would give us such strong faith.

“So, the beauty of nature

Sun, 07/09/2017 - 22:00

“So, the beauty of nature reflects the beauty of God. For those who will not close their eyes, and who harden not their hearts, beautiful things are seen as the fingerprints of God. ‘A whirlwind and clouds are the dust of His feet.’ All things are His messengers, making known His goodness, His justice, and His power.”

-Fr. Killian J. Healy, O. Carm, Awakening Your Soul to the Presence of God

Saints Antony and Theodosius

Sun, 07/09/2017 - 22:00

Antony and his successor, Theodosius, are credited with being the founders of Russian monasticism. The monastery they founded in Kiev was not the first monastery in Russia, but it was the first established by Russians for Russians.

Saint Antony, born in the Ukraine, was a hermit at Mount Athos around 1028 when his abbot sent him back to Russia where he built a hermitage at Kiev on the Dnieper River. His wisdom and holiness attracted followers and eventually the Caves of Kiev were built on land granted by Prince Syaslav. Antony established another monastery at Chernigov but returned to his cave at Kiev and lived there for the rest of his life.

Antony’s work was continued by Theodosius, the son of well-to-do parents, who had become a monk at the Caves of Kiev in 1032. When he became abbot, he replaced Antony’s austere way of monastic life with a more moderate approach and stressed the need for corporal works of mercy as well as prayer and mortification. He expanded the monastery, adding a hospital and hostel, and the Caves of Kiev eventually developed into a great monastery.

Other Saints We Remember Today

The 7 Holy Brothers (2nd Century) and Saints Rufina and Secunda (257), Martyrs

St. Ulric (973), Bishop of Augsburg

The 19 Martyrs of Gorkum

Sat, 07/08/2017 - 22:00

On July 9, 1572, nineteen priests and religious were put to death by hanging at Briel, the Netherlands. They had been captured in Gorkum on June 26 by a band of Calvinist pirates called the Watergeuzen (sea-beggars) who were opposed to the Catholicism of the Spanish princes of the country.

During their imprisonment, the priests were tortured, subjected to countless indignities, and offered their freedom if they would deny the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the primacy of the pope. Despite a letter from Prince William of Orange ordering their release and protests from the magistrates of Gorkum, the men were thrown half-naked into the hold of a ship on July 6, and taken to Briel to be killed in the presence of a Protestant nobleman, Admiral Lumey, who was noted for his hatred of Catholicism. Their bodies, mutilated both before and after death, were callously thrown into a ditch.

The scene of the martyrdom soon became a place of pilgrimage. Accounts of several miracles, performed through the martyrs’ intercession and relics, were used for their beatification. Most of their relics are kept in the Franciscan church at Brussels to which they were secretly conveyed from Briel in 1616.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Augustine Zhao Rong , Priest, Martyr, and Companions, (1815) Chinese Martyrs

St. Maria Goretti (1902), Virgin and Martyr [This is her traditional feast day in some areas.]

Blessed Adrian Fortescue

Fri, 07/07/2017 - 22:00

Adrian Fortescue was born in 1476 to an old, respected Devonshire family at Punbourne, England, and was a cousin of Anne Boleyn. A country gentleman, he was married twice and had two daughters by his first marriage and three sons by the second. He became a Dominican tertiary at Oxford, was a knight of the Bath, and was in frequent attendance at the royal court. He also served as a justice of the peace for Oxford County, fought in France in 1513 and 1523, was in Queen Catherine’s retinue on her trip to Calais, and attended Anne Boleyn at her coronation, even though he opposed Henry VIII’s divorce and remarriage. For all his honors, however, he lived for the most part a quiet life in the country, thrifty in business, careful with his accounts, and a collector of homely wit and wisdom. He was also deeply religious.

His orderly, peaceful life ended when, by a whim of King Henry VIII, Sir Adrian was arrested on August 29, 1534, with no reason being given for the arrest. He was released in the spring of the following year but was again arrested February 3, 1539, after he refused to take the Oath of Supremacy, which declared the King of England the “Supreme Head of the Church of England.” He was sent to the Tower of London and condemned in April for treason, but what the treason was never was stated. The decree against him, however, went on to call for the death of Cardinal Pole and several others because they “adhered themselves to the Bishop of Rome” and it is a commonly held belief that Sir Adrian died for the same reason. He was beheaded in July 1539 along with Venerable Thomas Dingley at Tower Hill, London. He was beatified in 1895 and has always had a following by the Knights of St. John, the order of which Sir Adrian was a member.

Confronting Death in a Culture of Avoidance

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 22:07

Death comes to us all. It is a hard reality, but it is a reality that we can face with hope through our faith in Christ Jesus. Meanwhile, we live in a culture that largely ignores death. We hear mantras such as “You only live once” or “Live today like it is your last”, but these are typically expressions to assuage guilt over leading an immoral life. The reality of death is also ignored by the majority of people because death is something that is hidden or locked away in Western culture until we are faced with it. The only time it seems to be discussed is when a group is pushing for “mercy” through euthanasia.

I know I have largely lived as if death was some far-off reality. This makes little sense since I was a 9/11 relief worker and confronted the hard realities of violence and death at 20 years of age. I profess, along with my fellow Catholics, the teachings of the Church each Sunday which discuss the Last Things. It was not until recently, when my husband’s health took a dramatic turn, that I began to confront death. We are confronting it together, as married couples must.

Two months ago, I woke up at 4:30 AM to my husband yelling for me. He was standing over our sink coughing up a large quantity of bright red blood. He had coughed up blood a few years ago and had a lesion on his lungs, but it healed and we thought it was some kind of fluke. It wasn’t. Instead, what happened a few years ago was the first sign of symptoms of a mysterious disease. Over the course of the last couple of months, doctors have ruled out every normal possibility from tuberculosis to bronchitis to fungal infections. He’s been negative on every single test and more cavitary lesions (holes, for lack of a better word) continue to form in his lungs. We are now faced with a series of intense tests to definitively see if my husband has a very rare disease known as pulmonary vasculitis. He will have an open lung biopsy performed by a thoracic surgeon in the next couple of weeks along with a MRI, MRA, even more bloodwork, and the list goes on. A neurologist has also been brought in to begin seeing if he has the even rarer form of brain vasculitis. It’s a difficult disease to diagnose and treat. It comes with serious risks, including premature death.

This period has been marked by immense grace. God truly gives us the strength we need to confront the hardships of this life as they come. It doesn’t mean any of this is easy.

I can’t make it through daily Mass without sobbing right now. I continually pray for my husband to be made a saint before the end. It is a prayer that has welled up from deep springs within me that I didn’t even know existed until now. My first prayer was not, “Heal him”, it was “Please Lord, make him a saint before the end.” Instead, my husband and I have found ourselves in the Garden of Gethsemane asking for God to take this, but that His will be done. It has revealed to us immense strength and shown us how the Holy Spirit is working within our marriage as we go through this period of refinement. It is the eventual letting go of our own desires, dreams, and will so that we may be conformed to God. It isn’t easy to let go of those dreams, but we are confident that God will work for our good in all of this, even if death is coming sooner than we had hoped for my husband. We don’t know, yet. We should have a full diagnosis in August. Until then, we continue to pray and plan for best and worst-case scenarios, including those painful, but necessary discussions about funeral Masses, burial, bills, and how our daughter and I will be taken care of when he is gone. There is even grace in these deeply hard discussions.

As Catholics, we need to meet death in hope and courage. We live in a culture that is obsessed with unnatural ways to die, but that ignores death in the day-to-day. Moral therapeutic deism has infected certain circles of the Church and funeral Masses have been turned into superficial warm and fuzzy occasions. We have an obligation in charity to pray for the dead. Purgatory is doctrine and it is a possibility for all of us who do not die ready for Heaven, but in a state of grace. Funerals are not remembrance services. They are great acts of charity as we pray for the repose of the soul of our loved ones and commend them to God. If we live in this knowledge, then we can be more prepared when mortality shows itself in full force within our marriages and our lives. We must confront death as Catholics, not as something artificial, counterfeit, or false. Our hope is in Jesus Christ and we are called to holiness, including abandonment of all things to God. We are called to be saints.

The strength God is giving to my husband is awe-inspiring to behold. It is a strength that can only come from God. My husband is able to pick me up when I stumble on the path because the weight of all of this becomes too much. As Phil and I walk together, deep well-springs of living water come out of the depths to refresh us, so that we can confront a new series of intense, scary, and extremely expensive medical tests. We can trust that God will provide, even if it means my husband will leave me a young widow. This is all grace. We have been given a gift to prepare should my husband die. We can be prepared, strengthened, and sanctified through this period. We have an opportunity to love one another more deeply now. If we ignore death and pretend that it is off in the distant horizon, then we miss out on an opportunity to grow in holiness and to experience the depths of love that can only be explored in death. If the disease takes many years, we have been the gift of truly living the life of love and holiness God desired for us through the good that could only be brought about by this pain. Suffering is a requirement for holiness. We must be purified and refined, if not in this life, then in Purgatory. It is not easy and I am astounded at my ability to confront this pain and suffering. In reality it isn’t me, it’s Christ within me. Let us boldly live as Catholics even unto death. Please pray for us during this time.

In my beginning is my end. In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth
Which is already flesh, fur, and faeces,
Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.
Houses live and die: there is a time for building
And a time for living and for generation
And a time for the wind to break the loosened pane
And to shake the wainscot where the field mouse trots
And to shake the tattered arras woven with a silent motto. 

In my beginning is my end.  Now the light falls
Across the open field, leaving the deep lane
Shuttered with branches, dark in the afternoon,
Where you lean against a bank while a van passes,
And the deep lane insists on the direction
Into the village, in the electric heat
Hypnotized. In a warm haze the sultry light
Is absorbed, not reflected, by grey stone.
The dahlias sleep in the empty silence.
Wait for the early owl.
In that open field
If you do not come too close, if you do not come too close,
On a summer midnight, you can hear the music
Of the weak pipe and the little drum
And see them dancing around the bonfire
The association of man and woman
In daunsinge, signifying matrimonie—
A dignified and commodiois sacrament.
Two and two, necessarye coniunction,
Holding eche other by the hand or the arm
Whiche betokeneth concorde. Round and round the fire
Leaping through the flames, or joined in circles,
Rustically solemn or in rustic laughter
Lifting heavy feet in clumsy shoes,
Earth feet, loam feet, lifted in country mirth
Mirth of those long since under earth
Nourishing the corn. Keeping time,
Keeping the rhythm in their dancing
As in their living in the living seasons
The time of the seasons and the constellations
The time of milking and the time of harvest
The time of the coupling of man and woman
And that of beasts.  Feet rising and falling.
Eating and drinking.  Dung and death.
Dawn points, and another day
Prepares for heat and silence. Out at sea the dawn wind
Wrinkles and slides. I am here
Or there, or elsewhere. In my beginning.

From T.S. Eliot’s “East Coker”
(My father read this poem to my grandfather as he died).

image: Domenico di Bartolo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Does Life Feel like a Chore?

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 22:05

I once knew a woman who called herself “a recovering Catholic.”  It seems that as a child, she was taught a religion that was all about guilt.  Impossible demands were placed on her requiring strenuous efforts that were doomed to frustration.  Turn the other cheek.  Don’t even THINK about romantic flings.  Love your enemies.

Attempting this by sheer willpower was all too much for her, leading to an abiding sense of guilt.  No wonder she rejected such a religion.

But clearly, what she rejected was not the religion of Jesus Christ. It rather resembles the approach of the Pharisees, who laid heavy burdens on people’s backs, but did not lift a finger to help.

In Matthew 11:25-30, Jesus appeals to those who experience life as one unending chore.  He offers rest and refreshment.  His yoke is easy, he says.  His burden is light.

Note though, that following Jesus does mean that you are foot-loose and fancy-free.  To be a “disciple” means to come under the “discipline” of a master.  It means voluntarily putting a yoke on ones shoulders, and walking in a direction set by the master.  It just happens to be the direction that the master knows will lead to pasture, refreshment, and happiness.  But when oxen are told to move, they can’t necessarily see the pasture at the end of the trail.  All they see is a long, dusty road leading to nowhere.

There are some masters that are harsh and overbearing.  When the oxen slow down due to fatigue or stubbornness, out comes the bullwhip.  The journey turns into a guilt trip.  The Pharisees were such masters.  But Jesus is not.  He is gentle.  Gentleness does not mean wimpiness.  He is strong and decisive, insistent on the direction to go and the pace to keep.  Yet his strength is quiet, loving strength that builds up rather than tears down.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus uses the image of the yoke?  At least two oxen are hitched together by a yoke side by side.   Oxen are called “beasts of burden.”  So why does he call his yoke easy, his burden light?

Because the Lord humbly yokes himself to us.  Simon of Cyrene helped carry his cross; he helps carry ours.  And he bears most of the weight, if we let him.  That’s why his yoke is easy.  And he gives us His Spirit within (Ro 8:9-10) to provide the inner strength to bear our share of the burden, which is, of course, the far lesser share to begin with.

Easy yoke, light burden.  You may reply that it sure doesn’t feel that way most of the time.  This could be for one of two reasons.  What we are carrying may simply not be the Lord’s yoke.  Sometimes we deliberately disobey the Lord (that’s called sin) and allow a tyrannical master to dominate our lives.  No problem.  That’s what the sacrament of baptism is all about–renouncing an oppressive Pharaoh in favor of a liberating Lord.  If we’ve betrayed our baptism and gone back to the fleshpots of Egypt, we have the sacrament of penance to bring us back across the Red Sea to the Promised Land of Freedom.

The other reason the yoke may seem heavy is because we are not allowing the Lord to carry the weight.  Or because we are not keeping his pace.  We could be dragging our heels or racing ahead of him.  Either way, we are chafing and straining.  Perhaps we need just to quiet down for a few moments in the green pasture of prayer and adoration to attune our ears once again to the voice of the Master.  The solution is easy: Let go and let God.

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Marcellino D’Ambrosio (aka “Dr. Italy”) writes from Texas.  Connect with him at DrItaly.com or on social media @DrItaly.

This is offered as a reflection upon the readings for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, liturgical cycle A (Zechariah 9:9-10, Romans 8:9,11-13; Matthew 11:25-30).  It appears here with the permission of the author.

Scripture Speaks:“My Burden is Light”

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 22:02

In the Gospel, Jesus extends a paradoxical invitation:  Take up a “yoke” to find rest.  What did He mean?

Gospel (Read Mt 11:25-30)

Today’s reading is best understood in its context within Matthew’s Gospel.  In the preceding verses, Jesus upbraids some of the cities of Galilee for refusing to repent and believe in Him as Israel’s Messiah, even though they had seen Him perform many “mighty works.”  Their proud resistance to Jesus, the carpenter’s Son, brought them spiritual blindness.  Because He had revealed so much to them without a response of repentance and faith, He warned them:  “…it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you” (Mt 11:24).

It was “at that time” that Jesus turned to His Father with praise and gratitude:  “I give praise to You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, You have revealed them to little ones.”  Jesus here contrasts the “wisdom” and “learning” of the religious leaders of the people, the scribes and Pharisees, to the simplicity of “little ones.”  Opposition to Jesus always came from the ones who prided themselves on their knowledge of Scripture and the tradition of the Jews in the Mosaic Law.  Their knowledge, sadly, didn’t lead them to humility.  The power they derived from their privileged positions corrupted them, so much so that Jesus once told the people:  “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach but do not practice.  They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger” (Mt 23:2-3).  The Law of Moses was meant to be a joy for God’s people, showing them the path to life.  It was to be an escape from sin, into which all of us are born, that was even more liberating than their escape from physical slavery in Egypt (see CCC 2057).  However, through pride and hard hearts, the “wise” and “learned” manipulated and added so much to the Law that it became a crushing burden on the very people it was meant to free.

Now, Jesus announces that it is the Father’s will to reveal Himself and His truth to the ones least likely to expect it—the “little ones.”  So many times Jesus told His followers they must become as children to enter the kingdom of God.  Children know and accept their utter dependence on their parents for everything they need. That simple humility becomes the counterpoint to the pride of those whose learning gives them power.  “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

Jesus says He will be the One to reveal God to those seeking Him, but not in an arbitrary, selective way:  “Come to Me, all…”.  His invitation to share the intimate knowledge of the Father that is His through Sonship goes out to all who have the humility to accept it.  Jesus knew that religion that did not lead to a relationship with God left its practitioner with a heavy burden—the weight of his own sin, as well as the unfulfilled longing of his heart to know his Creator.  To that weary soul, Jesus promised rest, but in a paradoxical way.  The rest would not come in cessation of activity but in taking on the “yoke” of Jesus.  A yoke always forms a communion—a farmer yokes an animal to a plough, and together they dig up the soil.  One animal is yoked to another, and together they share the burden of the work.   When we take the yoke of Jesus upon ourselves and learn from Him, we discover that He has perfectly fulfilled God’s Law for us.  As St. Paul tells us, Jesus “emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men…He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7-8).  When we are yoked to Jesus, we are yoked to His humble obedience.  At long last, we “find rest” for ourselves.  We are no longer alone.  The yoke of Jesus, although it requires self-denial, is “easy” and His “burden light,” because we share it with Him.

Who would turn down an invitation like this?

Possible response:  Lord Jesus, I have often made my burdens in life heavier by trying to bear them alone.  Help me yoke myself to You today.

First Reading (Read Zech 9:9-10)

Zechariah was a prophet during the time when a remnant of Jews who had been in exile in Babylon (punishment for their serious covenant unfaithfulness) was allowed to return to Judah and to re-establish the life they had lost as God’s people (about 520 B.C.).  Zechariah sought to stir up desire and commitment to re-build the Temple in Jerusalem, the center of religious life.  Through him, the LORD gave prophetic visions of a future Messianic king who would rule over a restored kingdom of David.

Today’s reading gives us one such prophetic description:  “See, your king shall come to you; a just Savior is he; meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.”  We know, of course, that Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time riding on a donkey (see Jn 12:12-15).  A king riding a donkey instead of a powerful warhorse was the picture of humility.  King Solomon, David’s son, rode a donkey in his coronation ceremony (see 1 Kings 1:38-40).   The Davidic kings were to be like King David, who understood that the throne of Israel truly belonged to God.  Their power rested entirely in God’s hands, not in the might of their armies.  Zechariah’s prophecy tells of a king who will bring peace for all the nations, not just Israel.  The Messiah would “banish the chariot from Ephraim [a poetic name for the northern tribes of Israel] and Jerusalem; the warriors’ bow will be banished.”  This is a clear indication that the Messiah would rule His kingdom in a very different way from all the other nations (picture Jesus telling Peter to put away his sword after he lopped off a man’s ear during His arrest).  He would be a humble king, establishing peace “from sea to sea.”

This prophecy helps us understand why Jesus, hundreds of years after it was written, would describe Himself as “meek and humble of heart,” offering “rest” to the weary.  The humble Messiah had finally arrived, and only the humble could “see” Him.

Possible response:  Lord Jesus, help me remember that victories in Your kingdom are won through humility, not might.

Psalm (Read Ps 145:1-2, 8-11, 13-14)

The psalmist extols God as his “king” and God.  This truly helps us understand that God ruled over Israel, the nation He created for His very own.  The kings who sat on Israel’s throne ruled well if they understood this and practiced humility in light of it.   God is the good King Who “lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.”   When Jesus, in today’s reading, calls out to any who need to be freed from heavy burdens, He shows Himself to be the Divine King praised so wholeheartedly in this psalm.  All of us who have experienced this liberation from Jesus can sing with the psalmist:  “I will praise Your Name forever, my King and 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 Rom 8:9, 11-13)

St. Paul gives us a practical application of what happens in our lives when we respond to Jesus’ call to take His yoke upon ourselves.  The “rest” He offers is our “rest” from the weight of sin.  St. Paul tells us that, as believers, we now have God’s own Spirit living in us.  The work of the Spirit is to free us from the death-producing power of our “flesh.”   St. Paul uses this term to describe the sin that seeks to rule us as we dwell in our mortal bodies (concupiscence).  Our bodies, made in God’s image and likeness, are good, but our rebellious self-love always tries to subvert them.  Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and the devil means that believers, through baptism, have the gift of the Holy Spirit to disrupt and destroy the power of sin over us.  That is why Jesus said, “My yoke is easy, and My burden light” in our Gospel reading.  As St. Paul says, the “yoke” of Jesus will mean death to our flesh—mortification—but we are not alone in this work of liberation.  The Spirit enables us to “put to death the deeds of the body” so that we “will live.”  The heavy mastery of our own sin over us, experienced as our crushing inability to be the people we know we ought to be, is now broken.  Finally, we can find rest.

Possible response:  Holy Spirit, help me do battle with the self-love that so easily besets me.  I know all it can offer is death.

There are two key points we could

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 22:00

There are two key points we could consider from the Gospel reading today.

The first is how Matthew, the tax collector, was called by Jesus. Walking by the custom-house, Jesus sees Matthew, a tax collector, Jesus simply tells him, “Follow me!” and, without any hesitation or thought, Matthew “got up [from his seat at the custom-house] and followed him.”

Matthew’s response was one of great generosity and trust in Jesus: what did Matthew know about Jesus? What kind of a man was Matthew? Except that he was named among the Twelve, there is nothing more about Matthew in the Gospels. Matthew wrote the first Gospel which was written in Aramaic. Tradition says Matthew preached in Persia and Ethiopia. He was martyred in Ethiopia.

The second key point was Jesus’ reiteration of his mission in life, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do… I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

This was a simplified statement of his mission, as compared to what he had read and affirmed from the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and new sight to the blind; to free the oppressed and announce the Lord’s year of mercy.” “Today these prophetic words come true even as you listen.” (Lk 4:18- 19, 21)

Hence, we see Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners; we see him forgiving sin; we hear him give the parable of the Prodigal Son and the Merciful Father. We see him promising heaven to the good thief and praising the humility and faith of the publican in his parable.

We thank the Lord for his loving mercy for all of us, sinners that we are.

“In the Holy Eucharist, Christ is

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 22:00

“In the Holy Eucharist, Christ is both the Food of our souls and our Teacher and Model. Through the worthy reception of the Eucharist’s sacramental grace, we commune most intimately with our God, and so become like Him. In Holy Communion, He teaches us the life that He wishes us to lead, its special characteristics, and the laws of its progress.”

—John A. Kane, Transforming Your Life through the Eucharist

Registration Open for Fall Quarter

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 02:35
Graduate Program in Spiritual Theology

Registration is open for the Fall Quarter at the Graduate Program for Spiritual Theology. The Graduate Program is a Masters-level certification program in spiritual theology. Students study the mystical tradition of the Church while incorporating what they learn into their own spiritual lives. The program equips students to teach others the richness of the mystical tradition.

Below is a list of the courses being offered in the upcoming Fall Quarter.

Introduction to Spiritual Theology: Taught by Dr. Joseph Holcraft, this systematic presentation of Spiritual Theology and the principles of spiritual direction is geared toward personal appropriation for those involved in the apostolate. Lecture topics include the universal call to holiness, the indwelling of the Trinity, the nature and stages of Christian perfection, the supernatural organism and the Christian life, identification with Jesus and Mary, kinds and stages of prayer, the means to spiritual maturity appropriate for the various states of life, discernment of spirits, and ordinary and extraordinary mystical phenomena.

Theology of Divine Mercy and Suffering: Taught by Dr. Michael Gama, this course will explore the theology of mercy, the spiritual doctrine of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Saint Maria Faustina, Saint Teresa of Calcutta, and Saint John Paul II. These are thematically surveyed in relation to the realities of conversion and suffering in the Christian life. In light of these modern day witnesses and the teachings of Pope Francis and Pope Benedict, Divine Mercy remains the dominant spiritual theme of our era and a key to approaching the new evangelization.

Evangelical Counsels and the Beatitudes: Taught by Dr. Ben Nguyen, this course covers the nature and call of poverty, chastity and obedience and how they are means to beatitude. These vows that many religious take are also the evangelical counsels and can be lived out in varying degrees by all Christians.

We hope you can join us for the fall quarter of the Graduate Program at the Avila Institute. Apply here.

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Photographs of Dr. Holcraft, Dr. Gama, and Dr. Nguyen for this post on the fall quarter of the Avila Institue Graduate Program used with permission.

About Dylan Jedlovec

Dylan Jedlovec is an Operations Administrative Assistant at the Avila Foundation, parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and Divine Intimacy Radio. Finishing up an undergraduate degree in Marketing and Economics from Samford University, Dylan is first and foremost a disciple of Christ and a son of the Church. Dylan has a heart for evangelization on college campuses, and has worked closely with FOCUS as a student missionary and served as President of the Catholic Student Association at Samford. As a member of the University Fellows Program at Samford, Dylan developed a love for the writings of the Saints, particularly the Doctors of the Church, through his studies of the core texts of the Western Intellectual Tradition. This love for the rich intellectual tradition of the faith brought him to the Avila Foundation, where he seeks to further the kingdom through feeding Christ’s sheep. In his free time, Dylan enjoys watching baseball, reading, hiking, running, and lifting weights (although you can’t really tell).

 

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

The Mystery of the Trinity that We Forget

Wed, 07/05/2017 - 22:07

Three persons, one in being.

This principle for understanding the Trinity is drilled into the minds of all orthodox Christians. God is one in being yet three persons. The principle of three persons and one in being means that each of the persons is fully God: the Father is God. The Son, Jesus, is God. And so is the Holy Spirit.

Most of our attempts to grasp at this great truth only feebly explain how three can be one. Usually this is done by way of analogy. There are the simple everyday analogies, such as the three-legged stool and the shamrock. There are more profound analogies as well, such as St. Augustine’s insight that the memory, understanding, and will in the mind of a person are an imperfect image of the Trinity.

But we can take this line of thought one leap further.

Since each of the persons is fully God each is closely entwined with the other and even ‘abides’ or ‘dwells in’ the other. Jesus is in the Father. The Father is in Jesus. Because they have the same being or nature, the persons are not ‘outside’ each other but ‘inside’ or ‘abiding in’ each other.

This may sound strange, but it’s exactly what the Gospel of John says:

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works (John 14:10).

Likewise, Jesus declares:

Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you (John 16:15).

The Holy Spirit is discussed in the same fashion:

But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you (John 16-13-14).

The late Church Fathers coined a unique term to describe this mutual interpenetration and indwelling of the divine persons: perichoresis. The use of the term in this context is typically traced back to St. John of Damascus, an eighth century Father. He described it this way:

The subsistences [persons] dwell and are established firmly [perichoresis] in one another. For they are inseparable and cannot part from one another, but keep to their separate courses within one another, without coalescing or mingling, but cleaving to each other. For the Son is in the Father and the Spirit: and the Spirit in the Father and the Son: and the Father in the Son and the Spirit, but there is no coalescence or commingling or confusion. And there is one and the same motion: for there is one impulse and one motion of the three subsistences, which is not to be observed in any created nature.

Just where does perichoresis come from? A popular explanation is that it derives from the Greek word for dance, whose root also led to our word chorus. As compelling an explanation as this is, the etymology is incorrect: in confuses two ancient Greek words that differ by one vowel. (For more on that, see here.)

Instead, perichoresis derives from perichōreō, which means to go around (sources here and here). This is a result of the prefix peri-, meaning around, and the verb chōreō, the word for making space or room or giving place, according to one lexicon. This verb, fittingly, is based on the noun chōra, defined as space or place. This etymology highlights the twofold meaning of the verb. As one author explains:

Therefore, [chōreō] in the meaning of space is conceived in the Greek language as she that receives and embraces everything, because basically the verb [chōreō] means to cede a place to or to make a room for something. However, someone might prefer to say that space is the greatest because it is the only thing that extends everywhere. [J]ust as the space can be perceived in two ways—now as something extending or spreading, and now as something receiving and containing—similarly, the verb [chōreō] also behaves in two ways. …

In other words, built into this idea of the Greek word for space is this dual notion of space extending everywhere and also receiving everything. This duality still is built into our English word space. We clean our homes to make space for someone or something. Space is also the great out-there, the infinite vacuum of the universe that holds all the stars and galaxies. (The addition of the prefix peri- seems to simply have underscored this notion of dual movement. My key source for the etymology and definition of perichoresis is here.)

In the context of the Church Fathers, perichoresis then could be defined as interpenetration and permeation: each of the persons penetrates into the other and fills Him completely. As the key source used here explains it:

[P]ermeation is a movement, for it is a process of penetration into something else and of extending itself in it (with the result of filling it completely), but at the same time it is receiving that into itself and holding it within itself.

Here we can see both the notion of space as expanding into something and the corollary notion of space making room for something else. In the context of Trinitarian theology, we could say that everything the Father has is in the Son—His divinity, His wisdom, His power, and so on. The fullness of the Father is in the Son—nothing is held back, otherwise, the Son would be less than the Father and less than true God, which would be heresy.

Conversely, the fullness of the Son is in the Father. Otherwise, the Father would have lost His wisdom and power in begetting the Son, which again would be heresy. (My emphasis on wisdom and power is intentional because it is very biblical and it is also touched upon by Sts. Thomas Aquinas and Augustine. See 1 Corinthians 1:24, On the Trinity, Book 7; and Contra Gentiles, Book 4).

Again, while this language may sound strange, it is firmly biblical. Again, John is clear on the mutual interpenetration of Father and Son. In John 17:1, Christ declares, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your Son.” Here is the notion of the Son receiving everything He has from the Father. But then Christ adds, “So that your Son may glorify you.” This last clause makes clear that the fullness of the Son is also in the Father. (Here, I am relying on the biblical understanding of glory as signifying the presence of God. For more, see here.)

Our familiar analogies of the Trinity—the stool, shamrock, and the tripartite mind—all deal with the issue of how three can be one.

But what about the question of how each of three can be in the other two? Is there another analogy—however inherently limited and feeble it must be—that could help us?

Here is one attempt: Think of music. There are the sheets of notes which a musician might read. But music can also be visualized on a computer screen, as a wave dipping up and down or a series of bars bouncing up and down. Then of course, there is the sound of the music itself. (I’m indebted to a scientist for this analogy, who applied it to a different question.) Each of these three is in the other. The sound is expressed in the visualization and the notes. And again: the notes are in the sound—certainly a discerning ear could pick them out.

Everything that is in the notes is in the visualization. And everything that is in the sound is coded in the notes. Yet they are distinct: no one would confuse the written notes for the sound, or the visualization for the written notes.

So there are these three: the sheet music, the visualization, and the sound. Each ‘interpenetrates’ and ‘permeates’ the other. But, of course, there is one ‘thing’ or ‘substance’: the music.

The truth of the Trinity is indeed a sort of divine music that calls out to us and captivates us. May we become ever more enchanted with its beauty as it draws us ever closer to the triune God.

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.