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Can you recall instances when you

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 22:00

Can you recall instances when you worked so hard and at the end accomplished nothing? Peter and his fellow-fishermen must have felt that way working all night and not catching any fish.

Yet at Christ’s word, Peter lowers their fishing nets, “Master, we have worked hard all night and caught nothing. But if you say so, I will lower the nets.”

At such a great catch of fish after a night catching nothing, Peter falls at Jesus’s knees, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

Jesus then invites Peter to a much greater fishing task, “Do not be afraid. You will catch people from now on.” And with great generosity and trust, “they brought their boats to land and followed him, leaving everything.” Just like that!

May we have faith and trust in God as Peter and his fellow-fishermen had in Christ. May we know our Lord more that we may love him more and serve him with greater generosity and fidelity.

Blessed Thomas Tsugi, martyr

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 22:00

Thomas Tsugi was born around the year 1571 in Japan, to a wealthy family of Japanese nobility. Educated by the priests of the Society of Jesus at Arima, he joined the order while quite young, around 1588. As a Jesuit, Thomas traveled Japan and became very popular as an eloquent and persuasive preacher.

Thomas was arrested and exiled to Macao because of his publicly-practiced faith. Desiring to continue his missionary work in his homeland, he returned to Japan in disguise. Suffering some moments of doubt, however, he gave in to temptations to leave the way of life he held so dear. For one day he did walk away from the order, but returned, zealously resuming his holy missionary work and life of prayer.

The Japanese authorities soon caught up with him and recaptured him. They imprisoned Thomas and sentenced him to death for his bold proclamation of the faith. In 1627 Thomas Tsugi became a martyr as he was burned to death in Nagasaki, Japan — along with several companions — for the faith. He was heard to proclaim as he died, “Praise the Lord of all nations!”

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Regina (286), Virgin, Martyr, Patroness of Poverty

St. Cloud (560), Priest, Hermit

The Long Dark Night of Mother Teresa

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 02:35

Saints have told of their spiritual torments and feelings of abandonment by God. In the sixteenth century, St. John of the Cross described the experience as “the dark night of the soul.” But we would be hard-pressed to find another saint who suffered a darkness so thick or a night so long as Mother Teresa suffered.

John of the Cross and others wrote poems and spiritual canticles to describe their sufferings in God’s absence and their frus­trated longings for the embrace of his love. Mother Teresa never did. In fact, only her spiritual directors knew of her anguish. A few of her letters to them have been made public. And using lines drawn from these letters, we can piece together the stanzas of a sort of spiritual canticle depicting Mother Teresa’s dark night of the soul:

I did not know that love could make one suffer so much . . . of pain human but caused by the divine. The more I want him, the less I am wanted. I want to love him as he has not been loved, and yet there is that separation, that terrible emptiness, that feeling of absence of God.

They say people in hell suffer eternal pain because of the loss of God . . .

In my soul I feel just this terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.

That terrible longing keeps growing, and I feel as if something will break in me one day.

Heaven from every side is closed.

I feel like refusing God.

Pray for me that I may not turn a Judas to Jesus in this painful darkness.

Never before perhaps in the history of the saints have we been given such an honest and plainspoken account of the dark night of a soul.

In Mother Teresa’s dark night, we can hear all the anguish of her century — the desolation of the poor, the cries of the unwanted children, of the atheist, of all those who can’t murmur a prayer or feel to love anymore. It was as if in some way she was bearing their sufferings. And in this she seemed in some way to be sharing too in the sufferings of Christ.

“In you, today, he wants to relive his complete submission to his Father,” she wrote in 1974 to a priest suffering his own spiritual blackness. “It does not matter what you feel, but what he feels in you . . . You and I must let him live in us and through us in the world.”

We now see these words as beautifully autobiographical, reflecting her awareness that in her emptiness and poverty she was being mystically grafted onto the life of Christ — being emptied as he was in assuming our humanity and being crucified as he was in offering himself for our sins.

After her death, it was disclosed that in her early missionary days, long before hearing her call to the poor, Mother Teresa had quietly made a private vow of spiritual espousal — to be all for Jesus and to refuse him nothing.

From her letters, we can see that she understood her darkness as an ordeal, a divine trial. In the dark night, her vow of self-offering was being put to the test. Would she really refuse him nothing, drink the cup her Lord drank, lay down her life as he had laid down his life, offer herself as he did, completely and without reserve? In her dark night, Jesus was claiming Mother Teresa for his own, pledging himself to his spiritual bride, pruning away her self-love and pride, purifying her in heart, mind, and intention, stripping away all that would keep her from total union with him.

And again using lines from her private letters, we can compose the final stanzas of Mother Teresa’s spiritual canticle, her response to her Lord and her dark night. These lines form a final prayer of self-oblation, an act of faith in which she makes herself a total gift — to share in Jesus’ Passion and in his burning thirst for souls:

For my meditation I am using the Passion of Jesus.

I am afraid I make no meditation, but only look at Jesus suffer and keep repeating,

Let me share with you this pain!

If my pain and suffering, my darkness and separation, give you a drop of consolation, my own Jesus, do with me as you wish.

I am your own.

Imprint on my soul and life the suffering of your heart.

If my separation from you brings others to you . . .

I am willing with all my heart to suffer all that I suffer. Your happiness is all that I want . . .

I have begun to love my darkness, for I believe now that it is a part, a very small part, of Jesus’ darkness and pain on the earth.

I want to satiate your thirst with every single drop of blood that you can find in me. Please do not take the trouble to return soon.

I am ready to wait for you for all eternity.

Following St. Thérèse into the Night and Dawn

Jesus came for her on September 5, 1997. She had been an apostle of joy and light in the dark final hours of the second Chris­tian millennium.

She died almost one hundred years to the day after her patron St. Thérèse, the Little Flower of Lisieux. And their lives form spiritual brackets around the twentieth century. Thérèse, too, experienced a “night of nothingness” — on her deathbed, she heard demonic voices telling her that heaven was just a figment of her imagination.

Following Thérèse into this night of nothingness, Mother Teresa too sought the Holy Face of the Crucified in the crushed and the dying, walked the path of spiritual childhood in the small, ordinary realities of her days, and lived her life one little act of love at a time.

On the day Mother Teresa died, her sisters laid her in state beneath Our Lady of Fatima, a statue of the Blessed Mother depicted as she appeared to the children at Fatima. It was fitting in a way that no one could have known at the time.

Few knew that she had been guided all these years by apparitions and a voice heard one summer long ago. And few knew that she was trying to be a living expression of Mary’s love for her children, to show us the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb, Jesus. We can now see that Mother Teresa was among the firstfruits of the pope’s consecration of the world to Mary’s Immaculate Heart. The child called Gonxha “flower bud” — became the first bud of new Christian life, flowering from the century’s bloody soil of wars, famines, and persecutions.

Mother Teresa had followed the call of the gospel and done all that had been asked of her by Jesus and Mary in those earlier visions. They were visions for which her whole life had prepared her — and visions that she lived out for all generations to come. Kept secret during her lifetime, these things have been disclosed to us now in the early days of the new millennium so that we might understand more fully the meaning of Mother Teresa and the revolution of love that God was working in our midst.

She was our mother, coming to us in the dark night of our times to give us comfort and prove to us that we had not been orphaned by God. She taught us to call on our Father in all our desolations and diminishments, to cry out as she did — as children of his love, born of his desire, never out of his care, destined to love and be loved.

These were the lessons she was teaching every day in Nirmal Hriday. For the despised and unwanted, for those who had defiled themselves in sin and bad living, she wanted to prove the love of God, “to make the mercy of God very real and to induce the dying person to turn to God with filial confidence.”

Helping others to die, she was teaching us how to live — with the confidence of children finding their way back to the loving arms of their Father.

She was an apostle sent to us in our time of dying, to a culture in which death had become the last refuge of the living. Hers was a ministry of final moments and last chances. She believed in death­bed conversions, that we were never too old to learn the lessons of spiritual childhood, that on this side of death it was never too late for any of us — or for the world.

“I am convinced,” she said, “that even one moment is enough to ransom an entire miserable existence, an existence perhaps believed to be useless.”

She once said, “All of us are but his instruments, who do our little bit and pass by.” The little bit she did, she did with grace. But what she accomplished in her life was only partial. The accomplishments of the saints always are. They await their fulfillment in the lives of those who follow, in your life and in mine.

She turned our heads as she passed by, made us want to come and see what she saw, to follow where she was going.

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This article was adapted from a chapter in The Love that Made Mother Teresa by David Scott which is available from Sophia Institute Press

Art for this post on the long dark night of Mother Teresa: Modified detail of Mother Teresa, Evert Odekerken, 1988, CCA 2.5 Generic, Wikimedia Commons. Cover of The Love That Made Mother Teresa used with permission.

Read more on Mother Teresa’s dark night on Spiritual Direction HERE.

About Charlie McKinney

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

 

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

57. United We Stand (Matthew 18:15-20)

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 02:30

“He proved that neither unity nor peace could be kept unless the brethren treat one another with mutual forbearance, and preserve the bond of concord through patience.” St. Cyprian

Matthew 18:15-20: “If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, is between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain any charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector. I tell you solemnly, whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven. ‘I tell you solemnly once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.”

Christ the Lord We come once again upon Christ instructing his Twelve as the end of his earthly mission draws near. He is preparing them to govern his Church. Critics accuse St Matthew of misquoting Jesus in this passage, since he references a Church organization that would not have existed until well after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. But if Christ knew of his coming passion and resurrection, would he not have known of his future Church and be able to refer to it? The context (Jesus instructing his Twelve) and the meaning (that every effort should be made to reconcile recalcitrant Christians with God and with the Church) of the passage, in any case, cohere perfectly with St Matthew’s whole series of instructions to the apostles. Likewise, the first generations of Christians never disputed Christ’s intention to build the Church upon the “foundation of the apostles” (Ephesians 2:20). Clearly, Jesus knew that the time of his earthly Lordship was ending, and he expressly transferred his authority to those he had chosen. The Church was the willed invention of Christ the Lord, not the other way around.

Christ the Teacher We must do everything we possibly can to bring one another back when we stray. We must hold each other accountable – not by arrogantly judging our brothers and sisters (we can hardly see the speck in their eyes for the plank in our own, remember), but by reaching out to them when they are in trouble. This passage follows Christ’s parable of the good shepherd who leaves his ninety-nine sheep alone in order to seek out the one who has strayed. Christ is insisting here that his ministers have the same selfless and determined attitude.

The leader of the Christian community is traditionally called a pastor, which comes from the Latin word for shepherd. Bishops are pastors of their diocese; priests are pastors of their parishes; all Christians, in a sense, are pastors of those souls entrusted to their spiritual or physical care. With this instruction, Jesus is enjoining each of us (but especially his ordained ministers, those who will carry on the ministry of his Twelve Apostles) to give everyone the attention they need, to go after the wandering sheep, and to do everything possible to bring them back into the safety of his fold.

Christ the Friend Friends like to be together. Christ likes to be with us. When we “gather in his name” (especially as a whole community in the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist, but also in less official ways), he gathers with us. When we offer our prayers as members of the one family of God, he joins his own voice to ours, insuring that they will please the Father and win his favor. The Christian community is unique; it is not based merely on common goals, hobbies, or preferences. Instead, it is a real but mystical unity brought about by Christ’s own presence among us. For this reason, a Catholic community (especially the parish) will always include all types – young and old, fervent and apathetic, pleasant and crotchety, ignorant and learned, rich and poor. As one reluctant member put it, the Catholic Church can be defined as “Here comes everybody!” That’s because Christ is a faithful friend to each of us; he plays no favorites… and neither should we.

Christ in My Life You never envisioned any of your followers going it alone. You chose your first disciples and built them into a community. Now, centuries later, that community still exists; it’s still growing and thriving, in spite of continuous attacks. I am glad to be a member of your Church, Lord. I don’t want to give into the temptation to be a loner. I want to be a Christian, now and forever, securely incorporated into your mystical body…

I have so many things on my to-do list, Lord, that sometimes I forget the most important thing: fidelity to my Christian mission of being another Christ. Your first priority was bringing people back into communion with God, showing them the Father’s love, and teaching them the way to fullness of life. Make me more aware of other’s needs – physical, emotional, and spiritual. Love them, Lord, through me…

At times, I can get a little frustrated with the humanity of your Church. But you never do. Teach me rather to see the Church as you see it. Teach me to forgive, make excuses for, and help all my brothers and sisters, not just the ones I naturally get along with. Help me to care for and love my pastors in concrete ways. Teach me to welcome them, as you always welcome me…

PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.

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Art for this post on Matthew 18:15-20: Cover of The Better Part used with permission. The Good Shepherd, unknown painter – probably Mihály Mankovics, late 18th century, Greek Catholic Cathedral of Hajdúdorog, Hungary, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons.

About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, “Inside the Passion”–the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: “The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer”. His most recent books are “Spring Meditations”, “Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength”, and “Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions”. Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

 

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

The Seven Sorrows Rosary: Solace for Suffering Souls

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 22:08

This past winter, I made a simple resolution that changed my life.

I resolved to pray the Seven Sorrows Rosary every day of Lent.

It was a resolution that I had meant to make for years, ever since I first read Immaculée Ilibagiza’s book, Our Lady of Kibeho. After I learned how Mary, in her apparitions in Rwanda, encouraged a renewal of the devotion of the Seven Sorrows Rosary, I had intended to begin praying it regularly…someday. I even went to our local Catholic bookstore, bought a Seven Sorrows rosary, and learned how to pray it; but despite my good intentions, the beads mostly stayed in my purse, and not in my hands.

This year, though, I felt a strong call to make the Seven Sorrows Rosary my Lenten devotion. So, on Ash Wednesday, I began.

Little did I know what God had in store for me that Lent. Never could I have foreseen that I was about to enter into a season of intense personal suffering. But my Heavenly Father did.

And He gave me the Seven Sorrows Rosary to be my lifeline.

As the weeks of Lent unfolded, someone I love became gravely ill, and my world began to crumble around me. I could not think; I could not write; I could not understand. There were moments when I could hardly breathe—but always, every day, I prayed the Seven Sorrows Rosary, and it brought me peace. It didn’t magically make all my suffering go away, but in God’s merciful design, the prayers united my suffering heart with Mary’s, and the grace I received was like water to the fire in my soul.

It sounds strange: How could meditating on suffering help ease my suffering? Yet, in the paradox of the Cross, it did. In the hardest moments, praying through the Seven Sorrows helped me to remember that heaven understands how it feels to suffer. Walking with Mary was like having the dearest friend beside me to help me endure the pain.

As I prayed the first Sorrow and meditated on the prophecy of Simeon, I learned more each day about what it means to have a sword pierce the heart that loves so deeply.

As I prayed the second Sorrow and meditated on the flight into Egypt, I thought about how far we sometimes have to go, and how much we have to leave behind, in order to help and protect our loved ones—and how God leads us to the right place when we follow Him.

As I prayed the third Sorrow and meditated on Mary losing Jesus in Jerusalem, I considered how the people we love can disappear into sickness, and I clung to the hope of finding them, healthy and whole, at the end of the terrifying search.

As I prayed the fourth Sorrow and meditated on Mary meeting Jesus on the road to Calvary, I found consolation in knowing that Mary understands the agony of seeing our loved ones stumble and fall beneath the weight of the Cross.

As I prayed the fifth Sorrow and meditated on Mary standing at the foot of the Cross, I could see myself standing with her, looking up at my beloved, my crucified Jesus, as all my hopes and dreams for the future were shattering around me.

As I prayed the sixth Sorrow and meditated on Mary holding Jesus’ body at the foot of the Cross, I gained strength to hold and care for my loved one even when hope seemed gone.

As I prayed the seventh Sorrow and meditated on Mary laying Jesus’ body in the tomb, I knew that even when we must turn our loved ones over to the tomb—be it an actual grave or the “tomb” of a hospital bed—we hold onto the promise of a Resurrection that will wipe away all of our tears.

By God’s great mercy, and through the powerful intercession of Our Lady of Fatima in her centennial year, my loved one’s suffering has been lifted, and so has mine. And yet, I continue to pray the Seven Sorrows Rosary every day. It has become a part of me. My day does not feel complete without it.

Through the Seven Sorrows Rosary, I have entered more deeply than ever before into Mary’s heart. Through her heart, I have received a new understanding of the level of suffering in the world, and I hope never to forget to pray for those who are suffering all around me. Dear readers, I pray that Mary consoles you in your suffering, too.

Praying alongside Mary in her sorrows, I have also found the peace and hope that abide in her heart. The Seven Sorrows Rosary reminds me every day that “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted; those who are crushed in spirit He saves.” (Psalm 34:18)

The Story of Our Salvation

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 22:07

A friend of mine once called the Catechism of the Catholic Church the “bible” of Catholicism. If that seems like a ridiculous way to describe it, you’re right.  It is ridiculous, and my friend knew it. There is only one bible in the Catholic faith, and that’s the actual Bible. However, there was a method to my friend’s madness; he was using a common figure of speech. When we say that a book is the “bible” of a particular subject, we mean that it tells you everything you need to know about that subject. For example, if I tell you that a certain book is the “bible” of fly fishing, I’m saying that it tells you everything you need to know about how to fly fish.

And in this sense, my friend was actually correct. As a summary of Catholic teaching, the Catechism is the “bible” of Catholicism; it summarizes everything we believe.  However, this raises a question: why do we have the actual Bible? If the Catechism is our summary of what we believe, then what role do the Scriptures play in our faith? The answer is that the Bible is more than just a list of doctrines or a depository of things we’re supposed to believe. Rather, it’s a story. It’s the story of how God created a good world, how we messed that world up by sinning, and how God plans to save his children and bring us back to him. Simply put, the Bible is the story of salvation history. It’s the history of God’s dealings with mankind, a chronicle of his plan to bring his children to the goal for which he made us.

Adam and Eve

The first book of the Bible tells us that humanity was created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27), and that fact has traditionally been one of the cornerstones of the Church’s understanding of our nature and dignity. Being made in God’s image means several things, but I want to focus on just one: we’re his sons and daughters. Later on in Genesis, when Adam and Eve have a third son to replace Abel (who was murdered by his brother Cain), we read:

“When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” (Genesis 5:1-3)

By reminding us that mankind was created in God’s image and likeness, this passage is subtly implying that Seth’s relation to his father Adam sheds light on Adam’s relation to God. In other words, since Seth is made in his father’s image, it stands to reason that Adam is made in God’s image because he is God’s son. Consequently, because we are all made in God’s image, we are all his children, and just like any children, we are supposed to live in loving harmony with our heavenly father.

Unfortunately, our first parents did not live up to this high calling. God gave them free rein to eat from any tree in the Garden of Eden except one, and then they went and ate from that one tree (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-6). This was the world’s first sin, and it fractured Adam and Eve’s relationship with God. They no longer lived in complete, loving harmony with him, as symbolized by their expulsion from Eden (Genesis 3:23-24), so God had to formulate a plan to rescue his wayward children and bring them back into his family.

The Role of Israel

God kicked off this plan by calling a man named Abraham and promising him, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves” (Genesis 12:3). Genesis doesn’t tell us what this means, but the New Testament explains it for us. St. Paul says that it was a foretelling of the Gospel (Galatians 3:8), so it was actually a promise to save the entire human race from the predicament of sin and death it had gotten itself into.

God later reiterated this same promise, but he clarified that he would actually save the world through Abraham’s descendants, not Abraham himself (Genesis 22:18). He then gave this same promise to Abraham’s son Isaac (Genesis 26:4) and to Isaac’s son Jacob (Genesis 28:14). This is significant because Jacob had twelve sons, and those sons became the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 49:1-28). In other words, by promising to rescue humanity through the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God was promising to save mankind through the nation of Israel.

As a result, when God chose Israel as his special people, he didn’t do so because he loved them more than the other nations or because they were different in any way. No, he chose them for the sake of those other nations. They were supposed to be his instruments to save the rest of humanity.

The Fall and Rise of Israel

Unfortunately, like Adam and Eve, Israel too failed to live up to its calling. The Israelites were supposed to evangelize the nations and bring them back to God, but instead, they let the other nations corrupt them and lead them to worship false gods. Consequently, they became just as sinful as the rest of mankind, so they themselves needed to be saved before they could go out and save anyone else. This continual disobedience and idolatry eventually led to their conquest and exile away from their land (2 Kings 17:7-23, 24:20, 25:21), and only a small portion of the nation ever returned. Most of the twelve tribes remained in exile, assimilated into the nations among whom they had been scattered, and only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin along with a few from some other tribes were left (Ezra 1:1-12).

This is where Jesus comes into the picture. When he began his public ministry, the story of the Old Testament was awaiting its completion. Israel was in shambles, and the Jews were anxiously looking forward to the restoration of their nation (Luke 2:25, 38). Those hopes came to fruition in the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, who chose twelve Apostles in order to symbolize his mission to renew the twelve tribes of Israel. Yes, he died to save all of humanity, but the first recipients of that salvation were Jews. He saved them from their sins so they could then go out to the nations and bring the Gospel, the saving benefits of his death and resurrection, to the rest of humanity.

That is why his own ministry was limited to the Jews, with only a few chance encounters with people from other nations (Matthew 15:24), but after his resurrection he told his disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). He came to restore Israel, to gather around himself a faithful core of Israelites, and then to enable that faithful core to go out and bring the salvation that he, an Israelite himself, won for the entire human race. In this way, God was able to fulfill his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that he would save all mankind through their descendants.

The Story Continues

But the story isn’t over yet. Through the Church, the story of salvation history continues to this day as more and more people from every nation on earth are saved from their sins and brought back into loving communion with their heavenly father (Romans 8:14-17). Furthermore, as members of various nations are brought back to God, so too are members of the lost tribes of Israel. Remember, they were assimilated into the nations among whom they were scattered, so their descendants today are non-Israelites. As a result, by saving people from all nations, the Church is also bringing members of those lost tribes back to God, thus truly restoring the nation of Israel, albeit in a totally unexpected way.

All in all, while the story of salvation history is long and winding and has many unexpected twists and turns, God has made it turn out exactly the way it was supposed to. He has found a way to remain faithful to all his children, both Israelite and non-Israelite, and that faithfulness will continue until his creation is fully restored in the new heaven and earth (Romans 8:19-22, Revelation 21:1-4). In the face of such great providence, we can’t help but repeat the words of St. Paul:

“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33)

Our Wayward Home

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 22:02

Glenn Beck was talking about our nation’s demise. College riots. Racial tension. Extramarital sex. Addictions. Breakdown of marriage and family. And he offered reasons. Lack of economic opportunity. Politics. Education.

While these are all contributing factors, they pale in comparison to the number one, epic factor in a child’s success or failure: parenting.

Now if you feel unseen walls rising to defend you against an onslaught of guilt, shame or blame… if you feel your blood beginning to boil, resist. Such are symptoms of a wayward parent. This surely is about the way, and we need to acknowledge that God’s ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55:9) With God’s way, walls come down. Blood flows. We experience reconciliation. Transformation. Restoration.

Do you want it?

This article is for all parents who desire to keep their children from going too far wayward. Yes, too far. At heart is a strong affirmation that, on this side of eternity, we’re all wayward. The only questions are: (1) How far wayward are we?, and (2) Are we oriented and moving towards home?

This article is for all parents who desire their wayward children to turn towards home and who desire to accompany them. This is only possible if we’re willing to accept and address the ways in which we are wayward.

Of course, this needs to happen.  We’re living in a society suffering from terminal illness. We will not be healed by another soothing message. Another program. Another bandaid. And we need to recognize perhaps the most unlikely, but dangerous bandaid: religion. Not in itself, but as we use it. How we hide behind it. Allow it to conceal a festering disease beneath.

I’m inviting us to recognize that there is a standard– and it’s not one we can create, but One who created us. I’m inviting us to candidly consider where we stand with regard to Him.  This may be a difficult awakening, not only to the fact that we fall short, but how far we fall short. But bold and honest consideration of our distance from God is precisely the occasion to seek His transforming grace. In fact, this is the entire reason the Church exists: To get us there.

We need to go there. Because “civilization passes by way of the family” (St. John Paul II). Because too many are tripping over the low bar. Because parenthood doesn’t expire until we do. Because dismissing past responsibility undermines the potentiality for present revival.  Because God wants to transform us, and through us, our children and this world.

The Big Objection: “Look at God’s First Children!”

The Enemy loves to whisper: “Don’t beat yourself up! You could have done everything perfectly and your children could still go astray! Look at God’s first children!”

Of course, such thinking begs the question: Did we? What value is there in presuming our perfection? A true believer doesn’t need to beat himself up because He recognizes God has already been beaten up for us: “[H]e was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him.” (Is. 53:5)

Even more, “by his wounds we are healed.” Isn’t this what we all want? How are we opening the door to God’s outpouring grace and mercy if we fail to live in this light? To acknowledge our offenses?

The truth is that all of us have sinned and are far from the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23) Without admission of our imperfection and sin we have no need of a savior. Matters faith and church are absurd.

God’s blessedness flowing through our brokenness is hardly just conceptual. It is the truth of our nature in Jesus Christ. Powerful testimony to this principle is given in books such as Neal Lozano’s “Unbound” and Bob Schucht’s “Be Healed.”

Let me add to the testimony. My parents were superstar parents. Our home was filled with prayer and solid formation. It overflowed to many around us. If anyone were to be declared “good” parents it would be them. Needless to say, all of us seven children went wayward. In small and great ways. If ever there was an occasion for parents to play the “not our fault” card, it would be them. Yet that’s not what they did. They knew they were imperfect. They knew their past paved our present. And they knew their appointing and anointing as parents didn’t come with an 18 year expiration.

They wanted their ceiling to become our floor.

And so, when a large cloud hung over our family (though never without many God-rays!), my dad sent each of us a note. In this note he acknowledged his deficiencies. He took ownership. He apologized. He urged us to recognize that we’d have to deal with the weeds. He encouraged us to seek transformation and healing. Above all, he entrusted us to God.

It was a singularly powerful moment. In acknowledging his imperfection, he opened a door. He turned us over to the One who could make us right. He gave us permission to recognize and own the compass we’d been given for ourselves. Not ordered to him, but to the Heavenly Father.

While we would and will continue to navigate uncharted territory, all of us except one came to personally, intentionally embrace life in Jesus Christ, to live as His disciples in the fullness of our Catholic faith. Extended to 12 adults and 39 grandchildren.

Cultural Portrait

So where are the “best” Mass-going Catholics?

Stats show that among those who go to Mass regularly no more than 13% pray before meals (the lowest bar). 40% of Mass-goers question if a relationship with God is even possible. Following huge Catholic events (among the most motivated of Catholics) we consistently find that less than 5% spend more than 10 minutes a week in meaningful conversation and prayer in their homes.

Interviews with numerous members of “good Catholic families” reveal that while many had religion and ritual, they lacked relationship with Jesus Christ. Most parents did not exhibit such a relationship themselves. While it was the deepest desire of their hearts, most simply did not have that mentoring– or cultivation of virtue to lead in their homes.

They knew about Jesus, but did not know Jesus. They were sacramentalized, perhaps catechised, but not evangelized.

The Bar

If we take seriously our call to making our way home, to sainthood, to paving the way for our families, our community and future generations… to be authentic, radical disciples for Jesus Christ, we need to ask ourselves:

  • Are we personally striving to live for Jesus Christ? Without compromise? Without excuse? And not just in “church” moments, but as a way of life? Is this verified in our choices of time, money, entertainment, and conversation?
  • Are we creating a disciple-making culture of encounter with Jesus Christ in our homes? Do our children desire to talk and pray regularly from the heart? Do they see the world through the lens of the Gospel? Do they readily apologize and forgive?
  • Do we spend at least as much time in meaningful conversation and prayer as members do with gadgets?
  • Do we prioritize soul-enriching opportunities over sports and entertainment?
  • Do we prioritize the unsurpassed value of parental presence in the home, particularly during the earliest years, over careers, house, cars and “nice things”? Do we sacrifice things for our kids, or our kids for things? Do our lives reveal that we didn’t have children for others to raise them?
  • With regard to the culture around, are we thermostats or thermometers?  Given that “we are what we eat,” are we determining what is to be consumed, or allowing them to be consumed?
  • How quickly and readily do we give in to push-back from children regarding entertainment, clothing, language, friends and other choices?
  • How much are we hiding misguided parental priorities behind religion? Prioritizing time to that church activity or program over making making similar time for meaningful conversation and prayer in our homes?
The Father Factor

And now the epic factor: Is dad the spiritual leader in your home? With the help of the mother, fathers are uniquely appointed and anointed to bring up children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4)

If dad is not in the game, even if mom is totally in the game, the child has only a one in 50 chance of continuing his faith. Yet, if the dad is in the game, even if mom is completely absent, the chances for the child continuing in his faith rises to north of 60%!

Dads, nothing anyone else does surpasses the influence of who we are.

A prominent study compared the progeny of two men (LINK). One of these men, Jonathan Edwards, was a man well known for his outstanding Christian character and conviction. The other, Max Jukes, was an irreverent drunkard. Jonathan Edwards set the course for a U.S. Vice-President, 3 U.S. Senators, 3 governors, 3 mayors, 13 college presidents, 30 judges, 65 professors, 80 public office holders, 100 lawyers and 100 missionaries.

On the other hand, Max Juke’s set the course for 310 paupers, who, combined spent 2,300 years in poorhouses, 50 women of debauchery, 400 physically wrecked by indulgent living, 7 murderers, 60 thieves, and 130 other convicts. The Jukes descendants cost the state more than $1,250,000.

Some other stats pronouncing the importance of a man being a spiritual leader:

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census) – 5 times the average.
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
  • 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)
  • 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average. (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average. (National Principals Association Report)

Of course, it needs to be stated emphatically: With God’s transforming love and mercy, if you’ve inherited such a legacy, you can be His instrument of turning it all around. And if you’re in a home with an MIA dad, you already know that you’ll have to work a lot harder. You’ll have to be all the more intent on establishing priorities.

Authentically Encounter Jesus Christ.  

“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

In Christ there is mercy, forgiveness, restoration and transformation. (Rom. 12:1-2)

In homes where Jesus Christ is authentically encountered, lives are truly, permanently transformed. Our Christian character is forged and becomes rock-solid. (Matt. 7:24) As Frank Sheed puts it, one comes to see the whole world “God-bathed.” Even amidst darkness and desert, even if a multitude leave Jesus (John 6:66), with sure conviction one professes with Peter: “”Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

In all this, let me emphasize my wayward home: I fall short. But I’m not going to throw out the bar. I’m measured by it. It is for the good of my soul and all those who’ve been entrusted to me. I want to face the hard questions. I want to be surrounded by people who face the hard questions. I want to strive for the excellence God has created us for.  I want to be a saint. With all my children, family and friends, I want to go there.

[Mass Impact is a movement of families with pastors united in seeking personal, family and parish transformation overflowing to the world. We have a weekly IGNITE Radio Live! Program (GO), provide weekly Live IT gathering guides for families and groups (GO), and numerous Kingdom building endeavors. (Free app: MassImpact.us/APP) We’re looking in particular for married couples who know they’re appointed and anointed to be difference-makers. As a couple, commit now to no more than 35 minutes and, together, listen to this first message within 72 hours. Then Share IT and commit to specific ways you’ll Live IT. GO: MassImpact.us/LiveITNow.]

In the first reading Paul commends the

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 22:00

In the first reading Paul commends the strong faith of the early Christians. In the Gospel reading we see a typical day of preaching, healing and driving out of demons and unclean spirits in the public ministry of Jesus.

Though we have become new creations by God’s grace in our baptism, our faith is challenged by the world and its prevailing values. There are many prevalent practices and beliefs contrary to Gospel values.

Paul reminds us to guard our faith, to be confident in our hope and to be loving of God and our neighbor.

We pray that we may not be swayed by the world around us, that we may not stray from the ways of the Lord, and that our faith, hope and love may always be with the Lord.

“Simplicity, or purity of

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 22:00

“Simplicity, or purity of intention, consists in keeping before yourself, in all your thoughts, words, and acts, one and the same end, one and the same object — namely, the pleasing of God, or, more accurately, the doing of His will.” 

-Emmanuel de Gibergues, Strength in Simplicity

Blessed Bertrand of Garrigues, O.P.

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 22:00

Bertrand was only about thirty-five years old when he died, but he had lived a full, active, devout, missionary life alongside and in the newly-founded order of his good friend St. Dominic.

Born around 1195 in or near Garrigue in the diocese of Nimes in southern France, Bertrand lived a holy life, praying and practicing virtue constantly even as a young person. Ordained a secular (diocesan) priest at a very early age, he joined the missionaries under the direction of the Cistercian Fathers, delegated by the Holy See, to bring the Albigenses back to the ways of civilized life and to the Church. The Albigenses were notorious for having no respect for authority or life, and for desecrating churches and convents.

Saint Dominic and Blessed Bertrand met as missionaries and became very close friends, praying and fasting together, offering sufferings for the good of others. They traveled together frequently, united in missionary spirit and companionship. Bertrand witnessed and testified to the holiness of St. Dominic, and to miracles attributed to him.

Bertrand was only about twenty-one when he accepted the habit of the Order of St. Dominic in 1216 at Toulouse. He was a founding member of the order, and his advice and prayers helped to establish the Order of Preachers, the Dominicans, also known as the Friars Preacher. He was appointed by St. Dominic as the third prior of the order, in the Church of St. Romanus, when St. Dominic traveled to the Vatican to receive final approbation of the order.

Bertrand practiced an austere life, and many miracles were attributed to his intercession, during his life and after he died. He died while giving a series of sermons in 1230 at the convent of the Cistercian Sisters of Notre Dame of the Woods (“du Bosquet”). September 6 is his feast day.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Eleutherius (585), Religious

Grab your Pint Glasses: International Buy a Priest a Beer Day is Coming!

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 07:54

Grab your pint glasses and phone your Fathers! Next Saturday, September 9*, is International Buy a priest a beer day! 

On this festive day, faithful Catholics all over the world take their priests out for a beer and get to know them better. It’s a beautiful Catholic tradition that goes back to the time of St. Hopswald of Aleyard, the first man to take his priest out for a beer.

Okay, St. Hopswald wasn’t real, but your priest is real. Priests are people too, and they enjoy socializing over good food and drink as much as anyone. They also have a thankless and difficult job, a job that we couldn’t get to heaven without. Priests are the lifeblood of the Church, and they deserve some appreciation.

St. Hopswald of Aleyard, the first man to take his priest our for a beer.

So with that in mind, I would challenge you to do something concrete to show appreciation to your priest on September 9th. Yes, it could be taking him out for a beer, or it could be inviting him over to share dinner with your family. Be creative if you want, but give back to your priest somehow, and let him know that his ministry is making a difference.

Of course, your priest may be insanely busy and unable to schedule a time for a lengthier visit. That’s okay. You could offer a rosary or a holy hour for him and his intentions (or better yet, more than one), and let him know that you are regularly praying for him. At the very least, express to him your gratitude, in person or via a note, for his faithful ministry and his answering God’s call to the priesthood.

I fully expect there to be a lot of happy, encouraged priests this BAPABD! But it’s only a week away, so begin your preparations NOW!

*This used to be a “moveable feast”, but due to the confusion this caused, the day has been fixed on September 9th.

The post Grab your Pint Glasses: International Buy a Priest a Beer Day is Coming! appeared first on The Catholic Gentleman.

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

Ten Practical Steps to a Sanctified Life

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 22:07

Let us turn to some practical aids that can encourage us to establish a strong spiritual life. This is by no means an exhaustive list; rather, it’s simply a starting point for your own exploration. And realize, too, that you won’t achieve these all in one week or even one month — and you’re not supposed to. As St. Philip Neri says, “One should not wish to become a saint in four days but step by step.”

And remember this: Show me a room with seven different Christians who are committed to a strong daily spiritual life, and I’ll show you seven different regimens of prayers and other devotions. Quite simply, we’re all different. St. Francis de Sales tells us that our spiritual lives should “be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.” Even so, there are some staples that everyone should acquire and practice over time.

1. Monthly Confession

It will suffice to say that the beautiful Tribunal of Mercy that is this Sacrament is an irreplaceable fountain of healing grace for our souls. And let us not be afraid to call on Our Lady of Mercy to assist us in making a sound confession.

2. Weekly Eucharist

This, of course, includes your Sunday Mass obligation — which is an obligation not because we fear God but precisely because we love Him. Try, though, to attend one or two weekday Masses if your schedule permits. After all, the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” You should also try to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament at least once per week. Whether it is a fifteen-minute visit or a Holy Hour, time spent in our Lord’s Eucharistic presence is invaluable.

3. Morning Offering

This is a simple practice every Christian can integrate into his or her daily life. After all, how do you know that today isn’t the day you’re going to die? How do you know you won’t be tempted to commit mortal sin? It is traditionally said that St. Philip Neri spoke these words each morning upon rising: “O Lord, stay by your Philip today, because if You do not, Your Philip will betray You before the day is over.” You might want to use St. Philip Neri’s model, write your own, or use any other Morning Offering found in a good Catholic prayer book. The Morning Offering can also be a great way to renew your consecration to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

4. Daily Rosary

Try to pray just five decades a day — a fifteen- to twenty-minute practice. You can even incorporate the Rosary into your daily commute or walk — be creative. In family settings you can pray it with your spouse and children. You can give children a chance to participate by letting them take turns in announcing the mysteries of the Rosary and leading the decades of prayer.

5. Daily Chaplet of Divine Mercy:

This simple devotion reminds us of our sinfulness, but also of the beautiful fact that God is always waiting to embrace us with open arms — provided we honestly repent. If you don’t have time for the entire chaplet, just remember this simple prayer brought to us by St. Faustina that you can say throughout the day: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

This article is from a chapter in “The Four Last Things.” Click image to preview or order.

6. Fasting

Fast according to the mind of the Church at least one day per week, preferably on Fridays. By “according to the mind of the Church” I mean simply one main meal and then two smaller meals that together do not equal the one main meal. It’s really a very simple fasting rule. Fasting regularly can be a powerful tool to overcome habitual sin. As our Lord says in the Gospel, some demons can be cast out only by “prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

7. Two Daily Examinations of Conscience

I recommend a par­ticular examen and a general examen every day. Each of these should take only about two or three minutes and should close with an Act of Contrition (either a formal one from a favorite prayer book, or one of your own wording).

The particular examen is done around midday and looks at a specific virtue that you’ve been trying to cultivate in your life, or at a specific vice that you’ve been trying to eliminate. It is as simple as asking yourself: “How have I done so far today?” Similarly, at the end of the day, just before you retire for bed, make a general examen of your entire day — that is, how you did overall that day in following God’s will. Recognize certain instances during that day when you practiced virtue; and don’t hesitate to recognize certain instances when you sinned.

These two daily examens help us to grow in self-knowledge by recognizing and admitting any sin we may have committed that day. If your sin is venial, your fervent Act of Contrition will wipe it away. If it is mortal, pray an Act of Contrition and get to the sacrament of Penance as soon as is reasonably possible.

8. Aspiratory Prayers

These are simple one-or-two-sentence prayers that can be said in a single breath — hence, “aspiratory.” These are great to get into the habit of saying because they help us recognize the presence of God throughout the day. These short prayers can be based on Scripture or other devotions. For example:

This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Ps. 118:24)

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. (Ps. 23:1) Jesus, Mary, and Joseph — I love you, save souls. My Guardian Angel, protect me.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine.

Pick out a favorite passage from Scripture and make it your own aspiratory prayer, or invoke a favorite saint throughout the day.

9. Daily Liturgical Reading

Have a plan to read the daily Mass readings for the day, perhaps along with a short meditation, so that even if you don’t get to daily Mass you can still read the Scriptures with the Church. There are several daily devotionals you can subscribe to that have the daily Mass readings in them, and the readings are also available free online.

10. Sacramentals

Sacramentals are “Sacred signs which bear a certain resemblance to the sacraments, and by means of which spiritual effects are signified and obtained through the prayers of the Church” (CCC, glossary). They can include blessed objects and places, such as holy water, shrines, and religious medals (for example, those of your patron saints). Sacramentals can also include blessings of persons, meals, and objects — for example, the blessing of a mother before childbirth, blessings before and after meals, and having one’s rosary blessed. These practices derive from the baptismal priesthood in which all the baptized share, as “every baptized person is called to be a ‘blessing’ and to bless (cf. Gen. 12:2; Luke 6:28; Rom. 12:14; 1 Pet. 3:9)” (CCC 1669).

Suggested Reading

Lastly, there are four chief texts that I’d like to recommend that you become very familiar with:

  1. Sacred Scripture: Try to read one chapter daily — roughly a five-minute exercise — leaving some time for meditation.
  2. Catechism of the Catholic Church: Try to read and study three to five paragraphs each day. This is a great way to catechize yourself at your own pace and learn faithfully the teachings of Holy Mother Church.
  3. Lives of the Saints: Try to read a condensed version of one saint’s life per week. Good, condensed versions will not take you more than a few minutes. While we can benefit from reading the life of any saint, particular benefits flow from focusing on those saints who shared our vocation and state in life. Remember: The saints lived in the modern world of their time just as we live in the modern world of our time. St. Faustina’s Diary: I have a particular affection for this beautiful piece of spiritual writing. Try to read three to five paragraphs per week. It will help you discover even more what an immense gift and treasure the mercy of God is.
  4. St. Faustina’s Diary: I have a particular affection for this beautiful piece of spiritual writing. Try to read three to five paragraphs per week. It will help you discover even more what an immense gift and treasure the mercy of God is.

I hope that these ten spiritual exercises and the regular reading of these four staple texts will serve as a great foundation for you to begin a faithful regimen in the spiritual life. Again, this list is by no means exhaustive, nor do you need to incorporate each and every suggestion right away; it is simply a suggested plan of action meant to spur you on to a prayerful daily life. A strong spiritual life assists us all in staying in a state of sanctifying grace, which must always be our first goal.

Our Lord once told St. Faustina, “My Kingdom on earth is My life in the human soul.” What a wonderful truth! The soul in the state of grace is Christ’s Kingdom, allowing us to participate in God’s own divine life.

Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from Fr. Menezes’s The Four Last Things: A Catechetical Guide to Death, Judgment, Heaven, and HellIt is available as a paperback or an ebook from Sophia Institute Press

After Charlottesville

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 22:05

image: By Ted Eytan from Washington, DC, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Amid the cries of alarm in the wake of the tragic violence in Charlottesville, one unanswered question stands out: After all these years—all this bitterness and anguish and even bloodshed—what, if anything, can be done to end racism in the United States once and for all?

Court decisions, laws, programs, institutions and processes of many kinds already have been put in place targeting racial bigotry. Perhaps, though, we need even more of them. If so, let’s have them.

But there’s one solution that gets to the heart of the problem yet is often overlooked. It can’t be legislated or imposed by court order, but it’s essential just the same. It’s friendship.

I grew up in a segregated city—Washington, D.C.—at a time when racial separation was largely taken for granted. I still recall an incident from that time that suggests how racial matters stood. It happened in my fourth-year classroom in my all-white Jesuit high school. (In case you wonder, that school has long had a racially mixed student body—I’m talking about something that happened a long time ago.)

Several of my classmates got into a heated argument about segregation with our teacher, a young Jesuit scholastic. He argued that racial segregation was wrong. The kids argued that it was part of the natural order of things and therefore right. Listening, I realized that I agreed with the teacher. But it wasn’t something I felt very strongly about one way or the other.

A few years after that, one of the few professors at Georgetown who socialized with students outside class invited me to drop by his home for a chat. When I got there, I was surprised to find another guest—a young black man from the professor’s hometown in the Midwest. It soon became clear that the two of them were old friends.

I kept what I felt to myself, but I was astonished. The idea that a white man and a black man could actually be friends had simply never occurred to me before. Was that obtuseness on my part? Of course. That’s what living in a segregated environment does to you.

These days nobody would call Washington a segregated Southern town, but blacks and whites still mostly live in self-segregated neighborhoods, still often study, work and even worship in segregated settings. And as far as I can tell, black-white friendships remain the exception rather than the rule.

Back in 1958, the bishops who headed what was then called the National Catholic Welfare Conference (predecessor of today’s U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) issued a statement entitled “Discrimination and Christian Conscience.” This was ten years after Archbishop, later Cardinal, Patrick O’Boyle desegregated Washington’s parochial schools and four years after the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education overturned public school segregation.

The NCWC statement made many good points, including the fact that Catholic immigrants had also been targets of discrimination in their day. But perhaps the statement’s most important point was that the great obstacle to ending racism lies in “hatred or even indifference.”

Friendship is the antidote to such sins of the heart. But friendship is impossible for people who don’t get to know one another and interact in settings conducive to making friends. Surely this is an area where the Church and the churches have something to offer. In the wake of Charlottesville, the U.S. bishops have set up a new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. Maybe the committee should give building friendship a look.

Called to Reverence God

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 22:02

Saint Ignatius, in Principle and Foundation, states that we are called to Praise God, Reverence God, Serve God and by means of that to save our souls, (Spiritual Exercises # 23). How then can we live out the principle of reverence towards God?

Moses and His Vocation

As Moses drew close to the Burning Bush that he noticed was burning but not being consumed, he heard a very clear command from the bush itself: “Take off your sandals because you are walking on holy ground!”  This was the voice of God and Moses did obey, thereupon removing his sandals. God spoke to Moses through the Burning Bush.

From the burning bush God spoke to Moses and entrusted this man of God with a most sublime vocation—to free the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt. Of course, Moses played one of the most important roles in the history of salvation. As Moses freed the Jews from the slavery of Pharaoh, so Jesus came to free us from the modern slavery of sin.

A crucial and pivotal moment of God’s communication to Moses was this act of reverence, this act of homage—the removal of his sandals because he was walking on holy ground.

Pope Benedict and Reverence

Pope Benedict XVI made this statement with respect to a modern lackadaisical, nonchalant attitude too often manifest, even in church. The Pope emeritus stated: “We have lost the sense of the sacred in our churches….”  Sad to say, the dust of the world has filtered inside the sanctuary. The profane has crowded out the sacred. The mundane prevails over the sanctified. The eternal is relegated and subordinate to the temporal. Material values surpass the desire for the spiritual. Time rules over eternity!

Enmeshed in a world that blinds us to the sublime, to the eternal, to God Himself, what can we do to recover the sense of the Sacred? We would like to offer a few suggestions to help us rediscover the greatness of God and our own sublime vocation—a vocation to praise and reverence God in time and for all eternity.

1. Example of the Magi

Once the Magi finally arrived before the most sublime Lord of Lord’s and King of King’s—the Infant King in the arms of Mary—they prostrated themselves and opened their coffers presenting Him with Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. (A bumper sticker expressed it well: “Wise men still find Jesus in the arms of Mary.”) The more we discover a sincere, humble, filial devotion to Mary, the more we will be capable of paying homage and reverence to Jesus. (Mt.2:1-12)

2. Faith in the Real Presence

We must renew our faith and belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle. Many have never learned, others have simply forgotten, still others do not really care about the Real Presence of Jesus in every Tabernacle around the world. With the Apostle Saint Thomas let us lift our hearts in praise and reverence and say: My Lord and my God!

3. Show Proper Reverence

Before the burning bush Moses took off his sandals in reverence. This Burning Bush was nothing more than a type or symbolic representation of God; it was not really God. In all the Tabernacles, Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, is really present. A concrete gesture that all believing Catholics should do is that of a genuflection! How?

Hands should be held together in reverence over your heart. Then the right knee should go all the way down to the ground—not partially, but all the way down to the ground! Then very gently ascend. This corporal gesture of reverence is very important, of sublime significance. It manifests belief in the King of Kings, Jesus the Lord. Furthermore, those who execute this gesture properly are also giving good example to others. Who knows, maybe those weak in faith can rediscover their faith by the good example of those who genuflect well!

4. Hymns of the Angelic Doctor

On one occasion a man commented that his favorite musician was none other than St. Thomas Aquinas. The Angelic Doctor was asked by the Holy Father to write the Office for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi; Saint Bonaventure was also asked. Once Bonaventure read through the sublime hymns of Aquinas, he ripped up his compositions in all humility, giving pride of place to the writings of the Angelic Doctor.

The point we are making? Learning some of the basic hymns of Saint Thomas Aquinas can sow within the depths of our souls a real appreciation for the beauty in sacred music and help us to arrive at a true reverence for our three times Holy God! What might be some of these sacred songs or hymns? Tantum Ergo, O Salutaris Hostia, Sacrum Convivium, Pange Lingua… just to mention a few! These classical hymns can catapult you from your dreary and prosaic existence to the sublime, and help you arrive at a true reverence for God!

5. Angels and Their Mission

When the Angel of Portugal appeared to the three little children at Fatima, he bowed down in reverence and taught the children how to speak to God. One of the primary thrusts of the prayer of the Angel was that of reverence before a Holy God. Then, during the third apparition (1916) the Sacred Host and Chalice were suspended in the air—the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus in the Eucharist. The Angel prostrated himself in total reverence and taught the shepherd children to prostrate themselves and say a prayer of reverence and praise.

Once again, we must rediscover a sense of awe and real reverence before Jesus, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, in the most Holy Eucharist! One of the primary roles of the highest choirs of angels in heaven is to praise God for all eternity. This of course is a call to reverence God. Through the intercession of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the angels, and Mary, the Queen of the angels and saints, may we learn the art of praising and reverencing God in time and for all eternity!

In the Gospel reading, Jesus uses his

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 22:00

In the Gospel reading, Jesus uses his power to free a man possessed by an evil spirit. The Church affirms for us the reality of Satan and of evil. In his public ministry Jesus in so many occasions freed people of afflictions caused by evil spirits. By being tempted by the devil at the beginning of his public ministry, he showed us his humanity and taught us how to oppose evil.

In the first reading, St. Paul exhorts the faithful to be vigilant and watchful. He reminds them that they are children of the light and not of darkness. He reminds them to be loving and supportive of one another.

In his letter to the Church at Ephesus, St. Paul wrote, “Be strong in the Lord with his energy and strength. Put on the armor of God to be able to resist the cunning of the devil. Our battle is not against human forces but against the rulers and authorities and their dark powers that govern this world. We are struggling against the spirits and supernatural forces of evil” (Eph 6: 10 – 12) And we are strong when God is with us.

One Hundred Years of Fatima with Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 22:00

We are celebrating the centennial anniversary of when Mary appeared to three children in Fatima and changed the world. Our Lady of Fatima has inspired conversions, devotions, and is believed to be behind many miracles. After so many years, why has Our Lady of Fatima been so inspirational and what does she have to still teach us? Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle joins Michael J. Lichens to kick off a new season of the Catholic Exchange Podcast to discuss Our Lady of Fatima and how she still desires to inspire all of us.

Donna-Marie is the author of Our Lady of Fatima: 100 Years of Stories, Prayers, and Devotions and Our Lady’s Message To Three Shepherd Children and the World, as well as many books and articles. Her wisdom, experience, and ability to tell a great story will leave you enthralled, whether you’re first hearing about Fatima or are a long-time devotee of Our Lady.

Resources Mentioned in this Episode

You can learn more about Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle on her personal website, donnacooperoboyle.com, find her also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Donna-Marie’s latest book, Our Lady of Fatima: 100 Years of Stories, Prayers, and Devotions is available through Franciscan Media, Amazon, and your local Catholic bookstore. Read an excerpt here, courtesy of Franciscan Media.

Donna-Marie is also the author of Our Lady’s Message To Three Shepherd Children and the World, which is available through Sophia Institute Press. Catholic Exchange is proud to give you two free excerpts:

In this episode, Mrs. Cooper O’Boyle shared some of her memories of her friendship with Mother Teresa. You can read more about those memories through her blog and her article, Memories of Mother Teresa.

“Jesus is not only Lord and

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 22:00

“Jesus is not only Lord and Savior — He is our Model of Holiness — of Perfection — of action. His life and revelations tell us exactly what He expects of us.”

-Mother Angelica, Mother Angelica’s Quick Guide to the Sacraments

Saint Bertin

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 22:00

Rejecting the “finer things” in life as an aspirant to austerity, he lived a hundred holy years! St. Bertin was born in the early 7th century in Constance, France. He was educated at the Abbey of Luxeuil, known for its exactness to the Rule of Saint Columban, a Rule identified by its strictness and austerity. Though he did not become a novice as a student, Bertin felt called to follow the Rule with the other monks at the Abbey, and when an adult, he took the cowl, the habit of the monks.

In 639, Bertin and two other monks joined Saint Omer, Bishop of Therouanne, who had for two years been evangelizing the pagan Morini in the low-lying marshy country of the Pas-de-Calais. This was a region renowned for idolatry and immorality. The missionaries built a monastery in honor of Saint Mommolin. After eight arduous years of preaching the Faith for Christ and calling for the people’s conversion, they founded a second monastery at Sithiu, dedicated to St. Peter. St. Bertin was abbot there for nearly sixty years and made it famous; after his death it was called St. Bertin and gave birth to the town of St. Omer.

Bertin sent monks to found other monasteries in both France and England, and himself traveled constantly to teach and encourage people to a greater devotion to God. Under his direction, his monastery served as an excellent example to the people, and helped bring many souls to the Lord. During a life that spanned about a century, Bertin was known for holiness, severe austerity, and his evangelistic spirit.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Laurence Justinian (1455), Bishop, first Patriarch of Venice

Justice and Religion

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 02:35
Justice and Religion

Presence of God – Help me, O God, by Your grace, to render You all the homage of which I am capable.

MEDITATION

Justice leads us to render to each one what is his due. But when it is a question of justice to God, we can never succeed in giving Him all that we owe Him, in making Him a suitable return for all His gifts, in paying Him the worship and homage which are due His infinite Majesty. We can fulfill our obligations to others according to justice, but we cannot do so with regard to God. However much man does, it will always be far less than what justice demands. Therefore, justice to God creates in us an urgent need to give ourselves to Him without reserve, without measure, without calculations, in other words, to make a complete gift of ourselves to God, in an attempt to render Him all the homage of which He, by His grace, has made us capable.

Because our justice is insufficient, we should have recourse to Jesus “who of God is made unto us … justice” (1 Corinthians 1:30), not only in the sense that He justified us from sin, but also in that He came upon earth to give the Father, in the name of all mankind, the worship worthy of Him. Therefore, we should seek in Jesus, in His wounds and His precious Blood, all that will make up for our insufficiency, and pay our debt to God; and we shall find it superabundantly. Even though we have consecrated ourselves to the service and worship of God, we are always useless servants, always His great debtors; this, however, should not discourage us but should serve to stimulate us never to lessen, never to draw back in our dedication to God. At the same time, it ought to urge us to appeal with immense confidence to Jesus, our Savior and Mediator.

COLLOQUY

“What return shall I make to You, O God, for all You have given me? Reason and human justice require me to give myself entirely to You from whom I have received all that I am, and they enjoin me to love You with all my strength. But faith teaches me that I should love You still more than this because Your gifts are greater than I am. You have given me not only my being, but also, by grace, Your being.

“If, because You created me, I ought to give myself entirely to You, what should I add in exchange for my redemption? When You created me, You gave me myself; when You redeemed me, You gave me Yourself, and by so doing, You gave me back to myself. Given and then returned, I owe myself to You in exchange for myself; I owe myself twice. But what can I give You, my God, in return for Yourself? Even if I could give myself to You a thousand times, what am I compared with You?

“I will love You, O Lord, my strength, my support, my refuge, my redeemer. I will love You for Your gifts, according to my measure, which certainly will be less than the just measure, but will not be less than my capacity for loving You. Doubtless, I shall know how to love You more when You deign to give me more love, and yet I shall never be able to love You as much as You deserve. Your eyes have seen my imperfection, but the names of those who have done all that they could are written in Your book, even if they could not do all they should” (St. Bernard).

“I invoke You, omnipotent Father, by the charity of Your omnipotent Son; nor do I know of any other intercessor, if not this One who made Himself a propitiation for our sins. I beseech You through Him, the High Priest, true Pontiff and Good Shepherd, who offered Himself as a sacrifice and gave His life for His flock; I pray to You through Him who is seated at Your right hand interceding for us, to give me the grace to bless You and praise You and glorify You together with Him, with intense compunction of heart, with many tears, and with great reverence. He is my advocate with You, God the Father; He is the sacred Victim, pleasing to You, perfect, offered in the odor of sweetness and acceptable to You” (St. Augustine).

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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 justice and religion: Balanced scale of justice, Perhelion, 15 July 2011, PD-Worldwide, 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, 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.

How the Eucharist Teaches Us to Read Scripture

Sun, 09/03/2017 - 22:07

There is the Liturgy of the Word and then the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In the first, we hear the words of God. In the second, we eat the Word of God made flesh.

We think of one leading to the other. But the reverse also holds true: the Eucharist teaches us how to read Scripture.

Does this sound strange to say? Well, listen to what Jeremiah 15:16 says about the words of God:

When I found your words, I devoured them;
your words were my joy, the happiness of my heart,
Because I bear your name,
Lord, God of hosts (NAB, Rev. Ed.)

Jeremiah wasn’t the only prophet to whom this happened. Ezekiel was commanded to consume a scroll. John ate a scroll the angle handed to him in Revelation. Rather than portray these acts as isolated occurrences, Scripture suggests they are models for us. Here for example is Psalm 119:103,

How sweet are your words to my taste!
Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (KJV)

And Job 23:12,

Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips;
I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food (KJV).

Psalm 119 and Job point to two ways reading Scripture is like eating food.

It’s intimate. Eating a meal isn’t necessarily a private act, but touching our lips is an intensely intimate act. Our lips are the passageway for the food that is becomes part of our bodies and they are the place where we experience one of the most intimate acts of human nature: kissing a lover. We ought to strive for this kind of intimacy with Scripture.

It’s essential. Reading Scripture is essential to a healthy faith life. Hear again how it is described above: Jeremiah devoured the words of God, as a starved man might consume crumbs of bread. Job values the words of God more than his food.

Take joy in the word. We should delight in the word of God. Savor the sweetness of Scripture as you would a fine wine.

As sacred food, the Eucharist teaches us more about how to encounter sacred Scripture. Here are five ways.

  1. Seek the invisible. The paradox of the Eucharist is that Christ is fully present yet He is also veiled behind the Eucharistic bread and wine. While visible itself, the Eucharist bids us seek the invisible God. It’s a sort of handhold for us as we venture forth into the ‘luminous darkness’ of God’s presence. So also with Scripture: we ought to seek the hidden meanings beneath the surface of the text. Listen for the voice of Christ and the Spirit moving us through its words.
  2. Encounter a person. In the Eucharist, we meet Christ. Likewise, Scripture is always an encounter with a person—the living Christ of the gospels, the humbly earnest Paul of the epistles, the suffering Job, the devout David.
  3. Be transformed. The Eucharist transforms our whole selves into the image of Christ. It is the ‘medicine of immortality,’ flooding our bodies and souls with grace, purifying us of our attachment to sin, and preparing us for eternal life. And yes it is also real food, real bread that we digest and real wine that we can taste. Let it be so with Scripture. Let its beauty touch us while its profound truths penetrate to the depths of our souls.
  4. Let it read us. The Eucharist actually ‘eats’ us, as a discerning priest I knew once said. As one writer explains, “When you eat food, it becomes a part of you. With the Eucharist, however, the opposite happens. We become a part of it, that is, in Holy Communion, we are made a part of the mystical body of Christ.” So also with Scripture: let it ‘read’ our souls. Let it test us. Let it convict us, challenge us, and convert us. As the great Catholic poet Paul Claudel put it, “But to say that we question the Scriptures is incorrect. It is better to admit that the Scriptures question us and find for each of us, throughout every age and generation, the right question.”
  5. Let the word become flesh. The words of God are supposed to become so much a part of who we are that they ‘take flesh’ in us. When we live out Christ’s commands to deny ourselves and take up our cross, to show mercy to the meek and downtrodden, to welcome strangers as our neighbors, and to love our enemies, the words of God have become incarnate in us.

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.