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What is the Spiritual Wisdom of Eastern Christianity?

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 02:35
Many Traditions – One Faith 

 

Eastern Christianity

There are many different rites in the Catholic faith, yet it is one united, universal Church. There is a difference between the Eastern and Roman rites in the Church. “A Rite represents an ecclesiastical, or church, tradition about how the sacraments are to be celebrated.” (Colin B. Donovan*). Saint John Paul the Great also explains how the Latin Rite and Eastern Catholic Churches** are united. “Since, in fact, we believe that the venerable and ancient tradition of the Eastern Churches is an integral part of the heritage of Christ’s Church, the first need for Catholics is to be familiar with that tradition, so as to be nourished by it and to encourage the process of unity in the best way possible for each” (Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II***).

The Spiritual Wisdom of Eastern Christianity

This Avila Institute course offers an introduction to the spiritual treasures of the Byzantine tradition of Christianity. It is divided into three parts. The first part looks at the distinctive features of its rich liturgical piety. Part two extends this liturgical perspective to include the ways in which icons communicate the mysteries of the faith. And, the third portion examines the Hesychastic tradition, focusing on the Prayer of the Heart. You can register at avila-institute.com to take the Graduate level course on “The Spiritual Wisdom of Eastern Christianity.”

Dr. Michael Gama will teach this course and relates that in “The Spiritual Wisdom of Eastern Christianity,” we will explore several of the key components of Eastern Christianity that inspired Saint Pope John Paul II to instruct that the Church needed to increasingly benefit from “breathing with both lungs,” both west and east. We will explore Eastern Christian liturgy and most importantly, look deeply into the Eastern Christian understanding of anthropology and soteriology, specifically as related to humans being created in the image and likeness of God, and then most importantly, how this understanding is related to our telos or purpose — that being theosis, or union with God through Christ, and this by grace.

Class Dates/Time is Nov 30, Dec 7, 14, 21, Jan 4, 11, 18, 25, and Feb 1 on Thursdays 8:30 – 10:30 pm Eastern Time.

Check out more information about the Avila Institute here.

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Art for this post The Spiritual Wisdom of Eastern Christianity: 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. Avila Institute Logo used with permission.

*http://www.ewtn.com/Expert/answers/catholic_rites_and_churches.htm
**http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05230a.htm  
***https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1995/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_19950502_orientale-lumen.html

About Kristin Aebli

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

 

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

General Audience

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 00:50

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In this, the last of our catecheses on Christian hope, I would like to speak of hope’s fulfilment in heaven. On Calvary, Jesus assures the Good Thief that he will be with him that very day in heaven. The Lord’s solidarity with us sinners culminates on the cross; there, as one of his final acts, he opens the gates of heaven to a repentant criminal. The Good Thief’s humble plea for mercy was sufficient to touch the heart of Jesus. His humility reminds us that, like the publican in the Temple, or the prodigal Son, we can only trust in God’s mercy, and, at every hour of our life, turn to him with hope in his promises. Jesus died on the cross to redeem our sins, our mistakes and our failings, and to bring us with him to the house of the Father. He desires that nothing be lost of what he has redeemed. No one, then, should despair, for his grace is always present to those who put their trust in him. The hour of our death need hold no fear for us if, like the Good Thief, we can turn to the Lord and pray in confident hope: “Jesus, remember me” (cf. Lk 23:42).

The Sweet, Joyous Confidence Found in Scripture

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 22:07

Spiritual joy is, as its name denotes, the joy that the heart of man experiences in the possession and enjoyment of spiritual gifts. He is joyful because he knows that God has deigned to call him His friend and His child, that he lives under the protec­tion of the Most High, and that he hopes soon to be united to God his Father in eternal bliss. All those who follow the path of perfection are in this state; and as there are no riches to be compared with those they possess, they ought to be the most joyful of mankind.

And yet many are not so, and few are so always, because they do not sufficiently consider what cause for joy they possess. I feel an interest in them; and as all they need is to know their own happiness, I wish to draw their attention to it, to induce them to remember what they are — children and friends of God and heirs of His kingdom. This beautiful subject is always fruitful, and it will confirm the truths I have been speaking of, and show still more clearly how mistaken people are in thinking that humility is always sad — who look on the joy that the servants of God experience as presumption and try to disturb them by putting fear into their hearts.

This mistake arises from a want of discernment in confound­ing worldly happiness with the divine and supernatural joy that, having infinite good for its object, can never be too great and becomes more and more perfect as we know God more. The blessed ones in Heaven experience this; and if I can persuade anyone to believe this truth, either from reason or authority, I am certain they also will understand it.

There is not a word in Holy Scripture that forbids the ser­vants of God to rejoice in Him. It is true that Solomon said that “the heart of the wise is where there is mourning, and the heart of the fool is where there is mirth” (Eccles. 7:5); but he evidently meant to praise a wise gravity and modesty, and to blame frivolity and dissipation.

As for spiritual joy, I would never end if I were to quote all the passages of Holy Writ that praise it. I will merely mention some of the most striking. David speaks most beautifully of it, some­times declaring it to be the heritage of God’s servants: sometimes entreating the Lord to infuse it into his soul for his nourishment and delight. At one time, he proclaims the blessedness of those who have drunk at its source; at another, he invites all the just to rejoice in the Lord:

The just shall rejoice in the Lord. Let Israel rejoice in him that made him, and let the children of Sion be joyful in their King. The saints shall rejoice in glory: they shall be joyful in their beds.

O how great is the multitude of thy sweetness, O Lord, which thou hast hidden from them that fear thee! Give joy to the soul of thy servant, for to thee, O Lord, I have lifted up my soul: for thou, O Lord, art sweet, and mild, and plenteous in mercy to all that call upon thee. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation. Blessed is the people that knoweth jubilation: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance, and in thy name shall they rejoice all the day.

Glory ye in his holy Name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord. Serve ye the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with exceeding great joy. O taste and see that the Lord is sweet: blessed is the man that hopeth in him. Come, let us praise the Lord with joy: let us joyfully sing to God our Savior. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye just, and glory, all ye right of heart.

After the holy king comes Solomon, who says of sadness: “As a moth doth by a garment and a worm by the wood, so the sadness of a man consumeth the heart” (Prov. 25:20); and of joy: “I have known that there was no better thing than to rejoice” (Eccles. 3:12). And again: “The joyfulness of the heart is the life of a man, and a never-failing treasure of holiness, and the joy of a man is length of life” (Sir. 30:23); and again: “Give not up thy soul to sadness, and afflict not thyself in thy own counsel . . . for sadness hath killed many, and there is no profit in it” (Sir. 30:22, 25).

St. Peter and St. Paul treat the subject in the same manner. The former, in his first epistle, exhorts the faithful, “as newborn babes, to desire the rational milk without guile . . . if so be you have tasted that the Lord is sweet” (1 Pet. 2:2–3). And this Car­dinal Hugues interprets: “You will have this ardent desire if you have already learned the grandeur and the beauty of divine sweet­ness.” St. Paul strongly urges his converts to preserve interior joy as their only defense against sadness and scrupulosity. “May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,” he writes to the Romans (15:13); to the Colossians: “Let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts” (3:15); to the Philippians: “May the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds, through Jesus Christ” (4:7). To the Galatians, enumerating the fruits of the Spirit, he mentions, first: charity, joy, and peace; to the Thessalonians: “Always rejoice” (1 Thess. 5:16); and again to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice” (4:4). Once more to the same body of Christians: “My brethren, rejoice in the Lord: to write the same things to you, to me indeed is not wearisome, but to you is neces­sary” (Phil. 3:1).

And to this convincing evidence we may add the authority of our divine Lord. When the Pharisees censured in His presence the joy of the apostles, He replied: “Can the children of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?” (Matt. 9:15). You whom He has espoused in love, fear not, therefore, to displease Him by your joy. Has He not said besides: “Rejoice in this, that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20)? And again: “Be glad and rejoice, for behold your reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6:23).

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Holy Confidence: The Forgotten Path for Growing Closer to Godwhich is available from Sophia Institute Press

The Miracle of the Wedding at Conway

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 22:05

Every good Catholic, it seems, has a St. Anthony story – a time our patron saint for lost articles helped us rediscover something precious. I thought I had a St. Anthony to tell here, until I realized that it was really a story about Our Lady.

The story begins about 75 years ago in Havana, Cuba. A young man walked into a jewelry shop and asked the proprietor to fashion a set of rings for his bride. The wedding band was to be five small diamonds set in stainless steel. Below each diamond was a delicate cross. The matching engagement ring followed the same pattern, but with a larger center stone, evoking the solitaires popularized by Tiffany a continent away.

The man and his bride were married and blessed with a daughter. But tragedy struck when the young family had to leave everything behind to escape the terror of communism. They went first to Buenos Aires, then Los Angeles, then Chicago, and finally settled in South Florida. It was there that their daughter graduated from college, married, and gave the man and his bride their only grandchild: me.

As a little girl, those rings that my grandfather commissioned would frequently catch my eye, flashing glamorously on my grandmother’s finger, or, more mundanely, placed on the wooden sofa table where she would put them while she did her knitting.

When it came time for me to marry, my grandparents were both gone. But our link to them was crystallized in those beautiful rings, passed down to me, their only grandchild, which my husband lovingly slipped on my finger as we vowed to love and honor each other all the days of our lives.

What a vow to make. I recently heard a Catholic professor of theology give a lecture where he said that marriage is not only difficult, it is impossible. After a dramatic pause, he added, “It’s impossible without God’s grace.” It got him a laugh, but he was actually quite serious. Marriage is too hard to do on our own. And this is why Our Lord elevated it to a Sacrament.

Original Sin ruptured the communion between Heaven and earth. And it also damaged the communion between man and woman. Our capacity to love was now broken by selfishness. Jesus performed His first public miracle at a wedding as a sign of the coming of the Kingdom of God: to show the world that the time had come for God’s people to be restored to right relationship with Him, and with each other. Marriage was now a Sacrament, an indissoluble union, and a sign by which married couples image the Trinity to the world.

My story picks up again on a recent fall weekend. Looking for something to do with an out of town guest, we got in the minivan along with our two sons and drove almost three hours to Conway, NH, to see the beautiful fall foliage at its peak. It was a mob scene: cars were lined up for blocks on either side of overlooks. As I handed out lunches in the car ahead of one of our many stops, I took those precious rings off to put on hand lotion. I laid them in my lap as I fussed with wrappers, trash bags, drinks, and a dozen other distractions. We made several stops throughout the rest of the day, taking in the beauty of creation as a family.

It wasn’t until we got home that I realized my rings weren’t on my hand. I turned to St. Anthony, begging him for His help. Let them still be in the car. Let my husband find them.

Worry turned to panic which turned to despair as my husband walked in from his fourth search of the car. He had taken all the seats out, lifted every carpet, pulled back every piece of Velcro, even vacuumed and then sifted through the filthy contents. There was nothing.

My beloved rings, gone. The legacy from my grandparents’ marriage, entrusted to me, carelessly lost. And my only direct link to Cuba, severed. I was sobbing.

As I cried into my husband’s shoulder, I desperately called out in my mind St. Mother Teresa’s prayer, “Mary, mother of God, please be a mother to me now.” I needed to be consoled, assured it would be okay, though I would surely never see those rings again.

And then my husband was inspired. If the rings weren’t in the car, they might be on the ground near one of the places we had parked. Though it was nearing 11pm and he had already driven close to 6 hours that day, he grabbed a flashlight and began the 110-mile drive back up to Conway while I waited and slept fitfully between prayers.

And then, the text message.

A little after 2am I looked at my phone through bleary eyes to see a photo of two perfect rings encrusted in grit, the carved crosses packed with dirt. After a long search, he had found them pressed hard into the ground and inexplicably unnoticed by any of the hundreds of people who would have walked by.

It was a miracle. And then I remembered why it was that Our Lord turned water into wine at the wedding at Cana: Because His mother asked Him to.

I imagined Mary with Jesus at the Wedding at Cana, as she had interceded for the couple telling Him “They have no wine,” and in response Our Lord, His grace perfecting nature, turned a good, water, into an even greater good, wine, the sign of His eternal covenant. (Cf John 2:3)

He listened to His mother, whom He made my mother at His Passion. Then I imagined Mary interceding for me by gently saying to Jesus, “She’s lost her rings” and in response Jesus filled my husband’s heart with actual grace.

Do whatever He tells you…..Fill those jars with water….get in the car and drive.

And somehow he found the same spot where they lay unseen on the ground for 12 hours at the busiest overlook on the busiest Saturday of the year. He has kept the good wine until now.

I know that my Blessed Mother helped us through her intercession. In the re-discovery of my rings, we re-discovered how Jesus makes our love ever-new, taking our fallen nature and perfecting it, so that in marriage we can glimpse in this life what it is like to live in the eternally loving communion of the Blessed Trinity. Through her intercession, Mary helped me to see the centrality of her Son to our married life.

And my husband’s journey to find the rings was not unlike the marriage journey. Where did he get the energy to embark on a 100+ mile drive in the dead of night, with no realistic hope of finding those rings? And at the moment my husband slipped them on my finger almost 20 years ago, did the two of us alone have any real hope of finding what we sought: loving and honoring each other as long as we both shall live? Our wedding vows were the same leap of faith, a drive in the dark and dig through the dirt hoping to find something precious and beautiful and everlasting, that we can only find with God’s help.

Yes, marriage is hard. It is harder than finding two diamond rings in the dirt 100 miles away. It is not just hard, it’s impossible—without God’s grace. Now, every time I look at my grandmother’s rings on my left hand, I will remember my family’s miracle of the wedding at Conway, and thank our Blessed Mother for always pointing us to Her Son Jesus Christ.

image: Conway Valley New Hampshire by Albert Bierstadt

Our Father: The Lord’s Prayer

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 22:02

Q: Recently a Protestant friend asked me why Catholics do not include, “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, now and forever,” at the end of the Our Father. I really do not know. Can you help me?

When discussing prayer with His disciples, our Lord said, “This is how you are to pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed by Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us the wrong we have done as we forgive those who wrong us. Subject us not to the trial but deliver us from the evil one’” (Mt 6:9-13). (The translation cited is from the New American Bible.) A similar version is found in Luke 11:2-4. Both versions do not include the ending sentence, “For thine….”

The “For thine…” is technically termed a “doxology.” In the Bible, we find the practice of concluding prayers with a short, hymn-like verse which exalts the glory of God. An example similar to the doxology in question is found in David’s prayer located in I Chronicles 29:10-13 of the Old Testament. The Jews frequently used these doxologies to conclude prayers at the time of our Lord.

In the early Church, the Christians living in the eastern half of the Roman Empire added the doxology “For thine…” to the Gospel text of the Our Father when reciting the prayer at Mass. Evidence of this practice is also found in the Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles), a first-century manual of morals, worship and doctrine of the Church. (The Didache also prescribed that the faithful recite the Our Father three times a day.) Also when copying the Scriptures, Greek scribes sometimes appended the doxology onto the original Gospel text of the Our Father; however, most texts today would omit this inclusion, relegate it to a footnote, or note that it was a later addition to the Gospel. Official “Catholic” Bibles including the Vulgate, the Douay-Rheims, the Confraternity Edition, and the New American have never included this doxology.

In the western half of the Roman Empire and in the Latin rite, the Our Father was always an important part of the Mass. St. Jerome (d. 420) attested to the usage of the Our Father in the Mass, and St. Gregory the Great (d. 604) placed the recitation of the Our Father after the Canon and before the Fraction. The Commentary on the Sacrament of St. Ambrose (d. 397) meditated on the meaning of “daily bread” in the context of the Holy Eucharist. In this same vein, St. Augustine (d. 430) saw the Our Father as a beautiful connection of the Holy Eucharist with the forgiveness of sins. In all instances, the Church saw this perfect prayer which our Lord gave to us as a proper means of preparing for Holy Communion. However, none of this evidence includes the appended doxology.

Interestingly, the English wording of the Our Father that we use today reflects the version mandated for use by Henry VIII (while still in communion with the Catholic Church), which was based on the English version of the Bible produced by Tyndale (1525). Later in 1541 (after his official separation from the Holy Father), Henry VIII issued an edict saying, “His Grace perceiving now the great diversity of the translations (of the Pater Noster etc.) hath willed them all to be taken up, and instead of them hath caused an uniform translation of the said Pater Noster, Ave, Creed, etc., to be set forth, willing all his loving subjects to learn and use the same and straitly [sic] commanding all parsons, vicars, and curates to read and teach the same to their parishioners.” This English version without the doxology of the Our Father became accepted throughout the English-speaking world, even though the later English translations of the Bible including the Catholic Douay-Rheims (1610) and Protestant King James versions (1611) had different renderings of prayers as found in the Gospel of St. Matthew. Later, the Catholic Church made slight modifications in the English: “who art” replaced “which art,” and “on earth” replaced “in earth.” During the reign of Edward VI, the Book of Common Prayer (1549 and 1552 editions) of the Church of England did not change the wording of the Our Father or add the doxology. However, during the reign of Elizabeth I and a resurgence to rid the Church of England of any Catholic vestiges, the Lord’s Prayer was changed to include the doxology.

The irony of this answer is that some Protestants sometimes accuse Catholics of not being “literally” faithful to Sacred Scripture and depending too much on Tradition. In this case, we see that the Catholic Church has been faithful to the Gospel text of the Our Father, while Protestant Churches have added something of Tradition to the words of Jesus. Nevertheless, the Our Father is the one and perfect prayer given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ, and all of the faithful should offer this prayer, reflecting on the full meaning of its words.

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

The Gospel reading tells us that he has

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 22:00

The Gospel reading tells us that he has come “to bring fire upon the earth.” He has come to inflame us with love of God and love of neighbor. He has come to transform us so we would be men and women of God rather than men and women of the flesh and of the world. At the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, Simeon told his parents that Jesus will be “for the rise or fall of the multitudes of Israel. He shall stand as a sign of contradiction.” (Lk 2: 34- 35)

In the first reading Paul tells us that we are either for God and life or for Sin and death.

There is no middle ground: we are either for or against God and his Christ. We lead our lives in Sin and in this world or for God and his grace preparing treasure for heaven which will not rust.

May we live in God’s love and grace and spend our lives spreading his message of love and peace.

“For the Christian who is serious

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 22:00

“For the Christian who is serious about who he really is, prayer is not optional. As lungs are to physical life, prayer is to spiritual life.”

-Johnnette Benkovic, When Women Pray: Eleven Catholic Women on the Power of Prayer

Pope St. Evaristus, Martyr

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 22:00

According to the Liber Pontificalis (book of the popes), Evaristus was the son of a Hellenic Jew of Bethlehem. He was the fourth successor of Saint Peter, succeeding Saint Clement in the See of Rome during the reign of Trajan. He held the office of the papacy for nine years, dying in the year 112.

It is written that Evaristus instituted the cardinal priests by dividing Christian Rome into seven regions, or parishes, assigning a priest to each. He also appointed seven deacons to attend the bishop.

In most Martyrologies and Pontificals, Evaristus is honored as a martyr although there are no records stating the details of his martyrdom.

Pope Saint Evaristus is probably buried near St. Peter’s tomb in the Vatican.

Prayer

Dear Lord, you gave your servant, Pope Evaristus, the gifts of wisdom and humility to guide your Church on earth. By his loyalty in shepherding the flock, may he continue to guide those on earth who seek his intercession. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Demetrius (3rd Century), Martyr

Facts about the Devil from an Exorcist

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 02:35

The Pride of Lucifer and His Acolytes

God, in His infinite power, created multitudes of angels, an impressive, incalculable number. One day during an exorcism Father Candido Amantini — a Passionist priest and my great teacher — asked a demon: “How many are you?” The demon responded: “We are so many that if we were visible we would obscure the sun.” The demon on that occasion gave information that we have no reason to disbelieve because it is confirmed in the Bible.

A great number of the angels fell because they rebelled against God. We recall that before admitting the angels to paradise, God subjected them to a trial of obedience and humility, of which we know the nature but not the specifics. The sin of the fallen angels was one of pride and disobedience. Satan, the most beautiful of all the angels, being aware of his extreme intelligence, rebelled at the idea of being subjected to someone. He forgot that he was a creature made by God. Many angels followed him in his folly.

The original sins of the angels are the same as those who implicitly or explicitly adhere to Satanism. Angels and men who follow Satan base their existence on three principles and practical rules of life: you can do what you wish, that is, without subjugation to God’s laws; you obey no one; and you are the god of yourself.

What happened between the angels is narrated in the twelfth chapter of the book of Revelation: there was a great war between the angels who remained faithful to God and those who rebelled against Him — in brief, a war between the angels and the demons. In this passage, the Bible tells us that Michael the Archangel was at the head of the angels and that the dragon guided the angels who rebelled (and were defeated). The result was that “there was no longer any place for them in heaven” (Rev. 12:8).

Can the Devil Read Our Thoughts?

We have now arrived at the specific action of the devil, and we begin with the first question: Can the devil know our thoughts; is he able to understand what we are thinking at a certain moment in our life? The response is simple: absolutely not. Theology is agreed on this question. Only God — who is omniscient, who intimately possesses the secrets of created reality, that of men and angels, and that of uncreated reality, which is His own essence — knows in depth the thoughts of each man. Although a spiritual creature, the demon does not understand what is in our mind and in our heart; he can only surmise it through observing our behavior. It is not a complicated operation for him, having an extremely fine intelligence. If a young person smokes marijuana, for example, the demon can deduce that in the future he will also use stronger drugs. In a word: from what we read, see, say, and experience, and from the companions we choose, even from our glances — from all this he can discern where he will tempt us and at which particular moment. And that is what he does.

This brings to mind a passage from the first letter of St. Peter: “Brothers and sisters, be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith” (cf. 1 Pet. 5:8–9). My interpretation of this passage, on which various scholars are agreed, sounds like this: “Brothers and sisters, be vigilant. The devil wanders around each one of you, searching where to devour.” That word where is important: the devil looks in each person precisely for his weak point and “works” on it, creating his next sinful occasion. It will be the targeted person himself, who in his liberty, will commit the sin, after having been well “cooked” by Satan’s temptation.

The most frequent weak points in man are, from time to time, always the same: pride, money, and lust. And, let us note well, there are no age limits for sinning. When I hear confessions, I often say to my penitents, somewhat jokingly, that their temptations will end only five minutes after they have exhaled their last breath. Therefore, we must not presume or hope that at an advanced age we shall be exempt from sin. A vice that is cultivated in youth will not lessen in old age without some work and intervention. Let us consider lust: when I hear confessions, it’s not uncommon for the elderly to confess to looking at pornography more often then the youth. The will to struggle against sin must be cultivated even to the end of our days.

Does the Devil Fear Man?

We proceed to the second question: Who must be afraid, us or the devil? The letter of James says textually: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). The demon keeps his distance from the one who nurtures his faith, who frequents the sacraments, and who wishes to live devoutly. Why? Simply put, the devil hates God and is in terror of Him and anything that even has the odor of sanctity. If we think about it, we can recall periods of our existence in which we have intensified our interior life and felt stronger in resisting temptations. On the other hand, we must avoid becoming arrogant and must always remember that the demon does not ever cease to tempt us, even to the end of our days.

I should also mention that sacred places, in particular those where a strong Marian devotion exists, have a similar effect. For these Satan has an invincible aversion: Loreto, Lourdes, Fátima, just to cite a few that are well known. Many liberations occur in these places.

Satan fears the sons of God, those seeking to conform their lives to Jesus. The devil is aware that he is stronger and more intelligent than we are, but he also knows that we are not alone in the struggle against him. One example suffices: toward the sunset of his life, Don Bosco, one of the greatest saints of the nineteenth century, liberated a girl from possession simply by entering the chapel dressed in sacred vestments to celebrate Mass. The devil is in fear of the saints and their sanctity.

Where Does the Evil One Dwell in the Human Body?

To put it as simply as possible, demons influence our body or one part of it without locating themselves in that particular organ or limb. When the possessed person falls into a trance and the Evil Spirit takes “control” in some way — inducing in him uncontrolled movements or making him speak or curse — it is as if the demon wraps around the entire body of the possessed, causing him to lose control of himself. Sometimes it can seem as if the spirit is localized in the throat, in the stomach, in the intestine, or in the head, where pains and spasms are manifested. In reality, the demon is not there in a specific part of the body but only influencing a specific organ within that moment.

If this is the way things are, do diabolical possessions and other spiritual evils exclude the presence of the Holy Spirit? We cannot reason in a human way with spirits. The represented space within the human body is not empty or refillable the way that a glass can be refilled by and emptied of water. In the case of the demon and the Holy Spirit, the two rival entities can live together — obviously in conflict — in the same person. On the other hand, we know that diverse saints were possessed by bad spirits, even if evidently they were filled with the Holy Spirit. How does one explain this if the demon does not occupy physical space? Certainly, the Holy Spirit can chase away the demon, but He does it within the boundaries of our own free will, thus permitting us to make our own choices. The Gospel of Mark says: “This kind [of demon] cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

Who ought to pray and fast? Everyone — the person struck by the spiritual evil and those close to him. For the first, it is a trial of extraordinary faith, a response to a very particular call to sanctity. For the others, it is an appeal to demonstrate Christian charity concretely. Indeed, the prayers of close family members are very efficacious; their collaboration can be very helpful in creating a positive climate in the house. To these persons I add the exorcist, the pastor, friends, and whoever lends a hand in the liberation of the obsessed.

What Does the Devil Look Like?

Among the most recurring questions, and in my opinion the most amusing, is: How does the devil appear or what does he look like? He is a pure spirit; he does not have corporeal substance; therefore, he is not representative to us in a fully comprehensible form. It is the same for him as for the angels: if they wish to appear to men, they must assume characteristics accessible to us. The Bible is filled with visions of angels as men. In the book of Tobias, for example, the Archangel Raphael accompanies the young Tobias on his mission by assuming the form of a youth.

Returning to the appearance of the devil: one can say that, in his essence, he is much uglier than we can even vaguely imagine. His horrific appearance is a direct consequence of his distancing himself from God and of his explicit and irrevocable choice of rebellion. This we can infer from logical reasoning: if God is infinitely beautiful, whoever decides to distance himself from God must be the exact opposite. Naturally, this is only one type of theological augmentation that we find based on revelation and from the support of our natural reason when it is illuminated by faith.

And if, stretching the discourse, we wished somehow to give the demon an image? We begin, necessarily, by setting aside the figures derived from traditional depictions of the devil with horns, a tail, the wings of a bat, talons, and inflamed eyes. Being a pure spirit, evidently he cannot embody these characteristics. If these images can help us to fear his actions toward us — and we have good reason to — then we should welcome them; on the other hand, we risk making the devil appear like an ancient relic, a frill of times past, and the stuff of simpletons. There is a great danger in over-relying on these images, and they can be of service to the devil!

The devil, being very shrewd, can also assume innocuous forms. The case of St. Pio of Pietrelcina is exemplary. At times, the devil showed himself to him as a ferocious dog, at other times as Jesus or as our Lady, at still other times as his confessor or as the father guardian of his convent, who commanded him to do something. But after verifying the order he received with his superior, he understood that he had had a vision of the devil. There were even a few times when the devil appeared as a beautiful, naked girl.

Finally the demon could present himself with unpleasant odors, such as sulfur or animal excrement (it happens at times when one is blessing a house), or, to persons particularly sensitive, with odious noises, such as a clearly perceived rustling of the wind, or harassing tactile sensations.

What Does the Church Say of Wandering Souls?

Let us now confront another topic. Someone attests to seeing and perceiving “spirits.” Are they only imaginings? Does it involve “wandering souls”? Regarding this we must be very prudent and discerning. The “presences,” spirits or ghosts, are seen in particular literature and in the vast exorcistical caseload. What can be said about these things?

There are, above all, the certitudes of our Faith. The first is that we have only one life, and we play it out here; at the end, we shall be judged to be worthy to rise to life in God or to be unworthy, distancing ourselves from Him eternally.

The second certitude of our Faith is that a form of communication exists between the dead and us: it is the principle of the Mystical Body, of the Church that communicates to her interior­ity, to her inner self. Specifically, there is a spiritual exchange between the souls of the dead in paradise and in purgatory and those of us still on our earthly pilgrimage that is manifested through the prayers of intercession. In particular, the souls in purgatory who are experiencing purification have the capacity to offer their suffering in extraordinary reparation for us; they, in turn, greatly enjoy the benefits of our prayers. Excluded are the souls of the damned; being in hell they do not enjoy (and do not desire) our prayers.

Returning to the wandering spirits: in my view, if immediately after death we go to paradise, to hell, or to purgatory, it is doubtful that wandering souls exist. In the old ritual of exorcism, one was put on guard against “presumed” possessions or spiritual disturbances caused by the damned soul of a deceased. It is, instead, the devil who is disguised like this. It happened to me, for example, that during an exorcism a spirit claimed to be one of these wandering spirits. A deeper verification revealed that he was a demon. But other exorcists are convinced of the contrary: according to them, the presence of such wandering spirits is a fact. Since it concerns a problem that is still unresolved, theologians will have to study it deeply through Scripture, the Magisterium of the Church, and the experience of mystics and seers.

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This article is an excerpt from An Exorcist Explains the Demonic by Fr. Gabriele Amorth, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.

Art for this post on facts about the devil: Temptation on the Mount, Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308-1311, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons; Cover of An Exorcist Explains the Demonic used with permission.

Read more about recognizing the devil 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.

70. The Answer (Matthew 22:34-46)

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 02:30

“If we desire to live in the dwelling-place of his kingdom there is no means of reaching it except by the way of good deeds.” – St. Benedict

Matthew 22:34-46: But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’ While the Pharisees were gathered round, Jesus put to them this question, ‘What is your opinion about the Christ? Whose son is he?’ ‘David’s’ they told him. ‘Then how is it’ he said ‘that David, moved by the Spirit, calls him Lord, where he says: The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand and I will put your enemies under your feet? ‘If David can call him Lord, then how can he be his son?’ Not one could think of anything to say in reply, and from that day no one dared to ask him any further questions.

Christ the Lord The “law and the prophets” was considered by the Jews to contain the absolutely unique self-revelation of the one, true God to his only Chosen People. In possessing this revelation, Israel excelled over all other nations and peoples: the Creator of heaven and earth had entered into a personal covenant with them, promising to bless all nations through them. Therefore, when this Pharisee (who happened to be an expert in “the law and the prophets”) queries Jesus as to the greatest among the 613 commandments of the law, he is really ferreting out Christ’s interpretation of the entire history and reality of the Israelite nation – a daunting task. We can imagine Christ fixing his eyes on those of the questioner, wondering if perchance this question were asked sincerely. Once again, he rises to the occasion, giving us in two sentences the perfect program for our entire life.

After responding, Jesus decides the time has come to end the interminable debate with the Pharisees. Throughout St Matthew’s Gospel they have obstructed, insulted, doubted, confronted, and tried to humiliate and discredit Jesus. As the hour of Christ’s passion approaches, he turns the tables. He asks them about the first verse of Psalm 110, a psalm that, as all the rabbis agreed, dealt specifically with the Messiah. Jesus asks them to interpret how David can address the Messiah, who is David’s son and by that standard ought to be inferior to David, as his superior, calling him Lord. Some commentators see this challenge as a final discrediting of the Pharisees by Jesus. Up to this time, they have tried to demean him with their supposedly superior knowledge of the Law, but now Jesus denigrates them in the eyes of all the people, inviting the crowds to retract their confidence in these false teachers who are not even able to decipher the meaning of a simple, well-known Scripture passage. Other commentators say Jesus was indicating one final time that their concept of the Messiah was too worldly; it didn’t leave room for God’s wonderful plan of sending the Second Person of the Trinity. In this case too, their small-mindedness destroys their credibility.

In either case, this final exchange marks a turning point: the Lord will no longer tolerate the Pharisees’ stubborn resistance; the time has come to put them in their place so as to open the hearts of the people to the Savior’s grace.

Christ the Teacher The novelty of Christ’s answer to the Pharisee’s query comes not in identifying the greatest commandment, about which the rabbis had already come to a consensus, but in linking it to the second greatest commandment – in binding together in his New Covenant love for God and love for neighbor. They had asked him for one commandment; he gave them two, as if to say that these two are really only one: how can you truly love God with all your heart if you do not also love your neighbor? This is where the Pharisees were always falling short. And, how can you truly love your neighbor if you do not love God with all your heart? This is where many modern humanitarians tend to fall short. What possible reason would there be to love my neighbor, that neighbor who contradicts me and gets on my nerves and treats me badly and uses up my resources, if my neighbor were not loved by God, if my neighbor were not my brother? If God loves him, and I love God… well, as true friends say: any friend of yours is a friend of mine.

Christ the Friend The social action of the Church throughout the centuries proves the power of this double dimension of love, lived out first by Christ, and subsequently, through the Holy Spirit, by his followers. The saints have been the ones to found hospitals, orphanages, schools, and countless other works of charity (“charity,” by the way, traditionally refers to both these dimensions of Christian love – for God and for neighbor because of God). Their love for God burned so wildly that it spread into love for all of God’s children, and whatever they could do for the spiritual and material benefit of those children was never enough. The dignity of every human person, a dignity that demands that they be loved, stems only from the image they bear within of God himself, most worthy of all our love. True love of God yields love for our neighbor; without it, love for our neighbor may temporarily relieve our conscience, but it will never bear lasting fruit. In identifying himself with each of his children, then, Christ has become the truest friend of all.

Jesus: So many people are searching for easy formulas that will simplify their lives. So many people are trying to find a clear answer to the questions that torment their souls. If only they would listen to my words! If only they would trust me and accept my teaching! If only they would try, just a little bit, to make the slightest effort to put it into practice, then my grace would sweep them off their feet and lead them to the meaningful life they long for.

Christ in My Life Lord, is it possible that some of the leaven of the Pharisees has penetrated my life? I know the right answers, and everyone identifies me as a faithful Christian, but are there relationships or habitual ways of thinking in my life that conform more to selfish standards than yours? Show me where my attitudes and actions need to be touched by your grace. Teach me, Lord, to do your will…

Your program of life is so simple. Why is it that I complicate things? How I long for the peace of living in communion with you! Cleanse my heart of every other desire, so that it’s only full of love for you and for my neighbor…

Why must I love my neighbor as myself? I so readily make excuses for myself; I always put up with myself – but my neighbor is so hard to tolerate, so full of faults. How do you see that person, Lord? Open my eyes to see as you see. No one is so faulty that you can’t make them into a saint…

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 22:34-36: Cover of The Better Part used with permission. The Pharisees and the Saducees Come to Tempt Jesus, James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, 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.

To Those Who Carry an Invisible Cross

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 22:07

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Both on my personal blog as well as on Catholic Exchange, I have shared about the experience of miscarrying my little Gabriel last year. What I didn’t fully realize before losing him was how very hidden a cross miscarriage is.

I am intentionally very open about my miscarriage, but I personally know many women who aren’t comfortable talking about the loss of their little one(s). I know other women who yearn to be able to talk about their little ones, but who are unsure of how people would react. Because, honestly, it is an uncomfortable subject for most people. However, for those who have been initiated into this terrible club, finding a fellow mother who knows your grief can be a true comfort.

It’s been about a year and a half since I lost my little one, and I’ve been blessed with another living child since then. Although time dulls the edge of my grief, it will never be completely eradicated in this lifetime. I was reminded of this the other day.

I was out running errands with my three living children, and we decided to buy a little pumpkin to take and leave on Gabriel’s grave. On that sunny hillside, huddled around the grave marker of the brother they never got to hold, my three girls posed for a picture and prayed for the repose of the soul of their brother. For a fleeting moment, my heart was comforted. All four of my children were physically in one place…and I have a picture to prove it.

But so many mothers can never have such a picture. So many mothers lost their child before seeing the tiny beating heart on an ultrasound screen (a picture of my own lost child that I treasure). For so many mothers, the child was too small, and lost too suddenly, for a body to be retrieved and buried. Yet, their grief is no less real. A mother’s heart never forgets, and never stops loving.

If grief is an invisible cross, it is one among many. Mental illness is another excruciatingly painful, hidden cross that many bear. I’ve suffered from post-partum depression  or anxiety after each of my four babies, a fact that also makes for uncomfortable conversation. There is a stigma around mental health issues, and most people would rather keep their (often excruciating) suffering to themselves, rather than risk judgement.

Like the Duchess of Cambridge and many of my fellow commoners, I’ve also experienced how isolating and misunderstood the suffering of a hyperemesis gravidarum pregnancy can be. But HG isn’t the only rare, chronic health condition that people experience. There are so many others.

These are just a few examples of hidden, painful crosses, but there are so many others out there. I’m sure, as you are reading this, you are mentally noting some of your own. I can think of other invisible crosses that I hold too close to my heart to share here. I’m sure you can think of some, too.

The reality is, we live in a fallen world, full of selfishness and lacking in compassion. Even the kindest among us aren’t kind 24/7. In a world like that, there is bound to be suffering, especially “invisible suffering” — pain that is lonely to endure because it is so terribly misunderstood. No, someone with depression cannot just “snap out of it”. No, a couple suffering from infertility can’t “just adopt” or “relax and get pregnant when you least expect it.” No, a lonely single person can’t “just try a Catholic online dating service.” No, someone with an autoimmune disorder can’t “just try harder” to engage in normal activity. No, someone suffering from past or present abuse can’t just “stop being so sensitive” or “just get out of the situation”. All of those responses offer advice that serves to minimize true pain. It may feel good to say, but it makes the one suffering feel worse.

Yet, wasn’t this the case with Christ’s cross, too? At a cursory glance, it would seem that Christ’s cross was anything but invisible…for goodness sake, a crucifixion was about as public of a death as you could possibly have! But was Christ’s suffering merely physical? No, the truly painful suffering of Christ was that he suffered for us. He bore in his person the weight of all of our sin. That kind of tremendous weight was seen by no one, and I’m sure the suffering caused by the nails was only the tip of the iceberg.

It is so easy to get so lost in our earthly reality, that we forget the cosmic reality playing out before us. It can be unbearably hard to carry an invisible cross, because of a lack of support and understanding in this world. Even if others witness some of our suffering, what they see are only the nail marks — not the crushing weight we carry within.

But there is someone who does see. God sees. The saints and angels see. And we are far from alone.

That cosmic reality is not part of our daily awareness, but it is even more real than this world we know (which brings to mind the increasing solidity experienced by the shadowy people in C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, as they enter the reality of heaven). As Catholics, we have a weekly (or even daily) opportunity to experience that reality. At the Mass, heaven comes to earth. The angels and saints are all present at Mass, because we are tapping into the one, true liturgy of heaven. At Mass, we are really, once again, at the foot of the cross of Christ. The sacrifice of Christ is “re-presented” for us — that is, made present again.

This is the place to bring our invisible crosses, and to ask for the grace to carry them. At Mass, at the foot of the cross, we are finally not alone. For Christ, who conquered death, knows the full weight of our pain…and he wants to bear it with us. We are little brothers and sisters of the saints, and they want to help us by their love and prayers. The angels, too, want to offer us love and protection. To them, our suffering is real.And when we “offer it up”, uniting our suffering to Christ’s, our cross becomes one with his and becomes a little lighter to bear. This is what makes his “yoke easy and burden light”— the fact that he bears it with us.

Most comforting is the passage from the Gospel of Luke, included in the daily readings the other day,

“Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins?
Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God.
Even the hairs of your head have all been counted.
Do not be afraid.
You are worth more than many sparrows.”

If you bear a hidden cross, take comfort in knowing that your suffering matters, and you are never, never alone.

Freedom from Self-Deception

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 22:05

In his interview with Alastair Campbell in GQ last week, Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby was pointedly asked about his view on the morality of homosexual activity. He was asked, “Is gay sex sinful?” Welby had responded, “You know very well that is a question I can’t give a straight answer to. Sorry, badly phrased there. I should have thought that one through.” After a mildly embarrassed pause, he then continued his response on why he could not give a straight answer:

Because I do not do blanket condemnation and I haven’t got a good answer to the question. I’ll be really honest about that. I know I haven’t got a good answer to the question. Inherently, within myself, the things that seem to me to be absolutely central are around faithfulness, stability of relationships and loving relationships.

His answer reminded me of then presidential aspirant Barack Obama’s response in 2008 to the question about when human life began. He had responded, Whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.” He would later admit the inadequacy of his response but the damage had already been done.

Self-deception has become the order of the day when faced with difficult questions about faith and morals. We hear the voice of our conscience appealing to the truth but we do not want to offend others and we surely do not want to be called bigots or accused of being intolerant or insensitive. So we feign either ignorance of the truth or uncertainty of what the truth is and demands from us.

An episode in Mt 21:23-28 sheds light on the nature and consequences of self-deception. The Jewish temple leaders had asked Jesus: “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus promised to reveal this to them if only they would first answer his question about the origin of John the Baptist’s baptism. He asked them, “The baptism of John, where was it from? From heaven or from men?” They weighed out in private their answers as well as the consequences, “If we say, ‘from heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all hold that John was a prophet.” So they replied with those familiar words of self-deception, “We do not know.” Consequently, they did not receive an answer from Jesus, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Some pointers from this Gospel event above: It is so easy for us to deceive ourselves and others when faced with difficult questions; but we cannot deceive God. We cannot deceive God because God made us and He knows everything about us. God also knows what benefits we have received from Him and from others and what we can do with them. Continuing in self-deception blocks our hearts from true revelation of Jesus Christ. Only true knowledge and love of Jesus Christ delivers us from the bondage of self-deception and reveals to us our true selves by revealing the true God to us.

In today’s Gospel, the Pharisees and Sadducees try to deceive Jesus by flattering words and then by asking, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” But Jesus cannot be deceived. He knows the evil intent of their hearts behind their nice words, “Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites.” Jesus also knows the benefits that they have received from the Emperor Caesars’ coin which they had on their person, “Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Jesus also knows what they can and should do with the coin, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.” Finally, Jesus also know what benefits they have received from God and what they can and should do with it, “Repay to God what belongs to God.”

In Sunday’s First Reading, God called, named and gifted Cyrus, the pagan king of Persia, for a particular purpose – to set the Israelites free from Babylon and to bring them home to Jerusalem and grant them religious freedom. Cyrus does not know who God is and is still worshipping his pagan god, Bel Marduk. But God knows King Cyrus and all the benefits that He has given to him and what Cyrus can do with these, “For the sake of Jacob, my servant, of Israel, my chosen one, I have called by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not.” Cyrus, who lacks knowledge of the God who has blessed him with amazing benefits, still unknowingly fulfills the purpose of God. How much more can we who know and love God as our heavenly Father fulfill the divine purpose today without excuses?

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God has made us and gifted us with many blessings and benefits for a divine purpose. God knows us well and what we can do with the spiritual and material benefits we have received from Him. He has given us an intellect to grasp His truth and a will that moves us towards what is good, true and beautiful. We just cannot deceive Him. God has absolute rights over us and over all that we own. While giving back to the society and others for the benefits we have received from them, we must also give to God what is His own due from His own benefits bestowed on us without trying to be deceptive in any way.

There are many ways in which we fall into self-deception today. We make excuses for our failures in loving and serving God instead of taking full responsibility for our own failures. We try to hide the evil in our hearts and the evil that we do, pretending that we do not need to repent or to confess our sins and receive divine forgiveness and mercy. We try to bribe God by doing good things to win blessings from Him. We try to get blessings from God but we do not care to be faithful in our relationship with Him. Then we easily pretend that we do not know what God’s will is for us or we pretend that it is just beyond our ability to fulfill it.

In this age of self-deception, let us heed the warning of St. Paul, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them…So they are without excuse.” (Rom 1:18-19,20) Indeed, God has done more than show us the truth about Himself in Creation. The Truth has become Incarnate in Jesus Christ, revealing Himself in Scripture and Tradition as authoritatively interpreted by His Church and speaking to us in our consciences today. He has done all this so that in Him we find both “truth and grace,”(Jn 1:17) the truth that sets us free from self-deception and the grace to live by this truth.

The Christians in Thessalonica “received the word of God in great affliction” but they did not try to make any excuses for not bearing fruit. Despite the persecutions that they faced, they made use of the gifts of faith, hope and love that God has given to them to fulfill His divine purpose for them. St. Paul commends them for their “Work of faith” by which they willingly showed that Christ alone was their ultimate Lord to be obeyed and depended upon. St. Paul commends them for their “Labor of love” by which they love their neighbors and others out of love for Christ their Lord. Lastly, they are commended for their “Endurance of hope” by which they endured every suffering at the hands of their fellow citizens for the sake of Christ as they looked forward to their heavenly home. God knows the good that they could and endure with His gifts of faith, hope and love.

The greatest of gifts from God – faith, hope and love – are all that we too need to give to others what is due to them without taking anything away from what is God’s. God knows also what we can do with these gifts by the help of His grace if only we resist the temptation to try to deceive Him, others or ourselves.

Our Eucharist is an encounter with the Author of Grace, the one whom we can never deceive because He made us and knows us well, and who knows what we can do and endure with His grace. Let us receive Him with honesty and humility, without any form of deception on our part so that we will know the true God-man, Jesus Christ, and the power of His grace in us to do what He, Mother Mary, and all the saints have done throughout the ages – give to God what is due to God without any form of deception.

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

image: By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jhi L. Scott [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Religion Is Still Relevant

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 22:01

One evening this August, I watched a woman throw a coconut into a river as a prayer. It was the splash that first drew my attention. She then emptied out a bagful of other fruits and flowers into the water. I had been jogging along the Potomac in downtown D.C. when I stopped to take in the scene and pray for a bit. It was just the two of us in that moment, so I asked in a friendly way, “Is that a coconut?” Yes it was, she said. “So, you do this every night?” No, she said, just once a month, then she scurried back to her modern apartment having fulfilled the ancient rites.

I have since discovered that Hindus offer coconuts to Varuna, the sea-god, as this article spells some of it out, rendering many of the world’s rivers sacred in their eyes. Washington apparently isn’t the only bearer of holy waters, as this London photographer captures evidence of many Hindu and Christian trinkets, the leftover offerings now lodged in Thames river mud.

That same evening, in the next thirty minutes of dedicated people-watching, a veritable carnival passed me by along the waterfront sidewalk: a black man in Adidas gear and his pet mastiff, an Asian woman doing calisthenics, a jogging Latino couple, a white same-sex couple, an elderly couple, an Ethiopian mother and her two daughters, a homeless man on a bike, and an old maid who tried to gab with everyone seated on park benches who were already having their own conversations. Then, lo and behold, a woman passed me by praying what looked like a rosary. The beads were very large, so I wasn’t sure, but I asked simply, “Is that a rosary?” She smiled and said it was and kept going.

I returned to the same spot a week later, and there she was again like clockwork, home from work, out on her rosary walk.

Christ once posed a very strong question: “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8). That’s not to conflate all religions so quickly. Faith is a word reserved for Christ, not Varuna or Krishna or any god in general. It is to believe that he alone saves, and yet he desires all men to arrive at this faith. Though his question may be a bit rhetorical, meant to spur listeners towards a greater faith, the answer is yes, for he himself is busy at work in the world, bringing it about.

I’ve been surprised to find faith in unlikely places.

Years back I was in Huntington Beach on the weekend of the US Open of Surfing. Unlike most sporting events, it had a very local and low-key atmosphere, no tickets or lines or anything of the sort. You simply wandered down the beach, and there in the sand stood some of the best surfers in the world – John John Florence, Gabriel Medina, Kelly Slater. You could walk the pier and watch from right above them as they bobbed, waited, caught waves, smiled…

Then, out there under the hot sun and the humanist vibes and (let’s say) lightly clad people, I was surprised to find faith. I went with my siblings to get a free hotdog at the Vans tent, the shoe company from Orange County who sponsors the Open, along with their slew of other annual events from skating and snowboarding to the Warped Tour punk rock gathering. They’ve come a long way from making shoes for local skater kids in L.A., but their founder and CEO, Steve Van Dorn, is still humble enough to work the grill at every event and give out free dogs to any and all takers. Having reached the front of the line, I noticed a gold medallion around his neck, so I asked, “What’s on the medal?” It is St. Jude, he said with a smile. It was a strong devotion his father had, and when the company filed for bankruptcy in the mid 80s, he attributes their recovery to the saint’s intercession. I thought, a saint interceding for a skater shoe company, it seems God isn’t scandalized at the idea of blessing such ventures.

Faith is among us, often unnoticed. Even among more famous figures, Catholic upbringing abounds. It recently dawned on me that late-night shows have been completely crowded out by Catholics: Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien, and (yes) even Carson Daly, formerly of MTV.

My college roommate recently saw Brett Favre at Sunday Mass. The list of athletes who are Catholic is actually really impressive, not only classics like Vince Lombardi and Joe DiMaggio, but today: Lionel Messi, Kobe Bryant, Tom Brady, Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky, Jordan Spieth, Usain Bolt, etc.

My uncle recently posted about receiving a rosary CD as a gift – not the most exciting item one would hope for – until he discovered it was recited by famed Los Angeles Dodgers’ announcer, Vin Scully. And he even said it was even prayable!

Among the list of American Catholics alone, many have spoken openly about their faith but haven’t received much coverage. The press may be to blame, but so is its readership, i.e. we humans. We tend to prefer the scandalous over the steady. It’s why we harp on Mel Gibson’s bigotry but not Mark Wahlberg’s trips to daily Mass at St. Patrick’s (spotted by another friend source). It’s why websites follow tales of Bill Murray crashing college parties to wash dishes in the kitchen, but not so much his remarks on missing the Latin Mass or visits to see his sister Nancy, herself a Dominican sister, who performs a one-woman play on the life of Catherine of Siena.

Many stars, it’s true, also have a very imperfect record with the Church, from Sinatra to Hemingway to Springsteen, from Billie Holiday to Babe Ruth. Yet rocky though they be, it’s impossible to erase faith as a defining factor, to shake it off entirely. The last two even received Last Rites from a priest, on that same fated island named Manhattan. Holiday was reconciled while under house arrest in her Metropolitan Hospital room for possession of narcotics, though the police guard allowed a priest to enter at her request. Ruth, after decades not of the rosary but of womanizing, fell ill and was anointed at the hands of a Dominican priest of our province, Fr. Hilary Kaufman, O.P. He was simply the assigned chaplain at Memorial Sloan Kettering during the Great Bambino’s last great struggle. No special treatment, just a priest.

The point, I think, is simple: in a world where skeptical and scientistic opinions abound, religion is still relevant. It’s relevance is not measured by headlines but within the heart of each man and woman, who wakes up each day and walks the ways of this world. It is still within our hearts, that classical virtue called religion – that inclination to honor and implore a higher power – still quietly carried in many hearts, whatever one’s career may be, whatever degree of fame from zero to hero. And whatever the expression, whether one casts coconuts or prays privately, it stems from real, concrete needs. Yes, there is a real difference between true and false worship, the first being those practices which worship a loving, providential God, who so happens to be Christ we have come to discover. But the root all religion is the same individual human heart we share with its core desires. “Religion is either the reasonable quest for the satisfaction of all the original desires of the heart, or it is a dangerous, divisive, harmful waste of time” (Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, God At The Ritz, 154). Yes, it is often blamed to be simply a societal construct, and organized tool for wars and division. These are inescapable cultural patterns we fall into, but so is belief. So is that humble attitude which wants to offer something to God, a creature’s inner posture before its creator.

This past week I was returning from ministry by the metro, and I passed a woman walking her dog. I was in my Dominican habit this time, which she noticed with raised eyebrows. I asked, “What’s the dog’s name?” Thor, came her reply. “Alright,” I added, “the god of thunder.” She volleyed back, “Puppy of thunder. There’s only one God,” and all with knowing nod! How good it is to make the acquaintance of another strict monotheist wandering our streets.

Religion is still relevant. It only takes eyes to see. Or a few words to strike up a conversation.

“After a long and deep

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 22:00

“After a long and deep consideration of the divine indwelling, we begin to realize that Christianity is something we live, that it is a life given by Christ that grows, and this growth is one of union with God, who dwells as a lover within the heart of man. Human love grows; two hearts begin to beat as one, two wills to act as one. Such, also, is the love of man and God. Thinking of God within us, we begin to see things the way He sees them. We begin to will what God wills.”

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

 

 

 

 

 

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In the Gospel reading Jesus tells us to

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 22:00

In the Gospel reading Jesus tells us to be faithful stewards of God, making good use of the gifts and talents given to us. God, like the master in the parable, will demand an accounting from each one of us at the end of our lives: “Fortunate is this servant if his master on coming home finds him doing his work” and “the servant who knows his master’s will, but did not prepare to do what his master wanted, will be punished with sound blows”; “he will discharge his servant and number him among the unreliable.”

We who have been blessed by God with so much must show the best use of these gifts for ourselves and our neighbor, “Much will be required of the one who has been given much, and more will be asked of the one entrusted with more.”

Sts. Crispin and Crispinian

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 22:00

Shoemakers

Saints Crispin and Crispian are believed to be brothers born to a noble family in Rome in the middle of the third century. The brothers, along with Saint Quintinus, worked for the conversion of Gaul by their mission of evangelization, preaching boldly in the streets during the day. They supported themselves by night, working as shoemakers in Soissons.

The three of them exhibited charity and piety to such a great extent that many people were impressed by their example, and they won many converts to the Faith during their ministry. Their generosity and contempt of material things was impressive to the local people.

By the order of Emperor Maximian Herculeus, the three were arrested and tried by Rictus Varus (Rictiovarus), who was apparently governor of Belgic Gaul and an enemy of Christianity. He had the missionaries tortured, but when he was unable to kill them, Rictus Varus committed suicide. Maximian then martyred the trio by beheading them around the year 286. The Roman Martyrology says on October 25th, “At Soissons in Gaul, the holy martyrs Crispin and Crispinian, Roman nobles, whose bodies were afterwards translated to Rome, and buried honourably in the Church of Saint Laurence in pane et perna.

A beautiful church was built at Soissons in the 6th century in the honor of the saints. Saints Crispin and Crispian are the patron saints of shoemakeres, cobblers, leather workers, lace makers, and weavers.

Lessons

Humble tasks, humble occupations, humble beginnings, humble lives, humble ends…

Regardless of circumstance, if one embraces the virtue of humility, offering sufferings to the Lord for others, these humble experiences can make one holy, and in humility, one magnifies and radiates the highest glory: that of God alone.

Other Saints We Remember Today

The 40 Martyrs of England and Wales (16th Century), Martyrs

Saints Chrysanthus and Daria (4th Century), Martyrs, husband and wife

St. Gaudentius of Brescia (410), Bishop

Enrich Your Prayer Life with the Contemplative Rosary

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 22:07

Throughout the centuries, there have been many variations of the Rosary as Christians adapted it to fit particular situations. In Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Saint John Paul II proposed a renewed way of praying the Rosary, but he did not insist that everyone should use this new way. Instead, he desired to revitalize the Rosary for a new generation.

Keep in mind this wise saying of Saint Teresa: “Do that which best stirs you to love.” If you have a favorite practice that helps make your recitation of the Rosary more contemplative, do not think you must change it just because Saint John Paul II gave different suggestions or because the meditations we offer in this article or in our book are different from the ones you have used before.

Sometimes we need a slight change in our prayer practice in order to help us refocus and grow. But other times, when we are on a proven and fruitful path, we need to remain on that path. There are few hard-and-fast rules about praying the Rosary. Follow the general guidance for making vocal prayer more contemplative. The specific practices you use are of lesser importance. These specifics are meant to facilitate your Contemplative Rosary, not to bind you permanently to one set of meditations or a select group of paintings.

One good custom is to begin the Rosary with the Apostles’ Creed, then an Our Father and three Hail Marys for the intentions of the Pope as a way of orienting our hearts to the universal and ecclesial nature of the Rosary. Saint John Paul II writes that the opening words of Psalm 70: “O God, come to my [assistance]; O Lord, make haste to help me,” might be prayed at the beginning of the Rosary instead, indicating our need of God’s help in order to pray worthily. This verse is recited at the beginning of Morning and Evening Prayer by those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours. It thus connects the Rosary more closely with the official prayers of the Church.

This article is from a chapter in “The Contemplative Rosary.” Click image to preview or order.

The Mysteries

Saint John Paul II encourages the use of icons or other representations of each mystery. As Saint Teresa suggests, using our senses or imagination helps to keep our otherwise distracted minds on God. Jesus Himself is an icon, an image of the invisible God. Therefore, it is fitting to use images to help us come closer to Him.

Many people, especially when they pray the Rosary in a group, are used to reading a short passage from Scripture after each mystery is announced. The Pope encourages us to practice this whenever we pray the Rosary. Doing so makes Sacred Scripture a vital part of the Rosary, connecting this prayer to the Liturgy and to our own time of mental prayer, when we meditate only on the sacred text. It reminds us that prayer is not only about speaking to God, but also about listening to Him. We listen to His Word and then respond to it as we say the prayers for each mystery. The reading can be long or short, and even accompanied by a short homily in solemn celebrations. After this proclamation of the Word, a short silence is fitting.

Saint John Paul II also proposed another set of mysteries that many of us are now familiar with: the Mysteries of Light (Luminous Mysteries). These scenes from the Gospels fill in the gap between Christ’s childhood and His Passion with events from His public ministry. The Mysteries of Light are: the Baptism of the Lord, the Wedding at Cana, the Proclamation of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration, and the Institution of the Eucharist. They have a distinctly sacramental character not found in the traditional fifteen mysteries. They remind us that our salvation is revealed not just in Jesus’ life two thousand years ago, but also in Baptism, Matrimony, the Eucharist, and the other sacraments. The Pope notes that only the second of these mysteries explicitly mentions Mary. Yet the instruction she gives to the servants at the Wedding at Cana “becomes the great maternal counsel which Mary addresses to the Church of every age: ‘Do whatever He tells you’ ” (John 2:5). Her words form the foundation of this entire group of mysteries.

Our Father

Jesus came to lead us to God the Father. It is therefore right for us to begin each decade by addressing God as Our Father. He is the Father of Jesus and, through Jesus, the Father of all of us. The Our Father reminds us that we are part of God’s family, in communion with one another, even when we pray the Rosary alone.

Studying Saint Teresa’s exposition of the Our Father in chapters 24 through 42 of The Way of Perfection would be an excellent means of enriching our prayer.

Hail Mary

The Hail Mary is the central prayer of the Rosary. If we pray the entire Rosary according to the new form offered by Saint John Paul II, we say the Hail Mary two hundred times. How can we pray this prayer in a more contemplative manner?

Saint John Paul II calls the Hail Marys the threads over which the mysteries of the Rosary are woven. They present to us in miniature the mystery of the God-Man, the same mystery presented to us on a larger scale throughout the Rosary.

The Hail Mary is a profoundly Christ-centered prayer. Rather than taking our eyes off Christ, it focuses our attention on Him. It begins with the greeting of the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation, coupled with the words of Saint Elizabeth at the Visitation. It ends with our supplication for Mary’s maternal care for us and our loved ones, in light of our union with her divine Son. It calls us to share in God’s delight in the Incarnation. We contemplate the Incarnation with God Himself. Just as in the Creation He pronounced the world good, so God stood back in delight at the conception of His eternal Son in the womb of the Virgin. “The repetition of the Hail Mary in the Rosary gives us a share in God’s own wonder and pleasure: in jubilant amazement we acknowledge the greatest miracle of history.” This repetition is also like a sentence of love spoken repeatedly to one’s beloved.

In Marialis Cultus, Blessed Paul VI noted the custom of adding, after the name of Jesus, a brief statement of faith related to the mystery we are reflecting on, such as “who was conceived in you by the Holy Spirit” while meditating on the Annunciation. Saint John Paul II encourages us to take up this custom. He says that Jesus’ name is “the center of gravity” of the entire prayer, the hinge that links the two halves of the Hail Mary. Instead of mumbling the name of Jesus, as sometimes happens, we should highlight it by adding a statement that makes us pay attention. This helps us to engage with our prayer rather than just “say our prayers.” It pulls our wandering minds back to Christ and anchors them in the mystery we seek to explore.

Glory Be

Adoration of the Trinity, says Saint John Paul II, is the goal of prayer. He notes that the Glory Be, “the high-point of contemplation, [should] be given due prominence in the Rosary.” In public celebrations, we should sing it. The Glory Be transports us to Mount Tabor, the site of the Transfiguration, where we can say with St. Peter, “It is well that we are here!” It’s so easy to overlook this short prayer, making it an afterthought. However, the Incarnation we ponder in the Rosary took place so that we could worship the Holy Trinity in purity of spirit. Perhaps we should linger here a moment in silence, rather than rushing on to the next prayer.

The Church asks us to bow when we pray the Glory Be during the Liturgy of the Hours. Bowing when we pray the Glory Be in the Rosary can be another reminder of the importance of this prayer and a physical reverence that provides another aid to our desire to be fully engaged as we pray.

Concluding Prayer for Each Mystery

Many of us recite the Fatima Prayer after the Glory Be: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy.” Saint John Paul II encourages us to say a concluding prayer asking for the grace to imitate the mystery we have just finished praying. This helps us to connect the Rosary with our daily lives.

Closing Prayer

Either beginning or concluding the Rosary with prayers for the Pope highlights again that the Rosary is a prayer not just for the individual, but for building up the whole Church. The soul may now want to “burst forth” into the Salve Regina or the Litany of Loreto. Saint John Paul II encourages us to indulge this desire.

Editor’s note: This article is from a chapter in The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avilawhich is available as an ebook or paperback from Sophia Institute Press

Holy Dirt and Holy Images

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 22:05

Twelve hundred and thirty years ago, our fathers gathered in the town of Nicaea for what would become the seventh ecumenical council (Nicaea II), which is especially remembered for its defense of the holy icons against the iconoclasts – or image-breakers.

There are those even today who will not kiss and venerate the holy icons saying, “Well, they’re just wood and paint,” or, even more scandalously, some fail to “distinguish the holy from the profane” and they assert “that the icons of our Lord and of his saints [are] no different from the wooden images of satanic idols,” (Norman P. Tanner, ed., “Nicaea II,” in Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils (London: Sheed & Ward, 1990), 1:134). To these, I say, remember what the seventh ecumenical council teaches us.

It is amazing to me that, though twelve hundred and thirty years have passed since this council, we still hear iconoclastic statements exactly like this. Iconoclasm is alive and well among us – not only among Protestants and Muslims, but even among some Catholics who refuse to venerate the icons and strip the churches of their holy images. So, let us listen again to the teachings of the fathers of this council.

The more frequently [we see] the images of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, and of our Lady without blemish, the holy Theotokos, and of the revered angels, and of any of the saintly holy men…, the more [we] are… drawn to remember and long for those who serve as models [that is, the prototypes – the holy ones themselves], and to pay these images the tribute of salutation and respectful veneration. Certainly this is not the full adoration… which is properly paid only to the divine nature, but… people are drawn to honor these images with the offering of incense and lights, as was piously established by ancient custom. [Remember, already twelve hundred and thirty years ago, the veneration of icons was ancient in the churches. This goes back to the beginning of Christianity.] Indeed, the honor given to the icon passes to the prototype; and those who venerate the image, venerate the person represented in that image.

(Ibid, 136).

So, rather than being iconoclasts, let us be iconodules. Let us venerate the holy images and let those of us who are able make many more holy images, even as there are some in the world trying to diminish their importance or even destroy them.

Now, I don’t know how many of you have tried to make an icon with the traditional medium of egg tempera. It’s a rewarding experience and can be a prayerful experience and I do recommend it. There’s a kind of intimacy you can gain with the saint that you are painting, which comes simply from spending so much time before the image as you help to deepen and clarify it with layer after layer of the translucent medium.

To work with egg tempera you must mix the pigment with the emulsion – which is egg yolk – while you are painting. This is because the emulsion does not keep and so the paint will spoil if you don’t use it the same day you make it. Anyway, working this way rather than with premixed liquid paints allows you to better see, touch, and smell the material you are working with. And it becomes clear that, for the most part, pigment is dirt. It is various kinds of earth. In fact, some of the pigments even have names like “pale green earth” for example.

So, when we paint an icon, we are making an image of a holy person out of dirt, out of dust, out of the ground, out of earth. How fitting! Remember, it is of this that we are actually made.

The holy images are made from earth – which is also what you and I and our loved ones are made of. The council says that the holy images may be “painted or made of mosaic or of other suitable material,” (Ibid, 136) but all of this has the same source: the earth. And that’s what I’d like to focus on.

My name is mud. Or, anyway, that’s what Adam might have said. The name Adam in Hebrew most literally means “dust man.” Or sometimes you see him called clay or earth or mud. Because it is of this that we are made. We will all “return to the ground, for out of it [we] were taken; [we] are dust, and to dust [we] shall return” (Gen 3:19).

In his parable of the sower, our Lord teaches us in his parable about different kinds of ground (Luke 8:5-15). And he’s talking about us – about different kinds of people. We different kinds of people are really different kinds of dirt, see? But you can do a lot with dirt. Remember the holy icons. This dirt that we are, like the holy icons, can become worthy of veneration, because we all receive the seed of the word in us. The spermatikos logos, as St. Justin Martyr puts it.

This is a familiar image. Remember again Adam. Adam – and, in Adam, all humanity – is earth with God breathed in. “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being” (Gen 2:7). The word of God speaks the earth into human life. So: earth + the word of God = human life. We see this in the account of the creation of humans in Genesis. And we see it again today in the parable of the sower as Jesus tells it. Only now the word is depicted as a seed in the earth.

Whether or not this seed takes root in us, gives life to us, depends on our receptiveness to it.  We must be like the good soil and hold the seed of the word of God “in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.” Humility is clearly part of being like good soil.

Humility is honest and good. Humility is truth. And, the truth is, we are dust. Remembering this – being mindful of our earthiness – is humility. The word itself contains this meaning. It come from the Latin humilis, which literally means “on the ground,” from humus, meaning “earth.”  Another word likely comes from the same root as humus: human.  So, again, this is what we really are and humility lies in embracing that truth. To be humble is to be a human aware of your own humanness – which is really your own creatureliness. We, like all the earth, are created by our creator and exist in that relationship to him. We are not the creator. We do not author our own reality, whatever the world may say to the contrary. The humble know this.

The grace of recognizing our lowliness, earthiness, and creatureliness – the grace of humility – lifts us up from earth to heaven and helps us to grow in ever greater union with our creator.

All this talk of humans being made of dirt may have given you the impression that I am down on humans. But nothing could be further from the truth. Remember where we began – with the holy icons, themselves also made of earth. But these we kiss and venerate and love, just as we do the holy relics of our saints. We do not treat them with contempt, but with veneration. This has everything to do with the seed of the word planted in the earth of the human.

It is God that makes us holy and breathes life into us. It is his presence in the earth of our bodies that makes our bodies worthy of veneration. In the icons this is well represented by the halo. The flesh is painted with common earth. But the halo is made of gold and represents the grace surrounding the holy men and women of God. It is grace that makes anyone holy and nothing else. Just to recognize humbly that you are soil will make you better soil to receive the seed of the word of God in you. Be of honest and good heart – be humble – remember who you are and who is God – and that will give life to you and make you whole and holy.

Glorify God in Body and Spirit

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 22:02

God, in His infinite love, has endowed each and every one of us with a body and a soul.  How great God is in His wonderful gifts to humanity and to each and every one of us individually! The Psalmist praises God: God I am wonderfully created… I am your handiwork… I am the work of your hands.

Indeed, we were created in the image and likeness of God.  We have both an intellect and a will.  The primary purpose of our intellect is to know the Truth. Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  The primary purpose of the will is to love God with all of our being.

Saint Paul reminds us of an indispensable command of God: Glorify God in your body. Therefore, the basic purpose of this short article is to learn, and then apply, how we can truly glorify God in our bodies, now and for all eternity!

1. Recognize Your Incredible Dignity

Saint Pope Leo the Great, in his Christmas Sermon, exhorts all of us with these words:  Christians, recognize your dignity.  Saint Pope John Paul II insisted in his teachings of the great importance and dignity of every human person.

As soon as we receive the Sacrament of Baptism, God literally floods us with sublime and ineffable gifts. First and foremost, Baptism transforms us into living Tabernacles of the Blessed Trinity. We become a son/daughter of God, brother/sister of Jesus Christ, and intimate friend of the Holy Spirit.  If we would only call to mind often our dignity that flows from the Sacrament of Baptism, we would avoid committing many sins.  Indeed, sin itself degrades our dignity.

2. Recognize Your Destiny

Not only should we call to mind constantly our dignity, but we should at the same time call to mind our destiny.  We are destined to eternal glory in heaven, of course, if we live up to the dignity that God has bestowed upon us!  In other words, heaven is ours if we glorify God in our bodies in this brief, ephemeral, and transitory pilgrimage on earth.

Indeed, we are pilgrim people advancing towards our true and eternal homeland, and that is Heaven.  We should never be spiritually like the proverbial chicken with his head cut off! We know our destiny is heaven, and we should do all in our power by glorifying God in our bodies, to arrive safe and sound in the arms of our loving Father. (Luke 15—Parable of the Prodigal Son)

3. Beg Mary for the Virtue of Purity

Our Lady of Fatima sadly announced 100 years ago that most souls are lost as a result of the sins against the virtue of purity.  We should consecrate our whole beings to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and renew this consecration every morning as we rise from sleep.  We should pray our prayer of consecration to Mary and kiss our Scapular.  Then we should beg through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary the grace to live a life of purity, in all its aspects!

Beg Mary for pure eyes to live out the Beatitude: Blessed are the pure of heart for they will see God. (Mt. 5:8)  Beg Mary for a mind, memory, understanding, and imagination that are noble and pure.  As Saint Paul reminds us: Fix your attention on the things on high and not on those of the earth.(Col. 3:2)  

Beg Mary for purity of speech, as well as listening.  May we put into practice the words of Jesus: Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Mt. 12:34) May our words reflect our dignity, our destiny, and our belonging to Jesus and Mary. May Our Lady attain for us the grace to associate with persons who are noble and pure and dignified!

Beg Mary for purity of your body which is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. May your body, through the intercession of Mary most holy, serve only to glorify and praise God.  May Our Lady attain for you purity of heart!  By consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your heart becomes transformed into imitating the sublime virtues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the most pure Heart of Mary.  May our Lady even attain for you purity of intention.  Once again calling to mind the words of Saint Paul: Whether you eat or drink, do all for the honor and glory of God. (I Cor. 10:31)

4. Purify Your Whole Being by the Blood of the Lamb of God

Despite our best of efforts, even the just man falls seven times a day. Upon falling let us never give into discouragement, much less, despair.  On the contrary, may we place a limitless trust in God’s infinite mercy!

Like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) let us run to the Father and launch ourselves into His loving and merciful arms.  As the Prophet Isaiah gently encourages us:  Though your sins be like scarlet, they will be transformed and become as white as the snow. (Is. 1:18) Jesus promised to Saint Faustina in the Diary of Divine Mercy in My Soul:  “The greatest sinners can become the greatest saints if they simply trust in my infinite mercy.”

5. Receive the Holy Eucharist

The greatest action that a human person can carry out on earth is to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion.  Your body, upon receiving Holy Communion, becomes a living tabernacle, a living sanctuary, a living castle or palace of Jesus the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father.  If received properly, your whole being is transformed. Your memory is purified; your understanding is enlightened; your will is fortified; your heart is enflamed with divine love; and your body is filled with peace and joy—a preview of eternal life in heaven.

6. Defend Children in the Womb

Of course, if we truly love God  then we should love what God loves—He loves the little children in the womb.  Jesus said: Let the little children come to me… Unless you become like a little child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven.(Mt 19:14)  We should do all that is in our power to promote the Pro-Life cause.  How?  By prayer, penance, word and action.  We should all, in the depths of quiet prayer, ask the Lord and Mary His Mother, what we can do to glorify God in our bodies and the bodies of others by becoming involved in the Pro-life movement and work!

7. Rejoice in the Lord through the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Our Lady went in haste to visit Saint Elizabeth, who was with child in her old age.  After the greeting and the baby leaping in the womb of Saint Elizabeth, Mary rejoiced in her profound canticle that the Church calls The Magnificat: My spirit rejoices in God my Savior. With our minds, hearts, bodies, and souls, with Mary let us glorify our bodies by rejoicing in the Lord! (Lk. 1:46-56)

“It is Mary on whom the Rosary is

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 22:00

“It is Mary on whom the Rosary is centered in a focus ever new. This prayer means a lingering in the world of Mary, whose essence was Christ. In this way, the Rosary is, in its deepest sense, a prayer of Christ.”

-Romano Guardini, The Rosary of Our Lady

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.