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The Ten Commandments give us

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 22:00

The Ten Commandments give us prescriptions in our relationships with God and our neighbor: honoring God, his name and his day and respecting ourselves and our neighbor, honoring our parents, respecting life, property, truth and rights of others.

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus summarizes the Commandments in love of God and love of neighbor.

We have various “formulations” of the same Commandments and the moral law: “Do good and avoid evil” would probably be the most general. One who loves God and neighbor is one who does good and avoids evil. The primary dictate of our consciences is to do good and avoid evil.

St. Augustine wrote, “Love God and do whatever you please, for a soul trained in love of God will do nothing to offend the One who is the Beloved.”

In his letters St. John the beloved Apostle stressed love of God: “If you say, ‘I love God,’ while you hate your brother or sister, you are a liar. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do no love your brother whom you see? We received from him this commandment: let those who love God also love their brothers.” (1 Jn 4: 20)

Jesus gave a most graphic description of love of God in his account of the Last Judgment in Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 25: 31 – 46): “The King will say to those on his right: ‘Come, blessed of my Father! Take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. For I was hungry and you fed me . . . I was naked and you clothed . . .’ the good people will ask him: ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food . . . or naked and clothe you?’ . . . The King will answer, ‘Truly, I say to you: whenever you did this to these little ones who are my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.'”

Do I love God such that I could do as I please?

“Fellowship does not depend on

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 22:00

“Fellowship does not depend on race, ethnicity, or past history. Even the most notorious enemies of Christ are welcome to communion, if they repent.”

-Mike Aquilina, The Apostles and Their Times

St. Louis of France

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 22:00

King St. Louis IX (1214-1270) reigned over France for thirty-five years. The son of Louis VIII, the young king ascended to the throne in 1235 and soon showed himself to be a just and able administrator. Louis was impartial and merciful in dispensing justice (even forgiving nobles who rebelled against his reign). He insisted on upholding the rights of each of his subjects, and sometimes held court beneath a grove of trees away from his royal residence, so that even the lowliest peasant would feel free to approach him.

At the age of nineteen, Louis married Marguerite of Provence (who was herself only twelve). Though she was by nature arrogant and restless, she was charmed by Louis’ piety and love, and they and their ten children had a happy family life.

King Louis sought to bring this same harmony to France. He replaced trial by combat with an examination of witnesses, had written records kept at the royal court, and established numerous hospitals where he himself often cared for lepers and the sick. With the exception of his involvement in the Crusades, France was at peace during his reign.

Louis led an army which in 1248 captured an Egyptian port city from the Moslems, but soon afterward the Crusaders were defeated and Louis was taken prisoner. After being ransomed, Louis returned to France, but led another Crusade in 1270. This was even less successful than the earlier effort, and Louis died of dysentery in the city of Tunis. St. Louis, after whom the American city in Missouri is named, was canonized in 1297.

From Johnnette Benkovic’s Graceful Living: Meditations to Help You Grow Closer to God Day by Day

Click the image above to purchase your own copy of “Graceful Living.”

“Like the twigs of plants the young are easily influenced, as long as someone works to change their souls.”

— From the writings of St. Joseph Calasanz

What young person am I called to influence, and how can I work to nurture his or her soul today?

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Joseph Calasanctius (Calasanz) (1648), Priest, Founder of Piarists

St. Patricia (665), Virgin, Patron of Naples

Who is the Center of Your Life?

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 02:35
Exploring the Source and Summit

 

Christ should be the center of our daily lives.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of Christian Life” (CCC 1324 citing Lumen Gentium 11). First of all, Christ instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice at the Last Supper as He offered His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity for the whole world. Christian spirituality flows from the Eucharist as the source. Secondly, all our actions should be directed towards the Eucharist as the summit of our faith. The theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity are lived out when we cooperate with the grace brought about by God as we are in communion with Him. These virtues are necessary to grow in spiritual life because they “dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity” (CCC 1812).

Sacraments, especially the greatest sacrament of the Eucharist which we receive at Mass, are channels of grace which develop our spiritual life. And, we are directed to God through the Eucharist, which leads us to practice virtue.

Are you being called to develop a higher relationship with our Lord? Are you looking to delve into the breadth and beauty of the Catholic prayer tradition? Do you yearn to know how to deepen your prayer life? Then join us at the Avila Institute’s School of Spiritual Formation. Check out our Fall course descriptions on spiritualdirection.com

“These courses are Christ-driven. I would recommend these to everyone who wants to grow closer to Christ. You can see and feel the dedication from Dan Burke and his entire staff. Please, everyone, take these classes they really help you to fall in love with Christ and His mysteries.” – Avila Student

Exploring the Source and Summit, a School of Spiritual Formation course, taught by Camila Malta, will explore the life-changing encounter with Christ and the Eucharist. The text will be “The Wellspring of Worship” by Jean Corbon published by Ignatius Press. Register for Fall classes on Avila Institute.comDates/Times: Fridays 10:30 AM -12:30 PM EST, Oct. 27, Nov. 3, 10, 17, Dec. 1, 15.

Graduate Level Courses
Introduction to Spiritual Theology taught by Dr. Joseph Hollcraft.
Dates/Times: Wednesdays 9:00- 11:00pm EST Sept 6, 13, 20, 27, Oct 4, 11, 18, 25, Nov 1

Theology of Divine Mercy, Conversion and Suffering taught by Dr. Michael Gama.
Dates/Times: Thursdays 8:30-10:30pm EST Sept 7, 14, 21, 28, Oct. 5, 12, 19, 26, Nov. 2

Evangelical Counsels and the Beatitudes taught by Dr. Ben Nguyen.
Dates/Times: Tuesdays 7:00-9:00pm EST Sept 5, 12, 19, 26, Oct 3, 10, 17, 24, 31

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Art for this post on Jesus Christ: Jesus-Eucharist-Mass, Library of Dan Burke. Quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Lumen Gentium.

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, 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.

Changing the World Means Growing in Holiness

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 22:07

The world we live in is broken. The Fall has wounded us deeply and those wounds and sins tend to fester and grow as we live in community with one another. Anyone who has paid much attention to world news is aware that these wounds cause massive bloodshed on a daily basis. Anger and violence beget more anger and violence. “We” blame “them” and “they” blame “us”, and so continues the cycle of dehumanizing and relegating other human beings to “other.” This labeling of others into “us versus them” always leads to horrendous injustice, bloodshed, pain, and suffering. It is to ignore the ontological realities that bind us together.

We all share the same nature, the same Creator, and the same opportunity for salvation extended by Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That salvation is not limited by our own vilification of another group of people. In doing so, we end up limiting the limitless gift of grace and divine life that has been given to us through the Paschal Mystery. When we focus on blaming others, we ignore our call to bring the entire world into conformation with the Blessed Trinity. It is not “them”, it is you and me who are the problem.

Christ tells us to grow in holiness first

It is part of our fallen nature to see the failings of our neighbor well before we see our own. It is easier to point out an error to our spouse, children, co-worker, family member, friend, or even a complete stranger, than it is to look deep into our own hearts. The fact-of-the-matter is, Christ told us to look to our own failings first before we begin to help those around us with their weaknesses, proclivities, and sins.

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:3-5

We are incapable of guiding our loved ones or the people around us when we are blinded and enslaved by our own sins. Parents are particularly aware of this truth.

It is a law in parenting that our children will pick up on our worst traits. We can work diligently at teaching our child the virtues, discipline, and the good, but they will inevitably pick up on our weaknesses, sins, and faults first. In order for us to become better guides for our children, we must grow in virtue first in order to show them the path to holiness. Telling them repeatedly to live a certain way is ineffective if they do not see us living the ideal we teach them.

This same principle applies to our other relationships. We will not change minds and hearts if we appear to be hypocritical in our way of living, or if we cherry-pick teachings of the Catholic Church to suit our own sinful needs. Now, we are all sinful and weak, this is why we need frequent Confession. It is also why we must constantly point others to Christ and His mercy. It is only through Christ that we can eventually overcome our failings. The point is that we must be striving earnestly to amend our own ways before we go about fixing the rest of the world. Holiness is contagious and if by God’s grace we progress in the spiritual life, then God will be able to use us for His ways to bring about good in the world.

Screaming at one another gets us nowhere

Social media and the news show us that our world is hurting. This pain is being projected outward through screaming, violence, blaming, and an increase in injustice. The din, at present, is deafening. The answer to this pain is Christ and a life of the Beatitudes. Screaming at one another and blaming one another for real, perceived, or even imaginary injustices, will get us nowhere but further division. Instead, we must be willing to stand in the middle of the screaming and invite others to radically change themselves so that good can come of these divisions. If we stop looking at others as scapegoats and we take a good hard look at ourselves, then we can begin to make progress.

There is great evil lurking in all of our hearts. God will shine His piercing and cleansing light on that darkness if we ask Him to. Confronting this reality about ourselves is a part of the path to holiness and it is a deeply difficult part of the journey. We have to come to grips with the fact that we are capable of unspeakable evil and then fall on Christ, so that we can constantly be made new. If all we do is scream at other people and never look at ourselves, nothing is going to change.

Change starts with you and me

Most of us do not have the power on our own to end violence in the Middle East, starvation, violent protests, abortion, murder, sex trafficking, or a myriad of other great evils perpetuated daily on this earth. All of us can work within our communities to bring about change at a local level and bring as many souls to God as possible. In order to be effective in our service, we must be working in coordination with God’s grace to grow in holiness. We must be people of prayer, peace, hope, charity, patience, and humility. Our own weaknesses need to become our strength by the power of Christ.

These changes begin small. By the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we learn how to live the virtues. We foster good habits. We grow in discipline. The point is, we must be willing to put in the hard work in order to grow in holiness so that we can help others. If we never look at ourselves and only look at other people, then we will not progress spiritually. If it is always someone else’s fault and not my own, then we will fail to put one foot in front of the other. If we never darken the door of the Confessional in order to be healed by the Divine Physician, then we will stay trapped in our habitual sins, or worse, mortal sins that kill the soul.

It’s time to look at ourselves. In the end, we only have control over our own choices. We cannot change other people, but we can be a powerful force for good in the world if we are showing Christ to others on a daily basis. Holiness is contagious because it opens the door to the Divine. God draws other people to Himself through holy lives. It’s time to turn off the TV, step away from Facebook, and pray ardently for God to make us saints and then go about becoming saints. Only then will we see change in the world.

Finding Inspiration in the Most Unlikely of Places

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 22:05

As a Protestant, I thought it was funny and slightly idiotic that unmarried men were supposed to have anything worthwhile to say about motherhood, marriage, and family life. What could a priest possibly say to a struggling married couple? To an exhausted mother? How could he ever relate?

But the vocation of marriage and motherhood—especially for those of us from broken homes—brings out a deep desire for wisdom and encouragement, for others who can relate to the sacrifices demanded of such blessings. As a convert, this need becomes an imperative: there is little support for lifelong marriage and openness to life outside the Faith. And so we turn to the Church for these goods things—and the Church, as it happens, is lead by men.

How is it that a universal religion founded by an unmarried Man and governed by popes and priests who are neither married nor have have any children of their own can speak directly to the heart of a wife and mother? How can a homily from a 69-year-old cardinal resonate so much with a woman in her last trimester? Likewise, there are many female religious whose wisdom applies to mothers—even though they have never experienced the aches of pregnancy, the sleepless nights, the endless bickering.

This is one of those divine paradoxes which point to the truth of the Catholic Faith.

After all, even the Blessed Virgin Mary had only one child (who was perfect), and Jesus Himself was never a husband or father in his earthly life.

Yet these are the sources of our inspiration in the midst of dirty pots and pans. And they do inspire, they do speak to wives and mothers in all circumstances: those desiring children, those who are pregnant, those overwhelmed by the demands of children, etc. Perhaps that is because, despite all our suffering, we share a common bond of fidelity and utter dependence upon God and the teachings of Jesus. All of us both young and old, male and female, priest and religious, clergy and laity, pope and pauper—all of us have crosses, and expect them, in our different vocations. No matter how varied the challenges are, and how different they look from the outside, we share the commonness of the Cross.

That’s how it’s possible for a pregnant mother in the year 2017 to glean parenting tidbits from the Rule of Saint Benedict, written for monks in the sixth century. And why we can relate to saints who lived and died a millennium ago and never experienced the challenges of modern life. It explains how people all over the world, from all walks of life and from every culture, can kneel before a crucifix and know that the Lord intimately understands their struggles.

As for me, this pregnancy has come with a larger than normal dose of pain. On an especially difficult day, a friend lent me a book of letters written by the first married couple ever to be canonized: Louis and Zelie Martin. The latter’s words on motherhood and marriage offered much that I could relate with; and her graceful endurance of pregnancy, loss, and cancer, much to aspire to. But this saintly wife and mother has not resonated with me as much as another saint—a man who was neither husband nor father: Pope Saint John Paul II.

I had not desired conversion until well after he died, so I never grew up with this Pope like so many other people my age. Before I ever considered converting, however, my husband gave me his Letter to Families. At the time it seemed to me the only redeeming thing about the Catholic Church—namely, the unparalleled appreciation and support of family life, which was lacking in the church I grew up in. So it is fitting that I find myself drawn to this saint as I await the birth of my third child.

There are many images of him, but the picture that always comes to mind is of him in his eighties, suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease, praying before the Blessed Sacrament. Despite the obvious pain, he is on his knees before God. So I find myself, as a stay-at-home married mother now pregnant with her third child, feeling a connection to this Polish man who never had his own children. But when my body doesn’t seem to work, when I am feeling sorry for myself, frustrated, and impatient, when it feels too hard—I think of him on his knees.

To all those outside the one Church of Christ, it may seems odd to seek and find wisdom and encouragement from people who really shouldn’t “get it.” How could they? But this is one of the great surprises and blessings of the Faith: that the goodness and truth professed and witnessed by the Church are powerful enough to bring together the most unlikely sources of comfort, joy, and camaraderie—to unite even the childless Polish saint and the struggling pregnant mother—through the Cross of Christ.

Why Are Priests Called Father?

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 22:02

Q: A Baptist friend asked me, “Why do we call priests ‘Father’ when Jesus told us not to call anyone on earth ‘father?'” How would you answer this question?

This question refers to Jesus’s teaching found in the Gospel of St. Matthew, when He said, “Do not call anyone on earth your father. Only One is your Father, the One in heaven” (Mt 23:9). Taken literally, we would have to wonder why we do use this title “Father” when Jesus seems to forbid it. First, we must remember the context of the passage. Jesus is addressing the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees — the learned religious leaders of Judaism. Our Lord castigates them for not providing a good example; for creating onerous spiritual burdens for others with their various rules and regulations; for being haughty in exercising their office; and for promoting themselves by looking for places of honor, seeking marks of respect and wearing ostentatious symbols. Basically, the scribes and the Pharisees had forgotten that they were called to serve the Lord and those entrusted to their care with humility and a generous spirit.

Given that context, Jesus says not to call anyone on earth by the title “Rabbi,” “Father,” or “teacher,” in the sense of arrogating to oneself an authority which rests with God and of forgetting the responsibility of the title. No one must ever take the place, or usurp the privileges and respect that belongs to the heavenly Father. As Jesus said, only the heavenly Father is the true Father, and only the Messiah is the true teacher and rabbi. In a similar vein, Jesus said, “Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter, more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Mt 10:37). Because of the authority of the heavenly Father and the respect due to Him, Jesus freely referred to His heavenly Father as “Father,” and taught us to pray the “Our Father” (Mt 6:9-13).

Moreover, our Lord Himself used the title “father” for several characters in His parables: In the parable of the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus, the rich man, cries out from the depths of Hell, “Father Abraham, have pity on me,” and the usage of the title “father” occurs three times (cf. Lk 16:19-31). One has to wonder: if Jesus prohibited the use of the title “father,” why does He instruct the people with a parable in which the characters use the title? To do so seems to be contradictory and actually misleading to the audience. The same is true in the parable of the Prodigal Son: The young prodigal son, upon his return, says, “Father, I have sinned against God and against you” (cf. Lk 15:11-32). Given the way our Lord used the title “father” in so many teachings, including when repeating the fourth commandment, our Lord did not intend to prohibit calling a father by the title “father”; rather, He prohibited misusing the title.

We do use these titles in our common parlance: We call those who instruct us and others “teacher”; our male parent, “father”; and Jewish religious leaders, “rabbi.” Especially in a religious sense, those who serve the Lord and represent His authority, as a teacher, parent and especially a priest, must be mindful of exercising it diligently, humbly and courageously. To use this authority for self-aggrandizement is pure hypocrisy. Jesus said at the end of this passage, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, but whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”

Since the earliest times of our Church, we have used the title “Father” for religious leaders. Bishops, who are the shepherds of the local Church community and the authentic teachers of the faith, were given the title “Father.” Consequently, St. Peter may well have been addressed as “Father Peter,” in that sense of spiritual father. The likelihood of this address is supported by St. Paul who identifies himself as a spiritual father. In writing to the Corinthians, he said, “I am writing you in this way not to shame you but to admonish you as my beloved children. Granted you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you have only one father. It was I who begot you in Christ Jesus through my preaching of the Gospel. I beg you, then, be imitators of me. This is why I have sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful son in the Lord” (1 Cor 4:14-17).

Until about the year 400, a bishop was called “father” (“papa”); this title was then restricted solely to addressing the Bishop of Rome, the successor of St. Peter, and in English was rendered “pope.” In an early form of his rule, St. Benedict (d. c. 547) designated the title to spiritual confessors, since they were the guardians of souls. Moreover, the word “abbot,” denoting the leader in faith of the monastic community, is derived from the word abba, the Aramaic Hebrew word father, but in the very familiar sense of “daddy.” Later, in the Middle Ages, the term “father” was used to address the mendicant friars — like the Franciscans and Dominicans — since by their preaching, teaching and charitable works they cared for the spiritual and physical needs of all of God’s children. In more modern times, the heads of male religious communities or even those who participate in ecumenical councils, such as Vatican II, are given the title “father.” In the English-speaking world, addressing all priests as “Father” has become customary.

On a more personal note, the title for me is very humbling. As a priest, “Father” reminds me that I am entrusted with a grave responsibility by our Lord — His faithful people. Just as a father must nourish, instruct, challenge, correct, forgive, listen and sustain his children, so must a priest do so for his spiritual children. The priest must especially meet the spiritual needs of those entrusted to his care, providing them with the nourishment of our Lord through the sacraments. He must preach the Gospel with fervor and conviction in accord with the mind of the Church, challenging all to continue on that path of conversion which leads to holiness. He must correct those who have erred, but with mercy and compassion. In the same spirit as the father with his prodigal son, the priest must reconcile sinners who have gone astray but seek a way back to God. As a father listens to his child, so must a priest listen to his spiritual children, providing counsel and consolation. A priest must also be mindful of the “physical” needs of his flock — food, housing, clothing and education.

While priests may be celibate, the words of our Lord to His Apostles ring true: “I give you my word, there is not one who has given up home, brothers or sisters, mother or father, children or property, for me and for the Gospel who will not receive in this present age a hundred times as many homes, brothers and sisters, mothers, children and property — and persecution besides — and in the age to come, everlasting life” (Mk 10:29-30). Actually celibacy frees a priest to be a generous father for his spiritual children. All of us must pray for our priests, especially those who serve in our own parishes and those newly ordained for our diocese, that by God’s grace they may strive to fulfill the responsibility of being “Father.”

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

There are times when we see life as

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 22:00

There are times when we see life as being unfair. We do things by the book but others who circumvent the rules seem to have better results or deals. We patiently await for our turn while others cut into the line without any second thought.

Sometimes we may feel that is how God deals with us. We value ourselves so highly and, when problems come, we claim we do not deserve what we are getting.

Our Lord has given us the Holy Spirit to help us in such situations when we do not understand what is happening. May his Spirit enlighten and guide us in our anxieties.

“Everyone, young or old, strong

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 22:00

“Everyone, young or old, strong or weak, can love. But in this world, love is bound up with giving; it entails sac­rifice. The highest kind of love means self-offering.”

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

St. Bartholomew

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 22:00

The name of the Apostle St. Bartholomew is included among the lists of the Twelve Apostles, but aside from this, there’s no mention of him in the New Testament. Many scholars feel he is the same man as Nathaniel, whom St. John’s Gospel has Jesus describing as “an Israelite in whom there is no guile” (Jn 1:45).

Bartholomew initially doubted the possibility of the Messiah coming from Nazareth, but upon meeting Jesus he immediately declared Him to be “the Son of God and the King of Israel” (Jn 1:49). Early Church legends describe Bartholomew as having preached the gospel in India and Armenia, where he supposedly suffered martyrdom by being flayed alive; the historical value of these legends is open to question.

St. Bartholomew is in a sense the “unknown Apostle,” and for this reason, he can serve as a patron saint for almost all of us. Most of us will never become famous or important in the eyes of the world, but this matters little; all of us are perfectly known, and infinitely important, in the eyes of God. The simple, everyday lives we lead can, if we offer them to God, become ways of helping bring about His Kingdom. St. Bartholomew isn’t as well known as Peter, John, Thomas, or some of the other Apostles; what matters is that he responded wholeheartedly to God’s call.

From Johnnette Benkovic’s Graceful Living: Meditations to Help You Grow Closer to God Day by Day

Click the image above to purchase your own copy of “Graceful Living.”

“The Apostles were the nucleus of the Church, the new Israel, the first visible manifestation of Christ’s Mystical Body.”

— Ven. Fulton J. Sheen, The World’s First Love

In what one way can I follow the apostles today and be a “visible manifestation of Christ’s Mystical Body?”

Other Saints We Remember Today

Our Lady, Health of the Sick

St. Rose of Lima and the Fragrant Love Born of Suffering

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 02:35
St. Rose of Lima and the Fragrant Love Born of Suffering

 

Thinker: The Mystic Rose of Lima

Rose was not an academic and had little in the way of formal education, although she did learn to read. Among her favorite books were biographies of Saint Catherine of Siena and the spiritual guidebooks of another notable Dominican, Venerable Louis of Granada. In fact, his Book of Prayer and Meditation became Saint Rose’s favorite book, as prayer and meditation themselves were to become her favorite activities, forming the core and shaping the periphery of every aspect of her short life.

Rose’s life of prayer and contemplation started very early from the time of her early childhood when she would find herself drawn to stare at a picture of Christ crowned in thorns. She also had a special devotion to the Child Jesus and to his Blessed Mother. Saints drawn to prayer and contemplation seek to follow Christ’s instruction to “go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret” (Matt. 6:6). They seek communion with the Father and not the eyes and the praise of others. When circumstances allow it, some go out into the desert, up into the mountains, or within some densely wooded glen. Others, like Saints Catherine and Rose, must seek their sanctuary of prayer, exactly as Christ explained it, from within the confines of their room.

Enclosed in her private hermitage, Rose read books on meditative prayer, especially, as mentioned, those of Venerable Louis of Granada. She devoutly prayed the Rosary and used many other vocal and mental forms of prayer. She would meditate for hours simply on the multitude of graces she had received through God’s mercy.

Christ said of those who pray to the Father in secret that “your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:6), and Saint Rose was rewarded with many ecstatic visions, including, like Saint Catherine, a divine espousal with Christ.

Doer: The Rose Takes Up Her Cross

Rose was not a doer in the grand sense of a Saint Dominic, who founded an order, or Saint Catherine, who influenced popes, although she was admired by her saintly archbishop. Most of what Rose did was done on a smaller, although most arduous scale. She knew well that Christ has said that those who would follow Him will need to deny themselves daily and take up their cross (Matt. 16:24; Luke 9:23). These are hard words of holy advice that she heeded like few before her or since.

Saint Thomas wrote that the cardinal virtues of temperance, fortitude, justice, and prudence pertain to the active life, but they also prepare us to rein in our passions and focus our intellect and will so that we might rise undisturbed to the heights of contemplation. Saint Rose displayed those cardinal virtues in the most heroic degree, and she is probably best known for her unusual degree of both temperance and fortitude as displayed in the many extreme and most difficult ways she contrived to take up Christ’s cross through her own daily (and nightly) acts of self-denial and self-mortification.

Temperance reins in our sensual desires for bodily pleasures, and few pulled in their reins tighter than young Rose. As for the senses of the palate, she gave up meat as a child, as well as the succulent fruits of Peru. She would often deprive herself of cold water, and of any water at all, and would live on things such as bread crusts and simple bitter herbs. As for the sensual pleasures of the body, although Rose would at times be tormented by visions of temptations toward vanity and toward bodily pleasures, through God’s grace she never consented to such sins and persevered in her vows of chastity and purity.

Fortitude calls forth our “irascible” powers, whereby we hate evil things and fire up our courage to overcome evil obstacles to obtain difficult goods, even if those obstacles should threaten our life and limb. This, of all virtues, but for the love of charity, was perhaps the strongest of all within the sturdy soul of this ostensibly delicate Rose. She hated the thought of any demon, any sensation, any wicked thought or intention that might stir her will against the will of God, and in her personal war against any possible vice or sin, she devised self-mortifications that may well boggle the modern mind, and prompted some of her own confessors to command her to tone some of them down.

Sacrifices: Saint Rose’s Self-Mortification 

To provide but a few examples of Saint Rose’s self-imposed penances and mortifications, she so fought against sleep that would deprive her of time for prayer that she devised a bed for herself that was a little wooden box with a mattress stuffed with hard, gnarled pieces of wood and broken pottery chards that allowed for but a few hours of sleep when she was very tired. At times in her garden, she would literally take up a heavy wooden cross, in imitation of Christ’s Passion.

Saint Rose’s mortifications may seem very strange to us today, but they still may hold valuable lessons. In Saint Dominic’s “third way of prayer,” he employed the discipline of striking himself with an iron chain while repeating (translated) from the Latin Vulgate Bible “Your discipline has set me straight towards my goal” (Psalm 17:36).

Some today might wonder if Rose’s self-mortifications were a sign of scrupulosity or mental instability, and this was also considered in her time. Due to the unusual manner of her penitential life, Rose was once questioned by several theologians and a medical doctor of the Inquisition, but these learned men concluded that hers was a life unusually graced by God.

Although we may not be called to such extreme acts of conquering our wills, can we not still learn something from them? Can they inspire us to pamper our own bodies a little less, to mortify our sensual desires a little more, so that our thoughts can rise to higher things? Even the noble pagan philosophers saw the need for self-discipline in order to acquire virtue. The Stoic Epictetus, for example, encouraged those who would love wisdom to discipline their bodies, not by “hugging statues,” an action some Cynics would perform while bare-chested in the winter’s cold — public statues, of course, so that others might see them. In advice prescient in some ways of one of Saint Rose’s little disciplines some fourteen hundred years later, Epictetus suggested instead to fill one’s mouth with water when thirsty, but then to spit it out — when no one is looking. (The Father, of course, knows what we do in secret.)

Justice means rendering to each person his due, and this Rose always rendered, and then some. In the last years of her life, Rose persuaded her mother to allow her to care for the poor, the homeless, the elderly, and the sick in empty rooms of their house, and her actions are considered, along with those of Saint Martin de Porres, among the foundations of social work in Peru.

Prudence is that practical wisdom that finds the right means to get things done, and in this virtue Rose also shined. We see her prudence in the way she was always able to incorporate deeds of the active life while immersed in a life of solitude, prayer, and contemplation, as she prayed while she cleaned, embroidered, gardened, and made and sold flower arrangements. We saw it toward the end of her life when, failing in health and deep in contemplation, she made those practical arrangements to tend to the bodily and spiritual needs of those who needed them the most.

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This article is adapted from a chapter in Hounds of the Lord: Great Dominican Saints Every Catholic Should Know by Kevin Vost which is available from Sophia Institute Press.  

Art for this post on St. Rose of Lima: Saint Rose of Lima with Child Jesus, Anonymous Cusco School, 1680-1700, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Cover of Hounds of the Lord used with permission.

About Charlie McKinney

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

 

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

When We Begin to Understand Our Nothingness

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:07

There is nothing more enticing than to plan our entire schedule around a singular event, in this case the solar eclipse, only to find our nothingness among God’s greatness. In a fast-paced world, much of society is overcome with daily demands that usually connect us to technology. As necessary as technology may be, it also quickly envelopes us into a self-absorbing world where we forget to focus our eyes on the reason for our existence – God and eternal life.

When an event, such as the solar eclipse, travels across the United States, the world stops. We wait for a miracle, something that can be explained by science, but still draws our imagination into an unknown world. We wait and watch for the wonder to begin, even if that means we must drive hours to reach the path of totality, and several more hours to return home after the traffic jam. This wonder and excitement brings us together as a society, but it does something even bigger. We are brought together as God’s loving creatures with a unified desire to witness a “miracle”. The solar eclipse is one circumstance that proves our thirst for something bigger than ourselves – a reason for our existence and proof that each one of us, each animal, each tree, has a specific place in this world.

As we search for this extraordinary experience, we fail to remember that we have an even more powerful miracle present at our finger-tips each and every day – the Holy Eucharist. It is not always easy in this busy world to remain transfixed upon the King of Kings, present in the Tabernacle twenty-four hours a day, but it is necessary that we strive each day to focus our attention upon his presence in this world. We can comfort in recognizing her similarities to St. Peter who only remained steady while walking on water when his eyes rested upon Our Lord. St. Peter only began to sink when his attention was redirected to the winds and dangers surrounding him. And as this dear apostle began to sink, Our Lord reached out his hand without hesitation and said “why did you doubt me?” (Matthew 14:31) It was the worldly distractions that brought St. Peter to lose faith in Jesus, just as we too often do ourselves.

If we continue to search for consolations among God’s creations, we will never find true happiness. Yes, we can marvel at these beauties and intricacies that God created out of love, but we must remember that these are only a small glimpse into His majesty. We are beginning to sink as we dwell upon the shifting winds and tragedies of the world, just as St. Peter also lost focus. It is easy to forget that our desire for goodness and wonder is oftentimes empty. The focus has become distorted as we search for a solution in the empty pleasures of this world. We can admire the forces of nature and the natural wonders, but we ultimately must remember that these are natural wonders created by God who is much greater than any astronomical event.

The interior struggle between body and soul is real and it pulls us in many directions, just as St. Peter began to sink into the water. Yet, there is only one way to rise above the tide, and that is with the Holy Eucharist. As Catholics, we must focus our attention on our purpose – to know, love, and serve God not only in this world, but with the desire to do so in heaven too.

The winds are strong, but so are the graces of God and no matter where the path of totality may lay for the solar eclipse in seven years, Our Lord will always remain steadfast in all the Tabernacles throughout the world. So, as much as we can admire this astronomical occurrence, there is a more perfect miracle waiting for us each second of every day and that is the True Body and Blood of Christ present in all the Tabernacles. That is where we will find everlasting life, that is where we will remain focused on Our Lord and our reason for our existence, that is where we will find God’s love for us. Just as God created the heavens and the earth, so He created us with an overflowing fountain of love and mercy, but it is up to us to reach for those Divine Graces. Our Lord does not force us to love, our free will is a gift. But in order to desire these graces, we must recognize our weakness and nothingness with the desire to give up control because God has a much bigger and better plan. Just as we admired the solar eclipse, we also accepted the loss of the sun for a few minutes and welcomed the miracle that lay within that loss. So, let’s search for the miracles within the Holy Eucharist, and when we recognize our nothingness only then will we be able to focus our attention solely on God and His Majesty.

The Birds and the Bees and a Green Gecko?

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:02

I was listening to music the other day and an interesting ad came on. It went something like this…

Girl: “Dad, where do babies come from?”

Dad (embarrassed): “Well you see, honey, uh… There are the birds and the bees…”

Girl: “Yeah, okay…”

Dad: “And well, there are the birds and… uh… a mommy and a daddy and… when they call Geico they could save you 15% or more on car insurance.” (sighs in relief)

Girl: “Oh, okay. And this makes them happy?”

Dad: “Yes, sweetie, it makes them very happy.”

Announcer: “Because saving money on car insurance is always a great answer.”

You have probably all heard some sort of Geico commercial with the same tag line. This one jumped out at me though because it made me realize that this is a conversation that most parents dread. This was reconfirmed a few weeks ago when I went on a weekend camping trip with a group of men, most of whom are fathers. At one point as we were sitting together around one of the picnic tables they started talking about how they first found out about the marital embrace. One guy mentioned he found out from graffiti on bathroom stalls. Then they told about when they had that conversation with their sons, and the varying levels of embarrassment involved. They all found it uncomfortable to have that conversation but saw it as a necessary trial to walk through.

Some may call me crazy, but I think that is a stupid attitude. I am not saying that I will not be embarrassed or uncomfortable when I have that conversation with my children, but that I think there is something beautiful that is being lost there.

When I was younger, before having the “birds and the bees” conversation. One of my soccer friends asked me, “Who explained sex to you? Did you learn in school or did your friends explain it to you?” Even though I didn’t know exactly what he was talking about It made me mad, even then, that he didn’t consider the possibility that my parents would have had that conversation with me.

In the movie Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, there is a scene when Peter Quill’s father is explaining how he got to know Peter’s mother. Peter stops him a bit short saying, “I do not need to hear about how I was conceived.” After hearing that Drax, an big purple and red alien, says, “Why not? My father told the story of how he impregnated my mother every winter solstice.”

“That’s disgusting!” says Quill.

“No,” answers Drax. “It was beautiful… You earthers have serious hang ups!”

I am not saying that fathers should tell the story of their children’s conception every Christmas, but I do think that Drax, through the humor, is on to something.

Sex is, or at least should be, an act of love between a man and a woman. The result of this act of love, and participation in God’s creation, is a child. Children are, in normal circumstances, the result of an act of love. There is something beautiful about that. Sex is, of course, something private and personal between the couple. But it should not be seen as something dark, dirty and disgusting.

Children are affected greatly by divorce precisely because they are the result of the love their parents. Even though most children can’t articulate it that way, a divorce often says to them that they are not wanted, and worse, they are not a result of an act of love.

The libertine culture of the 60’s, and on to our current time, has praised promiscuity and sex with no strings attached. But the opposite end of the pendulum is thinking that sex is evil, even if a necessary unavoidable evil. There is a middle way, a balanced way. The free sex movement of the 60’s has debased the marital act to something brutish. That is not the place it deserves. There needs to be a return to the beauty of marriage and the marital act.

And that is something that should be reflected in the way a husband and wife treat one another so that the beauty of their love is what shines and is expressed to their children. That way, when the conversation about the “birds and the bees” does arise it is part of a dialogue in which the children are learning to see love lived out and it fits as the consummation of that love between a married couple. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the following.

God who created man out of love also calls him to love— the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love. Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator’s eyes. And this love which God blesses is intended to be fruitful and to be realized in the common work of watching over creation: “And God blessed them, and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.’ (CCC 1604)

This is the beauty that should be transmitted to a couple’s children, not the lies and deceit of the pervading worldview on marriage and sex. Man and woman are called to reflect the beauty and truth of God’s love through their marriage and their love for one another. There are beautiful images of how Christ loves his Church like a bridegroom loves his bride. This is what should be transmitted to children in subtle and natural ways so that when the time does come for the talk of the “birds and the bees” it is part of a journey on the path of life and light and not a frantic and embarrassing dash into the dark world of adults.

Liturgical Fiscal Year: A Thought Experiment

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:01

Blessed are you poor (Lk 6.20).

Earlier this month, I heard Rush Limbaugh make reference to some kind of economic forecasting related to Apple’s market value. It was a bit confusing, but I gather the corporation is doing quite well, and it was making predictions related to its fourth-quarter earnings – although we’d call them “third-quarter” earnings. “Apple is like the United States,” Rush explained. “Their fiscal year begins October 1, so their fourth quarter is the September quarter.”

“So New Year’s Day for the U.S. Government and some big corporations is October 1 – the feast of the Little Flower,” I thought to myself. “What if everybody’s new year started with her feast?”

What indeed.

As it is, our secular new year begins with an even more significant and propitious feast on January 1: The Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. It marks the last day of the Christmas Octave, and it focuses our attention on Mary’s unique role in our salvation, but also her role as our heavenly mother and advocate. Moreover, since 1968, our Popes have designated January 1 as the World Day of Peace. We’re asked to offer special prayers that day for an end to war and violence, and to reflect on how we can all help bring that about.

But let’s say, just as a thought experiment, that the Church decided to align its fiscal timetable with the timetables of the world’s mightiest powers, both political and corporate. That is, what if the Church’s financial calendar started in October instead of January? What lessons could we learn from such a shift, especially if the underlying liturgical calendar was left intact.

Considering the wealth of feasts in the first week of October, I’d say there’d be plenty to chew on – particularly with regards to how differently the Church views money matters relative to how the world views them.

Anyway, with regards to my little experiment, here’s what I came up with.

  • October 1 (Fiscal New Year): St. Thérèse of Lisieux. What better saint to ring in the new financial year than this youthful Carmelite and Doctor of the Church. Her whole life was dedicated to self-denial, hiddenness, and her Little Way – the total opposite of the world’s obsession with consumption, self-aggrandizement, and bigger-is-better. As E.F. Schumacher said, and St. Thérèse lived, “small is beautiful,” and we’d do well to imitate her example according to our abilities and state of life.
  • October 2: Guardian Angels. The second day of our Catholic fiscal new year coincides with our annual reminder that we each have a spiritual being assigned to us by God – and that on Jesus’ own authority (Mt 18.10). As with other angels, our guardian angels are God’s messengers, but they also can act on our behalf, protect us, and promote our welfare. In other words, their whole purpose is to serve us – to serve others, not themselves. Would that we held a similar perspective with regards to our wealth, and that we strove to increase our selflessness in our generosity and giving.
  • October 4: St. Francis of Assisi. Here’s the showstopper for my Catholic fiscal new year: The patron saint of voluntary poverty. His rejection of worldly wealth and prestige in exchange for temporal deprivation and derision was considered madness in his day, but he sparked a revolution of love. Not everyone is called to live his radical life of downward mobility – someone has to pay the bills, after all, and have enough left over to pass along to those who beg alms – but his appearance at the start of our imagined financial calendar would set a spiritually profitable tone for the whole year.

In the interest of brevity, I’ll have to skip over other relevant saints in that first week of October – like Bl. Francis Seelos, a Redemptorist missionary to the U.S., on October 5, or the founder of the Carthusians, St. Bruno, on October 6. Besides, we don’t want to stretch this idea too far.

However, there is one more coincidental date that makes this thought experiment especially timely now. Our next would-be fiscal new year’s day, October 1, 2017, will fall on a Sunday – Respect Life Sunday, in fact. It’s a fortuitous confluence of observances that comes every seven years or so, and if it were to also mark financial day #1, think of the unmistakable message if would transmit regarding what the Church truly holds dear: not market share or stock price, balanced books or cash reserves, but the intrinsic and absolute value of every human life.

image: Hendrick ter Brugghen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“There are three things we must

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:00
“There are three things we must do to be at peace: have a pure intention to desire the honor and glory of God in all things; do the little that we can unto that end, following the advice of our spiritual father; and leave all the rest to God’s care.” 
-St. Francis de Sales, Roses Among Thorns

There are times when we see life as

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:00

There are times when we see life as being unfair. We do things by the book but others who circumvent the rules seem to have better results or deals. We patiently await for our turn while others cut into the line without any second thought.

Sometimes we may feel that is how God deals with us. We value ourselves so highly and, when problems come, we claim we do not deserve what we are getting.

Our Lord has given us the Holy Spirit to help us in such situations when we do not understand what is happening. May his Spirit enlighten and guide us in our anxieties.

St. Rose of Lima

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:00

The first canonized saint of the western hemisphere was St. Rose of Lima (1586-1617). Isabel de Flores y del Oliva was the daughter of Spanish parents in Peru. Because her family was poor, young Rose helped support them by growing flowers and doing embroidery and other needlework.

At an early age Rose was attracted by the spirituality and mysticism of St. Catherine of Siena, but her attempts to imitate her brought only opposition and criticism from her family and friends. (Rose sometimes went to what others considered extreme lengths. For instance, because she feared that the admiration of her beautiful face by young men might distract her from serving God, she used to rub her cheeks with pepper to produce disfiguring blotches.)

Rose’s parents wanted her to marry, and for ten years they tried in vain to arrange this. Rose refused. Her parents in turn refused to let her enter a convent, so she became a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic (intended specifically for lay persons) and lived at home, continuing her life of solitude and penance.

A few years before her death, Rose used a room in the family home to care for the elderly, the homeless, and the sick (particularly Indians and slaves). She is today considered the originator of social services in Peru. After years of poor health and violent temptations by Satan, St. Rose of Lima died at the age of thirty-one. Most of the city’s inhabitants attended her funeral, with prominent men taking turns carrying her casket.

From Johnnette Benkovic’s Graceful Living: Meditations to Help You Grow Closer to God Day by Day

Click the image above to purchase your own copy of “Graceful Living.”

“Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no roads to climb to heaven.”

— Our Lord to St. Rose of Lima, from a letter of the saint

What are the steps on my stairway to paradise? I will pray to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to help me identify what gifts of grace are hidden within them to help me climb the road to heaven.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Philip Benizi (1285), Priest, Religious

What Causes More Blindness than Looking Directly at a Solar Eclipse?

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 02:30

 

What Causes More Blindness Than Looking Directly at a Solar Eclipse? The Lord (Week 10 of 23)

To see another human being as he really is means to lay ourselves open to his influence. Thus when fear or dislike moves us to avoid him, this reaction is already evident in our gaze; the eye characterizes him, stifling the good, heightening the bad. We discern his intentions, make swift comparisons, and leap to conclusions. All this proceeds involuntarily, if not unconsciously (in which case our powers of distortion, uncurbed by reason, so their worst). Seeing is a protective service to the will to live. The deeper our fear or distaste of a person, the more tightly we close our eyes to him, until finally, we are incapable of perception, or the profound German word for it, Wahrnehmen: reception of truth. Then we have become blind to that particular person. This mysterious process lies behind every enmity. Discussion, preaching, explanations are utterly useless. The eye simply ceases to register what is plain to be seen. Before there can be any change, a fundamental shift must take place in the general attitude. The mind must turn to justice, the heart expand; then only can the eye really begin to discern. Little by little the sheen of the object on which it rests strengthens its visual power, and slowly it recovers the health of truth. — The Lord (Part III: Chapter 1, Paragraph 13)

This is not a post about politics. Although, as you can see from the above paragraph, the content fits right in with the turbulent weeks we’ve seen in the world of race relations, the months of mudslinging and hatred spewed over the current president of the United States, or the vicious diatribe surrounding immigration, abortion, transgenderism, and more.

Hate is a blinding emotion. And it never leads to justice. Or truth. For in the ensuing pursuit of said goods, the force, which presses continuously onward, gaining passion, momentum, speed, power and brutality, is driven by things like revenge, self-righteousness, anger – none of which can result in an equitable resolution of the issue at hand. They seek instead to destroy the individuals who push back from the other side.

The result is war.

Whether that war is one of emotions, ideas, words, fists, weapons or power, passions fueled by hatred can bring nothing but destruction.

Whether we’re talking about a country at odds about monumental – yes, monumental – issues, or a married couple that has slipped into the abyss of resentment and negativity, hatred is deadly.

The antidote? The answer can be found in Sacred Scripture.

LOVE.

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. — Proverbs 10:18

The only hatred that is permissible is the hatred of evil:

Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. — Psalm 119:163.

Love is always the preferred perspective. Love is always the preferred source of action. For Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Cor. 13:7).

In this time where hearts are hardening, where lines are being drawn, we must remember that only Love changes hearts.  No matter the issue, our goal is never subjugation, but rather, conversion. A sincere conversion to the good. To the truth. To Love. To Christ.

Whether in our homes or in our streets, love will never be achieved through hatred. Justice will never be achieved through fear or dislike. And for those of you who believe that present day problems have moved beyond the scope of biblical niceties and polite decorum, Martin Luther King, Jr. – one of the most quoted men in the twentieth century – had some words to say that harken back to Biblical wisdom. We should keep them in mind, whether we approach our spouse, our neighbor, our community or the world at large:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
Hate multiplies hate,
violence multiplies violence,
and toughness multiplies toughness
in a descending spiral of destruction….
The chain reaction of evil —
hate begetting hate,
wars producing more wars —
must be broken,
or we shall be plunged
into the dark abyss of annihilation.
— Strength To Love, 1963

Reading Assignment:

Part 4: Ch. II-V

Discussion Questions:

1.Please offer any prayerful comments regarding the state of relations in the world – whether within our own families, communities or the world at large.

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

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

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

About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the SpiritualDirection.com book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven – A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at pelicansbreast.com

 

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

Confession: Sweeping the Temple Clean

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 22:07

God has created us to be holy. In our daily efforts towards that end we find within ourselves various attitudes and motives that are hindrances to arriving at that holy state.

Many Christians strive for a form of goodness that is on the border of sin and lukewarmness. They do not disobey the commandments, but neither do their lives change. Each confession is basically a repetition of every other confession. Each day’s trial brings on more frustrations. Each heartache leads to new forms of bitterness.

For many Christians prayer is directed at God rather than to God. Christianity becomes solely a religion and a vehicle by which they calm their consciences or petition the Supreme Being for daily needs. There is a separation — a great gulf between themselves and God. It is almost like a great chasm over which one shouts for help in the hope that an invisible Being on the other side might be listening.

Too many of us live our entire lives in a kind of spiritual Utopia — a dream world of forgotten goals, imagined perfec­tions, and covered-over weaknesses. We put up smoke screens for our sins and rationalize them to the point where we owe neither God nor our neighbor any sign of repentance.

God’s Will becomes so obscure that a dense fog is like a clear day in comparison with what He wants and what we think He wants. At this stage we cry out for God’s Will in our lives, but our preconceived ideas of God, goodness, perfection, and holiness stand between us and God like a medieval castle wall. We freeze and shiver from the cold of frustrated loneliness, searching for the warmth emanating from the fire of His loving will. Unfortunately, our lack of self-knowledge acts like a ball and chain that barely give us room to move in closer to the Fire. Our desires to be better keep us from freezing to death, but our lack of courage to see ourselves as we are, plants our roots securely in the land of unrealized goals. We stand still, afraid of who we are, desperate to be better, but petrified at the sacrifices to be made in order to become better. We are, then, pushed forward by desires and pulled backward by fears. We merely taste a few drops of living water.

This article is from Mother Angelica’s Quick Guide to the Sacraments. Click image to preview other articles.

Jesus promised the Samaritan woman at the well that those who drank the water He offered would never thirst again. He certainly was not speaking of the soul’s thirst for God, for that is necessary to grow in His love. The thirst that would finally be satiated for the Samaritan woman was her need to know herself — to admit her guilt — to admit her personal responsi­bility and to repent.

When Jesus asked her to call her husband, she began with a half-truth. She admitted she had none, but never mentioned her life with a man not her husband. Neither did she tell Jesus she had been married five times. Jesus wanted to release her from that gnawing conscience that gave her no peace and that feeling of guilt that drove her from one excess to another.

The water of His grace poured into her soul, made her admit her weaknesses as Jesus proceeded to tell her all her sins. She was so relieved she ran through the town telling the people about the Man who told her everything she had ever done — forgave her sins and gave her a joy that had to be shared with everyone. She had found God — she would no longer be parched for want of the water of spiritual honesty.

Most of us have never reached that stage of integrity, clear vision, and humble discernment that would satisfy our need for repentance.

We do not possess enough of the Spirit of Jesus to keep our capacity for love and holiness continually being filled and continually growing. We know when, how, and what we do that is wrong, but we hardly ever discern why we do it. We take for granted that society, the devil, and our neighbor bear the responsibility of our actions. We then rush in to change them instead of ourselves. The result is only more frustra­tion, for we ignore the real cause of our weaknesses, sins, and frustrations — ourselves.

We may climb on the bandwagon of social justice, but as long as we are unjust in even one area we are only beating the air.

We can cry out to do God’s Will, but if we cling to our ideas and opinions as the best, we are deceiving ourselves.

We can see and abhor the sins of others and preach salva­tion to them, but if we do not look at the beam in our own eye, we merely reflect an image in a dirty mirror.

We are angered by disobedience but, in turn, tear down and criticize lawful authority.

We are hurt by a lack of gratitude and then arrogantly make demands on the time and talents of others as our due.

We complain of a lack of love on the part of our neigh­bor, but we ourselves never lift a finger to make their burdens lighter.

We lament our complexes, neuroses, and timidities, then spend hours meditating on every facet of our inner life and outside influences.

We rebel against the cross, then proceed to make it heavier by constantly measuring its length, height, depth, and weight.

Life for many of us is like a seesaw. We are always going up or down while remaining in the same place. We never tear ourselves away and go out into the unknown land of our inte­rior to explore its depths, scale its mountains, fill in its valleys, and surmount its obstacles.

We are afraid to look at ourselves because we do not use Jesus as our measuring rod. We do not place our feet in His well-worn footprints. We prefer to ride sidesaddle through the wilderness rather than walk the narrow path that winds slowly but surely to the Father.

To know we offended God and our neighbor is the first step to self-knowledge, but it cannot end there. We should discern what defect of character or soul is the real cause of our failures. To merely seek out effects is like taking an aspirin for a headache when the cause of pain is a tumor.

We should ask ourselves why we react to various situations the way we do. Motives are an important part of our actions, and they often form the reason behind them.

To say we gave in to anger is only part of the fault, for if the anger is justified, it was no fault at all. We all possess a main root fault, and from that one weakness many shoots spring forth. When we find that main root fault we shall overcome many weaknesses in the conquering of one.

The more we read the Gospels, the more of an understanding of Jesus will we possess. With this knowledge comes the light of discernment — self-discernment — the kind that is suddenly aware of the degree of contrast between our soul and Jesus, its Model.

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

We find Jesus more concerned over man’s interior life than his exterior life. One day He asked His Apostles about their conversation as they traveled from place to place. They reluctantly told Him they were arguing about supremacy — who among them was the greatest. This was wrong, for envy had begun its ugly work among them. In asking the question, Jesus exposed the fault and in giving them the example of what they should be, He exposed their motive — the reason for their fault. He used the positive approach to expose and heal a negative effect.

He told them they were to be like children — humble, docile, gentle, loving, joyful, and ever preferring others over themselves. If they desired to lead, they were to be as one who serves. This contrast brought out to the Apostles a never-to-be-forgotten lesson in humility and love. They knew what they did; they now knew why they did it, and they understood what they should do about it.

Their self-knowledge had the three ingredients so necessary to be fruitful. Our examination of conscience should also bear these three aspects of self-knowledge. If we stop at any one of them, then our spiritual lives will continue on a seesaw.

Our Faith should be strong enough to tell us what we do that offends God so that . . .

Our Hope will be trusting enough to give us the courage to face the reason why we offend God and then . . .

Our Love will give us a deep awareness of how to be more like Jesus. Love makes like — love transforms — love changes the ugly into beautiful — love makes the weak strong.

Self-knowledge that constantly feeds our Faith — Hope —and Love—will always be fruitful—always be joyful—always be humble. But when self-knowledge creates doubts and makes us discouraged and lukewarm, then that knowledge has turned within the soul and acts like a deadly arrow — destroying and tearing apart what God has created to be whole and beautiful.

We should never be discouraged or disheartened over our weaknesses. Jesus has given us His Spirit to help us to be more like Him. He has given us His shepherds to lead us back home. He has given us the grace we need to repent, change, and be­come holy.

Only in heaven shall we be faultless and flawless. We must accept our sinner condition with humility and a determination never to give in to the weaknesses inherent to that condition. It is to the glory of the Father that we “bear fruit in plenty” (John 12:24). Each one of us will radiate different aspects of the Father’s attributes. What is His by nature becomes ours through grace. It is important for us to know our weaknesses so we can turn them around and change them into beautiful facets of the life of Jesus.

Our examination of conscience should be honest, courageous, and humble. It must tell us what we did, why we did it, and how to change. It will do these things only when the eyes of our conscience rest on Jesus, for with that glance comes grace, and His “grace is at its best in our weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

May the Spirit, who made our souls His Temple, teach us how to examine our conscience, how to change, and how to pray to the Father in whose Image we were created.

Editor’s note: This article is from a chapter in Mother Angelica’s Quick Guide to the Sacramentswhich is available from Sophia Institute Press

Ways to Praise God in Your Day

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 22:05

Never have we lived in a society with so much information, but we have also lived in a world with so much confusion, and I would have to say massive confusion!

While the people were building the Tower of Babel (cf. Gen 11:1-9), God came down to confuse their tongues and so we have the multiplicity of languages and the confusion that follows from a lack of clear understanding.

If you were to stop somebody in the street and ask him this simple but all important philosophical question: why are you here in this world? what do you think his response would be? Let me express what might be some of the most common answers, and the philosophical systems they represent

  1. I am here to enjoy life, to enjoy life to the max—Hedonism
  2. I am here to make a lot of money—Materialism
  3. I am here to buy, buy, buy; to shop until I drop—Consumerism
  4. I am here to become someone, to become famous—Narcissism, the cult of self
  5. I am here for no real purpose at all—Nihilism
  6. I am here today and dead tomorrow, but will return shortly after—Reincarnationism
  7. I am here for a purpose, to help humanity—altruism
  8. I am here to learn all the secrets that nature can teach me—Rationalism
  9. I am born, I live, I die and that is it—Skepticism
  10. I have not that faintest idea why I am here—Fatalism

All of the above responses could be an interesting cross-section of assertions various people make as to why they are here on earth. However, for believers in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, none of these responses are true or will give us authentic happiness. Everybody has a philosophy of life, but there are false philosophies of life and then there is one true philosophy of life.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola in the Spiritual Exercises, an excellent program to grow in holiness and arrive at the reason for which we are created, offers us the true philosophy of life in the consideration that he calls Principle and Foundation. The text reads: Man is created to praise God, to reverence God, to serve God, and by means of that to save his soul. These few words say it all! All of the above assertions that are really false philosophies crumble before the reality of these few words in Principle and Foundation in the text of the Spiritual Exercises.

First and foremost, Saint Ignatius starts off by stating that we are called to Praise God! Following are just a few ways that we can praise God.

The Psalms

Praying, singing, or chanting the Psalms is an excellent means by which we can praise God. Not all, but many of the Psalms are explicitly songs and prayers to praise God. We invite our readers to go to the last three of the 150 Psalms—Psalms 148, 149, and 150! In these three Psalms you will find abundant food to nourish your soul and praise God.

Mary’s Magnificat

The Blessed Virgin Mary spoke seven times recorded in Sacred Scripture. Can you name them? The longest expression of Mary’s words is found in her Magnificat,Mary’s canticle of praise, that the Church in her Liturgy of Hours prays every evening in Vespers or Evening prayer. This wonderful prayer starts off with these marvelous words: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” (Mary’s Magnificat: Lk. 1:46-55). Pray Mary’s prayer of praise, her Magnificat, and you too will be praising God!

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

Of all of the prayers that exist in this world, there is no prayer greater than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The primary purpose of Holy Mass is the following: to praise God the Father, through the offering of God the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. This truth is succinctly summarized in the part of the Mass that we call the Doxology—which means praise! Through Him, with Him, and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, Almighty Father, forever and ever. Amen!

There we have it: we can best praise God by participating fully, actively, and consciously in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. May we learn to love Mass, attend Mass, and receive Holy Communion with faith, devotion, and fervor as often as possible. May we become missionaries and bring as many people to this source of grace and this great expression of praise of the Glorious Trinity!

Eucharistic Adoration

Flowing very naturally from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is that of Eucharistic Adoration.In many Parishes, Churches, Chapels, and Sanctuaries, there is the wonderful and must exalted practice of Eucharistic Adoration. After we have received Jesus in Holy Communion, the most natural response is to extend the fruits received in Holy Communion by Eucharistic Adoration. In our Parish, Saint Peter Chanel in Hawaiian Gardens, CA, Monday through Friday—aside from the 5 daily Masses, and sometimes funerals, there is Eucharistic Adoration from 6:30 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. People constantly enter, genuflect, and spend time in Eucharistic Adoration. Some make a short visit for a few minutes, others for half an hour; still others are in the habit of making their Holy Hour in front of the Eucharistic Lord.

Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen terms this The Hour of Power! How true! If we form the habit of praising the Lord Jesus in His Eucharistic Real Presence, then He blesses us, protects us, encourages us, enlightens us, and even anoints our words to extinguish the fiery darts of the enemy. I never forget the words of this short poem: “Whenever I see a Church, I stop to make a visit, so that when I die, the Lord won’t say “Who is it?” Let us get in the habit of adoring the Lord in this life, because that is what we will be doing for all eternity!

Devotion to the Angels

Among the highest choirs of angels in heaven—the cherubim and the seraphim—their principal duty in heaven is to simply praise the Eternal Triune God for all eternity… Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest. Therefore, if we really want to learn how to praise God, then we can turn to the angels and learn from them, and beg for their most powerful intercession. They will be glad to help us!

Praise God With Your Lives

Saint Augustine in one of his brilliant Easter sermons invites us all to be joyful and to praise God with our words. However, he admonishes us to not simply praise God with our words, but also with our lives! Let us turn to the saints, who have arrived at the total and irrevocable salvation of their souls (Principle and Foundation), and beg them to pray for us so that what we say with our words will not be contradicted by the lives we lead! May Our Lady, who taught us to praise God in her Magnificat, attain for us a harmonious blend of authenticity between what we say and the way we live!

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.