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The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home – DI Radio Show and Podcast

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 02:30

Description: How can we make the home a place of peace and prayer? Today, Dan and Melissa discuss the book The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home with author Leila Lawler, to help families orient their lives to Christ.

Topics/Questions covered in the show:

  • What is an oratory?
  • How should one go about setting up his or her prayer space?
  • Is a prayer corner or space expensive?
  • What does it mean to develop a regular, daily prayer life and how can the oratory help?
  • Why is the Liturgy of the Hours important?
  • How should our lives reflect the liturgical year?
  • What does the liturgy have to do with family prayer life?

Resources for today’s show:

What is Divine Intimacy Radio?

The Divine Intimacy Radio Show is a haven of rest and wellspring of spiritual life for those seeking intimacy with God and the enlightened path of Catholic mystical and ascetical wisdom.

Twice a week, Dan Burke and Melissa Elson explore topics related to the interior life and Catholic teaching. On Tuesdays, they interview various authors about their spiritual books and about the authors’ own insights on those books. On Fridays, they get specific on subjects which, primarily include prayer, spiritual direction, meditation, contemplation, and holiness.

Please click on the arrow below to listen to today’s show! Don’t forget to tell your friends about the show and help us get the word out. Click HERE for mobile devices or on the arrow below to listen to the show:

About Dan Burke

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

 

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

Balancing Tenderness and Toughness

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 22:07

Love in any context, but especially in a family, will alternate between tenderness and toughness. The ancient Israelites recognized that love does not look like the saccharine romances (they were blessed not to know about artificial sugar) that are sold in pop culture. Love is not merely a feeling that comes and goes, making us feel warm and cuddly when it’s here and cold and prickly when it’s gone. Love is a choice that includes wisdom, prudence, and the hard work of self-giving.

Every proverb we’ll go over includes the phrase “loyalty and faithfulness,” which is a translation of the Hebrew word hesed, a term referring specifically to “covenant love.” This is an important concept to understand before meditating on the individual proverbs.

Among the ancient Israelites and their neighbors, a covenant was not merely a contract for various services rendered, although covenants did include some specific stipulations. Rather, a covenant established a relationship between the covenant partners, as well as a lifelong promise to accept that relationship and to fulfill certain responsibilities to the other members of the covenant. These agreements might be between nations, individuals, or clans, but the most famous covenants in the Bible were between God and His people, Israel. For instance, God made a covenant with Abraham after he demonstrated his willingness to give everything back to God, even if it meant sacrificing his son Isaac:

And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore.” (Gen. 22:15–17)

With the angel’s statement, God announces His irrevocable commitment to Abraham and His descendants. Now, these commitments might just sound like fancy versions of what we would call contracts, but that wouldn’t be right. A contract is a simple agreement to provide certain goods or services, such as when a person hires a cook or a gardener. A covenant is more like a marriage, in which one’s very identity is changed through establishing a new relationship with a spouse in an irreversible lifelong relationship that includes God as the enforcer of the commitment. Even when God isn’t making the covenant, the individuals or families who are party to the covenant swear before God — not just a lawyer or a magistrate — that they will fulfill the commitment they’re making.

Hesed, or “covenant love,” then, is the love proper to a com­mitted, covenantal relationship: total, self-giving, self-sacrificing, never ending, and based in the love of God. Such love may change its appearance over time — sometimes passionate, sometimes staid; sometimes tender, sometimes tough — but it never changes in the depth of commitment to the other person. That’s what these prov­erbs mean by “loyalty and faithfulness”: unconditional love.

Let not loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them about
your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. (Prov. 3:3)

This article is from a chapter in “The Proverbs Explained.” Click image to order or preview other chapters.

This proverb urges us to make covenant love the center of our lives by giving us images of a necklace and “the tablet of your heart.” The necklace reminds us that unconditional love should always be with us. As Catholics, we make this reminder tangible to ourselves and others by wearing a crucifix necklace or the scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Some translations read that we keep hesed “around [our] throat.” This image suggests that covenant love is as essential to life as the air, drink, and food that pass through our throats.

The next image brings to mind several other moments in the Bible. Soon after the Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem (587 BC), the Lord spoke to the prophet Jeremiah of the new covenant, which Jesus Christ would fulfill: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33). At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Eucharist as His Blood of the “new and everlasting covenant”; this covenant is rooted in the Blood of Jesus Christ, as the New Testament makes clear numerous times.

Then, St. Paul writes that when the Gentiles “do by nature what the law requires . . . even though they do not have the law . . . they show that what the law requires is written on their hearts” (Rom. 2:14–15). He also speaks of his own belief in this way: “For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self” (Rom. 7:22). In fact, the concept of the law resting in the hearts of men is a running theme in St. Paul’s letters:

You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men; and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Cor. 3:2–3)

This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds. (Heb. 10:16)

This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Heb. 8:10)

The Lord writes His covenant and His laws in our hearts, including and especially the law that we live by covenant love. Clearly, the Lord does not want us to live by merely obeying laws and living out the covenant relationship through mere external observance. Rather, His desire is to effect a transformation of every human heart so that the covenantal love of God — and the necessary inclusion of the neighbor in that love — flows from the depths of the human heart.

Jesus so obviously desired this kind of transformation of the heart that when He taught about the commandments of God in the Sermon on the Mount, he expanded on their meaning and ap­plication (see Matt. 5:20–48). “Thou shalt not kill” requires more than simply avoiding murder; it requires a transformed heart that does not call one’s enemy a fool or try to get revenge. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” comes to include refusing even to look upon others with lust. “Thou shalt not swear a false oath” becomes a prohibition against all oaths because one must always tell the truth. Clearly, God desires that covenant love and its specific behavior should flow from the heart.

Do they not err that devise evil? Those who devise good meet loyalty and faithfulness. (Prov. 14:22)

The Hebrew word for “those who devise evil” is chorshei, which refers to plowing fields in an erratic manner. So, those who devise evil follow their own paths in which they chase their own (usually selfish) desires instead of following the straight path of virtue that the Lord has set out for them. The result is a poor harvest, whether of vegetables or of holiness.

On the other hand, those who plow the fields in straight lines, that is, those who follow the Lord’s paths of righteousness and goodness, will encounter covenant love and faithfulness. The link between following God’s law and living in the light of unconditional love is important, particularly in a contemporary culture that denies and rejects that link. For instance, people often set up a false choice between love and following the rules, as in the song lyric, “If loving you is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.” Many people think that loving others entails accepting almost anything they might desire or do — and that loving themselves means indulging every desire that comes along.

This proverb presents an opposing position: following God’s law leads us to authentic love and personal freedom. If you speak to someone who has used his or her freedom to abuse drugs and alcohol or to use pornography or to pursue serial sexual relation­ships, you won’t hear a story of liberation but one of slavery to the addictiveness of sin.

In reality, we humans cannot fully and freely give unconditional love without following God’s law, and we cannot fully follow God’s law without unconditional love. When a child, a family member, or a friend goes astray (chorshei), true love summons us correct him or her, whether gently or with toughness. People who fall into sin hurt themselves and usually the people around them. Love does not let them continue to harm themselves — and worse, it does not affirm them in bad decisions. Accepting their destructive sinful behavior might seem easier at first, but it is not the authentic good that we desire for the person we claim to love.

Another aspect of fulfilling our duties to God and living covenant love belongs to our work, whether inside or outside the home. When we labor for our own glory rather than for the glory of God and the needs of our family and neighbors, we are not practicing covenant love. It’s easy to think that success in our jobs — getting awards, promotions, and so on — means that we are following God’s path. But if we are pursuing those honors to stoke our egos rather than for the sake of others, covenant love is not the operating dynamic in our lives and we are not “devising good.” Moral goodness and self-giving love belong together, and we mature by integrating them in every aspect of our lives — Church, family, friends, society, work, play, and so on.

By loyalty and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil. (Prov. 16:6)

When people live in close quarters, whether in a family or, as I did, in religious community with other priests and seminarians, they learn to deal with each other’s rough edges. We all have them, even if we don’t realize it. The first part of this proverb tells us how true covenant love helps us to cope with the difficult aspects of others’ personalities, as well as our own.

When the wisdom writer says that by covenant love “iniquity is atoned for,” he does not mean that our love magically wipes away sins. For that, we need God’s grace, which is granted by Jesus Christ’s saving death on the Cross, especially as ministered in the sacrament of Confession. This proverb teaches that unconditional love makes wrongs easier to bear and can help others to overcome their struggles.

The assurance that we are acting in love makes all the difference. When I lived in community with my brother Jesuits, they often had to call me out when I was having trouble fulfilling my duties to the community. I frequently tried to take on too many activities at once, and it took the loving correction of those around me to get me to focus on my primary responsibilities. The key to accepting their correction is that I always knew, based on the way they treated me in everyday life — with kindness and prayer and support — that this correction was based on love, not malice. Their love helped me correct my faults.

It’s the same in any family. It is so important that parents tell children that they love them, and there is no such thing as too much love. Of course, when the time comes for toughness, they are assured (even though it might not always seem like it to children at the moment) that correction is coming from their parents’ unconditional love, not from rejection, contempt, or pride. When they know they are loved and that their parents are helping them become better persons through discipline, they will accept that discipline sooner than parents expect. As children discover and work through their unique pains and struggles, the covenant love of parents helps them smooth out their rough edges and forms them into wonderful young women and men.

The second part of this proverb reminds us that our acts of cov­enant love always are better when they are done in union with love and fear of the Lord. Left to ourselves, human love is tinged with pride and self-regard, but our Lord enables us to practice authentic unconditional love. Our love for others becomes a reflection of His love for us; whereas, when we detach ourselves from His love, our own love for others suffers in turn.

Remember that Jesus said that “the great and first commandment” is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind ” (Matt. 22:37, 38). Love Him with everything you have — all of which He has given you anyway. When you love God first, you love His creatures even better. If you love God above everything else, then, you won’t expect your spouse and children to be God; that is, you can let them be the fallible people they are — just like you. His love makes it possible to bring people away from the path of evil.

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Fr. Pacwa’s The Proverbs Explained: A Blueprint for Christian Livingwhich is available from Sophia Institute Press

image: Anastasios71 / Shutterstock.com

The Language of the Spirit-Filled

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 22:05

We have received the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation. We have God’s Spirit being poured into our hearts in prayer and in the sacraments. But are we really thinking and speaking the language of those who are Spirit-filled? What does this language sound like?

First, are we people who say with conviction, “God, you are always with me and I am never alone?” The Spirit that Jesus offers and speaks to us about in today’s Gospel is One who “remains with us always,” who also “remains in us and will be in us” irrespective of how we are feeling or our conditions in life. God’s presence within us is a pure gift won for us by Christ on the cross and His prayer to the Father, “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate.” Divine presence in us is neither earned by what we do nor is it dependent on how we feel or what others think about us. On a practical level, being Spirit-filled, we are ready and willing to lift up our eyes and heart to God in heartfelt and sincere prayer at any moment of our lives and we refuse to judge our closeness to God by our feelings or conditions in life.

Secondly, are we people who face all events and circumstances in life by asking, “God, what are you trying to teach me through this event or experience?” The Spirit is a “Spirit of Truth,” who also “guides us to all truth.”(Jn 16:13) In addition to begging God for the graces that we need to overcome obstacles and difficulties in life, being Spirit-filled, we also live with that conviction that, through our life experiences, God is constantly revealing to us truths about Himself, His mysterious ways of acting, who we are as God’s children, and how we are supposed to behave in our relationship with God and others.

In today’s First Reading, Philip, like other Greek speaking Christians of his time, were compelled to leave their homes in Jerusalem after the martyrdom of Stephen and the violent persecution of Christians. Even in that painful experience, there was a Spirit-message to spread the Gospel beyond Jerusalem and to reach out to the Samaritans, “Philip went down to Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them.” The result of his preaching was overwhelming and “there was great joy in that city,” because Philip was not deaf to the constant teaching of the Spirit even in his painful moments.

Thirdly, do we say with conviction, “Lord, I believe in your words to me more than in my own experiences or what the world may say or expect from me?” The Spirit of Truth guides us along paths that are not always the common way of judging, speaking and acting. Since it is a Spirit that “the world cannot accept because it neither sees nor knows Him,” we cannot judge the Spirit’s inspiration or truth by worldly standards or fall into easy compromises with the world. The greatest reality for us is God’s words, much more than public opinion, personal experience, or cultural expectations.

Fourthly, do we also ask, “How can I give God greater praise and glory in this situation or through this experience?” The Spirit is given to us to enable us to seek the glory of God by doing His holy will alone, “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.” The Spirit constantly moves us away from selfishness and self-will. Philip did not seek self-preservation in his trials but continuously used his gifts for the glory of God, “With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip and saw the signs that he was doing.”

Fifthly, how ready are we to say, “God, I trust that you will always sustain me in all things as long as I am seeking to give you praise and glory.” The Spirit is an Advocate who helps us in all things. We cannot even pray without the assistance of the Spirit, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” (Rom 8:26) This means that we are ready to let go of all forms of self-reliance, self-dependence and self-seeking in our thoughts and actions.

Why is it important to think and speak as befits one who has the Spirit of Jesus? The Spirit and other gifts are given to us to make happy here on earth and to journey to heaven. We easily abuse or underuse our gifts when we do not speak the language of the Spirit-filled. Consequently, we lose that joy that the Spirit brings because our language does not reflect His abiding presence within us to teach and support us constantly.

I recently met a well-educated woman who once owned a lucrative real estate business. She had friends and family who looked up to her. She had lost everything through her gambling addiction. She is now living in a shelter for the homeless in Manila, blind and deserted by her loved ones. I was struck by her joyful demeanor and her words to me, “Maybe God has taken away all my wealth and my sight so that my heart can now be fixed on Him alone.” There is no self-pity here but honest acceptance God’s love for her even in her bad choices. Her joy was no longer in her material gifts or status but it is now a joy that comes from contact with the God who is ever present and active within her, constantly sustaining and teaching her about God’s mysterious and often painful ways and how she is to respond. She had learned from her painful experience that true joy does not come from more gifts but from having our thoughts, words, actions and attitudes shaped by the abiding presence and pedagogy of the Spirit within.

Mother Mary, the ever-faithful spouse of the Spirit, spoke the language of the Spirit-filled. Believing that God was always with her, she faced all life’s events by “keeping all these things and pondering them in her heart,”(Lk 2:19) to discern the voice of the Spirit within her. She let God alone to sustain her, “He who is mighty has done great things for me.” Through Mary and with Mary, we too can learn something about God, self, and others from the events and conditions of life. Experience is the best teacher and we never graduate from the school of the Holy Spirit’s instructions in life’s experiences. Mama Mary is a tested and trusted guide for us in this school of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus, our Eucharistic Lord, will never cease to pour His Spirit into our hearts as He does in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Indeed, we are never left orphans. God is ever with us, ever teaching and supporting us, to bring us to that unending joy that comes from our faithful use of God’s gifts to the very end and for His greater glory. All we need to do is to begin to think, speak, and act out the language of the Spirit-filled.

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

image: Renata Sedmakova / Shutterstock.com

Learning to Stand Firm in the Faith

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 22:02

“Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”

—1 Corinthians 16:13-14

What is the virtue of faith? It is a theological virtue that unites us with God in whom we believe, in who He is, in what He says through the Word of God, through the Magisterium and the person of Peter, who is the Pope. A shorter definition, indeed easier to memorize is: “Faith is believing in God without seeing Him.”

Faith, together with hope and charity, is infused within our souls in the moment of Baptism. However, like a tiny seed planted in the ground, it must be cultivated, otherwise it can wither and die.

A graphic Biblical verse, worthy of deep contemplation, is Saint Peter walking on the water, sinking, and then being lifted up by the hand of Jesus. (Mt 14:22-33) One of the principal reasons why Peter actually sank in the waves was that he lifted his eyes from the eyes of Jesus to look at the waves. This can be applied to all of us!

When we fix our gaze into the loving eyes of Jesus then our faith, as well as our hope, remain firmly rooted, if you like anchored! However, once the worldly values lure us in the wrong direction and actually seduce us, then we—like Simon Peter—start to falter in our faith and eventually sink in the waves of our own sinfulness. Therefore, may we make a firm commitment to fight to be strong in the faith, by striving to have Jesus always present to us in all times and places. As the Greek poet expressed it, quoted by Saint Paul: “In Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

What are the major obstacles to faith in the modern world?

Related to the topic of faith, we should then ask and respond to this question, what are the major obstacles to faith in the modern world in which we live?  There are many, but we would like to highlight a few:

  1. LACK OF FORMATION IN THE FAITH. Often many have a very weak faith because their parents never made a concerted effort to teach and live the faith for their children. Parents must be the first teachers of the faith; they promised this on the day of the Baptism of their child. They should teach their children both by word and example.
  2. LACK OF PERMANENT FORMATION. As in the life of any professional, a permanent process of formation is demanded. Doctors, Lawyers, Teachers, Writers, Priests—all must be constantly updating and upgrading their practice and profession; if not, they could lose their job. Likewise, as followers of Christ our formation process should be perpetual, up until the day the Lord calls us. We can never get to know and love God enough!
  3. WORLDLINESS. Today there are many distractions and worldliness that can pull us off the straight and narrow path that leads to salvation. Jesus says that the path that leads to perdition is wide and spacious and many choose that path; whereas the path that leads to salvation is narrow and there are few who find it and follow it.
  4. LACK OF CULTIVATION. Also, without a serious cultivation of the faith, other things become our priority over God. However, our God is a jealous God who will take second place to no person, place or thing.
  5. SIN. Finally, one of the major obstacles towards growing in our faith would be SIN.  If we give in to sin and allow sin to be our master, our faith can diminish, wither, dry up and perish!!! Then we actually become slaves to our sinful desires and passions.

Now let us move in the opposite direction and respond to how we can bolster our own faith and be the means by which others come back to their faith, grow in their faith, and become apostles to bring others back to the faith.

Prayer.  

Every time we pray we are growing in our faith. Actually, prayer is an act of faith because we are praying to a God whom we do not see. Servant of God, Father John Hardon. S.J. made this observation with respect to faith. He noticed that most of those who once had the faith and lost it, did so due to a lack of prayer or the total abandoning of prayer. Therefore, let us make a strong decision and a concerted effort to strive to grow in prayer every day.

Solid spiritual reading.

Saints have been converted by reading—as in the case of Saint Ignatius of Loyola who read the lives of the saints after his injury in the battle of Pamplona. Ignatius exclaimed: “If Francis can do it, so can I; if Dominic can do it, then so can I.”

Why not decide to bolster your faith on a daily basis by applying yourselves to good spiritual reading? You might even start to read the lives of the saints; they indeed were the heroes of God, men and women of extraordinary faith!

Accept trials like Simon Peter.

When God sends you some trial or tribulation why not accept it and call out like Simon Peter who was sinking in the waves:Lord, save me!  Jesus did save him, and at the same time gently rebuked him with the words: “O man of little faith!”  God actually sends you trials to strengthen your faith like Job in the Old Testament and Peter in the New!

Eucharist: the Bread of Life.

It must be said that frequent and worthy, as well as fervent reception of the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, is by far one of the most powerful means to grow in our faith.“As the deer yearns for the running waters, so my soul yearns for you my God.”(Psalm 42:1) May the words of the Psalmist motivate us to grow in faith, by growing in faith and hunger for the Eucharist.

Share your faith with others.

It is interesting to note that when we share material things, we end up with greater poverty. Not so with spiritual gifts and treasures. The contrary is so! The more we give and share our faith with others, the more we enrich our own faith. Therefore, be open to the opportunities that God places in your path—persons that we can share our faith with. Many do not have faith, and may never have faith, for this simple reason: no one has been ready and willing to share their faith with them!

As the Prophet Isaiah expresses it:Blessed are the feet that bring the good news. The last words of Jesus before He ascended into heaven were: “Go out to all nations and teach all that I have taught you; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Behold I will be with you always until the end of the world.” (Mt 28:20) Indeed to be a follower of Christ is to be a missionary, always looking for times, places, and circumstances to share the Good News of salvation.

May Our Lady who said YES to God in the Annunciation, and then went in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth so as to bring the Good News to her, be our inspiration to know our faith, love our faith, grow in our faith, and be zealous to share our faith with the whole world!

 

In the first reading, several miracles

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 22:00

In the first reading, several miracles occur. First, there is an earthquake and the chains of all the prisoners fall off. But the bigger miracle is that no one tries to escape. Most probably Paul talked to them and convinced them not to run away. However, the biggest miracle is about to happen. The jailer, who must have maltreated many of the prisoners, realizes that Paul and Silas are envoys of God. So he asks for salvation from God through them. He brings them to his house (still another miracle), washes their wounds and then sits down to listen to their preaching. All his family members are converted to the faith and are all baptized. Now that is a miracle!

Have you witnessed miracles in which people completely change the direction of their lives? It would be great to witness such miracles because they truly strengthen our faith in God. The conversion of St. Paul is one such miracle. Miraculous conversions are the work of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit touches a person, he can change immensely and is filled with zeal to obey God and His commands. We should not give up on anyone no matter how bad they might be because God is more powerful than our sins. He can change us totally if we believe in Him and desire to be converted to His way of doing and thinking. The work of the Holy Spirit is to undo the works of the devil. So we should not be afraid of the evil one because God has already triumphed on Easter Sunday over the prince of this world. The gospel says so.

“Do not fear what may happen

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 22:00

“Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same loving Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and every day…Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.”

~St Francis de Sales, from Saintly Solutions to Life’s Common Problems

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St. John Baptist Rossi

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 22:00

St. John was born in Voltaggio, Italy, in 1698, one of four children. When he was young, a nobleman and his wife who spent their summers in Voltaggio took him back to Genoa to be trained in their home. He stayed for three years and during that time gained the good opinion of two visiting Capuchin friars, which led to an invitation from his cousin, a canon of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, to come to Rome to study at the Roman College.

He completed the classical course of studies, but began practicing severe mortifications after reading an ascetical book. Their severity, combined with a heavy course load and a bout of epilepsy, led to a breakdown, and he was forced to leave the college. He recuperated and completed his training at Minerva, but was never again very strong.

At age 23 he was ordained a priest. He had visited hospitals as a student, and now he focused his attention upon them. He concentrated especially on the hospice of Saint Galla, an overnight shelter for paupers that had been founded by Pope Celestine III.

St. John spent the next 40 years of his life ministering to the sick and the needy, especially homeless women for whom he founded a refuge. Assigned to Santa Maria Church near the Aventine, he acquired a reputation as a confessor that drew throngs of penitents to his confessional. Pope Benedict XIV also chose St. John to instruct prison and other state officials, including the public hangman. His preaching was in great demand, and he was often asked to give addresses in religious houses.

His frail health eventually compelled him to move to the Trinita dei Pellegrini in 1763, where he suffered a stroke and received the last sacraments. He recovered enough to resume celebrating Mass, but in 1764 he had another stroke and died at the age of 66. The hospital of the Trinita undertook to pay for the poor priest’s burial. His funeral was attended by 260 priests as well as the papal choir. He was canonized in 1881.

Lessons

1. St. John’s only thought was for souls, so much so that he was called “Hunter of Souls.” In all our relationships, we too should always consider what good we may do for others’ souls. Let us pray for the love which casts out all fear so that everything we do will be for the salvation of others.

2. St. John’s life was one of complete poverty and trust in the Lord’s providence. Any money he was given was immediately distributed to the poor or spent on the needs of his parish. May we too learn to trust God to take care of all our temporal needs so that we can more generously share with others all the gifts He has given us.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Julia of Corsica (440), Virgin, Martyr, Patron of Corsica

3 Reasons to Get Your Father a Catholic Gentleman Mug for Father’s Day

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 07:49

Men love coffee. Ever since the pope first blessed coffee for Catholic consumption, it has been part of the daily ritual of millions of men around the globe. It awakens, revivifies, and stimulates the intellect. It warms the body and fills the heart with gladness. It is a little bit like the elixir of life.

Finding the right coffee to drink is of utmost importance. But second in importance to this is what you chose to drink out of. Drinking coffee out of a styrofoam cup is acceptable in cases of extreme necessity, but no man in his right mind would choose to do so. It simply ruins the experience. Likewise with paper or other disposable drinkware. And a tin cup may be acceptable for cowboys on the range, but the rest of us require something more refined. We require something as delicious to drink out of as the coffee it contains.

Enter the Catholic Gentleman Stoneware Mug. Ever popular, these mugs are the perfect drinkware for the Catholic man—and a great gift for Father’s Day. Here are three reasons you should get your father (or spiritual father) a Catholic Gentleman mug.

1. It’s a Mug with a Message

The Catholic Gentleman mug provides a wonderful drinking experience. More importantly, however, it is a reminder of the high calling of every Catholic man to holiness. It speaks of the joy of being Catholic and the adventure of following Christ. Emblazoned with the unique Catholic Gentleman seal, it is a great conversation starter as well. Who wouldn’t want to evangelize while drinking a cup of coffee?

2. It’s a Beauty to Behold

We all need more beauty in our lives. In a world of mass-produced junk, things of quality are all too rare. The Catholic Gentleman mug is not produced in some sweatshop by employees living on slave wages. It is made in America, Wisconsin to be precise, by a small company employing experienced artisans. Everything about this mug is crafted with thought and care, even down the packaging it ships in. And heck, it looks great too. It’s black and silver glaze glistens in the morning light, beckoning you to take a sip of the rich roasted brew it contains.

3. It Supports the Catholic Gentleman Apostolate

The Catholic Gentleman apostolate is growing rapidly, but it’s still a part-time endeavor done in my free time. Your support is necessary for this work, and purchasing a mug will help us continue to inspire and equip men for the service of Christ and the Church.

Time is running out!

If you’re on the fence about ordering a mug, don’t wait! You need to order your mug this week if you want your mug in time for Father’s Day! Because I think you’ll love it, and your Father will too, I want to offer you a 10% discount. Simply use the code DADS at checkout to get your discount.

Get Your Mug

PS: Don’t forget your priests this Father’s Day! They have a tiring and often thankless job. They deserve an awesome gift too!

The post 3 Reasons to Get Your Father a Catholic Gentleman Mug for Father’s Day appeared first on The Catholic Gentleman.

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

From Despair to Hope: Job’s Extraordinary Journey

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 22:07

The Book of Job seems the least likely of any in the Old Testament to be hopeful.

Sure, it ultimately ends happily, but it’s the titular character’s existential angst and his sheer, unending misery that dominates. From the beginning, the mood is one of despair and gloom. After a series of calamities strikes him and his household, we meet Job sitting on a heap of ashes, scraping his sores from a broken shard of a pot (Job 2).  His wife tells him to curse God and die. Instead, Job curses the day of his birth in the most unequivocal terms (Job 3).

And so it goes throughout the book. Job is still souring over his sorry fate near the end. In Job 30 he cries out,

I go about in gloom, without the sun;
I rise in the assembly and cry for help.
I have become a brother to jackals,
a companion to ostriches.
My blackened skin falls away from me;
my very frame is scorched by the heat
(verses 28-30; all quotations NAB, Rev. ed. unless otherwise noted).

And yet, hope is throughout the book. Yachal, one of the four main Hebrew words for hope, appears 8 times in Job—more than any other book except the much-longer Psalms, where it is used 17 times. Another word, tiqwah, occurs a dozen times in Job, more than any other book in the Old Testament. Two other Hebrew words for hope also are in Job. One is the considerably rarer tochelet, which is in just a handful of books. The fourth word, qavah is used in three prophetic books, the Psalms, and Job. (For more, see this article, which is a key source of the summary here.)

To be sure, some instances of these words for hope in Job are in a negative context: they either describe the absence of hope for Job or others or refer to the sort of things a completely miserable person might ‘hope’ for, such as death. But then, hope springs up in positive contexts as well.

What’s more: the seemingly negative and positive contexts are not opposed to each other, but instead they are interrelated. In other words, the key to understanding the kind of hope that Job offers to us is not ignoring his abject state of affairs, but grasping their full meaning.

In the midst of his despair, Job does have a sort of hope. In Job 17:13, he declares his “only hope is dwelling in Sheol and spreading my couch in darkness.” (Sheol is the generic Hebrew term for the underworld.) He describes at length his longing for death:

Like a slave who longs for the shade,
a hireling who waits for wages,
So I have been assigned months of futility,
and troubled nights have been counted off for me (Job 7:2-3).

Although not explicit in these verses, commentators interpret this as an unmistakable wish for death. Certainly the term shade here is richly connotative of this: just as a hard laborer waits for the shadow of the evening, when his work comes to an end, so Job awaits the evening of his life. Perhaps not coincidentally, in the ancient world, particularly Greece and Rome, souls who had departed to the afterlife were called ‘shades’—they had no real flesh and bone substance, but were mere shadows of their former selves.

But Job soon realizes that death is no hope. So he goes from hoping for death to despairing over the utter hopelessness of death itself, according to an account from one Australian-based biblical scholar, Suzanne Boorer. In the words of Job,

Where then is my hope,
my happiness, who can see it?
Will they descend with me into Sheol?
Shall we go down together into the dust? (Job 17:15-16).

This sentiment represents a turning point for Job. Having faced the hopelessness of death, he founds within himself a new desire: a hope that he will be vindicated as a righteous man by God. This, according to Boorer, is actually stated a few chapters earlier:

Though he slays me, I will hope for him;
I will defend my conduct before him.
This shall be my salvation:
no impious man can come into his presence

(Job 13:15-16; translation is this author’s own
adaption from the NAB, Rev. Ed., based on other
renderings and the Hebrew).

In the Old Testament it was understood that no one impure could see God and live (see Exodus 33:20; where it simply states ‘no one’—presumably because all are sinners). Job believes he is not wicked, so surviving an encounter with God would demonstrate his innocence. But, given that he also already accepted the impending reality of his death, he is also willing to risk being wrong. As Boorer puts it, “In the face of the prospect of his hope for death which is no–hope, and no hope in life, he has nothing to lose: He is free to desire to confront even God at the risk of everything, even death.”

In desiring death, Job has admitted his inherent nothingness. This implicit grasp of his own existential condition is what enables him to reach for God. However, on the level of intellect, he yet does not fully understand his true nature, the death for which he had wished, and the God he seems to accuse of unjustly tormenting him.

This understanding would only come after his encounter with God, which begins in Job 38. He finally realizes this after God’s first speech to him. “Look, I am of little account; what can I answer you? I put my hand over my mouth,” he says (Job 40:4).

In this encounter with God, Job’s understanding of both death and hope are transformed, according to Boorer. He had looked forward to death as an end to a miserable life. And he had sought Sheol as an escape from a miserable life. But God, in his first soliloquy, declares that sheol falls under his dominion, in describing as part of the created order:

Have you entered into the sources of the sea,
or walked about on the bottom of the deep?

Have the gates of death been shown to you,
or have you seen the gates of darkness?

Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?
Tell me, if you know it all (Job 38:16-18).

God’s power over the domain of the dead means he has control over death itself. Hence, many images of death in his speech are transformed into signs of life. For example, there are the fledging eagles who drink the blood of the prey fed to them (Job 39:29). And the clouds that Job had called upon to darken the day of his birth are re-imagined as the swaddling clothes for the sea (Job 3:5; Job 38:9). Boorer concludes:

Thus, in this universe, not only is life affirmed but so also is death, and life and death are inseparably related in an unfathomable way, such that there is not one without the other. . …Hence it can be said that not only is Job’s initial hope for death and his rejection of life denied in the Yahweh speeches, but so also is his later rejection of death as a symbol of hopelessness. For death has a vital place, in relation to life, in Yahweh’s universe.

The key thing then is not to hope for a happy life or death to end a miserable one, but instead to place one’s hope in God ordains both and causes all things to work together for good (Romans 8:24).

How God finally appeared to Job was a most fitting manner in which to convey this message. The Douay-Rheims translation says God was in ‘whirlwind.’ The revised edition of the New American Bible calls it a ‘storm.’ Both point to the general idea of a storm cloud. Now recall that Job had called upon a cloud to overshadow his birthday. Here then at last is the hoped-for cloud.

But far from spelling his doom, it signals a new birth.

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

New Fatima Resources for the 100th Anniversary

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 22:05

The Catholic Church greeted May 13, 2017 with great celebration as Pope Francis traveled to Fatima for the 100th anniversary of Mary’s first apparition in 1917.  My hope is that we will celebrate Fatima throughout the following six months since Mary appeared also on the 13th of June, July, September and October.  In August the apparition was delayed due to the imprisonment of Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia.  As you can imagine during a year of jubilation, many Catholic publishers are renewing their Fatima literature and releasing new books.  Here are the latest books I’m aware of, feel free to add more in the comments.

Fatima Mysteries: Mary’s Message to the Modern Age
by Grzegorz Gorny and Janusz Rosikon

Ignatius Press released this book with beautiful photos adorning each page.   More akin to a coffee table book due to its size, readers will encounter the history of Fatima and examine the controversies surrounding the apparitions.  The message of Fatima, while given in 1917, continues to speak to us in the third millennium.  This book will help us delve deeper into the mystery of Fatima and its meaning for our world today.   Available from Ignatius Press or Amazon.

Fatima: The Apparition that Changed the World
by Jean Heimann

The apparitions in Fatima changed the life of the three children: Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia.  They responded to Our Lady’s request to pray the rosary every day.  It changed how they lived their faith as they offered sacrifice and prayed for the conversion of sinners and made reparation for sin.  But the message in Fatima also changed the world and is still changing the world today.  Noted author Jean Heimann breaks open the Fatima story and challenges us to allow the story of Fatima to change us.  Read more about the book on Jean Heimann’s blog tour.  Links archived here: http://www.jeanmheimann.com/2017/05/fatima-apparition-changed-world-blog-tour-day-2/

Available from TAN Books or Amazon.

Vision of Fatima
by Fr. Thomas McGlynn

Sophia Institute Press released an unique book on the Fatima story.  Many of the new books seek to tell the Fatima story again and in a new, creative way, 100 years later.  But this book details the experience of the Dominican priest who crafted the statue of Our Lady of Fatima under the direction of Sr. Lucia.  A fascinating account of this untold story.

Available from Sophia Institute Press

Our Lady of Fatima: 100 Years of Stories, Prayers, and Devotions
by Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle

This book by Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle is a Fatima devotional, helping people to learn the story and incorporate it into their daily living.  It is an aid to help us live the message of Fatima.  For those looking to be introduced to the story of Fatima need to look no further than this book.

Available from Servant Books or Amazon

On the Third Secret of Fatima
by Kevin Symmonds

In recent decades two major controversies have emerged around the Fatima apparitions.  The first: Did the Holy Father fulfill Our Lady’s request to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart?  The second, deals with the subject of Symmonds’ new book—Has the third secret been fully released?  In this groundbreaking book, Symmonds takes on those who argue the secret has not been fully revealed.  Symonds spent time in the Fatima archives and worked in several languages to produce this book.  Hopefully this study will finally put to rest, in this 100th year since the apparitions, the claims the secret has not been released.

Available from En Route Books or Amazon

Children’s Books on Fatima

If you would like to share the story of Fatima with the children or grandchildren in your life, there are two children’s book you need to know about.  The first is from Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle titled Our Lady’s Message to Three Shepherd Children and the World.  The story of Fatima, which is beautiful in itself, is accompanied by beautiful illustrations, telling the story of Our Lady to another generation of Catholics.  The best children’s book, in my opinion, is one that successfully tells the story not only for children but also the adults who might read it.  This book does just that!  Available from Sophia Institute Press.

Angela Andrejcuk’s Lucia and the Immaculate Heart is a children’s book like I’ve never seen before on Fatima, because she goes beyond the story of the six apparitions, and shares the story of Mary and Jesus’ appearances to Sister Lucie while in the convent.  Additionally, she gives an excellent teaching about the lives of Francisco and Jacinta, the other two visionaries.  This book will share the story of Fatima in its entirety.  Available from Vesuvius Press. 

We Are Travelers

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 22:02

Memorial Day weekend approaches. And with it will come the beginning of the summer vacation season.

According to one survey, close to half of all Americans took a long-distance vacation in the summer of 2014, traveling an average of nearly 300 miles from home. They went to beaches and big cities, lakes and resorts. But how many forgot to pack a toothbrush, or saw more rain than they did sun, or made a visit to the emergency room following a freak snorkeling accident? These statistics are more difficult to track down.

Traveling, no matter how fun and restorative, is not without its own sources of frustration. Vacations can introduce all sorts of inconveniences, big and small. Just talk to the guy who woke up for his first day in Bora Bora only to discover he lacked the means to brush away his morning breath, and the hotel gift shop charged $14.99 for the cheapest Oral B.

In the Spring of 1932, the English Dominican Bede Jarrett traveled to Our Lady of Victories Church, located just off the southwestern corner of Hyde Park, London, to deliver a series of Lenten conferences. He took as his theme Hebrews 13:14: “Here we have no abiding city.” We often try to live this life as if we could settle down permanently, he explained, but this is not so. We are only travelers. And “if you are traveling, the whole secret of a happy journey is to remember always that you are a traveler” (No Abiding City, 2). If the traveler knows he is going to have inconveniences and sacrifices to make along the way, those become easier to make.

We are not merely travelers but pilgrims, Jarrett would go on to stress. With a vacation, you want to get away. With a pilgrimage, you want to get toward God. With Him is our true home. We have no abiding city here, and the more we act as if we did, the more frustrated we will become. It would be like traveling to a foreign city and expecting to find all the comforts of home there. “That things should be wrong on a journey is right,” Jarrett preached (6-7). Life’s inevitable and multitudinous challenges ought to be accepted. Not with a fatalism that numbs us, but with courage. The courage born of faith in God. Faith that we have come from Him, and are returning to Him. Everything else is temporary. “If you journey well, you will certainly reach home….The secret of a happy and holy life lies in remembering that” (4). Fortitude makes the road firm. With the Psalmist we implore the Lord, “See that I follow not the wrong path, and lead me in the path of life eternal” (Ps 139:24).

What if you do have the perfect summer vacation this year, the kind you never want to end? End it must. And, honestly, it’s better that way. “The only dreadful thing in life,” Jarrett remarked, “is to be content with life” (26). A genuine vacation—supplying rest and true leisure—is a good thing, certainly. Yet we were not made for Bora Bora; we were made for God. Ours then is a call to an eternal staycation, you might say. Once we get home, we’ll never want to leave.

Just two years after delivering his Lenten conferences at Our Lady of Victories, Jarrett’s earthly pilgrimage ended. Reading his reflections, one gains the sense that he had learned to live what he preached there. And so it is only fitting to end with the last remarks from the concluding retreat conference he gave:

May [God] give us all the courage that we need to go the way He shepherds us. That when He calls, we may go unfrightened. If He bids us come to Him across the waters, that unfrightened we may go. And if He bids us climb the hill, may we not notice that it is a hill, mindful only of the happiness of His company. Even if He calls us to a last desolation, though He seem absent, He will be there. If He calls us to bitter agony, that too would be an honor and a privilege, since our agony would be still only a sharing of His agony; He would have lifted the coverlet of suffering and brought us in to lie by His side.

He made us for Himself, that we should travel with Him and see Him at last in His unveiled beauty in the abiding city where He is light and happiness and endless home. (73-74)

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

“Divine hope is not like earthly

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 22:00

“Divine hope is not like earthly hope. The latter is subject to disappointment, for however strong our security, it can either be realized or not realized. Who is the fortunate person who has seen all his hopes fulfilled in this world? But the theological virtue of hope is not subject to disappointment; it gives us the holy, invincible certainty that we shall obtain what God has promised.”

-Luis M. Martinez, When God is Silent

Come, Holy Spirit

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 22:00

The first reading relates the path that Paul and Barnabas took after leaving Jerusalem and as they progressed towards the area of the Gentiles. In the first reading, they meet Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, listened and as a result, the Lord enlightened and opened her heart to hear what Paul was saying.

We can relate this particular instance in our daily lives. When we allow ourselves to listen and open our hearts to what God is trying to tell us, we may be able to hear and understand him. However, there are times no matter how hard we try, it seems that his Word refuses to give meaning in our lives. During those times, we need to ask the help of the Holy Spirit to open our ears, mind and heart so that we can reap the full benefit from the Lord’s Word.

In the Gospel today, Jesus emphatically states that he will be sending the Advocate to the disciples and to us. Jesus reminds us that the Spirit of truth will testify to you and me. These words of Jesus should comfort and encourage us all. The disciples were once a group of people who were afraid for their own lives, especially during the period after

Jesus was crucified. But they turned into a group of brave men, unafraid to proclaim the teachings of the Lord and enduring all kinds of suffering and persecution. In the last forty days which Jesus spent with the disciples after his resurrection, Jesus gave his disciples a lasting hope and courage which they needed to fulfill their mission that was entrusted to them – that of bringing the Word of the Lord to all nations.

St. Rita of Cascia

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 22:00

In 1381, St. Rita was born in Spoleto, Italy, to elderly parents who were such examples of Christian charity that they were known as “Peacemakers of Jesus Christ.” As devout as they were, however, they seem to have been somewhat misguided when they insisted on St. Rita’s marriage, at the age of 12, to a man well known for his violent temper, despite her pleas to be allowed to enter a convent.

St. Rita, obedient to her parents’ wishes, entered into the marriage and became a model wife and mother, although she suffered much from her husband’s cruel treatment. She bore him two sons, and although she tried to set them an example by her devotion to prayer and to the sacraments, the boys seemed destined to follow in their father’s violent footsteps.

After 18 years of ceaseless prayer, St. Rita was rewarded with the penitent conversion of her husband. He begged her forgiveness and became a considerate, God-fearing man. But her joy was short-lived, for soon afterward her husband was murdered in a vendetta. When St. Rita learned that her sons planned to avenge their father’s murder, she prayed to God to take them from this world before they committed such a grievous sin. Almost immediately, both boys fell ill. She nursed them lovingly, and they both died, reconciled with God.

Now a widow and childless, St. Rita applied for admission to the Augustinian convent in Cascia, but was refused because its rule only permitted virgins. After much prayer and entreaty, an exception was finally granted to her and she was allowed to enter in 1413. The story is told that St. Rita was miraculously transported into the monastery itself, despite its locked doors; when the nuns found her there in the morning, they allowed her to stay, taking it as the will of God.

In the same way that St. Rita had been a model mother and wife, now she became an exemplary religious, becoming known for her great charity and severe penances. Her prayers were effective in obtaining for others remarkable cures and other favors from God, and she also worked to bring about a return to the Faith by those who had left it.

In 1441, St. Rita heard a sermon by St. James della Marca on the Crown of Thorns. Wishing to share in our Lord’s passion, she prayed fervently until one day she felt her forehead being pierced, as if by a thorn. The pain was extreme and the wound gave off an unpleasant odor, but St. Rita considered it a great grace. She prayed, “O loving Jesus, increase my patience accordingly as my sufferings increase.” The wound, which remained with her for the rest of her life, became gaping and so unattractive to those around her that she was eventually forced to live in seclusion. The wound did heal enough, however, for St. Rita to make a pilgrimage to Rome, but it returned the moment she returned to her convent.

St. Rita died on May 22, 1457, at the age of 76. Her body remained incorrupt for several centuries, at times giving off a sweet fragrance. It is said that at her beatification, the body of the saint raised itself up and opened its eyes. St. Rita is called “The Saint of the Impossible” and is particularly invoked in cases of matrimonial difficulties.

Lessons

1. Saint Rita can certainly be considered a saint for our time when people — both married and religious — have such great difficulty remaining faithful to their vows. Today, when divorce is so common, let us look to St. Rita’s example of patience and fortitude which eventually brought about the conversion of not only her husband, but her two sons as well.

2. Padre Pio, when asked if his stigmata hurt, once snapped in reply, “They’re not decorations!” Saints like Padre Pio and Rita of Cascia, who were allowed to experience physically a portion of our Lord’s passion, had to endure extreme pain daily. They never asked for these pains to be removed from them; they understood too well the redemptive nature of suffering. May we, too, make an effort to join our sufferings, great or small, with Jesus’ death on the cross. Then we may say with St. Paul, “In my body I complete what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Col 1:24).

St. Godric of Finchale

Sat, 05/20/2017 - 22:00

Godric was born in the tenth century at Walpole, in Norfolk. As a young boy he peddled wares throughout the neighboring villages. Later, as he made more money at his trade, he was able to frequent fairs in other cities to sell his merchandise. Since he was very diligent and careful with his money, he was occasionally able to make voyages by sea. Often he would carry his wares to Scotland. Once while in Scotland, he went to Lindisfarne Monastery where he became very interested in the lives of the monks there, and he was enthralled by the accounts that they gave him concerning St. Cuthbert. Godric was so impressed with the wonderful life of St. Cuthbert, that one day he fell to his knees and begged God for the grace to be able to be like this saint. Soon afterward, he went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and on his way back, stopped at Compostella.

On returning to Norfolk, he worked briefly as a steward for a wealthy man, but left this position to travel again, making a pilgrimage to St. Giles in France and to Rome. For a while, Godric spent time in the wilderness, living the monastic life with another devout soul named Godwin. They had met while on pilgrimage. Both being devoted to God and desiring to lead the life of hermits, they retired to the wilderness where they spent their days praying and living austere lives. After a brief illness, Godwin died and so Godric again traveled to Jerusalem. He then retired to the desert of Finchale near the Wear River. There he practiced daily devotions, praying the psalms and other prayers. For sixty-three years he remained in the desert, but spent the last several years prior to his death confined to bed by illness and old age. On May 21, 1170, the Lord took the humble and pious St. Godric to be with Him.

Saint Godric was buried in the chapel that he had built in honor of St. John the Baptist. Many miracles took place that confirmed his sainthood. Later Richard, brother to the bishop of Durham, built a chapel in honor of St. Godric.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, help us to not only admire the spiritual values of others, but to seek the same values in our own lives. Forgive us for the time that we waste pursuing worldly pleasure. May we always remember that our goal is heaven and not the things of this world and live our lives seeking Your Kingdom. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Companions (1915-1928), Martyrs

St. Andrew Bobola (1657), Priest, Martyr

St. Bernardine of Siena (Priest)

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 22:00

The Italian priest St. Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444) was known for his preaching and his popularity with ordinary people. As a young man, he cared for an elderly woman on her deathbed; she constantly pronounced the name “Jesus” with great devotion. Bernardine was profoundly affected, and decided to make the name of Jesus the theme of his own life.

When Siena was struck by a plague, Bernardine nursed the sick until he himself became ill. After recovering, he became a Franciscan monk, and was ordained a priest in 1404. Bernardine spent a dozen years in solitude and prayer, and was then sent forth as a preacher. For many years he traveled on foot throughout Italy, preaching to crowds as large as 30,000 — accomplishing all this with a weak and hoarse voice (though, according to legend, it later miraculously improved because of his devotion to Mary).

Bernardine was especially known for his devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, and he devised a symbol — IHS (the first three letters of the name Jesus in Greek) — to represent it. As this devotion spread, the symbol began to replace the superstitious signs and symbols of the day. When a manufacturer of playing cards complained that the saint’s preaching against gambling was depriving him of his livelihood, Bernardine told him to start making medallions with the symbol IHS. The man took this advice — and ended up making more money than ever.

Some of Bernardine’s teachings were criticized, and three attempts were made to have the pope discipline him, but the saint’s obvious faith and holiness overcame all opposition. St. Bernardine helped strengthen the Franciscan Order, and he contributed to a great increase of piety among the laity. He died soon after attending the Council of Florence in 1444, and was canonized only six years later.

Lessons

1. As St. Paul stated, “God bestowed upon Jesus the Name that is above every other name” (Philippians 2:9). As St. Bernardine realized, honoring the Holy Name of Jesus is the sign of a true Christian.

2. God will provide for those who, even at financial cost to themselves, seek to do what’s right; St. Bernardine helped the maker of gambling equipment find a better and holier way to make a living.

3. Bernardine followed the advice of St. Francis of Assisi to preach about “vice and virtue, punishment and glory.” His success shows that many people are willing to listen to the proclamation of the truth.

image: sailko / Wikimedia Commons

Do You Love God?

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 22:07

Do you love God? It’s the most basic, important question anyone will ever ask you, and you will ever answer. Many of us reply too quickly and easily, “Of course I do!” This Sunday Jesus shines a bright light on what loving Him really means: “If you love me, you’ll keep my commandments,” (John 14:15-21).

This message is important.

This is important because many think heaven is a given. Many think all that’s required is being nice. Many think “a loving God could never send someone to hell,” without realizing hell is something many freely choose (and are choosing).

Many think they can pick and choose what to believe. Or when to believe it. Like going down the highway and thinking the lines plainly drawn need not be followed, many think the path to heaven is something we can define.

No. The path to heaven is Someone who defines us. And each of us are given the freedom to reject our truest definition in Him.

And most tragically, many leaders, in the name of Jesus Christ and His Church, time and again fail to communicate the path to heaven. With fidelity. With clarity. With persistence. With intent for transformation. Particularly in the most controversial regards.

This merits shouting.

Let me ask: If you were a fireman eating breakfast in your home one morning, and happened to glance across the street and note your neighbors, blissfully doing the same, while the upper floors were being engulfed in flames, how silent and impassive would you be? Would you return to your paper, shrugging it off because calling any attention is “not loving?” Would you remain quiet because “it’s none of my business.”

With mortal sin we are talking about being engulfed in flames. We are talking about people not being saved. Forever. Because of us.We don’t like to think of this, but if God has called and equipped us to be instruments of His salvation (He has), not doing so will result in others not being saved! Our neglect is a serious sin of omission.

To clarify the path to heaven is an act of love.
To alert someone who is off the path is an act of love.

It’s Time to Talk.

It can no longer be said “the church is always talking sin and hell.” Look around. Read the paper. Turn on the TV. While sin is undeniably the story line, it is not recognized for what it is: separation from God, self and others. A prison. Alienation. Crashing into the berm on the highway. Brokenness.

Sin is an absence of what we were created for: real, enduring intimacy.

And to the many leaders who think talking “sin and hell” is what keeps people from church, look around. Note the dramatic decline in church attendance. Note that such decline is directly proportionate to the decline in acknowledgement of sin.

If we don’t know our sin, we don’t need to know our Savior. Why bother? The absence of talking sin is today’s epic “Sound of Silence.”

Absence of talking sin and hell (the corollaries to faith and heaven), is not love any more than is the fireman’s neglect in telling his neighbors their house is on fire. It may be cowardice. It may be fear. It may be misguided. It may be laziness. It is not love.

If all this were not true, so important, so urgent in the heart of God, why would He send His Blessed Mother to us at Fatima (and so many other places), warning us that hell is real, that many go there, that the bar is high, and that we all need deeper, ongoing conversion?

The Shape of Love.

As an act of love, we need to constantly consider the path to eternal life, the shape of love– the entire reason God came to save us in Jesus Christ!

A mortal sin is a gravely wrong act that can lead to damnation if not absolved before death.

The three requirements for mortal sin (CCC, 1859):

  • 1) Its subject matter must be grave (or serious).
  • 2) It must be committed with full knowledge (and awareness) of the sinful action and the gravity of the offense.
  • 3) It must be committed with deliberate and complete consent.

If we love Jesus, we need to keep His commandment and heed the words at the end of mass: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” How many of us are intentionally doing this? If not, we ought to seriously question whether or not we’ve really gotten it. Are we aware of our sin, and how we’re saved and being saved?

If we’re not actively, intentionally, joyfully, enthusiastically, naturally evangelizing, chances are we have not yet been evangelized. Chances are our eyes have not yet been opened to who we really are, who God is in Jesus Christ, and the epic reality of our nature and purpose here “on earth as it is in heaven.”

If that’s you, open wide the gates. Recognize your sin so you can all the more recognize your Savior. Tune in to our IGNITE Radio Live this Tuesday (8p) on Annunciation Radio. We’re going there. Listen to some of our podcasts, because this is our passion. (GO)

For those aware of our identity and mission in Jesus Christ.

Let’s start with family and friends who constitute the 75% missing in action on any given Sunday. Yes, convey that God is the supply of their deepest desire for intimacy, which means, yes, their separation from this intimacy is grave. (CCC, 2181) It is a mortal sin. They’re in a burning building. They need to be saved. God wants to save them. God deeply desires intimacy with them. God desires to flood them with His Presence.

Love impels us know and communicate actions which constitute grave matter, a few of the most common of which are:

  • Pornography (CCC, 2354)
  • Masturbation (CCC, 2396)
  • All extra-marital sexual activity (CCC, 2396)
  • Perjury – promise without intent of keeping (CCC, 2152)
  • Sacrilege – profaning anything sacred (CCC, 2120)
  • Schism – acting against church teaching (CCC, 2089)
  • Contraception – (Humanae Vitae, no. 19)
The Good News.

In Jesus Christ we can be forgiven, healed and transformed. (Rom. 12:1-2) Go to Confession. Be reconciled. Be contrite. Make the commitment. Return to new life in the Holy Spirit.

We’re all yearning for more than another program. Another event. Another moment. We’re yearning to be united in a transforming way of life in Jesus Christ.

We’re yearning to live our purpose and mission on this planet. In our marriages. Our homes. Our parishes. Overflowing to the world. We can’t do it by ourselves. We need ever greater and newer outpouring.

God’s promised: “I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already ablaze,” (Luke 12:49) (Catholic Exchange Article). If you’re in the Northwest Ohio area, join us for our Praying With Fire Conference, Sunday, June 4, 4-9:30pm. Go to MassImpact.us/FIRE (use discount code: “25FIRE”).

EASY EVANGELIZATION: Just share this. Right now. Set aside fear. Step into it. It could make an eternal difference.

image: By Auteur byzantin du Xe siècle [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Paraclete

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 22:06

He wore steel rimmed glasses and had hair to the middle of his back.  The fringe on his buck-skinned jacket bounced as he walked.

At least that was the way I was accustomed to seeing Mike as he bopped around town.  It was just a few years after Woodstock, and we were all taken with hippie culture.  It seemed so free, so new, so exciting.

But that day at the entrance of the mall, I scarcely recognized him.  His hair was cut and his clothing conventional.  He was passing out tracts and spoke to me of the Holy Spirit.  I scratched my head and vaguely remembered some talk about the Holy Spirit in confirmation class.   But I had to admit that I really did not know much about this third person of the Blessed Trinity.

This is quite common among Christians.  God the Father–we can get a glimpse of his tenderness and strength, thanks to Michelangelo’s magnificent Sistine ceiling.  And baby Jesus in the manger, the savior hanging on the Cross–these are images we can easily visualize.  But Holy Spirit, Holy Ghost?  Somehow, we can’t feel quite the same way about a dove as we do about a child on its mother’s lap.  And then what does this “Spirit” do?  The Father creates, the Son saves, but the Spirit?

Jesus calls him the “Paraclete” as he prepares the disciples for his departure (John 14:15-21).  Frankly, this does not help us much–unless, of course, we get a bit of explanation.  This word means “Advocate.”  This is the word for lawyer or attorney in Spanish and other languages.  There may be lots of jokes about lawyers, but when you are in trouble with the law, having a good lawyer is no laughing matter.  That’s the role of the Holy Spirit– He is our defense attorney.

Now part of the role of the defense attorney is to tell his client how to plead.  Sometimes, when the evidence against you is overwhelming, the sentence will be a whole lot lighter if you just plead guilty.  The Spirit counsels us to be honest, convicting us gently of sin–not to accuse us, not to condemn us, but to help us win our case.  He is the Spirit of Truth.  Pope John Paul II’s theme was “Be not afraid.”   Be not afraid of the truth about your sin, your weakness, and your failings, says the Spirit.  For the judge happens to be the one who loves you so much that he died for you. Your judge is the same one who saved the woman caught in adultery from the rage of the hypocrites.

But he is also the one who told the adulteress to “go and sin no more.”  This is the real problem.  How is she to do that?  Sin was where she looked for life.  It drew her like a magnet.

Drugs, booze and “free-sex” drew my hippie friends like a magnet in the 1970’s.  If we were acquitted by the Judge through the counsel of the Advocate, how were we to resist the allure of sin?

Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said that the only way to dislodge sin from your life is through the expulsive force of a new love.  This is the role of the Advocate.  He is the Love of God who is poured into our hearts (Romans 5:5) who drives out unlovely loves.  He is the Lord and Giver of true life who makes utterly clear that so many other things that we regarded as “life” are really death warmed over.

Once you have a taste of the real thing, you are never again satisfied with imitations.  That’s why Mike abandoned the drug scene.  That’s why the Magdalene and the Samaritan woman abandoned all other lovers.  That’s why the rejoicing in Samaria rose to fever pitch (Acts 8:8).

The Holy Spirit is the real thing.  And he does not just come and go.  He is with us always.

image: By Raul de Chissota (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Scripture Speaks: Christ in Us

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 22:05

Today’s readings deepen our understanding of the mystery of Easter:  Christ rose from the dead to live His life again in us.

Gospel (Read Jn 14:15-21)

Today we continue in Jesus’ Last Supper Discourse with the Twelve.  He is speaking forthrightly to His friends about an imminent change in their three-year jaunt with the itinerant Teacher.  Here we discover the dramatic difference between Jesus and all other teachers who came before or after Him.  It is the singular distinction of Christianity, separating it from all the religions or philosophies the world has ever known.  Jesus simply tells His apostles that Someone Else is coming.

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:16-17).  Why does this promise make Christianity unique?   When we grasp its meaning, we understand that Jesus came not only to reveal how to live a fully human life, in the image and likeness of God, but He also made it possible for His own life to be lived in us.  With the coming of the Holy Spirit (the “Advocate”), believers will not simply be following an ethical system or a path to God.  No, indeed.  Jesus had something much more dynamic in store for those who believed in Him:  “On that day you will realize that I am in My Father and you are in Me and I in you” (Jn 14:20).  His plan was to send the Holy Spirit into the world to enlighten believers with the knowledge of how God wants us to live (for our own happiness), and to give them the power to actually live what they believe.  Jesus, of course, assures His apostles that to love Him does mean to live as He had taught them:  “Whoever has My commandments and observes them is the one who loves Me” (Jn 14:21).  However, love for Jesus means not just a new way of living but a completely new life:  “Whoever loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him” (Jn 14:21).  What does this mean?

Followers of Jesus will receive in themselves, in their own bodies, the life we see in Him that so attracts us to Him.  This will be possible because of the gift of the Holy Spirit, Whom Jesus promised to send, first to the apostles and then to all in His Church.  This is why Christianity is different from every other formulation of how men should live, this personal life of Jesus in us, through the gift of His Spirit.  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has summed this up well in Jesus of Nazareth:  Holy Week (Ignatius Press):

This essential dynamic of gift, through which He now acts in us and our action becomes one with His, is seen with particular clarity in Jesus’ saying: ‘He who believes in Me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father’ (Jn 14:12).  This expresses exactly what is meant by ‘I have given you an example’ from the account of the footwashing:  Jesus’ action becomes ours, because He is acting in us.”  (pg 62-63, emphasis added)

Being a Christian isn’t merely trying to be a good person, to live as we think Jesus would want.  Being a Christian means Jesus lives His life in us.  The other readings will help us explore how that happens.

Possible Response:  Lord Jesus, thank You for Your promise to send Your Spirit to live in me.  Please teach me how this works!  It seems so mysterious right now.

First Reading (Read Acts 8:5-8, 14-17)

This reading in Acts tells us what happened after the death of Stephen, a deacon who became the Church’s first martyr.  A great persecution broke out against the believers in Jerusalem, and they fled the city.  Instead of silencing the Good News (as the persecutors hoped), this scattering actually spread it.  Philip, who had also been ordained a deacon, escaped to Samaria and “proclaimed Christ to them” (Acts 8:5).  What enabled him to be fearless in doing the very thing that had gotten him run out of town in Jerusalem?  He, along with Stephen and the others appointed as deacons, had been men “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3).  The Holy Spirit gave Philip the power to courageously do what Jesus had done:  preach the Gospel without counting the cost.

Response to Philip’s ministry was dramatic.  The people of Samaria saw him performing the same signs and wonders that had first been seen in Jesus.  News of these conversions reached the apostles in Jerusalem (the Twelve were the only ones spared persecution, probably because of Gamaliel’s warning to the Sanhedrin to leave them alone; see Acts 5:38-39; 8:2).  Peter and John went down to make sure the preaching and resulting conversions were consonant with the faith they had been charged to spread.  Verifying that these were true believers, they laid hands on them so they could receive the Holy Spirit.  Notice apostolic responsibility for continuity in the preaching that spread out away from their immediate oversight in Jerusalem (the kind of governance still practiced in the Church today).  Notice something else, too.  There was in the New Testament Church evidence of a two-step initiation into the life of Jesus:  first, baptism, then the laying on of hands to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit.  Why did it develop this way?

We remember that when Jesus was at the Jordan River with John the Baptist, He first underwent baptism in water, and then the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove.  The two separate actions that began His public ministry were repeated first in the apostles.  On Resurrection Day, Jesus appeared to them and breathed on them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).   Then, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit fell on them dramatically, and they, too, began their public ministries.  Thus, we should not be surprised to see that as the preaching of the Gospel began to spread out into Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth, initiation into the life of Christ involved two steps:  baptism and the laying on of hands, or what we now call the sacrament of Confirmation.  As the Church says, Confirmation “completes the grace of Baptism” and “…perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church” (see CCC 1288 for a fuller explanation of the tradition of these two sacraments of initiation into the life of Christ).  Here, then, is the pattern we are looking for:  what happened in Jesus’ life (baptism, then anointing  by the Holy Spirit) also happened in the apostles, then continued to happen in those who believed through their testimony, as in Samaria.

This is as clear a picture as we could want of the meaning of Jesus’ promise in the Gospel reading:  “In a little while, the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live and you will live” (Jn 14:19).  The life of Jesus remains on earth in the lives of His believers, the Church.

Possible response:  Lord Jesus, help us in Your Church today to continue proclaiming the Good News of life in Your Name.  Forgive our complacency.

Psalm (Read Ps 66:1-7, 16, 20)

When it settles down over us that Jesus, in sending us the Holy Spirit, has given us His very own life, what might our response be?  “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy” (Ps 66:1) seems reasonable, doesn’t it?  The Holy Spirit, invisible to the world, does the unseen work of divinization in us—transforming and perfecting us so that one day, as St. John tells us, when Jesus appears “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn 3:2b).  Surely this truth loosens our tongue to sing God’s praises:  “Come and see the works of God, His tremendous deeds among the children of Adam” (Ps 66:5).

Possible response:  The psalm is, itself, a response to our other readings.  Read it again prayerfully to make it your own.

Second Reading (Read 1 Pet 3:15-18)

In the epistle, Peter exhorts his Christian friends to live in the fullness of the truth we have seen promised in the Gospel and described in Acts.  Because Jesus is living His life in us, we are always to “be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Pet 3:15).  Christians should be living in such a way that people are curious about what makes us tick.  Now, if we were simply following a code of conduct, all that would be important would be to communicate its salient features.  However, we see that what matters to Peter is not only what we say as we explain the Christian faith, but how we say it.  We must say it “with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear” (1 Pet. 3:15).  This is important because as Jesus lives His life in us, He wants to continue His great love for sinners.  His life in us will want to keep us innocent of judgment or bad conduct of any kind.  He will want our behavior, when we explain our faith, to be pure, so that if we are “defamed,” it will be the same kind of persecution Jesus experienced—“the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous” (1 Pet 3:18).  That is how He led us to God; that is how He will lead others to God through us.  Peter reminds us that Jesus was “put to death in the flesh, He was brought to life in the Spirit” (1 Pet 3:18).  That very same Spirit now animates us, so that as Jesus was in the world, willing to “suffer for doing good” (1Pet 3:17), we are to be, too.

Possible response:  Lord Jesus, I truly want to welcome You to live Your life in my own body today.  Make my tongue ready to declare Your Name to others and my heart ready to love them as You do.

“Just as God, by the ministry of

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 22:00

“Just as God, by the ministry of nature, gives to each animal instincts needed for its preservation and the exercise of its natural properties, so too, if we do not resist God’s grace, He gives to each of us the inspirations needed to live, work, and preserve ourselves in the spiritual life.”

-St. Francis de Sales, Finding God’s Will for You

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.