Catholic Church

Ite ad Joseph!

August 5, 2015

ite-ioseph3It all started last fall with an interior urge to ask St. Joseph to help us find an affordable newer car. Our 16 year old jalopy was approaching 190,000 miles and we knew we were on borrowed time. How we were going to replace it was up in the air, but considering that St. Joseph was the devoted foster father of Jesus, faithful spouse of Our Lady, and excellent provider for the Holy Family, it seemed the right thing to do. Surely he would arrange with God the Father for a brother and sister of Christ to obtain what we needed.

This is what I love about being part of the communion of saints. It pleases God that we supply each other’s needs through Him, and it must be especially pleasing when we turn to the two people closest to His beloved Son because honoring them honors Him. These thoughts motivated me to start a 30 day novena to St. Joseph last fall, which went on for months as Old Nellybelle gave us trouble off and on. However, when we ask for help, it often pleases God to give us a great deal more than we request in His own good time, and such largesse is always for His greater honor and glory as readers will see.

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

While the spiritual interpretation of this passage refers to eternal life, it’s clear that when Jesus said  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-8), he underscored the passage from Jeremiah; our temporal welfare is precious to God. And so began a series of events and encounters that not only brought us a new car, but much more besides.

Struggling with health issues

Although I had lost 25 lbs. in the Weight Watchers program, by mid October numerous niggling issues were tiring me out. Allergies were the worst ever, fibromyalgia pain was up, and I was fed up with the side effects of a couple of drugs. By February, I felt like I was 90 years old without being able to put my finger on a reason. To show how God looks after us, though, at my primary care physician’s office the only professional who knew of Dr. Ken Sharlin happened to be the one in charge of me. She suggested I see him for a neurological evaluation and I agreed even though I have no love for neurologists. That visit proved to be life changing.

Dr. Sharlin founded the Functional Medicine clinic in Springfield a couple of years ago. The field itself is about 20 years old and represents a new approach to dealing with chronic illness starting at the cellular level, exactly the approach I had been looking for for years. The upshot of my dealings with him is that within four months of following his recommendations, drinking a daily green smoothie tweaked for my needs, and taking supplements custom-tailored for my exact deficiencies, I had more mental and physical energy than I have had in over ten years, and felt confident enough to begin an entirely new career at almost 70 years of age.

My new career

A year ago a dear friend suggested that I apply to be a teacher assistant at Mother of Divine Grace homeschool company. When I saw the hiring process, I knew that at that time I was not up to it, so I didn’t apply. After a couple of months on my new regimen this spring, I felt good enough to go through what was the most rigorous hiring process of my life. In June I signed a contract to provide on-line and telephone teaching assistance to parents who have enrolled their children in the MODG curriculum. It will be part-time work that I can fit into my current schedule and the majority of what I will be doing is what I love to do: editing and coaching students in writing skills as they demonstrate subject mastery. For me, no nobler profession exists than to share in the formation of future saints and I am deeply honored that MODG considered me worthy of that sacred trust.

This job is a Godsend for us in our financial situation, giving us the money we need to pay for a car and to upgrade our food quality to more organic fruits and veggies and pastured meats which is important for our continuing health improvement. The guiding hand of God through the paternal care of St. Joseph is evident to us in this series of events. But the story isn’t finished yet.

The new car

After driving numerous used and new cars and doing our due diligence, we determined that a 2015 Subaru Legacy was the best choice for meeting our criteria of good gas mileage, reliability, safety, and comfort. It was not as comfortable as our old jalopy, but we could live with it. The only problem was how to afford it. I was praying to St. Joseph to pull some kind of rabbit out of a hat when the salesman suggested leasing rather than buying. We are old school types: you buy and maintain an asset, you don’t rent and have no asset. However, after running the numbers on maintenance, repair and gasoline costs on the current car, it was clear that our cash flow would benefit from leasing, so we did.

Of the colors available in the model we chose, silver was my preference, with twilight blue my back-up choice, but the dealer had neither. In fact, in a five state area only one car could be found, and it was twilight blue. We agreed to accept it sight unseen. When we arrived to pick up the car, we saw the beautiful, medium toned blue with hints of gray, a color that reminded us of Our Lady’s mantle. It was as if St. Joseph was saying, “Your Mother had a hand in this, too.”

Conclusion

Some people would say that these events are merely coincidence, but as a person of faith, I know that God, in His generosity through the care of St. Joseph gave us far, far more than what we asked for or even dreamed of. My health continues to improve even though the allergies and fibro remain to be contended with, car worries are over, and I am blessed to be doing work that is a joy. What more could we want?

Ite – imperative of the Latin eo, “to go”

Ad – to, toward

Joseph – Joseph.

For an interesting article about Joseph and his forerunner who served the pharaoh, read this. The Church has good reason to admonish us to go to the patron of the Universal Church. He comes through big time for the glory of God.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

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Wednesday, August 5th, 2015 Catholic Church, Catholic culture Comments Off on Ite ad Joseph!

Lessons on Chrism from PE Benedict XVI

April 2, 2015

Holy oilsEvery time I read a sermon or writing from PE Benedict XVI I fall in love with this great teacher all over again. The simplicity and clarity of his words unveil the greatest of mysteries perfectly comprehensibly. So it is with his April 1, 2010 sermon at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday. This is the Mass where the bishop consecrates the holy oils (sacramentals) for use in every parish. Let’s read how Papa Benedetto explains chrism and its symbolism:

At the center of the Church’s worship is the notion of “sacrament”. This means that it is not primarily we who act, but God comes first to meet us through his action, he looks upon us and he leads us to himself. Another striking feature is this: God touches us through material things, through gifts of creation that he takes up into his service, making them instruments of the encounter between us and himself.

There are four elements in creation on which the world of sacraments is built: water, bread, wine and olive oil. Water, as the basic element and fundamental condition of all life, is the essential sign of the act in which, through baptism, we become Christians and are born to new life. While water is the vital element everywhere, and thus represents the shared access of all people to rebirth as Christians, the other three elements belong to the culture of the Mediterranean region. In other words, they point towards the concrete historical environment in which Christianity emerged. God acted in a clearly defined place on the earth, He truly made history with men. On the one hand, these three elements are gifts of creation, and on the other, they also indicate the locality of the history of God with us. They are a synthesis between creation and history: gifts of God that always connect us to those parts of the world where God chose to act with us in historical time, where He chose to become one of us.

Within these three elements there is a further gradation. Bread has to do with everyday life. It is the fundamental gift of life day by day.

Wine has to do with feasting, with the fine things of creation, in which, at the same time, the joy of the redeemed finds particular expression.

Olive oil has a wide range of meaning. It is nourishment, it is medicine, it gives beauty, it prepares us for battle and it gives strength. Kings and priests are anointed with oil, which is thus a sign of dignity and responsibility, and likewise of the strength that comes from God. Even the name that we bear as “Christians” contains the mystery of the oil. The word “Christians”, in fact, by which Christ’s disciples were known in the earliest days of Gentile Christianity, is derived from the word “Christ” (Acts 11:20-21) – the Greek translation of the word “Messiah”, which means “anointed one”. To be a Christian is to come from Christ, to belong to Christ, to the anointed one of God, to whom God granted kingship and priesthood. It means belonging to him whom God himself anointed – not with material oil, but with the One whom the oil represents: with his Holy Spirit. Olive oil is thus in a very particular way a symbol of the total compenetration of the man Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

We are anointed with oil at Baptism, the sacrament that makes us children of God and enables us to enter heaven if we are faithful to our Baptismal promises. At Confirmation we are again anointed with oil and receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit which strengthen us to live a true Christian life. In the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick we are anointed with oil which serves as medicine and strengthening of the soul and sometimes the body. Holy oil is also used in conferring the sacrament of Holy Orders. All of this oil is consecrated at the Chrism Mass.

In the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, the holy oils are at the center of the liturgical action. They are consecrated in the bishop’s cathedral for the whole year. They thus serve also as an expression of the Church’s unity, guaranteed by the episcopate, and they point to Christ, the true “shepherd and guardian” of our souls, as Saint Peter calls him (1 Pet 2:25).

At the same time, they hold together the entire liturgical year, anchored in the mystery of Holy Thursday. Finally, they point to the Garden of Olives, the scene of Jesus’ inner acceptance of his Passion. Yet the Garden of Olives is also the place from which he ascended to the Father, and is therefore the place of redemption: God did not leave Jesus in death. Jesus lives forever with the Father, and is therefore omnipresent, with us always.

This double mystery of the Mount of Olives is also always “at work” within the Church’s sacramental oil. In four sacraments, oil is the sign of God’s goodness reaching out to touch us: in baptism, in confirmation as the sacrament of the Holy Spirit, in the different grades of the sacrament of holy orders and finally in the anointing of the sick, in which oil is offered to us, so to speak, as God’s medicine – as the medicine which now assures us of his goodness, offering us strength and consolation, yet at the same time points beyond the moment of the illness towards the definitive healing, the resurrection (cf. Jas 5:14). Thus oil, in its different forms, accompanies us throughout our lives: beginning with the catechumenate and baptism, and continuing right up to the moment when we prepare to meet God, our Judge and Savior. Moreover, the Chrism Mass, in which the sacramental sign of oil is presented to us as part of the language of God’s creation, speaks in particular to us who are priests: it speaks of Christ, whom God anointed King and Priest – of him who makes us sharers in his priesthood, in his “anointing”, through our own priestly ordination.

After pondering the Pope’s words, I can never again just take holy oil for granted. I will always see its supernatural purpose and regard it as a sign of God’s great love for us. How fortunate we are to have Christ among us in the sacred priesthood, particularly our bishops who consecrate this material of creation to be a symbol of God’s continual reaching out to us and gathering us to Himself as part of one great family.

A blessed Holy Week and Happy Easter to all.

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Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 Catholic Church Comments Off on Lessons on Chrism from PE Benedict XVI

The Newest Doctor of the Church

February 26, 2015

St Gregory of NarekOn February 21, Pope Francis designated the 10th century Armenian monk, St. Gregory of Narek, as a Doctor of the Church. This has been in the works for some time, no doubt, and is most timely considering the upcoming centennial of the Armenian genocide by the muslim Turks and the extinction of many Christians in the Middle East today. Honoring an Eastern master of the spiritual life in these days is a way of letting our persecuted brethren know we hold them in our hearts even though we cannot physically stand by them in their present agony. Now when I think of St. Gregory, I can ask him to pray for all our fellow Christians in the Middle East, and also those who are being slaughtered simply because they are not muslims.

We are extremely blessed to have saints speak to us over the centuries with their timeless, powerful thoughts and prayers. I find our Eastern Fathers and Doctors particularly appealing because their writings are steeped in both the Old and New Testaments which form the basis of our journey towards God.

At http://www.stgregoryofnarek.am/index.php you can find information about his life and the stimulus of his greatest work, the Book of Lamentations. There we find this:

A leader of the well-developed school of Armenian mysticism at Narek Monastery, at the request of his brethren he set out to find an answer to an imponderable question: what can one offer to God, our creator, who already has everything and knows everything better than we could ever express it? To this question, posed by the prophets, psalmist, apostles and saints, he gives a humble answer – the sighs of the heart – expressed in his Book of Prayer, also called the Book of Lamentations.

In 95 grace-filled prayers St. Gregory draws on the exquisite potential of the Classical Armenian language to translate the pure sighs of the broken and contrite heart into an offering of words pleasing to God. The result is an edifice of faith for the ages, unique in Christian literature for its rich imagery, its subtle theology, its Biblical erudition, and the sincere immediacy of its communication with God.

In Section A of the first prayer St. Gregory writes:

The voice of a sighing heart, its sobs and mournful cries,
I offer up to you, O Seer of Secrets,
placing the fruits of my wavering mind
as a savory sacrifice on the fire of my grieving soul
to be delivered to you in the censer of my will.

Compassionate Lord, breathe in
this offering and look more favorably on it
than upon a more sumptuous sacrifice
offered with rich smoke. Please find
this simple string of words acceptable.
Do not turn in disdain.

May this unsolicited gift reach you,
this sacrifice of words
from the deep mystery-filled chamber
of my feelings, consumed in flames
fueled by whatever grace I may have within me.

As I pray, do not let these
pleas annoy you, Almighty,
like the raised hands of Jacob,
whose irreverence was rebuked
by Isaiah, nor let them seem like the impudence
of Babylon criticized in the 72nd Psalm.

But let these words be acceptable
as were the fragrant offerings
in the tabernacle at Shiloh
raised again by David on his return from captivity
as the resting place for the ark of the covenant,
a symbol for the restoration of my lost soul.

All of the Biblical references in his writing are referenced in the sidebar so that if one desires, he can turn to the section of sacred scripture and enhance his meditation. I am reading at least one section, if not the whole prayer of each of the 95 this Lent as part of my daily prayer time and will continue until I’ve completed them all. Their exquisite poetry moves the soul seeking to become lost in the embrace of God. With deep humility as the departure point, one can hardly fail to delight the Lord by offering these prayers as one’s own, making way for Him to transform the soul into the image of Christ in perfect unity with Him. Is that not, in the end, the heart’s desire of all Christians? Is that not what our final destination is meant to be?

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The Truth About Oikonomia and Cardinal Kasper

October 20, 2014

Five cardinals banded together to write Remaining in the Truth of Christ in which they address various aspects of marriage and the family according to Church teaching and practice. This book, published by Ignatius Press, was supposed to be out before the recent Synod in Rome, but many who ordered it ahead of time have yet to receive it. However, it seems to have been available to the Synod participants. In any case, it looks like the Kindle edition is ready at Amazon and I think that Catholics should get a copy to read and pray about. It could easily spark conversations that might lead fallen away Catholics back to Christ as well as strengthen marriages of practicing Catholics. Certainly it would be a book parishes could use in study groups to spark ideas on how to reach out to those in troubled situations.

I, personally, am glad of the lio at the Synod. It made perfectly clear in word and action who the wolves are. It brought into the open the mistaken thinking of some in the approach to solving many problems we must address. The Church, that’s we in the Mystical Body, will err in our approaches if we allow the world to define the issues and propose solutions.  We can’t be lazy and buy into those solutions rather than defining our orientation to those issues within the context of Christ’s teaching and the truths of the Faith. I’ll be writing more on that after I pray more.

Meanwhile, it is counterproductive to give into anxiety and fearfulness about what the bad actors will be up to in the coming year before the 2015 Synod. That weakens us. It is, in fact, a demonic trap. We know their tactics, but the Holy Spirit will not allow any teaching or practice that contravenes faith and morals to become official. If they pursue their current path, while it causes a lot of unrest and confusion, they cannot help falling. Instead of worrying about what they are doing and saying and fighting with them, we should take time to arm ourselves with facts and the true teachings of the Church so that we can think with the mind of the Church and articulate Christ-like solutions. We need to be thinking about what we can legitimately do, not what others propose that can’t legitimately be done. We need to be sharing our thoughts with our bishops.

To this end I post an interview of Raymond Arroyo with Father Robert Dodaro, OSA, editor of the book I recommend above and President of the Patristic Institute (Augustinianum) in Rome. Enjoy, and grab a copy of the book!

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

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Monday, October 20th, 2014 Catholic Church 2 Comments

Cardinal Pell on the Synod of the Family

October 18, 2014

Faithful Catholics the world over have been deeply concerned about the machinations going on at the Synod these past weeks. I am no exception. While I firmly believe that Jesus meant it when He said in Matt. 16:18: “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”, I, nonetheless, am horrified to see a very small group of bishops conniving to control the outcome of the synod in the favor of secular desires. Visit Father Z’s blog to read more details on the Synod.

The midterm report, called the Relatio (full text here), was a scandalous piece of work and caused the Synod hall to erupt as faithful Cardinals reacted against its contents. The Kasperites and gay ideologues in attendance must have thought they could shove their agendas down the throats of the majority, but fortunately that failed. What I noticed was a complete lack of quotes from Sacred Scripture, the CCC, and Fathers of the Church to bolster their secular nonsense in this document, precisely because no such quotes exist. Nevertheless, Kasper has been the darling of the media and has given numerous interviews in which he continues to claim that the majority of the Synod backs his approaches and that he has the backing of the Pope.

One interesting event this week was the release of an interview Kasper gave to Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register and published at Zenit on Wednesday, October 15. Pentin recorded it on his iPhone and Kasper seemed only too happy to promote his views. When severe criticism erupted over his remarks, not only on the Synod atmosphere concerning divorce and remarried Catholics being admitted to Holy Communion, but particularly on the African Cardinals of whom he said, “they should not tell us too much what we have to do,” Kasper denied that he had ever given the interview in the first place and Zenit removed it from their site. Read the entire interview at Pentin’s site.

Claiming that “this is the spirit of the Council”, Kasper is the poster child for why Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had to declare repeatedly that the Second Vatican Council had to be interpreted with the “hermeneutic of continuity”. That a Pope would even have to make such statements shows that skullduggery is, and has been for the past 50 years, afoot on the part of key Church leaders. These men are well educated in theology, Scripture, and the Catechism but we’d never know it by their utterances. It’s obvious that they want to court the adulation of the world and that Christ appears not to be the center of their lives. They seem to truly want to change Church teachings through subterfuge bit by bit.

I was thinking this morning of Judas, the betrayer of Our Lord. Jesus loved him and kept him with the rest as His closest companion. Even up to the Last Supper when Jesus instituted the sacred priesthood, Judas was there. He saw all the miracles Jesus wrought, His compassion and mercy towards sinners, the sick, and the dead, His unwavering expression of the truth, but still he persisted in his evil ways. Did Judas remain in Jesus’ inner circle because he believed that one day he would have even greater power and control over money to feed his greed? Surely it couldn’t have been because he believed and took to heart all of Jesus’ teachings and admonitions, or that he had a commitment to the truth. Jesus must have known all along what Judas was up to and his motivations, yet He permitted him to stay close.

I am sad to say that in our Church today we have a frightening number of apparent Judases among the clergy. How else can we interpret the words and deeds of bishops and cardinals that are in clear opposition to the words of Christ? These past couple of weeks surely show that we laity must pray and sacrifice for our bishops, and keep them close as  Jesus did even when they are up to questionable behavior.

God never asks a person to live a particular vocation without giving that person abundant graces to fulfill his calling. That would be utterly cruel and against His nature. Therefore, we must assume that when a person acts contrary to his calling, and in this case the bishop’s calling is first and foremost to teach the faith clearly,  he is betraying his vocation and repulsing the graces God is giving him. The Catechism of the Catholic Church #888 couldn’t be more clear about the preeminent task of bishops:

Bishops, with priests as co-workers, have as their first task “to preach the Gospel of God to all men,” in keeping with the Lord’s command. [Mk. 16:15] They are heralds of the faith who draw new disciples to Christ; they are authentic teachers” of the apostolic faith “endowed with the authority of Christ.”

Attempting to introduce new practices that undermine the teachings of Christ is a betrayal. Refusing to reach out with the truth in charity yet not compromising with the world is a betrayal. Peace of heart and life in union with God is only found in staying true to the teachings of the Church which we received from Christ and the apostles. To downplay or deny these teachings when ministering to those in pain from their mistakes and sins is the height of cruelty. The bishop who does this will be accountable to Christ on judgment day, less so the flock he has deceived.

Fortunately, Cardinal Pell has some comforting words concerning the outcome of the Synod for faithful Catholics everywhere. You can also find today’s Bulletin from the Synod here, which places the focus where it belongs. Take a few minutes to listen to Cardinal Pell, who is one of Pope Francis’ advisers on the council of eight cardinals.

 

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Saturday, October 18th, 2014 Catholic Church 13 Comments

Divorce, Remarriage, Cardinal Kasper and Cardinal Burke

October 11, 2014

It’s a shame when members of the Catholic Church launch epithets such as “fundamentalist” at others within the same Church. However, maybe we should re-think whether the term really is an epithet, i.e. an abusive, defamatory, or derogatory phrase.

The user, in this case Cardinal Kasper in reference to the five bishops and cardinals who wrote a book called Living in the Truth of Christ in preparation for the Synod on Marriage and the Family taking place in Rome this week, certainly intended it to be so. However, I’m not in favor of anyone defining who I am, and as you will see from Raymond Arroyo’s interview with Cardinal Burke, neither is the good Cardinal. If taking Jesus at His word means I’m a fundamentalist, call me that all you like. I’ll consider it a compliment.

I hate to say it, but I personally believe Cardinal Kasper is promoting weasel Catholicism. As in “weaseling out of the difficult job of teaching and living the truth.” The solutions to helping families become strong in Christ need to be innovative the world over, but never at the expense of the teachings of the Church which come from Christ. And never discounting the role the grace of God plays in helping us live our vocations either.

Please relax and enjoy this interview with Cardinal Burke on the Synod. I’ve admired him greatly because of his firmness in the truth and his compassion for the sinner. A worthy successor of the Apostles to be sure. I learned a few things from him and maybe you will, too.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

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Saturday, October 11th, 2014 Catholic Church 6 Comments

Fruit of the Holy Spirit: Continency

September 19, 2014

Fresco of Basil the Great in the cathedral of Ohrid. The saint is shown consecrating the Gifts during the Divine Liturgy which bears his name. Wikipedia

Fresco of Basil the Great in the cathedral of Ohrid. The saint is shown consecrating the Gifts during the Divine Liturgy which bears his name. Wikipedia

The other day I stumbled upon a letter St. Basil (329-379) wrote to a monk about continency. We know from Gal. 5:22-23 that this is one of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity

The root of the word comes from Latin; con, meaning “together” and tenere, meaning “to hold”. In today’s sex saturated society, continency is most often taught to mean refraining from indulgence of the sexual appetite, especially from unlawful indulgence. Certainly that is true, but it is also much more. The CCC(1832) calls it “self-control” in the English translation. But what exactly is self-control? To what does it extend or what does it encompass?

St. Basil, one of the great Fathers of the Church fleshes out the meaning of continency for us and in doing this causes us to examine our lives for areas where we may not be exercising self-control to the extent that we should.

You do well in making exact definitions for us, so that we may recognize not only continency, but its fruit. Now its fruit is the companionship of God. For not to be corrupted, is to have part with God; just as to be corrupted is the companionship of the world.

Continency is denial of the body, and confession to God. It withdraws from anything mortal, like a body which has the Spirit of God. It is without rivalry and envy, and causes us to be united to God.

He who loves a body envies another. He who has not admitted the disease of corruption into his heart, is for the future strong enough to endure any labor, and though he have died in the body, he lives in incorruption. Verily, if I rightly apprehend the matter, God seems to me to be continency, because He desires nothing, but has all things in Himself. He reaches after nothing, nor has any sense in eyes or ears; wanting nothing, He is in all respects complete and full.

Concupiscence is a disease of the soul; but continency is its health. And continency must not be regarded only in one species, as, for instance, in matters of sensual love. It must be regarded in everything which the soul lusts after in an evil manner, not being content with what is needful for it.

Envy is caused for the sake of gold, and innumerable wrongs for the sake of other lusts. Not to be drunken is continency. Not to overeat one’s self is continency. To subdue the body is continency, and to keep evil thoughts in subjection, whenever the soul is disturbed by any fancy false and bad and the heart is distracted by vain cares. [Today we could specify, not to give in to drugs, pornography, being a shop-a-holic, inordinate watching of television regardless of the subject, being a work-a-holic, excessive expression of emotions such as anger are all continency.]

Continency makes men free, being at once a medicine and a power, for it does not teach temperance; it gives it. Continency is a grace of God….If only there be a little continency in us, we are higher than all.

We have been told that angels were ejected from heaven because of concupiscence and became incontinent. They were vanquished; they did not come down. What could that plague have effected there, if an eye such as I am thinking of had been there? Wherefore I said, If we have a little patience, and do not love the world, but the life above, we shall be found there where we direct our mind. For it is the mind, apparently, which is the eye that sees unseen things. For we say “the mind sees;” “the mind hears.” I have written at length, though it may seem little to you. But there is meaning in all that I have said, and, when you have read it, you will see it.

We can see the fruit of continency in our detachment from all earthly things except what is necessary for living and for loving our neighbor, especially those closest to us. Our purpose of doing all for the honor and glory of God requires a daily crucifixion of inordinate desires opposed to continency. It means not throwing away this fruit God has generously given us. Rather, we should bite into it and taste its sweetness – the companionship of God as St. Basil tells us.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Against the Black Mass in Oklahoma City 9/21/14

September 18, 2014

Archbishop Coakley

Archbishop Coakley

Archbishop Coakley of Oklahoma City has been fighting a valiant fight for nearly three months now, and has been unsuccessful in halting the celebration of a Black Mass by a group of Satanists at the civic center this Sunday. Needless to say, if a bunch of people mocking Mohammed were scheduling an event in the civic center, most likely they would have been prohibited. But since Christians don’t run around beheading people right and left when God is mocked, or for any other reason for that matter, they are, and the Catholic Church in particular, fair game for this kind of abuse and neglect by public officials who are permitting this “event” to go forward.

Would all my readers join me by doing something in reparation for this evil taking place this Sunday? Here is Archbishop Coakley’s latest letter to the Catholics of his diocese published in the Sooner Catholic. Emphasis is mine.

On Sunday, Sept. 21, a local satanic sect apparently will be allowed to conduct a public act of blasphemy in the form of a so-called black mass at the Civic Center in Oklahoma City. In spite of an overwhelming outcry of alarm from around the world, our city leaders will allow this outrage to take place in a publicly supported facility. They will not accede to the reasonable requests of local citizens to stop this outright mockery of the Catholic Mass nor the reasonable concerns of so many that this satanic ritual invokes powers of evil and invites them into our community.

Even though our city leaders apparently do not take this threat seriously, I do. As a Catholic priest and bishop I have witnessed in my ministry the battle between forces of good and evil in both ordinary and extraordinary ways. It is not merely a struggle rooted in human weakness and ignorance, though these are certainly the source of much suffering and mayhem in our lives and in our world. Demonic activity and the chaotic forces of evil are very real. The madness of war accompanied by increasingly brutal acts of terror, the violence in our schools and communities are all evidence that something is terribly wrong.

The crucial battleground for the forces of good and evil is the human heart. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus Christ came to conquer the power of sin and to cast out demons. This was an essential part of his mission and ministry. It continues in his Church. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has gained the victory. He has destroyed the power of Satan, the Prince of Darkness and Father of Lies. The war has been won, though skirmishes will continue until Christ comes again in glory. As people of faith we dare not lose hope. Victory is assured.

This ordeal in our community has been ongoing for nearly three months, since we first became aware of the scheduled black mass. In spite of our apparent inability to prevent this sacrilegious event from taking place, I am grateful for a number of blessings that have accrued through this trial. I am grateful for the significant legal victory that allowed us to regain possession of the consecrated Host that would have been desecrated during the black mass. I am deeply grateful for the strong response to our appeal for prayer throughout the Christian community. People across Oklahoma, throughout our great country and around the world have responded with prayer and fasting. We have been given an opportunity to express our faith in the Lord and our profound gratitude for his gift of the Eucharist through acts of devotion. Many of our Catholic people have been appealing to St. Michael the Archangel for heavenly protection against the powers of evil in our world.

On Sunday, Sept. 21, we will gather for a public act of worship at St. Francis of Assisi Church. I invite all Catholics as well as other Christians and people of good will to join us for a Eucharistic Holy Hour, an outdoor Eucharistic procession and Benediction beginning at 3 p.m. We will prayerfully bear witness to our faith as an expression of our solidarity and in reparation for acts of blasphemy.

I am aware that other groups are planning to show their opposition to the blasphemous event that evening at the Civic Center. I urgently ask everyone to avoid confrontations with those who might oppose them. Our witness ought to be reverent, respectful and peaceful. I urge those who might plan to attend the black mass in order to pray or to protest not to do so! Please do not enter the venue. It would be presumptuous and dangerous to expose oneself or others to these evil influences.    

Finally, let us demonstrate our faith in the power of the Lord’s grace by praying for the conversion of those who are perpetrating this sacrilege and are bound by the Evil One. “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” (Mt 5:44,45)

Please join the Archbishop and Catholics of Oklahoma City in prayer this Sunday. Part of the demonic ceremony will be the casting out of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is not in us, who do you think will move in and take up residence. Very scary.

This post is linked to Sunday Snippets.

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever! Amen.

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Thursday, September 18th, 2014 Catholic Church, Catholic culture Comments Off on Against the Black Mass in Oklahoma City 9/21/14

St. John Chrysostom on Understanding Scripture

August 18, 2014

Mosaic, St. John Chrysostom, Hagia Sophia, via Wikipedia

Mosaic, St. John Chrysostom, Hagia Sophia, via Wikipedia

“There really wasn’t a real Adam and Eve.”

“Noah? I don’t believe there was a Noah. Way too far-fetched.”

“Jonah and the big fish? Hah! Could never have been.”

“Jesus didn’t really mean it when He said ‘This is My Body’. He was just speaking figuratively.”

These are typical comments I’ve heard from fellow Catholics who easily dismiss Old Testament characters as fictitious inventions of the writer to tell a story, and difficult passages in the New. However, this attitude points to something we all need to be aware of. That is, humility in our approach to Scripture study. If any one part of the Bible isn’t true, then doesn’t that call into question every part? Would it not be better to start with the premise that everything in the Bible is true since God can’t lie? I may not understand what God is telling me, or I may be confused about certain passages. That is the fault of my limited intellect, not God’s Word. Then, should I not seek understanding by following Jesus’ instruction to ask, seek, and knock?

We have one no less than the great St. John Chrysostom to tell us a thing or two about seeking understanding of Sacred Scripture. He was not only the bishop of Constantinople, he is revered as both a Father and Doctor of the Church and is one of the four great Doctors of the Eastern Church. Born in 349 in Antioch, he earned the appellation Chrysostomos, “golden-mouthed”, because of his eloquent preaching, especially on Holy Scripture. In Discourse Three of his Four Discourses he contrasts the worldly scholars with the straightforward exposition of the truth by apostles and prophets.

3. For those without—-philosphers, rhetoricians, and annalists, not striving for the common good, but having in view their own renown [I naively thought this phenomenon was restricted to our times]—-if they said anything useful, even this they involved in their usual obscurity, as in a cloud.

But the apostles and prophets always did the very opposite; they, as the common instructors of the world, made all that they delivered plain to all men, in order that every one, even unaided, might be able to learn by the mere reading. Thus also the prophet spake before, when he said, “All shall be taught of God,” (Is. 54: 13.) “And they shall no more say, every one to his neighbor, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me from the least to the greatest,” (Jer.31: 34.) St. Paul also says, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech, or of wisdom, declaring unto you the mystery of God,” (1 Cor. 2: 1.) And again, “My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” (1 Cor. 2: 4.) And again, “We speak wisdom,” it is said, “but not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world that come to naught,” (1 Cor. 2: 6.) For to whom is not the gospel plain? Who is it that hears, “Blessed are the meek; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the pure in heart,” and such things as these, and needs a teacher in order to understand any of the things spoken?

But (it is asked) are the parts containing the signs and wonders and histories also clear and plain to every one? This is a pretense, and an excuse, and a mere cloak of idleness. You do not understand the contents of the book? But how can you ever understand, while you are not even willing to look carefully?

Take the book in your hand. Read the whole history; and, retaining in your mind the easy parts, peruse frequently the doubtful and obscure parts; and if you are unable, by frequent reading, to understand what is said, go to some one wiser; betake yourself to a teacher; confer with him about the things said. Show great eagerness to learn: then, when God sees that you are using such diligence, He will not disregard your perseverance and carefulness; but if no human being can teach you that which you seek to know, He himself will reveal the whole.

Remember the eunuch of the queen of Ethiopia. Being a man of a barbarous nation, occupied with numerous cares, and surrounded on all sides by manifold business, he was unable to understand that which he read. Still, however, as he was seated in the chariot, he was reading. If he showed such diligence on a journey, think how diligent he must have been at home: if while on the road he did not let an opportunity pass without reading, much more must this have been the case when seated in his house; if when he did not fully understand the things he read, he did not cease from reading, much more would he not cease when able to understand. To show that he did not understand the things which he read, hear that which Philip said to him: “Understandest thou what thou readest?” (Acts 8: 30.) Hearing this question he did not show provocation or shame: but confessed his ignorance, and said: “How can I, except some man should guide me?” (ver. 31.) Since therefore, while he had no man to guide him, he was thus reading; for this reason, he quickly received an instructor. God knew his willingness, He acknowledged his zeal, and forthwith sent him a teacher.

But, you say, Philip is not present with us now. Still, the Spirit that moved Philip is present with us. Let us not, beloved, neglect our own salvation! “All these things are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come,” (1 Cor. 10: 11.) The reading of the Scriptures is a great safeguard against sin; ignorance of the Scriptures is a great precipice and a deep gulf; to know nothing of the Scriptures, is a great betrayal of our salvation. This ignorance is the cause of heresies; this it is that leads to dissolute living; this it is that makes all things confused.

It is impossible—-I say, it is impossible, that any one should remain unbenefited who engages in persevering and intelligent reading. For see how much one parable [The rich man and Lazarus] has profited us! How much spiritual good it has done us! For many I know well have departed, bearing away abiding profit from the hearing; and if there be some who have not reaped so much benefit, still for that day on which they heard these things, they were rendered in every way better. And it is not a small thing to spend one day in sorrow on account of sin, and in consideration of the higher wisdom, and in affording the soul a little breathing time from worldly cares. If we can effect this at each assembly without intermission, the continued hearing would work for us a great and lasting benefit.

I can truthfully say that every time I have asked God to help me understand particular verses of Scripture He has eventually given me the light. Sometimes it is in a sermon I hear, sometimes in a conversation, and sometimes it comes from reading a commentary such as Discourse Three or the notes in my study Bible. In all cases, I had to do something to receive the understanding. I had to ask, seek, and knock, sometimes for quite awhile. But when the flash of light came, it was worth all the trouble.

We can never sit back and complain that it is too hard, or dismiss what we don’t understand as fictions, or say we don’t have time to seek the truth. If we do we will never be as holy as God wants us to be because we won’t be letting Him completely into our hearts.

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Corpus Christi Sermon from Fontgombault Abbey

June 19, 2014

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/11/Mrzezyno_Corpus_Christi_procession_2010_B.jpg/640px-Mrzezyno_Corpus_Christi_procession_2010_B.jpg

Corpus Christi Procession in Mrzezyno, Poland, June 3, 2010, courtesy of Wikimedia


Today is the feast of Corpus Christi, observed in most of the world, but not in the USA which transfers it to this coming Sunday. Dom Jean Pateau, Abbot of the French Benedictine Abbey of Our Lady of Fontgombault delivered this sermon to the monks and visitors at Mass this morning. Thank God for the internet which makes it possible to read it the same day it was preached.

Tantum ergo sacramentum veneremur cernui.
(Hymn of the feast of Corpus Christi)
 
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
 
My dearly beloved Sons,
 
In the wonderful Sacrament of His Body and of His Blood, Jesus gives Himself as a food and a drink, so that we may abide in Him as He abides in us, so that we may live for Him, and that we may live forever.
 
In the tabernacle, the holy Eucharistic species receive the homage of our worship. Although the Gospel does not mention any adoration of the Blessed Eucharist, it tells us of the first Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the history of mankind.
 
In Bethlehem, whose name means “House of the Bread”, in a poor crib, a place of silence and of peace, Jesus receives the adoration of Mary and Joseph, a few shepherds and the Magi, the wise men from the East, while the angels in Heaven proclaim the glory of God and announce to men the peace which comes from God.
 
Would we not be brought back by every adoration, every Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament to the holy stable? Would Jesus perchance have been so deeply moved by the prayer of a few poor people near Him that He would have wanted to be able to receive throughout the ages the poor that we are? The sacramental Presence grants us to be associated with the worship of the inhabitants of the Crib and its visitors.
 
In the school of the shepherds, let us learn how to adore, let us renew our presence near the Blessed Sacrament. The first monstrance was a crib, because there was no room in the inn. What is a crib? What is a child? All this is small, all this is quite devoid of interest. In this place, God hides Himself. Under the figure of a little child, He awaits the shepherds. Today as well, His sacramental presence reaches us under the appearance of a bit of bread.
 
The shepherds receive the invitation from an angel. We too are invited to visit the Lord. We therefore need to be watchful. We need to take the time to encounter Jesus and to allow ourselves to be fascinated by His face. The shepherds live in the fields. They spend day and night watching their flocks. They are contemplative. As soon as the angel has spoken, they do not tarry and start for Bethlehem. They come, they find and they return, “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen” (Lk 2:20). “But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19).
 
Like the shepherds and Mary, let us not tarry but let us go to Jesus. Let us gladly visit our churches, the Bethlehem of our cities. Let us gladly spend time in front of the tabernacle or the monstrance. Jesus, God with us, is awaiting us and breaks the bread of His Word and of His Flesh for us.
Amen, Alleluia.

 

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Thursday, June 19th, 2014 Catholic Church, spirituality 3 Comments

Chaplet for the Conversion of Priests

June 18, 2014

Sermon of St. Martin, c. 1490, unknown Master, Hungarian, Tempera on wood, 101,5 x 89,5 cm Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest*

Sermon of St. Martin, c. 1490, unknown Master, Hungarian, Tempera on wood, 101,5 x 89,5 cm, Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest*

 

Back in 1999 when I spent an hour in Adoration one day, I was contemplating the sad state of orthodoxy in our diocese. The bishop at that time so strongly discouraged the preaching of Church teaching against contraception that any priest who dared speak the truth in the confessional or the pulpit was moved that very week to the opposite side of the diocese, sentenced to a small out of the way parish because of vicious complaints by parishioners.

Liturgical abuse was rampant. No traditional Catholic devotions were encouraged, and at one parish, the pastor forbid his priests to attend the three hour Sunday afternoon Adoration the laity had requested. It was left to the Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers to repose the Blessed Sacrament when it was over at 3:00.

Bizarre doctrines could be heard from many pulpits on any given Sunday, such as, we can argue with God after we’re dead so as to justify our sins. Seminarians were screened so prospects who did not believe in women priests were never accepted. The lighting of the Easter fire was concelebrated with an Episcopalian “priestess” at the church next door in one rural parish, and the event was touted as great “ecumenism” in the diocesan paper. That publication was where I first learned that there were two Jesuses. The Jesus of History and the Jesus of Faith. That’s when I found out about the Bultmannian heresy.

The Extraordinary Form of the Mass was forbidden on the grounds that “it would confuse the Protestants and we Catholics had to present a united front to them because we live in the Bible Belt.” However, it was just fine with the bishop for us to drive three hours one way to attend it in nearby dioceses. And it was fine with him that we laity could educate others about the Extraordinary Form, but only because under canon law he couldn’t stop us from doing it. When Pope Benedict XVI issued Summorum Pontificum in 2007, the bishop had no choice but to provide the Traditional Mass, but he picked the most vocally opposed priest to do the job, and we were insulted from the pulpit every Sunday for one reason or another.

Things changed under a new bishop, who is orthodox but inherited a tremendous mess. All these years since that day in Adoration when the Lord inspired me to pray a chaplet for the conversion of priests, I’ve done it quietly and privately off and on. At first it was daily, but I fell prey to discouragement over the years. Sure, things are changing for the better but it’s too slow for me. I thought maybe my prayers weren’t doing any good and prayed that chaplet less and less often. Oh me of little faith!

This week I learned that the very popular pastor of a nearby parish was relieved of his duties a couple of weeks ago for embezzling money for quite some time. That parish was almost dead before he came there, and in the past four years since he has been there, it revived with more and more people joining. Everyone knows that his personableness, enthusiastic preaching and devotion to the suffering played a big part in the revival. This priest was also one of the best confessors I’ve been to which proves that no matter how much a sinner a priest may be, God can still use him to guide us wisely in Confession. Although I am not a parishioner, his loss leaves a big hole in my heart. I did not think about how much he could need my prayers and, for the most part, I rarely hear priests ask for prayers for themselves.

Our priests are always in danger of sinning big. Satan hates them with a vengeance because he knows the Mystical Body of Christ needs them. In Zechariah 13: 7 we read, “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn my hand to the little ones.” Indeed, last Sunday when we attended Mass in that parish, we saw that many people were gone – between 1/3 and 1/2 of the congregation. It won’t be until some time in August that a new priest will be assigned to the parish.

I am now resolved to return to praying my “Chaplet for the Conversion of Priests” regularly and want to share it with readers who may find themselves drawn to doing the same.

Explanation of the chaplet

First though, in case anyone is thinking, “How dare you imply that priests need converting?!!!”, I must say that everyone of us needs conversion of heart, priests included. As Jesus said to the Pharisees in John 8:7, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”, and they all slunk off in shame.

To convert our hearts means to repent of our sins and be determined to follow that narrow way to the narrow door (Luke 13: 24). That narrow way is made of God’s instructions to us which we find in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, in obedience to the laws of the Church whether liturgical or canonical, in constant purification of our desires so that Christ becomes the center of our lives in all things.

David cries to God in penitence, “If thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it; with burnt-offerings thou wilt not be delighted; a sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit; a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 1: 18). “Thou wilt not despise” is a way of saying, “Thou wilt love and cherish and gather to Thyself.”

Moses said to his people, “Now, when thou shalt be touched with the repentance of thy heart – and return to Him – the Lord thy God will have mercy on thee” (Deut. 30: 1-3).

The prophet Joel tells us, “Now, therefore,” saith the Lord, “be converted to Me with all your heart in fasting, and in weeping, and in mourning, and rend your hearts and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, patient, and rich in mercy” (Joel 2: 12).

Second, this chaplet also links the priests directly with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The primary purpose of the priest is to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary to the Father. He stands as an Alter Christus, a mediator in the place of Christ as Christ has ordained, and is the only one who can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, confect the Holy Eucharist. He is also the mediator in place of Christ when he administers the other sacraments. Our belief in the Blessed Sacrament is central to the Catholic faith. Without the priest, we would not have the opportunity to receive the great graces from receiving the Holy Eucharist, going to Confession, the Last Rites, etc.

Third, the Blessed Mother holds all priests dearly as her special sons. While we are all sons and daughters of Our Lady by virtue of Christ’s words in John 19: 26-27, the priests are especially dear to her. They are her children in the most danger all the time because without them the Church could not exist. (See the link above.) Satan seeks to destroy the Church any way he can.

When I pray this chaplet I am fully aware that I myself need conversion daily, and it becomes an earnest prayer not only for priests, but also for my own spiritual growth. It has no approval of ecclesiastical authority, just from my pastor at the time, but I have been thinking about seeking approval so that others may have a wide access to it.

Chaplet for the Conversion of Priests

  1. Using the Rosary, begin with the Crucifix and say the Anima Christi.
  1. Offer the next four beads for the welfare of the Holy Father and his intentions: Our Father and three Hail Marys.
  1. On the “Our Father” beads say: O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine.
  1. On the “Hail Mary” beads, say: O my Jesus, truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar, I beg Thee, convert Thy priests.
  1. Continue the chaplet through the 5 decades in this manner. At the end say three times: O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine.
  1. After saying this say 3 times: Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us and on Thy priests.
  1. Then say 3 times: Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us and for our priests.

*About the art: There are two related panels, painted on both sides, in the Hungarian National Gallery which once were the wings of an altarpiece dedicated to St Martin and St Nicholas. One of the wings represents St Martin and the Beggar (outer side) and the Sermon of St Martin in Albenga (inner side). The other wing depicts St Nicholas and the Daughters of the Nobleman in Pataria (outer side) as well as the scene St. Nicholas Resurrects Three Deads.

The panel represents a legendary scene from the life of St. Martin. The Bishop, having given his clothes to a needy man, celebrates mass in poor, hastily acquired garments. At the elevation of the Host angels descend to cover his bare arms.

The altar table in the sanctuary, shown in great detail, is decorated with a picture within the picture: a horizontally arranged retable with a scene of the Crucifixion. This is of special importance in the history of the development of winged altars in Hungary, for it demonstrates that this early type of retables of which very few examples have survived, was still in use at the end of the fifteenth century. Seen against the embroidered white altar-cloth the shadows are effective. The artist’s representation of the missal is most realistic; also the representation of the mitre and the Gothic style objects made of precious metals, the ciborium between two candlesticks, the chalice and the paten, the latter only just visible under the edge of the communion cloth. Realism was not, however, an end in itself; the painter introduced these details to create an atmosphere of wonder before the legendary scene. The realistic characters are also imbued with piety. The portrait-like features of the male figure kneeling on the right suggest that it was he who commissioned the altarpiece. The painter’s endeavours to represent the interior in perspective, the sharp folds shown almost in relief and the subtle colour effects all place the master of this panel among the finest Hungarian painters active in the late fifteenth century.

–          Courtesy of the Web Gallery of Art

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Lent Meme

March 2, 2014

Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross, c. 1565, Titian (Tiziano) (b. 1490, Pieve di Cadore, d. 1576, Venezia), Oil on canvas, Museo del Prado, Madrid

Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross, c. 1565, Titian (Tiziano) (b. 1490, Pieve di Cadore, d. 1576, Venezia), Oil on canvas, Museo del Prado, Madrid

Victor over at Time for Reflections devised this simple meme for Lent which I am passing on to all my readers. Just read and follow the instructions.

RULES

1. Copy paste this post on your Blog.

2. Contact as many other Bloggers as you like and leave them this comment: “You have been tagged for the LENT MEME on my Blog”.

3. And now the difficult bit: Do someone a good deed. Anyone. Relative, friend or stranger. Any good deed. Saying a prayer for someone in need. Helping an old person with shopping, transport, gardening. Visiting a sick person. Giving some money to charity. Just use your imagination and do any good deed. If you are greedy you can do more than one good deed. To more than one person. You can do a good deed every day of Lent if you wish. The minimum is just one good deed.

4. That’s it. I can’t think of any other rules.

5. Thanx. God bless.

If you’ve never visited Victor’s blog you’re missing out on a talented and devoted Catholic’s ability to tell enjoyable stories. Why not take a peek now?

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Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 Catholic Church 1 Comment

Icon of the Savior Not Made by Hands

February 24, 2014

A few weeks ago I began a search for an icon of the face of Christ that would speak compellingly to people in great distress since I am meeting so many of them in my life right now. I thought that if they had an image of Jesus that they could look at, perhaps their hearts would calm and they could begin to find peace. I also wanted a prayer to put on the back. After a few days devoted to this task and rejecting image after image, I found the following icon at a Russian site. It is late 19th century, held in a private collection and the writer unknown. The icon type is “Icon of the Savior Not Made by Hands”, a most intriguing title.

Image of Christ Not Made by Hands

Image of the Savior Not Made by Hands

 

Legend

This is one of the oldest image types of the Eastern Church and has been written many times over the centuries. Via Wikipedia and research from other sources:

According to the legend, the fame of Jesus’s miracles had spread throughout the region and into Syria as related by Matt. 4:24.  King Abgar of Edessa, though not having seen Jesus but believing in him, desired to be cured of leprosy, according to some accounts. He could not travel into Roman territory because of a treaty with Caesar, so he sent his court painter, Ananias, to find Jesus, give him the letter, and paint His portrait. Ananias was unable to get near enough to Jesus to render an image because of the crowds, but Jesus called Him over and gave him a letter for Abgar declining his invitation but praising his faith and promising to send one of His disciples to him. Along with the letter went a likeness of Jesus said to have been formed by Our Lord wiping his face with a towel. Upon beholding it, Abgar was healed. This legend was first recorded in the early fourth century by Eusebius of Caesarea, who said that he had transcribed and translated the actual letter in the Syriac chancery documents of the king of Edessa. The apostle “Thaddaeus“, known as “Addai” in Syriac, went to Edessa after Pentecost, was welcomed by Abgar, preached the Gospel and healed many.

Wiki: The first record of the existence of a physical image in the ancient city of Edessa (now Urfa) was in Evagrius Scholasticus, writing about 600, who reports a portrait of Christ of divine origin which effected the miraculous aid in the defense of Edessa against the Persians in 544. The image was moved to Constantinople in the 10th century. The cloth disappeared from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade [Sack of Constantinople] in 1204.

Many versions of this legend exist with some variation, but one thing is sure. This icon type is of very early origin and is still venerated today.

Why this particular icon?

When I saw this image for the first time I was spellbound by the eyes. In many renditions, the writer has Christ looking to the side. In this work, He gazes directly at the viewer with eyes full of love, mercy, gentleness and compassion. Although the icon portrays the risen Christ, the shadows of His passion and death are somehow communicated as well. The message from Matt. 11:28, “Come to me all ye who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” reaches out to the viewer. I thought this icon would draw people to Him and that He would then be able to work His miracles of peace in their hearts.

Prayer on the back

The great folks at Catholic Prayer Cards had a beautiful prayer, “Jesus Help Me”, but it needed a few additions for my purposes. I found many versions of this prayer at both Catholic and Protestant sites, and with the help of a few readers, created this version for the back of the card.

Jesus Help Me, Thou Who Died for Me

In every need let me come to Thee with humble trust saying, Jesus help me.

In all my confusion, doubts, and temptations, Jesus help me.

In the hours of loneliness, abandonment, weariness and trials, Jesus help me.

In the failure of my plans and hopes, Jesus help me.

In disappointments, troubles and sorrows, Jesus help me.

When others fail me, betray me, and when I am in devastating pain, Thy grace alone can assist me. Jesus help me.

When I throw myself on Thy tender love and mercy as Savior, Jesus help me.

When I feel impatient, hopeless, and my cross is overwhelming, Jesus help me.

When I struggle to forgive, Jesus help me.

When I am ill, and my head and hands cannot do their work, Jesus help me.

In the good Thou wouldst have me do; in the pleasures I seek, Jesus help me.

In the care I have for loved ones and friends, Jesus help me.

O Agonizing Jesus, strip me of all intemperance in the use of life’s comforts and pleasures.

Always, always, in joys or sorrows, in falls and shortcomings, Jesus help me, and never forsake me.  Amen.

A couple of other bloggers shared this project with me. If you want to have some printed to give away, please contact me through the contact form at this blog and I will give you the information you need.

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Monday, February 24th, 2014 Catholic Church, prayers 6 Comments

Why Not Be a Saint?

February 5, 2014

Rooster with pearls by unknown Flemish goldsmith, c.1570s

Rooster with pearls by unknown Flemish goldsmith, c.1570s

Sermon written (but, alas, never preached owing to a winter storm) for Mass at Christendom College on 
the Feast of St. Agnes, January 21st, 2014 by the Rt. Rev. Philip Anderson, Abbot of Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey. In the hope that these words will reach the young adults who, during the March for Life days, missed hearing a holy challenge by the act of God, I offer Abbot Anderson’s sermon so that many more than the original intended audience may find it.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field . . . It is like a merchant looking for fine pearls (Mt. 13: 44-46).

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Dear students of this beautiful college having a most beautiful name,

This image of the precious pearl is quite remarkable.  The ancient Greek philosopher Parmenides described the ultimate reality, being, as something “complete on every side, like the mass of a rounded sphere, equally poised from the center in every direction”.  This sounds like a metaphysical pearl.  But the reality indicated by Our Lord in the parable we have heard in the Gospel is beyond the ken of philosophy.  It has to do with a spiritual state of the human person, in which all the contradictions, misunderstandings, sins, lies, and multitudinous other ‘rough’ edges of life are molded at last into the supernatural, white harmony that is the life of Paradise in the beatific vision of the elect.

But, of course, we have to seek the precious pearl already in this life here below, even before we touch the shores of Heaven some day, by the grace of God.  You, as students, many of whom, if not all, are Catholic Christians, must know that your studies are not an end in themselves but a means of attaining to that perfection Our Lord spoke of: “Be ye therefore perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). The precious pearl you thus seek represents a certain moral and spiritual completeness that is an outstanding fulfillment of human life.  “Perfectus” in Latin is defined by the scholastic philosophers as cui nihil deest – that to which nothing is lacking.

One way of accurately describing this pearl, this perfection of human life, which lacks nothing, would be to call it a certain fullness of the theological virtue of charity, that is to say of the love of God and of our fellow human beings because of the love of God. Charity is the queen of the virtues and all the others go wherever she goes. 

St. Agnes, St. Bartholomew and St. Cecelia with an unknown Dominican, 1485-1510, artist unknown, color on wood, Alte Pinakothek, Munich

St. Agnes, St. Bartholomew and St. Cecelia with an unknown Dominican, 1485-1510, artist unknown, color on wood, Alte Pinakothek, Munich

For St. Agnes, whose feast we celebrate on this day, the precious pearl was about holding on to her charity and her faith, despite the gruesome reality of bloody martyrdom to which she was subjected.  She is one of the great witnesses of the Faith, who found very quickly in her life the ineffable pearl, becoming herself a beautiful pearl in the sight of God.

In the monastic tradition there is a very terse description of perfection, an adage, which goes back to the earliest centuries of the Christian faith: “Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.” That sums it up.  Indeed, in preferring nothing to the love of Christ, we love God, since Christ is God, a divine Person.  This perfect preference also recognizes the great mysteries of the Incarnation and of the Redemption, inseparable from the second Person of the Trinity (and where there is one Person, the other Two are always there as well).  This love of Christ includes our neighbor, as our neighbor is either already a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church in its broadest sense, or is ordered to that Body, destined, we hope, to have a place in it.

And so you must – especially those of you who are students, who hold in a way the future of the Church in your hands – you must aim at something great, high, noble and beautiful in this life, while always recognizing that any greatness that might fill our lives comes from God alone.  You must choose something like a pearl, something like a star, something worth pursuing to the end.  Why not?  You have but one life: why not live it to the utmost, why not push to the outer reaches of what is most excellent in human life?  

Why not be a saint?

Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us.  Amen.

Dear Readers, if you know Catholic college students, will you please send them a link to this post? Thank you and God bless you.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 Catholic Church, spirituality 2 Comments

Was Mary Really an Unwed Mother?

December 30, 2013

Espousal of Mary, 1504, Raffaello Sanzio, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

Espousal of Mary, 1504, Raffaello Sanzio, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

 

Happy Nativity season to all my readers! May God bless you now and in the coming year.

This past Sunday, yesterday, we attended Mass at a nearby parish rather than driving a half hour to the Extraordinary Form Mass we normally attend because we were exhausted from the nine hour trip home on Saturday. The liturgical calendar called for the feast of the Holy Family and I was looking forward to hearing another great sermon by the pastor, but such was not to be.

Early on in his discussion of the Gospel he said, “Jesus was conceived outside of wedlock.” Then he proceeded to say that people looked down on Jesus and ridiculed Him because of this. The pastor could not have shocked me more if he had cast a bolt of lightening on my head. “Ay-yi-yi! Ach du lieber! Mama Mia! Merdre! Eheu! Aigoo! Good Grief!” If I knew the words for dismay in any more languages I’d write them here. Where do people get these cockamamie ideas? Especially a priest who was supposedly well-trained in Sacred Scripture in the seminary?

This is the second time in the past several months I’ve come across the “Mary was an unwed mother theme.” The first was when reading a supposedly Catholic book on families. What to do? When we got home I decided to research the subject so that I could write an informative and correct post and found an excellent article by Father Michael Griffin, O.C.D., in the EWTN library. St. Joseph: A Theological Introduction contained exactly what I was looking for, and could not have been a better source of meditation to celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. If any of you have come across this particular error, I hope this post will help clear the confusion.

Since the Bible is the inerrant Word of God we must be very careful to learn the exact meaning of all passages rather than making assumptions on meaning based on today’s life styles. Father Griffin writes in section one of his treatise (emphasis mine):

When the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary announcing that she was to become the Mother of God, she was, according to the account given by Saint Luke, “espoused to a man named Joseph”[Lk. 1:27]. The wording of the text is common to all modern versions of the Bible [and the 16th century KJV and Douay Rheims].

Commenting on this text, scripture scholars warn us that the word “espoused” is not to be equated with the word “engagement”. The words espousal and engagement are allied terms that are related to marriage, but they are not perfectly synonymous. The word espousal refers to the making of vows of marriage rather than to the ceremonies that surround the wedding; it implies that the couple have, in the strict legal sense, entered upon the state of wedlock.

Engagement, on the other hand, connotes only the “promise” of one day entering the state of matrimony, providing the present desires and wishes of the couple endure. Thus, to understand the phrase of Saint Luke “espoused to a man named Joseph” as meaning that Mary was engaged to him at the time, would not do justice to the text. Saint Luke is simply saying that Mary and Joseph were already married when Mary became the Mother of God.

Why, then, does Saint Luke use the word “espoused” instead of the word “married”? Would it not have been clearer and more simple for him to use the second?

It must be remembered that according to the Jewish custom of the time there were two steps that lead to marriage as we understand it today. First, the couple exchanged their matrimonial consent in a special ceremony. Today we would say they pronounced their marriage vows. In virtue of this they were joined together as man and wife in the eyes of God and in the eyes of the law. From that time they had all the rights and privileges accorded to husbands and wives. According to Jewish law if the man died, the woman was considered as his widow and was entitled to his inheritance. If the woman was unfaithful to him, she would be punished as an adulteress; neither could she remarry without first obtaining a bill of divorce.

The second step was the solemnization of the marriage or the celebration of the wedding festivities. According to the means of the couple, the wedding feast was celebrated as elaborately as possible. The man would come to the home of the bride and in public procession he would escort her to his home. Then they would begin their life together.

This second part of the ceremony took place many months after the exchange of the wedding vows. And it is for this reason that Saint Luke tells us that they were “espoused” at the time of the Annunciation. The meaning is clear. At the time of the apparition of the Angel they were not living together as man and wife for the wedding festivities had not as yet taken place, but they were married in the eyes of God since they had already exchanged matrimonial consent.

Clearly then, Jesus was not conceived outside of wedlock, nor was Mary an unwed mother. And nowhere that I know of was it written in the Bible that Jesus was looked down on because Mary became pregnant with Him before going to live in Joseph’s home.

This article by Father Griffin inspired me because it details God’s plan for making the Holy Family appear to be just like any other family of devout Jews and the important role St. Joseph played in all of it, especially in protecting Jesus and Mary. If you already have a devotion to St. Joseph or you are looking for a rich subject for meditation on this part of the Gospel of St. Luke, I highly recommend this article. Don’t be put off by the title which may make you think it will be dull and boring. By the time you finish it you will be filled with joy, wonder at God’s love for us, a greater appreciation for St. Joseph, and you will also be able to counter the nonsense about Mary being an unwed mother when you hear it.

Deo gratias.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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