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Liturgical calendar

Pre-Lenten Preparation

February 3, 2015

By the Waters of Babylon - Arthur HackerBefore we enter the forty days of fasting and penance preceding the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, our Holy Mother Church gives us a kind heads up in the 1962 liturgical books. We’re moving into a time of spiritual renovation that every Lent should be, and as with all important things in our lives, it’s no good to wake up the first Sunday of Lent and decide off the cuff that we’re giving up chocolate in all its myriad forms, or TV, or whatever else most easily comes to mind. Such carelessness is bound to lead to failure and a wasted season.

So then, the Church gives us three Sundays which we call the season of Septuagesima prior to Ash Wednesday to get ourselves ready. This has been part of the liturgical cycle in various ways for over 1000 years and we began this time for 2015 last Sunday. In the liturgy itself we now switch from green to the color of violet which symbolizes penance and mortification. The Gloria and the Alleluias are suppressed except for special feasts.

Dom Guéranger, OSB, in his massive work, The Liturgical Year, positions this season for us this way:

We are sojourners on the earth; we are exiles and captives in Babylon, that city which plots our ruin. If we love our country, if we long to return to it, we must be proof against the lying allurements of this strange land, and refuse the cup she proffers us, and with which she maddens so many of our fellow captives. She invites us to join in her feasts and her songs; but we must unstring our harps, and hang them on the willows that grow on her river’s bank, till the signal be given for our return to Jerusalem.

She will ask us to sing to her the melodies of our dear Sion: but how shall we, who are so far from home, have heart to “sing the song of the Lord in a strange land”? No, there must be no sign that we are content to be in bondage or we shall deserve to be slaves forever.

These are the sentiments wherewith the Church would inspire us during the penitential season which we are now beginning. She wishes us to reflect on the dangers that beset us; dangers which arise from ourselves and from creatures. During the rest of the year she loves to hear us chant the song of heaven, the sweet Alleluia; but now she bids us close our lips to this word of joy, because we are in Babylon. We are pilgrims absent from our Lord: let us keep our glad hymn for the day of His return. We are sinners, and have but too often held fellowship with the world of God’s enemies; let us become purified by repentance, for it is written that “praise is unseemly in the mouth of a sinner.”

We might well consider this season as one in which we tune ourselves up to run in that race St. Paul mentions in 1 Cor. 9: 24-27, the race being most immediately Lent of this year. We heard this in Sunday’s Epistle reading. Now is a good time to ask the Holy Spirit to show us what would be most beneficial to us personally as we look at the three ways we can keep Lent.

 1. What penances/mortifications will help me most to advance in virtue?

2. What spiritual practices should I fine-tune or add, or what habits should I build to open myself more to God who loves me and wants me united with Him in all things of my life?

3. What kind of almsgiving best fits my life situation? Although almsgiving is typically monetary and we should not ignore our widow’s mites, it can also be prayers, corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and other things we can do to go the extra mile in regard to our neighbor.

If you need convenience in your spiritual growth for Lent or are looking for spiritual direction in general, Divine Intimacy Radio could well be for you. Their 24 minute podcast on preparing for Lent is excellent and you can listen to it any time. This is a new venture from Dan Burke of Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction and I’m looking forward to more discussions on the Divine Intimacy meditations.

Image: By the Waters of Babylon, c. 1888, Arthur Hacker (1858-1919).

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

This post linked to Sunday Snippets.

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Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015 spirituality Comments Off on Pre-Lenten Preparation

Pearls of Grace

October 3, 2012

When we are in the greatest danger of giving up hope in our lives, hope for the future of our country, hope for the world, if we open our eyes we can see the loving hand of God at work, scattering pearls of grace everywhere.  Often these pearls are hidden, not because God wishes it so, but because the world lacks the eyes to see what is in its midst and turns away.

Today, the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, I bring one of these pearls to you, to show how Love diffuses itself in wondrous ways.

Catholics involved in the Traditional Latin Mass movement over the years have been aware of the wonderful convent of Discalced Carmelites in Valparaiso, Nebraska, near Lincoln.  They observe St. Teresa of Avila’s strict rule and celebrate the Carmelite Divine Office, follow the Carmelite liturgical calendar, and celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass.  From the Lincoln diocesan website:

The Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph can be traced back to a sixteenth century Spanish Carmelite Monastery founded by Saint Teresa of Jesus. Two daughter monasteries were established in Mexico. In 1927, the Community established a Carmel in California. Later, a monastery was founded in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was discerned that God was calling them to transfer to the Lincoln Diocese. The Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph near Agnew was dedicated and consecrated on December 14, 2001. The Carmelites devote their lives to prayer, strive to live a life hidden with Christ, and honor the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Taken from The History of The Diocese of Lincoln 1987-2002 – Vol. II

By 2009 this group of 9-10 holy nuns had grown to the point they were ready to establish a new foundation.  The call came from the bishop of Harrisburg, PA.  The Carmelite convent at Elysburg was dying out, the nuns too old and too few to sustain the place.  They were moving to a retirement home.  Would the Discalced Carmelites of Valparaiso send sisters to take over the old convent?  The answer was “yes”, and ten nuns of Valparaiso arrived to continue their vocations in Elysburg and build up the traditional Carmelite life.

Meanwhile, the Valparaiso nuns continued to be inundated with vocations and all too soon found themselves well beyond the 21 sister limit set by St. Teresa.  In 2011 the call came from the diocese of Oakland, CA.  Would Valparaiso send nuns to establish a Carmelite monastery in Canyon, CA?  Again, the answer was “yes”.  Ten women arrived at the end of July, 2012; five professed sisters and five novices.

On September 21, 2012, Archbishop-designate of San Francisco, Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone, celebrated a Pontifical Solemn High Mass for the official opening of the new Carmel of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph at St. Monica Church in Moraga.

St. Teresa of Avila, Peter Pawel Rubens

From the Catholic Voice Online:

The Mass and following reception offered a rare opportunity to see the sisters. Later that day, they returned to their monastery in the hills of Canyon, which would then be enclosed. The nuns will be behind grilles, and just two of them will be designated to speak to the public.

“Today we rejoice and give thanks to the Carmelite sisters who are establishing their enclosure with this Mass,” Archbishop-designate Cordileone said in his homily. “You have left the world to seek the more perfect life, the life of single-hearted perfection in union with Christ. Your life is a more perfect life because it is in anticipation of the life of heaven. You leave the world to be exclusively with our Lord. Your prayers sanctify us and bless us.”

He called upon those “who must live in the world” to understand “how to leave what is of the world while still living in the world. We must learn to leave all that is sinful, all that is selfish, all that is of the old self, so that Christ might make us new in his image.”

That in only eleven years not one, but two daughter houses of the Carmelites of Valparaiso have been established is extraordinary.  God is calling many young women to the strict Carmelite observance.  They, withdrawn from the world, serve to spread the Gospel through their prayers. 

The charism of the Carmelite order is to be the prayer warriors of the Church.  They are numbered among the pearls of grace God is strewing about our country.  Now, in the heart of the actively practicing homosexual capital of the United States from where their political agenda is fostered and spread, are the pure virgins accompanying the Bride of Christ on her journey to Her Groom.  St. Teresa of Avila must be smiling from heaven.

Be sure to visit the Catholic Voice Online for a couple of great pictures of the Mass.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

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Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 Catholic Church, religion 4 Comments

The Test of Hope

July 26, 2012

Today being the feast of St. Anne, mother of the Blessed Virgin (1962 calendar), it seems to be a good time to consider hope.  Tradition tells us that Sts. Joachim and Anne were childless for many years and were getting on in age when Our Lady was conceived.  Being childless was considered very negative in the Jewish culture so these two holy people no doubt had to bear the brunt of criticism and sly comments from others in addition to the grief of having no children.  Yet they never gave up hope and as devout Jews no doubt found solace in the psalm they chanted frequently:

To thee, O God my God, I will give praise upon the harp : why art thou sad, O my soul? and why dost thou disquiet me? Hope in God, for I will still give praise to him : the salvation of my countenance, and my God (Ps. 43:5).

Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, O.C.D. writes in Divine Intimacy:

…It is often true, however, that when we are undergoing a trial we neither see nor understand the reasons for it.  God does not account for His actions nor does He reveal His plans to us; therefore, it is difficult to endure in faith and hope — difficult, but not impossible, for God never sends us trials which are beyond our strength, just as He never abandons us unless we first abandon Him.

One thing we can be sure of: God always uses “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” (Shakespeare, Hamlet) to bring good out of evil.  We may not have our ideal life, but if we live according to God’s will we have the life He wants us to have, which is ordered to eternal unity with Him. 

Even if we have left the narrow path and caused grave consequences for ourselves, our sincere repentance is always accepted by the Divine Mercy and we can begin anew, our hand in His, to complete our journey through this life.  This doesn’t mean we won’t feel depressed and hopeless at times, nor that by worldly terms we aren’t in a difficult situation.  Nonetheless, by act of will we refuse to let these feelings rule us and instead say, “My God, I hope in You.  Jesus, I trust in You.” This is passing the test of hope.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

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Thursday, July 26th, 2012 spirituality 4 Comments

The Holy Name of Jesus

January 2, 2011

What better way to begin the new year than by celebrating today’s feast: the Holy Name of Jesus?

From Divine Intimacy: Meditations on the Interior Life for Every Day of the Liturgical Year we read:

Today’s Mass, continuing St. Paul’s thought, offers us a majestic picture of the glory which is due the holy Name of Jesus: “That at the Name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father” (Introit).

The entire Church — triumphant, militant, and suffering — is prostrate in adoration; the whole of creation seems to be silent, having stopped in its course for a moment to hear this most holy Name which gives glory to God and salvation to mankind.

Thy name is as oil poured out: therefore young maidens have loved thee (Song of Songs 1:3).

“Oil gives light, it nourishes, it anoints,” writes St. Bernard.  “It is light when it is preached; it is food in meditation; it is balm and healing when it is invoked for aid.”

Thou, O Lord, art… our redeemer, from everlasting is thy name (Is. 63:16).

Jesus is, ever was, and always will be the perfect sin offering who saved us from everlasting torment.  His name invoked drives evil away and brings peace of heart.  “Just say ‘no'” should be, “Just say ‘Jesus'” with perfect trust.

Thy name, O Lord, is forever: thy memorial, O Lord, unto all generations (Ps. 135:13).

The Holy Mass is His memorial offered to the Father until the end of time when we shall celebrate the eternal todah.

On this day in particular we make up for the endless blasphemy against His Name and His Person by bowing down in spirit and in person, “for there is no other name under heaven whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Collect for today’s feast:

O God, Who didst constitute Thine only-begotten Son the savior of mankind, and didst bid Him be called Jesus: mercifully grant, that we who venerate His holy Name on earth, may fully enjoy also the vision of Him in heaven.  Through the same Our Lord Jesus Christ who lives a reigns with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end.  Amen.

In the holy Name of Jesus I ask the Father to bless all my readers and protect them from all harm in this coming year.  May He be praised, loved, and honored by all men everywhere.

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Monday, January 2nd, 2012 Catholic Church, liturgy, spirituality Comments Off on The Holy Name of Jesus

Recommended Blog

November 29, 2011

We’re at the start of the liturgical year again – the wonderful season of Advent.  It’s a time when we eagerly anticipate with the Church the coming out of the darkness a Great Light (Is. 9:2). It’s a time to prepare our souls for the coming of the King, scrubbing the dirt off the windows and doors so we can receive the light of love and mercy when He comes.

Since God made us body and soul, now is a good time to curb the concupiscence of the body and heart to help in the cleaning process of the soul.  Mary at The Beautiful Gate is writing a series on the seven deadly sins as a way to prepare our souls for Christmas.

I’m really enjoying her posts and finding a lot of hidden dirt, personally, that needs to be scrubbed clean in order to celebrate the King’s birthday.  You might enjoy reading those posts as well. If you haven’t been following her on this theme, be sure to go back a couple of weeks and catch up.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.

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Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 blogs, Spiritual reading, spirituality 4 Comments

The Nativity of Mary

September 8, 2011

Not a great deal is made of this feast in the Catholic calendar.  True, it is celebrated in the Divine Office and in the propers of the Mass, but it is not a Holy Day of Obligation.  Yet the birthday of Our Lady heralded the immanent coming of the Light that shone in the darkness so I don’t want to let this special day pass without honoring the Mother of God at my blog.

Rorate Caeli published a beautiful meditation on the Nativity of Mary that I recommend to all my readers for a deep appreciation of Our Lady’s role in salvation history.  It is far better than anything I could write:

Our Lady in the Month of Her Nativity

The Birth of Mary, 1486-90, Domenico Ghirlandaio ((b. 1449, Firenze, d. 1494, Firenze), Fresco, Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence

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Thursday, September 8th, 2011 Blessed Virgin, liturgy Comments Off on The Nativity of Mary

The Royal Scent of Spikenard

July 25, 2011

Spikenard; Wikipedia image

July 22 was the feast of St. Mary Magdalene in the 1962 liturgical calendar and I’m a bit late in writing about something I’ve been contemplating since her feast.  However, there’s no bad time to consider a particular Bible passage in depth. In John 12:3 we hear of the famous scene:

Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.

These blessed feet of Christ which had walked throughout Israel carrying the Word of God to all who would hear, were soon to walk the road to Calvary.  Beyond the custom of washing a guest’s feet upon admitting him to the house, Mary’s use of expensive spikenard showed how precious Jesus was to her.

What is Spikenard?

Spikenard is a royal perfume from a plant that grows in the Himalayas, India, and Nepal.  Its rhizomes are crushed to produce an amber liquid which is mixed with animal or bird fat to produce an unguent that smells similar to coconut.  No doubt its high cost was due to its rarity and to the fact that it came across the Silk Road, a collection of trade routes covering the Far East to the Mediterranean, named for the lucrative silk trade that originated in the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD).  These routes were in use in ancient times, and Petra, the “Red Rose City” of Jordan flourished at one time due to the Silk Road.

Spikenard was rare enough to be reserved for the use of Egyptian royalty who were buried with it for use in the afterlife.  Archeologists found perfume jars of spikenard in the tombs of the Valley of the Kings, including Tutankhamen’s.

The Symbolism of Spikenard and Mary’s Actions

Spikenard Jar from Tutankhamen's Tomb

Mary’s use of a royal perfume symbolized the kingship of Christ. She had to kneel at His feet to anoint them as a subject kneels to a monarch.  But more than that, we can look at repentance as the precious spikenard we offer God. It is costly to us in terms of our pride and rebellious wills, but worth the price to fill our souls with the scent of mercy and forgiveness.

I am reminded by this event in the Bible of the great King David’s Penitential Psalm 50: 16-17

My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit.  A heart contrite and humbled, O God, You will not spurn.

Whenever we repent and confess our sins, we are like Mary anointing the feet of Jesus and wiping them with her hair.  The odor of spikenard transfers to our souls as it did to Mary’s hair and we carry the royal scent of children of God.  Repentance is an act of love towards God as was Mary’s anointing of His feet. We please Jesus as Mary did.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever. Amen.

(Click on the link above to read why I am ending my posts with this.)

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Monday, July 25th, 2011 Catholic Church, liturgy 1 Comment

Confirmation for Young Children?

July 11, 2011

One God

We are now in the time after Pentecost, as each Sunday is now marked in the 1962 liturgical calendar.  When the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and Mary in the upper room that day, all sorts of great things began to happen as the Church blossomed under His wings.  This time after Pentecost is the time of the Holy Spirit, and the sacrament most closely connected to the Holy Spirit is Confirmation. Between now and the season of Advent when the liturgical year begins anew, we can profit by thinking about the action of the Holy Spirit in our souls and the importance of Confirmation.

I am happy to report that Bishop Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota, gave a speech July 6 at Mundelein Seminary in which he advocated reception of the sacrament of Confirmation by children before receiving First Holy Communion. The Eastern rites of the Catholic Church have always followed infant Baptism with Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist, conferring all at one time.  Today converts in the Latin rite receive all three sacraments at the Easter Vigil, so the practice is not totally foreign to us.

When I was born, the practice was to be baptized within two weeks of birth, receive First Holy Communion in first grade, and Confirmation in the second grade.  The children of my era knew full well what the sacrament meant, and we knew we were not too young to be “soldiers of Jesus Christ.”  The post-Vatican II practice of delaying the sacrament of Confirmation until the teen years is an anomaly in Church history and I believe has been detrimental to souls.

At Mundelein Bishop Aquila said:

One can speak of the many effects of confirmation and the impact it makes upon one’s life, but it is always important to remember that the divine person of the Holy Spirit is received in Confirmation. We need the gifts of the Holy Spirit, every day, every hour, every minute and every second to live a life that gives glory to the Father as Jesus glorified the Father.

Confirmation is not marked by a choice to believe or not believe in the Catholic faith. Rather as disciples we are chosen by God to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit, to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit generously bestowed by God, and we are called to cooperate with that grace.

In today’s world I believe it is especially important to restore the conferring of this sacrament to an earlier age, and even adopt the Eastern rite practice of Confirmation before Holy Communion as Bishop Aquila suggests.

We are surrounded in daily life by unbaptized, unconfirmed people.  It is our burden to bear the consequences of their spiritual darkness and to pray that they will find truth in Christ.  It is also our obligation by the way we live to co-operate with the graces the Holy Spirit gives us. In that way we counteract the darkness that envelopes us.

Giving children at a much earlier age the opportunity to conform to the gifts of the Spirit through the sacrament of Confirmation seems only just and right considering even only one aspect of today’s hedonistic culture: the sexualization of children.  Otherwise, we are sending them into battle with inferior strength.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever. Amen.

(Click on the link above to read why I am ending my posts with this.)

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Monday, July 11th, 2011 Catholic Church, liturgy, spirituality 7 Comments

The Feast of Corpus Christi

June 20, 2011

This Thursday in all the Catholic world, except for the United States of America, we celebrate Corpus Christi, a holy day of obligation. The Pope will be conducting the sacred liturgy at St. Peter’s Basilica with solemn procession as will Catholic parishes all around the world, small and large.  In the United States the feast has been moved to this coming Sunday except for groups observing the 1962 liturgical calendar.

The doctrine of the Real Presence is a great example of how our understanding of a mystery deepens over the years and finds expression in both the sacred liturgy and devotions.

The first record of this feast being celebrated publicly comes from Liège where Bishop Robert de Thorete called a synod of bishops in 1246 and decreed that Corpus Christi be celebrated the following year in his diocese.  As has so often happened in Catholic history, it was cloistered nuns who, from their many hours of adoration, asked for this liturgical recognition of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

If we believe that Jesus is present in the Holy Eucharist, and if we have even an inkling of how great a gift this is, how can we not desire to praise and honor Him on a specially designated feast during the year? So it was that on September 8, 1264 (the feast of the birthday of the Blessed Virgin who was the first tabernacle of Christ), Pope Urban IV extended the feast to the universal Church.

The importance of Corpus Christi celebrations and the public processions that accompany it is underscored by the current state of Catholicism. Surveys of Catholics in recent years show that today, sadly, around 2/3 of them do not believe the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.  Yet Jesus spoke unequivocally in the Gospels about this sacrament.  In John 6:51-55 for instance He says:

I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world.

The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever.

What underscores the importance of this passage is that Jesus prefaced the core of it with the Hebrew word, “Amen” which means “truth”, and as such, He was speaking under His own authority.  Only God can speak truth under His own authority because He is Truth itself. No other rabbi throughout all the centuries of Judaism ever spoke “Amen, Amen I say to you” and none has ever since.

It’s very interesting to me that this part of the conversation at the Temple is close to the end of a discourse with the Scribes and Pharisees who stubbornly refused to accept what he was saying and still did not, even after the “Amen, amen I say to you” part.  Even after this plain talk many of His disciples left Him.  We can see that disbelief in His words is nothing new but ever sad.

Those who had ears to hear in the Temple that day – that is, faith, even if they didn’t understand such a statement, knew Christ was not speaking a parable or allegory here.  He was speaking literally.  How His followers literally were to eat His flesh and drink His blood remained to be revealed at the Last Supper when Jesus left the accidents of bread and wine in place but altered the substance to be His body, blood, soul and divinity. We discover this in Matt. 26: 26-28:

And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke: and gave to his disciples, and said: Take ye, and eat. This is my body. And taking the chalice, he gave thanks, and gave to them, saying: Drink ye all of this. For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins.

Again, Jesus was speaking literally.  He did not say, “This is like my body.” nor “This is like my blood.”  This most precious gift of Himself was to be for all His followers until the end of time through the sacrament of the sacred priesthood which He instituted that night when he ordered the Apostles to do the same.

Mysteries like the Holy Eucharist are accessible to us partially by reason, but largely by faith, which is a gift of the Father.  If we don’t take Jesus at His word, we are in essence calling Him a liar.  How can God, who is Truth, lie?  It cannot be.  So if we don’t understand this mystery, we must ask our Father to enlighten us by the Holy Spirit.

Whether your parish celebrates Corpus Christi on Thursday, the day of the week that connects to the Last Supper and the institution of the Holy Eucharist, or this coming Sunday, you will be celebrating a sacred liturgy with hymns and prayers that are almost 800 years old, much of them written by the great Dominican, St. Thomas Aquinas who has explained the meaning of the Holy Eucharist so well in his writings.

For those who struggle with doubt, over the centuries God has performed many miracles of the Blessed Sacrament.  One of them occurred in recent years in Argentina which I posted about last year in Recent Eucharistic Miracles. And whichever day your parish celebrates Corpus Christi, please pray for the unbelievers that they will believe.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever. Amen.

(Click on the link above to read why I am ending my posts with this.)

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Monday, June 20th, 2011 Catholic Church, liturgy, spirituality 6 Comments

Rogation Days

May 30, 2011

We might find it strange that in Paschal time we would have several days of penance, but the Church has good reason for it.  We are approaching commemorating the final hours of Jesus walking this earth.  For those of us who have a hard time saying “goodbye”, we understand the grief the Apostles, disciples and Mary must have experienced.  So although we are in a time of rejoicing, we are also in a time of sorrow immediately preceding the Ascension.

St. Mamertus, engraving

The History of Rogation Days

Rogation Days (from Latin rogare, to beseech) are a wonderful example of what Vatican Council II meant when in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum concilium) it spoke of “organic growth.”  We owe these days to the churches of southern Gaul, specifically the church at Vienne.  This tradition dates back to the 400s under the great bishop St. Mamertus.

Just after the Burgundians had conquered the area of Vienne in the mid 400s, all sorts of calamities began to occur, not unlike today with earthquakes, floods, great winds, hail, sicknesses, starvation, etc. Crops were destroyed and many died.

The good bishop, unbeknownst to himself, began a practice in this time of trouble which has come to form a part of the sacred liturgy of the universal Church and which is Biblically based.  Remember that whenever the Israelites were suffering greatly, a good dose of penance and sacrifices accompanied by the psalms would bring them relief.

St. Mamertus prescribed three days of public expiation and supplication to God in which the faithful were to devote themselves to penance, walking in procession chanting appropriate psalms, and fasting.  The three days preceding the Ascension were chosen. Masters were required to dispense servants from work so that all could assist at the long functions that filled most of the three days.  In his time the procession lasted six hours as the people went from church to church throughout the countryside.  Before beginning, the people received ashes as on Ash Wednesday and were sprinkled with holy water.  Everyone walked barefoot, led by a cross of the principal church in charge of the observance.

A detail recorded by a monk of St. Gall’s tells us that Charlemagne would join the procession barefoot and walk from his palace to the stational church.  St. Elizabeth of Hungary did the same, for in 816 Pope Leo III brought this practice to Rome and from there it spread everywhere.  St. Charles Borromeo in the 1500s observed Rogation Days in his see of Milan, visiting over ten churches every day in procession.

Dom Prosper Guéranger, O.S.B. wrote in the 1800s in his great The Liturgical Year series:

If, then, we would have a correct idea of the Rogation days, we must consider them as Rome does – that is, as a holy institution which, without interrupting our paschal joy, tempers it. The purple vestments used during the procession and Mass do not signify that our Jesus has fled from us, but that the time for His departure is approaching. By prescribing abstinence for these three days, the Church would express how much she will feel the loss of her Spouse, who is so soon to be taken from her.

Abstinence is no longer an obligation for Rogation days, nor are they holy days of obligation. Ashes and sprinkling the faithful with holy water is not part of the ritual anymore.  Also, the diocesan Bishop may transfer these days to three other consecutive days which are more accommodating to local custom and need.

Purposes of Rogation Days

The Church observes the Rogation Days for two reasons:

  1. To, in Biblical terms, appease the anger of God and avert the chastisements which the sins of the world justly deserve, and
  2. To draw down the Divine blessing on the fruits of the earth.

Today the faithful chant the litany of the Saints during the procession as well as Psalm 69 (Deus in adjutorium meum intende or O God, come to my assistance).  When the procession is over, the Mass of Rogation is offered.

How to keep the Rogation Days if you can’t observe them at your parish

In all the 18 years of living in our diocese, never once have I heard “Rogation Days” mentioned even though we are a dominantly rural diocese.  Never once have I seen them observed and I am well informed of what is going on regarding the sacred liturgy here.  I suspect the same is true for others here and there.  But you can be sure they are observed in the 1962 liturgy and in various other dioceses around the world.

To join the universal Church in these celebrations you can pray the complete Litany of the Saints and Psalm 69 all three days. Simple, isn’t it?

Why we need to keep the Rogation Days

Let’s take a look at 2010 and 2011:

  • Major earthquake and destruction in Haiti
  • Major Gulf oil spill and loss of life
  • Civil war and rebellion everywhere in the Middle East
  • The Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami
  • Terrible flooding up and down the Mississippi this spring
  • Tornadoes throughout the South, the Midwest and eastern parts of the USA
  • Slaughter of Christians everywhere in the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan, India, etc.
  • Food shortages and extremely high food prices around the world
  • Riots spreading across Europe and Greece falling apart
  • Crop failures of all kinds the world over

I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few things that should be on the list.  Can anyone seriously say that we don’t need observance of the Rogation Days?  Are we not enduring great chastisements now? Do we not have troubles with planting and harvests the world over now because of many different calamities?

The Church gives us a great opportunity for instruction in the Catholic faith and spirituality with the observance of Rogation Days. Everywhere we have Catholic schools we have an opportunity to celebrate these days with the parish children in procession even if parents have to be at work.  Pastors can encourage parishioners to come for the sacred liturgy if they can and explain the meaning and purpose of these days to all.

As in so many instances, our sacred liturgy offers us the chance to re-orient ourselves to God – to reinforce a right relationship with Him. The world needs these days observed with a humble and contrite heart.  Remember that God told Abraham if he could find only ten just men, He would spare Sodom.  Can we not be among those ten just men today, calling God’s mercy on this sickened world?

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V.  Praised be Jesus Christ!

R.  Now and forever.  Amen.

(Click on the link above to read why I am ending my posts with this.)

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Ascension Thursday

May 26, 2011

Just why the North American Bishops decided that forty days after Easter was unimportant and moved the great feast of the Ascension to Sunday, June 5, I don’t know. Most of the rest of the Catholic world celebrates it June 2.

I am convinced that the change is one more strike of the axe severing our sacred liturgy from its Biblical roots.  Forty days is forty days and it means something.  In the Bible something important always happened at the end of a time period of forty, whether days or years.  So for most of the Catholic world forty days after Easter really is, and always has been, Ascension Thursday.

This great feast commemorates Christ taking possession of the Kingdom of Heaven with the promise of His return to judge the living and the dead.  The introit strikes me as somewhat humorous in a way.  Perhaps it is because I can put myself in the shoes of the apostles and disciples so easily.  Acts 1:11 has angels telling the gawking apostles, “Ye men of Galilee, why wonder you, looking up to heaven?  He shall so come as you have seen Him going up into heaven.”

I can just see them staring into the heavens with their mouths agape as Jesus vanishes into the clouds.  This was truly wondrous, but sad, too, because they would never see Him again during their lifetime as He was with them on earth.  I can imagine them thinking, “What are we going to do without Him?”  At the same time, the joyful proof was right before their eyes that the kingdom of heaven belongs to all who believe in Jesus, our Head.  If the Head is the King of heaven, the Body, we, will follow and partake of the inheritance.  More proof of the faithfulness of our God.

The Ascension was both very joyful and full of hope, and at the same time, a little bitter for those who had walked along side Jesus on earth.

I love sacred art from the 12th to 16th centuries.  Please enjoy this lovely fresco by Giotto di Bodone and think of it when we celebrate the Mass of the Ascension Sunday, June 5.

The Ascension, 1304-06, Giotto di Bodone (b. 1267, Vespignano, d. 1337, Firenze), Fresco, Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua


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Thursday, May 26th, 2011 art, Catholic Church, liturgy, spirituality 9 Comments

Lenten Reading Recommendations

February 17, 2011

This coming Sunday is Septuagesima Sunday, the day that alerts us in the 1962 calendar that Lent is on its way.  Last year I wrote Top Ten Books for a Profitable Lent where I listed ten spiritually useful books for the season. This year our parish bookstore is carrying a book I’m adding to the list –  Meditations for Lent From St. Thomas Aquinas.  After being out of print for 60 years, this collection of meditations lets us once again join the great Doctor of the Church in 63 Scripture-based Lenten meditations for every day from Septuagesima Sunday through Holy Saturday.

I’ve always found St. Thomas’ writings to be clear and logical and very helpful to my spiritual life.  We know that he spent many hours in meditation in front of the Blessed Sacrament, so I figured, who better to guide me through this time of the liturgical year?  Here are some of the topics he gives practical advice on:

  • On reforming ourselves
  • The need to be watchful
  • Five evils we incur through sin
  • The two purposes of fasting
  • Why Our Lord went down to Limbo
  • How to weed out vices and cultivate virtues
  • How to detach ourselves from the things of this world
  • Six ways in which the Blood of Christ is “precious”

Lent is a great time to improve our prayer life and our relationships with others.  I’m looking forward to daily lessons from St. Thomas.  Perhaps this book might appeal to you, too.

You can order it through Barb’s Custom Shop here.  Just click on the “Store” tab at the top of the page and you’ll find it in the Blessed Virgin Mary category.

Want to subscribe to posts by email? Visit the third box in the sidebar.

V.  Praised be Jesus Christ!

R.  Now and forever.  Amen.

(Click on the link above to read why I am ending my posts with this.)

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Thursday, February 17th, 2011 Book Review Comments Off on Lenten Reading Recommendations

Sabbath Moments

December 18, 2010

Colleen at Thoughts on Grace hosts this meme, which stands for those special moments when we are with God. Be sure to visit her to read about others’ Sabbath Moments, too.

This week I spent time reading Father Lovasik’s book The Hidden Power of Kindness: A Practical Handbook for Souls Who Dare to Transform the World, One Deed at a Time. It is good, practical spiritual advice for today’s problems.

We made a day trip to Kansas City to the dental school to finish the work being done so I got to thank God for the improvements.  On the way there I finished the book I was reading on Japan, still mulling over the difficulties in evangelizing in their culture and wishing I could go live there for awhile.  

Lastly, I wrote a post with links to short meditations on the O Antiphons.  I’d like to invite readers to visit the post and follow the links for a few Sabbath Moments every day between December 17-23.  This post also has a video of Zoltan Kodaly’s beautiful Veni, Veni Emmanuel which is a real Sabbath Moment to listen to.

Thank you for stopping by and God bless you.

V.  Praised be Jesus Christ!

R.  Now and forever.  Amen.

(Click on the link above to read why I am ending my posts with this.)

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Saturday, December 18th, 2010 Sabbath Moments, Spiritual reading 3 Comments

Sunday Snippets – A Catholic Carnival

August 22, 2010

Welcome to Sunday Snippets where we Catholic bloggers meet over at RAnn’s This That and the Other Thing to share posts from the past week. Please join us even if you’re not a blogger, and leave a comment on our posts if you are so moved.

This week I met a special young lady at the therapy pool.  I wrote about it at A Real God-incidence.

In Advancing the Reign of Christ Here and Now I put forth the rationale for a change I’m making on my posts.

At Sabbath Moments I note my times of union with God this past week, and at Praying the Psalms – Psalm 32 I wrote insights I gained from meditating on the psalm.

God bless all you readers and thanks for coming to my blog.

V.  Praised be Jesus Christ.

R.  Now and forever.  Amen.

(Click on the above link for why I am ending my posts this way if you haven’t already read why.)

P.S.  Today is the 13th Sunday after Pentecost and the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the 1962 Roman Calendar. Salve Regina.

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Sunday, August 22nd, 2010 spirituality, Sunday Snippets Comments Off on Sunday Snippets – A Catholic Carnival

Sabbath Moments

May 15, 2010

Today I’m a little behind the curve in participating in this meme.  A friend who needed to talk called me this morning and after that I had to go to the therapy pool to do my exercises.  Now I’m home and glad to join my blogging friends in another Sabbath Moments where we share the times to just “be” with the Lord.  Visit Colleen at Thoughts on Grace to read other blogger’s quiet times with the Lord.

The highlight of my week was getting to attend Ascension Thursday Mass on Ascension Thursday! Forty actually has a biblical meaning and forty days after Easter means just that.  I hope that some day the traditional liturgical calendar and the Novus Ordo calendars will be reconciled with biblical accuracy.  But that’s another subject.

The priest’s sermon was about how Jesus called each of us to spread the Gospel, and especially to do it by example, not words. He also said that as Christians we should not be backbiting, criticizing, or undermining our fellow parishioners because it is not the way to show the teachings of Jesus and is not attractive to others who are looking for God.  It was real food for thought.  As a blogger I surely need words to communicate God’s love and mercy, but also, the blog itself has to be a good example of a Catholic submitting to God’s will and suffering with joy whatever He sends.  sometimes that’s really hard due to human frailty.

My second Sabbath Moment came when I was doing my therapy exercises by myself in the pool.  It’s a good time to be thinking of God, His will, His holy Mother, and other spiritual things.  Of course, exercising itself is praise to God because, if I do it for Him, the ordinary actions become a prayer. I keep thinking about our bodies being temples of the Holy Ghost and know that when we care for them properly we are pleasing God.  Exercising for me is “being” with God.

The last moment was reading Father Oscar Lukefahr’s column in our diocesan newspaper. He wrote a really good book called The Privilege of Being Catholic.  You can learn more by clicking on the title or the image at the right.  It’s a really good book and I put it in Barb’s Custom Shop.

Father was talking about his vocation to the priesthood and what it meant to him.  In the process he made the following comments I found delightful.

At the Last Supper, Jesus told us to celebrate the Mass in memory of him (1 Cor. 11: 23-26). On Easter Sunday, he appeared to the apostles and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of others, they are forgiven: (Jn. 20: 17-23).

Church and ritual are important to Jesus. Some people claim that we should be spiritual but not religious: “I don’t need to go to church,” they say.  “I can find God while hiking in the woods.”  But at the Last Supper Jesus did not say, “Go take a hike in memory of Me.” We can find God while hiking and we should.  But Jesus wants more for us.  He wants us to have real, physical, sacramental, ecclesial union with Him, at the Eucharist and at all the sacraments.  It is the privilege of every priest to make that union possible.

My life has been worthwhile because it has been a life of proclaiming the truth Jesus brings and of ministering the grace that only Jesus gives. I am a priest because so many people called me to this vocation and supported me in it.

Father’s words reminded me to be very thankful for how accessible Jesus is to us through the ministry of His priests.  And that’s it for my Sabbath Moments for the week.

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Saturday, May 15th, 2010 Sabbath Moments 4 Comments

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