Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Season of Preparation

Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Our Savior.  He comes to be born anew by His grace and love in the hearts of all men, but alas, few recognize in Him their Divine Redeemer, or love Him as their God-made man.  During this season let us give witness to how God reigns in our lives and in the world.  Let us make this journey to Bethlehem with Mary, and ask her to show us more fully, “the fruit of her womb, Jesus!”  As we hear the gospels reflect those tremendous moments of our salvation at each Sacrifice of the Mass, let us devote ourselves to bringing the joy of the Savior's birth to others, through our smiles, wishes of a “Merry Christmas” and those hidden acts of charity for the poor and unfortunate.

First Week of Advent
Let us recall the longings of the Patriarchs and Prophets, the holy souls of those four thousand years before the coming of the Messiah.  With what intense yearning they desired but a glimpse of that blessed Light of the World, Who now gives Himself daily to us in the Eucharist.  In praying the Liturgy of the Hours, we read a passage from St. Charles Borromeo that shed light on this intense longing of the people of God, and how we can today experience this in our lives:

“...Each year, as the Church recalls this mystery, she urges us to renew the memory of the great love God has shown us.  This holy season teaches us that Christ's coming was not only for the benefit of his contemporaries; his power has still to be communicated to us all.  We shall share his power, if, through holy faith and the sacraments, we willingly accept the grace Christ earned for us, and live by that grace and in obedience to Christ.”
“The Church asks us to understand that Christ, who came once in the flesh, is prepared to come again.  When we remove all obstacles to his presence he will come, at any hour and moment, to dwell spiritually in our hearts, bringing with him the riches of his grace.”

Proclaim the good news, let it be heard....Our God and Savior is coming.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Medal of the Immaculate Conception

The apparition of Our Lady to St. Catherine Laboure in 1830 on the 27th of November, is a special feast in our community and has an important message for all.

“Come to the foot of this altar.  There graces will be poured out on all those, rich or poor, who ask for them with confidence and fervor....”

Life is filled with difficulties, trials, hardships, heartaches and stress.  Do we seek our remedies in front of the Altar.  Our Lord is always there waiting and longing for us.

During the apparition Our Lady was holding a globe and from the rings on her fingers, rays were emitted.  Catherine understood that these rays represented the graces that were shed upon those who asked for them.  In Luke we are told: 
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.  (Luke 11: 9-10)
 Our Lady was gently reminding us of the need for prayer, intercession and petition.

“Behold the symbol of the graces I shed upon those who ask me for them.”
Then St. Catherine beheld the form of the Medal and written in letters of gold “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.”
“Have a medal struck upon this model.  All those who wear it, when it is blessed, will receive great graces especially if they wear it round the neck.  Those who repeat this prayer with devotion will be in a special manner under the protection of the Mother of God. Graces will be abundantly bestowed upon those who have confidence.”

On this feast of the Miraculous Medal, the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, let us pray with confidence for our needs, for our loved ones, for the Holy Father and the Church.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

An Apostle for Unity

Altar of St. Basil inside the Vatican
This feast of St. Josephat is very special in the life of our small community.  Having come into full communion in the Catholic Church in June of 2007, we were privileged to spend a year in the Eternal City bonding with the Holy Father, the Church, the Italian culture, and assisting in the apostolate of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma.
Upon our arrival in Rome, we were instructed that the Vatican opens it doors at 7:00 am to those who wish to attend Mass.  Not yet familiar with the Italian language, we were hoping to find a priest who spoke English.  We were instructed to stand at the sacristy door and as the priests come out vested, simply say "English".  Soon we found a priest willing to offer the Mass in English, but he needed an English Missal. Spotting our "Magnificat" prayer books, the problem was solved. We followed Father to his assigned altar and to our surprise, it was the Altar of St. Basil, that houses the mortal remains of St. Josephat.  Why was this significant?  Having been so long separated from the Church, the Holy Spirit was directing us to work for the fulfillment of Our Lord's prayer at the Last Supper, "that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you....." (John 17:21)........... St. Josephat died promoting this same cause of Christ.

St. Josephat, known as John Kuncevic,  was a young man at the time of Ruthenian Synod in 1595, which voted to unite with Rome under Pope Clement VIII.  In 1598 seven bishops signed the Union of Brest, which allowed them to retain their Eastern Rites while in full communion with the Pope. John made his profession of Faith and then entered the Basilian Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Vilno and took the name Josaphat.  He was ordained a priest and subsequently an Archbishop.  Among the many works he engaged in, he compiled texts from the Eastern Fathers and Doctors under the title "A Defense of Church Unity" and worked for reunion with Rome. 
Josaphat had said before his martyrdom, "I rejoice to offer my life for my holy Catholic faith." He had prayed, "Grant that I be found worthy, Lord, to shed my blood for the union and obedience to the Apostolic See."  He was cruelly hacked to death on November 12, 1623.

Tomb of St. Josephat
We all believe that it was in God's providence that we were able to attend our first Mass at the Vatican at the altar of St. Josephat.  We decided to adopt St. Josephat as a special patron of our community, asking him to help us fulfill the particular charism that the Holy Spirit has given us.  We are truly grateful for the gifts that God has bestowed upon us.  "Oh, give thanks to God, for He is good.  For His mercy endures forever!" (1 Chronicles 16:34)



If you wish to read more about St. Josaphat follow this link: http://www.thebasilica.org/stjosaphat.php

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pray for the faithful departed!

Often we will see pictures of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel extending the Brown Scapular releasing souls from Purgatory. When Our Lady gave the scapular to St. Simon Stock, she said:  "Take, beloved son this scapular of thy order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant." 

Wearing the brown scapular was extended by the Church to all the faithful.  The scapular is a sign of one's consecration to Mary, and of her protection in return.  It is also a reminder of the reality of Purgatory.  As we enter the Month of November, the Church recalls to our minds the way we can be of assistance to those who have died. 

What is Purgatory and how can we help the faithful departed?   

The Catechism for Adults published by the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) tells us:    “The Church gives the name of Purgatory to the final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC, 1031).  Those who die in the state of friendship with God but who are not fully purified and perfected are assured of their eternal salvation.  However, they must undergo a purification to obtain the perfection of love and holiness needed to enter heaven, where they have a heart that is totally open to Him.  This process is called Purgatory.

It is impossible for us to imagine what Purgatory is.  Traditionally, it has been described as a purifying fire.  Since the human soul cannot be touched by earthly flames, the image serves to recall that perfect love is achieved by a gradual and painful spiritual detachment from selfishness and self-centeredness.”

One of the most effective ways to help those undergoing this purification is to receive the Eucharist and have Mass offered for them. The Enchiridion of Indulgences tells us the Church grants a special indulgence to the faithful, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, “to those who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed. The indulgence is plenary each day from the 1st to the 8th of November; on other days of the year it is partial.” 

“To obtain the plenary indulgence on November 1-November 8, we must receive Communion and sacramental Confession (and have no attachment to sin, even venial). Communion must be received each day we wish to gain the indulgence, but we only need to go to Confession once during the period. And, as with all plenary indulgences, we must pray for the intentions of the Holy Father (one Our Father and one Hail Mary) each day we perform the work of the indulgence.”

The holy souls can no longer help themselves, so they rely upon our prayers and works of charity. However, they will be powerful intercessors for us in return. St. John Vianney said: "If one knew what we may obtain from God by the intercession of the Poor Souls, they would not be so much abandoned.  Let us pray a great deal for them, they will pray for us."