Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Twelve Days of Christmas

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written in sixteenth century England. At that time, anything Catholic was prohibited by law and the Faith was forced underground. There was a desperate need to encourage the faith and to instill it into the next generation. Some priests, risking their lives to minister to their flock, came up with a way to teach an outline of the Faith disguising it as a song. For those who knew no better, the song was just another holiday pleasantry. But for those who were trying to maintain their Faith, it was like the chapter titles from which teachers could organize and unfold the truths of faith.

The "twelve days of Christmas" is the nativity celebration of Christ from Christmas to Epiphany.
“My true love said to me,” is God speaking to each individual person.
“A partridge in a pear tree” is Jesus Christ on the Cross.
“Two turtledoves” are the Old and New Testament.
“Three French hens” are the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.
“Four calling birds” are the four gospels or the four Evangelists.
“Five golden rings” are the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible.
“Six geese a-laying” are the six precepts of the Church or the six days of creation.
“Seven swans a-swimming” are the seven sacraments or the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
“Eight maids a-milking” are the eight beatitudes.
“Nine drummers drumming” are the nine choirs of angels or the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.
“Ten ladies dancing” are the Ten Commandments.
“Eleven pipers piping” are the eleven apostles who pipe the faith in an unbroken tradition, Judas having left.
“Twelve lords a-leaping” are the twelve beliefs outlined in the Apostles Creed.
If someone were to ask, could you explain the theology contained in each line from the “Twelve Days of Christmas” and how it applies to your everyday life?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church will help you to find the answer.  During this Year of Faith, challenge yourself to study, pray and ponder the Eternal Truth, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, born to free us from our sins.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Meditation on Luke 1:26-38: The Angel Gabriel was sent....

Taken from: Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives; by Pope Benedict XVI

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary” (Lk 1:26f.). In the first place, the annunciation of the birth of Jesus is linked chronologically with the story of John the Baptist by the reference to the time that has elapsed since the archangel Gabriel’s message to Zechariah, that is to say “in the sixth month” of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. The two events and the two missions are also linked in this passage by the indication that Mary and Elizabeth, and hence their offspring too, are blood relatives. Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, made as a consequence of the dialogue between Gabriel and Mary (cf. Lk 1:36), occasions an encounter in the Holy Spirit between Jesus and John even before they are born, and this encounter at the same time makes visible the relationship between their respective missions: Jesus is the younger of the two, the one who comes later. But he is the one whose proximity causes John to leap in his mother’s womb and fills Elizabeth with the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 1:41). So in Luke’s annunciation and nativity narratives, what the Baptist was to say in John’s Gospel is already objectively present: “This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me’” (1:30).

Now, though, it is time to look more closely at the story of the annunciation to Mary of the birth of Jesus. First let us consider the angel’s message, then Mary’s answer.

A striking feature of the angel’s greeting is that he does not address Mary with the usual Hebrew salutation shalom—peace be with you—but with the Greek greeting formula chaĩre, which we might well translate with the word “Hail,” as in the Church’s Marian prayer, pieced together from the words of the annunciation narrative (cf. Lk 1:28, 42). Yet at this point it is only right to draw out the true meaning of the word chaĩre: rejoice! This exclamation from the angel—we could say—marks the true beginning of the New Testament. The word reappears during the Holy Night on the lips of the angel who says to the shepherds: “I bring you good news of a great joy” (Lk 2:10). It appears again—in John’s Gospel—at the encounter with the risen Lord: “The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (20:20). Jesus’ farewell discourses in Saint John’s Gospel present a theology of joy, which as it were illuminates the depth of this word. “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (16:22). Joy appears in these texts as the particular gift of the Holy Spirit, the true gift of the Redeemer. So a chord is sounded with the angel’s salutation which then resounds throughout the life of the Church. Its content is also present in the fundamental word that serves to designate the entire Christian message: Gospel—good news.

“Rejoice”—as we have seen—is in the first instance a Greek greeting, and to that extent this pronouncement by the angel immediately opens the door to the peoples of the world: the universality of the Christian message becomes evident. And yet this word is also taken from the Old Testament, and thus it expresses the complete continuity of biblical salvation history. Stanislas Lyonnet and Réne Laurentin in particular have shown that Gabriel’s greeting to Mary takes up and brings into the present the prophecy of Zeph 3:14-17: “Rejoice, daughter of Zion; shout, Israel… the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst.”

There is no need here to enter into a detailed textual comparison between the angel’s greeting to Mary and Zephaniah’s prophecy. The essential reason for the daughter of Zion to rejoice is stated in the text itself: “the Lord is in your midst” (Zeph 3:15,17). Literally it says: “he is in your womb.” Here Zephaniah is alluding to a passage in the Book of Exodus which speaks of God dwelling in the ark of the Covenant as dwelling “in Israel’s womb” (cf. Laurentin, Structure et Théologie, pp. 70f., with reference to Ex 33:3 and 34:9). This same word reappears in Gabriel’s message to Mary: “you will conceive in your womb” (Lk 1:31).
Whatever view is taken regarding the details of these parallels, there is clearly an inner resemblance between the two messages. Mary appears as the daughter of Zion in person. The Zion prophecies are fulfilled in her in an unexpected way. Mary becomes the Ark of the Covenant, the place where the Lord truly dwells.

“Rejoice, full of grace!” One further aspect of the greeting chaĩre is worthy of note: the connection between joy and grace. In Greek, the two words joy and grace (chará and cháris) are derived from the same root. Joy and grace belong together.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Symbolism of the Advent Wreath

Much of the symbolism associated with advent is associated with the Advent Wreath. The Advent wreath is typically a circular wreath made of evergreen branches with four candles: three purple and one pink (and some also prefer a white one, in the center) are arranged on the wreath. The evergreens used on the wreath symbolize hope and renewal. Because evergreens last so long without withering, they are a symbol for eternity, representing God who is unchanging. The circular shape of the wreath is also a symbol of eternity (Emmanuel: “God with us”) Decorations such as holly and ivy are sometimes used to signify the Passion and the pomegranate is used to symbolize the Church, (because of the countless seeds) and for the hope we place in the Resurrection.

The candles together symbolize Jesus the “light of the world.” The first purple candle for week one is the prophet's candle and symbolizes hope. The second purple candle for week two is the Bethlehem candle. It represents Christ's manger and symbolizes love. The third week is represented by a pink candle which is the shepherd's candle, symbolizing joy. The last purple candle, for the fourth week is the Angel's candle symbolizing peace. The final while candle in the middle, is lit on Christmas Eve and symbolizes Christ who has come into the world to save us from our sins.

Even the specific colors of the candles have meaning. The purple (violet) color is associated with repentance, a reminder to prepare internally for the Feast of Christmas, and is a color of royalty in anticipation of the birth of the King. Pink is used during the third Sunday of Advent representing joy and reminds us to rejoice in the birth of our Salvation. White is associated with purity and represents the sinlessness of Jesus.

During this Advent season may we all come to a greater love and intimacy with Christ Our King, who came to earth as a Babe, born of Mary, to lead us all to salvation in His Name.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Credo: The response of Faith

"Religion shall keep and justify the heart: it shall give joy and gladness." (Si. 1-18)

Credo, I believe, is a simple definition of what is meant by Religion.  Believing what God tells us through His own revelation is answering His call to a life of faith.  It is our response to God's Word to us.  To believe and live what we believe is answering a call to a life of service of God and our neighbor.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks about the human desire for God, and the way we come to know Him.

  • The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself.  Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for. (CCC 27) 

The Second Vatican Council reminds us that the dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God.  God willed that people should come to this perfect fulfillment in eternal life - in union with Him.  We are created to be with God and we will never be truly happy, whole, or complete until we have attain full union with Him.

This yearning for God accounts for the uneasiness, lack of fulfillment, and often dissatisfaction we experience  if we try to struggle through life without Him.  Money, self-satisfaction, power, or other finite realities can be a  temporary substitute and provide us with limited happiness. But we know that all these things fail to bring true peace of mind and contentment.  The beginnings of our seeds of faith can be found in the human longing for something more....and that more is God.

The Catechism reminds us that if we seek God we can know him through our human reason.  We can know God through His creation, the physical world around us and from the human person, the voice of conscience within him.  Truth is the conformity of our minds to reality, observation, reason and revelation.

We cannot rely on our own limited human experience alone, God manifests himself clearly through His own words to us, His revelation.  We could never come to know who God is without His direct intervention.  We need God's Revelation to enlighten us about those aspects that exceed our understanding, and about the religious and moral values that will lead us to Him.  God's plan is revealed by Himself, His plan of loving goodness, formed from all eternity in Christ, for the benefit of all men.

  • The divine plan of Revelation is realized simultaneously "by deeds and words which are intrinsically bound up with each other" and shed light on each other.  It involves a specific divine pedagogy: God communicates Himself to man gradually.  He prepares him to welcome by stages the supernatural Revelation that is to culminate in the person and mission of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. (CCC 53)
This is the beginning of our salvation, God's Revelation.  When we say "yes" to God, "I believe", we make an act of faith, a reply to His invitation to communion with Him.  He has given us a choice......what will you choose?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Why the Catechism of the Catholic Church?

So often I hear the comment, “I have not read a catechism since I was a small child.” And usually that comment comes from someone in retirement with their grandchildren already grown. This was an indication to me that many people today are not familiar with the Catechism of the Catholic Church published in 1992.

In a response to the lack of catechesis following the Second Vatican Council and a request by the bishops of the United States, Pope John Paul II established a worldwide commission of cardinals and bishops to create, and contribute to the formulation of a Catechism that encompassed all the truths of our Catholic Faith. The result was the publication of the Catechism. The other catechism printed was a result of the Council of Trent, known to many as the Baltimore Catechism.

During this year of faith, our Holy Father asked us to study the Catechism and delve more deeply into our Catholic Faith, to better practice and witness to our beliefs. Our reflections this year will highlight the wonderful text.

Why the Catechism?

Looking back on the Second Vatican Council, “the principal task entrusted to the Council was to guard and present better the precious deposit of Christian doctrine, in order to make it more accessible to the Christian faithful and to all people of good will.” (Fidei Depositum) But because some of the council documents have been interpreted in different ways, it became apparent that an authoritative compendium of the faith was not only desirable but necessary. (The Catholic Way, Bishop Donald Wuerl) At the Synod of Bishops in 1985, it was proposed that a new compendium of the faith be drawn up in light of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. This new catechism would function as a norm for all catechetical teachings.

The catechism, although not officially infallible, turns to “the teaching of Sacred Scripture, the living tradition in the Church and the authentic magisterium as well as the spiritual heritage of the Fathers and the saints of the Church” (Fidei Depositum 3)

Its foundation rests on the teachings of Jesus Christ. These teachings are contained in Scripture, and the living tradition of the Church. They are articulated by the magisterium, the teaching office of the bishops, and are found in the writings of the Fathers of the Church, and the saints who have lived out their faith in loving response to the will of God.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is designed for everyone. For Bishops, to have an authentic source of the faith, so they can gauge all catechetical efforts in their diocese. For priests and religious who are actively engaged in the formation of the faithful. And for each one of us, individually, to become better acquainted with the truths of our faith, so we can share them with others.

Each week on this blog, you will find some reflections on one of the truths of our faith  found in the Catechism.  Stay tuned.

If you are in our area, you are welcome to join us every Wednesday morning for a class and discussion from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Reflection for the Year of Faith

As we begin this Year of Faith, called for by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, it is cause for personal reflection.

No matter who you are or where you work, it is a good opportunity to take some time to ask yourself, What are the most important aspects of my life? What are my priorities, my future hopes and dreams?

Many of us would reflect on our families, job, the qualities or abilities we have, the activities that we are involved in, those things we would like to have in our retirement years. But taking a second look, we may discover that many priorities are fleeting, or can change with circumstance, or as we grow older, or as our children leave the house. We often see the temporal effect of our hopes and dreams.

If we are honest, our list would narrow and we would see that only those things that are unchanging are most important. We would re-discover the importance of our faith and our families.

During this Year of Faith, ask yourself, how important is your faith? Do you take it for granted? Having been baptized as a infant, or even converted as an adult, do you see yourself forgetful of that special gift from God? Have you put off your faith practices because you have made room for “other” things in your life?

Faith may not guarantee us a better job or more money, but faith is the foundation that gets us through the joys and struggles of life. Our Holy Father reminded us in his Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei, that Faith is a door that is “opened at our baptism, ushering us into the life of communion with God and entry into His Church”. To enter that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime....”to believe in one God who is Love” and to share this revelation of the Father through the Son, with all we come in contact.

So as we begin, let us make a good resolve to dive more deeply into the truths of our faith through study, prayer, and reflection, to better prepare ourselves to be a witness for Christ by the actions of our lives. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that to love God we must first strive to know Him. And we can know Him through the revelation of Jesus Christ. It is through the gift of faith God calls us close to Him and through faith that we respond to that call, our gift back to God.

As we seek to grow in our love of God and our understanding of Him, may we will grow in our trust of Him, and the realization that of ourselves we can do nothing without Him.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Coming "Year of Faith"

This year will be a good occasion for the faithful to understand more profoundly that the foundation of Christian faith is “the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” Founded on the encounter with the Risin Christ, faith can be rediscovered in its wholeness and all its splendor. “In our days too faith is a gift to rediscover, to cultivate and to bear witness to” because the Lord “grants each one of us to live the beauty and joy of being Christians.”

The beginning of the Year of Faith coincides with the anniversaries of two great events which have marked the life of the Church in our Days: the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, called by Blessed Pope John XXIII (October 11, 1962), and the twentieth year of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, given to the Church by Blessed Pope John Paul II, (October 11, 1992).

The Council, according to Pope John XXIII, wanted to transmit doctrine in such a way that “this sure and immutable teaching, which must be respected faithfully, is elaborated and presented in a way which corresponds to the needs of our time.” In this regard, the opening words of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentiusm, remain of primary importance: “Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this Sacred Synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Godpel to every creature, (cfr. Mk 16:15) to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the count. Beginning with the light of Christ, which purifies, illuminates and sanctifies in the celebration of the sacred liturgy (cfr. Sacrosanctum Concilium) and with His divine word (cfr Dei Verbum, the Council wanted to elaborate on the intimate nature of the Church (cfr Lumen Gentium) and its relationship with the contemporary world (cfr Gaudium et spes).

Around these four Constitutions, the true pillars of the Council, are arranged the Declarations and Decrees which address some of the major challenges of our day.

The Year of Faith is intended to contribute to a renewed conversion to the Lord Jesus and to the rediscovery of faith, so that the members of the Church will be credible and joy-filled witnesses to the Risen Lord in the world of today – capable of leading those many people who are seeking it to the “door of faith.” This “door” opens wide man's gaze to Jesus Christ, present among us “always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20) He shows us how “the art of living” is learned “in an intense relationship with him.”

Today too, there is a need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith.

PORTA FIDEI of the SupremePontiff Benedict XVI: For the Indication of the Year of Faith

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Eucharist, Life of the Spirit in our Hearts

On this 20th Sunday in Ordinary time, in the gospel reading we reflect upon the true Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, how it is necessary for us to “eat His body and drink His Blood: that we may have life in us. Blessed John Paul II in his encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem, The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World, reminds us how it is through the Holy Eucharist that the gifts of the Spirit are realized in our souls.
“The most complete sacramental expression of the “departure” of Christ through the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection is the Eucharist. In every celebration of the Eucharist his coming, his salvific presence, is sacramentally realized: in the Sacrifice and in Communion. It is accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit, as part of his own mission. Through the Eucharist the Holy Spirit accomplishes that “strengthening of the inner man” spoken of in the Letter to the Ephesians. Through the Eucharist, individuals and communities, by the action of the Paraclete-Counselor, learn to discover the divine sense of human life, as spoken of by the Council: that sense whereby Jesus Christ “fully reveals man to man himself,” suggesting “a certain likeness between the union of the divine persons, and the union of God’s children in truth and charity.” This union is expressed and made real especially through the Eucharist, in which man shares in the sacrifice of Christ which this celebration actualizes, and he also learns to “find himself...through a...gift of himself,” through communion with God and with others, his brothers and sisters.
For this reason the early Christians, right from the days immediately following the coming down of the Holy Spirit, “devoted themselves to the breaking of bread and the prayers,” and in this way they formed a community united by the teaching of the Apostles. Thus “they recognized” that their Risen Lord, who had ascended into heaven, came into their midst anew in that Eucharistic community of the Church and by means of it. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church from the beginning expressed and confirmed her identity through the Eucharist. And so it has always been, in every Christian generation, down to our own time, down to this present period when we await the end of the second Christian Millennium. Of course, we unfortunately have to acknowledge the fact that the Millennium which is about to end is the one in which there have occurred the great separations between Christians. All believers in Christ, therefore, following the example of the Apostles, must fervently strive to conform their thinking and action to the will of the Holy Spirit, “the principle of the Church’s unity,” so that all who have been baptized in the one Spirit in order to make up one body may be brethren joined in the celebration of the same Eucharist, “a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity!”
 Christ’s Eucharistic presence, his sacramental “I am with you,” enables the Church to discover ever more deeply her own mystery, as shown by the whole ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council, whereby “the Church is in Christ as a sacrament or sign and instrument of the intimate union with God and of the unity of the whole human race.” As a sacrament, the Church is a development from the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s “departure,” living by his ever new “coming” by the power of the Holy Spirit, within the same mission of the Paraclete-Spirit of truth. Precisely this is the essential mystery of the Church, as the Council professes.
While it is through creation that God is he in whom we all “live and move and have our being, “in its turn the power of the Redemption endures and develops in the history of man and the world in a double “rhythm” as it were, the source of which is found in the Eternal Father. On the one hand there is the rhythm of the mission of the Son, who came into the world and was born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit; and on the other hand there is also the rhythm of the mission of the Holy Spirit, as he was revealed definitively by Christ. Through the “departure” of the Son, the Holy Spirit came and continues to come as Counselor and Spirit of truth. And in the context of his mission, as it were within the indivisible presence of the Holy Spirit, the Son, who “had gone away” in the Paschal Mystery, “comes” and is continuously present in the mystery of the Church, at times concealing himself and at times revealing himself in her history, and always directing her steps. All of this happens in a sacramental way, through the power of the Holy Spirit, who, “drawing from the wealth of Christ’s Redemption,” constantly gives life. As the Church becomes ever more aware of this mystery, she sees herself more clearly, above all as a sacrament.
This also happens because, by the will of her Lord, through the individual sacraments the Church fulfills her salvific ministry to man. This sacramental ministry, every time it is accomplished, brings with it the mystery of the “departure” of Christ through the Cross and the Resurrection, by virtue of which the Holy Spirit comes. He comes and works: “He gives life.” For the sacraments signify grace and confer grace: they signify life and give life. The Church is the visible dispenser of the sacred signs, while the Holy Spirit acts in them as the invisible dispenser of the life which they signify. Together with the Spirit, Christ Jesus is present and acting.”

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Eucharistic Reflection

Inspiration for the day:

The Eucharist is the center of our Church life. “Jesus, Who is truly present in the Sacrament of the altar, with the supreme Sacrifice of love on the cross gives Himself to us, He becomes our food in order to assimilate us to Him, to bring us into communion with Him. Through this communion we are also united among ourselves, we become a single object in Him, members of one another.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

During this time of crisis in our country, let us renew our fervor for Adoration of Our Lord in the Eucharist.  He is our source of peace, strength and renewal. If the Eucharist continues to be the pulsating heart of all Church life, then the people of our country can be formed in His Truth.

Prayer Before the Blessed Sacrament

I adore You, O Jesus, God of Love, truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I adore You Who has come to Your Own but were not received by them. I adore You, Whom the majority of mankind rejected and despised. I adore You, Whom the impious incessantly are offend by their sacrileges and blasphemies. I adore You, Who are grieved by the coldness and indifference of a vast number of Christians. I adore You, O Infinite Goodness, Who has wrought so many miracles, in order to reveal Your love to us. I adore You, with all the angels and saints, and with those chosen souls that are now already the blessed of Your Father and are all aglow with burning love for You. I adore You with all Your friends, O Jesus! With them I prostrate myself at the foot of the Altar, to offer You my most profound homage, to receive Your Divine Inspiration, and to implore Your grace. Oh, how good it is for me to be here with You! How sweet to hear the Voice of my Beloved! O Victim of Divine Love! A piercing cry breaks forth from Your Heart here on the Altar, as it once did on Calvary; it is the cry of Love; "I thirst," You call to Your children, "I thirst for Your love! Come all, whom I love as My Father has loved Me; come and quench the thirst that consumes Me!

Lord Jesus, behold I come. My heart is small, but it is all Yours. You are a prisoner in our Tabernacles, You the Lord of Lords! And love it is, that holds You here as such! You leave the Tabernacle only to come to us, to unite Yourself with the faithful soul and allow Your Divine Love to reign within. O King of Love! Come, live and reign in me. I want no other law but the law of Your Love! No, no, I henceforth desire to know nothing, neither of this world nor of what is in it, nor of myself; Your Love alone shall rule in me eternally.

O Jesus, grant me this grace! Break all my fetters, strip me of all that is not of Yourself, in order that Your Love may be my life here below, and my happiness and delight in eternity. Amen.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Church Must Always Search for the Truth

In a speech to the world representatives for culture, in May of 2010,  the Holy Father reminded us that often the culture today reveals a tension which sometimes takes the place of a conflict between the present and tradition.  In light of the recent health mandate that poses a threat upon our conscience, perhaps his words will help us to see this through situation more clearly.

"This 'conflict' between tradition and the present finds expression in the crisis of truth,", the Pope affirmed. "A people no longer conscious of its own truth ends up by being lost in the maze of time and history, deprived of clearly-defined values and lacking great and clearly-formulated goals". And he went on: "Fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom and of the possibility of integral human development. For this reason the Church searches for truth, proclaims it tirelessly and recognizes it wherever it is manifested. This mission of truth is something that the Church can never renounce."

"For Christians, Truth is divine; it is the eternal 'Logos' which found human expression in Jesus Christ. ... The Church, in her adherence to the eternal character of truth, is in the process of learning how to live with respect for other 'truths' and for the truth of others. Through this respect, open to dialogue, new doors can be opened to the transmission of truth".

"The Church must enter into dialogue with the world in which she lives", said Pope Benedict quoting Pope Paul VI. "Dialogue, without ambiguity and marked by respect for those taking part, is a priority in today's world, and the Church does not intend to withdraw from it. ... Given the reality of cultural diversity, people need not only to accept the existence of the culture of others, but also to aspire to be enriched by it and to offer to it whatever they possess that is good, true and beautiful".

"Point out new worlds to the world", said the Holy Father quoting the poet Luis de Camoes, author of 'Os Lusiades'. You who are "forgers of thought and opinion", he told his audience, "have the opportunity to speak to the heart of humanity, ... to broaden the horizons of knowledge and of human engagement. Do not be afraid ... to enter into dialogue with believers, with those who, like yourselves, consider that they are pilgrims in this world and in history towards infinite Beauty!".

He continued his address: "Precisely so as 'to place the modern world in contact with the life-giving and perennial energies of the Gospel', Vatican Council II was convened. There the Church, on the basis of a renewed awareness of the Catholic tradition, took seriously and discerned, transformed and overcame the fundamental critiques that gave rise to the modern world, the Reformation and the Enlightenment. ... The Council laid the foundation for an authentic Catholic renewal and for a new civilisation - 'the civilisation of love' - as an evangelical service to man and society".

"The Church", Benedict XVI concluded, "considers that her most important mission in today's culture is to keep alive the search for truth, and consequently for God; to bring people to look beyond penultimate realities and to seek those that are ultimate".

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are without question GREAT GIFTS, necessary and important to be holy and pleasing to our Heavenly Father.  Each baptized Christian received the Holy Spirit, God's “first gift to those who believe.” (Eucharistic Prayer IV)  Although we cannot see the Holy Spirit, we can see what He does. The Divine Spirit guides the Church, is our advocate and makes us holy. The gifts of the Holy Spirit help us become stronger followers of Jesus, act as His disciples and share the good news about Jesus with others.
The Seven Gifts are called “gifts of the Holy Spirit” because the Holy Spirit gives them to us. Therefore they are supernatural gifts, working in a supernatural way in us. These are not gifts just for times of emergency, rather these are gifts that are present in us as long as we are in the state of grace (the soul is free of serious sin). The Seven Gifts assist us in living a life of holiness and virtue. They perfect the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and the other infused virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. These supernatural gifts give us a share in the very life and nature of God, help us be attentive and open to the Spirit and make us docile and obedient to His divine inspirations. The catechism identifies the seven gifts as wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.  (CCC 1830-31)
Through the sacraments of baptism and confirmation “we put on Christ,” and the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit become our gifts so that we may become signs of God's presence in the world.
Pope John Paul II said, "With gifts and qualities such as these  we are equal to any task and capable of overcoming any difficulties."

PRAYER FOR THE SEVEN GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT                                                                          
O Lord Jesus Christ, Who, before ascending into heaven, did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me, to perfect in my soul the work of Your grace and Your love. Grant me...
The Spirit of Fear - that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may avoid anything that may displease Him.
The Spirit of Piety - that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable.
The Spirit of Fortitude - that I may bear my cross with You, and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation.
The Spirit of Counsel - that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven.
The Spirit of Knowledge - that I may know God and know myself, and grow perfect in the science of the Saints.
The Spirit of Understanding - to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth.
The Spirit of Wisdom - that I may not be attached to the perishable things of this world, but aspire only after the things that are eternal.    
Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of Your true disciples, and animate me in all things with Your spirit. Amen.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day & the Church

Today our nation takes an opportunity to celebrate our mothers. We put aside a day for Mother's Day. Mother's Day actually did not begin inAmerica, but it began a couple of millennia ago. It began by people coming back to the church where they were baptized. They recognized that the Church was their mother at the baptismal font. So the idea was that they would celebrate a day when they would all go back to their mother church. All the converts would be there together, the ones from over the years, in the place where they were baptized. They would celebrate their faith and life that they had learned and received in that church. It did not take much time for people to say, "If we are going to be able to celebrate the supernatural life that we have through Holy Mother Church, then it is also fitting that on this day we should visit our mothers (our natural mothers) from whom we have natural life. 

That is the way Mother's Day began. First of all, by recognizing the life given to us by God in Baptism and to acknowledge that we wouldn't have the life of Baptism if we didn't have natural life, and that we received from our mothers. So we take the opportunity to think about motherhood on both of those levels.

Today is also the 95th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady of Fatima.  Just as a mother's dignity is connected with her bearing children, Mary's powerful mediation is also due to her being the Mother of God. Mother's love is proverbial. History and everyday life abounds with examples of mothers whose love and concern for their children inspired them to overcome seemingly insurmountable difficulties or endure tremendous hardships. God's love for us is compared to that of a mother. “Can a woman so forget her baby as not to have compassion on the child ofher womb? And if she should forget, I will never forget!” (Is.49:15). Even if the unthinkable would happen – that a mother would forget to love her child – even then God would still love us.

Our Blessed Mother appeared to three little children in Fatima, Portugal, as they were in the fields tending their sheep. Our Lady asked Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta to come to the same place, the Cova da Iria, on the 13th of the month for the next five months at noon. Our Lady's visit filled them with such delight that they could not help but speak of it. They did not know who she was, but simply spoke of a beautiful Lady who asked them to pray the Rosary.

Almost a century later, her message is still relevant. She asked the children to amend their lives and cease offending God, to pray the Rosary daily for world peace, to make reparation for sinners, to offer to God the sacrifice of doing ordinary daily duties well.  Appearing just before the end of World War I, Our Blessed Mother told her children that world peace was possible if people would pray and lead lives pleasing to God. 

As we honor our mothers – Holy Mother Church, Our Blessed Mother, our biological mothers, and those who have mothered us in any way – we are grateful for them and pray that we may always live in a manner that would please them.
Crowning of Our Lady of Fatima during May

Saturday, April 28, 2012

St. Louis de Montfort's True Devotion to Mary

St. Louis Marie de Montfort is a special patron saint in our community constitutions.  As Sisters of Our Mother of Divine Grace our spirituality and devotion to Mary is based on St. de Montfort's Treatise  on True Devotion to Mary. 

Over the past few decades, many have questioned devotion to Mary as subtracting or taking away from the dedication we should have to Christ.  Our recent Holy Father, Blessed John Paul II, confessed:  "At one point I began to question my own devotion to Mary, believing that, if it became too great, it might end up compromising the supremacy of the worship owed to Christ.... " (Gift and Mystery).  It was during his study for the priesthood that he was introduced to St. Louis de Montfort's, True Devotion to Mary, and realized after reading this text, that this devotion is actually ..."Christocentric, very profoundly rooted in the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, and the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption." (Crossing the Threshold of Hope, pp. 212-213).  After his election to the Pontificate, he took for his motto: "Totus tuus" (Totally Yours).  Blessed John Paul II, spoke often of how living in harmony with Mary, one can attain to the experience of the Father in limitless confidence and love, to docility to the Holy Spirit and to the transformation of self according to the image of Christ.

St. Louis lived in the later half of the 1600's, in France.  In his early years of study in the poor seminary, his own spirituality was much influenced by the French spirituality begun by Cardinal de Berulle. Its trinitarian/christocentrism, its devotion to Mary including the vow of servitude, its apostolic outreach, its love for sacred scripture (especially for the Pauline letters), its intense mysticism, its view that man on his own could attain nothing without Christ, were especially appealing to Montfort. These aspects of this spirituality, he developed in his own fashion.

As a young seminarian and priest, St. Louis was influenced by the spirit of the Jesuits, Sulpicians, Dominican and Franciscan spirituality.  He was devoted to preaching, and to the rosary, to the poverty of St. Francis, as well as the wisdom expressed by St. Bonaventure.  One of his own greatest works, is  a book entitled, “Love of the Divine Wisdom.”  He continually expressed God as Tenderness and Love.

In his Act of Total Consecration to Mary, found in his book: "True Devotion", he emphasizes that Consecration - Holy Slavery of Love - must be focused on Christ as final end or else it springs from the devil, that Jesus and Mary are "one heart," (St. John Eudes) so too the consecration response to Jesus and Mary is "one."  "The more one is consecrated to Mary, the more one is consecrated to Jesus." He does not counsel two separate consecrations, one to Jesus and one to Mary, but he teaches a consecration to  Mary is a consecration to Jesus and a consecration to Jesus according to scripture,  must have a Marian dimension. Jesus is the center, Our Lady is the means: "The Consecration of oneself to Jesus Christ, Wisdom Incarnate, through the hands of Mary." (True Devotion)

Other characteristics of this devotion are a total giving of one's self.  He spoke of this consecration as the perfect fulfillment of our sacramental Baptism in Christ.  Thus, we give all merits and satisfactions to Mary to apply where best needed. The idea of gaining merit was much talked about in his day.  This consecration is expressed in the Incarnation, the mystery of Jesus living in Mary.  God willed to come to us through Mary, it is His will we go to Him through her.  And this consecration is apostolic.  As a perfect renewal of baptism, it is of an evangelizing outreach, spurring Christians on to serve their brothers and sisters who are "the very portraits of Jesus Christ."

If you are interested in reading True Devotion to Mary, you can read the book online here.

0 Jesus living in Mary,
0 Jesus living in Mary,
Come and live in Thy servants,
In the spirit of Thy holiness,
In the fullness of Thy might,
In the truth of Thy virtues,
In the perfection of Thy ways,
In the communion of Thy mysteries;
Subdue every hostile power
In Thy spirit, for the glory of the Father. Amen.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lumen Christi!

I was reading this beautiful article on the Easter Vigil written by Pope Benedict XVI before His Pontificate. Christ is our Light, He freed us from sin and slavery! On this Feast of the Resurrection may we chant forever: Lumen Christi, Deo Gratias! Lead us to your Truth and Light! 

From Dogma and Preaching:

“During this holy night, the Church endeavors to convey the meaning of the mystery celebrated in the Easter vigil, the mystery of the Lord’s Resurrection. She does so in the language proper to her, which is the language of symbol. Three great symbols dominate the liturgy of this night of the Resurrection: light, water, and the “new song”, that is, the Alleluia.

First, light. This is one of mankind’s primal symbols. Whether in the North that thirsts for light or in the South that is intoxicated by light, for men everywhere it has become the image of the mysterious divine power that they know sustains them in existence. In fact, at one time light was much more than an image to people. Augustine himself was still so deeply moved by the resplendent beauty of light that he dared write: “Christ is not called ‘light’ in the same way that he is called ‘cornerstone’. The latter name is applied to him by metaphor, whereas the former is meant in a literal sense” (De Genesi ad litteram IV, 28, 45). Earthly light is the most direct reflection of God’s reality and gives us our best glimpse of him who dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim 6:16).

During the two great holy nights of the Church year, Christmas and Easter, the symbolism of light fuses with the symbolism of night. On both occasions, the Church uses the interplay of night and light to show symbolically what the content of the feast in question is: the encounter of God and the world, the victorious entry of God into a world that refuses him room and yet in the end cannot prevent him from taking it.

This Christ-centered drama of light and darkness, of God and the world as they encounter each other, begins on Christmas, when God knocks on the door of a world that rejects him even though it belongs to him (Jn 1:5-11). But the world cannot prevent his coming. He himself becomes “world” in becoming a man. His coming seems a defeat of the light, which becomes darkness, but at the same time it is the first, hidden victory of the light, since the world has not been able to prevent God from coming, however carefully it may have barred the doors of its inns.

Now, on Easter, the drama reaches its central act and climax. The darkness has used its ultimate weapon, death. In orderly judicial fash­ion, it has declared Truth and Love to be the chief criminals of world history and has condemned the light-bringer. But the Resurrection ef­fects the great reversal. Light has won the victory and now lives on invincibly. Most important of all, it has made a bit of the world its own and transformed it into itself.

Of course, with that the drama is not yet over. Its end is still to come; it will arrive with the Parousia of the Lord. It is still night, al­beit a night in which a light has been lit. When the Lord comes again, the day will last forever.

This great drama of history, in which we live out our own lives, is the background for the liturgy of the Paschal candle with which the celebration of the Easter vigil begins. The church building, in the darkness of night, where you cannot see anything and people stumble and bump into one another—is this not in fact an image of our world? A world that, despite all our scientific knowledge and all our social achievements, is still in deep darkness. In fact, it often seems darker than ever. Despite all our specialized knowledge, the meaning of the whole has become increasingly incomprehensible, even for the believer who often enough is dismayed by the seeming absence of God, who cannot be found in worldly commotion. Who can fail to be deeply affected by the monstrous eclipse of God that we feel in Reinhold Schneider’s Winter in Vienna? And who can deny that, amid all the everyday conveniences that cover all questions with a security blanket, he suddenly senses from time to time something of this eclipse of God that seems at a single stroke to call everything into question? Who is there who is not forced like Cardinal Newman to utter a plea into the night around him: “O God, you can bring light into the darkness! You alone can do it!” And who is unaware of how men come into conflict and are stumbling blocks to one another in this night that covers the world and so often conceals, not only the ultimate things, but even what is near at hand (our neighbor!)?

As we wait in the pitch-dark church for the Easter light, we should experience the consoling realization: God is aware of the night that surrounds us. In fact, he has already kindled his light at the heart of it. “Light of Christ!—Thanks be to God!” The night enables us to appreciate what the light is. It is brightness that enables us to see; that shows the way and gives direction; that helps us to know both others and ourselves. It is warmth that strengthens and quickens, that con­soles and gladdens. Finally, it is life, and this tiny quivering flame is an image of the wonderful mystery that we call “life” and that is in fact profoundly dependent on light.

Soon the entire church is radiant with the bright light of the candles everyone is holding. Then it is no longer merely a celebration of the Resurrection; it is a foreshadowing of the Second Coming of the Lord, whom we are advancing to meet with lamps lit. It is a glimpse of the great eschatological feast of light, an anticipation of the wedding feast of God that is illumined by the gleam of countless candles. Something of the joy that marks a wedding should overwhelm us on this night so bright with candles.

And also, of course, the question: “Will I be one of those who sit at God’s table? Will my lamp have enough oil for the everlasting wed­ding feast?” But perhaps it is even more Christian to ask ourselves the right questions about the present. The world is indeed dark, but even a single candle suffices to bring light into the deepest darkness. Did not God give us a candle at baptism and the means of lighting it? We must have the courage to light the candle of our patience, our trust, our love. Instead of bewailing the night, we must dare to light the little lamp that God has loaned us: “Light of Christ!—Thanks be to God!”

Friday, April 6, 2012

His Mother's Heart is Pierced!

Today is Good Friday.....Good because Christ is all goodness and love!  As we contemplate the scenes of the Passion of Our Savior, let us look to the example of Mary who played an important role in this great drama of our Salvation.  I once read a book entitled: "The Ascent to Calvary" written by Pere Louis Perroy in french and later translated into english.  There was an inspiring chapter on the Sorrowful Mother that I have used often in meditation.  Here is a summary.

Behold your Mother!

We cherish memories of our friends and memories of our mothers but a mother's memory in all that relates to her child is more tenacious.  It reaches back to the child's first days and only to the mother as she looks upon her child grown to adulthood, can she fix her gaze upon the babe she once held in her arms.  She remembers the joys and sorrows of each particular insident in her child's life.  And too often, mothers would like to keep their children always in their arms, always dependent upon their loving care. 

I would like to imagine that Mary had these same sentiments.  On this fateful day, as She follows her Son to His death, a death that She knew had to come about for each one of us, She could still see the Child of Bethlehem and Nazareth, recalling in her memory those blessed days of intimacy. Indeed, in our own lives when faced with hours of trial and grief, the sorrow is more intense when we remember lost happiness.

But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. (Luke 2:19).

The Child grew in grace and years; Mary remembered the first words of those lips that on Calvary were smeared with blood, she recalled with what sweetness they had formed the name of Mary! Now She is hearing the prayer of forgiveness: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."  Exile ceases to be exile when the soul possesses Jesus.  Even now, watching Jesus suffer and die, Mary knew that in possession of His love, all things would be made new! When He was a Child, she had kissed and fondled Him; a few years later, He had become her inspiration. She would listen to His words and follow His works.  She had truly chosen the better part.

She knew that His great mission absorbed the Messiah.  She knew that He had come to do the will of His Father, and She was called to follow.  Even in His earliest years, the Mother discerned the shadow of the cross.  And today, the scriptures tell us that She stood in the shadow of that cross, not as in a vision but as a hard reality!

Jesus' last will and testment to His followers on Calvary was to entrust us to the loving care of His Mother.  "Woman, behold your son, son behold your Mother."  And in this action, Mary embrased us and all the sorrow that was hers on Calvary.  To cling to the cross that crushes us is to be bathed in the blood of Jesus.  To stand valiant under the blows of suffering is to be like the Mother of Sorrows, who willingly gave her Son for our redemption.

Pope Benedict has reminded us in an address on the Annunciation: "In this Lenten Season we often contemplate Our Lady, who on Calvary sealed the "yes" she pronounced at Nazareth. United to Christ, Witness of the Father's love, Mary lived martyrdom of the soul. Let us call on her intercession with confidence, so that the Church, faithful to her mission, may offer to the whole world a courageous witness of God's love."

May the gifts of repentance and a heart filled with forgiveness be your grace on this Good Friday!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Betrayal of Jesus: Wednesday of Holy Week

Betrayal of Christ: Giovanni Barbieri
Today's gospel is a poignant reminder of our own human nature.  It is difficult to meditate upon the betrayal of Our Lord by Judas, and much easier to dismiss this portion of the gospel, as not relevant to one's own life.  Looking closer at the account of this gospel passage, we have much to learn about our own frailty.

When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; and as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Is it I, Master?” He said to him, “You have said so.” (Matt. 26: 21-25)

The more we address the failure on the part of the disciples of Our Lord to follow Him to His death, or address the betrayal of one of His chosen ones, we must look into our own lives.  Since the treachery of Judas, to be betrayed by a loved one has ever been the keenest suffering known to the human heart. Jesus suffered this disappointment, betrayal, and humiliation to gain for us the necessary strength to endure similar trails and to realize that God does not spare this to those who aspire to resemble His Son. And truly, in a small degree, this is one aspect of the passion that comes home to each one of us.

Origin tells us: "I believe that each of the disciples knew from the things Jesus had taught them that human nature is unstable and vulnerable to be turned toward sin and that in struggling “against the principalities and powers and rulers of this world of darkness” a man can be besieged and fall or be so weakened by the power of the enemy that he becomes evil."
Our human nature is frail and needs to be well guarded.  In the case of Judas, never was a man more forewarned about himself or his tendencies.  The obstinance of the sinner is a deep mystery.  God has given each of us the ability to choose the tremendous love He offers or to reject it.  And we know that it is only through His grace, that we can overcome those human weaknesses that cause us to choose evil.   Jesus endured this specific suffering to show us that our strength and consolation must be in Him.  There would have been forgiveness for Judas, even after his betrayal, if only he would have turned in humility and repentance to Christ.
Christ taught his apostles and disciples to confront evil with good.  A new law of charity, something strange in their day and unfortunately not all that strange in our own.   To do good to those who injure us, to pray for those who persecute us, to forgive insults, to smile at those who wound us, to be patient with the violent and overbearing.  This is the Divine law of love which truly frees us, and transforms us into the life of Christ.

As we begin the Sacred Triduum, let us ask for this gift of Divine charity that was won for us at such a horrifying price.  Let us look deep inside ourselves to see where we have failed and seek His love and forgiveness, then we can genuinely give it to others.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Holy Week: Palm Sunday

As I was waiting in Church this morning for the ceremonies of Palm Sunday to begin, I was thinking about the Jewish people long ago who welcomed Jesus as their King.  Laying palm or tree branches was a common custom in ancient times to show one's homage and honor.  “Hosanna to the Son of David, they cried and Hosanna in the highest, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.....Hosanna in the highest, we cry today every time we attend Mass. Today we again enter Jerusalem with Christ. But behind the palm branches, the shouts of joy, the stage is set for the ignominious drama of His passion.  Another procession which will wend its way up the hill of Calvary.

What kind of people could one day proclaim shouts of joy and hail Jesus as King and a few days later, desert Him, jeer at Him, and clamor for His death?  Am I one of those?  As the Reading of the Passion was begun, I was profoundly struck by Peter's protest, even though I must die with you, I will not deny you. Do I have that commitment to Christ?  Earlier in our gospel readings, Peter had protested when Our Lord tried to warn the apostles of His coming death, No,Lord, that can never come to pass! But the meaning of Christ's words where hidden from Peter then.  He, like the others, did not understand the necessity of Christ's passion.  We too, often find it impossible to understand the the reasons for our own interior, personal, or public “Calvaries” which we must undergo.  God often uses our whole existence in an endeavor to make us understand the necessity of suffering.

As we walk through this Holy Week, let us do so with Peter, who in his own old age, when he understood all, would be delivered to the same cross and suffer the same death as His Lord, having found His strength in Christ.  Let us allow the mercy and love of Christ poured out in His passion to be our reason to continue our Hosanna's and proclamation of Christ as our King.

Palm Sunday in Rome, 2009

Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Hear I am, Lord"

"At a crucial time in history, Mary offered herself, her body and soul, to God as a dwelling place. In her and from her the Son of God took flesh. Through her the Word was made flesh (cf. Jn 1:14)” (Pope Benedict XVI)

It is in this reverential hearing, portrayed by the Annunciation, that we can learn from Mary, who received this heavenly message while she was intent on meditating upon the Sacred Scriptures. As a humble handmaid of the Divine Word, she shows us how to be ever ready to hear the will of God, expressed to us through His Word, and through His Church. As we contemplate this attitude of Mary, ever ready to do the Lord's will, let us awaken in our own hearts that readiness to follow God wherever He may lead us.

As the primary feast of our religious community, Mary in the Annunciation gives us an example of her loving abandonment and trust in Divine Providence. She accepts with personal generosity God's love poured out upon her, and is fully active in her response to His great love. Upon hearing of St. Elizabeth's condition, she rises up to carry in her womb, the Incarnate Love, who has come to save us from our sins. She in truth can be called the first disciple of Jesus, the first evangelizer of the Lord. St. Augustine tells us of Mary; “Before conceiving the Lord in her body, she had already conceived Him in her soul.” From her we can learn to make room for Jesus to dwell in our hearts and souls and thereby bring Him to all that we meet.

If you are consecrated to Mary, according to St. Louis de Montfort's Consecration, don't forget to renew your consecration today on this Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. A plenary indulgence is granted by the Church.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

St. Joseph, Guardian of Christ

Sacro Cuore di Gesù a Castro Pretorio, Rome
Altar of St. Joseph
So much has been said about St. Joseph, protector and guardian of the Virgin and her Son, the Eternal Word.  Scripture mentions St. Joseph, fifteen times, attributing to him the title of the a “just man” (Matt. 1:19), which flows from his relationship with Christ and His Mother.   

While St Joseph has no words attributed to him, his silence speaks volumes.

Through the silence of St. Joseph, we can hear the echo of Mary's instructions to the servants at the wedding of Cana, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)  St. Joseph trusted the appearance of the angel who told him in a dream not to be afraid to take Mary to be his wife, (cf. Matt. 1:20-21)  and to take the child and His mother and flee to Egypt. (Matt. 2: 13-15) By his silent self giving and contemplation in the role that was assigned to him, he shows us the perfect path to holiness: following the will of God. 

In 1870, on December 8th, Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, and asked his guidance not only upon the Vicar of Christ on earth, but also as protector and guide of all families and members of the Church, who make up Christ's mystical body.

“St. Joseph is the protector par excellence of the family, along with the other two of whom he was the incomparable guardian. The simple mention of Jesus, Mary and Joseph reminds us that there [in the Holy Family] we find all human history and there we find also the salvation, the grandeur, the beauty, the splendor of the Catholic Church.”
( Homily, Pope John XXIII)

Pope John XXIII earned the title of “St. Joseph's Pope", because of his great devotion.  Having contemplated taking “Joseph” as his name when elected to the Pontificate and only deferring  due to a lack of precedent, he nevertheless showed his devotion by naming St. Joseph patron of the Second Vatican Council and adding St. Joseph's name to the Canon of the Mass. (December 8, 1962, ninety-two years after St. Joseph was proclaimed the Patron of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX.)

On this feast of St. Joseph, let us imitate his example by striving to do the will of God. To sanctify our family life after his example, as we keep our eyes fixed on Christ.   
St. Joseph patron of the universal Church, and family life, pray for us!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday, Second Week of Lent - San Clemente

San Clemente, one of the oldest churches in Rome, is unique for its structure of two superimposed churches sitting above vast subterranean grounds containing the remains of the house of Clement, and other roman buildings.

Relics of St. Clement
The relics of St. Clement, the third successor of St. Peter, can be found enshrined in this Basilica by Pope Adrian II, around 839. His relics were brought back to Rome by St. Cyril and Methodius, the Apostles to the Slavs. Later the remains of St. Ignatius of Antioch were also reposed here.

On the Feast of St. Clement in November, the sisters decided to travel to this Church after work to pray Vespers before his tomb. To our surprise, we were able to participate in a procession throughout the neighboring streets, with a live band, fireworks, and continuous singing. It was truly a magnificent display which showed the Italian spirit and love for their parish patron. After the procession, Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, OP offered Mass. 

Procession in the streets with fireworks

Entering the Basilica after the Procession

Homily, Archbishop Di Noia. OP

On the Monday of the Second Week in Lent, we gathered at San Clemente, for early morning Mass. The older church with some beautiful surviving frescoes, as well as, some older Roman structures including the Temple to Mithras, can be seen.
Mass offered on Monday, Second Week of Lent

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Second Sunday of Lent: Santa Maria in Dominica

Saturday of the First Week of Lent was traditionally celebrated at St. Peter's Basilica due to ordinations to the deaconate.  So I decided to skip this Stational Church because St. Peter's will be visited later.

The Station Church for the Second Sunday in Lent is the Basilica of Santa Maria in Dominica.  A beatiful but small anicent Church where the early Christians gathered on Sundays to celebrate Mass.  It was on this spot in the house of the Lord Dominicum, where they took refuge to pray together.  It is said to have been here that St. Lawrence distributed the goods of the Church to the poor, before he was arrested, put in prison and died on the gridiron.

This Second Sunday of Lent was a beautiful crisp day in Rome.  So we packed a picnic lunch and headed up the Via della Navicella. There is a small sculpture of a boat which stands near the church because it was once named Santa Maria in Navicella.  In the apse of the Church is an image of the Blessed Virgin enthroned holding the Christ Child in the center, surrounded by saints, with Pope St. Paschal I at her feet.  This is the first instance in the West of an image such as this with the Blessed Virgin in the center. We attended Mass with the local Italian people who are regular parishioners of this ancient parish, because the North American Pontifical College only sponsors the Stational Masses during the week.  After Mass, we walked to a small but beautiful park to have our picnic. In the city of Rome, you cannot find grass, but since we were past the Colosseum, there were some lovely places to stop.  Sunday is a family day for the Italians and there were many that day playing with their children.  We were also able to visit a few other churches in the area.  In Rome, you never know what you will find upon entering one of these sacred places.

Today, March 4th, is also the Feast of St. Casimir although the Sunday supercedes this feast, it is appropriate to mention him.

Let us take St. Casimir as our companion along our journey of Lent. Although he was born into Polish nobility, he lived a holy life from his earliest years. He not only avoided sin, he shunned anything that seemed to be self-indulgent. Spending most of the night in prayer, he often slept on the ground. But what was most noticeable was his serenity and cheerfulness, especially to the sick and the poor. In honor of Our Lady, he frequently recited the hymn which we know today as “Daily, Daily Sing to Mary.”

Like St. Casimir, we are born, though Baptism into a noble family – Jesus Christ the King of Kings is our Brother. His normal life appears to be an ideal Lenten observance – praying, practicing virtue, caring for our brothers and sisters in need.
St. Casimir, pray for us that we may resemble Christ more closely.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday, First Week of Lent: Santi XII Apostoli

During our first summer here in Rome, we were privileged to spend some time at the Church which marks today's Station; Santi XII Apostoli.  Facing away from the Victor Emmanuel Monument, to the right of the Piazza, you will find Via Apostoli.  It was about a 15 min. walk from our dwelling at the Domus Santa Maria.

The earliest record of this Basilica of the Holy Apostles dates to the time of Julius I, mid-fourth century.  Around 570,  Pope John III dedicated the Basilica to the Apostles when the relics of Ss. Philip and James the Lesser were placed beneath the high altar.  Home to the Franciscans who care for the Basilica, you can see evidence of the their spirituality, when the Basilica was renovated through the years.

The Basilica is dazzling when the chandeliers are on.  Something you only see when there is a public Mass held in the Church. A splendid array of light reminding one that Christ is the true Light of this World.  In December, the Franciscan hold a Novena in honor of the Immaculate Conception.  We were able to attend a few of these evening celebrations.  Behind the high altar is a masterpiece depiction of the martyrdom of St. Philip, however, during the Novena of the Immaculate Conception, this painting is covered with a beautiful illuminated image of Our Lady. The novena consists of a special Holy Hour, homily on an advent theme, concluded with the celebration of Mass each night before the feast. 

High Altar, during the Novena of the Immaculate Conception

If you get the chance to visit Rome, don't miss the opportunity to visit the tombs of St. Philip and St. James.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thursday, First Week of Lent: San Lorenzo in Panisperna

The #40 bus that runs from the Vatican to the Victor Emmanuel monument, picked up one block from the Domus Santa Maria.  As today is the ninth day our pilgrimage, it was grand to see the bus packed with seminarians and other students headed for San Lorenzo in Panisperna to attend Mass.  We were all one big family in Christ.   

Beautiful depiction of the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence over the altar

St. Lawrence, martyred around 258, was one of the most beloved saints both in Rome and throughout Latin Christendom.  A deacon of the Roman Church, he found himself faced with the task of administering the Church after the arrest of Pope Sixtus II and four of his fellow deacons in the Catacombs of Callixtus. Meeting the pope while he was being led away to prison and execution, Lawrence begged to be able to accompany him.  The pope turned this request down, giving the deacon charge of the temporal goods of the church, while telling him that the deacon would follow his bishop in four days time.  Lawrence then went forth and gave away the material goods of the church to the poor in the city.  Soon he in turn was arrested and brought before the magistrates. When they demanded the treasures of the Church, Lawrence turned to the poor, saying that these were the true treasures of the Church.  Enraged, the Romans cast him into a dark prison cell near the site of today’s church.  There, he converted the jailer and his family.  He was then condemned to be burnt alive over a gridiron set up on the site of today’s station.  On the 10th  August 258, St. Lawrence suffered and died for his steadfast faith in Christ.  "Turn me over, I’m done on this side", he said to his executioners as he neared the end of his torture, and thus he passed from this world to the glory of the kingdom of God.

As we continue our lenten journey, although we may not be physical martyrs for Christ, we can profess our love through many acts of kindness to our neightbor, repentence for our sins, and forgiveness toward others.  

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday, First Week of Lent: Mary, Major Basilica

This first week of Lent always saw the observance of the spring Ember days.  These ember days occuring on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, were instituted for the purpose of consecrating to God the new season, and to pray and fast for those who were to receive Holy Orders on Saturday. Although, they are not observed now, it is good to pray for priests during this week.

Today's Station Church is the greatest and most illustrious of all the Roman Churches consecrated to Mary, the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Tradition has it that the Virgin Mary herself inspired the choice of the Esquiline Hill for the church's construction. Appearing in a dream to both the Patrician John and Pope Liberius, she asked that a church be built in her honor on a site she would miraculously indicate.

The morning of August 5th, the Esquiline Hill was covered with a blanket of snow. The pope traced out the perimeter of the basilica in the snow, and John financed the construction of the new church.

The present Basilica dates back to the fifth century AD. Its construction was tied to the Council of Ephesus of 431 AD, which proclaimed Mary Theotokos, Mother of God. Sixtus III commissioned and financed the project as Bishop of Rome. The unique quality of St. Mary Major comes from the fifth century mosaics, commissioned by Sixtus III, that run along the nave and across the triumphal arch. The nave mosaics recount four cycles of Sacred History featuring Abraham, Jacob, Moses and Joshua; seen together, they are meant to testify to God's promise of a land for the Jewish people and His assistance as they strive to reach it.

The triumphal arch is composed of four images. The first, in the upper left, shows the Annunciation, with Mary robed like a Roman princess. She holds a spindle as she weaves a purple veil for the Temple where she serves. The story continues with the Annunciation to Joseph, the Adoration of the Magi and the Massacre of the Innocents. In this last scene, there is a woman in a blue robe facing away from the other women; she is St. Elizabeth, fleeing with her son John the Baptist in her arms. The upper right illustrates the Presentation in the Temple, and the Flight into Egypt.

The central medallion of the apse shows the Coronation of the Virgin while the lower band illustrates the most important moments of her life.

In this mosaic, Mary is not only seen as mother but as Mother Church, bride of her Son. The sun, the moon and a choir of adoring angels are arranged around their feet, while St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Francis of Assisi along with Pope Nicholas IV flank them on the left. On the right, Torriti portrayed St. John the Baptist, St. John the Evangelist, St. Anthony and the donor, Cardinal Colonna.

In the lower apse, mosaic scenes showing the life of the Madonna are arranged to the left and right of the central panel, which represents the Dormition of the Virgin and is situated directly below the image of the Coronation. This way of describing the death of Mary is typical of Byzantine iconography, but was also widely diffused in the West after the Crusades.
The Confession, or reliquary crypt, lies before the main altar, and was constructed at the behest of Pope Pius IX to contain the sacred relic of the Holy Crib. The crystal reliquary, shaped like a crib, contains pieces of ancient wood which tradition holds to be part of the manger where the Baby Jesus was laid. A statue of Pope Pius IX kneeling before the ancient wooden pieces of the manger serves as an example to the faithful who come to see the first humble crib of the Savior.

The Pauline chapel, built by Pope Paul V in the 1600's, holds the icon of the Salus Populi Romani. Believed to be painted by St. Luke, She is also called by the title, Our Lady of the Snows.

Let us pray to God that we may be strengthened in mind by the fruit of good works, while we mortify our bodies through prayer and fasting.  Mary, Mother of God, and Mother of Sorrows, intercede for us to your Son, Jesus Christ.