Friday, November 29, 2013

Season of Advent, Prepare for the Lord!

Today we begin the season of Advent, actually New Year’s Day of the Church Year. It is a season that brings back fond memories of childhood practices: lighting the Advent wreath each day at dinnertime, putting straws in a manger after performing an act of charity, making gifts for each family member, putting out shoes on St. Nicholas’ Eve to find them full of goodies in the morning, praying the Advent prayer “Hail and Blessed”...(found below)  Traditionally, Advent is a time, when like St. John the Baptist, we prepare a way for the Lord. We give ourselves the chance to see the presence of God to commune with Him, to discover His plan for us.

Each season of the Church year brings with it a special grace for us. Just as on holidays we often make time to visit with friends and relatives, God wants to visit us and give us the grace of the season? Each day of Advent spend some time in prayer before Our Lord in the Eucharist and together search for answers.

If Advent is just a time of consumerism, we have missed the boat. The greatest gift, the one and only gift of Christmas is Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer. Jesus is the gift that God wants to give us this Advent. He is always willing to give, but it is up to us to unwrap the Father’s gift to behold His face. We can do this by using Advent to renew and deepen our relationship with God.

Advent is the time to step back and reflect on such questions as “What is my relationship with Jesus Christ?” How does this relationship color every aspect of my life?” "Am I just a follower of Jesus, or am I really His disciple?"  There is so much persecution of Christians going on in our world today, even in subtle ways. But if we were on trial simply for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us?

At the same time, Advent is a time of joy and expectation. Our God is coming to save us. As a newlywed couple anticipates the birth of their first child, there are many things they must attend to. However, with the million and one details the thought of their expected child is never far from their mind. It makes me wish I was a fly on the wall in the little house where Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph lived before they made the journey to Bethlehem. The joy and anticipation must have been awesome!  May we in spirit shadow Mary and Joseph during their time together before the birth of Jesus that first Advent and learn from them how to unwrap our Gift from the Father!
___________________________

Pray this Advent prayer each day (15 times) asking for the gift of renewed faith, and to prepare your hearts to receive the gift of Christ on Christmas!
Hail and blessed be the hour and the moment in which the Son of God was born, of the most pure  Virgin Mary, at midnight in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold.  In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my petitions, through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Feast of Christ the King of the Universe

Today is the last Sunday of the Church Year, the Solemnity of Christ the King.  I always feel like standing up and asking the choir to sing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah on this day.  The lyrics, amid many Hallelujah's and repetitions, bespeak the feast:  "For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth..The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ...And He shall reign for ever and ever...King of kings and Lord of lords."  Of course, a mighty organ and a few trumpets with a hundred or so voices also add to the glory of this proclamation of Jesus Christ our Sovereign King.

The Feast of Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925.   In 1970, this Feast was moved by Pope Paul VI to the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year to signify its' eschatological importance, and was raised to the rank of Solemnity.

What does the Kingship of Christ mean for us?  If Jesus Christ is our Lord and King, we must belong completely to him.  We allow Him to reign over our minds by firmly believing revealed truths.  We allow Him to reign over our wills by choosing to obey the laws and precepts of God.  We allow Him to reign over our hearts by loving Him above all things.  We allow Him to reign over our bodies by using created things as instruments for our sanctification.
And how blessed we are that we belong to Jesus Christ, who is our Sovereign King.  He is "my Father, my merciful God, my great King, my good Shepherd, my only Master, my best helper, my beloved friend of overwhelming beauty, my living Bread, my eternal priest, the guide to my heavenly home, my one true light, my holy joy, my true way, my shining Wisdom, my unfeigned Simplicity, the peace and harmony of my soul, my perfect safeguard, my bounteous inheritance, my everlasting salvation." (True Devotion to Mary, 66)  He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End of all things.  He is the Way we must go, the Truth we seek to know and the Life we strive to live.  

Pope Benedict tells us that "Christ is so intrinsically king that the title 'King" has actually become his name.  By calling ourselves Christian, we label ourselves as followers of this King."

Let us rejoice as we give thanks and praise to God for all our many blessings.  Let our grateful lives evidence our faith and love in the Almighty who so marvelously created, redeemed and sanctifies us.  May we prove worthy of so good and great a King!
Christus Vincit, Christus Regnat, Christus Imperat!


"It has long been a common custom to give to Christ the metaphorical title of "King," because of the high degree of perfection whereby he excels all creatures. So he is said to reign "in the hearts of men," both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind." (Quas Primas, Pope Pius XI)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

It is the Lord who Saves Us

Pope Francis gave a homily at the Mass offered at the entrance to the monumental cemetery of Verano in Rome.  Here are excepts from his homily provided by the Vatican Information Service.
(If you are interested in following Pope Francis and hearing what he has to say to the world, you can sign up for an email from the Vatican Information Service.  (http://www.news.va/en)

“At this time, before sunset”, said the Pope in his homily, “we are gathered in this cemetery to think about our future and about all those who are no more, those who have gone before us in life and are now in the Lord … in the Lord God, beauty, goodness, truth, tenderness, full love. All this awaits us. Those who have preceded us and are departed to the Lord are there. They proclaim that they have been saved not only for their works – they have also done good works – but that they have been saved by the Lord. … It is He Who saves us, it is He Who at the end of our life leads us by the hand like a father, to the Heaven where our ancestors await us”.

“We can enter heaven only thanks to the blood of the lamb, the blood of Christ … that has justified us, that has opened the doors to Heaven to us. And if today we recall these brothers and sisters of ours who have preceded us in life and are now in Heaven, it is because they have been washed by the blood of Christ. This is our hope: the hope of the blood of Christ! A hope that does not disappoint. If we walk the path of life with the Lord, He never disappoints us”.

Francis went on to cite the passage in the Gospel of St. John: “'See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him'. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is”. To see God is “to be similar to God: this is our hope. And today, precisely on the day of All Saints and before the day of All Souls, it is necessary to think a little about hope: this hope that accompanies us in life. The first Christians depicted hope as an anchor, as if life was the anchor thrown to the shores of Heaven and all of us set forth towards that shore, grasping the rope of the anchor. It is a beautiful image of hope: to anchor our hearts where our dearly departed await us, where the saints, Jesus and God are. It is the hope that does not disappoint us. Today and tomorrow are days of hope”.

Hope, he continued, “is like leaven, that enlarges the soul; there are difficult moments in life, but with hope the soul forges ahead and looks to what awaits us. … Hope also purifies us, and lightens us: this purification in hope in Jesus Christ allows us to go on swiftly. As the sun starts to set today, each one of us can think of the sunset of our own lives”. And if we look forward with joy to being welcomed by the Lord, “this is a Christian thought, that brings peace to us. Today is a day of joy, but it is a serene and tranquil joy, the joy of peace. Let us think of the sunsets of the many brothers and sisters who have preceded us, and let us think of our own sunset, when it arrives. And let us think of our hearts, and ask ourselves, 'Where is my heart anchored?' If it is not anchored well, let us anchor it there, on that shore, in the knowledge that hope never disappoints, because the Lord Jesus never disappoints”.

At the end of the Mass, the Pope blessed the tombs and concluded, “I would like to pray especially for our brothers and sisters who have died seeking freedom, a more worthwhile life. We have seen the photographs depicting the cruelty of the desert; we have seen the sea where many have drowned. Let us pray for them. And let us also pray for the survivors, who now languish in shelters, in the hope that the necessary legal procedures will be completed swiftly so that they might move on to other more comfortable places, in other centres”.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Priesthood Sunday, Last Sunday in October

The reasons for today's celebration of Priesthood Sunday should be obvious. The number of priests per Catholic has declined over the past 40 years. This makes it more difficult for individual parishioners to establish a close relationship with any one particular Pastor.  Furthermore, priests are no longer the only ones who offer pastoral care to our people. Yet without a priest, no parish is able to be a Eucharistic community. It is important to reaffirm the importance of the priesthood of Jesus Christ and its central place in the life of our Church.

Pope Emeritus Benedict has said that the function of priests is essential and irreplaceable in announcing the Word and celebrating the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist.  Consequently, it is vital to ask the Lord to send workers into His harvest and that these workers are faithful to their identity.

Please join me on this special day, Priesthood Sunday, in praying for all priests, in praising God for their courage and their generosity. Think of the priests who have made a difference in your lives:  the priest who baptized you, the priests who gave you the blessing of the sick or were present at family gatherings, the priests who married you or buried a loved one, the priests from whom you received the Eucharist or the sacrament of reconciliation.  A simple note, a smile or a phone call will assure them of your gratitude for their presence in our lives and in the life of our churches and go a long way to serve the greater good of our wonderful and growing Catholic Church.

A Prayer for Priests
Lord Jesus, we your people pray to You for our priests. You have given them to us for OUR needs. We pray for them in THEIR needs.

We know that You have made them priests in the likeness of your own priesthood. You have consecrated them, set them aside, anointed them, filled them with the Holy Spirit, appointed them to teach, to preach, to minister, to console, to forgive, and to feed us with Your Body and Blood.

Yet we know, too, that they are one with us and share our human weaknesses. We know too that they are tempted to sin and discouragement, as are we, needing to be ministered to, as do we, to be consoled and forgiven, as do we. Indeed, we thank You for choosing them from among us, so that they understand us as we understand them, suffer with us and rejoice with us, worry with us and trust with us, share our beings, our lives, our faith.

We ask that You give them this day the gift You gave Your chosen ones on the way to Emmaus:
Your presence in their hearts,
Your holiness in their souls,
Your joy in their spirits.
And let them see You face to face in the breaking of the Eucharistic Bread.

We pray to You, O Lord, with Mary, the mother of priests, for Your priests and for ours. Amen.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Important Role of the Catechist

Our Holy Father addressed a group of Catechists who had traveled to Rome to celebrate the Year of Faith; reminding them that the duty of the Catechist is to guard the memory of God and awaken it in others. Here you will find excerpts from his homily during Mass at St. Peter's Square.

From Vatican City, 29 September 2013:

"On the concluding day of the pilgrimage to Rome of catechists from all over the world, marking the Year of Faith, the Holy Father quoted the words of the prophet Amos: “Woe to the complacent in Zion … lying upon beds of ivory! They eat, they drink, they sing, they play and they care nothing about other people’s troubles”. He explained that, although these are harsh words, “they warn us about a danger that all of us face. … The danger of complacency, comfort, worldliness in our lifestyles and in our hearts, of making our well-being the most important thing in our lives”.

This was also the case of the rich man in the Gospel, who dressed luxuriously and banqueted sumptuously without concern for the poor man on his doorstep who had nothing to relieve his hunger. “Whenever material things, money, worldliness, become the center of our lives, they take hold of us, they possess us; we lose our very identity as human beings. … The rich man in the Gospel has no name, he is simply 'a rich man'. Material things, his possessions, are his face; he has nothing else”.

This happens to us when we find “security in material things which ultimately rob us of our face, our human face. This is what happens when we become complacent, when we no longer remember God. … Life, the world, other people, all of these become unreal, they no longer matter, everything boils down to one thing: having. When we no longer remember God, we too become unreal, we too become empty; like the rich man in the Gospel, we no longer have a face. Those who run after nothing become nothing”.

The catechist must be those “who keep the memory of God alive; they keep it alive in themselves and they are able to revive it in others”, like Mary, “who … sees God’s wondrous works in her life … but instead, after receiving the message of the angel and conceiving the Son of God … goes to assist her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth, also pregnant”, and upon encountering her, “the first thing she does … is to recall God’s work, God’s fidelity, in her own life, in the history of her people, in our history … Mary remembers God”.

“This canticle of Mary also contains the remembrance of her personal history, God’s history with her, her own experience of faith. And this is true too for each one of us and for every Christian: faith contains our own memory of God’s history with us, the memory of our encountering God who always takes the first step, who creates, saves and transforms us. … A catechist is a Christian who puts this remembrance at the service of proclamation, not to seem important, not to talk about himself or herself, but to talk about God, about his love and his fidelity. To talk about and to pass down all that God has revealed, his teaching in its totality, neither trimming it down nor adding on to it. … What is the Catechism itself, if not the memory of God, the memory of his works in history and his drawing near to us in Christ present in his word, in the sacraments, in his Church, in his love?”.

Finally, the Pope cited St. Paul's recommendations to Timothy, which also indicate the path of the catechist: “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. … Catechists are men and women of the memory of God if they have a constant, living relationship with him and with their neighbour; if they are men and women of faith who truly trust in God and put their security in him; if they are men and women of charity, love, who see others as brothers and sisters; if they are men and women of 'hypomon√©', endurance and perseverance, able to face difficulties, trials and failures with serenity and hope in the Lord; if they are gentle, capable of understanding and mercy”.

Francis concluded, “Let us ask the Lord that we may all be men and women who keep the memory of God alive in ourselves, and are able to awaken it in the hearts of others”.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Back to His School!

As much as we don't want to admit it, perhaps, summer is winding down and we turn to September with the thought of going back-to-school. The stores emphasize this back-to-school season with aisles upon aisles of school supplies and sales on everything from pencils and paper to computers. Even the weather seems to point to fall, touching the trees with some early red leaves. All this is a good reminder that learning something new is for everyone. After all, we were created with a thirst for truth. Sometimes as we age, we lose the spark of excitement that comes with learning, but the opposite should be true. As we age, we realize that we don't have all the answers and we are often reminded about how much we still don't know.

As our children prepare to return to school, to learn to become successful in life, do we realize that seeking knowledge and indulging in learning is not enough to give us a zest for living? “The future of humanity is in the hands of those who are capable of providing the generations to come with reasons for life and optimism.” (Gaudium et Spes, Second Vatican Council) No one can live without the hope that life has ultimate and lasting meaning, and that hope is in Jesus Christ, whom God the Father, has sent into the world for the salvation of all peoples.

The world however, can be a disturbing place at times. There is war and terrorism. There is fierceness of competition and the injustices that come from greed, continuous distractions that come from the media, and unrelenting demands of work and family life. Yet in the midst of it all, people are generously loving within their families, with their friends and communities. All seem to have a thirst for meaning and hope.

In the midst of our world, the Catholic Church offers a message that comes from God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ. It is two thousand years old, yet ever new and renewing as it is received, celebrated, lived and contemplated today. The Church offers to all people the possibility of encountering the living God today and finding in Him lasting meaning and hope.


It makes one think, doesn't it? Can we say that we have experienced such an encounter with the living God? And do our lives reflect the fruits of this encounter? 

Perhaps we need to go back to His school and study with the Master! 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Unity, a Must for our Faith

In case some of you did not get the chance to read the message from Our Holy Father, Pope Francis on the need for all Catholics to be united, I have copied this General Audience.

GENERAL AUDIENCE: HOW CAN WE HAVE UNITY AMONG CHRISTIANS IF AS CATHOLICS WE AREN'T UNITED?

Vatican City, 19 June 2013 (VIS) - Pope Francis dedicated his catechesis of the Wednesday general audience to the expression “of the body” that the Second Vatican Council used to indicate the nature of the Church: the Church is the body of Christ. The Pope recalled the text of the conversion of Saul, who became Paul, in order to explain how the Apostle, with that experience, tells us how profound the union between Christians and Christ is.

“The image of the body helps us to understand this deep bond between Church and Christ, which St. Paul particularly developed,” the Pope said. “The Church … is a living body … and this body has a head, Jesus, who guides, nourishes, and sustains it. … [But], the same way that in a body it is important that the lifeblood courses for it to live, so must we allow Jesus to work in us, so that his Word might guide us, his Eucharistic presence might nourish and inspire us, and so that his love might give strength to our love for our neighbour.”

“In the Church, therefore,” the pontiff continued, “there is a variety, a diversity of tasks and functions. There is no dull uniformity but the richness of the gifts that the Holy Spirit distributes. There is communion and unity: all are in relation to one another and all combine to form a single vital body, profoundly connected to Christ. Let us remember this well: being part of the Church means being united to Christ and receiving from him the divine life that makes us to live as Christians. It means remaining united to the Pope and bishops who are instruments of unity and communion and it also means learning to overcome selfishness and divisions, to understand one another better, and to harmonize the variety and richness of each one. In a word, loving God and the persons around us, in our families, parishes, and associations, better. Body and limbs must be united in order to live!”

Speaking extemporaneously, the Holy Father added: “Unity is always greater than conflict. Conflicts, if they aren't resolved well, separate us from one another, separate us from God. Conflict can help us grow but it can also divide us. Let's not take the path of division and struggle between one another. All united, all united with our differences but always united: this is Jesus' path.”

“How much damage is caused to the Church by divisions among Christians, by being apart, by narrow interests! The divisions among us,” he continued, “but also the divisions between the communities: evangelical Christians, Orthodox Christians, Catholic Christians, why are we divided? We must try to bring unity. … We must pray together as Catholics and also with other Christians, must pray that the Lord grant us unity, unity between us. But how will we have unity among Christians if we aren't capable of having it among us Catholics? Of having it in our family? How many families fight and are divided! Seek unity, the unity that makes the Church. Unity comes from Jesus Christ. He sends us the Holy Spirit to create unity.”

 Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
And enkindle in them the fire of your love.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Heart of Our Faith: The Eucharist

Do I believe? On this Feast of Corpus Christi et Sanguine, it is good to remind ourselves of the deep reality that after the Epiclesis, during Mass, and at the words of Consecration, the Holy Spirit comes down upon these offerings of bread and wine and they become in reality the Precious Body Blood Soul and Divinity of Christ, our Lord. Although the appearance of bread and wine remain, the actual substance is changed. “The Holy Spirit's transforming power in the liturgy hastens the coming of the kingdom and the consummation of the mystery of salvation.” (CCC No. 1107)

Yes, we see with the eyes of faith, and we believe in the Word of Our Lord, who commanded us to “take and eat”, “This is my Body”. (Lk 22:19) He did not say, this is a symbol of my body, or represents My Body but, “This IS My Body”. (Lk 22:19) It is our privilege to come to the altar to be feed by His Body and Blood, to be transformed into Christ. And at the end of each Mass, to be commissioned to Go, and bring Him into the world. If all Christians knew and believed in the reality of Christ's physical presence among us, they would flock to His Church.

Just yesterday, three young children and their mother stopped by our parish Church to find a place to pray. Not Catholic but extremely interested, the young boy asked where the small white round wavers were kept. He had heard about this from a friend. When Sister showed him the tabernacle and said as Catholics we believe that Jesus is really present in the white bread, and that He lives in the tabernacle, the young boy responded: Oh, I have read about the tabernacle in the Bible. It is the Ark that contained the “holy of holies”? What a beautiful opening to explain why Our Lord has remained with us in the Holy Eucharist. This is what we are called to do, to invite, and instruct others in the truths of our faith so that all may be one in Him.

Catechism of the Catholic Church: No. 1374

  • The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend." In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."


Mary, Mother of the Eucharistic, who conceived in your womb God incarnate, nourished Him during life, washed His wounds on Calvary, and in the period subsequent to Pentecost, received in your heart the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of your Divine Son, grant us the gift of your faith, your confidence in God's plan, and your love and devotion to Christ present in the Eucharist.



Monday, May 13, 2013

Holy Spirit, Giver of Life


HOLY SPIRIT TEACHES US TO SEE WITH CHRIST'S EYES

Vatican City, 8 May 2013 (VIS) – Eastertide, which culminates with the Solemnity of Pentecost when the Church relives the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, is the perfect time of the Holy Spirit,” the Pope explained to the 75,000 persons present in St. Peter's Square to attend his Wednesday general audience.

After winding through the square in the Popemobile, greeting the various groups of faithful who greeted him as he passed by, the Pope began his catechesis, which was dedicated to the third Person of the Trinity; the Holy Spirit.

“In the Creed,” Francis said, “we profess with faith: 'I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life'. The first truth that we adhere to in the Creed is that the Holy Spirit is 'Kyrios', that is, Lord. This means that He is truly God as are the Father and the Son … but I want to mainly focus on the fact that the Holy Spirit is the inexhaustible source of God's life in us.”

“Men and women of all times and all places desire a full and beautiful life ... a life that is not threatened by death but that can mature and grow to its fullness. The human being is like a traveller who, crossing the deserts of life, is thirsty for living water, gushing and fresh, capable of deeply quenching that profound desire for light, love, beauty, and peace. We all feel that desire! And Jesus gives us this living water. It is the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and whom Jesus pours out into our hearts. 'I have come so that you might have life and have it more abundantly', Jesus says.”

Jesus has come to give us the living water that is the Holy Spirit “so that our lives might be guided by God.” That is why, “when we say that the Christian is a spiritual being we mean precisely this: the Christian is a person who thinks and acts in accordance with God, in accordance with the Holy Spirit. … We know that water is essential to life. Without water we die. It quenches our thirst, washes us, makes the land fertile. … The 'living water', the Holy Spirit, Gift of the Risen One who abides in us, purifies us, enlightens us, renews us, and transforms us so that we might be made to participate in the very life of God who is Love.”

Paul the Apostle, the Bishop of Rome noted, affirms that the Christian life “is enlivened by the Spirit and and by his fruits, which are 'love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control'. … The Spirit himself, together with our spirit, attests that we are God's children. And, if we are children, we are also inheritors, inheritors of God and co-inheritors with Christ if we truly take part in his suffering so that we might also be glorified with him. This is the precious gift that that the Holy Spirit brings to our hearts: the very life of God, the life of true children, a relationship of confidence, freedom, and trust in the love and mercy of God, which also has the effect of a new vision of others, near and far, seen always as brothers and sisters in Jesus to respect and to love. The Holy Spirit teaches us to see with Christ's eyes.”

“That is why,” he concluded, “the living water that is the Holy Spirit quenches the thirst of our lives, because He tells us that we are loved by God as children, that we can love God as his children, and that, with his grace, we can live as children of God, as Jesus does.”

Monday, May 6, 2013

Mary helps us face life: Pope Francis' reflection


Vatican City, 4 May 2013 (VIS) – At 6:00 pm this afternoon, the Holy Father took possession of the Basilica of St. Mary Major with the traditional kiss of the crucifix. It is the second time, since the beginning of his pontificate, that Francis has gone to pray at the oldest Marian shrine in the West, which houses the image of “Salus Populi Romani" (Protectress of the Roman People). On 14 March, the day after his election, the pontiff went to St. Mary Major to place the ministry he had just received under Mary's protection. This time, the first Saturday of May, he wished to pray the glorious mysteries of the Rosary.

On his arrival, the Pope was welcomed by Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello, archpriest of the basilica, who greeted him with the words: “We want to warmly embrace a request that we know well is frequently on the lips of our Pope: 'pray, pray for me'. We will do so, even in the future, because it is a pastoral line that we want to privilege in this basilica—that of seeking to reawaken the faith in the Christian peoples with a double emphasis: with a Marian touch and united with the Pope—frequently echoing the Holy Father's teaching and words … which will urge us toward religious and human margins where there are so many places to fill and accompany”.”

In his homily, the Pope highlighted three aspects of Mary's maternity: she helps us to grow, to face life, and to be free.

“With his Passion, Death and Resurrection,” the Bishop of Rome said, “Jesus Christ brings us salvation. He gives us the grace and the joy of being God’s children, of calling him truly BY the name of Father. Mary is a mother and a mother worries above all about the health of her children … What does this mean that the Madonna safeguards our health? I am thinking mainly of three aspects: … she helps us to grow, she helps us to face life, and she helps us to be free.”

Mary Helps Us to Grow

A mother helps her children to grow and wants them to grow well. This is why she teaches them not to give in to laziness—which is something that also arises from a certain well-being—not to not to slip into a life of ease that desires nothing beyond material possessions. A mother takes care that her children grow always more, that they grow strong and capable of taking on responsibility, of committing themselves in their lives, and of holding high ideals. … This is exactly what the Madonna does in us. She helps us to grow humanely and in faith, to be strong and not to yield to the temptation of being superficial persons and Christians, but to live responsibly, always reaching higher.”

Mary Helps Us to Face Life

Then a mother thinks of her children's health, also teaching them to face life's difficulties. You can't teach, can't care for one's health by avoiding problems as if life were a highway without obstacles. A mother helps her children to look realistically at life's problems and to not get lost in them but to tackle them with courage; not to be weak and to know how to overcome them with the healthy balance that a mother “feels” between the limits of safety and the areas of risk. … A life without challenges doesn't exists and a boy or a girl who doesn't know how to face them, putting themselves on the line, is a boy or a girl without a backbone! ... Mary lived many difficult times in her life, from the birth of Jesus ... until Calvary. And like a good mother she is close to us so that we never lose courage in the face of life's adversities, in the face of our own weakness, in the face of our sins. She gives us strength, pointing us to the path of her Son. From the cross, indicating John, Jesus tells Mary: 'Woman, here is your son', and to John: 'Here is your mother!' We are all represented in that disciple.”

Mary Helps Us to Be Free

One last aspect … a good mother also helps to make important decisions with freedom. ... But what does freedom mean? Certainly not doing whatever you want ... Freedom does not mean, so to say, throwing whatever we don't like out the window. No, that isn't freedom! Freedom is given to us so that we might know how to make good choices in life! Like a good mother, Mary teaches us to be, like her, capable of making ... important decisions at this time when, so to speak, the 'philosophy of the temporary' rules. It is so difficult to commit ourselves definitively. And she helps us to make definitive choices with that full freedom with which she answered 'yes' to God’s plan for her life.”

“How difficult it is, in our times, to take make definitive decisions! The temporary seduces us. We are victims of a tendency that pushes us towards the ephemeral… Part of it is the fascination of remaining adolescents our entire lives! We must not be afraid of definitive commitments, of commitments that involve and affect our whole lives. In this way life becomes fruitful! And this is freedom: having the courage to make these decisions with greatness.”

“Mary's whole existence is a hymn to life, a love song to life ... The 'Salus Populi Romani' is the mother who gives us health in our growth, gives us health to face and overcome problems, gives us health in making us free to make definitive choices. She is the mother who teaches us to be fruitful, to be open to life … to never lose hope, to give life to others—both physical and spiritual life. This is what we ask of you this evening, O Mary, 'Salus Populi Romani', ... give us the health that only you can give, so that we may always be signs and instruments of life.”

After praying the Rosary, Francis went out of the basilica and addressed the many faithful awaiting him in the piazza saying: “Thank you so much for your presence here at the home of the mother of Rome, of our Mother. Long live the Madonna. She is our Mother. Let us entrust ourselves to her so that she might safeguard us like a good mother. I pray for you but I ask that you pray for me because I need it. Three 'Hail Marys' for me. I wish you a good Sunday tomorrow. Until we meet again. Now I give you the blessing—to all of you and all your families.”

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Christ's Prayer for Unity


Having recently read, Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI's book, Jesus of Nazareth, Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, I found the following  passage on Our Lord's prayer; "that they all may be one...." a good meditation for Holy Thursday, the day Christ gave Himself to us to be our strength and food,  may we all be united in His Body!

"Uniquely in the Gospels, Jesus’ gaze now moves beyond the current community of disciples and is directed toward all those who “believe in me through their word” (Jn 17:20). The vast horizon of the community of believers in times to come opens up across the generations: the Church of the future is included in Jesus’ prayer. He pleads for unity for his future disciples.
The Lord repeats this plea four times. Twice the purpose of this unity is indicated as being that the world may believe, that it may “recognize” that Jesus has been sent by the Father: “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” (Jn 17:11). “That they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21). “That they may be one even as we are one... that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me” (Jn 17:22-23).
No discourse on ecumenism ever lacks a reference to this “testament” of Jesus—to the fact that before he went to the Cross, he pleaded with the Father for the unity of his future disciples, for the Church of all times. And so it should be. Yet we have to ask with all the more urgency: For what unity was Jesus praying? What is his prayer for the community of believers throughout history?
It is instructive to hear Rudolf Bultmann once again on this question. He says first of all—as we read in the Gospel—that this unity is grounded in the unity of Father and Son, and then he continues: “That means it is not founded on natural or purely historical data, nor can it be manufactured by organizations, institutions or dogma; these can at best only bear witness to the real unity, as on the other hand they can also give a false impression of unity. And even if the proclamation of the word in the world requires institutions and dogmas, these cannot guarantee the unity of true proclamation. On the other hand the actual disunion of the Church, which is, in passing, precisely the result of its institutions and dogmas, does not necessarily frustrate the unity of the proclamation. The word can resound authentically, wherever the tradition is maintained. Because the authenticity of the proclamation cannot be controlled by institutions or dogmas, and because the faith that answers the word is invisible, it is also true that the authentic unity of the community is invisible... it is invisible because it is not a worldly phenomenon at all” (The Gospel of John, pp. 513-14).
These sentences are astonishing. Much of what they say might be called into question, the concept of “institutions” and “dogmas” to begin with, but even more so the concept of “proclamation”, which is said to create unity by itself. Is it true that the Revealer in his unity with the Father is present in the proclamation? Is he not often astonishingly absent? Now Bultmann gives us a certain criterion for establishing where the word resounds “authentically”: “wherever the tradition is maintained”. Which tradition? one might ask. Where does it come from; what is its content? Since not every proclamation is “authentic”, how are we to recognize it? The “authentic proclamation” is said to create unity by itself. The “actual disunion” of the Church cannot hinder the unity that comes from the Lord, so Bultmann claims.
Does this mean that ecumenism is rendered superfluous, since unity is created in proclamation and is not hindered through the schisms of history? Perhaps it is also significant that Bultmann uses the word “Church” when he speaks of disunion, whereas he uses the word “community” when considering unity. The unity of proclamation is not verifiable, he tells us. Therefore the unity of the community is invisible, just as faith is invisible. Unity is invisible, because “it is not a worldly phenomenon at all.”
Is this the correct exegesis of Jesus’ prayer? It is certainly true that the unity of the disciples—of the future Church—for which Jesus prays “is not a worldly phenomenon”. This the Lord says quite distinctly. Unity does not come from the world: on the basis of the world’s own efforts, it is impossible. The world’s own efforts lead to disunion, as we can all see. Inasmuch as the world is operative in the Church, in Christianity, it leads to schisms. Unity can only come from the Father through the Son. It has to do with the “glory” that the Son gives: with his presence, granted through the Holy Spirit, which is the fruit of the Cross, the fruit of Jesus’ transformation through death and Resurrection.
Yet the power of God reaches into the midst of the world in which the disciples live. It must be of such a kind that the world can “recognize” it and thereby come to faith. While it does not come from the world, it can and must be thoroughly effective in and for the world, and it must be discernible by the world. The stated objective of Jesus’ prayer for unity is precisely that through the unity of the disciples, the truth of his mission is made visible for men. Unity must be visible; it must be recognizable as something that does not exist elsewhere in the world; as something that is inexplicable on the basis of mankind’s own efforts and that therefore makes visible the workings of a higher power. Through the humanly inexplicable unity of Jesus’ disciples down the centuries, Jesus himself is vindicated. It can be seen that he is truly the “Son”. Hence God can be recognized as the creator of a unity that overcomes the world’s inherent tendency toward fragmentation.
For this the Lord prayed: for a unity that can come into existence only from God and through Christ and yet is so concrete in its appearance that in it we are able to see God’s power at work. That is why the struggle for the visible unity of the disciples of Jesus Christ remains an urgent task for Christians of all times and places. The invisible unity of the “community” is not sufficient.
Is there more that we can discern about the nature and content of the unity for which Jesus prayed? One essential element of this unity has already emerged from our considerations thus far: it depends on faith in God and in the one whom he sent: Jesus Christ. The unity of the future Church therefore rests on the faith that Peter proclaimed in the name of the Twelve in the synagogue at Capernaum, after other disciples had turned away: “We have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6:69).
This confession is very close in content to the high-priestly prayer. Here Jesus encounters us as the one whom the Father has sanctified, who sanctifies himself for the disciples, who sanctifies the disciples in the truth. Faith is something more than a word, an idea: it involves entering into communion with Jesus Christ and through him with the Father. Faith is the real foundation of the disciples’ communion, the basis for the Church’s unity.
In its nucleus, this faith is “invisible”. But because the disciples unite themselves to the one Christ, faith becomes “flesh” and knits the individual believers together into a real “body”. The Incarnation of the Logos is perpetuated until the measure of Christ’s “full stature” is attained (cf. Eph 4:13)."

Saturday, February 23, 2013

"Cathedra" of St. Peter

From a homily by Pope Benedict XVI:



Taken in Rome, Feast of the Chair of Peter, 2010
"Dear Brothers and Sisters! The Latin liturgy celebrates today the feast of the Chair of Peter. It is a very ancient tradition, witnessed in Rome since the end of the fourth century, which renders thanksgiving to God for the mission entrusted to the Apostle Peter and his successors. "Cathedra" literally means the established seat of the bishop, located in the mother church of a diocese, which for this reason is called "cathedral," and it is the symbol of the authority of the bishop and, in particular, of his "magisterium," that is, of the evangelical teaching that he, insofar as a successor of the apostles, is called to guard and transmit to the Christian community.

When the bishop takes possession of the local Church that is entrusted to him, he, bearing the miter and the shepherd's crosier, sits on the cathedra. From that seat he will guide, as teacher and shepherd, the journey of the faithful in faith, hope and charity. To celebrate the "Chair" of Peter, as we do today, means, therefore, to attribute to it a strong spiritual significance and to recognize in it a privileged sign of the love of God, good and eternal Shepherd, who wants to gather the whole of his Church and guide her along the way of salvation..... Dear Brothers and Sisters, in the apse of St. Peter's Basilica, as you know, is found the monument to the Chair of the Apostle, a mature work of Bernini, made in the shape of a great bronze throne, supported by the statues of four Doctors of the Church, two from the West, St. Augustine and St. Ambrose, and two from the East, St. John Chrysostom and St. Athanasius.

I invite you to pause before that evocative work, which today it is possible to admire decorated with so many candles, and pray in a particular way for the ministry that God has entrusted to me. Raising one's gaze to the alabaster glass window that opens precisely above the chair, invoke the Holy Spirit, so that he will always sustain with his light and strength my daily service to the whole Church. For this, as for your devoted attention, I thank you from my heart."

As we celebrate this feast of the authority of the Roman Pontiff, let us all pray for the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit to be with the Cardinals as they prepare to elect our next Successor of St. Peter.  St. Peter, pray for us and keep us faithful to the Gospel of Christ.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday, Our Pilgrimage begins

As we begin this holy season of Lent, we should remember that we are preparing to once again give ourselves to God by renewing our baptismal promises during the Sacred Triduum. The Catechism of the Catholic Church helps us remember why it is necessary for us, as baptized Catholics to continue to strive for conversion of heart, to continue to root out sin from our daily lives and through the grace of God to attain the gift of new life. This call to conversion is the movement of a “contrite heart,” drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first. Read # 1428-1433 of the Catechism for a beautiful explanation of conversion and penance.

At the heart of conversion lies freedom. Our understanding of freedom often conflicts with the true definition found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (#1730 -1748). Freedom denotes responsibility. Freedom means that my will and desires are aligned with God. That in creating me free, God willed that I might of my own accord seek Him and attain to perfection by cleaving to Him. Freedom denotes a service to what is goodness and truth, that ultimate Truth found in the Word of God. To abuse freedom is to choose evil over good, and this leads to slavery, the slavery of sin.

It is precisely attachment to sin that we must strive to root out during this holy season. Beginning today with a reminder that we are dust and unto dust we shall return, let us accept those ashes on our forehead as a sign of our remembrance that we are striving to live for the next life, and of our willingness to embrace a spirit of sacrifice and penance for purification in this life, so that we will be united to Our Lord eternally in the kingdom He has prepared for us!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Lourdes, World Day of the Sick


In God's goodness to mankind and to confirm the devotion of the faithful to the Immaculate Conception and the pronouncement of the Holy Father, God sent his Mother to Lourdes France. (1858)

Just four short years after His Holiness, Pope Pius IX infallibly proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, (December 8th, 1854), Mary spoke to Bernadette of the need for penance and prayer, a need for healing from the darkness of sin.  "I am the Immaculate Conception" she declared, promising happiness not in this life but in the next.  Was she reminding us that to root out sin from our lives will give us joy and peace in the service of the Lord here, which will be a foretaste of the glory to come?

In exhorting Bernadette to penance, Our Lady was urging us all to conversion. St. Ambrose says there are two conversions in the Church, the one of water and the one of tears, the water of Baptism, and the tears of repentance   The CCC reminds us that (1432) conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to Him.  God gives us the strength to begin anew.  It is in discovering the greatness of God's love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him. The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced.

It is appropriate that this day is also "World Day of the Sick."  We are all afflicted with the sickness of sin, and we all have need of a purification.  At Lourdes, Our Lady told Bernadette to wash in the stream, and from that day, the waters of the miraculous stream have been flowing.  Here she gave us a sign of her love and hope for those who suffer physically, as well as those who suffer spiritually, that she is there with Her Divine Son to assist and lead us back to His embrace, or to make us whole again. Christ invites us to follow him by taking up our cross.  By following Jesus we can acquire a new outlook on illness and sickness.  Here at Lourdes, Our Lady wanted to give us a pledge of her special protection.  Although some are not cured physically who come to Lourdes, they are nevertheless given peace and hope knowing that they suffer with Christ.

Let us pray today for all the sick and suffering, that the compassionate Heart of Christ will be their strength and that through their suffering they will find God.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Presentation in the Temple

Presentation in the Temple, Purification of Mary, World Day for Consecrated Life


Champaigne
“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2)


"Mary understands this prayer, for she is closely associated with Jesus in the work of our redemption. Eight days after the Birth of her Son, she has Him circumcised according to the Jewish Law; she then gives Him the name told her by the Angel, the name of Jesus, which denotes His mission of salvation and His work of redemption."

"When Jesus is forty days old, the Blessed Virgin associates herself yet more directly and deeply with the work of our salvation by presenting Him in the Temple. She is the first to offer to the Eternal Father His Divine Son. After the oblation that Jesus, the supreme High Priest, made of Himself from the moment of His Incarnation and that He consummated on Calvary, Mary’s offering is the most perfect. It goes beyond all the sacerdotal acts of men, because Mary is the Mother of Christ, while men are but His ministers.
Let us contemplate Mary in this solemn act of the Presentation of her Son in the Temple of Jerusalem."
(Blessed Marmion, in his text Christ in His Mysteries)

Celebrating World Day for Consecrated Life, after the example of Mary, let us all renew our resolve to follow Jesus in union with Mary, who taking seriously her commitment to God's will, offered with the Eternal Father, her beloved Son, for the salvation of mankind.  As religious we too share in that unique gift of Christ's mission to be a supporting member of His body, drawing all to intimate union with Him.  As lent approaches may we renew our offering of self, to be instruments of His grace. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Saint for America, St. Marianne Cope


Saint Marianne Cope, January 23rd

St. Marianne Cope born in Germany in 1838, arrived at the age of two in New York and in August 1862, entered the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis in Syracuse, New York. Today this community of Sisters, presently called Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann communities, continue their work of teaching and nursing.  During her religious life, Mother Marianne served as novice, superior of their hospital in Syracuse and Provincial in 1877.

She is best known today for her ministry to leprosy patients in Hawaii. In 1883, the Hawaiian government sent a request to over 50 religious communities in the United States and Canada asking assistance in Kakaako, a receiving station, for people suspected of leprosy.  In those days this disease was considered incurable and very contagious.  St. Marianne was one of seven sisters who volunteered to staff this institution. In 1888 St. Marianne and two of her sisters then went to the island of Molokai where she took charge of the home that St Damien de Veuster had established for men and boys. Her ministry on Molokai lasted until her death on August 9, 1918.

For more information on this Saint for our times, visit the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

This week January 18th - 25th, is a week dedicated to prayer for all christians to unite in Christ.  Christ's prayer at the Last Supper was "that they all may be one, as you Father, and I are one." (John 17)

Perhaps this week as we pray for unity, may we recognize the desire of christians to follow Our Lord.  Let us ask the Holy Spirit to lead all to the fullness of the Truth of Christ, and to give us the strength to seek unity, to establish peace on earth.  This peace will only be found in following the call of God, and recognizing His Truth.

Prayer for Unity

Lord Jesus Christ, at Your Last Supper, You prayed to the Father that all should be one.  Send Your Holy Spirit upon all who bear Your name and seek to serve You. Strengthen our faith in Yu, and lead us to love one another in humility.  May we, who have been reborn in one baptism, be united in one faith under one Shepherd. Amen.  (from Ut Unam Sint, Pope John Paul II)

For more information on the Prayers for Christian Unity for 2013, visit the USCCB.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Let Us Adore Him



“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (2:10). It is the joy of one whose heart has received a ray of God’s light and who can now see that his hope has been realized—the joy of one who has found what he sought, and has himself been found." (Infancy Narratives, Pope Benedict, XVI)

Epiphany is the manifestation of Christ to all mankind.  Even as an Infant, Christ was drawing all to Himself, calling all, even those who were not from Israel  to oneness in Himself, a unity of love that binds us closer to Him and one another.   
Am I following the star that leads to Christ?  To the light of His Truth?
Come Let us Adore Him!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Attention Disciples of Christ!



In this Year of Faith, the Catholic Bishops of the United States have called for a nation wide effort to advance a movement for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty through prayer, penance and sacrifice.
Catholics across the nation are being encouraged to pray for rebuilding a culture favorable to life and marriage and for increased protection of religious liberty.

This call to prayer is prompted by unprecedented challenges to the church and the nation, particularly the HHS Mandate and current trends in government and culture toward redefining marriage.
The goal of this call to prayer is twofold: 1) to increase awareness of these challenges and 2) to build spiritual stamina and fortitude among the faithful so that we can be effective and joyful witnesses of faith, hope, and charity and agents of the New Evangelization.

Beginning on the Sunday after Christmas, the Feast of the Holy Family, the Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty has five components:

  • Monthly Eucharistic Holy Hours in cathedrals and parishes
  • Daily Rosary by families and individuals
  • Special Prayers of the Faithful at all Masses
  • Fasting and abstinence from meat on Fridays
  • A Fortnight for Freedom in June/July 2013

Join the Movement!
Pray for our nation. Pray for life, marriage and religious liberty.