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

“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.