Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Holy Family, Model of Families

We celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The Gospel for the Sunday relates the presentation of Jesus in the temple of Jerusalem. Mary and Joseph, identified as being among the poor by their offering of two doves, bring the Child to offer Him to the Lord.

In this fourth Joyful mystery of the Rosary, promises are fulfilled and prophecies are uttered. But it is in Nazareth where we contemplate the Holy Family in everyday life. Blessed Paul VI shared some thoughts about their life in Nazareth: Nazareth is the school in which we begin to understand the life of Jesus. It is the school of the Gospel. Here we learn to observe, to listen, to meditate, and to penetrate the profound and mysterious meaning of that simple, humble, and lovely manifestation of the Son of God. And perhaps we learn almost imperceptibly to imitate Him. Here we learn the method by which we can come to understand Christ. Here we discover the need to observe the details of His sojourn among us—places, period of time, customs, language, religious practices, all of which Jesus used to reveal Himself to the world. Here everything speaks to us; everything has meaning.

It is here, in this school, that one comes to grasp how necessary it is to be spiritually disciplined, if one wishes to follow the teachings of the Gospel and to become a follower of Christ. Oh, how we would like to repeat, so close to Mary, our introduction to the genuine knowledge of the meaning of life, and to the higher wisdom of divine truth! The lesson of silence: may there return to us an appreciation of this stupendous and indispensable spiritual condition, deafened as we are by so much tumult, so much noise, so many voices of our chaotic and frenzied modern life. O silence of Nazareth, teach us recollection, reflection, and eagerness to heed the good inspirations and words of true teachers; teach us the need and value of preparation, of study, of meditation, of interior life, of secret prayer seen by God alone.

May Nazareth teach us the meaning of family life, its harmony of love, its simplicity and austere beauty, its sacred character; may it teach us how sweet and irreplaceable is its training, how fundamental and incomparable its role on the social plane.

O Nazareth, home of the “carpenter’s son.” We want here to understand and to praise the austere and redeeming law of human labor, here to restore the consciousness of the dignity of labor, here to recall that work cannot be an end in itself, and that it is free and ennobling in proportion to the values—beyond the economic ones-which motivate it. We would like here to salute all the workers of the world, and to point out to them their great Model, their Divine Brother, the Champion of all their rights, Christ the Lord!

May the Holy Family Jesus, Mary and Joseph intercede for your family and extended family with many blessings during this coming Year of Grace.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

St. John the Evangelist, Christmas Feast

Each month throughout the year the church celebrates each of the twelve apostles in memory of their role and mission in spreading of the Gospel. In the month of December, we celebrate St. John, the apostle and evangelist. John is credited for having written; the Gospel of John, three epistles which were written in the city of Ephesus to correct false teachings about Christ and the mysterious, and sometimes scary Book of Revelation.
We know from the Gospels that John was a fisherman with his brother James who are also called the “Sons of thunder” and John himself has always been believed by many to have been the “beloved disciple.” Of course we see John in many gospel accounts. He was with James and Peter at the Transfiguration. He was at the rising of Jairus's daughter. He was sent with Peter to prepare for the Passover. It is only in the Gospel of John that we hear about John being present at the foot of the cross. He is seen again with Peter at the tomb when they first heard from Mary Magdalene about Christ's resurrection. He would later go on to inspire others to follow Christ in the early church, especially St. Polycarp who would then teach St. Ignatius of Antioch, showing apostolic tradition.
John is believed to be the longest living apostle and the only one not to die as a martyr. Though the Romans tried to kill him, by throwing him into boiling oil, John remained unscathed by the torture. They then sent him into exile on the Island of Patmos, where he would receive fascinating visions that would be written down to become the Book of Revelation.
In art John is usually depicted looking up to heaven with his eyes focus completely on Christ, inspiring him to dive into the depths of the divinity of Christ and the mystery of the Incarnation. With an eagle to be seen next to him symbolizing how his writings soared from the heights of heaven to the earth below proclaiming the Gospel message. He is sometimes pictured with a chalice that holds a snake, for according to the Acts of John (which are not deemed canonical by the Church) he was challenged to drink poison to demonstrate the power of his faith.

Today St. John is the patron saint of love, friendship, poison-victims and even burn-victims.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Lessons from St. John the Baptist for Advent

He didn’t look like them. He didn’t talk like them. He was not part of the crowd that had always held power. But the people listened, and followed.

John the Baptist dressed in camel’s hair and had a leather belt. He didn’t dress like the Scribes, Pharisees and the Temple priests. John the Baptist talked about change that was certainly coming. The thing is for the change to take place, it was the people who had to change.
If there is going to be no more war, then people need to stop hating others. If there is going to be charity and care for all, then people needed to look inside their hearts and pull out the justice of God that resides there. If there is going to be change, then people needed to change. “Prepare for the Lord,” John the Baptist proclaimed. “Prepare for the Lord by preparing yourselves.”

And the people from throughout the Judean countryside and the inhabitants of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River where John was preaching. And they confessed their sins. And they were baptized. And the change had begun. We all want our country and our world to be better. We all want a cure for cancer and AIDS and malnutrition, and every ailment or condition that is killing people. We all want the poor to be cared for. We all want an end to war and the poor to be cared for. We all want an end to violence. We all want peace. But what are we doing about it?

The heart of John the Baptist’s message is about it? The heart of John the Baptist’s message is that if we want change, if we really want the One who will reform the world and return mankind to God’s original plan, then we need to change. This is tough. It is just so much easier to sit back and expect the world to change, other people to change. But if we really want change we can believe in, the we need to change.
Every year we lament about how society is trying to destroy the meaning of Christmas. We are saddened that a spiritual celebration has been transformed into a series of parties. And we should be sad, but, perhaps, we should all be more concerned with how we ourselves plan to celebrate Christmas. More than that, we should be more concerned with how we are celebrating Advent.

What exactly are we doing to prepare the world for Jesus Christ? John the Baptist tells us to look within ourselves, change our own attitudes, and then trust God to allow this change to have a part in the transformation the world. Change will only take place if we are the ones who change. And Advent is a particularly Marian season. It’s hard to think of Jesus being born in Bethlehem without the image of Mary His Mother coming to mind. As we journey though this season, let us take her as our guide in preparing the way for the Lord.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanking God for His Eucharistic Presence

Thanksgiving, what a wonderful time of  year.  Families and friends come together to share in an abundant feast, sharing each others' company and reminiscing about the good things that have been received or that have happened within the year.  Thanksgiving certainly is a time to reflect on the many blessings we have received from God, especially ones we take for granted everyday.  By thanking God for His bountiful blessings, we ourselves grow in the spirit of generosity, becoming like Him in the gift of giving of ourselves to Him and others.
Best part of all about “Thanksgiving” is that Catholics not only celebrate it as a national holiday in November, but every Sunday or, for some, everyday.  By celebrating the Eucharist, we give thanks to God for the salvation won for us by Christ's death on the cross.  “We carry out this command of the Lord by celebrating the memorial of his sacrifice.  In doing so, we offer to the Father what he himself  has given us: the gifts of his creation, bread and wine which, by the power of the Holy Spirit  and by the words of Christ, have become the body and blood of Christ.  Christ is thus really and mysteriously made present.”  (CCC 1375)  Is it not amazing how  the words of consecration said by the priest, make Jesus Christ present under the form of bread and wine!  This is a very special gift Catholics should appreciate: to know that Jesus is giving Himself completely to his church at all times in order to help us.
“The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification.  Eucharist means first of all 'thanksgiving.'” (CCC 1360)  This is what we do each time we come to Mass, and it should be the first thing we do too, after we receive Jesus.  It is through the Eucharist that we are able to participate with Jesus to fully give thanks to the Father for everything; which includes not just material things, but also circumstances, events and people.  As St. Paul puts it, “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1Thessalonians 5:18)
We must always remember to give thanks to God for all that we have whether it is big or small.  The next time we go to Mass let's reflect on the favors God has given us so that we too, can imitate and share His goodness with others.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr

Around the year 177 A.D. a young Roman woman named Cecilia, was raised as a Christian in a noble family in the city of Rome ruled by Roman Empire. Her father forced her to marry a young patrician man named Valerian. Cecilia, burning with great love to keep herself pure and untouched by any man, had already made a private vow of virginity. On the eve of her wedding night Cecilia, determined to keep her vow to God, told her betrothed husband, “You must know that I have an angel of God watching over me and if you should touch me in the way of marriage, he will be angry and you'll suffer. If you respect my maidenhood, he will love you as he loves me.” Intrigued by this statement her husband replied, “If it be an angel of God, I will refrain as you wish.” Though a pagan, Valerian learned about Christianity and was open to conversion. With this in mind Cecilia urged her husband to seek Baptism. “If you wish to see the angel, you must believe in the one true God and seek to be baptized with water.” Valerian went and received Baptism. Valerian along with his brother Tiburtius, became fervent converts to Christianity and the two brothers would be the first of many Christians to become martyrs. Cecilia would follow days after.

Cecilia was sentenced to a painful death. One story tells that she escaped death. The first sentence was suffocation in a hot-air bath with the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual. Cecilia went in for one day and night without being scorched by the burning heat. Next Cecilia was sentenced to beheading. Three times an executioner struck her neck but was unable to fully decapitate her, Cecilia laid on the ground still alive until she gave up her spirit on the third day.

Many people say St. Cecilia's life is based on legends because there are few historical sources. But she remains one of the most common saints chosen by young people receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation. St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music because she heard the choirs of angels sing at her wedding feast. She is celebrated on November 22. We can rejoice in the life of St. Cecilia and ask her to intercede for us to have the courage to be faithful witnesses of Christ. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

"Come to Me...I will give you rest."

We all have that invitation from Jesus: “Come to me..I will give you rest.” There must be something more to life than meets the eye. Yes. Jesus has something more for you. Go to Jesus...he will give you rest.
Jesus certainly knew all about yokes. As a carpenter he would have been asked from time to time to make a wooden yoke for farmers so that they could get two oxen to pull a plough or other farm implement together. The yoke was the wooden crossbeam that joined the two animals at the neck and that crossbeam dragged the farm implement. Since animals are different sizes it was common to have yoke cut to measure for the animals pulling it. Otherwise it would not fit the animal correctly and cause considerable discomfort. As a carpenter Jesus must have cut many such yokes. The yoke that Jesus cuts for us does not cause discomfort but brings us comfort because the yoke of Jesus is easy and light. The invitation of Jesus to us is not a yoke that weights us down but is easy and light, and how could it not be with Jesus as the other one pulling the yoke with you, Jesus helping you carry your burdens and crosses.
Any difficulty we have in meeting Jesus and taking his yoke upon us is certainly not coming from Jesus. Is the reason we do not know Jesus because we do not open our hearts to him? Jesus praised the childlike in the Gospel because their hearts were open to him, unlike the scribes and Pharisees.

We can probably say the learned and the clever of today include those who do not believe that Jesus is really and truly present in the Eucharist. But those with hearts open to Jesus, the childlike, have Jesus revealed in the Eucharist. Open your heart to Jesus. You have noting to lose and everything to gain. Open your heart to Jesus and live, not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. If we do not go to Jesus when we labor and are burdened with life’s problems, to whom or to what do we go? If we do not look for answers to our problems in Jesus we will not find them elsewhere or else just find partial or deluding answers. The answers of the culture of our time are deluding, because the culture of our time falsely tells us we will find happiness in sin. But sin never brings happiness because sin is against the goodness of God. Therefore the culture of this time wants to lay upon us a yoke that is heavy and painful. Open your heart to him. If you do not spend time with Jesus in prayer every day, how can you find his peace? Come to Jesus in the Eucharist. You do not have Jesus physically present in the Eucharist at your home. Come to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and let Jesus give you peace. Open your heart.  Let us live according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh. Let us walk every day yoked to the Lord in prayer and meet him in the Eucharist.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Divine Mercy Sunday

 “My daughter, tell the whole world about my inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all of the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every souls in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My mercy.” Diary 699

These words spoken by Our Lord to St. Faustina, are recorded in her dairy Divine Mercy in my Soul. St. Faustina's private revelations have helped inspire faithful souls to come to God for mercy and to bring others to him through their prayers. By reading St. Faustina's dairy we learn of her powerful intercession, as she pleaded for Jesus' mercy. “Today I was awakened by a great storm. The wind was raging, and it was raining in torrents, thunderbolts striking again and again. I began to pray that the storm would do no harm, when I heard the words:Say the Chaplet I have taught you, and the storm will cease. I began immediately to say the chaplet and hadn't even finished it when the storm suddenly ceased, and I heard the words:Through the chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with my will.” Dairy 1731. There are several other instances recorded in her dairy in which St. Faustina's plea for mercy helped appease the divine anger of God.

The church was at first skeptical of St. Faustina's revelation on Divine Mercy and when it first revealed and nearly condemned her diary. It wasn't until 1965 when the Archbishop of Krakow Karol Wojtyla (now St. John Paul II) asked for a fresh investigation into Faustina's revelations: and found some faulty translations from the original Polish text to French. In 2000 St. John Paul II established the Solemn Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday, and while approving the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the image and the Dairy, he canonized St. Faustina Kowalska on April 30, 2000, the first saint to be canonized of the Jubilee year of 2000.

Why is Divine Mercy the Sunday after Easter? Reflect back on the weeks prior to Divine Mercy Sunday. The church celebrates Holy Week, in which the faithful are to relive the last days of Christ leading up to his passion. On Good Friday divine justice and mercy met. Divine justice so longed outraged by the sins of man was atoned for by the Blood of Christ and the gift of mercy was opened up for all sinners who believed and will come to believe in Christ. Christ himself even showed mercy to those who crucified him saying, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34).

In celebrating Divine Mercy, we recall the immense love God has for all people and how he is always calling us to himself to dispense his mercy on us. We in turn share in his heavenly life now on earth with others who are in need of mercy. Of course, the best and most complete way we can receive mercy is the Sacrament of Penance where we admit our sins and are washed clean in the mercy of Christ. Once that mercy is received, we are asked to sin no more and to share that mercy with our brothers and sisters by doing either the Spiritual or Corporal Works of Mercy.
Spiritual Works of Mercy
Counseling the Doubtful
Instructing the Ignorant
Praying for the Living and the Dead
Forgiving Injuries
Admonishing the Sinner
Comforting the Sorrowful
Bearing Wrongs Patiently
Corporal Works of Mercy
Feeding the Hungry
Giving drink to the Thirsty
Clothing the Naked
Sheltering the Homeless
Visiting the Sick or Imprisoned
Burying the Dead

During this Divine Mercy Sunday, reflect on God's mercy in your life. How does God manifest his mercy and how can we as followers of Christ help to manifest that same mercy we have received from God. For mercy is a sign of holiness and we are all called to be holy.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)


Sunday, March 19, 2017

St. Joseph, Man for Everyone!

   Little is known about St. Joseph, but the little knowledge we have, actually tells us much about him as a follower of Christ. Joseph himself is mentioned only a few times in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. From these two gospels we learn that Joseph was betrothed to Mary and was a talented carpenter and craftsman who would hand on his skills to the young child Jesus.
   Joseph was a truly devout and righteous man of God. In Matthew's gospel, instead of exposing his betrothed Mary to shame for an unexpected pregnancy, Joseph decided to divorce her quietly. However, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream telling him to not be afraid to take Mary for his wife for it was by the power of the Holy Spirit that she had conceived this child. At this time Joseph may have been greatly bewildered as to what was happening in his life. But nonetheless, he did as the angel said. This shows us his faith in God, and that he may have had a fairly good understanding of the Messianic prophecies.
   Joseph too, kept the Jewish laws and festivals given by the Lord to Moses. He took the Holy Family to Jerusalem, presented Jesus in the temple, offered sacrifice, celebrated the Passover, the Feast of Booths and even Pentecost. Though Joseph never spoke a word in Scripture, his actions speak for him. A poor, simple and humble man, Joseph had great faith in God and along with his spouse Mary, kept silent as they marveled at the little child they raised in Nazareth. There are still unanswered questions about Joseph; Did Joseph die before Jesus was crucified? Or how old was Joseph? Though it is not said in Scripture, tradition holds that Joseph died before the crucifixion of Christ. As for his age, Joseph may have been in his twenties when he was betrothed to Mary for it was a common custom in Jewish culture for young women to betrothed to older men. Even in art Joseph is depicted in different forms of age: young, middle aged, or as an elderly man with white hair, well-built physically and with a staff (white hair showing his wisdom, and a staff showing him being the provider and protector of the family).
   For several centuries, the church put great focus on Jesus' divine paternity, along with Mary and her role in the economy of salvation history with Joseph receiving little attention. But now, devotion to St. Joseph has grown more popular. Pope Pius IX named him the title Patron of the Universal Church in 1870 and Pope Pius XII added May 1 as the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, while keeping his original feast day on March 19. St. Joseph is the patron of: fathers, travelers, carpenters, workers and is the patron saint of Peru, Canada and Mexico. This all-around saint is known as: Terror of Demons, Guardian of Virgins, Lover of Poverty, Head of the Holy Family and Pillar of Families.

Good St. Joseph pray for us.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving

The word “Lent” is an old English word which means “springtime.” Since the early centuries, the Church has suggested three things that we undertake during Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Prayer– We have busy lives and there is much emphasis on enjoying life, but life without prayer is a life without the joy of the presence of God. If we do not pray, we are not Christians at full potential. We are like birds who are walking instead of flying. We will not have an intimate relationship with God our loving Father. We pray because all goodness comes from God and when we pray we come in contact with God. We pray to experience the joy of knowing and loving God our Father. We can make the effort to go to Mass an extra time or two during the week, or attend the Stations of the Cross at our local parish, or pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Prayer can be as short as 10 minutes a day—praying on a few verses of Scripture and trying to listen to what God wants us to savor from them. Whatever it is, it needs to make a difference—it needs to bring us closer to God.
Fasting — The Church commands two days of fasting, but encourages us to do more during Lent. From the spiritual point of view, fasting symbolizes our dependence on God. We don’t look at fasting as an end in itself— giving up something because it is hard, but fasting expresses the fact that we are trying to put God first in our life. Strictly speaking, fasting does concern food and is applicable for those from age 18-59, but our fasting from food is to be accompanied by a loving and forgiving attitude toward others —and that applies to everyone no matter what age. Fasting can also be applied to other areas of our lives. We can fast from noise by turning off our TV or radio. We can fast from checking our phones every two minutes; fast from Netflix, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. We can fast from hitting the snooze button on our alarm clocks. Something that will bring us closer to God.
Almsgiving —For helping the poor, the Church makes it easy for us by giving us the opportunity to contribute to Catholic aid agencies by using the Rice Bowl. It can be giving money, it can also be giving of our time to spend time with others in need, forgiving someone who has hurt us in some way, thanking someone who has made a positive difference in our lives, praying for those whom we have hurt in some way, bringing a pot of soup to one of our Lenten soup suppers. Whatever we do for one of the least of these we do for Jesus.
May this Lent be a new springtime in our lives. Through prayer, fasting and almsgiving, may we like Jesus in the desert for forty days overcome temptation and thus be well prepared to celebrate Easter. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr

St. Polycarp was an early apostolic Father, unique because he was a living bridge between the apostles and the next generation of Christian believers. Polycarp was a disciple of John the Evangelist and is said to have received all of Christ's teachings from John himself.  As the church began to grow in the second century, Polycarp became bishop of Smyrna and one of the greatest defenders of the faith at a time when heresies and persecution were rampant in the Greco-Roman world.

Polycarp met St. Ignatius of Antioch as the saint passed through Smyrna in chains on his way to martyrdom. The two saints had a close relationship discussing and even debating matters pertaining to the faith.  One such discussion and debate centered on handling the celebration of the liturgy and when special feasts should be celebrated.  The two went to Rome to meet with Pope Anicetus to resolve their conflicts.  Nevertheless, their love of Christ, each other and the church never hindered their relationship. This can be seen in a letter written by Ignatius to Polycarp which is still intact today.  By the strengthening and encouraging words of Ignatius, Polycarp continued to be steadfast in faith and zealously defended the church, as Ignatius said,“Your mind is grounded in God as on an immovable rock.”  As Polycarp continued to speak out against the heresies, he also encouraged Christians to pursue holiness.  “Stand fast, therefore, in this conduct and follow the example of the Lord, 'firm and unchangeable in faith, lovers of brotherhood, loving each other, united in truth, helping each other with mildness of the Lord, despising no man.  When you can do good, do not put it off, for alms-giving frees from death.  You must all be subject to one another and keep your conduct free from reproach among pagans, so that from your good works you may receive praise and the Lord may not be blasphemed on account of you.  But woe to him on whose account the name of the Lord is blasphemed.  Teach sobriety, therefore, to all, and practice it yourselves, also”  (The Letter to the Philippians of Saint Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna and Holy Martyr; chapter 10).

Like many other saints of the early church, Polycarp was arrested and put to death for his belief in Christ as documented in a letter written by the Church of Smyrna to the Church of Philomelium.  The letter states that Polycarp had been taken to the Roman arena in Smyrna, where he was put on trial before the proconsul who threatened him with torture and death.  Polycarp stood firm in his faith and was sentenced to be burned at the stake. As the executioners prepared for his execution, Polycarp offered up an incredible prayer of love and praise to God, “Lord God Almighty, Father of Thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received full knowledge of Thee, God of the angels and powers, of the whole creation and of the whole race of the righteous who live in Thy sight, I bless thee, because I may have a part, along with the martyrs, in the chalice of Thy Christ, 'unto resurrection in eternal life.' resurrection both of soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit.  May I be received today as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, among those who are in Thy Presence, as Thou hast prepared and foretold and fulfilled, God who art faithful and true.  For this and for all benefits I praise Thee, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, through the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, through whom be to Thee with Him and the Holy Spirit glory, now and for all ages to come.  Amen.”  Once Polycarp finished his prayer the executioner lit the stake, but Polycarp remained untouched by the flames as they formed an arch over him like wind in a ship's sail and he himself began to take on the odor of freshly baked bread.  Agitated by the miracle the executioner stabbed Polycarp to death, and witnesses recounted that the martyr's blood itself extinguished the flames.

Polycarp lived the life of the Gospel and the passion of Christ.  He is a prime example of how one can defend the Faith and achieve great holiness in the midst of a pagan world.  We celebrate Polycarp's birth into eternal life on Febuary 23, the day he was martyred on the ancient calendar from the year 156 A.D.  

Saturday, January 14, 2017

St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

The early church faced great persecution under the Roman Empire. Many saints were martyred for believing in Christ: Peter, all the apostles (except for John who was given the martyr's crown, although he survived the cauldron of oil) Polycarp, Cecilia and Justin. Yet history tells of another beautiful martyr who lived around the third century named Agnes.
Agnes was born into a noble and fairly wealthy Christian family, and was a beautiful woman at the age of thirteen. Young men pursued her hand in marriage, but Agnes refused all suitors. She was in love with Christ and promised him her purity, chaste and unspoiled. Because of her refusal to marry, Agnes was reported to the Roman governor and given a chance to change her Christian way. He sent her to a house of prostitution where men could do what they pleased with her. While there, Agnes prayed to her Divine Spouse for protection. As she did, she began to exude a strong aroma of holiness and men who came after her were amazed at her saintly appearance. Other stories suggest that when men dared to touch Agnes, they were immediately struck blind.

After a while the governor commanded she to be stripped of her clothing and dragged through the streets. Agnes continued to pray to the Lord and her hair grew, quickly covering her whole body. The governor finally commanded that she should be beheaded. Agnes was a virgin martyr a supreme witness for the early church. Saints Ambrose and Augustine both state that they witnessed her martyrdom and praised her heroic love of purity.

Agnes was an exemplary example of how Christianity was a life-giving religion for women in her time and culture. We know that the Roman Empire was pagan saturated with the ideology that if women were not wives or prostitutes, they were of no use and should be put to death. This type of ideology still reigns in many areas of the world today, but young women can look to Agnes as an example of courage, who shows them what it truly means to be a woman and to be a bride of the Most-High God. Today St. Agnes is pictured with a lamb in many pictures, symbolizing her virginity and purity; she is patroness of rape survivors and young women. We celebrate her martyrdom and feastday on January 21.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Will the New Year Bring You Peace?

Solemnity of the Mother of God

Happy New Year! 

The life of Jesus begins with Mary, therefore, it is appropriate that we begin the New Year with the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. Since Mary is the Mother of God she is the mother of joy, joy to the world.

So the traditional greeting on this first day of the New Year is one of joy.

Happy New Year! Happy New Year!

How many times did you give that greeting to others and is it really possible to find happiness in the New Year?

It would be a mistake to expect perfect happiness in this life. This innate, insatiable drive we all have for perfect happiness can only be satisfied in the next life. As St. Augustine said, “Lord, you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” But there is a deep, lasting peace that everyone can have in this life.

What brings us happiness and peace? The answer is to be found in Bethlehem. Look at the Nativity. A beautiful babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the manger and around him? There is no riches, no fame, no power, no conveniences, no pleasure, nothing but an empty, cold cave on the outskirts of town. Mary and Joseph kneeling before the manger must have been tired, hungry, cold, humiliated. Yet in the midst of all of this, Mary and Joseph are the happiest people to walk the face of this earth.

They teach us the amazing paradox that it is only when we lose ourselves in the love and service of Jesus do we find happiness. Happiness that this world can never give and no one can take from us. Jesus made it very simple, “Whatever you do for one of these least brethren you do for me.” So on this first day of the New Year let us ask for the grace to know Jesus more intimately, love him more ardently and follow him more closely so that this may be a truly Happy New Year!