Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Thomas Merton on Humility

“It is almost impossible to overestimate the value of true humility and its power in the spiritual life. For the beginning of humility is the beginning of blessedness and the consummation of humility is the perfection of all joy. Humility contains in itself the answer to all the great problems of the life of the soul. It is the only key to faith, with which the spiritual life begins: for faith and humility are inseparable. In perfect humility all selfishness disappears and your soul no longer lives for itself or in itself for God: and it is lost and submerged in Him and transformed into Him.” - from “New Seeds of Contemplation”

Monday, May 2, 2016

Hidden by United Pursuit (Will Reagan)

Silence: A necessary condition for deep, contemplative prayer


The following comes from The Catholic World Report:

Many Catholics rightly complain about the absence of silence in some forms of the celebration of our Roman liturgy. It seemed to us important, therefore, in this short essay, to recall the meaning of silence as a Christian ascetical value, and therefore as a necessary condition for deep, contemplative prayer, without forgetting the fact that times of silence are officially prescribed during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, so as to highlight the importance of silence for a high-quality liturgical renewal.

1. Silence as a Christian ascetical value

In the negative sense, silence is the absence of noise. It can be exterior or interior. Exterior silence involves the absence of sounds both in words and in actions (noises of doors, vehicles, jackhammers, and airplanes, the noisy mechanism of cameras, often accompanied by dazzling flashes, and also of that horrible forest of cell phones that are brandished at arm’s length during our Eucharistic liturgies). Virtuous or mystical silence obviously must be distinguished from reproachful silence, from the refusal to speak to someone, from the silence of omission through cowardice, egotism, or hard-heartedness.

Of course, exterior silence is an ascetical exercise of self-mastery in the use of speech. First of all it may be helpful to recall what asceticism is; this word is not praised to the skies by our consumer society—far from it!—and, we must admit, it frightens our contemporaries, including very often the Christians who are influenced by the spirit of the world. Well, then, what is asceticism? Asceticism is an indispensable means that helps us to remove from our life anything that weighs it down, in other words, anything that hampers our spiritual or interior life and therefore is an obstacle to prayer. Yes, it is indeed in prayer that God communicates his Life to us, in other words, manifests his presence in our soul by irrigating it with the streams of his Trinitarian Love: the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. And prayer is essentially silence. Chattering, the tendency to externalize all the treasures of the soul by expressing them, is supremely harmful to the spiritual life. Carried away toward the exterior by his need to say everything, the chatterer cannot help being far from God, superficial and incapable of any profound activity.

The wisdom books of the Old Testament (Prov 10:8, 11, 13, 14, 18-21, 31, 32; 15:1-7; Sir 19:7-12; 20:1-2, 5-8 or 23:7-15; 28:13-26) are chock-full of exhortations aimed at avoiding sins of the tongue (in particular, slander and calumny). The prophetic books, for their part, mention silence as the expression of reverential fear of God; it is then a preparation for the theophany of God, in other words, the revelation of His presence in our world (Lam 3:26; Zeph 1:7; Hab 2:20; Is 41:1; Zech 2:13). The New Testament is not outdone in this respect. Indeed, there is the Letter of James, which clearly remains the classic passage about controlling the tongue (Jas 3:1-10). However, we know that Jesus himself warned us against wicked words, which are the expression of a depraved heart (Mt 15:19) and even against idle words, for which an accounting will be demanded of us (Mt 12:36). In contrast, we can only be impressed by the silence of Jesus before the Sanhedrin, the Roman governor Pilate and King Herod: Jesus autem tacebat (Mt 26:63). Herod asked him to work a miracle for him personally, and his courtiers would have been amused by it. But Jesus Christ, who was in chains—he, the God of majesty—did not consent to become the buffoon of King Herod, nor to do for that proud man whose curiosity was unhealthy what he granted so generously to the humble and the uneducated.

In reality, true, good silence always belongs to someone who is willing to let others have his place, and especially the Completely-Other, God. In contrast, external noise characterizes the individual who wants to occupy an over-important place, to strut or to show off, or else who wants to fill his interior emptiness, as is the case in many stores and public facilities, and also particularly in the waiting rooms of some dentists, hairdressers..., where they impose incessant background music on you.

As for interior silence, it can achieved by the absence of memories, plans, interior speech, worries…. Still more important, thanks to an act of the will, it can result from the absence of disordered affections or excessive desires. The Fathers of the Church assign an eminent place to silence in the ascetical life. Think of Saint Ambrose (In psalm. 37, 12-15), Saint Augustine, Saint Gregory the Great (Moralia II, 48; XXII, 16; XXX, 16), not to mention Chapter VI of the Rule of Saint Benedict of Nursia on “taciturnity,” or Chapter 62 on grand silence at night, where he adopts the teaching of Cassian. Starting with those spiritual masters, all the medieval founders of religious orders, followed by the mystics of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, insisted not only on the ascetical but also on the mystical importance of silence.

2. Silence as a condition for contemplative prayer

The Gospels say that the Savior himself prayed in silence, particularly at night (Lk 6:12), or while withdrawing to deserted places (Lk 5:16; Mk 1:35). Silence is typical of the meditation by the Word of God; we find it again particularly in Mary’s attitude toward the mystery of her Son (Lk 2:19, 51). The most silent person in the Gospels is of course Saint Joseph; not a single word of his does the New Testament record for us. Saint Basil considers silence not only as an ascetical necessity of monastic life, but also as a condition for encountering God (Letter 2, 2-6: PG 32, 224-232). Silence precedes and prepares for the privileged moment when we have access to God, who then can speak to us face to face as we would do with a friend (cf. Ex 33:11; Num 12:8; Deut 34:10).

Recall, in this regard, that we arrive at the knowledge of God by way of causality, analogy, eminence, but also negation: once we affirm the divine attributes, which are known by natural reason (this is the kataphatic way), we must deny the mode of limited realization thereof that we know here below (this is the apophatic way). Silence is an essential part of the apophatic way of gaining access to God, which was so highly prized by the Fathers of the Church, especially the Greeks; this makes them demand silence of arguments when faced with the mystery of God (Clement of Alexandria, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa).

It is nonetheless true that silence is above all the positive attitude of someone who prepares to welcome God by listening. Yes, God acts in the silence. Hence this very important remark by the great Saint John of the Cross: “The Father said only one word, namely his Son, and in an eternal silence he always says it: the soul too must hear it in silence.”[1] The Book of Wisdom had already noted in this regard the manner in which God intervened to deliver the chosen people from captivity in Egypt: that unforgettable act took place during the night: “For while gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone, your all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne” (Wis 18:14). Later, this verse would be understood by Christian liturgical tradition as a prefiguration of the silent Incarnation of the Eternal Word in the crib in Bethlehem. As for Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, she would insist on silence as a condition for contemplating God the Holy Trinity.

And so we have to make silence: this is of course an activity, and not a form of idleness. If our “interior cell phone” is always busy because we are “having a conversation” with other creatures, how can the Creator reach us, how can he “call us”? We must therefore purify our mind of its curiosities, the will of its plans, in order to open ourselves totally to the graces of light and strength that God wants to give us profusely: “Father, not my will, but yours be done.” Ignatian “indifference” is therefore a form of silence too.




Saint of the day: Athanasius


The following comes from the Catholic Online site:

St. Athanasius, the great champion of the Faith was born at Alexandria, about the year 296, of Christian parents. Educated under the eye of Alexander, later Bishop of his native city, he made great progress in learning and virtue. In 313, Alexander succeeded Achillas in the Patriarchal See, and two years later St. Athanasius went to the desert to spend some time in retreat with St. Anthony.

In 319, he became a deacon, and even in this capacity he was called upon to take an active part against the rising heresy of Arius, an ambitious priest of the Alexandrian Church who denied the Divinity of Christ. This was to be the life struggle of St. Athanasius.

In 325, he assisted his Bishop at the Council of Nicaea, where his influence began to be felt. Five months later Alexander died. On his death bed he recommended St. Athanasius as his successor. In consequence of this, Athanasius was unanimously elected Patriarch in 326.

His refusal to tolerate the Arian heresy was the cause of many trials and persecutions for St. Athanasius. He spent seventeen of the forty-six years of his episcopate in exile. After a life of virtue and suffering, this intrepid champion of the Catholic Faith, the greatest man of his time, died in peace on May 2, 373. St. Athanasius was a Bishop and Doctor of the Church.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Good Good Father by HOUSEFIRES II (Featuring Pat Barrett)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

St. John Paul II: The First Homily as Pope

The following comes from the Vatican site:


1. "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16). These words were spoken by Simon, son of Jonah, in the district of Caesarea Philippi. Yes, he spoke them with his own tongue, with a deeply lived and experienced conviction—but it is not in him that they find their source, their origin: "...because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven" (Mt 16:17). They were the words of Faith.

These words mark the beginning of Peter's mission in the history of salvation, in the history of the People of God. From that moment, from that confession of Faith, the sacred history of salvation and of the People of God was bound to take on a new dimension: to express itself in the historical dimension of the Church.

This ecclesial dimension of the history of the People of God takes its origin, in fact is born, from these words of faith, and is linked to the man who uttered them: "You are Peter—the rock—and on you, as on a rock, I will build my Church."

2. On this day and in this place these same words must again be uttered and listened to:

"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Yes, Brothers and sons and daughters, these words first of all.

Their content reveals to our eyes the mystery of the living God, the mystery to which the Son has brought us close. Nobody, in fact, has brought the living God as close to men and revealed him as he alone did. In our knowledge of God, in our journey towards God, we are totally linked to the power of these words: "He who sees me sees the Father."  He who is infinite, inscrutable, ineffable, has come close to us in Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary in the stable at Bethlehem.

All of you who are still seeking God, all of you who already have the inestimable good fortune to believe, and also you who are tormented by doubt: please listen once again, today in this sacred place, to the words uttered by Simon Peter. In those words is the faith of the Church. In those same words is the new truth, indeed, the ultimate and definitive truth about man: the son of the living God—"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

3. Today the new Bishop of Rome solemnly begins his ministry and the mission of Peter. In this city, in fact, Peter completed and fulfilled the mission entrusted to him by the Lord.

The Lord addressed him with these words: "...when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch out your hands and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go" (Jn 21:18).
Peter came to Rome!

What else but obedience to the inspiration received from the Lord guided him and brought him to this city, the heart of the Empire? Perhaps the fisherman of Galilee did not want to come here. Perhaps he would have preferred to stay there, on the shores of the Lake of Genesareth, with his boat and his nets. But guided by the Lord, obedient to his inspiration, he came here!

According to an ancient tradition (given magnificent literary expression in a novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz), Peter wanted to leave Rome during Nero's persecution. But the Lord intervened: he went to meet him. Peter spoke to him and asked. "Quo vadis, Domine? "—" Where are you going, Lord?" And the Lord answered him at once: "I am going to Rome to be crucified again." Peter went back to Rome and stayed here until his crucifixion.

Yes, Brothers and sons and daughters, Rome is the See of Peter. Down the centuries new Bishops continually succeeded him in this See. Today a new, Bishop comes to the Chair of` Peter in Rome, a Bishop full of trepidation, conscious of his unworthiness. And how could one not tremble before the greatness of this call and before the universal mission of this See of Rome!

To the See of Peter in Rome there succeeds today a Bishop who is not a Roman. A Bishop who is a son of Poland. But from this moment he too becomes a Roman. Yes—a Roman. He is a Roman also because he is the son of a nation whose history, from its first dawning, and whose thousand-year-old traditions are marked by a living, strong, unbroken and deeply felt link with the See of Peter, a nation which has ever remained faithful to this See of Rome. Inscrutable is the design of Divine Providence!

4. In past centuries, when the Successor of Peter took possession of his See, the triregnum or tiara was placed on his head. The last Pope to be crowned was Paul VI in 1963, but after the solemn coronation ceremony he never used the tiara again and left his Successors free to decide in this regard.

Pope John Paul I, whose memory is so vivid in our hearts, did not wish to have the tiara; nor does his Successor wish it today. This is not the time to return to a ceremony and an object considered, wrongly, to be a symbol of the temporal power of the Popes.

Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us to gaze on the Lord and immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself.

He who was born of the Virgin Mary, the carpenter's Son (as he was thought to be), the Son of the living God (confessed by Peter), came to make us all "a kingdom of priests".

The Second Vatican Council has reminded us of the mystery of this power and of the fact that Christ's mission as Priest, Prophet-Teacher and King continues in the Church. Everyone, the whole People of God, shares in this threefold mission. Perhaps in the past, the tiara, this triple crown, was placed on the Pope's head in order to express by that symbol the Lord's plan for his Church, namely that all the hierarchical order of Christ's Church, all "sacred power" exercised in the Church, is nothing other than service, service with a single purpose: to ensure that the whole People of God shares in this threefold mission of Christ and always remains under the power of the Lord; a power that has its source not in the powers of this world but in the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection.

 The absolute and yet sweet and gentle power of the Lord responds to the whole depths of the human person, to his loftiest aspirations of intellect, will and heart. It does not speak the language of force but expresses itself in charity and truth.

The new Successor of Peter in the See of Rome, today makes a fervent, humble and trusting prayer: Christ, make me become and remain the servant of your unique power, the servant of your sweet power, the servant of your power that knows no eventide. Make me be a servant. Indeed, the servant of your servants.

5. Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ's power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind. Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows "what is in man". He alone knows it.

So often today man does not know what is within him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you therefore, we beg you with humility and trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of eternal life.

Saint of the day: Pope Pius V


Prayer to Mary, Help of Christians:
Mary, most powerful Virgin,
You are the mighty and glorious Protector of the Church.
You are the marvelous Help of Christians.
You are awe-inspiring as an army in battle array.
You have destroyed heresy in the world.
In the midst of our anguish, our struggle and our distress
defend us from the power of the enemy,
and at the hour of our death receive our soul into heaven. Amen.

(By St. John Bosco)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Bono & Eugene Peterson on the Psalms

This short film documents the friendship between Bono (lead musician of the band U2) and Eugene Peterson (author of contemporary-language Bible translation The Message) revolving around their common interest in the Psalms. Based on interviews conducted by Fuller Seminary faculty member David Taylor and produced in association with Fourth Line Films, the film highlights in particular a conversation on the Psalms that took place between Bono, Peterson, and Taylor at Peterson’s Montana home.

The film is featured exclusively through FULLER studio, a site offering resources—videos, podcasts, reflections, stories—for all who seek deeply formed spiritual lives. Explore these resources, on the Psalms and a myriad of other topics, at Fuller.edu/Studio.

Since Your Love by United Pursuit (ft. Brandon Hampton)

Pope Francis: There is always resistance in the Church to surprises of the Spirit

(Vatican Radio) There is always resistance to the surprises of the Spirit, but it’s the Spirit who continues to lead the Church forward. That was Pope Francis’ message at Mass on Thursday at the Santa Marta chapel as he reflected on the reading about division and resistance within the early Church in Jerusalem.

Commenting on today’s reading from Acts about the Council of Jerusalem, Pope Francis said the protagonist in the Church is always the Holy Spirit. It’s the Spirit who, from the very beginning, gives strength to the apostles to proclaim the Gospel and it’s the Spirit who carries the Church forward despite its problems.

Even when there is an outbreak of persecution, the Pope said, it’s the Spirit who gives believers the strength to stand firm in the faith, even if they face resistance and anger from the doctors of the law. In the passage from Acts, the Pope noted, there was a double resistance to the Spirit, from those who believed that Jesus came only for the chosen people and from those who wanted to impose the law of Moses, including the practice of circumcision, on those who had converted.

There was great confusion over all this, the Pope said, but the Spirit led their hearts in a new direction. The apostles were surprised by the Spirit, he said, as they found themselves in new and unthinkable situations. But how were they to manage these circumstances? Pope Francis said the passage begins by noting that ‘much debate had taken place’: no doubt heated debate, because on the one hand they were pushed on and on by the Spirit, but on the other, they were facing new situations that they had never seen or even imagined, such as pagans receiving the Holy Spirit.

The disciples were holding a ‘hot potato’ in their hands and didn’t know what to do, the Pope said. Thus they called a meeting in Jerusalem where each one could recount their experiences of how the Holy Spirit had been received by the Gentiles. And in the end they came to an agreement. But first , the Pope noted, “The whole assembly fell silent, and they listened while Paul and Barnabas described the signs and wonders God had worked among the Gentiles through them.” Never be afraid to listen with humility, the Pope said. When you are afraid to listen, you don’t have the Spirit in your heart. When the apostles had listened, they decided to send several of the disciples to the Greeks, the pagan communities, that had become Christians to reassure them.

Those who converted, the Pope continued, were not obliged to be circumcised. The decision was communicated to them in a letter in which the disciples say that “The Holy Spirit and we have decided….” This is the way of the Church when faced with novelties, the Pope said. Not the worldly novelties of fashion, but the novelties of the Spirit who always surprises us. How does the Church resolve these problems? Through meetings and discussions, listening and praying, before making a final decision. This is the way of the Church when the Spirit surprises us, Pope Francis said, recalling the resistance that emerged in recent times during the Second Vatican Council.

That resistance continues today in one way or another, he said, yet the Spirit moves ahead. And the way the Church expresses its communion is through synodality, by meeting, listening, debating, praying and deciding. The Spirit is always the protagonist and the Lord asks us not to be afraid when the Spirit calls us. Just as the Spirit stopped St Paul and set him on the right road, so the Spirit will give us the courage and the patience to win over adversity and stand firm in the face of martyrdom. Let us ask the Lord for grace, the Pope concluded, to understand how the Church can face the surprises of the Spirit, to be docile and to follow the path which Christ wants for us and for the whole Church.

Pope John Paul II's Prayer for Vocations

Holy and provident Father, You are the Lord of the vineyard and the harvest and You give each a just reward for their work. In your design of love You call men and women to work with You for the salvation of the world. We thank You for Jesus Christ, your living word, who has redeemed us from our sins and is among us to assist us in our poverty. Guide the flock to which You have promised possession of the kingdom. Send new workers into your harvest and set in the hearts of pastors faithfulness to your plan of salvation, perseverance in their vocation and holiness of life.

Christ Jesus, who on the shores of the Sea of Galilee called the Apostles and made them the foundation of the Church and bearers of your Gospel, in our day, sustain your people on its journey. Give courage to those whom You call to follow You in the priesthood and the consecrated life, so that they may enrich God's field with wisdom of your Word. Make them docile instruments of your love in everyday service of their brothers and sisters.

Spirit of holiness, who pour out your gifts on all believers and, especially, on those called to be Christ's ministers, help young people to discover the beauty of the divine call. Teach them the true way of prayer, which is nourished by the Word of God. Help them to read the signs of the times, so as to be faithful interpreters of your Gospel and bearers of salvation.

Mary, Virgin who listened and Virgin of the Word of God made flesh in your womb, help us to be open to the Word of the Lord, so that, having been welcomed and meditated upon, it may grow in our hearts. Help us to live like You the beatitudes of believers and to dedicate ourselves with unceasing charity to evangelizing all those who seek your Son. Grant that we may serve every person, becoming servants of the Word we have heard, so that remaining faithful to it we may find our happiness in living it.

Amen.

Saint of the day: Catherine of Siena


The following comes from the Catholic.org site:

The 25th child of a wool dyer in northern Italy, St. Catherine started having mystical experiences when she was only 6, seeing guardian angels as clearly as the people they protected. She became a Dominican tertiary when she was 16, and continued to have visions of Christ, Mary, and the saints. St. Catherine was one of the most brilliant theological minds of her day, although she never had any formal education. She persuaded the Pope to go back to Rome from Avignon, in 1377, and when she died she was endeavoring to heal the Great Western Schism. In 1375 Our Lord give her the Stigmata, which was visible only after her death. Her spiritual director was Blessed Raymond of Capua. St, Catherine's letters, and a treatise called "a dialogue" are considered among the most brilliant writings in the history of theCatholic Church. She died when she was only 33, and her body was found incorrupt in 1430.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Don’t Just Discern Your Vocation


The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
There’s a cause for today’s vocation shortage that’s rarely addressed. Too many people are discerning; not enough people are deciding. I know they mean well, but instead of courageously pursuing the priesthood or religious life they form safe communities where they can muse on ideals instead of act on principles.
I call them the Order of Perpetual Discerners. I’m not questioning their piety. I wouldn’t dream of impugning their intentions. However, they fundamentally misunderstand how to discern God’s will. They agonize over the call. They seek spiritual directors and confidants to emote about the vexing feelings they’re experiencing. The sad result is that they never actually discern; they only dream.
The narcissism pervading our culture is a major cause of this trend. We act as if it’s a virtue. Popular culture promotes it. Popular Christian culture is ensnared by it. It’s not surprising that the modern obsession with self-care was bound to cause some problems. The philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard provides intellectual soil for it. Personality cults popularize it. Televangelists and magazine rack mystics sell it. Our contemporary culture has been perfectly constructed to cultivate narcissistic Christianity. Combine the popular psychologism preached in our parishes with a society steeped in postmodern despair and you get exactly what we’ve got — a simulacrum of the Corinthian Christianity that St. Paul fought against.
Common trends of vocational discernment typify the Catholic appropriation of this narcissism. The problem isn’t whether people are or are not discerning. The problem is people are stuck in their heads. It’s like they’re waiting for an infallible neon sign from God. “Constantine got his in hoc signo, so should I!” The truth is, however, God doesn’t usually operate that way. He’s the author of the ordinary, the mundane. God reveals the extraordinary only after we’ve embraced the ordinary.
The scenario I’m describing is ubiquitous. I frequently see it among candidates inquiring into my own Order. This narcissism is why so many will “come and see,” but so few will “stay to pray.” They’ve gotten stuck in the discernment trap and they lack the tools to get out. They try to get out by doing exactly what our culture has taught them to do. They look inward. Yet, by doing this they’ll never find what they’re seeking. Why? Because the answer is found on the outside not on the inside. Thankfully, this sickness isn’t unto death.
Technically the word discernment is a good one. It describes the ability to wisely chose one thing over another. It’s not simply the ability to separate good from bad. More specifically it’s the ability to place all the good things we encounter in a hierarchical order from what’s good to what’s best. Discernment is essentially an intellectual process of ordering perceived goods. However, we can get stuck in the process if we lack critical information. When this happens we become paralyzed because all our possible choices seem to be equally good. In this scenario we become incapable of discerning which vocation to choose. This is the discernment trap. The lacuna in our knowledge is often the result of asking the wrong question. We usually ask ourselves which vocation is better for me. Instead we need to simply ask which vocation is better.
I can already hear objections and outrage at what I just wrote. That’s because savvy readers know what I’m about to say. The best vocation is the one immediately ordered to contemplation. The best vocation is religious life. Moderns think this statement  is an insult to married couples. They think it’s antiquated hogwash. After all, didn’t the Second Vatican Council do away with thinking of religious life as objectively superior to married life?
Well, not exactly. The Council desired that we avoid minimizing the dignity of Holy Matrimony. Lord knows there’s been enough of that! What, then, does it mean for religious life to be objectively superior to married life? It’s simply the consequence of religious life being a more perfect reflection of beatitude. Married life is good but religious life is better. The Second Vatican Council affirms this position when it calls religious life an eschatological sign. It literally allows us to begin living on earth what the saints experience in heaven.
Probably most people reading this article have never heard this before now. That’s because it’s never, or rarely, preached. But it’s also because we rarely consider how God’s love affects our daily lives. What does this mean? It means God desires our highest good. This isn’t limited to His desire that we get to heaven. His love extends to all the particular aspects of our life. God wants the best for us at every moment of our lives in every possible way. When His love intersects with vocational discernment the ramifications are clear. He desires that we participate in the highest of form of Christian life. God desires that each of use enter religious life.
Once discernment is seen this way everything changes. The question is no longer about whether God desires me to live one way or another. No. I already know that God desires me to choose and possess the greatest good. Knowing this the process of discernment is no longer about guessing what’s in God’s mind. Discernment becomes a question of whether I’m capable of living religious life or not.
St. Thomas Aquinas was no stranger to the difficulties of discernment. He also excelled at placing things in their proper order. Wisely, he left a practical guide to help us get out of the discernment trap. Much of what I’m saying is found in Question 189 in the “Secunda secundae” of the Summa Theologiae. Each article asks very practical questions about religious discernment. Each are real questions from his day. Many of them were surely his own questions. Most of them are the same questions we continue to ask today. His conclusions are as helpful today as when the ink was still fresh. Tolle lege!
The reality is, however, that you can read about discernment until your eyes fall out. There is a simpler solution that Aquinas would appreciate. Enter the novitiate! Enter the seminary! Among good things there is no replacement for experiential knowledge. The Church knows this and has designed these structures to help your discernment. A pair of pants may look nice on the rack, but you’ll never know if they fit until you try them on. And, if you already know your size, what are you waiting for. Buy the pants! Entering the seminary or the novitiate doesn’t involve signing a contract in your own blood. They are trial periods for both you and the community. They are designed for you to “try on” the community. If a community doesn’t fit, you can always put it back on the rack.
Remember, you’ll never discover your vocation in your own head. Stop over-thinking it! Follow the example of our Blessed Mother.  When God calls, answer. After you answer, ponder. While you ponder it follow Him wherever He leads you. Be at peace. Abandon yourself to God’s will and you will undoubtedly save your own soul and win the salvation of many more. Make a choice and live it.

Spiritual Battle and the Contest of Faith

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
As we do battle and fight in the contest of faith, God, his angels and Christ himself watch us! How exalted is the glory, how great the joy of engaging in a contest with God presiding, of receiving a crown with Christ as judge.
Dear brethren, let us arm ourselves with all our might, let us prepare ourselves for the struggle by innocence of heart, integrity of faith, dedication to virtue.
The blessed Apostle teaches us how to arm and prepare ourselves:
Put round you the belt of truth; put on the breastplate of righteousness; for shoes wear zeal for the Gospel of peace; take up the shield of faith to extinguish all the burning arrows of the evil one; take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.[Ephesians 6:14]
Let us take this armor and defend ourselves with these spiritual defenses from heaven, so that we may be able to resist the threats of the devil, and fight back on the evil day.
Let us put on the breastplate of righteousness so that our hearts may be safeguarded, proof against the arrows of the enemy. Let our feet be protected by the shoes of the teaching of the Gospel so that when we begin to trample on the serpent and crush it, we may not be bitten and tripped up by it.
Let us with fortitude bear the shield of faith to protect us by extinguishing all the burning arrows that the enemy may launch against us.
Let us wear on our head the helmet of the spirit to defend our ears against the proclamations of death, our eyes against the sight of accursed idols, our forehead so that God’s sign may be kept intact, our lips so that our tongue may proclaim victoriously its faith in Christ its Lord.
Let us arm our right hand with the sword of the spirit so that it may courageously refuse the daily sacrifices (1), and like the hand – mindful of the Eucharist – that receives the body of the Lord, stretch out to embrace him, and so gain from the Lord the future prize of a heavenly crown.
Dear brethren, have all this firmly fixed in your hearts. If the day of persecution finds us thinking on these things and meditating upon them, the soldier of Christ, trained by Christ’s commands and instructions, does not begin to panic at the thought of battle, but is ready for the crown of victory.

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*From a Letter from Saint Cyprian (born around 200 AD and died 258 AD), Bishop and Martyr, Second Reading, Liturgy of the Hours, April 11, Memorial of Saint Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr.
(1) Here Saint Cyprian means sacrifices to idols.

Saint of the day: Gianna Beretta Molla



Today is the feast of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla. She is a great figure in the Pro-life movement and her story is really powerful! The following comes from the EWTN site:

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla was born in Magenta (Milan), Italy, on 4 October 1922, the 10th of 13 children. Already as a young girl she willingly accepted the gift of faith and the clearly Christian education that she received from her excellent parents. As a result, she experienced life as a marvellous gift from God, had a strong faith in Providence and was convinced of the necessity and effectivneess of prayer.
She diligently dedicated herself to studies during the years of her secondary and university education, while, at the same time, applying her faith in generous apostolic service among the elderly and needy as a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. After earning degrees in medicine and surgery from the University of Pavia in 1949, she opened a medical clinic in Mesero (near Magenta) in 1950. She specialized in pediatrics at the University of Milan in 1952 and thereafter gave special attention to mothers, babies, the elderly and the poor.
While working in the field of medicine—which she considered a "mission" and practiced as such—she increased her generous service to Catholic Action, especially among the "very young" and, at the same time, expressed her joie de vivre and love of creation through skiing and mountaineering. Through her prayers and those of others, she reflected on her vocation, which she also considered a gift from God. Having chosen the vocation of marriage, she embraced it with complete enthusiasm and wholly dedicated herself "to forming a truly Christian family."
She became engaged to Pietro Molla and was radiant with joy and happiness during the time of their engagement, for which she thanked and praised the Lord. They were married on 24 September 1955 in St. Martin's Basilica in Magenta, and she became a happy wife. In November 1956, to her great joy, she became the mother of Pierluigi; in December 1957 of Mariolina; in July 1959 of Laura. With simplicity and equilibrium she harmonized the demands of mother, wife, doctor and her passion for life.

In September 1961, towards the end of the second month of pregnancy, she was touched by suffering and the mystery of pain; she had developed a fibroma in her uterus. Before the required surgical operation, and conscious of the risk that her continued pregnancy brought, she pleaded with the surgeon to save the life of the child she was carrying, and entrusted herself to prayer and Providence. The life was saved, for which she thanked the Lord. She spent the seven months remaining until the birth of the child in incomparable strength of spirit and unrelenting dedication to her tasks as mother and doctor. She worried that the baby in her womb might be born in pain, and she asked God to prevent that.

A few days before the child was due, although trusting as always in Providence, she was ready to give her life in order to save that of her child: "If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child—I insist on it. Save the baby." On the morning of 21 April 1962 Gianna Emanuela was born. Despite all efforts and treatments to save both of them, on the morning of 28 April, amid unspeakable pain and after repeated exclamations of "Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you," the mother died. She was 39 years old. Her funeral was an occasion of profound grief, faith and prayer. The body of the new blessed lies in the cemetary of Mesero (4 km. from Magenta).

Gianna was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 24, 1994, and officially canonized as a saint on May 16, 2004. Gianna's husband Pietro and their last child, Gianna, were present at the canonization ceremony.

St. Gianna is a patron saint for mothers, physicians, and unborn children.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Christ is Risen by Matt Maher

Benedict XVI: "It became ever clearer to me that Karol Wojtyla was a saint!"

The following comes from the NCR:


Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has shared some personal recollections of Blessed John Paul II in a new interview that appears in a book of tributes to the soon-to-be canonized Polish Pontiff.

In extracts of the interview, published today by ZENIT, Benedict XVI says it became “ever clearer” to him that John Paul II was a saint. He recalls his first meeting with Karol Wojtyla, their working relationship, and how – contrary to what some theologians thought at the time – John Paul II firmly backed the former prefect at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during the blowback that followed publication of the 2000 declaration, Dominus Iesus.
The interview, which runs to 12 pages under the heading “It Became Ever More Clear to Me that John Paul II Was a Saint”, is one of 21 that appear in “Beside John Paul II - Friends and Collaborators Speak”. The book is so far only available in Italian.

Here below is a key extract in answer to a question on John Paul II's sanctity:

BENEDICT XVI: [The idea] that John Paul II was a saint came to me from time to time, in the years of my collaboration with him, ever clearer. Naturally, one must first of all keep in mind his intense relationship with God, his being immersed in communion with the Lord, of which he hardly spoke. From here came his happiness in the midst of the great labors he had to sustain, and the courage with which he fulfilled his task at a truly difficult time.

John Paul II did not ask for applause, nor did he ever look around, concerned about how his decisions were received. He acted from his faith and his convictions and he was ready also to suffer the blows.

The courage of the truth is in my [judgment] the criterion of the first order of sanctity.

Only from his relation with God is it possible to understand his indefatigable pastoral commitment. He gave himself with a radicalism which cannot be explained otherwise.

His commitment was tireless, and not only in the great trips, whose programs were dense with appointments from beginning to end, but also day after day, beginning with the morning Mass until late at night. During his first visit to Germany (1980), for the first time I had a very concrete experience of this enormous commitment. So during his stay in Munich, I decided he should take a longer break at midday. During that interval he called me to his room. I found him reciting the Breviary and I said to him: “Holy Father, you should rest”, and he said: “I can do so in Heaven.”

Only one who is profoundly filled with the urgency of his mission can act like this.

[…] But I must render honor also to his extraordinary kindness and understanding. Often I had sufficient reasons to blame myself or to put an end to my job of Prefect. And yet he supported me with absolutely incomprehensible fidelity and kindness.

Here, too, I would like to give an example. In face of the turmoil that developed around the Declaration Dominus Iesus, he told me that he intended to defend the document unequivocally at the Angelus. He invited me to write a text for the Angelus which should be, so to speak, watertight and not consent to any different interpretation. It should emerge, in an altogether unequivocal way, that he approved the document unconditionally.

Therefore, I prepared a brief address. I did not intend, however, to be too brusque and so I sought to express myself with clarity and without harshness. After having read it, the Pope asked once again: “Is it really sufficiently clear?” I answered yes.

Those who know theologians will not be astonished by the fact that, this notwithstanding, afterwards there were those who held that the Pope had prudently distanced himself from that text.

Chris Stefanick on St. John Paul II and World Youth Day in Denver