Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gethsemane by Ted Neeley

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fr. George Rutler: The Paradox of Christ's Passion

The following comes from Fr. George Rutler:

There is a moral difference between sight and perception, just as there is between height and stature. Someone with 20/20 vision may be blind to reality, and a very tall man may be a moral midget. There is also a difference between clock time, which measures days, and moral time which measures destiny. When Christ said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23), He was not looking at an hour glass but at the Cross. That is why he prayed, “Yet what should I say? ‘Father save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour” (John 12:27).


Time can drag when there is nothing to do, but it speeds by when there is a goal to be met. In His human nature, Christ was “troubled” because he could anticipate the physical pain ahead, and He knew that it would peak chronologically at High Noon on Friday, but his moral victory was already secured in another kind of time: “Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out” (John 12:31). Satan, of whom He speaks, had tried to block this hour because he thinks only in terms of daily existence rather than eternal life.


From this perspective, our Lord meant more than physical distance when he spoke of going “up” to Jerusalem. The Sea of Galilee is about 700 feet below sea level, the lowest fresh-water lake in the world. Jerusalem is 2500 feet above sea level, and the “hill” of Calvary added a few more feet to that, and the Cross was high on top of that hill. But He would be lifted beyond measure: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (John 12:32).


The paradox of Christ's Passion is that he had to go down in order to go up: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (John 12:24). He spoke shockingly of losing our life if we love it and preserving it for eternal life if we hate it (cf. John 12:25). By hatred He meant neglect of the moral measure of what we are. To try to preserve existence and attain great heights without risking our lives and being humbled for the sake of love, is simply to shrivel up. In a spiritual journal that George Washington faithfully kept, he prayed for protection against “an unwillingness to depart this life” which would cast him “into a spiritual slumber.”


Our Lord entered Jerusalem to battle more than a human enemy, and on an immeasurable scale he won the greatest of all victories when the Hour came.

Fr. Robert Barron comments on Hell

Saint Benedict Joseph Labre

This is an update of a post on St. Benedict Joseph that I did last year. What a wonderful saint!

When I was a newly ordained priest at Salesian High in New Rochelle, NY I was able to go for spritual direction to Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR. Fr. Benedict gave me the biography of St. Benedict Joseph Labre to read. I had never heard of this saint before, but was greatly impressed by the story of his life! Today is his Feast Day! His is a beautiful and sad story.

Benedict Joseph was the oldest of 15 children of a middle class family. He was educated by his uncle, a parish priest. Following his uncle's death, he tried to join the Trappists, Carthusians, and Cistercians, but was rejected by them all. He then spent years wandering Europe, especially Rome, in complete poverty, spending his days in perpetual adoration in the cathedrals and churches he came upon. Benedict would go into religious ecstasy when contemplating the passion of Christ. He was reputed to float, soar, and bilocate when in ecstasy. He begged in the streets, and if he was given more than he needed for the day, he would give the remainder to some one he considered more in need. He cured some of his fellow homeless, and multiplied bread for them. Benedict Joseph was counselor to people of all walks of life in Rome.

On the last day of his life, April 16, 1783, Benedict Joseph dragged himself to a church in Rome and prayed there for two hours before he collapsed, dying peacefully in a nearby house. His biography, written by his confessor Marconi, describes 136 miraculous cures attributed to him within three months of his death. Immediately after his death the people proclaimed him a saint. He was officially proclaimed a saint by Pope Leo XIII at canonization ceremonies in 1883.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mysticism, Monasticism, and the New Evangelization

The following comes from the Catholic World Report:

“If God exists, He must be felt. If He is Love, it must be experienced and become the fact of one's inmost life. Without spiritual enlightenment, all is an idle talk, like a bubble which vanishes under the least pressure. Without the awakening of the religious sense or faculty, God is a shadow, the soul a ghost, and life a dream.” — Soyen Shaku, Zen For Americans
“Put out into deep water, and lower your nets for a catch.” — Luke 5:4

The first two topics of this article are not often associated with the third. Many people think of Christian mysticism and monasticism as strictly “in-house” matters, too remote and esoteric to have any bearing on the Church’s re-evangelization of the post-Christian West.

While Catholics generally respect the contemplative vocation, they may see it as peripheral to supposedly more urgent concerns, such as improving catechesis and the liturgy, or bearing witness to faith and morality in public life.

Those concerns are critical. But we believe the New Evangelization of historically Christian countries also requires a rediscovery of Christian mysticism, and a revival of the monastic setting which is its natural home.


Let us pray!

These days need to be days of prayer for us. This might be easier said than done as it is hard to form this practice amidst the busyness of our lives. Yet we know that we are called to it and we need it. Let's pray for one another these days that we make the best of this most holy time of year to pray and spend time with the God who loves us! The following comes from Fr. Dwight Longenecker on prayer:

Here are ten random thoughts on prayer:

*If prayer is a conversation how can we listen to God if we don't keep silence?
*Obedience comes from the root 'obedere' which means 'to listen'
*The first words of the Rule of St Benedict are, "Listen My Son"
*Prayer is not just asking for things but asking questions. Be inquisitive with God.
*As a child asks questions to learn about life, so we ask questions in prayer to learn about
the spiritual life
*Prayer opens our life to God's life and our will to God's will
*Prayer is the hardest work
*Prayer is the most intimate act
*To pray is to be fully human. Not homo sapiens but homo orans
*To pray is to understand

George Herbert's poem Prayer

PRAYER the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth ;
Engine against th’ Almightie, sinner's towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear ;
Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bels beyond the stars heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices, something understood.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Alabaster by Rend Collective Experiment


Pope Francis on Palm Sunday: "Has my life fallen asleep?"

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Palm Sunday in a packed St. Peter's Square calling on the faithful to look into their own hearts to see how they are living their lives.

With the some 100,000 people present to be with the Pope and mark the beginning of Holy Week, the Pope listened to the Gospel account of how Jesus’s disciples fell asleep just before he was betrayed byJudas before his crucifixion and then said: “Has my life fallen asleep?'' “Am I like Pontius Pilate, who, when he sees the situation is difficult, washes my hands?''

And speaking off the cuff instead of following his prepared homily, Pope Francis asked: “Where is my heart?'' pinpointing it as the “question which accompanies us'' throughout Holy Week.

After the ceremony Pope Francis disrobed of his red vestments, chatted to those close to him, and posed for “selfies”' with young people from Rio de Janeiro who had carried a large cross in the square. 

For the occasion the Pope used a wooden pastoral staff carved by Italian prison inmates.

Word Among Us: Lenten Bible Study (Part 6)

Lent Bible Study Session 6 from The Word Among Us on Vimeo.

The Measure of the World by Cardinal Newman

By John Henry Newman

A great number of men live and die without reflecting at all upon the state of things in which they find themselves. They take things as they come, and follow their inclinations as far as they have the opportunity. They are guided mainly by pleasure and pain, not by reason, principle, or conscience; and they do not attempt to interpret this world, to determine what it means, or to reduce what they see and feel to system. But when persons, either from thoughtfulness of mind, or from intellectual activity, begin to contemplate the visible state of things into which they are born, then forthwith they find it a maze and a perplexity. . . .Why it is, and what it is to issue in, and how it is what it is, and how we come to be introduced into it, and what is our destiny, are all mysteries.

In this difficulty, some have formed one philosophy of life, and others another. Men have thought they had found the key, by means of which they might read what is so obscure. Ten thousand things come before us one after another in the course of life, and what are we to think of them? what colour are we to give them? Are we to look at all things in a gay and mirthful way? or in a melancholy way? in a desponding or a hopeful way? Are we to make light of life altogether, or to treat the whole subject seriously? Are we to make greatest things of little consequence, or least things of great consequence? Are we to keep in mind what is past and gone, or are we to look on to the future, or are we to be absorbed in what is present? How are we to look at things? Such is the need felt by reflective minds. Now, let me ask, what is the real key, what is the Christian interpretation of this world? What is given us by revelation to estimate and measure this world by? The event of this season – the Crucifixion of the Son of God. . . .

But it will be said, that the view which the Cross of Christ imparts to us of human life and of the world, is not that which we should take, if left to ourselves; that it is not an obvious view; that if we look at things on their surface, they are far more bright and sunny than they appear when viewed in the light which this season casts upon them.

But again; it is but a superficial view of things to say that this life is made for pleasure and happiness. To those who look under the surface, it tells a very different tale. The doctrine of the Cross does but teach, though infinitely more forcibly, still after all it does but teach the very same lesson which this world teaches to those who live long in it, who have much experience in it, who know it. The world is sweet to the lips, but bitter to the taste. . . .Therefore the doctrine of the Cross of Christ does but anticipate for us our experience of the world.



Read the rest here at The Catholic Thing site.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Kyrie Eleison

Von Balthasar on the Cross

“It is to the Cross that the Christian is challenged to follow his Master: no path of redemption can make a detour around it.” 

Worthy is the Lamb!


Have a blessed Holy Week...

Holy Week Through Art


Holy Week through Art from Catholic Westminster on Vimeo.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols reflects on the meaning of Easter as portrayed in four paintings at The National Gallery, London.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Archbishop Chaput: Holy Week and the gift of priesthood

The following comes from Archbishop Chaput at Catholic Philly:
Holy Week is the most sacred time of the Christian year. And on every Holy Thursday, priests of the archdiocese gather at the annual Chrism Mass to renew their fraternal bonds and the meaning of their vocation.
The readings of the Chrism Mass have a special beauty and power, and they deserve the attention of all the faithful, not just our priests:
First reading: Is 61:1-3a, 6a, 8b-9
Second reading: Rev 1:5-8
Gospel: Lk 4:16-21
The Bible has dozens of dramatic moments, but the one that arguably matters most is the last line of the Chrism Mass Gospel: “Today, this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” If human history has a center, this is it. If Scripture has a direction and meaning, this is it. All of God’s contact with humanity either leads up to this point, or flows from it. As C.S. Lewis once famously observed, in speaking these Gospel words Jesus is either stating a fact, or he’s blaspheming, or he’s mentally ill. There’s no middle ground. And the people in the synagogue who heard him say the words, understood this very well — which is why they tried to assault him.
Christ’s radical claim requires a radical response. The apostles who followed him reconfigured their lives and risked or gave away all that they owned. Joy and fruitfulness come from this kind of discipleship, but very little comfort. Faith is not a leisure activity. And it may become even less so in the years ahead as many people forget their religious roots and drift away from the Church as their home.
Living the Catholic faith, for every committed Christian, is a life of conscious focus and sacrifice. But for priests, whom Christ configures to himself through ordination, this is especially true. The priesthood is a “helping profession” only in the sense that it “helps” to have someone around who’s willing to live, serve, intercede, suffer and die on our behalf. Jesus lived and died for all of us. In like manner, priests are called to live and die for their people in his name. Otherwise the priesthood means nothing.
The lives of our priests have a purpose that no one else can fulfill. As Isaiah reminds priests in the Chrism Mass readings, “God has anointed” them. Anointing is the outward physical mark of a permanent, interior covenant. Priests have a mission to which they must conform their lives; a mission to heal the wounded; offer real and enduring freedom to their people; to comfort the suffering, to restore gladness and glory to those who mourn.
The people who carried the Catholic faith forward in history, who made the culture of beauty, music, art and architecture rooted in the Christian understanding of God and humanity – these generations were taught, spiritually fed, and shaped by priests exactly like the men who minister to us in our local Church. Where there is Catholic faith anywhere in the world, it exists because priests offered their lives for the sake of Jesus Christ and the people God called them to serve.
The crisis of our time is not finally a crisis of resources or personnel or intelligence or talent. God has given us enough of all these things, if we steward them with prudence.
Rather, what too many people lack today is faith. Unbelief is easy, like adultery in a marriage where the spouses have stopped cultivating their love out of indifference or resentment. But it leads nowhere, because faith is the only firm foundation for human hope.
Fidelity can be difficult. But it leads in the opposite direction – to meaning, hope and life. And priests play an irreplaceable role in strengthening the faith of the Christian people.
This Holy Week, as we remember Christ’s suffering on the cross and ready ourselves for the joy of the Resurrection, please also remember our priests. They need our love and support as brothers in the Lord’s work. Thank God for them. Pray for them in a special way. The bond of Christian people and their priests is the strength of the Church in a skeptical world that has never needed the Word of God more urgently.

Good Night Talk of Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime, SDB to Salesians, Salesian Family and Youth of the World

10 Positive Things That Happen When We Pray

The following comes from Gary Zimak:


Why should I bother to pray?
If you’re like me, you’ve probably asked yourself this question at least once in your life. Whether it’s motivated by the fact that “God already knows what I need” or by “God doesn’t answer my prayers”, the fact of the matter is that the question does get raised by all of us. Even worse, we sometimes take it a step further and stop praying. In an attempt to highlight the importance of prayer and combat the desire to give it up, here are 10 positive things that happen EVERY time we pray from the heart:
1. We Receive – Without exception, sincere prayer is always effective. Although we don’t always receive what we want, we always get “something”. According to Jesus, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Mt 7:7-8) As we read further, however, He assures us that we’ll only receive good things and will never get something that will hurt us (spiritually). Sometimes this frustrates us because we’re often confused about what we TRULY need. If we look at this from a “glass half full” point of view, even when God says “no” to our requests, we are receiving protection from something that could potentially hurt our chance at salvation!
2. We Follow God’s Will – In the Bible (the inspired word of God), St. Paul writes that we should “pray constantly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and goes on to say that this is God’s will for us. When we pray, we’re doing exactly what God wants us to do at that moment in time. How often can we say that with certainty about our other activities?
3. We Profess Our Faith – When we pray, we acknowledge our belief in God. While it sounds like a “no brainer”, it really is a significant profession of faith. We’d be foolish to pray to Him if we didn’t believe that He exists or that He can help us. Each time we turn to the Lord in prayer, we’re saying “Lord, I believe in You”.
4. We Imitate Christ – The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that Jesus prayed often, especially before the decisive moments of His mission (CCC 2599 – 2606). Whenever we pray, we imitate Our Lord. Whenever we’re tempted to think that “prayer doesn’t do any good”, thinking about Jesus at prayer should put an end to that baseless line of thinking.
“If He who is without sin prayed, how much more ought sinners to pray?” (St. Cyprian of Carthage)
5. We Enter Into A Relationship With God – In her autobiography, St. Teresa of Avila stated that prayer is “being on terms of friendship with God, frequently conversing with Him who, as we know, loves us.” According to the Catechism,“prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with His Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit.” (CCC 2565)
6. We Increase Our Chances For Salvation - To put it simply, prayer will help you get to Heaven. Far from just “asking for things”, prayer is an expression of love and a relationship with God. When we pray, we show our love for God and express a desire to do His will. How important is that? Here’s what St. Alphonsus Liguori had to say…
“Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned” (St. Alphonsus Liguori)
7. We Obtain What God Wants To Give Us – While there are some gifts that God will give us even if we don’t ask (the grace that moves us to grow closer to Him, for example), there are other gifts that won’t be granted unless we ask. Jesus attests to this with the words of the Lord’s Prayer (which contains several petitions) and with His teaching that the Father will “give good things to those who ask Him.” (Mt 7:11) Further evidence can be seen in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians when he urges us to let our requests be made known to God (Phil 4:6). By not asking, we deprive ourselves of many good things that God wants us to have.
“God wills that our desire should be exercised in prayer, that we may be able to receive what He is prepared to give.” (St. Augustine)
8. We Practice Humility – The Bible is filled with verses supporting the virtue of humility:
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. (1 Peter 5:6)

Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you. (James 4:10)

Every time we pray, we acknowledge that we are dependent on God and that He is almighty. This holds true whether our prayer is one of praise, petition or thanksgiving. It’s difficult to be proud when you’re kneeling in prayer ;-)
9. We Obtain Peace – Praying will bring us peace. According to the Bible:
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Prayer = Peace. This is VERY appealing to those of us who are prone to anxiety!
10. We Use Our Time Wisely – Unlike useless activities such as worrying and complaining, prayer is a very good use of our time. Since studies have shown that the brain can’t think about two things simultaneously, time focused on prayer means time not spent worrying or pursuing other destructive tasks. Jesus told us to “ask and we shall receive” (Mt 7:7) and that worrying does no good (Lk 12:25). It makes sense to listen to His advice!
Obviously, the prayer that I’m speaking of above is sincere, “from the heart” dialog with God. “Going though the motions” or babbling rote phrases will not produce the above results. When we truly mean the words we pray, however, we can count on every one of these benefits. Remember this the next time you’re tempted to put off praying, thinking that it will do no good. There is no more productive activity we can do on this earth!

Saint of the day: Teresa of the Andes


The saint of the day is Teresa of the Andes. This young woman died as a Carmelite novice and was just a few months shy of her 20th birthday. There was a movie made about her life that you can purchase here. The following comes from the Catholic Fire site:

Juanita Fernandez Solar was born at Santiago, Chile on July 13, 1900. Her nickname was “Juanita”. She was the daughter of an upper class family. Early in her life she read an autobiography of the French Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. The experience had a profound effect on Juanita’s already pious character, coming to the realization she wanted to serve God. From her adolescence she was devoted to Christ. She entered the monastery of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns at Los Andes on May 7, 1919, where she was given the name Teresa of Jesus. She contracted typhus and died on April 12 of the following year after having made her religious profession. She was beatified by John Paul II on April 3, 1987, at Santiago, Chile, and proposed as a model for young people. She is the first Chilean and the first member of the Teresian Carmel in Latin America to be beatified. St. Teresa of the Andes was canonized on March 21, 1993 in St. Peter's Basilica. Teresa remains popular with the estimated 100,000 pilgrims who visit her shrine in Los Andes each year.
Quotes from St. Teresa of Andes:

"Christ so foolish in his love, has driven me madly in love."

"He leaves His angels and millions of people, to come into your soul, to consummate in you the most intimate union, to transform you into God, to nourish in you the life of grace with which you will attain heaven"

"I abyss myself in His magnificence and His wisdom but when I ponder His goodness, my heart can say nothing - I can only Adore."

"How is it that we do not die of love in seeing that God Himself could do no more than shed His divine blood for us drop by drop? When as man He was preparing for death, He made Himself our food in order to give us life. God becomes food, bread for his creatures. Is this not enough to make us die of love?"

“Perfection of life consists in drawing close to God. Heaven is the possession of God. In heaven God is contemplated, adored, loved. But to attain heaven it’s necessary to be detached from what is earthly. What is the life of a Carmelite if not one of contemplating, adoring and loving God incessantly? And she, by being desirous for that heaven, distances herself from the world and tries to detach herself as much as possible from everything earthly.”