Thursday, March 26, 2015

Archbishop Sheen and a Girl Martyr in China

The following comes from the Cardinal Kung Foundation:

A couple of months before his death Bishop Fulton J. Sheen was interviewed on national television. One of the questions was this:

"Bishop Sheen, you have inspired millions of people all over the world.  Who inspired  you?  Was it a Pope?" 
Bishop Sheen responded that it was not a Pope, a cardinal, another bishop, or even a priest or a nun. It was a little Chinese girl of eleven years of age. He explained that when the Communists took over China,  they imprisoned a priest in his own rectory near the Church.  After they locked him up in his own house, the priest was horrified to look out of his window and  see the Communists proceed into the Church, where they went into the sanctuary and broke into the tabernacle. In an act of hateful desecration, they took the ciborium and threw it on the floor with all of the Sacred Hosts spilling out. The priest knew exactly how many Hosts were in the ciborium:  thirty-two.

When the Communists left, they either did not notice, or didn't pay any attention to a small girl praying in the back of the Church who saw everything that had happened.  That night the little girl came back. Slipping past the guard at the priest's house, she went inside the Church. There she made a holy hour of prayer, an act of love to make up for the act of hatred.

After her holy hour she went into the sanctuary, knelt down, bent over and with her tongue received Jesus in Holy Communion, (since it was not permissible for laymen to touch the Sacred Host with their hands.)

The little girl continued to come back each night to make her holy  hour and receive Jesus in Holy Communion on her tongue. On the thirty-second  night, after she had consumed the last and thirty-second host, she accidentally made a noise and woke the guard who was sleeping. He ran after her,  caught her, and beat her to death with the butt of his rifle. This act of heroic martyrdom was witnessed by the priest as he watched grief-stricken from his bedroom window.

When Bishop Sheen heard the story he was so inspired that he promised God he would make a holy hour of prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament everyday of his life.  If this frail, little child could give testimony and witness to the world concerning the real and wonderful Presence of her Savior in the Blessed Sacrament, then the Bishop was absolutely bound by all that was right and true, to do the same. His sole desire from then on was to bring the world to the burning Heart of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The little girl showed the Bishop what true courage and zeal really is; how faith could overcome all fear, how true love for Jesus in theEucharist must transcend life itself.

Everywhere Bishop Sheen preached on the value and benefits of the Holy Hour of prayer. Invited to give retreats to Bishops all over the world, this was his main theme and objective. 

Saint of the day: Margaret Clitherow


The following comes from the Catholic.org site:


St. Margaret Clitherow was born in Middleton, England, in 1555, of protestant parents. Possessed of good looks and full of wit and merriment, she was a charming personality. In 1571, she married John Clitherow, a well-to-do grazier and butcher (to whom she bore two children), and a few years later entered the Catholic Church. Her zeal led her to harbor fugitive priests, for which she was arrested and imprisoned by hostile authorities. Recourse was had to every means in an attempt to make her deny her Faith, but the holy woman stood firm. Finally, she was condemned to be pressed to death on March 25, 1586. She was stretched out on the ground with a sharp rock on her back and crushed under a door over laden with unbearable weights. Her bones were broken and she died within fifteen minutes. The humanity and holiness of this servant of God can be readily glimpsed in her words to a friend when she learned of her condemnation: "The sheriffs have said that I am going to die this coming Friday; and I feel the weakness of my flesh which is troubled at this news, but my spirit rejoices greatly. For the love of God, pray for me and ask all good people to do likewise." Her feast day is March 26th.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ralph Martin: A Second Chance for the Church

A Second Chance for the Church from Renewal Ministries on Vimeo.

Pope John Paul II and the Brown Scapular

This is an amazing part of the story of Pope John Paul the Great:

As everyone knows, His Holiness John Paul II was shot in Saint Peter's Square on 13 May, 1981 - the anniversary of Our Lady's first apparition at Fatima.

Just before doctors were about to begin surgery in order to remove the embedded bullet, the Holy Father regained consciousness and instructed the doctors "do not remove my scapular" during the operation. John Paul II was, after all, Totus Tuus in his devotion to the Mother of God.

Beautiful story.

If you don't wear the Scapular, why not be enrolled this Lent?


Hat tip to the Canterbury Tales on this one!

Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord



The following comes from the Women for Faith and Family site:

The Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, is one of the most important in the Church calendar. It celebrates the actual Incarnation of Our Savior the Word made flesh in the womb of His mother, Mary.

The biblical account of the Annunciation is in the first chapter of the Gospel of Saint Luke, 26-56. Saint Luke describes the annunciation given by the angel Gabriel to Mary that she was to become the mother of the Incarnation of God.

Here is recorded the "angelic salutation" of Gabriel to Mary, 'Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee" (Ave, gratia plena, Dominus tecum - Lk 1:28), and Mary's response to God's will, "Let it be done to me according to thy word" (fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum) (v. 38)

This "angelic salutation" is the origin of the "Hail Mary" prayer of the Rosary and the Angelus (the second part of the prayer comes from the words of salutation of Elizabeth to Mary at the Visitation).

The Angelus, a devotion that daily commemmorates the Annunciation, consists of three Hail Marys separated by short versicles. It is said three times a day -- morning, noon and evening -- traditionally at the sound of a bell. The Angelus derives its name from the first word of the versicles, Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae (The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary).

Mary's exultant hymn, the Magnificat, found in Luke 1:46-55, has been part of the Church's Liturgy of the Hours, at Vespers (evening prayer), and has been repeated nightly in churches, convents and monasteries for more than a thousand years.

The Church's celebration of the Annunciation is believed to date to the early 5th century, possibly originating at about the time of the Council of Ephesus (c 431). Earlier names for the Feast were Festum Incarnationis, and Conceptio Christi, and in the Eastern Churches, the Annunciation is a feast of Christ, but in the Latin Church it is a feast of Mary. The Annunciation has always been celebrated on March 25, exactly nine months before Christmas Day.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Change of Time by Josh Ritter

The Martyrdom of Archbishop Romero

Flannery O’Connor’s Letter to a College Student Losing His Faith Still Relevant

The following comes from The Cardinal Newman Society:
A college student in the 20th century wrote a letter to a Catholic writer asking for advice because he felt like he was losing his faith.  Flannery O’Connor, who was born in March of 1925, responded with a letter of encouragement that is still applicable to college students today.
O’Connor told the student, “If you want your faith, you have to work for it” and continued by stating that “[Faith] is a gift, but for very few is it a gift given without any demand for equal time devoted to its cultivation.” 
She suggested that the college student read a book that presents the Christian worldview for every book that he read that was “anti-Christian.”  O’Connor wrote:
One result of the stimulation of your intellectual life that takes place in college is usually a shrinking of the imaginative life. This sounds like a paradox, but I have often found it to be true. Students get so bound up with difficulties such as reconciling the clashing of so many different faiths such as Buddhism, Mohammedanism, etc., that they cease to look for God in other ways. Bridges once wrote Gerard Manley Hopkins and asked him to tell him how he, Bridges, could believe. He must have expected from Hopkins a long philosophical answer. Hopkins wrote back, “Give alms.” He was trying to say to Bridges that God is to be experienced in Charity (in the sense of love for the divine image in human beings). Don’t get so entangled with intellectual difficulties that you fail to look for God in this way.
… What kept me a skeptic in college was precisely my Christian faith. It always said: wait, don’t bite on this, get a wider picture, continue to read.
… Even in the life of a Christian, faith rises and falls like the tides of an invisible sea. It’s there, even when he can’t see it or feel it, if he wants it to be there. You realize, I think, that it is more valuable, more mysterious, altogether more immense than anything you can learn or decide upon in college. Learn what you can, but cultivate Christian skepticism.  It will keep you free – not free to do anything you please, but free to be formed by something larger than your own intellect or the intellects of those around you. I don’t know if this is the kind of answer that can help you, but any time you care to write me, I can try to do better.
Source: The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor
Read more at A Priest in Chatham.

Saint John Paul II on Vocations and Holiness



Pope John Paul II, Compostella, Spain, 1989
What do you seek, pilgrims? Each one of us here must ask himself this question. But you above all, since you have your life ahead of you. I invite you to decide definitively the direction of your way. With the very words of Christ, I ask you: “What do you seek”? (Jn 1:38). Do you seek God? The spiritual tradition of Christianity not only underlines the importance of our search for God. It highlights something more important still: it is God who looks for us. He comes out to meet us. Our way to Compostela means wanting to give an answer to our needs, to our questions, to our «search»; it also means going out to meet God who looks for us with a love so great that we can understand it only with difficulty. This meeting with God is achieved in Jesus Christ. It is in him, who has given his life for us, in his humanity that we experience the love which God has for us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).

Monday, March 23, 2015

Salvation Song by The Avett Brothers

Saint John Paul II: "Be prepared to undergo great trials"

The following comes from In God's Company 2:

St. John Paul II in that candid interview with pilgrims in Germany:
November 1980
We must be prepared to undergo great trials in the not-too-distant future; trials that will require us to be ready to give up even our lives, and a total gift of self to Christ and for Christ. Through your prayers and mine, it is possible to alleviate this tribulation, but it is no longer possible to avert it, because it is only in this way that the Church can be effectively renewed. How many times, indeed, has the renewal of the Church been effected in blood? This time, again, it will not be otherwise. We must be strong, we must prepare ourselves, we must entrust ourselves to Christ and to His Mother, and we must be attentive, very attentive, to the prayer of the Rosary. —POPE JOHN PAUL II

Fr. Robert Barron: Seven Deadly Sins; Seven Lively Virtues

Saint of the day: Turibius

The following comes from the CNA:

Catholics in Latin America and throughout the world will celebrate the life and ministry of St. Turibius of Mogrovejo on March 23. The 16th century bishop upheld the rights of Peru's indigenous peoples, and became one of the first canonized saints of the Americas.

Turibius was born in Spain during 1538, to a noble family in the kingdom of Leon. He frequently prayed, fasted, and gave to the poor even as a child, and eventually developed the daily habit of praying the Rosary along with the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

He went on to study the law at the University of Salamanca, and was eventually served as a judge for five years in the territory of Granada. His judicial wisdom and diligence drew the attention of King Philip II, who wanted Turibius – who was still a layman – to be consecrated as a missionary archbishop for the Spanish colony of Peru.

Turibius became greatly dismayed, protesting to the king and Church authorities that he was not even a priest and could not possibly accept the charge. In a series of letters, he pled that he was not personally capable of serving as the Archbishop of Lima – nor, he reminded them, did canon law permit a layman to become an archbishop.

Eventually, however, he had little choice but to comply. He was consecrated as a bishop in 1581, at the age of 43, and immediately left for Lima, Peru.

The new archbishop undertook to travel throughout the rugged and mountainous diocese, where he observed many of the worst effects of colonialism – both upon the enslaved and oppressed natives, and on many of the colonists who seemed to have lost their souls in the pursuit of wealth.

He responded with constant prayer and penance, as he traveled throughout his territory administering the sacraments, teaching the Catholic faith, and establishing schools, seminaries and hospitals.

To the indigenous Peruvians, the archbishop was a herald of the Gospel who held their lives as more precious than their country's supplies of gold and silver. But to the many colonists whose behavior showed no sign of their Catholic origins, he was a prophetic scourge – whose efforts to awaken the public conscience earned him rebukes and opposition.

Turibius ultimately managed to make three visitations of his diocese, under rugged and dangerous conditions, which occupied about half of his 25 years as Archbishop of Lima. He united the Peruvian Church at an administrative level by holding several local councils of its clergy, but was also known to spend days traveling to reach a single individual with the message of Christ.

The archbishop became seriously ill in 1606. He sensed that his death was imminent, and decreed that his possessions should be distributed to the poor. St. Turibius died on March 23, and his body was found to be incorrupt the next year. He was declared a saint in 1726, and is now regarded as the patron of native peoples' rights and the Latin American bishops.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Pope Francis and God's Mercy

(CNS) Pope Francis' decision to convoke a special Holy Year of Mercy has its roots in the event that led a teen-age Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the priesthood.

Pope Francis has recounted the story several times in the past two years. On one occasion early in his pontificate, he told members of Catholic lay movements about his faith journey, particularly the importance of growing up Catholic and the influence of his grandmother. Then he said:

"One day in particular, though, was very important to me: Sept. 21, 1953. I was almost 17. It was 'Students' Day,' for us the first day of spring -- for you the first day of autumn. Before going to the celebration I passed through the parish I normally attended, I found a priest that I did not know and I felt the need to go to confession. For me this was an experience of encounter: I found that someone was waiting for me. Yet I do not know what happened, I can't remember, I do not know why that particular priest was there whom I did not know, or why I felt this desire to confess, but the truth is that someone was waiting for me. He had been waiting for me for some time. After making my confession I felt something had changed. I was not the same. I had heard something like a voice, or a call. I was convinced that I should become a priest."

Over and over again, Pope Francis tells people: God is always there first, waiting for you; the sacrament of confession is an encounter with the merciful God who is always ready to forgive those who seek pardon; and recognizing how merciful God has been with you should make you merciful toward others.

The pope frequently talks about Caravaggio's painting of the "Calling of St. Matthew"' -- a tax collector. And he chose his motto from the Venerable Bede's homily on the Gospel story where Jesus sees Matthew, says "follow me," and Matthew does.

The pope's motto is "miserando atque eligendo," which St. Bede used to describe Matthew, calling him "wretched, but chosen."

Talking about the call of Matthew, Pope Francis told young people in the Philippines in January, "That morning, when Matthew was going off to work and said goodbye to his wife, he never thought that he was going to return in a hurry, without money, to tell his wife to prepare a banquet. The banquet for the one who loved him first, who surprised him with something important, more important than all the money he had."

Irish Jesuit Father James Corkery, a professor at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, said the pope's Jesuit training, specifically through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, built on his experience of mercy as a young man.

The first week of the exercises is about "meditating on my sins, being aware that I am a sinner and also being aware that I am beloved by God," he said. The meditation on personal sins ends with an invitation to have a "colloquy" or prayer conversation with God the father about mercy.

While the text of the Spiritual Exercises seldom uses the word "mercy," Father Corkery said the concept is clear in repeated uses of the words "gratitude," "wonder" and even "shame."

"The whole movement of the first week is to enable the person to realize they haven't been great, but they are loved -- like, amazingly loved," he said. The experience helps the person "lean back into God's mercy and kindness," accepting while knowing it is undeserved.

St. Ignatius "gets you to reflect on how you haven't been perfect and then he gets you to be filled with wonder and awe that the Lord could show you all this kindness," Father Corkery said. "Ignatius has an immense sense that God did something for him and that links up with the consciousness of mercy."

Pope Francis' motto, "wretched, but chosen," shows that Pope Francis and St. Ignatius are on the same page when it comes to being overwhelmed by God's goodness and mercy, the Irish Jesuit said.

Another point in St. Ignatius' teaching and one Pope Francis often repeats, he said, is that while human beings are sinful, "we don't need to languish in that" because God has forgiven us and is calling us to move on.

At the March 13 penance service announcing the Holy Year, Pope Francis gave a homily on the Gospel story of the sinful woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. "Thanks to Jesus," the pope said, "God threw her many sins over his shoulders and remembers them no more. That is because this is true: when God forgives, he forgets."

The Holy Year, he said, should be a time of "joy to rediscover and make fruitful the mercy of God" by reaching out and offering "consolation to every man and every woman of our age."

Pope Francis, Father Corkery said, is "absolutely unbridled" in the way he speaks about mercy, including the task of all Christians "to be portals of mercy for anyone who seeks it."

"He wants no lack of generosity," he said. "That's the song he's singing and he's not going to stop, as we know. That's the year he's called."

The Jesuit said the pope knows from his own experience that "you would be stuck, you would not be able to move forward, if you did not know there was mercy at your back." And for Pope Francis, moving on and reaching out are key.

"Why not accept a flood of mercy from God and then drench other people with the same -- I think that's his idea," Father Corkery said. "Don't be stingy, not with mercy."

5 Ways to Practice Conversion

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:


Be converted, the kingdom of God is at hand.
These are the first world we hear from the lips of Our Blessed Savior as He initiates His Public ministry. Conversion in Greek is Metanoia, meaning change of heart. The core of the teaching of the Precursor of Jesus, St. John the Baptist, was the same, “Be converted because the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Furthermore, St. Peter and the Apostles also preached the call to conversion. Therefore, if the greatest of all prophets, the first Pope, and Jesus Himself preached the urgency of conversion then indeed it must be important!
The Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, reiterates this message in various forms and seasons. At the start of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, after greeting the people, the priest invites himself and the whole congregation to pause briefly for an examination of conscience. On what? Our communal and personal recognition of sin and humble invocation that God would have mercy on us and help us to undergo metanoia—conversion of life.
Ways that we can undergo a true conversion of life
The following are ways that we can delve deep into our souls and strive for a sincere and deep conversion of life! However, we must always remember that true conversion of life is more God’s work in our souls than our doing. We must collaborate with the grace of the Lord!
1. Memory. Our memory is in need of constant purification. St. Paul exhorts us to put on the mind of Christ; then he says that you have the mind of Christ. Past wounds in our early years, addictions that enslaved, abuses either physical, emotional, social or moral—all of these must be brought to the Lord for a deep healing and conversion. One short but powerful suggestion: The Word of God! The Word of God is powerful like a two-edged sword that separates bone from marrow. The daily reading of the Word of God in prayerful meditation can result in the conversion of the mind. One more step: memorize Sacred Scripture! If you like this analogy: what chlorine is and does to a swimming pool (cleansing and purifying) the Word of God can do to the human mind. Lord, may your Word be a light for my path and a torch for my steps!
2. Eyes. Our eyes need constant vigilance and control. Unfortunately, the most powerful addiction in the United States is that of pornography. Children are exposed to this ravenous and merciless wolf at a very tender age. Studies show that pornography can be more powerful than the addiction to drugs. A recovering gang member, drug-addict and alcoholic rejoiced that he was able to conquer all the above vices. However, he could not detach himself from the addiction to pornography. Three suggestions to attain this metanoia/conversion.
  •  At the crack of dawn upon waking, to consecrate one’s whole being— especially the eyes—to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
  • Second, when tempted invoke the Precious Blood of Jesus as a shield against the fiery darts of the devil.
  • Lastly, visit the Blessed Sacrament exposed and contemplate the Eucharistic heart of Jesus. In the words of the Psalmist: “Look to the Lord and be radiant with joy.”
3. Tongue. Our tongue has to be controlled constantly! Saint James reminds us poignantly that we should be slow to speak and quick to listen. Jesus reminds us that every word that issues from our mouth will be subject to judgment. Also the Lord tells us that from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Three concrete suggestions to attain conversion of our mouth, a transformation of our speech. First, we should get in the habit of speaking more to God and less to people. Second, we should learn to hold back our impulses and think before we speak. Finally, apply the Golden Rule of Jesus to speech. Do to others what you would have them do to you; say to others what you would like them say to you! Following this advice we are on the highway to converting our tongue!
4. Intentions. Being honest with ourselves we must humble admit that our intentions are often mixed. Even in the best of actions are hidden some self-seeking, self-love and vanity. Sincere examination of conscience will highlight this truth! In the Diary of Saint Faustina, time and time again Jesus manifests His desire that she always have purity of intention, that her actions be done to please Him and for the honor and glory of God. The Bible points out that man sees the appearance but God reads the heart. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus strictly warns us not to do our actions to be seen and praised by man. Remember! Do your actions such that your right hand does not even know what your left hand is doing. Your father who sees in secret will recompense you.
The motto of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Company of Jesus (the Jesuits) is four letters: A.M.D.G. —Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam—meaning, for the greater glory of God. That indeed should be the motivating principle that drives all of our actions in life! One concrete suggestion to obtain the conversion/metanoia of our intentions— Give all to Jesus through the hands of Mary. In the classic of St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, St. Louis presents a scene in which a pauper desires to present the King with an apple. The apple is not of the best, nor is the pauper the most worthy of admiration. However there is a secret to access to the heart of the King—the love the King has for his Queen. If the pauper can reach the Queen and give her the apple, then her Highness will take the apple, polish it, place it on a golden platter next to a beautiful flower and present it to the King. Then the King will accept it. Why? Not because of the pauper but because of the powerful and irresistible persuasion of the Queen. If we place our intentions in the Immaculate Heart of Mary then she purifies, embellishes and corrects our distorted motives!
5. Heart. Last but not least we all must go through a daily conversion of the very center of our being— our heart. Jesus says that from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The human heart can contain within it the most noble of intentions, but the human heart can also embrace the most despicable of desires! Constant conversion/metanoia of heart is necessary on a daily basis!
What might be the most efficacious means to undergo a true conversion of heart? Simple and to the point: Fervent and passionate daily communion! In Holy Communion we receive the totality of Jesus: His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Therefore, if we receive His Body, that means we also receive His Sacred Heart. In the most Sacred Heart of Jesus can be found all of the most sublime virtues and to the highest degree of holiness and perfection.
Faith, hope, charity, patience, purity, meekness, obedience, mortification, fortitude— just to mention a few, are some of the virtues present in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. These virtues are present in every Consecrated Host that we can receive in Holy Communion on a daily basis. In a real sense, we can undergo a daily spiritual heart transplant every time we receive Holy Communion with faith, devotion and love. Beyond a shadow of doubt, Holy Communion received with the proper dispositions is by far the most efficacious channel to arrive at a true conversion of heart. Our Lord’s loving Heart burns and consumes all that is ugly and ignoble in our hearts so that we can truly say with the Apostle Saint Paul: “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me!”

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Something Beautiful by The Newsboys

San Gennaro Relic Liquefies in Presence of Pope Francis

The following comes from the NCR:


The blood relic of San Gennaro, Naples' patron saint, liquefied in the presence of Pope Francis today, the first time the miracle has occurred in front of a Pontiff since Pope Pius IX. 

The miracle of the relic, in which half of the blood liquefied, took place during Francis' visit to Naples cathedral. Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the Archbishop of Naples, said it was "a sign that St. Gennaro loves Pope Francis: half of the blood turned to liquid.” Following applause from the faithful, the Pope said this "means the saint loves us halfway. We all have to convert a little more so that he loves us more.” 

The miraculous liquefying of the ancient relic of St. Gennaro usually takes place three times a year: on the saint’s feast day on 19 September, the Saturday before the first Sunday of May, and on 16 December. Aleteia has more information on the miracle and the 4th century saint.

Pope Francis spent the day in Campania, southern Italy, visiting the shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompeii and the city of Naples. Vatican Radio has full details of the visit: 


Friday, March 20, 2015

Gregorian Chant: Trappist Monk's Choir of Cistercian Abbey