Friday, July 29, 2016

Lament by Audrey Assad

A Psychologist Considers the Reasons People Choose Bitterness

The following comes from Zenit.org:

Though hatred ferments within a person and prevents positive achievements, still, it seems to be on the rise. Doctor Paul C. Vitz, associate professor and senior scholar at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, is asking why.
"Hatred sort of 'pickles' a person," he says, "filling them with resentment, bitterness, and even depression." But a glance at the news reveals that hatred is active in the world today.
Vitz is researching hatred and its role as a barrier to forgiveness. ZENIT spoke with him about his research and some of the underlying causes for hate.
ZENIT: You've been researching the topic of interpersonal hatred for some time. How did you first become interested and involved in this topic?
Vitz: I've been interested in forgiveness for many years, especially due to the relatively recent work of Bob Enright and Everett Worthington and others. From that, I got interested in the barriers to forgiveness by themselves. Why is it so hard to forgive? Certainly one of those barriers is hatred, especially hatred between people.
ZENIT: Why is this such an important topic today? Are there unintended and perhaps even long-term consequences of interpersonal hatred?
Vitz: All you have to do is read the newspaper to see how active hatred is in our world today. That's a "no brainer." That's why the issue is so important. And it is also possible that the increase in narcissism and feelings of self-entitlement, so common in our country today, has led to an increase in the experience of anger, frustration, resentment and even hatred. After all, if you are the "most important person in the whole world" and you subscribe to the Burger King philosophy of "Have it your way," any failure of others or the environment to satisfy you is cause for rage. Unfortunately, there are also many long-term consequences, and unending cycles of revenge are one of them. And for individuals, hatred sort of "pickles" a person, filling them with resentment, bitterness, and even depression. And of course it keeps people from doing anything positive with their life.
ZENIT: What does the psychology of hatred and forgiveness say to a planet increasingly marked by terrorism and by violent outbreaks in schools and other public places, such as last summer's tragedy in Norway?
Vitz: What it says is that we had better find out why hatred is so common, and how to remove it, or at least reduce it greatly. On the other hand, one of the reasons for the general awareness of violence and hatred is the media's love affair with it. Apparently most news is bad news, and certainly any report of violence and hatred seems to get into the media a thousand times faster than any report of love and forgiveness. Now perhaps the media is just pandering to a kind of universal human nature. But I suspect that there is something special about recent history in this country and in much of the world that shows an increased preoccupation with hatred and violence. It would be interesting to do a study on the proportion of violent news items in today's media, as compared to 100 or 150 years ago.
ZENIT: You speak of hatred as something that, in some way, people enjoy. How can this be? And how can it be overcome?
Vitz: People certainly enjoy hatred, or it wouldn't be so popular in the world's literature, and on television and in movies today. In a temporary way, hatred makes you feel morally superior and gives you energy and purpose, but at the price of long-term debilitation. In many ways, interpersonal hatred is a kind of defense mechanism protecting the ego or narcissism of the individual. And presumably, as Christians, we all know that this interpersonal hatred is wrong, and was explicitly rejected by Our Lord. We are called to love our enemies, not hate them, as difficult as this is. This is a complex topic that needs much more coverage, and I have spoken about this elsewhere, but one good way to start overcoming hatred for your enemies is to pray for them.
* * *
Dr. Vitz is Associate Professor and Senior Scholar at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences (IPS), a Catholic graduate school of psychology in Arlington, Virginia. He is offering an online seminar titled "Interpersonal Hatred and Other Barriers to Forgiveness" on Friday, Dec. 9, for mental health professionals, priests, and other interested individuals. For more information and to register click here.

Saint of the day: Martha


The following comes from the Word on Fire:

There are some legendary stories of saints that deserve telling and re-telling, and the story of St. Martha the Dragonslayer is one of them.

Dragonslayer?

Am I speaking about the same Martha of the New Testament? The one who is depicted as a domestic scold who thinks that she knows better than the Lord Jesus himself what his will for others should be? The Martha who gets a famous comeuppance from the Lord that is meant to shock her out of her anxious fretting and self pre-occupation? The same Martha who is overcome with grief at the death of Lazarus, a grief that gives way to a startling profession of faith in Christ as Lord? This Martha was a dragonslayer?

Precisely.

Exiled during a time of persecution of the Church, Martha's wanderings brought her to a village plagued by a dragon who had a voracious appetite for the town's inhabitants. The villages told Martha that they would believe in the Gospel on the condition that the power of Christ could rid them of the dragon. She accepted this challenge. Martha went out, found the dragon's lair, subdued it with the sign of the cross, brought it back to the village on a leash, and then called for a sword. No more dragon!

Is this true? Did it really happen? Perhaps... Maybe... One day we will all have to ask Martha...

Of course, even if the dragon is not literally real, the story remains important.

The dragon may be a metaphor, a representation of the hostile pagan world that so vexed the early Church. St. Martha, in this respect, represents the Church that boldly and defiantly challenged the dark powers of fallen gods. Also, we can understand the dragon as a metaphor for all that is dark within ourselves, that dark power that consumes our goodness and life and makes us lose hope and succomb to fear. Martha, Christ-like in her sanctity is our friend and intercessor as we confront the dark powers within.

She conquers, as we are called to, in the Lord Jesus who strengthens us.

There is one more truth that we might attend to in regards to St. Martha the dragonslayer.

It has become far too easy to reduce our faith to something domestic, familiar, predictable. But discipleship is an adventure that demands more of us than just cocktails and garden parties. Christ did not establish the Church to be a faith based country club.

St. Martha found her mission by moving out from that domestic space that had become the controlling influence of her life. Her faith in the Lord took her out into a world not of her own making, a world that would not bend to her will. Her mission exposed her to danger, difficulty and risk.

And so may St. Martha the dragonslayer intercede for us, inspire us to take great risks for the faith, and through the power of Christ, help us to confront the dragons of sin that lurk within ourselves and in our world.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Jesus Christ You Are My Life

St. Francis of Assisi on the Humility of Christ



Everyday, Jesus humbles himself just as He did when He came from His heavenly throne into the Virgin’s womb; everyday He comes to us and lets us see Him in abjection, when He descends from the bosom of the Father into the hands of the priest at the altar.
                                  -St. Francis of Assisi 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Hidden by United Pursuit and Will Reagan

Psalm 91: A Soldiers Prayer

Psalm 91 is called the Soldiers’ Psalm. We are told that in World War I, the soldiers of the 91st Brigade recited the 91 Psalm daily. This brigade engaged in three of the war’s bloodiest battles. Other units suffered up to 90% casualties, but the 91st Brigade did not suffer a single combat-related death. God is willing and able to keep His words of covenant promise. Plead God’s 91 shield daily. Confidently claim His rest, refuge, safety, covering, faithfulness, freedom from fear, angelic watchers, deliverance, and protection. 

Prayer is the War. God’s Word is the Weapon.

Psalm 91

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,
    who abides in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
    my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence;
he will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
    nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand;
    but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
    and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your refuge,[a]
    the Most High your habitation,
no evil shall befall you,
    no scourge come near your tent.
For he will give his angels charge of you
    to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you dash your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder,
    the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
Because he cleaves to me in love, I will deliver him;
    I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him,
            and show him my salvation. 

Hat tip to Simple Prayers!

A Christian Duty in the Face of Terror

The following comes from Fr. Rutler:

After another devastating ISIS attack in France, this time against a priest in his 80s while he was saying Mass, the answer isn’t just, “Do nothing.” As racism distorts race and sexism corrupts sex — so does pacifism affront peace.
Turning the other cheek is the counsel Christ gave in the instance of an individual when morally insulted: Humility conquers pride. It has nothing to do with self-defense.
The Catholic Church has always maintained that the defiance of an evil force is not only a right but an obligation. Its Catechism (cf. #2265) cites St. Thomas Aquinas: “Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life, the common good of the family or of the State.”
A father is culpable if he does not protect his family. A bishop has the same duty as a spiritual father of his sons and daughters in the church, just as the civil state has as its first responsibility the maintenance of the “tranquility of order” through self-defense.
Christ warned the apostles, as shepherds, to beware of wolves. This requires both the "shrewdness of serpents and the innocence of doves." To shrink from the moral duty to protect peace by not using force when needed is to be innocent as a serpent and shrewd as a dove.
That is not innocence — it is naiveté.
Saint John Capistrano led an army against the Moors in 1456 to protect Belgrade. In 1601, Saint Lawrence of Brindisi did the same in defense of Hungary. As Franciscans, they carried no sword and charged on horseback into battle carrying a crucifix. They inspired the shrewd generals and soldiers, whom they had assembled through artful diplomacy, with their brave innocence.

Cistercian chant: Testamentum Eternum

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Time for Confession

The following comes from the Crisis:


We humans can be a bit fickle sometimes. What we choose to do with our time often depends directly on how the people and places with which we associate ourselves make us feel. If we don’t feel welcome in a place, we probably don’t stay long.
If we try a place or organization out on the suggestion of other people, but never really learn or understand what it’s all about, we’re also likely out the door before long. Likewise, if we devote ourselves fully to a place or organization, only to experience betrayal at the hands of that organization, surely it won’t take long for us to find a new home.
As a result, many who see the place that was left behind from a distance, and perhaps hear horror stories from others who’ve been there, will look with hostility upon it and never go near it if they can help it.
This phenomenon occurs in a lot of places, but none as much as the Catholic Church. For tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands of people today, the instances above are, sadly, more often than not very real and very legitimate beefs.
We could talk for days about who did what to whom, ranging from petty to incredibly serious, but I’m writing this post instead as a plea to those who no longer come to Mass as a result of those experiences, to those who no longer identify as Catholic, and even those who aren’t Catholic and are skeptical about the Church, to come back, to come and see one more time.
We all have people in our lives who have left the Church—who aren’t attending Mass for one reason or another, and there’s one thing we all should encourage those people in our lives to come back and do more than anything: Come to confession.
Now, I’m not saying this because those people are heathens in need of repentance before you can re-enter or anything—heck, we’re all unworthy all the time. We’re all sinners, and we all could stand to attend confession more often.
I’m suggesting confession, because the Catholic Church is about Jesus, and confession lets us meet Him face to face.
We believe that priests, when acting in their capacity as priests (saying Mass, anointing the sick and dying, hearing confessions), are acting in persona Christi—literally “In the person of Christ.” In his priestly capacity, that’s no longer Fr. Bill on the altar or in the confessional. That’s Jesus.
To boot, the seal of confession is what makes this such a powerful sacrament. That means the priest will never, ever (ever!) tell anyone. Seriously, never. Because if he did, he’d be removed from priesthood immediately and would excommunicate himself from the Church. For real.
No one else is offering that. Especially in a culture that insists on broadcasting every little detail of one’s life.
Even so, the thought of going to confession usually brings the response, “I don’t want/need to go,” especially among people who haven’t gone in years.
But dig deeper and I’d bet it’s more one of two things:
  • “I don’t want the priest to judge me for things I’ve done wrong.” OR
  • “I experienced hurt at the hands of a priest, and I’ll never trust one again.”
Not going to Confession is typically rooted, on some level, either in fear of being exposed, or a fear of being hurt again.

Saints of the day: Joachim and Anne

The following comes from the CNA:

On July 26 the Roman Catholic Church commemorates the parents of the Virgin Mary, Saints Joachim and Anne. The couple's faith and perseverance brought them through the sorrow of childlessness, to the joy of conceiving and raising the immaculate and sinless woman who would give birth to Christ.

The New Testament contains no specific information about the lives of the Virgin Mary's parents, but other documents outside of the Biblical canon do provide some details. Although these writings are not considered authoritative in the same manner as the Bible, they outline some of the Church's traditional beliefs about Joachim, Anne and their daughter.

The “Protoevangelium of James,” which was probably put into its final written form in the early second century, describes Mary's father Joachim as a wealthy member of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Joachim was deeply grieved, along with his wife Anne, by their childlessness. “He called to mind Abraham,” the early Christian writing says, “that in the last day God gave him a son Isaac.”

Joachim and Anne began to devote themselves to rigorous prayer and fasting, in isolation from one another and from society. They regarded their inability to conceive a child as a surpassing misfortune, and a sign of shame among the tribes of Israel.

As it turned out, however, the couple were to be blessed even more abundantly than Abraham and Sarah. An angel revealed this to Anne when he appeared to her and prophesied that all generations would honor their future child: “The Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world.”

After Mary's birth, according to the Protoevangelium of James, Anne “made a sanctuary” in the infant girl's room, and “allowed nothing common or unclean” on account of the special holiness of the child. The same writing records that when she was one year old, her father “made a great feast, and invited the priests, and the scribes, and the elders, and all the people of Israel.”

“And Joachim brought the child to the priests,” the account continues, “and they blessed her, saying: 'O God of our fathers, bless this child, and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations' … And he brought her to the chief priests; and they blessed her, saying: 'O God most high, look upon this child, and bless her with the utmost blessing, which shall be forever.'”

The protoevangelium goes on to describe how Mary's parents, along with the temple priests, subsequently decided that she would be offered to God as a consecrated Virgin for the rest of her life, and enter a chaste marriage with the carpenter Joseph.

St. Joachim and St. Anne have been a part of the Church's liturgical calendar for many centuries. Devotion to their memory is particularly strong in the Eastern Catholic churches, where their intercession is invoked by the priest at the end of each Divine Liturgy. The Eastern churches, however, celebrate Sts. Joachim and Anne on a different date, Sept. 9.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Son Was Lifted Up by Leeland

Saint of the Day: Saint James the Greater

Today is the feast of St. James the Greater! The following comes from the Patron Saints Index:

St. James, with his brother John and the apostle Peter, form an inner circle within the twelve disciples. St. James was among the first four chosen; he and John, fishermen on Lake Genesaret, left their nets and everything to follow our Lord, Jesus. St. James was able to witness the raising of Jairus' daughter and, like his brother and Peter, he slept in the garden of Gesthemane. St. James was the first of the twelve apostles to have been martyred as he was beheaded in 42 A.D. by King Herod Agrippa. St. James is the only apostle whose death is mentioned in the New Testament.

From the 14th to 15th centuries, the most popular shrine outside of Jerusalem and Rome was
Santiago de Compostela. Santiago de Compostela claimes to have the relics of St. James. I would love to go to there myself and make a walking retreat as a pilgrim as well! Legends say that he preached in Spain, although the New Testament says that no apostle left Palestine before the Council of Jerusalem (49). Other legends also say that the body of the saint was put into a boat which drifted to Spain. St. James' reputation as a military protector and iconography as a pilgrim originate with stories and miracles associated with this shrine in Spain. You can find out more on St. James the Greater from The Patron Saints Index.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Saint of the day: Sharbel Makhlouf



The Saint of today is Sharbel Makhlouf. This great monastic saint is a wonderful patron for the Church of the Middle East. He is one of the wonder workers of the 20th century! Here is the story from CNA:

Yussef Antoun Makhloof --later and forever after known as Sharbel-- was of humble birth.

Yet Sharbel belongs to more than his village, monastery, church or country. He belongs to the Universal Church and all Christians. When he was beatified on December 5, 1965, His Holiness Pope Paul VI announced that Saint Sharbel is "a new, eminent member of monastic sanctity [who] through his example and his intercession is enriching the entire Christian people." (Saint Sharbel: The Hermit of Lebanon 1977: 27)

Yussef, who later took the name Sharbel, was the youngest of five children born to Antoun Zaarour Makhlouf and Brigitta Elias al-Shediyaq. His father died when he was three years old. Like many of the Christians from the Lebanese Mountain, his father had been taken away from his family [by the Turks] and forced into hard labor.

Yussef studied at the parish school and tended the family cow. He spent a great deal of time outdoors in the fields and pastures near his village and he meditated amid the inspiring views of boundless valleys and proud mountains.

From early childhood, Yussef showed that he loved prayer and solitude. In 1851, without informing anyone, he left home. Tanious, his uncle and guardian, wanted Yussef to continue working with him. His mother wanted him to marry the young woman who loved him. (Daher 1952: 18-19; Sfeir 1995: 72-75)

When Yussef became Brother Sharbel, he was filled with determination and walked all the way to his new home, "the monastery," his new family, "the Lebanese Maronite Order," and his new bride, "the Church." He followed in the footsteps of his maternal uncles, who were already hermits at the hermitage of Mar Boula (Saint Paul) in the Holy Valley of Qadisha, across from the Monastery of Our Lady of Qannobine. (Daher 1993:48-49)

The Lebanese Maronite Order of monks is the embodiment of the ancient eastern monasticism, which since early Christian times existed and thrived within widely dispersed, independent monasteries.

At Mass on November 1, 1853, Sharbel took the monastic vows. Neither the monk's family nor the public were allowed to attend this solemn occasion.

After his ordination, Father Sharbel returned to the Monastery of St. Maron. During his 19 years there, Sharbel performed his priestly ministry and monastic duties in an edifying way. He dedicated himself totally to Christ to live, work and pray in silence.

As he worked the land and performed manual labor at the monastery, he continued a life of purity, obedience and humility that has yet to be surpassed. In 1875, because he showed "supernatural power," he was granted permission to live as a hermit at the Hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul, which is near the monastery.

It was in this secluded sanctuary that the monk Sharbel spent the remaining twenty-three years of his life practicing severe mortification.

Father Sharbel suffered a stroke on December 16, 1898 while he was reciting the prayer of the Holy Liturgy:

His tomb has been a site for pilgrimages ever since the day he died. Hundreds of miracles were performed through the intercession of Saint Sharbel in 'Annaya, Lebanon, and throughout the world.

At the closing of the Second Vatican Council, on December 5, 1965, Sharbel was beatified by Pope Paul VI who said: "Great is the gladness in heaven and earth today for the beatification of Sharbel Makhlouf, monk and hermit of the Lebanese Maronite Order. Great is the joy of the East and West for this son of Lebanon, admirable flower of sanctity blooming on the stem of the ancient monastic traditions of the East, and venerated today by the Church of Rome.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

In Over My Head by Jenn Johnson and Bethel Music

Saint of the day: Bridget of Sweden


The following comes from the Patron Saints Index:

Daughter of Birger Persson, the governor and provincial judge of Uppland, and of Ingeborg Bengtsdotter. Her father was one of the greatest landowners in the country, her mother was known widely for her piety, and the family were descendants of the Swedish royal house. Related to Saint Ingrid of Sweden.

Bridget began receiving visions, most of the Crucifixion, at age seven. Her mother died c.1315 when the girl was about twelve years old, and she was raised and educated by an equally pious aunt. In 1316, at age thirteen, Bridget wed prince Ulfo of Nercia in an arranged marriage. She was the mother of eight, including Saint Catherine of Sweden; some of the other children ignored the Church.

Friend and counselor to many priests and theologians of her day. Chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Blanche of Namur in 1335, from which position she counseled and guided the Queen and King Magnus II. After Ulfo’s death in 1344 following a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Spain she pursued a religious life, for which she was harassed by others at the court. She eventually renounced her title of princess. Franciscan tertiary. Cistercian. Mystic, visionary, and mystical writer. She recorded the revelations given her in her visions, and these became hugely popular in the Middle Ages.

Founded the Order of the Most Holy Savior (Bridgettines) at Vadstena, Sweden in 1346. It received confirmation by Pope Blessed Urban V in 1370, and survives today, though few houses remain. Pilgrim to Rome, to assorted Italian holy sites, and to the Holy Lands. Chastened and counseled kings and Popes Clement VI, Gregory XI, and Urban VI, urging each to return to Rome from Avignon. Encouraged all who would listen to meditate on the Passion, and of Jesus Crucified.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Remembrance by Matt Maher (Passion of the Christ)


Communion Featuring The Passion from Hadley Baker on Vimeo.

A Prayer for Times of Darkness by St. Ignatius

O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness  

and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength.  

Help us to have perfect trust  
in Your protecting love  
and strengthening power,  
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,  
for, living close to You,  
we shall see Your hand,  
Your purpose, Your will through all things.  


By Saint Ignatius of Loyola