Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Saint of the Day: Ignatius of Antioch


The following comes from the CNA:

On Oct. 17, the Roman Catholic Church remembers the early Church Father, bishop, and martyr Saint Ignatius of Antioch, whose writings attest to the sacramental and hierarchical nature of the Church from its earliest days. Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate his memory on Dec. 20. 

In a 2007 general audience on St. Ignatius of Antioch, Pope Benedict XVI observed that “no Church Father has expressed the longing for union with Christ and for life in him with the intensity of Ignatius.” In his letters, the Pope said, “one feels the freshness of the faith of the generation which had still known the Apostles. In these letters, the ardent love of a saint can also be felt.” 

 Born in Syria in the middle of the first century A.D., Ignatius is said to have been personally instructed – along with another future martyr, Saint Polycarp – by the Apostle Saint John. When Ignatius became the Bishop of Antioch around the year 70, he assumed leadership of a local church that was, according to tradition, first led by Saint Peter before his move to Rome. 

Although St. Peter transmitted his Papal primacy to the bishops of Rome rather than Antioch, the city played an important role in the life of the early Church. Located in present-day Turkey, it was a chief city of the Roman Empire, and was also the location where the believers in Jesus' teachings and his resurrection were first called “Christians.” 

Ignatius led the Christians of Antioch during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian, the first of the emperors to proclaim his divinity by adopting the title “Lord and God.” Subjects who would not give worship to the emperor under this title could be punished with death. As the leader of a major Catholic diocese during this period, Ignatius showed courage and worked to inspire it in others. 

After Domitian's murder in the year 96, his successor Nerva reigned only briefly, and was soon followed by the Emperor Trajan. Under his rule, Christians were once again liable to death for denying the pagan state religion and refusing to participate in its rites. It was during his reign that Ignatius was convicted for his Christian testimony and sent from Syria to Rome to be put to death. 

Escorted by a team of military guards, Ignatius nonetheless managed to compose seven letters: six to various local churches throughout the empire (including the Church of Rome), and one to his fellow bishop Polycarp who would give his own life for Christ several decades later. 

Ignatius' letters passionately stressed the importance of Church unity, the dangers of heresy, and the surpassing importance of the Eucharist as the “medicine of immortality.” These writings contain the first surviving written description of the Church as “Catholic,” from the Greek word indicating both universality and fullness. 

One of the most striking features of Ignatius' letters, is his enthusiastic embrace of martyrdom as a means to union with God and eternal life. “All the pleasures of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, shall profit me nothing,” he wrote to the Church of Rome. “It is better for me to die in behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth.” 

“Now I begin to be a disciple,” the bishop declared. “Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let tearings, breakings, and dislocations of bones; let cutting off of members; let shatterings of the whole body; and let all the dreadful torments of the devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ.” 

St. Ignatius of Antioch bore witness to Christ publicly for the last time in Rome's Flavian Amphitheater, where he was mauled to death by lions. “I am the wheat of the Lord,” he had declared, before facing them. “I must be ground by the teeth of these beasts to be made the pure bread of Christ.” His memory was honored, and his bones venerated, soon after his death around the year 107.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Testimony of Samia Zumout: Medjugorje, Conversion and Giving Everything to God

Testimony of Samia Zumout in 2010 prior to her diagnosis with primary progressive Multiple Sclerosis in 2011. She talks about her conversion story in Medjugorje and the journey that our Lord Jesus Christ took her on to leave her career as an attorney to become a missionary of his healing love.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Blessed Alexandria Maria da Costa: Victim Soul of Fatima

The following comes from Unity Publishing: 


There are many stories of Fatima and for everything to be told would be like an Encyclopaedia.  One of these stories will be better known on April 25, 2004 when Pope John Paul II declares Alexandrina blessed.  If you do not know her story, you can get a great book from Tan Book and Publishers called "Alexandrina, The Agony and The Glory" by Francis Johnson.   

Some of the pilgrimages which go to Fatima visit the town of Balasar north of Fatima.  It became famous in 1832 when the earth changed to form the appearance of a large cross which you can still see today inside a chapel which has been built over it.  Almost exactly 100 years later in the same town, Alexandrina Maria da Costa started suffering the passion of Jesus in answer to the request of Our Lady of Fatima.  She ended her life living on the Eucharist alone for the last thirteen years.  

Alexandrina was born in April 1904.  In 1918, the year after the apparitions of Fatima, Alexandrina and her sister Deolinda and another girl were home when three men knocked at the door, one of whom had previously tried to molest Alexandrina.  They broke into the house.  Alexandrina (to preserve her chastity) jumped from an upstairs window.  The men fled but Alexandrina’s spine had been irreparably injured and she had to remain in bed for the rest of her life.  The slightest movement caused her intense pain.  She began to grow closer and closer to the Lord and realised that she was suffering in a special way for the salvation of souls.  She received Holy Communion every day and her thoughts frequently turned to Jesus in the tabernacle.  

She went into her first ecstasy in 1931 when she heard Jesus say to her, “Love, suffer and make reparation.”  She saw her vocation to be that of a victim soul, to make reparation for all of us.  Under the order of her spiritual director she was dictating her life’s story to her sister but many times the devil threatened her not to write any more.  In 1936 Our Lord asked her to spread the message of Fatima and to urge the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart and she offered herself as a victim soul for this. 

In one of her ecstasies Jesus said to her,

“Keep me company in the Blessed Sacrament.  I remain in the tabernacle night and day, waiting to give my love and grace to all who would visit me.  But so few come.  I am so abandoned, so lonely, so offended…. Many…do not believe in my existence; they do not believe that I live in the tabernacle.  They curse me.  Others believe, but do not love me and do not visit me; they live as if I were not there… You have chosen to love me in the tabernacles where you can contemplate me, not with the eyes of the body, but those of the soul.  I am truly present there as in Heaven, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.” 

From October 1938 Alexandrina began to suffer the passion of Jesus every Friday.  She suffered the passion of Jesus 180 times.  Until 1942 she was suffering in silence without fame but after a report appeared in a newspaper from then on she was besieged by pilgrims asking for prayer.  During the Holy Week the same year Jesus said to her,

“You will not take food again on earth.  Your food will be my Flesh; your drink will be my Divine Blood …”

So on Good Friday 1942 she began an absolute fast which lasted for the more than thirteen years until her death.  The only nourishment which her body filled with pain received was Jesus in Holy Communion every morning.  News of her fast spread and the crowds became even bigger.  Some people had doubts and suspicions about her fast and accused her, her sister and mother of fraud.  Therefore she agreed to medical observation.  The doctor asked her, “Why do you not eat?”  She replied, “I do not eat because I cannot.  I feel full.  I do not need it.  However, I have a longing for food.”  It was decided that she should be admitted to a nearby hospital for a thirty day observation of her fast.  While she was in the hospital some tried to persuade her to take food.  The doctor in charge of the examination was nasty to her and at the end of the thirty days said the nurses watching her must have been deceived and decided she was to remain there for a further ten days.  They even showed her tasty food to entice her to eat.  When the test was finally over the doctor said to her he would visit her at home not as a doctor-spy but as a friend who esteems her.  Part of the medical report reads as follows:

“Her abstinence from solids and liquids was absolute during all that time.  We testify also that she retained her weight, and her temperature, breathing, blood pressure, pulse and blood were normal while her mental faculties were constant and lucid and she had not, during these forty days, any natural necessities…The laws of physiology and biochemistry cannot account for the survival of this sick woman…”

While medical science could not explain, the explanation was simple.  Jesus had said to Alexandrina,

“You are living by the Eucharist alone because I want to prove to the world the power of the Eucharist and the power of my life in souls.”

She died on 13th October 1955, having received nourishment only from Holy Communion for more than thirteen years.  Some of the pilgrimages to Fatima visit her town Balasar and you can visit her house, see her room and visit the local Church where she is buried to the left of the altar.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Rosary: Our Weapon Against the Approaching Evils

The following comes from the Catholic Gentleman:


We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to do this than by praying the Holy Rosary.
Through this prayer of immense power, countless miracles have been obtained and victories won. In fact, we celebrate the feast of the rosary on this day, because through it, a powerful military victory was obtained at the battle of Lepanto.
In these dark days, we must not be afraid. Like our forebears in faith, we must one again turn again to the rosary, calling on the Immaculate Virgin to come to our assistance and put our enemies to flight.
Here are 15 quotes from popes and saints to encourage you in praying this powerful prayer.
1. “The Rosary is the ‘weapon’ for these times.” -Saint Padre Pio
2. “Give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the world.” – Blessed Pope Pius IX
3. “The greatest method of praying is to pray the Rosary.” – Saint Francis de Sales
4. “Some people are so foolish that they think they can go through life without the help of the Blessed Mother. Love the Madonna and pray the rosary, for her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today. All graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother.” -St. Padre Pio
5. “Go to the Madonna. Love her! Always say the Rosary. Say it well. Say it as often as you can! Be souls of prayer. Never tire of praying, it is what is essential. Prayer shakes the Heart of God, it obtains necessary graces!” -St. Padre Pio
6. “The holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you’ll be amazed at the results.” -St. Josemaria Escriva
7. “Say the Holy Rosary. Blessed be that monotony of Hail Mary’s which purifies the monotony of your sins!” -St. Josemaria Escriva
8. “For those who use their intelligence and their study as a weapon, the Rosary is most effective. Because that apparently monotonous way of beseeching Our Lady as children do their Mother, can destroy every seed of vainglory and pride.” – St. Josemaria Escriva
9. “You always leave the Rosary for later, and you end up not saying it at all because you are sleepy. If there is no other time, say it in the street without letting anybody notice it. It will, moreover, help you to have presence of God.” – St. Josemaria Escriva
10. “The Rosary is a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight and to keep oneself from sin…If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors.” – Pope Pius XI
11. “The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description.” – Archbishop Fulton Sheen
12. ““The Rosary is the most excellent form of prayer and the most efficacious means of attaining eternal life. It is the remedy for all our evils, the root of all our blessings. There is no more excellent way of praying.” Pope Leo XIII
13. “No one can live continually in sin and continue to say the Rosary: either they will give up sin or they will give up the Rosary” – Bishop Hugh Doyle
14. “The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families…that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.” -Sister Lucia dos Santos of Fatima
15. “Here is an example to help you understand the efficacy of the Rosary. You remember the story of David who vanquished Goliath. What steps did the young Israelite take to overthrow the giant? He struck him in the middle of the forehead with a pebble from his sling. If we regard the Philistine as representing evil and all its powers: heresy, impurity, pride, we can consider the little stones from the sling capable of overthrowing the enemy as symbolizing the Aves of the Rosary.
“The ways of God are entirely different from our ways. To us it seems necessary to employ powerful means in order to produce great effects. This is not God’s method; quite the contrary. He likes to choose the weakest instruments that He may confound the strong: “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong — Infirma mundi elegit ut confundat fortia” (1 Cor 1:27).
“Have you not often met poor old women who are most faithful to the pious recitation of the Rosary? You also must do all that you can to recite it with fervour. Get right down, at the feet of Jesus: it is a good thing to make oneself small in the presence of so great a God.” – Dom Columba Marmion, Christ, the Ideal of the Priest
If you practice no other devotion in the spiritual life, pray the rosary. Through it, you will obtain all that you need and will vanquish the enemies of your soul. Through it, you will find peace and joy in the trials of life. Conquer the devil—pray the rosary.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Our Lady of the Rosary: Freedom and Joy

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
The almost imperceptible lapping of the tide against the hull of the flagship, the stillness of the night, the breathing of the slaves slumped over their oars, and the spirited but hushed murmurs of the small assembly betrayed the fury of the battle that was just hours away. Tension and quiet. The young captain general, Don John of Austria, had mustered his admirals to his stateroom to review once more the order of battle. To the man each one had greater seafaring and war-fighting experience than he.
Among them was Spain’s greatest sea captain, Don Alvaro de Bazan, the Marquis of Santa Cruz. Also Venice’s greatest—Sebastian Veniero. At 74, Veniero had three times the years on his back as Don John of Austria.
Also among Don John’s admirals was a Genovese naval commander with an impeccable pedigree. Gianandrea Doria was the nephew of none other than Andrea Doria, who a generation before had served Emperor Charles V as imperial admiral. The elder Doria’s prowess under fire, to say nothing of his guile in politics, had made him one of the most powerful men in Italy. His nephew, heir to the Doria legacy, was, alas, more ship owner than sailor.
Gianandrea opened his palm, raised his eyebrow, and offered, “There is still time, your Grace, to avoid a pitched battle.” In the breast of the natural son of Charles V, however, beat the heart of a lion. He caught and held Doria’s gaze for a moment before looking each of his other admirals in the eye.
“Gentlemen,” said Don John in a low voice. “The time for counsel has passed. Now is the time for war.”
The outcome of the following day’s battle in the Bay of Lepanto we celebrate to this day: October 7, Feast of the Holy Rosary. The fleet of the Holy League sank or captured all but 13 of some 300 Turkish vessels, and Western Europe was saved from Islamic conquest. The sides were evenly matched and well led, but to each of his warriors Don John had issued a weapon more powerful than anything in the Turkish arsenal: a Rosary.
The men of the Holy League prepared for war by falling to their knees on the decks of their galleys and praying the Rosary. Back in Rome, and up and down the Italian peninsula, at the behest of Pius V, the churches were filled with the faithful praying their beads. In Heaven, the Blessed Mother inclined her ear toward her children and then, with her Immaculate Heart aflame brought down the full might of Heaven on the forces of darkness threatening to overshadow Christendom: “They fling great shadows foe-ward making Cross and Castle dark,” as Chesterton put it in his magnificent ballad celebrating the day.
Well known is this story, and many inspirations can we draw from it, among them is the intersection of freedom and joy.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

St. Francis of Assisi: Our Model

The following comes from Fr. George Rutler:

On October 4, we give thanks for one of the best known and least known of all saints. Least known, that is, because Francis of Assisi was not a garden gnome, or a doe-eyed hippy skipping with animals and hugging trees. Garden gnomes do not bear the Stigmata of Christ's wounds. A vegetarian? He berated a friar for wanting to abstain from meat on a feast day and said that on Christmas he would “smear the wall with meat.” An iconoclast? He was meticulous in the ceremonials of the Mass, insisting that every sacred vessel and vestment be the best, and his Rule dismissed any friar who parted from the Pope on the slightest article of Faith. A pacifist? He joined the Fifth Crusade, simmering ever since eleven thousand Muslims had invaded Rome and desecrated the tombs of Peter and Paul in the year 846. Francis went to North Africa in 1219 to convert the Muslims and confronted Sultan al Malik al-Kamil, who had just slaughtered five thousand Christians at Damietta. Francis fearlessly told the Sultan: “It is just that Christians invade the land you inhabit, for you blaspheme the name of Christ and alienate everyone you can from His worship.” While counselors called for the beheading of Francis according to Muslim law, the Sultan was so taken with the humility of Francis that he only had him beaten, chained and imprisoned, and then he released him.

We are engaged in similar challenges today.  Of course, we are aware of the crisis in the Middle East, but the strife is worldwide. Consider Nigeria, whose Catholic population in the last century has soared to nearly twenty million. Last week, under Muslim pressure, the government stopped the Eternal Word Television Network from broadcasting. I have worked with this worldwide Catholic network for twenty-five years and have many Nigerian friends. Two days after the Nigerian bishops objected to this censorship, a Catholic church was destroyed by Muslims, who killed and wounded many worshipers. This seems to be under the radar of our own government and the mainstream media.

May Saint Francis be our model in how to deal with the threats of our own day: not enfeebled by sentimentality and relativism, but armed with a Franciscan zeal for the conversion of souls. We may not have Francis’ charm, but we have in our hearts and churches the same God. By the way, the popular “Prayer of Saint Francis,” which begins, “Make me a channel of your peace,” was actually the work of an anonymous author who published it in France in 1912. Its vague theology and lack of mention of Christ, express a semi-Pelagian heresy unworthy of the Saint of Assisi. Let the last words of the real Saint of Assisi be our guide: “I have done what was mine to do; may Christ teach you what you are to do. Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought.”     

Mother Teresa on Loneliness and Love

"There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives, the pain and the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor may be right in your family. Find them and love them!" 

Blessed Mother Teresa

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

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!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

A Prayer for Priests by St. Therese

O Jesus, Eternal Priest, keep your priests within the shelter of your Most Sacred Heart, where none can touch them.  Keep unstained their anointed hands, which daily touch your Sacred Body.  Keep unsullied their lips daily tinged with your Precious Blood.  Keep pure and unworldly their hearts, sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood.  Let your Holy Love surround and protect them from the world’s contagion.  Bless their labors with abundant fruit, and may the souls to whom they minister be their joy and consolation here, and their everlasting crown in the hereafter.  Amen.

-St. Therese of the Child Jesus



Saturday, September 23, 2017

An Encounter of Saints: Padre Pio and Karol Wojtyla

The following comes from The Path Less Taken:

From a fascinating article by Frank M. Rega. 
Shortly after World War II was over, a young Polish priest who was studying in Rome, Fr. Karol Wojtyla, visited Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo. This encounter took place around 1947 or 1948. At that time in post-war Italy, it was possible to have access to Padre Pio, since travel was difficult and great crowds were not besieging the Friary. The young priest spent almost a week in San Giovanni Rotondo during his visit, and was able to attend Padre Pio’s Mass and make his confession to the saint. Apparently, this was not just a casual encounter, and the two spoke together at length during Fr. Wojtyla’s stay. Their conversations gave rise to rumors in later years, after the Polish prelate had been elevated to the Papacy, that Padre Pio had told him he would become Pope. The story persists to the present day, even though on two or three occasions "Papa Wojtyla" denied it.
     Recently, new information about this visit has come to light, according to a new book in Italian published by Padre Pio's Friary, Il Papa e Il Frate, written by Stefano Campanella (1).  As reported in this book, the future Pope and future Saint had a very interesting conversation.  During this exchange, Fr. Wojtyla asked Padre Pio which of his wounds caused the greatest suffering. From this kind of personal question, we can see that they must have already talked together for some time and had become at ease with each other. The priest expected Padre Pio to say it was his chest wound, but instead the Padre replied, "It is my shoulder wound, which no one knows about and has never been cured or treated." This is extremely significant, not only because it reveals that Padre Pio bore this wound, but because, as far as is known, the future pope is the only one to whom Padre Pio ever revealed existence of this secret wound.
     Centuries earlier, Our Lord himself had revealed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux in a vision, that his shoulder wound from carrying the heavy wooden cross caused him his greatest suffering, and that the cross tore into his flesh right up to the shoulder bone.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Conquering Loneliness

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:


In the 60’s the Beatles composed a song and an album: “Sergeant Pepper’s lonely heart-club band.” World-famous for this song and album, the Beatles were placing their finger on the pulse of the modern society, a society with many individuals suffering from a crushing and almost unsupportable loneliness.
There are many ways that individuals cope with loneliness; some are excellent, others are good to a certain extent, others are bad and still others are deadly. A crushing loneliness can grip an individual in such a way that depression sets in and he/she feels life has no real meaning and questions why even live. Some, even, contemplate a recourse to suicide.
Others do not go so far as to commit physical suicide, but they do have recourse to a slow form of damaging their lives; you might even call it gradual suicide. These are the individuals that seek and escape from the crushing weight of loneliness by having recourse to vices; these escapes that we call vices are many; we will mention a few. Drugs, gambling, drinking to excess, overeating, the use of pornography as well as the use of sexuality outside the context of sacramental and marital commitment. At times individuals have recourse to more than one of these vices as an escape from their crushing loneliness. The more dense and crushing the loneliness the more they cling to one or more of these vices!
This being said, what are wholesome ways that we can cope with loneliness in our lives and maybe we can teach others proper and correct ways to deal with this modern, prevalent reality?
For believers what will be explained will not be a huge surprise! The key to coping with a heavy and crushing loneliness can be summarized in one simple word: GOD!!!
  1. GOD’S OMNIPRESENCE.  The word “omnipresence” means in the most simple of terms: God is everywhere! No matter where we go, God is present to us.  Indeed we can block God out of our lives, forget Him, be oblivious to His presence, or like an atheist deny that He even exists. Still this does not deny the fact that God exists.  I can say a wall in front of my face is not present, but if I walk into it I will bruise my face or worse yet even get a concussion.  St. Paul quoting a Greek poet encapsulates this concept with these words:  “In Him we live and move and have our being.”  The Psalmist expresses God’s omnipresence with utmost clarity and precision: “Where can I hide from your spirit? If I ascend to the heavens, you are there. If I lie down in Sheol, you are there too. If I fly with the wings of dawn and alight beyond the sea even there your hand will guide me, your right hand hold me fast. If I say, “surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light. Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one.”(Psalm 139: 7-12)
  1. DIVINE INDWELLING THROUGH GRACE.  One of the hallmarks of Carmelite spirituality is that of the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity in our soul through sanctifying grace. If we conserve grace within our soul by avoiding mortal sin then not only are we surrounded by God (His Omnipresence), but He is truly present in the very depths of our soul. If we like we can talk to this Triune God—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as often as we like and as long as we like.  How great is our God!
  1.  JESUS AS FRIEND.  In the course of the Last Supper discourse, Holy Thursday night, Jesus spoke very tenderly to the Apostles as well as to us. Jesus said:  “I do not call you servants because the servant does not know what the Master is about, but I call you FRIENDS…” What a consoling truth and what an efficacious remedy to overcome modern loneliness: to recognize, experience and cultivate a deep and lasting FRIENDSHIP with Jesus!  Engraved below a beautiful painting of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus are written the words in Spanish:  “Jesus, el Amigo que nunca falla.”Translation: “Jesus is the Friend that never fails us.”How true!  We all fail Jesus every time we decide to sin, but He never fails us. For that reason we read and meditate the words from the Book of Revelation: “Behold I stand at the door and knock. Whoever opens the door I will come in and dine with him and him with me.”(Rev. 3:20) Indeed striving with all of the fiber of our being to grow in friendship with Jesus can prove to be one of the most efficacious means to cope with loneliness and if we are struggling to overcome some vice—whatever it might be: drink, porn, drugs, despair!  Beyond the shadow of a doubt, Friendship with Jesus is the most consoling, solid, noble, satisfying, and capable of constant growth.
  1.  UNLOADING TO MY FRIEND JESUS.  Years ago a wonderful moive came out in Spanish with the title:  Marcelino, Pan y vino. The essence of this film is this orphan-boy(Marcelino) adopted by the Franciscan community grows up with the Frailes and then Marcelino meets his best friend: Jesus as He hangs on the cross in one of the upper rooms. The little boy immediately strikes up a friendship with Jesus crucified. He talks to Jesus and Jesus responds to the little boy. Constantly, on the sly, the little boy visits Jesus and talks to Him. Not only does the little boy talk to Jesus but consoles Him with concrete gestures. Noticing Jesus’ bones jutting out, he brings Him bread and wine. Then he brings Jesus his blanket so that He would not suffer cold. The little boy seeing the head crowned with piercing thorns, he climbs a ladder to relieve Jesus of the suffering by actually taking the crown off His head.  Growing deeper and deeper in their friendship, something has always weighed heavy on the heart of the little boy—the absence of a loving mother. Marcelino opens his aching heart to Jesus about being orphan to the love of a mother. Jesus responds by allowing the little boy to see “His mother”. The movie culminates with a loud noise, the little boy falling back (actually dying), so that he is taken up to heaven to rest in the arms of Mary, his heavenly Mother. Therefore, a key element of coping with loneliness, conquering loneliness is not to deny our loneliness nor to deny our problems. If done our loneliness and problems will get worse. The key is to talk to Jesus as well as the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our dear and loving Mother about our loneliness and problems. Once a problem is shared with a loving heart the problem diminishes greatly or will even disappear.
  1. JESUS: YOUR EUCHARISTIC FRIEND AND COMPANION. One of the greatest remedies to cope with or conquer loneliness is to establish a deep faith, confidence, and love for Jesus (your best Friend) in the context of the Blessed Sacrament, Mass, and Holy Eucharist. Establish a habit of visiting your Friend Jesus present in the Tabernacle in His Eucharistic Presence. Attend daily Mass if you have the time. Receive Jesus in Holy Communion with great love and devotion. After receiving Him in Holy Communion spend some time after Mass; close your eyes and talk to your Friend Jesus who is now living in the very depths of your soul. Tell Him everything that is on your mind, in your soul, all that is present in the very depths of your heart. This is the closest and most intimate union that can exist on earth—the union of our heart with the Sacred Heart of Jesus present in you after Holy Communion.
If we establish a deep and dynamic Friendship with Jesus and Mary in this life that crushing loneliness that we experience will be lifted like the sun that dissipates the early morning clouds, or like the dew that evaporates on the morning grass. Still more important, if Jesus is your best Friend now in time in this present world, then when we pass from this world to the next He will be our best Friend forever in heaven, where loneliness will no longer exist.
Therefore none of us have to belong to the Sergeant Pepper’s lonely heart-club band. Rather we belong to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Bishop Barron: A Mother's Passion


The following is Bishop Robert Barron's reflection on the reading for today:

Friends, today we celebrate the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. In our Gospel Jesus entrusts care of his mother to St. John. We can see some background for this profound action in The Passion of the Christ, the most provocative and popular religious movie in decades. What I would like to do is simply highlight a theme from the movie that especially struck me when I saw it.
 
The theme that I would like to emphasize is that of Mary, the mother of Jesus. We are compelled to see the scenes through her eyes. Early in Luke's Gospel, we are told that Mary "contemplated these things, reflecting on them in her heart." She is the theologian par excellence, the one who understands. When she sees Jesus being led away, she weeps and then she says "Amen."
 
In scene after scene, we watch her spiritual comprehension. The wonderful scene where she is marked with the Blood of her Son is especially evocative. And then the Pieta depiction at the very end, where we see Mary's role: to present the sacrifice of her Son to us and for us.

The Final Sermon of Fr. Gaston Hurtubise: Thank my Lord!


In 1992 Fr. Gaston Hurtubise died while preaching on the Sacred Heart of Jesus. His last words were, "God is ready to open his heart to us, to establish us in him, to eternal bliss. Thank my Lord!"

While attempts were made to revive him, he had already gone to the Lord.


Feast of the Day: Our Lady of Sorrows


The following comes from Catholic Doors:

Today's special Feast was originally set on the third Sunday of September. Now it has a date of its own, that being September 15 th.

In 1239, five years after having established themselves, the seven founders of the Servite Order took up the sorrows of Mary who stood under the Cross as the main devotion of their religious Order.

On June 9 th and September 15 th, 1668, the Feast of the "Seven Dolors of Mary" was granted to the Servites with the object of commemorating the sorrows of Mary.

This Feast was extended to Spain in 1735 and to Tuscany in 1807. On September 18, 1814, after returning from his exile in France, Pope Pius VII extended this Feast to the whole Latin Church.

The other Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, held on Friday before Palm Sunday, was originally kept on the Friday after the third Sunday after Easter. Known under the title of, "Commemoratio angustix et doloris B. Marix V," this Feast commemorated the sorrows of Mary during the Passion and death of Christ. Instituted in 1413 by the provincial synod of Cologne, its object was to expiate for the crimes of the iconoclat Hussites.

On April 22, 1727, Pope Benedict XIII extended this Feast to the entire Latin Church under the title of "Septem dolorum B.M.V." This last Feast did not have originate through the Servite Order.

Today's Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows draws our hearts towards the Blessed Virgin Mary in compassion for the motherly sufferings that she endured during the life of Jesus on earth. Early in the life of Jesus, Simeon prophesied that the soul of Mary would be pierced by a sword. [Lk. 2:35] Many may view the statement of Simeon as a horrible thing to say to a young mother. But others view this as the first step to prepare Mary for what was to come.

After all, not long after the visit to the Temple, having been warned by an angel in a dream, Mary and Joseph had to escape to Egypt to protect Jesus from king Herod who massacred all the children under the age of two. [Mt. 2:13-18]

This event parallels what is going on in many countries that are torn by civil war. How many families are living in refugee camps or had to immigrate to foreign countries to escape those who are kidnapping and murdering the fathers, the mothers and even the children? How many families had to escape from their homeland to protect their daughters from being raped by mercenaries and soldiers who have no morals whatsoever? These families can associate with the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It was not until about ten years later that Mary suffered her next greatest sorrow. Returning home after participating in the festival of the Passover in Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus was not with the group of travellers. They had to return to Jerusalem and look for Him. [Lk. 2:41-52]

Many parents can associate with this frightening experience. How many parents have lost their child in a supermarket, at a campground or even experienced an incident where their child wondered away from the back yard and could not be found for a few hours? How many parents have experienced the loss of a child due to a messy separation and custody battle? How many parents have permanently lost their child, not knowing his or her whereabouts? Such traumatic events truly pieces the soul of the person involved. This is something that many cannot perceive unless they personally experience it.

Over and over the aforementioned, the soul of Mary was pierced when she saw the condition of Jesus on the road to Calvary, when He was crucified, when she stood at the foot of the Holy Cross, when the body of Jesus was taken down from the Cross and when Jesus was buried.

These events remind many parents of their personal family experiences. Some parents have seen their son or daughter beaten so badly that his or her face could no longer be recognized. Some had to identify the body of their child who was murdered in a random shooting. Many parents in war ridden countries had to care for their sons after they had been kidnapped, beaten and even mutilated. How great is the suffering of these parents. How much greater was the suffering of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For she who enjoyed the fullness of her immaculate state could never conceive doing such deplorable crimes.

Through life experiences, many have compassion for Mary, being able to associate with her life sufferings that resembles a spiritual martyrdom. How many times can one pierce the soul of a person without leaving eternal scars? Only once! Yet, the soul of the Blessed Virgin Mary was pierced seven times!

During the remaining of the day, let us reflect upon the sufferings of the Mother of God. For those who continue to endure similar sufferings, let us pray that they may receive from God the strength that they desperately need to continue to carry their spiritual crosses.

An Eastern Chant of Psalm 50

Psalm 50

A Psalm of Asaph.

The Mighty One, God the Lord,
    speaks and summons the earth
    from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
    God shines forth.
Our God comes; he does not keep silence;
    before him is a devouring fire,
    around him a mighty tempest.
He calls to the heavens above
    and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
“Gather to me my faithful ones,
    who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
The heavens declare his righteousness,
    for God himself is judge! Selah
“Hear, O my people, and I will speak;
    O Israel, I will testify against you.
    I am God, your God.
Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
    your burnt offerings are continually before me.
I will not accept a bull from your house
    or goats from your folds.
For every beast of the forest is mine,
    the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the hills,
    and all that moves in the field is mine.
“If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
    for the world and its fullness are mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
    or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
    and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
    I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
But to the wicked God says:
    “What right have you to recite my statutes
    or take my covenant on your lips?
For you hate discipline,
    and you cast my words behind you.
If you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
    and you keep company with adulterers.
“You give your mouth free rein for evil,
    and your tongue frames deceit.
You sit and speak against your brother;
    you slander your own mother's son.
These things you have done, and I have been silent;
    you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.
“Mark this, then, you who forget God,
    lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
    to one who orders his way rightly
    I will show the salvation of God!”