Friday, January 31, 2014


The following comes from the LIFE TEEN site:

John knew what it was like to have a tough childhood. Born to a poor family of farmers in 1815, he lost his father when he was only two. Though very intelligent and quite witty, John was forced to delay his dreams of priesthood while working as a shepherd and farmer, to help support his mother and siblings. At the age of nine, John Bosco had his first vision, one in which a man with a radiant face and flowing robes called him to lead a group of unruly boys behaving like wild animals.
Years later John Bosco would fulfill this prophetic vision, feeling called to the missionary field of youth ministry.
John learned to juggle and to do magic tricks – anything and everything he could think of to catch a child’s attention and earn the right to be heard. He served and guided the poor young boys in the city of Turin, many of whom had turned to crime and other sins in order to survive the difficult urban reality into which they were born. John Bosco offered a Catholic education and safe forms of recreation to thousands. He guided them in the ways of the gospel. He cared for them. He fed them.
In fact, once when he was saying Mass for 360 young people, there were only eight consecrated hosts left as he began to distribute Communion. He began to multiply the hosts and, in the end, there was enough for each person present; no one went without Jesus.
Over time, John recruited fellow priests and other friends to help him in his ministry, many of whom left, unable to take any more of the hardships that came with ministering to such a challenging group; two friends even tried to have John Bosco committed to an insane asylum. He was constantly being attacked verbally, physically, and spiritually, but he was not distracted from his mission.
One night while walking home during a particularly rough part of town, two men attacked John. At that very moment a huge, gray dog appeared out of nowhere, pouncing upon the two men and defending the great saint. Assuming the dog was John’s, the assailants begged him to call the dog off. Seeing their penitence, John asked the men to promise not to do commit crimes again. They agreed as John prayed and the dog relented. When the men ran away, the dog, which John named “Grigio”, stayed at his side. From that night forward, Grigio “showed up” whenever John may have been in danger. For almost thirty years, countless eyewitnesses saw the great Mastiff that would mysteriously show up at John’s side, becoming something like a crime-fighting sidekick. When asked about the dog’s origin and mission, John replied, “It sounds ridiculous to call him an angel, yet he is no ordinary dog.”
The saint’s life was never boring, to say the least. His visions became more detailed and more miraculous as the years went on. Pope Pius IX even asked John to record his visions, believing them to be prophetic and valuable to the Church. Records of them still exist today and you can read, in detail, the visions and truths the Lord entrusted to this great servant of youth.
Saint John Bosco died in 1888 and his great work is carried on by the Salesians, the order he founded, and also by all who reach out and serve the young Church through youth ministry. He refused to look upon young people the same way that society did, believing that a young soul only needed to live a saintly life was love and truth.
If you are a teenager who struggles to believe in your own inherent goodness or an adult struggling with hope for the next generation, ask this great saint to join his prayers to yours. Saint John Bosco saw the good within everyone, which makes it even more ironic that this great saint is one of the famous “incorruptible” saints we hallow today – Saint John Bosco’s outside is a perfect reflection of the beauty he possessed on the inside.

Don Bosco's Dream at 9

Year of Consecrated Life set for 2015

(Vatican Radio) The Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Cardinal João Braz De Aviz held a press conference on Friday to announce the upcoming Year of Consecrated Life.
At the press conference, Cardinal Braz de Aviz told journalists that Pope Francis had announced the Year of Consecrated life in November at a meeting with the Union of Superiors General.
Noting that the Year will take place in the context of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, Cardinal Braz de Aviz said, “We believe that the Council has been a breath of the Spirit not only for the whole Church but, perhaps especially, for the consecrated life. We are also convinced that in these 50 years consecrated life has undertaken a fruitful journey of renewal — not free, certainly, of difficulties and hardships — in the commitment to follow what the Council asked of the consecrated: fidelity to the Lord, to the Church, to their own charism and to the people of today.
For this reason, he said, the first objective of the Year of Consecrated Life would be to “make a grateful remembrance of the recent past.”
With this positive outlook on the past, he continued, “we want to ‘embrace the future with hope’— the second objective. Although the crises that affect the world and the Church are also felt within consecrated life, Cardinal Braz de Aviz said women and men religious remain full of hope, based not on their own powers, but on trust in the Lord. “In Him,” he said, “no one can rob us of our hope.”
This hope, though, he said, cannot keep us from “living the present with passion” — and this is the third objective of the coming Year. This passion, the Cardinal said, speaks of “being in love, of true friendship, of profound communion.” This is “the true beauty of the life of so many women who profess the evangelical counsels and follow Christ ‘more closely’ in this state of life.” In this regard, he said, the Year of Consecrated Life will have an evangelical focus, helping people to realize “the beauty of following Christ” in the various types of religious vocations.
The Year of Consecrated Life is expected to begin in October of this year, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of Lumen gentium (the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the Church), which has a specific chapter dealing with consecrated life. The anniversary of the Council’s decree Perfectae caritatis, will be the occasion of the close of the Year, in November 2015.

Today the Church honors St. John Bosco's life of charity

The following comes from the CNA:

On Jan. 31, the Roman Catholic Church honors St. John Bosco (or “Don Bosco”), a 19th century Italian priest who reached out to young people to remedy their lack of education, opportunities, and faith.

John Bosco was born in August of 1815 into a family of peasant farmers in Castelnuovo d'Asti – a place which would one day be renamed in the saint's honor as “Castelnuovo Don Bosco.”

John's father died when he was two years old, but he drew strength from his mother Margherita's deep faith in God.

Margherita also taught her son the importance of charity, using portions of her own modest means to support those in even greater need. John desired to pass on to his own young friends the example of Christian discipleship that he learned from his mother.

At age nine, he had a prophetic dream in which a number of unruly young boys were uttering words of blasphemy. Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary appeared to John in the dream, saying he would bring such youths to God through the virtues of humility and charity.

Later on, this dream would help John to discern his calling as a priest. But he also sought to follow the advice of Jesus and Mary while still a boy: he would entertain his peers with juggling, acrobatics, and magic tricks, before explaining a sermon he had heard, or leading them in praying the Rosary.

John's older brother Anthony opposed his plan to be a priest, and antagonized him so much that he left home to become a farm worker at age 12. After moving back home three years later, John worked in various trades and finished school in order to attend seminary.

In 1841, John Bosco was ordained a priest. From that time, John was known as “Don” Bosco, a traditional Italian title of honor for priests. In the city of Turin, he began ministering to boys and young men who lived on the streets, many of whom were without work or education.

The industrial revolution had drawn large numbers of people into the city to look for work that was frequently grueling and sometimes scarce. Don Bosco was shocked to see how many boys ended up in prison before the age of 18, left to starve spiritually and sometimes physically.

The priest was determined to save as many young people as he could from a life of degradation. He established a group known as the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales, and became a kindly spiritual father to boys in need. His aging mother helped support the project in its early years.

John's boyhood dream came to pass: he became a spiritual guide and provider along with his fellow Salesian priests and brothers, giving boys religious instruction, lodging, education, and work opportunities. He also helped Saint Mary Dominic Mazzarello form a similar group for girls.

This success did not come easily, as the priest struggled to find reliable accommodations and support for his ambitious apostolate. Italy's nationalist movement made life difficult for religious orders, and its anti-clerical attitudes even led to assassination attempts against Don Bosco.

But such hostility did not stop the Salesians from expanding in Europe and beyond. They were helping 130,000 children in 250 houses by the end of Don Bosco's life. “I have done nothing by myself,” he stated, saying it was “Our Lady who has done everything” through her intercession with God.

St. John Bosco died in the early hours of Jan. 31, 1888, after conveying a message: “Tell the boys that I shall be waiting for them all in Paradise.” He was canonized on Easter Sunday of 1934, and is a patron saint of young people, apprentices, and Catholic publishers and editors.

Pope Francis: A Christian without the Church is an 'absurd dichotomy'

 In his daily Mass, Pope Francis reflected on the intrinsic relationship between the Church and the People of God, emphasizing that we need to be humble and obedient to her teachings in order to be faithful.

“It is an absurd dichotomy to love Christ without the Church; to listen to Christ but not the Church; to be with Christ at the margins of the Church. One cannot do this. It is an absurd dichotomy,” the Pope explained in his Jan. 30 homily.

Pope Francis began his reflections, offered to those present in the chapel of the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, by turning again to the figure of King David in the day’s first reading take from the Second Book of Samuel.

By the way in which David prays, as a son who speaks with his father and receives even the answer of “no” to his demands with joy, it is apparent that he had “a strong feeling of belonging to the people of God,” the Pope observed.

This example makes us wonder about our own sense of belonging to the Church, continued the pontiff, stating that “the Christian is not baptized to receive baptism and then go on his way.”

“The first fruit of Baptism is that you belong to the church, to the People of God. One cannot understand a Christian without the Church,” he explained, recalling the words of Pope Paul VI when he stated that “it is an absurd dichotomy to love Christ without the Church.”

“We receive in the Church the message of the Gospel and we become holy in the church, our path in the Church. The other is a fantasy or, like he would say, an absurd dichotomy.”

Pope Francis then went on to describe how there are “three pillars” within this “belonging,” and this “feeling” with the Church, the first of which is humility with the awareness that being placed in a community is “a great grace.”

“A person that is not humble, cannot hear along with the Church, he hears only what she likes, what he likes,” noted the Pope, adding that this humility can be seen in David’s prayer, when he says “Who am I, Lord God, and what is my house?”

“With this consciousness,” we are aware “that our story of salvation has begun and will not end when I die. No, it is a whole story of salvation,” observed the pontiff, “I come, the Lord takes you, makes you go ahead and then calls you and the story continues.”

The Pope then emphasized that “the Church first began before us and will continue after us,” and this realization helps us to recognize with humility that “we are a small part of a great people, that walks on the path of the Lord.”

Referring to the second pillar of our “belonging” to the Church, the pontiff revealed that it is a fidelity which “is connected to obedience.”

“Faithfulness to the Church; faithfulness to her teaching: fidelity to the Creed; fidelity to the doctrine, guarding this doctrine,” he explained, repeating “Humility and fidelity.”

Paul VI also reminds us “that we receive the message of the Gospel as a gift and we should transmit it as a gift” explained the Pope, “but not like our thing: it is a gift received that we give, and in this transmission we should be faithful.”

He went on to say that “because we have received” this gift, “we should give a Gospel that is not ours, but that is from Jesus, and we should not become owners of the Gospel, owners of the doctrine received, to use it as we please.”

Concluding his reflections, the Pope explained that the third pillar of our belonging to and with the Church is the special service “to pray” for her.

“How is our prayer for the Church? Do we pray for the Church?” he asked, stating that we do “In the Mass every day,” but what about “at our house, no? When we make our prayers?”

Urging those present to pray for the whole Church is every part of the world, the Pope asked that the Lord “help us to go down this path of deepening our belonging to the Church and our feeling with the Church.”

Thursday, January 30, 2014

An Interview with Saint John Bosco

A unique event marks the year 1884 in the life of Don Bosco. He gives his first and only press interview to a French journalist writing for the Journal de Rome. An excerpt of this historic event is reproduced below:

"Reporter: By what miracle have you been able to found so many houses in so many different countries?

Don Bosco: I have done far more than I hoped, but I don't know how.  The Blessed Virgin knows our needs, and She helps us.

Reporter: How does She help you?

Don Bosco:  For instance.  Once I received a letter from Rome saying that the building of the Sacred Heart needed 20,000 lire within a week.  At that moment I had no money.  I left the letter by the holy water stoop, fervently prayed to the Blessed Virgin and went to sleep, leaving the matter in Her hand  Next morning I received a letter from an unknown person.  "I had made a vow to Our Lady.  In exchange for a certain favour I would give 20,000 lire."  On another occasion I was in France.  There I got the unpleasant news that one of my houses was in dire straits unless 70,000 lire were found at once.  I could see no solution, so I prayed.  I was about to go to bed at 10:00 pm when someone knocked.  It was a friend of mine with a thick file in his hands.  "Don Bosco, in my will I had assigned 70,000 lire for your works.  But today it occurred to me that it is better not to wait for death in order to do good.  I've brought it to you. Here is 70,000 lire."

Reporter: These are miracles.  May I indiscreetly ask you whether you have performed miracles yourself?

Don Bosco: I have only thought of doing my duty.  I have prayed and trusted in the Madonna.

Reporter: Don Bosco, could you comment on your educational philosophy and the methods you use in your schools that are so much admired? How do you manage to maintain discipline when dealing with so many boys?

Don Bosco: The Salesian way of educating the young is quite simple. Basically, I insist on letting boys be boys. Let them play and enjoy themselves as much as they want as long as God is not offended. But if I have a philosophy of education, it consists in discovering a boy’s best qualities and then exploiting them to his advantage. You must admit, sir, that any person is at his best when he is doing what he likes and does best. Children are the same. Promote their positive qualities and they will thrive. As for discipline—love and respect for the young is the answer. In the 46 years I have worked among children, never once have I had to resort to corporal punishment, which by the way is very much in vogue. And if I may say so, all those children who have come under my care have always continued to show me their love and respect.

Reporter: Let me ask about your mission work in foreign lands. How have you managed to reach such faraway places as Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego?

Don Bosco: Well, honestly, we got that far by taking one step at a time."

Reporter: What do you think of the present conditions of the Church in Europe and in Italy?  How do you see the future?

Don Bosco:  I'm no prophet.  You journalists are, a bit.  You should be asked that.  Nobody but God knows the future.  Nevertheless, humanly speaking, the future seems bleak.  My forecast is very sad, but I'm not afraid.  God will always save his Church, and our Lady, who visibly protects the contemporary world, will make redeemers arise.

(From Teresio Bosco's book "Don Bosco")

Cluny: the most famous medieval abbey

The Priesthood: A Beacon of Manly Hope

The following comes from Jared Zimmerer at Word on Fire:

Over the last two decades, a sociological problem has jolted apostolates, conferences, even entire communities. This issue pertains to the misunderstanding of authentic masculinity. A recent article brought to light many disturbing trends among young men, including the rising affluence gap between them and their more successful female peers. The article bases much of its premise on the apparent lack of drive young men exhibit as the numbers of educational degrees are swaying more and more in majority to the female population. Joblessness among young men grows while more and more females are taking high up positions at some of the largest companies in the world. This isn’t to say that women should not be in these positions, but it does suggsest we should look at the problem of men who lack the drive necessary to strive for the same position.

Writers such as Christina Hoff Sommers and Helen Smith, author of the article above, claim that the problem lies much deeper than just a simple lack of motivation, instead that the issue might be arising from the way the young male is increasingly programmed to act. The authors posit the educational system now has two maxims:

"Out: structured, competitive, teacher-directed classrooms that best support boys’ learning and outlets for natural rambunctiousness, including conflict-oriented play like ‘Cops and Robbers.’ Last year, 7-year-old Coloradan Alex Smith was suspended for throwing an imaginary grenade at ‘bad guys.’ In: behavior-modifying drugs designed to make boys attentive and controlled."

This type of ‘bury the testosterone’ tactic has been grown over the past few decades and unfortunately has caused a cultural phenomenon where authentic masculinity finds itself marginalized and headed towards non-existence. As a young man myself I often feel the pressure to conceal my masculinity, as well as viewing the masculinity of my peers as ‘something ain’t right here’.

The forced ostracism of masculinity has caused a rift against the confines of the all-embracing arms of the Church as well. The Church teaching on the masculinity of the priesthood, echoed by Pope John Paul II (the man who wrote possibly the most exquisite prose on femininity) when he stated in his 1994 apostolic letter on ordination, that “the church's ban on women priests is definitive and not open to debate among Catholics.” a hardline statement from a man who embodied gentleness and compassion. The steadfast and unwavering teaching of the Church’s role of the priest is a bull’s-eye mark for those who wish to do away with the notions of masculinity and would prefer a hazy, laissez-faire sexuality among the culture. In her wisdom, the Church knows, without a shadow of doubt, that the collar belongs on men and bids them to take that vocation as well as the implications of gender very seriously.

This is one of the primary reasons that the Church is held in such disdain from the cultural elites. Masculinity is blamed for the problems of war, strife, and violence as opposed to its actual source: sin.

So, what do we do now? Is it too late for classic masculinity to find the surface and breathe once again? The article above ends on a hopeful note: “The answer is not to ‘raise boys like we raise girls,’ as Gloria Steinem suggested, but to recognize that, while the sexes are equal, they’re naturally different — and that’s beautiful.”

Without diving too deep into the murky waters of progressive feminism, the article at hand offers a prime example of the problem that comes when feminism focuses on an unrestrained need to bog men down rather than build women up with the dignity they deserve. With all of the nonsensical educational philosophies floating around regarding male rowdiness, it seems what sociologists might need to be aware of is the Church’s teaching on the male-only priesthood. The apostolic tradition of men leading the faith creates a community where masculinity should thrive and excel in the service of others. It's a very different color than the painted picture cultural philosophies spread.

The priesthood very well could be the beacon of hope needed for men like me who want to see a rehashing or renaissance of what it means to be a man. In the priest's role we find what manhood is actually all about, that being service to the Bride. In his collar of strength he gives his life day in and day out to the needs of his fellow man and the desires of his Bride, the Church. If only more men would look to this place of encouragement and follow in the footsteps of the great men who came before them, not fearing their testosterone but embracing it and letting its great fire burn within the heart of the hero we men are called to be!

Even as a married man I find reassurance and inspiration in the lives of these leaders of the spiritual battle. Perhaps instead of reacting in anger towards the collar that only graces the neck of a man, the culture should take a second look at what they represent and realize that that what they exemplify, men willing to give their lives for others, can heal many of society’s wounds and misunderstandings of masculinity. If the cultural elites who want men to become better servants decided to understand and appreciate what the priesthood is, then maybe we would start to hold them up as the exemplars of masculinity they are.

The Croatian Monk Island of Kosljun

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

You Bled by Rend Collective Experiment

The Brave Monks Of Kiev

The following comes from Rod Dreher at American Conservative:
Via Elizabeth Scalia, here’s a story, with astonishing photos, of Orthodox monks (including no doubt priest-monks) in Kiev, keeping vigil between riot police and protesters, trying to prevent bloodshed. Scalia writes, underneath one of the shots:
An Orthodox priest here places himself between the frustrated mobs and the armed soldiers; urging calm, he holds up the cross. Note the rifle, poised, behind him. He is directly in the line of fire, where he clearly feels called to be.
Priests tend to do stuff like this. In fact, while people may misunderstand and deride the vows of celibacy taken by Catholics priests, and also by Orthodox monks, these Christ-minded men consistently show the sort of toughness that is conceived and nurtured within a most paradoxical tenderness; in pictures like these, they are the very model of forthright masculinity, quite unlike anything preferred by the pop culture.
Amen. Last night, I was telling my son Lucas a few things about St. Herman of Alaska (Lucas and his mother are going to Alaska later this summer for 12 days; he received an icon of St. Herman, above, for his birthday). “He was not soft,” I said. “He was a real man, tougher than anybody you know. And he loved God and the people he served with all his heart.”
I have a feeling that those monks of Kiev are made of the same stuff.

Pope Francis lauds 'bravery' of those anointed by God

 In his daily Mass, Pope Francis reflected on the significance of the special anointing given to priests and bishops, emphasizing that it marks their role of service to the Church, which we should be grateful for.

“Today, thinking about this anointing of David, it will do us good to think of our brave, holy, good, faithful bishops and priests, and pray for them. We are here today thanks to them,” the Pope stated in his Jan. 27 homily.

Addressing those present for his Mass in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, Pope Francis began his homily by drawing attention to the day’ first reading, taken from the Second Book of Samuel, in which the tribes of Israel anoint David as their king.

“Without this anointing, David would have been only the head” of a “company” or a “political society, which was the Kingdom of Israel,” observed the pontiff, explaining that David would have been a mere “political organizer.”

However, “after the anointing, the Spirit of the Lord” descends upon David and remains with him, the Pope stated recalled, adding that “This is precisely the difference anointing makes.”

Explaining that the one who is anointed is chosen by the Lord, Pope Francis expressed that it is also the same with bishops and priests, and that “the bishops are elected not only to conduct an organization, which is called the particular Church…they are anointed.”

“They have the anointing and the Spirit of the Lord is with them,” he noted, highlighting that “all the bishops are sinners, every one;” but “still, we are anointed.”

“We all want to be more holy every day, more faithful to this anointing,” the Pope continued, adding that “the person of the bishop is the thing that (constitutes) a Church (as such), in the name of Jesus Christ – because he is anointed, not because he was voted by the majority.”

“It is in this anointing that a particular Church has its strength. Because they take part (in the bishop’s mission of service) priests are anointed, as well,” the Pope explained.

Pope Francis observed that anointing brings bishops and priests closer to the Lord, and gives them the strength “to carry (their) people forward, to help (their) people, to live in the service of (their) people.”

It also gives them the joy of feeling “chosen by the Lord, watched by the Lord, with that love with which the Lord looks upon all of us,” said the Pope, and therefore “when we think of bishops and priests, we must think of them in this way: (as) anointed ones.”

“On the contrary,” he said, “it is impossible to understand – not only – it is impossible to explain how the Church could continue under merely human strength,” but “this diocese goes forward because it has a holy people…and also an anointed one who leads, who helps it to grow.”

Looking to history, the Pope explained that we only know “a small part” of “how many holy bishops, how many priests, how many holy priests have given their lives in the service of the diocese, the parish.”

“How many people have received the power of faith, the power of love, hope (itself) from these anonymous pastors?” he asked, emphasizing that “We do not know: there are so many.”

“The parish priests of the country or the city, who, with their anointing have given strength the people, who have passed on the teaching of the faith, have given the sacraments: (in a word), holiness.”

Pope Francis then drew attention to those who are often critical of priests, and who say things such as “‘But, Father, I have read in a newspaper that a bishop has done such a thing, or a priest who has done this thing.’”

“Oh yes, I read it, too,” he explained, but “tell me, though: do the papers carry news of what great charity so many priests, so many priests in so many parishes of the city and the countryside, perform? Of the great work they do in carrying their people forward? No?”

“This is not news,” observed the Pope, noting that “it is the same as always: a single falling tree makes more noise than a forest that grows.”

However, the pontiff concluded by encouraging those present to think “about this anointing,” and to pray and give thanks for “our brave, holy, good, faithful bishops and priests.”

Fr. Robert Barron on Discerning the Priesthood

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Slow by Audrey Assad

St. Thomas Aquinas’s Secret to Sainthood

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
There are a great many saints who will never be known on this side of God’s grace; whose lives merited heavenly bliss but not the history books. But this host of secret saints represents the central secret of what it means to be a saint: who a person is is more important than what a person does. In other words, the prestige of sainthood is not necessarily determined by what is done but how it is done.
Thomas Aquinas is a saint; and his sanctity, by this reasoning, is prior to anything of note that he may have done—such as writing the Summa Theologica. Bearing out the distinction between character and career, the Summasuddenly becomes a sign of the holiness of St. Thomas and not the reason why he was holy.
Most people know and recall Thomas for being a master theologian, philosopher, teacher, preacher, and a Doctor of the Universal Church—for thus is his overwhelming legacy. Few are aware of his position concerning the role of “playful deeds and jokes” to maintain a healthy mind. There are only a handful of legendary anecdotes and historical scraps which offer insight into the soul, into the person, who achieved such wonders and earned such titles. Those that do exist are strangely suggestive of one whose profundity is both foreign and familiar. A profundity reserved for angels and infants.
Though Thomas Aquinas was a man of formidable stature with a fair head like the sun at the crest of a hill, he possessed a delicate genius. He looked upon the world with the authentic wonder and perceptive power of a youth, and engaged it with a youth’s zeal, honesty, and solemnity. There are few things more serious than a child engrossed in his play, and Thomas resembled one of these in his work. The brilliance of his writings shines with a virtuosity like play. Though the connotation may exist, and with good reason, to depict or classify Thomas as an austere academic of furrowed brow and no nonsense, there is a straightforward delight and precision about this saint and his compositions that can evoke the schoolboy as much as the scholastic.
The heart of this mystery surrounding Thomas Aquinas is a terrible innocence. By a miraculous grace, Thomas was permitted to retain a moral integrity throughout his fifty years of life, and a disposition that was not drawn towards the darker regions of human depravity. His sins were reputedly the simple sins of small children, and this virtue freed his intellect from the temptations and distractions that drive away wisdom. Thomas had the liberty to examine the intricacies of the worlds around him unencumbered with the disturbances that human nature often introduces.
The traditional origin of this purity and clarity of both mind and heart occurred when Thomas was nineteen and his brothers, in an attempt to dissuade him from joining the Dominicans, locked him in a tower with a seductress. As any furious and frightened boy might have done, Thomas chased the harlot about the room with a flaming brand. Once she escaped, Thomas fell into a deep sleep as two angels descended to his prison and, like a child, dressed and trussed him up in a girdle—a garment of perpetual chastity. From that time forth he was not given to lust nor to the unruly motions of the flesh, and able to apply himself entirely to the beauties and truths of the mind with uncanny poise and precision. This particular power of the innocent remained intact in Thomas Aquinas, allowing him to wield the gravitas and eloquence that comes out of the mouths of babes and sucklings.
The innocence of this 13th century sage is perhaps the quintessence of his character, and the most seemingly incongruous element of his renown. When Thomas was a small child, a tremendous storm burst over the ancestral castle and a lightning bolt shot into the chamber killing both his sister and his nurse. This tragedy left the lad with a terror for thunderstorms that persisted throughout his life. When the skies rumbled and flashed, he was known to creep into the priory chapel and thrust his head into the tabernacle—as any toddler might creep into his parents’ room on such a night. Is this the behavior of a man possessed with mystic reason and iron logic? On the contrary, is there any man wiser than a man who is like a child?
“Thomas! Thomas!” two snickering friars called, rousing their brother who was bent over his books. “Look out the window—there are pigs flying about in the sky!” Thomas rose at once and bounced to the window incredulously. The friars laughed. Putting the finishing touch on the jest, the saint responded, “I would rather believe that pigs can fly than believe that my brethren could lie.” Could such waggish wit reside in a severe philosopher? On the contrary, can anyone be a philosopher without a childish sense of humor?
“The proof from authority,” reads the Summa, “is the weakest type of proof according to Boethius.” Is it possible that the all-serious Summa could entertain a joke amid its judiciousness? On the contrary, is it possible that anyone who is serious enough to be a saint would not be as lighthearted as a youth?

Unless you become as little children…  

The paradox that is presented by these ingenuous characteristics of the ingenious Angelic Doctor is one that should comfort rather than confuse. Paradoxes and Paradise seem to go hand in hand. It is wonderful to think that even the most heavenly enlightened and intelligent of men was seemingly one of childlike simplicity, honesty, and solemnity. At the height of his history as a scholar, he was discovered in his cell scrawling away, as was his wont, but paying rapt attention to invisible teachers—St. Peter and St. Paul, in fact, as he once confided to one of his brothers. The great teacher was also a great student, taught the secrets of the Sacred Scriptures from the blessed Apostles themselves. And an apt pupil was Thomas, as St. Albert the Great, his visible teacher, knew well.
Like a new Thomas who could believe without seeing, Thomas Aquinas was finally given what he longed for. No one quite knows what happened as he knelt in the dark church before that crucifix. All that is known for certain is that he was not alone. “Thomas, thou hast written well of Me,” Christ said to his child. “What reward wouldst thou have?” “Nothing but Thyself, Lord,” was Thomas’ reply. It was then that St. Thomas saw something that brought a joyful end to his labors, something that made him famously call the prodigious and ponderous library that he had written “so much straw.” He shrugged at it all with a smiling indifference, as a child does over an old toy. His mind and pen turned to the Song of Songs, to poetry, and music.
When Thomas took to his deathbed in 1274, a star hovered over the monastery as it did for the Holy Infant. A priest was called in to hear the last confession of a giant—one who had understood and undertaken the truths of heaven and earth. G. K. Chesterton describes what followed in his glorious biography: “…the confessor, who had been with him in the inner chamber, ran forth as if in fear, and whispered that his confession had been that of a child of five.”
The “hidden Deity” was hidden from Thomas no longer.
St. Thomas Aquinas adored his God and gave glory to Him through his works; but it was his love that won him eternal glory and the sun for a crown. If he had remained—as his schoolfellows called him for his quiet manner—the Dumb Ox for his entire life, heaven would yet have been his by virtue of his love. But the Dumb Ox filled the world with his bellowing, and Thomas trod his path to Paradise by the high road instead of the low road—but his direction, whatever the road, was determined by the soul he housed in his great body. The miracle of his labors was a mere result of a much deeper miracle. And though many souls besides his were saved through the miracle of his mind, the greatest miracle of all is that a child could be so wise.

The Last Anchorite

The Last Anchorite from Chouette Films on Vimeo.

Monday, January 27, 2014

I Believe by Natalie Grant

The Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Crown Him (Majesty) ft. Chris Tomlin, Kari Jobe

A Quote from St. John Bosco

My sons, in my long experience very often I had to be convinced of this great truth. It is easier to become angry than to restrain oneself, and to threaten a boy than to persuade him. Yes, indeed, it is more fitting to be persistent in punishing our own impatience and pride than to correct the boys. We must be firm but kind, and be patient with them. 

See that no one finds you motivated by impetuosity or willfulness. It is difficult to keep calm when administering punishment, but this must be done if we are to keep ourselves from showing off our authority or spilling out our anger. 

Let us regard those boys over whom we have some authority as our own sons. Let us place ourselves in their service. Let us be ashamed to assume an attitude of superiority. Let us not rule over them except for the purpose of serving them better. 

This was the method that Jesus used with the apostles. He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity. He treated sinners with a kindness and affection that caused some to be shocked, others to be scandalized and still others to hope for God's mercy. And so he bade us to be gentle and humble of heart.  

St. John Bosco

Saint Paul: Persecutor to Apostle by Scott Hahn

Friday, January 24, 2014

Archbishop Chaput: Homily for Mass before March for Life

Below is the text of Archbishop Charles Chaput’s homily for the National Prayer Vigil for Life Closing Mass on Jan. 22.  Weather prevented the Archbishop’s travel to Washington. The homily was delivered on his behalf by Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the National Shrine.
First reading: 1 Sm 17: 32-33, 37, 40-51
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 144: 1B, 2, 9-10
Gospel: Mk 3:1-6
Today is the 41st anniversary of Roe v Wade, which effectively legalized abortion on demand.  It’s a time to look back and look ahead.  The abortion struggle of the past four decades teaches a very useful lesson.  Evil talks a lot about “tolerance” when it’s weak.  When evil is strong, real tolerance gets pushed out the door.  And the reason is simple.  Evil cannot bear the counter-witness of truth.  It will not co-exist peacefully with goodness, because evil insists on being seen as right, and worshiped as being right.  Therefore, the good must be made to seem hateful and wrong.
The very existence of people who refuse to accept evil and who seek to act virtuously burns the conscience of those who don’t.  And so, quite logically, people who march and lobby and speak out to defend the unborn child will be – and are – reviled by leaders and media and abortion activists that turn the right to kill an unborn child into a shrine to personal choice.
Seventy years ago, abortion was a crime against humanity.  Four decades ago, abortion supporters talked about the “tragedy” of abortion and the need to make it safe and rare.  Not anymore.  Now abortion is not just a right, but a right that claims positive dignity, the license to demonize its opponents and the precedence to interfere with constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech, assembly and religion.  We no longer tolerate abortion.  We venerate it as a totem.
People sometimes ask me if we can be optimistic, as believers, about the future of our country.  My answer is always the same.  Optimism and pessimism are equally dangerous for Christians because both God and the devil are full of surprises.  But the virtue of hope is another matter.  The Church tells us we must live in hope, and hope is a very different creature from optimism.  The great French Catholic writer Georges Bernanos defined hope as “despair overcome.”  Hope is the conviction that the sovereignty, the beauty and the glory of God remain despite all of our weaknesses and all of our failures.  Hope is the grace to trust that God is who he claims to be, and that in serving him, we do something fertile and precious for the renewal of the world.
Our lives matter to the degree that we give them away to serve God and to help other people.  Our lives matter not because of who we are.  They matter because of who God is.  His mercy, his justice, his love – these are the things that move the galaxies and reach into the womb to touch the unborn child with the grandeur of being human.  And we become more human ourselves by seeing the humanity in the poor, the weak and the unborn child and then fighting for it.
Over the past 41 years, the prolife movement has been written off as dying too many times to count.  Yet here we are, again and again, disappointing our critics and refusing to die.  And why is that?  It’s because the Word of God and the works of God do not pass away.  No court decision, no law and no political lobby can ever change the truth about when human life begins and the sanctity that God attaches to each and every human life.
The truth about the dignity of the human person is burned into our hearts by the fire of God’s love.  And we can only deal with the heat of that love in two ways.  We can turn our hearts to stone.  Or we can make our hearts and our witness a source of light for the world.  Those of you here today have already made your choice.  It’s a wonderful irony that despite the cold and snow of January, there’s no such thing as winter in this great church.  This is God’s house.  In this place, there’s only the warmth of God’s presence and God’s people.  In this place, there’s no room for fear or confusion or despair, because God never abandons his people, and God’s love always wins.
We are each of us created and chosen by God for a purpose, just as David was chosen; which is why the words of the Psalmist speak to every one of us here today:
Oh God, I will sing a new song to you;
With a ten-stringed lyre I will chant your praise,
You who give victory to kings,
And deliver David, your servant from the sword.
The Psalmist wrote those words not in some magic time of peace and bliss, but in the midst of the Jewish people’s struggle to survive and stay faithful to God’s covenant surrounded by enemies and divided internally among themselves.  That’s the kind of moment we find ourselves in today.  All of us are here because we love our country and want it to embody in law and in practice the highest ideals of its founding.  But nations are born and thrive, and then decline and die.  And so will ours.  Even a good Caesar is still only Caesar.  Only Jesus Christ is Lord, and only God endures.  Our job is to work as hard as we can, as joyfully as we can, for as long as we can to encourage a reverence for human life in our country and to protect the sanctity of the human person, beginning with the unborn child.
We also have one other duty: to live in hope; to trust that God sees the weakness of the vain and powerful; and the strength of the pure and weak.  The reading from Samuel today reminds us that David cut down the warrior Goliath with a sling and a smooth, simple stone from the wadi.  And what I see here before me today are not “five smooth stones from the wadi” but hundreds and hundreds of them.  Our job is to slay the sin of abortion and to win back the women and men who are captive to the culture of violence it creates.  In the long run, right makes might, not the other way around.  In the long run, life is stronger than death, and your courage, your endurance, your compassion even for those who revile you, serves the God of life.
The Gospel today tells us that Jesus has power over illness and deformity.  But even more radically, it reminds us that Jesus is the Lord of the sabbath itself – the one day set aside every week to honor the Author of all creation.  The sabbath is for man, as Jesus says elsewhere in the Gospel, not man for the sabbath.  In like manner, the state and its courts and its laws were made for man, not man for the state.  The human person is the subject of life and the subject of history; immortal and infinitely precious in the eyes of God; not an accident of chemistry, not a bit player, and not a soulless object to be affirmed or disposed of at the whim of the powerful or selfish.
If Jesus is the lord of the sabbath, he is also the lord of history.  And sooner or later, despite the weaknesses of his friends and the strengths of his enemies, his will will be done — whether the Pharisees and Herodians of our day approve of it or not.

Pope Francis hopes to visit the USA in 2015!

The following comes from John Allen at NCR:

Pope Francis has expressed an intention to visit the United States in September 2015, according to Vatican sources who spoke to NCR on background this week, who stressed that nothing is official and the date is too far into the future to be certain.
The primary motive for the trip would be the eighth edition of the World Meeting of Families, an event held every three years that was launched under Pope John Paul II in 1994 and is held in various parts of the world. The Vatican announced in February 2013, shortly before the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, that the next edition will be Sept. 22-27, 2015, in Philadelphia.
The family has been a major preoccupation both for the church generally and for Francis personally. Among other things, the pope has dedicated the next meeting of the Synod of Bishops, scheduled for October, to the theme of the family.
Because the General Assembly of the United Nations generally meets in September, there is also speculation that Francis might combine the Philadelphia outing with a stop in New York to address the U.N.

Popes have not always attended previous versions of the World Meeting of Families, and there has been uncertainty ever since the election of Pope Francis whether he would make the trip.

St. Francis de Sales: Be Open to God’s Inspirations

The following comes from Catholic Exchange:
The sun’s rays give light while giving warmth and warmth while giving light. Inspiration is a heavenly ray that brings into our hearts a warm light that makes us see the good, and fires us on to its pursuit. All that lives upon earth is dulled by the winter’s cold, but with the return of vital heat in the springtime, all things get back their movement. Ground animals run more swiftly; birds fly higher and sing more gaily; plants more pleasingly put forth their leaves and flowers. Without inspiration our souls would live idle, sluggish, useless lives, but with the coming of the divine rays of inspiration, we feel a light mingled with a life-giving warmth that enlightens our understanding and awakens and animates our will by giving it the strength to will and do the good that pertains to eternal salvation.
When God had formed the human body out of “the slime of the earth,” as Moses says, “He breathed into it the breath of life, and man was made into a living soul”— that is, into a soul which gave life, movement, and activity to the body. This same eternal God breathes and infuses into our souls the inspi­rations of supernatural life to the end, as says the great apostle, that they may become “a life-giving spirit” — that is, a spirit that makes us live, move, feel, and work the works of grace. Hence He who has given us being also gives us operation.
Man’s breath warms things it enters into: witness the Shunammite woman’s child, upon whose mouth the prophet Elisha placed his own mouth and breathed upon him, and his flesh grew warm. Experience makes this warming power evident. But with regard to God’s breath, not only does it warm, but it gives perfect light, since His divine Spirit is an infinite light. His vital breath is called inspiration because by it, supreme goodness breathes upon us and inspires in us the desires and intentions of His heart.
The means of inspiration that God uses are infinite. St. Anthony, St. Francis, St. Anselm, and a thousand others of­ten received inspirations from the sight of creatures.  Preaching is the ordinary means of inspiration. However, men whom the Word does not help are taught by tribulation, according to the words of the prophet, “And affliction shall give understanding of what you hear.” That is, those who hear God’s threats against the wicked and do not correct themselves shall learn the truth by the result and effects and shall become wise by feeling affliction.
St. Mary of Egypt was inspired by the sight of an image of our Lady; St. Anthony, by hearing the Gospel read at Mass; St. Augustine, by hearing an account of St. Anthony’s life; the Duke of Gandia, by seeing the dead em­press; St. Pachomius, by seeing an example of charity; the Blessed Ignatius of Loyola, by reading the lives of the saints.
When I was a youth in Paris, two students, one of whom was a heretic, heard the bell for matins sound in the Carthusian monastery after they had passed a night of debauchery in the Faubourg St. Jacques. When the heretic asked why the bell was ringing, his companion told him of the devotion with which monks celebrated the sacred office in that holy monastery. “O God,” he said, “how different is the conduct of those religious from our own! They perform the office of angels, while we perform that of beasts!”
He desired the next day to see by experience what he had learned from his companion’s account, and found those fathers in their stalls, standing like marble statues in a row of niches, motionless, devoid of all movement but that of chanting the Psalms, which they did with truly angelic attention and devo­tion as is the custom of their holy order. The result was that that poor youth was completely carried away with admiration and was filled with the greatest consolation at seeing God so well adored among Catholics. He resolved, and afterward put it into effect, to place himself in the bosom of the Church, the true and unique spouse of Him who had sent His inspiration even to the infamous litter of abomination where He had lain.
Oh, how happy are they who keep their hearts open to holy inspirations! They never lack the graces necessary to them in order to live well and devoutly according to their conditions, and to fulfill in a holy way the duties of their professions. Just as God, by the ministry of nature, gives to each animal in­stincts needed for its preservation and the exercise of its natu­ral properties, so too, if we do not resist God’s grace, He gives to each of us the inspirations needed to live, work, and pre­serve ourselves in the spiritual life.
“Ah, Lord,” said the faithful Eliezer, “Behold, I stand here at this spring of water, and the daughters of the inhabitants of this city will come out to draw water. Therefore, the maid to whom I shall say, ‘Let down the pitcher that I may drink,’ and she shall answer, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels also,’ she it is whom you have chosen for your servant Isaac.”  Eliezer does not express any desire for water except for himself, but the fair Rebecca was obedient to the inspiration that God and her own kindness gave her and also offered wa­ter to his camels. For this deed she was made the spouse of holy Isaac, fair daughter of the great Abraham, and ancestral mother of the Savior.
Souls not content merely with doing what the Divine Spouse requires of them by His commandments and counsels, but who are prompt to follow sacred inspirations, are truly those whom the eternal Father has prepared to be spouses of His beloved Son. With regard to the good Eliezer, since he could not other­wise distinguish among the daughters of Haran — that is, the town of Nahor — which one among them was destined for his master’s son, God enabled him to recognize her by means of inspiration. When we do not know what to do and men’s help is lacking to us in our perplexities, then God inspires us. If we are humbly obedient, He does not permit us to fall into error.
Editor’s note: This article has been adapted from St. Francis de Sales’ Finding God’s Will for Youavailable from Sophia Institute Press.