Thursday, December 31, 2015

Mercy and Spiritual Fatherhood

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
“Merciful like the Father” is the motto of the Year of Mercy.  What a great reminder for our fatherless culture!  What a great challenge and reminder for men on how to live as spiritual fathers.
Fatherlessness is a worldwide pandemic (43% in the US), devastating the culture, family, children, and men in particular, making it harder to experience God as love or to even hear about God.  With the sustained Marxist and feminist attacks on the family, marriage, and gender, it does not look as if things will improve anytime soon.  But the world’s greatest need right now is to experience the Father’s mercy to undo the effects of fatherlessness.
The greatest antidote to fatherlessness already exists in our Catholic faith:  Jesus reveals God as Abba (Papa, Daddy), and since God is our spiritual father, all Catholic men (young or old, single or married) are called to live out their identity as heroic spiritual fathers.  If Catholic men were to live this out, the effects of fatherlessness—which produces the culture of death—would be stopped in its tracks.
So what do we need for this journey of mercy?  For us to “be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful,” we must experience this mercy.  Pope Francis says:
“The mercy of God is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality with which he reveals his love as that of a father or a mother, moved to the very depths out of love for their child. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that this is a ‘visceral’ love. It gushes forth from the depths naturally, full of tenderness and compassion, indulgence and mercy.”
If we are to be led into this “concrete reality,” we need prayer, confession, and relationships to help us encounter the Father of mercies!
A client I will call Steve was fatherless by the age of six when his parents divorced.  Even when he was with either parent, he spent a lot of time alone.  His father was into pornography, and Steve was exposed by age eight.  Steve’s father was a verbally abusive bully.  Steve was always working to be loved and lived in fear of his moody and unpredictable father.   Steve’s faith was ignited in his late teens, but he carried the burden of working for his father’s love into his relationship with God.  He is now a married father of four.  He is struggling to love his kids as he wants to but feels stuck. Pornography is still an occasional problem.  He feels unlovable, as if he is never good enough—perfect lies from the Accuser.  Steve is my typical client who knows God’s love and mercy in his head but hasn’t experienced the “concrete reality” of God’s tender, indulgent mercy in his heart.
In counseling, it is the relationship that heals. In pastoral counseling, that relationship also brings the love and mercy of God into the deepest, darkest places in our hearts where “everything is bound and loosed” (CCC 2843).  Listening and empathy let Steve know I was in his world—incarnationally—not to judge but to bring God’s mercy and love to mend his broken heart.  We prayed, imagining Jesus’ telling him the truth: “You are my beloved son, a gift, a delight to me, and this is not based on your behavior.  You are forgiven.”  I encouraged Steve to go to confession regularly, especially when anger or lustful temptations overcame him.  As Steve experienced in his heart his true identity as a son, he began to live out this love in his hands as a physical and spiritual husband and father.  His wife was more grateful and his kids listened to him more.  He got them involved in the St. Vincent de Paul society, donating toys and clothes.  They were excited about doing something for others.  Steve still struggles but is doing well.
Mercy is the essence God’s fatherhood, and for men it is the essence of spiritual and physical fatherhood.  It is the nature of God’s mercy and love that, once received, it must be given to others; it is a law in the economy of salvation.  God’s mercy must be fruitful!  Spiritual fathers must be fruitful—we are called to have spiritual children: “Go and make disciples.”  Catholics seem uncomfortable sharing the Faith with friends, but we easily “evangelize” when we talk about a good movie we’ve seen!
The Call to Action:  Be Loved and Challenged!
  1. Pray daily and meditate on the mercy of our Abba and your identity as his son. You must knock down the obstacles to experiencing this in your heart.
  2. Go to Confession regularly to receive his mercy deeply, and meditate on the rejoicing and delight that occurs when you return to the Father’s house!
  3. If you are caught in an addiction of any kind, get help!
  4. The Ultimate Challenge: Go out and demonstrate the mercy of God.  Start with your own friends and family, and then go to the people on the fringes.  Stop the Culture of Death:  be the spiritual fathers you are!

Father Barron on New Year's Resolutions

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Year's Resolutions for Catholics

It is just about time for New Year's Resolutions! Here are some suggestions from the America Needs Fatima site (via Catholic Fire).

1. Be honest. Know yourself. What is your strongest virtue? What is your worst vice? Therefore, tailor your resolution so it strengthens your good side and fights your bad one. A one-size fits all resolution is useless.

2. Be specific. Don’t use generalities. They don’t work. For example, if you need to be more humble, just saying “I am going to be more humble,” is useless. You need to zero in on one situation where you need to practice humility and resolve to improve in that one situation.

3. Be simple. Don’t make it complicated. Focus on something you can see and measure easily and that does not overwhelm you each time you try to obtain it. Otherwise, you will become distracted and your energy will be dispersed and misdirected.

4. Be reasonable. Don’t try to do too much at once. You won’t become a saint in one day. Remember: every soul has one MAJOR point upon which is hinged his or her entire fidelity to God and His Holy Laws. Find out and work on improving that key point. You’ll see how everything else will improve if you improve on that one major point.

5. Be consistent. It’s far better to do something small everyday to improve on that one key point in your soul than to make a big resolution that you cannot keep for more than a week or two. Slow and steady wins the race!

6. Be humble. Recognize that you cannot do any good action which has value in the supernatural order without God’s grace and the intercessory help of the Blessed Mother. Beg God’s grace through Our Lady’s intercession constantly in all your thoughts, desires and actions

7. Be disinterested. Remember that God wants us to defend His rights and interests, and to share His thoughts and ways. And therefore, to focus on things, happening and events that are very close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary that are not necessarily linked to our own personal interests.

8. Write it down. It’s important to write down your resolution so you can refer back to it often during the year. Also, by writing it down, you will be able to review it when the year is over, and to evaluate your progress since the time the resolution was made.

9. Public expressions of faith. Don’t hide your faith. That’s just what the devil wants. He knows when you express your faith publicly, others see you and are encouraged to follow your good example. Say grace openly and proudly before meals in a restaurant so people can see. You’ll be surprised with the good reactions you will get.

10. Devotion to Our Lady. Have more devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Devotion to the Mother of God is a panacea. Saint Louis de Montfort said that devotion to Holy Mary is the easiest, safest, fastest, most secure, and surest path to Jesus and to our own salvation. If you can nothing else, resolve to say the Rosary everyday. Saint Louis de Montfort wrote:

“If you say the Rosary faithfully until death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins 'you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory.' Even if you are on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil as sorcerers do who practice black magic, and even if you are a heretic as obstinate as a devil, sooner or later you will be converted and will amend your life and will save your soul, if-- and mark well what I say-- if you say the Holy Rosary devoutly every day until death for the purpose of knowing the truth and obtaining contrition and pardon for your sins."

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Saint of the day: Thomas Becket

Today we remember St. Thomas Becket. The following comes from the American Catholic site:

A strong man who wavered for a moment, but then learned one cannot come to terms with evil and so became a strong churchman, a martyr and a saint—that was Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in his cathedral on December 29, 1170.

His career had been a stormy one. While archdeacon of Canterbury, he was made chancellor of England at the age of 36 by his friend King Henry II. When Henry felt it advantageous to make his chancellor the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas gave him fair warning: he might not accept all of Henry’s intrusions into Church affairs. Nevertheless, he was made archbishop (1162), resigned his chancellorship and reformed his whole way of life!

Troubles began. Henry insisted upon usurping Church rights. At one time, supposing some conciliatory action possible, Thomas came close to compromise. He momentarily approved the Constitutions of Clarendon, which would have denied the clergy the right of trial by a Church court and prevented them from making direct appeal to Rome. But Thomas rejected the Constitutions, fled to France for safety and remained in exile for seven years. When he returned to England, he suspected it would mean certain death. Because Thomas refused to remit censures he had placed upon bishops favored by the king, Henry cried out in a rage, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest!” Four knights, taking his words as his wish, slew Thomas in the Canterbury cathedral.

Thomas Becket remains a hero-saint down to our own times.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Feast of the Holy Innocents

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

Since the sixth century, on December 28, the Church has celebrated the memory of those children killed because of Herod's rage against Christ (cf. Mt 2:16-17). Liturgical tradition refers to them as the "Holy Innocents" and regards them as martyrs. Throughout the centuries Christian art, poetry and popular piety have enfolded the memory of the "tender flock of lambs"(125) with sentiments of tenderness and sympathy. These sentiments are also accompanied by a note of indignation against the violence with which they were taken from their mothers' arms and killed.

In our own times, children suffer innumerable forms of violence which threaten their lives, dignity and right to education. On this day, it is appropriate to recall the vast host of children not yet born who have been killed under the cover of laws permitting abortion, which is an abominable crime. Mindful of these specific problems, popular piety in many places has inspired acts of worship as well as displays of charity which provide assistance to pregnant mothers, encourage adoption and the promotion of the education of children.

As recorded in the gospel of Matthew (below), after the visit of the Magi, Herod, in rage and jealousy, slaughtered all the baby boys in Bethlehem and surrounding countryside in an attempt to destroy his perceived rival, the infant Messiah. These "innocents" are honored by the Church as martyrs.

In countries where our own innocents are daily being slaughtered by abortion, this feast day is a special time to remember the unborn, to pray for their cause, and perhaps to picket or pray at facilities where unborn babies are killed through abortion.

This would be a good day to begin a Novena for the Unborn.(Click here for Spanish Version)

The collect for the Holy Innocents may be said just before the blessing of the evening meal (see Christmas mealtime blessings), or at night prayers.

The ancient Coventry Carol is a mournful lullaby to the Holy Innocents. The words are printed below.

Family observances of this feast day have traditionally included serving baby food (oatmeal or pureed fruits), especially to the youngest member of the family. Another custom is eating a light-colored pudding with a red strawberry or raspberry sauce as a reminder of the blood of the tiny infant martyrs. While some adults may find this rather gory, many children appreciate this symbolism without the squeamishness their parents may feel.

Parents may also want to begin a nightly blessing of their children. Simply trace the sign of the cross on their foreheads while saying "May God bless you in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit".

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Fr. Longenecker: Angels, Shepherds and Sheer Joy

The following comes from Fr. Longenecker:

Angels crowd the Advent story, and their presence culminates in the throng of angels who appear to the shepherds on the hill outside Bethlehem. The angelic presences pushing in on the ordinary world come first to the priest Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, and then to the Virgin Mary and Joseph. Finally, they appear with the message that God’s son has been born to the humble shepherds.
The story is told in the classic words of the King James Version:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”

The presence of the angels in Advent is the presence of the supernatural pressing in on the natural. At the coming of Christ the veil between the seen and the unseen worlds is tissue thin. That which is invisible presses in upon those who can only see the visible. As God takes human flesh it is as if the whole divine realm becomes more present in this physical dimension.

Have you ever wondered why messengers from heaven so often appear to shepherds? Not only did the Christmas angels come to shepherds, but the Hebrew people were a nomadic herding tribe. Moses was a shepherd when God appeared at the burning bush. The great king David was a shepherd boy, and at Laus, La Salette, Lourdes and Fatima Mary appeared to shepherd children. The supernatural appearances come to humble peasants for a good reason. Humble workers are, on the one hand, likely to accept a supernatural appearance, and on the other hand, they are unlikely to fabricate a wild story. They’re down to earth, simple, honest and straightforward people — likely to believe in the supernatural but also unlikely to deceive.

The combination of angels and shepherds brings alive the wonder of Christ’s birth, and the symbolism of the shepherds and the wise men add to the levels of meaning and mystery. As his ancestor David was the shepherd king, the child in the stable will prove to be both the Good Shepherd and the King in God’s kingdom. So the angels herald his birth to the shepherds, and through the guiding star the kings make their way to pay him homage. As princes and peasants come together, they prove that the child is the Lord of both the highest and the lowest of humanity.

The angels of Christmas night also remind us of the role of the angels. They are God’s messengers and bring the message of Christ’s birth to the shepherds, and through them to the whole human race, but they are also agents of praise. The angelic role is to give everlasting praise, honor and glory to God. When the shepherds see the angels, they hear a hint of heaven and get a glimpse of glory. Their hearts lift in praise and wonder as they experience the stupendous sight of heaven being opened for a moment as God comes down to dwell among mankind.

As the shepherds take action and hurry to worship the newborn king, they remind us of an important takeaway from the story. Every glimpse of glory and spiritual uplift brings with it the call to action. The angels praise God, but they also serve God. They worship him, but they also render him service. They glorify him and they bear his message to the world. Likewise, following their example, at this Christmas season we turn out hearts in worship and praise, but we rise from Christmas Mass with an even greater determination to bring the angelic message of peace and goodwill to the world through both our lips and our lives.

Saint of the day: Stephen the Martyr

The following comes from the CNA:

On December 26, the universal church will commemorate the death of St. Stephen, the first man to give his life in witness to the Faith.

St. Stephen was a deacon in the early church. The sixth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles says that, Stephen was “a man filled with faith and with the Holy Spirit... filled with grace and fortitude.” The Bible also notes that Stephen was a gifted orator and that his logic was sound. The conversions of many people are attributed to him.

However, his outspokenness provoked the ire of some of his listeners and he was accused of blaspheming against Moses and against God. He was brought before the high priest and many false witnesses testified against him.

In his defense, he gave an eloquent analysis of Salvation History and the love and mercy of God. He also recounted Israel's repeated ungratefulness towards their God. However, it didn't sway his accusers who proceeded to take him outside the city and stone him.

As he was about to die, Stephen looked up to heaven and said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” Then, as he was being stoned, he cried out, ““Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

His last words, as the stoning had brought him to his knees were, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

Friday, December 25, 2015

Pope Francis: Only God's Mercy Can Free Us

In his annual Christmas “Urbi et Orbi” blessing Pope Francis prayed for all those affected by violence, conflict and poverty throughout the world, asking that they rejoice in salvation offered by the birth of Christ.
“Only God’s mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst. The grace of God can convert hearts and offer mankind a way out of humanly insoluble situations,” the Pope said on Christmas Day, Dec. 25.
God alone is able to save us, he said, adding that “where God is born, hope is born. Where God is born, peace is born. And where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and for war.”
Pope Francis spoke to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square to hear his Christmas message and receive the special blessing which goes out “to the city and the world.”
In his message, he lamented that ongoing conflicts continue to strain peaceful living in the Holy Land, and prayed for peace there as well as in war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, sub-Saharan Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, South Sudan, Colombia and Ukraine.
Francis also turned his thoughts to all those affected by “brutal acts of terrorism” throughout the world, particularly the “massacres” which have recently taken place in Egyptian airspace, in Beirut, Paris, Bamako and Tunis. 
He then offered prayers for refugees forced to flee their homes due to violence, as well as for victims of human trafficking, for the unemployed and for all who suffer due to poverty. In contemplating the birth of Jesus, the Pope asked that we open our hearts to receive the grace offered on Christmas Day, “which is Christ himself.”
Jesus, he said, “is the radiant day which has dawned on the horizon of humanity. A day of mercy, in which God our Father has revealed his great tenderness to the entire world. A day of light, which dispels the darkness of fear and anxiety.”
It is also a day of peace, “which makes for encounter, dialogue and reconciliation. A day of joy: a great joy for the poor, the lowly and for all the people,” Francis said.

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night by Libera

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas in King's College, Cambridge UK

Christmas Eve, 1906. A Miracle.

The following comes from Matt Archibold at NCR:

It was Christmas Eve night in 1906. The ships at sea for the US Navy and the United Fruit Company received a message in Morse code to expect a special and important transmission. The telegraphers in their respective ships expected to hear the dits and dashes of Morse coming through.

But instead they heard something that many likely hadn't imagined possible. It was the sound of a human voice. In particular, it was the voice of Reginald Fessenden, the genius behind this first wireless voice transmission who had studied under Thomas Edison, transmitting from Brant Rock, MA, to ships on the North and South Atlantic Ocean.

And what did those people hear from Fessenden, the son of an Anglican minister, on that important night?

After playing Handel's Largo on the phonograph for all to hear, it was Fessenden himself playing "O Holy Night" on the violin and singing along. "Fall on your knees. O hear the angel voices. O night divine. The night when Christ was born. O night divine" he sang. Years later he would write that "the singing, of course, was not very good."

Fessenden then urged his wife to read from Luke, Chapter 2 but she suffered from microphone fright leading to the first ever instance of awkward radio silence. Fessenden then read aloud about the day a savior was born into the world. "Glory to God in the highest -and on earth peace to men of good will."

It seems fitting, doesn't it, that an improbable voice in the darkness reached out and changed the world that night and told of the Good News that had occurred almost 2,000 years before when the world was changed forever. 

The Christmas Story

Mary's Boy Child by Tom Jones

Heather King: A Course in Christmas Miracles

The following comes from Heather King:

"For some extraordinary reason, there is a fixed notion that it is more liberal to disbelieve in miracles than to believe in them. Why, I cannot imagine, nor can anybody tell me."

--G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

A friend recently asked my take on a passage that began: "One of the keys to survival is to know deep in one’s heart no one is coming to save you. Because as long as the person who is in a dire situation thinks that is so, then they sit and wait. They don’t go on about the business of living in that place. Rather, they wait for someone to save them so that then they can resume living." 

"Because obviously," my friend continued, "we all have to come to grips with the fact that no-one's coming. No-one's going to save us." 

I looked around my room. The home-made triptych to my three unborn children that sits in the loft above my bed, the Sacred Heart of Jesus icon, the Christmas lights, the angel candle (lit each night before I go to sleep), the rosary of purple glass beads, the multiple Madonna and child calenders, prayers cards, the photo of Therese of Lisieux (the one where she looks both infinitely tender and infinitely fierce), the Rembrandt Head of Christ  (the one in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where he looks like he has been regarding your wounded, conflicted, fearful, yearning heart with utter love for all eternity).

I thought about how, as a kid on holidays and especially Christmas, I could hardly wait for Nana to come. Nana, who would have been driven over in the big black Buick by Cousin Richard, who she had raised, and who was now her helpmeet. Nana, with a white-blue perm, a long fur coat with a weasel-head clasp, and a hard-sided black leather handbag that held an embroidered hankie (raised pink rosebuds, pale blue forget-me-nots), a bottle of Yardley Smelling Salts, and a change purse filled with coins she was lavish about doling out.

Nana, Daddy's mother, the Queen Bee to whom we all instinctively paid homage. Nana, with her brogue. "She's here, she's here!!" I'd yell, and race out through the breezeway to stand in the ice-rutted driveway, semaphoring my arms like those parking lot jockeys with orange flags, in case (though Nana and Richard came almost every Sunday), they'd forgotten where we lived.

I'd yank open the passenger side door--"Merry Christmas, Nan! do you want me to take the rolls, Nan? What does the ocean look like today, Nan?..."

Nana always brought home-made yeasted rolls. At Christmas, she made red wool shirts for "the boys" (my father on down), and for "the girls"...I can't remember. A card with a five or ten-dollar bill maybe. Nana was the present. She was special, she was ours, I would have broken the arm of anyone who tried to wrest from me the honor of hanging up her coat, or situating her on "her" place on the couch, or fetching her a glass of punch.

After she fell years later, on the steps of the church, I'd go over to the house in Rye Beach and stay overnight, filling the hot water bottle for her aching hip. I still spoon sugar every morning into my coffee from the blue and white sugar bowl, part of the china set she brought over on the boat from Ireland.

"Because obviously no-one's going to save us....obviously no-one's coming"...

I thought about how the mark of a follower of Christ is to believe in miracles, in magic, in angels and prophetic dreams and saints. I thought about which is more sublime, more clear-eyed, harder: to stop waiting, to harden your heart against waiting; or to wait in hope, your whole life, for someone you know will never come. I thought about how Catholicism ends with a wedding. 

I wrote back to my friend, "Actually, I don't think no-one's coming. In a practical sense of course I identify with feeling lost and the realization that no one is going to save us. I think we first realize that as children--and forever after, we're pissed off! Yes, I absolutely think we are responsible for making a life-or-death choice as to how and why we are going to be on this earth. But from a mystical sense, I DON'T think no-one's coming. I long to be united with Christ, who has already come. And at the end of time, will come again"....

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

O Come O Come Emmanuel by William Dutton

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Emmanuel - Songs Of Praise

These are some amazing choirs!

Christmas, Suffering, and the Cross

The following comes from Michael Coren at the Catholic World Report:

I graduated from high school in England back in 1977, and it’s grimly sobering that some of the people reading this column weren’t even born then! Be warned younger people—middle age creeps up on as surreptitiously as the most careful and crafty beasts of prey. There was a somewhat perfunctory party where students and teachers said goodbye to one another, but most of us were only too eager to see the back of school and go on to university, work, fun, whatever. I remained close to my oldest friend, who later was the best man at my wedding, but otherwise I have not maintained contact with most of my contemporaries. Frankly, I can’t even remember their names.

There was one couple, however, who I do remember: Jonathan and Angela. I say “couple” because while only 17-years-old back then, they always seemed to have been together. Not in some prurient way but as surprisingly mature, committed young people. They were also both extremely good-looking, athletic, and intelligent. With so many gifts they could at least have been unpleasant and rude just to balance things out, but they were also kind and generous—the model couple.

I recall Angela speaking to me at the party about her plans but I think I was too busy trying to look at her legs to listen to what she was saying (I wasn’t a Catholic at the time, so it was okay!). After that I pretty much forgot about Angela and Jonathan. I married, came to Canada, started a family, and moved on.

Fast-forward twenty years to a phone-call from that oldest friend. “Are you still visiting London at Christmas,” he asked, “and do you remember Jonathan and Angela?” I said “Yes” to both questions. “They’ve apparently been living in Africa and have just returned to Britain. They’re having a party to say hello to everybody. They want us all to know, however, that Jonathan was in an accident. Angela has been a teacher at a small school, and there had been a fire. One little boy, Joshua, had been left inside. Jonathan ran back in and rescued the boy. The child is fine, but Jonathan is badly burnt; they don’t want anybody to be shocked when they see him.”

I did indeed fly to London that Christmas, and made my way to the apartment whereJonathan and Angela were staying. It was Christmas Eve, and I’d planned to go to Midnight Mass after seeing them. As for burns and the accident, I had worked as a war reporter, had seen death up close, and I was—so foolishly prided myself—a man of the world. I arrived a little early, and knocked on the door. There was Angela, as lovely as ever. “Come in, come in”, she said. “You’re the first here, and Jonathan will be overjoyed so see you.”

There he was. This once strikingly handsome young man, sitting in a large armchair, his face so disguised by scar tissue that I could barely see his eyes. One ear seemed to be almost missing, and he had hardly any hair. I tried to register nonchalance, but it never works. Then he spoke, and the voice was the same as it had been two decades ago. And the words, the words. “All right Coren, I know I look a bloody mess. But at least one of us has kept their figure.”

I tried to laugh, but instead I began to cry. Angela ran to me, embraced me, said, “Don’t worry, don’t worry, we’ve both done a lot of that. Don’t worry.” Then a little African boy ran into the room, jumped on Jonathan’s lap and said, “Daddy, daddy!” Angela held my hand and said, “Have you met our new adopted son? His name is Joshua.”

I learned that night that Jonathan and Angela were Christians, had been all of their lives, and that after university they had worked as missionaries in Africa. Jonathan helped bring a clean water supply to the region; she set up and ran a school. Christ had formed their lives, their behavior, their relationship, their love, their sacrifice, and their courage. I should have known this years earlier but I was—yes—too busy trying to look at Angela’s legs. That was an evening, a Christmas, and a Midnight Mass I will never forget.

Let me be candid. There are times when I wonder if it’s all worth it. The internal politics of the Church; the ambitious Catholics—clergy and laity—who gossip and betray; those who are never happy unless they are condemning and criticizing the words and actions of others. It was Flannery O’Connor who spoke of suffering for the Church and suffering from the Church. The first is easy and rewarding, and can lead to deeper faith. The second is enervating and painful, and can lead to despair. But whenever I feel the sting, see the unfairness, shudder at the injustice, I try to think of Jonathan, Angela, and little Joshua. But most of all I think of what this season is all about, and it is about He whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.

I know the birth of Jesus Christ may well not have been in December and that it may not have been a stable, but I really could not care less. I have been to Bethlehem, but more importantly Bethlehem has been to me. I have not had to run into burning schools or put my life at risk, and my complaints about ill treatment are generally little more than privileged whines. Nor do I want to be a martyr, if it can be at all avoided. The point, though, is not whether we die for Christ but whether we are willing to die for Christ. If it’s love, it’s total. There’s no middle way when it comes to the romance of faith.

He became a baby so that we could know Him and understand Him properly. This is the quintessence of Christmas, the story of God becoming man—becoming child. Naked vulnerability guaranteeing eternal life. Angela reminded me of this when I spoke to her the day before I returned to Canada those twenty years ago. “Women used to turn and look at my husband in the street because he was so good-looking”, she said. “Now everybody turns and looks at him, but for other reasons.” A pause. “I’ve never stopped looking at him, and never will.”

Never stop looking at Jesus, as a baby, a child, an adult, a man dying on the Cross, a God restored to life, a savior with us until the end of time.\
Have a blessed and wonderful Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Blessed Mother Teresa on Prayer

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” 

                           Blessed Mother Teresa

Saint of the day: Peter Canisius

Today we remember St. Peter Canisius. The following come from the Catholic Online site:
In 1565, the Vatican was looking for a secret agent. It was shortly after the Council of Trent and the pope wanted to get the decrees of the Council to all the European bishops. What would be a simple errand in our day, was a dangerous assignment in the sixteenth century. The first envoy who tried to carry the decrees through territory of hostile Protestants and vicious thieves was robbed of the precious documents. Rome needed someone courageous but also someone above suspicion. They chose Peter Canisius. At 43 he was a well-known Jesuit who had founded colleges that even Protestants respected. They gave him a cover as official "visitor" of Jesuit foundations. But Peter couldn't hide the decrees like our modern fictional spies with their microfilmed messages in collar buttons or cans of shaving cream. Peter traveled fromRome and crisscrossed Germany successfully loaded down with the Tridentine tomes -- 250 pages each -- not to mention the three sacks of books he took along for his own university!

Why did the Vatican choose Peter Canisius for this delicate task?

Born in Holland in 1521, Peter had edited and written several volumes on Church history and theology, been a delegate to the Council of Trent, and reformed the Germanuniversities from heresy. Called to Vienna to reform their university, he couldn't win the people with preaching or fancy words spoken in his German accent. He won their hearts by ministering to the sick and dying during a plague. The people, the king, and the pope all wanted to make Peter bishop of Vienna, but Peter declined vigorously and administered the diocese for a year.

For many years during the Reformation, Peter saw the students in his universities swayed by the flashy speeches and the well-written arguments of the Protestants. Peter was not alone in wishing for a Catholic catechism that would present true Catholic beliefs undistorted by fanatics. Finally King Ferdinand himself ordered Peter and his companions to write a catechism. This hot potato got tossed from person to person until Peter and his friend Lejay were assigned to write it. Lejay was obviously the logical choice, being a better writer than Peter. So Peter relaxed and sat back to offer any help he could. When Father Lejay died, King Ferdinand would wait no longer. Peter said of writing: "I have never learned to be elegant as a writer, but I cannot remain dumb on that account." The first issue of the Catechism appeared in 1555 and was an immediate success. Peter approachedChristian doctrine in two parts: wisdom -- including faith, hope, and charity -- and justice-- avoiding evil and doing good, linked by a section on sacraments.

Because of the success and the need, Peter quickly produced two more versions: a Shorter Catechism for middle school students which concentrated on helping this age group choose good over evil by concentrating on a different virtue each day of the week; and a Shortest Catechism for young children which included prayers for morning and evening, for mealtimes, and so forth to get them used to praying.

As intent as Peter was on keeping people true to the Catholic faith, he followed the Jesuit policy that harsh words should not be used, that those listening would see an example of charity in the way Catholics acted and preached. However, his companions were not always as willing. He showed great patience and insight with one man, Father Couvillon. Couvillon was so sharp and hostile that he was alienating his companions and students. Anyone who confronted him became the subject of abuse. It became obvious that Couvillon suffered from emotional illness. But Peter did not let that knowledge blind him to the fact that Couvillon was still a brilliant and talented man. Instead of asking Couvillon to resign he begged him to stay on as a teacher and then appointed him as his secretary. Peter thought that Couvillon needed to worry less about himself and pray more and work harder. He didn't coddle him but gave Couvillon blunt advice about his pride. Coming from Peter this seemed to help Couvillon. Peter consulted Couvillon often on business of the Province and asked him to translate Jesuit letters from India. Thanks to Peter , even though Couvillon continued to suffer depression for years, he also accomplished much good.

Peter died in December 21, 1597. He is known as the Second Apostle of Germany and was named a Doctor of the Church.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Pope Francis opened the ‘Door of Charity’ for the poor

The following comes from Crux:

Years from now, records will show that the special jubilee Year of Mercy decreed by Pope Francis began on Dec. 8, 2015, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. If you ask the pontiff himself, however, he’d probably tell you it really got underway on Friday.
That afternoon, Francis headed across town to visit a hostel for the homeless run by Caritas, the main diocesan charity in Rome, in order to open a “holy door of charity.” In a sense, it was the natural follow-up to what happened on Dec. 8, when Francis threw open an ornate door to St. Peter’s Basilica that’s otherwise bricked up when jubilees aren’t underway.
That gesture traditionally is how jubilee years commence, but Friday’s rite was a novelty — a pontiff opening a door not to a church, where spiritual indulgences are on offer, but rather a charity center, where the “grace” dispensed is more tangible and this-worldly.
In most of the ways that matter, this was Pope Francis in his element.
Anyone who spends time watching Francis in action realizes he doesn’t particularly care for big ceremonial productions. He’s most comfortable in smaller, more intimate settings, especially with people who don’t qualify as VIPs, where he can set aside whatever speech has been prepared for him and go off-the-cuff in Spanish or Italian.
Celebrating Mass on Friday for a group of 200 people representing the various activities run by Caritas in Rome — homeless people, AIDS patients, mothers with developmentally challenged children, refugees, and so on — was, to hear Francis tell it, an expression of the heart of what the Year of Mercy is supposed to be all about.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Emmanuel: by Loreena McKennitt

Hans Urs von Balthasar: Love Alone

“The first thing that must strike a non-Christian about a Christian’s faith is that it is all too daring. It is too beautiful to be true: The mystery of being, unveiled as absolute love, coming down to wash the feet and the souls of its creatures; a love that assumes the whole burden of our guilt and hate, that accepts the accusations that shower down, the disbelief that veils God again when he has revealed himself, all the scorn and contempt that nails down his incomprehensible movement of self-abasement—all this, absolute love accepts in order to excuse his creature before himself and before the world.”   
                  (Hans Urs von Balthasar, Love Alone)

The Miracle of Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Vatican City (AsiaNews)  The following is the official statement of the postulator of the cause of canonization of Mother Teresa, Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk, MC, presenting the miracle that led to Pope Francis’ decision to proclaim her a saint.

On 17 December 2015, Pope Francis approved the promulgation of the decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata. The case submitted by the Postulation of her Cause of Canonization concerns the miraculous healing that took place in 2008 in Santos, Brazil. The case involves a man having a viral brain infection that resulted in multiple abscesses with triventricular hydrocephalus.

The various treatments undertaken were not effective, and thus his condition continuously worsened. By 9 December 2008 the patient was in an acute clinical state: obstructive hydrocephalus; he was in a coma and dying. It was decided to proceed with emergency surgery. At 18:10 the patient was taken to the operating room, but the Anesthesiologist could not perform the tracheal intubation for anesthesia.

Meanwhile, from March 2008, the patient's wife continuously sought the intercession of Blessed Mother Teresa for her husband. To her own prayers of intercession were joined those of her relatives, friends, and the parish priest, all of whom were praying for a miraculous cure through the intercession of Mother Teresa.

On this same day, 9 December 2008, when the patient entered into serious crisis and had to be taken for an emergency operation, intensified prayers were addressed to Blessed Teresa for his recovery. Precisely between the hours of 18.10 and 18.40 the patient's wife went to her parish church, and along with the pastor, turned to Blessed Teresa begging with greater determination the cure of her dying husband.

At 18.40 the neurosurgeon returned to the operating room and found the patient inexplicably awake and without pain. The patient asked the doctor, "what I am doing here?" The next morning, December 10, 2008, when examined at 7.40 the patient was fully awake and without any headache; he was asymptomatic with normal cognition.

The patient, now completely healed, resumed his work as a mechanical engineer without any particular limitation. In addition, it should be emphasized that despite the tests that showed a state of sterility due to the intense and prolonged immunosuppression and antibiotics, the couple have two healthy children born in 2009 and 2012.

On 10 September of this year, the medical commission voted unanimously that the cure is inexplicable in the light of present-day medical knowledge. On 8 October the theological commission also voted unanimously that there was a perfect connection of cause and effect between the invocation of Mother Teresa and the scientifically inexplicable healing. On 15 December the case received the final approval of the congress of Cardinals and Bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints meeting in ordinary session.

The date of the canonization will be officially announced in the next Consistory of Cardinals.

Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk, MC

Preparing for Christmas

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:

Have We Made Room for Christ in the Inn of Our Hearts?

The time leading up to, and the birth of Christ, is a time full of expectancy, hope, joy, and sorrow. Everything that occurred from the Fall to His birth in a dingy stable was in preparation of our Redemption. The Annunciation turned Eve into Ave and her “no” into a hope and trust filled “let it be done to me according to thy word”. Saint Joseph, a humble carpenter from Nazareth, became the adoptive father of the Son of God and walked the rest of his days in the company of the Immaculata as his wife. It is an awe-inspiring journey that Catholics walk each year in faith, hope, and charity, but it begins in darkness. A darkness that we contemplate throughout the hope filled season of Advent. It is an arduous path that these players, as well as we, are asked to walk. The beginning of the joyous end began when a census was called:
Caesar Augustus, the master bookkeeper of the world, sat in his palace by the Tiber. Before him stretched a map labeled Orbis Terrarum, Imperium Romanum. He was about to issue an order for a census of the world; for all the nations of the civilized world were subject to Rome. There was only one capital in this world: Rome; only one official language: Latin; only one ruler: Caesar. To every outpost, to every satrap and governor, the order went out: every Roman subject must be enrolled in his own city. On the fringe of the Empire, in the little village of Nazareth, soldiers tacked up on walls the order for all citizens to register in towns of their family origin.
Venerable Fulton Sheen, Life of Christ, page 26
It was this order that sent Mary and St. Joseph to Bethlehem for the birth of the Savior of the World. The most powerful man in the world had his part to play, even though he would never consciously know it. He ordered the journey so that Jesus Christ would be born in the city of David. Caesar had no idea that he was fulfilling the will of the Triune God by his decree.
Bethlehem in the land of Judah, you are far from least in the eyes of the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a leader to be the shepherd of my people Israel.
Matthew 2:6
Mary and Joseph began the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem while she was nearly full term. It would have taken days to arrive. It never occurred to them that there would be no room for them, especially in her condition.
Joseph was full of expectancy as he entered the city of his family, and was quite convinced that he would have no difficulty finding lodgings for Mary, particularly on account of her condition. Joseph went from house to house only to find each one crowded. He searched in vain for a place where He, to Whom heaven and earth belonged, might be born. Could it be that the Creator would not find a home in creation? Up a steep hill Joseph climbed to a faint light which swung on a rope across a doorway. This would be the village inn. There above all other places, he would surely find shelter. There was room in the inn for the soldiers of Rome who had brutally subjugated the Jewish people; there was room for the daughters of the rich merchants of the East: there was room for those clothed in soft garments, who lived in the houses of the king; in fact, there was room for anyone who had a coin to give the innkeeper; but there was no room for Him Who came to be the Inn of every homeless heart in the world. When finally, the scrolls of history are completed down to the last words in time, the saddest line of all will be: “There was no room in the inn.”
Sheen, page 27
Have we taken time to consider these words in our own hearts? Do we have room at the inn of our hearts for the infant Jesus who is to be born? Do our lives reflect the dwelling place of God within us? This sad reminder of the denial of Christ by the powers of the world serves as a reminder to each one of us that the world has always denied Christ. It may shock us and break our hearts to look at the barbarism, suffering, and brutality of the world. It cuts us deeply when we are denied because of our love of Christ, but what else can we expect? Our Lord and Savior was denied from the very moment He was to come into the world. “There was no room in the inn” are words that continue down the ages and words we must hold close in the midst our own persecutions.
Out to the hillside to a stable cave, where shepherds sometimes drove their flocks in time of storm, Joseph and Mary went at last for shelter. There, in a place of peace in the lonely abandonment of a cold windswept cave; there, under the floor of the world, He Who is born without a mother in heaven, is born without a father on earth.
Sheen, Ibid
So it was that the Savior of all would be born in the darkness of a cave in the depths of the earth He created.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Because He Lives (Amen) by Matt Maher

Mother Teresa miracle approved, sainthood set for September

The following comes from RNS:

Pope Francis celebrated his 79th birthday on Thursday (Dec. 17) with a gift to the many devotees of Mother Teresa of Calcutta: The pontiff gave final clearance for “the saint of the gutters” to become an official saint.

According to a report in the newspaper of the Italian bishops conference, Francis signed a decree declaring that the inexplicable 2008 cure of a Brazilian man who was diagnosed with multiple brain tumors was due to the intercession of the Albanian-born nun, who died in 1997.

The column in Avvenire by Stefania Falasca said the pontiff’s action came three days after a Vatican panel of cardinals and bishops affirmed the judgment of medical experts and theologians who concluded that there was no medical explanation for the apparent cure.

Falasca said the pope would probably canonize Mother Teresa next year on Sunday, Sept. 4, the day before the anniversary of her death, which is also her official feast day.

Mother Teresa, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was famous for her work with the poorest of the poor in India, had been beatified — the penultimate step before sainthood — in 2002 after the attribution of another miracle healing to her intercession.

Catholic Church protocols for sainthood generally require evidence that a person lived a virtuous and holy life and that two miracles can be attributed to the sainthood candidate’s intercession with God. Catholics who were martyred for the faith can be declared saints with evidence of just one miracle.

Francis has often bypassed the usual norms to declare someone a saint, which means that the church officially declares that someone is in heaven and worthy of veneration as a model of sanctity by the faithful on Earth.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Veni Veni Emmanuel

Hat tip to Lead Kindly Light.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Holy Spirit by Jesus Culture and Kim Walker

Mother Teresa on Silence

I shall keep
the silence of my heart
with great care, so that in
the silence of my heart
I hear His words of comfort,
and so that from
the fullness of my heart
I comfort Jesus in the
distressing disguise of the poor.
For in silence
and purity of the heart,
God speaks.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ten Reasons You Should Get to Confession This Weekend

The following comes Simcha Fisher at NCR:

1. You need to.  You have a mortal sin on your soul, and it’s killing you.  You know you want to live. So go to confession.

2.  You don’t need to.  Oh, really, you don’t need to?  You don’t need to have your soul refreshed, your courage strengthened, your dusty, crusty, venial sin-chapped hide soothed with the sweet balm of forgiveness?  You don’t need to hear one more time that the Almighty Son of God came down from Heaven, was born, suffered, died, and rose again so that you, personally, could be saved?  No thanks, you don’t neeeeed any of that right now?  Really?  Go to confession.

3. Your kids need to see you do it.  You can talk all you want about receiving the sacraments, but if you don’t do it, chances are they won’t do it when they grow up.  So go to confession.

4. Your spouse needs to see you do it.  In the words of Anthony Esolen,
Look in the mirror. Take a long, slow, excruciating look in the mirror. See your faults for what they are. See all the petty selfishness and cowardice and spitefulness and pride and envy. Then think that there's somebody on earth who is silly enough to love you. And when you are exercised about your spouse's faults, just repeat these words three times: "You're no peach either." Works wonders.
  Go on, peachy.  Let your spouse know you’ve looked in the mirror.  Go to confession.

5. You might die soon.  Honest to goodness, it could happen!  All it takes is for some distracted lady driving a huge 15-passenger van to get whacked in the side of the head with an apple core while she’s driving in the roundabout and BAM, you’re gone.  Get it in now, while you can still walk and talk, because it may be your last chance.  Go to confession!

6. It’s the beginning of the school year.  Whether you’re homeschooling or sending the kids off, or if you’re a teacher, or maybe you’re a student yourself, or maybe you’re the unlucky son of a gun who stocks the back-to-school shelves at Staples, and you feel like you’re going to strangle the next inconsiderate slob who thinks it’s funny to rearrange all the Flair pens – you need to turn things around.  The start of something new is always a good time to get a clean slate.  So go to confession.

7. You spent the whole day glued to your computer yesterday, reading everything you can about Syria and Miley Cyrus, and now you have a wretched, empty sensation between your ears.  All the world is sad and dreary, and you can’t think of any particular reason why you should even bother to get up tomorrow.  Confession restores hope.  Go to confession.

8. You’ve been doing great lately.  You pray a lot, you’ve been patient and kind, you’re making all kinds of progress in your career, and your personal life is blooming.  Confession gives glory to God.  Go to confession!

9. You’re not really sure that God is listening to you anyway.  You don’t bear him any particular ill will, but He doesn’t seem to have anything to do with you, and vice versa.  Confession makes a connection with God.  Go see Him in confession.

10. What, nine reasons aren’t enough for you?  Now you’re just looking for excuses. It's only Thursday; you can totally figure out how to get it into your schedule.  Go to confession.  Go!