Saturday, February 28, 2015

Taizé Chant: Adoramus te O Christe

Friday, February 27, 2015

Here's My Heart Lord by David Crowder

Fr. Robert Barron on the Cross of Jesus Christ

The following comes from Word on Fire:
Last week, the attention of the world was riveted to a deserted beach in northern Libya, where a group of twenty one Coptic Christians were brutally beheaded by masked operatives of the ISIS movement. In the wake of the executions, ISIS released a gruesome video entitled “A Message in Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” I suppose that for the ISIS murderers the reference to “the Nation of the Cross” had little sense beyond a generic designation for Christianity. Sadly for most Christians, too, the cross has become little more than an anodyne, a harmless symbol, a pious decoration. I would like to take the awful event on that Libyan beach, as well as the ISIS message concerning it, as an occasion to reflect on the still startling distinctiveness of the cross.
In the time of Jesus, the cross was a brutal and very effective sign of Roman power. Imperial authorities effectively said, “If you cross us (pun intended), we will affix you to a dreadful instrument of torture and leave you to writhe in agonizing, literally excruciating (ex cruce, from the cross) pain until you die. Then we will make sure that your body hangs on that gibbet until it is eaten away by scavenging animals.” The cross was, basically, state-sponsored terrorism, and it did indeed terrify people. The great Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero once described a crucifixion but only through a convoluted circumlocution, for he couldn’t bring himself to characterize it directly. After putting down the great slave uprising of Spartacus, the Roman government lined the Appian Way with hundreds of crosses so as to dissuade any other would-be revolutionaries. Pontius Pilate had much the same intention when he nailed dozens of Jewish rebels to the walls of Jerusalem. That same Pilate arranged for Jesus to be crucified on Calvary Hill, a promontory situated close to one of the gates of ancient Jerusalem, guaranteeing that his horrific death would not be missed by the large Passover crowds moving in and out of the city.  
From the crucified Jesus, all of the disciples, save John, fled, precisely because they wanted with all their hearts to avoid his dreadful fate. After Good Friday, the friends of Jesus huddled in terror in the Upper Room, petrified that they might be nailed up on Calvary as well. The disciples on the road to Emmaus were, understandably, heading out of Jerusalem, away from danger, and they were utterly convinced that Jesus’ movement had come to naught. In a word, the cross meant the victory of the world, and the annihilation of Jesus and what he stood for.  
And this is why it is surpassing strange that one of the earliest Apostles and missionaries of the Christian religion could write, “I preach one thing, Christ and him crucified!” How could Paul—the passage is taken from his first letter to the Corinthians—possibly present the dreadful cross as the centerpiece of his proclamation? He could do so only because he knew that God had raised the crucified Jesus from the dead, proving thereby that God’s love and forgiveness are greater than anything in the world. This is why his exaltation of the cross is a sort of taunt to Rome and all of its brutal descendants down through the ages: “You think that scares us? God has conquered that!” And this is why, to this day, Christians boldly hold up an image of the humiliated, tortured Jesus to the world. What they are saying is, “We are not afraid.”

Saint of the day: Gabriel Possenti

The following comes from EWTN:

On a summer day a little over a hundred years ago, a slim figure in a black cassock stood facing a gang of mercenaries in a small town in Piedmont, Italy. He had just disarmed one of the soldiers who was attacking a young girl, had faced the rest of the band fearlessly, then drove them all out of the village at the point of a gun. The young man was Francesco Possenti, whose father was lawyer for the Papal States and who had recently joined the Passionist Order, taking the name of Brother Gabriel.

Francesco Possenti had been the fanciest dresser in town as well as the best dancer. He was a superb horseman and an excellent marksman. Engaged to two girls at the same time and a great partygoer, he had shocked his family by announcing after his graduation that he was going to become a Passionist monk. No one believed him and expected him back within a few weeks. He stayed, and when Garibaldi's mercenaries swept down through Italy ravaging villages, Brother Gabriel showed the kind of man he was by confronting them, astonishing them with his marksmanship, and saving the small village where his monastery was located.

He had become very sick during his school years and had promised that if he got better, he would dedicate his life to God. St. Gabriel Possenti got better and forgot about it. He got sick again and made the same promise, but again got well and forgot his promise. Once, during a church procession in which a great banner of Our Lady, Help of Christians, was being carried, the eyes of Our Lady looked straight at him and he heard the words: "Keep your promise." Shaken, he remembered his promise, changed his life completely, and entered the Passionists.

He hoped to be sent to the missions after his ordination to the priesthood, but at the young age of twenty-four, he died. Canonized in 1920, he is, along with St. Aloysius, one of the patrons of youth. He was very fond of his family and is particularly remembered as a remarkable young man who, at the age of twenty, threw all aside for God, determined to become a saint.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Catholic Bucket List!

The following comes from Our Sunday Visitor:

You can read the rest of the story at OSV but here is their Catholic Bucket list!

1. Go to Rome.

This is, I suppose, pretty obvious. We’re talking Eternal City. The City. The one they based Minas Tirith on in “The Lord of the Rings.” Older than New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., put together — not to mention London, Paris, Berlin and the concept of the nation-state — this is the place where the civilization called “Europe” looks to when they want to think about what civilized people were doing while the English, French and Germans were painting themselves blue and running around naked in the woods. Yes, while all that we think of as “modern Europe” was drunk on mead, living in mud huts and setting up rows of rocks as their greatest cultural achievements, Rome was already ancient.

Rome is, of course, where the pope lives and St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and much of the rest of the greatest of pagan and Christian civilization finds a natural home. It is a place that has endured plagues, seen sumptuous festivals both heathen and Catholic, been occupied by everybody from barbarian hordes to the Nazis, and doggedly remained the See of Peter even when the pope was goofing off in Avignon. Plus, you got your Italian food, your easy mileage to places like Assisi, Florence and the resting place of Padre Pio (as well as 50 bazillion other places chockablock with the memory — and bones — of 50 bazillion saints, including Peter and Paul).

2. The Great Cathedrals.

After the pagans of northern Europe were Christianized by the former pagans of southern Europe, they did what people in love do: gave extravagant gifts. The greatest extravagant gifts the northern Europeans gave God and their descendants were the great cathedrals. Words can really not do justice to them. Unlike my still-unrealized dream of visiting the Eternal City, I have actually had a chance to see a medieval cathedral in the form of Yorkminster in England. It is a stunning fulfillment of Christ’s words that the very stones would cry out “Hosanna.” That the whole thing was crafted into being over the course of centuries by human beings with no internal combustion engine is itself a miracle. That a whole civilization across Europe could create not one but many of these splendors in the form of Notre Dame, of the cathedrals at Cologne, Reims, Innsbruck, Salz-burg, Vienna and on and on is breathtaking. To walk through one is to feel yourself be changed by the experience.

3. Go on a pilgrimage.

There are two basic ways of doing this and some Catholics never get around to doing either, which is a shame. The first way is to go on a pilgrimage. This generally means taking a walk — a long one and, if you want the full Catholic meal deal, doing it in the company of a bunch of strangers who have nothing in common with you but the fact that they are also on pilgrimage. A recent portrayal of this is Emilio Estevez’s fine little film “The Way,” which concerns people on the famous Camino de Santiago that takes pilgrims from France to Spain and, more importantly, to an interior encounter with God.

The pilgrimage is actually older than Christianity, and its roots can be found in Old Testament religion as pilgrims went up from the towns of Israel to the great feasts of the Old Testament calendar celebrated in Jerusalem at the Temple. Psalms 120-134 are known as the “Songs of Ascent” because they were sung by pilgrims climbing up to Mount Zion from the lowlands of Israel.

Catholic culture adopted the pilgrimage first in paying visits to the Holy Land and the scenes of Jesus’ ministry, passion, death and resurrection and then to the graves of saints and martyrs such as St. Thomas Becket (whose pilgrimage was the setting for the most famous tale of pilgrims in history, the 14th-century “Canterbury Tales”). When the Holy Land became off limits due to Muslim conquest, this inspired inventive Catholics to create the second form of pilgrimage: the Stations of the Cross. If you can’t make it to Jerusalem due to airfare costs or Saracens, you can still walk with our Lord in the convenience and safety of your own sanctuary.

4. Seek out Catholic literature.

Speaking of the “Canterbury Tales,” there is a vast ocean of great Catholic literature every Catholic should at least take a dip in before they die (though deep-sea diving is perfectly fine to try, too). Most people can’t immerse themselves in all of it, but everybody can bite off and chew on some of it. The primary Catholic book is, of course, The Book: the Holy Bible. Don’t be afraid. It doesn’t bite. If you are not sure where to start, get yourself a handy Ignatius Study Bible, edited by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, and read deeply. Beyond this, the Church Fathers are a delight to read, particularly the eloquent and fascinating Augustine. Mike Aquilina has some great books out, such as “The Fathers of the Church” (OSV, $13.95), which give you a nice introduction to them.

5. See the Bard on stage.

Ha! I’m going to recommend Shakespeare anyway since he is not only the greatest dramatist but the greatest Catholic dramatist in this or any other language. Only I will recommend you see Shakespeare’s plays rather than read them (since that’s what he wrote them for, never envisioning the suffering legions of ninth-graders who would have to analyze “Hamlet”). Great productions abound and, since this a bucket list, I will go ahead and say that you need to hie thee to either the Globe in London or to the Ashland Shakespeare Festival in Oregon (or to some great production in New York) and see it done live. Start with a comedy if you feel intimidated, then move on to a history such as “Henry V” or a tragedy like “King Lear.” If you can’t do the stage, there are some great film adaptations right there on Netflix.

6. Get to know G.K.

I would be remiss if I did not mention great novels, poetry, social criticism, theology, biography, literary criticism, history, philosophy and comic wit. Since I cannot give you a library of authors in this space, I will give you a man who was a library: G.K. Chesterton, perhaps the greatest genius writing in English in the 20th century. Hilariously funny, deeply sympathetic to the common man, a humble lover of God and neighbor, a colossal genius, and one of the deepest thinkers who ever lived, Chesterton wrote about everything and wrote brilliantly. Dive in anywhere, from his Father Brown mysteries to his “Orthodoxy” and “Everlasting Man” to his great poem “Lepanto” — and that is just the tip of the vast iceberg of his work. You can’t go wrong. There’s something hilarious, profound and beautiful on every page.

7. Classical Catholics.

I won’t kid you. I’m no expert in music. But since the point of this list is to point to some of the best there is, not to pretend that I am an expert in the best there is, then no list is complete without noting summits of Catholic music such as Palestrina. Now I am the exact wrong person to guide you through Palestrina, just as I am the exact wrong person to Sherpa guide you up Mount Everest. But even a hairless chimp like me can point to the summit and say, “That’s one big beautiful mountain right there!” Also on the bucket list is Mozart. And I will throw in J.S. Bach as an honorary Catholic for his St. Matthew Passion.

8. In beat with the Faith

In addition to the high-falutin’, there is also the vast quantity of great music created by Catholic culture at the grass roots, such as Cajun music or the wonderful stuff that wafts from the fiddle of Canada’s Natalie MacMaster, or even jazz (so much of it born in the Catholic milieu of New Orleans). Did you know that Dave Brubeck wrote a Mass? The greatest Christmas carol of all time — “Silent Night” — was written by a Catholic. And much of our heritage of folk songs and hymns come down to us from sundry Catholic cultures. Your No. 8 bucket list assignment: Go poke around and see how much Catholic culture has been the matrix for some of the world’s greatest popular music. You’ll be surprised. It’s at the back of everything from the Beatles’ “Let it Be” and “Eleanor Rigby” to the collected works of Bing Crosby. Not all of it is great, but even when it is outright depraved (as with Madonna and Lady Gaga), it is remarkable how inescapable the Catholic influence is. Even as he blasphemes, the devil cannot help but offer his homage to the Church. Every knee shall bow. You can do worse than reflect on the fact that the world cannot escape the Gospel, no matter how hard it tries.

9. Works of mercy

Where to start? Monasteries with whole buildings made from the bones of monks. The Hill of Tara, which is ground zero for the conversion of Ireland by St. Patrick. The Lord of the Rings. The Hound of Heaven. The Summa Theologiae. Dante’s Divine Comedy. Tuscany. The list can go on and on. But if St. Lawrence is to be believed, the real action in terms of the treasures of the Church is the poor, blind, disabled, hungry, sick, alien, orphan and widow. So an absolutely vital part of any Catholic bucket list is to find some way to be part of helping the least of these. This is particularly important since shortly after you kick the bucket there will be a brief interview at the Pearly Gates in which care for the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and homeless will figure prominently in the discussion. (We know this because Jesus gave us a cheat sheet for the exam known as the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25:31-46. He’s an “easy A” teacher and always gives us the correct answers ahead of time.) Therefore, I recommend a stint at a soup kitchen, a junket to an impoverished Third World nation to build wells, a trip to Mexico to help build an orphanage or one of the myriad other corporal and spiritual works of mercy with which the Catholic Church abounds.

10. Make peace with God.

It can be argued that the greatest thing about the Catholic faith is that it both teaches us how, and gives us the means, to die really well. Since you are going to kick the bucket, you may as well do it in style, prayed up, forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, anointed, full of the grace of viaticum, and at peace as you make the Great Change. Heaven is, after all, the ultimate pilgrimage destination!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Chris Stefanick: The Gospel Unplugged

Cardinal Dolan: ISIS threatens whole civilization

With ISIS threatening all of human civilization, no one of any background or religion can remain silent, said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.

The ISIS militants who are perpetrating these acts of violence in the name of Islam “threaten civilization, everything that is decent and noble about humanity,” Cardinal Dolan warned, saying that their vicious acts are creating a worldwide crisis that cannot – and must not – be ignored.

“These aren’t sporadic attacks. This is part of an orchestrated fanaticism, and ideology that sees Christianity, Judaism, and any religion of peace as the enemy,” he said Feb. 17 in the New York Post.

The cardinal responded to a graphic video that was released on Feb. 15 showing the execution of 21 Coptic Christians at the hands of ISIS militants in Libya.

“How much worse can it get?” the cardinal said, explaining that he was “deeply saddened to learn of the latest violence by fanatics who see anybody who disagrees with them as their enemy.”

Voicing distress at the recent acts of violence perpetrated by ISIS militants, Cardinal Dolan said he was moved to tears and prayer because the Coptic Christians were killed for “nothing less than their religious convictions.”

In addition to killing Christians and other religious minorities, the cardinal also believes that the Islamic State is orchestrating “a phobia of Christianity” throughout the world in an effort to stifle religious freedom until it is completed wiped out.

He pointed to “a coordinated effort on behalf of fanatics to see that true religion which stands for friendship, peace, and the dignity of the human person and the sacredness of human life, is stamped out.”

“We need Islamic religious leaders to stand up and say, ‘This is not Islam. This is a perversion of our faith,’” he continued.

Pointing to the civil unrest within Ireland over 40 years ago, Cardinal Dolan highlighted the Catholic bishops who stood up against the car bombings and violence committed by the Irish Republican Army, which “perversely identified itself as ‘Catholic.’”

These bishops should be seen as role models for the majority Islamic leaders who don’t identify with the Islamic State, Cardinal Dolan said, calling them to stand up against the extremist group and condemn their acts of terror.

“Fanatics want to take over, and we can’t let that happen,” he stressed.

Though many Christians have a price on their heads for their religious beliefs, Cardinal Dolan urged “men and women of all true creeds – Jewish, Christian and Islamic” to stand together and oppose the disordered system of the Islamic State.

“Simply because these Christians make the sign of the cross, there is a price on their head,” he observed, adding that “we cannot ignore their cries and cannot let their blood be spilled without moving us to tears and saying, ‘this must stop.’”

Lent, he continued, is a season of deep prayer, penance, and solidarity with the oppressed and suffering, offering people everywhere an opportunity to unite with the persecuted Christians around the world.

“This massacre leaves us not only with ashes on our foreheads, but with tears in our eyes, a lump in our throat and a burning in our heart.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Prayer Need: 90 Christians kidnapped in Syria

 With reports circulating saying that ISIS forces have kidnapped at least 90 Christians from villages in northeast Syria, Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan said prayer is the only possible response.

“Let’s pray for those innocent people,” Patriarch Younan told CNA over the phone from Beirut Feb. 24.

“It’s a very, let’s say, very ordinary thing to have those people with such hatred toward non-Muslims that they don’t respect any human life,” he said, noting that the only reaction to Tuesday’s kidnappings is “to pray.”

Patriarch Younan, Syriac Patriarch of Antioch, made his comments after the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday that at least 90 Assyrian Christians were kidnapped by ISIS militants after they seized two villages near Tal-Tamr, located in the Al-Hasakah region of Syria.

The two villages attacked are inhabited primarily by the country’s ancient Christian minority.

Also known as “Hassake,” the Al-Hasakah region is located along the country’s border with Iraq, and is not far from Mount Sinjar, where many Yazidis were trapped and faced starvation after fleeing Mosul and surrounding villages when ISIS began its assault last June.

Although he said exact numbers of those kidnapped and killed are still not confirmed, the patriarch revealed that he maintains close contact with the area’s bishop, who says that the situation there has been “very, very tense.”

Patriarch Younan said that he has tried to get in touch with Al-Hasakah’s archbishop, Jacques Behnan Hindo, regarding the situation, but has not yet been able to reach him.

The Syrian civil war has forced 3 million Syrians, of all religions, to become refugees, with an additional 6.5 million internally displaced. And in Iraq, since the rise of the Islamic State, there are more than 1.8 million internally displaced persons.

Fighting between ISIS and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria has intensified in recent weeks. The YPG has taken 24 villages as part of an initiative to recapture the town of Tal Hamis, which lies to the east of the two villages captured by ISIS on Tuesday, Aljazeera agency reports.

Since last month’s recapture of the town of Kobane, which borders Turkey, YPG forces have continued to advance, and have been active in Raqa, which neighbors Al-Hasakah. So far they have regained 19 villages in the area.

The observatory reports that the U.S.-led international coalition, which has backed Kurdish forces against ISIS, carried out a series of attacks on Tuesday near Tal Hamis, killing 14 ISIS fighters.

Patriarch Younan said that although it’s “so easy” for the ISIS terrorists “to kill and to cut the throat” of non-Muslims, he hopes that will not be the fate of those who were taken on Tuesday.

One possibility, he noted, is that the Christians who were taken will be exchanged by ISIS militants for prisoners being held by the Kurdish army.

“Hopefully they will do it,” the patriarch said. But, he described the ISIS militants as being “full of hatred and a venomous feelings toward the Christians over there.”

The ISIS fighters, which he referred to as “military terrorists,” are “ready to do all the horrible acts without any human feelings…But as I said, we keep praying and hoping.”

Fr. Robert Barron: Conversion

Sunday, February 22, 2015

After All by David Crowder

Chris Stefanick: The Rock of St. Peter

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Knee Deep by Zac Brown Band and Jimmy Buffet

Dr. Tim Gray on Lectio Divina

Saint of the day: Monk-reformer Peter Damian

The following comes from the CNA:

On Feb. 21, Catholics honor Saint Peter Damian, a Benedictine monk who strove to purify the Church during the early years of its second millennium.

In his Sept. 9, 2009 general audience on the saint, Pope Benedict XVI described him as "one of the most significant figures of the 11th century ... a lover of solitude and at the same time a fearless man of the Church, committed personally to the task of reform."

Born during 1007 in the Italian city of Ravenna, Peter belonged to a large family but lost both his father and mother early in life. An older brother took the boy into his household, yet treated him poorly. But another of Peter’s brothers, a priest, took steps to provide for his education; and the priest's own name, Damian, became his younger brother’s surname.

Peter excelled in school while also taking up forms of asceticism, such as fasting, wearing a hair shirt, and spending long hours in prayer with an emphasis on reciting the Psalms. He offered hospitality to the poor as a means of serving Christ, and eventually resolved to embrace voluntary poverty himself through the Order of Saint Benedict.

The monks he chose to join, in the hermitage of Fonte Avellana, lived out their devotion to the Cross of Christ through a rigorous rule of life. They lived mainly on bread and water, prayed all 150 Psalms daily, and practiced many physical mortifications. Peter embraced this way of life somewhat excessively at first, which led to a bout with insomnia.

Deeply versed in the Bible and the writings of earlier theologians, Peter developed his own theological acumen and became a skilled preacher. The leaders of other monasteries sought his help to build up their monks in holiness, and in 1043 he took up a position of leadership as the prior of Fonte Avellana. Five other hermitages were established under his direction.

Serious corruption plagued the Church during Peter's lifetime, including the sale of religious offices and immorality among many of the clergy. Through his writings and involvements in controversies of the day, the prior of Fonte Avellana called on members of the hierarchy and religious orders to live out their commitments and strive for holiness.

In 1057, Pope Stephen IX became determined to make Peter Damian a bishop, a goal he accomplished only by demanding the monk's obedience under threat of excommunication. Consecrated as the Bishop of Ostia in November of that year, he also joined the College of Cardinals and wrote a letter encouraging its members to set an example for the whole Church.

With Pope Stephen's death in 1058, and the election of his successor Nicholas II, Peter's involvement in Church controversies grew. He supported Pope Nicholas against a rival claimant to the papacy, and went to Milan as the Pope's representative when a crisis broke out over canonical and moral issues. There, he was forced to confront rioters who rejected papal authority.

Peter, meanwhile, wished to withdraw from these controversies and return to the contemplative life. But Nicholas' death in 1061 caused another papal succession crisis, which the cardinal-bishop helped to resolve in favor of Alexander II. That Pope kept the Cardinal Bishop of Ostia occupied with a series of journeys and negotiations for the next six years.

In 1067, Peter Damian was allowed to resign his episcopate and return to the monastery at Fonte Avellana. Two years later, however, Pope Alexander needed his help to prevent the German King Henry IV from divorcing his wife. Peter lived another two years in the monastery before making a pilgrimage to Monte Cassino, the birthplace of the Benedictine order.

In 1072, Peter returned to his own birthplace of Ravenna, to reconcile the local church with the Pope. The monk's last illness came upon him during his return from this final task, and he died after a week at a Benedictine monastery in Faenza during February of that year.

Never formally canonized, St. Peter Damian was celebrated as a saint after his death in many of the places associated with his life. In 1823, Pope Leo XII named him a Doctor of the Church and extended the observance of his feast day throughout the Western Church.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Lamentation of Jesus

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
As Jesus walks the Via Dolorosa, among the procession of people, He sees His beloved Mother who is accompanied by John and some holy women of Jerusalem.  He gazes at his sorrowful Mother who is humble, silent, resigned and valiant as always. His suffering is mirrored back to Him in the perfect anguish of her maternal heart. We can perceive the lamentation of the Lord as he communicates to His sorrowful Mother.
Jesus speaks to Mary in the silent gaze of love on the way of the cross:
My beloved Mother, My enemies deride Me, but they will not disrespect you. Even amidst this bloodthirsty crowd you are esteemed, as you should be. No one will lay a hand on you, Mother of the Condemned One!  No one will speak an unkind word to you, Mother of the Messiah! They will not cease their cruelty against Me until I breathe my last. Death by crucifixion is their only aim: it is a sport to them.
The devils are unleashed to enter into this crowd to carry out the most tortuous execution possible. But the devils dare not to approach you, Mother of the Redeemer. The Father will not permit it. Legions flee from your presence for you are altogether too much for the fallen angels. Any number of these people will do their evil bidding but not you!
Mother, I know that you ardently desire to share in my physical pain.  It is enough that you share in all the pain of my soul. Your sorrow is complete for I see the mystical swords that pierce your Immaculate Heart. Our two hearts are beating in the synchronized rhythm of love that we have always shared. I am bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh. Our hearts are inseparable.
This maddening crowd stares at you. They see you: “There is His Mother!”  But no one dares to come against you. While they have no sympathy for Me, you elicit sympathy from them. Your tender maternal heart is pierced as Simeon prophesied so that the thoughts of many will be revealed. I am a sign of contradiction that they seek to annihilate but you are a mother of love touching their hearts in a mysterious maternal manner.
Mother, your tears are sanctifying the earth. They fall like My blood and sweat to purify the earth’s children. Mother, your Son’s hour is now. We talked about this. We prepared one another for this hour. My enemies think it is their hour.  But you and I know the truth: this is hour of the redemption of the world.
Mother, your noble heart is thoroughly anguished yet rapt in love. My pure, gentle mother, your love always tends upward. You could no more wish ill upon my persecutors than I could! Your suffering is complete because of the affection you have for these people. You know that I love them and so do you. Love bears all things with equanimity. You are the flower of divine mercy and your fragrance of holiness is like heaven’s incense soothing my laboring lungs.
Your loving eyes speak volumes to me. You are always full of heaven’s grace, my selfless Mother. Valiant Lady, thank you for accompanying me along the Via Dolorosa. My friends have fled in fear but you remain near me always. Take courage, as I must complete the mission now. That My suffering is complete, I shall not receive the consolation of your loving gaze again until this Body is raised. Let Me look at your lovely face one last time before it is finished. Your countenance is sorrowful but noble for you are more radiantly beautiful than ever. My Queen, your heart is well prepared for the piercing swords of bitter sorrow that take hold of us in this hour. Most holy Mother, I die for you also. My will is fixed. Mother, fiat!
During Lent, we can spiritually accompany our Lord and Savior along the way of the cross. As we fix our eyes on His complete and perfect sacrifice, He looks back at us in a gaze that communicates His infinite, personal love for us. We may think that we are consoling Him (it is good that we try to do so), but in truth He is consoling us. Saint Luke tells us, “But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children (Luke 22:28).” These are the only recorded spoken words of the Lord along the way of the cross. They are an invitation to travailing, intercessory prayer. Our Lenten tears and sacrifices are not for the Lord, but for ourselves; that we may rediscover the joy of loving Him.
The grace of Lent is an opportunity to experience the personal and corporate weight of sin. Oh, that we may weep! Oh, that our tears of love will help purify the earth! During Lent may our tears join Mary’s tears on the Via Dolorosa to join Christ’s perfect sacrifice of love! When He sees us accompanying Him on the way of the cross, certainly He will speak the words we long to hear.

Children of Fatima: Blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto

Between May 13 and October 13, 1917, three children, Portuguese shepherds from Aljustrel, received apparitions of Our Lady at Cova da Iria, near Fatima, a city 110 miles north of Lisbon. At that time, Europe was involved in an extremely bloody war. Portugal itself was in political turmoil, having overthrown its monarchy in 1910; the government disbanded religious organizations soon after.

At the first appearance, Mary asked the children to return to that spot on the thirteenth of each month for the next six months. She also asked them to learn to read and write and to pray the rosary “to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.” They were to pray for sinners and for the conversion of Russia, which had recently overthrown Czar Nicholas II and was soon to fall under communism. Up to 90,000 people gathered for Mary’s final apparition on October 13, 1917.

Less than two years later, Francisco died of influenza in his family home. He was buried in the parish cemetery and then re-buried in the Fatima basilica in 1952. Jacinta died of influenza in Lisbon, offering her suffering for the conversion of sinners, peace in the world and the Holy Father. She was re-buried in the Fatima basilica in 1951. Their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, became a Carmelite nun and was still living when Jacinta and Francisco were beatified in 2000. Sister Lucia died in February 2005 at the age of 97. The shrine of Our Lady of Fatima is visited by up to 20 million people a year.

You can read more about the children here.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Empty My Hands by Tenth Avenue North

Catholicism Lenten Reflection


1. Father Barron highlights the life and witness of one of the great saints of the 20th century- Edith Stein, whose name in religious life is Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Saint Edith demonstrates that the Faith is not just a matter of emotions, but also a matter of mind. Why does the Catholic Faith insist on the rapport between faith and reason? What happens to the Faith if it is limited to emotions and experiences?

2. Saint Edith Stein's faith in Christ was quickened by an encounter with a friend who had suffered the death of her husband, yet found in Christ's cross consolation and hope. What does the cross reveal about humanity's experience of suffering and death? In what ways does the Cross of Christ offer humanity hope?

3. Saint Edith Stein entered the Carmelite Order, a community whose evangelical witness demonstrates a radical poverty, rigorous commitment to prayer and detachment from worldly pre-occupations. One of the great spiritual masters of the Carmelite Order is St. John of the Cross. Saint John of the Cross wrote eloquently of the "dark night of the soul" or the feeling that God was distant and that one's spiritual practices afforded little, if any, emotional consolation. This dark night was not so much an experience of depression or evidence of the distance of God, but was, paradoxically, an encounter with the Lord so profound that the soul lacked the capacity to feel or understand God's presence. Can the negative experiences of life actually be bearers of God's grace and presence? How so?

4. The Carmelite Order directs itself to prayer and contemplation. How and why are prayer and contemplation essential to the mission of the Church?

5. The sad circumstances of Saint Edith Stein's final days might evoke our own fear of catastrophe and inescapable suffering. What does the Paschal Mystery of the Lord Jesus teach us about our fears concerning suffering and death? What quality or virtue was given to Saint Edith Stein that enabled her to face the circumstances of her death with the conviction that whatever happened, God still was acting to redeem and to save?

6. Saint Edith Stein is part of a great flowering of Catholic intellectual culture that happened in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. For many, it seems that this bloom has faded over the past few decades. What can the Church do to renew Catholic culture in terms of the arts, literature, theology and philosophy? Why are such things essential to the mission of the Church?

7. Father Barron asserts that too many of us opt for spiritual mediocrity rather than aspire to holiness. Why do we resist holiness? What do we fear will happen if we aspire to heroic sanctity? Why do we think that we can get away with opting for less in terms of our commitment to Christ rather than desiring more?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cardinal Timothy Dolan: What is Lent?

Forty Days

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order

The following comes from the Our Lady of Belen site:

Toward the middle of the thirteenth century seven Florentine merchants formed a penitential community just outside Florence. Aware of their unworthiness before God, they dedicated themselves as Servants of the Holy Virgin so that she might be with them as they stood before their Lord. To escape the distractions of urban life and civil discord they withdrew to Mount Senario, some twelve miles distant. In its solitude they laid the foundation of the Order of Servants of Mary. Their example attracted many followers and soon foundations were made in Italy and Germany, and later in many other countries. These Seven (Alexis, Amadeus, Bonficius, Bonajunta, Hugh, Mannettus, and Sostene) whom our Lady guided to found an Order dedicated to her service were canonized in 1888 as the Seven Holy Founders.

From this example of prayerfulness joined to an active ministry spread a movement which includes eleven canonized saints, many blessed whose cult is approved by Rome, and innumerable holy men and women of many countries and times. While the devotion of Servites has always been directed to the Mother of their Lord in all the aspects of her life, in time it began to be focused more specifically on the sorrows she experienced in her life. The black habit of the Servites was itself looked upon as a sign of the sorrow Mary suffered at the Cross of her Son.

At the present time Servites are present on al continents: priests and brothers, cloistered nuns and active sisters, members of the Servite Secular Institute, Servite Third Order, and Confraternity of Our Lady of Sorrows.

In the United States the Servites are best known for their Marian shrines of Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica in Chicago where the Novena to Our Sorrowful Mother began in 1937 and the Shrine of Our Sorrowful Mother in Portland, Oregon.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Pope Francis: Blood cries out to be heard

 On Sunday Pope Francis mourned the 21 Egyptian Christians beheaded by the Islamic State, calling them martyrs that “belong to all Christians.”

“The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard,” the Pope said. “Their only words were: 'Jesus, help me!'”

Pope Francis made these off-the-cuff remarks in his native Spanish on Monday, one day after the release of a video from the self-proclaimed Islamic State purporting to show the grisly beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt.

“It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants”, the pontiff continued. “They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ.”

They were killed “only because they confessed Christ,” the Pope said. “I ask that we encourage each another to go forward with this ecumenism which is giving us strength, the ecumenism of blood. The martyrs belong to all Christians.”
Pope Francis telephoned Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, on Monday afternoon to show his deep participation in the sufferings of the Coptic Church following the executions. He assured him of his prayers, and said that tomorrow, the day celebrating the funerals of the victims, he will unite himself spiritually to the prayers and sufferings of the Coptic Church during the morning Eucharistic celebration.

On Monday, Egypt's military launched airstrikes against Libya in retaliation for the deaths of the Egyptian Christians, according to the New York Times.

The beheadings occurred weeks after some 20 Coptic Christians had gone missing near the coastal city of Surt, also known as Sirte, the report continues.

Many Egyptians, including Copts, travel to Libya seeking employment opportunities.

This is not the first time Egyptian Christians have been targeted in Libya. Last month, an Egyptian Christian teen and her parents were found dead in Surt.

Libyan authorities discovered the bodies of seven Egyptian Christians last February near militant-held parts of Benghazi.

Rev. John Chalmers, moderator for the Church of Scotland, was present for Pope Francis’ comments Sunday. In an interview with CNA shortly after his audience with the Pope, Rev. Chalmers said Pope Francis is a man of humility and prayer who “is feeling for those Coptic Christians who have been martyred.”

“In reflecting on that, it is clear that whatever denomination that Christians come from they are one," he said.

Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has frequently condemned violence against Christians in the Middle East. During his Urbi et Orbi address on Christmas Day, 2014, he called for peace in Libya, as well as in Nigeria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Archbishop José Gomez: What is Lent?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Home by Dierks Bentley

Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock

The following comes from Fr. George Rutler:

The term ad limina refers to the tradition of diocesan bishops visiting the Pope every five years “at the threshold” of the Apostolic Palace to give an account of the state of their dioceses. This is not the same as going over a report card with the teacher, or an IRS audit. The Pope as Universal Shepherd guides and supports his fellow bishops in the care of the flocks committed to their charge. Because he is a successor of Peter, the Pope continues the commission given by our Lord: “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32).

At the start of Lent, every Christian approaches the “threshold” of Christ and begins to walk toward Him for forty days, “o'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent,” examining the conscience. There is a paradox here, for as the faithful knock on His door, they find He has already been knocking on theirs. It is like the parable of the Prodigal Son who, once he turns and heads back to his father, sees his father approaching him.

Speaking from Heaven, the Risen Lord says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come to him . . .” (Rev. 3:20). That is, He asks entry into the soul, seeking to open the intellect to the truth and to guide free actions along the way of that truth. In a reciprocal act, the acceptance of truth—and obedience to it—opens the soul to Him.

When I moved into my rectory, I found well over two hundred keys, all without labels. That was hardly useful. Likewise, Christ gave Peter the keys to Heaven, but, while Peter sublimely wielded those keys and proved worthy of the trust Christ placed in him, they are of little avail to us if we do not know what they are for.

There are keys that open ordinary doors and unlock earthly knowledge. Only the Church can open the eternal doors, and the blatant fact is that if human minds and wills open themselves to God, we will find that the gates of Heaven were open all the while. “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in” (Psalm 24:7). 

Dr. Scott Hahn: "The Bible and the Sacrifice of the Mass"

Saint of the day: Claude de la Colombiere

The following comes from New Advent:
Born to the French nobility, Claude early felt a call to religious life. Educated at Jesuit college in Lyons, France. Priest. Taught humanities at Avignon, France. Continued his studies in Paris, France.Tutor. Preached against Jansenism, advocating dedication to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Joined theJesuits in 1659. Spiritual director of Saint Margaret Mary of Alocoque.
Chaplain to Mary Beatrice d’Este, the Duchess of York. He converted many Protestants through the example of his holy life. Due to rumours of “Popish plots” against the king and the re-establishmentCatholicism, Claude was imprisoned, accused of being part of the Titus Oates Plot. It was only by the efforts of Louis XIV, who had recommended him for the assignment, that he was not martyred.Banished from England. His health had been ruined by his time in prison, and he returned to Paray to die. The day after his death,Saint Margaret received supernatural assurance that Claude needed no prayers, as he was in already heaven. He is considred a “dry”martyr, having suffered every abuse for the faith except death.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Peace of Christ by Rich Mullins

Fr. Robert Barron on Christianity and Ethics

Saints of the day: Cyril and Methodius

Today we remember the saints Cyril and Methodius! These two great saints sadly get overlooked as February 14 draws most attention to St. Valentine's Day.  But, it is important to not forget these wonderful missionaries to the Slavic people. The following comes from the Catholic Online site:

Cyril and Methodius must have often wondered, as we do today, how God could bring spiritual meaning out of worldly concerns. Every mission they went on, every struggle they fought was a result of political battles, not spiritual, and yet the political battles are forgotten and their work lives on in the Slavic peoples and their literature.

Tradition tells us that the brothers Methodius and Constantine (he did not take the name Cyril until just before his death) grew up in Thessalonica as sons of a prominent Christian family. Because many Slavic people settled in Thessalonica, it is assumed Constantine and Methodius were familiar with the Slavic language. Methodius, the older of the two brothers, became an important civil official who would have needed to know Slavonic. He grew tired of worldly affairs and retired to a monastery. Constantine became a scholar and a professor known as "the Philosopher" in Constantinople. In 860 Constantine and Methodius went as missionaries to what is today the Ukraine.

When the Byzantine emperor decided to honor a request for missionaries by the Moravian prince Rastislav, Methodius and Constantine were the natural choices; they knew the language, they were able administrators, and had already proven themselves successful missionaries.

But there was far more behind this request and the response than a desire for Christianity. Rastislav, like the rest of the Slav princes, was struggling for independence from German influence and invasion. Christian missionaries from the East, to replace missionaries from Germany, would help Rastislav consolidate power in his own country, especially if they spoke the Slavonic language.

Constantine and Methodius were dedicated to the ideal of expression in a people's native language. Throughout their lives they would battle against those who saw value only in Greek or Latin. Before they even left on their mission, tradition says, Constantine constructed a script for Slavonic -- a script that is known today as glagolithic. Glagolithic is considered by some as the precursor of cyrillic which named after him.

Arriving in 863 in Moravia, Constantine began translating the liturgy into Slavonic. In the East, it was a normal procedure to translate liturgy into the vernacular. As we know, in the West the custom was to use Greek and later Latin, until Vatican II. The German hierarchy, which had power over Moravia, used this difference to combat the brothers' influence. The German priests didn't like losing their control and knew that language has a great deal to do with independence.

So when Constantine and Methodius went to Rome to have the Slav priesthood candidates ordained (neither was a bishop at the time), they had to face the criticism the Germans had leveled against them. But if the Germans had motives that differed from spiritual concerns, so did the pope. He was concerned about the Eastern church gaining too much influence in the Slavic provinces. Helping Constantine and Methodius would give the Roman Catholic church more power in the area. So after speaking the brothers, the pope approved the use of Slavonic in services and ordained their pupils.

Constantine never returned to Moravia. He died in Rome after assuming the monastic robes and the name Cyril on February 14, 869. Legend tells us that his older brother was so griefstricken, and perhaps upset by the political turmoil, that he intended to withdraw to a monastery in Constantinople. Cyril's dying wish, however, was that Methodius return to the missionary work they had begun.

He couldn't return to Moravia because of political problems there, but another Slavic prince, Kocel, asked for him, having admired the brothers' work in translating so much text into Slavonic. Methodius was allowed by the pope to continue saying Mass and administering baptism in the Slavonic tongue. Methodius was finally consecrated bishop, once again because of politics -- Kocel knew that having a Slavonic bishop would destroy the power of the Salzburg hierarchy over his land. Methodius became bishop of Sirmium, an ancient see near Belgrade and given power over Serbo-Croatian, Slovene, and Moravian territory.

The German bishops accused him of infringing on their power and imprisoned him in a monastery. This lasted until Germany suffered military defeats in Moravia. At that time the pope intervened and Methodius returned to his diocese in triumph at the same time the Germans were forced to recognize Moravian independence. There was a loss involved -- to appease the Germans a little, the pope told Methodius he could no longer celebrate liturgy in the vernacular.

In 879 Methodius was summoned to Rome to answer German charges he had not obeyed this restriction. This worked against the Germans because it gave Methodius a chance to explain how important it was to celebrate the liturgy in the tongue people understood. Instead of condemning him, the pope gave him permission to use Slavonic in the Mass, in Scripture reading, and in the office. He also made him head of the hierarchy in Moravia.

The criticism never went away, but it never stopped Methodius either. It is said that he translated almost all the Bible and the works of the Fathers of the Church into Slavonic before he died on April 6 in 884.

Within twenty years after his death, it would seem like all the work of Cyril and Methodius was destroyed. Magyar invasions devastated Moravia. And without the brothers to explain their position, use of the vernacular in liturgy was banned. But politics could never prevail over God's will. The disciples of Cyril and Methodius who were driven out of Moravia didn't hide in a locked room. The invasion and the ban gave them a chance to go to other Slavic countries. The brothers' work of spreading Christ's word and translating it into Slavonic continued and laid the foundation for Christianity in the region.

What began as a request guided by political concerns produced two of the greatest Christian missionaries, revered by both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, and two of the fathers of Slavonic literary culture.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Worn by Tenth Avenue North

Love Your Enemies

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
Jesus often spoke about the obligation of fraternal charity. He took us beyond the prohibition of killing or even striking a brother. He said that we must not become an­gry with our brother, nor show our bitterness toward him by injuring him in any way.
If we have a dispute, we must be easily reconciled, must not seek to bring our disagreement to an end by tak­ing it before a judge, nor even seek a mediator to heal our division. For Christ is the mediator of our reconciliation, and it is the spirit of his charity and grace that should ani­mate us. We ought to be willing to bend, so that, together with our brother, we can be mutually accommodating.
He said that if we come to sense some bitterness in our brother’s heart, we must take care to appease him and to prefer reconciliation to sacrifice. But he pushes the obli­gation still further and uproots the spirit of vengeance. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (cf. Exod. 21:24). This is what was permitted of old, and it seems to be a certain kind of justice. But Jesus does not allow a Christian either to do it himself or to seek satisfaction in this way. If the public authority punishes crimes, the Christian does not prevent it; he respects public order. But for his part, far from avenging himself upon the one who strikes him, he turns the other cheek; he would rather give his coat to the one who would steal his shirt than to seek legal redress for such a small matter and thus burden his mind with legalism and resentment (Matt. 5:39-40). He will more willingly walk two miles with someone who would force him to walk one than seek justice for himself or even dream of causing harm to one who had hurt him. The tranquillity of his heart is more dear to him than the possession of anything that injustice could take away, and if a breach of charity were required to recover something that had been taken away from him, he would not want it at any price.
O gospel, how pure you are! O teaching of Christ, how worthy of our love you are! Yet alas, how poorly we Christians respond to it, and how little worthy are we of so lovely a name!
“Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse” — as is so often done — “him who would borrow from you” (Matt. 5:42). Do what you can to care for those who suffer: be beneficent. The sum of the world’s riches does not equal the price of these two virtues, nor the reward that they will gain us.
Here then are the three degrees of charity toward our enemies: to love them, to do good to them, and to pray for them. The first is the source of the second: if we love, we give. The last is the one that we think is the easiest to do, but is in fact the most difficult, because it is the one that we must do in relation to God. Nothing should be more sincere, nothing more heartfelt, nothing truer than what we present to the one who sees all, even into the depths of our heart.
Let us examine these three degrees: to love, to do good, and to pray. What is it to “love those who love you”? “Do not even the tax collectors do the same? . . . Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matt. 5:46-47). It is not for nothing that you are offered an eternal inheritance and an unchanging happiness: it is not to leave you indiffer­ent, or worse than pagans.

The Legacy of Benedict XVI

 Two years to the day since Pope Benedict XVI told the world of his historic decision to step down from the papal office, those impacted by his pontificate say that his legacy is still burning bright.

“Pope Benedict's legacy is really very massive,” said Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary for the congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

“His teaching, his balance, his ability to get to the bottom of so many things with such clarity” are among the marks that remain from Benedict’s pontificate, the archbishop told CNA.

While Feb. 11 is normally set aside as a holiday in the Vatican for the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the day took on huge added significance in 2013, when Benedict used the opportunity to announce his retirement at a relatively routine consistory – most of the prelates in the room had expected to hear little more than the dates for some upcoming canonizations.

Three weeks later, on Feb. 28, Benedict XVI would greet the crowds from the balcony of the papal palace at Castel Gandolfo for the last time as the reigning pontiff. Shortly thereafter, the resignation took effect, and the See of Peter was vacant until the election of Pope Francis on Mar. 13, 2013.

Since his retirement, Benedict’s days have been filled with prayer and study, largely out of the public view. He now goes by the simple title, “Fr. Benedict.” However, some see the legacy of the Pope Emeritus as continuing to resonate in complementarity to that of his successor, Pope Francis.

Archbishop Roche reflected on what he sees as the lasting impact of the former Pope.

He criticized negative portrayals of Benedict XVI as “somebody who was very severe,” saying that this media-fueled reputation was unfair and inaccurate.

Speaking from his personal experience, the archbishop said that in reality, Benedict “was the most easy person to speak to in the whole of the curia, because he was very interested in what you had to say. And, he was very interested about the problems which bishops were encountering.”

“I think that his magisterium is something that will remain and will be known as very great in years to come.”

Benedict XVI's legacy has also extended well beyond the curia, with many young Catholics attributing their conversions to his pontificate.

Following his 2010 visit to the UK, for instance, there has been a rise in Catholic youth-initiated movements – Youth 2000, Night Fever, Flame Congress – as well as a slow and steady increase in men and women pursuing vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

The impact of this visit on UK Catholics was demonstrated shortly after the papal resignation was announced through an online initiative entitled “Generation Benedict,” in which 40 young people were invited to share their testimonies of how the German pontiff had touched their lives.

The initiative came in response to “a lot of negative media surrounding his abdication,” said Collette Power, co-founder of the Generation Benedict, along with Lisette Carr, both young laywomen from Britain.

“Our lives had been profoundly changed by his papacy, and by the invitation he had extended to us to know the Lord and to become saints,” she said, “and we knew a lot of other young people that had the same experience. This wasn’t being told in the media.”

Power told CNA she had lapsed from her faith, but experienced a conversion during Benedict's visit to the UK, culminating in the Beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman in Cofton Park.

Although she had gone to Mass as a child, she said “no one had ever really explained the heart of the Gospel which Pope Benedict did when he visited England.”

“To know that God loves me, and that I’m called to have a personal relationship with Jesus, and that I’m called to holiness, nothing less, not the mediocrity of the world, that the Church challenges me and the Lord challenges me to be a saint.”

One year later, during the 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid, Power says she experienced the sense that she was being called by the Pope to share what she had received, “to go forward and to take the Gospel to all the places in kind of my life, all the people that I know, and to the ends of the earth in my area, to really go out and spread the good news.”

Two years after the papal resignation, Power reflected that “Pope Benedict really laid a foundation for what Pope Francis is doing now.”

“He encouraged us to know our faith, to know the culture that we live in, so that we can speak the Gospel effectively,” she said.

“Through Pope Francis now, we’re being sent, having been equipped by Pope Benedict, we’re being sent out to share the Gospel with everyone we meet and take it to the fringes of society.”