Sunday, January 31, 2016

You Make Me Brave by Amanda Cook & Bethel Music

Happy Feast of St. John Bosco!




January 31 is the feast of St. John Bosco! Also known as Don Bosco or Giovanni Melchior Bosco, he was the founder of the Salesian Society. John Bosco was born of poor parents in their small house at Becchi, a hill-side hamlet near Castelnuovo, Piedmont, Italy, on August 16, 1815. Don Bosco died January 31, 1888 and was declared Venerable by Pius X, July 21, 1907.

After his ordination to the priesthood, he settled in the industrial town of Turin which was flooded by peasants in search of work. Don(Father) Bosco focused his efforts on ministry to the orphans and working children of the city and established homes called oratories where they could live, learn productive trades, and be educated in the faith. In the face of much resistance by anti-clerical politicians and unfriendly churchmen, his oratories grew so quickly that by 1868 over 800 boys were under his care. As if this work were not enough, he wrote and printed countless pamphlets that popularized Catholic teaching and answered the objections of anti-Catholics and secularists and as a result, several attempts were made on his life.

Miracles reported by numerous eyewitnesses accompanied his work, including the multiplication of food. He was also known to receive supernatural guidance from God in the form of vivid dreams which he often reccounted to his companions.

To ensure the continuation of his work, St. John Bosco founded a religious congregation named in honor of one of his favorite saints, St Francis de Sales. This holy saint died in 1888, but today St. John Bosco's Salesians continue his work all over the world. For more information on Salesian Vocations please click here!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Don Bosco's Dream (Prophecy of The 200 Day March)

The following is a from a dream or prophecy of St. John Bosco.  This occurred between May 24 - June 24, 1873.   The vision is related from the tenth volume of the Biographical Memoirs:

It was a dark night, and men could no longer find their way back to their own countries.  Suddenly a most brilliant light (faith in God and in His power) shone in the sky, illuminating their way as at high noon.  At that moment from the Vatican came forth, as in procession, a multitude of men and women, young children, monks, nuns, and priests, and at their head was the Pope.  (It seems to allude to the suppression of monasteries and schools run by religious and to the Pope's exile.)


But a furious storm broke out, somewhat dimming that light, as if light and darkness were locked in battle.  (Perhaps this means a battle between truth and error, or else a bloody war.) Meanwhile the long procession reached a small square littered with dead and wounded, many of whom cried for help.

The ranks of the procession thinned considerably. After a two-hundred day march, all realized that they were no longer in Rome.  In dismay they swarmed about the Pontiff to protect him and minister to him in his needs.

At that moment two angels appeared, bearing a banner which they presented to the Supreme Pontiff, saying: "Take the banner of Her who battles and routs the most powerful armies on earth. Your enemies have vanished: with tears and sighs your children plead for your return."

One side of the banner bore the inscription: Regina sine labe concepta [Queen conceived without sine],and the other side read: Auxilium Christianorum [Help of Christians].

The Pontiff accepted the banner gladly, but he became distressed to see how few were his followers.

But the two angels went on: "Go now, comfort your children. Write to your brothers scattered throughout the world that men must reform their lives.  This cannot be achieved unless the bread of the Divine Word is broken among the peoples.  Teach children their catechism and preach detachment from earthly things.  The time has come," the two angles concluded, "when the poor will evangelize the world. Priests shall be sought among those who wield the hoe, the spade, and the hammer, as David prophesied: 'God lifted the poor man from the fields to place him on the throne of His people.'"

On hearing this, the Pontiff moved on, and the ranks began to swell. Upon reaching the Holy City, the Pontiff wept at the sight of its desolate citizens, for many of them were no longer.He then entered St. Peter's and intoned the Te Deum, to which a chorus of angels responded, singing: Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis [Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will.] When the song was over, all darkness vanished and a blazing sun shone.  The population had declined greatly in the cities and in the countryside; the land was mangled as if by a hurricane and hailstorm, and people sought each other, deeply moved, and saying: Est Deus in Israel [There is a God in Israel].

From the start of the exile until the intoning of the Te Deum, the sun rose 200 times. All the events described covered a period of 400 days.

A Church in the Streets

I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.

—POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium

Bishop Barron on Preaching the Gospel

Friday, January 29, 2016

Good Good Father by Housefires II (Featuring Pat Barrett)

Pope Francis on a Church in the Streets

“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37).” 

            Pope Francis (Joy of the Gospel)

Catholic Answers: How can we offer sacrifices at Mass?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

One Thing Remains by Jesus Culture

Mother Teresa’s Special Law of Love

The following comes from Heather King:

In solitude on the Central Coast of California recently, I read a book called The Love That Made Mother Teresa by David Scott. Scott happens to be Vice Chancellor for Communications at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the book is subtitled “How Her Secret Visions and Dark Nights Can Help You Conquer the Slums of Your Heart.”

The book is simply written, accessible, and anecdotal. Scott beautifully captures the strangeness and paradox of the life of a saint. Mother Teresa lived to see the global reach of the internet and social media, yet the biographical details of her own youth and even adult life remain shrouded in mystery. She shunned the limelight but suffered the intrusions of photographers and TV cameras, offering up her discomfort for love of the poor. She kissed the leper, and she also dined with and accepted money from dictators. 

Like Christ, in other words, she resisted identifying herself with either the right or the left. Like Christ, she fed the poor and she also knew that man does not live by bread alone. “Visiting one of her missionary outposts in Nezahualcóyotl, Mexico, a slum where people lived in huts of corrugated metal and plywood and breathed the foul stench of factory waste and diesel fumes, she asked the people what their greatest need was. One man spoke for the rest. ‘La palabra de Dios,’ he said simply—the Word of God.”

Like many of us, perhaps, I struggle with the meaning of the New Evangelization. Evangelize to what? I sometimes wonder. Evangelize to whom? What does conversion even mean? I can be following the rules to a T, but when was the last time I wept at the trill of a bird, or a branch against the sky at dusk, or an unfurling leaf? When’s the last time I forgave someone? When’s the last time I apologized to someone? How intensely does my heart yearn? How willing am I to suffer? Those are things that can’t be measured or analyzed or reduced to a stat.


Read the rest here.

Where are you going?

Strategies for Spiritual Warfare

The following come from Fr. Longenecker:

I had to speak with Tom about his passion for spiritual warfare. His zeal was unquestioned, and his desire to fight the good fight was admirable. He had his warrior’s rosary, his prayer book, his holy water and his scapulas all in place. He was ready to take up his weapons and fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil with all his might.
Tom’s problem was that he lacked the right strategies for spiritual warfare. He had identified some of the evils in society and was sure that he had identified some of the evil people, but I was worried that Tom’s assessment of the enemy was not quite on target. Tom had combined his passionate Catholic faith with equally passionate right wing politics. He had certainly identified some of the evils in society and the church, but his religion and politics were getting mixed.
I had another worry. Tom’s passion to pray against the world, the flesh, and the devil had a sub current of anger. Was it possible that Tom was projecting some of the turbulent lusts, frustrations, and rage within himself outward onto other perceived evil people, evil politicians, and even members of other religions and racial groups? Wrestling with the devil is like wrestling with an octopus in oil. It’s a slippery business. The devil is the father of lies and there is nothing he likes better than deceiving us and drawing us into the most cunning of spiritual traps. Tom was in danger of wasting time in “spiritual warfare” doing no more than wrestling with evils of his own imaginings.
There’s more. Tom lacked a proper strategy for spiritual warfare because he did not have a developed understanding of the nature of evil in the first place. Evil is not original. It is derivative. Satan cannot create anything good. All he can do is twist and corrupt what is good. That’s what he does: he lies. He tells half truths. He distorts the truth. He corrupts what is pure, twists what is straight, soils what is clean, and vandalizes what is beautiful. To fight evil directly therefore, is to try to fight something which is essentially a negative. Evil is to good what darkness is to light and what cold is to heat. Darkness and cold are an absence of light and heat. So evil is an absence, a distortion, and a corruption.
The best way to engage in spiritual warfare, therefore, is not to pray against the evil directly, but to pray for what is positive. The best way to counter all that is ugly, evil, and false is to support all that is beautiful, good, and true. Here’s an example: let’s say we want to pray against the sin of abortion. We not only pray for the abortion mill to close, but we pray actively for legislators and judges to enact pro-life legislation. We pray actively for pro-life workers and witnesses. We pray actively for all who help women in crisis pregnancies. We pray actively for families, children, husbands and fathers, women, and mothers.
The strategy for spiritual warfare is therefore passionate, proactive, and positive. It is passionate because the heart is aflame with love for all that is beautiful, good, and true. It is proactive because it steps out with confidence and faith to engage evil. It is positive because it supports all that is good and strong rather than simply praying against the darkness and evil.
Read the rest here.

As I Kneel Before You

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I Need You More by Kim Walker

Pope Francis: Do concrete acts of mercy this Lent

 In his 2016 Lenten message, Pope Francis called the faithful to place special emphasis on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy this Lent, taking into account the current Jubilee Year of Mercy.
“God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn,” the Pope wrote in the short document, released Tuesday by the Vatican.
The spiritual and corporal works of mercy, the pontiff said, “remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them.”
“On such things will we be judged,” he said.
The title of this year's message was drawn from the Gospel of Matthew: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,” and has the subtitle: “The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee.”
In the message, signed the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Oct. 4 2015, the Pope said those who are truly poor are the ones who believe themselves to be rich.
“This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars,” he said.
“The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow,” he said.
Pope Francis recounted the parable of the poor man Lazarus who would beg at the door of the rich man.
Lazarus represents Christ, the Pope said, and therefore “the possibility of conversion which God offers us and which we may well fail to see.”
This blindness “is often accompanied by the proud illusion of our own omnipotence,” he observed.
Such an illusion can take “social and political forms,” he explained, citing as examples the “totalitarian systems of the twentieth century.”
In modern times, this illusion is seen in “the ideologies of monopolizing thought and technoscience, which would make God irrelevant and reduce man to raw material to be exploited.”
The Pope went on to explain how the illusion can link back to the “idolatry of money,” leading to a lack of concern for the poor “on the part of wealthier individuals and societies.”
“They close their doors, refusing even to see the poor,” he said.
“For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favourable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practising the works of mercy.”
Pope Francis stressed that “the corporal and spiritual works of mercy must never be separated.”
“By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift of realizing that they too are poor and in need,” he said.
“This love alone is the answer to that yearning for infinite happiness and love that we think we can satisfy with the idols of knowledge, power and riches.”
The Pope warned against constantly refusing “to open the doors of their hearts to Christ who knocks on them in the poor,” as such consistent refusal on the part on the part of the “proud, rich and powerful” leads to condemnation.
This year's Lent will begin Feb 10 with Ash Wednesday, when the Church will send out “Missionaries of Mercy” – priests with the faculties to pardon sins in cases otherwise reserved for the Holy See – as part of the Jubilee Year.
In the opening section of the message, Pope Francis centered his reflection on Mary as the image of the Church's evangelization, “because she is evangelized."
The Pope began by reiterating the call for mercy to be celebrated and experienced in a particular way this Lent, citing the Bull of Indiction for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.


Saint of the day: Angela Merici


The following comes from Catholic.org site:

When she was 56, Angela Merici said "No" to the Pope. She was aware that Clement VII was offering her a great honor and a great opportunity to serve when he asked her to take charge of a religious order of nursing sisters. But Angela knew that nursing was not what God had called her to do with her life.


She had just returned from a trip to the Holy Land. On the way there she had fallen ill and become blind. Nevertheless, she insisted on continuing her pilgrimage and toured the holy sites with the devotion of her heart rather than her eyes. On the way back she had recovered her sight. But this must have been a reminder to her not to shut her eyes to the needs she saw around her, not to shut her heart to God's call.
All around her hometown she saw poor girls with no education and no hope. In the fifteenth and sixteenth century that Angela lived in, education for women was for the rich or for nuns. Angela herself had learned everything on her own. Her parents had died when she was ten and she had gone to live with an uncle. She was deeply disturbed when her sister died without receiving the sacraments. A vision reassured her that her sister was safe in God's care -- and also prompted her to dedicate her life to God.
When her uncle died, she returned to her hometown and began to notice how littleeducation the girls had. But who would teach them? Times were much different then. Women weren't allowed to be teachers and unmarried women were not supposed to go out by themselves -- even to serve others. Nuns were the best educated women but they weren't allowed to leave their cloisters. There were no teaching orders of sisters like we have today.
But in the meantime, these girls grew up without education in religion or anything at all.
These girls weren't being helped by the old ways, so Angela invented a new way. She brought together a group of unmarried women, fellow Franciscan tertiaries and other friends, who went out into the streets to gather up the girls they saw and teach them. These women had little money and no power, but were bound together by their dedicationto education and commitment to Christ. Living in their own homes, they met for prayerand classes where Angela reminded them, " Reflect that in reality you have a greater need to serve [the poor] than they have of your service." They were so successful in their service that Angela was asked to bring her innovative approach to education to other cities, and impressed many people, including the pope.
Though she turned him down, perhaps the pope's request gave her the inspiration or the push to make her little group more formal. Although it was never a religious order in her lifetime, Angela's Company of Saint Ursula, or the Ursulines, was the first group of women religious to work outside the cloister and the first teaching order of women.
It took many years of frustration before Angela's radical ideas of education for all and unmarried women in service were accepted. They are commonplace to us now because people like Angela wanted to help others no matter what the cost. Angela reminds us of her approach to change: "Beware of trying to accomplish anything by force, for God has given every single person free will and desires to constrain none; he merely shows them the way, invites them and counsels them."
Saint Angela Merici reassured her Sisters who were afraid to lose her in death: "I shall continue to be more alive than I was in this life, and I shall see you better and shall love more the good deeds which I shall see you doing continually, and I shall be able to help you more." She died in 1540, at about seventy years old.

Preparing to Pray

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:


What does St. Peter of Alcántara have to say how you should prepare to pray? Find out in today’s excerpt and reflection from Finding God Through Meditation.
Of the Preparation Necessary to Prayer
It will not be beside our purpose to handle all these parts severally; we will, therefore, first begin with preparation, which we did put first. He, therefore, who goes about to meditate, after he has placed his body after a decent manner either kneeling or standing, or composing himself in manner of a cross, or prostrating himself upon the ground, or sitting, if infirmity or necessity does so require, let him first sign himself with the Sign of the Cross; then let him recollect the dispersed powers of his soul, especially the imagination, and sequester it from all temporal and transitory things. Let him elevate his understanding to God, considering his divine presence, with what due reverence and attention is requisite; and let him imagine Almighty God himself to be present in his soul, as in reality he is. If it be the morning meditation, after a general act of contrition for his sins, let him make to God a general confession; if in the evening, let him examine his conscience concerning all his thoughts, words and works of that day; of the forgetfulness of the benefits of Almighty God; and of the sins of his former life; humbly prostrating himself in the sight of the Divine Majesty, in whose presence he now is, after a particular manner, saying the words of the patriarch Abraham: “I will speak to my Lord, seeing I am but dust and ashes” (Gen 18:27). And singing the psalm: “To thee have I lifted up my eyes, who dwellest in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants are on the hands of their masters; as the eyes of the handmaid are on the hands of her mistress: so are our eyes unto our Lord God, until he have mercy on us. Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.” (Ps 122).
And because we are not able of ourselves to think any good, but all our sufficiency is from God; and because none can say Lord Jesus, that is to say, call upon the name of Jesus, without the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3), to thee, therefore, O Holy Ghost, do I turn myself, with tears imploring thy assistance: “Come, Holy Ghost, send forth from heaven the glittering beams of true light; come, father of the poor; come, giver of rewards; come, light of our hearts, sweet comforter, sweet guest of the soul, sweet refreshing, rest in labor, temperature in heat, in mourning a grateful solace, O blessed light, replenish the hearts of the faithful.” Then follows the prayer, “God, who [did instruct] the hearts of the faithful . . . [by the light of the Holy Spirit],” etc. These being said, he shall pray to God to bestow upon him his divine grace, to assist at this holy exercise, with that attention, due recollection, fear and reverence fitting to so great a majesty, humbly beseeching him, so to pass over this time of holy prayer that he may return from thence fortified with new fervor, to execute whatsoever shall belong to his holy service; for prayer which bears not this fruit is lukewarm, imperfect, and of no value before God.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

After Death I Saw HEAVEN by Billy Graham

The Word in Silence Glitters Gold

The following comes from Elizabeth Scalia at OSV:


G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy.” 
I am bound to agree. After decades of writing freelance, I have come to realize that nothing so challenges and satisfies as writing about Jesus Christ and His truth as articulated through the Catholic Church — popes and pew-sitters alike. To follow the great Marcus Grodi on the back page of The Catholic Answer is a vast privilege and humbling challenge, which makes me a bit of a grateful beggar; there’s a reason why this new column is called Ora Pro Nobis. How blessed I am, though, to launch it in an issue so chock-full of perilous, exciting and instructive orthodoxy! 
Seeing Jerid Miller’s piece on Verbum Domini land at The Catholic Answer in the same month I debut here is one of those small-but-happy synchronicities that make you feel you’re being looked after. Small bites of Pope Benedict XVI’s beautifully wrought exhortation on the Word of God, taken in concert with other sacred reading, have been flavoring all of my study with a consoling steadiness that builds from a single line to which I keep returning: “The realist is the one who recognizes in the word of God the foundation of all things” (Verbum Domini, No. 10). 
On first reading that, I gasped at the simple profundity. If this is true, and if the Word of God, the Logos existing before all things is All-Good, then it follows that all created creatures — all things, down to their spinning atoms — are good and founded upon this Word. 
On some level we must know this to be true, yet only a relative handful of human beings, among the billions who have walked the earth, seem to have found it obvious. Chesterton was onesuch, as evidenced in the unending sense of surprised delight he took of the world and everything in it. He found newspaper ink to be as wonderful as beach glass, which — it went without saying — was to him as glorious as a good cigar or a glass of beer or orthodoxy. As awe-struck and grateful for the world as a teenager in love, he routinely saw goodness about him, and pondered the unconditional gift of days, asking, “Why am I allowed two?” 
In Chesterton’s wordy sphere, though, how did he gain his wondering insightfulness? He lived and breathed the 19th-century equivalent of social media (what a blogger he would have been!) of which our pope writes: “Ours is not an age which fosters recollection; at times one has the impression that people are afraid of detaching themselves, even for a moment, from the mass media. For this reason, it is necessary nowadays that the people of God be educated in the value of silence . . . only in silence can the word of God find a home in us, as it did in Mary, woman of the world and, inseparably, woman of silence” (VD, No. 66). 
Do we lose sight of God’s ever-present goodness simply because we are underexposed to true silence? For all his gregariousness, Chesterton’s mostly unplugged era provided necessary pockets of deep silence, a different means of connectedness which we lately encounter only by force of will. To consent to be in silence is a kind of humility; it involves a potent giving up of the self. St. Therese Couderc, the foundress of the Cenacle Sisters, understood this, and in her ministry assisted retreatants toward such recollectedness. Devalued by her own community, however, she was forced to live deeply within silence, one which supports Benedict’s exhortation: “I saw written as in letters of gold this word Goodness, which I repeated for a long while with an indescribable sweetness. I saw it, I say, written on all creatures, animate and inanimate, rational or not, all bore this name of goodness. In a sense, St Therese Couderc was privileged to “see” the Verbum Domini, the Logos of all origins, contained in the single word “goodness.” 

Saints of the day: Timothy and Titus






The following comes from the American Catholic site:


What we know from the New Testament of Timothy’s life makes it sound like that of a modern harried bishop. He had the honor of being a fellow apostle with Paul, both sharing the privilege of preaching the gospel and suffering for it.
Timothy had a Greek father and a Jewish mother named Eunice. Being the product of a “mixed” marriage, he was considered illegitimate by the Jews. It was his grandmother, Lois, who first became Christian. Timothy was a convert of Paul around the year 47 and later joined him in his apostolic work. He was with Paul at the founding of the Church in Corinth. During the 15 years he worked with Paul, he became one of his most faithful and trusted friends. He was sent on difficult missions by Paul—often in the face of great disturbance in local Churches which Paul had founded.

Timothy was with Paul in Rome during the latter’s house arrest. At some period Timothy himself was in prison (Hebrews 13:23). Paul installed him as his representative at the Church of Ephesus.

Timothy was comparatively young for the work he was doing. (“Let no one have contempt for your youth,” Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:12a.) Several references seem to indicate that he was timid. And one of Paul’s most frequently quoted lines was addressed to him: “Stop drinking only water, but have a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent illnesses” (1 Timothy 5:23).

Titus (d. 94?): Titus has the distinction of being a close friend and disciple of Paul as well as a fellow missionary. He was Greek, apparently from Antioch. Even though Titus was a Gentile, Paul would not let him be forced to undergo circumcision at Jerusalem. Titus is seen as a peacemaker, administrator, great friend. Paul’s second letter to Corinth affords an insight into the depth of his friendship with Titus, and the great fellowship they had in preaching the gospel: “When I went to Troas...I had no relief in my spirit because I did not find my brother Titus. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.... For even when we came into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted in every way—external conflicts, internal fears. But God, who encourages the downcast, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus...” (2 Corinthians 2:12a, 13; 7:5-6).

When Paul was having trouble with the community at Corinth, Titus was the bearer of Paul’s severe letter and was successful in smoothing things out. Paul writes he was strengthened not only by the arrival of Titus but also “by the encouragement with which he was encouraged in regard to you, as he told us of your yearning, your lament, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.... And his heart goes out to you all the more, as he remembers the obedience of all of you, when you received him with fear and trembling” (2 Corinthians 7:7a, 15).

The Letter to Titus addresses him as the administrator of the Christian community on the island of Crete, charged with organizing it, correcting abuses and appointing presbyter-bishops.

Monday, January 25, 2016

I Am Not Alone by Kari Jobe

A Biblical Warning on the Nature of Government

The following comes from Msgr. Charles Pope:

There is a remarkable passage in the Old Testament that speaks to the issue of centralized government. The portrait painted is not a flattering one. Generally speaking, the Scriptures do not comment much on secular government other than to note its existence and to prescribe a combination of support (Jer 29:7Mk 12:17), endurance (Romans 13:1-7), and prayer (1 Tim 2:1).

But at a critical point, the prophet Samuel sets forth a litany of woes that come from centralized ruling authority (a king in this particular case). His remarks surely resonate today in the era of large, centralized, secular government. More on this in a moment, but first a little background:

Prior to the anointing of King Saul over Israel, the Jewish people existed as a kind of confederation of twelve tribes  (ReubenSimeonJudahIssacharZebulunBenjaminDanNaphtaliGadAsherEphraim and Manasseh). 
Though united by faith in the LORD, the tribes were rather decentralized. When threats (usually invading armies) beset any or all of the tribes, they would unite under a charismatic leader known as a “judge,” who would see them through the crisis and then step back once the threat was quelled. There are twelve judges (though there may have been more) mentioned in the Book of Judges: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson.

It seemed that this was God’s central organizing plan for ancient Israel (and for us?): governance under the principle of subsidiarity in which a decentralized confederation of families (nuclear and extended), tribes, and clans supported and cared for one another, and shared an allegiance to God and His revealed law. Although the tribes of Israel did unite under leaders (judges anointed by God) in times of crisis, God was the true King of Israel; He was the lawgiver and the unifier. Or so the ideal went.

In the period of the judges, the system usually worked and the people trusted God to lead them through crises in these ways. The glue that held it all together was tribal, clan, and family loyalty interacting with faith in the LORD.

This leads us to the passage from the Book of Samuel, in which it would seem that the Jewish people wanted to replace God’s plan.

Indeed, over time there was a growing interest among the Jews to have a king. As Samuel’s death drew there was a fear that perhaps no judges would be found in time of crisis. But why this fear existed is not clear; God had always provided leaders in times of crisis. The text from Samuel gives the following reasons for Israel wanting a king: appoint a king over us, as other nations have … There must be a king over us! We too must be like other nations, with a king to rule us and to lead us in warfare and fight our battles … The LORD … said in answer [to Samuel], It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their king (1 Sam 8, various verses).

So the rejection of God’s plan of governance is seen as sinful by Samuel and the biblical tradition. In effect, the Lord tells Samuel to grant them their every wish, more as a punishment than as a gracious acquiescence to the will of the people for an earthly king.

Though the Lord told Samuel to give them what they wanted, He also told Samuel to warn the people that their decision to submit themselves to an earthly ruler would have consequences. The text from Samuel describes them:
Samuel delivered the message of the LORD in full to those who were asking him for a king. He told them, “The rights of the king who will rule you will be as follows: He will take your sons and assign them to his chariots and horses, and they will run before his chariot. He will also appoint from among them his commanders of groups of a thousand and of a hundred soldiers. He will set them to do his plowing and his harvesting, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.  He will use your daughters as ointment makers, as cooks, and as bakers. He will take the best of your fields, vineyards, and olive groves, and give them to his officials. He will tithe your crops and your vineyards, and give the revenue to his eunuchs and his slaves. He will take your male and female servants, as well as your best oxen and your asses, and use them to do his work. He will tithe your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves” [1 Sam 8:4-7; 10-22].

In modern terms the consequences of having a king and a centralized authority included high taxes, expansive and aggressive use of power, military draft, conscription of the people into the affairs of the king and the state, intrusive policies that affected families, seizure of land and resources, and a kind of bondage that expanded to take the best resources of the people and entrusted them to cronies and the like.

This is a pretty bleak list, and unfortunately it is very familiar to us in this era of expansive, intrusive government with its increasingly complex and burdensome regulations.

As a priest I am hesitant to enter into political discussions. I have never studied political theory or public policy and am not a member of any political party. I prefer to leave political debates to the laity, to whom the temporal order is consigned.

But I comment here due to the biblical text before us and its sober reminder that centralized power is costly, tends to grow, and draws people into a kind of servitude in exchange for some sense of security and/or moderation of justice.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “When you break the big laws, you do not get liberty; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.” Indeed, we get thousands of lesser laws.

Read the rest here.

Signs of the End Times: A Catholic Perspective

Nutella and Our Lady of Lourdes

The following comes from Aleteia:


This Saturday afternoon in Monte Carlo, after a months-long illness, Michele Ferrero, 89, founder of Nutella, died. His company, founded in 1946 in Italy, produced the popular hazelnut chocolate spread along with Mon Cheri, Kinder Eggs, Ferrero Rocher, Fiesta and Pocket Coffee treats. 

As Michele Ferrero said at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the company: “The success of Ferrero we owe to Our Lady of Lourdes; without her we can do little.” And indeed, a small statue of the Virgin is present in each of the Ferrero establishments worldwide.

Michele Ferrero was the richest person in Italy, with a net worth, according to Forbes magazine, of $23.4 billion. He was a man endowed with a strong faith who spent his life away from the spotlight and the tabloids. Each year he went on pilgrimage to Lourdes, taking his top manager. He also organized a visit to the French shrine for his employees.According to The Guardian UK newspaper, which published a profile of him in 2011, the company’s Rocher pralines are rumored to have been inspired by the craggy rock grotto, called the Rocher de Massabielle, at the shrine in Lourdes.
Rocher praline courtesy of Freepik
Rocher de Massabielle at Lourdes
He built his empire valuing the best of Italy with quality products and innovation. But his greatest talent was knowing how to involve employees and show special attention to employees when training them. “My only concern,” he once said, “is that the company is increasingly solid and strong to guarantee all workers a secure place.”

Under his leadership, his products were available in 53 countries. He had more than 34,000 employees, 20 production facilities and nine agricultural enterprises.

Bishop Robert Barron on St. Paul and the Mission of the Church

The Conversion of St. Paul


The following comes from the American Catholic site:

Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like the strength of a boxer swinging wildly. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealot’s hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church:

“...entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was “entered,” possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior.

One sentence determined his theology: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5b). Jesus was mysteriously identified with people—the loving group of people Saul had been running down like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfillment of all he had been blindly pursuing.

From then on, his only work was to “present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Colossians 1:28b-29). “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and [with] much conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5a).

Paul’s life became a tireless proclaiming and living out of the message of the cross: Christians die baptismally to sin and are buried with Christ; they are dead to all that is sinful and unredeemed in the world. They are made into a new creation, already sharing Christ’s victory and someday to rise from the dead like him. Through this risen Christ the Father pours out the Spirit on them, making them completely new.

So Paul’s great message to the world was: You are saved entirely by God, not by anything you can do. Saving faith is the gift of total, free, personal and loving commitment to Christ, a commitment that then bears fruit in more “works” than the Law could ever contemplate.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Takayama Ukon: Samurai and Saint

(CNA/EWTN News)  The martyrdom of a 16th-century Samurai who died for his Catholic faith was approved this week by Pope Francis, making the Japanese warrior one among nine other causes that advanced toward sainthood.
Takayama Ukon was born in 1552 in Japan during the time when Jesuit missionaries were becoming introduced within the country. By the time Takayama was 12, his father had converted to Catholicism and had his son baptized as “Justo” by the Jesuit Fr. Gaspare di Lella.
Takayama's position in Japanese society as daimyo allowed him many benefits, such as owning grand estates and raising vast armies. As a Catholic, Takayama used his power to support and protect the short-lived missionary expansion within Japan, influencing the conversion of thousands of Japanese.
When a time of persecution set in within the country under the reign of Japan's chancellor Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1587, many newly-converted Catholics abandoned their beliefs.
Instead of denying their faith, Takayama and his father left their prestigious position in society and chose a life of poverty and exile. Although many of his friends tried to persuade Takayama to deny Catholicism, he remained strong in his beliefs.
Takayama “did not want to fight against other Christians, and this led him to live a poor life, because when a samurai does not obey his 'chief,' he loses everything he has,” Fr. Anton Witwer, a general postulator of the Society of Jesus, told CNA in 2014.
Ten years passed, and the chancellor became more fierce in his persecution against Christians. He eventually crucified 26 Catholics, and by 1614, Christianity in Japan was completely banned.
The new boycott on Christianity forced Takayama to leave Japan in exile with 300 other Catholics. They fled to the Philippines, but not long after his arrival, Takayama died on February 3, 1615.
In 2013, the Japanese bishops' conference submitted the lengthy 400-page application for the beatification of Takayama to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. On Jan. 22, 2016, Takayama's advancement in the cause for canonization was further promulgated when Pope Francis approved his decree of martyrdom.
“Since Takayama died in exile because of the weaknesses caused by the maltreatments he suffered in his homeland, the process for beatification is that of a martyr,” Fr. Witwer explained.
Takayama's life exemplifies the Christian example of "a great fidelity to the Christian vocation, persevering despite all difficulties," Fr. Witwer continued.
Takayama's cause was one of ten other new sainthood causes, which included three blesseds who have had approved miracles attributed to their intercession.
The other approved decrees included Bl. Stanislaus of Jesus, Bl. Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero, Bl. Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio, Francesco Maria Greco, Elisabetta Sanna, Fr. Engelmar Unzeitig CMM, Genaro Fueyo Castanon, Arsenio da Trigolo and Maria Luisa del Santissimo Sacramento.

St. Francis de Sales on the Beauty of Devotion

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:


In order to be devout, not only must we want to do the will of God, we must do it joyfully. If I were not a bishop, yet knew what I know, I would not want to be one. But being one, not only am I obliged to do what this annoying office requires, but I must do it joyfully, and I must take delight in it and accept it. To do so is to follow St. Paul’s saying, “in whatever state each was called, there let him remain with God” (1 Cor. 7:24).
We must carry not the crosses of others, but our own. And this means that each of us must “deny himself” (Matt. 16:24), that is to say, to deny his own will. “I want to do this; I would be better there than here”: we are tempted by such thoughts. Our Lord knows what he is about. Let us do his will and remain where he has placed us.
Not only should you be devout and love the devout life, but you should be making that life beautiful to behold.
Now, it will be beautiful to the extent to which it is use­ful and agreeable to others. The sick will love your piety if it causes them to be charitably consoled. Your family will love it if it makes you more solicitous of their good, milder in the face of life’s vicissitudes, and withal more amiable. Your spouse will love it to the extent to which your devotion makes you warmer and more affectionate. If your parents and friends see in you a greater frankness, helpfulness, and readiness to bend to their wills in those things that are not contrary to the will of God, they too will find your life of devotion attractive. And this, as much as possible, should be your aim.

The Imagination in Prayer

It is not possible to pray without employing the imagina­tion and the understanding. Yet it cannot be doubted that we should make use of them only for the sake of moving the will, and then no more. Some say that it is not neces­sary to use the imagination to represent to ourselves the sacred humanity of the Savior. Not, perhaps, for those who are already far advanced on the mountain of perfection. But for those of us who are still in the valleys — though we wish to be climbing — I think it is expedient to make use of all our faculties, including the imagination.
This imagination, however, ought to be quite simple, serving as a sort of needle with which to thread affections and resolutions into our mind. This is the great road, from which we should not take leave until the light of day is a little brighter and we can see the little paths. It is true that these imaginings should not be tangled up in too many particularities, but should be simple. Let us remain a while longer in the low valleys.

The Peace of God

Strive to remain in that peace and tranquillity that our Lord has given you. “The peace of God,” says St. Paul, “which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). Do you not see that he says the peace of God “passes all understanding”? That is to teach you that you should never trouble your­self to have any sentiment other than that of the peace of God. Now, the peace of God is the peace that proves the resolutions we have taken for God and the path that God has ordained for us. Walk firmly in the way in which the providence of God has placed you, without looking either to the right or to the left.
That is the way of perfection for you. This satisfaction of spirit — even if it be without savor — is worth more than a thousand delightful conso­lations. If God intends you to face some difficulties, you must receive them from his hand — the hand you have taken hold of — and you must not let go of him until he has brought you to the point of your perfection. You will see that God’s providence will accomplish all things ac­cording to your intentions, provided they be entirely in conformity with his. What is needed of you is a courage that is a little more vigorous and resolute.

The Presence of God

To remain in the presence of God and to place oneself in the presence of God are two different things. To place our­selves in his presence, we must withdraw our souls from all other objects and make ourselves attentive to his presence. After we have placed ourselves in his presence, we can keep ourselves there by the action of our will or intellect: by either looking upon God, or looking upon something else for the love of him, or not looking at anything but instead speaking to him, or neither looking at him nor speaking to him but simply remaining where he has placed us, like a statue in its niche. And when, to this simple act of remaining there is joined some sentiment that we be­long to God and that he is our all, then we ought to give earnest thanks for his goodness.