Sunday, July 31, 2016

Lion and The Lamb by Leeland

Pope Francis at Mass with religious and priests: The disciple is not content with a life of mediocrity

St. Ignatius Loyola: Soldier for Christ!


Today is the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola! For information on his life please check out the Patron Saints Index!

Born Inigo Lopez de Loyola in 1491, the man known as Ignatius of Loyola entered the world in Loiola, Spain. At the time, the name of the village was spelled "Loyola," hence the discrepancy. Inigo came of age in Azpeitia, in northern Spain. Loyola is a small village at the southern end of Azpeitia.
Inigio was the youngest of thirteen children. His mother died when he was just seven, and he was then raised by Maria de Garin, who was the wife of a blacksmith. His last name, "Loyola" was taken from the village of his birth.
Despite the misfortune of losing his mother he was still a member of the local aristocracy and was raised accordingly. Inigio was an ambitious young man who had dreams of becoming a great leader. He was influenced by stories such as The Song of Roland and El Cid.
At the age of sixteen, he began a short period of employment working for Juan Velazquez, the treasurer of Castile. By the time he was eighteen, he became a soldier and would fight for Antonio Manrique de Lara, Duke of Nájera and Viceroy of Navarre.
Seeking wider acclaim, he began referring to himself as Ignatius. Ignatius was a variant of Inigio. The young Ignatius also gained a reputation as a duelist. According to one story, he killed a Moor with whom he argued about the divinity of Jesus.
Ignatius fought in several battles under the leadership of the Duke of Najera. He had a talent for emerging unscathed, despite participating in many battles. His talent earned him promotions and soon he commanded his own troops.
In 1521, while defending the town of Pamplona against French attack, Ignatius was struck by a cannonball in the legs. One leg was merely broken, but the other was badly mangled. To save his life and possibly his legs, doctors performed several surgeries. There were no anesthetics during this time, so each surgery was painful. Despite their best efforts, Ignatius' condition deteriorated. After suffering for a month, his doctors warned him to prepare for death.
On June 29, 1521, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Ignatius began to improve. As soon as he was healthy enough to bear it, part of one leg was amputated which while painful, sped his recovery.
During this time of bodily improvement, Ignatius began to read whatever books he could find. Most of the books he obtained were about the lives of the saints and Christ. These stories had a profound impact on him, and he became more devout.
One story in particular influenced him, "De Vita Christi" (The life of Christ). The story offers commentary on the life of Christ and suggested a spiritual exercise that required visualizing oneself in the presence of Christ during the episodes of His life. The book would inspire Ignatius' own spiritual exercises.
As he lay bedridden, Ignatius developed a desire to become a working servant of Christ. He especially wanted to convert non-Christians.
Among his profound realizations, was that some thoughts brought him happiness and others sorrow. When he considered the differences between these thoughts, he recognized that two powerful forces were acting upon him. Evil brought him unpleasant thoughts while God brought him happiness. Ignatius discerned God's call, and began a new way of life, following God instead of men.
By the spring of 1522, Ignatius had recovered enough to leave bed. On March 25, 1522, he entered the Benedictine monastery, Santa Maria de Montserrat. Before an image of the Black Madonna, he laid down his military garments. He gave his other clothes away to a poor man.
He then walked to a hospital in the town of Manresa. In exchange for a place to live, he performed work around the hospital. He begged for his food. When he was not working or begging, he would go into a cave and practice spiritual exercises.
His time in prayer and contemplation helped him to understand himself better. He also gained a better understanding of God and God's plan for him.
The ten months he spent between the hospital and the cavern were difficult for Ignatius. He suffered from doubts, anxiety and depression. But he also recognized that these were not from God.
Ignatius began recording his thoughts and experiences in a journal. This journal would be useful later for developing new spiritual exercises for the tens of thousands of people who would follow him. Those exercises remain invaluable today and are still widely practiced by religious and laity alike.
The next year, in 1523, Ignatius made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. His goal was to live there and convert non-believers. However, the Holy Land was a troubled place and Church officials did not want Ignatius to complicate things further. They asked him to return after just a fortnight.
Ignatius realized he needed to obtain a complete education if he wanted to convert people. Returning to Barcelona, Ignatius attended a grammar school, filled with children, to learn Latin and other beginning subjects. He was blessed with a great teacher during this time, Master Jeronimo Ardevol.
After completing his primary education, Ignatius traveled to Alcala, then Salamanca, where he studied at universities. In addition to studying, Ignatius often engaged others in lengthy conversations about spiritual matters.
These conversations attracted the attention of the Inquisition.
In Spain, the Inquisition was responsible for ferreting out religious dissent and combating heresy. The Inquisition was not as it has long been depicted in the media.
The Inquisition accused Ignatius of preaching without any formal education in theology. Without this training, it was likely that Ignatius could introduce heresy by way of conversation and misunderstanding.
Ignatius was questioned three times by the Inquisition, but he was always exonerated.
Ignatius eventually decided he needed more education, so he traveled north, seeking better schools and teachers. He was 38 years old when he entered the College of Saint Barbe of the University of Paris. This education was very structured and formalized. Later, Ignatius would be inspired to copy this model when establishing schools. The ideas of prerequisites and class levels would arise from the Jesuit schools, which here heavily inspired by Ignatius' experience in Paris.
Ignatius earned a master's degree at the age of 44. When he subsequently applied for his doctorate, he was passed over because of his age. He also suffered from ailments, which the school was concerned could impact his studies.
While at school in Paris, Ignatius roomed with Peter Faber and Francis Xavier. Faber was French and Xavier was Basque. The men became friends and Ignatius led them in his spiritual exercises. Other men soon joined their exercises and became followers of Ignatius. The group began to refer to themselves as "Friends in the Lord," an apt description.
The circle of friends, shared Ignatius' dream of traveling to the Holy Land, but conflict between Venice and the Turks made such a journey impossible. Denied the opportunity to travel there, the group then decided to visit Rome. There, they resolved to present themselves to the Pope and to serve at his pleasure.
Pope Paul III received the group and approved them as an official religious order in 1540. The band attempted to elect Ignatius as their first leader, but he declined, saying he had not lived a worthy life in his youth. He also believed others were more experienced theologically.
The group insisted however, and Ignatius accepted the role as their first leader. They called themselves the Society of Jesus. Some people who did not appreciate their efforts dubbed them "Jesuits" in an attempt to disparage them. While the name stuck, by virtue of their good work the label lost its negative connotation.
Ignatius imposed a strict, almost military rule on his order. This was natural for a man who spent his youth as a soldier. It might be expected that such rigor would dissuade people from joining, but it had the opposite effect. The order grew.
The Society of Jesus soon found its niche in education. Before Ignatius died in 1556, his order established 35 schools and boasted 1,000 members. The order was responsible for much of the work of stopping the spread of the Protestant Reformation. The Society advocated the use of reason to persuade others and combat heresy.
Today, the Society of Jesus is known for its work in educating the youth around the world. Several universities have been founded in the name of Ignatius and in the traditional Jesuit spirit. The Jesuits also perform many other important works around the globe.
Ignatius' passed away on July 31, 1556, at the age of 64. He was beatified by Pope Paul V on July 27, 1609 and canonized on March 12, 1622. His feast day is July 31. He is the patron saint of the Society of Jesus, soldiers, educators and education.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

In Over My Head by Jenn Johnson

Pope Francis to Youth: God prefers us weak

 The weaker we are, the more God's mercy can transform our lives. Pope Francis made these impromptu remarks on Saturday to crowds of young people gathered outside of Krakow’s St. John Paul II shrine.
“Today, the Lord wants us to feel ever more profoundly his great mercy,” the Pope said in a short, impromptu speech, delivered right after his visit to the Polish city’s Divine Mercy shrine. “May we never turn away from Jesus!”
Pope Francis shared these thoughts to a group of young people who are in Poland for World Youth Day moments before entering the St. John Paul II shrine to pass through its Holy Door, hear confessions, and celebrate Mass for priests and religious men and women. 
We may think that we are the “worst” on account of our sins and weaknesses, the Pope told the youth. However, this is how God prefers us to be, in order that “his mercy may spread.”
“Let us take advantage of these days to receive all of the mercy of Jesus!”
Pope Francis proceeded to lead the young people in praying the Hail Mary before bestowing on them his blessing.
“And please, I ask you to pray for me.”
Before his brief encounter with the young people, the pontiff paid a visit to the shrine of the Divine Mercy where the body of St. Faustina Kowalska are interred.
There, he venerated the relics of the Polish saint and mystic, during a brief ceremony attended by some 300 people, including members of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, St. Faustina’s own order.
While there, Pope Francis signed the sanctuary’s guestbook with the words: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifices.” The words refer to a passage from the Gospel of Matthew which the Pope has often referred to in the past.
Venerated by the Church as the “Apostle of Divine Mercy,” St. Faustina (1905-1938) reported numerous visions of Jesus throughout her life which she recorded in her diary. Many of the devotions relating to the feast of Divine Mercy, established on the first Sunday of Easter by St. John Paul II, were inspired by her writings.
Saturday marks the second to last day of Pope Francis’ July 27-31 apostolic journey to Poland where he is leading World Youth Day celebrations.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Lament by Audrey Assad

A Psychologist Considers the Reasons People Choose Bitterness

The following comes from Zenit.org:

Though hatred ferments within a person and prevents positive achievements, still, it seems to be on the rise. Doctor Paul C. Vitz, associate professor and senior scholar at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, is asking why.
"Hatred sort of 'pickles' a person," he says, "filling them with resentment, bitterness, and even depression." But a glance at the news reveals that hatred is active in the world today.
Vitz is researching hatred and its role as a barrier to forgiveness. ZENIT spoke with him about his research and some of the underlying causes for hate.
ZENIT: You've been researching the topic of interpersonal hatred for some time. How did you first become interested and involved in this topic?
Vitz: I've been interested in forgiveness for many years, especially due to the relatively recent work of Bob Enright and Everett Worthington and others. From that, I got interested in the barriers to forgiveness by themselves. Why is it so hard to forgive? Certainly one of those barriers is hatred, especially hatred between people.
ZENIT: Why is this such an important topic today? Are there unintended and perhaps even long-term consequences of interpersonal hatred?
Vitz: All you have to do is read the newspaper to see how active hatred is in our world today. That's a "no brainer." That's why the issue is so important. And it is also possible that the increase in narcissism and feelings of self-entitlement, so common in our country today, has led to an increase in the experience of anger, frustration, resentment and even hatred. After all, if you are the "most important person in the whole world" and you subscribe to the Burger King philosophy of "Have it your way," any failure of others or the environment to satisfy you is cause for rage. Unfortunately, there are also many long-term consequences, and unending cycles of revenge are one of them. And for individuals, hatred sort of "pickles" a person, filling them with resentment, bitterness, and even depression. And of course it keeps people from doing anything positive with their life.
ZENIT: What does the psychology of hatred and forgiveness say to a planet increasingly marked by terrorism and by violent outbreaks in schools and other public places, such as last summer's tragedy in Norway?
Vitz: What it says is that we had better find out why hatred is so common, and how to remove it, or at least reduce it greatly. On the other hand, one of the reasons for the general awareness of violence and hatred is the media's love affair with it. Apparently most news is bad news, and certainly any report of violence and hatred seems to get into the media a thousand times faster than any report of love and forgiveness. Now perhaps the media is just pandering to a kind of universal human nature. But I suspect that there is something special about recent history in this country and in much of the world that shows an increased preoccupation with hatred and violence. It would be interesting to do a study on the proportion of violent news items in today's media, as compared to 100 or 150 years ago.
ZENIT: You speak of hatred as something that, in some way, people enjoy. How can this be? And how can it be overcome?
Vitz: People certainly enjoy hatred, or it wouldn't be so popular in the world's literature, and on television and in movies today. In a temporary way, hatred makes you feel morally superior and gives you energy and purpose, but at the price of long-term debilitation. In many ways, interpersonal hatred is a kind of defense mechanism protecting the ego or narcissism of the individual. And presumably, as Christians, we all know that this interpersonal hatred is wrong, and was explicitly rejected by Our Lord. We are called to love our enemies, not hate them, as difficult as this is. This is a complex topic that needs much more coverage, and I have spoken about this elsewhere, but one good way to start overcoming hatred for your enemies is to pray for them.
* * *
Dr. Vitz is Associate Professor and Senior Scholar at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences (IPS), a Catholic graduate school of psychology in Arlington, Virginia. He is offering an online seminar titled "Interpersonal Hatred and Other Barriers to Forgiveness" on Friday, Dec. 9, for mental health professionals, priests, and other interested individuals. For more information and to register click here.

Saint of the day: Martha


The following comes from the Word on Fire:

There are some legendary stories of saints that deserve telling and re-telling, and the story of St. Martha the Dragonslayer is one of them.

Dragonslayer?

Am I speaking about the same Martha of the New Testament? The one who is depicted as a domestic scold who thinks that she knows better than the Lord Jesus himself what his will for others should be? The Martha who gets a famous comeuppance from the Lord that is meant to shock her out of her anxious fretting and self pre-occupation? The same Martha who is overcome with grief at the death of Lazarus, a grief that gives way to a startling profession of faith in Christ as Lord? This Martha was a dragonslayer?

Precisely.

Exiled during a time of persecution of the Church, Martha's wanderings brought her to a village plagued by a dragon who had a voracious appetite for the town's inhabitants. The villages told Martha that they would believe in the Gospel on the condition that the power of Christ could rid them of the dragon. She accepted this challenge. Martha went out, found the dragon's lair, subdued it with the sign of the cross, brought it back to the village on a leash, and then called for a sword. No more dragon!

Is this true? Did it really happen? Perhaps... Maybe... One day we will all have to ask Martha...

Of course, even if the dragon is not literally real, the story remains important.

The dragon may be a metaphor, a representation of the hostile pagan world that so vexed the early Church. St. Martha, in this respect, represents the Church that boldly and defiantly challenged the dark powers of fallen gods. Also, we can understand the dragon as a metaphor for all that is dark within ourselves, that dark power that consumes our goodness and life and makes us lose hope and succomb to fear. Martha, Christ-like in her sanctity is our friend and intercessor as we confront the dark powers within.

She conquers, as we are called to, in the Lord Jesus who strengthens us.

There is one more truth that we might attend to in regards to St. Martha the dragonslayer.

It has become far too easy to reduce our faith to something domestic, familiar, predictable. But discipleship is an adventure that demands more of us than just cocktails and garden parties. Christ did not establish the Church to be a faith based country club.

St. Martha found her mission by moving out from that domestic space that had become the controlling influence of her life. Her faith in the Lord took her out into a world not of her own making, a world that would not bend to her will. Her mission exposed her to danger, difficulty and risk.

And so may St. Martha the dragonslayer intercede for us, inspire us to take great risks for the faith, and through the power of Christ, help us to confront the dragons of sin that lurk within ourselves and in our world.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Jesus Christ You Are My Life

St. Francis of Assisi on the Humility of Christ



Everyday, Jesus humbles himself just as He did when He came from His heavenly throne into the Virgin’s womb; everyday He comes to us and lets us see Him in abjection, when He descends from the bosom of the Father into the hands of the priest at the altar.
                                  -St. Francis of Assisi 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Hidden by United Pursuit and Will Reagan

Psalm 91: A Soldiers Prayer

Psalm 91 is called the Soldiers’ Psalm. We are told that in World War I, the soldiers of the 91st Brigade recited the 91 Psalm daily. This brigade engaged in three of the war’s bloodiest battles. Other units suffered up to 90% casualties, but the 91st Brigade did not suffer a single combat-related death. God is willing and able to keep His words of covenant promise. Plead God’s 91 shield daily. Confidently claim His rest, refuge, safety, covering, faithfulness, freedom from fear, angelic watchers, deliverance, and protection. 

Prayer is the War. God’s Word is the Weapon.

Psalm 91

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,
    who abides in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
    my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence;
he will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
    nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand;
    but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
    and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your refuge,[a]
    the Most High your habitation,
no evil shall befall you,
    no scourge come near your tent.
For he will give his angels charge of you
    to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you dash your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder,
    the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
Because he cleaves to me in love, I will deliver him;
    I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him,
            and show him my salvation. 

Hat tip to Simple Prayers!

A Christian Duty in the Face of Terror

The following comes from Fr. Rutler:

After another devastating ISIS attack in France, this time against a priest in his 80s while he was saying Mass, the answer isn’t just, “Do nothing.” As racism distorts race and sexism corrupts sex — so does pacifism affront peace.
Turning the other cheek is the counsel Christ gave in the instance of an individual when morally insulted: Humility conquers pride. It has nothing to do with self-defense.
The Catholic Church has always maintained that the defiance of an evil force is not only a right but an obligation. Its Catechism (cf. #2265) cites St. Thomas Aquinas: “Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life, the common good of the family or of the State.”
A father is culpable if he does not protect his family. A bishop has the same duty as a spiritual father of his sons and daughters in the church, just as the civil state has as its first responsibility the maintenance of the “tranquility of order” through self-defense.
Christ warned the apostles, as shepherds, to beware of wolves. This requires both the "shrewdness of serpents and the innocence of doves." To shrink from the moral duty to protect peace by not using force when needed is to be innocent as a serpent and shrewd as a dove.
That is not innocence — it is naiveté.
Saint John Capistrano led an army against the Moors in 1456 to protect Belgrade. In 1601, Saint Lawrence of Brindisi did the same in defense of Hungary. As Franciscans, they carried no sword and charged on horseback into battle carrying a crucifix. They inspired the shrewd generals and soldiers, whom they had assembled through artful diplomacy, with their brave innocence.

Cistercian chant: Testamentum Eternum

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Time for Confession

The following comes from the Crisis:


We humans can be a bit fickle sometimes. What we choose to do with our time often depends directly on how the people and places with which we associate ourselves make us feel. If we don’t feel welcome in a place, we probably don’t stay long.
If we try a place or organization out on the suggestion of other people, but never really learn or understand what it’s all about, we’re also likely out the door before long. Likewise, if we devote ourselves fully to a place or organization, only to experience betrayal at the hands of that organization, surely it won’t take long for us to find a new home.
As a result, many who see the place that was left behind from a distance, and perhaps hear horror stories from others who’ve been there, will look with hostility upon it and never go near it if they can help it.
This phenomenon occurs in a lot of places, but none as much as the Catholic Church. For tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands of people today, the instances above are, sadly, more often than not very real and very legitimate beefs.
We could talk for days about who did what to whom, ranging from petty to incredibly serious, but I’m writing this post instead as a plea to those who no longer come to Mass as a result of those experiences, to those who no longer identify as Catholic, and even those who aren’t Catholic and are skeptical about the Church, to come back, to come and see one more time.
We all have people in our lives who have left the Church—who aren’t attending Mass for one reason or another, and there’s one thing we all should encourage those people in our lives to come back and do more than anything: Come to confession.
Now, I’m not saying this because those people are heathens in need of repentance before you can re-enter or anything—heck, we’re all unworthy all the time. We’re all sinners, and we all could stand to attend confession more often.
I’m suggesting confession, because the Catholic Church is about Jesus, and confession lets us meet Him face to face.
We believe that priests, when acting in their capacity as priests (saying Mass, anointing the sick and dying, hearing confessions), are acting in persona Christi—literally “In the person of Christ.” In his priestly capacity, that’s no longer Fr. Bill on the altar or in the confessional. That’s Jesus.
To boot, the seal of confession is what makes this such a powerful sacrament. That means the priest will never, ever (ever!) tell anyone. Seriously, never. Because if he did, he’d be removed from priesthood immediately and would excommunicate himself from the Church. For real.
No one else is offering that. Especially in a culture that insists on broadcasting every little detail of one’s life.
Even so, the thought of going to confession usually brings the response, “I don’t want/need to go,” especially among people who haven’t gone in years.
But dig deeper and I’d bet it’s more one of two things:
  • “I don’t want the priest to judge me for things I’ve done wrong.” OR
  • “I experienced hurt at the hands of a priest, and I’ll never trust one again.”
Not going to Confession is typically rooted, on some level, either in fear of being exposed, or a fear of being hurt again.

Saints of the day: Joachim and Anne

The following comes from the CNA:

On July 26 the Roman Catholic Church commemorates the parents of the Virgin Mary, Saints Joachim and Anne. The couple's faith and perseverance brought them through the sorrow of childlessness, to the joy of conceiving and raising the immaculate and sinless woman who would give birth to Christ.

The New Testament contains no specific information about the lives of the Virgin Mary's parents, but other documents outside of the Biblical canon do provide some details. Although these writings are not considered authoritative in the same manner as the Bible, they outline some of the Church's traditional beliefs about Joachim, Anne and their daughter.

The “Protoevangelium of James,” which was probably put into its final written form in the early second century, describes Mary's father Joachim as a wealthy member of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Joachim was deeply grieved, along with his wife Anne, by their childlessness. “He called to mind Abraham,” the early Christian writing says, “that in the last day God gave him a son Isaac.”

Joachim and Anne began to devote themselves to rigorous prayer and fasting, in isolation from one another and from society. They regarded their inability to conceive a child as a surpassing misfortune, and a sign of shame among the tribes of Israel.

As it turned out, however, the couple were to be blessed even more abundantly than Abraham and Sarah. An angel revealed this to Anne when he appeared to her and prophesied that all generations would honor their future child: “The Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world.”

After Mary's birth, according to the Protoevangelium of James, Anne “made a sanctuary” in the infant girl's room, and “allowed nothing common or unclean” on account of the special holiness of the child. The same writing records that when she was one year old, her father “made a great feast, and invited the priests, and the scribes, and the elders, and all the people of Israel.”

“And Joachim brought the child to the priests,” the account continues, “and they blessed her, saying: 'O God of our fathers, bless this child, and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations' … And he brought her to the chief priests; and they blessed her, saying: 'O God most high, look upon this child, and bless her with the utmost blessing, which shall be forever.'”

The protoevangelium goes on to describe how Mary's parents, along with the temple priests, subsequently decided that she would be offered to God as a consecrated Virgin for the rest of her life, and enter a chaste marriage with the carpenter Joseph.

St. Joachim and St. Anne have been a part of the Church's liturgical calendar for many centuries. Devotion to their memory is particularly strong in the Eastern Catholic churches, where their intercession is invoked by the priest at the end of each Divine Liturgy. The Eastern churches, however, celebrate Sts. Joachim and Anne on a different date, Sept. 9.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Son Was Lifted Up by Leeland

Saint of the Day: Saint James the Greater

Today is the feast of St. James the Greater! The following comes from the Patron Saints Index:

St. James, with his brother John and the apostle Peter, form an inner circle within the twelve disciples. St. James was among the first four chosen; he and John, fishermen on Lake Genesaret, left their nets and everything to follow our Lord, Jesus. St. James was able to witness the raising of Jairus' daughter and, like his brother and Peter, he slept in the garden of Gesthemane. St. James was the first of the twelve apostles to have been martyred as he was beheaded in 42 A.D. by King Herod Agrippa. St. James is the only apostle whose death is mentioned in the New Testament.

From the 14th to 15th centuries, the most popular shrine outside of Jerusalem and Rome was
Santiago de Compostela. Santiago de Compostela claimes to have the relics of St. James. I would love to go to there myself and make a walking retreat as a pilgrim as well! Legends say that he preached in Spain, although the New Testament says that no apostle left Palestine before the Council of Jerusalem (49). Other legends also say that the body of the saint was put into a boat which drifted to Spain. St. James' reputation as a military protector and iconography as a pilgrim originate with stories and miracles associated with this shrine in Spain. You can find out more on St. James the Greater from The Patron Saints Index.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Saint of the day: Sharbel Makhlouf



The Saint of today is Sharbel Makhlouf. This great monastic saint is a wonderful patron for the Church of the Middle East. He is one of the wonder workers of the 20th century! Here is the story from CNA:

Yussef Antoun Makhloof --later and forever after known as Sharbel-- was of humble birth.

Yet Sharbel belongs to more than his village, monastery, church or country. He belongs to the Universal Church and all Christians. When he was beatified on December 5, 1965, His Holiness Pope Paul VI announced that Saint Sharbel is "a new, eminent member of monastic sanctity [who] through his example and his intercession is enriching the entire Christian people." (Saint Sharbel: The Hermit of Lebanon 1977: 27)

Yussef, who later took the name Sharbel, was the youngest of five children born to Antoun Zaarour Makhlouf and Brigitta Elias al-Shediyaq. His father died when he was three years old. Like many of the Christians from the Lebanese Mountain, his father had been taken away from his family [by the Turks] and forced into hard labor.

Yussef studied at the parish school and tended the family cow. He spent a great deal of time outdoors in the fields and pastures near his village and he meditated amid the inspiring views of boundless valleys and proud mountains.

From early childhood, Yussef showed that he loved prayer and solitude. In 1851, without informing anyone, he left home. Tanious, his uncle and guardian, wanted Yussef to continue working with him. His mother wanted him to marry the young woman who loved him. (Daher 1952: 18-19; Sfeir 1995: 72-75)

When Yussef became Brother Sharbel, he was filled with determination and walked all the way to his new home, "the monastery," his new family, "the Lebanese Maronite Order," and his new bride, "the Church." He followed in the footsteps of his maternal uncles, who were already hermits at the hermitage of Mar Boula (Saint Paul) in the Holy Valley of Qadisha, across from the Monastery of Our Lady of Qannobine. (Daher 1993:48-49)

The Lebanese Maronite Order of monks is the embodiment of the ancient eastern monasticism, which since early Christian times existed and thrived within widely dispersed, independent monasteries.

At Mass on November 1, 1853, Sharbel took the monastic vows. Neither the monk's family nor the public were allowed to attend this solemn occasion.

After his ordination, Father Sharbel returned to the Monastery of St. Maron. During his 19 years there, Sharbel performed his priestly ministry and monastic duties in an edifying way. He dedicated himself totally to Christ to live, work and pray in silence.

As he worked the land and performed manual labor at the monastery, he continued a life of purity, obedience and humility that has yet to be surpassed. In 1875, because he showed "supernatural power," he was granted permission to live as a hermit at the Hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul, which is near the monastery.

It was in this secluded sanctuary that the monk Sharbel spent the remaining twenty-three years of his life practicing severe mortification.

Father Sharbel suffered a stroke on December 16, 1898 while he was reciting the prayer of the Holy Liturgy:

His tomb has been a site for pilgrimages ever since the day he died. Hundreds of miracles were performed through the intercession of Saint Sharbel in 'Annaya, Lebanon, and throughout the world.

At the closing of the Second Vatican Council, on December 5, 1965, Sharbel was beatified by Pope Paul VI who said: "Great is the gladness in heaven and earth today for the beatification of Sharbel Makhlouf, monk and hermit of the Lebanese Maronite Order. Great is the joy of the East and West for this son of Lebanon, admirable flower of sanctity blooming on the stem of the ancient monastic traditions of the East, and venerated today by the Church of Rome.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

In Over My Head by Jenn Johnson and Bethel Music

Saint of the day: Bridget of Sweden


The following comes from the Patron Saints Index:

Daughter of Birger Persson, the governor and provincial judge of Uppland, and of Ingeborg Bengtsdotter. Her father was one of the greatest landowners in the country, her mother was known widely for her piety, and the family were descendants of the Swedish royal house. Related to Saint Ingrid of Sweden.

Bridget began receiving visions, most of the Crucifixion, at age seven. Her mother died c.1315 when the girl was about twelve years old, and she was raised and educated by an equally pious aunt. In 1316, at age thirteen, Bridget wed prince Ulfo of Nercia in an arranged marriage. She was the mother of eight, including Saint Catherine of Sweden; some of the other children ignored the Church.

Friend and counselor to many priests and theologians of her day. Chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Blanche of Namur in 1335, from which position she counseled and guided the Queen and King Magnus II. After Ulfo’s death in 1344 following a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Spain she pursued a religious life, for which she was harassed by others at the court. She eventually renounced her title of princess. Franciscan tertiary. Cistercian. Mystic, visionary, and mystical writer. She recorded the revelations given her in her visions, and these became hugely popular in the Middle Ages.

Founded the Order of the Most Holy Savior (Bridgettines) at Vadstena, Sweden in 1346. It received confirmation by Pope Blessed Urban V in 1370, and survives today, though few houses remain. Pilgrim to Rome, to assorted Italian holy sites, and to the Holy Lands. Chastened and counseled kings and Popes Clement VI, Gregory XI, and Urban VI, urging each to return to Rome from Avignon. Encouraged all who would listen to meditate on the Passion, and of Jesus Crucified.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Remembrance by Matt Maher (Passion of the Christ)


Communion Featuring The Passion from Hadley Baker on Vimeo.

Saint of the day: Mary Magdalene


The following comes from the Catholic.org site:
She is called "the Penitent". St. Mary was given the name 'Magdalen' because, though a Jewish girl, she lived in a Gentile town called Magdale, in northern Galilee, and her culture and manners were those of a Gentile. St. Luke records that she was a notorious sinner, and had seven devils removed from her. She was present at Our Lords' Crucifixion, and with Joanna and Mary, the mother of James and Salome, at Jesus' empty tomb. Fourteen years after Our Lord's death, St. Mary was put in a boat by the Jews without sails or oars - along with Sts. Lazarus and Martha, St. Maximin (who baptized her), St. Sidonius ("the man born blind"), her maid Sera, and the body of St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin. They were sent drifting out to sea and landed on the shores of Southern France, where St. Mary spent the rest of her life as a contemplative in a cave known as Sainte-Baume. She was given the Holy Eucharist daily by angels as her only food, and died when she was 72. St. Mary was transported miraculously, just before she died, to the chapel of St. Maximin, where she received the last sacraments.

More about this saint: St. Mary Magdalen (Feast day - July 22) Mary Magdalen was well known as a sinner when she first saw Our Lord. She was very beautiful and very proud, but after she met Jesus, she felt great sorrow for her evil life. When Jesus went to supper at the home of a rich man named Simon, Mary came to weep at His feet. Then with her long beautiful hair, she wiped His feet dry and anointed them with expensive perfume. Some people were surprised that Jesus let such a sinner touch Him, but Our Lord could see into Mary's heart, and He said: "Many sins are forgiven her, because she has loved very much." Then to Mary He said kindly, "Your faith has made you safe; go in peace." From then on, with the other holy women, Mary humbly served Jesus and His Apostles. When Our Lord was crucified, she was there at the foot of His cross, unafraid for herself, and thinking only of His sufferings. No wonder Jesus said of her: "She has loved much." After Jesus' body had been placed in the tomb, Mary went to anoint it with spices early Easter Sunday morning. Not finding the Sacred Body, she began to weep, and seeing someone whom she thought was the gardener, she asked him if he knew where the Body of her beloved Master had been taken. But then the person spoke in a voice she knew so well: "Mary!" It was Jesus, risen from the dead! He had chosen to show Himself first to Mary Magdalen, the repentent sinner.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Speak to Me by Dave Moore

Fr. Jozo Zovko: Our Generation Seeks and Needs its Apostles

The following comes from Medjugorje Today:

“Our time of trials and troubles – like floods, earthquakes and wars – has shown who is a Christian, and who is a man-humanist. This is the time of those who have the heart and the time for prayer, the time for good deeds. Such Christians have the eyes to see the wounds and pains, the sufferings and needs of their neighbors. And today only love – Christian, Jesus’ love – saves and that is why we must stop interpreting and making new theories why and from where problems and troubles come”. Fr. Jozo Zovko states.

“So many live unwisely, and many have lost the joy of life and are fighting against the forces of evil and darkness losing the last hope. Everything is contrary to their wishes and dreams and they simply are losing the will to live. In that night of ignorance and trial man needs God. He is the light. He is a new day. He is our safety.”

“Our generation seeks and needs its apostles. They are not the people who pride themselves on their diplomas and knowledge but the people who have changed their lives – converts. Today only true converts, or rather saints, have the opportunity to help neighbors. Today’s Samaritans watch how Levites and priests passing by the neighbors knowing they have nothing to give them because they have no time, because their time that should be devoted to the neighbor is lost” Fr. Jozo further notes.

“Such lost time makes man nervous and unhappy. Our wrong education makes the love for the neighbor difficult for us, and our conflicts make wounds on the body of the Church family. We are waiting for the good Samaritan, the Samaritan who wholeheartedly meets and helps the needy. He always has something to give and offer, and never walks without the indispensable oil and wine. He knows where the medical clinic is and to whom the patient should be taken to have his health restored.”

Overcoming Loneliness

The following comes from Fr. Ed Broom at Catholic Exchange:


Feeling down in the dumps?  Feeling like nobody really understands nor really cares? Feeling dreary, dark and bewildered and confused?  Feeling as if life does not have any real meaning and purpose?  Feel like just throwing in the towel and saying: I have had enough!
St. Ignatius of Loyola would call this a state of desolation. One of the most common manifestations of desolation is that of loneliness—you feel alone in the world and nobody really seems to care about who you are and where you are heading in your life.
If we do not know how to cope properly with this state of desolation then this state can wreak havoc in our lives and do irreparable damage to our spiritual life and even our natural life. One wrong decision made in a state of desolation could be life-determining. How many young people today have recourse to violence toward others and turn on themselves when swimming in an apparently endless sea of desolation?
This state of desolation—manifested through a deep sense of loneliness—is all pervasive in all societies and situations today now more than ever!  However, we are a people of hope.  “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth!” St. Paul reminds us with these encouraging words: “If God is with us who can be against us…” and “When I am weak then I am strong…” (The strength being of course God).   The Psalm calls God a rock, as well as our light and salvation.
To overcome the state of crushing loneliness that we all experience in some periods of our lives,  let us  have recourse to this simple but efficacious practice that can be carried out anywhere and with minimum effort.

Psalm 23: The Psalm of the Good Shepherd

When the dark clouds rain down their torrential storm upon your lonely and forlorn soul open up your Bible, rewind back to the Old Testament to the most famous of all Psalms, Psalm 23
The Divine Shepherd
A Psalm of David.
1The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
4Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

Silence!   

Find some place of silence so that you can read, pray, meditate, listen and allow God to speak to the depths of your heart. God does indeed speak in the silence of our hearts if we allow Him.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want….”   

Saint of the day: Lawrence of Brindisi


The following comes from American Catholic:

At first glance perhaps the most remarkable quality of Lawrence of Brindisi is his outstanding gift of languages. In addition to a thorough knowledge of his native Italian, he had complete reading and speaking ability in Latin, Hebrew, Greek, German, Bohemian, Spanish and French.

He was born on July 22, 1559, and died exactly 60 years later on his birthday in 1619. His parents William and Elizabeth Russo gave him the name of Julius Caesar, Caesare in Italian. After the early death of his parents, he was educated by his uncle at the College of St. Mark in Venice.

When he was just 16 he entered the Capuchin Franciscan Order in Venice and received the name of Lawrence. He completed his studies of philosophy and theology at the University of Padua and was ordained a priest at 23.

With his facility for languages he was able to study the Bible in its original texts. At the request of Pope Clement VIII, he spent much time preaching to the Jews in Italy. So excellent was his knowledge of Hebrew, the rabbis felt sure he was a Jew who had become a Christian.

In 1956 the Capuchins completed a 15-volume edition of his writings. Eleven of these 15 contain his sermons, each of which relies chiefly on scriptural quotations to illustrate his teaching.

Lawrence’s sensitivity to the needs of people—a character trait perhaps unexpected in such a talented scholar—began to surface. He was elected major superior of the Capuchin Franciscan province of Tuscany at the age of 31. He had the combination of brilliance, human compassion and administrative skill needed to carry out his duties. In rapid succession he was promoted by his fellow Capuchins and was elected minister general of the Capuchins in 1602. In this position he was responsible for great growth and geographical expansion of the Order.

Lawrence was appointed papal emissary and peacemaker, a job which took him to a number of foreign countries. An effort to achieve peace in his native kingdom of Naples took him on a journey to Lisbon to visit the king of Spain. Serious illness in Lisbon took his life in 1619.