Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Saint John the Evangelist and the Cave at Patmos




The following comes from the Patron Saints Index:

Son of Zebedee and Salome. Fisherman. Brother of Saint James the Greater, and called one of the Sons of Thunder. Disciple of Saint John the Baptist. Friend of Saint Peter the Apostle. Called by Jesus during the first year of His ministry, and traveled everywhere with Him, becoming so close as to be known as the beloved disciple. Took part in the Last Supper. The only one of the Twelve not to forsake the Saviour in the hour of His Passion, standing at the foot of the cross. Made guardian of Our Lady by Jesus, and he took her into his home. Upon hearing of the Resurrection, he was the first to reach the tomb; when he met the risen Lord at the lake of Tiberias, he was the first to recognize Him.
During the era of the new Church, he worked in Jerusalem and at Ephesus. During Jesus’ ministry, he tried to block a Samaritan from their group, but Jesus explained the open nature of the new Way, and he worked on that principle to found churches in Asia Minorand baptizing converts in SamariaImprisoned with Peter for preaching after PentecostWrote the fourth Gospel, three Epistles, and possibly the Book of Revelation. Survived all his fellow apostles.
Traditional stories:
  • Emperor Dometian had him brought to Romebeatenpoisoned, and thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil, but he stepped out unharmed and was banished to Patmos instead. This is commemorated by the feast of Saint John before the Latin Gate.
  • When John was en route to preach in Asia, his ship was wrecked in a storm; all but John were cast ashore. John was assumeddead, but two weeks later the waves cast him ashore alive at the feet of his disciple Prochoros.
  • When John denounced idol worship as demonic, followers of Artemis stoned him; the rocks turned and hit the throwers.
  • He prayed in a temple of Artemis; fire from heaven killed 200 men who worshipped the idol. When the remaining group begged for mercy, he raised the 200 from the dead; they all converted and were baptized.
  • Drove out a demon who had lived in a pagan temple for 249 years.
  • Aboard ship, he purified vessels of sea water for drinking.
  • Ceonops, a magician, pretended to bring three dead people come to life; the “people” were actually demons who mimicked people so the magician could turn people away from Christ. Through prayer, John caused the magician to drown and thedemons to vanish.
  • Once a year his grave gave off a fragrant dust that cured the sick.



The following came from Gloria TV:


Continuing our look at the Greek Island of Patmos, we walk through the Chora, a UNSECO World Heritage village of cubic whitewashed homes and narrow, crooked pedestrian lanes surrounding the monastery. Then we enter the Cave of St. John where the Evangelist wrote the Book of the Apocalypse, the final chapter of the Bible. A final look around the seaside village then we re-join our Louis Cruise ship, Cristal.

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Night Heaven Came to Earth

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
It was night. The shepherds were keeping watch with their sheep in the fields.
They lived in a time of epic and empire, the greatest the world had yet seen. But here, in this land of balding hills and boulder-strewn fields, in a small town in a backwater region, about the most exciting thing these shepherds could expect was a stray wolf striking at their flock.
They were about to witness the most unexpected event in the history of the world.
First came the angel. He appeared not above them, not suspended in the air, but standing right next to them. The angel had to make way for something far greater.
Then the divine splendor of God Himself shone all around them, like a giant halo encircling a hilltop.
An angel was one thing. But this was too much for them. They were reportedly “struck with great fear.” Or, as the original ancient Greek text of the account puts it, they feared with great fear. So begins the Annunciation to the Shepherds as recorded in the Gospel of Luke, in the second chapter.
The shepherds had good reason to be afraid. Luke describes the divine splendor that shone all around them as the “glory of the Lord.” This is the same language that described the cloud that had descended upon Mt. Sinai, where Moses met with God. Then the glory of the Lord could be seen even at a distance, appearing to the Israelites far below as a “consuming fire” (Exodus 24:17). Here’s how Exodus 19 further describes the scene:
On the morning of the third day there were peals of thunder and lightning, and a heavy cloud over the mountain, and a very loud blast of the shofar, so that all the people in the camp trembled. … Now Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because the Lord had come down upon it in fire. The smoke rose from it as though from a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently (Exodus 19:16, 18).
Moses spoke and God answered him in thunder (Exodus 19:19). So dangerous was the presence of God that the Israelites were ordered to come no closer than the foot of the mountain, lest they be struck dead.
As fearsome as this was, to both Moses and the Israelites, both had time to prepare for this encounter with God in His glory. Moses had conversed through the God through the burning bush. And the Israelites had seen the power of God at work in the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea.
But these shepherds on their night watch never saw it coming. The consuming fire, the cloud glowing with lighting and grumbling with thunder—they had no time to prepare for such a wonder.
But that wasn’t even the big news of the night.
The angel tells them he has “good news” of “great joy” for all of humanity. We can only imagine what is going through the shepherds’ heads at this point. Of one thing we can be assured: the angel had a captive audience. If he proclaimed something of greatness for the whole of humanity, it was pretty believable in that moment.
Then comes the news of an even more extraordinary event: For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

God’s Surprising Christmas Gift

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
Our God likes to surprise us, to break the mold, to reveal his awesome power in ways that we could never have anticipated. The virgin birth of Christ is one of the most surprising and yet splendid events in history—the greatest of Christmas gifts! This Sunday’s reading of a short passage from Isaiah (7:10-14) is one of the most controversial and yet crucial passages of the whole Bible. It prophesies the virgin birth of Christ during a moment of international political crisis.

Historical Context

The Assyrian empire is expanding and conquering. Pekah, the king of Israel, and Rezin, the king of Syria make an alliance against Assyria, the dominant superpower of the time. They want the kingdom of Judah, led by King Ahaz, to join the coalition, but he refuses. Afraid that their two-king alliance won’t be strong enough to withstand the Assyrians, these two kings seek to conquer Judah and set up their own puppet king as the third member of the coalition. At this historical moment when the kingdom of Judah is under threat, the prophet Isaiah speaks these words to King Ahaz. The two allied kings have mustered an army and come to conquer the kingdom of Judah, depose Ahaz and set up a puppet king on the throne. No wonder Ahaz is scared!

God’s Faithfulness and Human Foolishness

Despite Ahaz’s previous unfaithfulness, the Lord pledges to save Judah, David’s kingdom, from the peril posed by the two-king alliance. The Lord wants to reassure Ahaz by offering a divine sign of the king’s choosing as confirmation of the prophet’s word. Rather than responding to the Lord’s invitation with a request, Ahaz pretends to be pious by saying he does not want to “tempt the LORD” (a citation of Deut 6:16). Of course, the Israelites had tested the LORD during the wilderness wanderings, and provoked his judgment. But here, the Lord is offering the king a sign not as an insincere trick to get him to sin, but as a powerful antidote to his lack of faith. Ahaz refuses to ask, showing his obstinance, his unwillingness to be converted even by a miracle. 2 Kings 16:7-8 tell us what Ahaz does instead: he makes an alliance with the powerful Assyrians against Israel and Syria. In fact, he pledges allegiance to Assyria and sends silver and gold from the Temple itself to firm up the offer. The Assyrians accept Ahaz as an ally and launch a counterattack against both kings’ capitals: Damascus and Samaria. Eventually, the Assyrians will break their agreement with Judah and come to attack it as well (2 Kings18).

Two Key Words

Two Hebrew words that underlie this text are important to know: almah and immanuel. The first word,almah in Isaiah 7:14, is translated as “virgin” by the New American Bible. This Hebrew word is a general purpose word for “young woman” (e.g. Gen 24:43) and there is actually another word, betulah, that specifically means “virgin” (e.g. Gen 24:16).  However, the ancient pre-Christian Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, translates almah in Isa 7:14 as parthenos, which means “virgin” in Greek. So when Matthew’s gospel quotes this passage in reference to Christ (Matt 1:23), it is quoting from the Septuagint Greek and showing that the prophecy was understood to be about a virgin birth, not just any birth.
The other key word is well known to us Catholics: immanuel. It is really a compound of two Hebrew words: immanu, meaning “with us”, and el, meaning “God.” So of course, the translation is “God with us.” This name for the child of the virgin indicates that God will come to dwell with us through this special child.

Two Fulfillments?

While Isaiah 7:14 mainly prophesies the virgin birth of Christ, one must ask whether Ahaz received a sign from God at all. The Lord asked him through the prophet to request a sign and since he does not, tells of a sign to be offered anyway. It would seem odd for the sign not to come to fulfillment at all for some 600 years. Did Ahaz receive a sign in his lifetime?
If you read the rest of Isaiah 7, you’ll see that the promises of the Lord here are not a bed of roses. Since Ahaz refused to accept the Lord’s blessing, the Lord will bring judgment upon his kingdom by means of Egypt and Assyria (7:18). Though Ahaz’s enemy kings will be brought low before the child is grown up (7:16), places that used to be fertile farmland will get covered in briers and thorns (7:24-25). God’s judgment is coming upon the kingdom of Judah.
Immediately following in chapter 8 is a description of the birth of Isaiah’s son named Maher-shalal-hashbaz, “one who hastens to plunder, one who hurries to loot” (8:3). The Lord promises that before he can talk, Damascus (Syria’s capital) will be despoiled by Assyria (8:4). This lines up with his promise about Immanuel in 7:16—that Israel and Syria will be deserted before he is grown up. And indeed, this prophecy is addressed to “O Immanuel” (8:8).
This is a little complicated, but I think what we can see here are two fulfillments. On the one hand, Isaiah begets a boy who is a concrete sign of judgment for Ahaz. This first “Immanuel” is conceived by natural means and born of a young woman. On the other hand, the prophecy points to a greater, more significant fulfillment—the birth of a son to the Virgin Mary by the power of God, to the birth of the everlasting Immanuel, to the birth of Jesus himself. While the first Immanuel (Maher-shalal-hashbaz) is a sign of God’s temporal judgment on his people for their unfaithfulness, the final Immanuel is a sign of God’s salvation, rescuing his people from the darkness of their own sin and establishing his reign in their hearts.
The great surprise of the virgin birth, when God intervenes in human history in an unprecedented and powerful way, sets the stage for the great salvation which the Baby of Bethlehem will win for us at Calvary. The greatest of all revelations begins with the most surprising of Christmas gifts, the virgin birth.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Pope Paul VI and a Miracle for Sainthood

Blessed Pope Paul VI may be on his way to canonization!  The following comes from La Stampa:

In a special issue entitled “It will be the year of Paul VI Saint”, the weekly magazine of the diocese of Brescia, La voce del popolo, writes that on 13 December, theologians of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Pope Montini, after a first free go-ahead had been given by the medical consultation of the Vatican Congregation itself. At this point it is necessary that the cardinals of the Congregation and, finally, the Pope express themselves on the same miracle.  

The miracle regards the birth of a girl from Verona called Amanda, who in 2014 had survived for months despite the fact the placenta was broken.  
Pope Francis beatified his predecessor on 19 October 2014, concluding the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family.  

“Rumors are so insistent and the next steps so fast to take, that everything indicates 2018 as Blessed Paul VI’s canonization year”, writes the diocesan newspaper of Brescia. The last official stage took place last December 13 in the theological commission. The miracle attributed to the intercession of John Baptist Montini about the healing of a fetus in prenatal age in 2014 was approved. The expectant mother native from Verona, at risk of miscarriage, a few days after the beatification of Montini in Brescia, went to the Sanctuary “delle Grazie”, to pray to the newly beatified Pope.  

Subsequently, a child in good health was born. After the doctors and theologians’ recognition, there are still a few more steps to be taken: the passage in the commission of cardinals, the final approval of the Pope and that of the Consistory with the official announcement and the definition of the date. But at this point, it is more than a hope. The month of October could be the right one. From 3 to 28 October in Rome, the 15th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on young people will be celebrated and will gather in the Vatican prelates from all over the world. What better opportunity to canonize in front of such a large portion of the College of Bishops, the other pontiff, after Saint John XXIII of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council? It will most likely take place on one of the first three Sundays of October, even if the most accredited date today seems to be the 21. Indeed, sooner or later, in 2018 Paul VI will be Saint! We praise the Lord to Whom we entrust the year that will come”. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Isaiah: The Prophet of Christmas

The following comes from Catholic Exchange:


More than any other, Isaiah is the prophet of Christmas.
Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.
For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace.
Those are Isaiah’s words and they have become as much a part and parcel of the Christmas story as the three kings of Orient, the inn with no room, and the herald angels singing. Isaiah’s prominence is reflected in the liturgies for Christmas. There are four liturgies for Christmas: the vigil, the night, the dawn, and the day Masses, and Isaiah is the Old Testament reading for all of them. (The Mass readings are listed here.)
Readings from Isaiah will continue to dominate this Christmas season. Isaiah is also very much a prophet of Advent. The voice of one crying out in the wilderness—the memorable epithet of John the Baptist—is taken from Isaiah.
Writing hundreds of years beforehand, just what was it that Isaiah saw? A fleeting glimpse of the truth? A few details from an otherwise impenetrable story?
To the contrary, Isaiah seems to have grasped not only the whole story of Christ—remember that he is also very much the prophet of the Passion—but also its theological and spiritual depths. Among the many texts of Isaiah read during the Advent and Christmas seasons, a number of particular themes about the truth of the Incarnation stand out.
Something wholly new. See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? So Isaiah 43:19 declares. Isaiah trembles with excitement at this sense of something wholly new and unexpected. The end of Isaiah 52, which is read for the Christmas day Mass, speaks of nations startled and kings standing speechless. They shall see what has not been told them, shall behold what they never have heard(Jewish Study Bible translation). A whole new world will come into being—one far removed from the trials, strife, and suffering of ours. It will be a world where swords will be beaten into plows and the lion will lay down with the lamb.
Longing of the world. While Isaiah foresaw the coming salvation as something wholly new, it was also something for which the world had been longing. This is especially suggested by recurring images of fresh water being poured out upon or bubbling up from dry desert lands. For example, Isaiah 44:3 prophesies that I will pour out water upon the thirsty ground, streams upon the dry land. Likewise, Isaiah 35:1declares that the desert and the parched land will be glad. And then there’s this inIsaiah 25:9And it will be said in that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited.
Abundant life. Along with images of flooding deserts there are also those that indicate a newness and abundance of life. The virgin will conceive and the barren woman with no children will rejoice at suddenly finding herself to have many. God will make thewilderness rejoice and blossom such that it will become even like a second Eden. Do not these motifs of abundant life call to mind the words of Jesus Himself in John 10:10I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
The light of the world. Isaiah is filled with images of light breaking in on the darkness. At the midnight Mass we read the beginning of Isaiah 9The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone. In Isaiah 42:9, this image is combined with the motif of prisoners who are being freed to suggest light that liberates. In order to convey the completely unexpected and miraculous newness of such light, Isaiah 42:16 then discusses this motif in terms of the healing of the blind: I will lead the blind on a way they do not know; by paths they do not know I will guide them. I will turn darkness into light before them.
From the gospels we know that the light that dispels the darkness of evil and leads us to God is Jesus. He is the light that frees us from our sins and heals our spiritual blindness. Indeed, even Christ describes Himself in John 8:12 as ‘the light of the world.’
Overwhelming joy. In Isaiah 52:8Your sentinels raise a cry, together they shout for joy. For they see directly, before their eyes, the Lord’s return to Zion. According toIsaiah 25:9We shall rejoice and be joyful in his salvation. This sense of overwhelming joy pervades Isaiah. The very heavens and earth will break out in joyful song. Even the wildernessthe barren woman, and the ruins of Jerusalem will rejoice.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Saint of the day: John of the Cross


Today we remember a great mystic in the Church! Saint John of the Cross (24 June 1542-–14 December 1591) was a major figure of the Counter-Reformation, a Spanish mystic, and Carmelite friar and priest, born at Fontiveros, a small village near Ávila, Spain.

The following comes from the Catholic Online Site:

Born in Spain in 1542, John learned the importance of self-sacrificing love from his parents. His father gave up wealth, status, and comfort when he married a weaver's daughter and was disowned by his noble family. After his father died, his mother kept the destitute family together as they wandered homeless in search of work. These were the examples of sacrifice that John followed with his own great love -- God.

When the family finally found work, John still went hungry in the middle of the wealthiest city in Spain. At fourteen, John took a job caring for hospital patients who suffered from incurable diseases and madness. It was out of this poverty and suffering, that John learned to search for beauty and happiness not in the world, but in God.

After John joined the Carmelite order, Saint Teresa of Avila asked him to help her reform movement. John supported her belief that the order should return to its life of prayer. But many Carmelites felt threatened by this reform, and some members of John's own order kidnapped him. He was locked in a cell six feet by ten feet and beaten three times a week by the monks. There was only one tiny window high up near the ceiling. Yet in that unbearable dark, cold, and desolation, his love and faith were like fire and light. He had nothing left but God -- and God brought John his greatest joys in that tiny cell.

After nine months, John escaped by unscrewing the lock on his door and creeping past the guard. Taking only the mystical poetry he had written in his cell, he climbed out a window using a rope made of stirps of blankets. With no idea where he was, he followed a dog to civilization. He hid from pursuers in a convent infirmary where he read his poetry to the nuns. From then on his life was devoted to sharing and explaining his experience of God's love.

His life of poverty and persecution could have produced a bitter cynic. Instead it gave birth to a compassionate mystic, who lived by the beliefs that "Who has ever seen people persuaded to love God by harshness?" and "Where there is no love, put love -- and you will find love."

John left us many books of practical advice on spiritual growth and prayer that are just as relevant today as they were then.

Charlene Richard: "The Little Cajun Saint" and God's Healing Power

The following comes from the Chicago Tribune:

Mary Lou Swanson’s body was shutting down after battling a rare and debilitating autoimmune disease affecting her brain for nearly a decade.

The 54-year-old North Aurora woman could no longer eat solid food. She had signed legal documents asking medical personnel not to resuscitate her if her heart stopped beating. And after talking through funeral plans with her husband, she relied on her religious beliefs to bring her peace in the face of death, which Swanson felt was closing in.

“I thought this is God’s will, and this is his answer to all my pain and suffering,” Swanson recalled. “At that point, I didn’t have much of a life, and I thought maybe he’s just giving me peace as a gift.”

What happened next is something Swanson herself admits is almost inconceivable.


After seeing a segment on the long-running program “Unsolved Mysteries” about a grave site in Louisiana where hundreds of people flock weekly to pray for healing, Swanson persuaded her husband to take her there.

Within a day after running her fingers over the tombstone of 12-year-old Charlene Richard, “the Little Cajun Saint” who, according to legend, offered up all her suffering to others when she died of leukemia in 1959, Swanson’s symptoms began to disappear. Weeks later, her doctor confirmed Swanson’s disease, limbic encephalitis — which affects about 1 in 100,000 people and can be fatal — had suddenly gone into remission.

She no longer needed the medicine and treatments she had relied on for years.

“We are not sure exactly what happened, and we are not sure why it reversed itself,” said Dr. Ronald Glas, a family physician at Edward Hospital who has overseen Swanson’s care since before she was ever sick. “I’m not sure what to attribute it to.”


Read the rest here.




A PRAYER TO CHARLENE RICHARD

Charlene, when you were only twelve years old, you showed heroic faith, hope, and love; dying of leukemia, you joined yourself to Jesus on His Cross and offered your intense pain for others. You thereby echoed St. Pauls words to his people in Colossians 1, 24: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His Body, the Church.


Charlene, I believe you are with God. Please ask our Heavenly Father, His only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit to grant me the following favor: (mention favor sought)


Charlene, thank you for helping me. May Jesus Christ always be praised. May Mary, Jesus Ever-Virgin Mother, always be called blessed.  Amen.




Monday, December 11, 2017

Ten Ways to Fall in Love with the Eucharist

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:


The saints are the mad-lovers of Jesus; they were on earth and now are in heaven loving God for all eternity.  In this article, we will give a list of what some saints have said in an excess of love for the most Holy Eucharist. Then we will give ten keys to unlock the treasure-case of gems to love the Eucharist more in our lives! Let us read and meditate on the fire of the saints and the Eucharist:
  •  “Holy Communion is the shortest and the safest way to Heaven.” (St. Pius X)
  •  “If the angels could be jealous of men, they would be for one reason: Holy Communion.” (St. Maximilian Kolbe)
  •  “In one day the Eucharist will make you produce more for the glory of God than a whole lifetime without it.” (St. Peter Julian Eymard)
  •  “How I love the feasts!… I especially loved the processions in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. What a joy it was for me to throw flowers beneath the feet of God!… I was never so happy as when I saw my roses touch the sacred Monstrance.” (St. Therese the Little Flower)
  •  “When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.” (Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta)
  •  “From the Eucharist comes strength to live the Christian life and zeal to share that life with others.”  (St. John Paul II)
  •  “This is the bread of everlasting life which supports the substance of your soul.” (St. Ambrose)
  •  “The longer you stay away from Communion, the more your soul will be weak, and in the end you will become dangerously indifferent.”  (St. John Bosco)
  •  “The Eucharist is the consummation of the whole spiritual life.” (St. Thomas Aquinas)
Now let us dive into ten golden keys that can open up the infinite treasure house of jewels so as to derive countless graces and blessings from Jesus’ greatest Gift to the entire world: Holy Mass and Holy Communion, His Body, Blood Soul and Divinity!
Faith.  Beg the Lord for a greater faith in the sublime mystery of the most Holy Eucharist.   Let us say with the Apostles Saint Thomas:  “My Lord and my God.” Let us also so the prayer of the man of the Gospel: “Lord I believe but strengthen my faith!”
Visit. Make it a habit to visit the most Blessed Sacrament as often as is possible.  Hopefully when we die Jesus will not reproach us with these words: “Whenever I see a church I stop to make a visit so that when I die the Lord will not say:  “Who is it!”  Friends meet to chat, talk, and enjoy each other’s company; so should we, in visiting and talking frequently to Jesus.
Spiritual Communion. Highly recommended by St. Alphonsus Liguouri as well as Pope Benedict XVI in his document “Sacramentum Caritatis” is the frequent practice of the Spiritual Communion.   It can be done in a simple manner and as often as your heart desires.   You can say the simple prayer:  “Jesus I believe that you are truly present in the Tabernacle in your Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Now I cannot receive you sacramentally but come at least spiritually into my heart.”  Then enter into your heart and thank, praise and love the Lord who has come spiritually into your soul.  This can fan the flame of love for our Eucharistic Lord.
Read John 6.  The Gospel of John chapter six has three parts: Jesus multiples the loaves, walks on water, and then He gives a sublime discourse related to the Eucharist; actually it is a Eucharistic prophecy.   Best known as the “Bread of life discourse”, Jesus promises to give us the Bread of Life.  Also Jesus points out in no unclear terms that our immortal salvation depends upon our eating His Body and drinking His Blood, which obviously refers to Holy Communion.  Read and meditate this powerful chapter!
Fifteen Minutes. Years ago there was published a small booklet with the title “The fifteen minutes”.  It is a little gem where Jesus encourages the reader to enter into simple but profound conversation with Him. Basically Jesus wants to be our Best Friend and challenges us to open up the secret mysteries of our heart to Him and only He can truly understand the inner secrets, wounds and mysteries in our heart.   Read and pray through this booklet if possible in front of the Blessed Sacrament!
Holy Hour. Get into the habit of making a daily Holy Hour in front of the most Blessed Sacrament. It will transform your life if you persevere in the practice.  The Great Servant of God, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, who made his Holy Hour faithfully for more than fifty years, called it THE HOUR OF POWER!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Stepping Deeper into Advent with Our Lady

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
Advent is a largely ignored season of the Church’s liturgical calendar. The main reason is that many of us live in cultures where the Christmas season begins on Thanksgiving, or even on Halloween. The stores and streets are decorated for Christmas earlier and earlier each year. Unfortunately, this means that a great many Catholics miss out on the motions of the liturgical year, including the beginning of a new year within the Church. It is no surprise that the Church begins the year in waiting. Advent is a season filled with meditations on the Christian life.
Advent is multi-faceted. We are waiting for the great Parousia, the Second Coming of Christ. The readings that begin the Advent season conjure up the images of Christ coming on the clouds as the Son of Man as seen in Daniel’s vision. This past Sunday we heard St. John the Baptist preparing the way for Christ. We are in a time of preparation; a time we need in our busy lives. Christmas is not something we check off our list each year. It is a holy season that goes well past the Christmas Eve Vigil which marks the beginning of the Christmas season. It is still Christmas Day on December 26, 27, 28 and on until the Octave ends. Then comes Epiphany and the Church still lives in the liturgical color of white until the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, at least in the Latin Rite.
Advent is the time we acknowledge that we are constantly waiting upon the Lord. We are waiting for him to return in His glory and wipe away every tear. We are waiting for the day we stand before the Beatific Vision upon our own death. We wait in the darkness of December for the tiny baby who is the Incarnate Word of God. Waiting is a part of the Christian journey, in fact, it is a critical part of the Christian life. We are not called to skip over Advent and jump right into Christmas. Instead the Church reminds us of the deep longing of our hearts, which is to dwell with Christ. We are reminded of the long wait of the Israelites as they awaited the Messiah. We too wait for Him to come as we watch the bloodshed, suffering, and pain of this mortal coil.
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.
Psalm 13:1-6
The best guide in this period of waiting is Our Heavenly Mother. She quietly carried and waited upon Our Lord for the 40 weeks as she held him in her womb. From the moment of her fiat at St. Gabriel’s announcement, she waited patiently to see the face of her Savior and ours. It is through her that we can contemplate the joy and sorrow of our waiting and learn what is required of us on this journey to holiness.

Humility

The great sin of Lucifer and the other fallen angels was pride. The Fall of Mankind was also mitigated by pride and a desire to be God. Humility is not self-deprecation, rather it is a proper ordering of ourselves before the Most Holy Trinity. We ask, who am I before God? Mary is the example par excellence of humility.
The angel begins with these words of humble greeting: “Hail, Mary, full of grace.” Hail, that is, most agreeable to God and full of his gifts, “the Lord is with you, and you are blessed above all women” (cf. Luke 1:28). This discourse is in a much loftier tone than the one that was addressed to Zechariah. To him the angel said, “Do not be afraid,” as to a man who has something to fear; and “your prayers have been heard.” Yet what is announced to Mary is something so sublime and excellent that she could not have asked for it in her prayers. Mary, humble, hidden, small in his eyes, could not have begun to think that an angel would greet her, especially not with such noble words. It is humility that made her heart troubled.
Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Mediations for Advent, page 41-42
When the Annunciation occurs, Mary is stunned that God has chosen her. She knows the greatness of God and her place in relation to Him, but she does not allow that knowledge to stop her from serving Him. She understands that humility also requires an acceptance of what God wants in our own lives. Humility is the beginning of the virtues of obedience and charity. In knowing our place, we are better suited to accept the mission God gives us in our own lives.
Humility should be at the forefront of our minds during this Advent season. How strange, glorious, and unexpected it is that the God of the Universe would lower Himself and become a babe in a human mother’s arms. This is not some story we accept as quaint, but true. The Incarnation is deeply disconcerting and a complete reversal of the power structures human beings have put in place since the Fall. We should fall on our faces in humility before the babe who is the Son of God and marvel at the wonderful things He has done for us. Advent is the time we prepare for this incredible mystery and we do so resting in the care of the Mother who bore Him.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Novena to the Immaculate Conception: Day 9

Don Bosco Credited all his achievements to the Blessed Virgin; in his sermons and talks he kept repeating that all the success of the Oratory and the Congregation was due to Mary's goodness.  Throughout his life he never took an important step without first entrusting his plans to her protection.

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope.
To Thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To Thee do we send up our sighs mourning
and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate,
Thine Eyes of Mercy toward us,
and after this our exile show us the
Blessed Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

O Mary, conceived without sin
Pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Saint Who Punched a Heretic


The following comes from Brandon Vogt

Today marks the feast of St. Nicholas, a saint remembered by most for his association with Santa Claus, some for his commendable charity, but a small number for his famous punch against a third-century heretic.
As the story goes, during the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea (AD 325) there was a big argument over the divinity of Christ. Arius, a heretical bishop, believed that Christ was not divine, but rather just a creature. The Council challenged him to defend his claims in front of his brother bishops, including jolly old St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas tried to listen patiently but he considered Arius’ proposal so radical, so heretical, that he could no longer contain himself. In the middle of the speech, he rose with a scowl, charged toward Arius, and punched him right in the face.
The noted Punch is memorialized in many icons and works of art, including this piece:
Unfortunately, the Punch got St. Nichols into serious trouble. The Emperor Constantine was present at the Council, and he was so alarmed by St. Nicholas’ act of violence that he and the other bishops stripped Nicholas of his office and confiscated his two episcopal markers: his personal copy of the Gospels and his pallium, the vestment worn by all bishops in the East.
But the story didn’t stop there. According to tradition:
 
“After Nicholas was deposed, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Nicholas who was being held in a prison cell for his fist-fight with the heretic.

Our Lord Jesus Christ asked Saint Nicholas, “Why are you here?” Nicholas responded, “Because I love you, my Lord and my God.”

Christ then presented Nicholas with his copy of the Gospels. Next, the Blessed Virgin vested Nicholas with his episcopal pallium, thus restoring him to his rank as a bishop.

When the Emperor Constantine heard of this miracle, he immediately ordered that Nicholas be reinstated as a bishop in good standing for the Council of Nicea. Today we recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday so we know how the controversy played out. The bishops at Nicea sided with Saint Nicholas and Saint Athanasius and they condemned Arius as a heretic.

To this very day, we still recite in the Creed that Christ is “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father.””

St. Nicholas’ redemption as a bishop is memorialized in the icon below. Notice Christ (left) holding out the book of the Gospels, Mary (right) holding out the episcopal pallium, and Nicholas (center) holding the Gospels and wearing the pallium:

Novena to the Immaculate Conception: Day 8

The boys often said among themselves: "Don Bosco must be very influential with Our Lady because she obtains so many favors for him!"

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope.
To Thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To Thee do we send up our sighs mourning
and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate,
Thine Eyes of Mercy toward us,
and after this our exile show us the
Blessed Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

O Mary, conceived without sin
Pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Novena to the Immaculate Conception: Day 7

With his usual zeal, Dominic Savio selected several of hs most trusted friends and asked them to join him in founding a sodality to be called the Immaculate Conception Sodality. Its purpose was to seek the protection of the Mother of God in life and especially at the hour of death by promoting practices of piety in honor of Mary Immaculate as well as frequent communion. This initiative greatly consoled Don Bosco.

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope.
To Thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To Thee do we send up our sighs mourning
and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate,
Thine Eyes of Mercy toward us,
and after this our exile show us the
Blessed Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

O Mary, conceived without sin
Pray for us who have recourse to thee!