Friday, November 15, 2019

What do Catholics believe about Salvation?

Monday, November 11, 2019

An Encounter of Saints: Padre Pio and Karol Wojtyla

The following comes from The Path Less Taken:

From a fascinating article by Frank M. Rega. 
Shortly after World War II was over, a young Polish priest who was studying in Rome, Fr. Karol Wojtyla, visited Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo. This encounter took place around 1947 or 1948. At that time in post-war Italy, it was possible to have access to Padre Pio, since travel was difficult and great crowds were not besieging the Friary. The young priest spent almost a week in San Giovanni Rotondo during his visit, and was able to attend Padre Pio’s Mass and make his confession to the saint. Apparently, this was not just a casual encounter, and the two spoke together at length during Fr. Wojtyla’s stay. Their conversations gave rise to rumors in later years, after the Polish prelate had been elevated to the Papacy, that Padre Pio had told him he would become Pope. The story persists to the present day, even though on two or three occasions "Papa Wojtyla" denied it.
     Recently, new information about this visit has come to light, according to a new book in Italian published by Padre Pio's Friary, Il Papa e Il Frate, written by Stefano Campanella (1).  As reported in this book, the future Pope and future Saint had a very interesting conversation.  During this exchange, Fr. Wojtyla asked Padre Pio which of his wounds caused the greatest suffering. From this kind of personal question, we can see that they must have already talked together for some time and had become at ease with each other. The priest expected Padre Pio to say it was his chest wound, but instead the Padre replied, "It is my shoulder wound, which no one knows about and has never been cured or treated." This is extremely significant, not only because it reveals that Padre Pio bore this wound, but because, as far as is known, the future pope is the only one to whom Padre Pio ever revealed existence of this secret wound.
     Centuries earlier, Our Lord himself had revealed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux in a vision, that his shoulder wound from carrying the heavy wooden cross caused him his greatest suffering, and that the cross tore into his flesh right up to the shoulder bone.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Saint of the Day: Elizabeth of the Trinity


The following comes from the Patron Saints Index:

Daughter of Captain Joseph Catez and Marie Catez. Her father died when the girl was seven, leaving her mother to raise Elizabeth and her sister Marguerite. Noted as a lively, popular girl, extremely stubborn, given to fits of rage, with great reverence for God, and an early attraction to a life of prayer and reflection. Gifted pianist. She visited the sick and taught catechism to children.

Much against her mother’s wishes, she entered the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Dijon, France on 2 August 1901. Though noted for great spiritual growth, she was also plagued with periods of powerful darkness, and her spiritual director expressed doubts over Elizabeth’s vocation. She completed her noviate, and took her final vows on 11 January 1903. She became a spiritual director for many, and left a legacy of letters and retreat guides. Her dying words: I am going to Light, to Love, to Life!

Friday, November 1, 2019

Why We Love the Saints

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
Having the family background that I do (I am the only one in my family of origin that is still Catholic—everyone else now worships at the local Assembly of God) I have been asked, “Why do Catholics pray to and worship saints?” I have been told that it is idolatry and it takes away from Jesus’ role as the “one mediator between God and mankind” (1 Tim. 2:15).  So, this let us look at saints and their powerful witness and intercession. I have also been asked, “Why don’t you just pray directly to God?”
Let’s look at the term “saints” in general.  There are actually a few categories of them.  In Scripture, St. Paul seems to apply the terms “holy ones” and “saints” inter-changeably….but restricted to those who were baptized into the Faith.  Today we could also add the term “the faithful” to describe the baptized. It is also used to describe all those saints who have died but who have not been canonized—and those whose quiet holiness is known only to God. It is for this reason the Church celebrates them collectively on November 1st—All Saints’ Day.  At first it was celebrated for those who were martyred for the faith; there were so many in the early centuries of the Church that separate feast days could not be held — especially when large groups were persecuted and martyred at the same time. The third “level” of saints in the Church is of those who have been canonized.
But why does the Church make saints to begin with? Actually, it doesn’t.  It is God himself who—from age to age—has raised up certain people unto himself…people to show us the way to the “fullness of charity” (Eucharistic Prayer II) even while here on earth.  They were (and are) powerful instruments used by God for his purpose.
In the Old Testament God raised up Noah, Abraham, Isaac, David, Solomon, Judith, Deborah, Esther and many others.  All canonizations are within the context of the Sacred Liturgy which is the highest form of praise one can give to God.  Eucharist means Thanksgiving and we give thanks for the great mercy and example he gives us through these powerful saints to inspire us and give us hope. The process of canonization is lengthy and nothing is done lightly or arbitrarily. Prudence and the test of time are necessary in order to avoid a rush to judgment about the saint’s entry into heaven.  Not only bishops and medical doctors have a part in the determination process but psychotherapists who are well versed in the Catholic Faith as well.
What are the criteria of a person’s life to make them worthy of sainthood? While one might first tend to think about their holiness of life, prayer life, good deeds to others, writings and all the usual matters  or perhaps think of their abilities to work miracles (St. Padre Pio), to levitate (St. Teresa of Avila), to have infused knowledge (St. Joseph of Cupertino), visions (St. Margaret Mary Alacoque), apparitions (Lourdes), bi-location (St. Anthony of Padua) or have survived for several years by consuming nothing but the Holy Eucharist (St. Catherine of Siena) or such other “mystical phenomena”,  the absolute first and highest among all others are obedience to the Church and heroic virtue.
St. Ignatius of Antioch tells us in his letter to the Ephesians that it is not enough to simply honor the bishop — as important as that is.  Rather, “we ought to regard the bishop as the Lord himself”.  One of the great documents that came out of Vatican II,Lumen Gentium, calls the bishop the “Vicar of Christ” (¶27).  Why obedience? It was—as Jesus himself said—his “food”; that is, to do the Father’s will (Jn 4:34). When we live our lives in obedience to our holy bishops and/or religious superiors it is then that we resemble Jesus most perfectly. Heroic virtue often goes hand in hand with obedience to the Church for quite often the saints were greatly tested by Church leadership and other religious authority.
Consider St. John of the Cross, the Carmelite monk who was the reformer of the Discalced Carmelite order of men. Although lead by God (and invited/urged by Teresa of Avila) to undertake this great reform, he was thrown into the monastery prison for some nine months, allowed a change of clothes after three months and received little food.  Rather than rebel, it was during this time in the dark, damp, rat-infested prison that John wrote one of his greatest poems—A Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ; it is still considered even today as a spiritual masterpiece and one of the greatest works ever in Spanish literature. That’s heroic virtue.
Heroic virtue is refusing to defend oneself in the face of false accusations by religious superiors and being expelled from one’s  community (as in the case of St. Gerard Majella) and relying on God to eventually give defense and bring forth the truth. Gerard was ultimately exonerated and allowed to return to his community. The parents of Thérèse Martin (St. Thérèse of Lisieux) are candidates for sainthood for their heroic virtue of giving all five of their daughters to religious monastic life—four to Carmel with Leonie the middle child going to the Visitation Nuns in Paray-le-Monial. Back then when a woman entered into a monastery, the parents were no longer allowed to see their daughters or, at best, only once or twice a year and only through a grille. Often the parents would suffer hardship in not having anyone to tend to them in their old age. Why suffer all of this? Love of their Beloved Jesus and love of his holy and glorious Church and a strong, passionate desire to imitate him unto death.
“Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
In the time of their judgment they shall shine
and dart about as sparks through stubble” (Wis. 3:5-7).
Let us now return to our question at hand—about praying to saints. Every Protestant who may read this will admit that they have been asked at one time or other to intercede for someone in prayer.  Yet no Protestant would ever reply, “Don’t ask me…go directly to God with your request”.  If you and I could ask another human (even in our sinfulness) to make intercession for us or the needs of someone else, we can certainly ask the saints who are surely alive in Christ.  Part of the process of canonization is that once a candidate has been declared “Venerable” a miracle must be attributed to his/her intercession before he/she can be beatified.  From there another miracle must occur prior to the canonization.  Miracles that occur through the intercession of the saints and “hold” (a person must be cured for five years before it is accepted…it must also be instantaneous, complete, inexplicable) is the acceptable proof that they are indeed in Heaven.
But—”Jesus is the sole mediator”.  According to Merriam-Webster, a mediator is a legal term—one who “mediates between parties who are at variance”—such as we were before the great Atonement of Jesus on the Cross—we who had gone “astray like sheep” (1 Pet. 2:25).  Jesus then is the sole mediator of our salvation.  The term “mediator” is not the same as “intercessor”. The Greek for “mediator” in this passage is “mesites” (μεσίτης) while the Greek for “intercession” is “enteuxis” (ἔντευξις).  In the same part of Paul’s First Letter to Timothy quoted above he “urges…first of all that prayers, petitions, intercessions “enteuxis” (ἔντευξις) and thanksgivings be made for all people” (2:1) …nothing here about going to God direct. If Jesus is truly the sole mediator of our prayers it is because of both his mercy and generosity that allows us to pray in Christ throughthe Holy Spirit—our prayer is not outside of that of Jesus.
Even in the Book of Revelation the “prayers of God’s people went up before God from the angel’s hand,” (8:4)…not the hand of Jesus.  If this is in a vision to John from Jesus himself, it must be God’s design that it happen this way.  Rev. 5:8 calls the incense itself the “prayers of God’s people”. Therefore when a priest and especially a bishop (because within him lies the fullness of the priesthood and he is Vicar of Christ) uses incense at Mass it is richly symbolic of him sending our prayers and the Eucharistic Sacrifice to God in Heaven—a breath-taking thought! The same thing is said about praying to the Virgin Mary…she keeps nothing for herself and simply directs us, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5).  John does not tell us that the embarrassed couple even approached Mary about their dilemma. Ever-watchful mother that she is, she saw a need and acted on it. Her faith in Jesus’ ability brought about his first of many miracles.
Let us never shy away from asking Mary and the holy saints of God in Heaven to pray for and to intercede for us.  Whatever they obtain for us glorifies God—not them.  If God answers your prayer—made either to him direct or through any number of intercessors (whether heavenly or not)—feel free to send the customary offering of $10.00 to have a Mass of Thanksgiving said in gratitude. It is the perfect act of thanks. Or, step out in faith like the first (would be) male saint in the U.S. on his way to canonization, the Venerable Solanus Casey who would praise and thank God for answered prayers –before they were answered. Why not act now have that Mass said soon?

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Conquering Loneliness

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:


In the 60’s the Beatles composed a song and an album: “Sergeant Pepper’s lonely heart-club band.” World-famous for this song and album, the Beatles were placing their finger on the pulse of the modern society, a society with many individuals suffering from a crushing and almost unsupportable loneliness.
There are many ways that individuals cope with loneliness; some are excellent, others are good to a certain extent, others are bad and still others are deadly. A crushing loneliness can grip an individual in such a way that depression sets in and he/she feels life has no real meaning and questions why even live. Some, even, contemplate a recourse to suicide.
Others do not go so far as to commit physical suicide, but they do have recourse to a slow form of damaging their lives; you might even call it gradual suicide. These are the individuals that seek and escape from the crushing weight of loneliness by having recourse to vices; these escapes that we call vices are many; we will mention a few. Drugs, gambling, drinking to excess, overeating, the use of pornography as well as the use of sexuality outside the context of sacramental and marital commitment. At times individuals have recourse to more than one of these vices as an escape from their crushing loneliness. The more dense and crushing the loneliness the more they cling to one or more of these vices!
This being said, what are wholesome ways that we can cope with loneliness in our lives and maybe we can teach others proper and correct ways to deal with this modern, prevalent reality?
For believers what will be explained will not be a huge surprise! The key to coping with a heavy and crushing loneliness can be summarized in one simple word: GOD!!!
  1. GOD’S OMNIPRESENCE.  The word “omnipresence” means in the most simple of terms: God is everywhere! No matter where we go, God is present to us.  Indeed we can block God out of our lives, forget Him, be oblivious to His presence, or like an atheist deny that He even exists. Still this does not deny the fact that God exists.  I can say a wall in front of my face is not present, but if I walk into it I will bruise my face or worse yet even get a concussion.  St. Paul quoting a Greek poet encapsulates this concept with these words:  “In Him we live and move and have our being.”  The Psalmist expresses God’s omnipresence with utmost clarity and precision: “Where can I hide from your spirit? If I ascend to the heavens, you are there. If I lie down in Sheol, you are there too. If I fly with the wings of dawn and alight beyond the sea even there your hand will guide me, your right hand hold me fast. If I say, “surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light. Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one.”(Psalm 139: 7-12)
  1. DIVINE INDWELLING THROUGH GRACE.  One of the hallmarks of Carmelite spirituality is that of the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity in our soul through sanctifying grace. If we conserve grace within our soul by avoiding mortal sin then not only are we surrounded by God (His Omnipresence), but He is truly present in the very depths of our soul. If we like we can talk to this Triune God—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as often as we like and as long as we like.  How great is our God!
  1.  JESUS AS FRIEND.  In the course of the Last Supper discourse, Holy Thursday night, Jesus spoke very tenderly to the Apostles as well as to us. Jesus said:  “I do not call you servants because the servant does not know what the Master is about, but I call you FRIENDS…” What a consoling truth and what an efficacious remedy to overcome modern loneliness: to recognize, experience and cultivate a deep and lasting FRIENDSHIP with Jesus!  Engraved below a beautiful painting of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus are written the words in Spanish:  “Jesus, el Amigo que nunca falla.”Translation: “Jesus is the Friend that never fails us.”How true!  We all fail Jesus every time we decide to sin, but He never fails us. For that reason we read and meditate the words from the Book of Revelation: “Behold I stand at the door and knock. Whoever opens the door I will come in and dine with him and him with me.”(Rev. 3:20) Indeed striving with all of the fiber of our being to grow in friendship with Jesus can prove to be one of the most efficacious means to cope with loneliness and if we are struggling to overcome some vice—whatever it might be: drink, porn, drugs, despair!  Beyond the shadow of a doubt, Friendship with Jesus is the most consoling, solid, noble, satisfying, and capable of constant growth.
  1.  UNLOADING TO MY FRIEND JESUS.  Years ago a wonderful moive came out in Spanish with the title:  Marcelino, Pan y vino. The essence of this film is this orphan-boy(Marcelino) adopted by the Franciscan community grows up with the Frailes and then Marcelino meets his best friend: Jesus as He hangs on the cross in one of the upper rooms. The little boy immediately strikes up a friendship with Jesus crucified. He talks to Jesus and Jesus responds to the little boy. Constantly, on the sly, the little boy visits Jesus and talks to Him. Not only does the little boy talk to Jesus but consoles Him with concrete gestures. Noticing Jesus’ bones jutting out, he brings Him bread and wine. Then he brings Jesus his blanket so that He would not suffer cold. The little boy seeing the head crowned with piercing thorns, he climbs a ladder to relieve Jesus of the suffering by actually taking the crown off His head.  Growing deeper and deeper in their friendship, something has always weighed heavy on the heart of the little boy—the absence of a loving mother. Marcelino opens his aching heart to Jesus about being orphan to the love of a mother. Jesus responds by allowing the little boy to see “His mother”. The movie culminates with a loud noise, the little boy falling back (actually dying), so that he is taken up to heaven to rest in the arms of Mary, his heavenly Mother. Therefore, a key element of coping with loneliness, conquering loneliness is not to deny our loneliness nor to deny our problems. If done our loneliness and problems will get worse. The key is to talk to Jesus as well as the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our dear and loving Mother about our loneliness and problems. Once a problem is shared with a loving heart the problem diminishes greatly or will even disappear.
  1. JESUS: YOUR EUCHARISTIC FRIEND AND COMPANION. One of the greatest remedies to cope with or conquer loneliness is to establish a deep faith, confidence, and love for Jesus (your best Friend) in the context of the Blessed Sacrament, Mass, and Holy Eucharist. Establish a habit of visiting your Friend Jesus present in the Tabernacle in His Eucharistic Presence. Attend daily Mass if you have the time. Receive Jesus in Holy Communion with great love and devotion. After receiving Him in Holy Communion spend some time after Mass; close your eyes and talk to your Friend Jesus who is now living in the very depths of your soul. Tell Him everything that is on your mind, in your soul, all that is present in the very depths of your heart. This is the closest and most intimate union that can exist on earth—the union of our heart with the Sacred Heart of Jesus present in you after Holy Communion.
If we establish a deep and dynamic Friendship with Jesus and Mary in this life that crushing loneliness that we experience will be lifted like the sun that dissipates the early morning clouds, or like the dew that evaporates on the morning grass. Still more important, if Jesus is your best Friend now in time in this present world, then when we pass from this world to the next He will be our best Friend forever in heaven, where loneliness will no longer exist.
Therefore none of us have to belong to the Sergeant Pepper’s lonely heart-club band. Rather we belong to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

An Archbishop Sheen Quote for Today

“Contact with the Divine is a privilege that can similarly turn into indifference unless each day one tries to get a step closer to the Lord… The only defense against acedia, against the tragic loss of divine reality, is a daily renewal of faith in Christ. The priest who has not kept near the fires of the tabernacle can strike no sparks from the pulpit.”
                 —Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Healing through the Blessed Sacrament

The following comes from the Georgia Bulletin:

A healing service flowed from the opening Mass of the Eucharistic Congress as a monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament was placed on the altar. 


“The Holy Spirit has already begun the work of healing he intends to accomplish,” said Father Tim Hepburn, leading the bilingual service with Father Jorge Carranza.
Encouraging the faith of those seeking healing, Father Hepburn recalled Scripture stories of Paul and Silas, beaten and in prison, who began to sing praises to God despite their suffering. As they sang the building began to shake and the doors of the jail flew open.
“We are entering into the worship of God … and as we enter into our worship of the Lord, Jesus is going to open doors for our healing, even now,” he said.
The two priests alternated praying in English and Spanish, while musicians quietly sang consoling and simple words of faith. “Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal. … All who are broken, lift up your face. O wanderer, come home. You’re not too far.”
Many stories in Scripture tell of people crying out, “Son of David, have mercy on me,” Father Hepburn said. “There is story after story of people who are sick, who are in a dark place, who are depressed, who found this cry in their hearts.”
“Can you remember one time in the Bible when Jesus said no? There is not one time. … We want you to cry out. This is a healing service and this is the place where you cry out, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me.’”
Quietly, he called forward teams of lay people who had volunteered and been trained to assist at the service. While they were blessed and they went to prayer stations on the perimeter of the hall, identified as Spanish or English prayer teams, Father Hepburn reminded everyone that the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament on the altar was the focus. Those who wanted individual prayer went to the prayer stations while the rest of the congregation continued to pray and sing worship songs, following the lead of the priests and musicians.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the priests voiced prayers for anyone who felt they had been forgotten, for couples who yearn for children and have been unable to conceive a child or adopt a child, for the broken-hearted, for those with mental health problems, and for other needs.
One by one, people began to draw closer to the monstrance. They knelt in the center aisle of the hall. Some were weeping. Throughout this time, the prayer teams around the edge of the room individually ministered to people seeking prayer. They continued to do so for more than an hour, even after Benediction was prayed and the monstrance was taken from the hall.

“Jesus is the healer”

César Soto of St. Joseph Church, in Marietta, was one drawn toward the monstrance.
Afterward, he explained that he experienced a conversion beginning four years ago.
“It came the hard way, but I thank him because he didn’t come for the saints. He came for us, for the sinners,” said Soto, who works as a cook.
He was diagnosed with cancer affecting his tongue. The doctor told his family he might not be able to speak after surgery, but he has kept his speech and uses it to tell other people about Jesus, he said.
“I wanted everyone to know about him. Lord, you allowed me to talk again. I want to talk about you. … At the beginning I said, why me. Now I know he is using me for the conversion of my family, the conversion of my co-workers.”