Thursday, October 31, 2013

Build Self Esteem in Four Words

The following comes from Fr. Dwight Longenecker:
I was doing some research on the self help industry and listened to some tapes by a guy who said his recipe for self esteem was to look in the mirror and repeat like a mantra, “I like myself, I like myself, I like myself.” I thought if he needed that much convincing then building self esteem was probably a lost cause.
To stand things on their head the fact of the matter is that saying “Have mercy on me a sinner.” Is the best way to build true self esteem. It’s shallow but fashionable to complain about “Catholic guilt” and moan and groan about how the Catholic Church expects everybody to grovel in the mud and says, “I am a miserable worm and no man.”
This is of course, a lie from the pit. It is an abuse and a misunderstanding of the Catholic concept of both sin and mercy.
The Book of Romans defines sin saying, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” That’s what sin is. It’s simple. It is to fall short of God’s glory. God’s glory is what we were created for. St Irenaeus says, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” Therefore to be a sinner is to be less than fully alive. To say, “I am a sinner” is simply to admit that we have missed the mark. We’re a work in progress. We’re still climbing the mountain. We’re not there yet.
This brings huge self esteem because it is a dose of reality. It doesn’t mean we hang our heads and wallow in all the things we are ashamed of. It simply means we admit that we are not yet perfect. We need help. We are created good in God’s image, but we are wounded and that wound needs healing. This is real self esteem and this is real humility for humility also is reality. It is being honest about ourselves and our destiny.
So to say, “I am a Sinner” is actually a liberating and cheerful saying. Yep! It’s true! I’m a sinner. It’s a fact. So are you. So are we all. The next fact is that I can’t be different on my own. I need help. I need the Mercy.
When we say “have mercy” we think of being caught at something, hauled before the judge and pleading for a shorter sentence. We think “Have Mercy!” means “Let me off the hook. Let up. Take it easy!” Well maybe, but there’s more to it than that. The Mercy is simply God’s radiating love. Bl. Pope John Paul says “Mercy is Love’s second name”
Therefore “Have Mercy” means “Give me the Love. Give me the Divine Love. Give me the radiance of your goodness and grace dear God!” God’s mercy is overflowing like his love. It is not so much that he gives mercy and love, but as St John says, “God IS Love.” God radiates love and mercy as the sun radiates heat and light.
This is the message of mercy that is most needed by humanity today. A message that God’s love and power are available. They are there and  we only need to ask. In fact, the Scriptures and the liturgy overflow with reference to the Mercy and give us the opportunity to ask for the Mercy. Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, Kyrie Eleison. Lord Have Mercy. The Jesus prayer of the Eastern Church is one continuous request for the Mercy. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me a Sinner.”
But there’s a rub.
Not only do we need to ask, but we need to obey. The greatest reason why we do not experience the mercy is because we do not obey what the Merciful One has told us to do. It is only in living by faith and obedience that we walk in the light and know the light and experience the Mercy. If you live your own way in disobedience to God, then you will not experience the mercy.
This is not because God is with holding the Mercy as some kind of punishment, but because the experience of the Mercy is linked intrinsically to the obedience of the Mercy. You know the Mercy as you obey the Mercy just as you gain nutrition from eating. The two are linked together. You cannot have one without the other.
Why do you not experience the Mercy? Why do you not know the joy of the Mercy fully? Because there is something in your life you will not or cannot give up. There is something in your life that you will not or cannot do–even though you know you should.
We’ve come full circle. Who have I met in life that has shown me the most amazing confidence, self esteem, humility and power in the world? The saints. I’ve met saints and they never worry about self esteem because their personalities are fused and infused with the Divine Mercy. On the other hand, the people I’ve met with the lowest self esteem are those who are ignoring or disobeying the Divine Mercy.
They might have the kind of fake self esteem (kind of like a fake sun tan or a facelift) the guy talking to the mirror had, but beneath that they loathe themselves.

Fr. Robert Barron on Who God Is and Who God Is Not

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Babel by Mumford and Sons

St. Dominic Savio, the boy who insisted on growing up

The following comes from Dawn Eden:

I wrote to you last week to tell you about my “press agent” St. Dominic Savio. Today I am writing, as I promised, to tell you about why the saint, who died a few weeks short of his fifteenth birthday (making him the youngest canonized saint whose death was not by martyrdom), is also a dear friend, patron, and model of life for me.
The best source we have on Dominic Savio is the story of his life written by another saint, Don Bosco, who admitted Dominic to his Oratory school and there became his mentor.
Reading Don Bosco’s account, the first thing I notice about Dominic Savio is that he seemed to live with one foot on earth and the other in heaven.Although he abhorred fights and lewdness, Bosco stresses that he was no plaster saint. He was a normal boy who enjoyed doing the things boys do:
He was the life of the games at recreation. He did not monopolize the conversation or keep butting in, but if silence came he was always ready with something interesting, a difficulty which had cropped up in class or an interesting story. The others were always glad to be with him. If someone started grumbling or criticizing, he would raise a laugh over something else and so distract them and dispel any word of criticism.
His cheerful smile and spirit of zest made him popular also with those who were not too fond of religious things. They were always glad to be in his company and whenever he gently chided them it was taken in good part.
Yet, at the same time, Dominic had an ongoing, intimate friendship with Christ and His Mother. This friendship seems to have taken the form of an ongoing dialogue, with Christ. Before he makes his First Communion, he writes down the resolution, “My best friends will be Jesus and Mary.” His intimacy with Our Lord and Our Lady grows more intense over time, so that by the time he reaches his teens, Don Bosco overhears him in an impassioned conversation:
Another time, as I was going out of the sacristy after finishing my thanksgiving, I heard a voice which seemed to be engaged in argument. It came from the little chapel behind the high altar and when I went there I saw Dominic. He was speaking and then stopping as though waiting for someone else’s reply. Among other things I heard quite clearly these words: “Yes, my God, I have already said it and I say it again: I love you and I wish to go on loving you till my last breath. If you see that I am going to offend you, let me die: I much prefer to die than to offend you by sin.”
And so, as Dominic gets older, a tension arises in his life as he tries so hard to maintain his friendship with Christ while also being engaged with the world.
After another saint, Edith Stein, entered a Carmelite monastery and became Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, she wrote to a friend,
Immediately before, and for a good while after my conversion, I was of the opinion that to lead a religious life meant one had to give up all that was secular and to live totally immersed in thoughts of the Divine. But gradually I realized that something else is asked of us in this world and that, even in the contemplative life, one may not sever the connection with the world. I even believe that the deeper one is drawn into God, the more one must “go out of oneself,” that is, one must go to the world in order to carry the divine life into it. [Source]
I see that same tension between sacred and secular in Dominic Savio’s experience, as when Don Bosco writes of how the saint reacted when he was prevented from taking on extreme penances:
[One] day I came across [Dominic] looking somewhat sad, and I asked him what was the matter. He replied: “You’ve got me in a real bind. Our Blessed Lord says that if I don’t do penance I will not get to heaven. I am forbidden to do any penance; what chance then have I of heaven?”
I explained to him that the penance Jesus wanted from him was complete obedience,; obey and that’s enough.
“Can’t I do some other penance?”
“Yes, you can allow yourself the penance of being patient with others and the unpleasant things of life; to accept equally the heat and the cold and the rain; to be cheerful when tired and not feeling so well and so on.”
“But,” said Dominic, “these things come to you whether you like it or not.”
“Precisely,” I replied, “offer them willingly to God; there is nothing that will please him more, and you will be doing real penance.” Thus reassured, Dominic was very happy and completely at peace.
When I see the maturity with which Dominic accepted Don Bosco’s correction—not with blind submission, but with a sincere desire for holiness at all costs—I begin to understand how he was able to attain such a high level of sanctity in such a short life.
Another reason I admire Dominic is that he was able to passionately throw himself into becoming a saint as only a boy could.
It is important to note that this is not a Peter Pan approach to holiness. Dominic is not “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.”
Peter Pan is self-made. He concocts fantasies of his own and then seeks to reify them.
Dominic Savio, by contrast, is always looking upward and outward to God. He sees Jesus and wants to receive his own identity from Jesus as a gift. He is immersed in the real world, the world that has been given to us by the Father who created us. He rejoices in his identity in Christ.
Witness Dominic’s response to a boy who tries to convince him to join in dressing in a Halloween-style getup, as Don Bosco narrates:
On one occasion a companion wanted Dominic to go with him and dress up. Dominic would not go, and said to the boy: “Would you really like to be what you are going to dress up as—two horns, a big nose and a clown’s costume”?
“Of course not,” replied the other.
“Well, why make yourself look like something you would not want to be and in addition deface the nice face that God has given you?”
Finally, I see in Dominic Savio a kindred spirit because he, like me, suffered evil things from people who took advantage of his vulnerability and innocence.
Don Bosco’s Life of Dominic Savio tells of three such incidents. On one occasion, Dominic is traumatized when some of his schoolmates tried to show him pornographic pictures in a magazine. He tears up the magazine angrily, prompting one of the schoolmates to protest, [There] is nothing wrong in looking at pictures like that.”
Dominic responds by calling out the schoolmate for his lack of sensitivity to sin: “If that is really so, it means that your eyes are already used to looking at such horrors.”
Another time, Dominic intervened to protect Oratory schoolmates from a strange man who entered their playground and mesmerized them with blasphemous stories:
Dominic came along and as soon as he grasped what was going on, cried out: “Come on, let’s get away from this unfortunate man who wants to ruin us”.
The spell was broken and all the boys, obedient to a friend whom they loved and respected, scattered, leaving the man talking to the wind. He was never seen again.
Today we would say that the man’s actions were grooming behavior. Dominic protected the boys against the predator.
The third such occasion took place earlier in Dominic’s life, when he was about ten years old. Some boys invited him to go swimming, and Dominic saw something that deeply disturbed him. Don Bosco does not say what it was, but he notes pointedly that bathing can have “dangers for the soul in certain circumstances, when boys are stripped together and have little care and respect for each other.”
Whatever it was that Dominic saw on the swimming excursion, Bosco says that “he was profoundly grieved and made up his mind never to go again.”
In My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, I write about another young saint, Karolina Kozka, who was martyred at the age of sixteen while resisting sexual assault. An official from the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints told me that it has never been definitively established as to whether Kozka’s attacker raped her before killing her; in any case, her unquestionable sanctity assures her a place among the Church’s holy ones. And I observe that
if there were a saint whom we knew for certain was raped, our knowledge of that rape would be, in itself, a kind of intrusion into the saint’s private sphere. The very mystery surrounding the question of what was or was not done to Karolina serves to protect her personal dignity.
That is how I feel about what Dominic Savio may have seen, or not seen, when he went swimming with the boys at the age of ten. What happened to him will always be a mystery, yet one that preserves his modesty, enabling us to treat him with the reverence in death that he was not always granted in life.
At the same time, what we do know about the things Dominic endured is that he he was not always respected and was not always protected. He is therefore a friend and spiritual brother to all who have been mistreated, especially those who suffered in childhood, and his close friendship with Jesus and Mary points the way to healing.
So you can see now why I turned to St. Dominic Savio when I wanted to spread my book‘s message of healing for adults who have suffered childhood sexual abuse, and why he remains an inspiration as I continue my own journey of healing in Christ.

Called to be holy: Cardinal Dolan’s 10-step guide to holiness

The following comes from OSV:

Here is the key to our spiritual growth: a faithful, personal, loving relationship with Jesus. To know Jesus, to hear Jesus, to love Jesus, to trust Jesus, to obey Jesus, to share his life in the deepest fiber of our being, and then to serve him — this is our goal.

How do we grow in holiness? How? That, of course, is our spiritual program, isn't it, the stewardship of the spirit, "the regimen of the soul bringing about the reign of God," to quote servant of the poor Charles de Foucauld. I propose to you a spiritual regimen, a stewardship of the spirit coming not from me, but from centuries of practice and learning.

1. Daily Prayer
Patient, persevering, persistent prayer, every day, is number one. Here I am not speaking of the Mass — such as the Eucharist — but of silent, personal, private prayer, a daily period of quiet communion with the Lord, conscious of his presence, accepting of his love, and returning it with praise, petition, and thanksgiving.

2. Daily Mass
From this daily Eucharistic meal will come, for all celebrate the Eucharist as the essential moment in their day, a reverential awe for the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and a desire to spend time before him there in visits and prayer.

3. Daily Fidelity to the Liturgy of the Hours
This ancient prayer of the Church is mostly associated with those in Holy Orders. It is also intended to be the prayer of the laity, who “are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1175).

4. Daily Spiritual Reading
Lectio divina, daily reverent meditation upon Sacred Scripture, is first and foremost, of course, but I also speak of daily spiritual reading of the enduring books of our Catholic tradition, as well as interest in the burgeoning contemporary literature on the interior life. Nor should we forget attention to the documents of the magisterium, the words of our Holy Father, the documents of the Apostolic See, the messages and pastorals of our own bishops, all vehicles of the Holy Spirit for fostering our growth in sanctity.

5. Spiritual Direction
An honest, trusting, fruitful, consistent relationship with a spiritual director is, in some ways, the linchpin of all the rest, for this is where integration and interiorization begin to take place. The danger we all face is a life of formalism, where we passively do things just to get by, not allowing the values of formation to sink in and become part of us. Spiritual direction can promote this interiorization, this integration.

6. The Sacrament of Penance
Regular reliance upon the mercy of God abundant in the Sacrament of Penance should be a priority in our lives. While how often you approach this sacrament is a good topic to discuss with your spiritual director, at least once a month seems a solid tradition of the Church. That you approach confession regularly is a hallmark of sound spiritual stewardship. And, a practical help to make our regular confessions more fruitful would be a daily examination of conscience, praising God for our growth, asking for healing of the faults we admit.

7. Growing in Virtue
A tireless effort for growth in virtue and turning away from sin should be the pattern of our daily lives. Obedience to the constant refrain of the Gospels, we are always in the process of conversion, repentance, dying to sin, self, and Satan, rising to new life in Christ. This is the “paschal mystery.” In practice, this means growth in virtue and struggle with sin. Development in particular virtues is most appropriate: faith, hope, charity, simplicity of life, chastity, obedience and integrity.

8. Devotion to the Blessed Mother sand the Saints
Our devotion to them is a sustaining dependence upon the "Communion of Saints," an awareness that we are members of a supernatural family not confined to the here and now, that we have the saints as examples and helpers, pre-eminently, especially our Blessed Mother. Thus, a wholesome devotion to her would be an essential part of our spiritual regimen.

9. Holistic Formation, Allowing Spirituality to Permeate Our Lives
The spiritual life is not a tidy, isolated compartment of our existence! No, as the Pope John Paul II said, "Spiritual formation is the core which unifies and gives life to our entire being." Thus, every element of our lives is part of the spiritual arena, and growth in holiness will entail wholehearted immersion in a spiritual regimen.

10. The Final Component: Keeping Ever in View the Call to Holiness
Our goal is nothing less than a reordering of life through the sacraments, which will configure us in an irrevocable, radical way to Christ. That we may be good, holy, happy, healthy, learned, zealous, selfless, committed faithful is the goal of our spiritual growth.
I have two notes of caution, however. First, growth in holiness is not our accomplishment, but a pure gift from God. The Lord does it, not me! These 10 steps of spiritual stewardship I just went through are not cozy little acts we perform to produce holiness — they are simply tried-and-true ways we open up in humility to let the Lord in to do his work in, on, for, and, often, in spite of us!

Second, to use the words of Sister Bridge McKenna, "The road inward to spiritual growth always results in a U-turn outward in love for others." Our stewardship of the Spirit is never a soothing benefice we cling to, but an inspiration to love humankind better. The Jesus who calls us to spiritual ecstasy on Mt. Tabor likewise invites us to the pouring out of self on Mt. Calvary.

Cardinal Dolan is the archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

This is an edited excerpt from then Archbishop Dolan's "Called to Be Holy."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Work: An Act of Worship

The following comes from Catholic Exchange:

Has man’s God-given vocation been entirely lost sight of?  
Look around you. You live in a world that has lost faith. Religion has been replaced by work and achievement. In such a world, men take work very seriously. They want nothing less than perfection in it. Hence, their goal and their norm of judgment is efficiency. Consequently men are judged not by what they are, but by what they cando. No wonder your economic world wobbles. It has lost its center of gravity.
Your primary vocation, like that of every other human, is to be, not to do. Your life’s aim is holiness, not efficiency. God and godliness, not production, is your goal, for you have an immortal soul; you are not a machine. Every work and every profession, even the highest, is but a means for man to express his inner wholeness and to acquire more holiness; none of them is ever to become any man’s idol or total absorption.
You are now grappling with truths that have been horribly distorted in your day. Twist them back into shape so that you will be able to live twenty-four hours a day as a human, a child of God, and not spend a great part of your life on earth as a robot that keeps going through the motions so that it can make a living, but which is really only waiting for the whistle that will allow it to go out and play.
Realize first that while all men are created equal, all men are not born equal. Far from it! Some are born with silver spoons in their mouths; others with a pick and shovel by their side. In his encyclical on labor, Leo XIII showed that society always was and always will be stratified. God so wills it, as is evident from the fact that “among mankind, differences of the most important kind exist: people differ in capacity, skill, health, strength. Unequal fortune is the result of unequal condition.”
But note well that for attaining their last end, for getting back to God whole and holy, each human has been liberally endowed by His Maker. No man has grounds for complaint. You may not be gifted enough to conquer the world, but you have more than enough to conquer your sinful self — and that is, of course, the only conquest that counts. In eternity, you will not be judged on productivity, but only on Christlikeness. Hence it is essential that you learn how you can grow in Christlikeness while at work, for work you must. It is the God-given law of life.
Work is part of God’s plan for humans. But God is your Father, and God is all-good. Therefore, the work potentials He gave you must be for your happiness.

Work is holy

The second step is easy. If work is God’s will, it must be sanctifying; for, in ultimate analysis, sanctity is only doing the will of God. Therefore, work is a sacred thing; it is a “sacramental” — an outward sign that can give grace. Hence, you can go to work for the same reason you go to church to worship God! Work is a religious thing. It is holy.
That view, of course, is the antithesis of the way many modern men conceive work. They exalt it, but only by a complete reversal of values and truths. The person who helps produce impersonal goods is placed far below the goods he helps to produce and is thus completely dehumanized. Pius XI exposed this situation in his Quadragesimo Anno, saying, “Conditions of social and economic life are such that vast multitudes of men can only with great difficulty pay attention to the one thing necessary; namely, their eternal salvation.” But you can combat those conditions and overcome that very real difficulty. All you need to do is to think with the mind of Christ and will with the will of God; then you will go to work for the same purpose you go to church.
Is that possible? Well, you are what your thoughts are. A man is his mind. What are your thoughts and motives for going to church? The same can be had for going to work, for first it is God’s will. Therefore, you can make it an act of obedience to your Father. Faith, hope, and charity are already exercised in that one act and attitude of mind. Further, since you know it was the first penance laid on a sinner, you can make it reparation for your own sins and the sins of the world. You can make it plead with God for mercy on all who toil and thus fulfill those two commandments of love of God and love of neighbor which Christ said was all that is required of man.
Have you ever realized that, in making you a worker, God has given you a share in that universal Providence by which He governs the human race and in His act of conservation by which He keeps the world in being? If you are a farmer, you well know you work hand in hand with God in the production of food for man’s body and, hence, indirectly for his soul. The multiplications of bread and fishes, twice told about in the New Testament, were truly marvelous happenings. Yet St. Augustine is right to laugh at those who marvel, as he points to the relatively few seeds that are sown in the earth and the millions that are fed from their harvests. He reminds you that this annual miracle is due to God just as much as those multiplications you read of in the Gospels.
But God’s Providence does not end in the fields. He rules the entire process from the sowing of the seeds to the growth, the harvest, then the threshing, milling, and marketing. He has a hand, too, in the baking of the bread and putting it on your table. So, in all truth, every human who helps in the process is actually working hand in hand with God.
This truth brings Heaven very near. Prunes may grow in California, potatoes in Idaho, peaches in Georgia, wheat in Kansas, and corn in Kentucky; beef may be raised in Texas, and hogs butchered in Chicago. But none of these commodities will ever be served at any table miles and miles away unless all sorts of men and women cooperate with God in producing, processing, preserving, shipping, selling, and preparing them. So everyone from the grower to the boy who pastes on the labels to the housewife or the hired chef are God’s helpers — so that you may have a meal.
Viewed in that perspective, how can work be anything other than worship? Since Adam fell, work should be a sacred thing! For it can be offered to God in thanksgiving for the pardon He extended to the sinner, as expiation for the sin committed, in petition that there be no more falls, but rather an ever-increasing adoration of God’s will and His Providence. But those four ends are the four ends of the Mass. Hence, your work can be, and should be, Eucharistic: sacrifice and sacrament.
Only out-and-out pagans can consider work servile. In the Roman Empire, before Christ and Christianity, slaves did all the work. The so-called cultured class deemed it beneath their dignity to toil. But since the Son of God became the village Carpenter, no truly cultured person can look upon work — hard, manual labor — as anything less than ennobling, even deifying.
The Council of Trent has taught that the Passion and death of Christ were the principal means He used to redeem mankind. That explicit bit of dogma teaches you implicitly that it was not on Calvary alone that Christ redeemed. In other words, when Jesus was down in Nazareth working on wood, He was redeeming mankind just as truly as when He was on Calvary nailed to wood. It tells you that when Jesus’ hands held a plane or a saw, He was doing His Father’s will and thus making salvation possible for you, just as truly as when these same hands held spikes and were held by them! The Son of God was redeeming men at the carpenter’s bench in the obscurity of Nazareth just as surely as when He was followed by crowds that would take Him and make Him king — just as surely as when He was followed by that other crowd that had taken Him, mocked Him, and crucified Him for being King!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hermitage of Gaztelugatxe, Spain

The Real St. Jude

The following comes from Catholic Exchange:

Why is St. Jude the Apostle the one to whom we pray in time of hopeless causes?
Before delving into the question at hand, let us first investigate what we know about St. Jude. Unfortunately, sacred Scripture does not provide many details about the life of St. Jude. Most importantly, he is listed as one of the Twelve Apostles called by our Lord, Jesus: “At daybreak, He called His disciples and selected twelve of them to be His apostles: Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter, and Andrew, his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who turned traitor” (Lk 6:13-16; cf. also Acts 1:13).
In both the Gospel of St. Matthew (10:2-4) and Mark (3:16-19), the name “Judas” (i.e. Jude) does not appear in the list of the Apostles, but rather the name “Thaddaeus”; some speculate that Thaddaeus was used to distinguish Jude from the betrayer Judas Iscariot. (Please note, too, that “Judas” is the Greek form for the English “Jude.”) Nevertheless, both names, Jude and Thaddaeus, refer to the same person, and oftentimes one will hear St. Jude Thaddaeus. Our liturgical tradition also reflects this point: The Latin text of Eucharistic Prayer I in the Mass uses the name Thaddaeus, while the English text uses the word Jude in the listing of the Apostles.
Traditionally, St. Jude was the author of “The Epistle of Jude,” found in the New Testament. Some scholars in recent times have disputed whether the Apostle St. Jude was in fact the author Jude of this letter. Rather than plunge into all of those arguments, let’s recount briefly the traditional evidence supporting St. Jude as the author. The Muratorian Fragment (c. AD 155) provides one of the earliest listings of those writings that could be read at Mass because they were of apostolic authorship and free of heresy or error. These works would later be included in the canon of the New Testament. The Muratorian fragment lists the Epistle of Jude as one of those accepted writings, thereby attesting to the authorship of the Apostle St. Jude.
However to accept this point stirs up another question: Why then does the author of the epistle identify himself as the “brother of James” (Jude 1), referring to the Apostle St. James the Lesser? In the listing of the Twelve Apostles cited above, Jude is identified as “the son of James,” and St. James the Lesser is identified as “the son of Alphaeus.” The problem lies in the translation from the Greek text of the Gospel into English. Returning to the original Greek text of the Gospel of St. Luke, one does not find the word son either in reference to “James son of Alphaeus” or “Judas son of James”; rather, the literal translation would be “James of Alphaeus,” and “Judas of James.” (The same is true of the Latin Vulgate text.) So what are the actual relationships?
The “James” referred to in the Letter of Jude is St. James the Lesser (not the brother of St. John), who was a cousin of Jesus (Mt 13:55; Note: brother is used as an all-encompassing term for any male blood relation). Since in the listing of the Apostles in the Gospels of St. Matthew and Mark, the name Thaddaeus follows immediately that of “James, of Alphaeus,” the traditional conclusion is that Thaddaeus and James are related. Thaddaeus, remember, is the other name for St. Jude. Therefore, the author of the epistle is the same Jude who is the brother of James the Lesser. For good reason then, the Douay Rheims Bible correctly translated the listing in Luke 6:13-16 as follows: “James, the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who is called Zelotes, and Jude, the brother of James.”
Another reason St. Jude identified himself as “the brother of James” at the beginning of his epistle may be because the Apostle St. James the Lesser was the well-known bishop of Jerusalem; therefore, the relationship attests to the apostolic authorship of the epistle and dispels any confusion with Judas Iscariot.
Now that the reader probably knows more than he ever wanted to about why St. Jude is the Apostle, the brother of St. James the Lesser, the cousin of Jesus, and the author of the New Testament Epistle of Jude, we can continue with answering the question.
St. Jude does have one recorded spoken verse in the Gospel of St. John. At the Last Supper, he asked Jesus, “Lord, why is it that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” (Jn 14:22). Our Lord then spoke of how anyone who loves Him will be true to His word, in turn His Heavenly Father will love him, and together they will send the Holy Spirit.
The Epistle of Jude is similar to the Second Epistle of Peter. Some scholars date the letter to about AD 70. St. Jude encourages the community to “fight hard for the faith,” and warns against false teachers. He challenges the early faithful: “Grow strong in your holy faith through prayer in the Holy Spirit. Persevere in God’s love, and welcome the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ which leads to life eternal. Correct those are confused; the others you must rescue, snatching them from the fire” (20-22).
Tradition says that after the resurrection, St. Jude Thaddaeus retrieved our Lord’s burial cloth, which many believe to be the Shroud of Turin. He eventually took it to Edessa in present-day Turkey.
From there, he traveled into the area of Armenia. The Armenian Rite traces its origins to St. Jude Thaddaeus.
St. Jude then preached the Gospel in Mesopotamia where he was joined by St. Simon. From there, they did missionary work in Persia, where they suffered martyrdom. St. Jude was beaten to death with a club; St. Simon was sawed into pieces. Their feast day is October 28.
So why is St. Jude Thaddaeus the patron saint of desperate causes? The traditional reason is rather simple: When one hears the name Judas (Latin and Greek) or even Jude (English), one immediately thinks of Judas Iscariot who betrayed our Lord. Therefore, a person had to be desperate to invoke his name. Being so seldom invoked and reverenced, St. Jude is ready and waiting to hear the prayers of those who call upon him. Ironically, he is probably the Apostle who is invoked the most in prayer, and the most memorialized in churches with statues or other artwork.
A prayer distributed by the National Shrine of St. Jude in Chicago reads as follows:
Most holy Apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honors and invokes you universally, as the patron of hopeless cases, of things almost despaired of. Pray for me, I am so helpless and alone. Make us I implore you, of that particular privilege given to you, to bring visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and help of Heaven in all my necessities, tribulation, and sufferings, particularly (state request) and that I may praise God with you and all the elect forever. I promise, O blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, to always honor you as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to you. Amen.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

St. Paul and New Evangelization

The following comes from Prayer and Perspective:

“The times of ignorance God overlooked but now he commands all men everywhere to repent…” (St. Paul’s address to the Areopagus in Athens, Act 17:30.)
I just recently returned from a pilgrimage of the footsteps of St. Paul to Greece and Turkey. I went with my wonderful Archbishop, Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, as well as the Midwestern region of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. While journeying the ancient mission routes of St. Paul and companions, this eleven-day pilgrimage proffered many interesting sights and experiences. I don’t have the space to recount them all here, but encountering the ancient Roman provincial cities where Paul preached and proclaimed the Gospel left me speechless at times. There was one experience, however, that exceeded the others, and because it was so amazing I must recount it for you.

On the last day of the pilgrimage, we celebrated Mass on Mars hill, the famed meeting place of the Athenian governing council known as the Areopagus. Our tour guide knew of a perfect place on the craggy hilltop to celebrate Mass. The ancient Greeks had carved some steps and a flat spot out of the rocky face to use as a meeting space. Our guide told us that these carved steps predated the time of St. Paul. As this was the only spot on Mars Hill that had level ground with what was clearly intended to be used as a platform, an exciting question sparked my mind: could this be the very spot where St. Paul addressed the Areopagus some 2000 years prior? Although there is no way of knowing, I was nevertheless sure of his powerful presence there. Msgr. Brier asked me to offer the reading for the Mass. I also had time afterward to offer a brief catechesis on Paul’s address. Msgr. chose the passage from Acts where St. Paul confronts the leading men of Athens with his Gospel message. Here, this bold saint offers us a five-point blueprint for evangelizing the culture:

“Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.” (Act 17:16.)

Point 1: Boldness in proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ in the face of obvious error. The idolatry of the Athenians motivated Paul to be so bold as to proclaim the Gospel any place where he thought he would have a hearing—the synagogue, the market place, the pagan temples, engaging groups of people as diverse as observant Jews to Greek philosophers. The error and confusion he found in them only motivated him all the more to engage the culture. He was not put off by their selfish pride and false pretenses of intellectual superiority. He engaged in actions but also in word! He was not concerned for his own personal well-being.

”Now all the Athenians and foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” (Act 17: 21.)

Point 2: Knowing your audience and crafting your approach in order to engage it.
By pointing out this detail about the Athenians, St. Luke, the author of Acts, reveals his own keen awareness to detail. This audience, unlike others, occupied themselves with novel ideas. So, on the one hand, they would show interest in Paul’s proclamation due to their own natural curiosity. On the other, St. Paul’s challenge would lie in whether they would be able to recognize the Gospel as not merely a novel idea, but a call to a relationship with a person: Jesus Christ, the God-Man; the resurrected Savior of the world.  Rather than shrink from the challenge, Paul allowed himself to be led to the Areopagus, the governing council of the city, in order to offer them the invitation to salvation.

“So Paul, standing in the middle of the Areopagus, said: ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To an unknown god.” (Acts 17: 22-23.) 

Point 3: Affirm what is true in the culture. In spite of their ridiculous idolatry, St. Paul recognized that the citizens in Athens were seeking ultimate truth, which explains their altar to the ‘unknown god.’ In affirming this truth, he displays a clever tactic when engaging others who don’t believe the truth in its fullness: establish what the common strand is between belief and unbelief. There is no system that is completely devoid of truth. By affirming that which is true in their own heart-felt beliefs, St. Paul increased his chances of winning over his audience.
“What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.” (Acts 17: 23.)

Point 4: Show your audience that what they seek can only be found in full in Jesus Christ. Because He is Wisdom Incarnate, Christ is the fullness of revelation of all truths…now made flesh! Thus, anything that is true points to Christ in as much as it is true. Our relationship with Him flows from our relationship with the truth. Once He is announced, there can be only one truthful response: follow Him and obey Him! Anything less is a failure to adhere fully to the truth.

“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17: 30-31.)

Point 5: Apart from Christ, all belief systems will erode in the end, and all peoples will be judged with righteousness. Therefore, the condemned no longer have an excuse. After hearing the Gospel, the response that God expects from us is to repent. Now, we need to be careful and not become the judge ourselves, for He is the judge and not us. Further, we need to be patient with our audience. It is true that only Dionysius the Areopagite and Damaris converted at the time of Paul, but Athens is Christian today. The pagan temples are in ruins and stand only as a reminder of the past.  Thus, it is not our role to tell our audience that they stand condemned. It is our role to explain to them that their systems are incomplete without Christ, and because of this, can’t deliver what they promise. In the end, all falsehood leads and ends in ruin.

One final element of this story: while I was speaking, a small crowd of tourists gathered behind me, perhaps out of curiosity sake, after all, we had just finished Mass and there were about 35 persons out of my group still seated and listening. But I noticed they stayed and listened for a few minutes, long enough to make out that I was talking about St. Paul and his preaching. The experience became surreal to me. Here I was standing, for sure on the same hill as St. Paul when he addressed the Areopagus 2000 years ago, perhaps the same spot. Some of his audience was interested in what he had to say, as was some of my audience, and others listened only out of curiosity, as some did to me, while others scoffed and walked away, as most of the onlookers did while I spoke. I half expected some of them to pick up rocks to stone me (except there weren’t any! Lucky me!) or attack me with their fists chanting ‘Great is Aremis! Great is Artemis!’ (O.K. So that happened to Paul in Ephesus and not Athens…see Acts 19:28-29.) Anyway, it was a strange and wonderful experience that I shared with St. Paul! St. Paul, pray for us and the New Evangelization!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Archbishop Georg Gänswein on Final Months of Benedict XVI’s Pontificate

The following comes from the NCR:

In a revealing new interview, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein has recalled the final tumultuous months of Benedict XVI’s pontificate and shared his views on the new style of papacy under Pope Francis.

In the interview, published in the Italian daily Il Messaggero Oct. 22, the German archbishop said that working as prefect of the pontifical household, as well as continuing to assist Benedict XVI, is “quite a challenge, regardless of the amount of things to do.”

“I would seek the advice of my predecessor, except there isn’t one, because no one before me has ever had this double task,” he said. “But using common sense, I do my best.”

Archbishop Gänswein, 57, served as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s private secretary from 2003, a role he maintained until Benedict XVI promoted him to prefect of the pontifical household last year. He continues to assist the pope emeritus and lives with him in a converted monastery in the Vatican Gardens. As prefect, he takes care of the internal organization of Francis’ papal household and supervises the conduct and service of all who make up the papal chapel and family.

The German prelate, who has previously described his role as being a “bridge” between the two popes, said he puts into practice “the words of Pope Francis: Never turn in on oneself, and do not be afraid; that way, I pursue a serene path every day.” In the end, he added, “the service is done for the Lord and for the Church.”

He said he initially had some struggles taking up the position. “I confess to having some difficulty, some unpleasant experiences regarding misunderstandings and envy, but these ripples have since calmed down.”
Reporting on Benedict XVI, the archbishop said: “He’s fine; he prays, reads, listens to music. He devotes himself to correspondence which is immense, and there are also visits.” He added that he and the former pope also take daily walks in the grove behind the monastery and pray the Rosary. “The day is well planned,” he said.

Recalling the final days of Benedict XVI’s papacy, he said his resignation was “not entirely” a surprise. “I had known of his decision for some time, but I never spoke with anyone about it. The moment of the announcement, on Feb. 11, remains indelible.”

“Difficult days” followed Benedict’s departure on Feb. 28, he said. “I will never forget when I turned off the lights of the papal apartments with tears in my eyes,” he said. “Then the car ride to the heliport, the flight to Castel Gandolfo, the arrival, the final farewell of Pope Benedict XVI on the balcony. Finally, the closing of the door of the palazzo.”

He said the whole of March was difficult due to the uncertainty of who would be elected. “Fortunately, with the new pope, there was a relationship of affection and esteem, even if Benedict and Francis are people with different styles and personalities,” the archbishop said. “Some have wanted to interpret such differences as being opposite directions, but it is not so.”

Going back farther, Archbishop Gänswein also recalled the nadir of the “Vatileaks” affair, when Benedict XVI’s former butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested for leaking documents from the papal apartments, and the then-president of the IOR (Vatican Bank) Ettore Gotti Tedeschi resigned.

“I remember that moment well,” he recalled, but added that, “contrary to what many people think, there is no connection between the two events; it was, rather, just an unfortunate coincidence, even diabolical.”

Gotti Tedeschi was ousted by the board of the IOR on grounds of alleged negligence. Some speculated he was involved in leaking papal documents to the press, but this has always been denied, a view backed up by Archbishop Gänswein.  

“Benedict XVI, who appointed Gotti as head of the IOR to continue the [Vatican’s] transparency policy, was surprised, very surprised at the no-confidence vote against the professor,” he said. “The Pope held him in high esteem and was fond of him, but he chose not to interfere at the time, out of respect for those who were responsible for dealing with such matters. After the no-confidence vote, even though he was not able to meet with Gotti, the Pope kept in touch with him in a discreet and appropriate way.”

Regarding Pope Francis, Archbishop Gänswein said he was “trying to understand more and more what [the poor Church of Francis] means,” stressing it is a “common thread” in the Petrine ministry of Pope Francis. “It is not a sociological, but a theological, expression,” he said. “At the center is the poor Christ, and from there, everything follows.”

He said the Pope’s approach is consistent with the one he pursued in Buenos Aires. His personal example is a pastoral one, he said, and “a precious witness.”
But he was skeptical about the term “revolution,” saying it seems “a facile slogan” put about in some of the mass media. “Sure, some gestures and initiatives of Papa Francesco surprised and still surprise,” he said. “But it is normal that a change of pontificate brings with it changes on different levels.” The Pope, he said, must build a team of trustworthy people, “but this is not a revolution; it is simply an act of governance and accountability.”

He said the establishment of a commission of eight cardinals to advice the Pope on Curial reform was a “big surprise,” adding that it was too early to predict definitive results but that he was “curious” what those will be.

Archbishop Gänswein also firmly rejected the possibility of having a “pope and anti-pope.”

“There is a reigning pope and a pope emeritus,” he said. “Whoever knows Benedict XVI knows that this danger does not exist. He has never interfered and does not interfere in the governance of the Church; it is not part of his style. The theologian Ratzinger also knows that his every word could attract the public’s attention and whatever he said would be read as being for or against his successor.”

“So he will not intervene publicly,” he added. “Luckily, between him and Francis, there is a relationship of sincere esteem and brotherly affection.”

Life of St. Kateri Tekakwitha

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pope Francis: Mary is united to Christ in the 'martyrdom' of her heart

.- In his weekly general audience, the Pope continued his catechesis on the Church, reflecting today on the importance of Mary as an example of how to respond to God’s plan with fidelity.
“She is also a model of union with Christ, be it in her daily duties, be it in the way of the Cross, until she unites herself with Him in the martyrdom of the heart.”

Pope Francis directed the words of his Oct. 23 general audience to the nearly 100,000 pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter’s Square.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the Church, we now look to the Virgin Mary who, as the Second Vatican Council reminds us, is ‘the model of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ,’” the Pope stated, quoting Vatican Council document “Lumen Gentium.”
“As a daughter of Israel,” noted the pontiff, “Mary responded in faith to God’s call and became the Mother of his Son.”

Because of her response, he urged, “She teaches us to live a life of faith by her obedience to God’s will and by her unfailing devotion to Jesus and his work.”

Mary obeyed, the Pope recalled, as an “ordinary, humble woman” who “lives immersed in the mystery and her yes, already perfect from the beginning, grows until the Cross, in which her maternity embraces everyone.”

“She is a model of charity, the perfect joy that comes from the Spirit and manifests itself in a sacrificial love.”

This charity, reflected the pontiff, has been “born of faith,” and “brings the joy and peace of Christ’s presence to others and to our world.”

The Pope then turned his reflections to Mary’s constant spiritual attitude and disposition, urging that she “models the Church’s union with Christ through her constant prayer and participation in the mysteries of his life, death and resurrection.”

He then questioned those present, asking them “How does the figure of Mary challenge us? Do we see her far away from us? Do we go to her during trials? Are we capable, like her, of loving by giving ourselves completely? Do we feel united to Jesus, according to her example, in a steadfast relationship or do we only remember Him in times of need?”

“As Mother of the Church,” stressed the Pope, “may Mary, by her prayers, bring us ever closer to the Lord.”

Pope Francis concluded his reflections by praying that Mary “open our hearts to share his transforming and redeeming love, and inspire us to put our firm faith in God’s word, trusting in his goodness and his gracious plan for us and for our world.”

Present among those in attendance at this morning’s audience were pilgrims from England, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, India, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Guam, Canada and the United States.

The pontiff extended special greetings to the members of the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Holy See, who will be holding meetings in the upcoming days.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Lead Me On by Audrey Assad

The Joy of Priesthood by Fr. Tom Rosica

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Rediscover Faith: Be a Dynamic Catholic!

Rediscover the Genius of Catholicism from Dynamic Catholic on Vimeo.

Why is Blessed John Paul II Great?

The following comes from Mary's Aggies:

Q - I have heard a lot of people referring to Pope John Paul II as "John Paul the Great". I do not feel comfortable giving him this title although I think he is one of the greatest popes ever. What do you think about calling him John Paul the Great now, and how does a pope receive that designation?

A - Thanks for the questions. The first question is easy for me to answer, since JPII has had such a formative influence on my life - I have no problem with it at all. The second question requires a bit more background.

There are three other popes who have been called "The Great":

  • Pope St. Leo I
  • Pope St. Gregory I
  • Pope St. Nicholas I
Here is the interesting thing, none of the three have ever been officially recognized by the Church as "great". It is a popular title given, that rises up from the people and tradition surrounding the men. Since they received the popular title, the have been listed in Church documents with "The Great" appended to their name, but never has the Church given the title to them officially.

So, why would we list John Paul II as another "Great"? There are many reasons, so here is a short list:
  • He was the third-longest reigning pope of all-time (26 years).
  • His leadership helped bring down the Iron Curtain of Communism.
  • He was one of the most prolific authors of papal documents and he was widely considered one of the best philosopher-theologians of modern times.
  • He presided over the writing of the Catechism and the new Code of Canon Law.
  • He traveled more than any other pope in history.
  • His charismatic personality drew him to a wide range of people.
  • He saw more progress in Ecumenical dialogue (especially with the Orthodox Churches and secondarily with Lutherans) than any other Pope.
  • He helped continue the healing of wounds between Judaism and Christianity that has been simmering for centuries. This healing was started by previous Popes, but went to new levels with JPII.
  • He advanced the teachings of the human person and sexuality to new levels in his Theology of the Body.
  • His holiness and virtue have helped lift him to the level of a "Blessed" and will soon make him a "Saint".
  • He loved the Church's doctrine, but he also had a very nice understanding of how to pastorally apply the teachings of the Church.
  • His love for young people helped start World Youth Days.
  • He continued to lead the Church while suffering greatly, thus showing us how to carry our crosses with dignity and love.
  • He was a great defender of all human life. The poor, the baby, the elderly, etc.
  • He helped lead the Church into a new millennium and prepare the Church for the changes that come with time, by challenging us to a "new evangelization" of fallen-away Catholic cultures and peoples.
  • He recognized more Saints than any other Pope - much needed in a culture of death and injustice.
  • Many more reasons are not in this list.
I expect history won't downgrade John Paul from being the next "Great" Pope.