Friday, February 28, 2014

Creed: A tribute to Rich Mullins

Creed - A Tribute to Rich Mullins from Rich Mullins Tribute on Vimeo.

An Unusual Road to Monasticism

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
People sometimes wonder how I became interested in monastic life, which I am currently preparing to enter. It is hard to express, except in fragments and glimpses.
These are some glimpses of that kind: certainly not a “conversion story,” nor even a “vocation story”; but only pieces of the process, as I remember it.

I. Spring, 2005

I am a college student with a habit of staring holes through pages, people and other things. Studying the “Great Books of Western Civilization” has nearly caused me to despair of human reason. I can analyze everything and make sense of nothing, least of all my own life.
My roommate says I sometimes remind him of Siddhartha Gautama: the rich young man whose fixation on suffering and impermanence led him to become an ascetic and formulate the doctrines of Buddhism.
This is an undeserved compliment, but also a criticism. It’s not so much the ascetic religious founder, but the suffering-obsessed son of privilege, that he sees in me.
Still, this remark – and the recognition of my burned-out state – spurs me to resume the Zen meditation practice I learned in high school. Seeking some kind of freedom, some kind of wholeness, a truth beyond pure rational comprehension.
I am a very driven, very motivated, very frustrated person, academically and otherwise. This combination prompts my decision to leave college at the year’s end, with the hope of moving somewhere gray and unpleasant.
I want the opposite of “Siddhartha’s” indulged life. I want an end to luxury and useless intellectualism. I think about joining a Zen Center, a Buddhist temple, something of the sort. That seems like freedom, if anyone has it. That seems like truth, if that isn’t just a word.
Since age nine, when I borrowed my sister’s Walkman on a family trip, I’ve loved the long-defunct punk band Operation Ivy. After their frontman dropped out of public view, he was rumored to have become a monk. That has stuck with me.
So has the passage in J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, where Holden Caulfield puts this question to his boarding school roommate:
“Listen. What’s the routine on joining a monastery?” I asked him. I was sort of toying with the idea of joining one. “Do you have to be a Catholic and all?”
I even feel a fleeting impulse to pray, myself. In response to – what?  A sense of beauty? Gratitude? And it is not a mere vestige of childhood religion, which was minimal in my case.
But in the spring of 2005, I am an atheist of long standing – albeit, an atheist who was troubled by reading the Confessions of St. Augustine; an atheist who has joked that he might someday become a priest. An atheist whose closest college friend once mentioned an interesting author named Thomas Merton.

Monks of Le Barroux

This is a beautiful monastery! This is a good chance to practice your high school French!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pope Francis: Anointing of the Sick assures nearness of Christ

In his Wednesday general audience Pope Francis gave a brief catechesis on the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, noting that its purpose is to bring Christ close to the recipient.

“Every time we celebrate this sacrament, the Lord Jesus, in the person of the priest, comes close to those who suffer and are gravely ill or elderly,” explained the Pope on Feb. 26.

“The special grace of this sacrament” should not cause us to fall into an “obsessive search for a miracle” or “the presumption that it can always obtain healing,” cautioned the Pontiff. Rather, “it is the certainty of the closeness of Jesus to the sick, the elderly.”

Pope Francis then went on to explain to the crowd of nearly 50,000 in St. Peter’s Square that the practice of this sacrament comes from Christ himself who “taught his disciples to have the same predilection for the sick and the suffering, and handed down to them the ability and the responsibility to continue to offer (it) in his name after his own heart of comfort and peace.”

The the biblical image that shows the Anointing of the Sick “in all its depth (and) the mystery that shines through” it is the parable of the Good Samaritan, noted the Pontiff.

A man who has been beaten, robbed, and left lying for dead on the side of the road is ignored by everyone except for a Samaritan man who not only stops to care for him, binding up all his wounds, but then takes the sick man to an inn and pays for him to be cared for there.

“The Good Samaritan takes care of the suffering man, pouring oil and wine on his wounds,” recounted Pope Francis.

“The oil makes us think about what is being blessed by the Bishop each year, at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, just ahead of the Anointing of the Sick,” he explained.

“The wine, however, is a sign of the love and grace of Christ that comes from the gift of his life for us, and which expresses itself in all its richness in the sacramental life of the Church.”

“Finally, the suffering person is entrusted to an innkeeper, so that he can continue to take care of him, no expense spared,” continued the Pope.

“Now, what is this inn? It is the Church, the Christian community, it is we to whom every day the Lord Jesus entrusts those who are afflicted in body and spirit, so that we can continue to bestow upon them, without measure, all his mercy and salvation.”

Pope Francis noted that sometimes the sick or elderly are afraid to call the priest for anointing of the sick because they think “it brings bad luck,” or they have “the idea that when there is a sick person and the priest comes, after (his visit) comes the funeral.”

“That is not true!” exclaimed the Pope.

“The priest comes to help the sick or the elderly. This is why it is so important for priests to visit the sick. Call him!” he urged.

“Because it is Jesus who comes to lift up (the sick person), to give him strength, to give hope, to help him. And to forgive his sins. And this is beautiful!"

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis made an appeal for peace in Venezuela, where violent clashes between police and those protesting the 10 month old government have led to at least 13 deaths.

“I sincerely hope that violence and hostility will cease as soon as possible, and that the whole Venezuelan People, beginning with political leaders and institutions, will endeavor to promote reconciliation through mutual forgiveness and a sincere dialogue, respectful of truth and justice, that is capable of dealing with concrete issues for the common good,” he said.

“As I assure you of my constant prayer, especially for those who lost their lives in the fighting and for their families, I invite all believers to lift up prayers to God, through the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Coromoto, so that the country might quickly find peace and harmony.”

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mission to India: Story of Mother's Teresa's Doctor

Unbelievable!  Hat tip to In God's Company 2!

Pope Francis: Jesus never leaves us alone in the streets. He takes us back home.

Monday, February 24, 2014


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher (with Audrey Assad)

Holy as God: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

The following comes from Scott Hahn:
We are called to the holiness of God. That is the extraordinary claim made in both the First Reading and Gospel this Sunday.
Yet how is it possible that we can be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect?
Jesus explains that we must be imitators of God as his beloved children (Eph. 5:1–2).
As God does, we must love without limit—with a love that does not distinguish between friend and foe, overcoming evil with good (see Rom. 12:21).
Jesus himself, in his Passion and death, gave us the perfect example of the love that we are called to.
He offered no resistance to the evil—even though he could have commanded twelve legions of angels to fight alongside him. He offered his face to be struck and spit upon. He allowed his garments to be stripped from him. He marched as his enemies compelled him to the Place of the Skull. On the cross he prayed for those who persecuted him (see Matt. 26:53–5467;27:2832Luke 23:34).
In all this he showed himself to be the perfect Son of God. By his grace, and through our imitation of him, he promises that we too can become children of our heavenly Father.
God does not deal with us as we deserve, as we sing in this week’s Psalm. He loves us with a Father’s love. He saves us from ruin. He forgives our transgressions.
He loved us even when we had made ourselves his enemies through our sinfulness. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (see Rom. 5:8).
We have been bought with the price of the blood of God’s only Son (see 1 Cor. 6:20). We belong to Christ now, as St. Paul says in this week’s Epistle. By our baptism, we have been made temples of his Holy Spirit.
And we have been saved to share in his holiness and perfection. So let us glorify him by our lives lived in his service, loving as he loves.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Fr. Robert Barron: The RealClearReligion Interview

The following comes from Real Clear Religion:
Father Robert Barron is a priest on fire. After producing a largely successful television series, Catholicism, he moved north of Chicago, Illinois to the University of St. Mary of the Lake, a seminary in Mundelein. The cardinal archbishop of Chicago, Francis George, appointed him Rector in the summer of 2012. There he continues to run his Word on Fire evangelical ministry and form nearly 200 candidates for the priesthood.
Fr. Barron's office is one building among many on the 800-acre campus. You might not recognize the design as Catholic, and Fr. Barron says this was on purpose. When in the 1920's Cardinal George Mundelein organized the seminary grounds, Catholics in America were suspect. Mundelein ordered the architecture of the buildings to look like colonial America, but inside he made them into Italian palazzos. "We fit into America," Fr. Barron said, "but we're going to Catholicize you when you get in."
Last week, I sat down with Fr. Barron in his office in Mundelein. Surrounded by portraits of Thérèse of Lisieux, Abraham Lincoln, Bob Dylan, and even a first-class relic of John Paul II, we discussed Pope Francis, how to make a good priest, and why Fr. Barron believes God called him to lead a seminary.
RealClearReligion: What do you make of Pope Francis?
Robert Barron: He's a mightily impressive figure. I was in Rome doing commentary for NBC when he was elected, and I can tell you that absolutely no one predicted it. I don't think anyone saw this prophetic figure coming. I think it might be what the Holy Spirit is inspiring us to right now. Maybe we need that in the Church, that back to basics evangelicalism. I think he's got a genius for that and a genius for communication through the gesture. We'll see now what unfolds in terms of concrete things, but his first year was a year of the great evangelical gesture.
RCR: How is Pope Francis a prophet?
RB: Well, this Pope is known as "friendly Francis," but he's a much more challenging figure than Pope Benedict XVI was. Almost every time Francis speaks, he's targeting somebody. That way, he's a bit like Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
RCR: Is it more style than substance?
RB: Style is substance in many ways. I think the substance is the name that he took. The church evangelizes, worships God, and cares for the poor. His emphasis is on the latter in a very big way. That's pretty substantive; I don't think it's a stylistic change.
RCR: Does the "new evangelization" simply mean new style? Or does it also mean new content?
RB: I always go back to John Paul II: it has to be new in ardor, new in expression, and new in method. But, Vatican II is the real ground for the "new evangelization." John XXIII clearly construed Vatican II as a missionary council -- it was lumen gentium! It was getting the light of the Church out to the nations. That's the "new evangelization" and to do it in this context of the modern world. The mistake, however, was to say Vatican II was about modernizing the Church. It was about Christifying the world. To do that in a modern framework, you have to make some adjustments, but the focus is evangelization, not modernization. That's what Paul VI picked up, what John Paul II picked up, what Benedict XVI picked up. To me, the great irony was that the Church before Vatican II was anything but ardent. The Church I knew in this country was handwringing, doubtful of itself, unsure of its convictions, arguing with itself about authority and sex.
New in expression is an important category. It doesn't mean to change the content of the faith, but the manner of expression can and should change. The church has to address the culture. It's like G.K. Chesterton's line about the white fence posts: you want to keep it white, but the worst thing you can do is leave it alone. You have to keep coming back to it and re-painting it, reassessing it.
New in method is especially applicable today. Inter Mirifica saw the new communications and technology -- which at the time only meant radio and television. But now, we have all these new social media methods.
Those three categories are important, but there's also the "old evangelization," which is declaring that Jesus Christ is Lord. That's always what evangelization is.
RCR: What happens when the media co-opts the new evangelization and tells its own story about what people will find when they come back to church?
RB: It's true that there's not an area where Pope Francis has changed the teaching, morally or doctrinally, of the Church. To draw people back in with a provocative style and gesture is fine and good, but it's a bit like Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. Charles is a sort of cool agnostic, but is brought back in by the beauty of it. But then in the course of that novel, he begins to feel the moral demand of the house. His life has got to become beautiful. And only at the end does he come to full acceptance. That's a great metaphor for how you draw people in.
People can be drawn in by the beauty of one of these Pope Francis gestures. Now, you're drawn in. Now, you'll see the demand placed upon you by the Church which has not changed its moral teaching. If you lead with the moral demand, its not going to work. Say what you want: its true, its right, its courageous. But it won't bring people in. That doesn't mean you drop it. Once they're in, now you bring to bear the full moral demand of the Church.
RCR: What does the seminary do?
RB: We're shaping 192 young men to be good and holy Catholic priests. We follow what's called a Program of Priestly Formation, which in turn is grounded in a lot of the statements of the Church like Pastores Dabo Vobis and the Vatican II documents. There are four pillars: human formation, spiritual formation, intellectual formation, and pastoral formation.
We have a very strong academic program where students study all different areas of theology. We have a very strong spiritual program. They all have a spiritual director and a formation advisor. We have a very strong human formation where all these issues in psychology, sexuality, integration, and relationship are covered. Then, pastoral formation. Every first-year guy is doing field education. Everyone at the end of second-year goes for a 10-week internship at a parish. Everybody in third-year goes on a hospital or prison ministry internship.
RCR: Do you teach the guys about confession? It seems Catholics don't frequent the Sacrament as much as they used to.
RB: Most people witness the fact that confession didn't fade away, it just ended. You can almost point to 1968 and see that it just stopped. Was it a Humane Vitae phenomenon? Was it a cultural shift? I would say my generation is a product of the hyper-stress on the love of God, to the exclusion of any kind of moral demand or moral responsibility. My generation got the message, trust me, that God is love. We really got that! The trouble is, though, it didn't come with that Brideshead Revisited moment. What happened to a lot of people in my generation was: who cares? God is love; why bother? A certain moral seriousness was compromised after Vatican II. The practical result of that was the drop-off in confession.
The irony is that there are confessional boxes all of the culture now. All the talk shows are basically people in confessional boxes. Some kind of great revelation of your sin, especially sexual sin, is a big part of talk-show culture. That used to happen in the confessional context. It was a healthier context. If you're going to manifest a dysfunction of the sexual order, at least you were doing it within the context of the Sacrament. I bemoan the loss of confession.
RCR: How do you get people back to confession?
RB: Priests need to preach it more than they do. I had a chance to speak at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York on the first Sunday of Advent. I gave the homily and at the end I said, "What's the best thing to do during Advent? Go to confession." It is important that priests preach it again, but it's more than that. It's education. It's culture.
RCR: What do you teach your seminarians about the Mass?
RB: I laid out for the students three spiritual paths: find the center, you know you're a sinner, and then you realize your life is not about you. I use the campus as my illustration. Find the center: the worship of God, the chapel in the center of campus. Once you find the center, the rest of the campus is laid out symmetrically. The right praise of God, orthodoxy, orders you properly. That's the liturgy. Your personality is knit back together around the right praise of God, and from that flows everything.
I also tell the students: your number one task as a priest is that you are the chief liturgist. You lead the people in right praise. Biblically, bad worship is always the problem. Bad worship always leads to distortions and problems.
RCR: You tell the seminarians that "your life is not about you," but hasn't turning the altar around made the Mass about the priest?
RB: It can happen: the talk-show host priest, drawing attention to himself and his personality. Would an ad orientem liturgy solve that? I think that's too simple. I think the principles are important. Joseph Ratzinger said that liturgy is cosmic; it compels you outward to the whole cosmos that God has made. The reconciliation we're looking for is not in me or in us, but in the whole cosmos. Its about the worship of God, not about the worship of our own community.
We've come a long way. I came of age in the late 1960s and 1970s. I went through the seminary in the late 1970s and 1980s, and we've come a long way in terms of straitening it out along an authentic Vatican II vision.
RCR: Do you think there a decline in priests?
RB: Well, there has been if you measure it back to the 1960s and 1970s. Yes, there's been a precipitous decline in numbers. Now, numbers of seminarians have been pretty stable over the past 25 years. It's not fair to say that John Paul II sent the numbers through the roof. But they've been stable, and they remained stable through the wake of the sexual abuse crisis.
I ask candidates, "You were a kid when the sexual abuse crisis broke. What was it like discerning a vocation during that time?" These kids now, their parents don't understand it. Their friends think they're crazy. They have to face all that. It is inspiriting that nevertheless, they come. The vocation is pretty deeply rooted.
RCR: Do you believe you were called to be rector of the seminary?
RB: Yes, in the measure that the cardinal archbishop of Chicago asked me -- which means in Catholic ecclesiology, Christ asked me.
RCR: Some say that because of your successful Word on Fire ministry, you could be better utilized elsewhere.
RB: Well, we've kept Word on Fire going. My wonderful staff comes up here to the seminary once a week to film and record my homily, and now we're planning another big film trip. We're again traveling around the world to tell the stories of ten pivotal Catholics. I think I've been able to handle both roles pretty well, at the seminary and at Word on Fire, but thank God for my staff at both places.
If I were to guess, I would say that the cardinal wanted some of that "new evangelization" focus to come up here to Mundelein.

Happy Birthday George Washington!

Happy birthday George Washington!  

You can learn more about our heroic first President by clicking here.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Salesian General Chapter is beginning! Follow it here!

The Salesians of Don Bosco are about to begin the 27th General Chapter in Rome!  The Chapter is held every 6 years with all 120 provinces and 132 nations represented.  This year we pray for the Holy Spirit to assist the Chapter participants to choose a new Rector Major for the Salesian Family as Fr. Pascual Chavez, SDB is completing his 2nd 6 year term as the successor to Don Bosco.  You can follow the proceedings at Fr. Mike Pace's blog: A Chapter's Pace!

I will link to Fr. Mike's blog on the GC27 image to the right.

Here is the latest on the proceedings for the General Chapter participants from the Salesian News Agency:

Tomorrow morning, Saturday21 February, the members of the General Council and the Chapter members who have already arrived in Rome for the 27th General Chapter, will leave at dawn for Turin. There they will have three intense days of Salesian spirituality, reflection and fellowship.
The Salesians from the General House will travel by coach and will reach Turin in the early afternoon. There they will meet with other Chapter members who will be waiting for them in Turin. During the three days , they will all be accommodated at the Salesian House of Valdocco, the heart of the entire Salesian Congregation.
The activities will be concentrated between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning . Divided into language groups - in Italian , English and Spanish - the participants of the pilgrimage will study the theme of the chapter "Work and Temperance" in the history of Don Bosco and the Congregation:
• Valsalice, at the tomb of Don Bosco, in relation to his spiritual testament (Saturday afternoon);
• Becchi, where Don Bosco was born, in relation to the origins of his charism (Sunday morning);
• Valdocco, the birthplace of the Salesian Oratory, with specific attention to the lifestyle, the radicalism and apostolic zeal of the early generations of Salesians (Sunday afternoon 23);
• The Church of St. John the Evangelist , focusing on the contributions of the Successors of Don Bosco (Monday morning).
Among the other activities, there will be the Eucharist on Saturday afternoon (18:00 - GMT +2) in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, at which the Rector Major will preside and all the priests of the Chapter will concelebrate. The celebration will be broadcast live by satellite Telepace.
On the same Saturday evening, the Rector Major and the Chapter members will be entertained by a show staged for them in Valdocco by the post-novices from Nave.

A Reflection on St.Peter Damian by Cardinal Bergolio

What anti-pope is also a saint?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pope Francis: To know Jesus, we must follow Him

(Vatican Radio) Jesus is known more by following Him than by studying Him. That was the message of Pope Francis at his homily during the Mass celebrated Thursday morning at Casa Santa Marta. Every day, he explained, Christ asks “who” He is for us, but it is only possible to answer by living as disciples.

It is the life of a disciple, more than a life of study, that allows a Christian to really know who Jesus is for him. A journey in the footsteps of the Master, where clear witness and even betrayals, falls and new impulses, can intersect. But it is not only an intellectual approach. Pope Francis took the example of Peter, who in the Gospel of the day portrays at the same time both as a “courageous” witness — who responded to Jesus’ question to the Apostles, “Who do you say I am for you?” by saying, “You are the Christ” — and immediately afterwards as an adversary, when he feels he has to reproach Jesus, who had just announced that he had to suffer and die, and then to rise. “Many times,” the Pope said, “Jesus turns to us and asks us: “But who am I for you?” and getting “the same response that Peter gave, the one we learned in the catechism.” But that is not enough:

“It seems that to respond to that question that we have heard in our hearts — ‘Who is Jesus for us?’ — what we have learned, what we have studied is not enough. It is important to study and to understand, but it is not enough. To know Jesus it is necessary to take the journey that Peter took: after that humiliation, Peter went forward with Jesus, he saw the miracles Jesus did, he saw his power. Then he paid the tax as Jesus had told him, he caught a fish, removed a coin, he saw many miracles like that. But, at a certain point, Peter denied Jesus, he betrayed Jesus, and he learned that most difficult knowledge — more than knowledge, wisdom — of tears, of weeping.”

Peter, Pope Francis continued, asks forgiveness from Jesus — and yet, after the Resurrection, he is questioned three times by Jesus on the beach of Tiberias: “Do you love me?” Probably, the Pope said, in his reaffirming his total love for his Master, he wept, and was ashamed at the memory of his triple denial:

“This first question for Peter — ‘Who am I for you?’ — can only be understood along a path, after a long path, a path of grace and of sin, a path of a disciple. Jesus did not say to Peter and to His Apostles “Know me”; He said, “Follow me!” And this following of Jesus makes us know Jesus. Following Jesus with our strength, but also with our sins, but always following Jesus. It is not a study of things that is necessary, but a life of a disciple.”

It takes “a daily encounter with the Lord, every day, with our triumphs and our weaknesses.” But, the Pope added, it is “a journey that we can’t make on our own.” The intervention of the Holy Spirit is necessary:

“To know Jesus is a gift of the Father; it is He who makes us know Jesus. It is a work of the Holy Spirit, who is a great worker. Not a trade unionist — He is a great worker and He works in us always. He does this work of explaining the mystery of Jesus, and of giving us this sense of Jesus. We look at Jesus, Peter, the Apostles, and we hear in our hearts the question: ‘Who am I for you?’ And as disciples let us ask the Father that He would grant to us to know Christ in the Holy Spirit, that He would explain this mystery.”

In video message to Pentecostal community, Francis calls for Christian unity

The following comes from the CWR:

In an unusual video message, recorded on an iPhone by a Pentecostal pastor Pope Francis knew in Argentina, the pope says all Christians share blame for their divisions, speaks of his "longing" for their unity and insists that God will bring the miracle of Christian unity to completion.

"Pray to the Lord that he will unite us all," the pope tells a group of Pentecostals meeting in the United States. "Let's move forward, we are brothers; let us give each other that spiritual embrace and allow the Lord to complete the work he has begun. Because this is a miracle; the miracle of unity has begun." …

Addressing Palmer as "my brother, a bishop-brother" and saying they had "been friends for years," the pope offered what he said were greetings "both joyful and full of longing" to participants in a forthcoming meeting of the Kenneth Copeland Ministries, a Pentecostal group that sponsors large prayer gatherings around the world.

The joy, the pope said, comes from knowing that "the Lord is working all over the whole world."

But he said he is full of longing because Christians are still separated, "separated because of sin, our sins."

"Who is at fault?" he asked. "All of us are, we are all sinners. There is only one who is just and that is the Lord."

Pope to Faithful: 'Do Not Be Afraid of Confession'

During his Wednesday audience, Pope Francis encouraged the pilgrims filling St. Peter's Square to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.

"Everyone say to himself: ‘When was the last time I went to confession?’ And if it has been a long time, don’t lose another day! Go, the priest will be good. And Jesus, (will be) there, and Jesus is better than the priests - Jesus receives you. He will receive you with so much love! Be courageous, and go to confession,” urged the Pope on Feb. 19.

Acknowledging a popular objection to the sacrament, Pope Francis noted, “someone can say, ‘I confess my sins only to God.’ Yes, you can say to God, ‘forgive me,’ and say your sins. But our sins are also against our brothers, against the Church. This is is why it is necessary to ask forgiveness of the Church and of our brothers, in the person of the priest.”

"While the celebration of the sacrament is personal, it is rooted in the universality of the Church," which "accompanies us on the path of conversion," he explained.

“Forgiveness is not something we can give ourselves,” cautioned the Pope. “One asks forgiveness, one asks it of another person, and in confession, we ask forgiveness from Jesus.”

“Forgiveness is not a result of our efforts, but is a gift. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit who showers us with mercy and grace that pours forth unceasingly from the open heart of Christ crucified and risen.”

The Pontiff went on to recognize that many people feel ashamed at the idea of confessing their sins and might say, “but Father, I am embarrased!”

“Even embarrassment is good. It’s healthy to have a bit of shame... it does us good, because it makes us more humble.”

“Don’t be afraid of confession,” Pope Francis stressed. “When someone is in line for confession he feels all these things - even shame - but then, when he finishes confessing, he leaves (feeling) free, great, beautiful, forgiven, clean, happy.”

“The sacrament of reconciliation is a sacrament of healing,” he pointed out.

“When I go to confession, it’s for healing: healing the soul, healing the heart because of something that I did to make it unwell.”

The Pope pointed to the biblical story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man, which expresses the “profound link” between “forgiveness and healing,” since “the Lord Jesus is revealed at the same time as the physician of soul and body.”

He also recounted the parable of the prodigal son, who sought his father’s forgiveness and was welcomed home with open arms.  

“But I say to you,” he stressed to the many pilgrims, “every time we go to confession, God embraces us.”

Jesus hits the big screen

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fr. Robert Barron: Holy Priests, Crazy Prophets, Bold Kings

The following comes from Real Clear Religion:

A classic characterization of Jesus is that he is priest, prophet, and king. As priest, he sanctifies, that is to say, he reestablishes the lost link between divinity and humanity; as prophet, he speaks and embodies the divine truth; and as king, he leads us on the right path, giving guidance to the human project. You might say that, as priest, he is the life; as prophet, he is the truth; and as king he is the way.
Not only is this munus triplex (triple office) a rich way to characterize the Lord; it is also a very good way to designate who the baptized are supposed to be. According to Catholic theology, baptism is much more than merely a symbolic sign of belonging to the church. It is the means by which a person is incorporated into Christ, becoming a member of his mystical body. Baptism, accordingly, makes the baptized an alter Christus, another Christ. This is precisely why, for example, every candidate for baptism is anointed with oil, just as, in the Old Testament, priests, prophets, and kings were anointed upon assumption of their offices.
So what does this look like in practice? How does it show itself in the lives of ordinary believers?
Let us look at priesthood first. A priest fosters holiness, precisely in the measure that he or she serves as a bridge between God and human beings. In ancient Roman times, the priest was described as a pontifex, bridge-builder, and this remains a valid designation in the Christian context. The reconciliation of divinity and humanity produces in human beings a wholeness or integration, a coming together of the often warring elements within the self. The same dynamic obtains on a grander scale as well: when cities, societies, cultures rediscover a link to God, they find an inner peace.
And therefore baptized priests are meant, first, to embody the harmony that God wants between himself and those made in his image and likeness. They affect this through their own intense devotion to prayer, the sacraments, and the Mass. In their cultivation of a real friendship with the living Christ, they act out their priestly identity and purpose. Then, they are sent out into families, communities, places of work, the political and cultural arenas, etc. in order to carry the integration they have found like a holy contagion. If baptized priests stop praying, stop going to Mass, stop frequenting the sacraments, they will become, in short order, like salt that has lost its savor.
What does it mean for the average baptized person to be a prophet? A person is a prophet in the measure that he or she bears the truth of God. G.K. Chesterton said that in an upside-down world such as ours, the prophet is the one who stands on his head so that he might see things aright. This is why, of course, prophets have always appeared more than a little insane. In fact, the Hebrew word for prophet, nabi, has the overtone of madman. Well, of course: in a world that has lost its bearings, those who speak the divine truth will, perforce, appear unhinged.
How does one cultivate this salutary madness? Baptized prophets should exercise their brains by studying philosophy, theology, spirituality, church history, and the lives of the saints. And they can't be satisfied with reading superficial tracts designed for children. Augustine, Origen, Bernard, Thomas Aquinas, Ignatius, John Henry Newman, Chesterton, and Ratzinger beckon. If those classic authors are a bit intimidating, Fulton Sheen, C.S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft, George Weigel, and Robert Spitzer provide more accessible but still meaty fare. Having been illumined, these prophets are then sent out into their worlds as beacons of light. God knows that in our increasingly secularized society, such illumination is desperately needed, but if baptized prophets stop studying and stop speaking, they are like lamps over which a bushel basket has been placed.
Finally, what does it mean for the ordinary Catholic to be a king? In the theological sense, a king is someone who orders the charisms within a community so as to direct that community toward God. In this way, he is like the general of an army or the conductor of an orchestra: he coordinates the efforts and talents of a conglomeration of people in order to help them achieve a common purpose. Thus, a Catholic parent directs her children toward the accomplishment of their God-given missions, educating them, shaping them interiorly, molding their behavior, disciplining their desires, etc. A Catholic politician appreciates the moral dimension of his work, and legislates, cajoles, and directs accordingly. A Catholic private equity investor saves a company that provides indispensable jobs in a declining neighborhood, etc.
How does one grow in the capacity to exercise kingly leadership? One can do so by overcoming the cultural prejudice in favor of a privatized religion. Most of the avatars of secularism would accept religion as a personal preoccupation, something along the lines of a hobby. But such an attenuated spirituality has nothing to do with a robustly Biblical sense of religion. On the Catholic reading, religious people -- the baptized -- come forth boldly and publicly and are more than willing to govern, to be kings, out of religious conviction. If you are looking for examples of what I'm describing here, look no further than William Lloyd Garrison, Fulton Sheen, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Dorothy Day. Baptized kings who refuse to reign are like a hilltop city covered in clouds.
The key to the renewal of our society is a recovery of the deepest meaning of baptism, to become priestly, prophetic, and kingly people.

Pope Francis: Catechesis on the Sacrament of Reconciliation

(Vatican Radio) Below, please find the English language synthesis of Pope Francis’ Catechesis for the General Audience on Wednesday 19 February 2014:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Through the Sacraments of Initiation, we receive new life in Christ. This life we carry in earthen vessels, however, and we still experience temptations, suffering, and death. 

Because of sin, we can even lose this new life. Jesus therefore willed that the Church continue his works of salvation for her members, in particular through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which flows from the Paschal Mystery. The forgiveness we receive is not the result of our own efforts, but is the gift of the Holy Spirit reconciling us to God and to each other. 

While the celebration of the Sacrament is personal, it is rooted in the community of the Church, in which the Holy Spirit is present, uniting us all in Jesus Christ. When confessing our sins then, we confess to the priest who represents not only God but also the community of the Church that accompanies us on the path of conversion. 

Though this Sacrament is a great treasure, we may be tempted to dismiss it, perhaps due to laziness or embarrassment, or because of a diminishing sense of sin and its effects. Too often, we see ourselves as the centre and measure of all things, and our lives can go adrift. 

The Sacrament of Reconciliation calls us back to God, and embraces us with his infinite mercy and joy. May we allow his love to renew us as his children and to reconcile us with him, with ourselves, and with one another.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pope Francis: resist temptation by listening to Jesus' Word

(Vatican Radio) Resisting the seduction of temptation is possible only “when listening to the Word of Jesus.” Those were the words of Pope Francis in his homily at the Mass this morning at Casa Santa Marta. Despite our weaknesses, the Pope repeated, Christ always gives us “confidence” and opens to us a horizon wider than our limitations.
Temptation manifests itself as a harmless attraction and ends up turning into a cage. Rather than trying to escape, more often we try to minimize the slavery, being deaf to the Word of God. In his homily, Pope Francis reaffirms a truth and a sequence described by St. James in the day’s reading. The truth is that man is tempted not by God, but by his passions. The sequence is produced by the same passions, which, the Apostle says, “conceive and produce sin. And sin, once committed, brings forth death”:
“Where does temptation come from? How does it work in us? The Apostle tells us that it is not from God, but from our passions, our inner weaknesses, from the wounds left in us by original sin: that’s where temptations come from, from these passions. It’s curious... temptation has three characteristics: it grows, is contagious and is justified. It grows: it begins with a tranquil air, and grows ... Jesus himself said this when He spoke about the parable of the wheat and the tares. The wheat grew, but so did the weeds sown by the enemy. And the temptation grows: it grows, it grows... And if one does not stop it, it fills everything.
Further, Pope Francis continued, the temptation “looks for another to keep it company, it is contagious” and “in growing, in being contagious, the temptation closes us in in an environment where you can’t get out easily.” This is the experience of the Apostles related in the Gospel of the day, where the Twelve blame each other under the eyes of the Master for not having brought bread on board the boat. Jesus, the Pope said, perhaps smiling at the quarrel, invites them to watch out for “the leaven of the Pharisees, of Herod.” But the Apostles, who, not listening to Him, continued to argue, were “so closed in on the issue of who was to blame for not having brought the bread, that they did not have space, the time, the light for the Word of God”:
"And so, when we are tempted, we do not hear the Word of God, we don’t hear. We don’t understand. And Jesus had to remind them of the multiplication of the loaves to get them out of that environment, because temptation closes us in, it takes away any ability to see ahead, it closes every horizon, and so leads us to sin. When we are tempted, only the Word of God, the Word of Jesus saves us, hearing that Word that opens the horizon... He is always willing to teach us how to escape from temptation. And Jesus is great because He not only brings us out of temptation, but gives us more confidence.”
This confidence, the Pope says, is “a great strength when we are tempted: the Lord waits for us... trusts us who are so tempted, who are sinners... He always opens horizons.” On the other hand, Pope Francis said, the devil, “ with temptation, closes, closes, closes” and makes an environment similar to the boat of the Apostles. And not to be “imprisoned” by this type of environment, he concluded, is possible only “when listening to the Word of Jesus”:
“Let us ask the Lord, who always — as He did with the disciples, with his patience — when we are tempted, tells us: ‘Stop, don’t worry. Remember what I did with you at that moment, at that time: remember. Lift up your eyes, look at the horizon, do not be closed, do not close in on yourself, go forward.’ And this Word will save us from falling into sin in the moment of temptation."

Fr. Jacques Philippe: Lectio Divina

Watchmen of the Night: The monks of Saint Mary Magdalene Monastery in Le Barroux

Monday, February 17, 2014

Empty And Beautiful by Matt Maher

How did the Old Testament canon develop?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

My Heart Is Overwhelmed by Hillsong

Catholic Answers: What is the Holy Spirit?

Prayer Need: Two Salesian religious murdered during robbery in Venezuela

 During a suspected robbery at Don Bosco College in the Venezuelan city of Valencia the evening of Feb. 15, two Salesians were stabbed to death, and another was wounded.

Fr. Jesus Plaza, 80, and Brother Luis Sanchez, 84 were both murdered; and Brother David Marin, 64, was stabbed in the leg multiple times, but is reportedly out of danger after having been treated at a local clinic.

“Last night two Salesian brothers were killed in Venezuela,” Fr. Pascual Chavez, superior of the Salesians of Don Bosco, confirmed via Twitter Feb. 16.

"We pray for peace and for the restoration of the rule of law in the nation,” he exhorted.

According to police investigations, the alleged perpetrators are two minors, between 13 and 15 years of age, and they stole computers, money, mobile phones, and liturgical objects from the rectory.

In a statement released through the Facebook page of Don Bosco College, Fr. Luciano Stefani, provincial general of the Salesians in Venezuela, said, “as this tragedy leads our province to mourn, and moves us to seek a reason, let us raise our prayers to the Lord, asking eternal rest for these our brothers.”

Fr. Stefani also called for "peace and spiritual tranquility " for Brother Marin and for Fr. José Luis Salazar, both of whom were gagged by the delinquents as they entered the college.

The vicar general of the Archdiocese of Valencia noted via Twitter the “immense pain for the blood of the Salesians of Valencia who lived for our people.”

"Lord, in the midst of pain and confusion, thank you all the Salesians do for us in your Name,” he said, going on to say Fr. Plaza is now “with Mary, Help of Christians in heaven.”

Fr. Fernando Santana, director of the Don Bosco house in Guaparo, a suburb of Valencia, asked the Venezuelan press that the murders not be politicized, saying this is “a social reality” of the nation.

“There are no elements which link this with the events going on in the country; this is a situation of insecurity. There are not groups who came here to produce chaos,” he said.

Valencia is located 100 miles west of Caracas, the capital of Venezuela.

Pope Francis: Gossip is poisonous

 Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus message emphasized the importance of avoiding all forms of slander in living a Christian life.

“It’s so rotten, gossip. At the beginning, it seems to be something enjoyable and fun, like a piece of candy.  But at the end, it fills the heart with bitterness and also poisons us,” said Pope Francis on Feb. 16.

“I tell you the truth,” he preached to the crowds filling St. Peter’s Square. “I am convinced that if each one of us would purposely avoid gossip, at the end, we would become a saint! It’s a beautiful path!”

“Do we want to become saints? Yes or no?” he queried as the crowds replied, “yes!”

“Yes? Do we want to live attached to gossip as a habit?” Pope Francis continued, “Yes or no? No? Ok, so we are in agreement! No gossip!”

The gospel reading at Sunday’s mass contained the story of Jesus explaining to the disciples that he had come “not to abolish, but to fulfill the law” of the old covenant.

Jesus offers the example of the fifth commandment, “do not kill,” and goes on to add, “but I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be guilty before the court.”

“With this, Jesus reminds us that even words can kill!” explained the Pope. “When it is said that someone has the ‘tongue of a serpent,’ what does it mean? That his words kill.”

“Therefore, not only must one not make an attempt on the life of others, but one must not even pour on him the poison of anger and hit him with slander, nor speak ill of him. And here we arrive at gossip. Gossip can also kill, because it kills the reputation of the person,” stressed the Pontiff.

Jesus proposes another way to his followers, “the perfection of love: a love in which the only measure is not to measure, but to go beyond all calculating.”

This Christian path of loving one’s neighbor is “so fundamental that Jesus comes to say that our relationship with God can not be honest if we do not want to make peace with our neighbor.”

“We are called to reconcile with our brothers prior to showing our devotion to the Lord in prayer,” said Pope Francis, noting Jesus’ words to his disciples, “ if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother.”

The Pope then summarized, “from all of this, one understands that Jesus does not give importance simply to disciplinary observance and exterior conduct. He goes to the root of the law, focusing above all on the intention and then on the human heart, from where our good or bad actions originate.”

“Good and honest behavior” does not come merely from “juridical norms” but requires “profound motivation, expressions of a hidden wisdom, the Wisdom of God, which can be received by the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

It is Holy Spirit who “renders us capable of living divine love” and following “the greatest commandment: love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Pope Francis then led the crowds in the Angelus prayer and greeted the various pilgrim groups present before wishing everyone a “good Sunday and a good lunch.”

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Broken Bread by Rend Collective Experiment

An Act of Hope and Confidence in God by St. Claude De La Colombiere

My God, I believe most firmly that Thou watchest over all who hope in Thee, and that we can want for nothing when we rely upon Thee in all things; therefore I am resolved for the future to have no anxieties, and to cast all my cares upon Thee.

People may deprive me of worldly goods and of honors; sickness may take from me my strength and the means of serving Thee; I may even lose Thy grace by sin; but my trust shall never leave me. I will preserve it to the last moment of my life, and the powers of hell shall seek in vain to wrestle it from me.

Let others seek happiness in their wealth, in their talents; let them trust to the purity of their lives, the severity of their mortifications, to the number of their good works, the fervor of their prayers; as for me, O my God, in my very confidence lies all my hope. “For Thou, O Lord, singularly has settled me in hope.” This confidence can never be in vain. “No one has hoped in the Lord and has been confounded.”

I am assured, therefore, of my eternal happiness, for I firmly hope for it, and all my hope is in Thee. “In Thee, O Lord, I have hoped; let me never be confounded.”

I know, alas! I know but too well that I am frail and changable; I know the power of temptation against the strongest virtue. I have seen stars fall from heaven, and pillars of firmament totter; but these things alarm me not. While I hope in Thee I am sheltered from all misfortune, and I am sure that my trust shall endure, for I rely upon Thee to sustain this unfailing hope.

Finally, I know that my confidence cannot exceed Thy bounty, and that I shall never receive less than I have hoped for from Thee. Therefore I hope that Thou wilt sustain me against my evil inclinations; that Thou wilt protect me against the most furious assults of the evil one, and that Thou wilt cause my weakness to triumph over my most powerful enemies. I hope that Thou wilt never cease to love me, and that I shall love Thee unceasingly. “In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped; let me never be confounded.”