Monday, March 31, 2014

Salt and Light Witness: Fr. Robert Barron

Pope to Salesians: Working for the souls helps fight spiritual worldliness

The following comes from the NCR Canada:
Pope Francis encouraged the Salesians in their work with young people, saying that religious vocations are the fruit of good pastoral youth ministry.
"Sometimes vocations to consecrated life are confused with choosing to do volunteer work, and this distorted vision does no good" to congregations and religious orders, he told more than 250 religious taking part in the Salesians' general chapter in Rome Feb. 22-April 12.
The full beauty of religious life needs to be shared with young people -- not incomplete or biased points of view, which risk promoting "fragile" vocations that are based on "weak motivations," he told them during a private audience at the Vatican March 31.
Religious vocations are "ordinarily fruit of good pastoral care of youth," he said, and people discerning a religious vocation need prayer and special attention, personalized formation, guidance and support from young people's families.
The pope, who attended a Salesian school in Buenos Aires when he was 13, said he recalls the importance of the order's motto of "Work and Temperance," joking that the school even forbade everyone from having "siesta" or an afternoon nap after lunch.
"Working for the good of souls" helps people focus on the essentials of God and his kingdom, the pope said.
He also encouraged the Salesians to continue their efforts in education and help find answers to today's "educational emergency" through increased cultural awareness and strong educational preparation.
"It's necessary to prepare young people to work in society with the spirit of the Gospel, as workers for justice and peace, and to live as protagonists in the church."
However, the pope said, while it's important to learn "new languages" with the changing times, the most important language still remains speaking "from the heart" in order to reach out and forge friendships with others.
The pope also greeted the Salesians' new rector major, Spanish Father Angel Fernandez Artime, who was elected to a six-year term on the first ballot March 25.
Born Aug. 21, 1960, in Luanco-Gozon, Spain, he was ordained in 1987. He has degrees in pastoral theology, and philosophy and pedagogy.
He served as director of youth ministry in the province of Leon, and he was provincial of Leon from 2000 to 2006.
Father Fernandez was provincial of the South Argentina province between 2009 and 2014, during which time he got to know and work with the future Pope Francis, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires.
Father Fernandez had been appointed provincial of the new province of Mary Help of Christians in Spain, but will not carry out that appointment because of his election as rector major.
Addressing his fellow Salesians March 25, Father Fernandez said: "I abandon myself to the Lord. We ask Don Bosco and Mary Help of Christians to accompany us and to accompany me, with my brother Salesians and with the congregation, and I accept with faith."

Pope Francis to Salesians: Reach marginalized youth

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday met with members of the 27th General Chapter of the Salesians of Don Bosco. The theme of the chapter is “Witnesses to the Radical Approach of the Gospel.”

In his address, the Holy Father said the Holy Spirit would assist the religious institute to understand the expectations and challenges of our time, especially those of the young people whose formation is the basis of the congregation’s main apostolate.
Pope Francis told the Salesians the evangelization of young people is closely connected with education, and he encouraged them in their efforts to respond to the current educational crisis, while always remembering the “Preventive System” of St. John Bosco, which is based on kindness and friendship with pupils.
He also spoke of the life of exclusion many young people face. “Think of the vast reality of unemployment, with all of the negative consequences,” said Pope Francis. “Think of the addictions, which sadly are manifold, but stem from a common root of an absence of true love. Reaching marginalized youth requires courage, maturity and much prayer.”
He urged the Salesians to use “careful discernment” when sending people to the peripheries inhabited by these excluded youth.
The Holy Father also encouraged the community life of the Salesians, which he said supports their entire apostolate. “The humanizing power of the Gospel is demonstrated by the fraternity lived in community, comprised of welcome, respect, mutual help , understanding , kindness , forgiveness and joy,” said the Pope. “The familial spirit bequeathed by Don Bosco is a great help in this respect, encouraging perseverance and building an attraction to the consecrated life.”
During their General Chapter, the Salesians elected Don Angel Fernandez Artime as the 10th Rector Major, commonly referred to as the successor of Saint John Bosco.

Word Among Us: Lenten Bible Study (Part 4)

Lent Bible Study Session 4 from The Word Among Us on Vimeo.

Getting the most out of Holy Mass

Hat tip to the Aggie Catholic on this one:

Q - Mass can be boring. How can I go to Mass and get more out of it?

A - Thanks for your question. First off, I will tell you that your question is all too common. Many people go to Mass with the expectation that they are supposed to "get" a lot out of it. Yet, many don't put much of themselves into it. So, it is very dependent on what kind of changes you are willing to make in your efforts before, during and after Mass.

Let me give you eight pointers that have helped me in the past:

1 - Properly prepare for Mass. 

  • Read and study the readings before you go to Mass, and then listen to them (don't read along) while The Word is proclaimed. You can find the Sunday readings here.
  • Study the Church's teachings. The more you know about Christ and His Church, the more there is to love. - You can't love what you don't know.
  • Go to Confession regularly. This will help prepare you spiritually.
  • Pray daily. This too will help your spiritual prep.
  • Dress appropriately. You are going to meet the King of Kings. Don't dress the same as you would for a lunch date or class. Make it special.
  • Get there early and sit up front. Less distractions and more time for prayer before Mass.
  • Once inside, don't talk or people-watch...pray.
2 - Make sure your attitude is adjusted properly

  • Don't expect to be entertained. It isn't as much about what God is doing for you, but what you are doing to worship God.
  • Look for God in every part of the Mass.
  • Don't allow mistakes to distract you.
  • Find one nugget in the preaching to take home with you.
3 - Participate

  • Sing. Sing loud, even if your voice is bad.
  • Respond and pray with gusto. Give it all to God and don't worry about others.
  • Remember that this isn't about being social.
  • Offer your pain, sufferings, joys and prayers to God.
4 -Listen to the Word and be open to it changing you

  • Are you open to letting God change you? If not, then you won’t be changed.
  • Listen to the Word proclaimed - don't read along, if you are able.
  • Find something in the Homily and apply it for the week.
5 - Know, understand, and proclaim your Faith

  • Don’t just recite the Creed - proclaim it like you mean it and understand what you are proclaiming.
6 - Tithe

  • If every Catholic tithed...think what we could accomplish in spreading the Gospel.
  • Yes, it is our duty to support the Church. But, it does more for our own faith than it does for the Church.
  • Most people "tip" not "tithe" - so be a tither, not a tipper.
7 - When you receive Jesus in the Eucharist - understand what it is you are doing

  • You are taking the Body, blood, soul, and divinity of GOD into you
  • You are joining in heaven on earth
  • You are becoming one with The Body of Christ
  • Be reverent
  • Realize that He is in everyone else that received Him as well.
8 - Tell other people about Him

  • You are now empowered to evangelize - which is what the Church exists for
"If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy." - Saint Jean Vianney

Witness to Christ, Pope urges blind and deaf

Pope Francis held an audience with the blind and deaf on Saturday, encouraging them to become witnesses of Christ and to build a culture of encounter rather than exclusion.

“We think of the many whom Jesus wanted to meet, above all people marked by illness and disability, to heal them and to restore their full dignity to them. It is very important that such persons become witnesses of a new approach, that we could call a ‘culture of encounter,’” the Pontiff said to those gathered in Paul VI Audience Hall March 29.

He recalled two gospel stories: Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman, who exemplifies “the type of person that Jesus loved to meet, to make his witness: people who were marginalized, excluded, despised,” and Christ’s healing of the man born blind.

Despite the animosity of the Pharisees, Jesus heals the man who was blind from birth. This man, in turn, testifies to Christ’s healing power.

“The remarkable thing is that this man, starting from what had happened to him, became a witness of Jesus and of his work, that is the work of God, of life, of love, of mercy,” reflected Pope Francis.

“In effect, only those who recognize their own fragility, their own limits, can build fraternal relations of solidarity, in the Church and in society.”

This culture of encounter exemplified by Christ stands in stark contrast to “the culture of exclusion, of prejudice.”

Someone who has met the Lord “who has known him, or better, has felt knowledge of him, recognition, respect, love, forgiveness,” has had an encounter which “has touched him profoundly, has filled him with a new joy, a new significance for life. And this shines through, communicates itself, is transmitted to others,” explained Pope Francis.

“The sick or disabled person, precisely from his fragility, from his limits, can become a witness to encounter: the encounter with Jesus that unfolds to life and to faith, and the encounter with others, with the community.”

The Pope urged the blind and deaf who had gathered to meet with him, “let yourselves encounter Jesus.” He said only Jesus “truly knows the heart of man, only he can free us from shutting down and from fruitless pessimism and open us to life and to hope.”

Jakob Badde, a deaf man who attended Saturday’s audience, told CNA he was surprised at “how many people came, how excited they were, and the emotion.” He also noted “the patience of the Pope, how relaxed he was.”

Badde expressed his hope that the Saturday meeting will be the start of something more in the future. “I hope Pope Francis will improve relations with the deaf (community), and then he will also realize what technical needs there are.”

The young man from Germany added that the excitement of today’s meeting was marred only by a lack of translators using sign language in various languages: only Italian sign language was used.

“I have the feeling and the joy, but without the message,” he lamented.

Nonetheless, he said, the audience was “a beautiful encounter” with “this excitement, this passion, and then this quiet, great person.”

“I’ve never seen something like this,” he reflected.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Something Beautiful by NEEDTOBREATHE

Friday, March 28, 2014

Fr. Robert Barron on The Natural Law

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Saint of the day: John Damascene

The following comes from the Patron Saints Index:

Son of Mansur, representative of the Christians to the court of the Muslim caliph. Apparently thrived as a Christian in a Saracen land, becoming the chief financial officer for caliph Abdul Malek. Tutored in his youth by a captured Italian monk named Cosmas. Between the Christian teaching from the monk, and that of the Muslim schools, John became highly educated in the classical fields (geometry, literature, logic, rhetoric, etc.).

He defended the use of icons and images in churches through a series of letters opposing the anti-icon decrees of Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople. Legend says that Germanus plotted against him, and forged a letter in which John betrayed the caliph; the caliph ordered John’s writing hand chopped off, but the Virgin Mary appeared and re-attached the hand, a miracle which restored the caliph’s faith in him.

After this incident, John became a monk near Jerusalem. Priest. Anathematized by name by the 754 Council of Constantinople over his defense of the use of icons, but was defended by the 787 Seventh Council of Nicea.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pope Francis: On Holy Orders

In his weekly general audience Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Sacraments, devoting today’s discourse to those who receive Holy Orders, referring to it as a vocation of “service.”

“Those who are ordained are placed at the head of the community as servants, as Jesus did and taught,” the Pope observed in his March 26 general audience, adding that “the sacrament also helps them to passionately love the Church.”

Addressing the thousands of pilgrims gathered in a rainy St. Peter’s Square to hear his speech, the pontiff began by explaining that “In our catechesis on the sacraments, we now turn to the sacrament of Holy Orders.”

“Building on the vocation received in the sacraments of Christian initiation,” which are “Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist,” the Pope explained that “the sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony correspond to two specific vocations and are two ways of following Christ and building up his Church.”

Comprised of the three “grades” of “the episcopate, the presbyterate and the diaconate,” Pope Francis noted that Holy Orders “is the sacrament of pastoral ministry.”

Recalling how “Jesus entrusted his Apostles with the care of his flock,” the pontiff emphasized that “in every age the ordained make present in the Christian community the one Shepherd who is Christ,” and that they are “placed at the head of the community as servants” who follow Jesus’ example.

Emphasizing again the priest’s role as servant, the Pope expressed that their lives should be full “of passionate love for the Church, for whose purification and holiness the Lord gave himself completely.”

They ought to devote “all of their being and love to the community,” he continued, “which they should not consider as their property,” because “it is the property of the Lord, whom they should serve.”

In a final point, the pontiff voiced the necessity of those ordained to “rekindle the gift received” on the day of their ordination “through prayer, penance, and daily celebration of the Eucharist.”

“When the ordained minister does not nourish himself with prayer, listening to the Word, the continuous celebration of the Eucharist and frequently receiving the Sacrament of Penance, they end up losing the authentic meaning of service itself and the joy that derives from a profound communion with the Lord.”

Concluding his address, the Pope encouraged all present to pray for “the Church’s ministers,” particularly “those most in need of our prayers” who experience “difficulty or need to recover the value and freshness of their vocation.”

“We ask also that we our communities never lack” holy, generous, merciful and “authentic shepherds, according the Heart of Christ,” he prayed.

After concluding his discourse, the Pope greeted groups of pilgrims present from various countries around the world, including those from the United Kingdom, England, Australia, Denmark, Malta, China, Japan, the United States, Spain, México and Argentina.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime, SDB: "I abandon myself to the Lord!"

(ANS - Rome) The 27th General Chapter has elected Fr Ángel Fernández Artime, Provincial of Southern Argentina, as new Rector Major and Tenth Successor of Don Bosco.

The election took place at 10.20 a.m., on the first ballot, and was welcomed  with long applause. Fr Pascual Chávez, President of the Assembly, invited Fr Angel to come beside him, and said: "Dear Fr Ángel, through your confreres God has called you today to be the successor of Don Bosco. You are not called to be like the Rector Major, nor Don Vecchi nor Don Viganó. You are the successor of Don Bosco, not of Don Chavez. So, on behalf of the Chapter, I ask you if you accept."

Speaking in Spanish, Fr Angel said with an emotional heart: "I abandon myself to the Lord. We ask Don Bosco and Mary Help of Christians to accompany us and to accompany me, with my brother Salesians and with the Congregation, and I accept with faith."

The new Rector Major began right away to receive the embrace of all the Chapter members.

The New Rector Major: Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime, SDB

(ANS)  The 27th General Chapter has elected Fr Ángel Fernández Artime, Provincial of Southern Argentina, as tenth Successor of Don Bosco.

The election took place at 10.20 on the first ballot.

The official announcement was welcomed with long and warm applause.

Fr Ángel Fernández Artime, 53 years of age was born 21 August 1960 at Gozón-Luanco, Spain; he made his first profession on 3 September 1978, his perpetual profession on 17 June 1984 and was ordained priest on 4 July 1987. Originally from León Province, he has been Youth Ministry Delegate, Rector of the school at Ourense, member of the Council and Vice Provincial and, from 2000 to2006, Provincial of León.

He was a member of the technical commission in preparation for General Chapter 26. In 2009 he was appointed Provincial in Argentine South, a task he has carried out until now.In this capacity he got to know the then Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, and to work with him.

He has a Doctorate in Pastoral Theology and a Licence in Philosophy and Pedgagy.

On 23 December last he was appointed Provincial of the new province of Mary Help of Christians in Spain, an office which Fr Angel will obviously not now be able to take on, since he will exercise his ministry as Father of the whole Salesian Family. 

Best wishes, Fr Angel!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Salve Regina - Gregoriano

Steven D. Greydanus Reviews ‘Noah’

The following comes from NCR:

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah pays its source material a rare compliment: It takes Genesis seriously as a landmark of world literature and ancient moral reflection and a worthy source of artistic inspiration in our day.

It is not a “Bible movie” in the usual sense, with all the story beats predetermined by the text and actors in ancient Near Eastern couture hitting their marks and saying all the expected things. It is something more vital, surprising and confounding: a work of art and imagination that makes this most familiar of tales strange and new: at times illuminating the text, at times stretching it to the breaking point and at times inviting cross-examination and critique.

For many pious moviegoers, I suspect some of the film’s more provocative flourishes will be a bridge too far, while the biblical subject matter may be off-putting to less pious viewers. Have Aronofsky (raised with a Jewish education) and co-writer Ari Handel made a film that’s too religious for secular viewers and too secular for religious ones? Who is the audience?

Well, I am, to begin with. For a lifelong Bible geek and lover of movie-making and storytelling like me, Noah is a rare gift: a blend of epic spectacle, startling character drama and creative reworking of Scripture and other ancient Jewish and rabbinic writings. It’s a movie with much to look at, much to think about and much to feel; a movie to argue about and argue with.

It’s certainly not the picture-book story that most of us grow up with, all cheerful ark-building, adorable animals and a gravely pious, white-bearded protagonist. Noah, played by a flinty, authoritative Russell Crowe, is the hero, but that doesn’t make him saintly. Or, if he is saintly, it’s worth recalling that some of the saints could be off-putting, harsh and even ruthless. We want our heroes to be paragons of virtue and enlightenment. Yet when you get down to it, the difference between Moses or David and corrupt Hophni and Phineas is one of degree, not kind. We are all made of the same fallen stuff.

Read the rest here!

Word Among Us: Lenten Bible Study (Part 3)

Lent Bible Study Session 3 from The Word Among Us on Vimeo.

Fr. George Rutler on Being Witnesses

The following comes from Fr. George Rutler:

When Shakespeare imagined what young King Henry V might have said before the Battle of Agincourt a century and a half before, he wrote one of the most celebrated speeches never really spoken. Nonetheless, it expresses the pride and thrill of having been privy to a great event:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed,Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks,That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
The eyewitness accounts of those who walked with Christ and saw the things he did and heard the words he spoke may give the impression that the narrators had an advantage over us these two thousand years later. St. John spoke with reverential awe of "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life" (1 John 1:1). However, not one of the apostles, nor for that matter any human being, was at the beginning of everything. It is by God himself that the creation of the world is revealed, and it is by God in Christ that we learn our purpose in the created order. As Christ who has no beginning or end, but has also a human nature that does have a birth and death, he conflates eternity and time so that when we are united with his death and resurrection in baptism, we mystically are able to be at the beginning of the world and at its end. "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (1 Colossians 1:17).

St. Paul was not there at the Resurrection, but Christ came to him on the Emmaus road, and ever afterward the Apostle would say in both defense and boast that he had been born "out of time." During the forty days of Lent, the Church is there with the Lord, going up to Jerusalem in an actual way, and not merely reminiscing or imagining as in a stage play. This is a particular gift of these Lenten weeks, but it is not confined to this season. Nor is it limited to one place. The Holy Eucharist enables all worshipers to be with the Lord, anyplace in the world at any hour, attending at the same time his sacrifice on the Cross and his Paschal victory. St. Peter could say with holy pride, "we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain" (2 Peter 1:18). And while that is a sublime thing to be able to say, so can we rejoice as well, for we too hear a voice from heaven when we are with the Lord at the holy altar: "This is my Body… This is my Blood."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I Am by Crowder

Pope Francis Announces Day of Reconciliation (March 29-30)

 During his Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis announced that March 29-30 would be “24 hours for the Lord,” during which people can find special opportunities for prayer and the sacrament of confession.

“Next Friday and Saturday we will live a special moment of penance, called ‘24 hours for the Lord.’ It will begin with a (liturgical) Celebration in the Basilica of St. Peter’s (on) Friday afternoon, then in the evening and night some churches in the center of Rome will be open for prayer and confessions,” he explained to the crowds in St. Peter’s square on March 23.

“It will be - we could call it -  a celebration of forgiveness, which will happen also in many dioceses and parishes of of the world.”

The Holy Father then noted that “the forgiveness that the Lord gives us” should make us “celebrate like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, who when the son returned home, had a party, forgetting all his sins.”

The Pope’s Angelus message also focused on the theme of the joy of encountering Christ despite our sinfulness.

Sunday’s gospel recounts the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus begins a conversation with a sinful woman who is despised by society by asking her for a drink of water.

“Jesus’ simple request is the beginning of a frank dialogue, through which he, with great delicacy, enters the inner world of a person with whom, according to societal norms, he should not even say a word,” Pope Francis said.

Jesus’s thirst “was not so much for water but for meeting a parched soul.” His request for a drink “highlighted the thirst that was within her.”

“The woman is touched by this encounter: Jesus turns to those profound questions that we have inside, but often ignore. We too have many questions, but we do not have the courage to ask them of Jesus!” the Pontiff exclaimed.

“Lent is the appropriate time to look inside, to bring out our true spiritual needs, and ask for the Lord’s help in prayer,” he stressed.

The Samaritan woman’s response to Jesus is “enthusiastic.”

“She runs to the village, that village that judged her and rejected her, and announced that she had met the Messiah: one who changed her life.”

“Every encounter with Jesus changes our lives,” Pope Francis repeated. “Every encounter with Jesus fills us with joy.”

Like the Samaritan woman, we are called to “leave our jars” at the well and “witness to our brothers the joy of meeting Jesus and the wonders that his love accomplishes in our lives,” he urged.

The Holy Father then led the crowds in the Angelus prayer and greeted the various pilgrim groups who had traveled to pray with him.

“I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch!” he concluded.

Prayer: A Pilgrimage through Difficult Wilderness

The following comes from the Beginning to Pray site:

Is contemplation an uninteresting wilderness? Many religious who have dedicated their whole lives to prayer can speak like this, including authors like Thomas Merton. These kinds of expressions suggest those purgative experiences in prayer where our conversation with God takes on a kind of monotonous tone.  It is like that part of an adventure where nothing seems to be happening and everything looks the same.

Those who suffer this find themselves wandering, searching through a forest of unanswerable questions: Is He asleep?  Why isn't something happening when I pray?  Sometimes prayer can seem boring and can even feel like a complete waste of time. This can be dissatisfying and even discouraging. Yet this is a part of the journey of prayer and, as a character in a Tolkien story observes, not all who wander are lost.  In this real adventure, each step potentially unleashes into the world the transforming power of Divine Mercy if we allow ourselves to be guided by love.

Prayer can be extremely difficult when we do not understand or have real feeling about what God is doing. And, sometimes, the Lord can choose to keep us in the dark about his mysterious purposes for a very long time.  Only after we have grown accustomed to the vast expanses of unfamiliar horizons does the apparent lack of consolation begin to disclose its beauty to us. 

We sometimes glimpse, if only for a rare and transitory moment, a greater interior freedom, a real humility, a deeper strength, and a firmer sense of purpose. A bold desire to glorify God with an unflinching resolve has taken hold. In our dryness, we know these movements of holiness in our heart did not come from ourselves - they are the fruit of Someone else's life born in us.

St. John of the Cross was so at home with this prayer, he came to see it as a sheer grace, a providential moment of pure luck. This is because abiding with God is our true home, the end of the journey we have undertaken. But He is "so totally other" than that with which we are comfortable, to find Him, He must lead us beyond what is comfortable and into a truly tedious vulnerability. It is as uninteresting as death on a Friday afternoon. Yet it is through this wilderness that we must pass if we are to live life to the full -- if we are to know the joy of possessing the One who longs to possess us in love.

Finding the motivation to go to mass…

The following comes from The Crescat:
… This past Sunday morning was abysmal. Cold, grey, and rainy. The kind of morning that begs for sleeping late. I laid there for awhile trying to will myself to get up out of bed and push past the beginnings of a migraine.
I had almost convinced myself that this little act of willful laziness was completely harmless and perfectly understandable. It was a headache, for crying out loud. Can’t go to mass with a headache.
And then I remembered him. The man at church that sometimes catches my eye. He’s hard to miss and ever so dashing in his impeccable suit. Just the kind of motivation a girl needs to drag her listless body from the covers.
The gentleman I refer to is an elderly Veteran who’s missing a leg. I see him from time to time, with his portable oxygen tank slung over his shoulder.
Like a boss. A serious boss.
I’m sure you’ve got similar motivation in your own parish. They’re there every week despite crippling arthritis, shuffling along behind their walkers or being wheeled in by a family member. These champions of fortitude. These witnesses to a lifetime of faith.
Yes, sometimes they whisper too loudly and can be fiercely territorial when it comes to “their pew”, but they’ve earned their place and I love to see them there every week. Don’t ever treat the elderly in your parish contemptuously. Love them.
If it weren’t for them, representing and showing us young folks how it’s done, I could easily talk myself out of attending mass for the slightest ailment. I’m that convincing. And that lazy. Mostly just lazy though.
Some people, and you know who they are, like to point to the elderly population of a parish as evidence that the Church is dying. Or at least that particular parish is. But don’t you listen to them. Everyone serves a purpose and anyone can be an example. Remember, we don’t go to mass for ourselves.
I just pray that when I get older I’ll be at least half as determined and devoted to my church and God as the dashing old gentleman that puts most young men to shame.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cardinal Dolan on How Lent "used to be"

The following comes from Cardinal Dolan of NY:

This time of the year, these forty days of preparation for Holy Week and Easter, I often hear folks over fifty-five or so reminisce about how Lent“used-to-be.”“Remember the tuna casseroles and grilled cheese sandwiches?”

“I used to long for Sunday when I could have a piece of the candy I had given-up for Lent.”

“Did I ever love the Stations of the Cross on Friday.”

“Remember how tough it was not to eat between meals?”

“I can still recall dad reminding us to make a good confession before Easter.”

“Mom used to love her sodality meetings, and dad his night of cards and a couple beers at the Holy Name evenings at the parish, but those were all cancelled during Lent.”

“Remember the ‘rice bowl’ to help feed the starving sitting on the kitchen table where we’d put our pennies saved from buying treats.”

“And remember how we used to so enjoy Easter, after forty days of sacrifice and penance; it was like we were entering a new life and the sun of spring with Jesus risen.”

A lot of that these days, what I call “used-to-be Lent.”

Because, I wonder if we’ve lost it . . . has Lent become a thing of the past?

Now, don’t get me wrong! I don’t want to go back to the “under-pain-of sin” mandatory fast and abstinence of pre-1967 Catholic life – – although I sure remember Pope Paul VI, as he lifted mandatory fast and abstinence (keeping it only on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent), expressing confidence that mature Catholics would now freely embrace penance and self-denial.

Nor do I suggest that there aren’t a good number of Catholics who still take Lent very seriously with their acts of sacrifice, more fervent prayer, and added deeds of service and charity.

Yet, I am still moved to wonder if, as a Church, we have lost the wonder of Lent, that these forty holy days have gone the way of holy days of obligation, fasting before communion, and no meat on Friday.

And all our kids hear about is how Lent “used-to-be.”

So, for instance, I’m at a great parish in the archdiocese and notice that they’re having a big dance on . . . the first Friday of Lent!

So, I’m at a huge banquet for over a thousand men, mostly Catholics, where the liquor flows and the steaks are medium-rare on . . . a Friday of Lent!

So, I’m at Mass in a parish where they sing the Gloria and have alleluias all over the place on . . . a Sunday of Lent!

I admire how our Jewish neighbors take their “high holy days” in the fall so seriously, especially the days of penance, fasting, and contrition . . .

Our Islamic neighbors fast all day and deepen their prayers for a month at Ramadan . . .

And here, my Catholic people write me for a “dispensation” on one of the six measly Fridays we’re asked to abstain from meat (big sacrifice these days!), if they even bother with the dispensation at all.

Am I being too gloomy here? You know me well enough to realize I’m hardly puritanical or a crab. All I’m asking is: have we lost Lent? Is it all now nostalgia, a museum piece, in the attics of our souls, as we tell our kids and grandkids how Lent “used-to-be”?

Lent didn’t just used to be . . . it’s needed now more than ever!

Let me ask you, is there anything different at all in your life, in the rhythm of your family and home, in your parish, this Lent?

Is it too late to get it back?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Gothic Chant: Kyrie

Pope Francis: Shed Egotism and Rely on God Alone

The following comes from the NCR:

Pope Francis drew on today’s readings from the Gospel of Luke and the Psalms to warn listeners against putting one’s faith in man or accomplishments, rather than God.

“Let us ask the Lord for the grace that he would give to each of us the wisdom to have confidence only in him — not in things, not in human powers; only in him,” the Pope preached in his homily at his Mass said March 20 at the chapel of St. Martha guest house.

Only in God do we receive our true name, which is not “I” or “me,” but “Son,” he said, according to Vatican Radio. But when we place our trust in others, our accomplishments or even ourselves, we lose sight of our true worth as a child of God.

Just as in today’s Psalm, the one who trusts in the Lord “is like a tree planted by the waters” while the one who trusts in man or himself is “like a barren bush in the desert,” the Holy Father said.

“Today, in this day of Lent, we would do well to ask ourselves: Where is my confidence? In the Lord? Or am I a pagan, who confides in things, in the idols that I have made?”

He said that the “worst misfortune” of the one who trusts in his own strength and the strength of other human persons is that they “lose [their] name.”

“Do I still have a name or have I begun to lose my name and … call myself ‘I’? I, me, with me, for me, only ‘I’? For me, for me ... always that self-centeredness: ‘I.’”

Just like the rich man who ignored Lazarus the beggar, the one who trusts in himself and his accomplishments walks along the path of “unhappiness” and “self-centeredness,” taught Pope Francis. “This will not give us salvation.”

However, God always provides us with a chance to turn back to him: “To the end, to the end, to the end there is always a possibility.”

Concluding his homily, the Pope said God is waiting to give us back everything that we have lost in our selfishness.

“If one of us in life, having so much trust in man and in ourselves, we end up losing the name, losing this dignity, there is still a chance to say this word that is more than magic, it is more, it is strong: ‘Father.’”

“He always waits for us to open a door that we do not see and says to us: ‘Son.’”

Catholic Answers: Is purgatory a physical place?

The Prophet of the Future

Fr. Dwight Longenecker has a great piece at Inside Catholic on the current crisis that we are going through. He points to St. Benedict as an example of the kind of spiritual prophet that we need in our own day and in our current cultural mess. Here is part of the story:

In the midst of this social decay, the young St. Benedict was sent from his patrician home to study in Rome. Within a year he was disgusted by the laziness, immorality, and despair of his fellow students. He dropped out of college and went to live as a hermit in Subiaco. Eventually he founded small communities of men and women living a simple life of prayer, work, and study. From those base communities the great monastic institutions grew, and from these centers of prayer, work, and learning there flowered the great civilization of medieval Christendom.

In our own time of societal decay, it is important to try to get into Benedict's mindset, first remembering several vital facts: First of all, Benedict was a layman. He saw a need and took the initiative to start his communities. While he did nothing contrary to the teachings of the Church, and did not rebel against the rightful authority, he also did not sit around waiting for a priest or bishop to give him a job. With the grace of his baptism he simply got on and did what he was called to do. Details in his famous rule suggest that Benedict was somewhat cautious in his relationship with priests and regarded them as necessary, but not necessarily trustworthy.

It is also important to understand the monastic relationship to culture. A monk sees the decaying culture and believes the only possible response is withdrawal. He despises any Christianity that compromises with the decadent society, and he does not think "dialogue" is either desirable or possible. He does not believe that prophetic imprecations and predictions of God's judgment on the immoral culture are useful. Like St. Anthony of the Desert and the first monks in Egypt, the traditional monk believes that withdrawal from the world is the only way to save the world.

The third thing to remember about Benedict is that he probably never anticipated the great resurrection of learning, culture, and spirituality that would flow from his decision to live simply in the Italian hills following a life of prayer, work, and study. In other words, he was faithful where he was with what he could do. Whether it came to something or not wasn't his to decide. The fact that his movement eventually produced phenomenal accomplishments in virtually every area of human achievement, was the foundation for a new civilization, and changed the world forever was not something he either anticipated or predicted.

Saint of the day: Enda of Aran

The following comes from the CNA:

On March 21, four days after the feast day of Ireland's patron Saint Patrick, the Catholic Church honors Saint Enda of Aran, a warrior-turned-monk considered to be one of the founders of Irish monasticism.

Born during the fifth century, Enda inherited control of a large territory in present-day Northern Ireland from his father Conall. His sister Fanchea, however, had already embraced consecrated religious life with a community in Meath, and looked unfavorably on the battles and conquests of her brother.

Enda is said to have made a deal with his sister, promising to change his ways if he could marry one of the young women of her convent. But this was a ruse on Fanchea's part, as the promised girl soon died. Fanchea forced him to view the girl's corpse, to teach him that he, too, would face death and judgment.

In this way, Fanchea – whom the Church also remembers as a saint – succeeded in turning her brother not only from violence, but even from marriage. He left Ireland for several years, during which time he became a monk and was ordained as a priest.

Upon his return to Ireland, he petitioned his King Aengus of Munster – who was married to another of Enda's sisters – to grant him land for a monastic settlement on the Aran Islands, a beautiful but austere location near Galway Bay off Ireland's west coast.

During its early years, Enda's island mission had around 150 monks. As the community grew, he divided up the territory between his disciples, who founded their own monasteries to accommodate the large number of vocations.

Enda did not found a religious order in the modern sense, but he did hold a position of authority and leadership over the monastic settlements of Aran – which became known as “Aran of the Saints,” renowned for the monks' strict rule of life and passionate love for God.

While living on an Irish island, Enda's monks imitated the asceticism and simplicity of the earliest Egytian desert hermits.

The monks of Aran lived alone in their stone cells, slept on the ground, ate together in silence, and survived by farming and fishing. St. Enda's monastic rule, like those of St. Basil in the Greek East and St. Benedict in the Latin West, set aside many hours for prayer and the study of scripture.

During his own lifetime, Enda's monastic settlement on the Aran islands became an important pilgrimage destination, as well as a center for the evangelizations of surrounding areas. At least two dozen canonized individuals had some association with “Aran of the Saints.”

St. Enda himself died in old age around the year 530. An early chronicler of his life declared that it would “never be known until the day of judgment, the number of saints whose bodies lie in the soil of Aran,” on account of the onetime-warrior's response to God's surprising call.