Saturday, May 31, 2014

Dr. Scott Hahn: Faith and Hope are Distinct

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The following comes from the Living Scripture site of the Salesian Sisters.  Check out their daily postings on the readings of the day:

Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!  The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior.  He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love.  He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals. Zephaniah 3: 16-17                                                             
How should we live this Word 
This cry of joy often does not resound adequately in us.  And yet the words, “Fear not…Be not discouraged,” have a more solid foundation for us today than it did then.  It no longer deals with a prophet’s prediction of the end of oppression and violence, but of the valid certainty of a loving presence that will never end. Elizabethrecognized this inMary’s pregnant womb.  For us it is the confirmation ofJesus’ word.  “I will be with you until the end of time.”  From that time, He is silently present in the humblest tabernacle as He is present in His Word, and in every person.  He is not tired of being with human children!  The darker the horizon seems, the closer He is walking among us to save us.
This is true for every individual as it is for the Church and for all of humanity.  God is our powerful Savior so there is no reason to be discouraged, no matter the difficulties or evils that surround us.  He can and will renew all with His love.
Marythe true and new Arc of the Covenant comes to visit us in our fragility and our difficulties, to bring us the marvelous fruit of her womb.  She comes to banish sadness from our hearts.  She comes because she is the Mother of all those she generated beneath the cross.  
Today in my pause for silent contemplation, I will contemplateMaryas she comes to my house so that I too may explode with joy.
Come, O Mother, dwell in my home.  Come with Your sweet secret, the promise of the love that precedes me and accompanies me, filling my days with radiance. 
The voice of Mother Maria Candida of the Eucharist, Carmelite
If we want to gather the blest Flower, we must reach the branch that carries it, the virgin womb of Mary. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Courage Needed

The following comes from Austin Ruse at The Catholic Thing:

The great Russian dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn despaired of many things, not the least of which was courage, not in himself, but in others. He despaired of courage among the elite classes; politicians, Western business and intellectual leaders, and he knew their cowardice would naturally flow down to everyone else.

Like all virtues, courage is a habit built up by repeated acts over a lifetime, like a muscle, like all virtues. But courage may also be squandered.

There are moments when each of us has betrayed courage. Forty years later, I still see a basketball bounce a few feet from my grasp, back and forth between two guards on the opposing team. And how with the right timing, a few steps and a confident grab, there was nothing but open court before me. But I stood there frozen, and never grabbed that ball. That may sound a trifle, but it is a moment of cowardice that haunts me still.

A week later, it got worse. The coach looked down the bench to send in a scrub. His eyes met mine – and I looked away. Down and away. Message received. In the locker room, he told us that anyone who did not want to play ought to quit. So, I did. What a coward. Quitting, cowardice’s wicked companion, is an easy habit to start and hard to break.

I often think about Lenny Skutnick. Driving in Washington near the 14th Street Bridge, he heard that a passenger jet had just crashed into the icy water of the Potomac River. He nosed his car through stopped traffic, steered it close to the water’s edge, looked out at the freezing water, plane submerged and sinking, a wing sticking out with people clinging to it. He dove into the icy water over and over and saved them.

A lifetime of cowardice and quitting does not prepare you for that moment. Plenty of others had good reasons to stand mouths agape doing nothing. Not Skutnik. He dove in. How had he prepared for that moment?

I think I know why years ago I did not lunge for that ball – and almost certain, though momentary, glory. The kind of fear I experienced was not the kind of physical fear that kept those hundreds of people standing and watching Skutnik, and not helping him. Mine was the fear of embarrassment, perhaps the most common kind of fear in our age.

What if I lunged and missed? What if I got the ball and missed an easy layup down the court, or worse, got stuffed. Simply, what if I got caught out, laughed at? Better to do nothing.

I am not immune even now. A conservative friend was presenting his new book on national sovereignty at the Council on Foreign Relations. Around the table were top officials from the United Nations, U.S. State Department, and think tanks. My friend oddly mocked the way pro-lifers have critiqued a certain U.N. committee. Instead of stepping up and defending the critique, I sat there. It would have been an easy layup. But I sat there.

And this is the fear we must all grapple with in this day and age. Those Skutnick moments are mostly for soldiers, moments where you overcome a fear of physical harm and even death. For us, there is fear of embarrassment, fear of getting caught out, laughed at.

Who among us has not hesitated to engage social issues; contraception, abortion, stem cell research? Who among us has not hesitated to engage on the gay question with friends, family, or even strangers, for fear of getting caught out, knowing simple assertions, but not the second and third and fourth thing to say? And then there is the mockery, a specialty of the other side.

David French, who works for the American Center for Law and Justice, went from a state university to the Harvard Law School. Before he went he fretted about whether he was up to the intellectual cut and thrust of an Ivy League law school. What he found was no intellectual engagement at all. What he got from the other side was mockery, only mockery.

Of all the virtues, the Church teaches prudence is the queen, for she teaches what to be courageous about. But without courage, at least in some cases, prudence might be all good intentions and not much more. Churchill said courage is the supreme virtue because of that. Fine, Churchill was no theologian. Still, he was onto something, and that is prudence needs her muscular friend courage.

Pope Francis and Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew look to new council at Nicea in 2025

The following comes from the Catholic Culture site:
Pope Francis and Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople have agreed to plan for an ecumenical meeting to be held in Nicea in 2025, the AsiaNews service reports.
Patriarch Bartholomew revealed that he and the Roman Pontiff had “agreed to leave as a legacy to ourselves and our successors a gathering in Nicaea in 2025, to celebrate together, after 17 centuries, the first truly ecumenical synod, where the Creed was first promulgated.” The Council of Nicea, held in 325, brought together over 300 bishops and approved the formula of faith now known as the Nicene Creed.
Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch chose Nicea—now known as Iznik, Turkey—as the site for a council that could bring together Eastern and Western Christians, as the original Council of Nicea did.

Pope Francis and St. Francis

The following comes from the NCR:

Or you might find this story, somewhat less recent. The original story dates from the 13th century, and it's about a different Francis:

The saint was close to the end of his life, unable to walk and suffering from an eye disease and the stigmata. As he was brought through a region, some people from a nearby town came to ask for his help with their parish priest. They had discovered that their priest was involved in a scandalous relationship with a woman of that town. The saint was brought to the town and placed before the priest in front of everyone. They thought that the saint would upbraid the fallen priest. St. Francis instead fell to his knees, took the priest’s hands into his own stigmatized hands, kissed them and said, “All I know and all I want to know is that these hands give me Jesus.” It was said that the priest was converted.

You may wish that the Pope would do something different, besides imitating a saint. You may long to see him turn his back on the same people you turn your back on, come thundering down on the sinners you find especially revolting. But this is what he's doing instead: kissing hands. He is acknowledging that we are here to bring Christ to each other.

We hear that Pope Francis is "sending the wrong message" when he consorts with sinners like the dissenting activist priest. But it's the same message God sent to Adam when He called to him in the garden. It's the same message that Jesus was sending when He told the story of the prodigal son. When man sins, God calls him, begs him to return. The hands with the stigmata reach out for the hands that killed, that tortured, that squandered, that betrayed.

Fr. Robert Barron on Modernity and Morality

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fr. Barron on The Ascension of the Lord

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Call to the Priesthood

"Little children, love one another"

The following comes from Fr. George Rutler at Sunlit Uplands:

Before our present time, not so many people lived long enough for hips and knees to wear out. Memories also fade, but that problem of being old is not new: “Even if [your father’s] mind fails, be considerate of him; do not revile him because you are in your prime” (Sirach 3:13). A whole science is developing to stave off forms of dementia. There is also a spiritual dementia that forgets God, but the mystery of the Holy Trinity is the cure for forgetfulness. Pope Francis recently preached: “The Holy Spirit is God active in us, God who helps us remember, who awakens our memory. Jesus himself explains this to the Apostles before Pentecost: ‘the Spirit that God will send in my name will remind you of everything I have said.’”

The Risen Lord helped the two men on the Emmaus Road to remember the prophecies of the Resurrection. The Pope used the image of a road for Christian life: “Memory is a great grace, and when a Christian has no memory — this is a hard thing, but it's true — he is not a Christian; he is an idolater, because he is before a God that has no road, that does not know how to move forward on the road. Our God is moving forward on the road with us, He is among us, He walks with us. He saves us. He makes history with us. Be mindful of all that, and life becomes more fruitful, with the grace of memory.”

Through the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Mother had the Church’s best memory, and she “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Spiritual memory is not like the reminiscence in which our culture engages on Memorial Day, for instance. That is an edifying piety, and Cicero said that to forget one’s past is to remain always a child. But the Holy Trinity transports the soul into an existence not limited by time. That is why the “memorial of the Eucharist” is an actual encounter with Christ and not a form of nostalgia.

We cannot know the full mystery of the Holy Trinity, but unlike oriental forms of mysticism which would obliterate consciousness altogether, we are given an eternal memory when we love the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Beloved Disciple said, “We love Him because He loved us” (1 John 4:19). St. John lived until the third year of the reign of the emperor Trajan, which was 100 A.D. He may have had some gerontological decay, for he had to be carried about and kept repeating, “Little children, love one another.” When the Ephesian believers tried to “be considerate of him” by asking why he said only that, over and over again, he replied, “Because this is our Lord's command and if you fulfill this, nothing else is needed.”

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Pope Francis Visits the Holy Land

Pope Francis to Religious: Live without Fear

 Religious, priests, and seminarians gathered in the Church near the garden of Gethsemane today to meet with Pope Francis, who urged them to follow Christ with courage.

“The Lord in his great goodness and his infinite mercy always takes us by the hand lest we drown in the sea of our fears and anxieties. He is ever at our side, he never abandons us,” the Pope assured those gathered near the site of Jesus' agony in the garden on May 26.

The Church of Gethsemane in Jerusalem near the Mount of Olives was filled with enthusiastic religious, priests, and seminarians anxious to hear the Pope’s remarks.

“We are fully conscious of the disproportion between the grandeur of God’s call and our own littleness, between the sublimity of the mission and the reality of our human weakness,” Pope Francis acknowledged.

Yet “Jesus’ friendship with us, his faithfulness and his mercy, are a priceless gift which encourages us to follow him trustingly, our failures, our mistakes and betrayals notwithstanding.”

The Pope urged the consecrated persons to remain aware of the dangers of temptation, however.

“The Lord's goodness does not dispense us from the need for vigilance before the Tempter, before sin, before the evil and the betrayal which can enter even into the religious and priestly life,” he cautioned.

In a Jesuit-style meditation on the passion story of Jesus, Pope Francis urged his listeners to ask themselves, “who am I, before the sufferings of my Lord?”

Referencing the garden of Gethsemane where the disciples abandoned Christ, which is situated just outside the Church, he asked: “do I see myself in those who fled out of fear, who abandoned the master at the most tragic hour in his earthly life?”

“Is there perhaps duplicity in me, like that of the one who sold our Lord for thirty pieces of silver?” he asked.

“Or, thanks be to God, do I find myself among those who remained faithful to the end, like the Virgin Mary and the Apostle John?”

At the moment of Jesus' suffering on the cross, “everything seemed bleak and all hope seemed pointless” but “only love proved stronger than death,” reflected the Pontiff.

He encouraged the consecrated to stay faithful to the love of Christ despite the difficulties of their lives.

“You, dear brothers and sisters, are called to follow the Lord with joy in this holy land! It is a gift and it is a responsibility.”

Pope Francis assured them, “your presence here is extremely important; the whole Church is grateful to you and she sustains you by her prayers.”

The Holy Father closed his remarks by quoting the words of Jesus in the gospel of John. “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”

“Let us imitate the Virgin Mary and Saint John, and stand by all those crosses where Jesus continues to be crucified. This is how the Lord calls us to follow him,” he urged.

Pope Francis preaches in Bethlehem

Homily of Pope Francis in the Upper Room

It is a great gift that the Lord has given us by bringing us together here in the Upper Room for the celebration of the Eucharist. 

Here, where Jesus shared the Last Supper with the apostles; where, after his resurrection, he appeared in their midst; where the Holy Spirit descended with power upon Mary and the disciples.  Here the Church was born, and was born to go forth.  From here she set out, with the broken bread in her hands, the wounds of Christ before her eyes, and the Spirit of love in her heart.

In the Upper Room, the risen Jesus, sent by the Father, bestowed upon the apostles his own Spirit and with this power he sent them forth to renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps 104:30).

To go forth, to set out, does not mean to forget.  The Church, in her going forth, preserves the memory of what took place here; the Spirit, the Paraclete, reminds her of every word and every action, and reveals their true meaning.

The Upper Room speaks to us of service, of Jesus giving the disciples an example by washing their feet.  Washing one another’s feet signifies welcoming, accepting, loving and serving one another.  It means serving the poor, the sick and the outcast. 

The Upper Room reminds us, through the Eucharist, of sacrifice.  In every Eucharistic celebration Jesus offers himself for us to the Father, so that we too can be united with him, offering to God our lives, our work, our joys and our sorrows… offering everything as a spiritual sacrifice. 

The Upper Room reminds us of friendship.  “No longer do I call you servants – Jesus said to the Twelve – but I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15).  The Lord makes us his friends, he reveals God’s will to us and he gives us his very self.  This is the most beautiful part of being a Christian and, especially, of being a priest: becoming a friend of the Lord Jesus.

The Upper Room reminds us of the Teacher’s farewell and his promise to return to his friends: “When I go… I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (Jn 14:3).  Jesus does not leave us, nor does he ever abandon us; he precedes us to the house of the Father, where he desires to bring us as well.

The Upper Room, however, also reminds us of pettiness, of curiosity – “Who is the traitor?” – and of betrayal.  We ourselves, and not just others, can reawaken those attitudes whenever we look at our brother or sister with contempt, whenever we judge them, whenever by our sins we betray Jesus.

The Upper Room reminds us of sharing, fraternity, harmony and peacevamong ourselves.  How much love and goodness has flowed from the Upper Room!  How much charity has gone forth from here, like a river from its source, beginning as a stream and then expanding and becoming a great torrent.  All the saints drew from this source; and hence the great river of the Church’s holiness continues to flow: from the Heart of Christ, from the Eucharist and from the Holy Spirit.

Lastly, the Upper Room reminds us of the birth of the new family, the Church, established by the risen Jesus; a family that has a Mother, the Virgin Mary.  Christian families belong to this great family, and in it they find the light and strength to press on and be renewed, amid the challenges and difficulties of life.  All God’s children, of every people and language, are invited and called to be part of this great family, as brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of the one Father in heaven.

These horizons are opened up by the Upper Room, the horizons of the Risen Lord and his Church.

From here the Church goes forth, impelled by the life-giving breath of the Spirit.  Gathered in prayer with the Mother of Jesus, the Church lives in constant expectation of a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  Send forth your Spirit, Lord, and renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps 104:30)!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Fr. Robert Barron: What Christians Mean By God

Memorial Day: Freedom isn't free

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Evangelization blocked by our own 'hesitancy' to convert

The New Evangelization's biggest stumbling block is the reluctance of individual Catholics to themselves be converted by the faith, according to Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley.

This dynamic is a “hesitancy to accept that each one of us has the obligation to further our own personal conversion and at the same time to share our faith,” the archbishop of Boston told CNA Aug. 7.

He emphasized that many Catholics “don’t feel equipped” to share the Gospel, and that “we need to help them to be disciple-makers and to have the confidence, and also a sense of responsibility” to spread the faith.

“This Year of Faith is a wonderful opportunity for us; the Holy Father is inviting us to learn more deeply the concept of our faith, but also to share that teaching with others and realize that having the faith is a responsibility and is a mission.”

Cardinal O'Malley spoke to CNA at the Knights of Columbus' supreme convention in San Antonio, where he gave a keynote address the evening before about the New Evangelization in Pope Francis' pontificate.

In that Aug. 6 address, he emphasized the importance of being witnesses to mercy in a secularized culture, and of working to promote a civilization of love.

The Cardinal began his speech by recounting his experience at the recent World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, saying Pope Francis is challenging us to “embrace the New Evangelization with new ardor, with new boldness” and “with great love for all those who God places in our path.”

In reference to this great love, he spoke specifically about immigrants, who face the constant difficulty of being “a stranger in a strange land,” and who “experience countless humiliations and deprivations” as they try to provide for their families.

“The immigrants turn to the Church as their spiritual family,” he said, “and for their part have
contributed so much joy and vitality” to the Church.

Cardinal O’Malley also spoke of the increasing secularization of the West, stating that if missionaries were to be assigned to the most difficult mission in the world today, they would be sent to such far-off territories as Papua New Guinea, but rather to “the US, England, France or Canada,” where “secularism and dechristianization are gaining ground.”

“This is the challenge of the New Evangelization. It is much harder to preach the Gospel in a culture that seems to be vaccinated against the Faith.”

“In our own country where so many Catholics have stormed off, dozed off or simply drifted away from the Church.”

Pope Francis' call for the New Evangelization, he said, is for each of us to be “missionaries in our own communities.”

“Business as usual is not enough. We must be a team of missionaries, moving from a maintenance mode to a missionary one.”

Cardinal O'Malley said Americans must recognize that they live “in a culture of unbelief” which is profoundly hard to evangelize because “it does not even know its does not believe,” since it “still lives on the residue of Christian civilization.”

Seeing this, he said, will guard against the “self-referential Church turned in on itself” of which Pope Francis warns us.

Pope Francis “tells us to open the doors, to invite others in so that we can go out and invite.”
He spoke of the need for communities, in which those who “walk the walk” of faith can engaging with other Catholics. He also addressed the importance of love as the motivation behind the Church’s “concern about unborn children.”

Noting that some think Pope Francis “should talk more about abortion,” the cardinal said that the Holy Father “speaks of love and mercy” so as to “give the context for the Church's teaching on abortion.”

“We oppose abortion, not because we are mean or old fashioned, but because we love people. And that is what we must show the world.”

“We must be better people; we must love all people, even those who advocate abortion,” because “only love and mercy will open hearts that have been hardened by the individualism of our age.”

The cardinal warned against the “globalization of indifference” spoken about by Pope Francis at Lampedusa, saying, “we must overcome this indifference in our own lives and help people to see that the Church’s teaching is about loving and caring for everyone.”
Again quoting Pope Francis, O’Malley stated that “We need a Church capable of rediscovering the maternal womb of mercy.”

He said mercy and truth must accompany one another, and gave the post-abortion apostolate Project Rachel as an example of “just that kind of a combination of mercy and truth that the Church's pro-life efforts need to be about.”

“Our capacity to love” is what our efforts to heal society depends on, Cardinal O'Malley taught.

“The Holy Father is showing us very clearly that our struggle is not just a political battle or a legal problem, but that we must evangelize and humanize the culture; then the world will be safe for the unborn, the elderly and the unproductive,” he concluded.

“The Gospel of Life is a Gospel of mercy. If we are going to get a hearing in today’s world, it will be because people recognize the authenticity of our lives and our dedication to building a civilization of love.”

What do Catholics believe about Salvation?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Basilica Mary Help of Christians

Feast of Mary Help of Christians

A Prayer to Mary Help of Christians

Most Holy Virgin Mary, Help of Christian,
how sweet it is to come to your feet
imploring your perpetual help.
If earthly mothers cease not to remember their children,
how can you, the most loving of all mothers forget me?
Grant then to me, I implore you,
your perpetual help in all my necessities,
in every sorrow, and especially in all my temptations.
I ask for your unceasing help for all who are now suffering.
 Help the weak, cure the sick, convert sinners.
Grant through your intercessions many vocations to the religious life.

Obtain for us, O Mary, Help of Christians,
that having invoked you on earth we may love and eternally thank you in heaven.

A prayer of St. John Bosco

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Prayer to Don Bosco

Saint John Bosco, 

Father and Teacher of youth,
docile to the gifts of the Spirit 
and open to the reality of your times, 
you were for the  young, 
especially the little ones and the poor,
a sign of the love and the special care of God.

Be our guide as we walk 

the path of friendship with the Lord Jesus, 
so that we may discover in Him and in his Gospel 
the meaning of our lives 
and the source of true happiness.

Help us to respond with generosity 

to the vocation we have received from God,
so that in daily life we may be
builders of communion, 
and may collaborate with enthusiasm, 
and in communion with the whole Church, 
in creating a civilisation of love.

Obtain for us the grace of perseverance 

in living a high standard of Christian life,
according to the spirit of the beatitudes;
and grant that, guided by Mary Help of Christians, 
we may one day be with you 
in the great family of heaven. Amen

(From a message of the Rector Major, Pascual V. Chavez, Jan. 31, 2011)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Getting to know Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

The following comes from Discerning Hearts:

Although she lived on for twenty-six years, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity had an extraordinary sense of the three persons of the Trinity dwelling within her.

John Murray tells her story:

They were almost contemporaries, both of whom followed the way of Carmel. While Thérese Martin gave the world her ‘little way’, Elizabeth Catez was truly the ‘prophet of the presence of God’. When Pope John Paul beatified her on 25 November 1984, he presented her to the Church as one ‘who led a life hidden with Christ in God’.

A terror or a saint!

However, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, who was born in France in 1880, did not have such auspicious beginnings. ‘You will either be a terror or a saint,’ her mother had said. The stubborn little girl who often demanded her way, had inherited the military spirit of her ancestors. Her father Joseph had enlisted in the French army and had a successful military career, receiving even the Legion of Honour in 1881.

After the early death of her father, Elizabeth’s outbursts of anger increased. However once she experienced for the first time the sacrament of Penance, it brought about what she styled her ‘conversion’. She henceforth began to struggle noticeably against her violent temper.

In the spring of 1891, when she was almost eleven years old, Elizabeth made her First Communion. She was profoundly affected by her first reception of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Her mother later testified, ‘From that day and afterwards there were no more fits of anger’.

Elizabeth asked for help in understanding her interior experience – her need for silence and recollection – and her sense of an inexplicable presence in the depth of her soul.
The Dominican proceeded to deepen her awareness of the truth of the indwelling of the Trinity in the soul of the baptized: that not just Christ, but that all three of the Trinity Father, Son, and Spirit – were present in love in her soul.

As she was waiting to enter her beloved Carmel, Elizabeth lived the life of a typical young, active Catholic laywoman of her time. She sang in two choirs in her parish; she helped prepare children for their First Communions, and she animated a type of ‘day care’ for the children of those who worked in the local factory.
The personality of this energetic young woman had blossomed from her earlier years. It should be noted that Elizabeth was also a very gifted musician who could have made a career with her talent. From the age of seven, she studied music at the Conservatory of Dijon, winning several prizes for her skill at the piano. ‘No one can interpret the great masters like Elizabeth,’ wrote one admirer.

Home at last
At last Elizabeth entered the Carmel. There she was home. As a Carmelite she received the name of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity and made her profession on the Feast of Epiphany, 1902. From reading St. Paul, her great scriptural mentor, Sister Elizabeth discovered her vocation. She would be a ‘Praise of Glory’ orLaudem Gloria praising God dwelling within her offering a ceaseless ‘Sanctus’.

‘God dwells within you, do not leave Him so often,’ she advised. To another she wrote, ‘It is wonderful to recall that, except for the vision of seeing God, we possess God as all the Saints in Heaven do. We can surely be with Him always and no one can take us away from Him. He dwells in our souls!’ She often referred to the Blessed Trinity as ‘my Three’.

Secret for peace

As a child, Elizabeth had found the strength to conquer her fiery temper only after having received the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist for the first time. As a Carmelite, she would read in Paul that it was Christ‘who made peace through the blood of his Cross’ (Col.1,20), making ‘peace in my little heaven so that it may truly be the repose of the Three’.

Once she wrote to a friend, ‘I am going to give you my “secret”: think about this God who dwells within you, whose temple you are; St. Paul speaks in this way, and we can believe it.’

The call to praise the glory of God also included the call to share in the redemptive sufferings of Christ, to be able to say like St. Paul, ‘In my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church’ (Col 1,24) – and Sister Elizabeth had to accept suffering.

Addison’s disease
Early in 1906 it was noticed that Sister Elizabeth had become very weak. She made a retreat to prepare for the ‘Eternal Retreat’. The young Carmelite suffered for months from Addison’s Disease, a malady of the kidneys which at that time was incurable. As a result of this illness, Elizabeth suffered great fatigue, an inability to digest food, intense abdominal pains and great thirst.

During the last week of her life, Sister Elizabeth’s stomach was very ulcerated, and yet she made frequent and lengthy visits to the Blessed Sacrament. On 31 October, she received the last rites. On 1 November, she made her confession and received Holy Communion for the last time. Elizabeth’s last audible words before her death were, ‘I am going to Light, to Love, to Life’.

Mission in heaven
She died on 9 November 1906, at the age of twenty-six, after having lived in Carmel for only five years. From her sick bed, Elizabeth wrote to a fellow Carmelite, ‘I think that in Heaven, my mission will be to draw souls by helping them go out of themselves to cling to God by a wholly simple and loving movement, and to keep them in this great silence within that will allow God to communicate Himself to them and transform them into Himself.’

Saint of the day: Bernardine of Siena

The following comes from The Women of Faith and Family site:

Saint Bernardine of Siena was called the "Apostle of Italy". Left an orphan at six Bernardine was brought up with great care by his pious aunts. His youth was blameless and engaging. In 1397 after a course of civil and canon law, he joined the Confraternity of Our Lady attached to the great hospital of Santa Maria della Scala. Three years later, when the pestilence revisited Siena, he came forth from the life of seclusion and prayer he had embraced, to minister to the plague-stricken, and, assisted by ten companions, took upon himself for four months entire charge of this hospital. Despite his youth Bernardine proved fully equal to this task, but the heroic and unremitting labor it involved so far shattered his health that he never completely recovered. Having distributed his patrimony in charity, Bernardine received the habit of the Friars Minor at San Francesco in Siena, September 8, 1402, but soon withdrew to the Observantine convent of Columbaio outside the city. He was professed September 8, 1403 and ordained September 8, 1404. About 1406 S.Vincent Ferrer, while preaching at Alexandria in Piedmont, foretold that his mantle should descend upon one who was then listening to him, and said that he would return to France and Spain leaving to Bernardine the task of evangelizing the remaining peoples of Italy.

Nearly twelve years passed before this prediction was fulfilled. During this period, of which we have no details, Bernardine seems to have lived in retirement at Capriola. It was in 1417 that his gift of eloquence was made manifest and his missionary life really began at Milan at the close of that year. Thenceforth, various cities contended for the honor of hearing him, and he was often compelled to preach in the market places, his auditors sometimes numbering thirty thousand. Bernardine gradually gained an immense influence over the turbulent, luxurious Italian cities. Pius II, who as a youth had been a spellbound auditor of Bernardine, records that the saint was listened to as another Paul, and Vespasiano da Bisticci, a well-known Florentine biographer, says that by his sermons Bernardine "cleansed all Italy from sins of every kind in which she abounded". The penitents, we are told, flocked to confession "like ants", and in several cities the reforms urged by the saint were embodied in the laws under the name of Riformazioni di frate Bernardino. Indeed, the success which crowned Bernardine's labors to promote morality and regenerate society, can scarcely be exaggerated. He preached with apostolic freedom, openly censuring Visconti, Duke of Milan, and elsewhere fearlessly rebuking the evil in high places which undermined the Quattrocento. In each city he denounced the reining vice so effectively that bonfires were kindled and "vanities" were cast upon them by the cartload. Usury was one of the principal objects of the saint's attacks, and he did much to prepare the way for the establishment of the beneficial loan societies, known as Monti di Pietà. But Bernardine's watchward, like that of St. Francis, was "Peace". On foot he traversed the length and breadth of Italy peacemaking, and his eloquence was exercised with great effect towards reconciling the mutual hatred of Guelphs and Ghibellines. At Crema, as a result of his preaching, the political exiles were recalled and even reinstated in their confiscated possessions. Everywhere Bernardine persuaded the cities to take down the arms of their warring factions from the church and palace walls and to inscribe there, instead, the initials I. H. S. He thus gave a new impulse and a tangible form to the devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus which was ever a favorite topic with him and which he came to regard as a potent means of rekindling popular fervor. He used to hold a board in front of him while preaching, with the sacred monogram painted on it in the midst of rays and afterwards expose it for veneration. Bernardine had to suffer both opposition and persecution. He was accused of heresy, the tablets he had used to promote devotion to the Holy Name being made the basis of a clever attack by the adherents of the Dominican, Manfred of Vercelli, whose false preaching about Antichrist Bernardine had combated. The saint was charged with having introduced a profane, new devotion which exposed the people to the danger of idolatry, and he was cited to appear before the pope. This was in 

1427. Martin V received Bernardine coldly and forbade him to preach or exhibit his tablets until his conduct had been examined. The saint humbly submitted, his sermons and writings being handed over to a commission and a day set for his trial. The latter took place at St. Peter's in presence of the pope, 8 June, St. John Capistran having charge of the saint's defence. The malice and futility of the charges against Bernardine were so completely demonstrated that the pope not only justified and commended the saint's teaching, but urged him to preach in Rome. Martin V subsequently approved Bernardine's election as Bishop of Siena. The saint, however, declined this honour as well as the Sees of Ferrara and Urbino, offered to him in 1431 and 1435, respectively, saying playfully that all Italy was already his diocese. After the accession of Eugene IV Bernardine's enemies renewed their accusations against him, but the pope by a Bull, 7 January 1432, annulled their highhanded, secret proceedings and thus reduced the saint's calumniators to silence, nor does the question seem to have been reopened during the Council of Basle as some have asserted. The vindication of Bernardine's teaching was perpetuated by the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Name, conceded to the Friars Minor in 1530 and extended to the Universal Church in 1722.

In 1433 Bernardine accompanied the Emperor Sigismund to Rome for the latter's coronation. Soon after he withdrew to Capriola to compose a series of sermons. He resumed his missionary labours in 1436, but was forced to abandon them in 1438 on his election as Vicar-General of the Observants throughout Italy. Bernardine had laboured strenuously to spread this branch of the Friars Minor from the outset of his religious life, but it is erroneous to style him its founder since the origin of the Observants may be traced back to the middle of the fourteenth century. Although not the immediate founder of this reform, Bernardine became to the Observants what St. Bernard was to the Cistercians their principal support and indefatigable propagator. Some idea of his zeal may be gathered from the fact that, instead of the one hundred and thirty Friars constituting the Observance in Italy at Bernardine's reception into the order, it counted over four thousand before his death. In addition to the number he received into the order, Bernardine himself founded, or reformed, at least three hundred convents of Friars. Not content with extending his religious family at home, Bernardine sent missionaries to different parts of the Orient and it was largely through his efforts that so many ambassadors from different schismatical nations attended the Council of Florence in which we find the saint addressing the assembled Fathers in Greek. Having in 1442 persuaded the pope to accept his resignation as vicar-general so that he might give himself more undividedly to preaching, Bernardine resumed his missionary labours. Although a Bull was issued by Eugene IV, 26 May, 1443, charging Bernardine to preach the indulgence for the Crusade against the Turks, there is no record of his having done so. There is, moreover, no good reason to believe that the saint ever preached outside Italy, and the missionary journey to Palestine mentioned by one of his early biographers may perhaps be traced to a confusion of names.

Miracles multiplied after the saint's death, and he was canonized by Nicholas V, May 24, 1450. On May 17, 1472, Bernardine's body was solemnly translated to the new church of the Observants at Aquila, especially erected to receive it, and enclosed in a costly shrine presented by Louis XI of France. This church having been completely destroyed by earthquake in 1703, was replaced by another edifice where the precious relics of St. Bernardine are still venerated. His feast is celebrated on May 20.

St. Bernardine is accounted the foremost Italian missionary of the fifteenth century, the greatest preacher of his day, the Apostle of the Holy Name, and the restorer of the Order of Friars Minor. He remains one of the most popular of Italian saints, more especially in his own Siena. With both painters and sculptors he has ever been a favorite figure.

Monday, May 19, 2014

How Alex Jones found the Truth in the Catholic Church

Deacon Alex Jones: "No Price Too High"

The conversion of Alex Jones is a powerful story and a book from Ignatius Press!  I came across the video and was reminded of the story. You can read more below.

The following comes from the Deacons Bench Blog:

One of the more celebrated Catholic converts -- and a recently ordained deacon, by the way -- is former evangelical Alex Jones. He now spends much of his time traveling the country, talking about his journey back to the Church. And a paper in Fort Wayne, Indiana profiles him this weekend:

Ten years ago, Alex Jones was the charismatic preacher of a thriving black independent Pentecostal congregation, Maranatha Christian Church in Detroit.

Today, he still preaches, but it’s as an ordained Roman Catholic deacon.

Jones doesn’t like to use the word “convert” when it comes to his experience, but his story makes him one of the Catholic church’s rarer flowers – a black evangelical Protestant who has wholeheartedly embraced the faith.

“There is spiritual conversion and ecclesial conversion. I was the latter. I was a Christian before I became Catholic,” says Jones, who will speak at St. Henry and Sacred Heart Catholic churches Friday and Saturday.

“It was never about going to heaven or knowing the Lord. Those things were accomplished while I was in the Pentecostal church. It was simply coming into the fullness of the Christian faith.”

Indeed, Jones says he’s still often asked why he would want to be Catholic.

“No one wants to be Catholic where I come from. Not even Catholics,” he says with a laugh. “It was almost like you were leaving Christianity.”

Jones says his journey is one from which the church – which has 130 million Catholics in Africa but only 24,000 blacks among his Detroit diocese’s 1.3 million members – can learn.

His conversion began, he says, when he began looking at early Christian worship with a congregational study group. That led to a reading of the early church fathers, including St. Ignatius of Antioch, a friend of the apostle John, and St. Clement of Rome, the third successor to St. Peter as head of the church.

“I wasn’t looking for truth,” he says. “But I saw the continuity from the apostles to the church today, and that necessitated a further look.”

As he continued to pursue his questions, he instituted a Liturgy of the Word and a Liturgy of the Eucharist on Easter Sunday. He took the Bible from front and center on the Communion table as it morphed into an altar.

He began to see that as a pastor, he was missing apostolic succession and a hierarchy that ensured continuity of teachings. It took a two-year journey during which he sought help from other Catholic converts, but after he saw what he needed to do, “it was clear as a bell,” he says.

Jones joined the church in 2000. His wife, family members and 54 of his church’s members followed. Some of those people have “returned to their Pentecostal roots,” he says, but many have remained.

He now is a deacon for St. Suzanne/Our Lady Gate of Heaven Catholic community, two congregations that share one priest.

He also has written a book and produced a documentary about his experiences and speaks at Catholic events nationwide.

Jones says the reasons more American blacks are not Catholic are partly historical and partly cultural.

American blacks “tended as slaves to take on the faith of their slaveholders,” he says, noting that only in Louisiana and Maryland were they Catholic.

And within the church even today, he sometimes finds an “us-and-them” mentality about those from other races or denominations.

“If (they) blacks knew more about Catholicism, if they saw their face reflected in the liturgy and the church leadership, they’d be more inclined to investigate further,” he says.

Catholic parish schools, another traditional influence on blacks, are on the wane in many city neighborhoods where black families live because they are expensive for dioceses to maintain, Jones says.

“The Catholic Church is going to have to learn how to inculturate,” he adds.

The Rev. Daniel Durkin, who serves both St. Henry and Sacred Heart, says Jones’ visit represents an evangelistic outreach to people in the churches’ southeast Fort Wayne neighborhoods, which he says are 90 percent black.

“A lot of ministers are saying we need to be doing more (evangelization) on the south side. A lot of us feel we’re losing a lot of people on the south side.”

Durkin, who is white, says Benoit Academy at St. Henry is another example of the Catholic outreach. About 65 percent of students are black; only 35 percent are Catholic.

In Jones, “We’re hoping to bring someone to the church that can identify with them (black neighborhood residents), and they can identify with as well,” Durkin says.

Jones, 66, who was director of evangelization in the Detroit diocese until his recent retirement, says he has asked his bishop twice about becoming a priest.

“Both times the answer was no, so that’s that,” he says. “If they offered it to me, I’d take it in a heartbeat, but it’s not likely in this diocese. They don’t allow married priests.”

He points out that 80 dioceses do allow priests who are married when they come to Catholicism from other denominations.

Deacon Jones also has his own self-titled website, with a great gallery of pictures, information, and details about how to book him for a speaking engagement or mission.

I'm hoping and praying for him -- and praying that one day he may be welcomed into the priesthood.

Whatever ministry he practices, he's a real gift to the people of God.

Check out his book here at Ignatius Press.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Pope Francis: "We’ll never know Jesus without praying. Never! Never!”

The following comes from the CNA:

In his daily homily Pope Francis explained that it takes more than intellectual assent to truly get to know Jesus – we must also develop a personal relationship of joy through prayer and works.

“Ideas by themselves do not lead anywhere and those who pursue the path of their own ideas end up in a labyrinth from where they can't get out again!” the Pope stated in his May 16 daily Mass.

Addressing those present with him in the chapel of the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, the Pope explained that getting to know Jesus is the most important work in our lives, and warned that just studying about him or having an idea is not enough.

Noting how often times those who pursue their own ideas end up trapped in them, the pontiff pointed out that “It’s for this reason that heresies have existed from the very beginning of the Church.”

“Heresies are this: trying to understand with our minds and with only our personal light who Jesus is,” he observed, adding that “A great English writer wrote that a heresy is an idea that’s gone crazy.”

“That’s right! When they are ideas by themselves they become crazy…This is not the right path!”

Going on, Pope Francis said that in order to really get to know Jesus there are three doors that we must open, naming the first as “praying to Jesus.”

“You must realize that studying without prayers is no use. We must pray to Jesus to get to know him better” he noted, explaining that “the great theologians did their theology while kneeling.”

“Pray to Jesus! By studying and praying we get a bit closer… But we’ll never know Jesus without praying. Never! Never!”

Pope Francis went on to say that the second door we need to open is that of “celebrating Jesus,” because “Prayer on its own is not enough, we need the joy of celebration.”

“We must celebrate Jesus through his Sacraments, because these give us life, they give us strength, they nourish us, they comfort us, they forge an alliance with us, they give us a mission,” the pontiff observed, adding that “Without celebrating the Sacraments, we’ll never get to know Jesus.”

“This is what the Church is all about: celebration” he repeated, stating that “the third door is imitating Jesus. Take the Gospel, what did he do, how was his life, what did he tell us, what did he teach us and try to imitate him.”

Entering these doors “means entering into the mystery of Jesus,” the Bishop of Rome continued, “and it’s only in this way that we can get to know him and we mustn’t be afraid to do this.”

Bringing his reflections to a close, Pope Francis encouraged attendees to think “about how the door leading to prayer is proceeding in our life,” warning that “prayer from the heart is not like that of a parrot!”

“How is prayer of the heart? How is the Christian celebration in my life proceeding? And how is the imitation of Jesus in my life proceeding? How must I imitate him?” he asked.

“Do you really not remember!” the Pope chastised, explaining that “The reason is because the Book of the Gospel is full of dust as it’s never opened!”

In opening the bible and reading it “you will discover how to imitate Jesus” the pontiff observed, so “Let’s think about how these three doors are positioned in our life and this will be of benefit to everybody.”

Following Mass Pope Francis canceled his morning meetings and appointments due to having a minor cold, but is expected to be present for all of his engagements over the weekend with the exception of his visit to a Roman shrine, which was postponed so that he can prepare for his upcoming pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

You Should Wear a Miraculous Medal!

I have worn a Miraculous Medal since my Aunt Mary gave me one on the occasion of my Confirmation!  I have a couple of other posts about this beautiful tradition here and here.  The following comes from the Canterbury Tales site:

When I was still Protestant, I remember reading St Ephrem the Syrian. I was amazed by how often he spoke of the Mother of Christ and how much he praised her in his poetic hymnody. Ephrem was a Syrian Christian living from AD 306 – 373. He is early and he undoubtedly teaches that Mary was without stain, unlike other humans. He is probably the earliest and most explicit Patristic witness to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

As a Protestant, I got it. I was never really bothered by the fact that Mary would be sinless. In fact, it made sense to me. I was suspect of the doctrine simply because Paul said that "all had sinned" but I could see how the doctrine could be preserved and read in context.

I also learned about the Miraculous Medal - which is a small medal that commentaries the Immaculate Conception. It's really called the Medal of Immaculate Conception, but so many miracles have been worked through it that it is now simply calledthe Miraculous Medal. Wearing it is a sign that you are particularly devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Immaculate Mother and Enemy of Satan. 

Here's the story about the medal and why you should wear it:

On July 18, 1830, Saint Catherine Labouré awoke hearing a voice of a child calling her to the chapel located in the Rue du Bac, Paris. The Blessed Virgin Mary said to her, "God wishes to charge you with a mission. You will be contradicted, but do not fear; you will have the grace to do what is necessary. Tell your spiritual director all that passes within you. Times are evil in France and in the world."

Catherine reported that the Blessed Mother returned during evening meditations. She displayed herself inside an oval frame, standing upon a globe, wearing many rings of different colors, most of which shone rays of light over the globe. Around the margin of the frame appeared the French words Ô Marie, conçue sans péché, priez pour nous qui avons recours à vous (O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee). 

As Catherine watched, the frame seemed to rotate, showing a circle of twelve stars, a large letter M surmounted by a cross, and the stylized Sacred Heart of Jesus crowned with thorns and Immaculate Heart of Mary pierced with a sword. Asked why some of her rings did not shed light, Mary reportedly replied, "Those are the graces for which people forget to ask." Catherine then heard Mary ask her to take these images to her father confessor, telling him that they should be put on medallions, and saying "All who wear them will receive great graces."

One of the most remarkable facts recorded in connection with the Miraculous Medal is the conversion of a Jew, Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne of Strasburg, who had resisted the appeals of a friend to enter the Church. Alphonse Ratisbonne consented, somewhat reluctantly, to wear the medal, and being in Rome, he entered, by chance, the church of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte and beheld in a vision the Blessed Virgin Mary exactly as she is represented on the medal; his conversion speedily followed.

If you're still not convinced, listen to this powerful sermon on the Miraculous Medal and share it with your friends:On the Miraculous Medal (mp3). On a scale from one to ten, I give this sermon a ten. Please listen to it.