Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Redemption by Johnny Cash

Monday, March 30, 2015

George Weigel on Why Adults Become Catholics

The following comes from the Archdiocese of Denver site of George Weigel:
There are as many reasons for “converting” as there are converts. Evelyn Waugh became a Catholic with, by his own admission, “little emotion but clear conviction”: this was the truth; one ought to adhere to it.  Cardinal Avery Dulles wrote that his journey into the Catholic Church began when, as an unbelieving Harvard undergraduate detached from his family’s staunch Presbyterianism, he noticed a leaf shimmering with raindrops while taking a walk along the Charles River in Cambridge, Mass.; such beauty could not be accidental, he thought—there must be a Creator. Thomas Merton found Catholicism aesthetically, as well as intellectually, attractive: once the former Columbia free-thinker and dabbler in communism and Hinduism found his way into a Trappist monastery and became a priest, he explained the Mass to his unconverted friend, poet Robert Lax, by analogy to a ballet. Until his death in 2007, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger insisted that his conversion to Catholicism was not a rejection of, but a fulfillment of, the Judaism into which he was born; the cardinal could often be found at Holocaust memorial services reciting the names of the martyrs, including “Gisèle Lustiger, ma maman” (“my mother”).
Two of the great 19th-century converts were geniuses of the English language: theologian John Henry Newman and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. This tradition of literary converts continued in the 20th century, and included Waugh, Graham Greene, Edith Sitwell, Ronald Knox and Walker Percy. Their heritage lives today at Our Savior’s Church on Park Avenue in New York, where convert author, wit, raconteur and amateur pugilist George William Rutler presides as pastor. 
In early American Catholicism, the fifth archbishop of Baltimore (and de facto primate of the United States), Samuel Eccleston, was a convert from Anglicanism, as was the first native-born American saint and the precursor of the Catholic school system, Elizabeth Anne Seton. Mother Seton’s portrait in the offices of the archbishop of New York is somewhat incongruous, as the young widow Seton, with her children, was run out of New York by her unforgiving Anglican in-laws when she became a Catholic. On his deathbed, another great 19th-century convert, Henry Edward Manning of England, who might have become the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury but became the Catholic archbishop of Westminster instead, took his long-deceased wife’s prayer book from beneath his pillow and gave it to a friend, saying that it had been his spiritual inspiration throughout his life. 
If there is a thread running through these diverse personalities, it may be this: that men and women of intellect, culture and accomplishment have found in Catholicism what Blessed John Paul II called the “symphony of truth.” That rich and complex symphony, and the harmonies it offers, is an attractive, compelling and persuasive alternative to the fragmentation of modern and post-modern intellectual and cultural life, where little fits together and much is cacophony. Catholicism, however, is not an accidental assembly of random truth-claims; the creed is not an arbitrary catalogue of propositions and neither is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It all fits together, and in proposing that symphonic harmony, Catholicism helps fit all the aspects of our lives together, as it orders our loves and loyalties in the right direction. 
You don’t have to be an intellectual to appreciate this “symphony of truth,” however. For Catholicism is, first of all, an encounter with a person, Jesus Christ, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). And to meet that person is to meet the truth that makes all the other truths of our lives make sense. Indeed, the embrace of Catholic truth in full, as lives like Blessed John Henry Newman’s demonstrate, opens one up to the broadest possible range of intellectual encounters. 
Viewed from outside, Catholicism can seem closed and unwelcoming. As Evelyn Waugh noted, though, it all seems so much more spacious and open from the inside. The Gothic, with its soaring vaults and buttresses and its luminous stained glass, is not a classic Catholic architectural form by accident. The full beauty of the light, however, washes over you when you come in.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Fr. Robert Barron: On Palm Sunday

Saturday, March 28, 2015

In Christ Alone: Kristian Stanfill

Pope Francis: "If you did not touch him, you did not meet him"

The following comes from My Unquiet Heart:

My son and I went for a drink at a café last night, and sat at a table in the front window. There was a homeless man sitting on the porch, alone. As Isaac and I drank our root beers, a young woman quietly walked up to the man and spoke with him. She came inside, purchased a coffee, filled it with cream and sugar, then went back outside to deliver it to the man.

This was impressive enough. The woman was discreet, and clearly didn't want to draw attention to herself. But what impressed me most deeply about her was that she didn't just buy this man a coffee. She talked with him, looked him in the eye, and touched him on the shoulder unselfconsciously and with evident care. She provided for me, as a parent, a teaching moment as I pointed out to Isaac what she was doing. She also taught me by modelling the kind of generous love to which we are called as Christians.

I couldn't help but be reminded of something Pope Francis said to his fellow Argentinians in August 2013 as they gathered to celebrate the feast of St Gaetano. In his talk, Pope Francis talked specifically not just about giving alms, but about how we should give alms. He did this by going through the questions he asks people when it comes to giving to the poor:
“Do you give alms?
“They tell me, ‘Yes, Father.’
“And when you give alms do you look in the eyes of the people you give them to?
‘Oh, I don’t know, I don’t notice.’
“Look, he has not met the people. He threw the alms and left. When he gives the alms, does his hand touch (the hand of the poor) or does he toss the coin?”
“No, you throw the coin. And you have not touched, and if you did not touch him, you did not meet him.”
“What Jesus teaches us is first to meet, and (after) meeting, to help. We need to know how to meet. We need to build, to create, to construct a culture of encounter.”
At a Heine Brothers Coffee shop on the corner of Bardstown Road and Longest Avenue, I saw a young woman truly meet a homeless man. Yes, there is more to generous love than just buying someone a coffee, talking to them, and touching them. There are systematic changes that need to take place in our society such that we truly care for the poor. However, such changes take place through transformed hearts, hearts like the one I saw yesterday that convict me to love more fully.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Is Confession Scriptural?

The following comes from Catholic Exchange:

The Lord declares in Isaiah 43:25:
I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
Psalm 103:2-3 adds:
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases…
Many will use these verses against the idea of confession to a priest. God forgiving sins, they will claim, precludes the possibility of there being a priest who forgives sins. Further, Hebrews 3:1 and 7:22-27 tell us Jesus is, “the… high priest of our confession” and that there are not “many priests,” but one in the New Testament—Jesus Christ. Moreover, if Jesus is the “one mediator between God and men” (I Tim. 2:5), how can Catholics reasonably claim priests act in the role of mediator in the Sacrament of Confession?
The Catholic Church acknowledges what Scripture unequivocally declares: it is God who forgives our sins. But that is not the end of the story. Leviticus 19:20-22 is equally unequivocal:
If a man lies carnally with a woman… they shall not be put to death… But he shall bring a guilt offering for himself to the Lord… And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the Lord for his sin which he has committed; and the sin which he has committed shall be forgiven him.
Apparently, a priest being used as God’s instrument of forgiveness did not somehow take away from the fact that it was God who did the forgiving. God was the first cause of the forgiveness; the priest was the secondary, or instrumental cause. Thus, God being the forgiver of sins in Isaiah 43:25 and Psalm 103:3 in no way eliminates the possibility of there being a ministerial priesthood established by God to communicate his forgiveness.
Many Protestants will concede the point of priests acting as mediators of forgiveness in the Old Testament. “However,” they will claim, “The people of God had priests in theOld Testament. Jesus is our only priest in the New Testament.” The question is: could it be that “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) did something similar to that which he did, as God, in the Old Testament? Could he have established a priesthood to mediate his forgiveness in the New Testament?
Just as God empowered his priests to be instruments of forgiveness in the Old Testament, the God/man Jesus Christ delegated authority to his New Testament ministers to act as mediators of reconciliation as well. Jesus made this remarkably clear in John 20:21-23:
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Having been raised from the dead, our Lord was here commissioning his apostles to carry on with his work just before he was to ascend to heaven. “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” What did the Father send Jesus to do? All Christians agree he sent Christ to be the one true mediator between God and men. As such, Christ was to infallibly proclaim the Gospel (cf. Luke 4:16-21), reign supreme as King of kings and Lord of lords (cf. Rev. 19:16); and especially, he was to redeem the world through the forgiveness of sins (cf. I Peter 2:21-25, Mark 2:5-10).
The New Testament makes very clear that Christ sent the apostles and their successors to carry on this same mission. To proclaim the gospel with the authority of Christ (cf.Matthew 28:18-20), to govern the Church in His stead (cf. Luke 22:29-30), and to sanctify her through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist (cf. John 6:54, I Cor. 11:24-29) and for our purpose here, Confession.
John 20:22-23 is nothing more than Jesus emphasizing one essential aspect of the priestly ministry of the apostles: To Forgive men’s sins in the person of Christ— “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven, whose sins you retain are retained.” Moreover, auricular confession is strongly implied here. The only way the apostles could either forgive or retain sins is by first hearing those sins confessed, and then making a judgment whether or not the penitent should be absolved.

Another Classic Quote from Archbishop Sheen

"Unless there is a Good Friday in your life, there can be no Easter Sunday." 
                                      Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Through the Storm by Charles Bradley

Hat tip to By Way of Beauty on this one!

Archbishop Sheen and a Girl Martyr in China

The following comes from the Cardinal Kung Foundation:

A couple of months before his death Bishop Fulton J. Sheen was interviewed on national television. One of the questions was this:

"Bishop Sheen, you have inspired millions of people all over the world.  Who inspired  you?  Was it a Pope?" 
Bishop Sheen responded that it was not a Pope, a cardinal, another bishop, or even a priest or a nun. It was a little Chinese girl of eleven years of age. He explained that when the Communists took over China,  they imprisoned a priest in his own rectory near the Church.  After they locked him up in his own house, the priest was horrified to look out of his window and  see the Communists proceed into the Church, where they went into the sanctuary and broke into the tabernacle. In an act of hateful desecration, they took the ciborium and threw it on the floor with all of the Sacred Hosts spilling out. The priest knew exactly how many Hosts were in the ciborium:  thirty-two.

When the Communists left, they either did not notice, or didn't pay any attention to a small girl praying in the back of the Church who saw everything that had happened.  That night the little girl came back. Slipping past the guard at the priest's house, she went inside the Church. There she made a holy hour of prayer, an act of love to make up for the act of hatred.

After her holy hour she went into the sanctuary, knelt down, bent over and with her tongue received Jesus in Holy Communion, (since it was not permissible for laymen to touch the Sacred Host with their hands.)

The little girl continued to come back each night to make her holy  hour and receive Jesus in Holy Communion on her tongue. On the thirty-second  night, after she had consumed the last and thirty-second host, she accidentally made a noise and woke the guard who was sleeping. He ran after her,  caught her, and beat her to death with the butt of his rifle. This act of heroic martyrdom was witnessed by the priest as he watched grief-stricken from his bedroom window.

When Bishop Sheen heard the story he was so inspired that he promised God he would make a holy hour of prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament everyday of his life.  If this frail, little child could give testimony and witness to the world concerning the real and wonderful Presence of her Savior in the Blessed Sacrament, then the Bishop was absolutely bound by all that was right and true, to do the same. His sole desire from then on was to bring the world to the burning Heart of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The little girl showed the Bishop what true courage and zeal really is; how faith could overcome all fear, how true love for Jesus in theEucharist must transcend life itself.

Everywhere Bishop Sheen preached on the value and benefits of the Holy Hour of prayer. Invited to give retreats to Bishops all over the world, this was his main theme and objective. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ralph Martin: A Second Chance for the Church

A Second Chance for the Church from Renewal Ministries on Vimeo.

Pope John Paul II and the Brown Scapular

This is an amazing part of the story of Pope John Paul the Great:

As everyone knows, His Holiness John Paul II was shot in Saint Peter's Square on 13 May, 1981 - the anniversary of Our Lady's first apparition at Fatima.

Just before doctors were about to begin surgery in order to remove the embedded bullet, the Holy Father regained consciousness and instructed the doctors "do not remove my scapular" during the operation. John Paul II was, after all, Totus Tuus in his devotion to the Mother of God.

Beautiful story.

If you don't wear the Scapular, why not be enrolled this Lent?

Hat tip to the Canterbury Tales on this one!

Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord

The following comes from the Women for Faith and Family site:

The Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, is one of the most important in the Church calendar. It celebrates the actual Incarnation of Our Savior the Word made flesh in the womb of His mother, Mary.

The biblical account of the Annunciation is in the first chapter of the Gospel of Saint Luke, 26-56. Saint Luke describes the annunciation given by the angel Gabriel to Mary that she was to become the mother of the Incarnation of God.

Here is recorded the "angelic salutation" of Gabriel to Mary, 'Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee" (Ave, gratia plena, Dominus tecum - Lk 1:28), and Mary's response to God's will, "Let it be done to me according to thy word" (fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum) (v. 38)

This "angelic salutation" is the origin of the "Hail Mary" prayer of the Rosary and the Angelus (the second part of the prayer comes from the words of salutation of Elizabeth to Mary at the Visitation).

The Angelus, a devotion that daily commemmorates the Annunciation, consists of three Hail Marys separated by short versicles. It is said three times a day -- morning, noon and evening -- traditionally at the sound of a bell. The Angelus derives its name from the first word of the versicles, Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae (The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary).

Mary's exultant hymn, the Magnificat, found in Luke 1:46-55, has been part of the Church's Liturgy of the Hours, at Vespers (evening prayer), and has been repeated nightly in churches, convents and monasteries for more than a thousand years.

The Church's celebration of the Annunciation is believed to date to the early 5th century, possibly originating at about the time of the Council of Ephesus (c 431). Earlier names for the Feast were Festum Incarnationis, and Conceptio Christi, and in the Eastern Churches, the Annunciation is a feast of Christ, but in the Latin Church it is a feast of Mary. The Annunciation has always been celebrated on March 25, exactly nine months before Christmas Day.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Change of Time by Josh Ritter

The Martyrdom of Archbishop Romero

Saint John Paul II on Vocations and Holiness

Pope John Paul II, Compostella, Spain, 1989
What do you seek, pilgrims? Each one of us here must ask himself this question. But you above all, since you have your life ahead of you. I invite you to decide definitively the direction of your way. With the very words of Christ, I ask you: “What do you seek”? (Jn 1:38). Do you seek God? The spiritual tradition of Christianity not only underlines the importance of our search for God. It highlights something more important still: it is God who looks for us. He comes out to meet us. Our way to Compostela means wanting to give an answer to our needs, to our questions, to our «search»; it also means going out to meet God who looks for us with a love so great that we can understand it only with difficulty. This meeting with God is achieved in Jesus Christ. It is in him, who has given his life for us, in his humanity that we experience the love which God has for us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).

Monday, March 23, 2015

Salvation Song by The Avett Brothers

Fr. Robert Barron: Seven Deadly Sins; Seven Lively Virtues

Saint of the day: Turibius

The following comes from the CNA:

Catholics in Latin America and throughout the world will celebrate the life and ministry of St. Turibius of Mogrovejo on March 23. The 16th century bishop upheld the rights of Peru's indigenous peoples, and became one of the first canonized saints of the Americas.

Turibius was born in Spain during 1538, to a noble family in the kingdom of Leon. He frequently prayed, fasted, and gave to the poor even as a child, and eventually developed the daily habit of praying the Rosary along with the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

He went on to study the law at the University of Salamanca, and was eventually served as a judge for five years in the territory of Granada. His judicial wisdom and diligence drew the attention of King Philip II, who wanted Turibius – who was still a layman – to be consecrated as a missionary archbishop for the Spanish colony of Peru.

Turibius became greatly dismayed, protesting to the king and Church authorities that he was not even a priest and could not possibly accept the charge. In a series of letters, he pled that he was not personally capable of serving as the Archbishop of Lima – nor, he reminded them, did canon law permit a layman to become an archbishop.

Eventually, however, he had little choice but to comply. He was consecrated as a bishop in 1581, at the age of 43, and immediately left for Lima, Peru.

The new archbishop undertook to travel throughout the rugged and mountainous diocese, where he observed many of the worst effects of colonialism – both upon the enslaved and oppressed natives, and on many of the colonists who seemed to have lost their souls in the pursuit of wealth.

He responded with constant prayer and penance, as he traveled throughout his territory administering the sacraments, teaching the Catholic faith, and establishing schools, seminaries and hospitals.

To the indigenous Peruvians, the archbishop was a herald of the Gospel who held their lives as more precious than their country's supplies of gold and silver. But to the many colonists whose behavior showed no sign of their Catholic origins, he was a prophetic scourge – whose efforts to awaken the public conscience earned him rebukes and opposition.

Turibius ultimately managed to make three visitations of his diocese, under rugged and dangerous conditions, which occupied about half of his 25 years as Archbishop of Lima. He united the Peruvian Church at an administrative level by holding several local councils of its clergy, but was also known to spend days traveling to reach a single individual with the message of Christ.

The archbishop became seriously ill in 1606. He sensed that his death was imminent, and decreed that his possessions should be distributed to the poor. St. Turibius died on March 23, and his body was found to be incorrupt the next year. He was declared a saint in 1726, and is now regarded as the patron of native peoples' rights and the Latin American bishops.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Pope Francis and God's Mercy

(CNS) Pope Francis' decision to convoke a special Holy Year of Mercy has its roots in the event that led a teen-age Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the priesthood.

Pope Francis has recounted the story several times in the past two years. On one occasion early in his pontificate, he told members of Catholic lay movements about his faith journey, particularly the importance of growing up Catholic and the influence of his grandmother. Then he said:

"One day in particular, though, was very important to me: Sept. 21, 1953. I was almost 17. It was 'Students' Day,' for us the first day of spring -- for you the first day of autumn. Before going to the celebration I passed through the parish I normally attended, I found a priest that I did not know and I felt the need to go to confession. For me this was an experience of encounter: I found that someone was waiting for me. Yet I do not know what happened, I can't remember, I do not know why that particular priest was there whom I did not know, or why I felt this desire to confess, but the truth is that someone was waiting for me. He had been waiting for me for some time. After making my confession I felt something had changed. I was not the same. I had heard something like a voice, or a call. I was convinced that I should become a priest."

Over and over again, Pope Francis tells people: God is always there first, waiting for you; the sacrament of confession is an encounter with the merciful God who is always ready to forgive those who seek pardon; and recognizing how merciful God has been with you should make you merciful toward others.

The pope frequently talks about Caravaggio's painting of the "Calling of St. Matthew"' -- a tax collector. And he chose his motto from the Venerable Bede's homily on the Gospel story where Jesus sees Matthew, says "follow me," and Matthew does.

The pope's motto is "miserando atque eligendo," which St. Bede used to describe Matthew, calling him "wretched, but chosen."

Talking about the call of Matthew, Pope Francis told young people in the Philippines in January, "That morning, when Matthew was going off to work and said goodbye to his wife, he never thought that he was going to return in a hurry, without money, to tell his wife to prepare a banquet. The banquet for the one who loved him first, who surprised him with something important, more important than all the money he had."

Irish Jesuit Father James Corkery, a professor at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, said the pope's Jesuit training, specifically through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, built on his experience of mercy as a young man.

The first week of the exercises is about "meditating on my sins, being aware that I am a sinner and also being aware that I am beloved by God," he said. The meditation on personal sins ends with an invitation to have a "colloquy" or prayer conversation with God the father about mercy.

While the text of the Spiritual Exercises seldom uses the word "mercy," Father Corkery said the concept is clear in repeated uses of the words "gratitude," "wonder" and even "shame."

"The whole movement of the first week is to enable the person to realize they haven't been great, but they are loved -- like, amazingly loved," he said. The experience helps the person "lean back into God's mercy and kindness," accepting while knowing it is undeserved.

St. Ignatius "gets you to reflect on how you haven't been perfect and then he gets you to be filled with wonder and awe that the Lord could show you all this kindness," Father Corkery said. "Ignatius has an immense sense that God did something for him and that links up with the consciousness of mercy."

Pope Francis' motto, "wretched, but chosen," shows that Pope Francis and St. Ignatius are on the same page when it comes to being overwhelmed by God's goodness and mercy, the Irish Jesuit said.

Another point in St. Ignatius' teaching and one Pope Francis often repeats, he said, is that while human beings are sinful, "we don't need to languish in that" because God has forgiven us and is calling us to move on.

At the March 13 penance service announcing the Holy Year, Pope Francis gave a homily on the Gospel story of the sinful woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. "Thanks to Jesus," the pope said, "God threw her many sins over his shoulders and remembers them no more. That is because this is true: when God forgives, he forgets."

The Holy Year, he said, should be a time of "joy to rediscover and make fruitful the mercy of God" by reaching out and offering "consolation to every man and every woman of our age."

Pope Francis, Father Corkery said, is "absolutely unbridled" in the way he speaks about mercy, including the task of all Christians "to be portals of mercy for anyone who seeks it."

"He wants no lack of generosity," he said. "That's the song he's singing and he's not going to stop, as we know. That's the year he's called."

The Jesuit said the pope knows from his own experience that "you would be stuck, you would not be able to move forward, if you did not know there was mercy at your back." And for Pope Francis, moving on and reaching out are key.

"Why not accept a flood of mercy from God and then drench other people with the same -- I think that's his idea," Father Corkery said. "Don't be stingy, not with mercy."

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Something Beautiful by The Newsboys

San Gennaro Relic Liquefies in Presence of Pope Francis

The following comes from the NCR:

The blood relic of San Gennaro, Naples' patron saint, liquefied in the presence of Pope Francis today, the first time the miracle has occurred in front of a Pontiff since Pope Pius IX. 

The miracle of the relic, in which half of the blood liquefied, took place during Francis' visit to Naples cathedral. Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the Archbishop of Naples, said it was "a sign that St. Gennaro loves Pope Francis: half of the blood turned to liquid.” Following applause from the faithful, the Pope said this "means the saint loves us halfway. We all have to convert a little more so that he loves us more.” 

The miraculous liquefying of the ancient relic of St. Gennaro usually takes place three times a year: on the saint’s feast day on 19 September, the Saturday before the first Sunday of May, and on 16 December. Aleteia has more information on the miracle and the 4th century saint.

Pope Francis spent the day in Campania, southern Italy, visiting the shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompeii and the city of Naples. Vatican Radio has full details of the visit: 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Fr. Robert Barron: ISIS and the Meaning of the Cross

The following comes from Word on Fire:
Last week, the attention of the world was riveted to a deserted beach in northern Libya, where a group of twenty one Coptic Christians were brutally beheaded by masked operatives of the ISIS movement. In the wake of the executions, ISIS released a gruesome video entitled “A Message in Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” I suppose that for the ISIS murderers the reference to “the Nation of the Cross” had little sense beyond a generic designation for Christianity. Sadly for most Christians, too, the cross has become little more than an anodyne, a harmless symbol, a pious decoration. I would like to take the awful event on that Libyan beach, as well as the ISIS message concerning it, as an occasion to reflect on the still startling distinctiveness of the cross.
In the time of Jesus, the cross was a brutal and very effective sign of Roman power. Imperial authorities effectively said, “If you cross us (pun intended), we will affix you to a dreadful instrument of torture and leave you to writhe in agonizing, literally excruciating (ex cruce, from the cross) pain until you die. Then we will make sure that your body hangs on that gibbet until it is eaten away by scavenging animals.” The cross was, basically, state-sponsored terrorism, and it did indeed terrify people. The great Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero once described a crucifixion but only through a convoluted circumlocution, for he couldn’t bring himself to characterize it directly. After putting down the great slave uprising of Spartacus, the Roman government lined the Appian Way with hundreds of crosses so as to dissuade any other would-be revolutionaries. Pontius Pilate had much the same intention when he nailed dozens of Jewish rebels to the walls of Jerusalem. That same Pilate arranged for Jesus to be crucified on Calvary Hill, a promontory situated close to one of the gates of ancient Jerusalem, guaranteeing that his horrific death would not be missed by the large Passover crowds moving in and out of the city.  
From the crucified Jesus, all of the disciples, save John, fled, precisely because they wanted with all their hearts to avoid his dreadful fate. After Good Friday, the friends of Jesus huddled in terror in the Upper Room, petrified that they might be nailed up on Calvary as well. The disciples on the road to Emmaus were, understandably, heading out of Jerusalem, away from danger, and they were utterly convinced that Jesus’ movement had come to naught. In a word, the cross meant the victory of the world, and the annihilation of Jesus and what he stood for.  
And this is why it is surpassing strange that one of the earliest Apostles and missionaries of the Christian religion could write, “I preach one thing, Christ and him crucified!” How could Paul—the passage is taken from his first letter to the Corinthians—possibly present the dreadful cross as the centerpiece of his proclamation? He could do so only because he knew that God had raised the crucified Jesus from the dead, proving thereby that God’s love and forgiveness are greater than anything in the world. This is why his exaltation of the cross is a sort of taunt to Rome and all of its brutal descendants down through the ages: “You think that scares us? God has conquered that!” And this is why, to this day, Christians boldly hold up an image of the humiliated, tortured Jesus to the world. What they are saying is, “We are not afraid.”
How wonderful this is, by the way, in light of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy and the controversy over the Dutch cartoonist’s mocking depictions of the prophet Muhammad. Christians don’t fuss particularly about insults to Jesus, for we reverence a depiction of the insulted Christ as our most sacred icon. We can say, with Paul, “I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither height nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39), for we know that the world killed Jesus but God raised him from the dead.

Saint of the day: Cuthbert of Lindisfarne

The following comes from All Saints Parish:

It is not certain whether St. Cuthbert was born in England, Scotland or Ireland; all three countries claim him. Most accounts give his birth year as 634 or 635. One legend states he was born an Irishman named Mulloche, and that he was the great-grandson of the High King Muircertagh of Ireland. Another long-standing tradition says his mother was the Irish princess Saba, who left Cuthbert in the care of a poor widow named Kenswith while she went on pilgrimage to Rome, but she died during the journey and never saw him again. The Venerable Bede wrote two vitae of the saint and presumes his English birth, speculating that Cuthbert was born of lowly parentage in the neighborhood of Mailros (Melrose), because he used to tend sheep on the mountainside near that monastery.

Cuthbert's youth was spent in the Scottish lowlands with the widow Kenswith. He tended her sheep on the hills above Leader Water or the valley of the Tweed. He had difficulty walking because of an abscess on the knee (made worse by an attempted cure), but despite this he was high-spirited, and physically strong. When Cuthbert was 15, he had a vision of angels conducting the soul of St. Aidan to heaven. The next morning, he found that St. Aidan - founder of the Priory of Lindisfarne and a man of great holiness - had died at the very moment of his vision. Cuthbert was so moved by this that he decided to become a monk at the Mailros Abbey. But Cuthbert had some training as a soldier, and most of the available men in Northumbria were pressed into military service because of constant threats from its southern neighbor, King Penda of Mercia. Not until peace was restored to the land four years later was Cuthbert free to pursue the monastic life he had so long desired, studying at Mailros under St. Eata as abbot and St. Boisil (Basil) as prior.

Cuthbert was known for his piety and devotion to learning, and his life was marked by supernatural occurrences and miracles. Some say Cuthbert was asked to help found the monastery at Ripon, others say he was invited there as guest-master. Either way, Cuthbert left or was expelled from Ripon and returned to Mailros in 661 after Ripon adopted Roman practices for tonsure and calculating the date of Easter. Shortly after Cuthbert's return, St. Boisil was struck by the plague. (Cuthbert fell ill during the same epidemic; his life was preserved but he never fully recovered his health thereafter. ) Boisil died of the disease and Cuthbert was made prior of Mailros in his place. When the Synod of Whitby decided in favor of the Roman monastic traditions, Cuthbert accepted that decision despite his opposition at Ripon. Due to his stellar reputation, he was asked to teach the Roman customs to the great monastery at Lindisfarne. It was a difficult matter and needed all his gentle tact and patience, but the fact that one so renowned for sanctity, who had himself been brought up in the Celtic tradition, was loyally conforming to the Roman use, did much to persuade the monks at Lindisfarne to accept the change themselves. Cuthbert served as Prior of Lindisfarne for twelve years.

In 676, Cuthbert followed his solitary nature by removing himself from the island of Lindisfarne to an even more isolated part of the Farne Islands called the Inner Farne. He spent all of his time in prayer and contemplation with only the seals and sea birds for company. Cuthbert grew to love the wild rocks and sea. Birds and beasts came at his call. He built an oratory and a cell with only a single small window for outside communication. But the king of Northumberland repeatedly implored him to accept election as bishop of Hexham. After many prayers and tears, Cuthbert reluctantly agreed to serve as bishop, but let it be known that he would prefer Lindisfarne, so it was arranged for him to exchange his see with St. Eata. Eata became Bishop of Hexham, and Cuthbert was consecrated Bishop of Lindisfarne by the archbishop of Canterbury with six bishops in attendance at York. Cuthbert served as Bishop of Lindisfarne for two years.

The ample sources for Cuthbert's life and character show a man of extraordinary charm and practical ability, who attracted people deeply by the beauty of holiness. He was a disciplined administrator, cared for many who had been felled by the plague, and distributed alms liberally even while he maintained frugal personal habits. His days were filled with incessant activity in an attempt to keep the spirit of Christianity alive, and each night he kept vigil with God. Cuthbert is said to have had supernatural gifts of healing and insight, and people thronged to consult him. He performed so many miracles of healing that he was known in his lifetime as the "Wonder-Worker of Britain." Cuthbert was also called the "Apostle of the Lowlands." He visited the loneliest and most dangerous outposts from cottage to cottage from Berwick to Solway Firth to bring the Good News of Christ. On horseback and on foot, he ventured into the remotest territories between Berwick and Galloway. His task was not easy, for he covered a vast area, with widely scattered huts and hovels inhabited by a wild and heathen peasantry full of fear and superstition, haunted by terror of pagan gods. But the people accepted him -- he spoke their language and knew their ways, for he had lived like them in a peasant's home. Bede wrote of his preaching that "Cuthbert had such a light in his angelic face, and such a love for proclaiming his Good News, that none hid their innermost secrets from him." His devotion to the Mass was such that he could not celebrate without tears. He built the first oratory at Dull, Scotland, with a large stone cross before it and a little cell for himself. The monastery that arose there later became the site of Saint Andrews University.

At Christmas in the year 686, in failing health and knowing that his end was near, he retired as Bishop and returned to his Inner Farne hermitage. At first he was tended by his brethren from Lindisfarne, but as he became more seriously ill he refused all aid, suffering intensely but allowing none to nurse him. For two months he lay in his little cell, murmuring words of love and counsel to the monks who gathered round him. When they saw that death was very nigh, these monks arranged with the monks at Lindisfarne that they would light a torch for them when he died. At midnight they gave him the last Sacrament, and, as they were beginning the midnight psalm, Cuthbert raised up his hands and died. A brother took two torches to the seashore, and the monks at Lindisfarne saw the tiny gleam across the dark waters just as they had reached the verse--"Thou hast shewed thy people heavy things: thou hast given us a drink of deadly wine." Thus the sixtieth psalm is called the Dirge of St. Cuthbert.

Cuthbert's body was carried back to Lindisfarne and buried there, in accordance with his wishes. Many legends have arisen about the incorruptibility of his body. To day the fishermen in the islands say that the saint still sits at night on a rock and makes beads of little shells which are found only in those coasts, and which are are called St. Cuthbert's beads.

In art, Cuthbert may be shown in episcopal vestments, with pillars of light above him; with swans tending him; as a hermit being fed by an eagle; or praying by the sea. Cuthbert is the patron of shepherds and sailors, and he is said to have appeared in the midst of violent ocean storms, sometimes using his crozier as an oar to save struggling seamen from shipwreck. Because he fearlessly entered the houses of those stricken by the plague, he is also invoked against plague and pestilence. Traces of the once universal devotion to Cuthbert still survive in numerous churches, monuments, crosses, and place names in his honor. He is one of the few Celtic saints included on the modern Episcopal calendar of feast days. More than 135 churches are dedicated to Cuthbert in England, and an additional 17 can be found in Scotland. St. Cuthbert died on March 20, 687.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Saint Joseph: A Hidden Life

The Apparition of St. Joseph in Cotignac, France

The following comes from the St. Joseph Sanctuary site:

It promised to be a hot day. A young shepherd of Cotignac, Gaspard Ricard aged 22 years, had herded his sheep to the east side of the Bessillon. At about 1 o'clock in the afternoon the heat was stifling. Very thirsty, he lay on the rocky ground when suddenly a tall man stood next to him and pointed to a rock saying : "Ie'u sie'u Jouse; enevo-lou e be'uras" that is to say " I am Joseph; lift it and you will drink". 

The rock was heavy - it would take about eight men to move it, how could Gaspard move it? But the venerable old man, according to the accounts of the day, reiterated his instruction. The shepherd obeyed and, moving the rock, found fresh water beginning to flow. Immediately he drank eagerly. When he stood up, he found the man had gone. Without waiting he went and took the news to the village and the curious began to arrive. Three hours after the event, in a place known to have no water, an abundant source was flowing.

St. Joseph brought to light in the Church and in France. : "That's it! Nothing simpler, nothing poorer than this apparition?. like the Gospel", commented Mgr. Gilles Barthe, in his pastoral letter of 14th February 1971. Water is the sign, so essential in our faith, of our regeneration and of the new life risen for us in Christ's Easter. Here is brought to light St. Joseph's role as a powerful intercessor" 

St Joseph united with the Virgin Mary in the eternal plan of Divine Providence, which God wants associated with his wife in the heart and prayers of Christians, especially in the life of families. 

The facts are duly attested by abundant sources which have been well preserved. One thing which happened in the months following the apparition is remarkable: Once again, the Consuls of Cotignac as politicians and as responsible Christians believed in the apparition and soon made arrangements so that the pilgrimages could be coped with and at the same time giving due respect to the appropriate responsibilities and competence of the church officials in the spiritual domain (services, thanksgiving etc.). 

Things happened fast. At the meeting of the Municipal Council on 25th July, St. Joseph's source was discussed, the water of which has many qualities and performs many works. As from all over the province people come to take water to bathe, drink and cure where there are sick or infirm. This was causing disorder. The construction of a Chapel was decided. A charity was formed to pay for it. Begun the 9th August it was completed the following October. Soon too small, in 1661 a much larger church was started in the style of the period. It is the same St. Joseph's Sanctuary, consecrated in 1663, that you can see today. 

But at the time the big question was who, secular priests or religious order, was going to be in charge of St. Joseph's Chapel. The population of Cotignac and its elected representatives wanted the Oratorian fathers of Our Lady of Graces and the Bishop of Frejus finally agreed. So it was right up to the Revolution.

Extraordinary Signs : In 1662, in his written account of his visit, Father Allard of the Oratory spoke of the year 1661 : 

"The fathers (of Our Lady of Graces) have assured me that there have been 52 processions between Easter and Pentecost, and that there were 6000 people within the octave of the latter feast. The waters of St. Joseph bring miracles. Since I returned, a man whom we know from Avignon, born lame, went to the spring and came back cured , having left his crutches there. Everyone drinks and carries away the water." 

He adds that the fathers had constructed a 6 bedroom building at St. Joseph, and they are overwhelmed. They need reinforcements. The Pope Alexander VII gave his benediction to the Confraternity which soon established itself under the name of Confraternity of the Holy Family or Jesus Mary and Joseph. 

All this shows the popularity achieved by the devoutness of St. Joseph. Since 1661 on his feast day the 19th March, huge crowds arrived. It was in that year that Louis XIV decreed that day to be a holiday. Soon the feast of St. Joseph was kept in all the French dioceses (which the Holy Father had been asking for the past 40 years) and especially in Provence. Churches appeared which were consecrated to St. Joseph and, in nearly all the others, an altar was dedicated to he whom the Church would in 1871 proclaim its universal protector. The St. Joseph source at the foot of the Sanctuary has never dried up, it is still visible lower down than the sanctuary on the side. Neither have the graces which it would be impossible to list say the Benedictine Sisters, who have made this their privileged abode since 1977 when they returned from Algeria. To all those who pray with faith, St. Joseph replies with a father's heart. He brings back the hearts of children to their parents, protects the unborn child, reconciles feuding brothers, and restores the will to live, say the Benedictines, who are often the confidants of graces obtained and these are often regarding material necessities: to live one must have food and a roof over ones head... 

After his pilgrimage to Cotignac and the apparition of St. Joseph, Louis XIV could hardly do less than to consecrate France and himself to St. Joseph. (These good Christian dispositions hardly survived the death of his mother, Anne of Austria).  

The Loud Silence of St. Joseph

The following comes from Fr. Steve Grunow at Word on Fire:

"We can have recourse to many saints as our intercessors, but go especially to Joseph..." 
- St. Teresa of Avila
Today the Church celebrates the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the guardian of the Christ-child.
The Gospels are very clear that Joseph is not the father of the Lord Jesus.  The child born of the Virgin Mary is God and has no earthly father.  The body of Christ's human nature is created by what the scriptures describe as "the power of the Holy Spirit."  If this explanation confounds us, we are rightly confounded.  Christ is like us inasmuch as shares with us a human nature and lives a real human life. And yet, Christ is unlike us inasmuch as he is the singular instance in which a divine nature and a human nature share communion in a divine person.
Simply expressed, Christ is God and man.  It is because of Christ's willingness to accept a human nature with all its limitations that we are able to participate in his divine nature.  This participation, a gift given to us by Christ, is the most profound mystery of the Faith.
The mind can apprehend this mysterious revelation, even appreciate the "why" of it, but cannot fully understand the "how" of it all.
We can imagine that Joseph himself did not fully understand the circumstances surrounding Christ's conception and birth, but he was able to love what he did not fully understand. It is in this love that both his faith and his sanctity are revealed.
The Scriptures for today's solemnity are redolent of the Messianic expectations of Israel by which is meant the passionate belief professed by the descendents of Abraham that God would raise up from one of their own people a Savior who would manifest in word and deed the power of God.  The revelation of the Messiah would change Israel and the world forever.
The first scripture is a small section from the Second Book of Samuel that presents the prophet Nathan speaking to King David about his future heir.  David will have a son who will accomplish something that David will not.  What will the son of David do?  Build the Lord God a magnificent temple.
King David's son, Solomon, would accomplish this feat and would do so with such glory that generations after its destruction, his temple is still remembered as one of the most glorious of all human artistic achievements.  However, the Church does not present this scripture from Second Samuel today so that we can remember Solomon, son of David, but Jesus, the Son of David!
Jesus, the Son of David, whose ancestry is traced back to Israel's royal family through Joseph, is King David's rightful heir.  Christ bears the legacy of Israel's kingship and he build a temple.  But the temple Christ builds is greater than Solomon's.  How so?  Because the temple of the Lord Jesus is the Body he reveals in the Incarnation.  God reveals himself in the human nature of Christ in a way that is likened to how the divine presence fills the sanctuary of Solomon's temple with glory. 
The second scripture for today presents an excerpt from St. Paul's magnificent letter to the Romans.  The Letter to the Romans is St. Paul's "magnum opus", his crowning literary achievement.  The letter reads as an extended argument that the Apostle to the Gentiles is making on behalf of his conviction that the extraordinary revelation of Christ has had an extraordinary effect on Israel.  Israel has been transformed as a result of Christ's revelation, and the Letter to the Romans is describing what Israel once was, is now, and will be in the future because of the Lord Jesus.
This particular scripture from Romans references Abraham, whose great story is told in the Old Testament Book of Genesis.  Abraham is the founding patriarch of God's chosen people, a people who will take their name from Abraham's grandson, who was called Jacob or Israel.  St. Paul cites the promise God made to Abraham that he would have limitless descendents who would all manifest the faith Abraham to the world. 
It is St. Paul's conviction that it is Christ who delivers this promise, transforming Israel so that its numbers can truly be limitless and providing the means by which the God of Abraham would be known by the whole world.  How?  St. Paul sees all this happening in the Church, which is Israel transformed.  Christ has enabled the whole world to become, through the Church, descendents of Abraham and followers of the one, true God.
The Church gives the priest the option of choosing one of two Gospel passages for today.
One of these choices, from the Gospel of Luke, describes a curious event in which Joseph and the Virgin Mary lose the Christ child, only to find him in the temple of Jerusalem. 
This particular Gospel hearkens to the theme of the reading for today from Second Samuel with its allusion to the temple.  Luke is comparing and contrasting the old and new temples- one built of stones and culture in the city of Jerusalem and the other built of flesh and divinity in the Body of Christ.  His message?  The true meaning and purpose of the old sanctuary can only be fully appreciated in relation to the new sanctuary. The God whom we seek can only be found in the temple of Christ's Body.
The other Gospel for today is an excerpt from the Gospel of Matthew.  Thjs scripture makes it clear that the child born of the Virgin Mary is not the son of Joseph, or of any other man for that matter, but the Son of God.  In this respect, the Gospel of Matthew is not just hinting at Christ's true identity, but he is, in the opening of his Gospel, revealing Christ's identity explicitly.  Who is this Jesus?  He is God, and he has come for a particular purpose: "to save his people from their sins."
The rest of the Gospel of Matthew will demonstrate how this salvation from sin actually happens, but what Matthew wants us to know from the beginning is that it is God who is acting to reveal himself in Christ.  The Gospel of Matthew, indeed all four Gospels, are telling us that God has revealed himself in Jesus of Nazareth, who appeared to be the son of Joseph, but who is in fact the God of Israel himself.
I have now told you a great deal about the Lord Jesus and very little about Saint Joseph, which might strike you as odd given that today is his great solemnity.
However, my inability to say all that much about Saint Joseph follows a lead from the Scriptures, which are mostly silent in regards to details about him.  After the story of Christ's birth, Saint Joseph seems to disappear from the narrative of Christ's life as it is recorded in the Gospels. Generations subsequent to the writers of the Gospels treasured many pious legends about Saint Joseph, and the Church assures us that he remains an actor in the life of the Church to this very day, but in terms of personal details, anecdotes, true life stories, there is silence.
Perhaps the silence of Saint Joseph is his most profound witness.
Saints are not celebrities, who leverage every detail about their lives as a means to be known and recognized.  A saint is someone who in their desire to be like Christ is able and willing to disappear into the mission God gives to them.  For some saints, this mission brings with it a great deal of attention.  But for most saints, the life of grace involves a much lower profile and a death to self which requires an immersion into the most ordinary of circumstances. These circumstances are accepted by the saint because they know that it is precisely in the experience of what is apparently ordinary that God is accomplishing extraordinary things. 
Therefore, it is all of us, who right now find ourselves immersed in the mission to be the unnoticed saints of ordinary circumstances, who know that the silence of Saint Joseph speaks louder than any words.

Solemnity of St. Joseph

Oh, St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God. I place in you all my interests and desires. Oh, St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your devine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

Oh, St. Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls - Pray for me.

This prayer was found in the fiftienth year of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In 1505 it was sent from the Pope to Emperor Charles when he was going into battle. Whoever shall read this prayer or hear it or keep it about themselves, shall never die a sudden death, or be drowned, not shall posion take effect of them; neither shall they fall into the hands of the enemy; or shall be burned in any fire, or shall be overpowered in battle.

Say for nine mornings for anything you may desire. It has never been known to fail, so be sure you really want what you ask.