Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Prayer to Our Lady, Queen of Peace

Most holy and immaculate Virgin, Mother of Jesus and our loving Mother, being his Mother, you shared in his universal kingship. The prophets and angels proclaimed him King of peace. With loving fervor in our hearts we salute and honor you as Queen of peace. 

We pray that your intercession may protect us and all people from hated and discord, and direct our hearts into the ways of peace and justice which your Son taught and exemplified. We ask your maternal care for our Holy Father who works to reconcile the nations in peace. We seek your guidance for our President and other leaders as they strive for world peace. 

Glorious Queen of peace, grant us peace in our hearts, harmony in our families and concord throughout the world. Immaculate Mother, as patroness of our beloved country, watch over us and protect us with your motherly love. Amen.

Learn to Preserve Inner Peace

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
Sometimes you might fall into some sin or negligence in word or deed, such as disturbing yourself at anything which happens to you, or murmuring, or listening to murmuring, or falling into some dispute, irritation, curiosity, or suspicion of others, or into any other fault, whether it be one or many falls.
In such cases, you ought not to be disturbed or disheartened or saddened at the thought of what has happened, nor be confounded within yourself, at one time, believing that you will never be free from such infirmities, at another, that your faults and irresolution are the cause of them, or again, imagining that you are not walking in the spirit and way of the Lord, with a thousand other fears, pressing down your soul at every step with discontent and cowardice.
Otherwise you would feel ashamed to present yourself before God, or you would do so in a spirit of distrust, as though you had not preserved that faith in Him which is His due. And as a remedy, you would waste time in pondering over these things, scrutinizing how much you harbored the thought and whether you consented to it, whether it was voluntary or was at once put away. And, from taking the wrong road, the more you think of it, the less you are able to make up your mind about it, and the more your weariness, perplexity, and anxiety to confess it increase.
And so you go to Confession with a tedious fear, and, after having lost much time in making your confession, your spirit is even more uneasy than it was before it, for fear that you have not told all. Thus your life is one spent in bitterness and anxiety, with little fruit, and with the loss in a great measure of its reward.
All this comes from not knowing your own natural weakness and the way the soul should bear itself toward God. For after having fallen into all the faults we have enumerated, or into any others, we may more easily approach God by a humble and loving conversion, than by the spirit of grief and discontent at the fault itself, in the case of the examination of venial and ordinary sins, to which alone I now allude. For it is only into such sins as these that a soul that lives in the manner I am now supposing is wont to fall. And I am speaking only of those persons who lead a spiritual life and are striving to ad­vance in it, and are free from mortal sin. For those who live carelessly and in mortal sin, and are always more or less of­fending God, have need of a different kind of exhortation; and this medicine is not for them. Such persons should be troubled and ought to weep and to make their examination and confession with much thought, lest, through their own fault and indifference, they render the remedy that is necessary for their salvation unavailing.
To return, then, to speak of the quiet and peace in which the servant of God should ever abide, I will go further and say that this conversion must be understood to apply — in order that there might be entire trust in God — not only to slight and daily faults, but also to such as are greater and more grave than usual, if at any time the Lord should permit you to fall into such; even though they may be many together, and are not merely the effects of weakness and frailty, but of willfulness. For the contrition that only disturbed the soul and filled it with scruples will never lead it to perfection, unless it is combined with this loving confidence in the goodness and mercy of God.
And this is especially necessary in the case of persons who not only seek to rise out of their miseries, but would also ac­quire a high degree of sanctity and a great love for and union with God.
Many spiritual persons, from not wishing to understand this aright, ever bear about with them a heart and a spirit bro­ken and distrustful, which hinders their spiritual progress and capacity for the higher graces, which one after another God has prepared for them. These often lead a sort of life that is very wretched, useless, and pitiable, because they will follow only their own imaginations and will not embrace the true and wholesome doctrine that leads by the royal road to the high and solid virtues of the Christian life and to that peace which was left us by Christ Himself.
Such persons, whenever they find themselves in some dis­quietude through doubts of conscience, should seek the coun­sel of their spiritual father or of someone whom they think capable of giving them the advice they need, and should com­mit themselves to him and rest entirely in his judgment.

Pope Francis visits Benedict XVI

Humility During Times of Trials

Consider carefully, daughters, these few things that have been set down here, though they are in rather a jumbled state, for I cannot explain them better; the Lord will make them clear to you, so that these period of aridity may teach you to be humble, and not make you restless, which is the aim of the devil. Be sure that, where there is true humility, even if God never grants the soul favors, He will give it peace and resignation to His will, with which it may be more content than others are with favors. For often, as you have read, it is to the weakest that His Divine Majesty gives favors, which I believe they would not exchange for all the fortitude given to those who go forward in aridity. We are fonder for spiritual sweetness than of crosses. Test us, O Lord, Thou Who knowest all truth, that we may know ourselves. 

St. Teresa of Avila's "Interior Castle"–Page 79 Hat tip to St. Peter's List

Monday, June 29, 2015

Fr. Robert Barron: Marriage and the Room of Tears

The following comes from Word on Fire:
Just last week, I had the privilege of spending four hours in the Sistine Chapel with my Word on Fire team. Toward the end of our filming, the director of the Vatican Museums, who had accompanied us throughout the process, asked whether I wanted to see the “Room of Tears.” This is the little antechamber, just off of the Sistina, where the newly-elected Pope repairs in order to change into his white cassock. Understandably, tears begin to flow in that room, once the poor man realizes the weight of his office. 
Inside the small space, there were documents and other memorabilia, but what got my attention was a row of impressive albs, chasubles, and copes worn by various Popes across the years. I noticed the specially decorated cope of Pope Pius VI, who was one of the longest serving Pontiffs in history, reigning from 1775 to 1799. Pius was an outspoken opponent of the French Revolution and its bloody aftermath—and his forthrightness cost him dearly. French troops invaded Italy and demanded that the Pope renounce his claim to the Papal States. When he refused, he was arrested and imprisoned in a citadel in Valence, where he died six weeks later. In the room of tears, there was also a stole worn by Pius VI’s successor, Pius VII. This Pope Pius also ran afoul of the French, who, under Napoleon, invaded Italy in 1809 and took him prisoner. During his grim exile, he did manage to get off one of the greatest lines in Papal history. Evidently, Napoleon himself announced to the Pope that he was going to destroy the Church, to which Pius VII responded, “Oh my little man, you think you’re going to succeed in accomplishing what centuries of priests and bishops have tried and failed to do!”
Both popes find themselves, of course, in a long line of Church people persecuted by the avatars of the regnant culture. In the earliest centuries of the Church’s life, thousands—including Peter, Paul, Agnes, Cecelia, Clement, Felicity, Perpetua, Sebastian, Lawrence, and Cyprian—were brutally put to death by officials of the Roman Empire. In the fourth century, St. Ambrose was opposed by the emperor Theodosius; in the eleventh century, Pope Gregory VII locked horns with the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV; in the nineteenth century, Bismarck waged a Kulturkampf against the Catholic Church in Germany, and in the twentieth century, more martyrs gave their lives for the faith than in all the previous centuries combined. 
Now why am I rehearsing this rather sad history? In the wake of the United States Supreme Court decision regarding gay marriage, a not inconsiderable number of Catholics feel beleaguered and more than a little afraid. Their fear comes from the manner in which the decision was framed and justified. Since same-sex marriage is now recognized as a fundamental human right guaranteed by the Constitution, those who oppose it can only be characterized as bigots animated by an irrational prejudice. To be sure, Justice Kennedy and his colleagues assure us that those who have religious objections to same-sex marriage will be respected, but one wonders how such respect is congruent with the logic of the decision. Would one respect the owners of a business who refuse to hire black people as a matter of principle? Would not the government, in point of fact, be compelled to act against those owners? The proponents of gay marriage have rather brilliantly adopted the rhetoric of the civil rights movement, precisely so as to force this conclusion. And this is why my mentor, the late Francis Cardinal George, so often warned against the incursions of an increasingly aggressive secular state, which, he argued, will first force us off the public stage into privacy and then seek to criminalize those practices of ours that it deems unacceptable.
One reason that this has been rather shocking to American Catholics is that we have had, at least for the last century or so, a fairly benign relationship with the environing culture. Until around 1970, there was, throughout the society and across religious boundaries, a broad moral consensus in our country, especially in regard to sexual and family matters. This is one reason why, in the 1950’s, Archbishop Fulton Sheen could find such a wide and appreciative audience among Protestants and Jews, even as he laid out fundamentally Catholic perspectives on morality. But now that consensus has largely been shattered, and the Church finds itself opposed, not so much by other religious denominations, as it was in the 19th century, but by the ideology of secularism and the self-defining individual—admirably expressed, by the way, in Justice Kennedy’s articulation of the majority position in the case under consideration. 
So what do we do? We continue to put forth our point of view winsomely, invitingly, and non-violently, loving our opponents and reaching out to those with whom we disagree. As St. John Paul II said, the Church always proposes, never imposes. And we take a deep breath, preparing for what could be some aggression from the secular society, but we take courage from a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. The Church has faced this sort of thing before—and we’re still standing.

Fr. Robert Barron on Saints Peter and Paul

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Arise!: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Readings of Today

The following comes from Scott Hahn:

 God, who formed us in His imperishable image, did not intend for us to die, we hear in today's First Reading. Death entered the world through the devil's envy and Adam and Eve's sin; as a result, we are all bound to die.
But in the moving story in today's Gospel, we see Jesus liberate a little girl from the possession of death.
On one level, Mark is recounting an event that led the disciples to understand Jesus' authority and power over even the final enemy, death (see 1 Corinthians 15:26). On another level, however, this episode is written to strengthen our hope that we too will be raised from the dead, along with all our loved ones who sleep in Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:18).
Jesus commands the girl to "Arise!" - using the same Greek word used to describe His own resurrection (see Mark 16:6). And the consoling message of today's Gospel is that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. If we believe in Him, even though we die, we will live (see John 15:25-26).
We are called to have the same faith as the parents in the Gospel today - praying for our loved ones, trusting in Jesus' promise that even death cannot keep us apart. Notice the parents follow Him even though those in their own house tell them there is no hope, and even though others ridicule Jesus' claim that the dead have only fallen asleep (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Already in baptism, we've been raised to new life in Christ. And the Eucharist, like the food given to the little girl today, is the pledge that He will raise us on the last day. 
We should rejoice, as we sing in today's Psalm, that He has brought us up from the netherworld, the pit of death. And, as Paul exhorts in today's Epistle, we should offer our lives in thanksgiving for this gracious act, imitating Christ in our love and generosity for others.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Vatican Formally Recognizes Martyrdom of Oklahoma City Priest

The following comes from Zenit.com:

A Theological Commission of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints has recognized the martyrdom of Fr. Stanley Rother, a priest from Oklahoma.
According to the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, the vote is a crucial step in advancing his cause of Beatification. If beatified, Fr. Stanley Rother would be the first Catholic martyr and priest from the United States to receive such recognition.
Fr. Rother, a native of Okarche and a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, was murdered by an unknown assailant on July 28th, 1981. At the time, he was serving as pastor at the parish of Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala. Despite receiving death threats, he chose to return to his mission. Ten other priests were killed that same year in Guatemala.  
The Theological Commission, which was made up of 9  theologians, discussed the case. A majority vote determined that Fr. Rother died in odium fidei (in hatred of the faith).
The next phase will see Fr. Rother’s Cause move forward to a panel of cardinals and archbishops of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints.
Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City released a statement following the vote, saying the recognition was “encouraging.”
“Father Rother laid down his life for Christ and for the people of his parish in Guatemala, whom he dearly loved,” he stated. “It is very encouraging to move one step closer to a formal recognition by the Church of Father Rother’s heroic life and death as a martyr for the Gospel.”

Pope Francis Approves the Canonization of Louis and Zelie Martin

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis approved on Saturday the decrees allowing for the canonization of Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of the Child Jesus (of Lisieux).

The Holy Father approved the decrees during the Ordinary Consistory in the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican.

The couple will be the first to be canonized together as husband and wife, giving testimony to their extraordinary witness of conjugal and familial spirituality.

They ‘positively impacted their historical context through witness to the Gospel for the renewal of the face of the earth’.

The decree also emphasized their exemplary life of faith, dedication to ideal values united to a constant realism, and attention to the poor.

Louis Martin (1823–1894) and Zelie Guerin (1831–1877) were blessed with nine children, four of whom died in infancy. The remaining five girls all entered religious life, one of whom is St. Therese of Lisieux.

The decree also approves the canonization of Italian diocesan priest Blessed Vincenzo Grossi and Spanish nun Blessed Mary of the Immaculate Conception.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Today the Church remembers Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The following comes from the Patron Saints Index:

The picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour is painted on wood, with background of gold. It is Byzantine in style and is supposed to have been painted in the thirteenth century. It represents the Mother of God holding the Divine Child while the Archangels Michael and Gabriel present before Him the instruments of His Passion. Over the figures in the picture are some Greek letters which form the abbreviated words Mother of God, Jesus Christ, Archangel Michael, and Archangel Gabriel respectively.

It was brought to Rome towards the end of the fifteenth century by a pious merchant, who, dying there, ordered by his will that the picture should be exposed in a church for public veneration. It was exposed in the church of San Matteo, Via Merulana, between Saint Mary Major and Saint John Lateran. Crowds flocked to this church, and for nearly three hundred years many graces were obtained through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. The picture was then popularly called the Madonna di San Matteo. The church was served for a time by the Hermits of Saint Augustine, who had sheltered their Irish brethren in their distress.

These Augustinians were still in charge when the French invaded Rome, Italy in 1812 and destroyed the church. The picture disappeared; it remained hidden and neglected for over forty years, but a series of providential circumstances between 1863 and 1865 led to its discovery in an oratory of the Augustinian Fathers at Santa Maria in Posterula. The pope, Pius IX, who as a boy had prayed before the picture in San Matteo, became interested in the discovery and in a letter dated 11 Dececember 1865 to Father General Mauron, C.SS.R., ordered that Our Lady of Perpetual Succour should be again publicly venerated in Via Merulana, and this time at the new church of Saint Alphonsus. The ruins of San Matteo were in the grounds of the Redemptorist Convent. This was but the first favour of the Holy Father towards the picture. He approved of the solemn translation of the picture (26 April 1866), and its coronation by the Vatican Chapter (23 June 1867). He fixed the feast as duplex secundae classis, on the Sunday before the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, and by a decree dated May 1876, approved of a special office and Mass for the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. This favour later on was also granted to others. Learning that the devotion to Our Lady under this title had spread far and wide, Pius IX raised a confraternity of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and Saint Alphonsus, which had been erected in Rome, to the rank of an arch-confraternity and enriched it with many privileges and indulgences. He was among the first to visit the picture in its new home, and his name is the first in the register of the arch-confraternity.

Two thousand three hundred facsimiles of the Holy Picture have been sent from Saint Alphonsus’s church in Rome to every part of the world. At the present day not only altars, but churches and dioceses (e.g. in England, Leeds and Middlesbrough; in the United States, Savannah) are dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. In some places, as in the United States, the title has been translated Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Litany of Humility

Pope Francis: When Christians lack difficulties, 'something is wrong'

 Faithful Christians will always face difficulties, said Pope Francis on Tuesday, warning that a worldly, career-based approach to faith avoids the suffering and persecution inherent in following Christ.

“Many Christians, tempted by the spirit of the world, think that following Jesus is good because it can become a career, they can get ahead,” the Pope said.

“When a Christian has no difficulties in life – when everything is fine, everything is beautiful – something is wrong.”

He suggested this temptation is common for a Christian who is “a great friend of the spirit of the world, of worldliness.”

“You cannot remove the cross from the path of Jesus, it is always there,” he added.

Pope Francis delivered his homily at morning Mass at the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta residence. Archbishop Rino Fisichella and Monsignor José Octavio Ruiz Arenas, respectively the president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, concelebrated Mass.

“Think of Mother Teresa: what does the spirit of the world say of Mother Teresa? ‘Ah, Blessed Teresa is a beautiful woman, she did a lot of good things for others.’ The spirit of the world never says that the Blessed Teresa spent, every day, many hours in adoration ... Never!” the Pope said.

He explained that the worldly spirit “reduces Christian activity to doing social good.”

“As if Christian life was a gloss, a veneer of Christianity,” he said. “The proclamation of Jesus is not a veneer: the proclamation of Jesus goes straight to the bones, heart, goes deep within and changes us. And the spirit of the world does not tolerate it, will not tolerate it, and therefore, there is persecution.”
Just as Pope Francis criticized career-based Christianity, he also warned about a solely culture-based approach to the faith.

He criticized the attitude of following Jesus because one was born in a Christian culture. He said this ignores “the necessity of true discipleship of Jesus, the necessity to travel his road.”

“If you follow Jesus as a cultural proposal, then you are using this road to get higher up, to have more power. And the history of the Church is full of this, starting with some emperors and then many rulers and many people, no?” the Pope observed.

The Holy Father said that this attitude is present even among some priests and bishops.

He concluded with an exhortation to follow Jesus Christ truly.

“Following Jesus is just that: going with him out of love, behind him: on the same journey, the same path. And the spirit of the world will not tolerate this and what will make us suffer, but suffering as Jesus did,” he said.

“Let us ask for this grace: to follow Jesus in the way that he has revealed to us and that he has taught us. This is beautiful, because he never leaves us alone. Never! He is always with us. So be it.”

A Fate Worse than Persecution

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:

Among committed Christians of all kinds, Catholic and otherwise, it is not uncommon to hear predictions of a “coming persecution of the Church in the West.” Such talk is not limited to the fringes: the prospect is raised by prominent and respectable voices, based on the study of cultural and historical trends.
At times I have tended toward this kind of thinking myself. Lately, however, I have grown less concerned about the prospect of persecution. I am more concerned about a different and arguably more serious threat facing the Church in Western nations.
This threat is isolation. We are at risk of a twofold isolation: isolation of believers from each other, through the erosion of Christian community; and the isolation of Christians from non-believers and members of other religions, through growing alienation and mutual incomprehension.
At first glance, this scenario may not seem worse than persecution. Some may ask:Couldn’t the forces of aggressive secularism, and ideological conformity, lay waste to many of the Church’s ministries and threaten the public expression of our faith? Isn’t that the gravest danger today?
Those scenarios are possible, and my purpose is not to attack those who put their focus there. Still, I believe the most serious threat for Christians will not come from outside.
We will become our own worst enemies, if we let the Church’s communal dimension disintegrate, in favor of a fragmented association of individualistic “spiritual consumers” whose supposed unity is mainly external and institutional.
Likewise, we will lose touch with the Church’s very reason for being – the announcement of the Gospel to all creation, in word and act – if we allow our relationship with the world to become an unfruitful stalemate, defined by ideological gridlock and sloganeering crosstalk.
The Church does have enemies. But the forces that truly choke the Church, and destroy faith, are not the forces of external opposition.
Historical and global evidence suggests that a true persecution of Christians in the West – as distinct from the relatively small instances of unjust discrimination we now see – would not cause faith to die out, or the Church’s vitality to wither. The opposite is probably true.
The worst threats to faith are spiritual: apathy, isolation, joylessness; mistrust, a lack of love, mutual incomprehension. These threats combine into what I see as our worst-case scenario: a drifting-away from each other, and the outside world, on the part of those still abstractly and theoretically committed to God.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Skywatchers Delight

The time has finally come. The next two weeks offer us what is probably the grandest pairing of two planets in our lives. It also is a near-replay of what some scholars believe was the most spectacular appearance of the Star of Bethlehem.
The most important night is June 30, for that is when the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, come closest of all to each other in the sky. They come almost as close to each other next Tuesday as they did on June 17, 2 B.C., when Magi in Babylonia or Persia would have seen the two merge into one single blazing light as the pair descended to the horizon in the exact direction of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
How close in the sky? Even if next Tuesday night isn't clear, Venus and Jupiter will be amazingly close together for the entire two weeks that start tonight. No close pairing of these brightest planets in our lifetime has been so prolonged. But how close is close, in the sky?
To answer that question, we must talk about "angular measure" in the sky.
Your fist at arm's length is about 10 degrees wide, your thumb at arm's length about 2 degrees wide. Venus and Jupiter are 4 degrees apart tonight. But amazingly, they will be less than 2 degrees apart for eight nights - all the way from this Saturday through the Fourth of July. We'll reveal how close their closest encounter will be later in this column.
When and where to look each day? Look above where the Sun went down each day and you'll see the two planets. Venus is so bright now that you should be able to see it easily with the naked eye even quite a while before sunset, say 8 p.m. Jupiter is less bright, so you may not see it first glimmer into view until about 8:45 or 9 p.m.
Tonight: Look for Jupiter 4 degrees upper left of Venus. By the time the sky is pretty dark - say 9:30 p.m - you also should be able to glimpse a much dimmer object, the star Regulus (the heart of Leo the Lion), about one fist-width at arm's length to the upper left of Jupiter.
This weekend: Venus and Jupiter become less than 2 degrees apart on Saturday. On Sunday evening, by the way, be sure to observe the moon in the southeast with a bright point of light very near it - the planet Saturn. But even better will be Venus and Jupiter on Sunday - just over 1 degree apart.
Next Monday: Venus and Jupiter are now close enough for their globes to be in the same telescopic view. By amazing coincidence, the two globes have almost the exact same apparent size these next few days, when they are closest in the sky. But Jupiter is fully lit while Venus is less than half lit (though far more radiant in surface brightness). If you don't have access to a telescope the days the two worlds are closest in the sky, you can attend the South Jersey Astronomy Club "Skywatch" on July 3 (or, rain date, July 5). This particular observing event will be held outside Egg Harbor Township Public Library at 7:30 p.m. Be sure to check sjac.us for directions and further information, including the weather call.
June 30: The climax - conjunction day. A "conjunction" is a temporary pairing of heavenly objects. On this day of the actual conjunction, the planets are separated by only a third of a degree - that's almost seven times smaller than your thumb held out at arm's length. The two planets, Jupiter just upper right of Venus, will almost appear to have their rays touching on this incredible evening.
July 1: Venus and Jupiter still only a bit more than ½ degree apart.
July 2: Venus and Jupiter 1 degree part and most nearly side by side.
July 3: SJAC Skywatch (see above).
July 4: Planets 1.9 degrees apart.
July 5: Planets less than 2½ degrees apart.
July 6: Planets 2.7 degrees apart.
Fred Schaaf is a local author and astronomer. He can be reached at: fschaaf@aol.com.
Venus and Jupiter above St. Peter’s Dome in Rome on Sunday June 28, 2015.  Credit: Gianluca Masi

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Life Comes Through The Cross; ‘Life’ Lessons

The following comes from the site of Bishop Paul Etienne:

Early on in our faith formation, we learn about the cross. We hear about the cross of Jesus, and all the suffering he endured for our sake. We learn that Easter only comes after Good Friday. We learn that the Resurrection and the Life of the Risen Lord only follow the via dolorosa and Jesus’ suffering and death.

In more secular terms, we hear, ‘no guts, no glory.’ One can imagine this phrase being used in the face of great danger, such as the need to cross a raging river to avoid drowning, or to charge an enemy in the heat of battle. Another favorite is ‘no pain, no gain.’ This phrase is a motivational phrase for one working out to prepare for an athletic event, or perhaps only to lose weight.

These above mentioned phrases of course have their roots in Sacred Scripture, and ultimately in the life and Gosepl of Jesus. For example, in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples (and us):

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it.

For some reason, in many people’s day-to-day life, we are willing to make great sacrifices for temporal gain. We may forsake relationships for the sake of carreers. We may forgoe a healthy diet in order to have the kind of body the culture around us tells us is ‘beautiful’. Athletes invest huge amounts of their youth and time and endure tremendous rigors for fame and fortune. In other words, they are so focused on the ‘end goal’ they are willing to do almost anything.

Faith is no different, and yet people have such a difficult time making the same ‘connection’, or even making the same ‘sacrifices’ for something that is not fleeting, and has a far greater ‘satisfaction factor’. If we could only see the cross as the positive agent that it is in the faith journey. Sacrifice, the cross, is never easy, but until we allow ourself to ‘risk’ living fully the life of discipleship Jesus speaks of, we will never ’taste’ and experience the truth of the Gospel, that it is only in losing one’s self that we find true life.

This life experienced as a result of such discipleship is truly rewarding! Once we experience this ‘Life’, then we will see more distinctly what Jesus is talking about. It is like the pianist, who only after hours and years of practice is capable of playing a beautiful concert.

May we willingly embrace the daily sacrifices which are a part of our life as disciples of Jesus, so that our life may be just one small part of the great symphony God envisions for this present moment, only to lead us into the great Choir of Life Everlasting!

Fr. Barron on The Spiritual Genius of Dante

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Pope Francis to Youth: Go against the flow; be courageous, creative!

(Vatican Radio) At the end of the first day of a two day trip to Turin, Pope Francis met with tens of thousands of young people in the city’s central square, Piazza Vittorio.

Pope Francis spoke to the young people “from the heart” for more than half an hour, laying aside his prepared remarks (which he promised would later be published). The Pope responded to questions from three young people on the topics of love, life, and friendship.

Love, the Pope said, is concrete, and is seen more in actions than in words. Love always communicates itself. Love, he continued, is very respectful of persons, it does not use people, and so it is chaste.

The Holy Father also responded to a question about disappointments in life. There are so many evils in the world. What can we expect of life, for instance, in a world where there are so many wars? Pope Francis referred to ongoing wars in Europe, in Africa, and in the Middle East; and to historical violence such as the great tragedy in Armenia at the beginning of the century, to the Shoah, and to the gulags in Soviet Russia. It is easy to grow disillusioned with life, he said, when even today we live in a “culture of waste.”

In the face of such evils, the Pope asked, how can we live a life that does not disappoint? “We must go forward with our projects of construction, and this life does not disappoint,” he said. We must help one another. And to do this, Pope Francis told the young people, they must go against the current, they must be courageous and creative.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Pope Francis recalls charism of Salesians' of Don Bosco

(Vatican Radio) Be joyful, evangelize through education, and offer hope through love and compassion: that’s what Pope Francis told men and women Salesians in Turin’s Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians on Sunday. The Salesians, with their sister order, the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, were founded by St John Bosco – known as Don Bosco – Turin’s most famous saint whose bicentenary is celebrated this year.

Pope Francis was speaking to the religious on a two day visit to the northern Italian city to join in the celebrations and for the Ostentation of the Shroud of Turin.

Describing his prepared discourse as “a little formal,” Pope Francis laid aside his written text and spoke off-the-cuff for approximately thirty minutes. The text of his discourse was to be distributed to the religious later.

In his remarks, the Pope drew inspiration from the Salesians’ Don Bosco, who travelled these parts, Francis said, “evangelizing to educate and educating to evangelize” - especially the most vulnerable.

Go out to the peripheries, “to areas of physical and moral danger”

Pope Francis described a “preventative system” of education, inviting the religious to do as their founder did: educate the abandoned and most fragile young people – those at risk of addiction, suicide and depression - by exposing them to an educational style based on “reason, religion and love.” And, he urged them not to forget those who Don Bosco called “street children… much in need of hope and of formation in the joy of Christian life.” Go out to the city peripheries, the Pope urged them, to areas of “physical and moral danger,” neighborhoods “lacking many material things but above all, where love, understanding, tenderness and hope” are lost.

The Pope’s childhood memories of the Salesian community

The Pope recounted fond childhood memories of his family’s closeness to the Salesians and how, when his mother was ill, he was taken out of public school to spend one year studying with the Salesians. And calling them to use creativity and sport to engage young people, he recalled how Salesian Fr. Lorenzo Massa created a football team for Argentinain street children in 1908.

The Pope spoke of how he grew very attached to the Salesian community in the year he spent with them and that one priest in particular followed him from Baptism to the realization of his vocation, accompanying him ultimately on his journey to the Jesuit Order.

North-west Italy’s dark past and how to deal with the current crisis

Pope Francis remembered this region of Italy’s dark past, saying it was “full” of the masonry – and he described the end of the 1800’s as “priest-eating, anticlerical, and even demonic.” But, many saints were to come out of this region too, he stressed.

Many things have improved since those times but the situation of young people has stayed more or less the same, he observed. To counter the 40% youth unemployment rates that have crippled Italy, he encouraged Salesians to even take “risky decisions” and to provide “emergency education” to respond to the current crisis – through providing skills training for “urgency jobs” to form electricians, plumbers or gas men – jobs that will give young people an opportunity now.

Such small job training schools come in addition to our giving food to street kids, the Pope stressed: “it’s true that on an empty stomach one can’t praise God. But this is a thing of urgency, of the moment.”

Do not be ashamed in moment of crisis that is “even anti-Church”

Pope Francis described the current situation as an “ugly moment of crisis, even anti-Church.” Looking again to Don Bosco, he said the Salesian saint was never ashamed of talking about his “three white loves: the Madonna, the Eucharist and the Pope.”

He invited consecrated women to ponder the “mystery of woman in the Church” and their love of the Pope, not only as a person but as head of the Church. “You teach girls [how to become] mothers, but mothers who raise their girls in love of the Madonna and of the Church,” the Pope added.

Women in decision-making positions in the Church

The Pope also spoke of how he is sometimes asked about women taking up more decision-making positions in the Church – including nominating a woman as head of a dicastery. This is “a functionalism,” he remarked and added that women in the Church have the “same work that the Madonna had with the Apostles on the morning of Pentecost. And the Apostles, without Mary, couldn’t have functioned [It:non andavono] and Jesus wanted it this way.”

“The Holy Mother Church must seek conversion every day, from the Pope down”

He invited Salesians to never be ashamed of speaking about Our Lady, and “to never be ashamed of the Eucharist, but to do it well and to have young people enter into the Eucharistic Mystery.” At the same time, he urged them not be “ashamed of the Holy Mother Church, which, poor thing, must seek conversion every day, every day – from the Pope down. We are all… But it is the Holy Mother Church, and from there, to learn the role of the woman in the Church. It’s another challenge, eh?”

Trust in divine Providence, a priest to the young, loyal to the Pope

In the Pope’s written discourse, he spoke about three specific aspects of the charism of Don Bosco: his trust in divine Providence; his vocation to be a priest of the young, especially the poorest among them, and his loyal and active service to the Church, particularly to the Pope.

Don Bosco’s unwavering confidence in God, the essence of consecrated life

The founder of the Salesian Family, he said, lived out to the end his priestly mission “sustained by an unwavering confidence in God.” This confidence, the Pope said, is also “the essence of the consecrated life, so that the service of the Gospel and of our brothers should not remain a prisoner of our views, of the realities of this passing world, but might continue to rise above ourselves.”

The service to the young, beginning with the most vulnerable

Another important aspect of the life of Don Bosco, Pope Francis continued, is “the service to the young, beginning with the most vulnerable and abandoned: this concerns the “pedagogy of the faith” which is taken up in the Salesian formula “educating to evangelize, and evangelizing to educate.” The Holy Father encouraged the Salesian religious to carry on “with generosity and confidence the multiple activities in favour of the new generations: oratories, youth centres, professional institutes, schools, and colleges.

Making “an oratory” of every place, aiming at ever wider apostolic horizons

Concluding his remarks, the Holy Father called on the Salesians “to proclaim to all the mercy of Jesus, making ‘an oratory’ of every place, especially the most inaccessible; bearing in the heart the ‘oratorian’ style of Don Bosco and aiming at ever wider apostolic horizons,” recalling the great many religious institutions which to this day continue to live the charism of Don Bosco “to share the mission of taking the Gospel to the furthest reaches of the peripheries.”

A Homecoming for Pope Francis

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday met with around 30 of his relatives – 6 cousins and their families - in the Archbishop’s residence in Turin, and also celebrated Mass with them. Afterwards, they had lunch together. The Holy Father on Sunday made a brief visit to the Church of Santa Teresa, where his paternal grandparents Giovanni and Rosa Bergoglio Vassallo were married in 1907, and where his father Mario was baptized the following year.

A statement from the Holy See Press Office said the Pope made this gesture to reiterate the value of the family, ahead of this October’s Synod on the Family, adding the Pope took time in the Church of his ancestors to pray especially for families and the success of the Synod.

The Statement said Pope Francis viewed his trip to Turin as a “homecoming”, and has been very happy and pleased with the warm welcome he has received, saying it went “beyond his expectations.”

Saint of the day: Thomas More

The following comes from the Catholic Online site:

St. Thomas More, Martyr (Patron of Lawyers) St. Thomas More was born at London in 1478. After a thorough grounding in religion and the classics, he entered Oxford to study law. Upon leaving the university he embarked on a legal career which took him to Parliament. In 1505, he married his beloved Jane Colt who bore him four children, andwhen she died at a young age, he married a widow, Alice Middleton, to be a mother for his young children. A wit and a reformer, this learned man numbered Bishops and scholars among his friends, and by 1516 wrote his world-famous book "Utopia". He attracted the attention of Henry VIII who appointed him to a succession of high posts and missions, and finally made him Lord Chancellor in 1529. However, he resigned in 1532, at the height of his career and reputation, when Henry persisted in holding his own opinions regarding marriage and the supremacy of the Pope. The rest of his life was spent in writing mostly in defense of the Church. In 1534, with his close friend, St. John Fisher, he refused to render allegiance to the King as the Head of the Church of England and was confined to the Tower. Fifteen months later, and nine days after St. John Fisher's execution, he was tried and convicted of treason. He told the court that he could not go against his conscience and wished his judges that "we may yet hereafter in heaven merrily all meet together to everlasting salvation." And on the scaffold, he told the crowd of spectators that he was dying as "the King's good servant-but God's first." He was beheaded on July 6, 1535. His feast day is June 22nd.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Father's Day Prayer

Blessed are You, God and Father of us all, for the gift of our father. Today we honor and thank him for the gift he is in our lives.His love for us is a reflection of Your divine love.Bless him this day with Your strength and Your power that he may continue to be a sign of Your abiding love. May we, who have the honor of bearing his family name, assist him with our obedience, respect and deep affection.Bless him on this special daywith happiness, health, peace and good fortuneso that he who shared of his very lifemay live together with You, his God and heavenly Father, for ever and ever.Amen.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Beautiful Hands of a Priest

The Beautiful Hands of a Priest

We need them in life's early morning,
We need them again at its close;
We feel their warm clasp of true friendship,
We seek them when tasting life's woes.
At the altar each day we behold them,
And the hands of a king on his throne
Are not equal to them in their greatness;
Their dignity stands all alone;
And when we are tempted and wander,
To pathways of shame and of sin,
It's the hand of a priest that will absolve us--
Not once, but again and again.
And when we are taking life's partner,
Other hands may prepare us a feast,
But the hand that will bless and unite us--
Is the beautiful hand of a priest.
God bless them and keep them all holy,
For the Host which their fingers caress;
When can a poor sinner do better,
Than to ask Him to guide thee and bless?
When the hour of death comes upon us,
May our courage and strength be increased,
By seeing raised over us in blessing--
The beautiful hands of a priest.

Author Unknown

Friday, June 19, 2015

Kyrie Eleison

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Vine and the Branches

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Hillsong UNITED Oceans

The Psalms: Honey for the Soul

The following comes from the CNA:

If there is one biblical book that expresses the hues and tints of human emotion, it is the Psalms, the hymn book of Jews and Christians. Composed over a period of some 700 years beginning with the reign of King David (1000-970 BC), the psalms reflect Israel’s deepening and continuous relationship with God.

The basic theme, total trust in and reliance on Providence, is imbedded in all the psalms. Metaphors too like ‘God is my rock, my fortress, my refuge and place of safety, my stronghold, my song, and my love’ run throughout the psalms. The individual and the nation cast their burden upon the Lord, again and again. And, again.

The Jews are a long-suffering people. How many times has their land been plundered, their identity questioned, their very existence challenged by extinction, well-documented in histories of the Holocaust and by its few survivors. From the time of Abraham, the Israelites were singled out as God’s most beloved spouse, and this human-divine bond could not be broken. God remained faithful to them, though they, less so. Still, they were free to vent their emotions when they surrounded by foreign and bellicose nations who sought to overthrow them, and did so. Where did they turn? In anguish and despair, they asked not only why God was permitting it all to happen, but they also pleaded for consolation, which, in turn, became songs of consolation.   Of the entire corpus of psalms, about one-third are complaints and laments, both community and individual, exceeding hymns of praise and thanksgiving. 

When Bad News Happens . . .
If we pause to reflect, good things do surround us. The proper response is “thank you, thank you!” Yet, the year 2013 has not exactly brought favorable news in the large picture. With reportage at our fingertips, we are bombarded with stressful news alerts.  The onslaught of recent tornadoes is one example. Americans live in a state of heightened alert and terrorism. Have you noticed that we move from violence to violence, from scandal to scandal and from one sexual assault to another? Breakdown is a major theme of life – breakdown of health and relationships, of social manners and mores, religious practice. Distrust is on the rise. Rare are those uneventful days when life can be lived at an even keel. When good things happen, we should break out into song! Still, the question remains: how to process, how to assimilate daily upsets?

Go to the Psalms
There is no more soothing effect on the soul than pouring out our hearts in and with the psalms; they are honey for the soul. Jesus himself prayed the psalms, even on the cross. In the psalms, we speak directly to God, we face God in ourselves, in others, and in our daily travails. In Psalm 119 where light breaks through the darkness, the modern world is the focus of prayer.
The Psalms are the perfect refuge for emotions that flare up and press us to ‘let it all hang out.’  At times of distress, the psalms of lament offer consolation and wisdom, courage and patience.  If a child can cry out to a mother or father of its pain, what of us in our relationship with God?  In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked that his pain be taken away.  

Of course, talk shows, counseling agencies, and other social outlets deliver temporary relief to those who would vent about anything and everything. But the psalms stoop to lift us out of the deep in ways that human help cannot.

The curious thing about lament and complaint:  when we raise our drooping heads to praise and thank God, these very acts console the complaint and lament, especially when we realize that Jesus walks in solidarity with us.

The Book of the Psalms is one of remembering, remembering God’s saving deeds, not merely in Israel’s history and in the personal experience of the individual Jew, but also by extension in the Christian’s life-experience. The Psalmists are deeply involved in our life-situations, in my own situation, religious and otherwise. Like Israel, we labor under the great mystery of suffering and evil, as Psalm 72 poignantly reveals. 

Psalms of Complaint and Lament
Scattered among the psalms are ‘cursing’ psalms, uttered against God’s enemies. In these, the Israelites appeal to God for help, win God’s sympathy by a describing the nature of the complaint – sickness, danger of death, sin, old age; they plead for God’s justice and fidelity, for those unjustly accused of false charges or unjustly treated. Some of these psalms are: 3, 5-7, 14, 54-59, 61, 63-64, 69-71, 86, 102, 109, 120, 140-143.

The collective psalms find their life-setting in a national calamity, such as defeat in battle. The structure is similar to that of an individual lament: cry for help, description of distress and request, and the motifs for Yahweh’s intervention. These are grouped in Pss 43, 57, 73, 78, 79, 82, 88, 105, 136.

Parallelism in the Psalms
The psalms have a predictable structure. The first verse sets forth what is on the mind of the psalmist. The second verse rephrases the sentiments but in different words. This is known as parallelism. Here we have creative repetition, the key to appreciating the psalms, for example:

Ps 3:8 Arise, LORD! Save me, my God!
You will shatter the jaws of all my foes; you will break the teeth of the wicked.
Ps 5:2 Hear my words, O LORD;
listen to my sighing.
Ps 17:1 I call upon you; answer me, O God;
turn your ear to me; hear my prayer.
Ps 6:7-8 I am wearied with sighing; all night long tears drench my bed; my couch is soaked with weeping.
My eyes are dimmed with sorrow, worn out because of all my foes.
Ps 55:22 Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you;
He will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Praying the Psalms in a Dispirited Age

The psalms are songs or hymns, all one hundred fifty of them. Personal and communal, they touch every aspect of life, past and present. They are prayers to God, not prayers about God. Like the bee who feeds on the nectar of flowers, so we approach the psalms to find honey for the soul. In Psalm, 23, we find this honey, permeated as it is with tenderness on the part of the shepherd who walks with and leads his flock.

Here we have one of the most beloved psalms of the entire body of psalmic literature. The psalms are an essential part of the Church’s worship, and all Catholics are exhorted to pray them frequently, if not daily in the Liturgy of the Hours. Through the psalms, individual Catholics, Catholic families, and the entire Body of Christ grow to put on Christ for all to see (Gal 3:17).