Monday, November 14, 2016

A Prayer for Times of Darkness by St. Ignatius

O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness  

and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength.  

Help us to have perfect trust  

in Your protecting love  

and strengthening power,  
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,  
for, living close to You,  
we shall see Your hand,  
Your purpose, Your will through all things.  

By Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Sunday, November 13, 2016

G.K. Chesterton on Confession

When people ask me, or indeed anybody else, “Why did you join the Church of Rome?” the first essential answer, if it is partly an elliptical answer, is, “To get rid of my sins.” For there is no other religious system that does really profess to get rid of people’s sins. It is confirmed by the logic, which to many seems startling, by which the Church deduces that sin confessed and adequately repented is actually abolished; and that the sinner does really begin again as if he had never sinned.
And this brought me sharply back to those visions or fancies with which I have dealt in the chapter about childhood. I spoke there of the indescribable and indestructible certitude in the soul, that those first years of innocence were the beginning of something worthy, perhaps more worthy than any of the things that actually followed them: I spoke of the strange daylight, which was something more than the light of common day, that still seems in my memory to shine on those steep roads down from Campden Hill, from which one could see the Crystal Palace from afar.
Well, when a Catholic comes from Confession, he does truly, by definition, step out again into that dawn of his own beginning and look with new eyes across the world to a Crystal Palace that is really of crystal. He believes that in that dim corner, and in that brief ritual, God has really remade him in His own image. He is now a new experiment of the Creator. He is as much a new experiment as he was when he was really only five years old. He stands, as I said, in the white light at the worthy beginning of the life of a man. The accumulations of time can no longer terrify. He may be grey and gouty; but he is only five minutes old.
-G.K. Chesterton (From his Autobiography)

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Time For Miracles (Medjugorje)

Friday, November 4, 2016

Saint of the Day: Charles Borromeo

The following comes from the Catholic online site:

Charles was the son of Count Gilbert Borromeo and Margaret Medici, sister of Pope Pius IV. He was born at the family castle of Arona on Lake Maggiore, Italy on October 2. He received the clerical tonsure when he was twelve and was sent to the Benedictine abbey of SS. Gratian and Felinus at Arona for his education.

In 1559 his uncle was elected Pope Pius IV and the following year, named him his Secretary of State and created him a cardinal and administrator of the see of Milan. He served as Pius' legate on numerous diplomatic missions and in 1562, was instrumental in having Pius reconvene the Council of Trent, which had been suspended in 1552. Charles played a leading role in guiding and in fashioning the decrees of the third and last group of sessions. He refused the headship of the Borromeo family on the death of Count Frederick Borromeo, was ordained a priest in 1563, and was consecrated bishop of Milan the same year. Before being allowed to take possession of his see, he oversaw the catechism, missal, and breviary called for by the Council of Trent. When he finally did arrive at Trent (which had been without a resident bishop for eighty years) in 1556, he instituted radical reforms despite great opposition, with such effectiveness that it became a model see. He put into effect, measures to improve the morals and manners of the clergy and laity, raised the effectiveness of the diocesan operation, established seminaries for the education of the clergy, founded a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for the religious instruction of children and encouraged the Jesuits in his see. He increased the systems to the poor and the needy, was most generous in his help to the English college at Douai, and during his bishopric held eleven diocesan synods and six provincial councils. He founded a society of secular priests, Oblates of St. Ambrose (now Oblates of St. Charles) in 1578, and was active in preaching, resisting the inroads of protestantism, and bringing back lapsed Catholics to the Church. He encountered opposition from many sources in his efforts to reform people and institutions.

He died at Milan on the night of November 3-4, and was canonized in 1610. He was one of the towering figures of the Catholic Reformation, a patron of learning and the arts, and though he achieved a position of great power, he used it with humility, personal sanctity, and unselfishness to reform the Church, of the evils and abuses so prevalent among the clergy and the nobles of the times. His feast day is November 4th.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

All the Way by Eddie Vedder (Cubs Song!)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Medjugorje Story from the BBC

A 2009 TV documentary following a group of Northern Ireland pilgrims in Medjugorje where Our Lady has been appearing for over 36 years.

To the Mother and Queen of Peace

We come to you, dearest Mother,

from all quarters, from all nations;

bringing to you all our troubles

ardent wishes, aspirations.

Look upon us and console us,

lay your gentle hands upon us;

intercede with Jesus for us,

Mother of Peace, do pray for us.

All the faithful look up to you, 

you the lodestar of salvation;

cleanse, embrace us, we pray to you,

bless all in the congregation.

Bijakovo, Medjugorje,

little hamlets spread the story,

bearing witness to your beauty

to your name and to your glory.

For all your love, dearest Mother

all the wonders that we have seen,

we give to you solemn promise

to be better than we have been.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Miracles and How Great Is Our God by Chris Quilala & Amanda Cook

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Don Bosco on Guardian Angels

If you should be in any danger,
of soul or body,
call on your Guardian Angel;
and I assure you that
he will help you and free you.

St. John Bosco

Saturday, October 1, 2016

St. Thérèse de Lisieux on Prayer

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”
― St. Thérèse de Lisieux

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Feast of the day: Wenceslaus

The following comes from the Catholic Online site:

St. Wenceslaus (903-29), also known by Vaclav, was born near Prague, and was the son of Duke Wratislaw. He was taught Christianity by his grandmother, St. Ludmila. The Magyars, along with Drahomira, an anti-Christian faction murdered the Duke and St. Lumila, and took over the government. Wenceslaus was declared the new ruler after a coup in 922. He encouraged Christianity. Boleslaus, his brother, no longer successor to the throne, after Wenceslaus' son was born, joined a group of noble Czech dissenters. They invited Wenceslaus to a religious festival, trapped and killed him on the way to Mass. He is the patron saint of Bohemia and his feast day is Sept. 28.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

It Is Well - Kristene DiMarco & Bethel Music

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Hands To The Heavens by Kari Jobe

Spiritual Combat: Weapons for Your Arsenal

The following comes from Fr. Ed Broom at Catholic Exchange:

The word of God teaches us that our life on earth is warfare and the Lord reminds us that if we have decided to follow the Lord we must be prepared for combat. The Sacrament of Confirmation strengthens the Gifts of the Holy Spirit within our souls and transforms us into “Soldiers of Christ” the King.   With the “Cristero” martyrs of Mexico our battle cry must be “Viva Cristo Rey”—long live Christ the King!
The devil exists, has keen intelligence (in a perverted way), is exceedingly sly and crafty, and is constantly at work and persistent in his work (temptations). However, God, Mary, His angels and saints are far more powerful than the devil. Two extremes must be avoided with respect to the devil. These were warnings given by the Servant of God Pope Paul VI. The first extreme to avoid is to deny that the devil exists. Indeed this is one of the tactics of the devil. On the other hand, we should never give the devil too much importance. Individuals, fearful alarmists, speak more of the power of the devil than of the Omnipotence of God Himself. Let us avoid the two extremes!

Spiritual Weapons to Conquer the Devil 

Vigilance. Stay awake and pray so that you are not put to the test and overcome by the temptations of the devil. The precise reason for the Apostles’ fall, abandoning Jesus in the Garden, was that they were not vigilant in prayer.
Name it and Claim it. When the temptation breaks it can prove exceedingly useful to simply admit in a very calm manner, “I am being tempted by the devil, the enemy of God!”  Name it! Claim it! And then tame it!  Discovering the enemy on the attack is half the battle! Ignorance of the enemy’s presence can augment his power over us.
Avoid the Near Occasion of Sin. Often we are tempted because we place ourselves in the near occasion of sin. Remember the many proverbs!  “Do not play with fire!” and “He who plays in danger will perish in danger!” “He who walks on thin ice will fall in!” One of the reasons why Eve ate from the forbidden fruit was due to the simple reason that she was near the tree that God told her not to eat from.
State of Desolation. While in this state St. Ignatius arms us with four key weapons: more prayer, more meditation, examine your conscience (to see why you are in desolation) and finally to apply yourself to some suitable penance. Some devils are expelled only through prayer and penance! Sacramentals. The proper use of Sacramentals can prove to be very efficacious in fighting against the devil, and especially three: the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the medal of Saint Benedict, and finally HOLY WATER.  St Teresa of Avila insists on using Holy Water to expel the devil from our presence. Why?   The devil is inflated with pride and Holy water is small and inconspicuous—this the devil hates and cannot endure. Exorcisms have recourse to holy water!
Fiery Darts That Penetrate the Sky. When being assaulted by the enemy it is highly recommended to offer short and fervent prayers; these can prove exceedingly efficacious in putting the devil to flight. Some examples of these short but powerful prayers might be: Jesus I trust in you… Sweet Heart of Mary be my salvation… Lord, save me… Lord come to my rescue…and of course invoking with faith and confidence the Holy names of Jesus, Mary, and St. Joseph.
Reject Immediately. Part of the problem in spiritual combat is the lethargic, slow and anemic response to the temptation. God’s grace must always prevail through the weapon of prayer. Still, we must engage our own will in manfully and forcefully rejecting the temptation from the start. Frequently temptations get a stronghold over us because we open up the door and the tail of the devil enters and it is difficult to kick him out!
Laziness. On one occasion in the Diary of St. Faustina the devil was roaming the corridors frantically looking for somebody to tempt. St Faustina stopped the devil and told him out of obedience to Jesus to tell her what was the greatest danger to the nuns. Reluctantly the devil responded— Lazy and indolent souls!  All of us have heard the proverb: “Idleness is the workshop of the devil!”  This means that if we do not have anything to do then the devil will give us a lot to do. The great St. John Bosco mortally feared vacation time for his boys in the Oratory. Why? Too much free time gives full entrance and game to the devil in the life of the youth! How often have we sinned preceded by moments, hours or even days of indolence and laziness!  Our philosophy should be that of St. Alberto Hurtado, “There are two places to rest: the cemetery and heaven.” In the present it is time to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. May St. Benedict’s motto be ours: Ora et Labora. Work and Pray.
Jesus in the Desert as Supreme Example: His Three Weapons. Of course our best example for all is Jesus who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  At the end of forty days in the desert, the devil came to tempt Him. Jesus forcefully and easily conquered the devil by using three weapons that we must learn to use: prayer, fasting, and the use of the Word of God.  Jesus had a prolonged prayer experience in the desert. Added to that was forty days of fasting; He ate nothing. Finally the devil tempted Him by using the Word of God; Jesus also used the Word of God as a sharp arrow to puncture the efforts of Satan. Fervent and prolonged prayer, constant self-denial, and familiarity with the Word of God, both meditating on it and putting it into practice are efficacious weapons indeed to combat and conquer Satan.
Openness to Your Spiritual Director. Once again, the Master Saint Ignatius comes to the rescue! In the 13th Rule of Discernment the saint warns us that the devil likes secrecy in the sense that if one is in a profound state of desolation that to open up to a Spiritual Director can conquer the temptation. By clamming up it is like a cut or wound that is hidden beneath a band aid. Until that wound is exposed to the sun and a disinfectant the wound not only will not heal but it will become all the more infected, it will fester and risk the danger of gangrene or worse yet amputation.   Once the temptation is revealed to an able Spiritual Director it is often conquered.  Overwhelmed by temptation, doubt and confusion shortly before making her vows, St. Therese opened up to her Novice Mistress and Superior revealing her state of soul. Almost immediately the temptation disappeared, she made her vows and went on to be one of the greatest modern saints.  What would have happened to her if following the counsel of the devil she kept her state of soul secret? Undoubtedly we would not have Saint Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church.
St. Michael the Archangel. In our battle with Satan we should use all the weapons in our arsenal.  God chose Saint Michael the Archangel as the faithful angel, the Prince of the Heavenly Host, to cast into hell Satan and the other rebellious angels. St. Michael, whose name means, “Who is like unto God”, is just as powerful now as he was in the past. In the midst of the storm of temptations, why not lift up your heart to St. Michael and call upon him.  You can pray the famous prayer “St. Michael the archangel, defend us in battle….” Or simply beg for his intercession!  His help from the heights of heaven will help you to be victor in your combat with the devil.
Mary Most Holy. As a whole the Mexican people have great devotion to Mary, especially under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. However, in Guadalajara, Mexico, in addition to venerating Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe as Patron of Mexico and the Americas, they honor her with another title:  “La General del ejercito!”—- meaning that she is the “General of the Army”.  In our battle against the ancient serpent, Genesis 3:15 honors the woman who crushes the head of the serpent with her heal.  “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between her offspring and yours; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.”  (Gen. 3:15). Indeed the ancient serpent the devil can strike out at us with his ugly tongue and spew out venom, but when we rely on and trust in Mary she will crush his ugly head. Viva Cristo Rey! Viva Maria Reina! Long live Jesus and Mary!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Alabaster by Rend Collective Experiment

How to Deal with Past Sins

The following comes from Word on Fire:

How do we look back on past sins not as sins committed, but as sins confessed and forgiven? Fr. Damian Ference explains today using Peter as an example, showing how although he knew he was a great sinner, he also knew that Jesus loved him completely, as he was – a sinner.

We all know that Peter was the first pope. What we often forget is that Peter was also a terrible sinner. I can think of at least five times in the Gospels where Peter messed up, but the time that he denied Jesus was the absolute worst.

Saint Matthew tells us that it was a maid that first approached Peter in the courtyard – a maid, by the way, should not be able to intimidate a man that the Lord called “The Rock.” The maid recognized Peter as a friend of Jesus, but Peter denied knowing him. Second, another girl – not a woman, but a girl – saw Peter and said, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.” Again, Peter denied it. The third time St. Matthew tells us that it was a bystander who recognized Peter as a friend of Jesus by his speech. And once more, Peter denied knowing Jesus.

That’s about as bad as it gets. Just when your best friend needs you most, you deny even knowing him. And it’s not as if those questioning him were all that intimidating – a maid, a girl, and a random bystander – three people who wouldn’t seem to be much of a threat to a future pope. And Peter knew it. Saint Matthew tells us that upon the cock’s crow, “Peter went out and began to weep bitterly.” If I was him, I probably would have puked too.

Earlier that night Peter promised Jesus that his faith would never be shaken, but there it was, a crumbled mess. And there he was, the one that Jesus had handpicked to be the fearless leader of the apostles, off in the corner weeping like a baby. How pathetic.

Of course we know that there is more to the story. After Jesus suffers, dies, and rises from the dead he has another encounter with Peter. This time it’s on the beach where St. John tells us that Jesus invites the disciples to breakfast. It’s also the place where Jesus asks Peter if he loves him – three times. Three times Peter responds that he loves Jesus, and in doing so, Peter experiences Jesus’ love, forgiveness, healing and mercy. Jesus makes all things new, and in that moment, he makes Peter new too.

But a question remains. How in the world can Peter ever forget that terrible moment in the courtyard when he committed the worst of sins by denying that he even knew Jesus? Surely if we know about his terrible and cowardly act two thousand years later, people also knew well about it back then. And I’m sure that some even reminded him of it from time to time, saying, “Come on man, you’re the coward who denied even knowing Jesus, and now you’re telling me that I should believe in him? Please.” How in the world did Peter ever forget his terrible sin and move forward?

Here’s the truth: Peter never forgot the fact that he denied Jesus. That cowardly act was something that he could never take back. What’s done is done once it’s done. Peter couldn’t go back in time and make things right again. So what happened? How did Peter do it? How did the worst coward turn into one of the most courageous men in Christianity, eventually requesting to be crucified upside down because he thought himself unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord Jesus?

What happened to Peter was that although he knew he was a great sinner, he also knew that Jesus loved him completely, as he was – a sinner. To paraphrase St. John Vianney, Peter knew that his sins were but a grain of sand in the ocean of God’s great mercy. It was the merciful love of Jesus that recreated Peter and that made him new. Peter couldn’t do anything about his sins other than confess them, but Jesus could. And he did. Peter denied Jesus three times, so in his love, Jesus offered Peter and opportunity to tell Jesus that he loved him – three times. And with that Peter was forgiven and made new. From that point on, whenever Peter thought back about the time he denied Jesus, he didn’t think about it as sin committed, but sin confessed and forgiven. 

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

This Love by Housefires II (Featuring Pat Barrett)

Pope Francis: What Happens in Heaven When a Sinner Enters a Confessional?

The following comes from Zenit:  

Confessionals are generally quiet, darkened places. But what does heaven look and sound like when a soul enters a confessional?
Pope Francis today invited the faithful to think about the rejoicing and celebrating in heaven when a sinner repents.
He made this invitation before praying the midday Angelus with those in St. Peter’s Square today, as he reflected on the heart of God as revealed in the three parables from Luke 18 recounted in today’s liturgy.
“A common element in these parables is expressed in the verbs that mean rejoice together, make a celebration,” the Pope noted. “Mourning is not spoken of; there is rejoicing, there is celebrating. The shepherd calls his friends and neighbors and says, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep’ (v 6). The woman calls her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost’ (v. 9). And the father says to his other son: ‘now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found’ (v. 32).
“In the first two parables, the focus is on the joy that is so uncontainable that it must be shared with ‘friends and neighbors.’ In the third parable, the focus is on the celebration that springs from the heart of the merciful father and expands to the whole household.”
The Pope said that with these parables Jesus is presenting us with “the true face of God, a God with his arms always open, a God who deals with sinners with tenderness and compassion.”
God is waiting for us to get back up again, to rise up out of sin, the Pope explained. And “he awaits us with patience, he sees us when we are still a long way off, he runs to meet us, he embraces us, he kisses us, he forgives us. That is how God is. That is how our Father is.”
“And,” the Pope continued, “his forgiveness cancels the past and regenerates us in love. To forget the past — this is the weakness of God. When he embraces us, he forgives us, and he loses his memory. He doesn’t have memory. He forgets the past. When we sinners convert and bring ourselves to be re-encountered by God, reproaches and sternness do not await us, because God saves, he welcomes us home again with joy and makes a celebration.”


Jesus himself speaks of the rejoicing in Heaven, the Pontiff noted. It is Jesus who says, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”
In this light, the Pope proposed a question: “Have you ever thought about how each time we go to the confessional, there is joy and celebration in heaven?” he asked. “Have you ever thought of this? It’s beautiful.”
Francis said that we can be filled with great hope, since “there is no sin in which we may have fallen, from which, with the grace of God, we cannot rise up again.”
No one is so far gone they can’t be recovered, he assured, “because God never stops wanting our good — even when we sin!”
The Pope concluded with a prayer to Our Lady, under the title of Refuge of Sinners, asking that though her intercession, the confidence of the prodigal son might well up in our hearts: “I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you,” the prodigal son said.
“On this path,” the Pope affirmed, “we can give glory to God, and his glory can become his celebration, and ours.”

Pope Francis will celebrate Mass for Fr. Jacques Hamel

Monday, September 12, 2016

Pope Francis: The devil seeks to divide the Church

(Vatican Radio) Divisions destroy the Church, and the devil seeks to attack the root of unity: the celebration of the Eucharist. That was the message of Pope Francis on Monday morning at the daily Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, on the feast of the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Commenting on the reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians — where St Paul rebuked the Corinthians for their contentiousness — Pope Francis said, “The devil has two very powerful weapons to destroy the Church: divisions and money.” And this has happened from the beginning: “ideological, theological divisions that lacerate the Church. The devil sows jealousy, ambitions, ideas, but to divide! Or greed.” And, as happens after a war, “everything is destroyed. And the devil is pleased. And we, naïve as we are, are his game.” “It is a dirty war, that of divisions,” he repeated. “It’s like terrorism,” the war of gossiping in the community, that of language that kills”:
“And the divisions in the Church do not allow the Kingdom to grow; they do not allow the Lord to be seen as He is. Divisions make you see this part, this one against the other. Always against! There is no oil of unity, the balsam of unity. But the devil goes elsewhere, not only in the Christian community, he goes right to the root of Christian unity. And this happens here, in the city of Corinth, to the Corinthians. Paul rebukes them precisely because divisions arise, right at the heart of unity, that is, in the Eucharistic celebration.”
In the case of Corinth, riches make divisions between the rich and the poor precisely during the Eucharist. Jesus, the Pope said, “prayed to the Father for unity. But the devil seeks to destroy it” even there:
“I ask you to everything possible to not destroy the Church with divisions; they are ideological, they come from greed and ambition, they come from jealousy. And above all to pray, and to keep the founts, the very roots of the unity of the Church, which is the Body of Christ; which we, every day, celebrate [in] His sacrifice in the Eucharist.”
Saint Paul speaks about the divisions among the Corinthians, two thousand years ago:
“Paul could say this to all of us today, to the Church of today. ‘Brothers, in this I cannot praise you, because you are gathered together not for the better, but for the worse!’ But the Church gathers everyone together — for the worse, for divisions: for the worse! To soil the Body of Christ in the Eucharistic celebration! And the same Paul tells us, in another passage: ‘He who eats and drinks the Body and the Blood of Christ unworthily, eats and drinks his own condemnation.’ Let us ask the Lord for the unity of the Church, that there may not be divisions. And for unity also in the root of the Church, which is precisely the sacrifice of Christ, which we celebrate every day.”
Among those present at the day’s Mass was Archbishop Arturo Antonio Szymanski Ramírez, the Archbishop emeritus of San Luis Potosí in Mexico, who turned 95 in January. Pope Francis noted his presence at the beginning of his homily, recalling that the Archbishop had taken part in the Second Vatican Council, and that he still helps in a parish. The Holy Father had received Archbishop Szymanski in an audience on Friday.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Benedict XVI Explains Mother Teresa's Fame

The following comes from

Why was Mother Teresa so famous? Because she lived for and in the love of God, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope made this reflection during a luncheon that he offered for the poor on Dec. 26 in the Paul VI Hall.

The event was held to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, founder of the Missionaries of Charity. Several members of the congregation from communities around Rome assisted the Pontiff in the luncheon, which was attended by 350 people and 150 religious.

The Holy Father addressed the participants, stating, "To those who ask why Mother Teresa became as famous as she did, the answer is simple: because she lived humbly and discretely for and in the love of God."

"She herself said that her greatest prize was to love Jesus and serve him in the poor," Benedict XVI continued. "Her diminutive figure, her hands joined in prayer or caressing the sick, a leper, the dying, a child, was the visible sign of an existence transformed by God."

He acknowledged that "in the night of human pain she made the light of divine love shine and helped many hearts to find the peace that only God can give."

The Pope affirmed that "Blessed Teresa of Calcutta showed charity to everyone without distinction, but with a preference for the poor and abandoned: a luminous sign of God's paternity and goodness."

Christ's face

He added: "In all people she was able to recognize the face of Christ, whom she loved with her entire being.

"She continued to encounter the Christ she adored and received in the Eucharist in the streets and lanes of the city, becoming a living 'image' of Jesus who pours the grace of merciful love onto man's wounds."

"In Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we all see how our lives can change when we meet Jesus," the Pontiff affirmed, "how they can become a reflection of the light of God for other people."

"Her mission continues through those who, here as elsewhere in the world, live the charism of being missionaries of charity," he added.

The Holy Father expressed gratitude to the religious for their "humble and discreet presence, hidden to the eyes of mankind but extraordinary and precious to the heart of God."

He continued, "Your life witness shows man -- who often searches for illusory happiness -- where true joy is to be found: in sharing, in giving, in loving with the same gratuitousness as God, which breaks all the logic of human selfishness."

Benedict XVI concluded, "Know that the Pope loves you and carries you in his heart, gathering you all together in a paternal embrace."

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

You Don't Miss A Thing by Amanda Cook

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Pilgrimage to Turin, Rome and Assisi: Days 1 and 2

Greetings from Turin, Italy!  I am currently finishing day 2 of my pilgrimage to Turin, Rome and Assisi and have had a full day.  Fr. Steve Shafran and I arrived yesterday morning to Rome and flew to Turin in the afternoon.  After arriving here in Valdocco we found our rooms inside the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians!  I literally slept in a room in Don Bosco's great Basilica to Our Lady!  I know this is a great blessing.  We spent some time around the Basilica, and were able to have mass in the Pinardi Chapel.  I was able to celebrate mass in that humble first home for Don Bosco's Oratory.  After dinner with the community we walked in to town for an excellent gelato!  On the way home we were hit with a storm.  This storm felt more like a deluge and was accompanied by golfball sized hail!  We arrived back to the Basilica soaking wet!  Needless to say it was a great but tiring first day!

Today was another day filled with blessings!  We began the day with a visit to Don Bosco's rooms and were able to have mass at one of the altars that Don Bosco used for many years in his mission to the young in Valdocco.  It was the exact spot where some of the oratory boys witnessed Don Bosco levitate during his daily mass!  What great devotion to the Holy Eucharist!  After mass and lunch with the community we had an opportunity to join the director of the house on a walk to the Church of St. Francis of Assisi.  This Church is of great importance to us Salesians!  It is the sight of Don Bosco's first mass as a newly ordained priest!  Also the site of the Convitto Ecclesiastico where Don Bosco studied pastoral ministry for 3 years as a student of St. Joseph Cafasso.  Don Cafasso was Don Bosco's confessor and spiritual guide for almost 30 years!  Don Cafasso spent almost all of his priesthood in this holy place and where he heard countless confessions.  Don Cafasso literally taught Don Bosco how to be a priest in the Convitto located next to this church.

It was in the Sacristy of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi that Don Bosco met young Bartholomew Garelli and invited him to learn his catechism.  He said one Hail Mary with him and from there Don Bosco began his work for poor youth and the Salesian Oratory!  30 days after the death of Don Cafasso, Don Bosco delivered the sermon reminding everyone of the great virtues of Don Cafasso.

After our visit to St. Francis of Assisi we visited the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Consolation (Consolata).  This is the church where Don Bosco went to pray after the death of Mamma Margaret.  He invited Our Lady to be his mother and assist him with the work of the oratory!  St. Joseph Cafasso is buried here in this beautiful church.

Then we walked down to the Church of Divine Providence and the tomb of St. Joseph Cottolengo.  St. Joseph founded 5 institutes to care for the needs of the poor and the sick.  So many saints lived and worked in such close proximity to one another!

Fr. Steve and I  joined the community again for prayers and dinner and made another pilgrimage for gelato!  Needless to say we had a full and blessed day.  I will try to keep you posted on the days events every day of the coming week!  Thank God for the internet!  Please continue to pray for us and know of my prayers for all of you!  God is blessing us in this year of mercy!

Friday, August 26, 2016

You Don't Miss A Thing by Amanda Cook

Our Lady of Częstochowa and my vocation!

I wrote this reflection a few years back and it all still holds true.  I have been blessed in so many ways by our merciful God!  With great gratitude I am preparing for a pilgrimage to Italy as I am celebrating my jubilee of religious life (25 years).  I will carry all of you in my heart as I visit Turin and the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, the rooms of Don Bosco and the original oratory.  I have the chance to visit Becchi and the place of St. John Bosco's birth!  Rome and Assisi are also on the itinerary!  We will be there for the Wednesday Audience with our Holy Father on September 7.  And, amazingly, I will be present for the canonization of Mother Teresa!  She is a woman that I actually saw at the UNO Lakefront arena back in 1984.  To be there for her canonization is an immense blessing! August 26 is also Mother Teresa's birthday!   If you have prayer intentions please send them to me via Facebook or you can post them in the comments below.  Please pray for me and for my provincial Fr. Steve Shafran who accompanies me on this pilgrimage in the Year of Mercy!

Today, August 26, is the feast of Our Lady of Częstochowa! I never had a great devotion to this image until the year 2000. That was when I was ordained a priest! That makes today the 14th anniversary of my ordination! When I first found out my ordination would be on August 26th I was a bit disappointed that it would not be on a feast day, but later found out about Częstochowa. It was made more special when I realized the great devotion that Pope John Paul II had for her as well. Pope John Paul II, native of Poland, visited the shrine in 1979 and 1983.The miraculous portrait of Our Lady of Czestochowa is venerated by many as an actual portrait of the Madonna, painted during her lifetime by Saint Luke the Evangelist on the top of a cypress-wood table. Our God is a God of miracles and He is so very generous!

It is in this context that I wanted to write a few words about vocations and about my own vocation story. I am especially mindful of the great gift that ordination brings to the Church, to my family and to the Salesian Family, as well as to me personally. During this Year for Priests it is good to reflect more on this mystery of vocation and the gift that it is for all of us who love the Church and her mission.

My vocation is not so different from many others. Many folks had a hand in it! I think the wonderful prayerful example of my parents was a big part. I can remember seeing my mother frequently in her room with rosary in hand (no doubt praying for us kids!). Also, the hard working example of my Dad and his wonderful availability to others was and is a model to me. I don’t think we ever missed a mass on Sunday. Our parish was a second home to our family. Between school activities, scouting, fairs, picnics and altar serving the parish became a real extension of home.

I can remember being so impressed with the priests of my parish as a youngster and as an altar boy. Our Pastor, the late Msgr. Charles Pagluighi, was a great inspiration to all of us in the parish and he had a particular charism for young people. He had a way of getting his altar boys excited to do a great job at serving at mass. His love for the Chicago Cubs was well known and I remember marveling at the fact that he was an honorary team chaplain! I think the fine example and down to earth goodness of Fr. Pagluighi was a big part of my seeing priesthood in such a positive light.

Another priest of the parish when I was in grammar school was Fr. Arthur Calkins. Fr. Calkins was a very different personality from Fr. Paglughi. Fr. Calkins was a very thoughtful homilist and scholar and had the personality of a university professor. But, it was Fr. Calkins who was the first priest to ask me as a youngster if I had ever thought of the priesthood. I was very surprised by the question and I don’t remember how I responded to his question. However, I do remember that he asked me! The question stayed with me and remained something that I would think about from then on.

I think these good parish priests gave me such a positive view of priesthood that made it possible to say yes years later.

It was also in grammar school that I met Don Bosco. The Salesian Sisters came to our school as I began the 7th grade. They were wonderful, joyful women who had a clear love for God, the Church and this great Salesian Charism. Their love for St. John Bosco, Mary, Help of Christians and for young people was so clear. These sisters didn’t just talk about joy, but they were visibly joyful. I had never seen a religious sister in a habit play softball or basketball before, but these wonderful Salesians sure did! They also loved to tell the many stories of Don Bosco, his dreams, and his miracles to us kids. We saw old movies about the saint and even read comic books about him. This was a cool saint who could do it all! I left grammar school with a love for Don Bosco and his spirit.

I attended Archbishop Shaw High School in Marrero, Louisiana and it was there that I encountered the Salesian Priests and Brothers. My parish priests and the Salesian Sisters tilled the soil and the priests at Shaw planted more seeds. During the summer between my Junior and Senior years of High School I had the chance to help out at a Salesian summer camp in Ipswich, MA. I needed to do 50 hours of service to graduate and the camp sounded like fun. I was supposed to work there for one week, but I was enjoying it so much that I called home to work out staying for a second! It was in working with the young people that summer that I began to see that Don Bosco’s spirit was really growing in me. Was God calling me to be a priest? Was God calling me to be a Salesian? Maybe, but I wasn’t ready to say that out loud!

By the end of my Senior year at Shaw I was all set to go to LSU and begin a new chapter in my life. Just before graduation the school Director Fr. Pat Angelucci called me into his office to ask me a question. He asked me what I planned to do after graduation. I told him I was headed to LSU. He asked the question again. This time he looked me right in the eyes and asked “what do you plan to do with the rest of your life?” Somehow I had the courage to say maybe I will become a Salesian! Six years later that is exactly what happened! On August 15, 1991 I knelt before my provincial and made profession as a Salesian of Don Bosco. Nine years later I was blessed to be ordained a priest!

Pope Benedict called us to celebrate a special Year for Priests in 2011 and I have been thinking about this wonderful mystery of priesthood and the great gift that it is to the Church. No man deserves to be a priest. I know that I don’t deserve this wonderful gift. However, I do know that God doesn’t call the qualified, but qualifies the called. Somehow God works through one’s limitations and brokenness to bring healing, hope and holiness to the people of God. Please pray for us priests that we might continue to grow more and more into the heart of Christ. The Church needs more and more men to say yes! Maybe God is calling you? Don’t be afraid to say YES!

In Over My Head by Jenn Johnson

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Surrendering to the Holy Spirit

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Feast of St. Bartholomew the Apostle!

Today is the Feast of St. Bartholomew! The following comes from the Ecole Glossary.

Nathaniel Bar Tolmai was a native of Cana chosen to be among the 12 Apostles and praised for his sincerity. The synoptic gospels and the Acts of the Apostles list Bartholomew among the Twelve, and the gospel according to St. John lists Nathaniel, who is elsewhere associated with Philip. Other gospels note an association of Philip with Bartholomew, and people have inferred that the writers of the synoptic books call Nathaniel by his patronymic, while St. John calls him by his first name.

Details of his subsequent career are unknown. He is said to have preached in India (or Ethiopia), Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, and Armenia. Eusebius reports that St. Pantænus of Alexandria found in India (by which Eusebius may have meant Ethiopia) a copy of the Hebrew text of the gospel of Matthew that Bartholomew had left there. A gospel attributed to Bartholomew is apocryphal.

Nathaniel is thought to have been martyred by King Astyages of Babylon, who ordered him flayed and beheaded. The place of Nathaniel's death is uncertain. Some say it was Derbend on the Caspian Sea, but Armenian sources assert he died at Arbanoupolis in Armenia. St. Bartholomew in Rome claims his relics.

For more information on St. Bartholomew please check out the Patron Saints Index!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Holy Spirit by Francesca Battistelli

Depending on Providence

The following comes from Mark Mallett:

THESE are the days of Elijah, that is, the hour of a prophetic witness being called forth by the Holy Spirit. It is going to take on many facets—from the fulfillment of apparitions, to the prophetic witness of individuals who “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation… shine like lights in the world.” [1] Here I am not speaking only of the hour of “prophets, seers, and visionaries”—though that is part of it—but of every day people like you and me.
Perhaps you are saying, “Who, me?” Yes, you, and here’s why: as the darkness gets darker, so too, our witness as Christians is going to be forced into the open. One will no longer be able to sit on the fence of compromise. Either you will shine with the light of Christ, or out of fear and self-preservation, hide that light beneath a bushel basket. But remember St. Paul’s warning: “if we deny Him, He will deny us”, [2]but also Christ’s reassurance: “everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.” [3]
Thus, Jesus says with joy:
You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. (Today’s Gospel)
And so, let me straight away repeat the words of St. John Paul II: “BE NOT AFRAID.” There is a strong spirit of fear that has been loosed into the world [4] that is operating under the guise of “tolerance”, but in truth, is a bully. Anyone who disagrees with the “new agenda” is being met more and more with violent words or actions. But don’t be intimidated by this spirit. Stand strong! Have faith in the power of Truth and Love, who is Christ.
…for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. (2 Cor 10:4)
Stand your ground, “but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.” [5] Otherwise, the light in you will fade, and your salt will lose its taste.
Last, keep in mind that…
Christ… fulfills this prophetic office, not only by the hierarchy… but also by the laity… [who] are made sharers in their particular way in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly office of Christ. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 904, 897
Know that the Father will look out for you as He has all His “prophets.” Elijah surrendered himself completely into the arms of Divine Providence. Can you not see, my dear brothers and sisters, that you and I must do the same? That soon His arms will be all that we’ll have as Christians are forced out of the public sphere? So be it. But Abba knows how to care for His own.
The brook near where Elijah was hiding ran dry, because no rain had fallen in the land. So the LORD said to Elijah:  “Move on to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have designated a widow there to provide for you.” (Today’s first reading)
What is most remarkable is that God sent Elijah to a widow who also had nothing! She was down to her last meal. Why would the Lord do this? Precisely to demonstrate His power in the midst of disaster, His love in the midst of drought, His providence in the midst of famine. God multiplied her food such that:
She was able to eat for a year, and Elijah and her son as well. 
In this way, Elijah’s courage was strengthened, as was the faith of the widow. Look, food is easy for God. That’s the least of your worries. Being faithful is your concern:
Know that the LORD does wonders for his faithful one; the LORD will hear me when I call upon him. (Today’s Psalm)

Read the rest here! 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Art of Contemplative & Mystical Prayer

The following comes from The Catholic Exchange:

Contemplative prayer has the tendency to become ever simpler and more silent. As we gain experience in this form of prayer we need fewer and fewer thoughts, until finally one single thought may be sufficient to find the way to truth and God. Fewer thoughts demand fewer words. St. Francis used the phrase “My God and my all” as his theme of contemplation for a whole night.
In contemplation our mode of thinking changes. From its usual restlessness it becomes a quiet beholding and a comprehending, a watching and a witnessing. Our voice changes: it becomes softer and lower. Finally, speech dies down and its place is taken by a silent regarding and longing between the soul and God. If we should reach this stage in contemplation, we should not force ourselves back into the diversity of thought. When simplicity contains the essence, there is no need for diversity; when silence is eloquent, it is greater than words.
There are people to whom a profusion of thought and words are alien. With them, the state of quietude, which others take consid­erable time to establish, is very quickly reached. They require only very few words; anything beyond it would merely confuse them. They may not even need any words or thoughts in order to establish the state of mind in which they experience the presence of God. If that is so, they need not search any farther. They should, however, not take this for granted. It may happen that on another occasion they need a proper subject for contemplation and must have recourse to a proper text.
We cannot do more here than give a general description of the character and practice of contemplative prayer. It must take differ­ent forms with different people. Thus what we have said should not be regarded as a general rule but merely as a survey which may give some guidance in individual cases.
Some people find contemplation very much easier than others. Some people are by nature quieter and more introspective than others who are highly strung and permanently keyed up for action. Again, the form of contemplation must vary with individual disposition. The slow, plodding, and methodical person will set about it in a different way from someone who is quick and impres­sionable, the imaginative person in a different way from the abstract thinker.
There are no general rules. What matters is that we should seek the truth and that through truth we should strive after God. Also, contemplation changes in character with time and circumstances.

Mystical prayer erases barriers between man and God

It may happen in contemplation that we have a strange experience. We may have been reflecting on God in faith alone. Suddenly, God is present. This is not due to any intensity of devotion on our part, nor does it imply that we have an especially vivid idea of God or that our heart is overflowing with love for Him. It is not anything of this kind. It is a sudden feeling that we are faced with an entirely new and different experience: a wall which was there before is there no more.
Usually the idea of God is before us like everything else, including ourselves. It is before us in the space of our conscious­ness as a concept or thought. This concept of God affects us, moves us to love, or exhorts us to certain actions. In the experi­ence which we are discussing, the barrier of thought disappears and gives place to immediate and direct awareness.
This, at first, may be most confusing. We feel moved in an entirely new way; we feel that we have been transported into a state hitherto unknown. Our intuition tells us that this is God or at any rate connected with Him. This intimation may frighten us. We do not know whether we dare presume that this intuition is true and we are uncertain what to do. However, the intuition becomes a certainty, even an absolute certainty which leaves no room for doubt. The doubts may come afterwards when, for exam­ple, we discover that our usual ideas about the inner life have lost their meaning or when we discover that other people have no knowledge of these things.
Another element of confusion is that we lack the words to describe our experience. We know what it is but we also know that it cannot be conveyed in words — not only because it is so great and powerful, but simply because there is no expression for it. We can merely say something like: “It is holy; it is close; it is more important than anything else; it is sufficient in itself; it is quiet, tender, simple; it is almost nothing and yet it is everything — it is He.” We could put it this way, yet know that it would convey nothing to our listener unless he also had experienced it.