Monday, February 29, 2016

1969 Prophetic Insights of Fr. Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

“The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning.

She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes…she will lose many of her social privileges…. As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members…."

"…But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.

And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”

Pope Benedict (Faith and the Future, 2009)

The Life: An Oasis in the City of Chicago

The Life Documentary from Cautious Horses on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Let It Happen by United Pursuit (ft. Andrea Marie)

Pope Francis: It's never too late for conversion

 God's patience towards sinners is without limit, yet the time for conversion is now, Pope Francis said during his Sunday Angelus address at the Vatican.
“It is never too late to convert, but it is urgent, it is now! Let us begin today,” said the Pope Feb. 28 to the crowds in St. Peter's Square.
Delivering his remarks before leading those present in the Marian prayer, the Pope spoke on Jesus' “invincible patience,” explaining how God's “unyielding concern for sinners” should provoke impatience in ourselves.
“Have you thought of God's patience? Have you even thought of his unyielding concern for sinners, how this should provoke impatience against ourselves?”
“It is never to late to convert! Never! Up until the last moment: The patience of God who waits for us.”
Pope Francis recounted the story from St. Therese of Lisieux, who prayed for the conversion of a criminal who had been condemned to death, and had refused interventions from the priest. It was not until his final moment that he took the Crucifix held by the priest and kissed it.
“The patience of God! And he does the same with us, with all of us!” the Pope said. “And this is his mercy.”

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Don Bosco and Living a Joyful Life

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:

If there’s one undeniable fact about human nature, it’s that we all want to be happy. We crave joy—infinite, endless joy.
The problem is, we often look for happiness in all the wrong places, leaving ourselves frustrated and miserable. The plethora of wildly popular self-help books shows that we are hungry for guidance on how to live well.
One man found the secret of true happiness. His name was St. John Bosco. He was a man who experienced many trials, but who also lived a life full of gladness and joy. St. John Bosco was so happy that he could hardly contain it. “Dear friend,” he wrote to an associate, “I am a man who loves joy and who therefore wishes to see you and everybody happy. If you do as I say, you will be joyful and glad in heart.”
So how did St. John Bosco find real happiness? Here’s his six recommendations for living a joyful life:
  1. Live for God alone – “Give God the greatest possible glory and honor Him with your whole soul. If you have a sin on your conscience, remove it as soon as possible by means of a good Confession.”
  2. Be a servant – “Never offend anyone. Above all, be willing to serve others. Be more demanding of yourself than of others.”
  3. Be careful in your associations – “Do not trust those who have no faith in God and who do not obey His precepts. Those who have no scruples in offending God and who do not give Him what they should will have many fewer scruples in offending you and even betraying you when it is convenient for them.”
  4. Spend carefully – “If you do not wish to be ruined, never spend more than you earn. You should bear this in mind and always measure your true possibilities accurately.”
  5. Be humble – “Be humble. Speak little of yourself and never praise yourself before anyone. He who praises himself, even if he has real merit, risks losing the good opinion of others. He who seeks only praise and honors is sure to have an empty head fed only by wind… will have no peace of soul and will be unreliable in his undertakings.”
  6. Carry your cross – “Carry your cross on your back and take is as it comes, small or large, whether from friends or enemies and of whatever wood it be made. The most intelligent and happiest of men is he who, knowing that he is doomed to carry the cross throughout life, willingly and resignedly accepts the one God sends him.”
Finding real happiness isn’t complicated. Anyone, even a child, could live by these simple rules.
Yet, these prescriptions are pretty counter-cultural aren’t they? They are the exact opposite of what society tells us will make us happy. You certainly won’t find them shared in a New York Times best-seller.
But the truth is, it doesn’t matter what society says. The most joyful of all people are the saints—men and women like St. John Bosco. They were truly and lastingly happy because they had discovered the secret that holiness is real happiness. And they want you to discover it too.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Light Of Your Face by Jesus Culture

Jesus Culture 09' from JesusLives on Vimeo.

Romano Guardini on Humility

When a man feels proud of himself, he stands erect, draws himself to his full height, throws back his head and shoulders and says with every part of his body, I am bigger and more important than you. But when he is humble he feels his littleness, and lowers his head and shrinks into himself. He abases himself. And the greater the presence in which he stands the more deeply he abases himself; the smaller he becomes in his own eyes.

But when does our littleness so come home to us as when we stand in God's presence? He is the great God, who is today and yesterday, whose years are hundreds and thousands, who fills the place where we are, the city, the wide world, the measureless space of the starry sky, in whose eyes the universe is less than a particle of dust, all-holy, all-pure, all-righteous, infinitely high. He is so great, I so small, so small that beside him I seem hardly to exist, so wanting am I in worth and substance. One has no need to be told that God's presence is not the place in which to stand on one's dignity. To appear less presumptuous, to be as little and low as we feel, we sink to our knees and thus sacrifice half our height; and to satisfy our hearts still further we bow down our heads, and our diminished stature speaks to God and says, Thou art the great God; I am nothing.

Therefore let not the bending of our knees be a hurried gesture, an empty form. Put meaning into it. To kneel, in the soul's intention, is to bow down before God in deepest reverence.

On entering a church, or in passing before the altar, kneel down all the way without haste or hurry, putting your heart into what you do, and let your whole attitude say, Thou art the great God. It is an act of humility, an act of truth, and everytime you kneel it will do your soul good.

From Sacred Signs by Romano Guardini

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Remembering our Salesian Protomartyrs

Today the Salesians remember our Protomartyrs St. Luigi Versiglia and St. Callistus Caravario. The following comes from the SDB site:

Luigi was born in Oliva Gessi (Pavia) on June 5, 1873. From his earliest years he used serve mass, so much so that the people already thought he would be a priest, but Louis never wanted to hear talk of that, because he wanted to be a vet.

The Salesian

As a twelve year old he was taken in by Don Bosco, who fascinated him to the extent that he wanted to change his mind. In 1888, soon after Don Bosco’s death, Louis was much taken by the ceremony where seven missionaries received their mission cross and decided to become a Salesian, with the hope of going to the missions.

The priest

He gained a degree in philosophy, and was soon ready for priestly ordination which took place in 1895. Don Rua appointed him as director of novices at just 23 years of age at Genzano in Rome, a task he carried out for ten years with kindness, firmness and patience.

Missionary to China

After much insistence from the bishop of Macao, in 1906 six Salesians arrived in China, led by Fr Versiglia. Thus a prophecy of Don Bosco’s came true. In Macao he established the Salesian "mother house" and also opened a mission at Heungchow. Fr Louis gave life to the area as Don Bosco would have done, setting up a music band which was much appreciated, and opening orphanages and oratories.

Exemplary bishop

In 1918 the Salesians received the mission of Shiuchow from the Vicar Apostolic of Canton, and on 9 January 1921 Fr Versiglia was consecrated its bishop. Wise, tireless and poor, he constantly set out to visit and encourage the confreres and Christians in his diocese. Whenever he arrived, the villages held a feast especially the children.

He was a true pastor, completely dedicated to his flock. He gave the Vicariate a solid structure with its own seminary, house of formation, and planned residences and hospitals for the elderly and those in need.

He looked after the formation of catechists with much care. In his notes he wrote: “The missionary who is not united to God is a canal detached from its source”. “The missionary who prays a lot achieves a lot”. Like Don Bosco he was an example of work and temperance.

Meanwhile in China the political situation had become very tense, especially for Christians and foreign missionaries. Persecutions began.


On 13 February 1930, together with Fr Caravario, the bishop was at Shiuchow for the pastoral visit to the Linchow mission. Some young boys and girls went with them; they had been studying in Shiuchow. On 25 February a group of Bolshevik pirates stopped the bishop’s boat, wanting to take the girls. The bishop and Fr Caravario obstructed them with all the force they could muster.

They were forcibly taken and eventually shot. Before they were killed they heard one another’s confession. Their last breath was spent for their beloved China. Paul VI declared them martyrs in 1976, John Paul II declared them Blessed in 1983 and canonised them on 1st October 2000.

Callistus Caravario was born at Cuorgné, in the province of Turin, on 18 June 1903. From his earliest years everyone thought of him as an excellent child for his meek and reflective nature. He seemed naturally inclined to prayer and loved his mother very much, as witnessed by the many letters he wrote. At five years of age he and his family moved to Turin close to the Porta Nuova Oratory.

In Turin

He was amongst the first in his class at school, and served Mass each morning Mass. On the advice of Fr Garelli the Rector of the Oratory, he entered the Novitiate and became a Salesian. In 1922 Bishop Versiglia was in Turin who spoke of the missions to the Brothers. Callistus told him: "Bishop, you will see me in China".


Fr Garelli left for China and Callistus insisted so much that after a short time he followed him there. He kept his word. His mother told Fr Garelli: “I am willing to leave my son in Don Bosco’s hands”. “With all the affection I am capable of”, Callistus would write, “thank you Lord, for having given me such a good mother”. “Mother, here is news that will make you happy: This morning I gave my first catechsim lesson in Chinese”.


Callistus was sent to Macao, and then for two years to Timor where he edified everyone, including the rector, for his goodness and apostolic zeal. “My good mother”, he wrote, “pray that your Callistus may not be just a hlaf priest but completely the priest”.

Back to China - Linchow mission

On 18 May 1929, he returned to Shiuchow, where bishop Versiglia ordained him priest and entrusted him with the mission at Linchow. In a short time he had visited all the families and earned the sympathy of the school children. Meanwhile in China the political situation had become very tense, especially for Christians and foreign missionaries. Persecutions began.


On 13 February 1930 Fr Caravario was in Shiuchow to accompany the bishop on his pastoral visit to the Linchow mission. Some young boys and girls went with them; they had been studying in Shiuchow. On 25 February a group of Bolshevik pirates stopped the bishop’s boat, wanting to take the girls. Bishop Versiglia and Fr Callistus stopped them.

They were taken by force and ultimately shot, but before they were killed they heard one another’s confessions. Their last breath was spent for their beloved China. Paul VI declared them martyrs in 1976, John Paul II declared them Blessed in 1983 and canonised them on 1st October 2000.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Hidden by United Pursuit (ft. Will Reagan)

An old-school confessional revives saying ‘I’m sorry’

(RNS) The Rev. Janusz Kukulka can’t say for sure that his parishioners are sinning more, but they sure are lining up at the new confessional booth to tell him about it.

For years, Kukulka, was content with absolving sins in a private room marked by an exit sign to the right of the altar St. Mary the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
But something happened during Lent this year. For the first time, Kukulka really noticed the two confessionals missing from the rear of his church. They’d been gone for four decades, ripped out during the 1970s to make room for air conditioning units during a renovation inspired by the Second Vatican Council.
They must have been a thing of beauty, Kukulka thought. He imagined their dark oak paneled doors and arched moldings to match the Gothic architecture of the church designed by renowned 19th-century architect Patrick Keely.
Their absence was striking, especially when the Archdiocese of Hartford had asked parishes to extend their confession hours during Lent, part of a public relations campaign to get Catholics to return to the sacrament of reconciliation.
So, one Sunday Kukulka announced his desire to the congregation. “I told them I wanted a visible confessional,” he said.
He got one within a week.
Parishioners Timothy Conlon and Patrick Knott moved quickly to fulfill their priest’s wish. They thought about building a confessional, but the cost was prohibitive for the cash-strapped parish. So, they turned to the Internet, where Conlon found an antique confessional for sale in Iowa on eBay.
Conlon flew out to Iowa and drove the confessional back to Derby. Knott’s wife, Elisa, donated the $1,100 cost of the confessional in honor of her parents, who were devoted church members. A plaque above the confessional bears their name.
“It’s a big hit,” Conlon said.
Patrick Knott, who had never confessed in the private room, said a long line formed in February when Kukulka held the first confession in the booth. He was the first to try it out.
“I got celebrity status,” he said. “It wasn’t bad.”
Kukulka said confessions have been up ever since at the church.
But Thomas Groome, professor of theology and religious education at Boston College, doubts that an old-school confessional will be enough to keep the momentum going.
Confessions among American Catholics have been on the decline for decades, a trend many theologians attribute to changes introduced by the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).
In an attempt to make confession less about sin, many churches during Vatican II shuttered their confessional booths and opened “reconciliation rooms” where the faithful could sit face-to-face with a priest and talk about their sins in the context of self-improvement.
“The church was moving in a direction where priests were supposed to be counselors instead of judges,” Groome said. “The problem was that many priests didn’t have the counseling or spiritual skills, and people didn’t like the openness. They wanted the anonymity that comes behind the grill.”
When Monsignor Stephen DiGiovanni arrived at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Stamford, Conn., in 1998, he found two confessionals nailed shut during Vatican II.
He closed off the church’s reconciliation room that featured “two beat-up old chairs and a crummy little screen” and opened up the confessionals. In 2009, he told a New York Times reporter that more than 400 people partake in the confessional rite every Sunday.
That number continues to grow, and the church has added more confession times.
“When I began as a priest in 1977, it was about ‘I’m OK , you’re OK, we don’t have to confess anything,’” he said. “We shouldn’t be guilt-ridden Catholics, that’s all true, but we should be contrite.”
Kukulka couldn’t be happier with the new confessional.
There’s just one small problem: Voices inside the confessional echo through the sanctuary.
(Ann Marie Somma is the editor of Hartford Faith & Values.)

Fr. Robert Barron: How Should We Address Spiritually Dry Periods?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Saint of the day: Polycarp

Today we remember the holy martyr Polycarp. The following comes from the American Catholic site:

Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey), disciple of St. John the Apostle and friend of St. Ignatius of Antioch was a revered Christian leader during the first half of the second century.

St. Ignatius, on his way to Rome to be martyred, visited Polycarp at Smyrna, and later at Troas wrote him a personal letter. The Asia Minor Churches recognized Polycarp’s leadership by choosing him as a representative to discuss with Pope Anicetus the date of the Easter celebration in Rome—quite a controversy in the early Church.

Only one of the many letters written by Polycarp has been preserved, the one he wrote to the Church of Philippi, Macedonia.

At 86, Polycarp was led into the crowded Smyrna stadium to be burned alive. The flames did not harm him and he was finally killed by a dagger. The centurion ordered the saint’s body burned. The “Acts” of Polycarp’s martyrdom are the earliest preserved, fully reliable account of a Christian martyr’s death. He died in 156.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Don Bosco and the Power of Dreams

St. John Bosco was a man of dreams!   He had dreams (visions) of heaven and hell as well as prophetic dreams.  These prophetic dreams were meant for his times as well as our own!  Many of his dreams were for all of us!  This following dream was for his boys, his young Salesians as well as for all of us.  It is a vision of heaven as he was guided by St. Dominic Savio!  The following comes from the Catholic Herald:
Does God communicate with us through our dreams? St John Bosco thought so: he was shown God’s plan for his life in a dream when he was only nine years old. The vivid dream remained etched in his mind for his entire life. 
The young John had dreamed that he was in a yard not far from his home in the hilly Italian countryside. The yard was full of poverty-stricken boys who were blaspheming and swearing. Wanting to stop them mouthing “these evil words”, John ran at them and struck them with his fists. 
He was interrupted from throwing punches by a man in a white cloak whose face shone so much that young John could hardly look at him. The man said: “You will have to win these friends of yours not by blows but by gentleness and love… I want you to teach them the ugliness of sin.” 
In the dream John admitted to the man that he was perplexed. He said he didn’t know how he could ever influence such a great number of boys and he told the man he didn’t know who he was talking to.
The man said: “I will give you a teacher, under her guidance you could become wise. Without her all ‘wisdom’ is foolishness… I am her Son… Ask my Mother what my name is.” 
Suddenly Our Lady appeared, draped in a white mantle that seemed speckled with stars. 
Our Lady took John’s hand and said: “Look!” Around them, in the place of the children were goats, dogs, cats and bears. Our Lady explained: “This is your work… What you will see happening to these wild animals is what you must do for my children.”
In the blink of an eye the wild beasts had turned into playful lambs frolicking around Our Lady and John. She assured the boy: “In good time you will understand everything.”
The dream revealed John’s vocation. When he grew up he dedicated his life to rescuing and educating abandoned children and young offenders. 
Until his death on January 31, 1888, John continued to have dreams that were really masterclasses in divine instruction. 
Many of John’s dreams concerned the boys he was teaching and the state of their souls. He dreamt that when the boys knelt in the confessional they came under the influence of certain bad angels and began holding back sins when they made their confessions. 
Following these dreams, St John Bosco warned the children in his care that if they were going to go to Confession, they either had to make thorough ones or not confess at all. 
Mother Angelica made a programme in which she described a dream where John was escorted by St Dominic Savio to a supremely beautiful, heavenly place, which was not in fact heaven. St Dominic showed John hordes of boys in white whose souls had gone there because they had been his charges. 
Initially, John was delighted that his efforts had brought so many souls to the heavenly realm. But St Dominic had something hard to say to him: “There would be many, many more still if only you had greater faith and confidence in God.”
Believing that God can use dreams as a means of communicating with us flies in the face of Freudian psychology, which teaches that dreams are simply products of our subconscious minds. As Catholics, we can accept that explanation for the vast majority of dreams, but we should still be open to having the kinds of dream that John experienced.
True, most of us will never have such vivid and divinely inspired dreams as John. But today, on his feast day, it would be a good idea to pray for edification during our dreams and for the sort of instruction that will help us lead better lives.

Catholic Apologetics: The Papacy

The Papacy - Was St. Peter the first "pope" as the Catholic Church claims?  Yes, for Jesus Christ said it was upon St. Peter that He would build His Church and Christ gave him authority over His whole "flock" (Matthew 16:18-19; John 21:14-17).

Feast of the Chair of Peter

Today we commemorate the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. We remember the authority that Jesus Christ gave to St. Peter and all those who followed him. It is a celebration of authority and of our unity around the office of St. Peter. The following comes from the American Catholic site:

This feast commemorates Christ’s choosing Peter to sit in his place as the servant-authority of the whole Church (see June 29).
After the “lost weekend” of pain, doubt and self-torment, Peter hears the Good News. Angels at the tomb say to Magdalene, “The Lord has risen! Go, tell his disciples and Peter.” John relates that when he and Peter ran to the tomb, the younger outraced the older, then waited for him. Peter entered, saw the wrappings on the ground, the headpiece rolled up in a place by itself. John saw and believed. But he adds a reminder: “..[T]hey did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (John 20:9). They went home. There the slowly exploding, impossible idea became reality. Jesus appeared to them as they waited fearfully behind locked doors. “Peace be with you,” he said (John 20:21b), and they rejoiced.

The Pentecost event completed Peter’s experience of the risen Christ. “...[T]hey were all filled with the holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4a) and began to express themselves in foreign tongues and make bold proclamation as the Spirit prompted them.

Only then can Peter fulfill the task Jesus had given him: “... [O]nce you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). He at once becomes the spokesman for the Twelve about their experience of the Holy Spirit—before the civil authorities who wished to quash their preaching, before the council of Jerusalem, for the community in the problem of Ananias and Sapphira. He is the first to preach the Good News to the Gentiles. The healing power of Jesus in him is well attested: the raising of Tabitha from the dead, the cure of the crippled beggar. People carry the sick into the streets so that when Peter passed his shadow might fall on them.

Even a saint experiences difficulty in Christian living. When Peter stopped eating with Gentile converts because he did not want to wound the sensibilities of Jewish Christians, Paul says, “...I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong.... [T]hey were not on the right road in line with the truth of the gospel...” (Galatians 2:11b, 14a).

At the end of John’s Gospel, Jesus says to Peter, “Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18). What Jesus said indicated the sort of death by which Peter was to glorify God. On Vatican Hill, in Rome, during the reign of Nero, Peter did glorify his Lord with a martyr’s death, probably in the company of many Christians.

Second-century Christians built a small memorial over his burial spot. In the fourth century, the Emperor Constantine built a basilica, which was replaced in the 16th century.

The Rock of Peter

Sunday, February 21, 2016

No Longer Slaves by Jonathan David & Melissa Helser

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Archbishop Fulton Sheen on Peter, the Vicar of Christ

Friday, February 19, 2016

Cistercian Chant: Oliva fructifera

Bishop Robert Barron speaks about Blessed Mother Teresa

Saint of the Day: Conrad of Piacenza

The following comes from the Patron Saints Index:

Born to the nobility. Married to Euphrosyne, the daughter of a nobleman; the two led a pious life in the world. One day while hunting, Conrad ordered attendants to set fire to some brush in order to flush out the game. A strong wind carried the flames to nearby fields, forests, towns and villages, and Conrad fled in panic. An innocent peasant was imprisoned, tortured into a confession and condemned to death for the fire. Remorseful, Conrad stepped forward to confess, saving the man. He then paid for the damaged property, selling nearly all he owned in order to raise the cash.

Conrad and his wife saw the hand of God in the dramatic events, and chose to give the poor everything they had left. They then separated, she to a Poor Clare monastery, he to a group of Franciscan tertiary hermits. Conrad lived such a life of piety that his reputation for holiness spread quickly. He had the gift of healing. Visitors destroyed his solitude, so he fled to a the valley of Noto, Italy in Sicily where he lived 36 years in prayer as a hermit.

Legend says that when the Bishop of Syracuse visited him, the bishop asked if Conrad had anything to offers guests. Conrad said he would check in his cell. He returned carrying newly made cakes, which the bishop accepted as a miracle. Conrad returned the bishop‘s visit, and made a general confession to him. As he arrived, he was surrounded by fluttering birds, who escorted him back to Noto.

Conrad died kneeling before a crucifix.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Come As You Are by Crowder

Casting Out Devils From Your Life

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:

Jesus said with the utmost clarity“Some devils can only be cast out by prayer and fasting.”(Mt. 17:21) Often the devil or devils have a real stronghold in our lives, and to make things worse, we are not even aware of it. One of the greatest victories of the devil is to hide or camouflage himself, or better yet, trick us into believing that he does not even exist!
Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in his rules for discernment (Rule 13, first week of Rules for discernment) states that devil likes to work in secrecy and strives to get us to keep our interior lives secret to everybody. This secrecy even includes hiding our state of soul to our Confessor or Spiritual Director.
The same saint emphasizes the fact that when we are going through tough times of desolation a tactic of the devil is that  he convinces us to keep it under lock and key, keep it to ourselves—top secret! As such the devil will magnify and accentuate our problem transforming it from a mole-hill into a mountain. A small cut can get infected, and eventually turn gangrenous and even lead to an amputation. Spiritual maladies have to be brought to the Spiritual doctor— that is to say, a good Confessor or Spiritual Director.
An essential tool to be used frequently, prudently, and with proper spiritual direction is the tool of penance; and fasting is one of the primary applications of the penitential life.
On one occasion while I was taking a walk, a big black bird was in my path. As I drew closer, I expected the big bird to take flight, but he did not. At first, it occurred to me that maybe I was a modern Saint Francis, but that was not the case at all. The bird was land-bound for the simple reason that he had either wounded or even broken one of his wings!
A spiritual reflection flashed across my mind and it was this:  we can be compared to that black bird!  The bird is created to fly high into the deep blue sky! Likewise the human person, created in the image and likeness of God and baptized into the family of God, is called to fly high in the spiritual life, and eventually reach heaven.
However, for the human person to soar high into the mystical heights he needs two strong wings, to loft him on high: 1) Fervent prayer, and 2) constant penance. The Spiritual writers call these two dimensions of the spiritual life the Ascetical life which leads to the Mystical life!
This being said, we would like to outline some of the basic reasons why the human person should pray fervently all the days of his life, but at the same time cultivate a penitential life marked by the practice of fasting. Unless we have strong and sufficient reasons to motivate us we will never really undertake the practice seriously.
Here we go with the reasons to learn to fast:
1. Imitation of Christ.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Indeed He is our model!  Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights in the desert, giving us an example to follow. (Mt. 4:1-11) Few if any of us can fast forty days and forty nights—the duration of the Lenten Season! But we all can do at least a little. The Saintly Cure of Ars said that fasting is hard just at the start and then it becomes a habit.
2. Personal Reparation.  We are all born as sinners with Original Sin. Then during the course of our lives we commit actual sins. In justice we are obliged to repair for the sins we have committed in justice towards God. An old Midas muffler commercial put it succinctly: “Pay now or pay later.”Better for us to pay now than to do so later in Purgatory. Fasting indeed can be a powerful means to shorten our stay in Purgatory!
3. Family Reparation. We all know of family members, either in our blood family or family circles, of members who have simply walked away from God, no longer believe in God, are indifferent to God or even at times violently opposed to all that refers to God. These individuals who were redeemed by the Precious Blood of Jesus are in desperate need of prayer and fasting. Our Lady of Fatima warned us seriously: “Many souls are lost because nobody prays and offers up sacrifices for them.” Who knows, maybe our acts of penance could save immortal souls for all eternity!
4. Social Reparation. On the level of our nation we must apply ourselves to serious prayer and reparation and fasting due to the many moral evils that are afflicting our country—especially the scourge and plague of abortion. About every 20 seconds a baby is aborted, three a minute, and 4,000 a day in USA. Since Roe vs. Wade, Jan 22nd, 1973, approximately 45 million surgical abortions have been perpetrated. Due to the fact that this river of innocent blood of innocent babies has been shed, we all must feel it incumbent upon ourselves to carry out fervent prayers and fasting. Actually the Bishops of the United States have proclaimed January 22nd as a National day of prayer and penance (fasting) to repair for the sins of abortion as well as to prevent future abortions. Let us all do our part with generosity!
5. Cast Out Devils.   As we said earlier in the essay Jesus said that some devils can be cast out only by prayer and fasting. Saint Pope John Paul II mentioned in one of his discourses that sin can even be institutionalized—that is to say embedded or deeply engrained in the fabric of society. How true even more so today. Abortion institutionalized since 1973, the legalization of Same-sex unions that have the same legal status as Traditional marriages, States legalizing Euthanasia—the killing of the elderly and infirm, widespread legalization of embryonic research resulting in killing of the little/tiny babies in laboratories, the deep encrustation of the pornographic culture destroying the minds and hearts and families at large. This institutionalization of sin can only be cast out and conquered by the strongest spiritual medicine—fervent prayer to Almighty God and rigorous and constant penance. One of the most convincing examples of prayer and fasting was the person of the Cure of Ars, Saint John Marie Vianney. He fasted many days by eating nothing, or eating once a day on two or three potatoes, and then sleeping only three hours a night. His fervent prayer was: “ Lord send me any suffering but save the souls of my parishioners.”
Let us pray that we would be imbued with the spirit of the saints and undertake in our lives fervent prayer but also fasting. Let us fast in this life so as to feast forever with God in heaven for all eternity!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Gregorian Chant (An Hour of Peace)

Pray for Fr. Joseph Peek

Fr. Joseph Peek is nearing the end of his earthly journey and is preparing for life eternal.  Please keep him and his family in your prayers.  Fr. Peek is a military veteran of the US Navy and is asking prayers through the intercession of  the courageous and holy Grunt Padre, Servant of God Fr. Vincent Capodanno. 

Read about Fr. Peek's vocation and courage here.

The Special Prayer of the Pious Union of St. Joseph
O St. JOSEPH, foster father of the Child Jesus and true spouse
of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us and for the dying of this
day (or this night). Amen. 

O St. JOSEPH, protector of those in agony, take pity on those
who at this very moment when I pray to thee are engaged in
their last combat. 
O blessed Joseph, take pity on my soul too when the hour of
the final battle shall arrive for me. Then, O my holy patron, do
not abandon me, but grant me thine assistance; show that thou
art my good father, and obtain that my Divine Savior may receive
me with mercy into that abode where the elect enjoy a life
that shall never end. Amen. 

Catholic Men Preparing for Spiritual Battle

The following comes from Fr. Longenecker at Crux:
Catholic men are arming themselves for battle.
Spiritual battle.
Behind the headlines and beneath the radar, a grassroots movement is growing among Catholic men in the United States. Spurred on by the culture wars, they are rallying to conferences, retreats, seminars, and parish study groups that aim to support them in their faith, encourage fellowship, and motivate Christian action in support of charity, social justice, pro-life causes, and the traditional family. Catholic men’s events have become phenomenally successful, gathering Catholic men from a wide spectrum of age ranges to hear motivational speakers, inspiring converts, and spiritual leaders.
In an interview with Tim Drake at Catholic Pulse, Dan Spencer, executive director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men, said that at the beginning of the century there were just 16 Catholic men’s conferences. Now a quick check of the Web discovers more than 100 nationwide. In addition to the keynote speakers, the conferences feature workshops and breakout sessions focused on topics such as battling pornography, being a better husband and father, successful stewardship, and how to develop a stronger spirituality.
In our own state of South Carolina — a state where less than 5 percent of the population is Catholic — the first annual men’s conference was standing-room-only with more than 500 registrants. The second year the attendance nearly doubled. The same story is told at men’s conferences across the country.
The renewal of men’s ministry is also taking place at the parish level. Pastors and laymen are starting their own groups, while the National Fellowship of Catholic Men, That Man is You!, and The King’s Men offer guidance and content for local groups.

A Thomas Merton Prayer

The following is a prayer from New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton:

“Justify my soul, O God, but also from Your fountains fill my will with your fire. Shrine in my mind, although perhaps this means “be darkness to my experience,” but occupy my heart with Your tremendous Life. Let my eyes see nothing in the world but Your glory, and let my hands touch nothing that is not for Your service.

Let my tongue taste no bread that does not strengthen me to praise Your great mercy. I will hear Your voice and I will hear all harmonies You have created, singing Your hymns. Sheep’s wool and cotton from the field shall warm me enough that I may live in Your service; I will give the rest to Your poor. Let me use all things for one sole reason: to find my joy in giving You glory.

Therefore keep me, above all things, from sin. Keep me from the death of deadly sin which puts hell in my soul. Keep me from the murder of lust that blinds and poisons my heart. Keep me from the sins that eat a man’s flesh with irresistible fire until he is devoured. Keep me from loving money in which is hatred, from avarice and ambition that suffocate my life. Keep me from the dead works of vanity and the thankless labor in which artists destroy themselves for pride and money and reputation, and saints are smothered under the avalanche of their own importunate zeal. Stanch in me the rank wound of covetousness and the hungers that exhaust my nature with their bleeding. Stamp out the serpent envy that stings love with poison and kills all joy.

Untie my hands and deliver my heart from sloth. Set me free from the laziness that goes about disguised as activity when activity is not required of me, and from the cowardice that does what is not demanded, in order to escape sacrifice.

But give me the strength that waits upon You in silence and peace. Give me humility in which alone is rest, and deliver me from prise which i s the heaviest of burdens. And possess my whole heart and soul with the simplicity of love. Occupy my whole life with the one thought and the one desire of love, that I may love not for the sake of merit, not for the sake of perfection, not for the sake of virtue, not for the sake of sanctity, but for you alone.

For there is only one thing that can satisfy love and reward it, and that is You alone (p. 44-45).”

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

As I Kneel Before You (from the Grotto at Lourdes)

Pope Francis Speaks to Children in Mexico

Monday, February 15, 2016

15-year girl suffering cancer sings Ave Maria to Pope Francis

A heart-wrenching moment when a fifteen-year-old girl suffering from cancer - and with voice of an angel - sings Ave Maria to the Pope and moves entire Mexican hospital ward to tears.

Pope Francis rounds off the day with a visit to pediatric hospital where he kissed dozens of sick children.

One 15-year-old cancer sufferer sang a capella version of Ave Maria and brought the room to tears.

See the entire song by clicking the link below:

El Ave María que conmovió al Papa Francisco en MéxicoUn Ave María para el Papa: Esta niña, paciente del Hospital Pediátrico Federico Gómez de Ciudad de México, conmovió al Papa y a millones de personas con su hermosa voz. #PapaenMex
Posted by ACI Prensa on Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Pope Francis Reflection on Mary’s Gaze

The following comes from Zenit:

The Pope addressed the bishops of Mexico this afternoon on his first full day in the country, offering a mariological, pastoral and deeply philosophical reflection on their identity as a people, a nation and as a Church, springing from his own prayer and meditation on the gaze of the Virgin.
Basing himself on the richness of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Holy Father considered three characteristics of the interchange of gazes that happens before her, affirming his desire to gaze upon her and to be gazed upon by her.
The Pope considered the deep significance to this mirada (gaze), saying that by looking into her eyes, he is “able to follow the gaze of her sons and daughters who, in her, have learned to express themselves.”
“I have reflected greatly on the mystery of this gaze and I ask you to receive in these moments what pours forth from my heart,” he said.
The Holy Father spoke to the bishops for some 50 minutes, largely following his text.
The only significant departure from his prepared words was an exhortation to communion and union as bishops: “This is essential, brothers,” he exclaimed. “This isn’t in the text, but it comes to mind now. If you have to argue, argue, if you have to say something say it, but as men — not behind the other’s back — and as men of God, who can pray together, who can discern together. And if you went too far, ask forgiveness, but maintain the unity of the episcopal body.”

In a Mother’s care

The Pope said that “no other voice can speak so powerfully to me of the Mexican heart as the Blessed Mother can.”
He spoke of Mary’s lap, a place of rest that has given life to Mexico throughout its complex history.
“I invite you to begin anew from that need for a place of rest which wells up from the spirit of your people,” he told the bishops. “The restful place of the Christian faith is capable of reconciling a past, often marked by loneliness, isolation and rejection, with a future, continually relegated to a tomorrow which just slips away. Only in that place of faith can we, without renouncing our own identity, ‘discover the profound truth of the new humanity, in which all are called to be children of God.’”
He told the bishops to “bow down then, quietly and respectfully, towards the profound spirit of your people, go down with care and decipher its mysterious face.”
The Holy Father affirmed the need for the bishops to set an example of first having been with God, so as to lead the people to God.
“Be bishops who have a pure vision, a transparent soul, and a joyful face,” he said. “Do not fear transparency. The Church does not need darkness to carry out her work.”
“Observing your faces, the Mexican people have the right to witness the signs of those ‘who have seen the Lord,’” he continued.
“Can we really be concerned with affairs that are not the Father’s?,” he asked.
“Away from the ‘Father’s affairs’ we lose our identity and, through our own fault, through our own fault,” he repeated, “empty his grace of meaning.”

God’s humility

Pope Francis decried the problem of commercializing death and said that the bishops shouldn’t underestimate the “moral and antisocial challenge which the drug trade represents for Mexican society as a whole, as well as for the Church,” saying it “devours like a metastasis.”
He called the bishops to courage and to a reliable pastoral plan to help the people “finally escape the raging waters that drown so many, either victims of the drug trade or those who stand before God with their hands drenched in blood, though with pockets filled with sordid money and their consciences deadened.”
The Pope told the bishops to build on the fathers of faith of Mexico, who first learned and then taught “the grammar needed to dialogue with God.”
“Imitate [Jesus’] gracious humility and his bowing down to help us,” he said, adding that we can never be thankful enough that God used “the mestizo threads of our people,” to weave the face that reveals him.

Justice Antonin Scalia, RIP

We need to pray for the repose of the soul of this great public servant, Catholic, Supreme Court Justice and fool for Christ, Antonin Scalia.  Here is a great quote from the Justice from a talk to the Knights of Columbus:
“God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools ... and he has not been disappointed,” Scalia said. 

“If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity,” he added. “Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.”

Friday, February 12, 2016

Come To Me by Jenn Johnson & Bethel Music

Fr. Longenecker on Perfect Contrition

The following comes from Fr. Dwight Longenecker:
If you go to confession just because you feel it is your duty and you scrounge around to find a few things you think might be a “sin” but you’re not really sure and you think you probably haven’t done anything bad because you’re a nice person and after all, you didn’t commit adultery or rob a bank or hit anyone…
This is not perfect contrition.
If you go to confession because you’ve done something that embarrasses you when you think about it, or maybe you just feel guilty or you are ashamed of what you’ve done or maybe you’re scared you’re going to get caught. These are some of the good emotions you should have, and this is better than nothing, but this is not perfect contrition.
This is what the church calls “imperfect contrition.”
Perfect contrition is when you have learned to accept the love of God and you love God so much that you are truly sorry for your sins because you have offended the one who loves you and gave everything to redeem you.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you lost your temper and slapped your mother. Think of the look of hurt and sadness in her eyes. Suddenly you see that and you are terrified at what you’ve done. You are truly and completely sorry because you have hurt the one who loves you.
THAT’S perfect contrition. When you are given the grace to truly repent because you have understood how much your sin has wounded the purity, goodness, beauty and truth of God himself.
Pray then, during Lent for the gift of perfect contrition, but to get there you must first understand and accept at the core of your being the totally perfect love and mercy of God.
Pray then, for this gift.
PS: One way to enter more fully, and experience the complete and total love of God is through my book Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing.

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 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 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 anointing the beautiful hands of a priest!

Author Unknown

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Salve Regina

Fr. Robert Barron visits Lourdes: Mary, the Immaculate Conception

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday invites us to reflect on our lives and turn again to the Lord who is our hope. Let's pray for one another to make a good Lenten journey. The following comes from Catholic Fire:

It's that time of year again -- the time of both internal and external recollection that we are setting out on a journey. On Ash Wednesday, the ashes placed on our forehead invite us to begin a new journey of repentance. They invite us to turn back to God and to receive new life. Once again, we are called to let God penetrate deeper into our lives, for indeed, turning back to Him with our whole hearts is a submission to His holy will.

Lent is a time when we permit God to purify our hearts allow Him to unite our wills with His. Lent because it is a time of interior spring cleaning and obtaining new strength and great graces from God. This is the time of year to take a good look inside of ourselves and take inventory. What bad habit or sin can I work on permanently eliminating in my life? What sin am I really attached to that I can work on removing – not just during this Lenten season, but permanently? Is this sin really that necessary for my survival in this world? What virtue can I replace it with to ensure my survival in the next life?

This Lent, as in all past seasons of Lent, let us permit God to change at least one of our vices into a virtue. Today, let us pray for discernment, that God will help us work on that area of our lives that He wants us to change and ask for His help as we enter into these 40 days of desert with Him.

From Today's Mass Readings:

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.

(Joel 2: 12-13)


Heavenly Father, as I begin this journey into the desert with You, send Your Holy Spirit to enlighten me and to give me wisdom as to what it is You desire to change within me. Help me turn away from sin and come to back to You with all my heart through my daily prayer and penance. Grant me the grace to persevere on the journey and the willingness to submit and surrender my heart to You. Amen.