Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Here's My Heart Lord by Crowder

Pope Francis on Preparing for Confession

(CNS)  As Catholics are encouraged to make going to confession a significant part of their lives during Lent, Pope Francis offered some quick tips to help people prepare for the sacrament of penance.

After a brief explanation of why people should go to confession -- "because we are all sinners" -- the pope listed 30 key questions to reflect on as part of making an examination of conscience and being able to "confess well."

The guide is part of a 28-page booklet in Italian released by the Vatican publishing house. Pope Francis had 50,000 free copies distributed to people attending his Angelus address Feb. 22, the first Sunday of Lent.

Titled "Safeguard your heart," the booklet is meant to help the faithful become "courageous" and prepared to battle against evil and choose the good.

The booklet contains quick introductions to Catholic basics: it has the text of the Creed, a list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. It explains the seven sacraments and includes Pope Francis' explanation of "lectio divina," a prayerful way of reading Scripture in order to better hear "what the Lord wants to tell us in his word and to let us be transformed by his Spirit."

The booklet's title is based on a line from one of the pope's morning Mass homilies in which he said Christians need to guard and protect their hearts, "just as you protect your home -- with a lock."

"How often do bad thoughts, bad intentions, jealousy, envy enter?" he asked. "Who opened the door? How did those things get in?"

The Oct. 10, 2014, homily, which is excerpted in the booklet, said the best way to guard one's heart is with the daily practice of an "examination of conscience," in which one quietly reviews what bad things one has done and what good things one has failed to do for God, one's neighbor and oneself.

The questions include:

-- Do I only turn to God when I'm in need?

-- Do I take attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation?

-- Do I begin and end the day with prayer?

-- Am I embarrassed to show that I am a Christian?

-- Do I rebel against God's plan?

-- Am I envious, hot-tempered, biased?

-- Am I honest and fair with everyone or do I fuel the "throwaway culture?"

-- In my marital and family relations, do I uphold morality as taught in the Gospels?

-- Do I honor and respect my parents?

-- Have I refused newly conceived life? Have I snuffed out the gift of life? Have I helped do so?

-- Do I respect the environment?

-- Am I part worldly and part believer?

-- Do I overdo it with eating, drinking, smoking and amusements?

-- Am I overly concerned about my physical well-being, my possessions?

-- How do I use my time? Am I lazy?

-- Do I want to be served?

-- Do I dream of revenge, hold grudges?

-- Am I meek, humble and a builder of peace?

Catholics should go to confession, the pope said, because everyone needs forgiveness for their sins, for the ways "we think and act contrary to the Gospel."

"Whoever says he is without sin is a liar or is blind," he wrote.

Confession is meant to be a sincere moment of conversion, an occasion to demonstrate trust in God's willingness to forgive his children and to help them back on the path of following Jesus, Pope Francis wrote.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Bishop Barron on the Spiritual Legacy of Mother Angelica

The following comes from Word on Fire:
Mother Angelica, one of the most significant figures in the post-conciliar Catholic Church in America, has died after a fourteen-year struggle with the after effects of a stroke. I can attest that, in “fashionable” Catholic circles during the eighties and nineties of the last century, it was almost de rigueur to make fun of Mother Angelica. She was a crude popularizer, an opponent of Vatican II, an arch-conservative, a culture-warrior, etc., etc. And yet while her critics have largely faded away, her impact and influence are uncontestable. Against all odds and expectations, she created an evangelical vehicle without equal in the history of the Catholic Church. Starting from, quite literally, a garage in Alabama, EWTN now reaches 230 million homes in over 140 countries around the world. With the possible exception of John Paul II himself, she was the most watched and most effective Catholic evangelizer of the last fifty years.
Read Raymond Arroyo’s splendid biography in order to get the full story of how Rita Rizzo, born and raised in a tough neighborhood in Canton, Ohio, came in time to be a nun, a foundress, and a television personality. For the purposes of this brief article, I would like simply to draw attention to three areas of particular spiritual importance in the life of Mother Angelica: her trust in God’s providence, her keen sense of the supernatural quality of religion, and her conviction that suffering is of salvific value.
The accounts of the beginning of EWTN read like the stories of some of the great saintly founders of movements and orders within the Church. Mother had a blithe confidence that if God called her to do something, he would provide what was needed. Her right hand man, Deacon Bill Steltemeier, a lawyer and businessman who would prove indispensable in getting the operation of EWTN off the ground, came to her in the most remarkable way. While in Chicago for a convention, he saw a flyer advertising a speech at a local parish by a nun whom he did not know. For some reason, he felt compelled to attend. Despite typically horrific Chicago winter weather and though he had no real idea where he was going, he made it to the parish and caught the second half of the nun’s presentation. Just as she was finishing up, he heard a voice saying quietly but insistently, “until the day you die.” The nun, of course, was Mother Angelica. Deacon Bill interrupted his prosperous legal career, drove to Alabama, and presented himself to Mother, who calmly said, “I’ve been expecting you!” The voice, by the way, proved prophetic, for Deacon Bill died just a few years ago, having indeed served EWTN literally until his last day. 
Some years later, Mother ordered a giant satellite dish in order dramatically to increase the reach of her network. When the device arrived, the driver of the truck demanded the money on the spot. Mother asked to be excused for a few minutes and went to her chapel to pray: Lord, I thought you wanted this satellite thing; now give me the money I need!” As she went out to speak to the driver, one of her sisters ran up announcing, “There is a man on the phone who says he wants to give you a donation.” It was a gentlemen calling from a yacht in the Bahamas who said he suddenly had the inspiration to send Mother Angelica $600,000!
The second theme upon which I’d like to focus is her instinct for the supernatural dimension of Christianity. Now I realize that such an instinct might seem rather obvious, but in the immediately post-conciliar years there was indeed a tendency to naturalize the supernatural, to reduce Christianity to the works of social justice and the cultivation of psychological well-being. Mother knew that a de-supernaturalized Christianity would in short order lose its soul and, paradoxically, its relevance to the world. Accordingly, she brought to the fore prayer, liturgy, the sacraments, sacramentals, the saints, adoration of the Eucharist, spiritual warfare, etc. And as someone who worked in the seminary world for twenty years, I can testify that this is precisely what made her talks and programs attractive to a younger generation of Catholics, who found much of liberal Catholicism indistinguishable from secular political and self-help programs. 
The third and final motif I would stress is Mother Angelica’s penetrating understanding of the value of suffering. As Arroyo’s biography makes eminently clear, Mother endured tremendous suffering, both physical and psychological, most of her life, and she appreciated these trials as opportunities for spiritual growth. Nowhere was this clearer for her than in the last fourteen years of her life, as this once very vocal and active and woman accepted silence and immobility. She told one of her sisters some years ago that if she got much sicker, she wanted every possible means employed to keep her alive, not because she was clinging to life, but “because I will have suffered one more day for the love of God.” I often thought of Mother, during the last years of her life, as a kind of Mother Drexel for our time. That great foundress, after suffering a heart attack at 75, spent the last twenty years of her life praying for the order that she had established. 
Mother Angelica wasn’t perfect—and she would be the first to admit it. Due to her lack of polish and advanced theological education, she sometimes said things that were insufficiently nuanced and balanced. And her hot temper, which gave fire to her evangelization, also at times led her to indulge in ad hominem attacks and unfair characterizations of her opponents’ positions. But these are quibbles. When Church historians write their accounts of the years immediately following Vatican II, Rita Rizzo of Canton, Ohio, Mother Angelica, will find a very honored place.

Are You Amazed?

Are You Amazed? from Catholic Media House on Vimeo.

Mother Angelica dies on Easter Sunday

The following comes from the Catholic Sentinel: 

Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, 92, the Poor Clare nun who founded the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), passed away on March 27 after a lengthy illness. She had suffered a stroke several months ago.

“Mother has always and will always personify EWTN, the network that God asked her to found,” said EWTN Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Warsaw. “Her accomplishments and legacies in evangelization throughout the world are nothing short of miraculous and can only be attributed to divine Providence and her unwavering faithfulness to Our Lord.”

Members of her religious order, the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration at Our Lady of Angels Monastery in Hanceville, have been requesting — and thanking the world — for prayers for Mother Angelica.

"The many cards and promises of prayer she received throughout this past Christmas season were a great consolation and support," the posting said. "Mother's condition remains delicate and she receives devoted care day and night by her sisters and nurses."

"In God's providence, she was able to receive the special jubilee grace" of passing through the Door of Mercy shortly after its opening for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, it said. "Although she is most often sleeping, from time to time mother will give a radiant smile. There is no doubt that her heart must be 'on things above.'"

Last November, a spokesman for the Poor Clares told Catholic News Service, that Mother Angelica was doing as well as could be expected for someone her age who remains partially paralyzed.
"From what I'm told, it's not that she's completely unable to eat. It's assisting her to get the nutrients she needs," said Luke Johnasen, director of pilgrimages at the monastery. He confirmed to CNS that she had been fitted with a feeding tube.

"She's had some up and downs the last few months," he said. "She's a fighter."

In a website posting, the Poor Clares said that toward the close of 2015, the entire community of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, based in Birmingham, came together to celebrate a special Mass for Mother Angelica. It was "another gift of God's mercy. Mother herself is regularly fortified by the sacraments," the order said.

On Feb. 12, Pope Francis sent his greetings Mother Angelica from aboard the papal plane to Cuba for his historic meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.

"To Mother Angelica with my blessing and I ask you to pray for me; I need it," the pope said. "God bless you, Mother Angelica."

EWTN released the pope's message for Mother Angelica later that day.

A native of Canton, Ohio, Mother Angelica launched EWTN Aug. 15, 1981. The initiative was met with doubt from television executives who felt there was little demand for Catholic programming. The networks' website reports that it transmits programs 24 hours a day to more than 230 million homes in 144 countries via cable and other technologies. It broadcasts in in English and several other languages.

Twenty employees are now nearly 400. EWTN broadcasts terrestrial and shortwave radio around the world, operates a religious goods catalog and publishes the National Catholic Register and the Catholic News Agency.

“Mother Angelica succeeded at a task the nation’s bishops themselves couldn’t achieve,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia told the Catholic News Agency. 

Archbishop Chaput has served on EWTN’s board of governors since 1995. “She founded and grew a network that appealed to everyday Catholics, understood their needs and fed their spirits. She had a lot of help, obviously, but that was part of her genius.”

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Christus Resurrexit

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Fr. Robert Barron: Why did Jesus have to die the way he did?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Worthy is the Lamb

The Passion of the Christ - Worthy Is The Lamb from JT on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

A prayer composed by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Our Lady’s Message for Belgium: Beauraing and Banneux

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:

With a heavy heart, I learned of the terrorist attacks in Brussels that occurred yesterday, March 22.  Belgium is a country that found a place in my heart after I visited that great nation in January 2015.  Among the reasons why I journeyed to Belgium is that lot of my research has focused on one particular Belgian woman named Adele Brise, who immigrated to the United States and then, in 1859, received three apparitions of the Queen of Heaven. I traced Adele’s footsteps in Belgium as I visited the places pertinent to her life, but I was also there to research an obscure devotion to Mary, as well as to better understand the Marian devotions of Belgium.
I had the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the two great Marian shrines of Belgium, Beauraing and Banneux, where Mary had appeared in 1932 and 1933 respectively. In Mary’s apparitions at these two places she appeared to children and delivered very simple messages. Yet, these were profound messages that are not merely for those living in 1930’s Belgium and Mary’s words can still inspire people today. Mary gave a message to Belgium and now—in this time of mourning—it is time to revisit those messages.

Our Lady of Beauraing

In the village of Beauraing, Mary appeared thirty three times between November 29, 1932 and January 3, 1933 to the Degeimbre and Voisin children.  The messages Mary spoke to the children were to encourage them to be good and to also pray often.
Many have seen Beauraing as a continuation of Fatima for a few reasons. First, Mary appeared in Fatima during the World War I and Beauraing occurred several years before World War II.  So it was that during The Second World War, Beauraing was a sanctuary of prayer that many flocked to during that bloody conflict.  Secondly, Mary revealed her heart to the children, as a golden heart. During Mary’s apparitions at Fatima in 1917, she requested that the children pray the rosary for peace in the world and she also emphasized devotion to her Immaculate heart.
The message of Beauraing rings loud today for the Belgian people in the midst of secularism and terrorism.  Mary wanted people to pray often and always.  Surely, in light of the recent attacks, there are reasons to pray: for those who died; for those who were injured; for law enforcement and emergency personnel; for those who carried out the attacks, and for peace in the world. Speaking to Fernand, one of the children, Mary asked her, “Do you love my son? Do you love me? Well then, sacrifice yourself for me.” A good challenge for us in our own prayer is to make sacrifices so that the will of God may reign in our world and then His peace can rule in all of us. We can sacrifice ourselves most especially by fasting. It is those times when we pray and make sacrifices that we may see the fulfillment of the promise of Our Lady of Beauraing, declared to Gilberte Voisin: “I [Mary] will convert sinners.”
Conversion is at the heart of every apparition of Mary and our society needs conversion. The very hearts of terrorists need conversion so they will not take innocent life. We also need conversion to turn to God and to be persistent in our prayer.
One of the descriptions given about Our Lady of Beauraing stated that she smiled often during her apparition.  Mary wants to smile on us, her children, when we strive to “be good” and to pray often.  I can only imagine that the smile of Mary has turned to sadness over the secularization of Belgium and the recent terrorist attacks. Let us then renew our prayerful efforts  so that Mary can smile, once more, over the conversion of sinners.

Our Lady of Banneux

Nearly a fortnight following the conclusion of Mary’s apparitions in Beauraing, an eleven year old girl name Mariette Beco received eight visits from Mary beginning on January 15 and ending on March 2, 1933.  Due to the closeness in time of Beco’s claims and the end of the Beauraing apparitions, many thought Beco was making the apparitions up.  But these doubts would soon subside.  Just as Beauraing was seen as a continuation of Fatima, Banneux could be seen as a renewal of the message of Lourdes.  Mary appeared in similar dress as she did at Lourdes, with a blue sash, and dedicated a spring of water to healing.  Unlike Lourdes, the spring of water already existed, and was not ‘miraculously’ discovered.
Mary told Mariette that the spring was set apart for her (Mary), for all the nations, and for the sick.  Again, similar to Beauraing, Mary makes a bold claim in Banneux where she said, “I come to relieve the sick” and “I come to relieve suffering.”  Further, Mary told Mariette, “Have faith in me…I shall trust you…pray earnestly.”
The message of Banneux can console us in wake of what has happened in Belgium. The Belgian people are suffering right now in many ways. They are suffering from their decisions to contradict morality and a loss of faith but, even more so, they are presently suffering in the midst of turmoil and death caused by the recent attacks.  But Mary has come to relieve that suffering.  And it seems that the key to such relief would be doing what she asked Mariette to do: to pray earnestly and with endurance.
Mary’s message in Banneux is one of healing.  She wants people to experience this healing in their hearts.  Violence and strife causes wounds, such as anger and hatred, to fester within but Mary wants us to experience a great healing of these afflictions.  She wants us to have faith that all of this will pass, and God’s healing and peace will reign in our time.

Praying for Conversion and Peace

Our society has turned away from God in many ways. We mock the laws of God and give license to sin.  Now is the time for us to turn ourselves back to God.  Over and over again, Mary asks her children for conversion. Yes, that means the conversion of those who perform such hateful acts as we witnessed in the new reports, but it also means our conversion.  There is an absence of peace in our world and in our hearts.  In these tumultuous times, it behooves us to listen to what Mary said back in 1932 and 1933 to six children. Even in Belgium, Mary’s words of motherly concern never grow old.
Pray for peace in the world.  Pray for the conversion of sinners.  Pray for healing.  The best way to do this, if you ask me, is to pray the rosary.  That’s what Mary asked in 1917 at Fatima and it seems to be a prayer which pleases God.
Mary, Mother of God, the Immaculate Virgin, Queen of Heaven, pray for our world.  Grant us, what we ask, the grace of conversion and healing.
Our Lady of Beauraing, Pray for Belgium. Pray for us.
Our Lady of Banneux, Pray for Belgium. Pray for us.

Fr. George Rutler: The Paradox of Christ's Passion

The following comes from Fr. George Rutler:

There is a moral difference between sight and perception, just as there is between height and stature. Someone with 20/20 vision may be blind to reality, and a very tall man may be a moral midget. There is also a difference between clock time, which measures days, and moral time which measures destiny. When Christ said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23), He was not looking at an hour glass but at the Cross. That is why he prayed, “Yet what should I say? ‘Father save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour” (John 12:27).

Time can drag when there is nothing to do, but it speeds by when there is a goal to be met. In His human nature, Christ was “troubled” because he could anticipate the physical pain ahead, and He knew that it would peak chronologically at High Noon on Friday, but his moral victory was already secured in another kind of time: “Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out” (John 12:31). Satan, of whom He speaks, had tried to block this hour because he thinks only in terms of daily existence rather than eternal life.

From this perspective, our Lord meant more than physical distance when he spoke of going “up” to Jerusalem. The Sea of Galilee is about 700 feet below sea level, the lowest fresh-water lake in the world. Jerusalem is 2500 feet above sea level, and the “hill” of Calvary added a few more feet to that, and the Cross was high on top of that hill. But He would be lifted beyond measure: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (John 12:32).

The paradox of Christ's Passion is that he had to go down in order to go up: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (John 12:24). He spoke shockingly of losing our life if we love it and preserving it for eternal life if we hate it (cf. John 12:25). By hatred He meant neglect of the moral measure of what we are. To try to preserve existence and attain great heights without risking our lives and being humbled for the sake of love, is simply to shrivel up. In a spiritual journal that George Washington faithfully kept, he prayed for protection against “an unwillingness to depart this life” which would cast him “into a spiritual slumber.”

Our Lord entered Jerusalem to battle more than a human enemy, and on an immeasurable scale he won the greatest of all victories when the Hour came.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Words of St. Therese during her final illness

"I am not dying; I am entering life."

The Last Conversations-
Saint Therese’ of Lisieux

Monday, March 21, 2016

In Christ Alone by Owl City

How to Pray for Physical Healing

The following comes from the Francis McNutt at Word Among Us:
Of all the kinds of healing, physical healing is perhaps the hardest for us to really believe in; it is far easier to believe that prayer can lead to repentance or can change a person psychologically.
Yet real physical healings take place regularly in the prayer groups I know. Often, a dozen or more occur at conferences when we take the time to pray for the sick.
So if you have the faith that the Lord still heals people as he did two thousand years ago, launch out and learn to pray for the sick. For, although physical healing may stretch your faith (have you ever prayed for a blind person?), it is also the simplest kind of prayer. 
The Confidence to Launch Out. To pray for the first time requires courage. I used to feel very foolish, as if I were pretending to be someone special when I knew I was just an ordinary person. Who was I to pretend to be a great healer, to act like Christ? All this was, of course, merely false humility since, as we know, Christ himself instructed his followers to pray for the sick. Sometimes healing requires more courage than faith.
What a joy when we find that God really answers our prayers and heals the people we love! The praise of God spontaneously rises from our hearts. If you have confidence that Jesus might use your prayers to heal the sick, then there are just a few simple steps to learn. They are easy enough to remember; we do not need a graduate degree to learn to pray for physical healing.
I have missionary friends who are teaching the poor people of the barrios of Latin America to pray for the sick, and they report that about eighty percent of these unlettered people are healed or notably improved. There is no one method or technique that always produces results; God wants us to depend on him—not upon a technique. But there are some simple steps that flow out of the very nature of prayer for healing, and these I want to share with you.
Listening. The first step is always to listen in order to find out what to pray for. Just as the first step for a doctor when he meets a patient is to find out what to treat, so we need to find out what we are meant to pray for. A doctor is looking for a right diagnosis. In prayer for healing, we are looking for the right discernment.
We are really listening to two things: to the person who asks for prayer and tells us what seems to be wrong; and to God, who from time to time shares with us the true diagnosis whenever the person isn’t sure what is wrong.
When we listen in this way, the Spirit comes to enlighten us when we are in the dark about what to pray for. To some people this special knowledge seems to come in a very special way in the form of definite mental images or verbal impressions. To many of us, however, the knowledge of what to pray for comes in a very natural way, more like a simple intuition.
We may not be sure whether we are inspired by God or not; we learn by experience to sift out our intuitions and to find what works out in practice. Often, after I have followed what seemed to me a simple intuition about what to pray for, the person I was praying for has told me that I touched on those very things he had not directly mentioned but had hoped that I would pray for. When these intuitions work out time after time, you learn to trust that God is working through them.
In addition to listening to the person, we should also be alert to the promptings of the Spirit who may enlighten us, especially when we don’t know what to pray for. It is not healthy for us to be unduly problem-oriented and symptom-centered. In the abundance of Christ’s health and life, sickness will be overcome, in the brilliance of that light, darkness and ignorance will be dispersed.
Laying on of Hands. In actual praying for the sick, the laying on of hands is a traditional Christian practice: “They will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover” (Mark 16:18). Certainly it is not essential; if you feel that the person you are praying for would be embarrassed or would feel more comfortable if you stay at a distance, then by all means be sensitive to his feelings. But if it does seem right, there are several advantages that explain the New Testament practice of the laying on of hands.
In the first place, there does seem to be a warm current of healing power that often flows from the minister of healing to the sick person. Precisely what happens when we feel this current we are not sure, but it seems like a transfer of life-giving power. Jesus himself experienced this flow of power in such a way that he could sense it:
Now there was a woman suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, whom no one had been able to cure. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak; and the hemorrhage stopped at that instant. Jesus said, “Who touched me?” when they all denied that they had, Peter and his companions said, “Master, it is the crowds round you, pushing.” But Jesus said, “Somebody touched me. I felt that power had gone out from me.” (Luke 8:43-46)
Often we experience this same transfer of power, occasionally like a gentle electric current, but more often like a flow of warmth. Whatever it is, it is often connected with healing. It almost seems like a transfer of life.
Some with the gift of healing talk about “soaking prayer” in which you just soak the person in a prayer of God’s love. In thirty years of praying for the sick, we have discovered that this soaking prayer where we spend time with a person and pray with the laying on of hands helps immeasurably. It’s like God’s radiation treatment: The longer the sickness is held in the force-field of God’s love, the more it shrinks, until it finally disappears.
The Actual Prayer. In praying for the sick person, we can be spontaneous and improvise prayer for healing. We can assume any posture that is most comfortable for us—sitting, kneeling, or standing—where we can best forget ourselves and relax and concentrate on the presence of God. We turn our hearts and minds to the Father, or to Jesus; we know that it is only through their love that anything will happen. After welcoming their presence and praising God, we then turn to the petition itself.
Most ministers of healing suggest that we be specific in our prayer, that we visualize as clearly as possible what we are asking God to heal. For instance, if we are praying for the healing of a broken bone we can ask the Father (or Jesus) to take away every infection, to stimulate the growth of the cells needed to restore the bone, and to fill in any breaks. Such a specific request seems to enliven our own faith, as we see in our imagination what we are praying for. It also stimulates the faith of the sick person as he listens and pictures in his own mind what we are asking God to accomplish in reality. This helps him become more actively involved in the prayer, even if he says nothing.
On the other hand, some of us—that includes me—are by temperament not very good at imagining things; it is much easier to leave the imagination out and just ask God—but in a very specific way—to heal the person.

The Measure of the World by Cardinal Newman

By John Henry Newman

A great number of men live and die without reflecting at all upon the state of things in which they find themselves. They take things as they come, and follow their inclinations as far as they have the opportunity. They are guided mainly by pleasure and pain, not by reason, principle, or conscience; and they do not attempt to interpret this world, to determine what it means, or to reduce what they see and feel to system. But when persons, either from thoughtfulness of mind, or from intellectual activity, begin to contemplate the visible state of things into which they are born, then forthwith they find it a maze and a perplexity. . . .Why it is, and what it is to issue in, and how it is what it is, and how we come to be introduced into it, and what is our destiny, are all mysteries.

In this difficulty, some have formed one philosophy of life, and others another. Men have thought they had found the key, by means of which they might read what is so obscure. Ten thousand things come before us one after another in the course of life, and what are we to think of them? what colour are we to give them? Are we to look at all things in a gay and mirthful way? or in a melancholy way? in a desponding or a hopeful way? Are we to make light of life altogether, or to treat the whole subject seriously? Are we to make greatest things of little consequence, or least things of great consequence? Are we to keep in mind what is past and gone, or are we to look on to the future, or are we to be absorbed in what is present? How are we to look at things? Such is the need felt by reflective minds. Now, let me ask, what is the real key, what is the Christian interpretation of this world? What is given us by revelation to estimate and measure this world by? The event of this season – the Crucifixion of the Son of God. . . .

But it will be said, that the view which the Cross of Christ imparts to us of human life and of the world, is not that which we should take, if left to ourselves; that it is not an obvious view; that if we look at things on their surface, they are far more bright and sunny than they appear when viewed in the light which this season casts upon them.

But again; it is but a superficial view of things to say that this life is made for pleasure and happiness. To those who look under the surface, it tells a very different tale. The doctrine of the Cross does but teach, though infinitely more forcibly, still after all it does but teach the very same lesson which this world teaches to those who live long in it, who have much experience in it, who know it. The world is sweet to the lips, but bitter to the taste. . . .Therefore the doctrine of the Cross of Christ does but anticipate for us our experience of the world.

Read the rest here at The Catholic Thing site.

Home by Michael Buble and Blake Shelton

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Bishop Robert Barron on Palm Sunday

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Dublin Mystic: Venerable Matt Talbot

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:

On 8 June 1925, the following news item appeared in the Irish Independent:
Unknown Man’s Death 
An elderly man collapsed in Granby Lane [Dublin] yesterday, and being taken to Jervis Street Hospital he was found to be dead. He was wearing a tweed suit, but there was nothing to indicate who he was. 
What was not reported was the unusual discovery when he was taken to hospital. He was wearing heavy chains: some wrapped around his legs, others on his body. Mortuary staff puzzled over not just who he was but, also, the meaning of the chains.
The newspaper report had appeared on a Monday morning. Later that night, police ushered a woman into the mortuary. She identified the body as that of her brother: Matt Talbot. A nursing nun present asked about the chains. The dead man’s sister replied simply that it was something he wore, and with that, they were placed in the coffin and the lid closed.
That was not the whole story though; the chains were part of the mystery of the man who had died. They were as symbolic as they were real. The man’s life having been a ‘crossing over’ from the servitude of vice to the freedom of those in chains for Christ.
Talbot was born in 1856 into a large Catholic family living in semi-poverty in Dublin. His schooling was slight. He was barely literate when he went to work full-time aged just 11 years old. For the rest of his life his occupation was as an unskilled labourer. He was exposed to harsh working conditions, at times harsh bosses and to a social environment that necessitated some form of release from this – this was found by many in the city’s public houses. Matt was no different, so much so that by his teenage years he was hopelessly addicted to alcohol.
Matt had the reputation of being a hard worker. Increasingly, however, that work ethic was simply the means to finance his ‘hard drinking’. As it grips, vice of whatever sort is hard to counter, especially when the will to oppose it diminishes, so it was with Matt Talbot – what had began as an escape soon became a prison of moral and spiritual degradation. And, the more time he spent there the more Matt needed alcohol to shield him from that reality. Those around watched and, shaking their heads, concluded that Talbot was a lost cause. But they were to be proved wrong and in a most unexpected way.
Fittingly, the second phase of Matt’s life began outside a pub. That day he had no money, and, therefore, hoped that some of his drinking fraternity would stand him a drink. As each acquaintance filed past, none offered to buy him anything. On that summer’s day in 1884, something occurred that was to change Matt Talbot forever. Humiliated by the indifference of his erstwhile friends, he turned and walked straight home. His mother was surprised to see him – at that early hour, and sober. He proceeded to clean himself up before announcing he was going to a nearby seminary to ‘take the pledge’ – a promise to abstain from all alcohol. His mother was mystified by this and fearful. She knew that pledges made to God were not something to be taken lightly. She counselled him against doing any such thing unless he was intent on persevering. He listened, and then left.
Matt did take the pledge that day. He also went to Confession. It was as dramatic as it was decisive. It had all the hallmarks of a genuine conversion, one as sincere as it was needed. Nevertheless, a conversion takes but a moment, the work of sanctity a lifetime: after years of drunkenness, still arraigned against Matt was a weakness of character and a world that revolved around alcohol. It looked as if the odds were stacked against him, but this was not solely a human undertaking. Into this ‘land of captivity’, from ‘across the Jordan’, there came invisible armies to fight alongside this now embattled soul, one embarked upon a war of liberation. This was not a new spiritual combat, but rather one that had commenced many years previously when this poor man’s parents brought a child to a parish church and asked for baptism in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
After his conversion, not much changed, outwardly at least: Matt continued with his employment in the docks. He continued to work hard, now respected more than ever by his fellow workers and employers who noticed that he had started to give his wages to his mother rather than straight to a publican. Nevertheless, work alone cannot satisfy the human heart. Previously, when not working his life had been many hours spent in public houses, but, now, he had turned his back on that. He had been ‘born anew’, but like a newborn was vulnerable to the world he inhabited. With no material substance to cling to he turned inward, to the Spirit that dwells within each baptised soul. And, as he did so, he commenced upon an adventure that few could have imagined possible.
From then on, along the Dublin streets, there moved a mystic soul. Each morning at 5AM, dressed in workman’s clothes a man knelt outside a city church waiting for the doors to open and the first Mass to begin. After the Holy Sacrifice, he would pray for a time before going to one of the timber yards near the docks. There, he laboured all day; but there were periods in the day when lulls and breaks would occur. Whilst his fellow workers gossiped or smoked, Matt chose to be alone, knelt in prayer in a hidden part of a workshop until the call came to return to his labours.
Each evening, when work was finished, Matt walked home with his fellow workers. They knew their companion’s free time was spent praying in some city church before the Blessed Sacrament. Often he asked them to join him in making a visit to Our Blessed Lord. Some did. After a short while, however, they would leave with Matt still knelt in the gathering twilight. Eventually, when at night he did return home it was to yet more prayer – and mortification. His bed was a plank of wood, a piece of that same material his pillow. Although respected by those he lived amongst and worked alongside, and not unfriendly, he had few visitors. Those who did encounter him felt he was not quite of this world; they were right; he was travelling ever inwards on a mystical journey to a freedom he could never have dreamt of when trapped in an alcoholic stupor.
When his belongings were found after his death, one of the surprises was the number of books he owned. Inquires soon revealed that he had slowly, but determinedly, taught himself to read and, as he did so, effectively began a course of study that included the spiritual classics, the lives of Saints, doctrinal books, and works of mystical and ascetical theology. When asked how he, a poor workman, could read the works of St. Augustine, Newman et al, his reply was as straightforward as it was telling. He said he asked the Holy Spirit to enlighten him. And so, he grew in an intellectual understanding of his faith, which in turn deepened the prayer and penance he undertook. Here was a 20th Century heir to the spiritual traditions of the ancient Irish monks, albeit one now living not on an island monastery but in the slums of Dublin, but, like those earlier contemplatives his life was work, study and prayer with eyes turned ever inward to the Holy Trinity.
Matt never married; held no position of note, was unknown outside his own small circle of family and friends – only one blurred photograph has survived him- and, yet, this was a rare man: one who had taken the Gospel at its word and lived it.
His lifetime ran alongside the then momentous events in Irish history. A time of cultural renaissance and nationalist fervour, of a Great Strike in 1913 and open revolution in 1916, of the Great War and a War for Independence, throughout it all his life remained largely unchanged. Matt knew all too well that kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall, but that he had set his face to serve a different Kingdom, one shown him in 1884 when he confessed all and cast himself into the hands of the Living God.
By 1925, Matt was 69. He had been in poor health for some time. Out of necessity he tried to continue working as there was only limited relief for the poor or elderly, but his strength was failing. Nevertheless, he persisted in his prayer and penance. On 7 June 1925, whilst struggling down a Dublin alleyway on his way to Mass, he fell. A small crowd gathered around him. A Dominican priest was called from the nearby church, the one where Matt had been hurrying. The priest came and knelt over the fallen man. Realising what had happened, he lifted his hand in a blessing for the final journey. Little did he realise the dead stranger lying in front of him had already been on that ‘journey’ for over 40 years.
Having lived in the intimacy of the Triune God, it was apt Matt died on Trinity Sunday. Having lived off the Eucharist daily for more than 40 years, it was equally fitting he was buried on the feast of Corpus Christi.
Decades later, a visiting Italian priest went privately to pray at the grave of the Dublin worker he had heard so much about. In 1975, and after the due process had been completed, that same cleric, now Pope Paul VI, bestowed a new title upon that Irish workman: Venerable Matt Talbot.
There is a large trunk in the safe keeping of the Archdiocese of Dublin. It contains the books owned by Venerable Matt Talbot. A veritable treasury of spiritual theology, one of the books contained therein is True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort. In its pages it reflects on being a slave to this world or to the Blessed Virgin. For those that choose the latter path it recommends, after due recourse to a spiritual director and the suitable enrolment, that a chain be worn to symbolise that that soul no longer belongs to the powers of darkness but is now a child of the light. On that June day in 1925, when Matt Talbot fell upon a Dublin street, it was dressed as a slave to Mary and as an ambassador of Christ.

The Glorious Saint Joseph

Friday, March 18, 2016

Chant: Music for Paradise Revisited

Where is Stift Heiligenkreuz?

The Cistercian Abbey Stift Heiligenkreuz, in the heart of the Vienna woods, is located about 10 miles south-west of Vienna, Austria.

Being so near to the city and at the same time in the idyllic rural landscape of the Vienna woods makes the Abbey a popular tourist destination. With some 170,000 visitors every year Stift Heiligenkreuz is the most popular tourist attraction around Vienna.

How old is it?

Stift Heiligenkreuz is 875 years old this year. Although pillaged by invading Turks in the 17th Century, and persecuted by the Nazis from 1938 to 1945, it has never been destroyed or dissolved. It is the only Cistercian Abbey in the world to exist so long without interruption.

One result of this continuous life can be seen in the buildings of the Abbey, a spectacular and harmonious mixture of all the styles of the last 900 years. The Gothic and Romanesque monastic complex of the Middle Ages is preserved, complemented by magnificent Baroque elements.

When was it founded, and by whom?

Stift Heiligenkreuz was founded in 1133 by St. Leopold III, Margrave of Austria, following the advice of his son Otto. St. Leopold had sent his son to Paris to study, where the young prince heard about a new reform movement of Benedictine monks: the Cistercian Order. On his way back to Austria Otto visited the Cistercian Abbey of Morimond; he liked it enough to end his journey there and entered the Abbey as a monk. He subsequently persuaded his father to found a Cistercian Monastery in Austria: Heiligenkreuz.

How many monks are there today?

Nearly 80 monks belong to the monastery. Stift Heiligenkreuz has been blessed with many vocations in recent years. It is splendid to see so many young men discover this ancient way of life, but we are beginning to run out of space for them!
About half of the monks live in the Abbey itself, while 14 live in a sister monastery, founded by Heiligenkreuz in 1988 in Bochum-Stiepel in Germany. The rest of the monks do pastoral work outside of the monastery—especially in the 20 parishes for which Stift Heiligenkreuz is responsible (it is typical of the Austrian Cistercians to have some monks engaged in the pastoral care of souls outside of the monastery).

What does your daily routine consist of?

Our primary activity as monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz is prayer. Our prayer is not a private search for individual enlightenment, but rather public praise and worship of God. Our prayer is, as Pope Benedict XVI said on September 9th 2007 during his visit to Heiligenkreuz, “free of any useful purpose.” That is to say, we don’t pray for health or success or such things, rather we praise God simply because He is good. We do this on behalf of the whole of creation, and especially for all men and women, most especially those who have lost sight of the final horizon of their lives. We monks pray for the Church and for the whole world; that is our service, our duty, our office or officium.

The Rule of St. Benedict teaches that the monk also has to work: “Ora et labora: pray and work.” The work which we do takes many forms. We have twenty parishes, in which we give pastoral care to more than 30,000 people. We are engaged in pilgrim and youth ministry in the monastery itself. We also do scholarly work: in 1802 Heiligenkreuz founded a Philosophical-Theological Academy and Seminary, which today has about 180 students. Pope Benedict raised this Academy to a Papal Athenaeum on his 2007 visit to Heiligenkreuz. Many monks teach as professors in the Papal Academy and many of the younger monks study there—a rather intense form of “work.” There are monks who attend to the economic sustenance of the Abbey; monks who take care of the many guests that visit us; and then there are special areas of work. One monk for example works as an artist and sculptor.

Tell us about Gregorian chant.

Gregorian chant is a form of sung prayer which has been tried and tested through the centuries. It has pre-Christian roots in the ancient Jewish Temple Liturgy. The early Christians adopted many of the ancient chants and developed them further. The Roman Church had the core of what we now know as Gregorian chant by the 7th and 8th centuries. The name “Gregorian chant” comes from Pope St. Gregory the Great (died 604) who founded a “schola cantorum,” a chant school, which collected all the existing chants.

Gregorian chant is always sung without accompaniment, and in unison; that is, there is only one melodic line, without harmony. This frees the chant from the rhythmical constraints necessary to keep several melodic lines together, allowing for an intricacy of rhythm practically unknown in later music.

Instead of being composed in strict rhythmic beats, the chant is composed in a free musical rhythm that rises and falls in accord with the inner meaning of each piece. Moreover, instead of being composed in major or minor keys, like music of later centuries, Gregorian chant is composed in eight “modes”, key-like tonal structures, which allow for a wide range of musical moods. The chant is written in an old system of notation on four lines.

The peaceful and other-worldly (to some ears “eerie”) tonality of Gregorian chant, and its free rhythm, make it the perfect music for unfolding the meaning of the sacred texts that are sung in it. These texts are generally taken from the Bible, the word of God. Thus the monks sing back to God the words which He has Himself given us…joining Heaven and earth. Most of the texts are taken from the Old Testament Psalms. The music is always at the service of the text—unfolding its meaning, and disposing the soul to enter into its spirit. Thus Gregorian chant is not merely “music,” rather it is “sung prayer.” Gregorian chant is the music of the Western Catholic Church. As monks of Heiligenkreuz we are happy that we have such a valuable tradition, and one so dear to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

What language is used?

Gregorian chant is sung in Latin, which is still the official language of the Roman Catholic Church. The serious but melodious language of ancient Rome is perfectly suited to chant. Latin has many simple vowels, and this allows a range of notes (often more than 20) to be sung on a single syllable, make it the perfect language for the musical meditation of Scripture.

How did you get the opportunity to record the album?

On February 28th 2008 a friend of our monastery in London sent an e-mail to Father Karl Wallner, who is in charge of the Abbey’s website and our press spokesman. The e-mail contained only the words “quick, quick, Karl!” and a link to the notice from Universal about their search for Gregorian singers. Father Karl did not take the matter seriously. He hadn’t even heard of Universal and did not know what it is… but the following day—the 28th of February, the last day of the competition—he sent an e-mail to Universal with a link to the Gregorian chant samples on our website, After hearing the samples and watching a clip of Heiligenkreuz on youtube the people at Universal were excited.

We never thought we would win the contest, but Tom Lewis, the Development Manager of UCJ (Universal Classic and Jazz) was totally enthusiastic about our chant. So that’s how the project began. After Universal called Father Karl, and it slowly began to sink in what a great opportunity we had been given to share our tradition, we were thunderstruck. To be clear, we monks did not seek this out ourselves; we did not ambitiously climb try to push ourselves on the world. Rather, it is really the hand of God which brought us this opportunity to give Him glory. Since the beginning was so providential we decided to carry on with the project; we have no desire to become music stars; we will remain monks.

What was it like recording the album?

At first it was not so easy to take up this project. We have some experience in media attention because of the visit of the Pope in 2007; but none of us joined the monastery in order to be constantly filmed, interviewed or photographed. And the media attention was fairly intense at first. Some of our young confreres were also concerned that our sacred music could be used inappropriately, or that we could be portrayed as a “boy group.”

But the people from Universal were very sensitive to our worries and respected the religious atmosphere here. Moreover, through this project we are fulfilling a mission from the Pope. Pope Benedict XVI loves Gregorian chant, and it will certainly please him if it can become more widely known through us; we think of his words to us on September 9th: “Deep within everyone’s heart, whether they know it or not, is a yearning for supreme happiness and thus, ultimately, for God. Such a primordial human longing for completion is fulfilled by a monastery where the community gathers several times a day for the praise of God.”

So we decided to give this witness and record some of our prayers for the album. It was a really good experience to work with such professional people. We got to know each other well in the three days of recording sessions. Those three days were a bit stressful, as seven hours of recording were added on top of our normal rhythm of prayer which begins at 5.15 a.m. It was a joy for us, but also a bit of a sacrifice.

What does recording the album mean for the monastery?

The whole experience has become a grace of God for us. We did not seek this opportunity; it was really given us by God. And it is a good sort of thing for us: we actually don’t have to do anything other than what we always do: we pray. We don’t travel around the world, and we don’t distract ourselves from our vocation. And yet the world is fascinated by precisely the activity which is our “job.”

And now we are of course curious to see whether the CD is successful. It was interesting to see that in just a couple of days after the first press announcements tens of thousands of people watched the video.

Saint of the day: Cyril of Jerusalem

The following comes from Catholic Online:

"Make your fold with the sheep; flee from the wolves: depart not from the Church," Cyril admonished catechumens surrounded by heresy. These were prophetic words for Cyril was to be hounded by enemies and heretics for most of his life, and although they could exile him from his diocese he never left his beloved Church.
Cyril's life began a few years before Arianism (the heresy that Jesus was not divine or one in being with the Father) and he lived to see its suppression and condemnation at the end of his life. In between he was the victim of many of the power struggles that took place.
We know little about Cyril's early life. Historians estimate he was born about 315 and that he was brought up in Jerusalem. He speaks about the appearance of the sites of the Nativity and Holy Sepulchre before they were "improved" by human hands as if he were a witness. All we know of hisfamily were that his parents were probably Christians and he seemed to care for them a great deal. He exhorted catechumens to honor parents "for however much we may repay them, yet we can never be to them what they as parents have been to us." We know he also had a sister and a nephew, Gelasius, who became a bishop and a saint.
He speaks as one who belonged to a group called the Solitaries. These were men who lived in their own houses in the cities but practiced a life of complete chastity, ascetism, and service.
After being ordained a deacon and then a priest, his bishop Saint Maximus respected him enough to put him in charge of the instruction of catechumens. We still have these catechetical lectures of Cyril's that were written down by someone in the congregation. When speaking of so many mysteries, Cyril anticipated the question, "But some one will say, If the Divine substance is incomprehensible, why then do you discourse of these things? So then, because I cannot drink up all the river, am I not even to take in moderation what is expedient for me? Because with eyes so constituted as mine I cannot take in all the sun, am I not even to look upon it enough to satisfy my wants? Or again, because I have entered into a great garden, and cannot eat all the supply of fruits, would you have me go away altogether hungry?.. I am attempting now to glorify the Lord, but not to describe him, knowing nevertheless that I shall fall short of glorifying God worthily, yet deeming it a work of piety even to attempt it at all."
When Maximus died, Cyril was consecrated as bishop of Jerusalem. Because he was supported by the Arian bishop of Caesarea, Acacius, the orthodox criticized the appointment and the Arians thought they had a friend. Both factions were wrong, but Cyril wound up in the middle.
When a famine hit Jerusalem, the poor turned to Cyril for help. Cyril, seeing the poor starving to death and having no money, sold some of the goods of the churches. This was something that other saints including Ambrose and Augustine had done and it probably saved many lives. There were rumors, however, that some of the vestments wound up as clothing for actors.
Actually, the initial cause of the falling out between Acacius and Cyril was territory not beliefs. As bishopof Caesarea, Acacia had authority over all the bishops of Palestine. Cyril argued that his authority did not include Jerusalem because Jerusalem was an "apostolic see" -- one of the original sees set up by the apostles. When Cyril did not appear at councils that Acacius called, Acacius accused him of sellingchurch goods to raise money and had him banished.
Cyril stayed in Tarsus while waiting for an appeal. Constantius called a council where the appeal was supposed to take place. The council consisted of orthodox, Arians, and semi-Arian bishops. WhenAcacius and his faction saw that Cyril and other exiled orthodox bishops were attending, they demanded that the persecuted bishops leave. Acacius walked out when the demand was not met. The otherbishops prevailed on Cyril and the others to give in to this point because they didn't want Acacius to have reason to deny the validity of the council. Acacius returned but left again for good when his creedwas rejected -- and refused to come back even to give testimony against his enemy Cyril. The result of the council was the Acacius and the other Arian bishops were condemned. There's no final judgment on Cyril's case but it was probably thrown out when Acacius refused to testify and Cyril returned to Jerusalem.
This was not the end of Cyril's troubles because Acacius carried his story to the emperor -- embellishing it with details that it was a gift of the emperor's that was sold to a dancer who died wearing the robe. This brought about a new synod run by Acacius who now had him banished again on the basis of what some bishops of Tarsus had done while Cyril was there.
This exile lasted until Julian became emperor and recalled all exiled bishops, orthodox or Arian. Some said this was to exacerbate tension in the Church and increase his imperial power. So Cyril returned to Jerusalem. When Acacius died, each faction nominated their own replacement for Caesarea. Cyril appointed his nephew Gelasius -- which may seem like nepotism, except that all orthodox sources spoke of Gelasius' holiness. A year later both Cyril and Gelasius were driven out of Palestine again as the new emperor's consul reversed Julian's ruling.
Eleven years later, Cyril was allowed to go back to find a Jerusalem destroyed by heresy and strife. He was never able to put things completely right. He did attend the Council at Constantinople in 381 where the Nicene Creed and orthodoxy triumphed and Arianism was finally condemned. Cyril received justiceat the same Council who cleared him of all previous rumors and commended him for fighting "a goodfight in various places against the Arians."
Cyril had eight years of peace in Jerusalem before he died in 386, at about seventy years old.