Thursday, June 30, 2016

Hurt by Johnny Cash

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Padre Pio: "The Madonna is the shortcut to get to God"

The following comes from Zenit:
Padre Pio said that "The Madonna is the shortcut to get to God."
There is no doubt that in order to see the face of Jesus, we must turn to His Mother, and it is to Her who we look to heal our diseases, to turn our tears into prayer. To Her, we offer our suffering and concern for the salvation of souls , our loneliness so that it becomes contemplation, and our fears to turn into hope.
We are confident, as written by St. Bernard of Clairvaux in his prayer, Memorare, that never was it known that anyone who fled to Mary's protection, implored her help, or sought her intercession was left unaided.
We wish you, dear readers, your families, your friends, and your loved ones a Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Saint of the day: John Southworth

I am inspired by the stories of the English Martyrs and today is the feast of one o them. St. John Southworth was born in 1592 at Lancashire, England. St. John studied and was ordained at the English College, Douai, France. He returned to England on 13 October 1619 to minister to covert Catholics and was arrested and condemned to death for his faith in Lancashire in 1627; he was held in various prisons, and at one point hearing the final confession of Saint Edmund Arrowsmith just before that martyr was led to the gallows. Through the intercession of Queen Henrietta Maria, he and fifteen other priests were turned over to the French ambassador on 11 April 1630 to be sent into exile in France.

Father John soon returned to England and began working with Saint Henry Morse. They worked tirelessly and fearlessly with the sick during a plague outbreak in 1636. He was arrested again for his faith in Westminster on 28 November 1637. He was held in various prisons until 16 July, 1640 when he was released due to the mitigating circumstances of his good works.

However he was arrested again on 2 December, 1640; he pled guilty to the crime of priesthood, and was condemned to death. After 14 years in prison, during which he worked with any prisoners who showed interest, he was executed by orders of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell. He is one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

He was hanged, drawn, and quartered on 28 June, 1654 at Tyburn, England; remains purchased by the Spanish ambassador to England, and sent to the English College at Douai, France; they were hidden to prevent destruction during the French Revolution, and were rediscovered in 1927. They and are now housed at Westminster Cathedral, London. Pope Paul VI canonized him in 1970.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Wolves by Josh Ritter

Saint of the day: Cyril of Alexandria

The following comes from the CNA:

On June 27, Roman Catholics will honor St. Cyril of Alexandria. An Egyptian bishop and theologian, he is best known for his role in the Council of Ephesus, where the Church confirmed that Christ is both God and man in one person. The Eastern churches celebrate St. Cyril of Alexandria on June 9.

Cyril was most likely born in Alexandria, the metropolis of ancient Egypt, between 370 and 380. From his writings, it appears he received a solid literary and theological education. Along with his uncle, Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria, he played a role in an early fifth-century dispute between the Egyptian and Greek churches. There is evidence he may have been a monk before becoming a bishop.

When Theophilus died in 412, Cyril was chosen to succeed him at the head of the Egyptian Church. He continued his uncle's policy of insisting on Alexandria's preeminence within the Church over Constantinople, despite the political prominence of the imperial capital. The two Eastern churches eventually re-established communion in approximately 418.

Ten years later, however, a theological dispute caused a new break between Alexandria and Constantinople. Cyril's reputation as a theologian, and later Doctor of the Church, arose from his defense of Catholic orthodoxy during this time.

In 428, a monk named Nestorius became the new Patriarch of Constantinople. It became clear that Nestorius was not willing to use the term “Mother of God” (“Theotokos”) to describe the Virgin Mary. Instead, he insisted on the term “Mother of Christ” (“Christotokos”).

During the fourth century, the Greek Church had already held two ecumenical councils to confirm Christ's eternal preexistence as God prior to his incarnation as a man. From this perennial belief, it followed logically that Mary was the mother of God. Veneration of Mary as “Theotokos” confirmed the doctrine of the incarnation, and Christ's status as equal to the God the Father.

Nestorius insisted that he, too, held these doctrines. But to Cyril, and many others, his refusal to acknowledge Mary as the Mother of God seemed to reveal a heretical view of Christ which would split him into two united but distinct persons: one fully human and born of Mary, the other fully divine and not subject to birth or death.

Cyril responded to this heretical tendency first through a series of letters to Nestorius (which are still in existence and studied today), then through an appeal to the Pope, and finally through the summoning of an ecumenical council in 431. Cyril presided over this council, stating that he was “filling the place of the most holy and blessed Archbishop of the Roman Church,” Pope Celestine, who had authorized it.

The council was a tumultuous affair. Patriarch John of Antioch, a friend of Nestorius, came to the city and convened a rival council which sought to condemn and depose Cyril. Tension between the advocates of Cyril and Nestorius erupted into physical violence at times, and both parties sought to convince the emperor in Constantinople to back their position.

During the council, which ran from June 22 to July 31 of the year 431, Cyril brilliantly defended the orthodox belief in Christ as a single eternally divine person who also became incarnate as a man. The council condemned Nestorius, who was deposed as patriarch and later suffered exile. Cyril, however, reconciled with John and many of the other Antiochian theologians who once supported Nestorius.

St. Cyril of Alexandria died on June 27, 444, having been a bishop for nearly 32 years. Long celebrated as a saint, particularly in the Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, he was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1883.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Lantern by Josh Ritter

Padre Pio on Listening to Your Guardian Angel

The following comes from Aleteia:

Padre Pio had encounters with angels throughout his life and got to know them very well. He also received interior locutions; he had to discern from whom they came and how he ought to react to them.

In a letter he wrote on July 15, 1913, to Annita, he gives her (and us) invaluable advice regarding how to act in relation to our guardian angel, locutions, and prayer.

Dear daughter of Jesus,

May your heart always be a temple of the Holy Spirit. May Jesus increase the fire of his love in your soul and may he always smile upon you, as he does on all the souls that he loves. May Mary Most Holy smile upon you during all the events of your life, and abundantly make up for the absence of your earthly mother.

May your good guardian angel always watch over you, and be your guide on the rough path of life. May he always keep you in the grace of Jesus and hold you up with his hands so that you may not hurt your foot on a stone. May he protect you under his wings from all the deceits of the world, the devil and the flesh.

Have great devotion, Annita, to this beneficent angel. How consoling it is to know that we have a spirit who, from the womb to the tomb, never leaves us even for an instant, not even when we dare to sin. And this heavenly spirit guides and protects us like a friend, a brother.

But it is very consoling to know that this angel prays unceasingly for us, and offers God all of our good actions, our thoughts, and our desires, if they are pure.

Oh! For goodness' sake, don't forget this invisible companion, ever present, ever disposed to listen to us and even more ready to console us. Oh, wonderful intimacy! Oh, blessed companionship!  If only we could understand it! Keep him always before your mind's eye. Remember this angel's presence often, thank him, pray to him, always keep up a good relationship. Open yourself up to him and confide your suffering to him. Be always afraid of offending the purity of his gaze. Know this, and keep it well present in your mind. He is easily offended, very sensitive. Turn to him in moments of supreme anguish and you will experience his beneficent help.

Never say that you are alone in the battle against your enemies; never say that you have no one to whom you can open your heart and confide. It would be a grave injustice to this heavenly messenger.

Regarding interior locutions, don't worry; stay calm. What you must avoid is your heart becoming attached to these locutions. Don't give them too much importance; show that you are indifferent. You should neither scorn nor love or desire such things.  Always respond to these voices thus: "Jesus, if it is you who are talking to me, let me see the facts and effects of your words, that is to say, holy virtue in me."

Humble yourself before the Lord and trust in him; spend your energy, with the help of divine grace, in the practice of the virtues, and then let grace work in you as God desires. The virtues are what sanctify the soul and not supernatural phenomena.

And don't confuse yourself trying to understand which locutions come from God. If God is their author, one of the principle signs is that as soon as you hear those voices, they fill your soul with fear and confusion, but then, they leave you in a divine peace. On the contrary, when the author of the interior locutions is the enemy, they begin with a false security, followed by agitation and indescribable malaise.

I have absolutely no doubt that God is the author of the locutions, but we must be very cautious because often the enemy mixes in a great deal of his own work with them. But this should not scare you: this is a test to which even the greatest saints and most enlightened souls were subjected, and yet they were acceptable in the eyes of the Lord. You must simply be careful not to believe in these locutions too easily, above all dealing with those that are related to how you must act and what you must do. You should receive them and submit them to the judgment of your director and resign yourself to accept his decision. 

Read the rest here.

Medjugorje Film: Our Lady Queen Of Peace

Fr. Walter Ciszek on the Eucharist

The following comes from The Weight of Glory:

When I reached the prison camps of Siberia, I learned to my great joy that it was possible to say Mass daily once again. In every camp, the priests and prisoners would go to great lengths, run risks willingly, just to have the consolation of this sacrament. For those who could not get to Mass, we daily consecrated hosts and arranged for the distribution of Communion to those who wished to receive. Our risk of discovery, of course, was greater in the barracks, because of the lack of privacy and the presence of informers. Most often, therefore, we said our daily Mass somewhere at the work site during the noon break. Despite this added hardship, everyone observed a strict Eucharistic fast from the night before, passing up a chance for breakfast and working all morning on an empty stomach. Yet no one complained. In small groups the prisoners would shuffle into the assigned place, and there the priest would say Mass in his working clothes, unwashed, disheveled, bundled up against the cold. We said Mass in drafty storage shacks, or huddled in mud and slush in the corner of a building site foundation of an underground. The intensity of devotion of both priests and prisoners made up for everything; there were no altars, candles, bells, flowers, music, snow-white linens, stained glass or the warmth that even the simplest parish church could offer. Yet in these primitive conditions, the Mass brought you closer to God than anyone might conceivably imagine. The realization of what was happening on the board, box, or stone used in the place of an altar penetrated deep into the soul. Distractions caused by the fear of discovery, which accompanied each saying of the Mass under such conditions, took nothing away from the effect that the tiny bit of bread and few drops of consecrated wine produced upon the soul.

Many a time, as I folded up the handkerchief on which the body of our Lord had lain, and dried the glass or tin cup used as a chalice, the feeling of having performed something tremendously valuable for the people of this Godless country was overpowering. Just the thought of having celebrated Mass here, in this spot, made my journey to the Soviet Union and the sufferings I endured seem totally worthwhile and necessary. No other inspiration could have deepened my faith more, could have given me spiritual courage in greater abundance, than the privilege of saying Mass for these poorest and most deprived members of Christ the Good Shepherd’s flock. I was occasionally overcome with emotion for a moment as I thought of how he had found a way to follow and to feed these lost and straying sheep in this most desolate land. So I never let a day pass without saying Mass; it was my primary concern each new day. I would go to any length, suffer any inconvenience, run any risk to make the bread of life available to these men.

Fr. Walter J Ciszek, SJ – in He Leadeth Me

I Will Wait by Mumford and Sons

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Archbishop Fulton Sheen on Character Building

Friday, June 24, 2016

Jimmy Akin: Who was John the Baptist?

The following comes from Jimmy Akin at the NCR:

John the Baptist is a mysterious figure in the New Testament.

He was famous in his own day, even before he became the herald of Christ.
We even know about him from outside the New Testament.

His memorial is August 29th, so it’s an excellent time to catch up on him.
Here are 11 things to know and share . . .

1) How was John the Baptist related to Jesus?
John was related to Jesus through their mothers. In Luke 1:36, Elizabeth is described as Mary’s “kinswoman,” meaning that they were related in some way through marriage or blood.

Most likely, it was a blood relationship, but neither a particularly close or distant one.

Elizabeth, being elderly, may have been an aunt, great-aunt, or one of the many types of “cousin.” The precise relationship cannot be determined.
This means that Jesus and John were cousins in one or another senses of the term.

2) When did John the Baptist’s ministry begin?
Luke gives us an extraordinarily precise date for the beginning of John’s ministry. He writes:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar . . . the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness; and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins [Luke 3:1-3].

“The fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar” is most naturally understood as a reference to A.D. 29.

This is important also because Luke suggests that Jesus’ ministry began shortly after John’s did, which places the likely date of Jesus’ baptism in A.D. 29 or early A.D. 30.

3) Why did John come baptizing?
Scripture presents us with several reasons.

He served as the forerunner or herald of the Messiah and was to prepare for him by fulfilling an Elijah-like role by calling the nation to repentance.

In keeping with that, he baptized people as a sign of their repentance.

He also came to identify and announce the Messiah. According to John the Baptist: “I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel” (John 1:31).

This identification was made when he baptized Jesus: “I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (1:32-34).

4) How did John’s arrest affect Jesus?
The gospels indicate that the early ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus both took place in Judea, in the southern portion of Israel, near Jerusalem.

But John was arrested by Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee and Perea, which included part of the wilderness near Jerusalem.

This led Jesus to begin his ministry in Galilee:

Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee [Mt. 4:12].

5) What does John have to teach us about on the job morals?
Quite a bit! He was quizzed by both tax-collectors and soldiers about what they needed to do to be right with God.

Both of these positions required cooperation with the Roman Empire, and they were wondering if they had to quit their jobs.

John tells them no, but to do their jobs in a righteous manner. This is important for us today as so many are required to cooperate with employers, states, and corporations that are—in part—engaged in immoral actions.
We read:
Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”
And he said to them, “Collect no more than is appointed you.”
Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?”
And he said to them, “Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages” [Lk. 3:12-14].

6) Was John the Baptist Elijah reincarnated?
No. In Jesus’ day, the scribes predicted that Elijah would return before the coming of the Messiah.

At one point Jesus was discussing John the Baptist and said, “if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matt. 11:14).

This has led some New Agers to assert that John the Baptist was the reincarnation of Elijah.

There are several problems with this. Not the least of them is that Elijah never died.

If you read 2 Kings 2:11, you’ll see that—instead of dying—Elijah was assumed into heaven by a whirlwind (biblical text here).
Since Elijah never died, he could not be reincarnated.

By identifying John the Baptist as the “Elijah” who was to come, Jesus indicated that the fulfillment of the Elijah prophecy was not meant to be taken in the literalistic way that the scribes of his day took it.

Elijah himself was not to return and go about Judaea, ministering to people. Instead, someone like Elijah was to appear and do this, and that person was John the Baptist.

7) How famous was John the Baptist in his own day?
It’s easy for us to think of John the Baptist as simply the forerunner and herald of Christ, but he was quite famous in his own right.

Two points make this very clear:

1. The movement he began ended up having followers in distant lands.
2. We have information about him from outside the New Testament.

8) How did he get followers outside of Israel?
Apparently through the preaching of individuals who spread his message elsewhere.

One of these seems to have been Apollos, who later became a Christian evangelist.

According to Acts:
Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, well versed in the scriptures.

He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John [Acts 18:24-25].

Apparently, Apollos had some knowledge of the connection between John the Baptist and the Messiah, but only limited knowledge. He did not know about Christian baptism and the difference between it and John’s baptism.

Aquila and Priscilla gave him supplementary knowledge to complete his understanding of the Christian message (Acts 18:26-28), but word apparently did not get to all of his followers at first.

When St. Paul returned to Ephesus, he found about a dozen of his apparent disciples in Ephesus, who had heard of John’s baptism but not Christian baptism and the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-7). These were apparently converts made by Apollos based on his knowledge of John the Baptist’s movement, before he learned the full message of Christ.

9) Who killed John the Baptist?
That would be Herod Antipas, one of the sons of Herod the Great, who inherited the regions of Galilee and Perea as his territories.

The gospels portray him as a complex man. For a start, he has an unlawful marriage. At some point, he apparently stole Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip.

That put him in opposition to John the Baptist, who opposed the union (Mark 6:18), leading Herod to arrest John (Matt. 14:3).

Although he had John in custody, and although his wife hated John and wanted him dead, Herod Antipas served as John’s protector and had an unusual fascination with the fiery preacher: “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly” (Mark 6:20).

Even John’s death did not end Antipas’s fascination with him. When he began to hear reports about Jesus, he thought Jesus might be John raised from the dead (Mark 6:14), and he sought to see Jesus for himself (Luke 9:9).

10) Why was John killed?
Herod Antipas’s wife, Herodias, hated John with a passion. (Presumably for publicly criticizing her betrayal of her former husband—Herod Philip—and her marrying his brother.)

Eventually, after her daughter Salome delighted Antipas with a special dance at his birthday party, Herodias was able to manipulate him into giving the order for John’s death by beheading (Mark 6:21-28).

11) Where do we learn of John the Baptist outside the New Testament?
In the Jewish historian Josephus. He records that one of Herod’s armies was destroyed the A.D. 36 and states:

Now, some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist; for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness.

Now, when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise), thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it should be too late.

Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death.
Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God’s displeasure against him [Antiquities 18:5:2].

The details of Josephus’s account differ from the gospels’. He apparently was not aware of the role of Herodias and her daughter in the matter, or Herod’s complex relationship with John, and attributes to him the standard suspicion of a prophetic leader that any ruler of the time might have.

The Christian community’s awareness of more of the details likely came through a woman named Joanna, who was the wife of a man named Chuza, who was a steward of Herod Antipas and thus a court insider.

Joanna was one of the followers of Jesus (Luke 8:1-3), and it may well have been through her that the more detailed information comes through her.

Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Today is the feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist! The following comes from Catholic Online on this great saint:

John the Baptist was the son of Zachary, a priest of the Temple in Jerusalem, and Elizabeth, a kinswoman of Mary who visited her. He was probably born at Ain-Karim southwest of Jerusalem after the Angel Gabriel had told Zachary that his wife would bear a child even though she was an old woman. He lived as a hermit in the desert of Judea until about A.D. 27. When he was thirty, he began to preach on the banks of the Jordan against the evils of the times and called men to penance and baptism "for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand". He attracted large crowds, and when Christ came to him, John recognized Him as the Messiah and baptized Him, saying, "It is I who need baptism from You". When Christ left to preach in Galilee, John continued preaching in the Jordan valley. Fearful of his great power with the people, Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Perea and Galilee, had him arrested and imprisoned at Machaerus Fortress on the Dead Sea when John denounced his adultrous and incestuous marriage with Herodias, wife of his half brother Philip. John was beheaded at the request of Salome, daughter of Herodias, who asked for his head at the instigation of her mother. John inspired many of his followers to follow Christ when he designated Him "the Lamb of God," among them Andrew and John, who came to know Christ through John's preaching. John is presented in the New Testament as the last of the Old Testament prophets and the precursor of the Messiah. His feast day is June 24th and the feast for his beheading is August 29th.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Home by Mumford and Sons

Finding Strength in our Surrender

The following comes from Integrated Catholic Life: 

Surrender, giving control of our lives to Christ, is an enormous obstacle to living out our faith in the workplace, or anyplace for that matter. Surrendering to Christ and putting his will before my own for the first time more than seven years ago was the very moment I felt stronger than at any other time in my life. By surrendering, the strength of the Lord flowed through me, energized me, gave me courage, and put me on the path to a life of discipleship filled with meaning. The recognition that I had to give up control and experience the death of my old self allowed me to put absolute trust in him; without which, my soul’s conversion would not have been possible. Even more important, I have come to recognize that my surrender and conversion is an ongoing process and not a one-time event.

Yet, so many good people I encounter each day struggle with this idea of surrender. It is almost as if we have developed barriers around our hearts that keep the world at an emotional distance. The most important casualty, however, is our relationship with Christ, as we often wind up keeping him at a distance as well. I observe men and women every day who come right up against a deeper faith and a closer relationship with Jesus, only to walk away. Why? After countless conversations with a large number of my brothers and sisters in Christ, it comes down to three main obstacles in the way of our trustful surrender to the Lord: pride, fear, and excuses. Do any of these obstacles resonate with you? At various times, they have all clicked with me. When our pride gets hold of us, we forget our roles outside of the workplace: as a spouse, parent, or friend. When fear controls our faith, we fail to submit to Christ and his divine will. And in making excuses, we create barriers between God and us. In order to avoid these obstacles, therefore, it’s important to know how and when to surrender.

When we are experiencing success in business and our personal lives are flourishing, do we think about putting the Lord first in our lives? Is submitting to his will top of mind? Do we thank him? Before answering these questions, consider another perspective, following the words of Saint John Eudes: “You can advance farther in grace in one hour during a time of affliction than in many days during a time of consolation.” How do we view Jesus when times are tough? We may have lost our job or be going through serious financial problems. Maybe our children are struggling with peer pressure at school or a family member is dying. How would we view Jesus then? When is our trust in him most apparent?

In my professional life, I encounter dozens of people each month who are going through career transition, especially in this difficult economy. Many have shared with me that they have turned to our Lord for help in these tough times when they were at their weakest moments. They turn to him when they used to rely only on themselves. The point I am making is we often turn to Jesus when we are in crisis and ask him for help and strength. Crisis can be a helpful catalyst to truly and unreservedly surrender to his will, and any means to achieve that end is worthwhile. But we should not wait until our backs are against the wall to pray the words, “I am no longer in charge Jesus, please lead me.”

To give ourselves daily to Jesus Christ, it is important to put our absolute trust in him. What have we got to lose? When I think about my own faith, I remember what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said: “If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful, and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed.” When we give ourselves up, God lets himself in. And that is exactly what he did for me.

In the second Mass I ever attended (in October 2005, shortly after my wife and I made the decision to join the Catholic Church), I went through a powerful personal conversion. I was trembling, sweating, nervous, and felt weak at the beginning of the Mass. My family thought I was having a heart attack! This strange feeling lasted for about ten minutes. What happened in those few precious minutes was life-altering. I went into the church that morning feel­ing lost. I knew I needed help and that I no longer had the answers. I remember praying silently to God to lead me and acknowledging I was no longer in charge. I felt so weak because I had never asked God for anything before, and I didn’t know how to relinquish control. When I prayed those words, gave up control, and sincerely surrendered to his will, I felt a surge of strength and a sense of peace that felt like a wind blowing right through me. I had given up more than twenty years of stubbornness, ego, and pride that had been accumulating since I last attended the Baptist church as a teenager. When I humbly surrendered to his will, the Lord gave me strength and a sense of peace I still feel to this day. I still struggle with plac­ing Christ first in every aspect of my life, and I have problems like everyone else. But knowing that he will forgive me, love me, guide me, and bless me keeps me coming back again and again to the place where I pray the words, “I surrender Lord, please lead me.”

Saint of the day: Aloysius Gonzaga

The following comes from the Catholic Online site:

St. Aloysius was born in Castiglione, Italy. The first words St. Aloysius spoke were the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. He was destined for the military by his father (who was in service to Philip II), but by the age of 9 Aloysius had decided on a religious life, and made a vow of perpetual virginity. To safeguard himself from possible temptation, he would keep his eyes persistently downcast in the presence of women. St. Charles Borromeo gave him his first Holy Communion. A kidney disease prevented St. Aloysius from a full social life for a while, so he spent his time in prayer and reading the lives of the saints. Although he was appointed a page in Spain, St. Aloysius kept up his many devotions and austerities, and was quite resolved to become a Jesuit. His family eventually moved back to Italy, where he taught catechism to the poor. When he was 18, he joined the Jesuits, after finally breaking down his father, who had refused his entrance into the order. He served in a hospital during the plague of 1587 in Milan, and died from it at the age of 23, after receiving the last rites from St. Robert Bellarmine. The last word he spoke was the Holy Name of Jesus. St. Robert wrote the Life of St. Aloysius.

St. John Paul II and Friendship

The following comes from

The friendship between Stanislaw Nagy and Karol Wojtyła began on a train from Lublin to Krakow.
It would continue for 30 years, though Wojtyła would be taken far from their homeland and be weighted with the responsibility of the world. It was a 30-year friendship characterized by passionate discussions on theology and the Church, often with skis on their feet, during snowy excursions in God's creation.
Stanislaw Nagy was born in 1921, the year after Wojtyła. He was ordained a priest of the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart in 1945, as the war was ending. And some years after his friend was elected Pope, he was made a cardinal though he wasn't yet a bishop. The cardinal appointment was John Paul II's recognition of his old ski companion's contributions to ecclesiology studies.
Cardinal Nagy was not in St. Peter's Square this month on the day of his friend Karol's beatification, but in Zakopane, where they skied together so many times. And he celebrated a liturgy of thanksgiving at the Shrine of the Virgin of Fatima -- almost at the same time that Benedict XVI was celebrating Mass in Rome -- in which he consecrated the first altar in Poland dedicated to John Paul II.
He was not in Rome either when Cardinal Wojtyła began his pontificate on Oct. 22, 1978. The Pope chided him for this fact, with the light irony that characterized him. "I was very astonished," recalled Cardinal Nagy, "when one of the Polish priests who had been present at the inauguration of the pontificate gave me a letter from the newly elected. In it he wrote: 'What kind of theologian studies the Pope and his role in the Church and does not come to see him?'"
Despite their contact as university companions and later when Wojtyła was archbishop of Krakow and called him for advice on theological questions and to prepare the diocesan synods, "I did not consider myself his friend, so great was the distance that it seemed to me separated us," Cardinal Nagy said.
"I considered him a very intelligent man, of exceptional capacities, marked by a high sense of morality," he explained. "I did not feel capable of reaching him, because he was higher than me."
Leaving home
The cardinal remembers how Wojtyła was already known and esteemed in the Vatican long before becoming Peter's Successor: "Paul VI knew him and liked him; he called him to preach the Lent spiritual exercises of 1976 for the Pontiff and the Roman Curia."
The Poles, too, were conscious of his worth, but not even Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, primate of Poland, thought that Wojtyła could become Pope, Cardinal Nagy said.
John Paul I's death was a blow for his friend, the cardinal remembered. "One could perceive the anxiety that went through him."
And he added: "I learned of his election through Free Europe, the clandestine radio, which was more surprised than I was. I was in Lublin and among the students there was a great explosion of joy: At that moment I realized that the Wojtyła I knew was becoming another person."
But the future cardinal would discover he was mistaken: Pope Wojtyła was still the same ski companion Nagy had always known.
The year of his election, John Paul II invited him to Rome for the consecration of the new archbishop of Krakow, Franciszek Macharski.
"While coming down the steps of the plane, a man approached me and told me I was invited to dine with the Pope and he then accompanied me to him. I saw Wojtyła for the first time dressed in white," Cardinal Nagy remembered. "He was the same as before: simple, open, cordial -- as the brother who had spent so many hours with me on the mountain talking about this or that topic -- and, at the same time, he was full of majesty. An aura of seriousness and holiness emanated from him."
Blessed friendship
Cardinal Nagy said he has continually asked himself when he first realized "that I was dealing with a candidate to the altar."
"I think the first indication was the intensity of his prayer," he offered. In the mountains "I saw his simple and open nature, but at the same time I saw how he always tried to retire to pray. Already then he was a mystic. This impression was strengthened in the subsequent 26 years of his pontificate."
"When he approached the altar," the cardinal continued, "it seemed as if he belonged to another world and when he was already old and suffering, this transfiguration was even more evident."
The Pope's friend, now 89 years old, reflected that another sign of John Paul's sanctity was his "way of enduring suffering with infinite patience, so that it wouldn't interrupt his work."
Cardinal Nagy saw the Polish Pontiff for the last time on Jan. 21, 2005, the day before he was hospitalized for the last time in "Vatican III," as he called the Gemelli Polyclinic.
"I was not present at his death, but a few days later, I was able to speak with direct witnesses who told me how the last moments were and what his last words were: 'Let me go to the Father,'" the cardinal said. "Those words represent the seal of a life, because he lived all his life in the encounter with God."

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Who Do You Say That I Am?

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:

Jesus’ disciples tell Him that the crowds who followed Him were confused about His identify, but was their own understanding much better?

Gospel (Read Lk 9:18-24)

St. Luke writes about a conversation Jesus had with the disciples that began with a question He put to them.  St. Matthew gives us a longer report on this in his Gospel (see Mt 16:13-21).  It differs, in some ways, from this one, but in emphasis, not content.  What did St. Luke consider noteworthy in this exchange?
First, we discover that Jesus “was praying in solitude” when He decided to ask the disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”  This helps us recognize that the conversation that follows is the fruit of private communion between Jesus and the Father.  Jesus knew that it was His Father’s will to reveal Himself to these twelve men.  As He later says in prayer to God, “I have given them the words which You gave me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from You” (Jn 17:8).  The disciples tell Jesus that the people believe He is a great prophet, in the tradition of John the Baptist or one of the ancient prophets.  Do we wonder what the disciples’ reactions were when they heard people conjecturing about Jesus’ identity this way?  Did they know what to say?
Actually, Jesus does want to know how the disciples would answer this question:  “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter responds right away:  “The Christ of God.”  We know from St. Matthew’s Gospel that it was God Who enabled Peter to know this about Jesus.  It was not something that simple companionship and close observation would have produced.  St. Luke tells us that Jesus did not want this revelation to be announced yet.  Why not?  Why wouldn’t He want His disciples to correct the misunderstandings of the people who flocked to see Him?  Probably it was because of what He said next.
Although Peter and the other disciples were beginning to comprehend that Jesus was no ordinary prophet, that He was Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, Jesus knew they needed to know more:  “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day rise.”  Did Jesus say these words slowly, making eye contact with each man, hoping they would sink in?  Surely this was not what any of the disciples expected to happen to the Messiah.  We know, from other Gospel accounts, that the disciples did not understand this kind of talk from Jesus.  Yet He knew they needed to hear it, and there was something else they needed to hear, too.
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”  All this talk about death!  What must the disciples have made of this when they first heard it?  To us, now, the idea of “the cross” is noble, because it is forever associated with Jesus’ death for us.  But what meaning could it possibly have for the disciples before they watched Jesus go to His Cross and hallow it?  All they knew then about “the cross” was that it was the Romans’ brutal way of punishing criminals.  Jesus was calling His followers to daily self-denial (“not my will but Thine be done”) so radical it could lead to martyrdom.  “For whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”  What kind of sense could this make to the disciples before they witnessed the Resurrection?  However, regardless of how much of this conversation was lost on them at the time it actually took place, there is no missing the fact that Jesus clearly announces His own Death and Resurrection—and ours, too, if we love and want to follow Him.
What would “the crowds” make of that?  What would we?
Possible response:  Lord Jesus, why is it so easy for me to forget that You call Your followers to daily death and resurrection?  To self-denial that leads to true life?
Read more here.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Thanking Blessed Mary by Paddy Kelly

The Healing Fountain of Grief

The following comes from The Catholic Exchange:
June 19. 2016
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Zech 12:10-11, 13:1
Grieving is a strange process. When a close friend or relative dies, you might think that we would need cheering up—bright colors, clowns, comedians, anything that could be an antidote to our painful loss. Yet, in fact, we don’t want cheering up right away. We need to sit in the pain a while, reflect on the loss, experience the hurt of separation. Grieving helps us to hit the pause button on life and allow us to undergo this important, if painful process. Something about grieving is oddly purifying. It changes us, or rather, helps us come to grips with the change which we are inevitably undergoing.

Pouring Out

In this Sunday’s first reading from Zechariah, the prophet brings us face-to-face with the pain and purifying power of grief. Following on the heels of a prophecy about the salvation of Judah (12:1-9), God promises a new chapter for the Davidic kingdom. “I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication” (Zech 12:10a RSV). Elsewhere, God’s action of out-pouring is linked with his giving of his own Spirit (Ezek 39:29, Joel 2:28-29) or wrath (e.g. Jer 10:25; Ezek 22:22). Here then, the “spirit of compassion and supplication” is to be identified as the Holy Spirit, God’s own Spirit. This “compassion” is chen in Hebrew, a word usually translated as “grace,” that is, the favorable treatment of a loyal subject by a higher authority. God’s power will come with favor, but also with “supplication,” aiding the prayers of the holy ones, as is promised in the NT (Rom 8:26).

Who is Pierced?

Next the prophet tells us about a mysterious person who will be pierced. Usually, translations rely on the Greek version of the OT and read something like “they look on him whom they have pierced” (RSV). Yet that’s not what the Hebrew says. The Hebrew of Zech 12:10 says “they will look on me, whom they have pierced”! This translational point may seem like a mere technicality, but by altering what the Hebrew says, the translators are writing God out of this passage. God is saying that he himself will be pierced. The ancient scribes who handed down the versions to us found difficulty with this idea (How could God be pierced?) and so sometimes tweaked the text to make it easier. Yet biblical text criticism preserves an important principle of lectio difficilior, that is, the more difficult reading is usually more original. Here, God is forecasting that he himself will be pierced through. And here, the piercing is a mortal blow (as it is, e.g., in Num 25:8, Judg 9:54).

A Pierced Son – Look, Mourn, Weep

Zechariah is one of the most mysterious, hard-to-interpret books of the Bible, so it is no surprise that our passage is a bit mystifying. The prophet is forecasting a moment when a certain person, who seems to be God, and who is also kind of like a son, will be mortally wounded and then mourned for. In fact, he places the sequence of events as follows: first, the mortal blow will be struck, then the people will look upon the victim. Finally they will mourn and weep over him as if he had been a only child, a firstborn son (Zech 12:10). Any death of a child is bitter medicine to his or her parents, but the prophet emphasizes the especially grievous nature of this event by comparing it to the particularly sad case of a couple losing its only child.

Mourning in Megiddo

Yet this grieving which the people will undergo will carry in it the seeds of healing. It is through the process of grieving that the people will arrive at a new place, become changed, renewed. Zechariah, in his mercurial prophetic manner, compares this future grieving to “the mourning for Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo” (Zech 12:11 RSV). Unfortunately, “Hadadrimmon” is not a normal word and it defies easy explanation by scholars. However, in my view the best explanation of this bizarre word connects it with a historical event from the Davidic dynasty. Hadadrimmon probably is not a person, but a place, likely a village near the known location of Megiddo. (Megiddo was a fortified city in the Jezreel valley. You can visit it today as an archaeological site at an Israeli national park, which I did a few years ago.)
The only major biblical event that took place at Megiddo was during the reign of Josiah. Pharaoh Necho II was riding through Palestine on his way to the Battle of Carchemish (the last major battle between the Assyrians and Babylonians), when King Josiah decided to oppose him at the Valley of Jezreel and try to prevent his army from reaching the important battle. During the conflict, King Josiah was struck down and killed at Megiddo (2 Kings 23:29). Apparently, the mourning for the great king Josiah was unusually intense (2 Chr 35:24), and perhaps began at an otherwise unknown village of Hadadrimmon, so Zechariah is probably referring back to this event here. He adds to the intensity by denoting the important families that will participate in the grieving, the families of David (kingly), Nathan (prophetic), Levi and Shimei (priestly).

A Fountain

As a result of the mortal piercing of God and in the context of this great mourning, “on that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness” (Zech 13:1). While the idea of a “fountain” may conjure up the Trevi Fountain or the fountain at the Bellagio in Las Vegas for us, the ancient Israelites had no such thing. It is better to think of “fountain” in this context as a “spring,” a natural source of fresh water. While most springs in the Holy Land are rather small or even intermittent, some natural springs are much more powerful than manmade fountains. For example, “Big Spring” in the Ozarks of Missouri pumps out 3,434 gallons per second. Not all natural fountains should be looked down upon! The fountain Zechariah speaks of will not bring mere water, but will bring spiritual healing that will transform God’s people and take away their sins. This fountain, of course, is represented by the pierced side of Jesus on the cross, from which blood and water flows (John 19:34).
In the end, I think Zechariah offers us a great picture of how our redemption progresses. First, we have to come to grips with what we’ve done—participated in the death of God on a cross. Then we look upon him in his suffering and feel the horrible grief of guilt. Finally, through the process of contrition, repentance and turning toward God, we are able to experience his forgiveness, mercy and healing power—the “fountain” of redemption. We experience the fountain in Baptism, in Confession and in Communion. The Pierced One comes to us again and again, welcoming us back to receive more of his mercy.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Loyal by Lauren Daigle

By What Authority?

The following comes from Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction:

As I’ve mentioned before, and will mention again, one of the triggers for my journey to the Catholic faith began with a simple but life-changing question: By what authority does someone interpret Scripture and establish doctrine?

What made that question so pivotal for me is that it challenged a few vital assumptions in my Evangelical Protestant theology. It also came up at a time when I faced radical changes in the Episcopal Church, of which I was a member. I was alarmed by the way decisions were being made there that seemed contrary to Scripture, Tradition and Reason. Yet, according to the authority of that church, their radical interpretation of the Bible and establishment of tradition-breaking doctrine was legitimate.

I started asking, “Hey, wait a minute, who’s in charge here anyway?” It can’t be a theological free-for-all – can it?

At the same time, I watched as more traditional Evangelical Protestants, with their Bibles in hand, set themselves up as their own “authorities” and made some surprising decisions. Surprising to me, that is. Some dropped out of any regular church attendance (because it was an optional extra, rather than a necessary part of the Christian life). Some talked as if there was no objective way to discuss Scripture, as if it all came down to “what it means to me and you can’t tell me otherwise.” I saw the line between interpretation and application become blurred, if not erased. So, again, I wondered: who gets the final word?

I read Jesus’ prayer for unity and almost wanted to dismiss it as sentimental wishful- thinking on His part. I suspect many Christians do. And I struggled to reconcile the idea that the same Holy Spirit – invoked by every individual – could be inspiring so many outright contradictions among believers.

So I asked the question. By what authority does someone interpret Scripture and establish doctrine?
To find the answer, I dared to venture beyond the boundaries of history I had previously allowed (only as far back as the Reformation) and pushed through to the Ancient Church. I wanted to know what the generation of Christians following the Resurrection and original 12 Apostles believed and why they believed it. I was shocked to learn how very Catholic they were.

The Bible itself pointed me to the reality of Apostolic Authority and, eventually, the question was settled. Once that was done, the move into the Catholic Church became inevitable.

Thereafter, I thought that, since the question was important to me, I ought to put it to my Protestant friends because it ought to be important to them. I was naïve. The question was often unwelcome, but stirred up some remarkable reactions.

One involved a wide-eyed have-you-lost-your-mind kind of response. Not because I had lost my mind, but because the question itself seemed crazy. The answer, it’s assumed, was clearly established long-ago by someone,  somewhere – though they don’t know when or by whom or where exactly. Maybe by Luther or Billy Graham. But certainly not by the corrupt gang who messed everything up before them.

Not only was the question crazy, it was superfluous. It’s like asking whether or not the American Revolution was a legitimate action or speculating what might have happened had the South won the Civil War. Things are what they are, there’s no point in revisiting a question that’s been answered somewhere somehow.  Don’t mess with the “givens.”

If my friends thought about it at all, they often had varying answers. Authority to interpret Scripture, for them, may be based on a democratic consensus in their churches. Or because the Pastor went to seminary. Or a teacher seemed wise and holy. Or the interpreter is personally charismatic. Or maybe the person speaking says things that “ring true” or resonate with their own feelings or experiences.

But, at the heart of it, I found that my question triggered a debate most people didn’t really want to have.

Assumption plays heavily in any answer, if an answer comes at all. People assume that it’s understood where the Authority rests, in the same way they assume that a chair is reliable and will hold them up if they sit on it – or that the person in the uniform flying the airplane is qualified to do it. It’s a vague and mysterious trust in the established order of things.

What I hadn’t anticipated was how very unnerving and distressing the question could be. The one thing most people don’t want challenged are the core assumptions in their worldview. Usually it takes a personal trauma or cataclysm to make people re-think those assumptions: God didn’t behave the way they thought, there is a terrible sickness or death, a horrible act of evil, or a natural catastrophe. Other than that, why bother?  To ask such a thing is like throwing a brick through a carefully crafted Tiffany window. I asked because the crisis in my church forced me to.

Now, as a Catholic, I see more clearly what I’m up against. The Catholic faith is an assault that challenges the assumptions not only of Evangelical Protestants but of most people. It is solid, rigorous and unique – and therefore foreign and frightening and dangerous. It is the answer to an unwelcome question. So, how do we get people to ask a question they don’t want to ask? That’s one of the challenges of the New Evangelization.