Thursday, January 24, 2019

Saint of the Day: Francis de Sales, Patron of Church Unity

The following comes from the CNA:

On Jan. 24, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that runs from Jan. 18-25, Catholics will celebrate the life of St. Francis de Sales. A bishop and Doctor of the Church, his preaching brought thousands of Protestants back to the Catholic fold, and his writings on the spiritual life have proved highly influential.

The paradoxical circumstances of Francis' birth, in the Savoy region (now part of France) during 1567,  sum up several contradictory tendencies of the Church during his lifetime. The reforms of the Council of Trent had purified the Church in important ways, yet Catholics and Protestants still struggled against one another – and against the temptations of wealth and worldly power.

Francis de Sales, a diplomat's son, was born into aristocratic wealth and privilege. Yet he was born in a room that his family named the “St. Francis room” – where there hung a painting of that saint, renowned for his poverty, preaching in the wilderness. In later years, Francis de Sales would embrace poverty also; but early in his ministry, the faithful chided him for having an aristocratic manner.

In many ways, Francis' greatest achievements – such as the “Introduction to the Devout Life,” an innovative spiritual guidebook for laypersons, or his strong emphasis on the role of human love in Christian devotion – represent successful attempts to re-integrate seemingly disparate “worldly” and “spiritual” realities into one coherent vision of life.

Few people, however, would have predicted these achievements for Francis during his earlier years. As a young man, he studied rhetoric, the humanities, and law. He had his law degree by age 25, and was headed for a political career. All the while, he was keeping the depths of his spiritual life – such as his profound devotion to the Virgin Mary, and his resolution of religious celibacy – a secret from the world.
Eventually, however, the truth came out, and Francis clashed with his father, who had arranged a marriage for him. The Bishop of Geneva intervened on Francis' behalf, finding him a position in the administration of the Swiss Church that led to his priestly ordination in 1593. He volunteered to lead a mission to bring Switzerland, dominated by Calvinist Protestantism, back to the Catholic faith.

Taking on a seemingly impossible task, with only one companion – his cousin – the new priest adopted a harsh but hopeful motto: “Apostles battle by their sufferings, and triumph only in death." It would serve him well as he traveled through Switzerland, facing many Protestants' indifference or hostility, and being attacked by wild animals and even would-be assassins.

Some of Francis' hearers –even, for a time, John Calvin's protege Theodore Beza– found themselves captivated by the thoughtful, eloquent and joyful manner of the priest who implored their reunion with the Church. But he had more success when he began writing out these sermons and exhortations, slipping them beneath the doors that had been closed against him.

This pioneering use of religious tracts proved surprisingly effective at breaking down the resistance of the Swiss Calvinists, and it is estimated that between 40,000 and 70,000 of them returned to the Church through his efforts. He also served as a spiritual director, both in person and through written correspondence, with the latter format inspiring the “Introduction to the Devout Life.” 

In 1602, Francis was chosen to become the Bishop of Geneva, a position he did not seek or desire. Accepting the position, however, he gave the last twenty years of his life in ongoing sacrifice, for the restoration of Geneva's churches and religious orders. He also helped one of his spiritual directees, the widow and future saint Jane Frances de Chantal, to found an order with a group of women.

Worn out by nearly thirty years of arduous travel and other burdens of Church leadership, Francis fell ill in 1622 while visiting one of a convent he had helped to found in Lyons. He died there, three days after Christmas that year. St. Francis de Sales was canonized in 1665, and honored as a Doctor of the Church in 1877.

Because of the crucial role of writing in his apostolate, St. Francis de Sales is the patron of writers and journalists. He is also widely credited with restoring, during his own day, a sense of what the Second Vatican Council would later call the “universal call to holiness” – that is, the notion that all people, not only those in formal religious life, are called to the heights of Christian sanctification.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Fr. Benedict Groeschel: A Call To The Priesthood

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Spiritual Armor

The following comes from Catholic Exchange:

What happened between Mary and the Holy Spirit?
Scripture tells us precious little about this, the turning point of all salvation history. But from the fact that it resulted in the Incarnation of God, we can infer that this must have been an extraordinary encounter.
Luke 1 tells us two things about it. In the words of the angel Gabriel, “The Holy Spiritwill come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”
At first blush, this description seems to understate what happened. We long for the sort of fantastic, awe-inspiring account of a divine manifestation like the lightning-flecked storm cloud that entranced the prophetic Ezekiel or the howling wind from heaven that showered tongues of fire on the heads of the apostles at Pentecost.
We don’t get any of that in Luke 1.
Or do we?
The text says much more than it appears to at first glance.

The sudden coming of the Spirit

The first detail about this encounter—that the Holy Spirit would come upon Mary—does not seem very informative. The language is ordinary enough in English. But in Greek the word, eperchomai, is used rarely in the New Testament.
In two instances it refers to the coming of the Holy Spirit—here and in Acts 1.
But the most common context in which the word is used is one involving the sudden onslaught of some calamity. Here’s an example, where Christ is talking about the end-times destruction of the earth, from Luke 21:35: “For as a snare shall it come upon all that sit upon the face of the whole earth” (Douay-Rheims). The word come upon is the same as in Luke 1. The New American Bible, Revised Edition, captures the sense of the word: “For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.”
Likewise, in Luke 11:22, the word is used to describe the attack of a stronger man on a strong man’s castle, in one of Jesus’ parables. And, in Acts 14:19, it describes the coming of a mob that had St. Paul stoned.
Can the coming of the Holy Spirit really be likened to these other comings? Indeed, the notion of a sudden powerful coming that even wounds is often how divine encounters are described in the Scripture. Consider Paul on the road to Damascus in Acts 9:3, where “a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him,” leaving him stunned and temporarily blinded. And, in the Old Testament, Jacob’s meeting with an angel becomes a wrestling match, which leaves the patriarch with a wounded thigh.
Earlier in the chapter, the gospel writer elaborates on the end times, using the same word:
There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken (verses 25 to 26).
This is the power that came upon Mary—the power that could shake the heavens and leave its mark on the sun, the moon, and the stars. Of course, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Mary was not unwanted or violent. The encounter was a wholly consensual one. As Mary told Gabriel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Mary, in the fullness of the grace from God, was the only person in the world who could be espoused to the Holy Spirit—the only one who could bear the power that rattled the heavens and the earth. Perhaps this is why we see her in Revelation 12 “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”

Monday, January 21, 2019

A Prayer for Priests by Fr. William Doyle

Here is a beautiful prayer for priests by Fr. Willie Doyle, heroic priest of World War I:

O my God, pour out in abundance Thy spirit of sacrifice upon Thy priests. It is both their glory and their duty to become victims, to be burnt up for souls, to live without ordinary joys, to be often the objects of distrust, injustice, and persecution.
The words they say every day at the altar, “This is my Body, this is my Blood,” grant them to apply to themselves: “I am no longer myself, I am Jesus, Jesus crucified. I am, like the bread and wine, a substance no longer itself, but by consecration another.”
O my God, I burn with desire for the sanctification of Thy priests. I wish all the priestly hands which touch Thee were hands whose touch is gentle and pleasing to Thee, that all the mouths uttering such sublime words at the altar should never descend to speaking trivialities.
Let priests in all their person stay at the level of their lofty functions, let every man find them simple and great, like the Holy Eucharist, accessible to all yet above the rest of men. O my God, grant them to carry with them from the Mass of today, a thirst for the Mass of tomorrow, and grant them, ladened themselves with gifts, to share these abundantly with their fellow men. Amen.

Hat tip to Deacon Greg!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on the Church of the Future

“Let me go one step further. From today’s crisis, a Church will emerge tomorrow that will have lost a great deal. She will be small and, to a large extent, will have to start from the beginning. She will no longer be able to fill many of the buildings created in her period of great splendor. Because of the smaller number of her followers, she will lose many of her privileges in society. Contrary to what has happened until now, she will present herself much more as a community of volunteers....

"As a small community, she will demand much more from the initiative of each of her members and she will certainly also acknowledge new forms of ministry and will raise up to the priesthood proven Christians who have other jobs. In many smaller communities, respectively in social groups with some affinity, the normal care of souls will take place in this way....

"There will be an interiorized Church, which neither takes advantage of its political mandate nor flirts with the left or the right. This will be achieved with effort because the process of crystallization and clarification will demand great exertion. It will make her poor and a Church of the little people.... All this will require time. The process will be slow and painful.... 

(J. Ratzinger, Faith and the Future).

Saturday, January 19, 2019

A Decalogue for Priests

I found this on the website of Sr. Briege McKenna and thought it was good food for thought! We have to make sure to remember our priorities!

A Decalogue for Priests by Bishop Klaus Hemmerle

1. How I live as a priest is more important than what I do as a priest.

2. What Christ does through me is more important than what I do by myself.

3. It is more important that I live the unity of the priesthood than plunge myself headlong and alone into ministry.

4. The ministry of prayer and word is more important than serving at tables.

5. It is more important to nurture the spiritual welfare of those who build up the parish community than to undertake alone as many activities as possible.

6. It is more important to be present in a few key points radiating life than to be half-present everywhere and in a hurry.

7. It is more important to work in unity with others than alone, no matter how capable I may feel. In other words, communion is more important than action.

8. It is more important to value the Cross which yields true life, than to value the apparent success of human talents and efforts.

9. It is more important to have an open soul - open to the community, the diocese, the universal Church - than a soul fixed on particular interests, no matter how important they may seem.

10. It is more important to witness to my faith than to be caught up in every demand that is made upon me.

A Visit To The Holy Mountain Athos

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Thomas Merton on Humility

“It is almost impossible to overestimate the value of true humility and its power in the spiritual life. For the beginning of humility is the beginning of blessedness and the consummation of humility is the perfection of all joy. Humility contains in itself the answer to all the great problems of the life of the soul. It is the only key to faith, with which the spiritual life begins: for faith and humility are inseparable. In perfect humility all selfishness disappears and your soul no longer lives for itself or in itself for God: and it is lost and submerged in Him and transformed into Him.” - from “New Seeds of Contemplation”

HIs Love is Greater

The following comes from Real Life Catholic:

Jesus continues the “shock factor” this Third Sunday of Lent in John 2:13-25. I wonder what it was like to see him overturn the tables in the temple, and then shout out words that no one understood, “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” He was referring to the temple of his body. They “got it” on Easter Sunday.

You’re a temple too, you know. St. Paul reminds us of that: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.”

You receive the Eucharist. You are a tabernacle. You’re sacred. God doesn’t hate our sins because he finds us disgusting. He hates our sin because it’s not worthy of us.

I’ll never forget when my son, Ethan, was first learning about modesty as a little boy. He saw a billboard of a half-clothed woman, looked up at me, and said “that’s gross, right dad?” “No, Ethan.” I said. “That’s not gross. That’s too sacred and too beautiful to be thrown on a billboard.”
This way of looking at our own sin is revolutionary: it should change us.

It brings us from a self-loathing to striving for fulfillment. From a negative guilt that tears us down to a positive repentance that builds us up. From seeing God as a condemning boss to a supportive father.

If you’re doing Lent as you should, you’ve been reflecting on ways you need to change to follow Jesus. Take a few minutes to examine your conscience this week, not with an eye toward your weaknesses, faults, and failings, but in light of the beauty and sacredness God sees in you.

You’re his temple, you know. And he’s passionate about cleansing you, because he loves you.

And with that great love in mind…don’t be afraid to run to him in the sacrament of confession. Confessions are offered at most parishes weekly, and at other special times at Penance Services throughout the Lenten season. (If you haven’t been for a while, don’t worry. It’s simple. The priest will guide you through it.)

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Arctic Light

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord

The following comes from the Women of Faith and Family site:

The Church's celebration of Epiphany ("manifestation), the "twelfth night of Christmas," apparently originated in Egypt sometime during the third century, thus the Church's celebration of this feast predates even the celebration of Christmas itself.

Epiphany is traditionally celebrated in honor of Christ's birth, of the adoration of the Magi, and of the baptism of Christ's (also celebrated on the first Sunday following Epiphany), three manifestations of the Lord's divinity.

Because the Magi came form the Orient, many of the traditional foods served on this day are spicy. Spice cake is often baked for dessert, and entrees may include curry powder or other pungent spices.
Several lovely family customs are associated with Epiphany. It is on Epiphany that the Christmas creche is finally completed, as the figures of the three wise men at last arrive at the crib. In many families, the wise men are moved a bit closer to the crib every day from Christmas Day until Epiphany. Also, recalling the gifts to the Infant Jesus, many families exchange small gifts.

A time-honored custom (especially in France) is the baking of a cake with a bean or trinket hidden inside. The person whose cake contains the bean is made king of the feast. Processions of robed and crowned "wise men" to the manger are fun for little ones, and provide them with an opportunity to think of a good deed that they can offer as a gift to Jesus.

The blessing of the home is also a popular Epiphany custom. using specially blessed chalk (your parish priest will bless the chalk, if you ask, or use the prayer of blessing below), many households mark their entrance door with the year and with the inscription CMB, the initial Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, the names of the three wise man in legend. The inscription also stands for Christus Mansionem Benedicat, which means "Christ, bless this home." The popular form the inscription takes is 20+C+M+B+03. It remains above the doorway until Pentecost.

In England, Twelfth Night was traditionally celebrated with a drink called Lamb's Wool, made of cider or ale, with roasted apples and sugar and spices. It was the custom to bless apple trees on that night by pouring a libation of cider on them.  For more go here.

Scripture and The Epiphany of the Lord

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:

In today’s Gospel, magi “from the east” ask, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?”  Just by asking this question, they herald the New Light that has dawned on all men.

Gospel (Read Mt 2:1-12)

Today, St. Matthew tells us that after Jesus’ birth, an event loaded with significance for the whole world took place.  “Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem,” looking for a king who had been recently born, the “king of the Jews.”  Who were these men, and why did they ask this question?
The “magi” were likely astrologers, considered at that time to be “wise men” because of their lifelong commitment to studying the skies and finding meaning in the cosmos.  They probably came from Persia, and they possibly were part of a school of wise men over which the Jewish prophet, Daniel, had been given authority hundreds of years earlier.  Daniel, as a young man, had been carried off by the Babylonians into exile, along with all the other Jews.   This was the punishment God meted out to Judah for her covenant infidelity in the sixth century B.C.  In that strange, pagan land, Daniel resolutely kept the faith of Israel, trusting in God as his only king and refusing to participate in the rampant idolatry.  God called Daniel to be His prophet there, and He also gave him an extraordinary gift of interpreting dreams and visions.  Daniel interpreted one of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams that no one else in the realm could understand.  In gratitude, the king made Daniel “chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon” (read Dan 2:48).  If this school of wise men endured through the centuries (Daniel never returned to Judah), it was still in existence at the time of our story, although Babylon had long ago been conquered by the Persians.  The school would likely have preserved a certain Jewish prophecy that would have been well-known to Daniel and of great interest to astrologers.  Why?
During the Exodus (about 1500 B.C.), as Israel was making her way back to the Promised Land from bondage in Egypt, one the kings who felt threatened by their advance commissioned a “seer” to pronounce a curse on the Israelites.  Instead, he was moved by God to bless them, and he was given “the vision of the Almighty,” as well as this prophecy:  “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not nigh:  a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (read Num 24:17).  Here we have a Gentile prophet moved by God’s Spirit to foretell the rise of a great king in Israel, but “not now.”  Every Jew knew this prophecy.  Every Jew also knew that, of Jacob’s twelve sons, the one who would rule with a “scepter” would be Judah:  “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs, and to him shall be the obedience of all the peoples” (read Gen 49:10, emphasis added).
We have to wonder if Daniel, the fearless, faithful Jewish prophet and wise man in Babylon, made sure to preserve these prophecies in the school over which he presided, because their fulfillment would affect not only Israel but “all the peoples.”  If so, hundreds of years after Daniel lived, the magi from the east, upon seeing an unusually bright star in the night sky, knew they needed to make the long trek to Jerusalem.  They wanted to pay homage to their newborn king.
See how disturbed Herod was by all this.  Surely that is because another part of the prophecy about the rising star was that “Edom will be dispossessed” (Num 24:18).  Herod was a non-Jew, an Edomite usurper to the throne in Jerusalem.  No wonder he was worried!  The wise men of Judah, when consulted by Herod concerning the place of the king’s birth, knew where to find him:  Bethlehem.  This, too, had been prophesied long ago (read Micah 5:2).  The magi made their way there, following the star.  It appeared to “stop” over one particular house, so they entered and saw “the Child with Mary, His mother.”  They saw the fulfillment of the promise God had made to all people, not just the Jews, in the Garden of Eden.  There He promised that “the woman” and her “seed” would take up, definitively, the battle waged against mankind by His enemy, the Serpent.  The magi “prostrated themselves and did Him homage.”
Of course they did!
Possible response:  Lord Jesus, the magi brought You wonderful gifts in their adoration for You.  What can I give You today that is worthy to do the same?

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Friday, January 4, 2019

St. Elizabeth Seton & The Eucharist

The following comes from Catholic Exchange:

The Holy Eucharist was the focal point of St. Elizabeth’s conversion.
After witnessing the widespread and warm devotion to the Eucharist during her stay in Italy, she found herself inextricably drawn to the Blessed Sacrament. After her first Communion, the Eucharist became the cornerstone of her remaining 16 years of life.
From the Liturgy of the Hours:
Elizabeth Seton was born on August 28, 1774, of a wealthy and distinguished Episcopalian family. She was baptized in the Episcopal faith and was a faithful adherent of the Episcopal Church until her conversion to Catholicism. In 1794, Elizabeth married. William Seton and they reared five children amid suffering and sickness. Elizabeth and her sick husband traveled to Leghorn, Italy, and there William died. While in Italy Elizabeth became acquainted with Catholicism and in 1805 she made her profession of faith in the Catholic Church. She established her first Catholic school in Baltimore in 1808; in 1809, she established a religious community in Emmitsburg, Maryland: Having watched her small community of teaching sisters expand to New York, and as far as Saint Louis, she died on January 4, 1821, and was declared a saint by Pope Paul VI on September 14, 1975 .
Elizabeth was always very concerned  about the eternal destiny of her many loved ones, and she would try to direct the attention of dying friends to the next life. Fear and concern for her own and her children’s eternal destiny, and desire for eternity, were always before her mind; these motives would eventually lead her into the Catholic Church.
Due to her husband’s illness and having had it recommended that he go to another climate, Elizabeth and William Seton had traveled to Italy to visit some business friends. But the change in climate did not grant the hoped for cure and William died in Italy.
At this time in her life Elizabeth was assisted by the Filicchi brothers, who were impressed by the young widow’s beautiful soul. The Catholic Filicchis-Antonio and Filippo (and his wife Amabilia)-were the embodiment of kindness and consideration for Elizabeth. She wrote to a friend, “Oh, my! The patience and more than human kindness of these dear Filicchis for us! You would say it was our Savior Himself they received in His poor and sick strangers.” During this time in Italy, Elizabeth became interested in the Catholic Faith, and over a period of months the Filicchis guided her in Catholic instructions and one brother accompanied her home to America.
When her friends in New York realized that Elizabeth meant to convert to Catholicism, they rushed to re-instruct her in the Epis­copalian faith. Especially poignant were the conversations she had with the minister Mr. Hobart, a forceful and intelligent man, elo­quent preacher and friend of Elizabeth, who used many arguments to dissuade her from conversion. Filippo Filicchi, on the other hand, gave her Catholic books to read and tried to impress on Elizabeth her obligation of making a serious investigation and search for the true religion. A year of uncertainty and inner anguish for Elizabeth followed.
Elizabeth’s desire for the Bread of Life was to be a strong force in bringing  her to the Catholic Church. To her dear sister-in-law Re­, her “Soul’s Sister,” she wrote, “How happy would we be, believed what these dear souls believe: that they possess God the Sacrament, and that He remains in their churches and is to them when they are sick! … The other day, in a moment of excessive distress, I fell on my knees without thinking when  the Blessed Sacrament passed by, and cried in an agony to God to bless me, if He was there-that my whole soul desired only Him.”
Having lost her mother at an early age, Elizabeth felt great comfort in the idea that the Blessed Virgin was truly her mother. She asked the Blessed Virgin to guide her to the True Faith. Elizabeth was also attracted to the Catholic teaching that suffering can expiate sins.
Elizabeth also noticed the difference between Catholic and non­Catholic deathbeds. She wrote to Mrs. Filicchi that in assisting at non-Catholic deaths, “I go through an agony never to be described;’ while a Catholic dying person is consoled and strength­ened by every help of religion, and the priest, “the one you call Father of your soul, attends and watches it in the weakness and trials of parting nature with the same care you and I watch our little infant’s body in its first struggles … on its entrance into life.”
Finally, after much interior anguish, Elizabeth decided, “I will go peaceably and firmly to the Catholic Church: for if faith is so important to our salvation, I will seek it where true Faith first began, seek it among those who received it from God Himself.” She looked forward with great anticipation to receiving the Sacra­ments for the first time, saying she would even be ready to make her confession “on the housetops” in return for absolution.
After her First Communion she wrote, “At last…at last, GOD IS MINE AND I AM HIS! Now, let all go its round-I Have Received Him.”
Thus Elizabeth finally joined the Catholic Church in 1805. When her sister-in-law converted to Catholicism, Elizabeth became the object of suspicion and distrust, so it became very difficult for her to remain in New York; this city, like most places in the young American nation, was decidedly prejudiced against Catholicism. During her few remaining years in New York Elizabeth tried to establish several ventures in order to become self-supporting, but they all failed.
The president of St. Mary’s College in Baltimore suggested that Elizabeth come and start a school in that city. A natural teacher, Elizabeth gladly accepted the chance to educate and to spread Faith. She added religion to the curriculum at St. Mary’s, and s two other young women came to help with her work.  This would eventually evolve into the formation of a Sisterhood known as the Sisters of Charity.  There would be many trials and personal sorrows and difficulties but placing her trust in the will of God, Mother Seton grew in holiness.  She died on January 4, 1821 and later would be the first natural-born American Saint, being canonized in 1975.
Some sayings of the Saint:
We must pray without ceasing, in every occurrence and employment of our lives – that prayer which is rather a habit of lifting up the heart to God as in a constant communication with Him.
What was the first rule of our dear Savior’s life? You know if was to do his Father’s will. Well, then, the first purpose of our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly, to do it in the manner he wills; and thirdly, to do it because it is his will.
We know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life. We know that he gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

A Quote from Archbishop Fulton Sheen

“Never forget that there are only two philosophies to rule your life: the one of the cross, which starts with the fast and ends with the feast. The other of Satan, which starts with the feast and ends with the headache.” 

                                   Archbishop Fulton Sheen