30 May 2009

Dominica Pentecosten -- Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2:1-11
, a Jewish festival mandated by the Law of Moses is the root of the Christian celebration of Pentecost. Shavuot commemorates the day when on Mount Sinai the Torah was given to the Jewish people. In Scripture it is called the "festival of weeks" (cf. Exodus 34:22 & Deuteronomy 16:10). It is also labeled the "feast of the harvest" (cf. Exodus 23:16) and the "day of firstfruits" (cf. Numbers 28:26). Pentecost or "Pentekoste," the transliterated word from the Greek, means "the fiftieth" and is linked to Shavuot because Pentecost arrives fifty days after Easter, although literally celebrated on the forty-ninth day; and Shavuot recalls the Torah being given on Mount Sinai fifty days after Israel's departure from the land of Egypt. It is actually during Shavuot "when the time for Pentecost was fulfilled".

Blessed Columba Marmion wrote: "The Holy Spirit appeared under the form of tongues of fire in order to fill the apostles with truth and to prepare them to bear witness to Jesus. He also came to fill their hearts with love. He is the Person of Love in the life of God. He is also like a breath, an aspiration of infinite Love, from which we draw the breath of life. On the day of Pentecost the Divine Spirit communicated such an abundance of life to the whole Church that to symbolize it 'there came a sound from heaven, as of a violent wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they [the apostles] were sitting.' The Holy Spirit came to remain with the Church forever. This is the promise of Jesus Himself. He dwells in the Church permanently and unfailingly, performing in it without ceasing, His action of life-giving and sanctification. He establishes the Church infallibly in the truth. It is He Who makes the Church blossom forth with a marvelous supernatural fruitfulness, for He brings to life and full fruition in Virgins, Martyrs, Confessors, those heroic virtues which are one of the marks of true sanctity" (Les Mysteres du Rosaire). To expound a little on Blessed Columba's thoughts about the tongues of fire preparing the apostles to bear witness to Jesus, the image of tongues perhaps more specifically points to the power that would be prevalent in the apostles' preaching. Also coming to mind is a statement made by Saint John the Baptist: "He [Christ] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Luke 3:16).

Our liturgical text reads that the tongues "parted" which means that before the parting they were together indicating the unity the Holy Spirit would give to the Church; and then by parting intimates the dispersion of the Good News to all nations and peoples. The universality of the Church is revealed by the many nations and languages present and yet all understanding the proclamations "of the mighty acts of God".

Acts 1:14 indicates that the Blessed Virgin Mary was present in the Upper Room. If there was ever a time the ancient world needed a mother's assurance and love, this was it. Jesus is no longer physically present to the apostles. It was surely a stressful time; but they were all "persevering with one mind in prayer" (Acts 1:14). Perhaps it was the Blessed Virgin Mary who opened their hearts to prayer. She did, after all, exemplify trust in God at the Annunciation: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).

Pope John Paul II shared these words: "In the atmosphere of expectation that prevailed in the Upper Room after the Ascension, what was Mary's position in relation to the descent of the Holy Spirit? Having already had a unique experience of the effectiveness of such a gift, the Blessed Virgin was in a condition to appreciate it more than anyone; indeed, she owed her Motherhood to the mysterious intervention of the Spirit, Who had made her the way by which the Savior came into the world. Unlike those in the Upper Room who were waiting in fearful expectation, she, fully aware of the importance of her Son's promise to the disciples, helped the community to be well disposed to the coming of the Paraclete. Thus, while her unique experience made her ardently long for the Spirit's coming, it also involved her in preparing the minds and hearts of those around her. It was appropriate that the first out pouring of the Spirit upon her, which had happened in view of her divine Motherhood, should be repeated and reinforced. Indeed, at the foot of the Cross Mary was entrusted with a new Motherhood, which concerned Jesus' disciples. It was precisely this mission that demanded a renewed gift of the Spirit. The Blessed Virgin therefore wanted it for the fruitfulness of her spiritual Motherhood. While at the moment of the Incarnation the Holy Spirit had descended upon her as a person called to take part worthily in the great mystery, every thing is now accomplished for the sake of the Church, whose Image, Model and Mother Mary is called to be. Thus Pentecost is also a fruit of the Blessed Virgin's incessant prayer, which is accepted by the Paraclete with special favor because it is an expression of her Motherly love for the Lord's disciples. Responding to the prayer of the Blessed Virgin and the community gathered in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit bestows the fullness of His gifts on the Blessed Virgin and those present, working a deep transformation in them for the sake of spreading the Good News. The Mother of Christ and His disciples are granted new strength and new apostolic energy for the Church's growth" (L'Osservatore Romano, June 4, 1997).

1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13
What Saint Paul is trying to impress upon us is that "different kinds of spiritual gifts" or "different forms of service" or "different workings" should not cause division. We are a great diversity of people called to unity. The physical body and its "many parts" is useful imagery for trying to understand the mystical body. Saint Paul uses the word "different" three times in this short Reading. We are all different – in fact, we are all unique. No two people are exactly the same. God produces spiritual gifts in each of us and calls us to service for the sake of the entire mystical body.

Saint Ambrose very directly taught: "Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God's Presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with His sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed His pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts" (De mysteriis). The need to guard anything suggests that it could escape or be taken away.

Our Savior tells us that whosoever shall drink of the water which He gives, it shall become a well of water springing up unto everlasting life (cf. John 4:14). Saint Paul tells us in the Reading that this drink is the Spirit. Once again, Saint Ambrose continues with that thought and adds: "This well is clearly the grace of the Spirit, a stream proceeding from the living Fount. The Holy Spirit, then, is also the Fount of eternal life" (ibid.).

John 20:19-23
Our Lord's appearance through locked doors might seem like forced entry and thus incompatible with Love. But God knows our hearts, therefore, our Savior not only loves with a boundless love all those who are on the other side of the door, but He also knows that they love Him and it is out of fear that the doors are locked. In the spiritual life perhaps there are aspects of it in which we have locked the doors of our hearts. Sacramentally, here are some common things that are said: "I can't go to Confession and tell Father what I have done – what will he think of me?" Or, "The priest is just a man, what do I need him for? Can't I just go directly to God?!"

Back in 1947 there was a rather humorous movie titled: "Life with Father". The film centers on a turn of the century upper-class family in New York. The eccentric husband and his wife are the parents of five sons. It is discovered early on in the film that the father had never been baptized. From that point on his family keeps gnawing at him to get baptized even though he is dead set against it. In the end when he finally agrees or actually is kind of tricked into it, as the mother gathers up her five children in order for the family to hop on a horse and carriage and head off to church to get their father baptized, the father asks somewhat angrily, "Must the children witness this indignity?"

The sacraments were instituted by our Savior; and as far as entertaining thoughts of: "There must be another way," only Jesus knows. Even the father in the film in his wishful thinking boldly said: "They can't keep me out of heaven on a technicality!" All we know by means of Scripture and Tradition is how Jesus architected the dispersing of grace and our Lord's specific design for Reconciliation is revealed in this Gospel: "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." When adult baptism is seen as undignified or the many excuses that arise for avoiding Confession, perhaps it is a sign that there are hearts with locked doors. And it doesn't mean that God is loved less because of our excuses or fears of embarrassment or the fear of emptying ourselves to a priest.

The more attention that one gives to the spiritual life, the more one realizes that we're all in a war zone. The battle for the human soul is waged all around us nonstop. The third chapter of the Book of Genesis tells us that the serpent is the craftiest of all; and original sin has already inflicted us with a disease that is adamant about being in control of everything ourselves. Knowing that, it's quite convenient for the serpent to bombard us with the thought of: "Did God really say…?" (Genesis 3:1).

Jesus touches us through His Holy Spirit and challenges us to meditate on "His Hands and His Side". This is Almighty God Who stands before us with these Wounds. From a human perspective, shouldn't our Lord feel undignified or embarrassed? A deep absorption into these Wounds, however, will undoubtedly disclose that love is the reason for them – and love conquers all. In this Gospel the apostles get that. Don't forget they love Him too as we love Him; and what should have been a room full of uncomfortable looking faces staring at this marred Man, instead there was rejoicing. Since they love Jesus, if the doors of their hearts locked Him out because of the shame of abandoning Him, Jesus, because there is mutual love, is able by His Divine Power to go through those locked doors.

In our own fears of embarrassment, shame, mockery or just the struggle to surrender our will to God, which can make fulfilling the mission of being sent an obstacle, as long as Jesus is loved, He will in His own time appear through those locked doors. If we're willing to keep fighting the good fight in this life full of distractions and temptations, the day will come when we will close our eyes to this world and finally gaze upon the Face we have been seeking our whole life and He may say: "Peace be with you." And then what will follow is an undeniable assurance that this Peace will remain with us uninterrupted for all eternity.

Devotion To Our Blessed Mother Is Necessary

Many of us Catholics are rather loyal about our devotional practices to our Blessed Lady. The Rosary perhaps has the highest percentage of usage of all Marian devotions in this day and age. Having a devotion to a Mother so tender and gentle, so loving, we might define as a joy and a privilege. Blessed Columba Marmion, OSB, however, in his work, “Christ the Life of the Soul,” has defined it as “important” and “necessary.”

In His Image

Jesus is the Son of God and the Son of Mary; thus, if we are to be like Him, as Blessed Columba Marmion explains, “we must bear within us that twofold quality.” We are sons and daughters of God by means of adoption, and we are sons and daughters of the Blessed Virgin Mary by means of what occurred at the Cross.

Mary’s Absence In The Spiritual Life Is Not Christian

The Blessed Virgin is the “Mother of the Incarnate Word” and dismissing her from “our loving devotion is to divide Christ.” When the Virgin Mother is dismissed from the spiritual life, what will follow is that we will no longer comprehend the Son. Jesus is our Savior and our Brother. He is God and Man. He has a Divine Nature and a Human Nature. How can we respond to the call to be the sons and daughters of Mary, as Jesus is in His Human Nature, “without having a special devotion to her… from whom He takes this Human Nature?”

Marian Devotionals Are Pleasing To the Lord

Blessed Columba Marmion advises us to stick with whatever Marian devotional practices we already have in our spiritual life and not weigh ourselves down with more. “Stay faithful to what has been chosen.” The Lord delights in the daily homage given to His Mother.

Without Mary, Christ Does Not Enter Into the World

By God’s design, Mary and Jesus are inseparable. “Mary in fact belongs to the very essence of the mystery of Christ.” She is the Mother of Him Who is our all in all. Life and Divine grace come to us only through Jesus Christ. There is, however, only one means by which Jesus was given to the world, and that is Mary. Jesus, the Source of grace, is the Incarnate Word. He is the Christ and the Mediator which “remains inseparable from His Human Nature,” which He received from the Blessed Virgin.

No One Is Closer To Jesus Than Mary

Saint Thomas Aquinas explains: “The closer something is to its source, the more it experiences the effects produced by this source. The closer you get to the fire on the hearth, the more you feel the heat that radiates from it. Christ is the Source of grace, seeing that He is the Author of it as God, and the Instrument of it as Man; and as the Virgin has been the creature closest to the Humanity of Christ, the Virgin has received from Christ a higher grace than that of any other creature. As Man, Christ was predestined and chosen in order that, being the Son of God, He might have the power to sanctify all men. Consequently, He was to possess – He alone possessed – a fullness such as could overflow on to every soul. The fullness of grace the Blessed Virgin received had as its purpose to make her the creature closest to the Author of grace; so close, indeed, that the Virgin contained within her womb Him Who is full of grace, and in giving Him to the world by childbirth she, so to speak, gave the world grace itself, because she gave to the world the Source of grace.”

Go To Mary, Go To Mary, Go to Mary!

Blessed Columba Marmion continues by saying that if we desire “to draw in large measure from the wellspring of Divine life, go to Mary. No one can bring us nearer to Jesus than her because she is the closest to Jesus. She is indeed the Mother of Divine Grace.

The Mother Of Those Who Live By The Grace Of Her Son

Jesus “has associated His Mother with all His mysteries” from His Presentation in the Temple to His Crucifixion. But why? Christ is “the Exemplar of our supernatural life,” our sanctification was made possible because of the price He paid, creating for Him brothers and sisters who would resemble Him and be with Him for all eternity. Mary is the Mother of all the living. Jesus lived His mysteries in Mary because He wished to establish His brothers and sisters. Mary responded to this with her Fiat, fully submitting to the will of God. Her “yes” to God’s Incarnation was a unique “yes” to His plan of Redemption because she not only agreed to be the Mother of God but also enter into Christ’s whole mission. To each one of Christ’s mysteries she renewed her “so be it” with complete love and trust all the way till she would echo with Jesus, “It is completed!”

29 May 2009

Having A Eucharistic Soul

Here are some of the always-inspiring reflections of Saint Peter Julian Eymard. The Apostle of the Eucharist very briefly addresses here (and more extensively in other writings) distractions, something that burdens most of us from time to time. Our Lady, though, is the perfect Adorer; and when she is a permanent resident of our interior life, she stands guard at the door of the inner temple, and turns away anything that seeks to disrupt our Adoration of her Son.

The spirit of Eucharistic love will make you refer everything to the Holy Eucharist, for the Eucharist is the summary of all marvels. It is the permanent mystery in which we find all others. If you have this Eucharistic spirit, if your thoughts are tuned continually toward the Eucharist, the Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament will never leave you. God is immense, the universe is filled with God's Presence, but the Eucharistic soul prefers to search and find God where He is sacramentally.

Our Lord so loved us that He could not separate Himself from us, even in His state of glory. The Eucharist is His Incarnation continued, multiplied, perpetuated till the end of time.

You must live from within your heart in the goodness of the Eucharistic Jesus. Yours must be a nobly passionate love, which surrenders everything in one act of giving.

Dwell within, recollect your inner spirit, be in control of yourself, recollect yourself from external things to those within, put the world aside. Withdraw with Jesus in your heart, where He is inspiring your soul, speaking to it in an interior language which love alone hears and understands.

Be a disciple of prayer, because without prayer there is no habitual union with God. You need a type of prayer which is suited to your temperament, your situation, your inner inclination, consequently, your heart. Speak simply and candidly to our Lord. Let it be an interior conversation with God more than a work of the mind. Then, a scattered, distracted meditation will come together, because it will express all the thoughts and needs of your heart.

The object of Eucharistic adoration is the Divine Person of our Lord Jesus Christ present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. He is living there. He wants us to speak to Him, and He will speak to us.

Look upon the hour of Adoration… as an hour in Paradise. Go to your Adoration as one would to heaven, to the Divine Banquet. You will then long for that hour and hail it with joy. Take delight in fostering a longing for it in your heart. Tell yourself, "In four hours, in two hours, in one hour, our Lord will give me an audience of grace and love. He has invited me; He is waiting for me; He is longing for me."

Go to our Lord just as you are. Be natural in your meditation. He wants the thought and prayer of that heart as the genuine expression of its love for Him.

It may be that we do not want to go to our Lord because we are ashamed of our misery and wretchedness: that is the fruit of subtle self-love, impatience, or cowardice. Our Lord prefers our helplessness to everything else; He is pleased with it and blesses it.

The love of Jesus Christ reaches its highest perfection and produces the richest harvest of graces in the ineffable union He contracts with the soul in Holy Communion. Therefore, by every desire for goodness, holiness, and perfection that piety, the virtues, and love can inspire in us, we are bound to direct our course toward this union, toward frequent and even daily Communion.

Holy Communion must become the thought that dominates mind and heart; it must be the aim of all study, of piety, of the virtues; the receiving of Jesus must be the goal as well as the law of life.

Let us perfect ourselves in order to receive Communion worthily and let us live with a constant view to Communion.

28 May 2009

The Immortality Of The Soul

There is but one Being that is absolutely immortal, One alone that is everlasting, that has no beginning, that will have no end – and that Being is God.

Let us now look at man. What a strange contrast is presented by his physical and spiritual natures. What a mysterious compound of corruption and incorruption, of ignominy and glory, of weakness and strength, of matter and mind! He has a body that must be nourished twice or thrice a day, else it will grow faint and languid. It is subject to infirmities and sickness and disease, and it must finally yield to the inevitable law of death.

Let us now contemplate man’s spiritual nature. In a mortal body, he carries an immortal soul. In this perishable mass, resides an imperishable spirit. Within this frail, tottering temple, shines a light that will always burn, that will never be extinguished. As to the past, we are finite; as to the future, we are infinite in duration. As to the past, we are creatures of yesterday; as to the future, we are everlasting. When this house of clay will have crumbled to dust, when this earth shall have passed away, when the sun and stars shall grow dim with years, even then our soul will live and think, remember and love; for God breathed into us a living spirit, and that spirit, like Himself, is clothed with immortality.

The soul is the principle by which we live and move and have our being. It is that which forms and perpetuates our identity; for it makes us to be the same yesterday, today, and forever. The soul has intellectual conceptions and operations of reason and judgment independent of material organs. We think of God and of His attributes… we know the difference between good and evil. Such a principle being independent of matter in its operations, must be independent of matter also in its being. It is therefore, of its nature, subject to no corruption resulting from matter. Its life, which is its being, is not extinguished and cannot be extinguished with that of the body.

All nations… both ancient and modern… have believed in the immortality of the soul, how much so ever they have differed as to the nature of future rewards and punishments, or the mode of future existence.

Now, whence comes this universal belief in man’s immortality? We must… conclude that a sentiment so general and deep-rooted must have been planted in the human breast by Almighty God, just as He has implanted in us an instinctive love for truth and justice, and an inveterate abhorrence of falsehood and injustice.

Not only has mankind a firm belief in the immortality of the soul, but there is inborn in every human breast a desire for perfect felicity. This desire is so strong in man that it is the mainspring of all his actions, the engine that keeps in motion the machinery of society. Even when he commits acts that lead him to misery, he does so under the mistaken notion, that he is consulting his own happiness.

Now God would never have planted in the human heart this craving after perfect felicity, unless He had intended that the desire should be fully gratified; for He never designed that man should be the sport of vain and barren hopes. He never creates anything in vain; but He would have created something to no purpose if He had given us the thirst for perfect bliss without imparting to us the means of assuaging it. As He has given us bodily eyes to view and enjoy the objects of nature around us, so has He given us an interior perspective of immortal bliss, that we may yearn for it now and enjoy it hereafter.

It is clear that this desire for perfect happiness never is and never can be fully realized in this present life.

Can earthly goods adequately satisfy the cravings of the human heart and fill up the measures of its desires? Experience proves the contrary. One might have… wealth… and yet this happiness would be far from complete; for he would still be oppressed by the desire for greater riches, or haunted by the fear of losing what he has acquired, or being torn from it by death.

Can honors fully gratify the aspirations of the soul? No. Honors bring corresponding cares. The more brilliant and precious the crown, the more heavily it presses on the brow that wears it.

I have conversed with the President and the Pope in their private apartments; and I am convinced that their exalted position, far from satisfying the aspirations of their soul, did but fill them with a profound sense of their grave responsibility.

Can earthly pleasures make one so happy as to leave nothing to be desired? Assuredly not. They that indulge in sensual gratifications are forced to acknowledge that the deeper they plunge into them, the more they are enslaved and the less they are satiated by them. The keen edge of delight soon becomes blunted.

We find great comfort in this life in the society of loving friends and relatives. But how frail is the thread that binds friends and kindred together! The bond may be broken by treachery; it must be broken by death. This thought haunts like a specter, and casts its dark shadow over the social and family circle.

Another source of exquisite delight is found in the pursuit of knowledge. And this pleasure is more pure, more solid, and more lasting than sensual gratifications, because it is rational. But the acquisition of knowledge, though attended with great labor, far from satisfying our desires, only sharpens our appetite for more information, and makes us more conscious of our ignorance. The higher we ascend the mount of knowledge, the broader becomes our view of the vast fields of science that still remain uncultivated by us.

What must be the bliss of those that, for all eternity, will explore without toil the boundless ocean of Divine Truth!

But the greatest consolation attainable in this life is found in the pursuit and practice of virtue. And if there is any tranquility of mind, any delight of soul, any joy of spirit, any pure consolation of heart, and interior sunshine, it is shared by those that are zealous in the fulfillment of God’s law, that have preserved their innocence from youth, or have regained it by sincere repentance. But this consolation arises from the well-founded hope of future bliss rather than from the actual fulfillment of our desires. They rejoice because, though in exile during this short night of time, they hope to dwell in their true country during the great eternity of tomorrow. Take from them this hope, and the sunshine in their heart will soon be changed to gloom.

Now, if God has given us a desire for perfect felicity, which He intends to be one day fully gratified; and if this felicity, as we have seen cannot be found in the present life, it must be reserved for the time to come. And as no intelligent being can be contented with any happiness that is finite in duration, we must conclude that it will be eternal, and that, consequently, the soul is immortal. Life that is not to be crowned with immortality is not worth living.

James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore from 1877 to 1921.

27 May 2009

The Desert Experience

The prophet Jeremiah idealized the desert experience of the Israelites. For him, it was not their worst time but their best. He expressed it in poetic terms:

I remember the devotion of your youth,
how you loved me as a bride.
Following me in the desert,
in a land unknown. (Jeremiah 2:2)

Not that he or other inspired writers neglected to point out the contrast between verdant pastures and gardens, on the one hand, and arid wastelands and solitude, on the other. In fact, it was solitude and the absence of distractions that gave the desert its distinct beauty. It was there that God alone mattered. It was into the desert that the Lord would allure His beloved. “I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart.” (Hosea 2:16)

We still speak today of “the desert experience” and recognize its value. Inevitably, poets, the most introspective of all people, express it best. “The world is too much with us,” Wordsworth wrote. Jesus led His disciples off into quiet places from time to time, as important as it was for Him and for them to be with people, to address crowds and to heal those sick in body, heart and soul.

The desert experience is something everyone can know and, in fact, must have, to one degree or another. It is not desertion. The irony is that people who are surrounded by noise and constantly active are the ones who feel deserted. It is in solitude that the soul can listen and be alone with God. It is in solitude that we are least alone.

The Church has always known that the desert experience, inner peace, quiet prayer, silence, contemplation are essential components of a devout Christian’s spiritual life. They are needed though unfortunately too often neglected in our Liturgies. They are essential in our private prayer. And they are the principal features of the contemplative life.

Most Reverend Frank J. Rodimer

Come Unto Us!

Recently there was an article explaining that Pope Benedict XVI has called priests to be Saints. All of us are called to be Saints but the grace of priesthood is likely akin to the Scripture verse: “Whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required” (Luke 12:48). Part of this process begins with the laity restoring in their own hearts, minds and souls the dignity of priesthood. Certainly the scandals are part of the reason for the decline in trust and perhaps the secularization of our culture has also contributed. May we pray for our priests daily, and for our own peace of mind concerning the call on their lives from our Savior! Our Holy Father said that priests should be “men of intense prayer who cultivate a communion of love and life with the Lord.” May it be so! Here are some wonderful words from the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman:

If there be those here present, my dear brethren, who will not believe that grace is effectual within the Church, because it does little outside of it, to them I do not speak: I speak to those who do not narrow their belief to their experience; I speak to those who admit that grace can make human nature what it is not; and such persons, I think, will feel it, not a cause of jealousy and suspicion, but a great gain, a great mercy, that those are sent to preach to them, to receive their confessions, and to advise them, who can sympathize with their sins, even though they have not known them.

Not a temptation, my brethren, can befall you, but what befalls all those who share your nature, though you may have yielded to it, and they may not have yielded. They can understand you, they can anticipate you, they can interpret you, though they have not kept pace with you in your course. They will be tender to you, they will “instruct you in the spirit of meekness” (cf. Galatians 6:1), as the Apostle says, “considering themselves lest they also be tempted” (ibid.).

Come then unto us, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and ye shall find rest to your souls; come unto us, who now stand to you in Christ’s stead, and who speak in Christ’s Name; for we too, like you, have been saved by Christ’s all-saving Blood. We too, like you, should be lost sinners, unless Christ had had mercy on us, unless His grace had cleansed us, unless His Church had received us, unless His Saints had interceded for us.

Be ye saved, as we have been saved; “come, listen, all ye that fear God, and we will tell you what He hath done for our souls” (cf. Psalm 65 [66]:16). Listen to our testimony; behold our joy of heart, and increase it by partaking in it yourselves. Choose that good part which we have chosen; join ye yourselves to our company; it will never repent you, take our word for it, who have a right to speak, it will never repent you to have sought pardon and peace from the Catholic Church; it will never repent you, though you go through trouble, though you have to give up much for her sake. It will never repent you, to have passed from the shadows of sense and time, and the deceptions of human feeling and false reason, to the glorious liberty of the sons of God.

And O, my brethren, when you have taken the great step, and stand in your blessed lot, as sinners reconciled to the Father you had offended, O then forget not those who have been the ministers of your reconciliation; and as they now pray you to make your peace with God, so do you, when reconciled, pray for them, that they may gain the great gift of perseverance, that they may continue to stand in the grace in which they trust they stand now, even till the hour of death, lest, perchance, after they have preached to others, they themselves become reprobate.

26 May 2009

And I Will Raise Him Up...

As we get ever closer to the start of the “Year for Priests,” today the Church’s liturgical calendar presents to us a marvelous example of priestly ministry -- Saint Philip Neri. He was born in the year 1515 in Firenze. He lived a life of penance in service to the Lord as a parish priest.

Among those to whom he gave spiritual direction was the well-known composer, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, who perhaps is the greatest composer of liturgical music the world has ever known.

Saint Philip Neri loved children, and among his interests in patristics, liturgical and Church history, he was also an encourager of catechesis for the youth; and in Rome was a tutor to the children of Florentine nobility.

Even before entering the priesthood, Saint Philip Neri was exemplary in the practice of Eucharistic Adoration. In fact, as a layman he was a great adherer to the Forty Hours devotion which he continued to practice in his priesthood. How many faithful priests do we read about that were devoted to the practice of Eucharistic Adoration! It’s a mainstay to faithful priestly ministry; and really, it’s necessary for anyone desiring intimacy with the Most Holy Trinity.

When we think of great Confessors, most of us likely think of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina or Saint Jean Marie Vianney. At the time, the residents of Rome had sort of a laissez-faire attitude towards the Sacrament of Confession. But Saint Philip Neri was a lover of souls and was very influential in restoring frequent reception of the sacrament to that city. So much was his zeal for souls and the sacraments, it became necessary for him to spend as many hours in the Confessional as the aforementioned saints. Some of this time of hearing confessions was spent in his own living quarters. It is said that he would leave the key to his quarters by the door in the event that someone needed to make a confession at an unusual time in the twenty-four hour day. His long hours of hearing confessions is linked to his love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. He wanted everyone to be cleansed in the Sacrament of Confession, that they may receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist worthily and with great devotion and love.

When there were no penitents, Saint Philip Neri would often spend that time sitting nearby the Confessional doing some spiritual reading, praying the Rosary, or praying the Divine Office, which he loved. Again, great practices and examples for faithful priestly ministry! Some of his penitents became rather holy themselves. They would sometimes meet with Father Philip, discuss some spiritual work, which was often from the writings of Saint John Cassian. After these gatherings they would take a nightly stroll to a church and assist with the hour of Matins.

He laid the foundation for the Congregation of the Oratory. These were meetings for those who desired to grow in Christian perfection. They have been described as meetings consisting of mental prayer, spiritual reading and discussion, the lives of the saints, Sacred Scripture, and concluding with the singing of hymns and prayer. It was Saint Philip Neri’s wish that priests of the Congregation say Mass everyday, as well as hear confessions on Wednesdays, Fridays and Feast days.

And now, Saint Philip Neri, the mystic! Going into ecstasy was quite common for him during the Sacrifice of the Mass. He actually found this kind of embarrassing and tried to hide these mystical graces. He would go into ecstasy at the mentioning of the Name “Jesus”. He would spend hours in mystical thanksgiving after receiving our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. And at the most intense moments of mystical grace, Saint Philip Neri would levitate above the altar during the celebration of Mass. Levitation, although quite unusual, is not exclusive to this great saint. Among others who experienced this higher grace include: Saint Joseph of Cupertino, Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Thomas Aquinas, to name only a handful.

Unfortunately for Saint Philip Neri, as he got older, he was not permitted to say Mass publicly because these ecstasies took its toll on him physically.

He is a role model for priests and anyone seeking to grow in their relationship with the Lord, because Saint Philip Neri was a man of prayer. Included in his devotional life was a most innocent and childlike love for the Blessed Mother.

Saint Philip Neri, pray for us!

25 May 2009

On Retreat With The M.O.P.

The following is a talk given to lay retreatants by Father Richard Ho Lung, Founder of the Missionaries of the Poor, an international monastic order serving the poorest of the poor. Any Christian who is serious about their walk with the Lord might find this talk prodding them to an earnest self-assessment/examination of their spiritual life.

“He who does not take up his cross and follow Me daily is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:38). Now, the cross, we dilute that. We believe that taking up the cross means: I rise in the morning, switch on the television to see the latest news, go to work, and week after week becomes the same as every other week. My salary goes up on a yearly basis, then, move on and do more business, and so forth, and so forth.

But we’re talking about a cross! Saint Paul is very careful in distinguishing between a worldly cross and the Cross of Christ, which is the burden of the spiritual and moral life. There’s a cross of food and clothing. Those are basics, but we can put too much attention to that, as we know. But then there is the more important matter – the Cross of Jesus Christ, the building of a new world, a Kingdom that lasts forever. The burden of knowing God’s will for you echoes in your heart, in your mind and in your soul. God’s love for you is a great Cross! It’s very burdensome when the Lord loves you! When He loves you, He consumes you! He wants more and more from you! He wants to test your faith. How much do you love Him? How much will you reject the world in order to build the Kingdom of God? That’s what He wants to see in you. How great is your faith?

The cross of the world will never stop because people are never rich enough, and people are never secure enough. I’ve never heard a rich man saying that he has enough; and I’ve never met a person saying that they’re secure enough in life. It’s a chimera; it’s a dream. There are always worries and difficulties in life. There are always challenges in the world. But when do we cut that out and say: “You know, there will always be difficulties?” My window needs fixing, my stove is not right, my bed is creaking, the walls need painting, my insurance is about to run out, so forth and so on. My car needs updating; my health insurance may need to be upgraded. All these things happen, but then finally, that’s the nature of the world.

This body of ours will always be deteriorating. That’s a fact of life! How much are you going to attend to it? We lose our beauty. How much attention are we going to give to our physical beauty? -- The shape of our body, the color of our hair, the pencil on our brow, and so forth. How much attention are we going to give to that? And how much attention are we going to give to this Cross of Christ, which is self-forgetfulness? People who spend too much time on their bodies – it’s very obvious. They’re crying out: “Me! Here I am,” calling out for attention, “tell me that I look young and beautiful! Tell me that I look handsome, although I’m sixty or seventy years old, tell me that! I need to hear that!”

For the Christian, however, is that we become transformed by Christ, so that, when people look at you, they see Christ. The growth is in Christ – your language, your action, your work, your concern – Christ! Christ! Christ! No one else but Christ! And the beauty that we believe in is spiritual beauty that rises from our souls, when we’re one with God and at rest with God within ourselves. When we pray, when we meditate daily, quietly, alone by yourselves – that’s a choice you can make. Don’t let the world drive you! Don’t let yourselves become slaves to the world! We live in a free world, and yet we’re not so free. We’re almost incarcerated by the demands of the world.

Are we free men and free women as Christians? What is the state of my soul, brothers and sisters? Do you feel that you belong to God everyday? Do you really sense that the Lord is with you all day long? Does He possess me? Do I belong to Him? Is He intimate with me daily? Do I really spend that honeymoon in time, which is prayer with Him? Do I meditate when I go to bed? Is He in my mind? Is He in my heart? What do I want in life? Is it the Lord? Will I pursue Him as He pursues me? Will I give in to Him? Will I yield to Him? Do I trust Him? We argue in our minds night and day. We rationalize all kinds of things. But then, finally, our hearts and minds must be at rest, when we simply obey Him and follow His wills.

There are three categories of people: Those who follow God first and foremost in their life – that’s their priority; and who follow the demands of the world secondary -- secondary, or do what must be done to live in this world. There’s a second category: Those who follow the world, the exigencies and demands of the world, first and foremost; and who also spend time with the Lord, secondary. There’s a third category: Those who do not make a choice as to what is the priority of their life, but they just live day by day. And this third category is most dangerous.

Those who follow the world and pursue the world, the Lord will catch up with them – hopefully. Those who seek the Lord first and foremost, they are blessed. But those who do not make any choice are in grave danger. Revelation 3:15-21 tells us: “I know your works. You are neither hot nor cold. Would that you were hot or cold; so, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My Mouth. For you say: ‘I am rich; I have prospered. I need nothing from anyone,’ not knowing that I am wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. But there are those,” says the Lord, “whom I love; and those whom I love I reprove and chastise; and I call those whom I love to repent. I call you! Behold, I stand at your door and I knock. If anyone hears My Voice and opens the door, I will come to him. I will eat with him and he will eat with Me.” Beautiful! Beautiful! The Lord will come into your heart, into the doors of your heart. He will enter, He will sit with you and dine with you; and He will serve you. The Lord will be your Servant.

Now, we don’t understand this, and would that we could have a grasp of it. The love of the Lord is the most important experience that you can have in life. I am not talking generically. Everybody says, “The Lord loves me and I love the Lord.” I’m talking about a real, personal, individual relationship with the Lord. That’s the greatest blessing that could ever happen to you in life – where you know the Lord and He speaks to you interpersonally – that you are, before the Lord, His son and His daughter. “I know you by your name. I know you and you know Me; and I’ve given you My Word, and I have called you to accomplish something because I love you.” But each of us, until our Christian faith becomes very deeply personal – yes, we belong generically to the Christian faith and to the Catholic Church – but each one of you must know who you are: first of all, as a sinner, as someone weak; and yet at the same time, someone called and loved in a very deeply, personal and special sort of way.

Am I lukewarm? Let’s look at that question. Do I want to serve God and mammon at the same time? Am I afraid of loving the Lord and having the Lord love me because He will demand too much of me? Am I afraid of great passion, of intense passion, and intimate union with the Lord? Am I afraid that He will ask too much of me? In Matthew 10:39 He says: “He who finds his life will lose it; and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” That’s the terror! That’s the terror, to lose your life, to be abandoned, to abandon yourself to the Lord and all that you are.

You know, brothers and sisters, I can tell you, I was so terrified. First of all, my first terror was leaving my family behind because I am a convert and I was the eldest son of four siblings. And my parents wanted me, the number one son, to take care of the children, take care of the little business they had, and so forth. Leaving everything behind, my mother refused to talk to me for about three months, until practically the day I had to leave to join the Jesuits. Then within the Jesuits, piling up degree after degree: two bachelors’ degrees, three masters’ degrees, a doctorate degree; and then the Lord saying, “Yeah, but what about the poor? Okay, so you’re teaching at these universities – okay, so what!” So what, in terms of His Kingdom! And I had to face that in truth. I remember battling with God for making a fool of me, for having me work so hard at other things, and then to lead me another way. What was He? Is He a God of contradiction? But all the Lord was doing was loving me. Little did I know that! He wanted more of me; and He tends to want more of whom He loves.

If you’re satisfied, it’s because you don’t know the Lord. Your Christianity has become lukewarm. But when the Lord begins to really love you, and you love the Lord, He will never, ever stop until He has consumed you with His love. He will take away everything you’ve got, and then give you everything that He is. But it requires you losing your life, as it says here in the Scriptures: “He who finds his life will lose it.” You manufacture your own future and you have your own plans, but God has another plan. “And He who loses his life for My sake will find it, and you will be with Me all your days, even until the end of time.” What is my relationship with the Lord? Is it conditional or is it absolute? Is it total?

I want you to look also at Matthew 6:25. And this is one that we find very difficult. “Do not be anxious about your life, what you eat or what you shall drink; nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the air. They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they are? And which of you being anxious can add anything to your life?” These are very important questions that the Lord is putting to us. “Why are you anxious? Do you not understand that if you seek Me, I shall provide for you?” Maybe we’re saying that He won’t provide quite enough, as much as I would like to have. But He will provide for you – He will provide for you!

At the end of this meditation I would like you to have no fears. Release yourself in the Presence of the Lord. Just be with Him and say: “Lord, what do You want of me?”

Matthew 6:24 tells us, and it’s what I referred to earlier: “No one can serve two masters.” Ask yourself what’s your priority in life. What hours do you spend pursuing mammon? Is most of your day pursuing mammon or the building of the Kingdom of God? “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Am I humble before the Lord? Am I a servant of the Lord? Am I an anxious person? What am I anxious about? Am I a fearful person when I am not in control? Do I always have to be in control of my life and the life of others? If I do not know or understand, can I trust the Lord and trust others? Do I seek to provide for myself and not allow the Lord to provide for me? Am I willing to live a simple life in His service? Do I really believe in the Lord’s ways more than my ways?

23 May 2009

The Antichristian Revolt

The Sacrament of the Altar is the manifestation of the Divine Presence; it is the incorporation of the Divine love, sanctity, and power; and against these things the Antichristian revolt hurls itself as the chief object of its hatred.

There is yet another object of this animosity. What I said last leads on immediately to the priesthood. What is the priesthood? The priesthood is a body of men, instituted by our Savior. It is open to all; it has no secrets but the sins of those that repent. The priesthood is in noonday, standing at the altar; and yet we hear of “sacerdotalism” as if it were the Black Death or a plague of Egypt, or a pestilence which walks in darkness.

Here is the priesthood: a body of men chosen first by our Lord, illuminated, trained, and conformed to Himself, to be the guardians and the transmitters of the truths He revealed. This, then, is the priesthood. There is no doubt that it must be an object of special animosity: “If the world hate you, know ye that it had hated Me before you” (John 15:18). This was said to the first priests. “If you had been of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19).

They are witnesses of the truth, and they have power to deliver it; and they have power to deliver it because they have a Divine certainty of the truth they deliver; and they have a Divine certainty of that truth because they are the disciples of the Church which is divinely guided, before they become the teachers of the faithful. To them is committed the power of applying that truth to men – that is, of guiding their thoughts and consciences, and distinguishing truth from falsehood in matters of faith, of judging the actions of men, of distinguishing between right and wrong in questions of the Divine law, and of pronouncing upon them censure, if need be; giving or withholding absolution by their sentence before God.

I do not wonder, therefore, that there should be an animosity in those that do not love the Master, from Whose Side the priesthood springs; and I do not wonder that a bad priest is the hero and the saint of the world.

Lastly, there is one person upon whom this Antichristian spirit concentrates itself, as the lightning on the conductor. There is one person upon earth who is the pinnacle of the temple, which is always the first to be struck. It is the Vicar of Jesus Christ. There is no man on earth so near to Jesus Christ as His own Vicar. No man brings us so near to the Person of the Son of God as His Vicar upon earth, and no man is to be made so like to Him in suffering for His sake.

To Peter were given the two great prerogatives which constituted the plentitude of his Master’s office. To him first, and to him alone, before all others, though in the presence of the others, was given the power of the keys. To him, and to him alone, and in the presence of the others was given also the charge of the universal flock: “Feed My sheep” (John 21:17). To him, and to him alone, exclusively, were spoken the words, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not; and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren” (Luke 22:31-32).

Therefore the plentitude of jurisdiction, and the plenitude of truth, with the promise of Divine assistance to preserve him in that truth, was given to Peter, and in Peter to his successors.

~ Henry Edward Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster from 1865 to 1892

22 May 2009

In Praise Of Contemplation

Below are excerpts from the Apostolic Constitution, Umbratilem, by Pope Pius XI. It is a letter which expresses high approval for the contemplative life, and praises God for raising up Saint Bruno to restore the contemplative life of the Church to her earlier splendor.

While the letter does focus specifically on the call by God on those who serve the Church full-time in the life of contemplation, silence and solitude, the Holy Father does mention, however, the example of Mary of Bethany which intimates further reflection for those among the laity.

It has been preached and taught by many over the centuries that in that particular Gospel account, Martha represents the active life and Mary the contemplative life. The contemplative life is a full-time calling placed upon some, but the active life is a full-time calling placed upon no one. Each of us, regardless of the duties and cares we are responsible for in the world, are not excluded from “the better part”. And now more than ever we as Christians need to commit ourselves to a daily routine of going into a room, shutting the door and praying to our Father in secret (cf. Matthew 6:6). The Holy Father, even at the time when this Apostolic Constitution was written, reveals a world of “so many Christians living without a thought for the things of the next world.” How much truer is this today?

Father Thomas Keating O.C.S.O., reflecting on the Martha and Mary story, writes: “When Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the good portion, He is telling Martha that she needs to find a place in her life for this contemplative quality, and that this perspective would make her good actions better. Purity of intention developed through contemplation brings to action the quality of love. Without contemplative prayer, action easily becomes mechanical, routine, draining and may lead to burnout.”

All those, who, according to their rule, lead a life of solitude remote from the din and follies of the world, and who not only assiduously contemplate the divine mysteries and the eternal truths, and pour forth ardent and continual prayers to God that His Kingdom may flourish and be daily spread more widely, but who also atone for the sins of other men still more than for their own by mortification, prescribed or voluntary, of mind and body - such indeed must be said to have chosen the better part, like Mary of Bethany.

For no more perfect state and rule of life than that can be proposed for men to take up and embrace, if the Lord calls them to it. Moreover, by the inward holiness of those who lead the solitary life in the silence of the cloister and by their most intimate union with God, is kept brightly shining the halo of that holiness which the spotless Bride of Jesus Christ holds up to the admiration and imitation of all.

From the earliest times this mode of life, most perfect and at the same time most useful and fruitful for the whole of Christendom more than anyone can conceive, took root in the Church and spread abroad on all sides.

Since the whole object of this institution lay in this, that the monks, each one in the privacy of his cell, unoccupied with any exterior ministry and having nothing to do with it, should fix their thoughts exclusively on things of heaven, wonderful was the benefit that accrued from it to Christian Society.

In the course of time the institution so pre-eminent, that is called the contemplative life, declined somewhat and lost in vigor. The reason was that, although the monks, as a rule, shunned the care of souls and other exterior ministry, yet they came by degrees to combine the works of active life with their pondering on divine things and their contemplation.

According to His great kindness, God, Who is ever attentive to the needs and well-being of His Church, chose BRUNO, a man of eminent sanctity, for the work of bringing the contemplative life back to the glory of its original integrity. To that intent Bruno founded the Carthusian Order, imbued it with his own spirit and provided it with those laws which might efficaciously induce its members to advance speedily along the way of inward sanctity and of the most rigorous penance, to the preclusion of every sort of exterior ministry and office: laws which would also impel them to persevere with steadfast hearts in the same austere and hard life.

If ever it was needful that there should be anchorites of that sort in the Church of God it is most especially expedient nowadays when we see so many Christians living without a thought for the things of the next world and utterly regardless of their eternal salvation, giving reign to their desire for earthly pelf and the pleasures of the flesh and adopting and exhibiting publicly as well as in their private lives pagan manners altogether opposed to the Gospel.

It is hardly necessary to say what great hope and expectation the Carthusian monks inspire in us, seeing that since they keep the rule of their Order not only accurately but also with generous ardor, and since that rule easily carries those who observe it to the higher degree of sanctity, it is impossible that those religious should not become and remain powerful pleaders with our most merciful God for all Christendom.

20 May 2009

Help Of Christians

Our Help Against Temptation

Sinners as we are, we are exposed to violent and repeated temptations. The more we have sinned, the more power Satan has over us; and as the implacable enemy of our souls, he has no greater wish than to see us one day share in his torments. To that end , he exercises all his infernal malice in order to encompass our ruin. How can we escape from his wiles without powerful aid? Ever since Mary crushed the proud head of the accursed serpent beneath her feet, she has, it is certain, a command over him in virtue of which she is able to free her children from danger. This is why she has been given the consoling title of Auxilium Christianorum – Help of Christians. But can we expect her to use her power on our behalf if we do not call on her? How profitable, then, it is for us to invoke this great Queen frequently, in order to triumph over the temptations of the devil. ~ Dom Louis Rouvier: Novena for Festivals of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The powers of darkness melt away like wax in the warmth of the fire, when they meet anyone who keeps Mary in remembrance and is in the habit of calling on her, and is zealous in imitating her. ~ Saint Bonaventure

A Carthusian Nun’s Encounter

Blessed Beatrix d’Ornacieux was once seized with a feeling of terror after a violent assault of the devil, which prudence, however, enabled her to turn to good account. For, turning to her divine Spouse, she cried: “It is for love of You, my Lord, that I am suffering and continually on the point of being slaughtered like a sheep. Deign, I beg You, to bestow a glance upon Your servant; do not cast me off forever from Your Presence.” Hardly had she ended her prayer when she saw a young woman of about fifteen years of age, surrounded by a brilliant light, wonderfully beautiful and majestic in bearing, who said to her: “My daughter, fear nothing, I am Mary. By the power of the Most High I keep you under my protection and hold you close to my side, far beyond the reach of evil.” And she disappeared. ~ Le Mois de Marie

18 May 2009

We Are Truly Her Sons And Daughters

The Virgin Mother Loves Us

Mary has not chosen us to be her servants, but to be her sons [and daughters]. Sons [and daughters] whom she is not satisfied with protecting and defending, but whom she wishes to cherish in her heart, to nourish with exquisite tenderness. For our part, do not let us attach ourselves to her service as servants but as her most loving children; she herself has set no bounds to her maternal solicitude for us. Let us honor her and love her with truly filial affection, by meditating constantly on her life and her virtues. ~ Lanspergius, Opera Omnia Vol. IV

How About A Rosary Or An Early Hour From Her Office To Go With That First Cup Of Coffee?

[She] is easily seen by them that love her so that she first shows herself unto them. He that awakes early to see her shall not labor, for he shall find her sitting at his door. To think, therefore, upon her is perfect understanding, and he that watches for her shall quickly be secure. For she goes about seeking such as are worthy of her, and she shows herself to them cheerfully in the ways, and meets them with all providence. ~ Wisdom 6:13-17

Mary Is The Distributor Of Her Spouse’s Gifts

To Mary, His faithful spouse, the Holy Spirit has communicated His unspeakable gifts; and He has chosen her to be the dispenser of all He possesses, in such short that she distributes to whom she wills, as much as she wills, and when she wills, all His gifts and graces. The Holy Spirit gives no heavenly gift to men which He does not pass through her virginal hands. Such has been the will of God, Who wills that we should have everything in Mary; so that she who impoverished, humbled and hid herself, even to the abyss of nothingness by her profound humility her whole life long, should now be enriched and exalted by the Most High… Mary has produced, together with the Holy Spirit, the greatest thing which has been or ever will be, which is a God-man; and she will consequently produce the greatest things that there will be in the latter times. The formation and education of the great saints who shall come at the end of the world are reserved for her. For it is only that singular and miraculous Virgin who can produce, in union with the Holy Spirit, singular and marvelous things. When the Holy Spirit, her Spouse, sees Mary in a soul, He flies there. He enters there in His fullness; He communicates Himself to that soul abundantly and to the full extent to which she makes room for her Spouse. Nay, one of the great reasons why the Holy Spirit does not now do startling wonders in our souls is because He does not find there a sufficiently great union with His spouse. ~ Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, True Devotion

Be Perfect As Also Your Heavenly Father Is Perfect

By means of union with Mary we make greater progress in procuring the glory of God, the good of the Church and our own perfection, than by making use of all the other practices at our disposal. ~ Père Giraud, La Vie d’union avec Marie

Mary Knows Her Son

Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918) was an American poet and a convert to the Catholic faith. His life was tragically cut short due to a gunshot in the head, likely from a sniper, during World War I. Among his poems is one titled: “The Robe of Christ” in which he recognizes that our Blessed Lady keeps us from being deceived.

At the foot of the Cross on Calvary
Three soldiers sat and diced,
And one of them was the Devil
And he won the Robe of Christ.

When the Devil comes in his proper form
To the chamber where I dwell,
I know him and make the Sign of the Cross
Which drives him back to Hell.

And when he comes like a friendly man
And puts his hand in mine,
The fervor in his voice is not
From love or joy or wine.

And when he comes like a woman,
With lovely, smiling eyes,
Black dreams float over his golden head
Like a swarm of carrion flies.

Now many a million tortured souls
In his red halls there be:
Why does he spend his subtle craft
In hunting after me?

Kings, queens and crested warriors
Whose memory rings through time,
These are his prey, and what to him
Is this poor man of rhyme,

That he, with such laborious skill,
Should change from role to role,
Should daily act so many a part
To get my little soul?

Oh, he can be the forest,
And he can be the sun,
Or a buttercup, or an hour of rest
When the weary day is done.

I saw him through a thousand veils,
And has not this sufficed?
Now, must I look on the Devil robed
In the radiant Robe of Christ?

He comes, and his face is sad and mild,
With thorns his head is crowned;
There are great bleeding wounds in his feet,
And in each hand a wound.

How can I tell, who am a fool,
If this be Christ or no?
Those bleeding hands outstretched to me!
Those eyes that love me so!

I see the Robe -- I look -- I hope --
I fear -- but there is one
Who will direct my troubled mind;
Christ's Mother knows her Son.

O Mother of Good Counsel, lend
Intelligence to me!
Encompass me with wisdom,
Thou Tower of Ivory!

"This is the Man of Lies," she says,
"Disguised with fearful art:
He has the wounded hands and feet,
But not the wounded heart."

Beside the Cross on Calvary
She watched them as they diced.
She saw the Devil join the game
And win the Robe of Christ.

16 May 2009

Spend This Life In The Praise Of God

Meditatio præsentis vitæ nostræ in laude Dei esse debet, quia exsultatio sempiterna futuræ nostræ vitæ, laus Dei erit; et nemo potest idoneus fieri futuræ vitæ, qui non se ad illam modo exercuerit.

The subject of our meditation in this life should be the praise of God, for the everlasting exultation of our life hereafter, will be the praise of God; and no one will be suitable for life hereafter, who has not cultivated himself for it.

Propter hæc duo tempora, unum quod nunc est in tentationibus et tribulationibus huius vitæ, alterum quod tunc erit in securitate et exsultatione perpetua, instituta est nobis etiam celebration duorum temporum, ante Pascha, et post Pascha. Illud quod est ante Pascha, significat tribulationem in qua modo sumus; quod vero nunc agimus post Pascha, significat beatitudinem in qua postea erimus. Ante Pascha ergo quod celebramus, hoc et agimus; post Pascha autem quod celebramus, significamus quod nondum tenemus. Propterea illud tempus in ieiuniis et orationibus exercemus; hoc vero tempus relaxatis ieiuniis in laudibus agimus. Hoc est enim: Alleluia, quod cantamus.

On account of these two seasons, one which is in the temptations and tribulations of this life, the other which then will be in safety and perpetual exultation, we have instituted now the celebration of two seasons, before Easter, and after Easter. That which is before Easter, signifies tribulation in which we currently exist; that which in reality now we will spend after Easter, signifies the blessedness we shall hereafter be. What we celebrate before Easter then is what we possess now; what we celebrate after Easter on the other hand, signifies that which we do not as yet possess. Therefore we exercise that time in fasting and prayer; in this present time we relax fasting and spend it in praise. This is the Alleluia which we sing.

Nunc ergo, fratres, exhortamur vos ut laudetis Deum. Sed laudate de totis vobis; id est, ut non sola lingua et vox vestra laudet Deum, sed et conscientia vestra, vita vestra, facta vestra.

Now, therefore, brothers, I exhort you to praise God. But praise with your whole selves; that is, don’t let your tongue and voice alone praise God, but also your conscience, your life, your deeds.

Si a vita bona numquam declines, lingua tua tacet, vita tua clamat; et aures Dei ad cor tuum.

If you never divert from a noble life, though your tongue is silent, your life shouts out; God has ears for your heart.

Saint Augustine

15 May 2009

Only Jesus Can Sanctify Us!

In a treatise from Saint Gaudentius, he reminds that: “One has died for all; that is, in every Church building, in the mystery of bread and wine, being sacrificed He restores, being believed He gives us life, being consecrated He sanctifies those who consecrate. This is the Lamb’s Flesh, this is His Blood.”

The heartbreak, sadness and bodily harm that is felt in this world inflicted by the hands of others could vanish or at least be minimized if we all understood that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

In the Mass held at the Valley of Josafat in Jerusalem, our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the ancient prophecies which foretell a day when “God will wipe away the tears from every eye, and prepare a banquet of salvation for all peoples” (cf. Isaiah 25:6-8; Revelation 21:2-4). He also spoke of the sadness of “how far our world is from the complete fulfillment of that prophecy and promise.” He expounded on this by localizing it when he said: “In this Holy City where life conquered death, where the Spirit was poured out as the first-fruits of the new creation, hope continues to battle despair, frustration and cynicism, while the peace which is God’s gift and call continues to be threatened by selfishness, conflict, division and the burden of past wrongs.”

In the Catholic Church the banquet of salvation is offered daily. In fact, when taking into consideration all the world’s time zones, there’s never a time in our twenty-four day when that life-giving banquet isn’t being prepared. But it is not the unbelievers that are charged with the full blame of these wrongs, we must also consider ourselves who are believers but have dispositions that does not allow the Holy Eucharist to change us.

Surely it is God’s will that all who receive Him – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – would be able to look at Him with the intense gaze of Padre Pio; or that we could say with Saint Jean Marie Vianney that when we receive Jesus Christ, we “feel a new taste for heavenly things, and a new contempt for things created.” Of course, this does not speak of the beauty of God’s creation, but only of the evil that uses created things to turn us away from God.

Why then doesn’t the Eucharist noticably change us? For some He does indeed transform. Cardinal Ratzinger addressed this question and He answered it in this way: “The gifts of bread and wine, that are the gifts of creation and at the same time fruit of human labor and the transformation of the creation, are changed so that in them the Lord Himself Who gives Himself becomes present, in His gift of self-giving. The act of donation is not something of Him, but it is Himself. And on this basis the prospect opens onto two further transformations, that are essential to the Eucharist from the instant of its institution: the transformed bread, the transformed wine. Through them the Lord Himself gives Himself as spirit that gives life, to transform us so that we become one bread with Him and then one body with Him. The transformation of the gifts, which is only the continuation of the fundamental transformations of the Cross and the Resurrection, is not the final point, but in its turn only a beginning. The end of the Eucharist is the transformation of those who receive it in authentic communion with its transformation. And so the end is unity, that peace which we, as separated individuals who live beside one another or in conflict with one another, become one with Christ and in Him, as one organism of self-giving, to live in view of the Resurrection and the new world.”

Unity, peace, avoiding separation, avoiding conflict – these are things which point to “love”. In order to love fully, however, there has to be a full commitment to Love Himself. One hour a week at Mass cannot achieve this.

Saint Augustine said: “No one partakes of this Flesh before he has adored it.” A regular routine of Eucharistic Adoration whether at a church or a chapel, or in spirit within the quiet confines of home when one is unable to go to a church, allows the Lord to speak to our hearts. This is a transforming conversation of our God with His servant.

Again, Cardinal Ratzinger, reflects on Adoration: “The adoration of the Lord in the sacrament is also an education in sensitizing our conscience. Christ comes into the hearts of our brothers and sisters and visits their consciences. When the conscience becomes dulled, this lets in the violence that lays waste the world. Anyone who gazes upon the Face of the Lord, which the servants of the Sanhedrin and Pilate’s servants have spat upon, which they have slapped and covered with spittle, will see in His Face the mirror of our violence, a reflection of what sin is, and their conscience will be purified in the way that is the precondition for every social reform, for every improvement in human affairs. For the reform of human relationships rests in the first place on a reinforcement of moral strength.”

Pope John Paul II, in Domincæ Cenæ writes that in order for our Adoration to be authentic, “it must make us grow in awareness of the dignity of each person.” Thus, “the Eucharist becomes of itself the school of active love for neighbor.”

In summary, then, it is our own prejudices, our resistance to serve -- to be a slave for Christ, our sins which keep us from being transformed by the Blessed Sacrament. And what these holy men seem to be telling us is that the reception of Holy Communion must be accompanied by Adoration. These eventually will change us and lead us to be fully committed to each other and to the One Who is fully committed to us.

Interesting that Blessed Teresa of Calcutta saw Eucharistic Adoration as a means to end abortion – that is, if more of us spent time in Adoration.

13 May 2009

Is The Sacrament Of Penance Necessary For Salvation?

Thanks be to God, more and more Catholics are returning to the Sacrament of Penance. Saint Thomas Aquinas tackled the question as to whether Confession is necessary for salvation. Here’s what the Angelic Doctor wrote in Summa Theologiæ (Quæstio LXXXIV, Articulus V):

Respondeo dicendum quod aliquid est necessarium ad salutem dupliciter: uno modo, absolute; alio modo, ex suppositione. Absolute quidem necessarium est illud sine quo nullus salutem consequi potest, sicut gratia Christi, et sacramentum Baptismi, per quod aliquis in Christo renascitur. Ex suppositione autem est necessarium sacramentum pœnitentiæ, quod quidem necessarium non est omnibus, sed peccato subiacentibus; dicitur enim in II Paralipomenon: “Et tu, Domine iustorum, non posuisti pœnitentiam iustis, Abraham, Isaac et Iacob, his qui tibi non peccaverunt.” “Peccatum” autem, “cum consummatum fuerit, generat mortem,” ut dicitur Iacobus I. Et ideo necessarium est ad salutem peccatoris quod peccatum removeatur ab eo. Quod quidem fieri non potest sine pœnitentiæ sacramento, in quo operatur virtus passionis Christi per absolutionem sacerdotis simul cum opere pœnitentis, qui cooperatur gratiæ ad destructionem peccati, sicut enim dicit Augustinus, super Ioannem: “qui creavit te sine te, non iustificabit te sine te.” Unde patet quod sacramentum pœnitentiæ est necessarium ad salutem post peccatum, sicut medicatio corporalis postquam homo in morbum periculosum inciderit.

I respond by saying that a thing is necessary for salvation in two ways: the first way, absolutely; the other way, by reason of supposition. A thing is absolutely necessary for salvation if no one can acquire salvation without it, as it were, the grace of Christ, and the Sacrament of Baptism, through which one is born again in Christ. Out of supposition the Sacrament of Penance is necessary, for it is necessary not for all, but for those who are in sin; for it says in 2 Chronicles: “And You, Lord of the just, have not appointed repentance to the just, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who did not sin against You.” But “sin, when it is completed, begets death,” as states James 1. And therefore it is necessary for the sinner's salvation that sin be removed from him, which indeed cannot be done without the Sacrament of Penance, in which the power of Christ's Passion operates through the priest's absolution at the same time with the acts of the penitent, who cooperates with grace unto the destruction of sin, as indeed Augustine says, concerning John: “He Who created you without you, will not justify you without you.” From which it is evident that the Sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation after sin, even as bodily medicine after man has fallen upon a dangerous disease.

12 May 2009

Cum Ipso Sum In Tribulatione

As I’m sure many of you know, June 19 kicks off a year for what I hope and pray will be a tremendous blessing for priests and the Church. Pope Benedict XVI has declared it a “Year for Priests” in honor of Saint Jean Marie Vianney, the patron saint of priests.

I’ve been getting my “game face” on by reading the
Vultus Christi blog. It is owned and written by a priest and many of his entries are about the priesthood. Please check it out, if you haven’t already had the pleasure of visiting there.

Below are extracts from a homily I was reading from Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. As I was reading these words from this great saint and from the verses in Sacred Scripture on which he reflects, it seemed to me that this very much could be applied to our beloved priests. After the scandal, the priesthood was scarred and for some it led to unusual personal practices such as not wearing their clerical collars in public places outside of the church building. It really has been a trying time for many of them and the Church due to the abominable acts of some. May this “Year for Priests” and the intercession of the Curé d’Ars shower them with heavenly blessings.

My translation of the Latin from Saint Bernard’s homily was done a bit hurriedly but I think it still represents the gist of his message.

Cum ipso sum in tribulatione, ait Deus; et ego alium interim quam tribulationem requiram? Mihi adhærere Deo bonum est, non solum autem, sed et ponere in Domino Deo spem meam, quia eripiam eum, inquit, et glorificabo eum.
I am with him in tribulation, says God; and should I meanwhile seek anything other than tribulation? It is good for me to adhere to God, not only that, but also, put my hope in the Lord my God, because He says I will deliver him and glorify him.

Emmanuel, nobiscum Deus. Descendit, ut prope sit his qui tribulato sunt corde, ut nobiscum sit in tribulatione nostra. Erit autem quando rapiemur in nubibus obviam Christo in aera, et sit semper cum Domino erimus, si tamen curemus interim eum habere nobiscum, ut sit comes viæ, qui patriæ redditor est futurus, immo qui tunc patria, modo sit via.
Emmanuel, God with us. He came down to be near to those who are troubled in heart, to be with us in our tribulation. There will be a time when we are taken up together in the clouds to meet Christ in the air, and thus always be with the Lord, but meanwhile nevertheless we must take care to have Him with us, to be our companion on our way, that He Who will render us our homeland, or rather He Who will then be our homeland may now be our way.

Bonum mihi, Domine, tribulari, dummodo ipse sis mecum. Bonum mihi, Domine, in tribulatione magis amplecti te, in camino habere, te mecum, quam esse sine te vel in cælo. Aurum probat fornax, et viros iustos tentatio tribulationis. Ibi, ibi, cum eis es, Domine; ibi in tuo nomine congregatis medius astas.
It is good for me, Lord, to suffer, provided that You are with me. It is better for me, Lord, to embrace You in tribulation, to have You with me in the furnace, than be without You, even in heaven. Gold is tested in the furnace, and just men in the trial of tribulation. There, there with them are You, Lord; there in Your Name, You stand in the midst of those assembled.

Sævit ignis, sed Dominus nobiscum est in tribulatione. Si Deus nobiscum, quis contra nos? Nihilominus quoque si ille eripit, quis est qui rapiat de manu eius? Si ille glorificat, quis humiliabit?
The fire rages, but the Lord is with us in tribulation. If God is with us, who can be against us? Furthermore if He rescues us, who is it that can snatch us out of His Hand? If He glorifies us, who can humiliate us?

What Saint Bernard shares next can most especially be applied to a faithful, holy priest. Saint Bernard places these words on the Lips of God.

Exinanivit penitus semetipsum, nec se ex his patitur occupari, quibus novit se non posse repleri. Non ignorat ad cuius imaginem conditus sit, cuius magnitudinis capax sit, nec sustinet de modico crescere, ut de maximo minuatur.
He has thoroughly emptied himself, and does not allow himself to be occupied with things which he knows cannot satisfy him. He is not ignorant of Whose Image he is made in, Whose greatness he is capable of, and he will not grasp at a small thing, which would mean missing the greatest.

11 May 2009

The Saints Found Pleasure In Saying The Divine Office

It is a pity to see with what irreverence some recite the Canonical Hours, saying them in the streets, or in view of everybody at a window looking at what passes below, or in conversation with friends, laughing and jesting, intermingling trifling words and jokes with the divine praises, without paying any attention to what they recite.

Very great is the merit, and the profit also, which they derive who say the Divine Office with attention. What delights are then obtained from the word of God, with what holy maxims is the soul penetrated! How many good acts may one not make – acts of love, of confidence, of humility, of contrition – by paying attention to these verses one recites! Above all, how many beautiful prayers are found in the Office, prayers which, if said with faith and fervor, will obtain for us treasures of grace, according to the infallible promise of our Lord that He will hear whoever prays to Him: “Ask, and it shall be given you. For everyone that asks, receives.”

I may add that when the Office is said without devotion, and with no other thought than to get over it as quickly as possible, it becomes a very heavy and wearisome burden, and seems as though it would never come to an end; but, on the contrary, when it is recited with devotion, and with the desire to derive profit from it, by applying the mind and the heart to what the lips pronounce, its burden becomes light and sweet; of this the Saints made good experience, who found more pleasure in saying the Divine Office than worldlings find in all their pastimes and amusements.

One single Office recited with devotion may gain for us many degrees of glory!

~Saint Alphonsus Liguori~

Prayer Before A Crucifix

O my God,
Thou forgavest the executioners who nailed Thee to the Cross,
And I hope Thou wilt not deny me the same favor.
I therefore embrace Thy holy Cross with fervent love,
and most humbly, devoutly and reverently adore Thee,
my God, my Lord and my Savior,
crowned with thorns,
pierced with nails,
bruised with blows,
covered with wounds and blood,
and suffering numberless pains
which I a miserable and ungrateful sinner have caused by my sins.
Why indeed does Thy precious Blood flow so abundantly?
It is because, like a grape in the winepress,
Thou art crushed under the very heavy weight of my innumerable transgressions.
Why so many Wounds?
Because I have committed so many sins,
and have increased the number of my faults,
Thou hast increased the number of Thy Wounds.
But notwithstanding my sins,
I do not in any way despair of obtaining Thy pardon and Thy mercy,
and with my heart filled with confidence,
I acknowledge my guilt
since Thou hast given me so many proofs of Thy mercy.
Therefore, O good Jesus,
I reflect not only on the love Thou hast for Thy friends,
but above all on that Thou showest towards Thy enemies.
I love to think of the kindness
that made Thee pray for those who offered Thee the grossest insults
and nailed Thee to the Cross.
I beseech Thee, O Lord,
let this prayer avail also for my poor soul.

I have crucified Thee; but not through malice.
It was rather through weakness.
I have not sinned with the intention of insulting Thee,
but to give my senses the satisfaction they demanded.
I beseech Thee then cast a look of mercy on me a poor creature,
who in anguish of heart prostrate myself before Thy Cross.
I would not indeed pierce Thee with nails,
but I would fain pierce
and wound Thy Heart by my humble prayers
and the burning darts of my desires and my love.
In mercy grant that from Thy Feet, Thy Hands, from all Thy Wounds,
one drop, one single drop of Thy Blood may fall on my suffering soul,
and I shall be saved. Amen.

~Dom John of Torralba~

09 May 2009

Blessed Nicholas Albergati

Born in 1375 in Bologna, Italy; it appeared that Nicholas Albergati was going to have a career in Law. He received his Law degrees in Bologna but Divine Providence had other plans for Nicholas. While visiting the Carthusian Charterhouse in Bologna, a storm prevented him from leaving. Because of his delayed departure he decided to sit in on the hour of Matins. This liturgical hour along with Lauds and Vespers are the three hours from the Divine Office which the Carthusians pray in community, except on Sundays and Solemnities when all the hours, except Prime, are prayed in community. Otherwise, all other hours normally are prayed by the monks in the solitude of their cells.

The soon to be a lawyer, Nicholas Albergati, however, became absorbed by the monks' singing of Matins and he was so impressed that he asked if he could stay and enter the community. He made his profession and would be ordained into the priesthood. He was an excellent monk and in 1407 was elected as Prior after twelve years of residing with the Bologna community.

Ten years later came the news that no Carthusian likely wants to hear. Bologna was in need of a bishop and Nicholas was elected by the city magistrates. He did, however, turn it down stating that he would only accept the episcopate if the Reverend Father of the Carthusian Order told him to do so. The Reverend Father of the Order at that time was Dom John Griffenberg who consulted the community at Bologna which felt that Dom Nicholas would be a worthy bishop. Thus he became the Bishop of Bologna but never abandoned his monastic lifestyle even though he was no longer in the cloister. He continued to wear his habit along with the hair shirt and remained faithful to the fasts and abstinences of the Carthusian Order.

In his spiritual life, he was said to have an exemplary interior life and would spend long nights in prayer. The Carthusian Order refers to Blessed Nicholas as a true son of Saint Bruno.

His life as bishop would eventually expand beyond Bologna as two popes would require his service. In 1426 he was made a cardinal. His titular Church was Santa Croce in Rome.

His life in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church was certainly more visible than most Carthusians would ever experience but Blessed Nicholas never lost his simplicity and humility.

A very trying time in his life would have Nicholas fleeing Bologna and taking refuge with the Carthusians in Florence. The people of Bologna rebelled against him and it was something they would eventually repent of which at the insistence of Pope Eugene IV, returned Nicholas to his duties in the diocese of Bologna.

He died on May 9, 1443 in Siena while accompanying the pope on diplomatic business.

Certainly what we can learn from Blessed Nicholas Albergati is the need and the will to remain faithful to our spiritual life and our commitment of service to the Lord while still having other cares and duties in the world.

Blessed Nicholas Albergati, pray for us!