Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Cross Is the Key to Understanding Life

A reflection by Fr. Richard Tomasek, SJ at Celebrating the Year of Faith:
“Were not our hearts on fire within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”  ( Luke 24:13-35).  The story of the two disciples returning to Emmaus, disillusioned and discouraged by the terrible execution of Jesus whom they thought was the Messiah sent to free Israel, is the story of each one of us.  We too often find ourselves defeated by life’s difficulties and questioning whether God cares or even exists.
In 1946 a Viennese psychiatrist by the name of Viktor Frankl wrote a little book called Man’s Search for Meaning.  By the time of his death in 1997, the book had sold over 10 million copies in 24 languages and was considered one of the ten most influential books ever published in the USA.  Frankl found himself in a Nazi concentration camp and observed that some prisoners withered away and died quickly whereas others carried on with relative strength.  By interviews and reflection, it became clear to him that the people who had the best chance of survival were whose who had a meaning, a purpose and a hope in their life.  Perhaps it was a burning desire to rejoin their family, or to finish a science project started, or to persevere in the strength of their religious faith.  From that, Frankl developed a school of psychotherapy called Logotherapy, based on the Greek word logos, which signifies word or meaning.  It is the same word used by the New Testament to name the Word of God, the second Person of the Divine Trinity, who became man for us in the womb of Mary. “And the Word became flesh…” (Jo 1:14).
In the Emmaus account in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus, the true Word of God, enlightens his disheartened followers by opening the Scriptures to them and showing them how his sacrificial death-victory were prophesied for hundreds of years in the writings of Moses and the prophets.  The key phrase is, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”  The Cross is the key to understanding life.  Jesus himself pondered and prayed over the scriptural Word of God and found His vocation described in such passages as Deut 18:18 (he will be another Moses), Psalm 22 and Is 53 (by his sufferings and death we will be healed) or Psalm 2 (You are My son; you shall rule the nations).  Just as Jesus learns his identity and mission from praying over the Word of Scripture, so each of us must make a practice of reading and praying over the Scriptures in order to find God’s meaning for what is happening in our lives.   As with the disciples whom Jesus instructs “along the way,” our hearts too will be set on fire with understanding , hope and enthusiasm when we see God’s secret and unexpected ways for blessing and leading us.  And we too will run to tell others of our discovery just as the two disciples ran back to Jerusalem to share their new faith with the rest of the Church.
Another way to do this easily is to pray the Scriptures with Mary. Just to pray theMysteries of the Rosary is to see how God led her from one challenge to another, one surrender to another, all the way to sharing her Son’s bitter death and His glorious resurrection and outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost.  As we pray these Mysteries, Jesus the Word also teaches us and sets our hearts on fire, rejoicing to share His cross and resurrection in the concrete challenges and details of our own life.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Overcome by Digital Age

Hans Urs von Balthasar: Love Alone

“The first thing that must strike a non-Christian about a Christian’s faith is that it is all too daring. It is too beautiful to be true: The mystery of being, unveiled as absolute love, coming down to wash the feet and the souls of its creatures; a love that assumes the whole burden of our guilt and hate, that accepts the accusations that shower down, the disbelief that veils God again when he has revealed himself, all the scorn and contempt that nails down his incomprehensible movement of self-abasement—all this, absolute love accepts in order to excuse his creature before himself and before the world.”   
                  (Hans Urs von Balthasar, Love Alone)

St. Januarius and the Blood Miracle


Today is the feast of St. Januarius or San Gennaro. It is also the day of the blood miracle! Here is more from the portanapoli.com site:

Yearly on the first weekend of May (on Saturday) and on the 19th September amazement spreads through Naples Cathedral. There one can marvel at how the blood of the beheaded San Gennaro liquifies in its ampoule.

The day of the blood miracle is an important feast for Naples and the people celebrate it accordingly. The Cathedral is surrounded by stalls selling sweets, cobs and all kinds of curiosities and kitsch...


Saint Gennaro was the bishop of Benevento and was beheaded during the persecution of Christians by Diocletian in 305. According to the legend a woman collected and kept some of the martyr’s blood in an ampoule, after he died. In 313 the miracle occurred for the first time, after the Saint’s skeleton and the ampoule with blood were brought to Naples. The skeleton was placed to rest in the catacomb together with the ampoule. In the 9th century the remains and blood of S. Gennaro were in a small chapel, next to the church, where in the 14th century the cathedral was built.

There are numerous records on the liquefaction of the blood, dating from times before 1649 when they officially started recording this miracle. One of the descriptions of the procession dates from the year 1389. According to writings in 1528 the blood miracle didn’t take place. This was the year the pest broke out and Naples didn’t receive its raise from France.

There are hundreds of records of the liquefaction dating from the 16th Century.


You can see another nice video here.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Pleiades and Orion by John Michael Talbot

John Michael Talbot - The Pleiades and Orion from scotchpie66 on Vimeo.

Another Miracle at Medjugorje?

The following comes from The Medjugorje Message:

An Italian woman named as Gigliola Candian claims that she was healed of multiple sclerosis at Medjugorje last Saturday. The 48-year-old from Fossò, near Venice, explained that she had been suffering with MS for the past 10 years and had been in a wheelchair since last year. “I had accepted my illness and I never asked Our Lady to cure me.” 

About the claimed cure Gigliola says, “I was praying with a group of people in church and Jesus spoke to my heart. He said, ‘Do your trust me?’ I said I did and he replied, ‘Then walk!’ I felt tingling and a great heat in my legs and then saw a bright light in front of me. From that moment I realised I could walk and got up.” 

Since returning home Gigliola says she continues to gain strength and make progress, and is now able to take short daily walks alone without the use of her wheelchair.


Hat tip to In God's Company 2!

A Quote from G.K. Chesterton

"Happiness is not only a hope, but also in some strange manner a memory ... we are all kings in exile."
                                                                             
G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Struggle by Tenth Avenue North

St. Francis de Sales on Patience

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them—every day begin the task anew.”  


St. Francis de Sales

Lesson One in Prayer by Dr. Peter Kreeft

The following comes from The Integrated Catholic Life:


Let’s get very, very basic and very, very practical about prayer. The single most important piece of advice I know about prayer is also the simplest: Just do it!
How to do it is less important than just doing it. Less-than-perfect prayer is infinitely better than no prayer; more perfect prayer is only finitely better than less perfect prayer.
Nancy Reagan was criticized for her simple anti-drug slogan: “Just say no.” But there was wisdom there: the wisdom that the heart of any successful program to stop anything must be the simple will to say no. (“Just say no” doesn’t mean that nothing else was needed, but that without that simple decision nothing else would work. “Just say no” may not be sufficient but it is necessary.)
Similarly, no program, method, book, teacher, or technique will ever succeed in getting us to start doing anything unless there is first of all that simple, absolute choice to do it. “Just say yes.”
The major obstacle in most of our lives to just saying yes to prayer, the most popular and powerful excuse we give for not praying, or not praying more, or not praying regularly, is that we have no time.
The only effective answer to that excuse, I find, is a kind of murder. You have to kill something, you have to say no to something else, in order to make time to pray. Of course, you will never find time to pray, you have to make time to pray. And that means unmaking something else. The only way to install the tenant of prayer in the apartment building of your life is to evict some other tenant from those premises that prayer will occupy. Few of us have any empty rooms available.
Deciding to do that is the first thing. And you probably won’t decide to do it, only wish to do it, unless you see prayer for what it is: a matter of life or death, your lifeline to God, to life itself.
Is this exaggerated? Are there more important things? Love, for instance? We need love absolutely; but the love we need is agape, the love that only God has and is; so unless we go to God for it, we won’t get it. And going to God for it means prayer. So unless we pray, we will not love.
Having got that clear and having made prayer your number one priority, having made a definite decision to do it, we must next rearrange our lives around it. Rearranging your time, preparing time to pray, is like preparing your house to paint. As everyone knows who has done any painting, preparation is three-quarters the work, three-quarters the hassle, and three-quarters the time. The actual painting is a breeze compared with the preparation. The same is true of prayer: the hardest step is preparing a place, a time, a sacred and inviolable part of each day for it. Prayer is like Thanksgiving dinner. It takes one hour to eat it and ten hours to prepare it. Prayer is like Christmas Day: it took a month of preparation, decoration, and shopping to arrange for that one day. Best of all, prayer is like love. Foreplay is, or should be, most of it. For two people truly and totally in love, all of their lives together is foreplay. Well, prayer is like spiritual love-making. God has waited patiently for you for a long, long time. He longs for you to touch the fringe of his being in prayer, as the woman touched the hem of Christ’s garment, so that you can be healed. How many hours did that woman have to prepare for that one-minute touch?
The first and most important piece of practical preparation is scheduling. You absolutely must schedule a regular time for prayer, whether you are a “scheduler” with other things in your life or not. “Catch as catch can” simply won’t work for prayer; it will mean less and less prayer, or none at all. One quick minute in the morning to offer your day to God is better than nothing at all, of course, but it is as radically inadequate as one quick minute a day with your wife or husband. You simply must decide each day to free up your schedule so you can pray.
How long a time? That varies with individuals and situations, of course; but the very barest minimum should certainly be at least fifteen minutes. You can’t really count on getting much deep stuff going on in less time than that. If fifteen minutes seems too much to you, that fact is powerful proof that you need to pray much more to get your head on straight.
After it becomes more habitual and easy, expand it, double it. And later, double it again. Aim at an hour each day, if you want radical results. (Do you? Or are you only playing?)
What time of day is best? The most popular time—bedtime—is usually the worst possible time, for two reasons. First, it tends not to be prime time but garbage time, when you’re the least alert and awake. Do you really want to put God in the worst apartment in your building? Should you offer him the sickest sheep in your flock?
Second, it won’t work. If you wait until every other obligation is taken care of first before you pray, you simply won’t pray. For life today is so cruelly complicated for most of us that “every other obligation” is never taken care of. Remember, you are going to have to kill other things in order to pray. No way out of that.
The most obvious and usually best time is early in the morning. If you can’t delay the other things you do, you simply must get up that much earlier.
Should it be the very first thing? That depends. Some people are alert as soon as they get up; others need to shower and dress to wake up. The important thing is to give God the best time, and “just do it.”
Place is almost as important as time. You should make one special place where you can be undisturbed. “Catch as catch can” won’t work for place either.
What place? Some people are not very sensitive to environment and can even use a bathroom. Others naturally seek beauty: a porch, yard, garden, or walk. (I find praying while you take a walk a good combination of spiritual and physical exercise.)
You probably noticed I haven’t said a word about techniques yet. That’s because three-quarters is preparation, remember? But what about methods?
I can only speak from my own experience as a continuing beginner. The two most effective that I have found are very simple. One is praying Scripture, reading and praying at the same time, reading in God’s presence, receiving the words from God’s mouth. The second is spontaneous verbal prayer. I am not good at all at silent prayer, mental prayer, contemplative prayer; my thoughts hop around like fleas. Praying aloud (or singing) keeps me praying, at least. And I find it often naturally leads to silent prayer often, or “mental prayer,” or contemplation.
Most advice on prayer focuses on higher levels: contemplative prayer. But I suspect many of my readers are prayer infants too and need to learn to walk before they can run. So these are some lessons from one man’s prayer kindergarten. Let’s “just do it” even if “it” is only crawling towards God.

Saint of the Day: Robert Bellarmine


The following comes from the Catholic Online site:

Born at Montepulciano, Italy, October 4, 1542, St. Robert Bellarmine was the third of ten children. His mother, Cinzia Cervini, a niece of Pope Marcellus II, was dedicated to almsgiving, prayer, meditation, fasting, and mortification of the body.

Robert entered the newly formed Society of Jesus in 1560 and after his ordination went on to teach at Louvain (1570-1576) where he became famous for his Latin sermons. In 1576, he was appointed to the chair of controversial theology at the Roman College, becoming Rector in 1592; he went on to become Provincial of Naples in 1594 and Cardinal in 1598.

This outstanding scholar and devoted servant of God defended the Apostolic See against the anti-clericals in Venice and against the political tenets of James I of England. He composed an exhaustive apologetic work against the prevailing heretics of his day. In the field of church-state relations, he took a position based on principles now regarded as fundamentally democratic - authority originates with God, but is vested in the people, who entrust it to fit rulers.

This saint was the spiritual father of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, helped St. Francis de Sales obtain formal approval of the Visitation Order, and in his prudence opposed severe action in the case of Galileo. He has left us a host of important writings, including works of devotion and instruction, as well as controversy. He died in 1621.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

All Creation Worships You by Tony Melendez


Fr. Jozo Zovko: He That Can Separate You From The Altar is Your Only Enemy

The following comes from In God's Company 2:


Fr. Jozo Zovko speaks of the Holy Eucharist


Place your life upon this altar. You will witness how a priest will place a drop of water within a chalice full of wine. That drop of water intermingles with the wine and signifies you in the Holy Mass. You can become one, unite with and intermingle with Jesus. That is why the Holy Mass is called Communion ...union with God ...you and your God together ...that is the Holy Eucharist. All of us together and Jesus. That is the church, and that is where the one, holy Catholic apostolic church comes from.
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 "He who can separate you from the altar is your only enemy. There is no other" 
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Every time we come into the church and celebrate the Holy Mass, that is our embrace, our hanging onto Our Lord and saying, "Lord where would we go, for you are the Word of Life." Where did the martyrs gain so much strength from? In the Church, where did the witnesses gain their strength from? To date, in this year, 23 missionaries have been murdered around the world in four months. That is a lot. How can a man give his life for Jesus simply, with delight? It is the Holy Mass that does this within us, so that for you I'm able to give my very eyes, my arms and my life, my everything as Jesus gave His all; and the same way the Christian must give his all.

 Yes, once again, I must return to the Holy Mass and the Holy Eucharist. Why is it that churches and sects do not tolerate the Mass, do not respect Our Lady? Because they go hand-in-hand. Yes, they go together. Our Lady teaches to come to love Jesus, to fall in love with Him, and that is why she places us before the Holy Eucharist, and pleads with us to pray before this holy, blessed Sacrament, so from Jesus we may learn to become bread for others; so that I not have fear to say, "Take this, all of you, of me, and eat of it."

Saints of the day: Cornelius and Cyprian

The following comes from the American Catholic site:

Cyprian is important in the development of Christian thought and practice in the third century, especially in northern Africa.

Highly educated, a famous orator, he became a Christian as an adult. He distributed his goods to the poor, and amazed his fellow citizens by making a vow of chastity before his baptism. Within two years he had been ordained a priest and was chosen, against his will, as Bishop of Carthage (near modern Tunis).

Cyprian complained that the peace the Church had enjoyed had weakened the spirit of many Christians and had opened the door to converts who did not have the true spirit of faith. When the Decian persecution began, many Christians easily abandoned the Church. It was their reinstatement that caused the great controversies of the third century, and helped the Church progress in its understanding of the Sacrament of Penance.

Novatus, a priest who had opposed Cyprian's election, set himself up in Cyprian's absence (he had fled to a hiding place from which to direct the Church—bringing criticism on himself) and received back all apostates without imposing any canonical penance. Ultimately he was condemned. Cyprian held a middle course, holding that those who had actually sacrificed to idols could receive Communion only at death, whereas those who had only bought certificates saying they had sacrificed could be admitted after a more or less lengthy period of penance. Even this was relaxed during a new persecution.

During a plague in Carthage, he urged Christians to help everyone, including their enemies and persecutors.

A friend of Pope Cornelius, Cyprian opposed the following pope, Stephen. He and the other African bishops would not recognize the validity of baptism conferred by heretics and schismatics. This was not the universal view of the Church, but Cyprian was not intimidated even by Stephen's threat of excommunication.

He was exiled by the emperor and then recalled for trial. He refused to leave the city, insisting that his people should have the witness of his martyrdom.

Cyprian was a mixture of kindness and courage, vigor and steadiness. He was cheerful and serious, so that people did not know whether to love or respect him more. He waxed warm during the baptismal controversy; his feelings must have concerned him, for it was at this time that he wrote his treatise on patience. St. Augustine (August 28) remarks that Cyprian atoned for his anger by his glorious martyrdom.

The following comes from the Saints and Angels site:

Cornelius whose feast day is September 16th. A Roman priest, Cornelius was elected Pope to succeed Fabian in an election delayed fourteen months by Decius' persecution of the Christians. The main issue of his pontificate was the treatment to be accorded Christians who had been apostasized during the persecution. He condemned those confessors who were lax in not demanding penance of these Christians and supported St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, against Novatus and his dupe, Felicissimus, whom he had set up as an antibishop to Cyprian, when Novatus came to Rome. On the other hand, he also denounced the Rigorists, headed by Novatian, a Roman priest, who declared that the Church could not pardon the lapsi (the lapsed Christians), and declared himself Pope - the first antipope. The two extremes eventually joined forces, and the Novatian movement had quite a vogue in the East. Meanwhile, Cornelius proclaimed that the Church had the authority and the power to forgive repentant lapsi and could readmit them to the sacraments and the Church after they had performed proper penances. A synod of Western bishops in Rome in October 251 upheld Cornelius, condemned the teachings of Novatian, and excommunicated him and his followers. When persecutions of the Christians started up again in 253 under Emperor Gallus, Cornelius was exiled to Centum Cellae (Civita Vecchia), where he died a martyr probably of hardships he was forced to endure.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Remembrance by Matt Maher (Passion of the Christ)


Communion Featuring The Passion from Hadley Baker on Vimeo.

Blessed Mother Teresa on Prayer

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” 

                           Blessed Mother Teresa

Discovering Catholicism: Saved from a Life of Drugs

Feast of the Day: Our Lady of Sorrows


The following comes from Catholic Doors:

Today's special Feast was originally set on the third Sunday of September. Now it has a date of its own, that being September 15 th.

In 1239, five years after having established themselves, the seven founders of the Servite Order took up the sorrows of Mary who stood under the Cross as the main devotion of their religious Order.

On June 9 th and September 15 th, 1668, the Feast of the "Seven Dolors of Mary" was granted to the Servites with the object of commemorating the sorrows of Mary.

This Feast was extended to Spain in 1735 and to Tuscany in 1807. On September 18, 1814, after returning from his exile in France, Pope Pius VII extended this Feast to the whole Latin Church.

The other Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, held on Friday before Palm Sunday, was originally kept on the Friday after the third Sunday after Easter. Known under the title of, "Commemoratio angustix et doloris B. Marix V," this Feast commemorated the sorrows of Mary during the Passion and death of Christ. Instituted in 1413 by the provincial synod of Cologne, its object was to expiate for the crimes of the iconoclat Hussites.

On April 22, 1727, Pope Benedict XIII extended this Feast to the entire Latin Church under the title of "Septem dolorum B.M.V." This last Feast did not have originate through the Servite Order.

Today's Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows draws our hearts towards the Blessed Virgin Mary in compassion for the motherly sufferings that she endured during the life of Jesus on earth. Early in the life of Jesus, Simeon prophesied that the soul of Mary would be pierced by a sword. [Lk. 2:35] Many may view the statement of Simeon as a horrible thing to say to a young mother. But others view this as the first step to prepare Mary for what was to come.

After all, not long after the visit to the Temple, having been warned by an angel in a dream, Mary and Joseph had to escape to Egypt to protect Jesus from king Herod who massacred all the children under the age of two. [Mt. 2:13-18]

This event parallels what is going on in many countries that are torn by civil war. How many families are living in refugee camps or had to immigrate to foreign countries to escape those who are kidnapping and murdering the fathers, the mothers and even the children? How many families had to escape from their homeland to protect their daughters from being raped by mercenaries and soldiers who have no morals whatsoever? These families can associate with the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It was not until about ten years later that Mary suffered her next greatest sorrow. Returning home after participating in the festival of the Passover in Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus was not with the group of travellers. They had to return to Jerusalem and look for Him. [Lk. 2:41-52]

Many parents can associate with this frightening experience. How many parents have lost their child in a supermarket, at a campground or even experienced an incident where their child wondered away from the back yard and could not be found for a few hours? How many parents have experienced the loss of a child due to a messy separation and custody battle? How many parents have permanently lost their child, not knowing his or her whereabouts? Such traumatic events truly pieces the soul of the person involved. This is something that many cannot perceive unless they personally experience it.

Over and over the aforementioned, the soul of Mary was pierced when she saw the condition of Jesus on the road to Calvary, when He was crucified, when she stood at the foot of the Holy Cross, when the body of Jesus was taken down from the Cross and when Jesus was buried.

These events remind many parents of their personal family experiences. Some parents have seen their son or daughter beaten so badly that his or her face could no longer be recognized. Some had to identify the body of their child who was murdered in a random shooting. Many parents in war ridden countries had to care for their sons after they had been kidnapped, beaten and even mutilated. How great is the suffering of these parents. How much greater was the suffering of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For she who enjoyed the fullness of her immaculate state could never conceive doing such deplorable crimes.

Through life experiences, many have compassion for Mary, being able to associate with her life sufferings that resembles a spiritual martyrdom. How many times can one pierce the soul of a person without leaving eternal scars? Only once! Yet, the soul of the Blessed Virgin Mary was pierced seven times!

During the remaining of the day, let us reflect upon the sufferings of the Mother of God. For those who continue to endure similar sufferings, let us pray that they may receive from God the strength that they desperately need to continue to carry their spiritual crosses.