Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Story of the Miraculous Medal

The following comes from The Catholic Exchange:
Q: I received a Miraculous Medal for Confirmation. Where does this come from and what does this mean? 
The story of the Miraculous Medal arises from the apparitions of our Blessed Mother to St. Catherine Laboure, a novice at the motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity in Paris (where it still stands today at 140 Rue du Bac). St. Catherine (1806-1876; canonized 1947) was the daughter of a farmer, and was the ninth of 11 children. When she was eight years old, St. Catherine lost her mother.
Even at that tender age, St. Catherine showed a special love for the Blessed Mother: Upon her mother’s death, St. Catherine climbed a chair to reach the statue of the Blessed Mother in their home. Clasping it to her chest, she said, “Now, dear Blessed Mother, you will be my mother.” She was called upon to care for the family, thereby depriving her of any formal education at school. (Her youngest sibling was an invalid and needed constant care.) On January 22, 1830, at the age of 24, St. Catherine joined the Daughters of Charity, who had been founded by St. Vincent de Paul.
On the night of July 18, 1830, St. Catherine saw our Blessed Mother seated in the choir of the motherhouse chapel. St. Catherine herself recorded the incident, which she entitled, “July Conversation with the Most Blessed Virgin, from 11:30 in the evening of the 18th until 1:30 in the morning of the 19th, St. Vincent’s Day.” During this time, the Blessed Mother spoke to her and made several predictions which would later come to pass. The Blessed Mother said, “My child, the good God wishes to charge you with a mission. You will have much to suffer, but you will rise above these sufferings by reflecting that what you do is for the glory of God. You will know what the good God wants. You will be tormented until you have told him who is charged with directing you. You will be contradicted but, do not fear, you will have grace. Tell with confidence all that passes within you; tell it with simplicity. Have confidence. Do not be afraid.”
On November 27, 1830, the Blessed Mother again appeared to St. Catherine at about 5:30PM, while she was making her meditation with the community. St. Catherine described what she saw: “The Virgin was standing. She was of medium height, and clothed all in white. Her dress was of the whiteness of the dawn, made in the style called à la vierge, that is, high neck and plain sleeves. A white veil covered her head and fell on either side to her feet. Under the veil, her hair, in coils, was bound with a fillet ornamented with lace, about three centimeters in height or of two fingers’ breadth, without pleats, and resting lightly on the hair. Her face was sufficiently exposed, indeed exposed very well, and so beautiful that it seems to me impossible to express her ravishing beauty. Her feet rested on a white globe, that is to say half a globe, or at least I saw only half. There was also a serpent, green in color with yellow spots. The hands were raised to the height of the stomach and held, in a very relaxed manner and as if offering it to God, a golden ball surmounted with a little golden cross, which represented the world. Her eyes were now raised to heaven, now lowered. Her face was of such beauty that I could not describe it. All at once, I saw rings on her fingers, three rings to each finger, the largest one near the base of the finger, one of medium size in the middle, the smallest one at the tip. Each ring was set with gems, some more beautiful than others; the larger gems emitted greater rays and the smaller gems, smaller rays; the rays bursting from all sides flooded the base, so that I could no longer see the feet of the Blessed Virgin.”
The Blessed Mother then explained to St. Catherine the symbolism involved in her appearance: “This ball that you see represents the whole world, especially France, and each person in particular. [The dazzling rays] are the symbols of graces I shed upon those who ask for them. The gems from which the rays do not fall are the graces for which souls forget to ask.” A slightly oval frame surrounded the Blessed Mother upon which were the words written in gold: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” This image clearly identified the Blessed Mother as the Immaculate Conception and the Mediatrix of graces. (In 1854, Blessed Pope Pius IX solemnly pronounced the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, that “the most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God and in view of the merits of Christ Jesus the Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin…” (Ineffabilis Deus).)
The Blessed Mother then instructed St. Catherine to have a medal struck after this image. On the reverse side there was to be a large M surmounted by a bar and a cross; beneath the M were to be the heart of Jesus, crowned with thorns, and the heart of Mary, pierced with a sword. The Blessed Mother also said, “All who wear it will receive great graces; they should wear it around the neck. Graces will abound for those who wear it with confidence.” With the approval of Archbishop de Quelen of Paris, the first 1,500 medals were struck on June 30, 1832. Because of the numerous favors received by the faithful, the medal was soon known as “miraculous.” After a canonical inquiry at Paris (1836) regarding the apparitions, the medal was declared of supernatural origin.
One of the most famous miraculous favors surrounding the medal was the instantaneous conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne, a non-practicing Jew who was an atheist. Ratisbonne was the son and heir of a wealthy aristocratic family of bankers in Strasbourg, France. After his older brother converted to Catholicism and became a priest, and the family disinherited him, Ratisbonne held a deep hostility toward Catholicism. When in Rome, Ratisbonne met with the Baron de Bussieres, the brother of one of his best friends. The baron, a devout Catholic, dared Ratisbonne to wear a Miraculous Medal and recite a short daily prayer to Mary; if nothing happened, then indeed there would be nothing to such “detestable superstitions,” as Ratisbonne called them. He agreed to the wager.
On January 20, 1842, the last day of his stay in Rome, the baron and Ratisbonne stopped in the Church of St. Andrea delle Fratte. Immediately, Ratisbonne felt in spiritual turmoil. He saw a bright light that filled the chapel of St. Michael the Archangel. He said: “I saw someone standing on the altar, a lofty shining figure, all majesty and sweetness, the Virgin Mary just as she looks on this medal. Some irresistible force drew me towards her. She motioned to me to kneel down and when I did so, she seemed to approve. Though she never said a word, I understood her perfectly…. I was there, on my knees, in tears…. I took the medal…and kissed passionately the image of the Virgin radiant with grace. It was she!” Shortly thereafter, he was baptized, and then later ordained as a priest. The instantaneous conversion of this prominent figure helped move the Holy See to grant official papal approval for the medal.

The First Thanksgiving


The following comes from the Freedomkeys website and presents a real look at the first Thanksgiving:

Did you know that the first [Plymouth Colony Pilgrim's] Thanksgiving was a celebration of the triumph of private property and individual initiative?

William Bradford was the governor of the original Pilgrim colony, founded at Plymouth in 1621. The colony was first organized on a communal basis, as their financiers required. Land was owned in common. The Pilgrims farmed communally, too, following the "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" precept.
 

The results were disastrous. Communism didn't work any better 400 years ago than it does today. By 1623, the colony had suffered serious losses. Starvation was imminent.
Bradford realized that the communal system encouraged and rewarded waste and laziness and inefficiency, and destroyed individual initiative. Desperate, he abolished it. He distributed private plots of land among the surviving Pilgrims, encouraging them to plant early and farm as individuals, not collectively.

The results: a bountiful early harvest that saved the colonies. After the harvest, the Pilgrims celebrated with a day of Thanksgiving -- on August 9th.
 
Psalm 111

Praise the Lord. I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who have pleasure in them. Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures for ever. He has caused his wonderful works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and merciful. He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant. He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy, they are established for ever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant for ever. Holy and terrible is his name! The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who practice it. His praise endures for ever!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lead Me To The Cross by Hillsong

Why Orthodox Men Love Church



The following comes from Provoslavie:

In a time when churches of every description are faced with Vanishing Male Syndrome, men are showing up at Eastern Orthodox churches in numbers that, if not numerically impressive, are proportionately intriguing. This may be the only church which attracts and holds men in numbers equal to women. As Leon Podles wrote in his 1999 book, "The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity," "The Orthodox are the only Christians who write basso profundo church music, or need to." 
Rather than guess why this is, I emailed a hundred Orthodox men, most of whom joined the Church as adults. What do they think makes this church particularly attractive to men? Their responses, below, may spark some ideas for leaders in other churches, who are looking for ways to keep guys in the church.
Challenges. The term most commonly cited by these men was "challenging." Orthodoxy is "active and not passive." "It's the only church where you are required to adapt to it, rather than it adapting to you." "The longer you are in it, the more you realize it demands of you."
The "sheer physicality of Orthodox worship" is part of the appeal. Regular days of fasting from meat and dairy, "standing for hours on end, performing prostrations, going without food and water [before communion]...When you get to the end you feel that you've faced down a challenge." "Orthodoxy appeals to a man's desire for self-mastery through discipline."
"In Orthodoxy, the theme of spiritual warfare is ubiquitous; saints, including female saints, are warriors. Warfare requires courage, fortitude, and heroism. We are called to be 'strugglers' against sin, to be 'athletes' as St. Paul says. And the prize is given to the victor. The fact that you must 'struggle' during worship by standing up throughout long services is itself a challenge men are willing to take up."       
A recent convert summed up, "Orthodoxy is serious. It is difficult. It is demanding. It is about mercy, but it's also about overcoming oneself. I am challenged in a deep way, not to 'feel good about myself' but to become holy. It is rigorous, and in that rigor I find liberation. And you know, so does my wife."
Clear Disciplines. Several mentioned that they really appreciated having clarity about the content of these challenges and what they were supposed to do. "Most guys feel a lot more comfortable when they know what's expected of them." "Orthodoxy presents a reasonable set of boundaries."  "It's easier for guys to express themselves in worship if there are guidelines about how it's supposed to work—especially when those guidelines are so simple and down-to-earth that you can just set out and start doing something."
Male choir, seminarians.
"The prayers the Church provides for us — morning prayers, evening prayers, prayers before and after meals, and so on — give men a way to engage in spirituality without feeling put on the spot, or worrying about looking stupid because they don't know what to say."
They appreciate learning clear-cut physical actions that are expected to form character and understanding. "People begin learning immediately through ritual and symbolism, for example, by making the sign of the cross. This regimen of discipline makes one mindful of one's relation to the Trinity, to the Church, and to everyone he meets."
A Goal. Men also appreciate that this challenge has a goal: union with God. One said that in a previous church "I didn't feel I was getting anywhere in my spiritual life (or that there was anywhere to get to — I was already there, right?) But something, who knew what, was missing. Isn't there SOMETHING I should be doing, Lord?"
Orthodoxy preserves and transmits ancient Christian wisdom about how to progress toward this union, which is called "theosis." Every sacrament or spiritual exercise is designed to bring the person, body and soul, further into continual awareness of the presence of Christ within, and also within every other human being. As a cloth becomes saturated with dye by osmosis, we are saturated with God by theosis.
A catechumen wrote that he was finding icons helpful in resisting unwanted thoughts. "If you just close your eyes to some visual temptation, there are plenty of stored images to cause problems. But if you surround yourself with icons, you have a choice of whether to look at something tempting or something holy."
A priest writes, "Men need a challenge, a goal, perhaps an adventure — in primitive terms, a hunt. Western Christianity has lost the ascetic, that is, the athletic aspect of Christian life. This was the purpose of monasticism, which arose in the East largely as a men's movement. Women entered monastic life as well, and our ancient hymns still speak of women martyrs as showing 'manly courage.'"
"Orthodoxy emphasizes DOING. …. Guys are ACTIVITY oriented."
No Sentimentality. In "The Church Impotent," cited above (and recommended by several of these men), Leon Podles offers a theory about how Western Christian piety became feminized. In the 12th-13th centuries a particularly tender, even erotic, strain of devotion arose, one which invited the individual believer to picture himself or herself (rather than the Church as a whole) as the Bride of Christ. "Bridal Mysticism" was enthusiastically adopted by devout women, and left an enduring stamp on Western Christianity. It understandably had less appeal for guys. For centuries in the West, men who chose the ministry have been stereotyped as effeminate. A life-long Orthodox layman says that, from the outside, Western Christianity strikes him as "a love story written for women by women." 
The Eastern Church escaped Bridal Mysticism because the great split between East and West had already taken place. The men who wrote me expressed hearty dislike for what they perceive as a soft Western Jesus. "American Christianity in the last two hundred years has been feminized. It presents Jesus as a friend, a lover, someone who 'walks with me and talks with me.' This is fine rapturous imagery for women who need a social life. Or it depicts Jesus whipped, dead on the cross. Neither is the type of Christ the typical male wants much to do with."
During worship, "men don't want to pray in the Western fashion with hands clasped, lips pressed together, and a facial expression of forced serenity." "It's guys holding hands with other guys and singing campfire songs." "Lines about 'reaching out for His embrace,' 'wanting to touch His face,' while being 'overwhelmed by the power of His love'—those are difficult songs for one man to sing to another Man."
"A friend of mine told me that the first thing he does when he walks into a church is to look at the curtains. That tells him who is making the decisions in that church, and the type of Christian they want to attract."
"Guys either want to be challenged to fight for a glorious and honorable cause, and get filthy dirty in the process, or to loaf in our recliners with plenty of beer, pizza, and football. But most churches want us to behave like orderly gentlemen, keeping our hands and mouths nice and clean."
One man said that worship at his Pentecostal church had been "largely an emotional experience. Feelings. Tears. Repeated rededication of one's life to Christ, in large emotional group settings. Singing emotional songs, swaying hands aloft. Even Scripture reading was supposed to produce an emotional experience. I am basically a do-er, I want to do things, and not talk about or emote my way through them! As a business person I knew that nothing in business comes without effort, energy, and investment. Why would the spiritual life be any different?"
Another, who visited Catholic churches, says, "They were conventional, easy, and modern, when my wife and I were looking for something traditional, hard, and counter-cultural, something ancient and martial." A catechumen says that at his non-denominational church "worship was shallow, haphazard, cobbled together from whatever was most current; sometimes we'd stand, sometimes we'd sit, without much rhyme or reason to it. I got to thinking about how a stronger grounding in tradition would help."
"It infuriated me on my last Ash Wednesday that the priest delivered a homily about how the real meaning of Lent is to learn to love ourselves more. It forced me to realize how completely sick I was of bourgeois, feel-good American Christianity."
A convert priest says that men are drawn to the dangerous element of Orthodoxy, which involves "the self-denial of a warrior, the terrifying risk of loving one's enemies, the unknown frontiers to which a commitment to humility might call us. Lose any of those dangerous qualities and we become the 'JoAnn Fabric Store' of churches: nice colors and a very subdued clientele."
"Men get pretty cynical when they sense someone's attempting to manipulate their emotions, especially when it's in the name of religion. They appreciate the objectivity of Orthodox worship. It's not aimed at prompting religious feelings but at performing an objective duty."
Photo by Alexander Osokin.
Photo by Alexander Osokin.
Yet there is something in Orthodoxy that offers "a deep masculine romance. Do you understand what I mean by that? Most romance in our age is pink, but this is a romance of swords and gallantry."
From a deacon: "Evangelical churches call men to be passive and nice (think 'Mr. Rogers'). Orthodox churches call men to be courageous and act (think 'Braveheart').
Jesus Christ. What draws men to Orthodoxy is not simply that it's challenging or mysterious. What draws them is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the center of everything the Church does or says.
In contrast to some other churches, "Orthodoxy offers a robust Jesus" (and even a robust Virgin Mary, for that matter, hailed in one hymn as "our Captain, Queen of War"). Several used the term "martial" or referred to Orthodoxy as the "Marine Corps" of Christianity. (The warfare is against self-destructive sin and the unseen spiritual powers, not other people, of course.)
One contrasted this "robust" quality with "the feminized pictures of Jesus I grew up with. I've never had a male friend who would not have expended serious effort to avoid meeting someone who looked like that." Though drawn to Jesus Christ as a teen, "I felt ashamed of this attraction, as if it were something a red-blooded American boy shouldn't take that seriously, almost akin to playing with dolls."
A priest writes: "Christ in Orthodoxy is a militant, Jesus takes Hell captive. Orthodox Jesus came to cast fire on the earth. (Males can relate to this.) In Holy Baptism we pray for the newly-enlisted warriors of Christ, male and female, that they may 'be kept ever warriors invincible.'"
After several years in Orthodoxy, one man found a service of Christmas carols in a Protestant church "shocking, even appalling." Compared to the Orthodox hymns of Christ's Nativity, "'the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay' has almost nothing to do with the Eternal Logos entering inexorably, silently yet heroically, into the fabric of created reality."

Read the rest here.

Pope Francis on Peace

"Lord, defuse the violence of our tongues and our hands. Renew our hearts and minds, so that the word which always brings us together will be "brother", and our way of life will always be that of: Shalom, Peace, Salaam! Amen."    Pope Francis 

Saint of the day: John Berchmans


Today we remember another youthful saint as we remember John Berchmans.  The following comes from the Patron Saints Index:

Son of a shoemaker, and one of five children, three of whom entered religious life. Great devotion to his position as an altar boy. He spent much of his time caring for his mother, who was in poor health. Jesuit noviate in 1616, deciding to become a Jesuit after reading the life of Saint Aloysius GonzagaStudent at the Jesuit College at Malines. Studied philosophy in Rome. John had a dream of helping and teaching multi-lingual migrants, and he studied all the chief languages of Europe. He wanted to work in China after ordination. He died of unknown causes following his participation in a public debate defending the faith, and while clutching his rosary, crucifix, and rules of his order; he did not live to be ordained.

John Berchmans was not noted for extraordinary feats of holiness or austerity, nor did he found orders or churches or work flashy 
miracles. He made kindness, courtesy, and constant fidelity an important part of his holiness. The path to holiness can lie in the ordinary rather than the extraordinary.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I Give Myself Away by William McDowell

Preparing Our Hearts for Christ

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:

You would have to live in a cave to not know that Christmas is coming. The day after Thanksgiving, almost everyone is preparing. Shopping for presents, putting up trees, sending cards, making cookies, and hosting parties. In some churches and Christian homes the Advent Wreath will come out, maybe a Jesse Tree, and the Christmas trees and ornaments may be added weekly to slowly emphasize the Light of Christ coming into the world. The Season of Advent is a time of busy preparation and one that even the secular world will not let us forget.
So much of the love for Christmas has to do with family, giving, beauty and the longing for joy and peace in the world. These are all good things and I believe the desire to start celebrating Christmas earlier than we should has to do with people’s lives lacking these simple things at other times of the year. People desire the love and goodness that so many enjoy at Christmas time.
The problem with all of this merry making and festivity is that it’s happening at the wrong time. Advent is indeed a time of preparation but even more important than getting our shopping list checked off and planning the perfect meal is how we have prepared our souls, how we have prepared our hearts to receive the baby Jesus as our King on Christmas Day.
We must remember that as Christians we do not celebrate Advent or Christmas out of sentiment over the Lord’s birth. The reality is this: just as we are truly present in heaven at Divine Liturgy (Mass) we are also truly present at the feasts we celebrate. God of course is outside of time and it is His life that we are sharing in when we participate in the sacraments and the liturgical calendar of the Church. Participation in His life means we are mystically present at the birth of the Messiah. Advent is meant to place us in the time before He was born. The entire Old Testament is a story of preparation. God was preparing His chosen people to give to the world first, Mary—the summit of the Jewish people, and then the fruit of her womb—Jesus Christ.
So how can we prepare our hearts and lives to receive the baby born in the lowly manger on Christmas Day? The best way to do this is the same way Christians have been preparing for major feasts for centuries: through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
“Man has a noble task: That of prayer and love. To pray and love, that is the happiness of man on earth.”  
- St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney
Prayer changes us. Prayer makes way for the Lord to come into our hearts and draw us closer to Him. St. Paul told us to, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess 5:16-18) Now is a perfect time to work harder at heeding these words. The beauty of the liturgical calendar is that it allows us to experience salvation history and our Lord’s life over and over again. We are invited each year to grow deeper in our relationship with God. Prayer is key to this growth.

Blessed Maria Troncatti: Missionary Salesian

The following comes from the Salesian News Agency:

The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and with them the entire Salesian Family are in happy expectation for the Beatification of Sr Maria Troncatti. It will be possible to follow the event by direct streaming broadcast tomorrow at 10 a.m. Ecuador time. Cardinal Angelo Amato, sdb, Prefect of the Causes of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will be presiding

Macas is where it will take place and many Salesian Sisters and Salesians are gathering there from Ecuador and elsewhere in Latin America, along with young people and Salesian Family members.

Mother Yvonne Reungoat arrived in Ecuador on 20 November with Sr Piera Cavaglià, Secretary General. Representing the Rector Major, tied up in Rome with the USG assembly, is his Vicar, Fr Adrian Bregolin, and the Postulator for Causes of Saints in the Salesian Family, Fr Pierluigi Cameroni. The President of Ecuador has made a military aircraft available for guests of honour to come to Macas.

There are various events in Ecuador marking preparations for Sr Troncatti's Beatification.
Sr. Maria Troncatti – born at Corteno Golgi (Brescia, Italy) on 16 February 1883 died in a plane crash at Sucùa (Ecuador) on 25 August 1969 – she is an example of a Religious and missionary vocation, filled with Marian devotion and dedication to the apostolic mission she had received. Hers was a life given to evangelisation and social and human development of the Shuar people in the Amazonian jungles of Ecuador. What stands out is her strong love for and fidelity to the Church expressed also in her care for God's ministers: she was always ready to lend them a hand in the difficulties of the mission.

Salesian missionary Fr John Vigna, who had occasion to get to know Sr Troncatti, says of her: “She was the very embodiment of simplicity and Gospel shrewdness. With what exquisite motherliness she won over hearts! For every problem she found a solution that was, in the light of the facts, always the best one. She never overlooked the fact that she was dealing with weak and sinful human beings. I have seen her deal with human nature of every kind, including the most miserable: she treated them with the kindness that was just natural and spontaneous for her. What surprised me was that she remained exquisitely the woman in everything and always. I would say that the more virginal she was the more she was the mother”.

There are various resources available for getting to know Sr Maria Troncatti better: sdb.org and cgfmanet.org.

The Salesian Sisters in Ecuador have a new section on their site dedicated to Sr Maria Troncatti. On this site, on Saturday morning 24 November at 10:00 (GMT-5) it will be possible to follow a direct broadcast of the Beatification at which Cardinal Angelo Amato, sdb, Prefect of the Congregation of Causes of Saints will preside.

Saint of the day: Catherine of Alexandria


The following comes from the
Patron Saints index:

Born to the nobility. Learned in science and oratory. Converted to Christianity after receiving a vision. When she was 18 years old, during the persecution of Maximinus, she offered to debate the pagan philosophers. Many were converted by her arguments, and immediately martyred. Maximinus had her scourged and imprisoned. The empress and the leader of the army of Maximinus were amazed by the stories, went to see Catherine in prison. They converted and were martyred. Maximinus ordered her broken on the wheel, but she touched it and the wheel was destroyed. She was beheaded, and her body whisked away by angels.

Immensely popular during the Middle Ages, there were many chapels and churches devoted to her throughout western Europe, and she was reported as one of the divine advisors to Saint Joan of Arc. Her reputation for learning and wisdom led to her patronage of libaries, librarians, teachers, archivists, and anyone associated with wisdom or teaching. Her debating skill and persuasive language has led to her patronage of lawyers. And her torture on the wheel led to those who work with them asking for her intercession. One of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

While there may well have been a noble, educated, virginal lady who swayed pagans with her rhetoric during the persecutions, the accretion of legend, romance and poetry has long since buried the real Catherine.

Monday, November 24, 2014

I Surrender by Hillsong

Martyrs of Vietnam


Today we remember the Martyrs of Vietnam. The following comes from the Patron Saints Index:

Between the arrival of the first Portuguese missionary in 1533, through the Dominicans and then the Jesuit missions of the 17th century, the politically inspired persecutions of the 19th century, and the Communist-led terrors of the twentieth, there have been many thousands of Catholics and other Christians murdered for their faith in Vietnam. Some were priests, some nuns or brothers, some lay people; some were foreign missionaries, but most were native Vietnamese killed by their own government and countrymen.

Record keeping being what it was, and because the government did not care to keep track of the people it murdered, we have no information on the vast bulk of the victims. In 1988, Pope John Paul II recognized over a hundred of them, including some whose Causes we do have, and in commemoration of those we do not. They are collectively known as the Martyrs of Vietnam (or Tonkin or Annam or the other older names of that country).

Remembering Father Slavko Barbaric, OFM

Below is the memorial plaque at the site of his death.


November 24 is the 13th anniversary of the death of Father Slavko Barbaric, OFM of Medjugorje. This saintly man was a wonderful witness to so many pilgrims. Let's pray that we might imitate him and the sentiments he expressed in his last homily (read below). Hat tip to The North East for the following:

At the top of the 'hill of the cross' or 'Krusevac' is a plaque commemorating the place where Father Slavko died. The story of how he died is incredible.

With tears in her eyes, our Croatian guide described how he climbed the hill every day of his life since the apparitions began and how he always took a bag to collect any accumulated litter which he happened to spot whilst praying and stepping over rocks. She related the story of how he reached the last station of the cross and said to those around him ' We will now pray for all the pilgrims in Medjugorje and we we will now pray for the next one to die.'

He then sat down and died.

The next day the visionaries were told by Our Lady that their brother Slavko had entered Heaven and was now interceding for them.

THE LAST HOMILY OF Fr SLAVKO BARBARIC O.F.M.

Given on the morning of his last day on earth, November 24, 2000, at 9.00am Mass in St James’ Church, Medjugorje.
The unity of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Almost every message of Our Lady ends with the sentence, ‘Thank you for having responded to my call’. I have often asked myself, whom does Our Lady give thanks to, who is so important that she comes down from Heaven to say ‘Thank you’ to that person? She does not expect a lot from us, but she sees everything good we have done already and that is why she thanks us.

FORGIVENESS

Let us also ask God's forgiveness for all that was not good, where selfishness, jealousy or arrogance prevailed in the past, so that, by our prayer and fasting, we may help in the dawning of a new time; as Our Lady said in her last message (25th October 2000) I would like to say quite consciously, together with Mary, once more ‘Thanks’ to all who have answered her messages in their own special way. It is always good to know, time and again, that Our Lady cannot do anything without our help! When we heard her ‘Thank you’ for the very first time, we were somehow taken aback, for we are used to ask God for everything.

Of course, there is nothing wrong in expecting everything from God, to ask and pray to Him, the Almighty One – but there is a message coming back to us, saying: ‘I need you, you are important to me, I cannot do anything without your help!’ We often cannot comprehend this, but it is truly a fact. God wanted each and everyone of us, at our time, in our own surroundings, where we live. He wanted us and He has bestowed certain talents to us, which He wants to develop and make grow in us by His grace, so that we may serve Him by using our talents.

CRITICISM

Everyone who, by using his or her talents, serves, loves, believes and hopes, is helping and respects others. We all are essential, in our time, at our place in our life, where God has decided us to be. I have often said this to people who criticise others a lot, or to those who believe they themselves would have done better had they been in God’s position. If God would have thought that you would have lived and served better at a different time or at a different place, then He would not have put you where you are now, but at that other place. Never say ‘I’ in God's place, but rather open your eyes and ears to your time and to your neighbour with whom you live. This is your very first task; this is where you are irreplaceable; this is where you are important for God and this is where God cannot do anything without your help. In that way we experience God's love and, His love, that same love reaches others through us.

GOD NEEDS US

When we receive consolation from God, it is only right to give it to others and – this we can only do at the time, at the place where we are just now. Only there, and now, can we do God's will and He cannot do anything without our help. Mary has succeeded in one thing during these 19 years and 5 months: Many people, who thought it sufficient to attend Holy Mass on Sundays only, have become very active in their religious life through the messages. That is why we can say today ‘Thank you’ for all the people across the whole world, who consciously spread the messages, with Our Lady's and other's help.

A Croatian monk, a missionary who spent his time in India, once told me that every Saturday night and evening programme like the one in Medjugorje is being celebrated not just in one parish, but in several. This is another reason for Mary saying in her last message, that she thanked God and is delighted that so many people have come here during this Jubilee year and that the Church has been spiritually renewed.

I believe we still must change quite a lot ourselves, for instance, to be able to see the Church and our families with the eyes of Mary. We are often inclined to judge and to complain about people and our time when we look at the world around us. Of course, there are a lot of problems. But Mary looks upon this world with different eyes than we do. She sees the good, however small, however insignificant. She recognises it and is grateful for it.

GRATITUDE

Gratitude is the best guideline in education. When you want to educate someone, you must first look at the good inside that person; however insignificantly small it may be. Then you must try and visualise how the individual could be and work on that together with the person. If we are blind to these things we only see the negative aspects; things that are imperfect; things alien to our momentary fancy and so we can get cracking with our criticism; we condemn and reject.

Mary, on the other hand, only sees the good things in this world. She also sees what could be better, and right there she begins with her teaching. Read the messages! They are positive and they give hope, they are encouraging. In the same way, Mary has awakened the positive power within us and that is why we thank her.

The one who follows Mary has no time to criticise. Mary gives us courage to do something even where we might believe it might disturb, or not be good, or be too much for us. Only in this way can Mary, together with her Son Jesus, enter the third Millennium. Therefore, thank all the people in the world who follow Mary, who visit us untiringly, who organise pilgrimages without ever getting tired.

Let, as Mary says, a new dawn arise, a new springtime. It is not springtime in a calendar sense, but it is springtime of a new decision. Let the New World begin, where we believe it is outdated, contaminated and destroyed. When you decide to love God and our neighbour as yourself and when many besides you do likewise, then the new time has arrived. Amen.

Fr Slavko Barbaric O.F.M., November 24, 2000

Sunday, November 23, 2014

To Be Like You by Hillsong

Beneath the Cross of the Crucified King

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God…We preach Christ crucified,…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
1 Corinthians 1:18, 23-25

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And behold: we who… are standing… beneath the cross of the ages, wish, through Your cross and passion, O Christ, to cry out today that mercy [which] has irreversibly entered in to the history of man, into our whole human history—and which in spite of the appearances of weakness is stronger than evil. It is the greatest power and force upon which man can sustain himself, threatened as he is from so many sides…

Holy is God.

Holy and strong.

Holy immortal One, have mercy on us.

Have mercy: eleison: misere.

May the power of Your love once more be shown to be greater than the evil that threatens it. May it be shown to be greater than sin…

May the power of Your cross, O Christ, be shown to be greater than the author of sin, who is called "the prince of this world."

For by your blood and Your passion You have redeemed the world!
[L’Osservatore Romano, 4-27-81,8]

Solemnity of Christ the King


Today is the Solemnity of Christ the King. This comes from Fr. Hardon:

The spirituality of St. Paul derives all it’s meaning and finds all its purpose in one dominant mystery of the Christian faith—namely, the person of Christ as the natural Son of God.

After all, what is Christianity except the religion of a human being who was and proved Himself to be the Incarnate God?

It is not so much that Paul knew this, as though his letters somehow serve to confirm what, as Christians, we believe. It is rather that the revelation of Christ’s divinity is found in St. Paul. His fourteen letters are a mosaic of many things, but of nothing more surely and clearly and fundamentally than that Jesus is the Eternal God.

We could almost close our eyes and choose any one of more than a score of passages in Paul’s writings testifying to Christ’s divine nature. In fact, for Paul, Christ is simply the Lord, Kyrios, the same title as he uses for God.

But the classic passage in which the apostle synthesizes all that Christ is and means to mankind occurs in the first chapter of Colossians. It reads like a symphony, which it is, because it contains in six verses all that the Church believes about her Founder.

Says St. Paul of Christ:

He is the image of the unseen God and the first born of all creation, for in Him were created all things in heaven and on earth; everything visible and everything invisible, Thrones, Dominations, Sovereignties, Powers—all things were created through and for Him.
Before anything was created, He existed, and He holds all things in unity (Col 1:15-17).

Feast of St. Colombanus, Irish Monk and Father of Europe


The following comes from the CNA:

An originator of Ireland's unique monastic tradition, who went on to serve as a missionary to continental Europe during the early Middle Ages, the abbot Saint Columbanus – also known as St. Columban – is honored by the Catholic Church on Nov. 23.

Despite their similar names and biographies, St. Columbanus is not the same person as Saint Columba of Iona, another monk from Ireland who spread the faith abroad and lived during the same time period.

In a June 2008 general audience on St. Columbanus, Pope Benedict XVI said he was “a man of great culture” who also “proved rich in gifts of grace.” The Pope recalled him as “a tireless builder of monasteries as well as an intransigent penitential preacher who spent every ounce of his energy on nurturing the Christian roots of Europe which was coming into existence.”

“With his spiritual energy, with his faith, with his love for God and neighbor,” St. Columbanus “truly became one of the Fathers of Europe.” According to Pope Benedict, the course of the Irish monk's life “shows us even today the roots from which our Europe can be reborn.”

Born during 543 in the southeastern Irish region of Leinster, Columbanus was well-educated from his early years. Handsome in appearance, he was tempted by women and was eventually advised by a nun to follow her example and flee from temptation by embracing monasticism. His mother disapproved of this intention, but his will prevailed even when she tried to prevent him from leaving home.

The aspiring monk studied initially with Abbot Sinell of Cluaninis, before moving on to a monastery headed by the abbot later canonized as Saint Comgall. It was under his direction, in the Abbey of Bangor in County Down, that Columbanus formally embraced the monastic calling, as one of a growing number of monks drawn to the Bangor community's ascetic rigor and intellectual vitality.

Though Columbanus was known as a dedicated monk and scholar, around the year 583 he felt called to undertake foreign missionary work. Initially denied permission by the abbot, he was eventually allowed to depart with a band of twelve men, with whom he sailed to Britain before reaching France around 585. There, they found the Church suffering from barbarian invasions and internal corruption.

Received with favor by King Gontram of Burgundy, Columbanus and his companions founded a monastery in an abandoned Roman fortress. Despite its remote location in the mountains, the community became a popular pilgrimage site, and also attracted so many monastic vocations that two new monasteries had to be formed to accommodate them.

These monastic communities remained under Columbanus' authority, and their rules of life reflected the Irish tradition in which he had been formed. Meanwhile, as they expanded, the abbot himself sought greater solitude, spending periods of time in a hermitage and communicating with the monks through an intermediary.

As heirs to the Irish monastic tradition, Columbanus and his monks ran into differences with the bishops in France, partly over the calculation of the date of Easter. He also met with opposition from within the French royal family, because of his insistence that King Thierry should not live with a woman outside of wedlock. He had been urged to do so by his grandmother Queen Brunehild, who thought a royal marriage would threaten her own power.

Columbanus' moral stand for marriage led first to his imprisonment, from which he escaped. But the king and his grandmother had him driven out of France by force, and they separated him from his monks by insisting that only those from Ireland could accompany him into exile. This group traveled and evangelized in present-day Germany, though political circumstances eventually forced them to cross the Alps into northern Italy.

Welcomed by the ruling Lombards, Columbanus nonetheless found the Italian Church troubled by heresy and schism. The monk wrote against the Arian heresy (which claimed that Christ was not God but only a highly exalted creature), and asked Pope Saint Boniface IV to help restore the unity of the Church in the region. Columbanus himself was involved in a theological dispute with Pope Boniface, but he remained “bound to the Chair of Peter” and acknowledged the Pope's authority.

Having received a grant of land from the Lombard king, Columbanus founded his last monastery in the town of Bobbio during 614. Although St. Columbanus died on Nov. 23 of the following year, the abbey at Bobbio remained a center of theological orthodoxy and cultural preservation for centuries afterward.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Something Beautiful by NEEDTOBREATHE


Something Beautiful by NeedToBreathe

In your ocean, I'm ankle deep
I feel the waves crashin' on my feet
It's like I know where I need to be
But I can't figure out, yeah I can't figure out

Just how much air I will need to breathe
When your tide rushes over me
There's only one way to figure out
Will ya let me drown, will ya let me drown

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, 'cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I'm in reach
'Cause I am down on my knees, I'm waiting for something beautiful
Oh, something beautiful

And the water is risin' quick
And for years I was scared of it
We can't be sure when it will subside
So I won't leave your side, no I can't leave your side

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, 'cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I'm in reach
'Cause I am down on my knees, I'm waiting for something beautiful
Oh, something beautiful

In a daydream, I couldn't live like this
I wouldn't stop until I found something beautiful
When I wake up, I know I will have
No, I still won't have what I need

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, 'cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I'm in reach
'Cause I am down on my knees, I'm waiting for something beautiful
Oh, something beautiful.