Monday, March 30, 2015

Do Not Be Discouraged

Do Not Be Discouraged from Renewal Ministries on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Remembrance by Matt Maher (Passion of the Christ)


Communion Featuring The Passion from Hadley Baker on Vimeo.

Palm Sunday: The Victory of Humility

The following comes from the The Crossroads Initiative: 

Palm Sunday -- When a conquering hero of the ancient world rode into town in triumph, it was in a regal chariot or on the back of a stately stallion.  Legions of soldiers accompanied him in the victory procession.  Triumphal arches, festooned with relief sculptures, were often erected to immortalize his valiant victory.

After driving out demons, healing the sick, and raising the dead, it was time for the King of Kings to enter the Holy City.  But to do so, he rode not on the back of a warhorse, but a donkey. His companions accompanied him brandishing not swords, but palm branches.  The monument to his victory, erected a week later, was not an arch, but a crucifix.

His earthly beginning was frightfully humble.  And his earthly end would be no different.  The wood of the manger prefigured the wood of the cross.

From beginning to end, the details are humiliating.  No room in the inn.  Born amidst the stench of a stable.  Hunted by Herod’s henchmen.  Growing up in a far-flung province of the Roman Empire--Galilee, the land where the country accent is so thick, you can cut it with a knife.  How it that the high priest’s servant-girl knew Peter was a disciple of Jesus?  His hillbilly accent gave him away (Matthew 26:73).  Jesus disciples were not cultured, learned men of ability.  They were drawn from the low-life of a backwater region…

When one of his closest companions offered to betray him, he did not require millions.  Jesus’ worth was reckoned to be no more than the Old Testament “book value” for a slave--thirty pieces of silver (Ex 21;32).  When he was finally handed over to the Romans, he was not given the punishment meted out to Roman citizens.  Beheading was the quick, dignified way to execute someone of any standing.  Instead Jesus was given punishments reserved only for slaves and rebellious members of subjugated peoples – flagellation and crucifixion.  These two penalties were not just about the pain, but about the humiliation.  In first century Palestine, men and women typically covered themselves from head to toe, even in the scorching heat.  A crucified man was stripped naked and put on display for all to see.

But this is not primary a story of violence and humiliation.  The events of Holy Week are much more about love and humility.

That’s why on Passion Sunday we read the powerful words of Paul’s letter from the Philippians (2:6-11).  Though the Divine Word was God, dwelling in the serene heights of heavenly glory, he freely plunged to the depths of human misery, joining himself to our frail nature, entering into our turbulent world.  As if this act of humility were not enough, he further humbled himself, accepting the status of a slave.  His act of stooping down to wash the feet of his disciples (Jn 13) was a parable of his whole human existence, for this act was regarded as so undignified that not even Israelite slaves could be compelled to do it.

But that’s just it.  Jesus was not compelled to do it.  He willingly lowered himself in his birth, in his ministry, in his death.  No one took his life from him.  He freely laid down his own life (Jn 10:18).  Others did not have the chance to humble him; he humbled himself.

The Passion of the Christ, Passover, Jesus - Lamb of GodIt had to be so.  The Second Adam had to undo the damage caused by the first.  What was the sin our first parents?  They disobeyed because they wanted to know what God knew, to be like God, to exalt themselves over God (Gen 3).  They were bitten by the Serpent, and injected with the deadly venom of Pride.  The antidote, the anti-venom could only be humility.  The foot-washing, donkey-riding New Adam would crush the head of the deadly serpent by means of loving, humble obedience. 

The first-born of many brothers lowered himself to the dust from which the First Adam has been made–indeed humility comes from the word “humus.” But God responded to his humility by exalting him far above Caesars, kings, and even Hollywood stars.  And he invites us to share his glory with him.  But first we must walk on his road to glory, the royal road of the cross.

Fr. Robert Barron: On Palm Sunday

Saturday, March 28, 2015

In Christ Alone: Kristian Stanfill

Pope Francis: "If you did not touch him, you did not meet him"

The following comes from My Unquiet Heart:

My son and I went for a drink at a café last night, and sat at a table in the front window. There was a homeless man sitting on the porch, alone. As Isaac and I drank our root beers, a young woman quietly walked up to the man and spoke with him. She came inside, purchased a coffee, filled it with cream and sugar, then went back outside to deliver it to the man.

This was impressive enough. The woman was discreet, and clearly didn't want to draw attention to herself. But what impressed me most deeply about her was that she didn't just buy this man a coffee. She talked with him, looked him in the eye, and touched him on the shoulder unselfconsciously and with evident care. She provided for me, as a parent, a teaching moment as I pointed out to Isaac what she was doing. She also taught me by modelling the kind of generous love to which we are called as Christians.

I couldn't help but be reminded of something Pope Francis said to his fellow Argentinians in August 2013 as they gathered to celebrate the feast of St Gaetano. In his talk, Pope Francis talked specifically not just about giving alms, but about how we should give alms. He did this by going through the questions he asks people when it comes to giving to the poor:
“Do you give alms?
“They tell me, ‘Yes, Father.’
“And when you give alms do you look in the eyes of the people you give them to?
‘Oh, I don’t know, I don’t notice.’
“Look, he has not met the people. He threw the alms and left. When he gives the alms, does his hand touch (the hand of the poor) or does he toss the coin?”
“No, you throw the coin. And you have not touched, and if you did not touch him, you did not meet him.”
“What Jesus teaches us is first to meet, and (after) meeting, to help. We need to know how to meet. We need to build, to create, to construct a culture of encounter.”
At a Heine Brothers Coffee shop on the corner of Bardstown Road and Longest Avenue, I saw a young woman truly meet a homeless man. Yes, there is more to generous love than just buying someone a coffee, talking to them, and touching them. There are systematic changes that need to take place in our society such that we truly care for the poor. However, such changes take place through transformed hearts, hearts like the one I saw yesterday that convict me to love more fully.

Essentials of Conversion

The following come from Dr. Kenneth J. Howell at the Coming Home Network:
Becoming a Catholic can be a difficult row to hoe. The process of conversion is a complex one that involves almost every aspect of a person’s life. When people experience internal struggles of faith, marital discord because of possible conversion, the alienation of family members, or the loss of employment, the inherent obstacles of conversion hit them right in the face.
Yet, those who come as adults to the Catholic Church from another background do not have proprietary rights on the title of convert. The word “convert” derives from the Latin verb convertere and literally means “to turn to be with” (con = with, vertere = turn). It expresses the same meaning as the Greek word metanoia, the word used in the New Testament regularly translated as “repentance.” Converts are people who have changed their life and have moved closer to God through faith and repentance. Conversion in the Catholic sense is a lifelong process of repentance (metanoia), faith, and good works that yields a profound internal change of heart, ultimately leading to final union with God. In the final analysis, becoming Catholic is not about changing churches or adopting a new religion; it is a movement from Here to Eternity.
Whether one is a cradle Catholic or from outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church, conversion involves a process of change in one’s worldview that reaches to the core of one’s being. It is not for the faint of heart. Hidden beneath the process of conversion lie other more subtle obstacles that can be easily missed by those drawn to the Church. In their enthusiasm for a new-found faith or expression of the faith, potential converts can sometimes miss what a deep conversion really consists of. In this and following months, I would like to point to five areas that are both stumbling blocks and stepping stones for converts to the Catholic Faith.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Break Every Chain by The Digital Age

Is Confession Scriptural?

The following comes from Catholic Exchange:


The Lord declares in Isaiah 43:25:
I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
Psalm 103:2-3 adds:
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases…
Many will use these verses against the idea of confession to a priest. God forgiving sins, they will claim, precludes the possibility of there being a priest who forgives sins. Further, Hebrews 3:1 and 7:22-27 tell us Jesus is, “the… high priest of our confession” and that there are not “many priests,” but one in the New Testament—Jesus Christ. Moreover, if Jesus is the “one mediator between God and men” (I Tim. 2:5), how can Catholics reasonably claim priests act in the role of mediator in the Sacrament of Confession?
BEGINNING WITH THE OLD
The Catholic Church acknowledges what Scripture unequivocally declares: it is God who forgives our sins. But that is not the end of the story. Leviticus 19:20-22 is equally unequivocal:
If a man lies carnally with a woman… they shall not be put to death… But he shall bring a guilt offering for himself to the Lord… And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the Lord for his sin which he has committed; and the sin which he has committed shall be forgiven him.
Apparently, a priest being used as God’s instrument of forgiveness did not somehow take away from the fact that it was God who did the forgiving. God was the first cause of the forgiveness; the priest was the secondary, or instrumental cause. Thus, God being the forgiver of sins in Isaiah 43:25 and Psalm 103:3 in no way eliminates the possibility of there being a ministerial priesthood established by God to communicate his forgiveness.
OUT WITH THE OLD
Many Protestants will concede the point of priests acting as mediators of forgiveness in the Old Testament. “However,” they will claim, “The people of God had priests in theOld Testament. Jesus is our only priest in the New Testament.” The question is: could it be that “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) did something similar to that which he did, as God, in the Old Testament? Could he have established a priesthood to mediate his forgiveness in the New Testament?
IN WITH THE NEW
Just as God empowered his priests to be instruments of forgiveness in the Old Testament, the God/man Jesus Christ delegated authority to his New Testament ministers to act as mediators of reconciliation as well. Jesus made this remarkably clear in John 20:21-23:
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Having been raised from the dead, our Lord was here commissioning his apostles to carry on with his work just before he was to ascend to heaven. “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” What did the Father send Jesus to do? All Christians agree he sent Christ to be the one true mediator between God and men. As such, Christ was to infallibly proclaim the Gospel (cf. Luke 4:16-21), reign supreme as King of kings and Lord of lords (cf. Rev. 19:16); and especially, he was to redeem the world through the forgiveness of sins (cf. I Peter 2:21-25, Mark 2:5-10).
The New Testament makes very clear that Christ sent the apostles and their successors to carry on this same mission. To proclaim the gospel with the authority of Christ (cf.Matthew 28:18-20), to govern the Church in His stead (cf. Luke 22:29-30), and to sanctify her through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist (cf. John 6:54, I Cor. 11:24-29) and for our purpose here, Confession.
John 20:22-23 is nothing more than Jesus emphasizing one essential aspect of the priestly ministry of the apostles: To Forgive men’s sins in the person of Christ— “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven, whose sins you retain are retained.” Moreover, auricular confession is strongly implied here. The only way the apostles could either forgive or retain sins is by first hearing those sins confessed, and then making a judgment whether or not the penitent should be absolved.

Another Classic Quote from Archbishop Sheen

"Unless there is a Good Friday in your life, there can be no Easter Sunday." 
                                      Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Through the Storm by Charles Bradley


Hat tip to By Way of Beauty on this one!

Archbishop Sheen and a Girl Martyr in China

The following comes from the Cardinal Kung Foundation:

A couple of months before his death Bishop Fulton J. Sheen was interviewed on national television. One of the questions was this:

"Bishop Sheen, you have inspired millions of people all over the world.  Who inspired  you?  Was it a Pope?" 
Bishop Sheen responded that it was not a Pope, a cardinal, another bishop, or even a priest or a nun. It was a little Chinese girl of eleven years of age. He explained that when the Communists took over China,  they imprisoned a priest in his own rectory near the Church.  After they locked him up in his own house, the priest was horrified to look out of his window and  see the Communists proceed into the Church, where they went into the sanctuary and broke into the tabernacle. In an act of hateful desecration, they took the ciborium and threw it on the floor with all of the Sacred Hosts spilling out. The priest knew exactly how many Hosts were in the ciborium:  thirty-two.

When the Communists left, they either did not notice, or didn't pay any attention to a small girl praying in the back of the Church who saw everything that had happened.  That night the little girl came back. Slipping past the guard at the priest's house, she went inside the Church. There she made a holy hour of prayer, an act of love to make up for the act of hatred.

After her holy hour she went into the sanctuary, knelt down, bent over and with her tongue received Jesus in Holy Communion, (since it was not permissible for laymen to touch the Sacred Host with their hands.)

The little girl continued to come back each night to make her holy  hour and receive Jesus in Holy Communion on her tongue. On the thirty-second  night, after she had consumed the last and thirty-second host, she accidentally made a noise and woke the guard who was sleeping. He ran after her,  caught her, and beat her to death with the butt of his rifle. This act of heroic martyrdom was witnessed by the priest as he watched grief-stricken from his bedroom window.

When Bishop Sheen heard the story he was so inspired that he promised God he would make a holy hour of prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament everyday of his life.  If this frail, little child could give testimony and witness to the world concerning the real and wonderful Presence of her Savior in the Blessed Sacrament, then the Bishop was absolutely bound by all that was right and true, to do the same. His sole desire from then on was to bring the world to the burning Heart of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The little girl showed the Bishop what true courage and zeal really is; how faith could overcome all fear, how true love for Jesus in theEucharist must transcend life itself.

Everywhere Bishop Sheen preached on the value and benefits of the Holy Hour of prayer. Invited to give retreats to Bishops all over the world, this was his main theme and objective. 

Saint of the day: Margaret Clitherow


The following comes from the Catholic.org site:


St. Margaret Clitherow was born in Middleton, England, in 1555, of protestant parents. Possessed of good looks and full of wit and merriment, she was a charming personality. In 1571, she married John Clitherow, a well-to-do grazier and butcher (to whom she bore two children), and a few years later entered the Catholic Church. Her zeal led her to harbor fugitive priests, for which she was arrested and imprisoned by hostile authorities. Recourse was had to every means in an attempt to make her deny her Faith, but the holy woman stood firm. Finally, she was condemned to be pressed to death on March 25, 1586. She was stretched out on the ground with a sharp rock on her back and crushed under a door over laden with unbearable weights. Her bones were broken and she died within fifteen minutes. The humanity and holiness of this servant of God can be readily glimpsed in her words to a friend when she learned of her condemnation: "The sheriffs have said that I am going to die this coming Friday; and I feel the weakness of my flesh which is troubled at this news, but my spirit rejoices greatly. For the love of God, pray for me and ask all good people to do likewise." Her feast day is March 26th.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ralph Martin: A Second Chance for the Church

A Second Chance for the Church from Renewal Ministries on Vimeo.

Pope John Paul II and the Brown Scapular

This is an amazing part of the story of Pope John Paul the Great:

As everyone knows, His Holiness John Paul II was shot in Saint Peter's Square on 13 May, 1981 - the anniversary of Our Lady's first apparition at Fatima.

Just before doctors were about to begin surgery in order to remove the embedded bullet, the Holy Father regained consciousness and instructed the doctors "do not remove my scapular" during the operation. John Paul II was, after all, Totus Tuus in his devotion to the Mother of God.

Beautiful story.

If you don't wear the Scapular, why not be enrolled this Lent?


Hat tip to the Canterbury Tales on this one!

Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord



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

The Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, is one of the most important in the Church calendar. It celebrates the actual Incarnation of Our Savior the Word made flesh in the womb of His mother, Mary.

The biblical account of the Annunciation is in the first chapter of the Gospel of Saint Luke, 26-56. Saint Luke describes the annunciation given by the angel Gabriel to Mary that she was to become the mother of the Incarnation of God.

Here is recorded the "angelic salutation" of Gabriel to Mary, 'Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee" (Ave, gratia plena, Dominus tecum - Lk 1:28), and Mary's response to God's will, "Let it be done to me according to thy word" (fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum) (v. 38)

This "angelic salutation" is the origin of the "Hail Mary" prayer of the Rosary and the Angelus (the second part of the prayer comes from the words of salutation of Elizabeth to Mary at the Visitation).

The Angelus, a devotion that daily commemmorates the Annunciation, consists of three Hail Marys separated by short versicles. It is said three times a day -- morning, noon and evening -- traditionally at the sound of a bell. The Angelus derives its name from the first word of the versicles, Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae (The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary).

Mary's exultant hymn, the Magnificat, found in Luke 1:46-55, has been part of the Church's Liturgy of the Hours, at Vespers (evening prayer), and has been repeated nightly in churches, convents and monasteries for more than a thousand years.

The Church's celebration of the Annunciation is believed to date to the early 5th century, possibly originating at about the time of the Council of Ephesus (c 431). Earlier names for the Feast were Festum Incarnationis, and Conceptio Christi, and in the Eastern Churches, the Annunciation is a feast of Christ, but in the Latin Church it is a feast of Mary. The Annunciation has always been celebrated on March 25, exactly nine months before Christmas Day.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Change of Time by Josh Ritter

The Martyrdom of Archbishop Romero