Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Saint of the day: Martha

The following comes from the Word on Fire:

There are some legendary stories of saints that deserve telling and re-telling, and the story of St. Martha the Dragonslayer is one of them.


Am I speaking about the same Martha of the New Testament? The one who is depicted as a domestic scold who thinks that she knows better than the Lord Jesus himself what his will for others should be? The Martha who gets a famous comeuppance from the Lord that is meant to shock her out of her anxious fretting and self pre-occupation? The same Martha who is overcome with grief at the death of Lazarus, a grief that gives way to a startling profession of faith in Christ as Lord? This Martha was a dragonslayer?


Exiled during a time of persecution of the Church, Martha's wanderings brought her to a village plagued by a dragon who had a voracious appetite for the town's inhabitants. The villages told Martha that they would believe in the Gospel on the condition that the power of Christ could rid them of the dragon. She accepted this challenge. Martha went out, found the dragon's lair, subdued it with the sign of the cross, brought it back to the village on a leash, and then called for a sword. No more dragon!

Is this true? Did it really happen? Perhaps... Maybe... One day we will all have to ask Martha...

Of course, even if the dragon is not literally real, the story remains important.

The dragon may be a metaphor, a representation of the hostile pagan world that so vexed the early Church. St. Martha, in this respect, represents the Church that boldly and defiantly challenged the dark powers of fallen gods. Also, we can understand the dragon as a metaphor for all that is dark within ourselves, that dark power that consumes our goodness and life and makes us lose hope and succomb to fear. Martha, Christ-like in her sanctity is our friend and intercessor as we confront the dark powers within.

She conquers, as we are called to, in the Lord Jesus who strengthens us.

There is one more truth that we might attend to in regards to St. Martha the dragonslayer.

It has become far too easy to reduce our faith to something domestic, familiar, predictable. But discipleship is an adventure that demands more of us than just cocktails and garden parties. Christ did not establish the Church to be a faith based country club.

St. Martha found her mission by moving out from that domestic space that had become the controlling influence of her life. Her faith in the Lord took her out into a world not of her own making, a world that would not bend to her will. Her mission exposed her to danger, difficulty and risk.

And so may St. Martha the dragonslayer intercede for us, inspire us to take great risks for the faith, and through the power of Christ, help us to confront the dragons of sin that lurk within ourselves and in our world.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Healing Begins by Tenth Avenue North

This I Know by David Crowder

A Quote from St. Paul to the Galatians

Galatians 1:6-10

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!

Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ."

Kathryn Jean Lopez: The Truth and Abortion

The following comes from Kathryn Jean Lopez:

“The most disgusting part of this to me is these folks lied, lied to gain access to clinics,” Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said on This Week Sunday, in reference to the undercover videos showcasing Planned Parenthood executives talking about selling fetal body parts (including a now-infamous Lamborghini reference). 

She’s right. Lies are a problem. And we’ve been lying for decades. We’ve been hiding the destruction of human lives behind words like “choice” and “freedom” and placards with “women’s rights” and ”women’s health” written on them to keep us looking away from the dehumanizing details of abortion — dehumanizing for all involved. 

At this point in human history, the consciences of the people at the Center for Medical Progress should not be the primary cause for chattering-class concern so much as the “conscience of our nation.” 

Or, as President Ronald Reagan put it in Human Life Review in a manifesto with that very title ten years after the Supreme Court legalized abortion in all trimesters of pregnancy (a little-known American fact): 
As an act of “raw judicial power” (to use Justice White’s biting phrase), the decision by the seven-man majority in Roe v. Wade has so far been made to stick. But the Court’s decision has by no means settled the debate. Instead, Roe v. Wade has become a continuing prod to the conscience of the nation. Abortion concerns not just the unborn child, it concerns every one of us. The English poet, John Donne, wrote: “… any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life—the unborn—without diminishing the value of all human life. 
Later in the essay, President Reagan wrote: 
The real question today is not when human life begins, but, What is the value of human life?The abortionist who reassembles the arms and legs of a tiny baby to make sure all its parts have been torn from its mother’s body can hardly doubt whether it is a human being. The real question for him and for all of us is whether that tiny human life has a God-given right to be protected by the law—the same right we have. 
And he quoted Malcolm Muggeridge as going “right to the heart of the matter”: “Either life is always and in all circumstances sacred, or intrinsically of no account; it is inconceivable that it should be in some cases the one, and in some the other.”

G.K. Chesterton on Confession

When people ask me, or indeed anybody else, “Why did you join the Church of Rome?” the first essential answer, if it is partly an elliptical answer, is, “To get rid of my sins.” For there is no other religious system that does really profess to get rid of people’s sins. It is confirmed by the logic, which to many seems startling, by which the Church deduces that sin confessed and adequately repented is actually abolished; and that the sinner does really begin again as if he had never sinned.
And this brought me sharply back to those visions or fancies with which I have dealt in the chapter about childhood. I spoke there of the indescribable and indestructible certitude in the soul, that those first years of innocence were the beginning of something worthy, perhaps more worthy than any of the things that actually followed them: I spoke of the strange daylight, which was something more than the light of common day, that still seems in my memory to shine on those steep roads down from Campden Hill, from which one could see the Crystal Palace from afar.
Well, when a Catholic comes from Confession, he does truly, by definition, step out again into that dawn of his own beginning and look with new eyes across the world to a Crystal Palace that is really of crystal. He believes that in that dim corner, and in that brief ritual, God has really remade him in His own image. He is now a new experiment of the Creator. He is as much a new experiment as he was when he was really only five years old. He stands, as I said, in the white light at the worthy beginning of the life of a man. The accumulations of time can no longer terrify. He may be grey and gouty; but he is only five minutes old.
-G.K. Chesterton (From his Autobiography)

Monday, July 27, 2015

How to Think by Archbishop Fulton Sheen

To Hell with Satan

The following comes from National Review:

Paul Thigpen discusses his handbook for spiritual battle.

Pope Francis has said that “we are all tempted because the law of our spiritual life, our Christian life is a struggle: a struggle. That’s because the Prince of this world, Satan, doesn’t want our holiness, he doesn’t want us to follow Christ. Maybe some of you might say: ‘But Father, how old fashioned you are to speak about the devil in the 21st century!’ But look out because the devil is present! The devil is here . . . even in the 21st century! And we mustn’t be naïve, right? We must learn from the Gospel how to fight against Satan.”

Paul Thigpen, author of many books, including A Year with the Saints, has compiled the new Manual for Spiritual Warfare, published by St. Benedict’s Press. A handy, attractive, resource, it better equips one for spiritual battle. He talks about the book and combatting evil in the world and our hearts. 

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Why is it so crucial for Christians to be prepared “to understand and defeat” Satan? 

THIGPEN: The first rule of any type of warfare is to know your enemy. How can you fight an adversary you can’t identify? Worse yet, how can you avoid being a casualty in a battle going on all around you if you don’t even recognize that you’re in danger? 

I realize that some Christians deny the existence of demons, including Satan, as fallen angels, actual personal beings (having a mind and will, but no body) who want to see us ultimately join them in hell. Such Christians believe that evil — or, at least, moral evil — is exclusively a result of human intentions and activities. So let’s address that issue first. 

It’s reasonable to assume that, for Christians, the teaching of Jesus Christ must be accepted as true and his example as normative. (Why else would we call ourselves “Christians”?) All four of the Biblical Gospels make it abundantly clear that Jesus affirmed the existence of Satan, warned us about his interference in our lives — he’s “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31), “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44), and more — and engaged in direct combat with demonic powers. The accounts of his exorcisms are too numerous, and too central to his ministry, to dismiss — not to mention Jesus’ encounter with the Devil himself in the wilderness (see Luke 4:1–13). 

Christians must take these accounts seriously. Some would try to interpret them as nothing more than encounters with mentally or physically ill people. But if that’s the case, then one or more of the following must be true: 
Jesus was ignorant of the victims’ real condition and was mistaken about the existence of unclean spirits. But for a believing Christian, how can this option be possible? The divine Son of God, through whom all things were created, was ignorant and mistaken about something so important to his ministry and mission to the human race? And he mistook an inner dialogue with himself to be a conversation with a demon in the wilderness? 
Jesus was trying to accommodate the culture by deliberately misdiagnosing these maladies in accordance with the false ideas of the time, rather than correcting the ideas (which were dangerous if true) and explaining that the illnesses were illnesses, as demons don’t really exist. How could Christians affirm that the holy Son of God would engage in a deception of that sort?
On at least one occasion, Jesus cast a mental illness out of a man and into a herd of pigs (see Matthew 8:28–34). This proposition is absurd on its face, and leaves only one more option: 
The Gospel accounts are historically unreliable. Jesus never taught or did these things. Once again, for the Christian, this option in untenable. If these earliest and canonical accounts of Jesus’ life are unreliable about a matter so critical to his ministry, mission, and even identity (the demons called him the “Son of God,” which is why they had to submit to his authority; see Matthew 8:29), then why accept the testimony of these books about anything else he said or did? 
 In addition to the Gospel accounts, the Bible affirms in many places the existence of demons and their malicious intentions toward us. For Catholics, the Church’s authoritative tradition has continued to affirm that teaching since the beginning, and Church history is filled with countless examples of exorcisms and other encounters with demonic powers. 

For all these reasons, then, I think it’s crucial for Christians to be prepared to understand and defeat Satan. It’s simply not an option to do otherwise. 

 LOPEZ: I know it’s in the Bible and all, but is the Devil really “as a roaring lion . . . seeking someone to devour”? How do you know this is true? 

THIGPEN: Let’s lay aside for a moment the consistent, persistent witness of the Christian Scriptures and tradition. Consider the massive accumulated evidence of confirming testimony. Throughout all history, peoples of vastly different cultures around the globe have affirmed the reality of evil spirits — even when they have disagreed about most other spiritual realities. Many of our contemporaries as well, who by any reasonable standard are intelligent and in their right mind, have testified to having encounters with demonic powers. 

The recent case of demonic possession in Indiana, widely publicized, provides just one example. Extraordinary, preternatural phenomena were observed and reported by objective, perfectly sane witnesses — in this case, not just family members but medical and law-enforcement personnel who had had no previous experiences of that sort or even an interest in such phenomena. They witnessed some of the classic phenomena associated with demonic possession (and infestation of a house) that had no merely natural explanation. We simply can’t dismiss such testimonies as mass hallucinations or hoaxes. 

No doubt, some types of mental and physical illness have been wrongly attributed to demons, today as in the past. Nor can we deny that superstitions and legends about evil spirits abound. But these misguided ideas about the Devil don’t in themselves prove that he doesn’t exist, just as age-old beliefs about a flat earth don’t prove that our planet doesn’t exist. 

Skeptics may demand “scientific” evidence. But what kind of relevant evidence would scientists be capable of measuring? The natural sciences measure matter, energy, time, and motion; the social sciences analyze human behavior. Demons have no physical bodies, and they aren’t human. We can’t put them in test tubes or subject them to psychoanalysis. 

The most, then, that scientists can do is observe the effects of demons on the physical world or on human behavior. But the prevailing mentality among scientists will press them to seek other explanations for such phenomena, even when those explanations are utterly inadequate.

Fr. Robert Barron: The Mystery of God

Build A Spiritual Defense

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:

Most of us can sense when something is working against us as we persevere to grow in faith and strive to live the Gospel in communion with Christ. Sometimes, quite suddenly our peace of soul or joy in the Lord is oppressed by heaviness and negativity. Many people experience situations when strife arises, friendships abruptly break down, misunderstandings in families or groups cause division, odd accidents happen, strange twists occur and pathways are blocked. It is imprudent to always assume these are due to diabolical influences but often the devil is in mix. When a person becomes a threat to the demonic realm due to their love for God and/or some good work that builds up the Church, the devil reacts to the degree that God allows. Human messiness is due to our foibles and sin but there can be a diabolical influence. All men experience temptation and most also experience diabolical oppression at some level.
Christ allowed himself to be confronted by the devil to teach us how to resist him. It is sometimes necessary that we personally repeat the words of our Lord, “Be gone Satan”(Matt 4:10). Scripture should readily be on our lips in defense of our dignity and vocation. Sacramental baptism confers authority upon us as children of God so that in the name of Jesus Christ we effectively pray against demonic attacks.
Exorcist priests will look for natural causes and if there is no apparent natural cause—the reality may be that a spirit not of God is asserting oppression upon persons and situations. The devil harasses and tempts us to betray God, others and ourselves. What then? Whether such situations are due to human weakness, sin or diabolical influence, the solution is the same. We are to bind ourselves to Christ all the more sacramentally and with increased prayer, persevere by grace that is always sufficient.
Parents protect their children by praying for and with them, claiming them for Christ alone. Spouses can do the same for one another. To break free from ordinary demonic tactics we immediately reinforce our relationship with Christ through the sacraments and prayer. We can count on Mary, angels and saints who provide real spiritual defense on our behalf.
Ordinary Demonic Tactics can include the following. When there is natural cause for these, the devil often exacerbates it.
  • Distance: from home, family, fragmentation, isolation, loneliness, love
  • Deception: reality inverted, false promises, lies
  • Division: divided self, family, home, work, country, church
  • Diversion: delay, distract, relativism, exacerbating addictions or infirmities
  • Discouragement: acedia (Greek meaning “I don’t care”), lethargy about self, others or about the interior life, tiredness, overwhelm
  • Draining spirit: drains energy from you, extreme physical fatigue without cause, leads to waste of time, less energy, less prayer and devotion
  • Doubt: subtle to intense doubts about self, others or God undermining faith, hope and love
During his Angelus address on Sunday, 17 February 2002, commenting on the readings of the first Sunday of Lent (the temptation of Christ in the desert), Pope John Paul II said, “The Messiah’s resolute attitude is an example and an invitation for us to follow him with courageous determination. The devil, the “prince of this world” (John 12,31), even today continues his deceitful action. Every man, over and above his own concupiscence and the bad example of others, is also tempted by the devil, and the more so when he is least aware of it. How many times he easily gives in to the false flattery of the flesh and the evil one, and then experiences bitter delusions. One must stay on guard to react quickly to the onslaught of temptation. The Church, expert teacher of humanity and holiness, shows us ancient and ever new instruments for the daily combat against evil suggestions:  prayer, the sacraments, penance, careful attention to the Word of God, vigilance and fasting.”

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Brother Roger: "A few have seen him"

A few have seen him from Taize on Vimeo.

Miraculous Relics of St. Anne

The following comes from Taylor Marshal:

On Easter AD 792, Charlemagne discovered the relics of Saint Anne with the help of a deaf handicapped boy. It’s a wonderful tale for this feast day of Saint Anne.
Below is the account, preserved in the correspondence of Pope Saint Leo III, concerning the mysterious discovery of the relics of Saint Anne in the presence of the Emperor Charlemagne.
Fourteen years after Our Lord’s death, Saint Mary Magdalen, Saint Martha, Saint Lazarus, and the others of the little band of Christians who were piled into a boat without sails or oars and pushed out to sea to perish — in the persecution of the Christians by the Jews of Jerusalem — were careful to carry with them the tenderly loved body of Our Lady’s mother. They feared lest it be profaned in the destruction, which Jesus had told them was to come upon Jerusalem. When, by the power of God, their boat sur vived and finally drifted to the shores of France, the little company of saints buried Saint Anne’s body in a cave, in a place called Apt, in the south of France. The church, which was later built over the spot, fell into decay because of wars and religious persecutions, and as the centuries passed, the place of Saint Anne’s tomb was forgotten.
The long years of peace, which Charlemagne’s wise rule gave to southern France, enabled the people to build a magnificent new church on the site of the old chapel at Apt. Extraordinary and painstaking labor went into the building of the great structure, and when the day of its consecration arrived [Easter Sunday, 792 A.D.], the beloved Charlemagne, little suspecting what was in store for him, declared himself happy indeed to have jour neyed so many miles to be present for the holy occasion. At the most solemn part of the ceremonies, a boy of fourteen, blind, deaf and dumb from birth — and usually quiet and impassive — to the amaze ment of those who knew him, completely distracted the at tention of the entire congrega tion by becoming suddenly tremendously excited. He rose from his seat, walked up the aisle to the altar steps, and to the consternation of the whole church, struck his stick re soundingly again and again upon a single step.
His embarrassed family tried to lead him out, but he would not budge. He contin ued frantically to pound the step, straining with his poor muted senses to impart a knowledge sealed hopelessly within him. The eyes of the people turned upon the em peror, and he, apparently in spired by God, took the matter into his own hands. He called for workmen to remove the steps.
A subterranean passage was revealed directly below the spot, which the boy’s stick had indicated. Into this pas sage the blind lad jumped, to be followed by the emperor, the priests, and the workmen.
They made their way in the dim light of candles, and when, farther along the pas sage, they came upon a wall that blocked further ad vance, the boy signed that this also should be removed. When the wall fell, there was brought to view still another long, dark corridor. At the end of this, the searchers found a crypt, upon which, to their profound wonderment, a vigil lamp, alight and burning in a little walled recess, cast a heavenly radiance.
As Charlemagne and his afflicted small guide, with their companions, stood be fore the lamp, its light went out. And at the same moment, the boy, blind and deaf and dumb from birth, felt sight and hearing and speech flood into his young eyes, his ears, and his tongue.
“It is she! It is she!” he cried out. The great emperor, not knowing what he meant, nevertheless repeated the words after him. The call was taken up by the crowds in the church above, as the people sank to their knees, bowed in the realization of the presence of something celestial and holy.
The crypt at last was opened, and a casket was found within it. In the casket was a winding sheet, and in the sheet were relics, and upon the relics was an inscrip tion that read, “Here lies the body of Saint Anne, mother of the glorious Virgin Mary.” The winding sheet, it was noted, was of eastern design and texture.
Charlemagne, over whelmed, venerated with pro found gratitude the relics of the mother of Heaven’s Queen. He remained a long time in prayer. The priests and the people, awed by the graces given them in such abundance and by the choice of their countryside for such a heavenly manifestation, for three days spoke but rarely, and then in whispers.
The emperor had an exact and detailed account of the miraculous finding drawn up by a notary and sent to Pope Saint Leo III, with an accom panying letter from himself. These documents and the pope’s reply are preserved to this day. Many papal bulls have attested, over and over again, to the genuineness of Saint Anne’s relics at Apt.

Saint of the day: Titas Brandsma

Today the Church remembers the holy martry Blessed Titas Brandsma. The following comes from the Patron Saints Index:

Pious youth from a pious family; three of his four sisters were nuns, and a brother became a Franciscan priest. Had the nickname Shorty. Good student who felt an early call to the priesthood. Entered a Franciscan minor seminary from ages 11 to 17, but health problems, primarily an intestinal disorder, prevented him becoming a Franciscan. Joined the Carmelites at Boxmeer, taking the name Titus, and making his first vows in 1899.

Spoke Italian, Frisian, Dutch, and English, and could read Spanish. Translated the works of Saint Teresa of Avila from Spanish to Dutch, publishing them in 1901. Ordained in 1905 at age 24. Doctorate in philosophy from the Pontifical Gregorian Univeristy in Rome in 1909 at age 28. Taught at the Carmelite seminary at Oss, Netherlands. Editor of the local daily newspaper in 1919; often seen working with a cigar in his mouth.

Taught philosophy at Catholic University, Nijmegen, Netherlands. Superior of the university's Carmelite student house. Popular confessor. Widely travelled orator, journalist, author, and lobbyist for the university. University president in 1932. Appointed ecclesiastical advisor to Catholic journalists in 1935. Conducted a speaking tour throughout the United States beginning in 1935.

In 1935 he wrote against anti-Jewish marriage laws, which brought him to the attention of the Nazis. He later wrote that no Catholic publication could publish Nazi propaganda and still call itself Catholic; this led to more attention. Continually followed by the Gestapo, the Nazi attention led to his arrest on 19 January 1942. For several weeks he was shuttled from jail to jail, abused, and punished for ministering to other prisoners.

Deported to the Dachau concentration camp in April 1942. There he was overworked, underfed, and beaten daily; he asked fellow prisoners to pray for the salvation of the guards. When he could no longer work, he was used for medical experiments. When he was no longer any use for experimentation, he was murdered. Martyr.

You can read his letter from prison here.

Saints of the day: Joachim and Anne

The following comes from the CNA:

On July 26 the Roman Catholic Church commemorates the parents of the Virgin Mary, Saints Joachim and Anne. The couple's faith and perseverance brought them through the sorrow of childlessness, to the joy of conceiving and raising the immaculate and sinless woman who would give birth to Christ.

The New Testament contains no specific information about the lives of the Virgin Mary's parents, but other documents outside of the Biblical canon do provide some details. Although these writings are not considered authoritative in the same manner as the Bible, they outline some of the Church's traditional beliefs about Joachim, Anne and their daughter.

The “Protoevangelium of James,” which was probably put into its final written form in the early second century, describes Mary's father Joachim as a wealthy member of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Joachim was deeply grieved, along with his wife Anne, by their childlessness. “He called to mind Abraham,” the early Christian writing says, “that in the last day God gave him a son Isaac.”

Joachim and Anne began to devote themselves to rigorous prayer and fasting, in isolation from one another and from society. They regarded their inability to conceive a child as a surpassing misfortune, and a sign of shame among the tribes of Israel.

As it turned out, however, the couple were to be blessed even more abundantly than Abraham and Sarah. An angel revealed this to Anne when he appeared to her and prophesied that all generations would honor their future child: “The Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world.”

After Mary's birth, according to the Protoevangelium of James, Anne “made a sanctuary” in the infant girl's room, and “allowed nothing common or unclean” on account of the special holiness of the child. The same writing records that when she was one year old, her father “made a great feast, and invited the priests, and the scribes, and the elders, and all the people of Israel.”

“And Joachim brought the child to the priests,” the account continues, “and they blessed her, saying: 'O God of our fathers, bless this child, and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations' … And he brought her to the chief priests; and they blessed her, saying: 'O God most high, look upon this child, and bless her with the utmost blessing, which shall be forever.'”

The protoevangelium goes on to describe how Mary's parents, along with the temple priests, subsequently decided that she would be offered to God as a consecrated Virgin for the rest of her life, and enter a chaste marriage with the carpenter Joseph.

St. Joachim and St. Anne have been a part of the Church's liturgical calendar for many centuries. Devotion to their memory is particularly strong in the Eastern Catholic churches, where their intercession is invoked by the priest at the end of each Divine Liturgy. The Eastern churches, however, celebrate Sts. Joachim and Anne on a different date, Sept. 9.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Saint of the Day: Saint James the Greater

Today is the feast of St. James the Greater! The following comes from the Patron Saints Index:

St. James, with his brother John and the apostle Peter, form an inner circle within the twelve disciples. St. James was among the first four chosen; he and John, fishermen on Lake Genesaret, left their nets and everything to follow our Lord, Jesus. St. James was able to witness the raising of Jairus' daughter and, like his brother and Peter, he slept in the garden of Gesthemane. St. James was the first of the twelve apostles to have been martyred as he was beheaded in 42 A.D. by King Herod Agrippa. St. James is the only apostle whose death is mentioned in the New Testament.

From the 14th to 15th centuries, the most popular shrine outside of Jerusalem and Rome was
Santiago de Compostela. Santiago de Compostela claimes to have the relics of St. James. I would love to go to there myself and make a walking retreat as a pilgrim as well! Legends say that he preached in Spain, although the New Testament says that no apostle left Palestine before the Council of Jerusalem (49). Other legends also say that the body of the saint was put into a boat which drifted to Spain. St. James' reputation as a military protector and iconography as a pilgrim originate with stories and miracles associated with this shrine in Spain. You can find out more on St. James the Greater from The Patron Saints Index.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Nature's Alchemy

Alchemy from Henry Jun Wah Lee / Evosia on Vimeo.

Psalm 148

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!

Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!

Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!

Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.

He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!

Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!

Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!

Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!

Young men and women alike, old and young together!

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.

He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the Lord!

Time for Confession

The following comes from the Crisis:

We humans can be a bit fickle sometimes. What we choose to do with our time often depends directly on how the people and places with which we associate ourselves make us feel. If we don’t feel welcome in a place, we probably don’t stay long.
If we try a place or organization out on the suggestion of other people, but never really learn or understand what it’s all about, we’re also likely out the door before long. Likewise, if we devote ourselves fully to a place or organization, only to experience betrayal at the hands of that organization, surely it won’t take long for us to find a new home.
As a result, many who see the place that was left behind from a distance, and perhaps hear horror stories from others who’ve been there, will look with hostility upon it and never go near it if they can help it.
This phenomenon occurs in a lot of places, but none as much as the Catholic Church. For tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands of people today, the instances above are, sadly, more often than not very real and very legitimate beefs.
We could talk for days about who did what to whom, ranging from petty to incredibly serious, but I’m writing this post instead as a plea to those who no longer come to Mass as a result of those experiences, to those who no longer identify as Catholic, and even those who aren’t Catholic and are skeptical about the Church, to come back, to come and see one more time.
We all have people in our lives who have left the Church—who aren’t attending Mass for one reason or another, and there’s one thing we all should encourage those people in our lives to come back and do more than anything: Come to confession.
Now, I’m not saying this because those people are heathens in need of repentance before you can re-enter or anything—heck, we’re all unworthy all the time. We’re all sinners, and we all could stand to attend confession more often.
I’m suggesting confession, because the Catholic Church is about Jesus, and confession lets us meet Him face to face.
We believe that priests, when acting in their capacity as priests (saying Mass, anointing the sick and dying, hearing confessions), are acting in persona Christi—literally “In the person of Christ.” In his priestly capacity, that’s no longer Fr. Bill on the altar or in the confessional. That’s Jesus.
To boot, the seal of confession is what makes this such a powerful sacrament. That means the priest will never, ever (ever!) tell anyone. Seriously, never. Because if he did, he’d be removed from priesthood immediately and would excommunicate himself from the Church. For real.
No one else is offering that. Especially in a culture that insists on broadcasting every little detail of one’s life.
Even so, the thought of going to confession usually brings the response, “I don’t want/need to go,” especially among people who haven’t gone in years.
But dig deeper and I’d bet it’s more one of two things:
  • “I don’t want the priest to judge me for things I’ve done wrong.” OR
  • “I experienced hurt at the hands of a priest, and I’ll never trust one again.”
Not going to Confession is typically rooted, on some level, either in fear of being exposed, or a fear of being hurt again.

Saint of the day: Sharbel Makhlouf

The Saint of today is Sharbel Makhlouf. This great monastic saint is a wonderful patron for the Church of the Middle East. He is one of the wonder workers of the 20th century! Here is the story from CNA:

Yussef Antoun Makhloof --later and forever after known as Sharbel-- was of humble birth.

Yet Sharbel belongs to more than his village, monastery, church or country. He belongs to the Universal Church and all Christians. When he was beatified on December 5, 1965, His Holiness Pope Paul VI announced that Saint Sharbel is "a new, eminent member of monastic sanctity [who] through his example and his intercession is enriching the entire Christian people." (Saint Sharbel: The Hermit of Lebanon 1977: 27)

Yussef, who later took the name Sharbel, was the youngest of five children born to Antoun Zaarour Makhlouf and Brigitta Elias al-Shediyaq. His father died when he was three years old. Like many of the Christians from the Lebanese Mountain, his father had been taken away from his family [by the Turks] and forced into hard labor.

Yussef studied at the parish school and tended the family cow. He spent a great deal of time outdoors in the fields and pastures near his village and he meditated amid the inspiring views of boundless valleys and proud mountains.

From early childhood, Yussef showed that he loved prayer and solitude. In 1851, without informing anyone, he left home. Tanious, his uncle and guardian, wanted Yussef to continue working with him. His mother wanted him to marry the young woman who loved him. (Daher 1952: 18-19; Sfeir 1995: 72-75)

When Yussef became Brother Sharbel, he was filled with determination and walked all the way to his new home, "the monastery," his new family, "the Lebanese Maronite Order," and his new bride, "the Church." He followed in the footsteps of his maternal uncles, who were already hermits at the hermitage of Mar Boula (Saint Paul) in the Holy Valley of Qadisha, across from the Monastery of Our Lady of Qannobine. (Daher 1993:48-49)

The Lebanese Maronite Order of monks is the embodiment of the ancient eastern monasticism, which since early Christian times existed and thrived within widely dispersed, independent monasteries.

At Mass on November 1, 1853, Sharbel took the monastic vows. Neither the monk's family nor the public were allowed to attend this solemn occasion.

After his ordination, Father Sharbel returned to the Monastery of St. Maron. During his 19 years there, Sharbel performed his priestly ministry and monastic duties in an edifying way. He dedicated himself totally to Christ to live, work and pray in silence.

As he worked the land and performed manual labor at the monastery, he continued a life of purity, obedience and humility that has yet to be surpassed. In 1875, because he showed "supernatural power," he was granted permission to live as a hermit at the Hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul, which is near the monastery.

It was in this secluded sanctuary that the monk Sharbel spent the remaining twenty-three years of his life practicing severe mortification.

Father Sharbel suffered a stroke on December 16, 1898 while he was reciting the prayer of the Holy Liturgy:

His tomb has been a site for pilgrimages ever since the day he died. Hundreds of miracles were performed through the intercession of Saint Sharbel in 'Annaya, Lebanon, and throughout the world.

At the closing of the Second Vatican Council, on December 5, 1965, Sharbel was beatified by Pope Paul VI who said: "Great is the gladness in heaven and earth today for the beatification of Sharbel Makhlouf, monk and hermit of the Lebanese Maronite Order. Great is the joy of the East and West for this son of Lebanon, admirable flower of sanctity blooming on the stem of the ancient monastic traditions of the East, and venerated today by the Church of Rome.