August 16, 2017

Saint Hyacinth of Poland, Apostle of the North

Saint Hyacinth of Poland

According to the 1962 Missal of Saint John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, August 17th is the feast of Saint Hyacinth of Poland. He is called the “Apostle of the North” because he spread the Dominican Order to the northern countries of Russia, the Balkans, Prussia and Lithuania. St. Hyacinth preached the crusade against the Prussians. He died on the feast of the Assumption, 1257.

While a canon at the cathedral of Cracow, Hyacinth journeyed to Rome, was impressed by the preaching and miracles of St. Dominic, and from the hand of Dominic himself received the habit of the newly-founded Order. Upon returning to his native land (1219), he established monasteries of his Order beyond the Alps at Friesach, Prague, Olmiitz, and Cracow.

From the Breviary we have this miracle. With three companions Hyacinth had arrived at the banks of the river Weichsel during their journey to Vischegrad, where they were expected to preach. But the waters had risen so high and had become so violent that no ferryman dared to cross. The saint took his mantle, spread it out before him, and with his companions rode across the raging waters. After saying his Office for the day, he died in 1257 with these words on his lips: "Into Your hands, Lord, I rest my spirit!"

Most holy Saint Hyacinth, we ask you to intercede for us and win God’s blessings for us. We come together as family to bring praise and worship to the Father. May we live lives that are holy Bless us with your devotion to Mary the Mother of God and with an ardent faith in Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Intercede for us and protect us as we place ourselves under your patronage and loving care. Amen.

Adapted and expanded from The Church's Year of Grace, Fr. Pius Parsch.

Homily for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 20, 2017, Year A

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Provincial Superior, La Salette Missionaries of North America
Hartford, Connecticut

The image is a familiar one: one or more dogs begging while you are at table, ready to pounce on whatever falls from the table, if not actively “demanding tribute,” as my brother’s Chihuahua “Rosy” does. Cute, if you like that sort of thing.

But there is nothing cute about the exchange between Jesus and the Canaanite woman in this Gospel. I once read an author, bent on finding humor in the Bible, who claimed that this was just a friendly little repartee, what Webster’s Dictionary describes as “amusing and usually light sparring with words.”  I couldn’t disagree more. The scene presented here by Matthew is no game of wits!

Let me digress briefly with a little trip down memory lane:

[Click on this link:] Kyrie eleison from the Missa de Angelis

The point isn’t the music, the Gregorian chant or any other classic settings. The point isn’t the Latin Mass vs. English. It isn’t even that “Kyrie eleison” isn’t Latin at all, but Greek.

What is the point? It’s that we find those very same Greek words in today’s Gospel, and the point is especially what they mean.

The woman says “Eleison me kyrie.” This is translated in the Lectionary as “Have pity on me, Lord,” but it means equally well, “Have mercy on me, Lord.” Now leave out the middle word, change the order and there you have it: Kyrie eleison—Lord, have mercy.

She knows that as a foreigner she really has no claim on the one she calls “Son of David.” That doesn’t stop her.

Maybe she’s stubborn by nature. Maybe she’s had a hard life and is used to fighting for what she wants. Personally, I think the simple answer is the best: she’s a mother. And even if she has to accept being insulted by a famous teacher and healer, she accepts it, for her daughter’s sake.

But there is another reason why she doesn’t hold back. Jesus recognizes it, tests it, praises it, and rewards it. It is her “great faith”! (This woman, by the way, is one of the two foreigners I alluded to last week who are described as having “great” faith in the Gospels.)

“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples,” we read in Isaiah. In this story we see a partial fulfillment of that prophecy. It’s no longer about a place, much less a single building situated in Jerusalem. It’s about Jesus and the community of believers gathered around him. It’s about the universal Church.

It seems everyone knows people who get in touch only when they need something. Often enough, however, that describes our prayer. The Canaanite woman might never have approached Jesus if her daughter hadn’t been sick. But in that moment, he saw her faith. and that was all that mattered. The same great faith that brought her to him in tears sent her back home to her daughter in grateful joy.

It is perfectly natural that we come to the Lord in our need. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “What do you possess that you have not received? But if you have received it, why are you boasting as if you did not receive it?”

When we look at ourselves, and at our needs, and at what we actually deserve, and then we come to Jesus, what are we if not beggars at the Lord’s table?

No wonder we cry “Lord, have mercy!” at the beginning of every Mass! After that, however, reassured of his love, we are in a position to fulfill the other line in Isaiah’s prophecy where God predicts, “I will make them joyful in my house of prayer.”

Saint Monica Novena for Those Who Have Fallen Away From the Faith Starts August 18th

Saint Augustine of Hippo with Saint Monica

The Saint Monica novena for those who have fallen away from the Church starts August 18th. St. Monica is most known for her intercessory power on behalf of individuals that have abandoned their Faith  She prayed for the conversion of her son, the great Doctor of the Church, Saint Augustine of Hippo, for 15 years.

What we know of St. Monica comes almost entirely from the writings of St. Augustine. Their relationship was close, especially in Monica's final years. One episode from her childhood suggests the origin of her fortitude. She was occasionally sent to the cellar to draw wine for the family, and fell into the habit of taking secret drinks. Before long she was consuming large amounts. One day a family slave caught her. So great was her shame, she gave up the habit. A short time later, Monica was baptized. Afterward, she led a life of irreproachable virtue.

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August 15, 2017

St. Stephen of Hungary, Promoter of the Faith

Saint Stephen of Hungary

Optional Memorial – August 16th

Saint Stephen (977-1038), the first King of Hungary. was born the son of Duke Geza, a Magyar chieftain, and Duchess Sarolt. Two years before his birth, his mother received a vision in which the Church's first martyr, Saint Stephen, revealed to her that she would bear a son who would bring the Good News to Hungary and evangelize its people. Like his parents before him, Stephen was baptized by Saint Adalbert. He married the daughter of Duke Henry II in 996. A year later, he succeeded his father as leader.

Stephen devoted much of his reign to the promotion of the Christian faith. He gave his patronage to Church leaders, constructed numerous churches, and was a proponent of the rights of the Holy See. He successfully repelled the pagan counter reaction to Christianity, converting the large pagan population. Greatly devoted to the Blessed Mother, Stephen had several churches built in her honor both in and outside of Hungary. In recognition of his efforts, Pope Silvester II named him king of Hungary in 1000.

King Stephen demonstrated great competence as a monarch, while devoting the rest of his time to his religious duties, especially charity toward the poor and sick, as well as the worship of God, and to his household. Gisela, Stephen's wife, was the sister of the ruler later canonized as the Holy Roman Emperor Saint Henry II. So great indeed was his zeal for the propagation of the Faith, that he was called the Apostle of his nation. The Breviary attests to St. Stephen's holiness:

"St. Stephen introduced into Hungary both the Faith of Christ and the regal dignity. He obtained his royal crown from the Roman Pontiff; and having been, by his command, anointed King, he offered his kingdom to the Apostolic See. He built several houses of charity at Rome, Jerusalem, and Constantinople; and with a wonderfully munificent spirit of religion, he founded the Archiepiscopal See of Gran and ten other bishoprics. His love for the poor was equaled only by his generosity towards them; for, seeing in them Christ Himself... It was his custom to wash the feet of the poor with his own hands, and to visit the hospitals at night, alone and unknown, serving the sick and showing them every charity. As a reward for these good deeds his right hand remained incorrupt after death,.."

Stephen survived all of his children, only one of which grew to adulthood. His son, Emeric, who was his father's equal in holiness, and expected successor, tragically died in a hunting accident (1031). Stephen died on August 15, 1038, the Feast of the Assumption of our Lady, to whom he consecrated his kingdom, and was buried in the new basilica, built in Székesfehérvár and dedicated to the Holy Virgin. He was canonized by Pope Gregory VII, along with his son, Emeric, and Bishop Gerard of Csanád, in 1083. Stephen is the patron saint of Hungary. Grant your Church, we pray, almighty God, that she may have Saint Stephen of Hungary who fostered her growth while a king, as her heavenly defender. Amen.

August 14, 2017

Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary | 2017

The Assumption of Mary

August 15, 2017

November 1st, 1950, in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Assumption of Mary a dogma of the Catholic Church. The doctrine of the Assumption solemnly decrees that at the end of her earthly life Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven. Contrary to popular perception, Our Lady did not "ascend" into heaven. Only Christ ascended into heaven under his own power. Mary was taken up into heaven by God. In celebrating her most glorious Assumption, we ask Mary to help us live with faith and hope, seeking God's will in all things. May she enlighten our minds to the destiny that awaits us, the dignity of every person, and God’s immense love for all humanity.

"Now toward the end of the summer season, at a time when fruits are ripe in the gardens and fields, the Church celebrates the most glorious "harvest festival" in the Communion of Saints. Mary, the supremely blessed one among women, Mary, the most precious fruit which has ripened in the fields of God's kingdom, is today taken into the granary of heaven." (The Church's Year of Grace, Fr.  Pius Parsch)

Giving birth to the Savior O Theotokos, you kept and preserved your virginity; and in falling-asleep you have not forsaken the world; for you were protected from sin, being the Mother of Life. Almighty ever-living God, who assumed the Immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of your Son, body and soul into heavenly glory, grant we pray, that, always attentive to the things that are above, we may merit to be sharers of her glory in experiencing your eternal Beatitude. Amen.

August 13, 2017

St. Maximilian Kolbe's “Secret” to Holiness

Saint Maximilian Kolbe'

Fr. Angelo M. Geiger F.I. 

St. Maximilian taught that saints are in some ways like the great men of the world, but are motivated supernaturally by faith in God and love for him. In this way, they are able not only to see beyond adversity, but to embrace the Cross in a spirit of sacrificial love. St. Maximilian also showed that holiness is found only in Christ Jesus, Who both tells us and shows us what holiness is and how it is to be achieved. Jesus, in His sacrificial love and obedience shown so poignantly on the Cross, and so humbly in the Eucharist, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6). He is holiness, and the way to achieve it. St. Maximilian says: It is a false and widely diffused idea that the saints were not like us. They were also subject to temptation, they fell and got up, they also felt overwhelmed with sadness, weakened and paralyzed by discouragement. But remember the words of the Savior: ‘Without me, you can do nothing’ (Jn 15:51), and those of St. Paul: ‘I can do all things in him who strengthens me’ (Phil 4:13). Not confiding in themselves, but, putting all their confidence in God after every humiliating fall, they repented sincerely, they purified their soul in the Sacrament of Penance, and then they went back to work with still greater fervor. [St. Maximilian, pray for us.] [Source]

St. Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr of Charity

Saint Maximilian Kolbe

Memorial - August 14th

I prayed very hard to Our Lady to tell me what would happen to me. She appeared, holding in her hands two crowns, one white, one red. She asked if I would like to have them—one was for purity, the other for martyrdom. I said, ‘I choose both.’ She smiled and disappeared.” St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe was only 10 years old when he experienced this vision of Our Lady near his poor family home in Zduńska Wola, Poland. In time, both crowns would come to pass for him, and always the Blessed Mother would be by his side as he received them.

Born Raymund Kolbe in 1894, Maximilian entered the Conventual Franciscans in 1907, just three years a er his encounter with Mary; when he professed his first vows in 1911 at the age of 16, he took the name Maximilian. At the profession of his final vows in 1914, he also adopted the name “Mary” in order to show his devotion to the Mother of God.

It was while he was0 studying for his doctorate in theology in Rome in 1919 that Kolbe witnessed violent and degrading demonstrations against both the pope and the Catholic Church. He was so moved by what he experienced that he founded a Marian movement to combat religious indifference and hatred of the Catholic Church. Called the “Militia Immaculata,” its message was spread via a magazine also founded by Kolbe called Knight of Immaculata. At its height, the publication had a circulation of over one million.

To further spread his message of prayer and evangelization, in 1927 Kolbe founded what would become, by 1935, the world’s largest friary, called Niepokalanow. A major publishing center for catechetical materials, religious tracts, and a daily newspaper, the friary, which was also a seminary, at one time housed over 700 Franciscan brothers. Kolbe then journeyed to Japan, where he founded other friaries, most notably one at Nagasaki.

Tuberculosis forced him to return to Poland in 1936, and when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, Niepokalanow was bombed and all the brothers were arrested. They were released less than three months later on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, but Kolbe was arrested again in 1941 and sent to the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

It was there, on July 31, 1941, that events were set in motion for Kolbe to earn the crown of martyrdom. Three men had turned up missing and, in reprisal for their escape, the guards chose 10 men at random to be starved to death. When one of them, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out “My wife! My children!,” Kolbe volunteered to take his place.

Surprised that someone would volunteer to die in the place of a stranger, the guards agreed and marched Kolbe and the other nine men to the starvation bunkers. There Kolbe encouraged his fellow prisoners, saying Mass each day, hearing confessions, praying and singing hymns to the Blessed Virgin. After two weeks of starvation, thirst, and neglect, St. Maximilian Kolbe was the only one left alive. He was finally killed by lethal injection on August 14, 1941.

Father Kolbe was beatified as a confessor by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and canonized as a martyr by Saint Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982. Franciszek Gajowniczek, the man whose life Kolbe saved, was present on both occasions. St. John Paul II declared Kolbe a “Martyr of Charity” and “the Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century.” He is one of ten 20th-century martyrs depicted above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey, London.

St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe is the patron saint of addicts and drug addiction, families, imprisoned individuals, journalists, political prisoners, prisoners, and the pro-life movement. O God, who filled the Priest and Martyr Saint Maximilian Kolbe with a burning love for the Immaculate Virgin Mary and with zeal for souls and love of neighbor, graciously grant, through his intercession, that striving for your glory by eagerly serving others, we may be conformed, even until death, to your Son. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Homily for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 20, 2017, Year A

Jesus and the Canaanite woman

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

Today’s Gospel account contains one of the most memorable verbal duels recorded in the four Gospels, and one of the most important. We need to draw some golden nuggets out of this wonderful passage.

First of all, it is important to note that Jesus is speaking here to a woman, something rabbis back in those days did not do in public. Not only that, but she was a foreigner, a Canaanite woman from the area that these days we call Lebanon. The Jews and the Canaanites did not get along well at all.

Like the Magi, those wise men from the East that we find at Christ’s birth, this non-Jew presents herself to Jesus and addresses Him as “Son of David” as she begs His help for her daughter who is possessed by some mysterious inner demonic force.

In this account, there are three movements. The first involves Canaanite woman’s journey of faith. Leaving her own religion behind she turns to a Jewish rabbi, Jesus, and places her faith in Him. She looks to Him for a miraculous cure for her daughter.

For her trouble, she received silence from Jesus. She was rebuffed, humiliated, and given a cold shoulder from Him.

Jesus’ disciples, annoyed by the fact that she was bothering Him with her loud crying, seek to get rid of her. They want Jesus to send her away. So Jesus says to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Then comes the second movement. The woman presses in on Jesus, and falling on her knees in front of Him she cries out, “Lord, help me.”

For her second effort Jesus tells her, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

How utterly humiliating. In effect, He was calling her a dog! Her humility was turned into what appeared to be a terrible humiliation. People in the Middle East are very sensitive about such things. We are very aware of that in our dealings with them in our time.

Then comes the final movement. In abject humility with her face in the dirt, stripped of her dignity, having abandoned her own religious background, she has nothing left, not even her pride. “Please, Lord,” she softly insists, “even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”

What the Canaanite woman is saying is that she doesn’t deserve anything. “But,” she asks, “how about giving me scraps that accidentally fall from your abundance?” With that, the heart of Jesus is vanquished.

The scene would be repeated later on at the end of His life. His own humiliation and abandonment would, connected as it was with the Last Supper, play out in a way strikingly similar to this account.

The key that unlocks the mystery contained in this verbal duel is to recognize that Jesus saw in this Canaanite woman a reality that she didn’t even see herself. He saw in her a faith that could withstand any assault; a love that was divine; a hope that could not be shaken. He tested her mettle and she found something within herself that she didn’t know even existed. Joined into the humiliation that Christ would later suffer, she transcended ordinary humanity and came into a level of life that was God’s. Her three-step journey in faith mirrored Christ’s.

The critical point of it all is that Jesus sees the same thing in you and in me. For He has an unrealized dream about who you really are and what you’re really made of. In Christ’s life, passion, and death we find the stuff of our real humanity, particularly so when we share in His suffering, passion, and death.

Had Jesus granted her request right away, this woman would never have ascended to the heights of glory that she did. We must see that in the divine scheme of things, the more we lose the more we win. The more we give away, the more we gain. The more we go down, the higher we ascend. In that, we pass from what is human into what is divine. It’s the path of Jesus.

Should Jesus grant our prayer requests right away, we would never ascend to the heights of glory that are hidden within your destiny and mine. That is why, when in the Garden of Gethsemani Jesus prayed that His Father rescue Him, and His Father did not. The answer to Jesus’ prayer was not rescue — it was resurrection. We should expect that our prayers will be answered in the same way.

St. Paul presents this journey in three parts in his Letter to the Philippians. In Chapter two we find that threefold movement in Christ’s own life when Paul writes:

His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. But God raised him on high and gave him the name which is above all other names so that all being in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the same of Jesus and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The first movement is His abandonment of His proper place, His native place at the right hand of His Father in heaven. He moves from His Father’s side into a place of alienation and separation, into total immersion with us where we are at, more importantly into who we are.

The second movement is downward into our sinful humanity… and not only that but to a level below that which we are usually willing to accept. He is spit upon, humiliated, and stripped naked of all His dignity. His face is rubbed in the dirt, as was the Canaanite woman’s face.

The third movement is upward. He rises from the dead into a new Spirit-filled, resurrected life, and then ascends into glory back to His Father’s side. Victorious over all that is demonic within our humanity He heals far more than the Canaanite woman’s daughter – He gives His healing power to us all in His Mystical Body, the Church.

In the divine scheme of things, the more we lose the more we win. The more we give, the more we receive. The more we go down, the higher we ascend. Ask anyone who has ever successfully completed a recovery program, they will tell you that you find power over whatever demons beset you when you surrender to your Higher Power.

God came among us with healing power and He is looking for our faith. The Canaanite woman came to God in faith and in search of healing and found it. Your task and mine as well is to live a life-story just like hers.

Can you? Can I? Yes, we can, because Jesus lived it first and then gave us the power and the capacity to live lives like that. The question is not: Can we? The real question is: Will we?

Pope Benedict XVI on the Walking on the Water: “With Your Strength Alone You Cannot Rise. Hold Tight to the Hand of Christ”

Jesus lifts Peter out of the water

The following commentary on the walking on the water in which Our Lord saves Peter from drowning in the storm is from Pope Benedict XVI’s Angelus address delivered from the Papal Residence, Castel Gandolfo on Sunday, August 7, 2011.

In this Sunday’s Gospel we find Jesus who, after withdrawing to the mountain, prays throughout the night. The Lord, having distanced himself from the people and the disciples, manifests his communion with the Father and the need to pray in solitude, far from the commotion of the world.

This distancing, however, must not be seen as a lack of interest in individuals or trust in the Apostles. On the contrary, Matthew recounts, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat, “and go before him to the other side” (Mt 14:22), where he would see them again. In the meantime, the boat “was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them” (v. 24). And so, in the fourth watch of the night [Jesus] came to them, walking on the sea” (v. 25); the disciples were terrified, mistaking him for a ghost and “cried out for fear” (v. 26). They did not recognize him, they did not realize that it was the Lord.

Nonetheless Jesus reassured them: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear” (v. 27). This is an episode from which the Fathers of the Church drew a great wealth of meaning. The sea symbolizes this life and the instability of the visible world; the storm points to every kind of trial or difficulty that oppresses human beings. The boat, instead, represents the Church, built by Christ and steered by the Apostles.

Jesus wanted to teach the disciples to bear life’s adversities courageously, trusting in God, in the One who revealed himself to the Prophet Elijah on Mount Horeb “in a still small voice” [the whispering of a gentle breeze] (1 Kings 19:12).

The passage then continues with the action of the Apostle Peter, who, moved by an impulse of love for the Teacher, asks him to bid him to come to him, walking on the water. “But when he saw the wind [was strong], [Peter] was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Mt 14:30).

St Augustine, imagining that he was addressing the Apostle, commented: the Lord “leaned down and took you by the hand. With your strength alone you cannot rise. Hold tight to the hand of the One who reaches down to you” (En. in Ps. 95, 7: PL 36, 1233), and he did not say this to Peter alone but also to us.

August 12, 2017

Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 13, 2017, Year A

Jesus lifting Peter out of the water

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

Watching TV news reports night after night can lead us into despondency to the point where we might lose our faith in the basic goodness in our world that seems to be buried alive in the tidal waves of the evils that are reported. Over and over again we are confronted by the actions and inactions of our government in Washington. Instead of concrete corrections we hear nothing but the blame game going on between our nation’s leaders. Added that that are the endless reports of violence in our cities, the horrors inflicted by terrorists in the Middle East, the sufferings of children from Latin America that are crossing our borders in order to escape the violence they face caused by the drug lords in their home countries, and the sufferings of people in the Ukraine. I could go on and on but won’t. We know we’re drowning in chaos. We know we are carrying heave burdens.

“Where is God in the midst of all of this?” some ask.

Today’s first reading presents us with the Old Testament prophet Elijah likewise in a state of despondency. Three days prior to the episode we just now heard in today’s first reading he was so miserable that he asking God to let him die. We find him here in this reading hiding in a cave, seeking shelter in solid rock. But just as he finds shelter in a cave along comes an earthquake and then a hurricane of a storm that smashes the rocks and cliffs of the mountains, threatening to drown him in chaos.

“Where is God in all of this?” he was asking. What is God saying to me in all of these events? Elijah, however, couldn’t figure anything out until he was able to hear the voice of God in a tiny little whisper. The voice of God came to him in the most unexpected of ways. And so it is with us.

The disciples and Peter found themselves to be in similar circumstances, only this time out in an open boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee in a raging storm. “Where is God in all of this?” they wondered. Peter spoke up and said, “Lord, if it’s really you over there tell me to come to you across the water.” Peter, we see, had his doubts.

We find our own lives these days surrounded by chaos. The floodwaters of social change along with the cultural earthquakes of our times, globalization, terrorism, and the energy crisis severely threaten us. Only one in four of our nation’s households today have the typical arrangement of mom and dad living together in the same home with their children. Stated another way, only one in four children find themselves in typical, traditional homes. Indeed the very definition of the so-called normal family is at issue. What do we mean by the term “normal family”? A recent newspaper article dumbs everything down and defines family as: “The we around me.” What, I ask, has that anything to do with being family?

Drugs, AIDS, absent fathers, divorce, an unstable economy, job loss, and a surrounding culture that’s alien and hostile to the normal family are the storms and floodwaters that threaten us. Child abuse, pornography, sexual wantonness, and a blatant media exploitation of sex, violence, and lust for money assault the moral characters of our youngsters, washing away the levees that protect what we have regarded in the past as the terra firma, the solid ground of normalcy.

Teenage suicide is frequently reported; teen gangs and drug gangs roam our city streets at will, while our metropolitan law enforcement agencies operate in apparent powerlessness to take back control of our cities from the pimps, prostitutes, pushers, and gangs that control the streets of our major cities.

“Where is God in all of this?” we cry.

Confidence is the word we need to take into our hearts and souls today. Confidence. Confidence comes from a Latin word; it means, “to believe with”. We cannot have confidence when we’re isolated and all alone. We cannot have confidence all by ourselves. No, we can only have confidence when there’s an Other near us, the Other that is God.

And that’s the point of today’s readings. One can find confidence, even in the worst of storms, even in the most chaotic of times. You can go through the worst that life can throw at you if only you keep up your contact with God. No prayer? No confidence. Stop coming to Mass? No confidence. Not sharing in the life of the Church, in the Body of Christ? No confidence. Soon you’ll take your eyes off of Jesus, and just like Peter, you will sink. Soon you’ll only be able to hear the screaming wind, the awful noise, and the deafening roar of the storms and winds in or world that shake the very foundations of your life. And without the voice of God and the eyes of Jesus to hold you steady, we, like Peter, will either be blown away or drown.

Is your life getting out of control? Is your faith slipping away from you? Are you experiencing more and more powerlessness in the chaos that surrounds you? If so, here’s what you do. Find a place of solitude and silence. Go to your room, shut your door and gather around you as much silence and solitude as you possibly can. Then kneel down by your bedside and in that silence and in that solitude say: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” If you do that, you’ll be in exactly the same position that Elijah was. Look into the eyes of Jesus, you’ll be in exactly the same position that Peter was.

Never forget, after all was said and done, God restored Elijah in power, and eventually swept him up into heaven. And after all was said and done God in Christ saved Peter, saved him even from himself.

And God will do no less for us, if and only if we give our confidence to Christ and remain faith-full to our Father in Him. And I’d suspect that a whole lot of people living amidst violence and chaos would tell us just that, facing as they have the much different and far more destructive floodwaters that we face here.

The real question, you see is not “Is God absent from us.” Rather the real question is: “Are we absent from God?”

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light, Jesus said. For that to happen, for our hearts to be filled with courage, fortitude, and boldness, we need to be yoked to Christ so that He can, along with us, pull our load through life.

May you be filled with that confidence.

August 11, 2017

Reflection for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Christ Saves Peter from Drowning, August 13, 2017

Jesus saves Peter from drowning

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a; Psalm 85; Romans 9:1-5,
Matthew 14:22-33

“Lord, save me!” (Mt 14:31)

Imagine the scene. You are one of the disciples whom Jesus has sent out to sea on a boat. While out there, a storm kicks up and rocks the boat. It is dark. In the distance, you see what looks like the silhouette of a person walking toward you. As the person nears the boat, you realize it is Jesus! And He is walking on top of the water! “Take courage,” He says, “it is I!” Peter, overwhelmed with emotion at this scene, asks the Lord to allow him to walk on the water, which Jesus allows. Peter, of course, becomes frightened. Jesus asks, “Why did you doubt?” Falling in, he calls out to Jesus, who saves him. 

The story for this weekend’s Gospel as recounted above is the classic journey of faith. That journey often involves three steps: loving Jesus, faltering due to human imperfection, and calling out to the Lord. So, (1) Peter obviously loved Jesus, then (2) he doubted and then faltered, but then did the greatest thing of all. When he realized he faltered, he yelled out, (3) “Lord, save me!” Isn’t that what faith is all about? Peter’s call to Jesus is the call each of us should make when we realize we cannot go it alone. 

First, it is clear that Peter loved Jesus. Peter left behind his fishing boat and career and followed Jesus unreservedly. Jesus was an itinerant preacher whose acceptance in society and among religious authorities was questioned. It is evident that Peter was overwhelmed with grace in His presence and was inspired to follow Him. Peter was filled with passion, zeal, and love for the Lord. 

The modern Christian is called to love the Lord in the same way. Our faith is to be passionate! Following the Lord is the first priority of one’s life. While we might not be called to leave it all behind as Peter did, we are called to love the Lord with the same passion and zeal, each in our own individual vocation, calling, and context. 

While Peter’s love was almost palpable, he also stumbled, both in this particular story and in others throughout the Gospels. He had a tendency to blurt out the wrong thing at the wrong time, denied he ever knew Jesus, and, at times, faltered in his belief, as found here. Like us, Peter is human to the core. Even with his faults, Jesus appointed him the Rock, and it is clear from the Acts of Apostles that Peter led the early Church. With all of his human foibles, Jesus saw something special in Peter. He knew his gifts and what he could accomplish. In Peter, the rest of us can take solace. Jesus loved Peter and called him to do great things; He loves you and me in our humanity and calls us in the same way. That’s how much He loves us! 

Finally, Peter gives the Church a great example of what to do when he faltered: he yells out, “Lord, save me!” Those might be the three words each of us should make our personal motto. Peter’s overall love for the Lord helps him understand that only Jesus could save him. His faith in Jesus ran deep, and in the depths of his heart and soul he knew Jesus would save him. Indeed, He did save him and help him. 

In the journey of faith, do we know that Jesus will save us? This implies that the person has a deep love for Christ that will show itself in faith. Jesus will save us. There is nothing to fear. The modern person has such a hard time understanding and believing in the power of God. Why does that happen? In many ways, Peter’s faith is childlike. And childlike faith is the faith Jesus wants in each of us. We allow the need for control and pride to creep into our faith, making it much more complicated than need be. Faith is simple. Love Jesus and know He will save you. Peter had that kind of faith, that is clear. You and I are called to that same level of faith. 

It is necessary that the human person peel back that which makes faith complicated. In prayer, the person asks the Lord to be free of the need of control and pride that keeps us from that simple faith that Peter expressed in this Gospel reading. Peter knew the Lord would save him. While human, he loved Jesus passionately and knew what Jesus would do for him. He saved him. Let’s all pray for the same faith as Peter!

St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Foundress

Saint Jane Frances de Chanta

August 12th, is the optional memorial of Saint Jane Frances Fremiot de Chantal, the foundress of the Order of the Visitation of Mary. She was born in 1572 and came from a noble family, her father gave her in marriage to the Baron von Chantal in 1592. As mother she most zealously instructed the children in the ways of virtue and piety and in the observance of every divine precept. With great generosity, she supported the poor and took special joy in seeing how divine Providence often blesses and increases the smallest larder. Therefore, she made a vow never to refuse anyone who asked for alms in the Name of Christ.

The death of her husband, who was accidentally shot while on the chase (1601), she bore with Christ-like composure and with all her heart forgave the person who had killed him; then she acted as sponsor for one of his children in order to show her forgiveness openly. There was a holy friendship between her and her spiritual guide, Saint Francis de Sales. With his approval she left her father and her children and founded the Visitation nuns.

Thus, too, it should be with us—firm yet forgiving, and each at the proper place and in the proper measure. Our zeal must not make us hard, fanatic; neither may love degenerate into sentimentalism. In fundamentals, in faith, and in the commandments, we must be firm, immovable, with no trace of tolerance; but in our contacts with men, patient, forgiving, tender, conciliatory. The Christian ought to be firm and resolute as a father, mild and self-sacrificing as a mother. This tension between complementary virtues we find exemplified in a heroic degree in St. Jane Frances de Chantal.

She was beatified by Pope Benedict XIV on November 21, 1751, and canonized sixteen years later, on July 16, 1767 by Pope Clement XIII. O God, who made Saint Jane Frances de Chantal radiant with outstanding merits in different walks of life, grant us, through her intercession, that walking faithfully in our vocation, we may constantly be examples of shining light. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen.

Adapted excerpt from The Church's Year of Grace, Fr. Pius Parsch.

August 10, 2017

Saint Clare of Assisi, Virgin and Foundress

Saint Clare of Assisi

Memorial - August 11th

As a young girl, Saint Clare, in defiance of her parent’s wishes, escaped from her home one night, intent on meeting up with a group of friars. They conducted her by torch-light to a small chapel where Saint Francis of Assisi gave her a rough brown habit in place of her fine dress. She surrendered her jeweled belt for a knotted rope, which she fastened around her waist. In a final act of devotion, she permitted St. Francis to cut her long hair, in order that she might take the veil.

A beautiful young Italian noblewoman, Clare was so moved by the preaching of Saint Francis of Assisi that she defied every convention of her privileged life to live the Gospel of Christ. One of St. Francis’ first and most ardent followers, she would become the foundress of the group of nuns known as the Second Order of St. Francis, more popularly, the Poor Clares. She did so despite great opposition. Her parents tried everything in their power to dissuade Clare from her vocation, but to no avail. In fact, eventually, two of Clare’s sisters and her widowed mother would follow her into consecrated life, joining the Second Order of St. Francis.

The nuns of the new religious Order were especially dedicated to extreme poverty and prayer. Secluded from the world, they went without shoes, slept on the ground and abstained from meat; subsiding only on the donations they received. The chapel of San Damiano, which St. Francis had repaired in response to God’s summons to “Rebuild my Church” — a command that Francis came to realize transcended the reconstruction of physical buildings — became the Mother House of the Poor Clares. In 1215, at the age of 21, Clare became the abbess of the Order, a position she exercised for the remainder of her life.

The Poor Clares held strictly to their commitment to poverty. When the pope suggested a Rule for the Order, which allowed for the ownership of property in common, St. Clare refused to adopt it. She is reported to have said in response to Pope Gregory IX, “Holy Father, I need to be absolved from my sins, but I do not wish to be absolved from my obligation of following Jesus Christ.”

Prayer was a cornerstone of the Poor Clares charism, of which, St. Clare was a perfect exemplar. Contemporary accounts said that her face virtually glowed when she came from her devotions. It was her prayer and faith that saved the sisters from a potentially brutal attack by the Saracens. Though very sick at the time of the near invasion, Clare brought a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament and placed it on the wall of the convent. She then prayed to God to deliver the sisters, and then told them to have complete faith in His will. They did, and the Saracens fled in fear and confusion.

Clare struggled with illness during the last 27 years of her life, but that did not prevent her from living out her passionate and heroic ideals.  She remained close to St. Francis until his death in 1226, although she apparently never left San Damiano, once she entered it.  From there, she exerted a remarkable influence on the cardinals, bishops and popes who sought her consultation and advice.

Saint Clare died peacefully of natural causes on August 11th, 1253. She was canonized two years after her death by Pope Alexander IV. She is the patroness of eye disorders and television among others. O God, who in your mercy led Saint Clare to a love of poverty, grant, through her intercession, that, following Christ in poverty of spirit, we may duly merit to contemplate you one day in the heavenly Kingdom. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns together, with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

August 9, 2017

These Words of Ordination Should be the Personal Credo of Every Catholic

Jesus Christ
"Receive the book of the gospel whose herald you have become. Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practice what you teach…"
These words are part of the ordination rite for the holy diaconate. The Bishop professes this solemn instruction to the newly ordained as they kneel before him, and he presents them with the Book of Gospels. These words of ordination should be the personal credo of all who call themselves Catholic and who seek to live in sincere imitation of Jesus. Truly, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."

Although often described as such, the Christian faith is not a “religion of the Book”, but of the Word of God, Jesus Christ, His Only Begotten Son, born of the Father before all ages. We do not merely subscribe to a millennia old collection of objective moral commands. We bow to a Person, a historical and ever-living “Someone”, who won our salvation by paying the ultimate ransom for man’s sins. In the words of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, our Faith is “not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living.” The fact that God would assume our humanity, even unto death on a cross – as the exemplar of love – marks Christianity apart.

Assumption Novena | 2017

We give you this (belatedly): From August 7 to August 15, Priests for Life invites believers to pray the Novena in honor of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.

Lord Jesus Christ,

You have conquered the power of death
And opened for humanity
The hope of eternal life in body and soul.

You granted your Mother
A share in heavenly glory,
And did not allow decay to touch her body.

As we prepare for the Feast of the Assumption,
Grant us new confidence in the victory of life over death,
And renewed reverence for the human body.

As we honor Mary, Assumed into Heaven,
May we proclaim the hope of Your Gospel:
That you want every human life seated on your throne.

May that hope strengthen us to protect every life here on earth.
You live and reign forever and ever. Amen.