Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 26, 2015, Year B

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH


"I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd
lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11) 
(Click here for today's readings)

Can you imagine rival politicians each making the claim that Jesus makes in today’s Gospel, “I am the good shepherd”? They would be laughed out of their party.

What about a doctor? a scientist? a journalist? a police officer? a teacher? an actor? Ridiculous in every case. And even though the clergy are called to imitate Jesus as best they can in their “pastoral” or “shepherding” ministry, not one would dare to declare, “I am the good shepherd.”

Why is this so? Think about it. Why would you react negatively in such a case?

I think part of the answer lies in the implication of absolute trust. We are not prepared to bestow that on just anyone.

It may go even deeper. How many teen-agers or adults do you know who actually want to be led by someone else?

We don’t want to be sheep. I found a definition of “sheepish” which reads: “resembling a sheep in meekness, stupidity, or timidity.” Yes, sheep are proverbially submissive, stupid and skittish. We don’t see ourselves that way, and very likely we are not that way, so why would we need a shepherd?

But the only thing Jesus says about his sheep is this: “I know mine and mine know me.” Everything else he says in this passage is about himself, or about the cowardly hireling shepherd. His point is one thing and one thing only, namely that we are in fact perfectly justified in placing our unfaltering trust in him, because he is ready to die for his sheep.

In the first two readings there are other expressions likewise calculated to inspire trust. St. Peter says, after healing a lame man, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, in his name this man stands before you healed... There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” And St. John writes, “We are God’s children now.”

Most people, at one time or another, have had the unpleasant experience of having their trust betrayed. The deeper the betrayal, the harder it is to trust again.

Jesus gets it. That’s why he talks about hireling shepherds who abandon their sheep to the wolves. Why would the sheep trust any shepherd again after that? The prophet Ezekiel has a ferocious passage in which God condemns the shepherds, i.e., the religious and political leaders, of his people for exploiting the people rather than caring for them. (Ez. 34:1-10). God concludes: “I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest.”

The Good Shepherd offers us ultimate “security,” not in the sense that we will never suffer, or be frightened, or be afflicted by the evil that surrounds us. After all, this is the same Jesus who elsewhere tells us to take up our cross and follow him. But in the midst of it all, we “know” him and he “knows” us.

No priest can call himself the Good Shepherd. I am not the Good Shepherd. I only work for him. Time will tell if I am a spineless hireling or a faithful servant. In the meantime, please pray for vocations to the priesthood. Pray for good priests. Encourage the priests you know. Inspire them to a level of fidelity that is deserving of an equal level of trust.

Psalm 95 includes the following invitation:

Come, let us bow down and bend low,
let us kneel before the Lord who made us,
for he is our God, and we are the people he pastures,
the flock he tends.

The psalmist and those for whom he wrote were neither especially meek, or stupid, or timid. They were not “sheep” in a passive sense. But they rejoiced in the shepherd-like care the Lord had for them.

And so should we.

Requiescat in pace: Francis Cardinal George

The late Cardinal Francis George (1937-2015)
A giant of the American episcopacy, Francis Cardinal George, died Friday.  He was 78.  I was a seminarian at Mount Saint Mary’s when his predecessor, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin was called to his eternal reward in November, 1996.  The seminarians of the Chicago diocese praised Cardinal Bernardin’s stewardship and wondered who his successor might be.  Cardinal Bernardin was considered at the time, the leading intellectual among America’s cardinals.  Five months later, my fellow seminarians had their answer in Francis George.  He was in every way a worthy successor. 

Cardinal Francis George was the first Chicago native to become Archbishop of Chicago. As a young man, he joined the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a missionary congregation, after being denied admission to Quigley Seminary. Installed in May 1997, he was the ninth Archbishop of Portland, Oregon for less than a year, before being named head of Chicago’s Catholic prelature. In January, 1998, Saint Pope John Paul II announced Archbishop George's elevation to the Sacred College of Cardinals with the title of Cardinal-Priest.

Much has been written about this humble servant and disciple of Christ. I quote a priest with whom Cardinal George was extraordinarily close, Father Robert Barren, who writes:
… to understand this great man, I think we have to go back in imagination to when he was a kid from St. Pascal’s parish on the Northwest side of Chicago, who liked to ride his bike and run around with his friends and who was an accomplished pianist and painter as well. At the age of thirteen, that young man was stricken with polio, a disease which nearly killed him and left him severely disabled. Running, bike riding, painting, and piano playing were forever behind him. I’m sure he was tempted to give up and withdraw into himself, but young Francis George, despite his handicap, pushed ahead with single-minded determination. The deepest longing of his heart was to become a priest, and this led him to apply to Quigley Seminary. Convinced that this boy with crutches and a brace couldn’t make the difficult commute every day or keep up with the demands of the school, the officials at Quigley turned him away. Undeterred, he applied to join the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a missionary congregation. Recognizing his enormous promise and inner strength, they took him in. 
(To read Fr. Barron’s thoughts on Cardinal George’s life and legacy go here.)

Cardinal George published a column in which he reflected upon the Church’s role in post-modern American society and aspects of Christian discipleship.  His thoughts were often prescient.  In a column entitled “A Tale of Two Churches,” (September 2014), the Cardinal wrote:
Throughout history, when Catholics and other believers in revealed religion have been forced to choose between being taught by God or instructed by politicians, professors, editors of major newspapers and entertainers, many have opted to go along with the powers that be. This reduces a great tension in their lives, although it also brings with it the worship of a false god. It takes no moral courage to conform to government and social pressure. It takes a deep faith to “swim against the tide,” as Pope Francis recently encouraged young people to do at last summer’s World Youth Day.
In 2010, in a speech to a group of priests, Cardinal George outlined the degree to which religious freedoms in the United States and the West were endangered: "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history."

Cardinal George died at 10:45 Friday morning (April 17), at his archdiocean residence where he had been since returning from the hospital April 3rd after couragously battling cancer.

Pope Francis, in a telegram to Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, offered his blessing to all those who mourn Cardinal Francis E. George.

“To all who mourn the late Cardinal in the sure hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the Lord.”

The funeral Mass for Cardinal George will take place April 23 at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago after lying in-state for two days. He will be buried in a family plot at the All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, Ill, next to his parents.

Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter, April 19, 2015, Year B

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

He stood in their midst and said to them,
"Peace be with you." (Luke 24: 36)
(Click here for today’s readings)

Isn’t this the Easter season? Isn’t Lent over? Why, then, is there so much talk of sin and repentance in today’s readings? In Acts we are told, “Repent, and be converted.” St. John says in his Letter: “I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin.” And Jesus mentions “repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

The point of mentioning these things at Easter time is to show that forgiveness is possible thanks precisely to the Risen Christ. St. John calls Jesus our “Advocate” and adds, “He is expiation for our sins.” St. Peter promises that the sins even of those who crucified Jesus could be wiped away. Jesus himself speaks of forgiveness of sins being preached in his name. In other words, Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, is the source of our salvation. That is what we believe.

Personal belief is a good thing. Is it enough? Not always. Jesus tells the disciples: “You are witnesses of these things.” Peter proclaims: “Of this (i.e. of the resurrection) we are witnesses.”

When we think of “witnesses” we usually think of a court of law. Witnesses are called to testify before a judge, or a jury, about what they know.

Eye witnesses and ear witnesses, also called “Percipient witnesses” are those who testify about what they have seen or heard or known through any of their senses. That would be the case of the Apostles and those disciples and evangelists who knew Jesus personally. In fact, St. John’s First Letter begins as follows: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands... we proclaim now to you.” Even among such witnesses, however, as we see in the Gospels of Matthew and John, perceptions and recollections can be very different.

The next category of witnesses, not always admitted at a trial, are the “hearsay witnesses.” These would be those who heard the preaching of the first group of witnesses and committed them to writing. St. Luke begins his Gospel in this way: “Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence.” To this day, our faith is based on this “hearsay” evidence.

The only way this can be justified, however, is to think of those witnesses also as “expert witnesses.” In our world, “expert” means having specialized knowledge, usually of a scientific, medical or psychological kind. But the root word underlying the notion of expert is “experience.” And in fact, over the centuries, the best “witnesses” to Christ have been those who have truly experienced Christ and have been able to translate that experience into their way of life. Think of any of the saints of any time. Think of your favorite saints. They are saints because they witnessed to Christ, sometimes even to the point of shedding their blood. In fact, the Greek word, “martyr” originally meant “witness,” before it took on the meaning it has today.

Then there is the reluctant witness. I have a funny feeling that this is the largest category today. Maybe it always has been. We live in a multicultural society, in which any kind of proselytizing is frowned on. We all know how contentious religious issues can be. So we tend to prefer a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach.

But Christian life can sometimes issue a subpoena. The reluctant witness can be compelled to testify. We all hope that won’t happen, of course, but we need to be prepared, just in case.

The way to prepare is to become an “expert” witness, the kind mentioned above. Experience the Risen Lord in as many ways as possible: whether through prayer, or Scripture, or service — whatever best draws you to him and draws him into your life. Then, possibly without even realizing it, you just might become the ideal witness, the witness that is perfectly credible.

Vatican Exorcism Course Draws 170. Pope: The devil is real and we must learn to resist his temptations.

St. Peter's basilica
“The devil is a liar, the father of lies.”

- Pope Francis

As reported by Breitbart, "The tenth annual course on exorcism has gotten off to a bang in Rome, with a full house of 170 students eager to learn how to recognize and fight demonic possession..." While many in the West deny the devil's existence, Church officials, including Pope Francis, note the increase of demonic activity. Sponsored by the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy and organized by the Sacerdos Institute, the course titled “Exorcism and Prayer of Liberation” is taking place at the European University of Rome from April 13 to 18:
The course consists in a series of meetings aimed at giving priests, doctors, psychologists, teachers, and pastoral workers the instruments they need to recognize and deal with cases of demonic possession and distinguish them from disturbances of a psychological or medical nature. Father Pedro Barrajon, the director of the program, said that the exceptional interest in the course reflects a growing awareness of the activity of the devil in the world, and a concern on the part of bishops to have some of their men specially trained for dealing for this reality.
Three quarters of the 170 students are priests, with the other 25% being lay people.
Barrajon noted that years ago the action of Satan was downplayed so much that few bothered even to speak of demonic activity. For a while, he said, it was typical to explain away the many accounts of demonic possession in the gospel as well as the episodes of Jesus driving out demons, “attributing them to the ignorance of the age and a readiness to recur to supernatural causes to explain diseases like epilepsy or psychological disorders.”
While that may be true in certain cases, Barrajon said, “it certainly doesn’t eliminate the clear references to the activity of the devil throughout the gospels,” something that “is generally recognized now by scholars.”
“Jesus obviously believed in the devil,” he said. Pope Francis has spoken of the devil repeatedly, insisting that he is real and must be fought. This generation, the Pope said last October, “was led to believe that the devil was a myth, a picture, an idea, the idea of evil. But the devil exists, and we have to fight him.”
[...]
According to Fr. Barrajon, the most common action of Satan in the lives of human beings isn't possession, but temptation, “something we all experience,” he said.  South and Latin American Catholics have a particular awareness of, and pay special attention to, the devil and the demonic effects of evil on our fallen world.  As the first Pope from the New World, many have been struck by Francis's frequent referencing of Satan.  Last year, Pope Francis said Satan exists in our present century and we must learn from the Gospel how to fight against his temptations. Read more about the “Exorcism and Prayer of Liberation” course and the Sacerdos Institute at Breitbart.com

Pope Francis: There are more Christian martyrs today than ever. Christ was the first martyr.


This is the beauty of martyrdom.  It begins with witness, day after day... like Jesus, the first martyr
- Pope Francis

Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has spoken repeatedly against the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere by Islamic Militants. The following are recent remarks by the Holy Father as reported by Vatican Radio: 
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said on Monday that there are more persecuted Christians in the world today than there were in the first centuries of Christianity. The Pope’s words came as he celebrated Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on the day in which the Church remembers the first Roman martyrs who were martyred during Nero's persecution in 64 (AD).
The prayer at the beginning of the Mass recalls that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”. We speak of the growth of a plant – the Pope said in his homily – and this makes us think of what Jesus used to say: "The kingdom of heaven is like a seed. Someone took the seed and planted it in the ground and then went home – and whether he slept or was awake – the seed grew and blossomed”. This seed is the Word of God that grows and becomes the Kingdom of Heaven; it becomes Church thanks to the strength of the Holy Spirit and to the witness of Christians.
 “We know that there is no growth without the Spirit: it is He who is Church, it is He who makes the Church grow, it is He who convokes the Church’s community. But the witness of Christians is necessary too. And when historical situations require a strong witness, there are martyrs, the greatest witnesses. And the Church grows thanks to the blood of the martyrs. This is the beauty of martyrdom. It begins with witness, day after day, and it can end like Jesus, the first martyr, the first witness, the faithful witness: with blood”.
But there is one condition that is necessary for a true witness  – Pope Francis pointed out – and that is “there must be no conditions”.
“In the Gospel reading of the day one of Jesus’s disciples said that he would follow Him, but only after having buried his father… and the Lord replied: ‘No! Follow me without conditions’. Your witness must be firm; you must use the same strong language that Jesus used: ‘Your words must be yes, yes, or no, no’. This is the language of testimony”.
“Today – Pope Francis said – we look upon the Church of Rome that grows, fed by the blood of martyrs. So it is right – he continued – that our thoughts turn to the many martyrs of today, the many martyrs who give their lives for faith. It is true that during the times of Nero many Christians were persecuted, and today – he said – there are just as many”.
Truer words were never spoken.  For more go to Vatican Radio.

Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), April 12, 2015, Year B

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

Thomas places his hands in Christ's wounds.
(Click here for today’s readings)

Little did the disciples suspect how Thomas would react when they told him everything that had happened in his absence. Surely he would be thrilled to know that Jesus really was alive, and eager to hear all that Jesus had said and done when he appeared to them. How could they have expected him to refuse to believe them? It didn’t make sense.

It’s impossible to imagine that Thomas’s exchange with the other disciples was as brief as may appear from a single verse in the Gospel. After all, a whole week passed between the two scenes we have just read. And what a miserable week it must have been for Thomas, as the others kept trying to persuade him. There was probably plenty of frustration to go around on both sides.

This is the stuff of advice columns. It’s the way you feel when you see pictures on Facebook, of a bunch of your friends having a great time together—without you! I found a wonderful New York Times article from 2013 that described the experience this way: “Here’s Our Great Wedding/Barbecue/Trip to the City in Which You Live. Too bad you couldn’t be there. Oh, right, you weren’t asked.”

Was Thomas suffering from a sense of rejection? At the very least he had to wonder, “Why them and not me?” He was not just any disciple, you know. He was one of a small hand-picked group, the Apostles. He was singled out then, and now? Just left out. How could this happen to him?

Then would come the second-guessing, the self-doubt, wondering where he fit in now, etc., etc., and finally the digging in his heels, the “I’ll show them!” attitude, the ultimatum.

There is a curious parallel to this in the Acts of the Apostles. Today we read, at the end of Chapter 4, that the community of believers had everything in common, and that no one among them was needy. But at the very beginning of Chapter 6 we find this: “The Hellenists (Greek-speaking Jews) complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.” Somebody was being left out, treated like second-class Christians. This was not acceptable. A solution was found quickly, however, which showed that the Holy Spirit was at work.

For Thomas, too, the solution came quickly enough. At the end of that wretched week, it was Jesus who “showed him.” He literally showed him his hands and his side, but more importantly showed him the very nature of faith.

If only seeing is believing, faith in Jesus would have disappeared from the face of the earth within the first century. But seeing isn’t believing. Not everyone who saw Jesus, who witnessed his miracles and heard his preaching, believed in him.

St. Paul has a famous text about the nature of faith: “And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?” and a couple of lines later: “Faith comes from what is heard” (Romans 10:14 and 17). Jesus puts it this way: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

John in his Letter goes beyond blessedness. He writes, “The victory that conquers the world is our faith.”

Faith in what? First and foremost, in the Risen Christ, and then in everything that Jesus ever said and did and told us to do.

Today, on this Divine Mercy Sunday, that means in particular: believe in his mercy, believe that no sinner is ever excluded from seeking God’s mercy. Recognize the grace of Christ’s forgiveness, submit to it, receive it humbly, and practice it.
The Sunday After Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday

How should we prepare for this great Feast of Mercy?


Jesus told St. Faustina that this Feast of Mercy would be a very special day when “all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened.” (Diary 699) Our Lord made a great promise to all those souls who would go to Confession and then receive Him in Holy Communion on the Feast of Mercy, on the Sunday after Easter, which is now called Divine Mercy Sunday throughout the Catholic Church.

Jesus promised that “The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain the complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.” (Diary 699) He went on to say “I want to grant a complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My Mercy.” (Diary 1109)

We want to encourage everyone to take advantage of this incredible promise and the additional Plenary Indulgence on this great Feast of Mercy “Divine Mercy Sunday”. We want you to benefit fully from these promises, and we also want you to notify all of your family and friends about them too and urge them to return to the practice of their faith About the feastday “Divine Mercy Sunday”, Jesus said “…tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon the souls who approach the Fount of My Mercy. On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet.... Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.” (Diary 699)

It is required of all Catholics to confess their serious sins at least once every year. If you haven’t yet met this obligation then take advantage of this outstanding opportunity to receive an outpouring of an ocean of graces that Jesus promises on this day. Those who have already confessed their sins should make room for others.

The Church allows for one to go to Confession for up to about 20 days, before or after Divine Mercy Sunday.

Divine Mercy Sunday Homilies 

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S, Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), 2014, Year A

Don’t you hate ultimatums? Most of us have encountered (and maybe issued) them at one time or another. They usually begin with “unless” or “if” and threaten dire consequences if one’s expectations or demands are not met. Read more...

Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore" (Rev 1:17-18).

We heard these comforting words in the Second Reading taken from the Book of Revelation. They invite us to turn our gaze to Christ, to experience His reassuring presence. To each person, whatever his condition, even if it were the most complicated and dramatic, the Risen One repeats: "Fear not!; I died on the Cross but now I am alive for evermore"; 
"I am the first and the last, and the living one." Read more...

Homily for Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015, Year B

"Why seek you the living with the dead?  He is not here, but is risen.
(Luke 24: 5-6)  

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH


On Good Friday, April 3, 2015, at sunset, millions of families the world over gathered around their table to hear a famous question: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” It was the beginning of the Jewish feast of Passover.

The answer to that question starts with four specific details about the meal itself. Then comes this: “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and God brought us out with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. And if God had not brought our ancestors out of Egypt, we and our children and our children’s children would still be subjugated to Pharaoh in Egypt. Even if we were all old and wise and learned in Torah, we would still be commanded to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. And the more we talk about the Exodus from Egypt, the more praiseworthy we are.”

At the Easter Vigil we could ask the same question: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” And the answer would be very similar. We might start by talking about the lighting of the Paschal Candle and the unusual number of readings and the blessing of water and the renewal of baptismal promises. But the deeper response would go something like this: “We were slaves to sin and death, and Jesus Christ died out of love for us to set us free, and rose again to give us access to eternal life. If he had not risen from the dead, our faith in him would be empty and vain, and we would still be in our sins. Even if we were all old and wise and learned in the Law of Christ, we would still need to tell the story of his Resurrection. And the more we talk about his Resurrection, the more praiseworthy we are.”

You know what it’s like when something really good happens to you. You can’t wait to tell someone. And you won’t tell just one person. And you won’t tell it only once, but over and over to anyone who will listen. Years later you will probably still be saying, “That reminds me of the time...” or “Did I ever tell you about...?”

That’s the way it was with the first Easter. Those who experienced the Risen Christ couldn’t hold back. They had to tell others, anyone who would listen.

It’s no wonder, then, that there are so many accounts of that experience. It’s no wonder that there are four Gospels, four sets of memories of the extraordinary life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s no wonder the book of the Acts of the Apostles includes so much preaching. It’s no wonder we have so many Letters of Paul, of Peter and John and others, and to so many different places, communities and persons.

Looking back beyond all these, we remembered (at the Easter Vigil) also the prophets before them, and the Exodus before the prophets, and Abraham before the Exodus, all the way to creation, seeing all this now in the light of Christ, in the glory of his Resurrection. There is just so much! It’s no wonder we can’t really find the words to express the wonder of it all.

But Easter is not simply a recurring date on the calendar. Each Easter is different, depending on what has happened in our lives during the intervening year. Perhaps we need this Easter more than ever before, especially if we have been through our own Good Friday. Maybe we are simply more open to being immersed in the glory of the Risen Lord; or we have major choices before us. How do we encounter Jesus Christ our Lord this Easter of 2015? How does he encounter us?

Why is this night different from all other nights? The answer may well be different for every one of us. But the foundation is the same for all of us. “He has been raised; he is not here.” Will talking about it make us “more praiseworthy”? I can’t say. But I can say that the more we meditate on this reality, the deeper we plunge into this mystery, the richer and more solid our faith will be, and the more inclined we will be to live the Alleluias we proclaim today.

Good Friday is Day One of the Divine Mercy Novena.

The Divine Mercy Image.
Jesus, I trust in you.

The Divine Mercy Novena begins today, Good Friday, and continues until the feast of Divine Mercy, the second Sunday of Easter.

The Divine Mercy novena prayers were given to St. Faustina through an apparition of our Lord Jesus. Each day has a new petition that seeks God’s mercy for different purposes. The message of Divine Mercy is a powerful way to grow closer to Christ. For a step by step guide showing how to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet go here.

First Day of the Divine Mercy Novena

Intention: Today bring to Me ALL MANKIND, ESPECIALLY ALL SINNERS, and immerse them in the ocean of my mercy. In this way you will console Me in the bitter grief into which the loss of souls plunges Me.

Novena Prayer for Sinners (Day 1) 


Most Merciful Jesus, whose very nature it is to have compassion on us and to forgive us, do not look upon our sins but upon our trust which we place in Your infinite goodness. Receive us all into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart, and never let us escape from It. We beg this of You by Your love which unites You to the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon all mankind and especially upon poor sinners, all enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion show us Your mercy, that we may praise the omnipotence of Your mercy for ever and ever. - Amen

For information about the image of Christ shown above click here. To learn about Saint Faustina, the Divine Mercy Chaplet or Divine Mercy Sunday see Who is Saint Faustina? and The Sunday After Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday.

Christ's Last Words on the Cross or What's Good about Good Friday


1. Jesus addresses the Father.
Luke 23:34

Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."

This first saying of Christ on the cross is traditionally called "The Word of Forgiveness". It is theologically understood as Christ’s prayer for forgiveness for those who were crucifying him: the Roman soldiers and all others involved in his torture and death. By virtue of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection, forgiveness is possible, the gates of Heaven are opened, and sin is forever conquered.

2. Jesus speaks to Dismas.
Luke 23:43

And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise."

This saying is called "The Word of Salvation."  In Luke's Gospel, Christ was crucified between two thieves (Dismas, the good criminal, and Gestas), Dismas supports Jesus' innocence and asks him to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. Jesus replies, "Truly, I say to you..."

The punctuation of Christ’s reply has been the subject of doctrinal differences among Christians. Protestant Christians typically read this as, "today you will be with me in Paradise". This understanding presumes direct passage to Heaven. Catholics, however, interpret it as, "I say to you today," leaving open the possibility that the statement was made presently, but eternal beatitude would be experienced later.

3. Jesus entrusts his mother to the beloved disciple.
John 19:26-27

Jesus saw his own mother, and the disciple standing near whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold your mother." And from that hour, he took his mother into his family.

This statement is called "The Word of Relationship." Jesus entrusts his mother to the care of "the disciple whom Jesus loved," the Apostle John. Even in the depths of his misery, Christ cared not for himself but for the well-being of Mary.

4. Jesus cries out to the Father.
Matthew 27:46

Around the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, saying "Eli Eli lama sabachthani?" which is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Mark 15:34

And at the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, "Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Of the last seven sayings of Christ, it is the only one that appears in two Gospels. It is a quote from King David in Psalm 22. Some see it as an abandonment of the Son by the Father. Others understand Christ’s cry as that of one who was truly human and felt forsaken. Tortured to death by his foes, deserted by his friends, Jesus may have felt deserted by God.

 5. Jesus is thirsty.
John 19:28

He said, "I thirst."

This is called "The Word of Distress" and is contrasted with Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan Woman at the Well in John.

The Gospel of John says Jesus was offered a drink of sour wine. A sponge dipped in wine on a hyssop branch was held it to Jesus' lips. Hyssop branches figured significantly in the Old Testament and in the Book of Hebrews.

This statement of Jesus fulfills the prophecy given in Psalm 9:21 (cf. Psalm 22:15), thus the quotation from John's Gospel "to fulfill the scriptures."

6. “It is finished.”
John 19:30
Jesus said, Tetelestai, meaning "It is finished."

This statement is called "The Word of Triumph," and is interpreted by some as the announcement of the end of Jesus’ earthly life in anticipation of his Resurrection.

Under this interpretation, these words are a cry of victory, not resignation. Jesus had completed his divine mission. Salvation was now possible. Christ had assumed our brokenness and taken our place. He had offered himself fully to God as a sacrifice on behalf of humanity.

Jesus refused the initial drink of vinegar, gall and myrrh (Matthew 27:34 and Mark 15:23) offered to alleviate his suffering. But here, several hours later, we see Jesus fulfilling the messianic prophecy found in Psalm 69:21.
Catholic theologian Scott Hahn offers this interpretation:
"They put a sponge full of the sour wine on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine he said the words that are spoken of in the fourth cup consummation, "It is finished." What is the ‘it’ referring to? That grammatical question began really bothering me at some point. I asked several people and their response was usually, "Well, it means the work of redemption that Christ was working on." All right, that's true, I agree it does refer to that, but in context. An exegete, a trained interpreter of the word is supposed to find the contextual meaning, not just import a meaning from a theology textbook. What is Jesus speaking of when he says, "It is finished?" I mean, our redemption is not completed once he - he's not yet raised. Paul says, "He was raised for our justification."

So what is the ‘it’ talking about? He said, 'It is finished', and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit, his breath. The ‘it,’ of course you realize by now, is the Passover sacrifice. Because who is Jesus Christ? He is the sacrifice of Egypt, the firstborn son. Remember, the Egyptians involuntarily had to offer up their firstborn sons as atonement for their own sins and wickedness. Christ dies for Egypt and the world. Plus, he is the Passover lamb, the unblemished lamb, without broken bones who offers himself up for the life of the world. This fits with John's gospel, because as soon as Jesus was introduced in chapter 1 of the fourth gospel by John the Baptist, what did John say? He said, "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." And here is the lamb, headed for the altar of the cross, dying as a righteous firstborn and as an unblemished lamb. I believe that it's best to say in light of scripture that the sacrifice of Christ did not begin with the first spike, it didn't begin when the cross was sunk into the ground. It began in the upper room. 

7. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
Luke 23:46

And speaking in a loud voice, Jesus said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."

From Psalm 31:5, this saying is an announcement, not a request. It’s traditionally called "The Word of Reunion" and is understood as the proclamation of Jesus returning to the Father in Heaven.

In this final utterance, we see Christ’s complete trust in the Father. Jesus encountered death in the same way he lived his life, offering up his earthly existence as a perfect sacrifice and placing himself completely in God's hands.

Help Christians Suffering Under the Persecution of Militant Islam Throughout the World


Nasarean.org was founded by Father Benedict Kiely, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Stowe, Vermont in the Diocese of Burlington, and supported by the people and businesses there to help, in some small way, Christians suffering under the persecution of militant Islam throughout the world. This is a conflict that has been going on for centuries - and it will not end until the final victory of Christ.

Father Kiely was so concerned about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East that he started a website — www.nasarean.org — making available bracelets, lapel pins and zipper hooks with the Arabic letter designating “Nazarene,” which the Islamic State put on the homes of Christians to mark them for ostracization, harassment, and death. The letter has become a symbol of solidarity with Christians who have been driven out of their homes.

All proceeds from the items sold will go to the efforts of Aid to the Church in Need to help Christians in the region. Says Fr. Kiely, “I decided that the best thing to do would be to have all the money we raise from this project go directly to one charity with ‘boots on the ground.’ Aid to the Church in Need is well-positioned to ensure that those in need will receive the help they need.” 

You can show solidarity with, pray for and actively support Christians suffering under militant Islam. Please visit nasarean.org and contribute to this most noble cause by selecting from among their products or making a donation. 

Like them on Facebook, visit their blog, spread the word on social networks, and by word of mouth.

"Nazarenes at Home and Abroad," National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez Interview of Fr. Kiely

FNC: A symbol of hope for persecuted Christians.



EWTN: World Over - 2014-09-25 – Aiding Christians in Iraq, Fr. Benedict Keily with Raymond Arroyo



Icon of the 21 Coptic Christian Martyrs 
who have been officially recognized as Saints by the Coptic Church.
"So we're using this symbol, the Nasarene, to show the world that we're with our brothers and sisters and try to help them practically in some small way."
                                                                   - Father Benedict Kiely

Homily for Palm Sunday, March 29, 2015, Year B

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

Christ betrayed by Judas
(Click here for today’s readings)

There, you said it. You all said it. You all repeated it, six times, in the Responsorial Psalm. “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” In the Passion, Jesus’ words are translated, “Why have you forsaken me?” It’s the same. Maybe some of you even thought: “I’ve been there, I know what it’s like.”

It is really hard to take this in. Did Jesus, of all people, really despair on the cross? We know he is quoting Psalm 22, composed when a distressed psalmist was desperately begging for God’s help. In Luke’s Gospel, the crucified Jesus quotes a different Psalm, number 31, also composed in a time of trial and persecution, but the verse he recites is of a totally different kind: “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” But today’s Passion is Mark’s; and he and Matthew have none of the other “Seven Last Words,” just the one we have heard and recited, the bleakest of them all! How are we to make sense of it? It’s a dilemma.

If nothing else, we are reminded of what we profess in the Creed, namely that Jesus, “true God from true God... became man.” We might add: “true” man. In his humanity he truly suffered. He experienced the depths of grief and discouragement to which any of us can fall. As we read in Hebrews 4:15: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.”

Another approach is this. There is a text in 2 Corinthians 5:21 in which St. Paul says that God made Jesus, who did not know sin, to “be” sin. In other words, Jesus on the cross took our sins upon himself so completely that he “became” sin. The Father as it were turned away from the sight of all that evil, and Jesus experienced abandonment.

It is important, however, to read that verse in its entirety: “For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” Notice: “For our sake.” We find this too in the Creed, which reminds us that the Son of God became man “for us men and for our salvation,” and that “for our sake he was crucified.” 

Here we find the best solution to our dilemma. This explains what we read today in Isaiah: “I have not rebelled, have not turned back,” and in St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: “He humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Why? Because, as we read in John’s Gospel, “He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end” (John 13:1).

The Twenty-Second Psalm is not an expression of total despair. Although it is filled with piteous lamentation, it concludes on an exultant note of hope. We saw this in the Responsorial Psalm: “I will proclaim your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise you.” Isaiah and St. Paul likewise look beyond the suffering and the cross, to ultimate triumph and vindication.

On March 28, 1515, exactly 500 years ago, St. Teresa of Avila was born. While she was reforming the Carmelites, she faced her share of hostility. At one point, her enemies prevailed and her life’s work came crashing down around her. She knew what it was like to feel abandoned, all the more so because her enemies were mostly other Carmelites, opposed to the reform. Hearing the agonized words of Jesus on the cross, she too could have thought: “I’ve been there. I know what it’s like.” She, too, “humbled herself.” And she never truly despaired. Remember her famous poem:

Let nothing disturb thee,
Nothing affright thee;
All things are passing;
God never changeth;
Patient endurance
Attaineth to all things;
Who God possesseth
In nothing is wanting;
Alone God sufficeth.

So the next time you find yourself beset with troubles, don’t hesitate to cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Then stop, and in the silence hear Jesus’ response: “I’ve been there. I know what it’s like.”

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 22, 2015, Year B

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH


What kinds of things do you like and dislike? What are you attracted to? What draws you? Why does one person love basketball while another loves opera?

What kinds of persons do you like or not like? Whom are you attracted to? Do you think of yourself as attractive, whether in your appearance or personality or talents?

What is the attraction? It is not easy to explain or analyze why we are drawn to certain things or certain persons. We just are.

Jesus said, on the eve of his Passion, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” The Evangelist John leaves no doubt about what Jesus meant: “He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.”

If we look at the scene of the crucifixion, Jesus did in fact attract a crowd on that day, but not in the sense that we are talking about, and that was certainly not his meaning. In less than two weeks, on Good Friday, we will hear a reading from Isaiah about the Suffering Servant. The prophet says, “There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him.” We might even say that, in all his public life, Jesus was never less attractive than when he was hanging on the cross!

And yet, this had to be. We read in the Letter to the Hebrews: “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” Eternal salvation — now that’s attractive! Because we love promises.

There is a great promise in the reading from Jeremiah. There’s going to be a new covenant. Apparently everyone will be delighted to be God’s people, and will behave accordingly. The Law will be written in their very hearts, and observing the law will become an attractive thing to do, the most natural thing in the world.

In a slightly different context, that of spiritual direction, there is principle I always propose: “Follow what attracts. If that isn’t what God wants of you, you’ll find out soon enough.” Please note, this is not opposed to doing what you should do; that is taken for granted, written on our hearts. But beyond the “shoulds” there is a vast range of possibilities. What draws you? For young persons that question usually concerns their vocation or calling in life. Once that choice is made, the range of possibilities is no longer as vast as it was, but it is by no means confined to just a few.

Specifically, returning to today’s Gospel, what is there about Jesus lifted up on the cross that attracts you? How does he draw you to himself? Stand before a crucifix or imagine the scene on Calvary. We all see and hear the same things, but we are not all the same person. And so we are drawn differently.

To illustrate this point, I often use the example of different Religious Orders. Without having done any research on the matter I imagine, nonetheless, that Jesuits, Franciscans and others respond differently to the crucified Savior, according to their perspective.

The heart of Jesuit spirituality is discernment of God’s will, in view of obedience to it. So I can easily imagine that what a Jesuit “sees” as he contemplates the crucifixion is Jesus, “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

The Franciscan way of life is centered on poverty for the sake of the Kingdom. Perhaps a Franciscan “sees” the consummate poverty of Jesus on the cross: naked, abandoned, powerless, even giving his mother away.

The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette — my Congregation — have a special vocation focused on Reconciliation. We “see” Jesus “reconciling all things to God, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20).

All three are drawn to the same crucified Christ, but perceive him differently.

Other persons and groups are attracted to some other aspect of the life of Jesus: teaching, healing, compassionate, passionate about true righteousness, etc. It hardly matters, as long as Jesus draws everyone to himself.

So, what draws you to Christ? It may not be easy to explain or analyze why. But then again, you don’t have to. Just follow what attracts.