December 4, 2016

Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, December 4, 2016, Year A

St. John the Baptist Preaching
Detail, St. John the Baptist Preaching, Mattia Preti (Il Cavaliere Calabrese), c. 1665.

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

Here we are with Christmas just two and a half weeks away. The shops and malls are loaded with goodies. Christmas songs fill the air. Parties are being arranged and delicacies prepared. Thoughts of home, of family, and of a lovely time fill our hopes and imaginations.

With all of these lovely sentiments in our hearts and minds we come to church today and hear about a weird guy living in the desert, wearing scratchy and horribly smelling clothes made of camel’s hair, eating locusts, calling people a bunch of snakes while telling them that fire and brimstone will come down on them, all the while threatening them with axes that will cut them down. The gospel picture ends with John the Baptist threatening the Sadducees and Pharisees with hell.

Aren’t you glad you came to church today just before Christmas to hear all of that? Well, John the Baptist reminds us that it’s likely we all need to pay attention to a few things that perhaps we have neglected in our lives, things that revolve around the presence of Christ… or His absence.

Take for instance those with whom we live — our wives, our husbands, our children, our parents, our friends. How have we loved them? How have we failed to love them? Who have we downright neglected or not treated as we should have?

Too often we take those around us for granted. We give them little, if any, of our time, our attention, our affection. Maybe we haven’t cared for the very well at all. It seems strange that we sort of assume that they know we love them without our ever actually telling them or showing them that we do love them… dearly love them. Daily routines, concerns about our work, and our habits can cause us to pay attention to material things at the expense of giving our families and friends our real attention, care, concern, and love. Maybe this Christmastime we can actually give them more of our selves as we prepare to celebrate the love of God for us made real in Christ Jesus.

What about our parents and our grandparents who live some distance away from us? Have we neglected them too? And our friends? Are there some changes we need to make because of our neglect?

Then there are those with whom we work. Our attitudes toward them are expressed in the ways we treat them or otherwise relate to them. Attitudes are the sources of human behavior. If we want to reform the way we treat others we have to begin with our attitudes toward them. We need to hear John the Baptist’s message as it applies to us.

Then, too, we should pay some attention to the way we have neglected our own selves. Are we physically out of shape? Overweight? Do we over indulge ourselves? Do we drink too much… drink too often… or eat too much? Do we care for our selves?

What is at issue is the way we have failed to love, failed to love and respect others, and failed to have love and respect our selves, selves that God gave us when He brought us into life in the first place. John the Baptist’s words ought to raise questions we should face and answer.

Finally there is the matter of Christ himself. We profess our faith in Him and our love for Him. But talk is cheap and words are easily spoken. It’s what we do that gives substance to love. Today we need to take an honest look at what we are actually doing in our daily lives that reveals our faith and love in Christ. Just how real is our relationship with Jesus Christ?

Repentance means change. And change is something we dislike. If you are driving to a destination and make a wrong turn, you can’t just say “oops” and continue on driving in a wrong direction. You have to turn around and get back on the right path. You have to make a change that makes a difference. Change has its demands, demands that go beyond mere words of regret. Advent calls us to make some changes in our routines.

Advent has more to offer us, however, than that. Advent has a Savior for us. Beyond our own efforts to recognize sin and failure in our lives, beyond our confessions and admissions that lead us to repent, Advent presents us with what we truly need – a Savior. For if we’re honest with ourselves we will admit that we cannot deal with sin, repentance, and conversion all on our own. We can’t manage our lives all by ourselves.

So I’ll leave you with the first three steps of the famous Twelve Steps found in Alcoholic Anonymous. Of the twelve, the first three are the most vital and critical. They deal with what John the Baptist is talking about. So, substituting the word sin for the word alcohol the steps are:

1 – We admitted we were powerless over sin – that our lives had become unmanageable.

2 – Came to believe in a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

The only thing in life that is constant is change. The only certitude is this: that there is life where there is change. Something that is changeless is dead.

Change is hard on us all – on you and on me alike. It’s very difficult for everyone because who or what guarantees that things will be better as a result of change? A life lived close to God is the only real guarantee we have.

The wonderful thing about Advent is that in the end we are given the certitude of God’s presence in our lives in Jesus Christ. Advent is all about our expectant faith in the God who loves us enough to send us His very best… His only Son. And if we receive Him in our hearts and souls, deep down within and not simply with good wishes and nice thoughts, then the change that we enter into will move from incertitude into the certainty of God’s abiding love deep within us to empower us to deal with our selves, and to love ourselves and those around us as He would have us.

December 2, 2016

Saint Francis Xavier — His Wisdom in 10 Quotations

Saint Francis Xavier

In Thee, O Lord, have I put my hope. Let me never be confounded
*** 
It is not the actual physical exertion that counts towards one’s progress, nor the nature of the task, but by the spirit of faith with which it is undertaken.
*** 
Would to God that these men who labor so much in gaining knowledge would give as much thought to the account they must one day give to God of the use they have made of their learning and of the talents entrusted to them!
*** 
The better friends you are, the straighter you can talk, but while you are only on nodding terms, be slow to scold.
*** 
Speak to them of the great mercy of God… Sometimes people are helped by your telling of your own lamentable past.
*** 
It is impossible to find a saint who did not take the 'two P’s' seriously: prayer and penance. 
*** 
I wish they [students] would work as hard at this as they do at their books, and so settle their account with God for their learning and the talents entrusted to them.
*** 
Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians.
*** 
Tell the students to give up their small ambitions and come eastward to preach the gospel of Christ.
*** 
I've heard thousands of confessions, but never one of covetousness.

The Miracles of Saint Francis Xavier

The miracles of Saint Francis Xavier
The miracles of Saint Francis Xavier, Peter Paul Rubens, 1617-1618.

Once, while traveling through a pagan territory, Francis learned of a woman who had been in labor for three days and was probably near death. Midwives and sorcerers were treating her with superstitious incantations. Xavier went to the woman's home and called on the name of Christ to heal her. “I began with the Creed,” he wrote to Ignatius, “which my companion translated into Tamil. By the mercy of God, the woman came to believe in the articles of faith. I asked whether she desired to become a Christian, and she replied that she would most willingly become one. Then I read excerpts from the Gospels in that house where, I think, they were never heard before. I then baptized the woman.” As soon as Francis baptized the woman, she was healed and gave birth to a healthy baby.

The woman's family was so touched by this divine intervention that they invited Francis to instruct and baptize all of them, including the newborn. News then traveled quickly throughout the village. A representative of the raja, the overlord, gave the village elders clearance to allow Francis to proclaim Christ there. "First, I baptized the chief men of the place and their families," he wrote, "and afterwards the rest of the people, young and old."

In another village, crowds besieged Francis, begging him to pray for ailing family members. Missionary and teaching duties overwhelmed him, so he enlisted some enthusiastic children to minister to the sick. He sent the children to the homes of the ill and had them gather the family and neighbors. He trained them to proclaim the creed and to assure the sick that if they believed, they would be cured. Thus, Xavier not only responded to requests for prayer, but he managed to spread Christian doctrine throughout the village. Because the sick and their families had faith, he said, "God has shown great mercy to them, healing them in both body and soul."

From Mystics and Miracles, Bert Ghezzi

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Apostle to the East

St. Francis Xavier

December 3rd is the feast of Saint Francis Xavier, (1506 - 1552) the 16th century Jesuit missionary known as the Apostle to the East. He converted more people in his life than anyone since the Apostle Paul. He is remembered for his unceasing devotion to the faith and his work in Asia to spread the gospel. Francis personally converted and baptized more than 50,000 people in 10 years. He single handedly catechized the entire city of Goa, India into the Catholic Church. Along with his mentor and close friend, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, whose tireless persuasion won the young Francis for Christ, he is credited with co-founding the Jesuit Order.

Francis Xavier was born in the Castle of Xavier in Navarre, Spain into an affluent noble Basque family. He studied at the University of Paris where he met Ignatius of Loyola. He had planned to devote himself to the intellectual life, but at Ignatius' urging surrendered to God. In August, 1534, Francis along with seven other men made vows of poverty chastity and obedience. They intended to journey to the Holy land to convert non-believers. Pope Paul III approved the formation of their order in 1540. This order became the Society of Jesus, more popularly known as the Jesuits. Pope Paul III ask the Jesuits to take a mission to India to help restore Christian virtue among the Portuguese settlers there.

Francis left for India in 1541, and was appointed as the papal nuncio to the East so that he could formally represent the Church. He arrived in the reach of Goa India in May 1542. Francis minister to the sick, the children and the native people of the Pearl Fishery coast. He later traveled to Melaka where he met a Japanese man named Anjiro. Francis converted Anjiro to Christianity making him the first Japanese convert. In 1549, Francis the departed for Japan. But most of the Japanese prove difficult to convert he was able to establish a few congregations but the religion was suppressed and Christianity became the subject of great persecution. This excerpt from St. Francis Xavier’s letter to St. Ignatius of Loyola from the Breviary shows the difficulties Francis faced and his zeal to save souls:

We have visited the villages of the new converts who accepted the Christian religion a few years ago. No Portuguese live here the country is so utterly barren and poor. The native Christians have no priests. They know only that they are Christians. There is nobody to say Mass for them; nobody to teach them the Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Commandments of God’s Law. Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians. ... I have thought of going round the universities of Europe, especially Paris, ... crying out like a madman, riveting the attention of those with more learning than charity: "What a tragedy: how many souls are being shut out of heaven and falling into hell, thanks to you!"

Francis returned to India in April 1552 and quickly decided to travel to China by invitation. Since foreign missionaries were not allowed in mainland China, Francis attempted to smuggle himself in to teach the faith. Before he could get there, he became ill with a fever and died on December 3, 1552. He was first buried on an island off the coast of China. His body was later transferred to Malacca, then Goa where it was laid to rest in December 1553. He remains buried in India in a silver casket encased in glass. Several of his bones have been removed as relics. His right arm which he used to bless converts is on display in Rome. Saint Francis Xavier was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1619, and canonized by Pope Gregory XV on March 12, 1622. He is the patron saint of foreign missionaries.

Immaculate Conception Novena 2016 | Day 4

Mary, conceived without sin.

December 2, 2016

Today we pray for purity; the purity of our bodies, that we may treat them as temples of the Holy Spirit; the purity of our minds, that we may have holy thoughts; the purity of our hearts, that we may see God. We pray that God will grant us, and the world, greater purity in all respects.

Day 4 - Immaculate Conception Novena

O most pure Virgin Mary conceived without sin, from the very first instant, you were entirely immaculate. O glorious Mary full of grace, you are the mother of my God – the Queen of Angels and of men. I humbly venerate you as the chosen mother of my Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Prince of Peace and the Lord of Lords chose you for the singular grace and honor of being His beloved mother. By the power of His Cross, He preserved you from all sin. Therefore, by His power and love, I have hope and bold confidence in your prayers for my holiness and salvation.

I pray that your prayers will bring me to imitate your holiness and submission to Jesus and the Divine Will.

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Now, Queen of Heaven, I beg you to beg my Savior to grant me these requests…

(Mention your intentions)

My holy Mother, I know that you were obedient to the will of God. In making this petition, I know that God’s will is more perfect than mine. So, grant that I may receive God’s grace with humility like you.

As my final request, I ask that you pray for me to increase in faith in our risen Lord; I ask that you pray for me to increase in hope in our risen Lord; I ask that you pray for me to increase in love for the risen Jesus!

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

George Weigel on Our Need for the Real Thomas More

St. Thomas More

Catholics for whom the faith is non-negotiable may feel with Mr. Trump's election that their precariously beleaguered religious liberty was given a much need reprieve. Prior to the vote, it seemed as if, for those who professed traditional Christian values, religious freedom was in grave danger. Indeed, last February, Father Paul Scalia, the son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, delivered a heartfelt eulogy at the funeral for his father in which he observed the following:

"[Justice Scalia] knew well what a close-run thing the founding of our nation was. And he saw in that founding, as did the founders themselves, a blessing, a blessing quickly lost when faith is banned from the public square, or when we refuse to bring it there. So he understood that there is no conflict between loving God and loving one's country, between one's faith and one's public service."

The problem is that the forces of secularization, and those who occupy the commanding heights of our culture, (i.e: Hollywood, the fourth estate and academia) profoundly disagree. Together they wage war on traditional Christian beliefs and practices. Despite Mr. Trump's pledge to protect such beliefs, are the times so perilous that men and women of faith cannot live openly without being prosecuted or persecuted? Will such societal oppression lead to red martyrdom?

George Weigel observes that in our unhappy modern situation we need the example of a Catholic willing to be martyred for his love of God and love of the truth. Contemplating the difficulties American Catholics face today,  he considers the heroic virtue and resolute faith of Saint Thomas More, the 16th century Catholic martyr who courageously defied King Henry VIII: Weigel calls More, "a Catholic willing to die for the truth, which has grasped him as the love of God in Christ.  Thus when More’s intellectually gifted daughter Margaret, having failed to argue him out of his refusal to countenance Henry VIII’s divorce and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn, plays her final card and cries, “But in reason! Haven’t you done as much as God can reasonably want?”, More replies, haltingly, “Well…finally…it’s isn’t a matter of reason; finally it’s a matter of love." Weigel explains:

"In this unhappy situation, we need the real Thomas More: the Thomas More who bore witness and ultimately 'grasped his death,' not to vindicate his sense of Self, but as the final and ultimate act of thanks for his having been grasped, and saved, by the truth itself, the Thrice-Holy God." Almighty God, who in martyrdom has brought true faith to its highest expression, graciously grant that through the intercession of Saint Thomas More, we may confirm by the witness of our life the faith we profess with our lips until we see you in glory. Read the full article here.

December 1, 2016

Advent Celebrates Two Comings: The Incarnation and the Last Judgment

Theotokos

As we all know the four weeks before Christmas, also known as Advent, is a time of preparation and anticipation. We prepare our hearts and our souls to welcome Christ anew, remembering how God became man 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem. Nativity scenes the world over commemorate the coming of the infant Jesus.

Through His Incarnation, Jesus: 1.) showed us in His words and deeds how to be His disciple; 2.) named twelve Apostles to help spread the Gospel throughout the world and build the Church on earth; 3.) set Peter apart, giving him primacy among the Apostles; 4.) instituted the Eucharist and also the priesthood to administer the sacraments, and; 5.) as the unblemished offering, paid the ransom for humanity's transgressions. In so doing, Jesus conquered sin and death, and opened up for us the gates of heaven and hope for everlasting life.

Thus, while Advent is a time of preparation in anticipation of Christmas, it points to something more. Christ did become human 2,000 years ago, But he will also come again in glory at the end of history Advent anticipates this second coming.

The birth of our Savior was and is an occasion of unrivaled joy for all of humanity. So to, will His second coming be a glory beyond our comprehension. In fact, the birth of Christ heralds His passion, death, and resurrection through which the world is redeemed and we are saved. Advent then truly celebrates not simply one coming but two. The mercy of Jesus prefigures the justice of Christ the King, our Creator, Lord and Judge of the universe. God's will is to restore all things in Christ so that fallen creation, set free from the slavery of sin, may render His majesty service and in union with the angels, ceaselessly proclaim His praise forevermore.

Immaculate Conception Novena 2016 | Day 3

Mary, conceived without sin.

December 1, 2016

Today we pray in thanksgiving to God for the gift of His mother, Mary. She is a perfect example for us in living a life that is fully devoted to Christ. To thee, O Virgin Mother, who was never touched by any spot of original or actual sin, we commend and entrust the purity of our hearts. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever.

Day 3 - Immaculate Conception Novena 

O most pure Virgin Mary conceived without sin, from the very first instant, you were entirely immaculate. O glorious Mary full of grace, you are the mother of my God – the Queen of Angels and of men. I humbly venerate you as the chosen mother of my Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Prince of Peace and the Lord of Lords chose you for the singular grace and honor of being His beloved mother. By the power of His Cross, He preserved you from all sin. Therefore, by His power and love, I have hope and bold confidence in your prayers for my holiness and salvation.

I pray that your prayers will bring me to imitate your holiness and submission to Jesus and the Divine Will.

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Now, Queen of Heaven, I beg you to beg my Savior to grant me these requests…

(Mention your intentions)

My holy Mother, I know that you were obedient to the will of God. In making this petition, I know that God’s will is more perfect than mine. So, grant that I may receive God’s grace with humility like you.

As my final request, I ask that you pray for me to increase in faith in our risen Lord; I ask that you pray for me to increase in hope in our risen Lord; I ask that you pray for me to increase in love for the risen Jesus!

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

November 30, 2016

Last Words of Jesuit Martyr St. Edmund Campion

St. Edmund Campion

Saint Edmund Campion was the most famous of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. who lost their lives in Queen Elizabeth I's campaign to abolish Catholicism from England. Arrested for preaching the Catholic faith, Edmund was convicted of treason and sentenced to death. Dragged through the muddy streets of London to the place of execution, Edmund forgave those who condemned him, saying:
I am a Catholic man and a priest. In that faith have I lived and in that faith do I intend to die, and if you esteem my religion treason, then I am guilty. As for any other treason, I never committed. I stand condemned for nothing but the saying of Mass, hearing confessions, preaching and such like duties and functions of priesthood.
Seconds later, the cart he was standing on was driven from under him, and he fell from the scaffold to receive the crown of martyrdom. St. Edmund Campion pray that we may remain faithful in the face of persecution just as you were.

Saint Edmund Campion, Martyr, "the Pope's Champion"

St. Edmund Campion
December 1st, is the feast of Saint Edmund Campion, S.J., (1540-1581) the 16th century English priest and martyr, also called "the Pope's Champion", who was one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. The most renowned of the English martyrs, Campion abandoned a promising career at Oxford, and an invitation to serve in the court of Queen Elizabeth, to enter the Catholic priesthood. He displayed heroic virtue in ministering to his fellow Catholics, despite great personal danger and widespread oppression. During the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, the Catholic Church was displaced by the Church of England. English monasteries were dissolved and Catholics were brutally persecuted and killed.

Campion was born in London, the son of a bookseller near St Paul's Cathedral. He was first educated at Christ's Hospital school. In August 1553, at age 13, he was selected to make the complimentary speech for the visit of Queen Mary. He attended St John's College, Oxford, where he became a junior fellow and took the Oath of Supremacy. In 1564, he earned a master's degree and two years later, welcomed Queen Elizabeth I to the university. She was deeply impressed by his oratory and intellect. So much so, that she promised him her patronage and a position in her court. Compelled to follow that path, he was originally ordained an Anglican deacon. His path to power and prestige was assured, yet, in the designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences. God would move Campion's heart.

The more he studied theology, the more he became convinced that the Catholic Church had the true faith. He journeyed to Dublin in 1569, to live as a Catholic, but would eventually return to London. In June 1571, he left England for Belgium where the English College trained seminarians for England. Campion finished his degree in 1573, and traveled to Rome with the intention of becoming a Jesuit.

Within a month of his arrival in Rome, he was accepted into the Society of Jesus. Since there was neither an English province nor an English mission, he was assigned to the Austrian province, and went to Prague and Brno to make his novitiate. He remained in Prague, after professing his vows and was ordained there, fully expecting to spend the rest of his life there teaching. He wrote, lectured and directed plays for his students, winning renown as a gifted orator.

Campion could have remained safely in Prague, but felt called to minister to abandoned Catholics in England who greatly desired the sacraments. He could only do this traveling in disguise, celebrating the sacraments in secret, and avoiding the many spies who sought him out. But Campion did not keep his mission a secret. He wrote and circulated the Challenge to the Privy Council to debate him on all issues between Protestants and Catholics. His mission began in 1580, but soon ended with his arrest in 1581.

Following his arrest, Campion was convicted of treason and sentenced to death. On hearing this verdict, Campion and those condemned with him joined in singing the Te Deum. He was tortured, suffering the dislocation of his bones on the rack. Despite being in agony, he held his own in debates with his persecutors. Showing her esteem, Queen Elizabeth met with Campion to urge him back into the Church of England. Campion remained steadfast and refused to renounce his Faith. Finally, on December 1, 1581, Campion received the crown of martyrdom after being hanged, drawn and quartered. Edmund Campion was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on December 9, 1886 and canonized by Pope Paul VI on December 9, 1970. Each December 1st, the anniversary of his martyrdom, the actual ropes used in his execution are placed on the altar of Saint Peter's Church for Mass.

Saint Charles Borromeo: "Christ, Who Came Once in the Flesh, is Prepared to Come Again"

St. Charles Borromeo
Beloved, now is the acceptable time spoken of by the Spirit, the day of salvation, peace and reconciliation: the great season of Advent... The Church asks us to understand that Christ, who came once in the flesh, is prepared to come again. When we remove all obstacles to his presence he will come, at any hour and moment, to dwell spiritually in our hearts, bringing with him the riches of his peace.
— St. Charles Borromeo

How Well Do You Know the Nativity Story?

The Birth of Christ

A baby born to a virgin, it’s one of the most familiar stories in the world. But how well do you really know the Gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ birth? Take this quiz and find out. Below is a selection of the questions asked. Remember, a number of our understandings about the Nativity come from popular piety, not Sacred Scripture.

Q1. Which archangel announced Jesus’ birth to Mary?

1. Michael
2. Gabriel
3. Raphael
4. Uriel

Q2. After Mary became pregnant with Jesus, her first action was to:

1. Explain to her parents what had happened
2. Explain to Joseph what had happened
3. Visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was also pregnant
4. Go into seclusion so as not to be an object of shame

Q3. According to the Gospels, where was Jesus born?

1. In Bethlehem
2. In Nazareth
3. In Heaven
4. In Jerusalem

Q4. During the reign of which Roman emperor was Jesus born?

1. Augustus
2. Tiberius
4. Nero

Q5. Why was Jesus born in a manger?

1. In order to fulfill a prophecy
2. Because Joseph was a rancher
3. Because there was no room in the inn
4. To make clear that his message was for all creatures

Q6. In which two Gospels does the Nativity story appear?

1. Matthew and Mark
2. Matthew and Luke
3. Matthew and John
4. Mark and John

Q7. The angel who appeared to the shepherds told them they would recognize Jesus this way:

1. He would be wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger
2. They would see a halo over his head
3. A star would be shining over the stable
4. He would have startling blue eyes

Q8. Which animals does the Bible mention in connection with Jesus’ birth?

1. Sheep
2. An ox and an ass
3. Camels
4. All of the above

Q9. According to the Gospels, how many wise men were there?

1. 6
2. 3
3. 0
4. Nobody knows

Q10. Which star did the wise men follow to find the baby Jesus?

1. The Star in the East
2. The North Star
3. The Star of David
4. The Dog Star

Go to beliefnet.com for more questions and the answers.

Immaculate Conception Novena 2016 | Day 2

Mary, conceived without sin.

November 30, 2016

Today we pray for the universal Church. To thee, O Virgin Mother, who was never touched by any spot of original or actual sin, we commend and entrust the purity of our hearts. Also, may we never take anything, or anyone, for granted.

Day 2 - Immaculate Conception Novena 

O most pure Virgin Mary conceived without sin, from the very first instant, you were entirely immaculate. O glorious Mary full of grace, you are the mother of my God – the Queen of Angels and of men. I humbly venerate you as the chosen mother of my Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Prince of Peace and the Lord of Lords chose you for the singular grace and honor of being His beloved mother. By the power of His Cross, He preserved you from all sin. Therefore, by His power and love, I have hope and bold confidence in your prayers for my holiness and salvation.

I pray that your prayers will bring me to imitate your holiness and submission to Jesus and the Divine Will.

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Now, Queen of Heaven, I beg you to beg my Savior to grant me these requests…

(Mention your intentions)

My holy Mother, I know that you were obedient to the will of God. In making this petition, I know that God’s will is more perfect than mine. So, grant that I may receive God’s grace with humility like you.

As my final request, I ask that you pray for me to increase in faith in our risen Lord; I ask that you pray for me to increase in hope in our risen Lord; I ask that you pray for me to increase in love for the risen Jesus!

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

You may post your prayer intentions here, and pray for the intentions of others.

November 29, 2016

Saint Andrew's Profession of Faith at His Crucifixion

The crucifixion of St. Andrew

The Church of Saint Andrew in Patros, Greece, is home to a book written in Greek that records Saint Andrew's martyrdom, in which it is written: "Aigeatis who was the governor of Patros became enraged at Andrew for his preaching and ordered him to stand before the tribunal in his attempt to do away with the Christian Faith. When Andrew resisted the tribunal, the governor ordered him crucified."

When Andrew was led to the place of crucifixion, upon beholding the cross he exclaimed: "Hail, O Cross, inaugurated by the Body of Christ and adorned with his limbs as though they were precious pearls. Before the Lord mounted you, you inspired an earthly fear. Now, instead, endowed with heavenly love, you are accepted as a gift. Believers know of the great joy that you possess, and of the multitude of gifts you have prepared. I come to you, therefore, confident and joyful, so that you too may receive me exultant as a disciple of the One who was hung upon you... O blessed Cross, clothed in the majesty and beauty of the Lord's limbs! Take me, carry me far from men, and restore me to my Teacher, so that, through you, the one who redeemed me by you, may receive me. Hail, O Cross; yes, hail indeed!" (Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, June 14, 2006)

Andrew remained tied to the cross for three days, unceasingly proclaiming the Gospel of Christ until his death. His last words were: "Accept me, O Christ Jesus, whom I saw, whom I love, and in whom I am; accept my spirit in peace in your eternal realm." Almighty Lord, we humbly implore your majesty, that, just as the blessed Apostle Andrew was for your Church a preacher and pastor, so also, may he be for us a constant intercessor before you until we see you face to face.

Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle

The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew
The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew, Caravaggio, c. 1603–1606.

Feast of Saint Andrew, November 30, 2016

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

Romans 10:9-18; Psalm 19; Matthew 4:18-22

Come after me. .... ” (Mt 4:19)

The calling of Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John, all fishermen, fascinates today’s Christians. Could it really be true that Jesus could just walk along and expect these four men to abandon their families and careers? From all that is found in the Gospels, it seems so. They were overwhelmed by the aura and power of Christ. They had no choice but to follow Him; they knew it in the depths of their hearts and souls. Following Jesus wholeheartedly was not unique to these four apostles; you and I are called in much the same way. Leaving everything behind and following Christ unencumbered by worldly concerns is the journey of every Christian. So what specifically needs to be left behind? And what does it mean to follow Christ?

Let’s begin with the later question. The apostles in this story left their fishing nets, careers, and families, and simply walked with Jesus. Each of them followed Christ for the rest of their lives. Their call was radical in that nothing was to separate them from Christ or from proclaiming His name. Most of them died as martyrs. The disciples embraced Jesus before they knew what would happen to Him. They knew it was the right decision.

The human person still feels that same drive that inspired the four men of today’s gospel to leave it all behind and follow Christ. Discipleship begins at that point. God has created each person with an emptiness that only He can fill. The person unites himself to the humanity of Christ in order to touch the divine. Through prayer, Baptism, and the Eucharist the person feels and knows the presence of Christ within himself. It is only in Christ that the human person will find fulfillment and peace. The highest call is to walk with Christ, most especially in His passion, death, and resurrection, that the disciple be filled with hope and new life.

The apostles left their nets and families behind to follow Christ unreservedly. How about everyone else? What specifically are you called to leave behind in your journey of discipleship? First, it must be noted that some men and women are still called to leave their careers and families behind and follow Christ through monastic life. But monks and nuns are not the only people to live a radical relationship with Christ. And those not called to monastic life must also leave all behind to follow Christ.

To have a deep relationship with Christ, the disciple must first get rid of sin and sinful tendencies. This lifelong struggle can only happen in prayer. A life based in Jesus demands that the person continually examines her life so that she may shed that which is not of Christ. Sin can easily creep into a person’s life unless that person is watching his actions carefully. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is needed in the life of faith in order to rid the heart and soul of sin and start anew. Sin draws the person away from Christ. Sin must go!

Pride must be dealt with as well. A relationship with Christ can only occur if the person knows he needs Christ. Freely choosing to obey Christ, the faithful disciple knows he cannot do it alone. It takes the community of the Church and the presence of the Holy Spirit found in conscience to help form that important relationship. Pride can steer a person away from Christ.

Lastly, reckless ambition and greed are not of Christ. Power and money become one’s god when ambition and greed hold him prisoner. They can never be satisfied—there is always more power and more money that could be attained. Money is necessary to provide for oneself and one’s family. Balance is the key. While the disciple of Christ must provide for his family, he needs to realize that his relationship with Christ trumps all else. Christ teaches us to treat others with kindness and respect and not to lord it over them. If the person trusts in God, he will not worry about having enough money; he is in God’s hands.

Andrew, Simon Peter, James, and John were each called to follow Christ radically. They left it all behind and walked with Christ. Two thousand years later, you and I are called to do the same in our lives. Leave sinfulness, pride, ambition, and greed behind and embrace Christ. Walk with Him, unencumbered by earthly realities, into eternal life. Happiness, joy, and peace will only come when the disciple leaves it all behind and embraces Christ.

Questions for private reflection …

1. Have you detected that inner drive to embrace Christ? How have you responded to that call?

2. Sin, pride, ambition, and greed must be eradicated to be united with Christ. How does this affect you? Which of these areas affect you the most? Are you ready to give them up?
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Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois, "Living the Word: Feast of St. Andrew, November 30, 2013", Vermont Catholic (November 2013). Reprinted with permission from the author.

Rev. Msgr. Bernard W. Bourgeois is the Pastor of Christ the King, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and St. Patrick Parishes in Rutland, VT.