December 10, 2017

The Curé d'Ars on the Glorious Duty of Man

Saint John Vianney

Saint John Marie Baptiste Vianney, the Curé d’Ars, was a 19th century French priest confessor, mystic and the patron saint of priests. His preaching was so powerful that the faithful traveled from far and wide to hear his homilies. The following quotation comes from a larger discourse on prayer and contemplation.
This is the glorious duty of man: to pray and to love. If you pray and love, that is where a man's happiness lies. 
― St. John Vianney

Prayer of St. John Vianney

I love You, O my God, and my only desire is to love You until the last breath of my life. I love You, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving You, than live without loving You. I love You, Lord and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally. My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You, I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath. Amen.

Pope St. Damasus I, Established the Canon of Scripture

St. Damasus I

On December 11th, the Church observes the feast of Pope St. Damasus I, who lived in the mid-300s just after the early persecutions of Christians had ended. When Damasus assumed the papacy, there were numerous Gospels and stories of Jesus’ life that were then circulating. Many of these were not inspired. Pope Damasus convened an ecumenical council to determine once and for all which Gospels and letters should comprise the New Testament. He also commissioned St. Jerome to translate the Bible into Latin, the language of the Roman Empire.

Pope St. Damasus I: A Consequential Papacy

On [Pope] Liberius' death, riots broke out over the election of a successor. The majority favored Damasus, who was born in Rome of Spanish descent. He had served as a deacon under Liberius and upheld the Nicene Creed. In less than a month, Damasus was installed in the Lateran palace. A minority refused to accept the decision and set up the antipope Ursinus. As the violence continued, Emperor Valentinian, who ruled the West, was moved to intercede and expel the antipope.

Pope Damasus fostered the development of the Church during this period of peace by publishing a list of the books of both the Old and New Testaments. He also encouraged his longtime friend and secretary, St. Jerome, to translate the Bible into Latin. This Vulgate edition continues to serve the Church usefully. Damasus himself composed eloquent verse which he had inscribed on marble slabs and placed over the tombs of martyrs and popes alike. But Damasus is best known for his devoted project in the catacombs. He ardently searched for the tombs of martyrs which had been both blocked up and hidden during previous persecutions. He lighted the passages and stairwells of the catacombs, encouraging pilgrimages to the martyrs. He did much to beautify existing churches, such as building the baptistery in St. Peter's and laying down marble pavement in the basilica of St. Sebastian.

Damasus was a vigorous defender of the orthodoxy, as well. He condemned the heresies of such men as Macedonius and Apollinaris and continued the march against Eastern Arians. Although Emperor Valentinian was a Catholic, his less capable brother Valens was under the Arian influence. Valens kept the Eastern bishops in turmoil until his death in 378 by the determined Goths. Emperor Theodosius, who succeeded Valens, supported the orthodox and convened the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 381. The council settled the dispute by recondemning Arianism and adopting the pope's teachings.

The chair of St. Peter was never more respected than during the pontificate of Damasus. He tirelessly promoted the Roman primacy, successfully persuading the government to recognize the Holy See as a court of first instance, although it declined to give the pope himself any particular immunity against the civil courts. Next in hierarchy came Alexandria, founded by St. Mark, and then Antioch, where Peter reigned before leaving for Rome.

Pious Pope Damasus died in December of 384 after a reign of eighteen years. Grant, we pray, O Lord, that we may constantly exalt the merits of your Martyrs, whom Pope Saint Damasus so venerated and loved. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. St. Damasus, help us love God as found in Sacred Scripture. Amen.

Adapted excerpt from, The Popes: A Papal History, J.V. Bartlett.

Advent Reflection Week Three: "The Lord is Near"

The Baptism of Christ

As Christmas draws ever closer, holy Mother Church emphasizes the joy which should reside in our hearts over the birth of our Lord and Savior. The greatest joy of Christians is to see the day drawing near when the Lord will come again in His glory to lead the faithful into His kingdom. The oft-repeated Veni (Come) of the Advent season is an echo not only of the prophets but also of the conclusion of John's Revelations: "Come, Lord Jesus," the last words of the New Testament.

The beautiful passage from this Sunday’s Gospel recalls the forerunner of Christ: “A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.” John the Baptist’s role as the harbinger of salvation was no accident. His was indeed, the "voice crying out in the wilderness", foretold by the prophets, who urged repentance and proclaimed to the world the imminence of the Messiah. On the day of Christ's baptism, John recognized Jesus as the Savior.

John the Baptist was ordained by God for a special purpose. Likewise, as Father Charles Irvin observes, “Your life is not a mere accident. Every life is given by God to accomplish His purposes, to bring His loving presence into a suffering world, to make His kingdom real by realizing it in how we live and how we treat people. No one is an outcast. No one is beyond the reach of God’s love.” Christ’s words and actions testify to this reality. Yet, in our fallen world, we long for the perfect heavenly Kingdom of God where death has no power and sin is no more.

In his homily for Gaudete Sunday Fr. Irvin explains how, "Advent is the time of the coming of God into our humanity, into your personal lives and mine. It is that mysterious time of the year when we recognize the tension between what already is and what is yet to be; between what we are and what we can be; between what has been accomplished and what remains unfinished in our enterprise of living." St. Paul tells us, "We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains ... as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies" (Romans 8:22-3).

Let us prepare ourselves for the birth of Christ and his glorious second coming by taking to heart the prophecy of Isaiah about the message of John the Baptist, "A voice proclaims in the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be lifted up, [and] every mountain and hill made low; The rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley," (Is. 40:3, 4) so that we shall see God face to face in Beatitude.

Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, December 17, 2017, Year B

The baptism of Christ

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

One of the most important needs we have in life is to receive respect and esteem from others, no matter how high or lowly our position may be on the ladder of social importance. This is a good and legitimate need. Humility does not mean being a door-mat upon which others wipe their feet.

But our need for respect and esteem can, as we all know so well, become unbalanced. Self-appreciation and self-affirmation can slip over into egocentrism, self-centeredness, arrogance and an aggressive “in your face” approach to others.

The result is certain … sadness, pain, and misery, not only in one’s own self but in the lives of those who must live near us. When the biggest thing in this world is self, there is no surer guarantee to misery. Preoccupation with one’s own public image and the everlasting pursuit of recognition leads us into the most merciless of all slaveries, with our ego as our tyrannical owner.

Happiness is, I said, one of the greatest needs we have in life. The quest for happiness is probably the most powerful drive we have within us. And so we should ask the question: When have we been happy? Have we ever been happy when we have been preoccupied with our own self? If we’re honest, we have to say never. Neither have others who are forced to live with us.

In his famous play “The Cocktail Party”, T.S. Eliot tells us: “Half the harm that’s done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm, or the harm does not interest them, or they do not see it, or they justify it, because they are absorbed in an endless struggle to think well of themselves.” People who are nursing their fictitious superiorities, people who are taking advantage of others in order to feed their inflationary ego drive, simply become blind to the harm they are doing to others and even more blind to the harm that they are doing to the very selves that they are trying to develop.

John the Baptist gives us a clue to the secret of human greatness. The lives of the saints give us insights into the way to respect and esteem. To be genuinely loved by others, to receive the affection and appreciation that we all crave, we simply must forget our selves and dedicate our lives to some thing or some one that transcends our selfish interests and human pride. We have to give ourselves over to something that is superior. All of the really great people we’ve known, if we think about them, are people who have been astonishingly careless about their own importance. In fact, they really don’t even know that they are important. They lose themselves and forget themselves into what is, for them, supremely important. If human accolades come to them they are quite appreciative of them, but then they go on about their task whether or not they receive any accolades at all from the crowd. Furthermore, I have found that really great people are often surprised when people pay them tribute.

All of this is to say that greatness finds you. You don’t find greatness. If you seek it you will never find it. Greatness, the esteem of the crowd, human accolades, the recognition of your nobility finds you. And it finds you only where it can, when you are located in the center of a life dedicated to a transcendent value or goal; when you are found engaged in the task of doing your Heavenly Father’s work here on earth.

John the Baptist was a great man. Jesus Christ said of him: “Of all of the men born of women, none was greater than John the Baptist.” THAT was quite a statement, considering its source! And what did John the Baptist say about Jesus? “I must decrease, He must increase.” In other words, John the Baptist’s awareness was centered on the presence of God in our midst. Ordinary eyes couldn’t perceive the Presence of God in the midst of our humanity, but John the Baptist’s eyes could. John was free to see reality, the way and the truth and the spirit of human life, and the spark of Divinity hidden within both Christ’s humanity and within ours.

Are you and I that much different from John the Baptist? In a lot of ways we are, of course, but we have some things in common. John was a messenger sent on assignment. But so are you. John was on a divine mission, but so are you. We are engaged in a task that is a whole lot bigger than just taking care of ourselves. You and I along with John the Baptist are sent into our world to point to God’s very presence among us. We have a high purpose for living. And being where we are we can, by the way we live and by faithfully attending Mass, point to the presence of Christ in our world. Others notice how we live. Never for a moment suppose that they don’t.

Your life is not a mere accident, nor is mine. Every life is given by God to accomplish His purposes, to bring His loving presence into a suffering world, to make His kingdom real by realizing it in how we live and how we treat people. No one is an outcast. No one is beyond the reach of God’s love. If Pope Francis´ ministry and life tell us anything, they tell us that.

Let me suggest to you here today, in the middle of Advent, that perhaps it would be good for us to examine the question: To whom and to what is my life dedicated? For that is where I will find honor and respect. That is where I will find happiness.

Advent is the time of the coming of God into our humanity, into your personal lives, and into mine too. It is that mysterious time of the year when we recognize the tension between what already is and what is yet to be; between what we ARE and what we CAN BE; between what has been accomplished and what remains unfinished in our enterprise of living.

My mother once told me: “Happiness is something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for.” If you and I can live lives dedicated to making the lives of others a little bit better than they once were, if we can find ourselves in the center of what is transcendent in life, giving love to the loveless and being loved in return, and if we can live each day fully in the Presence of Christ, or rather with His Presence reaching and touching others through us, that is no small thing to have happened to any man or woman.

If we do that, our lives will be judged accordingly and we will have as our own the honor that Christ gave John the Baptist.

Prayer for the Advent Wreath Week Three


The lighting of the Advent candles symbolizes the hope that the coming Messiah represents in a world that very often seems dark, forbidding and hopeless. We do so because we are a people living in faith that our Divine Master will come again in glory at the end of time to dispense peace and justice. The joyous anticipation of the season of Advent is captured in the teachings of the prophets from the Old Testament: "Exult greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! Behold: your king is coming to you, a just savior is he…" (Zechariah 9:9)

Advent Wreath Prayer - Third Week

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

Heavenly Father, today is the Third Sunday of Advent. Everything about today speaks of rejoicing in your presence among us. The prayers, readings and even the pink candle remind us that we are building up to the celebration of your decision to step into time and take a place in the human family.  Help me, Lord, to feel the excitement of a child who waits to open that large Christmas gift. Inspire me to open my heart, mind and soul to your presence, not only in the world but within me, which calls me to holiness and truth. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect Prayer Third Sunday of Advent

O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord's Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Lord, our God, we praise You for Your Son, Jesus Christ, for He is Emmanuel, the Hope of all people. He is the Wisdom that teaches and guides us. He is the Savior of all. May He come quickly and not delay. We ask this in His holy name. Amen.

The Church’s "Great" Popes Lived Out Heroic Virtue

Jesus gives Peter the keys to the Kingdom

Three Popes in the history of the Church have been honored with the designation "the Great". Pope St. Leo I (440–61), Pope St. Gregory I (590–604), and Pope St. Nicholas I (858–67). This is not, however, the result of official Church decree. The pontiffs so named have been duly singled out through the popular acclaim of the faithful on the occasion of their deaths and over time by tradition. Since his passing in April 2005, Pope St. John Paul II has been variously accorded the title.

St. Leo the Great

Pope St. Leo the Great

Pope St. Leo, one of the best-known popes from the 1st millennium, was a native of Tuscany, and initially served as a deacon under Pope St. Celestine I. Leo was a force to be reckoned with in diplomatic proceedings, which is why Pope Sixtus III sent him to resolve various disputes as a deacon. Leo's skills as an administrator enabled him to deal judiciously with the disintegration of the Roman Empire and guide the Church successfully through various consequential doctrinal disputes.

During Leo’s papacy, the universal Church and secular authorities recognized the supreme pontiff as the true leader of Christendom. He ruled on questions ranging from Church discipline to controversies among prelates, and authored numerous theological works. The most popular was the Tome of Leo which greatly shaped the Church’s teaching on Christ’s consubstantial union with God the Father at the Council of Chalcedon (451). Leo died in 461 and is buried in St. Peter’s Basilica. His feast day is celebrated November 10. He is among the Doctors of the Church.

St. Leo the Great on Christ

"He who could not be enclosed in space, willed to be enclosed; continuing to be before times, he began to exist in time; the Lord of the universe allowed his infinite majesty to be overshadowed, and took upon him the form of a servant..."

― Pope St. Leo the Great

When Attila the Hun threatened to invade and conquer Italy, it wasn’t an emperor or a deputy who went and talked Attila out of it. It was Pope Leo. Records show that after meeting with Leo, Attila retreated from Rome. The most plausible cause is that Leo prevailed upon Attila, making so great an impression that Attila left, stories range from Leo offering Attila a sum of gold (unlikely) to Attila suddenly seeing a vision of Christ in priestly robes bearing a drawn sword, threatening to bring death and obliterate the Hun army should they proceed with their attack.

St. Leo in particular contributed tremendously to the Church, including (through a particular devotion to St. Peter) helping to develop our understanding of papal primacy.O God, who never allows the gates of hell to prevail against your Church, firmly founded on the apostolic rock, grant her, we pray, that through the holy intercession of Pope Saint Leo, she may stand firm in your truth and know the protection of lasting peace. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen.

St. Gregory the Great

Pope St. Gregory the Great

Born to an aristocratic Roman family around the year 540, St. Gregory was a public servant into his thirties, then retired to be a monk. He was a fan of the great St. Benedict, devoting a whole book to the saint's life and miracles, and encouraged the spread of monasticism during his papacy. Pope Pelagius II called Gregory away from his life of solitude to act as papal nuncio in Constantinople. After the pope’s sudden death from the plague, Gregory was elected on February 3, 590. He reluctantly accepted this holy summons to serve as Rome's bishop.

It was Gregory who is owed thanks for spreading the faith in England and Gaul. He sent St. Augustine of Canterbury and companions there as evangelists, and for keeping the faith alive among the Franks (ancestors of the French). He did dispute the emperor on several new laws, but made sure to approach each situation with proper humility: as a loyal subject rather than a man on equal footing. Due to the depleted infrastructure in Rome by that time, Gregory was tasked with handling everything from feeding Rome’s poor, to managing the vast amounts of Church property, to rebuilding aqueducts and discussing the most equitable ways to use Church resources. A meticulous and generous man, he left the Church in vastly better shape than he found it, hence his title, "The Great."

St. Gregory the Great on Repentance

"If we knew at what time we were to depart from this world, we would be able to select a season for pleasure and another for repentance. But God, who has promised pardon to every repentant sinner, has not promised us tomorrow. Therefore we must always dread the final day, which we can never foresee. This very day is a day of truce, a day for conversion."

― Pope St. Gregory the Great

St. Gregory the Great was perhaps most known for being a prolific writer and teacher, having authored four books, several sermons, and over 850 letters that survive to this day. He is responsible for several liturgical customs that still exist. The Our Father’s current placement in the Mass, various prayers recited according to liturgical season, and some additions to the Roman Canon all originated from him. Gregorian Chant, though it bears his name, only came from Gregory in seed form; that attribution first appeared nearly three centuries after Gregory’s death.

Pope St. Gregory, now recognized as a Doctor of the Church, died on March 12, 604. He was acclaimed as a saint almost immediately. His feast day is celebrated September 3 in the Latin Church. Almighty God, who cares for your people with gentleness and rule them in love, through the intercession of Pope Saint Gregory, endow, we pray, with a spirit of wisdom those to whom you have given authority to govern, that the flourishing of a holy flock may become the eternal joy of the shepherds. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, together, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Nicholas the Great

Pope St. Nicholas the Great

A Roman from a noble family, Nicholas was well-known, even before becoming pope, for his holiness, goodwill, intelligence, and ability to lead. A subdeacon under Pope Sergius II and a deacon under St. Leo IV, Nicholas was elected to the papacy on April 24, 858. He wasted no time revitalizing the Church. With the Holy Roman Empire in shambles and Christian morality in a deep state of decay, Nicholas the Great led the Church well through a time where things could easily have devolved into anarchy. His enlightened stewardship proved to be a blessing.

Many bishops of the time were living worldly, decadent lives. One of Nicholas’ hallmarks was reforming and renewing those standards to which bishops and priests should be held. He twice excommunicated the archbishop of Ravenna, for being a tyrant who extorted his subordinate bishops and imprisoned his priests, not to mention forging papal documents and abusing the pope’s representatives. Nicholas also battled the archbishop of Reims, over the pope’s supremacy, but fortunately the issue was resolved without the archbishop having to be removed.

St. Nicholas the Great on the Church's Certain Doctrine

"From the time the Christian religion began to be spread, she has held unchangeable and taught uncorrupted throughout the world the doctrines which she has received once and for all from her patron and founder, St. Peter."

― Pope St. Nicholas the Great

Nicholas dealt with an emperor wanting a divorce, a foreshadowing of Henry VIII nearly 700 years later, when Lothair II left his lawful wife, Theutberga, to marry another woman. The area bishops, who were controlled by Lothair, approved of his abandonment, as did a meeting of bishops where papal representatives were bribed. Nicholas, never one to back down, convened his own meeting, wherein he duly reversed the decision and excommunicated his representatives. Even Lothair besieging Rome for two days couldn't discourage Pope Nicholas, despite the pope himself effectively being imprisoned without food in St. Peter’s during that time. Lothair ultimately reconciled to the Church and to the pope, seeking forgiveness.

During his time in office, Pope Nicholas continued to restore churches and was an active proponent of the religious life, considering he himself lived monastically, through and through. He died November 13, 867, and after death was venerated as a saint. Almighty Father, lover of souls, who chose your servant Saint Nicholas to be a bishop in the Church, that he might give freely out of the treasures of your grace: make us mindful of the needs of others and, as we have received, so teach us also to give; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent, December 10, 2017, Year B

Saint John the Baptist

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

We read today in 2 Peter, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.” This salutary but unsettling reminder of what is to come makes me think of one of the “Holy Sonnets” of the 17th century poet and essayist John Donne. It begins with the words: “What if this present were the world’s last night?”

“What if?” indeed! If we knew we had such little time, how would we spend it? Rush to the nearest confessional? Seek out the people we love most? Just cower in fear?

The poet is not afraid. He invites his soul to look into his heart and see there the image of Christ crucified, which for him is beautiful and offers him assurance of mercy.

We should note that St. Peter’s imagery is not simply about destruction. He follows immediately with this: “But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

Similarly Isaiah, who is quoted in Mark’s, is not suggesting that valleys be filled in and mountains be made low in a destructive way. The point is to make a straight, direct route for God to come to his people. Anyone living in a mountainous area knows how travel times can be doubled and tripled by winding roads.

John the Baptist is “the voice” calling for the straight path. There are many singers and actors famous for their voice. John is famous for his voice, but in a different way. He is the herald, not drawing attention to himself but to the one who is to come after him.

Have you ever had the experience of imagining what someone looks like, based only on the sound of his or her voice? I once was curious enough to search the Internet for a picture of Steve Zirnkilton, whose voice introduces every episode of all three Law & Order series on television (“In the criminal justice system...,” etc.). I was surprised and amused to see how far off I was! His appearance seemed so unlikely to me.

There are prophetic voices around us even today, calling us to fill in valleys and make mountains low. Often they are unlikely prophets, hard for us to recognize.

Mountains and valleys constitute obstacles. The valleys and mountains of Isaiah are not the physical ones that would require engineers to level out. The ups and downs and winding roads are in the “wasteland” that our hearts can sometimes be. Mountains of self-importance, of greed, of whatever makes us think we are above the human condition. Ravines of jealousy, of self-pity, of whatever drags us down and stifles hope. We all have them at times, and in an infinite variety of forms.

Maybe there is an unlikely prophet, a voice crying in our desert, to help us.

Be that as it may the question remains: How can I, how can you, make a straight path for the Lord into our lives and hearts? How can we prepare for the “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells”?

December 8, 2017

Pope St. Gregory the Great on the Birth of Christ

The Queen of the Angels
[On the night of Our Savior's Birth] The Angel announces that a king is born, and the choirs of angels join their voices, and rejoicing together they cry, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those of good will.' Before our redeemer was born in the flesh there was a discord between us and the angels, from whose brightness and purity we stood afar, not only as the result of original sin but also because of our daily offenses. Because through sin we had become strangers to God, the angels as God's subjects had cut us off from their fellowship. But because we have now acknowledged our King, the angels have received us as fellow citizens.
― St. Gregory the Great 

Collect Prayer for the Nativity of the Lord

Almighty ever-living God, who gladdens us year by year as we wait in hope for our redemption grant that, just as we joyfully welcome your Only Begotten Son our Redeemer, we may also merit to face him confidently when he comes again as our Judge. Who reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit one God Amen.

St. Juan Diego, Messenger of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Saint Juan Diego

Optional Memorial - December 9th 

Juan Diego, whose life is inextricably linked with Our Lady of Guadalupe, was the first indigenous American saint canonized by the Catholic Church. In his remarks in Mexico City on July 31, 2002, St. John Paul II said that Juan Diego "accepted Christianity without giving up his Indian identity" and is a "model of perfectly inculturated evangelization." To underscore the saint’s importance in that regard, present at the canonization were the members of 64 indigenous Mexican tribes.

He was born in 1474, in a place called Cuauhtitlan, located about fourteen miles north of present-day Mexico City. Living at first under the rule of the Aztecs, he witnessed the conquest of Mexico by Hernan Cortes in 1521. When Franciscan missionaries arrived from Spain three years later, Juan Diego — whose native name was Cuauhtlatoatzin, “the eagle who speaks”— and his wife were among the first natives to receive Baptism. Juan Diego was an extremely gifted member of the Chichimeca people, one of the most culturally advanced groups in Mexico.

Juan Diego was widowed five years later. Two years after that, on December 9, 1531, he encountered the Blessed Mother for the first time at Tepeyac, a meeting that would change the course of Christian history in Mexico. Praised by St. John Paul II as a "model of humility," In response to Our Lady’s summons, Juan Diego proclaimed: "I am a nobody, I am a small rope, a tiny ladder, the tail end, a leaf."

With the Bishop's permission, Juan Diego lived the rest of his life as a hermit in a small hut near the chapel where the miraculous image was placed for veneration. Here he cared for the church and the pilgrims who come to pray to Our Lady. He died in 1548 and was buried in the same Church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. St. Pope John Paul II beatified Juan Diego in 1990, and canonized him in 2002.

Much deeper than the exterior grace of being chosen as Our Lady's messenger, Juan Diego received the grace of interior enlightenment and from that moment, he began a life dedicated to prayer and the practice of virtue and boundless love of God and neighbour. O God, who by means of St. Juan Diego showed the love of the most holy Virgin for your people, grant, by his intercession, that following the counsels our Mother gave, we may do your will. Through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Advent Reflection Week Two: "John the Baptist Speaks Across the Centuries to Each Generation"

Jesus Christ

Reflecting on the second week of Advent Pope Benedict XVI observes, "As the journey of Advent continues, as we prepare to celebrate the nativity of Christ, John the Baptist's call to conversion sounds out in our communities. It is a pressing invitation to open our hearts and to welcome the Son of God Who comes among us to make divine judgement manifest. The Father, writes St. John the Evangelist, does not judge anyone, but has entrusted the power of judgement to the Son, because He is the Son of man." Benedict explains John's call thusly:

"And it is today, in the present, that we decide our future destiny. It is with our concrete everyday behavior in this life that we determine our eternal fate. At the end of our days on earth, at the moment of death, we will be evaluated on the basis of our likeness or otherwise to the Baby Who is about to be born in the poor grotto of Bethlehem, because He is the measure God has given humanity."

His Holiness explains, "Through the Gospel John the Baptist continues to speak down the centuries to each generation. His hard clear words bring health to us, the men and women of this day in which even the experience and perception of Christmas often, unfortunately, reflects materialist attitudes. The 'voice' of the great prophet asks us to prepare the way for the coming Lord in the deserts of today, internal and external deserts, thirsting for the water ...which is Christ."

Our Lord referred to St. John the Baptist as "My messenger" who must prepare the "way". John now wanted his disciples to realize that they, too, must follow Christ in this "way". Only through the same Jesus Christ, the long-expected Savior, will the "blind" of soul "see;" the "lame' of character "walk;" the "lepers" of sin become "cleansed;" the "poor" become rich with a new Gospel of love.

Almighty and merciful God, may no earthly undertaking hinder those who set out in haste to meet your Son, but may our learning of heavenly wisdom grant us admittance to his company. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. St. John the Baptist, martyr for God, help us prepare the way for Christ to live in our hearts, during this Advent season, and at the end of time when He comes again.

December 7, 2017

Saint Augustine on the Immaculate Conception

Madonna & Christ Child
Having excepted the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom, on account of the honor of the Lord, I wish to have absolutely no question when treating of sins—for how do we know what abundance of grace for the total overcoming of sin was conferred upon her, who merited to conceive and bear him in whom there was no sin?—so, I say, with the exception of the Virgin, if we could have gathered together all those holy men and women, when they were living here, and had asked them whether they were without sin, what do we suppose would have been their answer?"
― St. Augustine, Nature and Grace, 36:42.

Collect for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Almighty ever living God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son, grant, we pray, that, as you preserved her from every stain by virtue of the Death of your Son, which you foresaw, so, through her intercession, we, too, may be cleansed and admitted to your presence. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Sacrificial Ministry is Incomplete Without the Cross

Preferential option for the poor

By Father Lance Harlow

Caution: This article concerns working with the poor, the homeless, the mentally ill and addicts. If your experience of this kind of ministry is limited to the occasional conference talk on social justice in an air-conditioned building, bolstered by small group discussions followed by a tasty lunch, you won’t appreciate it.

If you have hands-on experience with the above-mentioned population, who rejected your good intentions at “helping them,” then you will understand the Gospels in their complexity and entirety.

For most Christians, the seminal Gospel passage often quoted regarding social justice and ministry to the poor is Matthew 25:35-40: “‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

This Gospel makes clear the various acts to be performed, but the sacrificial act of ministry is not complete without the cross. For ministry to be fruitful the mystery of the cross looms behind every act of charity. An act of love, met with the rejection of the intended recipient, if united with the suffering of Jesus on the cross, can produce spiritual fruit more efficacious than any pious sermon on the preferential option for the poor.

Remember what happened to Jesus in John 5:1-16 when He bestowed two healings on the man at the Pool of Bethesda who had been paralyzed for 38 years? The man is healed but nonetheless intentionally betrays Jesus to the authorities for having told him to carry his mat on the Sabbath which led to an intensified persecution of Jesus.

Jesus’ act of charity is met with ingratitude, betrayal and suffering. But, did Jesus stop healing the sick? No.

So, what do you do when the sandwich you offer the hungry man is thrown with contempt in the garbage? You still feed the hungry. When the water you offer the thirsty one is left behind for alcohol? You still give water to the thirsty. When the clothes you offer the poor family are exchanged for drugs? You still give clothes to the poor. When you offer kindness and compassion to the mentally ill or addicts and they calumniate you? You remain kind and compassionate. But, most importantly, you pray to the Father from the depths of your soul uniting your frustration, hurt feelings and misunderstood intentions to Jesus so that He may elevate those acts of charity to the supernatural heights of mercy which we alone, without the cross, are unable to accomplish.

From those heights a shower of grace descends upon the poor, which a mere sandwich, bottle of water, pair of boots or kind smile was unable to achieve by itself. Such is the complexity of social justice and ministry to the poor. Not every recipient of charity is ungrateful, obviously. And many will be kind, pleasant and enjoyable. But don’t let those who betray you and hurt your feelings stop you from performing the good works of the Kingdom.

Jesus didn’t stop. And neither did the saints.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception | 2017

The Immaculate Conception

Solemnity - December 8th 

Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception solemnly affirms, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: "The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 492)

The Prince of Peace and the Lord of Lords chose Mary for the singular grace and honor of being His beloved mother. By the power of His Cross, He preserved her from all sin. Therefore, by His holy Benevolence and Love, we possess hope and bold confidence in God’s loving Will for our lives and the salvation of all humanity.

Significantly in the first reading, the liturgy recalls the figure of Eve, the mother of all the living. The Fathers of the Church saw in Mary, the new Eve that unties the knot bound by the first woman. The knot of disobedience tied by Eve, was untied by the obedience of Mary. As Eve was created in purity and integrity, also the new Eve was miraculously preserved from the contamination of original sin because she had to give humanity the Word, who was incarnated for our ransom.

Almighty ever living God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son, grant, we pray, that, as you preserved her from every stain by virtue of the Death of your Son, which you foresaw, so, through her intercession, we, too, may be cleansed and admitted to your presence. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Prayer for the Blessed Virgin Mary's Intercession

Holy Mary, Queen of Heaven, Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and patroness of the world, who forsakes no one, and despises no one, look upon me, O Lady! with an eye of pity, and entreat for me of your beloved Son the forgiveness of all my sins; that, as I now celebrate, your holy and immaculate conception, so, hereafter I may receive the prize of eternal blessedness, by the grace of Him whom you, in virginity, did bring forth, Jesus Christ Our Lord: Who, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, reigns in perfect Trinity, God forever and ever. Amen.

December 6, 2017

Saint Ambrose of Milan on Trusting God

Saint Ambrose

Let your door stand open to receive Him, unlock your soul to Him, offer Him a welcome in your mind, and then you will see the riches of simplicity, the treasures of peace, the joy of grace. Throw wide the gate of your heart, stand before the sun of the everlasting light...

― St. Ambrose of Milan

Collect Prayer for the Memorial of St. Ambrose 

Almighty ever-living God, who made your Bishop Saint Ambrose a teacher of the Catholic faith and a model of apostolic courage, raise up in your Church men after your own heart to govern her with courage and wisdom. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. St. Ambrose defender of the Faith, intercede for us.

Immaculate Conception Novena 2017 | Day 9

The Immaculate Conception

December 7, 2016

Today we pray for all those intentions that reside in the silence of our hearts; especially those that concern our own welfare, and for the willingness to suffer for the sake of coming closer 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. We ask these things through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Immaculate Conception Novena - Day 9

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.

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