April 30, 2017

Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Easter, April 30, 2017, Year A

The Road to Emmaus

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

Last Sunday’s Gospel account was about the disciples who were huddled in the Upper Room behind locked doors out of fear, and Jesus’ appearance among them. Today’s Gospel account is about another appearance of Jesus, this time with other disciples who were dejectedly walking from Jerusalem to a nearby hamlet called Emmaus.

St. Augustine along with others of the Fathers of the Church suggest that Jesus didn’t want the disciples to recognize Him right away, that He wanted them to recognize Him in “the breaking of the bread.” Moreover Jesus, they believed, wanted the disciples to see and understand what the Jewish prophets had foretold in Scripture about how the Messiah was to be recognized. Hence Jesus spent some significant time opening up the Scriptures so they might see them in a new light, His light, and then recognize Him.

We can easily overlook the importance Jesus placed on Scripture. He repeatedly spoke of it and quoted from it. We should recall that He was discussing it with the Jewish teachers and leaders when Joseph and Mary found Him as a boy in the Temple. Again and again He taught that He did not want to do away with the Jewish scriptures but rather wanted to fulfill all that was found in the teachings of the prophets.

We find Jesus in today’s Gospel account again fulfilling what was written in the Old Testament about the Messiah. It must have been quit enlightening because at the end of today’s episode we hear the disciples exclaim: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” [Luke 24:32]

As an aside I want to point out here that the Catholic Church is often accused of not relying on scripture. Catholics are told that their Church doesn’t feed them and nourish them with the bible. We should note, however, that each and every celebration of the Mass is divided into the two principal parts, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Liturgy of the Word always begins with a passage from the Old Testament followed by a reading from one of the Epistles and then a Gospel reading. How can it be said that the Catholic Church doesn’t nourish you with God’s Word from Scripture? Note, too, that there is always a thematic connection, a connection of ideas, between the Old Testament reading and the Gospel reading.

To me, the thing that is the most important point in today’s account revolves around how the disciples came to recognize Jesus. We find this group of disciples at first failing to recognize Jesus and then in the end coming to recognize Him. What happened? Why did they at first think He was a stranger and later come to realize who He really was?

You and I have had the experience of hearing what someone is telling us but not really listening to what they are saying. Similarly we have had the experience of seeing someone, looking at them, but not recognizing them for who they really are. This can be due to our own inattentiveness, or it can be due to the fact that the one we are looking at doesn’t want to be recognized in the way we expect.

What we’re talking about here is God’s way of reveling Himself to us. This is not simply a matter of blindness vs. sight; it’s about revelation and understanding.

You and I are much like those disciples on the road to Emmaus talking as they were about all of the terrible events they had experienced during the previous days in Jerusalem, about the betrayal of Judas, the hatred the religious authorities held against Jesus, and perhaps even about Pilate’s question: “Truth? What is truth?”

We need to, as they needed to, pay attention to whether we are hearing what people tell us vs. really listening to what they are saying. Additionally, we need to ask whether we are seeing those around us without recognizing who they really are.

We are presently living in dark times. We are awash in changes. Tsunami-like changes are sweeping over us as we begin this new millennium, drowning us under a deluge of fears. On the economic side of things, globalization is taking away our jobs; the mortgage mess is eroding our economy while reducing our home values; our savings accounts are being depleted, and the value of the dollar is plummeting as energy costs soar.

All of these events have a major effect on our feelings and emotions, particularly the feelings of fear that can hold us hostage. In the social arena we face problems such as the wave of illegal immigrations, racism, major leakage from church attendance, and our changing understanding of what it means to be a family. We all need to pause, to reflect, and ask ourselves what we are really hearing and what we are really seeing.

We are much like those disciples walking along on the road to Emmaus, concerned over the events in our lives. What brought them to recognize Jesus was “the breaking of the bread.” Their minds were immediately taken back to the Upper Room and the Last Supper, connecting that with the broken and bloody body of Jesus hanging on His cross.

Can we learn to recognize Jesus in human brokenness? That’s the key; that’s what opens our eyes to His presence among us. When we encounter people with broken hearts, Jesus is there. When we try to offer comfort to someone with a broken spirit, Jesus is there. When we encounter someone who is experiencing loss, pain, and suffering, Jesus is there. Isn’t that what Jesus was telling us when He taught us about the judgment we will receive when we die? He will ask us if we recognized Him in human brokenness: “For 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.”[Matthew 25:35-36]

The mystery of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection isn’t something that simply took place long ago. No. It is on-going; it is going on in our days. True, we live in times when men and women have sinned, and our own sins have obscured the face of Christ. At times He is not recognized in our world and at times even when He is recognized there are many who seek to get rid of Him. Nailing Him to the Cross is something that is still happening

But it is there that He reveals Himself. It is in suffering and broken humanity that He is present. It is there that He is to be revered. And it is from there that we receive the promise of Easter – resurrection and new life.

We are all walking our own roads through life. Can we — will we — like the disciples, recognize that Jesus is walking with us? Will we recognize Him in “the breaking of the bread”?

April 29, 2017

Prayer to Christ the Good Shepherd

Jesus the Good Shepherd

Where are you pasturing your flock, O good Shepherd, who carry the whole flock on your shoulders? (For the whole of human nature is one sheep and you have lifted it onto your shoulders). Show me the place of peace, lead me to the good grass that will nourish me, call me by name so that I, your sheep, hear your voice, and by your speech give me eternal life. Answer me, you whom my soul loves.

I give you the name ‘you whom my soul loves’ because your name is above every name and above all understanding and there is no rational nature that can utter it or comprehend it. Therefore your name, by which your goodness is known, is simply the love my soul has for you. How could I not love you, when you loved me so much, even though I was black, that you laid down your life for the sheep of your flock? A greater love cannot be imagined, than exchanging your life for my salvation.

Show me then (my soul says) where you pasture your flock, so that I can find that saving pasture too, and fill myself with the food of heaven without which no-one can come to eternal life, and run to the spring and fill myself with the drink of God. You give it, as from a spring, to those who thirst – water pouring from your side cut open by the lance, water that, to whoever drinks it, is a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

If you lead me to pasture here, you will make me lie down at noon, sleeping at peace and taking my rest in light unstained by any shade. For the noon has no shade and the sun stands far above the mountain peaks. You bring your flock to lie in this light when you bring your children to rest with you in your bed. But no-one can be judged worthy of this noonday rest who is not a child of light and a child of the day. Whoever has separated himself equally from the shadows of evening and morning, from where evil begins and evil ends, at noon he will lie down and the sun of righteousness will shine on him.

Show me, then (my soul says), how I should sleep and how I should graze, and where the path is to my noonday rest. Do not let me fall away from your flock because of ignorance, and find myself one of a flock of sheep that are not yours.

Thus my soul spoke, when she was anxious about the beauty that God’s care had given her and wanted to know how she could keep this good fortune forever.

From a commentary by Saint Gregory of Nyssa on the Song of Songs.

April 28, 2017

Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto to be Canonized

Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto

His Holiness, Pope Francis, has approved the second miracle needed to canonize Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the shepherd children who witnessed the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.The canonization Mass will be celebrated on May 13th, when the pope visits Portugal in honor of the 100th anniversary of the apparitions. Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto are the youngest non-martyrs to be beatified in the Church's history. Below is an earlier post about their witness.

Between May 13, and October 13, 1917, three children, Portuguese shepherds from Aljustrel, received apparitions of Our Lady at Cova da Iria, near Fatima, a city 110 miles north of Lisbon. At that time, Europe was involved in an extremely bloody war. Portugal itself was enduring political turmoil, having overthrown its monarchy in 1910; the government disbanded religious organizations soon after.

At the first appearance, Mary asked the children to return to that spot on the thirteenth of each month for the next six months. She also asked them to learn to read and write and to pray the rosary “to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.” They were to pray for sinners and for the conversion of Russia, which had recently overthrown Czar Nicholas II and was soon to fall under communism. 90,000 people gathered for the final apparition, October 13, 1917.

Less than two years later, Francisco died of influenza in his family home. He was buried in the parish cemetery and then re-buried in the Fatima basilica in 1952. Jacinta died of influenza in Lisbon, offering her suffering for the conversion of sinners, peace in the world and the Holy Father. She was re-buried in the Fatima basilica in 1951. Their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, became a Carmelite nun and was still living when Jacinta and Francisco were beatified in 2000. Sr. Lucia died in 2005. The shrine of Our Lady of Fatima is visited by 20 million people a year.

O God who granted these two shepherd children the grace to become little burning bushes on fire with love for the Holy Father and for sinners, and burning with love for Our Lady and the “hidden” Jesus, grant that we, too, may be like Francisco and Jacinta, so that we, too, may burn with the same love and, with them, all meet together again in Heaven around Our Lady in adoration of the Blessed Trinity. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.

Adapted from Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feasts, Leonard Foley, O.F.M.

St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

Saint Catherine of Siena

April 29th, is the memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena (1347 – 1380), the 14th century virgin, visionary and Doctor of the Church. Catherine di Benincasa was born the twenty-fifth child of Giacomo and Lapa di Benincasa in Siena, Italy. At the age of 6, she began to experience mystical visions including seeing angels. She consecrated her virginity to Christ when she was just 7 years old. Catherine defied her family’s plans to give her away in marriage by cutting her hair short and repulsing her future husband. Catherine's mother would eventually relent. With her family’s blessing, she became a Dominican tertiary at 16, where her visions of Christ, Our Lady and the saints continued. Two years later, she would join the Dominican third order, spending her days in seclusion and prayer.

By the time Catherine was 23, Christ answered her prayer to take her heart and give her His own. The Lord Jesus appeared to her holding in his hands a human heart, bright red and shining. He opened her side and put the heart within her saying: "Dearest daughter, as I took your heart away from you the other day, now, you see, I am giving you mine, so that you can go on living with it for ever." In addition, Christ gave Catherine a wedding ring, visible to her alone, as a sign of her mystical marriage to Christ and her profound union with the Lord.

Click here to read St Catherine of Siena’s seminal spiritual work The Dialogue.

Catherine's short life was marked by rigid and austere mortifications. For a brief period, she wore a hair shirt but couldn't keep it clean. She replaced the shirt with a heavy, painful, chain she wore around her waist. She usually slept for one hour each night, and would often starved herself except for the reception of Holy Communion. She did this in reparation for her sins and in order to master her bodily appetites and passions. She offered these sufferings on behalf of others.

Fr. Pius Parsch summarizes St. Catherine's remarkable contributions in service to the Church: "The reputation of her sanctity soon spread abroad; thousands came to see her, to be converted by her. The priests associated with her, having received extraordinary faculties of absolution, were unable to accommodate the crowds of penitents. She was a helper and a consoler in every need. As time went on, her influence reached out to secular and ecclesiastical matters. She made peace between worldly princes. The heads of Church and State bowed to her words. She weaned Italy away from an anti-pope, and made cardinals and princes promise allegiance to the rightful pontiff. She journeyed to Avignon and persuaded Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome. Even though she barely reached the age of thirty-three her accomplishments place her among the great women of the Middle Ages." (The Church's Year of Grace, Fr. Pius Parsch, C.R.S..A.)

Exhausted by her mortifications and negotiations St. Catherine died in Rome on April 29, 1380. Pope Pius II, canonized St Catherine on 29 June 1461. She was declared a co-patroness of Rome on April 13, 1866 by Pope Pius IX. Pope Pius XII named her co-patron of Italy, together with Saint Francis of Assisi, in 1939. She was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI along with Saint Teresa of Ávila, in 1970. Saint John Paul II named her one of Europe's co-patronesses along with Saint Teresa Benedicta, and Saint Bridget of Sweden on October 1, 1999. Almighty ever-living God, who set Saint Catherine of Siena on fire with divine love in her contemplation of the Lord's Passion and her service or your Church, grant, through her intercession, that your people, participating in the mystery of Christ, may ever exult in the revelation of his glory. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever.

Saint Louis de Montfort — His Wisdom in 20 Quotations

Saint Louis-Marie de Montfort

Saint Louis-Marie de Montfort is revered for his intense devotion to the Blessed Virgin and to praying the Rosary. His love of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and for the poor is unsurpassed. The quotations below illustrate his profound wisdom and deep insights into the Divine Will of God and the workings of God's Church.

If we do not risk anything for God we will never do anything great for Him.
Take advantage of little sufferings even more than of great ones. God considers not so much what we suffer as how we suffer. . . Turn everything to profit as the grocer does in his shop.
When the Holy Rosary is said well, it gives Jesus and Mary more glory and is more meritorious than any other prayer.
If you put all the love of all the mothers into one heart it still would not equal the love of the Heart of Mary for her children.
Pray with great confidence, with confidence based on the goodness and infinite generosity of God and upon the promises of Jesus Christ. God is a spring of living water which flows unceasingly into the hearts of those who pray.
All true children of God have God for their father and Mary for their mother; anyone who does not have Mary for his mother, does not have God for his father.
She [Mother Mary] is an echo of God, speaking and repeating only God. If you say "Mary" she says 'God'.
Mary is the fruitful Virgin, and in all the souls in which she comes to dwell she causes to flourish purity of heart and body, rightness of intention and abundance of good works. Do not imagine that Mary, the most fruitful of creatures who gave birth to a God, remains barren in a faithful soul. It will be she who makes the soul live incessantly for Jesus Christ, and will make Jesus live in the soul.
Mary alone gives to the unfortunate children of unfaithful Eve entry into that earthly paradise where they may walk pleasantly with God and be safely hidden from their enemies. There they can feed without fear of death on the delicious fruit of the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They can drink copiously the heavenly waters of that beauteous fountain which gushes forth in such abundance.
The cross is the greatest gift God could bestow on His Elect on earth. There is nothing so necessary, so beneficial, so sweet, or so glorious as to suffer something for Jesus. If you suffer as you ought, the cross will become a precious yoke that Jesus will carry with you.
We fasten our souls to Your hope, as to an abiding anchor. It is to Her that the saints who have saved themselves have been the most attached and have done their best to attach others, in order to persevere in virtue. Happy, then, a thousand times happy, are the Christians who are now fastened faithfully and entirely to Her, as to a firm anchor!
How different are theirs from ours! Their roses are pleasures of the flesh, worldly honours and passing riches which wilt and decay in no time, but ours, which are the Our Father and Hail Mary which we have said devoutly over and over again, and to which we have added good penitential acts, will never wilt or die, and they will be just as exquisite thousands of years from now as they are today.
You must expect then to be shaped, cut and chiseled under the hammer of the Cross, otherwise you would remain unpolished stone, of no value at all, to be disregarded and cast aside. Do not cause the hammer to recoil when it strikes you. Yield to the chisel that is carving you and the hand that is shaping you.
We never give more honour to Jesus than when we honour his Mother, and we honour her simply and solely to honour him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek — Jesus, her Son.
Mary has the authority over the angels and the blessed in heaven. As a reward for her great humility, God gave her the power and mission of assigning to saints the thrones made vacant by the apostate angels who fell away through pride. Such is the will of the almighty God who exalts the humble, that the powers of heaven, earth and hell, willingly or unwillingly, must obey the commands of the humble Virgin Mary.
The greatest saints, those richest in grace and virtue will be the most assiduous in praying to the most Blessed Virgin, looking up to her as the perfect model to imitate and as a powerful helper to assist them.
If you say the Rosary faithfully unto death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins, you will receive a never-fading crown of glory.
We must conclude that, being necessary to God by a necessity which is called 'hypothetical', (that is, because God so willed it), the Blessed Virgin is all the more necessary for men to attain their final end. Consequently we must not place devotion to her on the same level as devotion to the other saints as if it were merely something optional.
According to St. Bonaventure, all the angels in heaven unceasingly call out to her: 'Holy, holy, holy Mary, Virgin Mother of God.' They greet her countless times each day with the angelic greeting, 'Hail, Mary', while prostrating themselves before her, begging her as a favour to honour them with one of her requests. According to St. Augustine, even St. Michael, though prince of all the heavenly court, is the most eager of all the angels to honour her and lead others to honour her. At all times he awaits the privilege of going at her word to the aid of one of her servants.
Even if you are on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil as sorcerers do who practice black magic, and even if you are a heretic as obstinate as a devil, sooner or later you will be converted and will amend your life and will save your soul, if-and mark well what I say-if you say the Holy Rosary devoutly every day until death for the purpose of knowing the truth and obtaining contrition and pardon for your sins.

St. Louis-Marie de Montfort, pray that we grow close to Christ through Mary.

April 27, 2017

Optional Memorial of Saint Louis-Marie De Montfort

Saint Louis-Marie De Montfort

April 28th, is the optional memorial of Saint Louis-Marie Grignion De Montfort (1673 – 1716). De Montfort's life is inseparable from his prodigious efforts to promote genuine devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of the Church. "Totus tuus" (completely yours) was De Montfort's personal motto; Karol Wojtyla chose it as his episcopal motto. Born in the Breton village of Montfort, close to Rennes (France), as an adult Louis identified himself by the place of his baptism instead of his family name, Grignion. Educated by both the Jesuits and the Sulpicians, he was ordained a diocesan priest in 1700.

Soon he began preaching parish missions throughout western France. His years of ministering to the poor prompted him to travel and live simply, sometimes getting him into trouble with church authorities. In his preaching, which attracted thousands of people back to the faith, Father Louis recommended frequent, even daily, Holy Communion (not customary for that time) and imitation of the Virgin Mary's acceptance of God's will. He also greatly extolled praying the holy Rosary.

De Montfort founded the Missionaries of the Company of Mary (for priests and brothers) and the Daughters of Wisdom, who cared especially for the sick. His book True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, is a classic volume of Marian devotion. This and his work, The Secret of Mary, have been translated and read worldwide.

Saint Louis-Marie De Montfort, died in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre, where a basilica has been erected in his honor. He was canonized by Pope Pius XII on July 20, 1947. A founders statue by Giacomo Parisini is located in an upper niche of the south nave of Saint Peter's Basilica. Almighty God, who willed to direct the steps of the Priest Saint Louis De Montfort along the way of salvation and of the love of Christ, in the company of the Blessed Virgin, grant us, by his intercession that, meditating on the mysteries of your love, we may strive tirelessly for the building up of your most holy Church. 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.

Adapted excerpt from Saint of the Day, Leonard Foley, O.F.M.

Saint Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr

Saint Peter Chanel

April 28th, is the optional memorial of Saint Peter Chanel (1802 – 1841), the 19th century priest, missionary and martyr. Sometimes, we are called to be the planters of seeds that someone else will harvest. That was precisely the vocation entrusted to St. Peter Chanel, whose tireless work in the region of Oceania in the mid-19th century would end up bearing the most fruit after his martyrdom.

Peter Chanel was born near Cuet in the area of Belley, France, in 1802. Ordained in 1827, he was first sent to work in a parish which had the reputation of being a challenging place in a “bad” district. Despite the difficulties he faced, the young priest won over his new parishioners by his devotion to caring for their sick.

But what Peter Chanel really wanted to be was a missionary, and to that end he joined a new religious society in 1831—the Society of Mary, which would later come to be known as the Marists. Although eager to depart for mission territory, Chanel was at first assigned to teach in the society’s seminary, a post that he filled with great competence. When the Society of Mary was finally granted formal approval by Pope Gregory XVI in April 1836, Chanel was appointed superior of a band of missionaries sent to the South Pacific, and the region known as Oceania.

After a grueling 10-month voyage, Chanel and the others arrived at the island that the natives called Futuna, the first Christian missionaries ever to do so. The conditions that they encountered there bordered on the savage: tribal wars and cannibalism had severely reduced the numbers of inhabitants and, although the eating of human flesh had recently been done away with, the people were still dominated by a religion of terror centered on the worship of evil deities.

Chanel persevered under very harsh conditions, struggling to learn the language of the people and winning them over the same way he had done as a younger priest in his first parish. His devotion to and care of the sick soon earned him the name “the man with the kind heart.” The king, Niuliki, treated the missionary well, at first, even declaring his person “taboo,” meaning sacred and inviolable.

But as Chanel’s influence with the people increased, Niuliki’s jealousy of him did as well. Chanel now knew enough of the language to preach to the people directly, and as more natives gravitated to the white man’s religion, Niuliki felt his own power as high priest of the old religion slipping away. When his own son, Meitala, announced that he was also joining Chanel, it was the last straw for the chief. In a move reminiscent of Thomas Becket and King Henry II in England, King Niuliki approached his brother-in-law, Musumusu, and instructed him to “do whatever is necessary” to stop the ministry of the Catholic priest.

Musumusu, who harbored no love for this new religion, went to Chanel under the pretense that he needed medical help. Once in his hut, Musumusu clubbed Chanel to death, splitting his skull with an axe. Chanel was martyred on April 28, 1841. O God, who for the spreading of your Church crowned Saint Peter Chanel with martyrdom, grant that, in these days of paschal joy, we may so celebrate the mysteries of Christ's Death and Resurrection as to bear worthy witness to newness of life. 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.

April 26, 2017

Here is Pope Francis' TED Talk

(For English subtitles click the closed caption icon
on the lower right of the video.)

Via the TED website:

A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you, says His Holiness Pope Francis in this searing TED Talk delivered directly from Vatican City. In a hopeful message to people of all faiths, to those who have power as well as those who don't, the spiritual leader provides illuminating commentary on the world as we currently find it and calls for equality, solidarity and tenderness to prevail. "Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the 'other' is not a statistic, or a number," he says. "We all need each other."

Feast of Our Lady of Montserrat [The Black Madonna]

Our Lady of Montserrat

April 27, 2017

The origin of the devotion to Our Lady at the shrine of Montserrat according to the earliest written records dates from 932, when the Count of Barcelona confirmed and renewed an endowment to the shrine made by his father in 888. This gift was again confirmed in 982 by Lothaire, King of France. Constant and unbroken tradition is that even previous to 888, an image of Our Lady was miraculously found among the rocks of Montserrat. Montserrat itself is a fantastic mountain group, four thousand feet high, about twenty miles from Barcelona.

The name, Montserrat, of Latin origin, means saw-edged mountain. It is formed by huge boulders that raise their immense bulk perpendicularly to that four-thousand-foot summit. Outwardly, it resembles the seemingly inaccessible monasteries seen on high Mount Athos in Greece: "Montserrat is, and will forever be, a source of deep impressions caused by the singularity of the place. There, what is material becomes cyclopean, the mysterious is turned mystical and the picturesque is promoted to sublimity." Legends abound as to the statues' origins.

There is a story that the mountain was once a huge boulder with a smooth surface. At the time of the Crucifixion of Jesus, however, when the sun darkened, the rock was shaken to its very foundations and when light returned, the mountain had a thousand peaks. The legend relates that the figure of Our Lady came from Jerusalem to Barcelona, and was brought into the mountains to save it from the Saracens. It is true that the Montserrat statue has oriental features, but this could well be traced to the Byzantine sculptors who were constantly employed in the West. The legend states that one night in the 8th century shepherds saw strange lights upon the mountain and heard Seraphic music.

Guided by the shepherds, the Bishop of Manresa found, in a cavern, a wooden figure of Our Lady and the Holy Child. He ordered that the statue be carried into the cathedral immediately. However, the procession with the statue never reached the cathedral because, after much marching, the small wooden figure became too heavy so that the Bishop decided to accept it as a sign and left it in a chapel of a nearby hermitage. The statue remained there until a church was built on the site of the present abbey on the rocks where the statue was discovered.

Since that incident, this statue is the most celebrated, the most important of Spain; it is thirty-eight inches in height, and is known as "La Morenata" — The Little Black Madonna. The wood is now black with age; one of its most striking features is the dignified expression of Our Lady. In her right hand, she holds a majestic orb. (According to another tradition, Saint Luke carved the statue with the Blessed Virgin Mary sitting as his model while using the carpentry tools of Joseph. Later, Saint Peter brought the Madonna from Jerusalem to Barcelona)

Adapted excerpt from Shrines to Our Lady, Zsolt Aradi.

April's Blog of Note: Fr. Gary Coulter

Fr. Gary Coulter

April's Blog of Note is  Fr. Gary Coulter, the home page of a Catholic priest and parish pastor. Father Coulter is a priest for the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska and a graduate of Mount Saint Mary's Seminary. His website features numerous topics of interest to Catholics seeking information and insight concerning the faith; including apologetics, book recommendations, resources on Catholicism and marriage, current issues, Latin, recommended links, and more. As one reviewer stated, the site: "is a valuable resource for almost anyone. Homeschooling families will delight in checking out the recommended reading list, Latin students will find help in their studies and married couples will find sound direction."

Among the offerings, of particular note to priests and seminarians is Fr. Coulter's thesis The Presbyterium of the Diocese, in which he writes: "Addressing the U.S. Bishops of Detroit and Cincinnati on their Ad Limina visit (May 6, 2004) Pope John Paul II said, 'Strengthening a spirituality of communion and mission will demand a constant effort to renew the bonds of fraternal unity within the presbyterate.' As he elaborates on the Bishop's role:
Precisely because the members of his presbyterate are his closest cooperators in the ordained ministry, each Bishop should constantly strive to relate to them 'as a father and brother who loves them, listens to them, welcomes them, corrects them, supports them, seeks their cooperation and, as much as possible, is concerned for their human, spiritual, ministerial and financial well-being' (Pastores Gregis, 47).
All priests are familiar with the presbyteral order, that relationship among all priests from their identity with Christ the High Priest received in Holy Orders. Yet the Holy Father, speaking about the 'presbyterate,' here seems to refer to something more, a bond and grouping that takes place among the priests and with the bishop in a diocese. This occurs because after ordination, priests receive a specific pastoral mission. They are not simply serving the whole Church, but fully dedicate themselves to a particular Church and the faithful who compose it.

Father Gary Coulter's home page is an essential resource for those interested in understanding the Catholic faith more fully. Consider making it a regular part of your internet viewing itinerary. It is well worth your time and attention.

April 25, 2017

Saint John Damascene on Sacred Scripture

St. John of Damascus

The Bible is a scented garden, delightful, beautiful, it enchants our ears with birdsong in a sweet, divine, and spiritual harmony, it touches our heart, comforts us in sorrow, soothes us in a moment of anger, and fills us with eternal joy.
— St. John Damascene

Prayer for the Intercession of  St. John Damascene

Grant, we pray, O Lord, that we may be helped by the prayers of the Priest Saint John Damascene, so that the true faith, which he excelled in teaching, may always be our light and our strength. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen.

Optional Memorial Our Lady of Good Counsel [Canada]

Our Lady of Good Counsel

April 26, 2017

Devotion to the Mother of Good Counsel is associated with a miraculous icon. The image [pictured above] is found in a church in Genazzano, a town thirty miles south-east of Rome. The church, dedicated to the Mother of Good Counsel, was built there in the 4th century. In 1356, it was given over to the Augustinians. Restoration started in 1467, when a widow, Petruccia, sold all her belongings to help finance the project. However, funds ran out before the task was completed.

That same year, the residents of Genazzano heard a beautiful melody emanating from heaven. As they looked up, they saw a white, shining cloud that descended on the Church of the Mother of Good Counsel. The cloud gradually vanished, revealing a beautiful painting of Our Lady tenderly holding her Divine Son in her arms. Immediately, Mary began to cure the sick and grant countless graces.

The news spread throughout the country. Two Albanians from Scutari appeared in the town with the following account. They had fled their homeland to escape the invading Turks. Before fleeing, they stopped in the church and had seen how the icon of Our Lady, wrapped in a white cloud, lifted off the wall on which it had hung for two centuries. They followed the picture until they could see the towers of Rome, when it suddenly disappeared. The mysterious icon of Genazzano was exactly identical to the one that had previously hung in the church in Scutari.

Pope Paul II sent two bishops to investigate the story. The prelates reported that 171 miracles were recorded in the months following the icon’s appearance. The pope’s commission also found that there was an empty space on the church wall at Scutari. The icon that had been venerated there for centuries was missing.

The image in Genazzano was painted on a sheet of plaster so thin that it would have been impossible for any human hand to remove it without damage. It had survived the subsequent centuries through the tumult of severe earthquakes and the bombings of World War II. Several altars were destroyed, walls caved in, and the roof was crushed. The icon, yards away from the explosion, remained intact.

Numerous miracles continued to be attributed to Our Lady of Good Counsel. Pope Saint Pius V credited victory in the Battle of Lepanto to her intercession. In 1682, Pope Innocent XI had the portrait crowned with gold. On July 2, 1753, Pope Benedict XIV approved the Scapular of Our Lady of Good Counsel and was the first to wear it. In 1884, a special Mass and Office of the Feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel was approved by Pope Leo XIII. For over 500 years, the image has continuously attracted countless pilgrims. Our Lady of Good Counsel, pray for us!

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for May 2017

Pope Francis' coat of arms Please remember the Holy Father Pope Francis' intentions in prayer throughout the month of May:

Christians in Africa

That Christians in Africa, in imitation of the Merciful Jesus, may give prophetic witness to reconciliation, justice, and peace.

Beginning in 2017, the Pope will present one monthly intention, rather than two. Should an urgent need arise, an additional intention may be added.

April 24, 2017

Saint Mark, Evangelist and Eye Witness at Gethsemane

Saint Mark, the EvangelistApril 25th, is the optional memorial of Saint Mark (also referred to as John Mark), an early disciple of Our Lord, best known for the Gospel that bears his name. Tradition holds that members of Mark's family greatly abetted Christ’s work and earthly ministry.

Concerning his Gospel; Roman Christians were Mark’s primary audience. Mark emphasizes Jesus as the leader of a new Exodus. Saint Peter the apostle was Mark’s main source for the events of Jesus’ life. Many scholars believe that Mark’s Gospel was the earliest among the four.

John Mark was a disciple of Peter who followed Peter to Rome and later went to Egypt. He was very close to Peter: Peter calls him “my son Mark” at the end of his first letter (1 Pt 5:13). Mark wrote his Gospel based on the stories Peter had told him. The main audience was probably the Gentile Christians in Rome. Peter was so pleased with Mark’s Gospel that he had copies of it made for all the churches.

Of the four Gospels, Mark’s is the shortest, and many scholars believe it was the earliest. Many also believe that Matthew and Luke used it as a source for writing their Gospels, and indeed, certain accounts are in each of the "synoptic" Gospels.

Mark’s Gospel tells the story of Jesus’ life in a straightforward way. Although he includes many of the words of Jesus, Mark is more interested in what Jesus did. Throughout, we see Jesus leading us – the new Israel – on a new Exodus. Mark includes one story that none of the other Gospels mention. After Jesus had been arrested, the authorities led him off to the high priest.
And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body; and they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked. (Mk 14:51-52)
Why does Mark report this embarrassing incident? Most scholars believe that the naked young man was Mark himself, who added this little story to remind people who knew him that he was an eyewitness to some of the events of Christ's life.

Mark’s favorite word is "immediately". He uses it more than forty times, and his Gospel moves along at a brisk pace. Reading Mark’s Gospel in one sitting is easy, and it’s a good way to understand how exciting the Good News must have been to the earliest believers. O God, who raised up Saint Mark, your Evangelist, and endowed him with the grace to preach the Gospel, grant, we pray, that we may so profit from his teaching as to follow faithfully in the footsteps of Christ. Who lives and reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Saint Leo the Great on the Encounter with Christ on the Road to Emmaus

The Road to Emmaus Icon

The following homily by Pope Saint Leo the Great concerning Christ’s ministry during the 40 Days between his Resurrection and Ascension, focuses especially on his appearance and revelation to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Beloved, the days which passed between the Lord’s resurrection and his ascension were by no means uneventful; during them great sacramental mysteries were confirmed, great truths revealed. In those days, the fear of death with all its horrors was taken away, and the immortality of both body and soul affirmed. It was then that the Lord breathed on all his apostles and filled them with the Holy Spirit; and after giving the keys of the kingdom to blessed Peter, whom he had chosen and set above all the others, he entrusted him with the care of his flock.

During these days, the Lord joined two of his disciples as their companion on the road, and by chiding them for their timidity and hesitant fears he swept away all the clouds of our uncertainty. Their lukewarm hearts were fired by the light of faith and began to burn within them as the Lord opened up the Scriptures. And as they shared their meal with him, their eyes were opened in the breaking of bread, opened far more happily to the sight of their own glorified humanity than were the eyes of our first parents to the shame of their sin.

Throughout the whole period between the resurrection and ascension, God’s providence was at work to instill this one lesson into the hearts of the disciples, to set this one truth before their eyes, that our Lord Jesus Christ, who was truly born, truly suffered and truly died, should be recognized as truly risen from the dead. The blessed apostles together with all the others had been intimidated by the catastrophe of the cross, and their faith in the resurrection had been uncertain; but now they were so strengthened by the evident truth that when their Lord ascended into heaven, far from feeling any sadness, they were filled with great joy.

Indeed, that blessed company had a great and inexpressible cause for joy when it saw man’s nature rising above the dignity of the whole heavenly creation, above the ranks of angels, above the exalted status of archangels. Nor would there be any limit to its upward course until humanity was admitted to a seat at the right hand of the eternal Father, to be enthroned at last in the glory of him to whose nature it was wedded in the person of the Son.

Excerpt from an Ascension sermon by Pope St. Leo the Great (c. 390 – 461).