June 30, 2016

June's Blog of Note: Domine mihi hanc aquam! - An Interview With Fr. Philip Neri Powell, O.P.

Domine mihi hanc aquam!

June's blog of note, Domine mihi hanc aquam!, has long been a fixture of the Catholic blogosphere. Since November, 2005, Fr. Philip Neri Powell, a Dominican seminary professor, formation advisor and parish priest, has preached and commented about Christ, the Church, popular culture and events of consequence. Featured are Fr. Powell's thought provoking homilies through which readers know and love the mind of Christ.

The wide ranging scope of HA's subject matter is reflected in a quote from Pope Benedict XVI displayed on the blog's masthead: "A [preacher] who does not love art, poetry, music and nature can be dangerous. Blindness and deafness toward the beautiful are not incidental; they are necessarily reflected in his [preaching]."

In addition to faithful homiletics, readers are just as likely to see advice for discerning a religious vocation, a presentation of original paintings or a polemic against the "Culture of Death." Domine mihi hanc aquam! advances the Good News as part of the New Evangelization in the best sense of the Dominican tradition.

I interviewed Fr. Powell about his blog, his call to the priesthood, the future of the Church, and his advice for those considering a Dominican vocation.

You started Domine mihi hanc aquam! as a place to post your homilies online so others could access them. Has Hanc aquam! changed as your audience has grown?

I started HA in November of 2005 as a way to avoid having to print out my homilies for folks who wanted copies. Within a year, I was posting on more “controversial” topics that drew a lot more attention (i.e., Put Down the Missalette!). It didn't take long for me to realize that my readers wanted someone to speak to them on topics that were largely ignored in Catholic MSM – liturgical abuse, dissent and heretical preaching, women's ordination, etc.

The more I posted on these issues, the larger my audience grew. In 2007, I gently entered the political arena by critiquing a primary campaign video for Barack Obama. The video had a really messianic vibe to it, and I thought it was creepy. As the campaign continued, I posted more and more on political issues, especially pro-life issues. This grew my audience even larger. I started Coffee Cup/Bowl browsing around this time, and it proved to be the single most popular feature of the blog. It was easy to keep up the CCB while I was studying in Rome, but it is much more difficult now that I have a full-time job.

By 2009, I was getting around 3,000 hits a day. Since then the numbers have fallen off dramatically... mostly, I think, because I've more or less stopped being quite so controversial. Other Catholic bloggers have come on the scene to do what I was doing... so, I bowed out of the really hot-button stuff and went back to posting homilies. Teaching and doing formation work at an archdiocesan seminary also requires me to be a bit more prudent with what I put out there. Yes, it's true! I've become The Man... and now I have to play ball... though I still know how to throw elbows when I need to.

You have written about your past "postmodernist occult life" before coming to the Catholic Church and joining the Order of Preachers. In this increasingly secularized world, where many reject Christ, to what do you attribute your faith?

There's only one Dominican answer to this question: God's grace! He was so patient with me for seventeen years as I floundered about trying to do my own thing my own way. Aquinas teaches us that all of God's human children long to find their purpose in His love, and this was certainly true for me. I looked everywhere but the Church to find love.

It wasn't until I nearly died from an internal staph infection that I could clearly see where He was asking me to go. It took seven months of painful, debilitating treatment for me to fully recover from the infection. That's a lot of time to lay around, thinking, praying, and wondering where it all went wrong. I was 35 years old at the time, and it just hit me one day: time to grow up and get serious about your vocation. So from February to July 1999, I finished the first draft of my dissertation and entered the Dominican novitiate. I would not have been able to do any of that without God's out-pouring of grace.

As a parish priest and seminary professor, are you hopeful for the Church’s future?

Absolutely! The Church in the U.S. is going to undergo a tremendous reformation in the next several decades. The revolutionary cadre of the post-Vatican Two generation will have gone to their eternal reward; the current generation of younger men in the priesthood and those in religious life will step up and bring the Church back into the ancient tradition of fidelity and missionary zeal; we will see a smaller, wiser, more assertive Church in the U.S., and I believe, a Church eager to represent the fullness of the Gospel rather than just tag along behind the zeitgeist.

None of this will be easy or without costs, but I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit is moving among our younger generations (and among some in my generation) to reject the temptations of secular accommodation and providing us with a way to re-evangelize both the Church and the culture. If there's one serious temptation facing the younger generation it's this: to hold tight to some of the bad habits of their elders when it comes to the exercise of ecclesial power; that is, I see some younger priests asserting their authority in the parish in ways that imitate their Baby Boomer predecessors.

One pastor in one parish cannot bring about the reformation of a parish overnight and only through the use of his authority as pastor. Organic change takes time, patience, and lots of genuine love. We tell our seminarians: no changes in the parish for at least a year after you are appointed. Pushing change rooted in personal preference and calling it “tradition” undermines genuine reform. I've seen it happen too many times.

What counsel would you give to someone discerning a vocation with the Dominicans?

If you want to be a Dominican, you must want to be a preacher. Dominicans can be pastors, chaplains, professors, academics... but at the rock bottom of everything, what a Dominican friar is and does is preaching. We study, pray, live in community, and engage in ministry for the single purpose of preaching the Good News. If you don't want to be a preacher, you don't want to be a Dominican.

July 1st: Optional Memorial of Saint Junipero Serra

St. Junipero Serra
Miguel Jose Serra was born November 24, 1713, on the island of Mallorca, Spain. He took the name Junipero when he entered the Franciscan Order in 1730. Ordained in 1737, he taught philosophy and theology at the University of Padua for twelve years. At age 37, he went to Mexico City where he spent the rest of his life working for the conversion of the peoples of the New World. Largely responsible for the spread of the Church on the West Coast of the United States, Junipero founded twenty-one missions and converted thousands of Native Americans. Imbued with a penitential spirit, he practiced austerity in all things. On August 28, 1784, exhausted by his labors, Father Serra was called to his eternal rest.

Pope Francis canonized Junipero Serra during his visit to the United States on September 23, 2015. On that occasion the Holy Father remarked, "[Junípero Serra] was the embodiment of 'a Church which goes forth', a Church which sets out to bring everywhere the reconciling tenderness of God." The canonization Mass was held on the lawn in front of the National Shrine in Washington, D.C.

The Life of St. Junipero Serra

In 1776, when the American revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. Born on Spain's island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of Saint Francis' childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was thirty-five, he spent most of his time in the classroom-first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of Saint Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero's desire was to convert native peoples in the New World.

Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero's left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross, often life-threatening, the rest of his life. For eighteen years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there.

Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two conquistadores-one military, one spiritual-began their quest. Jose de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the nine-hundred-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for Saint Joseph's day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived.

Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luis Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra's death.

Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous "Regulation" protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a "Bill of Rights" for Native Americans.

Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts — a move that has brought cries of "injustice" from some moderns.

Junipero's missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight until dawn. He baptized over six thousand people and confirmed five thousand. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.

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

Novena to Saint Maria Goretti | 2016 | Day 4

St. Maria Goretti

June 30, 2016

Today we pray for chastity. It's something we are all called to practice, regardless of our vocation. The Catechism states that chastity allows us to imitate Jesus Christ in selfless love. 

Day 4 - The St. Maria Goretti Novena

O St. Maria Goretti, beautiful model of chastity, you guarded your virginity with such fervor. Even at the age of 11, you knew the value of the virtue of chastity. Please pray that I will become better at practicing chastity in my own life. Pray that I will learn to live a life in which desire is subservient to reason. Please pray that I will be able to love as Jesus does: selflessly.

Please pray also for (mention your intentions here).

Amen.

O God, author of innocence and chastity, who bestowed the grace of martyrdom on your handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth, grant, we pray, through her intercession, that, as you gave her a crown for her steadfastness, so we, too, may be firm in obeying your commandments. 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.

Go to PrayMoreNovenas.com for more.

June 29, 2016

Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

Christian martyrs in the Colosseum

On June 30th, the Church honors the first nameless followers of Christ brutally murdered by the Emperor Nero as scapegoats for the Great Fire of Rome (July 18-23, 64 AD). These holy souls, also called the "Protomartyrs of Rome," were brutally attacked, put into animal skins and hunted, burned as living torches at evening banquets or to light the road for Nero's chariot. Some were crucified while others were fed to wild animals. Their systematic torture was documented by Tacitus and Pope Clement I, among others. Dying before Saints Peter and Paul, these martyrs are known as "Disciples of the Apostles". Despite widespread persecution, Christianity grew with tens of thousands converting to the faith. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.

First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

There were Christians in Rome within a dozen or so years after the death of Jesus, though they were not the converts of the "Apostle of the Gentiles" (see Romans 15:20). Paul had not yet visited them at the time he wrote his great letter in A.D. 57-58.

There was a large Jewish population in Rome. Probably as a result of controversy between Jews and Jewish Christians, the Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome in A.D. 49-50. Suetonius the historian says that the expulsion was due to disturbances in the city "caused by the certain Chrestus" [Christ]. Perhaps many came back after Claudius's death in A.D. 54. Paul's letter was addressed to a church with members from Jewish and gentile backgrounds.

In July of A.D. 64, more than half of Rome was destroyed by fire. Rumor blamed the tragedy on Nero, who wanted to enlarge his palace. He shifted the blame by accusing the Christians. According to the historian Tacitus, a "great multitude" of Christians were put to death because of their "hatred of the human race." Peter and Paul were probably among the victims.

Threatened by an army revolt and condemned to death by the senate, Nero committed suicide in A.D. 68 at the age of thirty-one.

Wherever the Good News of Jesus was preached, it met the same opposition as Jesus did, and many of those who began to follow him shared his suffering and death. But no human force could stop the power of the Spirit unleashed upon the world. The blood of martyrs has always been, and will always be, the seed of Christians.

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

Collect Prayer

O God, who consecrated that abundant first fruits of the Roman Church by the blood of the Martyrs, grant, we pray, that with firm courage we may together draw strength from so great a struggle and ever rejoice at the triumph of faithful love. 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.


Note to Readers | Sunday Homilies

St. Paul teaching in Berea

Beginning this week, we will publish two Sunday homilies; one from Fr. Charles Irvin and another, when available, from Fr. René Butler. Fr. Irvin's will be posted on the preceding Sunday as usual. Fr. Butler's will be posted on Friday. May these homilists benefit you greatly. 

In Christ,

Matthew Coffin  

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

 Sts. Peter and PaulOn June 29th the Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Veneration of these great Apostles is rooted in the very foundations of the Church. These well-known figures are most responsible for spreading the Good News in the early days of Christianity.

They share a common feast day because according to tradition, they were executed on the same day during persecution under the Emperor Nero. Historical records indicate Peter was martyred in c. 64-67 AD and Paul in 67 AD. St. Peter was crucified upside since he considered himself unworthy to be martyred in the same manner as Christ. He was buried on Vatican Hill where 20th century excavations revealed his tomb on the site of the Basilica of St. Peter's. By virtue of his Roman citizenship, St. Paul was beheaded in the Via Ostia on the spot where the basilica bearing his name now stands.

A partial indulgence may be gained today by anyone who makes devout use of a religious article (crucifix, cross, rosary. scapular or medal) blessed by a priest. But if the article of devotion has been blessed by the Sovereign Pontiff or by any Bishop, the faithful, using it, can also gain a plenary indulgence, provided they also make a profession of faith (e.g. the Apostles Creed), and satisfy the usual conditions.

The Life of St. Peter

St. Peter
Peter's original name was Simon. Christ Himself gave him the name Cephas or Peter when they first met and later confirmed it. This name change was meant to show both Peter's rank as leader of the apostles and the outstanding trait of his character — Peter (in Hebrew Kephas) the Rock. Peter was born in Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee. Like his younger brother Andrew, he was a fisherman and dwelt at Capernaum. Peter's house often became the scene of miracles, since the Master would stay there whenever He was teaching in that locality. Together with his brothers John and Andrew, Peter belonged to the first of Jesus' disciples (John 1:40-50).

After the miraculous draught of fish on the Sea of Galilee, Peter received his definitive call and left wife, family, and occupation to take his place as leader of the Twelve. Thereafter we find him continually at Jesus' side, whether it be as spokesman of the apostolic college (John 6:68; Matt. 16:16), or as one specially favored (e.g., at the restoration to life of Jairus' daughter, at the transfiguration, during the agony in the garden). His sanguine temperament often led him into hasty, unpremeditated words and actions; his denial of Jesus during the passion was a salutary lesson. It accentuated a weakness in his character and made him humble.

After the ascension, Peter always took the leading role, exercising the office of chief shepherd that Christ had entrusted to him. He delivered the first sermon on Pentecost and received the first Gentiles into the Church (Cornelius; Acts 10:1). Paul went to Jerusalem "to see Peter." After his miraculous deliverance from prison (Easter, 42 A.D.), Peter "went to a different place," most probably to Rome. Details now become scanty; we hear of his presence at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:1), and of his journey to Antioch (Gal. 2:11).

It is certain that Peter labored in Rome as an apostle, that he was the city's first bishop, and that he died there as a martyr, bound to a cross (67 A.D.). According to tradition he also was the first bishop of Antioch. He is the author of two letters, the first Christian encyclicals. His burial place is Christendom's most famous shrine, an edifice around whose dome are inscribed the words: Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam.

Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.

The Life of St. Paul

St. PaulPaul, known as Saul (his Roman name) before his conversion, was born at Tarsus in the Roman province of Silicia about two or three years after the advent of the Redeemer. He was the son of Jewish parents who belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, was reared according to the strict religious-nationalistic party of the Pharisees, and enjoyed the high distinction of Roman citizenship.

As a youth he went to Jerusalem to become immersed in the Law and had as a teacher the celebrated Gamaliel. He acquired skill as a tent-maker, a work he continued even as an apostle. At the time of Jesus' ministry he no longer was at Jerusalem; neither did he see the Lord during His earthly-life. Upon returning to the Holy City, Paul discovered a flourishing Christian community and at once became its bitter opponent. When Stephen impugned Law and temple, Paul was one of the first at his stoning; thereafter his fiery personality would lead the persecution. Breathing threats of slaughter against the disciples of Jesus, he was hurrying to Damascus when the grace of God effected his conversion.

After receiving baptism and making some initial attempts at preaching, Paul withdrew into the Arabian desert (c. 34-37 A.D.), where he prepared himself for his future mission. During this retreat he was favored with special revelations, Christ appearing to him personally. Upon his return to Damascus he began to preach but was forced to leave when the Jews sought to kill him. Then he went to Jerusalem "to see Peter." Barnabas introduced him to the Christian community, but the hatred of the Jews again obliged him to take secret flight. The following years (38-42 A.D.) he spent at Tarsus until Barnabas brought him to the newly founded Christian community at Antioch, where both worked a year for the cause of Christ; in the year 44 he made another journey to Jerusalem with the money collected for that famine stricken community.

The first major missionary journey (45-48) began upon his return as he and Barnabas brought the Gospel to Cyprus and Asia Minor (Acts 13-14). The Council of Jerusalem occasioned Paul's reappearance in Jerusalem (50). Spurred on by the decisions of the Council, he began the second missionary journey (51-53), traveling through Asia Minor and then crossing over to Europe and founding churches at Philippi, Thessalonia (his favorite), Berea, Athens, Corinth. He remained almost two years at Corinth, establishing a very flourishing and important community. In 54 he returned to Jerusalem for the fourth time.

Paul's third missionary journey (54-58) took him to Ephesus, where he labored three years with good success; after visiting his European communities, he returned to Jerusalem for a fifth time (Pentecost, 58). There he was seized by the Jews and accused of condemning the Law. After being held as a prisoner for two years at Caesarea, he appealed to Caesar and was sent by sea to Rome (60 A.D.). Shipwrecked and delayed on the island of Malta, he arrived at Rome in the spring of 61 and passed the next two years in easy confinement before being released. The last years of the saint's life were devoted to missionary excursions, probably including Spain, and to revisiting his first foundations. In 66 he returned to Rome, was taken prisoner, and beheaded a year later. His fourteen letters are a precious legacy; they afford a deep insight into a great soul.

Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.

Collect Prayer

Grant, we pray, O Lord our God, that we may be sustained by the intercession of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, that, as through them you gave your Church the foundations of her heavenly office, so through them you may help her to eternal salvation. 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.

Novena to Saint Maria Goretti | 2016 | Day 3

St. Maria Goretti

June 29, 2016

Today we pray that St. Maria Goretti will intercede for us to forgive those who sin against us. When Maria lay dying in the hospital, these were her last words: "I forgive Alessandro Serenelli (her attacker) and I want him with me in heaven forever." St. Maria forgave the man who killed her. May we, likewise, forgive those who have wronged us.

Day 3 - The St. Maria Goretti Novena

O St. Maria Goretti, beautiful model of forgiveness, pray for me. Even at the age of 11, you did not withhold forgiveness from your attacker. You didn’t wish him unwell. On the contrary, you wanted Heaven for him. You loved him in that way. Pray for me that I, too, will be able to love my enemies like you did. Pray that I will want Heaven for them. Please pray that it will become easier and easier to forgive those who have hurt me and those who will hurt me. Please pray for my own healing from these past hurts so that I can move forward and offer forgiveness.

Please pray also for (mention your intentions here).

Amen.

O God, author of innocence and chastity, who bestowed the grace of martyrdom on your handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth, grant, we pray, through her intercession, that, as you gave her a crown for her steadfastness, so we, too, may be firm in obeying your commandments. 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.

Go to PrayMoreNovenas.com for more.

Saints Peter and Paul on Holiness

Sts. Peter and Paul
Simply proclaim the Lord Christ holy in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have. But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience, so that those who slander your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their accusations.
— St. Peter from 1 Peter 3:15-16
I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of the hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God. 
— St. Paul from 2 Timothy 1:6-8

June 28, 2016

Novena to Saint Maria Goretti | 2016 | Day 2

St. Maria Goretti

June 28, 2016

Today we pray that St. Maria Goretti will intercede for us to grow in our love of the Lord, our neighbor, and even our enemies. Maria's neighbor attacked her when she was only 11 years old. It was he who tried to rape her, and who ended up killing her. Yet, because she loved the Lord so greatly, Maria forgave him. 


Day 2 - The St. Maria Goretti Novena

O St. Maria Goretti, beautiful model of love, your love for God was so clear in how you cared for your family during such hardships and in how you loved your enemies — even unto death. Even at the age of 11, you understood what it meant to love the Lord and to love your neighbor as yourself. Pray for me that I may be able to do the same. Please pray that I will truly be able to serve my family joyfully, and others who need my help and love. And most of all, pray that our Lord will come first in my heart.

Please pray also for (mention your intentions here).

Amen.

O God, author of innocence and chastity, who bestowed the grace of martyrdom on your handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth, grant, we pray, through her intercession, that, as you gave her a crown for her steadfastness, so we, too, may be firm in obeying your commandments. 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.

June 27, 2016

Memorial of Saint Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr

St. Irenaeus
June 28th is the Feast of Saint Irenaeus. He was born in Smyrna, Asia Minor around the year 120. It is unknown when he came to Gaul. It is thought that as a resident of Smyrna, he listened to the preaching of Saint Polycarp. Irenaeus was a priest in the Church of Lyons during the persecution of 177 when Saint Pothinus, the first bishop of the city was martyred. Irenaeus succeeded him as bishop. Twenty-five years later, Irenaeus himself would be martyred.

The writings of St. Irenaeus give him an honored place among the Fathers of the Church. Irenaeus' best-known book, Adversus Haereses, (Against Heresies) is a detailed attack on Gnosticism. At a time when Gnostic sects threatened to undermine Christianity, he vigorously defended all heresies, safeguarding unity of belief. He was instrumental in laying down the foundations for the doctrinal tradition of the Church. According to popular piety, Irenaeus received the crown of martyrdom during a wave of persecution under the Emperor Septimius Severus sometime in 202.

The Life of St. Irenaeus

Saint Irenaeus was born in the year 120; he was of the Greek tongue, and probably a native of Asia Minor. His parents, who were Christians, placed him while still young under the care of the great Saint Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. It was in this holy school that he learned the sacred science which later made him a great ornament of the Church and the terror of her enemies. Saint Polycarp cultivated his rising genius and formed his mind to piety by his precepts and example, and the zealous young scholar was careful to reap all advantages offered him by the solicitude of such a master. Such was his veneration for his tutor’s sanctity that he observed all the acts and virtues he saw in that holy man, the better to copy his example and learn his spirit. He listened to his instructions with an insatiable ardor, and so deeply did he engrave them in his heart that the impressions remained vivid even in his old age. In order to confound the heresies of his age, this Doctor of the Church acquainted himself with the conceits of the pagan philosophers, and thereby became qualified to trace every error to its sources and set it in its full light. By his writings he was already known to Tertullian, Theodoret and Saint Epiphanus, who speak of him as a luminous torch of truth in the darkness of those times.

After Irenaeus had spent a number of years in combat against the eastern gnostics and philosophers of error, Saint Polycarp determined to send him to Gaul, where many of the heretics of Asia Minor had already migrated to pursue the Catholic religion, which was beginning to find roots there. With a company of about forty Christians, the valiant soldier of Christ ascended the Rhone to Lyons to rejoin and aid Saint Pothinus, its bishop. Saint Pothinus was already advanced in age, and his church’s neophytes could not always distinguish truth from the gnostic aberrations. Saint Pothinus received the apostles with joy and soon ordained Saint Irenaeus.

A hundred times he exposed himself to martyrdom by his zeal, acting as the right arm of the aging bishop, but God was reserving that crown for him twenty-five years later. When Saint Pothinus had glorified God by his splendid martyr’s death in the year 177, Ireneus was chosen to be the second bishop of Lyons. The persecutors imagined that Christianity had been stifled in Lyons, and they ceased their pursuits for a time.

This great Doctor of the Church wrote many important works, of which the most famous is his Adversus Haereses, Against the Heresies, in explanation of the Faith. By his preaching, Saint Irenaeus in a short time converted almost the whole country to the Faith; the Christians of Lyons became models by their candor, their estrangement from all ambition, their poverty, chastity and temperance, and in this way confounded many adversaries of their religion. Saint Irenaeus continued to imitate what he had seen done by his beloved master, Saint Polycarp, himself the disciple and imitator of Saint John the Apostle. One can readily imagine the excellence of the administration and the breadth of charity reigning in the Church of Lyons.

Finally he suffered martyrdom there, with many others, in the year 202, under the Emperor Septimus Severus, after eighty years spent in the service of the Lord. The imperial decrees renewing the persecutions arrived at Lyons at the time of the celebration of Severus’ tenth year of reign; the pagans found amid the celebrations an opportunity to take vengeance on the Christians, who refused to participate in the debaucheries which accompanied these feastings. Assassins armed with daggers, stones and knives filled the city with blood, and thousands of Christians won, with their bishop, the crown they had always admired as the greatest glory God could grant His servants.

Excerpted from Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints, and other sources by John Gilmary Shea & Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin, Vol. 7.

Collect Prayer

O God, who called the Bishop Saint Irenaeus to confirm true doctrine and the peace of the Church, grant, we pray, through his intercession, that, being renewed in faith and charity, we may always be intent on fostering unity and concord. 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.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria on Christ

St. Cyril of Alexandria
Only if it is one and the same Christ who is consubstantial with the Father and with men can he save us, for the meeting ground between God and man is the flesh of Christ. Only if this is God's own flesh can man come into contact with Christ's divinity through his humanity. Because of our kinship with the Word made flesh we are sons of God. The Eucharist consummates our kinship with the word, our communion with the Father, our sharing in the divine nature—there is very real contact between our body and that of the Word.
— St. Cyril of Alexandria

Novena to Saint Maria Goretti | 2016 | Day 1

St. Maria Goretti

June 27, 2016

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

Today, we pray for purity. The Catechism states that purity of heart enables one to see according to God and to accept others as our brothers & sisters in Christ.


Day 1 - The St. Maria Goretti Novena

O St. Maria Goretti, beautiful model of purity, you defended your virginity unto your death. Even at the age of 11, you held dear to your heart what is dear to our Lord's: your purity. Pray for me that I may do the same, especially when I am tempted. Please pray that God will give me the strength to avoid sin and yes to a life which will lead to eternity in Heaven with you and our Lord.

Please pray also for (mention your intentions here).

Amen.

O God, author of innocence and chastity, who bestowed the grace of martyrdom on your handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth, grant, we pray, through her intercession, that, as you gave her a crown for her steadfastness, so we, too, may be firm in obeying your commandments. 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.

June 26, 2016

Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

The Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, also known as Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, is celebrated on June 27th by the universal Church.

The devotion to this Marian icon centers around the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, written on wood, with a background of gold. It is Byzantine in style and is purported to have been written in the thirteenth century. It represents the Mother of God holding the Divine Child with the Archangels Michael (left) and Gabriel (right) presenting Him the instruments of His Passion. Over the figures in the picture are some Greek letters which form the abbreviated words Mother of God, Jesus Christ, Archangel Michael, and Archangel Gabriel respectively.

Symbolism of the Icon

the face of Our Lady appears full of sorrow, yet supremely dignified in her contemplation of the sufferings of her Son. His passion is represented by angels holding instruments of His passion, most often the cross, the lance, the sponge, and the nails.

The Our Mother of Perpetual Help icon is of this type. The angels holding the instruments of the Passion have their hands covered with a protecting veil as a sign of reverence in handling sacred objects.

The Child Jesus is shown with an adult face and a high brow, indicating His divine Mind of infinite intelligence. As God, He knew that the angelic apparition was prophetic of His future passion. Yet in His human nature as a small child, He is frightened and runs to His Mother for protection. Our Lady hastily picks Him up and clasps Him to her bosom. This action is indicated by the fact that the Lord’s right foot is nervously curled about the left ankle and in such haste that His right sandal has become loosened and hangs by a single strap. Further action is indicated by the way the Child Jesus clasps His Mother’s right hand with both of His, holding tightly to Our Lady’s thumb.

Our Lady is clothed in a dress of dark red which was long reserved in the Byzantine world for the Empress alone, indicating the Queenship of Mary.The archangels Gabriel and Michael were tunics of purple since they carry the instruments of the passion and death of Christ. The figures of the icon are identified with abbreviations of their names and Mary is designated by her chief title to glory: Mother of God.

Our Lady’s face is of unspeakable majesty and calm and yet her large eyes, partly closed, express ineffable sorrow and sympathy. Our Lady is not looking at Jesus, but rather to us, to express compassion for us in our fears and sorrows.

Sources: Catholic News Agency, Catholic Culture.org.

Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 3, 2016, Year C

Jesus sending the disciples out two by two
He Sent them out Two by Two (Il les envoya deux à deux), James Tissot, 1886-1896

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

I want to begin today by going all the way back to our beginnings, back to the Book of Genesis and the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden to Eden. There we find Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and God walking in it to seek them out and be with us, their descendants. There we also find Adam and Eve just after they, sadly, had broken the bond between themselves and God by yielding to the temptation of the Serpent. In Genesis we hear:

Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized that they were naked. So they sewed fig-leaves together to make themselves loin-cloths. The mam and his wife heard the sound of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from God among the trees of the garden. But God called to the man. ‘Where are you?’ he asked. ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden,’ he replied. ‘I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’ (Genesis 3:7-10)

I want to point out that God had evidently created us so that we could belong to each other, God and us at home with each other, God walking with us and we walking with God. There was a familiarity between us. He wanted us to be family with each other, God and us at home with each other.

In Jesus Christ God presents Himself to us as family. Totally unique in all of the religions of mankind, past and present, Jesus reveals to us that God is a family of Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. At the time of Jesus many considered that idea to be blasphemous and others to be absurd. No other religion or philosophy would ever dream of seeing God that way. It was and is astonishing. Even more astonishing is the fact that Jesus Christ invites us to enter in that family and brings those who accept His invitation into that family of God. That is truly amazing and wondrous.

With that as background I want to turn now to today’s passages from Sacred Scripture. In our first reading we heard: “Thus says the Lord: Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her… As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort,”  These words tell us of our spiritual home in the Lord’s power and in the comfort of His presence as our Father. Again, the imagery is that of family.

The Holy City of Jerusalem is the home of the Jews even unto today. For Christians Jerusalem has two meanings, one being the Church is our New Jerusalem, the other being the Jerusalem in our souls where we are the Temple, that place in which the Holy Spirit dwells, that holy place in which we find peace and comfort in the presence of God.

In our earthly lives we all are in search of a home, that place where we live with those whom we love, that place where we love and are loved in return. Our lives and what we do in our lives are centered around a home. We work in order to have a home. We do not have a home in order to work.

Summertime is a time to enjoy life with those who live with us in a home, in a family. A summer vacation is more than simply taking time away from work. Summertime is a time to enjoy being away with our families, those who live in our homes apart from work.

At first glance it must be puzzling to have today’s gospel reading connected to the first reading but there is, I think, a connection. That connection has to do with the seventy-two disciples who went out and about doing the work of Jesus in proclaiming the presence of the Kingdom of God among us and preparing the people of the towns Jesus intended to visit.

The gospel account concludes with those disciples rejoicing over their successes and the fact that Jesus’ miraculous power worked through them. Jesus tells them: “Do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” In other words, rejoice because you have found a home in my love; rejoice because you live in my presence.”

All of this prompts me to ask: “Are we at home with Jesus? How aware are we of the presence of God living within us and how aware are we that we are living in the presence of God?” Spirituality is, after all, living in peace and love with God, at home with God. That is the will of God and that is what deep down in our hearts we want.

This goal takes us to a place that is far beyond simply doing out duty, far beyond simply following the rules, far beyond simply being nice to others. To reduce our spiritual lives to simply “being nice” falls pathetically short of what it is God wants and what it is that causes our hearts to yearn for the presence of God within us.

There are questions we ought to ask ourselves, questions we should not set aside “for another time.”
Are we at peace in ourselves, at peace with ourselves?
How will I find peace within me?
We are all children of God. Where am I not a peace with others?
God wants to live with us. In a sense He wants to make His home in us, in our hearts and souls. Recall a famous painting of Jesus, the one that shows Jesus knocking on the door of a house. It’s our house. He is knocking on the door of our hearts hoping they will be opened and He will be received within our hearts in a comfortable and close relationship with Him. That painting is based on these words found in the Book of Revelation: “Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share a meal at that person’s side.” (Rev. 3:21)

A final thought. Knowing that God is a God of love we need to remind ourselves that God loves us as a good Father, a Father who has expectations of us. We should not overlook those expectations. He wants us to do what is right. He wants us to behave and act with standards, standards and values that He has given us in His Ten Commandments. If we love God cannot act as we please. We need to respect God as our Father, to follow His ways, to live in His truth. He has given us His Son in order that we might know what God our Father, expects of us and to reject all that is sinful. To sin is to reject God’s love and to reject God Himself. God’s love does not allow us to do what we please. Love has its demands; love has its expectations. The Serpent’s temptation of Adam and Eve was telling them they could decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong, ignoring what God expected of them. It is the first and original of all human sin, the origins of sin that has led to our human miseries.

We should govern our actions so that we can live in God’s love and in doing so find our true happiness, the happiness for which God our Father created us and in which He wants us to live forever with Him in the life to come. 

Optional Memorial of Saint Cyril of Alexandria

St. Cyril of Alexandria
June 27th is the Optional Memorial of Saint Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, one of the metropolitan sees of the Christian Church in the east. Cyril defended the faith against the heresy of Nestorius who taught that in Christ there were two persons, one human and one divine. In 431, Cyril presided over the Council of Ephesus as the pope’s representative. He condemned Nestorianism and proclaimed Mary truly the "God-bearer". The council decreed that Christ, the Son of God, is at once God and man, and that the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother, is truly the Mother of God.

During Cyril's patriarchy, his policy of moderation kept the extreme partisans of the Alexandria see under control. He died in 444. On his deathbed, despite pressure, he refused to censure Nestorius' teacher. The Church, both east and west, venerates Cyril as one of her great doctors. His commentary on the Gospel of St. John is one of the finest examples of scriptural exegesis left to us by the Fathers of the Church.

The Life of St. Cyril of Alexandria

St. Cyril is one of the great Greek fathers of the Church. He was chosen by divine Providence to be the shield and champion of the Church against Nestorius, who denied the unity of person in Christ. If this heresy had succeeded, Mary would not be called the Mother of God.

Excepting Sts. Athanasius and Augustine, his equal as a defender of orthodoxy, can hardly be found in the Church's history. His greatest achievement was the successful direction of the ecumenical council at Ephesus (431), of which he was the soul (Pope Celestine had appointed him papal legate). In this council two important dogmas were defined—that there is but one person in Christ, and that Mary (in the literal sense of the word) can be called the Mother of God (Theotokos). His successful defense of the latter doctrine is his greatest title to honor.

His writings show such depth and clarity that the Greeks called him the "seal of the fathers." He died in 444 A.D., after having been bishop for thirty-two years. In Rome, the basilica of St. Mary Major stands as a most venerable monument to the honor paid Mary at the Council of Ephesus. On the arch leading into the sanctuary important incidents in the lives of Jesus and Mary are depicted in mosaic.

Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Patron: Alexandria; Egypt.

Symbols: Shown holding a pen; with the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the Child Jesus.

Read Pope Pius XII's encyclical Orientalis Ecclesiae, commemorating Cyril's place in the history of the Church.

Collect Prayer

O God, who made the Bishop Saint Cyril of Alexandria an invincible champion of the divine motherhood of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, grant, we pray, that we, who believe she is truly the Mother of God, may be saved through the Incarnation of Christ your Son. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The Novena to St. Maria Goretti Begins June 27th

St. Maria Goretti
Saint Maria Goretti is the Church's youngest canonized saint. She was born near Ancona, Italy into a poor peasant family. Known for her cheerfulness and piety, Maria attended Mass often and loved God completely. She was also beautiful. At age 11, she was assaulted by her neighbor's son. Marie chose to die rather than lose her virginity.

Enraged by her refusal, Maria's attacker stabbed her nine times. Before dying, she forgave her assailant. Her mother was present at her canonization in 1950, the first time a parent witnessed their child's canonization. Over one half million souls attended St. Maria's canonization Mass, the largest of any canonization up to that time.

St. Maria Goretti is patron: Against impoverishment; against poverty; children; children of Mary; girls; loss of parents; martyrs; rape victims; young people in general.

Novena  to St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr

The Novena to St. Maria Goretti Begins June 27th in anticipation of her feast day July 6th. To pray this novena and receive daily email reminders delivered to your inbox, go here.

St. Maria Goretti, patron of victims of rape, please pray for all those who have been sexually assaulted. Please pray for their healing, for comfort, and for peace for them. Please pray that we, as a society, may be able to better protect those who are victimized. Please pray for justice for their attackers, but most of all, for their contrition and conversion.

O God, author of innocence and lover of chastity, who bestowed the grace of martyrdom on your handmaid, the Virgin St. Maria Goretti, in her youth, grant, we pray, through her intercession, that, as you gave her a crown for her steadfastness, so we, too, may be firm in obeying your commandments. 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.

Plenary Indulgence Obtainable on the Feast of the Holy Apostles, Peter & Paul

Dominican cross

A partial indulgence may be obtained on the Feast of the Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul by the faithful, who devoutly use an article of devotion (crucifix, cross, rosary. scapular or medal) properly blessed by a priest.

But if the article of devotion has been blessed by the Sovereign Pontiff or by any Bishop, the faithful, using it, can also gain a plenary indulgence on the Feast of the Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, provided they also make a profession of faith according to any legitimate formula. A plenary indulgence remits all temporal punishment due to personal sins.

From Norm 17 of the [1967] Apostolic Constitution The Doctrine of Indulgences. Also Norm 19 of the Enchiridion [1968].

Requirements for a Plenary Indulgence on the Feast of the Holy Apostles

◗ devoutly use an article of devotion (crucifix or cross, rosary. scapular or medal) properly blessed by the Sovereign Pontiff or by any Bishop.
◗ Say one "Our Father" and the "Apostles Creed".
◗ Say one "Our Father" and one "Hail Mary" for the Holy Father’s  intentions (the intentions  designated by the Holy Father each month).
◗ Make a sacramental confession within 20 days.
◗ For a plenary indulgence, be free from all attachment to sin, even  venial sin (or the indulgence is partial, not plenary).

Grant, we pray, O Lord our God, that we may be sustained by the intercession of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, that, as through them you gave your Church the foundations of her heavenly office, so through them you may help her to eternal salvation. 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.

Homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 26, 2016, Year C

"FOLLOW ME."
Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

At the time of Jesus officials wrote on very fragile materials like papyrus and vellum. Poor people among whom Jesus moved and who were His disciples didn’t have access to those materials. This caused Jesus to teach using very hard and cutting-edge images, images that His listeners would never forget. And so we hear Jesus saying: “If your eye is a source of sin, pluck it out” and “if your hand is a source of sin, cut if off!” People would never forget those words, words used in His teachings, teachings that everyone would remember.

With that in mind let me repeat a key part of today’s Gospel account:
And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God. “And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Now let’s go back to today’s first reading. There we find the prophet Elijah commissioning Elisha to take on the God given role of being Elijah’s successor, a prophet of God. In that context we hear Elisha saying: “Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you” whereupon in the most radical act of faith he cut all ties with his past and rid himself of all his possessions and then followed Elijah.

It’s all about decisions, isn’t it? Decisions… how decisive am I in following Jesus? That’s the big question not only today but in each and every day of our lives. The readings today present us with the reality of decisions; we are called by God to be decisive. But while we want to be decisive and have the freedom to make our own decisions, decisions bring with them consequences.

In the first reading we find the need for security being challenged by the decision to move into an unknown future. In the second reading we’re presented with a false freedom, the freedom of license and anything goes vs. the true freedom of loving for the sake of others, particularly the Other that is God. Finally, in the Gospel we find the challenge to move beyond the ties of family loyalty and affection into commitments beyond the pale of one’s immediate family, movement into the decisions and responses that go with belonging to God.

These are all hard, tough decisions. It’s not easy to definitively leave one’s childhood family in order to cling to a spouse in marriage and start a new family. We all know of husbands or wives who have never emotionally left father or mother and cannot totally surrender in love to their spouses in their new family. Being unable to leave their childhood they become emotionally arrested and fixated, without any further development. Not only that, but when we marry we quickly learn that there are things we cannot do, our freedom to do whatever we want is gone. So, too, when we have children. We quickly learn then that our freedom to do a lot of things is severely restricted.

Many folks never come to the full realization that sacrifice is not merely a nice ideal; it’s a fact of life. We don’t have a choice in the matter. The question is not whether we are willing to sacrifice. Life is filled with sacrifices. It’s always a question of how much are we willing to sacrifice… and for what are we sacrificing? We cannot have things of value and at the same time live foot-loose and carefree lives. All commitments involve sacrifice.

Oh, to be sure, there are those who try to live free and unfettered lives, but what becomes of them? To say “yes” to anything requires saying “no” to a whole lot of other things. For instance, one cannot be “a little bit religious” for very long. You either commit or you end up saying: “I don’t go to Mass very often any more because of this, that or the other thing. To say “yes” to everything means we can’t say “yes” to anything in particular. One cannot both commit and keep all of one’s options open at the same time. “No man can serve two masters…,” Jesus said.

Keeping all of one’s options open is just another way of avoiding full commitment. It’s another form of denial. That’s true in our close and intimate relationships with others. And that’s true in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Commitment, love, marriage and friendships all impose things upon us. They require an uncluttered “yes.”

But while love demands sacrifice, it also at the same time paradoxically lets us find freedom. True lovers give each to the other the gift of freedom, the freedom to be the very best selves found living deep down inside of them. True lovers give each other the freedom to become the best they can be.

And, paradoxically, don’t you find it to be true that freedom is found in decisiveness? You and I all know of indecisive people; we find them among our friends and acquaintances. They can’t make up their minds. They’re paralyzed and immobilized in their lack of ability to make a decision. They get hung up on the hook, the paralysis of analysis.

Next week we celebrate the Fourth of July. Ideas of freedom will be on our minds. For many, the talk will be of our national freedom, American freedom, and so forth. All of that is of great importance, of course. But we ought to also talk about and think about our own personal freedoms and commitments?

Ask yourself, can a person live in a free country such as ours and still be a slave? I’m not talking here about the institution of slavery that once existed here in America. Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War settled that issue. But there are other forms of slavery. One can be held in bondage by alcohol or drugs. The lust for money imprisons many. The sex trade, pornography, and living a totally sensual life holds many in bondage. Terrorists presently seek to hold us hostage in fear of their actions. The goal of a terrorist is to immobilize us.

In our popular culture some of the most vocal advocates of freedom are the biggest promoters of enslaving people in their own self-centered gratifications. A form to hyper-individualism is presented by many as a God-given right when, in fact, it is nothing more than self-ism, egoism, and consuming individualism that hurts others and demeans our commonly shared values. Self-ism costs others dearly.

Questions of freedom are continually put before our U.S. Supreme Court. Such questions should likewise be put before our own minds, and in the topics of conversations we have within our own families. Freedom is a wonderful gift. But it brings with it certain questions: Freedom from what? Freedom for what? Freedom to do what?

Finally, we need give ourselves the freedom to focus on where we’re going and not be held captive by constantly looking back at our past. Do you drive a car looking through the front windshield or do you drive looking through the rear window? If you drive your car by looking through the rear window, you will certainly crash! We should not let ourselves be enslaved by our pasts.

Jesus said to His disciples: “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” He was talking about fitness and abilities, as well as vision. We can be crippled and disabled if we’re constantly dwelling on our past mistakes, if we’re constantly feeling sorry for ourselves about what’s happened in our past, or what we’ve given up. To be truly free our eyes must be fixed on what’s ahead, not what was in the past.  .

God created you with an inner nature that is centered on your free will. You were created to decide, to be decisive, to freely choose to love Him and respond to His callings, callings to bring His way, His truth, and His life into your inner world and into the world around you. Therefore you and I are constantly called to decide and to decide to act not on emotions and feelings but rather on our convictions. What influences my decisions the most, feelings or convictions? Urges or decisions to choose what God wants me to choose?

As we celebrate our freedoms this coming July 4th, you might want to ponder on these things. For God has given us freedom, the freedom to do good, the freedom to accomplish His purposes. What could possibly make us happier?

June 25, 2016

Chesterton on Conversion: A Brief Reflection

G.K. Chersteron
Each generation is converted by the saint who contradicts it most.
— G.K. Chersteron

Thirty-five years after Chesterton wrote these words, Pope Paul VI in the encyclical Humanae Vitae said the following: 
It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a "sign of contradiction." She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.
Just as our divine Founder, Jesus Christ is a "sign of contradiction" to mankind, His Church, in proclaiming the Good News to every generation, finds herself contradicting the prevailing view of the age. May we, as members of Christ's mystical Body, convert by countering the selfish hedonism of today that rejects God – the source of life and love.

June 24, 2016

George Weigel on Our Degraded Political Culture

Freedom of Speech
George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, discusses the abysmal state of our politics in "Confessions of an 'Elitist'" wherein he laments the systematic rhetorical degradation of opponents. Political correctness has wholly eviscerated traditional notions of civility in the conduct of public discourse. Weigel writes:
The term "elitist" has been bandied about so promiscuously in this election cycle that it’s become virtually content-free. Yet "elitist" is also being weaponized as a scare-word to prevent legitimate criticism of ideas, attitudes, and behaviors once thought beyond the pale, even in the rough-and-tumble of politics (which, as Mr. Dooley reminds us, "ain’t beanbag"). That kind of bullying is bad news for an already degraded political culture.
So let me offer these Confessions of an Elitist in the hope that they might encourage others to push back against the “anti-elitist” thought police—and in so doing, help rescue American public life from terminal moral trivialization.
I believe that intelligence is superior to emotion and reason better than anger in making political arguments and choices. In political debate as in curry, heat doesn’t necessarily make things better.  Continue Reading...
EPPC scholar Roger Scruton's "Universities’ War Against Truth" takes to task "the new ideology of non-discrimination," under which "almost every belief system that in the past seemed objective and important is now dismissed as an ‘ism’ or a ‘phobia’ so that those who stand by it are made to look like ideological fanatics." Scruton notes in part:
Young people today are very reluctant to assume that anything is certain, and this reluctance is revealed in their language. In any matter where there might be disagreement, they will put a question mark at the end of the sentence. And to reinforce the posture of neutrality they will insert words that function as disclaimers, among which the favourite is ‘like’. You might be adamant that the Earth is spherical, but they will suggest instead that the Earth is, ‘like, spherical?’
Whence came this ubiquitous hesitation? As I understand the matter, it has much to do with the new ideology of non-discrimination. Modern education aims to be ‘inclusive’, and that means not sounding too certain about anything in case you make people who don’t share your beliefs feel uncomfortable.  Continue reading...
May we, in the words of George Weigel, "push back against the ‘anti-elitist’ thought police — and in so doing, help rescue American public life from terminal moral trivialization."

June 23, 2016

June 24th: Feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist

Nativity of John the Baptist
Every person born has been stained with original sin, except for Mary, the Mother of God, and John the Baptist, the cousin and Forerunner of Christ. From the first moment of her existence, Our Lady was free from original sin by virtue of her Immaculate Conception. John was cleansed of original sin in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth, at the Visitation as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. The Solemnities of the Immaculate Conception and the birth of John the Baptist are the only occasions in the Church calendar where a saint's feast is his nativity. Usually, the date of a saint's death is observed as his feast since that is the day he is born into eternal life.

The justification for today's feast is explained by St. Augustine in the Divine Office:
Apart from the most holy solemnity commemorating our Savior's birth, the Church keeps the birthday of no other person except that of John the Baptist. (The feasts of the Immaculate Conception and of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin had not yet been introduced.) In the case of other saints or of God's chosen ones, the Church, as you know, solemnizes the day on which they were reborn to everlasting beatitude after ending the trials of this life and gloriously triumphing over the world.
For all these the final day of their lives, the day on which they completed their earthly service is honored. But for John the day of his birth, the day on which he began this mortal life is likewise sacred. The reason for this is, of course, that the Lord willed to announce to men His own coming through the Baptist, lest if He appeared suddenly, they would fail to recognize Him. John represented the Old Covenant and the Law. Therefore he preceded the Redeemer, even as the Law preceded and heralded the new dispensation of grace.
"A Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness"

All four Gospels tell the story of John the Baptist's ministry. Called the Precursor or Forerunner of the Lord, John was born in the town of Judaea, about six months prior to the birth of Our Lord (Luke 1:5). Unlike that of Christ, John's miraculous birth was widely known and greatly celebrated for Elizabeth was thought barren and both she and Zechariah were advanced in years (Luke 1:7).

It is John the Baptist who urged repentance and proclaimed to the world the imminence of the Messiah. Sacred Scripture states that on the day of Christ's baptism, John immediately recognized Jesus as the long awaited Messiah. Despite professing his unworthiness, John baptized Jesus, in acquiescence to Our Savoir's wish. Later, upon hearing of John's imprisonment, Jesus said, "Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’ Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Matthew 11:9-11).

June 22, 2016

Pray the Litany of Saint Thomas More for the Conversion of Pro-Choice Politicians

St. Thomas More
St. Thomas More Defending the Liberty of the House of Commons,
Vivian Forbes, 1927, St. Stephen's Hall, Parliament, London.

St. John Paul II' s 1995 encyclical, Evangelium vitae, reiterated the Catholic Church's age-old teaching: that "lawmakers have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that contradicts humanity's fundamental right to life." Among the most ardent abortion proponents are Catholic politicians. To change their minds we must convert their hearts. Pray the Litany of St. Thomas More for the conversion of pro-choice politicians.

Litany of St. Thomas More
Martyr and Patron Saint of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers

V. Lord, have mercy
R. Lord have mercy

V. Christ, have mercy
R. Christ have mercy

V. Lord, have mercy
R. Lord have mercy

V. Christ hear us
R. Christ, graciously hear us

V. St. Thomas More, Saint and Martyr,
R. Pray for us (Repeat after each invocation)
St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers
St. Thomas More, Patron of Justices, Judges and Magistrates
St. Thomas More, Model of Integrity and Virtue in Public and Private Life
St. Thomas More, Servant of the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Christ
St. Thomas More, Model of Holiness in the Sacrament of Marriage
St. Thomas More, Teacher of his Children in the Catholic Faith
St. Thomas More, Defender of the Weak and the Poor
St. Thomas More, Promoter of Human Life and Dignity

V.Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R.Spare us O Lord

V.Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R.Graciously hear us O Lord

V.Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R.Have mercy on us

Let us pray:

O Glorious St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, your life of prayer and penance and your zeal for justice, integrity and firm principle in public and family life led you to the path of martyrdom and sainthood.  Intercede for our Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, that they may be courageous and effective in their defense and promotion of the sanctity of human life - the foundation of all other human rights. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

25 Quotations from Saint Thomas More

St. Thomas More
A faint faith is better than a strong heresy.
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The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.
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An absolutely new idea is one of the rarest things known to man.

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If honor were profitable, everybody would be honorable. 

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I would have people in time of silence take good heed that their minds be occupied with good thoughts, for unoccupied they will never be.
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Every tribulation which ever comes our way either is sent to be medicinal, if we will take it as such, or may become medicinal, if we will make it such, or is better than medicinal, unless we forsake it.
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But no matter how high in the clouds this arrow of pride may fly, and no matter how exuberant one may feel while being carried up so high, let us remember that the lightest of these arrows still has a heavy iron head. High as it may fly, therefore, it inevitably has to come down and hit the ground. And sometimes it lands in a not very clean place.
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I never saw fool yet who thought himself other than wise… If a fool perceives himself a fool, that point is not folly, but a little spark of wit.
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As Boethius says: For one man to be proud that he has rule over other men is much like one mouse being proud to have rule over other mice in a barn.
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I will simply counsel every man and woman to beware of even the very least speck of [pride], which seems to me to be the mere delight and liking of ourselves for anything whatsoever that either is in us or outwardly belongs to us.
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In the things of the soul, knowledge without remembrance profits little.
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My case was such in this matter through the clearness of my own conscience that thought I might have pain I could not have harm, for a man may in such a case lose his head and not have harm.
[Letter to Margaret Roper while imprisoned in London Tower, June 3, 1535] 
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I never intend, God being my good Lord, to pin my soul to another man’s back, not even the best man that I know this day living: for I know not where he may hap to carry it.
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You must not abandon the ship in a storm because you cannot control the winds... What you cannot turn to good, you must at least make as little bad as you can. 
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I think that if any good thing shall go forward, something must be adventured.
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One of the greatest problems of our time is that many are schooled but few are educated.
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Pride thinks it's own happiness shines the brighter by comparing it with the misfortunes of others.
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Kindness and good nature unite men more effectually and with greater strength than any agreements whatsoever, since thereby the engagements of men's hearts become stronger than the bond and obligation of words.
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It's wrong to deprive someone else of a pleasure so that you can enjoy one yourself, but to deprive yourself of a pleasure so that you can add to someone else's enjoyment is an act of humanity by which you always gain more than you lose.
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Nobody owns anything but everyone is rich - for what greater wealth can there be than cheerfulness, peace of mind, and freedom from anxiety?
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What is deferred is not avoided.

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In the first place, most princes apply themselves to the arts of war, in which I have neither ability nor interest, instead of to the good arts of peace. They are generally more set on acquiring new kingdoms by hook or by crook than on governing well those that they already have.
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Anticipated spears wound less.

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The folly of men has enhanced the value of gold and silver because of their scarcity; whereas, on the contrary, it is their opinion that Nature, as an indulgent parent, has freely given us all the best things in great abundance, such as water and earth, but has laid up and hid from us the things that are vain and useless.
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I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.

[Last words on the scaffold, July 6, 1535]

June 21, 2016

June 22nd: Optional Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola

St. Paulinus of Nola
Saint Paulinus of Nola, born Pontius Meropius Anicius Paulinus, was a Roman poet, scriptor, and senator who attained the ranks of suffect consul and governor of Campania prior to his calling. His wife consecrated herself to God. Following her example, Paulinus lived an austere hermit's life at Nola in Italy. There he became a priest and then bishop of the city, and gave his people not only an example of virtue but also wise guidance during the ravages and calamities of the Gothic invasion. He died in 431, aged 78.

Pope Benedict XVI remarked on St. Paulinus' artistic gifts, which inspired "songs of faith and love in which the daily history of small and great events is seen as a history of salvation, a history of God with us." During his lifetime, Paulinus was praised by St. Augustine and St. Jerome for the depth of his conversion. Even before his death, he was regarded as a saint.

The Life of  St. Paulinus

In 353 Pontius Meropius Anicius Paulinus was born of a prominent Bordeaux family. He received his education in the school of the rhetorician Ausonius. At an early age he attained the dignity of senator and then of consul. As governor of Campania, he chose Nola as his seat. Here he was converted to the faith by St. Felix of Nola. He resigned his position and returned to Gaul, where St. Martin of Tours restored his eyesight.

Despite personal remonstrances, Paulinus was ordained a priest in Spain, and from there he returned to do honor at the grave of his sainted spiritual father. In 409 he became bishop of Tours. Paulinus was an author and poet; he corresponded with the great saints and scholars of his time, Ambrose and Augustine. During the Vandal invasion he used every possible means to feed the poor. When a poor widow asked for money to ransom her son, he gave himself into slavery. With God's aid he returned to his flock and died at the age of seventy-eight in 431. His last words were: "I will prepare a lamp for My anointed" (Ps. 131). His particular virtue was love toward the poor.

Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Collect Prayer

O God who the Bishop Saint Paulinus of Nola outstanding for love of poverty and for pastoral care, graciously grant that, as we celebrate his merits, we may imitate the example of his charity. 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.

Optional Memorial of Sts. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr and Thomas More, Martyr

Saints John Fisher and Thomas More

June 22nd is the feast day of English Saints John Fisher (1469 – 1535) and Thomas More (1478 – 1535). Fisher, a priest and bishop, and More, a statesman, were martyred within nine days of each other for the cause of religious freedom after defending the sanctity of marriage and papal authority against King Henry VIII's usurpation of the Church. Both were convicted of treason, imprisoned and beheaded.

They were beatified together by Pope Leo XIII in 1886. Pope Pius XI canonized them on May 19, 1935. In October 2000, Saint John Paul II issued his apostolic letter on St.Thomas More, proclaiming him patron saint of statesman and politicians. Five centuries after their martyrdom, the lives of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More speak to people everywhere of the innate dignity of the human conscience.

The Life of St. Thomas More

His belief that no lay ruler has jurisdiction over the church of Christ cost Thomas More his life.

Beheaded on Tower Hill, London, July 6, 1535, he steadfastly refused to approve Henry VIII's divorce and remarriage and establishment of the Church of England.

Described as "a man for all seasons," More was a literary scholar, eminent lawyer, gentleman, father of four children and chancellor of England. An intensely spiritual man, he would not support the king's divorce from Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Nor would he acknowledge Henry as supreme head of the church in England, breaking with Rome and denying the pope as head.

More was committed to the Tower of London to await trial for treason: not swearing to the Act of Succession and the Oath of Supremacy. Upon conviction, More declared he had all the councils of Christendom and not just the council of one realm to support him in the decision of his conscience.

Four hundred years later, in 1935, Thomas More was canonized a saint of God. Few saints are more relevant to our time. In fact, in 2000, Pope John Paul II named him patron of political leaders. The supreme diplomat and counselor, Thomas More did not compromise his own moral values in order to please the king, knowing that true allegiance to authority is not blind acceptance of everything that authority wants. Henry himself realized this and tried desperately to win his chancellor to his side because he knew More was a man whose approval counted, a man whose personal integrity no one questioned. But when Thomas resigned as chancellor, unable to approve the two matters that meant most to Henry, the king felt he had to get rid of Thomas.

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

Patron: Adopted children; diocese of Arlington, Virginia; civil servants; court clerks; difficult marriages; large families; lawyers; diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee Florida; politicians; politicos; statesmen; step-parents; widowers.

The Life of St. John Fisher

John Fisher is usually associated with Erasmus, Thomas More and other Renaissance humanists. His life, therefore, did not have the external simplicity found in the lives of some saints. Rather, he was a man of learning, associated with the intellectuals and political leaders of his day. He was interested in the contemporary culture and eventually became chancellor at Cambridge. He had been made a bishop at thirty-five, and one of his interests was raising the standard of preaching in England. Fisher himself was an accomplished preacher and writer. His sermons on the penitential psalms were reprinted seven times before his death. With the coming of Lutheranism, he was drawn into controversy. His eight books against heresy gave him a leading position among European theologians.

In 1521 he was asked to study the problem of Henry VIII's marriage. He incurred Henry's anger by defending the validity of the king's marriage with Catherine and later by rejecting Henry's claim to be the supreme head of the Church of England.

In an attempt to be rid of him, Henry first had him accused of not reporting all the "revelations" of the nun of Kent, Elizabeth Barton. John was summoned, in feeble health, to take the oath to the new Act of Succession. He and Thomas More refused because the Act presumed the legality of Henry's divorce and his claim to be head of the English church. They were sent to the Tower of London, where Fisher remained fourteen months without trial. They were finally sentenced to life imprisonment and loss of goods.

When the two were called to further interrogations, they remained silent. Fisher was tricked, on the supposition he was speaking privately as a priest, and declared again that the king was not supreme head. The king, further angered that the pope had made John Fisher a cardinal, had him brought to trial on the charge of high treason. He was condemned and executed, his body left to lie all day on the scaffold and his head hung on London Bridge. More was executed two weeks later.

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

Patron: Those persecuted for the Faith.

Symbols: Palm

Collect Prayer

O God, who in martyrdom have brought true faith to its highest expression, graciously grant that, strengthened through the intercession of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, we may confirm by the witness of our life the faith we profess with our lips. 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.