August 31, 2016

Prayer for the Canonization of Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa of Calcutta,

Jesus, you made Mother Teresa an example
of humility, charity and selflessness.
She taught us that every human life
has value and dignity.
May we follow her in heeding
Your cry of thirst from the cross,
and in loving the poorest of the poor. 
Grant us, by her intercession,
and according to Your will,
the graces we implore...,
knowing that she will soon be
numbered among Your saints.

We ask this in Your name, 
through the intercession of Mary, 
Your Mother and the Mother of us all. Amen.

Fr. Irvin's Homily for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 4, 2016, Year C

Christ's Passion
Christ offered Himself unto death for our salvation. We are to "hate" our
old lives, renouncing all the earthly things we rely upon, to follow Him.   

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

The word “hate” is a powerful word so in sharing my thoughts with you today I want to first note that in the language Jesus spoke back then the word “hate” was a Semitic expression that we should not take literally. We should think of it as telling us that loving God is more important than anything else. Jesus is asking for first place in our hearts, he’s not asking us to abandon our families. After all in the society in which Jesus lived people’s whole lives centered on their families. Our lives should be also. Jesus used extreme language so that people would not forget what He is asking, namely our wholehearted and uncompromising commitment to follow in His way, live in His truth, and share life with Him.

We all have obligations, responsibilities, and commitments, especially to our families, and only twenty-four hours in any one day to meet our responsibilities. Time is precious. Today’s first reading notes that in what we just heard: “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid and unsure are our plans. For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down on the mind that has many concerns.”

Nevertheless we need to ask ourselves where our hearts really are and how much of our inner selves we are giving to God. Just where IS God in our lives? Just how important is God in our lives?

Today’s gospel account of St. Luke is noteworthy for its extremes. On the one hand, it sets forth the fundamental and uncompromising demands that Jesus makes on those who would be His followers and, at the same time, St. Luke emphasizes the gentleness and compassion of Jesus for the sinful and the weak. Let me suggest to you that those commitments are not contradictory.

In today’s Gospel we find Jesus surrounded by a huge crowd of people. They are full of enthusiasm and expectation… but Jesus very quickly pulls them up short. If anyone comes after me, Jesus says, and is not prepared to hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters and indeed his very own self, he cannot be my disciple. He is not asking us to abandon our families. He is asking us to put love of God in first place. We should remember that if we love God we will love others, and love them with His love. To abandon our families or give them the best of our love and care would be highly irresponsible and at the same time a violation of God’s commandment of universal love. But it is also clear that, for those who want to be part of Jesus’ work, they have to give themselves to it wholeheartedly. And, where there is a choice between the ways of this world and the clear call of the Gospel, they have to reject the allurements of this world. But that takes discipline and planning. It doesn’t “just happen.”

So Jesus gives us two examples:

One is about a man who had plans to build a tower. Before he started, he made sure that he had all the necessary resources. Otherwise he might find that, after laying the foundations, he could not finish the work and he would become the laughing stock of others.

In the second example Jesus speaks of a king with 10,000 soldiers who finds he is going to war with another king who has 20,000. If he thinks there is no way he can win, he will send an embassy to negotiate the best peace terms he can get.

Similarly, says Jesus, no one can be a disciple of His who is not ready to let go of everything he thinks to be of such importance that he sets God aside and gives God little time and attention.

Love has its demands. And following in Jesus’ way has its demands. How many in the crowd who were listening to Jesus were ready for that? How many of us in our day are ready for that? Am I ready? And what are the things I am clinging to? What are the things I cannot let go of? And why?

To be a disciple of Jesus means being absolutely free. To be free to love Jesus and walk in His ways requires that we say “no” to a whole lot of other things. I am reminded of St. Francis of Assisi leaving his family and taking off all his rich and fancy clothes only to clothe himself in a beggar’s rags. He was then filled with a tremendous sense of joy and freedom. Do I want to be a disciple of Jesus? To what extent? Am I ready to pay the price he asks?

Many voices in our surrounding world attempt to tell us what is important and what is not. Many of those voices tell us to set God aside or, even worse, abandon believing in God. Each one of those many voices, all of them competing between each other and trying to dominate, present what they claim to be of the greatest importance. We need to exercise critical judgment. Are they offering mere pleasure? Or are they offering us lasting happiness?

A good education gives us a lot of facts and information. It should also give us the skill to make critical judgments, to differentiate between what is merely superficial and what is of substance. That is what today’s Gospel account is all about. It is challenging us to see things in context and to place things in proper perspective.

I’m sure we all understand that God matters and that life with Him forever in heaven is our goal. It’s not whether we believe that, it’s how we believe that, how we make it a part of our lives. Just how are we following Jesus in our lives? And so the Book of Wisdom advises us: For the deliberations of mortals are timid and unsure are our plans. For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down on the mind that has many concerns. If we put the way and the truth and the life of Jesus as first in our concerns, we will find a life infinitely beyond mere pleasure, we will find everlasting happiness.

Being close to Jesus will give us the power to deal with whatever life sends our way.

August 30, 2016

The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition: It Wasn’t as Bloody or as Brutal as Often Described

Pope Sixtus IV

The Spanish Inquisition has frequently been used to portray the Catholic Church as hypocritical and malevolent. However, recent scholarship proves that it wasn’t as bloody or as brutal as the Church’s detractors contend. The BBC documentary, The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition, refutes the false narratives surrounding this Tribunal. Below is a partial transcript of the program:


Starting at 3:02:

"Four centuries of condemnation have made the Spanish Inquisition a byword for cruelty, terror and tyranny. But this image is false. A distortion disseminated 400 years ago and accepted ever since. Now, a new generation of historians is looking at the inquisition afresh. Every one of the cases that came before the Spanish Inquisition during its 350-year history had its own file. These files, gathered together from sources such as this library in Salamanca, are being properly studied for the first time. (Prof. Henry Kamen speaking) 'I think our views of the inquisition have been changed largely by the opening up of the archives of the inquisition. They had everything on tape, as it were, hidden away in their archives. And we can go there, calculate, put it all on computer, and arrive at very firm statistics about its activity. And so all of this has opened wide the debate about the inquisition; and has also demolished totally the previous image which all of us had.'

The files are detailed and exhaustive. The inquisition kept its activities secret from the outside world, but its clerks wrote down every detail, in the confidence that their records were for the eyes of the inquisition only. The huge task of sifting this material, previously scattered throughout Spain daunted earlier generations. Systematic analysis is only just beginning, but already, a very different version of the Spanish Inquisition can be brought to light.

The Spain that gave birth to the Inquisition in the 15th century was barren and isolated, on the fringe of Europe. Half of its land unproductive, half barely sustaining a meager living. A monotonous burning plan. No easy routes, no natural center, no one leader. Spaniards could only dream of Hispania, the country that had been united during the days of the Roman conquest. All that was to change.

On the morning of October 18th, 1469, Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Aragon, and Isabella heiress of Castile, were married. Their wedding ended centuries of rivalry between the two Spanish kingdoms, and would unite the country. Spain, for so long merely a name on the map, had become a historical fact. The itinerant royal court often convened in the city of Ávila, here at the monastery of Santo Tomás its facade triumphantly incorporating an ‘H’ for the reunified Hispania. But for Ferdinand and Isabella there could be no political unity without religious unity. Pressure was exerted on Spain’s large Jewish population to convert. Many did. But traditional Christians were suspicious that these Conversos were practicing their former religion in secret.

Synagogues such as this one in Toledo came under scrutiny. In 1480, a new body was appointed to investigate. Entitled the Santo Oficio de la Inquisición, it is better known to us as the Spanish Inquisition. The Inquisition’s task was to discover heresy, deviation from the true Faith. Conversos accused of continued Jewish worship could be burnt at the stake.

The Inquisition had begun, but the myth had yet to be created.  For while these years between 1480 and 1510 were by far the most active in the entire history of the Inquisition, the rest of Europe did not hurry to condemn it. (Prof. Jamie Contreras speaking.) 'We have precise reports from Italian and French ambassadors who wrote to Catholic Kings congratulating them because at last Spain had become Christian.' The truth is that the Inquisition was applauded for its persecution of Spain’s converted Jews.'"

The Black Legend is Born

In 1517, the Protestant Reformation split the Church in two. For the first time in human history, Protestants fought a deliberate propaganda war against their enemies; accusing them of unspeakable acts, and setting the stage for centuries of anti-Catholic scholarship. The fraudulent accounts of Montanus about the torture methods used by the Inquisitors and the deplorable conditions in which prisoners lived, were especially damaging.

Starting at 9:01:

"The Church’s champion, defender of the faith, was Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. As leader of the Habsburg dynasty, he also commanded the most powerful armies in Europe. But Charles was more than just a Habsburg. As Ferdinand’s grandson, he acceded to the throne of Spain putting that country at the forefront of defending the Faith. At the Battle of Mühlberg in 1547, his enemies were virtually annihilated. Routed on the battlefield the reformers attacked elsewhere…

Protestants used the newly invented printing press to wage a propaganda campaign against the Church and the Spain's Habsburgs. Here is an example of the type of bitter invective they employed:

'This scum of barbarians, this mongrel generation Spain is and ever hath been the sink the puddle and fifthly heap of the most loathsome infected and slavish people that ever lived. Their more than tigress cruelty, their lustful and inhumane deflowering of their matrons, wives and daughters, their matchless and sodomitical ravishings of young boys which these demi-barbarian Spaniards have committed.'

Within a year of the Battle of Mühlberg, a stream of anti-Spanish invective began to pour off the printing presses of the Reformation. But the polemic needed a focus. It found one in the body expressly designed to uphold the Catholic faith -- the Inquisition. A myth was in the making.

All the different acquisitions came together in this document: A Discovery and plain Declaration of Sundry and Subtill Practices of the Holy Inquisition of Spain, printed in 1567. Within the year, it was translated into English, French, Dutch and German. Its author, masquerading as a Protestant victim of the Inquisition, wrote under the pseudonym Montanus.

By identifying with the victim, Montanus brought the supposed horrors of the Spanish Inquisition vividly alive. It is his work which introduced to the world an image of the Inquisition which has persisted ever since." (The "Black Legend" originated as an anti-Spanish propaganda campaign disseminated through the printing press. The Inquisition and the Catholic Church were its primary targets.)

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Novena for Marriage and Families 2016 | Day 1

 Marriage of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Joseph
The Marriage of the Virgin, Raphael, 1504.

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary novena for marriage and families begins today. Strong families are indispensable in building a culture of life that protects human dignity. We pray that the sacrament of marriage is strengthened and that families are sanctified. Saint John Paul II's apostolic exhortation Famillaris Consoetio underscores the importance of the family in God's plan of salvation:

"At a moment of history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it, and aware that the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family, the Church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family, ensuring their full vitality and human and Christian development, and thus contributing to the renewal of society and of the People of God."

Novena Prayers for Marriage and Family

Say the following three times:

Jesus, I trust in You. Please grant through Your mother’s intercession that I may always bring Your hope into my family.

Then say:

Our Lady, on this feast of your birth, please pray for stronger and holier marriages. Amen.

Day 1

Most lovable Mother Mary, our Father in Heaven created you with delight. You are His creature whom He made worthy to become the holy Mother of His Son. You were born into a family of Saints. Pray for me today that my joy in your Son will increase and that my family may become more holy.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Day 2

Oh most holy daughter of Adam, your precious Son chose you as the vessel for his entry to the world. Where our first mother, Eve, fell short, you fulfilled God’s call for a Mother’s holiness. Pray for me today that the feast of your birth may give great joy to my soul that I may be born to new life through your Son.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Day 3

Immaculate daughter of Saints Joachim and Anne, you are the door to the Eternal Word who made you the source of His Sacred Blood. You are a model for all Christian sons and daughters. Pray for me today that the feast of your birth may give great joy to my soul and that I may have a greater devotion to your Son’s Precious Blood.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Day 4

Oh most holy daughter of the line of King David, the Redeemer of the world loves you with the singular love of a Child for His mother. Pray for me today that the feast of your birth may give great joy to my soul that I may have a greater love and devotion to my Mother and Father.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Day 5

Most holy Mary, the Holy Spirit preserved you from sin so that our Lord would have a fitting vessel to enter the world. Pray for me today that the feast of your birth may give great joy to my soul that I may remain faithful to your Son until the end.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Day 6

Oh holy Mother, St. Joachim and St. Anne were delighted to love and care for so holy a child. Pray for me today that the feast of your birth may give great joy to my soul that I may show greater charity to my parents and grandparents in word, prayer and deed.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Day 7

Holy Mother, your birth caused great joy to the angels, because they saw your holiness caused by your Son’s resurrection. Pray for me today that the feast of your birth may give great joy to my soul that your graces may rain down on all married couples.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Day 8

Heavenly Mother, your birth gave great joy to all the world because it signaled the coming of Jesus Christ, who would save the whole world by His life, death and resurrection. Pray for me today that the feast of your birth may give great joy to my soul that I may be exceedingly patient with my family and loved ones.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Day 9

Mother Mary, you pray for me as your child. Thank you for welcoming me into the Holy Family. Pray for me today that the feast of your birth may give great joy to my soul that I may increase my devotion to the Holy Family.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Click for more on this novena and to receive daily reminders by email.

August 29, 2016

Saint Jeanne Jugan, Virgin and Foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor

St. Jeanne Jugan
August 30th, the Church celebrates Saint Jeanne Jugan, (1792-1879) also known as, Mary of the Cross, a French religious remembered for her dedication to the elderly indigent, who founded the Little Sisters of the Poor. She was born in Cancale, Brittany, (France) the sixth of eight children of Joseph and Marie Jugan.

Due to the religious persecution of the French Revolution. Jugan was catechized and attended Mass in secret. To support her family, she worked as a shepherdess. Later, she became a domestic servant to the Viscountess de la Choue, a devout Catholic. When the viscountess visited the sick and the needy, Jeanne would accompany her.

She declined the marriage proposals of several potential suitors saying that God was calling her to, "a work which is not yet founded." At 25, she entered the Third Order of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary founded by Saint John Eudes. During this period, she worked as a hospital nurse and assisted a fellow member of the Eudist Third Order, until the woman's death. Along with two other women, Jeanne rented a room to minister to the old and the sick.

One night, in the winter of 1839, Jeanne met Anne Chauvin, a blind, elderly woman with no one to care for her. Jugan carried Chauvin home, giving the woman her bed and tending to her ailments. Jugan resolved that the rest of her life would be dedicated to helping abandoned elderly. She would take in two more women within the month. Eventually she was providing shelter and medical care to a dozen needy women. In 1841, she acquired an unused convent building that could accommodate 40.

The future saint established four additional homes in Saint-Servan, Dinan, Tours, and Angers. Many young women joined her. By 1850, the Little Sisters of the Poor had over 100 members. In 1852, the Bishop of Rennes formally recognized the Congregation, naming Father Le Pailleur the Superior General of the Order. The new superior's first act was to consign Sister Jeanne to the Motherhouse for a retirement that was to last the rest of her life.

For the next 27 years, Jeanne served her order through tireless prayer and by accepting the trial and abasement permitted by God. She died peacefully on Aug. 29, 1879. At the time of her death, she was not acknowledged as the foundress of the order. In the fullness of time, however, thanks in part to her cause of canonization, she was finally honored for her life of heroic virtue. Her example speaks to the sanctity of all human beings and our obligation to each other. It is said that upon meeting Jugan, Charles Dickens said, "there is in this woman something so calm, and so holy, that in seeing her I know myself to be in the presence of a superior being. Her words went straight to my heart, so that my eyes, I know not how, filled with tears."

St. Jeanne Jugan was beatified by Saint John Paul II on October 3, 1982, and canonized on October 11, 2009, by Pope Benedict XVI, who said of her, "In the Beatitudes, Jeanne Jugan found the source of the spirit of hospitality and fraternal love, founded on unlimited trust in Providence, which illuminated her whole life." God of might, giver of every good gift, put into our hearts the love of your name, so that, by deepening our sense of reverence, and, by your watchful care, we may keep safe what you have nurtured and imitate Christ more fully.

August 28, 2016

The Passion of Saint John the Baptist

The beheading of St. John the Baptist

August 29th, the Church celebrates the passion of Saint John the Baptist. He was the cousin of Jesus, the son of Elizabeth and Zachariah, and the nephew of the Blessed Virgin Mary. John heralds Christ in his miraculous birth and his ministry as preacher, and martyr. Apart from Jesus and our Lady, John the Baptist is the only one whose birth and death are commemorated by the Church. Mark's Gospel relates the events of his execution (Mark 6:17-29):

"Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife." Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias’ own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, "Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you." He even swore many things to her, "I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom." She went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask for?" She replied, "The head of John the Baptist." The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, "I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist." The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb."

"A Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness"

It is John the Baptist who urged repentance and proclaimed to the world the imminence of the Messiah. On the day of Christ's baptism, John immediately recognized Jesus as the long awaited "Anointed One". 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). In reflecting upon the passion of John the Baptist, we call to mind the wisdom of Saint Paul: "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18) O God, who willed that Saint John the Baptist should go ahead of your Son both in his birth and in his death, grant that, as he died a Martyr for truth and justice, we, too, may fight hard for the confession of what you teach.

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for September 2016

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

Universal: Centrality of the Human Person

That each may contribute to the common good and to the building of a society that places the human person at the center.

Evangelization: Mission to Evangelize

That by participating in the Sacraments and meditating on Scripture, Christians may become more aware of their mission to evangelize.

Fr. Butler's Homily for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 28, 2016, Year C

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

Jesus at the home of one of the leading Pharisees.
(Click here for today’s readings)

I lived a total of twenty-three years outside of the USA, mostly in an international community of Europeans, South Americans, Africans, and Asians. You can imagine the puzzlement of many of them when they heard American presidents and others constantly refer to the US as the “Greatest nation on earth,” and “Leader of the free world.”

That we are a great and influential nation, no one could doubt. But that doesn’t make us better than anyone else.

We aren’t alone in this arrogance. The French traditionally claim to be the greatest thinkers, and of course they have the best wines, chefs, etc. Italians claim the greatest artists, and of course they also have the best wines, chefs, etc. Ireland prides itself on being the land of saints and scholars. The list goes on.

Should we go around saying we are the worst nation on earth? Of course not. There is such a thing as honest and healthy pride.

We all understand what false humility is, and we know that Jesus is not promoting it in today’s Gospel. But we also understand what false pride is, and can see exactly what Jesus thinks of that.

The last part of this Gospel text is easily missed. Jesus takes his teaching a step further. It’s not enough to have humility and not consider ourselves better. We ought to associate with those who are naturally humble because life has humbled them.

That’s the real challenge in today’s Gospel. How can we respond to it?

The obvious choice is to be involved in an activity like serving community dinners, soup kitchens, etc. Even then, do we just distribute the food to those in need, or do we sit down and eat with them once the serving is done?

Other possibilities exist. You might have a neighbor or friend who is widowed or divorced or fallen on hard times and feeling desperately alone. Jesus mentions specifically the physically handicapped who, in his world, had no income but what they could get by begging, with no hope of improving their lot.

Today’s second reading declares in a solemn and poetic way just how blessed and privileged we Christians are. The first reading tells us, “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are.”

We may be better off than others in many ways. That doesn’t make us better than anyone else. The willingness to reach out to others is what makes us better, not by comparison to anyone else, but “better than ourselves,” better than we might otherwise be, as persons, as Christians.

August 27, 2016

The Seven Joys of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Altarpiece of the Seven Joys, by the Master of the Holy Family, c. 1480.

The Seven Joys of the Blessed Virgin (Also known as The Franciscan Crown Rosary)

Today is the traditional feast of the Seven Joys of Mary. The origin of the prayer can be found in the Manual for Franciscan Tertiaries:

"About the year 1420, a young man, deeply devoted to Our Lady, took the habit of St Francis. Before joining the Order, he had, among other practices, been accustomed daily to make a chaplet of flowers, and with it to crown a statue of the Blessed Virgin. Having in his novitiate no longer an opportunity of making this crown for his Most Beloved Queen, he, in his simplicity, thought that she would withdraw her affection from him; this temptation of the devil disturbed his vocation, and he resolved to abandon the cloister. The merciful mother appeared to him, and gently rebuking him, strengthened him in his vocation by telling him to offer her instead of the chaplet of flowers, a crown much more pleasing to her, composed of seventy-two Ave Marias and a Pater after each decade of Ave Marias, and to meditate at each decade upon the seven joys she had experienced during the seventy-two years of her exile upon the earth. The novice immediately commenced reciting the new crown or rosary, and derived therefrom many spiritual and temporal graces. This pious practice spread quickly through the whole Order, and even throughout the world… St Bernardin of Siena used to say that it was by the Crown of the Seven Joys that he had obtained all the graces which Heaven has heaped upon him."

The Joys of Mary remembered in this devotion are:

The Annunciation of the Angel to Mary
The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth
The Nativity of Our Lord
The Adoration of the Magi
The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
The Resurrection of Our Lord
and The Crowning of Our Lady, Mary, in Heaven as Queen

August 26, 2016

Memorial of Saint Monica

Death of Saint Monica,
Death of Saint Monica, scene from Life of Saint Augustine,
Ottaviano Nelli, 1420-1425.

August 27th, is the Memorial of Saint Monica, (333-387) the mother of Saint Augustine. Augustine’s life of sin and embrace of worldly pleasures is well known. In turning her son’s heart to God, Monica’s fervent prayers won for the Church a revered scholar and saint. She exemplifies those women in ancient Christianity whose quiet witness was powerfully efficacious. Despite suffering abuse, addiction and discouragement, Monica never lost hope or her faith in God.

She was born in Tagaste, a town in Northern Africa, (present day Algeria) the oldest of three children to Christian parents. She was given in marriage to a pagan Roman official named Patricius. They had three children, sons Augustine and Navigius and a daughter Perpetua. Her husband and mother-in-law treated Monica with disdain. Monica answered their maltreatment with charity. Her prayers and kindness opened Patricius’ eyes to the error of his ways. He was baptized into the Church in 370, one year before his death.

All of Monica’s children would enter religious life. Before doing so, Augustine, most famously, had a child out of wedlock and studied Manicheanism, a religion diametrically opposed to Christianity. When her husband died, Monica sent the 17-year-old Augustine to Carthage for schooling. There, he became a Manichean. Upon returning home, Augustine disclosed his new found beliefs to his mother, who threw him out of the house. According to tradition, Monica received a vision urging her to make amends with her wayward son. A short time later, she consulted an unknown bishop concerning her anguished attempts to evangelize Augustine. The prelate told her, "It is impossible that a son of so many tears should be lost." Monica shed more tears for Augustine’s spiritual death than other mothers shed for the bodily death of a son. She prayed for his conversion for 17 years, fasted, and made Holy Communion her only daily sustenance.

After completing his studies, Augustine founded a school in Carthage for the teaching of Manicheism. Soon, he realized that the Manicheans were more skilled in attacking Christianity than in arguing the truth of their precepts. Seeing the folly of Manicheism, Augustine traveled to Rome to teach rhetoric. Determined to join him, Monica set out for Rome. Meanwhile, Saint Symmachus offered Augustine a chair in rhetoric in Milan. When Monica arrived in Rome, Augustine had already departed.

In Milan, Augustine visited the future saint, Bishop Ambrose. It was Ambrose who would instruct Augustine in the truths of the Faith. When Monica came to Milan she too visited the Bishop. The two together would overcome Augustine’s objections to Christianity. Upon his conversion, Augustine attributed his change of heart to his mother. He was baptized by Ambrose on Holy Saturday, 387.

Monica died a few months after Augustine's baptism. Before her death, she had a profound mystical insight which she shared with Augustine: "Son, for myself I have no longer any pleasure in anything in this life. Now that my hopes in this world are satisfied, I do not know what more I want here or why I am here."

St. Monica’s remains rest in the Basilica of Sant'Agostino, Rome. Through prayer and persistence, she gave Augustine to the Church, thereby earning a place of distinction in the history of God's kingdom on earth. She is the patron of abuse victims, addicts, wayward children and difficult marriages. O God, who consoles the sorrowful and who mercifully accepted the motherly tears of Saint Monica for the conversion of her son Augustine, grant us, through the intercession of them both, that we may bitterly regret our sins and find the grace of your pardon.

August 25, 2016

Saint Monica Novena 2016 | Day 9

St. Monica

Saint Monica demonstrated heroic patience during her trials. She suffered greatly, but never lost her abiding faith in God's goodness. Let us pray that we may have the faith of St. Monica and so possess heroic patience in the face of all difficulties. Only then, can we truly be instruments of God's peace.

Day 9 - The St. Monica Novena

Dear Saint Monica, you were once the mournful mother of a prodigal son. Your faithfulness to prayer brought you and your son so close to God that you are now with him in eternity. By your intercession and God’s grace, your son St. Augustine became a great and venerable Saint of the Church. Please take my request to God with the same fervor and persistence with which you prayed for your son.

(Mention your intentions here)

With your needs, worries and anxieties, you threw yourself on the mercy and providence of God. Through sorrow and pain, you constantly devoted yourself to God. Pray for me that I might join you in such a deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.

Above all, dear Saint Monica, pray for me that I may, like your son, turn from my sin and become a great saint for the glory of God. Amen.

King Saint Louis IX's Observation on the Importance of One's Soul

King St. Louis IX

King Saint Louis IX never forgot his upbringing in the Faith. His friend and biographer, the Sieur de Joinville, who joined him on his first crusade to the Holy Land, relates that the King once asked him, "What is God?" Joinville replied, "Sire, it is that which is so good that there can be nothing better." "Well," said the King, "now tell me, would You rather be a leper or commit a mortal sin?" The spectacle of the wretched lepers who wandered along the highways of medieval Europe might well have prompted a sensitive conscience to ask such a question. "I would rather commit thirty mortal sins," answered Joinville, in all candor, "than be a leper." Louis expostulated with him earnestly for making such a reply. "When a man dies," he said, "he is healed of leprosy in his body; but when a man who has committed a mortal sin dies he cannot know of a certainty that he has in his lifetime repented in such sort that God has forgiven him; wherefore he must stand in great fear lest that leprosy of sin last as long as God is in Paradise."

Source: "Sant Louis, Confessor, King of France", EWTN.

August 24, 2016

Saint Monica Novena 2016 | Day 8

St. Monica

O God, who consoles the sorrowful and who mercifully accepted the motherly tears of Saint Monica for the conversion of her son Augustine, grant us, through the intercession of them both, that we may bitterly regret our sins and find the grace of your pardon. 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.

Day 8 - The St. Monica Novena

Dear Saint Monica, you were once the mournful mother of a prodigal son. Your faithfulness to prayer brought you and your son so close to God that you are now with him in eternity. By your intercession and God’s grace, your son St. Augustine became a great and venerable Saint of the Church. Please take my request to God with the same fervor and persistence with which you prayed for your son.

(Mention your intentions here)

With your needs, worries and anxieties, you threw yourself on the mercy and providence of God. Through sorrow and pain, you constantly devoted yourself to God. Pray for me that I might join you in such a deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.

Above all, dear Saint Monica, pray for me that I may, like your son, turn from my sin and become a great saint for the glory of God. Amen.

Saint Joseph Calasanz, Priest and Founder

St. Joseph Calasanz
August 25th, is the Optional Memorial of Saint Joseph Calasanz, (1557-1648) the Spanish priest and educator who founded the The Order of Poor Clerics Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools, (the Piarists) a community devoted to the instruction of youth. He was born in Peralta, Aragon, and educated in philosophy, law and theology. His father desired that he marry, but upon recovering from a life threatening illness, Joseph resolved to become a priest. He was ordained in 1583, after which he served as a secretary, administrator and theologian in the diocese of Albarracín, Spain.

In 1592, Joseph traveled to Rome, where he worked as a theologian for Cardinal Marcoantonio Colonna. While residing there, he visited the seven principal churches each evening, as well as venerating the graves of the Roman martyrs. At that time, the Eternal City was afflicted with a series of deadly plagues. Alongside Saint Camillus de Lellis, Joseph tended to the afflicted and helped carry the bodies of the dead to burial. The two future saints engaged in a kind of holy rivalry to see which of them, in aiding the sick and the stricken, could do so more perfectly.

Together with the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, in 1597, he opened the first free public school in Europe, one that accepted homeless youth. Within a decade, he founded a community for teaching poor children, which became known as the Piarists. With financial backing from Popes Clement VIII and Paul V, the Piarists soon had a thousand children in their charge. Joseph Calasanz was instrumental in establishing the first free public schools in Italy. In 1617, Pope Paul V approved the Congregation of the Pious Schools, the first religious order so dedicated to teaching. In the following years, Joseph started Pious schools throughout Europe.

At Joseph’s insistence, the Piarists accepted Jewish children into their schools and ensured they were treated equally. Textbooks were in vernacular languages, not Latin. Joseph gave priority to the study of mathematics and science. As a friend of the scientist Galileo Galilei, he sent some of his Piarists to study with him. He agreed with and defended Galileo’s heliocentric view of the planets. This caused him to be viewed unfavorably in influential quarters and he was forced to resign as superior general of the Piarists.

His heroic patience and humility in the face of great persecution earned him the approbation, "the Second Job". Despite garnering support from many, in 1586, Joseph was paraded through the streets of Rome by the Inquisition as a criminal. His life is an example of how God allows misunderstandings and hostility, even from the Church, to frustrate honorable undertakings. Joseph died in 1648, at the age of 90. At the time of his death his Order was facing demise. Eight years after his death, Pope Alexander VII cleared his name and that of the Piarist Order. The Order once again flourished and continued to spread across Europe.

Joseph Calasanz was beatified in 1748 by Pope Benedict XIV and canonized by Pope Clement XIII in 1767. In 1948, Pope Pius XII declared him the patron saint of Catholic schools. Among those educated in Piarist schools were: Francisco Goya, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert, Gregor Mendel and Victor Hugo. O God, who adorned the Priest Saint Joseph Calasanz with such charity and patience that he labored tirelessly to educate children and endow them with every virtue, grant, we pray, that we, who venerate him as a teacher of wisdom, may constantly imitate him, for he was a co-worker of your truth.

Optional Memorial of Saint Louis IX, King of France

Blanche of Castile and King Louis IX

August 25th, is the Optional Memorial of Saint Louis IX, (1214 – 1270) the French King known for his personal holiness and wise rule. As a monarch, he dedicated himself to the concerns of his kingdom and those of Christendom. Accounts of his life hold that Luis ministered to the poor and the sick, often personally tending to their needs. People from every walk of life sought his assistance. He was a tertiary of the Order of the Holy Trinity and Captives (the Trinitarians). King Luis was a great admirer of the mendicant orders, and aided several, especially the Franciscans.

Louis was born in Poissy, near Paris, the son of Prince Louis and Princess Blanche. He was tutored in Latin, literature, rhetoric, military arts and government. Louis' mother trained him to be a judicious leader and a Godly man. She instilled in him love and awe for the things of God, and would often say to him: "I love you my dear son, as much as a mother can love her child; but I would rather see you dead at my feet than that you should commit a mortal sin."

When Louis was 9, his father became King Louis VIII. After reigning only two years, Louis VIII died. His wife, Queen Blanche, was made regent of the kingdom. To prevent an uprising of nobles, she hastened her son’s coronation. The ceremony took place at Rheims on the first Sunday of Advent, 1226.

In May, 1234, Louis, then 19, married Margaret, the oldest daughter of Raymond Beranger, Count of Provence. They had five sons and six daughters. After taking control of the government, Louis’ first act was to build the monastery of Royaumont. He installed the Carthusians in the palace of Vauvert in Paris, and together with his mother, founded the convent of Maubuisson. Desirous to make France foremost in Christendom, Louis  purchased the Crown of Thorns and other holy relics from the Eastern Emperor of Constantinople. He commissioned a shrine be built on the island in the Seine to house the relics. The result, the Sainte-Chapelle, is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in existence. Its contents were tragically plundered during the French Revolution.

King Louis participated in two crusades; the Seventh Crusade, in 1248, and the Eighth Crusade in 1270. On his feast day, the Breviary speaks of his courage and piety: "'He had already been king for twenty years when he fell victim to a severe illness. That afforded the occasion for making a vow to undertake a crusade for the liberation of the Holy Land. Immediately upon recovery he received the crusader's cross from the hand of the bishop of Paris, and, followed by an immense army, he crossed the sea in 1248. On the field of battle Louis routed the Saracens; yet when the plague had taken large numbers of his soldiery, he was attacked and taken captive (1250). The king was forced to make peace with the Saracens; upon the payment of a huge ransom, he and his army were again set at liberty.' While on a second crusade he died of the plague, with these words from the psalm upon his lips: 'I will enter Thy house; I will worship in Thy holy temple and sing praises to Thy Name!'" (Ps. 5).

Saint Louis IX was brave in battle, devout in his veneration of God and steadfast in fasting and mortification. He was canonized by Pope Boniface VIII on July 11, 1297. He is the only French monarch to be declared a saint. Louis IX is often considered the model of the ideal Christian leader. O God, who brought Saint Louis from the cares of earthly rule to the glory of a heavenly realm, grant, we pray, through his intercession, that, by fulfilling our duties on earth, we may seek out your eternal Kingdom and there spend forever with You.

Saint Monica Novena 2016 | Day 7

St. Monica

Saint Monica is the patron saint of abuse victims. She suffered verbal abuse from her husband's violent temper for years. Such maltreatment is a consequence of our fallen humanity. Today, let us pray for all victims of abuse.

Day 7 - The St. Monica Novena

Dear Saint Monica, you were once the mournful mother of a prodigal son. Your faithfulness to prayer brought you and your son so close to God that you are now with him in eternity. By your intercession and God’s grace, your son St. Augustine became a great and venerable Saint of the Church. Please take my request to God with the same fervor and persistence with which you prayed for your son.

(Mention your intentions here)

With your needs, worries and anxieties, you threw yourself on the mercy and providence of God. Through sorrow and pain, you constantly devoted yourself to God. Pray for me that I might join you in such a deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.

Above all, dear Saint Monica, pray for me that I may, like your son, turn from my sin and become a great saint for the glory of God. Amen.

August 23, 2016

Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle

St. Bartholomew
The Feast of Saint Bartholomew is August 24th. Bartholomew is one of the twelve Apostles. He is mentioned in all four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. John’s Gospel states he was from Cana and that Jesus said upon meeting him "Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him." It is clear, that our Lord appreciates the sincerity that He sees in Bartholomew.

While little is known about his early life, Bartholomew was most certainly a devout Jew. His name means "son of Tolomai". Most scholars believe that he, and the Nathanael referred to in John, are the same person. An authority in the law of Moses, Bartholomew was a close friend of the Apostle, Philip.

Following Pentecost, Bartholomew embarked on a missionary trip to India. Popular piety records him as serving in Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Persia and Egypt. Bartholomew and Saint Jude are credited with bringing Christianity to Armenia. Both are the patron saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Pius Parsch in The Church's Year of Grace writes: "The Church of Armenia has a national tradition that St. Jude Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew visited the Armenians early in the first century and introduced Christianity among the worshipers of the god Ahura Mazda. The new faith spread throughout the land, and in 302 A.D., St. Gregory the Illuminator baptized the king of Armenia, Dertad the Great, along with many of his followers. Since Dertad was probably the first ruler to embrace Christianity for his nation, the Armenians proudly claim they were the first Christian State."

A non-Biblical source called the "Martyrdom of Bartholomew," contends that Bartholomew was martyred by King Astyages in Armedia as follows: "And when he had thus spoken, the king was informed that this god Baldad and all the other idols had fallen down, and were broken in pieces. Then the king rent the purple in which he was clothed, and ordered the holy apostle Bartholomew to be beaten with rods; and after having been thus scourged, to be beheaded."

Other accounts of his martyrdom, however, assert that Bartholomew was flayed or skinned before being beheaded. Michelangelo’s painting, The Last Judgment shows Bartholomew holding the knife of his martyrdom and his flayed skin. The altar of San Bartolomeo Basilica in Benevento, Italy, contains his relics. Because St. Bartholomew was without guile, he immediately recognized Christ as the Messiah sent by God. Strengthen in us, O Lord, the faith, by which the blessed Apostle Bartholomew clung wholeheartedly to your Son; grant that through his prayers your Church may become for all the nations the sacrament of salvation.

Saint Monica Novena 2016 | Day 6

St. Monica

Today we pray for all those who feel abandoned by God for whatever reason, for those waiting for answers to prayer, and for those who are suffering and do not yet see the reasons behind what God is doing in their lives.  May they be given the gift of unwavering faith through Saint Monica's intercession.

Day 6 - The St. Monica Novena

Dear Saint Monica, you were once the mournful mother of a prodigal son. Your faithfulness to prayer brought you and your son so close to God that you are now with him in eternity. By your intercession and God’s grace, your son St. Augustine became a great and venerable Saint of the Church. Please take my request to God with the same fervor and persistence with which you prayed for your son.

(Mention your intentions here)

With your needs, worries and anxieties, you threw yourself on the mercy and providence of God. Through sorrow and pain, you constantly devoted yourself to God. Pray for me that I might join you in such a deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.

Above all, dear Saint Monica, pray for me that I may, like your son, turn from my sin and become a great saint for the glory of God. Amen.

August 22, 2016

Saint Rose of Lima, Virgin: "We Cannot Obtain Grace Unless We Suffer Afflictions."

St. Rose of Lima
August 23rd, is the Optional Memorial of Saint Rose of Lima, (1586-1617) a Dominican lay tertiary known for her charity and extreme austerity, who is the first canonized saint of the Western Hemisphere. She was born Isabel Flores de Oliva in the city of Lima, Peru, to Gaspar Flores, a cavalry officer in the Imperial Spanish army, and María de Oliva y Herrera, a criolla native. As a five-year-old child, she pledged her innocence to God. When her family struggled to feed their ten children, she sold vegetables, setting aside a portion of her earnings to give to the poor. At her confirmation in 1597, she officially took the name Rose. (Saint Toribio Alfonso de Mogrovejo, the Archbishop of Lima, conferred the sacrament.)

Rose’s piety and great beauty attracted suitors. Over the objections of her family, she rejected them all. To repulse their interest, Rose cropped her hair and rubbed pepper on her face causing it to blister. Her mother in particular, insisted that Rose marry. Against her mother’s wishes, Rose took a vow of virginity. This contest of wills persisted for a decade. Emulating Saint Catherine of Siena, the future saint spent many hours contemplating Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, practicing severe chastisements and fasting. Her acts of self-denial were often harsh. For Lent, Rose would abstain from bread and meat for extended periods, eventually giving up the later completely. On another occasion, she put lime on her hands, inducing tremendous suffering.

Finally, in 1606, Rose’s parents allowed her to become a Dominican of the Third Order. Withdrawing to a hut in the family garden, she lived her days in secluded contemplation. It was at this time that her mortifications intensified. They included, wearing a metal crown studded on the inside with sharp points, reminiscent of the crown of thorns, and sleeping on a bed of broken glass and potsherds. In order to pray more, Rose slept two hours and subsisted on little to no food. Like Saint Padre Pio, she experienced terrible manifestations of the devil, who tested her faith nightly. At some point she was graced with the invisible stigmata of Christ. Her regimen of radical denial and sacrifice resulted in painful, and increasingly debilitating, bodily ailments. Moreover, her family remained largely critical. They expressed their disapproval in periodic scoldings.

Despite her relative isolation, Rose was acutely sensitive to the spiritual and material needs of others. She tended to the sick and indigent of Lima, bringing them to her hut to care for them. Rose sewed fine needlework, lace and embroidery which she took to market, along with flowers from her garden, to help her family. She continuously prayed and did penance in the grotto she built.

After Tribulation Comes Grace

St. Rose endured great difficulty in living a life of heroic virtue. She atoned for the evils committed by conquering colonizers in their desire for wealth. She intimately understood that only through suffering and hardship can we come to truly appreciate the gift of God’s mercy and His plan for our lives. This passage from the Breviary is excerpted from a reflection by St. Rose describing a mystical insight in which Christ extols the value and necessity of suffering:

"Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: 'Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.' When I heard these words, a strong force came upon me and seemed to place me in the middle of a street, so that I might say in a loud voice to people of every age, sex and status: ‘Hear, O people; hear, O nations. I am warning you about the commandment of Christ by using words that came from his own lips: We cannot obtain grace unless we suffer afflictions. We must heap trouble upon trouble to attain a deep participation in the divine nature, the glory of the sons of God and perfect happiness of soul.'"

St. Rose of Lima died on August 25, 1617, at the age of 31. She is said to have predicted the date of her own death. Her funeral was attended by the public authorities of Lima and hundreds of its citizens. She was beatified in 1668 by Pope Clement IX and canonized by Pope Clement X in 1671. In the bull of canonization, Clement X declared: "Since the discovery of Peru no missionary has arisen who effected a similar popular zeal for the practice of penance." She is the patroness of the Americas. O God, You set Saint Rose of Lima on fire with your love, so that, secluded from the world in the austerity of a life of penance, she might give herself to you alone; grant, we pray, that through her intercession, we may tread the paths of life on earth and experience Beatitude with You in heaven.

Saint Monica Novena 2016 | Day 5

St. Monica

Saint Monica's son, Saint Augustine, rejected the Faith for many years. Monica had such a strong devotion to Christ that she persevered in hope that her son would one day return to God. Her faithfulness was rewarded. Today let us pray for those who have fallen away. May they return soon to the Church.

Day 5 - The St. Monica Novena

Dear Saint Monica, you were once the mournful mother of a prodigal son. Your faithfulness to prayer brought you and your son so close to God that you are now with him in eternity. By your intercession and God’s grace, your son St. Augustine became a great and venerable Saint of the Church. Please take my request to God with the same fervor and persistence with which you prayed for your son.

(Mention your intentions here)

With your needs, worries and anxieties, you threw yourself on the mercy and providence of God. Through sorrow and pain, you constantly devoted yourself to God. Pray for me that I might join you in such a deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.

Above all, dear Saint Monica, pray for me that I may, like your son, turn from my sin and become a great saint for the glory of God. Amen.

August 21, 2016

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

August 22, 2016

Having observed the Feast of the Assumption of Mary on August 15th, when Christ took Mary up into heaven, we now celebrate her Queenship over all creation. It is important to distinguish between the Ascension of our Lord who rises to his heavenly enthronement by the power of his own Divinity and the Assumption of Mary. Mary did not ascend under her own power. She is assumed into heaven by the power of her Son through the Holy Spirit. Moreover, our Lady’s Assumption is a means to the end of her coronation and Queenship.

Mary functions not only as the Mother of Christ, (Luke 1) but also as the mother of all of the children of God (Revelation 12:17). Exercising her maternal love, she intercedes unceasingly on behalf of those who keep the commandments of Christ. Pope Pius XII’s encyclical letter, Ad Caeli Reginam, establishing the Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary notes in part:

"Let all, therefore, try to approach with greater trust the throne of grace and mercy of our Queen and Mother, and beg for strength in adversity, light in darkness, consolation in sorrow; above all let them strive to free themselves from the slavery of sin and offer an unceasing homage, filled with filial loyalty, to their Queenly Mother. Let her churches be thronged by the faithful, her feast-days honored; may the beads of the Rosary be in the hands of all; may Christians gather, in small numbers and large, to sing her praises in churches, in homes, in hospitals, in prisons. May Mary’s name be held in highest reverence, a name sweeter than honey and more precious than jewels; may none utter blasphemous words, the sign of a defiled soul, against that name graced with such dignity and revered for its motherly goodness; let no one be so bold as to speak a syllable which lacks the respect due to her name."

In the economy of salvation, our Blessed Mother, through various apparitions to individuals on earth, has issued messages of grace, warning and repentance. In her glorified body now experiencing Beatitude, Mary prefigures our ultimate end, if we persevere in love. Whether in thanksgiving or in need, may our prayers of petition and hymns of praise to our most benevolent and exalted Mother be heard. O God, who made the Mother of your Son to be our Mother and our Queen, graciously grant that, sustained by her intercession, we will know in the heavenly Kingdom the glory promised to your children. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who reigns with You in unity with the Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Homily for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 28, 2016, Year C

Orthodox icon of the parable of the wedding banquet in the Gospel of Luke

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

“Well, Father,” I was asked, “what’s wrong with being proud of yourself? Aren’t we supposed to have some pride? Why are we supposed to be humble – what good does it do other than to allow others to take advantage of us?” That’s a good question, one that we should consider.

Balancing pride and humility is a problem for us all. My answer to the question about bring proud is: “It all depends.” It all depends upon what we’re being proud about. There are forms of pride that are good… and there are certainly forms of pride that are bad.

Let’s start with good pride.

We should have enough pride to render good quality to our workmanship. We should do things well and be properly proud of that quality of the product of our craftsmanship. We should be honorable, a quality lacking in today’s world. We should render an honest day’s labor for an honest day’s wage and be proud of it. We should care for our employees and workers and be proud that we care for them.

If we have musical or artistic talents we should openly share them with others and not have a false humility that causes us to withhold what we can create for others. Hiding our light under a bushel does not give honor and glory to God, to our heavenly Father who gave us our talents so that we might brighten and build up the lives of those around us.

So, to be honest, there are forms of pride that are healthy and beneficial not only to ourselves but to others as well.

Then there are forms of pride that are bad. They cut us off from others and isolate us. There is a kind of pride that comes from the delusion that tells us we’re totally self-sufficient. Satan tempted Adam and Eve by telling them that if they ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they would be like God, that they could decide for themselves what was good and what was evil. In other words they could make their own reality.

We are deluded if we think we can handle everything and that we don’t need anyone else’s help. We disguise it by saying, “my problems are my problems – they’re no one else’s business. I can take care of my own problems.”

For instance I’ve heard some people proclaim that they’re not alcoholic. For them an alcoholic is a drunken bum, living in filth in the gutter, drinking booze from a bottle wrapped in a paper bag. In their deluded pride alcoholics say, “Thank God I’m not one of them!”

The truth is that judges are alcoholics, doctors are alcoholics, airline pilots are alcoholics… and, yes, even some priests are alcoholics. For many years pride keeps them from admitting that fact. Pride prevents them from acquiring the necessary humility to let others help bring it under control. Furthermore, alcoholism is a disease, and like diabetes for instance, it’s with you until you die. But so is epilepsy, and so it is with any number of other diseases. They will always be with us and we have to have set aside our prideful claim that we only have a “problem” with our diseases and can control them and take care of them all by our selves.

Pride keeps people in a world of denial. They think that while they may perhaps have a problem it’s only a minor problem. The truth is that many others suffer from their problem. “I may drink too much once in a while”, alcoholics claim, “but it’s not hurting anyone.’ All the while their spouse and their children are suffering as the alcoholic rages on in the way he or she treats all who have to live with an alcoholic or work with that drinker.

Pride in anyone’s soul brings with it denial, rationalization, and living a lie. Pride brings us into the hell of living in isolation.

Then there are horrible problem marriages. Pride rears its ugly head again, and I hear it said: “Well, I don’t need any counseling help. Counselors don’t know what they’re talking about. I can take care of my own problems – I don’t need anyone else’s help.”

So in this parable of Jesus that you’ve just heard, Jesus isn’t merely talking about nice table manners. No. He’s talking about the way you and I live our lives. He’s talking about the way we treat our selves, others, and God.

Pride keeps folks away from going to confession. They just can’t bring themselves to admit to a priest the nature of their sins. Too proud and too arrogant they say themselves “I can confess to God without needing to go to a priest.” Such people are delusional – they end up striking their own bargains with God, setting their own terms for His forgiveness, deciding for themselves that they can take care of sin their own way. No help needed from you, Father.

If that’s so, then why did Jesus say to His first priests, the apostles, “Whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” When Jesus rose from the dead His first words to His apostles were “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” Are these words of Jesus not to be taken seriously? Was He wasting His time in speaking to us about our prideful denials – or did He have something to say to us that He wanted us to take seriously?

Going to confession requires humility. Pride has to be put down. Prideful refusal to confess our sins blocks God’s graces from entering into us through the Sacrament of Penance.

And pride affects our relationships with those around us. Living prideful and self-centered life brings me into a hell on earth in which my ego pushes God aside and causes me to dominate, manipulate, rule and control others. Pride, we must always remember, was Lucifer’s downfall.

Pride is the root cause of all sin. Perhaps that’s why Jesus spent so much time pointing it out to us and calling us to humbly deal with it under God’s power, under God’s terms. Furthermore,  Jesus didn’t just talk about it…He lived life humbly and died in humiliation that we might receive the power that humility gives us in order that our own lives and the lives of those around us can be a whole lot better, better because God is in charge and our egos are not.

Saint Monica Novena 2016 | Day 4

St. Monica

Saint Monica is the patron saint of alcoholics. She understood from her own life experience that addiction begins with a single temptation. All temptations come from the Devil who is the father of lies and a cruel deceiver of men. Addition is the pursuit of a false idol, promising happiness. Its tragic consequences are despair, hopelessness and enslavement. Today, let us pray for those struggling with addiction, as well as for their loved ones.

Day 4 - The St. Monica Novena

Dear Saint Monica, you were once the mournful mother of a prodigal son. Your faithfulness to prayer brought you and your son so close to God that you are now with him in eternity. By your intercession and God’s grace, your son St. Augustine became a great and venerable Saint of the Church. Please take my request to God with the same fervor and persistence with which you prayed for your son.

(Mention your intentions here)

With your needs, worries and anxieties, you threw yourself on the mercy and providence of God. Through sorrow and pain, you constantly devoted yourself to God. Pray for me that I might join you in such a deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.

Above all, dear Saint Monica, pray for me that I may, like your son, turn from my sin and become a great saint for the glory of God. Amen.

Fr. Butler's Homily for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 21, 2016, Year C

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


Often enough in families people can feel they are taken for granted. They do so much, and others don’t seem to notice, or even care, much less help.

The same sort of thing happens sometimes in parishes. When volunteers are needed, people think, “so-and-so will do it.” Always the same persons are expected to respond.

Then comes a time when so-and-so can’t do it any more—or won’t—and either of two things happens. The activity in question simply dies, or someone else responds to the need, only to become the new “so-and-so” that gets tapped for everything.

No one likes being taken for granted.  It’s clear from today’s Gospel that Jesus doesn’t either. To avoid taking him for granted, there are two very important things all Christians need to do.

First, really believe in Jesus. This is not simply admiration for his goodness, or a general acceptance of his teaching. That might seem to some to be “good enough” but it is not. Rather, it believing in Jesus calls for a deep, strong, personal relationship with him, a solid reliance on him, what our Evangelical brethren refer to as “claiming the Lord Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.”

Second, really follow Jesus. This is not some vague membership, like a fan club, in which paying of dues, for example, might be good enough. Today’s reading from Hebrews speaks five times about discipline. The author exhorts his readers not to get discouraged, not to give up. These times of testing will bring “the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” We might say, paraphrasing slightly the first reading, that this constitutes a kind of cleansing, enabling us to “bring our offering to the house of the Lord in clean vessels.”

We cannot, may not, must not take Jesus for granted.

A friend of mine recently met a former acquaintance, and addressed her by name. The name was right, but the other woman didn’t remember her at all. The encounter was  confusing and mildly embarrassing, but ultimately of no importance. It just goes to show that we can’t simply take for granted that people remember us.

The Gospel scene, on the other hand, is of vital importance. None of us wants to come before the Lord only to hear him say, “Who are you that I should remember you?”

August 20, 2016

St. John XXIII's Advice on Living as a Disciple of Christ

St. John XXIII
We are not on earth as museum-keepers, but to cultivate a flourishing garden of life and to prepare for a glorious future. 
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Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.
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If all men are in the likeness of God, why should I not love them all, why should I despise them? Should I not rather revere them? This is the reflection which must hold me back from in any way offending against my brothers, for I must remember that they are all made in the image of God and that perhaps their souls are more beautiful and dearer to God than my own.
— Pope St. John XXIII

August 19, 2016

Saint Monica Novena 2016 | Day 3

St. Monica

Saint Monica endured a difficult and troubled marriage for many years. Through her suffering and prayer she eventually converted her husband. Today let us pray for troubled marriages and for spouses who have no faith or have fallen away from the faith.

Day 3 - The St. Monica Novena

Dear Saint Monica, you were once the mournful mother of a prodigal son. Your faithfulness to prayer brought you and your son so close to God that you are now with him in eternity. By your intercession and God’s grace, your son St. Augustine became a great and venerable Saint of the Church. Please take my request to God with the same fervor and persistence with which you prayed for your son.

(Mention your intentions here)

With your needs, worries and anxieties, you threw yourself on the mercy and providence of God. Through sorrow and pain, you constantly devoted yourself to God. Pray for me that I might join you in such a deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.

Above all, dear Saint Monica, pray for me that I may, like your son, turn from my sin and become a great saint for the glory of God. Amen.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux on the Mother of God

The Vision of St Bernard
The Vision of St Bernard, Pietro Perugino, 1493.
In danger, in distress, in uncertainty, think of Mary, call upon Mary. She never leaves your lips, she never departs from your heart; and so that you may obtain the help of her prayers, never forget the example of her life. If you follow her, you cannot falter; if you pray to her, you cannot despair; if you think of her, you cannot err. If she sustains you, you will not stumble; if she protects you, you have nothing to fear; if she guides you, you will never flag; if she is favourable to you, you will attain your goal... (Hom. II super Missus est, 17: PL 183, 70-71).
— St. Bernard of Clairvaux from his homily on the Incarnation of Christ.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Abbot, Reformer and Doctor of the Church

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

August 20th, is the Memorial of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, (1090-1153) the 12th century French abbot, gifted spiritual writer, counselor to popes, and Doctor of the Church who reformed the Cistercian Order. His extensive Marian theology marks him not only as a theologian of the highest rank, but also as the "cithara of Mary," (A cithara is a stringed instrument similar to a lyre.) He is especially noted for his development of the Blessed Mother's role as mediator. Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Doctor Mellifluus, issued on the 800th anniversary of St. Bernard’s death, called him "The Last of the Fathers." The Divine Office contains numerous excerpts from his sermons. Like his other works, these are conspicuous for their genuine emotion and spiritual depth.

He was born the third of seven children, to a prominent noble family, the son of Lord Tescelin de Fontaine and Alèthe de Montbard near Dijon, France. From an early age, his intellectual gifts, literary propensity and personal piety were evident. His schooling entailed literature, rhetoric and philosophy in addition to theology and Sacred Scripture. At the age of 22, while at prayer in church, Bernard felt the calling of God to enter the Cistercian Order. Bernard’s testimony of faith was so compelling, thirty of his friends, brothers and relatives followed him into monastic life. (His widowed father would join him a short time later.)

Upon entering the Abbey of Citeaux in 1112, Bernard soon distinguished himself. His superior, Saint Stephen Harding, seeing the great progress Bernard had made in the spiritual life, sent him and twelve monks to found a new monastery that became known as the Abbey of Clairvaux. In time it would become a model for monastic reform throughout Europe. There, serving as Abbot, Bernard began an active ministry that made him one of the most influential figures in the Church.

In 1128, he participated in the Council of Troyes, convoked by Pope Honorius II to resolve disputes within the episcopacy of Paris. The bishops made Bernard secretary, charging him with formulating the council’s synodal statutes. Two years later, he was asked to end the papal schism between antipope Anacletus II and Pope Innocent II. Following eight years of arduous travel and skillful mediation by Bernard, the matter was resolved in favor of Innocent II

St. Bernard founded hundreds of monasteries, composed a prodigious number of works and undertook many journeys for the honor of God. Several Bishoprics were offered him, but he declined them. The reputation of St. Bernard was such that even Popes solicited his advice. He was commissioned by Pope Eugene III to advance the Second Crusade. In obedience Bernard traveled through France and Germany, recruiting the faithful and generating great enthusiasm for the effort. This Second Crusade was a miserable failure. In reply the future saint declared that he had trusted God to bless a crusade undertaken for the honor of His Name, but that the army's sins had brought catastrophe; yet who could judge of its true success or failure?

Although he suffered from constant physical debility and oversaw a monastery with several hundred monks, he still found time to compose countless and varied spiritual works that speak to us today. This excerpt from the Office of Readings is a sermon of St. Bernard’s reflecting upon the nature of Divine love.

"Love is sufficient of itself, it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in its practice. I love because I love, I love that I may love. Love is a great thing so long as it continually returns to its fountainhead, flows back to its source, always drawing from there the water which constantly replenishes it. Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be. For when God loves, all he desires is to be loved in return; the sole purpose of his love is to be loved, in the knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him."

A great number of miracles are attributed to the saint. Popular piety attests that the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernard and that Jesus came down from the Cross to embrace him. He died at Clairvaux on August 20, 1153. He was canonized 21 years after his death by Pope Alexander III. Pope Pius VII declared him a Doctor of the Church in 1830. O God, who made the Abbot Saint Bernard a man consumed with zeal for your house and a light shining and burning in your Church, grant, through his intercession, that we too may be on fire with the same spirit and walk always as children of light.

Saint Monica Novena 2016 | Day 2

St. Monica

Saint Monica is the patron saint of mothers & wives. The vocation of motherhood (and fatherhood) is extremely important for our society and in the eyes of God. St. Monica prayed diligently for her children for years on end. May she intercede especially for the children and grandchildren in our lives. Today, let us pray for all mothers and fathers to be good and holy examples for their children.

Day 2 - The St. Monica Novena

Dear Saint Monica, you were once the mournful mother of a prodigal son. Your faithfulness to prayer brought you and your son so close to God that you are now with him in eternity. By your intercession and God’s grace, your son St. Augustine became a great and venerable Saint of the Church. Please take my request to God with the same fervor and persistence with which you prayed for your son.

(Mention your intentions here)

With your needs, worries and anxieties, you threw yourself on the mercy and providence of God. Through sorrow and pain, you constantly devoted yourself to God. Pray for me that I might join you in such a deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.

Above all, dear Saint Monica, pray for me that I may, like your son, turn from my sin and become a great saint for the glory of God. Amen.