November 30, 2016

Last Words of Jesuit Martyr St. Edmund Campion

St. Edmund Campion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Well Do You Know the Nativity Story?

The Birth of Christ

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

Q1. Which archangel announced Jesus’ birth to Mary?

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Augustus
2. Tiberius
4. Nero

Q5. Why was Jesus born in a manger?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immaculate Conception Novena 2016 | Day 2

Mary, conceived without sin.

November 30, 2016

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

Day 2 - Immaculate Conception Novena 

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

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

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

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

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

(Mention your intentions)

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

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

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

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

November 29, 2016

Saint Andrew's Profession of Faith at His Crucifixion

The crucifixion of St. Andrew

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

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

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

Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle

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

Feast of Saint Andrew, November 30, 2016

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

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

Come after me. .... ” (Mt 4:19)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions for private reflection …

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

2. Sin, pride, ambition, and greed must be eradicated to be united with Christ. How does this affect you? Which of these areas affect you the most? Are you ready to give them up?
________________________________________

Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois, "Living the Word: Feast of St. Andrew, November 30, 2013", Vermont Catholic (November 2013). Reprinted with permission from the author.

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

Immaculate Conception Novena 2016 | Day 1

Mary, conceived without sin.

November 29, 2016

Today we pray for all those who suffer material poverty and go unnoticed and uncared for, that God will provide for them through us. Also, may we not take anything, or anyone, for granted in our lives.

Day 1 - Immaculate Conception Novena 

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

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

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

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

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

(Mention your intentions)

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

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

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

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

November 28, 2016

Pope Benedict on the Mystery of the Incarnation as a Wonderful Exchange Between Divinity and Humanity

The Nativity of Christ

"The phrase admirabile commercium, current in the theology and spirituality of the Nativity, is used to describe this ‘admirable exchange between the divine and the human... The first act of that exchange comes about in Christ’s own humanity. The Word assumed our humanity and, in exchange, human nature was raised to divine dignity. The second act of the exchange consists in our real and intimate involvement in the divine nature of the Word... Thus Christmas is the feast in which God comes so close to man as to share the very act of being born, showing men and women their most profound dignity: that of being children of God. Humanity’s dream which began in the Garden of Eden – we want to be like God – is realized in an unexpected way, not through the greatness of man, who cannot make himself God, but through the humility of God Who came down among us in His humility, raising us to the true greatness of His being.'"

— Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, January 4, 2012

Advent's Saints Remind Us of Christ's Incarnation and His Second Coming in Glory

Below are eight saints whose commemorations occur during the liturgical season of Advent — the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, St. Francis Xavier, St. John Damascene, St. Nicholas, St. Ambrose, St. Juan Diego, St. Lucy and St. John of the Cross. During this time of expectation, we remember their heroic witness.

The Blessed Virgin

THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

We call the Blessed Virgin the "Theotokos," ["Mother of God" or "God-bearer"] to reaffirm the central truth of what occurred in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Our Lady's Fiat, her "Yes" to God exhibits her total trust and devotion to the Father's Will. We must live our lives for God by emulating Mary's example. Two Marian feasts occur during this season of Advent: the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception [Dec. 8] and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe [Dec. 12]. From Mary we learn: love, humility, justice, openness to God's grace, trust in divine Providence, and the willingness to act.


ST. FRANCIS XAVIER (DEC. 3) 

St. Francis Xavier [1506-1552] tirelessly evangelized the Far East. He converted more people during his life than anyone since the Apostle Paul — personally baptizing some 50,000 Catholics in ten years [including the entire city of Goa, India]. St. Francis spread the faith in India, China, Japan and the Philippines. He was instrumental in founding the Jesuit Order and was a close friend of St. Ignatius of Loyola. He is the patron saint of missionaries, and the dioceses of; Green Bay, Wisconsin, Joiliet, Illinois and the archdiocese of Indianapolis, as well as, Borneo, China, the East Indies, Goa, India, Navarre, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. The effects of St. Francis's evangelization has lasted for centuries. Ask for St. Francis Xavier's intercession if you desire your time spent during Advent to bear fruit long afterward.

ST. JOHN DAMASCENE

ST. JOHN DAMASCENE (DEC. 4)
The one who seeks God continually will find him, for God is in everything.
— St. John Damascene 

In the early 8th century AD, iconoclasm, a movement opposed to the veneration of icons, gained acceptance in the Byzantine court. In 726, despite the protests of St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, Emperor Leo III issued his first edict against the veneration of images and their exhibition in public places.

St. John Damascene [676-749] undertook a spirited defense of holy images. His "Apologetic Treatises against those Decrying the Holy Images", supported religious art. He not only disputed the Byzantine emperor, but adopted a simplified style that allowed the controversy to be followed by the common people. Decades after his death, St. John's writings would play an important role during the Second Council of Nicaea [787] which considered and ultimately settled the dispute over the veneration of icons [the council sanctioned the veneration of religious images].

ST. NICHOLAS

ST. NICHOLAS (DEC. 6)
The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic Gods giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.
— St. Nicholas of Myra

St. Nicholas, also called Nikolaos of Myra, [270-343] was a 4th-century Greek Bishop of Myra, in Asia Minor [present day Turkey]. The great veneration with which St. Nicholas has been honored for many ages and the number of altars and churches that are dedicated in his memory testify to his holiness. Nicholas was chosen bishop and achieved notoriety by his extraordinary piety, zeal for the Gospel and for his many miracles. He suffered imprisonment in the persecution waged under Dioletian. He was present at the Council of Nicaea where he condemned Arianism. St. Nicholas died in Myra, and was buried in his cathedral.

ST. AMBROSE

ST. AMBROSE (DEC. 7)

St. Ambrose of Milan [340-397] spent much of his life listening. He listened to St. Monica as she wept about her sinful son – the future St. Augustine. In 374 the bishop of Milan, Auxentius, an Arian, died, and the Arians challenged the succession. Ambrose went to the church where the election was to take place, to prevent an uproar, which was probable in this crisis. His address was interrupted by a call "Ambrose, bishop!", which was taken up by the whole assembly.

Ambrose ranks with Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great, as one of the Latin Doctors of the Church. Theologians compare him with Hilary, who they claim fell short of Ambrose's administrative excellence but demonstrated greater theological ability. St. Ambrose succeeded as a theologian despite his judicial training and his comparatively late handling of Biblical and doctrinal subjects.

ST. JUAN DIEGO

ST. JUAN DIEGO (DEC. 9)

Little is known of St. Juan Diego, the Indian convert, seer and the Apostle of our Lady of Guadalupe. He was born in 1474, and named "Cuauhtlatoatzin" ("the talking eagle") in Cuautlitlán, present day Mexico City. On December 9, 1531, the Blessed Mother appeared to him. Our Lady asked him to go to the Bishop and request that a shrine be constructed where she promised to pour grace upon those who invoked her. Three days later, after the bishop asked Diego for a "sign", our Lady instructed him to pick the flowers that he would find in bloom. Although the dead of winter, he found roses blooming and took them to our Lady who carefully placed them in his mantle to present to the Bishop as "proof". When Diego opened his mantle before the Bishop, the flowers fell to the ground, revealing the image of our Lady of Guadalupe.

ST. LUCY

ST. LUCY (DEC. 13) 

Lucia of Syracuse, also known as St. Lucy, or St. Lucia, [283-304] was a Christian martyr who died during the Diocletianic Persecution. St. Lucy chose to be a Christian at a time when Christianity was illegal. She gave up her riches and devote her life to the poor After resisting the advances of a Roman soldier, St. Lucy was denounced as a Christian and brutally executed. She is one of eight women, who along with the Blessed Virgin Mary, are commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.

Lucy's Latin name Lucia shares a root [luc-] with the Latin word for light, lux. Hence St. Lucy is the patron saint of the blind and those with eye-trouble. [Popular piety depicts Lucia as tortured by eye-gouging prior to her martyrdom.]

ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS

ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS (DEC. 14)

St. John of the Cross, [1542-1591] priest, mystic and founder of the Discalced Carmelites, figured prominently in the Counter-Reformation. He is known also for his writings. St. John's poetry and his studies on the growth of the soul are considered the height of mystical literature. His Spiritual Canticle and the Dark Night of the Soul are seminal masterpieces of Spanish poetry. In contrast to his lofty verse, St. John took for himself the most menial of jobs. Before entering religious life he worked in a hospital for people afflicted with leprosy. Even when holding high administrative posts he assumed the lowliest tasks. His life reminds us that no matter how soaring or profound our spirituality, Christians are called to humility and selfless service in the imitation of Christ.

Immaculate Conception Novena Starts November 29th

The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God

The solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is an important day to reflect on Mary’s life and selfless devotion. It is essential for us to strive to imitate the Blessed Virgin as the ideal example of Christian discipleship. This novena is an opportunity to petition Mary for the grace to emulate her deep love for God.

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

Invocation to be Said Every Day of the Novena:

Thou art all fair, O Mary,
The Original Stain is not in thee.
Thou art the glory of Jerusalem,
Thou, the joy of Israel,
Thou, the great honor of our people
Thou, the advocate of sinners.
O Mary, 
O Mary, 
Virgin most prudent,
Mother most merciful,
Pray for us, 
Intercede for us with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Almighty Father, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, did prepare a worthy dwelling place for Your Son, we beseech You that, as by the foreseen death of this, Your Son, You did preserve Her from all stain, so too You would permit us, purified through Her intercession, to come unto You. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

Click to sign up for daily reminders to pray the Immaculate Conception Novena.

November 27, 2016

A Primer on the Incarnation

Madonna and Child

Fr. Philip N. Powell OP, PhD

The Nativity of Christ, or Christmas ("Christ Mass"), celebrates one of the most important events of the Church:  the incarnation of the Son of God.  Like the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, etc., the Incarnation is one of those rock-bottom Christian beliefs that most Christians assent to but probably don't really understand.  Though Catholics all over the world affirm their belief in the incarnation every Sunday by reciting the Creed, how many could explain this tenet of the faith in the simplest terms?

Let's start with a story...

The archangel Gabriel appears to Mary and announces to her that God has chosen her to be the mother of the Christ Child, His Son.  Mary says, "Your will be done" and the Holy Spirit descends on Mary, giving her the child.  Nine months later the Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Simple enough story, right?  If we left the incarnation there, we would still have the basic truth of Christ's arrival into the world.  Things get a little more complicated when we start to think about what it means for the Son of God (who is God) to take on human flesh and live among us.  How does the God of the Old and New Testament become incarnated yet remain sovereign God?  We are immediately confronted by what theologians call "the Christological question": how is the man Jesus also God?

Before this question was settled by the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., a number of answers were offered and rejected:

Jesus is really a man who possesses God-like qualities.
Jesus is really God in the appearance of a man.
Jesus is half-God and half-man.
Jesus' soul is divine but his body is human.
Jesus' body is human but his mind is divine.

Complicating matters even more was the lack of an adequate theological vocabulary with which to think about and write about the incarnation.  Early Christian theologians turned to the available philosophical vocabularies for help. The most prominent philosophical system in the first few centuries of the Church was a developed form of Platonism.  Borrowing heavily from the Platonists, the Church Fathers crafted a creedal statement that said:  The Father and the Son are the same in substance ("consubstantial"), meaning that they are the same God.:  "God from God, light from light, true God from true God." The Son was not created in time like man but rather begotten from all eternity.  He "became incarnate" through the Virgin Mary--fully human in all but sin.

This creedal statement defined the orthodox position of the Catholic Church. However, interpretations of the creed abounded and additional councils had to sort through them all in order to discover the orthodox expression of the true faith.  In the end, the Nicene Creed was taken to mean that Jesus was fully human and fully divine:  one divine person (one body/soul) with two natures (human and divine).  "Person," "essence," "being," "nature" are all terms borrowed from Greek philosophy.  So, as the West discovered new ways of thinking philosophically, these terms took on different meanings and our interpretations of theological expressions of the truth developed as well.  The basic truth of the incarnation does not change; however, how we understand that truth does change.

For example,  the Greek word we translate as "person" is prosopon, or mask. This term was used in the Greek theater to denote the different characters played by one actor.  A single actor would hold a mask in each hand and shift the masks in front of his face to say his lines, indicating that the lines were being said by different characters.  Applying this term to God, the Blessed Trinity, we arrive at a single actor (God) using three masks (Father, Son, Holy Spirit).  Same actor, different characters. Ultimately, this metaphor is woefully inadequate for expressing the deepest truth of the Trinity.  Yet, we still say that the Trinity is three divine persons, one God.  "Person" as a philosophical term used to describe a theological truth had to be developed.

Eventually, we came to understand several vital distinctions:  The Church uses the term "substance" (rendered also at times by "essence" or "nature") to designate the divine being in its unity, the term "person" or "hypostasis" to designate the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the real distinction among them, and the term "relation" to designate the fact that their distinction lies in the relationship of each to the others (CCC 252).

So, God is one substance; three divine persons; distinguished  from one another not by their natures or persons but by their relations one to another.  The incarnation then is the second divine Person of the one God becoming a divine person with two substances or natures.

You are one person with one nature:  "I am human."
God is three divine persons with one nature: "I am divine."
Christ is one divine person with two natures:  "I am human and divine."

Aquinas, quoting Irenaeus, writes, "God became man so that man might become God."  The incarnation of the Son makes it possible for us to become God (theosis).  This is how Catholics understand salvation.
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See Fr. Powell's website Domine mihi hanc aquam! for more.

Homily for the 1st Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2016, Year A

The Last Judgment

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

In today’s first reading we hear the prophet Isaiah calling us to climb to the top of the mountain and look for the Lord’s advent, the Lord’s coming into our lives. At the end of today’s first reading when we hear Isaiah cry out, “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” We need to understand that Isaiah isn’t simply talking about nature’s daylight nighttime’s darkness, he is talking about what we see with our minds and hearts. He’s calling us to rise above our daily worries, concerns and anxieties in order to take a look over the whole of our lives with all of their peaks and valleys. As Christians we do that in the vision of Christ, the Light of the World, God’s gift to us.

The problem you and I face comes not from the fact that we are unconcerned or apathetic or lazy. The problem you and I have is that we’re far too concerned about so many other things. Often these are legitimate concerns, worries that are thrust upon us by the world in which we live. We are so caught up in all of the events of our days that we do not pay attention to our souls, our inner spirits, and our inner selves. This spiritual blindness is spoken of in biblical language as darkness. And what do we do in darkness? Usually we sleep. We sleep because we shut down, tune out, and turn off.

When we, through accident, through chance, or in some other unexpected event, become aware of God’s activity in our lives, we suddenly pay attention — we wake up. And in that moment of waking up we likely think that God’s coming to us is sudden, unexpected, startling. God has, however, always been there. He is actively present to us all of the time, each and every day. It’s our awareness of Him that has changed. God hasn’t changed in the slightest way. He is constant; He is always present. It is we who are inconstant, changeable and inattentive.

We often speak of Advent as being a season of time in which we prepare for the Lord’s coming into our lives. Perhaps we should see it as a season of heightened awareness, for the truth is that we should be looking for God already at work in our lives every day. God is always offering Himself to us. We, however, are not always responding because we’re not paying attention. Advent is a time to conscientiously, deliberately, and with awareness respond to His offer of Himself to us. We have to “see the Light,” so to speak.

It’s all a matter of seeing eternity in every season of our lives. It’s all a matter of paying attention to God’s presence to us in our lives as children, as teens, as young adults, in our middle age, and in the final seasons of our lives when we mirror the time when the leaves fall from their branches and the world goes to sleep under a blanket of snow. In each of those seasons of our lives God’s ever-present and everlasting love can break in upon us. We all, each one of us, feel it to be unexpected. But what is so unexpected about it? Why should we be surprised? God is always calling us to climb to the top of the mountain, look for His coming, and take a look over the broad range of our lives.

Our lives are cluttered with too many things demanding our attention, draining us of our energies, and blinding us to the big picture. Money only goes so far. Technology can only do so much. Medicines have a short shelf life. All of our human resources are limited. Only God has what we need. He has all that we need in an inexhaustible supply.

Can we look ahead? Yes, we can… if we take the time and make the space to do so. Can we trace the writing of God’s finger as He sends us His messages? We can. Can we seize the opportunity to make time during Advent to come to some daily Advent Masses? Attend Communal Penance Services? Read from the bible? Spend extra time in thoughtful reflection and quiet prayer? We can. But that is not the issue. The big question is not what we can do – it’s what we will do. It’s our will that is controlling, not our wishes.

We live in the time after the arrival of the year 2,000 A.D. Do you remember our worries when the year 2000A.D. arrived and we were told that our computers were not programmed for those digits and might shut themselves down and everything with them? We also live in the time after September 11th. We live in an age of terrorism. We live in an economic mess. We live with a lot of emotional anxieties. We would do well to ask ourselves the question: “Where is God in all of this?” and then seriously, during this Advent, pursue answers to that question. For questions are not denials, they are quests. And God always wants to be sought. All lovers do.

As your teachers taught you in school, the Greek philosopher Plato (who lived four hundred years before Christ) declared, “The life which is unexamined is not worth living.” Every Advent, and indeed every time we come here to Mass, Holy Mother Church bids us to examine our lives. As your priest I have always had that purpose in mind every time I’ve stood here preaching homilies over the past forty years.

Once again we enter into and begin our journey through Advent, hopefully looking for the coming of the Lord into our lives. And so I repeat to you the words of St. Paul, words you just heard in his letter to the Romans, remembering that the Romans back in those days lived in a culture not altogether different from the one in which we presently live:

Brothers and sisters: You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; Let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day… Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh.”

In the words of Jesus you just heard in today’s gospel account:

So, too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for December 2016

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

Universal: End to Child-Soldiers

That the scandal of child-soldiers may be eliminated the world over.

Evangelization: Europe

That the peoples of Europe may rediscover the beauty, goodness, and truth of the Gospel which gives joy and hope to life.

November 26, 2016

Online Advent Retreat

Madonna and Christ Child

We received the following from praymorenovenas.com about their online Advent retreat. A modest donation is requested to offset the cost of their ministry. If you are financially unable — or wish to delay doing so, you are welcome to participate for free. For additional information and to register, see the links below. 
______________________________________________ 

The Pray More Advent Retreat will be available on Monday!

The Pray More Retreat is an online retreat to help you spend more time in prayer this Advent to prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

If you sign up for the retreat, you will receive:

+ 20 Video & Audio Presentations with Transcripts, and

+ 20 Reflective Study Guides - one for each talk

We know how busy you are.

That's why the retreat is self-paced; that means you can watch, listen or read the presentations whenever you have the time to do it.

We hope the Pray More Retreat will help you intentionally work on your prayer life this Advent — wherever you are, and whenever you have the time. 

The talks are focused on prayer, the Advent & Christmas seasons, and lessons we can learn from some of the most popular saints. 

Here are some of the topics:

+ Discovering the Joy in Advent
+ Six Ways to Keep Your Advent Season Holy
+ The Lifelong Journey of Holiness
+ St. John Paul II and the Holy Eucharist
+ How St. Therese of Lisieux Teaches us to Live Simply with Great Love
+ What the "Our Father" Teaches Us About Prayer
+ St. Ignatius of Loyola's Process of Reflecting on the Gospels
+ Living as a Redeemed People in a Broken World
+ Isaiah, the Prophet of Christmas
+ "Was it Not Necessary?" (Jesus's Suffering, and Ours)
+ Turning to Mary During Advent

St. John Paul II said that the Liturgy of Advent helps us to understand fully the value and meaning of the mystery of Christmas. He said, "Advent is, so to speak, an intense training that directs us decisively toward him who already came, who will come, and who comes continuously." 

We hope the retreat will help you to slow down during this Advent season and truly prepare to celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas. 

You can register for the retreat here:

http://praymoreretreat.com/

All of the materials will be released on Monday, November 28th.

God bless you!

John-Paul & Annie - PrayMoreNovenas.com

P.S. If you already registered for the retreat, don't forget to invite your friends & family to join you!

November 25, 2016

Putting Pope Francis in Perspective

Jesus giving the keys to the kingdom to Peter.

The Crushed Bones has a thoughtful article "To Conscience First", that is well worth your time. With all the concern over Pope Francis' propensity to "make a mess" (see here and here), it should be remembered that no pontiff can unilaterally overturn Church doctrine. Some timely insights from the post:

"It is frighteningly easy for priests, bishops, cardinals and Popes to misuse their authority in many and varied ways, but in particular regard to the Papacy, cause for anxiety is very well-founded because the Pope oversees not simply a parish or a Diocese, but is Supreme Pontiff for the whole Universal Church. If the Shepherd goes astray, the multitude of sheep who follow him will likely go astray too. ...
'Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam.'
'You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.'
One cannot help but feel that the omission of the clause 'et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam' is all too much of a coincidence at this time of great crisis and confusion, for the second clause of the sentence really fleshes out who Peter is and who his Successors are, because Peter does not exist in isolation or in some sort of power vacuum, but instead in intimate Communion with the One Who delivered this mandate to the Prince of the Apostles. ... If he breaks his Communion with Christ in a public manner, or signifies that he is doing so, he shatters the unity of the Church founded on the Rock of Peter. That is why we are in such a fragile, delicate and potentially disastrous time. Read the article in full.

We should remember Christ's Mandate

Jesus Christ commanded his Church to teach and preserve all that he taught (Matthew. 28:19–20). He promised the protection of the Holy Spirit to "guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13). That command and that promise assure that the Church will never fall away from his teachings, (Matthew. 16:18, 1 Timothy. 3:1) despite individual Catholics who are unfaithful. Let us pray that we may be one.

Optional Memorial of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr

St. Catherine of Alexandria

From the tenth century onwards veneration for St. Catherine of Alexandria has been widespread in the Church of the East, and from the time of the Crusades this saint has been popular in the West, where many churches have been dedicated to her and her feast day kept with great solemnity, sometimes as a holy-day of obligation. She is listed as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers of mankind among the saints in Heaven; she is the patroness of young women, philosophers, preachers, theologians, wheelwrights, millers, and other workingmen. She was said to have appeared with Our Lady to St. Dominic and to Blessed Reginald of Orleans; the Dominicans adopted her as their special protectress. Hers was one of the heavenly voices heard by St. Joan of Arc.

Artists have painted her with her chief emblem, the wheel, on which by tradition she was tortured; other emblems are a lamb and a sword. Her name continues to be cherished today by the young unmarried women of Paris. She is the patron saint of apologists, attorneys, dying people, educators, girls, librarians, nurses, philosophers, scholars, students, teachers and theologians, among others.

Yet in spite of this veneration, we have few facts that can be relied on concerning Catherine's life. Eusebius, the "father of Church history," writing around the year 320, had heard of a noble young Christian woman of Alexandria whom the Emperor ordered to come to his palace, presumably to become his mistress, and who, on refusing, was punished by banishment and the confiscation of her estates. The story of St. Catherine may have sprung from some brief record such as this, which Christians writing at a later date expanded. The last persecutions of Christians, though short, were severe, and those living in the peace which followed seem to have had a tendency to embellish the traditions of their martyrs that they might not be forgotten. Their pious witness brought many to the Faith.

According to the popular tradition, Catherine was born of a patrician family of Alexandria and from childhood had devoted herself to study. Through her reading she had learned much of Christianity and had been converted by a vision of Our Lady and the Holy Child. When Maxentius began his persecution, Catherine, then a beautiful young girl, went to him and rebuked him boldly for his cruelty. He could not answer her arguments against his pagan gods, and summoned fifty philosophers to confute her. They all confessed themselves won over by her reasoning, and were thereupon burned to death by the enraged Emperor. He then tried to seduce Catherine with an offer of a consort's crown, and when she indignantly refused him, he had her beaten and imprisoned. The Emperor went off to inspect his military forces, and when he got back he discovered that his wife Faustina and a high official, one Porphyrius, had been visiting Catherine and had been converted, along with the soldiers of the guard. They too were put to death, and Catherine was sentenced to be killed on a spiked wheel.

When she was fastened to the wheel, her bonds were miraculously loosed and the wheel itself broke, its spikes flying off and killing some of the onlookers. She was then beheaded. The modern Catherine-wheel, from which sparks fly off in all directions, took its name from the saint's wheel of martyrdom. The text of the acts of this illustrious saint states that her body was carried by angels to Mount Sinai, where a church and monastery were afterwards built in her honor. This legend was, however, unknown to the earliest pilgrims to the mountain. In 527 the Emperor Justinian built a fortified monastery for hermits in that region, and two or three centuries later the story of St. Catherine and the angels began to be circulated. St. Catherine's remains are in Saint Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai. Almighty God, who gave St. Catherine of Alexandria to your people as a Virgin and an invincible Martyr, grant that through her intercession we may be strengthened and devote ourselves without reserve to the unity of your Church.
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Adapted from Lives of Saints, Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.

November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Day Blessing | 2016


Thanksgiving Day Table Blessing

By Rev. Msgr. Bernard W. Bourgeois

God our Father, on this Thanksgiving Day, we as family and friends pause from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives to give thanks to you for the blessings you have bestowed upon us.

We thank you for the gifts of life, family, friendship and love. We thank you for the opportunities of life in which we find fulfillment, purpose and peace. Most of all, we thank you for the people sitting around this Thanksgiving table. We remember those loved ones unable to be with us here today, most especially those who are now seated at the banquet of eternal life with you.

On this Thanksgiving Day, we pledge our love and support for one another, and dedicate ourselves to serve our neighbors in need. We ask you to bless this food, those who prepared it, and keep us ever mindful of those who are without love or food today. All of this we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.

November 23, 2016

St. Columban's Advice for Living in Imitation of Christ

Saint Columban
If man applies the virtues planted in his soul to the right purpose, he will be like God. The image we depict must not be that of one who is unlike God; for one who is harsh and irascible and proud would display the image of a despot. Let us not imprint on ourselves the image of a despot, but let Christ paint his image in us.
— St. Columban

November 22, 2016

Optional Memorial of Blessed Miguel Pro, Martyr

Blessed Father Pro praying for his executioners before his martyrdom.

José Ramón Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez, also known as Blessed Miguel Pro, the eldest son of Miguel Pro and Josefa Juarez, was born in Guadalupe, Mexico, on January 12, 1891, into a wealthy family. His father was a mining executive in the state of Zacatecas. As a young boy, he was distinguished for his great sense of humor and personal piety. He wrote comics, played the guitar and was especially attuned to the poor. These qualities would help him immensely throughout his priestly ministry. Miguel was particularly close to his older sister, who joined a cloistered convent. This prompted him to discern his own calling to religious life.

He entered the Jesuit novitiate in El Llano, Michoacan at the age of 20, during the Mexican Revolution. Due to growing anti-Catholic sentiment, he fled to Belgium where, in 1925, he was ordained a priest. Father Pro suffered repeated bouts of acute stomach irritation and when, after several operations his health did not improve, in 1926, his superiors allowed him to return to Mexico in spite of the religious persecution there. He went back to his native homeland, knowing that the Church was being singled out and that he would be in mortal danger as the government continued its systematic campaign to abolish Catholicism.

Amid great difficulties Father Pro exercised his priesthood, wearing disguises in order to bring communion to the faithful and to avoid the police. He was known for celebrating Mass at places he had secretly set up. He would also show up in the middle of the night – dressed as a beggar or a street sweeper – to baptize infants, hear confessions, distribute Communion, or perform marriages. Several times, disguised as a policeman, he would slip unnoticed into the police headquarters to bring the sacraments to prisoners before their execution.

In 1927, he was falsely accused of conspiracy in an alleged attack on the Mexican dictator and was condemned to death. Before being shot, on November 23, 1927, Fr. Pro forgave his executioners. He died with his arms open shouting, "Viva Cristo Rey!" (Long live Christ the King!). He was beatified by Saint John Paul II on September 25, 1988. Almighty God and Father, who conferred upon your servant Blessed Migueal Agustin Pro the grace of ardently seeking your greater glory and the salvation of others, grant, through his intercession and example, that by faithfully and joyfully performing our daily duties and effectively assisting those around us, we may serve you with zeal and ever seek your glory.

Optional Memorial of Saint Columban, Abbot

St. Columban
November 23rd, is the optional memorial of Saint Columban. This great missionary abbot founded monasteries in France, Switzerland, and Italy that became centers of spirituality, evangelization and learning. He was a monk of the monastery of Bangor in north Ireland, founded by Saint Comgall, one of the first and most notable monastic figures of Ireland.

At Bangor, St. Columban became a teacher in the monastic school where sanctity and scholarship were prized. He was born in West Leinster, sometime between 540 and 550, and decided when he was a youth, to dedicate himself to God despite his mother's opposition. He lived for a time on Cluain Iris, an island in Lough Erne, with a monk named Sinell, before becoming a monk at Bangor.

After thirty years there, he received Comgall's permission to spread the Gospel on the continent of Europe, and taking twelve companions with him, he settled in Gaul where the devastation of the barbarian invasions had completely disrupted civil and religious life. Invited by the Merovingian King Childebert, he established a monastery in Burgundy at Annegray and two others at Luxeuil and Fontaines. From these three monasteries over two hundred foundations were made, and Columban composed for these monasteries two monastic rules.

With the zeal of a prophet, Columban decried the immoral court life of the Merovingian kings, the lax local clergy, and introduced to the continent the Irish penitential system, which became the basis for private confession. Reproving a local king for his duplicity, he was expelled from Burgundy. He travelled across France and Germany, leaving disciples behind to found monasteries, and crossed the Alps to establish the famous monastery at Bobbio in Italy.

Columban was a staunch opponent of Arianism, wrote letters to popes on the religious issues of the day, and left a legacy of writings that deeply influenced monasticism for centuries. He impressed his contemporaries as a giant of a man in mind and spirit, who revived religion on the continent and prepared the way for the Carolingian renaissance. Columban died at Bobbio on November 23, 615, and was interred in the crypt of the church that bears his name there.

The St. Columban's Missionary Society is named for him, in recognition of his missionary genius and uniquely Irish spirit. St. Columban suffered heroically for his outspokenness in the face of moral corruption and public depravity. He was exiled, but his words were remembered years later and his warnings heeded. He preached the word of Christ fearlessly and was not afraid of the anger of kings or worldly powers. May we possess such Christian courage. O God, who in Saint Columban wonderfully joined the work of evangelization to zeal for the monastic life, grant, we pray, that through his intercession and example, we may strive to seek you above all things, and to bring increase to your faithful people.

Sources: "The One Year Book of Saints", Rev. Clifford Stevens, Our Sunday Visitor, Dictionary of Saints, John J. Delaney and the Divine Office.

Optional Memorial of Saint Clement I, Pope and Martyr

Pope Saint Clement I
Pope St. Clement Adoring the Trinity
November 23rd, is the optional memorial of Pope Saint Clement I, also known as Clement of Rome, the 1st century pontiff and martyr who was converted by Saint Peter [possibly along with Saint Paul] and ordained by the same. A seminal figure in early Christianity, he served as the forth Bishop of Rome and is considered the first Apostolic Father of the Church. Saint Clement of Alexandria called him an apostle; and Rufinus, (the monastic theologian and translator) almost an apostle. He accompanied St. Paul to Philippi and was a companion of the latter, with Sts. Luke and Timothy, in many of his missionary journeys. St. Paul ranks him among those whose names are inscribed in the book of life. St. Clement's letter to the Corinthians is a precious treasure from the apostolic period.

In his letter (1 Clement) dated around 95 AD to the Christian community in the Greek city of Corinth, St. Clement responds to a dispute in which presbyters of the Corinthian church were deposed. He asserts the legitimacy of the presbyters as appointed by the Apostles. His letter was read in church, along with other epistles, and was among the first to affirm the apostolic authority of the clergy. The letter itself reveals much about St. Clement. The text was originally in Greek. It contains numerous scriptural citations. The prominence of the Old Testament passages suggests St. Clement was a convert to Christianity from Judaism. Most notable is the letter's use of texts that would in time become the New Testament. Lastly, Clement pleads for unity in charity and a respect for those in leadership positions. Using language similar to that in 1 Corinthians 13, he explains in part:
The height, where unto love exalteth, is unspeakable. Love joineth us unto God; love covereth a multitude of sins; love endureth all things, is long-suffering in all things. There is nothing coarse, nothing arrogant in love. Love hath no divisions, love maketh no seditions, love doeth all things in concord. In love were all the elect of God made perfect; without love nothing is well pleasing to God: in love the Master took us unto Himself; for the love which He had toward us, Jesus Christ our Lord hath given His blood for us by the will of God, and His flesh for our flesh and His life for our lives. (49: 4-6)
According to tradition, Clement was imprisoned under the Emperor Trajan; during this time, he is said to have led a ministry among his fellow prisoners. By order of the Emperor Trajan, he was executed by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea. The Breviary recounts his martyrdom: "While he was making his way to the sea, the people cried with a loud voice: Lord Jesus Christ, save him! But Clement prayed in tears: Father, receive my spirit." At the shore the Christians asked God to give them the body. The sea receded for three miles and there they found the body of the saint in a stone coffin within a small marble chapel; beside which lay the anchor. "You have given a dwelling to Your martyr Clement in the sea, O Lord, a temple of marble built by the hands of angels." His remains were taken to Rome under Pope Nicholas 1 by Saints Cyril and Methodius and placed in the church dedicated in his honor (the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome).

Pope Saint Clement was a man of faith, an apostolic father, a unifying leader and a humble servant who underlined that the Church's structure and mission was sacramental and not political. The hope of Christians is beautifully expressed in St. Clement's prayer to God: "Yes, O Lord, make your face to shine upon us for good in peace, that we may be shielded by your mighty hand... through the High Priest and Guardian of our souls, Jesus Christ, through whom be glory and majesty to you both now and from generation to generation, for evermore." Almighty ever-living God, who are wonderful in the virtue of all your Saints, grant us joy in the yearly commemoration of St. Clement, who, as a Martyr and High Priest of your most holy Son our Savior and King, bore out by his witness what he celebrated in mystery and confirmed by example what he preached in words.

November 21, 2016

Memorial of Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr

St. Cecilia
November 22nd, is the memorial of Saint Cecilia. The 3rd century virgin and martyr is one of the most famous of the Roman martyrs. Little is certain of her life apart from her martyrdom. A woman of great piety, she was attributed with the habit of daily singing the psalms, and as a gifted musician, for which she was named the patron saint of church music, musicians and composers.

The daughter of patrician Roman Christians, she was given in marriage to a rich young nobleman, Valerian of Trastevere, despite desiring to remain a virgin. By the designs of Providence, her innocence was preserved. The Divine Office records how Cecilia told her husband that she had taken a vow of virginity and was under the protection of an angel:

"Cecilia led a life of prayer and meditation and had vowed lifelong virginity, but a youth by the name of Valerian, relying upon the approval of her parents, hoped to marry her. When the wedding night arrived, she confided to Valerian, 'There is a secret, Valerian, I wish to tell you. I have as a lover an angel of God who jealously guards my body.' Valerian promised to believe in Christ if he would be enabled to see that angel. Cecilia explained how such was impossible without baptism, and Valerian consented to be baptized. After he was baptized by Pope Urban and had returned 'He found Cecilia in her little room lost in prayer, and next to her the angel of the Lord was standing. When Valerian saw the angel, he was seized with great terror.' The angel handed to them a bouquet of fiery red roses and snow-white lilies as a reward for Cecilia's love of chastity, a bouquet that would not wither, yet would be visible only to those who love chastity. As a further favor, Valerian besought the conversion of his brother Tiburtius.

Upon arriving to congratulate the newlyweds, Tiburtius was astounded by the unspeakably beautiful roses and lilies. As soon as he was informed regarding their origin, he too asked for the waters of baptism. 'St. Cecilia said to Tiburtius: Today I acknowledge you as a brother-in-law, because the love of God has made you despise the idols. Just as the love of God gave me your brother as a spouse, so it has given you to me as a brother in-law.' When Almachius, the prefect, heard of the conversions, he ordered Maximus, his officer, to arrest and imprison all of them. Before being put to death, they instructed Maximus and his family, and baptized them during the night preceding execution.

At dawn Cecilia roused the two brothers to struggle heroically for Christ, as the glow of morning disappeared, Cecilia called: 'Arise, soldiers of Christ, throw away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.' Cecilia pursued her victory as the soldiers willingly listened, 'We believe that Christ is the true Son of God, who has chosen such a servant.' Led before the prefect, she professed her faith in Christ, 'We profess His Holy Name and we will not deny Him.'" (The Church's Year of Grace, Father Pius Parsch C.R.S..A)

The prefect commanded that Cecilia be suffocated in the baths. To that end, she was shut in for one night and one day, as fires were stoked, but she miraculously survived. Upon emerging she exclaimed: "I thank You, Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, that through Your Son the fire was extinguished at my side." Next, it was ordered that Cecilia be beheaded. Three attempts to do so failed, but she was left mortally wounded. She lived for three days, singing hymns of praise to God, as her friends came to seek her final blessings. Never did she renounce her faith in Christ. In 817, her grave was discovered, and her body moved to the church of Saint Cecilia in Rome. When her crypt was opened in 1599, her body was found incorrupt. She is the first saint in recorded history whose earthly remains were preserved. Almighty God, who gladden us each year with the feast day of your handmaid St. Cecilia, grant, we pray, that what has been devoutly handed down concerning her may offer us examples to imitate and proclaim the wonders worked in his servants by Jesus Christ your Son, both now, and for all eternity.

November 20, 2016

Memorial of the Presentation of Mary

The Presentation of Mary
Presentation of the Virgin, Giotto, Scrovegni Chapel, c. 1305.

November 21st, is the memorial of the Presentation of Mary or the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple (as it is called in the East). Sacred Scripture is silent regarding this event. The Protoevangelium of James records that the Blessed Virgin’s mother Anne promised her daughter to God. Shortly after her birth, Mary was admitted into the sacred precincts. Popular piety attest that, when she was 3, her parents, Joachim and Anne brought her to the Temple to be consecrated to the Lord. There she was raised in holiness and received her nourishment from the Archangel Gabriel. Our Mother’s rigorous formation was owed to her singular place in the divine economy of salvation. In conceiving Jesus, Mary herself became a living temple of God; cherishing Him in her heart, loving Christ ardently, and faithfully keeping his word. In accordance with Scripture, God the Son and God the Father made their home with her. The Presentation of Mary continues the divine trajectory of Mary’s life as seen in the Immaculate Conception and her birth.

The feast originated in Jerusalem in 543. In the East, where it has been observed since the 8th century, it bears the name, 'The Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple'. It was introduced in the West by a Cypriotic legate to the papal court of Avignon in 1371. Pope Sixtus IV extended its observance to the universal Church In 1472. Abolished by Pope Pius V, it was later reintroduced. It is dedicated to those who belong to contemplative religious orders who dedicate themselves to God in prayer and silent work. As we venerate the glorious memory of the most holy Virgin Mary, grant, we pray, O Lord, through her intercession, that we too, may merit to receive from the fullness of your grace.

V. Dignáre me laudáre te, Virgo sacráta.

R. Da mihi virtútem contra hostes tuos.

Oremus.

Deus, qui beátam Maríam semper Vírginem, Spíritus Sancti habitáculum, hodiérna die in templo præsentári voluísti : præsta, quæsumus ; ut, ejus intercessióne, in templo glóriæ tuæ præsentári mereámur. Per Dóminum nostrum Iesum Christum Filium Tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitáte ejúsdem Spíritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Homily | The Solemnity of Christ the King, November 20, 2016, Year C

Christ the King

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

(Click here for today’s readings)

I once met a woman who was descended from the first man executed in the American colonies. It was a curious fact, but it did not reflect negatively on herself.

There are people, however, who live with inherited guilt. The descendants of famous Nazis such as Himmler, Goering and others have distanced themselves as much as possible from their cruel history. Descendants of Hitler’s nephews have changed their name and live a secluded life.

There is also guilt by association, as expressed by sayings about “birds of a feather” or “you are the company you keep.” Even the British royal family, in 1917, because of strong anti-German sentiment during World War I, changed its name from the German “Saxe-Coburg and Gotha” to “The House of Windsor.”

And yet, Matthew in the very first chapter of his Gospel seems to go out of his way to remind us that Jesus’ ancestry included incest (Judah), adultery and murder (David himself!) and kings who worshipped false gods.

In all four Gospels we find Jesus crucified with two criminals. During his public ministry Jesus had associated with sinners, but this was different. Here, he is one of them! Crucifixion was designed to inflict not only pain but also humiliation. Any one crucified had no dignity left.

And this is the image put before us on the feast of Christ the King! Again, all four Gospels relate the inscription over the head of Jesus, indicating the charge, the crime for which he was being executed: “King of the Jews.” The other two criminals presumably had charges above their heads, and we can be sure it wasn’t petty thievery!

This is the Jesus whom Paul calls “the image of the invisible God... in whom all fullness was pleased to dwell.” No higher rank, no higher dignity is conceivable.

We just commemorated John F. Kennedy’s assassination. It still shocks us when people of high status are assassinated. The French revolution’s execution of royalty sent shock waves throughout Europe. More shocking perhaps for us at that time is the official execution of an entire convent of Carmelite nuns!

Jesus’ execution actually shocks us less, maybe because we are so familiar with it, but especially because through it he was “making peace by the blood of his cross.”

A governor can pardon a criminal, but he can’t “reconcile” the criminal with anyone. In today’s Gospel we witness a royal pardon. Christ the King says: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” This is more than a pardon, it is reconciliation.

Years ago in Rome I noticed a government building with a large inscription: Ministero di grazia e giustizia, Ministry of Mercy and Justice. That is the reality of today’s scene in Luke. Jesus performs an act of justice towards the Father, atoning, making peace, reconciling. At the same time he performs an act of mercy towards the criminal, an act of reconcilIation.

This is the King we celebrate today. In the very moment when he is sneered at by his enemies and by a “fellow criminal,” and with no human dignity left, he shows himself to be worthy of all glory.

And so we make ours the words of St. Paul: “Let us give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.” In other words, by the very name of Christian, we are meant to be “guilty by association” with Jesus Christ our King.

November 14, 2016

Purgatory 101: Everything You Need to Know About the Church Suffering

Purgatory
Editor's note: We present this post from last November for your consideration. The time frame for obtaining the indulgences discussed below has passed, however, our prayers for the poor souls in purgatory are always efficacious. 

November is when Holy Mother Church prays especially for the faithful departed who are in Purgatory (the Church Suffering). Below are various links on the state of purification that is Purgatory, beginning with a reflection by Father James Kubicki, "The Process of Purgatory", in which he quotes Pope Benedict XVI. (What follows is a transcript of the video):

November begins with the Feast of All Saints and is followed by the Feast of All Souls on which we remember all those who have died and are in Purgatory, but the whole month is dedicated to prayer for them. ... As we pray for those who have died, it’s important that we have a better understanding of this process that we have traditionally called Purgatory. It’s not a physical place, because when we die, we leave behind our physical bodies — which will one day be raised to new life with our souls at the end of the world. And it’s not something that can be measured in time. Pope Benedict’s second encyclical, on hope, (Spe Salvi,In Hope We Are Saved) says:
It is clear that we cannot calculate the "duration" of this transforming burning in terms of the chronological measurements of this world. The transforming "moment" of this encounter eludes earthly time-reckoning — it is the heart's time, it is the time of "passage" to communion with God in the Body of Christ.
So Purgatory, or the process of purification that most will need when they leave this world, goes beyond our experience of time and space. Think of it this way: You go to a matinee movie, and after two hours in the dark theater, you emerge from the theater into the bright sunlight afternoon. What happens? You have to squint. Your eyes can’t take in the bright sunlight because they have become accustomed to the darkness of the theater. That’s what Purgatory is like. Depending on how much we have become accustomed to the darkness of the sin of this world, it will require a process by which we are able to see the light of Christ. So let’s pray for the souls of the departed. May the light of Christ shine upon them to heal them and bring them to the full vision of Christ Himself.
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The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls Purgatory a "purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven," experienced by those "who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified" [CCC 1030]. It states further: "this final purification of the elect... is entirely different from the punishment of the damned" [CCC 1031].

Sacred Scripture tells us this purification is necessary because nothing unclean will enter the presence of God in heaven (Rev. 21:27). While some may die with their mortal sins forgiven, their souls remain impure due to venial sins and the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven.

Every time you attend Mass remember that:

◗ By piously hearing Holy Mass you afford the souls in Purgatory the greatest possible relief.

◗ You shorten your Purgatory by every Mass.

Additional links on Purgatory

You can still gain indulgences for the poor souls in Purgatory (see visiting a cemetery each day between November 1st - 8th).

Jimmy Akin asks "Is the Fire of Purgatory Jesus Himself?" (Answer, Yes.)

Church Militant discusses and defends the doctrine.

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori in "A Christian Duty" exhorts us to pray for the Church Suffering.

The New Theological Movement blog (defunct) has a number of offerings on the subject, including:

Some facts about purgatory

◗ Two Homilies For All Souls: The Nature of Purgatory and How To Not Become A Forgotten Soul

◗ Is there fire in purgatory?

◗ Prayer, purgatory on earth

◗ Why do the souls in purgatory suffer so? An answer from St. John of the Cross

◗ If the Holy Sacrifice is of infinite value, why doesn't one Mass empty purgatory?

◗ Can the poor souls pray for us?

Also, consider reciting this intercession for souls in Purgatory.

Prayer to Release Souls from Purgatory

Our Lord told St. Gertrude the Great, that the following prayer would release 1,000 souls from Purgatory each time it is said. The prayer was extended to include living sinners which would alleviate the indebtedness accrued to them during their lives.
Eternal Father,

I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus,
in union with the Masses said throughout the world today,
for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory,
for sinners everywhere,
for sinners in the Universal Church,
those in my own home and within my family.
Amen.
We ought to pray for the faithful departed in Purgatory throughout the year, not just during November. After these souls in Purgatory are in Heaven, they will intercede on our behalf.