October 22, 2017

Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 22, 2017, Year A

Render to Caesar what is Caesar's

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

Every three years we are presented with today’s gospel, one that interests many of us because it deals with the question of separation between Church and State.

The first thing we should note is that the question put to Jesus was a lawyer’s trick question. It was not a question that sought enlightenment; it was not put to Jesus in order to learn from Him. No. It was put to Jesus to trap Him. Was He to be seen as an insurrectionist revolutionary and an enemy of the State or was He to be seen as a collaborator with the hated Roman authorities who so brutalized the Jewish people?

The Pharisees, the religious fundamentalists of the day, hated the Roman tax. The Herodians, those Jews who supported the Roman puppet King Herod, supported the tax. Both groups, the Pharisees and the Herodians, hated each other. But here we find them joined together in a combined effort to trap Jesus, to discredit Him, and thus do away with Him, each trying to trap Jesus for their own reasons.

With a canny response Jesus discredits them both. Both the Pharisees and the Herodians were Jews. Both groups, as Jews, rejected graven images as violations of the First Commandment. No Jew of any stripe would countenance the idea that idols were to be worshipped. Statues and images were totally forbidden as false, man-made gods.

Here we find Jesus in His response to their tricky question asking them for a coin, which they gave Him. Note that both they and Jesus were in the Temple area when this incident took place. Note, too, that the Roman coin had carved upon it the image of the infamous Tiberius Caesar, the one who had so desecrated the Jewish Temple. The coin also bore the inscription: “Tiberius Caesar – Son of the Divine Augustus”. On the coin’s other side it designated him as “Pontifex Maximus”, supreme priest. For Jews, this was blasphemous idolatry.

The fact that they had carried that coin with them into the Temple precincts tells us that they thereby discredited themselves. No good Jew would be caught with such a coin on the Temple’s grounds, the holiest site in all of Judaism.

Furthermore, we need to realize that Jesus’ response was directed at the precise issue of whether or not the Roman taxes should be paid. Jesus said nothing about the autonomy of Caesar in his secular role. Nor was Jesus making any statement at all about separating religion from society.

So these questions remain: What is Caesar’s, and what is God’s? Is there anything at all that is not God’s – is there anything at all in human activity that does not stand under God’s judgment? Are we, as modern-day Americans, exempting anything from God’s purview?

Separation of church and state has benefited us here in the United States. We have a democracy, not a theocracy, and that has served us well. We do not have a state religion; we have freedom of religion. We are free to practice our religious beliefs as we choose.

But where is it written that freedom of religion means freedom from religion? Are people of faith obliged not to express their beliefs and put them into practice in the public domain? We must remember that while rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s we must still render to God what is God’s.

Does God have expectations of us with regard to our civic order? Are our public policies to be exercised freed from God’s norms and apart from God’s will? What is to be kept from God’s purview?

Here are some examples of what concerns me.

One is found in the response our U.S. Congress made to the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. As bills for hurricane relief were being drafted in Congress, voices were raised objecting to giving any forms of relief to churches and other faith-based organizations. Such relief measures, intended for all citizens of these United States were, it was argued, to be denied to faith-based organizations. Why? Because giving them money, it was argued, would violate the principle of separation of church and state. In other words, church members were not to be considered among the citizenry of our country entitled to disaster relief!

By now we are all familiar with the Obamacare’s mandate administered by the Department of Health and Human Services requiring religious organizations employing more than fifty persons to provide their employees with insurance coverage for abortion, sterilization, and contraceptive services. We know, too, that this requirement was applied to the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Department of Justice prosecuted them. Their defense was that they objected to this governmental mandate by citing the Constitutions’ First Amendment guarantee of Freedom of Religion. In response to the Little Sisters’ appeal, a Federal judge suggested that the Little Sisters simply sign a form declaring that they are an exempt religious organization. Why don’t they just sign this meaningless little form? By doing so the problem will go away the court said.

Well, these little nuns are smart enough to recognize that signing the government’s form is not meaningless. Why? Because the government retains its claim to interfere with their right to freely practice what they believe. The Sisters are astute enough to recognize that the government can take away what it so graciously granted. The government’s claim in effect defines how one’s belief is exercised. The “meaningless little form” isn’t simply a minor exception.

Freedom of religion isn’t confined to how one worships on Sunday. People of belief should be able to practice in public what they hold to in Sunday worship free of governmental controls and mandates.

Another example occurs to me. Article VI, Clause 3 of our Constitution prescribes that “no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

What disturbs me is that in recent times people running for public office or appointed to hold public office, particularly the judiciary, are being subjected to religious tests. Precisely because they hold certain religious beliefs they are being subjected to political attacks. If they strongly hold to certain religious beliefs they are being told they are fundamentalist fanatics and therefore unqualified to hold public office. We need look no further than to recent debates over nominees for Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thomas Jefferson and many of our founding forbearers clearly held to the position that we must be a moral nation if our republic is to endure. The founders of our nation had strong religious beliefs and they founded our nation on firmly held positions that derived from their faith in the Almighty. Our Creator, they declared, endows unalienable human rights upon us.

Abraham Lincoln, in his monumental effort to preserve our union repeatedly appealed to the Almighty in his famous and powerful speeches. None of these men would subscribe to the notion that freedom of religion means freedom from religion in our civic life and in the fabric of our republic.

What, then, is Caesar’s and what is God’s? That question is being argued out in our times in a great debate over the importance and value of religion in our society. Reasonable people may differ in the application of answers to that question. But however much reasonable people may differ it is unreasonable to assert the notion that our American republic was built on the secularist mantra that freedom of religion in these United States means freedom from religion in our public affairs.

What is Caesar’s and what is God’s? The question is just as important to us now as it was when it was put to Jesus. And so is its answer. Your vote matters.

October 20, 2017

St. Hilarion on the Christian Response to Suffering

Saint Hilarion of Gaza
We cannot live in such a way that no one grieves or offends us, for the Apostle Luke writes: we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22), and bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). Let us therefore ask that we may bear sorrows with self-reproach and humility and not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good…
— St. Hilarion of Gaza

Prayer for St. Hilarion's Intercession

Almighty God, who called Saint Hilarion to serve you by a wondrous way of life in the desert, grant, through his holy intercession that denying ourselves in humble solitude, we may always love you above all things, and look to you alone for our salvation. St. Hilarion, your pursuit of solitude and rejection of the world reminds us to spend time alone with God in prayer. Holy St. Hilarion of Gaza, pray for us.

Novena to Saint Jude 2017 | Day 3

St. Jude icon

October 21, 2017

Today we remember all those who are seeking employment. Let us pray for the unemployed or underemployed that God will provide for them and, through the intercession of Saint Jude, they will find purpose and meaning in their labors.

Saint Jude Novena - Day 3

Most holy St. Jude, apostle, martyr and friend of Jesus, pray for me and my intentions. Intercede for me before the throne of God and plead for His favor.

(State your intentions here)

You are the patron of the impossible. Pray for my intentions St. Jude, that God’s grace and mercy will answer them. Pray for the impossible if it is God’s will.

Pray that I may have the grace to accept God’s holy will even if it is difficult.

St. Jude, you labored for years, pray that I may have patience in my struggles.

O St. Jude, pray for me that I may grow in faith, hope and love and in the grace of Jesus Christ. Pray for these intentions, but most of all pray that I may join you in heaven together with God, seeing Him face to face for all eternity. Amen.

For more about the St. Jude novena including daily email reminders go HERE.

Sts. Ursula and Companions, Legendary Virgin Martyrs

Sts. Ursula and Companions

Commemoration - October 21st

According to a legend that appeared in the 10th century, Ursula was the daughter of a Christian King in Britain and was granted a three-year postponement from a marriage she refused to a pagan prince. With ten ladies in waiting, each attended by a thousand maidens, she set on a voyage across the North Sea, sailed the Rhine to Basle, and then went to Rome. On their return, they were massacred by pagan Huns at Cologne in 451 when Ursula refused to marry their chieftain.

According to another account, America was settled by British colonizers and soldiers after Emperor Magnus Clemens Maximus conquered Britain and Gaul in 383. The ruler of the settlers, Cynan Meiriadog, called upon King Dionotus of Cornwall for wives for the settlers. Dionotus sent his daughter Ursula, who was to marry Cynan, with eleven thousand noble maidens and sixty thousand common women. Their fleet was shipwrecked and the women were enslaved or murdered.

The legends are pious fictions, but what is true is that one Clematius, a senator, rebuilt a basilica in Cologne that had originally been constructed probably at the beginning of the 4th century, to honor a group of virgins who had been martyred at Cologne. They were evidently venerated enough to have had a church built in their honor, but who they were and how many of them there were are unknown. It is from these meager facts that the legend of St. Ursula developed and spread.

The 11,000 number probably resulted from a misreading of the term "11M" which indicated 11 Martyrs, but which a copyist took for a Roman numeral. St. Ursula is the namesake for the Ursuline Order, founded for the education of young Catholic girls and women. May your grace, O Lord, we pray, at all times go before us and make us ever more determined to carry out good works. Through our Lord Jesus Christ who reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen.

St. Hilarion, the Father of Middle Eastern Monasticism

Saint Hilarion of Gaza

According to the 1962 Missal of Saint John XXIII, October 21st is the feast of Saint Hilarion, the 3rd century monastic famous for his miracles and sanctity. Born to pagan parents, he studied in Alexandria, becoming a Christian at age 15. Following the example of Saint Anthony in Egypt, he became a hermit instructed by Anthony himself. Hilarion is the father of monasticism in Palestine and Syria.

St. Hilarion was born at Tabatha near Gaza, Palestine, in the year 291. His pagan parents sent him, while still a youth, to study at Alexandria. He was remarkable for his diligence and good manners, and soon became a convert to Christianity, making great progress in faith and charity. He was zealous in visiting churches, in fasting and prayer, in scorning all earthly joys and pleasures. Lured by the fame of St. Anthony, he entered the desert and for two months was his disciple.

While absent, his parents died. Now Hilarion gave all he had to the poor, and although hardly 15 years old, he returned to the desert, built a little hut scarcely large enough to accommodate himself, and slept on the bare ground. His time was spent reading and meditating upon holy Scripture. A few figs and soup from herbs sufficed for his nourishment. This he never consumed before the sun set.

Because of his mortifications and humility, he triumphed over fierce assaults by the evil one and healed many who were possessed. After founding numerous hermitages (he had two thousand followers) and working countless miracles, he became ill at the age of 80. In his last agony he encouraged himself by saying: "Go thither, my soul, why do you fear? Why do you tremble? Seventy years you have served Christ, and now you fear death?" The day of St. Hilarion's holy death is given as October 21st, 371. His was solemnly buried on the island of Cyprus.

Almighty God, who called Saint Hilarion to serve you by a wondrous way of life in the desert, grant, through his holy intercession that denying ourselves in humble solitude, we may always love you above all things, and look to you alone for our salvation. St. Hilarion, your pursuit of solitude and rejection of the world reminds us to spend time alone with God in prayer. Holy St. Hilarion of Gaza, pray for us.

October 19, 2017

Saint Paul of the Cross’ Counsel to Priests

Saint Paul of the Cross
God sends such purgations to you, directors of consciences, that you may acquire the science of the saints and the art of directing souls. You will suffer also in another way. Love will be your executioner. Let it do its work; it knows how. In this martyrdom we have need of extraordinary grace and strength; but God will bestow it. Without this divine help it would be impossible to bear up.
— St. Paul of the Cross

Prayer for St. Paul of the Cross' Intercession

May your Priest Saint Paul, whose only love was the Cross, obtain for us your grace, O Lord, so that, urged on more strongly by his example and constant intercession, we may each embrace our own cross with unreserved courage and fidelity, so as to emulate our Divine Savior. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son who reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen.

Novena to Saint Jude 2017 | Day 2

St. Jude icon

October 20, 2017

Today, we remember those who are suffering whether mentally, physically or emotionally. Let us pray for a restoration to health of the unwell, and especially for those whose cases seem hopeless. Saint Jude, intercede on our behalf, that illnesses and catastrophic diseases that afflict mankind be cured or alleviated.

Saint Jude Novena - Day 2

Most holy St. Jude, apostle, martyr and friend of Jesus, pray for me and my intentions. Intercede for me before the throne of God and plead for His favor.

(State your intentions here)

You are the patron of the impossible. Pray for my intentions St. Jude, that God’s grace and mercy will answer them. Pray for the impossible if it is God’s will.

Pray that I may have the grace to accept God’s holy will even if it is difficult.

St. Jude, pray that I may have your zeal to preach the Gospel.

O St. Jude, pray for me that I may grow in faith, hope and love and in the grace of Jesus Christ. Pray for these intentions, but most of all pray that I may join you in heaven together with God, seeing Him face to face for all eternity. Amen.

For more about the St. Jude novena including daily email reminders go HERE.

The Martyr's Oath: Living, and Dying, for Christ

The Martyr's OathThe Martyr’s Oath: Living for the Jesus They’re Willing to Die For, (published 2017, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, Carol Stream, Illinois, 240 pages) by Christian (Evangelical) pastor, author, speaker, media personality, communications executive, and humanitarian Rev. Johnnie Moore, examines the escalating genocide against those who profess belief in Jesus Christ. From the publisher’s website:

"We are witnessing an astonishing escalation in Christian persecution like we have rarely seen since the first century. Some estimate that every five minutes, a Christian is martyred for his or her faith. Countries like Egypt have experienced more Christian persecution in the last five years than in the previous six hundred years combined. And who could have missed the atrocities of ISIS in Syria, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the continued persecution of Christians in North Korea?

Johnnie Moore, like many American Christians, didn’t fully appreciate the extent of what was going on—until he witnessed the graduation of theology students in India. Unlike graduation ceremonies in America—where feel-good speeches made by visiting celebrities are common—this one featured a remarkable oath. It wasn’t an oath to excel or succeed. It was an oath to be willing to die, if necessary, for the cause of Christ. This was no empty promise. This was a choice, choosing the eternal over the temporal.

Johnnie knew he was witnessing a raw, first-century Christianity that his comfortable American version had shielded him from. 'For the first time, I really understand my faith,' says Johnnie Moore. Now, he’s on a mission to give this same experience to others. He and his team have crisscrossed the world, recorders in hand, gathering eyewitness accounts from dozens of people who survived persecution—and the stories of some who didn’t."

The book revolves around the "The Martyr's Oath", and vividly documents the courageous sacrifice and steadfast resolve of Christians throughout the world. They strive to live out the Good News and profess their faith in Christ despite increasing threats of violence and daily intimidation, often under the penalty of death. Given that the persecution of Christians is worse now than at any time in history, The Martyr’s Oath... is timely and inspirational. Lest we forget that, "the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church." May the martyrs' willing sacrifice of their lives lead to the conversion of others. Sts Perpetua and Felicity pray for us.


I AM A FOLLOWER OF JESUS. I believe he lived and walked among us, was crucified for our sins, and was raised from the dead, according to the Scriptures. I believe he is the King of the earth, who will come back for his church.

As he has given his life for me, so I am willing to give my life for him. I will use every breath I possess to boldly proclaim his gospel. Whether in abundance or need, in safety or peril, in peace or distress, I will not—I cannot—keep quiet. His unfailing love is better than life, and his grace compels me to speak his name even if his name costs me everything. Even in the face of death, I will not deny him. And should shadow and darkness encroach upon me, I will not fear, for I know he is always with me.

Though persecution may come, I know my battle is not against flesh but against the forces of evil. I will not hate those whom God has called me to love. Therefore, I will forgive when ridiculed, show mercy when struck, and love when hated. I will clothe myself with meekness and kindness so those around me may see the face of Jesus reflected in me, especially if they abuse me.

I have taken up my cross; I have laid everything else down. I know my faith could cost me my life, but I will follow and love Jesus until the end, whenever and however that end may come. Should I die for Jesus, I confess that my death is not to achieve salvation but in gratitude for the grace I’ve already received. I will not die to earn my reward in heaven, but because Jesus has already given me the ultimate reward in the forgiveness of my sins and the salvation of my soul. For me to live is Christ; for me to die is gain. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

St. Paul of the Cross, Mystic, Founder of the Passionists

Saint Paul of the Cross

Optional Memorial - October 20th

Saint Paul of the Cross, (1694-1775) was the 18th century priest and mystic, best known for his special devotion to the Passion of Christ, who founded the Passionist Order. Born Paolo Francesco Danei, in the town of Ovada, Genoa, (present day Italy) he was the oldest of sixteen children, eleven of whom would die in infancy or early in age. His parents, Luke Danei and Ann Marie Massari, were devout, but poor. (Of noble lineage, his family were merchant traders.)

From the very beginning it was clear that Paul possessed immense preternatural spiritually abilities. From his mother, he received an intense reverence for the sufferings of Jesus crucified. Whenever he whined or complained, she would show him a crucifix to remind him that our Savior had endured far worse. From his father, Paul received his first catechesis in learning about the lives of the saints and their courageous sacrifices and great devotion serving in imitation of Christ. At 15, upon listening to a sermon on the Passion of Jesus, he adopted a lifestyle of prayer and rigid austerity. His desire for a religious vocation was strengthened greatly after reading the "Treatise on the Love of God" by Saint Francis de Sales.

In 1714, his religious pursuits were momentarily interrupted when he joined the Venetian army to fight against the Turks. Repulsed by war, he quickly released his mistake. After he was discharged a year later, he refused an inheritance and a promise of marriage to the daughter of a wealthy family. Instead, Paul dedicated his life to God and became a recluse. Returning to his life of prayer and penance, he was clothed in the habit of a hermit by the Bishop of Alexandria in 1720.

That year, he experienced several interior visions of the Blessed Mother wearing a black habit with the name of Jesus in white character surmounted by a cross in white emblazoned on it. Our Lady instructed him to found a new Order dedicated to preaching and mourning continuously the Passion and Death of Christ. From that moment the future saint began writing the Rules of his Order. Pope Benedict XIV approved the Rules in 1741. Meanwhile, Paul founded the Congregation of Discalced Clerks of the Holy Cross and Passion of Our Lord, or the Passionists, and would establish his first monastery at Obitello. Later, a second much larger community would be established at the Church of Sts. John and Paul in Rome.

For fifty years, St. Paul of the Cross remained a tireless missionary of the Gospel. He died at the Retreat of Saints John and Paul on October 18, 1775, at the age of 81. At the time, the Passionist Congregation numbered two hundred members located in thirteen monasteries. He was beatified in 1853 and canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1867. May the Priest Saint Paul, whose only love was the Cross, obtain for us your grace, O Lord, so that, urged on more strongly by his example and devotion to Christ Crucified, we may each embrace our own cross with courage.

Saint Irene of Tomar, Virgin and Martyr

Saint Irene of Tomar

Historically October 20th is the feast of Saint Irene, the legendary 7th century Portuguese nun martyred in defense of her chastity in 653. Her shrine called the "Santarem," (Portuguese for "Saint Irene") has played a key role for the great quality and beauty of the Catholic Faith that the Portuguese people have lived.

Irene, a most beautiful and chaste girl, was murdered before she reached the age of 20. Her noble and God-fearing parents, wishing to prepare her both spiritually and intellectually to assume her rightful position in society, sent her to a convent school and then arranged for a monk to tutor her privately at home. An assiduous pupil and devout believer, the only times Irene left the safety of her house was to attend mass or to pray in the sanctuary dedicated to Saint Peter on his feast-day.

On one of these occasions, a young nobleman named Britald happened to see her and fell desperately in love with her. Every time she went out he waited to catch a glimpse of her, followed her to church, and eventually made his feelings known to her. Irene refused his advances, making clear that she would never marry him.

Rejected, Britald fell into a deep depression. He became so ill that the doctors who were called to tend him gave him up for lost. Hearing of this, Irene visited him and informed him that she had refused him because she was no longer free, having already taken a vow of virginity. Britald at once accepted her decision and gradually recovered his health. Before Irene, he pledged to respect her vow of virginity. They parted, promising each other they would meet again in Paradise.

Irene returned to her life of seclusion and study, intending to make her entrance into the convent. But the monk who was tutoring her privately proved to be a lecherous scoundrel, and behaved towards her in a manner as dishonorable as Britald's was honorable. Irene repulsed him and had him dismissed at once. In revenge, the monk began to spread slanderous rumors about her. As to why he no longer gave Irene private lessons, he replied falsely that she was with child.

This rumor quickly spread throughout the town and at length reached Britald who, being frank and trusting, believed what he was told. In a passion of rage and jealousy, he hired a mercenary soldier to kill Irene. Soon afterward, as she was returning home from visiting an old man who was crippled, the assassin approached from behind, killing her with one stroke of his sword. St. Irene of Tomar, help us remain chaste and heroic in virtue to the end. [Adapted source]

October 18, 2017

St. John de Brebeuf on Suffering for the Faith

Saint John de Brebeuf

St. John de Brebeuf was brutally tortured by his Iroquois captors including being baptized in boiling water and bodily mutilated before his martyrdom. May we suffer the attacks on our Faith with the same fortitude that St. John de Brebeuf showed in imitation of Christ. Here is an entry from the former's spiritual journal.
Jesus, my Lord and savior, what can I give you in return for all the favors you have first conferred on me? I will take from your hand the cup of your sufferings and call on your name…I bind myself in this way so that for the rest of my life I will have neither permission nor freedom to refuse opportunities of dying and shedding my blood for you, unless at a particular juncture I should consider it more suitable for your glory to act otherwise at that time. Further, I bind myself to this so that, on receiving the blow of death, I shall accept it from your hands with the fullest delight and joy of spirit.
—  St. John de Brebeuf 

Prayer for St. John de Brebeuf’s Intercession

Almighty ever-living God, who blesses your Church Militant on earth with the witness of your holy Martyrs, grant, we pray, that by the intercession of Saint John de Brebeuf, we may grow in our desire for the things of God and live in imitation of Christ. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, our Divine Savior. Amen.

Novena to Saint Jude 2017 | Day 1

St. Jude icon

October 19, 2017

This novena is dedicated to impossible causes or difficult situation which seem hopeless or extremely gave, as Saint Jude is the patron saint of desperate and lost causes. Today we pray for our personal intentions confident that all things are possible for God. St. Jude, help us to be steadfast in our faith as you were.

Saint Jude Novena - Day 1

Most holy St. Jude, apostle, martyr and friend of Jesus, pray for me and my intentions. Intercede for me before the throne of God and plead for His favor.

(State your intentions here)

You are the patron of the impossible. Pray for my intentions St. Jude, that God’s grace and mercy will answer them. Pray for the impossible if it is God’s will.

Pray that I may have the grace to accept God’s holy will even if it is difficult.

St. Jude, you loved our Lord, help me to love Him more.

O St. Jude, pray for me that I may grow in faith, hope and love and in the grace of Jesus Christ. Pray for these intentions, but most of all pray that I may join you in heaven together with God, seeing Him face to face for all eternity. Amen.

For more about the St. Jude novena including daily email reminders go HERE.

Homily for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 22, 2017, Year A

Roman money

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

At this point in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus has already passed two “tests”— spot quizzes, if you like —concocted by his adversaries. Apparently they haven’t learned their lesson. In their malice they have come back, only to be confounded once again.

The issue wasn’t just whether one ought to pay taxes. It had to do with the Imperial Tax, the tribute levied on peoples subject to the Roman empire. The moneys raised were not for services provided, but to keep the people in subjection and enrich the empire. It was certainly perceived as an unjust tax, an unlawful tax.

We can relate to that. In our own experience, the law is everywhere. It is intended to guarantee our rights and protect our freedom. But we like some laws better than others, depending on the extent to which they affect our property and our freedom.

Here is an interesting case in point. There was an article in last Monday’s local paper on a shooting range in Vermont, near the Connecticut River. The noise can be heard, loud and clear and all day long, across the river in New Hampshire. We would all agree that the right to bear arms does not bestow the right to disturb your neighbors in their own home; nor does the right to tranquility in one’s own home violate the right to bear arms. Nevertheless, the situation has had a polarizing effect, to say the least, and it will probably be quite some time before a solution is found that will be both “lawful” and just.

The second half of Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees and Herodians says that we must repay to God what belongs to God. Now there was such a thing as a “temple tax,” but it would be ludicrous to think Jesus meant that.

Very often this passage is interpreted as applying to situations where civil law and Church teaching are in conflict. It is even used sometimes as a sort of club to beat Christian politicians into submission. I cannot believe that is what Jesus intended.

There is a challenge in this text, certainly. But if we look at the context of the overall relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians, it is a prophetic challenge, much broader than the political sphere. Twice in the first reading God says, “I am the Lord, there is no other.” The Pharisees and company seem to have forgotten that, setting themselves up as legislator, police, judge and jury.

The challenge, then, is much more along the lines of the words of St. Paul in the second reading, the “work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope.” This is not first and foremost about life in the political sphere, but it is certainly not divorced from the political sphere either.

If we are to return to God what belongs to God, let our starting point be the attitude of Psalm 116: “How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me?... My vows to the Lord I will fulfill before all his people.”

What vows? In Jesus’ world, the commitment to the two Great Commandments, love of God and love of neighbor. In our Christian and Catholic world, the baptismal promises: rejecting Satan and espousing the faith as a way of life. It doesn’t stop on the day of our baptism, does it?

No. It’s everywhere, every day. We must repay to God what belongs to God, in our personal life, our social life, our professional life and, yes, even our political life.

Sts. Isaac Jogues, Jean de Brebeuf and Companions, the North American Martyrs

The North American Martyrs

Memorial - October 19th

It has been said that the Catholic Church in North America sprang from the blood of martyrs, and the story of Saint Isaac Jogues and his companions is certainly proof of that. Jogues was born in France in 1607, and missionary zeal soon led the young priest to the New World in 1636, where he worked with the Huron natives under the direction of Fr. John de Brebeuf his fellow Jesuit and mentor.

The Huron Indians, however, were not the only native peoples he encountered. The Iroquois were traditional enemies of the Huron and sworn enemies of the French. Consequently, when the Iroquois captured and held Father Jogues and his companions for thirteen months, they were imprisoned and tortured cruelly. Their fingers were cut, chewed, and burned off, and they were forced to watch the mutilation and killing of their Christian converts as a violent punishment.

Father Jogues, with the help of the Dutch, was finally able to escape and return to France. He was granted permission by Pope Urban VIII to offer Mass with mutilated hands and almost at once set sail back to North America to continue his missionary work. In 1646, he was captured by a Mohawk war party and was brutally tomahawked before being savagely beheaded by them on October 18th.

John de Brebeuf and five of his companions were martyred after four hours of extreme torture at Sainte Marie, near Georgian Bay, Canada in 1649. After Brebeuf’s demise, his body was stripped, beaten and beheaded. The details of his martyrdom are as follows. The Iroquois began to win their war with the Herons and destroyed a large Huron village. They captured Brebeuf and his companions. who were fastened to stakes and tortured to death by scalping, mock baptism using boiling water, fire, necklaces of red-hot hatchets, and finally, mutilation.

According to tradition Brebeuf did not make a single utterance while he was being tortured. This astounded the Iroquois, who later cut out his heart and ate it in hopes of gaining his courage. In 1984, Saint John Paul II prayed over Brebeuf’s skull before celebrating an outdoor Mass on the grounds of the Martyrs' Shrine.

The Jesuit martyrs of North America were canonized on June 29, 1930 by Pope Pius XI. In 1940, Pope Pius XII officially proclaimed them the secondary patrons of Canada. The first North American martyrs to be officially recognized by the Church, their shrine is located in Auriesville, New York. Loving God, who chose to manifest the blessed hope of your eternal Kingdom by the toil of Saints John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues and companions, by the shedding of their blood, graciously grant that through their intercession the faith of Christians may be strengthened.

Saint Peter of Alcantara, Mystic and Reformer

Saint Peter of Alcantara

According to the 1962 Missal of Saint John XXIII, October 19th, is the feast of Saint Peter of Alcantara, (1499 -1562) the 16th century priest known for his gifts of contemplation and the virtue of penance. He was one of Saint Teresa of Avila's spiritual directors who perceived in her a soul chosen by God for a great work. He counseled and encouraged St. Teresa in her reformation of the Carmelite Order.

Peter, surnamed Alcantara after the town of his birth, was eminent among the saints of the sixteenth century for an extraordinary spirit of penance and for attaining the heights of contemplation. He was a great mystic. At the age of sixteen he entered the Order of Friars Minor. He was an apostle of spiritual reform in his own community and aided St. Teresa in her reform of the Carmelites. God revealed to her that no one would remain unheard who begged in Peter's name.

Thereafter Teresa was most eager to have his prayers and honored him as a saint while he was still alive. With great humility Peter shunned all favors from eminent personages, even though they esteemed him as the mouthpiece of God or asked his counsel; for instance, he declined the request to act as confessor to Charles V.

Although she was at quite a distance at the time of her esteemed mentor's death, St. Teresa saw his soul entering heaven. Later he would appear to her and say: "O happy penances which won for me such blessedness! Lord Jesus Christ, Who said: "Ask and ye shall receive", and Who revealed to your servant St.Teresa, that whatever should be asked of you in the name of Blessed Peter of Alcantara would be granted, full of confidence in your promises, we humbly ask you, grant by the intercession of St. Peter of Alcantara all that our souls require. Amen.

World Mission Sunday 2017

Pope Francis' coat of arms Since 1926, the third Sunday of October has been set aside for the Catholic Church the world over to renew its commitment to the task of evangelizing all nations, as called to by Christ.

World Mission Sunday, the annual worldwide Eucharistic celebration for the Missions and missionaries of the world, will be on October 22th. The collection on the next-to-last Sunday in October is a unique, global effort for the entire Church to provide for the building up of over one thousand local churches in Asia and Africa, the Pacific Islands, and parts of Latin America, Europe [and the United States].

Through the work of these churches, and their witness to Christ, the poor receive practical help and experience God’s love, mercy, hope and peace. This year, Pope Francis reminds us that mission is at the heart of our Faith. St. Therese of Lisieux. Patroness of Missionaries, pray for us.

October 17, 2017

Mary was a Primary Source for Luke’s Gospel

St. Luke

Father Charles Irvin observes that Luke's Gospel is unique: "Of the four Gospel accounts written by Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, St. Luke’s has been characterized by some scripture scholars as the most beautiful of them all. St. Luke’s Gospel contains accounts of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, for instance. Mary, the mother of Jesus has a special place in his Gospel. Moreover, St. Luke has a special regard for women, for the hurting, the outcasts, and those who were seen to be at the bottom of the social heap in those days. The tender and compassionate heart of Jesus is prominent in St. Luke’s accounts of His life."

Saint Luke’s Gospel is distinctive indeed. It contains information not found in any other account of Jesus’s life, both canonical and non-canonical. Where did Luke get his stories about the conception, birth and infancy of Jesus Christ? Many believe this information came from none other than Mary, the Mother of God.

Who but Mary could have told him the things that she kept in her heart? We know that Luke was with the Apostles at the same time as Mary. In aspiring to write an orderly account of the Savior's life and ministry, it would have been natural to ask Mary what happened from the beginning. It is therefore all but certain that she was a primary source for his portrayal. The Catechism states:

"The Gospel according to St. Luke emphasizes the action of the Holy Spirit and the meaning of prayer in Christ's ministry. Jesus prays before the decisive moments of his mission: before his Father's witness to him during his baptism and Transfiguration, and before his own fulfillment of the Father's plan of love by his Passion. He also prays before the decisive moments involving the mission of his apostles: at his election and call of the Twelve, before Peter's confession of him as "the Christ of God," and again that the faith of the chief of the Apostles may not fail when tempted. Jesus' prayer before the events of salvation that the Father has asked him to fulfill is a humble and trusting commitment of his human will to the loving will of the Father." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2600)

The Persecution of Christians is Worse Now Than at Any Time in History

21 Coptic Christian Martyrs of Libya

Aid to the Church in Need is a papal charity of the Catholic Church, supporting the Catholic faithful and other Christians where they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. The organization recently published its report Persecuted and Forgotten? 2015-2017, detailing how Christians are oppressed for their Faith. The report's findings are chilling. It found that the persecution of Christians is today "worse than at any time in history." Christians in the Middle East are most at risk.

In 2016 alone, some 600,000 Christians were persecuted worldwide. From the report's executive summary: "While firm numbers are hard to come by … there is little doubt that the level of Christian persecution remains extremely high in a great number of places around the world … In many countries the situation was already so severe, it could scarcely get any worse, and yet it did – the obvious exception being Saudi Arabia, where a long-established pattern of some of the world's worst oppression saw no obvious indications of deterioration."

Increasingly, those who believe in Christ are endangered, singled out for hate and systematic genocide. The report explains how "an eradication of Christians, and other minorities, was – and still is – the specific and stated objective of extremist groups at work in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the region, including Egypt." The report claims that the UN failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they desperately needed as genocide got underway.

It also observes, "At a time in the West when there is increasing media focus on the rights of people regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexuality, it is ironic that in much of the secular media there should be such limited coverage of the massive persecution experienced by so many Christians." The Christian communities in India, China, Ethiopia and Sudan have experienced greater persecution as well. Let us pray for all our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to live in true safety.

Prayer For Persecuted Christians

O God of all the nations, the One God who is and was and always will be, in your providence you willed that your Church be united to the suffering of your Son. Look with mercy on your servants who are persecuted for their faith in you. Grant them perseverance and courage to be worthy imitators of Christ. Bring your wisdom upon leaders of nations to work for peace among all peoples. May your Spirit open conversion for those who contradict your will, that we may live in harmony. Give us the grace to be united in truth, and to always seek your will in our lives. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us.

Our persecuted brothers and sisters in faith face intimidation, torture and death for being disciples of Christ. We must assist them, if only in prayer. Our prayers are always efficacious no matter how dire the situation or the fact God does not always grant our petitions. To help visit ChristiansAtRisk.org and Nasarean.org.

Saint Luke, Missionary and Evangelist

Saint Luke
Saint Luke came from Antioch, was a practicing physician and one of the initial converts to Christianity. He accompanied Saint Paul, who converted him, on his missionary journeys and was still with him in Rome when St. Paul was in prison awaiting death. We hear no more of him afterward and nothing is known of his final years. The Church venerates him as a Martyr.

The Gospel he authored is principally concerned with salvation and mercy; in it are preserved some of our Lord's most moving parables, like those of the lost sheep and the prodigal son. Dante calls St. Luke the "historian of the meekness of Christ." It is also St. Luke who tells us the greater part of what we know about our Lord's childhood (as relayed by Our Lady).

The Evangelist considered his Gospel and the Book of Acts to be one account in two parts. In Acts of the Apostles, we follow Luke's journey in Christian ministry. Much of Acts is written in the third person. However, occasionally, Luke conveys events he had witnessed firsthand. This would help to explain the more detailed portrayals of St. Paul's missionary travels. Luke's account in Acts is the only Apostolic record of the founding of Christianity and the spread of the Good News. Beginning with Christ's Ascension, it chronicles the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the efforts of a nascent Church striving to fulfill its divine mission.

According to tradition he was an artist, as well as a man of letters; and with a soul alive to all the most delicate inspirations, he consecrated his pencil to the holiest use, and handed down to us the features of the Mother of God. It was an illustration worthy of the Gospel which relates to the divine Infancy; and it won for the artist a new title to the gratitude of those who never saw Jesus and Mary in the flesh. Hence St. Luke is the patron of painters, sculptors and Christian art.

The exact method of his martyrdom is uncertain. The Coptic Orthodox Church contends that he was beheaded at the behest of Emperor Nero. Others say he preached in Greece, and possibly Gaul, before dying at age 84 in Boeotia. He is also the patron of notaries, physicians, stained glass workers and surgeons, among others. His feast day is October 18th. Lord God, who chose St. Luke to reveal by his preaching and writings the mystery of your love, grant that those who glory in your name may persevere and all may merit to see your salvation.

October 16, 2017

Saint Ignatius of Antioch on Christianity

Saint Ignatius of Antioch

Saint Ignatius of Antioch lived at a time when the Church endured systematic persecution. The Church is persecuted still today. Pope Paul VI’s words are instructive: "It comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a 'sign of contradiction.'" Given the Church’s divine mandate, Saint Ignatius’ stark insight is as profound as it is succinct.

Christianity is greatest when it is hated by the world.

— Saint Ignatius of Antioch

Prayer for St Ignatius of Antioch’s Intercession

Almighty ever-living God, who adorn the sacred body of your Church with the confessions of holy Martyrs, grant, we pray, that, by the intercession of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, we may grow in our love for the things of God and live in imitation of Christ. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, our Divine Savior. Amen.

Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

St. Ignatius of Antioch

Memorial - October 17th

On this day, the Church commemorates one of the most significant Apostolic Fathers of Christian antiquity, who lived less than a century after Christ. Saint Ignatius of Antioch, (c. 35 – 107) a disciple of the Apostle John, was the third Bishop of Antioch (a city in present day Turkey) from 70 to 107, the date of his martyrdom. Tradition holds Ignatius, as a child, was blessed by Our Lord. He is patron of the Catholic Church in the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa.

Ignatius is credited with coining the term 'Catholic' in reference to the universal Church. "Wherever Jesus Christ is", he observed, "there is the Catholic Church" (Smyrnaeans, 8:2). He is best known for the seven letters he wrote to six early Christian communities and to Saint Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, defending orthodoxy, urging unity and warning against heresy as he journeyed to his death from Antioch to Rome — a treasure passed down from the 1st century Church. Offering his impending martyrdom to Christ, Ignatius composed the following:

"From Syria to Rome I must do battle with beasts on land and sea. For day and night I am chained to ten leopards, that is, the soldiers who guard me and grow more ferocious the better they are treated. Their mistreatment is good instruction for me, yet am I still far from justified. Oh, that I may meet the wild beasts now kept in readiness for me. I shall implore them to give me death promptly and to hasten my departure. I shall invite them to devour me so that they will not leave my body unharmed as already has happened to other witnesses. If they refuse to pounce upon me, I shall impel them to eat me. My little children, forgive me these words. Surely I know what is good for me. From things visible I no longer desire anything; I want to find Jesus. Fire and cross, wild beasts, broken bones, lacerated members, a body wholly crushed, and Satan's every torment, let them all overwhelm me, if only I reach Christ" (Romans, 5).

Having experienced a personal encounter with Jesus, Ignatius converted as a young man and became a disciple of the beloved disciple John. His holiness, intellect and zeal came to the attention of Peter, the first Pope, who consecrated him Bishop of Antioch around the year 69. Ignatius proved to be a wise and much beloved prelate. Maintaining the hierarchical structure of the Church, and at the same time, the unity of the faithful in Christ, were among his greatest concerns. Even greater was his willingness to suffer martyrdom rather than deny his Faith.

In 107, during a wave of persecution by the Emperor Trajan, Christians were told to renounce their faith or face death. After refusing to do so, Ignatius was taken under guard to Rome where he was killed by wild beasts in the Amphitheatre. His sacrifice is recorded in the Roman Martyrology: "At Rome, the holy bishop and martyr Ignatius. He was the second successor to the apostle Peter in the see of Antioch. In the persecution of Trajan, he was condemned to the wild beasts and sent in chains to Rome. There, by the emperor's order, he was subjected to most cruel tortures in the presence of the Senate and then thrown to the lions. Torn to pieces by their teeth, he became a victim for Christ." O God, who adorns your Church with the witness of Martyrs, grant, that, just as the glorious passion of St. Ignatius of Antioch, merited him eternal life, may it give to us eternal inspiration.

October 15, 2017

Let There Be Light: The Movie Hollywood Won't Make

In the golden age of Hollywood, movies extolling heroic virtue and Christian values were commonplace. Films were life affirming, their plots derived from saintly figures, or Scripture itself (Ben-Hur and The Greatest Story Ever Told).

Today Hollywood has little to offer Christians beyond mockery and derision. Let There Be Light is the movie Hollywood won’t make. In it an atheist goes through a near-death experience in an auto accident before converting to Christianity.

Deadline has this summary: "After suffering the traumatic loss of his youngest son to cancer, Dr. Sol Harkens (Kevin Sorbo) loses faith and heads down a path of darkness. Distancing himself from his ex-wife Katy (Sam Sorbo) and their two remaining sons, Sol turns to alcohol to numb his pain. Soon his bad habits catch up to him, and Sol is involved in a serious car accident that leaves him dead for four minutes before he is resuscitated. What Sol experiences during this time changes his outlook on life and brings him closer to his family and faith."

Let There Be Light’s release date is October 27th. The production was a family affair. Kevin Sorbo directed the film. Sorbo’s wife Sam Sorbo co-wrote the film, and both star in it alongside their two sons. Here is the the trailer for the movie.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque on the Sacred Heart

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque
This divine heart is an abyss filled with all blessings, and into the poor should submerge all their needs. It is an abyss of joy in which all of us can immerse our sorrows. It is an abyss of lowliness to counteract our foolishness, an abyss of mercy for the wretched, an abyss of love to meet our every need.
— St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Prayer for St. Margaret Mary Alacoque’s Intercession

Pour out on us, we pray, almighty God, the spirit with which you so remarkably endowed Saint Margaret Mary, so that we may come to know that love of Christ which surpasses all understanding and by her holy intercession, be utterly filled with your fullness. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son who lives and reigns with you, and in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Marguerite d'Youville, First Native Canadian Saint

Saint Marguerite d'Youville

October 16th, the Church in Canada observes the optional memorial of Saint Marguerite d'Youville, the first native Canadian to be elevated to sainthood. She was born October 15, 1701 at Varennes, Quebec, the eldest child to Christophe Dufrost de Lajemmerais and Marie-Renée Gaultier. Her father died when she was 7 years old leaving her family in tremendous poverty. She studied for two years at the Ursulines in Quebec. Upon her return home, she became an invaluable support to her mother and undertook the education of her brothers and sisters.

She married François d'Youville in 1722, and the young couple made their home with his mother who made life miserable for her daughter-in-law. She soon came to realize that her husband had no interest in making a home life. His frequent absences and illegal liquor trading with the Indians caused her great suffering. She was pregnant with her sixth child when François became seriously ill. She faithfully cared for him until his death in 1730. By age 29, she had experienced poverty and lost her father and husband. Four of her six children died in infancy.

In all these suffering Marguerite grew in her belief of God's presence in her life and his infinite love for every human person. She greatly desired to make his compassionate love for all known throughout the world. She undertook many charitable works with complete trust in God, who she loved as a Father.

She provided for the education of her two sons, who would later became priests, and she welcomed a blind woman into her home. Marguerite was soon joined by three young women who shared her love and concern for the poor. On December 31, 1737, they consecrated themselves to God and promised to serve him in the persons of the poor and sick. Marguerite, without even realizing it, had become the foundress of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, also called the "Grey Nuns".

In 1747, Sister Marguerite, who was referred to as the "mother of the poor", was asked to become director of the Charon Brothers Hospital in Montreal, which was falling into ruin. She and her sisters rebuilt the hospital and cared for those in most desperate human misery. With the help of her fellow sisters, Marguerite laid the foundation for ministering to the indigent population of Montreal and beyond.

A fire destroyed the hospital in 1765, but nothing could diminish Marguerite's faith and courage. She asked her sisters and the poor who lived at the hospital, to recognize the hand of God in this disaster and to offer him praise. At the age of 64 she undertook the reconstruction of this shelter for those in need. Totally exhausted from a lifetime of self-giving, Marguerite died on December 23, 1771. She is remembered as a loving mother who served Jesus Christ in the destitute.

Saint Hedwig of Silesia, Patroness of Poland

Saint Hedwig of Silesia

Optional Memorial - October 16th

Saint Hedwig, the aunt of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, was married at an early age and raised seven children. When her husband died in 1238, she took the habit of the Cistercian nuns at Trebnitz (where one of her daughters was the abbess), but retained her property so that she could give relief to the suffering.

Hedwig was born in 1174 in Bavaria, the daughter of the Duke of Croatia. She was the maternal aunt of St. Elizabeth of Hungary and married Henry, Duke of Silesia. After their six children were born, they both strove to advance in sanctity and to enrich Silesia and Poland with monasteries, hospitals, and leper asylums. 

She outlived all but one of her children, Gertrude. Hedwig persuaded her husband to use her dowry to found a Cisterian monastery for nuns at Trebnitz, that would be a center of prayer. Their daughter Gertrude became abbess of the monastery.

Hedwig led a life of piety and solicitude for the sick and poor, including their religious education. She lived a life of poverty and humility, despite her prominent position. Every day, even in winter, she would walk barefooted, so her feet were in bad shape. A story tells us her husband sent her a pair of shoes, insisting that she not be without them — so she kept them under her arm. 

After the death of her husband, Hedwig completely renounced the world and entered the monastery of Trebnitz which she had founded. She died on October 15, 1243 and is venerated as patroness of Poland. She is not to be confused with Saint Hedwig, Queen of Poland (1371-1399), canonized by Saint John Paul II. Grant, we pray, almighty God, that the revered intercession of Saint Hedwig may bring us heavenly aid, just as her wonderful life is an example of humility for all. 

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque

Optional Memorial - October 16th

Occasionally, we get so caught up in the holiness of saints — sometimes to the point of thinking that we could never be like them — that we forget that they, like us, often suffered misunderstanding, criticism, and ridicule for the things they said and did. This was true with St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the Visitation nun whose visions of the Sacred Heart were at first largely dismissed as delusions.

Margaret Mary’s childhood was far from idyllic. Born in the village of L'Hautecour, France in 1647, she suffered the death of her father at an early age. That event, coupled with the unscrupulous actions of a relative, resulted in the family being left poverty stricken and humiliated. After her First Communion at the age of nine, Margaret Mary herself became ill and was paralyzed for four years. Her health, along with the desperate situation the family found itself enduring, caused her emotional anguish. “The heaviest of my crosses,” she later said, “was that I could do nothing to lighten the cross my mother was suffering.”

During her illness, Margaret Mary developed an intense devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and made a vow to the Blessed Virgin that, if she recovered, she would enter religious life.  Consequently, when her health returned in 1671, she entered the Order of Visitation nuns at Paray-le-Monial. There she was known primarily for her slowness and clumsiness, although one of her fellow novices also noted that she was kind and patient, even when being harshly corrected. Her patience under persecution would end up serving her well in the years to come.

On December 21, 1674, this humble nun began to receive a series of revelations from Christ, who asked her to become the instrument through which He would convey His great love for all humankind. At first, she was afraid that she might be deceived by these experiences, yet as they continued over a period of a year and a half, she came to believe and live the devotion that Christ had invited her to.

Jesus showed Margaret Mary His heart, the symbol of His love, surrounded by a crown of thorns.  “Behold this heart,” He told her, “that has so loved men that it has spared nothing.”  In return, He said, He has often been treated, not with love, but with ingratitude and coldness; He called upon Margaret Mary to make up for this rejection by “frequent and loving Communion, especially on the first Friday of each month, and by an hour’s vigil of prayer each Thursday night in memory of His agony and isolation in Gethsemane.” He also asked that a special feast of the Sacred Heart be established on the Friday after Corpus Christi.

When the visions stopped, it seemed that Margaret Mary’s troubles had just begun.  Many of the sisters in the convent were hostile to her, and theologians declared her to be “delusional.” Even some of the parents of the children she taught reviled her, calling her unorthodox and an imposter. It wasn’t until a new confessor, a Jesuit by the name of Saint Claude de la Colombiere, came to the convent that her genuineness, holiness and personal veracity was recognized.

Following her death in 1690, there was continued discussion surrounding her devotion to the Sacred Heart.  Everything she said, wrote, and did was examined scrupulously by the Sacred Congregation and, finally, in March of 1824, Pope Leo XII pronounced her venerable. She was beatified in 1864 and canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV. Known as the “Apostle of the Sacred Heart,” St. Margaret Mary Alacoque’s feast day is October 16th. Sacred Heart of Jesus, pray for us.

Chosen: A Reflection for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Jesus with the Pharisees

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

(Isaiah 45:1-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5; Matthew 22:15-21)

Cyrus is a fascinating historical personage. His was the largest empire the world had yet seen. He governed wisely, repatriating deported peoples, and respecting cultures and religions, including Judaism. In the Bible, he is the only pagan to be called ‘Anointed,’ which in Hebrew is the word ‘Messiah.’ God called him by name, i.e., he had a special purpose for him. He was chosen.

St. Paul calls to mind the faith and love of the Thessalonians, and knows how they were chosen, to become disciples of Jesus Christ, whose name means ‘Lord-Savior Anointed.’

The Pharisees had a clear sense of their mission. Among the chosen people of Israel, they were to be faithful to the Law of God, to promote fidelity to it, and to defend it. In the Gospels they were often scandalized by Jesus’ seeming indifference to the Law, and more than once they tried to trap him in his words, as we see today.

One might be tempted to think that the attitude of the Pharisees is reflected in the message of Christ. The Lord’s Day, the Holy Name, Fasting: these laws seem to matter as much to Jesus as to the Pharisees.

There is a great difference, however. First of all, let us recall that, early in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the prophets… Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:17, 19).

But, two verses later, he added: “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” This was not an indictment of the Pharisees, but a call to be more than keepers of the Law.

The Law was a gift. Its aim was to make it possible to know God’s will and follow it, and thereby find prosperity and security, leading to praise. This is reflected in today’s Responsorial Psalm: “Give to the Lord glory and praise; give to the Lord the glory due his name!”

That is ultimately what we are chosen for, to glorify God in word and deed.

Saint Teresa of Ávila’s Vision of Hell

Saint Teresa of Avila

A Carmelite nun who left her cloister at Avila and set up a reformed Carmelite Order, Saint Teresa of Ávila endured much suffering with a joyful heart. She experienced spiritual insights and interior manifestations of her mystical union with God, including this glimpse of hell intended as a divine correction. [Source]
I was at prayer one day when suddenly, without knowing how, I found myself, as I thought, plunged right into hell. I realized that it was the Lord's will that I should see the place which the devils had prepared for me there and which I had merited for my sins.
These words are found in the autobiography of one of the greatest saints in the history of the Church, St. Teresa of Jesus. Elsewhere she says that the place prepared for her in hell was actually less horrible than she had really deserved.

Prayer for St. Teresa of Ávila’s Intercession

Father, by your Spirit you raised up Saint Teresa of Jesus to show your Church the way to perfection. May her inspired teaching and holy intercession awaken in us a longing for true holiness. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns along with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

October 14, 2017

Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 15, 2017, Year A

Parable of the Wedding Feast

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

For a moment I would like you to imagine yourself at a party, maybe a party that you have been to, or one that you have given for friends and acquaintances. Let’s say it’s a costume party and people are there with altered ways of seeing each other. Everyone has a fresh start and a new beginning at being different persons. Past histories are forgotten. The guests present themselves, and are seen by others, as new persons.

Everyone at the party is having a wonderful time, chatting, laughing, enjoying each other, and sharing the happiness of a really good time. But then you notice someone over in the corner, all alone and sulking… miserable in his isolation and loneliness. You go over and try to talk with him but all you get for your trouble are a few grunts and a sour look. The more you try to break through his isolation the more you discover that he is disgusted with people who have a good time and resentful that you have even given a party. It’s almost as if everyone else doesn’t have a right to have a good time because he is miserable and he wants everyone else to be miserable also. No amount of coaxing moves him out of his protective and miserable shell. He absolutely refuses to receive the good time you wish to give him. There is nothing that you can do, nothing you can give him that will make him happy.

Let me now point out that God is throwing a party for us. He made the earth a garden of beauty. Even when in the Garden of Eden things didn’t turn out right God started over. And He did so again and again after that. Finally, He sent his Son to throw us a party, a celebration in a new garden, the Garden of the Resurrection.

Listen again now to the prophet Isaiah: On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever.

In St. Matthew’s Gospel we hear: The servants went out into the byroads and rounded up everyone they met, the bad as well as the good. This filled the wedding hall with banqueters. When the king came in to meet the guests, however he caught sight of a man not properly dressed for a wedding feast.

The point of it all is that we come to God’s party, His banquet life, not because we have earned a right to be there, not because we can buy an invitation, not because our friends have good political influence with Him, but simply because He gives us entrance out of His free generosity. The enjoyment of life comes to us from God’s free choice and totally because of His sheer generosity.

There is a more subtle point. The bad as well as the good are at the party. All are predestined to attend. All are there with new faces, as new persons with new beginnings because the forgiveness of God has made them new again, new persons with new histories and new beginnings. All of our past mistakes and our sins are blotted out because we are wearing new visages, new costumes, because we are wearing His wedding garments, clothed with His gifts. God’s judgment is His mercy. Our predestination allows is to be made over again, the bad as well as the good, in the new creation that is given us by the Son of God, the Word made into one of us and then raised from the death of our sins and our history into a new life, in a new Garden of Eden, in the banquet thrown by God in the Resurrection of his Son.

Now the difficulty comes in our response to God’s invitation to His party. After all is said and done, God offers and we respond. He wants us to have a good time, a joyful time with Him in His world, in the life He has given us. The difficulty is found in those who sit off in the corner sulking, muttering to themselves, and hating all of those who are enjoying themselves in God’s party.

There are people who do not like to receive anything at all, even gifts. We all know of them. Perhaps we may even see them in ourselves. They are the ones who tell us: “I’ll pay for everything I get; I can earn my way and I don’t need anybody’s charity; I don’t need anybody or anything; I can take care of myself.”

That attitude is particularly noticeable when it comes to receiving forgiveness. Many people just cannot say that they are sorry, or confess their sins. They simply cannot receive the gratuity and the sheer gift of forgiveness. Why? Well for a lot of reasons I suppose, but I think a big reason is pride. It’s found in the fact that receiving forgiveness means an admission of need; the fear of being dependent upon another’s love; and so forth. Many reasons. But they all mean that such persons come to God’s party, God’s celebration of life, without a wedding garment, the garment that is being clothed with Christ. They cannot rid themselves of their past and be seen in a new light, as new persons. It means they can’t join the party and are bitterly resentful of those that do.

Receiving a sheer free gift is difficult. One immediately feels an obligation. One feels that one simply has to give in return; feels indebted; feels a sudden loss of independence and self-sufficiency. It happens at Christmas, birthdays. It happens in moments of crisis. It happens when one needs forgiveness. I know of several bad marriages when I could have helped the couples involved but was not able to because one or both of the parties would not come to me for help. They could not admit they needed help or admit that they could not take care of their problem all by themselves.

God has given us life and He wants us to enjoy ourselves in this life. By giving us life He is throwing a banquet for us, a feast of rich food in choice wines, juicy, rich and pure. He knows that we will make mistakes and so He is prepared to reconcile us in the death and resurrection of His only Son. Ultimately, when at the end of our lives we are judged by God, He will see our humanity in the humanity of his Son. He will judge us in that way. But that means that we have to come to God’s banquet table of life properly dressed, dressed that is in the wedding garment offered us by his Son. It means putting off our old clothes of self-sufficiency, privatism, independency, and grand isolation. It means putting on the wedding garment of acceptance, acceptance of ourselves in the limitations and imperfections we have, acceptance of our need for forgiveness, acceptance of the gift of His Son offered to us by God our Father. Our destiny is there. But the consequence of our life rests in our own decisions. What will be the sum total of our life’s decisions when we die? What grand decision will they all add up to? To know the answer to that question we have only to examine the pattern of our daily living and our willingness to receive the gifts of God, the gifts of life and the gifts of others that come to us in this life.

Truly in this instance it is more blessed to receive than to give.

Prayer to St. Jude for Desperate Situations

St. Jude icon

Most holy Apostle, Saint Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honors and invokes you universally as the patron of difficult cases, of things despaired of and desperate situations. Pray for me, I am so helpless and alone.

Intercede with God for me that He bring visible and speedy help where all hope is almost despaired of. Please come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and help of heaven in all my necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly (state your request...)

that I may praise God with you and all the saints forever. I promise, Blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor granted me by God and to always honor you as my special patron, and to gratefully extol devotion to you. Amen.


May the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus be loved and adored in all the tabernacles until the end of time. Amen.

May the most Sacred Heart of Jesus be praised and glorified now and forever. Amen

St. Jude pray for us and hear our prayers. Amen.

Blessed be the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Blessed be the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Blessed be St. Jude Thaddeus, in all the world and for all Eternity.

Our Father who art in heaven....

Hail Mary full of grace....

Prayer to St. Jude for Those Who are Critically Ill

Dear Apostle and Martyr for Christ, you left us an Epistle in the New Testament. With good reason many invoke you when illness is at a desperate stage. We now recommend to your kindness (name of patient) who is in a critical condition. May their healing increase the adoration of Christ, for the greater glory of God. Amen.

St. Teresa of Ávila, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

St. Teresa of Avila

(In 2017, this feast is superseded by the Sunday liturgy.)

Memorial - October 15th

Saint Teresa of Ávila, (1515-1582) also called St. Teresa of Jesus, is a 16th century Spanish mystic, foundress, and Doctor of the Church. Baptized Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, she was born into a wealthy family at Ávila, Spain, the third of nine children. In her youth she was described as beautiful, precocious and marked by a spiritual acuity beyond her years. Of her initial formation and temperament, she observed: "The possession of virtuous parents who lived in the fear of God, together with those favors which I received from his Divine Majesty, might have made me good, if I had not been so very wicked."

Teresa was 14 when her mother died. Overcome with grief, she asked the Virgin Mary to be her spiritual mother and help. Despite her pious upbringing and Godly inclination; Teresa’s interest was briefly given to superficial pursuits. Enamored with tales of chivalry, the future saint deigned to write the same, and, for a short time, concerned herself with her own (aesthetic) beauty. At this, Teresa's father placed her in a convent of Augustinian nuns in Avila. There, Teresa realized how dangerously close she had come to submitting to the vanities of the world.

In 1533, against her father’s wishes, she entered the Carmelite Order. For the next 18 years, she endured both physical pain and spiritual dryness. Depressed by her own unworthiness, Teresa sought the aid of two great penitents, Saint Mary Magdalen and Saint Augustine. She credited them with experiences that helped steady her resolve. One was reading St. Augustine's Confessions; another was the compulsion to pray penitently before an image of the suffering Christ. Regarding this, she wrote: "I felt Mary Magdalen come to my assistance.... From that day I have gone on improving in my spiritual life." Teresa's mystical visions intensified. She began experiencing intellectual insights into divine things and to hear inner voices. Convinced these came from God, she confided them to her confessor and immediate superiors, who viewed them skeptically. Some familiar with her divine ecstasies thought they were diabolical in nature, and not divine.

Additionally, Teresa was growing increasingly dissatisfied with the laissez-faire atmosphere at her convent. With encouragement from Saint Peter of Alcantara, the Franciscan priest who was her spiritual guide, she resolved to establish a reformed Carmelite convent, dedicated to prayer, contemplation and absolute poverty. Under divine inspiration, having obtained the sanction of Pope Pius IV, she founded thirty-two reformed convents, often amid heavy opposition. With Saint John of the Cross, she formed a Discalced Carmelite community for men.

St. Teresa of Ávila, whose intercession is widely sought for help in deepening one's prayer life, struggled with prayer herself before achieving a special union with God. Father Pius Parsch describes that union thusly: "Truly wonderful were the exterior and interior manifestations of her mystical union with God, especially during the last decade of her life. These graces reached a climax when her heart was transfixed (transverberatio cordis), an event that is commemorated in the Carmelite Order by a special feast on August 27. She practiced great devotion to the foster-father of Jesus, whose cult was greatly furthered by her efforts."

While traveling to visit a friend, Teresa became ill and would never recover. She died on October 4, 1582, after receiving Extreme Unction. Her last words were: "O my Lord, now is the time that we shall see each other!" She was a prodigious author whose writings are seminal works on mysticism. They include: Camino de Perfeccion, (Way of Perfection) El Castillo Interior, (The Interior Castle), and Las Fundaciones (Foundations). On March 12, 1622, she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV. Blessed Pope Paul VI declared her a Doctor of the Church in 1970.