August 16, 2017

Saint Hyacinth of Poland, Apostle of the North

Saint Hyacinth of Poland

According to the 1962 Missal of Saint John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, August 17th is the feast of Saint Hyacinth of Poland. He is called the “Apostle of the North” because he spread the Dominican Order to the northern countries of Russia, the Balkans, Prussia and Lithuania. St. Hyacinth preached the crusade against the Prussians. He died on the feast of the Assumption, 1257.

While a canon at the cathedral of Cracow, Hyacinth journeyed to Rome, was impressed by the preaching and miracles of St. Dominic, and from the hand of Dominic himself received the habit of the newly-founded Order. Upon returning to his native land (1219), he established monasteries of his Order beyond the Alps at Friesach, Prague, Olmiitz, and Cracow.

From the Breviary we have this miracle. With three companions Hyacinth had arrived at the banks of the river Weichsel during their journey to Vischegrad, where they were expected to preach. But the waters had risen so high and had become so violent that no ferryman dared to cross. The saint took his mantle, spread it out before him, and with his companions rode across the raging waters. After saying his Office for the day, he died in 1257 with these words on his lips: "Into Your hands, Lord, I rest my spirit!"

Most holy Saint Hyacinth, we ask you to intercede for us and win God’s blessings for us. We come together as family to bring praise and worship to the Father. May we live lives that are holy Bless us with your devotion to Mary the Mother of God and with an ardent faith in Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Intercede for us and protect us as we place ourselves under your patronage and loving care. Amen.

Adapted and expanded from The Church's Year of Grace, Fr. Pius Parsch.

Homily for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 20, 2017, Year A

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

The image is a familiar one: one or more dogs begging while you are at table, ready to pounce on whatever falls from the table, if not actively “demanding tribute,” as my brother’s Chihuahua “Rosy” does. Cute, if you like that sort of thing.

But there is nothing cute about the exchange between Jesus and the Canaanite woman in this Gospel. I once read an author, bent on finding humor in the Bible, who claimed that this was just a friendly little repartee, what Webster’s Dictionary describes as “amusing and usually light sparring with words.”  I couldn’t disagree more. The scene presented here by Matthew is no game of wits!

Let me digress briefly with a little trip down memory lane:

[Click on this link:] Kyrie eleison from the Missa de Angelis

The point isn’t the music, the Gregorian chant or any other classic settings. The point isn’t the Latin Mass vs. English. It isn’t even that “Kyrie eleison” isn’t Latin at all, but Greek.

What is the point? It’s that we find those very same Greek words in today’s Gospel, and the point is especially what they mean.

The woman says “Eleison me kyrie.” This is translated in the Lectionary as “Have pity on me, Lord,” but it means equally well, “Have mercy on me, Lord.” Now leave out the middle word, change the order and there you have it: Kyrie eleison—Lord, have mercy.

She knows that as a foreigner she really has no claim on the one she calls “Son of David.” That doesn’t stop her.

Maybe she’s stubborn by nature. Maybe she’s had a hard life and is used to fighting for what she wants. Personally, I think the simple answer is the best: she’s a mother. And even if she has to accept being insulted by a famous teacher and healer, she accepts it, for her daughter’s sake.

But there is another reason why she doesn’t hold back. Jesus recognizes it, tests it, praises it, and rewards it. It is her “great faith”! (This woman, by the way, is one of the two foreigners I alluded to last week who are described as having “great” faith in the Gospels.)

“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples,” we read in Isaiah. In this story we see a partial fulfillment of that prophecy. It’s no longer about a place, much less a single building situated in Jerusalem. It’s about Jesus and the community of believers gathered around him. It’s about the universal Church.

It seems everyone knows people who get in touch only when they need something. Often enough, however, that describes our prayer. The Canaanite woman might never have approached Jesus if her daughter hadn’t been sick. But in that moment, he saw her faith. and that was all that mattered. The same great faith that brought her to him in tears sent her back home to her daughter in grateful joy.

It is perfectly natural that we come to the Lord in our need. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “What do you possess that you have not received? But if you have received it, why are you boasting as if you did not receive it?”

When we look at ourselves, and at our needs, and at what we actually deserve, and then we come to Jesus, what are we if not beggars at the Lord’s table?

No wonder we cry “Lord, have mercy!” at the beginning of every Mass! After that, however, reassured of his love, we are in a position to fulfill the other line in Isaiah’s prophecy where God predicts, “I will make them joyful in my house of prayer.”

Saint Monica Novena for Those Who Have Fallen Away From the Faith Starts August 18th

Saint Augustine of Hippo with Saint Monica

The Saint Monica novena for those who have fallen away from the Church starts August 18th. St. Monica is most known for her intercessory power on behalf of individuals that have abandoned their Faith  She prayed for the conversion of her son, the great Doctor of the Church, Saint Augustine of Hippo, for 15 years.

What we know of St. Monica comes almost entirely from the writings of St. Augustine. Their relationship was close, especially in Monica's final years. One episode from her childhood suggests the origin of her fortitude. She was occasionally sent to the cellar to draw wine for the family, and fell into the habit of taking secret drinks. Before long she was consuming large amounts. One day a family slave caught her. So great was her shame, she gave up the habit. A short time later, Monica was baptized. Afterward, she led a life of irreproachable virtue.

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August 15, 2017

St. Stephen of Hungary, Promoter of the Faith

Saint Stephen of Hungary

Optional Memorial – August 16th

Saint Stephen (977-1038), the first King of Hungary. was born the son of Duke Geza, a Magyar chieftain, and Duchess Sarolt. Two years before his birth, his mother received a vision in which the Church's first martyr, Saint Stephen, revealed to her that she would bear a son who would bring the Good News to Hungary and evangelize its people. Like his parents before him, Stephen was baptized by Saint Adalbert. He married the daughter of Duke Henry II in 996. A year later, he succeeded his father as leader.

Stephen devoted much of his reign to the promotion of the Christian faith. He gave his patronage to Church leaders, constructed numerous churches, and was a proponent of the rights of the Holy See. He successfully repelled the pagan counter reaction to Christianity, converting the large pagan population. Greatly devoted to the Blessed Mother, Stephen had several churches built in her honor both in and outside of Hungary. In recognition of his efforts, Pope Silvester II named him king of Hungary in 1000.

King Stephen demonstrated great competence as a monarch, while devoting the rest of his time to his religious duties, especially charity toward the poor and sick, as well as the worship of God, and to his household. Gisela, Stephen's wife, was the sister of the ruler later canonized as the Holy Roman Emperor Saint Henry II. So great indeed was his zeal for the propagation of the Faith, that he was called the Apostle of his nation. The Breviary attests to St. Stephen's holiness:

"St. Stephen introduced into Hungary both the Faith of Christ and the regal dignity. He obtained his royal crown from the Roman Pontiff; and having been, by his command, anointed King, he offered his kingdom to the Apostolic See. He built several houses of charity at Rome, Jerusalem, and Constantinople; and with a wonderfully munificent spirit of religion, he founded the Archiepiscopal See of Gran and ten other bishoprics. His love for the poor was equaled only by his generosity towards them; for, seeing in them Christ Himself... It was his custom to wash the feet of the poor with his own hands, and to visit the hospitals at night, alone and unknown, serving the sick and showing them every charity. As a reward for these good deeds his right hand remained incorrupt after death,.."

Stephen survived all of his children, only one of which grew to adulthood. His son, Emeric, who was his father's equal in holiness, and expected successor, tragically died in a hunting accident (1031). Stephen died on August 15, 1038, the Feast of the Assumption of our Lady, to whom he consecrated his kingdom, and was buried in the new basilica, built in Székesfehérvár and dedicated to the Holy Virgin. He was canonized by Pope Gregory VII, along with his son, Emeric, and Bishop Gerard of Csanád, in 1083. Stephen is the patron saint of Hungary. Grant your Church, we pray, almighty God, that she may have Saint Stephen of Hungary who fostered her growth while a king, as her heavenly defender. Amen.

August 14, 2017

Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary | 2017

The Assumption of Mary

August 15, 2017

November 1st, 1950, in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Assumption of Mary a dogma of the Catholic Church. The doctrine of the Assumption solemnly decrees that at the end of her earthly life Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven. Contrary to popular perception, Our Lady did not "ascend" into heaven. Only Christ ascended into heaven under his own power. Mary was taken up into heaven by God. In celebrating her most glorious Assumption, we ask Mary to help us live with faith and hope, seeking God's will in all things. May she enlighten our minds to the destiny that awaits us, the dignity of every person, and God’s immense love for all humanity.

"Now toward the end of the summer season, at a time when fruits are ripe in the gardens and fields, the Church celebrates the most glorious "harvest festival" in the Communion of Saints. Mary, the supremely blessed one among women, Mary, the most precious fruit which has ripened in the fields of God's kingdom, is today taken into the granary of heaven." (The Church's Year of Grace, Fr.  Pius Parsch)

Giving birth to the Savior O Theotokos, you kept and preserved your virginity; and in falling-asleep you have not forsaken the world; for you were protected from sin, being the Mother of Life. Almighty ever-living God, who assumed the Immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of your Son, body and soul into heavenly glory, grant we pray, that, always attentive to the things that are above, we may merit to be sharers of her glory in experiencing your eternal Beatitude. Amen.

August 13, 2017

St. Maximilian Kolbe's “Secret” to Holiness

Saint Maximilian Kolbe'

Fr. Angelo M. Geiger F.I. 

St. Maximilian taught that saints are in some ways like the great men of the world, but are motivated supernaturally by faith in God and love for him. In this way, they are able not only to see beyond adversity, but to embrace the Cross in a spirit of sacrificial love. St. Maximilian also showed that holiness is found only in Christ Jesus, Who both tells us and shows us what holiness is and how it is to be achieved. Jesus, in His sacrificial love and obedience shown so poignantly on the Cross, and so humbly in the Eucharist, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6). He is holiness, and the way to achieve it. St. Maximilian says: It is a false and widely diffused idea that the saints were not like us. They were also subject to temptation, they fell and got up, they also felt overwhelmed with sadness, weakened and paralyzed by discouragement. But remember the words of the Savior: ‘Without me, you can do nothing’ (Jn 15:51), and those of St. Paul: ‘I can do all things in him who strengthens me’ (Phil 4:13). Not confiding in themselves, but, putting all their confidence in God after every humiliating fall, they repented sincerely, they purified their soul in the Sacrament of Penance, and then they went back to work with still greater fervor. [St. Maximilian, pray for us.] [Source]

St. Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr of Charity

Saint Maximilian Kolbe

Memorial - August 14th

I prayed very hard to Our Lady to tell me what would happen to me. She appeared, holding in her hands two crowns, one white, one red. She asked if I would like to have them—one was for purity, the other for martyrdom. I said, ‘I choose both.’ She smiled and disappeared.” St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe was only 10 years old when he experienced this vision of Our Lady near his poor family home in Zduńska Wola, Poland. In time, both crowns would come to pass for him, and always the Blessed Mother would be by his side as he received them.

Born Raymund Kolbe in 1894, Maximilian entered the Conventual Franciscans in 1907, just three years a er his encounter with Mary; when he professed his first vows in 1911 at the age of 16, he took the name Maximilian. At the profession of his final vows in 1914, he also adopted the name “Mary” in order to show his devotion to the Mother of God.

It was while he was0 studying for his doctorate in theology in Rome in 1919 that Kolbe witnessed violent and degrading demonstrations against both the pope and the Catholic Church. He was so moved by what he experienced that he founded a Marian movement to combat religious indifference and hatred of the Catholic Church. Called the “Militia Immaculata,” its message was spread via a magazine also founded by Kolbe called Knight of Immaculata. At its height, the publication had a circulation of over one million.

To further spread his message of prayer and evangelization, in 1927 Kolbe founded what would become, by 1935, the world’s largest friary, called Niepokalanow. A major publishing center for catechetical materials, religious tracts, and a daily newspaper, the friary, which was also a seminary, at one time housed over 700 Franciscan brothers. Kolbe then journeyed to Japan, where he founded other friaries, most notably one at Nagasaki.

Tuberculosis forced him to return to Poland in 1936, and when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, Niepokalanow was bombed and all the brothers were arrested. They were released less than three months later on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, but Kolbe was arrested again in 1941 and sent to the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

It was there, on July 31, 1941, that events were set in motion for Kolbe to earn the crown of martyrdom. Three men had turned up missing and, in reprisal for their escape, the guards chose 10 men at random to be starved to death. When one of them, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out “My wife! My children!,” Kolbe volunteered to take his place.

Surprised that someone would volunteer to die in the place of a stranger, the guards agreed and marched Kolbe and the other nine men to the starvation bunkers. There Kolbe encouraged his fellow prisoners, saying Mass each day, hearing confessions, praying and singing hymns to the Blessed Virgin. After two weeks of starvation, thirst, and neglect, St. Maximilian Kolbe was the only one left alive. He was finally killed by lethal injection on August 14, 1941.

Father Kolbe was beatified as a confessor by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and canonized as a martyr by Saint Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982. Franciszek Gajowniczek, the man whose life Kolbe saved, was present on both occasions. St. John Paul II declared Kolbe a “Martyr of Charity” and “the Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century.” He is one of ten 20th-century martyrs depicted above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey, London.

St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe is the patron saint of addicts and drug addiction, families, imprisoned individuals, journalists, political prisoners, prisoners, and the pro-life movement. O God, who filled the Priest and Martyr Saint Maximilian Kolbe with a burning love for the Immaculate Virgin Mary and with zeal for souls and love of neighbor, graciously grant, through his intercession, that striving for your glory by eagerly serving others, we may be conformed, even until death, to your Son. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Homily for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 20, 2017, Year A

Jesus and the Canaanite woman

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

Today’s Gospel account contains one of the most memorable verbal duels recorded in the four Gospels, and one of the most important. We need to draw some golden nuggets out of this wonderful passage.

First of all, it is important to note that Jesus is speaking here to a woman, something rabbis back in those days did not do in public. Not only that, but she was a foreigner, a Canaanite woman from the area that these days we call Lebanon. The Jews and the Canaanites did not get along well at all.

Like the Magi, those wise men from the East that we find at Christ’s birth, this non-Jew presents herself to Jesus and addresses Him as “Son of David” as she begs His help for her daughter who is possessed by some mysterious inner demonic force.

In this account, there are three movements. The first involves Canaanite woman’s journey of faith. Leaving her own religion behind she turns to a Jewish rabbi, Jesus, and places her faith in Him. She looks to Him for a miraculous cure for her daughter.

For her trouble, she received silence from Jesus. She was rebuffed, humiliated, and given a cold shoulder from Him.

Jesus’ disciples, annoyed by the fact that she was bothering Him with her loud crying, seek to get rid of her. They want Jesus to send her away. So Jesus says to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Then comes the second movement. The woman presses in on Jesus, and falling on her knees in front of Him she cries out, “Lord, help me.”

For her second effort Jesus tells her, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

How utterly humiliating. In effect, He was calling her a dog! Her humility was turned into what appeared to be a terrible humiliation. People in the Middle East are very sensitive about such things. We are very aware of that in our dealings with them in our time.

Then comes the final movement. In abject humility with her face in the dirt, stripped of her dignity, having abandoned her own religious background, she has nothing left, not even her pride. “Please, Lord,” she softly insists, “even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”

What the Canaanite woman is saying is that she doesn’t deserve anything. “But,” she asks, “how about giving me scraps that accidentally fall from your abundance?” With that, the heart of Jesus is vanquished.

The scene would be repeated later on at the end of His life. His own humiliation and abandonment would, connected as it was with the Last Supper, play out in a way strikingly similar to this account.

The key that unlocks the mystery contained in this verbal duel is to recognize that Jesus saw in this Canaanite woman a reality that she didn’t even see herself. He saw in her a faith that could withstand any assault; a love that was divine; a hope that could not be shaken. He tested her mettle and she found something within herself that she didn’t know even existed. Joined into the humiliation that Christ would later suffer, she transcended ordinary humanity and came into a level of life that was God’s. Her three-step journey in faith mirrored Christ’s.

The critical point of it all is that Jesus sees the same thing in you and in me. For He has an unrealized dream about who you really are and what you’re really made of. In Christ’s life, passion, and death we find the stuff of our real humanity, particularly so when we share in His suffering, passion, and death.

Had Jesus granted her request right away, this woman would never have ascended to the heights of glory that she did. We must see that in the divine scheme of things, the more we lose the more we win. The more we give away, the more we gain. The more we go down, the higher we ascend. In that, we pass from what is human into what is divine. It’s the path of Jesus.

Should Jesus grant our prayer requests right away, we would never ascend to the heights of glory that are hidden within your destiny and mine. That is why, when in the Garden of Gethsemani Jesus prayed that His Father rescue Him, and His Father did not. The answer to Jesus’ prayer was not rescue — it was resurrection. We should expect that our prayers will be answered in the same way.

St. Paul presents this journey in three parts in his Letter to the Philippians. In Chapter two we find that threefold movement in Christ’s own life when Paul writes:

His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. But God raised him on high and gave him the name which is above all other names so that all being in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the same of Jesus and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The first movement is His abandonment of His proper place, His native place at the right hand of His Father in heaven. He moves from His Father’s side into a place of alienation and separation, into total immersion with us where we are at, more importantly into who we are.

The second movement is downward into our sinful humanity… and not only that but to a level below that which we are usually willing to accept. He is spit upon, humiliated, and stripped naked of all His dignity. His face is rubbed in the dirt, as was the Canaanite woman’s face.

The third movement is upward. He rises from the dead into a new Spirit-filled, resurrected life, and then ascends into glory back to His Father’s side. Victorious over all that is demonic within our humanity He heals far more than the Canaanite woman’s daughter – He gives His healing power to us all in His Mystical Body, the Church.

In the divine scheme of things, the more we lose the more we win. The more we give, the more we receive. The more we go down, the higher we ascend. Ask anyone who has ever successfully completed a recovery program, they will tell you that you find power over whatever demons beset you when you surrender to your Higher Power.

God came among us with healing power and He is looking for our faith. The Canaanite woman came to God in faith and in search of healing and found it. Your task and mine as well is to live a life-story just like hers.

Can you? Can I? Yes, we can, because Jesus lived it first and then gave us the power and the capacity to live lives like that. The question is not: Can we? The real question is: Will we?

Pope Benedict XVI on the Walking on the Water: “With Your Strength Alone You Cannot Rise. Hold Tight to the Hand of Christ”

Jesus lifts Peter out of the water

The following commentary on the walking on the water in which Our Lord saves Peter from drowning in the storm is from Pope Benedict XVI’s Angelus address delivered from the Papal Residence, Castel Gandolfo on Sunday, August 7, 2011.

In this Sunday’s Gospel we find Jesus who, after withdrawing to the mountain, prays throughout the night. The Lord, having distanced himself from the people and the disciples, manifests his communion with the Father and the need to pray in solitude, far from the commotion of the world.

This distancing, however, must not be seen as a lack of interest in individuals or trust in the Apostles. On the contrary, Matthew recounts, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat, “and go before him to the other side” (Mt 14:22), where he would see them again. In the meantime, the boat “was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them” (v. 24). And so, in the fourth watch of the night [Jesus] came to them, walking on the sea” (v. 25); the disciples were terrified, mistaking him for a ghost and “cried out for fear” (v. 26). They did not recognize him, they did not realize that it was the Lord.

Nonetheless Jesus reassured them: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear” (v. 27). This is an episode from which the Fathers of the Church drew a great wealth of meaning. The sea symbolizes this life and the instability of the visible world; the storm points to every kind of trial or difficulty that oppresses human beings. The boat, instead, represents the Church, built by Christ and steered by the Apostles.

Jesus wanted to teach the disciples to bear life’s adversities courageously, trusting in God, in the One who revealed himself to the Prophet Elijah on Mount Horeb “in a still small voice” [the whispering of a gentle breeze] (1 Kings 19:12).

The passage then continues with the action of the Apostle Peter, who, moved by an impulse of love for the Teacher, asks him to bid him to come to him, walking on the water. “But when he saw the wind [was strong], [Peter] was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Mt 14:30).

St Augustine, imagining that he was addressing the Apostle, commented: the Lord “leaned down and took you by the hand. With your strength alone you cannot rise. Hold tight to the hand of the One who reaches down to you” (En. in Ps. 95, 7: PL 36, 1233), and he did not say this to Peter alone but also to us.

August 12, 2017

Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 13, 2017, Year A

Jesus lifting Peter out of the water

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

Watching TV news reports night after night can lead us into despondency to the point where we might lose our faith in the basic goodness in our world that seems to be buried alive in the tidal waves of the evils that are reported. Over and over again we are confronted by the actions and inactions of our government in Washington. Instead of concrete corrections we hear nothing but the blame game going on between our nation’s leaders. Added that that are the endless reports of violence in our cities, the horrors inflicted by terrorists in the Middle East, the sufferings of children from Latin America that are crossing our borders in order to escape the violence they face caused by the drug lords in their home countries, and the sufferings of people in the Ukraine. I could go on and on but won’t. We know we’re drowning in chaos. We know we are carrying heave burdens.

“Where is God in the midst of all of this?” some ask.

Today’s first reading presents us with the Old Testament prophet Elijah likewise in a state of despondency. Three days prior to the episode we just now heard in today’s first reading he was so miserable that he asking God to let him die. We find him here in this reading hiding in a cave, seeking shelter in solid rock. But just as he finds shelter in a cave along comes an earthquake and then a hurricane of a storm that smashes the rocks and cliffs of the mountains, threatening to drown him in chaos.

“Where is God in all of this?” he was asking. What is God saying to me in all of these events? Elijah, however, couldn’t figure anything out until he was able to hear the voice of God in a tiny little whisper. The voice of God came to him in the most unexpected of ways. And so it is with us.

The disciples and Peter found themselves to be in similar circumstances, only this time out in an open boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee in a raging storm. “Where is God in all of this?” they wondered. Peter spoke up and said, “Lord, if it’s really you over there tell me to come to you across the water.” Peter, we see, had his doubts.

We find our own lives these days surrounded by chaos. The floodwaters of social change along with the cultural earthquakes of our times, globalization, terrorism, and the energy crisis severely threaten us. Only one in four of our nation’s households today have the typical arrangement of mom and dad living together in the same home with their children. Stated another way, only one in four children find themselves in typical, traditional homes. Indeed the very definition of the so-called normal family is at issue. What do we mean by the term “normal family”? A recent newspaper article dumbs everything down and defines family as: “The we around me.” What, I ask, has that anything to do with being family?

Drugs, AIDS, absent fathers, divorce, an unstable economy, job loss, and a surrounding culture that’s alien and hostile to the normal family are the storms and floodwaters that threaten us. Child abuse, pornography, sexual wantonness, and a blatant media exploitation of sex, violence, and lust for money assault the moral characters of our youngsters, washing away the levees that protect what we have regarded in the past as the terra firma, the solid ground of normalcy.

Teenage suicide is frequently reported; teen gangs and drug gangs roam our city streets at will, while our metropolitan law enforcement agencies operate in apparent powerlessness to take back control of our cities from the pimps, prostitutes, pushers, and gangs that control the streets of our major cities.

“Where is God in all of this?” we cry.

Confidence is the word we need to take into our hearts and souls today. Confidence. Confidence comes from a Latin word; it means, “to believe with”. We cannot have confidence when we’re isolated and all alone. We cannot have confidence all by ourselves. No, we can only have confidence when there’s an Other near us, the Other that is God.

And that’s the point of today’s readings. One can find confidence, even in the worst of storms, even in the most chaotic of times. You can go through the worst that life can throw at you if only you keep up your contact with God. No prayer? No confidence. Stop coming to Mass? No confidence. Not sharing in the life of the Church, in the Body of Christ? No confidence. Soon you’ll take your eyes off of Jesus, and just like Peter, you will sink. Soon you’ll only be able to hear the screaming wind, the awful noise, and the deafening roar of the storms and winds in or world that shake the very foundations of your life. And without the voice of God and the eyes of Jesus to hold you steady, we, like Peter, will either be blown away or drown.

Is your life getting out of control? Is your faith slipping away from you? Are you experiencing more and more powerlessness in the chaos that surrounds you? If so, here’s what you do. Find a place of solitude and silence. Go to your room, shut your door and gather around you as much silence and solitude as you possibly can. Then kneel down by your bedside and in that silence and in that solitude say: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” If you do that, you’ll be in exactly the same position that Elijah was. Look into the eyes of Jesus, you’ll be in exactly the same position that Peter was.

Never forget, after all was said and done, God restored Elijah in power, and eventually swept him up into heaven. And after all was said and done God in Christ saved Peter, saved him even from himself.

And God will do no less for us, if and only if we give our confidence to Christ and remain faith-full to our Father in Him. And I’d suspect that a whole lot of people living amidst violence and chaos would tell us just that, facing as they have the much different and far more destructive floodwaters that we face here.

The real question, you see is not “Is God absent from us.” Rather the real question is: “Are we absent from God?”

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light, Jesus said. For that to happen, for our hearts to be filled with courage, fortitude, and boldness, we need to be yoked to Christ so that He can, along with us, pull our load through life.

May you be filled with that confidence.

August 11, 2017

Reflection for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Christ Saves Peter from Drowning, August 13, 2017

Jesus saves Peter from drowning

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a; Psalm 85; Romans 9:1-5,
Matthew 14:22-33

“Lord, save me!” (Mt 14:31)

Imagine the scene. You are one of the disciples whom Jesus has sent out to sea on a boat. While out there, a storm kicks up and rocks the boat. It is dark. In the distance, you see what looks like the silhouette of a person walking toward you. As the person nears the boat, you realize it is Jesus! And He is walking on top of the water! “Take courage,” He says, “it is I!” Peter, overwhelmed with emotion at this scene, asks the Lord to allow him to walk on the water, which Jesus allows. Peter, of course, becomes frightened. Jesus asks, “Why did you doubt?” Falling in, he calls out to Jesus, who saves him. 

The story for this weekend’s Gospel as recounted above is the classic journey of faith. That journey often involves three steps: loving Jesus, faltering due to human imperfection, and calling out to the Lord. So, (1) Peter obviously loved Jesus, then (2) he doubted and then faltered, but then did the greatest thing of all. When he realized he faltered, he yelled out, (3) “Lord, save me!” Isn’t that what faith is all about? Peter’s call to Jesus is the call each of us should make when we realize we cannot go it alone. 

First, it is clear that Peter loved Jesus. Peter left behind his fishing boat and career and followed Jesus unreservedly. Jesus was an itinerant preacher whose acceptance in society and among religious authorities was questioned. It is evident that Peter was overwhelmed with grace in His presence and was inspired to follow Him. Peter was filled with passion, zeal, and love for the Lord. 

The modern Christian is called to love the Lord in the same way. Our faith is to be passionate! Following the Lord is the first priority of one’s life. While we might not be called to leave it all behind as Peter did, we are called to love the Lord with the same passion and zeal, each in our own individual vocation, calling, and context. 

While Peter’s love was almost palpable, he also stumbled, both in this particular story and in others throughout the Gospels. He had a tendency to blurt out the wrong thing at the wrong time, denied he ever knew Jesus, and, at times, faltered in his belief, as found here. Like us, Peter is human to the core. Even with his faults, Jesus appointed him the Rock, and it is clear from the Acts of Apostles that Peter led the early Church. With all of his human foibles, Jesus saw something special in Peter. He knew his gifts and what he could accomplish. In Peter, the rest of us can take solace. Jesus loved Peter and called him to do great things; He loves you and me in our humanity and calls us in the same way. That’s how much He loves us! 

Finally, Peter gives the Church a great example of what to do when he faltered: he yells out, “Lord, save me!” Those might be the three words each of us should make our personal motto. Peter’s overall love for the Lord helps him understand that only Jesus could save him. His faith in Jesus ran deep, and in the depths of his heart and soul he knew Jesus would save him. Indeed, He did save him and help him. 

In the journey of faith, do we know that Jesus will save us? This implies that the person has a deep love for Christ that will show itself in faith. Jesus will save us. There is nothing to fear. The modern person has such a hard time understanding and believing in the power of God. Why does that happen? In many ways, Peter’s faith is childlike. And childlike faith is the faith Jesus wants in each of us. We allow the need for control and pride to creep into our faith, making it much more complicated than need be. Faith is simple. Love Jesus and know He will save you. Peter had that kind of faith, that is clear. You and I are called to that same level of faith. 

It is necessary that the human person peel back that which makes faith complicated. In prayer, the person asks the Lord to be free of the need of control and pride that keeps us from that simple faith that Peter expressed in this Gospel reading. Peter knew the Lord would save him. While human, he loved Jesus passionately and knew what Jesus would do for him. He saved him. Let’s all pray for the same faith as Peter!

St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Foundress

Saint Jane Frances de Chanta

August 12th, is the optional memorial of Saint Jane Frances Fremiot de Chantal, the foundress of the Order of the Visitation of Mary. She was born in 1572 and came from a noble family, her father gave her in marriage to the Baron von Chantal in 1592. As mother she most zealously instructed the children in the ways of virtue and piety and in the observance of every divine precept. With great generosity, she supported the poor and took special joy in seeing how divine Providence often blesses and increases the smallest larder. Therefore, she made a vow never to refuse anyone who asked for alms in the Name of Christ.

The death of her husband, who was accidentally shot while on the chase (1601), she bore with Christ-like composure and with all her heart forgave the person who had killed him; then she acted as sponsor for one of his children in order to show her forgiveness openly. There was a holy friendship between her and her spiritual guide, Saint Francis de Sales. With his approval she left her father and her children and founded the Visitation nuns.

Thus, too, it should be with us—firm yet forgiving, and each at the proper place and in the proper measure. Our zeal must not make us hard, fanatic; neither may love degenerate into sentimentalism. In fundamentals, in faith, and in the commandments, we must be firm, immovable, with no trace of tolerance; but in our contacts with men, patient, forgiving, tender, conciliatory. The Christian ought to be firm and resolute as a father, mild and self-sacrificing as a mother. This tension between complementary virtues we find exemplified in a heroic degree in St. Jane Frances de Chantal.

She was beatified by Pope Benedict XIV on November 21, 1751, and canonized sixteen years later, on July 16, 1767 by Pope Clement XIII. O God, who made Saint Jane Frances de Chantal radiant with outstanding merits in different walks of life, grant us, through her intercession, that walking faithfully in our vocation, we may constantly be examples of shining light. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen.

Adapted excerpt from The Church's Year of Grace, Fr. Pius Parsch.

August 10, 2017

Saint Clare of Assisi, Virgin and Foundress

Saint Clare of Assisi

Memorial - August 11th

As a young girl, Saint Clare, in defiance of her parent’s wishes, escaped from her home one night, intent on meeting up with a group of friars. They conducted her by torch-light to a small chapel where Saint Francis of Assisi gave her a rough brown habit in place of her fine dress. She surrendered her jeweled belt for a knotted rope, which she fastened around her waist. In a final act of devotion, she permitted St. Francis to cut her long hair, in order that she might take the veil.

A beautiful young Italian noblewoman, Clare was so moved by the preaching of Saint Francis of Assisi that she defied every convention of her privileged life to live the Gospel of Christ. One of St. Francis’ first and most ardent followers, she would become the foundress of the group of nuns known as the Second Order of St. Francis, more popularly, the Poor Clares. She did so despite great opposition. Her parents tried everything in their power to dissuade Clare from her vocation, but to no avail. In fact, eventually, two of Clare’s sisters and her widowed mother would follow her into consecrated life, joining the Second Order of St. Francis.

The nuns of the new religious Order were especially dedicated to extreme poverty and prayer. Secluded from the world, they went without shoes, slept on the ground and abstained from meat; subsiding only on the donations they received. The chapel of San Damiano, which St. Francis had repaired in response to God’s summons to “Rebuild my Church” — a command that Francis came to realize transcended the reconstruction of physical buildings — became the Mother House of the Poor Clares. In 1215, at the age of 21, Clare became the abbess of the Order, a position she exercised for the remainder of her life.

The Poor Clares held strictly to their commitment to poverty. When the pope suggested a Rule for the Order, which allowed for the ownership of property in common, St. Clare refused to adopt it. She is reported to have said in response to Pope Gregory IX, “Holy Father, I need to be absolved from my sins, but I do not wish to be absolved from my obligation of following Jesus Christ.”

Prayer was a cornerstone of the Poor Clares charism, of which, St. Clare was a perfect exemplar. Contemporary accounts said that her face virtually glowed when she came from her devotions. It was her prayer and faith that saved the sisters from a potentially brutal attack by the Saracens. Though very sick at the time of the near invasion, Clare brought a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament and placed it on the wall of the convent. She then prayed to God to deliver the sisters, and then told them to have complete faith in His will. They did, and the Saracens fled in fear and confusion.

Clare struggled with illness during the last 27 years of her life, but that did not prevent her from living out her passionate and heroic ideals.  She remained close to St. Francis until his death in 1226, although she apparently never left San Damiano, once she entered it.  From there, she exerted a remarkable influence on the cardinals, bishops and popes who sought her consultation and advice.

Saint Clare died peacefully of natural causes on August 11th, 1253. She was canonized two years after her death by Pope Alexander IV. She is the patroness of eye disorders and television among others. O God, who in your mercy led Saint Clare to a love of poverty, grant, through her intercession, that, following Christ in poverty of spirit, we may duly merit to contemplate you one day in the heavenly Kingdom. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns together, with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

August 9, 2017

These Words of Ordination Should be the Personal Credo of Every Catholic

Jesus Christ
"Receive the book of the gospel whose herald you have become. Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practice what you teach…"
These words are part of the ordination rite for the holy diaconate. The Bishop professes this solemn instruction to the newly ordained as they kneel before him, and he presents them with the Book of Gospels. These words of ordination should be the personal credo of all who call themselves Catholic and who seek to live in sincere imitation of Jesus. Truly, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."

Although often described as such, the Christian faith is not a “religion of the Book”, but of the Word of God, Jesus Christ, His Only Begotten Son, born of the Father before all ages. We do not merely subscribe to a millennia old collection of objective moral commands. We bow to a Person, a historical and ever-living “Someone”, who won our salvation by paying the ultimate ransom for man’s sins. In the words of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, our Faith is “not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living.” The fact that God would assume our humanity, even unto death on a cross – as the exemplar of love – marks Christianity apart.

Assumption Novena | 2017

We give you this (belatedly): From August 7 to August 15, Priests for Life invites believers to pray the Novena in honor of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.

Lord Jesus Christ,

You have conquered the power of death
And opened for humanity
The hope of eternal life in body and soul.

You granted your Mother
A share in heavenly glory,
And did not allow decay to touch her body.

As we prepare for the Feast of the Assumption,
Grant us new confidence in the victory of life over death,
And renewed reverence for the human body.

As we honor Mary, Assumed into Heaven,
May we proclaim the hope of Your Gospel:
That you want every human life seated on your throne.

May that hope strengthen us to protect every life here on earth.
You live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

August 10th, is the Feast of Saint Lawrence. As one of the seven deacons of Rome under Pope Sixtus II, he was in charge of giving help to the poor and the needy. In 258, it was decreed that all Christian clergy, from highest to lowest, were to be put to death. Consequently, not only the pope, but all seven deacons were martyred. Pope Sixtus II was one of the first victims of the persecution.

St. Lawrence was killed last. Ordered by the emperor to turn over all the treasure the Church possessed, he gave to Rome’s most destitute all the money and goods the Church had. He then brought the people to the appointed place. To the prefect’s horror, St. Lawrence declared, “These are the treasures of the Church.”

The prefect was so enraged that he ordered him slowly roasted to death over a gridiron. St. Lawrence maintained both his courage and his humor. It is said that after suffering for some time he quipped to his executioners, “Turn me over. I’m done on this side.” Lawrence rejoiced in his most terrible martyrdom and died praying for the conversion of Rome in the hopes that the Faith would flourish.

The story of this Christian martyr is told in the Roman Breviary by the antiphons and responsories. Already in Constantine's time there was erected over his grave a church that belonged to the seven major basilicas of Rome, Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls. He is the patron saint of the city of Rome, the poor, deacons and seminarians, among others. O God, giver of that ardor of love for you by which St. Lawrence was faithful in service and glorious in martyrdom, grant that we may love as he loved, even unto death, in imitation of Our Lord Jesus. Amen.

August 8, 2017

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross on God’s Providence

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cros
God is there in these moments of rest and can give us in a single instant exactly what we need. Then the rest of the day can take its course under the same effort and strain, perhaps, but in peace. And when night looks back and you see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it to Him – really rest – and start the next day as a new life.
 — St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Prayer for St. Teresa Benedicta's Intercession

God of our Fathers, who brought the Martyr Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross to know your crucified Son and to imitate him even until death, grant, through her intercession, that the whole human race may acknowledge Christ as its Savior and through him come to behold you for eternity. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Martyr

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

August 9th, is the feast of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. A most brilliant philosopher, she stopped believing in God when she was fourteen. Edith Stein was so captivated by reading the autobiography of Teresa of Avila; she began a spiritual journey that led to her Baptism in 1922. Twelve years later she imitated Teresa by becoming a Carmelite, taking the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Born into a prominent Jewish family in Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland), Edith abandoned Judaism in her teens. As a student at the University of Gottingen, she became fascinated by phenomenology, an approach to philosophy. Excelling as a protege of Edmund Husserl, one of the leading phenomenologists, Edith earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1916. She continued as a university teacher until 1922 when she moved to a Dominican school in Speyer; her appointment as lecturer at the Educational Institute of Munich ended under pressure from the Nazis.

After living in the Cologne Carmel (1934-1938), she moved to the Carmelite monastery in Echt, Netherlands. The Nazis occupied that country in 1940. In retaliation for being denounced by the Dutch bishops, the Nazis arrested all Dutch Jews who had become Christians. Teresa Benedicta and her sister Rosa, also a Catholic, died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz on August 9, 1942.

Pope John Paul II beatified Teresa Benedicta in 1987 and canonized her in 1998. She is the patron of Europe, those who have lost parents and martyrs. God of our Fathers, who brought the Martyr Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross to know your crucified Son and to imitate him even until death, grant, through her holy intercession, that the whole human race may acknowledge Christ as its Savior and through him come to behold you for eternity. Who lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever. Amen. St. Teresa Benedicta, pray for us.

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

Homily for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 13, 2017, Year A

Jesus raising Peter from the water

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

Let’s start today with an informal survey about Scripture. Of the following two prophecies from Isaiah, which one do you like better: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you;” or: “Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil”?

Which of the following two verses from the Psalms do you prefer: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want,” or: “My only friend is darkness”?

What about the Gospels? “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest;” or: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.”

You see the trend? It is the most natural thing in the world that our favorite Scripture texts are those that comfort and encourage. (My personal favorite is Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”) Nobody’s favorite is a verse of condemnation, and rarely even one of challenge. We know those things are there, we accept them and respect them, but we don’t go looking for them.

As we saw in our little survey, the prophets have good news and bad news. Today we encounter Elijah. He is a little different from other prophets. There is no “Book of Elijah.” His story is told in the two Books of Kings, in about 10 episodes. There are few “oracles” of the kind we find in Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. He was more a doer than a speaker.

The prophet’s job description is given by Balaam in the Book of Numbers. The prophet is one “whose eye is true, ... one who hears what God says, and knows what the Most High knows, ...  who sees what the Almighty sees, in rapture and with eyes unveiled.” That’s why, in today’s reading, Elijah, although he knew that God certainly could be in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire, recognized in this case that God was in the “tiny whispering sound”—a pleasant image, don’t you think?

The prophets couldn’t limit themselves to pleasant sayings, however, and were often looked on as troublemakers. This was certainly Elijah’s case, and he had powerful enemies.

Paul encountered a similar phenomenon. His preaching was met with unbelief by his own people. Every place he went he couldn’t wait to share with the Jews there the Good News that the Messiah had finally come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Unfortunately, many of them took it as bad news. A crucified Messiah was a “stumbling block” to them, as Paul says earlier in this same letter to the Corinthians. Today we would say, a crucified Messiah “does not compute.”

From a very different perspective, it was good news for Peter that he had enough faith to get out of his boat and walk on the water with Jesus. He didn’t hesitate. The bad news was that he was a man of little faith, and allowed himself to be intimidated by the force of the wind, and down he went.

We can apply this easily enough to ourselves. With the Lord’s help maybe we have been able to deal with some major issue or overcome some serious temptation in our lives. Then, for whatever reason, our faith faltered, and we began to “sink.” Still, there’s some consolation in the fact that even “little faith” is true faith.

Only two persons in the Gospels are described as having great faith: not Apostles, not even disciples, but foreigners. We’ll meet one of them next week.

In the meantime, we can pray in the words we find in two other places in the Gospels. One is: “Increase our faith.” The other is: “Lord, I do believe; help my unbelief.”

August 7, 2017

Pope Saint Pius V on “Cafeteria Catholics”

Pope Saint Pius V
All the evils of the world are due to lukewarm Catholics
— St. Pius V 

Prayer for St. Pius V's Intercession

O God, who in your providence raised up Pope Saint Pius V in you Church that the faith might be safeguarded and more fitting worship be offered to you, grant, through his intercession, that we may participate in your mysteries with lively faith and fruitful charity. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Dominic on Living in Imitation of Christ | Quotes

Saint Dominic de Guzman

Saint Domingo de Guzmán was born in 1170. He is perhaps best known for his rigorous intellect, humility, austerity and prayerful love of God. The founder of the Order of Preachers, dedicated himself to spreading the Gospel and the holy Rosary. These quotations are his instructions for living in imitation of our Lord.

Arm yourself with prayer rather than a sword; wear humility rather than fine clothes.
We must sow the seed, not hoard it.
I would tell them to kill me slowly and painfully, a little at a time, so that I might have a more glorious crown in Heaven.
When asked what he would say if faced with martyrdom 

A man who governs his passions is master of the world. We must either rule ​them, or be ruled by them. It is better to be the hammer than the anvil.
I am not capable of doing big things, but I want to do everything, even the smallest things, for the greater glory of God.
You are my companion and must walk with me. For if we hold together no earthly power can withstand us.
Words addressed to St. Francis of Assisi, his good friend

One day, through the Rosary and the Scapular, Our Lady will save the world.
Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.

Saint Dominic, help us to grow in our humility, knowledge and love for God.

Saint Dominic, Priest and Founder

Saint Dominic

Memorial – August 8th

The Martyrology gives the following: "At Bologna (upper Italy) the holy confessor Dominic, the saintly and learned founder of the Order of Preachers. He preserved his virginity inviolate and gained for himself the grace of raising three dead persons to life. By his word he crushed heresy in the bud and led many souls to piety and to religious life." He was notable for his learning and love of poverty.

Born about 1175 in Castile (Spain), Dominic hailed from the illustrious Guzman family. First he was a canon regular at Osma; then he founded the Dominican Order, which was approved in 1216. Alongside the Franciscans, it became the most powerful Order in medieval times, giving the Church illustrious preachers — St. Vincent Ferrer, and contemplatives, Sts. Thomas of Aquinas and Pius V — and contributing immeasurably to maintaining the purity of the faith. Through the example of apostolic poverty and the preaching of the word of God the Friar Preachers were to lead men to Christ. To St. Dominic is attributed the origin and spread of the holy rosary. This devotion he spread tirelessly the rest of his days.

The two contemporaries, Dominic and Francis, effected a tremendous spiritual rejuvenation through their own spiritual personalities and through their religious foundations. Of the two, Dominic was the realist who surpassed the other intellectually and in organizational talent. His spirit of moderation, clarity of thought, and burning zeal for souls have become the heritage of the Dominicans.

Legend has contributed the following rare anecdote as preserved in the Breviary: "During pregnancy, Dominic's mother dreamed she was carrying in her womb a little dog that held a burning torch between its teeth; and when she had given birth, it set the whole world on fire. By this dream it was made manifest beforehand how Dominic would inflame the nations to the practice of Christian virtue through the brightness of his holy example and the fiery ardor of his preaching." He died at Bologna upon hearing the liturgy's prayer for the dying: "Come, ye saints of God, hasten hither, ye angels!", on August 6th, 1221.

His friend, Pope Gregory IX, canonized him three years later. He is the patron of astronomers, scientists and people falsely accused. May Saint Dominic come to the help of your Holy Church by his merits and teaching, O Lord, and may he, who was an outstanding preacher of your truth, in his words and example, be a devoted intercessor on our behalf. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever. Amen.

Adapted excerpt from The Church's Year of Grace, Fr. Pius Parsch.

August 6, 2017

Saints Sixtus II and Companions, Martyrs

Sts. Sixtus II and Companions

August 7th, the Church observes the optional memorial of Saints Sixtus II and his companions, Felicissimus Agapitus and Lawrence. Pope Sixtus II was one of the first victims of the persecution ordered by Emperor Valerian. Executed with him Felicissimus and Agapitus were two of his deacons. Sixtus served as pontiff from 256 to 258. His feast is celebrated in the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. He is also mentioned in the Canon of the Divine Liturgy.

The Martyrdom of Sts. Sixtus II and His Companions

Even as the storm of persecution created by Emperor Valerian raged against the Church, the papal throne was not vacant. Sixtus, a Greek, was elected to succeed Stephen. The emperor's decrees had ordered the Christians to take part in state religious ceremonies and forbade them to assemble in cemeteries. For nearly a year Sixtus managed to evade the authorities before he was gloriously martyred.

Valerian issued his second edict ordering the execution of Christian bishops, priests, and deacons. Sixtus had taken to holding services in the private cemetery of Praetextatus because it was not watched as closely by the authorities as was the cemetery of Calixtus. But in early August of 258, while Sixtus was seated on his episcopal chair and surrounded by the brethren, the soldiers broke in arresting Sixtus and four deacons who were in attendance. 

After a formal judgment, Sixtus was led back to the very place where he had been arrested, to face execution. His chief deacon Lawrence, upon hearing the news, hastened to his side, desiring to die with his bishop. Sixtus consoled his deacon by telling him that he would follow in three days with even greater glory. The soldiers then placed Sixtus in his chair and swiftly beheaded him. True to the great pope's words, Lawrence was arrested three days later and executed the same day. [Together with Felicissimus and Agapitus he received holy martyrdom.]

By the power of the Holy Spirit, we pray, almighty God, make us docile in believing the faith and courageous in confessing it, just as you granted Saint Sixtus and his companions that they might lay down their lives for the sake of your word and in witness to Jesus. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. Pope St. Sixtus, pray for us. 

Adapted Excerpt from The Popes: A Papal History, J.V. Bartlett.

Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord

The Transfiguration

August 6, 2017

Our divine Redeemer, being in Galilee about a year before His sacred Passion, took with him St. Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, Sts. James and John, and led them to a retired mountain. Tradition assures us that this was Mount Thabor, which is exceedingly high and beautiful, and was anciently covered with green trees and shrubs, and was very fruitful. It rises something like a sugar-loaf, in a vast plain in the middle of Galilee. This was the place in which our Lord the Man-God appeared in all His heavenly glory.

Whilst Jesus prayed, he suffered that glory which was always due to his sacred humility, and of which, for our sake, He deprived it, to diffuse a ray over His whole body. His face was altered and shone as the sun, and his garments became white as snow. Moses and Elias were seen by the three apostles in his company on this occasion, and were heard discoursing with him of the death which he was to suffer in Jerusalem.

The three apostles were wonderfully delighted with this glorious vision, and St. Peter cried out to Christ, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. Let us make three tents: one for thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias" Whilst St. Peter was speaking, there came, on a sudden, a bright shining cloud from heaven, an emblem of the presence of God's majesty, and from out of this cloud was heard a voice which said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him" The apostles that were present, upon hearing this voice, were seized with a sudden fear, and fell upon the ground; but Jesus, going to them, touched them, and bade them to rise. They immediately did so, and saw no one but Jesus standing in his ordinary state.

This vision happened in the night. As they went down the mountain early the next morning, Jesus bade them not to tell any one what they had seen till he should be risen from the dead. O God, who in the glorious Transfiguration of your Only Begotten Son confirmed the mysteries of faith by the witness of the Fathers and wonderfully prefigured our full adoption to sonship, grant, we pray, to your servants, that, listening to the voice of your beloved Son, we may merit to become co-heirs with Him. [Through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.]

Adapted from Butler's Lives of the Saints, Benziger Bros. ed. [1894].

August 5, 2017

Homily for the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, August 6, 2017

On Sundays when homilies by Fr. Butler and Fr. Irvin are not available, we will feature homilies by Fr. Thomas Lane. Fr. Lane is a Professor of Sacred Scripture at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD on the campus of Mt. St. Mary’s University. He previously ministered in Ireland. (Originally delivered in 2013).

Fr. Thomas J. Lane S.T.D.
Associate Professor of Sacred Scripture
Mt. St. Mary's Seminary
Emmitsburg, MD 

Jesus is the Promised Messiah
Listen to Him even as He predicts His Passion

What a grace for Peter and James and John to see Jesus transfigured. They got a preview of the glory of Jesus risen from the dead and his glory in heaven. It was also a preview of the glory we all hope to share in heaven. This was a very special grace for Peter and James and John.

It was not the only special grace Jesus shared with Peter, James and John. Earlier in the Gospel (Mark and Luke) we read that Jesus only allowed Peter and James and John with him into the house of the synagogue official whose daughter he raised up again (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51). Later, when Jesus was teaching in the temple, Peter and James and John asked Jesus a question privately and he gave them more teaching (Mark 13:3). In Gethsemane, Jesus took Peter, James and John aside from the others to be near him during his agony (Mark 14:33). So Peter, James and John received many special graces from Jesus.

Just before receiving this special grace of seeing Jesus transfigured, Jesus told his disciples that he must suffer greatly, be rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes, be killed and rise after three days (Matt 16:21; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22). How did they react? Peter (in Matt and Mark) rebuked Jesus for saying this (Matt 16:22; Mark 8:32) and Jesus responded, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Matt 16:23; Mark 8:33) The disciples had to learn that Jesus was not exactly the type of Messiah that they were expecting. Instead of being a Messiah to liberate Palestine from Roman domination he told them he would be a suffering Messiah and would be executed. What a shock! That was surely a bit much to take. Immediately following this we read that Peter, James and John saw Jesus transfigured (Matt 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-10; Luke 9:28-36). How they needed this grace now. They had left everything to follow Jesus and he had just told them he would be killed. They needed reassurance, and Jesus did not let them down. They received a huge grace now on the mountain as they saw Jesus transfigured.

Moses and Elijah also appeared and spoke with Jesus. Moses received the Law from God on Mount Sinai and Elijah could be regarded as the greatest of the prophets, certainly here he is a representative of the prophets during Jesus’ transfiguration. So we have the Law and the Prophets, as the Old Testament was often called, with Jesus on the mountain. The Old Testament was pointing forward to Jesus as we heard in that beautiful prophecy of Jesus in our first reading from Dan 7. Now two great figures of the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah, appeared on the mountain with Jesus transfigured, to confirm that Jesus is indeed the expected Messiah. In the opening prayer today we heard,

“God our Father,
in the transfigured glory of Christ your Son,
you strengthen our faith
by confirming the witness of your prophets…”

The Father spoke from heaven and said, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” So the Old Testament and the Father in heaven are now confirming that Jesus is indeed the expected Messiah. Although Jesus had just shocked them by telling them he must suffer and die, this is, in fact, the plan of God for Jesus.

The Father said, “Listen to him.” In other words, “Do not be scandalized at the teaching of my son Jesus about his forthcoming Passion, death and resurrection.” As our preface today says,

“He revealed his glory to his disciples
To strengthen them for the scandal of the cross.”

Will they listen to Jesus? Will they stand by Jesus as he goes to his Passion and death? We know the story. Peter denied Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest and James, like the rest of the disciples, abandoned Jesus. Only John listened to Jesus and was not scandalized by the passion and death of Jesus. In John’s Gospel, we read that John went right into the courtyard of the high priest while Jesus was being tried and went all the way to the cross of Jesus with the women. When the crunch came between Holy Thursday night and the first appearance of Jesus on Easter Sunday, Peter and James did not listen, they abandoned Jesus. Their abandonment of Jesus was only temporary, while John remained faithful right during Jesus’ Passion. Later all three of them, Peter, James and John became great witnesses to Jesus. Peter became the first Pope and bishop of Rome. James was executed in Jerusalem by King Herod for witnessing to Jesus (Acts 12:2) and John authored the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John. So the three disciples did listen to Jesus although two of them were temporarily unfaithful during the Passion of Jesus.

Perhaps we are disappointed that Peter and James did not listen to Jesus, did not remain faithful to Jesus, during the time he most needed them. They had seen Jesus transfigured, they heard the command of the Father to listen to Jesus, they had been with Jesus for other intimate moments like the raising of the girl to life again but they were scandalized by the Passion of Jesus. But why should we be disappointed with them? We also have experienced and met Jesus in many ways and sometimes we too let him down.

We meet Jesus in a most intimate way every time we receive him in the Eucharist. It is the time when we are closest to Jesus.

We meet Jesus in the Scriptures as they touch our hearts. Jesus speaks to us now when we read the Scriptures. The Scriptures are not just about the life of Jesus; in the Scriptures Jesus also speaks to us about our lives and in them we meet Jesus as he speaks to us about our lives.

We meet Jesus in a very special way in all the sacraments.

We have seen Jesus in great people like Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa.

But just as Peter and James needed to know after Jesus’ resurrection that he did not hold their abandonment of him against them, we need to be reconciled to Jesus often. We need to meet Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation often because there are times when we do not listen to Jesus, times when we deny Jesus, not in the courtyard of the high priest in Jerusalem, but maybe sometimes in our families, or perhaps where we work, or maybe in our communities. We do not have to be conquered or governed by our weaknesses or sinfulness. Just as Peter, James and John received the special grace of seeing Jesus transfigured and received many other graces from Jesus, we too have received many graces from Jesus to help us become the great people he has called us to be and to witness to him wherever life demands.

The appearance of Moses and Elijah during the transfiguration, and the Father saying “This is my beloved Son” confirms that Jesus is indeed the expected Messiah. The Father commanded, “Listen to him.” John is a model disciple; he was faithful to Jesus to the end. Peter and James for a short while did not listen to Jesus, but just as Peter, James and John became great witnesses to Jesus, we too can become great witnesses to Jesus.

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

August 4, 2017

Letter of St. Athanasius Encouraging the Faithful

St. Athanasius

You are the ones who are happy: you who remain within the church by your faith, who hold firmly to the foundations of the Faith which has come down to you from apostolic Tradition. And if an execrable jealousy has tried to shake it on a number of occasions, it has not succeeded. They are the ones who have broken away from it in the present crisis. No one, ever, will prevail against your faith, beloved brothers. And we believe that God will give us our churches back some day.

— St. Athanasius 

Prayer for St. Athanasius' Intercession

Almighty ever-living God, who raised up the Bishop Saint Athanasius as an outstanding champion of your Son's divinity, mercifully grant, that, rejoicing in his teaching, his protection and his intercession, we may never cease to grow in knowledge and love of you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

August 3, 2017

Saint John Vianney, Patron of Confessors

St. John Vianney

Fr. Vincent F. Kienberger, O.P.

[August 4th, is the memorial of St. John Vianney.] During the French Revolution, a small band of Ursuline nuns was imprisoned in the Bastille. To cheer her disconsolate companions, one of the group passed wheaten discs of bread, cut from the loaf of the daily rations, to memorialize the happy days when they were free and could receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. At that time all religious schools and churches were closed, and those who harbored priests were imprisoned.

At the Vianney farmhouse near Dardilly, France, fugitive priests were offered a refuge. Here their son was prepared in his tenth year for the reception of Holy Communion by a hunted priest.

While tending his father's sheep, John Vianney fashioned a small statue of Our Lady out of clay. He hid it in the hollow of an old tree with this petition: "Dear Lady Mary, I love you very much; you must bring Jesus back to His tabernacles very soon!"

On a visit to his aunt at Ecully, John listened to her praises of Father Balley, the parish priest, and he sought the Father's advice regarding his vocation to the priesthood. The pastor appraised the overgrown, awkward youth of faltering speech and devoid of general education. Though John was unable to answer the questions pertaining to earthly science which Father asked him, yet, when the priest put to him the questions of the catechism, his face became luminous with lively interest. He answered every question correctly, and in a manner beyond his years. The amazed pastor took this evidence as a sign from heaven, prophesying, "You will become a priest!"

The ensuing years brought many trials to John. He was conscripted; his mother died; he failed often in his studies. Ordained as a Mass priest, August 12, 1815, he remarked to Our Lady, Queen of the Clergy: "Here is your priest, O Blessed Mother! Stay close to me. Help me to be a good priest!"

As a curate and as a pastor, St. John Vianney's daily instruction on the catechism found an inspired audience, among whom were noted orators such as Père Lacordaire, O.P., the famed preacher of Notre Dame. The saintly pastor performed many miracles, but the greatest was his own manner of Eucharistic living. It was his Lord, living in Father Vianney, who made him "spend and be spent" in ceaseless service for both sinner and saint in the sacred tribunal of penance.