March 31, 2017

Saint Hugh of Grenoble, Bishop and Reformer

Saint Hugh of Grenoble

April 1st, is the feast of Saint Hugh of Grenoble (1053 – 1132), the 12th century French bishop who faithfully carried out the Gregorian reform preserving the sanctity of the clergy and fidelity to doctrine. He stanchly defended the Church against incursions by the state. He is remembered for his great personal piety, allegiance to the papacy and dedication to monasticism. St. Hugh is also noted for mentoring Saint Bruno, and encouraging him to found the Carthusian Order.

He was born in southeastern France at Châteauneuf-sur-Isère, near Grenoble in the foothills of the Alps. From his devout parents, he learned the truths of the Faith, developing an abiding devotion to God and the Church. He excelled in his studies, winning a reputation for brilliance. Such was his holiness and theological knowledge that, at the age of 27, he was named Bishop of Grenoble, despite not yet being ordained. Pope Gregory VII consecrated him in Rome and charged him with implementing the Gregorian reform in his home diocese. Upon his return to Grenoble, Hugh started the arduous task of revitalizing the Church in France.

The job of reforming the clergy and laity in his diocese was a massive endeavor. Corruption was rampant and included the buying and selling of Church offices, violations of clerical celibacy, lay control of Church property, and widespread religious indifference and/or ignorance. After two years with little success, he resolved to resign as bishop and retired to the austere abbey of Chaise-Dieu, in Auvergne where he became a Benedictine monk and excelled in every virtue.

There Hugh lived for a year, until Pope Gregory commanded him to resume his pastoral duties, saying: “Go to your flock; they need you.” This time his efforts accomplished much as his forceful preaching touched hearts. After a few years, the diocese was a wellspring of faith and fidelity. Bishop Hugh became renowned for his charity for the poor, even selling his episcopal ring and his chalice to help them. He counseled the young St. Bruno of Cologne and greatly assisted him in establishing the first Carthusian Monastery high in the mountains of Grenoble.

Always filled with a profound awareness of his own unworthiness, he earnestly petitioned three Popes to leave his bishopric, that he might die in solitude, but his request was never granted. He died on April 1, 1132 after a lingering illness Many miracles attested to the sanctity of his death. He was canonized just two years later by Pope Innocent II, in 1134. Saint Hugh proved ultimately to be a most effective reformer due to his love for God's Church and his strength of character.

March 30, 2017

St. Stephen of Mar Saba’s Poem on the Coming of Islam

Icon of the 21 Coptic Christian Martyrs of Egypt
Icon of the 21 Coptic Christian Martyrs of Egypt
officially recognized as Saints by the Coptic Church.

Later in his life, Saint Stephen of Mar Saba is believed to have suffered at the hands of the Umayyad and Abbasid Islamic dynasties, to whom many of his fellow monks lost their lives. His poem "Art thou weary, art thou languid?", demonstrates his courageous fortitude, singular devotion and trust in God.

Art thou weary, art thou languid,
Art thou sore distressed?
“Come to Me,” saith One, “and coming,
Be at rest.”

Hath He marks to lead me to Him,
If He be my Guide?
In His feet and hands are wound prints
And His side.

Hath He diadem, as monarch,
That His brow adorns?
Yes, a crown in very surety,
But of thorns.

If I find Him, if I follow,
What His guerdon here?
Many a sorrow, many a labor,
Many a tear.

If I still hold closely to Him,
What hath He at last?
Sorrow vanquished, labour ended,
Jordan passed.

If I ask Him to receive me,
Will He say me nay?
Not till earth and not till Heaven
Pass away.

Finding, following, keeping, struggling,
Is He sure to bless?
Saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs,
Answer, Yes!

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Prayer for the Persecuted Church

O great cloud of witnesses. O host of Angels and Saints worshiping God for all eternity! O holy ones in heaven above, Pray for us.

You who were once part of the Church on earth, you who were faithful servants of the Church Militant, you who suffered for the love of God, Pray for us.

In all ages, the Church is persecuted and hated. We pray, O Lord, through your holy Saints, that we may be blessed with the freedom to worship and adore you at all times. We pray that you may bless your Church throughout the world and me, personally, with your grace to persevere with love in the face of persecution just as You did on the Cross. Amen. Saints Perpetua and Felicity pray for us!

Saint Stephen of Mar Saba, the Wonderworker

Saint Stephen of Mar Saba

The example of this 8th century saint should reassure anyone who thinks that great or grandiose deeds are necessary for a sanctified life. Saint Stephen of Mar Saba (725-794), whose feast day is March 31st, lived a quiet, unassuming and prayerful existence, but his service to others through contemplation and works led to him being an exemplar of holiness and peace. He ministered for half a century within the community of Mar Saba, a monastery established by Saint Sabas in the 5th century. His witness of heroic virtue and selfless love illustrates the extraordinary power of God’s grace to transform and ennoble ordinary life.

A nephew of Saint John Damascene, one of the most learned men of his time, young Stephen was introduced to monastic life at the age of ten. From then until he reached the age of 24, he received instruction from his uncle, upon whom's death he became both a monk and an ordained priest. Stephen’s spiritual insight was especially evident in the charitable guidance he accorded his fellow monks. At Mar Saba, he labored variously as a spiritual director, guest-master, cantor, dispenser and special guest-master overseeing the igumen’s (Abbot’s) quarters.

St. Stephen is called the Wonderworker because once while celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, he experienced a transcendent radiance. As he elevated the Eucharist and recited the words, “Holy things to the holy”, the cell in which he was praying filled with brilliant light. The miraculous incandescence emanated from Stephen himself. From that day forward, whatever he requested during the Eucharistic Liturgy was granted. In this, he radiated God's immense love for man.

After several years of service to the monastery, Stephen requested permission to live as a hermit. It was granted conditionally; his superiors allowed him to pray as a hermit during the week, but, on the weekend, expected him to exercise his skills as a counselor. At 37, he went into total solitude for fifteen years, three times going into the desert around the Dead Sea for Lent. His biographer said about him, “Whatever help, spiritual or material, he was asked to give, he gave. He received and honored all with the same kindness. He possessed nothing and lacked nothing. In total poverty he possessed all things.” He died at peace in 794.

Day 26 of Lent: If You Can’t Do Everything, Choose One

Lent
God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful.
— St. Teresa of Calcutta

Saint Teresa of Avila, after participating in the sacrament of reconciliation, would wait for her fellow sisters to finish their individual confessions. As the sisters came out, she would greet each one saying, “Begin again… begin again!”

We are now more than halfway through Lent. You may have observed in full the Lenten observances below. To those who have done so imperfectly or half-heartedly, you can always renew your Lenten sacrifice. Abstaining from meat on Fridays is an easy act of self-denial (and commendable outside of Lent.), as is forgoing enjoyable foods, activities, television, etc., in honor of Christ’s Passion.

LENTEN SACRIFICE

ABSTINENCE

No meat can be taken by those 14 and older on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays.

FASTING

A limit of one full meatless meal by those aged 18-59 on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

SELF-DENIAL

Voluntary acts of self-denial are recommended during Lent.

PRAYER AND CHARITY

Can include daily Mass, Scripture study, the Stations of Cross, almsgiving, and showing mercy and kindness to others.

Almighty Father, as we continue with Lent, give us the grace to be steadfast in our resolutions, drawing closer to you by means of our prayer and sacrifices.

March 28, 2017

Saint Augustine on the Raising of Lazarus

Saint Augustine

"What good would it have done Lazarus when he came out of the tomb, if it had not been said, ‘Unbind him and let him go’? He came forth bound; not on his own feet, therefore, but by some power leading him. Let this be in the heart of the penitent: when you hear a man confessing his sins, he has already come to life again; when you hear a man lay his bare conscious in confessing, he has already come forth from the sepulcher; but he is not yet unbound. When is he unbound? By whom is he unbound? 'Whatever you loose on earth,’ he says, ‘shall be loosed in heaven.’ Rightly is the loosing of sins able to be given by the Church, but the dead man cannot be raised to life again except by the Lord’s calling him interiorly for this latter is done by God in a more interior way." 

— St. Augustine of Hippo
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Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer You are the resurrection and the life. No one else can give eternal life. Make our faith in You strong. Help us to remember that You defeated sin and death, and that we will also defeat death because we belong to You. We pray this in Your most holy name. Amen.

March 27, 2017

Saint Catherine of Bologna’s Seven Spiritual Weapons of Use to the Faithful in the Fight Against Evil

Saint Catherine of Bologna

In her didactic treatise, The Seven Spiritual Weapons, Saint Catherine offers deep insight into combating Satan’s lies and fighting temptation for the salvation of souls. Pope Benedict XVI called the seven spiritual weapons she identified as useful to the faithful, "A splendid program of spiritual life… for each one of us!"

"1. Always to be careful and diligently strive to do good; 2. to believe that alone we will never be able to do something truly good; 3. to trust in God and, for love of him, never to fear in the battle against evil, either in the world or within ourselves; 4. to meditate often on the events and words of the life of Jesus, and especially on his Passion and his death; 5. to remember that we must die; 6. to focus our minds firmly on memory of the goods of Heaven; 7. to be familiar with Sacred Scripture, always cherishing it in our hearts so that it may give direction to all our thoughts and all our actions."
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Prayer to Saint Catherine of Bologna

Dear saintly Poor Clare, Saint Catherine of Bologna, so rich in love for Jesus and Mary, you were endowed with great talents by God and you left us most inspiring writings and paintings of wondrous beauty. You did so for God’s greater glory and in this you are a model for all. May artists learn from you to use their God given gifts in full to exemplify the divine qualities of truth, beauty and goodness. Amen.

Saint Catherine of Bologna, Patron Saint of Artists

Saint Catherine of Bologna

March 28th, is the optional memorial of Saint Catherine of Bologna (1413-1463), the 15th century sister, virgin, mystic, miracle worker and patron saint of artists and those facing temptation. Little is known of her formative years. She was born in Bologna, and served as the maid of honor to the Marquis of Ferrara's daughter. (Catherine’s father was an adviser to the Marquis.) Catherine took residence in the palace, and became friends with her mistress, Margaret. When Margaret became engaged, she asked Catherine to remain. Catherine instead perused her religious vocation. At age 14, she dedicated her life to God and entered the Third Order of the Franciscans where she lived as part of a semi-monastic community.

Four years later, the community of women in Ferrara to which Catherine belonged joined the Order of the Poor Clares. Catherine continued in prayerful poverty and obedience, joyfully serving the Lord. She held numerous positions, working as a laundress, dressmaker, breadmaker, tending to the community's farm animals and as the novice mistress. However, Catherine felt that the community's rule was not strict enough. Eventually, she and fifteen of her fellow sisters established another more austere convent in Bologna, where she was appointed the Abbess.

St. Catherine was blessed with many spiritual gifts, which manifest themselves early in her religious life and persisting until her death. A mystic, she received visions of the Blessed Mother, Christ crucified, as well as being tormented by the Devil, who tempted her mercilessly. These she recorded in Latin, to share with the sisters of her Order for their spiritual direction and enlightenment. In her writings, Catherine provides insights into the battle between God’s goodness and Satan’s lies that sow doubt, sin and death. Her noted work, the autobiographical Treatise on the Seven Spiritual Weapons Necessary for Spiritual Warfare, vividly describes at length her visions and offers insight for living in imitation of Christ.

At the beginning of 1463, her health deteriorated. Despite suffering greatly, she assured her sisters that she would help them from Heaven. After receiving the last Sacraments, she gave her confessor the manuscript for her book. Finally, on March 9, 1463, her face became tranquil and she died peacefully, repeating three times the name of Jesus. She was canonized by Pope Clement XI on May 22, 1712. Her incorrupt body rests in the chapel of the monastery of Corpus Domini in the city of Bologna. From Pope Benedict XVI's address on her life and witness:

"[St Catherine], like us, suffered temptations, she suffered the temptations of disbelief, of sensuality, of a difficult spiritual struggle. She felt forsaken by God, she found herself in the darkness of faith. Yet in all these situations she was always holding the Lord’s hand, she did not leave him, she did not abandon him. And walking hand in hand with the Lord, she walked on the right path and found the way of light." St Catherine, pray that we find our peace in Christ, as you did.

Prayer for the Intercession of Saint Lazarus

Saint Lazarus

Dear Saint Lazarus, friend of Christ Incarnate and patron of the poor and the sick. I request your intercession, with the aid of the Holy Spirit; May the Lord, Who prefigured His Resurrection through your own miraculous rising, always guide me in my earthly pilgrimage and protect me in sickness and in health. Together with Saint Martha and Saint Mary, you welcomed the Savior into your home. May I do the same by welcoming Jesus into my heart and serving Him faithfully in my brothers and sisters. Help me to imitate Christ more perfectly.

Holy St. Lazarus give me the strength to overcome all temptation and difficulty. May your witness inspire me to have faith and hope in Jesus, especially amid great trial. Pray that I will display heroic virtue and persevere in love so as to merit to be received by God into the halls of heaven. I ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who lives and reigns with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever. Amen. Saint Lazarus of Bethany, pray for us!

March 26, 2017

Reflection on the Fifth Sunday of Lent | The Raising of Lazarus, "Untie Him and Let Him Go." John 11:1-45

The raising of Lazarus

The Fifth Sunday of Lent (A) April 2, 2017

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

Ezekiel 37:12-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45

"Untie him and let him go." (John 11: 44) 

Nearing the end of the season of Lent, the Church this Sunday is knocking at the door of Holy Week (which begins next Sunday, April 9, with Palm Sunday), seeking entrance to the events that together form the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the annual reminder of God’s love for His people!

During Holy Week, the faithful will visit the Upper Room during the Passover. At this meal, Jesus takes bread and wine and declares it to be His body and blood, which will be poured out for the many. Good Friday is the next stop on the journey. Kneeling at the foot of the cross, the people of God will adore that wood on which their Savior died. The story does not end there! At the Easter Vigil Mass, the people will stand in awe and wonder at the empty tomb. Jesus is risen! Alleluia!

Through Jesus Christ, God has conquered all sin, suffering, and death. While all of these realities are part of our lives, they will not have the final say. The final chapter of the book is hope! Through His passion, death, and resurrection, Jesus has carried all of humanity’s sins, suffering, and death, including yours and mine. The path to eternal life goes through the Upper Room, to the cross at Golgotha, and stops at the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. The lives of Jesus’ followers have meaning, life, and hope because the Word who became flesh at Christmas now has suffered, died, and risen from the dead. The celebration of Holy Week is the most important week of the liturgical calendar and every Christian should make it a priority to celebrate these mysteries in their respective parishes.

The Gospel for this final Sunday of Lent is a microcosm of the journey of Holy Week, and thus is quite fitting for those banging at the door of Holy Week. It is the familiar story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Recall that Jesus is friends with Lazarus, and his sisters Martha and Mary. At Lazarus’ death, Jesus makes His way to Bethany to console Martha and Mary. Martha and Jesus have a conversation outside the village in which Martha professes Jesus to be the Resurrection and the Life. Jesus weeps as He nears the tomb of Lazarus. Having been warned of the stench of death if the stone is removed from the entrance of the tomb, Jesus orders it moved anyway. He cries out to Lazarus who came forth from the tomb wrapped in his burial cloth. “Untie him,” Jesus said, “and let him go.”

You are Lazarus! Your sin, suffering, and death binds you in much the same way as death bound Lazarus. Sinfulness controls the human heart and soul, holding it prisoner. The scourge of suffering, whether it is mental, physical, or emotional, is the result of the human condition. It can drive the person to despair and hopelessness. Wallowing in the pain, one can feel bound as Lazarus. Sin and suffering ultimately lead to death, where there is no hope.

That is not the end of the story! There is hope because Jesus intervenes. He orders the stone rolled back. There is a stench that emanates from the tomb, the horrid smell of death. Jesus, who is God Himself in the human person, does not avoid that stench. He is not afraid of it but walks right to it. Jesus is close to His people. Sinfulness and suffering are the effects of the raw human condition that plagues everyone. That condition does not scare off the Lord! He has come to be united with His people, to bring hope, forgiveness, new life, and ultimately to get rid of that which causes the stench.

Finally, Jesus orders Lazarus to be untied and let go. He is free of sin, suffering, and death. The stench is no longer filling his nostrils. Free to live, Lazarus walks this earth once again. And so, too, Jesus frees all of His people from sin, suffering, and death. The Catholic faith is based on the hope of the resurrection. To Holy Week each person brings that which binds him, asking Jesus to nail it to His cross. Stand in awe and wonder at that empty tomb on Easter Sunday and realize that you are Lazarus, and from your den of stench and death you too will walk away, unbound, free, to live with God for all of eternity. Now, that’s real hope! Don’t be afraid to bang away at the door of Holy Week! You must be allowed to enter the most sacred moment of the year, that you might be a person of hope and new life. Jesus is risen! Alleluia!

Homily for the 5th Sunday in Lent, April 2, 2017, Year A

The raising of Lazarus

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing


All of us, I am sure, have read recent accounts about the decline of interest in religion among Americans. A recent survey reports that 20% of Americans have no religious affiliations at all and feel no need of God or belief in God. It seems they feel that they are self-sufficient; God is not necessary.

So why are we here? Our motives are many and mixed. Some are here in their need seeking God’s help. Some are here seeking God’s forgiveness, others out of love of God, others out of thanksgiving for all that God has done for them. Some are here simply out of a sense of duty and others out of mere habit. All of us are looking forward to everlasting life with God in heaven.

In the opening prayer of today’s Mass, we heard the words: “Help us to embrace the world that you have given us, that we may transform the darkness of its pain into the life and joy of Easter.”

In the first reading from the prophet Ezekiel we heard: “Thus says the LORD GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them…”

Well, what does this mean for us, living out our lives as we do in 2017 America?

To answer that I would pay some attention to what we frequently hear, namely the spirit of defeat often quoted in our newspapers and which sometimes infects our own hearts and thoughts. Fortunately there are words of optimism coming from many people who surround us countering those transmitting a spirit of defeat. Perhaps some of our own sons and daughters, nieces or nephews, relatives or friends, speak of how awful life is, or about how much they are life’s victims. They blame other people for being so mean to them, they blame their depression in the economy, they talk about their own lack of fulfillment, they tell us they’re getting nothing out of life, and so forth. Doubt, disillusionment, discouragement, and depression hold many people in bondage.

What are the causes of this defeatism? Well there are many of course. But here I would like to examine four of them and then turn to what we can do about them.

The first source of defeat for so many people is what I call extremism. It’s the sort of attitude that converts what is really happening only occasionally into something they claim is always happening. “I always goof. I never do anything right,” we hear them say. “People always take advantage of me.” These words and similar phrases are symptomatic of the spiritual condition such people are in. These thoughts come from a way of looking at life that is either extremely idealistic or else extremely pessimistic. They see life as either one or the other, not balanced. Defeat is guaranteed them because they do not have a balanced view of what really happens in life. Life isn’t “either-or,”  “black or white,”  “all or nothing.” In reality, life is a complicated mixture of many factors and forces.

The second source of defeat comes from the sort of mentality that continually makes comparisons. This outlook dooms one into never thinking that one has enough. This kind of person is forever comparing his or her lot in life with people who are better off. Someone else is better looking, has more money, lives in a better house, has a better job, and so on. Depression is guaranteed them; defeatism finally takes over. This is one of the major sources of defeat and frustration in our culture today. The entire advertising industry is built on the business of comparing yourself to others so that you will buy their advertised product and then be as wonderfully happy as others are.

A third source of defeat that infests many souls is what is called “passive resignation.” We simply surrender ourselves to our feelings and then call it “fate.” Phrases like the following are its telltale signs: “Well, that’s just my lot in life,” “I was never destined to do any better,” “That’s life, and I might just as well accept it,” “It’s God’s will that I suffer,” and so forth.

The final source of defeat which I’d like to point out is too much reliance on self and the things of this world, and not enough reliance on faith in Christ and the things of God. The underlying problem is a lack of real belief that God can or will do anything to help me. Either we think we’re not worthy because we’re too evil, or else we think that God really doesn’t care because He never seems answer our prayers anyway. The result is that we make the hidden assumption that if we’re going to be happy and successful in life, we’ve got to achieve it ourselves because God won’t take care of us until we get to heaven… if in fact we do get there.

In the face of all this, God’s Word in today’s readings comes to us with a challenging question.

That question hits each one of us. I want you to seriously listen now to God’s question and think about your answer to it. The question is this: “What is your heart wrapped around?” Put another way: “What is the thought that’s constantly on your mind? What continually absorbs your attention? For thus says the Lord: “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not. See, I am doing something new!” God wants us to see things afresh, not in our usual ways but rather in His renewing ways.

You see, we must begin to think now of what can be in our future and stop thinking about what has been in our past. All of the Sacraments are the acts of God in Christ. The Sacraments are not merely symbols, nor did men invent them merely to be pretty ceremonies. Sacraments are the acts of God Himself in Christ reaching out to make things fresh and new for us. Baptism is a Sacrament of beginning a new life for us. The Sacrament of Reconciliation gives us a fresh start, a new beginning, and a new lease on life. Matrimony, Ordination, Anointing of the Sick… all are opportunities for us to pick-up on life where we left off, if only we will let God do His work in us, if only we will do things with Him in His ways.

Really, then, what is defeat for us? When you get right down to it, nothing can defeat us except the spirit of defeatism. We recall that in the bottom of the Great Depression in the 1930′ s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt cried out: “We have nothing to fear except fear itself:” And we know Roosevelt was right. Once our national self-confidence was restored and once we shook off the spirit of defeatism and isolationism, those two great works of the devil designed to make us weak and impotent, we then began to come out of our depression.

The same is true in our own personal and individual lives. For Easter is the religious and theological statement that, for the Christian, there is really no ultimate defeat. To be sure we shall suffer temporary setbacks. And to be sure we shall suffer in the future. But defeat? We should see that because of Christ’s Easter Resurrection we can never be totally defeated. What is required is that we stop constantly feeling sorry for ourselves and let our faith in God replace our own lack of faith in our selves.

Am I preoccupied by my own failures and misfortunes? Is my heart wrapped up in the illusory comfort of feeling sorry for myself? Am I passively resigned to my fate in life? Well, now is the time to throw open the doors of that self-made prison. The stone has been rolled back from the tomb of poor Lazarus. Christ has commanded that he be released from all that bound him up, and then set him free.

The same is true for you. Christ has rolled back the imprisoning stones that entomb our hearts. It’s time to go free because God in Christ wants us, like poor Lazarus, to be free, to be happy, and to enjoy life. He wants to us walk in the glorious freedom of the sons and daughters of God.

Defeatism is the sacrament of the devil, along with his other sacraments of doubt, depression, and disillusionment. For if we walk with Christ and join our passion and suffering into His, then we can walk away from all in life that’s cold, dead, dreary, depressing, and all that which leads us into the hell of our own defeatism.

“Remember not,” your God says to you now, “the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not. See, I am doing something new.” This Easter, let God do something new within you. The Resurrection is God’s promise that we can have a new life.

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for April 2017

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

Young People 

That young people may respond generously to their vocations and seriously consider offering themselves to God in the priesthood or consecrated life.

Urgent Intention - Landslide Victims/Peace 

Victims of the landslide in Colombia and peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Venezuela, and Paraguay.

Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 26, 2017, Year A

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

Jesus heals the man born blind
(Click here for today’s readings)

What did the man born blind do once he could see? He went back. Where? We don’t know. Why? Well, where else? John tells us nothing about his reaction to his new situation. He is totally unlike the lame man healed in Acts 3:8, “walking and jumping and praising God.” He was not even looking for Jesus, as far as we can tell.

It almost makes sense. He is the only blind person in the Gospels whose story does not include Jesus’ being asked to let him see. Maybe he was just stunned, confused at this totally unexpected turn of events. Add to that all the fuss going on around him!

Why did the bystanders even feel it necessary to bring him to the Pharisees? This is an element typical of John’s Gospel, heightening the drama and propelling the dialogue forward to its climax.

With such an interesting story, it is easy to miss the brief prologue, in which Jesus stresses the need to do “the works of God...while it is day.”

The Pharisees in the story exemplify what St. Paul calls, in the second reading, “fruitless works of darkness.” Even the good and great Samuel, in the first reading, initially saw only what he wanted to see. The Pharisees persisted in that attitude.

It is impossible to explain color to one who has never seen it. Helen Keller, in her 50’s, published an article in The Atlantic Monthly (January 1933), titled “Three Days to See”. She wrote, “At times my heart cries out with longing to see... If I can get so much pleasure from mere touch, how much more beauty must be revealed by sight. Yet, those who have eyes apparently see little. The panorama of color and action which fills the world is taken for granted. It is human, perhaps, to appreciate little that which we have and to long for that which we have not, but it is a great pity that in the world of light the gift of sight is used only as a mere convenience rather than as a means of adding fullness to life... How many of you, I wonder, when you gaze at a play, a movie, or any spectacle, realize and give thanks for the miracle of sight which enables you to enjoy its color, grace, and movement?”

Have you ever tried to explain faith to someone who has never known it? It is every bit as much a free gift as Jesus gave to the man born blind. Taking our cue from Helen Keller we might ask how many of us who do believe use that gift consciously. How often do we give thanks for it? It is easy to take it for granted.

Helen Keller suggests we should look at things as if in three days we would be struck blind. Applying that thought to faith, what if we had just three days to build up a store of faith, as it were, and then no more increase, no more deepening? How might we go about it? Today’s Responsorial Psalm 23 might be a good start, but I suspect each of us would take a different approach. It’s an interesting concept.

In the case of the faith of the man born blind, Jesus again takes the initiative. He seeks him out and asks him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He adds the gift of faith to the gift of sight, bestowing an even greater gift on top of an already wondrous one.

Lent provides an opportunity for us to recognize the gift of faith, and ask for more.

In a short story published in 1915 by Luigi Pirandello, the author encounters his recently deceased mother. She tells him, “Look at things also with the eyes of those who can’t see them any more. It will make you sad, son, but that will render them more sacred and more beautiful.”

Think of someone you knew who has died, but whose faith was strong and deep and remains an inspiration to you. Now that he or she is gone, look at life, at the world, at other people, with his or her eyes of faith. What a gift of sight that might be!

March 25, 2017

March's Blog of Note: The Veil of Chastity

The Veil of Chastity

March's blog of note is The Veil of Chastity. The site is written for single Catholic young women, but the information provided, focusing expressly on living chastely in both the single and married vocations — is applicable to all. Although currently inactive, the blog’s author, a Catholic Mom and full-time professional, faithful to the teaching of the Church and to the Magisterium, is finalizing a book discussing the wisdom behind the virtue of chastity. The work of Saint John Paul II, Pope Paul VI, Dietrich and Alice von Hildebrand, and Saint Thomas Aquinas are thoughtfully considered vis–à–vis Humanae Vitae and the Theology of the Body.

The blog's about page explains its mission: "The United States alone has 27 million single Catholics. This site is dedicated to those singles and those around the world who are looking for wisdom and hope. This is a place to share and learn about the virtue of chastity, the truth behind the virtue and why it leads to our happiness and peace...." It asks: "Do you want to follow God’s plan for your life?"

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) #1658 states:

"We must also remember the great number of single persons who, because of the particular circumstances in which they have to live – often not of their choosing – are especially close to Jesus’ heart and therefore deserve the special affection and active solicitude (concern/care) of the Church, especially of pastors"

The Veil of Chastity offers the 'why' behind the Church's teaching on the virtue of chastity. In short, "there are rewards for treating the gift of our sexual powers with care and reverence. And... there are consequences to trifling with God’s design of our sexual powers." The Veil of Chastity is a treasury of great insight.

A Prayer for Chastity

Jesus Christ, Savior of mankind, bless me with Your infinite graces, that I may remain in a state of purity. Strengthen me in mind, body and spirit to continually reflect Your chastity. Protect my soul in its daily struggles, guide it to ponder Your Godliness. Defend me from the forces of evil, those that seek to acquire my soul: To You, I profess my deep love, O Lord, the Conqueror of sin and death. Amen.

March 24, 2017

Solemnity of the Annunciation | 2017

The Annunciation

March 25, 2017

The Solemnity of the Annunciation is the celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary, that she would become the Theotokos. Despite being a virgin, Mary would miraculously conceive the Son of God. Gabriel told Mary to name her son Jesus, meaning “God delivers”. The Solemnity of the Annunciation comes nine months before Christmas. According to the Gospel of Luke, the Annunciation occurred in “the sixth month” of her cousin Elizabeth's pregnancy with John the Baptist. the precursor or forerunner of the Lord.

Mary Mother of God, help us to be faithful to God's will in all things as you were.
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Solemnity of the Annunciation Collect Prayer

O God, who willed that your Word should take on human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, grant, we pray, that we, who confess our Redeemer to be God and man, may merit to become partakers even in his divine nature. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever  Amen.

Saint Dismas, the Penitent Thief

Saint Dismas and Christ

There is very little known about Dismas apart from the account of the crucifixion chronicled in the Gospel of Luke. Traditionally given the title of the “Good Thief” for rebuking the criminal who mocked Jesus, Dismas, who was also under the sentence of crucifixion, asked to be remembered by Jesus “when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus then replied, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23: 42-43).

The Christian community took seriously Jesus’ words that the good thief was saved, and honors him as a saint. Dismas’ response to Jesus is an articulation of the steps in conversion away from sin: he came to an honest awareness of his sin and renounced it, seeking Jesus as the source of eternal life. The words of our Savior to Dismas, assuring him of heaven is understood by the Church as the first granting of a plenary indulgence.

A legend arose in the Middle Ages that Dismas and Jesus had met one time prior to the events at Calvary. According to the story, Dismas and the second thief, traditionally known as Gestas, had waylaid a young family on their way to Egypt over 30 years before, with the intention of robbing them, or worse. Sensing something different about these three — who were, of course, the Holy Family in flight from Herod — Dismas convinced Gestas to let them go unharmed, even paying him 40 drachmas to do so.

The legend goes on to say that the Blessed Mother promised Dismas that he would be greatly rewarded for his good deed before his death. Dismas’ feast day is March 25. He is the patron saint of prisoners. The relics of St. Dismas rest in the reliquary chapel, including a piece of Dismas’ cross. St. Dismas, the good thief who in his humility turned away from sin and towards Christ, pray for us!

Blessed Oscar Romero on Obeying God's Law

Blessed Oscar Romero
No soldier is obliged to obey an order counter to the law of God. No one has to comply with an immoral law. It is the time now that you recover your conscience and obey its dictates rather than the command of sin…. Therefore, in the name of God, and in the name of this long-suffering people, whose laments rise to heaven every day more tumultuous, I beseech you, I beg you, I command you! In the name of God: ‘Cease the repression!’
 — Blessed Oscar Romero 
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Almighty ever-living God,, who gave Blessed Oscar Romero the courage to give up his life for justice, grant, through his intercession, that, renouncing our life for Christ in this world, we may find it in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

March 23, 2017

Bl. Oscar Romero, "May My Blood be a Seed of Liberty"

Bl. Oscar Romero

March 24th, is the optional memorial of Blessed Oscar Romero. When Monsignor Romero was installed as Archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador in February 1977, he was thrust into a tumultuous situation. A military coup in October 1979 led to a gruesome, twelve-year civil war. These events were precipitated by the great disparity between a small number of powerful, wealthy families – who were backed by local politicians and the military, and the rest of El Salvador’s citizens. Many people suffered extreme poverty. Laborers worked for minimal pay for wealthy landowners, yet they could not hope to obtain land for themselves. The military terrorized the people in order to ensure that the families of affluence held on to their land and wealth, so as to maintain their powerful political influence.

The Catholic Church became a target when some clergy began to defend the poor. In response to these injustices, some Salvadorans took up arms and fought against the military. While some Latin American clergy promoted such violence in response, Archbishop Romero advocated for a different weapon: Christian love.

Before becoming archbishop, Monsignor Romero was not aware that the government was responsible for the deaths of many civilians. Because of his quiet nature, some thought that he would be good for the position, assuming he would not meddle in controversial affairs. However, shortly after his installation, his close friend, Fr. Rutilio Grande, a priest who openly opposed the unjust practices of wealthy landowners, was assassinated by gunmen while traveling with two people to celebrate Mass. This awakened Archbishop Romero to the corruption in his country; prompting him to stand for his people’s freedom.

Archbishop Romero preached many homilies that were broadcast throughout San Salvador. He persistently defended the rights of the people, calling government leaders to conversion and challenging them to uphold God’s law. He reminded the people that they were loved by God and that fighting back with Christian charity was the way to victory. His vocal response to government violence against the poor led to difficulties with other clergy members and his religious superiors as well as death threats from government accomplices. In spite of these challenges, he continued to speak out on behalf of the poor, and the politically oppressed.

On March 24, 1980, Archbishop Romero was shot to death while celebrating the Eucharist in the chapel of Divina Providencia hospital. Blessed Oscar Romero was beatified by Pope Francis in May 2015. Blessed Bishop Oscar Romero, pray for us!

Adapted excerpt from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

March 22, 2017

Venerable Fulton Sheen on the Essence of Evil

Archbishop Fulton Sheen
The essence of evil is not robbing, stealing, murdering; it is the crucifixion of Goodness, the elimination of the Moral Principle of life, so that one may sin without remorse and with impunity.
 — Venerable Fulton Sheen
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Prayer for the Canonization of Venerable Fulton Sheen

Heavenly Father, source of all holiness, You raise up within the Church in every age men and women who serve with heroic love and dedication. You have blessed Your Church through the life and ministry of Your faithful servant, Archbishop Fulton J Sheen. He has written and spoken well of Your Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and was a true instrument of the Holy Spirit in touching the hearts of countless people.

If it be according to Your Will, for the honor and glory of the Most Holy Trinity and for the salvation of souls, we ask You to move the Church to proclaim him a saint. We ask this prayer through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Saint Toribio de Mogrovejo, Apostle of Peru

Saint Toribio de Mogrovejo

March 23rd, is the optional memorial of St. Toribio of Mogrovejo (1538 – 1606), the 16th century bishop, reformer and missionary who, by his tireless zeal and boundless love, renewed the Church in Peru. Though he began life as a law professor at the prestigious University of Salamanca, it would be as a poor missionary in the New World, not as a high Spanish government official, that St. Toribio of Mogrovejo would discover what God wanted him to do with his life.

Toribio was born into Spanish nobility in 1538. His father was Don Louis Alfonso, mayor of Mayorga, and his mother was Anna de Roblès y Moran y Villaquexida. It was Toribios’ great learning and reputation for virtue that attracted the attention of King Philip II of Spain; this subsequently led to his appointment as chief judge of the Inquisition at Granada. Some argued that he succeeded too well in that position; whether or not that is true, the strength of character he displayed made him a natural choice to be appointed the Archbishop of Lima, Peru in 1579.

Lima was rife with scandal, with the clergy and the Spanish conquerors brutally oppressing the native people. Toribio traveled on foot throughout his immense archdiocese, championing the rights of the poor against their Spanish overlords. It is said that he baptized and confirmed over half a million people, among them Saint Rose of Lima and possibly Saint Martin de Porres.  Among his greatest contributions to the Church in the New World was overseeing the Third Provincial Council of Lima (1582-1583), one of the most important and comprehensive councils held in the Americas. Unlike earlier provincial councils, the it made no distinctions between the Spaniards and the Indians in treating them equally.

Laboring to the very end, Saint Toribio died of a fever in Sana, Peru, in 1606. In addition to championing the rights of native peoples, he started the first seminary in the Americas, the Conciliar Seminary of Lima, and was canonized the first male saint of the New World in 1726. He is the patron of Native rights, Latin American bishops, and the country of Peru. Almighty God, who gave increase to your holy Church through the apostolic labors and zeal for truth of the Bishop Saint Toribio, grant that the people consecrated to you may always receive new growth in faith and holiness. We ask this 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.

March 21, 2017

Pope Benedict XVI on the Catechism

Pope Benedict XVI
The Catechism was not written to please you. It will not make life easy for you, because it demands of you a new life.
— Pope Benedict XVI
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A Prayer For Discernment

All highest, glorious God, cast your light into the darkness of my heart. Give me right faith, firm hope, perfect charity and profound humility with wisdom and perception, O Lord, so that I may do what is truly Your holy will. Amen.

Canon Lawyers, Theologians & Catholic Academics to Hold Conference on ‘Deposing the Pope’ in Paris

Brochure from the 'Deposing the Pope' Conference

On March 30th, 2017, canon lawyers, theologians and scholars will attend a first of its kind colloquium titled: "The Pope's Deposition, Theological Sites - Canonical Models - Constitutional Issues". The two day gathering at the University of Paris will discuss a subject that has never been the topic of a Catholic conference previously, how to depose a heretical pontiff. The colloquium seeks to examine "the mechanisms that are built into the Catholic Church for dealing with a pope who openly teaches falsehood." LifeSiteNews has more on the upcoming event:
The conference includes 15 speakers who will be giving a range of talks on the subject matter with titles such as "Conciliarism and the Deposition of a Pope Through the Prism of Gallicanism," "The Downfall of the Pope: Between Renunciation and Deposition," and "The Deposition of John XXII and Benedict XIII at Constance..."
Those speaking at the conference include,"Professors Nicolas Warembourg and Cyrille Dounot, two of the 45 Catholic academics who last June submitted an appeal to the Dean of the College of Cardinals in Rome requesting a repudiation of erroneous positions they found in Pope Francis’ exhortation Amoris Laetitia."

The article states: "Last November Vaticanist Giuseppe Nardi reported that a 1975 theological study by the learned Brazilian layman Arnaldo Vidigal Xavier da Silveira was making the rounds in the Vatican. The layman examined in his work titled The Theological Hypothesis of a Heretical Pope whether it is possible for a pope to be or become a heretic, and if so, what consequences would follow..."

In a December 2016 interview, Cardinal Raymond Burke observed that should a pope "formally profess heresy he would cease, by that act, to be the Pope." His Eminence elaborated, "There is already in place the discipline to be followed when the Pope ceases from his office, even as happened when Pope Benedict XVI abdicated his office. The Church continued to be governed in the interim between the effective date of his abdication and the inauguration of the papal ministry of Pope Francis." (Note: the Cardinal has never said that Pope Francis is in heresy.)

Prayer for the Holy Father Pope Francis

Almighty God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant Pope Francis, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Powerful Pro-Life Poster: “My Mom is Going to Kill Me”

Pro-life AD

This pro-life poster illustrates the truth that abortion is the taking of innocent human life. World wide, about 115,00 unborn children are aborted each day.

Prolife poster

In the above image, an expectant mother thinks to herself, "My mom is going to kill me." Meanwhile, her unborn child, griped by an equal foreboding worries, "My mom is going to kill me." May all expectant mothers have courage to act in love.

Almighty God, grant us, we pray that all unborn children will be loved and kept safe until the joyous day of their birth. May the Lord, who rescues the life of the poor and the weak from the power of the wicked, send an angel to guard and protect all unborn children and expectant mothers. We pray to the Lord. Amen.

March 20, 2017

Christ Heals a Man Blind From Birth: John 9:1-41

Christ Heals a Man Blind From Birth

On the 4th Sunday of Lent, we read in John’s Gospel about Christ healing a man blind from birth. We identify with the man who came to see and believe in Jesus as the Son of God. The Lord has anointed our eyes with His own divine hands and washed them with the waters of our baptism. Jesus used mud made with his own saliva, and told the man to wash in the waters of Siloam. Jesus did this because it was the Sabbath, the day, when it was strictly forbidden to make mud, spit, and wash. By breaking these Jewish ritual laws, Jesus proved that He is indeed the Lord of the Sabbath. As such, He is co-equal to God the Father, the One who works even on the Sabbath, the holiest of days, directing the world He created.

The scandal totally transcends the fact that Jesus has healed the blind man, who is expelled from the synagogue because of his faith in Christ. The whole Church follows this man in his destiny, knowing that the truly blind are those who do not recognize Jesus as the Lord and persist in their sins. Others have the light of life and can see and know the Son of God, because "you have seen him, and he who speaks with you, he is." It is invariably the meek and humble who see with faith.

Many in the time of Christ refused to see the truth that Jesus was the Messiah. The blind man’s neighbors, parents and friends, like the Pharisees themselves, refuse to acknowledge the blind man or his testimony about Jesus’ divinity. The disciples are blind as well. They witness the blind man’s affliction and assume all such disability is caused by sin. They even deem it possible to determine whose sin is responsible for the physical blindness. They conclude it must be the blind man’s sins or the sins of his parents (or ancestors) that led to his sightlessness.

Jesus tells them that the blind man’s illness is not a consequence of sin, either of the man’s or his parents', or his ancestors’. Indeed, the illness is not about sin. The man’s blindness will testify to the glory of God, from age to age across time.

The earliest Patristic writers saw Christ’s spitting on the ground to make mud as paralleling the creation account found in Genesis 2:7, in which God (the Second Person of the Trinity) fashioned the man out of the dust of the ground. In the Gospel passage, Jesus restores the blind man’s sight, much like He will restore humanity by defeating sin and death in the culmination of His salvific ministry on Calvary. Hence, this Sunday’s miracle story is not just about the Fall, but about the restoration of creation. O God, who through your Word reconciled the human race to yourself in a wonderful way, grant, we pray, that with prompt devotion and eager faith the Christian people may hasten toward the solemn celebrations to come. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and who reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

March 19, 2017

Solemnity of Saint Joseph | 2017

Saint Joseph and Jesus

March 20, 2017

Saint Joseph, a "good and upright man," heard God’s wishes by listening to his dreams. Common advice would have told him to divorce Mary, as he planned to do, but he was willing to do what was disapproved of by other people because he trusted God’s plan more than his own. When practicality would have said, "Stay in Bethlehem; Egypt is no place for a poor carpenter and his family," he also declined to rely on his own will, and thereby saved the life of Mary’s infant Son.

St. Joseph, Pray that we might be faithful to God's will in all things as you were.
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Prayer for St. Joseph's Intercession 

Grant, we pray, almighty God and Father, that by the intercession of your devoted servant Saint Joseph your Church may constantly watch over the unfolding of the mysteries of human salvation, whose beginnings you entrusted to his unfailing care. We humbly ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Saint Joseph with Jesus

One of the Church’s most beloved saints is also one about whom we know relatively little. St. Joseph, whose feast day we celebrate on March 19, is mentioned only in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and even there his story goes no further than a pilgrimage to Jerusalem when Jesus was 12. However, that story is a remarkable one, full of great faith and love for both God and the Holy Family who were commended to his care.

We do know a few important things about him. For instance, although he was a humble carpenter, he was nonetheless a descendant of the kingly “house and lineage” of David. We know, too, that he was a “righteous (or just) man,” a designation in Scripture which indicates his total openness to God and God’s will. And though certainly obedient to the law — we see this in his decision to divorce Mary because she was carrying a child he knew was not his — he was also a man of great compassion, because he also decided to do so quietly. To understand the true significance of this, it’s important to realize that had the divorce been made public, Mary would have been subject to the full penalty of the law regarding adultery, which was stoning.

Joseph must also have been a man of great prayer and holiness, for he was able to recognize the angel’s voice in a dream not once, but three times — the first when he was assured that he should take Mary as his wife, the second when he was warned to flee with his family into Egypt, and the third when he was told that it was safe to return home to Nazareth. We can also infer from Scripture that this man very much loved Mary’s child as his own. When Jesus was 12 and became separated from them for three days after the Passover in Jerusalem, it was both parents who searched frantically for Him, even retracing their steps back to the holy city. When they finally located Him in the Temple, Mary chided Jesus on behalf of both herself and Joseph: “Son, why have you done this to us?” she asked. “Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” His assertion that He had to be “in my Father’s house” perplexed them both.

It is at this point in Scripture that the figure of Joseph himself ceases to appear. We hear of him only once more, and that is when Jesus, having begun His public ministry, returned home to preach in the synagogue at Nazareth. His welcome was not warm, and his former neighbors indignantly asked, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son?” Apparently, neither carpenters nor their sons were considered fit vehicles for bringing about the Kingdom of God. No matter how much or little we know about the facts of his life, we can be certain about the most important thing regarding him — he was a just man, who served God with faithfulness and joy.

Homily for the 4th Sunday in Lent, March 26, 2017, Year A

Jesus healing the man born blind

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing


We have all heard the phrase “Seeing is believing.” The idea comes, I suppose, from skeptical people who won’t believe anything is real or anything is true unless and until they see it for themselves.

In today’s Gospel account the phrase “Seeing is believing” is paradoxically both proved and disproved. It is proved by the blind man eventually seeing Jesus and acknowledging that indeed Jesus is “from God.” The blind man recognized Jesus for who He is. The Pharisees, on the other hand, men who were sighted, did not or would not see Jesus for who He is. The blind man could see, the sighted Pharisees were blind. Seeing, they would not believe.

In this Gospel account Jesus gives us some additional clues as to who He really is. You will recall that in the Book of Genesis we find God creating us from “the slime of the earth.” Here we find slimy mud formed from Jesus’ saliva bringing light into the blind man’s darkness. Bringing light into the darkness, we recall, was God’s first act of creation along with fashioning us from the slime of the earth.

A second clue as to who Jesus really is can be found in the fact that Jesus didn’t use water to form the mud. If He had used water some might say that the miraculous power that gave the man sight came from water. No. Jesus used His own saliva to demonstrate that the miraculous power giving sight to the man born blind came from Him and from Him alone.

Let me turn your attention now to the fact that the blind man’s recognition of who Jesus really is came about gradually… through a process. When first questioned he told his neighbors that “the man called Jesus” made paste, put it on his eyes, and told him to go wash in the waters of Siloam. When asked where Jesus was he said he didn’t know.

When brought to the Pharisees who questioned him as to the man who healed him the blind man said,“He is a prophet.” The Pharisees, as we know, refused to believe that Jesus was anything other than a sinner.

Finally, at the conclusion of the episode, Jesus searched him out and when He found the man he acknowledged that Jesus was the “Son of Man” and then worshipped Him, an act that one gives to God alone. Worshipping anyone or anything else other than God is blasphemy and idolatry. In short, the formerly blind man acknowledged the divinity of Christ. So for the blind man, truly, “seeing is believing.”

The Pharisees give us the skeptical side of the phrase. Sighted though they were, they were in fact blind and living in darkness apart from God.

At first they suspended judgment about Jesus. Doubting the blind man’s testimony they sent for his parents and questioned them. They gave their testimony but it didn’t help the Pharisees to see things at all. Their doubt only increased. They declared Jesus to be a sinner and sent for the blind man to testify once again. Quite forthrightly he told them that he had already given his testimony. He then bluntly asked the Pharisees why they wouldn’t listen. He went on to declare: “Now here is an astonishing thing! He has opened my eyes and you turn around and say you don’t know where He comes from!”

The blind man’s progress in gaining spiritual insight is matched by the spiritual leaders’ step-by-step journey into darkness and blindness. Even though Christ, the Light of the World, was standing before them their stubborn reliance only on themselves and their blind pride led them into darkness.

Once again we are dealing in this Gospel account with St. John’s major themes: order out of chaos, light out of darkness, good out of evil, and life out of death.

The question now presented itself to us here in America in 2017 is: Do we recognize what our real struggle is all about? Sure situation in Iraq vexes us, the war against Islamic terrorists continues, the economy is faltering, drugs and pornography beset us, and the cost of living has gone through the roof. But what about the presence of God in our lives?

Do we have eyes to see and ears to hear Him or do our many concerns blind us?

We don’t have to go to the trouble to try and find God. He has come to search us out just as He did the blind man who had miraculously been given sight. The basic movement is the coming of God to us. From the time God entered the Garden of Eden in search of Adam and Eve, to the time when He was born among us in a manger in Bethlehem, to the time He came upon us all in Pentecost, to this very day and this very Mass, God comes to us. The Light of the World has come and the darkness shall not overcome it.

There is only one darkness that can prevail, the darkness of our own lack of attention and our own lack of vision when it comes to His presence in our lives. It may be true that we do not willfully ignore God and are blind to His presence, but if “seeing is believing” how can we believe if we do not see?

Lent is time set aside when we try to see God in our lives. Lent is a time when we try to step away from all of our worldly concerns and give some time and attention to what’s going on in our souls. To strengthen our faith and our belief we need, along with the blind man, ask: “Lord, that I might see” and then expect a miracle, the miracle of seeing the Light of the World in our darkened days.

Our blindness is not the blindness of the Pharisees. Ours is being too busy for time with God, too worried about the cares of this world.

“Seeing is believing.” Oh, Lord, let me see your light, let me recognize your presence in my life; open my eyes because I know who you are and I know what you can do.

Oh, Lord, that I may see.

Reflection on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph

St. Joseph and the angel

The Solemnity of Saint Joseph, March 19, 2017

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16; Psalm 89; Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22; 
Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a

"Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary 
your wife into your home." (Mt 1:20)

Try for a moment to see the situation through Joseph’s eyes. The woman he loved and was engaged to tells him she is pregnant. He knows he is not the father of this child. Already Mary has shared enough information to hurt Joseph. Wait! There is more. Mary claims an angel has visited her. The visitor informed her that she was to conceive through the Holy Spirit. Thus, the child will be the Son of God. If it was found out that Mary was pregnant outside of marriage she could be in grave trouble with the authorities. It is no wonder Joseph had decided to send her away quietly. The Gospel chosen for today’s feast is the dream in which Joseph is told not to fear and to bring her into his home. Her story is true! When Joseph awoke, he took Mary into his home, married her, and never looked back. He became the earthly father to the young Jesus and helped raise him into adulthood. In many ways, Joseph is the unsung hero of the whole Incarnation event. What can the modern person learn from Joseph? Today’s Christian can learn the need of being open to the movements of the Lord in life. One can also understand the true meaning of vocation.

It takes a lot of faith, trust, and patience to be open to the movements of the Spirit in life. Most of us will not be visited by angels or hear voices out of burning bushes as did Moses. It is possible however to detect God’s will without those extraordinary events happening. One can detect God’s voice in the voices of others, especially those closest to us. One can also hear him in the words of Scripture and in the prayers of the Church. One detects God’s will in the quiet moments of prayer. Reading one’s “gut reaction” to an issue is essential in understanding God’s will, for there God speaks. Patience is required as God does not work on a human timetable and will work only in his time. And his time is the most important time! Be open to the Spirit!

Joseph was open to what God wanted of him. He did not know the outcome of raising this child nor what his life would be like. But he was open to the direction God had placed before him. That’s all God asks! God knows each human person by name and knows of what each person is capable. Be open to that movement in your life. He will lead you to places you never thought possible.

From time to time in life, one feels stirrings in one’s heart and soul. These stirrings are the work of God, who may be pointing to something different for you. He may be calling you on to a new career or to some other new phase of life. Allow those stirrings to guide you; in them is found the voice of God. Do not be afraid, he says to Joseph. Do not be afraid, he says to you and me.

The second major theme one can glean from St. Joseph is the true meaning of vocation. Joseph was a carpenter by trade, but God had bigger plans for him. His true vocation was to raise the Christ child into adulthood. A major task! By all accounts, Joseph embraced his vocation and fulfilled all of his tasks as the earthly father of Jesus. God has created each person with gifts, talents, and abilities. He asks his children to take those gifts and talents and share them with the world. In this sharing, one will find his vocation in this life. One’s vocation is found in following the Lord’s will. It is not as a slave follows the directives of a master. Rather, one freely chooses to follow God’s will, to be open to the Spirit and follow where he leads. Thus, Joseph and Mary abandoned their own plans for life and found fulfillment in following God’s plans. That sense of fulfillment is available to all who follow God’s path. The most basic call each baptized person has received is to live his or her Christianity in home with one’s family, at work, school, and elsewhere. That takes commitment! Living life as Christ would have you live implies a commitment to goodness, kindness, generosity, and forgiveness. That’s the basic vocation of all Christians. From there, the person narrows down careers and relationships. In detecting one’s gifts and talents, the person is able to choose a path or career in which those gifts can be shared and lived. Be open as was Joseph! Do not be afraid; embrace God’s will for you. In that will, you will find fulfillment and peace in this life. following God’s plans. That sense of fulfillment is available to all who follow God’s path.

The most basic call each baptized person has received is to live his or her Christianity at home with one’s family, at work, school, and elsewhere. That takes commitment! Living life as Christ would have you live implies a commitment to goodness, kindness, generosity, and forgiveness. That’s the basic vocation of all Christians. From there, the person narrows down careers and relationships. In detecting one’s gifts and talents, the person is able to choose a path or career in which those gifts can be shared and lived. Be open as was Joseph! Do not be afraid; embrace God’s will for you. In that will, you will find fulfillment and peace in this life.

Homily for the Third Sunday in Lent, March 19, 2017, Year A

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

Christ and the Samaritan Woman(Click here for today’s readings)

One of my favorite Scripture quotations is, “As cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” (Proverbs 25:25)

Today, however, I feel I should quote Samuel Taylor Coleridge: “Water, water, every where, nor any drop to drink.” The first half of the quotation seems apt for today’s readings. Water, water everywhere!

In their wanderings in the desert, the Lord led his people to an area where, as we read: “There was no water for the people to drink.” The dramatic scene depicted in the first reading follows immediately. Here water is obviously meant in the strictly literal sense.

Water is even more prevalent in today’s Gospel. The word occurs eight times in Jesus’ conversation with the woman of Samaria. But here, as often happens in John, the literal sense is soon eclipsed by a deeper symbolic sense. As we read, it becomes clear that Jesus is using the image of water to talk about the gift of grace. Even when the conversation turns to other things, the same reality is present. Worshiping God “in Spirit and truth” is, after all, possible only for those who have received the “spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

What about the reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans? True, the word “water” does not occur, but the symbolic sense is present nonetheless. St. Paul writes, “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Poured out like what, if not like water?

This conjunction of water and Spirit goes right back to the beginning of the Old Testament. Most translations of Genesis 1:2 read, “The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” So too in the New Testament. Early in all four Gospels we find John the Baptist saying that while he baptizes with water, the one coming after him will baptize with the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, Peter begins his discourse with a quotation from the Prophet Joel: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all mankind.”

“Pouring out” occurs as well in another, quite different context, quoted in every Mass. “This is the chalice of my blood... which will be poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins.”

Which takes us back to the first reading: “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” This same idea is expressed in a wonderful poem attributed to St. Francis Xavier, translated from the Latin by the brilliant poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. It reads in part:
O God, I love thee, I love thee---
Not out of hope of heaven for me...
Thou, thou, my Jesus, after me
Didst reach thine arms out dying,
For my sake sufferedst nails and lance,
Mocked and marred countenance...
Yea, and death, and this for me.
And thou couldst see me sinning!
The water of baptism cleanses us. The blood of the Eucharist saves us. The Holy Spirit is present in both.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t just make an appearance once a year at Pentecost. Lent is certainly a good time to open our hearts and minds to the constant presence of the one whom we call in the creed, “the Lord, the giver of life.”

Spirit, Spirit everywhere. And always more to drink.

March 18, 2017

Novena to Saint Joseph 2017 | Day 9

Saint Joseph

March 19, 2017

The Blessed Virgin Mary helped Saint Joseph become the great leader and protector of his family that he was. He needed her prayers, love and support. Today, let us pray for all mothers, wives, and future wives, that they will love, respect, support and pray for their husbands or future spouses.

Finally, let us pray that all families grow in holiness. May they know and reflect God's love forever like the Holy Family in emulation of the Trinity.

Day 9 – St. Joseph, Husband of Mary Novena

Saint Joseph, you are the faithful protector and intercessor of all who love and venerate you. You know that I have confidence in you and that, after Jesus and Mary, I come to you as an example for holiness, for you are especially close with God. Therefore, I humbly commend myself, with all who are dear to me and all that belong to me, to your intercession. I beg of you, by your love for Jesus and Mary, not to abandon me during life and to assist me at the hour of my death.

Glorious Saint Joseph, spouse of the Immaculate Virgin, pray for me to have a pure, humble, charitable mind, and perfect resignation to the divine Will. Be my guide and model through life that I may die in the arms of Jesus and Mary.

Loving Saint Joseph, faithful follower of Jesus Christ, I raise my heart to you to implore your powerful intercession in obtaining from the Divine Heart of Jesus all the graces necessary for my spiritual and temporal welfare, particularly the grace of a happy death, and the special grace I now implore:

(Mention your request.)

Guardian of the Word Incarnate, I feel confident that your prayers on my behalf will be graciously heard before the throne of God. Amen.

St. Joseph, Most Faithful, Pray for us!

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

March 17, 2017

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem’s Lenten Catechesis: "Your Accumulated Offenses Do Not Surpass God's Mercies."

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem

"God loves human beings, and loves them in no small measure. Don't say I have fornicated and Committed adultery. I have done dreadful things not only once, but often. Will he ever forgive me? Listen to the psalmist; ‘How great is the abundance of your goodness O Lord.’ Your accumulated offenses do not surpass the abundance of God's mercies. Your wounds are not greater than the physician’s skill. Just give yourself up in faith. Tell the physician your ailment. With David say, ‘I will confess my sin to the Lord and you forgave the wickedness of my heart,’ and the same shall be done to you. So, you will both receive forgiveness for your former sins and also be counted worthy of the heavenly gift. You will thus inherit the heavenly kingdom with all the saints in Christ Jesus."

— St. Cyril of Jerusalem
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Prayer to St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Father, through Cyril of Jerusalem you led your Church to a deeper understanding of the mysteries of salvation. Let his prayers help us to know your Son and to be born into eternal life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Novena to Saint Joseph 2017 | Day 8

Saint Joseph

March 18, 2017

Saint Joseph was courageous. When he discovered that Mary was pregnant with Jesus, he didn't abandon her, shame her or allow anyone else to hurt her. Joseph stood by Mary and protected both the blessed Virgin and the unborn Savior.

We are called to do the same; to protect, defend and honor the sanctity of every human life, from the moment of conception until natural death. Let us pray for a greater respect for human life, especially the unborn, in American and the world.

Day 8 – St. Joseph, Husband of Mary Novena

Saint Joseph, you are the faithful protector and intercessor of all who love and venerate you. You know that I have confidence in you and that, after Jesus and Mary, I come to you as an example for holiness, for you are especially close with God. Therefore, I humbly commend myself, with all who are dear to me and all that belong to me, to your intercession. I beg of you, by your love for Jesus and Mary, not to abandon me during life and to assist me at the hour of my death.

Glorious Saint Joseph, spouse of the Immaculate Virgin, pray for me to have a pure, humble, charitable mind, and perfect resignation to the divine Will. Be my guide and model through life that I may die in the arms of Jesus and Mary.

Loving Saint Joseph, faithful follower of Jesus Christ, I raise my heart to you to implore your powerful intercession in obtaining from the Divine Heart of Jesus all the graces necessary for my spiritual and temporal welfare, particularly the grace of a happy death, and the special grace I now implore:

(Mention your request.)

Guardian of the Word Incarnate, I feel confident that your prayers on my behalf will be graciously heard before the throne of God. Amen.

St. Joseph, Most Faithful, Pray for us!

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.