May 29, 2017

Saint Joan of Arc, "The Maid of Orléans"

The Maid of Orléans

Both the world and the Church have changed so much in the past 600 hundred years that many parts of the story of Joan of Arc sound very foreign to us today. Yet, despite the obvious differences in culture, two things regarding this saint remain constant. The first is her willingness to respond to God, and the second is her commitment to persevere in that response no matter how high the cost.

Joan was the youngest of five children, born into a comfortable peasant family in the region of Domremy-Greux, France, in 1412. Until the age of 13, there was nothing that set her apart from her peers, nor hinted at the life she would be called to lead. However, it was at this time that Joan began to experience visions and hear the voices of angels and saints, in particular Saint Michael, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and Saint Margaret. Though at first personal and general, their messages became specific and unexpected: Joan was to drive the English from France, and see to it that the French Dauphin was crowned king.

At 16, acting on her visions, Joan sought first to meet with the heir to the French throne, Charles VII. After repeated attempts to gain access to him, she finally convinced him of her authenticity by first identifying him in a room of courtiers, though he was in disguise, and then revealing to him a secret known to him only.

Assured by his theologians that Joan’s visions were not demonic, the Dauphin helped equip her with white armor and an ancient sword. A banner, bearing the names of Jesus and Mary, was made, at her request, for her to carry into battle.

Before engaging the enemy, Joan demanded that English troops withdraw from French soil. The response was what one would expect; they were enraged at the audacity of this young girl’s command. French troops, led by Joan, entered the besieged city of Orleans and, by the beginning of May, 1429, had freed it from English control. This allowed the Dauphin to be crowned king at Reims in 1429.

Joan continued to fight to drive the English from France, even though the king she had helped reinstate did little to help her. Joan’s military campaigning came to an end in 1430, when she was captured near the city of Compiegne and sold to the English. Stunned by the defeat at the hands of the French, a defeat they felt Joan was responsible for, the English placed her on trial for heresy and witchcraft. This ordeal dragged on for months, with Joan questioned over and over by both civil and clerical leaders. In the end, she was found guilty of heresy because she wore men’s clothing. She was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431.

In 1456, the evidence given at her trial was re-examined by Pope Callistus III. it was determined that the verdict reached 25 years earlier resulted from political pressure, and that Joan had been falsely condemned. She was officially declared innocent on July 7 of that same year. Devotion to her grew during the nineteenth century, and the “Maid of Orleans” was beatified in 1909. A particular inspiration for French soldiers during World War I, Saint Joan was canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV and named a patron of France after Saint Martin of Tours. Saint Joan of Arc’s feast day is May 30th. Saint Joan of Arc, pray for us, the Church Militant!

Memorial Day | 2017

Stars and stripes

May 29, 2017

"No one has greater love than this, to lay down
one’s life for one’s friends." (John 15:13)

In Memory of the Fallen

[Source]

Heavenly Father,
On this Memorial Day, we pray for those
who courageously laid down their lives
for the cause of freedom.
May the examples of their sacrifice
inspire in us the selfless love of Your Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ.

Bless the families of our fallen troops.
Fill their homes and their lives
with Your strength and peace.

In union with people of goodwill of every nation,
embolden us to answer the call
to work for peace and justice,
and thus, seek an end
to violence and conflict around the globe.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

God of power and mercy, you detest war and the hubris of earthly pride. Banish violence from our midst and wipe away our tears, that we may all deserve to be called your sons and daughters. Keep in your mercy those men and women who have died in the cause of freedom and bring them safely into your kingdom of justice and peace. We ask this though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [Source]

May 28, 2017

Reflection for Pentecost Sunday

Pentecost Sunday

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

Pentecost is one of the most joyful feasts on the Christian liturgical calendar. For fifty days the Church has been celebrating the great mysteries of Easter, most notably the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Pentecost is the conclusion of the Easter season. Today, the familiar story of Pentecost will be the first reading. The Spirit blows through the upper room where the disciples are hiding and, according to tradition, resides over each of them as tongues of fire. The disciples burst forth from that upper room to preach, teach, baptize, and celebrate the Eucharist. Most of them were martyred for their faith. Courage, strength, love, resolve, faith, and conviction were the marks of the apostles as they began their ministry to the known world after that experience of the Holy Spirit in the upper room.

Each Pentecost the Church prays that the same Spirit will make his appearance once again. The wind and fire of the first Pentecost is needed today as much as the apostles needed it while hiding in the upper room. The faithful hide today as they did in biblical times. Why? First, some want to sideline religious discussion and keep it far from influencing any policy or government action. They believe that religion is irrelevant to public discourse. If it has to exist at all, it does so as a quaint practice performed on Sunday mornings far removed from the “real work” of governments, business, healthcare, and education. The faithful have been convinced that religious discourse and conversation is solely a private matter. Second, the faith of Christians ought to be joyfully lived by each individual in his or her own life of home, work, and school. Some are afraid to do so. Again, religion is a private matter, or so polite society has declared. Leave your faith at the door, please. And so the Church hides as the apostles hid in the early Church.

On this Pentecost Sunday, let us ask the Spirit to blow through our Churches and communities. Let us open our hearts, minds, and souls to the presence of the Spirit as tongues of fire over our heads. The call of the early disciples is our call! Let’s stop hiding and commit ourselves to living our faith with joy and with the same courage and resolve as did the early Church. The point of this column is to call each individual Christian to live his or her faith as did the apostles after Pentecost. From the Spirit each person seeks courage, strength, love, resolve, faith, and conviction. As the apostles burst forth with love and joy, so today’s Christians are in desperate need of the same energy that inspired the apostles.

Do you have any idea the effect the Church could have on the world? A committed Christian can bring hope, love, forgiveness, and life to his or her world. A Christian who has been “fired up” by the Spirit does not tolerate hatred, racism, bigotry, gossip, cheating, or lack of respect for human life. If Christians live the Gospel, inspired by the Holy Spirit, they can bring the teachings and life of Jesus Christ to all whom they meet.

The influence of faith has a place in your home, workplace, in the voting booth, and among friends and family. Armed with the message of Christ, Christians can change the world! Let’s not be afraid to live the faith! Let’s not hide because some in society consider it impolite to discuss faith or morals, or what influences or scares you. Two caveats are important here. First, this column is suggesting that faith influence people only; it is not proposing that a religious organization run the government. Second, there is a fine line between sharing one’s faith and becoming arrogant or pushy. That line needs to be kept firmly in place. Arrogance has no place in Christian discourse.

Let’s pray that at this Pentecost the Spirit will blow through the homes of Christians everywhere inspiring them to live their faith with joy and courage. The values that come through Christian faith have the potential of transforming the world into a place of love, peace, and joy. Let’s get to it! Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth person by person!

Pentecost Novena to the Holy Spirit 2017 | Day 4

Holy Spirit

May 29, 2017

The Pentecost novena is the original novena prayer. After Christ's Ascension, the disciples prayed for nine consecutive days for the Spirit to descend. On the tenth day, Pentecost Sunday, they received the Advocate promised by our Lord. According to Father Michael Woolley, this period of prayer is a "little Advent":
The Disciples of Jesus waited those 9 days for the Holy Spirit with the blazing light of the Gospel to see by – while they waited in the Upper Room they reflected and prayed on the teachings and mighty deeds of Jesus, on His Passion and Death, on His Resurrection and Ascension, all of which enlightened their hearts and flooded the Old Testament Scriptures with light, revealing the hidden meaning of the Old Testament. (This is why during this "little Advent" we’re now in, we don’t wear dark Purple but bright White Vestments.)
Dearest Holy Spirit, confiding in Your deep, personal love for me, I am making this novena for the following request, should it be Your Holy Will to grant it:

(mention your request)

Teach me, Divine Spirit, to know and seek my last end; grant me the holy fear of God; grant me true contrition and patience. Do not let me fall into sin. Give me an increase of faith, hope and charity, and bring forth in my soul all the virtues proper to my vocation. I ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.
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Novena to the Holy Spirit – Day 4

Today we pray for Patience

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate.

O Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Patience within us.

O Holy Spirit, you give lavishly to those who ask. Please give us the patience of the Saints who are now with you in heaven. Help us to endure everything with an eternal patience that is only possible with your help. Amen.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

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St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, Educator and Foundress

Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat

Optional Memorial, May 29th 

St. Madeleine Sophie Barat (1779 – 1865) was born a child of privilege in Joigny, France. She received an exemplary education, then went to Paris in 1795, at the height of the French Revolution, to enter the Carmelite Order. Her experience of Revolutionary violence in Joigny and Paris, however, caused a change of heart. In 1800, she founded the Society of the Sacred Heart whose mission was to make known the love of God revealed in the Heart of Christ, and to restore Catholicism in France through the education and catechesis of young women of every class.

Madeleine was baptized on the Feast of Saint Lucia (whose name means light), on December 13th, 1779. Her godfather was her older brother Louis. According to her family, she had been born prematurely when her mother was frightened by a fire. Subsequently, when asked as a little girl what it was that brought her into the world, the future saint and foundress would invariably answer: "Fire."

It was fitting. Madeleine was to spend her life spreading the fire of Christ's love. Her brother Louis, later a priest, initially instructed her in the Faith. Her dream of educating women regardless of their family’s financial means was realized with the establishment of her congregation. In September 1801, the first school was opened in Amiens, northern France. The new community and school grew quickly. A second school was opened in December 1802. Madeleine became the Mother Superior of the Society of the Sacred Heart when she was only 23 years of age.

She remained superior of the Society from 1806 until her death. Her spiritual leadership was centred on the love of God revealed in the Christ's Sacred Heart. She was committed to a deep life of prayer and reflection, and invited her fellow society sisters to do likewise in serving God and others. By the time of her death in 1865, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat guided an international community of 3,359 women, inspired by a deeply held spiritual ideal and offering education to women in Europe, North Africa, and the Americas. She was canonized on May 24, 1925, by Pius XI. Her incorrupt body rests in the Church of Saint Francis Xavier in Paris.

Homily for Pentecost Sunday, June 4, 2017, Year A

Pentecost Sunday

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing


In speaking with you about Pentecost I must speak of what cannot be fully explained. All we can do is reverently gaze into the mystery of God’s final movement toward us, the alienated and distant men and women who, with Adam and Eve, have broken off relations with God. Words cannot capture the enormity God’s merciful love for us; they buckle under the weight of it. So Scripture and the Church employ symbols to try to carry Pentecost’s meaning to us. Sometimes symbols are more effective than words in conveying the truth of stupendous events.

Essentially Pentecost is the final movement of God’s journey toward us. The initial movement begins in Genesis with God in the Garden of Eden. Note that it is God who makes the move. It is God who initiates; God who offers; God who loves us first. He chooses us. We do not choose him. He chooses us first because He is the superior. If it were otherwise, and indeed when people think they first choose God, then men and women in their pride would fancy that they are in control.

The story of the Tower of Babel is the story of the prideful people who thought they could build a tower to God. But in doing that they were usurping God’s role. They were the initiators, they were trying to be in control, they were setting the specifications, they were going to discover God and then they would determine His existence. What they forgot is that it is God who discovers man; it is God who determines our existence; God who speaks first. It is only when God speaks that things come into existence.

And so the story of the Tower of Babel is a recapitulation of the story of Adam and Eve. Once again man is filled with pride. Once again man tries to be God. And once again reality is fractured, nations are shattered, and destruction, disunion, misunderstanding, along with a total breakdown in communications occurs. Mankind now speaks in different languages and even people who so speak the same language are no longer able understand each other.

But in spite of human arrogance God continues to move toward us. God pursues us in His everlasting search for those who have strayed from the sheepfold of fundamental truth and reality. He sends us prophets, kings, and priests. The message of His love and truth flashes across the pages of human history and human religions. Finally, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ is born in the womb of humanity; a child is born to us, a Son is given us. He is named Mighty Counselor, Prince of Peace, the Anointed One who can heal those who are alienated, shattered, and miserable. God utters and sends His Word in a language that everyone can understand.

In the Incarnation God’s Word becomes flesh and God lives and moves even closer to us. On the Cross God’s Word hands over His Spirit and thus inaugurates God’s final movement toward us. Actually, in the context of the cosmic vision that we are seeing here, the death, resurrection, ascension, and Pentecost are events forming one unitary whole. In that context Pentecost becomes the completion of the Annunciation. The Word of God becomes human flesh and blood. Thus God enters not only our history, not only into our temples and holy places, but into human hearts and souls and all that it means to be human.

It is all so marvelous, all so universal and huge, all so beyond our comprehension, that mere words buckle and only symbols can hope to carry the precious freight. So we speak of the Dove, of the Wind-Breath of God, of the Paraclete, and of the tongues of fire. We are into the deepest part of the Mystery, namely that God created us not just to follow rules and regulations but in order that He might be intimate with us deep within us, in the deepest meanings of the word love, so that we can now live our ordinary lives in extra-ordinary ways. We are empowered now fill all that is ordinary with the extra-ordinary love of God.

The work of Christ in giving us His Holy Spirit is the work of bringing us into a language that we can all understand. It is the work religion, of re-ligamenting, of bringing our bare bones, dried up because of lack of love, back into one Body filled with the Blood of Christ and the life of God. The work of Christ in sending us His Holy Spirit is that of making us His blood brothers and sisters. The work of Christ and the Spirit is that of reconciling and forgiving, the work of loosening that which holds us in our own isolation and our sterile self-centeredness. The work of Christ, now raised in power by the Holy Spirit, is the work of bringing a holistic communion to a people that are alienated, fractured, shattered, and divided in the desert of not loving when they could have loved. The work of Christ and the Holy Spirit is overcoming sin. Sin is the name of all that has caused us to ignore our chances to be better persons. Sin is the name we put on all that hurts, divides, and separates us from each other and from God. But Christ has given us the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive and overcome sin.

The Church speaks in the tongues of all men and women of every race, culture, and nationality. She speaks with a common language because she utters God’s only and unitary Word. Of all the diversities in humanity the Church makes one inter-dependent unity. She is the opposite of the Tower of Babel because she is built by God, not by men and women. We call Pentecost “the birthday of the Church” because she is animated and ensouled on this day to speak and utter the Word of God and bring common understanding and common union in every language in a way everyone can understand.

Our task, therefore, is to be that source of healing for others. Ours is the mission of speaking God’s language where we work, among our colleagues, associates, friends and neighbors. Ours is the ministry of healing that which is divided, of inspiring those who have become jaded and cynical, of animating those who have lost hope, and of telling all who have missed their chances of being better persons that there is a second chance, because there is a Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is at work in the mysteries of life — in death, love, suffering, and beauty. Because of Pentecost God is to be found in the mystery of insight, those insights that turn truth into wisdom. He is present in the mystery of our self and in the mysteries of those round us. Anytime we struggle with these mysteries the Spirit of Pentecost is moving in us crying out: “Abba, Papa, Father” and our struggle becomes the question or questing of God’s meaning and purpose in our lives.

May the Holy Spirit become the Person whom you quest and the Spirit of your lives. And may you find moments in His presence… moments snatched away from the ordinary busy-ness of our daily lives, moments when you receive Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Strength, and Reverence for God’s mysterious presence and purpose in your life and in our shared lives.

Homily for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 28, 2017, Year A

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

(In many dioceses the Solemnity of the Ascension was celebrated on Thursday. This homily is based on the readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter.)

The 12 Apostles
(Click here for today’s readings)

There is a saying you may have heard, which goes, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would they find enough evidence to convict you?” I don’t much like it, actually, because of its accusatory tone, but it certainly fits the context of today’s second reading from 1 Peter, which reflects a time when believers were in fact being punished for the crime of being Christians.

There are not a lot of reliable statistics about the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire, but there is ample evidence of the fact. For example, Pliny the Younger, a Roman governor in what is now northern Turkey, wrote the following to the Emperor Trajan around the year 111 AD:

“In the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated them as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly.

Soon accusations spread... An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image..., and moreover cursed Christ—none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do—these I thought should be discharged.”

About 100 years later, a Christian named Tertullian wrote a defense of Christians which reflects the attitude of pagans toward them:

“Monsters of wickedness, we are accused of observing a holy rite in which we kill a little child and then eat it; in which, after the feast, we practice incest... [People consider] the Christians the cause of every public disaster, of every affliction with which the people are visited. If the Tiber rises as high as the city walls, if the Nile does not send its waters up over the fields, if the heavens give no rain, if there is an earthquake, if there is famine or pestilence, straightway the cry is, Away with the Christians to the lion!... [But] The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.”

Returning to Pliny:

“[Those who had once been Christians] asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so.”

And that is precisely the attitude of St. Peter. “But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer.” In other words, suffer for being a Christian if you must, but please! never be arrested for a real crime. That would be a scandal and would only justify our accusers (as we know only too well in our time).

Martyrdom was the case with ten of the persons listed in the first reading. Of the Apostles, only John was not put to death.

The Gospel and the reading from Peter have a total of eight references to glory. This reminds me of another famous quotation from a martyr, St. Irenaeus, who died about the year 200, about 25 years before Tertullian. His most famous saying is usually given as “The glory of God is man fully alive,” but that translation is neither accurate nor complete. It actually reads: “The glory of God is a living man, but the life of man is the vision of God.”

The vision of God is not only the beatific vision we will enjoy in heaven. It is also and already the vision of faith that lights our path on earth. In that light we can accept being falsely accused, being mocked and stalked and talked about, while maintaining our Christian integrity and dignity. 

The “glory” we have been given is to be worthy of the name of Christian by being faithful to the name of Christ.

I close with one last quotation, adapted from Shakespeare:

"This above all: to thine own CHRISTIAN self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day,Thou canst not then be false to GOD OR any man."

May 27, 2017

Pope Saint Pius X on the Desire for Peace

Saint Pius X

"The desire for peace is certainly harbored in every breast, and there is no one who does not ardently invoke it. But to want peace without God is an absurdity, seeing that where God is absent thence too justice flies, and when justice is taken away it is vain to cherish the hope of peace. "Peace is the work of justice" (Is. xxii., 17).

There are many, We are well aware, who, in their yearning for peace, that is for the tranquillity of order, band themselves into societies and parties, which they style parties of order. Hope and labor lost. For there is but one party of order capable of restoring peace in the midst of all this turmoil, and that is the party of God.

It is this party, therefore, that we must advance, and to it attract as many as possible, if we are really urged by the love of peace."

— St. Pius X
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Prayer for St. Pius X's Intercession

Almighty ever-living God, who to safeguard the Catholic faith and to restore all things in Christ, filled Pope Saint Pius X with heavenly wisdom and apostolic zeal, graciously grant that, following his example and with his intercession, we may gain an eternal prize. 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.

Pentecost Novena to the Holy Spirit 2017 | Day 3

Holy Spirit

May 28, 2017

The Pentecost novena is the original novena prayer. After Christ's Ascension, the disciples prayed for nine consecutive days for the Spirit to descend. On the tenth day, Pentecost Sunday, they received the Advocate promised by our Lord. According to Father Michael Woolley, this period of prayer is a "little Advent":
The Disciples of Jesus waited those 9 days for the Holy Spirit with the blazing light of the Gospel to see by – while they waited in the Upper Room they reflected and prayed on the teachings and mighty deeds of Jesus, on His Passion and Death, on His Resurrection and Ascension, all of which enlightened their hearts and flooded the Old Testament Scriptures with light, revealing the hidden meaning of the Old Testament. (This is why during this "little Advent" we’re now in, we don’t wear dark Purple but bright White Vestments.)
Dearest Holy Spirit, confiding in Your deep, personal love for me, I am making this novena for the following request, should it be Your Holy Will to grant it:

(mention your request)

Teach me, Divine Spirit, to know and seek my last end; grant me the holy fear of God; grant me true contrition and patience. Do not let me fall into sin. Give me an increase of faith, hope and charity, and bring forth in my soul all the virtues proper to my vocation. I ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.
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Novena to the Holy Spirit – Day 3

Today we pray for Peace

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate.

O Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Peace within us.

The Saints were tempted, attacked and accused by the devil who is the destroyer of peace. When we are accused by the devil, come to our aid as our Advocate and give us Peace that lasts through all trials! Amen.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

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May 26, 2017

Pentecost Novena to the Holy Spirit 2017 | Day 2

Holy Spirit

May 27, 2017

The Pentecost novena is the original novena prayer. After Christ's Ascension, the disciples prayed for nine consecutive days for the Spirit to descend. On the tenth day, Pentecost Sunday, they received the Advocate promised by our Lord. According to Father Michael Woolley, this period of prayer is a "little Advent":
The Disciples of Jesus waited those 9 days for the Holy Spirit with the blazing light of the Gospel to see by – while they waited in the Upper Room they reflected and prayed on the teachings and mighty deeds of Jesus, on His Passion and Death, on His Resurrection and Ascension, all of which enlightened their hearts and flooded the Old Testament Scriptures with light, revealing the hidden meaning of the Old Testament. (This is why during this "little Advent" we’re now in, we don’t wear dark Purple but bright White Vestments.)
Dearest Holy Spirit, confiding in Your deep, personal love for me, I am making this novena for the following request, should it be Your Holy Will to grant it:

(mention your request)

Teach me, Divine Spirit, to know and seek my last end; grant me the holy fear of God; grant me true contrition and patience. Do not let me fall into sin. Give me an increase of faith, hope and charity, and bring forth in my soul all the virtues proper to my vocation. I ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.
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Novena to the Holy Spirit – Day 2

Today we pray for Joy

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate.

O Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Joy within us.

All of the Saints are marked with an uncompromisable Joy in times of trial, difficulty and pain. Give us, O Holy Spirit, the Joy that surpasses all understanding that we may live as a witness to Your love and fidelity! Amen.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Click to receive daily reminders for the Holy Spirit novena in your inbox.

Saint Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop and Missionary Who Converted Pagan Britain

Saint Augustine of Canterbury

May 27th, is the optional memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury. He was born in Rome and died in Canterbury, England. An Italian Benedictine monk, at the behest of Pope Saint Gregory the Great, he founded the See of Canterbury and preached the Catholic faith to Britain’s Anglo-Saxon pagans during the late 6th and early 7th centuries. St. Augustine was the first Archbishop of Canterbury.
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St. Augustine of Canterbury, "Apostle of the English" (534 – 604)

St. Augustine was the agent of a greater man than himself, Pope St. Gregory the Great. In Gregory's time, except for the Irish monks, missionary activity was unknown in the western Church, and it is Gregory's glory to have revived it. He decided to begin with a mission to the pagan English, for they had cut off the Christian Celts from the rest of Christendom. The time was favorable for a mission since the ruler of the whole of southern England, Ethelbert of Kent, had married a Christian wife and had received a Gaulish bishop at his court. Gregory himself wished to come to Britain, but his election as pope put an end to such an idea. In 596, he dispatched an Italian monk following the comparatively new Rule of St Benedict.

Augustine set out with some companions, but when they reached southern Gaul a crisis occurred and Augustine was sent back to the pope for help. In reply the pope made Augustine their abbot and subjected the rest of the party to him in all things, and with this authority Augustine successfully reached England in 597, landing in Kent on the Isle of Thanet. Ethelbert and the men of Kent refused to accept Christianity at first, although an ancient British church dedicated to St Martin was restored for Augustine's use; but very shortly afterwards Ethelbert was baptized and, the pope having been consulted, a plan was prepared for the removal of the chief see from Canterbury to London and the establishment of another province at York. Events prevented either of these projects from being fulfilled, but the progress of the mission was continuous until Augustine's death, somewhere between 604 and 609.

The only defeat Augustine met with after he came to England was in his attempt to reconcile the Welsh Christians, to persuade them to adopt the Roman custom of reckoning the date of Easter, to correct certain minor irregularities of rite and to submit to his authority. Augustine met the leaders of the Welsh church in conference but he unfavorably impressed them by remaining seated when they came into his presence it is likely that in this he unfavorably impressed St. Bede too. Augustine was neither the most heroic of missionaries, nor the most tactful, but he did a great work. He was one of the few men in Gaul or Italy who, at that time, was prepared to give up everything to preach the gospel in a far country.

Adapted excerpt from The Saints edited by John Coulson.

Image source: Ordinariate News

Announcing the New Evangelization Award for Excellence in Catholic Blogging 2017

New Evangelization

N.B.: It was brought to our attention that Canon 212 does not meet requirement #1! (Thank you Sister S.) Nonetheless, our readership's support and our staff's appreciation of the site was so strong, we are honoring Canon 212 just the same (the 3 year requirement is tabled now and forever). JMJ Br. Bartholomew Joseph

We are pleased to announce the winners of the 3rd annual New Evangelization Award for Catholic bloggers and websites. The Catholic blogosphere is home to thousands of sites. These Catholic websites uniquely contribute to evangelizing and engaging a society which is hostile toward Judeo-Christian ideals and the "culture of life" of which St. John Paul II spoke. In order to qualify, a blog must:

1.) Have been in existence for at least 3 years

2.) Publish or feature content faithful to the Magisterium of the Church

3.) Evangelize and inform Catholics, and all who seek the fullness of truth

This year's recipients are:

Canon 212

Spirit-Digest

Servant and Steward

Thank you to our readers who nominated blogs for this award.

May 25, 2017

Saint Philip Neri — His Wisdom in 25 Quotations

St. Philip Neri

Saint Philip Neri was a 16th century Italian priest who was much beloved among the citizens of Rome for his compassion, humor and holiness. His devotion to God in serving others reminds us that living as a disciple of Christ is the source of joy. He was a great light of the Counter-Reformation, winning many souls for God.

There is nothing the devil fears so much, or so much tries to hinder, as prayer.
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A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one.
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To preserve our cheerfulness amid sicknesses and troubles, is a sign of a right and good spirit.
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The best way to prepare for death is to spend every day of life as though it were the last.
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First let a little love find entrance into their hearts, and the rest will follow.
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The greatness of our love of God must be tested by the desire we have of suffering for His love.
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The Lord grants in a moment what we may have been unable to obtain in dozens of years.
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The cross is the gift God gives to his friends.
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Christian joy is a gift of God flowing from a good conscience.
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My children, if you desire perseverance, be devout to our Blessed Lady.
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At communion we ought to ask for the remedy of the vice to which we feel ourselves most inclined.
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Obedience is the true holocaust which we sacrifice to God on the altar of our hearts.
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He who always acts under obedience may be assured that he will not have to give an account of his actions to God.
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Cast yourself into the arms of God and be very sure that if he wants anything of you, He will fit you for the work and give you strength.
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He who is unable to spend a long time together in prayer, should often lift up his mind to God by short prayers.
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Believe me, there is no more powerful means to obtain God's grace than to employ the intercessions of the Holy Virgin.
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We must often remember what Christ said, that not he who begins, but he that perseveres to the end, shall be saved.
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There is nothing more dangerous in the spiritual life, than to wish to rule ourselves after our own way of thinking.
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He who wishes for anything but Christ, does not know what he wishes; he who asks for anything but Christ, does not know what he is asking; he who works, and not for Christ, does not know what he is doing.
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The man who loves God with a true heart, and prizes him above all things, sometimes sheds floods of tears at prayer, and has in abundance of favours and spiritual feelings coming upon him with such vehemence, that he is forced to cry out, "Lord! let me be quiet!
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In sickness we ought to ask God to give us patience, because it often happens, that when a man gets well, he not only does not do the good he proposed to do when he was sick, but he multiplies his sins and his ingratitude.
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They who have been exercised in the service of God for a long time, may in their prayers imagine all sorts of insults offered to them, such as blows, wounds, and the like, and so in order to imitate Christ by their charity, may accustom their hearts beforehand to forgive real injuries when they come.
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During mental prayer, it is well, at times, to imagine that many insults and injuries are being heaped upon us, that misfortunes have befallen us, and then strive to train our heart to bear and forgive these things patiently, in imitation of our Saviour. This is the way to acquire a strong spirit.
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We are not saints yet, but we, too, should beware. Uprightness and virtue do have their rewards, in self-respect and in respect from others, and it is easy to find ourselves aiming for the result rather than the cause. Let us aim for joy, rather than respectability. Let us make fools of ourselves from time to time, and thus see ourselves, for a moment, as the all-wise God sees us.
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If a man finds it very hard to forgive injuries, let him look at a Crucifix, and think that Christ shed all His Blood for him, and not only forgave His enemies, but even prayed His Heavenly Father to forgive them also. Let him remember that when he says the Pater Noster, every day, instead of asking pardon for his sins, he is calling down vengeance on himself.

Saint Philip Neri, pray that we serve God with joy and humility as you did.

Pentecost Novena to the Holy Spirit 2017 | Day 1

Holy Spirit

May 26, 2017

The Pentecost novena is the original novena prayer. After Christ's Ascension, the disciples prayed for nine consecutive days for the Spirit to descend. On the tenth day, Pentecost Sunday, they received the Advocate promised by our Lord. According to Father Michael Woolley, this period of prayer is a "little Advent":
The Disciples of Jesus waited those 9 days for the Holy Spirit with the blazing light of the Gospel to see by – while they waited in the Upper Room they reflected and prayed on the teachings and mighty deeds of Jesus, on His Passion and Death, on His Resurrection and Ascension, all of which enlightened their hearts and flooded the Old Testament Scriptures with light, revealing the hidden meaning of the Old Testament. (This is why during this "little Advent" we’re now in, we don’t wear dark Purple but bright White Vestments.)
Dearest Holy Spirit, confiding in Your deep, personal love for me, I am making this novena for the following request, should it be Your Holy Will to grant it:

(mention your request)

Teach me, Divine Spirit, to know and seek my last end; grant me the holy fear of God; grant me true contrition and patience. Do not let me fall into sin. Give me an increase of faith, hope and charity, and bring forth in my soul all the virtues proper to my vocation. I ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.
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Novena to the Holy Spirit – Day 1

Today we pray for Charity

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate.

O Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Charity within us.

The great charity of all the host of Saints is only made possible by your power, O Divine Spirit. Increase in me, the virtue of charity that I may love as God loves with the selflessness of the Saints. Amen.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

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Saint Philip Neri, Priest, the Third Apostle of Rome

Saint Philip Neri

Saint Teresa of Avila was reported to have said, “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, Lord deliver us.” Though he probably never heard those words, one of her contemporaries, Saint Philip Neri, lived as if he had. This delightful man, known as “the cheerful saint,” believed that a life of humility and piety did not exclude a person from having a sense of lightheartedness. If anything, he had a profound appreciation of humor as a Godly gift, to be used for spiritual renewal.

St. Philip Neri was born in Florence, Italy, in 1515. As a young man, he was sent away to live with an older cousin to learn the family business. It was soon evident that this was not the vocation God had in mind for him. Philip became a tutor, eking out a living while studying theology and philosophy. Three years later, he decided, out of humility, not to pursue ordination to the priesthood. Instead, he would spend the next thirteen years of his life actively engaged in contemplation, prayer and service to the least of God's people, especially the poor and the sick.

Philip loved to pray, especially at night. During one of these nocturnal vigils, in the catacombs of Saint Sebastian in 1544, a remarkable thing happened: Philip felt the Holy Spirit, as a globe of light, enter his mouth and sink to his heart. So filled was he with love for God and a burning desire to serve Him, that his heart literally expanded. An autopsy performed after his death revealed that two of his ribs had been broken and reshaped into an arch to accommodate the change.

The Church was desperately in need of such a heart. The Protestant Reformation had begun two years after Philip’s birth, and the Council of Trent, convened to both solidify the teachings of the Church and reform some of her practices, met for the first time in 1545. Although he had resisted it for years, at the advice of his confessor, Philip finally pursued ordination and became a priest in 1551. He became known as an insightful and charitable confessor himself. It wasn’t long before his ministry attracted many seeking to deepen their relationship with God.

Rather than form a religious order, in 1575, Philip Neri began an Oratory (a community founded for both prayer and service which includes laypeople.) As a confessor, Philip realized people needed not only absolution, but continued spiritual guidance. He concluded that telling penitents not to do something was not enough. They must perform acts of virtue in addition. Consequently, he organized excursions to Rome’s seven churches which included informal talks with penitents. They would pray and sing hymns, before going out to serve those in need. Some condemned such actions as “introducing novelties” into the Church’s spirituality and attacked Philip’s character. Despite this period of trial, eventually his detractors saw the value in his methods. By the time he died at 80 in 1595, he was seen as one of the greatest figures of the Counter-Reformation.

St. Philip Neri is the patron saint of Rome, youth and military special forces. His feast day is May 26th. He was so beloved by the citizens of the Eternal City that he is known as the Third Apostle of Rome, after Saints Peter and Paul. Father, you continually raise up your faithful to the glory of holiness. In your love kindle in us the fire of the Holy Spirit who so filled the heart of Saint Philip Neri. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever. St. Philip Neri. help us to open our hearts to God.

May 24, 2017

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

The Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ

The Ascension of Jesus

When they had gathered together they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" He answered them, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." 

When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. 

They said, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven."

— Acts 1; 6-11
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Forty days after his Resurrection, Christ ascended into heaven. His Ascension marked the end of his earthly ministry. Having conquered sin and death, Jesus ascended to receive the glory due him [Philippians 2:8-11], mediate on our behalf [Hebrews 9:24], send the Holy Spirit promised at the Last Supper [John 16:7], and prepare a place for us in eternity [John 14:2]. Immediately following the Ascension, an angel informs the disciples that Christ’s Second Coming will occur in the same way. According to the Catechism [668], "Christ's Ascension into heaven signifies his participation, in his humanity, in God's power and authority." Our Lord’s Ascension bridges his Incarnation in humility with his coming again at the end of time as King and Supreme Judge of the universe.

Almighty ever-living God, who willed the Paschal Mystery to be encompassed as a sign in fifty days, grant that from out of the scattered nations the confusion of many tongues may be gathered by heavenly grace into one great confession of your name. 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.

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for June 2017

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

National Leaders

That national leaders may firmly commit themselves to ending the arms trade, which victimizes so many innocent people.

Urgent Intention - To Be Announced 

The Holy Father will announce the urgent intention for the month of June during the Angelus on the first Sunday of the month. We will add this specified intention at that time.

Pope St. Gregory VII, Reformer Who Courageously Defended Church Authority

Pope St. Gregory VII

May 25th, is the optional memorial of Pope Saint Gregory VII. In the late 10th and early 11th centuries, kings influenced the selection of Church leaders, often appropriating that responsibility completely. Monarchs installed the bishops, and occasionally, even the popes, they wanted in office. The practice, known as “lay investiture”, severely limited the Church's ability to assert Her spiritual authority.

The pope who abolished this practice was Pope St. Gregory VII. Born in 1020 in Tuscany, by 1049, he was making his influence felt as a chief advisor to Pope Nicholas II (who had brought the young monk, then known as Hildebrand, to Rome). The future Pope Gregory VII helped write the "Decree of 1059", placing the election of the pontiff in the hands of the cardinals, not temporal leaders.

The decree was not enforced in earnest until 1073, when Hildebrand was elected pope. Within a year, he initiated the “Gregorian Reform,” stopping simony (the buying and selling of sacred offices and graces) and the unlawful marriage of the clergy. He is best remembered for his vigorous attack on lay investiture, a move that would bring him into direct conflict with the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV.

In 1075, Pope Gregory VII proclaimed the universal authority of the supreme pontiff in Dictatus Papae. Noting that such authority came from Christ Himself through Saint Peter, he asserted the pope’s right to "depose emperors or to change laws that conflicted with either God’s law or Church authority." Henry IV, immediately called Gregory a “false monk” and deposed him as pope. Gregory excommunicated Henry, freeing the later’s subjects from any allegiance to him.

Henry was forced, in 1077, to express his penitence before Pope Gregory prior to receiving the conditions of his reconciliation. This reconciliation was short lived, and soon, Henry would support a rival pope (antipope Clement III) and invade Rome. Gregory never gave up his pontificate, but fled the Eternal City in 1084. "I have loved justice and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile," he stated, before dying in Salerno on May 25, 1085. A staunch champion of the Church's freedom against state intrusion, St. Gregory VII was canonized by Benedict XIII in 1728.

St. Bede the Venerable, "The Father of English History"

Saint Bede the Venerable

There is very little that we know about this medieval scholar and saint. What information we have comes from the very end of the work for which he is best known, the Ecclesiastical History of the English People.  In its closing paragraphs he notes that, at the age of seven, his family gave him into the care of the Benedictine monastery at Jarrow, England, where he remained for virtually the rest of his life. There, with “great delight,” he lived the life of one of the most extraordinary and devout scholars of his day.

Though the study of Scripture was his priority, he also chronicled a history of Christianity in England from its beginnings until his own time.  Not only is his history an important ecclesiastical work, it is also highly prized by prized by scholars of many disciplines, as it is the foundation for much of our knowledge of that period of English history.

Bede was also quite well versed in all the sciences of his day, including what was then referred to as natural philosophy, astronomy, arithmetic, grammar and the philosophical principles of Aristotle. Fr. Pius Parsch writes: “True Benedictine that he was, his life revolved around prayer and work. On the vigil of the Ascension he felt death approaching and asked to be fortified with the last sacraments. After reciting the Magnificat antiphon of the feast's second Vespers, he embraced his brethren, had himself placed upon a coarse penitential garment on the earth, and breathed forth his soul while saying softly: ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.’”

St. Bede died in 735 at the age of 62. Pope Leo XIII declared him a Doctor of the Church, and his name was added to the General Roman Calendar in 1899. His feast day is May 25th. He is the patron saint of scholars, historians and lectors. Among his many accomplishments, the Venerable St. Bede is widely, credited for bridging the gap in scholarship between patristic and medieval times. Almighty God, who brings light to your Church through the learning of the Priest Saint Bede, mercifully grant that we your servants may always be enlightened by his wisdom and helped by his merits. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Virgin

St. Mary Magdalene de Pazz
May 25th, is also the optional memorial of Saint Mary Magdalen of Pazzi. A highly gifted mystic, she made a vow of chastity at the age of ten. She entered the convent of the Discalced Carmelite nuns in Florence, because the practice of receiving holy Communion almost daily was observed there. For five years her only food was bread and water.

She practiced the most austere penances and for long periods endured complete spiritual aridity. Her favorite phrase was: "Suffer, not die!" Her body has remained incorrupt to the present day; it is preserved in a glass coffin in the church of the Carmelite nuns at Florence.

Purity of soul and love of Christ are the chief virtues which the Church admires in St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi. These virtues matured her spiritually and enabled her to take as a motto, "Suffer, not die!" Purity and love are also the virtues which the Church today exhorts us to practice in imitation of the saint. We may never attain her high degree of holiness, but we can strive to suffer patiently out of love for Christ.

O God, lover of virginity, who adorned with heavenly gifts the Virgin Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, setting her on fire with your love, grant, we pray, that we, who honor her today, may imitate her example of purity and love. 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. St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, pray for us!

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

May 23, 2017

Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians

Mary Help of Christians

The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Mary Help of Christians on May 24th. Today, like centuries before, Christians facing persecution, violence and death, have invoked Mary’s protection under this designation. Concerning it, Saint John Bosco wrote of his order, the Salesians' primary mission: "The principal objective is to promote veneration of the Blessed Sacrament and devotion to Mary Help of Christians. This title seems to please the august Queen of Heaven very much."

The tradition of this devotion goes back to 1571, when the whole of Christendom was saved by Mary Help of Christians as Catholics throughout Europe prayed the Rosary. The battle of Lepanto defeating the Ottoman Empire occurred on October 7th 1571. The date was chosen as the Feast of the Holy Rosary. In 1573, Pope Pius V instituted it in thanksgiving for the victory of Christianity over Islamism.

Near the end of the 17th century, Emperor Leopold I of Austria took refuge in the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Pasau, (present day Germany,) when some 200,000 Ottoman troops besieged the capital city of Vienna, but a great victory occurred thanks to Mary Help of Christians: on September 8th, the Feast of Our Lady's Birth, plans were drawn for the battle. On September 12, Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, Vienna was freed by the intercession of Mary Help of Christians. All Europe joined with the Emperor seeking Mary's help and praying the Rosary.

In 1809, Napoleon's men entered the Vatican, arrested Pope Pius VII and brought him in chains to Grenoble, and eventually Fontainbleau. His imprisonment lasted five years. The Holy Father vowed to God that, if he were restored to the Roman See, he would institute a special Feast in honor of Our Lady. Military reverses forced Napoleon to release the Pope, and on May 24th 1814, Pius VII returned in triumph to Rome. Twelve months later, the Pope decreed that the Feast of Mary Help of Christians, be kept on the 24th of May. O Mary, the Church's spiritual pillar and Help of Christians, I beseech you to keep me firm in the Divine Faith, and safeguard in me, for ever more, the freedom and dignity of God's children.

Adapted excerpt from "Mary Help of Christians", the Catholic News Agency.

May 22, 2017

Pope St. Leo the Great on the Ascension of Christ

The Ascension of Christ

St. Leo the Great's 1st Homily on the Ascension of Our Lord

(Sermon 73, sec. IV)

Christ's ascension has given us greater privileges and joys than the devil had taken from us

Accordingly, dearly-beloved, throughout this time which elapsed between the Lord's Resurrection and Ascension, God's Providence had this in view, to teach and impress upon both the eyes and hearts of His own people that the Lord Jesus Christ might be acknowledged to have as truly risen, as He was truly born, suffered, and died. And hence the most blessed Apostles and all the disciples, who had been both bewildered at His death on the cross and backward in believing His Resurrection, were so strengthened by the clearness of the truth that when the Lord entered the heights of heaven, not only were they affected with no sadness, but were even filled with great joy. And truly great and unspeakable was their cause for joy, when in the sight of the holy multitude, above the dignity of all heavenly creatures, the Nature of mankind went up, to pass above the angels' ranks and to rise beyond the archangels' heights, and to have Its uplifting limited by no elevation until, received to sit with the Eternal Father, It should be associated on the throne with His glory, to Whose Nature It was united in the Son. Since then Christ's Ascension is our uplifting, and the hope of the Body is raised, whither the glory of the Head has gone before, let us exult, dearly-beloved, with worthy joy and delight in the loyal paying of thanks. For today not only are we confirmed as possessors of paradise, but have also in Christ penetrated the heights of heaven, and have gained still greater things through Christ's unspeakable grace than we had lost through the devil's malice. For us, whom our virulent enemy had driven out from the bliss of our first abode, the Son of God has made members of Himself and placed at the right hand of the Father, with Whom He lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

Source. Translated by Charles Lett Feltoe. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 12. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1895.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.

Ascension of Christ Icon

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we who believe Thine only-begotten Son our Redeemer, to have ascended this day into heaven, may ourselves dwell in spirit amid heavenly things. Amen. (Roman Missal, 6th-8th Century.)

May 21, 2017

Ascension Sunday or Ascension Thursday?


This week we have published two homilies simultaneously for the seventh Sunday in Easter. While some dioceses celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord on Thursday, others do so on the Sunday following. Father Alexander Lucie-Smith, a Catholic priest, doctor of moral theology and consulting editor of The Catholic Herald, wrote a thought provoking article "Celebrating the Ascension on a Sunday is a sad sign of creeping secularisation in the Church" (2012), stating:
I have been away on retreat, staying in a strictly enclosed Benedictine monastery. On arrival I asked what was happening on the Thursday, and this is what I was told: 'Here we celebrate the Ascension on Thursday, by special permission. Celebrating it on Sunday would mean that the novena between Ascension and Pentecost would make no sense.'
Fr. Lucie-Smith acknowledges not considering this aspect of novena prayer before. He continues, "Given that Ascension is on a Thursday and the feast of Pentecost the Sunday after next, that means that there is a nine day gap between the two, and this nine day gap, traditionally the time when the Church waits in prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit, is the reason we keep novenas."

The ecclesiastical provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Omaha, and Philadelphia have retained the celebration of the Ascension on the proper Thursday, while all other provinces have transferred this solemnity to the Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 28. If moved Thursday is observed as an Easter Weekday.

St. Rita of Cascia, Religious, Patron of the Impossible

Saint Rita of Cascia

May 22nd, is the optional memorial of Saint Rita of Cascia. Most Catholics are familiar with Saint Jude as the patron saint of hopeless causes. What they might not know, however, is that there is another patron of the impossible, whose very life reflects faith in God despite difficult circumstances. She is St. Rita of Cascia.

Born in Italy in 1381, Rita expressed an interest in religious life at a very early age. In obedience to her parent’s wishes, she married at 18. The union was not a happy one. Her husband was a violent man, who passed his violent nature on to their twin sons. Rita did everything she could to be a model wife and mother. She was dedicated to converting her husband and sons, praying constantly for them.

After nearly 20 years of marriage, her husband was stabbed to death by an enemy and her two sons died shortly afterward. Alone, Rita decided to fulfill her lifelong wish to enter a religious order. Denied admittance three times because she was a widow, eventually the Augustinian nuns at Cascia would accept her.

One day, after hearing a sermon on the Passion of Christ, Rita returned to her cell. Kneeling before her crucifix, she implored: "Let me, my Jesus share in Thy suffering, at least of one of Thy thorns". Her prayer was miraculously answered, and she received a gash on her forehead. This was a mystical yet visible mark of Jesus’ wound from the crown of thorns, symbolizing her unity with Christ in his sufferings. Rita's religious life was marked by obedience and extreme penances. 

Upon Saint Rita's death, in 1457, her face became radiant, while a fragrant odor emanated from her wound. The sweet odor is evident to this day on her incorrupt body. Also, it was reported that after her passing, her cell was bathed in heavenly light, and the bell of the monastery rang by itself. Pope Leo XIII canonized her on the Feast of the Ascension, May 24, 1900. Bestow on us, we pray, O Lord, the wisdom and strength of the Cross, with which you were pleased to endow Saint Rita, so that, suffering in every tribulation with Christ, we may participate ever more deeply in his Paschal Mystery. Through Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Homily for the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, May 28, 2017, Year A

Ascension of Christ

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing


God the Father inaugurated His presence among us when Abraham responded to Him in faith. The Nativity of Our Lord inaugurated God the Son’s presence among us when God’s self-expression became flesh and was born among us as one of us. This Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord into heaven inaugurates the time of God the Holy Spirit’s presence among us. Jesus Christ ascension into heaven opens the door to the Holy Spirit’s dwelling within those who have been baptized into the Body of Christ.

Our Blessed Lord’s Ascension into heaven challenges us to see God in a new way. Christ’s ascension is not an ending, it’s a beginning. On the surface in appears that Christ’s Ascension is a departure, but actually it is not. Spirit-filled in His resurrection, Christ now comes to us in a new way – in His Holy Spirit.

It is a new beginning. Christ in His humanity is now taken to a new status, the highest of all states of being. Now at the right hand of the Father in the fullness of divinity, Christ comes to us in the power of the Holy Spirit — particularly in His Sacraments. He will always be with us, He will never leave us.

The cycle has now come full circle. God has come to us in Christ; God has given Himself to us in Christ; God is now at work among us again, sweeping us up into Christ’s glorious, resurrected, and Spirit-filled humanity. Through Him, with Him, and in Him we are now in Christ’s ascended humanity returned back home to our Father. The scope of this panorama is stupendous, awe-inspiring, and really beyond human comprehension or mortal human words. It is Mystery in the full sense of the word mystery – mystery not in the sense of reading a “Who Done It?” novel, but mystery in the sense that we are gazing into a reality that far exceeds the scope of our ability to depict it or put into words.

To be honest with you, if I were standing in that group of apostles and disciples at Christ’s Ascension I would have been dismayed. I would have been quite intimidated. I would have thought: “Are we to lose Him again?” Timidity would have engulfed my heart and soul. But Pentecost would follow and my timidity would have been erased.

To confess the truth, at times I feel some timidity even now. Our Church in recent years has been racked by scandals. Some priests have abused our children and some bishops have not done their duty. Furthermore, in our highly secularized culture, Christianity is on the defensive. Additionally, as Americans we stand betrayed by our basic institutions, having in recent years faced betrayals from government officials in high office, corporate executives, and accounting firms that have not accounted. We have suffered betrayals from those in our legal and medical institutions, a divorce rate that seems to know no limits, and so on. Everywhere we turn we face losses of varying sorts and degrees of depth.

Will terrorism ever end? Is our economy truly recovering? Will there ever be an adequate supply of jobs? Will our sources of energy dry up? Will there ever be peace between Arab and Jew, Palestinian and Israeli? Will there be an even greater increase in prejudice and hostility toward believing Christians? These and other worrying factors eat away at our courage, our sense of well-being, and our hope for lives lived in peace. We have been intimidated — made fearful and timid.

It is into this sort of world that God sent His only ­begotten Son, not to condemn us but to save us. The post-resurrection message, repeated so often by Christ, is: “Fear not! I am with you. I am with you even to the end of the world.”

The infallible sign of His Presence among us is love. We can love even in a world such as ours. We do, in fact, love in a world such as ours. The power of God’s love is being made manifest among us. You are making that powerful presence felt in your lives and in the lives of those whom you cherish. You are making the presence of the resurrected and ascended Christ real in the lives of those around you.

If there is one sentence I want you to take home with you today it is this: Everything and everyone you love is being redeemed. Those whom you love are being redeemed not just by your love, but by Christ’s love within you that reaches them. Jesus Christ, risen from the dead and ascended into heaven is at work through you, with you, and in you. He has not left us orphans – He is here. Because of His ascension He is here!

To be sure I face intimidation, as do you. To be sure we all have our moments of being shy and even afraid. But soon, and very soon, Pentecost will burst upon us. God’s powerful and life-giving Holy Spirit will come roaring upon us like a mighty wind from the heights of heaven. The fires of your passions will be re-ignited. For we, you and I with you, have a fire in our bellies, the fire of God’s great and Holy Spirit.

And when He comes we will be enabled to throw off our timidity. We, filled with Christ’s gift of courage, will be able to go out in public and boldly live in the face of whatever challenges life and the people in it throw at us. For Christ Jesus, now at the right hand of our Father, is at work in us bringing order out of chaos, meaning out of absurdity, good out of evil, and life out of death.

The days of Pentecost and all of the days thereafter are at hand. We have a Savior who loves us, a glorious Redeemer who at the right hand of the Father intercedes for us, and the Spirit of God at work in us. By your faith, in your hope, and because of your love, all of the God’s gifts are at work in you, and our world has the promise of being made into a much better place. Because of the Ascension of Christ we are given the task of revealing God’s kingdom here on earth. Christ has established the kingdom. Ours is now, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the task of revealing God’s kingdom in all that we say and do.

"Behold," declares God, "I make all things new."

2017 Pentecost Novena to the Holy Spirit Begins May 26th

Pentecost Sunday

May 26, 2017

Jesus told His disciples to pray together after His Ascension. During this time, Mary and the twelve Apostles prayed in the upper room for the coming of the Paraclete for nine days. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples as “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:1-4), man was restored to paradise, led back to the Kingdom of heaven, adopted as God's children and granted a share in Christ's grace. These nine days of prayer are the basis of the novenas we pray today.

Novena to the Holy Spirit Day 1

Today we pray for Charity

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate.

O Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Charity within us.

The great charity of all the host of Saints is only made possible by your power, O Divine Spirit. Increase in me, the virtue of charity that I may love as God loves with the selflessness of the Saints. Amen.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

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Homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter, May 21, 2017, Year A

Holy Spirit

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing


The readings of this Mass impel me to reflect with you upon two things which are interior within us, two things that are mysterious and can be known only in their expression. One is love and the other is the Holy Spirit. Both cannot be really known in themselves; both are made real for us in their activity, in their expression, in their external manifestations that we bring into our lives in our responses to God’s love for us.

As we all know so very well, talk is cheap and words are without meaning unless expressed in deeds. Love is not simply a nice feeling, a sentiment, or merely a warm emotion. Love becomes real in the decisions we make and in what we do. It is in its actions, actions that result from our choices, that love is realized.

Don’t get me wrong, the words of love are of extreme importance. There’s nothing wrong with saying “I love you.” In fact those three little words can be the most beautiful and powerful of all the words in a person’s life. It is vital for husbands to tell their wives that they love them. It is vital for wives to tell their husbands that they love them. It is vital for children to hear words of love from their moms and dads. But while the words are important the deeds are even more important, even of the essence.

And for friends, too. Friends should not be ashamed to openly declare their love for one another. When you’re told that you are loved a redemptive force is let loose inside you – a powerful force lifts you up out of feelings of depression, loneliness… feelings of being unappreciated and merely used. Probably more lives have been changed by those three little words than by all of the sermons ever preached.

Jesus did not discount the value of the verbal communication of love. He went beyond it. He knew that love is much more than mere words. In fact, He knew of love’s power to change the whole world, telling us even to love our enemies, and that if we truly did, the world would be radically changed. And then Jesus went on to prove it in the way He died for us, in the way He died to redeem our world, to buy it back from this world’s loveless miseries.

What a realist this Jesus is! We, however, are the ones who tend to make love unrealistic. We tend to make love into something soft, dreamy, and cheap, merely a feeling. If you think we don’t, then just take a look at what television does with love, and how Hollywood treats it. Jesus, on the other hand, defines love in terms that are strong, concrete, self-sacrificial, and very real. Love is action; love is a way of living; love is an attitude toward others that expresses God’s attitude toward others. And then Jesus went on to cry out: “The one who hears my words and keeps them is the one who loves me.” That’s how we know that we live and have our being in love.

The Holy Spirit, the Person of the Holy Trinity who is Love personified, acts internally within each one of us. The Holy Spirit is present within our hearts and souls, animating, vivifying, and inspiring us. We can never see the Holy Spirit as separate and apart — standing alone. The Holy Spirit lives and breathes within our souls. We see the Holy Spirit in our actions and in the actions of others.

The Bible assigns several different names to the Holy Spirit, identifying Him as the Consoler, the Advocate, the Sanctifier, and the Paraclete. As the bible presents Him, the Holy Spirit protects and defends us against our Ancient Enemy. He is our Advocate, the One who stands with us particularly when we feel worthless, useless, and of no value in God’s eyes. His consolations strengthen us when we feel weak, inadequate, and powerless.

The word “Paraclete” in Greek translates into English as “to be beside one”. The Holy Spirit stands beside us; He is our Advocate, our Counselor, and our Guide. Jesus bids us to look to the gifts of the Holy Spirit to work within us – Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, and Reverence for the Lord, Strength, and so forth. For us, He is the Empowering One given to us by the Risen Christ. The Evil One seeks to weaken us; the Holy Spirit strengthens us.

The Holy Spirit vivifies us and animates us, that is to say He enlivens us; He gives us a sharing in God’s life. He is beside us to defend us when we are depressed. When the sacraments of the devil beset us the Holy Spirit is our Advocate, our Counsel in order that we might defend ourselves.

And what are those sacraments of the devil? Well, they all begin with “d’s”, just as does the word devil. His sacraments (and there are seven of them) are doubt, disillusionment, discouragement, depression, defeat, despair and death. We need our Advocate, our Consoler, our Defender, our Paraclete, the “one called to be beside us” when we face doubt, disillusionment, discouragement, depression, defeat, despair and death, those works of the devil.

And just like love, we discern the Holy Spirit’s presence within us when we cause external things to happen – when we act and engage with the world around us. The Holy Spirit comes to us so that we in turn will stand beside others and console them with our deeds.

Love and the Holy Spirit – both cannot be known in and of themselves. Both are made present to us, made real for us. Both are realized in acts, in deeds, in things that are done. Both animate and vivify us, filling us with their special life. Both are expressions of God. God makes Himself real for us, expresses Himself, and becomes present to us in both love and in His Holy Spirit.

And so as we approach the Ascension of our Lord and the great Solemnity of Pentecost we should look to God with expectant faith while seeking for His great gift to us — the sending of His Holy Spirit into us, that same Spirit who raised the humanity of Jesus Christ from the dead and who can, if we respond to God, raise up ours also and the world around us.