June 30, 2017

June's Blog of Note: The Sacred Page

The Sacred Page Blog

The Sacred Page is a blog on the Bible and Catholic theology written by four professors of Scripture and Theology, Michael Barber, John Bergmsa, Brant Pitre, and John Kincaid. Together they provide insightful, scholarly commentary on all things related to the Good News as recorded by the authors of God’s Word. Their ministry takes its mission statement from Dei Verbum, "...the study of the sacred page is, as it were, the soul of sacred theology" (Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 24). The biblical exegesis they offer is faithful and enlightening. Here is one such example:

(On the Prodigal Son)

"Jesus begins by telling the story of a man who had two sons. The parable begins with the younger brother going to the father and asking for his inheritance.

Of course, an inheritance is usually bestowed upon offspring after the death of the one bequeathing it. Essentially, by demanding his inheritance while his father is still alive the younger brother basically says, 'Dad, you’re dead to me.'

We might note how incredible it is that the father actually honors his request, the father gives his son of his own estate while he is still living. In effect, the father impoverishes himself. Notably, the son has not told his father what he is going to do with it. Ostensibly, one could think that the son was looking to simply take responsibility of the family’s goods he would one day receive. (Though, given the fact that son has basically declared the death of his father, his next actions are not at all surprising). Yet, instead of sticking around and managing the family estate he has been entrusted with, he takes off with it!" ... Not only does he abandon the family, he squanders what he received from his father on [various] debauchery... " (See "The Prodigal Son, New Life and Sacramental Imagery")

Many of our priest contributors have made The Sacred Page a regular part of their weekly internet viewing. Its archived content would benefit any Catholic intent on deepening their understand and appreciation of Sacred Scripture, especially those ordained that are charged with a preaching ministry in the Church. Visit The Sacred Page today! It is well worth your time and attention.

Novena to Saint Maria Goretti 2017 | Day 5

Saint Maria Goretti

July 1st

It's said that St. Maria's greatest virtue was her forgiveness of her attacker, even in the midst of terrible physical suffering. That's why she is called the, "little saint of great mercy." St. Maria modeled Christ's mercy. We ask her help to do so also.

St. Maria Goretti Novena Prayers - Day 5

St. Maria Goretti, beautiful model of mercy, pray for me. God’s mercy is the only hope for mankind. I know we are called to imitate our Father’s mercy to those around us, but it is hard, and I often fail. But you, even at a tender age, were strong and courageous enough to offer mercy to your attacker, the one who hurt you the very most. Pray that I will be able to do the same to those who hurt me. Pray that I will not consider their unworthiness, but only our Lord, as you did.

Please pray also for (mention your intentions here). Amen.

O God, author of innocence and chastity, who bestowed the grace of martyrdom on your handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth, grant, we pray, through her intercession, that, as you gave her a crown for her steadfastness, so we too may be firm in obeying your commandments. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God for ever. Amen.

Click to pray this novena and receive daily email reminders sent to your inbox.

A Catholic Wife and Mother on Living Chastely in Marriage and in the Single Life

Mary and Joseph
Detail, The Marriage of the Virgin, Raphael, 1504. 

In the words of Saint John Paul II, “Chastity is a difficult, long term matter; one must wait patiently for it to bear fruit, for the happiness of loving kindness which it must bring. But at the same time, chastity is the sure way to [true] happiness." Sacred Scripture testifies that sexual relations are reserved for married spouses exclusively. Sex outside of marriage in any manner is gravely sinful. Here is an excellent explanation of the Church's teaching on chastity by Cynthia Hurla, a Catholic wife, mother and author of Veil of Chastity. a blog extolling said virtue.

What is Chastity?

The most basic definition of Chastity is the virtue of saving sex for marriage and remaining open to life within marriage.  But there is so much more to this beautiful and powerful virtue!

For Catholics, our faith teaches that chastity is a virtue and that virtue bears fruit.  The Catechism also teaches us that in the case of marriage, the practice of chastity naturally leads to patience, temperance, prudence, honesty and trust.

Chastity is a call to save sex until marriage and live with your body, mind and soul in harmony.  The virtue of chastity brings our sexual appetite into harmony with reason, and creates purity in mind, heart and conscience.

Here is what the Angelic Warfare Confraternity tells us about Chastity:

“Chastity is the virtue that brings the sexual appetite into harmony with reason. It requires, not the renunciation of sexuality, but the right or reasonable use of it…….. Reason is a light that illuminates what we are doing so that we can behave in a way that is consistent with our best interest……

One of the fundamental problems that unchastity brings about is a blindness that leads directly to acts of imprudence.  A person who is inflamed by lustful desires is hardly in a position to do what is good for himself or anyone else.

Unchastity tends to destroy prudence and to prevent a person from maintaining the self-possession or integrity he needs in order to “be himself” in the proper sense of the term.

In the absence of chastity, a person is easily seduced into doing things that are beneath his dignity, things that are shameful, things that do not accord with who he truly is.

Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about Chastity

338 The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech.

2339 Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.126 “Man’s dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by

In his book, In Defense of Purity, Dietrich von Hildebrand defined chastity as “that virtue which keeps the sexual secret hidden as a dominion, the disposition of which is in the hand of God.”  In other words, our sexual secret is a territory to be hidden and only God has the power to transfer it.

To follow The Veil metaphor, it is a territory (Holy of Holies) to be hidden (by a veil) and only God has the power to transfer it (to our holy spouse on our wedding day).

St. Junipero Serra, Spanish Priest and Missionary

Saint Junipero Serra

Optional Memorial - July 1st

Saint Junipero Serra was born Miguel Jose Serra on the island of Majorca in 1713 and entered the Franciscan Order in 1730; it was then that he took the name Junipero in honor of St. Francis of Assisi’s humble companion, Brother Juniper. For the next eighteen years, Father Serra spent his time in classrooms, first as a student and later as a professor of theology at the University of Majorca.

But Father Serra also had a missionary spirit and, inspired by the work of St. Francis Solanus in South America, he left his relatively comfortable life in Spain for the New World in 1749. He landed first in Vera Cruz, Mexico, where he and a companion proceeded to travel on foot some 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way, Father Serra suffered a spider bite on his leg which did not heal; that plus his asthma would plague him and cause him discomfort for the rest of his life.

He served for several years in central Mexico and the Baja Peninsula, learning the native language and translating parts of the catechism and preaching. Following the expulsion of the Jesuits from all Spanish dominions in 1767, he also took over as president of the missions in the area. The future saint was fifty-five years old.

The threat of an invasion southward from Alaska by the Russians precipitated the next chapter in Father Serra’s life. When King Charles III of Spain ordered troops northward to counter the Russian incursion, Serra would accompany them as a missionary to the native peoples near present day Monterey, California. Nine hundred miles and two years later, he founded the mission of San Diego, which almost did not survive due to an acute food shortage; scurvy had killed the crew of a supply ship, and Serra was facing the possibility of having to abandon the mission altogether. Always zealous in prayer, he made a nine-day novena to St. Joseph. On the ninth day, another supply ship arrived and the mission was saved.

Eight more missions followed, including the one at San Juan Capistrano, famous today for the annual return of the swallows.  Not only did Father Serra work tirelessly to teach and convert the native peoples, he also taught them more efficient methods of both agriculture and animal husbandry.  Despite his Spanish background and his location on the far western side of the American continent, Father Serra also took an interest in the American Revolution; during the years 1775 to 1783, Father Serra took up a collection from his mission parishes in California, which he sent to General George Washington to help the war effort.

By 1784, Father Serra was worn out by his labors. In his time in the New World, he had baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed over 5,000. He died on the 28th of August in 1784 of tuberculosis, and it is said that among the Native Americans, there was an outpouring of grief at his funeral. Father Serra is the patron saint of religious vocations. O God, who by your ineffable mercy have been pleased through the labors of your priest Saint Junipero Serra to count many American peoples within your Church, grant by his intercession that we join our hearts to you and carry before all the image of your Only Begotten Son.

June 29, 2017

Novena to Saint Maria Goretti 2017 | Day 4

Saint Maria Goretti

June 30th

Today we pray for chastity. It's something we are all called to practice, regardless of our vocation. The most basic definition of chastity is the virtue of saving sex for marriage and remaining open to life within marriage. The Catechism states that chastity allows us to imitate Jesus Christ in selfless love in everything we do.

St. Maria Goretti Novena Prayers - Day 4

St. Maria Goretti, beautiful model of chastity, you guarded your virginity with such fervor. Even at the age of 11, you knew the value of the virtue of chastity. Pray that we practicing chastity in our own lives. Through your intercession, help us to conduct ourselves with modesty and humility, so as to make our desires subservient to reason and selflessly serve others in imitation of Christ our Lord.

Please pray also for (mention your intentions here). Amen.

O God, author of innocence and chastity, who bestowed the grace of martyrdom on your handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth, grant, we pray, through her intercession, that, as you gave her a crown for her steadfastness, so we too may be firm in obeying your commandments. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God for ever. Amen.

Click to pray this novena and receive daily email reminders sent to your inbox.

Blessed Paul VI on the Role of Martyrs in the Divine Economy of Salvation

Pope Paul VI

"Our time needs saints, and especially martyrs as those who give the supreme witness of their love for Christ and his Church: "no one has greater love than he who lays down his life for his friends "(John l5: l3). These words of the Divine Master, which refer in the first instance to the sacrifice which He accomplished on the cross and offered for the salvation of all mankind, also apply to the large and select group of martyrs of all time, from the first persecution of the Church rising up to that - perhaps more hidden but no less cruel - today. The Church of Christ is born from the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, and it continues to grow and develop into the heroic virtues of the love of his true sons."

— Blessed Pope Paul VI 

From his homily at the Canonization of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
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All-powerful, ever-living God, turn our weakness into strength. As you gave your holy martyrs the courage to suffer death for Christ, give us the courage to live in faithful witness to you. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

Feast of the "Protomartyrs of Rome" | June 30th

The Blood of Martyrs is the Seed of the Church

There were Christians in Rome within a dozen or so years after the death of Jesus, though they were not the converts of the "Apostle of the Gentiles" (see Romans 15:20). Paul had not yet visited them at the time he wrote his great letter in A.D. 57-58.

There was a large Jewish population in Rome. Probably as a result of controversy between Jews and Jewish Christians, the Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome in A.D. 49-50. Suetonius the historian says that the expulsion was due to disturbances in the city "caused by the certain Chrestus" [Christ]. Perhaps many came back after Claudius's death in A.D. 54. Paul's letter was addressed to a church with members from Jewish and gentile backgrounds.

In July of A.D. 64, more than half of Rome was destroyed by fire. Rumor blamed the tragedy on Nero, who wanted to enlarge his palace. He shifted the blame by accusing the Christians. According to the historian Tacitus, a "great multitude" of Christians were put to death because of their "hatred of the human race." Peter and Paul were probably among the victims.

Threatened by an army revolt and condemned to death by the senate, Nero committed suicide in A.D. 68 at the age of thirty-one.

Wherever the Good News of Jesus was preached, it met the same opposition as Jesus did, and many of those who began to follow him shared his suffering and death. But no human force could stop the power of the Spirit unleashed upon the world. The blood of martyrs has always been, and will always be, the seed of Christians.

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

Prayer in Honor of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome 

Almighty ever-living God our Father, who consecrated the abundant first fruits of the nascent Roman Church by the blood of the Martyrs, grant, we pray, that with firm courage we may together draw strength from so great a struggle and ever rejoice at the triumph of faithful love. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever. Amen.

June 28, 2017

Novena to Saint Maria Goretti 2017 | Day 3

Saint Maria Goretti

June 29th

Today we pray that St. Maria Goretti will intercede for us to forgive those who sin against us. When Maria lay dying in the hospital, these were her last words: "I forgive Alessandro Serenelli (her attacker) and I want him with me in heaven forever." St. Maria forgave the man who killed her. May we forgive as she did.

St. Maria Goretti Novena Prayers - Day 3

St. Maria Goretti, beautiful model of love, your love for God was so clear in how you cared for your family during such hardships and in how much you loved your enemies even while you were dying. At a tender age, you understood what it meant to love the Lord and to love your neighbor as yourself. Pray for me, that I may be able to do the same. Pray that I will be able to serve my family joyfully, and others who need my help. Most of all, pray that Jesus will enter my heart.

Please pray also for (mention your intentions here). Amen.

O God, author of innocence and chastity, who bestowed the grace of martyrdom on your handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth, grant, we pray, through her intercession, that, as you gave her a crown for her steadfastness, so we too may be firm in obeying your commandments. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God for ever. Amen.

Click to pray this novena and receive daily email reminders sent to your inbox.

Indulgences Available on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

St. Peter and St. Paul

A partial indulgence may be gained on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul by anyone who makes devout use of a religious article blessed by any priest but "if the article of devotion has been blessed by the Holy Father or by any Bishop, the faithful, using it, can gain a plenary indulgence, if they also make a profession of faith (such as the Apostles Creed), as long as the usual conditions are satisfied.

Requirements for Gaining a Plenary Indulgence

◗ Perform/recite the prescribed work or prayer.

◗ Worthily receive Communion. (Preferably, the day of the act or prayer.)

◗ Say one "Our Father" and the "Apostles Creed".

◗ Say one "Our Father" and one "Hail Mary" for the pope’s intentions (the intentions designated by the Holy Father each month).

◗ Make a sacramental confession within 20 days.

◗ For a plenary indulgence, one must be free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin (or the indulgence is partial, not plenary).

For more on the Church's teachings on indulgences, read the Enchiridion of Indulgences promulgated by the 1968 Decree of the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary. Also The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Indulgences.

Prayer to Saints Peter and Paul

Almighty God, Whose right hand raised up blessed Peter, when he walked upon the water and began to sink, and thrice delivered his fellow-Apostle Paul from the depths of the sea, when he suffered shipwreck, graciously hear us and grant, by the merits of both martyrs, that we also may attain unto everlasting glory. Amen.

Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, "Pillars of the Church"

Saints Peter and Paul

June 29th

Saints Peter and Paul are often seen as complementary figures and are regarded as "pillars" of the Church (Gal 2:9). Peter represents the institutional Church, while Paul represents the charismatic or spiritual Church. Both are associated with the Church in Rome. But what binds them together, above all else, was their utter dedication to the message of Christ. They were martyred in Rome under persecution ordered by the Emperor Nero in 64 and 67 respectively due to their fearless proclamation of the Gospel. Today we recall especially their holy deaths.
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The New Testament often portrays Peter as rash and headstrong. One minute, he is a paragon of faith; the next, he has completely misunderstood what Jesus wants. He frequently does not seem to get what is going on, and he even denies Jesus when Jesus is about to be executed. And yet, despite his shortcomings and weaknesses, he has a heart for the Lord. He is the Prince of the Apostles, and as the first bishop of Rome, holds a special place in the hearts of Catholic Christians.

Scripture introduces Paul as a violent persecutor of the first Christians. In fact, he oversees the execution of the man whom the Acts of the Apostles depicts as the first martyr, St. Stephen (Acts 7:58-8:1). He considers himself a late addition to the Jesus movement, referring to himself as “one untimely born” (1 Cor 15:8). However, following his encounter with Christ near Damascus, he became one of the greatest missionaries in the history of the Church. Like Peter, Paul has a heart for the Lord, and when his spiritual energy is directed to the glory of Jesus Christ, he is a powerful witness to the kingdom of God. His letters make up the bulk of the New Testament and continue to guide the Church into the present. [Source]
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Prayer for the Intercession of Sts. Peter and Paul

Grant, we pray, O Lord our God, that we may be sustained by the intercession of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, that, as through them you gave your Church the foundations of her heavenly office, so through them you may help her to eternal salvation. 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.

Twenty Quotations on God from Saint Irenaeus

Saint Irenaeus

St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, a Doctor of the Church and 2nd century martyr, was a disciple of St. Polycarp. The spread of Gnosticism in Gaul prompted him to successfully combat its errors. As the first great Western ecclesiastical writer, he defended and explained the unity of Scripture and Jesus' humanity and divinity.

The glory of God is a man fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God.
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Through a tree we were made debtors to God; so through a tree we have our debt canceled.
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He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man ... might become the son of God.
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Because of his boundless love, Jesus became what we are that he might make us to be what he is.
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The business of the Christian is nothing else but to be ever preparing for death.
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As long as any one has the means of doing good to his neighbours, and does not do so, he shall be reckoned a stranger to the love of the Lord.
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Since it is impossible, without God, to come to knowledge of God, he teaches men through his Word to know God.
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The initial step for us all to come to knowledge of God is contemplation of nature.
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For where the church is, there is the Spirit of God, and where the Spirit of God, there is the church and all grace.
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The church has been planted as a paradise in this world.
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The preaching of the Church truly continues without change and is everywhere the same. It has the testimony of the Prophets and Apostles and all their disciples.
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Error never shows itself in its naked reality, in order not to be discovered. On the contrary, it dresses elegantly, so that the unwary may be led to believe that it is more truthful than truth itself. 
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A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.
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But we do now receive a certain portion of His Spirit, tending towards perfection, and preparing us for incorruption, being little by little accustomed to receive and bear God.
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But following the only true and steadfast Teacher, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.
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We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.
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When we stand in the light it is not we who illumine the light and cause it to shine but we are illuminated and made shining by the light... God grants his blessings on those who serve him because they are serving him and on those who follow him because they are following him, but he receives no blessing from them because he is perfect and without need.
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He [Jesus] fought and conquered. On the one hand, he was man who struggled for his fathers and through his obedience cancelled their disobedience. On the other hand, he bound the strong one and freed the weak and bestowed salvation on his handiwork by abolishing sin. For he is our compassionate and merciful Lord who loves mankind...
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Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, in that case, to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches?
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He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age... [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age

St. Irenaeus, help us to foster unity and grow in our desire to do God's will.

June 27, 2017

Novena to Saint Maria Goretti 2017 | Day 2

Saint Maria Goretti

June 28th

Today we pray that St. Maria Goretti will intercede for us to grow in our love of the Lord, our neighbor, and even our enemies. Maria's neighbor attacked her when she was only 11 years old. It was he who tried to rape her, and who ended up killing her. Yet, because she loved the Lord so greatly, Maria forgave him.

St. Maria Goretti Novena Prayers - Day 2

St. Maria Goretti, beautiful model of love, your love for God was so clear in how you cared for your family during such hardships and in how much you loved your enemies even while you were dying. At a tender age, you understood what it meant to love the Lord and to love your neighbor as yourself. Pray for me, that I may be able to do the same. Pray that I will be able to serve my family joyfully, and others who need my help. Most of all, pray that Jesus will enter my heart.

Please pray also for (mention your intentions here). Amen.

O God, author of innocence and chastity, who bestowed the grace of martyrdom on your handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth, grant, we pray, through her intercession, that, as you gave her a crown for her steadfastness, so we too may be firm in obeying your commandments. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God for ever. Amen.

Click to pray this novena and receive daily email reminders sent to your inbox.

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, Bishop and Martyr

Saint Irenaeus

June 28th, the Church observes the memorial of Saint Irenaeus, the 2nd century Father of the Church whose brilliant theology refuted heresy, affirmed the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and helped to establish the Scriptural canon. Born in Asia Minor around the year 130, he studied with the great saint, Polycarp of Smyrna, who was himself formed in the faith by the Apostle John. Thus, Irenaeus was steeped in both Scripture and the apostolic tradition, a background that prepared him thoroughly for the ministry he would eventually undertake.

Irenaeus became a priest and later, bishop of the Church of Lyons, province of Gaul (present-day France) in 177, during the persecutions of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. His greatest struggle, however, would not be against Rome, but against the heresy known as Gnosticism, which denied Christ’s humanity and promoted instead "secret knowledge" as key to salvation. His five-volume work, Against Heresies, effectively ended the Gnostic movement and won him praise as the Church’s first systematic theologian who laid out the Church’s doctrinal tradition.

Numerous times, Irenaeus exposed himself to martyrdom by his zeal and tireless devotion, but God was reserving that crown for him twenty-five years later. When Saint Pothinus had glorified God by his splendid martyr’s death in the year 177, Irenaeus was chosen to be the second bishop of Lyons. The Church’s persecutors believed Christianity had been stifled in Lyons, and ceased their efforts there.

As prelate, Irenaeus took advantage of this lowering of hostilities to evangelize the population. By his preaching, he would convert almost the entire country to the Faith. The Christians of Lyons became models by their deep devotion, their estrangement from all ambition, their poverty, chastity and temperance, and in this way confounded many adversaries of their religion. The people of Lyons revered Irenaeus for his holiness, fidelity, courage and excellent administration.

Ever the peacemaker, towards the end of his life, Irenaeus convinced Pope Victor I to lift the ban of excommunication on the Quartodecimans, a Christian group who celebrated Easter on a different day than did the rest of the Church. Saint Irenaeus suffered martyrdom in Lyons amid renewed persecution around the year 202. O God, who called the Bishop Saint Irenaeus to confirm true doctrine and the peace of the Church, grant, we pray, through his intercession, that, being renewed in our faith, we may always be intent on fostering unity and concord.

Reflection for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Christ carrying His Cross
Christ being led to His Crucifixion, Monastery Decani, Deçan, Kosovo.

"Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."

Our Lord shows us the way to eternal salvation. He tells his apostles "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39) 

It sounds contradictory, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” but these are the conditions of discipleship. A man called to the priesthood offers himself completely to God’s Church, just as a husband in marriage gives himself completely, holding nothing back from his wife. A consecrated woman gives herself in total devotion as a bride of Christ, just as a wife gives herself unreservedly in matrimony to her husband. All of these examples are renunciations of the self to love in imitation of Christ.

Venerable Fulton Sheen writes in Life of Christ, "Christ was our ‘stand-in’ on the stage of life. He took our guilt as if He were guilty and thus paid the debt that sin deserved, namely, death. This made possible our resurrection to 'new life' in Him. Christ, therefore, is not just a teacher or a pleasant revolutionist, but our Savior." As his followers, we must be prepared to give all, just as the Savior did for us. This may require us to suffer the white martyrdom of public derision, scorn and ridicule or, perhaps we will be called upon to give our very lives as red martyrs, like our persecuted brothers and sisters in faith in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Jesus understood that many would not accept the message He proclaimed. To follow Jesus, we must be willing to put the Gospel before everything else, including our very lives. Those who refuse to "take up the cross" in obedience to Him are "not worthy" of being his disciples. Jesus Incarnate makes possible and prefigures our ultimate Summum bonum, that is. seeing God face to face and loving Him forever in heaven. We, like the Master, must be prepared to suffer for the Kingdom in proclaiming the Good News. Indeed, Christ said to his disciples (and us), “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.” (John 15:18)

Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan writes, “Today, too, there are still those who are suffering a lingering martyrdom, worse than quick death on the scaffold, because they obey God rather than man. We can help them to persevere, by our prayers. We ourselves, who are free from any overt persecution, must show our gratitude to God for being allowed to practice our religion openly and without fear, by doing just this. We must live according to the convictions of our Christian faith. We are here in this world for a few short years, our real and lasting home is in heaven. We must keep this thought uppermost in our mind in all our doings and dealings.

As well as carrying out our own personal duties, we must remember the spiritual needs of our fellowmen. They, too, need to go to heaven and anything less will be eternal disaster for them. We may not be able to preach, or teach them the truth of the Christian faith, but we can and must help all those who are doing so.” Most loving God, who through the grace of adoption chose us to be children of light, grant, we pray, that we may not be wrapped in the darkness of error but always be seen to stand in the light of truth, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

June 26, 2017

Novena to Saint Maria Goretti 2017 | Day 1

Saint Maria Goretti

June 27th

Saint Maria Goretti is the Church's youngest canonized saint. She was born near Ancona, Italy into a poor peasant family. Known for her cheerfulness and piety, Maria attended Mass often and loved God completely. At the age of 11, she was assaulted by her neighbor's son. Marie chose to die rather than lose her virginity.

Enraged by her refusal, Maria's attacker stabbed her nine times. Before she died, she forgave her assailant. Her mother was present at Saint Peter's in 1950, the first time a parent witnessed their child's canonization. Over one half million souls attended St. Maria's canonization Mass, the largest attendance up to that time.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Today, we pray for purity. The Catechism states that purity of heart enables one to see according to God and to accept others as our brothers & sisters in Christ.

St. Maria Goretti Novena Prayers - Day 1

St. Maria Goretti, beautiful model of purity, you defended your virginity unto death. Even at a young age, you held dear to your heart what is dear to our Lord's: your purity. Pray that we may do the same, especially when faced with temptation. Through your intercession, may God grant us the strength to avoid sin and live a life meritorious of eternal Beatitude with you and Christ our Lord.

Please pray also for (mention your intentions here). Amen.

O God, author of innocence and chastity, who bestowed the grace of martyrdom on your handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth, grant, we pray, through her intercession, that, as you gave her a crown for her steadfastness, so we too may be firm in obeying your commandments. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God for ever. Amen.

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St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor

Saint Cyril of Alexandria

Optional Memorial - June 27th

It should be a great comfort to realize that even saints have to work diligently to achieve holiness. One of the great gifts they leave behind for us is their example of heroic virtue through which they became the person God meant them to be. Just as we often learn more from our mistakes than from our successes; we can profit as much by what a saint overcame as we can from what they achieved.

Such was the case with Saint Cyril of Alexandria. We know very little about his early life. We are even unsure of whether he was born in 376 or 378, but we do know that by 403, at what was called the Council of the Oak, he was already having an impact on the life of the early Church. His initial actions do not appear to be particularly saint-like. The Council of the Oak was convened to depose Saint John Chrysostom, whose sermons had offended the Roman empress. Though he was brought back into favor for a short period of time, St. John Chrysostom was eventually forcibly exiled to a remote corner of the empire, where he died in 407.

St. Cyril’s own mercurial temperament, though it helped make him a powerful figure (he was named archbishop of Alexandria in 412), also made him a controversial one.  He was known to be impulsive and sometimes even violent. When Jews in Alexandria were accused of attacking Christians, he expelled them from the city and confiscated their property. At one point, he was even blamed for the murder of Hypatia, a female Neo-Platonic philosopher, but there is no evidence that he was responsible for the mob' actions that led to her death.

What St. Cyril is most remembered for is his defense of the Virgin Mary’s title "Mother of God", which was, in turn, based on his belief in both Christ’s full humanity and His full divinity. His major theological opponent on this issue was Nestorius, who himself became archbishop of Constantinople in 428. Nestorius objected to calling Mary the "Mother of God" saying that she was only the "Mother of Christ". It was Nestorius’ belief that Jesus’ humanity was merely "a temple of God. a mere disguise", and that the divine Christ and the human Jesus were two separate persons. Nestorianism, as his teaching came to be known, flew in the face of the Church’s teaching that Christ is "consubstantial with the Father". (A belief that the Church proclaims at every celebration of the Mass).

The issue came to a head at the Council of Ephesus in 431, where it was affirmed that Mary could indeed be honored as the “Mother of God,” which is rendered in Greek as Theotokos. It was at this council that Cyril, presiding as the pope’s representative, condemned Nestorianism as heresy and had Constantinople’s archbishop deposed. Unfortunately, his impulsive mishandling of some aspects of the council actually produced a Nestorian sect, which arose in reaction to what was perceived to be an injustice to Nestorius.

It would be some time before Cyril would begin to soften, not his theological position, but his temper and his impulsiveness. Ironically, as he did so, some of his allies felt that he had gone too far and thought that he was compromising, not his attitude, but his orthodoxy. Until his death in 444, St. Cyril continued to write treatises clarifying the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation.  He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1882. O God, who made the Bishop Saint Cyril of Alexandria an invincible champion of the divine motherhood of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, grant, we pray, that we, who believe she is truly the Mother of God, may be redemned through the Incarnation of Christ our Lord.

June 25, 2017

Pope Francis’ Silence: Will He Answer the Dubia?

Pope Francis

LifeSite reports on an opinion piece by a former Vatican official discussing Pope Francis’ refusal to answer the dubia issued by four of his cardinals concerning the doctrinal implications and proper interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, the post-synod apostolic exhortation on the family. The confusion that emerged in the wake of Amoris’ release has resulted in myriad conclusions and widespread uncertainty.

The LifeSite article begins: "Why doesn’t the Pope respond to the Dubia? The former director of the Vatican Bank thinks he knows why. Ettore Gotti Tedeschi suggests that Francis is sending two messages through his silence: that he can contradict himself if he likes and that he wishes to impose a 'New Catholic Morality' on the Church. This new morality would be based not on doctrine but on the subjective opinions of the individual conscience... Ultimately, Francis’ silence — which allows doubts to continue to flourish — is a denial of objective truth."

Mr.Tedeschi observes, "In the past, the Church’s concern was to keep the faithful 'strong in the Truth' in order to conserve the faith. She therefore discouraged a disposition to interpret doctrine and the magisterium in a subjective and dangerously misleading manner." He continues, "Indeed, back then the task of pastors was to confirm the certainties of faith by teaching not just by 'listening.'"

We wrote about this issue last April: "How should the faithful respond to Amoris Laetitia? Cardinal Burke (one of the authors of said dubia) makes clear that it should be received with all the respect due the Supreme Pontiff. However, such respect should not be equated with an obligation to believe every utterance or written statement that the pope makes" Pray that Francis clarifies Amoris soon.

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 and Savior. Amen.

Saint Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, Priest

Saint Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer

Optional Memorial - June 26th

Saint Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer was born in Barbastro, Spain, on January 9, 1902, the second of six children. His parents, José Escrivá and María Albás, gave their children a devout Christian education. In 1915, when Jose Escriva's business failed, the family moved to Logrono. There, as a teenager, Josemaria initially sensed his religious vocation. Moved by the sight of footprints left in the snow by a barefoot friar, he believed that God was calling him. He entered the seminary and studied philosophy and theology, first in Logrono and later in Saragossa.

He was ordained to the priesthood in Zaragoza, Spain on March 28, 1925. Then, on October 2, 1928, during a spiritual retreat, Fr. Josemaria saw what it was that God was asking of him: to found Opus Dei, a way of sanctification in daily work and in the fulfillment of the Christian's ordinary duties. From that day forward, he carried out this task, while ministering especially among the poor and the sick.

When Civil War broke out in Madrid, religious persecution forced Fr. Josemaria to exercise his priestly ministry clandestinely and to move from place to place seeking refuge. Eventually, after a harrowing escape across the Pyrenees, he took up residence in Burgos. When the war concluded in 1939, he returned to Madrid and obtained his doctorate in law. In the years that followed he gave numerous retreats, and continued working assiduously to develop Opus Dei.

Traveling frequently from Rome to various European countries, and to Mexico on one occasion, he extolled the need for heroic virtue in everyday life and worked to spark the growth of Opus Dei in those places. In 1974 and 1975, he made two long trips to a number of countries in Latin America, where he met with large groups of people and spoke to them about their Christian vocation to holiness.

On June 26, 1975, St. Josemaria Escriva died suddenly in Rome, after a final affectionate glance at a picture of our Lady on the wall. Pope Saint John Paul II canonized St Josemaria in Rome on October 6, 2002. His feast day is celebrated on June 26. In his discourse to those who attended the canonization, the Holy Father said that, "St. Josemaria was chosen by the Lord to proclaim the universal call to holiness and to indicate that everyday life, its customary activities, are a path towards holiness. It could be said that he was the saint of the ordinary."

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for July 2017

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

Lapsed Christians

That our brothers and sisters who have strayed from the faith, through our prayer and witness to the Gospel, may rediscover the merciful closeness of the Lord and the beauty of the Christian life.

Urgent Intention - To be Announced

Pope Francis has decided to keep one monthly prayer intention. He is no longer proposing an urgent prayer intention. However, on every Sunday on which he gives an Angelus Address, he asks for prayers for specific people and situations that are of deep concern to him.

2017 Novena to St. Maria Goretti Begins June 27th

Saint Maria Goretti

Saint Maria Goretti is the Church's youngest canonized saint. She was born near Ancona, Italy into a poor peasant family. Known for her cheerfulness and piety, Maria attended Mass often and loved God completely. At the age of 11, she was assaulted by her neighbor's son. Marie chose to die rather than lose her virginity.

Enraged by her refusal, Maria's attacker stabbed her nine times. Before she died, she forgave her assailant. Her mother was present at Saint Peter's in 1950, the first time a parent witnessed their child's canonization. Over one half million souls attended St. Maria's canonization Mass, the largest attendance up to that time.

St. Maria Goretti Novena Prayers - Day 1

St. Maria Goretti, beautiful model of purity, you defended your virginity unto death. Even at a young age, you held dear to your heart what is dear to our Lord's: your purity. Pray that we may do the same, especially when faced with temptation. Through your intercession, may God grant us the strength to avoid sin and live a life meritorious of eternal Beatitude with you and Christ our Lord.

Please pray also for (mention your intentions here). Amen.

O God, author of innocence and chastity, who bestowed the grace of martyrdom on your handmaid, the Virgin Saint Maria Goretti, in her youth, grant, we pray, through her intercession, that, as you gave her a crown for her steadfastness, so we too may be firm in obeying your commandments. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God for ever. Amen.

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Homily for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 25, 2017, Year A

Hell

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing


Sparrows are the most common and the most plentiful of all birds. This being so, they are not valued very highly at all. If as a species they were becoming extinct you can safely bet, however, that committees and campaigns would spring up to save them. But what about human life?

There are over seven billion human beings alive on this earth today. In this century, more than in any other century in human history, human life is less and less valued. Paradoxically the baby-boomer generation, namely all those born after the end of WWII, is committed to individual rights, to individual expression and personal choice, to the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, and the sexual revolution as no other generation in human history. But what about commitment to the right to life?

Perversely and paradoxically, the people of this century are given to abortion and euthanasia as never before. Human life is disposable on a scale never before known to mankind. Nightly news broadcasts tell us of the loss of life in Africa, the Middle East, and the reported killings of people here in America. Life in our century is cheap, and while we ever more forcefully advocate individual rights we witness individual human lives being discarded and disposed of on a scale that boggles the mind.

You may remember that in the early days of coal mining here in our country the miners brought canaries in cages along with them into the mines. If the canaries began to die the miners knew the odorless and tasteless lethal gases would soon kill them too. It was an accurate prediction of what was to come.

In much the same way, the way human beings are treated in our world today is symptomatic of the forces that threaten our social fabric. Homelessness and the abuse of children reveal our lack of value for human life along with the rise of abortion and mercy killings in the past few decades.

In the midst of all this we hear our Church proclaim today’s gospel message throughout the world: “Are not two sparrows sold for next to nothing? Yet not a single sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. As for you, every hair of your head has been counted; so do not be afraid of anything. You are worth more than an entire flock of sparrows.“

Recently we commemorated the death of Robert F. Kennedy, a champion of underprivileged and ignored human beings. In one of his most famous speeches he said:

“Each time someone stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, they send forth a tiny ripple of hope and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of repression and injustice.”

All of us here sometimes feel small and insignificant in our huge and indifferent world. As a priest I buried many people in the same cemetery that is the site of my father’s grave and my mother’s, too, along side of his. My father’s name and my name are exactly the same, so when I see his name on the gravestone I see mine. It gives me pause to meditate!

When I die, I will be buried in the priests’ circle in that cemetery. My name will be cut into a granite stone and placed over my buried mortal remains. A few people will have gathered around it for a few minutes, but when the committal service is finished they will get into their cars and drive off. My name will then melt into the hundreds of other names buried there and shortly be forgotten. So, too, will memories of my presence in this world as a priest. It won’t take long at all, believe me.

Like sparrows, we feel helpless and insignificant in the strong winds of life and in this world’s ever quickening passage of time. And, like sparrows, we appear to be so common as to have little or no value at all. We feel that we will make little difference in our world.

What, then, of our concern as Roman Catholics for the sanctity of human life, particularly each and every human life? Many people in this world intensely dislike us for our Pro-Life stance, particularly when it comes to abortion and euthanasia. We are told to keep quiet and to stop “imposing our religious beliefs and moral values upon others.” We’re lectured about the mythic Wall of Separation of Church and State and told that we’re being un-American with our convictions about the sanctity of human life, both in its beginnings and in its endings.

Jesus tells us here and now the same thing He told His apostles: “Do not let men intimidate you. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, and nothing hidden that will not become known. What I tell you in darkness, speak in the light. What you hear in private, proclaim from the housetops…” “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. Whoever disowns me before men, I will disown before my Father in heaven.“

Jesus wants to us understand that with God there is no such thing as a nameless, faceless individual human life. Every person lives in God’s family and in His house. God knows in detail each and every aspect of our lives. And He cares, profoundly cares, about what happens to each of us. Even though at times we may feel small, worthless and of no significance whatsoever, that is not how God our Father feels about us. We are not sparrows. We are His sons and daughters, ones that God loves so much that He allowed His Son to die for us.

Which is why we have crucifixes in our churches. For the crucifix tells us how much God cares for each and every one of us, and likewise shows us the length, the breadth, the height and depth He has gone to demonstrate His love for us. It is in that crucifix that you and I can recognize our true worth and the value that we have in the eyes of God.

“Are not two sparrows sold for next to nothing? Yet not a single sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. As for you, every hair of your head has been counted; so do not be afraid of anything. You are worth more than an entire flock of sparrows.”

June 24, 2017

Reflection for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

The devil

This Sunday’s Gospel reading is from Matthew's Gospel, chapter 10. Our Lord instructs the twelve apostles, "Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna." (Matthew 10:26-28)

The one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna is Satan the devil, king of demons, and of hell. He is the father of lies and a cruel deceiver of men. When we pray the Lord's Prayer, we ask that God, "... lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." The Catechism of the Catholic Church (§2851) states: “In this petition, evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God. The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who 'throws himself across' God's plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ.”

Likewise, in John’s Gospel, Jesus addresses the unfaithful with words of warning and unequivocal censure, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

Indeed, Satan is the “father of lies”. He told the first lie to Eve, in the Garden of Eden as recorded in Genesis. Having sown seeds of doubt in Eve’s mind with his question, he then contradicts God’s Word, telling her, “You will not certainly die”. With this, Satan successfully tempts Eve and her husband Adam to reject God and commit the original sin. Prior to the Fall, the created world and everything in it functioned precisely as God intended. After the Fall, paradise was lost. Satan’s lie condemned humanity to lives of sin, drudgery and inexorable physical death.

The devil is an active force, a living, spiritual being. We must remain vigilant in hope for, "sin lies in wait at the door: its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it." (Genesis 4:7) We can overcome the devil’s incessant attacks through God’s grace and heroic virtue. Ultimately, it is our decision to sin or to love that determines where we spend eternity. God respects our free will, even if we chose vice over virtue. St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

June 23, 2017

Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

The Birth of St. John the Baptist

June 24, 2017

Ordinarily the Church observes the day of a saint's death as his feast because that day marks his entrance into heaven. To this rule there are two notable exceptions, the birthdays of the Blessed Virgin and of Saint John the Baptist.

The Gospel of Luke relays how Saint John the Baptist’s birth was foretold by the angel Gabriel to his father Zechariah as he offered incense in the Temple. Even before his birth John would be filled with the Holy Spirit. In the womb of his mother Elizabeth John recognized the presence of Christ in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, by leaping for joy. His mission was to prepare the way for the Messiah and to urge the disobedient back to the path of righteous. John’s witness would bring innumerable souls to Christ.

On the day of Christ's baptism, John immediately recognized Jesus as the long awaited Anointed One heralded by the prophets, and spoke the words Catholic’s hear at every Mass during the Consecration, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) As Jesus rose from the water, the Spirit of God descended like a dove, alighting upon the head of Our Lord, as a voice from heaven declared, “This is my Son, with whom I am pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)

Grant, we pray, almighty God, that your family may walk in the way of salvation and, attentive to what Saint John the Precursor urged, may come safely to the One he foretold, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.

June 22, 2017

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus | 2017

Sacred Heart of Jesus

June 23rd

The Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the Friday following the second Sunday after Pentecost. In addition to the sacred liturgical celebration, many devotional exercises are connected with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Of all devotions, devotion to the Sacred Heart was, and remains, one of the most widespread and popular in the Church extending from ancient times to the present. Since the priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus, we especially remember both individual priests and the ministerial priesthood on this occasion.

Understood in the light of Scripture, the term "Sacred Heart of Jesus" denotes the entire mystery of Christ, the totality of his being, and his person considered in its most intimate essential: Son of God, uncreated wisdom; infinite charity, principal of the salvation and sanctification of mankind. The "Sacred Heart" is Christ, the Word Incarnate, intrinsically containing, in the Spirit, an infinite divine-human love for the Father and his children. (Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy)
Behold this Heart which has loved men so much, and yet men do not want to love Me in return. Through you My divine Heart wishes to spread its love everywhere on earth.
— Our Lord to St. Mary Margaret Alacoque
_____________________________________________

Prayer in Homage to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Grant, we pray, almighty God, that we, who glory in the Heart of your beloved Son and recall the wonders of his love for us, may be made worthy to receive an overflowing measure of grace from that font of heavenly gifts. Through Jesus Christ your Son, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen.

June 21, 2017

Reflection for the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

St. John the Baptist
The Naming of John the Baptist, Fra Angelico, 1435. 

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

June 24, 2017

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

Isaiah 49:1-6; Psalm 139; Acts 13: 22-26; Luke 1:57-66, 80
“John is his name.” (Lk 1:60)

Have you ever considered yourself to be the most unqualified person to be placed into a situation where you were compelled to lead? Shortly after my ordination to priesthood, my first pastor died of cancer. In my mid-twenties, I was thrust into the leadership role of that parish until a new pastor was appointed. It was a daunting task as the parish was large and active. In the months leading up to the pastor’s death and the weeks after his funeral, the parish looked to me to lead and guide them through the daily parish activities and the transition to a new pastor. I was the most unlikely person to do so; at the time, I was the youngest and most inexperienced priest in the diocese. With God’s help and a lot of prayer, the parish and I not only survived the time, we actually grew in our faith. God made it happen!

The Bible is filled with such stories. Moses himself knew he wasn’t the perfect candidate to lead Israel into freedom. Jeremiah even accused God of “duping” him. Our Blessed Mother Mary was a poor, young girl with no political or social status whatsoever. The apostles certainly weren’t trained for their roles in Christianity, and Paul was perhaps the most unlikely apostle of them all, having murdered many Christians prior to his conversion. By worldly standards, these were all unlikely people to accomplish God’s will. But by God’s ways, they were the right candidates at the right time and place to do His will. God sees the heart of each person and knows what he is capable of.

Today’s Gospel, which should be read in conjunction with the Gospel of the Vigil of this feast (Luke 1:5- 24), tells the story of a couple who would be the most unlikely by today’s standards to accomplish God’s will. Enter Elizabeth and Zechariah. Elizabeth is a “kinswoman” of Mary’s. She and her husband, Zechariah, are barren and advanced in years. Zechariah was of the priestly class and it was his turn to go into the sanctuary to offer incense to God. The crowd anxiously prayed outside the sanctuary while he incensed. While Zechariah was performing his task, an angel appeared to him letting him know that he and Elizabeth would conceive a son who would be the forerunner of the Lord. Zechariah was dumbfounded; he told the angel he and Elizabeth were too old for this. It is impossible! The angel let him know it was God who would make this happen and that because he didn’t believe it, he would be mute until the events took place.

Do you see Zechariah’s point of view? His all-too human response would be yours and mine. This is an unlikely situation and by human standards could not happen. God proved otherwise, and Elizabeth and Zechariah were added to the list of unqualified candidates through whom God intervened in the world.

It is clear that while Zechariah was struck mute by the angel he did some soul searching. Indeed, Elizabeth was now with child. While Zechariah is not part of the visitation story, he must have been there and thus knew that Mary, too, was with child. What could all of this mean? In this period, Zechariah learned to be patient with God. His heart was opened to God, and he began to see that God indeed does things differently. Maybe ... just maybe ... God’s hand was in this and God knew what He was doing! There was a discussion at John’s birth concerning his name. Elizabeth wanted John, but there was no John in their family. Zechariah called for a tablet and wrote: John is his name. At this point, he was able to speak, and he praised God. Zechariah is the unsung hero at John’s birth. He learns to be patient with God and trust in His will, even when it doesn’t seem that what is happening is in accord with human standards.

And so it goes with you and me, thousands of years later. God is still working through unlikely candidates. We lead parishes, schools, families, businesses, and communities. Not a one of us is qualified by human standards for any of it. We are prideful, sinful, and stubborn. Yet, in spite of all of our human foibles, God still works through us in whatever vocation He made our own. He knows us and knows our gifts. Today we learn from Zechariah to be open to God’s grace, to be patient and to trust in Him. Like Zechariah we praise God, seek His help and protection, and allow Him to work through us. And thus will our names be added to the “unlikely candidate” list in the Bible—what great company!

Sacred Heart of Jesus Novena 2017 | Day 9

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

June 22, 2017

Let us pray for more hopeful hearts so to live in imitation of Christ each day. May we face every cross and trial with confidence in the promises of Our Savior. This version of the novena comes from Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque who is most commonly associated with the ancient devotion to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Novena Prayers - Day 9

I. O my Jesus, you have said: "Truly I say to you, ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you." Behold I knock, I seek and ask for the grace of (name your request).

Our Father....Hail Mary....Glory Be to the Father....

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

II. O my Jesus, you have said: "Truly I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you." Behold, in your name, I ask the Father for the grace of (name your request).

Our Father...Hail Mary....Glory Be To the Father...

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

III. O my Jesus, you have said: "Truly I say to you, heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away." Encouraged by your infallible words I now ask for the grace of (name your request)

Our Father....Hail Mary....Glory Be to the Father...

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

O' Sacred Heart of Jesus, for whom it is impossible not to have compassion on the afflicted, have pity on us poor sinners and grant us the grace(s) which we ask of you, through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, your tender Mother and ours.

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears! Turn, then, O most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary; pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for us..

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Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More, English Martyrs

Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More

Optional Memorial - June 22nd

Saints Thomas More and John Fisher were talented and energetic Renaissance men who contributed to the humanist scholarship of early modern England. More wrote theological treatises while making a career as a lawyer and government official. Bishop John Fisher worked as an administrator at Cambridge, confronted the challenge Martin Luther presented to Christianity and served as Bishop of Rochester. He dedicated himself to preaching at a time when prelates tended to focus on politics. Both men corresponded with Erasmus, who helped Fisher learn Greek and Hebrew, and famously referred to More as "a man of all seasons".

Above all their accomplishments, these heroic disciples of Christ bore witness to a deep faith in God and his Church. More considered entering religious life and was assiduous in his devotional practices. A married man, he committed himself wholly to his vocation as a father. In the 16th century, disciplinary measures with children tended to be severe, but More’s children testify to his warmth, patience and generosity. St. John Fisher was a model shepherd and evidenced remarkable humility. He remained in the small Diocese of Rochester his entire episcopal ministry, devoting himself to his local church rather than seeking a promotion.

More and Fisher are well-known for opposing King Henry’s divorce. Ultimately, it was their refusal to sign an oath of supremacy that led them to be executed. King Henry VIII claimed to be the supreme head of the Church in England, asserting sovereign power over English Christians. Neither Fisher nor More could abide this claim, and their steadfastness to their consciences put them in conflict with the king. They were sentenced to death for defending the indissolubility of marriage.

When More made his way to the gallows, he is said to have stated, “I die the King’s good servant, but God’s first.” Both More and Fisher were patriots. They never rose up to incite rebellion or foment revolution. They were no traitors. But when the law of the court came into conflict with the law of Christ, they chose Christ. These men gave their lives for the freedom of the Church and for freedom of conscience. They bear witness to the truth that no government can make a claim on a person’s soul. O God, who in martyrdom has brought true faith to its highest expression, graciously grant that, strengthened through the intercession of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, may we bravely live the faith we profess.

St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop and Confessor

Saint Paulinus of Nola

Optional Memorial - June 22nd

Saint Paulinus was born of a patrician Roman family in Bordeaux, Gaul. He was successively prefect, senator and consul. His wife, wishing to consecrate herself to God, gave up rank and riches; he followed her example and went to live an austere hermit's life in Nola. There he became a priest and then bishop of the city, and gave his people not only an example of virtue but also wise guidance during the ravages and calamities of the Gothic invasion. A Church Father, he was a contemporary of St Augustine to whom he was bound by a firm friendship. He died in 431, at the age of 78, and was buried in Nola near the tomb of St. Felix.

Of his life and profound literary works Pope Benedict XVI observed:

"Paulinus' conversion impressed his contemporaries. His teacher Ausonius, a pagan poet, felt 'betrayed' and addressed bitter words to him, reproaching him on the one hand for his 'contempt', considered insane, of material goods, and on the other, for abandoning his literary vocation.

Paulinus replied that giving to the poor did not mean contempt for earthly possessions but rather an appreciation of them for the loftiest aim of charity. As for literary commitments, what Paulinus had taken leave of was not his poetic talent — which he was to continue to cultivate — but poetic forms inspired by mythology and pagan ideals.

A new aesthetic now governed his sensibility: the beauty of God incarnate, crucified and risen, whose praises he now sang. Actually, he had not abandoned poetry but was henceforth to find his inspiration in the Gospel, as he says in this verse: 'To my mind the only art is the faith and Christ is my poetry' (At nobis ars una fides, et musica Christus: Carm., XX, 32)."

O God who the Bishop Saint Paulinus of Nola outstanding for love of poverty and for pastoral care, graciously grant that, as we celebrate his holy merits, we may imitate the example of his charity. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the Apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, on Devotion to the Most Sacred Heart

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque

The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is June 23rd. Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, the Apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was privileged to receive visions of Christ beginning in childhood. Our Lord entrusted to her the divine mission of establishing the devotion to His Sacred Heart in the world. Criticism did not hamper her enthusiasm, and her charity toward her opponents won them over to her message. The following quotations from the writings of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque show her great love for the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

And He [Christ] showed me that it was His great desire of being loved by men and of withdrawing them from the path of ruin that made Him form the design of manifesting His Heart to men, with all the treasures of love, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification and salvation which it contains, in order that those who desire to render Him and procure Him all the honor and love possible, might themselves be abundantly enriched with those divine treasures of which His heart is the source. 
— Our Lord to St. Mary Margaret Alacoque
I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in my disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments. My divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.
— Our Lord to St. Mary Margaret Alacoque
The Sacred Heart of Christ is an inexhaustible fountain and its sole desire is to pour itself out into the hearts of the humble so as to free them and prepare them to lead lives according to his good pleasure. 
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This divine heart is an abyss filled with all blessings, and into the poor should submerge all their needs. It is an abyss of joy in which all of us can immerse our sorrows. It is an abyss of lowliness to counteract our foolishness, an abyss of mercy for the wretched, an abyss of love to meet our every need.
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Our Lord Jesus Christ desires that we should, for sanctifying ourselves, glorify His all-loving Heart; for it was His Heart that suffered the most in His Sacred Humanity.
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Choose the divine Heart for your sacred oratory, wherein to offer to God your petitions and prayers that may be pleasing to Him.

Pour out on us, O Lord, the spirit with which you endowed St. Margaret Mary, so that we may come to know that love of Christ which surpasses all understanding.