July 20, 2017

Saint Anne Novena 2017 | Day 5

St. Anne

July 21, 2017

Saint Anne Novena - Day 5

Great Saint Anne, how far I am from resembling you. I so easily give way to impatience and discouragement; and so easily give up praying when God does not at once answer my request. Prayer is the key to all heavenly treasures and I cannot pray, because my weak faith and lack of confidence fail me at the slightest delay. O my powerful protectress, come to my aid, listen to my petition…

(State your intention here.)

Make my confidence and fervor, supported by the promise of Jesus Christ, increase as the trial to which God in His goodness subjects me is prolonged, that I may obtain like you more than I can venture to ask for. In the future I will remember that I am made for heaven and not for earth; for eternity and not for time; that consequently I must ask, above all, the salvation of my soul which is assured to all who pray properly and who persevere in prayer. Amen.

Pray for us, St. Anne, that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

O Lord, God of our Fathers, who bestowed on Saints Joachim and Anne this grace, that of them should be born the Mother of your incarnate Son, grant, through the prayers of both, that we may attain the salvation you have promised to your people. 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.

For more on this novena and daily email reminders go to PrayMoreNovenas.com.

St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest & Doctor of the Church

Saint Lawrence of Brindisi

Optional Memorial - July 21st

His name was Giulio Cesare Russo, and he was born at Brindisi in the kingdom of Naples in 1559. Educated in Venice at the College of St. Mark, he entered the Capuchins and took the name Lawrence. Finishing his studies at the University of Padua, he showed a flair for languages, mastering Hebrew, Greek, German, Bohemian, Spanish, and French, and showed an extraordinary knowledge of the text of the Bible. He is the greatest linguist among the Doctors of the Church.

While still a deacon, St. Lawrence of Brindisi became known as an excellent preacher and after his ordination startled the whole of northern Italy with his amazing sermons. Sent into Germany by the pope to establish Capuchin houses, he became chaplain to Emperor Rudolf II and had a remarkable influence on the Christian soldiers fighting the Muslims when they were threatening Hungary in 1601. Through his efforts, the Catholic League was formed to give solidarity to the Catholic cause in Europe. Sent by the emperor to persuade Philip III of Spain to join the League, he established a Capuchin friary in Madrid. He also brought peace between Spain and the kingdom of Savoy.

His compassion for the poor, the needy, and the sick was legendary. Elected minister-general of his order in 1602, he made the Capuchins a major force in the Catholic Restoration, visiting every friary in the thirty-four provinces of the order and directing the work of nine thousand friars. He himself was a dominant figure in carrying out the work of the Council of Trent and was described by Pope Benedict XV as having, "a truly distinguished place among the most outstanding men ever raised up by Divine Providence to assist the Church in time of distress."

In 1619, he undertook a journey to see King Philip III of Spain on behalf of the oppressed people of Naples who were ruled by a tyrannical governor. Lawrence reached Lisbon where the king was residing, and it was there that his last illness overtook him. His body was carried back to Spain and buried in the church of the Poor Clares at Villafranca del Bierzo.

Lawrence was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1881 and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959. O God, who for the glory of your name and the salvation of souls bestowed on the Priest Saint Lawrence of Brindisi a spirit of counsel and fortitude, grant, we pray, that in the same spirit, we may know what must be done and, through his intercession, bring it to completion. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

Adapted excerpt from The One Year Book of Saints, Fr. Clifford Stevens.

July 19, 2017

Two Other Apparitions of Our Lady

Our Lady of Knock

Our Lady of Knock 

Our Lady of Knock was seen by 15 residents of Knock, a poor, small village in County Mayo, Ireland, on Aug. 21, 1879, outside of the Church of St. John the Baptist. St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist accompanied her; there was also an altar with a lamb and cross on it. In this apparition, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to all present but remained silent. A prayer to Our Lady of Knock includes the words, “Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland, you gave hope to your people in a time of distress and comforted them in sorrow.” Pray for us Our Lady.

Our Lady of La Salette

Our Lady of La Salette 

Two children, Maximin Giraud and Mélanie Calvat, reported seeing “a beautiful lady” weeping bitterly on the mountain of La Salette in the French Alps in 1846. Through the children, she gave her message of reconciliation to the world and insisted that this message be made known to all her people. She was crying, and around her neck was a crucifix, with a hammer and pincers on either side. The hammer symbolizes the sins of humanity that put the nails into the hands of Jesus; the pincers symbolize the good people do that remove the nails from Jesus’ hands. (See "Homily for the Feast of Our Lady of La Salette" for more.)

Pray for Charlie Gard

Charlie Gard

Charlie Gard is an 11 month old baby in the UK who suffers from a genetic disorder known as mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. His condition is caused by a disruption in the mitochondria, the part of the cell that provides energy to his muscles, kidneys and brain. There is a new treatment available which is a nucleoside bypass therapy, which could potentially repair Charlie’s mtDNA and help it synthesize again by providing him the naturally occurring compounds that his body cannot now produce.

Charlie's Situation is Dire

"According to press accounts, Charlie is terminally ill at this point. His parents have raised more than $1 million to try an experimental treatment to help him, but hospital officials—backed by British and European courts—have forbidden his parents to take him from the London hospital where he currently is." [Source]

England's National Health Service has repeatedly denied Charlie this potentially lifesaving treatment despite the pleas of Charlie’s parent and other medical experts. The hospital insist it is in Charlie’s best interest to cease all life support, since the odds of recovery are slim. Pray that the governing authorities come to their senses and allow this child to obtain the treatment he urgently requires.

Saint Anne Novena 2017 | Day 4

St. Anne

July 20, 2017

Saint Anne Novena - Day 4

Glorious Saint Anne, I kneel in confidence at your feet, for you also have tasted the bitterness and sorrow of life. My need, the cause of my request, is…

(State your intention here.)

Good Saint Anne, you who did suffer much during the twenty years that preceded your glorious maternity, I beseech you, by all your sufferings and humiliations, to grant my prayer.

I pray to you, through your love for your glorious spouse Saint Joachim, through your love for your immaculate child, through the joy you did feel at the moment of her happy birth, not to refuse me. Bless me, bless my family and all who are dear to me, so that some day we may all be with you in the glory of heaven, for all eternity. Amen.

Pray for us, St. Anne, that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

O Lord, God of our Fathers, who bestowed on Saints Joachim and Anne this grace, that of them should be born the Mother of your incarnate Son, grant, through the prayers of both, that we may attain the salvation you have promised to your people. 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.

For more on this novena and daily email reminders go to PrayMoreNovenas.com.

Homily for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 23, 2017, Year A

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

(Click here for today’s readings)

The three Parables we heard today all speak about growth of one kind or another, and so they also imply some level of patience. This dovetails perfectly with the first reading, from Wisdom, especially its concluding phrase, “You gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.”

From that perspective, it might seem almost as if, in the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds, that the weeds will be given time to become wheat—impossible in nature, but possible in this kind of imagery, not so different really from other Scriptures, such as Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones being covered with flesh and returning to life.

When Jesus explains the Parable, however, we see that the patience on the landowner’s part is just to allow the wheat to mature. The wheat has had only to survive whatever threat might have been posed by the weeds. The final scene is one of judgment.

We do indeed proclaim in the creed that Jesus “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,” but something in us prefers to look away from the image of “the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” Despite the number of times the notion of damnation turns up in the New Testament, despite the number of images used to describe it, we would rather not hear it. Even the famous judgment scene in Matthew 25, in which the Son of Man says, “I was hungry, and you gave me to eat,” etc., is remembered and cited mostly for its call to treat others with Christian kindness, even though it ends with a reference to eternal punishment and eternal life.

Rather than linger on these unappealing truths, then, let us look at the very last words of Jesus’ explanation of the Parable: “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” It echoes a passage from the prophet Daniel: “Those with insight shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.”

These are pleasant truths. Just imagine:

There you are, leading many to righteousness and justice, by your exhortations, by your example.

There you are, a lighthouse, a beacon helping others avoid the shoals.

There you are, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the homeless.

There you are, carrying out the lesson taught by God himself in today’s reading from the Book of Wisdom, “that those who are just must be kind.”

There you are, living a life of the Beatitudes, blessed indeed as you hunger and thirst for justice and serve as a meek and humble peacemaker, rejoicing when you are persecuted for the sake of Christ.

There you are (as we read today in Romans 8) counting on the Holy Spirit to come to the aid of your weakness and make your prayer what it ought to be.

There you are, like Mother Teresa, doing “something beautiful for God.”

What amazing thoughts!

What? Don’t you see yourself in them? If in fact you are finding it hard really to imagine yourself in these situations, behaving in these ways, what is the alternative?

Before you throw up your hands in despair and cry, “I’m doomed!” stop and think again about the three Parables. You aren’t doomed. You have time to grow. You have time to meet the challenge issued by all these inspiring images.

You have time. Make the most of it.

Saint Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr

Saint Apollinaris

Optional Memorial - July 20

Early accounts report that Saint Apollinaris was ordained Bishop by Saint Peter himself and sent as a missionary bishop to Ravenna during the reign of the emperor Claudius. Renowned for his powers to heal in the name of Christ, he was exiled, tortured and imprisoned for the faith, and [at last] martyred. [Source]

The Life and Heroic Martyrdom of St. Apollinaris

Apollinaris came to Rome from Antioch with the prince of the apostles, by whom he was consecrated bishop, and sent to Ravenna to preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He converted many to the faith of Christ, for which reason he was seized by the priests of the idols and severely beaten. At his prayer, a nobleman named Boniface, who had long been dumb, recovered the power of speech, and his daughter was delivered from an unclean spirit; on this account a fresh sedition was raised against Apollinaris. He was beaten with rods, and made to walk barefoot over burning coals; but as the fire did him no injury, he was driven from the city.

He lay hidden some time in the house of certain Christians, and then went to Aemilia. Here he raised from the dead the daughter of Rufinus, a patrician, whose whole family thereupon believed in Jesus Christ. The prefect was greatly angered by this conversion, and sending for Apollinaris he sternly commanded him to give over propagating the faith of Christ in the city. But as Apollinaris paid no attention to his commands, he was tortured on the rack, boiling water was poured upon his wounds, and his mouth was bruised and broken with a stone; finally he was loaded with irons, and shut up in prison. Four days afterwards he was put on board ship and sent into exile; but the boat was wrecked, and Apollinaris arrived in Mysia, whence he passed to the banks of the Danube and into Thrace.

In the temple of Serapis the demon refused to utter his oracles so long as the disciple of the apostle Peter remained there. Search was made for some time, and then Apollinaris was discovered and commanded to depart by sea. Thus he returned to Ravenna; but on the accusation of the same priests of the idols, he was placed in the custody of a centurion. As this man, however, worshipped Christ in secret, Apollinaris was allowed to escape by night. When this became known, he was pursued and overtaken by the guards, who loaded him with blows and left him, as they thought, dead. He was carried away by the Christians, and seven days after, while exhorting them to constancy in the faith, he passed away from this life, to be crowned with the glory of martyrdom. His body was buried near the city walls. [Direct your faithful, Lord, in the way of eternal salvation, which the Bishop St. Apollinaris showed by his example and martyrdom,.Amen.]

Excerpted from Roman Martyrology

July 18, 2017

Saint Anne Novena 2017 | Day 3

St. Anne

July 19, 2017

Saint Anne Novena - Day 3

Beloved of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, mother of the Queen of Heaven, take us and all who are dear to us under your special care. Obtain for us the virtues you instilled in the heart of her who was destined to become Mother of God, and the graces with which you were endowed. O model of Christian womanhood, pray that we may imitate your example in our homes and families, listen to our petitions,

(State your intention here.)

Guardian of the infancy and childhood of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, obtain the graces necessary for all who enter the marriage state, that imitating your virtues they may sanctify their homes and lead the souls entrusted to their care to eternal glory. Amen.

Pray for us, Saint Anne, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

O Lord, God of our Fathers, who bestowed on Saints Joachim and Anne this grace, that of them should be born the Mother of your incarnate Son, grant, through the prayers of both, that we may attain the salvation you have promised to your people. 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.

For more on this novena and daily email reminders go to PrayMoreNovenas.com.

The Weather Lore Surrounding St. Swithin’s Day

Saint Swithin

We are posting belatedly about Saint Swithin (or St Swithun), the 9th century saint perhaps best known for a meteorological prediction which is supposed to take place on his feast day, July 15th. Here is the ancient rhyme responsible:
St Swithin’s Day, if it does rain
Full forty days, it will remain
St Swithin’s Day, if it be fair
For forty days, t’will rain no more
According to traditional folklore whatever the weather is like on that day, whether rainy or sunny, it will continue for the next 40 days and 40 nights. The likelihood that this proverb is an accurate predictor of weather is slim, although occasionally the jet stream cooperates giving some degree of veracity to the ancient formula.

What little we do know about St. Swithin is that he was born in Wessex, England sometime in the 9th century and was educated at the old monastery at Winchester. He was subsequently ordained there and became chaplain to King Egbert of the West Saxons. At the time, Winchester was the kingdom's capital. .

Known for his humility and his care for the poor, he was also the tutor to the King’s son, who apparently elevated him to the Bishopric of Winchester after he himself ascended the throne. He supposedly performed just one miracle during his lifetime, making an old lady's eggs whole again after workmen smashed them while constructing a church.

It is said that at his death in 862, St. Swithin requested that he be buried, not in his cathedral, but outside the church among the common people. He was named patron saint of Winchester Cathedral about 100 years after his death. Swithin is derived from the Old English word for "strong" and St Swithin's symbols are raindrops and apples.St. Swithin, intercede for us so we love God completely.

July 17, 2017

Saint Anne Novena 2017 | Day 2

St. Anne

July 18, 2017

Saint Anne Novena - Day 2

Glorious Saint Anne, how can you be otherwise than overflowing with tenderness toward sinners like myself, since you are the grandmother of Him who shed His blood for us, and the mother of her whom the saints call advocate of sinners? To you, therefore, I address my prayers with confidence.

Vouchsafe to commend me to Jesus and Mary so that, at your request, I may be granted remission of my sins, perseverance, the love of God, charity for all mankind, and the special grace of…

(State your intention here.)

for which I stand in need at the present time. O most powerful protectress, let me not lose my soul, but pray for me that through the merits of Jesus Christ and the intercession of Mary, I may have the great happiness of seeing them, of loving and praising them with you through all eternity. Amen.

Pray for us, Saint Anne, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

O Lord, God of our Fathers, who bestowed on Saints Joachim and Anne this grace, that of them should be born the Mother of your incarnate Son, grant, through the prayers of both, that we may attain the salvation you have promised to your people. 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.

For more on this novena and daily email reminders go to PrayMoreNovenas.com.

St. Camillus de Lellis, Caregiver to the Sick, Founder

Saint Camillus de Lellis

Optional Memorial – July 18th

St. Camillus' mother was nearly sixty years old when he was born [in 1550]. As a youth, he gave himself to the sinful pleasures of this world. His conversion dates from the feast of the Purification, 1575. Two attempts to join the Capuchin Order were frustrated by an incurable sore on his leg. In Rome, Camillus was placed in a hospital for incurables; before long he was put in charge due to his ability and zeal for virtue. There, he provided the sick every kind of spiritual and bodily aid.

At the age of thirty-two he began studying for Holy Orders and was not ashamed of being numbered with children. After ordination to the holy priesthood he founded a congregation of Regular Clerics, the "Ministers to the Sick." As a fourth vow the community assumed the duty of caring for the plague-ridden at the risk of their lives. With invincible patience Camillus persevered day and night in the service of the sick, performing the meanest and most difficult of duties.

His love shone forth most brightly when the city of Rome was stricken by epidemic and famine, and when the plague raged at Nola. Having suffered five different maladies, which he called God's mercy, he died in Rome at the age of sixty-five. On his lips was the prayer for the dying: "May the face of Christ Jesus shine gloriously upon you." Camillus was beatified by Pope Benedict XIV, and canonized by him four years later in 1746. Leo XIII declared him the heavenly patron of hospitals and added his name in the litany for the dying.

He is the patron saint of the sick, hospitals, nurses and physicians and against gambling. His mortal remains rest in the altar of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Rome, along with several of his relics. Also displayed is the Cross which allegedly spoke to Camillus, asking him, "Why are you afraid? Do you not realize that this is not your work but mine?". Almighty God, who adorned the Priest Saint Camillus with a singular grace of charity towards the sick, pour out upon us, by his merits, a spirit of total love for you, so that, serving you in our neighbor, we may, at the hour of our death, pass safely over to you. Amen.

Expanded and adapted excerpt from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.

Saint Anne Novena 2017 | Day 1

St. Anne

July 17, 2017

Saint Anne Novena - Day 1

Great Saint Anne, engrave indelibly on my heart and in my mind the words that have reclaimed and sanctified so many sinners:

“What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world if he lose his own soul?” May this be the principal fruit of these prayers by which I will strive to honor you during this novena.

At your feet renew my resolution to invoke you daily, not only for the success of my temporal affairs and to be preserved from sickness and suffering, but above all, that I may be preserved from all sin, that I may gain eternal salvation and that I will receive the special grace of…

(State your intention here.)

O most powerful Saint Anne, do not let me lose my soul, but obtain for me the grace of heaven, there with you and your glorious daughter, to sing the praise of the Most Holy and Adorable Trinity forever and ever. Amen.

Pray for us, Saint Anne & Saint Joachim, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

O Lord, God of our Fathers, who bestowed on Saints Joachim and Anne this grace, that of them should be born the Mother of your incarnate Son, grant, through the prayers of both, that we may attain the salvation you have promised to your people. 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.

For more on this novena and daily email reminders go to PrayMoreNovenas.com.

July 16, 2017

Homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 23, 2017, Year A

Field of wheat

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

We live in a strange world, don’t we? So many people begin things with good intentions, wonderful visions, and really want to make things better, both in their own lives and in the lives of others. Marx and Lenin, the fathers of communism, really wanted to make the lives of their countrymen better. We went to war in Vietnam with good intentions. Atomic energy was supposed to make the world a better place. But, as in so many great efforts, things are likely to eventually go wrong.

The same is true in our own personal lives. People fall in love and get married with nothing but the best of intentions, with high hopes, with hearts filled with love, and with wonderful visions. Then, somewhere along the line, things turn sour.

Life is mixture of good and evil. We are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. There’s much in our nation that is both good and bad. Our governmental officials are both good and bad. There’s much in our Church that is good, and there are some bad things in it too. If we’re honest, we see that there is both good and bad in us individually and collectively. Everywhere we look we find this strange mixture of what’s right and what’s wrong.

The world of great literature and the world of great art try to help us deal with this mixture of good and evil. The famous Star Wars movie series presents good people who, for some mysterious reason, go over to the Dark Side. The authors and producers of Star Wars didn’t give us an explanation of why this happens, they gave us only the epic struggle of good trying to overcome evil. The world’s great writers, novelists and poets give us no ultimate answer to the problem of evil’s origins; the only thing they can do is help us deal with the problem.

The Bible tells us that Lucifer was one of the greatest of all God’s angels. His name, Lucifer, means “Light Bearer.” He was one of highest of God’s creatures; he bore God’s own light. And yet… for some reason he became the Prince of Darkness.

The reason? Lucifer put his will before God’s will. He refused to obey God. He opted to go his own way. He defied God. The mystery is: Why did he do that? Isn’t that the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?

As followers of Jesus Christ, what do we do with the problem of evil? That’s the question raised in today’s readings. Answering the question is a big problem for all of us. Just what do we do when it comes to ridding ourselves and our world of evil? The Scripture passages in today’s first reading and today’s gospel account suggest that we deal with evil as God deals with it, with patience and forbearance. Evil will eventually reveal itself and evil will eventually suffer the consequences it brings down upon itself. Sin brings with it its own suffering and punishment. Don’t we see that?

There are a couple of interesting points about the parable of Jesus we just heard that I want to point out to you. One is that when He was asked where the weeds came from Jesus replied: “An enemy has done this.” He doesn’t tell us why God has enemies; He simply takes it as a fact. He is a realist, not a dreamy eyed idealist. To take a realistic view of life we simply must begin with the facts – evil exists and it comes from people who have chosen to defy God. It may not make any sense to us. We simply must take it as a fact of life. People, of their own free will, choose to defy God and do things on their own quite apart from Him. In the world of human choices, things are not as they ought to be, things are quite apart from what God intended them to be. The price of human freedom of choice is terribly costly, not only to us, but to God. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had to pay that price.

Why, we ask, doesn’t God simply pull up all of evil’s weeds? Why doesn’t God, with fire and brimstone, simply blast evil off the face of the earth? Well, that’s a lot easier said than done. Suppose God did, what would happen? What would happen to each one of us? Aren’t we all a mixture of good and evil? Wouldn’t we still get caught up on their firestorm of evil’s destruction?

Which brings me to the second point, namely the fact that so very often what is evil appears to be good, and what is good appears to be evil. We can’t make the sorting, only God can.

In today’s parable Jesus speaks of the weeds as darnel. Now at the beginning of the growing process darnel looks just like wheat. It’s only when harvest time approaches that the difference between the two becomes apparent.

We know that to be true, don’t we, when it comes to the great enterprises we have begun. It’s only after the passage of time that we find out what’s really good and what’s really bad in our marriages. It was only after communism matured that we came to know just how evil it was. And the same principle applies in so many areas of our lives. Everything has something wrong within it. We certainly know that’s true in our own Church, in our nation, in our world, and in our own personal lives.

There are no “quick-fix” and easy solutions. Patience and forbearance are necessary, and to have patience and forbearance one must have faith. This is what Jesus is calling us to have – faith in His heavenly Father’s plan, faith in His heavenly Father’s ultimate ways of dealing with us and with our world. We have to believe in God’s goodness and believe in His love for all that is good in our world. Reliance on God and acceptance of His ways is the only way we can overcome evil both in our world and in our lives.

Isn’t that the faith Jesus had when we suffered His agony in the Garden of Gethsemani and as He hung dying on the cross? The Evil One tempted Him to despair, tempted Him to go over to the Dark Side. But Jesus remained steadfast, confident that in the end, at harvest time, His Father in heaven would harvest the good wheat and burn the darnel. Dying, Jesus handed over His fate to His Father in heaven.

Yes, it is a strange world we live in. But at the same time it is a beautiful world, a beautiful world filled with wonderful… even heroic people. The great miracle is that goodness and love have survived evil’s onslaught.

What is the vision in which you live? Do you really have faith in God your heavenly Father? Today, once again, Jesus invites you to share in His, vision, in His hope, and in His faith that in the end God will bring good out of evil. Truly Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel | 2017

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

July 16th is the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is universal. Many Catholics are familiar with the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, also known as the Brown Scapular. On July 16, 1251, Mary appeared to Saint Simon Stock, giving him the scapular with the following words: "This will be for you and for all Carmelites the privilege, that he who dies in this will not suffer eternal fire." The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was instituted for the Carmelites in 1332, and extended to the whole Church by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. May the venerable intercession of the glorious Virgin Mary come to our aid, that, fortified by her protection, we may know eternal beatitude.

The Story of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Today is the principal feast day of the Carmelite Order. Through the efforts of the crusader Berthold, a group of hermits living on Mount Carmel were organized into an Order after the traditional Western type about the year 1150. Oppressed by the Saracens, the monks slowly emigrated to Europe. During the night preceding the sixteenth of July, 1225, the Blessed Virgin is said to have commanded Pope Honorius III to approve the foundation. Since the Carmelites were still under constant harassment, the sixth General of the Order, St. Simon Stock, pleaded with the Blessed Virgin for some special sign of her protection. On July 16, 1251, she designated the scapular as the special mark of her maternal love.

That is why the present feast is also known as the feast of the Scapular. The scapular, as part of the habit, is common to many religious Orders, but it is a special feature of the Carmelites. A smaller form of the scapular is given to lay persons in order that they may share in the great graces associated with it. Such a grace is the "Sabbatine privilege." Pope John XXII's Bulla Sabbatina  affirmed that wearers of the scapular are soon freed from the flames of purgatory, at least by the Saturday after death. The confirmation of the Bulla Sabbatina was promulgated by the Sacred Congregation of Indulgences, July 4, 1908.

Adapted excerpt from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch (From July 2016).

The 2017 St. Anne Novena Starts Monday, July 17th

St. Anne

Although Saint Anne is not mentioned in Sacred Scripture, she is the holy mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus. When we pray the St. Anne Novena, we are asking help from our Blessed Mother’s mother. St. Anne’s feast day is July 26th. Her novena traditionally starts on July 17th.

Devotion to St. Anne began early in the history of the Catholic Church. As she was favored by God to become the mother of the Virgin Mary. She is often invoked as the patron of: carpenters, childless couples, grandmothers, grandparents, homemakers, housewives, lost articles, miners, mothers, pregnancy,  pregnant women, seamstresses, sterility, and women in labor, among other things. Women seeking a Godly husband may invoke her intercession.

O Lord, God of our Fathers, who bestowed on Saints Joachim and Anne this grace, that of them should be born the Mother of your incarnate Son, grant, through the prayers of both, that we may attain the salvation you have promised to your people. 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.

For more on this novena and daily email reminders go to PrayMoreNovenas.com.

Homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 16, 2017, Year A

Parable of the Sower icon

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

When it comes to facing failures in life, the farmer in today’s Gospel parable sounds a lot like many of us. We work hard, and only sometimes succeed. Most of the best things that we give to others are not by them well received. Most of what we want to plant in the lives of those around us doesn’t “take”; it doesn’t become rooted and permanently planted in their lives.

All of us have to deal with failure, those areas where the best we’ve given to others comes up lacking, falling short of our hopes, our dreams, and our great expectations.

There are some biblical commentators who suggest that the parable of Jesus we just heard was autobiographical. That may well be true. Jesus certainly had to face a whole lot of apparent failure. He knew full well the pain of failure:

•  He was born and raised in Nazareth and his own hometown folks rejected Him.
•  His own Hebrew countrymen rejected His message.
•  His handpicked twelve apostles? Well, one of them sold Him out for thirty pieces of silver and the others fled when He was crucified.
•  Peter wasn’t too swift to take His message to heart, Thomas was the doubter, and the others weren’t much better either.

Elijah, long before Christ, along with Jeremiah and other prophets as well, were notable failures, most of them being taken outside the walls of Jerusalem and then stoned to death.

Up to this point my remarks all sound terribly dismal and discouraging. But my point today is that we need to remember that Jesus did not let apparent failure stop Him. In His parable, Jesus went on to speak about a crop that yielded a harvest in successful amounts, some yields bringing spectacular success. Today’s Gospel parable is not a dirge – it is a celebration; it is a story of hope, not of despair.

Any Crisis has within it both danger and opportunity. True there are evils that surround us, but many of those evils are slowly being overcome. God is at work among us bringing good out of evil. We must remember that in the hands of God the slightest good can be multiplied to feed thousands if we would but hand our efforts into His care and providence.

You and I, like all good farmers who continually face floods and disasters of every sort, need to seriously engage ourselves in the enterprise of faith and hope, planting what we have, planting the best of what we have, and then letting God’s sun, wind, and gentle rains do the rest. God’s only-begotten Son, along with the gentle breath of His Holy Spirit, provide waters of grace to nourish and sustain what He has planted in the lives of those we love. The best years of our lives, and the best that we have given to others in them, or are giving right now, or will give in the future, will not be fruitless.

Many times, I am called upon to console distraught parents who poured out all of their love and faith into their children, taught them the Catholic faith, sent them to religious education classes, or to Catholic schools, only to have them, as adults, leave our Church and go elsewhere, many times to a type of religion that requires little if any faith but which gives good feelings. We must remember in such cases that the love and the faith that we’ve planted in the hearts of those around us, particularly in the hearts and souls of our children, will eventually blossom. The hopes and dreams that we’ve planted in others, even when they seem to be buried under too much dirt, will germinate, grow, and yield a harvest of some extent, even if our efforts do not now appear to be unqualified successes.

But that is life – and Jesus knew it. His parable could well have been autobiographical for it is truly a vignette of His life.

Sure, our world is a mess now, but it always has been. We need to see that there is also an amazing amount of goodness in it. The greatest miracle of all isn’t found at Lourdes, or Fatima, or Medjugorje, it’s found in those around us, in those who are, in spite of terrible odds, yielding up love, kindness, caring, and sensitivity thirty, sixty and a hundred-fold. We have our modern-day heroes among us who are leading us as never before in efforts to rid our world of oppression, racism, and injustice.

And so, O Christian, keep on planting God’s good seeds in the lives of those near to you. For God Himself has said through His prophet Isaiah that His Word shall go forth from His mouth “… and it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

Faith and hope are what should be in our hearts, not defeat and despair.

Well, then, what do we mean by success? Who do we regard as having led successful lives? Have the rich and famous led successful lives?

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a famous American who was a prolific essayist, lecturer, and poet. Having moved away from the Christian religion he led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. It was a philosophy not associated with any particular religion. He was seen as a champion of individualism. Allow me to share with you one of his most famous quotes:

To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a little better place than we found it, whether by a healthy child, a garden path, or a redeemed social condition, to know even one life breathed easier because you lived, this is to have succeeded.

Nice thoughts, to be sure. But we might ask ourselves, where is Christ in them?

You and I are Christians, Catholic Christians to be exact. We believe that at the end of our lives we will meet Christ face to face. How will He judge us? What are the criteria by which we will be judged?

St. Matthew in the 25th Chapter of his gospel account gives us a very big clue.

Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’

It seems to me that if what we did in our lives to meet those standards we will have gone a long way to have lived a successful life.

May you and I pass the test.

July 15, 2017

St. Bonaventure’s Prayer to Our Lord

Saint Bonaventure

Pierce, O most sweet Lord Jesus, my inmost soul with the most joyous and healthful wound of Thy love, and with true, calm and most holy apostolic charity, that my soul may ever languish and melt with entire love and longing for Thee, may yearn for Thee and for thy courts, may long to be dissolved and to be with Thee.

Grant that my soul may hunger after Thee, the Bread of Angels, the refreshment of holy souls, our daily and super substantial bread, having all sweetness and savor and every delightful taste. May my heart ever hunger after and feed upon Thee, Whom the angels desire to look upon, and may my inmost soul be filled with the sweetness of Thy savor; may it ever thirst for Thee, the fountain of life, the fountain of wisdom and knowledge, the fountain of eternal light, the torrent of pleasure, the fullness of the house of God; may it ever compass Thee, seek Thee, find Thee, run to Thee, come up to Thee, meditate on Thee, speak of Thee, and do all for the praise and glory of Thy name, with humility and discretion, with love and delight, with ease and affection, with perseverance to the end; and be Thou alone ever my hope, my entire confidence, my riches, my delight, my pleasure, my joy, my rest and tranquility, my peace, my sweetness, my food, my refreshment, my refuge, my help, my wisdom, my portion, my possession, my treasure; in Whom may my mind and my heart be ever fixed and firm and rooted immovably. Amen.

July 14, 2017

St. Bonaventure, Franciscan Doctor of the Church

St. Bonaventure

Memorial of St. Bonaventure - July 15th

Legend has it that it was Saint Francis of Assisi who gave Saint Bonaventure his name, long before anyone else realized to what heights this young boy would ascend. As a child, Bonaventure — who was baptized John — became seriously ill. His mother, hoping that the saint would intercede with God on behalf of her son, brought him to St. Francis. Francis did pray for the boy and he was made well. The saint also foresaw a great future for the child. "O Buona ventura!" (O Good Fortune!) Francis was reported to have exclaimed, and the name stuck. Whether or not there is truth to this story is debatable; however, Bonaventure went on to live a life of compassion, holiness, and remarkable scholarship, leaving an indelible imprint on the Franciscan Order and the Universal Church.

Born in the town of Bagnoregio, Italy, around the year 1217, the boy who would become the saint grew up in relative obscurity. Little is known of his early years; even the exact year of his birth is uncertain. It was only when he entered the Franciscan Order at the age of 22, that any reliable information about him becomes available. Recognizing his superb intellectual gifts, Bonaventure was sent to Paris to study under Alexander of Hales, one of the most outstanding Scholastic theologians of his day. Praised by that scholar for his "virtue and brilliance," Bonaventure went on to teach in Paris with another intellectual giant, Saint Thomas Aquinas. Both became friends of the French king, Saint Louis IX.

Bonaventure  became minister general of the Franciscan Order in 1257 at the age of 36. This was a more difficult position than it might appear on the surface because at the time, the Franciscan Order was suffering from internal divisions between two factions, each of whom interpreted the Rule of St. Francis of Assisi differently. Bonaventure not only reconciled these groups, thereby bringing unity to the Order, but he also wrote a biography of St. Francis, which helped elucidate and clarify the true ideals and teachings of the great Franciscan mystic and saint.

His wisdom and charity also led him to preside at the Second Council of Lyons, which was convened in 1274 and attempted to reestablish the unity of the Church following the 1054 schism between the Western Church governed by the pope at Rome, and the Eastern Church headed by the patriarch of Constantinople. The agreements reached at this meeting were short-lived, only lasting until 1289.

In the midst of this council, on July 15, 1274, St. Bonaventure died. The pope and all those in attendance were shocked and grief-stricken. A contemporary chronicler described their feelings about the saint this way: "A man of eminent learning and eloquence, and of outstanding holiness, he was known for his kindness, gentleness, and compassion. Full of virtue, he was beloved of both God and man, whoever came to know him was at once drawn to a deep love of him."

Because of his formidable intellect and wisdom, St. Bonaventure, who is a Doctor of the Church, has also acquired the sobriquet “the Seraphic” or angelic doctor.  In him the ideals and virtues of St. Francis of Assisi came together in such a way that he not only helped transform the Franciscan Order, but also enriched the Universal Church.  Grant, we pray, almighty God, that, just as we celebrate the heavenly birthday of the Bishop Saint Bonaventure, we may benefit from his great learning and constantly imitate the ardor of his charity. Through our Lord Jesus Christ who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen.

Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 16, 2017, Year A

The Parable of the Sower.

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

Before my present assignment, I was pastor in a small parish in Vermont. The former pastor, Fr. Paul, lived with me, and one of his greatest interests was his garden, one of the most famous in town, not huge—just four raised beds—but always early and always lush. One of the secrets of his success was the soil, just the right mix of soil and his own rich home-made compost, completely organic, no chemicals. Just like the fourth illustration in the Parable of the Sower. Not for nothing he used to say he never felt so close to God as in his garden.

I don’t suppose the yield was a hundredfold, but there were plenty of fresh vegetables through the summer, and plenty for canning and freezing. (My specialty was soups.) We ate well on a very moderate budget.

One thing Fr. Paul couldn’t plan. The weather. If it was dry, he could water his garden. If it was too cold, the eggplants would complain; too wet, and the tomatoes would sulk and fail to produce as expected.

That’s where Isaiah’s prophecy comes in. God compares his word to the rain and snow that do not return to him until they have accomplished their purpose and his. We find a similar image in St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth” (or, if you prefer: “God gave the increase”). Today’s reading from Romans uses a very different image: labor pains.

Seed, soil, rain, and labor pains, all ultimately evoke the same image: producing fruit.

The fruit itself is not just one thing. Jesus’ parable refers to grain, probably wheat or barley. No tomatoes, no eggplant, though cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic are mentioned in the Old Testament; but it seems unlikely they would be planted in the way described.

From a figurative point of view, the fruit can be many things. One thinks immediately of good works, after the manner of Blessed Mother Teresa and St. John Bosco. One thinks also of conversions, like that of St. Augustine or Edith Stein.

St. Teresa of Avila saw the fruit as prayer. Instead of focusing on the quality of the soil, however, she considered the watering of the soil. Just as in our parable of today, she reflects on four options.

Option 1: You go to the well, back and forth, back and forth, until your garden is properly watered. This is good, but requires a lot of effort. You pray a lot, you reflect a lot, you stave off distractions as best you can.

Option 2: You set up a system of water wheels and aqueducts. You turn a crank until the garden is watered. (You might also think of a hand-pump at a well.) This requires less effort. You get more water in less time. Your prayer has become simpler and easier.

Option 3: You set up an irrigation system from a nearby river or stream. You just need to keep the system maintained.

Option 4: Rain. Here, of course, you actually do nothing. God gives the increase. Your prayer becomes his work.

Unlike the four kinds of soil, these four levels of prayer all produce fruit. The difference lies in how much we do and how much God does. The more our prayer becomes God’s work, the better the quality and more abundant the quantity of fruits.

Still it is not a choice of which “option” I shall choose. Everyone begins at the beginning. There are no deadlines. Nor is there any expectation that everyone move through all four levels. A spiritual director can help a person discern if and when the passage from one kind of prayer to another is taking place. Sometimes the transition is an uncomfortable experience. But remaining at any one level is never a failure. Prayer of any kind is the fruit of good seed sown in good soil.

Years ago, I attended a series of talks on prayer by the Director of the Jesuit Center for Spirituality in Rome, Fr. Herbert Alphonso, S.J. I will never forget the conclusion of the last talk. “How should you pray?” he asked, and then answered his own question, “Pray as you can.”

This applies ultimately to more than prayer. If we are good soil ready to receive good seed, there is so much possible fruit of so many varieties to bear, and God’s word will not return to him empty.

What fruit should bear? Bear the fruit that you can.

July 13, 2017

Memorial of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

July 14th is the Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to ever be declared a saint by the Catholic Church. She is venerated for her purity, deep devotion and unflinching personal courage, The diocese of Albany has two shrines dedicated to St. Kateri. also known by the title, “Lily of the Mohawk.”

Kateri was born near present day Auriesville, New York in 1656. She was the daughter of a Mohawk chief and a Christian mother and, as such, was entitled to all the privileges that were part of being a princess among her people.

When she was four years of age, smallpox raged through her village, killing her parents and leaving Kateri scarred and partially blind. Despite this, her lineage still made her a desirable marriage partner; however, she enraged both her uncle, who had adopted her, and her tribe when she told them of her decision to remain a virgin.

Kateri was baptized on Easter Sunday, 1676 and was immediately taken to a Jesuit Indian mission near Montreal to protect her from the resulting hostility of her people. There she spent the rest of her life in deep prayer and penance.

In 1680, she became ill once again and died shortly after. It is said that on her deathbed, all her smallpox scars vanished, leaving her skin unblemished. Kateri Tekakwitha was beatified by Saint John Paul II in 1980. She has been declared, together with St. Francis of Assisi, co-patron of ecology and the environment. Almighty God, who desired the Virgin St. Kateri Tekakwitha to flower among Native Americans in a life of innocence, grant, through her intercession, that when all are gathered to you, they may magnify you in a single song of praise.

July 12, 2017

Pope Benedict XVI on the Meaning of True Discipleship

Pope Benedict XVI
[W]hen the believer enters into a profound relationship with God he cannot be content with living in a mediocre way, with a minimalist ethic and superficial religiosity. In this light, one understands better the expression… “Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.”

Holiness consists in this valid proposal for every Christian that has become a true pastoral imperative in our time, in which one perceives the need to anchor life and history in solid spiritual references.
— Pope Benedict XVI

Prayer For Devotion to God

Show favor, O Lord, to your servants and mercifully increase the gifts of your grace, that, made fervent in hope, faith and charity, they may be ever watchful in keeping your commands. 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.

Optional Memorial of St. Henry II

Saint Henry the Pious

July 13th

Henry, surnamed the Pious, Duke of Bavaria, became successively King of Germany and Emperor of the Romans; but not satisfied with a mere temporal principality, he strove to gain an immortal crown, by paying zealous service to the eternal King. As emperor, he devoted himself earnestly to spreading religion, and rebuilt with great magnificence the churches which had been destroyed by the infidels, endowing them generously both with money and lands. He built monasteries and other pious establishments, and increased the income of others; the bishopric of Bamberg, which he had founded out of his family possessions, he made tributary to St. Peter and the Roman Pontiff. When Benedict VIII, who had crowned him emperor, was obliged to seek safety in flight, Henry received him and restored him to his see.

Once when he was suffering from a severe illness in the monastery of Monte Cassino, St. Benedict cured him by a wonderful miracle. He endowed the Roman Church with a most copious grant, undertook in her defense a war against the Greeks, and gained possession of Apulia, which they had held for some time. It was his custom to undertake nothing without prayer, and at times he saw the angel of the Lord, or the holy martyrs, his patrons, fighting for him at the head of his army. Aided thus by the divine protection, he overcame barbarous nations more by prayer than by arms. Hungary was still pagan; but Henry having given his sister in marriage to its King Stephen, the latter was baptized, and thus the whole nation was brought to the faith of Christ. He set the rare example of preserving virginity in the married state, and at his death restored his wife, St. Cunigund, a virgin to her family.

He arranged everything relating to the glory or advantage of his empire with the greatest prudence, and left scattered throughout Gaul, Italy, and Germany, traces of his munificence towards religion. The sweet odor of his heroic virtue spread far and wide, till he was more celebrated for his holiness than for his imperial dignity.

At length, his life's work was accomplished, and he was called by our Lord to the rewards of the heavenly kingdom, in the year of salvation 1024. His body was buried in the church of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul at Bamberg. God wished to glorify His servant, and many miracles were worked at his tomb. These being afterwards proved and certified, Eugenius III inscribed his name upon the catalogue of the saints. O God, whose abundant grace prepared Saint Henry to be raised by you in a wonderful way from the cares of earthly rule to heavenly realms, grant, we pray, through his intercession, that amid the uncertainties of this world we may hasten towards you with minds made pure.

Adapted excerpt from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.

Of Galileo & Yoga: A World that Values Only Subjective Experiences Cares Nothing for Catholicism’s Truths

Galileo Galilei

By Father Thomas Mattison

Galileo created a new hierarchy of truths. Tradition, authority, Scripture, philosophy, theology, all the well-known sources of truth, goodness and beauty were now to be subjected to one single new criterion – scientific proof. Thus, did the good become the useful; the true, the practical; and the beautiful, the appealing. Modern science has challenged Galileo’s deductions, but modern education and, certainly, the education that many of us received, is still frozen in the icy grip of the 16th century.

Which brings me to yoga.

A world and culture that values nothing but its own material-based experiences cares nothing for the claims of religion or the origins of classical spiritualities and the views of God and man that underlie them. Thus, any eighth grader will tell you that he likes this part of this religion but another part of another; and the fundamental incompatibility of the religions that he has dismembered and reassembled into what he calls his “spirituality” means nothing. After all, only the objectively verifiable must be accepted, and the truth claims of religion escape such verification because they are grounded in faith.

That is how yoga came to be the middle-aged, middle class vogue of the day. Its verifiable benefits to those who practice it make it desirable. The religious motivation that led ancient Hindus to elaborate this system of motion and rest as a counterweight to an unbridled pursuit of the merely pleasurable or desirable is just irrelevant.

I am not against Galileo or yoga. But the thought that people can justify anything and everything by a mere appeal to utility or pleasure or private taste, creates a culture of self-indulgence and entitlement. Worse, for sure, is the fact that a culture of self-indulgence and entitlement is one in which there can be no consensus, in which there can be no broadly shared values, no vision of what one might call the common good. It cannot become, as Hinduism was, the womb of any spiritual greatness.

The western adoption of yoga is all of a piece with the “cafeteria” brand of Catholicism that flourishes in so many homes and hearts. Catholicism is so large and varied that one cannot do it all. On must be fine, then, in choosing what one will do … or, maybe, in choosing to do none at all … and all the while, calling oneself “catholic.”

"Catholic yoga," if I may dare to call it that, would lead to such practices as kneeling up straight in church, genuflecting carefully and reverently, participating actively in practices that are uncommon – chastity, fasting, almsgiving, weekly attendance at Mass. All of these are physical and mental disciplines that arose over centuries of Church life as expressions of a worldview and a religious faith, just as yoga arose in Hinduism.

Neither set of practices makes a lot of sense apart from its religious matrix, although it is easy to see them for what they are as soon as one leaves aside the Galileo-ian spectacles.

At the last, I guess, it is not yoga that troubles me. It is the superficiality with which this exotic practice is embraced and the shallow attention to what is one’s own that makes for such sloppiness on the home front.

Fr. Thomas Mattison is pastor of Christ Our Savior Parish in Manchester Center and Arlington Vermont.

July 11, 2017

Sts. Louis and Zélia Martin, Patrons of Marriage

Saint Louis and Zélia Martin

Optional Memorial - July 12th

Louis Martin was born in Bordeaux in 1823 and baptised Louis-Joseph-Aloys-Stanislaus. He grew up in Alençon and after school learned clock-making eventually opening his own watch-making and jewellery business on the rue du Pont-Neuf in Alençon. As a young man, he wished to become a priest but it was not to be. Prayer was an important part of his life. He liked reading, fishing and walking in the countryside. His travels included his well-known pilgrimage to Rome in 1887 with his daughters Thérèse and Céline on the occasion of which Thérèse, not yet 15 years old, asked Leo XIII for permission to enter Carmel.

Zélie Guérin (christened Marie-Azélie) was born in 1831 near Alençon. She had a strong faith. She too wished to embrace the religious life and again it was not to be. Much is written of her great energy and capacity for work. She became a talented maker of Alençon point lace and started her own business in Alençon.

When Zélie was 26 years old she encountered Louis Martin on the Bridge of St Leonard over the Sarthe River in Alençon and had a premonition that they would marry. Three months later on 13 July 1858 the wedding took place in the Church of Notre-Dame now the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Alençon.

The couple lived in Alençon, initially at 15 rue du Pont-Neuf and later at 35 rue Saint-Blaise, where St Thérèse was born. They had nine children only five of whom survived infancy and early childhood. The surviving children were Marie, Pauline, Léonie, Céline and Thérèse all of whom embraced the religious life. Marie, Pauline, Céline and Thérèse became Carmelite Sisters in Lisieux and were known respectively as Sr Marie of the Sacred Heart, Mother Agnes of Jesus, Sr Geneviève of the Holy Face and Sr Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. Léonie became a Visitantine Sister, in Caen, and was called Sr Françoise Thérèse.

Their youngest daughter, Thérèse was only 4-years-old when Zélie died in 1877. After this Louis and his five daughters moved to Les Buissonnets in Lisieux. In 1887 Thérèse asked for and received her father’s permission to enter Carmel which she did in 1888. St Louis and St Zélie Martin, today we turn to you in prayer. By fulfilling the duties of your state in life and practicing the evangelical virtues as spouses and parents, you modelled for us an exemplary Christian life.

Adapted excerpted courtesy of Saint Therese of Lisieux.

July 10, 2017

St. Benedict of Nursia, Abbot, the Father of Western Monasticism

Saint Benedict of Nursia

July 11th, is the Memorial of Saint Benedict of Nursia, the 6th-century abbot who established Christian monasticism in the West. In his capacity as the "Father of Western Monasticism," St. Benedict is co-patron of Europe (together with Saints Cyril and Methodius). Pope Benedict XVI named him the patron of his pontificate.

Born in Nursia, Italy, he was educated in Rome, was repelled by the vices of the city and in about 500 fled to Enfide, thirty miles away. He decided to live the life of a hermit and settled at mountainous Subiaco, where he lived in a cave for three years, fed by a monk named Romanus.

Despite Benedict's desire for solitude, his holiness and austerities became known and he was asked to be their abbot by a community of monks at Vicovaro. He accepted, but when the monks resisted his strict rule and tried to poison him, he returned to Subiaco and soon attracted great numbers of disciples. He organized them into twelve monasteries under individual priors he appointed, made manual work part of the program, and soon Subiaco became a center of spirituality and learning. He left suddenly, reportedly because of the efforts of a neighboring priest, Florentius, to undermine his work, and in 525 settled at Monte Cassino.

He destroyed a pagan temple to Apollo on its crest, brought the people of the neighboring area back to Christianity, and in about 530 began to build the monastery that was to be the birthplace of Western monasticism. Soon disciples again flocked to him as his reputation for holiness, wisdom, and miracles spread far and wide. He organized the monks into a single monastic community and wrote his famous rule prescribing common sense, a life of moderate asceticism, prayer, study, and work, and community life under one superior. It stressed obedience, stability, zeal, and had the Divine Office as the center of monastic life; it was to affect spiritual and monastic life in the West for centuries to come.

While ruling his monks (most of whom, including Benedict, were not ordained), he counseled rulers and Popes, ministered to the poor and destitute about him, and tried to repair the ravages of the Lombard Totila's invasion. He died at Monte Cassino on March 21. St. Benedict, pray for us to love God with all our hearts.

Adapted excerpted from the Dictionary of Saints, John J. Delaney.

July 9, 2017

Reflection for the Memorial of St. Benedict of Nursia

Saint Benedict of Nursia

Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot, July 11, 2017

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

Proverbs 2:1-9, Psalm 34, Matthew 19:27-29

Then you will understand the fear of the Lord; the
  knowledge of God you will find. (Prv 2:5)

[On July 11th, the Church celebrates] the feast of St. Benedict of Nursia, the father of western monasticism. St. Benedict lived from 480-547, and wrote his Rule, which has governed monastic life ever since. Those who have given up everything and entered monastic life have done so in order to fulfill one goal: to seek God. Prayer, work, obedience, simplicity of life, and stability guide the daily living of monastic life and thus guide the monk in his solitary goal of life.

Seeking God is not the activity only of monks and nuns in monasteries. Rather, it is the task given to all of the baptized. And while most of us will not enter monastic life, there is an “inner monk” within us that compels us to seek God in our individual vocations and lives, whether as a diocesan priest, as principal of a high school, as members of families, married or single. Seeking God takes place in the here and now, in this situation, with these people, in this family, this workplace, this school, and in this time. It is not only for those holy monks; it is for me! In his Rule, St. Benedict gives the world the roadmap to seeking God. Prayer, work, obedience, simplicity of life, and stability help monks seek God; adapted, they can help the rest of us, too.

The monastic day is bookmarked by prayer early in the morning and in the evening, along with several moments of communal prayer throughout the day. For anyone seeking God, prayer has to become the primary activity of the day. It cannot be put aside for “more pressing” matters. Prayer is the first priority of one’s day, and all other activities of work, home, and family work around it. Monks pray the Liturgy of the Hours seven times a day, which lay people can also pray if they so desire. However one prays, time with the Lord is a necessary component in seeking Him. The Eucharist is the heart of prayer, and anyone seriously seeking God ought to consider it a daily practice, if possible. It is in those moments of spending time with the Lord that the person will detect His presence in his heart and soul.

Monks work in order to support themselves. Monasteries are known for their products or the educational services they provide in order to fund their lifestyle. Work in monastic life is a means to an end; it provides the independence the monastery needs for a lifestyle conducive to prayer. In work the human person shares in God’s creative activity. Through his work, the human person can find meaning and purpose. One’s gifts and talents are often put to use in work; it is an expression of one’s vocation. One can see the hand of God in work, and thus detect His presence

In monastic life, the abbot or abbess holds the place of Christ, and the monks or nuns are expected to live in obedience to the person in that office. God is obeyed in following the direction of the abbot. Obedience to God’s will is an important part of seeking God. Giving one’s life over to Him in trust and confidence is a major step in life. Monastic life also reminds us that when a legitimate superior asks us to do something, even if that task seems unwanted or beyond one’s reach, it might just be God calling! He works through others, most especially those in whose care we find ourselves. Be open to God’s call and direction, and know He often works through others.

Monks vow a stable life. It is incumbent on the new monk that he understand that his life will be lived in this monastery, within these walls, until death do them part. There is no running away at the first sight of a problem; God has called you to be here. Within that monastery, monks live a simple life. Unencumbered by material things or the noisemakers of modern life, monks focus on the task at hand: seeking God. Each of us outside of monastic life also needs stability. Be rooted in the present. Continuing to run or move will never allow the time or space needed to seek God. While the lives of monks will be simpler then yours or mine, unencumber yourself from those possessions that hold you back from the most important task of your life: seeking God. A stable, simple life will help you find God

Prayer, work, obedience, stability, and simplicity of life marks the life of monks. In developing the “inner monk” within you, take what you can from the monastic lifestyle to find God in your life.

For What Purpose Did God Create Adam and Eve?

The creation of Eve

From the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

66. In what sense do we understand man and woman as created "in the image of God"?

The human person is created in the image of God in the sense that he or she is capable of knowing and of loving their Creator in freedom. Human beings are the only creatures on earth that God has willed for their own sake and has called to share, through knowledge and love, in his own divine life. All human beings, in as much as they are created in the image of God, have the dignity of a person. A person is not something but someone, capable of self-knowledge and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with God and with other persons.

67. For what purpose did God create man and woman?

God has created everything for them; but he has created them to know, serve and love God, to offer all of creation in this world in thanksgiving back to him and to be raised up to life with him in heaven. Only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of the human person come into true light. Man and woman are predestined to reproduce the image of the Son of God made Man who is the perfect "image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15).

The First Sin and the Fall of Man

Before the first sin, the entire world was a temple in which human beings worshiped the one true God. Man fully possessed original goodness and original justice. With Adam’s sin, the world at large stopped being a temple. It became necessary to build a temple where God could be worshiped. Moreover, man had to purify himself before entering this sacred space. Everything in the created world was profaned including human nature, our relationship to beauty, truth and goodness, our relationship with the natural world, our relationships with each other, and our relationship with God. All creation yearned for its promised Savior.

Death Through Adam, Life Through Christ, "the New Adam"

Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned*— for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law.i But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.j
Grace and Life through Christ. But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many.

And the gift is not like the result of the one person’s sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal. For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ. In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all. (Romans 5:12-18) Christ our Savior, help us love you completely.

July 7, 2017

Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 9, 2017, Year A

The Sermon on the Mount

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

When you hear the expression “sins of the flesh,” what kind of sins do you think of?

That’s what I thought.

Do you suppose that was all St. Paul had on his mind when he wrote to the Romans, “We are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh”? Remember what he wrote to the Galatians about what he calls the “works” of the flesh. The list is impressive, fifteen sins. Yes, it includes impurity and licentiousness, but also idolatry, rivalry, factions, outbursts of fury, and selfishness, to name only half of them.

What these all have in common is that they take what is good and honest in our nature and then twist them and distort them. Let me give a few examples to explain what I mean.

Impurity and licentiousness are a distortion of the natural and beautiful mutual attraction between men and women.

Selfishness is a distortion of appropriate self-esteem.

Factions are a distortion of the need for community and cooperation.

Outbursts of fury are a distortion of a proper sense of self-preservation.

Why does this happen? Because of our fallen nature, also known as our tendency to want what we want when we want it.

Nothing could be further from the way Jesus describes himself in the Gospel. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,” he says, “for I am meek and humble of heart.”

When you hear the word “meek,” what image comes to mind? Self-effacing? Jesus wasn’t self-effacing. Timid? Quiet? Shy? Passive? None of those, obviously.

The first reading, from the prophet Zechariah, gives us a clue. There we read, “See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass.” No chariots, no warrior’s bow. In fact, he will banish them, along with the horse. He rides a donkey, not an animal associated with battle. He will proclaim peace. No military hero he. Meek is the opposite of warlike.

The dominant image of a hero has been, in most of human history and not surprisingly, a military one. Exceptional bravery, above and beyond the call of duty, has always been recognized and admired. Even in the Bible, most of the “heroes” are found in the Book of Judges, the most famous being Gideon and Samson. They saved the Hebrews from their oppressors. They were saviors.

Sometimes people who do something exceptional to help others are called “heroes.” There is no reason to begrudge them the honor, especially when it comes from the persons they have helped. They themselves, however, are often meek in the face of the attention they get, insisting they just did what anyone might have done. A good example is Louis Zamperini, who died at the age of 97. He was called a hero because he survived, incredibly, against impossible odds in World War II. His response: “They gave me three medals. What for?”

Jesus was no Samson. Nevertheless, he is the Savior, the great hero. He fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy not only in a literal sense with his solemn entry intro Jerusalem before his passion, but also in many ways throughout his life and ministry.

And yet, he calls himself meek, perhaps because the last thing he wants is for us to fear him. “Come to me,” he says, “I will give you rest.”

So we have in Jesus a “meek hero”—oxymoronic as that might sound.

If we look back at St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, we find that he speaks of neither meekness nor courage. But his call “not to be debtors to the flesh” actually requires both. It takes courage not to live “by the flesh;” it takes meekness, too, the honest recognition that we are too easily tempted.

Meekness and courage, therefore, are not opposites. In fact, it can require a lot of courage to remain meek in certain circumstances, as Jesus himself demonstrated. And Jesus, here as always, is our model.

Sometimes we need courage. Sometimes we need meekness. Most times we need both.