August 31, 2017

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Novena for Marriage and Families 2017 | Day 3

Nativity of the Virgin Mary

September 1, 2017

Society is built and sustained by families. The sacred foundation of the family is marriage. Today, the family and marriage are under attack. But this did not happen in a vacuum. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput observed, “No society can sustain itself for long if marriage and the family fall apart on a mass scale.” When marriages suffer, families suffer, and society breaks down. Love is rooted in sacrifices, and each member of the family must make many sacrifices. Let us pray that the sacrifices we make are made joyfully. Blessed Virgin, pray for us.

Nativity of the Virgin Mary Novena for Marriage and Families - Day 3

Say the following three times:

Jesus, I trust in You. Please grant through Your mother’s intercession that I may always bring Your hope into my family.

Then say:

Our Lady, on this feast of your birth, please pray for stronger and holier marriages. Amen.

Immaculate daughter of Saints Joachim and Anne, you are the door to the Eternal Word who made you the source of His Sacred Blood. You are a model for all Christian sons and daughters. Pray for me today that the feast of your birth may give great joy to my soul and that I may have a greater devotion to your Son’s Precious Blood.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Impart to your servants, we pray, O Lord, the gift of heavenly grace, that the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin may bring deeper peace to those for whom the birth of her Son was the dawning of salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, forever. Amen.

Blessed John Henry Newman on the Pastoral Office

Blessed John Henry Newman

Thus, every pastor must strive to deepen the understanding of his pastoral office as an instrument of sustaining communion of faith within the body of Christ; he is to grow in fellowship with his bishop — the custodian of the apostolic faith in the diocese; and he must not tire of exercising this office by teaching the revealed truth to his flock, celebrating the Mass with them, and governing his flock in pastoral charity.

— Blessed John Henry Newman
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Prayer for the Canonization of Bl. John Henry Newman

Eternal Father, You led John Henry Newman to follow the kindly light of Truth, and he obediently responded to your heavenly calls at any cost. As writer, preacher, counsellor and educator, as pastor, Oratorian, and servant of the poor he labored to build up your Kingdom. Grant that through your Vicar on Earth we may hear the words, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter into the company of the canonized saints.' In the name of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Saint Giles, Abbot and Confessor

St. Giles

Feast Day - September 1st

In our culture that often promotes self-aggrandizement, the life of Saint Giles serves as a reminder that it is humility that is actually the road to true greatness. He is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, a group of saints the Church venerates because their intercession is believed to be particularly effective against various diseases. The designation dates to the 14th century in the Rhineland. It began as a devotion seeking their aid during the bubonic plague known as the Black Death.

Although we do not know the exact date of his birth, scholars speculate that it was sometime in the middle of the 7th century A.D. What is fairly certain is that he was born into a noble Athenian family, and that he left his native country for France, following the death of both his parents. In the depth of a forest near Nimes, he lived in the hollow of a rock in a green glade shaded by four gigantic oaks. When his reputation for piety and miracle-working spread, it would lead to immense renown and adulation that the future saint neither sought nor desired.

For several years he lived the life of a poor hermit, meditating constantly and conversing only with God. His sole companion was a female deer that, ironically, was the instrument through which he was discovered. She was chased into Giles’ cave one day by the King’s hunting party, and an arrow meant for the animal accidentally struck Giles instead. Impressed by the holiness of the hermit, the King [Flavius, king of the Visigoths] sent his own doctors to care for his wound.

Though Giles refused to leave his solitude, the King continued to visit him and eventually built a monastery near his cave to house all those who wished to follow in Giles’ footsteps. St. Giles died sometime between 710 and 724. He is the patron saint of beggars and the disabled, and was one of the most popular saints in the Middle Ages. Grant, we beseech you, O Lord, that the prayers of your holy Abbot, blessed Giles may commend us unto you: that we, who have no power of ourselves, may by his advocacy find favor with you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, for ever. Amen.

August 30, 2017

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Novena for Marriage and Families 2017 | Day 2

Nativity of the Virgin Mary

August 31, 2017

Society is built and sustained by families. The sacred foundation of the family is marriage. Today, the family and marriage are under attack. However, this did not happen in a vacuum. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has observed, “No society can sustain itself for long if marriage and the family fall apart on a mass scale.” When marriages suffer, families suffer, and society breaks down. Today, we pray for an increase in holiness, that we may grow to be better members of our families. We pray also for the strength and will to attain this grace. Blessed Virgin, pray for us.

Nativity of the Virgin Mary Novena for Marriage and Families - Day 2

Say the following three times:

Jesus, I trust in You. Please grant through Your mother’s intercession that I may always bring Your hope into my family.

Then say:

Our Lady, on this feast of your birth, please pray for stronger and holier marriages. Amen.

O most holy daughter of Adam, your precious Son chose you as the vessel for his entry into the world. Where our first mother, Eve, fell short, you fulfilled God’s call for a Mother’s holiness. Pray for me today that the feast of your birth may give great joy to my soul that I may be born to new life through your Son.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Impart to your servants, we pray, O Lord, the gift of heavenly grace, that the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin may bring deeper peace to those for whom the birth of her Son was the dawning of salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, forever. Amen.

Homily for the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 3, 2017, Year A

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

Domine, quo vadis? (Lord, where are you going?)
(Click here for today’s readings)

In the 1932 edition of the Rule of a certain religious order you find this statement: “The professed [= members with vows] cannot be denied anything that is necessary. However, the Superiors occasionally try their inferiors, by giving them an opportunity to feel some privation, and to be made aware of the fact that the poor cannot have everything they could wish for.”

How times have changed! The language of “superiors” and “inferiors” is gone from the latest edition (1982), and the very idea of those in charge deliberately depriving others of what they need is unthinkable, repugnant even.

Certain things made perfect sense in 1932; they made no sense at all fifty years later. That said, members of religious orders are still by definition different, counter-cultural. They still take the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, which makes them different from most people.

When St. Paul writes, “Do not conform yourselves to this age,” however, he is not speaking to a religious order, but to the Christians of Rome. He is telling them all to be counter-cultural. The word “conform” comes from the word “form;” it has to do with “fashion,” in the broad sense, with life-style. The phrase could just as easily read, “Do not adopt the fashion of this age.”

Paul’s point is that the Christian way of life ought not to be subject to the fickleness of fashion. A poet named William Cowper wrote in 1785, “Variety’s the very spice of life, / that gives it all its flavour.” The poem was a satire, and the poet understood full well that, as the saying goes, in fashion one day you’re in, and the next day you’re out. The following of Christ is not a fashion statement.

Jesus is even more forceful. We have to deny ourselves! In spiritual writings, this is often called “mortification,” a putting to death. Very unfashionable.

A partial list of “unfashionable behaviors,” or attitudes of mortification, that might be expected of us could include the following: I do not necessarily deserve everything I want. (Ever notice the number of ads that claim you “deserve” a particular product?) — It’s not enough for something to be legal to make it right. (Think about tax loopholes, for example.) — If I serve God that doesn't guarantee I’ll have an easy life, or even succeed in what I am trying to do for him. (Consult Jeremiah in today’s first reading.)

Here’s another: people who disagree with me are not necessarily idiots or demons. (Think of the level of much political discourse.)

Speaking of demons, Peter contradicts Jesus and Jesus calls him Satan, which means adversary or accuser. In last week’s Gospel, remember, Jesus gave him the name “Peter” (“Rock”). Simon Peter little realized in that moment that the day would come when, far from denying himself, he would be denying Jesus! That was his real “Satan” day.

There are many ways of denying Christ. Conforming to this age is one of them

We admire people who are able to make personal sacrifices for the sake of others, or for what they believe in. In this spirit, St. Ignatius, who founded the Jesuits, wrote this beautiful prayer:
Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty,
my memory, my understanding and my whole will.
All that I am and all that I possess You have given me.
I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will.
Give me only Your love and Your grace;
with these I will be rich enough,
and will desire nothing more.
Admirable, but hardly fashionable! Just the right thing for saints, but not for the rest of us, surely.

Guess again! Whether we like it or not (and most likely we don’t), Jesus and Paul are saying we have to choose between the world and Jesus or, more accurately, between ourselves and Jesus. This can take many forms—personal convenience vs. another’s need; personal opinion vs. Gospel teaching; easy Christianity vs. the call to Christian perfection; etc.—and it’s never easy. Never was. Never will be.

That’s why Jesus calls it a cross.

Feast of Saints Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus

Christ taken down from the cross

Feast Day - August 31st

In the latest edition of the Roman Martyrology, the Church has coupled the feast of Saints Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, the two holy men who took the Body of Jesus down from the Cross, helped wrap it in linen cloth and placed it in the tomb. They were both Jews who came to follow Christ at personal great risk. Their devotion to Jesus at the culmination of our Lord's Passion testifies to the charismatic power and transformative nature of Christ’s message and mission.

All that is reliably known about these two saints is found in the Gospel passages that mention them. Both were apparently men of authority and means in the first century Jewish community in Jerusalem, and both were respected members of the Sanhedrin there. Each had secretly become a disciple of Jesus, although until His salvific death neither of them spoke publicly about it “for fear of the Jews.”

In the Gospel of John, for instance, Nicodemus does indeed approach Jesus in order to learn more from Him, but does so at night, under cover of darkness. Neither man voted to condemn Jesus at His trial before the Sanhedrin, and Nicodemus went so far as to speak up for Him, reminding the others that He had a right to a hearing. Jesus’ crucifixion, however, changed all that. In a bold move, Joseph of Arimathea approached Pilate to request the body of Jesus, and Pilate acquiesced. Then Joseph, together with Nicodemus, who was also emboldened to act, buried Jesus in Joseph’s own tomb. Because of this act of charity, Joseph has been named the patron saint of funeral directors and pallbearers. Beyond this, anything we know for certain about either of these saints is purely legendary.

Almighty God, You alone are holy and without You no one is good. Through the intercession of Sts. Joseph and Nicodemus, grant that we may so live as not to be deprived of Your glory. 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.

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Novena for Marriage and Families 2017 | Day 1

Nativity of the Virgin Mary

August 30, 2017

Society is built and sustained by families. The sacred foundation of the family is marriage. Today, the family and marriage are under attack. However, this did not happen in a vacuum. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput observed, “No society can sustain itself for long if marriage and the family fall apart on a mass scale.” When marriages suffer, families suffer. And when families suffer, society breaks down. We say this novena for marriage and family, for all marriages and families that are suffering in any way. Let us pray for peace in our homes, hearts and families.

Nativity of the Virgin Mary Novena for Marriage and Families - Day 1

Say the following three times:

Jesus, I trust in You. Please grant through Your mother’s intercession that I may always bring Your hope into my family.

Then say:

Our Lady, on this feast of your birth, please pray for stronger and holier marriages. Amen.

Most lovable Mother Mary, our Father in Heaven created you with delight. You are His creature whom He made worthy to become the holy Mother of His Son. You were born into a family of Saints. Pray for me today that my joy in your Son will increase and that my family may become more holy.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Impart to your servants, we pray, O Lord, the gift of heavenly grace, that the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin may bring deeper peace to those for whom the birth of her Son was the dawning of salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, forever. Amen.

August 29, 2017

Is a New “Oath Against Modernism” Needed in the Era of Francis? (Implemented By Faithful Bishops)

Pope Francis & Pope St. Pius X

Pope Saint Pius X’s papacy was both courageous and immensely consequential. The Modernist crisis in biblical exegesis occurred during his reign. Using new methods of historical and literary criticism scholars challenged the meaning of Scripture. Such methodology led to erroneous conclusions that called into question many Church dogmas. St. Pius X published the encyclical, Pascendi dominici gregis, denouncing the Modernist heresy. He also instituted the Oath Against Modernism to be sworn to by all clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries. The oath addressed five solemn tenets central to the Catholic Faith. It reads in part:

"I believe with equally firm faith that the Church, the guardian and teacher of the revealed word, was personally instituted by the real and historical Christ when he lived among us, and that the Church was built upon Peter, the prince of the apostolic hierarchy, and his successors for the duration of time… I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously. I also condemn every error according to which, in place of the divine deposit which has been given to the spouse of Christ to be carefully guarded by her, there is put a philosophical figment or product of a human conscience that has gradually been developed by human effort and will continue" 

During the papacy of Pope Francis, there is genuine uncertainty, if not confusion, surrounding the Faith. Indeed, as his predecessor Cardinal Ratzinger observed before becoming Pope Benedict XVI: "having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires." [Source]

The dictatorship of relativism has continued apace in the face of papal ambiguity. As one long time Vatican observer recently noted: "Pope Francis has sparked controversy from the day he was elected as St. Peter’s successor. But in the past several months the controversy has become so intense, confusion among the faithful so widespread, administration at the Vatican so arbitrary — and the Pope’s diatribes against his (real or imagined) foes so manic — that today the universal Church is rushing toward a crisis." Even when asked to clarify, the Holy Father demures. It seems, in some instances, pastoral discretion trumps doctrine.

In light of these and other concerns, should faithful bishops institute a new oath against modernism in all its present iterations, or perhaps, more aptly an oath against the dictatorship of relativism? The question must be asked because, in the era of Francis, debates that were considered closed now seem to be open, giving false hope to those who seek to undo the Church's teaching and beliefs.

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.

August 28, 2017

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Novena for Marriage and Families 2017 Begins August 30th

Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary

"We live in a world where the family is under attack. It is safe to say that the institution of both marriage and family has never been as threatened as it is today. In fact, its very survival as an institution is questionable. There is hardly a person reading this who is not touched by the disintegration of family life. It can take many forms; divorce, co-habitation, the acceptance of a contraceptive mentality, abortion, fatherless homes, the rejection of the faith and numerous other dysfunctions which plague and threaten to destroy family life all together.

Beyond these problems, as Saint John Paul II himself warned in Familiars consortio, there are strong forces in our society, which are actively seeking to change the very nature, structure, and meaning of both marriage and family: and even in some cases to eradicate them all together. This disintegration of marriage and family has not happened by accident. At one time, they were considered to be sacred institutions having profound spiritual meaning." (The Domestic Church, Dr. Joseph Atkinson of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Marriage & Family)

Strong families are indispensable to building a culture of life that protects human dignity. We pray that the sacrament of marriage is strengthened and that families are preserved and sanctified. Please join us in praying the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Novena for the renewal of marriage, society and the people of God.
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"Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O sacred Virgin; give me strength against thine enemies, and against the enemy of the whole human race. Give me strength humbly to pray to thee. Give me strength to praise thee in prayer with all my powers, through the merits of thy most sacred nativity, which for the entire Christian world was a birth of joy, the hope and solace of its life..."

— Saint Anselm

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Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist

Beheading of John the Baptist

August 29th, the Church celebrates the Passion of Saint John the Baptist. He was the cousin of Jesus, the son of Elizabeth and Zachariah, and the nephew of the Blessed Virgin Mary. John heralds Christ in his miraculous birth and his ministry and martyrdom. Mark's Gospel tells the events of his execution (Mark 6:17-29):

"Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife." Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias’ own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, "Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you." He even swore many things to her, "I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom." She went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask for?" She replied, "The head of John the Baptist."

The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, "I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist." The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb."

"A Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness"

It is John the Baptist who urged repentance and proclaimed to the world the imminence of the Messiah. On the day of Christ's baptism, John immediately recognized Jesus as the long awaited "Anointed One". Later, upon hearing of John's imprisonment, Jesus said, "Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’ Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist... O God, who willed that Saint John the Baptist should go ahead of your Son both his birth and his death, grant that, as he died a Martyr for your truth, we too, may fight for the confession of the Faith.

Saint Augustine on Loving God Belatedly

Saint Augustine

Saint Augustine is numbered among the four great Doctors of the Western Church He was one of the most brilliant minds of ancient Christendom. His influential contribution to theology, especially in clarifying the dogmas of the Trinity, grace, and the Church, have enriched the Faith immensely. Here are his thoughts about loving God belatedly over the false idols and things of the world.

Too late came I to love you, O Beauty both so ancient and so new! Too late came I to love you - and behold you were with me all the time...
***
You called and shouted and burst my deafness. You flashed, shone, and scattered my blindness. You breathed odors, and I drew in breath and panted for You. I tasted, and I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and I burned for Your peace.
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The soul is torn apart in a painful condition as long as it prefers the eternal because of its Truth but does not discard the temporal because of familiarity.
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I was in misery, and misery is the state of every soul overcome by friendship with mortal things and lacerated when they are lost. Then the soul becomes aware of the misery which is its actual condition even before it loses them.
***
Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.

Renew in your Church, we pray, O Lord, that spirit with which you endowed your Bishop Saint Augustine that, filled with the same spirit, we may thirst for you, the sole fount of true wisdom, and seek you, the author of heavenly love. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

August 27, 2017

Saint Augustine of Hippo, Bishop and Doctor

St. Augustine of Hippo

Memorial – August 28th

Augustine Aurelius was born on November 13, 354, in Tagaste, North Africa. His father was a pagan, his mother, Saint Monica, was a devote Christian. Still unbaptized and burning for knowledge, he came under the influence of the Manicheans, which caused his mother intense sorrow. He left Africa for Rome, deceiving his mother, who was ever anxious to be near him. She prayed and wept. A bishop consoled her by observing that a son of so many tears would never be lost. Yet the evil spirit drove him constantly deeper into moral degeneracy, capitalizing on his leaning toward pride and stubbornness. Grace was playing a waiting game; there still was time, and the greater the depths into which the evil spirit plunged its fledgling, the stronger would be the reaction.

Augustine recognized this vacuum. He observed how the human heart is created with a great abyss. The earthly satisfactions that can be thrown into it are no more than a handful of stones that hardly cover the bottom. Restless is the heart until it rests in God. The tears of his mother, the sanctity of Milan's Bishop Ambrose, the book of Saint Anthony the hermit, and the Sacred Scriptures wrought his conversion, which was sealed by baptism on Easter night 387. Augustine's mother went to Milan with joy and witnessed her son's baptism. It was what it should have been, the greatest event of his life, his conversion — metanoia. Grace had conquered. Augustine accompanied his mother to Ostia, where she died. She was eager to die, for [she had converted her son at last].

In 388, he returned to Tagaste, where he lived a common life with his friends. In 391, he was ordained priest at Hippo, in 394 made coadjutor to bishop Valerius, and then from 396 to 430 bishop of Hippo. He worked tirelessly to convert the population there to Christianity, all the while leading a monastic life of austerity.

Augustine, numbered among the four great Doctors of the Western Church, possessed one of the most penetrating minds of ancient Christendom. He was the most important Platonist of patristic times, the Church's most influential theologian, especially with regard to clarifying the dogmas of the Trinity, grace, and the Church. He was a great speaker, a prolific writer, a saint with an inexhaustible spirituality. His Confessions, a book appreciated in every age, describes a notable portion of his life (until 400), his errors, his battles, his profound religious observations. Famous too is his work The City of God, a worthy memorial to his genius, a philosophy of history. Most edifying are his homilies, especially those on the psalms and on the Gospel of St. John.

Augustine's episcopal life was filled with mighty battles against heretics, over all of whom he triumphed. His most illustrious victory was that over Pelagius, who denied the necessity of grace; from this encounter, he earned the surname "Doctor of grace." As an emblem, Christian art accords him a burning heart to symbolize the ardent love of God which permeates all his writings. He is the founder of canonical life in common; therefore, Augustinian monks and the Hermits of St. Augustine honor him as their spiritual father [and patron saint].

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

What It Means to Be a Christian

Christ with the saints

By Father Thomas Mattison

There is no such thing as a Church teaching that is not social.

Once upon a time the bishop of the Diocese of Burlington was named Robert F. Joyce. He was a native of Proctor and installed as bishop of Burlington in 1957. He resigned as bishop after 15 years at age 75.

He would not have been grateful to be called an ecclesiologist — an expert in the theology of the Church — but he was just that. At every Confirmation ceremony he gave the same sermon -- every one! And he would make everyone in church repeat the message after him: Don’t go to heaven alone; take someone with you.

RFJ clearly understood that there is in each of us a tendency — a temptation — to think of ourselves before thinking of anyone else and, even, to the exclusion of everyone else. But he understood, too, that such a focus on the single self was absolutely antithetical to Christianity.

Just being a Christian means being — at very least — connected to Jesus. We have no connection to Jesus except for the one that is forged by the evangelical work of making him known in every place and time; our connection with Him happens because others reach out to share their connection with us. Our Christian identity, then, is more than a creed or a morality or a style of worship. It is a series of interlocking and reinforcing connections between us and Jesus and all the other humans of every time and place who have believed, hoped in and loved the God he called Abba, Father. As soon as I decide to cast off one or another of those connections — one or another of those people — my relationship with Jesus begins to suffer.

It is misleading, then, to talk too much about accepting Jesus as my personal Lord and savior. The decision to become a Christian is personal and individual, but once it is made, remaining a Christian means involvement with all other Christians as well as Jesus; this is automatic and irreversible.

Sin is nothing more or less than decision and action motivated by and effective of a severing of myself from the connectedness that is the very essence of Christianity. That is why sinners have to go to confession individually, rather than hiding in the great collectivity of human sinfulness and imperfection. That is why such things as abortion and broken marriage vows and unforgiveness are declared mortal sins; they cut ties that bind the human family and the Church together. That is why long and willful refusal to attend Mass with the rest of the Christians in the community is treated as a sin requiring individual penance before a return to the sacramental Communion of the Mass. That is why those whose brand of Christianity is identified as refusing to accept the pope as part of their vision of the Christian community are asked not to take communion with those for whom his role seen as integral to the life of the Church.
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Fr. Thomas Mattison is pastor of Christ Our Savior Parish in Manchester Center and Arlington Vermont.

Homily for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 27, 2017, Year A

Christ giving Peter the keys to the Kingdom

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing


We don’t often think of it, but the gospels are loaded with questions. Sometimes it seems like there are more questions than there are answers. Questions imply a quest, a search, and a hunger for knowledge. Genuine questions that is, not trick questions. The word “question” contains within it the word “quest.” That’s what Jesus liked… people who are in search for truth, who are questing for God.

So we find Jesus in today’s gospel asking: “Who do you say that I am?” And we find Simon Peter answering the question by identifying Jesus as the Son of God. Evidently Peter recognized something deep within Jesus that was divine, someone coming from God. But Peter came to that as a consequence of Jesus asking him a question. Jesus in response sees something deep within Peter that Peter couldn’t see for himself.

In a sense Jesus introduced Peter to himself. “Okay,” Jesus said, “you told me who I am. Now let me tell you who you are. You are Rock!” This quality was not, I am quite sure, something that Simon Peter recognized within himself. No doubt it was a big surprise, not only to Peter himself but also to all who knew him. Probably no one would have thought that about him. Nevertheless he was previously known as Simon and now, because of Jesus, he was entering into a new self-identity. It took long time, however, because Peter’s behavior with respect to Jesus was anything but solid and rock-like until after Christ’s resurrection.

All of this was typical of Jesus. Jesus judged differently, He went beyond appearances. We judge people by appearances… Jesus judges with penetrating insight. He went deep inside people and saw the best that was in them. Then He tried to get them to become aware of those wonderful qualities deep within themselves.

St. Augustine once said: “Dig deep enough in any person and you will find something divine.” That’s a perfect description of how Jesus works with us. Put Jesus one-on-one with any person and He will dig until He finds something God-like, something divine, within us. Then He will do everything He can to draw it out of us and into the open. We should do the same.

That’s what He did with the woman caught in the act of adultery. He saw something in her that was far deeper than her sinfulness. Underneath her worst He never doubted that there was something better. And when all her accusers had departed and only Jesus was left standing with her He did not condemn her even though He recognized her sins. She must have left His presence that day with a whole new vision of who she was. She finished that day with an entirely new identity… a new name for herself…a good name… and a whole new person with a new life ahead of her.

We all hear a lot of bad news about ourselves. We all have a little inner voice that constantly gives us bad news about ourselves. People around us sometimes give us bad news about ourselves. Jesus, on the other hand, comes to give us good news. The good news of Jesus Christ is all about who we really are and who we can become. The good news is this: inside each one of us there is the person God meant us to be. Deep within us is the person God our Father dreams we can be. Hopefully we will eventually come to see that. There’s an identity, a name that God has given you that is nothing but good. We don’t need to import anything from the outside. All of the skills and talents God originally gave us are still there. All of the personality traits are there. We simply need to become the person our Father always meant us to be, to bring out of ourselves the best that’s within us.

That’s what Peter eventually came to. But he couldn’t do it all by himself – he needed Jesus to draw it out, changing his name so that he could change his picture of himself. Remember that is what is involved when God gives us a name in our baptism, a name and an identity that comes from God our Father.

What I am sharing with you here isn’t just pop psychology. What I’m sharing with you is the notion that Jesus has given us the highest concept of God the world has ever known, a Father who created us to be like His Only Begotten Son.

Why in the world, then, do we depict God to be mean, angry, vengeful and capricious in how He gives us His love? Why do we depict God as being responsible for every disaster that befalls us? Most likely that’s because we image ourselves that way. We try to fashion God in our own image and likeness. We make God to be angry and condemning because that’s the way we see ourselves and others. We have a bad self-image, a rotten self-identity, and we’ve given God a bad name in the process. Jesus, however, has given us a picture of ourselves, an identity, that’s quite the opposite.

God is always forgiving, always trusting, always faithful, always loving. We’ve grown cynical and bitter, unloving, cold, and indifferent, if not actually mistrusting of others. Jesus counters by asking us to be like God – to forgive without limit, to trust others no matter how many times they disappoint us, to keep on loving no matter what, to keep on believing in the basic goodness within others no matter how they may appear to us on the surface. We, with Jesus, should always hate the sins of others but love other sinners just as much as God loves them. We need to regard them as He regards you and me.

Finally, Jesus calls us to live together as a family, a family that He calls His Church, a family of faith. He called it “my church”, and He declared that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Hell vanishes in the face of love; the devils flee in the face of trusting, forgiving, believing, and hoping love. Jesus knows that we can’t be our best all alone, all by ourselves. The best within us is always brought out in loving relationships with others. No amount of evil can ever overcome any amount of love. That’s why the gates of hell are powerless in the face of it and we become like Rocks of Gibraltar, like St. Peter became the Rock, when we face of all of life’s storms thrown up against us.

This coming week we will all go out to face a very difficult world. Be kind to everyone you meet. Every one of them is fighting his or her own hard battle. There are many things in our world that appeal to the worst within us. That’s why it’s so important to hear the words that Jesus addressed to Peter as being addressed to us. We need to hear Jesus appealing to the best within us. He said to Simon: “You are rock.” Jesus is saying something similar to you and to me today in this Mass, in His Word that you have just heard in sacred scripture. It was written for you. Listen to what Jesus is saying to you, and then face each day of this coming week in the midst of our very troubled world, trying to remember just who it is Jesus says you are and who He meant you to be.

August 26, 2017

Feast of the Seven Joys of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The altarpiece of the Joys of the Virgin

This feast (also known as The Franciscan Crown Rosary) is August 27th.

The Franciscan Crown Rosary, properly known as "The Franciscan Crown of Our Lady's Joys" dates back to approximately the year 1422. According to tradition, as related by the famous Franciscan historian Father Luke Wadding, a very pious young man who had been admitted to the Franciscan Order in that year was saddened and had decided to return to the world and quit the cloister. Before his entry into the Order, it was his custom to adorn a statue of the Blessed Virgin with a wreath of fresh and beautiful flowers. Now, he was unable to continue his act of piety and devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

Our Lady appeared to him and prevented him from taking such a step as he had planned. "Do not be sad and cast down, my son," she said, "because you are no longer permitted to place wreaths of flowers on my statue. I shall teach you to change this pious practice into one that will be far more pleasing to me and more meritorious to your soul. In place of the flowers that soon wither and cannot always be found, you can weave for me a crown from the flowers of your prayers that will always remain fresh and can always be had."

When Our Lady had disappeared, the overjoyed Novice at once began to recite the prayers in honor of her Seven Joys, as she had directed. While he was deeply engrossed in this devotion, the Novice Master happened to pass by and saw an angel weaving a marvelous wreath of roses. After every tenth rose, he inserted a golden lily. When the wreath was finished, the angel placed it on the head of the praying Novice. The Novice Master demanded the Novice tell him the meaning of this vision. The joyful Novice complied. The good priest was so impressed that he immediately made it known to his brethren. Thus, the practice of reciting the Franciscan Crown of Our Lady's Joys soon spread as a favorite devotion of the Friars.

The Seven Joys of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary:

The Annunciation of the Angel to Mary

The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth

The Nativity of Our Lord

The Adoration of the Magi

The Finding of Jesus in the Temple

The Resurrection of Our Lord

The Crowning of Our Lady, Mary, in Heaven as Queen

How to Pray This Devotion

The Franciscan Rosary of the Seven Joys of the Blessed Virgin Mary is composed of seven decades of one Our Father and ten Hail Marys each. At the end two Hail Marys are added. It is concluded with the Our Father and Hail Mary. The last Our Father and Hail Mary are prayed for the Holy Father's intentions in order to gain the indulgence. The seventy-two Hail Marys correspond to the seventy-two years the Blessed Virgin is supposed to have lived. The seven decades need not be recited at once, but the single decades may be separated provided that the whole Rosary is said on the same day. One need not meditate on the mysteries of this Rosary. It suffices to pray the single decades in honor of the respective mystery.

Excerpted from Franciscan Order of the Divine Compassion Daily Office Prayers: Including the Collects Psalter and Lectionary, Fr. John Mark, OSF, D.Min.

Prayer to St. Monica For the Conversion of Those Who Have Left the Faith

Saint Augustine and Saint Monica

The prayers of Saint Monica, together with God's grace, turned her wayward son, Saint Augustine, from sinner to saint. St. Monica, model of motherhood, your patience and fervent prayers won for the Church a brilliant mind who himself won many souls. We pray especially for loved ones, and anyone who has left the Faith.

Dear Saint Monica, exemplary mother of Saint Augustine. You were once the mournful mother of a prodigal son. Through your constant prayers and petitions to God, he became a great saint. Inspired by your example, we pray that our loved ones who have gone astray may soon be welcomed home to the Church founded by Christ the Lord, to live and love in imitation of the Savior. Amen.
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Prayer for the Intercession of St. Augustine and St. Monica

Almighty God and loving Father, who consoles the sorrowful and who mercifully accepted the motherly tears of Saint Monica for the conversion of her son Saint Augustine, grant us, through the intercession of them both, that we may bitterly regret our sins and find the grace of your pardon. Above all, dear Saint Monica, pray for me that I may, like your son, turn from sin, and become a saint. Amen.

St. Monica, Holy Matron and Mother of St. Augustine

Saint Monica

(In 2017, this feast is superseded by the Sunday liturgy.)

August 27th, is the memorial of Saint Monica. She is an example of those holy matrons of the ancient Church who proved very influential in their own quiet way. Through prayer and tears she gave the great Saint Augustine to the Church, and thereby won for herself a place of honor in the history of God's kingdom on earth.

The Confessions of St. Augustine provide certain biographical details. Born of Christian parents about the year 331 at Tagaste in Africa, Monica was reared under the strict supervision of an elderly nurse who had likewise reared her father. In the course of time she was given in marriage to a pagan named Patricius. Besides other faults, he possessed a very irascible nature; it was in this school of suffering that Monica learned patience. It was her custom to wait until his anger had cooled; only then did she give a kindly remonstrance. Evil-minded servants had prejudiced her mother-in-law against her, but Monica persevered.

Her marriage was blessed with three children: Navigius, Perpetua, who later became a nun, and Augustine, her problem child. [Eventually, all of Monica's children would enter religious life.] According to the custom of the day, baptism was not administered to infants soon after birth. It was as an adolescent that Augustine became a catechumen, but possibly through a premonition of his future sinful life, Monica postponed his baptism after he grew severely ill.

When Augustine was nineteen years old, his father Patricius died. Despite Patricius’ maltreatment of Monica mastered the situation by kindness and sympathy. Her prayers and kindness opened Patricius’ eyes to the error of his ways. In 370, one year before his death, he was baptized into the Church.

The youthful Augustine caused his mother untold worry by indulging in every type of sin and dissipation. As a last resort after all her tears and entreaties had proved fruitless, she forbade him entrance to her home; but after a vision she received him back again. In her sorrow a certain bishop consoled her: "Don't worry, it is impossible that a son of so many tears should be lost."

When Augustine was planning his journey to Rome, Monica wished to accompany him. He outwitted her, however, and had already embarked when she arrived at the docks. Later she followed him to Milan, ever growing in her attachment to God. St. Ambrose held her in high esteem, and congratulated Augustine on having such a mother. At Milan, she prepared the way for her son's conversion. Finally, the moment came when her tears of sorrow changed to tears of joy. Augustine was baptized. And her lifework was completed. She died in her fifty-sixth year, [a few months after Augustine's baptism] as she was returning to Africa. The description of her death is one of the most beautiful passages in her son's famous Confessions.

Before her death, she had a profound mystical insight which she shared with Augustine: "Son, for myself I have no longer any pleasure in anything in this life. Now that my hopes in this world are satisfied, I do not know what more I want here or why I am here." Having secured the conversion of her beloved family, Monica longingly awaited her joyous entrance into eternal Beatitude at peace.

Saint Monica’s remains rest in the Basilica of Sant'Agostino, Rome. She is the patron saint of abuse victims, addicts, wayward children and difficult marriages. O God, who consoles the sorrowful and who mercifully accepted the motherly tears of St. Monica for the conversion of her son Augustine, grant us, through the intercession of them both, that we may regret our sins and find the grace of your pardon. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who reigns with you. Amen.

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

August 25, 2017

Saint Monica Novena 2017 | Day 9

St. Monica

August 26, 2017

Saint Monica demonstrated heroic patience during her trials. She suffered greatly, but never lost her abiding faith in God's goodness. Let us pray that we may have the faith of St. Monica and so possess heroic patience in the face of all difficulties. Only then can we be instruments of God's peace and show the joy of discipleship.

St. Monica Novena - Day 9

Dear Saint Monica, you were once the mournful mother of a prodigal son. Your faithfulness to prayer brought you and your son so close to God that you are now with him in eternity. By your intercession and God’s grace, your son St. Augustine became a great and venerable Saint of the Church. Please take my request to God with the same fervor and persistence with which you prayed for your son.

(Mention your intentions here)

With your needs, worries and anxieties, you threw yourself on the mercy and providence of God. Through sorrow and pain, you constantly devoted yourself to God. Pray for me that I might join you in such a deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.

Almighty God and loving Father, who consoles the sorrowful and who mercifully accepted the motherly tears of Saint Monica for the conversion of her son Saint Augustine, grant us, through the intercession of them both, that we may bitterly regret our sins and find the grace of your pardon. Above all, dear Saint Monica, pray for me that I may, like your son, turn from my sin and become a true saint.

Jesus' Golden Rule Perfects Aristotle’s Golden Mean


Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Divine Logos, is the embodiment of truth, beauty, and goodness. Aristotle's insight is but a dim reflection of God's perfect wisdom and infinite love. (A version of this article was originally published in July 2016.)
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The brilliant Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) in his treatise on ethical conduct, Nicomachean Ethics, discusses the "Golden Mean." It is a way of acting that enables us to live according to our ideal nature, improve our character, and deal effectively with life's hardships while striving for the good of all. The golden mean is the desired middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency. For example, to Aristotle, courage is a virtue, which if taken to its extreme is recklessness, and, in absence or insufficiency, is cowardice.

Aristotle's ethics is practical and decidedly teleological. He believed the end of human life is happiness (Greek: eudaimonia). Today, happiness is understood as the emotional state of joy, contentment, and bliss. Such happiness is ephemeral. Aristotle's conception of happiness is a state of virtue resulting from the habitual practice of right action, unrelated to our feelings or personal fortunes. Therefore, it is possible for one to be happy (virtuous) even amid tremendous suffering and difficulty. Aristotle's golden mean is a seminal development in ethics, synthesizing Greek notions of moderation with a defined understanding of personal morality.

Four centuries later, Jesus Christ would teach humanity, through His words and example, how we should live. His "Golden Rule" is a positive articulation of our moral responsibility for others. Two passages in Sacred Scripture show Christ expressing this rule. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus states: "'Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.' This is the law and the prophets." In Luke 6:31, Our Lord again declares: "Do to others as you would have them do to you."

Christ's golden rule perfects Aristotle's golden mean in two respects. The moral principle of treating others as you would like them to treat you is universal, unconditional, and objective. It applies to our enemies as well as our friends. Aristotle's mean is dependent upon the individual and the circumstances in question. Aristotle's mean evokes the timeless Greek maxim that we should do all things in moderation. (A sentiment inscribed on the edifice of the temple at Delphi.) While Christianity has always espoused moderation in relation to our appetites, Christ's golden rule commands us to love selflessly and without limit.

Our Lady of Częstochowa (The Black Madonna)

Our Lady of Czestochowa (The Black Madonna)

Feast - August 26th

The image of Our Lady of Częstochowa, also known as the Black Madonna, was traditionally believed to have been painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist on a cypress wood panel from a table used by the Holy Family in Nazareth. It was said to have been brought from Jerusalem by Saint Helen and was enshrined in Constantinople for 500 years. It was given to a Greek princess married to a Ruthenian nobleman and it was housed in the royal palace at Belz in the Ukraine for the next 600 years. Art historians believe it is a Byzantine icon of the Hodigitria type dating from the 6th - 9th Century.

The image was brought to Poland in 1382 by Ladislaus of Opole who rescued the painting from Belz while escaping an attack by the Tartars who had damaged the painting with an arrow. On his way to Silesia, Ladislaus stopped to rest in the town of Częstochowa near the church on Jasna Góra (Bright Hill). He believed that it was Our Lady’s desire for her image to remain in Częstochowa so he left the image at the church and invited the Pauline monks from Hungary to be its guardians.

On April 14, 1430, robbers, sometimes associated with the Hussites of Bohemia, looted the monastery and made three slashes on the face of Our Lady in an attempt to remove valuable stones, finally smashing the image into three pieces. In order to repair the icon, the original paint was removed and the icon was repainted. Although the icon was restored, the slashes in Our Lady’s face remain visible. The image is credited with numerous miracles from the 6th century until today. Our Lady of Częstochowa, Queen of Poland, our protectress, pray for us.

Prayer to Our Lady of Częstochowa

Most Holy Mother of Częstochowa, you are full of grace, goodness and mercy. I consecrate to you all my thoughts, words and actions, totally, in soul and body. I duly beseech your blessings and also your prayers for my salvation. I consecrate myself to you, good Mother, body and soul, amid joy and sufferings, to obtain for myself and others your blessings on this earth and eternal life in heaven. Amen.

Excerpted from St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish. Prayer source the Pauline Fathers.

August 24, 2017

Saint Monica Novena 2017 | Day 8

St. Monica

August 25, 2017

O God, who consoles the sorrowful and who mercifully accepted the motherly tears of Saint Monica for the conversion of her son Augustine, grant us, through the intercession of them both, that we may bitterly regret our sins and find the grace of your pardon. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Monica Novena - Day 8

Dear Saint Monica, you were once the mournful mother of a prodigal son. Your faithfulness to prayer brought you and your son so close to God that you are now with him in eternity. By your intercession and God’s grace, your son St. Augustine became a great and venerable Saint of the Church. Please take my request to God with the same fervor and persistence with which you prayed for your son.

(Mention your intentions here)

With your needs, worries and anxieties, you threw yourself on the mercy and providence of God. Through sorrow and pain, you constantly devoted yourself to God. Pray for me that I might join you in such a deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.

Almighty God and loving Father, who consoles the sorrowful and who mercifully accepted the motherly tears of Saint Monica for the conversion of her son Saint Augustine, grant us, through the intercession of them both, that we may bitterly regret our sins and find the grace of your pardon. Above all, dear Saint Monica, pray for me that I may, like your son, turn from my sin and become a true saint.

Saint Louis IX, King of France

Saint Louis IX

August 25th, is the optional memorial of Saint Louis IX, a wise monarch known for his successful peacemaking and administrative abilities. Reigning from 1226 to 1270, Louis showed how a saint would act on the throne of France. He was a lovable personality, a kind husband, a father of eleven children, and at the same time a strict ascetic. His mother, Blanche of Castile, instructed him in the Faith.

His mother’s admonition to him as a child: "Never forget that sin is the only great evil in the world. No mother could love her son more than I love you. But I would rather see you lying dead at my feet than know that you had offended God by one mortal sin." remained indelibly impressed in his mind for the rest of his life.

To an energetic and prudent rule Louis added love and zeal for the practice of piety and the reception of the holy sacraments. He was brave in battle, polished at feasts, and addicted to fasting and mortification. His politics were grounded upon strict justice, unshatterable fidelity, and untiring effort toward peace. Nevertheless, his was not a weakly rule but one that left its impress upon following generations. He was a great friend of religious Orders and a generous benefactor of the Church.

The Breviary says of him: "He had already been king for twenty years when he fell victim to a severe illness. That afforded the occasion for making a vow to undertake a crusade for the liberation of the Holy Land. Immediately upon recovery he received the crusader's cross from the hand of the bishop of Paris, and, followed by an immense army, he crossed the sea in 1248. On the field of battle Louis routed the Saracens; yet when the plague had taken large numbers of his soldiery, he was attacked and taken captive (1250). The king was forced to make peace with the Saracens; upon the payment of a huge ransom, he and his army were again set at liberty." While on a second crusade he died of the plague, with these words from the psalm upon his lips: "I will enter Thy house; I will worship in Thy holy temple and sing praises to Thy Name!" (Ps. 5).

St. Louis was a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis, and by order of Saint Bonaventure, is included in the family of Franciscan saints. O God, who brought Saint Louis IX from the cares of earthly rule to the glory of a heavenly realm, grant, we pray, through his intercession, that, by fulfilling our duties on earth, we may seek out your eternal Kingdom. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever. Amen.

St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest and Founder of the Piarist Fathers

Saint Joseph Calasanz

By Father David Powers, Sch.P.

Saint Joseph Calasanz (1557-1648) was a holy priest and the founder of both the world's first Christian public school and later the Order of the Pious Schools (known today as the Piarist Fathers,) and he devoted his life to the education of poor children.

He was born in Spain on September 11, 1557, in a little village in Aragon called Peralta de la Sal.  He was the youngest of five children born to Don Pedro Calasanz and Donna Maria Gastonia. His mother and brother died while he was still in school. He studied at Estadilla, Valencia, and Alcala de Henares.  His father wanted him to become a soldier, to marry, and to continue the family, but a near fatal illness in 1582 caused him to seriously examine his life, and he realized that he was called to the religious life.  He was ordained as a diocesan priest on December 17, 1583, after receiving a doctorate in both canon law and theology from the University of Lereda.  Calasanz served as a parish priest at Albarracin and was given high ecclesiastical positions.  He did his work well, serving as both secretary and confessor to his bishop, synodal examiner, and procurator. He helped revive religious zeal among the laity and discipline among the clergy in his small section of the Pyrenees. He also served as Vicar-general of Trempe, Spain.  Both his father and his bishop died in 1587, and following a vision, he gave away much of his inheritance and renounced most of the rest.

In 1592, just nine years after his ordination, he traveled to Rome, where it seemed he would have a promising career.  He worked in the household of Cardinal Ascanio Colonna as a theological advisor for the cardinal and as a tutor to the cardinal's nephew.  Yet, he felt that God was calling him to do something more. He was shocked by the ignorance and the poor morals of the common people, especially the youth he encountered in the Trastevere, one of the poorest suburbs of the city.  He joined the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, and his heart was filled with pity for all of the orphans and homeless children he saw everywhere.  They were ignorant and neglected. He was convinced that the best way he could help the people was to make sure that ALL of the children had a good education. It seems that God wanted Calasanz to be a mediator so that he could enrich the Church with a new charismatic gift.

Being unable to interest any of the city's religious orders and institutes in the education of poor children, he undertook this task himself.  He began to gather them together to teach them both all the regular secular subjects, and especially their religion. Soon, other priests joined him, and in 1597, in the Church of St. Dorothy, he and two fellow priests opened the first free public school in Europe. So overwhelming was the response of the people that Fr. Calasanz and his companions received, that there was a constant need for larger and larger facilities to house their free school. In 1602, they moved to larger quarters and reorganized the teaching priests into a community. In 1612, they moved to the Torres palace to have even more room. Soon thereafter, Pope Clement VIII gave support to the school, and this financial aid continued under Pope Paul V.  Soon other schools were opened and more men attracted to their work joined them.

On March 25, 1617, he and his fourteen assistants formed the Poor Clerics Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools.  They were the very first priests to have as their primary ministry teaching in elementary schools.  Emphasizing love, not fear, St. Joseph wrote, "if from the very earliest years, a child is instructed in both religion and letters, it can be reasonably hoped that his life will be happy."

While residing in Rome, Joseph endeavored to visit the seven principal churches of that city almost every evening, and also to honor the graves of the Roman martyrs. During one of the city's repeated plagues, a holy rivalry existed between him and St. Camillus in aiding the sick and in personally carrying away for burial the bodies of those who had been stricken. On account of his heroic patience and fortitude in the midst of trouble and persecution, he was called a marvel of Christian courage, a second Job.

This is the context where his vocation originated. He heard the voice of God calling him: "Joseph, give yourself for the poor. Teach these children and take care of them." Soon Calasanz became the superior of the new religious order, but he never let his duties as founder and superior stop him from teaching his beloved children.  He would even sweep the classrooms himself.  He often led the little ones to their homes after school was over.  At the insistence of Calasanz, Jewish children were admitted to the Pious Schools, and he ensured that they were treated as equals.  Many textbooks were written in vernacular languages rather than Latin, and the study of mathematics and science was a priority. In 1621, Fr. Joseph Calasanz's "Free Schools" received Papal recognition as a religious order under solemn canonical vows called "Le Sciole Pie" (Religious Schools), which in English became the Piarists.

However, Joseph encountered many difficulties, including his friendships with the controversial astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) and the Italian Dominican friar and philosopher Tommaso Campanella (1558-1639), who sought to reconcile Renaissance humanism with Roman Catholic theology.  As a result, he was investigated by papal commissioners.  Some of the ruling class objected that to educate the poor would cause social unrest. Other Orders that worked with the poor were afraid they would be absorbed by the Piarists. But the group continued to have papal support and to do good work. He also had much to suffer from people who wanted to take over his order, and he also suffered through the rebellion of one of his subordinates in the order.  Once, he was even led through the streets like a criminal, and he was almost put in jail, although he had done nothing wrong. Also, there were still those who felt that the poor shouldn't be educated, as this would only make them dissatisfied with their lot in life. A papal commission charged with examining the Order acquitted Joseph of all accusations, and in 1645, returned him to superior of the Order, but internal dissent continued, and the following year Pope Innocent X dissolved the Order, placing the priests under control of their local bishops. St. Joseph was removed from office, and his order was suppressed in every country save Poland, but he, like the wise Old Testament figure Job, remained humble and obedient. Despite this suffering, Joseph only said: "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away."

St. Joseph Calasanz died a calm and peaceful death on August 25, 1648, and soon after, his order was fully restored by Pope Clement IX.  He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Clement XIII in 1767.  In 1948, Pope Pius XII declared him to be the "Heavenly Patron Saint of all Christian Public Schools."  He shares his Feast Day on August 25 with St. Louis IX of France and St. Genesius, the patron of actors.
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Father David Powers, Sch.P, is pastor of St. Helena Catholic Church in the Bronx, NY, and is a former Provincial of the Piarist Fathers.

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for September 2017

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

Parishes

That our parishes, animated by a missionary spirit, may be places where faith is communicated and charity is seen.

Specific  Intention - To be Announced

Pope Francis has decided to keep one monthly prayer intention. He is no longer proposing an urgent prayer intention. Each Sunday on which he gives an Angelus address, he will request prayers for specific people and situations that are of deep concern to him and to the universal Church.

August 23, 2017

Saint Monica Novena 2017 | Day 7

St. Monica

August 24, 2017

Today we pray for all those who feel abandoned by God for whatever reason, for those waiting for answers to prayer, and for those who are suffering and do not yet see the reasons behind what God is working in their lives. May they be granted the grace of unwavering faith through Saint Monica's holy intercession.

St. Monica Novena - Day 7

Dear Saint Monica, you were once the mournful mother of a prodigal son. Your faithfulness to prayer brought you and your son so close to God that you are now with him in eternity. By your intercession and God’s grace, your son St. Augustine became a great and venerable Saint of the Church. Please take my request to God with the same fervor and persistence with which you prayed for your son.

(Mention your intentions here)

With your needs, worries and anxieties, you threw yourself on the mercy and providence of God. Through sorrow and pain, you constantly devoted yourself to God. Pray for me that I might join you in such a deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.

Almighty God and loving Father, who consoles the sorrowful and who mercifully accepted the motherly tears of Saint Monica for the conversion of her son Saint Augustine, grant us, through the intercession of them both, that we may bitterly regret our sins and find the grace of your pardon. Above all, dear Saint Monica, pray for me that I may, like your son, turn from my sin and become a great saint for the glory of God. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Bartholomew, Apostle, Co-Patron of the Armenian Church

St. Bartholomew

August 24th, is the feast of Saint Bartholomew, one of the twelve Apostles. He is mentioned in all four Gospel accounts. While little is known about his early life, Bartholomew was most certainly a devout Jew. His name means "son of Tolomai". Most scholars believe that he, and the Nathanael referred to in John, are the same person. An authority in the law of Moses, Bartholomew was a close friend of the Apostle Philip. Having received the gifts of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost, Bartholomew evangelized Asia Minor, northwestern India and Greater Armenia. While preaching in Armenia, he was arrested and sentenced to death.

Following Pentecost, Bartholomew embarked on a missionary trip to India. Popular piety records him as serving in Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Persia and Egypt. Bartholomew and Saint Jude are credited with bringing Christianity to Armenia. Both are the patrons of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Fr. Pius Parsch in The Church's Year of Grace writes: "The Church of Armenia has a national tradition that St. Jude Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew visited the Armenians early in the first century and introduced Christianity among the worshipers of the god Ahura Mazda. The new faith spread throughout the land, and in 302 A.D., St. Gregory the Illuminator baptized the king of Armenia, Dertad the Great, along with many of his followers. Since Dertad was probably the first ruler to embrace Christianity for his nation, the Armenians proudly claim they were the first Christian State."

A non-Biblical source called the Martyrdom of Bartholomew, contends that the Apostle Bartholomew was martyred by King Astyages in Armenia as follows: "And when he had thus spoken, the king was informed that this god Baldad and all the other idols had fallen down, and were broken in pieces. Then the king rent the purple in which he was clothed, and ordered the holy apostle Bartholomew to be beaten with rods; and after having been thus scourged, to be beheaded."

Other accounts of his martyrdom, however, assert that Bartholomew was flayed or skinned before being beheaded. Michelangelo’s painting, The Last Judgment shows Bartholomew holding the knife of his martyrdom and his flayed skin. The altar of San Bartolomeo Basilica in Benevento, Italy, contains his relics. Because St. Bartholomew was without guile, he immediately recognized Christ as the Messiah sent by God. Strengthen in us, O Lord, the faith, by which the blessed Apostle Bartholomew clung wholeheartedly to your Son; grant that through his prayers your Church may become for all the nations the sacrament of salvation.

Homily for the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 27, 2017, Year A

Christ giving the keys to the kingdom to Peter

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


Who was Shebna? Who was Eliakim? Why did Shebna lose his job to Eliakim? Why should we care? These questions are pretty irrelevant. Today’s reading from Isaiah was clearly selected only because of its reference to keys.

The questions in today’s Gospel, on the other hand, are far from irrelevant.

Can you imagine a head of state or a pope asking his closest associates, “Who do people say that I am?” The more normal question would be, “What are people saying about me?”

The disciples felt no need, apparently, to ask what Jesus meant, and they gave precisely the kind of answer he  was looking for: “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (How anyone could think he was John the Baptist, whose death was so recent, is beyond me.)

When Jesus asked the disciples the more pointed question, “Who do you say that I am?” again they understood, and Simon responded accordingly, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

It is amazing how many different answers are given today to this question. Over the years I have seen articles in print or on-line making some interesting claims.

Some argue that Jesus was a married man, because men in his day were expected to marry, and the Gospels never say that he was not married. (Mary Magdalen is usually the most like candidate as his wife.) My first encounter with this position was published by a former priest arguing for married clergy.

Or: Jesus was a vegetarian. This idea is supported, among others, by the scene of Jesus casting out the sellers, which is interpreted as showing that Jesus was opposed to animal sacrifice. This is from an author associated with a group called “Denver Vegans.” (I have seen a stained-glass window depicting the same Gospel scene, and on the ground, among the spilled coins, are Bingo cards! There was no doubt about that pastor’s position on fund-raising options.)

There is even a book, published in 2003 by the Law and Business Institute, with the following title: Judith Christ of Nazareth: The Gospels of the Bible, Corrected to Reflect that Christ was a Woman. Unlike the previously mentioned articles, the authors make no attempt to justify their claim from Scripture.

As you can imagine, there are similar positions taken by various other interest groups, each claiming Jesus as one of their own.

In a way, that is a compliment to him. It shows how important it is to believers to have Jesus “on their side.” One could even claim that Simon’s response was similar. Who was “the Christ,” after all? In Hebrew the word is “Messiah,” and the Messiah was the one who would ultimately “restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). Who could be more desirable as “one of ours” for the Jewish people?

Simon’s statement could perhaps be seen as politically self-serving, except that Jesus says, “Blessed are you..., flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.”

In all of the above, I am not actually interested in getting involved in any controversies. I have neither the time nor the temperament for that. What I am fascinated by, today at least, is Jesus’ response to Simon.

After Simon, under divine inspiration, has named Jesus correctly as the Christ, Jesus repays the compliment. In effect he says, you have told me who I am, now I will tell you who you are: “You are Peter.” The name means Rock. The interpretation of this name varies, naturally, according to the presuppositions and/or desires of those interpreting it.

Shortly in the Creed we will profess our faith in Jesus: Lord, Son of God, born of a virgin, risen from the dead, etc.

Imagine Jesus saying to you after that, “Thank you for your expression of faith, and for recognizing me for who I am. Now let me tell you who you are.”

What does he say next?

August 22, 2017

Saint Monica Novena 2017 | Day 6

St. Monica

August 23, 2017

Today we pray for all those who feel abandoned by God for whatever reason, for those waiting for answers to prayer, and for those who are suffering and do not yet see the reasons behind what God is working in their lives. May they be granted the grace of unwavering faith through Saint Monica's holy intercession.

St. Monica Novena - Day 6

Dear Saint Monica, you were once the mournful mother of a prodigal son. Your faithfulness to prayer brought you and your son so close to God that you are now with him in eternity. By your intercession and God’s grace, your son St. Augustine became a great and venerable Saint of the Church. Please take my request to God with the same fervor and persistence with which you prayed for your son.

(Mention your intentions here)

With your needs, worries and anxieties, you threw yourself on the mercy and providence of God. Through sorrow and pain, you constantly devoted yourself to God. Pray for me that I might join you in such a deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.

Above all, dear Saint Monica, pray for me that I may, like your son, turn from my sin and become a great saint for the glory of God. Amen.

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Saint Rose of Lima, Virgin and Mystic

Saint Rose of Lima

Optional Memorial - August 23rd

Saint Rose of Lima, (1586-1617), a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic, was the "first blossom of sanctity that South America gave to the world." Hers was a life heroic in virtue and penance. She expiated the evils perpetrated by the conquerors of the land in their lust for gold. Her life was a silent sermon of penance. Pope Clement X stated in the bull of canonization: "Since the discovery of Peru no missionary has arisen who effected a similar popular zeal for the practice of penance."

Already as a five-year-old child, Rose vowed her innocence to God. While still a young girl, she practiced mortifications and fasts that vastly exceeded ordinary discretion; during all of Lent she ate no bread, but subsisted on five citron seeds a day. In addition, she suffered repeated attacks from the devil, painful bodily ailments, and from her family, scoldings and calumnies. All this she accepted serenely, remarking to a friend that she was treated better than she deserved.

For fifteen years she patiently endured the severest spiritual abandonment and aridity. In reward came heavenly joys, the comforting companionship of her holy guardian angel and of the Blessed Virgin. August 24, 1617, proved to be the day "on which the paradise of her heavenly Bridegroom unlocked itself to her."

St. Rose is said to have predicted the date of her own death. Her solemn funeral was attended by the public authorities of Lima and hundreds of its citizens. She was beatified in 1668 by Pope Clement IX and canonized by Pope Clement X in 1671. O God, You set Saint Rose of Lima on fire with your love, so that, secluded from the world in the austerity of a life of penance, she might give herself to you alone; grant, we pray, that through her intercession, we may tread the paths of life on earth and experience eternal Beatitude with You in heaven. Amen.

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