September 22, 2017

Saint Padre Pio on Prayer

Saint Padre Pio
Prayer is the best weapon we have; it is the key to God's heart. You must speak to Jesus not only with your lips, but with your heart. In fact, on certain occasions you should only speak to Him with your heart.
— St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Prayer for St. Padre Pio’s Intercession

Almighty ever-living God, who, by a singular grace, gave the Priest Saint Pius a share in the Cross of your Son and, by means of his holy ministry, renewed the wonders of your mercy, grant that through his intercession we may be united constantly to the sufferings of Christ, and so brought happily to the glory of the resurrection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, together in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux 2017 | Day 2

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

September 23, 2017

Saint Therese is known for her "little way," which is simply the idea of seeking holiness in the ordinariness of our everyday lives. She teaches us to do the ordinary with extraordinary love. This is the essence of St. Therese's spirituality.

Today we pray for the relationships in our lives. May we be more loving with our family, friends, coworkers, strangers, and God. We ask for the strength to do small things with love and to see everyone as our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Saint Therese of Lisieux, you said that you would spend your time in heaven doing good on earth. Your trust in God was complete. Pray that He may increase my trust in His goodness and mercy as I ask for the following petitions…

(State your intentions)

Pray for me that I, like you, may have great and innocent confidence in the loving promises of our God. Pray that I may live my life in union with God’s plan for me, and one day see the Face of God whom you loved so deeply.

Saint Therese, you were faithful to God even unto the moment of your death. Pray for me that I may be faithful to our loving God. May my life bring peace and love to the world through faithful endurance in love for God our savior. Amen.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux Novena Day Two

Loving God, you loved St. Therese’s complete trust in your care. Help me to rely on your providential care in each circumstance of my life, especially the most difficult and stressful.

I trust you, Lord. Help me to trust you more!
I love you, Lord. Help me to love you more!

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

O God, who opened your Kingdom to those who are humble and to little ones, lead us to follow trustingly in the little way of St. Thérèse, so that through her intercession we may see your eternal glory revealed and spend eternity with you in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you together in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

For more about this novena including daily email reminders go HERE.

Saint Padre Pio on the Value of Suffering

Saint Padre Pio

Padre Pio was a man of immense spiritual gifts and insight. As a Capuchin priest, his ministry was marked by prayer and piety. His suffering was constant. He bore the stigmata of Our Lord’s Crucifixion with their attending agony, and was beset by demonic manifestations. His observations below teach us that our suffering is of immense value when joined with Our Savior's sacrifice and born with humility.

The greater your sufferings, the greater God’s love for you.
When we suffer, Jesus is closer to us.
The storms that are raging around you will turn out to be for God’s glory, your own merit, and the good of many souls.
Every sacrifice which your soul makes, every good it does is directed to God for the sanctification of all.
True and substantial devotion consists in serving God without experiencing any sensible consolation. This means serving and loving God for His own sake.
How unbearable is pain when suffered far from the Cross, but how sweet and bearable it becomes when it is offered close to the Cross of Jesus!
If we earnestly endeavor to love Jesus, this alone will drive all fear from our hearts and soul will find that instead of walking in the Lord’s paths, it is flying.
Don’t be daunted by the cross. The surest test of love consists in suffering for the loved one, and if God suffered so much for love, the pain we suffer for Him becomes as lovable as love itself.
He wants you entirely for Himself, He wants you to place all your trust and all your affection in Him alone and it is precisely for this reason that He send you this spiritual aridity, to unite you more closely to Him.
Jesus is with you even when you don’t feel His presence. He is never so close to you as He is during your spiritual battles. He is always there, close to you, encouraging you to fight your battle courageously. He is there to ward off the enemy’s blows so that you may not be hurt.

St. Pio, you shared in the cross of Christ, help us do the same in humility.

St. Padre Pio and the Stigmata of Our Lord’s Passion

Padre Pio

Perhaps the most distinguishing mark of Padre Pio’s holiness was bearing the stigmata, through which he shared in the suffering of Christ. Initially, our Savior’s sacred wounds, though felt by Fra. Pio, were not visible. On the morning of September 20, 1918, after celebrating Mass in the Church of Our Lady of Grace next to the friary, Padre Pio retired to the choir stalls in thanksgiving. Kneeling in loving adoration before the outspread, bloodied figure of Christ crucified, he experienced a peacefulness which invaded his whole being, a peacefulness, that he later described as "similar to a sweet sleep". What happened next is recorded in a letter Padre Pio wrote barely a month later to fellow friar Padre Benedetto:

"It all happened in a flash. While all this was taking place, I saw before me a mysterious Person, similar to the one I had seen on August 5th, differing only because His hands, feet and side were dripping blood. The sight of Him frightened me: what I felt at that moment is indescribable. 'I thought I would die, and would have died if the Lord hadn't intervened and strengthened my heart which was about to burst out of my chest. The Person disappeared and I became aware that my hands, feet and side were pierced and were dripping with blood."

The stigmata would remain with Padre Pio for the rest of his life. Unbeknownst to many, he felt the crown of thorns pressing into his scalp and the agony resulting from Jesus’ scourging. But by far, the most excruciating affliction he endured was the grievous shoulder wound from Christ carrying the cross. It bled constantly, causing him indescribable pain that could not be relieved. Padre Pio confided this torment only to his confessor and the future Saint John Paul II, Fr. Karol Wojtyla.

Upon Padre Pio’s death, all visible signs of the stigmata disappeared. Padre Pio’s detractors charged that he kept his wounds open with carbolic acid. (According to some accounts, his stigmata would ooze painfully while saying Mass and on certain holy days. As a result, Padre Pio wrapped the wounds in cloth beneath fingerless gloves.) In the face of such accusations, Pope Pius XI, Pope Pius XII, Pope Paul VI and St. John Paul II, all affirmed Padre Pio’s holiness and ministry.

Prayer in Honor of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Remember your mercies, O Lord, and with your eternal protection sanctify your servants for whom Christ your Son, through the shedding of his Blood, won for us salvation. The agony of his Passion was the result of our sin. Yet by his wounds we have been healed and all of your creation redeemed. In Christ's name. Amen.

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, Priest, Stigmatic & Mystic

St. Padre Pio

Memorial - September 23rd

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, (1887-1968) better known as Padre Pio, was the 20th century Capuchin priest, stigmatic and mystic, who during his lifetime, was a spiritual father to innumerable souls. He is the only priest in the history of the Church to receive the stigmata — the divine marks of predilection — from our Lord’s Passion and Death. Thus, for much of his priesthood, Padre Pio suffered the spiritual, emotional and physical anguish of Christ’s holy wounds.

In addition, he was given the miraculous gifts of bilocation, transverberation, (a divine piercing of the heart indicating union with God) the odor of sanctity, the ability to read souls, the ability to see and communicate with spiritual beings, (i.e. guardian angels, demons, the departed) and the capacity to write and comprehend languages foreign to him. Moreover, his brother Capuchins testified under oath that he levitated, healed by touch, and experienced divine ecstasies while praying, as well as, horrific nightly demonic manifestations, during which, he was beset by devils who would beat, torture, mock and humiliate him.

St. Padre Pio was born Francesco Forgione in the farming village of Pietrelcina, Italy, and baptized the following day. His parents, Grazio and Maria Forgione. were deeply devout Catholic peasants. At the age of 5, Francesco dedicated his life to God. The Forgione family attended daily Mass and prayed continuously. Although Francesco’s parents were illiterate, they memorized Sacred Scripture and taught its wisdom to their children. At 15, Francesco entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars in Morcone, taking the name Pio. His prodigious intellect and spiritual giftedness were apparent. Four years later, he made his first profession. On August 10, 1910, at the Cathedral of Benevento, he was ordained a priest.

While praying before a cross on September 20, 1918, Padre Pio received the stigmata. As word spread, especially after American soldiers brought home stories of Padre Pio following World War II, the priest himself became a point of pilgrimage for both the pious and the curious. He would hear confessions by the hour, pray, and provide spiritual guidance to all who sought his wise counsel.

The humble Capuchin friar was renowned for his personal sanctity, miraculous interventions, and prayerful celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Beginning in 1922, the Holy Office, (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) began restricting Padre Pio’s public ministry while the supernatural events surrounding his life were investigated. The future saint was forbidden from celebrating Mass in public and hearing confessions. In 1933, Pope Pius XI ordered the Holy Office to reverse its ban, saying "I have not been badly disposed toward Padre Pio, but I have been badly informed." Afterward, Padre Pio’s faculties were restored in full.

In 60 years of religious life, spent at San Giovanni Rotondo, Padre Pio dedicated himself to prayer, and to the ministry of reconciliation and spiritual direction. Like Saint Francis of Assisi, his physical body testified to the selfless sacrifice and boundless love of God especially for the sick in body and in spirit. Padre Pio’s daily activity centered on the sacraments of Confession and Mass. Holy Mass was the source and summit of his calling, the moment of closest communion with Christ. In the words of Saint John Paul II: "[St. Padre Pio] felt called to share in Christ's agony, an agony which continues until the end of the world."

From his youth, Padre Pio suffered from poor health. In the last years of his life, he declined rapidly. Early in the morning of September 23, 1968, Padre Pio died at age 81. He was canonized by St. John Paul II on June 16, 2002. His incorrupt remains lie in a crypt in the church of Saint Pio, located beside San Giovanni Rotondo. Almighty ever-living God, who, by a singular grace, gave the Priest St. Pio a share in the Cross of your Son and, by means of his ministry, renewed the wonders of your mercy, grant that through his intercession we may be united to the sufferings of Christ, and so brought happily to the glory of the resurrection.

Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux 2017 | Day 1

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

September 22, 2017

Saint Therese of Lisieux, you said that you would spend your time in heaven doing good on earth. Your trust in God was complete. Pray that He may increase my trust in His goodness and mercy as I ask for the following petitions…

(State your intentions)

Pray for me that I, like you, may have great and innocent confidence in the loving promises of our God. Pray that I may live my life in union with God’s plan for me, and one day see the Face of God whom you loved so deeply.

Saint Therese, you were faithful to God even unto the moment of your death. Pray for me that I may be faithful to our loving God. May my life bring peace and love to the world through faithful endurance in love for God our savior. Amen.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux Novena Day One

Loving God, you blessed St. Therese with a capacity for a great love. Help me to believe in your unconditional love for each of your children, especially for me.

I love you, Lord. Help me to love you more!

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

O God, who opened your Kingdom to those who are humble and to little ones, lead us to follow trustingly in the little way of St. Thérèse, so that through her intercession we may see your eternal glory revealed and spend eternity with you in heaven. 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 about this novena including daily email reminders go HERE.

September 21, 2017

The Different Classes of Unbelievers Against God and God's Church [From the Baltimore Catechism]

Council of Nicea

The eight classes of unbelievers are as follows:

1. Atheists, who deny there is a God;

2. Deists, who admit there is a God, but deny that He revealed a religion;

3. Agnostics, who will neither admit nor deny the existence of God;

4. Infidels, were never baptized, and who by want of faith, refuse to be so;

5. Heretics, were baptized Christians, but do not believe all the articles of faith;

6. Schismatics, are baptized and believe all articles of faith, save papal authority;

7. Apostates, who reject the true religion, they formerly held, to join a false one;

8. Rationalists and Materialists, who believe only in material things.

(From the Baltimore Catechism #3 Lesson 30 - Q. 1170.)

Outside the Church There is No Salvation

The straight forward but constantly misinterpreted doctrine that "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus": "Outside the Church there is no salvation", is the source of much confusion among many Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In brief: A person enters the Church through baptism. Salvation is what God bestows upon those who seek God with a sincere heart, moved by grace, and attempt in their striving to do God’s will as they understand it compelled by their conscience which should be in total accord with the Church's Magisterium, Her dogmas and Her beliefs.

Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus has been infallibly defined three times by popes and councils, (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215, Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302, Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.) and piously believed by the faithful in every age of the Church's existence.

Prayer for the Church

Remember O Lord, Thy Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church which Thou hast purchased with Thy precious blood. Confirm and strengthen it, enlarge and multiply it, keep it in peace, and preserve it unconquerable by the gates of hell forever. Heal the schisms of the churches, quench the ragings of the heathen, speedily undo and root out the growths of heresies, and bring them to naught by the power of Thy Holy Spirit. Make it faithful always, in imitation of You. Amen.

September 20, 2017

God’s Love Perfects Us Amid Pain, Suffering & Despair

The Carrying of the Cross

By Father Thomas Mattison

We have been conditioned by years (centuries?) of teaching to think of love/charity as a virtue, something to do or not. But St. John tells us God is love. He does not tell us that God does love. I want to suggest that this is the insight – although never spoken – that makes Israel think of God as Elector/Electing; having no other identity than the one who chooses his own people. I do not think that we go far wrong when we assert that the only God we know is the one who loves/chooses us. With those observations in mind, I might like to revise the translation of John’s phrase and say that God is Loving, not as an attribute, but as the very dynamic of His being. You may want to reread this paragraph in order to forge ahead.

If God is Loving, then all of creation is something like a love letter. You and I are words in that love letter. I don’t mean to sound like a song from the Seventies, but we must bite the bullet on this one and admit it: Unloving undoes creation and undoes the unlover. Whatever is must be love or it is not. I want to show you two examples of that.

As Jesus hung upon the cross, He experienced, with all the sensitivity that only a divine being could possess, what it means to be un-loved by priests and procurators, by disciples and strangers. In this moment when everyone and everything seems bent on un-loving/unmaking Him, He calls out to God who is Loving, “Why have you abandoned me?” Why does love feel so unloving?

At the end of her life, Therese Martin [St. Therese of Lisieux], as her intestines we rotting away from tuberculosis, ventured the observation, “I did not think that love could hurt so much.”

Each of them knows that to be is to be loved, and each of them affirms that even being in pain is being loved. The clarity of their understanding at first baffles us; then it makes us gape in wonder.

This is where real virtue begins. If pain or hostility or weakness or ignorance or poverty or disgrace or guilt means that one is unloved, then love is not worth the trouble. But if one is loved even in such untoward circumstances, then these circumstances are but a paring away of all that is not essential to life and love, allowing life and love to be seen in its purest form that we call resurrection. You might want to reread this paragraph too. (Or think of all the times the weight trainer tells you to go for the burn or to work to failure.) These are terribly clarifying (or maybe just terrible) thoughts. They reduce the whole of life and living to just one thing. But no other reduction allows for the same unified and coherent vision of reality.

Thus, while we pray that we will be spared abandonment and tuberculosis, we can learn from these great and holy people the power of this vision to comfort even as it challenges, to bring hope even as it plunges us into deeper darkness, to inspire love even in the unloved and, to paraphrase some poet or other, to find the Lover even in the unlovely.

Fr. Mattison is pastor of Christ Our Savior Parish in Manchester Center, VT.

Saint Joseph of Cupertino on God

Saint Joseph of Cupertino
Clearly, what God wants above all is our will which we received as a free gift from God in creation and possess as though our own. When a man trains himself to acts of virtue, it is with the help of grace from God from whom all good things come that he does this. The will is what man has as his unique possession.
— St. Joseph of Cupertino

Prayer for St. Joseph of Cupertino’s Intercession

Almighty God, You ordained that Your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ should be lifted up above the earth and draw all things to Himself; mercifully grant, by the merits and intercession of Your confessor Joseph, that we may be lifted up above all earthly desires and be found worthy to come to Him, who being God, lives and reigns with You, together in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

The Calling of St. Matthew

September 21st, is the feast of Saint Matthew, the Apostle and Evangelist, best known for the Gospel bearing his name. Information about his early years is scarce. He was highly educated. In the New Testament, he is referred to variously as "Levi" and the "son of Alphaeus." He received the name Matthew upon becoming a disciple of Christ. (Matthew in Hebrew: מַתִּתְיָהוּ‎‎ means "gift of God.")

As a publican for the Roman authorities, he collected taxes in Capernaum where Jesus is known to have resided in Peter’s house. Most tax collectors typically overcharged and pocketed the difference — a universally acknowledged practice. Moreover, they collaborated with the occupying Romans authorities in handling money deemed impure from those foreign to the People of God.

Matthew was despised by fellow Jews, especially the Pharisees who likened tax collectors to sinners, prostitutes and extortionists. As such, Jewish publicans were forbidden from marrying a Jewish woman, worshiping in the synagogue and participating in civil society. That our Savior would make Matthew, a man others thought unworthy, to be one of the foundations of His Church is instructive.

He is identified as the man sitting at the tax office whom Jesus calls to follow him: "As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, "'Follow me'. And he rose and followed him" (Matthew 9: 9). Whatever his standing in the Jewish community, Matthew was the most well-educated and well-off of the Apostles. At hearing Jesus’ command, he left his interests without hesitation. It is probable that Matthew knew of Jesus and his teachings since he was from Galilee in which Jesus ministered.

Shortly after his divine summons, scripture records that Matthew and his fellow tax collectors dined with Jesus: "When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?' But when he heard it, he said, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice. For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.'" (Mark 2:16-17) Challenged by the Pharisees for eating with sinners, Christ's answer is definitive. Jesus sought out sinners — those with the greatest need — not the righteous. Pope Benedict XVI’s reflection on St. Matthew illuminates the mind of Christ:

"The good news of the Gospel consists precisely in this: offering God's grace to the sinner! … Another reflection prompted by the Gospel narrative is that Matthew responds instantly to Jesus' call: 'he rose and followed him". …For him it meant leaving everything, especially what guaranteed him a reliable source of income, even if it was often unfair and dishonorable. Evidently, Matthew understood that familiarity with Jesus did not permit him to pursue activities of which God disapproved." (Benedict XVI, General Audience, 8/30/2006.)

The Gospel according to Matthew is perhaps his most enduring contribution to the Church. Originally written in Aramaic, the language that our Lord Himself spoke, it speaks of Christ and His Kingdom to convince the Jews that their expected Messiah had come in the person of Jesus. Through Him, all the promises of the Messianic Kingdom spoken of by the prophets are fulfilled in spiritual terms, rather than in the political realm or in worldly terms.

According to various traditions, Matthew preached the Good News to the Jewish community in Judea, before evangelizing Ethiopia, where he received the crown of martyrdom. The king of Ethiopia, Hirticus, wished to marry his niece Iphigenia, the abbess of a convent, who Matthew converted to Christianity. When Matthew forbade the marriage, Hirticus had him killed. St. Matthew is the patron saint of accountants, civil servants and bankers. O God, who with untold mercy choose as an Apostle St. Matthew, the tax collector, grant that, sustained by his example and intercession, we may merit to hold firm in following you to the last measure.

A version of this article was previously published in September 2016.

September 19, 2017

Sts. Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang and Companions, Korean Martyrs

Sts. Andrew Kim Taegon and Paul Chong Hasang

September 20th, the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, Saint Paul Chong Hasang and companions, courageous 19th century Korean martyrs. The beginning of the Catholic Church in Korea was unusual. Rather than resulting from the efforts of ordained missionaries, the faith was established in that country by the work — and martyrdom — of lay converts.

For most of its history, Korea was an isolated place, rejecting contact with much of the outside world. The one exception was China, and even that was limited to the paying of taxes once a year to Beijing. However, in other ways, particularly culturally, Korea was strongly influenced by this larger and stronger neighbor to its North. Some of that influence included the introduction of Christianity.

The Jesuits, who had already established a foothold in China, managed to get some Christian literature into Korea, and the more educated members of the society began to study the faith on their own. Through their efforts, a home Church began to flourish. By 1836, when missionaries were finally able to get into the country, they found a faithful, dynamic community of Catholics numbering some 4,000 persons — none of whom had ever seen a priest. Within 10 years, the number of Catholics had increased to over 10,000 adherents.

The Korean government greeted this new faith with hostility and disdain. There were several severe persecutions that took place, particularly in the years 1839, 1846 and 1866, resulting in the deaths of some 8,000 martyrs. Among those killed in the purge of 1839 were the first native-born Korean priest, Fr. Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang, a lay catechist and their fellow companions.

Father Taegon was born into a noble Korean family in 1822. Both his parents were Christian converts, and his father was martyred for the faith when Andrew was 15. His father’s devotion combined with the example of other martyrs inspired the young man to become a priest. Andrew left Korea to pursue studies at a seminary in Macao, China, and was ordained six years later in Shanghai.

The Catholic community there greeted his return to Korea with great enthusiasm. Members managed to sneak Fr. Taegon past the border patrol. Sadly, he was not able to serve the people for very long. In 1846, during the Joseon Dynasty, Christianity was severely repressed, and Fr. Taegon was among the thousands who suffered brutal torture and martyrdom rather than renounce his faith.

Hasang, whose parents converted to Christianity, became a leader of his local faith community after his father and older brother were martyred. As a catechist, he wrote the first catechism for the Korean Church. He composed a document entitled "Sand-Je-SangSu," a work of apologetics that explained to the Korean government what Christianity was and why it was no threat to the Korean people. He was martyred in 1839. Saint John Paul II canonized him, Fr. Taegon and 101 other Korean martyrs in 1984. Martyrs of Korea, faithful to the end, pray for us.

The 2017 Novena to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, "the Little Flower", Begins September 22nd

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

September 22nd is the first day of the novena to Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, more popularly known as St. Thérèse of Lisieux, "the Little Flower." This beloved saint is the patron of foreign missions, missionaries, against tuberculosis, AIDS sufferers, illness and loss of parents. Her perfect trust in God, deep faith and patient suffering is an example of heroic virtue for us to follow.

Saint Pius X called St. Thérèse the "greatest saint of modern times." She is a powerful intercessor whose help is sought by many. Join thousands of others around the world in praying the novena to St. Thérèse of Lisieux. O God, who opened your Kingdom to those who are humble and to little ones, lead us to follow trustingly in the little way of St. Thérèse, so that through her intercession we may see your eternal glory revealed and spend eternity with you in heaven.

For more about this novena including daily email reminders go HERE.

Reflection for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard

The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard

Reflection for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A


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

 (Isaiah 22:19-23; Romans 11:33-39; Matthew 16:13-10)

The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard often evokes a negative reaction in listeners, who feel that there is really something unfair in the landowner’s method of paying his workers. But God doesn’t think the way we think, Isaiah reminds us.

I maintain, furthermore, that this parable underscores the very ministry and message of Our Savior.

Jesus was addressing two different issues. The more obvious one is that we can’t place a price, as it were, on service for the Kingdom. The other is this: different persons respond in their own way, and in their own time, to the Good News. Even though there is always a certain urgency to conversion, it can’t be rushed.

As we can see in many of St. Paul’s letters, becoming a Christian implies a fundamental change of lifestyle. That was dramatically true in his own life, and even as an Apostle in the midst of his service to the Lord, he had to take the needs of others into account, as we see in today’s second reading.

St. Augustine’s path to a full Christian way of life took over ten years. St. Teresa of Avila describes herself as having been a fairly mediocre nun for a long time before committing herself to a serious life of prayer.

Focusing as we do on the conclusion of the parable, we tend not to notice how often the landowner goes out to hire more workers. Reversing the appeal of Isaiah to “seek the Lord while he may be found,” it is the Lord who goes out to seek those who need what he has to offer, while they may be found.

Resentment toward ’latecomer Christians’ implies that those who followed Jesus earlier have lost something, because they have carried the “burden” of the Christian life longer. Nothing could be farther from the truth! The latecomers are the ‘losers’, because they have missed so much along the way. All the saints who were ’late’ converts expressed regrets similar to St. Augustine’s famous phrase, “Late have I loved thee, O Beauty ever ancient and ever new.”

The love of God expressed through Christ’s Incarnation desires that we seek His will, ideally now, but latecomers will always be welcome.

September 18, 2017

Our Lady of La Salette’s Urgent Appeal to Humanity

On the 19th of September, 1846, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to two illiterate peasant children on the Mountain of La Salette, France, with an urgent message for the universal Church and the world to pray, repent and love God.

I make an urgent appeal to the earth. I call on the true disciples of the living God who reigns in Heaven; I call on the true followers of Christ made man, the only true Savior of men; I call on my children, the true faithful, those who have given themselves to me so that I may lead them to my divine Son, those whom I carry in my arms, so to speak, those who have lived on my spirit. Finally, I call on the Apostles of the Last Days, the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ who have lived in scorn for the world and for themselves, in poverty and in humility, in scorn and in silence, in prayer and in mortification, in chastity and in union with God, in suffering and unknown to the world. It is time they came out and filled the world with light. Go and reveal yourselves to be my cherished children. I am at your side and within you, provided that your faith is the light which shines upon you in these unhappy days.  May your zeal make you famished for the glory and the honor of Jesus Christ. Fight, children of light, you, the few who can see. For now is the time of all times, the end of all ends— Our Lady of La Salette [Source]

Prayer to Our Lady of La Salette

Remember, dear Lady of La Salette, true Mother of Sorrows, the tears which you shed on Calvary. Be mindful of the unceasing care which you exercise to shield us from the justice of God. Inspired by this, I cast myself at your feet. Reject not my prayer, O Virgin of reconciliation. Convert me, and obtain for me the grace to love Christ above all things so that one day I may join you in eternal Beatitude. Amen.

The Miraculous Liquefaction of St. Januarius’ Blood

Martyrdom of St. Januarius

Optional Memorial - September 19th

Saint Januarius is the 4th century bishop of Beneventum, who together with his companions (his deacons Socius and Festus, and his lector Desiderius), was martyred in the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian in c. 305. Beheaded at Puteoli, their bodies were reverently interred in the neighboring cities. Eventually the remains of St. Januarius became the prized possession of the city of Naples.

St. Januarius, Bishop Martyr, and the Miracle of His Blood

St. Januarius is known for the miracle of the liquefaction of his blood, which, according to popular piety, was saved by a woman named Eusebia just after the saint’s martyrdom. At least three times a year, on September 19, (St. Januarius’ feast day) December 16, (The celebration of his patronage of the city and the archdiocese) and the Saturday before the first Sunday of May, (the memorial of the reunification of his relics) thousands gather in Naples Cathedral in hopes of witnessing St. Januarius’ congealed blood miraculously liquefy and appear to boil.

The dried blood is stored in two hermetically sealed ampoules, held since the 17th century in a silver reliquary between round glass plates about 12 cm wide. The smaller ampoule contains only a few reddish specks on its walls. The larger ampoule, with a capacity of 60 ml, is about 60% filled with a reddish substance.

When the bishop takes the sacred vial containing the saint’s head to the altar, the assembled congregation prays that the blood becomes liquid. If the miracle takes place, the officiant proclaims, "Il miracolo é fatto!" (The miracle is accomplished!) and waves a white handkerchief. The Te Deum is recited and the reliquary taken to the altar rail so that all the faithful assembled may solemnly venerate the vial.

The first recorded liquefaction of St Januarius’ blood was in 1389. The blood can be fickle and sometimes remains congealed. Liquefaction is considered a sign that the year will be free from disasters. Conversely, the absence of a miracle may portend difficulty. (On the eve of World War II, the blood did not bubble up.)

Intercession and Veneration

In 1631, an impending eruption on Mt. Vesuvius threatened the city of Naples. The people prayed to St. Januarius to spare them. The flow of lava ceased and the city was saved. Ever since, St. Januarius has been invoked against volcanic eruptions. He is also the patron saint of Naples, Italy and blood banks. The San Gennaro festival in Little Italy, New York City celebrating St. Januarius’s feast is the longest continuously running public religious festival in the United States. Eternal God, who grant us to venerate the memory of the Martyr St. Januarius, give us, we pray, the joy of his company in blessed happiness for all eternity.

Feast of Our Lady of La Salette [Homily]

Our Lady of La Salette [statue]

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

The anniversary of the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette is September 19. As La Salette Missionaries around the world we celebrate the event on the nearest Sunday. My homily today is therefore not based on the readings for the [24th Tuesday] in Ordinary time but on special readings for the Feast.

One might find the story from Genesis, about the rainbow after the flood, to be an odd reading for a feast of the Blessed Virgin.

The rainbow makes its appearance as the sign of the covenant that God makes with Noah. The bow, an ancient symbol of war, now becomes a sign of peace. God is starting over, re-creating, reconciling humanity to himself, promising he will never again give up on us.

Other covenants followed, with Abraham, with Moses, until the definitive, final covenant was ratified in the blood of the Cross. As the flood in Noah’s time both destroyed creation and cleansed it for a new beginning, so too Jesus’ blood marked not only his death but a new beginning of life for all of us. Entrusting us, in and through the Beloved Disciple, to his own Blessed Mother, he puts us all in a new relationship to one another as he reconciles us with the Father.

St. Paul, passionate about everything in his relationship to the Lord, pleads emphatically: Be reconciled to God! Five times in five verses he speaks of reconciling and reconciliation. There is no new covenant after Christ, but we often need to renew our relationship with Christ within the covenant he has established.

It is not surprising that all the readings for today’s feast point to the reality of reconciliation. The whole purpose of the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette was reconciliation. Like the prophets of old she uses language that is sometimes gentle, sometimes harsh— whatever it takes to restore the relationship between her people and her Son.

Some twenty-five years ago I was a curate in the Parish of Our Lady of La Salette in Rainham, England, east of London. Over a period of several weeks I visited a man named Sydney who had been diagnosed with cancer. Each week I found him weaker.

Meanwhile, there was another parish staffed by La Salette Missionaries, in Dagenham, the next town to our west, and on Mondays at noon the priests of both parishes would get together for dinner at the rectory in Dagenham. One Monday the three of us in Rainham drove there, but after the meal two of us decided to walk the two and a half miles back home. After a while it began to rain lightly, and as we approached our destination, there appeared before us one of the most glorious rainbows I have ever seen. Sydney died that same day.

I decided to use the image of the rainbow to begin the homily at Sydney’s funeral: “On the day that Sydney died,” I began, “a magnificent rainbow was shining over Rainham.” I noticed as I said this, however, that his widow and her son looked strangely at each other; but I didn’t give it another thought until we were leaving the cemetery, and she asked me, “How did you know?” “About what?” I replied. “About the rainbow.” “I saw it.”

“No,” she answered, and then went on to explain. On the day before Sydney died, he had been unresponsive most of the day. Then he awoke and said to his wife, “I’ve just seen the most beautiful rainbow.” With tremendous compassion and courage she told him, “Go to the rainbow.” That was their last exchange. You can imagine the comfort she found in learning that there was just such a rainbow on the day he died.

A rainbow, you see, is not just a thing of beauty. It radiates not only color but hope. That is the point of today’s reading from Genesis. That is the point of the Apparition and the Message of Our Lady of La Salette.

September 17, 2017

Two Prayers for St. Joseph of Cupertino’s Intercession

Saint Joseph of Cupertino

These prayers to St. Joseph of Cupertino, the patron of students and those who study, are most beneficial for those taking all manner of examinations. They have to be said before taking an exam. Both prayers are equally efficacious in power.

First Prayer

O Great St. Joseph of Cupertino who while on earth did obtain from God the grace to be asked at your examination only the questions you knew, obtain for me a like favour in the examinations for which I am now preparing. In return I promise to make you known and cause you to be invoked.

Through Christ our Lord.

St. Joseph of Cupertino, Pray for us. Amen.

Second Prayer

O St. Joseph of Cupertino who by your prayer obtained from God to be asked at your examination, the only preposition you knew. Grant that I may like you succeed in the (here mention the name of Examination eg. History paper I ) examination.

In return I promise to make you known and cause you to be invoked.

O St. Joseph of Cupertino pray for me
O Holy Ghost enlighten me
Our Lady of Good Studies pray for me
Sacred Head of Jesus, Seat of divine wisdom, enlighten me. Amen.

When you succeed in your exams you should thank St. Joseph of Cupertino.

O God, You ordained that Your only-begotten Son should be lifted up above the earth and draw all things to Himself; mercifully grant that, through the merits and example of Your seraphic confessor Joseph, we may be lifted up above all earthly desires and be found worthy to come to Him, who being God, lives and reigns with You, and in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Joseph of Cupertino, Confessor and Mystic

Saint Joseph of Cupertino

Optional Memorial - September 18th

St. Joseph of Cupertino is an inspiration for anyone who has felt they can never do anything right. This slow, clumsy and most unlikely saint is known for great holiness, which was expressed in his ecstasies and habit of levitating during prayer. He had a difficult life from the moment it began. His father died before Joseph's birth, and his mother was most cruel. He had little formal instruction.

He was born at Cupertino, in present-day Italy, in 1603. Sadly, for Joseph, his own mother considered him bothersome and treated him badly. Slow-witted and reputedly bad-tempered, he was not well liked by anyone else either. It seemed he could succeed at little. Even the Capuchins sent him away after only eight months as a novice because of his clumsiness, ineptitude and inability to focus.

Finally, in desperation, his uncle convinced the Conventual Franciscans to accept him as a servant to the order. That is when Joseph began to change, becoming humble, prayerful, and successful at the menial tasks assigned to him. The order accepted him as a full member, and though he had a hard time at his studies, he became a deacon and then a priest because the examiner happened to ask him the only question he knew well. He had prayed to God the night before to pass.

His ecstasies and levitations during Mass and prayer — seventy such incidents were verified at his canonization—were often a burden, because some regarded him as a kind of circus attraction. However, he was also able to bring many others to a deeper spirituality and a greater faith. In 1653, due to his growing notoriety, church authorities transferred him to a Capuchin friary in the hills of Pietarossa, keeping him out of sight (and thus suspending his public ministry).

In August of 1663, Joseph became ill, but was filled with joy in knowing he would soon be united to God. Joseph's health alternated between being so weak that he could not rise, to experiencing one last "flight" on the feast of the Assumption, while saying Mass. He died the evening of September 18, 1663, after receiving the last rites and reciting the Litany of Our Lady. He was buried two days later in the chapel of the Immaculate Conception. Pope Clement XIII canonized him in 1767. He is the patron saint of air travelers, astronauts, pilots and studying.

Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 24, 2017, Year A

The workers in the vineyard

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

How often do you hear the cry “It isn’t fair?” It is, of course, a complaint you hear many times from children and teens. Students complain their teachers aren’t fair with their exams. Some adults and parents complain that giving grades on performance isn’t fair. How often do parents tell us that teachers aren’t fair? And what about university admissions policies, are they fair or unfair?

The Hurricane Katrina disaster brought forth a host of concerns about fairness. So, too, in follow-ups from other natural disasters.

Capitalism, we are told, isn’t fair. In the name of fairness, socialism and communism were tried and found not to be fair.

The Church, we are often told, isn’t fair. The way it treats women isn’t fair, we are told. The way it appoints bishops isn’t fair. The way it treats victims of abuse isn’t fair, nor is the way it deals with priests who have broken the law and grievously sinned.

The way Jesus Christ rewarded Mary and ignored Martha’s complaint wasn’t, according to Martha, very fair.

Life isn’t fair – bad things happen to good people.

Finally, we hear the ultimate complaint – God isn’t fair!

All of this takes us back to the beginning of things, to the Book of Genesis and its presentation the origins of our history in relating to God. Here we find Adam and Eve in the Garden of Paradise where they could have anything they wanted. Indeed, God gave them everything. We read in Genesis 1:29: “God said, ‘See, I give you all the seed-bearing fruit; this shall be your food.” In other words, they had everything. Only one thing was forbidden to them, namely the fruit of but one tree, the tree in the middle of the garden. Was God being unfair?

Thereupon the serpent enters the scene whispering about God’s unfairness. The 3rd chapter of Genesis sets the stage: “The serpent was the most subtle of all the wild beasts that Yahweh God had made. It asked the woman, ‘Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?’” Note the subtle shift. God had told Adam and Eve they could eat from all of the trees in the garden except for just one in the middle. The serpent changes the word “all” to “any” saying, “Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” Satan’s suggestion was, of course a lie, but he put it to Adam and Eve in a way that makes one think there was something wrong in God’s plan, that God was unfair.

The woman answered the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden.” And she was correct – she answered rightly. Said she: “We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, “You must not eat it, or touch it, under pain of death.”

So the serpent went on to lie to the woman saying, “No! You will not die! God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be open and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.” In other words, you can challenge God Himself because you will know as He knows. The truth, the devil suggests, is that in all fairness you can have whatever you want. You can do whatever you have a mind to do. You can be like God!

The competition between our will and God’s will, between our ways and God’s ways, has gone on ever since that original rebellion. Throughout human history God has repeatedly attempted to subdue our pride in order to reach us. Today’s first reading gives us the words of one of God’s greatest prophets, namely Isaiah. We heard God, through His prophet Isaiah, once again calling us away from Satan’s pride. Said he: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heaven are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.”

In the light of the fact that we still question God’s ways, what spiritual progress have we really made? Even today people still call God into account. They still sit in judgment against God and His ways. Many of us still think what we consider to be fair is the ultimate standard, measuring God’s fairness by our standards of fairness.

But what really is “fair”? When we declare that all men and women are created equal, many people twist that around to claim they are created to be the same. When we look at our economic systems some claim that everyone has the same net worth. When it comes to possessions, when it comes to recognition of academic achievements, when it comes to abilities and competencies there’s a huge struggle going on to make us all the same. Oh, we pay lip service to the phrase “equal opportunity” but we judge by outcomes. The result is a “dumbing down” so that everyone is at parity. I recently heard of a high school that graduated fourteen valedictorians out of fear of generating negative feelings of self-worth in those who were graduating with achievements less than the single best student in the senior class. What, I ask, was the value in being named one of fourteen valedictorians?

Deflating the value of academic degrees, deflating the value of grades, deflating recognitions of achievement, of being a cut above everyone else, and doing all this in the name of fairness, is ultimately unfair. In the long run, our ways lead to one disaster after another. The Soviet “Workers’ Paradise” ended up being a gigantic gulag. And when one or a small number of kids in a high school manage to impose their will against all the others in that school, including the teachers themselves, then the inmates have taken over the asylum and the educational opportunity of all will be reduced to what the dumbest demand.

At issue in our lives, especially these days, is what is we mean by the word “fair.” Just what is the content of fairness? What does it demand? Indeed, even using the word “demand” raises challenges to those who cannot accept any demands at all, including (and perhaps particularly) God’s demands upon us.

In the end, it’s a good thing God is God and that He is the ultimate judge of fairness because, to be honest, we haven’t done such a good job in understanding it’s meaning and content. Nor have we done such a good job with what is meant by Justice.

For us, here today, we need to once again set aside our pride and arrogance and turn to the mind and heart of God. For His ways are not our ways and the only way out of the quicksand that sucks us all down is to take Christ’s hand and extract ourselves from our dilemmas with His strength. For if we let God be God, He will give us everything else that we could ever want or need.

Saint Robert Bellarmine on the Last Day

Saint Robert Bellarmine
On the last day, when the general examination takes place, there will be no question at all on the text of Aristotle, the aphorisms of Hippocrates, or the paragraphs of Justinian. Charity will be the whole syllabus.
— St. Robert Bellarmine

Prayer for St. Robert Bellarmine’s Intercession

Almighty ever-living God, who adorned the Bishop Saint Robert Bellarmine with wonderful learning and heroic virtue to vindicate the faith of your Church, grant, through his intercession, that in the integrity of that same faith your people may always find joy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns together with you and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Robert Bellarmine, Patron of Religious Education

Saint Robert Bellarmine

Optional Memorial - September 17th

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

It is fitting that the month that heralds the beginning of a new school year is also the time in which the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Robert Bellarmine. A Jesuit priest during the Catholic Reformation, he won renown for his scholarship and theological insights. Bellarmine was a "Spiritual Father" to many, including Saint Aloysius Gonzaga. He was a consequential figure in the Church's renewal.

He was born in Italy in 1542. His mother, Cinthia Cervini, was sister to Cardinal Marcello Cervini, who later became Pope Marcellus II. Educated by the then "new" order in the Church—the Society of Jesus—the young Bellarmine entered the Jesuits in 1560 at the age of 18. He was ordained 10 years later and became the first Jesuit professor at the Catholic University at Louvain, Belgium, where he taught theology. He remained until 1576, when he was appointed to the Roman College founded by St. Ignatius Loyola (later the Pontifical Gregorian University).

St. Robert Bellarmine ministered in the wake of the Protestant Reformation and was thus part of a Church that simultaneously defended Catholic teaching while working to reform its own shortcomings. His gift for scholarship was remarkable and needed. He was appointed a cardinal in 1599 because, as Pope Clement VIII said, "he had not his equal for learning." His most famous work of theology, the Disputations on the Controversies of the Christian Faith, sought to "systematize the teachings of the Church against the attacks of the Protestant Reformers."

Though a scholar, his life was not without controversy in the political sphere. He upset the monarchists in both England and France by demonstrating, through his writing, that the theory of the "Divine Right of Kings," (which held that kings derive their authority from God, not from their subjects) was indefensible. The idea of Divine Right, or God's mandate, had been unquestioned for centuries. Bellarmine also alienated Pope Sixtus V, when he further asserted that the pope's involvement in temporal matters, or worldly affairs, should be indirect.

His scholarship extended beyond these questions, however. He helped to revise the Vulgate Bible, which had been translated by Saint Jerome in the 4th century, and had become the official Latin translation used by the Church. As a theologian to Pope Clement VIII, he assisted in the preparation of two catechisms which would subsequently have an immense influence on Catholicism and catechesis.

His personal life was marked by prayer, humility, and care for the poor. While serving Clement VIII, he lived in apartments at the Vatican. It is said that he ate only the food which was available to the poor, and took the hangings off the walls of his room to clothe them. He reportedly remarked, "The walls won’t catch cold." He died in Rome in 1621 at 79. He was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930. The following year he was declared a Doctor of the Church. His remains are displayed under a side altar in the Church of St. Ignatius, the chapel of the Roman College.

Homily for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 17, 2017, Year A

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

The classic format for writing a drama is to present it in three acts. So let’s look at today’s Gospel account in that format.

Act I – Balancing the Books.

We have here a debtor who owes his master ten thousand talents. Now a talent was an amount of money equal to one thousand denarii, and a denarius was a Roman silver coin equal to one day’s labor. Doing the arithmetic, the amount of the debt equaled ten million days’ wages.

Responding to the debtor’s request the king, in an act of subtle sensitivity, changes the obligation from a debt to a loan. Did you notice that in the reading? It tells us: “Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.”

What is striking is that the debtor didn’t ask for forgiveness, he asked only for time to pay it back. Was he nuts? He must have been! How could he possibly think he could pay back the huge obligation he owed his master?

Setting aside the man’s psychiatric condition, let’s take a look at his spiritual state, which is, of course, what Jesus is talking about. We should also keep in mind that Jesus is talking about your spiritual condition as well as mine. All of Jesus’ parables are not about other people; they are about you and me.

And the point? The debtor was concerned only about observing the dictates of the law. His arrogant self-righteousness remained. His focus was only on himself. There was no change the debtor’s heart, only an attempt to manipulate laws, rules and regulations.

Act II – Self-righteousness.

Filled with his own self-righteousness the debtor went out a found a fellow servant, one of his equals who owed him a small amount of money. It amounted to only a hundred days’ wages, a miniscule sum compared to ten thousand talents he himself owed. Instead of treating his fellow servant with a changed heart, he treats his fellow servant to a strict application of the law and, after choking him, has his fellow servant thrown into debtors prison.

And the lesson? You can offer forgiveness to someone who has sinned against you but it won’t be effective if he or she has not repented and asked for forgiveness. The parable is pointing out that even God can’t forgive someone with a hard heart. It’s called “sinning against the Holy Spirit,” the only unforgivable sin. It’s unforgivable because the sinner does not allow himself to be influenced by the Holy Spirit and God’s tender, loving mercies.

Act III – The King Acts.

The king then acts on behalf of the powerless. He exercises legal judgment and employs the law on behalf of the poor and powerless fellow servant. He applies the full force of the law against the debtor who owed him the ten thousand talents.

We need to see that God comes to us looking for change in our hearts, not simply a change in our ways of thinking and acting. Changing our ways are “externals”, not “internals.” It’s your heart that God wants.

The old law of “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” was designed to control and contain our vengeful attitudes and our lusts to “get even.” If one was limited to an eye or a tooth; one could not go beyond those boundaries and then kill in the name of justice.

Nevertheless, “getting even” is very much a part of our ways of doing things, even in today’s world. All one need do is to pay attention to the news headlines that daily confront us. Our world is still held hostage to notions of “getting even,” believing that justice will be served in that way, or that some sort of balance will be restored. We see that today in the Middle East and in our own politicians in Washington.

Jesus wants us to see that forgiveness is liberating, and it is the most liberating for the one doing the forgiving. Forgiveness allows us to walk in the freedom of the sons and daughters of God, not as children of the law.

Living under the law leads us to “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” approach. Living under the law leads us to attitudes that seek retribution and justice alone without any change in our hearts.

Many of us cling to resentments in horrible prisons of pent-up anger, in the grip of resentments and in our lusts to “get even”. This throws us into victimhood. We feel like we are victims and seek ways to find just compensation, revenge and retribution. We live under the law.

Jesus Christ is risen from the dead… victim no longer. He is totally free because he is totally forgiving. He teaches us to ask God to “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” As is the controlling word – we will be forgiven to the length, height and depth that we measure out forgiveness to others, all the while remembering that the people we forgive are forgiven only if they repent, convert their hearts, and then actually accept forgiveness. For forgiveness to work both parties must be involved.

Forgiveness is not “selling out;” it’s not saying that what people have done to us is somehow “okay,” or that it does not matter. Forgiveness liberates us from the ways of this world; it takes us into the heart of God. To forgive is truly divine, and the presence of God is something we all desperately need in our lives, particularly in the days in which we presently live.

With all of that in mind I want us to listen again to the wisdom offered us in God’s holy word, to wisdom that is found in today’s first reading that came to us from the Old Testament Book of Wisdom:

Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the LORD’s vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail. Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins? If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins?
Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin! Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.

And so let us — lets you and me — find freedom for ourselves in forgiving others.

September 15, 2017

Saint Cornelius and Saint Cyprian, Martyrs

Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian

September 16th, the Church celebrates two holy friends who received the crown of martyrdom in their imitation of Christ and in service to Christ's Church. Saint Cornelius, (251-253) a Roman was elected Pope in 251 amid the persecutions of the Emperor Decius. Little is known of his life before the papacy. Besides the danger posed by Roman authorities in opposition to the Church, he also had to contend with a deep schism occasioned by Novatian, the first anti-pope.

The issue in contention resulting from the Decian persecution was whether those who had apostatized could be absolve and receive back into the Church. Novatian held that those who had apostacized must be rebaptized, and that some sins were so grave they could not be forgiven by the Church. (Such sins could only be forgiven at the Last Judgment.)

Cornelius had the support of St. Cyprian, St. Dionysius, and most African and Eastern bishops convened a synod of bishops to confirm him as the rightful bishop of Rome and end the schism.  Cornelius was supported by Saint Cyprian whose influence (together with Saint Dionysius) swayed the bishops in Cornelius’ favor. The synod declared Cornelius pope. It further resolved the question on apostates. Pope Cornelius decreed, they must be welcomed back into communion provided they perform an adequate penance.

In 253, the emperor Gallus, exiled Cornelius to Centumcellae,  a Byzantine stronghold, 120 miles from Rome, where he died. He is celebrated as a martyr who displayed heroic virtue in upholding the teaching of the Church. Together with Saint Cyprian, he is mentioned in the Roman Canon of the Mass.

Saint Cyprian, (210 – 258) bishop of Carthage, is second only to Saint Augustine as a theologian and Father of the African church. He was a close friend of Pope Cornelius, supporting him against Novatian and concerning the admittance of apostates into communion. Cyprian described his conversion and baptism thusly: "When I was still lying in darkness and gloomy night, I used to regard it as extremely difficult and demanding to do what God's mercy was suggesting to me... I myself was held in bonds by the innumerable errors of my previous life, from which I did not believe I could possibly be delivered, so I was disposed to acquiesce in my clinging vices and to indulge my sins... But after that, by the help of the water of new birth, the stain of my former life was washed away, and a light from above, serene and pure, was infused into my reconciled heart... a second birth restored me to a new man. Then... every doubt began to fade... I clearly understood that what had first lived within me, enslaved by the vices of the flesh, was earthly and that what, instead, the Holy Spirit had wrought within me was divine and heavenly." (Cyprian, Ad Donatum, 3-4.)

Cyprian fled during the Decian persecution but guided the Church through letters. On September 14, 258, he was martyred during the persecutions of the emperor Valerian.  He was beheaded in the presence of his flock. Saint Jerome says of him: "It is superfluous to speak of his greatness, for his works are more luminous than the sun." His works include: On the Unity of the Church; On Apostates; a collection of Letters; The Lord's Prayer; On the Value of Patience. God our Father, in Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian you have given your people an inspiring example of dedication to the pastoral ministry and constant witness to Christ in suffering. May their prayers and faith give us courage to work for the unity of your Church.

September 14, 2017

Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

Our Lady of Sorrows icon

Memorial - September 15th

Devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady has its roots in Sacred Scripture and in Christian piety, which always associates the Blessed Mother with her suffering Son. Today's feast was introduced by the Servites in order to intensify devotion to Our Lady's Sorrows. In 1817, Pius VII — suffering grievously in exile but finally liberated by Mary's intercession — extended the feast to the universal Church.

This feast is dedicated to the spiritual martyrdom of Mary, Mother of God, and her compassion with the sufferings of her Divine Son, Jesus. In her suffering as co-redeemer, she reminds us of the tremendous evil of sin and shows us the way of true repentance. As Mary stood at the foot of the Cross on which Jesus hung, the sword Simeon foretold pierced her soul. Here are the seven sorrows of Our Lady:

1. The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)

2. The flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15)

3. Loss of the Child Jesus for three days (Luke 2:41-50)

4. Mary meets Jesus on his way to Calvary (Luke 23:27-31; John 19:17)

5. Crucifixion and Death of Jesus (John 19:25-30)

6. The body of Jesus being taken from the Cross (Luke 23:50-54; John 19:31-37)

7. The burial of Jesus (Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42; Mark 15:40-47)

Prayer to Our Lady of Sorrows

Almighty God, who willed that, when your Son was lifted high on the Cross, his Mother should stand close by and share his suffering, grant that your Church, participating with the Virgin Mary in the Passion of Christ, may merit a share in his Resurrection. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. Mary our Mother and intercessor, pray for us.

September 13, 2017

What are Ember Days? And Why They are Important

Three days set apart for fasting, abstinence, and prayer during each of the four seasons of the year. They were the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after St. Lucy (or Lucia, d. 304) (December 13), the First Sunday of Lent, Pentecost, and the feast of the Holy Cross (September 14). Since the revision of the Roman calendar in 1969, Ember Days are to be observed at the discretion of the National Conference of Bishops. Moreover, their observance may be extended beyond three days and even repeated during the year. Possibly occasioned by the agricultural feasts of ancient Rome, they came to be observed by Christians for the sanctification of the different seasons of the year, and for obtaining God's blessing on the clergy to be ordained during the Embertides. (Etym. Anglo-Saxon oemerge, ashes.) [Ember days draw us closer to God and His universal Church.]

Source: Modern Catholic Dictionary, Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, Doubleday, 1980.

An Ember Day Prayer

Almighty and eternal God, hear our humble prayer, and give to Thy Church worthy priests, true shepherds and zealous ministers. Pour into them the blessings of Thy grace that they may always approach Thy altar with a pure heart, celebrate the Holy Sacrifice with faith and reverence, administer the holy sacraments with zeal, preach Thy holy gospel with joy and courage and, at the same time, walk before Thee with steadfast faith, ever shedding the light of a holy example and, by word and deed, edify Thy people most blessed.... Amen.

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross | 2017

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Feast Day - September 14th

The feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, recalls the retrieval of the Holy Cross, which had been found and preserved by Saint Helena. It commemorates three distinct historical events: the finding of the True Cross, its return in the 7th century, and its ineffable power as the instrument of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice and our salvation. Regarding the later, our Savior's crucifixion imbues human suffering with dignity and divine purpose. Here is a reflection by Father René Butler, M.S., from his homily on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross:

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

What do Judas, and the leaders of the Sanhedrin, and Pontius Pilate, all have in common with God the Father?

You might find the question confusing, even bizarre, if not downright blasphemous, but the idea came to me when reading a commentary of St. Augustine on the First Letter of John, which I also referred to in last week’s homily.

Note the following passages, all from the New Testament:

“Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.” (Matthew 26:15-16)

“As soon as morning came, the chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin, held a council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.” (Mark 15:1)

“So he [Pilate] released the man who had been imprisoned for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked, and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished.” (Luke 23:25)

God “did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all.” (Romans 8:32)

The common thread is the verb “hand over.” In more classical translations we read that Judas “betrayed” Jesus, the Sanhedrin “delivered” Jesus to Pilate, Pilate “delivered” Jesus to be crucified, and God “delivered him up.” The use of the identical verb easily goes unnoticed.

What we have then is this:

Judas so loved money (see also John 12:4-6) that he gave Jesus in exchange for thirty pieces of silver. The leaders of the Sanhedrin so loved their authority and so feared losing it that they gave Jesus as the price to keep it.  Pilate so loved his power that he gave Jesus to his executioners rather than risk a riot.

But God so loved the world...

In John 3:16, the verb “gave” is not quite the same as “handed over,” but it is the same reality. That’s why Jesus uses the phrase, “When the Son of Man is lifted up.”

Today’s feast is called the Exaltation, that is, the “Lifting High” of the Holy Cross. Moses “lifted up” the bronze serpent, and those who looked at it lived. Jesus was “lifted up” on the cross, humbling himself, becoming obedient to death, uniting his will to that of the Father and loving the world just as much as the Father did, “so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

And there’s more.

In the Third Eucharistic Prayer, at the Consecration of the bread, the priest says:
For on the night he was betrayed
he himself took bread,
and, giving you thanks, he said the blessing,
broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying:
Take this, all of you, and eat of it,
for this is my Body,
which will be given up for you.
Following the same idea as with the New Testament passages quoted above, this could be translated just as accurately, “For on the night he was handed over he... broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying: ... This is my Body, which will be handed over for you.”

When you see the Host “lifted up” at the Consecration, always remember: God so loved the world then, God so loves the world today.

Planned Parenthood Joins with Satanists to Promote Abortion [And It Isn't the First Time]


The late Fr. Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican’s former chief exorcist, once observed: "God never rejects his creatures. Therefore, even though they broke with God, Satan and his angels maintain their power and rank (thrones, dominions, principalities, powers, and so on) even if they use them for evil purposes. Saint Augustine does not exaggerate when he claims that, if God gave Satan a free hand, 'no man would be left alive.' Since Satan cannot kill us, he tries to 'make us into his followers in opposition to God, just as he is in opposition to God.'"

Make no mistake, Satan's diabolical scheme continues apace. To wit: "Missouri has reportedly doubled its abortion capacity this year 'thanks to the Satanic Temple and Planned Parenthood,' who have worked in tandem to fight the state’s restrictions on abortion… Planned Parenthood has battled against [popularly enacted pro-life] state regulations requiring abortion clinics to meet the same surgical center standards as full hospitals and for their doctors to have hospital privileges, and in April a federal court sided with the abortion giant. [Source]

Planned Parenthood's affinity for and alliance with Satanists is nothing new. The Satanic Temple has been on the forefront of the fight to preserve and extend access to abortion throughout the nation. In 2015, it set up a crowdfunding website "to challenge arbitrary, insulting abortion regulations," especially the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Its website expressly states that:
The Satanic Temple (TST) supports personal choice in the context of abortion and, as part of a multi-faceted Women’s Rights campaign, TST is offering religious exemptions from arbitrary, insulting, and outright harmful anti-abortion legislation that has been steadily encroaching across the nation.
In July of 2013, in response to the Texas legislature passing a law aimed at the regulation of abortions in the state, abortion advocates protested bitterly, screaming obscenities at pro-life activists and lawmakers. "In an episode that received considerable attention, some of the protesters attempted to drown out pro-lifers singing the hymn 'Amazing Grace' by repeatedly shouting 'Hail Satan!'" This is truly stomach turning stuff. As one commenter stated, "Satan doesn't like his minions any more than he likes God…" May our nation see the light of truth.

Prayer for the Gift of Life

Father, maker of all. You adorn all creation with splendor and beauty, and fashion human lives in your image and likeness. Awaken in every heart reverence for the work of your hands, and renew among your people a readiness to nurture and sustain your precious gift of life. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen.

September 12, 2017

St. John Chrysostom | His Wisdom in Ten Quotations

Saint John Chrysostom, a brilliant theologian and powerful orator, was born in Antioch about 347 A.D. His eloquence earned him the surname of Chrysostom, or golden mouthed. With St. Athanasius, St. Gregory Nazianzen and St. Basil, he is one of four great doctors of the Eastern Church. As Archbishop of Constantinople, his courageous stance in defense of the Faith caused him to be exiled several times. The quotations below evidence his great knowledge of the ways of God.

The love of husband and wife is the force that welds society together.
No matter how just your words may be, you ruin everything when you speak with anger.
There is nothing colder than a Christian who does not seek to save others.
The rich man is not one who is in possession of much, but one who gives much.
To destroy the fetus 'is something worse than murder.' The one who does this 'does not take away life that has already been born, but prevents it from being born.'
The Eucharist is a fire that inflames us, that, like lions breathing fire, we may retire from the altar being made terrible to the devil.
We must not mind insulting men, if by respecting them we offend God.
Poor human reason, when it trusts in itself, substitutes the strangest absurdities for the highest divine concepts
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
This is the rule of most perfect Christianity, its most exact definition, its highest point, namely, the seeking of the common good ... for nothing can so make a person an imitator of Christ as caring for neighbors.

St. John Chrysostom, help us to please God in our words and our deeds.