September 30, 2017

Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 1, 2017, Year A

The Pharisees question Jesus

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing


I want to begin today by putting in front of us some phrases I am sure you have all heard. “Talk is cheap, it’s actions that count.” “You have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.” “Actions speak louder than words.”

There are those who will haughtily dismiss these thoughts as mere truisms. It is probable that those who dismiss them want to avoid paying attention to how these thoughts apply to their relationships with others.

You and I have all been hurt by promises given and then broken. Some of us have been given sweet talk and words of love only to later discover that we were, in the name of love, only used. On other occasions we have been given words that have hurt us, really hurt us, not because they were nasty but because we relied on them and were later betrayed.

What was the setting for today’s Gospel account about the two sons? Jesus had the day before thrown the moneychangers out of the Temple and the infuriated the chief priests and elders of the people. He was back in the Temple the next day when He addressed the words we heard in today’s Gospel to those same chief priests and elders, and thus exposed their insincere hypocrisy.

Jesus, as we all know, had His greatest conflicts with the religious “know-it-alls” that He encountered. He faces that same trouble with many of us today. I know in my own experience as a priest I’ve had my greatest troubles not with sinners but with religious “know-it-alls.” There is nothing like coming up against someone who is not a Catholic, or who was formerly a Catholic, who think they know what the Church teaches and who are quite wrong about those teachings.

That was the main problem Jesus was facing when He encountered the chief priests, scribes, and elders of the people. They thought they knew everything they had to know about the coming Messiah and just what sort of savior he would be, or should be. Moreover, they had memorized all of the rules and regulations, they knew them in detail, but they didn’t apply them to themselves. Oh, they applied them to everyone else, laying heavy burdens on people, but they excused themselves.

If I were asked what the main theme of today’s reading were all about I would say it’s about honest sincerity.

Honesty is at the core of our truly religious expressions, particularly being honest with ourselves. Sin, we must remember, originates with the Father of Lies, and when we lie to ourselves we always get into deep trouble.

In the Gospel account we just heard the younger brother tell his father: “Yes, I’ll go and work” while the older brother said: “No, not me.” Both used words contrary to their actions.

Talk is cheap. The younger brother simply didn’t live up to his words; the older brother changed his mind. The older brother had integrity; the younger brother gave cheap, valueless words to his father while having no intention at all of working. How many of us recognize ourselves in that younger brother?

The older brother had no intention of working and then had the honesty of saying so to his father. He was wrong, but he was honest. The younger brother was the opposite. He said the expedient thing to his father knowing what his father wanted to hear but he had no integrity. He was insincere because he had no intention of working even though he said he would.

How many of us pray that way? We give God the words of our prayers, words we think He wants to hear from us. It’s convenient for us. We may even be self-deluded when we speak them and end up feeling like we are pious and religious. On the surface we feel righteous but deep down we know full well that we are not going to follow through on those words with our deeds and our actions. So we give God our Father in heaven nice sounding words but never seem to get around to following through on them. God is not fooled but we fool ourselves.

So, to go back now: What is vital to our personal religion?

The first thing is honesty. We must be fearlessly and courageously honest with God and likewise honest with ourselves. Without honesty we are doomed. Without honesty in our business and professional lives we will fail. People will discover we are frauds. It’s a lesson currently be learned on Wall Street. Without honesty our love relationships will collapse, our friendships will be lost, and we will end up in a hell on earth as well as in the hereafter. Satan, we must all remember, is the Father of Lies and he wants us to be just like him.

The older son did the essential thing. Christianity is not simply our intellectual assent to a series of doctrines. It is not just our observance of rules and regulations. No. Christianity is a way of living in the truth. Christianity is a matter of living in our professional lives, in our personal relationships with others, and living with God in the truth, all the while being honest with ourselves, all the while being sincere in what we say to others and in how we treat them.

Christianity is a way of living at home and in our surrounding world; Christianity is a way of relating to those around us, friends and well as strangers, in the way, the truth, and the life of Christ Jesus. If we are honest with others, honest with ourselves, and honest with God then our actions will automatically follow. We will live lives of sincere integrity and act accordingly; we will live lives in happiness.

Talk is cheap; intentions are too often little more than wishful thinking; appearances are deceptive. Being honest and then acting in honesty are sometimes tough things to do. Sincere honesty is one of the hardest and most demanding of things about being a Christian. It is the “narrow way” Jesus told us about, that narrow way that is the road to our eternal salvation, the way of living that Jesus puts in front of the likes of you and me.

St. Therese of Lisieux. Patroness of Missionaries

Saint Therese of Lisieux

Memorial - October 1st

Imagine for a moment that you are in a dimly lit chapel. Candles light the altar as you are engulfed by soft voices praying the Rosary. You promise to focus completely on the prayers. You lift up your heart and… fall asleep. It is just another day in the life of Saint Therese of Lisieux, better known as the “Little Flower.” More than any other saint, Theresa understood and explained the mystery of divine filiation of living as a child of God. She loved the Blessed Virgin Mary but did not enjoy the Rosary. She was a mystic but did enjoy retreats. St. Therese, however, never became upset or discouraged about falling asleep because she was confident that God, like a good parent, loved his children even when they were sleeping.

Commenting on the mystery of her vocation St. Therese wrote, “Jesus does not call those who are worthy, but those he wants to call.” For her, this vocation began as a call to Carmel, a cloistered convent, and ultimately led to her being named the patroness of missionaries by Pope Pius XI. Why would the Church choose as its patroness of missions one who had never physically undertaken a mission? The answer is that the essence of evangelization lies in imitating Christ and conforming ourselves to the light of grace he earned for us through the redemption. Words are certainly useful, but as Pope Pius XI observed:

"The preachers of the Gospel could well tire themselves out, toil and lay down their lives to lead pagans to the Catholic religion; they might be ever so industrious, ever so diligent and use every means known to man; but none of this would be to any avail, everything would be in vain, if God, in his grace, were not to touch hearts, then the toil of missionaries would be in vain."

St. Therese knew that she was a child of God and that her only way to holiness was to trust in him in all things. In the last pages of her autobiographical Story of a Soul, she writes, “In the eve of my life, I will come before you with nothing in my hands because I do not ask you to count the things I have done.”  St. Therese rejected a common error of her and our time that it is better and safer to rely on ourselves than to receive God’s grace. She truly lived Christ’s words: “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

Instead, St. Therese let God act through her. Whenever God inspired her to a certain kind act, St. Therese shouted “Yes!” unreservedly, faithfully and happily. She did not try to “earn grace” by her sacrifices and exterior acts but rather saw each trial as a gift from God so that she might be more closely united with her Savior Jesus Christ. In all things, St. Therese acted as a child of God, and in all things, she was rewarded as a child of God. St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us!

From Introduction to Catholicism, the Complete Course, Didache Series, ©2011.

September 29, 2017

Saint Jerome on the Primacy of the Bishop of Rome

The Church was founded upon Peter: although elsewhere the same is attributed to all the Apostles, and they all receive the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the strength of the Church depends upon them all alike, yet one among the twelve is chosen so that when a head has been appointed, there may be no occasion for schism.
— St. Jerome
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Prayer for the Holy Father 

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.

Two Early Patristic Apologists on the Role of Christians in the Life of the World

St. Lawrence and the seven deacons of Rome

This idea of Christians and the Christian Church as the soul of the world, a people set apart, animated by a divine calling that is discipleship — evokes the scriptural imagery of salt and light, found in the Gospels and the Sermon on the Mount. As Christians we are expressly called to be in but not of the world. Our Lord tells us:
You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. (Mt 5:14-16)
Tertullian of Carthage, "the father of Latin Christianity", a prolific early Christian apologist and successful polemicist against heresy, in a tract from his theological treatise, discusses the Christian’s duties in a way reminiscent of Our Savior:
So we sojourn with you in the world, abjuring neither forum, nor shambles, nor bath, nor booth, nor workshop, nor inn, nor weekly market, nor any other places of commerce. We sail with you, and fight with you, and till the ground with you; and in like manner we unite with you in your traffickings—even in the various arts we make public property of our works for your benefit.
Likewise, the sentiment that Christians in society are to be a light to the world, is echoed in the early patristic writing, the Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, or the Letter to Diognetus, an apologetic work defending Christianity from its detractors. "Mathetes" is not a proper name; it means "a disciple." The letter's author and recipient are unknown. One of the earliest texts of Christian apologetics, it reads:
To put it simply: What the soul is in the body, that Christians are in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, but does not belong to the body, and Christians dwell in the world, but do not belong to the world.
Christians today face darkness and all manner of persecution, both explicit and inherent. The Church as a 'sign of contradiction' in the world must speak God's truth with conviction and courage. We can do so because Christ is our light. John's Gospel reminds us: "All things came to be through him... What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:3-5) May we, in all things, speak and act with love, animated by joy, in imitation of Christ.

Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux 2017 | Day 9

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

September 30, 2017

Today let us pray for selflessness. St. Thérèse gave of herself to her Carmelite sisters in love. We ask God for the grace to love others unconditionally. Through St. Thérèse's intercession, may we love those we find difficult to love. Also, we remember those who work selflessly for their families, and those in need of work.
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Saint Thérèse 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 Thérèse, 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 Nine

Loving God, St. Therese never doubted that her life had meaning. Help me to see how I can bless and love everyone in my life. Especially…

I love your people, Lord. Help me to love them more!
I reflect you to the world, Lord. Help me to reflect you more clearly!
I rely on you, Lord. Help me to rely on you more!
I accept your will, Lord. Help me to accept your will every day!
I try to forgive, Lord. Help me to forgive 70 times 7 times!
I am humble, Lord. Give me more humility!
I see you, Lord. Help me to see you more!
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.

Prayer of Saint Jerome for Christ's Mercy


O Lord, show Your mercy to me and gladden my heart. I am like the man on the way to Jericho who was overtaken by robbers, wounded and left for dead. O Good Samaritan, come to my aid. I am like the sheep that went astray. O Good Shepherd, seek me out and bring me home in accord with Your will. Let me dwell in Your house all the days of my life and praise You for ever and ever with those who are there. Amen. [St. Jerome, brilliant light of God's Holy Word, pray for us.]
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Prayer to St. Jerome for Insight

Through your anger and confrontations you remind us that we all have a duty to confront others from time to time. You also remind us that we have a duty to examine ourselves and confront our own weaknesses and harmful behaviours. Your life teaches that I must accept others for who they are. You taught of the danger of self-righteousness; of the importance of reflecting upon one of Jesus’ most insightful teachings: “Let the man who has no sin on his conscience throw the first stone.” In the light of your teachings, Saint Jerome, help me to see my own self clearly. Help me to confront my own sins and to act to change others only out of love. If I see that I have the duty to confront another, I ask you to be with me during those necessary, but unpleasant moments of confrontation. Help me to remember that only love can make changes for the good. In Christ. Amen.

St. Jerome, Church Father, Biblical Scholar and Doctor

Saint Jerome

Memorial - September 30th

Anyone who ran afoul of Saint Jerome would not be likely to soon forget it. This formidable Doctor of the Church was as well known for his sarcastic tongue and blunt correspondences as he was for his redoubtable scholarship. The former was aimed at those who taught heresy or who did not uphold the moral standards of the Church. The latter led to his translation of the Bible into Latin, the common language at the time. That translation, the Vulgate, is the Church's official text.

Saint Jerome was born Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius in the year c. 342, in Dalmatia, a region of Croatia. His father, who was a Christian, saw to it that his son was well educated in terms of both faith and academics. Jerome’s instruction began at home, but when he got older, his father sent him to Rome to study with some of the best pagan and Christian scholars of the day. However, as most young men will, Jerome spent at least part of his early youth indulging in life’s pleasures. Despite this, he was baptized in the year 360 by Pope Liberius; shortly after that, both his father’s values and his love of scholarship led him to give up secular pleasures for a life devoted entirely to the love and service of God.

Even as a young man, Jerome was often plagued by ill health and “temptations of the flesh,” which he wrote about to his friend, Eustochium: “My face was pallid with fasting, yet my will felt the assaults of desire…alone with the enemy, I threw myself in spirit at the feet of Jesus, watering them with my tears, and tamed my flesh by fasting whole weeks.” Jerome relied heavily on prayer, mortification, and intense study to overcome these carnal temptations and worldly distractions.

Without question, Jerome was an intellectual giant of remarkable brilliance. One of his contemporaries, St. Augustine, said of him, “What Jerome is ignorant of, no mortal has ever known.” Primarily a Scripture scholar, he prepared himself well for the task he would eventually undertake. He studied and was fluent in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Chaldaic, an ancient Aramaic dialect. He traveled extensively in what was then known as Palestine, showing great devotion at each spot where an event in Christ’s life took place. For five years he lived in seclusion on the Greek island of Chalcis, where he spent his time in prayer, penance and study.

Jerome settled in Bethlehem where according to tradition the cave in which he worked was the same cave believed to have been the birthplace of Christ. Others maintain that he completed his scholarly task near that spot. In either case, it was here that Jerome began the translation of the Bible that would become known as the Vulgate. Though in the 16th century the Council of Trent called for a new and corrected edition of Jerome’s work to be undertaken, it nonetheless declared that Jerome’s translation was indeed the authentic and authoritative text of the Bible that was henceforth to be used by the Roman Catholic Church.

Although Jerome devoted most of his time to his scholarly work, the outside world did intrude on his time and energies. During the sacking of Rome in 410, he did all he could to help the destitute refugees of that city who came begging to his doorstep. A few years after that, Jerome went into hiding when a group of Pelagians attacked him for his outspoken opposition to their heretical doctrine.

On September 30th, in the year 420, old, weak, and nearly blind, Jerome died. Initially, his body was buried under the Church of the Nativity in present-day Israel. In the 13th century, however, his remains were removed to the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. He is the patron saint of librarians. O God, who gave the Priest Saint Jerome a living and tender love for Sacred Scripture, grant that your people may be ever more fruitfully nourished by your Word and find in it the fount of life. Through Jesus Christ, your Son who reigns with you forever. Amen.

September 28, 2017

Pope Saint Pius X on Sanctity

Pope Saint Pius X
Sanctity alone makes us what our divine vocation demands, men crucified to the world and to whom the world has been crucified, men walking in newness of life who, in the words of St. Paul, show themselves as ministers of God in labors, in vigils, in fasting, in chastity, in knowledge, in long-suffering, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in sincere charity, in the word of truth; men who seek only heavenly things and strive by every means to lead others to them.
— St. Pius X
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Prayer for St. Pius X's Intercession

Glorious Pope of the Eucharist, Saint Pius X, you sought "to restore all things in Christ." Obtain for me a true love of Jesus so that I may live only for Him. Help me to acquire a sincere will to strive for sanctity that I may avail myself of the riches of the most Holy Eucharist. By your love for Mary, mother and queen of all, inflame my heart with tender devotion to her. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux 2017 | Day 8

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

September 29, 2017

Today let us pray for a greater dependence on God. Our culture is constantly pushing us to rely only on ourselves, to be totally self-sufficient. But, we are not, we belong to God. We must rely on Him for everything just like Saint Thérèse.
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Saint Thérèse 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 Thérèse, 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 Eight

Loving God, You loved St. Thérèse with a powerful love and made her a source of strength to those who had lost faith in You. Help me to pray with confidence for those in my life who do not believe they can be loved.

I reflect you to the world, Lord. Help me to reflect you more clearly!
I rely on you, Lord. Help me to rely on you more!
I accept your will, Lord. Help me to accept your will every day!
I try to forgive, Lord. Help me to forgive 70 times 7 times!
I am humble, Lord. Give me more humility!
I see you, Lord. Help me to see you more!
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.

Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels

Feast of the Archangels

Feast Day - September 29th

Angels are pure, created spirits. The word angel means servant or messenger of God. Angels are celestial or heavenly beings, on a higher order than human beings. Angels have no bodies and do not depend on matter for their existence. They are distinct from saints, which men can become. Angels have intellect and will, and are immortal. They are a vast multitude, but each is an individual person. Archangels are one of the nine choirs of angels listed in the Bible. In ascending order, the choirs are: 1) Angels, 2) Archangels, 3) Principalities, 4) Powers, 5) Virtues, 6) Dominations, 7) Thrones, 8) Cherubim, and 9) Seraphim.

On the penultimate day in September, the Church celebrates the feast of the Archangels. As purely incorporeal, rational beings, Angels are extensions of God Himself, personifying his grace, majesty and intellect. The Angelic Doctor explains that each individual Angel is its own species within the genus "Angel". Archangels have crucial roles in the story of our redemption. The Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael — the only Angels that are named in Sacred Scripture, have been instrumental in advancing God's plan of salvation, both in heaven and on earth.

Saint Michael 

St. Michael, the "Prince of the Heavenly Host", is second only to the Mother of God in leading the angels. His name in Hebrew means "Who is like God?". It was Michael who commanded heaven's forces in casting down Lucifer and the fallen angels into hell. In 1886, after receiving a prophetic vision of the evil to be visited upon the world in the 20th century, Pope Leo XIII instituted a prayer invoking St. Michael's protection. Scripture mentions him four times (in Daniel 10:13-21 and 12:1, in Jude 1:9 and in Revelation 12:7-9).

The Church recognizes four distinct offices of St. Michael; 1.) to oppose Satan, 2.) to defend the souls of the faithful against the power of Satan, especially at the hour of death. 3.) to champion God's people, 4.) to accompany souls to their particular judgment, bring them to purgatory, and present them to God following their purgation before entering heaven.

Patron saint: against temptations, against powers of evil, artists, radiologists, bakers, bankers, battle, cemeteries, endangered children, dying, emergency medical technicians, holy death, paramedics, paratroopers, police officers, sailors, the sick, security forces, soldiers, and against storms at sea, among others.

Saint Gabriel

Saint Gabriel's name means "God's strength". He is mentioned in Scripture four times. Gabriel is the archangel most affiliated with the Incarnation and earthly ministry of Christ. Twice in Luke's Gospel, he foretells the arrival of consequential figures: the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zacharias (Luke 1:11–25) and the birth of the Savior to the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26–38.).

Tradition holds that Gabriel appeared to Saint Joseph and to the shepherds, and that he "strengthened" Christ during His agony in the garden of Gethsemane.

Patron saint: ambassadors, broadcasting, childbirth, clergy, communications, diplomats, messengers, philatelists, postal workers, public relations, radio workers, secular clergy, stamp collectors and telecommunications, among others.

Saint Raphael

All that we know of Saint Raphael, whose name means "God has healed", comes from the Book of Tobit in which he heals Tobias' blindness. His office, according to popular piety, is that of healing and facilitating acts of mercy. He is affiliated with young people venturing into world, particularly concerning learning and marriage.

The angel in John's Gospel who descended to the pool of Bethesda and imbued it with healing powers so that the first to enter it after it moved would be healed of whatever infirmity they possessed is identified with Raphael (John 5:1-4).

Patron saint: physicians, medical workers, love, lovers, mental illness, nurses, pharmacists, shepherds, against sickness, therapists, travelers, young people, young people leaving home for the first time, the blind, happy meetings, matchmakers, Christian marriage, and Catholic studies, among others.

Almighty and everliving God, who disposes in marvelous order ministries both angelic and human, graciously grant that our life on earth may be defended by those who watch over us as they minister perpetually to you in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen. Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, pray for us.

Homily for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 1, 2017, Year A

Christ Jesus

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


When is the last time you used the word “vainglory”? We all know what it means and, I dare say, we know it when we see it. You know, the people with bloated self-esteem, the people who are Presidents of their own fan clubs.

St. Paul says vainglory is to be avoided. But then he goes too far: “Humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.” Isn’t that just the other extreme? Is it honest? Is it fair?

It may well be true that a humble attitude is better than an arrogant one. But surely St. Paul can’t be saying we should adopt a false attitude, putting ourselves down and beating ourselves up.

And yet, consider the following quotation: “I was at prayer one day when suddenly, without knowing how, I found myself, as I thought, plunged right into hell. I realized that it was the Lord's will that I should see the place which the devils had prepared for me there and which I had merited for my sins.”

These words are found in the autobiography of one of the greatest saints in the history of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila. Elsewhere she says that the place prepared for her in hell was actually less horrible than she had really deserved.

What is going on here? It is an awareness that both of the sons in the parable represent all of us. We’ve all been there, promising to do something and not doing it, refusing to do something and then doing it after all; resolving to give up some old bad habit or adopt a new good one, and failing on both counts. Each of us is capable of the greatest holiness or the most abject evil. But both the first reading and the Gospel show there is no guarantee in the first case and no irremediable doom in the other.

St. Paul goes on to give Jesus as example: “Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus,” who “emptied himself” and “humbled himself.” That doesn’t mean Jesus had low self-esteem.

What is being asked is that we empty ourselves of self, not just of selfishness but of self-full-ness, of self-importance, and that we humble ourselves at least by acknowledging the equal worth of others.

The chief priests and elders, as we often see in the Gospels, were full of self-importance, so faithful to the observance of the Law that they felt no need for repentance, for humbling themselves before God, much less before others, as would have been the case if they had publicly presented themselves to John for baptism.

The bad news is: we can’t rest on our laurels, on any good we have done. The good news is: we aren’t doomed by our past sins. We simply have to recognize God’s work in our lives, understand that our salvation is his work, that the best we can do is accept the gift, and cooperate with God’s will in our own imperfect way.

One of God’s greatest gifts is that he makes his will known to us. Another is the grace that makes it possible for us to say yes. Another is that he is always ready to forgive us when we say no, and take us back when we return to him.

It’s all his work. It’s all his grace. Not just in you, not just in me, but in all of us. We have ample grounds for genuine humility.

Next time you look in the mirror, say to the person looking out at you, “You are the center of the universe.” If that doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable, it should. As I said at the beginning: we all know what vainglory means and, I dare say, we know it when we see it.

September 27, 2017

Cardinal Arinze on the Reality of Hell

Cardinal Arinze
There are people who do not want us to talk about Hell. Hell is not an invention of the Vatican. Hell does not cease to exist simply because people no longer speak of it. The shepherd children at Fatima have seen that Hell exists. And it is not empty.
— Cardinal Francis Arinze
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Sr. Lucia's Testimony on Seeing a Vision of Hell 

"Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear.

The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent. This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first Apparition, to take us to heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror." [Source]

Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux 2017 | Day 7

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

September 28, 2017

Today we ask for an emptying out of ourselves in order that we may be Christ to others. We pray for the realization that our lives are the only Gospel some people will ever read. Let us continue on with our daily activities and responsibilities as St. Thérèse would; doing small things with tremendous love for the Glory of God.
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Saint Thérèse 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 Thérèse, 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 Seven

Loving God, St. Therese offered to You her weakness. Help me to see in my weakness an opportunity to rely completely on you.

I rely on you, Lord. Help me to rely on you more!
I accept your will, Lord. Help me to accept your will every day!
I try to forgive, Lord. Help me to forgive 70 times 7 times!
I am humble, Lord. Give me more humility!
I see you, Lord. Help me to see you more!
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.

St. Lawrence Ruiz, Filipino Martyr, and Companions

St. Lorenzo Ruiz
On September 28th, the Church celebrates the optional memorial of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions. Ruiz was born in Manila, around the year 1600, the son of a Chinese father and a Tagala mother, both devout Catholics. His spiritual formation included serving as an altar boy and sacristan in the Dominican run parish church of Saint Gabriel in Binondo.

Educated by Dominican friars, Ruiz earned the title of escribano (calligrapher) due to his expert penmanship. He spoke Chinese, Tagalog and Spanish [the latter he learned from the Dominicans]. He married Rosario, a native, and they had two sons and a daughter. Ruiz was a member of the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary. He is the first Filipino saint.

In 1636, his life was altered abruptly when he was falsely accused of killing a Spaniard while working as a clerk. Little else is known about the charge except the testimony of two Dominican priests that "he was sought by the authorities on account of a homicide to which he was present or which was attributed to him." If captured, as a Catholic felon, Ruiz faced brutal torture and certain death.

He sought asylum on a ship carrying three Dominican priests, Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet, and Miguel de Aozaraza, a Japanese priest, Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. Only at sea did they learn they were going to Japan where Catholics at the time were systematically persecuted.

They landed at Okinawa, were questioned, arrested, and then taken to Nagasaki. There they were subjected to a series of unspeakable tortures: After the forced consumption of huge amounts of water, they were made to lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs which guards then stepped, on causing water to shoot violently from their mouth, nose and ears. Bamboo needles were inserted under their fingernails and pounded into the quick. Most of the martyrs succumbed to these torments. Those who remained, including Ruiz, were put to death by being hung upside down over a pit. This was extremely painful: though the victim could recant and gain release. Ruiz refused to do so, and died from blood loss and suffocation. His remains were cremated and thrown into the sea.

There were nine priests, two religious, two sisters, and three laymen, (among the latter, Lawrence Ruiz) who received the crown of martyrdom. St. John Paul II’s homily for the Beatification of Lorenzo Ruiz extols Ruiz’s heroic witness: "The example of Lorenzo Ruiz, the son of a Chinese father and Tagala mother, reminds us that everyone's life and the whole of one's life must be at Christ's disposal. Christianity means daily giving, in response to the gift of Christ who came into the world so that all might have life and have it to the full. ...To die for the faith is a gift to some; to live the faith is a call for all." Grant us, we pray, Lord God, the same perseverance shown by your holy Martyrs Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions in serving you and their neighbor, since those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness are forever blessed in your heavenly Kingdom.

St. Wenceslaus, Patron of the Czech Republic, Martyr

Saint Wenceslaus

Optional Memorial - September 28th

Saint Wenceslaus of Bohemia (c. 907-929). He was the son of Vratislav I, Duke of Bohemia, whose family was converted by Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, and Drahomira, daughter of a pagan chief; she was baptized on her wedding day, but never abandoned her pagan beliefs. His paternal grandmother, Saint Ludmila of Bohemia, was Wenceslaus' teacher. She instructed him in the faith and to be a wise leader. It was from her that Wenceslas received his commitment to imitate Christ in all things. He completed his education at the university at Budweis.

When Wenceslas was 13, his father was killed during a pagan reprisal against Christianity, and his grandmother became regent. Jealous of the influence that Ludmila had on Wenceslas, Drahomíra conspired to have her killed. Ludmila was placed under house arrest. A short time later, three henchmen strangled her with her veil while she prayed in her private chapel. After Ludmila’s murder, Drahomíra assumed the role of regent and immediately began persecuting the Christian population. So arbitrary and cruel were her actions, that Wenceslaus was compelled, on behalf of his oppressed subjects, to succeed her posthaste.

In 925, at the age of 18, the good king Wenceslaus (as he is referred to in the popular Christmas carol) ascended to the throne. A devout Christian, and gifted ruler, he worked in collaboration with the Church to end the persecution of Christians, convert pagans, build churches and return exiled priests. Wenceslaus was renowned for his selfless charity. He was a father to his subjects, generous toward orphans, widows, and the poor. He carried wood to the houses of the needy, attended the funerals of the poor, ransomed captives, and visited those in prison. Filled with a deep reverence toward the clergy, he attended Mass daily.

The more Wenceslas was loved and honored, the more his enemies hated him. In September 935, nobles opposed to Wenceslas allied with his mother and younger brother, Boleslas, to assassinate him. His martyrdom is recorded in Lives of the Saints: "Boleslas had become father of a son, and Wenceslas was invited to be present at the baptism of the young prince. Although the holy king had reason to suppose that this invitation covered other intentions, he accepted it, in order not to manifest any distrust of his brother. Having gone to confession and Holy Communion, he went fearlessly to the palace of Boleslas. He was received with great honor and magnificently entertained. At midnight, before the banquet was ended, the Saint quietly left the hall, and went, according to his custom, into the Church. Drahomira seized this opportunity, and calling Boleslas aside, told him that the hour was now come when he could revenge himself and make the royal crown his own. … Seizing his sword, he [Boleslas] hastened, with some attendants, into the Church and stabbed his holy brother with such brutal force, that the blood bespattered the wall, where it is yet to be seen at this day."

Before he died, Wenceslaus forgave his brother and asked for God's mercy on his soul. While his death was for political reasons, Wenceslaus is considered a martyr since the politics arose from the Faith. The Roman Martyrology says of him: "In Bohemia, St. Wenceslas, duke of Bohemia and martyr, renowned for holiness and miracles. Being murdered by the deceit of his brother, he went triumphantly to heaven." The shrine of King Wenceslas is the site of numerous miracles. He is the patron saint of the Czech Republic where his feast is a national holiday, and is the first Slav to be canonized. O God, who taught the Martyr St. Wenceslaus to place the heavenly Kingdom before any earthly one, grant through his prayers that we, in denying ourselves, may hold fast to you with all our heart, mind and strength.

September 26, 2017

Saint Vincent de Paul on God

Saint Vincent de Paul

Saint Vincent de Paul served the poor, the sick and the downtrodden in imitation of Christ. His insights into the love of God and the wisdom of Divine Providence were given to him through his ministry to the humble, the lowly and the week.

God often delays the conclusion of a holy endeavor so that those involved in it might merit its grace by the length of the work, their patience, and their prayers. This is why I beg you not to grow weary in yours. Although He may delay, He will reveal that it is pleasing to Him, if it is done... in a spirit of resignation regarding the outcome. 

***

Our Lord humbles in order to raise up, and allows the suffering of interior and exterior afflictions in order to bring about peace. He often desires some things more than we do, but wants us to merit the grace of accomplishing them by several practices of virtue and to beg for this with many prayers.

***

God asks that we never do good in one place to make ourselves look important in others but, rather, that we always regard Him directly, immediately, and without intermediary in all our actions and allow ourselves to be guided by His paternal hand.

***

God is pleased to communicate himself to the simple and humble and to use the smallest and lowliest to make them great and exalted. In a word, it is He Himself who has called and approved them and inspired their humble manner of living.

— St. Vincent de Paul
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Prayer for St. Vincent de Paul’s Intercession

Almighty God, who for the relief of the poor and the formation of your clergy endowed the Priest Saint Vincent de Paul with apostolic virtues, grant, we pray, that, afire with that same spirit, we may love what he loved and put into practice his example. Through Jesus Christ your Son who reigns with you forever. Amen.

Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux 2017 | Day 6

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

September 27, 2017

Despite immense suffering during her life, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux still trusted in God. She lost her mother when she was four. She was bullied at school. She lost her stepmother, and her older sister Pauline, when the later entered the convent. As a consequence of these events, Thérèse endured a period of deep depression.

St. Thérèse also suffered from tuberculosis for over a year. It was this illness that claimed her life. Yet, for all this, she resisted the temptation to fall into despair, and instead, united her heart to Christ. Today let us pray for the same trust and strength whenever we face difficulties, struggles and temptations in our lives.
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Saint Thérèse 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 Thérèse, 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 Six

Loving God, St. Thérèse experienced every day as a gift from You. She saw it as a time to love You through other people. May I, too, see every day as an opportunity to say yes to You.

I accept your will, Lord. Help me to accept your will every day!
I try to forgive, Lord. Help me to forgive 70 times 7 times!
I am humble, Lord. Give me more humility!
I see you, Lord. Help me to see you more!
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.

Expectations: A Reflection for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Crucifixion

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

(Ezekiel 18:25-28; Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 21:28-32)

Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16: 24-25)

These words of Our Lord come very close to those of the prophet Ezekiel: “You say, ‘The Lord’s way is inscrutable, mysterious, and above all, not fair!’”

This week we are confronted once again with the question of God’s fairness. It is a matter of expectations.

Jesus had only one expectation for his life: to accomplish his Father’s will. Even when, in the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked to be spared the suffering that lay ahead, there was no hint of blame. He was, as St. Paul writes, obedient to the point of death.

Like the parable in today’s Gospel, the message of Christ presents opposing scenarios—refusal to submit to God’s will, on the one hand, and conversion on the other—only one of which is acceptable.

Suffering is a great mystery, and Jesus expects his disciples to carry their cross. The Christian response to suffering can be one of questioning why, or asking to be spared—or conversion. The parable recognizes that people can change.

Conversion, turning to the Lord, doesn’t necessarily ease suffering, or provide the answer to the problem of pain. What is does is simply to let God in.

Through prayer, worship, reverence, we can open the door and invite the Lord into our lives, painful or peaceful as they may be.

We will find that the Lord has been there all the time, just waiting for us acknowledge his presence.

Ezekiel says that whoever turns away from sin will “surely” live. The Hebrew here uses two forms of the verb “to live,” which could be translated literally as “living he will live,” or “he will live to live.” It suggests more than just being alive, a new intensity of life.

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” Jesus assures us. If we return to the Lord with all our heart, even if our lives are far from easy, we will know his blessing.

That is our Christian expectation. It’s called hope.

St. Vincent de Paul, Priest, "the Conscience of France"

Saint Vincent de Paul

Memorial - September 27th

St. Vincent de Paul is a saint whose name is familiar even to those who do not profess the Catholic faith. This is due in large part to the organization that was begun in his name 173 years after his death. The St. Vincent de Paul Society, founded by Blessed Frederic Ozanam in 1833, took its inspiration from the life of the man whom Pope Leo XIII named patron of all charitable organizations. Many parishes continue to carry out charitable works under his spiritual patronage.

Vincent was the third child born to a poor family in Gascony, France, in 1580. At the time of his birth, the Church was in the midst of the Counter-Reformation, the period of intense internal reform following the upheaval of the Protestant Reformation. Although he would later be regarded as "the conscience of France," the young Vincent, who was ordained in 1600, was more concerned at first with living a comfortable life than doing the work that God had intended for him.

Accepted into the local Franciscan seminary, he excelled immensely. Vincent tutored the children of local nobles, and used the proceeds to continue his theological studies at the University of Toulose. He was ordained in 1600. His change of heart began in 1605, when he was captured by Moorish pirates traveling from Marseilles to Narbone and sold as a slave in Tunis. He escaped, after two years, and returned with his (newly converted) master to France.

At the urging of Cardinal Pierre de Berulle, who was a reformer in the Church in France, Vincent began to devote his priesthood to charitable works. It was at this time that he also became the spiritual director of Emmanuel’s wife, Countess de Gondi, and it was she who persuaded her husband to financially support Vincent’s work with the poor. The first to benefit were the galley slaves of Paris. Vincent solicited money from wealthy patrons to create homes for Paris’ orphans. Many were deliberately exploited by those who wished to make money from public pity. Others were shunted into public asylums, where they were often mistreated.

In 1625, he founded the Congregation of the Missions, commonly known as the "Vincentians" or the "Lazarists." The vocation of these priests, who took vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and stability, was to the indigent population of the smaller towns and villages in France, many of whom would otherwise have no access to Catholic priests, Mass, or the sacraments. Vincent was also zealous in conducting retreats for clergy at a time when there was great laxity, abuse, and ignorance among them. He was a pioneer in clerical training and instruction.

Later, Vincent established confraternities of charity for the relief of the poor and sick of each parish. From these, with the help of St. Louise de Marillac, came the Sisters of Charity, "Whose convent is the sickroom, whose chapel is the parish church, whose cloister is the streets of the city." He organized the rich women of Paris to collect funds for his missionary projects, founded several hospitals, aided the victims of war and would ransom over 1200 galley slaves from North Africa.

St. Vincent worked tirelessly to help those in need. He died at Saint Lazarus's house, Paris on September 27, 1660. Pope Benedict XIII beatified him in 1729. On June 16, 1737 he was canonized by Pope Leo XIII who declared St. Vincent the patron saint of charitable societies. His motto was: "God sees you." O God, who for the relief of the poor and the formation of the clergy endowed the Priest St. Vincent de Paul with apostolic virtues, grant, we pray, that, afire with that same spirit, we may love what he loved and put into practice what he taught.

September 25, 2017

Can You Name These American-Born Venerables?

Catholic Venerables

Church Pop has an excellent quiz all about the American-born venerabili. Their inspiring stories show us that heroic virtue is indeed possible regardless of our circumstances, abilities, class, or calling. How many of these venerables on the path to sainthood are you able to recognize? [See sample questions below.]

Aided by his parishioners he founded the Knights of Columbus. The initial idea was to build a fund to provide financial assistance for immigrants, widows and orphans in case the head of the family died. Eventually, thanks to his tireless work and that of his parishioners, the Knights of Columbus grew into the largest Catholic service fraternity. Today the Knights of Columbus maintain their original vision in protecting the family, volunteering and providing financial assistance.

She was born in Pennsylvania and was married to an Episcopalian pastor. Soon after they both converted to Catholicism, her husband insisted on becoming a priest. She renounced her marital rights and restarted her life in England, where she founded the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. The purpose of the Society was the education of young women. She encouraged her students to study Greek and Latin, as well as art and dance. Despite taking up a religious vocation, still her husband pursued her, and she was subject to family, marital and court debacles. She had five children; two of whom died at an early age and two others who she lost to her husband in court battles. She expressed that losing her children was her greatest suffering. She was declared venerable in 1992 by Saint John Paul II.

This simple priest from New York fought in the battle of Gettysburg and was later a businessman. He had a special devotion to Our Lady of Victory, and under her patronage did establish a minor basilica, an infant home, a shelter for unwed mothers, a boy’s orphanage, a hospital and an elementary and high school. [Collectively referred to as a "city of charity".] He was a gifted administrator with a heart for mercy. He died peacefully after lapsing into a coma at the age of 94.

To take the quiz on the American-born venerables in full go HERE.

Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux 2017 | Day 5

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

September 26, 2017

As we continue this powerful novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux we pray in a special way for spiritual motherhood. Religious sisters are called to be spiritual mothers to those they encounter. We pray for them today, and for all women, that they exhibit the spiritual nurturing, selflessness and love of the saints.
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Saint Thérèse 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 Thérèse, 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 Five

Loving God, You gave St. Therese the gift of forgiving others even when she felt hurt and betrayed. Help me to be able to forgive others who have wounded me, especially…

I try to forgive, Lord. Help me to forgive 70 times 7 times!
I am humble, Lord. Give me more humility!
I see you, Lord. Help me to see you more!
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.

The Miraculous Intercession of Sts. Cosmas and Damian

Saints Cosmas and Damian

Many miracles were worked following the martyrdoms of Saints Cosmas and Damian. The Orthodox Church recounts several intercessions owed to them, including this one: There lived in Thereman, near the church of Cosmas and Damian, a man named Malchus. One day, he departed on an extended journey, leaving his wife behind. Before doing so, he prayed to Sts. Cosmas and Damian, entrusting her to their heavenly protection. A demon assumed the appearance of one of Malchus’ friends in an attempt to kill her. The demon called on the woman, saying that Malchus had sent him to bring her to him. Believing him, she went along. The demon brought her to a solitary place with the intention of ending her life. Sensing mortal danger was imminent, the woman prayed to God for help.

Suddenly, two fearsome men appeared. The devil let go of the woman, fleeing in such haste, he fell off a cliff. The men accompanied the woman home where she thanked them effusively saying “My deliverers, to whom I shall be grateful to the end of my days, what are your names?” They replied, “We are the servants of Christ, Cosmas and Damian,” before disappearing. The woman joyously told everyone about what had happened to her. In the church of Cosmas and Damian, she went up to the icon of the holy brothers, and Glorifying God, tearfully offered prayers of thanksgiving for her deliverance. From that on, time the holy brothers were seen as protectors of the inviolability of marriage, and conjugal harmony.

Together with Saint Luke, Sts. Cosmas and Damian are the patron saints of doctors and the medical profession. They are invoked in the Canon of the Mass, in the prayer known as the Communicantes, and in the Litany of Saints. Their example as men of profound faith and science learning exemplifies God's blessing upon the art of healing and that respect for every form of science, which is an important part of Christian tradition. May you be magnified, Almighty Lord, by the memory of your Sts. Cosmas and Damian, for with providence beyond words, you have conferred upon them everlasting glory, and on us, your unfailing love.

Prayer to Sts. Cosmas and Damian for Healing

O Saints Cosmas and Damian, we honor and venerate you with humility and affection. We invoke you, glorious martyrs of Our Lord, who exercised the art of healing with charity and sacrifice, curing the incurable and ministering with the aid of medicine through Christ. Now that you are more powerful in heaven, at the sight of the many ills which oppress us, the spiritual and corporal diseases that surround us, hasten your help. We do not ask for ourselves only, but for our relatives, families, friends, and enemies, so that, restored to health of soul and body, we can give glory to God, and honor to you, our saintly protectors. Amen.

Saints Cosmas and Damian, Brother Martyrs

Saints Cosmas and Damian

Optional Memorial - September 26th

Saints Cosmas and Damian, the patrons of doctors, were 3rd century martyrs and brothers born in Arabia, who became skilled physicians, greatly revered in both the Orthodox and Latin rites. Little is known about them, but popular piety attests they were twin siblings and medical doctors, never charging a fee for their services. For this they were lauded, "Unmercenaries". By virtue of their selfless charity and altruistic healing, they led many to the Christian faith and to Christ.

As gifted physicians, Sts. Cosmas and Damian obeyed the words of our Savior: “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” (Matthew 10:8) Numerous cures resulted from their intervention. On one occasion, they were summoned to a grievously ill woman named Palladia, whose condition was seemingly hopeless.

Through the brother’s fervent prayer, the Lord healed the deadly disease and Palladia’s heath was restored. Immediately, she got up from her bed and gave thanks to God. According to legend, their most famous healing was grafting the leg from a recently deceased Ethiopian to replace another patient's cancerous leg. This miraculous procedure is depicted in many paintings and illuminations showing Sts. Cosmas and Damian performing the surgery.

Their renown in the Christian communities of Asia Minor was such that when the persecution under Diocletian began, Cosmas and Damian were targeted. In 287, by order of, Lysias, the Prefect of Cilicia, Cosmas and Damian were arrested and ordered to deny their faith. They refused and underwent a series of tortures including stoning, crucifixion and being shot by arrows. They received the crown of martyrdom by beheading. Their younger brothers, Anthimus, Leontius and Euprepius, who were close to them throughout life, shared in their martyrdom.

Their names are included in the Roman Canon of the Mass. According to Father Clifford Stevens: "The great honor in which they are held and the antiquity of their veneration indicate some historical memory among the early Christians who came out of the great persecutions with a new cult of Christian heroes. Cosmas and Damian were not only ideal Christians by their practice of medicine without fee, they also symbolized God's blessing upon the art of healing and that respect for every form of science, which is an important part of Christian tradition."

September 24, 2017

Bl. Herman the Cripple, Author of the Salve Regina

Bl. Herman the Cripple

September 25th is historically, and in many Benedictine houses, the feast day of Blessed Herman the Cripple, also known as Hermannus Contractus, (Latin meaning contracted one) or Herman of Reichenau, (1013-1054) a monk, 11th century scholar, composer, musical theorist, mathematician, and astronomer. He composed the Marian prayers Alma Redemptoris Mater, and the Salve Regina ("Hail Holy Queen") which is recited each time the most Holy Rosary is prayed.

Despite significant physical limitations and immense suffering, the bright and contemplative mind of Blessed Herman advanced not only our understanding of the physical world, but furthered our devotion to Our Blessed Mother, Mary. His contributions to both science and faith remind us that regardless of appearance or apparent physical abilities, we each possess God-given gifts and talents. Due to Bl. Herman's prodigious achievements, he was called "The Wonder of His Age."

He wrote extensively on mathematical and astronomical topics, and was versed in theology, music, astronomy, mathematics, Latin, Greek and Arabic. His work chronicling the history of the world survives to this day. He was professed a monk at the age of 30, and continued to write, producing works of spiritual depth. Of note, his treatise “On the Eight Principal Vices,” which he wrote in a poetic style.

More than his writings, however, Herman was known for his gentleness, joy and sweet disposition. Never was he heard to complain, despite the fact that most activities were painful and difficult. Rather, he was recognized to have a smile for all, and became a beacon of hope and love throughout the monastery. Students would travel great distances to study with him, learning not only their academic subjects but also strength of character, holiness and humility. [Adapted source]

Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen)

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
to thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.

Turn then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us;
and after this our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Alma Redemptoris Mater (Loving Mother of Our Redeemer)

O loving Mother of our Redeemer, gate of heaven, star of the sea,
Hasten to aid thy fallen people who strive to rise once more.
Thou who brought forth thy holy Creator, all creation wond'ring,
Yet remainest ever Virgin, taking from Gabriel's lips
that joyful "Hail!": be merciful to us sinners.

Novena to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux 2017 | Day 4

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

September 25, 2017

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux was born into a pious and loving Catholic family. She was one of nine children, though only five would survive into adulthood. Each of the remaining five children including St. Thérèse, eventually answered God's call to the religious life and joined a convent. Today we pray that more women answer that divine summons and consecrate their lives to God in service to the world.
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Saint Thérèse 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 Thérèse, 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 Four

Loving God, You taught St. Thérèse how to find You through the “little way” of humility and simplicity. Grant that I may never miss the grace hidden in humble service to others.

I am humble, Lord. Give me more humility!
I see you, Lord. Help me to see you more!
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.

Reflection for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time: The Parable of the Two Sons

The Parable of the Two Sons

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

Ezekiel 18:25-28; Psalm 25; Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 21:28-32

A man had two sons. He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards changed his
mind and went. (Mt 21:29)

How well Jesus understood human nature! Often in the parables He used images and ideas from the everyday life of His listeners. For example, many parables used agricultural images such as shepherds, sheep, and seeds. Today’s parable speaks of parenting. There are two sons. Sent to the vineyard, one said yes, and never showed up. The other said no, recanted, and then went to work in the vineyard. How many parents have been in the man’s position and heard similar responses from their children? Jesus knows the human person so well.

The lesson of this parable is conversion. Jesus goes on to say that prostitutes and tax collectors will make it to heaven before the Pharisees. Why? They are the children who start their journeys by saying “no” and later they experience the Lord, convert, and mend their ways. The Pharisees say “yes” originally to the invitation of the Lord, but never change their ways. Their “yes” is hollow; it has no meaning and does not affect their lives or behavior.

The man sending his sons to the vineyard is God, who is inviting His children into a life of faith. Some will start that journey refusing to listen. Over the course of time, they will somehow experience God and make faith the center of their lives. Others will say yes immediately, but do not have the wherewithal or strength to persevere in the journey. The “journey” spoken of here can be a lifelong decision about following Jesus; it can also be a short-term decision concerning a particular situation.

The journey of faith is tough! It takes resolve, patience, prayer, and perseverance to stay the course. Why? Following God is a matter of the heart. In prayer, the human person is called upon to unite herself with Jesus, who then walks the journey with her. That journey will take that person over Golgotha to the empty tomb of hope, the resurrection. The person commits herself to faith on a daily basis. It is not a once-in-a-lifetime decision in which fingers are snapped and the person is forever following Christ in all of her actions, words, and beliefs. If only it were so simple! Today, in the here and now, I am called upon to live my life of faith as a person of prayer and service to others. Today I may do well. Tomorrow might be a different story! Each day is a new beginning in the journey with and toward Christ. While it is the journey of a lifetime, it can be hard and difficult.

Honesty is very important in the journey of faith. Most people can see themselves in both sons of the parable. At times, the person may make a deliberate choice not to follow one of Christ’s teachings in a particular situation. Partway down that wrong road, the person begins to feel a tug in the depths of his heart and soul. Something is wrong. At that time, the person makes a change and follows Christ. Conversion has taken place. It also happens that the person sometimes takes the path of the second son. Enthusiastically desiring to follow Christ, the person makes a commitment to do so, only to fail miserably, due to a weak spirit or lack of commitment or perseverance.

Life is about conversions, big and small. Each day the person must make the commitment to follow Christ, today, at work, at school, at home, among those the person likes and dislikes. This kind of commitment takes prayer. It is only in spending time with the Lord in quiet contemplation that the person will know the Lord well, and thus be able to follow Him unreservedly. Ultimately, the follower of Christ does not want to be either son of today’s parable. Instead, he wants to say “yes” to following Christ, and then go forth and live the teachings of Christ in his life. It is the ultimate goal of the Christian journey of faith. Make that your prayer today and all days.

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for October 2017

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

Workers and the Unemployed

That all workers may receive respect and protection of their rights, and that the unemployed may receive the opportunity to contribute to the common good.

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.

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.