January 31, 2017

A Rare Secular Testimony of Faith


Whatever your take on the election results, here is a rare public testimony of faith by Ernie Johnson Jr. on Inside the NBA on TNT. His comments were made last November, just days after the 2016 election. (See full transcript below.)

"When this campaign season started, I felt like I’d been dealt a bad hand. I had these couple of choices. And there were trust issues with Hillary Clinton I couldn’t get past. And there was this inflammatory rhetoric from Donald Trump which to me was incomprehensible and indefensible. I couldn’t vote for either one. For the first time in going to the polls for 42 years, I hit the write-in button and I voted for John Kasich. And I left knowing that John Kasich wasn’t going to win, but I left with a clear conscience because I hadn’t settled.

Number two, I’m hopeful. I watched the video today at CNN on what was going on at the White House with Donald Trump and President Obama. I was hopeful and I was encouraged that there will be a difference between the President Trump and the campaigning Trump. And I’m with these guys. We have to give him a chance. But here’s the deal. I just hope that he’s all in, in fixing the wounds in this country and the divides that separate this country. And I want to be part of that, too. And for me to be part of it, I have to look in the mirror, and I have to say, how am I going to be a better man? How am I going to be a better neighbor? How am I going to be a better citizen? How am I going to be a better American? How can I be a fountain and not a drain?

And number three, I know you’re not supposed to talk about politics and religion, but we’re already talking about politics so I’m going to go the 'R' direction, too. I never know from one election to the next who’s going to be in the Oval Office, but I always know who’s on the throne. And I’m on this Earth because God created me, and that’s who I answer to. I’m a Christian. I follow this guy named Jesus. You might have heard of him. And the greatest commandment he gave me was to love others. And Scripture also tells us to pray for our leaders, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to pray for Donald Trump. I’m going to pray for all those people right now who feel like they’re on the outside looking in, who are afraid at this point. Pray for them, too. In short, I’m praying for America. And I’m praying that one day we’re going to look back and we’re going to say, ‘You know what? That Donald Trump presidency? That was alright. But I’m praying.'"

Pope Benedict XVI on Prayer

Pope Benedict XVI
Prayer itself, born in Catholic families, nurtured by programs of Christian formation, strengthened by the grace of the sacraments, is the first means by which we come to know the Lord’s will for our lives. To the extent that we teach young people to pray, and to pray well, we will be cooperating with God’s call. Programs, plans and projects have their place; but the discernment of a vocation is above all the fruit of an intimate dialogue between the Lord and his disciples. Young people, if they know how to pray, can be trusted to know what to do with God’s call.
— Pope Benedict XVI
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A Prayer For Discernment

All highest, glorious God, cast your light into the darkness of my heart. Give me right faith, firm hope, perfect charity and profound humility with wisdom and perception, O Lord, so that I may do what is truly Your holy will. Amen.

Feast of Saint Brigid of Ireland

St. Brigid of Kildare
On February 1st, the Church in Ireland celebrates the feast of Brigid of Ireland or Saint Brigid of Kildare (c. 450 – 525), also known as "the Mary of the Gael". Along with Saint Patrick and Saint Columba she is one of Ireland’s three patron saints. She was born a slave into a Druid family, the daughter of Dubhthach, court poet to King Loeghaire. St. Bridget is one of the few saints who stands on the boundary between pagan mythology, Druidism and Christian spirituality. Around her name there have been formed hundreds of legends, which could be fittingly described as "the Little Flowers of St. Brigid," the keynote being mercy and pity for the poor.

At an early age, Brigid decided to become a Christian, and she eventually took vows as a nun. Brigid’s family expected her to marry, but she disfigured her face, marring her beauty in order to dissuade suitors and serve God in consecrated life. While consecrated religious life was not foreign to the Irish Church prior to Brigid's time, it had not yet developed the systematic character and practice seen in other parts of Christian Europe in the 5th century.

Together with a group of other women, she established a nunnery at Kildare. She was later joined by a community of monks led by Conlaed. Kildare had formerly been a pagan shrine where a sacred fire was kept perpetually burning. Rather than stamping out this pagan flame, Brigid and her nuns kept it burning as a Christian symbol. (This was in keeping with the general process whereby Druidism in Ireland gave way to Christianity with very little opposition, the Druids for the most part saying that their own beliefs were a partial and tentative insight into the nature of God, and that they recognized in Christianity what they had been looking for.) As an abbess, Brigid participated in several Irish councils, where her influence on the policies of the Church in Ireland was considerable.

St. Brigid of Ireland died in 525. Popular piety attests she received Viaticum from Saint Ninnidh, a priest whose vocation she had encouraged. Veneration of Brigid grew in the centuries after her death, and spread outside of Ireland through the work of Irish missionaries. Accounts of miracles associated with her life and holy intercession are numerous. Almighty ever-living God, direct our actions according to your good pleasure, that in the name of your beloved Son we may abound in good works. We ask this 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.

Networks Give Pro-Abortion "Women’s March" Three Times More Coverage Than The March for Life

March for Life 2017

In the days leading up to the 2017 March for Life, we noted the vast discrepancy between the fourth estates' coverage of the annual pro-life rally and its obsession with the "Women's March". We wrote: "The march is ignored by the media. Star Parker points out the blatant hypocrisy in her weekly column that is worth your time. Calling out the self-centeredness of the 'me' culture, she writes:

'Bringing children into the world and raising them takes three things that don't work well with the 'me' culture: work, sacrifice and love.

I wonder why when hundreds of thousands of women show up in Washington to demonstrate for what one Wall Street Journal columnist called "everything under the progressive sun," the press goes bonkers with coverage.

Yet, when similar numbers of pro-lifers reportedly show up for the March for Life, as they have been doing every January since the Roe v. Wade decision in January 1973, and as they will do again this week, they barely get a nod from the media."

Lifenews now has the numbers. They offer good and bad news. Despite a marked improvement over last year's coverage, the "Women’s March" received three times more coverage than the March for Life. The good news? It was 37 times more than the 2016 March for Life. From the Lifenews article:

"While the networks barely batted an eye at the 2016 March for Life, 2017 was different: ABC, CBS and NBC spent more than 20 minutes on the march. The difference? President Trump, according to the networks themselves.

During their morning and evening news shows, the three broadcast networks dedicated 21 minutes, 52 seconds of coverage to Friday’s 44th annual March for Life. That’s not as much as they could or should have spared, especially after they spent 1 hour, 15 minutes, 18 seconds (3.4 times more) fawning over the recent Women’s March on Washington.

To put that in perspective, the networks spent almost 23 minutes on the pro-abortion women’s march – before it even happened. But their nearly 22-minute coverage of the 2017 March for Life was still an improvement.

Of the networks, ABC was the only one to report on the 2016 March for Life, and then in a casual reference to “high schoolers trying to get back to Kentucky” after the blizzard that hit the Washington, D.C. march. For that same show, the morning of Jan. 22, co-anchor George Stephanopoulos commented on the expected “tens of thousands” to “protest abortion.” Those two mentions amounted to 35 seconds." Our Lady, pray for us! Read the article in full here.

January 30, 2017

Don't Miss Ed Whelan's Commentary on President Trump's Supreme Court Nomination

American flag

EPPC President Ed Whelan, a former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and an expert on the Supreme Court confirmation process, will offer extensive commentary on President Trump's Supreme Court nominee immediately following the expected announcement Tuesday evening at 8:00 ET.

Be sure to visit Mr. Whelan's award-winning blog, National Review Online's Bench Memos, both tomorrow and throughout the confirmation battle. And follow Mr. Whelan (@EdWhelanEPPC) and EPPC (@EPPCdc) on Twitter for links to his articles and media appearances as they happen.

Sign up for Mr. Whelan's email list for frequent disseminations of his writings.
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Prayer for the Faithful Witness of Catholics in the United States

(By Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke)

O Lord Jesus Christ, You alone are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In Your Church You show us the Way, You teach us the Truth, and You give us Your Life. Grant, we humbly beg You, that, always and in all things, we may be faithful to You in Your Holy Church, and to Your Vicar on Earth, the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis. Grant also, we beg You, that, in these times of decision, all who profess to be Catholic and who are entrusted with the sacred duty to participate in public life, may, by the strength of Your grace, unwaveringly follow Your Way and faithfully adhere to Your Truth, living in You with all their mind and heart, for Your greater glory, the salvation of souls, and the good of our nation. Amen.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, Pray for us.

Saint Thomas More, Patron of Religious Freedom, Pray for us.

January's Blog of Note: Roman Catholic Vocations

Roman Catholic Vocations

Although it has not published in several years, January's blog of note is Roman Catholic Vocations. Prior to the internet, deciding on which religious order to enter, for one called, was decidedly more serendipitous, if not almost entirely providential. While God has always chosen whom he wills, the notion of entering one religious community over another was owed more to immediate experience, personal encounters or geography than inclination, although the later played a role. At least, this was the case among the religious of previous generations. Modern technology allows current day discerners to simply serf for the best fit.

Whether you feel called to be a cloistered nun or a mendicant brother, a diocesan priest or to marriage, Roman Catholic Vocations has something to offer. Faithful to the Magisterium, it's content features prayers, reflections, countless men's and women's religious vocation links and videos. From below the website's masthead:

"If you are actively discerning a vocation to the Priesthood, Diaconate, Consecrated Life, or Marriage and you are looking for information to help in your discernment, be sure to check the section at the bottom of the right sidebar for the 'labels' on all posts. By clicking on one of these labels it will take you to a page with all posts containing that subject. You will also find many links for suggested reading near the bottom of the right sidebar. ..."

Here is an excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI’s message for the 48th World Day of Prayer for Vocations: "Particularly in these times, when the voice of the Lord seems to be drowned out by ‘other voices’ and His invitation to follow Him by the gift of one’s own life may seem too difficult, every Christian community, every member of the Church, needs consciously to feel responsibility for promoting vocations. It is important to encourage and support those who show clear signs of a call to priestly life and religious consecration, and to enable hem to feel the warmth of the whole community as they respond ‘yes’ to God and the Church..."

Prayer of Saint John Bosco for the Salvation of Souls

St. John Bosco
My God, fortunate is he who has tasted how sweet it is to work for the salvation of souls! He is not afraid of cold or heat, hunger or thirst, offenses or insults, no, not even of death. O Lord, give me crosses and thorns, persecutions of all kinds, if only I can save souls, and my own among them. Give me souls, Lord, and take all the rest. Only when I know that the devil has given up plotting against souls, shall I cease trying new ways of saving them from his deceits and snares. O Lord, I wish to make a complete sacrifice of my life to You, to work for Your glory until I draw my last breath, bearing patiently all adversities and contradictions in my work. Help me to spend all my strength for the salvation of souls.
— St. John Bosco

Composed by Saint John Bosco, this prayer expresses the ineffable joys and singularity of purpose that disciples of Christ experience in living their lives of heroic virtue and selflessness for the salvation of souls and the glory of God.

Saint John Bosco, Priest and Founder


January 31st, is the memorial of Saint John Bosco (1815 – 1888), popularly known as Don Bosco, the 19th century Italian priest, founder, educator and writer, who, as the “Apostle of Youth”, reached out to the marginalized young in establishing religious orders, such as the Salesian Congregation. The Salesians are a community of consecrated brothers and priests that evangelize and educate youth, especially those who are poor and at risk. Don Bosco’s instructional methods departed from the standard of his day in stressing love, kindness, persuasion and authentic religiosity, not strictness and corporal punishments.

From an early age, John Bosco knew he was called to the priesthood. When he was 9 years old, he received a series of dreams in which he was told, "You will win friends with kindness and gentleness. You must show people that sin is ugly and goodness beautiful." He once dreamt about stopping a fight between two boys. When separating them didn't work, he used his fists. Jesus appeared and told him to win the boys over with kindness and love. The Blessed Virgin Mary then instructed him to take his shepherd's staff and guide the wayward gently. The two boys turned into wild animals and then into sheep. These dreams would profoundly influence the future saint's choice of vocation and eventual ministry.

Giovanni Melchiorre Bosco was born in the village of Castelnuovo d'Astiinto near Turin, Italy into a poor, but devout Catholic family of peasant farmers. His father Francesco, died suddenly when Bosco was only 2, leaving his wife to care for their three sons alone. Bosco’s mother, Margherita, provided him with a firm education in the Faith and the practice of virtue. Bosco left home at age 12. and struggled to survive until 1830, when providentially, he met a young priest named Father Joseph Cafasso. Fr. Cafasso saw something special in the young man and supported his schooling. In 1835, Bosco entered the seminary. Finally, after six years of study, he was ordained a priest by Archbishop Franzoni of Turin.

Upon leaving the seminary, his dreams started to become reality. His first duties included visiting prisons where he witnessed young inmates living in horrible conditions. Fr. Bosco devoted his life to the rescue of these unfortunate souls. He founded an oratory which taught them how to pray and through kindness and patience they became reputable citizens. Many opposed what he was doing because of the type of youth he was assisting. An attempt was made to commit Bosco to an institution for the mentally insane until the authorities realized the importance of his work. In 1859, he formed the Society of St. Francis de Sales which later became the Salesian Congregation. Together with Sr. Maria Domenca Mazzarello, in 1871, he founded the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, known as the Salesian Sisters. Three years later, he started the Salesian Co-operators a group of lay men and women to help work with, teach and catechize the young.

Saint John Bosco died peacefully on January 31st, 1888. His friend Pope Pious XI vigorously supported his cause for sainthood. Don Bosco was declared blessed in 1929 by Pope Pius XI, and canonized by the same on Easter Sunday of 1934 when he was named the "Father and Teacher of Youth". He is the patron saint of magicians because he often performed tricks to entertain the youth he ministered to. He is also the patron of young people, apprentices, Catholic publishers and editors. O God, who raised up the Priest Saint John Bosco as a father and teacher of the young, grant we pray, that, aflame with the same fire of love, we may seek out the lost, the forgotten, the destitute, and the unloved in serving you alone.

January 29, 2017

Homily for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 5, 2017, Year A

Sermon on the Mount
Sermon on the Mount, Henrik Olrik, c. 1880.

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing


To be successful in achieving a goal we must take care at the beginning to determine the correct route, which of course, is obvious. What is not so obvious is to ask the right questions, the questions that will accurately focus us upon the right path. If we do not ask the right questions, we will not obtain the correct answers.

When it comes to spirituality, we must ask some first questions. One is “Do we find God, or does God seek us out and then present Himself to us?” Another such question is “Do I construct the way to God, or do I accept the way God has given me?”

Surrounding us is a huge array of spiritualties — Tibetan prayer wheels, sacred crystals, Tarot cards, Foursquare Christian Fellowship churches, mainline Protestant churches, Confucianism, and many others, not to mention numberless spiritualties presented in a wide range of Christian churches. We find ourselves in a gigantic Wall Mart of Christianity in which we are invited to pick and choose what we want and then walk out, having paid the cashier via the collection basket; bearing our bagful of Christian groceries to sustain us until our soul’s cupboard needs replenishing again. This suits our American consumerist mentality – we “buy” what we want from our local church, take it home, and then consume what we want, when we want, as often as we want. It’s all based on what we want – not what God deserves from us, consumerist religion. The fallacy of this approach is as obvious as it is dangerous. The danger is that it can be minimalist – I buy and assimilate only the minimums necessary to allow me to consider myself a “good Christian.”

So when it comes to being a follower of Christ, when it comes to being one of His faithful disciples, am I my own guide? We know the answer, don’t we! A child cannot raise himself on his own. I cannot be a Christian on my own. We all need guidance. If we think being a Christian is a “do-it-yourself’ endeavor then we are self-deluded.

Jesus does not allow us to discover for ourselves what it means to be one of His followers. He tells us who we are and what we must be about to be one of His disciples — if we want to be a follower of Him in His way, in His truth, and in His life.

Jesus came from Isaiah’s people. Through Isaiah God let everyone know what He expected of them: “This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed... “ (Isaiah 58:6-8)

Prayer and spirituality are not all about what we want God to do, they are about what God wants us to do. To be holy is to live united with the One who is holy, not simply to think nice thoughts about Him. Goodness and holiness are the result of love. Goodness and holiness consist in actively loving others as God loves us. One is holy because one lives with and acts with the One who is holy, Jesus Christ. It consists in actively living as He lived, in being salt and light for others. Love does not consist merely of nice sentiments. Love is realized in what we do. It’s good to ask ourselves “What would Jesus do?”

Jesus tells us: “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” These are God’s words, defining the way we should live, calling us to act with deeds of concern for others. Salt is active and light is active — not passive. Being salt and light for others is essential to being a follower of Christ.

Every Christian is called to strive for personal sanctification, but what we need to remember is that in order to be holy we must be about the task of bringing others to be a part of the One who is holy. Jesus teaches us this. In fact He commands it. St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower once wrote, “I see now that true charity consists in bearing with the faults of those about us, never being surprised at their weaknesses, but edified at the least sign of virtue. I see above all that charity must not remain hidden in the bottom of our hearts: nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” Your love, she wrote, must be seen – not so that people may give you honor and glory but so that they may see your good works and give praise your Father in heaven.

Living for others and caring for others like Christ is the clearest expression of love. The Second Vatican Council emphasized the Christian’s duty to be apostolic. Baptism and Confirmation confer duties upon us because in Baptism and Confirmation one is anointed to be a part of the Body of Christ on earth and, like the Apostles, to bring His presence to those around us.

All of us have countless opportunities to be salt and light for others. The very nature of the Christian life consists in doing good things for others in a supernatural spirit, in the life and motivation of Jesus Christ. Which is why He told us, “Let your light so to shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

But what if your salt goes flat? How can you restore it? And what if your light is hidden under a bushel? Jesus knows how often we are tempted to be timid; how often we are motivated and controlled by concerns about what others may think of us, how often we are controlled by fear. So often we keep our faith and our religious values hidden. Additionally there are many voices around us telling us to keep our faith in private and away from the public square. They do not want us to “impose our values” on them even by expressing them in public. Faith, they say, is a private matter. What they are attempting to tell us is that people of faith are not supposed to make a difference in our society — that our faith isn’t supposed to be recognized in our secularized, multicultural society. In other words, we are allowed freedom of religion in our Sunday worship services but not when it comes to living out our beliefs in public.

Can we, then, give witness to an evangelical faith in our public lives? YES, I say, we can! But it requires that we have the courage to stand out in our crowded public square. Like salt, the flavor we can give to our society must be sharp and noticeable, not so bland and flat that we are hardly noticed at all. And our humility must be such that we realize that what we believe and say and do is not for our own honor and glory, but for God’s.

Jesus does not allow us to determine for ourselves what it means to be His followers – He tells what we must be doing and us who we are. Comfortable minimalism is something He will not tolerate. Our faith is Jesus Christ is not simply so that we can save our own skins. Our faith calls us to work with Christ to reveal God’s kingdom here on earth for the salvation of our world. Anything less serves only ourselves, not others.

Prayer for Saint John Bosco's Intercession

Saint John Bosco

Saint John Bosco, Apostle of Youth,
Friend of the destitute,
Teacher in the ways of God,

Your dedication to empowering the needy,
and enlightening the ignorant inspires us still.
Help me to work for a better world,
where the young are given the chance to flourish,
where the poor’s dream for justice can come true,
and where God’s compassion is shown to be real.

Intercede for me as I bring my needs to you and to
Our heavenly Mother, the Help of Christians. Amen.

O God, who raised up the Priest Saint John Bosco as a father and teacher of the young, grant we pray, that, aflame with the same fire of love, we may seek out souls and serve you alone. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Our Lady of Lourdes Novena 2017 Starts February 2nd

Our Lady of Lourdes Icon

In 1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared some 18 times to a young uneducated peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France. Through a set of private revelations, Our Lady revealed herself as, "the Immaculate Conception." Saint Bernadette, the Apostle of Lourdes, spread Mary’s message of atonement, prayer and forgiveness to the world, revitalizing the faith of millions.

The devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes is most well-known for the miraculous cures and healing of illness and disease. One of the intentions we will pray for during this novena is for healing. In one way or another, we are all in need of it, before we reach Heaven, whether it is the healing of our sins, or our physical infirmities.

We will also pray for the conversion of sinners. This was an important intention in Bernadette's life, for which she offered up much of her physical suffering. Lastly, we'll pray for the faith of those who have fallen away from the Church, for those who are lukewarm in their faith, and for greater faith within all families.

Click for information on this novena as well as daily email reminders.
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Prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes for Her Intercession

Be blessed, O most pure Virgin, for having vouchsafed to manifest your shining with life, sweetness and beauty, in the Grotto of Lourdes, saying to the child, St. Bernadette: "I am the Immaculate Conception." We congratulate you upon your Immaculate Conception. And now, O ever Immaculate Virgin, Mother of mercy, Health of the sick, Refuge of sinners, Comforter of the afflicted, you know our wants, our troubles, our sufferings deign to cast upon us a look of mercy.

By appearing in the Grotto of Lourdes, you were pleased to make it a privileged sanctuary, whence you dispense your favors, and already many have obtained the cure of their infirmities, both spiritual and physical. We come, therefore, with the most unbounded confidence to implore your maternal intercession. Obtain for us, O loving Mother, the granting of our request.

(State your request)

Through gratitude for your favors, we will endeavor to imitate your virtues, that we may one day share your glory.

Our Lady of Lourdes, Mother of Christ, you had influence with your Divine Son while upon earth. You have the same influence now in Heaven. Pray for us; obtain for us from your Son our special requests if it be the Divine Will. Amen.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Saint Bernadette, pray for us.

Grant us, O merciful God, protection in our weakness, that we, who keep the Memorial of the Immaculate Mother of God, with the help of her intercession, may rise up from our iniquities. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen.

January 27, 2017

Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor

Saint Thomas Aquinas

January 28th, is the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the 13th century Dominican theologian who demonstrated that faith and reason are complementary, not contradictory. Renowned among the greatest theologians of the Catholic Church, his master work, the Summa Theologica, was placed on the altar alongside the Bible and the Decretals at the Council of Trent. Aquinas was both a philosopher and a priest. Confronting new developments in thought, he refused either to lose faith or mindlessly believe, and developed a new understanding of the place of reason in human life. His virtuous example and ethereal theological insights are reasons why in 1568, Pope Pius V proclaimed Saint Aquinas the ‘Angelic Doctor’.

Thomas Aquinas was born to a noble family in Roccasecca, Italy in 1225. As a young man with preternatural spiritual gifts. he went to study at the University of Naples and there encountered sources of knowledge which had just begun to be rediscovered, ancient Greek and Roman texts. Aquinas became an academic at the University of Paris where he was an exceptionally prolific writer, producing nearly 200 writings about Christian theology in less than three decades. Next to the Summa Theologica, he is best known for his work, Summa Contra Gentiles.

In the 13th century, when better translations of Aristotle’s works came to the attention of European scholars, new questions emerged. The dissemination of these works along with doctrinal disagreements threatened to divide the Church between traditionalists, those adhering rigidly to the letter of Church law at the expense of the spirit of the law, and modernists, those embracing a theology based on novelty, often at the expense of Sacred Scripture and Tradition.

Aquinas answered these questions and in the process prevented a rift between traditionalists and modernists. His resulting theology, Thomism, is a synthesis of Aristotelian philosophy and Revelation. Like his predecessors, Aquinas’s theology is objective, deductive, and principled. It remains the theological standard today.

Father Pius Parsch’s summation of his life speaks to Aquinas’ total dedication to God and His Church: "To a deeply speculative mind, he joined a remarkable life of prayer, a precious memento of which has been left to us in the Office of Corpus Christi. Reputed as great already in life, he nevertheless remained modest, a perfect model of childlike simplicity and goodness. He was mild in word and kind in deed. He believed everyone was as innocent as he himself was. When someone sinned through weakness, Thomas bemoaned the sin as if it were his own. The goodness of his heart shone in his face, no one could look upon him and remain disconsolate. How he suffered with the poor and the needy was most inspiring. Whatever clothing or other items he could give away, he gladly did. He kept nothing superfluous in his efforts to alleviate the needs of others."

St. Thomas Aquinas died on March 7, 1274, reputedly in the middle of writing an extended commentary on the Song of Songs. Various miracles owed to St. Thomas Aquinas’ intercession would grace the faithful who prayed at his tomb or invoked his help. He was canonized in 1323, and named a Doctor of the Church in 1568. The Second Vatican Council stated that seminarians should strive for knowledge “under the guidance of St. Thomas,” so as to “illumine the mysteries of salvation as completely as possible.” He is the patron of seminarians, students, apologists, theologians, Catholic schools, Catholic Universities, chastity and teachers, among others. O God, who made Saint Thomas Aquinas outstanding in his zeal for holiness and his study of sacred doctrine, grant us, we pray, that we may understand what he taught and imitate what he accomplished out of love. 

Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 29, 2017, Year A

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

The Beatitudes(Click here for today’s readings)

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche lived from 1844 to 1900. He turned out to be a philosopher of considerable stature — and an atheist. He is probably responsible, more than any other one individual thinker, for the rise of the Nazi Third Reich and all that the Nazis stood for, as well as for the shaping and formation of Adolph Hitler’s mind. He was the generator of Superman — not the comic book character, but rather the sort of character seen in many modern men and women of our day.

Nietzsche believed, and taught others to believe, that God is dead… or if not dead, then God is irrelevant, immaterial to our lives and ways of thinking and living. Said Nietzsche: “Two great European narcotics are alcohol and Christianity.”

In his last great effort, Nietzsche wrote a book blasting everything associated with Jesus Christ. He titled his book The Antichrist, and in it wrote: “I call Christianity the one great curse, the one enormous and innermost perversion, the one great instinct of revenge, for which no means are too venomous, too underhanded, too underground and too petty — I call it the one immortal blemish of mankind.”

Nietzsche scoffed the Beatitudes. He asserted they were prescriptions for sheep and slaves to make them feel better. Christianity, he declared, along with belief in God, is a man-made prop, something to prop up the weak-minded, something for the shallow and those without any strength of character.

Life, for Nietzsche, is for the strong, the dominant, the ruthless; it is for those who understand power and its uses. Abundance, wealth and the ability to control and manipulate others comes only to the fittest of our species. All the rest of us resort to religion, to Christ, along with all of the weaklings who need Him. For Nietzsche, self-justification is the only justification worth anything at all. The only fulfillment which is at all fulfilling is self-fulfillment. Life belongs to those who help themselves above all others, particularly those super men and super women who help themselves to life and all that it offers. The individual human self is God… and is not responsible or accountable to any God, or to any moral authority.

Nietzsche saw the threat that Christ posed to Super Man and Super Woman; that’s why he reserved his most vicious attacks for Christ’s teachings. Christ’s way of life presented a devastating challenge to all that Nietzsche stood for. He howled and shrieked at Sacred Scripture, particularly what we just heard in today’s second reading when St. Paul, writing to the sophisticated and worldly people of Corinth, said: “God chose those whom the world considers absurd to shame the wise he singled out the weak of this world to shame the strong. He chose the world’s lowborn and despised, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who were something; so that mankind can do no boasting before God.”

Christ is our redemption and our justification — we are not. Nietzsche claims just the reverse, claiming that Super Man and Super Woman are their own justification; they redeem themselves, they get whatever they want. Their own power is their own justification and their own ticket to happiness.

Happiness in being humble, in being poor in spirit? Nonsense! Happiness in setting one’s self and one’s accomplishments aside? Foolishness! Happiness in weakness, victory in surrender of one’s power into God’s power? Rubbish! Happiness in empathy toward others, crying when they cry, hurting when they hurt…. happiness in being compassionate and suffering with others? ARE YOU KIDDING?

Purity and chastity? That’s only for the frigid and impotent! Justice? There is no justice — only power. Truth? What is truth? Those who hunger and thirst for those things do so because of their own weakness and laziness. In Nietzsche’s way of thinking, people on welfare deserve to be on welfare because they’re good for nothing else anyway. They’re simply good for nothings in their very nature.

We hear Nietzsche’s shriek echoed around us — let the weak work, let the alien go back to where he came from, let all the bleeding heart liberals sit down, shut up, and get out of the way for those who have the strength and ability to make us great once again, the way we used to be great when we were freed of all external restraints, particularly those imposed by the government and the church.

The beatitudes are for sheep, not for super men and super women. Religion and Christianity? They are narcotics. “What is it,” Nietzsche asked, “is man only a blunder of God, or God only a blunder of man?” In The Twilight of the Idols he went on to write: “Christianity is the one great curse, the one immortal blemish of mankind.” In another famous book he said — For thus spake Zarathustra: “Could it be possible! This old saint in the forest has not yet heard of it, that God is dead!“

“Blessed are you,” Jesus tells you, “when people insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of slander against you because of me. Blessed are you when they drive me out of your schools and forbid that my Christ be mentioned or his picture shown in your public places and in your schools. Blessed are you when they tell you how stupid you are for being Catholics, when they call you fanatics, right-wing religious zealots who are divisive and want to hurt others. Be glad and rejoice, for your reward in heaven is great. For the absolute truth is that Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche is very much dead, and I am quite alive.”

Ten Quotes from Saint Angela Merici on Discipleship

St. Angela Merici

Orphaned at an early age, Saint Angela Merici devoted her life, her work and her virtue to God. Her selfless humility and dedication to the meek is a model for us to follow. The quotes below reflect the wisdom of a soul completely disposed to being an unfailing disciple of Christ in all things. to all people, at all times.

Reflect that in reality you have a greater need to serve [the poor] than they have of your service.
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Beware of trying to accomplish anything by force.
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Strive to be faithful to that which God has called you.
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We must give alms. Charity wins souls and draws them to virtue.
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Keep to the ancient way and custom of the Church, established and confirmed by so many Saints under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And live a new life. Pray, and get others to pray, that God not abandon His Church, but reform it as He pleases, and as He sees best for us, and more to His honor and glory.
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Consider that the devil doesn't sleep, but seeks our ruin in a thousand ways.
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You will accomplish more by kind words and a courteous manner than by anger or sharp rebuke, which should never be used except in necessity.
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Do now what you wish to have done when your moment comes to die.
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Disorder in society is the result of disorder in the family.
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Do not lose heart, even if you should discover that you lack qualities necessary for the work to which you are called. He who called you will not desert you, but the moment you are in need he will stretch out his saving hand.

Final Prayer at the Conclusion of a Novena

Pentecost

Dear Lord Jesus, I have specific requests that may only partially fill the infinite needs and desires that are in my heart. I ask that You answer me not only for those requests, but also for a greater reliance on You to satisfy the needs and desires that You have given me.

Please grant the prayers of all those who prayed this novena with me. Bless them with Your love and make them holy.

May I seek You with a sincere heart knowing that it will profit me nothing if I gain the whole world yet lose my soul.

Help me to see Your good and gracious purpose in all my trials. Help me to see Your blessings in every day, and help me to love You more.

We ask this 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 novena prayers and information go to praymorenovenas.com.

January 26, 2017

Optional Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Foundress

Saint Angela Merici
January 27th, is the optional memorial of Saint Angela Merici (1474 – 1540), the 16th century virgin, religious educator and foundress, who established the Order of Ursulines, the first teaching order for women recognized by the Catholic Church. From this Order would later emerge the monastic Order of Ursulines, whose nuns founded convents of prayer and study throughout the world, including North America. From her earliest moments, Angela dedicated herself to fasting, self-sacrifice and prayer; practices she maintained throughout her life.

Angela was born in the town of Desenzano del Garda in Lombardy, Italy, the second child of a pious middle class family.  At 15, her parents died, leaving her and her older sister orphans. A short time later, her sister would also die. At some point during this period, Angela dedicated herself to Christ as His bride and became a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis. She lived simply, sleeping only a few hours a night and spending much of her waking hours in prayer. With every passing day, Angela’s deep love for Christ and devotion to God's will grew.

When Angela was 40, her order sent to Rome to assist an impoverished widow. There she met up with a religious movement that catered to the needs of the destitute. They established infirmaries for those suffering from syphilis, cared for widows and their families, and founded an orphanage and a shelter for former prostitutes. Angela resolved to establish an order of women likewise dedicated. In 1 535, Angela gathered 12 young women to join her in her work. On March 18, 1537, the nascent Ursuline Order elected her "Mother and Mistress". In 1544 Pope Paul III extended formal recognition. The congregation would grow rapidly.

Saint Angela was nearly 70 when she died on January 1540. Her body remained incorrupt for some thirty days. Numerous miracles attended her death and burial in the Church of St. Afra. Her fortitude and complete trust in God is evident in the following advice she gave to postulants: "Do not lose heart, even if you should discover that you lack qualities necessary for the work to which you are called. He who called you will not desert you, but the moment you are in need he will stretch out his saving hand." May the Virgin Saint Angela never fail to lead us to your compassion, O Lord, we pray, that, following the lessons of her charity and prudence, and express it in what we do. We this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever.

January 25, 2017

Memorial of St. Timothy and St. Titus

Saint Timothy and Saint Titus

January 26th, the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Timothy and Saint Titus, bishops and missionaries in the early years of Christianity. The Divine Office recalls that: "Timothy and Titus were converted to Christianity by Saint Paul, and became his companions and helpers. Paul entrusted Timothy with the care of the Christians in Ephesus, and sent Titus to Crete to look after the Christians there. He wrote them the so-called 'pastoral' epistles, giving advice for pastors and people alike." In 2nd Timothy St. Paul instructs Timothy thusly: "I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands" (2 Tm 1:6). Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois reflects on St. Paul's words:

"Speaking to Timothy, Paul advises him 'to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So, do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God' (2 Tm 1: 6-8). Paul advises Timothy to keep his faith alive and the center of his life. While this instruction was focused on Timothy’s ministry as pastor, it can be applied to all Christians.

Follow Paul’s advice: 'Stir into flame the gift of God… ' Embers in a fireplace need to be stirred so that they may light up once again and burn longer. The same can be said for faith! In life there are many demands on one’s time, including home, work, school, friends, family, etc. The days can seem short and most people triage what’s most important. Beneath all of the busy activities of life lies one’s faith. It is the foundation of our identity and the deepest calling the human person will ever receive."

St. Titus is credited with defeating paganism and promoting Christianity as the leader of the Church in Crete. While St. Timothy was martyred, St. Titus lived well into his 90's before dying peacefully. Almighty God, who adorned Saints Timothy and Titus with apostolic virtues, grant through the intercession of them both, that, living justly and devoutly in this present age, we may merit to reach our heavenly homeland. 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.

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for February 2017

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

Comfort for the Afflicted

That all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees, and marginalized, may find welcome and comfort in our communities.

Beginning in 2017, the Pope will present one prepared prayer intention per month, rather than two. Should an urgent need arise, an additional intention may be added.

March for Life 2017

March for Life 2017

The 44th annual March for Life is Friday, January 27th, 2017 in Washington D.C. This march is the largest pro-life rally in the world. Please consider attending or supporting this event in any way possible. The march is ignored by the media. Star Parker points out the blatant hypocrisy in her weekly column that is worth your time. Calling out the self-centeredness of the 'me' culture, she writes:

"Bringing children into the world and raising them takes three things that don't work well with the 'me' culture: work, sacrifice and love.

I wonder why when hundreds of thousands of women show up in Washington to demonstrate for what one Wall Street Journal columnist called "everything under the progressive sun," the press goes bonkers with coverage.

Yet, when similar numbers of pro-lifers reportedly show up for the March for Life, as they have been doing every January since the Roe v. Wade decision in January 1973, and as they will do again this week, they barely get a nod from the media."

Here is the schedule for the 2017 March for Life and a partial list of speakers.

11:45 a.m. Musical Opening

12:00 p.m. Rally

1:00 p.m. March

3:00 p.m. (approx) Listen to Silent No More testimonies outside U.S. Supreme Court

3:30 p.m. Visit your Representative or Senator to advocate for life

Speakers:

Kellyanne Conway, Senior Counselor to President Trump.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City.

Benjamin Watson, Tight End for the Baltimore Ravens.

Abby Johnson, Former Planned Parenthood Director and founder of “And Then There Were None”.

Karyme Lozano, Mexican telenovela star.

Eric Metaxas, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author and host of The Eric Metaxas Show.

Bishop Vincent Mathews Jr., President at Church of God In Christ World Missions.

For more information visit the March for Life website.

January 24, 2017

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul

The conversion of St. Paul

Although Saint Paul shares a martyr’s feast day with Saint Peter on June 29, the Church has recognized the most momentous occurrence in this apostle’s life by also celebrating a separate feast for the conversion of St. Paul on January 25th.

What makes the story of Paul’s conversion so compelling is both its swiftness and the profound change it wrought in his life. Born to a devout Jewish family in Tarsus, Saul, as he was then known, saw in this new Christian faith a direct challenge to the Judaism to which he had devoted his entire life. So incensed was he against this new religion that, for a time, Saul became one of its most violent and unforgiving persecutors, "entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment." (Acts 8:3).

Acts also records that he was present at the stoning of the first Christian martyr, Saint Stephen. Then, acting on formal orders from the high priest in Jerusalem, Saul set out for Damascus to round up any Christians he found there in order to bring them back for punishment. On the way, however, he had a profound encounter with Jesus, an incident which not only threw him from his horse, but left him blinded. What struck Saul most, however, were the words of Jesus: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" In an instant, this man, who would become the great Apostle to the Gentiles, realized that Jesus was identifying Himself with the very people whom he, Saul, had been persecuting. From that moment until his death, Paul devoted himself to the propagation of Christianity with the same tireless zeal that he had once used to try to destroy it.

After his conversion, Paul brought the Gospel to Damascus and Arabia. Due to persecution, he fled to Jerusalem where he met St. Peter. He would make three major missionary trips during which he evangelized and established Christian communities in Cypress, Antioch, Tarsus, Asia Minor and Galatia, Thessalonica, Philippi, Corinth, Ephesus and elsewhere. Falsely accused of bringing Gentiles into the temple, he was put in chains and imprisoned. A short time later, he was taken to Rome to appear before Caesar and released. However, Paul was martyred around the year 65 AD, during the persecution of Nero. He wrote 14 letters in which he manifested his fidelity and love for Christ. O God, who taught the whole world through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Paul, draw us, we pray, ever nearer to you through the example of him whose conversion we celebrate today, and make us witnesses to your truth in the world, until you come again in glory.

St. Francis de Sales on Trusting in God

St. Francis de Sales
Do not look forward in fear to the changes of life; rather look to them with full hope as they arise. God, whose very own you are, will deliver you from out of them. He has kept you hitherto, and He will lead you safely through all things; and when you cannot stand it, God will bury you in his arms.
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and every day. He will either shield you from suffering, or will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imagination.
— St. Francis de Sales

The Bible's Teaching Against Abortion

The Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary
 Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, the moment of our Savior's conception. 

Fr. Frank Pavone

Reprinted with permission


The Bible clearly teaches that abortion is wrong. This teaching comes across in many ways and for many reasons. Some people point out that the word "abortion" is not in the Bible, and that is true. Nevertheless, the teaching about abortion is there. This is the case with many teachings. The word "Trinity" is not in the Bible, but the teaching about the Trinity is there. In any case, a person who wants to deny the teaching about abortion would deny it even if the word were there.

Let's look at some of the Biblical reasons why abortion, the deliberate destruction of a child in the womb, is very wrong.

1. The Bible teaches that human life is different from other types of life, because human beings are made in the very image of God.  

The accounts of the creation of man and woman in Genesis (Genesis 1:26-31; 2:4-25) tell us this: "God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27).

The word "create" is used three times here, emphasizing a special crowning moment in the whole process of God's making the world and everything in it. The man and woman are given "dominion" over everything else in the visible world.

Not even the original sin takes away the image of God in human beings. St. James refers to this image and says that because of it we should not even speak ill of one another. "With [the tongue] we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the image of God . . . This ought not be so, brothers" (James 3:9-10).

The image of God! This is what it means to be human! We are not just a bunch of cells randomly thrown together by some impersonal forces. Rather, we really reflect an eternal God who knew us from before we were made, and purposely called us into being.

At the heart of the abortion tragedy is the question raised in the Psalms: "Lord, what is man that you care for him, mortal man that you keep him in mind? . . . With glory and honor you crowned him, giving him power over the works of your hands" (Psalm 8:5-7).

There is the key. Not only did God make us, but He values us. The Bible tells us of a God who is madly in love with us, so much so that He became one of us and even died for us while we were still offending Him (see Romans 5:6-8). In the face of all this, can we say that human beings are disposable, like a car that is more trouble than it's worth? "God doesn't make junk." If you believe the Bible, you have to believe that human life is sacred, more sacred than we have ever imagined!

2. The Bible teaches that children are a blessing.  

God commanded our first parents to "Be fertile and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). Why? God Himself is fertile. Love always overflows into life. When the first mother brought forth the first child, she exclaimed, "I have brought forth a man with the help of the Lord" (Genesis 4:1). The help of the Lord is essential, for He has dominion over human life and is its origin. Parents cooperate with God in bringing forth life. Because this whole process is under God's dominion, it is sinful to interrupt it. The prophet Amos condemns the Ammonites "because they ripped open expectant mothers in Gilead" (Amos 1:13).

"Truly children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward" (Psalm 127:3).

3. The Bible teaches that the child in the womb is truly a human child, who even has a relationship with the Lord.  

The phrase "conceived and bore" is used repeatedly (see Genesis 4:1, 17) and the individual has the same identity before as after birth. "In sin my mother conceived me," the repentant psalmist says in Psalm 51:7. The same word is used for the child before and after birth (Brephos, that is, "infant," is used in Luke 1:41 and Luke 18:15.)

God knows the preborn child. "You knit me in my mother's womb . . . nor was my frame unknown to you when I was made in secret" (Psalm 139:13,15). God also helps and calls the preborn child. "You have been my guide since I was first formed . . . from my mother's womb you are my God" (Psalm 22:11-12). "God . . . from my mother's womb had set me apart and called me through his grace" (St. Paul to the Galatians 1:15).

4. Scripture repeatedly condemns the killing of the innocent.  

This flows from everything that has been seen so far. God's own finger writes in stone the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17) and Christ reaffirms it (Matthew 19:18-notice that He mentions this commandment first). The Book of Revelation affirms that murderers cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (Revelation 22:15).

The killing of children is especially condemned by God through the prophets. In the land God gave his people to occupy, foreign nations had the custom of sacrificing some of their children in fire. God told His people that they were not to share in this sin. They did, however; as Psalm 106 relates: "They mingled with the nations and learned their works . . . They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, and they shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, desecrating the land with bloodshed" (Psalm 106:35, 37-38).

This sin of child-sacrifice, in fact, is mentioned as one of the major reasons that the Kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians and the people taken into exile. "They mutilated their sons and daughters by fire . . . till the Lord, in his great anger against Israel, put them away out of his sight" (2 Kings 17:17-18).

Not even for "religious freedom" can the killing of children be tolerated.

5. The Bible teaches that God is a God of justice.  

An act of justice is an act of intervention for the helpless, an act of defense for those who are too weak to defend themselves. In foretelling the Messiah, Psalm 72 says, "Justice shall flower in his days . . . for he shall rescue the poor man when he cries out and the afflicted when he has no one to help him" (Psalms 72:7, 12). Jesus Christ is our justice (1 Corinthians 1:30) because He rescued us from sin and death when we had none to help (see Romans 5:6, Ephesians 2:45).

If God does justice for His people, He expects His people to do justice for one another. "Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36). "Go and do likewise" (Luke 10:37). "Do unto others as you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7:12). "Love one another" (John 15:17).

Abortion is the opposite of these teachings. It is a reversal of justice. It is a destruction of the helpless rather than a rescue of them. If God's people do not intervene to save those whose lives are attacked, then the people are not pleasing or worshiping Him.

God says through Isaiah, "Trample my courts no more! Bring no more worthless offerings . . . Your festivals I detest . . . When you spread out your hands, I close my eyes to you; though you pray the more, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood! Wash yourselves clean . . . learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow" (Isaiah 1:13-17).

Indeed, those who worship God but support abortion are falling into the same contradiction as God's people of old, and need to hear the same message.

6. Jesus Christ paid special attention to the poor, the despised, and those whom the rest of society considered insignificant.  

He broke down the false barriers that people set up among themselves, and instead acknowledged the equal human dignity of every individual, despite what common opinion might say. Hence we see Him reach out to children despite the efforts of the apostles to keep them away (Matthew 19:13-15); to tax collectors and sinners despite the objections of the Scribes (Mark 2:16); to the blind despite the warnings of the crowd (Matthew 20:29-34); to a foreign woman despite the utter surprise of the disciples and of the woman herself (John 4:9, 27); to Gentiles despite the anger of the Jews (Matthew 21:41-46); and to the lepers, despite their isolation from the rest of society (Luke 17:11-19).

When it comes to human dignity, Christ erases distinctions. St. Paul declares, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave or free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).

We can likewise say, "There is neither born nor unborn." Using this distinction as a basis for the value of life or the protection one deserves is meaningless and offensive to all that Scripture teaches. The unborn are the segment of our society which is most neglected and discriminated against. Christ Himself surely has a special love for them.

7. Scripture teaches us to love.

St. John says, "This is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another, unlike Cain who belonged to the evil one and slaughtered his brother" (1 John 3:11-12). Love is directly contrasted with slaughter. To take the life of another is to break the command of love. To fail to help those in need and danger is also to fail to love.

Christ teaches this clearly in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), and in many other places.

No group of people is in more serious danger than the boys and girls in the womb. "If someone…sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in Him?" (1 John 3:17).

8. Life is victorious over death.

This is one of Scripture’s most basic themes. The victory of life is foretold in the promise that the head of the serpent, through whom death entered the world, would be crushed (see Genesis 3:15).

Isaiah promised, "He will destroy death forever" (Isaiah 25:8). At the scene of the first murder, the soil "opened its mouth" to swallow Abel’s blood. At the scene of the final victory of life, it is death itself that "will be swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?…Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

Abortion is death. Christ came to conquer death, and therefore abortion. "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).

The final outcome of the battle for life has already been decided by the Resurrection of Christ. We are not just working for victory; we are working from victory. We joyfully take a victory that has already been won, and proclaim, celebrate, and serve it until He comes again to bring it to its fullness. "There shall be no more death" (Revelation 21:4). "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20).

January 23, 2017

The Wisdom of Saint Francis de Sales in 20 Quotations

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales was a brilliant disciple of our Lord whose insights into the ways of God won innumerable souls for the Church. His homilies, letters and works are gems of contemplation comprising a treasury of theological wisdom. May the following quotations from this servant of Christ deepen our love for God.

Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections.
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It is an error, or rather a heresy, to say devotion is incompatible with the life of a soldier, a tradesman, a prince, or a married woman... It has happened that many have lost perfection in the desert who had preserved it in the world. 
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There was never an angry man that thought his anger unjust.
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The thoughts of those moved by natural human love are almost completely fastened on the beloved, their hearts are filled with passion for it, and their mouths full of its praises.
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Through devotion, your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable.
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A quarrel between friends, when made up, adds a new tie to friendship.
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Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.
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Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.
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Make friends with the angels, who though invisible are always with you. Often invoke them, constantly praise them, and make good use of their help and assistance in all your temporal and spiritual affairs.
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Those who love to be feared fear to be loved. 
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So many have come to me that I might serve them, leaving me no time to think of myself. However, I assure you that I do feel deep down within me, God be praised.
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A good discourse is that from which nothing can be retrenched without cutting into the quick. 
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Friendships begun in this world will be taken up again, never to be broken off.
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The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them.
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By turning your eyes on God in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with God. Begin all your prayers in the presence of God. 
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Half an hour's meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed. 
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Reputation is rarely proportioned to virtue. 
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While I am busy with little things, I am not required to do greater things. 
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When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.
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True progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice. 

Saint Peregrine Novena 2017 | Day 9

Saint Peregrine

January 24, 2017

Day 9 – Pray for us, that our lives will glorify God alone.

Saint Peregrine is the patron saint of cancer patients. He was known for his holiness and for a miraculous healing he received. Peregrine was scheduled to have his leg amputated due to a cancerous growth. The night before the surgery, while praying for healing, he received a vision of Christ coming down from the cross to touch his leg. The following morning, he was completely healed. Cancer patients and those suffering from terminal diseases seek his intercession.

Dear holy servant of God, St. Peregrine, we pray today for healing.

Intercede for us! God healed you of cancer and others were healed by your prayers. Please pray for the physical healing of…

(Mention your intentions)

These intentions bring us to our knees seeking your intercession for healing.

We are humbled by our physical limitations and ailments. We are so weak and so powerless. We are completely dependent upon God. And so, we ask that you pray for us…

We know, St. Peregrine, that you are a powerful intercessor because your life was completely given to God. We know that in as much as you pray for our healing, you are praying even more for our salvation.

A life of holiness like yours is more important that a life free of suffering and disease. Pray for our healing, but pray even more that we might come as close to Our Lord as you are.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

St. Francis de Sales
January 24th, is the memorial of Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622), the 17th century French bishop and Doctor of the Church, whose desire to save souls resulted in the conversion of some 70,000 Calvinists in the region of Chablais (an area comprising parts of present day France and Switzerland). His gentleness of spirit, pastoral zeal and compassion made him a powerful teacher of the Faith. His most famous works Treatise on the Love of God and Introduction to the Devout Life, show holiness is possible for everyone, regardless of station.

Born into a noble family of means, Francis studied law in Padua, Italy. Although once cantankerous and choleric in his demeanor, during this period, he became enamored with living in imitation of Christ. Taking a vow of perpetual chastity, he placed himself under Mary’s protection. His devotion to God, while unshakable, put him at odds with his family. Francis’ father expected him to lead the life of a respectable gentleman befitting his class. Upon earning his degree, Francis informed his father of his divine calling. Compelled by his son's earnestness and renewed virtue, Francis' father granted his consent in full.

Ordained at the age of 23. Francis rose quickly through the clerical ranks. At the height of the Protestant Reformation, he was named provost of the Diocese of Geneva, which had become a citadel of Calvinism. Francis set about converting its inhabitants, particularly in Chablais. He authored pamphlets explaining Catholic doctrine and preached, often secretly, due to the hostility of Protestants.

In 1602, he became bishop of Geneva. Despite the demands of his office, he continued to teach, preach and hear confessions. So renowned were his sermons, that people traveled from far and wide to avail themselves of his wisdom. He maintained a large constellation of friends and correspondents, most notably Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, with whom he establishing the Sisters of the Visitation. His surviving letters and sermons show Francis' deep love for souls.

Saint Francis de Sales died on December 28, 1622, in his 55th year. He is often called "the Gentleman Saint" because of his patience and humility. His life is a testimony that true sanctity is transformative; God's grace perfects our natures. He was canonized by Pope Alexander VII in 1666. In 1877, he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX. St. Francis de Sales is patron of authors, Catholic press, confessors, the deaf, educators and journalists among others. O God, who for the salvation of souls willed that the Bishop Saint Francis de Sales become all things to all, graciously grant that, in following his example, we may always display the gentleness of your charity in the service of our neighbor.

Pope Francis' Letter to President Donald Trump

Pope Francis' coat of arms Here is the Holy Father's message to President Trump offering his prayers that God would grant him wisdom and strength, and America peace, concord and spiritual prosperity.

The Honorable Donald Trump
President of the United States of America
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Upon your inauguration as the forty-fifth President of the United States of America, I offer you my cordial good wishes and the assurance of my prayers that Almighty God will grant you wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high office.

At a time when our human family is beset by grave humanitarian crises demanding farsighted and united political responses, I pray that your decisions will be guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have shaped the history of the American people and your nation’s commitment to the advancement of human dignity and freedom worldwide.

Under your leadership, may America’s stature continue to be measured above all by its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need who, like Lazarus, stand before our door. With these sentiments, I ask the Lord to grant you and your family, and all the beloved American people, his blessings of peace, concord and every material and spiritual prosperity.

Franciscus PP.

Twelve Things About Saint Thomas Aquinas That Every Catholic Should Know

Saint Thomas Aquinas

One of the most brilliant minds in the history of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas was born in 1225 at the castle of Roccasecca, in the present day Lazio region of Italy, the youngest of nine children. Thomas’ father was a man of means and nobility. Thomas's mother would try to prevent Thomas from joining the Dominican Order. His family expected him to enter the Benedictine Abbey where his uncle was the abbot. Thomas Aquinas dedicated his life to creating a complete synthesis of Catholic philosophy and theology. In honor of his feast day, [January 28] here are twelve things every Catholic should know about the Angelic Doctor.

1. Before Aquinas was born, a holy hermit told his mother that her son would be a great learner and achieve unrivaled sanctity.

From, Saint Thomas Aquinas of the Order of Preachers, by Fr. Placid Conway, OP, comes this account of the holy hermit’s prediction concerning the unborn Aquinas’ future life and accomplishments:
The future holiness of the unborn babe was disclosed to his mother by a holy hermit of the neighbourhood, known simply as Buono, or God’s good man. Clad in a rough garment, and with hair unkempt, he presented himself at Rocca Secca, and pointing to a picture of the holy patriarch Saint Dominic, who was not yet canonized, he thus addressed the Countess: Lady, be glad, for thou art about to have a son whom thou shalt call Thomas. Thou and thy husband will think if making him a monk in the Abbey of Monte Cassino, where Saint Benedict’s body reposes, in the hopes that your son will attain to its honours and wealth. But God has disposed otherwise, because he will become a friar of the Order of Preachers and so great will be his learning and sanctity that his equal will not be found through the whole world. Theodora listened with awe to the presage, then, falling upon her knees, exclaimed "I am all unworthy of bearing such a son, but, God’s will be done according to His good pleasure."
The pride Aquinas’ mother must have felt at hearing the hermit’s words was tempered by disappointment. Her long held aspiration was for her youngest son to join the Benedictine Order. The Dominicans were mendicants – preaching beggars who evangelized and served the unwashed masses of the poor – a vocation she felt was beneath Thomas. Together with her husband and sons, Theodora would spend the next two decades trying to dictate Thomas’ calling.

2. Why was Aquinas called "The Dumb Ox"?

According to popular piety, one day, Thomas’ brothers mocked his trusting nature by telling him that an ox had taken flight. As Thomas rushed to the window, his brothers burst out laughing. One brother asked, "Thomas, are you so dumb that you think an ox can fly!" to which Thomas replied, "I would sooner believe that an ox could fly than that my own brothers would lie to me."

Another oft quoted explanation for Aquinas’ sobriquet:

Because Thomas was quiet and spoke little, fellow students thinking he was slow named him "the dumb ox". But one of their lecturers [the great Medieval German philosopher and saint] Albertus Magnus prophetically exclaimed: "You call him the dumb ox, but in his teaching he will one day produce such a bellowing that it will be heard throughout the world."

3. Aquinas repulsed an "indecent proposal".

Not long after entering the Order of Preachers, Thomas was abducted by his brothers who imprisoned him at the castle tower in the village of Monte San Giovanni. There he was stripped of his religious habit, deprived of every comfort and humiliated. Despite his treatment, Thomas showed no signs of acquiescing to his family’s demand that he become a Benedictine.

So desperate was his family to dissuade Thomas that two of his brothers hired a prostitute to seduce him. According to legend, Thomas drove the woman away with a fire iron. That night as he slept, two angels appeared to him and strengthened his determination to remain celibate with the grace of eternal virginity by girding him with a mystical belt of purity.

St. Thomas Aquinas

Chesterton’s account, while dated in expression, is worth reading:
[Thomas’] brothers introduced into his room some specially gorgeous and painted courtesan, with the idea of surprising him by a sudden temptation, or at least involving him in a scandal. His anger was justified, even by less strict moral standards than his own; for the meanness was even worse than the foulness of the expedient. Even on the lowest grounds, he knew his brothers knew, and they knew that he knew, that it was an insult to him as a gentleman to suppose that he would break his pledge upon so base a provocation; and he had behind him a far more terrible sensibility; all that huge ambition of humility which was to him the voice of God out of heaven.
In this one flash alone we see that huge unwieldy figure in an attitude of activity, or even animation; and he was very animated indeed. He sprang from his seat and snatched a brand out of the fire, and stood brandishing it like a flaming sword. The woman not unnaturally shrieked and fled, which was all that he wanted; but it is quaint to think of what she must have thought of that madman of monstrous stature juggling with flames and apparently threatening to burn down the house. All he did, however, was to stride after her to the door and bang and bar it behind her; and then, with a sort of impulse of violent ritual, he rammed the burning brand into the door, blackening and blistering it with one big black sign of the cross. Then he returned, and dropped it again into the fire; and sat down on that seat of sedentary scholarship, that chair of philosophy, that secret throne of contemplation, from which he never rose again.
Read G. K. Chesterton‘s Saint Thomas Aquinas in its entirety.

4. Aquinas wrote the Summa as an introductory text for beginners.

In 1265, Pope Clement IV summoned Aquinas to Rome to serve as the papal theologian. Later, he was ordered by the Dominicans to teach at the studium conventuale, the first school of its kind to teach the full range of philosophical subjects of both the moral and natural natures of man.

There Thomas wrote his most famous work, Summa Theologica, which he deemed particularly useful to beginning students "Because a doctor of Catholic truth ought not only to teach the proficient, but to him pertains also to instruct beginners. As the Apostle says in 1 Corinthians 3:1–2, as to infants in Christ, I gave you milk to drink, not meat, our proposed intention in this work is to convey those things that pertain to the Christian religion in a way that is fitting to the instruction of beginners." Aquinas intended the Summa to be an introductory text; to be followed later by more advanced treaties. [After reading the Summa Theologica it is hard to image a more superlative volume of theology.]

5. Aquinas "baptized" Aristotle.

Combining the theological principles of faith with Aristotle’s empirical philosophy, Aquinas was the most influential thinker of Medieval Scholasticism. One often hears said that Aquinas "baptized" Aristotle. It is an apt metaphor as James Kiefer’s commentary illustrates:

"In the thirteenth century, when Thomas Aquinas lived, the works of Aristotle, largely forgotten in Western Europe, began to be available again, partly from Eastern European sources and partly from Moslem Arab sources in Africa and Spain. These works offered a new and exciting way of looking at the world. Many enthusiastic students of Aristotle adopted him quite frankly as as an alternative to Christianity. The response of many Christians was to denounce Aristotle as an enemy of the Christian Faith. A third approach was that of those who tried to hold both Christian and Aristotelian views side by side with no attempt to reconcile the two. Aquinas had a fourth approach. While remaining a Christian, he immersed himself in the ideas of Aristotle, and then undertook to explain Christian ideas and beliefs in language that would make sense to disciples of Aristotle. At the time, this seemed like a very dangerous and radical idea, and Aquinas spent much of his life living on the edge of ecclesiastical approval. His success can be measured by the prevalence today of the notion that of course all Christian scholars in the Middle Ages were followers of Aristotle.

Aristotle is no longer the latest intellectual fashion, but Aquinas’s insistence that the Christian scholar must be prepared to meet other scholars on their own ground, to become familiar with their viewpoints, to argue from their premises, has been a permanent and valuable contribution to Christian thought."

Aquinas believed that reason – what we know through our intellect, and revelation – what God tells us through revelation, are complementary not contradictory. His revolutionary insight has reached throughout the world and across time.

6. During his lifetime, portions of Aquinas’ Summa were condemned.

In December 1270, the Bishop of Paris, Etienne Tempier, formally condemned thirteen Aristotelian and Averroistic propositions as heretical. Critics in the ecclesiastical community feared that the introduction of such concepts would undermine the purity of the Christian faith.

Again in 1277, Bishop Tempier, issued a second more extensive condemnation. Its primary objective was to assert that God's power transcended any principles of logic. Contained within it was a list of 219 propositions that the Bishop deemed to violate the omnipotence of God, including twenty Thomistic propositions. This badly damaged Aquinas’ reputation for decades. It took nearly a century for Thomism to regain its standing.

7. Aquinas was beholden to the truth, not political correctness.

Aquinas does not discuss Islam expressly, save for two instances. In one, he defends Christianity against Muslim objections [See Summa contra Gentiles] noting that; the blood of Christian martyrs leads to coverts, whereas Islam is spread by the sword. Moreover, Aquinas compares and contrasts Christ’s selfless divinity with Mohammed’s ruthless humanity. To wit, in Aquinas’ own words:
He [Mohammed] did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of truth. On the contrary, Mohammed said that he was sent in the power of his arms – which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants.
Today, in the increasingly secularized arenas of the academy and the public square, such commentary would be met with condemnation and disdain. Aquinas was more concerned with empirical evidence and objective truth that are at the heart of his marriage of faith and reason. His moral and theological insights are unencumbered by a politically correct sentimentality.

8. On occasion, Aquinas had spiritual ecstasies and could levitate.

For centuries, there have existed recurring claims that Aquinas had the ability to levitate. G. K. Chesterton wrote that, "His experiences included well-attested cases of levitation in ecstasy; and the Blessed Virgin appeared to him, comforting him with the welcome news that he would never be a Bishop."

One contemporary of St Thomas, a Dominican brother, recorded in his diary that Aquinas had levitated while praying in the chapel. Other friars testified to miraculous events surrounding Thomas during his lifetime.

Skeptics of Aquinas’ levitation say the stories are the product of subsequent hagiographers seeking to embellish the saint's legacy. Whatever the case, it is beyond doubt that St. Thomas Aquinas knew the mind of Christ and the will of God to a privileged degree.

9. While saying Mass, Aquinas experienced an epiphany and would never write again.

One morning, after celebrating Mass, when Thomas was 48 years old, he stopped writing. When asked why, he answered: "The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me."

This is what happened. On the feast of St. Nicholas [December 6] Thomas had a vision of Christ, who said to him, “You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward would you have for your labor?” Thomas answered, "Nothing but you, Lord." Jesus gave him what he asked, and Thomas seems to have recognized how infinitely superior this new wisdom was to anything he had ever known. Three months later he passed into eternal life.

10. Numerous miracles attended the Angelic Doctor’s death — both immediately and years afterward.

The day that Aquinas died, a comet that had shone over the monastery for three years disappeared.

As Thomas lay dying, the vicegerent at the Fosanova Abbey, entered Aquinas’ room to pay his respects. When the vicegerent, whose eyes had long been ailing, looked on Aquinas’ face, his vision was instantly restored. Upon Aquinas’ death, his earthly remains were solemnly interred in the monastery’s Church.

Later, the Abbot of the monastery wished to secretly move Aquinas’ body. Prying open the tomb, the sweet smell of roses filled the air, alerting the other friars. Gazing in at Aquinas’ corpse they observed that his body was incorrupt.  Fourteen years afterward, Lady Theodora desired to possess a relic from Aquinas’ person. Upon breaking the tomb’s seal, the fragrance of rose became immediately apparent. The remains of Thomas appeared as before, as if he were sleeping.

Various other miracles, owed to St. Thomas Aquinas’ intercession would grace the faithful who prayed at his tomb or invoked his help. There can be no doubt that this great light of the Church has joined the celestial choir of the elect in heaven.

11. The Pope Who Canonized Aquinas Paid Him the Ultimate Compliment.

St. Thomas Aquinas has long been considered the Catholic Church's preeminent theologian. St. Pius V declared him a Doctor of The Church, stating he was “the most brilliant light of the Church,” whose works are “the most certain rule of Christian doctrine by which he enlightened the Apostolic Church in answering conclusively numberless errors … which illumination has often been evident in the past and recently stood forth prominently in the decrees of the Council of Trent.” Pope Benedict XV observed, "This (Dominican) Order ... acquired new luster when the Church declared the teaching of Thomas to be her own and that Doctor, honored with the special praises of the Pontiffs, the master and patron of Catholic schools."

But of all the popes, Pope John XXII, the pontiff who canonized St. Thomas was most laudatory. Speaking of Aquinas John XXII said that “his life was saintly and his doctrine could only be miraculous … because he enlightened the church more than all the other doctors. By the use of his works a man could profit more in one year than if he studies the doctrine of others for his whole life.”

12. At the Council of Trent, Aquinas’ Summa Theologica was placed on the altar alongside the Bible and the Decretals.

The Jacques Maritain Center’s website features an excellent overview of Aquinas’ Summa Theologica and the role it has played in guiding and safeguarding Church doctrine during numerous Ecumenical Councils. From the website:
The greatest praise that can be bestowed upon St. Thomas is to be found in the history of the General Councils of the Church. "In the Councils of Lyons, Vienne, Florence, and in the Vatican Council," writes Leo XIII, "you might say that St. Thomas was present in the deliberations and decrees of the Fathers and, as it were, presided over them, contending against the errors of the Greeks, the heretics, the rationalists, with overpowering force and the happiest results. And it was an honor reserved to St. Thomas alone, and shared by none of the other Doctors of the Church, that the Fathers of Trent in their hall of assembly decided to place on the altar side by side with the Holy Scriptures and the Decrees of the Roman Pontiffs the Summaof St. Thomas, to seek in it counsel, arguments and decisions for their purpose
Over seven centuries since his death, St. Thomas Aquinas’ thought still resonates. Its value is universally recognized and respected. Aquinas’ intellectual curiosity and life of heroic virtue continue to enlighten and inspire. Reading the Summa Theologica in a spirit of understanding, openness and prayer will profit one immensely. St. Thomas Aquinas, Universal Teacher, pray for us!