January 16, 2018

St. Anthony of Egypt, "the Father of Monasticism"

Saint Anthony of Egypt

Memorial - January 17th 

It is interesting that someone who once hoped to be a martyr would instead live to be 105 years old — thus it was with Saint Anthony (or Antony) of Egypt. Born in the year 251, he would not only live through the last of the persecutions of Christians by the Roman Empire, but he would then go on to fight the heresy of Arianism and eventually become known as “the father of monasticism.”

Anthony was born in Coma, Egypt, to affluent parents who died when he was only 20 years old.  Left with a substantial material inheritance, it would be the spiritual foundation that his family had impressed upon him which would have the greatest influence on his life. Not long after their death, Anthony heard a Gospel reading at church that he felt was spoken directly to him: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven.”  (Mt 19:21)

Much like St. Francis of Assisi, Anthony took this Scripture passage quite literally. After providing for a younger sister, he gave up all his material belongings and began to live a life of self-denial and asceticism. Unlike Francis, however, Anthony went on to live the majority of his life in solitude, devoting himself to prayer and contemplation of the bible.

Anthony began his spiritual journey not too far from his home, in an empty tomb where he remained apart from the world for 15 years. During this time, St. Athanasius, whose Life of St. Anthony is the source for much of what we know of the saint, tells us that he did battle with demons, which often came to him in the guise of wild beasts. Not only did they torment him spiritually, but physically as well, occasionally leaving him nearly dead.

At about the age of 35, Anthony felt God calling him to even greater solitude, and so he moved into the desert, occupying an abandoned fortress there for the next 20 years.  During that time, which was filled with intense prayer, further battles with demons, and the overwhelming presence of God, it is said that he never saw the face of another human being.  When Anthony finally emerged from solitude, it was not as an emaciated, damaged man, but rather as one who was robust, healthy, and on fire with the love of Christ.

Despite his desire for solitude, Anthony’s reputation for holiness and joy had attracted others to him, and he soon found himself providing them with spiritual guidance and even physical healing. Many of them wanted to follow the same kind of vocation as Anthony, and so the solitary saint organized a “monastery” of sorts, composed of individual cells scattered around his retreat, where monks could live their lives in prayer and contemplation. For about six years, this “desert father” ministered to them, and it was for this reason that he became known as the father of the “eremitical” life — that is, the life of a hermit.

Although the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire ended in 313 with the Edict of Milan, the Church would go on to endure an even greater threat — the Arian heresy. At the age of 88, Anthony became a vigorous opponent of this teaching, which maintained that, although Jesus is Lord and Savior, he is not equal to the Father, but instead is merely the highest creation of God.

Saint Anthony spent the last years of his life as a hermit but, unlike his earlier withdrawal from the world, he did meet periodically with the pilgrims who came to seek his advice. He died in solitude in the year 356, at the age of 105. O God, who brought the Abbot Saint Anthony to serve you by a wondrous way of life in the desert, grant, through his intercession, that, denying ourselves, we may always love you above all things. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen.

January 15, 2018

Saint Honoratus, Bishop and Hermit

Saint Honoratus

January 16th is historically the feast of Saint Honoratus, the 4th century French bishop and hermit. He was born in Gaul (present day France) about the year 350, into a distinguished Roman family. After a pilgrimage to Greece and to Rome, he became a hermit on the isle of Lerins, devoting himself to pious works, together with Sts. Lupus of Troyes, Eucherius of Lyons, and Hilary of Arles, among others.
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Saint Honoratus was of a consular Roman family settled in Gaul. In his youth he renounced the worship of idols, and gained his elder brother, Venantius, to Christ. Convinced of the hollowness of the things of this world, they wished to renounce it with all its pleasures, but a fond pagan father put continual obstacles in their way. At length, taking St. Caprais, a holy hermit, for their director, they sailed from Marseilles to Greece, with the intention to live there unknown in the desert.

Venantius soon died happily at Methone, and Honoratus, being also sick, was obliged to return with his conductor. He first led a hermitical life in the mountains near Frejus. Two small islands lie in the sea near that coast; on the smaller, now known as St. Honoré, our Saint settled, and, being followed by others, he there founded the famous monastery of Lerins, about the year 400. Some of his followers he appointed to live in community; others, who seemed more perfect, in separate cells as anchorets. His rule was taken from that of St. Pachomius.

Nothing can be more amiable than the description St. Hilary has given of the excellent virtues of this company of saints, especially of the charity, concord, humility, compunction, and devotion which reigned among them under the conduct of our holy abbot. Once during Mass, as Honoratus prayed the words of consecration, he experienced a vision of the hand of Christ holding the Host.

Honoratus was, by compulsion, consecrated Archbishop of Arles in 426, and died, exhausted with austerities and apostolical labors, in 429. He is the patron saint of bakers and confectioners. A miracle, witnessed by many in Amiens, occurred in a church where the body of Honoratus was brought for veneration by the faithful. The day Honoratus’ remains were to return to the cathedral, those present beheld the corpus of a church crucifix bow toward the saint's body as it was carried out.

Adapted excerpt from Lives of the Saints, Father Alban Butler, 1894 edition.

Martin Luther King on the Unborn Child


2018 Saint Peregrine Novena Starts January 16th

St. Peregrine

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.

Click for information on this novena as well as daily email reminders.

January 14, 2018

Urgent Message: A Reflection for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B


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

(Jonah 3:1-10; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1-14-20)

Over the centuries, well over a hundred dates have been predicted for the end of the world, by an interesting variety of persons: St. Martin of Tours, Pope Sylvester II, the artist Sandro Botticelli, Martin Luther, Christopher Columbus, and a host of other famous or unknown prognosticators. Not one of those prophecies has been fulfilled. The most recent date predicted was just four months ago!

Jonah enters into that category. He was a true prophet, sent by God, to proclaim to the Ninevites that their time was up. But in Chapter 4 of the Book of Jonah, the prophet blames God for sending him on a fool’s errand. He knew all along, he claims, that he would fail and God would relent of the punishment he had threatened.

St. Paul writes that time is running out. Mary at La Salette says: “If my people refuse to submit, I will be forced to let go the arm of my Son. It is so strong and so heavy, I can no longer hold it back.” Both seem to speak with a certain threatening urgency.

We can say that Mary at La Salette was hoping for the same sort of failure that Jonah suffered. She did not want her predictions of famine and the death of children to be fulfilled. She offered an alternative. It is never too late! Transformation is always possible.

Jesus begins his public ministry by proclaiming a time of fulfillment and calling people to repentance. There is nothing threatening about this. Still, Jesus is announcing the end of the world—as we know it! A time of transformation lies ahead. This is what St. Paul means when he writes that “the world in its present form is passing away.”

We have no way of knowing just why Simon, Andrew, James and John left everything to follow Jesus. One thing is certain: it was the end of their world as they had known it. Becoming disciples of Jesus dramatically changed them in every way imaginable.

For us, as for them, the encounter with Christ inevitably changes us, and not just once, but over and over. But sometimes we resist that change and need to be called or challenged yet again. That’s where the message of La Salette finds its place. It takes a Beautiful Lady, or someone who loves her, to make it known.

Homily for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 21, 2018, Year B


Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing


Nineveh was the oldest and most populous city of the ancient Assyrian Empire. Its ruins are located on the east bank of the Tigris River opposite the modern city of Mosul in Iraq. The Ninevites were a great empire known for their ruthlessness. They were the sworn enemies of the Jews. Each despised the other and yet Jonah, a Jew, was sent by God to them. The Ninevites were going to end the Israelite civilization in a few years but it was to them that God sent Jonah.

Jonah definitely did not want to go to them but God made sure that he did in spite of Jonah’s efforts to avoid the task to which God had called him. After the episode with the whale Jonah finally ended up on their shore. He went to them and they repented of their evil ways. They acted immediately on God’s word. Jonah was there only one day in what was to be a three day journey. That’s the key idea. On hearing God’s word proclaimed to them by Jonah they acted immediately and changed their ways.

In today’s second reading we hear St. Paul proclaiming a similar message. I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing ,those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away.

Like Jonah we have a propensity to procrastinate, to put things off with the idea we will tend to them another day. We should, however, consider what that’s saying to God and what God feels about that.

The theme presents itself to us in today’s Gospel account. Peter and Andrew were grown men who were in the fishing business. They experienced God’s call and immediately dropped everything, left their business, and followed Jesus. Jesus, today’s gospel account reports, walked a little farther and met James and his brother John who with their father Zebedee were likewise fishermen. At Jesus’ call they immediately dropped their nets, left their father Zebedee, and followed Him.

I want now to give some attention to the young men and women who are here with us today. Could you, in a less dramatic way, be experiencing a similar call from God? Could you respond  as those first disciples did? A vocation is a call from God. In one way or another we all, each one of us here, have a vocation. But what about the Jonahs among us? It’s very likely that some young men or women are feeling God’s call inviting them to go out into our modern day world, a world much like Nineveh’s, with His message… a challenging call indeed. It’s sort of like being called to be one of God’s Marines.

I know there are those of you young men who may be hearing God’s call to serve Him as a priest.

Some of you young women may be experiencing similar thoughts about being a sister in a religious order or in some form of a dedicated life in the Church. There are young men and women who are hearing God’s invitation to serve Him in a special way. You may be still in school or you may already have a professional career. God’s call is not limited. Men and women already working in a profession or a business may very well be hearing God’s call to leave what they are doing and follow Jesus along a special path.

Often the media present young men and women as self-centered and pleasure seeking, awash in sensual excesses. But we all know of young men and women in the military who are serving our country in very self-sacrificing ways. We have all seen accounts of young men and women on their spring breaks travelling great distances to build homes and in many other ways help folks who have suffered from poverty and other misfortunes. There are seminaries and religious orders of women that are experiencing growth not only in numbers but in the quality of young people who are joining them.

All that being said, our Faith tells us that by our baptism we are all baptized into the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. In the Sacrament of Confirmation we have all been anointed by the Holy Spirit to bring Christ into our lives and into the world that, like Nineveh, surrounds us. Our Church teaches that we are all baptized into the Priesthood of the Faithful and that by being members of what St. Paul calls “the Mystical Body of Christ” we bring His Priesthood into the world around us. We can all be heartened by the fact that many young men and women have come to realize that grace and are responding to God’s call to them.

Those are not just pretty words. Those are challenging words, just as challenging as those directed to Jonah. Bring a priest is not easy. Bringing Christ’s message to those around us is not easy. We prefer set that task aside.

God isn’t giving us another program; He isn’t giving us a “how-to manual” or some agency to which we can refer people. No. God is calling us to bring His presence to individuals, something that we can only do individually… personally.

It is my belief that society has no problems that cannot ultimately be traced back to the individuals who make it up. I believe that because that’s the way Jesus saw it. That is the way, and the truth, and the life He challenges us to live in so that we can change the world around us.

When I start seeing the problems that exist in others then I begin to see myself. I keep running into myself when I run into the sins, faults, and failures I see in others. We live in profound connectedness and in radical complicity with each other. The theological analysis of this reality begins with the doctrine of original sin, that statement of reality that puts us radically at the root cause and source of our world’s miseries.

Jesus cries out to us and tells us that a better world is within our reach; it’s within our grasp. “The reign of God is at hand,” He tells us. A better world begins when we begin to change our own personal life. “Reform your lives,” He tells us, “and believe in the Good News.”

Taking life by the yard is hard, but life taken by the inch is a cinch. Take life as it comes to us one day at a time. Expect perfect happiness in the next life only after being reasonably happy in this life. That is the only way to deal with reality.

And so, if we want to change the world, are we willing first of all to change our own selves? How can I have the energy to change the huge systems surround us unless I at least have the energy to change myself?

The call of Jesus to twelve individuals, the call we just heard about in today Gospel account, is not a call issued only to twelve Jewish men over 2,000 years ago. It is an insistent call, and urgent call, a demanding call that comes down to us through 2,000 years in this Church of ours to you, to you here and now, to you today, who have been called by God to receive the Bread of Life from this altar and then to leave this church building on a mission. We are to leave here as those who are sent, sent with the twelve apostles to change the world by first changing our own lives.

For the simple truth is that when you do in fact change your life, you will have begun to change the whole world. What are you seeking? What is God whispering to you deep down within you? To what and to who to you want to give your life?

March for Life Plenary Indulgence


Catholics who participate in the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 19, 2018 may be able to receive a plenary indulgence. Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington and Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington said in a joint letter: "In virtue of the authority granted by our Holy Father, Pope Francis... a plenary indulgence can be obtained under the usual conditions...by the Christian faithful who are truly penitential and compelled by charity, if they take part in the sacred celebrations, along with the great assembly of people, throughout the whole course of the annual event that is called 'March for Life'." (See the conditions for a plenary indulgence below.)

The prelates encouraged their brother bishops with the hope "that you will share this information with those entrusted to your pastoral care." The letter notes: "the aged, sick and all those who due to grave reason are not able to leave home" are also able to receive the plenary indulgence so long as they "spiritually join themselves to the holy ceremonies, while also having offered prayers and their sufferings or the ailments of their own life to the merciful God."

Conditions for Receiving a Plenary Indulgence

◗ Participate in the solemn celebrations of the March for Life.
◗ Say one "Our Father" and one "Hail Mary" for the Pope's intentions.
◗ Worthily receive Holy Communion [ideally on the same day].
◗ Make a sacramental confession within 20 days of New Year's Day.
◗ Have complete detachment from even venial sin.

Prayer for the Gift of Life

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

Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 14, 2018, Year B

The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing


Here we are at the beginning of a new year with high hopes that this year will be better than 2011. We have our hopes even though we know that there is much in our world that is wrong. Without going into a long, dismal list of the many things that are wrong let me point out just a few of them. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening, not closing. Political corruption and the politics of gridlock darken our perceptions of those we have elected to office. Terrorism and abortion along with Mexican drug cartel murders cause us to realize that human life is cheap and is too often regarded as disposable. We face much that is sinful, evil, and criminal in our world. All of these things we know quite well are exceptions to the way things ought to be; they are out of the general order of what should present in our relations with others.

How do we know that? What gives us this perspective and recognition of what is good, what is just, what is fair, and what ought to be? Today’s Gospel gives us the point of reference. It takes us back to the very beginning of the Christian movement, the movement of God into our humanity in Jesus Christ. The story is so familiar, so simple, that we easily lose sight of its overwhelming importance. The jingle bells of Christmas divert our attention to the magnificent truth that God has entered into our humanity and thereby blessed it with His holy presence in all that it means to be human. In Jesus Christ God brings His Light to what it means to be human and how we should live with each other.

John the Baptist initiates this coming of God to us by introducing two of his own disciples to Jesus, Andrew being the key player. John points Jesus out to them by exclaiming: “Look, there is the Lamb of God!” It’s sort of like being at a social function when a very significant person enters the room and a friend says to you: “Well, look who’s here!”

A conversation then develops between Andrew and Jesus, a conversation sprinkled with seeking words like, “What do you want?” “Where do you live?” “Come and see,” and “Come with me,” all of them filled with the relational words of friendship. Let me emphasize here that these are the inviting words of friendship, not the commanding words of submission and obedience. These are words that invite us to live closely with Jesus and with Him come to know how we should live with others.

My point is that our religion in its most distilled form is a friendship between ourselves and God in Jesus Christ. It is the one operative principle throughout Christ’s entire life. Even at the end of His life during the Last Supper, Jesus gets down on His knees, washes feet, stands up and looking each one in the eye says: “I no longer call you slaves … I call you friends.”

Jesus had no army. He neither needed one nor wanted one. He had the only one power with which to conquer the human spirit, the power of a loving friendship. That is the only thing that can invade and conquer the human heart. Brute force always fails; love always wins.

Our Catholic Faith is one of the largest and most influential in the world and it’s membership is presently over one billion souls. It has built thousands of churches, hospitals, children’s homes, nursing homes, schools, and even universities. It has rites, rituals, ceremonies, and the holy Sacraments of Jesus Christ. It has theologies, philosophies, systems of ethics, moral codes and even a Code of Canon Law abound. It is vast; it is intricate; and it is complex. But it is built on one thing and one thing alone, namely a personal, warm, intimate, and loving friendship with Jesus Christ. From that flows all of Christianity’s hope, power, and vision of the truth about who we are.

Jesus was tempted to be a military leader, a dazzling magician, a revolutionary who would construct a new social order, and a universal healer and provider for us in all of our hurts, wants, and needs. But He resisted all of those temptations and asked for only one thing from us – friendship! He loved us, and still does, even when we don’t deserve it. He forgives us even when we can’t forgive ourselves. He gives us far more than we ask for or even expect. He gives us a loveliness that is not pretty but is powerful. He asks us to be more than nice; He asks of us everything. And in the midst of war, famine, despair, and powerlessness He gives us His friendship bringing with it the one gift our humanity needs more than anything else, namely hope.

Whenever we feel lost in a religious life that seems too complicated, or whenever we feel lost in a world that seems to be unmanageable and out of control, and whenever we’re tempted to give up on ourselves, remember that our faith in its purest form is the personal friendship we can have with Jesus. That is how it began with Andrew and his brother Peter. And that is the solid rock upon which our relationship with Jesus is grounded.

For no matter what happens in our world, or in our spiritual lives, or in our relationships with others, we can always find our way once again with those seeking and questing words we heard in today’s Gospel message to you and to me. “What do you want?” “Come and see!”

Listening to God’s voice is of the essence of religion, it is the nourishment of our spiritual lives. When we come to celebrate the Mass the first thing the Church does is to offer us God’s word. Then having received His word for our hearts and minds we receive His Word made flesh for our human nature in Holy Communion.

There are those who defend themselves from intimacy; there are those who are afraid to love. Because of their fear of losing their own independent autonomy they either flee from religion or turn it into something ridiculous. Some seek to turn religion into a series of laws, rules and regulations that must be followed. That approach, however, requires only mindless obedience and thus misses the whole point about our relationship with Jesus.

The truth is that God has a word for you, personally. He has something He wants to say to you. The story of Samuel we heard in the first reading today is a story that we should make our own. The story in today’s Gospel account is a story we should likewise make our own. For God is calling you and inviting you to come and stay with Him, to come and be close to Him.

I don’t know how you pray your morning prayers but I would suggest that a good way to start your day is to repeat Samuel’s words each morning. When you begin the day with your first morning thoughts about God say: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” And then at the close of each day when you interpret the events of the day and try to make some sense out of them, repeat Samuel’s words: “Speak, Lord, for you servant is listening.” Each time you pray, after having told God about all that’s happening in your life and about all that you need from Him, say: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

God has a word for you. He has something to say to you in words of friendship and love. For the sake of your own soul, let Him!

January 12, 2018

St. Hilary of Poitiers, "Hammer of the Arians"

Saint Hilary of Poitiers

Optional Memorial - January 13th 

It seems odd to us today that anyone claiming to be a Christian would deny the divinity of Christ. In the 4th century, however, Arianism, a particularly pernicious heresy which proclaimed precisely that, threatened the very existence of the Church. While emperors and even some bishops sanctioned this teaching, many saints defended Jesus’ divinity; among that number was Saint Hilary of France.

Hilary was born into a pagan family around the year 315, but converted to the Christian religion after discovering God through his study of the Scriptures. So great was his reputation for holiness and his defense of Christ’s divinity that he was appointed Bishop of Poitiers, France, in 353, to great acclaim. At about the same time, Constantius II, an adherent to Arianism, became emperor in Rome.

This new ruler, at the behest of pro-Arian prelate, promptly exiled Hilary to far-off Phrygia in the hopes that sheer distance would silence him. It did not. Instead, Hilary began writing prolifically and convincingly against the Arian heresy. He was eventually allowed to return to France, where he established monasticism along with Saint Martin of Tours. Thus, Hilary is called the "Athanasius of the West".

Saint Hilary died at Poitiers in 367. His personal example and prolific writings on behalf of the true religion influenced numerous souls, including his student, Saint Martin of Tours. A favorite motto of St. Hilary's was Ministros veritatis decet vera proferre, "Servants of the truth ought speak the truth." Long venerated as a saint within Catholicism, in 1851, Pope Pius IX declared him a Doctor of the Church. He is symbolized by three books and a pen and named the "Hammer of the Arians".

Grant, we pray, almighty ever-living God, that we may rightly understand and truthfully profess the divinity of your Son, which the Bishop Saint Hilary taught with such constancy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who reigns with you and in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. Saint Hilary of Poitiers, courageous defender of Christ and the faith, help us to be holy.

January 11, 2018

St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, Canada’s First Female Saint

Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys

On January 12th the Catholic Church in Canada celebrates the memorial of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys, a 17th century French missionary who came to the New World in order to serve the poor. She founded the Congregation of Notre-Dame in Montreal dedicated to teaching, evangelization and works of charity, a hospital and schools. Beloved by Quebecois, she was called "the Mother of the Colony".

She was born on Good Friday 1620, in Troyes, France, the sixth of twelve children to Abraham Bourgeoys and Guillemette Gamier, and baptized the same day. Her middle-class family was deeply religious. Her father died when she was young. At 19, Marguerite’s mother died. The following year, on October 7, 1640, during a procession in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, while looking at a statue of Mary, Marguerite had a divine vision that would change her life. She later recounted:

"We passed again in front of the portal of Notre-Dame, where there was a stone image [of our Lady] above the door, When I looked up and saw it I thought it was very beautiful, and at the same time I found myself so touched and so changed that I no longer knew myself, and on my return to the house everybody noticed the change." It was during this mystical encounter that Marguerite would receive Mary's call to abandon her life so to dedicate herself totally to the service of God.

In response, Marguerite entered a non-cloistered branch of the Congregation of Notre-Dame at Troyes, consisting of women working as teachers in conjunction with the order. For the next 12 years, she led this group, teaching children in the poor section of town. She sought admission to various religious orders including the Carmelites without success. In 1653, she volunteered for a missionary trip to the New World. After three-months at sea, she arrived in Montreal, Quebec.

Life in her port of call, the nascent city of Montreal, was difficult. Marguerite worked as a nurse in Montreal’s hospital, and in 1658, established her first school. She would travel back and fourth between Montreal and France a total of seven times, bring with her supplies and young women to help teach and minister to Montreal's growing population. Due to their affiliation with the French Congregation of Notre-Dame, these women were called the "Daughters of the Congregation." Finally, thanks to Marguerite's unceasing effort's, in 1698, they were granted papal recognition as an Order in their own right: the Congregation of Notre-Dame de Montreal. Living in poverty, the sisters forwent comfort and security to catechize and care for the poor and the marginalized of "New France."

During the last years of her life, St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, submitted to prayerful solitude. Her last act was to offer herself as a sacrifice of prayer for the return to health of a young sister. The young woman miraculously recovered. Sister Marguerite suffered for twelve days, dying on January 12, 1700. Pope Pius XII beatified her on November 12, 1950. Saint John Paul II canonizing her on October 31, 1982. Lord, who enkindled in the heart of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys the flame of ardent charity and a great desire to cooperate in the mission of the Church as a teacher, grant us that same active love, so that, in responding to the needs of the world today, we may lead others to the blessedness of eternal life.

January 10, 2018

2018 Novena of Reparation for Roe vs. Wade and an End to Abortion


In preparation for the upcoming March for Life, we will begin praying the novena of reparation for the Roe vs. Wade decision and an end to the evil of abortion. While legislation and public witness are essential to defeat the abortion culture, our most powerful weapon remains prayer. From the Priests for Life website:

"The Catholic bishops of the United States have designated January 22nd as a special day of prayer and penance in atonement for the massive killing that has resulted from the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision [handed down January 22, 1973] which allows abortion through all 40 weeks of a woman's pregnancy."

"We at Priests for Life invite you to prepare spiritually for that day by joining a Novena that starts on January 14 and concludes on the 22nd. We invite you to say the following prayer each of those days, and to let us know [see end of post] that you have committed to say it."

Prayer of Reparation


God and Father of Life,
You have created every human person,
And have opened the way for each to have eternal life. 

We live in the shadow of death.
Tens of millions of your children have been killed
because of the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion. 

Father, have mercy on us.
Heal our land
And accept our offering of prayer and penance.
In your love for us,
Turn back the scourge of abortion.

May each of us exult in hearts full of hope
And hands full of mercy
And work together to build a culture of life. 

March for Life 2018


Will you march to end abortion, the greatest human rights abuse of our time? The 45th annual March for Life is Friday, January 19, 2018, in Washington D.C. The gathering is the largest pro-life rally in the world. Please consider attending or supporting this event in person to help protect those who cannot speak for themselves. Even if you are not able to attend your voice is still important!

Here are a few things that you can do:

Show your support on social media.

Support the March for Life and the pro-life cause on Friday using #whywemarch.

We want our friends, family, and the world to know why we are marching.

All of your #whywemarch and #marchforlife posts will be compiled at WhyWeMarch.org.
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Here is the schedule for the 2018 March for Life and a partial list of speakers.

Schedule 

11:30 a.m. Musical Opening featuring Plumb!

12:00 p.m. Rally Program.

1:00 p.m. March up Constitution Avenue to Supreme Court and Capitol Building.

3:00 p.m. After finishing marching:

Silent No More testimonies outside U.S. Supreme Court.

Advocate for life to your Representative or Senators.

Visit the March for Life Expo.

Speakers:

NFL/MLB star Tim Tebow’s mother Pam Tebow

Former NFL player Matt Birk and his wife Adrianna

U.S. Representative Dan Lipinski (D-IL)

U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ)

Sisters of Life’s Sr. Bethany Madonna

More speakers and guests to be announced soon.

Homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 14, 2018, Year B


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


Well, that was quick! In under twelve hours Andrew and his companion had decided that the man they had just met was the Messiah!

No one knows what they talked about, so we may give free rein to our imagination.
         
Maybe they discussed Jesus’ vision of a world of peace and justice and of outreach to the poor. We have seen in our own time that this is one of the most attractive features of Pope Francis. Why not something like that in this case?

Or they might have had a free-ranging conversation on the Scriptures in general. They did call him “Rabbi,” after all. Or maybe such an exchange might have been more like the one Jesus would have three years later, after his Resurrection, with two other disciples, on the road to Emmaus when, we are told: “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to himself in all the scriptures.”

The most obvious but, I think, least likely scenario would be this:

     Disciple: “Excuse me, Rabbi, but why did John call you Lamb of God?”
     Jesus: “Oh, that. It means I’m the Messiah.”

Now the scene that follows is absolutely typical of the first centuries of the Church. Andrew can’t wait to tell his brother Simon about this man he has met. Shortly afterward, another disciple, Philip, invites his friend Nathanael to come and see this Jesus, of whom he says, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets.” And so the Christian community began to grow, by word of mouth. It’s easy to imagine people saying to their relatives and friends, “You gotta hear this guy!” (Evangelicals typically do so to this day, the same way people who visit a Shrine might say to their friends, “You gotta see this place.”)

Whatever Jesus said that day to just two disciples led to his saying other things to more disciples, having more encounters. Some of these encounters were friendly—with the sick he healed, the outcasts he included, the sinners to whom he said, “sin no more,” a saying that finds its echo in today’s second reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. Other encounters were unfriendly—with the scribes and Pharisees who challenged him at every turn, not to mention the demons he cast out.

And so the Community of Believers, the Church, continued to grow as more and more persons became disciples of Jesus the Messiah, and invited others to join them.

What is the ideal attitude of a disciple toward the “Rabbi” or “Teacher” or “Master”? We find it stated in all simplicity in the story of Samuel: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Disciples need to know, and want to know, what the Lord has to say to them.

Disciples need to know, and want to know, what the Master expects of them. The answer the young Samuel received must have caught him completely off guard. The story goes on as follows:

The Lord said to Samuel: “I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears it ring. On that day I will carry out against Eli everything I have said about his house, beginning to end. I announce to him that I am condemning his house once and for all, because of this crime: though he knew his sons were blaspheming God, he did not reprove them. Therefore, I swear to Eli’s house: No sacrifice or offering will ever expiate its crime.” Samuel then slept until morning, when he got up early and opened the doors of the temple of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision... Eli answered, “It is the Lord. What is pleasing in the Lord’s sight, the Lord will do.”

Above all, disciples need to know, and want to know, that the Lord is with us, walking at our side. How else could someone like Martin Luther King, Jr. have accomplished what he did? How else would any of us ever have the courage to follow the Lord in a world that often feels no need for him, to speak his word in a world often hostile to him and to us, and to live the Christian and Catholic way of life in a world that often holds it up to ridicule?

I conclude with a short poem (by Helen Parker), that seems to me to sum up nicely this last and most essential need.
Walk with me, Oh Lord I pray.
Give me strength throughout the day.
Take my problems big and small.
Lift me when I tend to fall.
Walk with me, Oh Lord I pray.
Prompt me what to do and say.
Let me feel you always there.
Lift me when I feel despair.

January 9, 2018

G.K. Chesterton on Catholicism’s Critics


It seems at times that anything negative said about the Church will be simply accepted without question. This creates a dizzying array of charges. The Church is both “inconsistent” and “legalistic;” “contaminated by worldly values” and “too removed from the world;” she has too much “sackcloth and ashes” and too much “pomp and ritualism.” No accusation is off-limits. As G.K. Chesterton wrote in 1908:
Any stick [is] good enough to beat Christianity with.
When Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you,” he added: “Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (From Fr. Butler's Homily for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.)
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Prayer for the Church's Adversaries

Almighty Jesus, Prince of Peace, you commanded us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Let us pray for our adversaries and all who oppose the Church. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may we strive to fulfill God’s will, in imitation of you, and labor unceasingly to bring about your love on earth as it is heaven. To you be all the glory and honor forever. Amen.

The Importance of Offering Up Our Sufferings

Christ falls beneath the Cross for the first time.

Father Thomas Mattison

There are so many remedies for those who suffer unjustly that we have begun to imagine that suffering itself is wrong. Worse! We begin to think that those who suffer willingly or without complaining must be “sick” or uninformed or, maybe, getting what they asked for when they didn’t take care of themselves at some earlier time. In a fixable world, sufferers lose any right to compassion.

Those of us who are of a certain age learned a different answer: Offer it up! We may want to laugh at that, but it holds a profound spiritual truth. Compared to what others can do and have, I may be impoverished. But that impoverishment does not diminish the reality of God’s love for me. Nor does it rob me of the ability to be brave, to be generous, to be patient, to be forgiving, to be compassionate, to be loved, to be grateful. Some impoverishments may even provide me with the ability to inspire others; isn’t that what a support group is about?

Suffering can make me more aware of my need for God and more willing to trust His love. Suffering so that His love can reach others makes me more and more like Jesus, even if I look more and more like the “losers” of the world. Karl Marx lampooned Christianity as “the opiate of the masses.” A cult of entitlement has led us to an epidemic of opiates.

There are those who, with greater and greater frequency, are beginning to ask if fixing the different and leveling all disparities is actually a good idea. If all difference is abolished — maybe even made illegal — what will be the fate of the truly exceptional? Will they, too, be banned because they make others feel inadequate?

We know that state-sponsored collectivism produced a loss of incentive, a loss of healthy competition and a precipitous cultural regression. It did not stop greed or repression or persecution or torture or murder — either private or judicial. The tyrannical few and the tyrannical many are all dyed in the same blood.

“Offering it up” may sound quaint or old fashioned when we can make someone else pay for our happiness. On the other hand, the poor in spirit are promised the Kingdom of God, and those who mourn are promised comfort, and those who make peace are called children of God.
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Fr. Thomas Mattison is pastor of Christ our Savior Parish in Manchester Center and Arlington VT.

January 8, 2018

Praying to the Saints and Why Icons Look ‘Weird’

Christ and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus

In venerating the saints, remembering the souls of departed loved ones, and praying for those in purgatory, Catholics are often accused of praying to the dead. But the souls in heaven (the Church Triumphant) and those in purgatory (the Church Suffering) are not dead. They are very much live. In fact, they are much closer to the Throne of God than anyone on earth (the Church Militant).

By virtue of the Communion of Saints, no Christian is an island, isolated or alone. We are joined together, spiritually united in love, through the Lord Jesus Christ and the divine economy of salvation, one family sustained by God across time. As members of Christ's mystical body, Christians are bound not only to Him, but to each other. Prayers to the saints for their intercession are efficacious for they see God now face to face. Hence, their petitions to Him on our behalf are powerful.

Most of all, Christians pray to God: God the Father, God the Holy Spirit and God the Son, our Lord and Savior. Regarding the later, Nicholas Papas, an Orthodox iconographer and commentator writes: "The Christian conversation with 'dead' people starts with talking to Jesus. You might respond, 'But Jesus isn’t dead!' and I would say, 'Aha, you’re making my point!'" Using Christ's appearance to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), Papas explains how the lived faith of believers who seek out Christ and do His will is neither wishful nor blind:
Jesus, through Luke, Cleopas and the Emmaus story, shows us a path to absorbing this elusive thing, faith. Along the road, Jesus explained about Himself from the scriptures, but the [two disciples] still did not understand who or what He was. But they did not have to wait long for their eyes to be opened, and it was Communion, the Eucharist, that opened them.
The disciples who witnessed the Emmaus miracle believed that Jesus was dead. Unaware of Christ's Resurrection, Cleopas and his fellow traveler doubtless felt fear and confusion. Jesus would reassure them. Papas continues: "Jesus revealed the formerly hidden messages of Scripture. He showed Himself to be The Christ of the Old Testament. And even more amazingly, the Apostles eyes where opened to knowing that this was Jesus there with them! He had risen from the dead!"

Papas concludes with a related discussion on iconograpy. As a prolific writer of Orthodox icons, he brings his faith to bear. Papas notes: "The way people are depicted in icons is, on the one hand, visibly decipherable as being completely human and like us. Yet on the other hand, iconographic, artistic flair portrays these dead-but-not-dead people in an abstracted, stylized way that proclaims in a poem for the eye that these people are in heaven." (Read the article in full here.)

Saint John Vianney's Words to Venerable Pauline-Marie Jaricot on Bearing One's Cross

Pauline-Marie Jaricot

Venerable Pauline-Marie Jaricot was a 19th century French Catholic laywoman and the foundress of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith and the Living Rosary Association. During her life, she visited with Saint John Vianney many times. Here are the Curé d'Ars words to her on bearing our crosses with love.
Through the hands of the Blessed Virgin, the Good God frequently grants one of the greatest gifts in heaven's treasury; an understanding of the way of the cross: a love of trials and sufferings. My sister, to try to get from under the cross is to be crushed by its weight, but to suffer it lovingly is to suffer no longer.
― St. John Vianney
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Prayer in Honor of the Holy Cross of Christ

Almighty God and Father, who willed that your Only Begotten Son should undergo the Cross to save the human race and restore all things to You, grant, we pray, that we, who have known his mystery on earth, may duly merit the grace of his redemption in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Venerable Pauline-Marie Jaricot, Apostolic Soul

Pauline-Marie Jaricot

Optional Memorial - January 9th

Pauline Marie Jaricot was born in Lyon on July 22, 1799, to a profoundly religious family of silk merchants. Her entire life was given completely to God and her Holy Mother, the church. From her conversion at the age of 16, she devoted herself to a life of prayer and service. At age 18, she composed a treatise on the Infinite Love of the Divine Eucharist. She founded societies of prayer that continue today.

At this time, Catholics in France faced persecution. Pauline and her family lived in isolation. Had Pauline not been withdrawn from the world in this way, she would not have fully understood the necessity of prayer. With this insight, she dedicated herself to works of charity. She found that to serve the poor and afflicted was to serve Christ himself. Dividing her efforts between helping others and her life of prayer, she soon realized that to truly help others, she must bring them to God.

The French Revolution had wrought havoc and destruction to the evangelization efforts of the Church. The entire attitude of the Church toward missionaries was undermined. There were no viable initiatives or collections to help them. Pauline prayed much on this and had a sudden inspiration, thus The Association of the Propagation of the Faith was born from God, for her to spread across the world.

In 1826, she established the Association of the Living Rosary. The fifteen decades of the Rosary were divided among fifteen associates, each of whom had to recite daily one determined decade. A second object of the new foundation was the spread of good books and articles of piety. A venture of Pauline's in the interest of social reform, involved her in financial difficulties and failed. She died January 9, 1862 and was declared venerable on February 25, 1963, by Saint John XXIII.

Venerable Pauline-Marie Jaricot's apostolic soul longed to bring the knowledge and love of Christ to the world. Never did she cease to sing the glory of God and to praise His name. She said: "Receive us in thy embrace as we are, and give us all that thou hath, so that disappearing in thee, an ocean of love and perfections, nothing will remain of us any longer but thyself wherein we are hidden."

Sts. Julian and Basilissa, Fourth Century Martyrs

Saints Julian and Basilissa

Optional Memorial - January 9th 

Saint Julian and Saint Basilissa, although married, lived, by mutual consent, in perpetual chastity; they sanctified themselves by the most perfect exercises of an ascetic life, and employed their revenues in relieving the poor and the sick. For this purpose they converted their house into a kind of hospital, in which they sometimes entertained a thousand poor people. Basilissa attended the women in separate lodgings from the men; these were taken care of by her husband Julian.

At that time, the imperial governor Marcian had constructed pagan idols in Egypt, many of which [according to popular piety} were destroyed by the prayer of the two saints. Because of their Christian faith, professed Christians were horribly persecuted and killed. Some sources report that Basilissa died a martyr. Others contend that, after enduring seven brutal persecutions, she died in peace. Julian survived her many years and received holy martyrdom, together with Celsus, a youth, Antony, a priest, Anastasius, and Marcianilla, the mother of Celsus.

When the pagan governor, under the threat of bodily harm, ordered St. Julian to sacrifice to the idols, he replied: "I regard the emperor as an authority ordained by God. But I can not obey his orders if they are contrary to the commandments of God." With this, Julian received a sentence of death, and was born to eternity.

Many churches and hospitals in the East, and especially in the West, bear the name of one or other of these martyrs. Four churches at Rome, and three out of five at Paris, which bear the name of St. Julian, were originally dedicated under the name of St. Julian, the Hospitalarian and martyr. (St. Julian, the Hospitalarian should not to be confused with St. Julian the Hospitaller the patron of hospitality.)

In the time of Saint Gregory the Great, the skull of St. Julian was brought out of the East into France, and given to Queen Brunehault; she gave it to the nunnery which she founded at Étampes; a section of it is at present in the monastery of Morigny, near Étampes, and part in the church of the regular canonesses of St. Basilissa at Paris. O infinite, triune God! You strengthened your faithful servants Julian and Basilissa in their confession of faith. Do likewise for us that we may live chastely and not be turned away from faithfulness to your ministry. Amen.

Adapted excerpt from Lives of the Saints, Father Alban Butler, 1894 edition.

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord | 2017


Msgr. Rudolph G. Bandas

Today [January 8th] the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord. This brings to an end the season of Christmas. The Church recalls Our Lord's second manifestation or epiphany which occurred on the occasion of His baptism in the Jordan. Jesus descended into the River to sanctify its waters and to give them the power to beget sons of God. The event takes on the importance of a second creation in which the entire Trinity intervenes.

In the Eastern Church this feast is called Theophany because at the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan God appeared in three persons. The baptism of John was a sort of sacramental preparatory for the Baptism of Christ. It moved men to sentiments of repentance and induced them to confess their sins. Christ did not need the baptism of John. Although He appeared in the "substance of our flesh" and was recognized "outwardly like unto ourselves," He was absolutely sinless and impeccable. He conferred upon the water the power of the true Baptism which would remove all the sins of the world: "Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who takes away the sin of the world."

Many of the incidents which accompanied Christ's baptism are symbolical of what happened at our Baptism. At Christ's baptism the Holy Spirit descended upon Him; at our Baptism the Trinity took its abode in our soul. At His baptism Christ was proclaimed the "Beloved Son" of the Father; at our Baptism we become the adopted sons of God. At Christ's baptism the heavens were opened; at our Baptism heaven was opened to us. At His baptism Jesus prayed; after our Baptism we must pray to avoid actual sin.
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Collect Prayer

Almighty ever-living God, who, when Christ had been baptized in the River Jordan and as the Holy Spirit descended upon him, solemnly declared him your beloved Son, grant that your children by adoption, reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, may always be well pleasing to you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who reigns with you with and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Reflection on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: "Speak Lord, for Your Servant is Listening"


By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

1 Samuel 3:3-10,19; 1 Corinthians 6:13-15,17-20; John 1:35-42

“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening”
(1 Sam 3:10)

On the day of my ordination to the priesthood, I stood before Bishop Kenneth Angell at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and made a profound statement of faith. It was probably missed by many in the cathedral as it seemed to be more functionary than anything else. At the time, I missed the significance of this statement as well.

Toward the beginning of the Rite of Ordination, the deacon called my name and I replied, “Present.” Twenty-two years later, I now grasp the significance of that term. In stating I was “present,” I was referring to the fact that I was fully there, body, mind, heart and soul, to fulfill God’s plan for me. Up to that point, I had studied theology and served in a number of pastoral situations. But like anyone beginning a new phase of life, I had no idea what was to come.

On that day, I didn’t know what parishes or schools I would serve. I only knew I was “present” that day, that moment, and as ready as I would ever be. All I needed was an open heart and mind and God would do the rest.

On this day, the Church stands at the beginning of Winter Ordinary Time, which will last until Feb. 14, Ash Wednesday. In these few weeks between Christmas and Lent, let us reflect on the call of Samuel as recounted on this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time’s Second Sunday in Ordinary Time 1 Samuel 3: 3b-10, 19; Psalm 40; 1 Corinthians 6: 13c-15a, 17-20; John 1: 35-42 first reading. God calls Samuel several times while he is sleeping. Finally, Eli realizes it is God’s voice. Then, Samuel replies, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:10).

Samuel was “present” much like I was on the day of my ordination. On that day, Samuel didn’t know that he would have to challenge King Saul or that he would one day go to the house of Jesse and choose Jesse’s youngest son, David, to be the next King of Israel.

“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” is a beautiful prayer for us to begin Ordinary Time. We make the same profession of faith in so many ways.

At a baptism, parents are asked the following question: “It will be your duty to bring him/her up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?” “Yes!” reply the parents. It is the same “present” of the newly ordained or the “Speak, Lord” of Samuel.

At a Catholic wedding the priest asks: “Are you prepared as you follow the path of marriage, to love and honor each other for as long as you both shall live?” The bride and groom each answer with an enthusiastic “I am!” The parents of a newborn or a bride and groom don’t know what’s coming. But that day they are prepared to live out the promises they’re making.

With God’s grace and inspiration, it can happen. Each of us answers like Samuel. We do so in official sacramental moments but also in our day-to-day living. We make the words of Samuel part of our daily prayer. Speak, Lord, your servant is listening today, in this situation, among these people, now. We never know what any one day will bring, but as we begin our day we ask the Lord to speak to us, for we are listening.

Faith is not just about the milestone moments. It is also about what I do today, in the here and now. That’s why it’s a good idea to begin each day with Samuel’s eagerness to hear God. Like Samuel, let’s listen for God’s voice.

January 7, 2018

St. Raymond of Peñafort’s Greatest Miracle

St. Raymond of Peñafort’s Greatest Miracle

Saint Raymond of Peñafort was the appointed confessor for King James I, the Conqueror, of Aragon. The Spanish monarch, a loyal son of the Church, had, however, let his lustful desires shackle him. While on the island of Majorca to evangelize the Moor population there, James brought his mistress with him.

St. Raymond, upon discovering that he entertained a lady at his court with whom he was suspected to have criminal conversation, made the strongest instances to have her dismissed, which the king promised should be done, but postponed the execution. The saint, dissatisfied with the delay, begged leave to retire to his convent at Barcelona. The king not only refused him leave, but threatened to punish with death any person that should undertake to convey him out of the island. The saint, full of confidence in God, said to his companion, "A king of the earth endeavors to deprive us of the means of retiring; but the King of heaven will supply them." He then walked boldly to the waters, spread his cloak upon them, tied up one corner of it to a staff for a sail, and having made the sign of the cross, stepped upon it without fear, while his companion on shore watched.

On this new kind of vessel, the saint was wafted with such rapidity, that in six hours he reached the harbor of Barcelona, sixty leagues distant from Majorca. Those who saw him arrive in this manner met him with acclamations. But he, gathering up his cloak dry, put it on, stole through the crowd, and entered his monastery. A chapel and a tower, built on the place where he landed, have transmitted the memory of this great miracle to posterity. (Adapted Source)

O God, who adorned the Priest Saint Raymond with the virtue of outstanding mercy and compassion for sinners and for captives, grant to us, through his intercession, that, released from slavery to sin, we may carry out in freedom of spirit what is pleasing to you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Raymond of Peñafort, Patron of Canon Lawyers

Saint Raymond of Peñafort

(In 2018, this feast is superseded by the Sunday liturgy.) From 2017:

December 7th is the optional memorial of Saint Raymond of Peñafort (1175-1275), a 13th century Dominican priest and theologian who, as a contemporary of Saint Thomas Aquinas, worked to help Christian captives during the period of the Crusades and added greatly to Canon Law, the Church’s legal code. A brilliant evangelist, in his writings, utterances and example, St. Raymond won numerous souls for Christ. Over 10,000 Muslims converted as a result of his efforts. Named the Superior General of the Dominican Order, he retired after only two years due to his advanced age. (Following this, he lived another 35 years during which he skillfully advanced the Good News.) His most notable work, the Summa Casuum, concerns the importance and correct administration of the Sacrament of Penance.

He was born into a Spanish noble family, with ties to the royal house of Aragon, at the castle of Pennafort, in the Catalonian region of present-day Spain. The future saint received a world class education, studying in Barcelona and at the University of Bologna. There, from 1195 to 1210, he taught Canon law. At some point, Barcelona’s Bishop convinced him to return to Spain where he was named one of the canons in the cathedral. Still, Raymond wanted a deeper relationship with the Lord. On Good Friday, 1222, he petitioned to join the Dominican Order.

He made his solemn profession in the Order of Preachers when he was about forty-five years of age. Excelling in all the virtues, he devoted himself especially to charity toward the poor, and also to those taken captive by the infidels. (This was necessary because the invading Moors were exacting great cruelties on their Christian captives.) Through his exhortation, his penitent Saint Peter Nolasco devoted all his possessions to this work of mercy. The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Peter, Raymond and James I, the King of Aragon, extolling them to institute an Order of men whose mission was to deliver captives from the tyranny of infidels. After deliberating together, they founded the Order of our Lady of Mercy for the Ransom of Captives. St. Raymond wrote the rules for the Order, adapted to its spirit and vocation. Later, Pope Gregory IX recognized the nascent Order, and St. Raymond would name St Peter Nolasco, its first Master General.

Having appointed Raymond as his chaplain, penitentiary, and confessor. Pope Gregory IX was well aware of his abilities. He summoned Raymond to Rome and appointed him to compile together in the volume, the Decrees of the Roman Pontiffs. In three years time, Raymond collected and wrote commentaries on all the decretal letters that had been issued. The Holy Father was so impressed he published a bull making St. Raymond’s work alone authoritative. This collection, called the Liber extra was the standard of canon law for 700 years.

Twice the Holy Father named St. Raymond to the archbishopric of Tarragona, but each time he refused the appointment. Raymond was elected the third Master-General of the Dominican Order in 1238. His tenure was brief and marked by pious humility. So inspiring was his witness that the Order grew dramatically in numbers and influence. St. Raymond retired to the convent of Barcelona where he lived for 35 more years, working and praying incessantly for the conversion of the Moors, Jews, and heretics. He continued writing, preaching and evangelizing.

Saint Raymond died on the feast of the Epiphany on January 6, 1275, in his hundredth year. Many miracles credited to his intervention occurred following his death. He is the patron of lawyers, the legal profession, and in particular, Canon lawyers. He was canonized by Pope Clement VIII in 1601. O God, who adorned the Priest St. Raymond with the virtue of outstanding mercy and compassion for sinners and for captives, grant us, through his intercession, that, released from slavery to sin, we may carry out in freedom of spirit what is pleasing to you.

Homily for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, January 7, 2018, Year B

Adoration of the magi

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing


In today’s scripture passages the language is epic, the imagery apocalyptic, the action dramatic. There is ominous danger from a tyrannical and insanely jealous king, a king who mercilessly slaughters innocent babies. There are worldly rulers of great power, wisdom, and wealth, on a quest. There is a great escape, a long journey into the land of the pyramids, that land wherein the waters of the great river Nile push back the boundaries of the death-dealing desert in order that humans might live. The hero-child, the God-Man baby, is saved in order to grow in wisdom, strength, and knowledge so that He may push back the boundaries of arid human living, and even death itself, that we might live in eternal life.

Light struggles against darkness. Discovery follows wandering and searching. Truth vanquishes deception. Good prevails over evil. A heavenly guiding star shines in night’s darkness, a darkness that does not overcome God’s Light entering the dark void of chaos, reminding us that in the Book of Genesis God’s first act of creation was to create light in the darkness of chaos.

In our time there are those who say that light and life happened because of blind chance. We are who we are, they claim, as a result of a blind and chaotic development of an evolutionary force. But how, we are entitled to ask, can something come from nothing? Isn’t it true that the only thing that nothing can produce is nothing? And how can evolution create light out of darkness?

For us, when we look at the cosmos, the world, and our own human nature, we see evidence of a cosmic creative intelligence. The sun, moon, stars, and the creatures that inhabit our world, are manifestations, epiphanies, of God’s creative sharing of His love and life with us.

The Magi are nobles; noble human beings possessed of great earthy power and wisdom, trekking for the truth. The epic Star Trek series of movies finds its origin in today’s biblical narrative. Finding what they quest, the Magi fall down and acknowledge the Source of Life which they have come to recognize. They bring gold to honor his kingship and dominion; they bring frankincense to acknowledge His Divine Being; and they bring myrrh, the ointment used for burial, knowing that the worldly will try to rid themselves of His presence among us. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were those days, back in the Eastern world, priceless and precious substances, treasures of the utmost value in the life and times of people who lived there back then.

Immediately the Darth Vader of the day, King Herod, Satan’s agent, leaps into action. Evil is the first to be alert to the approaching presence of goodness. We see that in our own lives, don’t we? Try to advocate taking the good path, the moral option, and note what happens around you. Accusations of being “holier than thou,” accusations of being a hypocritical Christian, will quickly surface. You will be mocked, especially for being a Catholic, ridiculed, shunned, and cast out of the world’s inner circle of the elite, the moment you attempt to be an epiphany of God’s purity and goodness. Evil is the first to jump into action when goodness manifests itself.

Why do history’s Herods fear the child? Why do we fear the child within us? Is it because a child lays claim to our time, our energy, our caring concern, and our commitment? Commitment requires the closing off of other options. And, as the Evil One knows full well, as he whispers into our ears, the false notion that to be like God, to be god-like, we must keep all of our options open. The presence of a child is quite limiting. So is love. Why? Because it is focused.

Or can it be the fear of love that is rebelling against the child? Children require love. If love is a threat then the baby must be eliminated. This Herod knew full well. No wonder that even in our world of today, not just back when Jesus was born, children are at risk.

A self-indulgent culture attempts to reduce the claims of children. It needs to eliminate their insistent calls of love. As a result the world needs to marginalize the demands of commitment. In a culture that exalts living together for pleasure without the restrictions of commitment, marriage itself must be marginalized and put to flight.

Narcissism, instant gratification, sensuality without limits, and the withholding of promised commitment, are the tactics of the Father of lies, the great Deceiver, the Seducer of Souls. Euphemisms are his literary form so that death is cosmetically covered over and benignly renamed “termination of life;” killing is made to seem merciful; only beautiful children are called “wanted,” and the suffering and dying are called upon to voluntarily step aside for the sake of the sleek who want more out of their limitless lives.

The Herodian consciousness isn’t something remote and distant, something that came and went 2,000 years ago. Oh, no. The Herodian consciousness is quite alive, and quite active, right here in our time. All forms of innocence are to be slaughtered before they gain much life and strength, before they can establish claims on our hearts.

It is good, therefore, to ponder the meaning of the very last words in today’s Gospel narrative: “…and having received a message in a dream, they returned home by another route.”

What route are we taking on our trek back home to heaven? A route that takes us back to Herod, or a route that is prompted by the message of angels? Love requires choices. What choices have we made? What choices will we make?

January 6, 2018

The Epiphany of the Lord


Solemnity - January 7th 

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany. Father Pius Parsch writes of this feast: "The Lord and ruler is coming; kingship is his, and [his wise] government and power." With these words the Church proclaims that today's feast brings to a perfect fulfillment all the purposes of Advent. [The] Epiphany, therefore, marks the liturgical zenith of the Advent-Christmas season.

The Solemnity of the Epiphany is celebrated either on January 6 or, according to the decision of the episcopal conference, on the Sunday between January 2 and January 8. The young Messiah is revealed as the light of the nations. Yet, as the antiphon for the Magnificat at Second Vespers reminds us, three mysteries are encompassed in this solemnity: the adoration of the Christ Child by the Magi, the Baptism of Christ and the wedding feast at Cana. Extra candles and/or lamps may be placed around the sanctuary and in other parts of the church to honor Christ...as the Light of the Gentiles (Ceremonial of Bishops). It is customary to replace the gathered shepherds at the crib with the three Magi and their gifts.

The feast of the Epiphany, which was kept in the East and in certain Western Churches before being celebrated in Rome, seems to have been originally a feast of the Nativity; January 6, for those churches where it was observed, was the equivalent of Christmas (December 25) in the Roman Church. The feast was introduced in Rome during the second half of the sixth century and became the complement and, so to say, the crown of the Christmas festival or Christmastide.

The word Epiphany means manifestation. What the Church celebrates today is the manifestation of our Lord to the whole world; after being made known to the shepherds of Bethlehem He is revealed to the Magi who have come from the East to adore Him. Christian tradition has ever seen in the Magi the first fruits of the Gentiles; they lead in their wake all the peoples of the earth, and consequently, the Epiphany is an affirmation of universal salvation. St. Leo brings out this point admirably in a sermon, read at Matins, in which he shows in the adoration of the Magi the beginnings of the Christian faith, the time when the great mass of the heathen sets off to follow the star which summons it to seek its Lord and Savior.
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Sources:

Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year, Monsignor Peter J. Elliott.

The Church's Year of Grace, Father Pius Parsch.

"The Fifteen Day of Christmas", Catholic Culture.org

January 5, 2018

Saint André Bessette on God

Saint André Bessette

Saint André Bessette was a 19th century French Catholic religious brother with the Congregation of the Holy Cross. He experienced ill-health throughout his life and consigned himself in humility to serve the sick and the poor. Bessette knew suffering. He too was sick and poor. Perhaps this explains his insights into God.
There is so little distance between heaven and earth that God always hears us. Nothing but a thin veil separates us from God.
— St. André Bessette
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Prayer for St. Saint André Bessette’s Intercession

Lord our God, friend of the lowly, who gave your servant, Saint Andre Bessette, a special devotion to Saint Joseph and a deep commitment to the indigent and the afflicted, help us through his intercession to follow his example of prayer and love and so come to share with him in your glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saint André Bessette of Montreal

Saint André Bessette

January 6th is the optional memorial of Saint André Bessette. God raised up this poor, uneducated, sickly man to be a model of holiness and obedience. Brother André was born Alfred Bessette on August 9, 1845, near Quebec, Canada. When he first entered the Congregation of the Holy Cross, he was of such poor health that they weren't sure what job he could do, so, they made him the doorkeeper. Brother André like to say: "When I joined this community, the superiors showed me the door, and I remained forty years." It was as a doorkeeper that he came into contact with the poor and the sick and commenced his ministry as a healer.

More and more people started coming to Brother André and his guidance was always the same. He told them to pray especially to Saint Joseph. Brother André had a great devotion to the foster father of Our Lord and he extolled others to seek St. Joseph's intercession. Soon, Brother André’s reputation for piety and as a healer grew, and people traveled from far and wide to meet and pray with him. In the end, he need four secretaries to handle the thousands of letters received.

For many years the Holy Cross authorities had tried to purchase land on Mount Royal. Brother André and others climbed the steep hill and planted medals of St. Joseph. Suddenly, the property owners yielded. André collected two hundred dollars to build a small chapel and began receiving visitors there-smiling through long hours of listening and applying St. Joseph's oil. Many physical and spiritual healings occurred as evidenced by large piles of crutches, canes and braces.

In time, an oratory dedicated to St. Joseph was established on Mt. Royal. Brother André would spend days there with long lines of sick people waiting to see him. The Congregation of the Holy Cross professes that the Cross of Christ is our only hope. Brother André witnessed to that every day. The pilgrims who sought him out were poor, sick and desperate. Brother André was their last resort. His Order had many educated and dynamic members yet God raised as its first canonized saint this uneducated man who seemed insignificant in the eyes of the world.

St. André Bessette died on January 6, 1937, at age 91. Newspapers reported that well over a million people attended his wake and burial. His body lies in a simple tomb in the Oratory he helped found. He was beatified by Saint John Paul II on May 23, 1982. Pope Benedict XVI formally declared sainthood for Blessed Bro. André on October 17, 2010. Lord our God, friend of the lowly, who gave your servant, Saint André Bessette, a great devotion to Saint Joseph and a special commitment to the poor and afflicted, help us through his intercession to follow his example of prayer and love and so come to share with him in your glory.