February 19, 2018

Feast of Sts. Francisco & Jacinta Marto (Portugal)

Sts. Francisco & Jacinta Marto

On February 20th, dioceses in Portugal (together with others around the world) observe the feast of Sts. Francisco and Jacinta Marto. They are the youngest saints not to die as martyrs recognized by the Catholic Church. Francisco and Jacinta’s courageous witness to the faith teach us that even young children can become saints. The brother and sister who tended to their families’ sheep with their cousin Lucia Santo, witnessed the apparitions of Mary, Our Lady of Fatima.

The Blessed Virgin Mary’s six appearances between May 13th and October 13th, 1917, at Cova da Iria, near Fatima, Portugal, to three poor shepherd children, was a defining moment in salvation history, presaging several significant events in the 20th century and beyond. Our Lady's urgent message speaks to us today.

Mary told the children that she was sent from heaven by God with an urgent message for humanity. At that time, World War I was raging, and Europe was being torn apart by violence and bloodshed. Our Lady promised that God would grant peace should her call for prayer, reparation and universal consecration to her Immaculate Heart be honored. The Blessed Virgin emphasized, "If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace." But, if she was ignored, a far greater conflict would occur, and innumerable souls would be lost.

War, Our Lady of Fatima explained, is a punishment for sin. She warned that God would castigate the world for its continued disobedience to His Love through, war, hunger and the persecution of His Church, the Holy Father and the Faithful. Mary prophesied that Russia would be God's "instrument of chastisement," spreading atheism and materialism across the earth, provoking wars, annihilating nations and persecuting the faithful. Humanity's only hope was a sincere return to God.

Our Lady's message to the world contained three secrets. These she confided to the children in July 1917. The first secret was a horrifying vision of hell Mary told Lucy, Jacinta and Francisco that many people go to hell because they have no one to pray or make sacrifices on their behalf. She urged the children to perform acts of prayer and sacrifice to save souls. The second secret predicted the future outbreak of World War II. It included Mary’s solemn request for the Consecration of Russia as necessary for peace and that her Immaculate Heart would triumph.

Less than two years after the apparitions, Francisco died of influenza in his family home. He was buried in the parish cemetery and then re-buried in the Fatima basilica in 1952. Jacinta died of influenza in Lisbon, offering her suffering for the conversion of sinners, world peace and the Holy Father. She was reintured in the Fatima basilica in 1951. Their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, became a Carmelite nun and was still living when Jacinta and Francisco were beatified in 2000. Sr. Lucia died in 2005. Pope Francis declared Bls. Francisco and Jacinta Marto to be saints before hundreds of thousands of pilgrims at Fatima, Portugal, on May 13, 2017.

O God who granted these two holy shepherd children the grace to become living burning bushes on fire with love for the Holy Father and for sinners, and burning with love for Our Lady and the “hidden” Jesus, grant that we, too, may be like Francisco and Jacinta, so that we also, may burn with the same love and, with them, all meet together again in Heaven around Our Lady in adoration of the Blessed Trinity. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.

February 18, 2018

George Washington on Religion and Morality

President George Washington

Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens...
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Freedom is a Gift from God

God of justice and Father of truth, who guides your creation in wisdom and in goodness to fulfillment in Christ your Son, open our hearts to the truth of his Gospel, that your peace may rule in our hearts and your justice guide our lives and the life of our nation. 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.

The Son: A Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year B

The Transfiguration

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

(Genesis 22:1-18; Romans 8:31-34; Mark 9:2-10)

At the conclusion of the dramatic story of what transpired on a mountain in the land of Moriah, Isaac’s life is spared, a substitute is found for the holocaust, and Abraham, who was willing to offer up his beloved son at God’s command, is rewarded for his unstinting faith. In Old Testament and New Testament times, the place where it was believed Abraham went to sacrifice his son continued to be venerated. The Temple of Jerusalem was built there.

In our second reading, St. Paul alludes indirectly to another small mount within easy walking distance of the Temple. The evangelists call it Golgotha.

And on an unnamed mountain, somewhere in Galilee, Jesus appeared in his glory, along with Moses and Elijah.

These various elements all find a resonance at yet another mountain, in the French alps, called La Salette.

In remembrance of the Passion of Jesus, the Beautiful Lady wears a large crucifix on her breast. It is the brightest point in the Apparition, the source of its light. The hammer and pincers, instruments of the Passion, draw attention to it in a unique way.

Reminding us of the covenant proclaimed through Moses, and calling us to the steadfast commitment of Elijah, she speaks in the manner of the prophets. (It is interesting to note that in 2 Peter 1:18, the place of the Transfiguration is referred to as ‘the holy mountain.’ We use the same phrase when we speak of La Salette.)

Finally, like God speaking to Abraham, Mary also makes a grand promise of hope and prosperity to those who will live by faith.

More important than any of these similarities, however, is the word Son. “Take your only son, whom you love, and offer him up as a holocaust;” “God did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for us all;” “This is my beloved Son.”

When Our Lady of La Salette speaks of her Son, it is to reproach her people for their ingratitude to him and their disrespect for his Name. We must never allow ourselves to forget that her Son is God’s beloved Son, handed over for us.

As he is at the heart of Scripture, he must be at the heart of our faith, of our way of life.  Lent is a good time to ask ourselves if this is really the case.

Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Lent, February 25, 2018, Year B

The Transfiguration

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing


If you read letters to the editor in newspapers you will realize that many people have lost confidence in a loving God. Nowhere is this more forcefully indicated than in the debate over abortion and assisted suicide. Some have gone so far as to assert the Catholic Church wants people to suffer, that it’s a death dealing rather than a life-giving institution, and that it extols human pain and suffering.

In the world of art this attitude is reflected in works of self-proclaimed “art” that, in just one instance, portray the crucifix, Christ nailed to the cross, immersed in a jar of human urine.

Certainly all those who support partial birth abortion and “mercy killing”, along with others who advocate the position that we can terminate the lives of they declare to have a “miserable quality life”, vociferously oppose traditional Judeo-Christian teachings which hold that God and God alone gives life… that God and God alone takes human life. This teaching is found in the Old Testament’s Book of Job as well as in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Job, you will remember, having endured suffering to excruciating levels, cries out “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

How we, both individually and as are society, are to deal with suffering is a major problem we need to deal with. Today’s first reading from Sacred Scripture along with today’s Gospel account put our faces into it.

Abraham’s first wife, Sarai, childless and in her 70’s, was in a jealous rage because her husband Abraham had a child by her maidservant Hagar. Hagar had given birth to Ishmael; the boy-child was a source of great joy to Abraham, who at age 86 had been able to sire a child.

Thirteen years later God offers His famous covenant to Abraham, now in his 90’s, and causes his wife, now called Sarah, to become fruitful. She, too, bears a boy-child and names him Isaac.

At the time of Isaac’s weaning Sarah demands that Abraham cast away Hagar and her child Ishmael by sending them out into the desert with a little bread and water, and to leave them there to die. Abraham relying on God’s loving care and providence sends his beloved son Ishmael out into the death-dealing desert. Most likely he thought Ishmael would die. It’s hard to imagine the levels of human suffering that were swirling around these people.

Years later, when Isaac grows to about the same age as Ishmael, Abraham is asked again, this time by God Himself, to dispatch his beloved son by plunging a knife into his heart. There are no promises given by God, no indications whatsoever, that there will be any divine protection given to Isaac. All Abraham has left, the only thing upon which he can rely, is God’s goodness and love. Abraham acts on pure faith alone.

And that’s the whole point, as well as that of the Gospel account. The spectacular scene just read takes place up on top of Mt. Tabor immediately prior to Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, there to be sacrificed on the altar of the Cross. The very same Peter, James and John present for this moment of ecstasy on Mt. Tabor are likewise present on the Mount of Olives for Christ’s agony. The divinity within Christ revealed here will be just as present as the humanity within Jesus as he suffers on the other mount. Both reveal the whole truth about Jesus Christ, namely that he is truly both man and God, divinity and humanity, true God and true man. Peter, James and John are very much animated, very much alive to the moment of privilege on the Mount of Transfiguration. They will, however, sleep in the Garden of Gethsemane up on Mt. Olivet.

The Christian response to suffering is far too complicated to explain in a letter to the editor to the newspaper. And even though a crucifix immersed in a jar of urine is promoted in certain quarters as “art” deserving to be supported by public tax dollars, we nevertheless elevate the crucifix, the cross with Christ’s human body on it, high above our altars because of what it reveals about our human nature.

It is worthwhile in the current public debate over human suffering and the question of who controls the birth of human life as well as who controls its death to remember that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., built his entire civil rights movement on the theological notion of the effectiveness and power of human suffering. He knew full well its power to reveal the divine within our human nature; its power to change our consciousness of what it means to be a child of God, a human being created in the image and likeness of God. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew full well that it could stir the soul of an entire nation and change the direction of our entire American culture by changing our consciousness and therefore our consciences through passive, non-violent suffering.

Here in the middle of Lent, Holy Mother Church puts these two powerful readings from the bible in front of our eyes. She doesn’t glorify human suffering, nor does she rejoice that humans must suffer. Contrary to the propaganda of secularists, the Roman Catholic Church has devoted hundreds of billions of dollars to the alleviation of human suffering, the care of the sick and suffering, as well as the elderly. Likewise, she has devoted enormous resources to educating countless millions of people in order that they may be delivered from ignorance and given light for their minds with which to see reality and discern wisdom. Our Church needs no defense against her enemies; she stands with Abraham, Moses and Jesus Christ in the certain faith that God will not let the gates of hell prevail against her.

What then shall we say this day of our own personal faith at this stage in our journey through Lent? Can we really “let go and let God”? Shall we let go of those things that we cling to, let them go in the sure and certain faith that God will bring good out of evil, life out of death, meaning out of absurdity, and joy out of suffering? Abraham is, as we pray in the Roman Canon, “our father in faith”. If Abraham could let his beloved son go, whom God spared from death, and if God our Father in heaven could let His own beloved Son go, whom He did not spare from death, what levels of faith do we have with which to do the same? Just how much do we allow God to be truly God in our own lives by placing our lives in His hands?

Pope Benedict XVI on Fasting

Pope Benedict XVI
The ultimate goal of fasting is to help each one of us to make a complete gift of self to God.
— Pope Benedict XVI
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The Lenten Prayer of Saint Ephraim

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, faintheartedness, lust of power, and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to your servant.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sin and not to judge my brother, for You are blessed from all ages to all ages. Amen.

Pour into our hearts O Lord, we pray, the Holy Spirit, at whose prompting the Deacon Saint Ephrem exulted in singing of your mysteries and from whom he received the strength and fortitude to serve you and you alone. We ask this in trustful humility through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, and in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Homily for the First Sunday of Lent, February 18, 2018, Year B

The temptation of Christ on the mount.

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


Years ago, I saw a little cartoon showing a classic long-bearded, robed prophet with a big sign reading “REPENT!*” The asterisk referred to a note at the bottom of the sign: “*If you have already repented, please disregard this notice.”

John the Baptist, we were told earlier in this first chapter of Mark’s Gospel, preached a “gospel of repentance.” Now that John is out of the picture, Jesus appears, almost like an understudy filling in for an absent performer. The message is the same: “Repent!” And yet there is a difference. Not only do we usually visualize John and Jesus as in some way quite unlike each other, but we sense, at least, a certain dissimilarity in their message.

John’s call to repentance was in view of preparing for Jesus, whose coming was imminent. Jesus’ call to repentance is in view of preparing for the Kingdom of God, which is “at hand.”

The word “repent” implies two elements. One is regret. For example, we repent behaviors by which we have hurt someone we care about, whether we did so deliberately or thoughtlessly. The other element is change, taking the form at least of a firm resolve to avoid such behaviors for the future. Neither one alone is repentance. Regret without resolve changes nothing; resolve without regret lacks motivation.

The goal is expressed in an odd turn of phrase in our second reading, from the first Letter of St. Peter. Speaking of baptism, the ritual sign of repentance, he writes that it is “an appeal to God for a clear conscience.” Can we actually ask God to give us a clear conscience, if we don’t already have one?

One way of understanding this is that we can ask God, “Could we start again, please?” That is the point of the rainbow, after all. God and humanity and creation are all starting over. That is also the point of Lent—a new beginning or, better, another (or: yet another) new beginning; a truly new beginning, since we ourselves are different each year, and we need this Lent in a way we have not needed Lent before.

Let’s look at repentance from six points of view: Who? What? When? Where? How? Why?

The Who of repentance is you (that includes me). You need to change, though maybe not entirely. What in yourself do you need to turn away from, what image of yourself do you need to turn toward?

The What is whatever behaviors or attitudes you know you need to avoid, or cultivate.

The When involves our use of time, turning away from wasting time, turning toward the “time of fulfillment.”

The Where concerns circumstances, often called “occasions of sin,” which we turn away from. At the same time we can turn towards what we might call “occasions of grace,” or “occasions of life.”

How? That’s up to you. You know better than I do what might best help you along the path of repentance. But do not neglect the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Why? St. Peter gives an excellent reason: “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.” If we are not led to God, then Christ suffered for us in vain. What would be the point?

Jesus also gives a reason: “The kingdom of God is at hand.” In that context “repent” still means “regret and resolve,” but we may add one more element: “in hope.” There is something wonderful to hope for if our repentance is genuine. The kingdom of God is a beautiful prospect, well worth repenting for.

February 16, 2018

Novena to Saint Michael the Archangel for Protection

St. Michael Archangel (statue)

Saint Michael the Archangel is known for protecting against evil, for persevering in the Faith and for spiritual healing. Although his feast day is September 29th, as with every novena, you may pray it any time of the year. The Novena to St. Michael for Protection will begin February 20th, during the second week of Lent.

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

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

St. Michael the Archangel, we honor you as a powerful protector of the Church and guardian of our souls. Inspire us with your humility, courage and strength that we may reject sin completely and perfect our love for our Heavenly Father.

In your strength and humility, slay all the evil and pride in our hearts so that nothing will keep us from God, and doing his will, to persevere in love. Amen.

Click for more about this novena and to receive daily email reminders.

Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel

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

Latin

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium. Ímperet ílli Déus, súpplices deprecámur: tuque, prínceps milítiæ cæléstis, Sátanam aliósque spíritus malígnos, qui ad perditiónem animárum pervagántur in múndo, divína virtúte, in inférnum detrúde. Ámen.

February 14, 2018

Plenary Indulgence Available Fridays During Lent

Christ crucified

A plenary indulgence may be obtained on each Friday of Lent by the faithful, who after worthily receiving Communion, piously recite the following prayer before an image of Christ crucified – provided the conditions for a plenary indulgence are met. A plenary indulgence remits all temporal punishment due to personal sins.

Prayer Before a Crucifix/Prayer to Christ Crucified.

Behold, O kind and most sweet Jesus, I cast myself upon my knees in thy sight, and with the most fervent desire of my soul, pray and beseech thee that thou wouldst impress upon my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope, and charity, with true contrition for my sins and a firm purpose of amendment; while with deep affection and grief of soul I ponder within myself and mentally contemplate thy five wounds, having before my eyes the words which David the prophet put on thy lips concerning thee: “My hands and my feet they have pierced, they have numbered all my bones" (Ps 21, 17-18). Amen.

In Latin:

En ego, o bone et dulcissime Jesu, ante conspectum tuum genibus me provolvo, ac maximo animi ardore te oro atque obtestor, ut meum in cor vividos fidei, spei et caritatis sensus, atque veram peccatorum meorum paenitentiam, eaque emendandi firmissimam voluntatem velis imprimere; dum magno animi affectu et dolore tua quinque vulnera mecum ipse considero, ac mente contemplor, illud prae oculis habens, quod iam in ore ponebat tuo David Propheta de te, o bone Iesu: "Foderunt manus meas et pedes meos; dinumeraverunt omnia ossa mea." Amen. (Grant 8 § 1, 2º in the Manual of Indulgences.)

Requirements for Obtaining Plenary Indulgence on Fridays during Lent:

◗ Recite the prayer to Christ crucified in front of a crucifix on a Friday  during Lent (after receiving Communion).
◗ Say one "Our Father" and the "Apostles Creed".
◗ Say one "Our Father" and one "Hail Mary" for the Holy Father’s  intentions (the intentions  designated by the Holy Father each month).
◗ Make a sacramental confession within 20 days.
◗ For a plenary indulgence, be free from all attachment to sin, even  venial sin (or the indulgence is partial, not plenary).

On any other day, a partial indulgence is granted if the faithful recite the prayer to Christ crucified before a crucifix after receiving Communion.

Lenten Prayer for Holiness

May this Lenten season strengthen you to love God completely and to grow ever more holy. May your humanity be more fully united with Christ’s own humanity, so that, at the end of time, you may claim the inheritance won for you through the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Lamb of God, your supreme sacrifice saved mankind. Help us be your disciples.

A Lenten Prayer

Lent

Prayer for Lent

Heavenly Father, we give You thanks and praise for the gift of this time of solemn purification and of preparation. We ask, Lord, that You would allow us to look at our lives with honesty and with courage, so that we may live more fully the resurrected life that Your Son, Jesus Christ, came to bring us. We ask Your blessing upon us today, in the name of our most holy Lord and Savior. Amen.

Reflection

Thank You Lord, that You have renewed us, You have refreshed us, You have shown us what we have been made for, so that we may now live this resurrected life in You. The covenant begins again. The covenant is embarking on this new relationship. The covenant that we’ve received so many times in our life, through baptism, through confirmation, through Holy Eucharist, and we renew that covenant every time that we go to confessional as well, we renew our baptismal graces. Now in this Easter season, we remember that covenant that Jesus made for us in His body and His blood, that He has given Himself to us fully. And so, we prepare ourselves by stripping everything away, to give ourselves back to Him... And [so to empty] ourselves in imitation of Him, who gives Himself fully to us.

Adapted from "Renewing Our Covenant with God", Father Chase Hilgenbrinck.

February 13, 2018

Ash Wednesday | 2018

Jesus Christ the Bridegroom

February 14, 2018 

"Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return." 

On Ash Wednesday, Catholics receive ashes in the shape of a cross traced on the forehead. The rite evokes Saint Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians: "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15: 21 - 22) Adam’s sin condemned man to sin and death. But the instrument of our salvation, the cross, reminds us that in Christ, man is redeemed and the gates of heaven are opened.

The original injunction conferring ashes: "Remember, O man, that dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return," contrasts with the words of the Nicene Creed concerning the Incarnation: "For us men and for our salvation, he [Jesus] came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man." In becoming man, Christ assumed our iniquities: offering himself as a supreme sacrifice in expiation for man’s sins. The forty days of Lent culminate on Easter Sunday. Christ’s joyous Resurrection fulfills God’s promise to save humanity and reveals our final destiny, if we persevere in love.

The Gospel chosen for Ash Wednesday reminds the follower of Christ “to be on guard against performing religious acts for people to see.” Our fasting, praying, and almsgiving are not about what others see or getting our names on plaques. The point of all of these activities is to stir up within the person a tremendous love for the Lord. Praying, fasting, and almsgiving are ultimately about time and space; it is in their practice that the disciple will find time and space for Christ.

Almighty Father, as we begin this Lent, give us the grace to be steadfast in our resolutions, drawing ever closer to you by means of our prayer and sacrifices. Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fervor this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who reigns together with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever. Amen.