December 23, 2013

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

The angel visits Joseph
(Click here for today’s readings

In the famous balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet, Juliet asks, “What’s in a name?” It is true enough that the name is not the same as the reality. And yet some names do matter.

There are many names in today’s readings: Ahaz, Isaiah, Paul, Mary, Joseph. Two others really stand out: Emmanuel, and Jesus.

About the name Jesus, St. Peter says in chapter 4 of Acts: “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” Jesus means God Saves, or God is salvation. This is why the angel tells Joseph, “You are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Then, of course, there is the magnificent prophetic name Emmanuel: God with us.

Another name for Jesus also appears in today’s Gospel: Christ, which means Anointed, which translates the Hebrew title Messiah. Whenever we say Jesus Christ, we could equally say Jesus Messiah.

One other name appears in all three readings today, but only in passing, not as a character. That is David. Ahaz is addressed as “House of David,” that is as king, a member of David’s royal family. Joseph is called “Son of David” by the angel. And Paul writes that Jesus is “descended from David according to the flesh.” All this reminds us that Jesus is truly human, with real human ancestors. David is one of the great sinners of the Old Testament. He is also one of the great saints.

David means “beloved,” but that is not really the point here. What matters more is his story, his place in the history of salvation, and his love of God, expressed especially in the psalms. He was anointed king, which means he also bore the title “Messiah.”

We are all “anointed.” We were anointed twice at our baptism, and again at our confirmation. In a real sense we are all called to fulfill prophecy, even not knowing what or how, just by being faithful to our vocation “to be holy” in the “obedience of faith,” to use Paul’s words.

Unlike Ahaz, we are not told to ask for a sign; but each of us is called to be a unique sign of God’s presence among us, each of us is called to be Emmanuel.

December 22, 2013

Religious Knowledge Quiz

If you need a break from all the holiday cheer, take the US Religious Knowledge Quiz, sponsored by Pew. Afterwards, you can look up the results of the actual survey and see how you compare with the American public. (H/T: Perry Dane.)

December 15, 2013

Now Taking Nominations for the "Greatest" Catholics in History

The Communion of Saints

This list is by no means definitive. It is impossible to give an exact number of saints. The majority are known only to God. The Virgin Mary has been omitted out of respect. The Mother of the Savior has a significant place in the divine economy of salvation. Contrary to popular imagination, the saints lived lives remarkably similar to our own. Living ordinary lives in extraordinary ways they were able to achieve heroic virtue. Such a life is possible for us today, with grace, unrelenting prayer, the sacraments and the saints as our guides. The number next to some saints is not intended as a rank. We have tried to include individuals who reflect the depth and scope of a universal Church that spans two millennia.

1. St. Peter - first pope, apostle, martyr
2. St. Paul of Tarsusmissionary, author of scripture, martyr
3. St. John - apostle, evangelist, bishop
4. St. Thomas - apostle, missionary, martyr
5. St. Andrew - apostle, missionary, martyr
6. St. James the Greater - apostle, martyr
7. St. Luke - evangelist, missionary martyr
8. St. Matthew - evangelist, apostle, martyr
10. St. James the Lesser - apostle, martyr
11. St. Mark - evangelist, martyr
12. St. Bartholomew - apostle, missionary, martyr
13. St. Simon the Zealot - apostle, preacher, martyr
14. St. Thaddeaus or Jude - apostle, missionary, martyr, wrote epistle
15. St. Matthias - apostle, martyr
16. St. Philip - apostle, martyr, missionary
17. St. Ambrose - bishop, theologian, Doctor of the Church
18. St. Gregory the Greatpontiff, theologian, Doctor of the Church
19. St. Augustine of Hippo - bishop, theologian, Doctor of the Church
20. St. Jerome - biblical scholar, priest, Doctor of the Church
21. St. John Chrysostom archbishop, preacher, Doctor of the Church
22. St. Basil the Great - bishop, theologian, Doctor of the Church
23. St. Gregory of Nazianzus - archbishop, theologian, Doctor of the Church
24. St. Athanasius - archbishop, theologian, Doctor of the Church
25. St. Peter Chrysologus - bishop, preacher, Doctor of the Church
26. St. Hilary of Poitiers - bishop, apologist, Doctor of the Church
27. St. Cyril of Jerusalem - bishop, theologian, Doctor of the Church
28. St. Cyril of Alexandria - archbishop, theologian, Doctor of the Church
29. St. Ephremdeacon, prolific author, Doctor of the Church
30. St. Bede the Venerable - priest, monk, Doctor of the Church
31. St John of Damascus - priest, monk, Doctor of the Church
32. St. Gregory VIIpontiff, great reforming pope
33. St. Albert the Great - bishop, theologian, Doctor of the Church
34. St. Anthony of Padua - priest, monk, Doctor of the Church
35. St. Francis of Assisi - monk, mystic, stigmatist, founder
36. St. Bonaventure cardinal-priest, Doctor of the Church, friar
37. St. Dominic - priest, founder, spread devotion to the Rosary
38. St. Thomas Aquinas - priest, theologian, Doctor of the Church
39. St. Catherine of Siena - mystic, author, advisor to pope, Doctor of the Church
40. Bartolomé de las Casas friar, bishop, missionary
41. St. Ignatius of Loyola - priest, missionary, theologian, founder
42. St. Anselm - theologian, archbishop, monk, Doctor of the Church
43. St Isidore of Seville - bishop, Doctor of the Church
44. St. Leo the Greatpontiff, Doctor of the Church
45. St. Peter Damian - cardinal-bishop, monk, Doctor of the Church
46. St. Bernard of Clairvaux - priest, founder, Doctor of the Church
47. St. Peter Canisius - priest, Doctor of the Church
48. St. John of the Cross - mystic, writer, founder, Doctor of the Church
49. St. Teresa of Ávila - mystic, writer, foundress, Doctor of the Church
50. St. John of Ávila - mystic, priest, Doctor of the Church
51. St. Charles Borromeo - cardinal-archbishop, reformer
52. St. Philip Neri - priest, founder, reformer
53. St. Robert Bellarmine - cardinal, reformer, Doctor of the Church
54. St. Vincent de Paul - priest, founder
55. St. Patrick - missionary, bishop, preacher
56. St. Francis de Sales - priest, writer
57. St. Irenaeus - bishop, apologist, theologian
58. St. Polycarp - priest, theologian, martyr
59. St. Ignatius of Antioch - bishop, theologian, martyr
60. St. Alphonsus de Liguori - bishop, founder, Doctor of the Church
61. St. Clare of Assisi - foundress, abbess 
62. St. Joan of Arc - martyr
63. St. Thomas More - lawyer, statesman, martyr
64. St. Lawrence of Brindisi - priest, diplomat, Doctor of the Church
65. St. Hildegard of Bingen - visionary, composer, abbess, Doctor of the Church
66. St. Francis Xavier - priest, founder, missionary
67. St. John Vianney - priest, confessor
68. Innocent III - pontiff, called first crusade
69. St. Pius Vpontiff, instrumental in the Council of Trent 
70. St. Martin de Porres - Dominican third order
71. St. John Paul IIpontiff, philosopher

The following are all over the place chronologically and fall in the last but not least category:

St. Joseph - spouse of the Blessed Virgin, foster father of Jesus
St. Mary Magdalene- apostle to the apostles
St. Monica - mother of Augustine
Bl. John Henry Newman - cardinal, convert, theologian
St. Thérèse of Lisieux nun, author, Doctor of the Church
St. Teresa of Calcutta - nun, foundress
St. Stephen - first martyr, deacon
St. Faustina - nun, apostle of Divine Mercy
St. Macrina the Younger - sister of Sts. Gregory of Nyssa and Basil the Great.
St. Anthony - hermit,  father of monasticism
St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort - priest, theologian
St. John the Baptist - preacher, forerunner of Christ
St. Valentine - priest, martyr
St. Lucy - martyr, virgin
St. Bernadette Soubirous - nun, visionary
St. Nicholas - bishop
St. Padre Pio - priest, stigmatist, visionary
St. Katharine Drexel - nun, foundress
St. Elizabeth of Hungary - countess, served the poor
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton - nun, foundress, educator
St. Benedict of Nursia - monastic, founder
St. Brigid of Ireland - nun, abbess, founder
St. Catherine of Alexandria - virgin, martyr
St. Columbanus - missionary, monk, founder
St. John Bosco - priest, educator, founder
St. Joseph of Cupertino - friar, mystic, confessor
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini - virgin, nun, foundress
St. Martin of Toursbishop, monk
Constantine the Great - emperor, convert
St. Alexander of Jerusalem - bishop, martyr
St. Catherine Labouré - nun, visionary

Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent, Year A

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH
We are in Cycle A of the Sunday readings, in which the majority of the Gospel readings are from Matthew. In a few weeks we will be reading his account of Jesus’ Baptism. “Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?”

That was chapter 3 of Matthew. Today’s Gospel is from chapter 11. John needs to know: “Are you the one?” Strange, isn’t it? He knew him then. How can he now have doubts?

What has changed is that John is now in prison! It would appear that this was not what he expected.

Jesus’ answer is in two parts:
  1. Look around you. Everything prophesied in Isaiah 35 is being fulfilled—and more besides!
  2. Blessed is the one who takes no offense at me. What we have here is a beatitude! (There are many beatitudes in the Bible besides the famous 8 of Matthew 5.)
Have you ever been in a time of crisis and had a well-meaning person tell you how lucky or blessed you were? If so, you might be tempted to think the second part of Jesus’ response to be insensitive. Would you tell a prisoner how lucky he is?

Actually, this part of Jesus’ words corresponds to another part of the first reading: “Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! here is your God.”

And in the second reading, James invites us to patience, to firmness of heart.

All of today’s readings acknowledge that the life of faith isn’t easy!

Blessedness, then, is not a matter of external circumstances. In my 40 years as a priest, only once have I had a cancer patient tell me how blessed she felt! That takes a depth and breadth of faith that one rarely has the privilege of encountering.

Things also can be “blessed.” Jesus told his disciples once, “Blessed are your eyes... Blessed are your ears.”

In today’s readings, we see that patience is a blessed thing. So is trust. So is hope.

The current translation of the Roman Missal has restored the phrase “Blessed hope” in the prayer following the Our Father. Until two years ago It read, “As we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.” Now, like the Latin original, it reads, “As we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

The “blessed hope” is the firm confidence in “his coming.” Like the quality of mercy, it is twice blessed: It is blessed in its object, namely the return of Christ; and it is blessed in the courage it inspires.

The expression comes from Titus 2:13: “For the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, and the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ.”

This describes Advent perfectly: it is the season of Blessed Hope.

December 3, 2013

A Day in the Life of Pope Francis

Andrea Tornielli of Vatican Insider shows us what a day in the life of Pope Francis is like.  It begins early at quarter to five in the morning.  Not many details but interesting nonetheless.  Go here for her article.

December 2, 2013

Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A

By Fr. Tommy Lane

John the Baptist is a powerful image placed before us every Advent. We might want to say John the Baptist preparing for Christ is our model during Advent. In the Gospel today John announces judgment, and next Sunday’s Gospel tells us of Jesus bringing salvation. John’s first word announces his theme, “Repent.” In other words, John asks his listeners to turn their minds and hearts away from whatever they had as their goal and look only to God. The reason is because “the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” In other words, Jesus the Messiah has already arrived. Everything about John shows that he himself has repented and turned away from everything to look only to God. He has nothing in the desert; he only has a garment of camel hair and whatever food he could find in the desert. John is living the very message he proclaims, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

Because John is obviously radiating God’s word, we heard that Jerusalem, all Judea and the whole region around the Jordan were going to John. Normally it would be the reverse; they would all go to Jerusalem. Already with the preaching of John the Baptist there is something new in the air that is not in the temple in Jerusalem. Therefore even the Pharisees and Sadducees come to John the Baptist and he reminds them that no matter what their dignity they too must repent and cannot just pretend to repent.

Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ (Matt 3:8-9) Jesus came to save but if we reject Jesus then we bring judgment on ourselves. Therefore John says, “Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.  herefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matt 3:10)

John describes Jesus as a farmer threshing; at the threshing, the wheat and the chaff are separated. The farmer blows with his fan and the wheat which has weight and substance falls down to the floor while the chaff is blown away and will be burned. Those who do not have weight or substance in their repentance before Jesus bring a judgment on themselves. John is making it clear that now is a critical time. Repentance will save the situation. The baptism of John was a sign of repentance and turning from sin.(Some ideas above from Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word: Meditations on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew: Vol. 1)

John makes it very clear that he is not the Messiah, he is only preparing for the coming of the Messiah. I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matt 3:11)

The baptism of John was only a water baptism as a sign of repentance from sin and did not give the Holy Spirit but Jesus’ baptism gives the Holy Spirit because Jesus is full of the Spirit. Jesus is the one full of the Spirit prophesied in the first reading from Isaiah. Isaiah prophesied that a shoot would sprout from the stump of Jesse and the Spirit of the Lord would rest on him. Jesse was the father of King David, and they are of the tribe of Judah. Jesus also is of the tribe of Judah. Jesus is the one on whom Isaiah sees resting, a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord (Isa 11:2)

These are six gifts of the Spirit in the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek translation adds a seventh gift of the Spirit, piety, resting on Jesus, the shoot sprouting from Jesse. Jesus had the fullness of these seven gifts of the Spirit and they are the seven gifts of the Spirit that the bishop prays we receive when we are confirmed. The bishop prays during confirmation,
“Give them the Spirit of wisdom and understandingthe Spirit of right judgment and couragethe Spirit of knowledge and reverenceFill them with the Spirit of wonder and awe in your presence.”
Not only does Isaiah see Jesus sprouting up in the tribe of Judah full of the Spirit but he also sees the time of Jesus as one when hopes are fulfilled. Isaiah describes this in an imaginative way as animals completely at peace with each other:
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;The calf and the young lion shall browse together,with a little child to guide them.The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,together their young shall rest (Isa 11:6-7)
Although imaginative language, it does describe something real, the difference that having Jesus in our life makes, which is the peace of pure wheat and no chaff in our hearts after repentance. What is the chaff in our lives that needs to be blown away and burnt so that we can stand before Christ as pure wheat? We believe that when we die we will have an immediate personal individual judgment – we call it the Particular Judgment - and at the end of time after the resurrection of all the dead there will be a general judgment on all of humanity - the Last Judgment - when we will see the consequences of the good we did or failed to do. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church 1021) What chaff do we need to repent of so that we will be ready for judgment?

Go to Fr. Lane's website to read homily in full.

November 30, 2013

Novena to the Immaculate Conception Begins Today


Feast of the Immaculate Conception is December 8. Pray this once a day from November 30 to December 8. 


Immaculate Virgin! Mary, conceived without sin!

Remember, you were miraculously preserved from even the shadow of sin, because you were destined to become not only the Mother of God, but also the mother, the refuge, and the advocate of man; penetrated therefore, with the most lively confidence in your never-failing intercession, we most humbly implore you to look with favor upon the intentions of this novena, and to obtain for us the graces and the favors we request.    

You know, O Mary, how often our hearts are the sanctuaries of God, Who abhors iniquity. Obtain for us, then, than angelic purity which was your favorite virtue, that purity of heart which will attach us to God alone, and that purity of intention which will consecrate every thought, word, and action to His greater glory. Obtain also for us a constant spirit of prayer and self-denial, that we many recover by penance that innocence which we have lost by sin, and at length attain safety to that blessed abode of the saints, where nothing defiled can enter.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.
V. You are all fair, O Mary. R. You are all fair, O Mary.
V. And the original stain is not in you. R. And the original stain is not in you.
V. You are the glory of Jerusalem. R. You are the joy of Israel.
V. You are the honor of our people. R. You are the advocate of sinners.
V. O Mary, Virgin, most prudent R. O Mary, Mother, most tender.
V. Pray for us. R. Intercede for us with Jesus our Lord.
V. In your conception, Holy Virgin, you were immaculate. R. Pray for us to the Father Whose Son you didst bring forth.
V. O Lady! aid my prayer. R. And let my cry come unto you.                                        

Let us pray, Holy Mary, Queen of Heaven, Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and mistress of the world, who forsakest no one, and despisest no one, look upon me, O Lady! with an eye of pity, and entreat for me of your beloved Son the forgiveness of all my sins; that, as I now celebrate, with devout affection, your holy and immaculate conception, so, hereafter I may receive the prize of eternal blessedness, by the grace of Him whom you, in virginity, didst bring forth, Jesus Christ Our Lord: Who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, lives and reigns, in perfect Trinity, God, world without end. Amen. 

November 28, 2013

Thought of the Day

And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God and who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28


Jesus has said to us: But I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. On that day you will have no more questions to ask me. (Jn 16:22-23)

November 26, 2013

Pope Francis takes veiled swipe at ‘progressive’ Democrats

Pope Francis said Tuesday in his first apostolic exhortation that no matter how progressive-minded the world turns, the Catholic Church can never compromise on its “no abortion” rule — it’s a matter of human dignity.

“I want to be completely honest in this regard,” he said, Catholic News Service reported. “This is not something subject to alleged reforms or ‘modernizations.’ It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.”

The statement comes in sharp contrast to some in the political world, of mostly liberal and left-of-center progressive mind, who claim loyalty to the Catholic faith, yet refuse to denounce abortion as a matter of policy. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, one of the most visible examples of such politicos, has advocated for years for the rights of women to abort — to the point of even raising the hackles of one Catholic cardinal in September, who said the Democrat should quit taking Communion

Then, in an interview with The Wanderer reported by the Western Center for Journalism, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke said of Mrs. Pelosi: “This is a person who obstinately, after repeated admonitions, persists in a grave sin — cooperating with the crime of procured abortion — and still professes to be a devout Catholic.”

The pope’s exhortation seemed only to drive home the point that abortion and the church stand at crossroads.

Obama’s call to close Vatican embassy is ‘slap in the face’ to Roman Catholics

The Obama administration, in what’s been called an egregious slap in the face to the Vatican, has moved to shut down the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See — a free-standing facility — and relocate offices onto the grounds of the larger American Embassy in Italy.

The new offices will be in a separate building on the property, Breitbart reported.

The Washington Times has all the details.

November 23, 2013

Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King, Year A

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH
I once met a woman who was descended from the first man executed in the American colonies. It was a curious fact, but it did not reflect negatively on herself.

There are people, however, who live with inherited guilt. The descendants of famous Nazis such as Himmler, Goering and others have distanced themselves as much as possible from their cruel history. Descendants of Hitler’s nephews have changed their name and live a secluded life.

There is also guilt by association, as expressed by sayings about “birds of a feather” or “you are the company you keep.” Even the British royal family, in 1917, because of strong anti-German sentiment during World War I, changed its name from the German “Saxe-Coburg and Gotha” to “The House of Windsor.”

And yet, Matthew in the very first chapter of his Gospel seems to go out of his way to remind us that Jesus’ ancestry included incest (Judah), adultery and murder (David himself!) and kings who worshipped false gods.

In all four Gospels we find Jesus crucified with two criminals. During his public ministry Jesus had associated with sinners, but this was different. Here, he is one of them! Crucifixion was designed to inflict not only pain but also humiliation. Any one crucified had no dignity left.

And this is the image put before us on the feast of Christ the King! Again, all four Gospels relate the inscription over the head of Jesus, indicating the charge, the crime for which he was being executed: “King of the Jews.” The other two criminals presumably had charges above their heads, and we can be sure it wasn’t petty thievery!

This is the Jesus whom Paul calls “the image of the invisible God... in whom all fullness was pleased to dwell.” No higher rank, no higher dignity is conceivable.

We just commemorated John F. Kennedy’s assassination. It still shocks us when people of high status are assassinated. The French revolution’s execution of royalty sent shock waves throughout Europe. More shocking perhaps for us at that time is the official execution of an entire convent of Carmelite nuns!

Jesus’ execution actually shocks us less, maybe because we are so familiar with it, but especially because through it he was “making peace by the blood of his cross.”

A governor can pardon a criminal, but he can’t “reconcile” the criminal with anyone. In today’s Gospel we witness a royal pardon. Christ the King says: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” This is more than a pardon, it is reconciliation.

Years ago in Rome I noticed a government building with a large inscription: Ministero di grazia e giustizia, Ministry of Mercy and Justice. That is the reality of today’s scene in Luke. Jesus performs an act of justice towards the Father, atoning, making peace, reconciling. At the same time he performs an act of mercy towards the criminal, an act of reconcilIation.

This is the King we celebrate today. In the very moment when he is sneered at by his enemies and by a “fellow criminal,” and with no human dignity left, he shows himself to be worthy of all glory.

And so we make ours the words of St. Paul: “Let us give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.” In other words, by the very name of Christian, we are meant to be “guilty by association” with Jesus Christ our King.

November 17, 2013

Bishop will lead prayers of exorcism as Illinois governor signs gay ‘marriage’ bill

SPRINGFIELD, IL, November 15, 2013 ( – The bishop of Springfield, Illinois will lead prayers of exorcism “in reparation for the sin of same-sex marriage” at his cathedral on November 20 as Governor Pat Quinn signs a state law redefining marriage.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki says he was inspired by Pope Francis, who had condemned same-sex “marriage” as a “machination of the Father of Lies” in 2010 when Argentina was preparing to redefine marriage.

Go here for more.

November 11, 2013

Homily: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2013, Year C

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

There’s an old joke about a little boy who noticed that his great-grandmother read the Bible constantly. One day he asked her why. She answered, “I’m cramming for finals!”

There is plenty to make us anxious in today’s readings. Malachi prophesies doom for evildoers. Jesus says his followers will be. And why? “Because of my name.”

Even family and friends will hand you over, everyone will hate you. And why? Again, “Because of my name.”

But then Jesus says two strange things.

1. In a time of persecution, don’t prepare your defense. Now any self-respecting “Law & Order” addict can tell you that you never go into a courtroom unprepared. Witnesses have to be prepped.

2. Don’t worry. Jesus doesn’t say this in so many words, but he assures us that not a hair of our head will be destroyed. How can he make such a claim?

If we look back at the reading from Malachi, we read, “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” There’s that “name” again! In the King James translation, which is more literal, we find “there will arise the sun of justice with healing in his wings.” What a wonderful image of protection!

So suppose we knew that the end was coming on December 21, 2013. How should we spend the next two years? Try to be extra good? Memorize the bible (cram for finals)? Just keep our nose clean, sit back and wait? St. Paul is very clear: keep on working!

Do we need to live in fear? Well, yes and no. Not in fear of persecution that may or may not come. Not in fear of the end. But if we live in “fear of God’s name,” if the deepest abiding respect for God is the hallmark of our lives, we are assured that, no matter what happens, we have nothing to fear. Really.

November 8, 2013

Intercession For Souls In Purgatory

Ye souls of the faithful! who sleep in the Lord;

But as yet are shut out, from your final reward!
Oh! would I could lend you, assistance to fly;
From your prison below, to your palace on high.

O Father of mercies! Thine anger withhold;

These works of Thy hand in Thy mercy behold;
Too oft from Thy path, they have wandered aside:
But Thee, their Creator, they never denied.

O tender Redeemer! Their misery see;

Deliver those souls that were ransomed by Thee;
Behold how they love Thee, despite of their pain:
Restore them, restore them to favour again.

O Spirit of grace! O Consoler divine!

See how for Thy presence they longingly pine;
Ah, then, to enliven their sadness, descend;
And fill them with peace, and with joy in the end.

O Mother of mercy! Dear soother in grief!

Lend thou to their torments a balmy relief;
And temper the rigour of justice severe;
And soften their flames with a pitying tear.

All ye who would honour the Saints and their Head,

Remember, remember, to pray for the dead;
And they, in return, from their misery freed,
To you will be friends in the hour of need.

November 4, 2013

A Christian Duty

By Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

The practice of recommending to God the souls in Purgatory, that He might mitigate the great pains which they suffer, and that He may soon bring them to His glory, is most pleasing to the Lord and most profitable to us. For these blessed souls are His eternal spouses, and most grateful are they to those who obtain their deliverance from prison, or even a mitigation of their torments. When, therefore, they arrive in Heaven, they will be sure to remember all who have prayed for them. It is a pious belief that God manifests to them our prayers in their behalf, that they may also pray for us. It is true that these blessed souls are not in a state to pray for themselves, because they are atoning for their faults. However, because they are very dear to God, they can pray for us, and obtain for us the divine graces. Saint Catherine of Bologna, when she wished to obtain any grace, had recourse to the souls in Purgatory, and her prayers were heard immediately. She declared that, by praying to those holy souls, she obtained many favours which she had sought through the intercession of the saints without obtaining them. The graces which devout persons are said to have received through these holy souls are innumerable.

But, if we wish for the aid of their prayers, it is just, it is even a duty, to relieve them by our suffrages. I say, it is even a duty: for Christian charity commands us to relieve our neighbors who stand in need of our assistance. But who among all our neighbors have so great need of our help as those holy prisoners? They are continually in that fire which torments more severely than any earthly fire. They are deprived of the sight of God, a torment far more excruciating than all other pains. Let us reflect that among these suffering souls are parents, or brothers, or relations and friends, who look to us for succour.

Let us remember, moreover, that being in the condition of debtors for their sins, they cannot assist themselves. This thought should urge us forward to relieve them to the best of our ability. By assisting them we shall not only give great pleasure to God, but will acquire also great merit for ourselves. And, in return for our suffrages, these blessed souls will not neglect to obtain for us many graces from God, but particularly the grace of eternal life. I hold for certain that when a soul delivered from Purgatory by the suffrages of a Christian enters paradise, she will not fail to say to God: “Lord, do not suffer that person to be lost who has liberated me from the prison of Purgatory, and has brought me to the enjoyment of Thy glory sooner than I had deserved.”

October 31, 2013

Plenary Indulgence Reminders for November

There are several plenary indulgences available for the first week in November. They are the following:

For the faithful departed

§ 1. A plenary indulgence, applied exclusively to the souls in Purgatory, is granted to the Christian faithful who:

1° on each single day, from the first to the eighth day in November, devoutly visit a cemetery and, even if only mentally, pray for the faithful departed; [Note: one plenary indulgence for each day, if the usual conditions are met]

2° on the day of Commemoration of All Faithful Departed [November 2] (or, according to the Ordinary, on the preceding or subsequent Sunday, or on the day of the solemnity of All Saints) piously visit a church or oratory and there recite the Pater and the Credo.

October 23, 2013

Vatican halts remarriage debate before it starts

The Vatican on Tuesday reiterated one of its longstanding rules about the indissolubility of marriage, making clear that a recent German initiative on the matter was contrary to church teaching.

The Vatican's chief doctrine official, German Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, wrote Tuesday that there is no way for Catholics who divorce and remarry to receive Communion unless they get an annulment, a church ruling that their first marriage never existed.

"God's mercy does not dispense us from following his commandments or the rules of the church," he wrote in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.

Church teaching holds that Catholics who don't have their first marriage annulled before remarrying cannot participate fully in the church's sacraments because they are living in sin and committing adultery. 

Coat of Arms of Pope Francis Explained

The coat of arms of Pope Francis was revealed on 18 March 2013. Francis decided to keep both the arms and motto he used since his episcopal consecration in 1991, however altered to reflect his position as Roman Pontiff.

Charges and field

The coat of arms has three charges on a blue field. In reference to Francis being a Jesuit, the uppermost charge is the emblem of the Society of Jesus. The emblem is composed of a radiating sun, within which is the IHS christogram (a monogram of the Holy Name of Jesus) in red, with a red cross surmounting the H and three black nails below the H. Below the Jesuit emblem is an eight-pointed star, which is a long-standing symbol of the Virgin Mary, and a spikenard (or nard flower) representing Saint Joseph. In hispanic iconographic tradition Saint Joseph is often depicted with a branch of spikenard in his hand.

The charges appeared on Bergoglio's previous coat of arms, used when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, but as pope he changed the tincture of the star and the spikenard from argent (silver) to or (gold). The first version of the papal coat of arms published by the Vatican adopted the five-pointed star from Bergoglio's previous one, but it was later changed to eight points; the representation of the spikenard was also slightly altered.


The Vatican has not yet released specifics on the blazon, but an approximate had been made by John Hamilton Gaylor, as follows:
Azure on a sun in splendour or the IHS christogram ensigned with a cross paty fitchy piercing the H gules all above three nails fanwise points to centre sable, and in dexter base a mullet of eight points and in sinister base a spikenard flower or.

External ornaments

Traditionally, a pope's coat of arms was externally adorned only by the three-tiered papal tiara with lappets and the crossed keys of Saint Peter with a cord. The tiara represented the roles of authority of the pope, while the keys represent the power to loose and bind on heaven and earth. Pope Francis' arms maintain the keys, but replaced the tiara (as did his predecessor) with a triband mitre. However, the tiara and keys remain the symbol of the papacy, and appear on the coat of arms of the Holy See and (reversed) on the flag of Vatican City.


Unusually, Francis also decided to retain his personal motto: Miserando atque eligendo (Latin for: "by having mercy and by choosing"). It is taken from the 21st homily of Saint Bede, which is on the Gospel of Matthew and refers to the vocation of Saint Matthew. He writes:

Vidit ergo lesus publicanum et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi 'Sequere me'.
—Om. 21; CCL 122, 149-151

Bede is here discussing Matthew 9:9-13. The salient point is that Jesus chose Matthew as his disciple not in spite but because of his being a sinner. In the KJV translation:
9. And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.

10. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.

11. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?

12. But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.

13. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
The statement from the Vatican announcing the Pope's coat of arms and motto explained that the phrase had a special meaning for Francis as he felt it recalled his own vocation, when at the age of 17, he went to confession on St Matthew's day in 1953.

October 12, 2013

Homily for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S. 
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

It is natural to focus on gratitude in today’s readings. I’ll get to that later.

You probably never read the 1952 book, Prisoners are People by Kenyon J. Scudder. And you probably never saw the 1955 movie Unchained, based on that book. But you have definitely heard the theme song of that film, one of the most famous love songs of all time, covered by dozens of artists. I have been humming “Unchained Melody” all week, ever since I first looked at this Sunday’s readings.

What made me think of this song is the phrase in today’s second reading: “The Word of God is not chained.” Although the Apostle Paul is in prison, the Gospel continues to spread. It is unrestricted. It doesn’t depend on him.

Another melody comes to mind, from Leonard Bernstein’s opera, Mass. There is a sung reflection, a homily of sorts, on the same passage from 2 Timothy. “You can lock up the bold men. Go, and lock up your bold men, and hold them in tow. You can stifle all adventure, for a century or so. Smother hope before it's risen, -- watch it wizen like a gourd. But you cannot imprison the Word of the Lord.”

Jesus’ healing was not restricted to Jews. He never suggested that “Samaritans need not apply.” The prophet Elisha’s ministry was not restricted to Jews. Jesus refers specifically to this fact in Luke 4:27: “There were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

St. Paul writes to Timothy of external obstacles to his preaching. The Word continues to spread and the Church grows not only in spite of persecution and imprisonment, but because of them! Around the year 200 A.D. a Christian named Tertullian told persecutors that they were wasting their time trying to wipe out the Church. He is the author of the famous saying, “The blood of Christians is seed.”

Jesus, as is evident in many Gospel scenes, did not allow his ministry or his teaching to be “chained” by the Scribes and Pharisees, when, for example, they attempted to dictate whom he should associate with.

One of the reasons Pope Francis is so popular is that he appears to be on a path of unchaining what he perceives as restricting the deeper message of the Gospel, the deeper mission of the Church. Not only is no one excluded, but he repeatedly gives the example of reaching out to the marginalized, bringing the Good News to them.

When those who have felt excluded find themselves unexpectedly welcome, gratitude inevitably follows. Naaman vows to worship no other God but the Lord. The Samaritan is the only one to return and give thanks.

In today’s world, the Word may seem in danger of being chained in two ways. There are those outside the Church who would prevent the Gospel from influencing modern life and culture. And there are those within the Church who obscure the Gospel message through an attitude of exclusivism or, worse, through scandal—a kind of leprosy that makes people want to stay away from us.

Still, anything we do that might tend to imprison the Word of the Lord in any way is ultimately doomed to failure. In fact, it may well work the other way around, and the Word might “imprison” us, that is, captivate us and transform our lives. That is something to be truly grateful for.