February 29, 2016

Plenary Indulgences Obtainable at Any Time

Dominican Cross

In addition to the plenary indulgence that may be obtained each Friday of Lent, there are plenary indulgences that may be gained at any time during the year. An indulgence can either be partial or plenary. It is partial if it removes part of the temporal punishment due to sin, or plenary if it removes all punishment. A plenary indulgence may be obtained only once a day.

Requirements for Obtaining a Plenary Indulgence

◗ Do/recite the prescribed work or prayer.

◗ 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, one must be free from all attachment to sin,  even venial sin (or the indulgence is partial, not plenary).

Plenary Indulgences Obtainable any time any place

Reading of Sacred Scripture

Recitation of the Marian Rosary (Rosarii marialis recitatio)

Exercise of the Way of the Cross

Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament

For more on the Church's teachings on indulgences, read the Enchiridion of Indulgences promulgated by the 1968 Decree of the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary. Also see The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Indulgences, Part 2, Section 2, Chapter 2, Article 4, Subsection 10, 1471-1479.

February 28, 2016

A Minute With a Monk

A Minute With a Monk

Not all Catholic Youtube channels are created equal, however, A Minute With a Monk is worth a look. From the about page of their website:
One year ago (well, a bit more) a new little island appeared in the huge YouTube ocean : some monks from Austria started making little videos to spread these good news: You are loved by Someone Greater than the world, and your heart is good.
With hardly no means at all, and no experience of media work, they began with baby steps! A lot of friends, who say the sample videos, gave their advices and encouraged this!
Even our Prior General and our superiors told us: Do it, don’t hesitate! But the one who, even earlier, had inspired us the most was our Pope Francis, who unceasingly calls to "find new ways to carry the Word of God to the world". Sometimes he says: “Wake up the world!“, or even: "Shake things up" or "make a mess!" (haha, this I think we can do!). How can we just stay indifferent to this? Of course there are a lot of ways to answer this calling, but this is maybe one of them.
They have tens of videos dealing with the consecrated life, apologetics, the lives of saints and more. Their target audience is young people and their presentation style is (very) informal. Below is the first in their four part series on "How to Deal with Suffering".

Living Mercy in the Jubilee Year of Mercy

Jubilee Year of Mercy
The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy began on December 8, 2015, the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. Here are a few important themes for reflection during this time of repentance and renewal.

Jesus is the "face" of the Father’s mercy 

Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Francis writes in Misericordiae Vultus, the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, is the "face" of the Father’s mercy — he reveals the mercy of God by his words, actions, and person. We follow Jesus’ example when we open ourselves to the Father’s mercy by looking "sincerely" into the eyes of our brothers and sisters, including those "who are denied their dignity." How have you experienced the Father’s mercy in your own life? How might Jesus be calling you to look "sincerely" into the eyes of those who are denied their dignity?

Mercy is "the beating heart of the Gospel"

Pope Francis writes: “It is absolutely essential for the Church and for the credibility of her message that she herself live and testify to mercy.” Mercy, he says, is "the beating heart of the Gospel" (Misericordiae Vultus). To live mercy, we must rediscover both the spiritual works of mercy (counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead), and the corporal works of mercy (feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead). Which spiritual works of mercy might Christ be calling you to practice? Which corporal works of mercy?

Mercy "demands justice"

"True mercy, the mercy God gives to us and teaches us, demands justice, it demands that the poor find the way to be poor no longer," Pope Francis notes. "It asks us, the Church, us, the City of Rome, it asks the institutions — to ensure that no one ever again stand in need of a soup kitchen, of makeshift-lodgings, of a service of legal assistance in order to have his legitimate right recognized to live and to work, to be fully a person" (Address to Jesuit Refugee Services, 9/10/13). In your own life, and in your faith community, how do you work for justice? Do you seek to address the root causes of problems affecting those who are vulnerable?

Ideas for Living Mercy during the Jubilee Year

There are many ways we can respond to the call to live mercy. Here are a few ideas:

◗ Put Two Feet of Love in Action. Use the “Two Feet of Love in Action” guide to consider how you can strengthen both charitable works and social justice at home and as part of your faith community. Visit www.usccb.org/twofeet for more information.

◗ Get Involved Locally. Explore the map at PovertyUSA.org to find local organizations that practice mercy by learning about and addressing poverty. Or, contact your diocesan director for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

◗ Engage Your Faith Community. With your faith community, use Pope Francis’ prayer for the Jubilee Year, and the resources mentioned below, to pray, reach out, learn, and act during the year. Visit WeAreSaltAndLight.org for stories of how communities of faith around the country are living mercy.

◗ Participate in Action Alerts on issues of life and dignity from the U.S. Catholic bishops (cqrcengage.com/catholicbishops).

[ ... ]

Via The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Go here to read the Year of Mercy PDF in full.

Pope Francis' prayer for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy

This is His Holiness Pope Francis' prayer for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. See the Vatican's official Jubilee of Mercy website:

Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father,
and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him.
Show us your face and we will be saved.
Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew
from being enslaved by money;
the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness
only in created things;
made Peter weep after his betrayal,
and assured Paradise to the repentant thief.
Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that
you spoke to the Samaritan woman:
"If you knew the gift of God!"

You are the visible face of the invisible Father,
of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy:
let the Church be your visible face in the world,
its Lord risen and glorified.
You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness
in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error:
let everyone who approaches them feel sought after,
loved, and forgiven by God.

Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing,
so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord,
and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm,
may bring good news to the poor,
proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed,
and restore sight to the blind.  

We ask this of you, Lord Jesus,
through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy;
you who live and reign with the Father
and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.


It is Not Mercy to Affirm People in Their Sins

Jesus cleansing the temple

It is not mercy to affirm people in their sins. That is the most merciless thing conceivable. It is a spiritual work of mercy to admonish the sinner.

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for March 2016

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

General Intention: Families in Difficulty

That families in need may receive the necessary support and that children may grow up in healthy and peaceful environments.

Evangelization: Persecuted Christians

That those Christians who, on account of their faith, are discriminated against or are being persecuted, may remain strong and faithful to the Gospel, thanks to the incessant prayer of the Church.

February 27, 2016

Homily for the 3rd Sunday in Lent, February 28, 2016, Year C

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

In our newspapers we read of disasters and watch catastrophes on television. And we deal with painful tragedies in the lives of our friends and loved ones, and ask: “Where is God?”, “How can God allow these things to go on?” It is implicitly the question put to Jesus in this Gospel account dealing with the fact that the Roman Governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, the same one who condemned Jesus to be crucified, murdered a number of Jews in Jerusalem while they worshipped! He mingled their blood with the blood of their temple sacrifices. It was a terribly shocking thing to do, to say the very least.

Some people explain away tragedies by telling us that it is sinners who suffer tragedies. Tragedies, they claim, are God’s way of punishing us for our sins, justified punishments from God inflicted upon us for our sins. That, of course, may or may not be true. Why? Because bad things happen to good people –people who are totally innocent suffer terrible tragedies. Jesus makes it crystal clear that personal suffering and personal sin are not always connected. To be sure, most sins bring their own punishment with them. You can think of a whole lot of diseases, pains and illnesses, both physical and mental, that result from behavior that is, shall we say, unhealthy, unnatural, and even bizarre. Still, personal suffering does hit the innocent.

Suffering comes from many causes, not the least of which is simple, random chaos. You and I are joined with God in the vast enterprise of pushing back the boundaries of chaos and establishing cleared space in which order and harmony and peace can be found. That space is bought at a price, the price of whatever it takes to push the forces of chaos away and build boundaries that will protect the ordered and safe space we have cleared.

Suffering also comes from other people’s sins. A good deal of the pain and suffering that we endure in life comes directly from the sinful attitudes and activities found in other people, as well as in their inattentiveness, lazy slothfulness, and above all their indifference. A whole lot of pain comes from those who have a “who cares?” attitude in what they think, say and do.

And, to be truthful, we are all sinners. If God were to directly link all suffering with our personal sins the world would not be habitable. We simply couldn’t survive; no one would be safe. As it is, God has not absented Himself from our world. As a matter of fact, He has so loved us that He has sent His only-begotten Son into our world, not to condemn it, but to save us. God has given His son for the life of the world.

We need to realize that the world will be saved only to the extent that we receive what God gives us in order to save our world. God offers and then waits for us to respond. To the extent that we do not respond, either because of active refusal to surrender to God, or because of our indifference and “who cares?” attitude, to that extent, chaos and the forces of sin will enter into to fill the vacuum and fill our lives with more pain and suffering.

This is why in response to the original question I put to you moments ago when I began this homily, Jesus points out the terrible sin of uselessness in His parable about the fig tree. You see, the question is not “Where is God in all of this?” the question is rather “Where have we been?”

Fig trees are supposed to provide figs, to produce the fruit that God made them to produce in the first place. And we, too, have been put on this earth to produce the results for which God gave us life in the first place to produce.

A little lesson in Palestinian horticulture: fig trees over there produce crops of figs three times each year. These trees are given every chance to produce; they receive a gardener’s care. Their owners have a right to expect them to produce, not to simply wave their pretty leaves in the air. When the master found this fig tree to be yielding nothing, he had every right, if not the duty, to eliminate that fig tree. All it was doing was soaking up water, minerals and other precious resources needed by the other trees to produce their fruit. This tree was good for nothing.

The response of the owner here in this parable was extra tenderness, extra-ordinary care, and a range of “second chances.” The owner allowed three seasons, nine chances, to be productive, before it was to be cut down. That fig tree was given no room in which to complain that it wasn’t given a chance to produce.

What, then, about us? God has planted us in the midst of His love and grace. Our families and our friends have given us love, our schools have given us education, and our Church has given us God’s holy presence, love, and graces. God has offered us His tender, loving care in abundance. How have we responded? How will we respond? Will we just wave our pretty leaves in the air or will we feed the world’s hungry, care for the outcast, and be about the tasks of bringing order out of the injustices and chaos in the world around us?

God wants us to finish the story for ourselves. You have perhaps noticed that the parable of the fig tree had no real ending. It just sort of stopped and we don’t know what eventually happened to that fig tree. The same is true for you and me. God has given us life and launched us out into our world with a script to follow along with a director, Jesus, to guide us. But how our individual life stories are eventually written depends entirely on how we respond to what God has given us. A merciful God has spared us all, many times over, up to this present moment.

Of what use and just how fruitful will be the rest of your life... and mine? We have no idea what happened to the fig tree. We can have a pretty good idea about what will happen to us. Will we do nothing, or will we give God useful and productive lives spent in accomplishing His work? The responsibility rests upon us – not God.

February 26, 2016

Was St. John Paul II a Thomist or a Phenomenologist?

St. John Paul II
I recently came across the following by Dr. Douglas Flippen which was excerpted from his larger work Faith & Reason [Christendom College, Front Royal, VA, Spring 2006, see pages 65 – 106]. Doctor Flippen poses the question: Was Saint John Paul II familiar with and influenced by the works of Saint Thomas Aquinas? Flippen answers in the affirmative, after a chronological review of the evidence, focused primarily on the works of St. John Paul II himself, but also including the evaluations of others.

The article, "Was John Paul II a Thomist or a Phenomenologist?", is quite long and scholarly. It is worth reading, however, if only for its consideration of which was more influential on the thought of John Paul, Max Scheler's phenomenology or Aquinas' Thomism. Given the frequency with which some Theology of the Body scholars designate St. John Paul a phenomenologist, Dr. Flippen's conclusion that John Paul was a Thomist who utilized phenomenology is a much needed insight. Here is a brief selection in which Dr. Flippen states his method and objective:
What I intend to do in this essay is to review the evidence, contained primarily in the works of John Paul II himself, but also in the evaluations others have offered about his thought, in order to evaluate the influence of Thomism on the thought of John Paul II. The order I will follow is chronological. In this way we will be able to see the manner in which the Thomism of the pope begins, develops, and deepens. We will also be able to see the way in which he appropriated insights gained from others, especially from the phenomenology of Max Scheler, whose view of the overall nature of reality and of man John Paul II could not accept. A test of the way in which phenomenology and metaphysics are able to be combined in the thought of the pope will be what he comes to think of human consciousness. We will take an all too brief look at the place it ought to occupy in our view of man and will consider what accommodations, if any, need to be made to the traditional metaphysical view of Thomas in order to include consciousness within the being of man.
Dr. Douglas W. Flippen is a Professor of Philosophy at Christendom College. For more on the historical and philosophical developments that led to St. John Paul II 's Theology of the Body see Theology of the Body, Part 1. For still more visit the Theology of the Body page.

Remember: Three O’clock on Fridays is the Hour of Divine Mercy

The Divine Mercy Image
The Divine Mercy Image
At three o'clock on Fridays we solemnly remember Christ's death on the cross. In that moment, the redeeming ministry of our Savior culminated in the sacrificial offering of the Lamb of God for our sins. Three o'clock on Friday is, therefore, an hour of abundant grace and mercy, especially for sinners. Christ told Saint Faustina that:
At three o'clock implore My mercy, especially for sinners; and, if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony. This is the hour of great mercy for the whole world. I will allow you to enter into My mortal sorrow. In this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion... (Diary 1320).
The Lord asked Sister Faustina to pray especially for sinners at three o'clock in the afternoon, the moment of His death on the cross. This is the hour of great mercy for the world, and can be a moment of reflection on His Passion and Death for us. If possible, it is a good time to visit the Blessed Sacrament and/or make the Stations of the Cross.
I remind you, My daughter, that, as often as you hear the clock strike the third hour, immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it; invoke its omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners; for at that moment mercy was opened wide for every soul. In this hour, you can obtain everything for yourself and for others for the asking; it was the hour of grace for the whole world - mercy triumphed over justice. My daughter, try your best to make the Stations of the Cross in this hour, provided that your duties permit it; and if you are not able to make the Stations of the Cross, then at least step into the chapel for a moment and adore, in the Blessed Sacrament, My Heart, which is full of mercy; and should you be unable to step into the chapel, immerse yourself in prayer there where you happen to be, if only for a very brief instant. I claim veneration of My mercy from every creature... (Diary 1572).
Three O'clock Prayer for Mercy

You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelope the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us.

And then, recite three times,

O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus, as
a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You.

This Lent, as we prepare to meet the risen Christ at Easter, let us reflect in gratitude on the sacrifice our Lord made on our behalf.

February 25, 2016

Prayer For Persecuted Christians

Dominican Cross

O God of all the nations,
the One God who is and was and always will be,
in your providence you willed that your Church
be united to the suffering of your Son.
Look with mercy on your servants
who are persecuted for their faith in you.
Grant them perseverance and courage
to be worthy imitators of Christ.
Bring your wisdom upon leaders of nations
to work for peace among all peoples.
May your Spirit open conversion
for those who contradict your will,
that we may live in harmony.
Give us the grace to be united in truth and freedom,
and to always seek your will in our lives.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us.

Prayer composed by Archbishop William E. Lori, Supreme Chaplain.

Stop the Christian Genocide

The 21 Coptic Christian Martyrs
Members of ISIS prepare to behead twenty-one Coptic Christian Egyptians.
Christians have become victims of religious cleansing in the Middle East and elsewhere. For almost 2000 years, Christians have called Mosul, Iraq home. Today, not one is left. The lack of international response has been shocking. If we don't come to their aid, who will?

55% of Americans agree that the targeting of Christians and other religious minorities by ISIS meets the U.N. definition of genocide. [Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll, 2015] This past December, the Knights of Columbus sent a letter, signed by over twenty Catholic leaders in academia, diplomacy and the Church, to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging the State Department to call ISIS's atrocities against Christians genocide:
The Genocide Convention defines genocide as killing and certain other acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” We have extensive files supporting a finding that ISIS’ treatment of Iraqi and Syrian Christians, as well as Yazidis and other vulnerable minorities, meets this definition. They include evidence of ISIS assassinations of Church leaders; mass murders; torture, kidnapping for ransom in the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria; its sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women; its practices of forcible conversions to Islam; its destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries, and Christian artifacts; and its theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike.
To add your voice to those condemning the ongoing Christian genocide by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, go to the Stop the Christian Genocide website and sign the petition. For other ways to help, please visit ChristiansAtRisk.org and Nasarean.org. Our persecuted brothers and sisters in faith face daily intimidation, torture and death for being disciples of Christ. We must assist them any way we can, even if only in prayer. Our prayers are always efficacious no matter how desperate the situation or the fact that God does not always grant our petitions.

February 24, 2016

February’s Blog of Note: A Catholic Mom in Hawaii

A Catholic Mom in Hawaii

February’s blog of note, A Catholic Mom in Hawaii, has long been a fixture in the Catholic blogosphere. It is the creation of wife, mother, pro-life advocate, resident of Hawaii, and devoted Catholic, Esther Gefroh, who since April 2006, has contemplated, observed and celebrated the six seasons of the Church’s liturgical year. In addition, Esther writes about numerous issues concerning the Church, including; the sanctity of life, natural marriage and the family, Catholics of heroic virtue, both past and present, the persecution of Christians around the world, books of interest, devotions, prayer, current events within and impacting Catholicism, and much more. One thing that has always impressed me about the site is the sense of community and fellowship evidenced by readers’ comments and contributions [i.e. of articles, reflections and ideas]. Moreover, each Lent, [and at other times during the year] Esther posts recipes for families to prepare, as well as her own personal insights into the Lenten observance. A Catholic Mom in Hawaii’s every offering will inform, encourage and inspire. Despite it transpiring on a blog, there is nothing virtual about Ms. Gefroh’s online apostolate or her very real life of faith. Reading this blog has made me a better person, especially in discerning the will of God and striving to live in the imitation of Christ. 

Here are Esther’s other noble ventures:

A Catholic Mom in Hawaii is well worth your time and frequent visitation. I encourage you to make it a part of your faith related internet itinerary.

February 23, 2016

Optional Memorial of Saint Polycarp of Smyrna

St. Polycarp of Smyma
Saint Polycarp of Smyrna, was converted to Christianity by Saint John the Apostle. He is the last known person to have seen the apostles face-to-face. He was a friend of St. Ignatius of Antioch. St. Polycarp and St. Ignatius were important intermediary links between the apostolic and the patristic eras in the Church. In 96 AD Polycarp was ordained bishop of Smyrna (now Izmir, Turkey). A great defender of orthodoxy, he opposed the Marcionites and Valentinians. He also wrote a surviving epistle to the Philippians, exhorting them to remain steadfast in belief. The letter is of interest to scholars because it demonstrates the existence of several New Testament texts, including quotations from Matthew, Luke, the Acts of the Apostles, and the first letters of Peter and John.

Bishop Polycarp was eighty-six when the Roman pro-consul urged him to renounce Christ and save his life. St. Polycarp said in reply: "For eighty-six years I have served Him and he has never wronged me. How can I renounce the King who has saved me?" St. Polycarp suffered martyrdom in 155 when he was burned alive in the amphitheater of Smyrna, along with twelve companions. With Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp is among the three chief Apostolic Fathers.

The Life of St. Polycarp of Smyrna

Polycarp had known those who had known Jesus, and was a disciple of St. John the Apostle, who had converted him around the year 80 AD. He taught, says his own pupil Irenaeus of Lyons, the things that he learned from the Apostles, which the Church hands down, which are true. Irenaeus, who as a young boy knew Polycarp, praised his gravity, holiness, and majesty of countenance. He had lived near Jerusalem and was proud of his early associations with the Apostles.

Polycarp became bishop of Smyrna and held the see for about 70 years. He was a staunch defender of orthodoxy and an energetic opponent of heresy, especially Marcionism and Valentinianism (the most influential of the Gnostic sects). Toward the end of his life he visited Pope St. Anicetus in Rome and, when they could not agree on a date for Easter, decided each would observe his own date. To testify his respect and ensure that the bonds of charity were unbroken, Anicetus invited Polycarp to celebrate the Eucharist in the papal chapel on this occasion. Polycarp suffered martyrdom with 12 others of his flock around the year 156.

Excerpted from St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr, Fr. Paul Haffner (Inside the Vatican, February 2004).

Among the select few from apostolic times about whom we have some historical information is Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna and one of the most glorious martyrs of Christian antiquity. His life and death are attested by the authentic "Acts" of his martyrdom (no similar account is older), as well as by other contemporary writings. It moves us deeply when, for example, we find in St. Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, the passage in which he reminisces:
The memory of that time when as a youth I was with Polycarp in Asia Minor is as fresh in my mind as the present. Even now I could point to the place where he sat and taught, and describe his coming and going, his every action, his outward appearance, and his manner of discourse to the people. It seems as though I still heard him tell of his association with the apostle John and with others who saw the Lord, and as though he were still relating to me their words and what he heard from them about the Lord and His miracles...
On the day of his death (February 23) the Martyrology recounts with deep reverence:
At Smyrna, the death of St. Polycarp. He was a disciple of the holy apostle John, who consecrated him bishop of that city; and there he acted as the primate of all Asia Minor. Later, under Marcus Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, he was brought before the tribunal of the proconsul; and when all the people in the amphitheater cried out against him, he was handed over to be burned to death. But since the fire caused him no harm, he was put to death by the sword. Thus he gained the crown of martyrdom. With him, twelve other Christians, who came from Philadelphia, met death by martyrdom in the same city.
Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch (via Catholic Culture).

Collect Prayer

God of all creation, who were pleased to give the Bishop Saint Polycarp a place in the company of the Martyrs, grant, through his intercession, that sharing with him in the chalice of Christ, we may rise through the Holy Spirit to eternal life. 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.

Prayer of St. Polycarp of Smyma Before Martyrdom

Lord God almighty,
Father of Jesus Christ,
Your dear Son through whom we have come to know You,
God of the angels and powers,
God of all creation,
God of those who live in Your presence,
the race of the just: I bless You.
You have considered me worthy of this day and hour,
worthy to be numbered with the martyrs
and to drink the cup of Your Anointed One,
and thus to rise and live forever,
body and soul,
in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Aristotle's Four Causes Explained Two Ways

Aristotle was one of the most brillant men to have ever lived. Hs philosophy was used by St. Thomas Aquinas in the later's synthesis of reason and revelation. Below are two explanations of Aristotle’s metahysical theory of causation, also known as the four causes. from which the Angelic Doctor borrowed heavily.

Aristotle’s four causes are answers to four common sense questions we can ask about change in the world around us. They are; What is a thing made of?, Who made it?, What is it that is being made?, and What is it being made for? When it comes to human productions, the answer to these questions is usually easy. When it comes to answering these questions as they occur in nature, it becomes more difficult.

Regarding human production, if you asked a shoemaker what he was making his shoes out of he might reply “leather.” If you asked a gunsmith producing a rifle what he was making it out of he might reply “wood and steel.” According to Aristotle, what a thing is made of is the material cause. It is one of four indispensible factors without which the production would not or could not occur.

The second question is: Who made it? Aristotle calls this the efficient cause. When we are dealing with human productions, this would seem to be the easiest question of all. The shoemaker maker makes the shoe. The gunsmith makes the gun. However, when dealing with natural processes this question is much harder to answer.

The third question is: What is it that is being made? Aristotle calls this the formal cause. The answer to this question can seem simple but Aristotle means something specific in using the word “formal” in this instance. The formal cause for the gunsmith would be a gun. The formal cause for the shoemaker would be a shoe.

The fourth question is: What is it being made for? Put simply we might say: Why is it being made? Aristotle calls this the final cause. For the gunsmith, the final cause for producing a gun might be “for protection.” For the shoemaker the final cause for producing shoes might be “comfort.”

Let’s take a look at the four causes in action in a human production. A sculpture takes marble (sculpture = efficient cause, marble = material cause) and turns it into a statue – a statue which will bring joy and be the focal point of interest to everyone who beholds it. (statue=formal cause, a thing of beauty that will be a joy for others=final cause).

Explained another way...

In Aristotle's Metaphysics, there are four main causes of change in nature: the material cause, the formal cause, the efficient cause, and the final cause.

Each of these "causes" was a different sense of the Greek word aition, which Aristotle thought was ambiguous and needed to be clarified. The distinction between them can be understood using a wooden table as an example. The material cause is the wood out of which the table is made; the formal cause is the form or shape of the table; the efficient cause is the carpenter who creates the table; and the final cause is the purpose for which the table will be used, e.g. a desk, an altar, a decorative console, etc.

1.) The material cause is the substance or material out of which something is composed. Thus the material cause of a table is wood, and the material cause of a statue might be bronze or marble.

2.) The formal cause is the thing or being into which the substance or material becomes. A leather worker turns leather into shoes for example.

3.) The efficient cause is the person or thing that effects change in a substance or material

4.) The Final cause, or telos, is defined as the purpose, the good, or the goal of something. For example, the final cause of a pen is writing. Aristotle believed that the final cause is the most important of the four causes - determining the three other causes.

February 22, 2016

February 22nd – Solemnity of the Chair of Saint Peter

This feast brings to mind the mission of teacher and pastor conferred by Christ on Peter, and continued in an unbroken line down to the present Pope. We celebrate the unity of the Church, founded upon the Apostle, and renew our assent to the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, extended both to truths which are solemnly defined ex cathedra, and to all the acts of the ordinary Magisterium.

The feast of the Chair of Saint Peter at Rome has been celebrated from the early days of the Christian era on 18 January, in commemoration of the day when Saint Peter held his first service in Rome. The feast of the Chair of Saint Peter at Antioch, commemorating his foundation of the See of Antioch, has also been long celebrated at Rome, on 22 February. At each place a chair (cathedra) was venerated which the Apostle had used while presiding at Mass. One of the chairs is referred to about 600 by an Abbot Johannes who had been commissioned by Pope Gregory the Great to collect in oil from the lamps which burned at the graves of the Roman martyrs.

Source: The New Catholic Dictionary.

The Chair of St. Peter

Since early times, the Roman Church has had a special commemoration of the primatial authority of St. Peter. As witness one of the most renowned of the Apostolic Fathers, the Roman See has always held a peculiar place in the affection and obedience of orthodox believers because of its "presiding in love" and service over all the Churches of God.

"We shall find in the Gospel that Jesus Christ, willing to begin the mystery of unity in His Church, among all His disciples chose twelve; but that, willing to consummate the mystery of unity in the same Church, among the twelve He chose one. He called His disciples, said the Gospel; here are all; and among them He chose twelve. Here is the first separation, and the Apostles chosen. And these are the names of the twelve Apostles: the first, Simon, who is called Peter. [Mt. 10, 1-2] Here, in a second separation, St. Peter is set at the head, and called for that reason by the name of Peter, 'which Jesus Christ,' says St. Mark, 'had given him,' in order to prepare, as you will see, the work which He was proposing to raise all His building on that stone.

"All this is yet but a beginning of the mystery of unity. Jesus Christ, in beginning it, still spoke to many: Go, preach; I send you [see Mt. 28, 19]. Now, when He would put the last hand to the mystery of unity, He speaks no longer to many: He marks out Peter personally, and by the new name which He has given him. It is One who speaks to one: Jesus Christ the Son of God to Simon son of Jonas; Jesus Christ, who is the true Stone, strong of Himself, to Simon, who is only the stone by the strength which Jesus Christ imparts to him. It is to him that Christ speaks, and in speaking acts on him, and stamps upon him His own immovableness. And I, He says, say to you, you are Peter; and, He adds, upon this rock I will build my Church, and, He concludes, the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [Mt. 16, 18] To prepare him for that honor Jesus Christ, who knows that faith in Himself is the foundation of His Church, inspires Peter with a faith worthy to be the foundation of that admirable building. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. [Mt. 16, 16] By that bold preaching of the faith he draws to himself the inviolable promise which makes him the foundation of the Church.

"It was, then, clearly the design of Jesus Christ to put first in one alone, what afterwards He meant to put in several; but the sequence does not reverse the beginning, nor the first lose his place. That first word, Whatsoever you shall bind, said to one alone, has already ranged under his power each one of those to whom shall be said, Whatsoever you shall remit; for the promises of Jesus Christ, as well as His gift, are without repentance; and what is once given indefinitely and universally is irrevocable. Besides, that power given to several carries its restriction in its division, while power given to one alone, and over all, and without exception, carries with it plenitude, and, not having to be divided with any other, it has no bounds save those which its terms convey."

Excerpted from The See of St. Peter, Jacques Bossuet.

Prayer for the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter

O God, Who by delivering to Thy blessed Apostle Peter
the keys of the kingdom of Heaven,
didst confer upon him the pontifical power of binding and of loosing,
grant that, by the help of his intercession,
we may be delivered from the bonds of our sins.
Who livest and reignest with Thee,
One God, world without end. Amen.

February 21, 2016

Father Paul Scalia’s Eulogy Shows the Extent to Which Our Religious Liberty is in Jeopardy

Father Paul Scalia, the son of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, delivered a heartfelt and inspiring eulogy at the funeral Mass for his father at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday. In his remarks, Fr. Scalia celebrated his late father’s commitment to family, public service and the Law, as well as his dedication to truth, justice, the intellectually rigorous defense of liberty, personal virtue, and the sanctity of persons at every stage of life. While paying homage to Justice Scalia’s religious devotion, Fr. Scalia noted how: "God blessed [his] Dad with a deep Catholic faith: The conviction that Christ's presence and power continue in the world today through His body, the Church." Fr. Scalia’s tribute is part fond remembrance and part profound catechesis. [It is worth reading in full.]

Later on, Fr. Scalia makes the following observation which I draw to your attention:
God blessed Dad, as is well known, with a love for his country. He knew well what a close-run thing the founding of our nation was. And he saw in that founding, as did the founders themselves, a blessing, a blessing quickly lost when faith is banned from the public square, or when we refuse to bring it there. So he understood that there is no conflict between loving God and loving one's country, between one's faith and one's public service. Dad understood that the deeper he went in his Catholic faith, the better a citizen and public servant he became. God blessed him with the desire to be the country's good servant because he was God's first.
Let us pray for Justice Scalia’s soul, and in thanksgiving for his life, service and example. Given the increasing attacks on Christianity and expressions of Christian faith in the public square by those occupying "the commanding heights of the culture", [i.e. academia, the media, Hollywood, et al.] Justice Scalia’s passing is all the more concerning. Let us pray also that the freedoms he labored so courageously to preserve – be protected and endure.

Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Lent, February 21, 2016, Year C

Transfiguration of Christ

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

We hear a lot about the high cost of living. Today I’d like to turn the phrase a bit and share some thoughts with you about the high cost of transformation. Becoming someone greater than we are now does not come freely or easily… it comes at a great price, a price that takes us out of our comfort zones. We all know that nothing in this life, except perhaps love, comes to us free. And we all know that the really valuable things in life cost us in terms of our own personal efforts. So, too, the cost of transformation demands its price for us to pay.

You and I live in a time in which excellence and perfection are much sought after when it comes to material things, but are ignored when it comes to spiritual things. It is a great American goal to have a perfect body. To be physically attractive is something that’s constantly put in front of us in all of the media images we receive. But how many of those physically gorgeous people do you see every day? Hardly a one!

The pursuit is perfection is likewise true with regard to our intellectual faculties. Getting an excellent and perfect education is quite laudable. There’s nothing wrong with that pursuit. In many fields it isn’t something that’s simply “nice” – it is necessary. But is costs, costs not only if terms of money but more so in disciplined time and effort.

And what of moral perfection… moral excellence? Where do we find any premiums put on that? If we are to transform our world and make it a safer place in which to live we must examine that question. If our humanity is to be transfigured, and Christ’s transfiguration is an icon of that goal, then what do we need to do? We find a great deal of conflict in this area. Can morals be taught in our schools when religion is a taboo subject? And when it comes to putting images of what is to be valued in front of our children, what sorts of values are presented to them? What are the images that are put before them?

When it comes to celebrating Mass is the best priest the one who preaches the shortest homilies and celebrates Holy Mass in the shortest period of time? There’s a lot of sentiment in many folks that speaks of wanting a religion that makes no demands, doesn’t cost much, and gets worship over with as soon as possible. Do we really want bargain basement, quick fix faith, or do we want our religious faith to be worth our efforts and really cost something?

We are, in addition, surrounded by lots of people who have a moral standard that seem to be hardly a standard at all. They reduce the teachings of Jesus Christ to a so-called morality that tells us “Anything is okay so long as it doesn’t hurt someone else.” In other words, morality is built on the pleasure-pain principle. So long as it feels good and doesn’t hurt anybody it’s okay. Where in the bible does Jesus give us that standard?

It’s interesting to consider the main characters in today’s Gospel account of the Transfiguration. Moses’ life was engaged in a tremendous struggle to free his people from a pleasure principle. God brought them out of slavery in Egypt and gave them freedom But they didn’t want to carry the weight of freedom with all of those burdensome moral choices that had to be made. So they rebelled and asked to return to the flesh-pots of Egypt. Oh, sure, they would have to live in slavery… but at least they would be comfortable. The sort of freedom and life God wanted to give them was simply too costly, they felt.

Elijah struggled against a corrupt Jewish king who was a dissolute married to a woman named Jezebel, someone who promoted sexual promiscuity not only as a way of life but as a part of pagan temple worship services where they had temple prostitutes! We even find St. Peter in today’s account wanting to put up tents, hunker down, and not go to Jerusalem. Why? Because it would cost too much?

Self-sacrifice and discipline are the price one pays for creativity, for personal growth, and for transformation. The greatest of our artists, poets, musicians and moral leaders give testimony to that fact. We know that excellence in bodily beauty comes only at the cost of sacrificing certain foods along with painful exercising. We buy exercise machines so that we might inflict self-sacrificing pain on ourselves in order to have perfect bodies.

We increase our intellectual capacities only through self-sacrificing times of study as well as through painful exams. Should we expect otherwise when it comes to moral and spiritual growth? And yet we treat morality as if it comes naturally. And if acting morally causes us great discomfort, embarrassment or even pain? Well, we quickly opt for a quick fix solution that doesn’t cost us anything at all when it comes to time and commitment of our energies.

The message of the Transfiguration is empty and meaningless if it is not the fact that Jesus was about to suffer and die in order to release God’s transforming power into our humanity. The whole of Christ’s life is meaningless unless it points to the meaning of suffering. Of all of the great founders of religions, Jesus Christ is the only one who enters into suffering, loss, pain and even death itself in order to lead us with Him through it into the resurrection and a higher and better life. Transcendence comes only through death and resurrection. That’s the guts of Christianity, a religion that goes way beyond simply being “nice”.

Lent moves ahead now toward Easter. Have courage. Make the hard decisions. Move away from merely being comfortable and get into the cost of discipleship. There will, of course, be many Herods and Pilates to judge you and mock you. But if you are in Christ then you must live His life and enter into the cost of movement, growth, transformation and transcendence. In the entire history of mankind there has not been presented to us any other way to climb, and painfully climb, the mountain of nobility, beauty and Godlikeness.

It all depends upon what you really want… and the price you’re willing to pay to have it.

February 20, 2016

Fr. Paul Scalia's Eulogy for His Father, Justice Antonin G. Scalia

Antonin Scalia
Antonin Scalia 1936-2016 

Your Eminence Cardinal Wuerl, Your Excellencies, Archbishop Viganò, Bishop Loverde, Bishop Higgins, my brother priests, deacons, distinguished guests, dear friends and faithful gathered:

On behalf of our mother and the entire Scalia family, I want to thank you for your presence here, for your many words of consolation, and even more for the many prayers and Masses you have offered at the death of our father, Antonin Scalia.

In particular I thank Cardinal Wuerl, first for reaching out so quickly and so graciously to console our mother. It was a consolation to her and therefore to us as well. Thank you also for allowing us to have this parish funeral Mass here in this basilica dedicated to Our Lady. What a great privilege and consolation that we were able to bring our father through the holy doors and for him gain the indulgence promised to those who enter in faith.

I thank Bishop Loverde, the bishop of our diocese of Arlington, a bishop our father liked and respected a great deal. Thank you, Bishop Loverde, for your prompt visit to our mother, for your words of consolation, for your prayers.

The family will depart for the private burial immediately after Mass and will not have time to visit, so I want to express our thanks at this time so that you all know our profound appreciation and thanks. You will notice in the program mention of a memorial that will be held on March 1st. We hope to see many of you there. We hope the Lord will repay your great goodness to us.

We are gathered here because of one man. A man known personally to many of us, known only by reputation to even more. A man loved by many, scorned by others. A man known for great controversy, and for great compassion. That man, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth.

It is He whom we proclaim. Jesus Christ, son of the father, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified, buried, risen, seated at the right hand of the Father. It is because of him. because of his life, death and resurrection that we do not mourn as those who have no hope, but in confidence we commend Antonin Scalia to the mercy of God.

Scripture says Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever. And that sets a good course for our thoughts and our prayers here today. In effect, we look in three directions. To yesterday, in thanksgiving. To today, in petition. And into eternity, with hope.

We look to Jesus Christ yesterday, that is, to the past, in thanksgiving for the blessings God bestowed upon Dad. In the past week, many have recounted what Dad did for them. But here today, we recount what God did for Dad, how he blessed him.

We give thanks first of all for the atoning death and life-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our Lord died and rose not only for all of us, but also for each of us. And at this time we look to that yesterday of his death and resurrection, and we give thanks that he died and rose for Dad.

Further, we give thanks that Jesus brought him to new life in baptism, nourished him with the Eucharist, and healed him in the confessional.

We give thanks that Jesus bestowed upon him 55 years of marriage to the woman he loved, a woman who could match him at every step, and even hold him accountable.

God blessed Dad with a deep Catholic faith: The conviction that Christ's presence and power continue in the world today through His body, the Church. He loved the clarity and coherence of the church's teachings. He treasured the church's ceremonies, especially the beauty of her ancient worship. He trusted the power of her sacraments as the means of salvation as Christ working within him for his salvation.

Although one time, one Saturday afternoon, he did scold me for having heard confessions that afternoon, that same day. And I hope that it's some source of consolation, if there are any lawyers present, that the Roman collar was not a shield against his criticism.

The issue that evening was not that I had been hearing confessions, but that he had found himself in my confessional line, and he quickly departed it. As he put it later, "Like heck if I'm confessing to you!"

The feeling was mutual.

God blessed Dad, as is well known, with a love for his country. He knew well what a close-run thing the founding of our nation was. And he saw in that founding, as did the founders themselves, a blessing, a blessing quickly lost when faith is banned from the public square, or when we refuse to bring it there. So he understood that there is no conflict between loving God and loving one's country, between one's faith and one's public service. Dad understood that the deeper he went in his Catholic faith, the better a citizen and public servant he became. God blessed him with the desire to be the country's good servant because he was God's first.

We Scalias, however, give thanks for a particular blessing God bestowed. God blessed Dad with a love for his family. We have been thrilled to read and hear the many words of praise and admiration for him, for his intellect, his writings, his speeches, his influence and so on.

But more important to us — and to him — is that he was Dad. He was the father that God gave us for the great adventure of family life. Sure he forgot our names at times, or mixed them up, but there are nine of us.

He loved us, and sought to show that love. And sought to share the blessing of the faith he treasured. And he gave us one another, to have each other for support. That's the greatest wealth parents can bestow, and right now we are particularly grateful for it.

So we look to the past, to Jesus Christ yesterday. We call to mind all of these blessings, and we give our Lord the honor and glory for them, for they are His work. We look to Jesus today, in petition, to the present moment, here and now, as we mourn the one we love and admire, the one whose absence pains us. Today we pray for him. We pray for the repose of his soul. We thank God for his goodness to Dad as is right and just. But we also know that although dad believed, he did so imperfectly, like the rest of us. He tried to love God and neighbor, but like the rest of us did so imperfectly.

He was a practicing Catholic, "practicing" in the sense that he hadn't perfected it yet. Or rather, Christ was not yet perfected in him. And only those in whom Christ is brought to perfection can enter heaven. We are here, then, to lend our prayers to that perfecting, to that final work of God's grace, in freeing Dad from every encumbrance of sin.

But don't take my word for it. Dad himself, not surprisingly, had something to say on the matter. Writing years ago to a Presbyterian minister whose funeral service he admired, he summarized quite nicely the pitfalls of funerals and why he didn't like eulogies.

He wrote: "Even when the deceased was an admirable person, indeed especially when the deceased was an admirable person, praise for his virtues can cause us to forget that we are praying for and giving thanks for God's inexplicable mercy to a sinner."

Now he would not have exempted himself from that. We are here then, as he would want, to pray for God's inexplicable mercy to a sinner. To this sinner, Antonin Scalia. Let us not show him a false love and allow our admiration to deprive him of our prayers. We continue to show affection for him and do good for him by praying for him: That all stain of sin be washed away, that all wounds be healed, that he be purified of all that is not Christ. That he rest in peace.

Finally we look to Jesus forever, into eternity. Or better, we consider our own place in eternity and whether it will be with the Lord. Even as we pray for Dad to enter swiftly into eternal glory, we should be mindful of ourselves. Every funeral reminds us of just how thin the veil is between this world and the next, between time and eternity, between the opportunity for conversion and the moment of judgment.

So we cannot depart here unchanged. It makes no sense to celebrate God's goodness and mercy to Dad if we are not attentive and responsive to those realities in our own lives. We must allow this encounter with eternity to change us, to turn us from sin and towards the Lord.

The English Dominican, Father Bede Jarrett, put it beautifully when he prayed, "O strong son of God, while you prepare a place for us, prepare us also for that happy place, that we may be with you and with those we love for all eternity."

Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

My dear friends, this is also the structure of the Mass, the greatest prayer we can offer for Dad, because it's not our prayer, but the Lord's. The Mass looks to Jesus yesterday. It reaches into the past — reaches to the Last Supper, to the crucifixion, to the resurrection — and it makes those mysteries and their power present here on this altar.

Jesus himself becomes present here today under the form of bread and wine so that we can unite all our prayers of thanksgiving, sorrow and petition with Christ himself as an offering to the father. And all of this with a view to eternity, stretching towards heaven, where we hope one day to enjoy that perfect union with God himself and to see Dad again and, with him, rejoice in the communion of saints.

Rev. Paul Scalia is a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia and the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

February 19, 2016

Reminder: Three O’clock on Fridays is the Hour of Divine Mercy

The Divine Mercy Image
The Divine Mercy Image
At three o'clock on Fridays we solemnly remember Christ's death on the cross. In that moment, the redeeming ministry of our Savior culminated in the sacrificial offering of the Lamb of God for our sins. Three o'clock on Friday is, therefore, an hour of abundant grace and mercy, especially for sinners. Christ told Saint Faustina that:
At three o'clock implore My mercy, especially for sinners; and, if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony. This is the hour of great mercy for the whole world. I will allow you to enter into My mortal sorrow. In this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion... (Diary 1320).
The Lord asked Sister Faustina to pray especially for sinners at three o'clock in the afternoon, the moment of His death on the cross. This is the hour of great mercy for the world, and can be a moment of reflection on His Passion and Death for us. If possible, it is a good time to visit the Blessed Sacrament and/or make the Stations of the Cross.
I remind you, My daughter, that, as often as you hear the clock strike the third hour, immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it; invoke its omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners; for at that moment mercy was opened wide for every soul. In this hour, you can obtain everything for yourself and for others for the asking; it was the hour of grace for the whole world - mercy triumphed over justice. My daughter, try your best to make the Stations of the Cross in this hour, provided that your duties permit it; and if you are not able to make the Stations of the Cross, then at least step into the chapel for a moment and adore, in the Blessed Sacrament, My Heart, which is full of mercy; and should you be unable to step into the chapel, immerse yourself in prayer there where you happen to be, if only for a very brief instant. I claim veneration of My mercy from every creature... (Diary 1572).
Three O'clock Prayer for Mercy

You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelope the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us.

And then, recite three times,

O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus, as
a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You.

This Lent, as we prepare to meet the risen Christ at Easter, let us reflect in gratitude on the sacrifice our Lord made on our behalf.

February 17, 2016

Yes, Pope Francis Lost His Temper. But There's a Difference Between Righteous Anger & Blind Rage

To some in the fourth estate, evidence of Pope Francis' humanity justifies dramatic headlines that are sure to attract readers. During the pontiff's apostolic visit to Mexico, some over zealous admirers in the crowd, started pulling at Francis' cassock. This caused His Holiness to lose his balance and fall on to a wheelchair bound man. The Daily Mail's [UK] article, "Pope Francis loses his cool: Pontiff is filmed shouting at Mexico crowd for tugging him and making him fall on to a disabled man", reflects the tenor of the secular media's coverage. From the Daily Mail:
The Pope has shown a rare sign of anger during his trip to Mexico after an eager crowd tugged his arms and caused him to topple over.
Francis was at a stadium in the western city of Morella on Tuesday greeting fans at an open air mass for young people. 
However, when one eager person pulled at his robe, it caused him to crash down into a wheelchair-bound man.
And although the Pontiff recovered and kissed the man on the head, he did not hide his irritation. ...
After Francis kissed the gentleman on the head, he angrily addressed the crowd saying: "No seas egoísta. Qué te pasó, no seas egoísta", which means "Don't be selfish, don't be selfish." It's no wonder the Holy Father responded this way. Indeed, it is quite understandable. Every loving father must occasionally correct and admonish his children. [In fairness to the crowd, seeing a pope in person evokes tremendous adulation. As a seminarian, I watched a sister in full habit elude a security cordon and slide on her knees in front of St. John Paul II to kiss his ring during his apostolic visit to Baltimore in 1995.] As for Pope Francis' anger, our emotions are morally neutral phenomena. It is how we act in response to them that makes all the difference.

Consider the life of Christ. We know that Jesus was like us in all things except sin. We also know that Jesus, on occasion, grew angry. In one instance in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus began to teach the disciples that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, be killed, and rise after three days. Upon hearing this, Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. Christ, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter saying, "Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." [Mark 8: 31-33]

Jesus was not soft spoken or gentle in rebuffing Peter. He angrily rejects Peter's notion and reaffirms his determination to do the will of his Father and redeem mankind — even unto death on a cross. Jesus responded so strongly because Peter thought that Jesus, as Christ, should live the life of a King and be served — not suffer and die. Father René Butler's commentary on this passage is enlightening:
Of course it was Peter who had got it all wrong, and Jesus rebuked him back. "You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." This is a very near paraphrase of another text from Isaiah: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways... For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts."
Eventually Peter got it right and, like Jesus, suffered and was rejected and was killed. He carried his cross. Not all Christians were called to follow that path, of course. They were meant to "be" Christ in other ways. 
A second example of Christ's righteous anger can be seen in the Gospel of John. Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, "Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace." His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, "Zeal for your house will consume me." [John 2: 13-17]

Christ's zeal for his Father's house consumes him. And for good reason! If anyone should be indignant at the sins of humanity and those making the Temple a den of iniquity it is the creator of the universe himself. Jesus' human emotion of anger is utilized for good; to restore creation and — all of humanity back to God.

This is not to equate Pope Francis' frustration and embarrassment with Christ's holy anger. It is only to say that righteous indignation has its place provided it is dignified and temperate in expression and justified in its end. Curruently, in our post modern world, what passess for civil disobedience is often little more than blind rage. Blind rage is mindless, selfish and destructive. If more of today's angry protesters had had loving fathers occasionally correct and admonish them, perhaps our public discourse would be more virtuous and less vitriolic. As Catholics who are called to selfless discipleship by our heavenly Father, let us act always out of humility and charity in the imitation of Christ.

Optional Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order

Founders of the Servite Order

Today, February 17, the Church in some dioceses remembers the seven noble Florentines who in the thirteenth century, at a time when Florence and all Italy was plunged in civil strife, joined together to found the Order of Servites of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These holy and devout young men; Bonfilius, Bonajuncta, Amideus, Hugh, Manettus, Soseneus, and Alexius, did so in the year 1240 after repeated apparitions from our Lady. The Servites are especially dedicated to penance and meditation on the sorrows of Mary in relation to the passion of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The order was approved by the Holy See in 1304. The first of the seven founders to be born into eternal life was Alexis Falconieri, who died on this date in 1310.

Members of the Servite Order came to the United States in 1852 and established houses in New York and Philadelphia. The Servites combined monastic life and active ministry. In the monastery, their lives consisted of prayer, work and silence. Their mendicant work included parochial work, teaching, preaching and caring for the sick the aged and the impoverished.

The Seven Founders of the Order of Servites

These seven men were the founders of the Servite Order, a community instituted for the special purpose of cultivating the spirit of penance and contemplating the passion of Christ and Mary's Seven Sorrows. Due to the spirit of humility cherished by the members of the Order, their accomplishments are not too widely known. But in the field of home missions great things are to their credit, and certainly they have benefited millions by arousing devotion to the Mother of Sorrows.

The Breviary tells us that in the midst of the party strife during the thirteenth century, God called seven men from the nobility of Florence. In the year 1233 they met and prayed together most fervently. The Blessed Mother appeared to each of them individually and urged them to begin a more perfect life. Disregarding birth and wealth, in sackcloth under shabby and well-worn clothing they withdrew to a small building in the country. It was September 8, selected so that they might begin to live a more holy life on the very day when the Mother of God began to live her holy life.

Soon after, when the seven were begging alms from door to door in the streets of Florence, they suddenly heard children's voices calling to them, "Servants of holy Mary." Among these children was St. Philip Benizi, then just five months old. Hereafter they were known by this name, first heard from the lips of children. In the course of time they retired into solitude on Monte Senario and gave themselves wholly to contemplation and penance. Leo XIII canonized the Holy Founders and introduced today's feast in 1888.

Excerpt from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

To join the Servites go here. For more about their founders see EWTN.

Collect Prayer

Impart to us, O Lord, in kindness the filial devotion with which the holy brothers venerated so devoutly the Mother of God and led your people to yourself. 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.

Meditate on the Seven Sorrows of Mary

◗ The prophecy of Simeon

◗ The flight into Egypt

◗ The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple

◗ The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross

◗ The Crucifixion

◗ The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross

◗ The burial of Jesus

Prayer for the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order

O Lord Jesus Christ Who,
in order to renew the memory
of the sorrows of Thy most holy Mother,
has through the seven blessed fathers
enriched Thy Church with the new Order of Servites;
mercifully grant that we may be so united
in their sorrows as to share in their joys.
Who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.

February 16, 2016

Christ's Death Redeemed Us. But Why Did Jesus Live?

Jesus gives Peter the keys to the Kingdom
Most people see the Incarnation of Jesus in light of His atoning death. Christ, the Lamb of God, the unblemished offering, became man to pay the ransom for humanity's transgressions. In so doing, Jesus conquered sin and death, opening up for us the gates of Heaven and hope for life everlasting. Venerable Fulton J. Sheen writes in Life of Christ:
Christ was our "stand-in" on the stage of life. He took our guilt as if He were guilty and thus paid the debt that sin deserved, namely, death. This made possible our resurrection to "new life" in Him. Christ, therefore, is not just a teacher or a pleasant revolutionist, but our Savior.
Much has been written about the nature and necessity of Jesus' redemptive sacrifice on the cross. And for good reason. It was the climactic act of His earthly ministry. However, Christ didn't just live in order to die. If the sole mission of Jesus was to provide an expiating death, than the Holy Family needn't have fled to Egypt when Herod sent soldiers to Bethlehem to kill the Messiah. [Matthew 2: 13-15] If our Savior's only purpose was to shed atoning blood, than He wouldn't have escaped through the crowed that conspired to kill Him following His first sermon in Nazareth. [Luke 4:16-30] On numerous occasions, Christ alludes capture and certain demise by evading the authorities and fleeing plots on His life. Clearly, He had something to live for.

Why then, did the Second Person of the Trinity live (a human existence)? Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition affirm that through His Incarnation, Jesus: 1.) shows us in His words and deeds how to be His disciple; 2.) names twelve Apostles (mirroring the twelve tribes of Israel) who help spread the Gospel throughout the world and build the Church; 3.) sets Peter apart, giving him primacy among the Apostles; 4.) reveals to His Apostles that He must suffer and die, prefiguring His Crucifixion on Calvary, and; 5.) at the Last Supper, institutes the Eucharist and also the priesthood to licitly confect and administer the sacraments.

1.) The first reason for the Incarnation of Christ is fairly obvious and requires little explanation. In His teachings and His actions, Jesus is the Exemplar, par excellence, of how we should live and what we ought to do. He also reveals our destiny, if we persevere in love.

2.) Christ assumed human flesh to establish and proclaim His Kingdom on earth. In naming the twelve Apostles, Jesus, the "new Jacob," reconstitutes the twelve tribes of Israel around Himself. Israel was supposed to be a light to the world; showing other nations how to worship the one, true God. Now, the twelve Apostles, with their privileged knowledge of Jesus Incarnate, would spread the light of Christ through His Kingdom the Church.

3.) The third reason for Christ's Incarnation was to establish the papacy. In the Old Testament, the greatest and wisest king, King Solomon, was a builder. After his wisdom, Solomon is known for constructing the magnificent First Temple in Jerusalem. Christ, the King of the universe, is also a builder. In Caesarea Philippi, following Peter's profession of faith that Jesus was the Messiah, [Matthew 16: 13-20] Christ declares to Peter:
... you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Peter is the foundation stone upon which Christ builds His Church. When Jesus gives Peter the "keys to the kingdom," He unequivocally evokes the Davidic Kingdom of Israel [Isaiah 22] wherein the prime minister had discretion to "bound and loose" in the King's absence. In the above passage, the words "Kingdom" and "Church" are synonymous. Thus, Jesus names Peter prime minister and charges him with overseeing the Church until Christ's return. Fr. Dwight Longenecker explains:
Isaiah 22 provides the Old Testament context that Jesus’ disciples would have understood completely as he quoted this particular passage in Matthew 16. When Jesus said to Peter, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven," his disciples would recognize the passage from Isaiah. They would understand that not only was Jesus calling himself the King of his kingdom, but that he was appointing Peter as his royal steward. That John in Revelation sees the ascended and glorified Christ holding the eternal keys only confirms the intention of Jesus to delegate that power to Peter — the foundation stone of his Church.
The "keys" given to Peter represent aspects and responsibilities of the papacy. (See St. Peter, the Rock, the Keys, and the Primacy of Rome in the Early Church: Conclusion on "Keys" of Matthew 16:19 for a complete list.)

4.) Having established a line of successors to teach and guide His Church in His absence, Jesus tells the Apostles for the first time that He must suffer and die. Peter tries to rebuke Christ but the Lord upbraids Peter saying, "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." [Matthew 16: 22-23] A short time later, Jesus doubles down on being a "Suffering Servant," when He says, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." [Matthew 16: 24-25] Surely, the Apostles found this idea disturbing. Many in Israel had hoped for a political messiah who would vanquish Israel's enemies and restore her to greatness. What Jesus proposed seemed the exact opposite.

Little did the Apostles realize that by virtue of His obedience to the will of the Father, Christ marks all human suffering with dignity as an occasion of grace. Moreover, the darkness of Good Friday leads to the glory of Easter morning as the Exsultet Easter Proclamation states: "O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ! O happy fault that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!"

5.) At the Last Supper, Jesus' Apostles thought they were observing the Passover. They did not know Jesus would do that and infinitely more. At that eucharistic meal, Jesus celebrated the first Mass and instituted the sacrament of Holy Orders to perpetuate this sacrifice. When Christ said, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer," then took bread and blessed it saying: "Take and eat, this is My Body." and "This cup is the new covenant in my Blood, shed for you." the Apostles realized something new and extraordinary was happening [Matthew 26: 26-30], [Mark 14: 22-26], [Luke 22: 14-20].

The teaching and example of Jesus had a profound and lasting impact on the men He called to follow Him. All of Christ's Apostles (excluding Judas and John) were martyred for their faith. Despite great suffering and hardship, they remained faithful, courageously emulating Christ in giving the last measure of their lives.

May it be so with us today.

The Most Consequential, Church Approved Apparitions in the 20th Century Testify to the Reality of Hell

The two most consequential apparitions in the twentieth century were the appearance of our Lady to the children at Fatima and that of our Lord to Saint Faustina. In these visitations, the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ urge humanity to reject sin and to pray unceasingly. Our Lady extolled the power of the daily Rosary for conversion and repentance. Our Lord taught Sister Faustina the Divine Mercy Chaplet to call upon God's mercy – especially for sinners and those near death.

God's message to us is unmistakable: Life is tenuous. The time for mercy and forgiveness is now. When Christ comes again, at the end of history, it will be as a just judge who separates the good from the wicked. The righteous will experience the Beatific Vision in Heaven. The lost will burn forever in the unquenchable fire that is Hell.

Since many today deny Hell's existence, it is worth remembering that during these apparitions, both Sister Lucy and St. Faustina witnessed Hell first hand and wrote about its horrors. At Fatima, 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 then showed the children a glimpse of Hell which Sr. Lucy describes in her book, Memoirs:
[Mary] opened Her hands once more, as She had done the two previous months. The rays [of light] appeared to penetrate the earth, and we saw, as it were, a vast sea of fire. Plunged in this fire, we saw the demons and the souls [of the damned]. The latter were like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, having human forms. They were floating about in that conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames which issued from within themselves, together with great clouds of smoke. Now they fell back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fright (it must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me). The demons were distinguished [from the souls of the damned] by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals. That vision only lasted for a moment, thanks to our good Heavenly Mother, Who at the first apparition had promised to take us to Heaven. Without that, I think that we would have died of terror and fear.
Throughout her life, Sister Faustina Kowalska, a barely literate, Polish nun, received visions of Christ, during which our Lord instructed her. Faustina recorded these conversations in her diary, later published as: The Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul. Here, St. Faustina recounts her experience of Hell and graphically details the various unending torments inflicted on the damned:
Today, I was led by an angel to the chasm of hell. It is a place of great torture; how awesomely large and extensive it is! The kinds of tortures that I saw; the first torture that constitutes hell is the loss of God; the second is perpetual remorse of conscience; the third is that one's condition will never change; the fourth is the fire that will penetrate the soul without destroying it — a terrible suffering, since 8it is a purely spiritual fire, lit by God's anger; the fifth torture is continual darkness, and a terrible, suffocating smell, and despite the darkness, the devil and the souls of the damned see each other and all the evil, both of others and of their own; the sixth torture is the constant company of Satan; the seventh torture is horrible despair, hatred of God, vile words, curses and blasphemies. These are the tortures suffered by all the damned together, but that is not the end of their sufferings.
There are special tortures destined for particular souls. These are the torments of the senses. Each soul undergoes terrible and indescribable sufferings, related to the manner in which it has sinned. There are caverns and pits of torture where one form of agony differs from another. I would have died at the very sight of these tortures if the omnipotence of God had not supported me. Let the sinner know that he will be tortured throughout all eternity, in those senses which he made use of to sin. I am writing this at the command of God, so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there, and so no one can say what it is like.
The Church affirms the existence of Hell, its eternity and nature [i.e., the chief pain of Hell is one's separation from God; there are also physical privations in addition to spiritual death]. It does not describe eternal damnation in detail. The visions of Sr. Lucy and St. Faustina are private revelations, not the infallible Word of God. Nonetheless, the accounts of these heroic women of faith cannot be dismissed. Those who ignore such testimony do so at their own peril. Ultimately, it is our decision to sin or to love that determines whether we spend eternity in Hell. God respects our free will, even if we chose perdition over Him.