July 31, 2016

August 2nd: The Portiuncula Indulgence | Plenary Indulgence of the Forgiveness of Assisi

Dominican cross

The Portiuncula indulgence can be gained on August 2nd, or in remote areas of the world where Mission Chapels are not open during the week, the first Sunday of August. We owe this indulgence to the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi. In the year 513, four hermits came to Italy and built a small chapel in the vicinity of Assisi. The Benedictines named it the Portiuncula Church and administered it until the 13th century. St. Francis beseeched the Benedictine Abbot to let his Order have the church. Over time, the Portiuncula Church was enlarged and beautified.

The miraculous origin of the Portiuncula indulgence is as follows. Jesus, Mary and a host of angels appeared to St. Francis. Jesus said to him, "Francis you are very zealous for the good of souls. Ask me what you want for their salvation." Francis replied "Lord, I a miserable sinner beg You to concede an indulgence to all those who enter this church, who are truly contrite and have confessed their sins. And I beg Blessed Mary, your Mother, intercessor of man, that she intercede on behalf of this grace." Jesus granted Francis' petition for the indulgence and commanded him to ask Pope Honorius III to sanction it. (Said apparition occurred in the then Portiuncula Chapel.)

The indulgence may be gained as often as one wishes (i.e. visits to the church). It is applicable to oneself or the souls in purgatory.

Requirements for Gaining the Portiuncula Indulgence of the Forgiveness of Assisi

Devoutly visit the parochial (i.e. parish) church on August 2nd.
◗ Say one "Our Father" and the "Apostles Creed".
◗ Say one "Our Father" and one "Hail Mary" for the Holy Father’s  intentions (the intentions designated by the Holy Father each month).
◗ Make a sacramental confession within 20 days.
◗ For a plenary indulgence, be free from all attachment to sin, even  venial sin (or the indulgence is partial, not plenary).

Collect Prayer for St. Francis of Assisi

O God, by whose gift Saint Francis was conformed to Christ in poverty and humility, grant that, by walking in Francis' footsteps, we may follow your Son, and, through joyful charity, come to be united with you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saint Alphonsus Liguori | His Wisdom in 25 Quotes

St. Alphonsus Liguori

Saint Alphonsus Liguori, founder of the Redemptorists, brought the Gospel to the destitute. As a priest, he worked himself to the point of exhaustion caring for the poor. Witnessing to the Good News in both words and deeds wherever his journey took him was the hallmark of his calling. Below are twenty-five quotations from this beloved saint, bishop and Doctor of the Church:

Your God is ever beside you. Indeed, He is even within you.
The more a person loves God, the more reason he has to hope in Him. This hope produces in the Saints an unutterable peace, which they preserve even in adversity, because as they love God, and know how beautiful He is to those who love Him, they place all their confidence and find all their repose in Him alone.
If you pray, you are positive of saving your soul. If you do not pray, you are just as positive of losing your soul.
Acquire the habit of speaking to God as if you were alone with Him, familiarly and with confidence and love, as to the dearest and most loving of friends. Speak to Him often of your business, your plans, your troubles, your fears — of everything that concerns you. Converse with Him confidently and frankly; for God is not wont to speak to a soul that does not speak to Him.
The sovereigns of the earth do not always grant audience readily; on the contrary, the King of Heaven, hidden under the eucharistic veils, is ready to receive anyone…
Our Savior says, if you have not received the graces that you desire, do not complain to me, but blame yourself, because you have neglected to seek them from me.
It is well known, and is daily experienced by the clients of Mary, that her powerful name gives the particular strength necessary to overcome temptations against purity.
Realize that you may gain more in a quarter of an hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament than in all other practices of the day.
I Love Jesus Christ and that is why I am on fire with the desire to give Him souls, first of all my own, and then an incalculable number of others.
He who trusts himself is lost. He who trusts God can do all things.
If we would completely rejoice the heart of God, let us strive in all things to conform ourselves to His divine will. Let us not only strive to conform ourselves, but also to unite ourselves to whatever dispositions God makes of us. Conformity signifies that we join our wills to the will of God. Uniformity means more. Uniformity means that we make one will of God's will and our will. In this way we will only what God wills. God's will alone is our will.
Love tends to union with the object loved. Now Jesus Christ loves a soul that is in a state of grace with immense love; He ardently desires to unite Himself with it. That is what Holy Communion does.
The devil does not bring sinners to hell with their eyes open: he first blinds them with the malice of their own sins. Before we fall into sin, the enemy labours to blind us, that we may not see the evil we do and the ruin we bring upon ourselves by offending God. After we commit sin, he seeks to make us dumb, that, through shame, we may conceal our guilt in confession.
When we have to reply to anyone who has insulted us, we should be careful to do it always with gentleness. A soft answer extinguishes the fire of wrath.
Happy he that knows Thee, even if he knows nothing else. If we knew all the sciences and knew not how to love Jesus Christ, our knowledge shall profit us nothing to eternal life. But if we know how to love Jesus Christ, we shall know all things, and shall be happy for eternity.
St. Augustine and St. Thomas define mortal sin to be a turning away from God: that is, the turning of one's back upon God, leaving the Creator for the sake of the creature. What punishment would that subject deserve who, while his king was giving him a command, contemptuously turned his back upon him to go and transgress his orders? This is what the sinner does; and this is punished in hell with the pain of loss, that is, the loss of God, a punishment richly deserved by him who in this life turns his back upon his sovereign good.
True charity consists in doing good to those who do us evil, and in thus winning them over.
He who desires nothing but God is rich and happy.
If we should be saved and become saints, we ought always to stand at the gates of the Divine mercy to beg and pray for, as an alms, all that we need.
Let your constant practice be to offer yourself to God, that He may do with you what He pleases.
To be silent when we are impelled to utter words injurious to God or to our neighbour, is an act of virtue; but, to be silent in confessing our sins, is the ruin of the soul.
What does it cost us to say: "My God help me! Have mercy on me!" Is there anything easier than this? And this little will suffice to save us if we be diligent in doing it.
It is almost certain that excess in eating is the cause of almost all the diseases of the body, but its effects on the soul are even more disastrous.
The past is no longer yours; the future is not yet in your power. You have only the present wherein to do good.
Assuredly, Loving Souls, you should go to God with all humility and respect, humbling yourselves in His presence, especially when you remember your past ingratitude and sins.

Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor

St. Alphonsus Liguori
August 1st is the Memorial of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori. He was born in 1696 near Naples, Italy, the son of a captain in the Royal Navy and a devoted mother from a noble family. His parents provided him with an exceptional education in philosophy, literature, and the arts. He was 16 when he was awarded doctorates of civil and canon law. When he was 18, like many nobles, he joined the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mercy with whom he cared for the sick at the hospital for "incurables," washing afflicted bodies, feeding the helpless, changing bedclothes and devoting himself to works of mercy. Following his father's will he became a lawyer and before he was 20, he was regarded as one of the most gifted lawyers working in the kingdom of Naples.

Christ's claim on Alphonsus' heart was absolute. Alphonsus left the law to enter the priesthood, much to the disappointment of his father. He was ordained in 1726. His charity and apostolic spirit led him to found the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. The Redemptorists ministered throughout the countryside, market towns, and villages of Italy to announce the Kingdom of God. He became Bishop of Sant' Agata dei Goti, near Naples, and died at the age of ninety, in 1787. For his works on Moral Theology he was naned a Doctor of the Church. He is the patron saint for confessors, final perseverance, theologians and vocations.

Adapted Excerpts via the Redemptorists Order, Catholic Culture, the Breviary.

The Life of St. Alphonsus Liguori

Alphonsus Liguori, born in 1696, was the son of an ancient Neapolitan family. His father was an officer in the Royal Navy. At the age of sixteen, Alphonsus received his doctorate in both canon and civil law and for nearly ten years practiced at the bar. When he found that one of the legal cases he was defending was not based on justice but on political intrigue, he gave up the practice of law and dedicated his life to God.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1726, St. Alphonsus Liguori joined a group of secular priests dedicated to missionary activities. He involved himself in many kinds of pastoral activities, giving missions and organizing workers, and had a part in the founding of an order of contemplative nuns.

In 1732, he founded the Redemptorists, a congregation of priests and brothers, to work especially among the country people of Italy who often lacked the opportunity for missions, religious instruction, and spiritual retreats. Strangely, his first companions deserted him; but Alphonsus stood firm, and soon vocations multiplied and the congregation grew.

The Redemptorists were approved by Pope Benedict XIV in 1749, and Alphonsus was elected superior general. In 1762, he was appointed bishop of Sant' Agata dei God and as bishop he corrected abuses, restored churches, reformed seminaries, and promoted missions throughout his diocese. During the famine of 1763-64, his charity and generosity were boundless, and he also carried on a huge campaign of religious writing.

In 1768, he was stricken with a painful illness and resigned his bishopric. During the last years of his life, problems in his congregation caused him much sorrow and when he died on August 1, 1787, at Pagani, near Salerno, the Redemptorists were a divided society. He was beatified in 1816, canonized in 1839, and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1871.

Excerpted from The One Year Book of Saints, Rev. Clifford Stevens.

Collect Prayer

O God, who constantly raise up in your Church new examples of virtue, grant that we may follow so closely in the footsteps of the Bishop Saint Alphonsus in his zeal for souls as to attain the same rewards that are his in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 7, 2016, Year C

Assumption of the Virgin
Assumption of the Virgin, Francesco Botticini, 1475-1476.
Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

What awaits us in our future? Today’s scripture readings put that question to us. What does the future hold in store for us? What awaits us when we die? Is what is awaiting us when we die determined by what we did or didn’t do in this life? These are the big questions we face today and in all of the days of our lives.

Jesus talked with His disciples (and we are His disciples) about the future, telling them they were to face it not with fear but with hope and in a spirit of positive expectancy. He spoke to them in terms of making investments, investments in their future. “Sell what you have,” He told them, and buy into the sort of retirement plan I am offering you, a never-failing treasure with my Father and with me in heaven.  “Wherever your treasure lies,” Jesus told us, “there you heart will be.” Stated the other way around he’s telling us: “Wherever your heart is, there will your treasure be found.”

But how can we live in a world and with a future that is not yet? Only by living it in faith. St. Paul tells us “Faith is the confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see.” And it is counter-cultural to live that way. The secularists tell us not to have faith in anything, simply to accept what you can touch, taste, smell, measure ad control. Suspend your beliefs, the world tells us, and don’t accept anything else. Religion wars against science.

In the Culture Wars we now face the secularists have managed to present people of faith as foolish and even dangerous. Religion, they claim, engenders war, is divisive, and is harmful to human progress. People of belief and who are against abortion are, the secularists claim, attacking women. Those who favor abortion regard babies in the womb as merely a part of a woman’s body and totally under the control of women. Ironically, abortionists would have us overlook scientific facts. The fact is that a fetus has its own DNA coding, not the woman. It has its own blood type, not the woman’s. If protected and nurtured human life of a fetus will eventually grow to be eighty or ninety years old. Those are not statements of faith. Those are scientific facts, facts that abortionists would have us overlook.

But can anyone really live without any faith?  Can atheists and secularists really live that way? Well... no! People with no religion are in fact forced to live by faith. They cannot claim they have no need of faith. You cannot get married and not live in faith. You cannot buy a computer in a store and not have faith in what you’ve bought. You cannot step onto an airplane and not have faith, faith in the engineers who designed it, faith in the ground crews who perform maintenance on it, and faith in the pilot and co-pilot who fly under the direction of the ground controllers who in their responsibilities control the paths of the planes placed in their care. You can’t drive on our highways without having faith in the competence of the drivers of those vehicles you will either meet or pass. You can’t buy groceries without having faith in those who both produced the food and those who have marketed it for you.

Faith is not something that belongs only to religion, it belongs to everyday living. Each and every day we take risks and act on probabilities, hardly ever on certainties. We take risks in depending upon the decisions of others, never knowing with certainty what the outcomes will be. Even scientists operate on theories, even the Theory of Evolution. Rarely does science give us proofs, proofs that last anyway.

Our greatest leaders have presented us with leadership based on faith. It was faith that motivated George Washington and the founders of our nation. Our Declaration of Independence is a document based on faith. Abraham Lincoln led us through one of the darkest nights in our nation’s history basing his vision solely on faith. If you read writings of Abraham Lincoln, you will find yourself reading some of the most faith-filled thoughts you will ever encounter. It was Lincoln who said to the American people: “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty.”

What I am saying is that to live out life on this tiny little speck in the cosmos, this little blue dot in the Milky Way, is to live in faith in a wondrous adventure. To graduate from school having chosen a career and to enter into it with all your heart and all your soul is one of life’s greater acts of faith. To get married and have children is a profound act of faith. To enter each day that God gives us with hope and expectancy that we will do good and make the world a little bit better for those around us is a tremendous act of faith. And to die, going forth from this life without knowing exactly where we are going except into the hands of God, is our ultimate act of faith. Everywhere throughout life people live in the confident assurance that what they hope for will one day come to be. Every day we live with convictions about things that are not yet seen.

To be realistic, however, we must pay attention to the fact that a good deal of our recent history attacks our faith. We have been betrayed and betrayed often by people in our lives, all of which erodes our basic need to believe in others. Life is unfair and bad things do happen to good people. And yes, many people are unreliable. But, for all that is wrong in life, in our world and in others, we cannot afford to give up, stop believing, and lose faith. Jesus knew that back then and He knows that right how, which is why Christ presents Himself to us. He comes to us, after all, in faith, placing Himself in Holy Communion in our hands with the belief in His heart that we accept Him in love and with a firm purpose to live with Him as He would have us live.

Yes, this world belongs to God. And yes, God has given us the dignity and the responsibility of working with Him to bring the world to completion, to wholeness and to that unity in which He made it to exist, and us in it, in the first place. For God, you see, has made a tremendous act of faith in you. God believes in you enough to give you the freedom to choose His love, the freedom to choose to accomplish His work, the freedom to do good. For God, you see, made us to love Him and to live with His faith in us.

How comforting it is to know that others have faith in us. How tremendously comforting it is to know that God Himself trusts us, has high hopes for us, and believes in us. What a fantastic honor it is to realize that when we receive Holy Communion, God our Father has believed in us enough to put His only begotten Son into our hands. Faith is forever an adventure in living, an adventure in which God Himself lives and wants to share with us.

Novena to Saint John Vianney: Pray It For a Priest

St. John Vianney
In today's world, it's hard, and even dangerous in some situations, to be a follower of Jesus. In many ways, it's even harder to be a faithful priest. The demands on our priests' time and the hostilities they face while preaching the Good News are numerous.

The Novena to St. John Vianney begins Thursday, August 4th. Consider praying this novena on behalf of the priesthood or for a specific priest. St. John Vianney is known for his intercessory prayers for priests, miracles and other impossible situations.

Our priests need our prayers.

Think of the priests in your life; those who have brought you closer to Christ, those who are struggling in some way, or those you happen to know. Pray this novena for them, and for all ordained pastors of souls serving Christ's Bride, the Church.

St. John Baptist Mary Vianney is known for overcoming many obstacles to become a priest and serve God and his parishioners. He did so selflessly, displaying heroic virtue. He is the patron saint of parish priests. His work as a confessor is among his most remarkable accomplishments. In summer, he was known to spend up to 16 hours listening to confessions.

Almighty and merciful God, who made the priest St. John Vianney wonderful in his pastoral zeal, grant, we pray, that through his intercession and example we may in charity win brothers and sisters for Christ and attain with them eternal glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Click to get novena reminders by email and more about St. John Vianney.

Fr. Butler's Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 31, 2016, Year C

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

Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity!(Click here for today’s readings)

I think Ecclesiastes had a favorite song. It was the ancient Hebrew equivalent of “I’m forever blowing bubbles.” The refrain was: “Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity!”

Is life worth living? Of course it is. Then what makes it worth living? All we are really told in today’s readings is what doesn’t make life worth living. It is clearly not the accumulation of things. Greed is mentioned twice in today’s readings as the opposite of what we should seek in life.

Jesus suggests that there are other ways, good ways of being rich, “Rich in what matters to God.” We can intuit what that might mean. St. Paul, with another one of his lists, helps us to understand, again in a negative way, what Jesus does not mean. But earlier in the same text he writes, “Seek what is above.” And later he says we have “put on a new self.”

In the Old Testament, “rich” is often a synonym for “wicked, selfish, cruel.” It is clear there is nothing wrong with having possessions. True, some saints adopted a severe life style of extreme poverty; this was their response (the only one possible for them) to the universal call to holiness.

The Scriptures often reflect a society of haves and have-nots. We read, for example, in Isaiah 58:5-8: “Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: that a man bow his head like a reed, and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn....”

There is no one way to respond to the challenge of today’s readings. But there has to be a way. There is surely a way for each of us, though it may not be the way we might prefer.

Suppose we lived in a society where no one was ever in need. The challenge would still be there, wouldn’t it? To become rich in what matters to God, instead of blowing pretty bubbles.

July 30, 2016

Saint Peter Chrysologus on Serving Two Masters

St. Peter Chrysologus
He who wants to laugh with the devil cannot rejoice with Christ.
— St. Peter Chrysologus

July's Blog of Note: Speak the Truth in Love

Speak the Truth in Love

July's blog of note, Speak the Truth in Love, originates in  Alberta, Canada, and began publication in May, 2010. It features articles on a wide range of topics of interest to Catholics regarding the Church, and current issues within society that enervate the culture. Blog author, Randy, a convert from a reformed protestant tradition, who is "trying to understand Catholicism and help others understand it," offers original, thought-provoking commentary. This husband and father of six knows the joys and challenges of raising a Catholic family amid the increasingly hostile secular mentality. His most recent post: "The Stoning of Soraya M" discussing the film of the same name about an Iranian women who is stoned to death after being falsely accused of adultery; contains this insight that is worth pondering:
What happens when moral principles lose out to sentimental stories? Morality goes backwards a few thousand years. Really with the 10 commandments and a few other ancient moral codes we saw a move of humanity beyond moral feelings and advance towards the notion of moral principles. 
Speak the Truth in Love was a recipient of our 2016 New Evangelization Award for Excellence in Catholic Blogging. This award honors Catholic bloggers for their unique contributions in evangelizing a society that is increasingly hostile toward Judeo-Christian principles and the "culture of life" with content that is faithful to the Magisterium of the Church. This Catholic weblog is certainly deserving of such recognition. It is one of several notable Catholic blogs from our northern neighbor dedicated to advancing and explaining the Good News of Christ. Consider making it a regular part of your internet viewing.

July 29, 2016

July 30th: Optional Memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus

Saint Peter Chrysologus (whose name means "the man of golden speech" in Greek) was named a Doctor of the Church for his prolific work in homiletics. He is called the "Doctor of Homilies" for the concise, but theologically profound insights he made during his tenure as Ravenna’s bishop. Over the course of his ministry, he authored hundreds of homilies, of which, 176 survive. They eloquently testify to the Church's teachings about Mary's perpetual virginity, the penitential value of Lent, Christ's Eucharistic presence, and the primacy of St. Peter and the papacy.

He was born in the Italian town of Imola around 406 AD. He was ordained to the diaconate by Imola's bishop, Cornelius. From him Peter learned the importance of humility and self-denial. He aspired to live as a monastic, and did so for a time until the death of Archbishop John of Ravenna in 430. A successor was chosen and Cornelius was asked to obtain papal approval for the selection from Pope Sixtus III. Cornelius brought Peter, still a deacon, along with him on the visit to Rome.

The night before the meeting, Pope Sixtus III experienced a vision from God commanding him to name Peter bishop instead. Peter's episcopacy was eventful. He evangelized the pagan inhabitants of the see of Ravenna, rooting out abuses and carrying on a campaign of preaching and care for the poor. Monophysitism, the major hearesy of Chrysologus' time held that Christ did not possess a distinct human nature in union with his divine nature. Peter fought the spread of this error, promulgated by the monk Eutyches. Peter Chrysologus died in 450. One year later, the Universal Church formally condemned Monophysitism.

St. Peter Chrysologus' Homily on Prayer, Fasting and Mercy

There are three things, my brethren, by which faith stands firm, devotion remains constant, and virtue endures. They are prayer, fasting and mercy. Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains, mercy receives. Prayer, mercy and fasting: these three are one, and they give life to each other.

Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or not all together, you have nothing. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others you open God’s ear to yourself.

When you fast, see the fasting of others. If you want God to know that you are hungry, know that another is hungry. If you hope for mercy, show mercy. If you look for kindness, show kindness. If you want to receive, give. If you ask for yourself what you deny to others, your asking is a mockery.

Let this be the pattern for all men when they practice mercy: show mercy to others in the same way, with the same generosity, with the same promptness, as you want others to show mercy to you. Therefore, let prayer, mercy and fasting be one single plea to God on our behalf, one speech in our defense, a threefold united prayer in our favor.

Let us use fasting to make up for what we have lost by despising others. Let us offer our souls in sacrifice by means of fasting. There is nothing more pleasing that we can offer to God, as the psalmist said in prophecy: A sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; God does not despise a bruised and humbled heart.

Offer your soul to God, make him an oblation of your fasting, so that your soul may be a pure offering, a holy sacrifice, a living victim, remaining your own and at the same time made over to God. Whoever fails to give this to God will not be excused, for if you are to give him yourself you are never without the means of giving.

To make these acceptable, mercy must be added. Fasting bears no fruit unless it is watered by mercy. Fasting dries up when mercy dries up. Mercy is to fasting as rain is to earth. However much you may cultivate your heart, clear the soil of your nature, root out vices, sow virtues, if you do not release the springs of mercy, your fasting will bear no fruit.

When you fast, if your mercy is thin your harvest will be thin; when you fast, what you pour out in mercy overflows into your barn. Therefore, do not lose by saving, but gather in by scattering. Give to the poor, and you give to yourself. You will not be allowed to keep what you have refused to give to others.

This Lenten reading on prayer, fasting, and mercy by St. Peter Chrysologus is used by the Roman Catholic Church for the Office of Readings for Tuesday of the 3rd week of Lent and is excerpted from his Sermo. Via Crossroads Initiative.

Saint Martha on the Divinity of Christ

St. Martha

Our Lord said to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" Martha said to him:
Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.
— St. Martha (John 11:25-27)

July 28, 2016

The Golden Legend of a Miracle of Saint Martha

St. Martha taming the tarasque

Tradition holds that Martha’s brother Lazarus fled Jerusalem amid Christian persecution following the martyrdom of St. Stephen. His sisters, Mary and Martha, left Judea to assist him in proclaiming the Gospel in various lands. The three went to Cyprus, where Lazarus became the first Bishop of Kition (modern day Larnaca, a port city on the south coast of Cyprus). All three died in Cyprus.

Medieval popular piety presents a fuller picture of the saint. The story of Martha and the dragon comes from the Golden Legend of Blessed Jacobus de Voragine. According to this legend, Martha and her sister, Mary Magdalene, traveled to Marseilles, France, after the Ascension of Christ. In the town of Tarascon, Martha encountered a dragon referred to as the "Tarasque" in French (Tarascurus in Latin). The Golden Legend portrays it as a beast from Galicia; a great dragon, half beast and half fish, greater than an ox, longer than an horse, possessing teeth sharp as a sword. Holding a cross, Martha anointed the dragon with holy water. Using her sash, she led it through the village. From the Golden Legend:
There was that time upon the river of Rhone, in a certain wood between Arles and Avignon, a great dragon, half beast and half fish, greater than an ox, longer than an horse, having teeth sharp as a sword, and horned on either side, head like a lion, tail like a serpent, and defended him with two wings on either side, and could not be beaten with cast of stones ne with other armour, and was as strong as twelve lions or bears; which dragon lay hiding and lurking in the river, and perished them that passed by and drowned ships. ...
And when he is pursued he casts out of his belly behind, his ordure, the space of an acre of land on them that follow him, and it is bright as glass, and what it toucheth it burneth as fire. To whom Martha, at the prayer of the people, came into the wood, and found him eating a man. And she cast on him holy water, and showed to him the cross, which anon was overcome, and standing still as a sheep, she bound him with her own girdle, and then was slain with spears and glaives of the people. 
The dragon St. Martha tames could be the product of medieval legend, or, it could be the embodiment of the evils and moral depravity of the community. Whatever the case, Martha is portrayed as "eloquent and virtuous of speech, courteous and gracious to the sight of the people." Moreover, it is notable that she does not kill the dragon, (the townspeople do) but uses holy water to subdue it.

St. Martha's relics rest in the Collegiate Church in Tarascon They were found in the church during a reconstruction in the twelfth century. Almighty ever-living God, whose Son was pleased to be welcomed in Saint Martha's house as a guest, grant, we pray, that through her intercession, serving Christ faithfully in our brothers and sisters, we may merit to be received by you in the halls of heaven.

Memorial of Saint Martha of Bethany, Virgin

St. Martha of Bethany
July 29th the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Martha of Bethany. Scripture records the special relationship Jesus had with Martha, her sister, Mary and her brother, Lazarus. Martha lived with her siblings in Bethany, a small village two miles outside of Jerusalem in the province of Judea. Our Lord visited them often. We read of three such visits in Luke 10:38-42, John 11:1-53, and John 12:1-9. The most famous of these is from the Gospel of Luke:

"As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.' The Lord said to her in reply, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.'"

Martha subscribed to the custom, paramount in the Middle East, of showing hospitality toward visitors. She busily served Jesus and his disciples without assistance from her sister. Martha implored Jesus to persuade Mary to help her. Jesus explained that certain individuals are called by God to contemplate and listen to Him. From Martha one lesson learned is that there is both active and contemplative work in service to the Church. Martha is the second person in the New Testament (after Peter) to attest that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God. She is the patron saint of servants and cooks.

The Life of St. Martha

Martha was born of noble and wealthy parents, but she is still more illustrious for the hospitality she gave to Christ our Lord. After His Ascension into heaven, she was seized by the Jews, together with her brother and sister, Marcella her handmaid, and Maximin, one of the seventy two disciples of our Lord, who had baptized the whole family, and many other Christians. They were put on board a ship without sails or oars, and left helpless on the open sea, exposed to certain shipwreck. But God guided the ship, and they all arrived safely at Marseilles.

This miracle, together with their preaching, brought the people of Marseilles, of Aix, and of the neighborhood to believe in Christ. Lazarus was made Bishop of Marseilles and Maximin of Aix. Magdalen, who was accustomed to devote herself to prayer and to sit at our Lord's feet, in order to enjoy the better part which she had chosen, that is, contemplation of the joys of heaven, retired into a deserted cave on a very high mountain. There she lived for thirty years, separated from all human intercourse; and every day she was carried to heaven by the angels to hear their songs of praise.

But Martha, after having won the love and admiration of the people of Marseilles by the sanctity of her life and her wonderful charity, withdrew in the company of several virtuous women to a spot remote from men, where she lived for a long time, greatly renowned for her piety and prudence. She foretold her death long before it occurred; and at length, famous for miracles, she passed to our Lord on the fourth of the Kalends of August. Her body which lies at Tarascon is held in great veneration.

Excerpted from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.

Collect Prayer

Almighty ever-living God, whose Son was pleased to be welcomed in Saint Martha's house as a guest, grant, we pray, that through her intercession, serving Christ faithfully in our brothers and sisters, we may merit to be received by you in the halls of heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer to St. Martha

Saint Martha, pray for us that we might serve Jesus better. Help us to overcome our distractions and worries to listen to his words and be present to him this day. Amen.

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for August 2016

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

General IntentionSports

That sports may be an opportunity for friendly encounters between peoples and may contribute to peace in the world.

Evangelization: Living the Gospel

That Christians may live the Gospel, giving witness to faith, honesty, and love of neighbor.

July 27, 2016

St. Thomas Assures Us of Christ’s Resurrection Beyond Doubt

St. Thomas placing his hand in Christ's side
Saint Thomas, the Apostle who at first did not believe, has become for the Church one of the first and most compelling witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ. His initial skepticism mirrors that of many. May his profession of faith upon touching Our Savior's wounds, "My Lord and my God!", redound through the ages to convince and confirm others that Christ's Incarnation, ministry, and victory over sin and death are empirically and existentially real. Jesus' reply to Thomas, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me?" Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed," is less a condemnation of Thomas and more a confirmation of the demands of faith.

Among the Apostles, Thomas does not stand out. His knowledge of Jewish scripture and well-formed conscience enabled him to recognize Christ as the Messiah foretold by the Prophets and to follow him as soon as he was called. When Christ traveled the road to Jerusalem to offer himself as a sacrifice for many, Thomas said to the other disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him" (John 11:16). Of Thomas, Pope St. Gregory the Great wrote this reflection:

"Thomas' unbelief has benefited our faith more than the belief of the other disciples; it is because he attained faith through physical touch that we are confirmed in the faith beyond all doubt. Indeed, the Lord permitted the apostle to doubt after the resurrection; but He did not abandon him in doubt. By his doubt and by his touching the sacred wounds the apostle became a witness to the truth of the resurrection. Thomas touched and cried out: My Lord and my God! And Jesus said to him: Because you have seen Me, Thomas, you have believed.

Now if Thomas saw and touched the Savior, why did Jesus say: Because you have seen Me, Thomas, you have believed? Because he saw something other than what he believed. For no mortal man can see divinity. Thomas saw the Man Christ and acknowledged His divinity with the words: My Lord and my God. Faith therefore followed upon seeing."

On the day of Pentecost, Thomas was with the other Apostles when the Holy Spirit descended in tongues of fire. Thomas would bring the Good News to the Medes, Parthians (Iran) and to India. According to tradition, he was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the Church in the sub-continent, after converting numerous tribes to Christianity. Grant, almighty God, that we may follow the example of the blessed Apostle Thomas, so that we may always be sustained by his intercession and, believing, may have life in the name of Jesus Christ your Son, whom Thomas acknowledged as the Lord.

Pope: World is at War, But it's Not a War of Religions

Pope Francis' coat of arms
Speaking to reporters aboard a plane in route to Krakow, Poland for World Youth Day, Pope Francis said, "The word that is being repeated often is insecurity, but the real word is war," the Holy Father continued, "Let's recognize it. The world is in a state of war in bits and pieces," explaining that the attacks could be seen as another world war.

In his remarks, Francis clarified that he was not referring to a war of religion, "Now there is this one war. It is perhaps not organic but it is organized and it is war," he said. "We should not be afraid to speak this truth. The world is at war because it has lost peace."

Pope Francis decried the martyrdom of Fr. Jacques Hamel, the French priest murdered by Islamist militants on Tuesday, calling him, "a saintly priest". He added that Fr. Hamel was one of many innocent victims. "This holy priest who died precisely in the moment in which he offered prayers for the entire Church is one, but there are many Christians, many innocent people, many children," who suffer the same type of violence and hatred.

The pontiff’s statements echo his sentiments in the wake of the Paris attack last November when he asserted such violence constituted a third world war, saying, "There are no justifications for these things. There is no religious or human rational for this. This is not human."

July 26, 2016

Pray for Fr. Jacques Hamel, the French Priest Martyred at the Hands of ISIS

Fr. Jacques Hamel

This morning in Normandy, France, Father Jacques Hamel was killed while saying Mass. Interrupting the liturgy, two ISIS terrorists took Fr. Hamel, an 84-year-old priest, two nuns, and two parishioners hostage inside a Catholic church. Police arrived quickly to the scene and a hostage situation began. During the standoff Fr. Hamel's throat was slit by the terrorists. One of the other hostages, a nun, is in serious condition; the other three were left unharmed.

Fr. Jacques Hamel, a revered and devoted priest, is a martyr for the faith. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him! May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Prayer for the Persecuted Church

O great cloud of witnesses. O host of Angels and Saints worshiping God for all eternity! O holy ones in heaven above, Pray for us.

You who were once part of the Church on earth, you who were faithful servants of the Church Militant, you who suffered for the love of God, Pray for us.

In all ages, the Church is persecuted and hated. We pray, O Lord, through your holy Saints, that we may be blessed with the freedom to worship and adore you at all times. We pray that you may bless your Church throughout the world and me, personally, with your grace to persevere with love in the face of persecution just as You did on the Cross. Amen. Sts. Perpetua and Felicity pray for us.

July 25, 2016

The Miraculous Discovery of Saint Anne's Relics

St. Anne with Mary
While touring his kingdom at the close of the 8th century, Charlemagne found himself in the town of Apt in the south of France. He was there for the dedication of the church on Easter Sunday. Charlemagne had his notary record the events of that day in a letter which still exists, addressed to Pope Saint Leo III. The church had been built on the site of an ancient chapel

Besides Charlemagne and his party there was a huge crowd of nobleman, clergy and people from surrounding villages. This included a 14-year-old boy, the son of a local nobleman, who had been deaf, blind and mute since birth.  In the middle of the ceremony, the young boy suddenly walked onto the alter and began banging over and over again on an alter step. This commotion caused great embarrassment, especially on so solemn an occasion. Despite being led away and admonished by onlookers, he did this twice more during the Mass.

Charlemagne pondered the young boy’s actions. After Mass, he commanded that the step the boy had been banging on be lifted up to see what might lie beneath. Work men lifted up the step as well as the huge stones underneath it. To everyone's amazement, as they started moving the huge stones they uncovered a door. When they open it up, they discovered an aging stairway descending down to the crypt where centuries before Masses had been said during a time of great persecution.

The boy led Charlemagne down to the underground crypt. There he began to bang on a wall. When the wall was opened up, it revealed a long dark passageway. The young boy led Charlemagne and the onlookers down the pathway until they came to another crypt from which escaped rays of light. The light came from a burning vigil lamp. All who witnessed this were astonished. Suddenly, the light was extinguished. Instantly, the boy miraculously obtained the use of his senses. He cried out: "In this crypt rests the body of Saint Anne, Mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary." Moments later a reliquary case was found inscribed with the words: "This is the body of Blessed Anne, Mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary." When the case was opened, it emitted a sweet perfume. Emperor Charlemagne led all present in venerating the sacred relic.

St. Teresa of Avila on St. Anne, the Mother of Mary

St. Teresa of Avila
We know and are convinced that our good mother St. Anne helps in all needs, dangers, and tribulations, for our Lord wishes to show us that He will do in Heaven what she asks of Him for us.
 — St. Teresa of Avila

Mary herself once said that those who honor her mother "will obtain great aid in every need, especially at the hour of death."

July 26th: The Memorial of Sts. Joachim and Anne

Sts. Joachim and Anne with the Blessed Virgin Mary

Saints Joachim and Anne where the parents of the most holy Virgin Mary. Sacred Scripture does not mentioned them. Much of what we know of them comes from pious tradition. Among holy parents Joachim and Anne are unique. By God's divine grace their daughter was born the Immaculately Conception. From them Mary received her training to be the Mother of God. Devotion to Ann and Joachim is an extension of the honor accorded our Blessed Mother. They serve as the consummate role models for parents. As the grandparents of Jesus, they have a direct bloodline to Christ Incarnate. In their devotion to God and Our Lady, they should be revered and emulated. By virtue of their intimacy with the Holy Family, Sts. Joaquin and Anne are the most powerful of intercessors. (See homily below.)

The Lives of Sts. Joachim and Anne

Who does not know about the great shrine of Ste. Anne de Beaupre in Canada, where miracles abound, where cured cripples leave their crutches, and where people come from thousands of miles to pray to the grandmother of Jesus? At one time, July 26 was the feast of St. Anne only, but with the new calendar the two feasts of the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary have been joined and are celebrated today. Our information about Mary's parents comes from an apocryphal Christian writing, the Protoevangelium Jacobi (or Gospel of James), written about the year 170. According to this story, Joachim was a prominent and respected man who had no children, and he and his wife, Anne, looked upon this as a punishment from God. In answer to their prayers, Mary was born and was dedicated to God at a very early age.

From this early Christian writing have come several of the feast days of Mary, particularly the Immaculate Conception, the Nativity of Mary, and her Assumption into Heaven. Very early also came feast days in honor of SS. Joachim and Anne, and in the Middle Ages numerous churches, chapels, and confraternities were dedicated to St. Anne. The couple early became models of Christian marriage, and their meeting at the Golden Gate in Jerusalem has been a favorite subject of Christian artists.

Anne is often shown in paintings with Jesus and Mary and is considered a subject that attracts attention, since Anne is the grandmother of Jesus. Her two great shrines — that of Ste. Anne d'Auray in Britanny, France, and that of Ste. Anne de Beaupre near Quebec in Canada — are very popular. We know little else about the lives of Mary's parents, but considering the person of Mary, they must have been two very remarkable people to have been given such a daughter and to have played so important a part in the work of the Redemption.

There is a church of St. Anne in Jerusalem and it is believed to be built on the site of the home of SS. Joachim and Anne, when they lived in Jerusalem.

Excerpted from The One Year Book of Saints, Rev. Clifford Stevens.

Collect Prayer

O Lord, God of our Fathers, who bestowed on Saints Joachim and Anne this grace, that of them should be born the Mother of your incarnate Son, grant, through the prayers of both, that we may attain the salvation you have promised to your people. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Homily: Sts. Joachim and Anne

July 24, 2016

Saint Anne Novena | 2016 | Day 9

St. Anne and the Theotokos

July 25, 2016

Day 9 - St. Anne Novena

Most holy mother of the Virgin Mary, glorious Saint Anne, I, a miserable sinner, confiding in your kindness, choose you today as my special advocate. I offer all my interests to your care and maternal solicitude. O my very good mother and advocate, deign to accept me and to adopt me as your child.

O glorious Saint Anne, I beg you, by the passion of my most loving Jesus, the Son of Mary, your most holy daughter, to assist me in all the necessities both of my body and my soul. Venerable Mother, I beg you to obtain for me the favor I seek in this novena…

(State your intention here.)

…and the grace of leading a life perfectly conformable in all things to the Divine Will. I place my soul in your hands and in those of your kind daughter. I ask for your favor in order that, appearing under your patronage before the Supreme Judge, He may find me worthy of enjoying His Divine Presence in your holy companionship in Heaven. Amen.

Pray for us, Saint Anne, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

O Lord, God of our Fathers, who bestowed on Saints Joachim and Anne this grace, that of them should be born the Mother of your incarnate Son, grant, through the prayers of both, that we may attain the salvation you have promised to your people. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

For more on this novena and daily email reminders go to PrayMoreNovenas.com.

All of Pope Paul VI’s Warnings About Artificial Birth Control in Humanae vitae Have Come True. And a Reason for Hope

Pope Paul VI

July 25th marks the 48 year anniversary of the publication of Pope Paul VI's landmark encyclical Humanae vitae (Of Human Life: On the Regulation of Birth). It reaffirmed the Church's teaching on the immorality of artificial birth control, the meaning/purpose of conjugal love between husband and wife and the sanctity of marriage. The encyclical was greeted with criticism in many circles, but was applauded by others, including St. Padre Pio, who days before his death conveyed his support in a letter to Paul VI.

Pope Paul VI’s seventh and last encyclical, in addition to affirming the Church’s long held prohibition against artificial contraception, articulates a vision of marriage and responsible parenthood that underscores the immense dignity and divine calling of husband and wife. Paul VI spoke of marriage as "the wise institution of the Creator to realize in mankind His design of love" (HV 8).

Marriage properly understood, is the conjugal union of a man and woman for life, of exclusive and mutual fidelity, for the procreation and education of children. The dual purpose of sexual union is unitive: the bonding of spouses in greater love and intimacy, and, procreative: to collaborate freely and responsibly with God in the transmission of human life so as to be open to the blessing of children.

In addition to discussing the joys and challenges of matrimony, Pope Paul IV enumerates four consequences should the Church's teaching on contraception be dismissed. They are: infidelity and moral decay; a loss of respect for women by men; the abuse of power and; unlimited dominion, the coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments. (The text from Humanae vitae cited below is from paragraph 17 of the encyclical.)

1. Infidelity and Moral Decay

Five decades after Humanae vitae's release, the number of divorces, abortions, our-of-wedlock pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases have skyrocketed. Paul VI's observation that: "Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards," has only grown more prescient with the passage of time.

2. Loss of Respect for Women by Men

Even when women were second class citizens, their role as mothers, wives and nurturers was widely valued. Every effort was made to honor and protect their virtue. With the advent of artificial birth control, men increasingly view pregnancy as their female partner’s responsibility and refuse to marry even after fathering children. Paul VI's words have proved to be prophetic. "Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection."

3. The Abuse of Power

Paul VI contends that the widespread acceptance of contraception would be a "dangerous weapon... in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies." Many parts of the world face underpopulation; whereby the birth rate is far less than the number of deaths annually. Such societies face "demographic suicide" amid an "anti-child" mentality that discourages large families and putting children ahead of career. Paul VI predicted public authorities embracing such a mindset:

"Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law... Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? ...

It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife."

4. Unlimited Dominion

Test-tube-babies, gender reassignment surgery, frozen embryos, and the passage of euthanasia laws all reflect our attempts to conform nature to our desires instead of cooperating with it. Paul VI's insight presages these developments: "Consequently, unless we are willing that the responsibility of procreating life should be left to the arbitrary decision of men, we must accept that there are certain limits, beyond which it is wrong to go, to the power of man over his own body and its natural functions—limits, let it be said, which no one, whether as a private individual or as a public authority, can lawfully exceed."

A Reason for Hope

Paul VI makes a positive observation about the good that comes from following Church teaching on contraception. While acknowledging that spouses may face difficulties acquiring the self-discipline needed to practice periodic abstinence, he nonetheless affirms such self-discipline is possible, with the help of sacramental graces. In paragraph 21, he states:

"For if with the aid of reason and of free will they are to control their natural drives, there can be no doubt at all of the need for self-denial. Only then will the expression of love, essential to married life, conform to right order. This is especially clear in the practice of periodic continence. Self-discipline of this kind is a shining witness to the chastity of husband and wife and, far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, transforms it by giving it a more truly human character. And if this self-discipline does demand that they persevere in their purpose and efforts, it has at the same time the salutary effect of enabling husband and wife to develop to their personalities and to be enriched with spiritual blessings. For it brings to family life abundant fruits of tranquility and peace."

Paul VI's positive vision of self-discipline between spouses is further explicated by Saint John Paul II in his Theology of the Body. Moreover, the proliferation of information and interest about natural family planning and its increasing use among Christians of every denomination is proof that it is a viable alternative to artificial contraception. Paul VI's vision of married love is a powerful response to the excesses and moral depravity of the "Sexual Revolution."

Feast of Saint James the Greater, Apostle

St. James the Greater
July 25th is the Feast of Saint James, son of Zebedee, also known as James the Greater, an Apostle of Jesus, and the first Apostle to be martyred. He was a son of Zebedee and Salome, the brother of St. John the Apostle. It was Jesus who called St. James and his brother St. John, "sons of thunder". James (with Peter and John) had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of Jairus’ daughter and Our Lord’s agony in the garden of Gethsemane. James was a fisherman by trade when Jesus called him to be a disciple. He preached the Gospel in Iberia (the present day country of Georgia), Spain and the Holy Land. Tradition holds that Mary appeared to St. James before her Assumption.

He was beheaded in Jerusalem in 44 AD at the order of Herod Agrippa. The Roman officer who guarded James watched amazed as James defended his faith at his trial. Later, the officer walked beside James to the place of execution. Overcome by conviction, he declared his new faith to the judge and knelt beside James to accept beheading as a Christian. St. James is mentioned in the Roman Canon of the Mass. He is the patron saint of Spain. James the Greater is not to be confused with James the Lesser or with the author of the Letter of James.

The Life of St. James

In Spain, he is called El Senor Santiago, the patron saint of horsemen and soldiers, and his great shrine at Santiago de Compostela in that country has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries. He is one of those that Jesus called Boanerges, "son of thunder," the brother of John the Evangelist and the son of Zebedee the fisherman from Galilee.

St. James the Greater and his brother John were apparently partners with those other two brothers, Peter and Andrew, and lived in Bethsaida, on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. How and where James first met Jesus, we do not know; but there is an old legend that makes Salome, his mother, a sister of Mary, and if this were the case, he would have known Jesus from childhood.

Along with Peter and his brother John, James was part of the inner circle of Jesus, who witnessed the Transfiguration, were witnesses to certain of His miracles, like the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and accompanied Him to the Garden of Gethsemani. Like his brother, he was active in the work of evangelization after the death of Jesus, and one legend, very unlikely, even has him going to Spain after Jesus' resurrection.

His prominence and his presence in Jerusalem must have been well known, for scarcely a dozen years after the Resurrection, he became involved in the political maneuverings of the day and was arrested and executed by King Herod Agrippa. This was followed by the arrest of Peter also, so his death must have been part of a purge of Christian leaders by Agrippa, who saw the new Christian movement as a threat to Judaism.

Jesus had foretold this kind of fate when He prophesied that James and his brother John would "drink of the same chalice" of suffering as Himself. The two brothers had asked to be seated at the right of Jesus and at His left in His kingdom, and Jesus told them that they would be with Him in a far different way than they expected.

James's death is the only biblical record we have of the death of one of the Apostles, and he was the first of that chosen band to give his life for his Master.

Excerpted from The One Year Book of Saints, Rev. Clifford Stevens

Collect Prayer

Almighty ever-living God, who consecrated the first fruits of your Apostles by the blood of Saint James, grant, we pray, that your Church may be strengthened by his confession of faith and constantly sustained by his protection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 31, 2016, Year C

Orthodox icon - The parable of the rich fool

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

"Vain" is one of those words that has multiple meanings and can be used in several different ways. We use it when talking about someone who is arrogant and self-centered. One thinks of Hollywood movies stars or perhaps of some TV talk show hosts who are hollow and conceited.. Home furnishings called “vanity tables” are built for the purpose of holding mirrors and various beauty aids. “Vain” can be used when describing our efforts that end up being worthless. Folks that are constantly letting you know about their accomplishments are vain and conceited. When we strive for something that is hollow or worthless we eventually realize that all of our efforts were spent in vain.

In today’s first reading taken from the Book of Wisdom the word vanity is applied to everything that is not directed toward God, everything that is directed toward the things of this world.

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity! Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill, and yet to another who has not labored over it, he must leave property. This also is vanity and a great misfortune. For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun? All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation; even at night his mind is not at rest. This also is vanity.

That’s practical advice. How many sleepless nights have we spent tossing and turning with worries and concerns that either have not come to pass or which we eventually realize were ultimately worthless?

St. Paul likewise gives us wise advice found in today’s second reading when he tells us we should rid ourselves of immorality, impurity, passion, lustful desires and all of the fool’s gold offered us by the worldly. Why? Because in the long run all such things are worthless and empty and all of our energies devoted to those things will be vain. Is lusting the path to happiness? What will it all mean and what value will it have when we meet Christ face to face?

We live in a very competitive world, a world that tells us we are really somebody when we are popular, when we have clothes or money, or look more beautiful than others, a world that judges our value on what we have or how we appear. Our professions, the advertising industry¸ the world of fashion, and even our academic institutions are all built on measures of value that have nothing to do with how God sees us and values us. Who does not want to be Number One? Who among us in our competitive world does not want to come out on top? Who among us does not want to be the most popular? But the question you need to face and I need to face is: Who is measuring our value?

In the end, like the man Jesus was talking about in today’s Gospel account, the man who was so concerned about the things of this world, we may hear God saying to us: ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Jesus gives us fair warning in telling us: Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”

On the day we die, what can we give back to God that came to us from this life, a life that He gave to you and to me? Will it be our real estate holdings? A big bank account? Our popularity? Fine clothes? A fancy car? Death, the great leveler, will render what this world values to be valueless. Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!

God wants us to die rich; He wants us to give Him a life that has value, a life that was lived well, rich in meaning and not lived in vain. What He wants and what we can give Him, regardless of our economic position or our social status, is a spirit, a soul that is richly adorned with attitudes and personality characteristics that are similar to those of Jesus Christ. The riches of this world are extrinsic to our souls rather than intrinsic. We should be pursing what is intrinsic and will be part of us forever rather than what is extrinsic and will disappear when we die.

Some Christians advocate a certain false sort of piety, one based on the notion that we are nothing and ought to consider ourselves to be nothing. It’s a sort of so-called humility that falsifies the riches that God wants us to have. We must be rich in the eyes of God. It’s true that by ourselves we can do nothing but it is also true that with God there is nothing we cannot do. After all, God wants us to grow, to mature, to develop characteristics that are rich in the gifts that God has given to us. God does not create junk and He does not want us to consider ourselves to be junk. We do not honor God our Father in heaven by considering ourselves to be worthless.

Worldly people are afraid to die. Their feelings of self-worth are centered on things, not on virtues. The worldly would have us think the only place to have happiness is here in this world. They adorn themselves with the cosmetics of this world and attempt to cover death with cosmetics. The world values us by what we have of this world’s trinkets rather than by what we can give to God when we die.

We stew too much, stew over what we don’t have. We stew over our losses, about preserving what we’ve got. But the truth is that each day has its own gains, its own gifts along with some losses. We need to value what really matters, what is of lasting value, not what is passing. We need to value the love we have given, the love of God that can be present in the love we have given to others.

Each of our days is filled with the presence of the Son of God. The risen Christ is present in the each days rising sun. Every sun rising carries within it the Resurrection of Jesus. Likewise each tomorrow brings with it a fresh start, a new beginning, and the opportunity to live in the new life given us in the death and resurrection of Jesus. True, there will be gains and losses, just as there were in the life of Jesus. The crucial thing is for you and me to find Him in our today's and tomorrows so that we can receive and share His presence with those around us. With that vision we can wake up from the night of death and rise in the presence of God where we will find that our losses in this world and our gains in the life God has given us will not have been in vain.

In the music of the Psalm response between today’s first and second reading we heard: Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days. And may the gracious care of the Lord our God be ours; prosper the work of our hands for us! Prosper the work of our hands!

Without God we can do nothing of lasting value. With God everything we do will have great value. May God prosper the work of your hands so that nothing you do will have been done in vain.

July 23, 2016

Saint Anne Novena | 2016 | Day 8

St. Anne and the Theotokos

July 24, 2016

Day 8 - St. Anne Novena

Remember, O Saint Anne, you whose name signifies grace and mercy, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, and sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto you, good, and kind mother; I take refuge at your feet, burdened with the weight of my sins. O holy mother of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, despise not my petition…

(State your intention here.)

But hear me and grant my prayer. Amen.

Pray for us, Saint Anne, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

O Lord, God of our Fathers, who bestowed on Saints Joachim and Anne this grace, that of them should be born the Mother of your incarnate Son, grant, through the prayers of both, that we may attain the salvation you have promised to your people. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

For more on this novena and daily email reminders go to PrayMoreNovenas.com.

Fr. Butler's Homily for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 24, 2016, Year C

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

Christ teaching the disciples to pray (Click here for today’s readings)

About 30 years ago I worked at a seminary. We had a librarian named Sr. Frances. Whenever she would remind me of something I had promised to do, I would answer, “In due time.” To which she always replied with a paraphrase of Luke 16:22: “In due time the beggar died.”

Most of us know the type. They ask for something. They remind us the next day. And the next, and the next... Until we do it, convenient or not, just to make it stop!

Today’s story of Abraham has a brief prologue that is not included in the lectionary.  “With Abraham walking with them to see them on their way, the men set out from there and looked down toward Sodom. The LORD considered: Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, now that he is to become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth are to find blessing in him? So the LORD said”—and here begins our text, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great,” etc.

God actually shows no impatience with Abraham. Not only doesn’t he “make it stop”, but as we have just see he sets the stage himself. He wants Abraham to intercede. We mustn’t think this discussion lasted only a few minutes. It not doubt followed a leisurely ancient Middle Eastern pace.

Note that Abraham asks nothing for himself, not even for his nephew Lot’s family.

Hearing the gospel, we might wonder: Didn’t the disciples know how to pray? They had the example of Abraham. They probably knew all the Psalms by heart. In fact, every phrase in the Lord’s prayer (except the promise to forgive as we are forgiven) has a correspondence in the Psalms. In Psalm 103, for example, we read: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.” This is just like the fathers Jesus speaks of in the gospel, who know how to give good gifts to their children. Note that it is not a matter of just giving them what they want. No matter how much the child might want to play with a scorpion, no parent could grant that request.

We need to ask for the right things, for “good gifts.” In pleading for the remaining ten just people of Sodom, Abraham asked for a good gift. If the conditions had been right, God was ready to give it to him.

We would expect Jesus to say that the Father will give good things to those who know how to give good things to their children. That is in fact what we find in Matthew 7:11. But today’s gospel says that the Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. This is similar to Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the Kingdom of God.” There is a good gift that includes all other good gifts. That is the Holy Spirit. Or we might say the Holy Spirit is the criterion. Anything we ask for that the Holy Spirit dwelling in us can ask for is a good gift.

To sum up, in this long discourse on prayer Jesus reminds us who it is we are addressing (the Father), who we are (needy children), how to pray (persistently, insistently), and what to ask for (good gifts, most especially the Holy Spirit). It’s a lot more than just saying certain words.

July 22, 2016

Saint Anne Novena | 20016 | Day 7

St. Anne and the Theotokos

July 23, 2016

Day 7 - St. Anne Novena

O Good Saint Anne, so justly called the mother of the infirm, the cure for those who suffer from disease, look kindly upon the sick for whom I pray.

Alleviate their sufferings; cause them to sanctify their sufferings by patience and complete submission to the Divine Will; finally deign to obtain health for them and with it the firm resolution to honor Jesus, Mary, and yourself by the faithful performance of duties.

But, merciful Saint Anne, I ask you above all for the salvation of my soul, rather than bodily health, for I am convinced that this fleeting life is given us solely to assure us a better one. I cannot obtain that better life without the help of God\’s graces. I earnestly beg them of you for the sick and for myself, especially the petition for which I am making in this novena…

(State your intention here.)

Through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, through the intercession of His Immaculate Mother, and through your efficacious and powerful mediation, I pray. Amen.

Pray for us, Saint Anne, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

O Lord, God of our Fathers, who bestowed on Saints Joachim and Anne this grace, that of them should be born the Mother of your incarnate Son, grant, through the prayers of both, that we may attain the salvation you have promised to your people. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

For more on this novena and daily email reminders go to PrayMoreNovenas.com.

Christ's Revelation to Saint Bridget in Which the Devil is Ingeniously Described

The Devil

Saint Bridget is best known for the Revelations, the divinely inspired messages she received from God the Father, Jesus, the Virgin Mary and numerous saints over a period of 30 years. Although the Revelations consist of several hundred pages and discuss a wide variety of subjects, throughout the work are messages which are of utmost importance for today. In one revelation, Christ told Saint Bridget that she was to be His spiritual bride. He refers to her as such below in describing the malevolent deceit of the Devil.

"The Bridegroom of the kingdom of Heaven, Jesus, spoke to his bride in a parable presenting the example of a frog and said: “Once there was a sorcerer who had the most shining gold. A simple and mild man came to him and wanted to buy this gold from him. The sorcerer said to the simple man: ‘You will not receive this gold, unless you give me better gold and in larger quantity.’ The man said: ‘I have such a great desire for your gold that I will give you what you want rather than losing it.’ He then gave the sorcerer better gold and in larger quantity and received the shining gold from him and put it in a casket, thinking of making himself a ring from it for his finger.

After a short time, the sorcerer approached that simple man and said: ‘The gold you bought from me and laid in your casket is not gold, as you thought, but the most ugly frog. It has been fostered in my chest and fed with my food. And in order for you to test and know that this is true, you may open the casket and you will see how the frog will jump to my chest where it was fostered.’ When the man wanted to open it and find out if it was true, the frog appeared in the casket. The cover of the casket was hanging on four hinges that were about to break and fall off soon. Immediately when the cover of the casket was opened, the frog saw the sorcerer and jumped into his chest.

When the servants and friends of the simple man saw this, they said to him: ‘Lord, this most fine gold is in the frog, and if you want, you can easily get the gold.’ The man said: ‘How can I get it?’ They replied: ‘If someone took a sharp and heated spear and thrust it into the hollow part of the frog’s back, he would quickly get the gold out. But if he cannot find any hollow in the frog, he should then, with the greatest force and effort, thrust his spear into it, and this is how you will get back the gold you bought.’

Who is this sorcerer if not the devil, inciting and counseling mankind to fleshly lusts and honor, which are nothing else but vanity and destruction? He promises that what is false is true and makes what is true seem to be false. He possesses this most precious gold, namely, the soul, who I, through my divine power, created more precious than all the stars and planets. I created it immortal and imperishable and more pleasing to me than everything else and I prepared for her an eternal resting place with me. I bought her from the violence of the devil with better and more valuable gold when I gave my own flesh for her, spotless from every sin, and suffered such a bitter torment that none of my limbs were without wounds or pain. I placed the redeemed soul in the body as in a casket, until the time when I would place her in the presence of my divine honor and glory in the kingdom of Heaven. But now, the redeemed soul of man has become like the most ugly and shameless frog, jumping in its arrogance and living in filth through its sensuality. She has taken my gold away from me, that is, all my justice."

July 23rd: Optional Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden

St. Bridget of Sweden
Saint Bridget died on this date in 1376. She was born into a devout family. Her mother was deeply pious; her father went to confession every Friday and made pilgrimages to the Holy Land. At 13, Bridget married, Ulf Gudmarsson with whom she had eight children. Following the death of her husband, she founded the Order of the Most Holy Savior, erecting a double monastery for monks and nuns at Vadstena. It was an order primarily for women, ruled by an abbess. The brothers had as their head a Confessor General who was responsible for the spiritual formation of both convents. The Order soon spread quickly throughout continental Europe. St. Bridget is one of three co-patronesses of Europe and the patron saint of Sweden.

St. Bridget is famous for her Revelations concerning the sufferings of our Lord. At the age of ten, Bridget had a vision of Jesus hanging upon the cross. When she asked who had treated him so cruelly He answered: "They who despise me, and spurn my love for them." She was so impressed that from then on, the Passion of Christ became the center of her spiritual life. These revelations became more frequent, and her records of these Revelationes coelestes ("Celestial revelations") were translated into Latin and widely read during the Middle Ages.

Click to recite the 15 prayers Jesus gave St. Bridget in honor of His Passion.

The Life of St. Bridget

Bridget was born in Sweden of noble and pious parents, and led a most holy life. While she was yet unborn, her mother was saved from shipwreck for her sake. At ten years of age, Bridget heard a sermon on the Passion of our Lord; and the next night she saw Jesus on the cross, covered with fresh blood, and speaking to her about his Passion. Thenceforward meditation on that subject affected her to such a degree, that she could never think of our Lord's sufferings without tears.

She was given in marriage to Ulfo prince of Nericia; and won him, by example and persuasion, to a life of piety. She devoted herself with maternal love to the education of her children. She was most zealous in serving the poor, especially the sick; and set apart a house for their reception, where she would often wash and kiss their feet. Together with her husband, she went on pilgrimage to Compostella, to visit the tomb of the apostle St. James. On their return journey, Ulfo fell dangerously ill at Arras; but St. Dionysius, appearing to Bridget at night, foretold the restoration of her husband's health, and other future events.

Ulfo became a Cistercian monk, but died soon afterwards. Whereupon Bridget, having heard the voice of Christ calling her in a dream, embraced a more austere manner of life. Many secrets were then revealed to her by God. She founded the monastery of Vadstena under the rule of our Savior, which was given her by our Lord himself. At his command, she went to Rome, where she kindled the love of God in very many hearts. She made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; but on her return to Rome she was attacked by fever, and suffered severely from sickness during a whole year. On the day she had foretold, she passed to heaven, laden with merits. Her body was translated to her monastery of Vadstena; and becoming illustrious for miracles, she was enrolled among the saints by Boniface IX.

Excerpted from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.

St. Bridget founded the Order of the Most Holy Savior (Bridgettines) at Vadstena in 1346. It received confirmation by Pope Urban V in 1370, and survives today. The new branch of the order was refounded by Blessed Elisabeth Hesselblad and has grown substantially, around the world.

Patron: Europe; Sweden; widows.

Symbols: Pilgrim's staff, bottle and wallet; open book and dove; crosier, lute and chain; taper; heart charged with cross; book; head and cross; pilgrim's staff.

Often Portrayed As: Abbess in Bridgettine robes with a cross on her forehead, and holding a book and pilgrim's staff; nun enthroned, with Christ above her and hell below, while she gives books to the emperor and kings; nun giving a book to Saint Augustine; nun in ecstasy before the crucifix with instruments of the Passion nearby; nun reading, holding a cross, with builders in the background.

Collect Prayer

O God, who guided Saint Bridget of Sweden along different paths of life and wondrously taught her the wisdom of the Cross as she contemplated the Passion of your Son, grant us, we pray, that, walking worthily in our vocation, we may seek you in all things. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer to St. Bridget of Sweden

O St. Bridget of Sweden, God revealed heavenly secrets to you as you meditated on the Passion of Jesus. Grant that I may attain the joyful contemplation of His Passion and Glory to be with you and Jesus in heaven. Amen.