October 31, 2017

Solemnity of All Saints [All Saints' Day] 2017

Today the Church celebrates all the saints, canonized and beatified, as well as those known only to God who are in heaven enjoying the beatific vision. During the early centuries the saints venerated by the Church were all martyrs. Later Popes set November 1st as the day for remembering the saints' holy example.

The Commemoration of All Saints was first celebrated in the Eastern Church. The feast was initially observed in the West starting in the 8th century. The Roman Martyrology mentions that the current date was first promulgated by Gregory IV (827-844) and that he extended this observance to the whole of Christendom. It seems certain, however, that Pope Gregory III (731-741) preceded him in this. Meanwhile, in Rome, on May 13th, there was the annual commemoration of the consecration of the basilica of St. Maria ad Martyrs (or St. Mary and All Martyrs). This was the former Pantheon, the temple of Agrippa, dedicated to the gods of paganism, to which Boniface IV had translated many relics from the catacombs. Gregory VII transferred the anniversary of this dedication to the 1st of November

What must we do in order to join the company of the saints in heaven? We "must follow in His footsteps and conform [our]selves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. [We] must devote [our]selves with all [our] being to the glory of God and the service of [our] neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history" (Lumen Gentium, 40).

Collect Prayer

Almighty ever-living Father, by whose gift we venerate in one celebration the merits of all your Saints, bestow upon us, we pray, through the prayers of so many intercessors, an abundance of the reconciliation with you for which we earnestly long. 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.

TOB Tuesday: Marriage is a "Communion of Persons"

The creation of Eve

Editor's note: Occasionally on Tuesday we will feature posts discussing St. John Paul the Great's Theology of the Body; his reflection on our nature and life as persons made in the image and likeness of God, conjugal love, the meaning of celibacy, and the eternal beatitude to which every human being is called.

Most Reverend Robert J. Baker, S.T.D.
Bishop of Birmingham, Alabama 

(Excerpted from a pastoral letter delivered as Bishop of Charleston)  

Only a careful reflection on Sacred Scripture, done in unison with the Tradition of the Church, can provide the understanding of the human person which the Church can present for our reflection. This is what Pope John Paul II did as he took the Lord's discussion with a group of Pharisees and especially noted that the Lord made reference to the original intent of the Creator when he said, "from the beginning it was not so" (Matt. 19:8). Then, going to the beginning, to the Book of Genesis, the pope carefully considers how the original mystery of human sexuality and the human person is understood in the Bible.

He sees there a description of an original solitude which propels the human person toward community with the 'other', the spouse to whom he is conjoined in an original unity, which the pope calls a "communion of persons." This unity was a real entity, established through the flesh and existing between the man and the woman, who, before their disobedience, "were both naked, yet they felt no shame" (Gn. 2:25). He likewise describes with precision just what was lost on the occasion of humanity's original sin as he references the alienation of the person from his/her Creator, his/her self, his/her spouse, and the human community....

A central tenet of the Theology of the Body is that faithful, self-donative love, and the communion which results from the giving and receiving of that gift, is the creative dynamic which reflects the inner life of the Holy Trinity. Self-donative love is the gift of self on behalf of another person. It is the life-giving love of the Trinity at creation. It is the love of Jesus Christ, especially at Calvary. It is the love which inspired the martyrs of the Church, and it is the love which is the heart of the marriage covenant. From this generous gift of self for the other flows the whole of the Gospel. The Holy Trinity is understood by Pope John Paul II as three Divine Persons who give of themselves completely, one unto the other in.... perfection. It is here that St. John the Evangelist refers in his famous statement that "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God." (1 Jn. 4:16).

Self-donative love far exceeds simply having the warm emotion of love and good intentions for our neighbors. In this spousal love we die to self so that the other might live, such as we saw in.... Saint Maximilian Kolbe when he offered his life so that another prisoner in a concentration camp of World War II might live.

Thoughts on Reformation Day: Is Luther in Hell?

Martin Luther

Reformation Day is the Protestant observance of Martin Luther's consequential action on October 31, 1517 which would lead to the onset of the Reformation. According to legend, the young Augustinian monk nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral, changing Christianity, and the world, forever.

On this the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's historic theses, we bring to your attention two articles of interest. Glenn Stanton writing for the Federalist offers a fascinating examination into the myths, lies, distortions and outright fabrications surrounding Luther's momentous dissent. In "Luther Didn’t Actually Nail Up His 95 Theses, And Other Curious Reformation Day Facts", Stanton observes:
The results of this theology professor’s world-changing action are beyond dispute. What actually happened on what is celebrated as Reformation Day, however, is highly questionable. Simply put, it’s unlikely the door episode ever happened. It certainly didn’t happen as portrayed in popular history and classic paintings.
Stanton also casts doubt on the 95 Theses itself, saying that calls for discussion were commonplace among university theologians: "The document? If it happened at all, the posting would simply have been proposal for a theological debate among his peers on indulgences. It was certainly not calling for a revolution."

Alan Fimister, Assistant Professor of Theology at Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary, writing for the Daily Caller, asserts "Martin Luther Is Probably In Hell":

"One might imagine that to write an article with this title is presumptuous in the extreme. But I do not make this assertion based on the wicked acts of Martin Luther — his division of Christendom, his hatred of the Jews, his licensing of polygamy, his accusations of adultery against the Saviour, his railing, his curses or his insults — but upon the simple principle of faith alone." Fimister's premise is based firmly on theology: "For faith has the power to wipe out any sin by the precious blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but without faith we are lost."

Both offerings are worth your time. Finally, we recall Our Lord's prayer: "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me" (John 17:20-21).

October 30, 2017

Reflection for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A: "Whoever Exalts Himself Will be Humbled."

Two things stand out in this Sunday’s Gospel account from Matthew. First, Jesus came to serve, not to be served. Second, God’s ways are not the ways of the world. These themes are echoed throughout Scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments, by patriarchs and prophets, and finally, by the Messiah Himself.

Jesus states, "The greatest among you must be your servant" (Matthew 23:11).

In our fallen world, the humble and the lowly magnify God’s love. The mighty and the self-righteous enrich only themselves. We must love others selflessly, not use people and love things out of greed and selfishness (as is often the case today).

Jesus continues, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (v. 12). To be disciples of Christ, we must follow the Savior’s example. This means emptying ourselves out completely and loving unconditionally, not agreeing with others or confirming them should they sin.

On the verge of his Passion and Death, Jesus exhibits radical humility in washing the feet of his Apostles. In so doing, He firmly rebuffs Peter’s chastisement.

Earlier, Jesus says that the Kingdom of God, "is at hand" (Matthew 4:17, 10:7).

The focus in these verses is eschatological (concerning the end of time). When Christ triumphantly returns in glory, all things will be fulfilled according to Divine Providence, "Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last" (Matthew 20:16). Salvation history will cease and the saints will behold God face to face.

We need not wait for Christ’s Second Coming to live in the Kingdom of God. God’s Kingdom is any place where God is sovereign. We are part of that Kingdom if we make God King of our hearts, minds and lives.

Inspired by this divine truth, let us pray the words that Jesus taught us with joy and renewed conviction, "Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven…"

October 29, 2017

The Prophet Malachi’s Stern Admonition to Priests

The Last Supper

The final prophet of the Old Testament, Malachi lived during the Persian period, the time of the return to Zion from the Babylonian captivity. Here Malachi urges God's priests to be faithful: "A great King am I, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations. And now, O priests, this commandment is for you: If you do not listen, if you do not lay it to heart, to give glory to my name, says the Lord of hosts, I will send a curse upon you and of your blessing I will make a curse. You have turned aside from the way, and have caused many to falter by your instruction; you have made void the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts. I, therefore, have made you contemptible and base before all the people, since you do not keep my ways…" (Malachi 1:14B-2:2B, 8-10)

A Prayer for Priests

Lord Jesus, we pray to You for our priests. You have gifted them to us for our salvation. You have made them priests in the likeness of your own priesthood. You consecrated them, set them aside, anointed them, and filled them with the Holy Spirit. You appointed them to teach, to preach, to minister, to console, to forgive sins, and to nourish us with Your most precious Body and Blood. Amen.

Humanae Vitae to be 'Reinterpreted'?

Pope Paul VI

The Lepanto Foundation, an international foundation based in Rome that aims to defend the principles and institutions of Christian civilization, is reporting that Pope Francis has authorized a commission to 'reinterpret' Humanae Vitae 'in the light of Amoris laetitia.' Should it lead to the sanctioning of artificial contraception by the Church it would constitute heresy – a fact the report itself acknowledges:

"On the subject of contraception, Paul VI expressed himself in Humanae Vitae, in a manner which theologians judge as infallible and thus unmodifiable, not because the document in itself had the requisites of infallibility, but because it reaffirms a doctrine always proposed by the perennial Magisterium of the Church. The Jesuit theologians, Marcelino Zalba, John Ford and Gerald Kelly, the philosophers Arnaldo Xavier da Silveira and Germain Grisez, and many other authors explain how the doctrine of Humanae Vitae needs to be considered infallible, not in virtue of the act of its promulgation, but because it confirms the ordinary, universal Magisterium of Popes and the Bishops of the world." [Source]

Padre Pio Congratulated Paul VI on Humanae Vitae

"I know that Your heart suffers much … above all, for the lack of obedience of some, even Catholics, to the lofty teachings which You, assisted by the Holy Spirit and in the name of God, have given us. … In the name of my spiritual sons and of the 'Praying Groups' I thank Your Holiness for the clear and decisive words You have spoken in the recent encyclical, 'Humanae Vitae', and I reaffirm my own faith and my unconditional obedience to Your inspired directives." [Read in full.]

From St. Padre Pio’s Letter to Bl. Pope Paul VI Commending Humanae Vitae.

Indulgences Obtainable for the Souls in Purgatory: All Souls' Day Through November 8th

A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the souls in Purgatory is granted to the faithful who devoutly visit a church or oratory on All Souls Day (November 2nd).

Requirements for Obtaining a Plenary Indulgence on All Souls Day:

◗ Visit a church and pray for souls in Purgatory.
◗ Say one "Our Father" and the "Apostles Creed" in the visit to the church.
◗ Say one "Our Father" and one "Hail Mary" for the Pope’s intentions (those intentions designated by the Holy Father each month).
◗ Worthily receive Holy Communion (ideally on the same day).
◗ Make a sacramental confession within 20 days of All Souls Day.
◗ For a plenary indulgence, be free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin (or the indulgence is partial, not plenary).

You may gain one plenary indulgence a day.

These partial indulgences are applicable only to the souls in Purgatory:

◗ A partial indulgence may be obtained by devoutly visiting a cemetery and praying for the departed, even if the prayer is only mental. One may obtain a plenary indulgence by visiting a cemetery each day between November 1st - 8th.

◗ A partial indulgence may be obtained when the Eternal Rest (Requiem aeternam) is prayed. This may be recited throughout the year, but especially during the month of November:

Requiem aeternam dona ei (eis), Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei (eis). Requiescat (-ant) in pace Amen.

Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

From the Enchiridion of Indulgences.

Some families add the second half of the "Eternal Rest" prayer to the "Prayer Before Meals":

Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord, Amen. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Pray for the faithful departed throughout the year, not just during November. After these souls in Purgatory are in Heaven, they will intercede on our behalf.

Fatima Seer Sr. Lucia on the New Efficacy of the Rosary in These Last Times

As October draws to a close, we conclude the 100th anniversary observance of the Fatima apparitions with the words of Sister Lucia dos Santos to mankind…

Our Lady of Fatima and the Holy Rosary

The appearance of the Virgin Mary in Fatima, which Lucia witnessed together with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta marked a new and definitive stage in salvation history. Making known Our Lady’s urgent appeal for repentance, prayer and renewed devotion to God, centered on the most Holy Rosary, was the singular mission to which Sister Lucia remained faithful her entire life. God’s Mercy, while great, is not inexhaustible. Mary implores us to holiness while there is still time.
The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families…that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem…no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.
— Sr. Lucia of Fatima

The Angel's Prayer

Days prior to Our Lady of Fatima’s apparition, an angel, calling himself the Angel of Peace and the Angel of Portugal, appeared to the three shepherd children. On one occasion they observed him prostrate before a host and chalice suspended in the air. Worshiping the Most Sacred Eucharist, the angel recited the following:

Most Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifferences whereby He is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners. Amen. [Our Lady of Fatima and the most Holy Rosary, pray for us!]

October 28, 2017

Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 29, 2017, Year A

Christ and the pharisees

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

A fundamental theme that runs throughout the entire Bible is this: “God offers, we respond.” God’s offer of love for us is a given; His unconditional love is always offered to us no matter what. The result, however, is conditional. The result depends upon our response to His offer.

How, then, do we respond to Christ’s mandate that we love everyone as we love ourselves? First of all, we should take it for what it is – a mandate, a command. It is something we must choose to do with little regard for our feelings.

Feelings are important but feelings are not decisive. Convictions, things we are convinced of, are decisive. Feelings are not. More often than not, acting on our feelings leads us down wrong paths and into trouble. Then, too, we can be victimized by our feelings. We can feel sorry for ourselves and spend so much time pitying ourselves that we end up feeling like we are victims. We can imprison ourselves in a state of victimhood and seem unable to get of our self-made feelings of depression. They can even lead us into a state of self-rejection and even self-hatred.

At times, some feelings are good. But when it comes to giving ourselves to others in love we have to make decisions. No one can command you to have warm, fuzzy feelings toward another. Not even God commands that of us. We cannot even tell ourselves to have nice, warm, loving and intimate feelings toward another. Even if we could, would it matter? No. It’s what we do that matters, not how we feel. But Jesus is not speaking here of emotions and feelings. He knows how absolutely fickle and unreliable feelings really are. Feelings come and feelings go as they wish, leaving us quite alone with ourselves after they have left. Decisions can last.

“Falling in love” is a wonderful thing, even a beautiful thing. Young boys and girls fall in love. Young mothers and young fathers fall in love with their newborn babies. Emotions of affection and feelings of love are beautiful things, the stuff of songs and poems. There is nothing wrong with them.

Jesus is telling us here that love is something we do. Love is a choice, a decision, a commitment to do things. That is why Jesus is commanding us to love others. It’s what we do to others not how we feel toward them that matters.

When two people marry they promise to act toward each other in ways they will not act toward anyone else. They make a conscious choice to belong to each other, and to belong to each other exclusively.

Feelings come and feelings go – we have little control over them. Love and commitments, however, are choices. Furthermore, as psychologists tell us, feelings can be shaped by the way we act. Perhaps this is another reason why Jesus commands us to act toward others in a loving way, regardless of how we feel about them. Love makes commitments – feelings follow along.

All of us have feelings of fondness toward others. Even pagans feel fondness and affection. So there’s no particular Christian virtue in feelings of fondness for another person. It follows, then, that there is no sin in feelings of fondness toward another person. Virtue and sin are found in what we choose to do with other people.

Recall with me now the Last Judgment account depicted in St. Matthew’s Gospel. That Last Judgment account is all about deeds – feelings are not even mentioned. God does not say: “I was hungry, and you felt sorry for me. I was naked, and you felt embarrassment. I was sick and you had feelings of sympathy toward me.” God will be interested in what you have chosen to do for others, not in how you felt about them.

Having good feelings toward others is nice, and many preachers preach a gospel of nice feelings. For them, religion seems to be a matter of feeling nice toward others, of being polite and kind toward them. But isn’t Christianity something more than being nice or simply having nice feelings toward others? When did Jesus ever mention being nice toward others? Show me one place in the Bible where that was His teaching. The only thing that counted with Him was that the hungry were fed, the naked were clothed, and the lonely and abandoned were sought out and we stood by them.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate realist. He commands us, He mandates us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We are to especially love those who are unlovable, those who are particularly shunned and live out on the margins of our lives. He closes our little loopholes, our self-fashioned exceptions, and presents us with the most demanding of all Gospel messages, allowing us no compromises, no human “wiggle room.” The call from Jesus to us is to get extremely serious about what we do, not what we feel.

Christ’s mandate was an utterly simple one, one with no complexities whatsoever. It is sort of like a new income tax code that some are proposing in which the return can be sent in to the Internal Revenue Service on a postcard – 15% of all household income with no deductions, no special exemptions, no depreciation formulae, no wiggle room, one that is one that is simple, direct, straightforward and to the point.”

I don’t care how you feel, Jesus says to us, simply love your neighbors. Love them as your heavenly Father loves them. Love them, the good and the bad alike, with the unconditional love with which your Father in heaven loves them. Love all of your neighbors in what you do to them, in what you do for them, and in how you act toward them. All of those complicated and complex feelings of yours will eventually follow along. My religion, says Jesus, is a matter of what we do; it’s not a religion simply of nice feelings.

October 27, 2017

Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles

Sts. Simon and Jude

Feast Day - October 28th 

However meagre in details is the history of these glorious apostles, we learn from their brief legend how amply they contributed to this great work of generating sons of God. Without any repose, and even to the shedding of their blood, they "edified the body of Christ"; and the grateful Church prays to our Lord today: "O God, through the work of the apostles you have spoken your Word of love, your Son, into our world's deafness. Open our ears to hear; open our hearts to heed; open our will to obey, that we may proclaim the good news with our lives."

St. Simon is represented in art with a saw, the instrument of his martyrdom. St. Jude's square points him out as an architect of the house of God. St. Paul called himself by this name; and St. Jude, by his Catholic Epistle, has also a special right to be reckoned among our Lord's principal workmen. But our apostle had another nobility, far surpassing all earthly titles: being nephew, by his father Cleophas or Alpheus, to St. Joseph, and legal cousin to the Man-God, Jude was one of those called by their compatriots the brethren of the carpenter's Son. We may gather from St. John's Gospel another precious detail concerning him.

In the discourse at the close of the last Supper, our Lord said: "He that loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father: and I will love him and will manifest Myself to him." Then Jude asked Him: "Lord, how is it, that Thou wilt manifest Thyself to us, and not to the world?" And he received from Jesus this reply: "If any one love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and will make Our abode with him. He that loveth Me not keepeth not My word. And the word which you have heard is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me."

The churches of St. Peter in Rome and Saint-Sernin at Toulouse dispute the honor of possessing the greater part of the holy remains of these saints. After Christs' Ascension and the Council of Jerusalem, Simon preached the Gospel in Egypt, Carthage, Spain and possibly Britain, before going to Jerusalem. There, he joined Jude on missionary journeys to Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia. St. Jude is the patron saint of desperate situations, forgotten causes, hospice workers, hospitals and hospital workers. St. Simon is the patron of curriers, sawmen and tanners.

An adapted excerpt from The Liturgical Year, by Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.

Halloween: The Real Story [It’s Not a Pagan Festival]

This is an excerpt from Fr. Augustine Thompson's, O.P., article, "Halloween: The Real Story!" (The original post has been deleted but here is the article in full.)

"We’ve all heard the allegations. Halloween is a pagan rite dating back to some pre-Christian festival among the Celtic Druids that escaped Church suppression. Even today modern pagans and witches continue to celebrate this ancient festival. If you let your kids go trick-or-treating, they will be worshiping the devil and pagan gods.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The origins of Halloween are, in fact, very Christian and rather American. Halloween falls on October 31 because of a pope, and its observances are the result of medieval Catholic piety.

It’s true that the ancient Celts of Ireland and Britain celebrated a minor festival on Oct. 31 — as they did on the last day of most other months of the year. However, Halloween falls on the last day of October because the Feast of All Saints or "All Hallows" falls on Nov. 1. The feast in honor of all the saints in heaven used to be celebrated on May 13, but Pope Gregory III (d. 741) moved it to Nov. 1, the dedication day of All Saints Chapel in St. Peter’s at Rome. Later, in the 840s, Pope Gregory IV commanded that All Saints be observed everywhere. And so the holy day spread to Ireland. The day before was the feast’s evening vigil, "All Hallows Even" or "Hallowe’en." In those days, Halloween didn’t have any special significance for Christians or for long-dead Celtic pagans.

In 998, St. Odilo, the abbot of the powerful monastery of Cluny in Southern France, added a celebration on Nov. 2. This was a day of prayer for the souls of all the faithful departed. This feast, called All Souls Day, spread from France to the rest of Europe.

So now the Church had feasts for all those in heaven and all those in purgatory? What about those in the other place? It seems Irish Catholic peasants wondered about the unfortunate souls in hell. After all, if the souls in hell are left out when we celebrate those in heaven and purgatory, they might be unhappy enough to cause trouble. So it became customary to bang pots and pans on All Hallows Even to let the damned know they were not forgotten. Thus, in Ireland, at least, all the dead came to be remembered — even if the clergy were not terribly sympathetic to Halloween and never allowed All Damned Day into the Church calendar.

But that still isn’t our celebration of Halloween. Our traditions on this holiday centers around dressing up in fanciful costumes, which isn’t Irish at all. Rather, this custom arose in France during the 14th and 15th centuries. Late medieval Europe was hit by repeated outbreaks of the bubonic plague — the Black Death — and she lost about half her population. It is not surprising that Catholics became more concerned about the afterlife. More Masses were said on All Souls’ Day, and artistic representations were devised to remind everyone of their own mortality.

We know these representations as the "Dance Macabre" or "Dance of Death," which was commonly painted on the walls of cemeteries and shows the devil leading a daisy chain of people — popes, kings, ladies, knights, monks, peasants, lepers, etc. — into the tomb. Sometimes the dance was presented on All Souls’ Day itself as a living tableau with people dressed up in the garb of various states of life. But the French dressed up on All Souls, not Halloween; and the Irish, who had Halloween, did not dress up. How the two became mingled probably happened first in the British colonies of North America during the 1700s when Irish and French Catholics began to intermarry. The Irish focus on hell gave the French masquerades and even more macabre twist.

But, as every young ghoul knows, dressing up isn’t the point; the point is getting as many goodies as possible. Where on earth did "trick or treat" come in?

"Trick or treat" is perhaps the oddest and most American addition to Halloween, and is the unwilling contribution of English Catholics.

During the penal period of the 1500s to the 1700s in England, Catholics had no legal rights. They could not hold office and were subject to fines, jail and heavy taxes. It was a capital offense to say Mass, and hundreds of priests were martyred.

Occasionally, English Catholics resisted, sometimes foolishly. One of the most foolish acts of resistance was a plot to blow up the Protestant King James I and his Parliament with gunpowder. This was supposed to trigger a Catholic uprising against their oppressors. The ill-conceived Gunpowder Plot was foiled on Nov. 5, 1605, when the man guarding the gunpowder, a reckless convert named Guy Fawkes, was captured and arrested. He was hanged; the plot fizzled.

Nov. 5, Guy Fawkes’ Day, became a great celebration in England, and so it remains. During the penal periods, bands of revelers would put on masks and visit local Catholics in the dead of night, demanding beer and cakes for their celebration: trick or treat!

Guy Fawkes’ Day arrived in the American colonies with the first English settlers. But, by the time of the American Revolution, old King James and Guy Fawkes had pretty much been forgotten. Trick or treat, though, was too much fun to give up, so eventually it moved to Oct. 31, the day of the Irish-French masquerade. And in America, trick or treat wasn’t limited to Catholics.

The mixture of various immigrant traditions we know as Halloween had become a fixture in the Unites States by the early 1800s. To this day, it remains unknown in Europe, even in the countries from which some of the customs originated.

But what about witches? Well, they are one of the last additions. The greeting card industry added them in the late 1800s. Halloween was already "ghoulish," so why not give witches a place on greeting cards? The Halloween card failed (although it has seen a recent resurgence in popularity), but the witches stayed. So, too, in the late 1800s, ill-informed folklorists introduced the jack-o’-lantern. They thought that Halloween was druidic and pagan in origin. Lamps made from turnips (not pumpkins) had been part of ancient Celtic harvest festivals, so they were translated to the American Halloween celebration.

The next time someone claims that Halloween is a cruel trick to lure your children into devil worship, I suggest you tell them the real origin of All Hallows Even and invite them to discover its Christian significance, along with the two greater and more important Catholic festivals that follow it."

Novena to Saint Jude 2017 | Day 9

St. Jude icon

October 27, 2017

Today, on the final day of this Saint Jude novena, we reflect upon the sins in our life that feel impossible to overcome. We pray for the ability to resist temptation and all occasions of sin with the grace of God and the intercession of St. Jude.

Saint Jude Novena - Day 9

Most holy St. Jude, apostle, martyr and friend of Jesus, pray for me and my intentions. Intercede for me before the throne of God and plead for His favor.

(State your intentions here)

You are the patron of the impossible. Pray for my intentions St. Jude, that God’s grace and mercy will answer them. Pray for the impossible if it is God’s will.

Pray that I may have the grace to accept God’s holy will even if it is difficult.

St. Jude, pray for me that I will not lose hope.

O St. Jude, pray for me that I may grow in faith, hope and love and in the grace of Jesus Christ. Pray for these intentions, but most of all pray that I may join you in heaven together with God, seeing Him face to face for all eternity. Amen.

For more about the St. Jude novena including daily email reminders go HERE.

October 26, 2017

St. Frumentius, Bishop, Apostle to Ethiopia

Feast Day - October 27th

Born in Tyre, Lebanon, Frumentius and his brother Aedesius were taken on a voyage to Ethiopia while young by their uncle, Meropius, a Christian. During the journey, the ship was attacked by barbarian pirates while harbored in a city on the Red Sea. The entire crew, with the exception of the two children, were slain, and the ship destroyed. Frumentius and Aedesius were captured as slaves.

The two youth were unlike the people of the region in appearance, and as such were given to the king of Axum as a curiosity. He was immediately taken with their youth, beauty, and wit, and installed them as members of his court, seeing to their education, and providing them protection and care. Aedesius would in time become the king’s cup-bearer, and Frumentius his trusted secretary.

The brothers grew in faith, serving their king well. On his deathbed, grateful for their service, the king granted the twins their freedom. When the king died, the brothers stayed on as part of the queen's court. She permitted them to introduce Christianity to the country, and to open trade between Ethiopia and the West.

The brothers used their influence to spread Christianity throughout Ethiopia. At first, they encouraged Christian merchants, who had been recently allowed into the country, to practice their faith openly by meeting at places of public worship. Finally, this led to the conversion of the native population to the one true Faith.

Eventually, Frumentius traveled to Alexandria, where he arranged a meeting with Saint Athanasius, and begged him to send a bishop back to Ethiopia to shepherd the fledgling Christian community. Athanasius, a wise man of faith, consecrated Frumentius a bishop, sending him back to Ethiopia to finish his evangelization.

Upon his return, Frumentius was welcomed back with reverence, and through working of miracles and example, converted the king, and subsequently, the majority of the nation. He worked tirelessly throughout the country until his death in approximately the year 383. The people of Ethiopia called him Abuna (Our Father), Kesate Birhan (Revealer of Light), and Abba Salama (Father of Peace). He is the patron of Ethiopia. His brother Aedeius was also canonized.

Homily for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 29, 2017, Year A

Moses Receives the Ten Commandments

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

The Pharisees are at it again, putting Jesus to the test, but this time they seem to be off their game. They had to know what to expect. The answer was obvious. In fact, in Luke’s version of this episode, it is the Scribe, not Jesus, who gives this very answer.

Even the addition of the “Second Greatest Commandment” in Jesus’ reply could not have come as much of a surprise. Apparently, this pairing may not have been rare among rabbis in Jesus’ day. Again, in Luke’s version, the Scribe himself includes it.

Note that neither the question nor the answer implies that other commandments could be neglected. All the commandments were to be observed with equal care. Jesus simply notes that the Two Great Commandments are the foundation for all the rest. The first reading illustrates this fact with unambiguous examples.

It is a curious fact that the Commandment to love God is given differently in the three Gospels that quote it. Here in Matthew, we are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind. Mark has heart. soul, mind, and strength, while Luke changes the order to heart, soul, strength and mind.

Stranger still, none of these corresponds exactly to the original Hebrew. It reads: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.” No mention of “mind” at all.

Scholars naturally have their theories to explain these variations. They are interesting but ultimately irrelevant. The insistent repetition of the word “all” makes it obvious that the commandment is meant to be all-inclusive.

The word “wrath” shows up in the first two readings. God’s wrath will flare up against those who wrong aliens, orphans and widows, or treat the poor unkindly. Jesus, writes St. Paul, will deliver us “from the coming wrath,” that is, the judgment, a theme Paul develops at greater length in his letter to the Romans.

What does wrath have to do with those who keep the Two Great Commandments? Living in love of God and neighbor, observing in sincerity the laws that depend on those two, becomes so natural that wrath is not even a speck on the horizon.

St. Paul commends the Thessalonians for their full commitment to the faith of Christ, since they turned from idols “to serve the living God.” The context makes it clear that they have not held back, but have become “a model for all believers.”

Would that this could be said of us!

October 25, 2017

Novena to Saint Jude 2017 | Day 8

St. Jude icon

October 26, 2017

Today we pray for another seemingly impossible cause: an end to violence. With God, and through Saint Jude's intercession, let us pray for peace in our world, and that it may truly begin with us. St. Jude, we dare to ask you for harmony in our families and between nations. Petition God for peace we humbly beseech you.

Saint Jude Novena - Day 8

Most holy St. Jude, apostle, martyr and friend of Jesus, pray for me and my intentions. Intercede for me before the throne of God and plead for His favor.

(State your intentions here)

You are the patron of the impossible. Pray for my intentions St. Jude, that God’s grace and mercy will answer them. Pray for the impossible if it is God’s will.

Pray that I may have the grace to accept God’s holy will even if it is difficult.

St. Jude, pray for me that I will not lose hope.

O St. Jude, pray for me that I may grow in faith, hope and love and in the grace of Jesus Christ. Pray for these intentions, but most of all pray that I may join you in heaven together with God, seeing Him face to face for all eternity. Amen.

For more about the St. Jude novena including daily email reminders go HERE.

Priesthood Sunday 2017

October 29, 2017

Priesthood Sunday, the last Sunday of October, is a day set aside to honor the priesthood in the United States. Saint John Vianney observed, "The Priesthood is the Love of the Heart of Jesus." In considering this most profound insight from the Curé d'Ars, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI explained that, "This touching expression makes us reflect, first of all, with heartfelt gratitude on the immense gift which priests represent, not only for the Church, but also for humanity itself."

Unfortunately, the number of priests in many dioceses is dwindling. But what if they disappeared all together? The consequences would be immense. No more priests, no more Eucharist, no more grace, no more Church, no more mercy, no more salvation. As Saint Padre Pio once said, "It is easier for the earth to exist without the sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!" This is indeed true.
Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living, in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern 'metropolis'. It is you who must 'go out into the byroads' (Mt 22:9) and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which God has prepared for his people. The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of fear or indifference. It was never meant to be hidden away in private. It has to be put on a stand so that people may see its light and give praise to our heavenly Father (Mt 5:15-16).
— St. John Paul II

As of 2015, there where 38,275 Catholic priests in the United States and some 414,313 worldwide. The number of parishes without a resident priest was 3,496. In addition to thanking your parish priest this year, remember to pray for more vocations to the priesthood. Saint John Vianney, patron of priests, pray for us.

Prayer for a Holy Church and Priests

O my Jesus, I beg You on behalf of the whole Church: Grant it love and the light of Your Spirit and give power to the words of priests so that hardened hearts might be brought to repentance and return to You, O Lord. Give us holy priests; You Yourself maintain them in holiness. O Divine and Great High Priest, may the power of Your mercy protect them from the devil's snares. May the power of Your mercy, O Lord, vanquish all that might tarnish the sanctity of your Church. Amen.

October 24, 2017

Pope Paul VI on the Forty Martyrs of England & Wales

Pope Paul VI

Martyrdom according to the Catechism is "the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death." Blessed Pope Paul VI in his homily for the canonization of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales speaks of the ineffable fortitude the martyrs display in witnessing to the love of Christ.
Faced with the choice of remaining steadfast in their faith and of dying for it, or of saving their lives by denying that faith, without a moment’s hesitation and with a truly supernatural strength they stood for God and joyfully confronted martyrdom. 
— Blessed Pope Paul VI

O God, who was pleased to give light to your Church by adorning on your Forty Martyrs of England and Wales the victory of eternal life graciously grant that, as they imitated the Lord's Passion, so we may, by following in their footsteps, be worthy to attain eternal joys. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, and in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen.

The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales

October 25th in England is the feast of the Forty Holy Martyrs of England and Wales (in Wales this is a memorial), a group of forty men, women, religious, priests, and lay people, canonized by Pope Paul VI on October 25, 1970. Their martyrdoms span the years 1535 to 1679. Four distinct waves of persecution occurred. The first followed the passing of the First Act of Supremacy (1534) when Henry VIII broke with Rome. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and Henry’s chancellor, Sir Thomas More, were executed in 1535 along with several religious.

The second wave came after 1570. Pope Pius V, believing that Queen Elizabeth I, the daughter of Anne Boleyn, was illegitimate and had no right to the throne, issued a papal bull Regnans in excelsis excommunicating her and absolving all her subjects from allegiance to her and her laws. This was a real dilemma for Catholics especially if they were asked the infamous "bloody question": if there was an invasion from the Pope, which would you support – Rome or England?

The third wave of persecution followed the failed Gunpowder Plot in 1605. This was an ill-advised assassination attempt against King James I. Robert Catesby organized the plot in an effort to end the English government's persecution of Roman Catholics. The conspirators had tried to blow up Parliament during the State opening. They were later hanged, drawn and quartered in punishment.

The final wave came in 1678 following the so-called "Popish Plot" created by the infamous Titus Oates. Oates had been twice expelled from Jesuit colleges on the continent and was refused admission as a novice. He spread the rumor that the Jesuits were plotting to overthrow King Charles II and make England a Catholic nation. The rumour of a plot stirred a new persecution against "English Papists".

The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales includes: 3 Carthusians, 1 Augustinian, 1 Brigittine, 2 Franciscans, 3 Benedictines, 10 Jesuits, 13 Priests of the secular clergy and 7 members of the laity – 4 men and 3 women, all of them mothers. Ever-living God, who was pleased to give light to your Church by adorning the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales the victory of heaven, grant that, as they imitated Jesus' Passion, we may follow them and know your eternal Beatitude.

Novena to Saint Jude 2017 | Day 7

St. Jude icon

October 25, 2017

All things are possible with God. Let's remember that today as we pray for an end to poverty. Saint Jude, help us to aide those in need, and that the destitute may strive to improve their lives so as to realize true freedom from poverty and need.

Saint Jude Novena - Day 7

Most holy St. Jude, apostle, martyr and friend of Jesus, pray for me and my intentions. Intercede for me before the throne of God and plead for His favor.

(State your intentions here)

You are the patron of the impossible. Pray for my intentions St. Jude, that God’s grace and mercy will answer them. Pray for the impossible if it is God’s will.

Pray that I may have the grace to accept God’s holy will even if it is difficult.

St. Jude, pray that I may put my trust in God that He knows my needs even better than I do and that He provides.

O St. Jude, pray for me that I may grow in faith, hope and love and in the grace of Jesus Christ. Pray for these intentions, but most of all pray that I may join you in heaven together with God, seeing Him face to face for all eternity. Amen.

For more about the St. Jude novena including daily email reminders go HERE.

Sts. Chrysanthus and Daria, Married Early Martyrs

Sts Chrysanthus and Daria

According to the 1962 Missal of Saint John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, October 25th is the feast of Saints Chrysanthus and Daria. As husband and wife they carried on an active apostolate among the noble families of Rome during the 3rd century. Denounced as devout Christians, they would undergo various tortures before being buried alive in a sandpit in the year 283.

According to legend these two saints belonged to the nobility. Daria received baptism through the efforts of her husband Chrysanthus. In Rome they brought many to the faith, for which cause they were cruelly martyred. Chrysanthus was denounced as a Christian to Claudius, the tribune’s leader. Chrysanthus' attitude under torture so impressed Claudius that he and his wife, Hilaria, two sons, and many of his soldiers became Christians, wherein the Emperor had them all slain.

Chrysanthus was sewn inside an ox's hide and placed where the sun shone hottest. Taken to a house of ill-fame, Daria was protected by a lion while she passed the time in prayer. Finally, both were buried alive in a sand-pit and together gained the crown of martyrdom. They were buried in the cemetery on the Via Saleria in Rome, at the same site where lay sixty-two soldiers who died as martyrs and also a group of faithful who had gathered for holy Mass on the anniversary of the saints' deaths, but were cut down by the enemies of Christ.

At least three Churches claim to possess the remains of Sts. Chrysanthus and Daria. In the 9th century, their remains were brought to Prüm in present-day Germany and are found in the church of Chrysanthus and Daria. In 1011, Pope Sergius IV gave the Count of Anjou, the relics of Chrysanthus and Daria upon his return from Jerusalem. They are in the monastery of Belli Locus. The cathedral of Reggio Emilia (in Italy) also has relics thought to be those of the martyr saints.

Feast of Sts. Crispin and Crispinian, Brother Martyrs

Sts. Crispin and Crispinian,

The Roman Martyrology includes these twin brother martyrs for October 25th. Saint Crispin was a Roman noble and brother of Saint Crispinian with whom he evangelized Gaul in the middle of the 3rd century. They worked from Soissons, preached in the streets by day and made shoes by night. The group's charity, piety and contempt of material things impressed the locals, and many converted in the years of their ministry. They were martyred in Rome in 286 by torture and beheading, under emperor Maximian Herculeus, being tried by Rictus Varus, governor of Belgic Gaul and an enemy of Christianity. A great church was built at Soissons in the 6th century in their honor; Saint Eligius ornamented their shrine.

This feast was immortalized by Shakespeare in his play Henry V, (Act 4, Scene 3). The king gave a rousing speech (called "Saint Crispin's Day) extolling his troops on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt, fought on this day in 1415:
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition.
The Battle of Agincourt saw a miraculous outcome. King Henry V of England led his troops into battle. The French troops were commanded by Constable Charles d'Albret and various prominent noblemen. The English, although outnumbered, soundly defeated the French. In England this was a religious holiday on which commoners and serfs got a day of rest. Sts. Crispin and Crispinian, pray for us.

October 23, 2017

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for November 2017

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

Christians in Asia

That Christians in Asia, bearing witness to the Gospel in word and deed, may promote dialogue, peace, and mutual understanding, especially with those of other religions.

Specific Intention - To be Announced

Pope Francis has decided to keep one monthly prayer intention. He is no longer proposing an urgent prayer intention. Each Sunday on which he gives an Angelus address, he will request prayers for specific people and situations that are of deep concern to him and to the universal Church.

Novena to Saint Jude 2017 | Day 6

St. Jude icon

October 24, 2017

In keeping with the theme of difficult circumstances and hopeless causes, today we remember everyone who has left the Church. Let us pray for their conversion and their return to the Church. We pray also for those who have never been a part of the Church. May they come to know the fullness truth that is our Faith.

Saint Jude Novena - Day 6

Most holy St. Jude, apostle, martyr and friend of Jesus, pray for me and my intentions. Intercede for me before the throne of God and plead for His favor.

(State your intentions here)

You are the patron of the impossible. Pray for my intentions St. Jude, that God’s grace and mercy will answer them. Pray for the impossible if it is God’s will.

Pray that I may have the grace to accept God’s holy will even if it is difficult.

St. Jude, pray that I may know God’s will in my life.

O St. Jude, pray for me that I may grow in faith, hope and love and in the grace of Jesus Christ. Pray for these intentions, but most of all pray that I may join you in heaven together with God, seeing Him face to face for all eternity. Amen.

For more about the St. Jude novena including daily email reminders go HERE.

St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop Reformer & Founder

Saint Anthony Mary Claret

Ordinary Time - October 24th

Saint Anthony Claret’s efforts would engender as much discussion in the 21st century as they did in the 19th. A champion of the Hispanic poor, he was vilified by those in power who did not appreciate his "Christian meddling" in their secular and often exploitive lifestyles. Yet, he also garnered the respect of some in authority, for precisely the same reasons that others sought to destroy him.

St. Anthony Mary Claret was born in Spain near Barcelona in 1807. His father was a small manufacturer of wool and, for a while, Anthony also pursued that occupation. His mind, however, was on another type of vocation entirely, and he dedicated his spare time to studying Latin and printing. Although he longed to join either the Carthusian or Jesuit orders, ill health prevented him from doing so. His gift was preaching, and for over a decade after his ordination to the secular priesthood in 1835, he gave retreats and missions, emphasizing the importance of the Eucharist and encouraging devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

In 1849, Anthony founded the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, popularly known as the Claretians. Their work, then as now, is as diverse as the people they serve.  From publishing (Anthony was always a great supporter of the Catholic Press) to immigration, health care and education, they seek to spread Anthony’s zeal for God’s love, justice and peace throughout the world.

In the 19th century, however, Anthony’s fervor for Gospel values was not always greeted enthusiastically. Appointed archbishop of Santiago, Cuba, in 1851, his reforms in a diocese that had been much neglected made him as many enemies as it did friends. He opposed the practice of concubinage and sought to educate the slaves who worked the sugar plantations. Faced with the dire poverty of his people, he supported their cultivation of family-owned farms as a solution to the problem, as this would supply food for both the home as well as a cash crop for the market. The powerful plantation owners in Cuba did not appreciate a bishop who took workers away from the one crop they felt everyone should be forced to work — sugar cane. So incensed were they at his interference that there were at least 15 — fortunately unsuccessful — attempts made on his life because of it.

In 1857, Anthony was summoned back to Spain to serve as chaplain to Queen Isabella. Being “at court” was not a position that he relished, and so Anthony insisted on the following conditions for his return: he would live humbly, away from the palace, he would act only as the queen’s confessor and instructor of her children, and he would not be required to attend any court functions. His straightforward manner won the admiration of the queen, and when she was exiled following the Spanish Revolution of 1868, he accompanied her and her family to Paris. There he continued his work of preaching and caring for the poor.

Anthony was present at the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of papal infallibility. The Council came to an abrupt end with the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, and Anthony retired to the Cistercian Monastery of Fontfroide in southern France. Still unable to return to Spain owing to the revolution, he would die in exile on October 24, 1870.

Known for his gifts of both prophecy and miracles, Anthony was also a prolific writer and preacher. His biographers note that he delivered some 10,000 sermons in his lifetime, and published over 200 written works. He is the patron saint of weavers and the Catholic press. Almighty God, who for the evangelization of peoples strengthened the Bishop Saint Anthony Mary Claret with admirable charity and long-suffering, grant, through his intercession, that, in seeking your will, we may piously devote ourselves to winning our brothers and sisters for Christ, who lives and reigns together with You and with the Holy Spirit. Amen.

October 22, 2017

St. John of Capistrano on the Priesthood

Saint John of Capistrano

Saint John of Capistrano, the 14th century priest Franciscan priest and reformer was a brilliant homilist and staunch defender of the Church. He labored to restore the Order founded by Saint Francis of Assisi to its original charism and mission. His reflection on the pastors of souls below summarizes the sacred role of priests.

"Those who are called to the table of the Lord must glow with the brightness that comes from the good example of a praiseworthy and blameless life. They must completely remove from their lives the filth and uncleanness of vice. Their upright lives must make them like the salt of the earth for themselves and for the rest of mankind. The brightness of their wisdom must make them like the light of the world that brings light to others. They must learn from their eminent teacher, Jesus Christ, what he declared not only to his apostles and disciples, but also to all the priests and clerics who were to succeed them, when he said: You are the salt of the earth. But what if salt goes flat? How can you restore its flavor? Then it is good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."

— St. John of Capistrano

Prayer for St. John of Capistrano's Intercession

O God, who raised up Saint John of Capistrano to comfort your faithful people in tribulation, place us, we pray, under your safe protection and keep your Church in everlasting peace. Almighty ever-living God, grant that by his holy intercession we may live out your will and serve your majesty in sincerity of heart. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Novena to Saint Jude 2017 | Day 5

St. Jude icon

October 23, 2017

Today we remember marriages in distress and families that face hardships or are undergoing difficulty. We pray for reconciliation and peace. May Saint Jude guide them through each day and restore them so to exerience God's love and comfort.

Saint Jude Novena - Day 5

Most holy St. Jude, apostle, martyr and friend of Jesus, pray for me and my intentions. Intercede for me before the throne of God and plead for His favor.

(State your intentions here)

You are the patron of the impossible. Pray for my intentions St. Jude, that God’s grace and mercy will answer them. Pray for the impossible if it is God’s will.

Pray that I may have the grace to accept God’s holy will even if it is difficult.

St. Jude, you sacrificed for the Kingdom of God, pray that I may sacrifice like you.

O St. Jude, pray for me that I may grow in faith, hope and love and in the grace of Jesus Christ. Pray for these intentions, but most of all pray that I may join you in heaven together with God, seeing Him face to face for all eternity. Amen.

For more about the St. Jude novena including daily email reminders go HERE.

St. John of Capistrano, Franciscan Reformer and Defender of the Faith

Saint John of Capistrano

Optional Memorial - October 23rd

The times were anything but good. It was the 14th century, and Europe was in the grip of incredible turmoil. The bubonic plague was raging, leaving a third of the population dead. In Rome, the Great Schism was rocking the papacy, with two, and sometimes three men claiming the Chair of Peter at the same time. England and France were at war, and the city-states of Italy in constant conflict.

Into this gloomy picture stepped St. John Capistrano. Born in 1386, his extensive education in the law led to his appointment as governor of Perugia in 1412. In 1416, he was sent to broker a peace between that city and the city of Malatesta, a move that resulted in his imprisonment there. During his captivity, he decided to change his life completely. After his release, he entered the Franciscan Order.

John would became a disciple of Saint Bernardine of Siena. A great preacher, he reinvigorated the faith of innumerable Catholics, and aided St. Bernardine in his work reforming the Franciscans. Starting his mimistry as a deacon in 1420, he was a tireless servant. The Church at the time was in need of strong men to work for the salvation of souls. Thirty percent of the population was killed by the Black Plague, the Church was in schism and several men were claiming to be pontiff.

As an Itinerant priest throughout Italy, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia, St. John preached to tens of thousands and established communities of Franciscan renewal. He reportedly healed the sick by making the Sign of the Cross over them. He also wrote extensively, mainly against the heresies of the day. John, together with his teacher, Bernardine, his colleague, James of the Marche, and Albert Berdini of Sarteano, are considered to be the four great pillars of the Observant reform honored among the Friars Minor.

In 1456, at the age of 70, he was commissioned by Pope Callistus III to preach and lead a crusade against the invading Muslim forces. He led a successful battle in Belgrade, defending the Christians there from the invading Turks. Worn out by his unceasing efforts on behalf of the Church, he fell prey to an infection, from which he died later that same year. O God, who raised up St. John of Capistrano to comfort your faithful people in tribulation, place us, we pray, under your safe protection and keep your Church in everlasting peace. Almighty ever-living God, grant that we may conform our will to yours and serve you in sincerity of heart.

Reflection for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Greatest Commandment

Sermon on the Moun

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

Exodus 22:20-26; Psalm 18:11 Thessalonians 1:5c-10; Matthew 22:34-40

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” (Mt 22:36)

Americans like things summed up easily and in few words. We like short news bytes and easy to understand directions that pop up on our phones. Simple, quick, and easy are words we live by. At first glance, today’s Gospel from Matthew offers such a summary for today’s Catholic. A lawyer asks Jesus, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Here is Jesus’ answer: "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments." Simple, quick, and easy—love God and love neighbor. It sums up everything Jesus teaches and is thus the center of the law of Christ.

As anyone who takes faith seriously knows, these two commands of Christ are anything but simple, quick, and easy. They’re easy to say and even to believe; they are something else to live. Indeed, loving God and neighbor is the work of a lifetime of prayer and service.

The requirement to love God and neighbor can be likened to the backdrop of a theatrical production. The backdrop gives form and context to what is happening in the front of the stage, namely, the actors performing the play. Loving God completely with all of one’s being and the admonition to love one’s neighbor, the backdrop of the Christian life, will help the person make daily decisions that are in accord with God’s law. In making those decisions, the faithful follower of Christ refers back to “loving God and neighbor” and uses that teaching as his guide.

Jesus teaches that loving God needs to come from the heart, soul, and mind. The totality of one’s being needs to be geared toward this relationship with God. St. Augustine has a beautiful meditation on the desire for God in his Confessions: “You [God] called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace” (Bk. 10, chap. 27.37). When the human person starts to sense God in his life, there is a desire for more! In realizing he has been created by God, called by God to a certain vocation and to a life of holiness, and when that same person feels God’s presence within him nudging him to pursue that which is good and avoid what is evil, he will respond as did St. Augustine. Knowing God brings with it great love and a desire to be even closer. A life of prayer will help the person grow in that love of God.

Love of neighbor comes from the same place as loving God, namely, one’s heart, mind, and soul. At some point in life, the person realizes that God is the Creator of all, including one’s very self. If the person sees that in herself, she then will see it in others. If I have been created in God’s image and likeness, so has every other human being. I am thus compelled to love those around me.

Love of neighbor is shown primarily through the virtues of kindness, forgiveness, acceptance, patience, and generosity, among other virtues. The Christian never comes to a plateau where she now “loves her neighbors” and there is no more work to do. Instead, attempting to love one’s neighbor is a daily resolution for the serious follower of Christ. It is easy to treat those one likes with respect and dignity; it is another story to respect those one dislikes. Yet that is the call of Christianity. Jesus does not say that his followers only had to love those whom they like. They are simply to love their neighbors. That’s a tall order!

While “loving God and neighbor” can seem quick and easy, it is not. With prayer and firm commitment to God, it can surely happen. Let each of us make a resolution every day that today, in this time and circumstance, I will love the God who created me and those around me, to the best of my ability.

Saint John Paul II on Authentic Human Freedom

Saint John Paul II

Pope St. John Paul endured two brutal totalitarian regimes during his life: Nazi Germany and Soviet communism. He resisted the first and actively worked to undermine the second, both successfully. His tireless defense of human dignity, religious freedom and a culture of life animated his efforts as a scholar, pastor and Supreme Pontiff of God's Universal Church. His words remain true today.

Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.
When freedom does not have a purpose, when it does not wish to know anything about the rule of law engraved in the hearts of men and women, when it does not listen to the voice of conscience, it turns against humanity and society.
The historical experience of socialist countries has sadly demonstrated that collectivism does not do away with alienation but rather increases it, adding to it a lack of basic necessities and economic inefficiency.
Pervading nationalism imposes its dominion on man today in many different forms and with an aggressiveness that spares no one. The challenge that is already with us is the temptation to accept as true freedom what in reality is only a new form of slavery.
— St. John Paul II

Prayer for St. John Paul II's Intercession

O Blessed Trinity, we thank You for having graced the Church with Saint John Paul II and for allowing the tenderness of Your Fatherly care, the glory of the cross of Christ, and the splendor of the Holy Spirit, to Shine through him. Grant us, by his intercession that we open our hearts to God. This we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 22, 2017, Year A

Render to Caesar what is Caesar's

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

Every three years we are presented with today’s gospel, one that interests many of us because it deals with the question of separation between Church and State.

The first thing we should note is that the question put to Jesus was a lawyer’s trick question. It was not a question that sought enlightenment; it was not put to Jesus in order to learn from Him. No. It was put to Jesus to trap Him. Was He to be seen as an insurrectionist revolutionary and an enemy of the State or was He to be seen as a collaborator with the hated Roman authorities who so brutalized the Jewish people?

The Pharisees, the religious fundamentalists of the day, hated the Roman tax. The Herodians, those Jews who supported the Roman puppet King Herod, supported the tax. Both groups, the Pharisees and the Herodians, hated each other. But here we find them joined together in a combined effort to trap Jesus, to discredit Him, and thus do away with Him, each trying to trap Jesus for their own reasons.

With a canny response Jesus discredits them both. Both the Pharisees and the Herodians were Jews. Both groups, as Jews, rejected graven images as violations of the First Commandment. No Jew of any stripe would countenance the idea that idols were to be worshipped. Statues and images were totally forbidden as false, man-made gods.

Here we find Jesus in His response to their tricky question asking them for a coin, which they gave Him. Note that both they and Jesus were in the Temple area when this incident took place. Note, too, that the Roman coin had carved upon it the image of the infamous Tiberius Caesar, the one who had so desecrated the Jewish Temple. The coin also bore the inscription: “Tiberius Caesar – Son of the Divine Augustus”. On the coin’s other side it designated him as “Pontifex Maximus”, supreme priest. For Jews, this was blasphemous idolatry.

The fact that they had carried that coin with them into the Temple precincts tells us that they thereby discredited themselves. No good Jew would be caught with such a coin on the Temple’s grounds, the holiest site in all of Judaism.

Furthermore, we need to realize that Jesus’ response was directed at the precise issue of whether or not the Roman taxes should be paid. Jesus said nothing about the autonomy of Caesar in his secular role. Nor was Jesus making any statement at all about separating religion from society.

So these questions remain: What is Caesar’s, and what is God’s? Is there anything at all that is not God’s – is there anything at all in human activity that does not stand under God’s judgment? Are we, as modern-day Americans, exempting anything from God’s purview?

Separation of church and state has benefited us here in the United States. We have a democracy, not a theocracy, and that has served us well. We do not have a state religion; we have freedom of religion. We are free to practice our religious beliefs as we choose.

But where is it written that freedom of religion means freedom from religion? Are people of faith obliged not to express their beliefs and put them into practice in the public domain? We must remember that while rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s we must still render to God what is God’s.

Does God have expectations of us with regard to our civic order? Are our public policies to be exercised freed from God’s norms and apart from God’s will? What is to be kept from God’s purview?

Here are some examples of what concerns me.

One is found in the response our U.S. Congress made to the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. As bills for hurricane relief were being drafted in Congress, voices were raised objecting to giving any forms of relief to churches and other faith-based organizations. Such relief measures, intended for all citizens of these United States were, it was argued, to be denied to faith-based organizations. Why? Because giving them money, it was argued, would violate the principle of separation of church and state. In other words, church members were not to be considered among the citizenry of our country entitled to disaster relief!

By now we are all familiar with the Obamacare’s mandate administered by the Department of Health and Human Services requiring religious organizations employing more than fifty persons to provide their employees with insurance coverage for abortion, sterilization, and contraceptive services. We know, too, that this requirement was applied to the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Department of Justice prosecuted them. Their defense was that they objected to this governmental mandate by citing the Constitutions’ First Amendment guarantee of Freedom of Religion. In response to the Little Sisters’ appeal, a Federal judge suggested that the Little Sisters simply sign a form declaring that they are an exempt religious organization. Why don’t they just sign this meaningless little form? By doing so the problem will go away the court said.

Well, these little nuns are smart enough to recognize that signing the government’s form is not meaningless. Why? Because the government retains its claim to interfere with their right to freely practice what they believe. The Sisters are astute enough to recognize that the government can take away what it so graciously granted. The government’s claim in effect defines how one’s belief is exercised. The “meaningless little form” isn’t simply a minor exception.

Freedom of religion isn’t confined to how one worships on Sunday. People of belief should be able to practice in public what they hold to in Sunday worship free of governmental controls and mandates.

Another example occurs to me. Article VI, Clause 3 of our Constitution prescribes that “no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

What disturbs me is that in recent times people running for public office or appointed to hold public office, particularly the judiciary, are being subjected to religious tests. Precisely because they hold certain religious beliefs they are being subjected to political attacks. If they strongly hold to certain religious beliefs they are being told they are fundamentalist fanatics and therefore unqualified to hold public office. We need look no further than to recent debates over nominees for Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thomas Jefferson and many of our founding forbearers clearly held to the position that we must be a moral nation if our republic is to endure. The founders of our nation had strong religious beliefs and they founded our nation on firmly held positions that derived from their faith in the Almighty. Our Creator, they declared, endows unalienable human rights upon us.

Abraham Lincoln, in his monumental effort to preserve our union repeatedly appealed to the Almighty in his famous and powerful speeches. None of these men would subscribe to the notion that freedom of religion means freedom from religion in our civic life and in the fabric of our republic.

What, then, is Caesar’s and what is God’s? That question is being argued out in our times in a great debate over the importance and value of religion in our society. Reasonable people may differ in the application of answers to that question. But however much reasonable people may differ it is unreasonable to assert the notion that our American republic was built on the secularist mantra that freedom of religion in these United States means freedom from religion in our public affairs.

What is Caesar’s and what is God’s? The question is just as important to us now as it was when it was put to Jesus. And so is its answer. Your vote matters.

October 21, 2017

Novena to Saint Jude 2017 | Day 4

St. Jude icon

October 22, 2017

As we continue to pray to Saint Jude for impossible and hopeless causes, today we pray for all those who are burdened with debt, and those who constantly struggle to make ends meet. May they find relief from their financial burdens.

Saint Jude Novena - Day 4

Most holy St. Jude, apostle, martyr and friend of Jesus, pray for me and my intentions. Intercede for me before the throne of God and plead for His favor.

(State your intentions here)

You are the patron of the impossible. Pray for my intentions St. Jude, that God’s grace and mercy will answer them. Pray for the impossible if it is God’s will.

Pray that I may have the grace to accept God’s holy will even if it is difficult.

St. Jude, you are known for answering lost causes, pray for my most impossible needs.

O St. Jude, pray for me that I may grow in faith, hope and love and in the grace of Jesus Christ. Pray for these intentions, but most of all pray that I may join you in heaven together with God, seeing Him face to face for all eternity. Amen.

For more about the St. Jude novena including daily email reminders go HERE.