31 January 2020

Stilling the storm

On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care if we perish?" And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?" And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?"

- St. Mark 4:35-41

In this passage from St. Mark’s Gospel we see Jesus and His disciples being caught out on the Sea of Galilee when a storm came up.  The disciples were fearful that they would drown. Although Jesus was sleeping, when they woke Him He rose up and commanded the wind and sea, and an immediate calm came.

What should we make of this scene? Did it really happen? Did the wind die down and the sea become calm simply at the word of Jesus? Yes. If we were there, that's what we would have experienced.

But there’s a further meaning in this account. When the Gospel writers speak of a boat, often they are also referring to the Church. In fact, this is one of the titles of the Church – the Barque, or Boat, of Peter - referring to the Catholic Church founded by Christ Himself.

And as the little boat referred to in the Gospel was being beaten by the storm and the waves, so the Church even today is being pounded by external forces and weakened by a few corrupt leaders. The Church, the Barque of Peter, is sailing in perilous waters. Like the disciples, there are many who are fearful. There are those who are tempted to believe that God has abandoned His people, and that because of our sins He has turned His back on us.

Yet we know that cannot be true. Though the gates of hell seem to stand against us, they cannot prevail. Our Lord promised it. Look back through the centuries at the number of times God’s promise has been fulfilled. And just as the disciples wondered, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him,” so we know exactly what sort of man our Saviour Christ is: He is God Incarnate, in complete control, and even though the storms around us seem very great, we need have no fear at all. At Christ’s Word, everything will be made calm.

30 January 2020

St. John Bosco

St. John Bosco was born near Turin, Italy, in 1815. His father died when John was only two years old, but his mother made sure he received a good education. His early years were financially difficult but at the age of twenty he entered the major seminary, thanks to the financial help received from a benefactor. John Bosco was ordained a priest on June 5, 1846.

At that time the city of Turin was on the threshold of the industrial revolution and as a result there were many challenges and problems, especially for the young men who came there to work. Many of them had little or no education, and since they worked long hours, there were few opportunities to get an education. Gifted as he was as an educator and a leader, Don Bosco formulated a system of education based on "reason, religion and kindness." In spite of the criticism and violent attacks of the anti-clericals, he conducted workshops for the tradesmen and manual laborers, schools of arts and sciences for young workers, and schools of the liberal arts for those preparing for the priesthood. In 1868 there were 800 students involved in this educational system. To ensure the continuation of his work, Don Bosco founded the Society of St. Francis de Sales (Salesians), which was approved in 1869. Also, with the help of Sister Mary Dominic Mazzarello, he founded the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Auxiliatrix.

He also found time to write popular catechetical pamphlets, which were distributed throughout Italy, as was his Salesian Bulletin. This great apostle of youth died on January 31, 1888, and was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934. Pope John Paul II named him "father and teacher to the young."

O God, who didst raise up Saint John Bosco thy Confessor to be a father and teacher of the young, and through him, with the aid of the Virgin Mary, didst will that new families should flourish in thy Church: grant, we beseech thee; that being kindled by the same fire of charity, we may have the strength to seek for souls, and to serve thee alone; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

28 January 2020

Soil and Seeds

Jesus taught many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to the crowds: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it had not much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil; and when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty fold and sixty fold and a hundredfold." And he said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

-St. Mark 4:2-9

The time came when Jesus was no longer teaching in the synagogue, but rather out in the open by the Sea of Galilee. The basis of Christ’s method of teaching was the use of the parable. A parable is “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” Something on earth is compared with something in heaven, so that the heavenly truth may be better grasped in light of the earthly illustration.

So we see Jesus is sitting in a boat just off the edge of the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He begins with the “here and now” and moves to the “there and then.” In other words, He started from a thing that was happening at that moment before their eyes. They could see the fields. They knew how seeds were planted, and how they would grow, depending upon the soil.

This was the very essence of our Lord’s teaching, that He started with the simplest things that even a child could understand, and led people to truths they had never realized before, showing that there is a direct relationship between earth and heaven.

It isn’t just possible - but indeed it is necessary - to see the things of God in common and ordinary things. Life is filled with things which can lead us to God, if we will only look at them with eyes of faith. The soil before their eyes became for the people a picture of their own lives as they heard it in Christ’s parable. The seed in the parable became the Word of God. And through this parable we can learn how to cultivate God’s truth, and so grow in God’s Kingdom.

27 January 2020

Building God's Family

The mother of Jesus and his brethren came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brethren are outside, asking for you." And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brethren?" And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brethren! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother."  -St. Mark 3:31-35

In this brief passage from the Gospel we hear our Lord Jesus expanding the idea of kinship, of what it is to be part of a family, that it isn’t just a matter of flesh and blood. Now certainly, we should understand that Jesus wasn’t minimizing family ties. In fact, the teaching of the Church is very clear about the obligation that parents have to care for their children, and the obligation that children have to honour their parents. But here Jesus is developing and building upon this as He speaks about the larger family; namely, the family of God.

Our Lord teaches that true kinship is based upon a common obedience. He says, “...whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.” His band of disciples was a mixed group, as is the Church today, but we are bound together because we choose to obey Jesus as our master. People can truly come to love one another when they share a common love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

26 January 2020

Christ's power over evil...

The scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons." And he called them to him, and said to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house. Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" - for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."

- St. Mark 3:22-30

Those scribes weren’t questioning Christ’s power to exorcise demons. They fully accepted the fact that He had that power. What they got wrong was what they considered the source of that power to be. They were convinced that He had this power because He was in league with the head of all the demons, Satan himself. But they weren’t thinking logically, and Jesus had no difficulty in showing the fallacy in what they were saying.

The essence of exorcism is always that the exorcist calls upon a stronger power in order to drive out the weaker, and this is a basic premise of Catholic exorcism. So when those scribes said that Jesus was using the power of Satan to drive out demons, He makes the powerful point that if there is dissension in a kingdom, then that kingdom won’t last. If there are quarrels in a house, then that household won’t stand for long. So if Satan is making war with his own demons, then Satan would be undermining his own power.

He then goes on to emphasize His point: if you want to rob a strong man, you can’t do it until you subdue him. Once you’ve restrained him, then you can take his belongings. So it should be obvious to the scribes that Jesus certainly isn’t in league with Satan; rather, He was showing that Satan’s defenses were being destroyed. Indeed, someone stronger had arrived, and the conquest of Satan had begun in earnest. Jesus is showing us that there is a struggle between the power of evil and the power of God, and that the power of God will always win because it is definitely not a struggle between equals!

And then there are some very serious words about what has been called “the unforgivable sin.” Now to understand, it’s important to know the circumstances in which our Lord was speaking. When Jesus said, “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness…” it was when the scribes and Pharisees had claimed that the cures He had done were accomplished, not by the power of God, but by the power of the devil. They were religious leaders looking at at the incarnate love of God, and yet they were able to think that it was the power of Satan.

This, then, is the “unforgivable sin” - to call what is good, evil. To identify the source of good with the devil indicates a moral ruin which will not allow itself to be repaired. When an individual rejects the guidance of God, and loses the ability to recognize goodness when he sees it, having his moral values so reversed that to him evil is good and good is evil, he has made himself immune to being conscious of sin. In such a state, he cannot repent, and if he cannot repent then he cannot be forgiven. That is the “sin against the Holy Spirit,” and is “unforgivable,” not because God cannot forgive, but because such a person will not allow Him to forgive.

24 January 2020

Following Jesus, taking risks...

Then Jesus went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for people were saying, "He is beside himself."
-St. Mark 3:20-21

It’s a brief excerpt from the gospel, and at first glance, an odd one. Why would it be appointed to be read at Mass, and what could it possibly be about?

St. Matthew records in his gospel (10:36) that Jesus had once made the statement, “A man’s foes will be those of his own household.” Here we have an example of something like that very thing coming true. Some members of His extended family were wanting to take hold of Him, because it appeared to them that “He is beside himself...” In other words, “He’s crazy!” Why did they feel that way? There are a couple of possible reasons.

First, Jesus had left home and had left what was probably a flourishing carpenter’s business developed by His foster-father Joseph in Nazareth. And what did He decide to do instead? He went out to be an itinerant rabbi. They probably thought that no sensible man would go from being a stable craftsman to being a wandering beggar with no place even to lay His head.

Also, Jesus had left His family only to gather a new little community of His own. And it probably seemed to be a rather strange gathering at that: some fishermen, a reformed tax collector, a fanatical nationalistic zealot. It would seem to many that these weren’t the kind of people whom a normal person would gather as one’s closest associates.

Therefore, taking account of those things, and from a purely human point of view, it is somewhat understandable that He might be thought of as being a bit mad. Apparently He didn’t care about being secure. He didn’t “play it safe.” He didn’t live according to the usual expectations of others.

So then, what apparently compelled these individuals to take Him in hand was that He seemed to be taking tremendous risks that no sensible man would take.

 And yet, that is exactly what we as His disciples must be willing to do, which is why we should hear and take seriously this gospel account.

Choosing His Apostles

“And he went up on the mountain, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons: Simon whom he surnamed Peter; James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, whom he surnamed Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him."
- St. Mark 3:13-19

Christ’s earthly ministry clearly was a divine mission, reflecting the mind and intention of God, and yet there were many practical things to take into consideration. He had, by this time, clearly stated the purpose of his earthly ministry. He had gone throughout Galilee preaching and healing, and had begun to make a sizable impact upon people in that area.

Jesus knew that the time of His own earthly ministry was limited, and even though He was God Incarnate, He was still only able (because of his human nature) to reach a limited number of people. There were no newspapers, no television, certainly no internet! To solve these two problems (the time limitation, and the limited numbers he could reach) He chose certain men to be with Him, to learn from Him, to be formed by Him, and who would be given the specific task of carrying on His work after His death and resurrection.

In choosing these men, Jesus called them for two purposes. Firstly, he called them to be with Him. They were to be His companions. They were to be with Him from that time on. Other people might come and go, the crowds might be there one day, and be gone the next, others might fluctuate in their attachment to Him, but these twelve were to identify their lives with His life and live with Him all the time. Secondly, Jesus called them in order to send them out (this is what “apostle” means: “one who is sent”). They were to be His representatives. They were to tell others about Him and His gospel. Just as they had been called by Jesus, so they were to call others to Jesus.

And for all of this, Jesus equipped the apostles with two things. He gave them a message; that is, the Gospel. They were made the “heralds” of Christ, announcing the Good News which Jesus was making clear in His own preaching and teaching. And He gave them power. He told them that they would have authority to cast out demons, able to exercise power over the destructive power of evil. In other words, His power was to be their power.

These facts begin to outline for us not only the ministry of the apostles, but also that of their successors the bishops, and indeed, the whole Church.

23 January 2020

St. Francis de Sales, Gentleman Saint

St. Francis de Sales was urged by his father to be a lawyer so that the young man could eventually take his elder’s place as a senator from the province of Savoy in France. To prepare him for this he was sent to the University of Padua to study law. He was a good student, and after receiving his doctorate, he returned home. It was then that he told his parents that he wanted to become a priest. His father wasn’t very happy about it, but young Francis was very persuasive, and eventually his father gave his consent. Francis was ordained and he was appointed by his bishop to be one of the officials of the Diocese of Geneva. Geneva was a city which was almost totally protestant, and Francis set out to convert them. By preaching and distributing the little pamphlets he wrote to explain true Catholic doctrine, he had remarkable success.

When he was 35 years old, he became bishop of Geneva. While administering his diocese he continued to preach, hear confessions and catechize the children. His gentle character was a great asset in winning souls. In fact, it was St. Francis who said, “A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar.” In other words, to have a gentle and sweet attitude will influence people much more than being argumentative with them.

St. Francis wrote two very important books on the spiritual life – the Introduction to the Devout Life and A Treatise on the Love of God. He wrote many pamphlets and carried on a vast correspondence, and because of his great amount of writing, he has been named patron of the Catholic Press. His writings are addressed to lay people, and he wanted to help them understand that they, too, are called to be saints.

St. Francis de Sales was known as the “gentleman saint” because of his gracious and gentle nature. In fact, it was he who said, “A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar.” But it wasn't always so with him. By his own admission, he had a very quick temper, and although it took him more than twenty years to master it, no one suspected he had such a problem because he worked so hard to suppress it. With the “let it all hang out” attitude which is so prevalent today, probably psychologists and counselors wouldn't think that was such a good idea – but by exercising self-control under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, St. Francis was able to achieve great sanctity.

O God, who for the salvation of souls didst cause thy blessed Confessor Saint Francis de Sales to become all things to all men: pour into our hearts, we pray thee, the sweetness of thy charity; that by the direction of his counsels and the succor of his merits we may attain to the joys of life everlasting; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

22 January 2020

St. Marianne Cope

Canonized in 2012, St. Marianne Cope (1838-1918) devoted herself to God through her vows as a Franciscan religious and through the care of the sick. One of her patients was St. Damien of Molokai, whom she nursed in his final months. This is her story.

As a leader in her community, Mother Marianne was instrumental in opening two of the first Catholic Hospitals in Central New York: St. Elizabeth in Utica and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse. Recognizing the need for basic health care in a city of immigrants, she and a small group of women defied convention by purchasing a saloon in Syracuse, New York and transforming it into a hospital to serve the needs of a diverse community. Here they welcomed everyone and provided the same quality of care regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or economic means. They pioneered rules of patient’s rights and cleanliness practices not seen before in the United States. And this was just the beginning. Throughout upstate New York, Mother Marianne and her growing community educated and provided healthcare to children and adults with dignity and compassion for all.

In 1883, Mother Marianne and a group of six other Sisters of St. Francis bravely journeyed across the United States by train and took a ship to the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) to care for individuals believed to have leprosy (now known as Hansen’s disease). They initially served at the Branch hospital at Kaka’ako on the island of Oahu to provide care for those exiled from their families. The king and queen then asked that the sisters open a home to care for the healthy children of patients and Marianne named it the Kapiolani Home in honor of the queen.

Mother Marianne traveled to Maui in 1884 where she was asked to manage Malulani Hospital, the island’s first general hospital, as well as St. Anthony School. In 1888, she and the sisters moved to Kalaupapa to care for those with Hansen’s disease who had been exiled to the remote peninsula on the island of Molokai. There she cared for Father Damien in his last months and attended temporarily to the boy’s home that he had established there until the Sacred Heart Fathers sent a permanent replacement.

Mother Marianne not only provided healthcare to the girls in her care at Bishop Home in Kalaupapa, she offered healing for mind, body and spirit by creating a community that supported individual creativity, dignity and respect. A community of family was established enhanced by gardens, music, art, games and laughter. The grave sites of thousands of people who died from Hansen’s disease cover the peninsula on Molokai. It is heartening to know that the sisters provided them with some measure of peace and comfort during their time there.

- from https://www.saintmarianne.org/her-story.html

Almighty God, our heavenly Father: we remember before thee all thy servants who have served thee faithfully in their generation, and have entered into rest, especially St. Marianne Cope, beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow in their steps; that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr

From The Church's Year of Grace, by Pius Parsch:
St. Vincent of Saragossa was one of the Church's three most illustrious deacons, the other two being Stephen and Lawrence. He is also Spain's most renowned martyr. Ordained deacon by Bishop Valerius of Saragossa, he was taken in chains to Valencia during the Diocletian persecution and put to death. From legend we have the following details of his martyrdom. After brutal scourging in the presence of many witnesses, he was stretched on the rack; but neither torture nor blandishments nor threats could undermine the strength and courage of his faith. Next, he was cast on a heated grating, lacerated with iron hooks, and seared with hot metal plates. Then he was returned to prison, where the floor was heavily strewn with pieces of broken glass. A heavenly brightness flooded the entire dungeon, filling all who saw it with greatest awe.

After this he was placed on a soft bed in the hope that lenient treatment would induce apostasy, since torture had proven ineffective. But strengthened by faith in Christ Jesus and the hope of everlasting life, Vincent maintained an invincible spirit and overcame all efforts, whether by fire, sword, rack, or torture to induce defection. He persevered to the end and gained the heavenly crown of martyrdom.

Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy Deacon and Martyr Vincent triumphed over suffering and despised death: grant, we beseech thee, by his intercession; that enduring hardness, and waxing valiant in fight, we may with the noble army of Martyrs receive the crown of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

21 January 2020

Protecting the Unborn

January 22nd is set apart as a day of prayer and penance, seeking restoration of the legal protection of the unborn. We know that life is the most basic gift given to us by God. From the moment we were conceived, God had made each of us unique, with a soul which carries His divine image, and with all the human dignity we have, right down to this very moment, and which each one of us will have even into eternity. And what is true for each of us is true for each and every baby throughout the world and throughout all time.

Our nation was founded upon this truth. In our Declaration of Independence it states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

There are some who reject this truth, and it was forty-seven years ago that the legal protection you and I have was taken away from unborn children. So we pray, first, that legal protection be restored to the unborn. But we pray also that hearts will be changed; that everyone will recognize the dignity of every human being, no matter how young, whether they have been born yet or not.

O God our Creator, we give thanks to thee, who alone hast the power to impart the breath of life as thou dost form each of us in our mother’s womb: Grant, we pray; that we, whom thou hast made stewards of creation, may remain faithful to this sacred trust and constant in safeguarding the dignity of every human life; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

18 January 2020

"Behold, the Lamb of God..."

St. John the Baptist knew that the ministry given to him by God was drawing to a close. He had been born to prepare the way for the Messiah. He had done that, and now it was time for him to leave the scene. So when he sees Jesus coming toward him, he exclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” In other words, “Look there. The one you see is the Lamb of God.”

Last week we celebrated the fact that John had baptized Jesus in the River Jordan. It was at that time that the voice of the Father was heard coming out of heaven, proclaiming to the world that Jesus was the Beloved Son; the Holy Spirit had hovered over Jesus in the form of a dove. The fullness of the Holy Trinity was revealed to the world on the banks of the Jordan that day. And now we hear St. John: “Behold, the Lamb of God…”

What would those words have meant to those who heard them? Every Jew knew all about the lambs that were sacrificed as sin-offerings in the Temple. The Passover Lamb was a fixed and important part of their history, which served as a reminder that God had led His people out of slavery in Egypt. For generations they had heard of the innocence and purity and meekness of the lamb referenced by Isaiah, when he described the Suffering Servant as the “lamb that is led to the slaughter…” And as the words of St. John the Baptist spoke to those who heard him, they speak with an even greater force to us – we know what he meant when he exclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God…”

There is no longer any need for the sacrifice of Passover lambs on an altar in a temple in Jerusalem. Instead, we have the one true Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, sacrificed once for all on the cross, and now given to us as the Body and Blood of our Saviour under the forms of bread and wine.

Jesus Christ, our Risen Saviour,
Of Thy sacrifice we sing;
As the lamb in ancient myst'ry
To Thy people life didst bring,
So in Eucharistic glory,
Thou, God's Lamb, art made our King.

17 January 2020

Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity

From January 18 through January 25, Christians throughout the world will be keeping the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The official material composed for it each year is fine, but it tends to be pretty non-specific, as far as what we’re actually supposed to pray for – other than nice feelings and politeness – whereas the original prayers and intentions for the Octave of Prayer zero in much more on the fact that unity according to the mind of Christ is a specific kind of unity.

The Octave was first conceived by Father Paul of Graymoor on 30 November 1907, before his entrance into the Catholic Church. The initial success in 1908 was so encouraging that he decided to promote it annually, and he regarded the Octave as one of the special means which brought his Society of the Atonement into the Church on 30 October 1909. It was given papal blessing by Pope St. Pius X on 27 December 1909, just two months after the Society of the Atonement had entered the Catholic Church. Other popes have given it their blessings over the years, including Pope St. John XXIII (who urged its observance more widely throughout the world) and Pope St. Paul VI (who had promoted it in his archdiocese when he was the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan). Father Paul considered the Octave as the greatest project which came from Graymoor, and even though it was overshadowed by the less-specific "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity" during his own lifetime, he rejoiced that those separated from the Catholic Church felt called to observe the January period as a time of prayer for unity. Even though their concept of unity differs from that of the Catholic Church, it is significant that so many pray for that unity which God desires for His people.

The Octave, as originally conceived by Father Paul, reflects the unchanging truth that there can be no real unity apart from union upon that Rock, established by Christ Himself, which is Peter and his successors. For that reason, St. Peter is considered the special Patron of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity.


ANTIPHON: That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, in me and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me.

V. I say unto thee, thou art Peter;

R. And upon this rock I will build my Church.

[Here is brought to mind the intention for the day's prayer.]

January 18: For the return of the "other sheep" to the One Fold of our Lord Jesus Christ.

January 19: For the return of the Eastern Orthodox Christians to communion with the Apostolic See.

January 20: For the return of the Anglicans to the authority of the Vicar of Christ.

January 21: For the return of all Protestants throughout the world to the unity of the Catholic Church.

January 22: That Christians in America (or, in my own country) may be one, in union with the Chair of Saint Peter.

January 23: That lapsed Catholics will return to the Sacraments of the Church.

January 24: That the Jewish people will be converted to the Catholic Faith.

January 25: That missionary zeal will conquer the world for Christ.

Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, who saidst to thine Apostles, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: regard not our sins, but the faith of thy Church; and grant to her peace and unity according to thy will; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Forgiveness and healing

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven." Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, "Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, `Rise, take up your pallet and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" – he said to the paralytic – “I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home." And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"

-St. Mark 2:1-12

Jesus was in a house teaching. Like all houses in that time and place, it was flat-roofed and composed of beams laid from wall to wall, quite a short distance apart. The space between the beams was filled with close packed twigs, then covered with a coating of a clay mixture. It was easy to take out the packing between two beams, so that’s how these men let their friend down through the roof on his pallet, so that he was right in front of our Lord.

This Gospel is about Christ healing, and it’s also about Christ forgiving sin. It teaches us that sin and suffering often are connected, and sometimes it’s our own personal sin which causes suffering. There are choices people make which might be dangerous, or have a bad effect on their health, and that choice can cause suffering to them and to others.

The Pharisees went further and believed that if a man was suffering it automatically meant that he had sinned. Although we know that’s not universally true, yet because it was the way of thinking at that time, so it’s why Jesus began by forgiving the sins of the sick man, and it was through that forgiveness that Christ restored him to health. Because of the connection they made between sin and sickness, so the Pharisees’ objections to Jesus fell apart. Logically, and according to what the Pharisees believed, the man’s sin caused his sickness; but Jesus declares the man to be forgiven of sin, and he is completely restored to health; therefore, his newfound health proved that Jesus was able to forgive sin – the very thing the Pharisees said He couldn’t do!

There’s one more thing here. Notice that the man who was forgiven and healed was brought to Jesus by his friends. It’s a pretty powerful reminder to each of us that we have a responsibility to help our friends, and all those around us, to come to know God – and we do it by our words and by our example. Whenever we speak, or when we do something, we should ask, “Is this helping others to know God better?”

16 January 2020

St. Anthony of Egypt, Abbot

Before the conversion of the Emperor Constantine in 312 AD, back in the days when Christianity was still a persecuted religion, the act of becoming a Christian meant that a person turned his back on security, prestige, popularity, and success as far as the world was concerned. After the Emperor Constantine had changed Christianity from being a persecuted religion into one that was acceptable to society, and it became fairly easy to be a Christian, many who were serious about their faith felt that they needed to make a bigger sacrifice. As a result, some of them wanted to show their Christian commitment by leaving society and going out into the desert to become hermits, where they could devote themselves to a life of solitude, fasting, and prayer. Although this had begun to happen even before Christianity became legal, after Constantine this “going out into the desert” was seen more and more. One of the earliest examples is St Anthony of Egypt, who is considered to be the founder of Christian monasticism.

St Anthony of Egypt was the son of Christian parents, and from them he inherited a large estate. On his way to church one day, he found himself thinking about the words of Jesus, where He said, "Sell all that you have, and give to the poor, and come follow me." When he got to church, he heard the preacher speaking on those very words. He took this as a message from God for him, so having provided for the care of his sister, he gave his land to the tenants who lived on it, and gave his other wealth to the poor, and became a hermit, living alone for twenty years, praying and reading, and doing manual labor. As more Christians sought out that solitary life, they tended to gravitate towards the place where St Anthony was, so in the year 305, he decided to give up his solitude, and he became the head of a group of monks, living in a cluster of huts or cells, devoting themselves to communal singing and worship, to prayer and study and manual labor under Anthony's direction. They weren’t there simply to renounce the world, but they wanted to develop their lives of prayer for others, and they worked with their hands to earn money so they could give it to the poor, and they gave spiritual guidance to those who sought them out.

In 321, Christians in Alexandria were beginning to experience persecution again, this time by the Emperor Maximinus – even though the Christian faith had been made legal by Constantine – and Anthony visited Alexandria to encourage those who were facing the possibility of martyrdom. He visited again in 335, when Arianism had become strong in the city, and he converted many by his preaching and testimony, and by prayer and the working of miracles. What we know of Anthony’s life we learn from the writings of St Athanasius, one of the followers of St Anthony. It was Athanasius who said about Anthony: "No one ever met him grieving, without failing to go away rejoicing."

Anthony died after a long, prayerful life in 356. He was 105.

Most gracious God, who didst call thy servant Anthony to sell all that he had and to serve thee in the solitude of the desert: grant that we, through his intercession and following his example, may learn to deny ourselves and to love thee before all things; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

11 January 2020

The Baptism of Christ

The sinless Son of God, who has no need to be baptized, submits to a sinner’s baptism.

The Light of God, in whom is no darkness at all, goes into the depths of the River Jordan, buried before His death.

The pure Word of God, who came to proclaim the truth, stands mute before the Voice which prepared His way.

A divine whisper proclaims the Beloved as the Father’s own. Fluttering wings form a nimbus. And with the Baptism of our Lord all water becomes holy.

The water created by God at the beginning; the water through which the ark safely traveled; the water through which the Israelites marched dry-shod -- all is made holy.

The water which flowed over the Word Made Flesh has gone on to mingle with all the water of the whole earth, and by that water we are made clean.

Almighty and everlasting God, who by the Baptism of thy well-beloved Son Jesus Christ in the river Jordan didst sanctify water to the mystical washing away of sin; Mercifully look upon us, who have been cleansed of sin and sanctified with the Holy Ghost, that we may be kept safe in the ark of Christ’s Church; and grant that we, being steadfast in faith, joyful through hope, and rooted in charity, may so pass the waves of this troublesome world, that finally we may come to the land of everlasting life, there to dwell with thee for ever and ever, world without end. Amen.

Theophany: Showing the Divine

The Epiphany involves more than the visit from the Wise Men.  In what is referred to as the Theophany, the Church links three events - the visit of the Magi, the Baptism of Our Lord, and Christ's first miracle at the wedding in Cana - and together these are the Epiphany: the manifestation of the God-Man to the world.

Almighty God, whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ is the Light of the world: Grant that thy people, illumined by thy Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

10 January 2020

Saturday is Mary's day...

Every Saturday in the Catholic Church (provided there is no other commemoration of greater importance) is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. A priest may celebrate a special votive Mass on Saturday morning in honor of Our Lady. But why is Saturday marked in this way?

Holy Scripture reveals to us that Saturday is the day when creation was completed and so is celebrated as the day of the fulfillment of the plan of salvation, which found its realization through Mary.  Sunday is the Lord’s Day, so it is appropriate to observe the preceding day as Mary’s day.

In addition, as the book of Genesis describes, God rested on the seventh day, Saturday. The seventh day, Saturday, is the Jewish Sabbath. But we as Christians rest on Sunday, because we celebrate the Resurrection as our Sabbath Day. In parallel, Jesus rested in the womb and then in the loving arms of Mary from birth until she held His lifeless body at the foot of the Cross; thus God Himself rested in Mary before His birth and before His resurrection.

And there is a further tradition: it is a remembrance of the maternal example and discipleship of the Blessed Virgin Mary who, strengthened by faith and hope, on that great Saturday on which Our Lord lay in the tomb, held vigil in expectation of the Lord’s resurrection. And so it is a prelude and introduction to the celebration of Sunday, the weekly memorial of the Resurrection of Christ. Indeed, it is a sign that the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, is continuously present and active in the life of the Church.

02 January 2020

The Most Holy Name of Jesus

A worthy custom to be maintained is that of bowing one's head at the name of our Lord as a sign of respect at the sound of the Name of our salvation. There are so many acts of courtesy and respect which have been lost in our everyday living, but there are things such as this that we should refuse to put aside. It may seem a little thing, but it is important that we pause and acknowledge the wonder of what God in Christ has done, and is doing. The very idea that the Creator of all things has such love for us that He has put on human flesh in the womb of the chosen maiden, and has taken for Himself the particular name of Jesus, and gives Himself to us daily in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass - that should make us want to bow our heads in wonder and praise. "For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved."

Almighty God, who by thy blessed Apostle hast taught us that there is none other name given among men whereby we must be saved, but only the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ: grant, we beseech thee; that we may ever glory in this Name, and strive to make thy salvation known unto all mankind; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
*  *  *  *  *

Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus

V. Lord, have mercy on us.
R. Christ, have mercy on us.
V. Lord, have mercy on us. Jesus, hear us.
R. Jesus, graciously hear us.
V. God the Father of Heaven
R. Have mercy on us.
V. God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. God the Holy Spirit,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. Holy Trinity, one God,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. Jesus, Son of the living God, R. Have mercy on us.
Jesus, splendor of the Father, [etc.]
Jesus, brightness of eternal light.
Jesus, King of glory.
Jesus, sun of justice.
Jesus, Son of the Virgin Mary.
Jesus, most amiable.
Jesus, most admirable.
Jesus, the mighty God.
Jesus, Father of the world to come.
Jesus, angel of great counsel.
Jesus, most powerful.
Jesus, most patient.
Jesus, most obedient.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart.
Jesus, lover of chastity.
Jesus, lover of us.
Jesus, God of peace.
Jesus, author of life.
Jesus, example of virtues.
Jesus, zealous lover of souls.
Jesus, our God.
Jesus, our refuge.
Jesus, father of the poor.
Jesus, treasure of the faithful.
Jesus, good Shepherd.
Jesus, true light.
Jesus, eternal wisdom.
Jesus, infinite goodness.
Jesus, our way and our life.
Jesus, joy of Angels.
Jesus, King of the Patriarchs.
Jesus, Master of the Apostles.
Jesus, teacher of the Evangelists.
Jesus, strength of Martyrs.
Jesus, light of Confessors.
Jesus, purity of Virgins.
Jesus, crown of Saints.

V. Be merciful, R. spare us, O Jesus.
V. Be merciful, R. graciously hear us, O Jesus.
V. From all evil, R. deliver us, O Jesus.
From all sin, deliver us, O Jesus.
From Your wrath, [etc.]
From the snares of the devil.
From the spirit of fornication.
From everlasting death.
From the neglect of Your inspirations.
By the mystery of Your holy Incarnation.
By Your Nativity.
By Your Infancy.
By Your most divine Life.
By Your labors.
By Your agony and passion.
By Your cross and dereliction.
By Your sufferings.
By Your death and burial.
By Your Resurrection.
By Your Ascension.
By Your institution of the most Holy Eucharist.
By Your joys.
By Your glory.

V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. spare us, O Jesus.
V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. graciously hear us, O Jesus.
V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. have mercy on us, O Jesus.

V. Jesus, hear us.
R. Jesus, graciously hear us.

Let us pray.

O Lord Jesus Christ, You have said, "Ask and you shall receive, seek, and you shall find, knock, and it shall be opened to you." Grant, we beg of You, to us who ask it, the gift of Your most divine love, that we may ever love You with our whole heart, in word and deed, and never cease praising You. Give us, O Lord, as much a lasting fear as a lasting love of Your Holy Name, for You, who live and are King for ever and ever, never fail to govern those whom You have solidly established in Your love. R. Amen.

01 January 2020

"If you have love..."

The Lord Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” He declares love to be the unique mark of His disciples. And He’s not speaking just of warm feelings. Love is doing the right thing, not just saying the right thing. It’s how the world can recognize a disciple of Jesus, by the love shining through that person. Christian love is like the beam of light shining from a lighthouse, guiding the ships at sea out of the darkness into a safe port.

And that kind of Love makes us different. The unbelieving world will sit up and take notice, just as the pagan Roman world couldn’t help but notice how the first believers cared for one another.  They said with amazement, "See how they love one another!"

The first century pagans weren’t attracted to the Church by an impressive system of doctrine, or glorious liturgies and music, or magnificent buildings. What was most attractive about Christians was their selfless, sacrificing love for each other – a love which obviously was grounded in their love for the Lord Jesus Christ. The world saw the love of Christ through the love of Christians. That's what drew them to the Church.

In the book of the Revelation of St. John the Divine, the Apostle writes what the Risen Christ says about the various churches. When he gets to the Church at Ephesus, he highly commends its doctrinal purity, its discernment, its ability to weed out false prophets, and its hatred of heresy. But there was one thing the Lord had against the Christians in Ephesus. They had forsaken the Christian love which they once had.

It’s possible to have the purest doctrine, the most dynamic preaching and teaching, the most beautiful music and liturgy, the most ambitious program of mission and outreach, the most gorgeous facilities – but if we don’t have love for one another, it will all be, as St. Paul says, "like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."

If Christians sometimes seem to have little impact in today's world it's not for lack of words or books or advertising or communication. It's for lack of love. Without genuine Christian love for one another, no one will know that we are disciples of Jesus Christ, no matter what we say we believe.

Love makes faith visible.