Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sts Peter And Paul: Light In Christ's Body, His Church

Peter and Paul were men whose paths actually crossed while on this earth. Peter was one of Jesus' Apostles and chosen by Him as the first pope. Paul never knew Christ while Our Lord walked the earth, but his powerful conversion had the effect as if he had.
I often wonder about these two great saints, who while in their earthly lives became very faith~filled men, were not always saints. Judging from what we know about their personalities, both were extremely strong willed. I wonder what it would have been like to have them both in the same room at the same time. I somehow imagine some holy sparks flying from time to time. Definitely not always as "chummy" as this El Greco painting portrays them.
Both loved Jesus deeply and believed in Him with everything that they were. God in His infinite wisdom raised up these two pillars of our Church at the same time.
Pope St Leo the Great compares Peter and Paul to: "two eyes that bring light to the body whose head is Christ."
On this Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, let us ask them to continue to intercede for Christ's Mystical Body, His Church, and may they intercede for each of us and inspire us with their fire and conviction in Spirit.
You can read the rest of Pope St Leo the Great's sermon, as well as the writings of other Doctors of the Church on these two powerful saints here.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Freedom From The "But Firsts"

I know I have written of this before, but it is one of those things that bears repeating; there is a difference between true freedom and license. Our world really is unable to see that difference and they use these terms interchangeably.
The readings today are all about true freedom; the ability to do what is right, to do as God wants not as we want. Now hopefully as we travel on our spiritual journey, we get closer to that point of wanting what God wants.
St Paul in his letter to the Galations (Gal. 5:1, 13~18) gives us the no nonsense explanation of this when he tells us that the Spirit and the flesh are always opposed to each other, but we are to live in the Spirit. I know in my own life this tug of war goes on constantly~sometimes it is subtle, and at other times both sides are pulling like crazy.
The example of true freedom is shown perfectly by Jesus in today's Gospel. (Luke 9: 51~62) We hear that Jesus "resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem." He went freely to the cross awaiting Him there. He knew this was His Father's will and His will was always that of His Father's.
Me, well more often than not, I tend to be like the people Jesus met along the way. I have a list of "but firsts" before I can surrender everything to what God wants of me. It all goes back to that tug of war between my Spirit and my flesh. However, the more I come to understand what true freedom really is, the more often the Spirit in me wins that nasty little game. The sacraments give me and my Spirit the edge in this battle.
When the Apostles were called by Jesus, they didn't give Him a list of what but firsts, they dropped everything, left everything and followed Him.
Jesus is leading us on the road to the heavenly Jerusalem. He will not wait for me to complete my "but firsts". I have the freedom to join Him and follow Him resolutely; I have the freedom to choose life with Him. Jesus won that freedom for us by His steadfastness to the Father's will. Let us renew our determination to live freely in the Spirit with no ifs, ands or but firsts.
Have a Blessed Sunday!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Nativity Of St John The Baptist

 St Augustine, in one of his sermons, refers to John the Baptist as the boundary between the two testaments. Augustine expands on this phrase more in the sermon I have included below. It is from the Office of Readings for today's feast.

Sermon from St Augustine
The Church observes the birth of John as a hallowed event. We have no such commemoration for any other fathers; but it is significant that we celebrate the birthdays of John and of Jesus. This day cannot be passed by. And even if my explanation does not match the dignity of the feast, you may still meditate on it with great depth and profit.

John was born of a woman too old for childbirth; Christ was born of a youthful virgin.  The news of John's birth was met with incredulity, and his father was struck dumb.  Christ's birth was believed, and he was conceived through faith.

Such is the topic, as I have presented it, for our inquiry and discussion.  But as I said before, if I lack either the time or the ability to study the implications of so profound a mysterry, the Spirit who speaks within you even when I am not here will teach you better; it its the Spirit whom you contemplate with devotion, whom you have welcomed into your hearts, whose temples you have become.

John, then, appears as the boundary between the two testaments, the old and the new. That he is a sort of boundary the Lord himself bears witness, when he speaks of "the law and the prophets up until John the Baptist." Thus he represents times past and is the herald of the new era to come. As a representative of the past, he is born of aged parents; as a herald of the new era, he is declared to be a prophet while still in his mother's womb. For when yet unborn, he leapt in his mother's womb at the arrival of blessed Mary. In that womb he had already been designated a prophet, even before he was born; it was revealed that he was to be Christ's precursor, before they ever saw one another. These are divine happenings, going beyond the limits of our human frailty. Eventually he is born, he receives his name, his father's tongue is loosened.  See how these events reflect reality.

Zechariah is silent and loses his voice until John, the precursor of the Lord, is born and restores his voice. The silence of Zechariah is nothing but the age of prophecy lying hidden, obscured, as it were, and concealed before the preaching of Christ. At John's arrival Zechariah's voice is released, and it becomes clear at the coming of the one who was foretold.  The release of Zechariah's voice at the birth of John is a parallel to the rending of the veil at Christ's crucifixion.  If John were announcing his own coming, Zechariah's lips would not have been opened. The tongue is loosened because a voice is born.
When John was preaching the Lord's coming he was asked, "Who are you?" And he replied: "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness." The voice is John, but the Lord "in the beginning was the Word." John was a voice that lasted only for a time; Christ, the Word in the beginning, is eternal.
Sermon 293:1-3

Monday, June 21, 2010

On The Lighter Side Of Things

Re-reading some of my recent posts, I realized they were a bit on the deep side of things so I thought I would lighten things up some today with Matt Maher's bluesy song Hold Us Together. Here's Matt and a few friends from the Glory Revelaed tour.
Turn it up and enjoy!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What Peter's, And Our Answer Means

Listening to and rereading today's Gospel from St Luke (Luke 9: 18~24) led me realize a few things. For one thing, Luke's account of this very pivotal moment in Jesus' public ministry is a bit different than Matthew and Mark's. In Luke's version, Peter is not commended by Jesus for his recognition of Jesus as Messiah. In today's Gospel we read that Jesus rebuked Peter and told him not to tell anyone of this. The Douay~Rheims translation is a little less harsh; it says: "But he strictly charging them, commanded they should tell this to no man."
It was at the end of this passage that Jesus' words started to be a little less confusing. Now I am no Scripture scholar; these are just my own humble thoughts, but my pastor's homily confirmed a little of what was going on in my mind as I listened to this passage.
Jesus goes on to tell His disciples of His impending Passion and death. He also tells them that if anyone wishes to come after Him and be a disciple, they must pick up their cross and come after Him.
My little spiritual "aha moment" was that I think that Jesus really wanted His Apostles to understand what Peter's answer truly meant. Peter was not just answering for himself, but for all of them. Jesus wanted Peter and the others to know that when the time came to proclaim Him as the Messiah, they indeed would be picking up a cross. 
Jesus spoke only the truth throughout His ministry, and it angered many; so much so that they plotted His death and succeeded in carrying it out. After that first Pentecost, when the Apostles would speak the truth about who Jesus is, they too would anger many, and some of them would also lose their lives for Jesus' sake.
Whenever I read or listen to the Gospel, I try to remember that Jesus is also speaking to all of us. So His question in today's Gospel is posed to me: Who do I say that Jesus is?  If I answer as Peter did (and I do), I need to be prepared to pay the cost of that answer. Now in the eight years since I have returned to living my faith, I haven't angered anyone to the point of them wanting to literally kill me, but I have angered and annoyed some who have chosen not to be friends with me, others simply tell me I take my faith too seriously, and one, by his refusal to live as Christ taught, has chosen not to be married to me. So I have taken a few licks, as most of us have, but Our Lord's graces and blessings, and His promise of eternal life with Him far outweigh any earthly cost He may ask me to pay.
As my pastor said in his homily, "Following Jesus is not easy..." Jesus never said it would be, but His life, His death, and His resurrection and Ascension show us what will be ours if we do accept His invitation to follow Him.
Jesus wanted His Apostles to understand what truly following Him meant; He wants each of us to understand as well.

A Prayer For All Fathers

I found this beautiful prayer over at Godweb.org. May God our Father bless all fathers richly and may St Joseph intercede for them.

God our Father,
in your wisdom and love you made all things. 
Bless those fathers who have taken upon themselves, the responsibility of parenting.
Bless those who have lost a spouse to death ... or divorce
who are parenting their children alone.
Strengthen them by your love that they may be and become
the loving, caring persons they are meant to be. 
Grant this through Christ our Lord. 

A blessed Father's Day to all fathers and to all our priests as well.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Where Is My Treasure Really?

Today's Gospel reading (Matt. 6: 19~23)  is one of those Scripture passages that leave me pondering its meaning in my own life. In Matthew's gospel we read how Jesus tells his disciples not to store up earthly treasure, but heavenly treasure. I constantly need reminding of this.
Now I am not typically someone who hoards things she doesn't need and shopping sprees are not part of my routine (I think I may be in the small minority of women who hate to shop). Despite that fact though, if I really take stock of my self and my habits, I can find some earthly treasure starting to build up, and they are not always secular, material things either. I mean really, how many prayer cards and spiritual books do I need to collect!
Now things in themselves are not necessarily bad; Jesus wasn't saying they were. He was simply trying to get His disciples, us among them, to see that the earth and all its things will pass, but the things of heaven will not.
When I really take a cold, hard look at myself and the things around me, I can see that I still have many earthly attachments.
One of the more amusing ways that God likes to show me this is through my Magnificat devotional. I can not tell you how many times and in how many places I have left the darn thing! And even more crazy is the lengths I have gone to to go back and retrieve it! I have left it in church and gotten all the way home and then gone back to church in hopes that it would still be there. I have left it in the Adoration chapel and after arriving home after 1AM have seriously thought about going back for it. I love having my Magnificat and take it almost everywhere with me, and this is certainly not a bad thing, but in the end all it is is a book; one, I might add, which will expire at the end of each month. Every time I go in hot pursuit of this little book, I have to grin a bit, because I can just see Jesus and the Father looking at each other, then looking at me and rolling their eyes.
When I get right down to it, all I really need and want is God~ Jesus in the Eucharist; that is my true treasure and where my heart wants to be. It is just amazing that even though I say this and truly desire it to be, how many things I allow to distract me.
I add with a note of caution to this that sometimes it is not just things that we "store up" on this earth, but people and relationships as well. The commandment Jesus gave us is love God and neighbor, and I have a feeling He meant in that order. Again in my own life, especially after my return to my faith, I began to see clearly that there were relationships that were not healthy and did not bear fruit. While I am not one to simply write people off, some relationships have been more to glorify me or the other person and not God. So the relationship needed to end, but the people remain in my prayers.
I leave you with this quote from a reflection by Blosius the Venerable (yes it from Magnificat :) ) It seems to sum up what I have been trying to say here.
"The spiritual man must learn to leave himself and all other things for the love of God. He must possess nothing with any tenacious affection of heart.He must hold fast to no visible and perishable thing, to no passing and created object... He must remember that not only bad things, but even those that are good may become hindrances if they are loved or sought inordinately..."
In our quest for treasure we really need look no further than the the Sacred Heart of Our Lord present in  the tabernacle.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Enjoying And Exercising Our Faith

 I once heard Mother Angelica say that there are times when God allows us to enjoy our faith; those times of seeming bliss when we feel what I like to call the "warm~fuzzies", when God seems to be right there answering our every prayer just the way we would like. Then there are those times when He exercises it; when there seems to be a storm raging within us, everything and everyone seems to have it out for us, and God seems to be somewhere else.
While those times of enjoyment are wonderful, just like in the physical life, most of us need a bit more exercise spiritually. I know I certainly do, and just like in the physical realm, the "no pain~ no gain" theory also applies to the spiritual realm. Our souls need a workout if they are going to live.
I happen to be in one of those workout modes right now. What I find amazing sometimes is what God will use to whip us into shape. For me right now, He is using teenagers (and some of their parents). I work in the world of what is known as supplemental education, and in these parts it is final exam time. Every teenager within a 20 mile radius of this learning center wants help with studying for exams! Well the schedule is what the schedule is and the times they want are not always the times we have available. But teens being who they are~ most of them not being able to see past their own little worlds, have some difficulty with this. What is this doing to me? Well my knee jerk reaction is to get a little whiny and cranky myself (and I am sorry to say, I have). After I have my tantrum when no one is around, I realize what it is that God is trying to do for my good. So I tell Him I am sorry and ask if we can start again.
In thinking, praying and meditating on all this, I realize how very important my faith and spiritual life are in terms of living life in general. Now that sounds like a "no kidding" kind of statement, but I also realize in these times of spiritual workout, how easy it is to begin to let my spiritual life slide.
When I completed my Rachel's Vineyard retreat, the team and facilitator talked about how important it is to have a formula for your spiritual life. That formula is different for everyone. For me, it consists of daily Mass and at least weekly adoration before the Blessed Sacrament (although I do try to get there more often when possible). Morning and Evening prayer with Magnificat is also a staple for me. That's my formula; it works for me. Yours may be different. The important thing is to stick with it. In Rachel's Vineyard, they used the analogy of a baby and what happens if you don't feed the baby~ it gets sick and could die. Our spiritual life is no different; we need to feed our faith as well or it will get sick and eventually die.
The Evil One knows all of this as well, and he can be very slick in the ways he attacks. For me, and I imagine for many, it starts with little things chipping away at that formula; "I don't need to go to Mass today, I'm too tired to pray evening prayer, and then it begins to snowball. In my own life, I find that when I stay away from the sacrament of Reconciliation for too long, those little things become a huge boulder that flattens me before I have time to get out of the way!
I guess my point is that we all need to remain spiritually fit so that we can fight the enemy in our own personal lives as well as fight the good fight in the grand scheme for God's kingdom here on earth.
Those darling teenagers I talked about earlier... well I guess I should thank them for being the saint~makers that they are.
So let us enjoy our faith when God allows, and rise up to the challenge of exercising it when He calls us to do that too. Like any good task master, He is right there with us every step of the way.
Remember: No Pain~No Gain! So go ahead~ drop and give Our Lady 10! (Hail Mary's)

Abbot Joseph of Word Incarnate has an excellent post related to what I talked of here. In his post Surround Sound, he has used an excerpt from a book on writing books and shows how the author's analogies can be related to our spiritual lives.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Living The Law Of Love

There is a gathering at Simon, a Pharisee's home. Jesus has been invited as one of the guests; you too are there. Upon Jesus' arrival, you are painfully aware that Simon has not performed any of the usual Jewish rituals of welcome when greeting a guest who has come to your home. He has not bathed this weary travelers feet, and he has not offered Him a kiss of peace. You wonder, "Was this an oversight or has Jesus been invited under somewhat false pretenses?" You get the feeling that Jesus is not fooled by any of His host's behavior or motives.
As the evening progresses, there is much talk about the laws of God and how to follow them. You notice that there seems to be some commotion in another part of the house; a servant is arguing with someone~ it sounds like a woman. Suddenly this woman bursts into the room where the men are gathered. All are surprised, but many recognize her; her reputation in the area is not a virtuous one.
Before anyone can say anything, she rushes to Jesus, takes a place behind Him and falls at His feet. She is weeping bitterly and allows her tears to bathe Jesus' feet. She dries His feet with her long hair and then anoints them with a costly perfumed ointment. All the while she has not stopped kissing Jesus' feet.
You watch in utter amazement and even some confusion. No woman in her right mind would ever dare disturb a gathering such as this, let alone a woman with her reputation. But there is something about this woman and her actions that move you to pity her rather than judge her. Unfortunately the same can not be said of our host and his friends. Before anything is said to the woman, they pass judgement on Jesus. You hear their murmurings and snide comments: "If he were any kind of a prophet, surely He would know what kind of woman this is!"
Jesus lets them have their say, but then He has His. He tells Simon that although He has been invited here as a guest, He has not been treated as such; Simon did not bathe his feet upon arrival or offer Him a kiss of peace and welcome. So Jesus did notice the host's "oversight"! Jesus also points out that while Simon has done none of this, this woman has done so and more.
What Jesus says and does next angers Simon an the others even more. Jesus tells the woman that her faith has saved her and that her sins are forgiven. Simon and his guests would like to know who this is that forgives sins? But their question doesn't seem to be one of humble curiosity but rather one of contempt.
Upon hearing Jesus' words, the woman's tears begin to subside and a smile is on her face. None of the guests' words and murmurings seem to bother her; all she has heard~ all her heart has heard are the words of Jesus. She leaves Simon's house converted and renewed.

Dear Lord Jesus,
May I always have the heart of this woman who loved much. Like her, I have committed many sins, and like her I come to you with an alabaster jar filled with all the love of my heart.
May my tears of repentance wash your feet, may my renewed faith be the ointment and kisses that cover and anoint you.
May I have a healthy respect and love for Your law, but more importantly may I, through faith and the grace of Your mercy, live Your Law of Love.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Immaculate Heart Of Mary Knows The Way

The feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is always celebrated on the Saturday after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and it is done so for good reason~ the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady is inseparably linked to the Sacred Heart of her Son.
Five years ago on this feast day, I made the Consecration to Mary through the Militia Immaculata, the organization founded by St Maximilian Kolbe. I renew my consecration each year on this feast day.
My regular readers know that Mary played a subtle (to me anyway), but vital role in my return to her Son and my faith. In a certain way, I sometimes feel like I have lived,and continue to live the Joyful Mysteries in my own life. My Annunciation came in the form of a letter from a friend inviting me to come back to my faith, I accepted that invitation on the feast of the Visitation, the daughter I aborted was named while praying that particular mystery, Christ was born in me when I confessed and repented of my sins, the Presentation, in trying to live a life of holy and faithful obedience, and Finding Jesus in the Temple~ well I now know just where to find Him whenever I walk into church; I had lost Him or at least felt like I did, and when He found me, I found Him.
Our Lady's Immaculate Heart has one goal~ to point us in the direction of her Son so that we may grow closer to Him. A priest who works with us in ministry gave the analogy of Our Lady being his GPS. I loved it! It made so much sense! When we are lost we can turn to our Blessed Mother and she will tell us how to get back on track to the path that leads to Jesus. Mary always knows the way.
While the bulk of this post has simply been my own musings on the Immaculate Heart in my own life, I would also like to share a link to a meditation written by a bishop. The meditation is on St Padre Pio in light of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Our Lady of Fatima. It is a little on the long side, but worth the time.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Year For Priests Comes To A Close

Today, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, marks the close of the Year For Priests. Looking back over this year, much has happened in the priesthood. While it was filled with many graces, it also had its share of hardship, trial and continued scandal in the area of the clergy sexual abuse cases. Our Holy Father suffered his own share of attacks as well, especially in the media.
The year was dedicated to priests and the priesthood, but I think as the lay faithful, we too have shared, in our own personal way, those graces and perhaps the trial, hardship and scandal as well.
For me, perhaps the greatest grace came in the calling to be a spiritual mother to priests. Last June I received the name of a priest for whom I would pray throughout the entire year from the Opus Sanctorum Angelorum organization; the other day I received the name of my second "spiritual son". Praying and offering sacrifice for a particular priest has kept me more aware on a much deeper level of how vital the priesthood is for us, as well as how fragile it can be. It is one of Christ's greatest gifts to us because through it, He gives us Himself.
Even though the official Year for Priests is ending, we still need to pray for our priests. I pray that priests everywhere have felt Our Lord's touch in a special way this past year. May the graces they have received bear fruit for building God's Kingdom here on earth, and bear fruit for the people they serve. I also pray they have been enriched and refreshed in their own spiritual lives.
The following sites have posts relating to the closing events of the Year for Priests.
Fr. Mark's blog, Vultus Christi has Pope Benedict XVI's beautiful and powerful homily for the closing Mass.
At Word Incarnate, Abbot Joseph includes some of his own thoughts on this special year in his reflection today.
Fr. James Farfaglia was in Rome for the closing events and has photos and commentary of the week.
Jane and her team at Spiritual Mothers of Priests has a post featuring some snippets from interviews with some French priests who were in attendance for the closing events.
Mary, Queen of the Apostles, obtain for us many holy and faithful priests!

The Sacred Heart: A Visual Meditation

"Devotion to the Sacred Heart...calls for a fundamental attitude of conversion and reparation, of love and gratitude, apostolic commitment and dedication to Christ and His saving work."
~Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy #166, 172

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a devotion that I was drawn to immediately upon my return to the Church. For me and many others, the Heart of Our Lord is a place of refuge and protection, and like St John we can rest our heads against His Heart and be consoled.
I wanted to do something simple yet beautiful for this very special solemnity. I believe this visual meditation does just that.
This Heart that loves us so much is loved so little in return. Today and always may we who love Him, make reparation and attempt to console Our Lord's Sacred Heart.
I would also like to direct you to two websites/blogs that have beautiful and deep writings on and prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Heart to Heart has beautiful love poems/prayers written by an anonymous author.
Jeffrey S.J. Allan's blog, Secret Harbour has some beautiful writings by the Carthusians.
Enjoy these as well as this beautiful video.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Gates Of Hell

 USA Today has perhaps given one of the most fair minded and balanced accounts/overviews of the clergy sexual abuse scandal in their article "How Serious Is the 'Predator Priest' Problem." One of the questions raised in this article is if sexual abuse is found in other religious denominations, as well as in secular professions such as teaching, scouting, coaching etc., why then do we hear of so many Catholic cases?
My personal opinion is this: The attack is not on individual priests, but on the Catholic Church itself. This is what Satan knows; if he can get rid of our priests, he can surely get rid of the Church. After all, no priests, no Eucharist~ no Eucharist, well you can finish it from there. I know I have said this before, but some things are worth repeating.
While there have been priests, and others truly guilty of this heinous crime, there are those who have been accused and are not guilty. (You can read Fr. Gordon MacRae's story on These Stone Walls) Those who are truly guilty need to be punished accordingly. However, Satan doesn't seem to be too discerning as far as priests are concerned- he is going for the lot.
While Christ did say that "Upon this rock I build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.", he never said this Church would not suffer its share of attacks and hard knocks.
The Catholic Church has suffered attacks and scandals at different periods throughout her 2000 plus year history, but Christ's promise is our hope, but that doesn't mean we can just sit back secure in that promise; we as faithful Catholics need to pray~ for our priests, for the priesthood in general, and for our Catholic Church.
It was refreshing to see a fair and balanced appraisal of this very serious situation.

*Mantilla Twitch to Fr. John Trigillio at The Black Biretta and American Papist for the link to the article.
Note: Thomas Peters' article on American Papist is worth reading as well. He gives a little more background and depth with informed insight from Philip Jenkins who wrote the USA article.

For a good semi- related post read Fr. Kenneth Baker's post on The Holiness of Priests at The Ignatius Press Blog. He refers to points made on the importance of a priests' personal holiness by Pope Benedict XVI and Fulton Sheen.

A Prayer For A Friend

I learned awhile ago about a dear friend who has sort of lost his way. He has left his Catholic faith and has become estranged from his family. They, needless to say are heartbroken and somewhat angry. I still keep in touch with his sister and she just can't find an explanation for what he has done and why he has done it.
In his case it is not drugs or alcohol that have a grip on him, but it seems to be his own pride and fear. Fear that things are too far gone to come back.
Today is his birthday and for whatever reason, God has put him very heavily on my heart to pray for him today.
I would ask all who read this to utter a short prayer for him as well. My prayer for him is that he will find the humility and courage of the prodigal son and return not just to his earthly father, but his Heavenly one as well. I also pray for his family that if he should return, they will find it in their hearts to forgive him and welcome him back into their fold.
In thinking and praying about him today, I thought of this song by Casting Crowns; it is very fitting and expresses my prayer for my friend perfectly.
Thank you in advance for your prayers.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Corpus Christi: The Feast Of Christ's Unfathomable Love

This feast which celebrates the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord present in the Eucharist is one that allows us to reflect on that holy and divine Presence within each of us. The late pastor of my parish would often say, "This side of heaven, Jesus doesn't get any closer than this."
As baptized Christians, Jesus lives within each of us, but that life needs to be nourished. Personally I have found no better way than through receiving Christ in Holy Communion and in spending time before Him in the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus loves us so much that He wished to remain with us even after His Ascension. I am sure He could have chosen any number of ways, but He chose the Eucharist in which to feed us with His own Body and Blood.
The history of the feast of Corpus Christi goes back to the year 1264 when Pope Urban IV instituted it for the entire Church. The Pope wanted the feast to be joy-filled with hymns and procession. Pope Urban asked Thomas Aquinas to write two Offices of prayer; Aquinas did this as well as write five hymns, many of which are used during Benediction to this day.
St Thomas noted that: "Material food first of all turns itself into the person who eats it, and as a consequence, restores his losses and increases his vital energies. Spiritual food, on the other hand, turns the person who eats it into Itself, and thus the proper effect of this sacrament is the conversion of man into Christ, so that he may no longer live for himself, but that Christ may live in Him. And as a consequence it has the double effect of restoring the spiritual losses caused by sins and defects and of increasing the power of the virtues". 
In other words, may we become what we consume.
Much of the world celebrated this feast on the traditional Thursday (June 3). In the United States it is celebrated on the Sunday following Trinity Sunday. 
My own parish had stopped the Eucharistic Procession for some reason about two years ago, but is resuming this beautiful ancient custom this Sunday. I am looking forward to participating and bringing Christ to the streets, not only in this procession, but also in the way He lives in me.
As Deacon Keith Fournier wrote in his reflection for this feast,  "On this Feast of Corpus Christi, as we march through the Streets of the world lifting Jesus Christ enthroned, let us say"Yes" to the invitation to become "living monstrances". Let the consuming fire of God's love purify us so that we can now be used to reveal His presence to a world waiting to be born anew."
God the Father loved us so much that He gave us His Son, the Son loves us so much He wants to remain with us and make us more like Him, the fire of the Holy Spirit is the expression of that love between the Father and the Son and it is enkindled in each of us if we let it.
May we continue to nourish Christ's life within ourselves and return the love He has shown us by receiving Him and visiting Him often.

Note: Deacon Fournier's reflection: Corpus Christi, Body and Blood of Christ. We Are Living Monstrances is worth reading in its entirety.  I have quoted only a small bit if it in this post.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Some Good Spiritual Reading

I know I have been posting about books a little more than usual on this blog, but I have been blessed to have come across some good spiritual reading of late.
Some time ago I took a fellow blogger up on his offer to send out copies of Fr. Walter Ciszek's  memoir, He Leadeth Me. There are very few books that I have read (and I have read many!) where I would say that the book is life changing, this is one of those books!

In his book Fr. Ciszek tell the story of his 23 years in Siberian prison and labor camps. He was captured by the Russian army during World War II and then convicted as a Vatican spy. During this time of suffering, hardship and trial, Fr. Ciszek speaks of how he came to accept all that was happening as being part of God's will for him.
It is a story of faith and hope under the harshest and most difficult of circumstances.
Most of us will never be called to endure the hardships and trials that Fr. Ciszek endured, but his story is one that we can all learn from. All of us will endure sufferings of one sort or another in our lives. Seeing and accepting what befalls us as part of God's will in our lives will give it value and draw down endless graces for us as well as for others.
The book is gripping but by no means an easy read. It took me several months to read the 202 pages that make up this book. I would read a chapter or two and then need time to absorb and process what I had read.
The last several chapters on freedom, humility and faith read like homilies; I felt like I was listening to father preach. One of my favorite quotes from the book came in the chapter on freedom. In this day and age when the true meaning of that word seems to be twisted beyond recognition, Fr. Ciszek nails it: "It is choosing to serve God, to do His will, that man achieves his highest and fullest freedom."
If you've read the book, you understand what I have said here, if you haven't, put it on your "must read" list.

Another book I recently finished is Michael D. O'Brien's Theoplilos. In Scripture, Theophilos is the man St Luke addressed his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles to, but not much else is known about him. O'Brien creates a beautiful fictional narrative steeped in Catholic teaching and scripture. I don't think I will ever read St Luke's Gospel or Acts the same way ever again. This is one of those books you hate to see end.

Finally, in honor of the Sacred Heart  for this month of June, I purchased A Heart Like His by Fr. Thomas D. Williams. Fr. Williams has written 30 meditations that explore and draw the reader more deeply into the many facets of Our Lord's sacred Heart. Each meditation is only a few pages long with thought and soul provoking questions throughout. This is a bookstores can't seem to keep in stock for very long, but check with Amazon or Barnes & Noble if interested; they can e-mail you when they receive another shipment. The book is written with a meditation for each day in the month of June but can be used any time.

These are simply my own personal thoughts on some of the spiritual reading I have been blessed with lately. If you have read or are currently reading any of the books I have mentioned, please share your thoughts in a comment.
Happy and Blessed reading!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Love Keeps Him There

Jesus' love for each of us is so great that He wishes to remain with us. He does this by giving Himself to us in the Eucharist. He waits for us in the tabernacle as if being held prisoner. What is it that keeps Him there?
St Margaret Mary tells us it is love that keeps Him there.
So many sacrileges are committed against this Heart that loves each of us more than we can imagine. One of our Lord's most heartbreaking complaints was that so few return His love.
In receiving Him and in spending time with Him, may our hearts become more like His.
Jesus meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine.
On this First Friday in this month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we can reflect on these words written by St Margaret Mary who was chosen by Christ to spread the devotion to His Sacred Heart.

"One cannot love without suffering. He [Jesus] showed us this very clearly upon the cross, where He was consumed for love of us. And it is still the same every day in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar... Since love makes lovers one in likeness, if we love, let us model our lives on His."
"Love keeps Him there [in the Blessed Sacrament] as a victim completely and perpetually delivered over to sacrifice for the glory of the Father and for our salvation. Unite yourself with Him, then, in all that you do. Refer everything to His glory. Set up your abode in this loving Heart of Jesus and you will there find lasting peace and the strength both to bring to fruition all the good desires He inspires in you, and to avoid every deliberate fault. Place in this Heart all your sufferings and difficulties. Everything that comes from the Sacred Heart is sweet. He changes everything into love."
- from the letters of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

St Justin Martyr: A Christian Apologist

 St Justin was born into a pagan family during the second century. He later converted to Christianity and spent much time learning his faith and defending it. He was martyred when he refused to adore the pagan gods. You can read more about him here.
In researching today's saint, I came across his writing on the Eucharist and Weekly Worship of the Christians~ what we now call Sunday Mass. He wastes no time in getting right to the point; the first sentence reads:
"And this food is called among us the Eucharist of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined."

This reinforces what St Paul tells us in Corinthians on this same topic: "Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord." (1Cor. 11:27)

I found Justin's writings on the Eucharist to be quite timely. We seem to be living in an age when as a society we have lost our sense of sin.
In this month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, let us continue to pray and make reparation for all the sacrilege and outrage committed against this Heart in the Blessed Sacrament. 
St Justin Martyr, pray for us!

Reparation To Our Lord's Sacred Heart

The month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In our day and time there is much that goes on in our world and even in our Church that offends Our Lord's most Sacred Heart. I would like to begin this month's dedication with an Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart. We may not be able to put a stop to the evil that goes on, but we can certainly pray and console Our Lord for the outrages committed against Him.
Since this month also brings the Year for Priests to a close, I have also included a prayer to the Sacred Heart for priests.
More prayers and devotions can be found by clicking the image of St Margaret Mary Alacoque adoring the Sacred Heart on my sidebar. Jesus appeared to St Margaret Mary and asked her to spread the devotion to his Sacred Heart. He made 12 Promises to anyone who would practice this devotion.
May those of us who love and adore Our Lord bring some consolation to that Heart that was pierced for us.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
O Jesus, divine Savior, deign to cast a look of mercy upon Your children, who assemble  in the same spirit of faith, reparation, and love, and come to deplore their own infidelities, and those of all poor sinners, their brethren.
May we touch Your divine Heart by the unanimous and solemn promises we are about to make and obtain mercy for ourselves, for the world, and for all who are so unhappy as not to love You.  We all promise that for the future:
For the forgetfulness and ingratitude of men, *(We will console you O Lord)
For the way You are deserted in Your holy tabernacle,
For the crimes of sinners,
For the hatred of the impious,
For the blasphemies uttered against You,
For the sacrileges that profane Your Sacrament of Love,
For the outrages against Your divinity
, For the injuries of which You are the adorable Victim,
For the coldness of the greater part of your children,
For the contempt of your loving invitation,
For the infidelity of those who called themselves Your friends,
For the abuse of Your grace,
For our own unfaithfulness,
For the incomprehensible hardness of our hearts,
For our long delay in loving You,
For our tepidity in Your holy service,
For Your bitter sadness at the loss of souls,
For Your long waiting at the door of our hearts,
For the heartless scorn that grieves You,
For Your loving sighs,
For Your loving tears,
For Your loving imprisonment,
For Your loving death,

* We will console you, 0 Lord
Let us pray
0 Jesus!  divine Savior, from whose Heart comes forth this bitter complaint, "I looked for one that would comfort me, and I found none," graciously accept the feeble consolation we offer You, and aid us so powerfully by your grace, that we may, for the time to come, shun more and more all that can displease You, and prove ourselves in everything, and everywhere, and forever Your most faithful and devoted servants.  We ask it through Your Sacred Heart, O Lord, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit  one God, world without end.  

Prayer to the Sacred Heart for Priests
Remember, 0 most loving Heart of Jesus, that they for whom I pray are those for whom You prayed so earnestly the night before Your death.  These are they to whom You look to continue with You in Your sorrows when others forsake You, who share Your griefs and have inherited your persecutions, according to Your word: That the servant is not greater than his Lord.  Remember, O Heart of Jesus, that they are the objects of the world's hatred and Satan's deadliest snares.  Keep them then, 0 Jesus, in the safe citadel of Your Sacred Heart and there let them be sanctified in truth.  May they be one with you and one among themselves, and grant that multitudes may be brought through their word to believe in You and love You.

Closing Prayer

Psalm 45: Canticle of Love to the King

My heart overflows with a good theme;
I address my verses to the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
You are fairer than the sons of men;
Grace is poured upon Your lips;
Therefore God has blessed You forever.

Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One,
In Your splendor and Your majesty!
And in Your majesty ride on victoriously,
For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
Let Your right hand teach You awesome things.
Your arrows are sharp;
The peoples fall under You;
Your arrows are in the heart of the King’s enemies.

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad.
Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies;
At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.