Friday, October 28, 2011

Defenders Of God's Honor

While reading some commentary on the two saints whose feast we celebrate today, I was given the reminder that holiness is a gift from God, and when He gives it He does not necessarily give it to those who have always led "holy" and devout lives from the start. 
Not much is told of today's two saints, Simon and Jude. We know a bit about Jude as the patron of seemingly impossible causes. In many parishes, my own included, devotion is shown to him each Monday in a novena prayer said along with the novena of the Miraculous Medal. He is mentioned in Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13 in the lists of the chosen Apostles.
In St Simon we perhaps can see a little more of how God often chooses the least likely to bestow His gift of holiness upon and within a soul. Simon is often referred to as "the Zealot". He was of that ancient Jewish sect known by that name. They were fierce defenders of Jewish law and sometimes took that zeal and defense to violent extremes. They played a large part in the rebellion against Rome in 70 A.D. which ended in the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Now we do not know where on the scale of zeal Simon fell, but we do know that Jesus saw something in him that led to calling him as one of the Apostles. His zeal was turned to love for Christ, His Church and Gospel.
We too are called to have this same zeal. Bl. John Henry Newman defines zeal as " earnest desire for God's honor, leading to strenuous and bold deeds in His behalf; and that in spite of all obstacles." Newman uses the term "holy temper". I just love that! Usually we think of having a temper as a negative, but a temper in line with Newman's definition of zeal makes it holy. Sts Simon and Jude, as well as all the Apostles and saints throughout the ages used God's gift of holiness to develop this zeal.
As Christians we are called to defend our faith. We do not need to defend God; He has no need of that, but like appointed knights, we are called to defend His honor and the deposit of faith handed down to us from the Apostles. Like the Knights of the Round Table in the legends of Camelot who defended the honor of their king, Arthur, we too are to defend the honor of our King and Savior, Jesus Christ. 
May true and holy zeal for God and His house consume us.

St Simon, St Jude pray for us!

*Note: References from Bl. John Henry Newman from Magnificat's Meditation of the Day.

Friday, October 21, 2011

God's Eternal Mercy

I am a little late in posting about the Holy Father's latest catechesis on prayer, but week's is one that should definitely not be missed.
This week Pope Benedict XVI focused on Psalm 136 which is often called the Great Hallel. As the pope points out, it is the psalm traditionally sung at the end of the Passover meal and as such was most likely sung by Jesus and his Apostles at the last Passover before His Passion on that first Holy Thursday evening.
What I loved about the Holy Father's very rich teaching on this psalm is how he explains and shows us that all of Salvation History is in this prayer. Pope Benedict takes us through each section of the prayer and opens it up for us so that we can see so very plainly and clearly that our awesome God's love and mercy do endure forever. No matter what we have done or will do, no matter what we go through in this life, we can be assured of God's love and mercy. When we really stop and prayerfully think about this, it is a source of great hope and comfort.
One of my favorite priests will end his hearing of a person's confession with the antiphon of this psalm. After he absolves you he says "Give thanks and praise to the Lord for He is good..." then he allows the penitent to finish with: "His love and mercy endure forever." (This phrase or a variation of it is found in several psalms) It is a beautiful way to close the Sacrament of Reconciliation sending the person off with a real sense of God's mercy and love, and the desire to "go and sin no more."
There really is nothing I can add to the Holy Father's teaching on this beautiful psalm. Go pray the Great Hallel and then read Pope Benedict XVI's teaching for yourself.
Let us always remember: "God is; God is Good, and His Mercy is Eternal."

Pope Benedict XVI on Psalm 136 (135)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Slippery Slope

Every Wednesday, Fr. Gordon MacRae posts on his blog, These Stone Walls. I have written of Father and his case several times here on this blog so most of you know of him and his case.
My usual way of sharing Father's posts each week is to put it over in the Highlights From Other Bloggers box on the left side bar. While I have done that today, I feel that Fr. MacRae's post this week deserves some special attention.
A Treacherous Descent: Religious Freedom Put to the Test is one of Father's most enlightening posts (at least in this little Catholic blogger's opinion). In it he speaks of certain acts put into effect by our government can have far reaching repercussions and lasting effects, not good ones, for Catholics in this country.
This post also speaks to something I have been saying here off and on for some time: we as Catholics need to be awake and aware of what is going on around us. Prayer for our country is needed more now than ever.
The case cited in Fr. MacRae's post looks innocent and well~meaning enough on the surface, but as he unfolds its implications for us, it becomes quite clear what is at stake~our religious freedom.
It is easy to think that the days of religious persecution of Catholics as well as others is behind us. That is a naive thought. It continues in subtle ways in this country and goes on every day in more severe ways in others. Yes, right now we can pray publicly and attend Mass without being arrested. If we continue to ignore the writing on the wall, that may not always be the case. We need to pray not only for things to change, but also for the grace and courage to stand up for our faith if they do not. We are on a slippery slope.
Please don't miss Fr. MacRae's post today; it will remove more of the blinders we sometimes put on ourselves.
If you have never visited These stone Walls before, do take some time to read about Father's case and why he is serving a 67 year prison sentence for crimes he did not commit.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

In The Company of Stylish Bloggers

My friend and fellow blogger Mary at The Beautiful Gate has awarded me with the Stylish Blogger Award. Thank you for this honor and for counting me among so many other stylish blogs Mary.
So here are the rules for accepting this award: I am to tell you seven things about myself and then pass the award on to five other bloggers.

OK, so here are seven trivial facts about me:
1. Three things I would spend my last penny on~ Good chocolate, Godiva truffles are my all time favorite, good loose teas~Teavana is one of my favorite shops; their Early Grey Creme is absolutely heavenly. I am enjoying a cup of their Tiramisu Rooibos as I write this. And the third is a good book.

2. I hate malls. Actually I hate to shop and when I do it is usually online.

3. This blog started with a cookie. That's right; I was online one day looking for a cookie recipe and I happened upon a blog with a delicious pecan sandie recipe. I saw the "Create your own blog" link up at the top and on a whim figured I could do that. Never thought it would last though, but here I am almost 3 years and 661 posts later.

4. I am extremely uncomfortable in crowds and at parties. I prefer either being alone or in the company of one or two close friends.

5. My favorite place to be after with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is by the sea. Most of you know that already, but I am having a tough time making it to seven :)

6. I love a good project. The next one I am thinking of taking up is rosary making. I haven't gotten past the thought process on this one yet, but it keeps coming back to me so I am thinking perhaps Our Lady would like me to do this.
7. If I could go back to school and study anything, it would be Theology. I love studying my faith. Perhaps someday of time and money allow.

Now for the five bloggers I would like to pass this on to...
 Judy at BenMakesTen
 Colleen at Inadequate Disciple
 Isaac at Praeceptorum Deus
Daily Grace
Kathryn at Heart for God

Sunday, October 16, 2011

They Knew Him Not

Jesus is in the area once again, passing through one town to another. Lately they always seem to be there, and are here again today waiting for Him. The Pharisees, highly regarded men of the law of God. Why then do they always seem to follow His every footstep~plotting and testing Him?
So what is it today? What trap have they set for Jesus, the Holy One of God, today? It is the question of payment of the census tax. Their malice and hypocrisy can be heard in the tone of their voices as they pose this question. These men, as usual, were not in search of any real answer. Their questions never had any real answer, at least none that they were willing to hear and Jesus knew this; He saw through to their very hearts, saw that there was no room for God because they were too filled with themselves and the ways of the world.
Jesus' reply? Give to Caesar what belongs to him and give to God what belongs to God. Once again Jesus refuses to fall into their malicious trap. What these hard~hearted men can not see or understand is that all belongs to God. Everything they are and have is His. These learned men of Scripture and the law seem to forget the words of God spoken through Isaiah: "I am the Lord, there is no God besides me."(see Isaiah 45:1, 4~6) These words were lost on them for they knew Him not~they refused to know Him.
Jesus tosses the coin back to them, and continues on His way leaving them with themselves and their plots and schemes.

My Dear Lord Jesus,
All that I am and have is Yours. Through the Father's love I was created for You. Empty me of myself and the things of this world so that I may be filled with You. May I always seek to know You and know who I am in You.
You are my Lord and God; I want no other.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The King Asks For One Thing

My King has made His preparations. He has prepared a feast upon His Holy Mountain~ a feast of rich food and pure wine. The mountain was Calvary; the rich food His very Body and the pure wine His Precious Blood.  The table of the King is spread before me; I want for nothing.
My King knows that without Him, I have and can do nothing. He has prepared and offered it all. He has even provided the proper garment. My King asks for one thing and one thing only~acceptance of the invitation and the garment so as to be with Him always.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Changed In His Presence

I sometimes think about the woman I was 9 years ago before my return to my faith. Looking at her is not an easy thing because she is not a pretty picture, at least her soul isn't. Outwardly all looked well; she held a good job, had some decent friends, and a family who loved her. Inwardly however, there was just death and destruction caused by years of guilt and shame over sins she was too proud and too scared to confess. This shame and guilt had number her to life as it was meant to be lived.
Then one day a dear friend invited her back to the faith she had abandoned, but not only to the faith's rituals and beliefs, but to the One who sought a relationship with her and could heal her of all that shame and guilt.
This woman, who knew of Jesus her entire life, never really knew Him. When she admitted her guilt, she came face to face with Him. From that moment she knew her life would never be the same again; in His Presence, she was changed. He became her center, and she knew that all she would ever do from here on in would be done with Him by her side. In that moment, she vowed never to go back to the way things use to be.
It is true that our pasts are part of us and have helped to shape who we are, but we are not meant to stay there. Through Christ and with Him, we can live in the present moment and look forward to the future that awaits us~the future of eternal life with God in heaven.
I sometimes find myself reverting back to the days of guilt and shame, but as soon as I reach the door to that dark, cold cave, I find Jesus standing in the doorway; He reminds me that I don't have to go back to the way it use to be and He reminds me of the promise I made to Him on that day nine years ago to live for Him and with Him.
I heard this song by William McDowell last night at a prayer group meeting. It fits in nicely with what I have said here and with the road my life has taken; the road walked with Christ by my side.
So turn this one up, put your hands together, get on your feet and let's praise the One in whose Presence we are changed.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cultivating Our Vineyards

Our souls are our God~given vineyards and just like any vineyard, they require proper cultivation. The readings for Mass today speak about vineyards and we hear how the owners built walls or hedges around them and put watchtowers in them.
We need to do the same with our souls and there better be someone other than ourselves in that watchtower; Jesus needs to be the Watchman, but we have to invite Him and allow Him to be so. In the spiritual life, guarding the vineyard of our souls is often referred to as guarding our hearts and guarding our senses.
Many of us know from first hand experience what happens when we do not put up the proper protection around our hearts and souls, and when we refuse to allow Jesus entrance into the Vineyard to cultivate it and watch over it. The devil comes in instead and we end up with the vineyard of our souls looking like the one described in Isaiah today~ overgrown with thorns and briers and we end up with wild, sour grapes instead of the sweet wine produced by God's grace.
St Paul has the formula for us today in his letter to the Philippians for proper cultivation and protection of our souls:
"...whatever is true, whatever is honorable,whatever is just, whatever is pure,whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise,think about these things.
Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.
Then the God of peace will be with you."
(see Phil. 4:6~9)

Today is also the feast of The Guardian Angels. God has given each of us our own special angel to guard and protect us throughout our lives, but like Jesus, these heavenly friends will not interfere with our free will; we need to ask for their guidance and protection and also remember to thank them for it.
Finally, we remember the sanctity of human life at every stage today as it is Respect Life Sunday here in the United States. Those who choose to abort their children, or end life because it is seen as unproductive have allowed the vineyards of their souls to wither and die. As someone who thought abortion was the only answer, I know what it is to refuse Jesus and live with a dead soul. By God's grace, I also know that God always stands ready to take us back and recultivate our dead and overgrown souls if we ask Him to.
Let us offer our prayers today for all those who have refused the Son and have allowed their souls to die, for the souls of the unborn and for their mothers and fathers: those who still have time to choose that they may choose life and for those who have chosen to end the life of their child, that they may seek and find healing.
As for ourselves, may we continue to ask Jesus to be the Defender and Protector of our souls. May He give us the grace to guard our hearts and senses at all times so that the vineyard of our souls will always bear fruit that will last.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

St Therese And The Rosary

October is the month dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary. This first day of the month is the feast day pf St Therese of Liseux. This great saint and Doctor of the Church had great devotion to Our Lady, but saying the Rosary, the prayer she knew would please our Blessed Mother so much, was not always easy for her. Here is a quote from one of her letters:

"Reciting the Rosary costs me more than using an instrument of penance," she wrote "I feel I say it so bad; in vain do I strive to meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary; I am unable to fix my attention For a long time I was sad because of this lack of devotion which surprised me, for I love the Blessed Virgin so much that it should be easy for me to say in her honor prayers which please her so much. Now, it saddens me less; I think that the Queen of Heaven being my Mother, she must see my good will and be content with it."
I was very consoled reading that quote because I can relate to it. As much as I hate to admit it, I have a very difficult time saying the Rosary. Many a day passes when all I can do is carry it in my pocket. This bothered me for a very long time because I do love our Blessed Mother and like Therese, I know this prayer pleases her. I also know its power. Like Therese also, I know Our Lady sees my heart and my intentions and the other ways I pay honor to her.

During this month of October however, I am going to make a serious effort to pray this beautiful prayer more often. We are living in an age when it is needed perhaps more than ever.

The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary was instituted by Pope Pius V after the victory over the Turks in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. This is just one example of the power of the Rosary and Our Lady's intercession.

One way we can make a an effort to say the Rosary this month is by joining in the Lepanto Victory Mission Rosary Novena for our country. I firmly believe that it is only through our Blessed Mother that this country will return to Christ.

For those of us, who like St Therese, find saying the Rosary more of an act of penance, well I would imagine that this will please Our Lord and Our Lady even more.

Let us ask St Therese to help us by her prayers and intercession to be devoted children of our Blessed Mother.

To read about and to sign up for an hour in the Rosary Novena, go here.

*Thanks to Esther at A Catholic Mom in Hawaii for posting about the Rosary Novena.

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.