Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Word Became Flesh

Pope Benedict on the meaning of Christmas at today's general audience:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As Christmas approaches, I offer prayerful good wishes to you and your families for a spiritually fruitful celebration of the Lord's birth.
At Midnight Mass, we sing: 'Today a Saviour is born for us'.  This 'Today' evokes an eternal present, for the mystery of Christ's coming transcends time and permeates all history.  'Today' - every day - we are invited to discover the presence of God's saving love in our midst.
In the birth of Jesus, God comes to us and asks us to receive him, so that he can be born in our lives and transform them, and our world, by the power of his love.
The Christmas liturgy also invites us to contemplate Christ's birth against the backdrop of his paschal mystery.  Christmas points beyond itself, to the redemption won for us on the Cross and the glory of the Resurrection. 
May this Christmas fill you with joy in the knowledge that God has drawn near to us and is with us at every moment of our lives.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

More Retreat Opportunities

Another retreat opportunity for you young ladies out there before the spring semester rolls around:
"Ecce Venio" -- Behold, I Come
January 13-15, 2012
Deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ through a weekend focused on HIM with the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus. Retreatants will have the opportunity to join in the prayer life of the Sisters, hear talks given on the theme, and connect and share with other young women who desire to grow in holiness.
These retreats are for single, Catholic women, age 17-29, who want to grow in holiness and would enjoy getting to know the sisters.
Click here for more info.
Wanna learn more about the Catholic faith? Newman Connection has an excellent resource of free video classes:  one is a series on the new youth catechism, YouCat; and one is a series developed at the Vanderbilt Newman Center called the Institute for Advancing Catholic Thought and Studies or iFACTS, which provides academically engaging discussion on various topics.  Again, the courses are free, so all you have to do is go to the Newman Connection website, log in to access all the videos and start watching. 

Click here to see a sample video of the YouCat series - this particular video features Fr. Tony Stephens of the Fathers of Mercy who has visited our CCM.
Click here to see a sample video of the iFACTS series.

Monday, December 19, 2011

O - it's an important letter

December 17th began the week-long countdown until Christmas - during the final days of Advent you find the 'O' Antiphons present in the liturgy (an antiphon is basically a repeated verse - think of the Responsorial Psalm at Mass - the verse that the congregation repeats is an antiphon).  These are the antiphons that begin and end the Magnificat in Vespers during the final days of Advent and are called the 'O' Antiphons simply because they all begin with 'O', and are verses invoking titles of Christ as you can see from the Breviary:

Dec. 17th:  O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care.  Come and show your people the way to salvation.

Dec. 18th:  O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:  come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

Dec. 19th:  O Flower of Jesse's stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you.  Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

Dec. 20th:  O Key of David, O royal power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of heaven:  come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.

Dec. 21st:  O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:  come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Dec. 22nd:  O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust. 

Dec. 23rd:  O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.

In Latin the titles are Sapientia (Wisdom), Adonai (Lord), Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse), Clavis David (Key of David), Oriens (Dawn), Rex Gentium (King of the nations).

Here is a resource with scriptural citations of each of the titles and the Latin text of the antiphons followed by a good English translation - and you can hear the Latin antiphon chanted (which is awesome!) by clicking on the speaker icon.
Fr Z. has more detailed info on the O Antiphons here.

After reading the O Antiphons, you see the significance of a familiar hymn:

Come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Chorus: Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Wisdom, from on high,
and order all things far and nigh;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.

O come, o come, Thou Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times did give the law,
in cloud, and majesty, and awe.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse's stem,
from ev'ry foe deliver them
that trust Thy mighty power to save,
and give them vict'ry o'er the grave.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heav'nly home,
make safe the way that leads on high,
that we no more have cause to sigh.

O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death's dark shadow put to flight.

O come, Desire of the nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid every strife and quarrel cease
and fill the world with heaven's peace.
Hymn lyrics from fisheaters.

Congrats to our graduates!

When the Saints Go Marchin' In...

Pope Benedict will soon be declaring seven new saints of the Holy Church, two of which lived in the United States: Bl. Maria Anna Cope and Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha.
The Holy Father today received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and authorised the promulgation of decrees concerning the following causes:
 - Blessed Giovanni Battista Piamarta, Italian priest and founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth and of the Congregation of the Humble Sister Servants of the Lord (1841-1913).
 - Blessed Jacques Berthieu, French martyr and priest of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) (1838-1896).
 - Blessed Maria del Carmen (born Maria Salles y Barangueras), Spanish foundress of the Conceptionist Missionary Sisters of Teaching (1848-1911).
 - Blessed Maria Anna Cope, nee Barbara, German religious of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in Syracuse U.S.A. (1838-1918).
 - Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, American laywoman (1656-1680).
 - Blessed Pedro Calungsod, Filipino lay catechist and martyr (1654-1672).
 - Blessed Anna Schaffer, German laywoman (1882-1925).

Read it all here.

Bl. Maria Anna (or Marianne) Cope was a religious sister who travelled from Syracuse, N.Y. to Molokai, HI to care for the lepers who were once under the care of St. Damian of Molokai.  Apparently Hawaii is a holy place to be. :)  Read the Vatican biographical listing of Bl. Marianne Cope here.

Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha is a Native American who converted to Catholicism and became a consecrated laywoman in upper New York - huh, both of these women are from from upper NY, apparently New York is also a holy place to be.  Who'da thunk? :) Read more about Bl. Kateri here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Need a Retreat?

Click here to register for this retreat with the Sisters.

Mark Your Calendar for WYD 2013

From EWTN News:
The Pontifical Council for the Laity has confirmed that World Youth Day 2013 will take place in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro from July 23-28.
The announcement was made on the official website for the event,, and by Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro via Twitter, after organizers met with members of the council Rome on Dec. 12.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Go Sheen Go!

Exciting news from just over the river (I mean, I can basically see Illinois from my office, ha):
Official tribunal documents were sealed at the Mass by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria and Monsignor Stanley Deptula. Msgr. Deptula is the executive director of the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Foundation, which is the official promoter of the archbishop’s cause for sainthood.
The documents will now be shipped to the Vatican for consideration.
If the alleged miracle is approved by the Pope, U.S. Catholics could witness the first ever beatification on American soil in the Diocese of Peoria, said the foundation.
Read the whole article here.

This guy is one of my heroes.  He was able to explain the faith in a compelling, attractive, beautiful and simple manner that drew people to love being Catholic - and he was hilarious and laughter is a great way to evangelize. He had an amazing blend of being light-hearted yet when it came to truth he was absolutely unwavering.  I think of this as 'uncompromising joy of the Lord'.  He was very passionate in preaching and catechizing - you can hear in his voice how much he truly believed every word he was saying.  Here are clips from an episode of one his tv shows that demonstrates both his humor and his zeal:

Check out this clip too from when he appeared on a game show in the 50s.

I highly encourage you to read his books as well. I love reading Sheen - he is easy to understand but writes some really profound material at the same time.  My favorite book by him is The World's First Love which is about the Blessed Mother.  Another favorite is Three to Get Married.  You can go here for a further listing of books.  Learn more about Archbishop Sheen at this website.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wisdom from Papa B

"A candle can only give light if it lets itself be consumed by the flame. It would remain useless if its wax failed to nourish the fire. Allow Christ to burn in you, even at the cost of sacrifice and renunciation. Do not be afraid that you might lose something and, so to speak, emerge empty-handed at the end. Have the courage to apply your talents and gifts for God’s kingdom and to give yourselves – like candlewax – so that the Lord can light up the darkness through you. Dare to be glowing saints, in whose eyes and hearts the love of Christ beams and who thus bring light to the world.... “You are the light of the world”. Where God is, there is a future! Amen." - Address of Pope Benedict XVI to young people, September 24, 2011 in Germany
More awesomeness about JPII the Great (created by a fellow Steubie alum) :)

John Paul II: The Man, The Pope, And His Message - DVD series trailer from Tim Evans on Vimeo.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas.  She is amazingly awesome! The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is truly miraculous in many different ways.  On December 9th, 1531 she appeared to a humble convert, St. Juan Diego, whose feast day was last Friday, on Tepeyac hill near what is now Mexico City. She requested that a chapel be built at the site. She appeared to Juan Diego four times.  When he went to the bishop to make Our Lady's request known, the bishop was skeptical and requested proof from Juan Diego.  Juan Diego then saw Our Lady on December 12th and as proof for the bishop she told him to gather some nearby roses - this is significant because roses should not have been blooming during this time of the year. Our Lady arranged the roses in Juan Diego's tilma, similar to a tunic or cloak, and Juan Diego went to the bishop to show him the roses.  When Juan Diego opened his tilma to reveal the roses the miraculous image of Our Lady was on his tilma. 

Today you can travel to Mexico City with millions of other pilgrims to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe to pray in the church which Our Lady requested be built and to see the actual tilma, which has lasted 480 years.  The image itself has had many scientific tests proving that the image is not painted on nor is it embedded into the fibers.  The image is rich in meaning.  During the time of the apparitions most of the people of Mexico were indigenous who worshipped false gods.  Many worshipped the sun, the moon, the stars, etc. and performed human sacrifice.  Our Lady stands in front of the sun and upon the moon with a cloak of stars signifying to the people that she is greater than all these.  She is the crown of all God's creation.  She also stands with her head bowed and hands folded in prayer showing that there is One greater than she - the true God.  The ribbon around her waist is a sign to the Aztec people that she is with Child. All of these are signifcant not only as signs to the Aztec culture, but also to all the world as we read the following from the Book of Revelation:
And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery...And the dragon stood before the woman who was brought about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron...
In a very short time following the apparitions, Mexico was converted and human sacrifice as they knew it ceased.  For this reason, Our Lady of Guadalupe is also known as the patroness of the unborn.  There are many more miraculous things associated with the image itself - for example, if examined closely you can see reflections of St. Juan Diego, the bishop and others reflected in her eyes.  Our Lady of Guadalupe is loved by many - this is certainly one of my favorite titles of Our Lady.

Our Lady said to Juan Diego:
Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest son, that the thing that frightens you, the thing that afflicts you, is nothing: do not let it disturb you.  Am I not here, I, who am your Mother?  Are you not under my shadow and protection?  Am I not the source of your joy?  Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms?  Do you need something more?  Let nothing else worry you or disturb you.
Jesus listens to the prayers of His Mother and we can fly to her for intercession, confident that she will bring our petitions and praises to her Son.

I barely skimmed the surface of the story, so if you want to learn more please check out the following resources:

Pierced Hearts
Catholic Education Resource Center
Franciscan Friars of the Renewal
Book: Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love

Advent and the Lordship of Jesus

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Talking Eagle

Today is the feast of St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (don't ask me how to pronounce it). :)
St. Juan Diego is the native to whom Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in 1531.  The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is on Monday, so I'll wait til then to highlight information about her specifically.  St. Juan Diego was a convert and was a simple and humble man.  Here is a part of his biographical listing from the Vatican:
Juan Diego was born in 1474 with the name "Cuauhtlatoatzin" ("the talking eagle") in Cuautlitlán, today part of Mexico City, Mexico. He was a gifted member of the Chichimeca people, one of the more culturally advanced groups living in the Anáhuac Valley.
When he was 50 years old he was baptized by a Franciscan priest, Fr Peter da Gand, one of the first Franciscan missionaries. On 9 December 1531, when Juan Diego was on his way to morning Mass, the Blessed Mother appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill, the outskirts of what is now Mexico City. She asked him to go to the Bishop and to request in her name that a shrine be built at Tepeyac, where she promised to pour out her grace upon those who invoked her. The Bishop, who did not believe Juan Diego, asked for a sign to prove that the apparition was true. On 12 December, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac. Here, the Blessed Mother told him to climb the hill and to pick the flowers that he would find in bloom. He obeyed, and although it was winter time, he found roses flowering. He gathered the flowers and took them to Our Lady who carefully placed them in his mantle and told him to take them to the Bishop as "proof". When he opened his mantle, the flowers fell on the ground and there remained impressed, in place of the flowers, an image of the Blessed Mother, the apparition at Tepeyac.
With the Bishop's permission, Juan Diego lived the rest of his life as a hermit in a small hut near the chapel where the miraculous image was placed for veneration. Here he cared for the church and the first pilgrims who came to pray to the Mother of Jesus.
Much deeper than the "exterior grace" of having been "chosen" as Our Lady's "messenger", Juan Diego received the grace of interior enlightenment and from that moment, he began a life dedicated to prayer and the practice of virtue and boundless love of God and neighbour. He died in 1548 and was buried in the first chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe. He was beatified on 6 May 1990 by Pope John Paul II in the Basilica of Santa Maria di Guadalupe, Mexico City.
Read the rest here.

Bl. Pope John Paul the Great canonized Juan Diego on July 31, 2002.  This is a fascinating account of the  miracle that propelled Juan Diego to sainthood. 

Knights of Columbus Street

Congrats to the Knights of Columbus on their new street in Rome:
The Knights of Columbus now have a street to call their own in the Eternal City after Largo Cavalieri di Colombo was inaugurated on Dec. 6.
“It is indeed an honor to share this wonderful occasion of the groundbreaking of the Largo Cavalieri di Colombo,” said Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson at the unveiling ceremony for Rome’s newest street sign.
The Knights do an amazing amount of generous work and charity for those in need from disaster relief, defending the unborn, and supporting the Church to building orphanages, assisting the sick and disabled, cultivating cultural renewal and much more.  They have a very far-reaching effect both in the United States and beyond including Mexico, Europe and many third world countries.
The naming of the street, which is situated next to Rome’s historic Baths of Caracalla, recognizes over 90 years of charitable involvement by the Knights in the Italian capital.
In the wake of the First World War, Pope Benedict XV asked the Knights to provide activities for the children of Rome. Today, the Knights still run five free sports centers for kids across the city.
The historic bond between the Knights and Rome “is a strong one,” explained Carl Anderson, “precisely because it has been tested and because it has survived each test.”
“It has been able to do this because it has been based on faith, on our common Catholic faith shared on both sides of the Atlantic,” he said. 
Read the rest here.

Please support your parish Knights of Columbus Council and, for all you men out there, consider becoming a Knight.  We are blessed to have college Knights of Columbus Council here at CCM, so we thank all our college Knights from Council #15294! 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Glorious things are spoken of you, O Mary...

Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception in which we celebrate the singular grace of God in the life of Our Lady, keeping her free from the stain of original sin from the moment of her conception and free from personal sin her whole life. 

St. Irenaeus said, "The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience..." 
But isn't our salvation brought about through Christ, you may ask.  The answer is yes. Then how does the above quote from St. Irenaeus make sense?  I'm glad you asked - it's actually quite simple and I direct you here to the post about this feast day from last year to read more.

I briefly want to mention a part of Fr. Suresh's homily from the Vigil Mass tonight because it was so awesome.  I'm paraphrasing, but this was the gist of what I would like to highlight:
Eating of the fruit of the tree in the Garden of Eden brought death to humanity, but eating of the fruit of the tree of the cross brings life, eternal life; and the fruit of the cross is none other than the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and so he commands, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink." - John 6: 53-55. 

Wow, God knows what He's doing.

May the Sacrament we have received, O Lord our God, heal in us the wounds of that fault from which in a singular way you preserved Blessed Mary in her Immaculate Conception.  Through Christ our Lord. (Today's Prayer after Communion)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Real "Santa Claus"

The story of "Santa Claus" has its roots in a real person, real bishop and real saint - St. Nicholas of Myra. St. Nicholas was a Catholic bishop in the 4th century and was persecuted under the emperor Diocletian.  He was known for many miracles, his generosity and his defense of the Incarnation.  He possibly participated in the Council of Nicaea in 325 from which the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed was developed. His feast day is December 6th.

Here are some websites with further information about St. Nicholas:
New Advent
St. Nicholas Center

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christ Counts On You

"...your lives cannot be lived in isolation, and even in deciding your future you must always keep in mind your responsibility as Christians towards others. There is no place in your lives for apathy or indifference to the world around you. There is no place in the Church for selfishness.

You must show a conscientious concern that the standards of society fit the plan of God. Christ counts on you, so that the effects of his Holy Spirit may radiate from you to others and in that way permeate every aspect of the public and the private sector of national life. “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good”.

Do not let the sight of the world in turmoil shake your confidence in Jesus....Remember his words: “Be brave: I have conquered the world”. Let no temptation discourage you. Let no failure hold you down. There is nothing that you cannot master with the help of the One who gives you strength."

- Bl. Pope John Paul II the Great to the young people of Scotland, May 31, 1982

Are Doctrines and Ethics Connected?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fr. Barron on Conscience and Morality

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
1776 "Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment....For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God....His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths."
1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.
1789 Some rules apply in every case:
- One may never do evil so that good may result from it;
- the Golden Rule: "Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them."
- charity always proceeds by way of respect for one's neighbor and his conscience: "Thus sinning against your brethren and wounding their sin against Christ." Therefore "it is right not anything that makes your brother stumble."
To get the full scope on the conscience and morality you can read the Catechism 1776-1802, but to sum it all up: God often speaks to us through our conscience and we are obliged to follow our conscience, but because we are fallen human beings our decision-making is often clouded from sin, temptation and other harmful things, therefore we must allow our consciences to be well-formed so as to be better able to hear God and make decisions in conformity with His Holy Will and for the true good.  This is one of the many reasons that is it good to learn as much as you can about the teachings of the Church, read Scripture, pray, surround yourself with friends also seeking holiness - because all these things will help to form your conscience well so that you can make good decisions, especially if you find yourself faced with a moral dilemma.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

All Saints & All Souls: Highlighting the Body of Christ

Tuesday we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints' - a holy day of obligation giving us the opportunity to glorify God through all His holy saints who constantly intercede for us; a day to celebrate the Church Triumphant.

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of All Souls' - a day to intercede for the Church Suffering, the holy souls in Purgatory. 

To what are the terms Church Triumphant, Church Suffering and Church Militant referring and what is significant about these holy days and the doctrine of Purgatory?

The Church is the Body of Christ - Christ is the head and we are the members of the body.  The Church is made up of both those who are living on earth and those who have passed on and are awaiting the resurrection.  The 'Church Triumphant' are those members of the Body of Christ, the Church, who have entered into the glory of God in heaven and who pray to God for us that we may also enter into the joy of eternal happiness with Him:
"And another angel came and stood  at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God." - Rev. 8: 3-4
The saints have triumphed over sin and Satan through the holy 'blood of the Lamb' and therefore are referred to as the 'Church Triumphant':
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. - Rev. 12: 11
Then we have the 'Church Suffering', who are the holy souls in Purgatory.  Purgatory is often a misunderstood doctrine - and, yes, Purgatory is a doctrine of the Holy Church - always has been, always will be.  Doctrines and dogmas of the Church are unchanging because Truth does not change.  Purgatory is not something the Church just 'made up' - it is a part of the sacred deposit of the Faith given by Christ to the Apostles and handed on to us by them as well as having Scriptural basis.  The Catechism #1030 says this about Purgatory:
All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
Purgatory does not mean that Christ's sacrifice for us was not sufficient.  Purgatory is actually a great grace of God and reinforces the fact that Christ's redemptive act is effective.  When we sin we incur a dual punishment: eternal and temporal.  Eternal punishment is hell; temporal punishment is repairing the damage our sin has caused.  Again, this does not mean that we are working our way toward heaven apart from Christ or that Christ's sacrifice was not sufficient.  Let's look at the words of St. Paul:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church... - 1 Colossians 1: 24
Does Paul mean that Christ's sacrifice was not good enough?  No, of course not.  The sacrifice of Jesus was perfect and complete.  But God loves us so much that He wants us to be in a relationship with Him, uniting our imperfect sufferings to the perfect suffering of Jesus, thereby, echoing St. Paul's words, "I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions..."  In Revelation 21, St. John describes the "the holy city, new Jerusalem", heaven.  At the end of the chapter he says, "But nothing unclean shall enter it...".  Purgatory is a part of the redeeming blood of Jesus having its effect in cleansing us that we may be clean to enter heaven. 
In the whole land, says the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive.  And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested.  They will call on my name, and I will answer them.  I will say, 'They are my people'; and they will say, 'The Lord is my God.'.  - Zech. 13: 8-9
Purgatory is a cleansing fire from which all our impurities and disordered attachments are purified as gold in the fire that we may be clean through the blood of the Lamb to enter into the joy of heaven.  Contrary to many misconceptions, Purgatory is not a permanent state.  Those who are being cleansed in Purgatory are assured of heaven but are simply being purified before entering.  We speak of this in terms of space of time, because that's how we experience life, so we say things like 'in' Purgatory and 'how long' someone is in Purgatory, but God is not limited by space and time, so how that actually all looks we don't know because it has not been revealed. 

We have the opportunity to pray for the holy souls in Purgatory and offer our sufferings on earth to God in union with the sacrifice of Christ on their behalf, just as St. Paul mentions in 1 Colossians.  So All Souls' Day is a day particularly set aside for that very purpose, though we are called to pray for the holy souls often.  An example of praying for those who have died is provided in 2 Maccabees 12 in which the leader of the army brought his dead soldiers to be buried and he and all with him prayed for those who had died:
In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection.  For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.  But if he was looking to the splendid reward that  is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.  Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.  - 2 Maccabees 12: 43-45
One saint who was particularly devoted to the holy souls in Purgatory was St. Gertrude.  She composed the following prayer for the holy souls:
Eternal Father, I offer You the most precious Blood of Your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with all  the Masses said throughout the world today, for the holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, for those within my home and within my family.
Read more about Purgatory from Catholics United for the Faith here.  I highly recommend reading it.

The 'Church Militant' are those of us still here on earth fighting the good fight so as to win the prize:
For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. - 2 Tim. 4: 6-7
Each day, because of concupiscence (the tendency to sin) and the temptations of Satan, we engage in a battle to choose Christ over sin.  This is why we are called the 'Church Militant' because we are engaged in a battle.  Thanks be to God that Jesus has won the ultimate victory over sin and death - we must, however, choose to partake in that victory by His grace.
This charge I commit to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophetic utterances which pointed to you, that inspired by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. - 1 Tim. 1: 18
So the Solemnity of All Saints and the Feast of All Souls are important because they remind us that we are all one body in Christ and have an initimate connection to one another and can assist each other in being holy children of God and guide one another on the path to the new Jerusalem, the holy city: heaven. 

May the saints intercede for us to our God, may we pray for each other and encourage one another in living holy lives pleasing to the Lord and may we pray for the holy souls in Purgatory who no doubt pray for us as well: May perpetual light shine upon them and may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Why Do We Use Holy Water When Entering a Church?

Holy Water recalls the waters of the Sacrament of Baptism through which you entered the Church and became a member of the family of God by being 'born again of water and the Spirit'. When you enter a church and dip your finger in the font, you are invited to remember that you are a son or daughter of God; that you are part of His family and are called to a life of beauty, truth and goodness, rejoicing in the grace of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, the Father spoke saying, 'This is My Son, with whom I am well pleased.' When we make use of holy water, we too are reminded that we are called to live lives pleasing to the Lord, not in servitude as a slave, but as children of a loving and merciful Father. Holy water reminds us that death does not have the last word. We die with Christ in order to rise with Him and that is exactly what happens in Baptism. We die to sin, to live in Christ. Water is life-giving - without water, no living thing or person can survive, therefore, holy water is also a reminder that without the grace of God, who gives us the true living water that will allow us to never thirst again, we cannot live. Through the waters of Baptism we are given new life that by the grace of the Holy Spirit we may one day enter into the joy of eternal life. "...whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." ~ John 4:14

Monday, October 31, 2011

Every Life is Worth Living

Is he not the cutest kid you've ever seen??  His sign says:
I may not be perfect
but I'm happy.
I am God's handiwork
and I bear His image.
I am blessed.
I am the 10%
of children born
with Down's Syndrome
who survived Roe v. Wade.
LifeSiteNews interviewed his dad recently:
“In writing the sign we wanted to let people know that though our son is not perfect (nor are any of us), he is happy and his life is worth living,” Reigstad said.

“We had hoped that this photo might be a small part of the tide that is turning against abortion. We wanted to speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves.”

Currently, in the United States and most Western countries, as many as 95% of children who are diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb are aborted. Critics of aborting Down syndrome children say that the practice is simply a resurrection of eugenics, and observe that most people with Down syndrome are extremely happy. One recent study found that 99% of people with Down syndrome say they are happy.
Read the rest here.


Did you miss Fill These Hearts on Friday night? Here's a taste of the awesomeness:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cardinals or Rangers?

Even the bishops are getting in on the World Series excitement:
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson from the Archdiocese of St. Louis has prompted a World Series wager with former Cardinals fan, Bishop Kevin W. Vann from the Diocese of Fort Worth, TX, official home diocese of the Texas Rangers....
...If the Cardinals win, Bishop Vann will send a taste of authentic Texas BBQ along with a Stetson cowboy hat. If the Rangers take the pennant, Archbishop Carlson will send a taste of local St. Louis favorites that include toasted ravioli from The Hill, Gus’s pretzels, locally-brewed Schlafly Beer and Fitz’s Root Beer, along with a Cardinals baseball cap to replace the caps Bishop Vann discarded when he moved to Texas.
Adding to the bet and further supporting the charitable mission of the Catholic Church, the winner will also receive a donation for the local Catholic Charities in the amount of $10 for every run scored throughout the series.
Read the whole story here.

Closer to Sainthood?

Thanks to Emily.

If Only More Interviews Were Like This...

Thursday I was in my car scanning through the radio stations and happened upon an interview of Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez and David Alexanian about their new movie The Way.  I haven't seen the movie, but the interview was amazing - I was literally saying 'Wow.' out loud in my car as I listened to some of the responses that Sheen was giving to the interviewer's questions - just to hear some of the things he was saying on a secular program and coming from an actor well known in the secular world was shocking yet refreshing and hopeful.  He was essentially sharing how the human heart longs for God, that we have a 'yearning for transcendence', that every heart is searching and what, or Who I should say, we are searching for is God - he may not have said it that bluntly, but there's no doubt that his message was very focused on that reality (what do you expect I guess from a guy who changed his last name in honor of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen?).  I didn't agree with every single thing that was said in the interview but, wow, were there some shining lights in it.  I'd like to just share some of the things that they said - first I should mention that the film is about a father who is grieving the loss of his son.  His son had gone to Europe to walk the Camino de Santiago which is a major place of pilgrimage for Catholics (though many, both Catholic and non-Catholic, hike the Camino each year).  The Camino ends in Santiago de Compostela at the Cathedral where the remains of St. James, one of Our Lord's Apostles, are buried.  On to the interview [their comments are in black and my reactions are in blue]:

Sheen: [he begins by talking about how his character in the film is in a dark place and is in despair over the loss of his son and goes on to say the following about his character in the interview] "...somewhere in some mysterious part of his being there's a yearning for transcendence and he grabs it, and he decides to make this journey for his son, in fact he's making it for himself, but he doesn't come to that realization 'til he's well into the journey...but I think all of us are looking for a sense of transcendence, you know, who am I, why am I here?"  [can anybody say Theology of the Body!?  These are the very questions that TOB and our Faith seek to answer. The 'yearning for transcendence' is that longing in the human heart for God Himself.  He is the Transcendent One - we are drawn to the higher realities of life, like truth, beauty and goodness, because we are drawn to God who is Truth, Beauty and Goodness itself - you can imagine what I looked like in my car when I was hearing him say this! haha!]

Alexanian: "Simplifying your life doesn't mean that you're missing out on something; it actually means that you're gaining everything." [boy, is that true - when you live simply you are set free of becoming attached to things and therefore have more of an opportunity to enter into the transcendent realities of truth, beauty and goodness thereby growing in deeper relationship with God Himself. Notice that the majority of saints lived very simply whether they were married, religious or single, they were able to be detached from the things of the world in order to attach themselves to the things of God - or better yet, God Himself.  Our culture has such a hard time with this because we are so desperately seeking God - but seeking Him in the wrong places, so we continually to try to fill our longings with more stuff, more relationships, more money, etc., etc., and the more stressed and lost we become because we have packed so much stuff around us that we can't even see ahead of us anymore - but the good news is that God can break through even the most cluttered piles that lay within our hearts and clean it up so that we can have peace resting in Him, realizing that He alone can satisfy all our longings.  So Alexanian's quote is quite correct because when we live simply we have more room for God and in letting Him in we most certainly gain everything.]

Estevez: " has nothing to do with has everything to do with finding out who we are." [then he quotes a line from the movie: "Religion has nothing to do with this, nothing at all."] [I disagree with this statement because finding out who we are is essentially finding out who God is and discovering who we are in relation to Him.  Isn't that what religion is about?  The two really can't be separated, can they?  Even someone who doesn't profess a particular religion is likely searching for the transcendent and we just discussed how ultimately that means searching for God - and that's a religious activity whether we label it so or not.  I think I understand why he is saying that the movie isn't about religion - it could obviously turn some people off from watching it if were labeled as a religious movie, but I think it's a little much to say that it, especially if you're talking about the Camino itself, has nothing at all to do with religion.  The Camino very much has to do with religion - it's a Catholic pilgrimage site.  It seems that the world wants nothing to do with religion at times because of misconceptions, unfaithful examples, etc., but religion isn't a bad thing when seen in light of the truth.  I doubt he would disagree with that, but was simply wanting to convey that the movie isn't just for people who consider themselves religious.]

Sheen:  " of art...have to cost you something if they have value, otherwise you're gonna question it's value...I believe pilgrimage takes place in our own do have to be open to transcendence in your own heart [then he talks a little about having a balance between the spirit and flesh] have to give yourself time for the have to be willing to open up your grip on yourself [then he talks about community and 'what a wonderful thing that is.'] [Obviously the quote about something having value and it costing you is huge and there's lots of things to say about that, but he talks about that more later so I'll hit on that when he expounds on it, so let's look at the part about pilgrimaging in your heart - how true is that?  Very.  The ultimate pilgrimage that we are all on is that pilgrimage to the Heavenly Jerusalem and we get there through the path of the cross.  This means prayer and charity. When we enter into prayer we are making a pilgrimage in our hearts hoping to arrive at the destination of Heaven.  It's also awesome how he mentions having a balance between the spirit and flesh - talk about TOB - the integration between the body and soul is definitely part of this pilgrimage we are all on - and it is a journey that takes time - we don't get there in an instant and we don't fully reach it until Heaven.  It's also lovely how he mentions the beauty of the community of humanity - that we're all in this together and life is about relationships - with God and with one another.]

Estevez:  "...we live in a culture that says, 'take this pill and you'll be happy', 'go on this diet and you'll be thinner', 'have your teeth brightened and people will love you more', and on and on and its false... none of that stuff makes you happier..." [whoa. preach it brotha!  Live simply - authentic happiness is found in God, not liposuction.]

Estevez: "...I make movies that are personal, that are a reflection of climbing a little higher in that tree, ya know, this cynical and pessimistic, that vibe is a low hanging fruit and it's a go-to fruit which is why so many of us have become cynical and pessimistic, and so I invite people to climb a little higher in the tree and taste fruit that's  a little sweeter and the view is certainly a lot requires some effort..."
Interviewer:  "what's the cost?"
Estevez:  "Well, you don't always have a lot of people that wanna climb up in that tree with you. Whether it works or not a hundred percent, I don't know, but I know that I feel better about the types of pictures I'm making...if it doesn't cost you anything, you question its value." [I love it!  This analogy of inviting us to a higher place in the tree for tastier fruit and a better view - wow, wow, wow.  Again, TOB and the Faith so so so soooo evident here.  The Church doesn't impose the truth, She proposes it.  It's an invitation to discover the fruit that satiates the hunger. "...whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst..." - John 4:14.  Why don't you find a lot of people that want to climb up the tree with you?  Because it takes effort and sacrifice.]

Interviewer: What did you learn [in making the movie] and what did it cost?
Sheen starts off his answer with an Irish story about a man who dies and goes to the gates of Heaven and asks St. Peter for entrance and Peter replies, 'of course, just show us your scars'.  The man replies, 'I have no scars.'  Peter then says, 'what a pity.  was there nothing worth fighting for?'
Sheen:  "I think we have to find something in our lives worth fighting one has ever made a valid or meaningful contribution to humanity or themselves really without suffering.  It has to cost you something and very often the more it costs you the more important it is that you keep doing what you're doing..."[w.h.o.a.  awesome.  The very life of Jesus Christ proves everything that he just said.  We must have scars because there must be something worth fighting for.  God loves you so much and values your worth so much that He was willing to receive scars for you.  Will you be willing to receive scars for love of Him?  The things that are most valuable are the things worth fighting for and dying for - and what is most valuable aren't even actually things - they are God, people and the transcendent realities.  Suffering is the soil from which beauty springs. The most beautiful realities in the world are the ones that involve sacrifice:  the crucifix, the Eucharist, a baby, an elderly person, friendship, love, peace, marriage, etc.  There is no authentic beauty and no authentic love without sacrifice.  Think about the fact that God knew it would cost Him dearly - the death of His Only-Begotten Son - to create you, but here you are because He loves you.  If you ever doubt your value, simply look at the crucifix and there you will remember your worth.]

Great interview.  Wouldn't it be awesome if more movie interviews were like that one?  If you want to listen to the whole thing you can click here and scroll down to find the Thursday, October 13 Podcast with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez.  The interview is in the middle of the podcast starting at about 43 minutes remaining in the show so you'll have to wait until it gets through the first interview of the program with another guest.  Here's the trailer for the movie:

As mentioned earlier, I haven't seen the movie, but I have seen the trailer and clips from the movie and it looks to have a really great message and it's promoting the Camino in a way, of course, so that's wonderful, but I thought I could also use this as a catechetical opportunity regarding what the Church teaches about burial, cremation and the resurrection of the body. You'll notice in the trailer that the son's remains are in a box after he had been cremated and the father decides to hike the Camino while carrying the box and all kinds of problems in that regard ensue.

What does the Church teach regarding cremation and the sprinkling of ashes? 
Catechism 2300 & 2301:
The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection.  The burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy; it honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit.
...The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.
The Church recognizes that the body is not simply a shell for the soul but that our humanity is an integration of both the body and the soul - both of which were created by God and are, therefore, good and sacred.  A major theme that we profess as Christians is the resurrection of the body.  We believe that God will raise up the body again to have eternal life in union with the soul.  We believe this because that is what happened to Jesus - He rose from the dead, body and soul - even still retaining His holy wounds as reminders of His great love for us.  So the body is not simply something disposable or something with which we can just do whatever we want.  This is why burying the dead is a corporal work of mercy.  Throughout history some would cremate the body as a denial of the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, therefore the Church did not permit cremation until recently.  Now cremation is allowed as long as it is not being done as a denial of the resurrection of the body.  Burial is obviously preferred, but cremation can be permitted.  However, even when cremation is permitted and done, the scattering of the ashes or keeping the ashes in a home or anywhere other than a tomb or grave is not permitted for the very reasons demonstrated in the trailer of the movie.  For example, there is a scene where his backpack, which contained the box with his son's ashes, falls into a river; a scene where someone steals the backpack which again contained the ashes, etc.  I remember watching an episode of Family Matters once where the ashes of one of the family members was kept on the mantle of the fireplace, the urn fell on the groud, the ashes went everywhere and they ended up cleaning up this person's ashes with the household vacuum cleaner.  You can easily see the wisdom in the Church in not permitting cremated remains to be kept anywhere other than a tomb or grave.  Out of a sacred reverence for the body which God created and which will rise on the last day, the ashes may not be kept or scattered.  Quite a wise and reverent discipline.  You can read more about all of this at Catholics United for the Faith.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Got Tickets for Fill These Hearts?

...if you signed up to go with CCM then yes, you do!  But if you didn't sign up and you still want to go you can get tickets here. The tour is coming to Springfield on Friday, Oct. 28 at 7pm-11pm.  What is Fill These Hearts?  Check out the website here and watch this video, then come with us to the event.

Sisters of Life Rhapsody in Madrid

Yesterday I received the magazine that the Sisters of Life send out and this issue featured their experience at World Youth Day in Madrid.  One article highlighted a rhapsody written by Sr. Mariae Agnus Dei and it's awesome.  Eight Sisters of Life along with three people from the band that were performing at the Love & Life Center at the Palacio de Deportes and three Franciscan Friars of the Renewal led the youth in singing it.  It was a rhapsody where they split the crowd up into four parts: guys, girls and two groups of both guys and girls with the following lyrics:
Guys to the girls: You are beautiful, you are precious, you are sacred in the eyes of the Lord.
Girls to the guys: I must confess, I look for holiness - a man strong in virtue.
First guys and girls group: My Savior and my God, I lay my life down before Thee.  I place my faith in your truth.  I trust in your mercy. 
Second guys and girls group: I thank you Lord for making me.  For truth, goodness, and beauty.  I thank you Lord for your ways do bring me greatest peace and freedom.
Watch it and listen to it here:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Savor the Moments

Tess over at Catholic Young Woman has a nice reflection on schedules of undergrads and it's quite sound advice: 
During Freshman Orientation, I attended a special Mass for all of the new freshmen at which our vice-president of Student Affairs, Father Mark, gave a beautiful homily about enjoying our time at Notre Dame.
He told us about a recent conversation he had had with an elderly Notre Dame alumnus whose love for the school had only grown in the decades since his long-ago graduation.
“If I could go back there, and be an undergraduate again,” that old man had said to him, “I would squeeze every last drop out of that place.”
As a freshman, I pondered those words and internalized them. Squeeze out every last drop, I often thought, and I promised myself to do just that. So began an endless whirl of fun activities, the sort I’m sure you’re familiar with. Every weekend brought movie nights, dinner parties, and other outings with my friends, while weekdays were busy with lectures, plays and evening discussions on top of classes and homework. It was a charmed life and so much fun, but in the midst of it all, I would sometimes feel restless, as though my activities lacked a center. True, I tried to attend Mass daily, but at times even this beloved “date with Jesus” (if you will) became just another thing to check off on the to-do list, another activity to squeeze in between class and dinner.
Now that I’ve graduated, I find that the times I remember most fondly are not all the activities and events but rather the rare quiet moments between them all ... And I realized that I had the order wrong the whole time, after all. To “squeeze out every last drop” did not mean to go to every single event and activity on campus. It meant to savor, to cherish, to enjoy the small and simple moments that happen every day.
...I have to remind myself sometimes of what I learned from my undergraduate career: savor every moment, don’t cram it with activities.
So as one of the resident college grads and working women here at the Catholic Young Woman, that’s the advice I want to share with my high school and undergraduate readers: don’t fill up your schedule. Say no to the occasional activity. Make time to sit in silence, to write, to read, to think, to dream, and most of all to converse with God.
Read it all here.

Sometimes if your schedule is packed so full you can easily have a difficult time really appreciating all the moments and end up just rushing through them, checking things off your list.  It's important to be involved and take advantage of the opportunities that you're being given during your time in college, but don't let it become a hailstorm of activities to the point where you can't enjoy the activities.  Silence, prayer and quiet moments with friends are so important during this time of your life as you try to discern what God wants for you and lots of decisions are being made.  Be sure that you make time for prayer and daily Mass.  Prayer and Mass will lay the foundation for everything else to be built upon.  Be sure to truly enter in to the Mass rather than just going through the motions.  If you pray, seek counsel, develop strong friendships and spend time in silence you will be more at peace and better able to make healthy decisions. 

He'll Make A Saint Out of You

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Ladies deserve...our best actions."

Some of the guys who participated in
Ultimate Chivalry Week.
 An article by Daniel Ruble was recently published in the Arrow about Ultimate Chivalry Week hosted by the men of CCM. 
Kristin Kuhl, a Southeast senior, said she thought Chivalry Week was a beautiful way for women to know how much they are treasured.
"I am blessed to have amazing guys in my life who want to treat women with respect," she said. "I pray that more men can understand why others believe that women should be kept at a higher standard. Chivalry Week was a week full of hope that the world can be a better place, if we all just give a little effort."
John McLain said he also hopes that men and women will learn to have respect for one another.
"Ladies deserve our best. Not just our best dress, but more importantly, our best actions," he said. "Whatever you do, show women they deserve respect. If we can affirm their dignity with our actions, we can uphold the truth of their nature as daughters of God."
Read the rest here.

We are very blessed with many young men who know who they are as sons of God and in turn know how to respect the dignity of their sisters in Christ.  Way to go guys!  CCM is very proud of you!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

When You Look in the Mirror Today Think of God and Say 'Wow.'

Emily at Unshakeable Hope led me to an article for the Archdiocese of Washington about the probability of your existence.  Another example of God's glory reflected in your face. Read it here.  Every morning when you wake up let the first thing you think be "God loves me."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

USCCB Urges Action on Conscience Protection

On August 1, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued an "interim final rule" that will require virtually all private health plans to include coverage for all FDA-approved prescription contraceptives, sterilization procedures, and related "patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity." These are listed among "preventive services for women" that all health plans will have to include without co-pays or other cost-sharing -- regardless of whether the insurer, the employer or other plan sponsor, or even the woman herself objects to such coverage.
Concerned Americans have until September 30 to send their comments to HHS.
  • Write to HHS opposing their recent preventive services mandate.
On September 7, Cardinal DiNardo, chair of the bishops' Committee on Pro-LIfe Acitivities, urged Congress to support conscience protection legislation in light of this "unprecedented threat to religious freedom." Please add your voice to his:
Read more here.
h/t Marcel

Monday, September 12, 2011

Remember Death

Blogging has been really slow lately because we have so many awesome things going on at CCM, but after yesterday's Mass I was reminded of one of my favorite paintings and wanted to quickly share it with you:

The first reading yesterday was from Sirach 27: 30-28: 7 and the phrase that always reminds me of this painting is : Remember your last days, set enmity  aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin!"

The painting is of St. Francis of Assisi contemplating a skull.  I love the simplicity of it and yet it evokes such profound and strong contemplative realities. "Remember death." The lighting is amazing.  The painting, though some may find at first glance to be slightly morbid because he's holding a skull, I find to be a powerful reminder to love God and neighbor, a reminder of our utter dependence on God, a reminder to resist sin, a reminder that He is Creator and we are creature - calling us to a greater humility and deeper relationship with Christ.  It's also a call to live completely for Jesus Christ who is our all in all - material things don't matter for they all pass away - all that matters is love.  Hence, St. Francis contemplates the skull, reminding himself to live for Christ, for one day he will die and go to meet the Master where he will be judged on his love.

"In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone." - St. John of the Cross

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Catholicism Trailer

New trailer on Fr. Barron's Catholicism series (**if you want to see the series in its entirety you may want to attend Catholicism 101 on Monday nights at 7pm this semester and/or RCIA on Thursday nights at 6pm):

h/t Matt Warner

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Don't Eat the Cheetos*

A new study shows that infant baptisms in the Catholic Church have been declining year by year along with the birth rate in the U.S.
When life in the womb is rejected, is it surprising that life in the spirit gets rejected also?  It's time for a new evangelization. 

It's not a coincidence that you are alive right now - God has placed you here at this moment in time to receive his grace and change the world.  God has called you by name to be a builder of the new evangelization.  I think of other moments in history when 'new evangelizations' were needed and the saints that stepped up and answered the call to get in the mud and dirt and start laying the foundations and their followers who began putting on the mortar and bricks to rebuild the Church - people like St. Francis, who literally heard God say to him, "Rebuild my Church", St. Dominic, St. Ignatius, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, etc., etc.  Now it's your time and God is calling you.  It's time to let go of the lure of mediocrity and tell comfort that you weren't made to be comfortable.  God is completely, totally, head over heels enamored by you - that's why you're here and why you feel like there is something more to life than just sitting around eating cheetos* and watching Jersey Shore. This is how 'enamored' is defined:
1. to fill or inflame with love
2. to charm or captivate.
God is INFLAMED with love of you!  How much He wants you to be who He made you to be!  We have so utterly downplayed what it means to be human that we don't even expect anyone, especially ourselves, to live lives of holiness and greatness anymore - and I'm not necessarily talking about becoming president or CEO of anything - I'm talking about listening to the voice of God and the promptings of the Holy Spirit to be fully human and make a gift of yourself everyday - to love to the utmost EVERY day.  This is the call of the new evangelization - to become who you are.  Bl. JPII believed that you have the capability of becoming the greatest saints of the Church.  You're probably thinking that that's crazy, but let me remind you of the words of Jesus, "What is impossible with men, is possible with God." (Lk 18:27).  You were made for this moment in history to proclaim the new evangelization, to proclaim Jesus Christ, to a world desperately in need of Him.  Do not settle for the cheetos*.  They're fake and they don't satisfy.  Rise up and let the love of God cast out all your fear.  Sustained by the Eucharist and led by the Holy Spirit in the will of the Father,  you have absolutely nothing to fear.  All that is ahead of you is beauty.  You, saint of the third millenium, do not doubt the one God or the greatness to which He has called you.  "Young people of every continent, do not be afraid to be the saints of the third millenium!" (Bl. JPII)

Place all your trust in Him and be not afraid to take the leap of faith:

*No disrepect to the makers of Cheetos - I actually find them to be quite delicious but this is obviously just an analogy :)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Dreams Do Come True

Remember this post about the oldest cloistered nun in the world (103 yrs old) who has spent 84 years of her life in the cloister and wanted to meet Papa B when he was in Madrid for World Youth Day? 
Dreams do come true:

College Do's, Don'ts and Other Advice

Marcel has some good suggestions for new (and returning) students on college campuses in 10 Things I Wish I Knew My Freshman Year.  Here are a few:
 9 - College is not just about getting a job. I am not saying that grades are not important. I am not saying you don't want to get a good job. I AM saying that college is about learning about the big questions - Who am I? What is life about? What plan does God have for me? etc. If you figure this out, college will be a success.

8 - You are NOT poor. You may not have as much money as your friends and you almost certainly don't have as much as your parents. This does not make you poor, so don't say you are. You are rich - you get to go to college, you eat as much as you need, you have a place to sleep, etc. Enjoy not having money and be creative with it....
 2 - Have fun! Balance your academics with a good (and healthy) social life. This means you have to do the following - manage your time, find friends who will make good decisions, and be smart about it all.

1 - Church shouldn't be optional. 80% of active Catholics in high school lose their faith by the time they graduate college. So, how do you expect to keep your faith if you don't get active in your parish or campus ministry in college? Do yourself a favor and get involved in the Sacramental, social, service, and faith life at your campus ministry. You won't regret it.
Read the rest here.

I would also add "Know what poison ivy looks like and how to avoid it" - my first few days in college were spent with lots of calamine lotion. :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fr. Barron on Sexuality, Sacrifice & Love


Looking Back at WYD 2011

Favorite Quote from each of Pope Benedict's Addresses: Message for World Youth Day 2011:
Part of being young is desiring something beyond everyday life and a secure job, a yearning for something really, truly greater. Is this simply an empty dream that fades away as we become older? No! Men and women were created for something great, for infinity. Nothing else will ever be enough. St Augustine was right when he said "our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you".
The desire for a more meaningful life is a sign that God created us and that we bear his "imprint". God is life, and that is why every creature reaches out towards life. Because human beings are made in the image of God, we do this in a unique and special way. We reach out for love, joy and peace. So we can see how absurd it is to think that we can truly live by removing God from the picture! God is the source of life. To set God aside is to separate ourselves from that source and, inevitably, to deprive ourselves of fulfilment and joy: "without the Creator, the creature fades into nothingness" (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 36).
The discovery of the living God inspires young people and opens their eyes to the challenges of the world in which they live, with its possibilities and limitations. They see the prevailing superficiality, consumerism and hedonism, the widespread banalization of sexuality, the lack of solidarity, the corruption. They know that, without God, it would be hard to confront these challenges and to be truly happy, and thus pouring out their enthusiasm in the attainment of an authentic life. But, with God beside them, they will possess light to walk by and reasons to hope, unrestrained before their highest ideals, which will motivate their generous commitment to build a society where human dignity and true brotherhood are respected....
But, with all my heart, I say again to you young people: let nothing and no one take away your peace; do not be ashamed of the Lord. He did not spare himself in becoming one like us and in experiencing our anguish so as to lift it up to God, and in this way he saved us.
Welcoming Ceremony by the Young People at Plaza de Cibeles:
Above all, seek the Truth, which is not an idea or an ideology or a slogan, but a person: Christ, God himself, who has come into our midst! You rightly wish to plant your faith in him, to ground your life in Christ. He has always loved you and he knows you better than anyone else.
Homily, Liturgy of the Word, Celebrated with Youth at Plaza de Cibeles:
Indeed, there are many who, creating their own gods, believe they need no roots or foundations other than themselves. They take it upon themselves to decide what is true or not, what is good and evil, what is just and unjust; who should live and who can be sacrificed in the interests of other preferences; leaving each step to chance, with no clear path, letting themselves be led by the whim of each moment. These temptations are always lying in wait. It is important not to give in to them because, in reality, they lead to something so evanescent, like an existence with no horizons, a liberty without God. We, on the other hand, know well that we have been created free, in the image of God, precisely so that we might be in the forefront of the search for truth and goodness, responsible for our actions, not mere blind executives, but creative co-workers in the task of cultivating and beautifying the work of creation. God is looking for a responsible interlocutor, someone who can dialogue with him and love him. Through Christ we can truly succeed and, established in him, we give wings to our freedom. Is this not the great reason for our joy? Isn’t this the firm ground upon which to build the civilization of love and life, capable of humanizing all of us?
Meeting with Women Religious
Your lives must testify to the personal encounter with Christ which has nourished your consecration, and to all the transforming power of that encounter. This is all the more important today when "we see a certain 'eclipse of God' taking place, a kind of amnesia which, albeit not an outright rejection of Christianity, is nonetheless a denial of the treasure of our faith, a denial that could lead to the loss of our deepest identity" (Message for the 2011 World Youth Day, 1). In a world of relativism and mediocrity, we need that radicalism to which your consecration, as a way of belonging to the God who is loved above all things, bears witness.
Meeting with University Professors (this was one of my favorite addresses):
I urge you, then, never to lose that sense of enthusiasm and concern for truth. Always remember that teaching is not just about communicating content, but about forming young people. You need to understand and love them, to awaken their innate thirst for truth and their yearning for transcendence. Be for them a source of encouragement and strength.
For this to happen, we need to realize in the first place that the path to the fullness of truth calls for complete commitment: it is a path of understanding and love, of reason and faith. We cannot come to know something unless we are moved by love; or, for that matter, love something which does not strike us as reasonable. "Understanding and love are not in separate compartments: love is rich in understanding and understanding is full of love" (Caritas in Veritate, 30). If truth and goodness go together, so too do knowledge and love. This unity leads to consistency in life and thought, that ability to inspire demanded of every good educator.
In the second place, we need to recognize that truth itself will always lie beyond our grasp. We can seek it and draw near to it, but we cannot completely possess it; or put better, truth possesses us and inspires us. In intellectual and educational activity the virtue of humility is also indispensable, since it protects us from the pride which bars the way to truth. We must not draw students to ourselves, but set them on the path toward the truth which we seek together. The Lord will help you in this, for he asks you to be plain and effective like salt, or like the lamp which quietly lights the room (cf. Mt 5:13).
Way of the Cross in the Plaza de Cibeles:
The Cross was not a sign of failure, but an expression of self-giving in love that extends even to the supreme sacrifice of one’s life. The Father wanted to show his love for us through the embrace of his crucified Son: crucified out of love. The Cross, by its shape and its meaning, represents this love of both the Father and the Son for men. Here we recognize the icon of supreme love, which teaches us to love what God loves and in the way that he loves: this is the Good News that gives hope to the world.
Relying on his love, do not be intimidated by surroundings that would exclude God and in which power, wealth and pleasure are frequently the main criteria ruling people’s lives. You may be shunned along with others who propose higher goals or who unmask the false gods before whom many now bow down. That will be the moment when a life deeply rooted in Christ will clearly be seen as something new and it will powerfully attract those who truly search for God, truth and justice.
Visit to San Jose Foundation for Disabled Youth (this entire speech was awesome):
..."the true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer … A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through 'com-passion' is a cruel and inhuman society" (Spe Salvi, 38). These words reflect a long tradition of humanity which arises from Christ's own self-offering on the Cross for us and for our redemption. Jesus and, in his footsteps, his Sorrowful Mother and the saints, are witnesses who shows us how to experience the tragedy of suffering for our own good and for the salvation of the world.  These witnesses speak to us, first and foremost, of the dignity of all human life, created in the image of God.  No suffering can efface this divine image imprinted in the depths of our humanity.
Prayer Vigil with Young People:
Yes, dear friends, God loves us. This is the great truth of our life; it is what makes everything else meaningful. We are not the product of blind chance or absurdity; instead our life originates as part of a loving plan of God. To abide in his love, then, means living a life rooted in faith, since faith is more than the mere acceptance of certain abstract truths: it is an intimate relationship with Christ, who enables us to open our hearts to this mystery of love and to live as men and women conscious of being loved by God.
If you abide in the love of Christ, rooted in the faith, you will encounter, even amid setbacks and suffering, the source of true happiness and joy. Faith does not run counter to your highest ideals; on the contrary, it elevates and perfects those ideals. Dear young people, do not be satisfied with anything less than Truth and Love, do not be content with anything less than Christ.
Dear young people, today Christ is asking you the same question which he asked the Apostles: "Who do you say that I am?" Respond to him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own. Say to him: "Jesus, I know that you are the Son of God, who have given your life for me. I want to follow you faithfully and to be led by your word. You know me and you love me. I place my trust in you and I put my whole life into your hands. I want you to be the power that strengthens me and the joy which never leaves me"....
...Dear young friends, as the Successor of Peter, let me urge you to strengthen this faith which has been handed down to us from the time of the Apostles. Make Christ, the Son of God, the centre of your life. But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own. Anyone who would be tempted to do so "on his own", or to approach the life of faith with kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.
 Post-Angelus Address at Cuatro Vientos Airport:
Dear friends, before we say good-bye, Successor of Peter I entrust all of you present with this task: make the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ known to the whole world! He wants you to be the apostles of the twenty-first century and the messengers of his joy. Do not let him down! ...He sends you out to be his witnesses, courageous and without anxiety, authentic and credible! Do not be afraid to be Catholic, and to be witnesses to those around you in simplicity and sincerity! Let the Church find in you and in your youthfulness joyful missionaries of the Good News of salvation!
Meeting with Volunteers of the 26th WYD:
Perhaps many of you felt a very simple question forming in your hearts, faintly or forcefully as the case may be: What is God asking me to do? What is his plan for my life? Is Christ asking me to follow him more closely? Should I not spend my whole life in the mission to proclaim to the world the greatness of his love through the priesthood, or the consecrated life, or marriage? If this question has surfaced, let the Lord be your guide and become volunteers in the service of the One who "came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45). Your life will achieve fulfilment in ways you cannot imagine.
Young people readily respond when one proposes to them, in sincerity and truth, an encounter with Jesus Christ, the one Redeemer of humanity. ... There is no reason to lose heart in the face of the various obstacles we encounter in some countries. The yearning for God which the Creator has placed in the hearts of young people is more powerful than all of these, as is the power from on high which gives divine strength to those who follow the Master and who seek in him nourishment for life. Do not be afraid to present to young people the message of Jesus Christ in all its integrity, and to invite them to celebrate the sacraments by which he gives us a share in his own life.
Ok, so it ended up being more than just 'a favorite quote' from each of Papa B's addresses - it was more like 'favorite paragraphs'!