Friday, December 21, 2012

I Just Like to Smile, Smiling's My Favorite

Ok,  I admit it.  Elf is one of my favorite movies.  And I must agree with the following two authors that  there is a wealth of theological gold within it:
If you have not yet seen Elf, stop reading this post right now.  Get a hold of yourself.  Get your life in order.  Then, come back and see me.
If you have seen Elf and you hate it, go kick a puppy or steal Tiny Tim's crutches because that is probably what you were wanting to do anyway.  And stop being a cotton-headed ninny muggins.
If you are a civilized, well-balanced human being (i.e. you have seen the movie, have liked it on Facebook, and have yelled out "SANTA!!! I KNOW him!" at least once this year) read on.
 Read all of Rozann's article at Word on Fire here.

Listen to Fr. Matt's talk here.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fr. Barron On "The Hobbit"

Mother Teresa is Gonna School Ya

Wanna live a holier life?  Let Mother Teresa show ya how's it done over at Fallible Blogma:
Step one: Slow down.
“I think the world today is upside down. Everybody seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater development and greater riches and so on. There is much suffering because there is so very little love in homes and in family life. We have no time for our children, we have no time for each other; there is no time to enjoy each other. In the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world.”
Step two: Make some room.
“If you are discouraged it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own power. Your self-sufficiency, your selfishness and your intellectual pride will inhibit His coming to live in your heart because God cannot fill what is already full. It is as simple as that.”
Read all of the "7 Steps to a Holier Life" here

Adoption: the Loving Option

Monday, December 17, 2012

And you didn't think O was an important letter...

December 17th begins 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.

Friday, December 14, 2012

'Explosion of Life'

Jennifer Fulwiler is the host of - of which I am a fan.   She is a convert to Catholicism from atheism and was asked to have a reality show made about her life.  Reluctantly, she agreed and below is Episode one of three.  I found it to be a great mix of apologetics, humor, story-sharing and real-life reality.  I especially love the line when she's describing her conversion to Catholicism and she says being Catholic is 'like an explosion of life' meaning that when you come to realize the beauty and fullness of the Faith it's like finally becoming alive, you finally being to truly live.  I couldn't agree more.  Enjoy:

Your Story

Several students attended the midnight showing of "The Hobbit" last night (kudos to those of you who still have the gusto to watch any movie in those wee hours).  The wonderful fascination of Tolkien's writings continues in this new genre of the motion picture but also in its original genre of literature.  What is it about this series that seems to capture so many?  As I once heard Christopher West express as he pointed to a crucifix, "Any good story, tells this story."  I think it is certainly the case that the stories that capture the most hearts and prove to last for extended periods of time, do somehow tell the story of redemption.  It's often not explicit, but nonetheless, it is there.  Stories of overcoming odds, good triumphing over evil, forgiveness, growth in virtue and holiness, sacrificial love - stories that contain these and other aspects of The Story capture us.  They put us in touch with what our hearts are truly longing for - God himself.  Deep down we know these stories are about us and the God who loves us and pursues us.  

Joseph Pearce has an article about "The Hobbit" at the National Catholic Register which gets at a similar point:
In short, we are meant to see ourselves  reflected in the character of Bilbo and our lives reflected in his journey from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain. 
Indeed, and perhaps surprisingly, Bilbo bears a remarkable resemblance to many of us, his diminutive size and furry feet notwithstanding.  He likes tea and toast and jam and pickles; he has wardrobes full of clothes and lots of pantries full of food; he likes the view from his own window and has little desire to see the view from distant windows. He is a creature of comfort dedicated to the creature comforts.  
In Christian terms, Bilbo Baggins is dedicated to the easy life and would find the prospect of taking up his cross and following the heroic path of self-sacrifice utterly anathema.  
The unexpected party at the beginning of the story, in which the hobbit's daily habits are disrupted by the arrival of unexpected and unwelcome guests, is, therefore a necessary disruption.  It is the intervention into his cozy life of an element of inconvenience or suffering, which serves as a wake-up call and a call to action.
In losing his bourgeois respectability - the price he must pay for becoming an adventurer - he forsakes the world and the worldly in favor of the pearl of great price.
As Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us, "We are not made for comfort, we are made for greatness."  This is the story.  It's your story.  It's my story.  That God loves us and has made us for more than we too often allow ourselves to settle for.  The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit remind us, through the characters of Bilbo and Frodo, that life really is an unexpected journey - a journey that leads us back to God and who He made us to be.

Read the rest of Pearce's article here.

P.S. If you enjoy this kind of thing (i.e. finding The Story in stories) then be sure to come to our Theology of the Body and Culture study next semester on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. in the Marquette Student Center.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thank You Drurys!

Great article on the Drury family whose roots are in our area and who gracefully continue to support the work of the Church in so many ways - thank you Drury family!  

In his personal life, Drury continues his Church-related philanthropy, a practice that his family maintained even when they were living on the farm with very few material possessions.
He and his wife Shirley participate in local fundraisers and community initiatives, as well as international efforts to help those in need around the world through organizations such as the Papal Foundation.
Currently, Drury is dealing with the federal contraception mandate. Issued in Jan. 2012 by the Department of Health and Human Services, the mandate requires employers to offer health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization and drugs that have the potential to cause abortions.
Although he is pro-life and objects to the mandate, his company is subject to it because it is considered “secular” by the government, despite the fact that it is a private family company.
Drury said that he has sent out notices that the company – which is self-insured – will not comply with the mandate and is in the process of pursuing a legal challenge to it.
“We will not participate in payments of any kind” that oppose Church teaching, he said.
Read the whole article here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Our Lady of Coatlaxopeuh

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 Dec. 9th, 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 481 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 a virgin but its placement shows that she is with Child. All of these are significant 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...
Another important aspect of this story is the name "Guadalupe":

Using [Juan Diego's] native tongue of Nahuatl, the Virgin said her name was “Coatlaxopeuh” (pronounced “quatlasupe”). Her name sounded remarkably like “Guadalupe,” the name of a famous Spanish image of the Blessed Mother [located in Spain which the Bishop was familiar with]. In Nahuatl, however, “coatlaxopeuh” means “The One Who Crushes the Serpent.” 
This is incredibly significant in light of Genesis 3:15, known as the protoevangelium, "first Gospel":
I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.
This translation as well as others that say "he shall crush your head and you shall bruise his heel" convey the truth that through Our Lady, the Conqueror of Sin and Death shall come, Jesus.  The New Adam and the New Eve crush the serpent's head.  When Our Lady said 'yes' at the Annunciation, the crushing began.  

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.  She is also patroness of the Americas.  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

Fr. Barron on the Queenship of Mary

Saturday, December 8, 2012

What is the Immaculate Conception?

Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception - a holy day of obligation - so please make it to Mass today!

What is the Immaculate Conception about? Many mistakenly think that this feast is about the miraculous virgin conception of Jesus, but it is actually about the conception of his mother, Mary.

This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about this dogma:
490 To become the mother of the Savior, Mary "was enriched by God with thee gifts appropriate to such a role." The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace". In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace.

491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immmune from all stain of original sin.

492 The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son." The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love."

By the grace of God and the merits of her Son, Mary was free of Original Sin and personal sin her whole life long.  How can this be?  Here is a great explanation from Catholics United for the Faith.
The basic gist though is to prepare a worthy dwelling place for his Son and by the merits of his Son, God gave Mary the grace of being free of Original Sin and all personal sin. "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" (Luke 1:28).  Remember God is outside of time, so he can apply the graces won for us on the cross by Jesus to his Mother even before Jesus is conceived. The Church Fathers would explain it in the following manner:  If I have fallen in a hole and a man comes by and pulls me out then he has saved me from the hole.  If I am standing at the edge of the hole and a man comes by and prevents me from falling into it then he has also saved me from the hole.  Such is the case here - Mary was about to fall in but Jesus saved her from it before she fell in - so Mary can also sing "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (Luke 1: 46-47).  Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant.  Just as in the Old Covenant God's word, the Ten Commandments, dwelt in the Ark, so in the New Covenant, God's Word, the Word made flesh, dwelt in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception.  Many misunderstandably think that Catholics worship Mary, but the reality is no, we don't worship her.  Worship is due to God alone.  However, we do honor Mary as the Mother of our Lord and recognize the indispensable role that she has played in salvation history.  She is the Mother of God and our Mother.  Just as Jesus gave Mary to John the Beloved Disciple at the foot of the cross, "Son, behold your Mother", so has he given her to all he has redeemed. 

Mary is my mother and I give thanks to God today for the graces he has bestowed on her and the great faith she expressed in saying yes to him - "Be it done unto me according to Thy word!"

Read more about this dogma and its biblical consistency here and here.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Nun in the Unlikeliest of Places

A young woman who I am acquainted with via pro-life work has her vocation story shared in.....Marie Claire magazine!  How cool is that?!  This is a wonderful opportunity for the love of God to be shared with many who are searching...
"How do I grow as a woman without being a wife and mother?", she continues.  "While I give up the natural expression of my sexuality, I of course retain my sexuality as something to be cherished.  The void that these missing relationships leaves is kept empty so as to make room for God.  While this emptiness can be difficult, it is also my greatest joy.  I'm deeply in love with God." Sister Maria Teresa is radiant as she speaks, "By being a nun I am able to love in the most radical way imaginable, by giving up everything for my Beloved.  This finally satisfies my immense need to love and be loved, to know and be known.  The relationship is more intense, more intimate than any human relationship could be:  I do have a husband, He is God."
Click here to read the whole article.

Monday, December 3, 2012

For Freedom...

Conversion is a life-long process which is why St. Paul reminds us:  For freedom, Christ has set us free, so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
And St. Peter warns us to be on guard: Be sober and vigilant.  Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same suffering. (1 Peter 5: 8-9)
Temptations, memories, accusations, etc. will be thrown at us to discourage us, but never forget that God's love and mercy are always more powerful than our own sins and weaknesses:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Other Side of the Confessional

Ever wonder what the view from the other side of the Confessional is like?  This priest lets you have a glimpse:
I was once riding in a shuttle-bus with a number of older folks on the way from an airport. They noticed that I was a priest and started asking questions about it. “Do you do all of the priest stuff?” “Yep.” “Even the Confession thing?” “Yeah. All the time.”
One older lady gasped, “Well, I think that that would be the worst. It would be so depressing; hearing all about people’s sins.”
I told them that it was the exact opposite. There is almost no greater place to be than with someone when they are coming back to God. I said, “It would depressing if I had to watch someone leave God; I get to be with them when they come back to Him.” The Confessional is a place where people let God’s love win. The Confessional is the most joyful, humbling, and inspiring place in the world....
...Remember, Confession is always a place of victory. Whether you have confessed a particular sin for the first time, or if this is the 12,001st time, every Confession is a win for Jesus. And I, a priest, get to be there. That’s what it’s like . . . I get to sit and watch Jesus win His children back all day.
It’s flippin’ awesome.
Read it all here.
Make it a point to go to Confession during this Advent to prepare yourself for the coming of the Lord at Christmas.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Emotional Chastity/Virtue

Girl meets guy.  Girl immediately starts planning the wedding and writing her first name with his last name all over her notebook to see if it flows well.  Girl puts guy on pedestal and thinks he can do no wrong (which puts way too much pressure on any person).  And thus begins a story that involves a lot of wounds and heartache.
I don't think I've ever met a girl (including myself) who hasn't, in some varying degree, dealt with this at some point or another.  Guys, you're not off the hook either, you can just as easily dream up some idea in your head as well.  So what, pray tell, must be done?  Emotional Chastity/Virtue.  Live in reality and strive for truth, beauty and goodness.  Reality can actually be quite good and allows a relationship to flourish and blossom because neither person is putting too much pressure on the other to be perfect (which helps when apologies and forgiveness are necessary) and when each person sees the other for who they really are then they can both make an honest choice to love each other where they're at and help one another become more virtuous and be the saints they were made to be.  There is a lot more that could be said on this topic, but unfortunately I don't have time to write out a discourse on it right now. So for now, I point you to the following:
Women have a unique ability to identify and draw out the good in another person, thereby contributing to others’ personal growth.  Furthermore, desire for love is in itself natural, good, and even noble. Women court danger, however, when they fill their minds with unbridled sentimentality that ignores the truth about their relationships.
Why would sentimentality or a romanticized vision of love be such a bad thing?  Consider a necessary distinction between romantic sentiment and sentimentality. Sentimentality can easily be detached from reality, thereby threatening healthy relationships, as it is primarily a disproportionate emotional response to sexual attraction.  Emotional sentiments may spontaneously happen to a person and provide a distraction from developing authentic interpersonal interaction, which is rooted in choice, healthy decisions and habits. The role of romantic sentiment, on the other hand, can be a positive one.  Romantic sentiment, if properly integrated into a relationship that also includes mutual knowledge, healthy trust and commitment levels, and true friendship grounded in virtue, comprises one of the key ingredients in authentic love and indeed can be the seed from which authentic love blossoms. If left unchecked, however, sentimentality becomes divorced from reality and this departure from truth about the situation can be harmful.
Read the rest here.
Also check out Emotional Virtue, a website by Sarah Swafford.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Rekindling the Fire of Holiness

Archbishop Chaput's Thanksgiving message:
Here’s the lesson I want to leave you with this week. We’re all called to martyrdom. That’s what the word "martyr" means: It’s the Greek word for “witness.” We may or may not ever suffer personally for our love of Jesus Christ. But we’re all called to be witnesses. In proclaiming the Year of Faith, Benedict XVI wrote that:
“By faith, across the centuries, men and women of all ages, whose names are written in the Book of Life … have confessed the beauty of following the Lord Jesus wherever they were called to bear witness to the fact that they were Christian: in the family, in the workplace, in public life, in the exercise of the charisms and ministries to which they were called.”
The only thing that matters is to be a saint. That’s what we need to be. That’s what we need to become. And if we can serve God through the witness of our lives by kindling that fire of holiness again in the heart of our local parishes and communities, then the Christ Child who comes to us at Christmas will make all things new – in our Church, in our families and in our nation.
May God grant us all a joy-filled and blessed Thanksgiving.
Read it in full here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Prioritizing What We're Thankful For

Cardinal Dolan submitted a great article to the New York Post reflecting on what really matters as we all begin to take a break for Thanksgiving: prayer this Thursday will be not first one of praise, but of petition. I will ask the Lord to keep us a culture where personal friendship, genuine conversation and family unity can be a high priority. I’ll beg God to keep those values constant in our society.
Why? Because I’m fearful they’re disappearing.
Experts in behavioral sciences and sociology seem to share my apprehension. These scholars write that personal contact — verbal, face-to-face quality conversation and healthy leisure where we simply “spend time” as family or friends — is going the way of the rotary telephone. Now we prefer to text, e-mail, Facebook or Twitter — with a personal phone call or letter even becoming quaint, and quality time in each other’s company rare.
And now the days that a classic, civil culture sets aside for such lofty projects as visiting, conversing or sharing a meal together — such as the weekly Sabbath and holidays such as Thanksgiving — are in jeopardy.
The stores, we hear, will open on Thanksgiving. Isn’t that a sign of progress and liberation? Sorry, but no — it’s a sign of a further descent into a highly privatized, impersonal, keep-people-at-a-distance culture, one that values having stuff and doing things over just being with people whom we love, cherish and appreciate.
While a student in Europe, I once spent New Year’s Eve in Holland with two other classmates. We stayed at a simple pensiĆ³n run by a cheerful elderly couple, and our rate included breakfast and supper. That morning, the owners explained that New Year’s Eve was for the Dutch a solemn, quiet evening with family and friends.
Thus, they explained, the meal in the hotel dining room would not be available, and, they warned, nothing — no restaurant, bar or store — nothing in the city would be open. “This evening is for us,” they said, “like we understand Thanksgiving is for you. Everybody is with family or friends.”
Just as the three of us were about to conclude that we’d have a lonely, boring, hungry evening ahead of us, the couple exclaimed, “So, tonight, you are not customers. You are family. You join us, our children, grandchildren and close friends for supper.”
The three of us were near tears. And that evening of conversation, good food, song and even prayer before the meal was ever-memorable.
Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Joy of the Presence of the Holy Spirit

When we do the will of God our lives are filled with joy:

What/Who Fills Up Your Life?

How to Give and Receive Love

Check out Part One of a reflection on giving and receiving love based on Luke 14: 12-14 from Ryan Kraeger.
Then read Part Two of the same reflection.
He makes some wonderful observations that are worth contemplating how they apply in your own life and how your relationships can better reflect the love of God.

Ryan will actually be speaking at Catholic Campus Ministry on December 1st, so be sure to mark your calendar and join us for this event!  More information on Operation Eden can be found here.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Can the Souls' in Purgatory Pray for Us?

Eternal Rest Grant Unto Them O Lord, and let Perpetual Light Shine Upon Them

Today is the Feast of All Souls' so I thought I would re-post the following from this time last year.  Enjoy and you're welcome. ;)

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 and 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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween = All Hallow's Eve = Eve of All Saints' Day

"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name..."
Yep - "hallowed" means holy.  So the word Halloween comes from the Catholic holy day of the Solemnity of All Saint's - all the holy people partyin' up in heaven.
It all makes sense really when you learn about the feast day - unfortunately most of the American Halloween experience today has obviously become quite secularized and, well, strange.  But there are still elements of the Catholic roots that still exist.
Take this for example:
Where and what is this, you may be asking.  First, let's point out that during this time of year you see skeletons and bones everywhere.  Well, obviously these are bones, but the interesting thing is where they are located.  This is the inside of a chapel in the Church of All Saints' in the Czech Republic.  The words that are supposed to come to one's mind upon seeing this are: memento mori - remember death.  This is meant to help us remember our mortality and one day we will each stand before Almighty God. It is a reminder that God is God and we are not.  It is an encouragement to live a life of virtue and holiness; to live and love well because one day we will all look like that guy in the picture.  Unless you're really holy, then you might look similar to this:
This is St. Bernadette who entered eternal life in 1879 and still looks like she's just sleeping.   The likelihood that we will look like St. Bernadette 150 years after our deaths is slim, unless, of course, God wills it, but the reality remains that we are all called to holiness.  Death was not meant to be a part of the picture, but because of sin we have brought it upon ourselves.  The Good News, quite literally, though is that Christ came to set us free from the power of death.  "Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is thy victory? Where, O death, is thy sting?" (1 Cor 15: 54-55)  At the Resurrection, the body and the soul will be reunited to live forever for those who live in Christ.  "But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brothers, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." (1 Cor. 15:  57-58)  As human beings we are made of both body and soul integrally.  Our full humanity will shine forth in glory at the Resurrection when we will no longer be subject to the effects of sin and will live, body and soul, forever in the New Jerusalem, the wedding feast of the Lamb.

Read this Q&A from the Word on Fire blog for more on the Catholic roots of All Hallow's Eve here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"My disability doesn't define who I am."

Often we allow our weaknesses and/or our strengths to be the defining factors of our identities, but it is never what we can or can't do, how we look or don't look or even how we feel or don't feel that defines us.  Who we are is defined by Who made us: we are children of God.  We are made in his image and likeness and our purpose is simply to love and be loved.  When everything else follows in order from that reality, your true greatness shines through:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Happy Memorial of Bl. John Paul the Great!

"It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness, he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fulness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal." - Bl. John Paul the Great

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Year of Faith and Its Significance

The Year of Faith has begun!! Why is it important?


Today we celebrate the 34th anniversary of the election of Bl. Pope John Paul II the Great as our Holy Father at the young age of 58.   Watch the announcement here and watch his first words as Pope here.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Go, rebuild my Church...

Today is the memorial of St. Francis of Assisi.  Francis was born to a wealthy family in the 12th century, but renounced all his wealth to live a life of poverty in imitation of Christ, founded three religious orders, received the stigmata (the first known case) and was instrumental in the 'new evangelization' of that time period.  When Francis was praying in the Church of St. Damian, the Lord spoke to him through the crucifix saying, 'Go, rebuild my Church which is falling into ruin.'  Francis, taking the statement to mean that the church building itself was in need of repair, did exactly that, but later realized that it was the Church herself that was in need of spiritual repair.  Francis, therefore, went about preaching and seeking holiness by fully embracing the Gospel.

While not all of us are called to literally renounce possessions by living in the same manner of St. Francis, we are all called to renounce wealth in the sense of being detached from it.  God alone is God and we know we have some conversion to take place in our hearts when we are too attached to worldly possessions or creatures and have made idols out of them.  Francis is a great example for the current new evangelization - his preaching was quite important (though Francis was not a priest, he was a deacon), however, the primary way that he affected a renewed vigor in the faith was simply by his example and witness of the love of God.  His personal search for holiness was the primary way in which he inspired the people to do the same.  This created a ripple effect throughout all Italy and eventually the world.  When the Church's children seek authentic holiness and union with Christ, She is strengthened and "rebuilt".  Holiness - that is the task of the new evangelization.  And you have an integral and indispensable role in it.  Do not just think of becoming a saint as a far off fairy tale or nice thought.  Make it your life's goal.  Your growth in personal sanctity by God's grace will be the conduit through which God will breathe his life into the world making it "more human and more fraternal" (JPII).

On another note, the crucifix through which God spoke to Francis is awesome and full of symbolism.  The San Damiano Crucifix as it is called, was painted by an unknown artist, but remains to this day in the Basilica of St. Clare in Assisi.  Full of figures who were present at the Passion such as Our Lady, St. John, St. Mary Magdalen and even St. Longinus, who was the soldier who pierced the Lord's side with a lance, the crucifix is a helpful source of contemplation.  Fr. Michael Scanlan, TOR wrote a short little explanation of the symbolism which you can read here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Touched By An Angel...Not Just a TV Show....

Today is the Feast of the Guardian Angels - a great day to begin the habit of asking for your guardian angel's intercession everyday and thanking him for the numerous occasions he has saved you from harm and bestowed God's graces upon you:

"Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God entrusts me here, ever this day be at my side, to light, to guard, to rule and to guide.  Amen."

Angels are legit.  Angels are pure spiritual beings (they don't have bodies) with intellect and will.   When people die, they do not 'become angels', they remain humans - angels are totally separate creatures who are pure spirit.  Humans are an integration of body and soul and though the body and soul are separated at death (but will be forever reunited again in the resurrection), our nature as human beings does not change into that of an angel upon death.

 Scripture is full of the assistance of angels.  Angels minister to the Lord during his agony in the Garden and temptation in the desert.  The angel Gabriel appears to Mary during the Annunciation, speaks to Joseph and Zechariah and a host of angels appear to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus.  Angels appeared after the Resurrection speaking to the women who came to the tomb.  They appeared to the apostles upon the Ascension and assisted them during their time of spreading the Gospel, even freeing Peter from jail.  In the book of Revelation there are many references to the angels.  My favorite Scriptural story of an angel is the book of Tobit when the archangel Raphael leads Tobias to marry Sarah and heals the blindess of Tobit.  There are also many stories of the angels throughout the Old Testament, often including times when God sends angels as guardians of the Israelites.

Guardian angels are an important part of our faith and life.  As the Catechism says, "From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession.“Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God." (CCC336) 

Padre Pio's words to one of his spiritual daughters about the guardian angels:
O Raffaelina, how consoling it is to know that we are always under the protection of a heavenly spirit, who never abandons us, not even (most admirable fact!) in the very act by which we displease God! How sweet this great truth is for the believing soul! What can the devout soul fear that is diligent in loving Jesus, and that always has such a distinguished fighter present by its side? Oh, was he not perchance among those many who, together with St. Michael the Angel there in the empyreal heights defended the honor of God against Satan and all the other rebellious spirits, finally reducing them to perdition and casting them into hell (Cf. Dan. 10,13; 12, 1; Apoc. 12,7)?
Well then, know that he is still powerful against Satan and his satellites. His charity has not grown less, nor will it ever fail to protect us. Form the beautiful habit of thinking about him always. How close to us stands one of the celestial spirits, who from the cradle to the grave never leaves us for an instant. He guides us, he protects us like a friend, like a brother. This ought to be, moreover, a constant consolation for us, especially in our saddest hours.
Know, O Raffaelina, that this good angel prays for you: he offers to God all your good works that you accomplish, as well as your holy and pure desires. In the hours in which you seem to be alone and abandoned, do not complain about not having a soul-mate to whom you can open (your heart) and to whom you can confide your sorrows: - for the love of God, do not forget this invisible companion who is always present to listen to you and always ready to console you.
O delightful intimacy, O blessed companionship! Oh, if only all men knew how to understand and appreciate this very great gift that God, in the excess of His love for men, has assigned to us this celestial spirit! Recall frequently his presence: you ought to fix your mind's eye upon him. Thank him, pray to him. He is so finely mannered, so discreet: respect him. Have continual fear lest you offend the purity of his gaze.
Invoke frequently this (your) Guardian Angel, this benefactor angel. Repeat often the beautiful prayer:"Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom the heavenly Father's bounty entrusts me here; enlighten me, guard me, guide me now and forever." How great, my dear Raffaelina, will be the consolation, when, at the hour of death, your soul will see this angel, who is so good, who has accompanied you throughout your life, who was so ample in his maternal care! Oh that this sweet thought may make you, may render you continually more fond of the Cross of Jesus! This is namely what your good angel desires!  May the desire to see this inseparable companion of your entire life enkindle in you that charity which moves you to desire soon to leave the body.
Oh, what a holy and salutary thought it is to see this our good angel! It is this aspiration, namely, that should make us escape ahead of time from this dark prison in which we are detained. O Raffaelina, where are my thoughts flying to now? How many times, alas, have I made this good angel weep! How many times have I lived without the least fear of offending the purity of his regard! Oh, he is so finely mannered, so discreet. My God, how many times did I respond to the ample, more than maternal care of this good angel without any sign of respect, affection or acknowledgment! It is this thought that presently rather fills me with confusion: alas -- hear this and be horrified -- such is my blindness that I feel no remorse at this. And what is worse still, I treat this dear little angel, I do not say as a friend, but as a member of my family. And to tell the truth, this dear angel is not the least offended at being treated like this by me. How precious he is, how good!"
Read more about Padre Pio and his guardian angel here.

How to Pray

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness

"We should not serve the poor because they are like Jesus, we should serve the poor because they are Jesus." ~ Bl. Mother Teresa

From Canada comes this inspiring story from a rider on the Winnipeg transit system:
The ride was, as usual, long and uneventful, until we reached the corner of Portage and Main.  That’s when the driver pulled over. This of course surprised all of the passengers on the bus.  But, what happened next still brings tears to my eyes.
The bus driver jumped off the bus to chat with a man that looked to be down on his luck; by all accounts, a homeless man. I first thought the driver was going to offer the man a ride until...
I know you're now in suspense....goal achieved.  haha Read what happened here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Women Speak for Themselves

Below is a video made by Women Speak for Themselves, started by Dr. Helen Alvare in response to the contraceptive mandate included in the new government healthcare plan.  Dr. Alvare has put together a letter in opposition to the mandate giving women an opportunity to express our belief and support of religious freedom.  Click here to sign the letter and to learn more about what Dr. Alvare has put together.

Child 31

New film coming from Grassroots Films, the makers of The Human Experience:

All By Grace

Please click here to read the Theology of the Body testimony of one of our graduates, Kelli.

Kelli studied TOB here at CCM for three years and completed an internship at the TOB Institute last year.  She's basically awesome.  It's a great read so click the link!!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Joy of Chastity

Chastity is not a restriction.  It is the freedom to be joyful.

Jason and Crystalina Evert shared this video of a girl who listened to one of their chastity talks when she was in middle school and promised to live a chaste life.  This is a glimpse into the joy such a decision brings:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Rich Gift of Love is here!

It's here!  The video series "The Rich Gift of Love" with Sr. Jane Dominic has arrived on Newman Connection:  click here to watch the first video in which Sister talks about family and society.  These videos are great and it's an amazing opportunity to learn about Theology of the Body and the gift of self from an awesome teacher on the topic.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Few Good Men

Five young men who recently began study for the priesthood at the Pontifical North American College in Rome - all from different backgrounds, all different stories, one call:

Mother Teresa, Pray for Us

Today is the feast day of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Much could be said about this extraordinary woman, but to hear it in her own words is often much more powerful:


Friday, August 31, 2012

Hip Hop Priest

Fr. Pontifex, aka Fr. Claude Burns, pastor of a parish in Indiana has become known from his video "Why I Love Religion and Love Jesus", but did you know that he also does this?

Hear more of his music and other videos here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

All Generations Will Call Me Blessed

Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Fra Angelico
Today is the feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  I first want to recommend two books to you if you would like to get to know Our Lady and her role better.  The first is Scott Hahn's Hail, Holy Queen in which he beautifully looks at Mary's role in salvation history through Scripture.  Next, is my favorite book on Our Lady, not to mention one of my favorite books, period - Fulton Sheen's The World's First Love.  This book is simply great.  Read it!

Mary is the greatest of all creatures, being preserved from the stain of all sin by God's grace that she may be the Ark of the New Covenant in bearing the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  She alone has this unique role in salvation history to be the Mother of the King.  As Dr. Hahn mentions in his book about Our Lady, in ancient times, those who ruled kingdoms were the King and the Queen Mother.   The queen was not the wife of the king but rather was his mother.   Throughout Scripture there are many instances that foreshadow Mary's queenly role or point directly to it.  When we honor Our Lady Jesus is immensely pleased.  As St. Louis de Montfort said, "We never give more honor to Jesus than when we honor his Mother, and we honor her simply and solely to honor Him all the more perfectly."  Jesus loves his Mother who has also become our Mother by grace.  Because of her 'yes' to the Holy Spirit, the Lord came into the world to save us from our misery.  Mary always points us to her Son - her final words in Scripture even being "Do whatever He tells you."  Tota pulchra Maria - you are all beautiful Mary - how appropriate that the Lord would bestow such beauty upon her and crown her as the Queen Mother.  Mary, Queen of Heaven, pray for us.

" your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir...I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations..." - Psalm 45

"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.  For behold, henceforth, all generations will call me blessed..." - Luke 1:46-48


More reading on Mary's Queenship:
Knowing Mary Through the Bible: Mary's Queenship in Revelation 12

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Be Catholic On Purpose

Below is a guest post from CCM student Gideon who was received into the Church this Easter.

Becoming Catholic

When I converted to Catholicism this past Easter I thought that the hardest part of conversion was over.  I thought that once I had accepted the doctrinal and moral teaching of the Church it would be smooth sailing.  Coming from a nominally Protestant background, I had no major obstacles to get around in order to accept the church’s teaching.  There were no dramatic changes; no wrestling with Sola Scriptura or anti-Catholic prejudices.  I would have the occasional feeling that didn’t sit right with what I had been taught as a child but after a few more pages I realized that I was wrong and that, you guessed it…the Church was right.  I was a college sophomore seeking objective truth and upon finding the Catholic faith it was easy to embrace. 

After a time in college when I was devouring apologetics, philosophy, and theology, RCIA was a breeze.  I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the faith and most of what was taught I had encountered in other places.  Easter was soon approaching and I came to a realization.  I had to start being Catholic.  I had been in a sort of suspended animation of conversion; paused on the edge of being Catholic waiting to accept the Church’s teaching.  Not long after saying, “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God;” I had another realization. 

Catholicism is hard.

Now I was Catholic and it wasn’t easy.  The hardest part of becoming Catholic was still ahead of me.  I now had to examine my conscience, go to confession, and go to Sunday mass.  Not only that but I had to be at Mass.  I had to conform my body as well as my mind to the Catholic faith.  This meant the Sign of the Cross, holy water, genuflecting, memorizing the Creed (haven’t quite mastered this yet), and praying the rosary.  I suddenly found myself in foreign Catholic situations that made me very uncomfortable.  I was being asked to usher and take the collection at Mass (I told them I would have to fall back on my Protestant ushering skills and pray I committed no faux pas). Another time, I had to find a priest to hear my confession before a 10th anniversary Mass.  I remember walking into a room full of priests and announcing that I needed one of them to hear my confession.  At that moment I would have rather been debating papal infallibility.

I would file all of this under conversion.  Since Easter I have been learning to be Catholic every day.  I still get thrown off at Mass, fumble the Creed and forget to genuflect.  These are the things that are hard for me.  Just today I asked my priest how to properly receive communion on the tongue because I am anxious about messing it up. 

So what is the point of all of this?  The point is that I couldn’t learn all of this in a book.  If there is a book with this stuff in it, I haven’t read it.  So being from Missouri I have a favor to ask.  Show me.  Our humanity is bound up with one another’s and I need help learning to be Catholic.  My neighbors may not know this but I have been watching.  Other converts can probably confirm this.  We are always watching you, hoping to catch you living out the faith so that we can imitate it.  All Catholics are living catechists who are always teaching whether they know it or not.  You can either do it well or poorly but you can’t stop doing it.  I will learn to be Catholic by watching other Catholics.

So when you are at Mass make sure you are doing it right.  Take the time to genuflect properly, cross yourself, bow before the tabernacle, and be Catholic on purpose.  There are no other Catholics in my family so I need your example to teach me the faith.