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