Saturday, August 30, 2014

Living a Life of Faith

Jesus said: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith left on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).

The late Father John Hardon, S.J., the Founder and Spiritual Director of The Marian Catechists, sharing some thoughts on the United States, wrote: “We live in the most highly educated nation in world history. But, except for a small remnant, most Americans are abysmally ignorant of God’s laws and His promises . . . Catholicism is in the throes of the worst crisis in its entire history. Unless true and loyal Catholics have the zeal and the spirit of the early Christians, unless they are willing to do what they did and to pay the price that they paid, the days of America are numbered.” Father Hardon also brought to our attention a statement once made by Pope Paul VI: “Satan’s smoke has made its way into the temple of God.” Father Hardon commented on that statement by adding: “It is no longer smoke but a raging fire.”

The cultural influences of this day and age have convinced many that there is no such thing as sin. They theorize that because man is weak in nature, and so drawn to the desires of the flesh, so attuned to fulfilling his own longings, that to deliberately keep these things from him would be inhuman and unfair treatment. And for those of us who try to live according our faith’s teachings, the culture has a few words for us also: they say that teaching human beings to avoid the occasion of such desires cannot come from a loving God.

These types of influences come directly from the flesh which grows older with each passing second until one day it will return to the dust. The soul, however, which is eternal, seems to be forgotten, or ignored, or is not believed to exist at all. There is a spiritual battlefield that we walk on daily, and the culture is encouraging us to surrender to the immoral, because what the heavenly warriors want from us is torturous and too much for a human being to be subjected to.

One of the great writers of the twentieth century was H.L. Mencken. He was a freethinker, though, and would not let moral obligations interfere with his craft. Some examples of his writings go like this: “Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.” And, “Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good.” And finally, “Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.” There’s an intelligent cynicism in his writing: Belief in God is illogical, Christianity doesn't make anyone good, and love is not from God but only something the imagination desires to be true.

One of Mencken’s quotes that is most in need of rebuttal is: “The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos.” Jesus said: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). Thus He is what is true, what is real. He is the Reality. Mencken’s quote intimates that a belief in God is superstition. What is being fed to us today in our culture is superstition because it promotes a ruling secularism. And faith - well - it may seem illogical to the human intellect but without it, man is left to his own influences, stereotypes, and prejudices. With faith, we can get out of the way of ourselves and let God do His will. Without faith, every decision man makes will in someway reflect his personal desire and not necessarily what is right, fair and just. This is why many Catholics vote for Pro-Choice candidates in elections. They vote for what they personally believe and do not allow faith or the moral order to get in the way. And so, the truth is, the most dangerous man is greatly influenced by the prevailing superstitions and taboos.

Very few of us, however, possess an unshakeable faith. That would be an exalted supernatural gift. But our Lord does not abandon us when we struggle with matters of faith. He gave us this prayer: “I do believe, Lord. Help my unbelief” (Mark 9:23). Possessing the gift of faith brings with it great rewards: “Your faith has made you whole” (Matthew 9:22). “According to your faith, be it done unto you” (Matthew 9:29). “Your faith has made you safe” (Luke 7:50). There is an abundance of other examples in Sacred Scripture about what faith can do for us. It is not taboo or superstition. The fact that anyone has faith, and medical science can’t surgically remove it, suggests that a higher Power placed it there and this Authority works through that gift of faith.

But as Father Hardon would seem to be saying, there is a great responsibility and duty among every Christian who holds dear the gift of faith, who makes Jesus Christ the Center of their lives. Saint James writes: “Be doers of the word, not hearers only (James 1:22). He continues by saying that in being hearers only, we are deceiving ourselves. Our culture is filled with self deception. To call oneself a Catholic and vote against the teachings of the Church can surely be called deceiving oneself.

The Irish statesman Edmund Burke said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Saint James said: “To Him therefore who knows to do good and does not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). Doing good translates into many things: Certainly offering care for the poor and other charitable works is at the top of most lists of the devout, but also, our Blessed Mother in her apparitions spoke often of prayer. Turning the prayer intensity level up to “high” is also considered a good work. Doing good works or increasing prayer is sacrificial because it means putting something else aside. And this is how we accept our Lord’s invitation to become co-workers in the work of redemption, saving souls.

Truthfully, man is never left to himself. He will either choose to serve the Lord, or he will not and be left as an easy target for the adversary to use. How else could we possibly be living in what is labeled as “a culture of death”? Certainly these are critical times in which God asks His faithful ones to sacrifice.

Friday, August 29, 2014

In Passione Sancti Ioannis Baptistæ

O house of Zachary greeted with a voice 
The barren one’s infant leaps in her womb 
Reproach removed, thy child doth rejoice 
‘Tis the Ark carrying the Victor over the tomb 

Elizabeth, thy husband at the altar of incense 
Met with great fear the angel hailed as Gabriel 
Zachary, thy prayer has been heard, hence 
Your wife bears a son, thinkest thou surreal 

Armed with the spirit and power of Elias 
His voice in the wilderness will cry for penance 
More than a prophet, your son, and pious 
Thy disbelief has reduced thee to silence 

O priestly voice cut off from the outside world 
Hear the inner Voice of God speaking to thee 
His plan of salvation is about to be unfurled 
Thy son preparing the way for this Mystery 

At thy house is the blessed who has believed 
For three months she will stay with thy wife 
She too, although a Virgin, has conceived 
And she shall bring forth the Bread of Life 

O house of Zachary thy kindred greets thy son 
Circumcised before witnesses more than a few 
Isaias foretold of this child of God’s creation 
The dividing line of Testaments Old and New 

What shall he be called, a kinfolk’s name no less 
Zachary, the name given to his father the priest 
Nay, the pronouncement of angelic lips: Ioannes 
His name be, on locusts and honey shall he feast 

Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel, Zachary speaks 
For salvation from our enemies is made present 
Ninety-nine may be safe, but one lost He seeks 
Whether that be male or female, rich or peasant 

You, my son, prophet of the Appeaser of wrath 
Prepare ye the way for heaven to meet earth 
From the desert shall you make straight His path
This Child of Spirit presented by Virgin birth 

The repentant shall come to thee to be baptized 
The Jordan shall hear many confessions of guilt 
And now comes to thee prophecies now realized 
The Cornerstone on which the house of God is built 

I should be baptized by Thee, the precursor pleads 
For within Thee there is found not spot or stain 
Suffer it be so now, fulfilling all justice’s needs 
That which I do My heavenly Father ordain 

Thou brood of vipers O Pharisee and Sadducee 
Think ye not Abraham an enemy of the Lamb 
Faith’s Father longed to hear: “Ecce Agnus Dei” 
And see Him Who’ll be sacrificed for thy scam 

The Tetrarch’s fear renders the baptizer incarcerated 
The femme fatale of Herodias, a promise discussed 
Dance for me and I give thee till thy heart is sated 
The man of God beheaded because of Herod’s lust 

The netherworld where waits Patriarch and Prophet 
Men of God, continue with prayer and fasting 
For He Whom thou hast foretold, thus have I met 
He will come and take us to life everlasting 

A Heavenly Patron for Carthusians

Today on the liturgical calendar the Church remembers the Passion of Saint John the Baptist. Saint Bede in today's Office of Readings tells us that "John the Baptist endured the chains of his prison and laid down his life in witness to our Redeemer." He continues by writing that for holy souls like Saint John the Baptist "the endurance of temporal punishments for the truth was easy and desirable: they knew they would be rewarded with everlasting joys." 

The beautiful artwork for this post is attributed to Jan Provoost, a mid-to-late fifteenth and early sixteenth century Flemish painter. In this piece our Blessed Mother is enthroned beneath a canopy. The Child Jesus is holding a book in His right Hand, perhaps the Sacred Scriptures, while in His left Hand He is holding a Rosary. In the background on the right is a figure enclosed in a garden, symbolizing our Lady’s virginity and chastity. A Carthusian monk is kneeling, apparently to be the recipient of the Rosary. The life of a Carthusian, that of silence and solitude, of both communal and eremitical life, is reflected in the iconography of this painting. The Carthusian is accompanied by Saint John the Baptist, a hermit of the desert. Behind him is the Lamb of God. Also accompanying the Carthusian is Saint Jerome, symbolizing asceticism. 

In the Statutes of the Carthusian Order we read: “One should note that all our hermitages are dedicated in the first place to the Blessed Mary ever Virgin and Saint John the Baptist, our principal heavenly patrons.” 

An example of Carthusian Profession goes like this: “I, Brother ______, promise stability, obedience, and conversion of my life, before God, His saints, and the relics belonging to this hermitage, which was built in honor of God, the Blessed Mary ever Virgin, and Saint John the Baptist, in the presence of Dom ______, Prior.” 

For the Carthusian, Saint John the Baptist is a hermit in the desert, a solitary, and one who is focused on God alone. 

Also in the Statutes of the Order are these words: “John the Baptist, greater than whom, the Savior tells us, has not risen among those born of women, is another striking example of the safety and value of solitude. Trusting not in the fact that divine prophecy had foretold that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, and that he would go before Christ the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah; nor in the fact that his birth had been miraculous, and that his parents were saints, he fled the society of men as something dangerous and chose the security of desert solitude: and, in actual fact, as long as he dwelt alone in the desert, he knew neither danger nor death. Moreover the virtue and merit he attained there are amply attested by his unique call to baptize Christ, and by his acceptance of death for the sake of justice. For, schooled in sanctity in solitude, he, alone of all men, became worthy to wash Christ — Christ Who washes all things clean — and worthy, too, to undergo prison bonds and death itself in the cause of truth.” 

And then the Statutes give us something to think about: “And now, dear reader, ponder and reflect on the great spiritual benefits derived from solitude by the holy and venerable Fathers, Paul, Anthony, Hilarion, Benedict, and others beyond number, and you will readily agree that for tasting the spiritual savor of psalmody; for penetrating the message of the written page; for kindling the fire of fervent prayer; for engaging in profound meditation; for losing oneself in mystic contemplation; for obtaining the heavenly dew of purifying tears — nothing is more helpful than solitude.”

Sancte Ioannes Baptista, ora pro nobis!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sanctified by a Holy Desire

“Let your duty be in desire.” These wonderful words come to us from Saint Augustine whose Memorial the Church celebrates today. We cannot see what has been promised by our Lord therefore, “Tota vita Christiani boni sanctum desiderium est” – “The whole life of a good Christian is a holy desire.” Saint Augustine continues by telling us that the desire or longing for the promise to come to fruition makes us capable, so that when the promise is fulfilled and we are able to see it, then shall we be satisfied.

Recall the words of Saint Paul: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard; neither has it entered into the heart of man what things God has prepared for them that love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Thus, as Saint Augustine tells us, our lives as Christians must be driven by a desire to receive our Savior’s promises.

When adoring the Blessed Sacrament, faith tells us that what looks like a piece of bread is not a thing at all, but a Person – the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Coupled with that faith, though, is a desire to be like Him and see Him as He is (cf. 1 John 2). This desire, as Saint John’s First Epistle continues, sanctifies us (ibid. verse 3).

Saint Augustine then teaches that by God’s delay in fulfilling our desire, the soul is expanded and its capacity increased. Of course, this would mean that there must be a complete commitment to serving our Lord; for how dangerous it would be to increase the soul’s capacity if our desire was to fill it with the things of this world. As Saint Augustine puts it: “Tantum autem nos exercet sanctum desiderium, quantum desideria nostra amputaverimus ab amore sæculi” – “But only are we exercised by holy desire, in as much as we cut off our longings for the love of the world.”

And so, the soul’s capacity is expanded by God when we cast out temporal desires and replace them with holy, eternal desires. For example, if we look at the vocation of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, it’s hard to imagine that her very difficult living conditions were driven by a longing for this world’s goods. Of course not! It would be ridiculous to even entertain such thoughts. No, it was as she said: “Jesus is my God, Jesus is my Spouse, Jesus is my Life, Jesus is my only Love, Jesus is my All in all; Jesus is my Everything.”

Saint Augustine teaches us: “Extendamus nos in eum, ut, cum venerit, impleat” – “Let us stretch ourselves towards Him, that when He comes, He may fill us.”

When we pray, we stretch out ourselves towards our Lord in love. Saint Augustine said that a song is a thing of love. For those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours, do you ever sing it? Do you ever consider singing it? Even if one is completely unfamiliar with the various psalm tones, one can still sing it recto tono, that is, everything is sung on one or the same note. It is the Church's simplest form of chanting or singing.

Since our Lord's love has been poured into our hearts, it is not only our voices that we raise to God, but also as the liturgy commands us and hopefully we are compelled to do, "Sorsum corda" – "Lift up your hearts".  
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has been a great teacher on liturgy, and the importance of beauty in the liturgy. The tradition of the Church, as we are reminded by him, is that angels of God chant rather than speak. This is heightened conversation as everything in worship should be heightened. He wrote in his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy : "When man comes into contact with God, mere speech is not enough. Areas of his existence are awakened that spontaneously turn into song. The singing of the Church comes ultimately out of love. It is the utter depth of love that produces the singing. The Holy Spirit is Love, and it is He Who produces the singing. He is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit Who draws us into love for Christ and so leads to the Father. In liturgical music, based as it is on biblical faith, there is, therefore, a clear dominance of the Word; this music is a higher form of proclamation. Ultimately, it rises up out of the love that responds to God's love made flesh in Christ, the love that for us went unto death. After the Resurrection, the Cross is by no means a thing of the past, and so this love is always marked by pain at the hiddenness of God, by the cry that rises up from the depths of anguish, Kyrie eleison, by hope and by supplication. But it also has the privilege, by anticipation, of experiencing the reality of the Resurrection, and so it brings with it the joy of being loved, that gladness of heart that Haydn said came upon him when he set liturgical texts to music. In the West, in the form of Gregorian chant, the inherited tradition of psalm-singing was developed to a new sublimity and purity, which set a permanent standard for sacred music, music for the liturgy of the Church. Polyphony developed in the late Middle Ages, and then instruments came back into divine worship - quite rightly, too, because, as we have seen, the Church not only continues the synagogue, but also takes up, in the light of Christ's Pasch, the reality represented by the Temple."

Saint Augustine reiterated the words of Scripture: "Sing to the Lord a new song; let His praise be in the Church of the Saints." Consider singing the Liturgy of the Hours, even privately; but whether it’s the Mass or the Divine Office, bring your voice, bring your heart, and bring your whole self, body and soul, and lift it up to God in worship and angelic conversation.

Sancte Augustine, ora pro nobis!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Monica, the Saint who Never Gave Up

Today on the liturgical calendar the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine. 

The renowned German born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein explained his religious beliefs, as told to the eminent American Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein: “I believe in Spinoza’s God, Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.” Baruch de Spinoza was a seventeenth century Dutch philosopher who, although very familiar with Hebrew biblical texts, believed that God was simply a product of philosophy, not a concrete reality, and thus incapable of interpersonal relationships with mankind.

It might be a bit strong to say that Albert Einstein was a full-blown atheist, but fairer to say that he was an agnostic. He was more comfortable with the notion that man is independent and self-governing; instead of the possibility of consequences – punishments, rewards, being held accountable to man’s Creator.

But the Spirit moves as He wills and is perhaps responsible for the unlikely meeting which took place between Albert Einstein and a New York Catholic priest named Father Charles McTague. Oddly enough, what Albert Einstein was interested in learning more about, was the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation and the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The popular scientist wanted to grasp how the change of substance in something could occur without any change in appearance or accidents. The Church teaches that Jesus is substantially present - Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist without any change in the accidents of bread and wine. When their meeting had concluded, apparently Father McTague had shared enough to keep Einstein interested because he asked the good Father to send him any German-language books on the subject. Father McTague happily complied.

What occurs at Mass at the words of Consecration no human being can fully explain. There isn't any instruction manuals that offer a movement-by-movement description of how and exactly when the bread and wine substantially change.  

It’s intriguing how many people have read their way into the Catholic Church. Many converts to the faith have testified that by reading early Church documents and the writings of the Fathers, what they found in those writings are the teachings of the Catholic Church. This is especially true of the topic of the Holy Eucharist. But the Holy Spirit does all the work. Knowledge is a very good thing, but it cannot stack up to the gift of faith. No one nor any written words can give one faith – the Holy Spirit is necessary.

We don’t know what the Holy Spirit’s intentions were with Albert Einstein; but our gift of faith might suggest that the very scientific mind of Albert Einstein was interiorly entertaining thoughts of supernatural, miraculous possibilities. Perhaps his credo that God had no concerns for humanity wasn’t etched in stone. What triggered the Holy Spirit’s movement in the life of Albert Einstein? Was it only the meeting of Father Charles McTague? Maybe. Perhaps someone or more than one person prayed for him. Of course, we can’t know the answers with any certainty but what we can do as a people of faith is never give up on anyone. If Saint Monica had given up, perhaps the Church and the world would never have known Saint Augustine of Hippo.

Sancta Monica, ora pro nobis! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 31, 2014

First Reading Commentary
The word “duped” in the Latin Vulgate translates as “deceived” and both words seem to make God appear to be untruthful; but, of course, He Who is the Truth cannot lie.  The Hebrew text translates as “enticed” and perhaps that is the most appropriate word of the three.  Even though “enticed” can have a slightly negative connotation, the idea for the reflective reader is to make it harmonious with “fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones” which delineates God as irresistible.  The Hebrew text approaches this from the point of view of what God is really doing, while the other two translations seem to translate it from the prophet’s perspective -- in other words, what it felt like to be in the prophet’s shoes. 

This Reading is about the suffering that the prophet received by accepting the commission of prophet.  And he is feeling a bit betrayed because God concealed the fact that as a prophet suffering would be unavoidable. 

As everything of the Old Testament points to Jesus, we can enter into our Savior’s fulfillment of this text with the words: “Let this chalice pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39) and “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).  Many of us could look back on at least one event in our life where we felt that God had turned His Back on us; but suffering entered into the world as the result of man’s fall; and nowhere has the pain of sin been experienced more fully than by He Who knew no sin, but became sin for us (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21).

The fire of God burns in every human heart: some are prepared for His intense heat in mystical prayer; the enticing secularist culture as well as the burdens of the daily grind reduces many of us to experiencing only the flickering flames; while others wish the fire could be completely extinguished.  Our Lord’s presence is never truly unknown, even by those who claim He doesn’t exist.  We will try to draw closer to Him, or be indifferent to sharing our life with Him, or waste a lot of energy attempting to escape from Him.  Whatever means is chosen by our God given gift of free will, the creature has infused knowledge that there is a Creator.                  

Second Reading Commentary
Saint John Chrysostom defines the offering of our bodies as a living sacrifice in this way: “Let the eye abstain from sinful looks and glances, and it is a sacrifice; the tongue from speaking ill, and it is a sacrifice.”  And in today’s culture contraception, abortion, and sexual activity outside of marriage could certainly be added to the list of abuses to the body; and with the temptations of our modern world, not surrendering to these temptations can certainly feel like a sacrifice.  Living according to the example taught to us by Jesus Christ and modeled for us by the saints is a sacrifice; but it is a sacrifice that is transforming and brings us closer to God.  And all that is of God is good, pleasing, and perfect. 

To get there, however, we must find the courage to examine our consciences.  Such fears keep many Catholics away from the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and secularism now offers an easy out by suggesting there’s no such thing as sin.  But the saints, in all their diversity, had that one thing in common: they wanted to be very aware of their own darkness in order to expose it to the Light. 

Saint Paul pleads with us not to conform ourselves to this world.  Thus, as lovers of the Lord, we have to ask ourselves if we are in some way conformed to the world.  When the public sins of this day and age lose their shock value, when they fail to produce a jolt to our heart rate, when we become somewhat desensitized to all the atrocities that make headline news, then we have to admit that we have at least some level of conformity to this world.  But all is not lost – Saint Paul teaches us to be transformed by the renewal of our minds.  Walking with Jesus daily has to transform us.  He is the same God Who became like fire burning in the heart of the prophet Jeremiah in the First Reading.  He did it then, and He will do it now, but our gift of free will has to give Jesus permission.  This is surrender -- but we are not handing ourselves over to tyranny -- but humbly placing ourselves before the Feet of Love -- Love that is stronger than sin and death.
Gospel Commentary
It is here in this weekend’s Gospel that our Lord decides to break the news about a mysterious Passion that will occur.  Interestingly, our Lord follows up immediately with the prediction of the Resurrection but the apostles, or at least Peter, can’t seem to get past the Passion part of the prophecy.  Of course, we don’t know for sure what was on the minds of the apostles at this point but one can imagine the disturbed looks they must’ve had which is likely why Peter took Jesus aside to rebuke Him.  Peter was either thinking that there are twelve apostles and they would surely be able to protect Jesus, or he assumed that with all the miracles they witnessed from Jesus, certainly Jesus Himself could easily prevent such a tragedy. 

“Get behind Me, Satan” are shocking words but it seems that our Lord recognizes His adversary at work through Peter.  We at times struggle with understanding the ways of God and this Gospel is a real wake-up call as to how deceptive evil can be because of our lack of understanding God.  Recall 9/11, the tsunami, other disasters and your own personal or family misfortunes -- can you hear yourself asking why God didn’t prevent it?  Can you now hear, “Get behind Me, Satan!”? 

Very few human beings have advanced far enough in the spiritual life to accept whatever may come without complaint.  But those who have trust that misfortune arrived because God allowed it and therefore are confident that just as Jesus rose from His tragedy, likewise God will rise and bring good out of the unfortunate occurrences of their own lives.  But don’t fret if you’re not one of the few -- some of the Church’s greatest saints have been known to have a short fuse.  Intellectually, most of us are on the same page with the mystics of the Church in believing that God will work it all out, but unlike the mystics, our hearts and dispositions just can’t seem to roll with the punches.   

Poor Peter surely thought he was being noble but he was actually speaking words that were contrary to the will of God, the glory of Jesus Christ, the redemption of humanity, and the defeat of Satan.  How awkward would it feel to have to go to Confession and say that you’re guilty of trying to save Jesus from being murdered?  As you can see, we have a long way to go in our quest to discern the ways of God.  Let’s not forget that in last weekend’s Gospel Jesus made Peter the head of the Church and gave him the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.  And now this week, Satan immediately begins his deceptive work on Peter.  This should prompt us to always remember to pray for the pope.  The most comprehensive lesson to be taken from “Get behind Me, Satan” is that Jesus is saying you and I will never know the joy of the resurrection without first experiencing the cross.  Saint Rose of Lima said: “Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.” 

Jesus is the Head and we are the body.  Since most of us will find the climb up the spiritual ladder to be a slow and difficult journey, thanks be to God, we can trust in the love and mercy of our Lord and be confident that He understands our weaknesses far better than we do.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mary Must Be in Our Interior Life

Our Holy Father of jubilant memory, Saint John Paul II, wrote in Redemptoris Mater that “in the mystery of Christ she [Mary] is present even before the creation of the world, as the one whom the Father has chosen as Mother of His Son in the Incarnation. And, what is more, together with the Father, the Son has chosen her, entrusting her eternally to the Spirit of holiness. In an entirely special and exceptional way Mary is united to Christ, and similarly she is eternally loved in this beloved Son, this Son Who is One being with the Father, in Whom is concentrated all the glory of grace”.

Twice does the word “eternally” appear in that statement from the Holy Father. God -- Father Son and Holy Spirit sees everything with the Eyes of eternity. This is how Mary is present in God’s Eyes even before we read in Genesis, “Fiat lux” – “Let there be light.” In Genesis “darkness was upon the face of the deep” before God commanded light to appear. The eternal words, “Fiat lux” travels to the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and once again Light appears. This Light will also illuminate the darkness, the darkness that sinful man had sentenced himself to.

“Fiat” or “so be it” intimates self-surrender and trust. The fiat of the creation story, that eternal word, flows from the lips of the Woman in order that our ears may hear, our souls may ponder, and by learning from this Lady’s example, our hearts may keep: “Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum” – “Be it done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Eternity’s voice comes to us in the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We read in the hour of Matins: “Et qui creavit me, requievit in tabernaculo meo” – “And He Who created me, rested in my tabernacle” (Sirach 24:12). Clearly Mary is present in this verse even though the verse itself was written in a moment of time long before Mary was conceived in time. Her womb is the tabernacle in which her Creator rested and clothed Himself in human flesh. Continuing, we read: “In electis meis mitte radices” – “Take root in My elect” (ibid. 24:13).

Who are God’s elect? The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers these words: “Those who are united with Christ will form the community of the redeemed, ‘the holy city’ of God, ‘the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ She will not be wounded any longer by sin, stains, self-love, that destroy or wound the earthly community. The beatific vision, in which God opens Himself in an inexhaustible way to the elect, will be the ever-flowing well-spring of happiness, peace, and mutual communion” (CCC 1045). Thus, first and foremost, God’s elect are those who already enjoy the beatific vision. We cannot overlook, however, that everyone is called to this greatness, to eternal blessedness. Our Lady, by means of her Assumption has taken root in God’s elect. We, who desire to wholeheartedly embrace the call to holiness, must allow our Blessed Mother to be a part of our interior life, to take root in our soul.

The eternal God rests in our tabernacle. Mary must be permitted to dwell there also because she is the perfect adorer. She teaches us how to properly adore the God within us. Saint Louis Marie de Montfort wrote is his Secret of Mary that “she leads every soul straight to God and to union with Him.” Sometimes we forget that we share an incomprehensible dignity: Mary is the Mother of Jesus – and our Mother. We share the same Mother with our Redeemer. That thought and reality alone is worth hours of solitude in a desert cave.  

Saint Julian Eymard said: “Kind Mother, come with me, for a mother always accompanies her child. Without you, I shall not know what to say to Jesus.” Precisely! No one knows the child like the mother, therefore, no one knows Jesus like Mary. She is the key to a richer interior life. She can help us to grow in communion with Jesus. Saint Julian Eymard adds: “Mary adored with the most submissive faith. She adored her hidden Son, veiled under a strange form. She adored that Heart so inflamed with love, whence issued the Holy Eucharist. Mary's adoration was profound, interior, intimate.” Mary knows that she is the perfect adorer and she would like nothing more than to have her children become perfect adorers.

It was no accident that our Blessed Lady was present on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit, Who appeared as tongues of fire, finds Mary irresistible. She is the chaste Spouse of the great Paraclete. Once again, from Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, this time in True Devotion to Mary he writes: “When the Holy Spirit finds His Spouse in a soul, He flies to that soul, to communicate Himself to it, to fill it with His Presence, in proportion as He discovers there the presence and the fullness of His Spouse.”

Mary must be a part of our interior life. Temptation flees from her. She can keep us in a state of grace. Unfortunately, as Saint Louis Marie de Montfort adds: “One of the major reasons why the Holy Spirit does not now work blinding wonders of grace in our souls is that He does not find in us a sufficiently strong union with Mary His indissoluble Spouse.”

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Queen with an Immaculate Heart

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux said: “God wills that all His gifts should come to us through Mary.” What, then, should our response be to our Lady? The Carthusian, Dom Louis Rouvier, offers this answer: “Our response to the advances of our gentle Mother should be one of boundless gratitude, even though, in her humility, she seeks our thanks only that she may unite them with the ceaseless Magnificat she sings to the divine Majesty.” 

And there’s that word: “Majesty!” Today the Church celebrates Mary: on the current liturgical calendar is the Memorial of her Queenship; and on the traditional calendar her Immaculate Heart is honored.  

The book of Genesis (2:18) tells us that by God’s design, “it is not good for man to be alone.” When God became Man, He desired to experience every facet of man, that is, He made Himself subject to His own laws. Thus, our Lord Jesus Christ saw to it that He would not be alone, but would associate Himself with a suitable helper, one that would be His Mother, and one that He would address in Sacred Scripture with the same title that Adam used to name his helper: “Woman.” Who else could be a “suitable” helper for the God-Man, other than she who is Immaculate? 

Saint Bernardine of Siena explains: “Indeed, from the moment Mary consented to the divine maternity, she merited to receive dominion over all creatures, and the scepter of the world was placed in her hands. As many creatures as there are to obey God, so are there to obey Mary. Angels and men, all that is in heaven and on earth, being subject to God, are, by that very fact, subject to His most holy Mother.” 

Saint Anselm adds: “Just as God is the Lord of the Universe, because He has by His word created every being in its own nature, so is Mary the Mistress of the world, restoring all things in their primal dignity by the graces she has merited.” 

Jesus is the King of kings and His holy Mother is the Queen. But shouldn’t a queen be the wife of the king? The Old Testament symbolizes the reality or actuality of the New. In the New Testament we read: “And a great sign appeared in heaven, a Woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1). The Scriptures continue by revealing that this Woman wearing a crown was with Child, and He was to rule all nations (cf. Revelation 12:2, 5). In the Old Testament the psalmist writes: “At Your right stands the queen, clothed with splendor in robes embroidered with pearls set in gold” (Psalm 44 [45]:10)

Most important about what the Old Testament teaches us is that it was the mother of the king, not the wife, who was the queen. In the First Book of Kings, chapter 3, Asa takes over as king of Judah when his father Abijam had died. Asa removed Abijam’s mother from her position as queen mother. In the thirteenth chapter of Jeremiah are these words: “Say to the king and to the queen mother, ‘Humble yourselves, sit down.’” Also, “We are going down to visit the princes and the family of the queen mother” (2 Kings 10:13). One more, “This was after King Jeconiah and the queen mother…” (Jeremiah 29:2). There are other examples in the Old Testament which delineate that the mother of the king was the queen. 

Perhaps the most important verses in the “symbolism” of the Old Testament and the Davidic kingdom, may “actually” reveal something about the relationship between the King of kings and the Queen Mother in the heavenly Kingdom. These verses are found in the First Book of Kings (cf. 2:12-20). Solomon is the king, and Adonijah asks Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, to intercede for him. Adonijah needs a favor from the king and he asks Bathsheba to approach the king because as Adonijah explains: “he cannot deny you anything.” When Bathsheba approaches Solomon, the Scriptures tell us that “the king arose to meet her and bowed to her.” Next, the king “sat down upon his throne, and a throne was set for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right hand.” The conversation went like this as Bathsheba spoke: “I desire one small petition of you, do not refuse me.” Then the king said: “Ask it, my mother, for I will not refuse you.” God made Mary irresistible; He cannot refuse her. 

In the Litany of Loreto, our Blessed Mother is invoked as “Queen” thirteen times: 

Regina Angelorum – Queen of Angels 
Regina Patriacharum – Queen of Patriarchs 
Regina Prophetarum – Queen of Prophets 
Regina Apostolorum – Queen of Apostles 
Regina Martyrum – Queen of Martyrs 
Regina Confessorum – Queen of Confessors 
Regina Virginum – Queen of Virgins 
Regina Sanctorum omnium – Queen of all Saints 
Regina sine labe originali concepta – Queen conceived without original sin 
Regina in cælum assumpta – Queen assumed into heaven 
Regina Sanctissimi Rosarii – Queen of the Most Holy Rosary 
Regina familiæ – Queen of the family 
Regina Pacis – Queen of Peace 

Ora pro nobis – Pray for us!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Restore All Things in Christ

Today in the liturgy the Church celebrates the Memorial of Pope Saint Pius X. Saint John Chrysostom said: “The Church is your hope, the Church is your salvation, the Church is your refuge.” In the Encyclical, E Supremi, Pope Pius X wrote: “The way to reach Christ is not hard to find; it is the Church. It was for this that Christ founded it, gaining it at the price of His Blood, and made it the depositary of His doctrine and His laws, bestowing upon it at the same time an inexhaustible treasury of graces for the sanctification and salvation of men.” 

This particular Encyclical was addressed to the hierarchy of the Church. Why was it necessary, then, to point this out? The Holy Father felt that society had become “estranged from the wisdom of Christ.” He charged the cardinals, bishops and himself to “use every means and exert all our energy to bring about the utter disappearance of the enormous and detestable wickedness, so characteristic of our time -- the substitution of man for God.” It would seem that the Church of then under Pope Pius X faced similar problems as the Church of now under Pope Francis. His Predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has warned us of the evils of moral relativism, in which man becomes his own god.

Seminary training was also a great concern of Saint Pius X. He wrote in that same Encyclical: “Venerable Brethren, of what nature and magnitude is the care that must be taken by you in forming the clergy to holiness! All other tasks must yield to this one. Wherefore the chief part of your diligence will be directed to governing and ordering your seminaries aright so that they may flourish equally in the soundness of their teaching and in the spotlessness of their morals.”  

Interesting that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said that the new evangelization will be just a slogan if priests are not well-formed. He said: “Today we see a need for each priest to be a witness of the infinite mercy of God with a life completely conquered by Christ and for them to learn this from the very first years of their preparation in the seminary.”

The concerns of teaching by Pope Pius X also extended to the lay faithful. In the Encyclical, Acerbo Nimis, he referred to his day as a “very troublesome and difficult time.” Surely we can relate! The Holy Father wrote that “the chief cause of the present indifference and, as it were, infirmity of soul, and the serious evils that result from it, is to be found above all in ignorance of things divine.” 

Today’s secular cultural influences have emptied souls of things divine and filled them with things temporal and the rewards of the here and now. Saint Pius X turned the attention of the Church towards Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. His efforts in this area were so great that Saint Pius X is often referred to as “the Pope of the Eucharist.” In a five year span he issued Decrees on Holy Communion. He desired all Catholics to receive Holy Communion frequently, and daily, if possible. He dispensed the sick from the discipline of Eucharistic fasting and promoted giving Holy Communion to children once they had reached an age of discretion. This was a change from the previous requirement.

Many popes, saints, holy men and women turn our attention towards our Blessed Lord in the Sacrament of His Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. But if our focus has not been there for some time, then we must first turn towards the Sacrament of our Lord’s mercy. Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is not only Food for the soul that receives Him worthily, but in Adoration, Jesus is also our Companion, Brother, Friend, Love, Savior and God. He waits for us!

After the death of Pope Pius X in 1914, pilgrimages were made to his tomb; and there were many accounts of favors granted through his intercession. May he intercede for the Church now and turn our hearts, minds and souls to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Sancte Pio X, ora pro nobis! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Doctor Mellifluus

Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a French Abbot, Doctor of the Church, and a reformer of the Cistercian Order. Pope Pius XII wrote an encyclical on Saint Bernard titled, Doctor Mellifluus, which means "the Honey-flowing Doctor" - signifying that Saint Bernard's praise of Jesus flowed like sweet honey.   

His praise of Love Himself is found often in his vocabulary:
Amor per se sufficit; is per se placet - Love is self-sufficient; it is pleasing to itself.
Amo quia amo; amo ut amem - I love because I love; I love in order to love.
Magna res amor, si tamen ad suum recurrat principium, si suæ origini redditus, si refusus suo fonti - Love is a great thing, only if it returns to its beginning, if it returns to its origin, if it flows back to its fount.
Saint Bernard also wrote that love must always draw from that endless stream.

The greatness of love is true because it is caused by the greatness of God – Who is Love. God is the Beginning, the Origin, the Fount and Endless Stream of love. Saint Bernard said that love is the only adequate means by which the creature may respond to its Creator, although the weakness of the creature will always make that response inadequate.

This holy man of God asks: “Why should Love not be loved?” Saint Bernard talks about emptying ourselves, “renouncing all other affections” submitting all our “being to Love alone,” responding “to Love by giving love in return.”

This is a broken world we live in and we are a fallen nature. We will never be able to give back to God what He has given to us. And so, Saint Bernard asks the frightening question: “Can it be that all will perish . . . simply because it is futile to race against a Giant, or to contend with Honey in sweetness, with the Lamb in gentleness, with the Lily in whiteness, with the Sun in splendor, with Love in love?”

If justice always prevailed over mercy, then these examples from this Doctor of the Church would be a blood pressure raising thing to ponder for anyone with a conscience. But this saint and heavenly intercessor won’t let us go there. He offers the answer: “Even though the creature loves less than the Creator . . . nevertheless if he loves with all his being, he lacks nothing.”

There’s great hope in that statement but great conviction is required of the creature. God must be loved above all things; He must be the Center of our lives. Do we love with all our being? Does our love return to its Origin, to its Source, to Love Himself.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is the Source and Summit of the Christian life (cf. CCC 1324). The document from the Synod of Bishops XI Ordinary General Assembly reads: “Receiving Communion means to enter into communion with the Lord and the saints of the Church, both in heaven and on earth. Thus, Communion and contemplation follow each other. We cannot receive sacramental Communion, without making it personal . . . it is the sacrament of infinite value.” The document also teaches that Communion and Adoration are inseparable. “Adoration of the Eucharist begins in Communion and leads to acts of Eucharistic piety, adoring God the Father, in Spirit and in Truth, in the risen and living Christ, truly present among us.”

If Communion and Adoration are inseparable, then our reception of the Eucharist at Mass does not end there. We are called to Eucharistic piety by also adoring our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament - in adoring the One we love with all our being - the One Who loved us first. During Eucharistic Adoration, consider keeping close to your heart these words of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux: “Lord Jesus, what has made You so small?  Love!” Jesus continues to suffer in the Blessed Sacrament, continues to make Himself vulnerable by permitting Himself to be contained in a Monstrance or in the Tabernacle. How deeply we must love, how small we must become when meditating on the words of Sacred Scripture, for example, the proclamation of Saint John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). We will never be able to compete with our Lord’s deliberate “smallness,” but if we love Him with all our being, we lack nothing.

Today in the liturgy the Church asks for that same spirit of Saint Bernard, which burned with zeal for the house of God, and enlightened others in the Church.   

Sancte Bernarde, ora pro nobis!