Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Sacrament of Holy Orders

Happy Feast of Saint Pius V. The following is from the Catechism of the Council of Trent. 
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Importance of Holy Orders

If one attentively considers the nature and essence of the other Sacraments, it will readily be seen that they all depend on the Sacrament of Orders to such an extent that without it some of them could not be constituted or administered at all; while others would be deprived of all their solemn ceremonies, as well as of a certain part of the religious respect and exterior honor accorded to them.

The Sacrament’s Dignity

Bishops and priests being, as they are, God's interpreters and ambassadors, empowered in His name to teach mankind the divine law and the rules of conduct, and holding, as they do, His place on earth, it is evident that no nobler function than theirs can be imagined.

In all ages, priests have been held in the highest honor; yet the priests of the New Testament far exceed all others. For the power of consecrating and offering the Body and Blood of our Lord and of forgiving sins, which has been conferred on them, not only has nothing equal or like to it on earth, but even surpasses human reason and understanding.

Not For Everyone

The burden of this great office, therefore, should not be rashly imposed on anyone, but is to be conferred on those only who by their holiness of life, their knowledge, faith and prudence, are able to bear it. Let no one take the honor to himself, but he that is called by God as Aaron was; and they are called by God who are called by the lawful ministers of His Church.

The Power and Its Greatness

The power of orders not only embraces the power of consecrating the Eucharist, but also fits and prepares the souls of men for its reception. It also embraces all else that can have any reference to the Eucharist. Christ our Lord ... was a Priest, not according to the order of Aaron, but according to the order of Melchisedech. For He it is Who, Himself endowed with the supreme power of granting grace and remitting sins, left to His Church this power, although He limited it in extent and attached it to the Sacraments.

The Priesthood

The chief and most necessary quality requisite in him who is to be ordained a priest is that he be recommended by integrity of life and morals. The priest is bound to give to others the example of a holy and innocent life. There is required of the priest not only that knowledge which concerns the use and administration of the Sacraments; but he should also be versed in the science of Sacred Scripture, so as to be able to instruct the people in the mysteries of the Christian faith and the precepts of the divine law, lead them to piety and virtue, and reclaim them from sin. The priest's duties are twofold. The first is to consecrate and administer the Sacraments properly; the second is to instruct the people entrusted to him in all that they must know or do in order to be saved.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Elevating the Mind in Our Lord's Love

Today is the Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena. In her "Dialogue" our Lord reveals some interesting things about prayer: the devil’s disruption of it, that he places himself on the tongues of individuals for the purpose of chattering, to prevent the beauty of silence and the soul’s immersion in prayer, how perseverance in prayer acquires every virtue, how the strength of the Sacrament of the Eucharist depends on us, and how a soul can become inebriated by means of a Spiritual Communion. Our Lord also speaks about praying the Psalms which intimates the Divine Office, and how vocal prayers alone are not sufficient. What is revealed here by Our Lord to Saint Catherine might give one cause to reflect on the ways of the world today: how uncomfortable silence has become to our society, the many words spoken on the political platform which seem to say too little, the noise of advanced technology, etc. This "Dialogue" may even say something to us about own life of prayer. Here’s what Our Lord told Saint Catherine.

* * * * * *
How is a lively faith to be recognized? By perseverance in virtue, and by the fact that the soul never turns back for anything, whatever it be, nor rises from holy prayer, for any reason except for obedience or charity’s sake. For no other reason ought she to leave off prayer, for, during the time ordained for prayer, the devil is wont to arrive in the soul, causing much more conflict and trouble than when the soul is not occupied in prayer. This he does in order that holy prayer may become tedious to the soul, tempting her often with these words: "This prayer avails you nothing, for you need attend to nothing except your vocal prayers." He acts thus in order that, becoming wearied and confused in mind, she may abandon the exercise of prayer, which is a weapon with which the soul can defend herself from every adversary, if grasped with the hand of love, by the arm of free choice in the light of the Holy Faith.

Know, dearest daughter, how, by humble, continual, and faithful prayer, the soul acquires, with time and perseverance, every virtue. Wherefore should she persevere and never abandon prayer, either through the illusion of the devil or her own fragility, that is to say, either on account of any thought or movement coming from her own body, or of the words of any creature. The devil often places himself upon the tongues of creatures, causing them to chatter nonsensically, with the purpose of preventing the prayer of the soul. All of this she should pass by, by means of the virtue of perseverance. Oh, how sweet and pleasant to that soul and to Me is holy prayer, made in the house of knowledge of self and of Me, opening the eye of the intellect to the light of faith, and the affections to the abundance of My charity, which was made visible to you, through My visible only-begotten Son, Who showed it to you with His Blood! This Blood inebriates the soul and clothes her with the fire of divine charity, giving her the food of the Sacrament [which is placed in the tavern of the mystical body of the Holy Church] that is to say, the food of the Body and Blood of My Son, wholly God and wholly man, administered to you by the hand of My vicar, who holds the key of the Blood. This food strengthens little or much, according to the desire of the recipient, whether he receives sacramentally or virtually. He receives sacramentally when he actually communicates with the Blessed Sacrament. He receives virtually when he communicates, both by desire of communion, and by contemplation of the Blood of Christ crucified, communicating, as it were, sacramentally, with the affection of love, which is to be tasted in the Blood which, as the soul sees, was shed through love. On seeing this, the soul becomes inebriated, and blazes with holy desire and satisfies herself, becoming full of love for Me and for her neighbor. Where can this be acquired? In the house of self-knowledge with holy prayer, where imperfections are lost, even as Peter and the disciples, while they remained in watching and prayer, lost their imperfection and acquired perfection. By what means is this acquired? By perseverance seasoned with the most holy faith.

But do not think that the soul receives such ardor and nourishment from prayer, if she prays only vocally, as do many souls whose prayers are rather words than love. Such as these give heed to nothing except to completing Psalms and saying many Paternosters. And when they have once completed their appointed tale, they do not appear to think of anything further, but seem to place devout attention and love in merely vocal recitation, which the soul is not required to do, for, in doing only this, she bears but little fruit, which pleases Me but little. But if you ask Me, whether the soul should abandon vocal prayer, since it does not seem to all that they are called to mental prayer, I should reply "No". The soul should advance by degrees, and I know well that, just as the soul is at first imperfect and afterwards perfect, so also is it with her prayer. She should nevertheless continue in vocal prayer, while she is yet imperfect, so as not to fall into idleness. But she should not say her vocal prayers without joining them to mental prayer, that is to say, that while she is reciting, she should endeavor to elevate her mind in My love, with the consideration of her own defects and of the Blood of My only-begotten Son, wherein she finds the breadth of My charity and the remission of her sins. I do not wish the soul to consider her sins, either in general or in particular, without also remembering the Blood and the broadness of My mercy, for fear that otherwise she should be brought to confusion. And together with confusion would come the devil, who has caused it, under color of contrition and displeasure of sin, and so she would arrive at eternal damnation, not only on account of her confusion, but also through the despair which would come to her, because she did not seize the arm of My mercy. This is one of the subtle devices with which the devil deludes My servants, and, in order to escape from his deceit, and to be pleasing to Me, you must enlarge your hearts and affections in My boundless mercy, with true humility. You know that the pride of the devil cannot resist the humble mind, nor can any confusion of spirit be greater than the broadness of My good mercy, if the soul will only truly hope therein. The moment she feels her mind disposed by My visitation, she should abandon vocal prayer; then, My visitation past, if there be time, she can resume the vocal prayers which she had resolved to say, but if she has not time to complete them, she ought not on that account to be troubled or suffer annoyance and confusion of mind; of course provided that it were not the Divine Office which clerics and religious are bound and obliged to say under penalty of offending Me, for, they must, until death, say their Office. But if they, at the hour appointed for saying it, should feel their minds drawn and raised by desire, they should so arrange as to say it before or after My visitation, so that the debt of rendering the Office be not omitted. But, in any other case, vocal prayer should be immediately abandoned for the said cause. Vocal prayer, made in the way that I have told you, will enable the soul to arrive at perfection, and therefore she should not abandon it, but use it in the way that I have told you.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Totus Tuus

Today is the liturgical Memorial of Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. He is well-known for his devotion to Our Blessed Lady and perhaps comes to mind more than any saint by the reading or hearing of two words: God Alone. He writes of Our Lord as Incarnate Wisdom but Wisdom needed a home from a woman of our race – the Blessed Virgin Mary. Here’s a poem he wrote on God alone:

What ill or evil, Lord, can harm
This joyous heart that You alone can charm?
I love You more with every breath,
So how can I fear life or death?
To love You, Father, is to live and sing
The songs the angels sing their King.
God alone in every cell of me!
God alone! For all eternity!

‘Totus tuus’ (I am all yours) are two Latin words which also turn one’s thoughts to Saint Louis-Marie as they are from his work, "True Devotion to Mary": and these two words were the apostolic motto of Saint John Paul II, who was deeply influenced by the writings of Saint Louis-Marie.

Here is something excerpted from one of the homilies of Saint Louis-Marie in which he borrows from the infallibility of Sacred Scripture and the wisdom of the saints:

Everyone claims that he loves God (Saint Gregory). However, nothing is more rare. "Do not be deceived, brothers" (1 Corinthians 6:9).Among the metals are gold and silver. Charity is gold.

True charity is full of action as a fire. It is a seed that germinates, a root that sprouts, water that flows, a fire that burns: "never is the love of God idle. If it is a great love, it will always be active; if there is no action it does not exist" (Saint Gregory).

All virtues operate through the commandment of charity, "faith which operates through charity" (Galatians 5:6).

"Love is as strong as death . . . O unsurpassable virtue of charity, that overcomes the invincible" (Saint Bernard).

When we love God, we imitate Him in His love which, according to Richard of St. Victor: is a love which never tires; a love which is never the first to break off; a love which is not deterred by our rebelliousness.

"The frigid heart cannot understand the burning speech of love . . . the language of love is foreign to one who does not love and is just booming brass and tinkling cymbals" (Saint Bernard).

It lasts through eternity – it is infinite like God. "The measure of our love of God is to love Him without measure" (Saint Bernard).

There are three sorts of love: that of a mercenary; that of a slave; that of a child. Mercenaries are greedy, slaves are fearful, sons are loving. Each has his own law: mercenaries are impelled by cupidity; slaves are moved by fear, sons are inspired by love. All seek what is proper to them.

It is by a show of deeds that charity is proven. "Simon, do you love Me? . . . Feed . . . feed . . ." (John 21:15). "It is your own selves that you should be testing" (2 Corinthians 13:5).

"We do not love by word or lips" (1 John 3:18), but by deeds and truth. See the cloud of witnesses (cf. Hebrews 12:1) . . . they have drunk of the chalice of the Lord and have made friends of God. We do not live in love without there being sorrow . . . roses are gathered among thorns. Love with all one’s heart: that is, courageously in spite of obstacles. Love with all one’s mind: that is, with every thought, supremely and discreetly, for love is discerning. Love with all one’s soul: that is, totally without reservation, deeply without hypocrisy for love is tender. Love with all one’s strength: that is, courageously, doing all, abandoning all, suffering all for God, for love is powerful.

When we do not love God, even if we perform marvels, it is a waste of life’s precious time. "Life is lost, if God is not loved" (Saint Augustine).

"Through and with charity you will become capable of possessing blessedness, but without it you will never see God. Charity is the summit of all the virtues, it contains the promise of the Kingdom and is the supreme reward of the saints in heaven" (Saint Augustine).

"Become a lover and experience what I tell you. Be a person of desires, be a hungry person, be a pilgrim in the solitudes of love, be a thirsty person seeking the waters of your eternal home. Be warm as the sun and you will understand what I say, for if I speak to a cold person, he will not understand my message" (Saint Augustine).

Monday, April 27, 2015

5th Sunday of Easter - May 3, 2015

First Reading Commentary
Like most conversion stories, there’s usually a level of skepticism on the part of many who hear it.  In this Reading, Saint Paul is on the receiving end of this skepticism from the disciples.  As faithful followers of Jesus, we know that we must take up our cross.  Paul experiences this immediately.  He has had a life-changing conversion experience and those which he would now consider his brothers in the faith are rejecting him. 

If we are open to the will of God, we will surely be called upon to be used as God’s instrument.  In this Reading, Barnabas is that instrument who took charge of Paul and brought him to the apostles.  Paul finds out early on that the Christian walk is not an easy one as the Hellenists, who were Greeks, tried to kill him.

“And when the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him on his way to Tarsus.”  From this verse we can see that Christianity is not a me, myself, and I type of faith.  It is a faith that reaches out to others in need. 

“The Church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace.”  If we trust the Lord always and let the Holy Spirit move in our lives, we can always have peace regardless of how many conflicts are going on around us; and when conflicts are happening around us, it is then that we are called upon to be instruments of peace.

Second Reading Commentary
Let us love in deed and truth by keeping God’s commandments and doing what pleases Him.  Notice that Scripture exhorts us to love in deed and do what pleases God; not simply read about what pleases God or proclaim what pleases God.  A level of action is required.  But the will to do what pleases God should be effortless if we have surrendered our lives for the glory of God.  The human will, God help us, may be effortless but we must prepare ourselves because the road to heaven is a bumpy one because there are obstacles that get in our way when trying to do the work of the Lord; but that can be a cause for rejoicing because by taking on those obstacles we are following in the Footsteps of Christ by carrying our cross which leads to patient endurance. 

“Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from Him whatever we ask, because we keep His Commandments and do what pleases Him.”  God knows our hearts better than we do.  He created those hearts.  Our hearts have the freedom to choose whatever path we wish.  Our words and speeches will eventually surrender to our hearts.  If we proclaim our love for Jesus but at the same time our hearts are not really in it, eventually our deeds or lack of them will show where our heart stands regardless of what we say which is why the Lord judges by the heart. 

“We should believe in the Name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as He commanded us” by doing what pleases Him so that we may remain in Him and He in us, “and the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit He gave us.”

Gospel Commentary
Saint Augustine explains that Jesus is speaking of Himself as Man when He compares Himself to a vine, His disciples are the branches and the Father is the vine grower.  Jesus as God is also the vine grower. 

“Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.”  What Jesus is saying in this verse, which He also states clearly, is that without Him we can do nothing. 

“He takes away every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does He prunes so that it bears more fruit” which means that all of us are in need of Him.  And so we must ask ourselves: if we can do nothing without Him and if every one of us is in need of Him, what stops us from giving ourselves completely to Him?  Our good deeds and the results of those deeds are not possible without His love, help, and support. 

“If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.”  Saint Augustine translates this verse with these words: “If we abide in Christ, by a lively faith, and His words abide in us by a lively, ardent charity, which can make us produce the fruits of good works, all that we ask, will be granted us.”  We must understand, however, that what we ask must be profitable to us as we cannot expect our God, Who loves us beyond comprehension, to ever grant us anything that would be harmful to us.  We may not know that we’re asking for something harmful, but certainly God knows. 

“By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become My disciples.”  It is for the glory of God when we are filled with His love and perform good works and charitable deeds, which, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, could lead to the conversion of others.  It is the Holy Spirit that causes the conversion.  We are His vessels. 

A deep immersion into prayer is intimated here when Jesus says: “Remain in Me, as I remain in you.”  Jesus resides in us, in the deep recesses of our soul; there He waits for us in the interior silence of contemplation.  He waits for us there that we may rest our head on His Breast, on His Most Sacred Heart.  There, we cannot wither; there, we cannot be burned. 

Friday, April 24, 2015


For today’s liturgical celebration of Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen, at the Extraordinary Form of the Mass the Readings are a wonderful pick-me-up for those of us who get exhausted with the labors of trying to remain faithful to the Lord and His teachings while the ways of this age are constantly being thrust upon us, tempting us to give up the good fight, and use our energies to seek after temporal satisfaction.

“Then the just shall stand with great constancy against those who have afflicted them” (Wisdom 1:1). While it may seem that we are currently outnumbered, the word of God assures us of victory; and we know that this victory is not short-lived but eternal. Then there is a sort of reversal of roles: “These seeing it, shall be troubled with fear, and shall be amazed at the suddenness of the unexpected salvation” (ibid. verse 2). Imagine the shock when secularists will finally discover that Jesus really is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Here’s what is perceived but then the reality is revealed: “We fools esteemed their life madness and their end without honor; behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the Saints” (ibid. verses 4 and 5).

While this might have a “TAKE THAT!” or revengeful tone, that is not the intent. As the faithful of the Lord, being men and women of prayer is who we are; and we are called to pray for the conversion of the culture. As if our prayer has been answered, verse three of this Reading from the Book of Wisdom does tell us that those who do not stand with the Lord will be “repenting and groaning for anguish of spirit.”

In the Gospel from Saint John, Jesus tells us that He is the True Vine (cf. 15:1). And He also offers very comforting words to His flock: The Father is the Husbandman or Cultivator and “everyone that bears fruit, He will purge it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (ibid. verse 2). Jesus continues, “Abide in Me: and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine, you are the branches; he that abides in Me and I in him, the same bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."

These are wonderful words from our Savior and perhaps part of the anguish and stress of trying to remain faithful is that we don’t allow Jesus to be the General of our army. In our fallen state we tend to be gluttons for punishment. But as Jesus tells us: You can’t do this without Me.

Jesus also tells us that those who do not abide in Him shall wither (cf. verse 6). Certainly there are withering branches today and hearts need to be converted – and we can and should pray for that. Prayer is a most powerful weapon.

Sometimes it can be difficult to watch the great models go home to the Lord, like Saint John Paul II and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. They were shining examples of fighting the good fight. And when they leave us, it can feel like we have lost the coaches of the team or that we’re suddenly orphaned, making the battle seem even more difficult. But the Lord provides and will always give us other prayer warriors to steer the ship.

Mother Teresa said, “I do not pray for success, I ask for faithfulness.” On this feast day of Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen, how appropriate that Fidelis means Faithful which we are called to be, as this great saint of seraphic ardor was all the way to martyrdom.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Beginning the Day with Mary

The Hour of Prime

No one can start a child’s day off on the right foot like a mother. And no one can better help us prayerfully welcome the daylight in preparation for the joys and sufferings of the day ahead like our Blessed Mother.

In Officium Parvum Beatæ Mariæ Virginis – The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, praying the hour of Prime, or the first hour ante meridiem, which is six o’clock in the morning, according to the ancient way of telling time, is a wonderful way to begin one’s day. It doesn’t have to be 6 a.m. literally; some of the Religious Orders who still pray the hour of Prime begin at 6:30, 7 or even as late as 8:30.

The rising sun of the new day should turn one’s heart and mind to the Resurrection. And through our Lady’s liturgical Office at the first hour, one’s attention is also given to the fact that she brought into the world for humanity’s redemption, the Sun of Righteousness.

Calling Upon the Lord for Help

Most hours of Our Lady’s Office and the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours begin by calling upon our Lord for help, which is taken from Psalm 69 [70]:

O God, come to my assistance.
O Lord, make haste to help me.

This is followed by the doxology or short verse in praise of God:

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.


Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

The Hymn

Memento, rerum Conditor,
Nostri quod olim corporis
Sacrata ab alvo Virginis
Nascendo formam sumpseris.

Maria, Mater gratiæ,
Dulcis parens clementiæ,
Tu nos ab hoste protege,
Et mortis hora suscipe.

Iesu, tibi sit gloria,
Qui natus es de Virgine,
Cum Patre, et almo Spiritu
In sempiterna sæcula. Amen.

It’s a hymn which in the beginning asks God to remember that He was born of the Virgin Mary. While it may seem strange to ask God, who knows everything, to remember, really what we are doing is offering our prayer to the Lord through the intercession of our Blessed Mother as our Lord Himself taught us, by coming to us through her. She is the Mother of grace, the Mother of mercy, who protects us from the enemy, and who will support us at the hour of death.

The Antiphon

An antiphon is a verse which is designed to paste on our minds and hearts the focus or theme of our prayer as we recite, chant or sing the psalms. For this particular blog post, we’ll focus on the hour of Prime of our Lady as it usually is prayed. There are some changes to this hour in Our Lady’s Office during the Advent and Christmas seasons.

Assumpta est Maria in cælum; gaudent angeli, laudantes benedicunt Dominum.Mary was taken up into heaven; the angels rejoice, and with praises bless the Lord.

Thus, it is our Lady’s Assumption into heaven which is to be our focus. She enters into heaven, body and soul, and is welcomed by rejoicing angels who honor her and worship God for the masterpiece He created in her.

The Psalms

First is Psalm 53 [54] which is a prayer for help in times of distress. Prophetically it points towards the sufferings of Christ and we hear His Voice in this psalm calling out to the Father. Jesus also continues to suffer in His mystical body, and so, we the members of His mystical body also call out to the Father but in this liturgical Office of Our Lady we call upon her intercession asking God to hear the prayers we cry out through her, to grant us grace and strength as the enemy and our own passions rise up against us. In the final verse of this psalm is the victory, the deliverance from all trouble and the ability to look down upon the enemy. The doxology, of course, must follow after such a glorious destiny is revealed.

Next is Psalm 84 [85] which prophetically announces the peace and salvation that will come to humanity because of the Incarnation. It begins by praising God for turning away the captivity of Jacob. This points to Christ’s work of redemption which has turned away our captivity to sin and death. Now that Jesus has saved us, the psalmist understands the role we must play as we ask God to convert us. Indeed, our hearts and souls must be eternally grateful what Jesus did and we must daily seek conversion, a closer union with our Lord. Through all of this we cannot forget in this particular format that it was our Lady’s fiat which enabled God to clothe Himself in flesh and enter into our existence. It was her trust in God and her holy submission to His will that permitted her who is full of grace to watch in sorrow the sufferings of her Son as well as her own soul being pierced with a sword. It was her mysterious, unconditional love at the foot of the Cross which moved her to accept the role as Mother of those who were responsible for her Son’s sufferings – we of sinful humanity.

The final psalm is the very short Psalm 116 [117]. It is a call for all nations to praise the Lord for His mercy is confirmed upon us and His Truth remains forever. Redemption has been architected for all of Adam’s posterity. Let us learn from our Lady who is in her heavenly homeland how to live the Truth. Let us ask her to help us do some housecleaning by emptying ourselves of all that displeases our Lord, in order that He may fully occupy our souls.

The Reading or Little Chapter

This short Reading from the Song of Songs asks the question: Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon and bright as the sun? This might turn your thoughts to the woman in Revelation 12:1 who was clothed with the sun and the moon was under her feet and on her head was a crown of twelve stars. This is a figure of our Lady and the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to Mary as the exemplary realization of the Church. The sun, the brightest light, is Christ in which our Lady is clothed. The moon is the lesser light representing persecution and the ever-changing world which has not come to full glory. Our Lady who is in heaven wears the full brightness of glory but she also lived in this world of persecution. The Church likewise, is Triumphant with the sun in heaven and Militant with the moon on earth.

In Conclusion

In the closing prayer we ask God that since He chose Mary as His dwelling-place, may we be fortified by her defense and find joy in taking part in her commemoration.

Finally we pray that the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. We should pray for our departed brothers and sisters as someday we will need their prayers.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Good Shepherd

Today on the Carthusian calendar is the feast of Saint Hugo of Grenoble. He is also referred to as Hugo of Châteauneuf. In art, he is sometimes depicted as a Carthusian even though he wasn’t; he was Benedictine. He was the Bishop of Grenoble for a remarkable fifty-two years. For the Carthusian spirit, Saint Hugo is perhaps best known for receiving Saint Bruno and his six companions and making available to them, the mountainous area near Grenoble where now stands La Grande Chartreuse, the motherhouse of the Carthusian Order.

Father, through Saint Hugo you manifested the Church's pastoral care for our first founders.Through his intercession may our Order continue to flourish.

At the hour of Matins, four of the Readings proclaimed were from Saint Thomas Aquinas concerning shepherds, and of course Saint Hugo shepherded Grenoble’s flock for a long time. Here’s what was proclaimed to the monks:

Christ states the office of a good shepherd. That Christ is a Shepherd is clear enough, for as a flock is led and fed by the shepherd, so the faithful are nourished by Christ with spiritual Food, and even with His own Body and Blood: and the letter of Saint Peter says, ‘For you were straying like sheep, but now have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls’ (1 Peter 2:25); The prophet proclaims: ‘He will feed his flock like a shepherd’ (Isaiah 40:11). To distinguish Himself from the evil shepherd and the thief, Jesus states that He is the Good Shepherd. The adjective ‘good’ indicates that Christ fulfils His task with the same seriousness like a soldier is called good who fulfils his service. But since Christ had said that the shepherd enters by the door, and here He says that He is the Shepherd, and before He said He was the Door, then He must enter through Himself. And He does enter through Himself, because He manifests Himself and through Himself knows the Father. We, however, enter through Him, because it is by Him that we are led to happiness.

Note that only He is the Door, because no one else is the true light, but only shares in the Light: John the Baptist, ; ‘was not the light, but came to bear witness to the Light’ (John 1:8). But we read of Christ that ‘He was the True Light, which enlightens every man’ (John 1:9).No one else refers to himself as a door; Christ reserved this for Himself. But being a Shepherd He did share with others, and conferred it on His members: for Peter was a shepherd, and the other apostles were shepherds, as well as all good bishops: ‘I will give you shepherds after my own heart’ (Jeremiah 3:15). Although the Church's rulers, who are her children, are all shepherds, yet He expressly says, I am the Good Shepherd, in order to emphasize the virtue of charity. For no one is a good shepherd unless he has become one with Christ by love, and has become a member of the True Shepherd.

The office of a good shepherd is charity; thus He says, the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. It should be noted that there is a difference between a good shepherd and an evil one: the good shepherd is intent upon the welfare of the flock, but the evil one is intent upon his own. This difference is touched upon by Ezekiel (34:2): ‘Woe to you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep’? Therefore, one who uses the flock only to feed himself is not a good shepherd. From this it follows that an evil shepherd, even over animals, is not willing to sustain any loss for the flock, since he does not intend the welfare of the flock, but his own. But a good shepherd, even over animals, endures many things for the flock whose welfare he has at heart. Thus Jacob said in Genesis (31:40): ‘By day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night’.

However, when dealing with mere animals it is not necessary that a good shepherd expose himself to death for the safety of the flock. But because the spiritual safety of the human flock outweighs the bodily life of the shepherd, when danger threatens the safety of the flock the spiritual shepherd ought to suffer the loss of his bodily life for the safety of the flock. This is what our Lord says, the good shepherd lays down his life, that is, his bodily life, for the sheep, the sheep who are his by authority and charity. Both are required, for they must belong to Him and he must love them; the first without the second is not enough. Furthermore, Christ has given us an example of this teaching: ‘He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren’ (1 John 3:16).

Monday, April 20, 2015

An Adoring Silence

Saint Konrad of Parzham, a Capuchin Franciscan, was born at Parzham, Bavaria, Germany. He wrote down a plan for his life which came under eleven different headings. Two of those headings were:

~ I will observe silence exactly and perpetually as far as is possible. I will be very sparse in speech, and this in order to avoid many faults and that I may be able to converse with God so much the better.
~ I will always strive to have a truly intense devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and will truly strive to imitate her virtues.

One might hypothesize that the first resolution would be impossible without the second. Saint Konrad also offered to God very profound words while making a Spiritual Communion:

"I have come to spend a few moments with You, O Jesus, and in spirit I prostrate myself in the dust before Your Holy Tabernacle to adore You, my Lord and God, in deepest humility. Once more a day has come to its close, dear Jesus, another day which brings me nearer to the grave and my beloved heavenly home. Once more, O Jesus, my heart longs for You, the true Bread of Life, which contains all sweetness and relish. O my Jesus, mercifully grant me pardon for the faults and ingratitutde of this day, and come to me to refresh my poor heart which longs for You. As the heart pants for the waters, as the parched earth longs for the dew of heaven, even so does my poor heart long for You, Fount of Life. I love You, O Jesus, I hope in You, I love You, and out of love for You I regret sincerely all my sins. May Your peace and Your benediction be mine now and always and for all eternity. Amen."

Spiritual Communions, adoration of the Divine Indwelling, many saints made them every hour on the hour. In the Apostolic Letter,Orientale Lumen, Saint John Paul II wrote that "the more man grows in the knowledge of God, the more he perceives him as an inaccessible Mystery, Whose essence cannot be grasped." He continued by expressing that "one draws close to this Presence. . . by letting oneself be taught an adoring silence." And we can learn this adoring silence "through the prayerful assimilation of Scripture and the liturgy." And of this adoring silence the Holy Father wrote: "We must confess that we all have need of this silence, filled with the Presence of Him Who is adored. . . that we may never forget that seeing God means coming down the mountain with a face so radiant that we are obliged to cover it with a veil (cf. Exodus 34:33). All. . . need to learn a silence that allows the Other to speak when and how He wishes, and allows us to understand His words."

Saint Elizabeth of Trinity taught that a soul’s degree of glory in heaven would depend on the degree of Union with the Divine Indwelling, at the time of death. Is there anyone who ever walked on planet earth that had more intimacy with the Indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity than our Blessed Mother? There’s a story of a series of messages from our Blessed Lady to Sister Mildred Mary Ephrem Neuzil of the Sisters of the Precious Blood in Dayton, Ohio. In one of the messages, the Mother of God spoke saying: "I am Our Lady of the Divine Indwelling, handmaid of Him Who dwells within." This September will mark the 54th anniversary of our Lady’s first alleged appearance to Sister Mildred. These messages and apparitions have not reached full official canonical approval as yet and are awaiting the final stage which is a formal written statement from the bishop of the diocese of Toledo, Ohio.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in agreement with Saint John Paul’s assessment that we can learn silence from the liturgy, and which may also explain His Holiness’ call to restore a sense of the sacred in liturgy, wrote in his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy: "We are realizing more and more clearly that silence is part of the liturgy. We respond, by singing and praying, to the God Who addresses us, but the greater mystery, surpassing all words, summons us to silence. It must, of course, be a silence with content, not just the absence of speech and action. We should expect the liturgy to give us a positive stillness that will restore us. Such stillness will not be just a pause, in which a thousand thoughts and desires assault us, but a time of recollection, giving us an inward peace, allowing us to draw breath and rediscover the one thing necessary, which we have forgotten. That is why silence cannot be simply made, organized as if it were one activity among many. It is no accident that on all sides people are seeking techniques of meditation, a spirituality for emptying the mind. One of man’s deepest needs is making its presence felt, a need that is manifestly not being met in our present form of the liturgy. For silence to be fruitful, as we have already said, it must not be just a pause in the action of the liturgy. No, it must be an integral part of the liturgical event."

May we all discover that adoring silence!

4th Sunday of Easter - April 26, 2015

First Reading Commentary
Some things never change.  Peter is being examined for doing a good deed.  Our fallen nature likes to keep the thought of quick temporal rewards lurking somewhere within the human psyche, and good deeds done without seeking a reward or personal recognition seems to be rendered as suspicious.  But what Peter is proclaiming is not a reward but the gift of mercy which comes from Jesus Christ. 

“He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.”   This verse is from Psalm 117 (118).  Peter is using the Old Testament to persuade all the hearers of this message that Jesus is the promised Messiah Who was crucified and raised from the dead; and Who has saved the world. 

The crippled man who was healed represents Christ’s saving grace.  Peter makes sure that everyone knows that this crippled man was saved by Jesus; and that saving grace is available to all of us as Jesus is the only way to salvation.  “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

Let’s examine this healing closer: First, Peter knew Jesus personally when He walked the earth.  That’s a good place to start.  Secondly, there is the grace of ordination.  Peter was an ordained priest and appointed by Christ to be the head of His Church.  Those are great graces but limiting in the sense that very few walked with Jesus while He walked the earth and most of the Church’s members are the laity, not the ordained. 

For the laity, a wonderful reality to grasp is that Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit.”  One does not have to be the pope or ordained for that to be a reality in one’s own life.  How does this happen?  It happens when God is truly the Center of our life.  How many of us can honestly say: Regardless of what happens today, I will still make time for God in prayer, in intimate communion?  In any relationship, time together increases the bonds of trust and love.  What is easy to forget is that humankind communally and individually is God’s priority, our Lord’s most important relationship.  He waits patiently for us to do the same.  When that occurs, the soul will gradually become filled with the Holy Spirit because our house will go through a house cleaning process, throwing out the junk, permitting the Indwelling to take full control of the soul. 

Then the Voice of our Lord, those gentle whispers, those movements of the heart becomes easier to perceive.  Hearing that Voice is how Peter knew that it was God’s will to have “a good deed done to a cripple” through him.  

Second Reading Commentary
We the baptized are children of God and that will never change.  If we meditate on that alone, eventually we will realize that this is a tremendous gift of which we are not worthy; and that gift within itself is more than sufficient. 

But God’s love for us goes far beyond the privilege of calling Him “Father”.  There is more to come although what is coming has not yet been revealed. 

Our God became like us so that we may become like Him.  And becoming like Him can only be that unimaginable and indescribable beauty of beholding His Face for all eternity.

For now, though, in our culture which often rejects Love Himself, let us remember Scripture teaches us that where sin increases, grace overflows all the more (cf. Romans 5:20).     

Gospel Commentary
In “Meditations for Every Day” are the following words: “How happy are we in having such a Shepherd, so great, so good, so loving, so careful of our true welfare!  O He is the true Shepherd indeed that came down from heaven to seek the poor sheep that was lost; and when He had found it, took it upon His own Shoulders to carry it home with joy to His heavenly fold.  How dearly have His sheep cost Him, for truly has He made good in Himself this sentence, that the Good Shepherd giveth His life for His sheep.  Let us then ever follow and obey, love and embrace this true Shepherd of our souls.” 

Jesus, the true Shepherd, He loves His sheep so much that He would even lay down His life for them.  Jesus, unlike the hired man, stood between His sheep and the wolf so that we would not be a victim of the wolf.  Since His Resurrection, Jesus continues to protect His flock and guide us through our trials and sufferings.  At times we go astray because of our sins; but like a Good Shepherd, Jesus brings us back home.

Love is not only a mutual attraction, it is more importantly the giving of yourself completely to another.  That is what Jesus did and continues to do: All that He is, He offers to us unreservedly.  

Most who live in the Middle East, and certainly in the ancient world, would have a clearer understanding of what Jesus means when He says: "I am the Good Shepherd, I know Mine and Mine know Me."  Many of us have never witnessed a shepherd and his sheep interact.  

Father Benedict Groeschel, God rest his soul, was a priest of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, as well as an author, psychologist, and well-known EWTN personality.  He once shared a story of his visit to the Holy Land in which he watched shepherds work with their sheep. He said that there were sheep bunched together walking in a field along with three shepherds. Then the shepherds split up and each walked in a different direction, and then made a whistling sound with their mouths. The sheep, all bunched together, began to divide and walk towards the direction of their own particular shepherd; each of the sheep recognized their own shepherd’s whistle and followed him.  What a beautiful image that is!  And we, the sheep, could adapt it to the liturgy as we walk towards our Good Shepherd, to receive Him: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.