Monday, May 30, 2011

St Joan of Arc And Memorial Day

I was thinking how appropriate it is that St Joan of Arc's feast day fell on Memorial Day this year. Memorial Day is an American holiday, but it is a good time to remember all those who have fought for true freedom throughout the ages.
As we in the United States remember all those who fought for our freedom and the freedom of others today, let us ask St Joan for her intercession for all those in all countries, who fight for true freedom.
I came across this post on the same topic through Spirit Daily.

Happy feast day, St Joan; please pray for our troops!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I Will Come To You

These words of Jesus' from today's Gospel (John 14:15~21) have been replaying themselves over in my mind since first reading and hearing them. Jesus says these words to every one of us, but what I realize is that I need to invite and accept Him in my heart and in my life.
He sends the Holy Spirit to enliven and awaken our hearts to the Truth. Those who are of the world are unable to recognize and accept this Truth. The Pharisees could not, would not accept Jesus, Pilate asked Jesus, "What is Truth?" and all the while Truth was standing right in front of him. As we look around our world today, we can see that Jesus who is Truth is not recognized or accepted.
For those who do recognize Him and accept Him, He brings hope. St Peter tells us to be ready to lovingly and patiently give reason for our hope. Recognizing and accepting Jesus as the Source of Truth and Life leads to loving Him, and when we do, He makes a promise to us: We will be loved by the Father, and Jesus too will love us and reveal Himself to us.

He will come to us if we believe in Him and accept Him as the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Promises don't get any better than that!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fr. Robert Barron: Untold Blessing

 If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know I am a fan of Fr. Robert Barron. His preaching is powerful yet applicable to our daily lives. He has used this God given gift once again in his talks on striving for and attaining holiness titled Untold Blessing. In these talks, Fr. Barron uses Scripture as well as some examples from everyday life and the lives of the saints to illustrate the paths to holiness. He tells us that we are called to be saints, that this is our greatest calling and what God desires for us.
The talks are centered around three paths: Finding the Center, Knowing You Are a Sinner, and Realizing Your Life is Not About You (my personal favorite).
The two CD set comes with a study guide that provides guides for meditation, study questions that will allow you to go back to the material Fr. Barron has presented, and questions for reflection that will help you apply  to your own life his teaching, the teaching of the Catholic Church through use of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the teaching of Sacred Scripture. The CD's are easy to listen to and understand and are grounded in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
As Fr. Barron says, we are all called to holiness and to be saints. I found his talks as well as the companion study guide to be useful tools to help on this road. Fr. Barron's talks on Untold Blessing will be spiritual aid and guide that I know I will return to as I continue my journey to my heavenly home.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Untold Blessing 2 CD Set . They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

*Nothing but a copy of the product reviewed was received in exchange for this review.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Prayer: Struggle And Perseverance

 Pope Benedict in his continuing catecheses on prayer, returns to the Scriptures and the story of Jacob's struggle at the Ford of Jabbok (see Genesis 32:21-31). I love this passage from the Old Testament because it is one that I think we can all relate to to some degree. There is much for meditation in this passage. In it we can see our own struggles with God and with our faith. Jacob came to things in his life through deceit as we see he deceives his brother out of his birthright. Sometimes our struggles with faith or even with God are not so much that we deceive others, but we deceive ourselves. Perhaps we deceive ourselves where sin is concerned, or that we do not need to pray or even go to Mass.
God can transform all of this in us if we go to Him, if we persevere in our prayer. I love this end quote from the Holy Father's teaching today:
"Our entire lives", concluded the Holy Father, "are like this long night of struggle and prayer, passed in the desire of and request for God's blessing, which cannot be ripped away or won over through our strength, but must be received with humility from Him as a gratuitous gift that allows us, finally, to recognize the face of the Lord. And when this happens, our entire reality changes: we receive a new name and God's blessing".
In reading the Pope's  remarks today, I was brought back to today's Gospel reading on the Vine and Branches (John 15:1`8). We need to be pruned throughout our lives and we need to remember that without God we, on our own can do nothing. At times the pruning may come through the struggle. Prayer will help us accept the pruning, which can be painful at times. It will also help us to cultivate the virtue of humility that we need in approaching God in our prayer.
Prayer is vital to our relationship with God, but it takes effort on our part. As the Holy Father states, God will bless our efforts if we approach Him in all humility.
Well, enough of my musings, go read the rest of the Holy Father's catechesis for this week.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Jesus, Light Of The World

The Light of the World by Charles Chambers

Earlier this month, I posted Jesus, What Have I Done? linking to Kevin Burke's (co~founder of Rachel's Vineyard Ministries) article which related some of  Steven Tyler's (Aerosmith fame) memories regarding an abortion he helped to procure for his young girlfriend, Julia Holcomb, back in the mid-seventies.
Kevin was contacted by Julia after reading the article and expressed her desire to tell her side of the story. Julia, a convert to Catholicism, is now happily married with seven children.
Her story is not easy to read, but bears the sign of Christ's healing and mercy. Abortion inflicts deep and painful wounds that only the grace, love and mercy of God can heal. Julia's story, along with my own and that of many others is proof that when we turn our lives over to God with humility and repentance, He can bring about great good no matter what we have done.
Jesus truly is the Light of the World that no darkness can ever overcome.
Read Julia's powerful story The Light of the World.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Final Lesson~The Trinity

The setting for today's Gospel (John 14:1~12) is the Upper Room just after the Last Supper. Jesus takes these final moments before leaving for the Garden of Gethsemane where His Passion will begin, to teach one final lesson to His Apostles~the lesson of the Trinity.
Throughout this passage that we are given today, and even more so as you continue to read John 14, Jesus repeats several times that the Father is in Him and He is in the Father. The Apostles have difficulty seeing or at least understanding this at the moment. Jesus introduces the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete as the chapter approaches its end. Jesus was giving this discourse and teaching His Apostles about the Trinity.
The Apostles would need the Holy Spirit to truly "get" what Jesus was trying to say to them that night in the Upper Room. And  get it they would come Pentecost.
I sometimes think of the Holy Spirit as the workhorse of the Trinity. He is the one who needs to work in us and move in us so that we can have our being in Christ and see the Father revealed in Him.
Thomas' and Philip's questions may be our own at times. We might find ourselves asking Jesus, especially in times of confusion or trouble, to show us the way. Our heavenly Father awaits us at home. Jesus tells us that He Himself is the Truthful Way to Life in and with the Father.
During those days when I was just finding my way back to my faith, a friend asked me: "If you were to sum up the whole of your faith in one sentence what would it be?" My response to him was Jesus' answer to Thomas~ I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I know that if I stay close to Jesus and follow Him He will lead me home to the place He has prepared for me.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Bible: A Love Letter

I had never heard of Harold Camping before walking into my dentist's office early this morning. The assistant and the receptionist walked in talking about this man and his doomsday predictions for tomorrow, May 21,2011. My first reaction was to laugh, but upon further thought, I was saddened for several reasons. First because there are so many who are falling for this man's "calculations" and these people are either in a state of panic or are throwing what have been called "rapture parties". This leads me to the other reason I am saddened; these people, along with Mr. Camping, clearly do not know what the Bible is, and what it is not. The Bible, Sacred Scripture is God's love letter to us, His children. He is present there and He speaks to us if we would but listen. The Bible is not a math book. Mr. Camping, an engineer by trade, has chosen to miss the beauty of this sacred text, and turn it into a sort of cipher which he thinks he has decoded.
Jesus told us that no one knows the hour of His return. Personally, I think that is a good thing. The end could be tomorrow, or years from now. What is more important, is our own individual end on this planet, and whether we are ready for that particular judgement.
So Mr. Camping, put down your calculator and open your heart~ see the beauty of the words and their message, not the coldness of numbers and codes.

For some sane commentary on this whole thing see Insight Scoop at Ignatius Press.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thank You To World War II Vets

I know I am a little early for Memorial Day, but I received this in an e-mail from a friend this morning and thought I would post it now. The makers of the film are trying to get 5,000 people to view the trailer by Memorial day. The trailer is only a little over two minutes, but is a powerful reminder of what, not just World War II vets have done for us, but all veterans.
The project involves finding as many living World War II vets as possible and sending them,free of charge, to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
There was no way to embed the video from the project's site, but you can follow the link to view it. (I don't think embedding it from YouTube would add to the count of viewers.)
View it then pass it on. Let us always remember to thank those who selflessly fight for our freedom, and let us thank God for them as well.
Here is the link for the trailer.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Abraham And Intercessory Prayer

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, continues his catechesis on prayer this week by turning to the Old testament and the prayer of Abraham. Abraham uses intercessory prayer to ask God not to destroy the city of Sodom. The Holy Father points out that by doing this, Abraham appeals to God's justice, but also to his mercy.
Praying for others is perhaps the most important gift we can give. Scripture, along with the Communion of Saints, provide the benefits and graces of this type of prayer. Abraham, our father in faith, is one of the very first examples of this type of prayer.
You can read Pope Benedict's catechesis here.
"This aspect of prayer[intercessory prayer], said the Pope, reflects God’s unfailing mercy for his creation."
~Pope Benedict XVI

Favorite Scripture Verses

There is no doubt that through the reading of the Sacred Scriptures the soul is set aflame in God and becomes purified from all vices.
~ St. Jerome

Mary at The Beautiful Gate has tagged me for this Scripture based meme. I am asked to pick three of my favorite Scripture verses. I love Scripture, so this is no easy task! However, I have chosen three that I return to often. Here they are in no particular order:

1. Ezekiel 37:11-16. This is the passage of the prophet's vision of the dry bones. I love the imagery in this passage and the foretelling of Christ's Resurrection as well as our own.

2. Jeremiah 29:11-14. The passage where God tells this young prophet to tell the people, "I know the plans I have for you..." I return to this passage often, especially during those times I am troubled or confused by what may or nay not be going on in my life at any given moment. I find hope and comfort in these words.

3. John 13:1-13. The first Holy Thursday and the washing of the Apostles' feet. The humility of Jesus, the intimacy of friendship, and the preparing them to be sent out to continue His work. Words alone can not describe the beauty of this passage. Each time I prayerfully read this passage, I find myself in the Upper Room.

Well there they are. I pray God speaks to you through these as well. I am now to choose three more bloggers to participate. Be sure to check out these wonderful blogs as well.

Michael at Reach Paradise

Victor at Time for Reflections

Daily Grace

*Note: All Scripture passages are from Douay~Rheims version of the Bible. Chapter and verse numbers may vary if you are using other versions.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Shepherd And Guardian Of Souls

Jesus tells us that He is the Good Shepherd. Sheep in any given sheepfold will only follow the the voice of their shepherd because they recognize his voice. They seem to be aware and attentive to the voice of their shepherd lest they be lost.
Jesus uses this analogy to remind us that He has called us by name, but we need to hear and recognize Him as our One, True Shepherd. There is so much in our world today to distract us and keep us from hearing Our Lord's voice. Satan uses these distractions to lure us away from God. He uses those who have fallen for his lies to impersonate the Good Shepherd. Scripture warns us to beware of false prophets. None of them can promise the abundant life that Jesus promises.
The meditation for today in Magnificat is a writing by Fr. Francisco De Osuna, O.F.M. In his meditation, he uses the analogy of snow falling on the footprints of Christ, covering them so that it becomes difficult to see and follow in them. He goes on to say that, because of this "snow", we need help following Christ; more instruction is needed to travel this road that leads us to heaven. While Fr. Francisco wrote these words centuries ago, they are true for us today, perhaps even more so. In our times not only is the path of Christ snow covered, but that snow has become soiled with the filth that pervades our culture.
We may be called to live in the world but Our Lord tells us not to be of it. He clears the path so that we can see His footprints and follow in them. And just as it did for Him, that road will lead to the cross, but our faithfulness will lead us to the eternal life He has promised.
Jesus, our Good Shepherd, is the Lover and Guardian of our souls. Let us heed His voice and follow Him always.

Friday, May 13, 2011

We Are At War

The war we as Christians face is not an earthly one, but a spiritual one. Satan never sleeps and has minions working for his cause. If you find my first two sentences hard to believe, look at what is going on around us. The Catholic Church is being attacked almost on a daily basis and our priests are on the front lines in that part of the war. I have said this before (as have others), no priests, no Jesus in the Eucharist. Our country and government seem to be falling apart at their very seams. Then there are the natural disasters~ earthquakes, floods, extreme weather; I truly believe these are a sort of wake up call from God, His trying to tell us that He is in control, not any one of us.
Some are listening and responding, but not enough. As Christians we have been called and given a place on the "battlefield". Today's feast of Our Lady of Fatima is a reminder to us of that call. In 1917, Our Lady appeared to three children. She asked them if they would be willing to pray and sacrifice on behalf of poor sinners. They told her they would. We too need to give our Blessed Mother our yes to this cause as well. Our Lady revealed to the children that so many souls are lost because there is no one to pray for them.
I don't mean to sound like an alarmist, but things in our world are getting worse. Practicing Catholic Christians need to pray and make reparation. This is no easy task given the spiritual climate (or lack there of) of our society and culture, but Our Lord warned us that this would happen; He promised us, in fact that if the world hated Him, it would hate us as well. (see John 15:18) He also promised that the gates of hell would not prevail over His Church. (see Matt. 16:18)
Nothing I have said here is anything new, and in most instances I am preaching to the choir. However, I know that I myself can very easily lapse into a bit of a spiritual numbness that keeps me from seeing and responding to what is going on around us.
The messages Our Lady gave to the children at Fatima are for us as well. The Rosary is a powerful weapon in the spiritual battle. So let's all take up our beaded sword and pray. There is strength in numbers~ the devil knows it, but so do we.
For more on Fatima, here are some good and trustworthy links.
Fr. Andrew Apostoli: here and here.
Fr. Joseph Homick has some pages relating to Fatima on his Two Pillars:Holy Eucharist and Our Lady blog.
Fatima For Today

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Desire For God Present In Every Heart

Last Wednesday Pope Benedict XVI outlined what he would be teaching in his next series on the topic of Christian Prayer. In today's catecheses, the Holy Father stresses that we are all made in God's image and that a desire for God is present in every human heart. Today's segment is a brief one, but brings out what the true purpose and meaning of prayer should be in this closing line:
"Let us resolve to pray more frequently, to listen in the silence of our hearts to God’s voice, and to grow in union with the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, with the One who is infinite Love." 
You can read the rest of his discourse here.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Recognizing Jesus Through Mary

The Emmaus Walk of today's Gospel is about trust and faith; it is about seeing Christ in every word of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. It is also about the power of the Eucharist and recognizing Jesus there as well. The disciples on that walk with Jesus recognized Him in the breaking of the bread after their minds had been opened to the Scriptures.
I often think of the Mass as an Emmaus Walk. We listen to God's Word in the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit will, hopefully open up those Scriptures for us with the help of our priest's homily, and then we prepare to recognize and receive Jesus in the the breaking of the bread.
Present too, in all of this is our Blessed Mother. Jesus gave her to us at the Cross. She will always lead us to Jesus if we entrust ourselves to her. Through Our Lady we will be given the faith and grace we need to recognize Him in Scripture and in the breaking of the bread.
There is no one better to help us recognize Jesus in all the ways He wishes to manifest Himself to us.

May God bless all mothers on this Mother's Day.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Jesus, What Have I Done?

These words were spoke by former Aerosmith star, Steven Tyler. We often hear the tragic stories of the fall of celebrities through addictions, immoral behavior, etc., but those things are often (not always) the effects of a much deeper cause. For many, these are self-medicating remedies used to deaden the pain caused by abortion. Such is the case for Steven Tyler.
Kevin Burke, co~founder with his wife, Dr. Theresa Burke, of Rachel's Vineyard Ministries, has written an article for National Review Online titled Post~Abortion Trauma. He cites some of Steven Tyler's experiences in trying to deal with an abortion he consented to for his young girlfriend in 1975.
Kevin Burke has done much to bring to light the pain men who have experienced abortion feel and how they feel it. Abortion has, for a long time, been thought of as a "women's issue". Kevin's books and hands on work in post abortion healing proves that this not just a women's issue. Men, celebrity or not, who give their witness of what this sin does also proves that abortion is not gender specific.
My own work in Rachel's Vineyard has given me the privilege of being an eyewitness to the healing of many men who have had the courage to come for healing. I always tell them that they are my heroes because seeing their courage and sorrow for what they have done helps me in my own healing.
You can read Kevin's article about Steven Tyler by clicking the link on its title above. For more on Kevin and Dr. Theresa Burke's books and work in post~abortion healing visit the Rachel's Vineyard website.
And always let us pray for an end to abortion and for the healing of those who have suffered its effects.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The School Of Jesus

 Pope Benedict XVI introduced his next topic for his Wednesday audience catecheses; it is the subject of Christian Prayer. The Holy Father began his introduction outlining what he intends to cover in this series. He intends to draw from Scripture, the Liturgy, and the Church Fathers. This statement from his introduction seems to be a keynote of why he is beginning this series:
"We know", he said, "that prayer should not be overlooked. It is necessary to learn how to pray, almost learning this art ever anew. Even those who are very advanced in their spiritual lives always feel the need to attend the school of Jesus in order to learn how to truly pray".
The Holy Father emphasizes the importance of prayer in the spiritual life, no matter how far advanced a soul may be. I think anyone who is serious about leading a devout, spiritual life has come to know first hand the importance of prayer. It is God's way of communicating with us, and our way of communicating with Him whether it is through prayerful reading of Scripture, the Mass, formal prayers like the Rosary, or sitting before Him in the Tabernacle or Adoration Chapel where we can speak to Him informally from our hearts or sit in silent adoration and listen to Him.
The Apostles asked Jesus to teach them to pray. The Holy Father uses that request from Jesus' Apostles to remind us that we need to be in the "school of Jesus" in order to learn to pray and thereby deepen our relationship with Him.
I am looking forward to this series from Pope Benedict XVI. You can read the introduction to this series here. I will continue to post these lessons from our Holy Father as they become available.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Devotion Dedicated To May: The Blessed Virgin Mary

I am going to do things a little differently for this month's devotion. As most Catholics are aware, the month of May is the month dedicated, and most associated with our Blessed Mother. While there are two Marian feast days in the month, Our Lady of Fatima on May 13 and the Feast of the Visitation on May 31, the month is dedicated in a general way to Our Lady.
I see this as a way to foster and deepen our relationship and devotion to our Blessed Mother. I offer you several ways of doing this~ saying the Rosary on a daily basis if you don't already, attend a May Crowning in your parish, or hold one of your own in your family, or perhaps make a formal Consecration to Our Lady such as the de Monfort (which does require some preparation time) or the one through Maximilian Kolbe's Militia Immaculata.  If you would like to read something to help deepen your relationship and devotion to Mary, I would suggest reading Father Joseph Homick's latest book, A Place Prepared by God: Through the Virgin Mary, the New Eve, Paradise Will Not Fail Twice (Fr. Joseph is Abbot Emeritus of Mt. Tabor Monastery) Those of you who have been reading this blog for any length of time know that I sometimes struggle with my devotion to Mary. It is not that I don't have one, but I sometimes think of myself as one of her very rebellious children.
Several things happened as 2011 began in my devotion to Mary. It began with a statue of Our Lady that has been in my family for 51 years coming to into my possession (see my post Taking Mary Into My Home for more on that event) The other thing was reading Fr. Joseph's book. Like much of Fr. Joseph's writing, in A Place Prepared by God, he incorporates Scripture, Sacred Tradition, Liturgical Prayer and personal experience into a book that becomes a prayerful and meditative reading experience~prayers from the Byzantine Rite and beautiful Marian poetry add to the beauty of this book At the same time, it is also easy to understand, well as much as we can understand the Mystery that is Our Lady.
The writing of this book was born of a profound personal experience Fr. Joseph had involving Our Lady, but his purpose in writing it is to help make our Blessed Mother better known and loved. Reading this book has helped me to realize that Our Lady loves each of us deeply, seeks a relationship with each of us, and wants nothing more than to bring us closer to her Son Jesus. It is a book I know I will return to every now and again (as many of the pages are highlighted and dog~ eared).
The month of May is a good time to renew our love and devotion to Mary; A Place Prepared by God is a helpful means of doing that.
You can order the book through Amazon, but it will benefit the monastery more if you order directly from them. Information on this book, as well as Fr. Joseph's other books can be obtained here. If you have never read anything by Fr. Joseph, you can get a sampling of his writing by visiting his blogs Making All Things New (formerly Word Incarnate) and Two Pillars: Holy Eucharist and Our Lady.

Witnesses To God's Mercy

"The Bible, Tradition, and the whole faith life of the People of God provide unique proof... that mercy is the greatest of the attributes and perfections of God."
 ~ Pope John Paul II: Dives in Misericordia" (no. 13)

God has shown us His mercy in countless ways through the ages. He has sent prophets as well as ordinary people to be witnesses of this, the greatest of His attributes. He has also given us tangible signs of mercy in His sacraments, especially in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. 
The luminous thread of God's mercy not only runs through this very special day of Divine Mercy Sunday, but also through the readings from Mass. In Acts, God's mercy is evident when He adds to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47) In the second reading, Peter begins with a prayer of praise and blessing to God's mercy: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you... (1 Peter 1:3~4) Then in the Gospel account Jesus shows mercy to Thomas and Thomas is invited to put His hand in Jesus's side, the entrance to His Sacred Heart, the source of His Divine Mercy.
This day is also a great day in the life of our Church because God has raised up for us in our own time a great witness to His mercy in Pope John Paul II who is beatified today and counted among the Blesseds in heaven. This great pope bore witness to Christ's mercy in many ways throughout his long pontificate, but the one in particular that stands out in my mind is when he visited in prison the man who attempted to kill him . He went to offer this man forgiveness. The Holy Father, in that moment, was the face of God's mercy.
St Faustina, who is called the Apostle of Divine Mercy, is another witness to Our Lord's mercy. She accepted the difficult invitation of Jesus to spread all that Jesus wanted us to know about His mercy. Thanks to St Faustina, and her her loving faithfulness, we are given the devotion to the Divine Mercy where we ourselves can learn to become witnesses to God's unfathomable and endless mercy.
So let us do as the psalm for today says and give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love (and mercy) are everlasting. (Psalm 118)

Blessed Pope John Paul II, pray for us!

Closing Prayer

Psalm 45: Canticle of Love to the King

My heart overflows with a good theme;
I address my verses to the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
You are fairer than the sons of men;
Grace is poured upon Your lips;
Therefore God has blessed You forever.

Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One,
In Your splendor and Your majesty!
And in Your majesty ride on victoriously,
For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
Let Your right hand teach You awesome things.
Your arrows are sharp;
The peoples fall under You;
Your arrows are in the heart of the King’s enemies.

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad.
Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies;
At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.