Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ss Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels: "In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord."

“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

In her liturgy, the Church joins with the angels to adore the thrice-holy God. She invokes their assistance (in the funeral liturgy's In Paradisum deducant te angeli. . .["May the angels lead you into Paradise. . ."]). Moreover, in the "Cherubic Hymn" of the Byzantine Liturgy, she celebrates the memory of certain angels more particularly (St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael, and the guardian angels).
-- CCC 335

Art: Tiziano Vecellio, Archangel Gabriel (detail), polyptych of the Resurrection, 1522.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Saint Wenceslaus: "my life draws near to the nether world"

My couch is among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave
-- Ps 88:2-3, 4-5, 6, 7-8

Death is transformed by Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, also himself suffered the death that is part of the human condition. Yet, despite his anguish as he faced death, he accepted it in an act of complete and free submission to his Father's will. The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing.
-- CCC 1009

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ss Cosmas and Damian: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body"

... but cannot kill the soul.
-- Matthew 10:28-33

In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, "You shall not kill," and adds to it the proscription of anger, hatred, and vengeance. Going further, Christ asks his disciples to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies. He did not defend himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath.
-- CCC 2262

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sunday 26A. "Turn away from sins": God undoes the effects of evil through the healing and new life of forgiving love

"... if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, he does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die."

It takes humility to put God back in the driver's seat. But humility comes only through freedom, the ability to turn ourselves over in trust to another.

The other day I drove my mother to the doctor and, just like most passengers she cannot read my mind and know my thoughts as I make decisions about acceleration and braking. It didn't help her sense of confidence that we passed a couple of accidents along the way. Periodically her hands would go up in simulated self-protection as I braked in a way probably differently than she would have chosen to do had she been driving and had faced a similar situation.

We have all been faced with the challenge of being a passenger. Some of us by becoming, as humorously labeled, "backseat drivers", and called this because we are unable to really turn over the decision-making for the safety and well-being of everyone in the car, including ourselves, to the only one who is really in charge: the man or woman with their hands on the wheel.

This week in Germany we have seen a man, advanced in years, humbly approach a people who are afraid he came into their midst to take away their freedom, their future, their fulfillment. But his humble presence speaks so profoundly of his own sense of freedom and confidence in God that many critics and nay-sayers have not only been silenced but have instead responded with enthusiastic acceptance of him and his message, no longer throwing up their hands in fear that he wants to take over the wheel and reduce their sense of freedom and self-determination.

Who is this simple old man and what is his message? Our German pope, Benedict, who speaks of Jesus Christ and His Church. He has spoken honestly of the way that many people today in fear of God have actually rejected true freedom by seizing the wheel of life's journey away from God in the attempt to control life. Sometimes this need for healing or help, expressed in frustrated attempts at "control" actually takes the form of sin. But we can only accept God and His forgiveness in humility, which is the evidence of authentic freedom, by which we invite God into our lives.

Pope Benedict XVI during his state visit to Germany has also taken on what may be the most daunting and most humbling of all missions: he has used his freedom to spend time visiting people who have been victimized through abuse at the hands of other members of the Church, expressing with whatever compassion he is capable his own wishes and prayers for their healing and peace.

All of us need to seek the healing of the effects of sin, no matter what the sins or whether we ourselves or others may have committed these offenses. In the parable of the two sons, both responded by throwing up their hands in the face of the father. One said "no", at first, and the other said yes but did not mean it. The first son, however, became open to forgiveness and healing humbly changing his "no" into a "yes". To do this he had to go against himself, to change, to humble himself.

True healing comes only through God our Father who sends us out into the vineyard of His world day after day. But our healing God can only truly come into our lives if we let Him, if we give Him permission. This happens through a sincere and regular celebration of the sacramental life and a daily handing over of ourselves to the process of the grace we thus receive, particularly through prayer in freedom before God and in confident assurance that He hears us in love. Humility is needed; the kind of humility that is needed to be a good passenger in a moving car. And the most humbling act is to acknowledge our need for forgiveness.

"The first movement of the prayer of petition is asking forgiveness, like the tax collector in the parable: 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' It is a prerequisite for righteous and pure prayer. A trusting humility brings us back into the light of communion between the Father and his Son Jesus Christ and with one another, so that 'we receive from him whatever we ask.' Asking forgiveness is the prerequisite for both the Eucharistic liturgy and personal prayer." (CCC 2631)

Let us ask God for the true freedom by which we will welcome Him as Lord and God into our lives, humbly giving Him permission to be in the driver's seat by His forgiveness of our serious sins in confession and then approaching Him in the Eucharist so that the grace of Baptism and of absolution will grow in authentic freedom and love. God's healing will be ours.


Friday, September 23, 2011

San Pio of Pietrelcina: "Love is the first ingredient in the relief of suffering"

Texts for use in celebrating the Mass in honor of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina

Our Holy Father Benedict teaches, "No suffering, no love".

What the world considers foolishness, the followers of Christ call wisdom. Saint Pio lived the wisdom of suffering and lived the message of Christ's love.

"The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain."
-- San Pio

"Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart."
-- Ps 90

"Let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice." Although man can forget God or reject him, He never ceases to call every man to seek him, so as to find life and happiness. But this search for God demands of man every effort of intellect, a sound will, "an upright heart", as well as the witness of others who teach him to seek God.

You are great, O Lord, and greatly to be praised: great is your power and your wisdom is without measure. And man, so small a part of your creation, wants to praise you: this man, though clothed with mortality and bearing the evidence of sin and the proof that you withstand the proud. Despite everything, man, though but a small a part of your creation, wants to praise you. You yourself encourage him to delight in your praise, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.
-- CCC 30

From Zenit, the Secret Story of Padre Pio's Stigmata.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sunday 25A. "Are you envious?": we share in the love and joy of God when we imitate His generosity

Often in the early Church people would wait for the end of life to receive Baptism in order to reduce the possibility of losing the gift of salvation through serious sin. Today people often pray that others who have left the Church or lost their faith will have the grace of a "deathbed conversion". These practices and more all presume the love of God and his generous desire to forgive sins through His infinite mercy.

The Gospel story of the hired hands speaks of God's reward for each of us and His indifference as to whether we came early or late to answer His call for work in the vineyard. He gives salvation to all who come to him, whether early and throughout life in perseverance or late, perhaps even in one's last days on earth.

Some of the characters in the story react negatively to the treatment of the late-comers. God responds by naming them "envious" and proclaims Himself "generous". Something is revealed both about God and about us in this parable.

Can someone really have a death bed conversion? Yes: God's mercy is infinite and offered to all. There is no sin He will not forgive and there is no "expiration date" on the "mercy coupon" He offers in generous love to all mankind. One reasonably sees, however, that only with a very heroic cooperation with God's grace would it be possible to turn definitively away from a lifetime of indifference to God and, perhaps, serious sin.

But what does it mean to be a "late-lover" as was Saint Augustine. "Late have I loved thee" he cried out when He discovered the wonderful reality of God's love. Really knowing God, as Saint Augustine finally did later in life, demanded a response: He loved God in return. And true love does not wait. Love gives all if it participates in God's love.

The Lord invites us:

"Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call him while he is near.
Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
and the wicked his thoughts;
let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving."

Yes, God's generous response of love is ours whenever we desire it with all our hearts. But one cannot really be said to share in God's love if it doesn't make a difference. That difference is conversion: a life with God. A life with God starts with a converted heart, generous toward Him in a loving response to His generous love for us in Jesus Christ which is evident in practical ways.

Even the temptation to envy in the reactions of some of the hired hands in the parable can be turned aside and transformed into a desire to be like God, to imitate Him. And He answers this human need by giving Jesus Christ His Son.

Jesus Christ is never outdone in His response to His Father's will: on the Cross He gave all He had to give. What does it mean for us to imitate Christ in a generous, lived response to God? This way of loving God in Jesus Christ is to be children of the Church He founded for our salvation.

The precepts of the Church, which apply the Commandments to the practical concerns of daily life, spell out a lived commitment of generous love for God which rejects as inadequate the unsatisfying and presumptuous "deathbed" conversion option.

The Seven Precepts of the Church

I. To attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, and resting from servile works.

II. To observe the days of abstinence and fasting.

III. To confess our sins to a priest, at least once a year.

IV. To receive Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist at least once a year during Easter Season.

V. To contribute to the support of the Church.

VI. To obey the laws of the Church concerning Matrimony.

VII. To participate in the Church's mission of Evangelization of Souls.

The vineyard is the world which is made fruitful through conversion of life and hearts renewed by grace. "Generous hearts" which reflect and give the love of the Father are made possible for those who "break Bread" with the Son here on the Lord's Day and receive the most generous of God's gifts: His only Son who died, once for all, and who gives Himself again on our altars.

"From the beginning the Church has been faithful to the Lord's command. Of the Church of Jerusalem it is written:

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. . . . Day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts." (CCC 1342)


Friday, September 16, 2011

Saint Cornelius, pope and martyr, and Saint Cyprian, bishop and martyr: "Your sins are forgiven."

"Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
-- Lk 7:36-50

Only God forgives sins. Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, "The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" and exercises this divine power: "Your sins are forgiven." Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name.
-- CCC 1441

Art: Paolo Veronese, Meal at the house of Simon the Pharisee

Monday, September 12, 2011

Most Holy Name of Mary: "et nomen Virginis Mariae"

"Hail, full of grace"
-- Luke 1, 26-38

"God sent forth his Son", but to prepare for him, he wanted the free cooperation of a creature. For this God chose for the mother of his son "a daughter of Israel ... and the virgin's name was Mary."
-- CCC 488

Monday 24A: "men should pray"

lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.

Christian prayer extends to the forgiveness of enemies, transfiguring the disciple by configuring him to his Master. Forgiveness is a high-point of Christian prayer; only hearts attuned to God's compassion can receive the gift of prayer. Forgiveness also bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin. The martyrs of yesterday and today bear this witness to Jesus. Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father and of men with one another.

-- CCC 2844

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sunday 24A and Tenth Anniversary of 9-11: "Wrath and anger are hateful things"

"Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight."

Many reacted with anger when they became aware on 9-11 that we were under attack. When they found out who was attacking us some began to focus their anger on individuals. When OSB, the ringleader of our enemies on that fateful day, was finally prevented from committing any more evils some danced on his grave in delight.

But we love a God who does not delight in the death of the sinner. And He calls us to shun all hatred and its attendant emotion of anger. He does this without in any way diminishing his mission to bring full justice to the earth. But God's ways are not like our ways and we sometimes struggle to understand why He both permits evil and forbids us to be angry about it or to seek vengeance. He does this because He loves us and desires that we be saved so as to love Him. And he calls us to love ourselves enough that we defend ourselves and our lives while also shunning the sin which can keep us from Him.

"Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:
If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's." (CCC 2264)

The terrorism that resulted in violence and death ten years ago today is a grave crime against justice and charity.

"Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity. Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. (CCC 2297)

Our wounds cannot be healed by nursing a desire for revenge.

"By recalling the commandment, 'You shall not kill,' our Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral. Anger is a desire for revenge. 'To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit,' but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution 'to correct vices and maintain justice.' If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin. The Lord says, 'Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.' " (CCC 2302)

Our temptation to seek vengeance is tempered through our efforts in defense of self, neighbor and country.

"Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility."(CCC 2265)

Healing will also continue to come through our efforts together to patiently coooperate with all of the measures that help to ensure such atrocities are never committed again. The greatest healing, the power that overcomes all hatred, is the grace of Jesus Christ. We grow in this grace through daily conversion which entails rejection of all hatred and desire for revenge.

"Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven." In addition to prayer we are blessed with abundant means to overcome anger and transform desire for vengeance into work for justice which does not blink in the face of the enemy and also peace which keeps our view on eternal life and salvation for the whole world.

"Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one's brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one's cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance." (CCC 1435)

"Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin!Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High's covenant, and overlook faults."


Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday: "every tree is known by its own fruit"

A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good
--Lk 6:43-49

"To love is to will the good of another." All other affections have their source in this first movement of the human heart toward the good. Only the good can be loved. Passions "are evil if love is evil and good if it is good."
-- CCC 1766

Friday, September 9, 2011

Saint Peter Claver: "love builds up"

If anyone supposes he knows something,
he does not yet know as he ought to know.
But if one loves God, one is known by him.

The New Law is called a law of love because it makes us act out of the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear; a law of grace, because it confers the strength of grace to act, by means of faith and the sacraments; a law of freedom, because it sets us free from the ritual and juridical observances of the Old Law, inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting of charity and, finally, lets us pass from the condition of a servant who "does not know what his master is doing" to that of a friend of Christ - "For all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you" - or even to the status of son and heir.
-- CCC 1972

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary: "From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler"

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel ...

Throughout the Old Covenant the mission of many holy women prepared for that of Mary. At the very beginning there was Eve; despite her disobedience, she receives the promise of a posterity that will be victorious over the evil one, as well as the promise that she will be the mother of all the living. By virtue of this promise, Sarah conceives a son in spite of her old age. Against all human expectation God chooses those who were considered powerless and weak to show forth his faithfulness to his promises: Hannah, the mother of Samuel; Deborah; Ruth; Judith and Esther; and many other women. Mary "stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently hope for and receive salvation from him. After a long period of waiting the times are fulfilled in her, the exalted Daughter of Sion, and the new plan of salvation is established."
-- CCC 489

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wednesday, 23A: "put on the new self"

... being renewed, for knowledge. in the image of its creator.

Self-mastery is a long and exacting work. One can never consider it acquired once and for all. It presupposes renewed effort at all stages of life. The effort required can be more intense in certain periods, such as when the personality is being formed during childhood and adolescence.
-- CCC 2342

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tuesday, Wk 23A: "you received Christ Jesus the Lord"

... walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith
--Col 2:6-15

The catechesis of children, young people, and adults aims at teaching them to meditate on The Word of God in personal prayer, practicing it in liturgical prayer, and internalizing it at all times in order to bear fruit in a new life. Catechesis is also a time for the discernment and education of popular piety. The memorization of basic prayers offers an essential support to the life of prayer, but it is important to help learners savor their meaning.
-- CCC 2688

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day: "For this I labor and struggle"

It is he whom we proclaim,
admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.

The primordial value of labor stems from man himself, its author and beneficiary. By means of his labor man participates in the work of creation. Work united to Christ can be redemptive.
-- CCC 2460

Saturday, September 3, 2011

"Go and tell him his fault": Fraternal correction a task of the Church

"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone."

Fraternal charity is a demand of the Gospel: "Love one another as I have loved you". An expression of charity is the correction made necessary sometimes by concern for the salvation of a brother or sister. This is the root

Communication deficiencies often lie at the root of troubled relationships. This can be true of any two or more people who must work, live or perform any task together, in any situation, but are most visible in the separations and divorces so tragically common among married couples today.

Persons approach conflict out of their experiences and prejudices, whether good or bad, helpful or unhelpful. A tendency to react with anger or emotions in thE face of conflict can prevent open communication on the part of the other and who might react by closing up in self defense, preventing communication. Reacting with silence, on the other end of the spectrum, can leave the other blissfully unaware that a problem exists, while one's resentments and conflicts continue to build up until they threaten to explode.

The love we owe to everyone, no matter the nature of their relationship with us, is to seek their salvation. This charity under certain circumstances will demand the service of the fraternal correction to which the Lord urges us in the Gospel.

"The fruits of charity are joy, peace, and mercy; charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction; it is benevolence; it fosters reciprocity and remains disinterested and generous; it is friendship and communion: Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest." (CCC 1829)

All of us are in need of conversion because all of us are sinners. We should respond with gratitude when another makes us aware that something for which we are responsible stands between us and our salvation.

"Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one's brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one's cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance." (CCC 1435)

"If he listens to you, you have won over your brother."

We may be personally responsible for fraternal correction when a particular fault on the part of another affects us personally and we certainly rejoice when someone returns to the right way and continues to walk in friendship with us. We are not, however, responsible if our brother or sister refuses our correction and rejects our gesture of charity. And another's friendship with Christ is, it hardly need be said, more important than their friendship with another human being.

If a sin is private in nature every effort should be made to keep it such, both to more easily preserve the good reputation and easily smooth the way for the conversion of the sinful party as well as to avoid the sin of detraction on the part of others.

If a sin is public then public correction may be necessary.

"If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses." There are cases where we might be called to involved a third party but these should be rare and perhaps only in cases where the community is adversely affected by the disruptive or uncharitable behavior of one of its members.

There are cases where something akin to excommunication may be imposed for the health of teh community, asking someone to separate from the body until they are willing to amend their loves for the sake of their own and the common good. 'If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church,then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector."

All of these measures are medicinal, that is, ordered toward the salvation of everyone involved and this should be kept in mind at all times, as "salvation is the highest law of the Church".

"Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party." (CCC 2266)

Friday, September 2, 2011

First Friday: "to reconcile all things"

making peace by the Blood of his cross

Earthly peace is the image and fruit of the peace of Christ, the messianic "Prince of Peace." By the blood of his Cross, "in his own person he killed the hostility," he reconciled men with God and made his Church the sacrament of the unity of the human race and of its union with God. "He is our peace." He has declared: "Blessed are the peacemakers."

-- CCC 2305

Thursday, September 1, 2011

S Fiacre: "in every good work bearing fruit"

... and growing in the knowledge of God

When Jesus openly entrusts to his disciples the mystery of prayer to the Father, he reveals to them what their prayer and ours must be, once he has returned to the Father in his glorified humanity. What is new is to "ask in his name." Faith in the Son introduces the disciples into the knowledge of the Father, because Jesus is "the way, and the truth, and the life." Faith bears its fruit in love: it means keeping the word and the commandments of Jesus, it means abiding with him in the Father who, in him, so loves us that he abides with us. In this new covenant the certitude that our petitions will be heard is founded on the prayer of Jesus.

-- CCC 2614