21 March 2014

Saint Nicholas of Flue

21 MARCH 2014. Today the Holy Church proposes for our commemoration St. Nicholas of Flue, a fifteenth century mystic and Patron Saint of  Switzerland.
My Lord and my God, take from me everything that distances me from you. My Lord and my God, give me everything that brings me closer to you. My Lord and my God, detach me from myself to give my all to you.

01 January 2014

24 December 2013

One More Sleep
In the classic film The Muppet Christmas Carol, when Bob Cratchit (in a compelling portrayal by Kermit the Frog) is closing up Scrooge’s shop on Christmas Eve, he suddenly begins to sing, as is his wont. He sings about some things you might expect Kermit to sing about: magic in the air, people loving and caring, the world smiling. After all, as the refrain reminds us, “there’s only one more sleep ‘til Christmas.”

But I would like to bring attention to a line which is almost missed unless you’re paying close attention. Just before Mr. Cratchit comes upon the penguins’ Christmas skating party (excitedly crying out, “Oh! It’s the penguins’ Christmas skating party!”) he sings: “It’s a season when the saints can employ us / To spread the news about peace and to keep love alive.”

We may not often think of the saints when we think about Christmas, but maybe we should. After all, they’re celebrating Christmas too, and much more fittingly than we. How? Not by giving gifts to one another, but by praising God for his love, shown to us in the man Jesus Christ. And the saints employ us to do the same.

We hear a lot about peace around Christmastime. But peace is a big concept, the term is broad and vast. How can we fathom its real meaning? Luke’s Gospel offers some insight. After the angel proclaims to the shepherds the birth of the Savior,
suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (2:14)
The angel alone proclaims Christ’s birth, but is joined by a great multitude in praising God for it. The saints, upon entrance into the heavenly kingdom, join this worshiping multitude, singing that eternal song of peace.

And again, in the Psalms we read:
I will hear what the LORD God speaks;
he speaks of peace for his people and his faithful,
and those who turn their hearts to him.
His salvation is near for those who fear him,
and his glory will dwell in our land.
(Ps 85:9-10)
The Lord speaks of peace for his faithful, and the heavenly multitude, angels and saints alike, speak of peace among men with whom he is pleased. This proclaimed peace is the kingdom of God which is at hand for us; it is salvation; it is Christ.

Salvation is experienced after this earthly life is done—but we can begin even now, like the hungry traveler who, while still afar off, smells the great feast being prepared for his arrival home. We do this by faith, by turning our hearts to the Lord who now dwells among us. The Word made man is the cause and culmination of the peace of Christmas, which we experience by faith in the Incarnation.

After the lengthy interlude in which Bob Cratchit and his murine friends admire the expert skating of the penguins, he continues singing. Today we can join him, looking forward to tomorrow’s celebration of the divine peace brought to us in the Incarnation: “Yes, faith is in our hearts today / We’re shining like the sun . . . After all, there’s only one more sleep ‘til Christmas.”

Image: Still from ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’

18 December 2013

Saint Peter Faber

. Pope Francis recognized the sainthood of early Jesuit Peter Faber on Dec. 17 after holding a private audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
The decision, “enrolling in the catalogue of Saints” one of the co-founders of the Society of Jesus, was announced through the Holy See press office. The announcement said the Pope had “extended to the Universal Church the liturgical cult in honor of Blessed Peter Faber.”
It was also announced that Pope Francis had authorized the congregation to acknowledge a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Maria Teresa Demjanovich, a sister of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, from New Jersey who died in 1927; the heroic virtues of Emmanuel Herranz Estables, a Spanish priest who died in 1968; and the heroic virtues of Giorgio Ciesielski, a Polish layman and father who died in 1970.
The means of St. Peter Faber's canonization is equivalent to that of St. Angela of Foligno, whom Pope Francis canonized Oct. 9. According Italian publication La Stampa, St. Angela's canonization diverged from the normal process involving the recognition of a second miracle attributed to the saint's intercession.
Such a canonization is done “when such a saint has been from a remote period the object of veneration, when his heroic virtues (or martyrdom) and miracles are related by reliable historians, and the fame of his miraculous intercession is uninterrupted,” La Stampa wrote.
St. Peter Faber was born in 1506, and studied at the University of Paris, where he met St. Ignatius Loyola and St Francis Xavier; the three went on to become the founders of the Society of Jesus. St. Peter Faber was ordained a priest in 1534, and served across Europe.
He died in 1546, and his relics are kept at the Church of the Gesu, the Jesuits' mother church in Rome. His feast has been kept Aug. 2, the anniversary of his death, by the Society of Jesus, and he was beatified in 1872 by Pius IX.
Pope Francis has referred to the new saint at least twice in his pontificate, both in his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii gaudium” and in his Sept. 30 interview with Jesuit publications.
In “Evangelii gaudium,” Pope Francis quoted the saint as saying “time is God's messenger,” making a point about the need for patience, an ability to listen, and docility to the Holy Spirit, in the process of drawing others closer to God.
In his Sept. 30 interview, the Pope cited St. Peter Faber as a Jesuit who had particularly affected him, saying he was moved by the priest's “dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain naïveté perhaps, his being available straightaway, his careful interior discernment, the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions but also capable of being so gentle and loving.”

07 December 2013

We are Dead in this World

We are dead in this world,
we the faithful, the chaste, the constant, the pure,
we who love Christ and His bride the Church,
we who long to see the face of God,
we who seek to live in holiness,
we who strive to be one with the Divine Will.
We are dead in this world.

We are dead in this world,
we the sinful and restless and faulty,
we the lost and the lame,
we the poor and broken and lonely,
we, who despite these maladies, search for God,
we who struggle and are weak in the face of God's grace.
We are dead in this world.

The world ignores us,
the world laughs at us, shows us scorn,
the world moves on in fascination with itself,
the world gives no concern for other worldly affairs,
the world is worldly,
worldliness is our enemy, the tool of satan who seeks the ruin of our souls.

How I pray that I can be dead,
how I pray that I can be faithful, chaste, constant, and pure,
how I pray that I can love Christ and His bride the Church,
how I pray that I may long to see the face of God,
how I pray that I may seek to live in holiness,
how I pray that I may strive to be one with the Divine Will,
how I pray that I can be dead.

Slay me O world, if you will, that I may live only for God!

19 November 2013

"under God . . ."

19 NOVEMBER 2013. One hundred fifty years ago today, President Abraham Lincoln stood before those gathered to mark the bloodiest earth in the great Civil War and to honor the fallen who had died in the struggle to preserve the Union. In Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, enduring a long two-hour oration before him, the President waited and finally delivered what we today know as the Gettysburg Address: a two minute, 272 word speech that today is widely regarded as the most sacred and treasured speech--in America's "religion" of democracy--that has been given to that moment or since.

From that day in November 1863, five hard copies of the speech survive and each of them has slight variations. The copy that is considered the "standard" is the one written in President Lincoln's own hand, titled, dated, and signed by him. It is known as the "Bliss copy" because it was prepared by the President for Colonel Alexander Bliss. The Bliss copy, among other distinctions, bears a phrase that the two earliest hard copies of the speech do not . . .
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
It is curious that the two earliest hard copies of the speech omit the phrase "under God." But, it is clear that President Lincoln's own hand prepared a later copy of the text with this phrase. He attached his signature to the text with this phrase. Clearly, President Lincoln wanted to include this phrase in the speech. And, contemporary newspaper accounts of the speech, which recounted the text of the speech exactly, also included this phrase.

Anyone who has given prepared speeches knows the exact wording of a speech is often times deviated from upon the podium. In fact, I would defy anyone with intellectual demand to write a speech, go over it again and again, and then deliver the speech with nary a deviation. The mind is constantly at work imagining the reaction of the audience, guiding the words to evoke the message just so, working through phrases to give just the right emphasis. Even more so for a political speech. Even more so for a moment in history as weighty as the commemoration of the battle at Gettysburg!

So, what of the phrase "under God?" President Obama, among other recent Presidents and celebrities, participating in a PBS sponsored montage of Ken Burns, a noted documentarian, was given a copy of the Gettysburg address to read that omits the phrase "under God." Apparently, only Mr. Obama read this version of the Gettysburg Address. However, today the White House press secretary rebuffed the omission as the choice of Ken Burns and not the President. (story here)

But, no matter who made the choice, the implication is clear. The culture of today is erasing God from our public life--even where historical account includes this most basic notation of faith.

Far from being "not a total failure," as President Lincoln later was known to have said about the Gettysburg Address, the speech is now seen as a unifying moment in American history. For, in the Gettysburg Address the scourge of our Civil War was elevated from a political dispute over state's rights and the role of the federal government to a moral imperative for the country to stand together for what is right: liberty, equality, and the democratic ideals of governance, "of the people, by the people, for the people . . . ." In this context, the speech unifies us all. But, this unity in our culture today has been twisted to mark division from those of faith.

In fact, the choice of the speech text for President Obama to record, his own choice or the choice of another, by omission of that crucial phraseology of faith--under God--pushes those of faith a inch further from the public sphere.

Don't let this happen. Pray for Mr. Obama. He and his office deserve respect and our prayers should always go with the President and all our leaders in government for the Lord to grant them wisdom and guidance.

Holy Spirit, please be upon them. May all in leadership of our country truly do your Holy Will, for the common good and the good of those most vulnerable. Amen.

But, speak out against this push of religion from the public sphere. Each of us has written on our hearts the yearning to know our creator. Each of us knows that one greater than ourselves is our author. This is not merely a private thought. This is who we are! Humanity cries to God for help! Pray too that our cries will not be stifled in our public dialogue.


01 November 2013

Solemnity of All Saints

1 NOVEMBER 2013. These pages have been long quiet and not frequently updated for most of this year. The year has been running ahead at a frantic pace: children, church, school, the office; everything has conspired against the scribe this year and the battle continues.

But, on the beautiful day, I stop and give thanks and implore the intercession of all the saints--those holy souls whom the Church offers us as heavenly brothers and sisters who have run well the race on earth and now enjoy the fruits of heaven: the beatific vision. As they are in the midst of God, the saints still pray for us, always pleading to God on our behalf.

For our household, St. Canice House, below is the litany of saints on whose intercession we rely for personal consolation and assistance:

Lord have mercy on us,
Lord have mercy on us.

Christ have mercy on us,
Christ have mercy on us.

Lord have mercy on us,
hear our prayer.

God the Father, provide for us.
God the Son, . . .
Holy Spirit, love of the Father and the Son . . . .

We praise you and adore You O Lord.

Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Divine Will, pray for us.
Saint Dominic, . . .
Saint Catherine of Sienna, . . .
Saint Thomas Aquinas, . . .
Saint Mary Magdalene, . . .
Saint John the Baptist, . . .
Saint Francis, . . .
Saint Clare of Assisi, . . .
Saint Joan of Arc, . . .
Saint Trason, . . .
Saint Gabiel the Archangel, . . .
Saint Canice, . . .
All you holy angels and saints, . . . .

Pray for us that we may always enjoy the presence of sanctifying grace, to offer ourselves more fully and more splendidly to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in all that we do and are. May the Divine Will live in our lives, breathe in our breath, think in our thoughts, love in our acts, spill into all of our being for the benefit of all whom the Lord loves.


15 August 2013

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

15 AUGUST 2013. The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

This day we celebrate the height of humanity,
rescued from the world.
The promise of a loving God becomes a reality
for the first born among those
who dwell in the Divine Will by grace.
Death, its reign ended with the cross
and resurrection some time before,
loses its grip on the most favored of Israel's children.
She is our mother, given to us by her Son, the Redeemer.
She is our protectress,
who carries the cares and needs of others to Him.
Beginning with the feast at Cana,
she brings all her children and their needs to Him.
One with the Apostles,
present at Pentecost.
Awash in the Holy Spirit.
She proclaims her Son by her life of devotion to Him.
She proclaims her Son by her life of devotion to her children,
John and the others, entrusted to her by Him on the cross.
She awaits in hope to be reunited with Him after His ascension.
The Apostles, present at her death,
rejoice in the return of her to the Son.
For three days in the tomb, angels are heard singing.
The tomb is opened. The tomb is empty.
The assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

O Holy Mother, pray for us your children. We, the Order of Preachers, are claimed by you as your children. You have provided for us the model of Christian life: dedication to the truth of the salvation offered to the world by your Son and our Lord, Jesus Christ. As you are the first born of just human estate to enjoy bodily unity with God in Glory; you show to us the promise of the Father, the gift of the Son, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, brought to fulfillment in the joy of eternity with the infinite, loving God, creator of all.


06 July 2013

Saints Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II

Yesterday, 5 JULY 2013, amid a number of other significant events at the Vatican, Holy Father Pope Francis received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect for the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, and authorized the Church's recognition of two of our Blessed Holy Fathers as Saints of the heavenly realm: Saint Pope John XXIII and Saint Pope John Paul II.

The faithful have yearned for the recognition of the great Pope John Paul II as a saint in the heavenly homeland since his death in 2005. Now, traveling forward only eight years through a process that can sometimes take a century or better, the Holy Father has confirmed a second miracle attributed the intercession of Blessed Pope John Paul II and approved the promulgation of the decree of his canonization. The Holy Father also yesterday convoked a special consistory of the College of Cardinals to discuss in depth the canonization of the great Pope.

Oft referred to as the Good Pope John, yesterday also saw the somewhat unusual movement of Pope John XIII from the ranks of Blessed to the altars of sainthood following Holy Father Pope Francis' approval the favorable votes of the Ordinary Session of the Congregations of Cardinals and Bishops regarding his cause for canonization. The Vatican spokesman, Father Lombardi, S.J., said yesterday that despite the absence of a second miracle that has been confirmed by the Church as attributable to Blessed Pope John XXIII's intercession, it was the will of Pope Francis that the "Sainthood of the great Pope of the Second Vatican Council be recognized."

Father Lombardi continued, noting that a canonization without a second confirmed miracle is nonetheless valid and that there is already an existing confirmed miracle that led to the Good Pope's beatification. Certainly, Father Lombardi added, the Holy Father has the power to dispense the requirement for a second miracle.

However, no dates were given yesterday, neither of the special consistory nor the canonizations of the two beloved predecessors of Pope Francis. However, Father Lombardi did not rule out that the canonizations of the both Popes would be held together, and he did express his opinion that they would take place before the end of 2013. Any date will be set during the special consistory, which will likely be held this Fall.

A nod of thanks, too, to Father Z, for his insightful thoughts here on the announcement of the canonization of these two great Pontiffs together and during this 50th anniversary year of Vatican Council II.