28 February 2010


28 FEBRUARY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the second Sunday of Lent, and the Gospel Reading from Saint Luke provides us with the narrative of the transfiguration:
About eight days after he said this, he took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my chosen Son; listen to him." After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.
 (Lk 9, 28b-36 NAB)

Consider that these three (the same three that Jesus took with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane) have now witnessed the glory of Christ as God. No wonder they were silent. And, at the same time, their silence is also obedient to the command of the Father, saying: "listen to him."

These three, and all of us, are called to listen to Christ. I pray that we will all listen to Him through this Lenten period especially.

Readings for the remainder of the week can be found here:







24 February 2010

Blessed Constantius of Fabriano

24 FEBRUARY 2010. Today we celebrate the feast day (optional memorial) of Blessed Constantius of Fabriano, a fifteenth century priest and friar of the Dominican Order.

Blessed Constantius was born in A.D. 1410 at Fabriano, Italy. Known for his piety as a child, Blessed Constantius once led his parents in their fervent prayer at the bedside of his incurably ill sister. Immediately she was restored to health. Even as a child, tradition tells that Blessed Constantius led sinners to repentance through his exhortations of Christ's message.

At the age of 15 Blessed Constantius entered the Dominican convent of Saint Lucy at Fabriano, where he was the spiritual student of Blessed John Dominici, Blessed Laurence of Ripafratta, and Saint Antoninus. Eventually Blessed Constantius rose to the position of Prior of the convent of Saint Lucy and served as prior of two additional convents, Perugia and Ascoli. In the religious life, Blessed Constantius was know for his austere practices and great devotion to prayer. He would regularly recite the office of the dead and often spent great portions of the night in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

On the morning of the Feast of the Assumption in A.D. 1459, Blessed Constantius had a vision of the soul of Saint Antoninus being born, marvelously beautiful, into heaven. This vision was mentioned by Pope Clement VII in the papal bull of canonization for Saint Antoninus. Blessed Constantius was also known for several well regarded miracles. One time, he raised a young man to life who had been dead for two days with the command: "In the name of Jesus Christ, arise." Having at first rebuked Blessed Constantius for addressing the corpse in this way, the raised man's family fell at the feet of Blessed Constantius, who gently prompted them to have faith in our Lord.

Blessed Constantius was also known as a peacemaker for local disturbances and was widely regarded as a saint during his lifetime. Tradition tells that Blessed Constantius habitually wore a look of gentle sadness. When asked why he continually looked this way, the blessed responded: "Alas! I know not whether my actions are pleasing to God or not."

Blessed Constantius died on 24 February 1481. After his death, children ran through the streets saying: "The holy Prior is dead!" He was beatified (cultus confirmed) by Pope Pius VII in A.D. 1811.


God of justice and truth, 
you made Blessed Constantius renowned 
for his unceasing prayer and his zeal for peace. 
By the help of his prayers 
may we walk in the path of justice 
and reach everlasting peace and glory. 
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever.


22 February 2010

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter

22 FEBRUARY 2010. Today, 110 candles will be lit in St. Peter's Basilica in the annual rituals that surround the Church's celebration of the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter. Today's feast, however, is not a feast in honor of a piece of furniture--a chair. No. Today's feast celebrates the primacy of the Pope as the head of the unified, catholic Church and the role of the Church as the servant of the communion of the whole Church.

The Chair of Saint Peter is a cathedra that is encased within a magnificent gilt bronze reliquary sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Benini at the height of the seventeenth century. Like many Medieval relequaries, Bernini's sculpture takes the form of the thing that it encases. While for years it was thought that the chair encased in Bernini's sculpture was actually a chair used by Saint Peter, studies performed at the request of Pope Paul VI in 1967 have actually shown the chair to be from the ninth century. The Vatican tour guide for St. Peter's Basilica now relates that the chair was given as a gift by Charles the Bald to the Pope in A.D. 875.

 Chair of Saint Peter
Looking upon Bernini's great work cannot compare to mere pictures and a bit of text on these pages, but there are a couple of aspects of the sculpture that require description. First, the reliquary chair appears to be supported effortlessly on splayed scrolling bars put aloft by four over-lifesize sculptures of  great Doctors of the Church, two from the West (Saints Ambrose and Augustine) and two from the East (Saints Athanasius and John Chrysostom). The Chair of Saint Peter appears to hover over the altar in the Basilica's apse, and is lit from a great oval window above that displays an image of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, illuminating the surrounding gilded sunrays and sculpted clouds.

The Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter is an ancient celebration in the Church's history, dating to A.D. 354, when the fest was listed in the Chronographia Romana, an ancient calendar of civic and religious observances. While the feast initially celebrated the beginning of the episcopacy of Saint Peter, with a focus on the primacy of the Pope, over the centuries the feast has come to focus on the service of the Pope as the head of the unified Church. Shown in Bernini's work, Christ is handing the keys to Saint Peter on one side of the chair, while the other side is balanced with the image of Christ washing the feet of the twelve.

Today, we might understand the chair of Saint Peter this way: the cathedra is not a throne, but a teacher's chair. It does not subject and weigh down the Doctors of the Church who support it, but they are drawn to the chair. They gather around it.

Let us too gather around the Holy Father and our Church!

21 February 2010


21 FEBRUARY 2010. Today the Church begins the celebration of the Sundays in Lent, leading to Palm Sunday (the procession of Christ into Jerusalem) and Easter (our Lord's resurrection from the dead following His passion and death on the cross). Today's readings can be found here.

Today's Gospel reading from Saint Luke recalls Christ's temptation in the desert by Satan. In this passage we see that Christ is truly man and truly God. As man, Christ is subject to temptation--each of us suffers from temptation of some sort. Look at our Western society: its message is to give in to temptation; most commercial messages tell us to give in to our wants and live the "good life." Christians no better. Our example is Christ who, being God, steadfastly rejects all temptation. We cannot; we do not. We are sinful, and I am foremost among sinners.

And, like Christ, no temptation is the last until our breath runs out at the last. As the Gospel message ends: "When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time." This example of Christ's temptation was not the only temptation he felt. Remember, Christ was truly man. Temptation returned to Christ and each time he relied on His Father, our Father, and was perfect (being truly God) in his resistance to temptation.

So, consider this as a point of Lenten reflection: Temptation is not our sin. Humanity's nature is fallen, so temptation exists for each of us. Our response to temptation is sin. Only Christ resisted all temptation. So, as all of us will sin, it is our devotion and hope in Christ, despite our sin, that is the measure of our faithfulness.

19 February 2010

Six New Saints to be Canonized this Year

19 FEBRUARY 2010. Today at an ordinary public consistory presided over by Pope Benedict XVI in the Consistory Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, it was announced that the six new saints would be canonized on 17 October 2010. The Blesseds to be canonized later this year are:

Stanislao Soltys, called Kazimierczyk, Polish professed religious of the Order of Canons Regular Lateranense (1433-1489).

Andre Bessette (ne Alfred), Canadian professed religious of the Congregation of the Holy Cross (1845-1937).

Candida Maria de Jesus Cipitria y Barriola (nee Juanna Joesfa), Spanish founder of the Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus (1845-1912).

Mary of the Cross MacKillop (nee Mary Helen), Australian foundress of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart (1842-1909).

Giulia Salzano, Italian foundress of the the Congregation of Sisters Catechists of the Sacred Heart (1846-1929).

Battista da Varano (nee Camilla), professed nun of the Order of Poor Clares and foundress of the monastery of St. Clare in the Italian town of Camerino (1458-1524).

With thanks from photvat.com, and our friends at the New Liturgical Movement, below are pictures from today's consistory.

Blessed Alvarez of Cordoba

19 FEBRUARY 2010. Today we celebrate the feast day of Blessed Alvarez of Cordoba, a Dominican friar and priest. Alvarez was born at Zomora, Spain in the middle of the fourthteenth century and entered the Dominican Order in A.D. 1368. Blessed Alvarez preached throughout Spain and Italy. By his preaching and devotion to the Lord's passion, Alvarez spread the practice of the Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross) throughout Western Europe. Blessed Alvarez died on 19 February 1430.

During his life Blessed Alvarez was the personal confessor, spiritual guide, and political advisor to Queen Catherine of Castile. And, Alvarez was charged with the educating the young King John II. Blessed Alvarez founded a Dominican house of strict observance in mountains around Cordoba, called Escalaceli (Ladder of Heaven), which became a well known house of piety and learning. Blessed Alvarez spent his time at Escalaceli, during the day, preaching, teaching, and begging for alms in the street. At night he was absorbed in prayer. Tradition tells that Blessed Alvarez set up a series of images in the gardens of Escalaceli with images of the Holy Land and our Lord's Passion--a foundational practice that we know today as the Stations of the Cross.

Tradition tells of two particular events in the life of Blessed Alvarez of Cordoba that provide great instruction on how we are called to live our lives today.

Our Lord calls us to humble ourselves and place our trust in Him.--Once, when the entire food stocks of Escalaceli consisted only of a single head of lettuce, Blessed Alvarez invited all of his Dominican brothers to sit with him at the table. When they had done so, Blessed Alvarez said a prayer of thanksgiving for the meal and sent a porter to answer the door. When the porter opened the door, he found a stranger leading a mule that was loaded with food. After the mule was unloaded of the food, the stranger and animal disappeared.

What you do for the least of my brothers, says the Lord, you do for Me.--Once, Blessed Alavarez found a dying beggar in the streets. Moved with pity, Blessed Alvarez wrapped the beggar in his own cloak and carried him back to Escalaceli. However, when he arrived at the priory and unwrapped his cloak, he found not the beggar, but a crucifix. That crucifix reportedly still hangs in Escalaceli today.


God of mercy, 
you endowed Blessed Alvarez with the gifts of penance 
and divine love. 
With the help of his prayers and example 
may we always bear the suffering of Christ 
in our bodies and your love in our hearts. 
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever.


17 February 2010

Ash Wednesday

17 FEBRUARY 2010. You are dust, and to dust you shall return.

14 February 2010


14 FEBRUARY 2010. Today the Church celebrates Sunday of the sixth week in ordinary time. The readings for today's mass are found here.

In today's Gospel reading from Saint Luke, Christ proclaims the beatitudes and invites each of us to open ourselves to the Word. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI gave an address on the beatitudes today before praying the Angelus with the pilgrims in Saint Peter's Square. What follows, is the a translation of the Pope's address:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The liturgical year is a great journey of faith, which the Church undertakes, always proceeded by the Virgin Mother Mary. In the Sundays of Ordinary Time this year the readings from the Gospel of Luke trace out this itinerary. Today's reading from this Gospel accompanies us "in a level stretch of land" (Luke 6:17), where Jesus pauses with the 12 and where a crowd of the other disciples and people from every part gather to listen to him. It is in this context that the proclamation of the "beatitudes" takes place (Luke 6:20-26; cf. Matthew 5:1-12). Jesus, looking upon his disciples, says: "Blessed are you poor... Blessed are you who hunger now... Blessed are you who weep now... Blessed shall you be when men hate you ... and reject your name" for my sake. Why does he call them blessed? Why will the justice of God see to it that they will be satisfied, joyous, compensated for every false accusation, in a word, why will it welcome them into his kingdom? The beatitudes are based on the existence of a divine justice, which raises up those who have been wrongly humiliated and casts down those who have been exalted (cf. Luke 14:11). In fact, the evangelist Luke, after the four blessings adds four admonishments: "Woe to you rich... Woe to you who are filled... Woe to you who laugh now..." and "Woe to you when all men speak well of you...," because, as Jesus states, things will be reversed, the last will be first, and the first last (cf. 13:30).

This justice and this beatitude are realized in the "Kingdom of Heaven," or the "Kingdom of God," which will be fulfilled at the end of time but is already present in history. Where the poor are consoled and admitted to the banquet of life, there God's justice is manifested. This is the task that the Lord's disciples are called to undertake even now in the present society. I think of the hostel of "Caritas" of Rome at the Termini Station that I visited this morning: From my heart I encourage those who work in such worthy institutions and those, in every part of the world, who freely engage in similar works of justice and love.

Justice is the theme that I have chosen for this year's Message for Lent, which will begin on Wednesday -- the day that we call Ash Wednesday. Today I would like to offer it to everyone, inviting all to read it and meditate on it. The Gospel of Christ responds positively to the thirst for justice in man, but in an unexpected and surprising way. Jesus does not propose a revolution of a social or political type, but one of love, which he has already realized with his cross and his resurrection. On these are founded the beatitudes, which propose a new horizon of justice, initiated by Easter, by which we can become just and build a better world.

Dear friends, let us turn to the Virgin Mary. All generations proclaim her "blessed," because she believed in the good news that the Lord announced (cf. Luke 1:45, 48). Let us allow ourselves to be led by her through the journey of Lent, to be liberated from the illusion of self-sufficiency, recognize that we need God, his mercy, and in this way enter into his Kingdom of justice, of love and of peace.
© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

11 February 2010

Another Edition

11 FEBRUARY 2010. Today, on the day set aside by the Church to celebrate Our Lady's apparition at Lourdes, we have this announcement: the first trimester is over! 

For anyone who may be interested, our third child is due in August (sometime between the 14th and the 19th). I pray that God will protect this innocent life and that He will grant us the grace and ability (and the energy) to be suitable parents of three, for His glory. Amen.

An old priest once told me: "One for Mama. One for Daddy. And, one for the Church!"

Litany of Our Lady of Lourdes

Lord have mercy; Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy; Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy; Lord have mercy.
Christ hear us; Christ graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven; Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world; Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit; Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God; Have mercy on us.
Holy Mary; Pray for us.
Holy Mother of God; Pray for us.
Mother of Christ; Pray for us.
Mother of our Savior; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, help of Christians; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, source of love; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, mother of the poor; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, mother of the handicapped; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, mother of orphans; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, mother of all children; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, mother of all nations; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, mother of the Church; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, friend of the lonely; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, comforter of those who mourn; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, shelter of the homeless; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, guide of travelers; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, strength of the weak; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, refuge of sinners; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, comforter of the suffering; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, help of the dying; Pray for us.
Queen of heaven; Pray for us.
Queen of peace; Pray for us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world; Spare us O Lord.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world; Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world; Have mercy on us.
Christ hear us; Christ graciously hear us.

Let us pray:

Grant us, your servants, we pray you,
Lord God, to enjoy perpetual
health of mind and body.
By the glorious intercession of Blessed Mary ever Virgin,
may we be delivered from present sorrows,
 and enjoy everlasting happiness.
Through Christ our Lord.


10 February 2010

Saint Scholastica

10 FEBRUARY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Scholastica, the twin sister of Saint Benedict and a nun who is, herself, the patron saint of nuns.

Nearly all that the Church knows today of Saint Scholastica comes from the Dialogues of Saint Gregory the Great. Saint Scholastica was born in Nursia, Italy in A.D. 480. As a nun, Saint Scholastica led a community of women in Plombariola, about five miles away from Saint Benedict's abbey at Monte Cassino. Although it is unknown what rule Saint Scholastica's community followed, it is believed by scholars that she followed the rule of her brother, Saint Benedict. So, Saint Scholastica is often referred to as the first Benedictine nun.

Tradition tells that Saint Scholastica was a faithful and holy youth. In fact, some accounts say that Saint Scholastica developed in holiness ahead of Saint Benedict.

As for an adult relationship between the sibblings Scholastica and Benedict, it is said that the two would visit with each other once a year outside of Saint Benedict's abbey. They would spend their time together engaged in prayer and in discussion of sacred texts and other sacred things.

One of the most well known accounts of Saint Scholastica's life is as follows: At the end of the day on the last of her annual visits with her brother, Saint Benedict, he insisted that it was time to leave to return to his cell. Scholastica asked him to stay through the night to continue their discussion, but Benedict refused. So, Saint Scholastica bowed her head in prayer (some accounts say she wept aloud) and, before long, a fierce windstorm assaulted the world outside their door. Saint Benedict asked, what have you done. Saint Scholastica replied, you said you would not leave. So I prayerdto my God for you to stay. Go on now, she said, if you can. Of course, the fierceness of the storm prevented Saint Benedict from leaving and they spent the night in discussion.

Then, according to Saint Gregory's Dialogues, three days later Saint Benedict, from his cell, saw his sister's soul rising to heaven in the form of a shining white dove.

Saint Scholastica's earthly remains were buried in a tomb that Saint Benedict had prepared for himself. Saint Benedict also made provision for his remains to be buried with those of his sister, which was at least initially done in accord with his wishes.

In art Saint Scholastica is often depicted as a nun in a habit, holding a crosier and a crucifix, or with a dove.


Spirit of the living God,
You continue to bless us with loving-kindness.
As Saint Scholastica prayed faithfully,
teach us to turn to You in our need.
As her soul was ready to fly into the sun like a dove,
may we be blest with a zest for life.
May we nurture the Benedictine values
among the people we meet.
We ask this through Jesus, the Christ
both now and forever.


08 February 2010

Saint Josephine Bakhita

8 FEBRUARY 2010. Today is the feast day (optional memorial) of Saint Josephine Bakhita, an African nun who endured the evil of slavery to offer herself to Christ in service to His Bride, the Church.

Saint Josephine was born in 1869 in the western Sudanese region of Darfur. Her family was locally important, as her father was the brother of the local chief, but at the age of 12 Josephine was kidnapped by Arab slave traders. After her abduction, Saint Josephine was sold and resold five times in the slave markets of North Africa. The trauma of these years was so intense that the saint forgot her given name. The name we venerate her by today is a combination of the Christian name she took for herself as an adult--Josephine--and the name her captors gave her--Bakhita, which means "lucky" in Arabic.

Saint Josephine suffered great brutality at the hands of her slave owners. She was truly broken by the anger and evil of the world as Christ was broken in the trauma of His passion. One time, the son of her owner beat her so badly that she lay motionless in bed for nearly a month. However, Saint Josephine later recounted that her most terrifying moment came at the hands of her fourth owner, who had her marked as his property by extensive scarring. A razor was used to make deep cuts along lines that had been drawn on her skin, then the wounds were filled with salt and flour to ensure scarring. For the rest of her life, Saint Josephine carried the more than sixty patterns that were cut into her skin in this manner.

Saint Josephine's final owner was an Italian diplomat who brought her to live with him and serve as a nanny for his daughter in Italy. In 1888 or 1889, the Saint Josephine's Italian owner left her and his daughter in the care of the Canossian Sisters in Venice while he went abroad on business for an extended period. In 1890, Saint Josephine was baptized. When the man returned to collect Saint Josephine and his daughter, Saint Josephine protested leaving and the head of the school notified the authorities. After a legal battle, the Italian courts determined that Saint Josephine was a free woman, as Sudan had outlawed slavery before her birth and Italian law did not recognize slavery.

On 8 December 1896 Saint Josephine professed vows with the sisters and in 1902 she was sent by her order to a convent in Schio, in the northern Italian province of Vicenza. Except for a period of several years spent training sisters to minister in Africa (1935-1938), Saint Josephine spent the rest of her life in Schio. At her convent, Saint Josephine usually served as a doorkeeper, greeting the local community every day. She was known for her gentleness and ever present smile, and was referred to lovingly as a nostra madre moretta ("our little brown mother").

Saint Josephine's order recognized her charisma and reputation for sanctity and asked her to write her memoirs and give talks about her experiences, which she did. After her biography was published in 1930, Saint Josephine became a noted and sought-after speaking, using her gifts and experiences to raise money for her order and its causes.

In her last years, Saint Josephine suffered from pain and sickness. Her mind was driven back to her early days of captivity in her delirium, and she would cry to have someone remove her chains. However, her last words were: "Our Lady! Our Lady!" Saint Josephine died on 8 February 1947. After her death, Saint Josephine's body lay in repose for three days as thousands of the faithful paid their respects.

Calls for Saint Josephine's canonization began immediately after her death. The process of canonization was begun in 1959. And, on 1 October 2000, the great and Venerable Pope John Paul II canonized Saint Josephine Bakhita.

Saint Josephine is the patron saint of Sudan.


Heavenly Father,
Your Son Jesus Christ, through His suffering and
death on the cross, gave Himself
as a gift of love for the reconciliation and salvation of all peoples.
He continues to express this love
by giving us St. Josephine Bakhita.
She too offered herself through her suffering in slavery.
We humbly pray that through her intercession
You may save her brothers and sisters in Sudan
from slavery and persecution.
May she obtain for her people and for the whole world
the gift of justice and peace.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.


07 February 2010

Dominican Anniversary of Deceased Parents

7 FEBRUARY 2010. Today the Dominican Order recognizes on its calendar the anniversary of deceased parents.
In this celebration we remember our parents who have preceded us with the sign of faith and rest in peace. The Dominican Family joins together to honor our deceased parents with the same affection we showed them in life, for in Christ they gave us birth and showed us what it means to be followers of Christ.
 Today I pray for my grandparents, Rosalie and Joel, and Evelyn and Ernest. Praise be to God, my parents, Sharon and Roy, are in good health and doing well.

Let us join our prayers today for all parents and grandparents who have been born into eternity before us.


O God, 
who hast commanded us to honor our father and our mother; 
in Thy mercy have pity on the soul(s) of N.
and forgive them their trespasses; 
and make me to see them again in the joy 
of everlasting brightness. 
Through Christ our Lord. 



7 FEBRUARY 2010. Today the Church celebrates Sunday of the fifth week in ordinary time. The readings for today's mass can be found here.

Here are today's questions for reflection: How well do we listen? Do we really hear what we would say we are listening to? And, if we are hearing in our listening, how do we respond?

Listening is an important aspect of each of today's readings, the psalms, and the Gospel passage. In the first reading from the Book of Isaiah, the prophet says he "heard the voice of the Lord." This hearing of God's voice followed Isaiah's vision of the Lord in which he heard the Seraphim crying to one another in praise of God. Then, the responsorial psalm begins with the words: "I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth . . . ." The psalmist is praising God for listening to his unworthy creation--unworthy, but for the love of God.

In the second reading from Saint Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle speaks of the Gospel message which he preached to the people, and which they "received," certainly meaning that they had listened to him. Finally, in the crowning act of today's Liturgy of the Word, we hear the passage from the Gospel of Saint Luke that begins by telling us that Jesus had to preach to the people  from a boat because they were pressing in on Him "listening to the word of God . . . ."

So, do we listen? Like the people on the shores of Lake Gennesaret, are we listening to the Word of God? Are we listening as Isaiah listened to the Lord? Do we listen--do we receive--as the Corinthians did from Saint Paul and the apostles? Do we listen as our Lord does?

To listen our hearts must be in the correct orientation--that is, our hearts must be disposed to God through prayer and faith. Hearts that are only of the world will not listen. Hearts of stone, made that way by a focus only on the acts of humankind, will not listen. I pray that we are listening. I pray that we are listening with attentiveness and are yearning to hear the Lord. For in this hearing we are not merely listening, but are ingesting the Word and making the Lord's word a part of ourselves.

If we hear, then, we cannot fail to be effected. While passive listening is possible, such passivity is not hearing. To hear we must engage. If we not only listen to the Lord and the Church, but also hear, our lives will reflect that hearing--that understanding and making our own what we hear is what distinguishes mere listening from hearing.

In the first reading we know that Isaiah heard the Lord because he reacted. He first acknowledged his own sinfulness by crying: "Woe is me. I am doomed!" He heard the Lord and the cries of the Seraphim and knew that he, in his own right as merely human, was not worthy of the Lord. The psalmist also hears the Lord, as he acknowledges that his salvation is found in the Lord--but a handful of words, but so important an acknowledgment of hearing: "Your right hand saves me . . . ."

In the second reading it appears clear that Saint Paul believed that the Corinthians not only listened to him, but also heard him: "I am reminding you, brothers and sisters, of the gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand." If the Corinthians stood in the faith they certainly heard the message of the apostle.

Finally, in the Gospel we know that Simon Peter, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, heard Christ Jesus. He spoke and they acted. To act in response to what is said means that true hearing has occurred. We cannot truly respond without hearing. To listen, to hear and understand, and then to act on what we have heard is the completion of the human acknowledgment of the Gospel that is provided to us today.

Peter and his partners put out into deep water and lowered their nets because Jesus commanded them to do so. This is in spite of Peter's protest that they had worked hard all night, but caught nothing. The response of the fishermen was rewarded with a catch so abundant that the two boats were in peril of sinking. But, remarkable as this response was to the command of the Lord, it is not the greatest response given by the Disciples in the Gospel. At the end of the Gospel it says: "When they brought their boats to the shore,they left everything and followed him."

Now we have arrived at what it is to listen, hear, and respond.

No matter the great catch of fish, upon arriving at the shore the Disciples left everything--the catch of fish too--and followed Jesus. They listened to the words of Jesus, they heard his commands, and they responded with their very lives--dedicating themselves to following the Lord. So, too, in Isaiah, when the Lord calls the prophet's answer is: "Here I am!" And, "[S]end me." Isaiah also responds to the Lord with his life.

What about us? How well do we listen to the Lord? Do we really hear what the Lord and the Church teach? And, do we respond with our lives? Understand that the Church does not teach that all of the faithful should become itinerant preachers or contemplatives or ordained or take religious vows. Instead, we are each called to respond to the Gospel--to the triune God the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit--in the circumstances we find ourselves in by living our lives with hearts that are turned to God. Eager to listen, ready to hear, and willing to turn over our lives to living in accord with the teachings of Christ.

To do this, first and foremost, we must pray. Prayer attunes our heart and our senses to God. Without prayer we are world-centered, when we are called, instead, to  be Christ-centered. Then, with a heart that is prepared by prayer, we must receive the sacraments. Those external signs of internal grace are necessary to sustain us in this world. Through prayer and the sacraments, then, we listen, we hear, and we respond.

Have a blessed Sunday.

NOVUS: Attending mass after writing this post, it also occurred to me (I don't know how I missed it) that there is also a striking resemblance between Isaiah's response to God and Simon Peter's response. Both begin, in the presence of the Lord, with a confession of failure and humility. Isaiah says: "Woe is me. I am doomed!" And Saint Peter, at the knees of Christ, says: "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." The humility of this response to God--a reflection of the gracious humility of our Lord in reaching to us to offer salvation--is striking. In both cases too, the Lord listens, hears, and reacts with perfect love. Isaiah's lips are made clean by the ember from the altar. So, too, Saint Peter is made a fisherman of men, worthy to follow Christ as His Apostle.

Prayer Before Connecting to the Internet

By Father John Zuhlsdorf
Omni­potens aeterne Deus,
qui secundum imaginem Tuam nos plasmasti
et omnia bona, vera, et pulchra,
praesertim in divi­na persona Unigeniti Fi­lii Tui
Domini nostri Iesu Christi, quaerere iussi­sti,
praesta, quaesumus,
ut, per intercessionem Sancti Isidori, Epi­scopi et Doctoris,
in peregrinationibus per interrete,
et manus oculosque ad quae Tibi sunt placita intendamus
et omnes quos conveni­mus cum caritate ac patientia accipiamus.
Per Christum Dominum nostrum.


Almighty and eternal God,
who created us in Thy image
and bade us to seek after all that is good, true and beautiful,
especially in the divine person
of Thy Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
grant, we beseech Thee,
that, through the intercession of Saint Isidore, Bishop and Doctor,
during our journeys through the internet
we will direct our hands and eyes
only to that which is pleasing to Thee
and treat with charity and patience all those souls whom we encounter.
Through Christ our Lord.


IMAGE: Saint Isidore by Murillo.

06 February 2010

Saints Paul Miki and Companions

6 FEBRUARY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Paul Miki, a Japanese Jesuit brother, and 25 others who were martyred in Nagasaki, Japan in A.D. 1597.

The first missionaries to Japan, including Saint Francis Xavier, arrived in 1549, and were welcomed by the Japanese people. Indeed, many Japanese converted to the faith because of the work of these missionaries. By A.D. 1587 there were more than 200,000 Japanese Christians. However, under the new leadership of Hideyoshi, who feared Christians would take over the government on the basis of a Spanish merchant's gossip, that year the missionaries were banished from Japan and many of the Catholic churches were destroyed. Following this purging, some missionary priests remained in Japan in hiding, dressing and living as Japanese, and continued to minister to the Christians there.

On 8 December 1596, Hideyoshi arrested and condemned to death the friars of Miako. These souls consisted of three Japanese Jesuit catechists, including Saint Paul Miki, six Franciscans (four of whom were Spanish and one Indian and one Mexican), and seventeen Japanese lay Christians, some of whom were children. The twenty-six men were tortured and made to march from Miako to Nagasaki through the snow and across frozen streams. On this spectacular journey meant to dissuade Japanese Christians from their faith, the martyrs sang psalms of praise and joy, prayed the rosary, and preached to those they passed. On 5 February the band of 26 Christians reached Nagasaki and found twenty-six crosses awaiting them on what is now called the Holy Mountain. Tradition tells that Saints Miki and his companions ran to their crosses. They were bound to the crosses by iron bands at the wrists, ankles, and the throat. Then, after being crucified, all of these Saints were stabbed with a lance as our Lord Jesus Christ was penetrated at His crucifixion. The blood-stained clothes of these martyrs were treasured by the Christian community in Japan and many miracles have been attributed to the intercessions of these saints.

Many people watched the crucifixion of Saints Miki and his companions. Hideyoshi and the government had hoped that this example of terrible execution would frighten the other Japanese Christians. Instead, the witness of these martyrs gave Christians in Japan the courage to profess their faith as Saints Miki and his companions had.

In A.D. 1858 Japan allowed Christian missionaries to return where they found many Christians still professing the faith, which they had carried on in secret in the more than two hundred years since the crucifixion of Saints Miki and his companions. 

At the time of his arrest Saint Paul Miki had completed his studies for the priesthood and would have become the first ordained Japanese priest. From his cross, tradition records that Saint Paul Miki forgave his executioners and told the assembled people to ask Christ to show them how to be truly happy. Saints Miki and his companions were canonized by Blessed Pope Pius IX in A.D. 1862.

(From the Liturgy of the Hours)

God our Father,
source of strength for all your saints,
you led Paul Miki and his companions
through the suffering of the cross
to the joy of eternal life.
May their prayers give us the courage
to be loyal until death in profession our faith.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, you Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


IMAGE: Unknown Artist (from Women for Faith & Family (St Louis: Women for Faith & Family, 2010 http://wf-f.org/StPaulMiki.html)).

05 February 2010

Saint Agatha

5 FEBRUARY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Agatha, a third century martyr, celebrated in the ancient Church, who continues to be an exemplar of devotion and love for Christ today.

Probably familiar to the many Americans of Italian heritage, especially from Southern Italy, Saint Agatha was born in Catania, Sicily and was martyred there in A.D. 251. Saint Agatha is only one of seven women, other than our Blessed Mother, that was commemorated by name in the canon of the mass (in the Novus Ordo, now called the Eucharistic Prayer) in the mass of Pope Pius V.

Not much historically is known of Saint Agatha. She has been venerated as a martyr and virgin in the Church since the third century, and her written legend comprises some of the earliest known hagiographic literature. What we do know of Saint Agatha comes from that literature.

Agatha was a beautiful and rich woman that lived a life that had been consecrated to God. However, she was amorously pursued by a Roman Prefect, Quinctianus, who was probably trying to gain sexual advantage of Agatha in exchange for protecting her from the edicts against Christians issued by the Emperor Decius. After rejecting the advances of Quinctianus, Agatha was persecuted by him. First she was given over to a woman who ran a brothel, and upon Agatha's refusal to succumb, she was beaten, tortured and imprisoned. Saint Agatha's breasts were crushed and cut off. One version of her hagiography tells of an apparition of Saint Peter visiting Saint Agatha and healing her. Saint Agatha was finally rolled naked on hot coals, and while she was undergoing this torture an earthquake struck, killing a friend of Quinctianus and causing Quinctianus to flea. One of the hagiographic accounts says that at Quinctianus' flight Saint Agatha thanked God for her suffering and die. Another account says that she was then returned to prison where she later died.

In any event, it is clear from tradition that Saint Agatha was a holy woman who was martyred for her love and faith in Christ. May we too, today, love Christ with such depth.

Saint Agatha is often depicted carrying her breasts on a platter . She is the patron of torture victims, Siciliy, and of women who suffer from breast cancer or other illnesses of the breasts.


Lord God,
Agatha always pleased you by her chastity
and in the end by her martyrdom.
May she obtain for us merciful pardon
for our sins.


IMAGE: Giovani Lanfranco (1582-1647), St. Peter Healing St. Agatha.

04 February 2010

Florida's Personhood Amendment: Not the Answer, But Don't Shy from Preaching the Gospel of Life

TALLAHASSEE, 5 FEB. 2010 (AS). For those currently uninformed of Florida politics (aside from that little dangling chad issue that the folks in South Florida had during the 2000 election cycle), there is a hot debate going on in Tallahassee over the proposed, so-called “Personhood Amendment” to the state constitution. The text of the amendment is as follows:
SECTION 28. Person Defined.--

(a) The words “person” and “natural person” apply to all human beings, irrespective of age, race, health, function, condition of physical and/or mental dependency and/or disability, or method of reproduction, from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.

(b) This amendment shall take effect on the first day of the next regular legislative session occurring after voter approval of this amendment.
The purpose of the Personhood Amendment, it appears, is to make all forms of abortion at any stage of development and in any circumstance illegal.

However, in the oddest pairing of political bedfellows, Planned Parenthood and Florida’s Catholic Bishops agree, although for vastly different reasons, that the Personhood Amendment is bad and should not be enshrined into the Florida Constitution.

Here is the statement of the Florida Catholic Bishops:
While we sincerely respect the goal to amend the Florida Constitution so as to acknowledge full human rights for every human being, after careful consideration we do not support the currently proposed amendment. It is our opinion, and that of the legal experts with whom we have consulted, that passage of this amendment would not achieve the goal of overturning Roe v. Wade.

If such an amendment were to pass, a feat more difficult in our state due to the requirement to achieve support by 60% of voters, we are convinced that a federal district court would strike it down based on Roe. This decision would undoubtedly be affirmed by an appellate court, and the case would either not be granted further review by today’s U.S. Supreme Court, or worse, lead to a reaffirmation of Roe. The unintended effect would very likely jeopardize current protections in state law and cause a loss of momentum in the ultimate goal of establishing full legal protection of the unborn from the moment of conception.

We remain of the view that it will be more prudent to pursue incremental measures that add to existing protections in law and help change hearts and minds. Thus, we continue our ongoing efforts with parental notice, clinic regulation, informed consent, partial birth abortion ban, requiring ultrasound before an abortion and funding for Pregnancy Support Services. Finally, it is our earnest hope that all people in the state who respect the great gift of human life will respect each other's efforts, and not let differing views over strategy overshadow our common heartfelt support for building a culture of life.
What Florida’s bishops are saying is this: The Personhood Amendment is not the right way to stem the availability of abortion on demand, and could have the unintended consequence of strengthening, politically or legally, the position of those who argue that “choice” is a right that cannot be derogated. The Bishop’s are making a political calculation that the breadth of the Personhood Amendment will give the pro-choice movement the great political opportunity to characterize those in favor of protecting life as “extreme,” but at the same time will fail, because of its breadth and vagueness, to achieve the actual end of making abortion illegal. As to failing in its ultimate end, legally, I agree with our bishops.

However, I would strongly urge the bishops not to shy from being called extreme. Do not settle for slowly eroding the false right of privacy that courts have recognized in the United States as the basis for abortion on demand by only legislating restrictions like parental consent, greater regulation of clinics, and outlawing the most heinous and infanticidal abortion methods. The faithful and the Church must stand for the morally-prevailing right to life in all cases and in all circumstances.

This message has been impressed upon us in the words of the great and Venerable Pope John Paul II to the bishops of the Church in 1991:
In the context of the numerous and violent attacks against human life today, especially when it is weakest and most defenseless, statistical data point to a veritable "slaughter of the innocents" on a worldwide scale. A source of particular concern, however, is the fact that people's moral conscience appears frighteningly confused and they find it increasingly difficult to perceive the clear and definite distinction between good and evil in matters concerning the fundamental value of human life.

However serious and disturbing the phenomenon of the widespread destruction of so many human lives, either in the womb or in old age, no less serious and disturbing is the blunting of the moral sensitivity of people's consciences . . . [I]t seems more urgent than ever that we should forcefully reaffirm our common teaching, based on sacred Scripture and tradition, with regard to the inviolability of innocent human life.

The church intends not only to reaffirm the right to life — the violation of which is an offense against the human person and against God the Creator and Father, the loving source of all life — but she also intends to devote herself ever more fully to concrete defense and promotion of this right. The church feels called to this by her Lord. From Christ she receives the "Gospel of life" and feels responsible for its proclamation to every creature. Even at the price of going against the trend, she must proclaim that Gospel courageously and fearlessly, in word and deed, to individuals, peoples and states.

All of us, as pastors of the Lord's flock, have a grave responsibility to promote respect for human life in our dioceses. In addition to making public declarations at every opportunity, we must exercise particular vigilance with regard to the teaching being given in our seminaries and in Catholic schools and universities. As pastors we must be watchful in ensuring that practices followed in Catholic hospitals and clinics are fully consonant with the nature of such institutions. As our means permit, we must also support projects such as those which seek to offer practical help to women or families experiencing difficulties or to assist the suffering and especially the dying. Moreover, we must encourage scientific reflection and legislative or political initiatives which would counter the prevalent "death mentality."
(Venerable Pope John Paul II, Letter to all the Bishops on the principle of the intangibility of human life, 19 May 1991.)

Bishops of Florida and everywhere, we the faithful implore you, be strong in your advocacy for the protection of life in the public sphere. Provide moral leadership on the issues of abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, embryonic stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, abortifacient contraceptives, and the death penalty. Preach the Gospel of life—the saving message of Christ that is sent to be victim for the innocent and most vulnerable. Stand strongly and firmly for life!

IMAGE: The logo of the Florida Catholic Conference.

The Holy Father's General Audience Address on St. Dominic

4 FEBRUARY 2010. Yesterday the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, gave an address on the life of Saint Dominic during his general audience in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. Below is the report on the address from the Vatican Information Service:
VATICAN CITY, 3 FEB 2010 (VIS) - In today's general audience, held in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, the Pope spoke about the life and work of St. Dominic de Guzman, founder of the Order of Preachers, or Dominican Order.

St. Dominic was born in Caleruega, near the Spanish city of Burgos, in the year 1170. While still a student he "distinguished himself for his interest in the study of Sacred Scriptures and his love for the poor". Having been ordained a priest he was elected as canon of the cathedral of Osma, however "he did not consider this as a personal privilege, nor as the first step in a brilliant ecclesiastical career; rather, as a service to be rendered with dedication and humility. Do not career and power represent a temptation to which even those who have roles of leadership and government in the Church are not immune?" the Pope asked.

He then explained how the bishop of Osma "soon noted Dominic's spiritual qualities and sought his collaboration. Together they travelled to northern Europe on diplomatic missions. ... On his journeys Dominic became aware of ... the existence of peoples still un-evangelised, ... and of the religious divides that weakened Christian life in the south of France, where the activity of certain heretical groups created disturbance and distanced people from the truth of the faith".

Pope Honorius III asked Dominic "to dedicate himself to preaching to the Albigensians" and he "enthusiastically accepted this mission, which he undertook through the example of his own life of poverty and austerity, through preaching the Gospel and through public discussions".

"Christ", the Pope went on, "is the most precious treasure that men and women of all times and places have the right to know and love! It is consoling to see how also in today's Church there are many people (pastors and lay faithful, members of ancient religious orders and of new ecclesial movements) who joyfully give their lives for the supreme ideal of announcing and bearing witness to the Gospel".

As more and more companions joined him, Dominic established his first house in the French city of Toulouse, from which the Order of Preachers came into being. "He adopted the ancient Rule of St. Augustine, adapting it to the requirements of an itinerant apostolic life in which he and his confreres would move from one place to another preaching, but always returning to their convents, places of study, prayer and community life".

St. Dominic, the Holy Father continued, "was keen that his followers should have a solid theological formation, and did not hesitate to send them to the universities of the time". There they dedicated themselves to the study of theology, "founded on Holy Scripture but respectful of the questions raised by reason".

The Pope encouraged everyone, "pastors and lay people, to cultivate this 'cultural dimension' of the faith, that the beauty of Christian truth may be better understood and the faith truly nourished, strengthened and defended. In this Year for Priests, I invite seminarians and priests to respect the spiritual value of study. The quality of priestly ministry also depends on the generosity with which we apply ourselves to studying revealed truths".

Dominic died in Bologna in 1221 and was canonised in 1234. "With his sanctity, he shows us two indispensable means for making apostolic activity more incisive", the Pope concluded; "firstly, Marian devotion", especially the praying of the Rosary "which his spiritual children had the great merit of popularising", and secondly, "the value of prayers of intercession for the success of apostolic work".
AG/ST. DOMINIC/... VIS 100203 (610)

The Canticle of the Passion

The Canticle of the Passion was revealed to Catherine de' Ricci immediately after her first great Ecstasy of the Passion. Our Lady desired Catherine to spread it as a form of prayer and contemplation pleasing to Our Lord. The Canticle is chanted in some Dominican monasteries on Fridays during Lent.


My friends and My neighbors * have drawn near and stood against Me.

I was delivered up and came not forth; * My eyes languished through poverty.

And my sweat became as drops of blood, * trickling down and upon the ground.

For many dogs have encompassed Me * the council of the malignant hath besieged Me.

I have given My body to the strikers * and My cheeks to them that plucked them.

I have not turned away My face from them that rebuked Me * and spit upon Me.

For I am ready for scourges, * and My sorrow is continually before Me.

The soldiers, plaiting a crown of thorns, placed it upon My head.

They have dug My hands and feet; * they have numbered all My bones.

And they gave Me gall for My food; * and in My thirst, they gave me vinegar to drink.

All they that saw Me laughed Me to scorn; * they have spoken with lips and wagged their heads.

They have looked and stared upon Me; * they parted My garments among them and upon My vesture they cast lots.

Into Thy hands I commend My spirit; * Thou has redeemed me, O God of truth.

Be mindful, O Lord, of Thy servants, * when Thou shalt come into Thy kingdom.

And Jesus having cried out with a loud voice * gave up the ghost.

The mercies of the Lord * I will sing for all eternity.

Surely He hath borne our infirmities * and carried our sorrows.

He was bruised for our sins.

All we, like sheep, have gone astray; * every one hath turned aside into his own way.

For the Lord hath placed upon him * the iniquities of us all.

Arise, why sleepest Thou, O Lord? * Arise and cast us not off to the end.

Behold, God is my Saviour, * I will deal confidently, and will not fear.

We beseech Thee, O Lord, help Thy servants * whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy Precious Blood.

V. Have mercy on us, O benign Jesus.
R. Who in Thy clemency didst suffer for us.

Look down, we beseech Thee, O Lord, on this Thy family for which Our Lord Jesus Christ did not hesitate to be delivered into the hands of the wicked, and suffer the torments of the Cross


Saint Catherine de' Ricci

4 FEBRUARY 2010. Today we celebrate the Memorial of Saint Catherine de' Ricci, a sixteenth century Dominican sister, mystic, and virgin.

Saint Catherine--by birth, Alessandra Lurcezia Romola de' Ricci--was born in Florence on 23 April 1522. Saint Catherine's mother died when she was a child, but she was raised by a devoted stepmother who encourage the young child's evident holiness and devotion to solitary prayer. At the age of 6, Saint Catherine's father placed her in the Monticelli convent, near the family home, where Saint Catherine received an education.  After a brief return home. Saint Catherine entered the Dominican convent of San Vincenzo in Prato, Tuscany. It was as a Dominican sister (professed, 1536) that Alessandra took the name of Catherine.

By the age of 25, Saint Catherine had risen to the post of perpetual prioress of the convent, where she lived until in her death.

Saint Catherine is mostly known to us today for her highly mystical and miraculous life. In February 1542, for the first time, Saint Catherine experience the great "Ecstasy of the Passion" which consumed her every week from Noon on Thursday until 4:00 p.m. on Friday. In this state, Saint Catherine experience the entire Passion of our Lord, actually realizing and showing forth to others all that our Blessed Mother suffered while witnessing the Passion.  The great Ecstasy of the Passion lasted  for 12 years until, at the prayers of Saint Catherine, herself, and her community, the ecstasies ended. At the time, the well known ecstasies of Saint Catherine were drawing so many people to Prato, that the prayerfulness and peace of the convent were being jeopardized.

As prioress of San Vincenzo, Saint Catherine was an effective and greatly admired administrator. She was an advisor to princes, bishops, and cardinals. And, she corresponded regularly with many well known people of her time, including three men that would later become pope: Pope Marcellus II, Pope Clement VIII, and Pope Leo XI. An expert on religion, management and administration, her advice was often eagerly sought. She gave counsel both in person and through writing letters.

Saint Catherine's mediation on the Passion of Christ was so deep that she spontaneously bled as though having been scourged. She bore the stigmata. And one of the miracles that was documented in her canonization was her miraculous appearance to Saint Philip Neri, appearing to him in Rome without having left her convent in Prato.

Following a lengthy illness, Saint Catherine died on 1 February 1590. She was canonized by Pope Benedict XIV in 1746.


Almighty God,
you brought our sister Catherine to holiness
through her contemplation of you Son's passion.
As we remember the dying and rising of your Son,
help us to become courageous preachers
and teachers of these mysteries.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, you Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


03 February 2010

Prayer to Saint Blase

O glorious Saint Blase, who by thy martyrdom didst leave to the Church a precious witness to the faith, obtain for us the grace to preserve within ourselves this divine gift, and to defend, without human respect, both by word and example, the truth of that same faith, which is so wickedly attacked and slandered in these our times. Thou who didst miraculously restore a little child when it was at the point of death by reason of an affliction of the throat, grant us thy mighty protection in like misfortunes; and, above all, obtain for us the grace of Christian mortification together with a faithful observance of the precepts of the Church, which may keep us from offending Almighty God. Amen.

02 February 2010

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

2 FEBRUARY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Here is today's Gospel reading:
When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord," and to offer the sacrifice of  "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons," in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: "Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel." The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
Lk 2, 22-40.

Today's feast occurs forty days after Christmas and, historically, is the last feast that is dated by reference to Christmas. Traditionally, the feast was referred to as Candlemas. On this day priests would bless beeswax candles for use in the church throughout the year and for distribution to the faithful. Since Vatican Council II, the feast has had the title of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the references to candles have been de-emphasized.

Venerable John Paul II connected today's feast with the renewal of religious vows. Here are the words of Venerable John Paul from his homily on today's feast in 2003:
Forty days after Christmas, the Church celebrates this stirring joyful mystery that, in a certain way, anticipates both the sorrow of Good Friday and the joy of Easter. In the Eastern Tradition this day is called the "Feast of the Meeting", because in the sacred space of the Temple of Jerusalem, the meeting takes place between God's graciousness and the expectation of the chosen people.

All this acquires in Christ an eschatological meaning and value: he is the Bridegroom who comes to accomplish the nuptial covenant with Israel. Many are called, but how many are effectively ready to receive him, with watchful minds and hearts (cf. Mt 22,14)? In today's liturgy we contemplate Mary, the model of those who wait and open their hearts in docility to the meeting with Lord.

3. In this light, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple is a very suitable day for the the appreciative praise of consecrated persons, and for some years the Day of Consecrated Life has rightly been observed on this day. The picture of Mary who in the temple offers the Son to God, speaks eloquently to the hearts of the men and women who have made a total offering of themselves to the Lord through the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for the Kingdom of Heaven.
On the 1962 liturgical calendar, for celebration of the Mass in the extraordinary form, today's feast is called the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, II class.

 IMAGE: FSSP in Urbe.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) we learn the following about the blessing of the candles and the procession which follows:
According to the Roman Missal the celebrant after Terce, in stole and cope of purple colour, standing at the epistle side of the altar, blesses the candles (which must be of beeswax). Having sung or recited the five orations prescribed, he sprinkles and incenses the candles. Then he distributes them to the clergy and laity, whilst the choir sings the canticle of Simeon, "Nunc dimittis". The antiphon "Lumen ad revelationem gentium et gloriam plebis tuæ Israel" is repeated after every verse, according to the medieval custom of singing the antiphons. During the procession which now follows, and at which all the partakers carry lighted candles in their hands, the choir sings the antiphon "Adorna thalamum tuum, Sion", composed by St. John of Damascus, one of the few pieces which, text and music, have been borrowed by the Roman Church from the Greeks. The other antiphons are of Roman origin. The solemn procession represents the entry of Christ, who is the Light of the World, into the Temple of Jerusalem. It forms an essential part of the liturgical services of the day, and must be held in every parochial church where the required ministers can be had. The procession is always kept on 2 February even when the office and Mass of the feast is transferred to 3 February. Before the reform of the Latin liturgy by St. Pius V (1568), in the churches north and west of the Alps this ceremony was more solemn. After the fifth oration a preface was sung. The "Adorna" was preceded by the antiphon "Ave Maria". While now the procession in held inside the church, during the Middle Ages the clergy left the church and visited the cemetery surrounding it. Upon the return of the procession a priest, carrying an image of the Holy Child, met it at the door and entered the church with the clergy, who sang the canticle of Zachary, "Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel". At the conclusion, entering the sanctuary, the choir sang the responsory, "Gaude Maria Virgo" or the prose, "Inviolata" or some other antiphon in honour of the Blessed Virgin.