21 March 2011

Prayer in Time of Need

O God help me!
Free me from this burden.
That, with your love alone supporting me,
I may ever seek and be united to your Divine Will.
But, not my request be answered--not my will be done,
but Yours. Yours alone.
Holy, living, and triune God.


19 March 2011

Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

19 MARCH 2011. While the commemoration of saints during the season of lent is more limited than at other times of the liturgical year, today we celebrate the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Those attending mass today will notice that the Lenten staple of violet (purple) vestments of the priest and deacon have been replaced by white.

Historically this date has long been reserved for Saint Joseph. By the tenth century several Western calendars noted the date of March 19 as dedicated to the commemoration of the patron of families. By A.D. 1479 the commemoration of Saint Joseph's day was observed in Rome, and Pope Saint Pius V extended the feast to the entire Roman Rite on 14 July 1570.

Mention of Saint Joseph first appears in the Gospels of Saint Matthew and Saint Luke, who trace Saint Joseph's Davidic lineage. However, the historical Joseph is a difficult figurer to pin down. Some traditions hold that he was an old widower who took Mary in as his wife to look after the young girl with child. Other traditions tell that Saint Joseph was probably about 18 or 19 years old when he was betrothed to Mary (She being about 15 or 16 years old). History, too, disputes Joseph's trade. While he is usually referred to today as a carpenter, the Gospel of Saint Matthew refers to Jesus as the son of a tekton--a general word that could be used to describe any maker of things. Some modern scholars thus cast Saint Joseph in the historical context of an itinerant worker-a more marginalized class of society--and other scholars believe that Saint Joseph may have been a skilled artisan and learned man. What does appear clear, however, is that Saint Joseph did not witness Jesus' public ministry. The last mention of the presence of Saint Joseph in the Gospels is Saint Luke's account of Joseph and Mary finding Jesus in the temple when he was about 12 years old. (Lk 2:41-51)

So, it appears that Saint Joseph died before the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. This is also historically supported by the fact that Joseph of Arimathea took charge of Jesus' body after His death on the cross--under Jewish custom this would have been Saint Joseph's charge--and the fact that Jesus, from the cross, entrusted Mary's care to Saint John, which would not have occurred if Saint Joseph had been alive. And, indeed, Catholic tradition tells that Saint Joseph died in the arms of Mary and Jesus.

However, what is most clear, regardless of Saint Joseph's age or trade, was that he was an essential element in the history of salvation--the necessary protector of Our Lady and the child Jesus at the moment of the Incarnation of the Word and afterwards. And, according to the writings of the great Pope Blessed John Paul II, it was Joseph's dedication to Christ, in the silent shroud of history, that truly shows the measure of the man:
The same aura of silence that envelops everything else about Joseph also shrouds his work as a carpenter in the house of Nazareth. It is, however, a silence that reveals in a special way the inner portrait of the man. The Gospels speak exclusively of what Joseph "did." Still, they allow us to discover in his "actions" - shrouded in silence as they are - an aura of deep contemplation. Joseph was in daily contact with the mystery "hidden from ages past," and which "dwelt" under his roof. This explains, for example, why St. Teresa of Jesus, the great reformer of the Carmelites, promoted the renewal of veneration to St. Joseph in Western Christianity.
The total sacrifice, whereby Joseph surrendered his whole existence to the demands of the Messiah's coming into his home, becomes understandable only in the light of his profound interior life. It was from this interior life that "very singular commands and consolations came, bringing him also the logic and strength that belong to simple and clear souls, and giving him the power of making great decisions-such as the decision to put his liberty immediately at the disposition of the divine designs, to make over to them also his legitimate human calling, his conjugal happiness, to accept the conditions, the responsibility and the burden of a family, but, through an incomparable virginal love, to renounce that natural conjugal love that is the foundation and nourishment of the family.
This submission to God, this readiness of will to dedicate oneself to all that serves him, is really nothing less than that exercise of devotion which constitutes one expression of the virtue of religion.
The communion of life between Joseph and Jesus leads us to consider once again the mystery of the Incarnation, precisely in reference to the humanity of Jesus as the efficacious instrument of his divinity for the purpose of sanctifying man: "By virtue of his divinity, Christ's human actions were salvific for us, causing grace within us, either by merit or by a certain efficacy."
Among those actions, the gospel writers highlight those which have to do with the Paschal Mystery, but they also underscore the importance of physical contact with Jesus for healing (cf. for example, Mk 1:41), and the influence Jesus exercised upon John the Baptist when they were both in their mothers' wombs (cf. Lk 1:41-44).
As we have seen, the apostolic witness did not neglect the story of Jesus' birth, his circumcision, his presentation in the Temple, his flight into Egypt and his hidden life in Nazareth. It recognized the "mystery" of grace present in each of these saving "acts," inasmuch as they all share the same source of love: the divinity of Christ. If through Christ's humanity this love shone on all mankind, the first beneficiaries were undoubtedly those whom the divine will had most intimately associated with itself: Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and Joseph, his presumed father.
Why should the "fatherly" love of Joseph not have had an influence upon the "filial" love of Jesus? And vice versa why should the "filial" love of Jesus not have had an influence upon the "fatherly" love of Joseph, thus leading to a further deepening of their unique relationship? Those souls most sensitive to the impulses of divine love have rightly seen in Joseph a brilliant example of the interior life.
(Pope Blessed John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos, delivered 15 August 1989).


Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that by Saint Joseph’s intercession
your Church may constantly watch over
the unfolding of the mysteries of human salvation,
whose beginnings you entrusted to his faithful care.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

12 March 2011

With Deepest Thanks: We Bid Farewell to Bishop Ricard

11 MARCH 2011. Here in the northwest corner of Florida, otherwise known as L.A. (Lower Alabama) or Red Hills Country, we have known and loved a shepherd of our local church for many years. However, it was announced today that the Holy Father has accepted Bishop John Ricard's request to retire for health reasons. Archbishop Thomas Wenski will serve as diocesan administrator until a new bishop is appointed by the Holy Father.

While Bishop Ricard came to us by way of the Archdiocese of the Baltimore in the Northeast, he is, indeed, one of us. Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he is a native of the Sunbelt and no stranger to our ways of culture and the peculiar, some would say, manners that we exhibit. "Yes Ma'm."

However, Bishop Ricard is indeed not just one of us. He has served us as an exemplar of Christian living that we aspire to--to truly place ourselves in service to our Lord through love for our neighbor. Bishop Ricard's love for his flock and his ministry and individuals that he addresses as a bishop--and as a fellow man--is evident. My first grade daughter loves Bishop Ricard--he probably does not know her name. She has only seen him at the hand full of school masses that he has celebrated at her school over the last two school years; but, she has gotten hugs from him and she tells me how much he loves her and all the school children.

The eyes and ears of babes are most attuned to love. The world has not yet impressed the callus of experience on their hearts.

God bless Bishop John Ricard now and in his future endeavors. He has notified the people of the diocese that he will return to St. Joseph Seminary in Washington, D.C. to serve as spiritual director there--"which will provide [him] a less rigorous ministry within the Church." Yet his service to the Church and the people of God will continue.

This Sunday, 13 March, there will be two farewell receptions at the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More following the 10:00 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. masses. All are welcome. I would encourage anyone who can attend to do so: please extend a warm hand--or hug--to our faithful pastor that has served the Church in this corner of the world so well.

09 March 2011

From The Holy Father's 2011 Lenten Message

During the entire Lenten period, the Church offers us God's Word with particular abundance. By meditating and internalizing the Word in order to live it every day, we learn a precious and irreplaceable form of prayer; by attentively listening to God, who continues to speak to our hearts, we nourish the itinerary of faith initiated on the day of our Baptism.

A Prayer at the Beginning of Lent

God bless us in this holy season:
to know thy Holy Will for us and seek true wisdom;
To have true fear of the Lord; and to seek holiness
in our actions.
For this we pray, that we your people, may offer ourselves:
our very lives, purposes, and beings to You,
the one Holy and Triune God.
In this season, we pray, that you may grant us
true contrition for our sins and,
unified with graces of the Sacrament of Reconciliation,
may we find You, O Lord, again
in the great Sacrament of the Mass,
through which we may truly offer You all praise
and thanksgiving,
for the passion, death, and resurrection
of dearly beloved Lord, Jesus Christ.


06 March 2011

Saint Euphrosyne

6 MARCH 2011. Today, the ninth Sunday in ordinary time, I spent some time reading from a work on the life of Saint Catherine of Siena. In that reading I came across mention of Saint Euphrosyne. The reading provided that Saint Catherine was called little Euphrosyne as a a child, a Greek name meaning joy or satisfaction. And, Saint Catherine, at one point in her youth, had set out from Siena to live in emulation of Saint Euphrosyne.

Legend tells us that Saint Euphrosyne was born in Alexandria, the only daughter of a rich man named Paphnutius, who desired to marry his daughter to a wealthy young man. Euphrosyne, however, had consecrated her life to God. Seeing no other way to thwart her father's intentions to marry her away, and keep her consecration to the Lord, Euphrosyne clothed herself as a man, taking the name of Smaragdus, and was admitted to the monastery near Alexandria. For 38 years Euphrosyne lived as a monk in the monastery.

Not long after entering the monastery, Euphrosyne--living as Smaragdus-- gained the attention of the abbot because of her rapid strides in living a perfect ascetic life. Afterwards, when Paphnutius approached the abbot for consolation over the loss of his daughter, the abbot chose Smaragdus to care for his spiritual needs. Although the father failed to recognize his daughter, he received from her helpful advice and comforting exhortation. However, not until near her moment of death did Smaragdus reveal herself to him as his lost daughter Euphrosyne.

Encouraged by the example of his daughter in bearing her life for Christ, Paphnutius himself entered the monastery after the death of Euphrosyne in about A.D. 470.

The feast day of Saint Euphrosyne is celebrated by the Latin Rite on 16 January (but, by the Carmelites on 11 February) and celebrated in the east on 25 September.

Modern scholarship indicates that the story of Saint Euphrosyne may be pious fiction that has been mistaken for history--calling into question the historical existence of Saint Euphrosyne and her father Paphnutius.