Sunday, October 31, 2010

All Saints Day

>>>All Saints Day is a wonderful tradition of the church and will not be a holy day of obligation in the U.S. because it falls on a Monday. Challenge yourself to make it to Mass tomorrow.

Also, for us in New Orleans All Saints day is the official birthday of the defending World Champion New Orleans Saints.

All About The Solemnity of All Saints

All Saints Day is when the Church commemorates all saints, known and unknown. The eve of All Saints is known as All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. All Saints Day is November 1.

Basic Facts About All Saints Day
Liturgical Color(s): White
Type of Holiday: Solemnity, Holy Day of Obligation (West); Feast (East)
Time of Year: November 1 (in the East, the Sunday after Pentecost)
Duration: One Day
Celebrates/Symbolizes: All Saints, known and unknown
Alternate Names: All Hallows, Hallowmas, Halloween
Scriptural References: Mark 12:26-27; Ephesians 6:18; Hebrews 12:1, Revelation 5:8

The Feast of All Saints is a holy day of the Church honoring all saints, known and unknown. This is much like the American holidays Veterans Day and Presidents Day, where many people are honored on one day. While we have information about many saints, and we honor them on specific days, there are many unknown or unsung saints, who may have been forgotten, or never been specifically honored. On All Saints Day, we celebrate these saints of the Lord, and ask for their prayers and intercessions. The whole concept of All Saints Day is tied in with the concept of the Communion of Saints. This is the belief that all of God's people, on heaven, earth, and in the state of purification (called Purgatory in the West), are connected in a communion. In other words, Catholic and Orthodox Christians believe that the saints of God are just as alive as you and I, and are constantly interceding on our behalf. Remember, our connection with the saints in heaven is one grounded in a tight-knit communion. The saints are not divine, nor omnipresent or omniscient. However, because of our common communion with and through Jesus Christ, our prayers are joined with the heavenly community of Christians. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 350) testifies to this belief:

We mention those who have fallen asleep: first the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition...(Catechetical Lecture 23:9).

The Catholic Catechism concisely describes this communion among believers, by which we are connected to Christ, and thus to one another:

"Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness...They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us...So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped."

" Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself: We worship Christ as God's Son; we love the martyrs as the Lord's disciples and imitators, and rightly so because of their matchless devotion towards their king and master. May we also be their companions and fellow disciples (CCC 956, 957)!

There are thousands of canonized saints, that is those individuals officially recognized by the Church as holy men and women worthy of imitation. Because miracles have been associated with these people, and their lives have been fully examined and found holy by the Church, we can be assured they are prime examples of holiness, and powerful intercessors before God on our behalf. There are also many patron saints, guardians or protectors of different areas and states of life. For instance, St. Vitus is the patron saint against oversleeping, and St. Joseph of Cupertino is the patron saint of air travelers. It may sound crazy to have a patron saint against oversleeping, but keep in mind the Church has something meaningful for every area of our human lives. All of these saints are celebrated throughout the year, as many have their own feast days (for instance, St. Hilary of Poitiers, whose feast day is celebrated January 13).

Christians have been honoring their saints and martyrs since at least the second century AD. The Martyrdom of Polycarp, probably written near the middle of the second century, attests to this reality:

Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more pure than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, so that when being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps (18).

Initially the calendars of saints and martyrs varied from location to location, and many times local churches honored local saints. However, gradually feast days became more universal. The first reference to a general feast celebrating all saints occurs in St Ephrem the Syrian (d. AD 373). St. John Chrysostom (d. AD 407) assigned a day to the feast, the first Sunday after Pentecost, where in the Eastern Churches the feast is celebrated to this day. In the West, this date was probably originally used, and then the feast was moved to May 13th. The current observance (November 1) probably originates from the time of Pope Gregory III (d. AD 741), and was likely first observed on November 1st in Germany. This fact makes the connection of the All Saints Feast with the pagan festival Samhain less likely, since Samhain was an Irish pagan feast, rather than German.

The vigil of the Feast (the eve) has grown up in the English speaking countries as a festival in itself, All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. While many consider Halloween pagan (and in many instances the celebrations are for many), as far as the Church is concerned the date is simply the eve of the feast of All Saints. Many customs of Halloween reflect the Christian belief that on the feast's vigils we mock evil, because as Christians, it has no real power over us. However, for some Halloween is used for evil purposes, in which many Christians dabble unknowingly. David Morrison explains the proper relationship between Christians and Halloween. Various customs have developed related to Halloween. In the Middle Ages, poor people in the community begged for "soul cakes," and upon receiving these doughnuts, they would agree to pray for departed souls. This is the root of our modern day "trick-or-treat." The custom of masks and costumes developed to mock evil and perhaps confuse the evil spirits by dressing as one of their own. Some Christians visit cemeteries on Halloween, not to practice evil, but to commemorate departed relatives and friends, with picnics and the last flowers of the year. The day after All Saints day is called All Soul's Day, a day to remember and offer prayers up on behalf of all of the faithful departed. In many cultures it seems the two days share many customs. See the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church for more information.

Homily 31st Sunday in O.T. October 31,2010

Little People Big World is a TV reality show that, I must admit, I enjoy. The show documents the life of the Roloff family. Both the mother and father are “little people” as is one of their sons. The other three children are what we call normal size. The show highlights the amazing accomplishments of the family who have overcome in many ways the disadvantages of being “little.” Without missing a beat, Matt and Amy Roloff raise their family, oversee their 34 acre farm and work in numerous charitable causes. I’m always amazed at how the tallest son is always helping his brother and parents if they can’t see over the crowd or need help in any physical endeavor.

Perhaps we all can remember what it is like in being short. When the passing Mardi Gras parades go by we see parents lifting children on shoulders and others use ladders so all can see.

As people of faith, what makes us short and prevents us from seeing Jesus? Does our shortness make us lost or do we seek Him who came to save us?

Today’s Gospel from St. Luke gives us another detour to Jericho, one of the wealthiest and important towns of its’ day. Because of this it became a haven for taxes. You think we have tax problems today? The citizens of Jericho paid high taxes and the tax collector was far from being respected. As Jesus passed through Jericho the crowds gathered to see him and so too did Zacchaeus, the short little tax collector. The crowd, who despised Zacchaeus was not going to make it easy for him and probably reveled in pushing further and further to the back of the crowd. Yet Zacchaeus desired to see Jesus to the point of climbing that sycamore tree. Perhaps deep down, Zacchaeus knew he was a sinner and in need of spiritual renewal. Perhaps the mere presence of Jesus was a sign to Zacchaeus that I must reform my life. Zacchaeus sought Jesus but the Gospel tells us that Jesus sought Zacchaeus too. As Jesus ordered him down from that tree and invited himself to his house what must he have thought? What was going on in the minds of the crowd? We hear that all complained about Jesus’ actions because He would be visiting with a sinner. And in his own way, Zacchaeus repents and offers to do penance and Jesus tells him that salvation has come to this house. Jesus clearly teaches all; He has come to save the lost.

This Gospel is such a beautiful lesson in describing the Sacrament of Reconciliation as well as its Eucharistic overtones. Many times we hear of those who return to the confessional after 5, 10, 25 years. Like Zacchaeus something, more correctly someone, compels us to seek Him. And then we realize, despite our absence, despite our sinfulness, Jesus is always seeking us. And we, once our sins are confessed, like Zacchaeus, are called to do penance. How do we approach penance? Is it a burden or a joy? Notice how Zacchaeus readily and joyfully offers his penance.

This passage is Eucharistic in the fact that Jesus calls Zacchaeus to stay under his roof and presumably, to share a meal. We gather together under one roof, to share a meal with Jesus. Our meal is Jesus, the Eucharistic banquet that Jesus commands us to partake of. Before we receive Jesus in Holy Communion we now say, Lord I am not worthy; soon, in the new translation of the Mass, we will say in our own language what we always said in the Latin: Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed. And these words come straight from Scripture as well when another, a centurion, sought Jesus.

So this week we go forth from our time with Jesus and pledge to give the whole week to Him. We should ponder and pray about our own reconciliation. Do we need to return to confession? Is there something left unconfessed? Is there a penance that I must do with joy? I am truly worthy to allow Jesus to come under my roof?

The Roloff family never lets their short stature prevent them from accomplishing great things. In many ways, they stand tall among many. Zacchaeus too could not be prevented from seeking and seeing Jesus. May we never allow our own shortness prevent us from seeking Jesus too! May salvation come to this house; our house!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Deo Gratias

One amazing thing about being Catholic on the Northshore of New Orleans is our very own St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College. This holy ground is tucked away on an beautiful road in rural St. Tammany civil parish and has been the home for Benedictine monks for 100 years.

On this site the Abbey operates a seminary college as well as a retreat center, bakery, gift shop and woodworking center. The college serves as the undergraduate stop for those pursuing the priesthood. Recent trends in college enrollment have been encouraging.

The retreat center is one of the best in the area and remains booked most weekends of the year.

The monks have a tradition of beautifully chanted prayers for morning, evening and night prayer. There has been no greater spiritual reflection time for me than sitting in the Abbey Church for vespers.

Tonight the Abbey was the sight for their annual fundraiser gala. Named Deo Gratias, latin for Thanks be to God, the evening starts with prayer; evening vespers in the Abbey church, and then heads out doors for a beautiful autumn evening of food, fun and dancing. Proceeds from this event support the expenses for the seminarians not met by basic fees and tuition.

Tonight was a great event; the first time I have attended Deo Gratias. I enjoyed talking with the monks and the seminarians and the hospitality was 1st class. The place is truly holy ground and every opportunity I have ever had to be there has been spiritually enriching.

If you ever get a chance to visit or support the Abbey, please do so. Learn more at:

Deo Gratias; Thanks be to God!

Opposing the death penalty = Catholic and pro-life

For pro-life cause, opposing death penalty comes down to God's mercy

By Nancy Frazier O'Brien
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As the 2010 edition of Respect Life Month drew to a close, the issue of capital punishment was once again in the world spotlight as the Vatican called on Iraq not to execute former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.

It might not be easy to advocate for the life of a convicted murderer or for someone like Aziz, sentenced to death by hanging for persecuting Shiite Muslims, but it is important to the pro-life cause, said Deirdre A. McQuade, assistant director for policy and communications in the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.

"It demeans our culture to use violence to answer violence, and it can only further undermine respect for innocent life," McQuade told Catholic News Service Oct. 27. "If the state can protect us without committing additional violence, that is the way we are called to go."

Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., made that point in one of the articles for this year's Respect Life program, linking the death penalty issue to the Catholic belief in divine mercy.

"God did not abolish justice. Rather, he intended by the offering of his Son to purge human justice of any sense of wrath or revenge," he wrote. "As we seek a reason to put aside the practice of the death penalty, perhaps the best motive is our desire to imitate God in his mercy toward those for whom Jesus died."

Bishop Finn's call came at a time when many others -- including members of law enforcement -- were calling for an end to or curtailing of the use of capital punishment.

Police Chief James Abbott of West Orange, N.J., said his six months serving on the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission changed his mind about the death penalty. He said he still believes in it in theory, but "no state has found a way to carry out the death penalty quickly and cheaply and also accurately."

"I ... know that in practice, (the death penalty) does more harm than good," he said at a mid-October forum at the National Press Club in Washington that brought together representatives of U.S. and European law enforcement.

"So while I hang on to my theoretical views, ... I stand before you to say that society is better off without capital punishment," Abbott added. "Life in prison without parole in a maximum-security detention facility is a better alternative."

Former Detective Superintendent Bob Denmark of Lancashire Constabulary in England said he investigated more than 100 homicides in the United Kingdom and genocide in Africa on behalf of the United Nations. In some of those cases, he was certain a defendant was guilty but was later proved wrong, he said.

He also said he did not think deterrence would have been a factor in the "vast majority" of the cases he investigated.

"If you were to use execution of killers as a deterrent, I think you would end up having to execute every killer in the hope that you might deter some potential killer in the future," Denmark said.

A national poll of police chiefs last year found that they considered the death penalty an inefficient use of taxpayer resources and would prefer more state and federal funding go to improving law enforcement resources and providing treatment for drug and alcohol problems.

A San Francisco-based group called Law Enforcement and Judges for Alternatives to the Death Penalty says California could save at least $125 million a year by abandoning the capital punishment option in favor of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

California currently has more than 680 people on death row, and housing a prisoner on death row costs $90,000 more each year than housing that same prisoner in a maximum-security prison, the group says. Other additional costs incurred because of the death penalty are associated with the trials and required appeals in death penalty cases.

In Texas, where 464 people have been executed since 1976, including 17 of the 43 executed in the United States this year, Anthony Graves was freed Oct. 27 after 18 years in prison, including 12 on death row, for a crime that prosecutors say he did not commit.

Students and professors from the University of Houston Law School and the University of St. Thomas in Houston helped gather the evidence that led to Graves' exoneration.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, nearly 140 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence since 1973.

But for Catholics, the central reason for opposing the death penalty does not have to do with the possibility of killing an innocent person, the deterrence factor or the economic costs of capital punishment. Instead, it is related to respect for the dignity of human life and divine mercy.

Those who believe in Christ "never see anyone as irredeemably wicked," McQuade said. "God's mercy extends to all of us."

The U.S. bishops, who have been advocating against capital punishment for more than 25 years, began an ongoing Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty in 2005. The Respect Life program has been featuring the issue of capital punishment every few years since the program began in 1972, McQuade said.

But this is the first time a Respect Life article has focused on "the spiritual dynamics" of the issue, she said.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween: innocent or evil?

>>>I posted this last year; my 1st Halloween as a Catholic Permanent Deacon and my 1st Halloween as a Catholic blogger. Halloween really drives me crazy because adults hijack it, many abuse it and some claim we are worshipping the devil. Some people are wound too tight. Read on and enjoy!


The Real Story!

Father Augustine Thompson, O.P.,

We’ve all heard the allegations. Halloween is a pagan rite dating back to some pre-Christian festival among the Celtic Druids that escaped Church suppression. Even today modern pagans and witches continue to celebrate this ancient festival. If you let your kids go trick-or-treating, they will be worshiping the devil and pagan gods.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The origins of Halloween are, in fact, very Christian and rather American. Halloween falls on October 31 because of a pope, and its observances are the result of medieval Catholic piety.

It’s true that the ancient Celts of Ireland and Britain celebrated a minor festival on Oct. 31 — as they did on the last day of most other months of the year. However, Halloween falls on the last day of October because the Feast of All Saints or "All Hallows" falls on Nov. 1. The feast in honor of all the saints in heaven used to be celebrated on May 13, but Pope Gregory III (d. 741) moved it to Nov. 1, the dedication day of All Saints Chapel in St. Peter’s at Rome. Later, in the 840s, Pope Gregory IV commanded that All Saints be observed everywhere. And so the holy day spread to Ireland. The day before was the feast’s evening vigil, "All Hallows Even" or "Hallowe’en." In those days, Halloween didn’t have any special significance for Christians or for long-dead Celtic pagans.

In 998, St. Odilo, the abbot of the powerful monastery of Cluny in Southern France, added a celebration on Nov. 2. This was a day of prayer for the souls of all the faithful departed. This feast, called All Souls Day, spread from France to the rest of Europe.

So now the Church had feasts for all those in heaven and all those in purgatory? What about those in the other place? It seems Irish Catholic peasants wondered about the unfortunate souls in hell. After all, if the souls in hell are left out when we celebrate those in heaven and purgatory, they might be unhappy enough to cause trouble. So it became customary to bang pots and pans on All Hallows Even to let the damned know they were not forgotten. Thus, in Ireland, at least, all the dead came to be remembered — even if the clergy were not terribly sympathetic to Halloween and never allowed All Damned Day into the Church calendar.

But that still isn’t our celebration of Halloween. Our traditions on this holiday centers around dressing up in fanciful costumes, which isn’t Irish at all. Rather, this custom arose in France during the 14th and 15th centuries. Late medieval Europe was hit by repeated outbreaks of the bubonic plague — the Black Death — and she lost about half her population. It is not surprising that Catholics became more concerned about the afterlife. More Masses were said on All Souls’ Day, and artistic representations were devised to remind everyone of their own mortality.

We know these representations as the "Dance Macabre" or "Dance of Death," which was commonly painted on the walls of cemeteries and shows the devil leading a daisy chain of people — popes, kings, ladies, knights, monks, peasants, lepers, etc. — into the tomb. Sometimes the dance was presented on All Souls’ Day itself as a living tableau with people dressed up in the garb of various states of life. But the French dressed up on All Souls, not Halloween; and the Irish, who had Halloween, did not dress up. How the two became mingled probably happened first in the British colonies of North America during the 1700s when Irish and French Catholics began to intermarry. The Irish focus on hell gave the French masquerades and even more macabre twist.

But, as every young ghoul knows, dressing up isn’t the point; the point is getting as many goodies as possible. Where on earth did "trick or treat" come in?

"Trick or treat" is perhaps the oddest and most American addition to Halloween, and is the unwilling contribution of English Catholics.

During the penal period of the 1500s to the 1700s in England, Catholics had no legal rights. They could not hold office and were subject to fines, jail and heavy taxes. It was a capital offense to say Mass, and hundreds of priests were martyred.

Occasionally, English Catholics resisted, sometimes foolishly. One of the most foolish acts of resistance was a plot to blow up the Protestant King James I and his Parliament with gunpowder. This was supposed to trigger a Catholic uprising against their oppressors. The ill-conceived Gunpowder Plot was foiled on Nov. 5, 1605, when the man guarding the gunpowder, a reckless convert named Guy Fawkes, was captured and arrested. He was hanged; the plot fizzled.

Nov. 5, Guy Fawkes’ Day, became a great celebration in England, and so it remains. During the penal periods, bands of revelers would put on masks and visit local Catholics in the dead of night, demanding beer and cakes for their celebration: trick or treat!

Guy Fawkes’ Day arrived in the American colonies with the first English settlers. But, buy the time of the American Revolution, old King James and Guy Fawkes had pretty much been forgotten. Trick or treat, though, was too much fun to give up, so eventually it moved to Oct. 31, the day of the Irish-French masquerade. And in America, trick or treat wasn’t limited to Catholics.

The mixture of various immigrant traditions we know as Halloween had become a fixture in the Unites States by the early 1800s. To this day, it remains unknown in Europe, even in the countries from which some of the customs originated.

But what about witches? Well, they are one of the last additions. The greeting card industry added them in the late 1800s. Halloween was already "ghoulish," so why not give witches a place on greeting cards? The Halloween card failed (although it has seen a recent resurgence in popularity), but the witches stayed. So, too, in the late 1800s, ill-informed folklorists introduced the jack-o’-lantern. They thought that Halloween was druidic and pagan in origin. Lamps made from turnips (not pumpkins) had been part of ancient Celtic harvest festivals, so they were translated to the American Halloween celebration.

The next time someone claims that Halloween is a cruel trick to lure your children into devil worship, I suggest you tell them the real origin of All Hallows Even and invite them to discover its Christian significance, along with the two greater and more important Catholic festivals that follow it.

Pope Benedict on voting

>>>So this is what the Pope thinks about Catholics voting. Please note the words in brackets are those of the author not the Pope.

Pope on eve of elections: bishops and priests must encourage laity to vote against abortion!

by Thomas Peters

Brazil is facing a historic election this weekend, but the advice Pope Benedict gave to the bishops of that country today also applies to us in the United States as we prepare to go to the polls next Tuesday – emphasis and bracketed comments are my own:

Bishops must guide their faithful to use their vote to oppose efforts to legalize abortion and euthanasia, Pope Benedict XVI told bishops from Brazil.

“Dear brother bishops, to defend life we must not fear hostility or unpopularity, and we must refuse any compromise or ambiguity which might conform us to the world’s way of thinking,” the pope said Oct. 28 during a meeting with bishops from northeast Brazil.

… Pope Benedict told the Brazilian bishops that while direct involvement in politics is the responsibility of the laity [that's where the Catholic Vote comes in!], “when the fundamental rights of the person or the salvation of souls requires it, pastors have a serious duty to make moral judgments even in political matters [there is no "space" that is free from our obligations as Christians - not even the voting booth].”

… While some may claim they support abortion or euthanasia to defend the weak and the poor, “who is more helpless than an unborn child or a patient in a vegetative or terminal state?” he said.

“When political positions openly or covertly include plans to decriminalize abortion and euthanasia, the democratic ideal – which is truly democratic only when it acknowledges and safeguards the dignity of every human person — is betrayed at its foundations,” Pope Benedict told the bishops. (CNS)

Concluding message:

Bishops and priests have an obligation to help Catholic laity live in a way that that is faithful to the Gospel in every aspect of their lives, including their political choices, he said. “This also means that in certain cases, pastors should remind all citizens of their right and duty to use their vote to promote the common good,” the pope said.

The pope is being careful in his message to be completely clear: bishops and priests have the “obligation” to do this – to speak to the Catholic faithful about the importance of voting in a democratic election against any candidate who will “covertly” or explicitly expand abortion and euthanasia.

We all have our marching orders - Bishops ought to encourage the laity through the means of communications at their disposal to vote with a properly-formed Catholic conscience. Priests ought to encourage their parishioners – yes, from the pulpit – to vote with a properly-formed Catholic conscience.

And WE, the Catholic faithful, have a sacred obligation to take our Catholic conscience into the voting booth and vote down candidates who, in their support of abortion and euthanasia, betray the democratic ideal at its foundations, because (as the pope says) a true democracy is only realized when it “acknowledges and safeguards the dignity of every human person.”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Two Apostles Feast Day in one: Simon & Jude

Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles
Old Calendar: Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles
Today the Church celebrates the feast of Sts. Simon and Jude whose names occur together in the Canon of the Mass and are also celebrated on the same day. Possibly this is because they both preached the Gospel in Mesopotamia and Persia where it is said they had both been sent, but in actual fact we know nothing for certain about them beyond what is told us of their being called as Apostles in the New Testament. St. Jude is the author of a short Epistle which forms part of the New Testament.


Sts. Simon and Jude
However meagre in details is the history of these glorious apostles, we learn from their brief legend how amply they contributed to this great work of generating sons of God. Without any repose, and even to the shedding of their blood, they "edified the body of Christ"; and the grateful Church thus prays to our Lord today: "O God, through the work of the apostles you have spoken your Word of love, your Son, into our world's deafness. Open our ears to hear; open our hearts to heed; open our will to obey, that we may proclaim the good news with our lives."

St. Simon is represented in art with a saw, the instrument of his martyrdom. St. Jude's square points him out as an architect of the house of God. St. Paul called himself by this name; and St. Jude, by his Catholic Epistle, has also a special right to be reckoned among our Lord's principal workmen. But our apostle had another nobility, far surpassing all earthly titles: being nephew, by his father Cleophas or Alpheus, to St. Joseph, and legal cousin to the Man-God, Jude was one of those called by their compatriots the brethren of the carpenter's Son. We may gather from St. John's Gospel another precious detail concerning him. In the admirable discourse at the close of the last Supper, our Lord said: "He that loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father: and I will love him and will manifest Myself to him." Then Jude asked Him: "Lord, how is it, that Thou wilt manifest Thyself to us, and not to the world?" And he received from Jesus this reply: "If any one love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and will make Our abode with him. He that loveth Me not keepeth not My word. And the word which you have heard is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me."

The churches of St. Peter in Rome and Saint-Sernin at Toulouse dispute the honor of possessing the greater part of their holy remains.

Excerpted from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.

St. Jude
Patron: Desperate situations; forgotten causes; hospital workers; hospitals; impossible causes; lost causes; diocese of Saint Petersburg, Florida.

Symbols: Bearded man holding an oar, a boat, boat hook, a club, an axe or a book; nearly every image depicts him wearing a medallion with a profile of Jesus, and usually with a small flame above his head; often carries a pen or sits at a writing location to make reference to the canonical Epistle; sailboat; inverted cross; square; halbert; club; loaves and fish; long cross; knotted club; boat hook; fuller's bat; lance; saw; flail; closed book; shield: red with sailboat with a cross on the mast.

St. Simon
Patron: Curriers; sawmen; sawyers; tanners.

Symbols: Boat; fish; man being sawn in two longitudinally; fish and book; oar; saw; two fishes; lance; fuller's bat; axe; cross; saw and oar saltire; fish on a boat hood; sword; shield: red background with two oars and a hatchet.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Good article on upcoming changes in the Mass

What's new about the Eucharistic Prayers?
The Mass will look the same but sound different
By: Francis L. Agnoli

Roman Catholics in the United States will soon begin using the newly-translated third edition of the Roman Missal. The implementation
date is set for November 27, 2011—the First Sunday of Advent. While the structure of the Mass is not changing, there have been additions to the Missal (e.g., new Saints, new prayers) as well as minor adjustments to the rubrics (or directions). In addition, our approach to translation has shifted. Therefore, while the Mass will look the same, it will sound different—more formal, varied, poetic, inclusive, and concrete—and more clearly reflective of its Scriptural origins. In this article, we briefly look at only one part of the Mass: the Eucharistic Prayer.

The preface

The preface begins with the greeting between the priest and the people; but in response to, “The Lord be with you,” we will now say, “And with your spirit.” Most language groups, like Spanish, already use this response, which might help build a deeper sense of unity in multicultural parishes.

This dialogue is used whenever an ordained minister is about to do something significant in the Mass—begin the liturgy, proclaim the gospel, pray the Eucharistic Prayer, bless and dismiss the assembly. The priest prays that God’s spirit be with us to do what we are called to do: celebrate the liturgy. In response, we acknowledge that this person has been ordained to lead us in sacramental worship, praying that the particular spiritual gift given to him at ordination would enable him to fulfill his vocation in the church.

In response to “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,” we will now respond, “It is right and just.” This reminds us that it is not only good to give thanks to God, but that it is our baptismal duty as well. In addition to being more inclusive, this phrase will lead directly into the next part of the preface, which will now begin, “It is truly right and just….” In a sense, the people will hand the priest the words with which to open the Eucharistic Prayer, the prayer he will pray out loud on their behalf, and to which the people (not the priest) at its conclusion will respond, “Amen!”

The only change in the Sanctus (Holy, Holy) is in the opening line, which will now more accurately reflect the ancient prayer of the church, based on Isaiah 6:3, by referring to “Lord God of hosts” (as in “Silent Night” and the angelic beings which surround God, not Communion hosts).

The institution narrative

In reference to the bread, the priest will say: “Take this, all of you, and eat of it…,” a reminder that we are sharing in something that is beyond us individually and even beyond the community gathered for that particular Mass. Rather than “cup,” we will hear the word “chalice,” not to refer to what Jesus literally used at the Last Supper but in order to reflect a specific vocabulary that says something is different here.

Currently, we pray that Christ’s blood “will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.” The new translation will read: “which will be poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins.”

The first change, from “shed” to “poured out,” will make for a more poetic connection between the blood of Christ on the cross and the Blood of Christ (consecrated wine) in the Eucharist. The second change—the translation of the Latin phrase, pro multis—has received particular attention.

This translation does not mean that Christ did not die for everyone—as the Scriptures (Jn 11:52; 2 Cor 5:14-15; Ti 2:11; 1 Jn 2:2), the dogmatic teaching of the church (Catechism of the Catholic Church 624, 629), and the Eucharistic Prayers themselves (in their inclusive prayers for the dead) make clear.

Scriptural (Mt 26:28, Mk 14:24), historical, and ecumenical reasons undergird this change, but it is the theological reasoning that is most important pastorally. While salvation is offered to all, not all will accept God’s gift. Hopefully, as we hear these words, we will be reminded of our need to respond to that gift as well as the degree to which God will go to respect our freedom.

The mystery of faith

By translating the Latin more faithfully, the new Missal clarifies the dialogical nature of this exchange: the priest says one thing (“The mystery of faith”) and the rest of us respond in one of three ways.1 The new translations of the acclamations highlight the fact that we are addressing Christ (in the rest of the Mass, we address the Father) and make the Scriptural roots (1 Cor 11:26, Jn 4:42) easier to grasp.

One final comment

The new Missal, while not perfect, is the next step in our church’s long history of seeking how we are to worship God in our particular time and place.

We need to be patient with one another and with the process of implementation; change is difficult and often engenders strong feelings.

New texts will feel clumsy at first; and, while it will take time to get used to them, they will become our prayers—in the depths of our bones—just the way that the prayers we are using now became ours over time. We have the privilege of being the generation to receive the gift of a new Missal. I hope that we can do so with gratitude, charity, and humility.

1The familiar “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” is a United States adaptation that was not approved for inclusion in the third edition of the Missal because, unlike the other acclamations, it is not addressed directly to Christ.

Show coaching; I want you to show me the way!

I want you to show me the way! Remember these lyrics from Peter Frampton. I wonder if he ever heard of show coaching? Let me explain:

Everyday I take all my gifts, limitations, time and talent to work. As a Permanent Deacon I do indeed have a "day" job. So I take my ministry with me too because being a Deacon is not a job and is most definetly not something to turn on and turn off. Yet off to work I must go to make a living, to provide for my family and to do the job required of my employment.

Among the many tools we employ at work to achieve our goals is something called show coaching. Basically we are talking about coaching an associate, colleague or co-worker and showing them what you mean. It's sort of like walking the walk and not just talking the talk. Done well, show coaching inspires the one being coached, in part, because the coach is willing to put themselves in the other's shoes. The coach is humbling themselves to make the experience real.

Maybe we should promote show coaching in our faith life. Recently I have had the opportunity to be involved with CCD children from the very young to those recently confirmed. I've given tours of the church to the students, answered their questions, prepared talks and engaged parents in all these processes. It seems to me; we need show coaching.

As parents, catechists, teachers, clergy, adults we need to show our youth what our faith truly means to us; how our faith truly sustains us. On the one hand we should instruct our young on the basic tenets of the faith, our prayers, Scripture, the Catechism. And on the other hand, we should show them. We can't send our kids to CCD and then not practice what they learn. We cant' explain being Catholic to our kids and not take them to Mass. We can't expect them to pray if we don't pray with them. How can they understand reconciliation if they don't see mom & dad going to reconciliation? We can't expect our children to know Scripture and learn to love the Word of God if we don't know Scripture and love the Word of God.

You get my drift by now. And the best way we can show coach our youth is by the life we live; everyday, all the time. In those exciting moments of life's great surprises and joys to the everyday mundane to even those times when life hurts, or feels empty or sad; they must see us as faith filled people.

Do our youth, by our actions, know that we love God; that He is first in our lives? Do they know that Jesus is our Lord & Savior by our words and deeds? Do we truly show them the way?

With properly implemented show coaching, as a team, we accomplish so much more at work for both our associates and our clients. We build profitable, long-lasting and deep relationships. How much more will show coaching in our lives about faith, God, the Church, lead to profitable, long-lasting and deep relationships that produce both a life well lived and the hope and promise of eternal life!

I want you to show me the way!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wailing and gnashing of teeth

There is a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth in the deep south tonight. The world champion Saints are flat and today got beat up by a bad football team that found a way to win playing inspiring football. In the interest of self disclosure I must admit to my fair share of whining, complaining and down right disgust at today's events. The Saints are playing poorly and Drew Brees is so out of sync it's not even funny. The injuries in both the offensive and defensive backfield as well as a key linebacker are taking a toll. But the real dilema for all Saints fans is just the all out uninspiring play of a team that took all of us on a magic carpet ride that brought home the world championship and made a city proud in the post-Katrina reality.

But try as I might, I hope to keep things in perspective going forward. First, I've been here before. As a Saints fan that has attended a game in every decade the Saints have existed, I've seen the good the bad and the ugly. And over 44 years there has been much more bad and ugly. But the good; the very good of last years Super Bowl is a memory that will last forever. Maybe the disappontment and frustration of this season is beacuse last season was so special. Naturally we all want to experience it over and over again.

Tonight, in a much calmer mood, I've been reminded of many things that count so much more than football; even for a passionate fan. Assisting at Mass tonight was the perfect remedy for a disaffected football fan. Seeing the big picture always helps. I saw a daughter of a dear friend tonight who is having her first baby, I got to visit with one of my deacon candidate friends after Mass. And tonight found out about a few friends dealing with some medical issues; again proper perspective.

We do escape to things like football and other hobbies, entertainment to help us cope with life. Hopefully we never allow these things to take the place of God and our faith. So let the wailing and gnashing of the teeth continue. I'm going to try to keep all of this in perspective going forward. Geaux Saints for sure but for my joy and peace I'll geaux to God. His winning streak is eternal!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Archbishop Aymond at local prayer breakfast

Archbishop Gregory Aymond urges 400 at Kenner prayer breakfast to work for change
Published: Friday, October 22, 2010
Mary Sparacello, The Times-Picayune

Instead of "playing the blame game," Archbishop Gregory Aymond said people should instead ask how they can make a difference!

"Cynicism can bring us down," said Aymond, the featured speaker at Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni's prayer breakfast Friday morning. Aymond said it's "always impressive for me when servants of the people are bold enough" to gather to pray.

Such a fast-paced world, he said, can make it easier to "nudge God out of our lives."
He said that there are good reasons for the separation of church and state but that both have common goals.

"Whether we are the church or the government, we're interested in the common good," Aymond said.

Aymond, who was named archbishop of New Orleans last summer, shared some of his major concerns. He said he is worried for young adults, facing temptations including texting, sexting, bullying, alcohol and drugs. Some of those temptations didn't exist when many in the audience were younger, he said.

He encouraged giving youth quality time, saying we "look to them to be the leaders of tomorrow." "We must see them as a priority."

More than 400 people attended the breakfast and proceeds will go to the Kenner Food Bank, according to Valerie Waguespack, an executive assistant in Yenni's office.

Another St. Mary

>>>Kind of surprised not a bigger deal made of this Saint's feast day; a witness to the crucifixion and resurrection!

Saint of the Day: St. Mary Salome

Wife of Zebedee. Mother of Saint John the Apostle, and Saint James the Greater. May have been a cousin of the Blessed Virgin Mary. One of the "three Marys," the holy women who ministered to Jesus during his earthly ministry, and may have accompanied him on his travels. Witnessed Christ's death on the cross, his entombment, and his resurrection. Mark mentions Salome as one of the women who came to anoint the body of Jesus on the morning of the Resurrection.

Legend says that after the Resurrection she went to Veroli, Italy and spent the rest of her life there spreading the Good News.

Like the Jewish greeting "Shalom" and the Arab "Salaam," Salome is based on an Aramaic word meaning health and peace. It would be hard to think of a more fitting name for a mother.

It is quite probable that Salome was the sister of the Blessed Virgin, and it is certain that she was the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James the Greater and John the Evangelist (Matthew 20:20; 27:56). In the Gospel of St. Matthew (20:20ff) it is written: "Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Him with her sons and did Him homage, wishing to ask Him for something. He said to her, 'What do you wish?' She answered Him, 'Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at Your right and the other at Your left, in Your kingdom.'"

Salome was one of the women who followed Jesus and served him (Mark 15:41), witnessed His Crucifixion and death at Calvary (Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40), and who brought spices to embalm him on Easter morning (Mark 16:1ff) (Delaney, Encyclopedia).

In art, Mary Salome is shown with her two sainted children (James and John) in her arms. Occasionally Mary Salome is present at the Nativity because there is a legend that the doubting Salome was a midwife, who came, unbelieving, to the stable at Bethlehem and was converted (cf. Jameson, Legends of the Madonna). Sometimes Mary Salome together with Mary Cleophas support the Virgin at the Crucifixion or they are present with Mary Magdalene at the Resurrection. (CNA)

Poweful acknowledement of the role of the Permanent Deacon

>>>Thanks to the Deacon's Bench; awesome article by an Archbishop who values the Permanent Diaconate!

Before the cross Permanent deacons witness to the Lord’s ministries.Submitted on October 20, 2010
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson

Last year when Pope Benedict XVI met with the permanent deacons of the Diocese of Rome, he recalled an incident that occurred at the Second Vatican Council. Each day when the council was in session, the Gospel was enthroned to demonstrate that the council’s proceedings were subject to the authority of God’s Word. One day, Pope Paul VI told those in charge of the opening ceremony that at least one time he would like to be the person who enthroned the Gospel. The liturgists told him no, this is the job of a deacon, not the pope. Pope Paul responded, “But I am also a deacon, I continue being a deacon, and I would like to exercise the ministry of the diaconate placing the Word of God on its throne.”

By telling this story, Pope Benedict was affirming the value of the diaconal ministry. The diaconate had flourished in the Church for 400 years before it declined and became merely a transitional step on the way to priestly ordination. Vatican II restored the diaconate to its original purpose. The Holy Father was not only reminding the permanent deacons of Rome that they have a ministry that is shared with priests and bishops (and with the pope). He was also reminding them that their ministries of sacrament, word and service stand alone and are especially needed in the world today.

When he was asked to name the most important tasks that permanent deacons have to carry out, the Holy Father replied that there is no single job description or profile. What permanent deacons do depends to a large extent on their individual skills and talents and the circumstances in which they find themselves. In the Diocese of Rome, as in St. Louis, permanent deacons exercise a wide variety of roles and responsibilities mostly in service to parish communities. What deacons all have in common is the call to play a leadership role in the ministries of liturgy, Word and charity in communion with the bishops and priests who share with them the graces and the obligations of the sacrament of holy orders.

Deacons are most visible to the Christian community when they assist the priest at Mass, administer the Sacrament of Baptism, witness and bless marriages, officiate at funerals and burial services or preside at Communion liturgies when a priest is not present. The deacon’s sacramental ministry is especially valued at a time when there are fewer priests available to perform these essential liturgical functions.

A deacon is also called to proclaim the Gospel and, when authorized by his bishop, to preach. Like bishops and priests, the responsibility for preaching is not something that deacons can afford to take for granted. Practicing what we preach is a sacred obligation that all ordained ministers assume at the time of their ordination — acknowledging that we preach as much (or more) by our example as we do by our words.

Finally, deacons have a special vocation or calling to carry on the Lord’s work of bringing love and justice to a troubled world. In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, nearly 200 deacons who serve in parishes are also involved as hospital and prison chaplains, as ministers to the hungry and homeless, as counselors to those who are divorced and widowed, and as advocates for pro-life causes and for all those who exist on the margins of society. As Pope Benedict observes, there is no single job description for a permanent deacon, but everything he does must be carried out with the love and compassion of Jesus, who washed the feet of His disciples as an example to all of us that leadership and service are inseparable from one another.

Permanent deacons are not separated from the world by a distinctive form of dress. The majority are married men with families who work in the world at the same time that they exercise forms of liturgical or pastoral ministry as ordained ministers in our Church. What sets permanent deacons apart is the call to be servants of the Lord who exercise their ministry with a profound dedication to those who are most in need.

Our archdiocese is blessed with outstanding permanent deacons who minister to our people with great love and devotion. They deserve our gratitude, our whole-hearted support and our prayers. As Pope Benedict says, deacons belong to the richness of the Church’s sacramental ministry. May their witness enrich our Church and help us be a more just and loving community of faith. May God bless all our deacons, and may He strengthen them with His spirit of service and of charity.

Exciting news re: changes to the Roman Missal

New Kids on the Block: When parishes start using the third edition of the Roman Missal, the texts of the prayers won’t be the only changes Catholics in the pews see.
Thursday October 21st 2010
By: Mary Elizabeth Sperry for the USCCB

When parishes start using the third edition of the Roman Missal, the texts of the prayers won’t be the only changes Catholics in the pews see. The new Missal will include 17 additions to the Proper of Saints, the part of the Missal that includes prayers for the observances of saints’ days. The Proper of Saints follows a calendar established by the Vatican and modified by the bishops of each country to include saints of local importance. Any changes to a national or diocesan calendar require the consent of the Vatican.

The saints new to the third edition of the Roman Missal include saints, like Saint Augustine Zhao Rong, who were canonized after the second edition of the Roman Missal was published in 1985. Some of these saints, including Saint Lawrence Ruiz and Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, have been on the U.S. calendar for years. However, the new Missal will be the first time their prayer texts have been available in the printed book. Other added saints appeared on the liturgical calendar until 1969, when the calendar was simplified and many saints’ observances were removed. Also restored to the calendar are observances for the Most Holy Name of Jesus and the Most Holy Name of Mary. Still others saints and observances added to the Missal highlight important teachings of the Church such as the teaching on Mary (Our Lady of Fatima) and on the Eucharist as the Sacrament of Christ’s love (as promoted by Saint Peter Julian Eymard).

By canonizing these holy men and women, the Church presents them as models of Christian living. The added saints come from all eras and areas of the Church’s life – from the fourth century (Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Saint Apollinaris) to the twentieth century (Saint Josephine Bakhita, Saint Christopher Magallanes and Saint Pio of Pietrelcina) – and from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. They include priests, religious women, martyrs, a married woman and missionaries.

Whether or not Catholics hear about these saints at their local parishes will depend on the priest. With the exception of the memorials of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (better known as Edith Stein) and Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (better known as Padre Pio), all of the new observances are optional memorials. That means the decision about whether or not to celebrate them at a particular Mass rests with the celebrating priest. While a priest may not add the observance of a saint or blessed not on the approved calendar, he is free to decide which, if any, optional memorials he will celebrate. In choosing among the possible observances, priests might highlight saints who offer a particular example to their people.

These new additions are not the final word about saints on the calendar. The Church will continue to canonize new saints as models for the faithful. Some of these saints will be celebrated in those parts of the world where they served. Others will be placed on the general calendar, celebrated by the Universal Church to unite the liturgy of heaven with that of earth.

New saints and observances in the third edition of the Roman Missal
January 3 – Most Holy Name of Jesus -- This is part of the Church’s celebration of Christmas, recognizing that God “bestowed on [Jesus] the name that is above every name” (Phil 2:9).

February 8 – St. Josephine Bakhita, virgin – Born in Darfur, Josephine survived kidnapping and slavery to become a nun who embraced and lived hope as a redeemed child of God.

April 23 – St. Adalbert, bishop and martyr – Martyred near the end of the first millennium, Adalbert was a missionary in the countries of central Europe, striving to bring unity to God’s people.

April 28 – St. Louis Mary de Montfort, priest – This French priest is best known for his devotion to Mary, encouraging the faithful to approach Jesus through his mother.

May 13 – Our Lady of Fatima – The Virgin Mary appeared to three children in the Portuguese town of Fatima in 1917. During these apparitions, she encouraged penance and praying the rosary.

May 21 – Sts. Christopher Magallanes, priest and martyr, & Companions, martyrs – Martyred in 1927, this Mexican priest was noted for his care of the native peoples of Mexico and for his work to support vocations to the priesthood.

May 22 – St. Rita of Cascia, religious – A wife, mother, widow, and nun, Saint Rita was known for her patience and humility in spite on many hardships. Conforming herself to the crucified Christ, she bore a wound on her forehead similar to one inflicted by a crown of thorns.

July 9 – Sts. Augustine Zhao Rong, priest and martyr, & Companions, martyrs –Canonized with 119 other Chinese martyrs, Augustine began his career as a soldier. Inspired by the martyrs, he was baptized and eventually became a priest and martyr himself.

July 20 – St. Apollinaris, bishop and martyr – Martyred in the second century, Apollinarius was the Bishop of Ravenna in Italy. He was known as a great preacher and miracle worker.

July 24 – St. Sharbel Makhluf, priest – A Maronite priest in Lebanon, Saint Sharbel spent much of his life as a hermit in the desert, living of life of extreme penance.

August 2 – St. Peter Julian Eymard, priest – Founder of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, Saint Peter devoted his life to promoting First Communions and devotion to the Eucharist as the sacrament of Christ’s love.

August 9 – St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, virgin and martyr – Born of Jewish parents as Edith Stein, she received academic renown as a philosopher. After her conversion to Catholicism, she became a Carmelite nun. She died in Auschwitz in 1942.

September 12 – Most Holy Name of Mary – After beginning in Spain in 1513, this celebration became a universal feast in the seventeenth century. A companion to the Memorial of The Most Holy Name of Jesus, it follows the Feast of the Nativity of Mary.

September 23 – St. Pio of Pietrelcina, priest – Padre Pio was known throughout Italy and the world for his patient hearing of confessions and for his spiritual guidance. In poor health for much of his life, he conformed his sufferings to those of Christ.

September 28 – Sts. Lawrence Ruiz & Companions, martyrs – Saint Lawrence and his companions spread the Gospel in the Philippines, Taiwan, and Japan. Saint Lawrence was born in Manila and was a husband and father,

November 24 – Sts. Andrew Dũng-Lạc, priest and martyr, & Companions, martyrs – Saint Andrew and his 107 companions, both priests and laity, were martyred in Vietnam in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. Through their preaching, lives of faith, and witness unto death, they strengthened the Church in Vietnam.

November 25 – St. Catherine of Alexandria, virgin and martyr – Martyred in the early part of the fourth century, Catherine was known for her intelligence, her deep faith, and the power of her intercession.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Tuesday celebration of lots of Saints!

Two celebrations today for Saints. First we celebrate the North American Martyrs. Between the years of 1642 and 1649 eight members of the Society of Jesus(the Jesuits) were killed in North America, after fearful torture by members of the Huron and Iroquois tribes. These men had worked hard to bring the natives of the region to the true faith.

The missionaries who gave their lives for Chirst and the Gospel area:

St. Rene Goupil - September 29, 1642
St. Isaac Jogues - October 18, 1646
St. John de Laland - October 19, 1646
St. Anthony Daniel - July 4, 1648
St. John de Brebeuf - March 16, 1649
St. Gabriel Lalemant - March 17, 1649
St. Charles Garnier - December 7, 1649
St. Noel Chabenel - December 8, 1649

It was evident from the writings of St. John de Brebeuf that they were prepared for martyrdom and grieved for any native who would not accept the redeeming message of Christ crucified.

We celebrate the feast on this day which also is the day we celebrate St. Paul of the Cross. Paul was born in Liguria in 1694. He worked alongside his father as a merchant but left his family and his work seeking a life of spiritual perfection. He brought together a group of associates who joined with him in caring for the poor and the sick. After Paul became a Priest, he worked even more earnestly for the salvation of souls by founding homes, exercising apostolic zeal and afflicting himself with arsh penances. He died at Rome on October 18, 1775.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Feast of the Apostle St. Luke

Saint Luke

Feastday: October 18
Patron Physicians and Surgeons

Luke, the writer of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, has been identified with St. Paul's "Luke, the beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14). We know few other facts about Luke's life from Scripture and from early Church historians.

It is believed that Luke was born a Greek and a Gentile. In Colossians 10-14 speaks of those friends who are with him. He first mentions all those "of the circumcision" -- in other words, Jews -- and he does not include Luke in this group. Luke's gospel shows special sensitivity to evangelizing Gentiles. It is only in his gospel that we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, that we hear Jesus praising the faith of Gentiles such as the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian (Lk.4:25-27), and that we hear the story of the one grateful leper who is a Samaritan (Lk.17:11-19). According to the early Church historian Eusebius Luke was born at Antioch in Syria.

In our day, it would be easy to assume that someone who was a doctor was rich, but scholars have argued that Luke might have been born a slave. It was not uncommon for families to educate slaves in medicine so that they would have a resident family physician. Not only do we have Paul's word, but Eusebius, Saint Jerome, Saint Irenaeus and Caius, a second-century writer, all refer to Luke as a physician.

We have to go to Acts to follow the trail of Luke's Christian ministry. We know nothing about his conversion but looking at the language of Acts we can see where he joined Saint Paul. The story of the Acts is written in the third person, as an historian recording facts, up until the sixteenth chapter. In Acts 16:8-9 we hear of Paul's company "So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.' " Then suddenly in 16:10 "they" becomes "we": "When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them."

So Luke first joined Paul's company at Troas at about the year 51 and accompanied him into Macedonia where they traveled first to Samothrace, Neapolis, and finally Philippi. Luke then switches back to the third person which seems to indicate he was not thrown into prison with Paul and that when Paul left Philippi Luke stayed behind to encourage the Church there. Seven years passed before Paul returned to the area on his third missionary journey. In Acts 20:5, the switch to "we" tells us that Luke has left Philippi to rejoin Paul in Troas in 58 where they first met up. They traveled together through Miletus, Tyre, Caesarea, to Jerusalem.

Luke is the loyal comrade who stays with Paul when he is imprisoned in Rome about the year 61: "Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers" (Philemon 24). And after everyone else deserts Paul in his final imprisonment and sufferings, it is Luke who remains with Paul to the end: "Only Luke is with me" (2 Timothy 4:11).

Luke's inspiration and information for his Gospel and Acts came from his close association with Paul and his companions as he explains in his introduction to the Gospel: "Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus" (Luke 1:1-3).

Luke's unique perspective on Jesus can be seen in the six miracles and eighteen parables not found in the other gospels. Luke's is the gospel of the poor and of social justice. He is the one who tells the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man who ignored him. Luke is the one who uses "Blessed are the poor" instead of "Blessed are the poor in spirit" in the beatitudes. Only in Luke's gospel do we hear Mary 's Magnificat where she proclaims that God "has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty" (Luke 1:52-53).

Luke also has a special connection with the women in Jesus' life, especially Mary. It is only in Luke's gospel that we hear the story of the Annunciation, Mary's visit to Elizabeth including the Magnificat, the Presentation, and the story of Jesus' disappearance in Jerusalem. It is Luke that we have to thank for the Scriptural parts of the Hail Mary: "Hail Mary full of grace" spoken at the Annunciation and "Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus" spoken by her cousin Elizabeth.

Forgiveness and God's mercy to sinners is also of first importance to Luke. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Jesus' feet with her tears. Throughout Luke's gospel, Jesus takes the side of the sinner who wants to return to God's mercy.

Reading Luke's gospel gives a good idea of his character as one who loved the poor, who wanted the door to God's kingdom opened to all, who respected women, and who saw hope in God's mercy for everyone.

The reports of Luke's life after Paul's death are conflicting. Some early writers claim he was martyred, others say he lived a long life. Some say he preached in Greece, others in Gaul. The earliest tradition we have says that he died at 84 Boeotia after settling in Greece to write his Gospel.

A tradition that Luke was a painter seems to have no basis in fact. Several images of Mary appeared in later centuries claiming him as a painter but these claims were proved false. Because of this tradition, however, he is considered a patron of painters of pictures and is often portrayed as painting pictures of Mary.

He is often shown with an ox or a calf because these are the symbols of sacrifice -- the sacrifice Jesus made for all the world.

Luke is the patron of physicians and surgeons.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Deacon candidate and the rescue of the Chilean miners

Denver, Colo., Oct 16, 2010 / 07:50 am (EWTN News/CNA)Share

On Oct. 13, Greg Hall's prayers were answered. For more than two months of sleepless nights, the rock-drilling expert and deacon-in-training had been working to save the Chilean miners trapped in the San Jose Mine. The day after all 33 men emerged safely, Hall told EWTN News about the faith and hope he brought to a rescue operation many considered impossible.

Drillers Supply International, the company Greg Hall co-owns with his wife Angelica, has operated a Chilean branch for almost two decades, manufacturing parts for drilling hundreds or thousands of feet underground. When the Copiapó mine collapsed on Aug. 5, several of its customers initially worked “to find the miners, because nobody knew where they were.”

But Hall's clients couldn't drill deep enough to find them. “So they called my company to bring out all the equipment – which we make -- to help all five rigs be able to go down to 800 meters and start punching holes in the ground.”

“We did that for 17 days, and we actually thought the miners were dead.” Then, on Aug. 22, “(when) I was getting ready to go to Mass at 7 a.m., one of my guys called me and said: 'Greg, we think we hit a void, and we think we hear some banging on the drill pipe'. We pulled the pipe up, and in between the hammer and the drill pipe was a note … saying 'All 33 of us are alive'.”

Hall thought his involvement had ended, but it was just beginning. “About two weeks later the mining minister contacted us, and said that all the plans that they had were calling for bringing the miners out at the end of this year or maybe at the start of next year.”

His crew said they could do the job in six weeks. “About 80 percent of the people laughed at us,” Hall recounted, “but the other 20 percent were the ones who made the decision.”

“The path we had to follow came perilously close to old mine shafts,” Hall explained, while “the ground conditions and the size of the diameter we were going to be drilling” made for technical dangers. “The miners were trapped in the first place due to a landslide. There was a very, very real possibility that … we could cause another slide.”

Hall began to think of the trapped miners as his own family members. He urged his crew members to “think about those guys as if they're your son or your brother. Don't think about them as just some nameless miners. What would you do if that was your son down there?”

But when drilling began, his approach had to change. “During the actual drilling, I had to be very careful not to get too emotionally attached.” In communicating with the miners, he “kept it very, very technical” and “wouldn't go to Camp Esperanza and see the families-- because I was petrified that I would make a decision based on emotion.”

The 17 days of drilling took steel nerves, and strong faith. Hall highlighted “one particular time when we were stuck, and really, I had no more answers. I was standing on the drill rig, and there really wasn't anything, technically, we were able to do. So I just started praying.”

The drill bit eventually loosened, and the team continued work on what Hall said was “the hardest job I've ever been on in my 25 years, by far.” One driller, Jeff Ward, regularly worked 12 hour shifts, and one 24 hour shift near the end. “We had a great team of a lot of people that really worked tirelessly,” Hall said, describing how they “went days without sleep.”

Explaining how his faith continually “shaped this job,” Hall recalled the day he left his parish in Houston, Texas to travel to the mine. “Our priest called me up on the altar ... we had probably over a thousand people. He told them that I was leaving right after Mass to go to Chile, and what we were going, and had them pray for us.

“And I can guarantee you, I could feel that prayer while I was on the drill site.”

Experts and colleagues called the project “impossible”-- both before and after its completion. One told him, when the operation was over: “There is no way you could have drilled that hole. God drilled that hole!”

Hall, an acolyte at Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church who hopes to be ordained a deacon next February, said the rescue operation's success was not simply improbable, but miraculous. “I had a real experience of seeing God's work among his people,” he reflected. “I know there are miracles. But you know what? Now everybody knows.”

A feast for a great Saint: Ignatius of Antioch

St. Ignatius of Antioch
Feastday: October 17

"I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire."

The second Bishop of Antioch, Syria, this disciple of the beloved Disciple John was consecrated Bishop around the year 69 by the Apostle Peter, the first Pope. A holy man who was deeply loved by the Christian faithful, he always made it his special care to defend “orthodoxy” (right teaching) and “orthopraxy” (right practice) among the early Christians.

In 107, during the reign of the brutal Emperor Trajan, this holy Bishop was wrongfully sentenced to death because he refused to renounce the Christian faith. He was taken under guard to Rome where he was to be brutally devoured by wild beasts in a public spectacle. During his journey, his travels took him through Asia Minor and Greece. He made good use of the time by writing seven letters of encouragement, instruction and inspiration to the Christians in those communities. We still have these letters as a great treasure of the Church today.

The content of the letters addressed the hierarchy and structure of the Church as well as the content of the orthodox Christian faith. It was Bishop Ignatius who first used the term “catholic” to describe the whole Church. These letters connect us to the early Church and the unbroken, clear teaching of the Apostles which was given to them directly by Jesus Christ. They also reveal the holiness of a man of God who became himself a living letter of Christ. The shedding his blood in the witness of holy martyrdom was the culmination of a life lived conformed to Jesus Christ. Ignatius sought to offer himself, in Christ, for the sake of the Church which he loved. His holy martyrdom occurred in the year 107.

In his pastoral letters he regularly thanked his brother and sister Christians for their concern for his well being but insisted on following through in his final witness of fidelity: "I know what is to my advantage. At last I am becom¬ing his disciple. May nothing entice me till I happily make my way to Jesus Christ! Fire, cross, struggles with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs-let them come to me, provided only I make my way to Jesus Christ. I would rather die and come to Jesus Christ than be king over the entire earth. Him I seek who died for us; him I love who rose again because of us."

Bishop Ignatius was not afraid of death. He knew that it had been defeated by the Master. He followed the Lord Jesus into his Passion, knowing that he would rise with Him in his Resurrection. He wrote to the disciples in Rome: "Permit me to imitate my suffering God ... I am God's wheat and I shall be ground by the teeth of beasts, that I may become the pure bread of Christ.” The beauty of this Eucharistic symbolism in these words reflects the deep theology of a mystic. He was dedicated to defending the true teaching handed down by the Apostles so that the brothers and sisters in the early Christian communities, and we who stand on their shoulders, would never be led astray by false teaching. He urged them to always listen to their Bishops because they were the successors of the Apostles. He died a Martyrs death in Rome, devoured by two lions in one of the cruel demonstrations of Roman excess and animosity toward the true faith. Anticipating this event he wrote these inspired words:

A letter to the Romans by St Ignatius of Antioch

“I am God's wheat and shall be ground by the teeth of wild animals. I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God. No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.

The time for my birth is close at hand. Forgive me, my brothers. Do not stand in the way of my birth to real life; do not wish me stillborn. My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. Do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being. Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God. If you have him in your heart, you will understand what I wish. You will sympathize with me because you will know what urges me on.

The prince of this world is determined to lay hold of me and to undermine my will which is intent on God. Let none of you here help him; instead show yourselves on my side, which is also God’s side. Do not talk about Jesus Christ as long as you love this world. Do not harbor envious thoughts. And supposing I should see you, if then I should beg you to intervene on my behalf, do not believe what I say. Believe instead what I am now writing to you. For though I am alive as I write to you – still - my real desire is to die. My love of this life has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: “Come to the Father.” I no longer take pleasure in perishable food or in the delights of this world. I want only God’s bread, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, formed of the seed of David, and for drink I crave his blood, which is love that cannot perish.

I am no longer willing to live a merely human life, and you can bring about my wish if you will. Please, then, do me this favour, so that you in turn may meet with equal kindness. Put briefly, this is my request: believe what I am saying to you. Jesus Christ himself will make it clear to you that I am saying the truth. Only truth can come from that mouth by which the Father has truly spoken. Pray for me that I may obtain my desire. I have not written to you as a mere man would, but as one who knows the mind of God. If I am condemned to suffer, I will take it that you wish me well. If my case is postponed, I can only think that you wish me harm.”

32 years ago

>>>Below are the words of Pope John Paul II as he became the Pope 32 years ago. On that quiet October afternoon, as I was home playing with my 7 month old son, the word came over TV of a new Pope. When they announced "Wojtyla" the newsmen had to scramble; who is this? The Cardinal from Poland became JP II and the whole world knows him, even today 5 years after his death. We thank God for the gift of John Paul the Great!

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Dear brothers and sisters,

We all remain heartbroken after the death of our beloved Pope John Paul I. Yet here, the Eminent Cardinals have called forth a new bishop of Rome. They've called him from a far country... far, but always close in the communion of the faith and in the Christian tradition. I was fearful at receiving this nomination, but I do so in the spirit of obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ and in total trust of his Mother, our Most Blessed Lady.

I don't know that I can explain myself well in your -- in our Italian tongue. But if I err, correct me! And so I present myself to you, to confess our common faith, our hope, our trust in the Mother of Christ and of the Church, so to begin again along this road of history and of the Church with the help of God and the help of men.

New Saints including 1st from Australia

Associated Press
Pope creates first Australian saint, 5 others
By NICOLE WINFIELD , 10.17.10, 05:58 AM EDT

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI gave Australia its first saint on Sunday, canonizing a 19th century nun who was briefly excommunicated and also declaring five other saints in a Mass attended by tens of thousands of people.

Speaking in Latin on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica, Benedict solemnly read out the names of the six new saints, declaring each one worthy of veneration in all the Catholic Church.

"Let us be drawn by these shining examples, let us be guided by their teachings," Benedict said in his homily, delivered in English, French, Italian, Polish and Spanish to reflect the languages spoken by the church's newest saints.

A cheer had broken out in the crowd when Mary MacKillop's name was announced earlier in the Mass, evidence of the significant turnout of flag-toting Australians celebrating the humble nun who was briefly excommunicated in part because her religious order exposed a pedophile priest.

Even more MacKillop admirers_ an estimated 10,000 - converged Sunday at the Sydney chapel where she is buried and at Sydney's Catholic cathedral, where a wooden cross made from floorboards taken from the first school that MacKillop established was placed on the steps.

Thousands of others in Australia spent their Sunday evenings watching live broadcasts of the Vatican ceremony on television in homes and on large outdoor screens in Sydney, in Melbourne where she was born, as well as in Penola where she established her first school.

Born in 1842, MacKillop grew up in poverty as the first of eight children of Scottish immigrants. She moved to the sleepy farming town of Penola in southern Australia to become a teacher, inviting the poor and the Aborigines of the area to attend free classes in a six-room stable.

She co-founded her order, the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, with the goal of serving the poor, the sick and the disadvantaged, particularly through education.

"She supported Aboriginal people because she believed in supporting people who were disadvantaged," said Melissa Brickell, a pilgrim from Melbourne who was in St. Peter's Square on Sunday for the ceremony. "She is a friend of Aboriginal people from the early days."

As a young nun, MacKillop and 47 other nuns from her order were briefly dismissed from the Roman Catholic Church in a clash with high clergy in 1871. In addition to bitter rivalries among priests, one of the catalysts for the move was that her order had exposed a pedophile priest.

Five months later, the bishop revoked his ruling from his deathbed, restoring MacKillop to her order and paving the way for her decades of work educating the poor across Australia and New Zealand.

In his homily, Benedict praised MacKillop for her "courageous and saintly example of zeal, perseverence and prayer."

"She dedicated herself as a young woman to the education of the poor in the difficult and demanding terrain of rural Australia, inspiring other women to join her in the first women's community of religious sisters of that country," Benedict said in English.

MacKillop became eligible for sainthood after the Vatican approved a second miracle attributed to her intercession, that of Kathleen Evans, who was cured of lung and brain cancer in 1993.

In a statement Sunday, Evans said she was humbled by MacKillop's example, grateful for her healing and overjoyed that MacKillop's example will now be known to others.

"I think she would be delighted to see so many people looking at their own lives and considering how they can live better and care more," said Evans, who brought relics of MacKillop up to the altar during the canonization Mass.

Veronica Hopson, 72, was MacKillop's first miracle, cured of leukemia in 1961. She broke half a century of silence about her case, telling Australia's Channel Seven's Sunday Night program: "How does a miracle feel? I feel very fortunate that I was given the opportunity to live my life, have a family, have grandchildren, so that's a miracle."

Hopson was 22 when she was diagnosed with leukemia and given only weeks to live. She said her mother contacted nuns at Saint Joseph's convent in northern Sydney where Hopson was taught as a schoolgirl and where MacKillop once lived. The nuns brought cloth that MacKillop had worn and prayed for Hopson.

Hopson, who has had six children and four grandchildren and is recovering from recent bowel cancer, said her miracle also carried a message for people who did not believe in God.

"I guess they must have some sort of hope, not just give in and just let the illness or sad things that happen in their life take over their life. Just keep hoping that it will get better," she said.

Quebec's flag was also out in force in St. Peter's Square in support of Brother Andre Bessette, a Canadian brother who legend says healed thousands of sick who prayed with him at his Montreal oratory.

Born in 1845, Brother Andre was orphaned at the age of 12. After taking his religious vows, he devoted his life to helping others and gained a reputation as a healer. When he died in 1937 at the age of 91, an estimated 1 million people came to pay homage.

Benedict noted that Brother Andre was poorly educated but nevertheless understood what was essential to his faith.

"Doorman at the Notre Dame College in Montreal, he showed boundless charity and did everything possible to soothe the despair of those who confided in him," Benedict said in French.

"I think all the people from Quebec are happy now," said Alain Pilote, a 49-year-old pilgrim from Rougemont, near Montreal, who came to Rome for the Mass.

Australia's foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, was in Rome for the canonization as was Canada's foreign minister, Lawrence Cannon. The Polish president, Bronislaw Komorowski, joined thousands of Polish pilgrims to honor that country's latest saint, Stanislaw Kazimiercyzk.

Also being canonized Sunday were Italian nuns Giulia Salzano and Battista Camilla da Varano, and Candida Maria de Jesus Cipitria y Barriola of Spain.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Homily 29th Sunday O.T. October 17, 2010

One by one they were rescued. First it was Florencio Avalos, followed by Mario Sepulveda Espina and it continued until Luis Alberto Urzua was the 33rd and final miner rescued. After 69 days trapped more than 2,000 feet below the surface of the earth, the world watched persistence pay off as one by one the Chilean miners were rescued. Using a tiny capsule, the men were lifted to safety, after first insisting that each one should go last. But we forget that this story did not begin this week with the heroic rescue. First, there was the accident, followed by 17 days of uncertainty; were the men dead or alive? Should we drill a rescue shaft? Would prayers be answered? With determination and perseverance the rescue workers began drilling not one, but three rescue shafts. Family and friends, as well as an entire nation if not the world, began to pray. They gathered near the site of the disaster and prayed, celebrated Mass, held devotions and invoked the help of St. Lawrence, Deacon & Martyr.

The good people of the mining community of Chile, decidedly Catholic, knew that St. Lawrence is the patron saint of miners. Why miners? Before St. Lawrence’s well known martyrdom, he worked in service to the earliest believers below ground in the Roman catacombs. A statue of St. Lawrence never left the campsite as a reminder of his prayerful intercession.

And then there is the story of another persistent fellow with connections to the diaconate. A Houston man named Greg Hall, who owns a drilling company, played a pivotal role in the eventual rescue of the miners. Greg Hall is just about one year away from being ordained as a Catholic Deacon. He should know a thing or two about perseverance just from the rigors of formation.

We have all experienced moments of perseverance in our lives. We persevere in school, our careers, our relationships, following our dreams and reaching for our goals.

As people of faith, do we persevere in prayer? Do we persevere in our relationship with Jesus?

Jesus teaches us once again by means of a parable with only two characters; an unjust judge and a persistent widow. The judge in this reading would have been a Roman magistrate; a judge for hire. He would be notorious, quick to make a deal or take a bribe. Perhaps this is why even in the parable we hear the judge declare he neither fears God or respects man. The widow is the representative for all those who are poor, defenseless; those who often are taken advantage of. Yet this poor widow is persistent; persistent to the point of the unjust judge giving her what she wants.

And Jesus uses the parable to teach us that His Heavenly Father; our Father, who is rich in justice and mercy, will give us what we need if we persist in prayer. We should be careful here; this is not a bargaining moment nor should we expect the Father to give us only what we want. We have only to look to the example of good parents who certainly would not give a child whatever they ask for; especially if it would lead to their detriment. So it is with God.

And so our prayer life must persevere and our prayers must always conform to the will of the Father. Only God knows what is truly good for us; his children. Only God knows His plan for us in this life and desires to have us share eternal life with Him in the world to come.

How can we persevere in prayer? How can we answer Jesus who asks, will He find faith on earth? We can assess today both the quantity and quality of our prayer life? Do we pray daily? Do we pray throughout the day? Do we actively participate in the shared responses of the prayers of the Mass? Do we promise to pray for someone only to forget to do so?

What about our prayers? Do we bargain with God in prayer? Do we ask for only those things that we want or those things that will make us happy? And are we prepared to follow God’s will in what those answers to the pray will be?

To reflect on these questions can we pray with this Scripture in the week ahead? Read again the efforts of the widow who causes that judge to grant her request. Can we reflect on the perseverance of both those miners, who endured 69 days trapped below and those who fought every day to bring them to freedom and safety.

The 9th miner rescued from that underground tomb is Mario Gomez, the eldest of the group and the man who became the spiritual leader. It was his request for rosaries, prayer cards and statues as he built a shrine and led the men in prayer, every day, several times a day. And it was Mario Gomez who as his feet touched ground as he left that rescue capsule hit his knees, arms outstretched, almost like Moses in our 1st reading, as he prayed in thanksgiving.

May we persevere in prayer like the example of perseverance in the rescue of miners in Chile!

1st Wedding and a beautiful memory

Today I officiated at the exchange of vows between two great young people. As a Catholic Deacon, although participating in several weddings, this was the first as the officiant. It will be one of those special moments about being a Deacon that I can't possibly forget.

The couple spent several evenings with me earlier this year in preparing for their life together as husband and wife. The bride is a young lady that I've known for many years; even taught her in my 8th grade CCD class. The groom I've only come to know because of his relationship with the bride. As a couple, I've come to know them and impressed by their level of love and devotion to one another and their desire to have a sacramental marriage.

In my brief homily today I spoke of the creation by God of a husband and wife for each other; even to the point of helping each other out along the way in this life towards our ultimate goal of eternal life with God. I gently reminded them of always remembering that Jesus is at the center of their lives and should remain so forever.

And then the exchange of vows and the rings and a new life as man and wife begins.

For the Permanent Deacon the opportunity to officiate at a wedding is one that we bring both our sacramental experience of Holy Orders and Matrimony to the service of the newlywed couple. As one who has experienced both sacraments I was keenly aware today and in the preparation process of my need to be both an ordained minister and an example of a husband who has been blessed with a wonderful wife for 33 years.

So tonight I'm feeling very blessed for the wonderful opportunity to be a part of such a special day. And my prayer is for a lifetime of happiness for the newlyweds with Jesus at the center of their married life.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

St. Margaret Mary was born in 1647 in the diocese of Autun in France. She eventually joined the religious order founded by St. Jane de Chantal, the Sisters of the Visitation. While growing in her spiritual life as a Visitation nun she received mystical revelations. One such revelation was an invitation from Jesus to be devoted to the mercy of His Sacred Heart. She spread that devotion throughout the church.

In one of her writings she wrote the following:

Our Lord's desire to have his sacred heart honored in a special way is directed toward renewing the effects of redemption in our souls. For the sacred heart is an inexhaustible fountain and its sole desire is to pour itself out into the hearts of the humble...

She spoke of three streams that flow from the Sacred Heart: mercy for sinners, charity for all in need and love & light for the benefit of all who call Jesus friend.

She died in 1690 and was canonized by Pope Benedict the 15th in 1920.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Feast of St. Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Avila - Doctor of the Church

b. 1515 d. 1582

Less than twenty years before Teresa was born in 1515, Columbus opened up the Western Hemisphere to European colonization. Two years after she was born, Luther started the Protestant Reformation. Out of all of this change came Teresa pointing the way from outer turmoil to inner peace.

Teresa's father was rigidly honest and pious, but he may have carried his strictness to extremes. Teresa's mother loved romance novels but because her husband objected to these fanciful books, she hid the books from him. This put Teresa in the middle -- especially since she liked the romances too. Her father told her never to lie but her mother told her not to tell her father. Later she said she was always afraid that no matter what she did she was going to do everything wrong.

When she was five years old she convinced her older brother that they should, as she says in her Life, "go off to the land of the Moors and beg them, out of love of God, to cut off our heads there." They got as far as the road from the city before an uncle found them and brought them back. Some people have used this story as an early example of sanctity, but this author think it's better used as an early example of her ability to stir up trouble.

After this incident she led a fairly ordinary life, though she was convinced that she was a horrible sinner. As a teenager, she cared only about boys and clothes and flirting and rebelling -- like other teenagers throughout the ages. When she was 16, her father decided she was out of control and sent her to a convent. At first she hated it but eventually she began to enjoy it -- partly because of her growing love for God, and partly because the convent was a lot less strict than her father.

Still, when the time came for her to choose between marriage and religious life, she had a tough time making the decision. She'd watched a difficult marriage ruin her mother. On the other hand being a nun didn't seem like much fun. When she finally chose religious life, she did so because she though that it was the only safe place for someone as prone to sin as she was.

Once installed at the Carmelite convent permanently, she started to learn and practice mental prayer, in which she "tried as hard as I could to keep Jesus Christ present within me....My imagination is so dull that I had no talent for imagining or coming up with great theological thoughts." Teresa prayed this way off and on for eighteen years without feeling that she was getting results. Part of the reason for her trouble was that the convent was not the safe place she assumed it would be.

Many women who had no place else to go wound up at the convent, whether they had vocations or not. They were encouraged to stay away from the convents for long period of time to cut down on expenses. Nuns would arrange their veils attractively and wear jewelry. Prestige depended not on piety but on money. There was a steady stream of visitors in the parlor and parties that included young men. What spiritual life there was involved hysteria, weeping, exaggerated penance, nosebleeds, and self- induced visions.

Teresa suffered the same problem that Francis of Assisi did -- she was too charming. Everyone liked her and she liked to be liked. She found it too easy to slip into a worldly life and ignore God. The convent encouraged her to have visitors to whom she would teach mental prayer because their gifts helped the community economy. But Teresa got more involved in flattery, vanity and gossip than spiritual guidance. These weren't great sins perhaps but they kept her from God.

Then Teresa fell ill with malaria. When she had a seizure, people were so sure she was dead that after she woke up four days later she learned they had dug a grave for her. Afterwards she was paralyzed for three years and was never completely well. Yet instead of helping her spiritually, her sickness became an excuse to stop her prayer completely: she couldn't be alone enough, she wasn't healthy enough, and so forth. Later she would say, "Prayer is an act of love, words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love."

For years she hardly prayed at all "under the guise of humility." She thought as a wicked sinner she didn't deserve to get favors from God. But turning away from prayer was like "a baby turning from its mother's breasts, what can be expected but death?"

When she was 41, a priest convinced her to go back to her prayer, but she still found it difficult. "I was more anxious for the hour of prayer to be over than I was to remain there. I don't know what heavy penance I would not have gladly undertaken rather than practice prayer." She was distracted often: "This intellect is so wild that it doesn't seem to be anything else than a frantic madman no one can tie down." Teresa sympathizes with those who have a difficult time in prayer: "All the trials we endure cannot be compared to these interior battles."

Yet her experience gives us wonderful descriptions of mental prayer: "For mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us. The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything."

As she started to pray again, God gave her spiritual delights: the prayer of quiet where God's presence overwhelmed her senses, raptures where God overcame her with glorious foolishness, prayer of union where she felt the sun of God melt her soul away. Sometimes her whole body was raised from the ground. If she felt God was going to levitate her body, she stretched out on the floor and called the nuns to sit on her and hold her down. Far from being excited about these events, she "begged God very much not to give me any more favors in public."

In her books, she analyzed and dissects mystical experiences the way a scientist would. She never saw these gifts as rewards from God but the way he "chastised" her. The more love she felt the harder it was to offend God. She says, "The memory of the favor God has granted does more to bring such a person back to God than all the infernal punishments imaginable."

Her biggest fault was her friendships. Though she wasn't sinning, she was very attached to her friends until God told her "No longer do I want you to converse with human beings but with angels." In an instant he gave her the freedom that she had been unable to achieve through years of effort. After that God always came first in her life.

Some friends, however, did not like what was happening to her and got together to discuss some "remedy" for her. Concluding that she had been deluded by the devil, they sent a Jesuit to analyze her. The Jesuit reassured her that her experiences were from God but soon everyone knew about her and was making fun of her.

One confessor was so sure that the visions were from the devil that he told her to make an obscene gesture called the fig every time she had a vision of Jesus. She cringed but did as she was ordered, all the time apologizing to Jesus. Fortunately, Jesus didn't seem upset but told her that she was right to obey her confessor. In her autobiography she would say, "I am more afraid of those who are terrified of the devil than I am of the devil himself." The devil was not to be feared but fought by talking more about God.

Teresa felt that the best evidence that her delights came from God was that the experiences gave her peace, inspiration, and encouragement. "If these effects are not present I would greatly doubt that the raptures come from God; on the contrary I would fear lest they be caused by rabies."

Sometimes, however, she couldn't avoid complaining to her closest Friend about the hostility and gossip that surrounded her. When Jesus told her, "Teresa, that's how I treat my friends" Teresa responded, "No wonder you have so few friends." But since Christ has so few friends, she felt they should be good ones. And that's why she decided to reform her Carmelite order.

At the age of 43, she became determined to found a new convent that went back to the basics of a contemplative order: a simple life of poverty devoted to prayer. This doesn't sound like a big deal, right? Wrong.

When plans leaked out about her first convent, St. Joseph's, she was denounced from the pulpit, told by her sisters she should raise money for the convent she was already in, and threatened with the Inquisition. The town started legal proceedings against her. All because she wanted to try a simple life of prayer. In the face of this open war, she went ahead calmly, as if nothing was wrong, trusting in God.

"May God protect me from gloomy saints," Teresa said, and that's how she ran her convent. To her, spiritual life was an attitude of love, not a rule. Although she proclaimed poverty, she believed in work, not in begging. She believed in obedience to God more than penance. If you do something wrong, don't punish yourself -- change. When someone felt depressed, her advice was that she go some place where she could see the sky and take a walk. When someone was shocked that she was going to eat well, she answered, "There's a time for partridge and a time for penance." To her brother's wish to meditate on hell, she answered, "Don't."

Once she had her own convent, she could lead a life of peace, right? Wrong again. Teresa believed that the most powerful and acceptable prayer was that prayer that leads to action. Good effects were better than pious sensations that only make the person praying feel good.

At St. Joseph's, she spent much of her time writing her Life. She wrote this book not for fun but because she was ordered to. Many people questioned her experiences and this book would clear her or condemn her. Because of this, she used a lot of camouflage in the book, following a profound thought with the statement, "But what do I know. I'm just a wretched woman." The Inquisition liked what they read and cleared her.

At 51, she felt it was time to spread her reform movement. She braved burning sun, ice and snow, thieves, and rat-infested inns to found more convents. But those obstacles were easy compared to what she face from her brothers and sisters in religious life. She was called "a restless disobedient gadabout who has gone about teaching as though she were a professor" by the papal nuncio. When her former convent voted her in as prioress, the leader of the Carmelite order excommunicated the nuns. A vicar general stationed an officer of the law outside the door to keep her out. The other religious orders opposed her wherever she went. She often had to enter a town secretly in the middle of the night to avoid causing a riot.

And the help they received was sometimes worse than the hostility. A princess ordered Teresa to found a convent and then showed up at the door with luggage and maids. When Teresa refused to order her nuns to wait on the princess on their knees, the princess denounced Teresa to the Inquisition.

In another town, they arrived at their new house in the middle of the night, only to wake up the next morning to find that one wall of the building was missing.

Why was everyone so upset? Teresa said, "Truly it seems that now there are no more of those considered mad for being true lovers of Christ." No one in religious orders or in the world wanted Teresa reminding them of the way God said they should live.

Teresa looked on these difficulties as good publicity. Soon she had postulants clamoring to get into her reform convents. Many people thought about what she said and wanted to learn about prayer from her. Soon her ideas about prayer swept not only through Spain but all of Europe.

In 1582, she was invited to found a convent by an Archbishop but when she arrived in the middle of the pouring rain, he ordered her to leave. "And the weather so delightful too" was Teresa's comment. Though very ill, she was commanded to attend a noblewoman giving birth. By the time they got there, the baby had already arrived so, as Teresa said, "The saint won't be needed after all." Too ill to leave, she died on October 4 at the age of 67.

She is the founder of the Discalced Carmelites. In 1970 she was declared a Doctor of the Church for her writing and teaching on prayer, one of two women to be honored in this way.

St. Teresa is the patron saint of Headache sufferers. Her symbol is a heart, an arrow, and a book. She was canonized in 1622.